Heroic Crimson Halls

28 April 2010 § Leave a comment

Trying to catch up with all the hard modes/heroic, but it’s not easy! So, here we go!

Blood Princes

Changes from normal: Any movement will cause a debuff called Shadow Prison, stacking. This debuff will damage you when you move, and it can stack pretty high.

When I read the description, I got a bit scared, because honestly there’s a lot of movement in this fight. However, it turns out that I was worrying about nothing. Shadow Prison is a non-issue: the debuff will hurt you only when you move, so even if you have it stacked very high, simply stopping will prevent you from taking any damage. The stack of debuffs itself will reset after 10 secs of no movement.

That said, the fight is still pretty hard, but that’s mostly because of the amped up version of the usual abilities. Kinetic Bombs start MUCH closer to the ground, and need a fair bit more damage. Pets are  not enough to keep them afloat anymore, so ranged will need to keep a much closer watch on them. Bombs falling was actually our major source of failure, until we literally split the room in three quadrants (dais, left floor and right floor) and assigned one ranged dps to each section.

Everything else hurts a lot more too, so it is essential to minimise damage. That goes especially for the Keleseth tank: it is even more essential than in normal to keep 3 if not 4 orbs on him at all times, given the size of the Empowered Shadow Lances. The good news is that the shadow orbs give shadow resistance, which means that the tank does not have to worry about Shadow Prison too much. Careful though, because the tank healer still will have to limit its movements.

All in all, this is not a hard Heroic mode – it is however very frustrating, because a minor slip will cause wipes. My group got very far on the first try, but then it took us about 10 more before getting it, simply because as soon as one thing was going wrong, the whole raid was falling like a house of cards.

Blood Queen Lanathel

Changes from normal: the Queen now gains Presence of the Darkfallen, which increases her Shroud of Sorrow damage.

This is essentially the same as in normal: although the shroud will hurt progressively more, the difference will only be felt once you have many vampires in the raid, which is when their self healing will lighten the healing load in general. Air phases do hurt though (I was actually sure her Bloodbolt Whirls were affected by Presence of the Darkfallen too, before I checked the tooltip), so make sure you use healing/survival cooldowns during those. Also, because she has more health, the air phases happen slightly later, which means it is very important that bitten people wait until the end of Frenzied Bloodthirst to bite the next target. Basically, this will push the third round of bites towards the end of the second air phase – and considerably lighten the healing load of said air phase.

This is one of the easiest Heroic modes, and certainly the easiest one of the token-dropping bosses. It is very likely you will one- or two-shot it, even the first time you see it, as long as your raid has a clear biting order established and knows how to handle Swarming Shadows and Pacts of the Darkfallen.

I will post the Plagueworks soon (minus Putricide, which we’re still working on).

Cataclysmic raids

27 April 2010 § 2 Comments

Shhhhh! Can you hear that? No? Listen harder!

*WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

That’s the sound of me jumping up and down with joy at the announcements Blizz made about raid changes. On the very low chance that you haven’t heard about it yet, you can find the original posts here (about raiding and tiers) and here (about badges). Let me give you the main points and my reactions to them – including how that is going to impact my own raid in particular, and some mumblings about raids in general.

10-man and 25-man will drop (almost) the same loot

This is above and beyond what I could ever hope. If you check my previous posts on loot and gear and raids, I always kept as a given the fact that 25-man would drop better quality loot. Now Blizzard, basically out of the blue, tells us that no, really, they will now drop (almost) the same loot. I keep saying almost, because 25-man would drop more loot than 10 – more gold, more items and probably more badges. I assume that is more gold per person, and not just more gold in absolute terms or it would make no sense. The trick here will be balancing how many more items – my estimate is that bosses in 25 should drop about twice as many items as in 10. A straight mathematical equivalence would suggest 2.5 times, but more items become more beneficial also because of more chances to drop the specific item you need, so that should encourage a slight discount. I really don’t care about gold, so I cannot be bothered with more gold going to the 25-man raiders. Badges… eh, I’d prefer if we had an even playing field, but as long as the difference is not TOO big (e.g. the 2 vs 3 badges of ToC), it will be fine – if the difference is 2 vs 5, that may become a problem.

From Blizzard’s point of view, this change means they will need to design a lot less items – in fact, in one fell swoop they cut down in half the number of items they need to design, both in terms of stats and in terms of art. I hope that means we will be getting items with unique art, because let me tell you: it sucks to have a staff off the Lich King 10-man look EXACTLY THE SAME as one from the second boss in 25.

It also means that they can drastically reduce the gear scaling issues through an expansion. During Wrath, we had 9 tiers of gear, in 4 tiers of raiding: 200, 213, 219, 226, 232, 245, 251, 264, 277. Although Blizzard could have reduced that (having Ulduar give 219/226/232, then ToC give 226/232/238 and ICC 232/238/245 would have cut three whole tiers), having each tier of raiding drop one tier of gear means the Cataclysm progression will be something like (normal/hardmode): 300/313 for tier 11, 313/326 for tier 12, 326/339 for tier 13, 339/352 for tier 14, or 5 tiers of gear for 4 tiers of raids (assuming we will still get 4 tiers of raiding). This should make designing Cataclysm easier, as it reduces the inflation of stats we currently witness (my priest is hovering around 40% crit rating self-buffed…)

10-man and 25-man will share lockout

The counterweight to that change is that the two raid formats will share a lockout. Not suprising, given otherwise the double-dipping would make gearing up a breeze for people with time to run both 10-man and 25-man (and we will note later that Blizz seems to be discouraging playing more than a limited amount of time per character).

The obvious consequence is that people will have to choose whether they want to do 10-man or 25-man. Personally, I think I will simply designate my main, Tsark, as a 10-man raider, to keep going with my current group, and then use all my alts to attend the various raids that need me and I can afford to attend. If anything, this may wreck my levelling plans for Cataclysm, as I will probably level a second healer after Tsark to be able to heal in the guild 25-man raid (healing being clearly the role I am better at/enjoy the most). Up until now, I was thinking to do the traditional Tsark – Parocles (miner, needed for too many things) – Torjin – Alteria – Kleraton – Gramlor. I may switch around Alteria and Parocles now, which would mean getting a paladin tank/healer geared up quickly after Tsark. I suspect this change will encourage more people to level multiple alts, to be able to go with different raid groups.

Badges will become point, and decay with each tier

Instead of getting badges, we will get Hero (lower tier) and Valor (higher tier) points – roughly equivalent to the current Triumph and Frost badges respectively. Once a new tier of raiding comes out, your Valor points will get converted to Hero points, and you’ll restart accumulating Valor points. This is an accounting change, if anything – and it will actually make lowest badge/points more valuable as the tiers progress. Currently Emblems of Valor are basically worthless, but with this system, they would (effectively) become as valuable as Emblems of Triumph at our current status. A  minor change, but hey, a very slight improvement.

Top points are capped weekly

Blizzard has been stating for a while that they are unhappy with the current system, where the Dungeon Finder daily feels like something people NEED to do, given Frost Emblems are so scarce. Capping the amount of points you can earn per week would mean that you would not want to run Heroics with your raiding toon, as he’s getting his points somewhere else. The devil here is in the amount of the cap: let’s say that a full clear of the 25-man raid gives you 10k points, and a full clear of the 10-man 7k. A limit set below 10k would mean that a raid clearing the current tier of content would have no incentive to even do the raid weekly. At the same time, a raid clearing 10-man content would still want to run Heroics, and still feel like they HAVE to (or, in other words, no change) – so I suspect the limit will be even below that. In other words, we may well go back to the Karazhan days, where badges (or points) are a nice cherry on top, but not really the goal of raiding (sometimes, it feels like the purpose of raiding is much more to get emblems than loot, currently)

Of course, the numbers are totally fictitious, though I do think that the 25-man premium will be around 50%. I think however that this is a place where seeing the actual numbers will change the actual mechanics of the system. I do like the idea that I will not feel like I have to run the weekly, Vault, and the Heroic dailies on all my alts – and can instead spread my attention across characters.

Gating will still be there – but no limited attempts

In principle, I don’t mind this too much – in fact, I like having no limited attempts, though I admit we never used up all our attempts in Icecrown Citadel. They apparently also want to keep the “Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.” Please please please, make this a “per-boss” or “per-wing” limitation – in other words, I would have had no problem with having to defeat Saurfang twice before opening up the hardmodes of Lower Spire. I just think that having to clear the WHOLE instance once (or twice!) may frustrate some guilds needlessly. This may be what they have in mind anyway, given their stated preference for more (and smaller) raids per tier, instead of one big one (so the TK+SSC model, rather than ICC).

I can see the value of keeping limited attempts for optional bosses, à la Algalon – brag bosses can have that allure. Again, I would prefer to see a system of limited time or limited attempts but with no additional reward for no wipes/killing the boss in a shorter time frame: the Algalon/ICC model instead of the ToC one, basically.

Raiding consequences

Where will that leave us? 10-man raiders are rejoicing all over – mostly, because we won’t feel like the bastard child of big raids anymore. Balancing encounters will be easier for Blizzards, given that they can correctly predict what gear people will be in (as opposed to having to think about people being in 10-man or 25-man gear). Also, assuming Blizzard will manage the closer balancing of difficulty, we may finally have an end to the pointless debate of which is harder.

Blizzard has stated that they have not taken a decision about Legendaries/special mounts (e.g. Invincible) yet. It would be nice if 10-man got those too, but I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, and just be happy with what we got.

Our 10-man may see some changing of roster, as some of our raiders will need to choose which alt to bring to 25-man and which to 10-man. I don’t think we will necessarily lose people: assuming they will still play come Cataclysm, it’s not as if their time use would be very different if they play both raids with both character or with 2 characters (admittedly, there is a higher set-up cost to get both alts to level cap, and to keep all sets gemmed/enchanted/etc, but honestly, that seems a very minor issue).

I’ve seen some people predicting that this will spell the end of 25-man raiding. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I tend not to like these doomsday predictions, and this is no exception. I know very few people who raid both 10-man and 25-man that doesn’t have an alt at max level – so all that it’s going to happen is that people will have two characters, and do both raids in different formats. Will 25-man lose some people? Possibly, but it would be the people who only go there for the easy loot – because let’s admit it, it’s far, FAR easier to carry someone in 25-man than in 10-man (let alone in our 10-man, where Lyshai keeps us all on our toes!). I suspect that by encouraging people to only do what they like most (be that 10-man, 25-man, Heroics, or PvP), we may end up with better players, less stress, and thus a more enjoyable experience.

Heroic Lower Spire

20 April 2010 § Leave a comment

I realised that after my initial post on Marrowgar, I never really did post any other note on hard modes. Given I have a bit of a writer’s block about the rest of the game, I think it’s a good time to at least take care of some of the easier Heroics.

Lady Deathwhisper

Four main changes here:

  • She will mind control a raid member, who will become big, and deal more damag (same as in 25). Simply cc the mind-controlled person, possibly with something relatively short (I find psychic scream to be perfect).
  • Adds keep spawning in P2 – the tank who doesn’t deal with her should put some threat onto these guys to make sure they don’t go for healers. Note to any enterprising priests: the adds are all (or at least most) casters. If you run in and fear to cc a MC’ed melee, this will scatter the adds too – and because they are casters, they will stay scattered. That means tanks will have trouble keeping aggro on the adds, who will proceed to aggro on healers, which is bad. Although, yeah, of course, no-one will be so dumb to use Scream in P2, right? *looks shifty*
  • She is untauntable – so tank switches will happen because one tank will not be able to build any threat once his debuff stacks too high. That means threat will build a lot more slowly here than normal, and dps need to be absolutely sure to be below BOTH tanks in threat.
  • The ghosts in P2 explode for AoE damage, so it’s a good idea to spread around and make sure you don’t get hit by it multiple times. It is an even better idea to kite these ghosts so no-one takes ANY damage from them.

Our dps only attacks adds if they are threat capped on the boss – which means that we basically burn her down before adds overwhelm us. We prefer this to a “control” strategy of making sure adds die and not too many are up, simply because it’s easier to execute, but YMMV.

All in all, a fairly simple hard mode – certainly easier than Marrowgar.

Gunship

There is only one change in this fight: rockets do a little knockback. When I read this, I actually had to go and read which ones were the rockets: it’s the ones that have a big pattern on the ground on their targeted area, forewarning where they will land. So yeah, you can imagine how hard this is. If you thought this was free loot in normal, it is even worse on Heroic…

Deathbringer Saurfang

The main change is that the Blood Beasts will apply a debuff on the raid that slows everyone’s movement. The second change is that if a person with a Mark dies, Saurfang will heal for an obscene amount (20%? Something like that) – in essence, if someone with Mark dies, it’s a wipe.

The main difficulty, however, comes from the ramping up of damage. In normal, I single heal this, and we go through it with out any Mark going out. In Heroic, we get 2 marks, and they HURT.

So, dps needs to be on top of their game to kill the Beasts asap, and you cannot afford to have any Beast hitting a dps at all – if the dps survives such a hit (and they will only if they have a ton of hits or a disc shield on them), Saurfang still gains considerable blood power, making the rest of the fight a lot harder.

For all the healers, this is one of the hardest fights I’ve healed. We switched specs around, so that our paladin tank now heals with me, our dps warrior tanks with our DK, and our druid and holy priest switch to their caster specs and dps. Paladin Beacon basically allows you to ignore the first mark, or treat it like a non-issue – a boomkin’s Typhoon is a boon, so it’s a win-win. Even so, once the second mark is out, we have either our druid or our elemental shaman heal that person, while I scramble keeping tanks and Blood Boil victims up and Lyshai beacons the first mark and one of the tanks (and gets innervated just before the second mark goes out, basically). We could probably do it without a paladin healer (we did our first kill without it), but beacon does simplify things.

Special note for paladins: Divine Shield and Hand of Protection prevent Saurfang from gaining blood power from Blood Boil. Make sure to use both abilities (HoP on the first target, and DS whenever you’re the target), because preventing him from gaining blood power is just about the most important thing.

Special note for healing priests: this fight will tax your mana (and that of your raidmates), so Hymn of Hope can be useful. The only time when you’ll be able to channel it is before the first mark goes out, as healing goes batshit crazy afterwards. So, once Saurfang comes out, focus him (you only have 1:45 secs of  introduction to do so…), and once his blood power is around 80, use your Hymn. Also, be careful about using Divine Hymn: hits on the tanks are too high to be healed through that only, so if you do it when you REALLY need it (with two marks out) it’s likely you will have a tank death. Use it earlier, as a way to save mana (with Inner Focus) – not late, as a way to heal as many people as possible.

And yes, this is by far the hardest of the Heroic fights in Lower Spire – and in fact, it is harder than some of the later fights too. So be very careful about it!

Next up will be Crimson Halls!

… and the other classes

13 April 2010 § Leave a comment

Given I’m an altoholic, I thought I’d comment on the changes for other classes – at least the ones I play at 80. Keep in mind that my grasp of the mechanics of the other classes is much more superficial than priests’, so there’s a high chance I may misinterpret stuff. MMO-Champion has a nice compilation of all the class changes here.

Druid

Very unexciting, if  you ask me. I like the Eclipse change: although I’ve become better at not missing procs (thank you Quartz), I can understand that in raid situations having an Eclipse proc at the wrong time can be really frustrating. Leaving the control of the proc a bit more on the player sounds like a good idea. I really cannot get excited about Wild Mushroom – or Efflorescence. I do agree however that druids had WAY too many tools already, so it’s a good idea to focus on rebalancing them all, rather than adding new unused icons. Sadly, though, that does take away some of the excitement off this preview…

Shaman

On the enhancement side, the biggest improvement is for low-levels shamans, it seems, with the introduction of Primal Strike. All good for them, because levelling enhancement is really boring until lvl 30 (Windfury) and 40 (Stormstrike and Dual Wield) – but kinda pointless for me, given my shaman is already at 80. Unleash Weapon is interesting, but I’m a bit worried about the addition of yet another action to a rotation that already watches five different short cooldowns (shocks, Stormstrike, Lava Lash, Maelstrom, Fire Nova), two longish ones (Feral Spirits and Fire Elemental) and a buff (Lightning Shield). Not that I’m complaining about the rotation, mind you – it’s a lot of fun when you get into it. I’m just not sure about adding yet another element to it. The good news is that it seems Blizz is aware of this, and is planning to do something (maybe increasing Lava Lash cooldown to let us do other things). I would have liked to have a reworking of Shamanistic Rage: currently it’s a defensive cooldown, that also regens your mana – and becomes offensive with the 2T10 bonus. Seems a bit overcharged to me.

For Elemental, the big news seems to be the introduction of Earthquake as a new channeled AoE – and the baking in of the spellpower bonus into any Fire Totem. This latter thing is nice and something shamans have asked for a long time – and they could probably use an AoE, although I don’t particularly like channeled ones.

Resto gets Spirit Link, Healing Rain and Spiritwalker’s Grace – and a nice mastery bonus. Spirit Link and the bonus have potential, though it seems they would move shamans towards tank healing. If Spirit Link is a cooldown, it could actually be what they badly needed: an “ohshit” button to push.

All in all, a bit vague, but actually not too bad.

Warlocks

Dark intent seem interesting, if very derivative of Focus Magic. Fel Flame could be quite nice, especially given that it’s insta-cast. Demon Soul needs more detail, before I can form an opinion – but yes, I can see this as something that at least makes sense for warlocks. The new soul shards system will definitely add a new layer to the game, although I think I’ll need to play with it to get a feel.

I definitely like the fact that they will phase out the Metamorphosis special abilities, as I really wasn’t a big fan of those. Demon Bolt leaves me kinda unexcited – Demonology is already unique in juggling three different nukes (Incinerate, Shadowbolt and Soulfire), and we still have 3 DoTs (Corruption, Immolate and the curse), so, once again, I’m not sure I want to add more stuff to do on either side.

The change of Curses is a nice idea – freeing up the utility from the additional dps is welcome, and consistent with the shaman fire totem change.

Mage

I saved the best for last. This is by far the most exciting preview I’ve seen – I don’t think there’s anything I DON’T like.

Mage bloodlust is definitely going to be awesome for 10-man raids. We actually have multiple shamans in our raid (although we recently lost one, we’re still left with an enhancement and an elemental one), so we didn’t have the problem ourselves, but I know other raids have, and it’s nice to have options. Flame Orbs sound really cool, with some great potential in PvP and PvE. Wall of Fog seems more geared towards PvP, but is generally a cool spell, so yay for that too. Most importantly, they all sound very appropriate to the mage class!

I also think the mastery talent for Arcane is really intriguing. The developers said that they tried out the whole gamut of possibilities for mastery talents, from boring damage/healing increases to more active stuff, because they want to see which ones feel better. Honestly, I hope they go for the more active stuff: things like Eclipse for Druids and Mana Adept for Mages sound a lot more exciting than “additional nature damage”.

Well, that concludes the quick tour of classes – except of course for paladins, which will be unveiled tomorrow. In general, I think the developers have the right idea when they say it’s better to rething some mechanics and simplify the game, cutting off the useless clutter, than to add “new stuff” that will either make old stuff obsolete or create endless balancing problems. Hence the reduction in totems for shamans (but the increase in utility of the fire ones) and the lack of new spells for druids. Shamans will hurt from the loss of Cleansing Totem, but that’s really due to a different design choice, and that’s the rethinking of dispelling in general.

I think some of the classes seem to have better direction or to be more progressed than others – or simply are going into directions that shine more when it comes to previews like this. All in all, though, this definitely sounds like a game I want to still play!

Cataclysmic Priests

8 April 2010 § 3 Comments

The changes are out! Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty: they promised us changes on Wednesday, and they posted it at 23:57 on Wed night, pacific time… Were they worth the wait? I am personally mildly excited, albeit, as you probably know, I’m generally optimistic. You can find the full change list here, I’ll try to comment in a more organic fashion about what all this means for Disc healing in particular.

More direct heals

Like the shamans, we’re now getting three heals. Fast and expensive (Flash), big and slow and expensive (Greater) and traditional (Heal). This, by itself, is not a problem – the trick now will be on the team to manage to balance those three heals. Amber makes a good point: so far we’ve had two and always ignored one. In Vanilla it was all about Greater Heal (albeit a downranked one), with Flash relegated as the heal for trash, at most. This really only changed in Wrath, where Flash became the heal of choice of Discipline, with Greater Heal appearing only in very special occasions (with Borrowed Time up, on tank healing, with a hard hitting boss possibly hitting slowly…).

They seem to want us to move away from shielding and more to direct healing, whether it is for tanks or raids. That’s not necessarily bad, but I admit that I don’t like statements like:

One key is to make sure shielding isn’t always a more attractive option than healing.

Maybe it’s because they have a different paradigm for Discipline than the current one, but this is dangerous. Lots of people LIKE the shield idea – and as far as I understand, it’s ok that shield is the best thing to do. The problem is what to do for the 15 secs of Weakened Soul – so I support the idea of more tools, but not at the expense of our shields. I would much rather have a model of interaction between shields and our heals: for example, make Renewed Hope not just give us 4% crit, but instead a sizeable increase of healing. To avoid making it too powerful, we could have that increase only to Greater Heal, which itself would mean that we could use Gheals to heal tanks, and FHeal or Heal for the raid.

More Shields

Now, this is more like it. It seems like we will finally get Power Word: Barrier, the spell that was suggested (and then quickly taken away) around 3.1. This will work as an Anti-Magic Zone, but will be PvP dispellable. Again, the proof here will be in the pudding – or, out of metaphor, in the numbers. In principle, this is a good thing: more tools, and a fairly nice one.

There’s also some mention of another single-target shield, so that we can have one shield that we use on raid healing, and one bigger one for tanks. It’s more difficult to comment on this one, because even more than before, the numbers will make or break this. However, I support having more shields, so bring it on…

More Fun Tools

One word: LIFEGRIP!

This will be the funniest spell ever, and the potential for abuse, griefing and general hilarity is enormous. We also go back into Blackrock Mountain for Cataclysm, a place infamous for its lava pools. Coincidence? I think not!

On a more serious note, this actually has some nice interesting applications. The PvP ones are evident, but even in PvE, I can see some interesting niches opening up, with the right coordination. Everyone picked up on the “save raiders from void zones” aspect, though that will require lightning fast reflexes. Another possibility is to help kiting mobs: situations like Rotface oozes, or Valthiria’s zombies, a Lifegrip at the right time could help a lot.

Similar thoughts about Inner Will: a movement speed boost with instant cast cost reduction is clearly awesome for arena/pvp, but I can see its use in PvE too. As someone who’s always on the edge of Sindragosa’s Blistering Cold, the speed boost could be a serious boon. It’s clearly not game changing, but it’s a nice additional tool.

And the rest…

I like Chakra: the community has been asking for “holyform” for some time, but this is actually a nice cooldown that does some of that, but is a lot more flexible. Burst healing, some nice dps in lower Heroics… all in all, pretty nice.

I also like the Shadow Orbs mechanic: it sounds intriguing at least, and has a lot of potential if they make it work with some of the talents around.I just hope they don’t simply use it as a levelling tool to “make people feel like shadow priests before they get Shadowform” – that would be a horrible waste.

Misery has no hit component anymore: about time, and I do sincerely hope they take it away from Draenei racials, too. Of course, this being Blizzard they will replace it with something equally powerful and unbalanced (see the history of Alliance racials…).

Mind Spike: this does address two complaints that I often hear from my shadow brethren. One is the long build up of Shadow dps, which makes trash pulls a pain. The second is the susceptibility to interrupts (in PvE like Freya/Ignis, but of course a lot more in PvP). Having SOMETHING that still works when you’re locked out of Shadow is nice.

So all in all, the changes look promising: it’s a mix of fun stuff (lifegrip), with situationally useful stuff (Inner Will), with genuinely good spells (PW:B, the second shield). I can speak less about Holy and Shadow: the changes there make sense, but I don’t know whether other changes would have made more spell or addressed bigger concerns. They did seem to give us more scalable heals (and the fact that most classes should lose talents of the “your spellpower is increased by x% of your int” kind will help on the comparison, too). Now, the real key will be the balancing of three direct heals – and all our other infinite tools….

Everything Changes

6 April 2010 § Leave a comment

This is it.

In an effort to prevent the spreading of panic that will inevitably follow the leaked information from the soon-to-start Beta, Blizzard has decided to start the release of Cataclysm information themselves and manage the process a bit better. Kudos to them, I think it’s much better to have a chance to discuss it with blues, rather than rant amongst ourselves (the fact I don’t go on the official forums because they scare me doesn’t change the fact that we get more responses from blues there than on the boards of whatever fansite you prefer – or blog). So far, we’ve had a post about Dispelling, and some general indications of what they want healing to become. So, while we wait for specific information about priests (tomorrow!), let me react to those two bits now.

Dispelling

Three major areas will change around dispelling (for the original post, see here). Two of them are relatively uncontroversial, so I’ll cover them first.

First, they are removing “pulsing dispelling”, that is, all those spells that basically allowed you to put a buff on the target which would periodically pulse and remove something (disease for priests, poisons for druids, both for cleansing totems). Each buff removed will require an active cast from a player, basically. Although this change will require more work from our part, I can see the logic of the change: they don’t want to have people “fire and forget” dispels, although I guess this is more of an issue in arenas – in PvE, most bosses will fire the same ability again when the pulsing buff has gone already, so you need to reapply it anyway (in most cases, at least).

The second change (albeit this is something they have not finalised yet), is that they are moving towards unifying all dispelling spells of a class into a single one, similar to the current paladin Cleanse or shaman Cleanse Spirit. More space on my bars! This may make macroing some abilities a bit more complicated, but probably not even that much, given mouseover target macros are very easy to make these days.

The big change, however, is that each healer class gets three dispels, out of the possible five: offensive magic (= buffs on foes), defensive magic (debuffs on friends), poison, disease, curse. To be more precise, all healers get defensive magic, and two more. In effect, Resto druids gain defensive magic (and keep poisons and curses, their current ones) while Shamans lose cleansing totems and cure toxins in exchange for defensive magic (again, as a resto talent). If I were a cynic, I would say that so far, nothing new: druids are buffed and shamans are nerfed, as is the norm. The other two healing classes remain essentially as they are: priests have the two magics and disease, paladins have disease, poisons and defensive magic.

The big losers in this are the dps specs of these classes: SPriests will not abolish disease in form anymore, dps shamans lose their cleansing totems, and paladin tanks and rets cannot dispel magic anymore. The key message is that they want to move dispelling firmly in the provision of healers. No more yelling at the mages or the boomkins in Archimonde because they are not decursing fast enough. No more asking your Enhancement Shaman to drop Cleansing Totem in Pit of Saron to take care of Blight in the famous pre-tunnel packs. Except that it seems like dps (and tanks) will still have some dispelling abilities: the blue post mentions non-healing paladins losing magic, but that suggests they keep diseases and poisons, somehow; mages can still remove curses, as can boomkins and ferals (but maybe not in form?).

So, how do I feel about this? Mixed feelings I guess. Nothing much will change in 25-man: the assumption will still be that you can dispell all debuffs, because six healers will grant you that unless you take people of 1-2 classes only (and even then, with some difficulty you can get away with it). For 10-man, I guess the developers can now be sure that you will be able to dispel defensively, but nothing else – before, nothing was sure. So this will make it easier to design encounters, and will save us from the “oh no, we have no decurser, cannot do Yogg-Saron” syndrome.

All the same, this is increasing the activity load on healers: we cannot rely on dps to help us, for the most part (or tanks – thanks Lyshai for spoiling me rotten!). While more activity for us healers is good (I like the challenge, especially when I’m firmly in my confort zone of priest healing), I suspect that also may mean toning down the craziness level of some encounters: if you’re dispelling, you cannot be expected to heal at the same time. I guess this is one change I would like to see in action, and until then I am unfazed by it. What slightly irks me, though, is that the change seems to be encouraging the dps tunnel vision of “let’s ignore what’s happening to the rest of the raid”. Although I often failed at it, it was easy to see the good dps who could push high numbers while keeping the debuff situation of their raidmates under control, and throwing around the occasional abolish, cure, decurse or dispel. I don’t want to be the Grumpy Old Man decrying the good times of yore, but yeah, it feels a bit like that.I am however willing to give Blizzard credit, and see where they are going with this change.

Healing

As I said, the announcement of specific class changes will appear over the course of this week (except for paladins, who get to wait until the 16th – didn’t paladins get their Wrath information last too?). We do, however, have some generic posts about what they want healing to be.

Mana will be a scarce resource again. They want healers to actually decide what heal to use carefully, with the possibility of running out of mana if they keep spamming expensive heals. Also, gone is the five second rule – regeneration will automatically change depending on whether you’re in combat or not. Finally, mp5 gear is gone, and spirit will be the regeneration stat (which would suggest moving away from the current spirit and int complicated relation).

Each class will get a “baseline heal”, something they can spam with relative abandon. We will also get a fast heal, and a big heal – these two will cost more mana, and thus will need to be used sparingly.

This is the basic information we have so far – and I have to admit, I like it. I always liked having to manage mana in addition to heal, and the current model of “just spam your biggest heal or the tank will die” doesn’t really mesh that well with my playstyle (even on my paladin or druid, I’m far below the number in hps I should be pushing – I’m just not much of a spammer). Switching to “strategic healing” (what spell is the most appropriate for this situation?) rather than “spam healing” (OMGHEALOMGHEALOMGHEAL) is definitely a welcome change.

The real question, though, is what they’ll do to all the spells around this basic framework of “baseline-fast-nuke”. This is especially important for priests, which have always been the “swiss army knives” of healers, with a heal for each situation. GHeal is clearly going to become our nuke, with Flash our fast – that would suggest that they will give us a new baseline heal. But that still leaves us wondering about Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Prayer of Healing, Binding Heal, Renew and (most importantly for Discipline) Shield and Penance. PoH and Binding will still probably remain situationally good heals with their niches; Renew should hopefully get some talent love, to really become the sort of background support it used to be – which is basically the role Prayer of Mending has right now, and hopefully will keep in the future. That really leaves CoH, Shield and Penance, which are staples of Holy and Disc now. I really really hope that they won’t get lost in the transition: it would really be a pity.

Also, let me throw a salvo in favour of Holy Nova. Nova went from a laughable 31-pt talent in vanilla, to something people were actually using (admittedly, with a glyph and specifically for the Mimiron fight). It would be nice if this small niche could be somehow preserved.

More generally, I would like to see Disc be able to scale more properly, and not rely on gimmicks (shields preventing Saurfang to gain blood power, and apparently preventing Defile from growing, though I need to confirm this last one) to be useful in the later part of the expansion.

… and now I feel like a kid wondering, on Christmas Eve, what presents he will get the following day.

One set, one spec

4 April 2010 § Leave a comment

Let me bring you back to a time long long ago. When Varimathras was helping Sylvanas rule Undercity. When Sylvanas looked like a banshee, and not even remotely like the kickass Dark Ranger she is now. When to quest in Barrens you had to run everywhere – no mount at 20, no flight points every 5 metres: you just walked, backwards, on one hand, singing bootcamp songs, answering questions in /general about Mankrik’s wife, AND YOU LIKED IT!

Back then, the ultimate gear level, and the ultimate coolness, was to complete your class set. I’m talking about the dungeon set, of course – which for priests was the Devout set. The most interesting part of class sets, back then, is that there was one set per class, period. That was Blizzard’s subtle way of saying what your class role was. You’re a shaman? Forget Windfury weapon, and lightning bolts, your role is really to heal, as anyone who looks at the set bonuses of The Earthfury will quickly understand. The game was a lot simpler then, and it was clear that most classes had one role and one role only (when it was not one spec and one spec only) for endgame raiding.

Fortunately, Blizzard realised this was a bit of a constraint, and starting from the Burning Crusade, they began to work on multiple specs for each class – an effort that continued and became a lot more comprehensive in Wrath of the Lich King. I will spare you the issues with game balance, and multiple roles, and hybrid taxes – suffice it to say that, to veterans like me, the class balance is in a FAR better place now than it’s ever been: there’s room for improvements, but the road Blizzard has already travelled is pretty impressive.

As they expanded the variety of roles and specs, the developers started offering multiple class sets for each tier. So priests got a healing set and a shadow set; paladins a tanking set, a healing set and a dps set, etc. Sets however were not associated with specs, they were associated with roles. So, pure dps classes still had one set; priests had two, as do warriors and DKs; shamans, paladins and druids instead got three sets, as each tree of these classes supports a different role. Even then, the association was not perfect: druids had three sets, when technically their talent trees supported four roles (tank, healer, ranged dps and melee dps).

The result, as it stands today, is that you have multiple specs (or in the feral case, even multiple roles) that are supported by one set. Here’s where Blizzard’s success in creating multiple viable specs is coming back to bite them. Blizzard’s gamble was to create specs that felt different, but were reasonably close in terms of endgame dps that choosing amongst them would be a matter of choice. Sure, the min-maxers would always go for the one spec that provided even a 1% advantage – and some of them actually have the skill needed to squeeze that additional 1%. But for us common mortals, the difference in specs becomes so trivial that it really becomes a matter of choosing a spec that is more interesting for our playstyle, or the raid composition of our raids, or our interests outside tha raids.

The problem? Different specs place different values on different stats – this is part and parcel of specs feeling different from each other. Disc and Holy Priests may both be healers, but the interest Disc has in spirit is minimal, while conversely Holy’s interest in crit is less pronounced than its Disc cousins. Arcane mages value haste over everything else – Frost mages are less interested in haste (Frostbolt is already faster than Arcane Blast) and more in crit. This is compounded by the issue of set bonuses, of course. I don’t think ANY holy priest in a raid has ever used the T8 4-piece bonus in a raid – unless there were no Disc priests in sight.

This, of course, is not a new problem. Blizzard’s answers, to my knowledge, have fallen into four categories:

1. We don’t want players to look all the same, so the set is not the best gear. Uh. What? Have you checked the loot from any raid instance recently? In 99% of the cases they are recolor of one of the set for that armor class – so clothies get recolors of priest, mage or warlock sets, etc. This of course saves time from the art department, and avoids (mostly) the clown looks that we’ve seen in the past. But yeah – “looking different” cannot be a serious reason, given other actions by Blizz.

2. We don’t want the set to be the best in all slots, to encourage players to try out different offset pieces. The reality is that most people use any of the million available online sources to find out: a. which set bonuses are worth getting; b. what pieces are worth getting; c. what offpieces are best-in-slot. So, really, the competition for the same pieces is still there, and everyone is still going for the same pieces. If anything, tier slots have a slightly better chance to drop than most other pieces (thanks to the token system), so competition for those is, on average, less.

3. Developing more sets would require more man-hours from our team which would translate in less content or more time between content patches. I don’t want to belittle the time it takes to develop items and sets, but I’m not sure how much of an additional resource burden the multiplication of sets would be. Currently, we have 19 sets – having one set per spec would boost that to 30. That’s 11 more sets, or 55 more items to design. However, these items would be variations on a theme, mostly moving the item budget of one stat into another, etc.

4. Tier progression should not just be increases of the same stats in the same percentages – having different sets cater to multiple specs mean that one tier can be heavier on crit and the next on haste, for example. I would love that, but again, it’s not happening. If I just take T9 and T10 for priests, the same slots have haste (gloves and legs), while the others have crit – and all have spirit. So in effect, T10 IS basically just T9 but more.

In Cataclysm, two developments may make all of this moot. Reforging will allow Tailors, Leatherworkers and Blacksmith to partially reallocate stats. What is not clear to me is whether they will be able to do this to their own items only, or to anyone’s. If the latter, then sure, the issue of different stats will partially go away. Also, the simplification and elimination of some stats will arguably make things easier: Armor Pen not being there will eliminate a big barrier between enhancement shamans/hunters, but also across hunter specs.

If reforging and stat simplification doesn’t work though, it would be great if we could see one set per specialisation line in Cataclysm – or at least if we could get some more discussion from developers about it (in the vague chance that someone from Blizzard actually reads my blog…. I know, might as well wish for the moon, right?). There is something about collecting and wearing your own class set that still makes you feel better, and to be perfectly honest I love set bonuses of any type (makes you feel like you’re getting that little extra boost). However, part and parcel of specs playing differently and feeling different is that they need different stats, even when they are performing the same role. So it would be great if Blizzard could go further down the road they travelled, and give us this variety.

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