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Friday, November 26, 2010

[4.0.3a] Meta Gem Problem for Casters


Note: This problem will only be temporary, but it is not a problem that can be hotfixed, so it will have to wait for a formal patch/update, as Daxxarri (a Blizzard Community Manager) explains.

Graylo, over on his blog Gray Matter, provided a solution for the crappy problem that faces casters in activating their metagem in Cataclysm.  The short story is that the hot new caster meta will be the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond (but as I said, this will only be temporary).  If you moused over that link, you already see the problem, which would be succintly stated as follows:

More blue gems than red gems for a caster?!  WTF?!

The problem is that it's even worse than you might think at first.  You know those Purified (purple) gems you used to satisfy your blue gem slot needs?  That's right, they are now a net neutral, since they count as both a red and a blue.  For the most part, blue is not a very sexy gem choice for casters.  That said, 4.0 brought with it the conversion of Hit gems to blue gems, so at least you have another blue gem that might actually be useful.

But Intellect is red now, so it's bad news overall.

Haste is yellow, though, and it will likely end up coming to our rescue.

So, let's get tricky, since a green or purple counts fully as a blue.  I would avoid the purples since they get you nowhere, then maybe use greens to satisfy blue slots so you can use pure reds.  So, you could use greens in yellow and blue slots to jack up your blue count without having to slot lots of pure blue.  So, we need to identify a tasty green gem to make this happen.

Now, what does Graylo do?  Well, check out his post!

One key takeaway from all of this is that the Lightning Dream Emerald is your new best friend, giving you Haste and Hit in a green gem.

It may sound a bit complicated.  I recommend using Rawr or some other tool or notepad to work out all of your gems before you slot anything.  The chance for a mishap is pretty high.

I guess if you manage to get too much Hit this way, then use reforging to drop some...but please note that I said, "guess".

Good luck on the Path of the Moon, my feathery friends. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

[4.0.3.a] Hot Fixes Will Reduce Feral Tank DPS/Threat


(A scene from National Lampoon's Animal House that aptly describes how it felt when I saw the 4.0.3a Hotfixes.)

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

The electrons had barely settled from drafting my post on the nerfs to Druid Tanks for yesterday.  I was doggedly trying to put on my happy face...then it was slapped off by the 4.0.3a hotfixes:
The damage done by the following abilities has been reduced by approximately 17%: Mangle (Bear), Maul, Lacerate, Pulverize, Swipe (Bear), Thrash.
So much nerfing in one tiny sentence.  It would have been simpler to say that all of our Threat generation abilities other than Feral Faerie Fire have been reduced 17%.  At least they used a dedicated bullet point for each spell that was reduced for Warlocks.

Again, going to remain cautiously optimistic.  I am more worried about my fellow Druid Tanks that might have lower gear item levels than me.  I am probably overgeared enough that I wouldn't notice a problem until after level 81, when I will have Thrash and *hopefully* have all of the tools that Blizzard is worried about making me overly effective.

Of course, less damage means less Threat, so I predict even more heartburn from DPS attacking too soon or using AoEs too aggressively.  It also means that everything we attack solo will take that much longer to kill...so tedious grinds are the clear winners here.

I will keep hoping that it all works out in the end and that the nerfs do not create a significant shortfall in our level 80-84 performance.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

[4.0.3a] The Shattering...of Feral Druid Tanks?

Azeroth is not the only thing being shattered with 4.0.3a.  The Feral changes would get any Druid Tank dangerously close to QQ time (i.e., crying for those that are not familiar with the emoticon QQ).  It's more than simple homogenization (see my post from earlier this week for more on Homogenization of Tanks) now, they really are bringing the nerf bat down on our fuzzy little heads:
  • Bear Form now provides 10% bonus health, down from 20%.
  • Brutal Impact now increases the mana cost of spells on the victim by 5/10% for 10 seconds, down from 15/30%.
  • Leader of the Pack now heals for 4%, down from 8%.
  • Survival Instincts now provides 50% damage reduction, down from 60%, and its cooldown has been lowered from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
  • Swipe (Bear Form) damage has been reduced by 20%.
  • Vengeance is no longer cleared on exiting Bear Form, and instead is cleared upon entering Cat Form.
Seriously, man, I can roll with the punches with the best of them, but this is starting to feel like a lynching. I remember when I had to be work harder and gear harder than other Tanks to justify my spot in a raid, because Druid Tanks were so limited in capability.  I remember the excruciatingly long dominance of Warrior Tanks, with fights that required a shield (e.g., Kael'Thas) or a specific Warrior ability (e.g., Shield Block and Illidan's Shear).

I already knew about the reductions in Survival Instincts and Health, but I did not know about the reduction in self healing until now.  That makes me sad, if only because it was one of those abilities that sort of made sense for a big magic animal kicking butt and fueled by the power of nature and all of its associated healing goodness.

The reduction in Swipe damage is damned disappointing.  DPS ripping secondary targets is still a problem.  Everyone loves to tell me how Thrash is going to solve all of my problems; I hope they are right.

However, that introduces a new problem, having to give up another cooldown to maintain AoE Threat.  That means less cooldowns available for single target Threat abilities.  I also hope that having to blow two cooldowns on AoE Threat will not cause me to lose Threat on my primary target.  Here's hoping that Thrash is also great for single target Threat.

And how about the goofy change that Vengeance is no longer cleared on exiting Bear Form unless you enter Cat Form?  That must be a PvP thing, because the only time I change to anything but Cat in raid is to Rebirth someone; that is generally an awkward thing to do while I Tanking and the last thing on my mind is whether or not I will keep my Vengeance stacks.  No, it's usually, "Will I survive it this time?"

So, if you are a Druid Tank or one of the people that might be asked to keep one alive, you may ask, "Why the hell are they doing this?!"

Well, the story I keep hearing is that they have to do this otherwise Bears are too effective at level 85.  So, I guess that's good news for other Tanks.  Congratulations Warriors, Paladins, and Death Knights!  Druid Tanks will not be too ├╝ber when you hit the level cap!  Of course, on the way to 85, we might face some problems...let's hope not.

You might have noticed, like I did, that there were no buffs or additional abilities with this.  Reputedly, this is because the inherent buffing from Cataclysm somehow buffed Druid Tanks more than everyone else, so we should trust that these changes only bring us in line with the abilities of other Tanks.  I am hoping that is true, but I am still a little sore from the nerfbat right now.

I will do my best to remain cautiously optimistic

Keep hope alive?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

[4.0.3a] The Shattering!


Note: I am going to schedule this to post a little early, in light of the timing and content.

Today should see the application of the Shattering patch, causing physical changes to the world and various other mechanical stuff.  But it's not everything just yet.  Check out this MMO-Champion post for the details.

The highlights from that post are as follows
What's in Patch 4.0.3a
Sammew posted an interesting list of the features you should and should not expect in Patch 4.0.3a on the official forums. Zarhym also jumped in, and announced a 20% reduction to the XP required to gain levels from 71 to 80.

What is not in:
  • Creating worgen/goblin characters
  • Worgen/Goblin start zones
  • Archeology
  • Professions past 450 (Illustrious Grand Master)
  • Guild leveling
  • Guild achievements
  • Eastern Kingdoms/Kalimdor flight
  • New Zones (80+)
What is in:
  • Portals in Dalaran/Shattrath Removed
  • Class trainers in Dalaran where portals once were
  • New race-class combinations (excluding worgen/goblin)
  • New Gnome/Troll starting areas
  • Changes to existing zones
  • New cata load screens
  • New cata intro cinematic
  • New cata login screen
  • New music
  • City Quartermasters, with rep tabards
  • Bug fixes
  • Class balancing
  • Druids, paladins, priests, and shaman will have their talent trees reset
  • Experience required to gain levels 71 through 80 is being reduced by 20%
  • New tamable hunter pets (Monkey, fox, dog, and beetle, as well as new skins for existing pet classes.)
Yep, that's right, the portals are going away.  Bummer.  Dalaran will suddenly become a very distant place for folks in Orgrimmar.  There is really no good place for your Hearthstone anymore, it seems.

Monday, November 22, 2010

[4.0.3] Cataclysm Midnight PST Launch



Many of you probably have heard by about Bashiok's post on the Cataclysm launch.  It turns out that Blizzard will not allow anyone to access the Cataclysm content until midnight, Pacific Standard Time (PST).  For me, that means after my wife and I wait in line to get our midnight launch copies of the collector's edition, go home, load the game, and fire up WoW, we will still have to wait until 2:00 AM to play, because we, and our server (Kirin Tor-US), are on Central Standard Time (US).

Meh.

If I was in the Eastern Time Zone, I would have to wait until 3:00 AM!

I would not even ponder the merits of this, except that this unusual practice seems pretty clearly targeted at increasing the value of their digital download.  Imagine if you live in PST.  If you were like me, and reserved your advanced copy of the Collector's Edition as soon as the release date was announced (OK, technically, I reserved it before that), then you are kinda boned, because while you are waiting to check out at your favorite game store, your neighbors that chose the digital download will already be playing.

And what is the PSTer's recourse?  Well, they could pay for the game twice...you see, you can buy the digital download so you can play at midnight PST, and then add your collector's code later, or so people expect.  That sounds a bit silly, but if I lived in PST, I might do it, all while cursing Blizzard's name.

One thing I don't like is that this takes a bit of the fun and energy out of a midnight release.  There's a certain je ne sais quoi to lining up outside the store late at night, seeing the strange mix of people that play the game, getting that game before other people, and racing home to install it.

One thing I like about it is that no one will be able to sign on earlier because they happen to live significantly more easterly than I do.  I think I would be pretty pissed off if I lived in the PST and had pre-ordered collector's editions from the local gaming store, though.  Those poor folks are losing out in this.

If you live east of PST and want to feel good about this, then tell yourself that it will take time to buy the game, get home, download it, probably patch it, and get online. :)

Oh, if you wanted to download files in advance, even if you did not buy the digital download, there is a reputedly legitimate method in this WoW Insider post.  I saw a post suggesting it might causes issues with cinematics not being downloaded, though, so I guess stick with the DVDs to be safe.

As for me, since I have two hours to buy the game, get home, and load it, I'll just wait until I have the DVDs in hand.  Two more weeks!  OMG!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

[4.0.3] The Homogenization of Druid Tanks & Tramp Stamps


Well, the homogenization of Druids continues, especially with the advent of patch 4.0.3a, for which the 4.0.3 patch this Tuesday has laid the ground work (as I understand it, these mechanics changes are not live in 4.0.3).  We are getting closer to a time when the differences between Tanks will be as subtle as what shape our tramp stamp (character skin) is...

Side note: You have to give Jagermeister credit for not putting on any pretense about its target market/applications

OK, maybe that is a bit of an overstatement, but Druids were distinctly different from other tanks in big ways.  Big Armor, Big Dodge, Big Health, Big...other stuff.  But the great homogenization that began long ago is continuing unabated.

The latest blue posts itemize some major ones.  This page summarizes many of the upcoming Tank changes. I will include one specific, direct quote of 4.0.3 changes that they planned:

Here are a few additional changes we are making which will be applied in patch 4.0.3a:
  • Guardian of Ancient Kings -- Damage reduction changed from 60% to 50%. Cooldown still 2 minutes (talented). Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Icebound Fortitude -- Damage reduction changed from 30% to 20% (or 60% to 50% talented). Cooldown still 2 minutes. Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Shield Wall -- Damage reduction changed from 40% to 50%. Cooldown still 2 minutes (talented). Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Glyph of Shield Wall -- Now buffs damage reduction by 10% (to 60%), but only adds 1 minute of cooldown.
  • Survival Instincts -- Damage reduction changed from 60% to 50%. Cooldown reduced from 5 minutes to 2 minutes. Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Bear Form -- Stamina bonus lowered from 20% to 10% and Heart of the Wild health bonus from 10% to 6%. Bear health should be close to plate tank health with this change.
  • Vigilance -- No longer reduces damage by 3%, but will still reset Taunt cooldown and provide Vengeance for the warrior.

And they also nerfed Savage Defense, but it sounds like it was a tweaking more than a nerf.  Savage Defense was overpowered on beta and nerfed because raid bosses were being jacked up to overcome it and that resulted in Raid Bosses two-shotting Tanks.  So they nerfed it; sounds reasonable.

Of course, the bombshell in there is the tiny statement, "Bear health should be close to plate tank health with this change."  My initial reaction is, blah.  We all enjoy having our classes being special and Druids were set apart from all Tanks because they had high Health (and in some patches, high Armor).  It was a signature characteristic of Druid Tanks.  Of course, we paid heavily for it in terms of taking a lot more damage, so Healer mana endurance might be an issue in content, but it always seemed manageable.

So, "boo" for more homogenization on those points.  But what about "yay" for homogenization?

Let's flip that coin over and look at the good things.  First, please recall some of the important mechanics that Druid Tanks have inherited from other Tank classes:
  • Savage Defense an inherited block-like mechanic
  • Barkskin, while not new, expanded its utility when it became usable in Bear Form, which some equated to a Warriors' Shield Block
  • Survival Instincts, which we inherited from the Warriors' Last Stand, but which is now almost identical to a Warrior's Shield Wall
  • Swipe, which we sort of inherited from a Warriors' Cleave; we used to be the only Tank without an AoE Tanking ability (unless you count Demoralizing Roar and Enrage; but if you did, you would be grossly overstating their Threat generating capabilities)
  • SKULL BASH, which we gained with 4.0, a real, honest-to-goodness, practical interrupt, on par with a Warrior's Shield Bash/Pummel in that we have variations of it for Bear and Cat; however, we do have to spend Talent Points to get it down to a practical cooldown
Many of those came from Warriors, so they too have become less unique (is there a Warrior somewhere writing a post just like this?).  That said, the analogy has always been Bear~Warrior and Cat~Rogue, so maybe it was just reparations. :)

So, with all of that, what makes us different from other Tanks?
  • Self healing...sort of.  DKs have about as much and both Warriors and Paladins have some mechanisms for self-heals, albeit not ongoing abilities
  • High mobility - the gap is shrinking on this, since other tanks have ways to escape snares/immobilization or reduce the duration significantly (and passively); still, being able to shift out of snares/immobilization is nice
  • Countering Polymorph - Hmm, well, they nerfed our blanket immunity, leaving us with just the ability to shift out of it, which replaces the use of another ability and risks the possibility of being caught in caster form; of course, for a Tank, this has generally been virtually useless, as bosses do not typically Polymorph a Tank
  • Greater hybridization of Tank and DPS roles - I think this is still true, especially with the departure of Armor Penetration combined with the re-re-ascendance of Agility for Ferals
  • Nature's Grasp - as you may recall, this became usable in Bear Form (I *think* that WotLK change, not sure).  This is rarely useful, but when it is useful, it can be pretty cool, e.g., pinning adds at the end of Heroic Lady Deathwhisper
  • Faerie Fire is more potent, but now is exactly like Sunder Armor and thus does not add anything new; that said, major armor debuffs are really good, so it is nice to have one more Tank type insuring that we have it
  • Mangle's bleed damage bonus is nice and synergistic with your own damage as well as Warrior Tanks and some DPS; Feral DPS and Arms Warriors can also provide this
  • Mark of the Wild is pretty weak in terms of being unique, since all Paladins and Druids can provide the same buff; that said, changing it to match Blessing of Kings makes it pretty cool
  • Leader of the Pack is cool, but can be provided by Fury Warriors and Feral DPS as well; this is also where we get our self-heal (too bad it no longer provides healing to others)
I am sure I forgot something, but you get the point.  Tanks are becoming more similar in general terms.  This is bad for feeling special/different, but good for overall fight balancing and raid composition.  In a sense, we are taking an aesthetic hit for the team, and I think it is worth it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

[4.0.3] Elemental Invasion Observations &Tips


So, unless you have not been logging into the game, you are aware of the cool elemental invasion plot line.  It's been a fun story development that included your usual "go here and do this" stuff, but it had some cool stuff in there, such as:
  • Having to ride around doing the "end is nigh" doomsayer bit
  • Some clever and timely quests around distrust and fear (cultist = terrorist?)
  • And now the full on invasion!
For the full details, check out WoW Head's excellent page on it.

Here are the highlights:
  • Every 2-3 hours (yes, it does vary), two major cities of your faction are attacked (Orgrimmar & Thunder Bluff; Stormwind & Ironforge)
  • First you place barricades, then you free trapped citizens (with totems provided by talking to the Earthen Ring defenders) and kill elementals
  • Each city will  be attacked by two types of elemental (I have seen Fire & Earth in Orgrimmar, Air & Water in Thunder Bluff)
  • Successfully defending a city opens up a dungeon containing one boss for each respective element; e.g., if you finish defending Orgimmar at 6:00 PM, then two dungeon options open up in the dungeon finder tool, one for a Fire boss, (Flamelash), and one for an Earth boss (remember the Princess from Maraudon?); they will go away at 7:00 PM, one hour after the elementals were driven from Orgrimmar
  • The premise is that the cultists are opening portals for those bosses to attack the city; you are preemptively striking to  in order stop them
  • The leader of the respective city will fight alongside of you, which is kinda cool
  • The first time you do each dungeon, there will be a quest
  • You have one hour to drive off the elementals from the start of the invasion
And some tips/observations:
  • On my server/faction (Kirin Tor-US/Horde), most everyone starts in Orgrimmar, so TB ends up being defended later; that's OK, but be sure when it's all over that you hit the portals associated with Orgrimmar first, as the timer starts on those the moment the defense of Orgrimmar is complete (the cities have their own timers on the dungeons)
  • The fights are pretty easy, so bringing lowbies is not a problem and soloing it might be viable, but why not bring buddies for the easy Justice Points?
  • If your faction does successively defend the cities, you can get the Tripping the Rifts Achievement in a single round of invasions by making sure you help kill one of each rift in each city.
  • In the dungeons, run a ready check and make sure everyone has the quest before you pull, especially with Flamelash, as there are no intro pulls there, the first pull brings the boss into combat, along with the quest giver (the aforementioned leader of the city you are defending); you turn in the quest to the leader back in their city
  • Some folks reported a bug with exiting the dungeons, but if you click on the portal to exit, it seems to work reliably
In closing - DO IT!  It's temporary and it's part of WoW history, so get your licks in now.  Who knows, maybe if you fight really hard, you will prevent whatever nasty thing those evil cultists were trying to do... :)