Archive for October, 2009

Warrior ability: Call of War

29/10/2009

After going through Ghostcrawler’s post on “Hybrid tax”, I wanted to share a notion that hit me and may get missed by those who read a bit of the mentioned thread and ignored the rest, or who simply didn’t click it for having the notion “not again”…

Basically, the argument is that hybrids must have a form of performance tax in order to make sure pures don’t get rubbed out of the game. That’s fine. It’s also posited that hybrids should have excellent utility in order to stop THEM from declining. Ignoring the rest of the points previously made, the warrior is the one hybrid class that is badly lacking in attractive utility for a raid setting because they lack buffs. Most buffs have been spread around a bit in order to promote the “player not class” mantra, but as warriors are doing slightly less DPS than a pure and have no real buffs of note, the question is why you’d take a warrior to a raid.

Let’s argue warriors need a raid wide buff.

Let’s also note that “shouts” are the compelling method of buff for the developers.

Let’s finally spot the one excellent buff that is in the game and only provided by a single class; thus, could do with more representation.

We then finally arrive at the new warrior ability for CataclysmCall of War.

Call of War (30 rage):

Increases melee, ranged, and spell casting speed by 30% for all party and raid members. Lasts 40 sec. After the completion of this effect, those affected will become Sated and unable to benefit from Call of War again for 10 min.

Look familiar?

It should.

All of a sudden, one terrific buff is spread out a little (making one class less mandatory) and warriors get the utility that they otherwise crave.

[The following was what I posted in response to other authors.]

I’m glad to see most people think this is a good idea and that the “lol warz fine nub l2p” brigade have left it alone; getting a bit bored with those people, to be honest.

I actually did a bit of a guild chat last night regarding this and even those who’ve listened to my QQ about warriors in the past agreed that the notion was both fair and fitting. We discussed what buffs people think are generally the best and, yep, you guessed it:

Blessing of Kings
Gift of the Wild
Bloodlust

A few people like Prayer of Fortitude a lot, but that’s more for the “look at my health” factor as opposed to an increase in performance. The other one that continually came up was, of course, combat ressurection. The problem, of course is that there’s something of a pattern here.

The hybrids with more than two available raid specs seem to also be the ones with the best buffs. I’m struggling to see how this can be considered reasonable from a balance point of view. As hinted in my original post, I think the 5% tax (simple number) across all hybrids is reasonably fair to avoid druids being next to useless in every environment. However, that is on the understanding that hybrids also bring that “additional” utility to a raid that is currently seeing priests, death knights and warriors (the latter two particularly) somewhat short changed.

And when you consider that druids, the only four-role class in the game, have got both Gift of the Wild AND Rebirth, I don’t see how the developers can justify this argument on the utility of hybrids being used to balance them out.

Warriors need something to bring to a raid because they lack any kind of unique buffs or additional utility. None of the hybrids can do anything other than what they’re specced for in the current raid environment for Wrath of the Lich King. The developers have also been keen to make sure no class becomes “mandatory” for an encounter, but ask anyone who’s ever raided if they like to go without a shaman; they don’t.

Bloodlust needs another class to represent it.
Warriors lack raid utility badly and are the obvious choice for a Bloodlust variant.
Let’s see it done, Blizzard.

P.S – I think the combat ressurection should also see another class represent it and, in my view, a priest is the obvious choice, with the spell taking the form of a prayer. Just thought I’d throw that in there, because it seems a bit odd that the only class with two healing trees doesn’t have combat ressurection.

"Gnat syndrome"

27/10/2009

I find, generally, that raids go well.

It’s a testimony to both my guild raiders and their ability to follow directions, as well as other web sources, that we’ve been able to clear the content that we have. I’d like to be able to add my own charismatic and incomparable leadership to the mix, but that would be unforgiveably arrogant and certain guild members wouldn’t forgive me. Truthfully speaking, though, there is rarely an encounter that we miscomprehend to the point that we can’t learn to execute it with practice and time. As such, phased encounters that seemed extraordinarily difficult to start with (such as Malygos or Mimiron) have been completed successfully after a couple of nights trying. We’ve not hit the fabled “brick wall” and I’ve been proud of my guild when I’ve read forums of people who have banged into just such walls.

Until now.

I’m writing this after another frustrating evening with Yogg-Saron. Yep, even in TotC gear, we have yet to take down the immortal god at the heart of Ulduar’s Descent into Madness. Last night was by far our best effort, with one particularly successful attempt seeing us get the brain down to around 50% (phase two, of course) before the obligatory inducing of madness on one of the melee in the brain room, and Diminishing Power stacking twice. By that point, however, we’d been at it well over an hour and people were starting to flag whilst, put simply, not performing as well as they had during the first hour of raiding. So, we come to the point of this blog; the attention span.


This has been a recurring theme on our evenings fighting Yogg-Saron, and more times before that when I look back. Once a boss becomes reasonably difficult, to the point where it’s wiping us repeatedly on an evening, anything else that happens to be going on in the world seems to be more fun. People need the toilet more often. They need a drink more often. The TV starts talking to them, specifically. “Brb’s”, “afk’s” and other assorted hold ups start to predominate. I’ve lost count of the number of promising raids that have been irreperably derailed by a couple of wipes and the effect it had on our raiders.

The problem is, I’d imagine, horribly common.

The solution, unfortunately, is harder to find.

First up, it’s an unfortunate fact that younger people have lower attentions spans in the main. Certainly that’s the evidence in our guild, with the older people being able to push on without unnecessary breaks whilst the younger members, under 16’s particularly, start to need constant periods away from the screen. This is not always the case, of course, but it is true in the main. So, solution one would be to only recruit, and subsequently raid with, those over the age of 18. Erm, no. That would be unreasonably harsh on the larger demographic playing World of Warcraft, and especially hard on our guild that does have a few younger raiders who are otherwise good to have around.

We’ve tried prescribed breaks during our alloted raid time (1930 – 2300), generally on the hour. Again, though, people “need” to take breaks before and after that, while also choosing to take liberties during those break times and extending them. Again, this just causes the attention of those who are patiently/impatiently waiting on them to diminish still further. I’m also wont to telling people to get off for 10 minutes or so if a boss has wiped us a few times, so that people can grab a quick drink, give a girlfriend a kiss, relax for a bit and then come back refreshed and refocused for the next tries.

But of course, there is an underlying problem here. When blazing through Naxxramas, Ulduar or Trial of the Crusader, nobody needs their attention span cuddled or massaged in any way. The correlation between failure and morale is obvious. This means lowering morale is a direct cause of attention loss, so dealing with morale is the root problem and it’s just as hard to pick up morale when things aren’t going so well. Again, our little breaks are our best ideas up until now, along with a deliberate attempt on the part of the raid leader (typically me) to talk up what has been going well in an encounter, reinforcing the fact that we “can” do something if we just put everything together.
However, Yogg-Saron has now become “that” boss that people generally fear going in to try and kill because it’s in their head that they “can’t” do it.

It’s incredibly frustrating.

But what’s more frustrating is the currently fruitless search for a way to keep morale high and attention sharp when the chips are down.

The search continues.

Picking the right partner

26/10/2009

When you first ding 80 and start gearing up for raids, it’s easy to forget that you’re not going to be tanking them alone. Yes, the odd encounter in Naxxramas will only call for a single tank (as will Malygos) but, for the most part, you’re going to be in there with another heavily armoured rude-dude who will be taking blows with you. The old terms of “main tank” and “off tank” have been dispensed with by many people in an attempt at political correction in an online sense, but the old titles still work because one of you is going to be tanking the boss and the other is not. And let’s be clear; for a successful raid, this person shouldn’t be considered “the other guy”.

He should be considered a part of your very own tanking repertoire.

Now, the guild often asks who the best tanks are, but they do so on a class to class basis. The truth, however, is that class doesn’t make an awful lot of difference when you’re going to fight the most dangerous bosses that Azeroth has to offer. What matters more is how the tanking team understands one another, exhibiting that understanding throughout the encounter and seeing a plan through to fruition. It’s often said that tanks are not the most important part of a raid, but to the more erudite they most certainly are. That is not to say it’s the hardest job (it invariably isn’t), but the tanks carry the responsibility of the entire raid on their shoulders and the entire battle plan hinges on their actions; the rest of your raid will react to how you act, basically. This means that your tanking team has to be as good as it can be, in every way, before you pull.

Enter, Thorian: accept no substitutes.

It just so happens that our raids are composed of a warrior main tank and a paladin off tank, often considered one of the best pair ups. In saying that, this has less to do with Devastate and Avenger’s Shield and more to do with Zellviren and Thorian as people.

Let me explain.

Since roughly the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King, Thorian and I have been the guild tanks. We’ve slotted in the odd warrior, paladin, druid or death knight for certain evenings, but there is no doubt throughout the whole set up who the main men are. This partnership has been deliberately cultivated and it’s one that is now, quite frankly, demanded by the rest of the raid group when we’re pushing content. The reasons for this are quite numerous and I’ll elucidate them for you here, in an effort to point out how you should best form your guild tanking team.

1) I enjoy conventional “main tanking” and Thorian enjoys conventional “off tanking”.
2) We complement each other nicely in playstyle and spec.
3) There is an understanding between us of what is expected generally, and specifically (considering encounter).
4) The rest of the raid trusts us, and we trust each other.

From the points above, you should note that points 2, 3 and 4 can be achieved through discussion and, above all, experience. The most important point, however, is point 1 – we both do what we actually like doing. There are occasions when we switch around for a bit of variety (and it keeps us both honest) but, when push comes to shove, we both like the roles we fulfill and wouldn’t want to change them.

I would suggest that is the most important thing to consider when fixing your tanking team.

Thorian and I got that by a bit of luck and, in many cases, that’s what you’ll need. But if your guild runs several tanks, you’re best assigning someone a role that they enjoy most, as you’ll get the most out of them by doing so. Whether the tank is a warrior, druid, paladin or death knight, they are all equipped with tools that allow them to do any tanking job.

Make use of preference.

You won’t regret it.

"Are warriors underpowered?"

23/10/2009

A while ago (just prior to 3.1), I wrote a post for the wow-europe forums that was entitled “Are warriors underpowered?”. Needless to say, it received a lot of attention due to the general view that it hit a lot of nails on the head and that warriors needed some attention. Since then, we’ve seen numerous changes for the better regarding balance, as well as gear scaling, causing an upturn in warrior performance. I then revisited the topic with version 2 after seeing a good old fashioned “necro” of the thread, with later participants repeating some of their earlier complaints. Are there complaints still valid? Well, no.

Warriors, just prior to 3.3, are well balanced in both PvE (tanking and DPS) and PvP.

Yes, some specs around the bazaars remain a little too good. Protection paladins remain overtuned, as do death knights (DPS) and rogues. But this isn’t a warrior issue, really, and is something that the developers need to try and remedy for 3.3 in order to sort everyone out in readiness for Icecrown Citadel. Generally, of course, there are still some things that are particularly annoying from a fundamental class design, but we shouldn’t expect to see these properly engaged with before Cataclysm and, I’d imagine, every class has something they find difficult or irritable.

In short, well done Blizzard. Despite my complaints and misgivings, you seem to have gotten things about right for the content patch that really matters.

I’m looking forward to getting started. 🙂

Learning to tank? Learn to drive!

19/10/2009

It’s somewhat obvious that many people will have levelled quickly to 80 in a spec/playstyle that wasn’t for tanking. Let’s face it, the survivability is probably less important than the speed at which you can kill, particularly if you’re a class with any kind of healing capability. For warriors, you’re using food and bandages until you get to level 75 and pick up Enraged Regeneration (unless you’re undead and have Cannibalize). But, let’s face it, either DPS spec is faster for levelling than Protection, with Arms probably getting the nod due to ease of charging access, a bit more survivability, and a need for only one decent weapon as opposed to two. But now you’re at 80, it’s time to get into your raiding schedule and you’re struggling to find a regular spot. Your guild already has plenty of melee DPS, you see; death knights, paladins, warriors, enhancement shamen, rogues, feral druids… It’s going to be a while.

Somebody get me a shield!

The decision to take up tanking is an easy one – it’s the hero’s job, after all. Taking the hits for your team, being the focal point of the entire strategy, and filling a smaller specialization percentage will all increase your chances of grabbing a spot. Sticking with it, however, is not so easy. You soon feel the weight of the priority set up and don’t always make the right choice. You’re struggling to keep an eye on Omen as you keep pressing the Tab key, often losing mobs to DPS that aren’t really hitting all that hard because you’re targeting the wrong mob at the wrong time. Cycling Heroic Strike is becoming difficult as you’re not managing rage correctly, and you are forgetting to slot in Cleave when there is more than one mob; sometimes vice versa. Finding a global cooldown for Demoralizing Shout is something you typically forget, as is using Shield Block for more threat or a bit of damage reduction – then, of course, there’s the extra health of Commanding Shout to recall. Throw in a couple of cooldowns, on-use trinkets, situational abilities such as Shield Bash, Spell Reflection and Disarm and it can all become horribly overwhelming for the new tank. Often, it can become overwhelming enough to make you give up and get back to what is far easier and less demanding on the grey matter. Obviously, tanking doesn’t make sense to you; it never will, so there’s no point in spending time gearing and practicing, when you’re clearly meant for dishing out damage. Right?

Wrong.

Think back (those of you old enough) to when you first started your driving lessons. What a great idea! The freedom of the road will save me time, money and hassle. I can get out when I want, I don’t have to rely on public transport or other people and I can start to develop independence that will stand me in good stead for the future. My friends have all told me that driving is easy, it certainly looks that way, so I should be passing my test in no time at all. Provisional licence? Check. Cash for lessons? Check. Time in the schedule? Check. Getting everything booked up? Check. Let’s hit the road! Except, now you’re sat in the car, it’s a whole lot more difficult. You have to keep your eye on the road, obviously; you don’t want to crash. But fitting time in to check your side-view and rear-view mirrors is causing you to take your eye off the road! Yet… You need to know what’s behind you. Meh. You need to speed up, now; time to change gear. So, get your foot off the accelerator and on the clutch (three pedals here, which is which again…?), then check the gearstick to make sure you’re not skipping one by accident, foot off the clutch… EYES ON THE ROAD! Okay, back onto the accelerator and we’re moving forward a bit more quickly now. For crying out loud, nobody said it would be this hard to learn to drive!

“Sod it, driving is obviously not for me.”

Yep, you guessed it. I used the tanking template from above and directly applied it to how every driver felt when they first parked their backside in the driver’s seat. Yet, nobody gives up on their driving lessons and they eventually master the skill, take to the road and (hopefully) drive safely and soundly. All the thinking that was erstwhile expended on whether you’re in the right gear or not, has been rapidly replaced with the concern that grandma doesn’t look so good and may pee in the back seat; swiftly followed by musings on how best to treat the embarrassing eventuality should it come up.

My point here is that tanking is no different. Everyone, repeat everyone, goes through this process whenever they learn a new skill. It’s the transference of the conscious knowledge of the novice, to the subconscious knowledge of the expert. You will learn each section of a skill as you go along, committing it into a habit that you do without thinking and then further merging all of these sections into the complete skill package. As each sub-skill is implanted subconsciously (say, threat building), your conscious mind has time to contemplate what else is going on (boss encounter mechanics). I recall Veneretio describing this in one of his “clicks to keys” blogs and, though difficult to start with, he stuck with it and became a fully-fledged keybinder.

Now, of course, we accept that there are going to be people with natural talent and this will set them apart. Mastering the fundamentals of tanking will not make you into Ciderhelm or Veneretio, any more than a driver’s license will turn you into Jenson Button. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn the skill itself to a high degree of competence and carry it out with surety and steadfastness; just look at the motorists on the M1 every Friday afternoon (!). Of course, you could also look over the WoW community forums and see the posted responses whenever anyone asks for a good Fury or Arms rotation. If I had a penny for every post that started and pretty much ended with “it’s easy, your rotation is Whirlwind and Bloodthirst, Slam when Bloodsurge procs and using Heroic Strike/Cleave depending on the number of mobs”, I’d be a rich man. Oh, and a fantastic Fury player. Needless to say, I’m not because I haven’t put in the time to commit that conscious knowledge, that leaves me little time to think about other things, to the subconscious knowledge that would let me think about rage management, positioning, cooldowns such as Deathwish/Recklessness, and overall awareness.

To sum up (or to replace this entire post /blush), I should simply imply:

Stick with it.

What seems like an awful lot right now, will soon be habitual second nature.

Confessions of a GM, Part 1

16/10/2009

World of Warcraft is an online game. It’s not the real world. The characters aren’t representations of real people. The spells they do can’t be performed in real life. The maps can’t be found on our planet. But despite all of this, it’s worth bearing one thing in mind very strongly:

Your guild members ARE real people.

This seems obvious, and it is. What is also means, though, is that there are a number of implications that follow. I’ll enumerate a few of them here.

1) Your guild members have feelings and emotions.
2) Your guild members make mistakes and have lapses in judgement.
3) Your guild members don’t always view it the way you do.
4) Your guild members are not automatons.

I think the point is clear. While we are playing an online game that is based on complete fiction, the people that populate it are real and should be treated with the same level of respect and attention that you would give them where they not sat at a computer terminal. The game world mirrors the real world in as much as those who interact with it allow it to. There is no need to create a false avatar, as the game does it for you; that means that those who play are typically as honest as they are projecting. When you make friends while playing, or enjoy spending time with them online, there’s a pretty good chance that you’d be friends offline and would enjoy spending time with them in a pub or coffee shop. In the Eye of Nerzhul and Skychasers Dream, we try to bring people together and concentrate on their similarities as opposed to their differences. This is something I always try to bear in mind, and is one of the main reasons behind my officer selection. We try to understand that our members can have off days when they log on in a bad mood, appreciating that work, school, partners or parents can make life difficult. We also appreciate that people don’t always get things right and that life online, as offline, is a learning process; one that requires an amount of leeway and empathy. We try to view things how others might, so that their points of view are taken on board and articulated in a way that can make as many people as happy as possible while online. Lastly, we do our level best to remember that all of these things are what make our guild members humans, humans that have different priorities at different times and who, for reasons that are not necessarily our business, just may not do what we thought they would.

Playing a game, especially this game, is fun.
Spending time with friends, especially best friends, is fun.
With World of Warcraft, we get the unique opportunity of doing both at the same time.
In the Eye of Nerzhul, we don’t want to waste that opportunity.

Why Damage our Shields?

16/10/2009

So, here we have it – another patch (3.3 on the way, the long awaited Icecrown Citadel), another nerf to protection warriors. This time, the nerf isn’t so bad but it is still frustrating for quite a specific reason. Anyway, more on that in a second or three – first up, here’s the nerf in all its glory:

Damage Shield: This ability will no longer trigger any chance-on-hit effects from the warrior or the opponent it damages.

So what?

Well, I’ll tell you the “so what”.

This particular nerf will effect the application of Deep Wounds whilst tanking multiple mobs (will barely matter on a boss, as your attacks will do the job for you). Basically, you can no longer proc Deep Wounds from a Critical Block, which means warriors will lose an amount of passive threat while tanking several mobs. This particular change actually hits warriors in the one place where they are particularly weak, and that’s threat building on several mobs.

Good going.

Now, I’m not going to get into a debate about how our AoE tanking is “fine” and a far site better than it ever was. That’s true. Nor am I claiming that this will suddenly make our AoE threat unsustainably low when in an off-tanking/trash role. It’s not. My complaint is that, quite simply, there is absolutely no reason for this nerf to be applied, especially when warriors are the weakest of the four tanks in AoE threat building as things already are. Invariably, something is nerfed because it’s either unbalanced and/or overpowered, or it’s messing with other internal game mechanics in some way. Clearly warriors are not overpowered regarding AoE abilities, and I can’t see where the nuts and bolts are straining at the seams when working out the application of Deep Wounds on a critical strike of any source.

Now, of course, I understand we’re only into the first few builds. A heck of a lot is going to change. Perhaps warriors are going to get a buff in some other area and it simply hasn’t been announced yet. But I still find this nerf utterly baffling, purely from a “why bother?” standpoint.

Fingers crossed, I suppose.

Taking our Revenge: DPS while not tanking

15/10/2009

I think, for the most part, 3.2 solved some of the Protection warrior DPS issues (certainly on single targets, where it actually matters) with the buffing of Devastate to 100% weapon damage. This allowed for a pretty good ratio of rage to DPS (15 rage untalented, with Sword and Board procs also included), while also helping out warrior single target threat considerably; particulary if allied with the Glyph of Devastate.

What it did not do, of course, was help make warrior DPS a bit more compelling while not tanking. When a boss is laying waste to you with as much effervescence as he can muster, you have rage coming out of your ears. Shield Slam, Revenge, Devastate, Thunderclap, Concussion Blow, Shockwave and the obligatory Heroic Strike spamming will all see use while your repair bill starts to creep up. But when a boss isn’t pummelling you and you don’t have much in the way of rage coming in, it can still get horribly frustrating to keep queuing Devastate while you wait on a Sword and Board proc. To quote the developers somewhat, it just isn’t very compelling. We’d like a little more DPS from our rage use, with our non-tanking rotation consisting of a bit more than just two buttons.

So, what can be done?

Look at the Arms tree. There are three talents in particular that should be looked at in the order presented, assuming you don’t already know them:

Rend
Taste for Blood
Unrelenting Assault

You can probably see where I’m going with this; how about Rend being used to get Revenge procs as well as Overpower? No damage dealer is going to be interested in the former, while no tank is going to waste GCD’s switching for the latter. Even considering the PvP implications, the use of Rend to get the use of Revenge means a warrior that’s been forced to go defensive can still be a threat after he’s blown Shield Block, as opposed to merely being kited for the duration of it.

Personally, I think this is a simple enough way of making Protection warriors a bit more interesting when not tanking, while also providing more options for rage management and something of a PvP buff that is possibly needed under such circumstances, anyway. It also throws Rend into the Protection mix, while not actually seeing it replace the standard (optimal whilst tanking) rotation when you’re on boss duty.

Food for thought, anyway.

Falling out of love with TankSpot?

15/10/2009

When it comes to tanking and generally doing content, I read up on a lot of things. I love Veneretio’s blog and I’ve started to quite enjoy Tank Like a Girl for it’s quirky charm. I spend a bit of time on the WoW-Europe forums and often find little nuggets of wisdom there, while also enjoying the more civilized conversation that predominates the WoWHead forums. But at the end of the day, I don’t think anything has been able to beat the videos and forums of Project Marmot, under the charismatic stewardship of Ciderhelm. Yep, I’m talking about TankSpot.

As a reference, I first came across it back in 3.0 when we were having our first few tentative cracks at Malygos. We’d read the guides on both WoWHead and the wiki, but hadn’t really come across anything that was making the encounter clear. Then I slapped the fight into Google and my first introduction to Ciderhelm and the TankSpot videos popped up.

It’s clean. It’s cold. Now, that’s some high-quality H2O.

Since then, both me and my guild have treated the TankSpot videos as required viewing for practically every encounter we’ve done since. I will invariably watch said video a few times, learn the important parts of the encounter that need borne in mind, then look at filtering the information in as practical a way as possible for our specific raid group. My raid officer, Hiratha, typically does exactly the same to make sure nothing gets missed and there are always a couple more contributors while we’re fighting our way through a raid. In short, without the TankSpot contribution, we’d have taken a lot longer to get through the content that we have gotten through and we shall ever, as a guild, be indebted to them for the time they’ve taken.

That said, I can’t shake the feeling that the product itself isn’t quite as good as it once was. What made it so useful during our T7 raids was the charm with which it was delivered (still love Ciderhelm’s admission that his use of words might not be right while tanking Malygos) as well as the filtering of important information and suggestions on how to deal with some of the major mechanics of the encounter. In some of the later Ulduar videos, much of the charm and filtering was dispensed with in favour of information overload and the suggestions were also sidelined depending on the narrative of the video. I can understand why this happened: people complaining about the lack of detail when something wipes their raid. But Ttocs only did one video I watched, Splug puts me to sleep, Aliena only ever mentions the what and when and the class guide videos have all left a little something to be desired. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I perk up when a video loads and it’s Ciderhelm or Lore doing the narrative.

Don’t get me wrong; TankSpot is a fantastic resource, utterly unique to the WoW community and every single person on the team should be heartily thanked and congratulated for the sheer effort and selflessness that has gone into the project since its inception. It’s still, quite frankly, the best there is. It’s just that the “warts and all” that made me love Project Marmot so much during its infancy has hit the cutting room floor in favour of a more “professional” approach.

Personally, I think that’s a terrible shame.

We’re Live!

15/10/2009

Well, here it is. I’ve been planning on creating a blog for a long time, and here it is. Zell’s rants and raves, concerns and complaints, loves and hates will all find their way here with (potentially alarming) regularity.

Once the settings are good to go, we’ll see more action – stay tuned!