Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why I wish Firelands was like Ulduar

As we near the release of 4.2 and the new raid content of Firelands, I'm left feeling a small twinge of nostalgia as I think about the awesomeness that was Ulduar.  I'm not necessarially talking about all the fights here, or even the story behind it (because really, it was just kinda dropped in), but more along how Blizzard handled the most important aspect of the game.


What, you were expecting something else?

Honestly though, Ulduar is where Blizzard hit it right in my opinion.  Lore over at The Daily Marmot really hit it on the head this week, when he talks about how great the boss fights were, the trash to boss ratio, and even how they handled 'hard modes'. 

Now I'm sure that my personal experience with Tier 11 content has jaded my experience some, and Tier 10 and 11 were certainly better than Tier 9 (ToC).  I mean, that's where the wheels really came off.  ToC was terrible (it's a circle!), and the fact that you had to clear it twice in one lockout was really aggrivating.  At least with ICC you could turn heroic modes on and off.

Forget Heroic - just bring back Hard

The thing I really liked about Ulduar though, was you could make the fight harder, and it actually incorporated something beyond "hey, here's some adds!".  No, instead you could choose to kill bosses in a certain order (Council), kill off supporting adds (Freya), reach a DPS speed goal (Hodir), or choose to give the boss extra powers by pushing a button (Mimiron).  This mechanic was so much better than the current method of switching it over to 'heroic' and having the bosses hit harder.  Woo-hoo.

Sure, some fights introduce extra abilities, but for the most part, it's just a bigger DPS punch, or possibly an add.  Imagine Halfus - instead of fighting him with all the drakes, you could choose to 'wake' his drakes.  This way you could choose to have none (fine, there's a minimum of three) drakes go active that have to be released and killed, or you can go with all five like you get now.  V&T you could make a portal that siwtches them, I don't know.

What I do know is killing the same boss (esentially) twice just sucks.  Come on Atramedes - at least get some sparkels or something. 

Maybe I just don't know what I want.  Maybe I just want some Ulduar.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why the authenticator changes are bad

Like many WoW players, including Lodur over at World of Matticus, I'm earn my not insubstantial paycheck as an IT Manager.  Unlike Lodur, I don't think that this authenticator change is a good idea.  While I don't have any issues with the technologies being used to help ease the burden of using an authenticator, I do see a few potetial pitfalls ahead of us.

Now, all this is being said with no real testing on my part.  I didn't spend hours and hours running parse logs, examining my firewall, or trying to do things like spoof my MAC address (or run through a routing host like PingFree).  In fact, my concerns aren't technical at all, but lean towards more of the Social Engineering side of hacking.

Changing mid-stream is bad

Ask anyone who works in Customer Service, and they'll probably tell you that changing the way someone operates is generally a path to heartache and failure.  Anyone who upgraded users to the 'Ribbon' feature in Office probably experienced this.  It's not that there was a reduction in fucntionality, but the way it looked was simply different.  Heck, it was dedidedly better than the previous version, but things just didn't look the same.

Now with security measures, this is even more extreme.  You want people to follow them, embrace them, love them even.  It doesn't matter what it is, they have to do it every time.  How many of us, just out of habit, erased our username when logging onto WoW because we hit Tab and then entered our Authenticator Code - KNOWING that it wasn't there any more - we just habitually did it.

Making a habit something that is hit or miss

So now, years later, Blizzard has finally gotten (I'd hope) the majority of the userbase accustomed to using an authenticator.  It doesn't matter if it's on your phone, your iPad, or a dongle - you're using it.  Yeah, it's a pain in the ass when you get DC'd in the middle of a boss fight and you have to pull up the application on your iPhone (I assume, I use a dongle), but you're used to it.  Hell, as soon as I DC I'm already reaching for the thing.

So now it seems that Blizzard has changed the way this works.  I don't know if it's live yet, but based upon the blue post I read, sometimes you'll have to use it - and others you won't.  Based on Lodur's findings, it'll be only the first time you log in after a reboot.  I don't know how accurate this is, but it sounds feasable.

So here's my concern

Now you've got a bunch of folks that reluctantly agreed to use the bloody authenticator in the first place.  They get used to not having to enter the code, and now - they're hacked.  Seeing the box pop up every time, having to enter the code every time - this was reinforcement of good behavior.  Now?  It's hit or miss.  What if you're a player that doesn't read the forums, or blogs, or anything else?  Am I going to get an email in my BNet account about this?  How will I know it's not another phishing attempt?  How long will it be before someone writes an application that will cause an authenticator window to pop up?

Who knows.

Now granted, part of my job is to do network security, so I'm naturally paranoid and suspicious.  I'm sure that the good folks at Blizzard have thought this out from a technical standpoint - but the thought of not having some kind of indication that you've actually authenticated securely seems like an oversight to me.  Maybe just putting some kind of notice on your latency meter - I don't know.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Val'anyr for every Healadin

At this stage in the game I'm fairly certain that the community as a whole is made up of a bunch of whiners - and specifically I'm talking about Paladins here - and more specifically I'm talking about Mastery.

Back in the days of Wrath I lusted after one single item - Val'anyr.  Forget the fact that it was legendary, had an awesome animation, or helped me get over my priest bubble envy - this bad boy had the most amazing proc for healers; Stacking shields.  This was huge, and close to being as overpowered as you could get, without being game changing.  15% of all healing (while the buff was up) was passed on as a stacking absorb shield.  Mmm - I loved it.

Then came Cataclsym, the nerfing to a 10k max shield, and the inability to put Heartsong on it.  /sadface.

Mastery was supposed to be a quasi answer, but it didn't stack, didn't last for very long, and was generally accepted as being extremely lackluster.  We've seen a few small buffs to this stat since launch; increased percentages, increased time, and now - stacking shields.

Well color me happy

Shitfire and potatto sauce - we've finally gotten it.  Sure there's no awesome animation to go with it, but we finally got stacking shields - that last for 15 seconds.  This shield is applied by the majority of our heals, and it stacks!  We have essentially been given the power of a legendary, without having to do anything other than equip the gear we normally would anyway.  Plus, because it is tied to a stat, you now have the option to decided just how fast you want those shields applied.  The world of mathcrafting just got a new contestant in my opinion.

Balancing your stats

So as it stands, any Holy-Paladin who reaches whatever level is required to get the Mastery skill, automatically get's a 10% shield applied when they heal.  Ten freaking percent, and all you have to do is show up.  So now it's time to start looking at stats, and seeing where we can land and where I think we'll be with some ideal settings. 

First - Spirit.  No mana = sad panda, so stack this until you're comfortable where you're at.  Personally, I can never have enough mana, so I stack Spirit like it was the last candy available. 

Second - we want to make sure we keep conviction up at all times.  That's way too much healing to lose simply becuase we let a buff fall off.  With heals critting for 100% in 4.2 as well, extra crit won't be as much of a waste, but we still don't need 'that' much. Anything in the 13 to 18 percent range is probably fine. 

Third - Haste.  This is the big one as far as I'm concerned.  Right now I'm certain that it's impossible (at least not without BLust and everything else) to reach the 1 sec GCD for HL/DL.  So, what we really want to look at is Holy Radience.  6% haste gives us an extra tick of HR, and we don't pick up another until 14.5%.  This is reachable (by reforging) in the current tier without too much effort.  Pushing for 23% is probably not possible, at least at these gear levels (or giving up a lot of stats). 

So where does that leave us? 

While an extra tick of HR is nice, that's really not going to provide 'that' much extra healing.  So you need to find that sweet spot.  Personally as long as I'm under a 2sec cast for DL/HL, I consider myself to be ok (until I can hit 1 sec, I'm not going to worry about it).  This means I can play with more mastery without putting myself in harms way.  Kurn did a chardev where she maxed out her Mastery and sacrificed her haste, and came up with 8% haste and 19 mastery.  This is a flip from her 15% haste and 9 mastery in her current raid gear.

So let's look at those numbers.  15% haste will provide you with that coveted extra tick of HR, while 6% will still give you 2 sec HL casts, and a lot of extra Mastery.  If you're raiding 25s, with a lot of grouped fights that HR will really affect, this may be worthwhile.  In 10s however, you're not always going to be getting the most from your HR, so running one tick less won't make/break your game.

The big downer

Now the Mastery changes aren't all roses.  The drawbacks still exist, primarially that your BoL target and PoTI doen't casue your shields to stack.  HR doesn't affect it either, but that's ok.  What we're really concerned about is shields on the tank.  Here's the deal though.  Can you imagine if all the healing your tank recieved via BoL was affected?  You'd have huge shields, and tanks that were nigh-on indestructible.  When you add in the 100% HL transfer, and 200% crits, it would really get out of hand in a hurry.  By the time 4.3 rolled around Mastery wouldn't transfer anything, and we'd be using bandages. 

The wrap up

Face it - you got a free Val'anyr, just for rolling a Healadin.  Never add another drop of Mastery, and you've still got 10% shields affecting the majority of your targets.  Stack Mastery now, and you can get about 30% of your heals transferred as shields, for something you were going to do anyway.  That my friends, ain't too shabby.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Shockadin - letting any class tank

Do you long for the glory days of Vanilla WoW where Shamans had a talent that gave them shield block?  Want to tank, but don't want to bother with those pesky talents that keep you from being crit?  Even better, ever had to tank as a cat spec'd druid?  Well folks, we just made it easier!

That's right, now you too can experience the thrill of tanking any boss encounter, providing you have the right tools available.  No, I'm not talkint about tank gear, some crazy Uncleslam block/dodge set, or even having the right spec.

No, the tool I mention is far more rare than that.  Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm talking about the Shockadin.


That's right, Blizzard has now announced that we will be the only class available which can in turn, allow any class to tank.  Now even that terrible DK who queued as a DW Frost spec (frost stance even) tank will be able to live, providing there's a healer around to help prop them up.  How's this possible you ask?  Are our healing powers getting a buff instead of a nerf?  Are the days of watching our mana bar go up WHILE CASTING back?  Did they bring back the full Illumination? 

Sadly, no.

Instead, we have something far more powerful.  We have the power of the Light, and it's so strong, that our willingness and desire to openly, and publicly, condem our enemies with the power of our non-scaling patheticly weak nuke - buffed by Denounce.  Why this change you ask?  Have our enemies grown so strong that our 12k strikes now cause them to double over in laughter?  Is that how we're getting to this point?  Probably, but not officially.

No, the official stance on Denounce is now it will prevent the target of your Exorcism from (wait for it) from creating a critical effect (100% chance for 2 points) for SIX WHOLE SECONDS!  Oh yeah, we're huge now.  Of course with the effect only lasting six seconds, and a 1.5 second cast, you're only going to be able to weave in a couple of heals (3 if you're REALLY fast).  Oh, and don't forget to keep your judgements up as well.

Who cares though - now we can let anyone tank!

OK - maybe it's for PvP

I suppose the other intent of this spell is for PvP, but I am really struggling with how it fits into the scheme.  I'm not a big arena (i.e. never in Cataclysm) player, and the PvP experience I do have in Rated BGs is mostly spent mashing FoL and HoP/HoF as often as I can.  Instant exorcisms are great, but rarely do I get to sit back and just nuke on someone.  Heh, nuke.  Leveling it's not as big of a deal, as the GCD really prevents you doing anything during that time - but still. 

I suppose I can see where you might cast this on say, a Healer in Arenas to keep them from getting that clutch crit heal off on someone, but really - wouldn't you be better actually healing your team in that time?  Odds are, if you can spare the GCD to cast at their healer isntead of the target you're focusing down (or you know - healing your team), the game is probably already won/lost, and your cast won't mean much.

A PvE/PvP scenario

One setup where I can see this having some marginal benifit is in AV/IoC, where you have PvE in your PvP.  If you don't have an honest to goodness tank, you might be better served by preventing them from being Crit than healing.  Maybe.

Another scenario is the Chimaeron fight, but again, it doesn't really matter here.  He hits so hard that the first one will knock you down (Finkle will save you!), and the second one will kill you - even if he doesn't crit.  Who knows, maybe this buys your a third strike on that fight.  Odds are though, unless you're like me, you aren't picking up a Shockadin build just for that fight.  I don't think the DPS is needed now, but for our first H-Chim kills it was nice to have.

So uh - really?  What's the point?

I'm not sure to be honest here.  Maybe some PvPers can school me in the applications of Exorcism in Arenas, but I'm not seeing it.  The mana reduction will be nice for leveling still, and allow you to spam it when you have time, but it just doesn't hit hard enough to make us actual DPSers. 

Hey - at least BoL isn't dispellable now. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Going back to my roots

With Team Intensity on an official hiatus until 4.2, I'm now faced with the challenge of filling my playtime with something that is both entertaining, and well - entertaining.  While I'm not Gevlon rich, I have enough gold to do pretty much whatever I want.  Granted that cash won't last long if I start buying up all the companion pets I don't have, but it's more than enough to carry me through another content patch worth of raiding.  I'm holding out that everyone actually returns for 4.2, so I'm not guild shopping yet, I'm just treading water (and counting down until Space Marine is released). 

So what to do with all my time?

While I'm picking up Hunted this weekend to get some Gears of War type co-op play in, WoW is still my preferred time waster.  Of course without a regular source of raiding, and I'm not really keen on just running PUG raids for points, I've begun to explore some of the other avenues of play.

PVP is fine and all, but a large portion of this game (at least for me) is the social aspect of it.  While I occasionally PvP on my own, it's usually only if I'm working towards a goal - like getting all my blue PvP gear, or buying another piece of BoA gear.  Of course there's only one reason to buy BoA gear.


Now generally I'm against alts, but not becuase I don't like them - I just don't like them in my raids (or in my 5-mans when I'm still trying to heal them on my main).  What alts do provide though is an immediate opening into a vast world of knowledge about your fellow players.  One of the first alts I leveled to 85, and did any kind of instancing on, was my priest.  Why?  Because Monger is a priest, and I wanted to learn how the other half was living.  It helped me to learn some of the finer points of playing a priest, and to better understand the 'how' and more importantly the 'why' of his healing style.

Of course alts also offer you the ability to make a boat ton of money while questing.

Enter the warrior

Over the last few weeks I've been playing with a pair of tanking alts, the DK and the Warrior.  The Death Knight was fun for a bit, but I'll have to admit - trying to manage runic power, runes, and cooldowns was a lot to handle while trying to tank in PUGs.  That and you don't get a real taunt (short CD) until level 66 or something.  WTF man.  I also don't feel any kind of connection to my mini-Hulk, he's just someone I was messing with to pass the time.

Then I rolled my Troll Warrior.

I've commented before how I regretted race changing my NElf warrior to a tauren, and that was my one real regret about going Horde.  While I love my Paladin, and I thouroughly enjoy healing, I've been missing the graceful movements of the Nelf warrior.  I spent a lot of hours watching him spin around while tanking, and the Tauren just doesn't have the right flow.  I'm not exactly sure what promted me to pick the Troll this time around, but I'm certainly glad I did.

Playing a new warrior from level 1 up has certainly been entertaining.  I quested until level 15, specc'd Protection, and haven't done another quest since on my way to 45 or so.  Instant queues as a tank are still available, and having a full set of BoA gear (seriously, no BoA shield?) really helps.  I'm still as cautious a puller as I was three years ago, and I think most of the reflexes and skills are coming back.  Thunder Clap plus Rend is a pretty amazing threat tool at this level, and it's certainly odd feeling to finish a dungeon having done over 50% of the damage as a tank.

While I have no intentions of changing away from the Paladin any time soon, I'm definately enjoying a small break while learning the ways of the Warrior again.  I suspect this will wear off right around the time my first heroic pops though.  I'm a man of little faith.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Choosing the recipent of a Legendary - who gives a rip

With a new expansion comes a new legendary (or three) to whet the appitites of raiders everywhere, and cause strife an agnst in more guilds than even I have been in.  This time around our staff wielding DPS friends are the eligible group, and I'm sure there will be a whole lot of drama around this new bad boy. 

Picking the winner

Now I may be a bit jaded, or maybe the opposite of that, but my personal feeling on this is "who gives a shit".  I gaurantee that picking up a legendary item will not suddenly allow you to bowl over heroic bosses that have given your guild pause or challenge in the past.  Members who stand near the wielder will no longer fail to interrupt, or move from the fire.  In addition, unless something changes between how the items were forged in Wrath, you have to have an entire guild behind you.

That's right - in order to get your weapon of awesome, you need your whole guild.

Now this brings up some interesting thoughts.  First, let's look at some of the previous legendaries. 

Thunderfury - My personal favorite, this bad boy required two rare drops off bosses in Molten Core, 10 ore drops from Blackwing Lair, and a whole lot of Arcanite Bars.  After that you needed to kill a summoned raid boss in Silithus and you were done.  So the only real assitance that you needed from your guild was to kill the additional boss.  Everything else you were doing as part of a normal clearing of raid instances.  Back in Vanilla we handled bindings with DKP, and then sold the rest of the mats.  I had to beg/borrow/steal a ton of gold to buy my ore, but assistance from the guild wasn't 'required'.

Sulfuron's Hammer - or whatever it was called.  About the same as the Thunderfury, but with a whole lot less awesome, and there was no additional summoned boss.  You needed parts that dropped from the bosses you were killing anyway, and a crafted piece that didn't requrie the whole guild pitching in to get.  Hell, if you were a blacksmith and had some deep pockets, you could get the first part all by yourself.

Ateish - The first super grind legendary, not only did this require 40 shards that dropped off the original bosses in Naxx, but you then had to kill KT and C'Thun.  Oh, and you had to be at least nuetral with the Brood of Nozdoramu to even get the quest.  So if your guild wasn't clearing Naxx, and then willing to go kill C'Thun, you were boned.  At least it only involved doing what you were trying to do anyway - kill bosses.

Twin Blades of Azzanoth - Arguably the easiest of the legendaries to obtain, nabbing thie pair of swords only requried you to kill Illidan - something you were probably trying to do anyway.

Thori'dal, the Stars Fury - Another legendary that simply dropped off the end boss, though certainly far fewer guilds killed Kil'Jaeden than killed Illidan. 

Val'anyr - Similar to Ateish, this weapon involved gathering drops off bosses, even the non-hard mode versions of the bosses.  Final completion involved killing Yogg+3, which was the first of the 'hard mode' methods of killing him(her?).  Again, this didn't take anything special from your guild - just a willingness to give you the fragments, and then the ability to kill Yogg+3. 

Shadowmourne - The final legendary at the end of Wrath, it was the first that required more of your raid than just killing bosses.  First there was the saronite you had to collect - easy enough.  You could level an entire stable of saronite farming whores to run through the heroics for you.  You needed a drop (gauranteed as long as you had the quest) that came from two of the bosses in the plague wing, and you should be killing them anyway.  Then you collected 1000 souls.  After that though, things changed.

First, you had to start collecting 50 shards off the bosses - similar to Ateish and Val'anyr.  Again, nothing up to this point has required your guild to do anything but kill bosses you were killing anyway.  Then though, the real fun began.  You now had three quests involving the wing bosses, and killing them in very specific ways.  I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure most guilds did these kills on normal mode, meaning you missed out on a shot at the heroic loot that week - just so you could get a quest completed.  I know we wiped a lot trying to let someone get their quests done, though they certainly weren't impossible.  Then it was just a matter of killing Arthas, and boom - a shiney axe.

Rewarding one, sacrificing everyone else

So when you're making a decision about how to divvy out your legendary, remember a few things.  First, everyone better be commited to making it happen.  Second, it's a piece of loot that will probably sit rotting after another content patch.  Val'anyr managed to be useable all the way through ICC, and Thunderfury was hands down the very best tank sword available in Vanilla (and even into the start of BC). 

The legendaries are hot, but not becuase they're legendary - but because they're the best available.  Personally, I think handling them differently than any other loot is pretty dumb, especially since most folks will finish off with 3/4 of it completed, and unable to polish it off until several patches later.  Not that I'm bitter about not getting my mace until well into ICC.

In the end, give the legendary to anyone you want.  I gaurantee

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

If you plan on moving - now's the time

So it was a pretty sobering moment earlier this week when I actually looked at a calendar and realized just how long we've been raiding this current tier of content.  Cata was released what, in early December?  It's now the first week of June - so figure we've been looking at the same bosses for the last five months. 


This has definately taken it's toll on the raiding population, at least from what I've seen.  Some guilds are still going strong, and others are going down in flames faster than Gary Busey's acting career.  One thing is pretty clear to me right now though, and that's this. 

If you haven't killed Sinestra by now, you're probably not going to by 4.2.

Now, there's nothing to be ashamed of here.  Heroic content is hard, and it takes a lot out of a group to pull it off.  Rotating players, not being afraid to give and recieve criticism, stacking your raid.  Sure, it's easier now than it was when the world first happened, but there's a reason most of us aren't in world first guilds. 

And you know what - it's ok.

Now is the time to find that home

So with 4.2 a few weeks away, it's time to take a good hard look at where you're at as a guild, as a player, and where you want to be (with both).  Maybe your guild needs to take a breather, rebuild the ranks for 4.2, and work on getting those new players integrated with the group.  Maybe you as a player need to take some time off, and come back to 4.2 actually WANTING to log in.  And if you're guild won't let you, maybe it's time to find a new guild.

Either way, now is the time to be recruiting, or be recruited.  Once 4.2 hits you're going to see guilds wanting to recruit players with Firelands experience.  If you're missing it, you may very well have to slug through with guilds you don't really want to be in, just to get the experience.  Wait too long, and you'll be re-reading this post when 4.3 is on the horizon. 

Where I am now

Unfortunately, we're in the boat that it's resting on troubled waters.  We've got some RL issues pulling folks away, and the desire for raiding is definately lacking in others.  The commitment is still there, but when you're trying to push new heroic bosses, I don't think showing up is enough.  What we have to find out is, will this boat sink or sail in 4.2.  If these guys are done and just going through the motions, then it's probably time to find a new home.  I don't want to be waiting around to 4.2, only to find out that the desire still isn't there. 

Of course the killer is that I love playing with the people in my guild.  These are the guys I played BC2 with, raided Wrath with, and will hopefully be killing Orks and Jedi with in 40k and SW:TOR.  We have more inside jokes than we know what to do with, and really - if I can't get into a guild where Old Greg is more than just a funny video on YouTube, I might just cry.

So today, I'm window shopping.  Need to have a full sit down with the folks involved and figure out exactly what's going on.  I'd rather raid with them, but given the choice of no raiding - I'll go somewhere else and we can hang out in BC:3.