Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

One question that I’ve been getting lately is if I have a recommendation for people of a place to go for their Protection Paladin fix come Cataclysm. In case you weren’t aware, I am no longer going to be playing a Protection Paladin in Cataclysm. The good news is I do have a recommendation. Allow me to introduce you to Rhidach. You can find his blog at Righteous Defense. Despite being a d@mn yankee, he writes the best Tankadin blog on the net, bar none. If you play a Tankadin, and don’t have his site bookmakred, you’re doing it wrong. I think so much of Rhidach,that I tried to give him my spot writing for Paladin Schmladin when I realized I couldn’t blog as much with my new job as I had with the old one. He turned me down.
Now with that bit of business out of the way, let’s move on to the subject at hand. The mirror images of Paladins and Warriors. In Beta, it seems like the Paladin and the Warrior are becoming far too similar.
Consider:
Paladins and Warrior will have identical starting health and identical health scaling.
Warriors recently got the talent, Thunderstruck. Thunder Clap leaves a crackling zone of energy on the ground for [5/10] sec, dealing 5.63 damage every sec to enemies that cross it. Does that look familiar to anyone else? Remind you of our friend Consecrate?
Paladins are having Holy Wrath changed to hit all target types, and apply our attack speed slow, Vindication. This is exactly that Thunder Clap does on live. It’s snap AoE threat and the attack speed slow.
Warriors also received a version of Pestilence, which is a DK skill that spreads diseases, only this causes the Rend bleed to spread.
All these AoE skills have me scratching my head. Aren’t we supposed to be doing LESS AoE tanking in Cataclysm?
In addition, the Devs are also changing the Warriors fear (Intimidating Shout) to be single target with a duration like Repentance. They are basically turning it into Repentance.
Holy Shield is going to be a carbon copy of Shield Block with only Holy Power complications thrown in. The timing for Protection Paladins using Holy Power is very tight. You have to understand that Holy Powe was made for Retribution and now they are trying to shoehorn onto Prot and Holy. The fit isn’t great at the moment. You need 3 successful Crusader Strikes to get up a full power (15%) Holy Shield. Holy Shields duration of 15 seconds means you don't have any wiggle room to use you Holy Power on anything else other than keeping the buff up. One miss, parry or dodge of your Crusader Strike, and you will have to let it drop off and try to get another stack, or put up a limp 5% or 10% Holy Shield. And if you think Protection Paladins will be anywhere close to hit OR expertise capped at 85, I want to know what you are smoking and why aren't you sharing.
The two classes are coming dangerously too close to each other. I would prefer the classes to have a bit more differences than are currently present. If anything, things have just gotten closer during Beta. However, the Devs have some ideas on separating the classes.
They are experimenting with removing Shield of Righteousness which is basically a carbon copy of Shield Slam. Without Block Value scaling, it wasn’t very different from Cleave…err, I mean Hammer of the Righteous. Rhabella, one of my Twitter followers (you can follow me @TedtheThird), had a fantastic idea. Why not make Shield of Righteousness our short cool down interrupt since Ret stole it with Rebuke. It’s on Tier IV, out of reach of Prot.
The Tanks have to be very similar baseline. Otherwise the model of 10 man Raids will break down. But when tanks are so similar, it’s the corner cases where there will be separation. The corner cases for Paladins right now are interrupts, and fear breaks. Paladins are about the worst choice if you need an interupt, and in 10 mans, you can’t count on a Shaman or Rogue being able to cover you. In every tier there’s been a boss like Vezzax or Jarraxxus where your Tank needs to help interrupt. I’m sure Cataclysm will continue this trend. Shield of Righteousness has a cool down of 6 seconds which makes it perfect to the fit the short cool down interrupt role. Would it overpower Holy in PVP to have a melee range interrupt (that any Blood Elf Paladin already has with Arcane Torrent)?.
General Zarithrian in Ruby Sanctum highlights how Paladins still need a Fear Break. There is still lots of work to do on the class, and I’m hoping the rest of Beta provides the Developers with the opportunity to round out the Paladin kit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Fifth Civilization

Raiding has pretty much ground to a halt in Devolve. We are struggling to fill raids and most people are really bored with the content available.
So for the foreseeable future I’ll be posting about Warrior/Paladin changes in the Beta and occasionally other topics that  pique my interest. Expect some Civilization posts in September when that launches. I’m a Civ player from waaaaay back. I started playing with CivII. The one with the FMV (Full Motion Video) advisors. These guys were played by actors. My favorite was the drunk War Advisor (starts at 43 seconds into the video).
If you didn’t play CivII, here’s a taste of what you missed.


I was totally hooked. I went on to play Civ III, and CivIV, plus some Alpha Centari, but these guys never made it into another version. I kept hoping they would bring them back. Of course that didn’t stop me from having already preordered CivV. So expect a post or two about it when it comes out.
This does mean I won’t have the cash to buy Starcraft. My plan is to wait for it to show up on the $19.99 bargin bin and play the single player. I’m terrible at multiplayer, and I can only get my head handed to me so many times before I decide I’m not having ‘fun’ anymore.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Holy Power Batman!

I’d almost bet money I won’t be the only blogger to use that for a title when talking about the information we got on the latest Paladin revamp during Blizzard Twitter Developer Chat.
Here’s what came out of the Blue.
Q: What is the goal when re-designing the paladin class? How do you plan to change rotations, talents, etc?
A. All of the paladin specializations will make use of a new resource called Holy Power. Holy Power accumulates from using Crusader Strike, Holy Shock, and some other talents. Holy Power can be consumed to augment a variety of abilities, including:

  • An instant mana-free heal: Word of Glory
  • A buff to increase holy damage done: Inquisition
  • A massive physical melee attack for Retribution paladins: Templar’s Verdict
  • Holy Shield’s duration is now extended by Holy Power
  • Divine Storm’s damage is now increased by Holy Power
We also introduced several new heals for Holy Paladins including Healing Hands (an AoE heal-over-time that is applied to all players standing near the paladin), Light of Dawn (a cone heal with a 30-yard range), as well as a new heal called Divine Light, which is similar to a priest's Greater Heal, and the new instant heal mentioned above, Word of Glory.
Q: Can you give us a sneak peek at one or two of the new Retribution abilities or talents?
A. Templar’s Verdict: An instant weapon attack that causes a percentage of weapon damage. Consumes all applications of Holy Power to increase damage dealt:

  • 1 Holy Power: 55% Weapon Damage
  • 2 Holy Power: 125% Weapon Damage
  • 3 Holy Power: 225% Weapon Damage
Word of Glory: Consumes all Holy Power to heal a friendly target for a specific amount per application of Holy Power (0 mana cost, 0 cooldown, instant cast)
So Paladins have a new resource bar to manage called Runic…err, I mean Holy Power.
Holy Power builds up to an apparent cap of 3 and then is consumed by a number of different spells or abilities. In this respect it works more like combo points. We build up Holy Power (Combo Points) and we use an ability that consumes them.
In an Honors Code EXCLUSIVE, because we are tight with the boys in Blue, we have been given and first look at the new graphic for using Holy Power.
The way you use Holy Power varies by spec. I would assume all specs of Paladins get Inquisition, a buff that increases Holy damage done. Holy gets a new instant Heal. Ret has a new attack that scales via the number of points.
Prot gets to extend the duration of Holy Shield. This one is a head scratcher for me. Remember that the Developers are turning Holy Shield into Shield Block. It will be a short cool down, something between 30 seconds to 1 minute. What it will do is basically the same. It will probably increase our chance to Block by 30% still. This is based on the Developers statement
Your block chance won't be 5%. That's too low. It will probably be something like 30%, but we haven't figured out yet where to provide that 30%. It is likely to be a warrior / paladin only thing or even a Prot / Prot passive. (Source)
I would say Holy Shield fits the bill pretty well.
Currently on Live, Holy Shield and Shield Block have a duration of 10 seconds. Now I’m guessing here, but perhaps each application of Holy Power increases the duration by 10 seconds. That would make it a 1 minute cool down and 30 second duration with 3 Holy Power used. It forces the Protection Paladin to choose between using his Holy Power for threat through Inquisition, or using it for survival by extending Holy Shield. This is a good choice dynamic for the Protection Paladin rotation, but I can already here the howls of the Warrior tanks if we get a 30 second Shield Block and they are still stuck with a 10 second durations.
It’s important to remember that this is a first pass in Beta. The Holy Power system is likely to change several times before we see what it will actually look when it goes Live. It’s an excellent start.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Developer chat without trying to make Paladins a punch line a couple of times.
Q: How is Heroic Leap working so far? Is it progressing better than your last attempt at putting it in-game?
A. We’re pretty happy with it so far. The version we have right now lets the warrior target where they want to leap, so they can use it as an escape tool as well. We all know paladins would never retreat from a battle, but warriors have been known to do so.

any word on that cosmetic Tree of Life Form glyph? Some players are sad to lose Tree of Life Form completely.
A. The only new glyph we are ready to announce right now is the Glyph of Divine Shield, which reduces the cast time of your Hearthstone whenever Divine Shield is active
.

It gets really old being a punch line. I wish the Developers would stop constantly picking on the class.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Redesigning the Paladin

Man, I’m glad I did that blog post yesterday since apparently the talents are all wrong.
These are old talents. This is not the paladin revamp that we said was coming. Sorry, you'll just have to wait a little bit longer. (Source)
I'm going to regret saying this, but the paladin trees are the most changed in the game. There are only a few of the current beta talents that survived the, um, cleansing. (Source)
In the Ret case, we started with a basic question: what is it they should be managing? There are a lot of things they *could* be managing. Today it's cooldowns. It could be mana or procs or a lot of things. There was one Ret talent in particular we really liked, and we started building a rotation around it. Then we decided the mechanic was good enough to flesh out for Holy and Prot too.
We're not ready to share the design just yet, and like all changes of this sort, it will be controversial. Some players crave a more interactive rotation. Some like their paladins the way they are. Some are only attracted to the class because it can be overpowered and they like to feel like a superhero. (
Source)

I’m really getting tired of GC beating the old Paladins are overpowered bit. They haven’t made one significant change to Paladins in 3.3 or 3.3.5.
But the most disappointing take away from the series of post by GC is that they are redesigning the class… again. Paladins got one of the biggest designs in both Burning Crusade and Wrath and yet here as we enter Cataclysm we are ‘the most changed in the game.’ I feel like the Developers simply have a better handle on designing other classes.
If you look at the 4 tanking trees, the Warrior tree looks the most polished.
I’m just getting tired of having to relearn a brand new class every expansion. Balance in both PVE and PVP will be difficult early on, and the roller coaster ride of underpowered to overpowered isn’t fun for anyone. You would think that by this point, the Developers would have the Palaidn design fairly well understood. It stuns me that the Paladin will be changing more than the Hunter, who is changing its resource system, or the Death Knight, who the Developers obviously have had less time to understand. I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened in Vanilla where the entire Paladin combat system was scrapped and redone two weeks before release. I don’t want to see a repeat of 2.0 or 3.0 when Paladins were stupidly overpowered and had to be nerfed once the expansion actually shipped. We don’t have a complicated feedback loop like rage or a complicated system like runes and runic power. We should be the easiest class to figure out and predict. The Developers continued struggle with designing the Paladin is boggling to me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

31 Point Talent Revamp

Cataclysm is really shaping up to the be Vanilla WoW 2.0. Blizzard might not be marketing it that way, but it sure feels that way. We are going back to the ‘old world’, the leveling game is getting revamped. We even get to tussle with Ragnaros again. Now we add to that Vanilla like 31 point Talent trees.
This is also a shrewd marketing move. The way the new specialization works is very similar to the advanced class system currently in Star Wars: The Old Republic. You start with a base class and then at level 10 pick a specialization that (quoting The Old Republic website) : unlocks armor and weapon proficiencies,as well as other role-defining Abilities. The Sith Warrior's choice to become a Marauder - a fast, damage-dealing class a la Darth Maul - or a Juggernaut, a slower, more strategic archetype with heavy armor like Darth Vader. It sort of sounds like a Fury or Arms Warrior. Because most people will see this system in WoW first they will assume that Star Wars ‘stole it’, and it will help some writers paint Old Republic as merely ‘WoW with Lightsabers.’ (Not that WoW with Lightsabers wouldn’t be wicked cool, right?)
It is my hope that the enforced specialization will really help the Developers balance Paladins. Without Stances, or a limiting resource, it’s been difficult to keep Ret too tanky or Prot too DPSy.
With that said, let’s dive right in and look at the Specialization bonus.
Paladin - Protection
Uses Holy magic to shield himself / herself and defend allies from attackers.

Avenger’s Shield at level 10. That is very cool. I had originally thought it was going to be Holy Shield. We still have Hand of Reckoning as a pull at low levels, though with Avenger’s Shield available at 10 I’m not sure we’ll still need it.
Touched by the Light provides the Spell Power we need to make our threat spells work.
Vengeance is the skill all tanks get where your attack power increases as you take damage.
The new tree is interesting. What’s important to keep in mind as you look at the new trees is they are a work in progress, especially the Paladin tree.
While this is a first pass on all of the talent trees, death knight, druid, paladin, warlock, Arcane mage, and Assassination rogue trees are not as far along as other specializations.(src)
So take the tree with a large grain of salt.
Here are my random thoughts as I look at the tree.
  • Seals of the Pure is now in the Prot tree.
  • I like Improved Exorcism. I really missed the instant Exorcism that we lost to balance Ret PVP.
  • I wonder if we’ll even need Shield of the Templar since all it does is make Avenger’s Shield silence.
  • Improved Crusader Strike is interesting as it will reduce the cooldown to 0 so we can spam it. I can see it running you OOM fast and I’m not sure how it will stack up as a threat move against our other spells.
  • It looks like we are losing Holy Shield and Consecreation from the rotation. I really don’t get what they are doing with Consecration. We have talents to increase its duration to 45 seconds!
  • Ardent Defender is now a skill we have to click, rather than activated automatically. I can’t say I’m a fan of this. It won’t light up until you are under 35%. You might need ninja like reflexes to activate it in time. My other concern is that if it’s on the global cooldown, we could miss the small window while we wait for the GCD to open up.
The way the tree is right now, you’ll have to make some tough choices between threat and survival. I can’t get everything I want and still have 10 points left over to get the goodies in the Ret tree. Since Ret is all about threat, I’m leaning more towards survival talents in Prot. The tree is built with the idea you’ll go 2/2 in Spiritual Attunement, but we’ve seen in all of Wrath that 1/2 is sufficient. I wonder if bosses hitting for a smaller percentage of our health will lead to the need to take 2/2.
Holy Shield is effectively gone. Basically it’s turned into Shield Block from Warriors.
We are going to turn both Holy Shield and Shield Block into short cooldowns. A short cooldown is an ability that you don’t save for an absolute emergency (like Shield Wall) but we also don’t want it to be on such a short cooldown that it feels maintenance-y. It’s a tricky number to get right, but something in the 30 sec to 1 min zone feels about right. Then you might use Holy Shield one GCD instead of SoR or you can choose to save it until the next big boss attack.
The Devs are also changing the Warriors fear (Intimidating Shout) to be single target with a duration like Repentance. They are basically turning it into Repentance. At this rate, why not just merge the two classes (Warriors and Paladins) and be done with it.
I don’t feel real confident commenting on the Warrior trees just yet, but I will say that I had a hard time finding things I wanted to spend points on as a Fury Warrior. Some of the talents look kind of lackluster, or like PVP talents that I didn’t want in a PVE build.
I’m sort of torn on what kind of Warrior I want to be. I had an easier time filling out the Arms tree, but still needed to take a questionable or PVP talent to fill it out. I really like the idea behind the Arms Warrior. It fits me much more than the idea behind the Fury Warrior. But if Fury outdpses Arms, there is little reason to pursue Arms in PVE. Plus two big ole two handed weapons looks really cool. Of course if Single Minded Fury wins out and does more DPS than Titan’s Grip, even that will be only novelty.
If I just went by the idea of a class, I’d be a Paladin for sure. But more so than the lore, or idea behind a class, I want to play the class that feels the most fun. Even if I don’t get a Beta invite, I’ll have the transition patch to try to figure out which class is the most fun for me personally.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Expansion Lull

Our Moonkin has called it quits on WoW. The downside to a really close knit 10 man guild is that when people leave, you feel it more. Back when I was in a 25 man tBC semi-Hardcore guild, people came and went and you barely noticed. Lakini was a guy who was in Heroes when I joined then, pre-BC. We’ve been playing together for years. He’ll certainly be missed. We hold out hope that he’ll return at some point, maybe for Cataclysm, who knows.
His departure got me thinking about some of the people that I used to spend a ton of time with online but have now moved on. (If Ferth, Sameth, Dora, Ryken, Raistlan or Celoria still read the blog, I’d love for you guys to drop me an email and say hi sometime. Email is on the right hand side of the page.)
It also has left a gaping hole in our raid group. Lakini was a rare player that could top the DPS charts one fight and switch into a critical Raid healing role the next fight. Other people in our group are playing less or just stopping, it’s pretty much killed any further Hard Mode progression. Most of us are PuGing, or working on alts, and PVPing. I’m doing a little bit of each. I’m working on my Warrior a little bit. 16 unsuccessful tries for the Needle Encrusted Scorpion. I saw it once, but lost the roll to a Hunter. I’ve been PVPing on my Hunter and got him up to 1600 in 5s. We’d fight a 1400 team, then two 2300 rated teams. They get 1 point, we lose 0. This gets really old after a while. gettingold And I’ve started to try to learn how to PVP as Holy on Honorshammer. It gives me plenty to work on.
But this Expansion Lull is very different from the last time the game was in this kind of transition. That was the end of tBC, and I was still pushing progression almost right to the end. The 25 man guild I was in at the time was slogging through Black Temple, trying to get to Illidan. He was the Arthas of Burning Crusade, the final boss that we all wanted so badly. I had ground out all the badges for a set of Fire Resist gear to be a Flame Tank. I even did this crazy quest chain in Blade’s Edge to get one of the few Fire Resist Cloaks available. We had just started working on Illidan, maybe had two nights in on him, when the Great Nerf of 3.0 hit. I firmly believe we would have killed him without that Nerf, but honestly, I’ll never know, and really I don’t care. I killed him, and ‘finished’ tBC. Well sort of. They added another raid well before we got to Illidan, and after killing Illidan, we started working on Sunwell. We didn’t get much past Brutallus. I never saw Mu’ru or Kil’Jaden. By the time it was finally over, Wrath was basically on top of us. I was also going through the whole Guild transition which made the Expansion transition very different, and I got a Beta key.
I’m hoping to get into Beta again like I did for tBC and Wrath, but it’s up to the luck of the draw. I’ll have some thoughts on the new 31 points talent trees when they are released. I’m going to be concentrating on the trees that interest me: Paladin, Warrior, Hunter. I’ll also be watching the Shaman and the Mage as those are toons I’d like to start to see the ‘new’ leveling game. I’ve been thinking of making the Shaman a Dwarf. Truth is, I miss being a Dwarf. I want to see how the Cataclysm has affected those zones that I leveled through when I was still wet behind the ears in WoW, especially Westfall. If you happen to know a nice PVE server where I could roll a Dwarf Shaman, leave a suggestion in comments. With RealID, I can let my team know when I’m on the Shaman and they can grab me if they need me. It’ll work. I just wish you could mail Heirlooms cross server/cross faction so I could start him with something.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blue Like Jazz

Just a short post today. I’ve recently started reading a book called “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s subtitled “Nonreligous thoughts on Christian Spirituality”. So far I’m really enjoying it, and I want to recommend it to all the people who read this blog. Whether you consider yourself a follower of Christian Spirituality or not, I think you’ll find the book a very engaging read. Miller writes from a position of commitment, but still sounds as if he’s being human and honest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ruby Sanctum

Our intrepid team attacked the Ruby Sanctum as soon as it opened. We’ve been having problems filling our raid, and our first night in the Sanctum was no different. We eventually got a raid together and started clearing the trash.
The first mini-Boss and the trash proved to be little problem for our group. It helped that we had made an unsuccessful run into Ruby Sanctum on our alts the previous night, so we knew what to expect. I think the familiarity combined with everyone on their Mains made a huge difference.
Due to our Raid makeup we had no Hunter and no Rogue to remove the enrage from the second mini Boss. When the Boss enrages, he/she/it does a constant fire AoE pulse. I found the Boss a little annoying to tank. It stays in the air just long enough to make sure divine plea drops off. The Devs love to send me little reminders that they don’t really think about Paladin tanks when they design encounters.
We had another reminder of that on the 3rd mini-Boss. He uses my absolute favorite mechanic in the game, Fear. Warriors can break the fear with Berserker Rage, and I think Tremor Totem works, too. Our DPS Warrior discovered that if you use Berserker Rage to break the Fear and your tank is still feared, the Boss turns around and one shots you. Usually, a Boss will stay on the highest aggro target during a fear, regardless if someone breaks it. The Boss forces Tank swaps by putting a Sunder Armor type debuff on the current tank. He also summons adds throughout the fight. What we did was have the tank that was not tanking the Boss grab one add while a plate dps ‘tanked’ the other add.
With the prelude out of the way, it was time to get your popcorn ready for the main event, Halion. HelloHalionI was the Physical realm tank, so I had Halion first.  In Phase 1, you have to dodge Meteors, and Flame Trails that spawn from where the Meteor lands. I discovered that, yes indeed, Meteor could be targeted on the tank. Fun times! Someone in your raid gets a debuff and they have to run out and get it cleansed off. When they get cleansed, they drop a big ole fire circle. Fire is bad, mmmkay?
Phase 1 is pretty easy and we mastered it quickly. At 75%, we went into Phase II, which I called the Phil Collins Phase. Halion goes into the Edward…I mean Twilight… Realm. There’s a portal that all my team mates jump into. I /dance, and in my head I hear “I can’t dance…I can’t sing….I’m just standin’ here sellin’..everything…” Phil Collins phase.  Halion seems to have a thing for Warriors in this phase.HalionLikesWarrior
At some point in Phase 2, people make mistakes and our Raid Leader calls for a wipe. At this point, I have to jump into the portal and die. If I don’t die, the boss never despawns, so I have to die.
A couple of times, we actually made it through Phase 2. At 50%, he goes into Phase 3. Now the real fun begins.
In Phase 3, he exists in both the Physical and Twilight realms. Half the raid comes back to join me and the other half stays with Edward. The transition can be a little tricky since we don’t leave a healer in the Physical realm. I usually have to blow a cooldown to survive. This is the first time I’ve considered using my 4pc bonus. While it’s still vastly inferior to what to what the other tanks got, dodging a Cleave or Melee at the transition seems like it would be very helpful.
Everything from the first two phases is still active: the Meteors, the Flame trails, the debuffs. In addition, you have to keep DPS pretty similar between the two realms or Halion gets a buff that makes him take less damage. As an added bonus, if either realm wipes, he starts healing in the other realm. We made some solid progress the first night. We had one attempt where I thought we’d get him but we wiped at 5%.
We went back in on our next raid night. We had a slightly different raid makeup. Instead of our Holy Paladin, we had a Resto Shaman. What was really exciting for me though was seeing our master of melee back in action. Our Rogue took a break after we killed Lich King, and I was really excited to see him back raiding with us again.
A couple of people hadn’t seen the fight, so we had to explain it and get the learning wipes out of the way. We made solid progress again. The Twilight Realm DPS was getting ahead of the Physical realm to the point that our Raid Leader had to have them stop DPSing a couple of times. Eventually, he just put them on full burn. Time seemed to slow down as Halion’s health was whittled down. It felt like we were moving in slow motion. At 3%, I popped Raid Wall (Divine Guardian), and Bubble Wall (Divine Protection) to give the healers some breathing room. I don’t know if it made a difference or not, but a few moments after the Bubble Wall fell off, Halion fell as well.HalionDown
As Halion’s body hit the turf, it dawned on me. This is the last progression boss I’ll ever tank. I sat there kind of numb as loot went out. I didn’t want anything, even if the tanking boots had dropped, the crafted ones I have are better. But this was it, the end of my tanking career.
We’ll probably kill Halion a couple more times before we shut down raiding for good for Wrath. People are just tired of ICC, and one boss isn’t going to hold their attention for very long. I really hope we get Cataclysm sooner rather than later. Of course, the guild survived a 6 month stint at the end of tBC with virtually no raiding, so I’m sure we can survive another one.
Raiding this expansion from Ulduar to Halion has been fantastic and I attribute that mostly to the fantastic group of guys I run with and to our Raid/Guild Leader.