Friday, 30 April 2010


"Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's un-buffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Protection tree. These values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Protection tree, so you won't see Arms or Fury warriors running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today – there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so their Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is for all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking."

I've been thinking about this a little bit. This will mean that tank dps scales with HP - so 10 stamina also provides 1 attack power. I believe that 10 stamina also means 1 strength for paladins, so they'll get 1 strength and 1 attack power from 10 stamina. I don't really understand paladins, so I'll leave that for now. In addition you have vitality, which increases stamina by 9%.

I foresee a couple of outcomes

1) Blizzard's goal of making us care about things other than stamina will not be as successful as they would like

Blizzard have said that they want us to care about avoidance more in 4.0, by limiting healer mana and keeping avoidance down. Lots of tanks like that, and I guess people are intending to try socketing for avoidance a little more. Remember however that since stamina increases the effect of the vengeance buff, stamina stackers will also do more damage than avoidance tanks - not only because they have more rage, but also because will have more attack power.

Suppose I was choosing between a stamina trinket with 400 stamina, and a dodge trinket. I'd have to bear in mind that if I chose the stamina trinket I would have an extra (passive!) 436 attack power, in addition to the extra rage I would get from being hit more often. The potential attack power differential between an avoidance tank and a stamina tank could be very significant, depending upon how Blizzard tweak the numbers between now and Cata though.

2) Vengeance will be unbalanced

My unbuffed health has roughly doubled this expansion between stepping into Naxx and currently fighting Arthas. The differential is greater for 25 man raiders, but remember that without the extra tiers in gear required to differentiate 10 man and 25 man raiders the gear curve is likely to be flatter in 4.0.

Dps numbers however have increased by a factor of about 5 or 6 - whereas 2k was good in blue gear in Naxx, now the top dpsers are pulling 10k plus. On the assumption that a flatter Cataclysm gear curve will compress this to say 4 times, you still have dps increasing twice as fast as the vengeance buff.

This implies that either vengeance will be massively overpowered early on, or it will be too weak later on to keep up with runaway dps. I'm not saying that we'll have threat problems in tier 13, because we don't know how it will work in practice, I'm simply saying that the rate at which the vengeance buff increases will probably not be as great as the rate at which dps increases.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Raid lockout changes

As hinted by GC a couple of weeks back (I love it when I get something right), 10 man and 25 man raids will share a lockout in Cataclysm. In addition, and perhaps just as importantly, the same gear (including ilevel) will drop in 10 man and 25 man raids. I'll look at some of the potential consequences which occur to me:

1) Social consequences

I am a 10 man raider in a 25 man guild, and I raid once or twice a week on my guild's raid off nights. My guild will have to decide whether or not it continues raiding 25 man with mains. We currently run 3 ten man teams on off nights - team 1 is on Rotface hard mode, team 2 (me) has had two evenings of LK training, and team 3 has killed Putricide. Our 25 man raid is on Sindragosa.

Will the hard mode 10 man raiders be willing to wait for the 25 man team to catch up?

Either we'll stop running 25 mans with mains in LK (in which case those people who really love 25 mans will leave), or we'll continue running 25 mans with mains (in which case I might have to leave a guild I've been in for over 4 years if I want to raid). I suspect the former, and we'll become a 10 man guild. I suspect that most guilds except the real hardcore guilds will do the same and the 25 man raid will die away. We've come a long way from Molten Core.

2) Tank balancing

As a 10 man geared tank, I have about 3-5k less health than the guild MT (who also runs 2 lockouts a week). 25 man bosses hit harder because (i) the tank has more health, avoidance, armour and buffs, and (ii) the tank has 2 healers on him.

In Cata, the 10 man tank and the 25 man tank will have the same health, avoidance and armour. In addition, with Blizz chilling out on raid buffs and introducing disposable scrolls, it's likely that kings and fort will be available, meaning the tanks will probably both have the key tanking buffs. What we therefore will see is a weakening of tanks that do 25 man content relative to those that do 10 man content.

Balancing incoming tank damage will therefore be very tricky, since Blizzard won't have as much leeway to increase tank damage from 10 man to 25 man content without the tank getting one-shot. Healing philosophy in Cata is supposed to be that mitigation will matter more because healer mana will be limited, but there is a risk that by upping the tank damage to the level where it can be expected to occupy 2 healers in 25 man content the healers will (unless they have excellent communication) be required to spam heal the tank to keep him alive. On the other hand, if tank damage is not increased sufficiently in going from 10 man to 25 man, then a single tank healer will be able to keep up the tank, leaving a "spare" healer to heal the raid.

Here's a prediction then - "In 25 man Cataclysm content you will need fewer healers than you do in existing LK 25 man content. Healers will need to respec dps to keep their raid spots."

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

More Cataclysm thoughts

A general ramble about Cataclysm today. Still talking about fury spec.

Slowing down rotations

The DK rune system is changing to be slower. Here's an extract from one of GC's posts on the topic

"If that still doesn't make sense, then focus on what the experience will be, which is that you'll have more breathing room in your rotation and won't have to hit a button every single GCD."

You won't have to hit a button every single GCD.

With all the QQ about whirlwind being removed from the fury rotation (some of this was from me, yes), perhaps this is a design goal of Blizzard for 4.0 that they haven't explicitly shared with us yet. In that post there's also a comment about GC wanting DKs to play like warriors in that they will hit slower but harder.

Maybe we are supposed to have gaps in our rotation in 4.0 where we just sit there and wait for the buttons to light up. I remember doing that when I levelled my warrior (and paladin actually now I think of it) and it was not fun. Nevertheless perhaps it is what we can expect in future. I hope not.

The fury rotation

There was a blue post concerning the fury rotation, where Vaneras said that he "thought" that fury might need another attack as part of their rotation. My initial reaction to this was along the lines of "o rly?", but now I wonder whether or not blizzard really think that they might leave things as they are.

One of the problems in designing a new attack is that it's hard to make it seem different from existing major nukes. Currently Bloodthirst, Execute and Slam are very similar - they are a single weapon attack, the only obvious difference is that Execute and Slam don't hit quite as hard. In short - they are all so alike that they are quite dull. This is the same problem that Arms has - trying to differentiate the different weapon attacks, and it doesn't succeed very well. Compare this with say a fire mage, where there are clear differences in the look and feel of Living Bomb, Fireball and Pyroblast. A new fury attack needs to be cosmetically different from Bloodthirst in order to be interesting. I think something like a rogue's mutilate could work - an instant strike with both weapons for 100% damage, perhaps applying a DoT, or doing more damage if you have a DoT up on the target. Essentially all you'd see is two yellow numbers popping up instead of one, and so I'd hope we'd get a new animation for it too.

It should be noted that this new attack will need to be available reasonably early in the levelling process - maybe at level 30 when zerker stance becomes available, otherwise it's not clear whether levelling as fury will be viable at all.

Weapon speed

One other point that made me think a little bit, was that if whatever they do for fury does not involve a two weapon strike, then we will look for faster offhands in Cata.

Currently Bloodthirst does damage based on attack power and WW is based on weapon damage - bigger WWs are the reason why slower weapons are better for us in both hands - Quel'Delar is the best ilevel 251 weapon, for example, and is not much worse than the ilevel 258 and 264 weapons available from LK and 25 man raids. The reason for this is that it has a 3.6 speed in comparison to 3.5 for Oxheart and Ramdaladni's, and 3.4 for the Claymore (which is therefore rubbish). You'll note that Shadow's Edge and Shadowmourne have speed 3.7.

(Why oh why is the coolest-looking weapon the worst? I love how the Claymore looks!)

With WW being removed, we will be left with Bloodthirst as the main nuke, which is independent of weapon speed. Who knows how heroic strike damage will be calculated, but I doubt it will be weapon damage-based attack. It's more likely to be a function of attack power and rage consumed.

Therefore fury warriors will have Slam, which depends on the damage of the main hand weapon, and Furious Sundering (shudder) which as currently structured will hit for 50% of weapon damage, as well as Deep Wounds ticks, which depend on main hand damage. Offhand damage will have no bearing on specials damage at all.

This means that unless they do create a new attack which inflicts offhand damage, you'll want a slow main hand in Cata for big slams and sunders, and a fast offhand for smoother rage generation.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Falling skies

The preview of the warrior abilities for Cataclysm will be released today. It is here.

Now, I know that this is not even in beta yet, and much may change, but we can only respond to what is there, and this is utterly utterly dreadful and appears devoid of any serious thought. Some of the other classes - notably healing priests - seem to have really interesting and fun abilities. The warrior preview looks awful.

Let's run through the new abilities.

1) Inner rage

Now this has the potential to be interesting, and there may be some maths involved about whether it is better to let your rage touch 100 from time to time to kick off the buff. However - bear in mind that the stated goal for 4.0 is that warriors will not be in the infinite rage situation that they find themselves in today. Rage will be precious and rage management will be important. So in order to get to 100 rage it is going to require several seconds of just standing there and meleeing the target - very dull. Alternatively, it means that warriors will be massively overpowered in any encounter with significant raid damage. It's a balancing nightmare for those raids, and it looks shit for the rest of the time. Next.

2) Gushing wound

A PvP ability. Presumably available in zerker stance. Will it replace rend for arms warriors? Probably not since rend triggers overpower currently. So a PvP ability for Fury warriors. Since bosses don't typically move around all the time, and at one stack this will be weaker than rend (sorry, lolrend I believe is the term) it won't be part of the fury warrior's rotation for PvE (unless of course fury warriors don't have a rotation - more on this below).

3) Heroic leap

A new kind of charge - it shares a cooldown. Useable in battle stance unless you have juggernaught (arms) or warbringer (prot). So fury will have to stance dance to use this then? This will be fun for prot, but of little practical benefit to arms warriors who will just charge in. Fury warriors will never use it because of the requirement to dance, and because it seems like it can't be used in combat without one of the two talents already mentioned.

So what do we have - a pointless passive benefit, a PvP dot, and a funky new opener for prot which will not be used by dps specs. Recall that we already have two openers for prot in charge and heroic throw. A third seems pointless, but never mind. Let's now consider the "Changes to Abilities and Mechanics" section.

4) Heroic strike/Cleave

This will now work similarly to execute apparently. I posted on this a few days ago, but you can see that they intend it to fulfill a similar role to execute. Since execute is already a main nuke for arms, it seems that arms warriors are not intended to heroic strike in 4.0. They will swap in cleave for execute when AoEing. Prot and Fury will I guess have a rage threshold depending on weapon speed (for prot) and gear level above which heroic strike becomes better than one or other of the main nukes (or main nuke for fury - since there is only 1 now - see below) and you hit HS instead.

Balance will be an issue but isn't it always.

5) Shouts

Boring. We get rage now. The questions are - 1) how much rage, and 2) will demo shout grant rage too? Demo shout granting rage would be nice, perhaps talented improving rage gain as well as the attack power debuff. Not very exciting though.

6) Whirlwind nerf

So WW will only be used when AoEing. This casts out the iconic ability of the fury warrior (imagine losing fireball for mages or mind flay for shadow priests - the change is that big). It also utterly guts the spec. Fury's rotation is currently completely balanced around WW - much of the theorycrafting is balanced around the 1 second difference between the length of 4 unhasted GCDs and the 8 second cooldown of WW. Fury already is missing one nuke - there are times when you literally have nothing to cast because WW and bloodthirst are both on cooldown and slam hasn't procced. What's the fury rotation going to be now? BT, hit slam if it procs, BT, hit slam if it procs, repeat?

There is absolutely nothing here about what will replace WW for fury warriors (subject to Furious Sundering, but I hope it isn't that). We could use HS, but that is not supposed to be spammed, and certainly not hit in 2 out of every 3 GCDs as we'd need to. I guess that 100 rage ability doesn't sound so bad, since, get this, Fury warriors will have nothing to hit for over 50% of their GCDs, as announced. Incredible isn't it?

6) Mortal Strike PvP nerf

The change here makes no sense. Blizzard have said that burst healing in PvP will be less important in 4.0 because health pools will be higher and burst dps will be relatively weaker. Thus abilities which restrict healing throughput become less important, not more important.

If this is an example of Blizzard's logic when it comes to PvP balancing, I have a prediction for you - healers in general will be massively overpowered in PvP in 4.0. You will not be able to burst down an opposing player if they have decent gear and healer support.

7) Sunder armour nerf

The main reason for this is that Blizzard have said they are chilling out on critical raid buffs, and sunder is currently pretty huge. It's a cretin-friendly change, since your garden variety cretin will forget to keep sunders up all the time on the target, so more dumbing down of the class - the penalty for poor play is reduced.

I wonder whether or not it will be worth maintaining sunders as a dps warrior in 10 man. Since armour pen gets better the more of it you have (exponential returns), armour pen on gear is disappearing, and the power of the debuff is being nerfed by 40%, in 10 man raids where there are say 2 melee dps, it may no longer be worth the personal dps loss of maintaining sunders.

8) Furious Sundering

Either a pointless or a depressing talent. It will be pointless if Fury warriors have something better to do with their GCDs, because how often otherwise do you use sunder armour in a fight? Three times at the start, and then once every 25 seconds or so. Not very much.

It will be a depressing talent if sunder armour is supposed to be fury's new secondary nuke - the thing to hit if WW is on cooldown and slam has not procced. Is this the best you could do guys? 50% weapon damage is a pretty weak attack even as an instant special. We replace WW - a hard hitting, fun attack, which has a cool animation and is (crucially) utterly in keeping with the flavour of fury as a ball-out devil-may-care berserker. We replace it with a weak attack that reduces armour. God I hope not.

9) One handed fury

This is an absolutely awful idea. To take a phrase from Blackadder - "the crowning turd in the water pipe". The reason is this - either dual wielding one handers will be better than dual wielding two handers or it won't be. You can't hide from EJ, and much as I dislike the posters there as a bunch of bastards, they will work out which is better. Then EVERY serious fury warrior will go with what is better. This is the illusion of choice - either Single-Minded Fury will be obsolete or Titan's Grip will be.

10) Critical block chance

I posted a while back that surely critical block will go in the expansion because it will be hugely overpowered. Guess I was wrong!

11) Vengeance

This is not just a warrior thing - but for all tanking specs. It sounds good, although 10% of stamina as attack power means different things for eg paladins and deathknights who do spell damage, and it means that druids who have the highest health will get an immediate boost. Bornakk mentions that druids will need a smaller benefit in his post - but gives a different reason. Nevertheless, it all comes down to balance as usual. Perhaps they will get it right this time.


Nothing material new for arms in PvE. A cool new opener for Prot (seriously - who looked at the warrior class and said "those guys need some mobility"?), together with the possibility of an overpowered critical block.

Fury destroyed as a spec. Great.

I appreciate that this is pretty major QQ from me, and I'm sorry about that. But this was supposed to keep us excited and interested for 4.0. What? For goodness' sake!

Edit - copied here

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Double post, in which I fail on Sindragosa and worry about the future of my guild


I read a twitter comment (a tweet?) from one of the tanking bloggers a few weeks ago about how the iceblock mechanic in Sindragosa is really unforgiving. I have now discovered that this is true.
It's a really punishing fight, and our attempts last night were not helped by the fact that I was tanking (for the first time in about 4 weeks - very rusty) and I had horrible spiky lag.

I wiped the raid twice. Firstly - and here's a pro tip - the boss casts frost breath just after the fifth stack of mystic buffet (amusingly mispronounced as "mystic buffay" by just about everyone in the entire world - like it's an all-you-can-eat restaurant for wizards). This means if you are swapping tanks at five stacks you either have to run in front of the boss before you taunt and risk eating the frost breath (so both tanks get hit for 30k), or you have to wait until the boss has cast frost breath before taunting. The alternative is to do what I did, taunt the boss a nanosecond before she breathes, ensuring that she breathes on the raid.

The second wipe was some sort of crazy taunt bug - I taunted, so my taunt was on cooldown (and my MT refused to let me vigilance him for some reason), but after the fixate period ended the boss switched targets to the MT (who was hiding behind an iceblock). I used challenging shout but by then of course every one was dead.

That bug is infuriating. It may be due to lag, or it may be that my taunt is missing (although that's really unlikely since the boss definitely targeted me). I'm tempted to glyph taunt to be honest.

Blue post

I saw this today. Now what does GC mean by that? I applaud the fact that he recognises that 25 man guilds have a massive advantage when it comes to acquiring emblems, since emblems are acquired twice as fast when you can also run a 10 man raid on your off nights. It's frustrating for me to have emblem costs set artificially high because it's assumed you are running both.

Nevertheless, how can the problem be fixed? The most obvious, and the one that GC seems to be implying, is that you will be forced to choose between 10 man and 25 man raiding - ie that the raid lockout will cover both 10 man, 25 man and heroic settings. This will absolutely destroy many 25 man guilds - including ours.

Gevlon posted a while ago that the only way a non-hardcore raiding guild can survive is if there is a core of dedicated competent players - raid leader/organiser, MT, at least two good healers, some dps who can be relied upon etc. These people may get frustrated at the lack of 25 man progress, but the guild develops a guild-within-a-guild which runs a higher level 10 man team. These guys therefore get their hardmode loot and their achievements via the 10 man group. This seems reasonable to me, and is certainly the case in my guild. Will these guys remain in the guild if they can only raid one lockout per week and they can't get past Rotface because of some idiots who can't kite oozes? I think not.

Making one overall lockout will therefore in my view destroy a huge number of longstanding guilds.

A better answer would be to grant emblems via weekly quests, or some other similar mechanic to ensure that you only get emblems the first time you complete part of a dungeon, in whatever size raid.

Let's hope that Blizzard come up with a solution to the problem that doesn't kill off guilds.

Rage reworked in 4.0

Rage will be changed in cataclysm. See here

Some initial thoughts:

1) Heroic strike is going to be very difficult to balance. Arms and prot warriors already have a full rotation so either those specs will never hit heroic strike, or there will be some rage level where heroic strike is better than one or other of their attacks (probably devastate or slam). For fury, we have spare GCDs already so can slot in a heroic strike, but again if it hits harder than bloodthirst above a certain level of rage we'll need to monitor that.

2) Because rage generation will increase as haste and crit increase, end game warriors will still have more rage than fresh level 85s. I think this aspect could be unbalancing, although rogues and hunters will also gain energy/focus faster via haste in cataclysm. Since our resource gathering will increase via two stats instead of one there is still the possibility that stacking crit might be the way to go.

3) The way that rage is gained for prot warriors means that tanking farm content is going to mean that we are more rage starved than currently. If rage gain is based on the proportion of health lost from damage, incoming damage will contribute little or no rage as tank health increases.

4) If offhand weapons cause 50% threat, I guess that will be multiplicative with the 50% damage penalty for offhand weapons, meaning that 2h fury builds receive 125% rage gain. This corresponds to the arms talent which increases rage gained by 25%. When you take the talent that increases offhand damage done by 50% however, this means that fury rage gain will be 137.5%, meaning that fury will generate more rage than arms. I suppose that ability costs will need to be balanced around this.

5) If battle shout gives me 10 rage and is trumpeted as a rage gain mechanic I will be disappointed, to put it mildly. I don't want lots of itty bitty rage gain buttons (bloodthirst/improved zerker rage/battle shout), I want one button on a short cooldown to increase rage.