Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sometimes I surprise even myself...

... and if you don't get the reference then you fail, hardcore.

I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts while my ridiculously busy schedule of ridiculousness keeps me from writing anything meaningful.

After our bug-filled jaunt into ICC last week, we decided to start fresh this week even though we only got 5 bosses down last week... And due to illness/inability to form coherent sentences/real life causing low attendance/etc, we waited until Wednesday night to go in this week.

To make a much longer story very short: we smashed 7 bosses (Lower Spire + Fester, Rot, and Princes).  A typical first night for us.

I was surprised by a couple of things during the run, though, that I wanted to share.

First, remember a few posts back?  I said that the death of cat DPS was greatly exaggerated?  Boy was I right.

Now, I realize they thought it was underpowered and made a couple of changes to bump it up.  They may have done so even before I posted my previous thoughts.  They may have done a little before then, and a little after.  I'm here today to confirm that cat DPS is most definitely alive and well, even before the Cataclysm.

For the first time in my experience, I actually led the DPS chart on a couple of fights.  One of them by a good margin.

At the end of the Saurfang fight I was sporting over 13k DPS.  Once I get near my gaming machine again I can try to post up a screenshot - I got one that should show the Recount breakdown to show how much is attributed to melee, Rake, Rip, Shred, and Ferocious Bite.  Much like pre-4.0, the breakdown was fairly even - roughly 25% each going to melee, Rip, and Shred, with the remaining 25% divided up among Ravage, Rake, and FB. 

After a top half performance on Rotface, we moved to Festergut.  We had a mage leading the chart for most of the fight, but I was a close second until we hit 25%.  It is so incredibly liberating to actually have something to do differently when the Raid Leader announces "Kill shot range."  Anyway, mere seconds before Fester fell down I passed him, finishing with 12.5k DPS to his 12.3k.  The breakdown of damage was shifted slightly.  I don't have the screenshots to compare at hand (I will offer more details once I do), but while the same general breakdown showed, it was shifted.  (i.e. Rip had the highest percentage on Saurfang, IIRC, and Shred had the highest on Fester, again, unless my memory is failing me.)

I'm loving Nom Nom Nom, even if it did get the much less cool name Blood in the Water.  Once the boss is in range, your life becomes Shred/Rake to 5 CPs, FB, do this two or three times depending on the time left on Savage Roar, then Shred/Rake to 5 CPs and Savage Roar, wash, rinse, repeat and watch the boss die.  Since you don't really have to worry about refreshing Rip, the only timer you really have to watch at that point is Savage Roar.

Speaking of timers, I was moderately more impressed with my output because I haven't been using a debuff tracker addon.  Last time I tried to load BadKitty, it was broken, and I haven't checked in the past week or so to see if it was fixed.  I suppose it's technically harder to play this way, but given the proclamations of doom and gloom for Kitty DPS I wasn't worried about it until Cata actually dropped.  So I was doubly surprised to find myself on top of the chart.

Moving on... My DPS as a tank seemed relatively high as well.  There were even a couple of fights that I beat out a couple of our lower-geared folks that just must have had a bad fight that boss.  I dunno *shrug*.

Speaking of tanking, my single-target threat has been WAY up - to the point where I'm stealing threat from our other tanks if I don't watch it - while my AOE threat has been way down, so-so at best.  That 6-second cooldown on Swipe is a pain in my arse.  Tab-targeting helps, but having the Pulverize buff fully powered helps as well, and you need to consume 3 stacks of Lacerate to get there, which requires focusing on one target.  I still don't have a good handle on how to get and hold AOE threat, but I also realize that I might not have that until Cata comes and we get Thrash.

In completely unrelated matters, I finally completed the holiday uber-meta.  Picked a candy bucket in Telaar and got Achievement spammed...  Got my Violet Proto-Drake and danced in the... wait, I already spent 5k gold to get 310% flying.  blizz can I have my 5k back?  See, what I was reading over the past few weeks (sorry, I'm a bad blogger and don't have sources to link, it's been too long and I don't remember where I read them to begin with, but Wowwiki confirms it) said that if you already had a 310% speed mount, you got Master Flying for free, but this was not true if you gained the mount afterward.  So, I spent my 5k, and then heard afterward that enough people complained about the holiday meta that they changed it so that it granted the Master flying skill.  Thus I curse my impatience but please Blizzard give me my 5k back.

Anyway.... cheers!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pre-Cata 4.0 Bear Thoughts

So my guild went in to ICC 25 this week a day late due to the patch, to try to relearn on the go how the game is played, so I got a good look at how to do things bear-wise until Dec. 7th.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with a few things, but I thought I'd roll that in to how to Bear in patch 4.0!

I'll cover all of the abilities in more complete detail in a later set of posts...

But first off, here is the spec I went with for my first go around...


Bear Build for 4.0!

Without the points to get to Perseverance (which I'll want at 85), I actually had one more point to use in the Feral tree than I will when I get that far.  We'll have 5 more points then, 2 of which will be in Natural Shapeshifter to get to Tier 2 resto, 3 in Perseverance, and I will find 1 point from somewhere (current odds are to take one out of Stampede) at that point for Master Shapeshifter... but we'll see.

For now... that looks like a solid build.  I have all the points in everything I want in the Feral tree, plus Heart of the Wild.  I personally don't think it would be bad, while using 4p t10 armor, to put 3 points in King of the Jungle to enhance Enrage even further for in-combat use, but excepting the tier bonus there's no reason to put points there at all.

On a side note, the tooltip for the four piece bonus to t10 armor still reads that "Enrage no longer reduces your armor and instead..."  I'm hoping they actually updated the mechanic so that it doesn't make you take extra damage, because Enrage no longer reduces armor anyway.  Even if they didn't, the bonus makes you take less damage, and more than overcomes the extra damage you take from Enrage anyway, so... I guess it all works out.  Anyway, back to the task at hand.

Tanking seemed... a little clunky to me.  Times were, the only rotationally used abilities Bears had on cooldowns were FFF and Mangle.  Now we've added Swipe and Maul to the mix, and given us an ability that wants us to build up Lacerate stacks, then remove them, AND an ability that wants us to have Lacerate ticking all the time.

So, in short, there's more buttons for us to press, and more limitations in how and when to press them.  To make matters worse, Maul and Swipe both now cost 30 rage (although Swipe's rage cost is supposed to be coming down, and word is they're reducing the threat generation to match, but keeping the cooldown.)  I can't say that I'm entirely pleased with that change - the 6 second cooldown on Swipe is a royal pain - but at least we'll be able to use Swipe at the beginning of a pull for initial aggro now.

I found myself doing things distinctively different for single-target and AOE pulls, which was... not entirely true previously.  For single-target, Mangle and FFF followed by Maul.  Maul and Mangle when off cooldown, fill in the space with Lacerates until 3 stacks, then Pulverize.  If you have the Pulverize buff up, 3 stacks of Lacerate, and Maul and Mangle are on cooldown... FFF again.  If that's also on cooldown... then Swipe, or consider Pulverizing to refresh the buff duration.  Doing this, I've been putting out comparatively massive threat - typically outpacing our DK and Warrior tanks.  Of course, maybe they just don't have their rotations down yet, or maybe I had rogue/hunter threat help, I don't know for sure.

For AOE pulls, I tended to start out with Lacerate, Pulverize immediately to have some buff up, then Swipe.  From there, I was tab-target Maul, Mangle, and Lacerate wherever I needed threat.  Swipe when off cooldown, and Pulverize whenever I could a) eat more stacks of Lacerate than the current buff had, or b) the buff was about to fall off.  I found myself sometimes having no issues with rage at all, and sometimes being rage-starved it seemed no matter what I did.  Either way, I was getting compliments from several folks on our run with doing awesome threat.  One player who has regularly had issues with generating just a little too much threat said he was going all-out and couldn't catch me.  Again, maybe I had help, but that certainly gave me some confidence.

All in all I didn't have many problems with threat generation, and when I did they seemed to be tied to rage starvation.

On the downside, the first night we got to Saurfang and had to stop because the door was bugged and wouldn't open after he died.  The second night, we killed Rotface before giving up because several of our players were having bug issues with the raid instances - getting dropped out of the instance, not being able to come back in, WoW crashing when they came in, WoW crashing when they were summoned - just generally annoying bugs.  I hope they get it all fixed soon.

I haven't had a lot of chances to cat yet, but I have a few thoughts I'll share when I get the time to.  As for my last post about it, I realized later I did my dummy testing after they buffed us a little bit.  Anyway, happy hunting!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Death of the Cat

... is, I think, over-exaggerated.

Ghostcrawler has posted that it's a little low, and they'll address it, but I was able (without an exceptional amount of optimization, I might add) to pull 7.9k on the dummy with only Mark of the Wild as buffs...

Then again, that's lower than what I used to be able to do.

Oh well, I'll post up with my full opinions when I get a chance.  Bear and Cat spec, and I have an idea at a hybrid but it might be a little brutal.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do Blog Posts Have Expiration Dates?

I was skimming over some of my old posts and realized how out of date the information in them is, even though it was written within the expansion that's about to end.  Part of it is due to changes during the expansion, part of it is due to my growth and experience as a player, and part of it is due to changes in the itemization of gear.  At the least, my spec has changed a bit because of changes to Mangle and I have a different opinion about a few spec choices than I did before, even if I haven't yet spent the gold to change them, but since the blog is not simultaneously both clairvoyant and auto-updating, well, this info hasn't made it into written word yet.

On a completely unrelated note, a clairvoyant, auto-updating blog would be simultaneously awesome and horrendous.  It would certainly cut down on writing time, but some thoughts should never be let out of the cage.

But, with the imminent Cataclysm, I think I'm going to wait until then to completely rework any guides.  It seems kind of pointless, so the only *current* info I'll still be putting up has to do with raiding until Cata comes and I get the chance to play with the new toys.

I hope my guides, even though out of date, will still serve some use to folks.  As such they'll be kept up but marked to indicate that they've passed their expiration date.

While I think reworking them would be great, I'm not sure how quickly I'll be able to write out that type of guide, especially with five levels to gain before I have access to everything.

With all that said, there are a LOT of changes coming, and I felt it would be a good time to build everything from the base up.  I think it will be good for both new players and old to reexamine what we know about how to play a Druid.  In accordance with this goal, I'll be stepping through key abilities new and old to talk about what they do, how they work, how they're useful to us, and what do we need to consider about WHEN to use them.  Since it's getting one of the biggest overhauls, I'll start with Maul and move on from there.

At the moment, I plan on focusing on Feral abilities.  Resto doesn't seem to be getting quite as big an overhaul as Feral, and I don't expect to have any practical experience with it any time soon, so I think I'm going to hold off on that for now.

Of course I'll also discuss talent trees and all the choices therein, but those I don't feel like touching until the info is final.

Lastly, it is my sincere hope to find some time before Cataclysm drops to work on the style of the page.  Blogger's template works, it gets the job done, but... it's so bland and basic.  Thus I intend to find the time to work out some changes.  That's kinda low on the totem pole right now though, so don't hold your breath.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On Babies and Crying

Days like today are what I expected when I first learned I would be a father.  The upside is that they've happened FAR less often than I expected, and I'm so very glad for that.

The suckiest thing I've had to deal with so far about having a baby is that when there's something wrong they can't tell you what it is, because they only have about four or five responses to stimuli, and really only varying degrees of one response to negative stimuli.

When they're happy they'll smile and laugh and play with things.  When they're content they'll be calm and look around and observe things.  When they're tired they'll rub their eyes.

But when they cry, sometimes there's not much you can do to figure out what's wrong, because they cry whenever anything is wrong, and my baby is no different.

When she's too tired and fighting sleep, she cries.  When she's hungry, she cries.  When she's constipated or gassy, she cries.  When she gets her foot caught in the rails of her crib, she cries.  When she has a headache, she cries.  When she has an ear infection, she cries.  When she has a fever, she cries.  When her gums or teeth hurt because she's teething, she cries.

Sure, some of those we can usually figure out - we can check her temperature, we know when she's being fed an how much, we can watch her on the monitor and see that she's in the middle of her crib.  But at her age, since she's started teething, it's kind of a roll of the dice trying to figure out what is causing her to fuss if we've ruled out the obvious.

Getting back to today... I had about 3-4 hours of sleep last night.  The largest uninterrupted period was around two to two and a half hours.  She woke up and fussed and fussed for about an hour until we got her settled enough to go back to sleep, then she slept for that two-ish hours and woke up again and refused to go back to sleep without laying on Mom or Dad's chest to prop her up a little bit.

All because of a little ear infection.

So I'm at work for the afternoon, but I'm only tackling easy stuff because I can barely concentrate enough to do anything worthwhile.  This post is about the most coherent thing I can muster.

Thankfully, she usually sleeps through the night and this is only the second time she's been sick.  I can count on one hand the number of times since she turned 6 weeks old she's not slept through the night.  But that doesn't help me feel any better today.

To all the parents out there who love and care for their children, I salute you for your effort and hope that the days like today has been for me are few and far between for you...

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Lich King

... Also known as Prince Arthas Menethil.

Our first attempts came this week, and our progress was up and down, to say the least.  The good news is that we got through the first phase and transition, and got to see the defiles and val'kyr a few times.  The bad news is that we did not continually progress, and of our ~10 attempts the 4th or 5th was our best attempt.

The only oddity in our strategy was that I stayed in my bear spec and gear, to be able to have a 3rd tank available for certain parts of the fight.  Most notably, it allows us to have 2 tanks available to handle raging spirits during the transition back to fighting the Lich King, allowing our MT to focus solely on getting back to the right spot with Arthas rather than having to worry about a Raging Spirit at the same time.

Although I'm not 100% certain it's necessary and I suspect we will not use that angle when we make our successful run, I do think it is extremely helpful while we are learning the fight, because it slightly increases our success rate in that transition.  The downside is that it cripples my DPS during the portions that I'm trying to cat form, with me beating out only the tanks at that point.

We had a LOT of trouble, the times we got to see defiles and Val'kyr, with both proper handling of defiles AND DPS getting the Val'kyr down.  Unfortunately we only got to see that a time or two.  We had some odd wipes in the first phase and during transition and although we were getting better again at the end we had lost our momentum and then ran out of time.

We are resetting next week, to allow, especially for our less-well-geared members, a chance at some more gear and a heaping load of badges, as well as getting us 8 more Sanctification tokens.

I should probably write something other than our raid updates eh?

What can I say it's a convenient topic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Internet Dragons

EA is killing those internet dragons!

It took us most of the night and 4 wipes (a couple to frustrating lack-of-movement mistakes), but we had good DPS all around and killed Sindragosa dead with time to spare on the last run.

We tanked her turned to the right as you face from the door out to her ledge.  Run to the stairs when she pulls you in, run to the stairs when she starts her air phase.  The five marked players spread out along the bottom step just far enough not to take too much damage from the ice tombs coming down.  DPS the tombs at the proper speed so that they come down just after the last ice bomb from her.  Stop DPS after 4 or 5 stacks of Chilled to the Bone and let it fall off.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Move to Phase 2.

That part we had pretty well down, except for one frustrating oops during the ice tombs that entombed nearly half the raid.

We struggled mostly, on 3 of our 4 wipes, with not losing players during the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2.  But once we figured it out we were fine.  Start by the back leg.  Person with mark move to the front and get ice blocked, THEN everybody follow.  Get behind, drop Mystic Buffet and DPS the tomb, then back on Sindy near the front leg.  Marked player run to the back leg and get tombed.  Everybody except half the melee DPS (we only had 5, so it was easy) run to the tomb, drop stacks, and kill the tomb.  Player with mark run to the front, get tombed, and everybody except the OTHER half the melee DPS do the tomb thing again.  Wash, rinse, repeat. 

Even on the winning run we had a couple of mistakes - one of our ice tombs ended up behind her tail and left for dead, and we'd lost enough folks by the end that our marked players were just instructed to get the heck away from everybody else before getting tombed, and left in the tombs to die.  But in the end it was another victory for EA, another step to finishing ICC before the Cataclysm reshapes WoW.

On to other news...

Although I don't heal at the moment I've kept up with tree-like Druid news.  I hate the current implementation in beta of Tree of Life, but I don't think I'm alone in that.  What I actually wanted to mention was about the Restoration Mastery.

In it's original incarnation, the Restoration Mastery provided extra healing to your HoT spells if they had lower HP *when the HoT was cast*.  This caused quite a stir in the resto community, as well it should have - it's exquisitely terribad.  When the proverbial fecal matter hits the proverbial air movement device, the last thing we want to be casting on a player is a HoT.  It may be more mana efficient over the length of its application, but it doesn't get the player healed NOW, which is what is needed at that time.  Combine that with Blizzard's push to get us to stop blanketing with HoTs and you have a recipe for disaster.

On a side note, it actually wouldn't have been an awful Mastery if they had allowed it to recalculate for each tick.  I think that would have encouraged thoughtful proactive pre-hotting without giving too much benefit to raid blanketing... but I digress.

The Mastery now provides additional healing to our spells cast on players who already have a HoT ticking on them.  This is most beneficial, IMO, to give us some more oomph as tank healers, as the tanks will *always* have HoTs ticking on them.  It also happens to discourage clipping, which I'll explain in a minute.  What it really allows is for the better healers to cast a Rejuv or other HoT on a target we expect to take damage, then when the damage hits and we need that extra oomph the HoT is already there to boost our heals.  I like it.

About the clipping thing?  Yeah, so if you are healing the tank, and you cast a Rejuv to boost the rest of your heals, and then you start a Lifebloom stack, it becomes important not to clip the Rejuv, since you'll only refresh the original, not recognize that there are already HoTs ticking.  This is true on the rest of the raid, but not quite as important as on the tank.  Once it falls off, you can reapply and get the boost because the Lifebloom is ticking... Which, when you refresh, will still be getting its bonuses.

I haven't seen nearly as detailed information about Feral Masteries, but I really like the fact that (at least at the moment) shifting forms allows us to shift our masteries.  We still can't shift gear, but it should help with those fights were we want/need to be able to do both roles...

As for Arthas... you better bring it, buddy.  Go big or go home.  EA's coming for you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Invading the Dragon's Lair

For the first time on 25-man, Epic Adventurers assaulted Sindragosa in her lair this week.

Although we were ultimately unsuccessful, it was a valiant attempt, and from what I understand we did *very* well for being our first ever 25-man attempt.

In our initial two attempts, we had ice blocked folks spread out across the bottom of the stairs.  We learned fairly quickly that they were too spread out in the positions we had them - it was too difficult for the DPS to get all the ice blocks down quickly enough.  We moved them in a little closer - just barely far enough apart to prevent them from killing each other when the blocks come down - and we were mostly successful at that portion of the fight.  It helped that we had 4-5 druids along (one traded in for a sick hunter in the middle) and 3 shamans, so lots of brezzing.

Other than that, it all essentially came down to execution - don't get too many stacks of damage, kill the ice tombs quickly, and DON'T STAND IN THE RAID when you are targeted for an ice block.  We only wiped once to that - we all had a good laugh, because it was an epic wipe-causing mistake.  Oddly enough, we determined at this point that if everybody outside the ice tombs dies, the boss and tombs despawn and those in the tombs don't die.

We showed good progress the entire night, with the exception of the ice block incident.  By the time we had had enough, we had reached and gotten mostly through the final phase - she had around a million HP left on the last wipe of the night, and the raid leader had called for us to ignore the ice-blocked folks and just burn Sindy as hard as we could.  Unfortunately we'd lost too many to gradual attrition at that point, and couldn't keep enough people alive any longer.

Based on our progress, we've been told we may extend the lockout - little more time for a few more shots and I think she would have gone down, and then we can spend time learning the LK fight.  I'm impressed with our first night in, although I think 3 nights of raiding in a row might just kill me if we have to keep it up more than a few weeks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Final Push

.... or the beginning of the end!  Or something like that.

Our guild leader has declared that we are making the final push to kill Arthas on our 25-man raids.  We are ceasing all alt activity on progression raids (we had been allowing alts through the gunship, then through deathwhisper when we began doing heroic lootship), and are scheduling a 3rd night every week in addition to more serious usage of lockouts to extend raids week to week.

With everything we've been hearing about anticipated dates for Cataclysm, it was decided that this is the time to make a serious push to complete the end game raid of Wrath.

On our first night this week we smashed everything we took a shot at, with the exception of one wipe on Blood Council due to failure to avoid AOE around black balls.  Our second night, we have PP, BQL, and Dreamwalker still to go among bosses we have successfully defeated.  We hope to get those three and have a go at Sindragosa on the second night.

I didn't post about it last week, but IMO we took a step back - we had a couple of failures on Dreamwalker and took 7 tries to down BQL.  I'm hoping that the renewed focus on actually progressing will give folks the oomph to have clean attempts on the second night, and get down, for the first time, everything we have already downed, all in one week.

It's time for us to quit goofing around and get it done!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reclaiming Gnomeregan

The quest chain to reclaim Gnomeregan opened up this week...

Does this mean Cataclysm is imminent?

Inquiring minds want to know!

From what I've heard is going on in the beta I would suspect it's still a fair distance out, but the release of this quest chain would indicate it's closer than I had expected.

Need more time to down the Lich King!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Alt Club

Rambly post is rambly, about alts and paladins and tanking and dps and gearscore and another baby and I don't know where I'm going with this but hey it'll be fun.

It seems like everybody in my guild has at least 5 or 6 level 80 alts.  I have 10 characters on Baelgun, but my reduced play time due to marriage and baby has meant that my alt-o-holic ways have been curtailed almost entirely.

Lately, though, since Kaethir has basically reached the point that even frost badges are useful for nothing except primordial saronites for LW patterns, or down-ranking for gems or heirloom gear, I have taken the time to work on my highest alt, Alrom, instead of repeating the same random dungeons with a supremely over-geared tank every morning.  A week or so ago, he finally reached the level 80 plateau, and started the rep/gear/badge/daily grind.  *Dance time*  I have finally joined the Alt Club!

I have made no secret of the fact that one of the things I love most about playing a Druid is the versatility of being able to play whatever role I choose (provided of course that I have the gear, spec, etc. available at the time.  It should be no surprise, then, that my first alt is from the only other class in the game that is capable of all 3 major raid roles, a paladin.  A dwarf, which I suppose is a little odd for most players, but, well, there it is.

Being a fresh level 80 with essentially a few quest blues and greens and 3 pieces of heirloom gear to his name, I have been queuing as ret with him, dealing with the longer queue times in order to be a contributing member of the group rather than a severe liability.  I suffered, the first few days as an 80, from being limited to normal dungeons due to Blizzard's insistence that you have a GS in the 2500-ish range before you get to go into a heroic dungeon.  Once I picked up a couple of decent low-level pieces and bought my first T9 piece, however, the heroic queue opened up for me and off I went!

Melee DPS as a paladin instead of a kitty is a world of difference.  No button-mashing, no energy management, no worrying about clipping a DoT, no worrying about losing a buff or a debuff or any of the other 100 things a kitty has to worry about.  Just hit whichever ability is left-most on my bar and not on cooldown.  If I've managed to flub that up and nothing is off cooldown at the moment, hit Divine Plea.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Watch things die.  It's so easy and smooth it's sickening.  Of course, maybe that's because I'm in a heroic with overgeared players and it doesn't matter that I can't get above 2k DPS yet.  Heck, 1.5k most of the time.

By the way, that notoriously long queue as a DPS?  Meh.  8-10 minutes is the worst I've seen.  That's still forever, compared to sub-30 seconds as a tank, but come on.  Half the time I queue up, take a flight path, do one Tournament Daily, take another flight path and the queue hits before I land.  I suppose in today's 'gogogo' world where 20 seconds is too much time to wait, most people would be upset.  Me?  I'm more than happy, even though I can't tank yet and that's really what I want to do.

I have been working up a prot set and spec in the meantime, and although I'm not there yet being a lot of times the only player in a group that is still actually pulling upgrades from heroics, it is moving quickly.  I need to get Kaethir off his furry rear end long enough to buy and cut a couple of gems for Al, for the pieces that I don't expect to be replaced within a week or so (like that prot t9 piece I bought), and take the energy to find an enchanter to put something, anything, on those pieces I'm bothering with gems for.  I'm not even really close to the 535 defense I'm told I need for heroics, but once I get there, look out, there'll be a fail-pally tank on the loose.

Since I don't want to be a total fail-tank when I do get to delve into heroic tanking, I have been taking some of my questing time to put on all my prot stuff and see how it works.  It's quite painful, in some respects.  Part of a prot pally's mana regen is based on incoming heals - which you don't get running around solo.  I am satisfied with the survivability, but the loss of DPS just makes soloing too slow to be much fun, so I am only going to be soloing as prot to make sure I keep my weapon skills at a reasonable level with whichever weapon is currently my best prot weapon.

Tanking also seems a little more smooth with a paladin to me, but then, I haven't been put in a situation where I really have to use all the paladin's tools yet.  It is a little overwhelming how much is available when things go wrong - hands, seals, hammers, etc. - compared to the bear's available responses, which are: bash, growl, and make myself harder to kill.  I suppose on one level it's easier to bear tank, because when stuff goes wrong you just do more of what you were already doing anyway.  Of course, I'm probably just blowing hot electrons because this will all be moot come Cataclysm anyway, but still.

Awhile back, I wrote a post wondering about what I would do with Alrom once I got him to level 80.  Turns out he's going to be doing the same things Kaethir does, except while wearing plate, casting spells, and wielding weapons, instead of fur, roars, and claws.  I suppose there's some psychological or metaphorical connection I should be making here, but at the moment the only thing that comes to mind is that I like tanking, I like damage meters, and I like hitting things.  Or maybe it's more that I'd rather do that than play whack-a-mole.  Or whack-a-not-green-bar.  Whatever.

I do still enjoy healing, and I may in the future trade in one of my pally specs for a holy one to find out what it's like.  Frankly, not being able to be a proactive healer frightens me, but in a heroic I don't expect slow reaction times to lead to wipes, and I don't intend to use this character in raids except, maybe, for the occasional weekly raid quest or alt-able portion of our guild raids.  Time will tell.

On a completely non-WoW-related post, my wife is pregnant again, or so the little peed-on stick tells us.  Some people seem to think that we are crazy, but I like the idea of having our first two kids so close together.  My wife insists that we'll be waiting for awhile after this one before trying again, even though she's the one that wanted a big family when we started this whole shindig.  I can't help but think that she said that last time and, well, look where we are now.  Not that I'm complaining, I like fatherhood.  Here's to hoping my second child is as happy and easy to take care of as my first.

I don't know if it was fun for you, but it was fun for me!  Wwwhheeeeeeeeee!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Milestones

I realized only a short while ago that my blog was approaching it's 100th post.

Then I forgot about it and went on with life for awhile.

Lo and behold, when I went to post this morning's content, I realized that it WAS the 100th post...  YAY!

It's taken me over 10 months to get here, and I would not have been able to find the desire to go on if it wasn't for the folks that come by and read and occasionally drop a comment on some of my inane ramblings.

Thanks for everything, I apologize if I have damaged your sanity, I hope you've found something enjoyable, funny, informative, or entertaining, and I look forward to the next 100!

*party*

Cataclysm Glyph Changes

Thanks to Keeva for making the first post I saw about this.

I've lamented before about the role of hybrids in WoW, and the fact that despite playing the single most versatile class in the game, I am not any more versatile than any other player during a raid - I am locked into my spec, gear, and glpyhs, and even with the most closely related pair - dual feral - I cannot effectively switch between the two during a fight, because even if I make the spec changes to have the minimum required talents for each, I can't change the glyphs or gear that push each into the realm of competitive with other classes.

The blue post announced that glpyhs will no longer be consumable - once learned, they will  be interchangeable and available in the glyphs interface.  While it doesn't address some of my issues with hybrid-ness, I do see great possibilities from it.

With this announcement... well, we still can't change things mid-fight, *but* we will, I think, be able to share one spec and carry only gear (not stacks and stacks of glyphs) to switch back and forth, and have a sliding bar of how far we can go from one spec to the other that is easy (relatively) to manage, rather than requiring multiple addons and piles of glyphs to keep up with.

In my personal case, it *might* allow me to revert to a feral/resto spec setup.  If it's not too hard to get required talents for both from the talent tree, I can change glyphs when needed, and I'm already carrying 3 gear sets around at all times.

Maybe I'm being a little optimistic, and maybe I'm reading a little too much into this announcement, but this has me even more excited than I already was for Cataclysm.  I just hope EA has had the time to work out killing the Lich King by then.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Teaching the Professor

The only term I could use to properly define the Professor Putricide fight is controlled chaos.

On second thought, I'm not so sure about the controlled part.

We had faced him a few times before, but without much success, never making it to phase 3 and making it through the transition from phase 1 to phase 2 cleanly only a couple of times.

This week was destined to be different...

We smashed through the Lower Spire and Putricide's two... "sons" on the first night without much difficulty.  This has been a regular ritual for us for a couple of months now, and the second night started out with a roll through the princes and their queen, and we moved on to the Professor.  We've been skipping Dreamwalker the past few weeks even though we've healed her successfully a few times.  Our successful strategy has involved 4 tanks, and we've been down two of our regular progression tanks and one of our backups has been spotty on attendance.  Since adding me into the mix we have 4 regular progression tanks, with an extremely solid backup Paladin tank and a serviceable backup Druid for a total of 6 tanks geared enough to fill at least an OT slot.  Take out 3... and we don't have the tankage necessary.  I suppose at this point we might be able to do it with 2 or 3 tanks (putting our best one by himself on one side for the 3 tank setup...) but that's the raid leader's job to decide, not mine.

Where was I?  Oh yes, Putricide.

Our typical MT and raid leader took the Abom - I don't have any experience with it and I think it gives him less to pay attention to so he can better direct the raid.  I controlled the Professor himself, and our backup Druid - who is usually specced Balance for most of our raids, and is an excellent Boomkin at that - stayed feral but went cat form until the 3rd phase.  This was the role I had on our previous attempts, when we had one of our other main progression tanks with us.

Unfortunately I'm turning into an old man, and our report isn't up yet so I can't check it to remember exactly how many times we wiped... but we made it to the 3rd phase if not every time then almost.  I know we wiped once to debuff stack buildup (and my craptastic hardware crashing...) and we wiped once more due, in essence, to poor handling of Putricide by us tanks not moving him properly.

We did have an issue on 2-3 of our attempts with having an ooze or gas cloud up during the shift to 3rd phase, which draws DPS away from the boss, giving his slime puddles time to grow.  Probably not coincidentally, our successful run had no slime up (and no slime puddles up!) at the time of the shift.

Malleable goos on me were occasionally a problem, but we got that worked out.

In the end, of course, we taught the professor a lesson.  What it is, beyond "don't mess with us or we'll let you kill us a few times before we kill you," well, that I don't know.

We had been planning on locking out next week to have more time for attempts on Putricide and maybe Sindragosa, but after a vote revealed a decent chunk of folks that still want/need the gear and marks from the bosses we've downed we decided that we'll do a fresh run next week.

On the upside there is actually some gear to be had for me.  One of our raiders took a sojourn through another guild to get a LK kill and then came back, opening up our ability to do heroic lootship, which we did succesfully this week (even though we were all dead at the end).  Unfortunately, I lost the roll by 1 to a rogue on the heroic version of Ikfirus's Sack of Wonder.  Add in all the additional Marks we'll be pulling, and soon I have no doubt we'll be knocking on the Lich King's door.

Onward, Epic Adventurers!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The 75000% bank fee...

Totally off topic...

So I had a $0.02 check that I had held on to for awhile (since May...) because I didn't really want to spend the time to go to the bank for $0.02.  But I got another check I was taking, so I took it to the bank along with me last week, cashed my two checks, and went on my way.

Then last Friday I saw two charges on my account, for $0.02 and $15.00.  Fifteen dollars for processing a check that didn't go through, and the two cents for the check itself.

I realize the $15 is a flat fee - but that's 75000% of the check itself.

Fun times.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Once Bitten, Twice Cheesy... and also, MOAR DOTS!

Ok, so I can't help myself with the cheesy achievement title ripoffs for post titles.

One week after our first ever BQL kill, we downed her again - this time I was DPSing, and picked up the Achievement for being both bitten and not.  Despite this, I was mildly disappointed in the run.  Even after we down a boss the first time, I expect the next few times we kill it to continue to be difficult, especially if we rotate in new/less geared/less skilled/whatever players.  We did wipe once, due to bite issues and an early DPS death, but the second attempt saw her down with 5s left on the enrage timer - an eternity compared to our first kill - without any real drama.  Am I being silly, thinking that it should still be a challenge for another few kills after the first?  Or perhaps for thinking that it WASN'T a challenge the second time around?  Or maybe even just for being disappointed?  I don't know.

Even so, I'm still very pleased.  We had issues with disconnects (not during the fight) and such all night, and still managed to deal with things and get the run as far as we were going to get it.

On the upside, since we hadn't got Fester and Rot the first night, we went to do them and I stayed all feline-ish and managed on Fester to place 2nd on our DPS chart.  I'm certainly pleased with myself for it - even if a couple of our heavy hitters weren't quite doing what they could, the fact that I was even in the ballpark is impressive to me.  Someone who doesn't normally DPS outside of raids, hasn't really DPSed at all in several weeks, and even then was not quite in the top rank having just started doing this a couple of months ago... yeah, I was happy.

I can't remember if I've said it before, and I'm too lazy to go looking through my archives to find out, but pretty much the most difficult thing for me to learn, to get my DPS to the next level, has been that there are times as a Feral Cat that the best thing to do is NOTHING AT ALL.

When I first started, I was unknowingly locked into the idea that the way to increase DPS was to constantly be hitting buttons - obviously, if you're doing something with your energy you're doing more DPS than if you're not, right?  And that's true... for every individual second in time.  But when you look at the whole...

It becomes a delicate balancing act between available energy, combo points, buffs, and debuffs.  It becomes very easy to mash buttons to get MOAR DPS NOW!! but then, in 10 seconds when you need to rebuild your combo points very quickly after your Savage Roar so you don't lose uptime on your Rip, you don't have the energy to Shred in quick succession to do so, and it becomes better to just sit and watch white damage - which should be, by around a 10% margin, the biggest percentage of your DPS anyway - so that when you need that burst, you have the energy to do so.

Something else that it's taken me awhile to really understand is that when the priority system says "keep up Savage Roar" at the top, it really means that we need that buff up no matter what.  Don't wait for 5 CP, don't force another ability off first, just make sure that buff stays up, because it buffs every single thing you do.  If that means hitting it with 1 CP, so be it - but understand that you're going to need to do it again fairly quickly in that situation, and be prepared for it.

To critique what I did wrong on that fight, that I could do better:

92% uptime on Savage Roar.  I spent 21 seconds of the fight without my most important self-buff.  Need to be more precise.

91.6% uptime on Rake.  22.5 seconds downtime is too much.  I also clipped this several times - poor energy efficiency.

80.1% uptime on Rip. 48 seconds downtime.  While it's expected that there will be a *little* more downtime here - you need to build up CP at the beginning of the fight for this - it's still too much downtime.  20% of the fight I didn't have it going.  Have to be careful with clipping here as well, although I've noticed that for some reason it occasionally won't let me clip it.

It's hard to tell, in retrospect, if I had proper use of Berserk and Mangle - I only used Mangle twice and we had a couple of warriors who were keeping Trauma up, and I used Berserk the maximum twice allowed by the enrage timer.  Given the warriors I probably should have skipped Mangle altogether, although it's entirely possible I just fat-fingered it a couple of times, as it's right next to Shred.

Hope that was a helpful look at things for somebody.

Anyway, I also managed to pick up a couple of pieces to keep my healing set from falling waaaay too far behind, just in case I'm ever called on to really respec for it or I decide its time to go back.  Not spending frosties on it, at least not until I have all my crafted patterns bought, but I'm still trying to keep a reasonable set together.

We didn't get a chance to go after PP - we didn't push hard for progression this week.  Next week after we down our usual crew we're looking at locking out for a second week, to get good shots at PP and Sindy in.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to 22-man Lower Spire

Step 1: Have a regularly-scheduled 25-man raid.

Step 2: Have a couple of your regular players be in the military and get deployed.

Step 3: Have a couple of your regular players get married.  To each other! (GRATS to Trukaos and Daphne)

Step 4: Have a couple of your regular players out for a few weeks while they deal with having to move from Kentucky to New Jersey.

Step 5: Have a couple of your regular players take a pre-Cata/RL overload/etc. break.

Step 6: Have one of your regular players have random company at their house.

Step 7: Show up to said regularly-scheduled 25 man raid, with only 22 players available.

Step 8: Love the 30% buff.  Faceroll through Saurfang.

Step 9: ???

Step 10: Profit

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And then there were two...

Two bosses between EA and the Lich King.

After a few false starts, tonight the Blood Queen fell to the might of the Epic Adventurers!!

We had wipes at 6m HP left, 4m HP left, and 2m HP left (as well as a couple of "oops the first bite died"), but in the end we were successful.

Nice job everyone, now lets get Putricide and Sindy.

Edit: Now that it's morning, and my brain is caffeinated again...

In the end, of course, it all came down to execution.  No DPS deaths due to:

1. Not biting in time.
2. Biting too early (and thus messing up and running away in fear during the NEXT bite phase).
3. Not being able to bite due to location/bug/etc.
4. Standing too close when she makes it rain.
5. Standing in fire.
6. Not getting close fast enough when connected by red lines.

...and only one healer death, who was promptly rebirthed.  Our regular crew includes 4 druids; if a battle-rez will fix it, we're usually good.

The only sad part, IMO, is that even with the 30% Strength of Wrynn buff we only had 3 seconds left before her Berserk.  Sheesh.

Our 10-man progression crew has killed the Lich King, and from what they've said and what I've read, the Sindragosa and Lich King fights are even more unforgiving of mistakes than this one.  It'll be a long hard road, but I'm sure we'll get it done.

I'm on a BOAT!

*smiles* I stood in the middle of *OUR* boat and swiped/mauled for 5 minutes straight.  I guess that's worthy of an achievement?  I dunno, but I lol'd anyway.

The Blood Queen escaped last week - some of our team really hasn't figured out how to bite the proper DPS, or stay far enough apart not to die when she rains fire down upon us.  Or something like that.  In any case, we didn't get as close as we did the week before.  But another venture tonight, I hope, will provide the cure!

The good news is that instead of having Dreamwalker and Blood Princes still up, only Dreamwalker remains this week among bosses we have downed.  We 24-manned her last week, so even if we are down a player or two I don't expect a problem there this week, and we can spend most of the night working on Blood Queen and/or Putricide.

On a completely unrelated note, my daughter starting teething while we were at GenCon 2 weeks ago.  She's got 2 on the bottom, and (we think) one through on the top... and she's been amazingly not hard to deal with the entire time.

Before you know it she'll be driving the boys wild!  ;)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wish us luck

So I'm back from GenCon all ready to go, we downed our usual Lower Spire + Fester and Rot last night (and on only my 3rd time tanking Rotface, first time on 25, first time truly tanking the slimes!), and we're going in again tonight.  We'll probably go after the Princes and then Dreamwalker before giving the Blood Queen another shot.

Last week we wiped with her at 1% and 0.1% (She had 620 HP remaining.  Yep.) so I'm confident we'll get her tonight!  Wish us luck!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Comings and Goings

It's fun to have a title for a post that sounds really really interesting but the post is nothing important.  Although I don't think I can afford to piss any of my (2) readers off....

Anyway, we had some trouble last week (already down a tank and then my cable went out) so we decided to extend our ICC-25 lock out for this week.  Wish us luck - while we've downed (upped?) Dreamwalker once, it's the only boss remaining that we HAVE actually completed.

In other news, this will probably be a lighter-than-usual week for me, since I'm headed off to GenCon with the wife and little one Thursday, and won't be back until Sunday afternoon.

Thanks folks, and I'll be back!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Open Letter

Dear Insight Communications,

Normally you provide me with excellent internet service.

But when it dies right in the middle of the Dreamwalker fight we still don't have quite to farm status yet, it makes me want to wish your company would die in a fire.

Yours truly,

Kaethir

Edit: In case anyone is assuming I am making a threat, I am doing no such thing, and I understand that outages happen, I am merely expressing frustration and displeasure at the inconvenient (to me) timing of the most recent outage experienced at my house.  I am not stupid enough to make threats on the internet.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I AM RENEWED!

a.k.a. That Stupid Green Dragon, redux.

Inevitably, I post things that are innacurate.

My last post went up early this past Thursday morning at its predetermined time.  I tend to use Blogger's post options to set posts to appear a day or two after I write them to give me time to reread and edit them should I find errors or sections that I feel have been written poorly.

An unfortunate consequence of this is that when I post things like status updates about my guild's raids, if I write them early in the week and set them to post Wednesday or Thursday morning, it means that my guild has a chance to prove me wrong.

Such it is that now (Thursday morning as I write this, mere minutes after my previous post went up,) we are no longer stumbling over that stupid green dragon.

The fact is not lost on me that the Strength of Wrynn buff now stands at 30%, which makes several of the fights we would probably STILL be on the edge of beating go from difficult but beatable to laughably easy.  One comment that came over vent on Tuesday after we downed Saurfang was, 'remember when this guy was HARD?'  It would still be incredibly difficult if we didn't have that buff, I think.  It has, IMO, kind of reached the level of insanity, though.  I popped Survival Instincts and cracked 116k HP.  One hundred sixteen thousand.

Not that I'm really complaining... if it allows us to see content that we would otherwise not be able to even attempt, I'm all for it.

Back to the dragon.  We went again with a 4-tank setup with 6 healers, 3 of whom went the portals every time and 3 of whom did not.  My little corner of the room had relatively few spawns until the end, and most of them that weren't Suppressors were zombies, so I spent a lot of my time being an agile little angry bear and running around trying not to get too many stacks of Corrosion until the DPS could take care of the zombie.  We wiped once due to the DPS curve, and then healed her just as things were starting to get out of hand again.

PROGRESS feels so great.

We moved on to try Putricide instead of the Blood Queen, and while we did get better in general through the night we were unable to succeed in the kill.  We seem to be still on the curve of success in the DPS department, and one DPS falling over to an orange slime (Gas Cloud?) or green slime (Volatile Ooze?) kills us in the long run because we can't continue to get them down fast enough to keep damage up on Putricide himself.  But much like Blood Queen, we were getting better, and I think that in a few week we'll be working on Sindy.

We have now completed every boss but the main wing bosses (Putricide, Blood Queen, Sindragosa) and the Lich King himself.

RAWR!!

Edit: and this was not supposed to go live until tomorrow morning, but I clicked "Publish" before I set the time.  I am a Fail Blogger.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

That Stupid Green Dragon

So in the absence of one of our progression tanks I've had quite a few opportunities over the past month or so to tank on our progression runs.  Whatever our leadership had decided was holding me back from at least being a fill-in for our progression tanks has at least to a certain extent been abated, and as near as I can tell, we have our 3 main progression tanks and the 4th (fill-in) spot is run by 3-player committee based on who is available for the run and which role each of them prefers.  The short version is that with one of our tanks just now returning from a bit of a hiatus, I've had a lot of chances to do that thing I do.

It's been a heck of a lot of fun.

EA has progressed to the point where we almost always 1-shot the first 6 bosses in ICC (through Saurfang plus Festergut and Rotface), and we've got the Blood Princes down to two shots, max.

I like the Blood Prince fight.  There's a lot of insanity going on, but for the most part it's survivable insanity, as long as you are at least mildly situationally aware.  I've only had the opportunity to tank the fight once, and I had Keleseth (or Taldaram... whichever one is not the one that requires you to run around collecting balloons... on second thought I *think* it's Taldaram) for the duration.  Tanking that prince is a piece of cake.  I've also had the opportunity to DPS it a time or two, and it's a bit rough on feral DPS, but it's still fun.  Feral Charge comes in handy for target switching.

The past couple of weeks we've taken a couple shots at Putricide and Blood Queen.  Putricide was insanity, but we only tried him once or twice.  Blood Queen is fun - I think we'll get her in a week or two with a few more upgrades and a bit of patience and another couple times to figure out how all that biting stuff works.

We are, however, still stumbling over healing the Dreamwalker, which we've been putting the most work into over the past month and a half or so.  We've tried going healer-heavy (which failed miserably), we've tried taking in a 2-tank team with normal healer count (which did even worse), and I think we've finally settled on a plan we believe will work - she was healed to 91% on our best attempt.

We went light 1 healer (bringing 6), and went with four tanks, one specifically for each doorway.  The added tanks gives us better control over the adds as well as the opportunity to have a little extra time to handle adds because they're beating on a tank instead of DPS or heals.  We are *slightly* slower downing the adds, but since we have the extra tanks it's not quite as big a deal.  It does seem to matter more when a DPS dies (as we are more on the edge of the DPS curve for survivability), but it matters a little less for most of the adds to die quite as quickly.  I am hopeful that we'll have this fight down within a couple of weeks as well.

That's the state of EA progression raids.  Hope everything's going well with your guild's raids.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Entry Number Two

I seem to have avoided asshatery in my Random Dungeons, for the most part.  Perhaps it's the times I'm running them, perhaps it's that I typically run with 1-3 guildmates, or perhaps it's my sunny disposition, but typically the worst I've had to deal with is people that are a little slightly overeager and are willing to slow down if they die once or twice.

Saturday, however, I was running a random and apparently found the Worst Rogue Ever (tm).

I was running with no guild members this day and got dropped into a fresh Nexus run - piece of cake, right? ... Right?  Oh the immortal Warning Signs.... before we've even really had time to buff, the rogue is running off saying "go go go!"

We progressed through the Horde Commander and up the tunnel towards Ms. Many-of-Me-Deal-With-It.  The rogue was generally being annoying, pushing the limits of idiocy that I allow in groups I tank for.  Once he pulled while we were still fighting a group (I think/assume, I was busy tanking and didn't see who pulled) but it wasn't an issue due to the rest of the group.  He attacked the last frozen enemy well before I was even in the area.  Since he did this quite deliberately, I skipped my typical warning and went right to "you pull it, you tank it" mode... which didn't matter because he essentially stun-locked it until it died.

We cleared the group at the top of the tunnel, and I used FFF to pull the group from inside the boss's room... shortly after which, the rogue aggro'd the two groups on the far side of the room that no group has killed since it was realized that you don't have to.  Unfortunately, the idiot rogue got them over towards us and then Vanished... and people took a LOT of damage (including one dead DPS) before I realized what had happened and Swiped.  The rogue died shortly thereafter (thankfully) but the healer was a bit undergeared... and combine that with myself trying to get used to a new unit frames addon (Shadowed UF) and I missed my defensive cooldowns and we wiped.

Intensely irritated at this point, but still just wanting to finish the instance, I told the entire group to let the tank (ME!) pull.  The rogue spouted off with something, at which point I pointed out that he was the one who had pulled multiple groups (and to be fair, I think I called him a name which might have vaguely insulted his intelligence).  I found the response back of "NO U!" to be bothersomely childish, so I proceeded to add him to my Ignore list and attempt to continue on.

When we got back in and buffed and ready to proceed, I once again FFF'd the remaining mobs from the boss room.  Watching carefully this time, I saw the rogue go attempt to pull the other two groups... which promptly killed him and returned to their locations.  Oddly determined to continue on this course of action, the other 4 players downed the adds and went after the boss.

Partway through (during her second split), the rogue made it back to us... and pulled those two groups into the room.  I found out at this point, that you cannot vote-kick while (a) in combat or (b) during loot rolls.  More prepared for asshatery at this point, I was able to collect the mobs and keep them under control until the sane members of our DPS crew could down them.... and then we found out that, for reasons unknown, we could not kick this idiot for another 15 minutes.

Determined to press on, we attempted to continue.  When the rogue proved that he intended to continue causing as much disruption as he could (pulling a group and tricks-of-the-trade to the healer!) we backed off a bit and all basically said "BRB 15 mins" and stopped doing anything.

He left after 10, wasting 10 more minutes of our time.

I actually kind of feel sorry for that pally healer; the replacement DPS that came in told him to stop hitting this and worry only about healing and was generally just a butthead - but at least he didn't deliberately try to get us killed.

In any case... Ă…ries of Emerald Dream... you are my Asshat of the Day

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thoughts on the First Beta Rebuild of Talent Trees

Of course, the first day after I finally post some thoughts about the changes to Cataclysm talent trees, MMO Champion gets ahold of the first pass at redoing the talent trees.

I went over and took a gander at it.  I'm still cautiously optimistic, but the hope that my optimism isn't misplaced has taken a hit.

EEEEEEwwwww....

I understand that this is a first pass, and it's a bit harder for Druids, and feral Druids especially, but oh lord did they rip our trees to shreds.

Blizzard stated one of their goals to be making each choice count while still allowing some flexibility - as I see it, there is very, VERY little flexibility in the Druid trees that are currently in Beta - in fact there are only, give or take, two to three points that can even be in the discussion to move as a Bear tank, and we are forced to take kitty talents to even get to that point... and a big part of the issue is requiring 5 points to get to the next tier each tier... if the requirement were slightly lower (say, 3 points?) it would actually allow us to select the talents we really want as opposed to those we HAVE to take to get to the next tier.  Heck with the way the trees were shown there, you could have the second tier require 3, the third require 7, the fourth require 12, the fifth require 18, and so on, or maybe even just 3/10/15/etc....

Plus... Mangle at Level 10??? Interesting choice... should take a lot of the pain of low-level levelling away...

Blah.  I suck at writing today.  What do you think?

Cataclysm Talent Changes

Likely by now you've already seen the blue post, but just in case you haven't, here it is, along with a link to the source:
When we first announced our design goals for class talent trees back at BlizzCon 2009, one of our major stated focuses was to remove some of the boring and "mandatory" passive talents. We mentioned that we wanted talent choices to feel more flavorful and fun, yet more meaningful at the same time. Recently, we had our fansites release information on work-in-progress talent tree previews for druids, priests, shaman, and rogues. From those previews and via alpha test feedback, a primary response we heard was that these trees didn’t incorporate the original design goals discussed at BlizzCon. This response echoes something we have been feeling internally for some time, namely that the talent tree system has not aged well since we first increased the level cap beyond level 60. In an upcoming beta build, we will unveil bold overhauls of all 30 talent trees.

Talent Tree Vision

One of the basic tenets of Blizzard game design is that of “concentrated coolness.” We’d rather have a simpler design with a lot of depth, than a complicated but shallow design. The goal for Cataclysm remains to remove a lot of the passive (or lame) talents, but we don’t think that’s possible with the current tree size. To resolve this, we're reducing each tree to 31-point talents. With this reduction in tree size we need to make sure they're being purchased along a similar leveling curve, and therefore will also be reducing the number of total talent points and the speed at which they're awarded during the leveling process.

As a result, we can keep the unique talents in each tree, particularly those which provide new spells, abilities or mechanics. We’ll still have room for extra flavorful talents and room for player customization, but we can trim a great deal of fat from each tree. The idea isn’t to give players fewer choices, but to make those choices feel more meaningful. Your rotations won’t change and you won’t lose any cool talents. What will change are all of the filler talents you had to pick up to get to the next fun talent, as well as most talents that required 5 of your hard-earned points.

We are also taking a hard look at many of the mandatory PvP talents, such as spell pushback or mechanic duration reductions. While there will always be PvP vs. PvE builds, we’d like for the difference to be less extreme, so that players don’t feel like they necessarily need to spend their second talent specialization on a PvP build.

The Rise of Specialization

We want to focus the talent trees towards your chosen style of gameplay right away. That first point you spend in a tree should be very meaningful. If you choose Enhancement, we want you to feel like an Enhancement shaman right away, not thirty talent points later. When talent trees are unlocked at level 10, you will be asked to choose your specialization (e.g. whether you want to be an Arms, Fury or Protection warrior) before spending that first point. Making this choice comes with certain benefits, including whatever passive bonuses you need to be effective in that role, and a signature ability that used to be buried deeper in the talent trees. These abilities and bonuses are only available by specializing in a specific tree. Each tree awards its own unique active ability and passives when chosen. The passive bonuses range from flat percentage increases, like a 20% increase to Fire damage for Fire mages or spell range increases for casters, to more interesting passives such as the passive rage regeneration of the former Anger Management talent for Arms warriors, Dual-Wield Specialization for Fury warriors and Combat rogues, or the ability to dual-wield itself for Enhancement shaman.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.

Getting Down to the Grit

Talent trees will have around 20 unique talents instead of today's (roughly) 30 talents, and aesthetically will look a bit more like the original World of Warcraft talent trees. The 31-point talents will generally be the same as the 51-point talents we already had planned for Cataclysm. A lot of the boring or extremely specialized talents have been removed, but we don't want to remove anything that’s going to affect spell/ability rotations. We want to keep overall damage, healing, and survivability roughly the same while providing a lot of the passive bonuses for free based on your specialization choice.

While leveling, you will get 1 talent point about every 2 levels (41 points total at level 85). Our goal is to alternate between gaining a new class spell or ability and gaining a talent point with each level. As another significant change, you will not be able to put points into a different talent tree until you have dedicated 31 talent points to your primary specialization. While leveling, this will be possible at 70. Picking a talent specialization should feel important. To that end, we want to make sure new players understand the significance of reaching the bottom of their specialization tree before gaining the option of spending points in the other trees. We intend to make sure dual-specialization and re-talenting function exactly as they do today so players do not feel locked into their specialization choice.

A True Mastery

The original passive Mastery bonuses players were to receive according to how they spent points in each tree are being replaced by the automatic passive bonuses earned when a tree specialization is chosen. These passives are flat percentages and we no longer intend for them to scale with the number of talent points spent. The Mastery bonus that was unique to each tree will now be derived from the Mastery stat, found on high-level items, and Mastery will be a passive skill learned from class trainers around level 75. In most cases, the Mastery stats will be the same as the tree-unique bonuses we announced earlier this year. These stats can be improved by stacking Mastery Rating found on high-level items.

To Recap

When players reach level 10, they are presented with basic information on the three specializations within their class and are asked to choose one. Then they spend their talent point. The other trees darken and are unavailable until 31 points are spent in the chosen tree. The character is awarded an active ability, and one or more passive bonuses unique to the tree they've chosen. As they gain levels, they'll alternate between receiving a talent point and gaining new skills. They'll have a 31-point tree to work down, with each talent being more integral and exciting than they have been in the past. Once they spend their 31'st point in the final talent (at level 70), the other trees open up and become available to allocate points into from then on. As characters move into the level 78+ areas in Cataclysm, they'll begin seeing items with a new stat, Mastery. Once they learn the Mastery skill from their class trainer they'll receive bonuses from the stat based on the tree they've specialized in.

We understand that these are significant changes and we still have details to solidify. We feel, however, that these changes better fulfill our original class design goals for Cataclysm, and we're confident that they will make for a better gameplay experience. Your constructive feedback is welcomed and appreciated.
I'll go into a little more detail, but while my initial reaction was to the negative, I'm shifting to the cautiously optimistic camp.  Let me explain a little of both...

First, here's my take on the downsides.  Any time you cut something, make it smaller, you remove some element of choice from the equation, and in general that's a bad thing.  They mitigated this to a certain extent, but I'll cover that in the positives.  It seems rather drastic to cut from 51-point trees to 31.  Include the fact that we're gaining 5 levels on the level cap and you're talking about cutting the trees nearly in half.  Then you think about how many talents are generally considered "required" nowadays, and wonder where they are going to replace all that.  It's scary, to say the least, but that's not what worries me the most.  With what they've laid out as their vision and what they want to do with it, I'm confident that it will be ok.  Even locking you in to a tree until you've spent 31 points isn't all bad, while it is slightly annoying.  Finally, they just restructured a lot of the secondary stats and then they're adding Mastery...?  Oh well...

The positive side of these changes is that I think the talent trees will feel less bloated and more streamlined.  As well, yes, it will be easier for new players to understand, and will allow you to be what you want to be right away.  It remains to be seen if you'll get your iconic druid forms right away or if that will come later, but, for example, to have access to Leader of the Pack (or Berserk, or Mangle) at low level will go a long way to helping a feral druid feel... well, FERAL. Rather than having a lot of points that EVERY feral druid takes, whether tank or DPS, we should see many of those abilities built into specializations or mastery, and the remaining points worked down to a manageable level.

To be perfectly honest, the biggest thing that actually does worry me about this change is that it's coming so late in the development of Cataclysm.  I guess this is the reason for Beta tests - to catch these types of issues in addition to code breakage - but I would think this big of a change would be prohibitive this late in the game.  I hope that this doesn't make them rush things, because while I've been salivating over Thrash for a month or two now, I would far rather Cataclysm get pushed out a little bit and have them get things like this RIGHT and balanced rather than rushed, half-done, and broken.

With all that said, I'm looking forward to this.  I never got to play the end-game of Vanilla (or BC either, really, for that matter) and if this does feel a little more like Vanilla, well, it'll be fun to experience it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On RealID

I guess I'll throw my little hat into the ring.

I'm not going to revisit what has happened - if you're reading me, chances are really, really good that you already know what I'm talking about.  Every blogger under the sun has had their opinion, most in the three days (give or take) before Blizzard backed off.

I hadn't written anything to this point, because, honestly, I didn't have words to describe what I felt, and truthfully, there are several bloggers that have already written pieces that express the ideas better than I ever could.  But I'll try anyway, and hope it does some good, for somebody.

When I first heard about RealID, it was only as a chat functionality upgrade, which I viewed as a neat tool that I might, at some point, take advantage of - purely for my closest real life friends - especially the ones that I expect to be playing quite a bit of Starcraft 2.  But nothing sinister... then came the blue post.

The proposed changes would most likely not have affected me personally.  As a general rule, I don't bother even looking at the official WoW forums except when a blue post is brought to my attention that I really think it might be useful to see.  Since blue posts are generally quoted whole in the places where I find them, the need to see them in the original context is normally unnecessary anyway, and I think I've posted on the forums an entirety of (maybe) one time.

When I first read about the changes as they were explained, my response was relatively indifferent...  I felt that it was a generally idiotic idea, but as I said, it didn't truthfully affect me anyway.  It was only after some (not long) time reflecting that I realized the true gravity of the situation.  It was a terrible idea, one which should not have ever passed beyond the walls of Blizzard's offices.  The fact that it did has damaged the company's reputation amongst the people it values most - its paying customers.

The attempt to force players to use their real names on the official forums showed a shortsightedness by Blizzard with respect to the safety and security of their playerbase.  The interim - however brief - in which they dared to suggest that they would force players to use it but not their own employees (due to SAFETY concerns, no less!) approaches an unacceptable breach of trust, a break from reality in which Blizzard seemed as if they were trying to play puppet master by forcing players to dance on strings that they themselves were not willing to accept.

I personally think the incident with poor Bashiok proved that they were out of touch with the reality of the Internet that allows their business model to function.

That Blizzard recanted their decision has - somewhat - restored faith in them and their commitment to providing their users with a safe and fun game to play.

Unfortunately, as Tesh commented on the BBB's post, the real concern I still have is that while Round 1 apparently goes to the little guys, Blizzard has committed to turning their gaming universe into a social network of sorts, and they will not let a little setback like this prevent them from getting their way - so, the war's not over.

I generally agree with the goals that they were attempting to achieve when they made the decision to move forward with this; it is my sincere hope that when they decide on another course of action to use to clean up the forums, they do a sanity check before they alienate a (relatively) large portion of their playerbase by announcing an idea so idiotic it produced a thread over 2000 pages long.

In the meantime, I'm going back to killing Internet Dragons.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kae Needs a New PC

Epic Adventurers went after Blood Princes for the first time on 25-man this week, and downed them on the 2nd try.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it, because my PC locked up with less than 500k health left to remove.

Yay!

Boo!

All we have left is Dreamwalker, Blood Queen, Putricide, Sindy, and the King.

Onward, heroes!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Primer on Kitty DPS, Part 2 (The Spec and Glyphs)

I can't think of anything funny or witty to open this up with, so... here I go again!

Here is Part 1... refer to that if you're a little confused.

I realize that a lot of this will be useless soon, as Cataclysm will change everything, but hey I'm just late to the party getting in on this.  It will get reworked come Cataclysm.  Besides, I had to get my rant off my (4) readers' feeds.

The Kitty Spec

There used to be a little difference between the best specs for single-target or AOE DPS, but with the changes to Mangle they are close enough together that I'm going to present just one spec...

Just like the Bear Spec, you have a few points in the Resto tree, none at all in Balance, and a ton in Feral.

Restoration Talents

Tier 1

2/2 Improved Mark of the Wild - Increases all your attributes AND makes your buff better?  Can I get a few more points in it?

0/3 Nature's Focus - Resto/Balance Talent.  Ignore.

3/5 Furor - Gets you to the second Tier, and lets you do a little shapeshifting without always losing all your energy.

Tier 2

5/5 Naturalist - 10% damage bonus.  Need I say more?

0/3 Subtlety - Resto/Balance.  Ignore.

3/3 Natural Shapeshifter - Makes shapeshifting cheaper... and lets you get Master Shapeshifter.

Tier 3

0/3 Intensity - Not interesting to cats.  Not really interesting to bears, either, but at least they'd get something out of it.  Next.

1/1 Omen of Clarity - Free stuff is good mmkay?

2/2 Master Shapeshifter - With Natural Shapeshifter, we've spent 5 points to get only a 4% damage bonus (less mana cost is good but meh.)  We spent 5 points to get 10% just a few minutes ago.  What gives?  Well... it's not worth it without spending all 5 points here, and there's nowhere we'd rather spend all 5 points, so here it goes.  And really... it's 4% damage bonus across the board, don't complain.

Feral Talents

Tier 1

5/5 Ferocity - Reduces the Energy cost of some key abilities (with the changes to Mangle, it's most important for Rake and Swipe for cats)

5/5 Feral Aggression - Increases damage done by Ferocious Bite - not very useful except in long raid boss fights, but then it can make a significant difference.

Tier 2

3/3 Feral Instinct - The stealth upgrade is a nice bonus.  30% additional swipe damage is HUGE.  This talent was left off single-target maximized builds before the changes to Mangle.

2/2 Savage Fury - 20% increased damage to Rake and Mangle (and Claw, but... ew.)  So... 20% increased damage to Rake here.  Rake is a fairly large chunk of our DPS.  Take it!

0/3 Thick Hide - Bear talent, safely ignored.

Tier 3

2/2 Feral Swiftness - Not the most key talent, but the increased movement speed really helps get on target faster and stay on target longer during movement-heavy fights.  Increased dodge chance helps survivability as well.

1/1 Survival Instincts - An emergency button for 1 talent point, to help you through those rough patches, worth taking it.

3/3 Sharpened Claws - Static crit chance bonus?  Yes, please!

Tier 4

2/2 Shredding Attacks - Shred is one of your key DPS and combo point regen abilities, so reducing its energy cost by 18 is huge.

3/3 Predatory Strikes - This gives you a bunch of attack power (and can randomly give you an instant-cast nature spell.  While it is rarely to your benefit to cast spells... it might help?  It's here for the huge AP bonus, though.

2/2 Primal Fury - You're going to crit, a LOT.  This gets you free extra combo points when you do.

2/2 Primal Precision - A HUGE chunk of Expertise you don't need on gear is great, and you get refunded if any of your finishing moves fail to land.  Which they shouldn't, but that's another discussion, and sometimes it's unavoidable.

Tier 5

0/2 Brutal Impact - Increasing the stun duration of Pounce is... well it's PvP-focused and if you're going for a PvP spec you might want it... but here it's not really that useful.  Maybe, possibly, if you had free points you wanted to spend, but I'd still spend them elsewhere.

1/1 Feral Charge - Allows invisible-flying-cat-leap and helps in engaging enemies quickly.  Worth 1 point.

0/2 Nurturing Instinct - I'm not really sure how this is useful (maybe PvP for a hybrid heal/cat spec?).

Tier 6

0/3 Natural Reaction - Bear Talent.

5/5 Heart of the Wild - 10% increased attack power... yum...

3/3 Survival of the Fittest - 6% to all attributes?  Awesome!  Oh and cats get to be uncrittable too??  Sweet!

Tier 7

1/1 Leader of the Pack - Static raidwide 5% buff to ranged and melee crit chance is good for 1 point.

0/2 Improved Leader of the Pack - Wouldn't be a terrible choice to put any points you want to move in.  Not great, but not wasted either.

0/3 Primal Tenacity - Not a bad PvP talent, but kinda wasted on a PvE build.

Tier 8

0/3 Protector of the Pack - You are not a bear.  Bad kitty.

3/3 Predatory Instincts - Damage from Melee crits increased 10%.  Not too shabby, and a reduction to damage from AOE effects to boot.

0/3 Infected Wounds - Not a bad debuff.... but doesn't help us at all.  Maybe if your raid group needs the debuff, and you've got points to spare....

Tier 9

3/3 King of the Jungle - A key talent to keep us going by giving us a way to quickly regenerate energy, with some side perks on top.

1/1 Mangle - One of our key debuffs, and a damage ability.  There's a reason people refer to one cat strategy as Manglespam.

0/3 Improved Mangle - Without this, Manglespam is a costly tactic (and you may actually want to Claw (ew!) instead).... but since it lasts 1 minute you shouldn't be using it often enough for the increased cost to matter, since normally you'll be behind an enemy so you can Shred.

Tier 10

5/5 Rend and Tear -Increases a bunch of your damage on Bleeding targets.  Since you make targets bleed (a LOT!), increases a bunch of your damage.

1/1 Primal Gore - You should Rip on any boss fight - trash you won't have time.  But for boss fights, gives you the ability to crit.  More random free damage, and it only costs 1 point.

Tier 11

1/1 Berserk - Become the flailing cat-ball of death.  You know you want to.

You may (or may not) have noticed that I'm 1 point short - that can go where you feel it will be best utilized (1/2 iLotP or 4/5 Furor are probably your best bets).

The Glyphs

Generally speaking, your best three major Glyphs are:

Rip: Increases duration (and thus damage) of Rip by 4 seconds.

Shred:  Makes your Shred extend Rip by 2 seconds, up to 6 seconds total - so makes Shred doubly-important when Rip is up.

Savage Roar:  Makes the ability that you always have up and buffs all of your attacks buff them more.

If you're weird and just don't like those, consider these Glyphs, which, while subpar, are not horrible:

Mangle: You probably should shift talent points around to take iMangle if you're going to use this.  It makes Manglespam better...

Berserk:  You get to be a cat-ball of death for a little longer.

Minor glyphs are a little more malleable.  The generally accepted "best" are:

Challenging Roar:  Not as cool for cats as bears, but makes it easier for you to sacrifice yourself (or try to shift to bear and tank for a few seconds) to save your healer.

Unburdened Rebirth:  I honestly don't think any Druid should be without this.

Dash:  Remember me talking about how it's important to move quickly in certain fights?

Peronally, I drop Challenging Roar for Aquatic Form and Dash for Glyph of the Wild.  Personal choice.

So what's the point?  See Part 1.  We increase our damage a bunch, sure, but we've made a lot of our abilities synergistic - as I said then, Savage Roar buffs everything, Mangle buffs Rip, Rake, and Shred, Rake and Rip both buff Shred, Shred extends Rip... and on the occasions we get to Ferocious Bite or have to Claw, they've got some buffs too.  The really tricky part is keeping everything going properly.

Stay tuned for Part 3 (Gear, Gems, and Enchants)! (Sometime before Cataclysm... I hope...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Really?

Twenty-four hour maintenance... seriously?

My realm's on the list... is yours?

Posted by Laetzin at 06/25/2010 05:57:14 PM PDT (Source)
We will be performing extended maintenance on the realms listed below on Tuesday, June 29th, beginning at 12:01 AM PDT. The maintenance is scheduled for 24 hours as we prepare for the upcoming expansion. These realms will be playable again at approximately 12:01 AM PDT on Wednesday, June 30th.

All realms not listed below will undergo scheduled maintenance beginning at 5:00am PDT and will be available for play at approximately 11:00 AM PDT

Agamaggan
Aggramar
Alexstrasza
Alleria
Argent Dawn
Arthas
Azgalor
Azshara
Baelgun
Balnazzar
Blackhand
Bleeding Hollow
Bloodhoof
Burning Blade
Burning Legion
Cho'gall
Dark Iron
Destromath
Dethecus
Detheroc
Drakkari
Durotan
Earthen Ring
Elune
Emerald Dream
Eonar
Eredar
Garona
Gilneas
Gorefiend
Gorgonnash
Greymane
Gul'dan
Hellscream
Illidan
Kael'thas
Kalecgos
Kargath
Kirin Tor
Laughing Skull
Lightninghoof
Lightning's Blade
Llane
Lothar
Madoran
Maelstrom
Magtheridon
Malfurion
Malygos
Mannoroth
Medivh
Moonrunner
Nazjatar
Quel'Thalas
Ragnaros
Ravencrest
Sargeras
Shadowmoon
Shattered Hand
Skullcrusher
Spinebreaker
Staghelm
Stormrage
Stormreaver
Thunderhorn
Thunderlord
Trollbane
Twisting Nether
Ursin
Warsong
Whisperwind
Wildhammer
Zul'jin
----------------------------
Thank you for your Patience.
Laetzin
Blizzard Entertainment

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Patch Day!!

3.3.5 drops today, for US Realms.

In case you haven't heard, the Ruby Sanctum raid will not yet be available - but I hope the extra time means it's less buggy when released.

See you all on the flip side!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Little Druid that Could

Awhile back I was running some regular commentary about my guild and the progress we'd been making in ICC and whatever other random game or real life thought crossed my mind.  Well... I figure since I took more than a month to write the first post of my Kitty primer I should ramble on awhile about what's been going on, starting, of course, with the most important person on the planet...

WARNING: POOPY DIAPERS AHEAD!

Kaethir's Cub

My little one was born, of course, back near the end of March.  She's grown from the measly 6lb 3oz she was at birth to a whopping 10lb 7oz as of a week or so ago...  Needs more meat on her bones, she's not gonna tank any bosses at that size!

She's doing great, no jaundice or major problems, and she's been sleeping through the night almost since the day my wife went back to work.  She's been "talking" for awhile now, smiling and giggling and generally making our lives wonderful.

Not to say she's perfect, but, well, she's perfect! She has of course the times that she decides to poop while you're changing her diaper... four times in a row... but I couldn't have asked for a better infant.  The few times she's cried there's always been a reasonable reason (gas, constipation, or the doctor sticking her with a giant needle) and so far she's just been a wondrous little miracle.

Sorry, I'm a new Dad, sometimes I just have to get mushy about her.

Movies

I don't recall mentioning much of anything about movies before, but I enjoy good Sci-Fi, Adventure, and Action flicks as much as the next person and I wanted to mention that Iron Man 2 and Avatar are both really good films that have come out in the last few months.  You should see them, or so I would have you believe.

Also, I saw an advertisement for The Expendables.  Anything with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Terry Crews is going to be either really, really good, or really, phenomenally bad.  I'm cautiously optimistic.


One final note on movies and then I'll quit.  In a moment of masochism I decided to DVR Transmorphers when I saw it on Encore.  I noticed this little gem pile of awful awhile back in Blockbuster.  Incidentally, it came out a little before Transformers, which was an infinitely better movie.  I watched about 20-30 minutes of it (that I can't get back) before deciding that there was no redeeming quality to it, at all.  IMHO, and in no particular order, it had bad acting, directing, casting, special effects, music, choreography, and writing, and the plot (which seemed like some inane mashup of the Matrix and Transformers) had to have been written by a dyslexic chimpanzee.  Save yourself.

Epic Adventurers and ICC

On with the show.

When last we left our impaled imperiled heroes, Epic Adventurers had finally downed Deathbringer Saurfang in 25-man mode.  We've had a few changes to our raiding schedule since then, but we've continued to press onward.

Our progression 10-man team (which I, unfortunately, am unable to participate in) has downed Festergut, Rotface, and the Blood Princes, while our 25-man team is regularly one-shotting the first 6 bosses (through Saurfang, plus Festergut and Rotface) in one night.

We run a fun/alt 10-man run on Sunday nights, which regularly clears through Saurfang.  The group I led in this past Sunday took a couple of shots at Rotface but couldn't pull it off.

I have been learning more and more about the intricacies of playing a Feral DPS, and I've had occasional opportunities to tank even on our 25-man runs, which has been a blast for me.  I've been topping 8k DPS against Saurfang, without optimizing my gems.  I share some gear between my sets, so it's impractical to completely optimize for either, and I think I've done well with the limitations I have.

The big team is currently stumbling over the Dreamwalker.  The strategy we've been employing is to have just 2 tanks to hold down the baddies, each one generally hanging out at the point of the wall in between the spawn points on each side of the green dragon, with the melee DPS roughly divided up between the sides and the ranged DPS and heals more or less roaming around the middle, assisting wherever it is needed.  Owing to the nature of the fight, we've been running a little healer heavy.

We seem to be having some difficulty keeping up.  I'm not entirely certain where the problem is.  This is complicated by the fact that due to my reduced raiding schedule, I'm not there every week. 

It has been suggested to me that we should use 3-4 tanks, split up the DPS more, and engage the Adds closer to their spawn points.  I'm a little leery of the idea, but I may propose it to our raid leader as something to try.  I'm sure we'll get it figured out soon.

Two posts in three days?  Is the ground getting cold for anybody else?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Primer on Kitty DPS, Part 1 (Mechanics, Everybody Else, and the Rotation)

Kaethir's back for round 3!

Please see the caveats from the Bear and Tree primers.

Please add to those caveats that at the time I began writing this, I'd only actually had a strict feral DPS spec for essentially one and a half raids, so while I think I know what I'm talking about, I may be off a little bit.

Mechanics

Feral DPS is one of the more difficult rotations to pull off.  To be great it requires keeping track of 3 boss debuffs, 3 player buffs, and timing cooldowns of these with how much energy and combo points you have and can generate.  Our debuffs are two bleed effects and a bleed-damage-increasing effect.  Our non-static buffs increase our physical damage by 30% (finishing move, duration varies), increases damage done by 40 for 6 secs (and returns energy!), and reduces the energy cost of all abilities by 50% for 15 secs.

Due to the nature of the beast, Kitties do best on stationary fights where they can simply lock in to their priority system of a rotation and ignore everything else.  In ICC, fights like Deathbringer Saurfang and Festergut are pretty much the Cat's meow (I'm sorry, sometimes I can't help being punny.)  There is basically no movement and no target switching involved.  We get a lot of our DPS from our two bleed effects - Rake and Rip - and the interactions between those, Mangle, and Shred.  Yet still, the biggest chunk of our DPS comes from pure melee white damage.

Since one of our most important DPS abilities (Rip) really wants to have 5 combo points every time we use it, and our only AOE ability (Swipe) is too energy-intensive to use for more than a brief burst, we don't tend to shine in fights where there are lots of adds we have to deal with, or lots of target switching for one reason or another.

Even more important than that, though, is Savage Roar.  Since it increases the damage done by every attack we do, it is of utmost importance that we keep it up at all times.  As you'll see below, it's the highest priority in our stack.

A side effect of this is that one of the most effective gemming strategies for us CAN be to stack Armor Penetration.  I will explain that emphasis later.

Also, because you are a Feral Druid, much like bears you will talent yourself into Leader of the Pack, increasing physical critical chance across the raid.  Depending on your exact spec, you may or may not provide the random chance of heals that the typical bear talent spec does.

What Everybody Else Needs to Know

What your raid needs to know first and foremost is that if it is possible to assign you a task that lets you rip into a single target (i.e. leave you on Deathwhisper's shield) it will maximize your ability to help the raid.  Not that you're useless otherwise, it's just that those types of tasks are how you can put out the most damage you're going to do, and as a DPS that's almost the most important thing you can do.

Secondly, if your raid is cohesive enough to allow for it, Blood DKs should be targeting you with Hysteria in stationary fights as previously mentioned - you can stack all of your buffs with it and it helps every single one of your attacks rather than just some.

Other than that, it's standard Druid stuff - you have a raid-wide static buff (Leader of the Pack, in this case) and a raid-wide castable buff (Mark/Gift of the Wild), and you can Hibernate, Cyclone, Root, and Battle Rez.

This post seems rather underwhelming after my previous entries - perhaps because there's a little less interaction between other players and DPS than there is in the other direction.

The Rotation

Cats don't exactly have a set rotation.  They have a priority system, one which can be brutal if you miss on a part of it, but it goes like this, quoted from Elitist Jerks:

1. Keep up Savage Roar
2. Keep up Mangle
3. Keep up Rake
4. Use shred for CP regeneration (remember, that points 2 and 3 are more important)
5. When at 5 CP and Rip is not up, use Rip
6. When below 30 Energy, use TF
7. Use Clearcast Proccs for Shred
8. When at 5 CP and Rip and SR are running with 8 seconds (might be longer, depending on your gear) or longer each, use FB
9. When Rip and SR will drop at nearly the same time (with less than 3 seconds difference), try to recognize it early. Then use SR with a small amount of CP to desynchronize both timers.
10. Use Berserk only at high energy, (but not higher than 85) not directly after TF and as often as possible. If you will get Hysteria or some boss mechanics will enhance your damage, save it for these situations.

With the recent changes to Mangle, keeping it up is easy - hit it once a minute.  That's about the only part of this that's really easy.

The post I pulled that from explains a little farther on why some items are further up or down the list.  Basically, the idea is that the abilities that buff more things are more important - Savage Roar buffs everything, Mangle buffs Rake, Rip, and Shred, and Rake and Rip buff Shred (but... Rip is less efficient if it's not at 5 CPs).

Among the things I have learned is that one of the quickest ways to get better at Kitty DPS is to understand that while you have to follow this system, you also have to understand the concept of energy efficiency.  In other words, if you already have a Rake up, don't Rake again until it falls off.  And if it will fall off before your GCD, WAIT for it to fall off, then hit Rake.  If you clip the last tick, you have made the energy you spent on your last Rake less efficient.  The same is true for Rip, and Savage Roar, although in a slightly different manner.

Being able to wait for the split second it sometimes takes for things to fall off helps in more ways than is immediately apparent.  In addition to making the energy you spent more efficient, it forces you to give your energy a small amount of time to regenerate, which means that when you do fire off that next ability, you have more energy to go after the next one immediately, if that is so needed (and it often is).

I have often heard that certain DPS classes have a very smooth rotation.  For example, I have some limited exprience with Ret Pallies, and what I have been told bears out my experience - that is, once you start into your rotation, it's fairly smooth - you use whatever ability is off cooldown.  Cat abilities (for the most part) don't have cooldowns, so one of the daunting tasks facing a new Cat is understanding which ability it is most important to use when, and why.  Hopefully, between the explanations above and those coming when I go through Specs and Glyphs will make the whys a little more clear.

Whew.  That was a long time coming!  I (can't) promise the next post will come quicker (but I expect it will)!