Friday, November 27, 2009

The Ashenvale Encounter (Part 2)

The gnome stared at her a moment, as if sizing her up. He smiled, and not the friendly smile of a friend. This was a smile of power, and of joy. Whatever the Gnome was considering in his mind, he was going to enjoy it.

"Riklath shona-nor-ala" the gnome began to speak words. She recognized instantly this was no attempt at conversation, he was canting a spell. His hands began to glow with a sickening purple. She quickly tried to summon the power of the wind against his words, but the wind was powerless against him.

She closed her eyes against the inevitable.

The next sound she heard was like an explosion. It was the unmistakable report of a Boomstick. She opened one eye a peek to see the Gnome, the smile now gone from his face, staring forward and past her in complete surprise. He stood there as if frozen in time, and then fell facedown at her feet. The otherworldly creature vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

She stood there for what felt like minutes, but in reality was probably only a couple of seconds. Reaching into her pouch for some herbs, she rolled the Gnome onto his back. But her herbs and her training in medicine would do this Gnome no good. He was already dead.

A single hole right between his eyes was the only apparent wound. She looked around quickly. About 30 yards behind her, a cloud of white smoke was beginning to dissipate.

She ran towards the smoke. There in the forest was an Orc. She slowed her gate to walk as she approached the stranger.

"Ish-ne-alo por-ah?" (Traditional Tauren greeting) She asked in Taurahe.

"Sagwu-ama gowatiha atvgi'a." (Traditional Tauren greeting response) The Orc responded. They continued their conversation in Taur-ahe.

"I've not met many an Orc who spoke fluent Taur-ahe. Who are you?"

"Who I am is of no consequence to you, young one."

"I should thank you, thank you for saving my life."

The Orc only nodded. He put two fingers to his mouth and blew a loud whistle. A large wolf came bounding out of the woods and settled in next to the Orc.

"A Prairie Alpha! I've only seen them on the plains of Mulgore. I must know who you are."

The Orc's glance moved from the Wolf to the Tauren but he didn't respond.

"Hmmm. Perhaps I should start. I am called Tivona. My home is Bloodhoof Village."

When that didn't prompt a response, she added, "At least tell me your name so that I may tell my Father who saved my life. He will want to tell all the Elders so you may be rewarded for your deed."

Tivona noticed the Prairie Alpha nudge the Orcs side. The looked down at the Wolf and signed heavily.

"I neither seek nor will accept any reward. And it’s Jyger. I am known as Jyger."

"See, that wasn't so hard, was it? I just.." A noise distracted Tivona.

"Sentinels!" Jyger said in a hushed tone.

"What are Sentinels?" asked Tivona.

Not responding to her question Jyger continued so quietly that Tivona could only barely hear him. "They must have heard the gunshot and be coming to investigate. Night Elves prefer the bow to the Boomstick."

"I thought Orcs did as well. Taurens have a preference for guns." Tivona commented.

Again Jyger ignored her. "The Sentinels will be riding their Mistsabers. We need to get out of here NOW. We'll be safe once we reach Splintertree. Stay close to me."

Tivona was already speaking the incantation that would turn her into a Ghost Wolf. Jyger let loose a bestial roar and was running away faster than she'd ever seen an Orc move before. She despaired to keep up with him but found that as long as she stayed near Jyger, she was able to run swifter than she had ever before.

They traveled in silence. After what felt like hours, Jyger stopped. Tivona was amazed at his stamina. She resumed her Tauren form and took several large gulps of air, while he wasn't even breathing hard.

He surveyed the area carefully. His Prairie Alpha sniffed at the ground and the air, then looked to Jyger.

"There are no humanoids around as far as I or Watch can tell.”

“You named your pet, Watch?”

“Watch is not a pet. He is a companion. He stays at my side at my side at his own volition. Now, we are almost to Splintertree. Once you are back on the road continue north until you see it. You'll be safe there. The Wind Rider Master there can put you on a Wind Rider who can take you to Thunder Bluff. You ought to be able to find your way home from there."

"You think I'm just some lost little girl? I'll have you know I'm a Shaman of the 18th Rank in the midst of my third trial. And I'm going to complete it. No Night Elf or Gnome OR Orc is going to stand in my way. Oh, I'll lay low for a while, and let things calm down. But as soon as I can I've got to get to the Ruins of Stardust."

"That would be ill advised. The Sentinels will be out in force looking the Gnome's assailant. And to get to Ruins you have to pass right by Astranaar, a Night Elf town."

"Look, Jyger. I'm thankful you saved my life, I truly am. But this is something I must do."

"As you wish, Daughter of the Horde."

Jyger began to set up a small campfire. He took some meat from his backpack. He tore off a good size chunk and threw it to Watch who snatched it out of the air and began to gnaw on it. He began to cook the rest of it over the fire.

After he determined it was sufficiently cooked, he broke it again. He picked up a nearby twig and skewered the meat on it and handed it to Tivona.

They ate in silence until Tivona broke it. "Wait, you KNOW where the Ruins are?"

"Excuse me?"

"You know! You know where the Ruins of Stardust are."

"Tauren, I've traveled the length and breadth of Ashenvale during my time here."

"You can show me where the Ruins are.”

"You've got the wrong idea, Shaman. I work alone."

"Oh please, Jyger, don't give me that. It'll be safer traveling together than with me on my own. Brine never said I couldn't have help."

Jyger’s response was an unimpressed stare.

Tivona thought for a moment. “It was you! You were one following me since I entered Ashenvale. Did my Father hire you to watch out for me. Oh, he’s drives me insane. He’ll never let me grow up.”

“I don’t even know WHO your Father is, and I certainly haven’t been hired to be anyone’s nanny!”

“So why were you following me, if it wasn’t Father?”

“I began tracking you from almost the moment you entered Ashenvale. I knew from your footprints you were either a Tauren or a Draenai. The Draenai have a base in the Northeast part of Ashenvale. When I saw you traveling alone, on the road, I knew the potential for danger. You may think the beasts off the road are dangerous, and they are, but there are beasts that travel on the road that are just as dangerous. I figured you might need some help if you ran into the Alliance, and I was RIGHT!”

“So you wanted to help me then, but not now?”

Watch gave a plaintive whine. Jyger shot him an angry look, and then slumped his shoulders. "It has been a long time since I’ve had company in my travels, and it seems as if I’ve been outvoted. But I don’t mind telling you Tivona; I've got a feeling I'm going to regret this."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

One Game Man

So Gravity over at pwnwear asked a question in his blog, and I'd like to address it here. He wrote a post about whether or not you play games other than WoW.

I wondered, how unusual am I? The best comparison would be to others in my circumstance: married with kids and a responsible job, do you play other games with any seriousness?

I'm in a similar circumstance to Gravity. I'm married with kids, and have a full time job. My daughter is a 4th grader so we have all kinds of extra cirrciular activities she's involved in like Soccer, Band, and Awana.

I've been playing WoW for over 4 years now. In that time I haven't really played any other games with any kind of seriousness.

Now occasionally, I'll fire up an old game I have like Civilization IV or Knights of the Old Republic. It's like visiting an old friend for a while and those games are still fun even years after their release. I still fire up Madden 2008. Actually I would have kept playing and buying the new Madden every single year, but EA decided to stop making Madden for the PC. I guess they decided they didn't need my money anymore.

I play around a little bit with Warcraft 3 and Starcraft, but I'm so behind on those games that I just get dominated on Battlenet so I don't play them much anymore.

I'm pretty much a One Game Man these days. That may change in 2010, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Lord, thank you for this sink of dirty dishes;
we have plenty of food to eat.

Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry;
we have plenty of nice clothes to wear.

And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those unmade beds;
they were so warm and comfortable last night.
I know that many have no bed.

My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom,
complete with all the splattered mirrors,
soggy, grimy towels and dirty sink;
they are so convenient.

Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator
that needs cleaning.
It has served us faithfully for many years.
It is full of cold drinks and enough leftovers
for two or three meals.

Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely
must be cleaned today;
It has baked so many things over the years.

The whole family is grateful for that tall grass
that we all enjoy the yard.
My kids are healthy and able to run and play.

Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting me says
You have richly blessed my family.
I shall do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl
when the alarm rings,
Thank you, Lord, that I can hear.
There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light
as long as possible,
Thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising,
Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise.
There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic,
when socks are lost, toast is burned and tempers are short,
my children are so loud,
Thank you, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like
the pictures in magazines
and the menu is at times not balanced,
There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous,
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work.
There are many who have no job.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day
and wish my circumstances were not so modest,
Thank you, Lord, for life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Ashenvale Encounter

The young Tauren tightened the strap around her waist again. Her leather armor gave a slight squeak and she readied herself to travel north, and into the Night Elf lands of Ashenvale. She knew they wouldn’t take kindly to seeing a Tauren, and a member of the Horde, in their lands. The danger was real, but overcoming that danger was part of the trial.

She reviewed the challenge in her mind. The place she sought was called the Ruins of Stardust. It was there she was to find a small fountain in the center of lake. That fountain contained the water she needed to bring back to Brine. She canted a short phrase and slowly her body morphed into the shape of a translucent wolf.

The creatures of the forest were dangerous, so she would stick to the road. She moved north, making a good pace. As she neared a fork in the road, she spotted a signpost. It was obviously of Elven design, but the Elf who had fashioned it saw fit to write the names in Common. The road to the east led to Azshara, the road to the west lead to Astranaar. Her destiny lay to the west.

As she moved along the road, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. Several times she stopped, looked around, listened, and even sniffed the breeze. The sounds of the quiet forest and the whiff of fresh pine met her inquiry each time. But still she could not shake the feeling; the presence she felt was watching her.

She knew that among the Night Elves there were those who were skilled in making themselves unseen. Perhaps an Elven scout had spotted her, and determined to figure out her purpose in these lands. She knew of no Tauren who could hide themselves so completely.

The young Tauren determined to make herself ready for whenever this unseen stalker might strike. She pulled her large mace from its harness on her back and spoke the words Beram Skychaser had taught her back on the Spirit Rise in Thunderbluff. Suddenly a small flame appeared and began to dance around her weapon. She then called to the Elements and they shielded her.

Perhaps seeing her command of the Elements would cause the Scout to think twice about attacking her. "Dalonige nvda asgaya." (Spirits guide me). She whispered under her breath.

Soon she would have to leave the road and head southwest.With only a vague notion of where to find the ruins, it would be up to the spirits of the Earth to guide her at that point.

She began to speak the words that would transform her body to a wolf again, but stopped suddenly when she heard the sounds of someone or something approaching her. The sounds were metallic, like metal striking against metal and metal striking against earth. She began to look for a place to hide, but before she could find a suitable spot, the machine came into view. It looked like a mechanical version of the Plainstriders that made the land of Mulgore their home. Atop this mechanical mount was a small humanoid with only a wisp of black hair on his otherwise bald head. He was dressed in midnight black robes, and had an ornate glowing staff strapped to his back.

He dismounted, and another being materialized next to him. It was some sort of bluish black apparition with glowing yellow eyes, two spindly arms, but no legs of any kind.

She had heard stories of other races that had allied themselves with the Night Elves, but she had never before seen one. If she remembered the stories correctly, this being was called a Gnome. The two made quite the contrast. The tall Tauren, dressed in leather, with small ball of lightning circling her, and a small sliver of fire encircling her weapon. The short Gnome, dressed in cloth with its otherworldly companion standing next to him.

She debated if she should lay down her Earth sapta, but feared that would been seen as an aggressive move on her part. It seemed obvious to her that this Gnome was well schooled in the arts of magic. His robes were ornate and his shoulders were made with skulls of some horned animal. Remembering the males of her own people had beautiful horns like that she hoped it was indeed from an animal.

The gnome stared at her a moment, as if sizing her up. He smiled, and not the warm smile of a friend. This was a smile of power, and of joy. Whatever the Gnome was considering in his mind, he was going to enjoy it.

"Riklath shona-nor-ala" the gnome began to speak words. She recognized instantly this was no attempt at conversation, he was canting a spell. His hands began to glow with a sickening purple. She quickly tried to summon the power of the wind against his words, but the wind was powerless against him.

She closed her eyes against the inevitable.


TO BE CONTINUED.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The New EH

There is some very interesting theroycrafting being done on Maintankadin right now about the definition of Effective Health (EH). Effective Health has been understood as the amount of damage it would to kill you, and has generally been understood to be a factor of your Armor, and Stamina.

The problem with the traditional definition of EH is that it doesn't really take into account any fight where the damage taken is from both magic and physical, which is essentially every fight in the game. It also doesn't model well physical damage that isn't reduced by armor like Gormok's Impale.

Paladin Theorycrafter and Math Genius Theck of Blackrock started looking at the definition of EH when he got involved in a discussion of armor trinkets versus stamina trinkets.

You can see the complete mathematical analysis in this thread.

Y is the percentage of magical damage, A is armor, H is health, M is mitigation, and N is a constant derived from the link provided.

Let's check some numbers. For a tank with H=50k, A=30k, M=0.6433. For paladins, N=0.1686. That gives Z=0.5709. Let's see what happens as Y varies from 0 to 1.

So for a purely physical fight, armor seems like a pretty good deal. But for even a fight with 20% magical damage, Armor becomes devalued by 20%. This will generally be enough to make a Stamina trinket provide more EH than an armor trinket.

For an example, let's look at the Glyph of Indomitability, since that's what started this thread. It gives 1792 armor, which is equivalent to 153 stamina. However, for a fight with Y=20%, we get only (1-Y)=80% of that, or 123 stamina. For a fight with 30% magical damage, it's only worth 107 stamina, and so forth.

This theorycraft isn't saying that Armor is useless. Armor is just less effective than Stamina as a means of getting EH in fights with a magical damage component. How much less effective will depend on the ratio of magical to physical damage. A fight like Lady Deathwhisper will have a much higher percentage of magical damage than a fight like Death Bringer Saurfang.

EH is an important concept for Tanks to understand. Warriors have been pointing to Paladins and Druids having an advantage in EH as a potential issue with the Warrior class, and have request the Developers investigate the issue. The Developers reply was that they didn't find enough of a difference to warrant either a Warrior buff, or a Paladin/Druid nerf. Some in the Warrior community were less than completely pleased with that.

Shared Topic: Best Paladin Changes

I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but the shared topic on Blog Azeroth is asking about what we think are the best changes that have happened to WoW in the last 5 years.

You can see the posts from other people on the Twisted Nether site.

I haven't been playing all 5 years. In fact, I started playing around time the An'quiraj was added to the game (Early 2006, or Patch 1.9 for those of you scoring at home).

My main toon has always been my Paladin, so I wanted to concentrate on the best Paladin changes over my time of playing World of Warcraft.

But before I do, I want to talk about what I feel is the absolute best change made to World of Warcraft in the entire time that I've been playing, the 10 and 25 man Raid Split.

Before, you would get to certain point in the end game where you found a wall. Here and no further. No new content for you unless you move on up to the 'Big Leagues' of 25 man raiding. It put people like myself, who wanted to raid in a precarious situation. Did we stay with our smaller guild or do we abandon our online friends and move on to a 25 man guild. 10 mans removed that barrier. Sure I have to give up access to some nice loot, but I can get gear that is sufficient for raiding 10 mans from earlier 10 mans. I don't have to have that gear to advance so it's not a big deal to not be able to get it.

Now I know some people really enjoy 25 mans. They love the synergy of all the classes, and they feel the fights are more epic with more people. Those people are in 25 man raid guilds and having a blast, and that's great.

Some 25 man raiders tend to look down on the 10 man crowd as 'ezmode' and I wish they didn't. I've found that doing 10 mans with 10 man and Emblem gear is a challenge in and of itself, especially Hard Modes. But it's not like I'm going to change their minds. To be honest, if someone doesn't have Devolve under their name, I'm really not all that concerned about their opinion of me or my raid team. So Trade Chat Guy can keep on spouting off all he wants.

Now that we've talked about the meta game, let's get down to Paladins.

Tank, Heal, or DPS


In my mind the best Paladin change that has been made in the last 5 years was making all three Paladin trees competitive for end game raiding. While I'm happy for my Ret brothers, I'm most happy about the Tanking changes.

Back in Vanilla, there was only spec for end game Paladins in PVE or PVP, and that was Holy. Then with Burning Crusade, the Developers started opening up Prot and Ret a little bit. Paladin tanks were the masters of AoE Tanking and creative guilds discovered ways to employ a Paladin tank on some gimmick encounters to make them easier. Anyone remember Morogrim Tidewalker, High Astromancer Solarian, and all of Mt. Hyjal's trash?

We were given tools like Spiritual Atunement, and Avenger's Shield. Then in Wrath, they embrace true tank equality. Paladins were brought up to date with appropriate cool downs, a working Ardent Defender and a real taunt.

Paladins are now the equal of any tank capable class in the game. Ret is accepted as competitive melee DPS. Holy is still viewed as a great Healer with two different yet effective specs, Critadin and Bubble Boy. Paladins have more choices than ever in pursuing the role they choose, not the one they are pigeon holed into.

Blessing Durations

The original design of the Paladin in a raid enviroment was a pure buffer. Our job was to go around to each player in the 40 man raid and buff them with Wisdom, Kings, Might, etc. Blessing only lasted 5 minutes so just about the time you got through the whole raid, the first people you buffed were about to run out and you'd start the whole process over again. While that design looked 'on paper' it didn't turn out to be much fun. So we got Greater Blessing which hit everyone of a particular class and lasted 15 minutes. Then the durations were further increased to 10 minutes base and 30 minutes for Greater. This freed up Paladins to do their chosen role and not worry about being a buffbot.

Seal/Judgment Changes

The redesign of the Seal and Judgment system vastly improved combat for the Paladin class. It used to be that we only had one Judgment spell and what it did depended on what Seal you had active. Also when you cast Judgment, it would consume your Seal, so Paladins got into a Seal, Judge, Seal rotation. By decoupling the Seal and the Judgment, you could Judge for mana with Judgment of Wisdom and do damage with Seal of Vengeance. That would have been impossible with the old system.

Interactive Combat

Even with a better Seal and Judgment system, there was still plenty of downtime. You spent a lot of time as a Paladin watching your toon waiting for your Judgment cooldown to come back up. So the Developers gave Paladins more buttons to push. Ret got a true strike with Crusader Strike. Prot would eventually get Hammer of the Righteous. Holy and Prot both use Shield of Righteousness. Combat as a Paladin is much more interactive. The days of autoattack and afk until dead are long gone.

Vengeance and Corruption For All

Once upon a time, Paladins had Faction specific spells. Only the Alliance had Vengeance, while the Horde had Blood. Of course, these spells were different and were better for different uses. Vengeance was a fantastic Tanking spell while Blood was a fantastic melee dps spell. So Alliance Rets and Horde Prots were always frustrated by 'their' spell being unavailable to them.

So what about you? What do you think were the best changes to Paladins over the first 5 years of WoW?


(I reserve the right to edit and extend this entry if you remind of something really cool that I forgot.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Teir Ten Four Piece Puzzle

We now have the stats on Tier 10 for Paladin tanks. Let me add in the normal PTR PSA. This stuff is on the PTR, it's subject to change between now and Live, yada, yada, yada.

But it's fairly rare that it does.

What I want to do is compare the Tier pieces to the non Tier peice drops available and to the Emblems of Frost rewards. This is especially an issue for 10 man raiders because Emblem of Frost gear is iLevel 264 which is a tier higher than Normal mode T10. This is also an important analysis because both your Tier gear and the non Tier gear will be competing for your Emblems of Frost.

For example, with Emblems of Frost, you can purchase your T10 Lightsworn Chestguard or the Cataclysmic Chestguard. which one should you get? You'll face a similar decision between Gauntlets of the Kraken and the T10 Lightsworn Handguards.

A large component of your decision will be how good the 4pc set bonus is. If the 4pc is very good, like T9's was, you are limited to only one slot of non Tier gear. For T9, I chose the Helm to be my non Tier piece.

So what is the Protection Paladin T10 4pc Bonus? 12% dodge when you hit Divine Plea.

First, let's make sure we understand this.

It's 12% dodge, which means it's unaffected by Diminishing Returns. Personally, I think they should call the buff you get from the Set Bonus "Warmed" because essentially what it does is to change Chill of the Throne from -20% to -8% for 10 seconds.

The buff only lasts for 10 seconds. Most Protection Paladins take Guarded by the Light which will refresh your Divine Plea on a melee swing. Refreshing Divine Plea WILL NOT refresh the buff from the 4pc Set Bonus. It's only up for 10 seconds. You have to wait for Divine Plea to cool down (1 minute) before you can activate it again. It's sort of like a Trinket.

Now the Bonus is very hard to evaluate. We do not fully understand the mechanics and nature of the damage that we will face in ICC, though we have gotten some idea through the PTR, and as a result we can not truly judge if 12 percent dodge is a good or bad cool down.

The Paladin Tier 10 Bonus gives us Avoidance. Every other Tank class has a 4pc bonus that provides Damage Mitigation. 12% straight damage reduction for Druids and Death Knights, and a Damage Absorbing Shield for Warriors. All three of those work against magic damage. The Paladin bonus does not.

I wonder how effective 12% dodge is compared to a flat out 12% damage reduction. If you get good RNG, it could prove better, but with Chill of the Throne, I think a flat reduction could prove to be the better.

I do understand that Avoidance is good. If we had 88% avoidance, 12% more would be incredible. Of course if we had 88% damage reduction, 12% more would make us invincible. No one is going to have anywhere near that much avoidance or damage reduction in Ice Crown.

If the tank killers are unavoidable hits like Impale, Spell Damage, Bleeds, DoTs, Plasma Blast, etc then 12% damage reduction (all other tanks) is much better than 12% dodge (Paladins).

The major issue is that as we look at past content, the tank killer moves were all just big enough that even a 20% damage reduction was enough. It pretty much had to be, or the Druid's primary cool down (Barkskin) would not be enough for a Feral Druid tank to survive. If this is the case in ICC, then the 12% damage reduction (all other tanks) will be better because its possible for a hit to get through avoidance (Paladin) and instantly kill you.

Furthermore, the data from the fights on the PTR looks like there is a TON of magic damage in these fights. Our set bonus is useless against it.

Our set bonus is completely reliant on the roll of the dice, and you won't even know if it was the set bonus that saved you. Did I dodge because of the Set Bonus or did I dodge from the existing dodge on my gear. All the other tanks have a guarantee that their set bonus will help them.

Now if you were on the encounter design team, which kind of set bonus would you assume your tanks had? Probably the type that 75% of tanks will have. We won't see this until Hard Mode encounters are tested because it's really only when you are doing Hard Modes that the Encounter Design team could reasonable expect a Tank to have the 4pc Bonus. I still believe that Mimiron Hard was designed with the idea the Tank would have an extra cool down like the Warrior T8 4pc Bonus.

I can't understand how the Developers think that 12% avoidance is roughly equal to 12% Damage Reduction. It's tough to balance either way. Either ours is superior or the other tanks are. It's hard to say they are equal. I've come to the conclusion, based on what I know today, that the Paladin set bonus looks really weak. If it was really strong, I'm sure the other tanks would be pointing out how they felt the Paladin bonus was superior. Warriors found an difference between Pally Tank Helm and Warrior Tank Helm on the PTR and immediately went to the forums to scream the Developers were trying to use itemization to "keep Paladins on top"! So if other Tank classes complain over small itemization differences, I would think they would complain over Set Bonus differences if they felt those Set Bonuses were inferior.

(Irony is, that is sort of what I'm doing in this blog post, however; I hope what I am doing is raising a potential issue for discussion, not screaming about some sort of imagined bias on the part of the Dev team.)

Is the set bonus bad enough to make us not competitive as tanks? It depends on if the Encounter Design team designs around the 4pc Bonus. Paladins will require additional external cool downs where every other tank does not. I doubt it would be so severe that Paladins would be be benched for other tanks, but that's a possibility.

I'd also like to address the idea that Paladins received a weak set bonus to offset the fact that Paladins are ahead of most other tanks right now. I reject the premise that Paladins have such a superior and unequivocal advantage.

And the Developers reject it as well. Allow me to quote from Lead Developers Ghostcralwer:

"if one or two of the tank classes have such a superior and unequivocal advantage in making a fight easier, why aren't more guilds using them, especially given the evidence that they have swapped tanks on previous encounters? I understand individuals of you may state it has happened to your guild. That's fine, but understand you are in a small minority. Overall, it's just not happening."

What's also concerning is that the issue may not come to light. As Ghostcrawler reported "the number of paladin tanks used to test Icecrown on the PTR has been almost imperceptibly low." Therefore it will be difficult to see if there is an issue with our 4pc bonus until it is already Live. I don't know if a 4pc bonus is the kind of thing you can fix in a hotfix or if Paladins will have to wait for a minor patch to get fixed.

Now the Developers see the entire picture where we do not. Perhaps there are fights, or aspects of fights, where we will love our 4pc.

With T9, we all went "wow, 30 sec off of our major cooldown, neat" and went on to get the 4-pc bonus with gear that was reasonably itemized. The bonus was essentially the same for all 4 tank classes. I can't understand why the Developers made the Paladin bonus so different from the other three tanks.

T9 wasn't the best itemized tier, but it was far from the worst. With T8 and T10, the 4pc is kind of situational. It can be good/bad/whatever. It depends on whether or not the gear is worth using over off-set pieces. With the evidence I have today, I can't see the 4 piece bonus being a major consideration when evaluating gear like it was with Tier 9. I believe the Developers want the players of every class to want their 4 piece bonus. In the case of Protection Paladins, they have not created a bonus that is, in the best case, simply not very attractive, and in the worst case, will make Paladins an inferior choice to fulfill their role, especially on Hard Mode Encounters.

No Arthas Until 2010

Greg Street, the mild mannered developer who has a secret identity as The GhostCralwer, recently did an interview with MMOZine. It's a pretty good read but there was a major clue as to the timing of IceCrown release and bosses.

MMOZine: Will all the bosses in Icecrown Citadel be made available immediately or are you going to stagger them, as you did in Sunwell Plateau?

GS:Well we've not announced when it's coming out yet but we don't want to throw players against challenging raid content right over the holidays, so we're trying to avoid that a little bit.

That would seem to indicate that we won't see 'challenging raid content' until after the Holidays. I would interpret after the Holidays to mean after Christmas and New Years. We may see the Lower Spire (the first part of Ice Crown) before December, but I wouldn't expect to see Arthas himself until January based on Ghostcrawler's response.

And just to underscore the point, Datth on the tech support forums just posted:

We only provide mirror links for full client patches. Background downloads do not count. You have around 1+ month to download this file so we're not really worried about your speed. :)

Source

That puts 3.3 at December 20th at the earliest, probably more like after New Years before we even set foot in Ice Crown Citadel.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Five Bullets in Your Six Shooter

The Devs have released news on how Ice Crown content will be gated for release. After using gating in Trial of the Crusader, it comes as little surprise to me that the Developers have chosen to gate IceCrown.

Icecrown Citadel is going to be broken up into four distinct sections: The Lower Spire, Plagueworks, Crimson Hall, and Frostwing Halls. We plan on releasing these four sections of Icecrown Citadel over time and not all immediately when patch 3.3.0 goes live. At this point I can't give precise dates for these release dates as they are determined by when patch 3.3.0 goes live. Once dates are known with more certainty, I'll update the community so they can plan appropriately.

The first section that opens will include the Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Gunship Battle, and Deathbringer Saurfang encounters. Progress beyond that point will be prevented for several weeks. Then the Plagueworks will open with Rotface, Festergut, and Professor Putricide becoming available. After another period of time, the Crimson Hall will open and you can then fight the Blood Princes and Blood-Queen Lana'thel. The final Frostwing Halls unlock then occurs after that, making Valithria Dreamwalker, Sindragosa, and the Lich King available. We believe a staggered release of the content will allow players to experience Icecrown Citadel at a sustainable, measured, and ultimately more enjoyable pace.

There are other elements that gate access along the way. Players may not attempt any Heroic versions of 10 player encounters until they have defeated the Lich King in a 10 player raid. Similarly, players must defeat the Lich King in a 25 player raid before they can attempt a Heroic 25 player encounter. So players must master every normal difficulty encounter in Icecrown Citadel before attempting Heroic difficulty.

The Lich King may not be attempted until Professor Putricide, Blood-Queen Lana'thel, and Sindragosa are defeated. Furthermore, the Heroic difficulty of The Lich King encounter may not be attempted in any week unless the three aforementioned encounters have been defeated in Heroic difficulty that week.

The Ashen Verdict provides reinforcements and material for players to assault Icecrown Citadel, but this support is not endless. Raids will have a limited number of attempts total each week to defeat the four most difficult encounters in Icecrown Citadel: Professor Putricide, Blood-Queen Lana'thel, Sindragosa, and the Lich King. As these boss encounters are unlocked, the number of attempts available per week will increase. The initial number of attempts provided for defeating Professor Putricide is only five. When Blood-Queen Lana'thel unlocks, the amount of total attempts remaining will increase to 10. Then when Sindragosa and the Lich King unlock, 15 total attempts will be available to defeat all four bosses. After a raid has exhausted their attempts for the week, the Ashen Verdict must withdraw their support and the four most difficult bosses all despawn and become unavailable for the week. The limited attempt system is a feature of both Normal and Heroic difficulty.

There will be no explicit rewards for defeating the Lich King with a specific number of attempts remaining as there was with Trial of the Grand Crusader. There will also not be an achievement to complete Icecrown Citadel without being defeated by a boss encounter, or letting a raid member die. (i.e. A Tribute to Insanity).

In the weeks and months after all twelve encounters are unlocked, additional attempts against the final four boss encounters become available. This represents the Ashen Verdict growing more powerful and gaining a stronger foothold in Icecrown Citadel. To further help raids, Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream will begin to provide assistance by inspiring the armies attacking Icecrown Citadel. This is represented as an additional zone wide spell effect applied to all players that will increase their hit points, damage dealt, and healing done. This effect will also increase in effectiveness over time. Players may opt out of the spell's effect if they so wish.

If you've been asking yourself, "How will Blizzard stretch Ice Crown all the way to Cataclysm?" Here's your answer.

So let's break it down.

We have 4 gates in Ice Crown: The Lower Spire, Plagueworks, Crimson Hall, and Frostwing Halls. Each Gate opens up a new area. The delay between Gate openings will be "several weeks". To me "several weeks" indicates more than two, though I doubt it will be as much as the literal definition of 7. So for the first "several weeks" all that will be available is the 4 Bosses in The Lower Spire: Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Gunship Battle, and Deathbringer Saurfang.

The goal, according to the Developers is a "sustainable, measured, and ultimately more enjoyable pace." They know the race for World Firsts causes guilds to rush through content as fast as they can. I think the Developers are trying to get everyone to slow down and enjoy the journey a little bit. Good luck with that.

The limitations on Heroic difficulty are necessary because of the new difficulty toggle. On a per Boss basis you can switch between Normal and Hard mode. These rules are to prevent you from clearing the early Bosses on Normal and then activate "Hard" when you get to the end.

We can also see the identification of 3 "Keeper" type Bosses: Professor Putricide, Blood-Queen Lana'thel, and Sindragosa. I'd bet my shield those three plus the Lich King are the "Teir Drop" bosses. Saurfang propably drops the other token.

In addition to gating the release, they've brought back the Limited Attempts mechanic from ToC. It only applies to the "Keeper" Bosses. The rest of the Bosses you can take as many shots at as you like.

I believe the Developers are trying to encourage a quality over quantity approach to raiding. The guild that raids 6 days a week and the guild that raids 2 days a week both have the same number of limited attempts at the Boss.

It is interesting to note that this is the first time that the limited attempts mechanic has been applied to a Normal mode Raid.

But 5 attempts seems like a really small number to start out with. In ToC, you had an average of 10 attempts per Boss on Heroic.

It will largely depend on the difficulty of the Encounters. The Developers could have had a limited attempts mechanic on Normal ToC and it wouldn't have affected my guild except on Faction Champions. We one shot each new Boss on Normal the night it was released.

So 5 attempts might be more than enough. When we get to the Crimson Halls, hopefully we're one or two shotting Putricide and we'll have 8 or 9 attempts left to learn Lana'thel. Then by the time Frostwing Halls is released, we'll have 12 or more attempts to learn Sindragosa.

The limited attempts mechanic does concern me from the aspect of problems that are outside of a players control like disconnects or wipes induced by bad lag. But if you are having disconnects on 5 straight attempts there are larger issues than the mechanic. That player needs to be removed, at least until he gets his connection issue under control.

The final bit of news from the Developers is the zone wide buff. We've seen these before. For instance towards the end of Burning Crusade, you got a zone wide buff for Sunwell. This is a great help for guilds who are working their way through IceCrown. As the buff gets stronger, you'll have a greater margin for error. This will help guilds break through progression walls and continue on in the dungeon.

I think it could also be helpful for guilds to retain their top players. If a player thinks about jumping ship, they may decide it's not worth it. They may think that in just another week or two, the Buff will get their current guild over the hump. So it'll be better to stick out with our friends than run off to a slightly more progressed guild.

I do like the quasi Role Playing/Lore/Story elements used to try to explain the gating and the buff. It's a nice nod to the importance of those elements.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gold and Leveling Guides

The Blogsphere is experiencing its own bit of drama right now with 3 well read, heavy trafficked bloggers putting their Two Copper.

It started with everyone’s favorite Goblin, Gevlon of Greedy Goblin, posting about email conversations between himself and Marko of My Two Copper. Both of these guys run blogs dedicated to making lots and lots of gold in World of Warcraft, and Marko was trying to get Gevlon to advertise for a Gold Guide that Marko made and is trying to sell.

Gevlon called on none other than Tobold as a witness to verify certain parts of his account. Tobold was kind enough to reply with a verification of Gevlon’s account. Marko, of course, had his own reply, which seems to have been taken down of this writing, but I still have a copy in my Feed Reader.

I found the whole thing at least mildly entertaining, which is to say I got a good chuckle out of it. I do hope Gevlon and Marko have some strong spam filters because Gevlon posted a screen shot with both their email address on the blog.

Marko didn’t do anything wrong in trying to market his Intellectual Property, and Gevlon and Tobold were well within their rights to say ‘No’.

But the whole episode got me thinking, and when I get a’thinkin’, I get a’writin’.

I started to ask myself, what I would have done if Marko had approached me.

Now I’m aware this would never happen as Honors Code is small potatoes compared to blogs like World of Matticus, Paladin Schamaldain, Tanking Tips, Greedy Goblin, Just My Two Copper, and Tobold’s MMORPG Blog.

That doesn’t bother me. Oh, I’d like more people to read my thoughts on various issues, but I serve a fairly small niche. If you aren’t into Paladins and Tanking, most of the subject matter of Honors Code will probably not be terribly interesting. That’s okay with me.

I do love the way Gevlon works in his own world view philosophies into his blog. I’d love to do more of that with Honor’s Code without it feeling forced.

Now I don’t blog for money, but I probably would have agreed to do a little advertising for Marko if he had asked. I’ve accepted ad requests in the past. There’s a link in the middle of the page under “Free MMOs” that someone is paid me to put up. It was small and unobtrusive, and didn’t detract from the blog. Plus, it gave me the money enough money to treat the family to MickyDs one night. That’s right guys, make a great blog, stick with it for over two years, and you, too, could make enough to go to McDonald’s one evening!

I’ve also got an ad for Killer Guides which I put all the way on the bottom of the page because I didn’t like the look of it on the top or the side. There’s just something about a banner add that front and center that turns me off about a blog or site when I see it. I’ve made nothing off of it and should probably just take it down.

The other thing that I started thinking about was my own guide. No, I don’t have a Gold Making Guide, but I do have my very popular “Leveling a Paladin in World of Warcraft” guide. It’s the number one most visited page on the site. It was good enough to get a link from the Official World of Warcraft site and get me author status on Tankspot.

I’m very proud of my guide and the work I’ve done to keep it current. I began to ponder if I’d ever charge for my guide which made me think back to why I wrote the guide in the first place.

I was but a wee lad of a Paladin, somewhere around Level 20 when I found a Paladin Leveling guide on the Official Forums. That guide was a huge help to me as a leveled up. As is wont to happen with guides, it went out of date and was not updated again. I wanted to express my appreciation to the writer of that Guide, and pay it forward. I wanted to give back to the Paladin community that had helped me learn how to play the class I’d come to love so much.

So I took it upon myself to write my own guide, and I promised myself that I would keep it up to do date. And I’ve kept that promise to myself. On Thursday, July 5th, 2007 my guide was first published on HonorsCode. Just this past September, over two years after its initial release, I published the latest most up to date version of the Guide.

The Guide was meant as a way for me to give back to the Paladin community. It was never something to try to make a profit off of. So, no, I would never ever charge for my guide. It will always be free. If someone just absolutely insisted on paying me something for my work, I’d direct them to several fantastic charities like this one, or this one, and ask them to make a donation in my name.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Keep Your Old Gear

Currently we are up to Twins in Trial of the Grand Crusader. I have a feeling we’ll get those two down easier than Faction Champions. After that, it’s time for Anub’arak!
My job will change dramatically. On normal, I tank the big ole bug and Boston (DK) wrangles the Adds. He acknowledged later that I probably should have been on Adds originally, but it’s Normal mode and really didn’t matter.
When we face Anub’arak on Heroic, I’ll be on the Adds.
Why are Paladins and Warriors fantastic Add Tanks on Anub’arak?
The Adds have this lovely little debuff called Expose Weakness which causes you to take more damage (up to 225%!)
Block is a real powerful way to lessen this damage because the multiplication comes AFTER your block reduction. Worldlie on Maintankadin explains it this way:
The adds hit for about 5k unmitigated. Assuming you got 4k block value, this will result in a 1k hit (4k blocked).
Now let's add the debuff: they would be hitting for about 15k unmitigated... however, after block, they will only hit by 3k hit (4k blocked)! You see what I did there? Only the unblocked damage got multiplied. This means you can negate up to 100% damage with blocks, and that's probably the main reason for which you are tanking Adds as well.
He goes on to list out all the block gear you can find. I compared the list to what I have in my bags.
  • Head: Tier 9 232 Helm
  • Neck: Warlord’s Depravity
  • Back: Tattered Castle Drape
  • Shoulder : Sunreavers Defender's Pauldrons
  • Chest: Tier 7 200 Chest
  • Wrist: Binds of Hapless Prey
  • Hands: Teir 8 219
  • Waist: NONE
  • Legs: Tier 9 232
  • Feet: NONE
  • Rings: NONE
  • Trinkets: Coren’s Lucky Coin
  • Libram: Libram of Sacred Shield
  • Shield: Aegis of the Coliseum
  • Weapon: Shiver
I put this gear on last night for the Daily Heroic, although at times I swapped in my old Aldori Legacy Defender so the healer wouldn't get bored. The set works out to about 2700 Block Value. When Libram of Sacred Shield is up, and it should have a 100% up time, that jumps to almost 3200 Block Value. When Coren's procs, I'm approaching 3400 Block Value. I'm not quite up to the 4k Worldlie mentioned in his article, but I'm close. I did have Blessing of Sanctuary for the Strength buff, but I didn't have Kings or Mark or a Strength of Earth Totem. All of those would boost my Block Value. I'll need to fish up some Dragonfin Fillet so I have a nice Strength food buff.
I need to outfit the final gear with Epic gems.
I've already logged out for the night, but I'm thinking I should try my Darkmoon Card: Greatness as part of the set.
Where else could I improve this set? I could use some help with my Cloak, Waist, Feet and Rings.
My options for Cloak would be Cloak of the Iron Council from Ulduar, or Shadow of the Ghoul, a trash drop from Naxxrammus25.
For a belt, I have to hope for a Skadi’s Iron Belt the next time UP is the daily. I’ve let that thing get blown up multiple times. Now that I want it, it probably won’t drop. My other options are Waistguard of the Tutor from Naxx10, or Dragonscale Brace from Razorscale in Ulduar 25.
For a short term set of boots, I’ll pick up the Toxin Tempered Sabatons from Knights of the Ebon Blade. I’d prefer to find a pair of Inexorable Sabatons on the AH. These are a BoE drop from Naxx25. I trolled Trade chat several times last night and didn't even get a nibble. I know, crazy idea, trying to use Trade chat for actual Trade. I really wish the Auction House had a reverse Auction where I could put up a certain amount of gold and then someone could come along with Inexorable Sabatons and 'bid' the Sabatons to 'win' the Auction. Now even better than Inexorable Sabatons would be to grab Greaves of the Stonewarder, but those are only available from Ulduar25.
There are only two rings, Signet of the Earthshaker which drops from XT in Ulduar25 and the Unsmashable Heavy Band which drops in Utgarde Keep. It’s another Blue I’ve let be disenchanted multiple times.
I held onto my Coren’s Lucky Coin from Level 70. I have never once seen Lavanthor's Talisman drop in VH.
I'm really happy I held onto my old gear like the Bindings of Hapless Prey, and the old Tier stuff. I'm also happy I chose to hold onto the old Brewfest stuff like Coren's Lucky Coin. I've got a bank full of gear, but sometimes as a tank you're called on to make a weird set. I still have my Level 70 Defense Trinkets, and my old Figurine of the Colossus.
Now if we wait until IceCrown is out to try Anub’arak, there are some Block Value boots and belt from the Normal 5 man. It doesn't look like Ice Crown is coming out today (November 17th). If we get Twins down this week, I'll need to be ready for Anub'arak.

Having a project like this is really enjoyable. When I saw the daily was Utgarde Keep, I was actually excited because Unsmashable Band drops there, instead of ho-hum Heroic daily. We knocked it out in just about 20 minutes.

Frosty Gear in 3.3

In past patches, I’ve only given a cursory glance at new gear as it’s discovered on the PTR and reported on sites like MMO-Champion. I figured that A, the gear could change and 2, Petrus on Maintankadin would update his gear list and I’d check it out then.
With Ice Crown, I’ve decided to take a more proactive approach. I’ve looked at all the gear coming out and I’m looking to answer some basic questions.
Is there anything in the new Ice Crown 5 mans, Normal or Heroic, I need. Are there any slots where my current strong gear, like my 245 Bracers and Helm might be superior to what’s offered in the new Ice Crown 10 man.
One of the benefits to being a 10 man raider is that I’ve got significantly less gear to consider. If I was a 25 man raider, I’d have to consider all the 25 man gear, plus all the 10 man gear.
As I looked over the gear, it seems the theme was pretty clear. The Developers think we are going to start having some Threat issues in Ice Crown Citadel. In almost every case, the Ice Crown Gear is usually on par, or a little behind, current gear obtained at the equivalent level (Normal to Normal, Heroic to Heroic, and Raid to Raid) in Effective Health and Stamina, but ahead in Threat stats.
There is some attractive gear in the 5 man Normal Mode for my Block Value set. The Gloves that drop have more Block Value than Tier 8. The Belt and Boots are the first Block Value items in those slots for 10 man raiders since Naxxramus. The Cloak that drops from the Normal is essentially the same stats as the Saronite Animus Cloak from Ulduar 10. For newer tanks, the Normal provides great gear including a Shield.
The new 5 man Heroic drops gear of equivalent iLevel to ToC10 (Item Level 232). In general, the loot is very competitive. It appears the Ice Crown Heroic loot is a bit more itemized to threat, while the ToC loot was itemized a bit more to Effective Health.
The Boots that drop from the Heroic, Black Spire Sabatons, have a bit more threat than the Greaves of the Lingering Vortex from ToC10, and their avoidance stats are more balanced. But they lack a gem slot which gives the Greaves of the Lingering Vortex higher Effective Health.
There’s a pretty good Helm, Second Helm of the Executioner, which drops in the Heroics. It’s really handicapped by its lack of Meta slot. The bigger issue is that Headplate of the Honorbound is better and is iLevel 245 and available for Emblems of Triumph which will be dropping in all Heroics.
The neck, Fossilized Ammonite Choker, is something I’ll be gunning for. It’s got more strength than Fortitude of the Infernal from Jarraxxus, and its avoidance stats are better balanced with less defense and dodge and the addition of some parry.
The shoulders you can get from the Heroic, Shoulderplates of Frozen Blood, are very comparable to Tier 9 but the Tier 9’s gem slot, and superior avoidance puts it ahead of these shoulders. In addition, I’m a big fan of our Tier 9 set bonus.
There are two different Tank weapons available, Falric’s Wrist-Chopper and Rimefang’s Claw. Both are very comparable to Shiver, but seem to be a bit more threat heavy. Falric’s is a nod towards Orc Warriors as it’s an Axe, while Rimefang’s will make humans happy as it’s a sword. So far, Dwarves are left out of the mix without a Mace, at least from the Heroics.
The first thing that jumps out at me as I look at the Raid gear is Marrowgar, Gunship and Saurfang are important Bosses for tank with 2 tank drops a piece.
Gunship provides the all important shield, Neverending Winter. It’s hurt by a lack of Gem slot which means the Aegis of the Colseum will actually provide more stamina. However, it’s got close to 500 more armor and 16 more Block Value so I’m betting their Effective Health is pretty close. Neverending Winter also provides the first Shield Block Rating we’ve seen in a while. With Chill of the Throne in effect, Paladins may need to Shield Block Rating to get back to the Block Cap. Gunship’s other Tank drop is a ring, Abomination’s Bloody Ring. It’s a fairly minor upgrade over the Emblem of Triumph purchased Clutch of Fortification. Compared to the ToC drop, Band of the Twin Valkyr, Abomination’s Bloody Ring gives you Stamina where the Band of the Twin Valkyr gives you armor, and the Abomination’s Blood Ring is a solid upgrade in avoidance.
Marrowgar provides a neck. Marrowgar’s Scratching Choker is a nice upgrade from Fortitude of the Infernal. Fortitude’s Expertise is converted to Strength on Marrowgars, and you get a bump in Stamina and avoidance. Marrowgar’s other Tank drop is a weapon and Dwarves of the World (of Warcaft) rejoice because it’s a Mace. The Brokenhammer is a nice threat upgrade, though Shiver will provide more Stamina thanks to its gem slot.
The last double drop Boss is none other than Saurfang. He provides a set of offset (non Tier) legs, Deathforged Legplates. They are a solid upgrade over the Tier 9 pants, but keep Tier 9 around for your Block Value. What will be more interesting is how they compare to Tier 10 which we don’t as of yet have stats for. If Tier 10 is really another skirt (UGH!) then I’m going to be rooting for these Legs to be a viable side grade.
Saurfang’s other drop is a set of Wrists, Gargoyle Spit Bracers. Wrists happen to be one of my stronger spots with the iLevel 245 Dreadscale Bracers from ToGC10. The massive amount of Armor on the Gargoyle Spit Bracers helps to make up for a lack of a socket and weaker avoidance stats.
The other tank drops so far are from Festergut. He drops a Back which will be a nice upgrade to tanks like me who are still sporting an Ulduar Back, or a Platimium Mesh Cloak.
Now we get to the good stuff. The Emblems of Frost rewards. For a 10 man raider, these will provide very solid upgrades and at iLevel 264, are the highest iLevel a 10 man Raider will see this expansion. These are the equivalent of hard mode loot for Badges.
The reward highest on my list is this beauty, the Corroded Skeleton Key. Yes, Virginia, that’s 228 stamina with an on use to give you a Power Word Shield.
Emblems of Frost rewards include a Chest, Cloak, Gloves, and a Belt.
This is also how you will obtain your Tier 10, and your Libram. The way Tier 10 will work is you purchase the regular Tier 10 with Emblems of Frost. Then you trade in your Emblem bought Tier 10 along with a token drop from the appropriate Boss to get your next level of Tier 10. It’s just like Tier 9 worked, only that you need your 232 before you get your 245. Hopefully that will cut down on people holing onto their badges and passing on the 232 gear to buy the 245 gear when they, finally, win a trophy.
But let’s not get too excited. Libram of the Eternal Tower is a fantastically named, but poorly implemented item.
Let’s look at what it does. Shield of Righteousness grants 73 dodge for 15 secs stacks 3 times. By the time you’ve got the full stack up, you’ve got 219 dodge rating. Because it’s raiting, you’ll be getting hit full force by Diminishing Returns and because it’s dodge, you’ll also take a hit from Chill of the Throne.
In addition, Shield of Righteousness has a 6 second cooldown, so it will take a minimum of 12 seconds to get the buff up to full power. Then if for any reason you have to change targets, or if the mob becomes untargetable, like the Worms on Northrend Beasts, or Anub’arak, you’ll lose your buff and have to rebuild it again. Basically, any where that Divine Plea falls off of you in current content would be a situation where the Dodge buff from the Libram would fall off.
Compare that to our current Libram, the Libram of Definance. Hammer of the Righteous chance for 200 dodge for 18sec. The Dodge buff will be active 18 seconds. Hammer of the Righteous cooldown is 6 sec, so you have 3 opportunities to proc it (at 6, 12 and 18 sec).

Chance to NOT proc it in 3 attempts= 20%x20%x20%=0,8%

so

Chance to proc it at least 1 time is 100,00%-0,8%=99,20%.
Now it’s Dodge Rating so it gets hit just like Libram of the Eternal Tower, but there is no stacking mechanic, so it’s up at full force the moment you proc it.
Even with both Librams at full force, you are only gaining 19 dodge rating which is going to be hit hardest by Diminishing Returns. It’s not going to be a high priority for spending Emblems of Frost, especially when I’ll need Emblems for Tier gear.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heroic Faction Champions

We had the ‘good’ problem of more raiders than spots last night. I say it’s a good problem because it’s certainly better than not having enough raiders for your team.

Boston asked for volunteers to sit, and I thought about it, but I knew we were doing Heroic ToC10. I wanted to be in the raid and as one of our geared tanks; I thought I would be needed. Not only that, but if I sat, the team would miss out on my lovely singing voice and vent, and I’m sure nobody wanted to miss out on that.

As an aside, I’m been banned from singing on at least three vent servers. I feel sort of like the guy in the Cantina Scene in Episode IV. “You just watch yourself, we’re wanted men. I’m been banned on three Vent servers!”

Annnnnnnnnnnnyway, we two shot Beasts and three shot Jarraxxus. All night it seemed like I was having threat issues.

Let’s talk about threat for a second. For the entire expansion, the only time I’ve had threat issues as a Paladin is on gimmick fights like Malygos and Hodir where the DPS is getting some ridiculous buff. In a normal fight, I have no problem keeping a very large threat lead. Normally the next closest person will be at around 65 to 70%.

That’s started to change in ToC, especially early on the in the fight. The main culprit seems to be our Destruction Warlock, although our Hunter can ride my threat as well

I don’t know enough about Locks to even guess what the problem is. I can tell what the problem is not though; it’s not a player skill issue. Our Warlock is a really strong player. He knows the encounters and strats backwards and forwards. He’s the kind of guy that can fully explain to you not only his role, but also what every other person in the raid should be doing. I would bet he’s putting every bit as much research into maximizing his personal contribution to the DPS team. I don’t know Corruption from Conflagrate but I bet his 3/17/51 spec is EJ tested, EJ approved, with all the appropriate threat reducing talents.

Hand of Salvation seems to help, but there are many times I want to Salv him and he’s out of my range.

“General Calrissian, our tanks can’t repel aggro gen of that magnitude!”

After Beasts and Jarraxus, we came to our current nemesis, the Faction Champions. Two weeks previously, have we taken on these guys, and verily, it has come to pass, that twice they have smackedeth us down.

The enemy team consisted of a Boomkin, Holy Paladin, Enhance Shaman, Rogue, Mage, and Priest. I think the Priest was Disc because he kept casting Penance.

The plan was to have Blue (Warrior) go Prot and lock down the Holy Paladin. Boston (DK) would do what he could to keep the Rogue off our squishier teammates. We’d rotate crowd control like Cyclones from Lakini and Hexes from Stark (Shaman) on the Enhance Shaman to help our DPS escape. We would try to blow up the Priest, and then start on the other DPS.

Our first attempt, the Priest never got below 80%. It was pretty much what we had seen in our other attempts. On Heroic, the Faction Champions get a trinket and are immune to Taunts.

The next attempt we sent in Danath (Warrior) to fear. The Faction Champs all blew their trinket right from the get go. I popped Wings and laid into the Priest with my Ret DPS. Between Arcane Torrent, Hammer of Justice and Repentance, I was able to stop 3 heals from going off.

More so than just about any other fight, I really have to fight tunnel vision on Faction Champs, but at the same time I need to “stay on target”.

This is also a fight where you notice your own contribution much more than you notice what everyone else is doing. I saw where my Cleanse got Blue out of a sheep so he could get back on the Holy Paladin. I saw where my Hand of Protection saved Blackhaus (Priest) from being killed by the Rogue. I know the rest of the team was using every single one of their abilities to help us try to win this encounter; it’s just that I didn’t see what they were doing or I would tell you all about it.

This time the Priest started to go down, but we must have run out of interrupts because she started to get some heals off. Then she dropped into Execute range and we got her. One Faction Champion down. I glanced up at my raid frames. We were still intact, a good sign.

We changed to the Enhance Shaman, and we were able to burst him down. I checked the Raid frames again. We were down Neo (Warlock) and Ofn (Rogue). Two for two. I figure even if we buckle at this point, we’ve made really good progress in this attempt.

We chose the Boomkin next. We got him down, but it had been costly. We had lost Black (Priest). Lakini (Druid) was Johnny on the spot with a Battle Rez. Okay, so I did notice SOME of the things other people did.

Now it was the eight of us remaining against the Rogue, Holy Paladin and Mage. We went after the Rogue next. He was tricky using Shadowstep to get away from us.

Both our healers were running dry. I switched Stark’s blessing from Kings to Wisdom and waited until Black was completely OOM and hit him with a Lay on Hands. Now I realize 1,950 isn’t a lot of mana, but it was about 1900 more than he had.

We got the Rogue down finally and worked over the Mage. Then all that was left was the Holy Paladin who was so OP that he continued to cast in the air as Boston Death Griped him over to us. Darn, OP Paladins. He popped his Bubble but Blue (Warrior) was ready to take care of that problem.

The crowd roared as the last Faction Champion went down. There wasn’t the exultant cheer in vent you normally get with a new Boss kill. I imagined everyone slumping in their chair and breathing a huge sigh of relief. We had done it. Faction Champion Heroic was down.

We made a couple of pulls on Twins to see the differences. Raid damage is just ridiculous. We tried a couple of different strats but nothing seemed to work well for us.

We decided to extend the Raid ID. While there are some upgrades from the first three bosses for people, we’d like to try to clear the place, maybe before 3.3.

Boston also made what I feel like is a smart move of dialing us back to just two raid nights. He doesn’t want people to get too burned out on raiding right now. We’ll take an extra night off and be ready to hit Ice Crown “full throttle” when it opens.

I think my initial guess of 11/17 was probably too optimistic. It looks like the loot tables are still being finalized so it could be another couple of weeks before it drops.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friends Who Don't Play WoW

I had a friend ask me for my TwitterID so we could keep in touch on Twitter. This guy isn’t a WoW player, and I was reluctant to give him my Twitter ID since I a lot of my tweets are WoW related. I suddenly felt like George Costanza from Seinfeld in the episode where Elaine meets Susan. “Worlds are colliding!” he shouts.

Suddenly someone from my real life was going to get a peek into my WoW life. It made me a little uncomfortable. The world where I'm known as by my real name was colliding with the world where I'm known as Honorshammer.

I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to some of my non WoW friends that WoW players really aren’t that different than who spend their evenings watching The Office or American Idol . You basically sit in front of an LCD display for a few hours and watch the stories of characters you are emotionally invested in.

I could tell the message wasn’t exactly getting through.

There are things in our culture that are just more socially accepted that others. For instance, it’s socially accepted to be excited about the new season of a popular TV show. It’s not as socially accepted to be excited about the season (patch) of your favorite MMO.

It’s socially accepted to stand around the water cooler and discuss how your favorite team defeated a tough opponent last night. It’s not socially accepted to stand around the water cooler and discuss how your raid team defeated a tough boss last night.

Watching TV turns your brain off.

"Psychophysiologist Thomas Mulholland found that after just 30 seconds of watching television the brain begins to produce alpha waves, which indicates torpid (almost comatose) [slow] rates of activity. Alpha brain waves are associated with unfocused, overly receptive states of consciousness. In fact, Mulholland’s research implies that watching television is neurologically analogous to staring at a blank wall. Once again, regardless of the content being presented, television essentially turns off your nervous system." (http://pages.prodigy.net/unohu/brainwaves.htm)

Yet, TV is more socially acceptable activity. Perhaps it’s because it’s been around longer.

If you are my age (mid 30s), your parents generation was the first to see the Television enter the home. My generation has never known a time when the TV wasn’t part of the living room landscape. But there was probably a time in your life before the computer became part of the landscape. My own daughter has never known a time when the computer wasn’t part of our living room.

Perhaps in another 20 years, when today’s children are tomorrow’s adults, MMOs will be more socially accepted. Until then, we enjoy our secret lives and hope our non WoW friends either don’t find out about our ‘other lives’ or that they still accept us when they do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You Veterans

I'm going to interrupt the Blog today, for this special message. To all the Veterans out there today, I want to say Thank you. I enjoy the frivolity of a video game while you put your life on the line to defend our country, and my freedom.

So to all of you, past, and present, Thank You!

Keep your heads down and come home safe. Every single last one of you, but especially a certain someone in NMCB 24, and another certain someone in the 315th Airlift Wing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Helm and Spaulders

The following scene was recorded moments after Devolve's very first kill of Yogg Saron in Ulduar. Gadgetzan Times reporter, Nipskee Fizzwidget, caught up with Devolve's Tank, Honorshammer.

Nipskee: "Honors...Honors...big time players make big time plays. Talk about that Phase 3 transition."

HH: "Well, you know, I owe my great hair to Helm and Spaulders."

Nipskee: "Right, no. I want to know about the Hand of Protection that saved your Disc Priest."

HH: "You know, Helm and Spaulders does 7 great things for my scalp and hair."

Nipskee: "Didn't ask about your hair, Honors."

HH: "You asked with your eyes, Nip. You asked with your eyes."




It was kind of a quiet night last night in game. This was just meant as a bit of humor. You'll either get to joke or your wont. If you didn't get it, well, watch this, and see if it's any funnier.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lusting for Heroism

I was discussing the 10/25 man difficulty divide with FiestTheRogue on Twitter. Fiest plays a Rogue main and has an alt Tankadin. I love talking to him because he can help me see a perspective that I have don't have access to anymore. Fiest is a hard core 25 man raider. His guild is one pull away from Insanity 25. We're talking US top 50, World top 100s. Pretty sure he's in the Iron Bound Proto Drake club. I'm not raiding hard core 25 mans, and haven't since Burning Crusade.
It's really amazing what you can work out when you have a good dialog with someone who disagrees with you. It requires that both parties are mature and a real exchange of ideas happens. Neither party may change their position, but both parties can come away with a better understanding of the overall situation. Often times some core issue is uncovered.
We were discussing the difficulty divide of 10s/25s and we both came to the conclusion that one of the core issues is Heroism/Bloodlust. 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 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. One of the classes we'd love to add to our group for Cataclysm is an Elemental Shaman, and one of the main reasons is to give us a back up Heroism/Bloodlust if our Resto Shaman can't make it or wants to play his Mage.
10s could be tuned more closely to their 25 man counterparts if the Developers could assume Heroism/Bloodlust was available to all 10 man groups. There are several ways the Developers could do this such as adding in scrolls like the Scroll of Blessing of Kings or Scroll of Mark of the Wild that are being added in 3.3. But with Cataclysm on the horizon, I will put forth the not-at-all-new suggestion that Heroism needs to be given to another class.
But which class? This is a powerful buff and whichever class gets it will have an advantage in getting raid spots over other classes. So we need to be careful who we give it to.
I believe it has to be given to a hybrid. The 'pure' dps classes are brought for their pure untaxed dps, so by that logic they don't 'need' heroism. So let's eliminate Rogues, Hunters, Warlocks, and Mages from the mix.
I would love to build a case that Paladins should get Heroism, but Paladins already have a signature much desired buff in Blessing of Kings. You could make a fairly compelling argument that Kings is the best buff in the game, and that Paladins have more raid utility than just about any hybrid going. So, as much as it pains me, I have to eliminate my class, Paladins.
I think I'm also going to have to eliminate Druids. They have the signature buff of Mark of the Wild and Battle Rez and Innervate are also a very powerful utility.
The Buff from Paladins (Blessing of Kings) and Druids (Mark of the Wild) are so important that Blizzard is implementing a scroll in 3.3 so that groups without Paladins and Druids will have access to those buffs, mainly because they affect your Tanks buffed hit points. The other buff that comes under that umbrella is Power Word: Fortitude.
Priests are also powerful healers and maybe this is just my own perception but healers seem to be the hardest role to fill in end game raiding. They also bring the Spirit buff for casters and the various Shadow debuffs. Shadow Priests can fill the important replenishment role. So we are going to drop Priests out as a new Heorism class.
So what are we left with? Warriors and Death Knights.
Both of these classes are outstanding tanks and do competitive hybrid-taxed DPS. Both classes are limited to melee dps or tanking roles.
Warriors bring the HP buff Commanding Shout, the AP buff of Battle Shout, melee crit with Rampage and the Bleed debuff. Warriors bring the utility of increasing melee DPS with Sunder and Blood Frenzy. Mortal Strike is an important if situational ability.
Death Knights are valued for Horn of Winter, Abominations Might, Icy Talons, and Ebon Plaguebringer. Death Grip has some great utility, but is highly situational.
I'm the last guy you'd think would build a case for a major buff to either Warriors or Death Knights, but if you look at the situation, it does appear a case could be made that those two classes could use some additional utility when compared to the other hybrids. Giving Heroism to one or both classes would make it easier for the Developers to balance content as well as to give 10 mans greater access to this important buff.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Trial fo the Crusader 25

We combined our 10 mans once again and attacked the 25 man version of Trial of the Crusader.
The difficulty difference between 10 and 25 gets debated often and with great passion. I’m going to do my best to lay out my position as a 10 man Raider. I’m also (again to the best of my limited ability) going to try to understand the position of the 25 man raider.
Let me tell you where I’m coming from, my context if you will. Devolve is made up of two 10 man raid teams. The teams are not set in stone but pretty much the same people run together. Occasionally we’ll have some overlap, especially when we try to put together our 3rd ‘alt’ team, which I can’t join unless I’m going to pony up and spend 25 bucks to bring the Hunter over or finally get the Druid to 80.
Now, by this point we've gotten some 245 badge gear but for the most part our team is 219 to 232 geared.
Last week, we 19 manned Northrend Beasts and 20 manned Jarraxxus. This week, with a full compliment, we defeated Faction Champions and then put down the Twin Valkyrs. We had a frustrating 1% wipe on Anub'arak but never got him down before we ran out of time.
We had 4 tank capable players in the raid, as well as a couple of offspec tanks. We had two Paladins, Grimadin and your humble author. We had a Death Knight in our Raid Leader Death Knight Boston and a Druid named Phills.
Let me add in a little side story about Grimadin and I. We are both Blood Elves and look very similar. After the raid we co-tanked VoA. On Flame Watcher, I got confused and thought he was me. I was moving my toon and saying “Where are you going Grim”. Dang near got him killed from Meteor Fist.
Annnnnnnnnnnnnyway, back to TotC25. Boston did a really good job rotating people through the tanking roles. Most every fight was done with 2 tanks, although Phills saved the day on Northrend Beasts. We had people mess up the Icehowl charge twice, each time costing us a Tank. Philss popped into Bear form and tanked the last couple of percent of Icehowls life. Well done, oh furry one.
I didn't manage to win any Trophies, and there was only one Tank drop, Armguards of the Shieldmaiden. I have the bracers from Heroic Beasts and Grim had the Blacksmith ones, so those went to Blueshield, one of our Warrior offspec tanks.
We went from being 2/5 in 25 man TotC to 4/5, and we danged near cleared the place.
We didn't find the 25 man to be any more difficult than the 10 man. The real difficulty of the night was finding 25 people who could log into the game at the same time. Why again, did this instance drop a full tier better gear than the 10 man?
Yes, the Bosses hit harder, but we had 3 times as many healers to heal that damage.
Yes, the DPS requirements were higher, but we had twice as many DPSers and more buffs than our 10 man.
I realize that it is statistically more likely that 1 person in 25 makes a mistake than 1 person in 10. Nothing we experienced in TotC25 was tuned that tightly. We had people mess up a critical part of Northrend Beasts (Icehowl charge), not once, but twice, and still finished the encounter.
If there are fights that are tuned that so tightly that one person’s death means it’s a wipe, then maybe THOSE fights should award higher gear.
I realize that 25 man guilds that raid 10-man content find it easier to do. I think some of that has to do with the superior gear they are wearing. While our team is 219 to 232 geared, the 25 man guild is probably 232 to 258 geared. That’s a guess though.
This isn't an 'epeen' thing as much as I hate the word. My issue is the pressure the disparity in iLevles puts on 10 man guilds.
I understand that 25 man guilds feel pressured to run 10 mans and 10 man Heroics to give them every shot at the gear upgrades they feel like they need to clear the 25 man modes. I understand some of them don't like that. But I hope 25 man raiders understand the pressure the higher level loot puts on 10 man guilds.
It is extremely difficult to recruit and retain players for a 10 man strict guild. Those players realize that they could have access to higher iLevel gear by joining a 25 man guild.
So as a 10 man guild, we are pressured to combine our teams and run 25 mans. It's easier to recruit and retain for a guild that runs primarily 10 mans but does the occasional 25 man than it is to recruit and retain for a strict 10 man guild.
That's why I don't like the iLevel difference between TotC10 and TotC25.
We've been very fortunate in devolve and the number of people jumping ship to 25 man guilds has been minimal. I don't expect all the 10 man guilds have been as fortunate.
I know 25 man raiders worry that if 10 mans dropped equivalent loot, it would hurt their recruitment efforts, and they are probably right.
Maybe it would make sense to match the reward to the challenge. If the challenge of 25 mans is logistical in nature, make the reward should be logistical in nature as well. What I mean is this. If the 10 man Boss drops 2 epics, the 25 man Boss drops 5 epics, but all of the same iLevel.
The other idea would be to make the 10 and 25 man share a lockout, but I'm not sure if that would help or hurt either or both situation as far as the acquisition and retention of recruits.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Circle of Tanks

Circle of Healers was the brain child of Miss Medicina. You can find the rest of the responses from other bloggers here too. One of my readers, Danny, had an interesting thought after having seen Circle of Healers.

Danny tells me: "Honors, I think it would be a good idea to switch it up for a tank. Kind of in the same way Amber changed up Mortigan's Wipe list. It could be fun. I would fill this out myself but I don't have a blog."

Ah, but I do.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary Tank?
Honorshammer, Paladin, 0/53/18

What is your primary group Tanking environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
10 Man Heroic Mode

What is your favorite thing about the class you chose for your primary Tank and why?
I didn't really 'choose' Paladin to be my Tanking class. I had gotten to Level 60 with my first toon (Paladin) and then decided I wanted to Tank. I didn't even know what a Tank was when I rolled Honorshammer in 1.9. At that time, Paladins weren't really a tanking class.

I know this will sound crazy, but I really like the passive nature of the Paladin class. I like that my cooldown goes off exactly when I need it. I like that many of my threat abilities are fire and forget.I don't have to waste a global cooldown putting up my 'Demo Shout' type ability, it happens automatically as a proc on my swing. I know I'd forget to use important tools if they were all active because I do forget on my Warrior/Druid.

What do you like least about your class and why?
That's hard for me because I really like the class. I guess what I like least is the negative perception some people have of the class. Our T9 vendors are named EasyMode and FaceRoll and Rets were the butt of the opening joke at Blizzcon. "Faster than Ret Paladins can storm the forums after a nerf." For whatever reason, Paladins seem to be almost reviled.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your Tanking class and why?
We can take a licking and keep on ticking. Paladins have the ability to take a ton of damage, and put out really strong threat.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your Tanking class and why?
Interrupt. Paladins don't have a short cooldown interrupt. Ours is 40 seconds fully talented which just isn't' going to cut it when Death Knights and Warriors have sub 10 second cooldowns.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?
I believe Paladins excel at every tanking assignment. You need me to be a chew toy for a Dragon? No problem. You need a couple of Adds wrangled. I'm all over it. You need a billion whelps controlled. I'm your man.

What Tanking class do you enjoy tanking with most and why?
I have experience tanking as a max level Paladin and Warrior and as a mid level Druid. Paladin is clearly my favorite. Paladin just fits me so well. I love the lore, the spell animations, and general theme of the Paladin class. I like using mana as a threat resource more so than Rage.

What Tanking class do you enjoy tanking with least and why?
Warrior. The mechanic of spamming Heroic Strike to produce competivie threat or DPS got really old, really fast. It's the biggest reason I abandoned the Warrior.

What is your worst habit as a tank?
Not taunting fast enough. I'm always worried about stepping on another tanks toes, so I usually give my co-Tank a second to pick it up, and some more melee gets eaten in the process. (Sorry Ofn)

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?
People that don't know the fight, especially when we go for a Hard Mode. It's very frustrating to hear on vent after a wipe "Oh, I didn't realize you weren't supposed to stand there."

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other tanks for PvE tanking?
Paladins are probably in the best position we've ever been in. I know some members of the other Tanking classes even think Paladins may be too strong right, but I simply don't see it that way.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?
Omen, and Recount Death Meter. I use Omen to make sure my threat production is where it needs to be and check the Death Meter to see if there was anything I could have done differently to prevent my early demise.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your tanking class?
That Paladin are easy mode 3 button Tanks. As I've said, I've tanked on a Warrior and Druid, and I don't find the Paladin to be appreciably easier or harder. Nothing in this game is particularly hard to learn.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new tanks of your class to learn?
Probably the hardest thing is to learn what are your Tank abilities as opposed to your DPS and Healing abilities. Our spells have very similar names so knowing the difference between say Divine Shield and Divine Protection and Divine Intervention is very important.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a tank via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of threat, low dps output, etc)?
They'd see most of my DPS is Seal of Vengeance and melee 'white' hits. Paladin do pretty good DPS while tanking, but nothing compared to what your 'real' DPSers do. As long as I can out threat the DPSers, I don't care about how much DPS I do. If we are wiping because the Tank didn't do enough DPS, something is wrong with the DPS team.

Avoidance, Mitigation or Stamina and why?
Stamina. When you get down to it, every fight has an requirement for how much health the tank has to have for your raid to have any shot at beating it. Until you meet that threshold, you just aren't going to down the boss.

What Tanking class do you feel you understand least?
Death Knights. My own Death Knight is level 58 and serves as a Bank mule. I think I was the one guy who plays WoW that really didn't enjoy the mechanics of the new class.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in tanking?
Omen, Power Auras, Bartender4

Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
I strive for a balance. Just by wearing 'tanking' gear you will have a good balance of avoidance and mitigation stats as well as a boatload of stamina. Then when it comes to tweaking, you have to be smart about the opportunity cost of your gems and enchants. That said, if the socket bonus isn't at least 9 stamina, I'm going Solid, baby.

I'll tag Paladins Avenging Wrathy, Rhidac of Righteous Defense, Druids Big Bear Butt, ThinkTank, Warriors Tank Like a Girl, Veneretio of Tanking Tips, and Death Knight pwnwear.