Monday, August 25, 2008

Karazhan Part 2

Wow, what a run through Karazhan.

Here's the WWS Parse.

As you can see, we started the evening with only six people. Well, we did Illhoof with six people. We had Anberlin tanking for us for a bit, but he had to depart before we got to the first boss of the evening. As you can see from the results, we wiped twice before calling in reinforcements (I maintain a three-wipe limit on optional bosses.) Our friend Qetesh called in a rogue and Druid pair who we knew better as a Pally and a Priest, respectively. As these were not their mains, the performance was a little lower than usual, but any help is welcome. Additionally we picked up a Warlock who was playing on his main and did an awesome job.

After those pickups, Illhoof was easy, and we moved on to Shade. Our first problem with Shade was that for some reason, he seemed to be dealing a LOT of damage. Of course, looking at WWS indicates that he really wasn't doing anymore damage than normal. Our Paladin, Besideme, who had been playing his rogue, Kayal, switched over to his wife's mage, Smidgie, to get mroe damage going. And wow did he ever. I died somewhere in the middle of the fight, and we ended up downing Shade with only four people remaining.

Chess went super easy, and the shoulders went to Kayal, who at the time was 68 (this is actually a good point to keep in mind looking at all of his data. He did really well for his level, even being able to compete with his 70 counterpart on the Illhoof fight.)

Prince was really easy, as always. We one shot him, and the infernal spawns are particularly lucky. This is the second week I asked the mages and hunters to Invis and Feign Death so that I could Zen Tank and hopefully reduce parries during phase 2. He did Parry 42 times, but I'm not sure if those were all me, and during what phases they occurred (they don't really matter so much in phase 1 and 3.)

An interesting observation, my actual dodge rate is about 5% lower than what was printed on my character sheet, but the Miss rate was huge.

When Prince died, I quickly looked at the loot, and seeing the bow had dropped, I gave to the hunter who had joined us, since she had made it clear beforehand that she wanted it. However, she doesn't notice this, and the exchange goes a little something like this (paraphrasing):

Her: Drat, the bow didn't drop again.
Me: Check your bags.
Her: WTF!

The T4 helm went to the Warlock, and, not having a second tank, we decided not to do Netherspite. A few minutes after we all left, Anberlin logs on to see if we've finished or not.

Oh well, we'll get him next week.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Druid DPS in Karazhan

Another Karazhan report, this time powered by WoWWebStats.

WWS Parse

WWS is a wonderful tool, and pretty easy to use. If you haven't tried it yet, I suggest you do.

Now looking at this report, I think I should make it clear that Savant could care less about trash. That is to say, performance can only truly be measured in boss fights. Why is this? Because trash mobs are too easy. Once you get it down, it's just a matter of clearing it to get to the boss. It doesn't matter if you're first in DPS when you're fifth when everyone else starts trying.

Now, this may be the reason why we only got to Curator, but I feel it is necessary to allow for AFKs when it doesn't hurt the raid. Not to mention I require them myself. As a side note, a player abusing this policy is hurting the raid, so that's not allowed.

This time I did not tank. I was going to have Anberlin and Besideme tank, since Besideme showed up as Protection spec from a run the night before. However, when we came to look for a pug, I picked up a good tank by the name of Pinchy and made Besideme respec to Retribution. So our tanks this time were known, trusted individuals, unlike when I pugged the Warrior and Pally last week.

I pride myself on being the best Druid I can be. That's why when I look at the report for "all bosses" I can't help but feel bad I'm in second on DPS. I know the reason why: I died on Attumen. Without that death, or at least if it weren't so early, I would have surpassed my peers. Not that that is my goal, but I figure if I'm beating everyone else, I'm doing all right.

Though to be honest, I think we all put together a nice shiny run, and I have the WWS to prove it.

We started out as a seven man run, with Andreya joining in the middle of Attumen trash. We actually did wipe on the trash, so we took the opportunity to summon him from a flight to Duskwood. For some reason it takes us a little bit to get warmed up. However we clear through the trash and get to Midnight. Anberlin makes the pull and Pinchy is supposed to pick up Attumen. But, when Attumen comes out, he heads over to Nodin, and kills him. I try to pick him up but I forget that I'm still in cat form and thus die a swift death. I think he took out Smidgie shortly thereafter. So that left us with 1 healer, 2 tanks, 2 DPS, and the longest Attumen fight I've ever witnessed. Made worse by the fact that I was watching from the floor.

By the time we got to Moroes, our other Retribution Paladin has come in and started kicking ass. now to be honest, Argeryth is a bit below the rest of the DPS, but that's because the rest of the DPS are above the curve, in my opinion. He just represents the average Karazhan raider.

Moroes presents us with Women and Warriors. The trash dies pretty quick and we clean up Moroes with no problems. As always, I lead in damage and not in DPS. I always wonder to myself (and sometimes out loud) if our mages just can't start DPS earlier. But they do pretty well as is and they are still better than most DPS on their gear level.

On to Maiden. We actually wiped with about 5000 health left on Maiden the first time because there were not enough HoT's on the tank during Repentance. I ask our Druid what was going on with the healing, and he pretty quickly admitted things were not as they should be, and he didn't keep enough HoTs up. I am astonished to find out later that he only used Lifebloom for both fights.

On the second fight, we finish without a hitch, a full minute faster than we spent on the fight before. I somehow pump out more than 1000 DPS. I rejoice. Andreya swapped out for Tencice, his Warlock main, which was very useful when we added our tenth member, a healer named Cae.

When we did opera we were dismayed to find out that it was the Wizard of Oz. Now Wizard of Oz is probably the easiest fight for Opera, but we've faced it every time we've done Opera so far, except twice when it was Big Bad Wolf. So every time we go in, we hope for Romulo and Julianne, just for something we haven't done before.

Nightbane is always fun. There's usually a healer dying or something like that when the adds appear. This time, however, everything went smoothly. Pinchy had a couple of issues with positioning Nightbane, as the report indicates, with pulled off a flawless victory.

Curator is truly where Warlocks shine. Typically, when I'm tanking Curator, I bolt tank in cat form and in DPS gear, with Salv up (trust me, I need it.) Last week, when I did that, I probably did about 1200 DPS for the whole fight. This week, I'm chasing flares and "only" doing 988 DPS. Meanwhile, our resident Warlock goes "Curse of Doom" for 26664 and shoots 1000 DPS above everyone else. Cheater.

Last night went smooth, and I encourage every raid that is missing members to just plug on and see how far you can get. Not everyone is as well geared for what we are doing as Savant is, but still, it's better to try and fail than not to try at all. Unless you already failed to the point of frustration. Then you could probably use a break.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Leveling Made Easy

Yesterday, I came home after a busy day of work and grocery shopping and settled down to play with the baby. I watched an episode of NewsRadio on Hulu, and ate a nice dinner. Then I hopped on WoW. I did Arenas with my wife. Second week of doing so, and we went 4-6, not too bad. I helped a friend with a group quest. Then I hopped on my Pally and leveled from 56 to 60.

Wait, what?

No, you aren't misreading that. I had a busy day and still managed to squeeze in four levels. I even managed to get to bed at a decent time. And I will explain how.

You may have heard of a fellow called Athene. Athene is most notable in this discussion as the guy who pushed leveling to a refined art. He had originally posted a 1-70 of 1 day and 19 hours. Then, when an enterprising Druid with a whole guild to support him took 15 hours off the record, Athene went and best that record, very shortly afterward, with only his two friends to help him. Athene has a whole host of videos, but not one says how he did it. He does mention mobtagging, where you attack a mob that is green to a 70, and they kill it for you. And you get the full experience. This requires a mob of level 62 or higher. Bonus points for elites.

If you look around Athene's forums, you may eventually come across this post which details a plan for leveling from 1 to 70 in under 24 hours. Most of it requires a Paladin and a mage, but once you can get to Slave Pens (or a little later for classes without Avenger's Shield) you should head there and level to 70. Here's what I did:

First, I created a macro as follows:

/script LeaveParty()
/cast Avenger's Shield

I would use this macro to pull mobs. I had another Paladin Taunt the mobs off me, and use a macro probably like the following:

/i Eia
/cast Judgement

(/i is the short command for /invite.) I would wait until all the mobs were killed before accepting the invite. Additionally, I would wait for the "teleport box" to disappear before doing another pull. Four pulls were handled with Consecration or Judgement of Righteousness. All in all it was very smooth. We pulled everything up to the bridge and then went out and reset. To watch the idea in action this video shows the process, though not quite how we did it (I think we went a little faster.) It has a couple of superfluous elements that don't matter if you're leveling a Protection Paladin, like Frost Trap. Our setup was me, other Pally, Enhancement Shaman, Feral Druid, and Holy Priest. You gotta have a healer, and you have to have enough DPS to take down a pull in under 40 seconds. That's the only real requirement. The results?

When I started this endeavor last night, I had already spent about half an hour in level 56 doing nothing. I had about 1000 experience in, so I couldn't get a good time for level 56, but I did keep track of the times I dinged 57-60. I don't have the exact figures, but this table illustrates the amount of time taken per level to the minute:

5720 minutes
5816 minutes
5930 minutes

What happened on level 59? We took a break as our Pally was putting his wife to bed. All told, I spent about an hour and a half leveling. Additionally, I got three Spellfire Longswords, one of which will come in handy should I decide to level legitimately at any point past level 62.

The good thing about this method is that it's very efficient. I don't think anyone like finishing in Azeroth, knowing that Outland is right there, and the gear is so much better. And 4 levels in an hour and a half is nothing to sneeze at.

The bad thing about this is that you don't get much other than experience points. If you don't look into your class and research it, you will be at the same disadvantage as an eBayer when you get to 70. Additionally, your friends may resent you for dragging them through the boring task of doing the same thing over and over for hours. Which does bring me to another point.

Leveling like this is pretty damn selfish, as you are asking four other people to basically carry you through 55-70 (or however long you choose to milk it,) without a single tangible benefit to themselves, so you either better be calling in favors owed to you, or you owe your group some heavy favors in return. If you don't have four people who really like to spend time with you, you probably won't be able to pull this off.

If you can, though, I would recommend it on the sole condition that you already have a 70 or two. Additionally, it will probably help if you are leveling a class for which you already know how to perform the role. As for me, I'll probably spend a few levels getting used to BC Pally tanking, and then at least one friend has offered to blitz me to 70 over the weekend. I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Never Pug a Main Tank


Last week, on Kara, our Warrior failed to show up. It was later revealed that his account ran out, to all's good, but that week was a pretty bad run.

Okay, the Thursday half was pretty bad. And when I say that, it's not because we kept wiping, because we didn't wipe at all (except maybe once on Moroes, I really don't remember.) It's because the tanks kept dragging things out. And it was long and slow.

Did I mention I didn't tank Thursday? I asked for 3 members for Kara, as we were good on healers and had one tank. We got 3 tanks and one DPS asking to come. What's more, one of the tanks was a seasoned Warrior with the Champion of the Naaru title and some pretty nice T4 level gear. Well, turns out, he was an okay tank, but didn't know the fights too well. And I had to keep pushing for them to pull. It was long and slow, and by the time we got to Maiden, pretty much everyone in the guild wanted to call it off for the night.

Flash forward to the next night. I decide that we should just go with what we have and just seven man it. Well, we picked up the Pally tank we got last night just in case, and we ended up rocking the whole place. The Pally tank DC'd before Chess, but we finished it all pretty well, and this has given me the confidence to take us into next week, even though we only have eight members right now. Of course, we'll still be trying to find a healer that can come on permanently...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Aspect of the Druid

In Wrath of the Lich King, there will be inscriptions that will change the appearance of various forms. This will likely be the most minor form of inscription. There will also only be two options. If we want to change our Bear form and Cat form, we won't be able to do anything else on such a minor level. That seems like sort of a waste to me. Likewise, if we find something else cool on that inscription level, we will have to choose between Bear or Cat form for the visual change. One would think we should be able to have any number of Cosmetic inscriptions. But that's only an aside to what I'm thinking about.

I would be very happy if Blizzard included an inscription that did something like the following: Instead of shapeshifting, the Druid takes on the attributes of the animal that is being mimicked. If they take on the attributes of a bear for example, they get all the abilities of Bear form, the armor increase, all the associated damage, etc. Basically, they would be in bear form, but with the appearance and animations of caster form. Same thing with any other form. For now, I'll call them "Aspects." Nevermind the crappy (in comparison) hunter aspects.

I think this would be popular among a lot of Druids, but not all of them. There would still be some that want to turn into animals. And that's fine. I like changing into animals, too. I hate changing into a tree, but I think Moonkin form is all right. Okay, only for dancing. But 71 levels of the same Bear model is enough for me. (They are changing the way Dire Bear looks, though, aren't they?)

The Aspects would also disappear if you were to cast something outside of the scope of the form. Like casting Wrath in Tree of Life Aspect, or using any spell in a Feral Aspect.

Obviously, this has the potential to be confusing, so some visual cue of the Aspect would be helpful. Like you could have different color tints for each form. Maybe a ground texture under the Druid. This is why I'm not a graphic designer.

This one change would offer more variety and be cheaper for Blizzard to implement than adding new models of various types for each form. And since a lot of caster form specialties can now be used in feral forms (consumables, procs, etc.,) this change wouldn't be especially misleading in terms of the things you can do with it. Autoshapeshifting for abilities is also already in place, dropping an Aspect when you cast a spell out of scope for it is just a logical extension of that concept.

I would welcome the chance to admire my armor in combat and swing with an honest-to-God weapon. One of my favorite debuffs is Brittle Bones, the debuff you get from the Skeletal Waiters in Moroes' room. Why? Well, I think it's a thrill tanking with 0 armor, but other than that, I get to see my character attack! Granted, it's a skeleton, and looks nothing like my Night Elf, but it's still very awesome.

I think this Inscription would be a good idea, and if you like it, I encourage you to pass it around, and try to bring it to the attention of Blizzard. Hopefully, if there's enough appeal, we could get Blizzard to do something about it. This does bring up another question though... I know that there are fan-made models for the Druid forms, is there a fan made patch that already does this?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Missing in Action

I have two Priest healers in Savant. They are both good healers, and very nice people. However, they have been missing for a little bit. Obviously this is disruptive to the guild, as it would be to any guild, but for us in particular.

Savant does not recruit any extra players. Were we doing 25-man content, this would be ridiculous. But we aren't, so I feel this isn't too bad an arrangement. Naturally, this comes with having to pug players every now and again as people take time off from the game or can't make a raid for whatever reason. However, when a player is gone for an extended period of time, eventually they will have to be removed.

In this case, removal is particularly hard, though the difficulty will help me to make a removal philosophy I can adhere to. The first priest disappeared as the result of a sudden move on her part, without going into too much detail. The second was last heard from bedridden, and I don't know what is going on with her.

Eventually, however, the guild will have to move on, and find two other people if the previous folks do not show their faces, or let us know to hold their spots. As such, I will mark them inactive after two weeks, and remove them after another two weeks. I sincerely hope it won't come to that, but I think that is the longest time we can go before picking ourselves back up and recruiting.

Incidentally, I met an unguilded healer earlier this week, and I invited her to Kara. Unfortunately, I forgot her name! Hopefully, it will work out for us tonight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Out to Lunch

I would have a real post here (trying to write every weekday!) but work was busy today and I am busy upgrading my wife's computer and my computer to 3Ghz Core 2 Duos.

Ta ta!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's new in the Beta

Even though I'm not in the beta, nor do I have plans to be, I do want to keep tabs on the new abilities and changes coming out so that I will have a solid plan come release day. For example, I can say with great certainty that I will probably want to make room on my bar for Revive, it looks kinda good.

It's no good to far ahead, for example if you listen to what a developer has to say about changes they might possibly implement one day, you might end up thinking the sky is falling, and that your dearly beloved Druid has been reduced to the lowly rank of Herb Mule. So I will stick to what has been implemented, and what is out on the beta.

On the 8th, released a new patch for the beta. I've already looked at the talents and what's out, so we'll skip that and just look at the new stuff for today. According to WotLK Wiki, this is the extent of the damage for Ferals:

  • Swipe damage has been slightly reduced (120 to 108 for rank 8 ).
  • Maim now interrupts the victim's spellcasting for 3 seconds.
  • Feral Instinct increases swipe damage by 10/20/30% now. (Previously was 5/10/15%.)
  • Feral Swiftness speed increase now works indoors.
  • Savage Fury now increases damage caused by Mangle (Bear) and Maul in addition to the previous abilities.
  • Infected Wounds reduces attack speed by 4% and stacks up to 5 times. (Previously was 3%)

That's not too bad, let's look at the changes in detail.

Swipe seems to have gotten nerfed, so let's look at the other change to be sure. Feral Instinct (now no longer with a threat component) received double the damage increase to Swipe. Old swipe did 120 + 15% for a grand total of 138 damage per swing. Now, it does 108 + 30% for a grand total of 140.4 damage. This is a buff for sure, though the base difference is too low to really notice. I imagine it begins to show with more AP, as the new version of the talent should provide for more scalability (assuming of course that the 30% is calculated after the AP bonus. If not, well phooey.)

Maim now interrupts the target's spellcasting for 3 seconds. Thank. God. We've needed some kind of interrupt for sometime now. You know, one that didn't require you to run out 8 yards first. Though this requires combo points, with careful planning, you will be able to use this effectively whenever needed at the cost of some, if not all, of your rip DPS. That's not insignificant, but such is the cost of utility. Try to opt for Kicks, Pummels, and Counterspells first if you can.

Feral Swiftness now works indoors. I don't think this will change much on the PvE side of things. Maybe Druids will be called in to rez the whole raid now, especially if there are respawns. This will be bad. I hate the punks that just sit there waiting while the healer runs back. But I doubt this will really be the case.

Savage Fury now affecting Bears, too... hmm... this is reminiscent of when the talent was first introduced, I think, though that version affected Swipe, too. Anyway, apparently Bear threat is gonna need the extra oomph in the expansion. This change makes the talent worth looking over again.

I think Infected Wounds is a great talent, assuming the attack speed component works on bosses (I doubt the slowing component will.) If that is the case, this is a decent buff that speaks for itself.

  • Omen of Clarity now only procs off Spells and autoattacks. (Previously was Spells and any attack)

And I almost missed it, but the change to Omen of Clarity is exclusively a Feral nerf. I don't have too much of a problem with it though. I do wonder if Blizzard will ever change it too an untalented passive skill. The only reason I can think of right now that it's not is to force a Druid into restoration if they want this talent at level 20.

All in all, Ferals still aren't walking away gimped or forced into a choice between Cat and Bear. While the talents we are receiving are mostly rehashes of stuff from other classes, that's okay with me. After all, the entire basis of the Druid class is unique, and while there are imitators, nobody changes roles as quickly and as sharply as we do.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On leveling Paladins

Over the weekend, my Paladin, Eia, recently jumped from ~44 or so to 50. I've been making the push to get my Paladin up both because I want to try Paladin tanking and because one would be very useful to Savant as venture forth into Zul'Aman.

Eia has been Retribution for that time, and while the damage was decent, something just wasn't clicking for me. I think Coriel touched upon it in his article "Revamping Paladins by Upgrading Abilities." Basically, until you hit 50, there's just no action leveling Retribution. Sure you'll occasionally run across an undead or demon that you can Exorcise, but that's kinda rare in the mid 40s, when you're questing in Tanaris, Feralas, and the Hinterlands. Most fights are Auto-attack and Judge every 8 seconds.

I got Crusader strike, and it was pretty nice, but rather underwhelming. Maybe it's that I expected some cool animation and got nothing. Maybe it's that the damage is about 2/3 what I judge for. I understand that it is a solid DPS increase, but somehow just disappointed me. So not more than an hour after talenting into Crusader Strike, I respecced to Protection.

Protection is very interesting, not in how it plays, but rather how it plays in comparison to Retribution. There are more cooldowns to manage, though you could pretty easily boil combat down to Judge and Holy Shield every 10 seconds. However, it feels like with a Protection that you can kill four mobs in the time it takes a Retribution Pally to kill two mobs. Or, as a Protection, you could kill a solo mob in the time in takes a Retribution Pally to kill two mobs. I know that's not really the case, but it's how it feels. You almost want the mobs to be closer together so your mana and your Holy Shield charges are more effectively used.

I also had the opportunity to tank an instance as a Protection Pally. It's pretty easy, though coming from Druid tanking, any other form of tanking is pretty easy. Though I can't form a proper comparison, as Myze was never a tank until Burning Crusade. So I will have to wait until Eia is at least 60. At the rate I'm going, that shouldn't be too far off.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Slowly but Surely

Last night I had Andreya lead. It went pretty well, a couple of trash wipes and a Maiden wipe. But pretty well overall. The only thing that I have issue with was that we moved kind of slowly, which was because we had a high number of AFKs. We went with a 2 healer setup, so the bosses were dying very quick, but when one of the healers goes AFK for a bit, we can't just go on to a boss. Not that that stopped us from trying.

I'm pretty sure that was the main issue, though Andreya is a bit long-winded at times and also not especially firm when it comes to charging into battle. I think if we cut down the amount of time we were hanging out in front of each boss, we would've been able to get to Shade, but we stopped at Curator with 10 minutes left on the clock (we do 6:30 to 10:00, with a 30 minute cushion at the end if we are close to a boss.)

My original intent was to let him do the first night and take over the second night. I think he's under the impression that he'll still be leading tonight, and I guess I don't have a problem with that. So I'll probably just let him finish it out and hope we have enough time to attempt something in ZA.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Tonight begins Savant's regular 2-day stretch of running. It's usually just Karazhan, with ZA at the end of Friday if there's spare time. I run the raid, which is usually starting late because of having to pug. This is actually the first week we will not have to pug. This is also the first week I will not be running the show.

I believe that delegation is a very important part of running... well, anything. I came from a guild where the guild leader had delegation issues. There was only one officer for the longest time. And it was all right, and eventually it expanded to three officers. But recently, there has been a falling out of sorts with the officers. They were not agreeing with the guild leader, or with each other, and eventually they were all stripped of officer status. Now it's a 40 person or so guild being run by one person. And when you talk to her, or participate in one of her runs, it shows.

Running a guild all by yourself can wear you thin. Even with a guild as small as Savant, I have an officer, Andreya. He hasn't been broken in yet. That's what tonight will be about. I expect he will do quite well, as he was one of the officers in the aforementioned guild.

I think watching a guild run from a different perspective can be a good learning experience. I'm sure Andreya will have a different take on how our group works together. He will have different strategies and different opinions on the important parts of the run. He may wipe us a few times. He may run it better than I do. All of these are good things.

However, delegation is not something to be done lightly. The guild needs to be in a certain rhythm. There needs to be a nice stability to the group. This is where I think I'm treading a delicate line, as this is actually the first week that we will have an entirely regular crew. But that pretty much guarantees a stable run, so Andreya won't have to worry about picking up a pug unless someone has something come up.

Of essential importance to tonight, is that if I see that Andreya is leading us down what I think is the wrong path, I keep that to myself. I do not speak and reassert control of the raid unless suggestions are requested. In which case, all I can do is suggest, where the final decision is left to Andreya. It is very important that Andreya knows I have trust in his leadership. It is also important that the guild has trust in his leadership, and that they know that there is not conflict with the higher ups.

If you've never lead a raid, it's a good experience. It's not as hard as you might think, after all, you're dealing with intelligent people who can adapt and learn what works best. If you've never done it, ask your guild leader if you can lead one someday. Leading isn't for everyone, but I think it's something everyone should try. As for guild leaders, if someone else wants to lead a raid (or if you can talk someone into it,) let them try for one night. As long as you have a foundation of stability, there's not too much they can screw up. And you might find a new officer to hand the reins to when you need to take a night off.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Feral in the Future

I've been looking over the Druid forums recently. This is something that I have not done for a while and now I remember why. Seems that there are quite a few posts bitching about how Feral Druids suck now/in the future/for all of time. Poppycock. I'm currently the Cornerstone of Awesome.

When I was in Armored, I was THE Main Tank. I was given to tanking everything, a job I was quite happy with. I remember tanking Void Reaver, and going 4 or 5 blasts before finally losing aggro. You know how it's supposed to switch after each blast? Well, not for me.

And DPS. Let me tell you, on the rare occasion where my tanking services were not requested, I was consistently at the top. No.1 or No.2 in Damage. Always. And this was before my DPS set was as refined as it is today. Nowadays, if I'm DPSing, I'm leading in damage.

This is true even when I join other guild runs. You know, guilds that are beyond my normal progression level.

And remember how I said I was healing Heroic Sethekk Halls with no problem until the one pull? Well, my wife was helping on a couple of pulls, but you can't expect Feral to be Awesome at Everything. Instead we have to settle with merely Good. Oh and that silly lack of ranged DPS capability.

Now I'm not saying Ferals don't have their problems. PvP seems to be one. But I ignore this as I'm not much into PvP. Cooperation over competition, I say. But that is not the general consensus and I recognize that. For the PvP enthusiasts, Feral is one of the hardest specs to wrap your head around. And the benefits of such complexity are not rewarded by the complete domination of those who have mastered the intricacies of Feral PvP. At least not that I know of.

So the things I have to say do not apply to Feral.

Now, I don't want to speculate too much about WotLK, since anything could change at any time, but one of the complaints I read a few times involves the new talents leading to more specialization in Tanking or DPS. Since the talents are up on the official WoW website, they should be relatively stable. I decided to give them try. You can see the result here.

This is very similar to my current talent tree, though it's harder to come to pure perfection with these new talents. Let's talk about a few of them.

First up is Savage Fury. Savage Fury is pretty useless. 10% more damage on Mangle(Cat) and some abilities I don't use. This was good when it affected Mangle(Bear) because more damage = more threat. Now it doesn't and so it's not worth taking. To see why, let's look at when we use Mangle(Cat).

Mangle(Cat) is used in raids without a Bear tank and when soloing. When there is no Bear tank, Mangle is only used when it is not up, or about every 12 seconds. It accounts for very little of your DPS. 10% of a little is not much. If you were focused on DPS solely, you might drop Brutal Impact for this, but I like the stun for tanking and when soloing, it allows for a consistent Pounce->Mangle->Shred. And when you're soloing, the mobs don't have enough health for that extra 10% to really matter. It's not like that 10% is saving you a few Mangles down the road. It will save you one at best. And not that often. And if you are dropping Tank ability to focus on DPS, you're missing the whole point of being a Feral Druid.

Now I realize that some Druids like to use Rake in their raid DPS rotation. Those are Druids that have lesser DPS than I do. Just because Mangle boosts your bleeds doesn't mean you should use all of them. A Shred crit (and it crits often) is the opportunity cost of using Rake. You get more damage out of Shred than you do out of Rake. And that's all there is to it.

This build loses Primal Tenacity. Well, we lost it anyway. One of the greatest benefits of being a Feral Druid is the combination of Primal Tenacity and Predatory Instincts for and rather large chance to resist AoE fears. This is why we are extremely good against Priests. I've dueled many a Priest and the comment is always "You resisted my Psychic Scream like five times!" And that's just a bonus side effect. This also works well on Nightbane, on the final boss of Black Morass, and others I can't think of right now.

Regardless, the talent has changed and is no longer worth taking for PvE purposes.

Predatory Instincts has not changed, but it now suffers from simply not being as good or useful as other talents. Like Rake, it simply has too high of an opportunity cost.

Master Shapeshifter would be nice to have. The only problem is that it's attached to Natural Shapeshifter. Natural Shapeshift is wasted in PvE. PvP, it's a necessity, but PvE, there is no encounter that requires you to shift much. Even when you shift out to throw a heal and a rez, you still have enough mana to shift back. And your mana regenerates while in Feral form. You basically never run out of mana. What this basically means is that you are spending 5 talent points just to get 4% more Bear damage and 4% more Cat crits. And to me, that's not worth it. If you find yourself using Natural Shapeshifter now, this will be good for you. As for me, I can't justify taking it over Intensity, both for the 10 instant rage and the extra mana regen (this is what lets me heal in Feral spec.) Incidentally, Intensity is also probably why I don't need Natural Shapeshifter. Since I regen mana faster than those with Natural Shapeshifter, I can afford to spend the extra mana on shifting.

Something new I did take is Nature's Grasp, and the reason is simple. It's usable indoors. With this, you can CC a mob in bear form. You don't have much of a choice in the matter, but if you are tanking four, you can pop this (it will likely proc on one of the mobs almost instantly,) back up a little and tank three instead, which is much easier. One of the mobs should be down before the Grasp wears off, so you should be able to stick to tanking three mobs or less the whole time.

The only concern I have for Ferals is itemization. Of course, very little high end gear has been revealed, but from what I've seen so far, I'm worried. I'm not worried about not hitting the armor cap. With the removal of crushing blows, as long as we have a significantly higher amount of armor compared to shield tanks, we should be able to keep up just fine. But I don't see any high armor leather. But as there is so little information in this matter, I will withhold further comment on it.

From what I can tell, Feral won't be changing too much. Not for me anyway. I will still be able to DPS and Tank with the rest of them, so I'm not worried. Some of the arguments that the talents we are getting should have been there all along are valid, but this is true for many classes. I look forward to Wrath, not because Druids will finally be super awesome, but because we are already super awesome and the only thing changing about it is that we now get to be super awesome in different ways.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Be Imba Reporting Speed Increase

I just looked over at Be Imba and I discovered that they no longer have a wait queue for single character queries. Their guild report also seems to have a smaller queue. I now wholly recommend Be Imba over WoW Heroes.

Little Annoyances

I came home from work yesterday to find some of my Magic cards scattered on the floor, thanks to my 11-month old daughter. Some are bent, and one is completely chewed off. As I bend over to pick up the card, my cell phone case catches against the table and snaps. Hmm...

My wife had been complaining about one of the quests in the Druid Flight Form quest. The Aquatic Form quest, to be precise. She had been using QuestHelper, which does not indicate that you have to actually get the moonstone, just that you have to complete it somewhere along the river.

Anyway, while she was off in bed napping, I took the liberty of doing the quest for her. This was actually the only good thing that happened. She was quite thankful, and we got the heroic Sethekk run going a little later.

Our only healer that was on was busy with a Botanica run, and we had our Warrior tank, so I stepped up to heal. I didn't respec, but it still went pretty smoothly until just before Anzu's room. And we wiped. And we kept wiping. Mind you this was on a pull that occurs 2 other times in the instance (2 Ravenguards,) so we had no idea why we couldn't make it past. I was pretty tired from having 1 hour of sleep the night before, and by this point our healer was done with Botanica, so we swapped him for me, and I went to bed.

They finished the instance, and now my wife has Swift Flight Form!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Automated Character Ratings

Character rating sites such as Be Imba and WoW Heroes provide a benchmark for your character, or any character you desire. You tell it who to look at, and it will give you a rating of how good that character's gear is. Does this have any value besides bragging about the size of your score? Well, sure, but they are not equal.

For the more casual player, these sites will give you information that can help you improve your character. So let's see what kind of information shows up.

This is the screen showing Be Imba's analysis of Myze's tanking gear. As you can see, it is in "Top Shape." All the items are level 70, There are no inappropriate gems or enchants. I'm even just ever so slighty uncrittable, showing I've made the most of the rest of my gear. In a typical Karazhan run I have about 20K health and 35K armor, just below the armor cap. So I would say I'm doing pretty well for myself, and Be Imba seems to agree. It places my gear upgrades as coming out of SSC and TK, and my performance level to be that of a Druid who's seen about half of Hyjal and Black Temple. The one thing that bothers me about this is that it suspects that my talent build is suited for PvP best (though I have no Nature's Grasp or Swiftshifting or other related talents) and then grinding second (if that were my goal, I'd definitely have Savage Fury instead of Shredding Attacks.) No, I am 100% Raid PvE and thus I think there is something amiss with this algorithm. This could cause someone to change a perfectly good build in favor of a subpar one. But this is a minor quibble. A more major one is the wait times incurred when processing the reports. This site takes forever. But it's pretty accruate.

This is WoW Heroes report. The interface is cleaner, there seems to be more information out in the open, and it's much more colorful overall. Of course, most of it is information you'll get from the Armory. You can see a rather cryptic gear score at the top which is shown the be a composite of gear + enchants. It also seems to think I'm not BT material. Folks, I've been in Black Temple, I'm more than capable of keeping up with the rest of the guys. This is misleading, and if a guild leader tries to use this as an excuse to exclude you from a run, go find a new guild.

The "value" for each item is merely the iLvl, I don't see what that has to do with the quality of the item. There are certainly higher ilvl items than Band of the Swift Paw, but none are better for tanking. I also don't appreciate the fact that my enchantment choices are "subpar" though "upgrading" them would result in crittability and ultimately serve as a liability. However, the fact that it does try to point the user in a better direction by suggesting enchants is welcome, even if it's wrong in my (admittedly corner) case.

The usefulness of these tools is limited, but it does help keep a guild leader abreast of members that are lagging behind in gear. For example, I've looked over the scores of my guild in both utilities, and my healers are most consistently at the bottom of the list. I will likely offer guildance on gearing to them, but I don't believe in forcing my members to use outside resources, so I will have to live with how they gear. Fortunately, they all seem to care about their performance, and have already spotted their own room for improvement. So I will wait.

All in all, these tools provide a quick summary of a characters projected effectiveness. Be Imba is more accurate than WoW Heroes, which is easier to read and much faster to generate a report. In either case, take the information given with a little grain of salt. Use your own judgement and tools more specific to the job. I recommend Rawr for feral Druids, though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the other modules. Try it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Second chances

Last night was the first night of our weekly Kara excursion. We still had to fill out some spots, but that's okay. We picked up better people than we did last week. One of whom was a Paladin who I knew by name, and remembered as being a bad player. I don't remember exactly what her crime was, just that it was bad enough I didn't want her to go to Kara with us. So, for two weeks we avoided this healer.

What a mistake. Now, this healer wasn't the best, but she certainly would've saved us time in the past. I still can't remember why it was that I originally didn't like her, but I've decided that it was probably some ignorance involved with being new to the game.

Something similar happened the week before I started making Savant "serious business." See, Sisters of Elune has a nice group called the Small Guild Karazhan Association (SGKA.) Now, this group takes people from different guilds and run Karazhan, and tries to make it a weekly thing. I ran with them once. When I did, the fellow who was trying to invite me was on my ignore list. Now, let me tell you a bit about my ignore list. It has entries generated by SpamSentry, and that's it. And this guy. So I knew, if he's on there, he did something bad. Something that I just couldn't ignore. Again, I couldn't remember what. However, I removed him from ignore, and he turned about to be a pretty nice guy.

There is an addon called Ninja. Ninja is essentially a blacklist (you can list characters or guilds) that will automatically let you know when someone on the is in your group. It can also be annotated. I was once a user of this addon, but as time goes on, I can't help but think this mod will do nothing but cause you to miss out on groups that might benefit you. At least on Sisters, it's always the same 30 or 40 people pugging runs. The more people you permanently blacklist, the fewer options you have to work with.

Using the ignore list as a blacklist is probably very common. If you have folks on your ignore list and you have no idea why, go ahead and take them off. People change. You can't be an ass and get groups forever (though it seems some people like to test it.) If they were just being punks in trade, they've likely calmed down from being ignored by everyone else. And if they cross you again, they can go right back on the list. But for now, take them off, and you might find people to play with who will surprise you. I know I've been surprised twice recently. And it was a good thing.