Thursday, April 28, 2011

Patch 4.1: Protection Warriors

undead_warrior Yes, I know, a lot of talk about the patch 4.1 lately. Everyone is posting about it, which is why I only stick to protection warrior’s point of view for now. There is plenty of material out there about the new instances, dungeon finder, etc. Actually, it is surprising just how large the patch was, despite not featuring a new raid instance. A lot of things have changed, been redesigned, and altered to seriously change the way we play the game.

The official patches are can be found in the following link and obviously, you should always check them out yourself and see what is what. But I will try to cover some of the major changes and give a few thoughts on them. I resisted the urge to write about this yesterday, before I had a chance to get a feel for it.

There is also a round of hotfixes that have been implemented, in response to many of the problems that came out with the patch, and suggest everyone will also have a look at that.

Rallying Cry

First, lets go over the new warrior utility, Rallying Cry. Keep in mind; this is actually something all warriors received, regardless of spec, so the dynamics of its usage are rather interesting. It essentially functions like the Paladin’s Divine Guardian ability but instead of 20% less damage taken, RC gives the raid 20% more health for 10 seconds. It shares its CD with Last Stand and what that means is that if a tank uses it, he will not be able to use LS for another 3 minutes. Another warrior using his RC will not affect another warrior’s RC or LS.

The utility of this ability is innumerable and is only limited by the 30 yard range. That means that using it during the Nefarian encounter, phases 1 & 2 you will not grant you a lot of benefits, unless used by a warrior close enough to the main raid. Then again, in phase 3, used by a DPS warrior, it would be awesome for Electrocute. Other examples are in Halfus, Valion & Theralion, Cho’gall, etc. To me, this ability is just great and something the class has needed for quite a long time.

Spell Block

The warrior tank has always been, somewhat, more vulnerable against magic damage. Spell Block is a 5 second buff that gives us 20% reduced damage from magic when we use Shield Block. We need to spec into [Shield Mastery] but this is hardly a concern since it is must-have talent for protection warriors anyway. The important thing is that we finally have a raid-viable ability against magic damage and because it is bound to Shield Block, it makes how you spend that particular ability a bit more a question of time.

For most of the current tier’s encounters you are not going to want to alter your Shield Block routines in anyway, since most of them do not really feature powerful magic attacks. Ofc magic damage is present but it is much more useful to still give your Mirror of Broken Images trinket priority in dealing with them. The reason is simply because Shield Block still also functions as a means to mitigate physical damage and your goal should be to still maximize its effectiveness.

Personally, I would reserve Spell Block primarily against the three end bosses; Ala’kir, Cho’gall, and Nefarian, because those three are the ones that contain the most prominent sources of magic damage that cannot be entirely covered by the trinket. There are few other examples too however, like if you are tanking Ignacious of the Ascendant Council, when he puts up his shield and does a very powerful fire attack on the tank.

A good general rule, for me at least, is that it is not worth delaying Shield Block for more than 10 seconds maximum. The reason for that is because the ability is only on a 30 second CD and if you end up delaying its use by e.g. 20 seconds at a time, you lose a lot of physical mitigation, which is still very important to maintain. Some have made the argument that, well, tanks do not really die from overall damage done over a lengthier period of time, but I would say a bit reason for that is because warrior tanks have so much overall mitigation. So even if we take a few hits without blocking or avoiding them, the next couple will again be mitigated, which lets a healer catch up. If we degrade our ability to produce those heavily mitigated attacks (of which Shield Block is a big part of) we will end up taking more overall damage, making us more vulnerable and harder to maintain.

Spell Resistance

I think the cooldown change on Spell Resistance (changed from 10 seconds to 25 seconds) is two-folded; first relates to pvp, where a skilled warrior could potentially spell reflect crucial attacks by mages, priests, and other spell casters, thus making them unable to keep the warrior at a sufficient distance. Basically though, this is not a big problem in my books. Casters were already gaining a lot of downtime from a warrior by simple kiting and using slows, roots, and stuns that a warrior had to be skilled with SR to even be competitive against them.

However, coupled with the new Spell Block buff to our Shield Block, the change begins to make a whole lot more sense. Remember, both abilities are completely viable for use in pve and pvp. In fact, I have already created a macro for my arms pvp spec, that lets me pop Defensive Stance and Shield Block and I can see a lot more warrior using that now. For pve, in viable environments like 5-man heroic dungeons, we can benefit from both SR and Spell Block by semi-chaining them. Imagine, you can first pop SR for a specific attack and half-way across the CD, you time your Spell Block for another. That totals a lot of damage that you did not take and if SR still had its old 10 second CD, it would be seriously overpowered. You could pop two SRs inside Spell Block’s CD.

There is, of course, also the Glyph of Spell Reflection which now reduces SR’s CD by 5 seconds, instead of the old 1 second reduction.


As protection warriors, we received two changes total to the way our interrupts work. The first and foremost, shared by all classes, capable of interrupting, is that from here on out, any non-damaging interrupt does not require hit cap to successfully hit. Just like taunts, they now hit automatically, which means that tanks can go with their best survival gear even for fights that require us to perform interrupts.

Until now, we’ve had to maintain hit gear and special buffs to be capable of that job, which especially in 10-man environment has been a bane in our existence. Many do not realize just how much in survival stats we lose in total, when we have to spend them on hit rating, a stat that is otherwise completely useless to us.

Another major change has been the removal of Shield Bash, replaced now by Pummel. There was a lot of discontent about this fact, for a good reason, as Shield Bash is probably one of the most iconic abilities that protection warriors have. Unfortunately, it was removed but to me, in the end, the importance of a more viable interrupt makes more sense. Remember, Pummel is on the standard 10 second CD, unlike Shield Bash which was on 12 second CD. Those 2 seconds shed off our interrupt lets us solo interrupt a lot of abilities, like the prototype adds on Nefarian.

There were of course a lot more updates to this patch and again, I urge everyone to check them out for yourself.

Happy gaming.

Patch 4.2: Firelands Preview

As promised, Blizzard will be pushing out the next content patch soon after 4.1 has been released. We are already seeing preview videos on youtube and it does seem promising. Some have pointed out that it looks like Molten Core v2.0 but since I never played in Vanilla, I have no issues with it. Definitely, at least, looks fantastic, watching the scenery, the terrain, lava flows and mobs inside Firelands. The textures are just amazing.

There are currently two previews that I suggest you have a look at; one for the daily quest hub environment, which will probably be very much like Tol Barad, and the second preview is on the Firelands instance itself. I am looking at the video, again, and cannot help but be excited when watching the encounters. The spider hanging from fiery webs, the night elf fire lord that transforms into a scorpion and giant flaming cat… almost wish it was coming out tomorrow.

Nefarian’s End

It was a very pleasant feeling last night, after couple of long raid nights of practicing the fight, to finally see the last of the normal mode bosses, Nefarian go down. We almost called off the raid actually, since the initial attempts were plagued by disconnections as the world server was having a hiccup but we figured that lets try for another 15-20 minutes and if there is a disconnection, then we will call it. Thankfully there wasn’t and after only a couple of tries we managed to kill Nefarian.


Next stop, some hard modes while we still have the time.

Go home team!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Warrior’s Journal: In the Face!

facePunch I believe my new warrior character was at level 31 when I last wrote about his progress. Few days have now passed and he has reached level 48 and so far, I cannot find anything about the Arms spec to complain about. It almost seems like Blizzard intentionally chose to make Arms the early level spec of choice, simply due to the rate of abilities you learn. At 15 you got everything you needed to begin tanking and the progression supports the protection tree. For DPS role, the early progression supports Arms a lot more than Fury. In fact, by the time you get to level 44 you will have learned all but a couple of your core abilities; including slam, rend, overpower, etc. After that point, the next upgrade does not even come until in the next expansion, beyond level 60 and from this point on, you will gain fury abilities.

So if you would prefer to level as fury, do not feel disheartened. Stick to Arms first until you begin gaining those Fury powers and then make the switch. I am fully enjoying my time as an Arms warrior so I will stick with it. Actually, I have so many of my Arms abilities that I cannot find a niche to use them, except with the odd “difficult” quest boss.

But enough of that lets have a look at the spec I am currently playing.

You will notice, from my old spec, I have switched two points from [Second Wind] over to [Drums of War], like I said I would in my previous article. I have also progressed through the 4th tier of talents. You will want to pick them all, trust me. They are all good for you but the difference is in the order you pick them. The reason is, if you check what level you learn Slam, it will not be until level 44, so until then taking [Improved Slam] is just not useful. [Deadly Calm] is an iconic Arms cooldown ability, but also not very useful during normal pve questing. So I started by picking two points in [Blood Frency] and then taking my first point in imp slam at level 43. That way, I would learn Slam at 44 and get my second point immediately after at 45.

Questing Zones

Someone asked me how I am picking the zones that I go quest in, so I figured I would dedicate a paragraph for it. Although, with that said, I do not really have any higher logic to that I pick which way to go. I only have two rules for the selection process and those are 1) somewhere I have not been to yet, 2) once started, do enough quests to complete the loremaster achievement for that particular zone. The simple reason is that I do not think the choice matters a whole lot in the end, not anymore at least, as Cataclysm has improved the zones so much. The loremaster achievement is just so that, if I want to later come back and actually get the titled of Loremaster, I will not have to figure where I left off with the quests but can just move from one zone to another and start them over. Not only that, but Blizzard has done a great job in weaving attractive storylines into each zones and you only truly appreciate it in the end, if you finish all the quests and get to the see the climax.

Ofc, there are some disappointments along the way. Not every zone can be as good, as the previous one. As a human, I naturally started in Elwynn and progressed through Westfall and Redridge Mountains. From there I went south to Duskwood and continued further to Stranglethorn Vale. The problem I ran into was that in Duskwood and especially in STV, the questing became much more scattered, with quest objectives piling in and marked all over the map, so it was much harder to work through them in an organized fashion, like I like to. The Cape of Stranglethorn was a particular bane in my backside because of the bug with the quest lines where you infiltrate the bloodsails. If you follow on my footsteps, make sure that after you start, do not logout before you have finished defending Booty Bay. The reason is that if you logout while you are friendly with the bloodsails, they will be marked hostile again after you come back in. They will not attack you but you cannot return any quests either. The only way I managed to reset it was to visit Kalimdor and come back, and I had to do that twice.

After STV, I figured Thousand Needles would be another fun place to visit, and it definitely was. I fully enjoyed questing in the area, even if some of the quests were rather annoying. The speedbarge was confusing to navigate, at first, and the mobs on the shore that throw alcoholic beverages at you… ohh man. Ever tried to swim when your character is drunk? It does not work. I am also notoriously bad at reading quests and just clicked “whateva” when they pop up. If I had read them better, I would have noticed that I had my own private speed boat at my disposal the whole time and would not have had to swim from A to B, to C, to D, to E, to F … and to P.

A true derp moment…

Warrior Training

The last tip of the day I can give you is to do not fret about visiting your trainer regularly. Always be aware of what you would be gaining and if the ability has no bearing on your current situation, postpone it. You will not find trainers at every corner and flying over to one and back can be rather time consuming. Some good and iconic abilities, ofc, you should go pick up but you can mostly go on for half a dozen levels at a time without any need to train in between.

That is all I have for now. Stay tuned and feel free to e-mail with feedback or leave a comment on the post. I will check regularly to approve them and I really cannot stress enough how much I would prefer to get those comments. That is what the system is there for :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Binary Hard Modes

binary-tunnel I have a lot of topics I have wanted to write about for quite some time and this is definitely one of them. To those who do not know the term; binary hard modes are what is referred to as switching from normal to hard mode encounters, in World of Warcraft raiding. The name derives from binary numbers, as computers understand them, 1s and 0s and the fact that to alternate between the difficulty levels you only need to basically flip a switch.

As a concept itself, we saw a lot of experimentation by Blizzard during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, as hard modes only did their debut in the Ulduar raid dungeon, released 3.1 patch. Until then, in the Naxxramas “reloaded” the difficulty level was only based on raid sizes; 10- and 25-man, with the larger raid size sporting slightly more difficult encounters. Until then, hard modes did not really exist. In TBC everything was, essentially, hard mode. There really was not much distinction for the more casual player and the more hard core, progression raider and everything was the same.

I do not know a lot of people who dislike the separation of normal and hard mode, although a few have come across, who basically think everything should be hard mode, like it was in TBC but that’s, in my opinion, just silly. The very reason to create such a division was to let less skilled players stick to easier content and the really hard stuff is targeted at the more skilled players. It is a great idea actually, but the problem is, as usual, implementation. I have spoken with a lot of people about this and a majority of them agree that the current, binary system is bad.

Why is it bad?

Because it is not just boring but basically forces raiders to complete the dungeons twice. We saw that in Icecrown Citadel, where most raiders were so sick of the system and running the same encounters over, and over again, on whichever difficulty level. Cataclysm narrowed it down a bit by making 10- and 25-man raids equal in difficulty, so there are only two levels of challenge now. However, personally I think the original, Ulduar hard modes were the most interesting. Instead of just a flipping switch, you would issue an encounter by completing a specific mechanic within the fight. For example, on Freya you would not kill any of the three guardian treants before pulling her and thus allow Freya to gain new abilities from the guardians, or on XT-002, you would wait for the heart phase and then DPS the heart to zero hit points to start the hard mode.

To me, they were much more interesting and fun to do, rather just switch between normal and hard outside the instance. The only problem I can foresee about this method is that players might not be fully aware what is a hard mode and what is just an achievement because, lets face it, they mix together quite seamlessly. Then there is also, ofc, the fact that Blizzard would be pressured to come up with these unique mechanics, which while might not sounds difficult at first, but is always one more thing to add to an encounter and Blizzard is having problem coming up with new stuff as it is. I do not mean that as a derogatory remark, but simply an observation that a lot of the encounters recycle ideas. They might be slightly polished or minutely altered, but essentially still the same.

A good example is the “Marrowgar” encounter in Halls of Origination, or the Aegis Shield on the fire boss of Ascendant Council that demonstrates a lot of similarities to the Twin Valkyr encounter in the old ToC raid. However, I still think it would be more interesting to see the Ulduar type of hard modes and more to the point, more variety between hard more and normal mode loot. This is a pretty big issue actually because right now, once you figure out the BiS list for your spec, you can just farm it and then you simply aim for the heroic versions of those items. Once again, Ulduar showed a much more interesting method where as the hard mode loot were completely different to the items that dropped if you did the encounter on normal mode.

To be completely honestly, I think Blizzard has done a mistake in moving away from the Ulduar style dungeon. I love the fact that dungeons are smaller now but many things would be elevated to a higher level if Blizzard brought back the lessons learned in Ulduar. It is still widely held as the most balanced and well designed dungeon thus far in the game or at the very least since WotLK came out, and what is there not to like? It was stunningly beautiful, encounters were amazingly well designed, balanced through as you progressed deeper into the dungeon, and featured many things for the first time; such as a hard mode only boss, Algalon. I never got to kill him and even now, today, I wish to go back and simply experience it.

Now the logic of these type of hard modes is not solely to make them more interesting to play, but to avoid necessary repetition of normal and hard modes. Granted, most players will have to first complete and farm the normal modes for the necessary gear, in order to even have a chance at running hard modes. However, the world top guilds, and I am not just talking about the first ten but the first hundred, or even further than that, did not farm normal modes before moving to the hard modes. Even now in tier 1 of Cataclysm they simply did not have the time as they were racing for world and server firsts at killing those encounters. They have the skill and creativity to actually jump into normal modes with inferior gear, run them through and hop onto hard modes and just gear themselves by doing those, skipping normal modes altogether and bypassing the artificial block.

Think of how much more interesting could be if you could have gone to the Bastion of Twilight, progressed to Cho’gall and instead of killing of farming the first bosses needlessly for a couple of weeks, as you practiced the last boss, and tried your hand at Halfus HM. You could even benefit from killing a first hard mode boss, get gear from that, before moving onto the last boss. At least to me, that would be awesome.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Warrior’s Journal: Charge!

warrior-charge-2 I have been gnawed upon by a problem with my main warrior character for quite sometime now and that is the limitations of dual speccing in World of Warcraft. I can see Blizzard's logic when they explain why they do not want to add options to maintain more than two permanent specs per character, the way that Rift, for example, allows. However, I am currently joggling to keep track of three tanking specs and two fury specs, one for pvp and one for pve. With the new 4.1 changes that are coming around, looks like I am finally forced to switch my pvp spec to arms, adding even more complications.

Some, more politically correct players would tell you that it is already a waste of time to play fury pvp, simply due to how easy it is to counter. But still, I enjoy the fury spec in all its forms, which is why the change is coming with a heavy heart. With that in mind I have decided to separate my pvp and pve into different characters. That way I can devote each character more fully into the task which I am designing it. That is not just good for me but more than fair for my guild and arena partner.

I have already leveled a couple of characters in Cataclysm but none of them were warriors and I figured would be a fun idea to keep something of a journal through the progress. I actually once planned on doing a similar, more mechanical journal for leveling a protection warrior and I might still return that, perhaps depending on my experiences with this journal.

Choosing a Realm

I chose to level my warrior on Neptulon, a pvp realm where I had the most access to heirlooms, and also because I more in my element when playing on a pvp realm. This is an important decision though and you should not adopt for a pvp realm unless you are comfortable with the fact that, from time to time, members of the opposite factions will jump at the chance to kick your parts around the landscape. However, do keep in mind that the legends surrounding pvp realms are largely exaggerated and often blown out of proportion by explosive examples. It is all true ofc; you are as likely to be attacked by those of your level and those above you, for other reason but to kill you for fun of it. Some max level players go hunting for low level players.

But still, it happens a lot less frequently then people are letting on. I remember leveling my main character, a warrior on a pvp realm, as well as other characters, like my mage and hunter. In all cases, I got attacked maybe a handful of times between levels 1 and 80. From those times, it was rarely by anyone who was actually good at pvp and mostly I would just kill them and go on with my questing.

Choosing a Spec

For now, I have reached level 31 inside two days of leveling and my choice of spec is naturally Arms. I am unsure how fury plays at lower levels these days but my previous experiences did demonstrate an alarming lack of rage. I do not want to go through that again so I specced arms and it is working out quite well. Without dual wielding, hitting targets is easy and mostly die within two globals. For the specific talent selection, so far I have distributed my points in the following manner:

War Academy & Blitz: This was an easy choice because both contribute to my damage and the more I can deal, the faster I can move onto the next quest.

Second Wind & Deep Wounds: This was a bit more tricky; [Deep Wounds] was obvious but [Second Wind] is only a placeholder talent for now, until I finally learn pummel. When that happens, I will switch the two points over to [Drums of War]. Second Wind is still a good choice if you do more battlegrounds than I, but is inferior for free interrupts. Not only is the rage you save valuable but at lower level pvp, if you get stunned, you are most likely going to die.

It is just a simple fact. I have been doing a couple of battlegrounds so far and the experience speaks loud and clear; the classes are not well balanced. Even an heirloom geared player can get 2-3 and if the opponent can stun or kite you, it is game over.

Taste For Blood & Impale: So far this has been the hardest tier to choose between my talents and again, if you opt to play more battlegrounds than I, suggest you alternate your choices a little bit. Hamstring is pretty useless for questing, so I left it out, same as [Sweeping Strikes]. That was a painful choice and I might actually still go back to put a sixth point in this tier. Especially once I start hitting more dungeons, Sweeping Strikes will do some good damage. Just for questing however, I figured getting those overpower procs would be more valuable.

I will continue the spec as I gain more levels.


Especially if you have access to a ton of heirlooms and a high level guild, doing dungeons between quests is a perfectly valid way to level up. There are quests at the beginning of every dungeon and most of them are still extensive enough to hold a lot of trash, multiplying the amount of XP you will gain. My first Wailing Caverns run gained me two complete levels, after I had returned the quests. You will also get some gear that helps out with quests in the world, reputation, and just simply bring a change of pace to your routine.

However, be warned. If you have ever experienced bad dungeon runs at max level (which I assume you have if you have ever used the LFD tool before), expect it to be worse at low levels. People have close to no patience, ninja pull at random, and care little whether the tank is ready or the healer has enough mana. Granted, much of the early dungeons like Deadmine do not even need a tank but courtesy should still be paid no matter what. I generally do not grind gear or run a lot of dungeons as I level, but just enough to complete the quests in the dungeons and to get the daily extra XP from random queue.

Getting On With It

There is not a whole lot else that can be said about it. Just get in there and start completing quests. The nice thing about the warrior class is the fact that you get some of the most iconic abilities early on. Both charge and rend, I believe, became available before I had left the starting zone. Soon I also gained overpower and heroic strike, both which I use regularly. My main opener is charge + rend + HS. By that time, most mobs die anyway and I rarely ever drop to zero rage. I have enough to spare for a quick overpower and mortal strike if necessary.

Overpower could very well become more prevalent when I gain three points in the Taste for Blood talent because it lets me proc it from rend. All and all, I cannot find anything wrong with my leveling process so far. Since the Cataclysm revamp, Blizzard obviously made a lot of adjustments to what level and order you gain your abilities and I really cannot complain. The warrior is equally ready to function as a DPS or tank once you hit level 15. Both are viable options.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Classic vs. Modern

cadillac-classic-car I see a lot of posts about this subject; close to every day in fact and decided it was time to write about it. If you are even remotely familiar with what goes on in the official World of Warcraft forums, or have even a passing interest at various different boards, such as mmo-c, then you shouldn’t be a stranger to posts that pine for the return of vanilla WoW, or similarly TBC. An innumerable number of posts have asked Blizzard to establish vanilla and TBC servers, just for those who liked those times of the game.

First of all, to get out of the system, Blizzard has so far refused and I completely agree with their reasoning. The simple fact is that the game has evolved, for the better in many cases (no matter what the critics say) and they prefer to keep the game going forward, instead of maintaining versions of the game that are outdated and outright flawed from their perspective.

Secondly, and this is the part that I feel people should remember, is that when people post stuff like “ohh but things so much better back then, there was an actual challenge to the game…” they are not really being perfectly honest with themselves. It is not actually just a World of Warcraft phenomenon, but human nature to often pine for the return of the old, by the assumption that it was somehow better. I remember when I, once upon a time, did a summer job as a janitor, I got all these old people coming to me (and my boss) to complain how I was doing it wrong and the old guy was much better than I was. I talked with the actual janitors there about it and who simply laughed and told me not to worry about it, that the old guy got the exact same flack I got. Apparently he had not been any better than I was, nor doing anything a whole lot differently. It is simply the human nature to endlessly complain and even make up logic to support their ridiculous argument.

Now I am not saying that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the old expansions had their moments and many people rightfully enjoyed it but lets try to take some of the more valid arguments and consider them from a logical perspective.

#1 The Game was more challenging, as a whole.

I really doubt it actually was. Many things are a bit easier to accomplish in the modern game, like grind the necessary reputation to buy items from faction vendors. Back in vanilla it could possibly take months to just get one item, but that isn’t really challenging and it is the main pitfall of these arguments; that they assume grinding is difficult. It isn’t. It simply takes a lot of time which is just outright boring. The game has lost a lot of the grindiness (probably not a word but I’ll use it anyway) and that is a good thing. It can still take anything from 2-4 weeks to grind a single faction to exalted. I know Baradin Wardens took me a long time and so did the original Sons of Hodir faction in Wrath of the Lich King. Lets remember, a month of doing dailies every day is a long time and, at least in my opinion, anything beyond that is just excessive, particularly when that only pertains to one faction, out of half a dozen in current content.

#2 40-man raids were much more epic

Were they really? The reason why Blizzard changed the raid format down to 10- and 25-man was the simple fact that in most cases, it was not actually 40 people raiding. It was more like 20-25 who were raiding and the rest were just sitting on their hands, and getting carried. Not to mention the whole organizational nightmare of actually getting 40 people to show up on time for regular raids, to gear them up and have them perform optimally. How many guilds nowadays, have a problem with putting together and maintaining 25 skilled players? Most average guilds have to work in 10-man and even then, many still have problems. Now build that up to 40 people and you have a raid leader’s nightmare.

#3 Raid encounters are just a joke these days

No they are not. If you actually look at most of the encounters in vanilla for example, they are not very complex. By comparison, modern raid encounters have a lot more things going on simultaneously; where as vanilla encounters have relatively few. For example, the heroic lich king encounter in Icecrown Citadel has been described (by many world top guilds) as the most complex and difficult encounter thus far, a statement I personally agree. Much of the so called “challenge” actually came from the fact that you were most like utterly under geared for the encounter and that itemization was not ideal, by any stretch, back then. Some mechanics were also just outright broken; like healers down ranking their spells, tanks not truly having much in terms of aoe abilities, etc. Not to mention variety and game balance issues between classes.

#4 No more class specialization

When I heard this, I was just bewildered. The fact that in vanilla you might have had the need to, specifically, bring something like a dwarf priest just to get fear ward and some specs were not viable for raiding at all. So if you wanted to raid, e.g. as a paladin tank in TBC you had just an enormous world of hurt ahead of you because, at the time, and especially during vanilla, you only one viable option. Same goes for the healers. Now, we have four viable tanking specs and five viable healing specs. To me, this is awesome and lets people play the class that truly interests them. Many other things were actually simply broken in the game at the time. Just consider pvp in vanilla, where some classes were just useless and others were close to gods. Warlocks for instance could use detect invisibility to see through stealth. Some go the distance and say that literally half the game was broken, in one way or another.

Really, the whole nostalgia for old content seems to play more to the selfish need of importance to me. Too many are too proud of themselves for the sheer fact that "they started the game back in the day” as if that somehow made them better than others. The comedy of it all becomes obvious when you realize that, while many did started back then, they did not actually clear that much content. But still… they were there so it has to for something right?

Last but not least, by Blizzard’s own words, we know that this is not what the game was suppose to be in the first place. There are countless blues on the forums, trying desperately to make sink into peoples’ consciousness that the game was not supposes to be an effort in pain management. It was not supposed to be masochistic and all the changes the game has had ever since have been working towards the goal of getting away from that. Lets remember that a lot of the Blizzard designers came from old games like Everquest and the whole point of World of Warcraft was to step away from that style of gaming.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tanking Primer: Combat Table

taking_notes This article will be targeted primarily towards warrior and paladin tanks, because out of the four classes, these two sport shields and thus use the block stat. DKs and druids have their own unique mechanics in dealing with damage reduction, in the form of blood shield and savage defense. To them, knowledge of the combat table is less important but still good to know, if you want to continue reading.

In its simplicity, combat table is a mechanic within the World of Warcraft game engine, used to determine if a mob scores a successful hit or not. Every time you attack, or are being attacked, the game rolls a random number between 0 and 100 and checks it against the combat table. As a tank, it is important that you are aware of what your combat table looks like. Put into a cohesive list, it looks like this:
  • Miss
  • Dodge
  • Parry
  • Block
  • Hit
There are additional entries on the combat table as well, such as Glancing Blow, Critical Hit, and Crushing Blows. However, as a tank you will have specced into talents such as Bastion of Defense (every tanking tree has its own version of this talent and picking it up is the first prerequisite to becoming a tank), which removes critical hits from the table and the chance for Crushing Blows was removed with the TBC expansion. Glancing blows only occur with white attacks (term used for autoattacks) and are not relevant in the context of this article.

If you look at your character sheet’s defensive stats, you will see four of the five stats listed there. The first, miss chance is always 5% and does not normally change, unless you are a night elf and receive the Quickness racial ability. Once you fill the combat table with the values of your character sheet, you should have a good idea what kind of hits you will be suffering. As an example, I will fill in my own current stats and the end result looks like this:
  • 0% – 5% to miss
  • 5.01% – 16.6% to dodge
  • 16.61% – 31.94% to parry
  • 31.95% – 93.29% to block
  • 93.30% – 100% to hit
Notice how as our stats increase, the chance for normal hits (at the bottom) grows smaller and smaller? Since those are the hits that deal the most damage to us, our goal is to minimize, and ultimately remove, their chances of occurring. Eventually block will completely replace the chance for normal hits and since mastery has no diminishing returns, it is by far our very best stat. However, before you get all excited, there is a final snag to the combat table; the numbers you see above, only apply against mobs that are the same level as I am (alas level 85). Heroic dungeon bosses are ranked level 87 and raid bosses are ranked a step higher, level 88. This introduces a 0.2% less chance, for every level the mob is above you, for the mob’s attack to miss, get dodged, parried, and blocked, thus skewing the table by 0.6% on each stat (a total of 2.4%).

Taking this into account, against a raid boss, in truth my combat table looks like this:
  • 0% – 4.4% to miss
  • 4.41% – 15.4% to dodge
  • 15.41% – 30.14% to parry
  • 30.15% – 90.89% to block
  • 90.9% – 100% to hit
It is something of an oversight in my opinion, as to why the character sheet does not take this into account. Blizzard could very easily include this feature, the same way they included a similar element on the hit rating (breaking it down to show different chances of hitting different level mobs). The easiest way for us to implement this last factor is to simply move the finishing line and instead of using 100% as the roof, use 102.4%. That means there is still a 9.1% chance for a raid boss to land normal hits on me. This is not bad by any means, but more work still remains to reach unhittable (a term used when normal hits can no longer occur). For a warrior tank, it is currently not a position that is possible to reach, even with the BiS hard mode gear. Paladins however, receive more block from mastery and have been able to reach the cap for months now. Warriors should not be far behind, once the patch 4.2 is released and we move onto the next tier of content. Some applications also take the additional chance to hit into account, such as Rawr. So if you use one, do not be alarmed if you cannot get the stats between your World of Warcraft client and the program to match up.

When spoken generally, on discussion boards, combat table coverage is often simply described as a figure that is the total chance for a hit to be avoided or block, thus; 5% miss + dodge-% + parry-% + block-%. In my case, that would be 93.3%. This is the most common way total avoidance and mitigation is described and is the value we are most interested in. Of course, understanding of the combat table is also important for other variety of reasons; e.g. gimmick fights like Chimaeron encounter of Blackwing Descent, which favors pure avoidance over block and mastery.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tanking Primes: Intro

warrior-dude-with-big-mace Those who follow the mmo-c forums regularly, know I post there quite a lot, and most notably on subject of tanking mechanics. The problem is that, unlike some other sites, mmo-c doesn’t really have a good method in place to filter out repeated topics and we end up writing a lot of material over and over, and that’s quite draining. So I decided to start a tanking primer on my blog, to try cover some of the more common tanking mechanics.

Now before you mail about how the stuff I’ll be covering is basic and obvious, spare me. I am not trying to educate the educated, but teach the ignorant. It might make me sound a bit like a douche, but I do not use the word in a degratory manner. The simple fact is that a lot of tanks, even those who clear a lot of content, do not fully understand how their stats and mechanics work. E.g. if I had a penny every time the combat table is explained on the mmo-c forums, I could retire to the Bahamas.

In a way, this is not complicated stuff but then again, most of the tank theorycrafting isn’t overly complex, unless you get to the math of it all; e.g. how to figure the optimal benefits of parry and dodge, without suffering from DR and still taking Hold the Line into account. I might get to that as well, but I will start by covering the simpler mechanics and just see where it takes me. After all, lets face it, you don’t need to understand that stuff to be a good tank and unless you are really into that sort of thing, you will most likely only waste your time.

That brings us to the actual target audience of these articles; they will mainly be targeted at tanks of all flavors, but obviously less for others, due to diversity between the classes. Also, I play a warrior tank, so my main focus will be around mechanics that affect me personally. But like I said, there will be something for everyone.

So, stay tuned.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Training Ground

training Still over half an hour until the next Tol Barad encounter, so I have plenty of time to write down some thoughts on 5-man encounters. It is a subject that has been up on the forums quite a bit now and even come up on Mumble, along with some guildies. I am certain nobody is a stranger to the trend, lets bash bad players in 5s. After all, it makes you look good and powerful because you get to compare yourself against people with lower skill levels, not to mention earn free prestige amongst peers.

Here is the thing though and I will endeavor to say this as clearly as I can; it is wrong. Not only is simple, useless bravado but at the same time, you are just making yourself look like a tool. Why? Because most people will then go right off to moaning how there are no good players in the random queues. This bewilders me because if they go out of their way to piss on and kick the new players, how do they expect there to ever to be an improvement? Think about it, 5-mans are not that serious and while they are certainly more challenging then what they were in Wrath of the Lich King, you can just blow through them with little to no effort.

That means 5-man dungeons are the perfect training grounds for new players. In fact, they are the only training grounds available. Nobody learns to play their class while they level. They might pick up a few things while on the random dungeons queue before the level cap, or the top normal 5-mans dungeons but let us be realistic, at best you pick up a basic concept for your DPS or TPS rotations. You won’t learn about CC, LoS, complicated boss mechanics, survivability, or any other skills needed to be successful on a more serious level.

So if we are to have any hope of ever training new players, to actually expect them to excel at the game, we much allow them the opportunity to practice in those heroic 5-man dungeons. It will, beyond the shadow of a doubt slow down our valor point runs, ask us for patience as they figure stuff out, wipe a few times, pull back on DPS and push out more HPS, but it is simply a necessary hurtle that we cannot avoid. We seriously cannot expect people to just magically learn a game as complex as World of Warcraft, all the things that it has taken the rest of years to absorb.

Call to Arms: More Tanks

calltoarms I had some pretty mixed feelings when I read this update on mmo front page. I can appreciate that Blizzard wants to and is attempting to somehow fix the lopsided role distribution that has been plaguing World of Warcraft for god knows how long but I have limited faith in the current attempt. There are more variables to the fact that fewer people want to play the tank role, and to an extent, the healer role, and those issues will not be solved by bribing people with shiny objects. Some probably will at least make an alt or something, just for the chance to farm those mounts but otherwise, I doubt the situation will change that much.

The fact is that playing a tank or a healer in a group is a thankless job. You will occasionally get the odd pat on the back by people who truly appreciate your effort and skill that goes into filling those roles, but the majority do not understand and others don’t even care. Particularly a new tank, who is still inexperienced, not sure of the best way of doing things, maybe has less off-the-bat threat burst, and definitely not the best gear, has to endure a long and rocky road to success. The abuse, the shit, and drama you have to endure are, in many cases, not worth it.

Even experienced tanks don’t generally run random 5-man dungeons, unless for their daily dose of valor points because no matter how good you are, people will get on your tits no matter what. Who would volunteer for that crap? Some of us, who love tanking and have managed to win the prize of a regular raid spot as tanks, but even we can’t be bothered after we’ve exhausted the benefits from that.

The good news is that Cataclysm, as an expansion, did move us towards the right direction. When we started, DPS had a major wakeup call. No more blitzing ahead of the tank, blowing cooldowns on trash pulls, and just mindlessly standing there and getting your rocks off on the damage meters. CC was necessary and in some cases, it still is and if the DPS aren’t paying attention during the heroic boss fights, they will die pure and simple. To my delight, I still get to watch bad players get it and it almost makes the emo aftermath worth it but this is not enough. We are fast out-gearing the content and things can only get worse from here. Already any semi-decent group can completely ignore CCs and just chain-pull the dungeons. As the required level of tactic and strategy goes down, the old problems will grow more severe.

Personally, I feel this is the main problem associated with the lack of tanks and healers and is something that Blizzard should spend more time addressing. If they acknowledge this, it does not show because they have not just ignored the issue, but made it worse by nerfing almost every 5-man dungeon in the game; trash removed, damage lowered, encounters have lost entire mechanics, etc. At that level, the game is increasingly more about the strong tanks and healers, whereas the DPS can pretty much do as they want, with little to no responsibility. I can think of numerous ways of creating encounters that actually challenge the DPS that would bring some measure of pressure on them to actually appreciate what the tanks and healers go through every day.

Well, we can only hope that Blizzard’s new dungeon design paradigms work as advertised but for this latest update, I simply do not see it solving anything.

A New Beginning

It is hard to describe how much I detested changing my guild but I would be lying if I said it had not been coming for quite a bit. I will not go into the details or specifics why I did this, but looking couple of weeks back now, I know I made the right decision. It is strange but, for the longest time, I unsure but now I am certain. By my side, my girlfriend also left the guild, something that made me quite pleased, although it wasn’t in anyway my plan.

So here we are, applied and got accepted to my old guild on Nordrassil and we’ve been included in the third raid team. I do feel we were extremely lucky to get into the same guild and what is more, the officer core here agreed to place us in the same raiding team. I really could not have things to work out better than this.

With this change, I decided was also time to update my blog and and breath some life into this place. I’ve hated the fact that I let it fall into such a state but I just could not find the time to keep blogging. Now I hope to change it and we are both looking forward with great anticipation. Raiding kicked off this week, which I was very excited about. The team was, apparently, dormant for a while, due to some members taking a break from the game, so both me and Atheqa are joining with a couple of old PF members, along with some new and less experienced raiders to form what seems to be a very solid 10-man group. Everybody knows what they are doing and despite some of our numbers having poor gear, we’ve done very well during our first two nights, one- and two shotting bosses with little to no preparation, other than a short strategy meeting before a pull.

Some of them have outright impressed me and definitely stands as landmarks  to the statement that players over gear and skill above everything else. E.g. kudos to my tank partner, Stegal who was able to learn just a whole bunch of tactics and mechanics with very little warning. Equally, I feel we have a very strong set of healers, able to keep us even after some rather glaring screw ups.

So all and all, I think we are in a very nice place right now. Who wouldn’t be psyched? :-)