2 February 2011 § 5 Comments
I have lots of stuff I want to talk about – plenty of things that have struck me as worth a comment or a discussion while I was levelling in Cataclysm. I think the most pressing matter, however, is a discussion of the state of Discipline. I switched to Discipline originally at the start of Wrath, as we were starting out in Naxx, because the other healer in the raid was himself a Holy Priest and we thought having some variety would have been a good idea. It was love at first sight: I loved the mechanics of it, I loved the versatility, and I also liked the flexibility in terms of soloing and PvPing (remember, this is all pre-dual spec, albeit by only a few months). I remained Disc throughout Wrath, through our OP moment in Ulduar (before the Penance nerf) and through our slightly darker situation in ICC. However, I am now seriously thinking about going Holy, because most of the raids turn into bouts of frustration and despair. Note that this is not about ego – in our raid I have not been top healer for many fights, and in fact I think I have most often been in second place (regardless of whether we were two- or three-healing an encounter). Now, however, I find myself with about half the effective healing of our top healer on almost every fight, so I am starting to feel like deadweight for the rest of the raid. Why is this happening? And what can I or we do about it?
Atonement, once again – and basic healing strategy
There was a lot of debate in the last days of the Cata beta, as well as during the 4.0.1 time, about the role of Atonement. The question was whether Atonement was supposed to be a mana replenishment tactic, a healing boost tactic, a viable healing strategy, a dps entertainment during those boring heroics, or just a very good coffee machine. OK, I made the last one up (although, hmmmm, coffee machine), but you get the idea: lots of possibilities, not a lot of data to understand, and the little data we had changed on a weekly basis with the various patches. So, I think it may be time to put a few ideas to rest.
Atonement is NOT a way to regain mana. Casting 5 smites will cost around 12,234 mana (depending on how the game rounds fractional costs), and return you 5% of your total mana. Unless your total mana is in the region of 244,672, you are actually getting LESS mana back than what you are spending (if your mana is around the 240k mark…. I don’t know what to say). This is not to say that we will not get there: Wrath mana pools more than doubled from start of raiding to end of the expansion, so it’s possible that the same will happen this time around. But, for now, I think we’re stuck with the fact that we will gain about 50% of the mana we spend on building Evangelism stacks. There goes the mana idea.
Atonement still has a fairly low healing throughput. It has received some hot fixes to make it better: it is now affected by most healing modifiers (Archangel, notably, but also talents like Divinity), but 7k-9k normal hits, and 10-15k crits are still not very much for a 1.3 sec heal (especially given our very low crit rate this early in the expansion). Of course, it is still relatively cheap (Archangel may not return mana, but it sure makes Atonement healing very cheap, effectively halving the cost), and the fact it is a smart heal makes it very useful on situations of low diffused damage. Also, keep in mind that Atonement depends on your Smite damage: so any special situation linked to the encounter that modifies this damage could make the corresponding heal a waste (on Siamat, if you’re smiting the boss before the adds are down) or pretty juicy (in Deadmines’ ragezones).
We already ruled out the possibility that Atonement was meant to be our coffee machine, and, I don’t know about you, but Heroics are still not exactly snoozefests that encourage me to Smite to have fun (and even if they were, I doubt we could ever get any noticeable dps from Smite, really). So, that leaves the healing boost from Archangel as our main reason to build up Evangelism: that 15% is actually a very nice increase, especially when you add to that the 24% of Grace (here’s a question that needs some verification: are they multiplicative? Or additive? I think Blizz made all bonuses like this additive a while back, but it would be nice to find out). This means that our healing should be to throw mending, then alternate Shields and Smite (to benefit from Borrowed Time), get to 5 stacks and then decide whether we want to keep that stack rolling, or get Archangel and boost our healing. When Archangel is up, switch to high throughput heals (Penance, GHeal, but also PoH or Divine Hymn), and remember to refresh PoM and even a Renew or two before Archangel expires. If you find yourself with Archangel up and not very much damage to heal, you can start building the next stack of Evangelism up – rinse and repeat. Notice that nowhere have I mentioned the use of Heal or FHeal. Heal should really not be on your bars: it is for people that don’t have Atonement, as it heals for about as much and doesn’t give you Evangelism (which really begs the question of our 2pc bonus for T11: why, Blizzard, why?). FHeal… I probably went from using too many FHeals (see below) to using too few of them. In theory, if someone is going to die in the next 1.3 secs, and Shield and Pain Supression are not an option (Weakened Soul and cooldown, respectively), then you should use FHeal, while crying about your mana disappearing down the drain. FHeal should, however, be a very small part of your overall healing, all things considered.
Mana, throughput and set-up time
As I was leveling and as soon as I got to 85, the biggest problem I had was mana management. Partly because I was still piecing things together, and probably used a fairly outmoded healing model, I found myself oom more often than not. This problem however went away as I got more comfortable with the healing routine I described above, but also because of another fact. Our mana replenishment comes from Rapture, Shadowfiend, and Hymn of Hope. ALL of those are based on your total mana – so as you gear up, and your maximum mana goes up, your mana replenishment will correspondingly go up, and it really felt it went up exponentially. I did gain about 20k mana in the gearing up process, so maybe it was just physiological – I think in fact all healers now gain mana depending on the size of their pool, so this may well be a common issue.
So the mana issue was just a matter of gearing, and it may well be common to all healers – it is worth noting that I am seeing it a lot less on my paladin, but the difference may also be that I know the fights better now, and so do (most of) the other people using LFG (or my guildies). However, attaining a decent mana situation only served to expose other, and possibly bigger issues.
The biggest gripe I have is a numbers issue. I am spamming my heart out, casting constantly, and my numbers are just way too low. I mentioned my “rotation” (as much as healers can have a rotation) just above, and as far as I can tell, this is the most sustainable rotation for healing Disc priests have at the moment. The problem is, I’m still healing about half of what our paladin or druid healers can do. And I know healing is not about numbers, that latency and reflexes may mean we’re sniping heals off each other, that Disc has never been a contender for the top spot on the metres. But half the healing? That sounds way too high as a gap.
I am not completely comfortable with the choice between mana efficiency and sustainability on one hand (which is basically using the spells we mentioned above) and throughput. Our “high throughput” rotation to me is spamming shield, penance and GHeal on one target – which is basically sure to get us oom very fast, and sadly, and this is my gripe, not really getting a lot of healing out – or at least not substantially higher than what we would get from our mana efficient use of Atonement. I admit that this may just be a matter of still adjusting to the new system (you know, I’m starting to get old, it’s difficult to change…), but it feels that the difference should be higher – and it would be, if we could use the Archangel buff for high throughput, but of course Archangel is not available on use when we want.
This brings me to the third and final concern – the set-up time for Archangel. Most healers have cooldowns that allow them to just heal burst damage: druids have tree form, paladins have Avenging Wrath, shamans… not sure about them, as we don’t use them much and I haven’t delved into them. Our comparable cooldown, Archangel, requires about 7 secs to prepare. Now, to balance that, the actual cooldown of the ability is MUCH shorter (18 secs with 30 secs cooldown, compared to 20 secs with 2 mins cooldown talented for Avenging Wrath, and 30 secs with 5 mins cooldown for Tree of Life), but the set-up really limits the usefulness of Archangel as an “oh shit” button – in fact, the Smite rotation is the first thing that goes out of the window when the shit hits the fan, in my playstyle. I don’t want to stress comparisons with other classes, because it’s unfair and most especially dangerous because we really don’t want all classes to have the same abilities. The message here is that Archangel seems to be stuck in the middle between a true “oh shit” button and a regular feature of Disc healing every 20 secs.
So, in Heroics, I often have the tank plunge dangerously low in the first 10 secs, as I build up to Archangel, and then I use the next 15 secs trying to scramble them back to a semblance of health. In raids, I feel like the 5th wheel of the healing team: I’m either stuck to background healing, or I’m running out of mana. I may be doing something wrong, and I know I can certainly improve on my healing skills. I am currently using Archangel as often as I can, but given mana is becoming less of a concern in normal situations, I could probably start keeping a 5-stack rolling, and use it as an emergency cooldown much more than as a routine part of the healing strategy. Also, I don’t want to overly stress the extent of the problem: writing this post over several days has also helped me to separate temporary frustration with a bad night from a more permanent, underlying problems.
The next patch is also buffing our numbers quite considerably: Grace will apply to multiple targets, Shields will cost 30% more but heal 200% more, and Penance will cost 7% more and heal 20% more. I am not sure. The Grace change in particular will be nice: at the most basic level, it means that Grace can stay on the tank, even if we throw a Penance or a GHeal on a secondary healing target (another tank, or a careless dps). It also becomes possible to get fancy and actively keep Grace up on multiple targets, though that sounds fairly difficult. The Shield change will be nice: although the cooldown change has made shield spamming impossible, having a shield whose basic absorption is 3x the current one will be invaluable, especially in the Archangel-building times which are our weakest spot. The real question is whether the change will affect just the basic value of the spell, or the spellpower scaling too (I would guess a mix of the two). I really really hope these changes will be enough: I still adore the spec, and we have a lot going for us (Power Word: Barrier is nothing short of amazing) – which makes the current state of affairs even more frustrating.
23 November 2010 § 3 Comments
The Shattering is happening as we speak, so it is time to say goodbye to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. It may also be time to look back and reflect on different aspects of this expansion – both good and bad.
The levelling experience
I think Blizzard did a good job about the levelling experience. Most of the zones looked gorgeous, with some good stories and some decent foreshadowing of instances/events to come. I liked meeting King Ymiron in Howling Fjord, before facing him in Utgarde Pinnacle, and I wish this kind of foreshadowing was used more often. I really loved the Taunka storyline on Horde, as well as the Matthew Lehner story in Icecrown. If anything, I wish there was a tigher interaction between the storylines used in questing and the dungeons/raid instances of the expansion: why didn’t we do more with the whole story about the Lich King getting rid of his heart?
In a similar vein, let’s not have an Obsidian Sanctum debacle again: that instance had no story link with ANYTHING else in the game, it was just sort of there. I had to have a friend dig out the story behind the instance online, because there is literally nothing in the game to let us know what is it supposed to represent. In a similar vein, I was a bit disappointed with the whole Nexus War story: it features through a good part of Borean Tundra and Dragonblight, but then fizzles out completely in the later zones, and the fact that Malygos was a first-tier boss meant that we “solved it” way too early. Ulduar, awesome as it was, could have used some tighter link to the Scourge: I understand Yogg Saron has been helping with Arthas corruption, but in many ways that actually cheapens the Lich King story, which is more dramatic precisely because it is a story of a Prince choosing to do all those horrible things as a way to save his land. This is a minor gripe though, as Ulduar did have a good storyline throughout Storm Peaks, and I probably could just handle it being just a synchronicity issue, with a new menace emerging while we prepare to deal with Arthas.
We all know that Blizzard lamented that Illidan was a bit of an invisible enemy in Burning Crusade, as non-raiders hardly ever met him. With Arthas, I think they swung the pendulum the other way a bit too much, turning him too much into a 007 villain, never missing an opportunity to explain his plans in details only to let the heroes go so that they could eventually come back and get him. I hope with Deathwing they find a happier middle ground, maybe having major lore figures intercede and save adventurers, porting them to safety and similar, instead of having the boss just walk off the scene of the confrontation.
The gearing-up experience
The combination of badge gear, LFG tool, and higher-level 5-man dungeons meant that gearing was much easier and pleasurable than in either BC or Vanilla. I remember running alts through Karazhan right until the very end of the expansion, while thankfully we were spared running Naxx in the same way. The simplification of the badge system was probably needed, and sounds appropriate. I am a bit scared about what will happen with the LFG tool if instances and heroics are going to require more coordination: in many ways, I think LFG works well because you need no interaction with your group members. Let’s just say that I’ll try my damnedest to level and learn the dungeons with friends, rather than with the anonymous people who are likely to start a blame war (and a group quit) at the first wipe.
I really really like the idea of having some 5-man dungeons being designed for more geared playes, and I hope that they keep that design. One thing though: please do not have once again loot tables as long as the ICC 5-man ones, or at least try to make drop itemisation a bit more even. There were some slots that just required one boss, and one boss only, unless you had access to raid loot (not the case for many alts): caster shield, tank shield and caster offhand are all cases in point here. And please, keep in mind we have TWO trinket slots, so we need to have two decent trinkets per spec.
All in all, Wrath actually managed to reduce the gear gap considerably: right now, I think most 80 characters are in 245/251 gear, while most raiders would be in 264/277, a gap of only 1-2 tiers, which is completely acceptable.
The raiding experience
In raiding, the record is a bit mixed. There is no question to me that the high point of the raiding in this expansion was Ulduar. Bosses were fun, they progressed nicely from the easier Siege ones, to the Keepers, to Vezax and Yogg, and finally Algalon. There were also a nice number of side bosses which you could skip while progressing, and just do on off-nights or as filler. The fight were well thought out, with some nice mechanics, and they were very very different from each other and from what we had seen before. The art was absolutely fantastic, and thus the atmosphere was great.
I want to mention especially the in-game triggers of hard modes, which were, in my mind, the best possible way to have heroics. In-game triggers sometimes were actually a check, because if you could not manage to trigger the hard mode, you were just not geared enough to handle it (XT, Thorim); sometimes they were fun (“What happens if I push this red but… oh…”); and sometimes were just more traditional ways (Yogg, Freya). Blizzard has stated that they did not like the fact that it basically required players to look on outside sites how to actually trigger them, but that’s easily solved: for example, NPCs at the start of the instance could have dialogue options about how to trigger the different hard modes. It certainly made a lot more game sense than toggling an interface button (which is convenient, but a bit of a last resort measure in my mind).
I think there is also no doubt that the low point was Trial of the Crusader. The biggest problem there was the multiplication of instances, so that 10 and 25-man raiders ended up facing Icehowl 4 times a week, which is a surefire recipe for burnout. The fights were not too bad (I personally enjoyed the val’kyrs, Anub’Arak and Faction Champs), and the absence of trash was definitely a plus. The single room though was a definite bummer, as well as the really punishing hard mode of no-wipes (oh the frustration when one of our raiders would die to Faction Champs…). The whole tier of raiding was a bit lackluster, imo: I kinda understand Tirion’s idea of selecting the best fighters to get into ICC, as you want to avoid giving a Lich any more fodder to resurrect, but surely in that case you would want to mix Alliance and Horde (which Tirion doesn’t even try to do), and the selection could be a bit more serious than jousting. It really feels like the developers got enamored with the vehicle mechanic a bit too much, and maybe had a longing for Arthurian stories – but they just felt completely out of place here.
Naxx was not bad, but way too easy and just rehashed to be really enjoyable. Malygos was actually an interesting fight, but proved that players really take a long time to figure out a new mechanic. Controlling the drakes was not hard, but try teaching that to all the people in your 25-man… Sarth was ok, and I liked the 3D version (especially when you could not zerg it, and had to control it), except for its total lack of anchoring to the rest of the world.
Icecrown Citadel was enjoyable, probably just second to Ulduar in terms of awesomeness. I had some issues with stories (if Saurfang and Tirion and Muradin interact at the beginning, why do we suddenly need to race each other to get to the Lich King? Feels a bit contrived to me), and a strong desire for a more gradual progression of the hard modes: the jump between Sindragosa/Putricide to Lich King is a bit too much, it would be nice to have a more gradual progression. I am definitely in favour of a REALLY HARD final boss to the expansion, though, so no complaints there.
All in all, though, this has probably been the most enjoyable of the expansions so far, so I hope Blizzard can keep it up. Who knows, two years from now I may be writing the wrap up to the Cataclysm expansion…
20 October 2010 § 2 Comments
Just a quick post to mention that my training dummy testing suggests that Archangel doesn’t buff Shield absorbs. Now, I can live with all the nerfs and the changes in mechanics of Disc, but this just strikes me as bad design. If you include a new mechanic in the Disc tree (Archangel), it seems to me you should make sure it works in good synergy with the existing main mechanic of the tree (Shields). I understand that the developers want us to move away from Shield spamming, but I’m just not sure that this is the way to do it.
19 October 2010 § 5 Comments
A week has gone by, and while a fair few bugs still remain in the game, most of them have been solved by now. We lost one raid day due to our tanks having trouble downloading the patch, and the second one was cut short by rolling restarts (instance server first, then Feathermoon always means we are better off stopping the raid before the restarts, because the servers never come back in time). In all this, we managed to get most of ICC10 down, so it is time to share my impressions. Unfortunately, impressions are all that they are, because World of Logs, our site of choice for combat log analysis, is still a bit buggy (doesn’t show Power Word: Barrier at all; shows Atonement as two separate spells, one for hit and one for crits; doesn’t show pally shields; etc.).
So, in general, it is doable. Disc priests seem to have lost some throughput and flexibility, but mostly it is a matter of getting used to the new spells/new dynamics and I think we will get back into a good place. This, of course, should come as no surprise, given that our healing model really hasn’t changed that much (compared to a lot of the other healers, at least). We did wipe a couple of times because we just could not handle a spike in damage: mostly, I find that we can go along like normal, but our “oh shit” routines just don’t work anymore, so any small hiccups is likely to snowball into a wipe (Tamarind makes a similar observation over at Righteous Orbs, of course with a lot more wit)
In the end, I went with a slightly different spec from the one I suggested here a while back, mostly because of comments back in the EJ Disc priest forum thread, pointing out that we will not use Heal at all until higher levels, and so Strength of Souls is a bit of a waste. On the other hand, Darkness gives a nice haste boost, which we now (horror!) need. The single point in Mental Agility is simply needed to get Power Word: Barrier – feel free to put it anywhere else in the tree instead (I should probably put it in Inner Sanctum, as less spell damage is a good thing). Although I ended up not Penancing very much, I will keep the points in Train of Thought, because a) I need to put them somewhere; b) I need to Penance more to stop any stupid minor spike to disrupt our existing teetering balance.
I did not regem, mostly because I wanted to have a better feel for how things were. I did not reforge either, partly because of the same reason, and partly because BobTurkey had warned that Mastery was not a particularly desirable stat. He has since expanded on that, explaining that it may be ok now in ICC with our other ratings being so inflated, so I may reforge some of my spirit into mastery now, to check it out (I need haste for my Smites, and crit for my delicious Aegis, so spirit seems the obvious reforging candidate). I have since reforged all the spirit I could into mastery, and will post next week about how that feels.
The only other thing I changed was to take Inner Focus out of my Divine Hymn macro, and instead put it in a Gheal one. This gives me the chance to note that in my earlier talent discussion I had completely missed the reduced cooldown (45s now). I am still not sure it makes it a useful talent at 85, but it’s certainly better than I thought.
I ended up with 38% crit and about 690 haste, which means I’m not soft capped, but not far either (my FHeal shows 1.08 cast time with Borrowed Time).
Archangels, Barriers, and the lot
Moving on to some more specific comments, Atonement will probably be the one mechanic that will require some adjustment, although at least it got fixed during one of the restarts we’ve had, and is now healing correctly for 100% damage. Throughout all of Lower Spire, I was basically trying to have it up 100% of the time, so I was getting 5 Evangelism → Archangel, then shielding and mending and penancing. Of course, that’s because mana is still not a concern, so the only interesting part of Archangel is really the healing buff (and the cd reduction of Penance, through Train of Thought). I was probably smiting more than I should have, or rather, I wasn’t switching between job A and job B fast enough: I was smiting to full, Archangel, healing, smiting to full, etc. This means I was not using the cd reduction on Penance as much as I should have, which is a pity. This pattern also created two issues.
The first one is that I would get my 5 stacks of Evangelism up, while Archangel was still on cooldown. Arch has a 30 secs cooldown, and Evangelism lasts for 15, so it is not hard to see how that would happen. The problem of course is that I would then have to Smite again to refresh Evangelism – not a problem right now due to the mana abundant raiding environment, but if mana really becomes a serious issue afterwards, that’s a total waste of mana in our Archangel returns (well, not total waste, because you still get a heal, but yeah, not ideal either). A related issue is that I need to set up an alert in my UI to let me know how many stacks of Evangelism I have, and how long till they expire – I guess I will finally cave in and install Power Auras…
The second and bigger issue is that although Atonement is nice, the throughput is just not there, so we cannot use it during times of heavy damage. Case in point: Festergut, the early phase where the whole raid takes a ton of damage. We just did not seem to be able to keep up with the incoming damage – although the fact I got gassed didn’t exactly help either, but that never used to be much of an issue before. We ended up 3-healing, mostly because we didn’t feel like wiping multiple times, but I think it is possible to 2-heal this still, though it will require some much more careful throughput management. On a more general point, though, the issue is that Atonement will need to be carefully weaved during lull phases, possibly in preparation of bigger damage spikes happening (and Festergut is again a good example, because after the first inhale you can build up your atonement stacks, then keep them up during the second inhale with just a smite or two, and use Archangel to help deal with blight damage and the new spike).
The final consideration is that we will just need some basic experience with it to make Atonement work properly. My personal “d’oh!” moment was on Gunship, when I was smiting Riflemen happily and wondering why I wasn’t seeing Atonement heals (the answer of course is that NO-ONE was anywhere near the riflemen, so Atonement just didn’t find anyone to heal).
You know, as I’m writing this, I just realised one thing: does Archangel buff shields too, or just heals? I remember how shields needed to be included in the ICC buff with a hotfix, and I sincerely hope this is not the case with Archangel. I guess this is important enough to test, so I may grab a friendly fire mage and duel in Dalaran to test this.
Moving on to Power Word: Barrier, I have to admit it was a big disappointment. I cannot produce numbers, because, as I said, World of Logs is not recording any of it sadly. However, I was hard pressed to find a good use for it, partly because of the mechanics of ICC which heavily discourage clumping up, and partly because whenever I did put it down, the Barrier seemed to disappear very very quickly. I suspect it will just need a serious bump up in numbers, before it can become useful. Again, I’m happy to give it the benefit of the doubt, considering the needed adjustment, but so far, I have to say I am not impressed.
What did impress me, though, was Holy Nova. With 10 people in range I am getting hits for around 1k healing, more for people with abilities or talents increasing healing (e.g. our pally tank). With the fact that it’s instant, spammable with a very short GCD thanks to the glyph, I can see some fairly huge potential for it inside Frostmourne, during Heroic LK. The proof is in the pudding, of course, but I am actually excited about having a means to deal with that phase (together with mending, which becomes incredible in there).
I wanted to add one additional note about other healing classes. My healing partner throughout most of the instance was a holy paladin – and yes, it was much harder to keep up with healing with just the two of us healing, whereas we normally have no trouble. Again, I don’t want to say immediately that Holy paladins need a buff – it may simply be adjustment pains as we find our feet again. An interesting note is that we’re normally fairly close in healing outputs, and this was reproduced this time too – which would suggest my healing output has gone down too.
What was instead fairly amazing was how much more output a druid could generate. Our boomkin switched to resto to help us with Plague and Blood Wings. She admits she wasn’t really trying to maximise new rotations or anything, just plain Rejuv spamming, and she pulled ahead by 30% or more. Tildie is a very good healer in general, so it is not uncommon for her to be top healer in fights where the three of us are working together – but not by that much.
All this means may simply be that a basic druid rotation (OMGREJUVOMG!) is more effective than a basic priest one (OMGSHIELDOMG!) or paladin one (OMGFOLOMG!) – or that druids at 80 and in current gear levels and current raid content are more effective.
We will finish the instance tomorrow, and the real test will be to survive P1 of the LK: the increased dps should make the rest of the fight easier, but the spikes in P1 due to Shambling Horrors’ Frenzy kinda scare me a bit.
26 September 2010 § Leave a Comment
The Disc tree is clearly being fine tuned by the developers as we speak, which means that each build brings one or two changes – which often are annulled or compounded by the build after. I am going to suspend debating the talent trees for a (short) while, and I am sure the tree will stabilise soon and we can restart. So far, the changes are interesting and fun, but don’t change the gist of what I posted before: I will still go with an Archangel/Atonement build. As for the details of that… well, stay tuned!
22 September 2010 § Leave a Comment
GC explained the rating decay thing a lot better yesterday, and you can find it all in a nice compilation on the new wowinsider.com here. It turns out, as it is often the case, that I was making a lot more noise than this change warranted – in fact, I kinda like where this is going, now that I understand it a bit more.
The “rating decay” will in fact be bosses being “higher level” in successive tiers of raiding. Inverted commas are needed in both cases, as you can plainly see. Ratings in fact will not decay at all: however, bosses being higher level will mean that you need bigger quantities of rating to give you 1% hit/crit/dodge/parry. Bosses will not actually be higher level (because they do not want to have crushing blows sneak back in, nor to worry about future expansions’ bosses having to start from even higher level than now), but will just behave that way for the sake of rating calculation (I have a feeling that this part however is not set in stone yet – they may still be deciding exactly how to make this work).
So, not that he needs my excuses, or that he’ll ever know I fretted in the first place, but yeah, I owe an apology to GC and Blizz devs. Once again, I am shown how panicking over supposed changes that are not in game yet is often pointless until we know more. In my defence, I think that sometimes community panic is good, at least to signal to GC and the blue posters what needs to be explained better – which is what he did – or what worries the community in general (see the RealID debate/debacle). So, I will keep trying not to panic, will probably fail a few times, and will apologise when I panic for the wrong reasons (and of course I will still chastise any other blog I see panicking, because what’s blogging without some hypocrisy?).
Now that that’s out of the way, this is introducing some interesting asymmetries. Asymmetry #1 is healers vs dps and tanks: healers will not suffer from this change at all, given our targets are not changing levels. Technically, Disc will suffer more than most because of Evangelism/Atonement, but the smite glyph for 18% hit should mostly take care of that – so we will only have a slightly lessened chance to crit. So, our crit chances on heals will keep increasing, while the dps and tanks will evolve through step functions, increasing during a raiding tier, then suddenly dropping at tier change and starting to increase again. I will still see a lot of Divine Aegis by the end of the expansion, and maybe become a more interesting Focus Magic target than other mages….
Asymmetry #2 is haste vs the other ratings: haste will not suffer from this change, because it is the only rating that doesn’t enter into the combat table, and so is not affected by enemy level. Haste was the stat that many classes were capping during ICC (disc priests, boomkins, resto druids…), so I guess the devs will have to watch that a bit more. I know they took away some of the haste talents, which should also help on that side.
All in all, I think the change as it is explained now makes a lot more sense. Now, if you will all excuse me, I have to see if I can find some more of that delicious humble pie…
20 September 2010 § 8 Comments
(Harr, harr, harr! See what I did with the title? Because blues are… and out of the blue is… never mind….)
Love it how Ghostcrawler sometimes slips a bomb just as an aside comment. Case in point: while discussing the eternal problem of hit rating and getting capped meaning you want to ignore everything with hit on it, he threw out this little tidbit:
3) Requiring higher combat ratings for additional content tiers. What hit caps you for 4.0 won’t be sufficient in 4.1, so the extra budge on the 4.1 gear will be helpful. (Source)
So if I understand correctly, every single new tier of content will automatically decay your ratings. To bring it to Wrath terms, there you are, decked in Naxx gear and finally getting your haste, crit (and hit, if you’re a dps) to decent levels, and suddenly Ulduar comes out, and going back to Naxx you find out that all your ratings now convert to a lot less percents – with the consequent loss in dps/hps. Thankfully, defence is not a rating anymore, so at least we won’t have tanks suddenly getting crit – the avoidance stats are still ratings though (dodge and parry), so tanks will be suffering more damage through that.
For all intents and purposes, every raiding tier will effectively partially reset gear. We are getting used to these gear resets as they happen at the beginning of any expansion, but frankly, there they have relatively little effect. There is new levelling to do, and very few people go back and seriously raid the old content. That is very much not true for raiding tiers within an expansion cycle. Unless you are in a top raiding guild, you are bound to have some overlap between tiers, or finish mopping up a tier while the other has come out. When ToC came out we were still going to Ulduar to kill Algalon; when ICC came out we still went to ToC (though mostly we did that because Lower Spire was way too easy, and nothing else was available). Now, if you run out of time, the top bosses will be even harder to kill as your gear will “degrade” simply because you reached the time limit.
Hopefully, this change will be implemented as a “Sunwell Radiance” thing: in other words, the new tier of raiding has a debuff in effect when you zone into the instance decaying your ratings. This will leave your effectiveness in earlier tiers unchanged, while allowing Blizzard to avoid the stat inflation. Even in this more benign version, I am just not sure I like the change. It feels like a clunky solution to something that could be solved by itemisation – both in terms of ilvls and of actual stat choice on the items.
There is no doubt that stats went out of control in Wrath: the spread of loot has been from ilvl 200 in Naxx to ilvl 277 in Heroic ICC 25. This compares to a spread of 115 (Attumen) to 164 (Kil’Jaeden) for BC, and 66 (Lucifron) to 92 (Kel’thuzad original) in Vanilla. In Wrath, we’ve had TEN separate tiers of loots (in ilvl: 200, 213, 219, 226, 232, 245, 251, 258, 264, 277), over only four tiers of raiding. Let’s assume Blizzard uses the same loot model in Cataclysm, letting Heroic loot be a full tier above normal (13 ilvl), while the normal loot of the tier above is only 6 ilvl above the Heroic loot of the tier below. We also know that the starting epics are going to be ilvl 359, so we should see the following progression (assuming 4 tiers of raid instances again):
- Tier 11: 359 normal, 372 heroic
- Tier 12: 378 normal, 391 heroic
- Tier 13: 397 normal, 410 heroic
- Tier 14: 416 normal, 429 heroic
Most importantly, Blizzard has always said that the biggest issue was that when they designed Wrath and the ratings conversions, they were not counting on Heroics mode at all (they really started in Ulduar, so post Wrath launch). The addition of an upper tier of gear for every raiding instance clearly inflated the numbers. This particular problem is gone: we know heroics are here to stay, and so we can plan the build up of the various ratings better, to make sure that by 429 we’re not having everyone hit against haste, hit and crit caps.
Of course, hit is a bit of weird stat in all this, because you want to be able to hit the cap in all tiers. Ghostcrawler’s concern is that if ratings don’t decay, then caster dps will wear all the same gear (the crit/haste/int/stamina gear, to be clear), because they can ignore hit. Except I really don’t understand this objection: the current model of itemisation suggests that a higher tier item with hit/crit/int/stamina will have higher values of all four stats than a lower tier item with the same stat. But couldn’t we have higher ilvl items where the increase in stats happen just in crit/int/stamina, leaving hit to be (roughly) the same? This way, caster dps still has an incentive to upgrade (more of the other stats), while still wanting to wear the same number of pieces of hit gear.
I remember when Sunwell came out, and several posts almost seemed to apologise for having to resort to Sunwell radiance (which, btw, was mostly a problem with bear tanks). A similar attitude seemed to pervade the introduction of Chill of the Throne in Icecrown. When framed that way, I had no problem accepting either debuff. But it seems to me that somewhere in the last eight months we went from “this is our last resort because something happened to screw our original plans”, to “this is a good plan”. It’s not – it feels clunky, and it artificially slows the character progression, when a slower build up of the ratings would get the same result much more elegantly. I am hoping that we can learn more about this soon, but this feels like a fairly bad idea so far.
20 September 2010 § Leave a Comment
I finally downloaded the PTR client, and went there to play a bit. Here’s a couple of tidbits and stuff that had escaped me:
1. The Prayer buffs are gone: Fort and Shadow Protection are automatically group wide, require no reagent, etc.
2. Mana has shot up, but the drinks have stayed the same. Tsark has 50k mana unbuffed, and drinks still restore 19.2k. A small suggestion: stock up on holiday food, whether the Harvest Nectar I mentioned in my last post, or the upcoming Halloween candies or the Winter Veil Eggnog. I cannot find new drinks up in the PTR, which makes sense as the post-80 content is not in, so I don’t know when new drinks become available. If anyone is on beta, please let us know.
3. Archangel/Evangelism: the dynamic is interesting, but it’s difficult to test it when not in a group or raid. Just to give an idea, my Smites are hitting (with 5 stacks of Evangelism) for around7k, critting for 10.5k. The healing buff of Archangel lasts for 18 secs, while the ability itself has a 15 secs cooldown. If you’re really good, and your tank is not taking too much damage, you could keep the Archangel buff up all the time. More realistically, it’s quite possible to weave your Smites in a way that keeps your stacks at 5, to be used whenever you need mana. This segues well into…
Gone is Improved Inner Fire, and Inner Sanctum, its replacement, seems to be wholly PvP now (damage reduction on Inner Fire, movement increase on Inner Will). Nice talent, and both of those effect could be situationally useful in PvE too (especially if you move slowly like me), but I can only see me getting it if we’re stuck on a specific fight that could use that (e.g. a Firefighter fight, or Sindragosa). So, I’m taking it out of my chosen spec.
Atonement got a BIG buff, and now heals for 120% of Smite. Damn you Blizzard, now it is actually interesting, as it means that while Smiting with a full 5 stacks of Evangelism (i.e. to keep them up), I get 8.4k heals, which are not much short of my Flash Heals – for a much lower mana cost (792 for Smite, 4k+ for Flash Heal), and a slightly higher cast time (about .5 secs, depending on haste). Atonement is also a smart heal (which is good), but doesn’t refresh Grace or Inspiration which is bad) – still, all in all it seems to be a viable choice even in a raid environment, especially with the appropriate targetoftarget or mouseover macros so you don’t waste time retargeting.
The other change is that we lost Improved Healing (good riddance to a boring passive buff) and gained Trinity - more spell haste, this time if we Smite three times in a row, which means we could even build up the stacks quicker if there is a lull in the fight. A sequence of Shield – Smite – Smite – Smite – Shield – Smite – (Shield) – Smite would probably be a nice way of still healing, while building up Evangelism stacks and Trinity buffs.
So my chosen build now looks like this. I would dearly love to get the second point in Trinity: so far, the only contenders for the axe I see are either Desperate Prayer, or Borrowed Time. I think this will need some serious testing…
16 September 2010 § Leave a Comment
Just a really quick note to point out something that may get lost, what with the recent news of currency conversions, the rumblings of Patch 4.0.1, etc. You may have noticed that Harvest Festival has started again on live realms. The bad news is that it doesn’t have anything this year, and so, although it was one of the first holidays implemented by Blizzard, and I think celebrating Grom Hellscream is interesting, there’s really nothing else to do. The good news is that our stats have become so inflated that Harvest Nectar may be a better water than anything else in the game (and the corresponding food for classes with a lot of health).
Basically, the top level mana drinks (Kungaloosh, Honeymint Tea and Mana Strudels alike) restore 19,200 mana. Harvest Nectar restores 2% of mana every sec for 30 secs, so 60% mana. So, if 60% of your total mana is more than 19,200, or in other words if your total mana is higher than 32,000, then you’re better off with the Harvest Nectar, and you should go stock up outside of Orgrimmar/Ironforge. Of course, Mana Strudels also increase your health at the same time, but that’s normally a minor concern. Equally of course, we don’t actually drink all that often these days. Still, I think it’s worth to carry some Nectars – at least until we can get our hands on some Eggnog!
14 September 2010 § 4 Comments
See what happens when I work on a post for too long? We get a new datamined beta patch on MMO-Champ, and the opening of the PTR servers, which means I need to rewrite half the post. Oh well, teaches me to post more quickly, I guess. So, without any further ado, let’s start!
In the last post, I split the Cataclysm Discipline tree into several different pieces, each of which was focusing on a different aspect of our roles or actions. In this post, it is time to put the pieces together into a coherent spec – or specs, as I will also look at several alternatives, because of course it is difficult to decide before we can see the numbers of (at the very least) the lvl 85 Heroic dungeons and the first tier of raiding (Tier 11, which from my understanding should be Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Descent and Throne of the Four Winds).
So, this is the spec I came up with. Basically, and in reference to my last post, I took all the talents of the Frame, as well as the Heal piece. I skipped the two PvP/levelling talents, and then took Archangel/Evangelism, as well as Power Infusion, Pain Suppression and Desperate Prayer (please, let that “Requires Shadowform” be a mistake). This left me with a gap on the lower tiers, which I needed to get the later talents, so I took Twin Disciplines and Improved Inner Fire. Let’s examine the spec in more detail, moving from the talents I cannot see myself taking at all, to the talents that barely made the cut, to the talents I cannot do without.
The Ones in the Discard Pile
The PvP/Levelling Piece: I don’t think it comes as a surprise here, but Focused Will and Reflective Shields are clearly not talents made for me. They are fun talents, and useful, just not for the WoW I personally play. Unless the talents will change a lot, these two will stay out of my spec.
Atonement: Much as I want to give Archangel/Evangelism a go, I really cannot see this talent being any use beyond some 5-man action. The fact that it requires 3 talent points for 45% of the Smite also makes it very expensive for the result.
Inner Focus: I am really sad to see this talent go. In fact, it will be the first time Tsark will be without Inner Focus since November 2005. Back in those days, smartly using Inner Focus was the key to additional ticks of full mana regen, and the sign of a good priest. This stayed for BC, when Inner Focus, coupled with some nifty trinkets, could result in massive mana regen – again, if you knew how to time it. However, with the demise of O5SR regen, Inner Focus loses a lot of its appeal – and the fact that it only applies to the Heals and to PoH makes it even LESS interesting as a mana saving tool. There is still the crit portion, but 25% is a bit too low to make it worth a talent point.
Mental Agility: When it comes to filler points, I decided to go for the ones that cover throughput, and forego the mana regen (or mana saving, in this case) one. My rationale here is balance: I’m already getting Archangel/Evangelism, so I hope that can cover all my needs when it comes to mana. Ghostcrawler last Tuesday answered a post about healing saying that “you shouldn’t have huge mana problems in a normal dungeon”, so I’ll keep this choice and review it after a bit more experience.
The Ones that Just Made the Cut
Improved Healing: I am absolutely not sure about this talent. 10% seems sizeable, but I cannot find information about base stats at 85, so I cannot exactly see how much mana saved would that 10% be. To be honest, it’s quite likely this talent will be cut out from my final spec, in favour of either Mental Agility or filling out Improved Inner Fire and Empowered Healing. If I can handle the mana requirement of healing, then 1 additional point in Improved Inner Fire would give me about 150 more spellpower (Inner Fire at 85 gives 1080 spellpower), and I can get the 5% increase in Heals from the last point in Empowered Healing. If mana is tight, then the real question is whether I will save more with a 10% decrease in cost of my cast heals, or 8% for my instant spells – and this is an empirical question, which will need an empirical answer after some adjustment at 85.
Evangelism/Archangel: I *really* want to give this mechanism a go, mostly because it’s new and different. I agree with Derevka over at Tales of a Priest that this is far less appealing as a mechanic than Chakra. However, I’m resigned to the fact that this is what we will be getting for Cataclysm, and we may as well just make the best of it. Let’s look at some numbers. Evangelism stacks to 5, you gain stacks when you Smite, and each stack gives you increased damage and a mana reduction for Penance and for your damage spells. The stacks last 15 secs, so assume your Smite is around 1.8 sec cast time (2 secs with Divine Fury, minus your haste – I think 1.8 secs is actually fairly conservative, especially given we could become smart with Borrowed Time). So,it takes 9 secs to build the full stacks up, and 66% of your base mana (15% per Smite, but with a 6% discount for each successive stack of Evangelism). This gives you 30% reduction to your Penance, and the possibility, through another GCD, to gain 15% of your total mana. Mana wise, this is interesting if 66% of your base mana is lower than 15% of your total mana, which means that base mana should be lower than 22% of total mana for all this to be worth it.
Currently, at 80 and at the end of the expansion cycle, Tsark has 31k mana unbuffed, while a priest’s base mana at 80 is 3863 – amply above the cutoff point. In fact, with 3863 base mana the cutoff for Archangel to be worth it is just shy of 17k mana, which is a value that, if memory serves, I attained almost as soon as I hit 80. Now, this of course tells us little about Cataclysm: if anything, the values of intellect should be even higher in Cata, as spellpower is converted to Int in all gear except weapons – which suggests that yes, Archangel will net mana. UPDATE: Miss Medicina reports a base mana pool for level 85 priests of 20,586 – so if your total mana at 85 is around 81,546 Archangel will return mana at 5 stacks.
We still don’t know whether it’s worth it, though – because aside from the mana investment needed to get the mana return, we need to also invest time (the 9 secs + a GCD mentioned above, to build the 5 stacks and then use Archangel). Just to give another example, Hymn of Hope gives us 10% net mana (just above it) for 8 secs of time investment. Of course, it’s apples and oranges (HoH requires channelling, which is a lot more painful than finding 5 discrete 1.8 secs intervals; I’m also assuming the caster gets all three ticks on himself/herself, something that is not necessarily the case), but it does give an idea. Even more difficult to consider, I find it difficult to switch to dpsing mobs while healing – I generally lose track of my heal targets, and then need to catch up on the tank (though, hopefully, this is just a matter of practice).
If this does not work, I think there are multiple options. One possibility is to get Atonement. If the mana return is really worth it, and it just needs a little extra investment to make complete sense, then that minor heal may be the deal breaker. The heal will make the ramp up time for Evangelism slightly less of a waste, and thus could in the end make the whole experience worth it. I doubt this would ever be the case (especially if Atonement stays 3 points), but conceivably I could drop Improved Inner Fire or Empowered Healing to get Atonement. The other possibility is the one Blizzard doesn’t want to hear about – drop the whole “piece”, and instead use the three points in something else: Mental Agility or Inner Focus if mana is still an issue without Archangel, or Improved Inner Fire if it’s not.
The Ones I Cannot do Without
Divine Fury: The real issue is not so much getting this talent, but whether to max this or Empowered Healing out. So, .2 secs off Smite and all Heals, or 5% more healing? Both outcomes are throuput improvements, so it really is a mathematical question. Given HPS is given by Amount Healed/Time, and if we make our average heal 100 (for discussion’s sake) we have (100/2.5) = 40 vs (105/2.7)= 38.8 repeating, which means that Divine Fury is the way to go (and of course, this is independent of our actual amount healed, given that is the numerator of both values).
Strength of Souls: This talent looks more appealing every time I look at it. In fact, the talent could make it so we could Shield a tank every three heals, as opposed to every six-seven heals (depending on haste) – a clear increase in our effective healing that is nothing short of staggering.
I think all the other talents I chose are non-controversial, so I won’t go into detail on them all – of course, I’ll be happy to answer any questions that appear in the comments Now of course the question is what to cut for the levelling, and whether I want to actually get Reflective Shields until I get to 85. That, as they say, will remain a question for another day.