Posts tagged ‘Specs’

Warlocks aren’t broken …

… we just need to l2play.

Now, where have we heard that before? >.>

After raiding with the superhuman (superforsaken?) Azargoth for a few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that warlocks aren’t broken after all.  They’re just ridiculously hard to play — not because the Affliction rotation is overly complicated, as Ghostcrawler claims, but because it’s very, very unforgiving.

If you clip a DoT, fail to refresh a DoT, switch from Shadowbolt to Drain Soul at 26% or 24%, or (nether forbid!) allow Haunt to fall off for even a second or two, then your DPS absolutely tanks.

I might be exaggerating. 

But not by much.

For obvious reasons, things completely beyond our control — like lag or high latency — can make a cookie-cutter UA/Ruin build nearly unplayable.  (So does sucking, but I’m going to give my fellow locks the benefit of the doubt and blame the elephant in the other room.  /wink)  If you have chronically high latency, then it doesn’t matter how tight your rotation is: the server isn’t going to recognize it, and you will lose Recount to everyone and everything — from the /afk hunter to the enhancement shaman’s Searing Totem to your raid leader’s noncombat moth.

Needless to say, this was a huge shock to most raiding warlocks, who were accustomed to topping the meters with one-button spam.  The old Demonic Sacrifice build that T6 warlocks took almost as a matter of course was (1) ridiculously easy, and (2) supremely forgiving, especially if you happened to stack haste.

When I specced out of UA/Ruin and into Felguard/Emberstorm, my post-Wrath DPS improved by almost 1,000!  On paper, this shouldn’t happen.  On paper, UA/Ruin is the superior spec.

But between paperless factors such as latency, lag (if I turn spell details all the way down, I can count on 20-25 fps in the middle of nowhere, half that in 10-man raids and half that again in 25’s) and my own chronic inability to multitask (“Oh, someone’s asking if we’re recruiting!  Let’s just ignore the DoTimers for a second here and click-spam Shadowbolt while I type out a quick response…”), I was failing spectacularly at UA/Ruin.

Then I switched to Felguard/Emberstorm.

Problem solved.

Anyway, this is just a quick, ranty post with absolutely no math to back it up.  It’s just that watching Azargoth has been enlightening (not to mention ever-so-slightly — okay, more than slightly! — jealousy-inducing).  The man is a beast.  When warlock DPS gets buffed in 3.1, he won’t just top the damage meters (he does that already).  He’ll own them.

*   *   *

Nibuca of Mystic Chicanery has an excellent post on using WWS to troubleshoot an Affliction rotation, based on Canadian Pimp’s guide at the Warlock’s Den.  I’m not raiding on my warlock these days, but if I was, I’d be using it.  It’s awesome.


March 31, 2009 at 2:42 pm 19 comments

EPGP, dual specs and loot distribution

Dual specs are coming! 

Maybe.  Someday.  Eventually. 

There’s no target date yet — at least, not that I’m aware of — and Blizzard seems to be subtly setting us up for disappointment.  (“Maybe for Uldaur.  But maybe not.  It’s complicated.  … But how about those dance studios?”)

Still, if your guild is anything like mine, the promise of dual specs at some point in the near or not-so-near future is a frequent topic of conversation in /g.  

I’m certainly looking forward to it, even more so now that I’m a part-time resto shaman than when I was a full time afflock.  If you think doing Sons of Hodir dailies are rough, try doing them twice!  First as a character who can’t kill anything, and then again as one who can’t tag anything—

I swear, as soon as 3.0.8 is out, I am going to create a party with four other warlocks and camp that damned cave for HOURS.  We will DoT everything.  We will Fear everything.  And at the end of the day we will polish Hodir’s helm with the tears of everyone who ever tagged a mob after we DoTed it. 

So take that, you stupid Boomkin with your stupid insta-DoT, insta-tag Moonfire!

… ranting again …

*ahem*  Even though there’s no real ETA, half of my guild members already know what their dual-spec will be.  Holy for raids/Shadow for dailies.  Elemental for PvP/Enhancement for PvE.  Kitty for trash/Bear for bosses.  And so on. 

And while I’m daydreaming as much as the next person (Do I want to zap things with lightning bolts, or simply whack!them!dead! with massive fist weapons? /ponder), I’m also thinking ahead:

How will dual specs affect loot distribution?  Should I ask everyone to declare a secondary spec?  If so, should I prioritize loot to secondary specs over off-specs?  And should secondary specs receive a discount under our loot system, as off-specs currently do? 

I understand that the purpose of dual specs is to give players options.  I’m certainly not aiming to take that away!  If you’re tagged with me and would like your secondary spec to be for PvP or some other, non-raid related purpose … that’s fine.  Really.

But what about those players who want both of their specs to be raid-viable?  Such as those tanks I was talking about earlier, who aspire to MT raid content but usually end up healing or DPSing?  Or that jack-of-all-trades druid, who will cheerfully shed his feathers for fur or leaves and relishes any opportunity to put his hybrid nature to good use?

Oh, wait.  He went Death Knight for the expansion. 😦

Still, the point remains.  For those few flexible players I’ve come to rely on — the prot paladin who also heals; the holy priest who also DPSes — it makes to sense gear a secondary spec, if not equally, then certainly ahead of someone else’s moth-eaten off-spec. 

My boyfriend and I have talked about ways to accommodate this idea into our loot system, but we’re not quite there yet.  In the meantime, we take occasional advantage of a small disclaimer written into our rules — one that allows him, as Raid Leader, to override the official loot list for the benefit of  raid progression — to ensure that that multi-spec paladin keeps a decent holy set and the priest has some hit gear. 

With dual specs on the horizon, it seems like a perfect time to formally revisit the idea of secondary specs.

Currently, my guild uses EPGP to manage loot.  If you aren’t familiar with it, EPGP is a ratio-based system in which players earn Effort Points (EP) for participating in raids, and are assigned Gear Points (GP) equal to the value (a function of ilevel*slot value*rarity) of the loot they receive.  Their priority (PR) on new drops is calculated from ratio of EP to GP; in other words, PR = EP/GP.

EPGP can be complicated to explain, but it’s very simple in practice.

In determining who receives a particular piece of loot, we look at two things: 1) who, among those interested, has the highest PR; and 2) whether the item is intended for main-spec or off-spec use.  With very few exceptions, the player with the highest PR who intends the item for main-spec use will receive it — along with the corresponding GP, which will decrease his PR for future drops.

If no one needs the item for main-spec use, it can be looted for off-spec use at 10% of its GP value.  This means that the spellpower ring that cost a mage 70 GP last week could very well go to an enhancement shaman for 7 GP this week. 

At first glance, this may seem like a flaw of the system; it’s certainly caused a few raised eyebrows among those new to the guild!  But it’s actually how EPGP is supposed to work.  Increasing the mage’s GP by 70 caused his PR to decrease, so the priest, warlock and elemental shaman who were beneath him on the loot list before he received the ring are now above him, and will have the option of winning a comprable item before he earns his next drop.

Another thing that’s occasionally pointed to as a “flaw” is that some classes have no true off-spec, and therefore never have the opportunity to win loot at 10% cost.  However, as our priest officer pointed out last night, hybrids incur the 10% cost on off-spec items in addition to the 100% cost they pay for on-spec ones.  Compared to a mage, who pays 100% GP for his gear, a priest collecting two sets of gear for two different specs pays 110% GP for both!

Tangential aside (because I couldn’t find anything useful from other guilds when I Googled for inspiration months ago): GP values are calculated by the EPGP mod, but EP is left to the guild’s discretion.  In active zones — including progression zones, as well as zones that aren’t quite new but aren’t quite on farm status, either — we award 5 EP every 15 minutes for the duration of the raid, 38 EP for every guild first kill, and 25 EP for each kill thereafter.  In farm zones, we award 25 EP per boss but skip the time-based award. 

The idea here is to reward ourselves for the time we spend learning new encounters (hence the incremental award in fresh content), while at the same time incenting us to clear older zones quickly and without the kinds of silly mistakes that lead to three wipes on pre-Patchwerk slime. 

Overall, I’m happy with our current system, but would like to make some changes to accommodate secondary specs when the time comes.  It might be as simple as offering secondary spec items at half cost or 25% cost, with priority going to main specs over secondary specs, and secondary specs over off-specs.  Giving players the ability to “bid what the item is worth” could also be an option, but I like the simplicity of fixed GP and don’t want to turn loot distribution into some kind of auction.  (I realize it works for some guilds, but I don’t think it would be particularly efficient in mine.)

Fortunately (or unfortunately, from my poor shaman’s perspective), we have some time to think about it before making any decisions.

… In between daydreams of zap!-zap!-zapping! things to death, of course …

January 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm 5 comments

Hello Affliction, my old friend

Hello, Affliction, my old friend
I’ve come to raid with you again
Because with all six DoTs slowly ticking
I can forget that we need fixing
Yet the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
And so I dream … of green fire

In undeath I walked alone
Dalaran’s streets of cobblestone
Above the woods of Crystalsong
I heard the echo of Zul’Drak’s gong
And my sockets were stabbed by a Flash of Holy Light
That lit the blight
And shone like fire … green fire

^ This is what happens when you blog at work while listening to Simon & Garfunkel on iTunes.  I was actually kind of proud of myself until I texted the first verse to my boyfriend and he responded, simply, with “wow.” 

So the man who growls irl when he tanks thinks I’m a geek.  Great.



Like most raiding warlocks in The Burning Crusade, I specced Unstable Affliction for T4, Felguard for T5 and succubus-sacc’ing shadow mage for T6.  As anyone even remotely familiar with the class knows, this wasn’t so much a choice as it was an inevitability: while other classes specced to fullfill raid roles or achieve a certain playstyle (e.g., a paladin could choose Protection to tank, Holy to heal or Retribution to provide comic relief), TBC warlocks chose talents based entirely on the quality of their gear.

Pre-3.0.2, a level 70 UA build would outdamage Demonic Sacrifice/Ruin until ~1,000 spell power and ~20% crit chance (usually achieved at the T4 to T5 transition), at which point a respec was all but required to remain competitive on the damage meters.  Meanwhile, due to issues with pet scaling, the Felguard’s DPS and survivability peaked in T5, so would-be Demolocks tended to milk their two-piece bonus for as long as they could before succumbing to the inevitable and joining the rest of us in the shadowbolt-spamming land of 0/21/40.

I can’t find the post now that I’m looking for it (naturally!), but one of the warlock bloggers in my feedreader — and there are only three of them, so it has to be Out of Mana, Destructive Reach or Mystic Chicanery — recently speculated that WotLK would be more of the same, at least in terms of the linear progression from Affliction to Demonology to Destruction.

For the record: I hope not. 

I really, really, really hope not.

Of the three talent trees, Affliction is by far my favorite.  When I’m not attempting to simultaneously guild lead, raid lead and DPS (something that happens entirely too often), I find that I enjoy the challenge of keeping five or six DoTs rolling, sometimes on multiple targets—

No, scratch that.  Especially on multiple targets. 

There’s nothing quite like furiously tab-targetting between mobs, timing an Immolate or Unstable Affliction cast so the new DoT is applied the precise moment the old one falls off, casting Shadow Bolt as soon as Nightfall procs and then switching to Drain Soul on the kill target at 25% to take full advantage of the 400% execute.

For me, Affliction is what playing a warlock is all about.  Not only do Affliction locks provide raid utility in the form of Malediction (which isn’t as critical as it once was, since Balance druids and Unholy death knights provide the same +13% spell damage buff), but their instant cast DoTs, improved Lifetap and health-returning spells (Haunt and Siphon Life) and drains make them more mobile, more mana-efficient and more self-sufficient than Demolocks who are constantly micromanaging their pets  and Destrolocks — largely stationary, mana-eating glass cannons — who rely on their healers for longevity and DPS.

I leveled from 1-70 as deep Demo, from 71-80 as deep Affliction and, since dinging 80, have experimented a half dozen different builds. I’ve run heroics as mini-Illidan with an empowered Felguard, fire Destruction with a machine gun imp, and Haunt with an improved felpuppy. 

As of last night, I’m back to Affliction — and while I love the playstyle, I can’t help but be disappointed with the output. 

It never seemed entirely fair to me that Affliction had the most complex rotation in the game and the lowest damage at the highest tiers.  Shouldn’t the hardest spec to play be the one that, played right, does the most damage? 

My DPS has been disappointing, to say the least.  Some of it, I’m sure, is gear.  I passed on minor upgrades while I was leveling simply because the idea of trading in my hard-earned T6 for Northrend blues made me /cringe. Now that I’ve finally replaced the last of my Black Temple gear and acquired a few new epics, I’m starting to see my DPS increase — up to 2.4k on Patchwerk last night, which was enough in our mix-matched group to eke out the top spot on the damage meters. 

In heroics and especially on trash pulls, I’m often below the tank — sometimes even under 1k DPS, but usually anywhere from 1.2k-1.6k depending upon the group.  (The more melee classes there are, the faster things die and the less damage I’m able to do.) 

I’ve tried getting around this by DoTing multiple mobs before coming ’round to nuke/drain the current kill target, as well as simply focusing whatever the rest of the group is beating on with a simple glyphed Corruption > Shadow Bolt “rotation.”   Either way, my trash damage is abyssmal … and it doesn’t matter how many times my boyfriend (who is also my raid leader) tells me that trash damage doesn’t matter, I know that the rest of the guild is watching Recount and it’s embarassing to be near the bottom because I can’t burst through trash the way a Warrior, Hunter or Death Knight can.

At the moment, Affliction’s saving grace is its longevity, mana efficiency and high DPM — all characteristics that make it excellent for longer boss fights but thoroughly underwhelming for heroics, trash and raid bosses that “phase out” through various gimmicks and clip DoT ticks (or force me to reapply all of my DoTs at once) in the process. 

I have a feeling that as my raid gears up and long boss fights become shorter, Affliction will become less viable for PvE rather than more.  I’m determined to enjoy it while I can, but rather than attempt to make Affliction simpler (as Ghostcrawler has claimed he’s trying to do, most likely by eliminating Immolate and Siphon Life from the rotation), I wish Blizzard would focus on making Affliction better. 

Two things would do it:

1) a capacity for burst damage — something like Shadowburn, perhaps, with a high mana cost and reasonable cooldown but no soulshard requirement; and

2) a way to benefit from spell haste and spell crit, if not to the extent that Demonology and Destruction, than at least enough to make these stats feel at least somewhat useful to us. 

An optional number three? 

Green fire. 

Of course.

December 18, 2008 at 12:22 am 2 comments


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