Friday, January 30, 2009

Thaddius

The best fight in Naxxramas is Thaddius.

There are so many reasons this fight is great. First is the atmosphere. It's all about constructs and electricity, strongly evoking Frankenstein's Monster. Polarity, splitting into two, positive and negative, so much great flavor. The layout of the room even reminds me of a MOSFET.

Second is the introduction to the fight with Stalagg and Fuegen. It's beautifully designed to split your raid in half, allowing a seamless transition to Thaddius. Simultaneous kills are always a fun mechanic. The swapping of tanks is hilarious. It reinforces the whole shifting sides flavor of the fight.

Third is the jump to Thaddius' ledge. Why is there a jump? There doesn't need to be one. But it's there, and it's just a little bit of extra challenge. It's also something that lends itself to memorable fights. A lot of people talk about the jump and it probably generates more chatter than any of the other elements.

Fourth is the polarity shift mechanic on Thaddius himself. I just find watching for polarity shifts and running around Thaddius to be fun. It's a mechanic that also beautifully reinforces the primary flavor theme of the fight.

Lastly, I really like the strategies available to defeat Thaddius. I've only killed him with the two-point strategy. But the four-point strategy is elegant. It's one of the few strategies that have really impressed me with its cleverness.

(Four-point is to form a square around Thaddius with the two groups on diagonally opposite points. On a polarity shift, if your charge changes, run to the point on your right. If your charge stays the same, run to the point on your left.)

Thaddius is the best fight in Naxxramas. It has great flavor, and elegant mechanics which serve to strongly reinforce that flavor, while still providing a challenge for the raid.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Profession Dependency

My main, Coriel, is an enchanter. One of the new changes to enchanting in Wrath is that enchanters can create scrolls of specific enchants and sell the scrolls on the Auction House, rather than having to troll Trade chat if you want to sell enchants.

I tried out the new system the other day, grabbing an Armor Vellum off the AH and making a Scroll of Enchant Cloak - Greater Speed. I put it up for sale at pretty much material cost. To my surprise, the scroll sold. This is great for me because I'm only at 430 enchanting or so, and if I can get the skill points by selling scrolls, that's much easier.

So I went back to the AH. But there were zero Armor Vellum up for sale. Armor Vellum is made by Inscriptionists, and a necessary component for every enchanting scroll you want to make. Now I have to track down an inscriptionist and come to some agreement. This is pretty much the exact process I was hoping to avoid with regular Enchanting.

I really don't like professions to be dependent on each other in this fashion. I much prefer the model where a character can take the crafter/gatherer combo and be self-sufficient for the most part. I don't mind one-off recipes where you have to get an item from another crafter. For example, an enchanter needs a rod from blacksmithing every so often. But to need an item from another profession for every single enchanting scroll made is excessive.

I think Armor and Weapon Vellums should have been craftable by enchanters. Giving that essential component over to Inscription, making the two professions tightly coupled, is just frustrating.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tip for Slimes

A couple of nights ago, I did some of Naxxramas (10-man) for the first time. Having your very first Naxx fight be Four Horsemen is rather intimidating, in light of that fight's history.

Aside from me completely failing on Kel'Thuzad and the Frost Blasts, it went pretty well. Killed some stuff, got a couple of epics, and even made the Thaddius jump.

I did die to the slimes after Patchwerk. It was odd because I blew up, didn't see any slimes near me, and had to pan my camera around to see the slime that killed me. One of the people in the raid gave me a tip which I had not seen before, so I thought I'd pass it along:

Don't run in the middle of the gap between slimes. Run right behind one of the slimes.

Pretty simple. I'm not sure why my natural reaction was to aim for the middle. The problem is not to maximize distance from both slimes, but to maximize distance from the incoming slime.

Now I have to master healing the Frost Blast targets fast enough. Any tips? I think I have to figure out how to get Grid to display that debuff properly.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Shield of Righteousness, Part II

Klepsacovic did bring up an interesting point in response to the last post:

This is how we start ending up with prot wanting SP again. If it scales with SP and we don't want it using SP, then it must scale better with strength, but then it might scale too well compared to DKs and warriors so it gets nerfed... next thing we know we're rolling on mage weapons again.

This is true. The line between Prot paladins going for tanking weapons and spelldamage weapons is very thin. It's easily possible for a ShR that scales with spellpower to push Protection into caster weapon land, much to the dismay of the mages.

So let's take another shot at making Shield of Righteousness something for Holy to get excited about. How about playing with Infusion of Light:
Infusion of Light
Requires Holy Shock, 35 points in Holy
Your Holy Shock critical hits reduce the cast time of your next Flash of Light by 0.75/1.5 sec or Holy Light by 0.5/1 sec, or increases the damage of your next Shield of Righteousness by 50/100% of your spellpower.

Holy gets a nice 1-2 punch with a crit Holy Shock followed by a powerful Shield of Righteousness. It's deep enough in the Holy tree that Protection and Retribution can't get access to it. Holy Shield is melee-only, so it should be okay in PvP. If you use your IoL proc on ShR, you can't use it on an instant or fast heal.

It might resurrect the Shockadins with a 37/0/34 build, but I don't really see that as a negative. A new build type would be amusing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shield of Righteousness

I was doing my Sons of Hodir dailies today as Holy (still working my way to exalted), and it struck me that if Shield of Righteousness had a Spellpower coefficient, it would be really useful for Holy soloing.

Shield of Righteousness right now is:

Damage = BlockValue + 400

Since Strength now contributes a lot to block value, Protection and Retribution get a lot out of the first term, and the 400 is just icing on the cake because 200% of block value was too powerful. But since Holy has no strength, the second term dominates, and the first term contributes less damage. My ShR hits for about 670 damage.

But if Shield of Righteousness looked like:

Damage = J*BlockValue + K*Spellpower

It would suddenly be a lot more useful. Both Protection and Retribution have talents granting them a small amount of spellpower, so they won't miss the base 400 damage. But it would make the spell scale for Holy, and give them a nice extra attack for soloing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Disappointed by Hand of Reckoning

Hand of Reckoning is a decent spell mechanically. The fact that it can crit is pretty funny, especially with Retribution, as it starts up Vengeance.

But the name really disappoints me. Back in April, I noted that Blizzard does a really good job with class names, and that I felt it added a lot to the flavor of the game. But in Wrath, it feels like Blizzard is phoning it in when it comes to paladin ability names. It bugs me because this was something Blizzard was so good at. It feels like Blizzard decided that names were too small of a detail to spend effort on.

Let's take a look at some new paladin ability names:

Divine Storm - Okay, this one is pretty awesome. "Divine" is being overused a bit (Divine Protection, Divine Shield, Divine Illumination, Divine Favor, Divine Intervention) but it just works here.

Divine Plea - Umm, yeah. This is just overuse.

Seal of Corruption - Corruption is a warlock word, and is really unsuitable for a paladin ability. I think Blizzard is trying to fit it in with the Blood Elves, but I thought the Blood Elves got redeemed. I think Blizzard could extend Vengeance to the Blood Elves without issue.

Seal of the Martyr - this is pretty good, though unnecessary. Seal of Blood can fit Alliance paladins too.

Hammer of the Righteous - like "Divine", "Righteous" is getting overused. But this one is okay.

Shield of Righteousness - This is just laziness, coming after Hammer of the Righteous.

Hand of Reckoning - This just does not make any sense. Hands are the old Blessings, short-term utility buffs cast on allies. This spell is not a Hand in any way, shape or form. And "Reckoning"? What does that have to do with taunts? This name feels like Blizzard picked a paladin word out of a hat, slapped the "Hand" prefix on it, and called it a day. I don't see how anyone who actually plays a paladin could sign off on this name.

I'm going to reiterate the suggestion that this ability be renamed to Rebuke. It's short, snappy, and has nice religious connotations which are perfect for the paladin class.

It also matches the taunts of the other tanking classes. Warriors Taunt opponents, bears Growl at them, death knights issue Dark Commands, and paladins would Rebuke them. All words with verbal connotations, but each infused with the separate unique flavor of their respective classes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ask Coriel: Levelling Gear

Jordrah asks:

I've got a slight problem that I was wondering if you'd have any input for. I'm a very slow leveler (that's quite the understatement) so my paladin is still level 73 and my shaman 71, this long after the expansion was released. My paladin's gear was a mix of heroic rares and epics, Kara/Gruul/Mags and SSC/TK epics, with the main goal of staying at the old hit cap. Since I started leveling again I've had trouble deciding what gear is better. I have Rating Buster installed so that helps somewhat, but it's still a bit hard to decide when it's between something with more penetration and expertise and something with hit rating and crit rating (with nearly equal amounts of stam and str). It was a lot easier to decide what was best when I was at max level and there was a hierarchy of importance with respect to all the stats, but there is no resource that I know of for gear selection when it comes to leveling. I was wondering how you go about deciding what gear is better and worse while you're leveling?

In general, you use the same hierarchy that the max level people use. For Ret paladins it's Str, Hit, Crit, etc. The only difference is that you don't want really large amounts of Hit Rating because you're usually fighting stuff around your level.

To be honest though, it doesn't really matter. I actually go by armor value when I level. If it is damage plate gear and has more armor than my current gear, I upgrade. It's a very simple rule of thumb that works out quite well.

You really only need to be concerned about gear once you approach 80. Otherwise, just concentrate on levelling and questing, and you'll find that the upgrades will come. My gear was roughly the same as yours, and I started seeing a few upgrades around level 74-75, if I remember correctly.

Thanks for the input. I was just wondering how to pick the gear that I keep and the gear that I vendor. I go by a similar hierarchy, and in fact sometimes end up using what ever item has the higher armor value like you said. But the confusion on my part is all the new stats that are on gear now.

When I hit 70 during BC, the stats that we got from entry level gear were always strength, crit or agility, and hit rating. As BC went on, Blizzard started adding in new stats such as armor penetration, haste and expertise, and since I never really raided Black Temple or Sunwell I never looked too deeply into those stats.

But in Wrath, there are green quest rewards with these new goodies and I'm unsure about whether they really are goodies or not. Ex: how much haste does an item needs to have in order for me to decide that its better than another item that has crit instead of haste (assuming equal amounts of strength). I'm not very concerned about gear while I level, but I just don't want to regret vendoring a quest reward that might be vastly superior to what I have.

You don't really have to worry about this. In my experience in Wrath, an item's "budget" is divided evenly among its stats. So if it has more haste than crit, it will also have more strength, making the choice a lot more obvious.

The only items that don't follow this are trinkets, as they usually offer a lot of a single stat. But usually these are fairly obvious upgrades, or the numbers are very close so you just choose the better stat.

To be honest, gear doesn't really matter all that much. As long as you are in the right ballpark, and using the proper ability rotations, it will be good enough for starting out. Try and enchant your gear (with the relatively cheap enchants) when you get to 80, even if it's just blues. That will help a lot as well.

Also, I was wondering how you would go about re-gearing from ret to prot once I hit 80, should I group as ret and try and get tank drops, or should I respec and try and get gear to get me started via the AH, quest rewards and crafted items?

Generally quests will only offer 1 plate reward. If there's a tanking plate reward, there's not likely to be a DPS plate reward. So you can collect gear for all three sets at the same time. Then you can supplement those with crafted items and reputation items, and that will be more than enough to get started with whatever spec you desire.

I don't think it will be worth it to try and get Prot gear while Ret specced. It will take a lot longer, and you should be able to put together a decent Prot set by the time you hit 80.

The best advice I can give you is not to worry about gear. Enjoy levelling and questing and do the normal 5-man dungeons. As you do stuff, gear will come.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Glyph of Hammer of Wrath

Sometimes, I think of the theorycrafting community as soothsayers, seeking to divine reality or the future by observing the flight of birds or the entrails of animals.

Take the new Glyph of Hammer of Wrath. In patch 3.0.8, it will reduce the cost of Hammer of Wrath by 100%. What does this mean for Ret paladins?

A while back, I theorized that Blizzard was trying to limit Retribution's use of Consecration through mana constraints. The way the math worked was that we had a mana-neutral basic rotation which was used for the first 80% of the fight, and a mana-hungry burn rotation for the last 20%.

However, with the new Glyph of Hammer of Wrath, that theory goes out the window. There's no difference in mana consumption between the last 20% and first 80% anymore. That means that Consecration becomes an even more vital part of the Rotation, and is expected to be used much more often, as you no longer need to save mana for Hammer of Wrath.

I guess Blizzard has given up on the idea of keeping Retribution from using Consecration. I suppose it's for the best, though. Consecration is a good method of increasing our PvE DPS without spiking PvP damage damage. Still, it's slightly odd to be expected to use an AoE spell against a single target.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Challenge and Accessibility

Obviously, the last post was a bit tongue-in-cheek. But I think it does have valid point. To a lot of people, the challenge is an essential part of raiding. In my opinion, there is no greater rush in WoW than defeating a boss who has been wiping your guild for weeks.

In some ways, your kill needs meaning, and for it to be meaningful you must consider the boss a worthy opponent. The boss earns your respect by repeatedly wiping your guild over and over. One-shot kills are meaningless. There's no sense of progression, of getting better and better, of attaining mastery of that fight.

The fight I loved best in TBC was Moroes, despite it being the second fight in the raiding game. When you beat Moroes, it really felt like you had mastered the challenge, that you beat it by becoming more skilled.

But having a challenge means that some people will fail to meet that challenge. And that often gates content. The complaint that paying the same amount of money should at least entitle you to see all the content, to see all the story, is also reasonable.

I think the solution Blizzard has chosen--a relatively easy main path that allows you view all the content, with harder challenges that are optional--is probably the best solution. And I believe that rewards need to scale with the challenge. The best rewards should come from the hardest challenges.

One issue that I think has really made the situation worse than it should be is that the gap in skill between the high and low ends of the playerbase is excessively large. For example, I thought Karazhan was perfectly tuned for an entry level raid. The theoretical max DPS in 70 blues was around 900. Karazhan was tuned for about 500 DPS. I thought that 55% of max seemed reasonable for an entry level raid. But apparently most people disagreed with me.

I think the game would be a lot healthier if the low and high ends were closer in skill, if there wasn't so much variance. But I'm not sure how you would accomplish that. Maybe you'd have to change mechanics so that skill mattered much less, and gear mattered more.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Disneyland, Redux

Dear Disneyland Visitor,

As you are no doubt aware, here at Disneyland we have some of finest roller coasters available in North America. However, in our continuing efforts to serve the public better, we have determined that there are people out there who don't feel comfortable riding one of our fine rides. Some people are too young, some people are too old. Some people are afraid of heights, and some people feel the roller coasters go too fast.

In order to broaden our appeal, and serve our loyal fans better, we've instituted several changes.

First, roller coasters will no longer have such extreme slopes and loops. All our coasters will be limited to slopes of less than 15 degrees. Second, no roller coaster will go higher than 25 feet. We hope this will enable all our customers to enjoy the rides without fear. Finally, roller coasters will be limited to speeds under 10 miles an hour. This will allow all customers to experience the thrill of these magnificent rides without experiencing discomfort.

Thank you for coming, and we do hope you enjoy the new, more sedate, roller coaster experience. We understand that some of our more "hardcore" (as Goofy likes to call them) enthusiasts may be concerned with the changes, but we hope that they understand that these changes will allow many more fellow amusement park visitors to experience these beloved rides.

Sincerely,
Mickey Mouse

Monday, January 12, 2009

On Wikis and Raider101

Wow! Thanks to all the people who've signed up and started helping to fill out sections on raider101.com. It's interesting, but using a wiki for this has actually brought up a problem I hadn't anticipated. I've come to the conclusion that this project really isn't about the "addition" of knowledge, it's actually about the "subtraction" of knowledge.

That sounds weird, but think about Elitist Jerks for a second. The problem with EJ is that there is too much information. The problem for a new player is that they look at it and are overwhelmed with all the decision points that need to taken into consideration. What I'm trying to do is take that mass of information and cut ruthlessly, to pare things back to the essentials.

For example, looking at poisons for a Combat Rogue, EJ lists three different possible combinations. Which combination is the "best" depends on your weapon type and speed of the off-hand weapon. I just put down the most-common combination at Raider101.

Is that over-simplifying things? Maybe. Some decision points are essential.

Anyways, the thing about wikis is that they make it very easy for anyone to add information. But all those additions have weight. Person A adds something small to one section. Person B adds something small to another section. Person C expands on something else. All those additions have weight, and eventually you end up with the Too Much Information problem again.

It is interesting how the nature of wikis works against an editor. But I think editing is important. Sometimes, what is cut is more important than what is left in, and the "shape" and flow of the article is as important as the content.

I'm not sure how I'm going to approach this with Raider101. I've basically locked a few of the more complete articles (all paladin specs, combat rogues, mutilate rogues). But that means that people can't make corrections or add things which need to added. Of course, who determines what needs to be added is the central question.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Raider 101 Project

I've started work on a new website: www.raider101.com

The page on this blog that gets the single largest number of hits is the Hit Caps page (currently outdated). I think this shows that there is a real demand for basic, comprehensive information presented in an easy-to-understand format. I adore Elitist Jerks, but it's very advanced, and I think a lot of people just want basic information, rather than having to wade through 50-page threads.

My idea for Raider 101 is to have the basic information on how to play for every class and spec available in a single site that is easy to navigate. I'm also trying for an emphasis on talents and ability rotations, rather than gear. In my opinion, too much attention is paid to gear at the low end, and not enough attention is paid to the other elements. I've written up Retribution to start with, so you can see what I am aiming for.

It's a wiki, so if anyone wants to contribute, feel free. The important part is to keep things simple. The intended audience is not the people who can do 3000 DPS and are trying for 3500. The intended audience are the people struggling at 1000 DPS. After they master the basics, they can go to Elitist Jerks and delve into the deep theorycraft.

It's very much a work-in-progress at the moment, though. If you'd like to contribute (especially non-paladins) feel free to sign up.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Heroic PuGs

Lots of people seem to be have horror stories of doing instances with Pickup Groups. Maybe it's just Skywall, but--knock on wood--I haven't had any real issues with Heroic PuGs. I complain about things, but they're really minor irritations. So far, Heroic PuGs for me have pretty much been veni, vidi, vici.

The only interesting PuG happened a few weeks ago in Heroic Violet Hold while I was Ret. We wiped once on the Voidwalker boss. The second time, three of us died on the Voidwalker boss, but the last two killed it. Unfortunately, we ran back and zoned in, not realizing that you can't do that. So that attempt ended in a wipe.

The third time through, we start it up, and are on wave two when the boomkin announces, "Sorry guys, I don't think this group can do this" and hearths out. We're all like, "What the ... couldn't he have said something before we started!" So we four-man the waves and kill the Voidwalker easily. Thankfully we have a warlock, so at wave 10 we summon a DPS warrior to come help and we finish the instance cleanly.

So I dunno about Horror-story PuGs. On Skywall at least, Heroic PuGs are pretty good.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ask Coriel: Crafted PvP Holy Gear

Murpheus asks:

I was wondering if you could tell me why you think all the blue a and purple crafted "pvp" plate I see on the AH has no INT. Even the mace has no INT. All the other crafted plate has Strength and Stamina ,but Holy Pally's only get stamina yes it does have spell power , but still. In Battlegrounds noone can/wants to kill me so eventually I run out of mana, am I doing this all wrong? do I not need a mana pool?

I think we're all confused by the crafted Holy gear. I don't think anyone is wearing it. From what I hear, most people are just going with PvE gear until they have enough honor and/or arena points to pick up the first actual PvP set (Savage Gladiator's Redemption), as that set is much better itemized.

It's especially confusing because the mail Stormhide gear is pretty decent.