Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Correction: Heroic Lich King added

Yesterday I posted the top ten dps averages for each class in normal and heroic ICC-25, but somehow the numbers for the heroic Sindragosa fight got pasted onto the Lich King fight. I've now corrected the chart; see below:

Paint wasn't very cooperative, but hopefully it's clear enough.
Not much changed, as I predicted. A few classes/specs flip-flopped one spot on the chart, but rarely even as much as a 160-point dps difference that I used as my 1% criteria, so essentially the conclusions discussed yesterday remain valid. Just wanted to have the correct data up there.


Monday, May 24, 2010

DPS Scaling in ICC: The Numbers Are In

And it's not pretty!
I've crunched the numbers, and my primary question - how have DPS DKs scaled in relation to other classes - has been resoundingly answered. In addition, loads of additional findings and questions have been raised by my trip into Dataland.

I took the top ten dps of each class/spec for each boss fight on normal ICC25. I obtained an average dps for each spec on each fight. You can easily examine each boss to see which fights are 'melee-friendly,' 'ranged friendly,' and which classes do well on specific fights. While certain strange events occur and can skew the data, like Dusk's crazy speed kill of Lady Deathwhisper, there is enough data here to smooth out any bumps. Regarding the above, two marksmen hunters for the LDW fight did very well - doing more than 5k better than any other hunters. This made hunters look better overall, but averaged across all 120 data points (10 hunters for each of the 12 fights), hunters still were found to be about the 5th best dps class overall.
In the end, I hand-entered 4,200 points of data, giving a very good sample size from which to draw conclusions about how each class/spec is scaling as guilds continue to progress and gear up in ICC.
Remember, I chose the top ten dps because I'm interested in what the maximum dps potential is - so even if it's not realistic for every class to get power infusion, or tricks/hysteria all the time, or to have the luxury of staying on the boss the whole time, we're looking at what CAN be done under the right circumstances.

Destruction warlocks, survival hunters, and blood DKs did so poorly on examination of normal modes, that I saved myself the effort and didn't calculate their scores in heroic modes.


I just noticed my Sindragosa data for heroic got pasted over the Lich King info. I'll check this and repost if anything changes. As far as DKs go, though, this will only hurt. Their best fight in ICC relatively speaking was Sindragosa.

1. DKs are in a sorry state. Unfortunately, my hunch was borne out, conclusively. On examination of Normal modes, DKs started in the middle of the pack through Festergut's tank n spank, and faded fast to the end. By the end of the 12 fights, the BEST DK spec, unholy, was beaten out by at least one spec from EVERY class except poor, poor shammies. Unholy came in as the 11th-best dps spec in the game, and frost was 14th. The by-now-abandoned blood spec came in dead last - 19th - of the specs I looked at.

By the way, I did eyeball beast mastery, arms, and subtlety, but as expected they were so poor I didn't even put in the effort to add them to the chart. (well, arms did ok on some fights, but fury is so vastly superior that it wasn't worth it).

In any case, the expansion-long public perception that Death Knight are overpwered can be conclusively rejected at this point. THEY ARE THE SECOND-WORST (OR THIRD, MAYBE) DPS CLASS IN THE GAME right now.

Heroic modes wasn't much better. All of the 'Shadowmourne classes' (Warriors, Pallies, DKs) did see some improvement in heroic modes, but DKs once again scaled the poorest, by far. In fact, they still ended up the third-worst dps class in the game, barely passing priests, despite the fact that if you don't have a Shadowmourne, you can't even get on these charts. I didn't look at every fight, but on every one I did look at (Saurfang, Festergut, Sindragosa), EVERY Warrior, Paladin, and DK on the charts had the legendary. Do you scale an entire class around the assumption that they have the (very rare) weapon? Even so, DKs come out smelling putrescent.

2. The rich get richer. It's been well-known from vanilla and through two expansions that warriors scale well with gear. The proof is here. Blizzard has stated their goal for all dps classes to be as close as possible - within about 1-2% of each other, with the 'pure dps classes' on top.

The 'pures' didn't do too badly with the four classes filling the 2nd through 5th spots on the class charts, with the exception of warriors. Warriors finished 2% better than the second-best class (spanning the stated goal for all classes from their nearest competitor) and more than 17% better than the poor enhancement shammies. On heroic modes, they got even richer, finishing a full 6% better than second-best, and over 25% better than enhance shammies. As a hybrid class, that's hardly in line with Blizz' goals, and hardly fair to other classes. I'm not QQing here - just presenting the information. I like warriors, but clearly their dps is out of line with 'balance' in the game.

In heroic modes, Retribution used their Shadowmournes to leapfrog several 'pure' classes to finish in the third spot. Unholy did benefit from the legendary, but just not nearly as much as the other two classes.

And as has already been stated, the dps for shammies was much worse than any other class. Obviously, Blizz' announcement that there will be other heroism classes paves the way for shaman to get a big boost - and rightfully so.

3. Other observations: (some of this I'm sure many of you knew already; I'm no expert on every class):
    -I was surprised fire mages did so much better than arcane, particularly in better gear. They were convincingly the second best spec in the game. Arcane did quite poorly in heroic modes, dropping six spots.
    -Overall, the melee vs ranged divide was well-balanced. There was a fairly consistent split between ranged and melee overall, and there are several fights in ICC which favored one or the other. Decent balance.
    -Rogues can't complain too much overall. I've seen lots of concerns with how they've scaled. Obviously, combat is doing fine, so one can't complain too much. Of course, if one is referring to mutilate, then yes, rogues have a point, but at least they have ONE spec that  is doing well.
    -Balance isn't scaling well. Balance druids did fairly well in normal modes, but hardly saw any increase in dps in heroic modes, and saw their relative position on the charts drop significantly.
    -Shadow priests aren't as bad as their reputation. But, they could do better. They still ended up as the second or third worst class/spec, down there with DKs on the junk pile.
    -Demonology warlocks aren't doing too badly. Yes, affliction is the 'best' spec in most cases, but Demo is actually viable, and proved itself to be better than destro. Destruction - once the 'only' spec for raiding locks, has fallen on hard times.
    -Blizzard needs to allow pets to benefit from buffs. Fights like Blood Queen Lana'thel really hurt when your pet doesn't get any help from the buff you get.

I'm not going to try to cover nearly everything here.
In fact, I'm only going to talk briefly about DK scaling, so for additional discussion, please leave a comment, or link this post in a forum somewhere :)
Why are DKs scaling so poorly?
1. Pets scale poorly. As a pet class, we may benefit from increased crit or other buffs, but the pets don't.
2. Knee-jerk nerfs. I've written about this previously. Early in beta and to some extent in Tier 7 content, DKs were certifiably overpowered. Since then, throughout the expansion there has been a perception that DKs are too strong, and that doing good dps is 'facerolling.' More recently, two abilities that needed adjusting - Tier 9 set bonus, and Scourge Strike - gave the impression again of being overpowered, but were nerfed to the point that the class has fallen behind. Frost DW was nerfed during Tier 8 content and still hasn't recovered even with some 3.3 buffs.
3. Other melee classes get more benefit from gear. Because DKs are a hybrid melee and spell based class, improvements in gear do less for them than the other melee classes. There are several ways to potentially fix this, from buffing talents that increase spell damage more from attack power, to adjusting the percentage of physical damage on abilities like Scourge Strike even more. Increasing the coefficient on obliterate etc is also an option.
4. In any case, Blizzard has made a commitment to continue balancing the classes. I hope they're monitoring the data that's readily available, and can give a little help to the poor classes (which right now are shaman, DK, spriest, and balance druids) and bring warriors back in line with other hybrids. I know they're focused on Cataclysm at this point, but there's lots of time to improve the raiding experience in this expansion still, and I hope they don't abandon us to our plight.

Enjoy the data, all you nerds out there! :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

DPS Scaling in Icecrown Citadel: Intro

Some changes to DKs have been obvious.
The T9 four piece bonus was vastly overpowered and needed to be nerfed. Even after the changes, many DKs (including myself) had a hard time letting T9 go. Even after I had 4-piece T10, I still used T9 in aoe situations for a while. In other words, early T10 gear was underwhelming and DKs didn't get much better in it.

Other changes have been more subtle.
Over the past couple of months, my guild has progressed past normal Lich King kills deep into heroic modes. Our raiders are sporting many shiny new pieces of gear. My gear is solid; enough that not only does normal ICC10 hold nothing of interest gearwise, normal ICC25 has no upgrades, and HICC10 has only a couple of side grades. And yet, I've watched my perch on the dps charts slide from 1-2 for most full night's runs to 3-4 and it's to the point now that a 5th or 6th place finish isn't unusual. A guaranteed top-3 spot on tank and spank fights has turned into frequent forays onto page two (below 7th) on my recount.

Has my guildie's gear changed enough to cause this? No. Our gearscores have remained fairly similar for the past several months. Itemization? No, ICC is itemized quite well for DKs. Skill? Did I just start sucking, or my guildies get dramatically better? Doubtful.

So, with the slide of my spot on the charts, I've started wondering if this is consistently the case.

A while ago I briefly mentioned that a fellow DK had looked at melee and argued that mutilate rogues, fury warriors, and combat rogues were comfortably ahead on the Saurfang and Festergut fights, while kitties and ret paladins edged out unholy/blood DKs, followed by enhancement shammies and distantly by frost DKs. Skill/gear aside, shortly pre-3.3, I was happy with DKs being relatively close to other melee classes. Warriors were probably a bit high, and enhance a little low given that all but rogues are hybrids, but still in general with most raiders in 264 gear, the gap wasn't too bad. It was still possible for a good DK to keep up with most of the other classes.

Has it really changed that much since then?

So, I decided to take a look.

Information is readily available out there, and I chose World of Logs because it's the parser that my guild uses, and looking at different classes for each fight is very easy to do. Of course, not all guilds put their parses on the site, and not all guilds choose to make their parses public, but the sample is large enough to be considered fairly well-representative of the whole in my opinion.

I'll take ALL of the 'viable' dps specs this time including ranged as well as melee. I'm going to include EVERY boss fight in ICC25 (except gunship). I'm looking at BOTH normal and heroic, because the fight dynamics change from normal to heroic (just as one example, many melee classes can stay in and dps duing bone storm on normal but can't on heroic). I'll take the top 10 dps for each class/spec, and obtain an average. Would a larger number be 'better'? Perhaps. Here, I'm only interested in the upper range of what a spec 'can' do - so 10 seems sufficient.
Since I wrote this part of the post, I've laboriously been crunching the numbers. So far I've looked at normal ICC25 Marrowgar through Putricide. And the results are interesting! Some, I expected, and others, I did not.

I'm going to keep crunching the numbers for now, and post them as soon as I can!
I'm afraid there's so much fodder for discussion that I'll probably have to break up my response to the data into more than one post.

For now, stand by.
More to follow!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DPS DK optimization: Heroic Mode review

Disclaimer: My guild has not yet cleared ICC-25 on heroic modes yet. We are 9/12 and thus have not attempted Lich King on heroic yet. However, I've dps'd all of the fights (with the exception of LK of course) and feel I can speak to how to optimize your play as dps DK even on Putri and Sindragosa who haven't fallen over for us yet.

I'll also just do this one post for all of them, since most of the suggestions for each fight are still valid.

Marrowgar: Actually, if you weren't doing it before, on normal mode with a full 264-geared group, you can stay in for Bone Storm, using IBF as needed. The damage isn't that bad, and healers can easily keep you up through it.
For heroic, however, I doubt you'll be able to stay in even in full 277 gear. It hits HARD. So, stay out. Mostly, stay alive. Second, dps the people in bone spikes since those continue during bone storm. Third, IF and ONLY if you have both health and no one needs to be broken out of spikes, you may Icy Touch/Death Coil Marrowgar. More importantly, know when the storm is going to end and start cheating back towards him so you can jump on him as soon as he stops.

Lady Deathwhisper: we found this a little challenging. Of course, the mind controls and adds continue throughout the fight.
In P1 we pull all the adds on top of the boss for aoe to get them down fast. You may be asked to help death grip or control adherents. I actually have an assigned adherent that I DG to the stage. Positioning can be a bit tricky with the pillars - the LOS can work both for and against you. Once I get them on stage I usually mind freeze the next cast and then drag them to the perfect spot if they weren't already. If you're on add duty, you'll be gaining aggro frequently, so make liberal use of interrupts and ams to ensure you don't die. You can aoe, but be careful to not kill your mind controlled fellows. Interesting finding: when you're on add duty, you don't seem to ever be picked for mind control. I've done dozens of LDW attempts/kills on heroic now, and never been picked once.
In P2 if you're on the boss/add duty I recommend speccing deep enough into frost for free mind freezes regardless of main spec because you DON'T want to miss and interrupt. I stay on add duty, so I continue to control adherents and keep them in the 'cleave team' for maximizing kill time. Pestilence is definitely your friend throughout the fight, but death and decay rarely is, since you don't want to kill mind-controlled fellows and there are rarely enough adds standing in one place to make use of it. As unholy, I usually leave my ghoul on the boss, but if we're falling behind on adds, I'll pull him off for a little extra oomf.
By the way, a simple /petattack macro is your friend. I don't believe I've mentioned it before, but on fights like this where you're switching targets often, it's really nice to just have a keybind to send your pet to your target.

Gunship. Really? Just kill stuff.

Saurfang: I don't do anything different on this fight. If you're unholy, be sure to pestilence the adds asap - they need to go down fast and giving your ranged more dps on the beasts really helps. If your raid leader says not to - they're wrong.

Rotface: Just be careful when running around to avoid people with vile gas. DBM is ok for some things, but AVR/AVRE really shines on this encounter, showing you the danger zone for those that are vile and also where the ooze explosion is going to land. However, dps optimization is the same as before.

Festergut: Just make sure to avoid getting goo. If you do, the haste debuff will KILL your dps. In a pinch, you can still easily survive a pungent blight without getting all three inoculations with IBF/AMS, but try to ensure you get all 3 anyway - save your healer's heart, and mana.

Putricide: A wonderfully challenging fight! If you enjoyed the fight in T9 gear, the heroic version is a nice challenge in 264 gear, too! A few differences here. I pop my army at pull but not my gargoyle. Why? Because the crucial part of the fight is the phase transitions where you get both a green and an orange ooze. You'll need your burst to get your assigned ooze/gas cloud down quickly (and yes, I know the encounter assigns it for you). Other than that, it may take some ingenuity on your part to ensure you don't die because there's damage flying around all over the place.

Blood Prince Council: Blizz laid the hate on for melee on this fight, heh. You'll get a DBM warning when you get to 6 stacks of shadow prison, but it won't be very dangerous until around 10. On last night's kill, I got to 19 and survived. AMS is your friend here. If you must run, do so under cover of your shield. If you don't have a shield, don't run. The only exception to this is empowered vortex. Even if it kills you, don't blow up a healer. Run, and die. :) But really, it's fairly easy to get the stacks to fall off when you're on a boss, and so when you switch targets you can run all the way across the room safely.
Incidentally, my fellow DK is a big advocate of run speed enchants on boots. I'm not. I'm 32 attack power all the way, but he swears by it. This fight and Marrowgar are two where I can see the point.

Blood Queen Lana'thel: Nothing really different here. Just moar dots (dps). During her air phase, it's even more important that you don't blow up squishies, and you might as well save your ams to ensure you don't die.

Valithria: same ol same ol. Seriously, on our kill last night someone commented at the end: "that was heroic?" Once your healers know how to travel as a pack in the portal, the fight goes very quickly. I don't care about dps on this fight at all, and just focus on doing things like keeping the mages from casting their frostbolt volley.

Sindragosa: There is zero room for error on tombs. Without AMS, you will be killed by the frost bombs. I initially was worried about running out after her 'death grip,' but I found AMS still adequately protects you. I still don't wear any frost resistance armor. Honestly, the fight requires clean execution from every person in the raid, but it otherwise doesn't seem to bad to me.

And then there was one. He'll have to wait for later. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Silly Me

1. In which I Poach Myself

2. In which I fail at leveling

1. Due to a couple of my 'regulars' - two of the most dedicated and skilled players - being out of town for the weekend, I logged on Sat evening with some trepidation regarding my still-forming HICC10 group (So-called 'Tard Ten' because it normally has so many hunters and DKs). After 30 minutes, there were 4 of us in group. A mage, who often heals on his pally. A still slightly undergeared rogue alt/main of a former raiding DK in my guild, and a new trial ele shammy, and yours truly. No tank (unless you count me), no actual healers. Well, nothing really. :(  The Tard Ten was a Tard Four.

I made a few half-hearted scans of LFG for potential pugs, but pugging 6 players makes me want to burn my mouse hand off, so I quickly dipped back out and resumed mammoth farming.

One of the other two 'main' guild ten-mans had a few absences (I'll call it the Officer's Club or O-Club) as well, so I got a few whispers from one of their leaders asking me if we were going to get a full group, to which I replied, 'not likely.' He asked if we'd like to help them get their group going, and I, sadly, agreed. They only needed two players. I hopped into their vent channel, and recommended they take the trial to see how she did, and to take one of the other two guys, but one had just logged, and the O-Club said they wanted to only take mains that were raiders, which left the rogue out.

So, yes, I Poached myself and joined the O-Club. I felt dirty about it, too. I abandoned my group... which of course had mostly abandoned me first for other pursuits, and raided with a main-filled group that runs HICC10 every week.

And it felt good.
In that sinful way that eating a whole pint of Ben & Jerry's feels good. Guilty, but oh so yummy.

Their group got the last of the achievements for Glory of the Icecrown Raider and the skeletal mount last week (but is just starting heroic LK), but a few of them wanted an item or two from heroic bosses, and one of their regulars had missed a week and wanted a few achievements. The group was also game for any achievements I or the trial wanted, so on Saturday we ended up doing 5 heroic fights, and 5 fights on normal for the achievements. Perhaps that shouldn't seem such a big deal for someone who has the good fortune to be 8/12 HICC25 and who kills Lich King on 25-man every week, but given my hellacious struggles with the Tard Ten, it was ...  nice. I did end up tanking a number of the fights, which I don't prefer, but it gave Massakur a chance to use his Shadowmourne. On Sunday we worked on heroic Sindragosa, which is still a challenging fight, and then we killed Lich King. I tanked it for the first time, and when soul reaper did our main tank in, managed to survive until the magic 10% win (good job healers on relatively squishy Hine).

I did feel badly about abandoning my group for the weekend, but given that it wasn't much of a group, what can one do? I do plan to still try to put the group together for at least a few more weeks to see if we can get it to work, but at some point I may have to call it a spade and either give myself some more time off on the weekends, or try to join one of the more successful groups. We'll see.

2. I spent a little time with the hunter this weekend. As usual, leveling with a hunter was as easy as spreading whipped cream cheese on a toasted bagel (harder than a knife through hot butter, but easier than spreading those cold butter patties on soft bread). Really, it was fairly fun and mindless play. After killing a couple of those level 60 elite giants in Winterspring (at level 54), I made a trip to Honor Hold in Hellfire Peninsula to train Master Enchanting. Feeling cocky with my trusty wolf at my side, I grabbed a couple level 60-61 Hellboars and killed/kited them to the guards. I thought, well, that was easy. Maybe I'll come back here a little early.

So I leveled some more, and when I hit 56 I decided to make my home in the Outlands.

Off I go, setting my hearth in Honor Hold.
Now, to level.
Quick, let's kill some Hellboars.
They went down fairly easily and painlessly, if a bit slowly due to the level difference. My dps dropped precipitously. But still, no problem.
Now what?
OH, YOU MEAN I CAN'T DO ANY QUESTS HERE? What are all those greyed-out quests I see?
Bleh, slow grinding for two levels before I can quest.

Ah, well, back to WPL/EPL for two levels. Then I guess me and my silly, bruised ego can go back to Outland properly ready to kick mob fanny. And quest. :P

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What now, Until Cataclysm Cometh?

The lull before an expansion is the time many guilds fall apart.
The additional hurdle of the summer blues looms as well.
What then shall this Death Goddess be doing between now and Cat?

1. My lovely ladies
'Hine' is a term meaning 'woman' in several polynesian (Pacific) cultures.
Their pantheon of goddesses often but not always starts with the prefix Hine-
In searching for an appropriate name for my nascent DK, I had a long list of death and/or night gods/goddesses, and my final 10 had only two females. However, with the very important Choosing Talent, my spouse favored Hinenuitepo, and my Death Knight was born! Hence all of my toons 'born' in the LK era have been female deities, and a fun naming system it has been!

Hinemanu has been my very-slowly leveled Hunter, and she's now reached 50! Eww, female dorfs.... :)
She may or may not see 80 prior to Cataclysm, and that's fine with me. I'm enjoying the extremely casual leveling I do on her, and playing (as I've said before) the one class I said I'd never play. I've still done very little research or theorycrafting on How to Play Huntards, but I find I do just fine, thank you, as I am.

Hinetitama is currently languishing as my 'second' toon - primarily my healer - who rarely gets to play since I'm severely limiting my time in Wow and my DK is rolling both 10 and 25 man raids. Still, she has the Once Bitten achieve that Hinenuitepo lacks, and when a healer is needed for a guild run of VOA or the raid weekly or some such, out of mothballs she comes! Sometimes I feel like leveling Alchemy just to make my pots/flasks on her, since I rarely mine these days. She's herb/mining, and I almost always make my money in the AH, so farming for mats seems a waste of time.

I have several Hine-names on standby just waiting to join in the fun.
New alts? Perhaps.
Name/sex changes for existing alts? Maybe. Except for Hiro. He gets to stay the 'original' main character and will forever be my human rogue.

2. In which achievements .... suck?
Speaking of achieves, grrrrrr.
I mean, /cheer for my guildies.
I posted about forming a raid and unfortunately my 10-man raid remains unformed. I still pug 2-5 players every night, and even some of the guildies who've popped in and out of my group are somewhat less polished than most.
Hence, you can probably understand my ambivalence when BOTH the other two guild 10-mans popped up with the Glory of the Raider achievement within minutes of each other on Monday and proudly paraded their shiny new mounts around Dalaran. I'm proud of them, and I feel good for them, but I feel distinctly unsupported in my attempts to get a third group going. This could be an entirely separate blog post, but I'll cap this segment with the 'news.' My group, given its inconsistency, can't find a groove. We haven't killed Lich King since the first time, and have only managed a couple of heroic boss kills. Given that for my 'core,' 10-man regular loot is completely worthless, we've become a labor-filled farming run for alts and non-guild pugs. I've had several of my best players 'poached' by one of the other groups (including an alt-heavy Friday night run organized by the more successful Mon/Tues groups), and typically see the best new guildies gobbled up before I have a chance at them. I do feel like giving up on the group and either not raiding 10-mans, or just trying to slide into the occasional 'main' groups. That feels unfair and unfaithful to the 3-5 guildies who've stuck with me so far, so I haven't done that yet. :(
I did have a good laugh on our 25-man night after we'd made about 5 heroic Putricide attempts (lovely mess of a fight, that) when we decided to do the Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion achievement on normal difficulty and we messily accomplished the task despite oozes sprinting all over the room.

3. Shadowmourne Cometh Before Cataclysm!
We had the shared joy of watching Massakur carefully present his 50 shards to Mograine and in return our first (and Alliance server first as well) Shadowmourne. Mass is well-deserving and it does feel to me like a true guild accomplishment.

In addition, my 5 month old decision to leave my more-casual but wonderful guild has been vindicated, and more-than-vindicated. Not only has my still-not-quite hardcore guild killed Arthas (which is where my old guild and 20,000 other guilds are stuck), we've progressed to 8/12 heroic Icecrown. ANND, my belief that I was surrendering the dream of a Shadowmourne of my own has been resurrected! I put in the personal effort to craft Shadow's Edge, complete all the quests, received the support from Insomnia for the raid quests, and was the de facto - and default - next in line for the legendary! Thus, I was humbled and thankful to receive my first Shard en route to 49 more and a shiny never-before-obtained orange. :P If all goes well, in approximately 6-8 weeks I'll have the privilege of holding a nice new axe.

4. The rich get richer.
I already posted on my Cataclysm prep plans, but this summer another goal I have is to save gold and mats as much as possible to be ready for the next expansion. It'll keep me busy :) As my main, Hinenuitepo is fairly well set up with everything she 'needs,' but if it looks like heirloom items will work at 80+ (I doubt it), I'll fill out my set. If any rep or anything else is needed, I'll grind that out too.

The pre-expansion blues may slow even my fervor (as it does for so many people) - that and the incredibly busy summer I have before me - but I plan to hang around and enjoy many of the fun times to be had in Wow between now and then.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Yes, the title of this post is shamelessly stolen both from David Bowie and Jim Butcher's latest Dresden Files installment. Butcher, by the way, is my favorite current fiction author, and he must be doing something right as his last several books have all topped the NYT bestseller list upon release.

However, the Changes referred to here, of course, are all about the the Cataclysm looming on our Wow horizon.

If you haven't seen some of the changes planned for the next expasion, start at MMO-Champion.com. For class-specific info, there's quite a bit at Elitist Jerks, as usual. Consider's unholy thread at EJ has links to his alpha involvement and the Cata EJ discussion threads.

What to think, what to think?

First, the obvious.

1) Rune changes. As I understand it, the primary difference is that it will allow us to 'pool' resources a bit more. As we all know, in the current system if you don't use a rune within 2 seconds of it being available, it's 'wasted' and a dps loss. In theory at least, we can use resources as soon as they're available, but not using them to a point may not hurt too much.
I've let this change marinate for a bit and I've decided I like it. It may keep us from being quite as gcd-bound as we have been (although some people disagree). It should allow us to better time combinations of moves for best effect (as a long-time combat rogue, I remember pooling energy as slice & dice ticks down, then reapplying it and going to town with several Sinister Strikes - especially when paired with adrenaline rush and blade flurry).
What remains to be seen is exactly how the mechanic will work - especially on live. Still, if it goes forward, it will dramtically change the way we play our class.

2) AOE is getting nerfed. Hard. For DKs, diseases spread by pestilence are doing half damage. Wandering plague has been halved. Of course, it looks like every other class is getting the same treatment as well.
I guess this is okay in theory. People often complain that as one overgears content in particular everything will devolve into aoe-fests.
Make no mistake, we'll still see heroics - and some raids - being pulled en masse and aoe'd down, but Blizz' move of nerfing aoe may slow that approach somewhat. The idea, of course, is to force us to use strategy and cc to get past trash and boss encounters. I get it, and I think it's a good thing. Still, I'll miss some of those eye-popping numbers like we saw on Onyxia's or Sindragosa's whelps *sigh* :)

3) Coefficient changes. This one you may not be as well aware of, but most abilities are getting a significant overhaul. So far on alpha we see:

Wandering Plague has had its damage halved.
Diseases spread from Pestilence deal half damage.
Scourge Strike has a base 140% weapon damage modifier, up from the current 70%.
Heart Strike has a base 100% weapon damage modifier, up from the current 50%.
Frost Strike has a base 110% weapon damage modifier, up from the current 55%.
Blood Strike has a base 80% weapon damage modifier, up from the current 40%.
Plague Strike has a base 100% weapon damage modifier, up from the current 50%.
Icy Touch has had its damage doubled.
Howling Blast only costs a Frost rune, has had its damage doubled, and now deals triple damage against targets affected by Hungering Cold.
Death Coil has had its damage doubled.
Frost Fever and Blood Plague have a base duration of 30 seconds, up from the current 15.
Ghoul Frenzy now last for 1 minute and heals your pet for 120% of its health over the duration of the buff, up from the current duration of 30 seconds and the current heal of 60%.
Rune Strike is now instant.
Ebon Plague now increases magical damage by 8%, down from 13%.
Death and Decay now costs a Blood Rune, down from a Blood, Unholy, and Frost rune.
Corpse Explosion now costs an Unholy Rune, changed from runic power.

Besides the aoe ramifications, one may think "whoa, DKs are getting hugely buffed!" Most of the single target abilities are seeing their damage doubled.
The short version is: no, we're not getting buffed. Sorry. The rune system changes - if interepreted correctly - mean that the coefficient increases will equate to roughly 'equal' sustained damage.
The difference is, we should see much improved burst. I can live with that. In fact, I rather like the idea.

Obviously, with all of this in development, I'm sure we'll see tons of tweaks in the numbers before live. In fact, it's fairly likely that one or more of these major changes will themselves see a major overhaul.
As opposed to my rather 'meh' response to the reported 'new' abilities, I'm positive about our mechanics changes and look forward to seeing them in action.

One thing is certain.

Everything changes. But that's another song. ;)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cataclysm plans #1

It's very very early in the development cycle, but enough information has come out on the next expansion, Lich King is dying weekly (so far, only on normal mode), leading me to contemplate the future and start making some plans.

1. Raiding. Yes, PLEASE! Raiding is why I play the game. While there are plenty of fun metagames in Wow, for me the game is primarily about raiding; defeating bosses working as a team with friends/guildies, and increasing my effectiveness at my chosen role.
However, the 'old' pattern of 4 days in 25-mans, and 2 in 10-mans will be a thing of the past (shared lockout), so things will be changing. For now, I plan to raid with my current guild, for sure in my current time slot, and hopefully in 25-mans. My concern is the possibility of one or the other (10 vs 25) raid 'dying,' but I hope it's not so. I suspect many people will raid their main in 25-mans, then 10-mans with their alts. I have neglected most of my other 80 level alts and would have the opportunity to play them more. I'm not certain about this, but I kinda like the idea of having a few nights 'off.' :)

2. Main characters: DUH!!! :) Actually, this is a valid question, as many players do take the time to evaluate their love for their main and consider if they'd prefer to play a different class/role. At this point in the Burning Crusade cycle, I had been raiding on both my warlock and rogue, but was planning to main my rogue (until I got on a DK in the beta, that is). I'm in the position of being able to chose pretty much anything, which is nice. While I don't have 10 characters like some do, I have a tank class in my DK, melee dps in my rogue/DK/shammy, healer in my shammy, caster - shammy/warlock, and I should have ranged dps in my hunter. I could theoretically choose any of them.

BUT NOT TO WORRY! Death Goddess plans to be Death Knight indefinitely. The other characters are fun, and will eventually hit 85, but they will remain side projects/fun diversions.

More significantly I suppose is the tank/dps question. Most of you know by now, though, how much I love dps. I really really love dps up close and personal. While I can tank reasonably well and think it's important to gear and research doing the job when needed, I find I prefer not to. I had to suit up for half of my 10-man raid and the only positive thing I particularly noted about tanking was that on several fights it was much easier for me to raid lead while tanking.

3. Professions: correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it we're getting other goodies, but no new professions. For the purposes of min/maxing raid performance, Jewelcrafting and Blacksmithing have served me well. JC in particular is a wonderful raiding profession. It has given the most attack power equivalence in this expansion, but in addition it provides the most flexibility in maximizing all the necessary stats (hit/expertise/arpen/etc). Utilitywise, a case could be made for engineering, but I doubt I'll go that route. Unless something changes, I'll probably stick with BS/JC in Cataclysm, but with a twist. A couple weeks before the expansion, I'll drop Blacksmithing and level mining to max level. I'll stockpile the materials to re-level BS to max. Then as I level Hinenuitepo I'll brake for yellow dots and hopefully collect enough materials to level both professions from 450-500. Maybe even make a little gold on the side.

4. New stuff. I guess I'm a sucker for those. The Path of Archeology sounds fun and I'll throw myself into as much as possible. Worgen - I'll eventually level one from litter-hood, but at this point I think there's an 85% chance I'll switch to it from my Draenei when Blizzard allows it. I have to admit, Wolverine has been my favorite superhero for a long time, and having claws is just too cool. Flying in Azeroth - absofrickinglutely! Guild leveling? Sounds pretty cool to me, and I'll do my part within the time frames I have available. Any other 'new' things stand out for you?

5. Release plans: I really enjoyed my Lich King experience, so I plan to repeat most of it this time around as well. I'll pre-order a collecter's edition upgrade. Our mall EB has a release party, so I'll go to that. I took my then-8 year old son to the last one.  :)  I may take one or more of my kiddos to this one as well so they can see what a nerd I am! I doubt, however, that you'll catch me in a murloc suit. If I can time it right, I'll take a week off from work to play/level as much as possible (my employer requires 45 days notice so it's a bit dicey). Fortunately my spouse is supportive of using vacation time for said purpose. Last time around I leveled with another DK which was an absolute blast. Leveling with him kept me from being server first DK so I had to settle for alliance first on my server, but it was fun regardless. Who needs sleep? If I time my vacation right, we'll see what happens this time around.

So, I'm starting to get excited about the expansion even though it's a ways off and many things can change between now and then.

What about you? What plans do you have?