Friday, April 30, 2010

A Cataclysmic Announcement

I’ve been sitting on this post for weeks, trying to find the right time to post it. I didn’t want to post it on a Monday, but I could never find the right time to do it. I want to go ahead and get this out there now. It seems like major announcements about Cataclysm are coming at a faster and faster pace. I don’t want anyone to think some announcement by Blizzard has prompted this decision so I’m going to go ahead and put this out there.
Come Cataclysm, I am a Tank, no more.
This is not some rash decision on my part. I've been debating this for several months. I'm usually a person who hems and haws over decisions, thinking and over thinking them. I'm very susceptible to paralysis by analysis. Yet, this decision hasn't been like that. Once I started thinking about it, I've only gotten more sure its the right the thing to do.
The natural question is why? Let me state my reasons.
This doesn't have anything to do with the state of Paladin Tanks right now. Paladins are great tanks. We are probably in the best state we've ever been in since launch with the possible exception of the legendary Seal of Fury days.
One change in my life has been my new job. They are much more strict on what we can do on Lunch and Breaktime on the computers. That used to be the time I could blog, surf Maintankadin, Tankspot and the other WoW sites and learn how to be better. I’m blogging in the evenings now as I find time, but I’m finding it much harder to keep up on the latest theorycraft. I’m hoping that I can get away with a little less out of game research time in a DPS or Healing role.
But what is really driving me to put down the shield is that I'm just tired. For my new readers, let me give you a little background on my Tanking career.
I started out in the 2.0 patch. This was the amazing patch that gave Paladins Avenger's Shield and a Defensive Stance Lite (in a damage reduction on Righteous Fury). We were making our first tentative steps towards becoming real Raid Tanks.
I learned the ropes in the waning days of Vanilia WoW in Upper Black Rock Spire and Zul'Gurub. I spent hours and hours grinding rep in Alterac Valley to be able to buy The Immovable Force, my first Tank shield. I stepped through the Dark Portal ready to go. I tanked through all of Burning Crusade's early 5 man content and helped lead my guild on our first successful foray into Karazhan. As a community, we fought through the misconceptions and hostility of being a Paladin tank. It was once said, with only slight exaggeration, that our very existence pissed people off. I did everything I could in my guilds to prove to people that Paladins were capable tanks. I tanked Boss after Boss that “everybody knew” I wasn't supposed to be able to tank. I did my best to show how Paladins were good choices for a Tank.
I wouldn't skimp on an enchant, gem, or even the slightest upgrade. Gold was no object. I had to be the best tank I could be. My guildies deserved no less. I may have had my limitations, but I was going to make dang sure that I was doing everything under my control to be the best tank I could be.
Then I got my big break and moved on to one of the top guilds on Altar of Storms as their Hyjal trash tank. But I wouldn't stand for that. I fought and struggled to get more and more responsibility. The night I main tanked our 4/5 clear of Hyjal was a very special night for me. Finally, just as 3.0 hit, I Flame Tanked our first Illidan kill.
I was tired of being a permanent off tank, and I was determined to not go through another expansion as 'just an offtank'. I toyed around the idea of starting my own guild, but I had no less than two guilds ready to hand me their main tank duties. I eventually chose Heroes, and then my group broke off on its own. In time, I would come to feel like I had found an in-game home in Devolve, and it wasn't long before I had taken the main tank duties in my new guild.
We owned Naxxrammus, destroyed VoA and the Black Dragonflight. We hungrily awaited Ulduar and dove in with all our might. Before long, Yogg Saron fell to our might. We cleaned up at the Crusaders Coliseum and stormed the very halls of Ice Crown Citadel. Arthas was vanquished by our might.
It was a great ride.
But somewhere along the way the constant pressure of the tanking role started to get to me. I feel like Tanks have more pressure on them than any other raid role because they’re always pivotal to the action. A tank has more ways to screw up than just about any other role. Push the wrong button at the wrong time, or failing to push the right button at the right time and it’s wipesville for your raid. More is expected of tanks than any other raider. It may not be fair; it is what it is. By the time we were done with Crusaders Coliseum, I was already thinking about putting down the shield. But one thing remained, Arthas, I had to confront Arthas, and I confront him I would. He was a boss I wanted to tank even before I installed WoW. From the moment he put Frostmourne through King Tereanas, I wanted a peice of him, to tank him, and finally at the end of Wrath, I got it.
The passion, the fire a Raiding Tank must possess had gone out. I no longer had that burning desire to be the best I could be all the time. The struggle for acceptance is over. Paladins were widely accepted as fantastic progression tanks. We had won. The naysayers, the doom and gloomers were all wrong. Paladins stood toe to toe with every other tank class in the game. There were even accusations we were overpowered as Tanks. As a spec, we had come a very long way indeed.
I've been a tank for 2 full expansions. I'm ready for something new. I informed my guild of my intentions months ago on our forums.
I’m still tanking, and I will be, right through the end of Wrath. The Ruby Sanctum yet awaits. But after that I’m done.

I plan to continue the blog. I truly enjoy writing. I never set out to have a 1000 hits a day or be a ‘voice’ in the Paladin community, whatever that means. I saw some others doing it and it looked like fun, so I gave it a try. But I'm smart enough to know that as I move away from Paladin tanking, it will mean some people won't be as interested in the blog anymore. That's understandable. There are some great Tankadin blogs on the blogsphere right now. I'll do a post on the better ones soon.
The blog will continue to chronicle Honorshammer’s journey through the end of Wrath. I’ll also be exploring my ideas for a new main in Cataclysm. I’ve never had a main other than Honors, and I’ve never alted to the extent I have in Wrath. I really don’t know what I’ll do at this point, but I’ll be sure to chronicle my thoughts here if you’d like to see them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do You Believe in Caesar?

I am often asked how I can believe in the Bible. I find it to be a very odd question. Usually I respond by asking if the questioner believes in Julius Caesar. When discussing the reliability of an ancient document there are two important factors that historians consider. First, the number of manuscript copies still around and, second the time between when it was first written and the oldest copy still in existence.
For comparison, let me show you some well known ancient documents and how they rate on these key areas. The Gallic Wars, the work detailing Caesar’s major conquests, was written over a 56 year period. We have 10 copies, the closest to the original is 1,000 years removed. In other words, the oldest copy we have of The Gallic Wars was written nearly 1,000 after the events happened.
Most kids read The Iliad  by Homer in either Jr. High or High School. We have 643 copies of Homer's Iliad and there is a 500 year span between the original and oldest existing copy.
I have never heard anyone seriously question the reliability/accuracy/validity/believability of either work. We should note that The Iliad is a work of fiction, so believability really doesn’t apply to it. So these seem to be decent standards by which to judge another ancient work. We will now apply these standards to  the writings describing the life, death, and purported resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, also called Jesus Christ. These writings are collectively known as The New Testament.
The New Testament was written over a time period of 60 years. We have over 24,000 copies and some of the copies we have are only 25 years removed from the originals!
These are the facts, and they are not in dispute.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Song Hits the Wrong Notes

iccbuff What I am about to say may come as  a bit of a surprise to you, but, as a Tank, I’m really not digging like Hellscream’s Warsong. Now that’s ironic because I’m pretty sure we would not have killed Arthas without the buff. Let me give you two reasons why I’m not excited about each incremental increase in the buff.
Threat
Every time the buff increases, my job gets harder. The buff increases damage dealt. Nowhere in there does it talk about increasing Threat. Now I would figure that since Paladin threat is just our damage times our Righteous Fury modifier, that our threat would be increased as well, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. For pretty much all of Wrath, the only times I’ve had threat problems have been gimmick fights like Malygos or Hodir Hard Mode. Now it’s like I’m back in tBC. In those opening moments of a fight, I can and have lost aggro to just about everyone in our Raid Group. This is especially true on a fight like Sindrigosa where I have been wearing Frost Resist gear. If my opening Avenger’s Shield misses, I’m in deep trouble. Thank the Devs I have two taunt buttons.
I’m not sure if DPS is scaling better than tanks, or if there is some other mechanic at work here that I’m missing. And it’s not just me. I checked with Boston (Blood Death Knight co-Tank) and he’s having the same problems. Our 10 mans don’t always have a Rogue or Hunter for Misdirects and Tricks of the Trade so we can’t rely on them. I’m at a loss to explain it.
Survival
The buff is certainly a huge aid in keeping tanks (and DPS/Healers) alive during encounters. While I may be a little envious of Bluevine (Blue’s Feral Druid alt) ability to hit over 80k health (dude, what DID you do?), I can’t remember the last time Tank death was the leading cause of a wipe for our group. This is more a testament to our outstanding healing team than to any tanking I’m doing. I generally one of the last players to die on any attempt. My death is only because we lost a healer, or Boston called for a wipe because we lost too many DPS/Healers.
What bothers me about the buff from a Survival standpoint is that it renders most of my decisions moot. This was brought out the other day when answering questions about gemming for ICC and when to switch over to full on stamina gearing. Gemming is one place where we really get to fine tune our gear. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter. The truth is the 15% buff in ICC makes a much bigger difference in defeating content that what you've gemmed. As someone who tries to make good choices in his gear, it’s deflating to realize that those decision no longer make a significant difference.
Take Action
@FiestTheRogue on Twitter suggested I need to get more Expertise and Hit. I couldn’t agree more on the Hit part, but I’m already Dodge capped on expertise with Seal of Vengeance up. To get more hit I need the Ring from Gunship. We only seen it drop one time. I could also look at replacing my gloves which are from Blood Queen with the Emblem ones. I don’t need survivability as much any more, but I need threat. I plan to start using more threat centric pieces once I can obtain them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unretired?

After writing about my Warrior in the class previews, I decided to go log in to him again. He was decked out in crafted and dungeon blues, along with some Naxx10 stuff. He didn’t have a single Emblem of Triumph.
I decided to run a normal to see if I remembered how to play him. I decided to just ignore Heroic Strike. I’d do as much TPS or DPS as I could without worrying about it. So I ran Normal Trial of the Crusader and it went pretty good. I had expected to be laughed out of the group and kicked on site, or at least to have had the Paladin or Death Knight suggest they do the tanking. None of that happened, and we proceeded to clear the instance. It was weird to see Horde enemies in there again.
The Warrior was actually pretty fun to play. I didn’t receive any upgrades, but I wasn’t worried about it. The next night I tried again, but this time went for a Heroic. After a 15 minute wait as DPS, I decided to add Tank and badaboombadabing, instant queue. This time it was Heroic Halls of Reflection Lightning (too many dang Halls of dungeons in this game) with a couple of 5k+ gear score DPS, a mage and a Boomkin. It was pretty impossible holding aggro off them with my sexy Red Sword of Courage.
warriorI refused to worry about it. These guys way outgeared me. The Boomkin and I sort of shared the tanking duties. But again, no one complained about my gear, nor was I kicked. I even had a nice conversation with the Shaman healer wondering why I wasn’t guilded. Long story short was that I hadn’t logged into the toon in over 6 months so I was kicked for inactivity.
What boggles my mind is that I was actually enjoying these same heroics that I find to be utter drudgery on my other toons.
I decided to throw the dice and run one more. This time it was Utgarde Pinnacle. My Warrior has a gear score of about 3.3k. I scrolled through the party looking for the highest gear score so I could Vigilance them when I noticed that the healer was also rocking about a 3.3k and none of the DPS were much over 4k. No one said anything about my gear. I checked the healers mana bar before and after each pull and stopped several times to let him catch his breath and grab a drink. We made it through without a wipe. It was the most fun 5 man I’ve run in a long time.
Now the question I keep asking myself is am I enjoying these 5 mans because I really like the Warrior? Is it simply that he’s so undergeared they present something a challenge? Is it the prospect of upgrades, even from ilevel 200 epics at the end of the run? I’m not sure.
So for now, the Warrior is unretired. I’m not sure what I’ll do with him. I’ve wondered if I should bring him over to the Hordeside. It would give me an enchanter again, and let me see our Devolve’s guild chat. I could also transfer him off server since him being on Alliance side is almost like being on another server anyway. Or I could just do what I’m doing now and run random heroics and get him kitted out in 232 gear before Cataclysm.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Raiding Equity

Since I’m sure the Blogosphere is about to erupt over the recent announcement about Raiding in Cataclysm, I wanted to get down my thoughts before I read any of the other fantastic entries from my colleagues.
In case you missed the announcement, let me recap it quickly (from WoW.com)
  • 10- and 25- man raids in Cataclysm will share the same lockout
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • 10- and 25- man bosses will be close in difficulty
  • 10- and 25- man bosses will drop the exact same items
  • 25-man bosses will drop a higher quantity of loot, but not quality
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.
  • Content will continue to be gated
  • First Cataclysm raids will be tuned for players in dungeons blues and crafted items
The first thing that strikes me is how similar the announced plan is to some of the changes I thought would work when I wrote “10 Man World Firsts”. Allow me to quote a couple of things I said there.
“The Devs could address the disparity of rewards, challenge, and expectation by enforcing a shared Raid Lockout on 10 and 25 mans”, “The 10 and 25 could drop the exact same gear”, “The Team would have a much better handle on the average iLevel of the players raiding each instance. This would let them better tune the encounters to be approximately equally challenging regardless of raid size.”
So I got pretty close to the mark on several of these changes. Naturally, since the changes are so close to my stated preferences for the game, I’m thrilled. Whether you choose to do 10s or 25s will truly be a choice now. 10 man raiders will no longer be penalized for playing and raiding in the way they prefer.
But, as I stated in 10 Man World Firsts, these changes will not address the recruitment concern. We will see with our own eyes if the 25 man raiders were right, and these changes will cause guild after guild to flock to the 10 man scene. With a dwindling recruitment pool, even guilds that might prefer to run 25s will throw in the towel and run as 10s.
25 man raiders have the additional concern of managing their bench. You need 5 to 7 players on your bench to make a 25 man go. In Wrath, those players were free to run 10 mans for upgrades whereas in Cataclysm, if they run 10 mans for upgrades, they will be locked out from running the 25 man that week. It will put pressure on Raid Leaders to be able tell a bench player if he is going or not early in the week. The expectation will be for the bench player to save his lock out until the very last moment, and then leave him scrambling for group right before reset if he doesn’t get into the 25 man.
Also affecting bench players is that 25s do much more frequent swapping of players than I’ve seen 10 man teams do. Our team is pretty well set from the moment we zone in, barring an emergency. If you get saved to 1 or bosses, or worse get saved to a wipefest and never see a boss go down, it would really put a dent in your gear progression that week.
I do hope that as more people do 10 mans, they will come to enjoy the closer knit groups that form. As a consequence, they might stop seeing their fellow players are merely cogs to plug into the Raiding machine and as the living breathing human beings they are. When I raid, I want to raid with people like Wich, Blue, Black, Jag, Ofn, Donk, Grim, Shad, Pink, Perp,  Dario, Daro, shoot, even Stark and Lakini. (I know I missed some people, sorry!) I don’t care what class they are playing, or what buff they bring. I want to hang out with the people behind the pixels and kill internet dragons.
Keep in mind that the Developers still have the Guild Leveling System and Guild Talent Points if they want a way to reward 25 man raiders that goes beyond just giving access to the best gear. 25s could also have more procs built into their weapons/trinkets (for the same ilevel), or perhaps have better graphics like glows or particle effects.
While I have sympathy for the 25 man raiders who are concerned that their preferred  play style is being depreciated, I am very excited for the changes being made to raiding. This is just a continuation of the trend that began with going from 40 mans to 25 mans, and then moving away from ‘Sunwell’ type raids to more accessible ones. Raiding continues to improve (or die a slow death depending on your point of view) each Expansion.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Knocking Out Hard Modes

With the Lich King good and dead, we’ve started working on Hard Modes, including some we have been neglecting for a long time.
hardICC
We started out with Marrowgar. The first boss in the instance seemed like a logical place to start. This fight was a wake up call. We figured since we had downed the Lich King, the first couple of Hard Modes would be pretty on par with the final normal mode fight. We were wrong.
What changes in Heroic Marrowgar is the normal stuff like more damage, and more boss health. The gimmick change is that the spikes keep coming throughout Bonestorm, and the fire lasts much longer. The spikes coming during Bonestorm doesn’t sound like a big deal at first, but with everyone spreading out because Bonestorm actually hurts in Heroic, it can be hard to get the spikes down before someone dies. This is especially bad when you are running two healers and one of your healers get spiked.
The fire persisting also presents problems. Tanks have to move much more and in a wider arc to avoid persisting fire, and the fire makes it difficult for DPS to position.
We worked on the hard mode for a while. Like most of the recent fights in ICC, tanking was no issue. There was little chance the Tanks were going to die unless we stood in the fire too long. It was a matter of DPS and Heals staying alive. We made good progress throughout the night and on the last attempt before we were going to switch it back to normal, we killed him.
We tried Lady Deathwhisper’s Hard Mode, but we didn’t have much time so we only made an attempt to see it. The Adds come out much, much faster. We killed her normal so we could get to Gunship Hard. This had to be the easiest Hard Mode I’ve ever done, and I was rewarded with a Heroic Neverending Winter.
We actually took a peek at Saurfang's Hard Mode, but we weren't able to kill him before we ran out of time. We wouldn't be returning to ICC that reset because we had our sites set on an old friend from Ulduar, Mimiron.
We figured that now that we way overgeared the fight, it would be cake. We would again be wrong. Firefight is one of the most intense fights I’ve ever done. Paladin cooldowns are still a little inadequate for this fight. Bubblewall is fine for the first Plasma Blast, but AD really doesn’t do much for you for the second. I needed external cooldowns each time. There are still several mechanics to the fight that instagib you, regardless of the level of gear you have. It took a dozen attempts to finally get it down.
firefighter
I have so much respect for anyone who killed Firefighter 10 or 25 before ToC was released.
I personally only lack Vezzax, Yogg+1, and Iron Dwarf Medium Rare for my Rusted Proto Drake. I hope we go back and finish those off before the Drake is removed from the game.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Cataclysm Shaman

As I’ve gone through the different class previews, I’ve moved from the classes I know very well like my Paladin and Hunter to the ones I know less well like my Druid and Warrior. In my final look at the preview, I’m going to tackle a class I essentially know nothing about, the Shaman. If I start talking out of my hat, please excuse and offer kind corrections.
The Shaman would have been the next class I would have leveled, but I abandoned the project because I wanted to wait for Cataclysm and have a new class to see the new lowbie content with.
Primal Strike (available at level 3): Primal Strike is a new weapon-based attack that every shaman will learn very early in the game.
Healing Wave (level 4): While the shaman already has an ability called Healing Wave, we're adding another spell to the class's direct-healing arsenal and giving it a familiar name. The current Healing Wave will be renamed Greater Healing Wave, and the intent is for the 'new" Healing Wave to be the shaman's go-to heal.
Shaman are getting two new spells at the early part of the game, but one is just a rework of an existing spell. Both should help early leveling, but with my baby shaman in full heirloom gear (shoulders, chest, both trinkets, and weapon) he should blast through the early levels. In all likelihood I’ll make him a Goblin to see the new starting area and change him to a Tauren once he gets closer to the endgame. It’s my intention to change every one of my toons (Paladin, Hunter, Warrior, and Druid) to Tauren as well. They’ll be my herd.
Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants.
This sounds very cool and has applications for each type of Shaman. It will be a nice reward for that first ‘ding’ in Cataclysm.
Healing Rain (level 83): An area-effect heal-over-time (HoT) spell that calls down rain in a selected area, healing all players within it. There is no limit to the number of players who can potentially be affected; however, there are diminishing returns when healing a large number of targets, much like the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells.
This the single best name for a new spell I’ve seen so far. I say that because one of the artists I listen to, Michael W. Smith, had a hit song called Healing Rain. It was very cool. The only HoT Shamans have right now is Riptide, so I imagine this would be a nice addition for them. What I don’t see is anything to address their mana. Stark, our resident Resto Shaman, was constantly OOM in our fights.
Spiritwalker's Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it's necessary to move in both PvE and PvP.
This and the other movement spells I’ve seen in the previews seems to hint at PVE being very frenetic in Cataclysm with constant movement almost a necessity. I have to wonder what the design will be for Holy Paladins if large amounts of movement will be required in PVE and PVP>
We plan to add Earthquake as a deep Elemental talent for targeted and persistent AoE.
This is one of the coolest sounding spells I’ve heard about in the previews. It’s one the last spells from Warcarft 3 to be ported over to WoW.
Elemental Overload: Your direct-damage spells have a chance to proc a less powerful 'bonus" version of the spell. This will work much like the current Lightning Overload talent, but would also apply to Lava Burst.
Nature Damage: This will provide a passive bonus to the Nature damage dealt by the Enhancement shaman.
Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target's health is lower. This will scale to damage (e.g. someone at 29% health would receive more healing than someone at 30%) rather than have arbitrary break points.

Deep Healing should synergize well with Ardent Defender, and Guardian Spirit. Elemental Overload is similar to a mechanic that Elemental Shaman have already that is something akin to Wild Quiver. Nature Damage is nice but kind of boring, but I guess the design is to take the boring talents out and make them boring Masteries. It is just when you see some of the very creative and fun sounding Masteries you kind of /boggle at the boring ones.
Overall the Shaman preview sounds very exciting. I wonder if full time Shaman mains see it that way or if they see holes and concerns that someone less familiar with the class might miss.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Warrior Cataclysm Changes

As I mentioned during my post on the Druid changes, I have shelved my Warrior. He was actually the 3rd toon I took to 80, and the Druid was the last. The reason that I shelved him was Heroic Strike. I couldn’t stand having to spam Heroic Strike to do decent Threat or DPS. But the larger reason was that I made him as sort of an insurance policy against the Devs continuing with the Burning Crusade design and making Warriors the premier tanking class. When they got serious about tanking equality in Wrath, and Paladins were buffed to stand toe to toe with any Tanking class, I shelved him. He’s my lone 80 on Alliance side since he didn’t make the trip over to Hordeside.
Inner Rage (Level 81): Whenever the character reaches a full 100 Rage, he or she will gain a buff that causes attacks to consume 50% more Rage and do 15% more damage for a short amount of time.
This is an interesting change. Warriors have been dealing with the issue of stuck on 100 for a long time. The Devs have said they will have to watch this carefully during Beta and we’ll have to see what the final version looks like, but at the very least they are trying creative solutions to long standing Warrior issues.
Gushing Wound (Level 83): This ability will apply a bleed effect to the target. If the target moves, the bleed gains an extra stack and refreshes its duration, up to a maximum of three stacks. The ability is currently planned to have no cooldown, cost 10 Rage, and have a 9-second duration. Gushing Wound is designed to be weaker than Rend with one stack, but better with three stacks, which will be reached when fighting a moving target.
This strikes me as a PVP ability to me because mobs in PVE, and especially bosses, tend to stand still. I could see this being extremely annoying for Rogues because they won’t be able to re-stealth the entire fight against a Warrior.
Heroic Leap (Level 85): This ability makes the character leap at their target and apply the Thunder Clap ability to all enemies in the area when they land. Heroic Leap will be usable in Battle Stance and shares a cooldown with Charge, but the Juggernaut and Warbringer talents will allow Heroic Leap to be used in any stance and possibly while in combat. The cooldown for this ability might be longer than the Charge ability, but it will also apply a stun effect so you can make sure the target will still be there when you land.
It’s baaaaaaaaaack. This was something that the Developers tried for Wrath of the Lich King but they couldn’t make it work. It will be interesting to see if it survives Beta better than the Wrath version did. It’s basically charge and thunderclap put together with a little stun thrown in for good measure. It’s a battle stance ability which is usually where an Arms warrior will be. It will also be available to Prot Warriors through Warbringer, further enhancing their battlefield mobility.
Heroic Strike will no longer be an "on next swing" attack, as we are removing this mechanic in Cataclysm. To keep the niche of Heroic Strike as a Rage dump, it will become an instant attack, but will cost between 10 and 30 Rage. This ability will not be usable until you have 10 Rage, but if you have more than 10, it will consume up to 30, adding additional damage for each point of Rage consumed above the base 10. Other abilities, such as Cleave, Execute, and Maul (for druids) will work similarly. The goal is to provide players with an option where if you can't afford the Rage, you don't push the button, but if you have excess Rage, you can push it a lot.
As I said in the opening Heroic Strike, or more accurately having to spam Heroic Strike was one of the big reason I retired my Warrior. This change combined with the Inner Rage change could help alleviate that, but the the last line scares me. “if you have excess Rage, you can push it a lot.” That sounds like spamming Heroic Strike again. This will also be how Cleave and Execute works. Warriors didn’t really start having to spam Heroic Strike until late Naxx, early Ulduar. With how Rage works and gear dependant Warriors can be, I wonder if we will get a good ‘read’ on this change until midway through Cataclysm.
Battle Shout, Commanding Shout, and possibly Demoralizing Shout will work more like the death knight's Horn of Winter ability. Specifically, these shouts will cost no resources, generate rage in addition to their current effects, and be on a short cooldown.
This is a nice improvement for Warriors major buffs. I’d like to see an increased duration on the buffs as well, but I couldn’t tell you how long Horn of Winter lasts.
Whirlwind will hit an unlimited number of targets, but only for 50% of weapon damage. The intent is for this ability to be used in multi-target scenarios and not on single targets.
It looks like the Devs want everyone, not just Paladins, to vary rotation from AoE to Single Targets.
Mortal Strike will reduce healing by only 20%. All equivalent debuffs, including the Shadow priest and Frost mage debuffs, will be for 20% less healing.
I assume Aimed Shot will also be getting reduced to 20% as well. This should help out PVP healers who, as I see things, are in for a much rougher time in Cataclysm than they have in Wrath. But anything that gets us away from the current game play of ‘blow them up in one global cooldown’ is a positive change in my books.
Sunder Armor will be reduced to three stacks instead of five, and still provide only a 4% reduction in armor per stack. We want to make this debuff easier to apply and less of a damage swing when it falls off.
Sunder remains a distinctive advantage that Warriors give to their raid, and specifically Warrior tanks as Prot has the easiest application of the Sunder debuff. It makes a difference in Raid DPS. With this being lowered, it should allow for Warrior threat and DPS to be balanced without reliance on the debuff being up at full strength, and should give Warriors a bit of breathing room on heavy movement fights.
The Furious Sundering talent in the Fury tree will make the Sunder Armor ability cause 25/50% weapon damage and reduce the threat generated by 50/100%.
This will give Fury a strong incentive to keep Sunder up if you have a Paladin/DK/Druid tanking the mob. It should also help Fury with Aggro management, but they still could use an aggro dump.
While we like how Titan's Grip plays, we recognize some warriors liked the Fury tree because of the really fast swings that dual-wielding one-handed weapons could provide. Therefore, we're planning to try out a talent called Single-Minded Fury that is parallel to Titan's Grip and will provide a large boost to the damage of a pair of one-handed weapons.
It will be interesting to see how the Theorycraft works on that. I wonder if they can make it competitive. I really enjoyed leveling as a Fury Warrior with two one handers, but for ‘cool’ factor, little can compete with dual wielding two handers.
The new Arms talent called Disarming Nature will make successful disarms cause the target to cower in fear for 5/10 seconds.
This will give Warriors another CC. I wonder if that will be more important in Cataclysm Raids and Dungeons or if this is just a PVP thing.
Arms Mastery: Bonus Swing: This is similar to the Sword Specialization talent that is currently in the game, but Bonus Swing will work on all attacks and with all weapons. You have a chance to proc a free, instant weapon swing that hits for 50% damage.
Sounds very cool for Arms.
Fury Mastery: Enrage Intensity: Every benefit of being enraged is increased. This includes doing more damage/healing/ etc. from abilities like Bloodrage, Death Wish, Enrage, Berserker Rage, and Enraged Regeneration.
Basically buffing the main Fury abilities. This is a nice mastery and fits with the theme of the tree.

Prot Mastery: Critical Block Chance: As we mentioned in the stat changes preview, block rating is changing to a chance to block 30% of a melee swing's damage. Protection warriors have a chance that the block will be a critical block and block for 60% of a melee swing's damage instead. There will likely be talents available to push the amount blocked even higher.
I’m very curious to see how this will be balanced. It’s basically a chance to proc Shield Wall on every attack. It’s hard to project into Cataclysm from our current reality because it promises to be so different, but this should make Warriors very strong tanks indeed.
This is about the best set of Masteries I’ve seen so far. Each one is exciting and very attractive. I expect Warriors and Death Knights to be very strong Tanks right out of the gate in Cataclysm. I’m basing this mostly on past history where Warriors and Death Knights started the last Expansion (and really the last two in the case of Warriors) in very good shape.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Druid Cataclysm Changes

I’m about halfway through my look at the various classes that I’m interested in. I’m done the Paladin and the Hunter. Now I want to look at the Druid, Warrior, and Shaman. But really we’ve only got half the picture. The new talents are still to be released and they are another important part of the puzzle.
The Druid took over my 3rd Alt position after I shelved the Warrior, but I’ll talk more about that when I look at the Warrior changes. My Druid is primarily Boomkin/Resto, but I’m working on his Feral set as well. I have him Boomkin because I can do reasonable DPS even in mostly Resto gear.
Let’s look at what Druid’s get.
Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.
This looks to be a decent addition to the Bear threat rotation which, from my limited experience with Bear tanking back in my 60s, has about the same about of tools as the tBC Paladin.
Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.
This will help Druids help their party move out of the fire, like now! It will also be helpful for flag running in Warsong which Druids are already very good at. It will be interesting to see what the more creative members of the Druid community come up with as uses for this spell.
Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.
If this isn’t enough to keep Lakini in feathers, I don’t know what will be. This sounds like a great and fun spell. With no cooldown and instant cast, I could see a Moonkin creating a veritable minefield for mobs or opposing players. Imagine lining the tunnel in WSG with these babies, or covering a Flag Point in Arathi Basin.
All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.
This will be great for Resto Druid who already heavily Haste stack. The HoT ticking faster, but the same amount of ticks works great in a world where Mana is not a major concern, but in Cataclysm, conserving Mana will be very important. Haste could have actually been a detriment had this change not been made.
A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.
I think all any healer wants is to be able to excel in either major healing role, Tank healing or Raid healing. It will be interesting to see how well the Developers can accomplish their design goal.
If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt.
I wonder why Retribution Paladin was left off that list of Melee DPS. They could use a reliable interrupt as well, but that aside this is great news for Cats.
We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss.
This is great change. One of the most frustrating things for Cat Druids is how reliant they are getting proper position on mobs to do good DPS. There are simply going to be times the Tank has to position the mob in a way that it is hard for the Cat to get to the back. The danger is they go too far in the direction of Mangle and Cats don’t even bother with Shred anymore.
Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.
This is just another consequence of the overall Dispel mechanics changes.
Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis.
I think of all the Druid changes announced this one has gotten the most attention. Some people love the idea of being a Tree, it’s part of being a Resto Druid. I’m the kind of guy who tries to look for the bright side to a change. It’s highly unlikely the Developers will change their mind on this, so we look to make the best of it. Druids will have more freedom to cast utility spells. More and more spells were being added to the ‘you can now cast ____ in Tree form’. Now you don’t have to worry about it. But I think the best consequence of this change is that Restos will get to see their hard earned Tier gear more than any other Druid.
We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility.
Paladins? Hello? Prot and Ret could both use and off the global cooldown interrupt. If this goes through Paladin Tanks will be the ONLY tank without a reliable interrupt. That’s not a good idea.
Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.
Eclipse is the most frustrating part of being a Moonkin. This idea of an Eclipse bar is very intriguing. If I understand it right, the idea is to keep the bar in the middle, to maintain Balance between the Moon (Arcane) and the Sun (Nature). It seem much more controlled than the current mechanic.
The Druid changes look pretty exciting, but I’m boggled by some of the ideas they are giving to Druids that didn’t make it into the Paladin preview, despite Paladins filling a similar role and having similar deficiencies.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Catclysm Changes Part II

The next class I wanted to look at was my Hunter. He was my second 80 and is the best geared of my alts. Let's get right to the Hunter changes.

Cobra Shot (level 81): A new shot that deals Nature damage instead of Physical damage. This ability will share a cooldown with Steady Shot. This will give hunters an alternative to Steady Shot on heavily-armored targets, and we will have talent incentives in the Beast Mastery tree to make this a signature shot.

This will become BMs shot like Chimera for Marks and Explosive for Survival. It will be interesting to see if it's instant like Chimera and Explosive or has a cast time like Steady. Maybe that will be part of the BM talents so it will be instant for BM, but has the same cast time as Steady for Marks/Surv.

Trap Launcher (level 83): When used, the next trap can be shot to a location within 40 yards. This provides the current Freezing Arrow treatment to all traps and, as a result, we will be removing the current ability Freezing Arrow. 1-minute cooldown. No global cooldown.

I could see this being a great spell for Survival. We can launch a trap into melee and force a Load and Load proc and then start up Black Arrow. It will also give Hunters some interesting options for AoE like launching an Explosive Trap into a group of mobs. However the cooldown seems a little excessive. I would think having a cooldown equal to the trap cooldown would make more sense.
Camouflage (level 85): The hunter enters an obscured state that prevents him or her from taking ranged damage. The character would still be subject to melee or area-of-effect attacks, and dealing or taking damage will break the Camouflage effect. The hunter can move and set traps when under Camouflage, and will receive a damage bonus when attacking while under Camouflage (which will then break the effect).

I don't know that I quite understand this spell. What is 'an obscured state'? Are we talking about Stealth for Hunters here, or perhaps something akin to Mage Invisibility? In PVE, I could see going in Camouflage and then popping Misdirection and opening up on the Boss with the damage bonus. In PVP, this would be a decent way to try to stop someone from blowing you up. Of course it won't help against Rogues, Rets, Warriors, etc. Might this also give Hunters something akin to the Rogue's opener? I'll put this one down as intriguing but I would love some more details on it. Right now, I just have too many questions.
Hunters will no longer use mana;

Let's quote Neo: Whoa. Honestly, this is how Hunter's should have been from the beginning. Managing Mana is one of the things I like least about my Hunter, and I'm excited to see what this new system will be like. I have a Druid that I leveled as Feral so I have used Energy before. What boggles my mind is the number of Hunters who are worried about the change because they are worried the Focus regeneration rate will be too low. That's a legitimate concern, but it's also a very easy setting to tweak for the Dev team. There are also some PVP concerns, but I don't see Rogues having any trouble in PVP.
A major change coming for the hunter is the removal of ammunition.

This is an interesting change. It's good in the sense that Hunters had to pay gold for every spell they cast. That was a little tough on the old pocketbook. Plus in ICC, you had to find an Engineer with the recipe and get them to make the ammo for you. Then Engineers tried to game the system with the whole list 100 for the cost of 1000 trick, or listing Arrows and Bullets individually and flooding the AH so you had to click through page after page to get to what you wanted. That should have clued the Devs in that putting Hunters at the mercy of the player base was a bad idea. But it does seem like something of an opportunity not taken. There were so many cool ideas for ammo, but now it's just going to be a relic of how we did it 'back in the day'.
Hunters will now have two types of attainable pets: active pets and stored pets. Hunters will be able to have up to three active pets (perhaps five for Beast Mastery specialized players) and will have the ability to switch among these pets any time they are out of combat, without going to town. They will also be able to have a large number of pets in storage at the stables.

This is a great change. Pets are what I love most about my Hunter and I'm always sad that I can't tame more. Now I'll be able to tame all sorts of pets and put them in long term storage. I can keep and PVE, PVP,and Solo pet in my Active Slots. Pokemon, anyone?

hunters will now start with a race-appropriate pet at level 1. We are reinforcing hunters as a ranged class. To this end, the class will now start with ranged abilities at level 1, and we will be removing some melee abilities, such as Mongoose Bite.

And a million Human Hunters cried out in glee. This is another fantastic change. If you knew nothing of the game, by Level 10, you would have thought you rolled a melee class, not a ranged class. This makes the Hunter feel more like a Hunter from the moment you spawn into the world.
We are also changing many pet family abilities to provide important buffs and debuffs. The intention is to allow the hunter to be able to swap pets and fill a position if a certain role is missing from the group. The goal is to have all pets provide a damage increase that is very similar and no greater than any other pet. Some examples of the changes we are making to the pet families are listed below:

  • Wind Serpents: Will provide a debuff that increases the amount of spell damage taken by an enemy (similar to a weaker version of the warlock ability Curse of Elements).
  • Ravagers: Will provide a debuff that will increase an enemy's Physical damage vulnerability (similar to a weaker version of the warrior ability Rampage).
  • Hyenas: Will provide bleed damage (similar to a weaker version of the druid ability Mangle).
By extension, Hunters could cover almost any debuff you missed from your raid. This will be a great help to 10 man raids or raids that bring multiple Hunters. From a purely selfish point of view this makes me think that Ravagers (or possibly Hyenas) will be the favored Pet of Marksmen hunters, and Wind Serpents the favored Pet of the Survivalist. Of course, we will need to the see what the other changes are. The only way for this to work is for them to accomplish their goal of "all pets provide a damage increase that is very similar". Put me down as highly skeptical the Devs can pull that off. If they don't pull that off, we'll still bring the best pet for our personal DPS and let other classes worry about buffs and debuffs.

Stings and other periodic effects will now benefit from haste and critical strike ratings. Hasted damage-over-time abilities do not lose duration, but instead add additional damage ticks.

I'm thinking that can only help. As you get more haste, you'll get more ticks out of your DoTs. Basically we are getting our 2pc T9 bonus all the time.

Viper Sting will now restore 9 Focus every 3 seconds

I wonder if they meant Aspect of the Viper, or does this mean that Hunters will no longer be able to mana burn casters. If that is the case, this gets a big thumbs down.
Pet Damage: Many of the passive benefits to pet damage will no longer be available in the Beast Mastery talent tree. However, these will be provided through the new Mastery mechanic.

That makes total sense for BM. It will still provide a similar balancing issue to what the Devs are fighting now with not wanting BM to be too reliant on their pet for damage.

Double Shot: The hunter will have a chance to launch a free attack off of the global cooldown for 50% damage.

This is similar to the Wild Quiver mechanic that MM has now and it's one of my favorite parts of the tree. But where Wild Quiver is shot automagically, this attack sounds like it has to be triggered by the Hunter.

Elemental Damage: Hunter abilities such as traps, Black Arrow, and Explosive Shot will do elemental damage of the following types: Arcane, Fire, Frost, Nature, and Shadow.


I'm not really sure I understand this. Those spells already do Elemental damage. Is this increasing the amount of elemental damage they do. I'm curious to see how that plays out.

Overall, I think it's a very good preview for Hunters. There are some cool new spells, but some major core mechanics are changing. The class is essentially being rewritten which could lead to some wild swings from Overpowered to Nerfed to Uselessness then to Pretty Decent. Paladins and Death Knights should know that ride pretty well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Catacylsmic Changes

I'm going to start my Cataclysm previews articles with the Paladin. Then I'll cover some of the other classes that interest me like Druids, Hunters, Shamans, and Warriors. Then I'll end the series with a major announcement. Let's get right to it.

Our 3 New Spells

Blinding Shield (level 81): Causes damage and blinds all nearby targets. This effect might end up only damaging those facing the paladin's shield, in a manner similar to Eadric the Pure's ability Radiance in Trial of the Champion. The Holy tree will have a talent to increase the damage and critical strike chance, while the Protection tree will have a talent to make this spell instant cast. 2-second base cast time. Requires a shield.

This baby is for Prot Paladins. Ret need not apply (requires a shield). I could see maybe a PVP Holy Paladin wanting to use this, but with a 2 second cast time, that's just asking for a school lock out. It will be nigh useless in PVP. Look guys, the Paladin is a-chargin' up his CC better turn!

We already have a very tight, very well defined rotation in 96969. This spell will be analyzed by the math geeks at Maintankadin and we'll see where it fits depending on cooldown and damage. The irony is that if it doesn't out threat our current spells we won't use it.
Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.

Unless you've been playing a Paladin a while, you might not get the irony of this spell. During our Molten Core, FoL spamming days, we were referred to as a walking HoT. Now, we are literally A WALKING HOT! I wonder if this will encourage Paladins to heal closer to melee range since your Range DPS tends to want to spread out in most raids to avoid damage. In melee, you've got a better chance of hitting more people. This will help address Holy's biggest problem of dealing with a raid healing assignment. Bully for Holy.

Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The visual is similar to that of the Resurrection spell used by the paladin in Warcraft III. The guardian has a different effect depending on the talent spec of the paladin. For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. For Protection paladins, the guardian absorbs some incoming damage. For Retribution paladins, it damages an enemy, similar to the death knight Gargoyle or the Nibelung staff. 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).

This is the most interesting spell to me of the 3 new ones. It sounds like a decent cooldown for each spec and the graphic will be very cool. It will depend on balancing the numbers properly to make sure it's a button worth pushing. But essentially, it's just another trinket. What I like best about the spell is that is has an appeal and a use for every spec. This is really the only spell of the 3 new ones that will appeal to Ret in any meaningful way.

Block Amount: We want to keep the kit of the paladin as a tank who blocks a lot. So by contrast, the warrior tank will sometimes get critical blocks, but the paladin will absorb more damage with normal blocks.

I blew this one. I would have bet large amounts of currency our Mastery was going to be Ardent Defender. But Block Amount is Protection 'Mastery' Stat, and it's one that concerns me greatly. Now I know that Cataclysm's block is different from Wrath's but I'm still worried. Block has traditionally not been a great stat and we don't need to be tied to it.

Holy Damage: Any attack that does Holy damage will have its damage increased.

That's Ret's Mastery and it pretty much applies to everything that isn't a white swing.

Crusader Strike will be a core ability for all paladins, gained at level 1.

And a million baby Tauren Paladins cried out with glee. We've gone all the way from "Paladins will never have a strike" to "You get a strike at Level 1."

Cleanse is being rebalanced to work with the new dispel system. It will dispel defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons.

Isn't that EXACTLY what it does today?
Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.

And hybrids rejoice. This is big step towards fixing our buff system. Now finish the job. When a Paladin casts his Greater Blessing it should hit EVERYONE IN THE FREAKING RAID!

Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins
Please don't tell anyone (especially the WARRIORS, but Paladin tanks just got another survivability cooldown). As a Paladin tank with endless mana on anything that matters, you'll be able to heal yourself every 6 seconds. Sort of like a Blood Deathknight in a way. I still think we'll be a little behind Death Knights at first, but it should make us better. I can only hope that SA will work off the heal. This will also give Ret another tool to help keep themselves alive in PVP. That should make it interesting to balance.

One change we're considering is lowering Divine Shield's duration by a couple of seconds.

You know, and I know, this is really about Bubble Hearth. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Protection paladins need a different rotation between single-target and multi-target tanking. Likewise, we're looking to add the necessity to use an additional cooldown in each rotation.

An addtional cooldown could be the new Blinding Shield, but I don't know how they will give us a different rotation between multi-targets and single targets. Someone should tell the Devs we already do use a different seal. We use Command on multi-targets and Vengeance on single-target. Now one idea would be to make Hammer of the Righteous do more damage each time it bounces. That way it doesn't make much sense to use it on singles. Another thought would be to make Consecrate do damage based on the number of targets in the Consecrate.

We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal.

Basically the Healers are getting as homogenized as the tanks, but the good news is this gives Holy TWO new healing spells. I am a little disappointed we didn't hear anything about how the Devs will address the necessity of Spell Power Plate.

Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat. Meditation is the Mastery stat for Holy. This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.

From our worst stat to one of our core stats. That's just going to be weird for veteran Paladins.

We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target.

Well, I won't need setting in Power Auras to track it anymore.

We feel Retribution paladins need one more mechanic which involves some risk of the player pushing the wrong button, making the rotation a bit less forgiving. In addition, we want to add to this spec more PvP utility.

I have no idea how you involve some risk to the Ret Paladin rotation, so I'm curious to see what the Devs come up with. PVP utility would be welcomed but what will they give Rets ( and then immediately take away when it's overpowered in the 4.0 patch).

Overall, it's some interesting changes. We'll have to see how it filters through Beta and what we actually have as the date of Catclysm gets closer. In Wrath we got Sacred Shield, Shield of Righteousness, and Hammer of the Righteous. We became truly viable progression raid tanks. If I had to guess, I'd say Paladins will follow a similar curve to what they saw in tBC and Wrath. They will be weaker at first and get progressively better through the patch cycle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Long Live the King

We have been slowly working our way through mastering the Lich King fight. We started out with Phase 1 and got the nuances of that Phase down. Then we struggled through and mastered the transition phase. That brought us to Phase II which started out as a complete gong show and still posses some problems when the Val'kyr and Defile happen very close together. There is a large component of RNG to the fight in who the Val'kyr will pick and who the Lich King picks for Defile.

But by Thursday we had made it through Phase II a couple of times successfully, only to be stomped down by the transition phase. The area of the platform that you need to stand on to be safe from Remorseless Winter doesn't exist when Arthas starts the cast so you have massive raid damage going out. We would suffer casualties in the transition and never get very far in Phase 3 before the Vile Spirits just destroyed what was left of our raid.

We had a little better group make up Monday night with 2 Ranged DPS instead of the 1 Ranged we ran on Thursday. Phase 1 never posed a problem. Not once did we wipe. Enraged Shambler, Boston (Blood DK Tank) just shrugs that right off. Phase 2 we had all the usual troubles. We had a Defile wipe, but what was most concerning to me was that I died to Soul Harvest. I would have given my left arm for a 4pc bonus like Druids/Warriors/Death Knights got. An extra cooldown to deal with Soul Harvest would have been welcomed.

The next pull started out like most of them. We had a good clean Phase 1, and a well handled transition phase. I was able to run in and pick up Arthas right where he stood after casting Quake. I have my Target macro set up and start spamming away when the Val'kyr was ready to spawn and as soon as I get her targeted I drop a Hammer of Justice. The first Val'kyr is pretty easy, but the second is tough. It came right on top of the Defile cooldown. Boston had the Lich King and I had dropped my stun on the Val'kyr. There she floated, not moving, right in the middle of a patch of Defile. I ran over and started to throw my meager DPS to what our real heavy hitters were bringing. We killed the Val'kyr with inches to spare.

I ran back to Boston and picked up the Lich King. We made it through a couple more Val'kyr and Defiles. Then we ran into a situation where I had Arthas and Boston got Defile and couldn't grab him. I'm watching so much this fight, it's hard to know exactly what was going on. My health got dangerously low. Bubble Wall was already on cooldown, AD had proc'ed and it wasn't looking good. So I hit my Corroded Skeleton Key, and ate a Cookie (Warlock Healthstone). I lasted just long enough for Stark (Resto Shaman), Black (Disc Priest), and Lakini (Resto Druid) to get me back up.

As we neared the next Transition Phase, both Jagdorc (MM Hunter) and I were trying to keep Boston appraised of the Lich King's health. I said, 'you got it?' and let him call the updates from there on out.

This is usually where our attempts went south. Around 43%, you gotta make a choice to burn him or go through the next Val'kyr/Defile. We pushed at 42% after a Val'kyr. It was another close call with just inches to spare. We pushed hard on DPS. Ofn (Assassination Rogue), Blue (Fury Warrior), Jag, Pink(Feral Druid), and Aggro (Destro Lock) unleashed everything they had. The Defile cooldown was under 1 second. Arthas was going to cast it. If he chose a melee, we'd be hard pressed to get out in time. But wait, he started running to the middle. NO DEFILE! We all moved to the edge as much as we could and Remorseless Winter did it's dirty work. This is usually where things got ugly for us.

Because I had speced into Improved Hammer for the Val'kyrs, I had to spec out of Divine Guardian. I could have really used it right then. But I had still taken Divine Sacrifice. Not as good as DG, but any help I could afford the healers was going to aid our cause. I had a much bigger health pool to take it than our DPS. So I punched it. We got into the Transition Phase and popped Bloodlust. We made it through to Phase III with everyone standing.

Boston had the last Raging Spirit on him and Ofn and Blue sat at half health. Time to give the Healers another chance to catch their breath. I blew my Bubble Wall. We got the raid stabilized. At some point, Lakini got put into Frostmourne and healed his branches off. I don't know what happens in Frostmourne. I'm up top with the Lich King. Up there, we are dealing with Vile Spirits. They spawn, hang around for a while and then go BLOW UP on somebody.

Both Boston and I tried to taunt them when we weren't tanking the Lich King. Somewhere between 15% and 12%, all the Vile Spirits ganged up on Aggro. He 'sploded. Lakini quickly threw him a Battle Rez.

Thing were starting to get dicey. Both Druids had used their innervate and we had another Vile Spirit spawn hanging out over our heads. Not to mention the small problem of only 45 seconds on the enrage timer. I decided to pop my Holy Mightstone. Yes, I've been carrying that thing around for 3+ years waiting for this fight. Time seemed to stand still as the Lich King hit 11%. I held my breath.

Then the Lich King wiped us all.

Everything that had happened from the moment we stepped off the boat in Northrend, and perhaps even sooner, had been a test. Arthas was looking for the best Azeroth had to offer so he could make us into his greatest agents of destruction. It was Tirion who saved us and brought up back to life.


No more Val'kyr. No more Defile. No more Vile or Raging Spirits. Just us and Tirion Fordring opening up a big old can of righteous whoop your arse on Arthas and bringing his reign of terror to an end.

We gathered for our Screenshot and celebrated a hard won victory. The Crossbow and the Feral Staff dropped. Gratz guys.

And now to thank the team that made this possible.

My guild/raid leader, my co-Tank, my wing-man, Boston the Death Knight.

Without question the best team ever charged with keeping my sorry behind standing upright, the backbone of our raid, our healers: Blackhaus the Priest, Lakini the Druid, and Stark the Shaman.

Finally, the bringers of pain, our DPS superstars: Blueshield the Warrior, Ofn the Rogue, Jagdorc the Hunter, Pinkshift the Druid, and Aggrogen the Warlock.

And just because they weren't in the raid for our kill, I don't want to forget the rest of our team. Donkatonk the Mage, CombatCow the Death Knight, Darolyn the Priest, and Danath the Warrior.

It's been an incredible ride and I've been raiding with some of these guys all the way back to Attumen the Huntsman in Karazhan.

Congratulations Devolve!

The King is dead! Long live the King!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Let's Do The Time Warp Again

As I was perusing the Cataclysm information, one of the items that really stood out to me was the new Mage spell, Time Warp.

Time Warp (level 83): Grants a passive Haste effect much like Bloodlust or Heroism to party or raid members. It also temporarily increases the mage's own movement speed. Time Warp will be exclusive with Bloodlust and Heroism, meaning you can't benefit from both if you've got the Exhaustion debuff, though the movement-speed increase will still work even when under the effects of Exhaustion.

Basically, the Devs plan on giving Mages Bloodlust/Heroism. I find this to be a very interesting choice. I blogged about the need to give Bloodlust/Heroism to another class before and suggested the Warrior to be the recipient, but the Devs decided to give it to Mages.

Bloodlust/Heroism is a raid defining buff especially in 10 mans where you can't count on having one of each class.
It is a change changer. The Devs have downplayed its role throughout Wrath, but as a 10 man raider, I know there are fights we probably wouldn't have cleared (at least on Progression) without it. 10s are currently balanced around the idea that your group may not have Heroism/Bloodlust while 25 mans are balanced around the idea that you do. That makes sense. In 10 mans you may not have a Shaman in your group, while it's fair to expect that out of 25 people, one of them will be a Shaman. The consequence is that it makes Shaman (and now Mages) very attractive to 10 man guilds and 10 man guilds that have Heroism/Bloodlust have an advantage at beating encounters. We love Heroism/Bloodlust in our group.

With another class having Heroism/Bloodlust, 10s could be tuned to basically require it. The Developers could assume Heroism/Bloodlust was available to all 10 man groups. This means you will basically need to reserve a spot for either a Mage or a Shaman in your group.

That makes giving it to Pure DPS class such an interesting choice. As I said back in November, I thought it would be better to give it to hybrid. The 'pure' dps classes are brought for their pure unhybrid taxed dps, so by that logic they shouldn't have heroism. That should have eliminated Rogues, Hunters, Warlocks, and Mages from the mix.

We have to assume the Devs will jig the numbers so all Pure DPS do about the same amount of DPS, or at least within a percentage or 2. Given that assumption, this change will give Mages a huge advantage at getting invites over other ranged DPS like Shadow Priests, Hunters, Boomkins, and their traditional nemesis, Warlocks. Mages already have some very power raid buffs like Refreshment Tables, Portals, and Arcane Intellect. Did they really need to be given the ultimate Buff trump card?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Into Phase 3

I got home from my Business Trip/Vacation and returned to the team on Monday. They had successfully cleared everything except for Sindi and Lich King. So we would be starting with Sindi.

Everyone was really in a groove and we somehow managed to one shot her. It was a great job by everyone on the team.

Then we ported up and got ready to throw down with his Highness, the Lich King. Phase 1 feels pretty comfortable now, as long as someone doesn't pull threat. It has gotten progressively harder to hold off our DPS on the threat meter each and every week. It is almost enough to make me long for those halcyon days of Naxx when threat was a non-issue. But overall, Phase 1 is pretty much cake.

The transitions are getting better. We generally have all but the last Raging Spirit down before the phase is over. We are now getting some quality time in Phase 2. We can handle Val'kyrs, and we can handle Defile. What seems to be the bane of our attempts on Arthas is when the cooldowns for Defile and Val'kyr line up and come one right on top of the other. That, in a word, stinks very much bad.

But we actually managed to push Arthas through Phase 2 twice on Monday, and got into the second transition. Buoyed by our success, we've decided to extend the raid ID. Boston announced that essentially, we won't see Marrowgar again until we can do his Hard Mode.

My name is Honorshammer and I approve this message.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone has a very nice Easter. Remember this day the one who loved you, who chose you, and who came to rescue you by giving His life for you.

- Honors