Saturday, February 7, 2009

What to do?

That's a spectacular question. When I started this blog I started it with the idea that I needed to do something different. Granted, writing about talents isn't anything new, and having a blog that deals with class-agnostic discussion of talents probably isn't new either.

Problem is, I can probably really only properly analyze the Druid trees, and specifically the Balance and Restoration trees. I played a Mage to 70 (and plan to level it to 80 when I find the time - for now I'm focused on improving the Druid), but I can't empathize with the issues Mages are having in either part of the endgame.

Plus... not a lot to talk about in terms of talents specifically. During the Wrath beta there were plenty of changes to talk about - and we're starting to hear more on Patch 3.1 - but in both cases, you need to do more than just quote blue posters and declare "good change good, bad change bad." That's hardly content.

I can do analasys, but right now there isn't a lot of analyzing to be done, and, like I said, the only class/roll niche I represent is that of the Resoration Druid. So what am I? Resto4Life? Not close.

We'll see. Stay tuned if you haven't tuned out... or did anyone tune in to begin with?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Protection in PvP

One of my firsts posts talked about how Blizzard wanted to expand the use of all the talent trees of all the classes. Make Frost Mages and Affliction Locks viable in PvP. Bring back daggers as useful weapons for Rogues. Stuff like that.

And in my mind, this was never going to reach the Protection trees. Why would Blizz ever want Prot Warriors/Paladins PvPing? But hey, I guess they do. Ghostcrawler's words:

"It would be awesome if some day Arms was the 2H tree, Fury was the DW tree, and Prot was the sword and board tree." (source)

In the same post, GC talks about how Prot PvP is an opportunity to use your shield as a weapon:

"One of the designers mentioned the movie Gladiator the other day. Watch how Maximus uses his shield -- he isn't cowering behind it -- he's bashing people in the face with it. Shields should be a viable form of combat, not the option to avoid combat."

We know based off reports from beta Warriors that Prot definetly has gotten a damage boost in Wrath, and we all have seen first-hand the absurdity of Prot Paladins AoE grinding their Hemet Nessingwary quests and SSO dailies.

So, Prot in PvP. There's a potential problem in having the tanking classes doing the PvP, and it's a problem that Blizzard is definetly aware of and is taking care of to make the Prot trees more viable in Arenas and such. Now, if in Burning Crusade, you were to drag a Prot Warrior into your 5s games, he would serve you no purpose. When the other team knows you're just this guy with a shield that soaks up damage but poses no real threat, suddenly you're the last one to die, because nobody cares.

While Protection players may be doing more damage, they're never going to let them do as much damage as a proper DPS class; we all know that. So how does one go about making a talent spec like this work in PvP?

Simple: make Prot Warriors/Paladins super annoying. Give them tools that protect their allies. Give enemy players a reason to kill them other than the fact that they're doing wicked burst damage or they're a Resto Druid. And we know that the devs are thinking about this. From the same post GC made on Prot Warriors:

"Prot has a long way to go before it's more PvP viable, but maybe, just maybe there could be a tree where control and survivability were an alternative to just bigger damage. It may not happen this expansion, but it's a step in that direction."

In Wrath, the Prot tree for Warriors saw a lot of new talents that give it a PvP side. I don't know a lot about Warriors, but I can pretty clearly pick out talents that look like they're strictly for PvP rather than PvE. Let's go through some of those right now:

Improved Spell Reflection: this is an interesting one, because to me it implies that if in a group, you may have to give up using SR on yourself, which can be a good or a bad thing. Depends on the situation. It sounds great though; imagine SRing a Shatter Frostbolt headed for a teammate. That could add an interesting dynamic for casters who like to do the wicked burst crits and such, when they know that their target has a Prot Warrior buddy nearby.

Concussion Blow: this ability has always been in the game, but to me it looks like it never would have had use in raids anyway. And now it has a damage component to make it better. *coughDeepFreezecough*

Gag Order: Heroic Throw is the Warrior's Level 80 ability; a free weapon throw based on AP on a one-minute cooldown. So provided the cooldown is up (and it's not too long), that's a free spell interrupt when stuck at range, or any time you want.

Vigilance: I've decided this gets its own post, because I have many much thoughts about it.

Safeguard: sounds good in both a PvP and PvE context.

Warbringer: I've dueled Warriors with this on the PTR, and its insane. It's exactly what Warriors have always needed; a way out of roots. Fury is getting a similar skill in the form of Heroic Fury, which breaks roots and allows you to immedietly Intercept.

Shockwave: Shockwave is an AoE tanking solution for Warriors in Wrath, but to me it sounds like a wicked PvP stun as well.


Like I said before, I don't know a lot about Warriors; I know how a lot of their skills work but I don't have firsthand experience with the class. Well, I do up to level 11 or so. Maybe 12. I'm not really into melee classes, although I do have the Enhancement Shaman at 45.

That being said, I think Protection Warriors could be wicked in Arenas. Oh, and Protection Paladins? Man, who knows. Let's take a gander at their tree for a sec.

Divine Guardian: that's pretty cool, considering it comes at no cost to the Paladin.

Hmmm.... what else....


Improved Hammer of Justice? Touched by the Light?! Dude, I don't know. I once dueled my brother, who is a really good Tankadin, on my Boomkin, and I kicked his butt. Obviously it wasn't really a fair fight, since he's tank spec and all. I don't actually see much here compared to the Warrior side of things. Call me unfit to write a blog about classes I haven't played.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blizzcon '08: WoW Class Panel impressions

I just finished listening to the World of Warcraft Class Panel, and I didn't really hear anything interesting. To start, they talked about the design of the Death Knight, and the progression of Runes and Runic Power, and stuff like that. Then they moved on to go over each class one-by-one, and what problems they're trying to fix with each class. I didn't hear anything new at all. Granted, maybe if you didn't read the beta forums and blue posts all day like I did, this would be more interesting, but I'd like to think the kind of people who would make the investment to attend Blizzcon are like me.

Granted, what was I expecting? Announcements of new abilities? They've already got the level 75/80 skills plotted for every class, and the 51-point talents are pretty much in place; the talent trees themselves have slowly been fitting into the niches Blizz wants them to (ie making "PvE" specs work in PvP and vice versa)... maybe they're isn't actually much new to talk about.

The one thing everyone was waiting for was an update on dual talent specs, especially after Ghostcrawler (who is a dude!) semi-teased it on the beta forums:

"The dual-spec feature will shine more light on talent design (more on that at Blizzcon) and we'll have a better idea of what we want to do with trees when that goes live. Some talent trees are nice and lean, and some probably have some points we could trim here and there." (source)

Pretty much they said "we're still doing it." Chilton did note that you would be able to spec-swap in, say, a raid dungeon, so it won't require a trip to the class trainer. But so much for extensive info, or shedding light on talent design. They've been doing that all alpha/beta, and that's all been interesting to read and learn about, but if there's anything on their minds that we haven't heard, we didn't get to hear about it.

But, with the new patch less than a week away, and the whole game out in a month, there's no time to make sweeping announcements concerning gameplay mechanics at Blizzcon.

Some bits from the Q&A sessions:

- A lot of questions like "is x going to be viable in y?" I like the especially obvious ones, like "WILL MAGES DO LOLDPS WUT" as if they're not going to make sure every class works in some capacity. Ghostcrawler! You're not a girl, but will Warriors be good tanks?

- Also, a lot of answers like "yeah, we're working on/thinking about/planning on that." In some cases maybe there's no other answers, but it's funny to hear super specific questions about using Windfury vs. using Flametongue in your Off Hand and the answer is "pretty much."

- I was surprised to hear a name (character name, of course) I recognized: Lisana off the Druid beta forums. Hey, a girl who plays World of Warcraft! There were actually two girls who got to ask questions on-stage. I expected to hear from Jayde, since he said he's going to Blizzcon. Maybe he'll show up somewhere later today or tomorrow.

- A lot of Balance Druids complain that the Moonkin "style" of PvP is nuking a fool and then running and healing. Someone came up and asked if Boomkins may get better survivability, lessening the need for healing (and leaving MKF). The answer given was "your spells do more damage now. Also, Typhoon." Woo!

- Lastly, tons of Warlocks. Three 'Lock questions in a row.


Next post: revisiting Eclipse, because in all my babbling and nonsense I had forgoten about the talent's 30 second cooldown. Spamming Wrath for half a boss fight? Not really. I'm going to actually "test" this best I can with my Druid on the PTRs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wild, sweeping changes

Sort of. Ghostcrawler on trimming Balance:

"Moonfury and Earth and Moon down to 3 ranks from 5, but keeping the same overall benefit. That buys you 4 extra talent points to get more utility or fun talents.

We are also going to buff Eclipse's damage a little so that you feel you're paid back for the extra proc-watching (and so I won't feel so lonely when I tell you I think it's fun)."

LOLWUT. It's not that watching procs is hard (that's why we have Power Auras).

But hey, that four points off is awesome. We have a good number of 5-point talents, and in all trees it's always the chunky, 5pt talents that get you the passive damage buff. More damage to this. More crit with that. A lot of trimming down has been done in other trees, and now Balance gets its turn. I'm interested to try this out.

I might as well start talking about my fake tree sometime. If you want to see it, you can find it here. It's gone through five or six iterations with plenty of changes, some of which have actually found their way into the beta game. I swear they stole 'em.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Eclipse sucks and how to make it better

Quick update: got me my Fiery Enchant recipe, after the 8th kill. And so far, buisness ain't booming. Did a little bit of /2 spam, but there may not be a market for the 19/29 enchants, or at least not now and not on my server.

So let's talk talents, because that's what I intended to write about when I started this blog and named it "Talented." Note the banner. I made that in ten minutes, and I think I already hate it. What I'ma try to do is find that demon magic (PHP) that lets you queue up a different image every time the page loads. That way I can make a bunch of banners with different icons and color schemes to go with 'em. I just really like the Arcane Flows icon for some reason, so I used it.

Why Eclipse sucks

NOW let's talk talents. Specifically, let's talk Eclipse. It's a new deep Balance talent for Wrath. Also, it's apparently supposed to make our spell rotation slightly more interesting. I've done a bit of saying "Eclipse sucks" around these parts, and I still think it does. The numbers have changed slightly since it was first seen in the earliest stages of Wrath, but the concept of the talent remains the same. So what does Eclipse do?

3 ranks
Requires 40 points in Balance talents
When you critically hit with Starfire, you have a 100% chance of increasing damage done by Wrath by 10%. When you critically hit with Wrath, you have a 60% chance of increasing your critical strike chance with Starfire by 15%. Effect lasts 15 sec and has a 30 sec cooldown.

The idea is, you spam one nuke until you get a proc, and then you switch to your other nuke. Some parts of it sound alright, but there's a fundamental problem with this spell, and it's that it isn't useful at all. And here's why.

In PvE, you spam Starfire and keep Moonfire up. At least, that's how you do it in Burning Crusade. I think you can slip in Insect Swarm if you want to, and Blizz even wants us slipping in Faerie Fire (specifically, Improved Faerie Fire) for that wicked 3% to crit. But what some have already found IIRC is that the DPS loss from refreshing FF isn't worth the debuff.

Now, theoretically, the Starfire-to-Wrath proc is for PvE. You're spamming Starfire, you crit with Starfire, you get wicked 10% buff to Wrath for 15 seconds. Sounds great right? Naw. Why do Balance Druids spam Starfire and not Wrath? Wrath does more damage in 3 seconds than Starfire, but you're just killing your mana pool by keeping up the Wrath spam, and all your Nature's Grace procs stand to make you burn mana even faster.

Now, I don't know the numbers. A lot has happened with mana regen over the course of the Wrath beta; lots of casters saying they need more manas, Spirit has came back in a big way, on gear and in odd Spirit-to-something-more-useful talents and abilities. Maybe launching the light-blue balls will actually be OK; maybe it will be OK for the 15 seconds this buff lasts. But, you'll be able to keep it up for half of a boss fight. The effect lasts 15 seconds, and then you've got another 15 seconds before it procs. And the proc rate is 100% when you crit, so that's almost half a boss fight worth of Wrath spam, which I'd imagine is not good for your mana pool.

Bottom line: temporary Wrath damage does not incentivize casting it during a boss fight. If we could afford more damage, we would spam Wrath anyway.


Now let's move on to the other proc, that goes from Wrath to Starfire, and increases the crit chance of Starfire by 15%, which is a lot. Now, at first this seems like the PvP side of the talent; like all 1.5 second spells, it's the favored spell in PvP for it's short cast time. This buff could also have PvE uses, but the changes to downranking have lessened its potential use.

By spamming Rank 1 Wrath until it crits, you could get the Starfire buff and then continue on as usual, but with a huge crit bonus for 15 seconds. Along with this idea goes the usual disclaimer that the numbers would have to be crunched. By even spamming a Rank 1 spell for a proc you're cutting into your DPS, and the proc only happens on 60% of spell crits. But, that's its potential use in PvE. These two abilities seem partially designed to work in tandem.

Now we go back to the PvP use of this side of Eclipse. With Wrath being the PvP spell, you're most likely to see this pop up when fighting other dudes. When I was discussing the SF2W proc, I said I think it's useless because PvE Druids mostly spam SF and mostly only spam SF. The same logic applies here, but in reverse: I wouldn't wind up a SF unless the enemy wasn't focused on me, and if they are only if they're rooted in place by me or someone else. And Frost Mage I ain't.

How to make Eclipse better

So what would I do? I would design the talent to better incentivize the casting of "the other nuke," be it Wrath of SF. An example tooltip:

x ranks
Requires x points in Balance talents
When you critically hit with Wrath, you have a x% chance to gain Lunar Eclipse, reducing the cast time of your next Starfire spell by 1.5 sec.
When you critically hit with Starfire, you have a x% chance to gain Solar Eclipse, causing your next Wrath spell to become instant cast and cost no mana. Each effect lasts 10 sec and both effects share a 30 sec cooldown.

Yes, I know I pretty much stole both ideas. Lunar Eclipse is like the 4-piece set bonus, Wrath of Elune, from the Balance Druid PvP gear. Solar Eclipse is like Brain Freeze in the Frost Mage trees. But, those are both fantastic bonuses and talents and give you an idea of how to make Eclipse better in concept.

While spamming Wrath in PvP, you suddenly get a SF with the same cast time; I've used it tons of times in PvP and it rocks. It's awesome. Then, while spamming SF in PvE, you get a chance to throw a free Wrath, incurring only a global cooldown for your trouble.

I have that goofy Balance tree I keep talking about, and this talent is on there. I really think its a good idea; I'd take it over the current Eclipse any day. I meant to do the blog series on that, and yet I've iterated on the tree several times now. Eclipse is currently in the 10th tier, sitting next to a 3-point Earth and Moon as a 2-point talent. I have it set as a 25/50% proc rate for both.

I'm all for making spell rotation more interesting through talents. We haven't seen much of it, but what there is is promising. A lot of Mage examples come to mind, including Missile Barrage, Fiery Payback, Firestarter, and Brain Freeze. Blizz has said on the beta forums that this is an issue they've been thinking about, but one that they don't feel they want to pull off this expansion. So when we're all level 90... man, that'll be the day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blackrock Depths farming: a travelogue

Lemme tell you something: leveling professions sucks. My Mage, who is now level 57 and fast approaching Outland, is attempting to level Enchanting and Tailoring, the classic clothie profession combo. We're at something like 250 for each; Enchanting is a little higher. My goal was to get my professions to 300 before I was in Outland, so there would be less of me leveling my professions at 70 and more of me attempting to make money off of them.

On the Druid this happened really fast. Gathering professions are really easy to level, and with Alchemy, the amount of materials you need to advance in skill is much less, and all the stuff you're making you can probably use - compare making a stack of healing potions to making a stack of green robes. Hey, I can disenchant them, but they d/e into a type of dust I don't need anymore.

So, I've been doing 20-mintute runs through Zul'Farak to amass Mageweave, and just today I started farming Mr. Tauren Pyromancer Man for his fancy Fiery Weapon enchant, a.k.a. the bane of our exsistance while PvPing from 19-29. Got the key and everything, which took longer than I would have liked; I was pushing my luck a little by pulling five dudes at once that all have spell locks.

The recipe itself was selling for 50g IIRC today, which I guess isn't too bad. Chances are I won't try and get more than one; after five attempts I didn't get a single drop, so I'll just take one, thank you.

Granted, with Wrath less than two months away, endgame crafting... make that endgame anything won't do much for me. The Spellthread recipes require Exalted with the Shattrath City faction of your choice, and chances are I'm not willing to get myself to that point. It's probably best just to get to 375 so I'll be ready to tackle Grand Master Alchemy, Herbalism, Tailoring, and Enchanting... oh, and maybe, just maybe, Grand Master Fishing and Cooking.

I've seen some of the neat Fishing-related stuff in Wrath, but the act of fishing still just sucks. They need to like, double the skill-up potential on the high end. I'm sure it won't break the economy or anything if more people are making sweet food buffs.

Monday, September 29, 2008


This is the buffer post. All "me" of you who are reading this will have to wait one more day for a real post.

So in the mean time, let's talk beta message boards. There's a nerd rage a brewin'. Need proof? Hit up the Mage board. Mages are upset, lemme tell ya. I think every class is upset about something. The number of protest threads or otherwise all-encompassing "PLEASE POST HERE" threads is ramping up.

But really, this game is so close to release, and 3.0.2 is even closer; where are the classes going to be when this patch is out? We already know some things won't be ready; besides the raid dungeons they leave out for 3.x patches, we know there are several long-term plans for certain aspects of the game. Examples:

- Making class mechanics more interesting in PvE
- Designing Protection trees to be viable in PvP
- The "uber looking visual and sound" for Shaman Resto talent Riptide

While Blizz expects all of the classes to be "balanced" by the time the patch hits, big, sweeping changes to game mechanics are not something they're interested in performing over the course of one expansion. In the words of Ghostcrawler:

"We think that is a totally valid concern. It's also not one unique to mages. We have been trying to address it for all of the classes who seem to have that problem, and you can probably identify most of the specific talents and abilities that we introduced for that purpose. But it's going to take time. With rare exceptions, we don't want to use an expansion to completely tear down a class and rebuild it back up again.

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, risks losing a lot of established design work. That sounds like I am being lazy about our jobs, but what I actually mean is that all of the classes have evolved a lot over time. We have introduced various solutions to problems, players have figured out certain ways that the class works and what they should be paying attention to, the classes have a certain amount of depth, etc. We don't want to lose much of that when we add to an existing class, which is why the changes may feel like they come at a slower pace than you might actually prefer. Make sense?"

It makes sense to me, but would it really hurt to push back the game a few months? They did it with Burning Crusade and I'm sure Blizzard handled it fine. Also, it'll give me some more time to level my Mage to 70 and attempt to Arena PvP before the honor reset.

The Mage is level 54 now, which is neato. Can't wait to get to Outland and start doing slightly more interesting quests. I really don't know if I'll be able to handle the 1-70 grind again after I get this character to 70. But I'd really like a new character to level Inscription and Herbalism. Grinding out professions everyone else is trying to grind out will not be any fun. But, can I capitalize on it by buying cheap herbs in bulk now and reselling them when the time is right? Or am I too late for that?

To the auction house!