Posts tagged ‘Warlock’

Don’t underestimate the value of spell hit.

446 is a magic number.

This is because, as casters — untalented, alone, completely naked and bereft of any helpful companions or raid buffs — our spells have a 17% chance to miss an enemy three levels above us.”… But I’m level 80!” you exclaim, brandishing your fiery-enchanted Titansteel Spell Blade.  “What could possibly be three levels above me, Elder Idotyou the Love Fool of Stormwind, Ironforge and Darnassus, Champion of the Frozen Wastes and SomethingelseIcan’tremember?”

Oh, nothing much.  Just every skull-level raid boss in the entire endgame, from the creepy, crawly Anub’rekahn to also creepy but considerably less crawly Yogg-Saron.

In order to minimize — and, ultimately, eliminate — this inherent chance to miss, we stack spell hit, via talents, gear, gems, enchants, food buffs and slavery.  (Oh, you hadn’t heard?  Warlocks can look forward to a new 3.2 ability called “Enslave Shadow Priest.”  I fully intend to name mine Abigore.)

At the current hit cap of 446, our chance to miss is exactly zero.

Sources of Spell Hit

Although our primary source of spell hit comes from gear — such the appropriately named (as in, I will curse you with my dying breath you thrice-damned trinket!) Dying Curse, which waited until the week after I rerolled Shaman to drop three times in the same Heroic Naxxramas raid — …

Wait, where was I going with this?

Oh, right.  Gear is a source of spell hit, but it is far the only source:

  • The Affliction talent, Suppression, grants a maximum of +3% hit.
  • A balance druid spec’d into Improved Faerie Fire will provide the entire raid with +3% hit.  Of course, this assumes that the druid not only (1) survives the encounter, but also (2) maintains 100% uptime.
  • Alternately, a shadow priest spec’d into Misery will provide the same +3% hit with the same caveats.  Note that Misery does not stack with Improved Faerie Fire.
  • The Draenei racial, Heroic Presence, provides an additional +1% hit to party members.  Heroic Presence does stack with either Improved Faerie Fire or Misery, but not both.

This means that a Horde warlock such as myself needs need to make up (a) 14% hit if spec’d 3/3 Suppression or raiding with a properly spec’d balance druid or shadow priest, or (b) 11% hit if spec’d 3/3 Suppression and raiding with a properly spec’d balance druid or shadow priest.

What if you’re not a Horde warlock?  What if you’re something confusing, like a Draenei shaman, a Night Elf druid or a human shadow priest in a xenophobic role-playing guild that is convinced that those loveable Spacegoats are actually Eredar (and wouldn’t be caught dead sharing a raid ID with one)?

First, if you’re not a Forsaken warlock, you totally should be.  Go down to Old Stratholme, eat a plagued muffin and call Sylvannas in the morning.

Second, and as an interim solution, try WoWWiki.  Or ask Amber — very, very nicely — to make a flowchart.

We made a flowchart.  Once.

Our felpuppy eated it.

The Mechanics of Spell Hit

In a recent blogpost, Hydra of Almost Evil advised her readers to avoid gemming for spell hit at the expense of spell powereven if they happened to be under hit cap at the time. With all due respect to our vertically challenged sistren, this is fantastically awful advice.  Don’t follow it … or, at least, don’t follow it blindly.

To understand why, it’s important to understand the mechanics underlying spell hit.

Remember those incredibly dorky table top roleplaying games that all the ner—  … I mean, all the perfectly nice, normal, well-adjusted kids (such as my boyfriend, who I love dearly <3) played in high school?  Those games used dice to determine pretty much everything.

Does my unnaturally handsome, inhumanly powerful, Orlando Bloom-lookalike of a half-elven, half-vampire rogue manage to stab the fire-breathing dragon in the heart with a butter knife?

Roll 2d20 to find out!

WoW works the same way.  The game rolls once to determine if a spell hits.  Then, assuming it does, it rolls again to determine if the spell crits.  If you’re spell hit capped, then your spells will always hit.  If not, they will miss at a rate approximately equal to the difference between the spell hit cap and your actual hit rating.  If you have +12% hit (an amount Hydra feels is sufficient), then you will miss approximately 5% of the time (17% – 12% = 5%) against a level 83 mob.

At a glance, this doesn’t sound too terribly bad.  If you cast 100 Shadow Bolts over the course of a fight, only five of them will miss.  So, if you stack spellpower over spell hit, maybe the extra oomph you’ve packed into the 95 Shadow Bolts that do hit will make up for the 5 that don’t.  Maybe the math will even work out so that 95 Super Shadow Bolts deal more damage than 100 boring old Clark Kent flavored ones.

This is Hydra’s logic — and, to be fair, I’ve seen it repeated elsewhere on the internether, including my own /guild chat.

The thing is, it’s a rather shallow view that doesn’t take into account the synergies that exist between our various stats and spells.

Spell Hit vs. Spellpower and Spell Crit

First, if a spell doesn’t hit, then your spellpower and spell crit are worth exactly nothing.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before: if a spell doesn’t hit, it can’t crit.  This means that if you have +32% crit chance but are 5% under hit cap, then you actually have +30.40% crit chance.  If you have 2K spellpower but are 5% under hit cap, then you actually have 1.9K spellpower.

The Cost of a Miss

Second, and contrary to widely held belief, the cost of a missed spell is not equal to the opportunity cost of the lost cast time.  It’s actually much higher.

For a relatively straightforward example, hearken back to the bygone days of The Burning Crusade, when all raiding warlocks specced shadow-mage and had a wonderfully complex rotation that looked something like this:

Shadow Bolt
Shadow Bolt
Shadow Bolt

If your Shadow Bolts were hitting for 5K and critting for 10K approximately 30% of the time, then it would have been tempting to claim that the “cost” of a miss was 5K + .3(10K) = 8K.  Assuming a 3 second cast time with 5% chance to miss, you would lose approximately 48K damage (or six Shadow Bolts) over the course of a five minute fight.  If by foregoing spell hit you could stack enough spellpower to sufficiently boost each Shadow Bolt’s damage to make up for that … it would be a wash, right?

Not entirely.  The old Improved Shadow Bolt talent caused our Shadow Bolt crits to place a stacking debuff on the target that increased the next four shadow-based attacks (and all shadow-based DoT damage in between!) by 20%.  Therefore, the cost of a miss wasn’t just the lost DPS from the shadowbolt that fizzled and died in mid-air; it was also the lost DPS from reduced uptime on Improved Shadow Bolt.

And that was a straightforward example — one that doesn’t even exist in our current world!  Our rotations are much more complicated now, so the cost of a miss is significantly higher.

The actual math is beyond the scope of this blog (I crunch numbers for a living, so I can’t quite bring myself to do it in my downtime), but the theory behind it is fairly obvious.

Haunt is the mainstay of an Affliction rotation.  It has a cast time, a travel time, deals a small amount of damage, procs Shadow Embrace and increases all shadow-based periodic damage done to the target over the course of its 12 second duration.  It also refreshes Corruption via Everlasting Affliction and returns health to the warlock whenever it expires or is refreshed.

So.  What happens if Haunt misses?

It goes on cooldown and can’t be cast again for 8 seconds.  Even if you’ve attempted to precast it, the 12 second duration and 8 second cooldown mean that the Haunt debuff will fall off your target.  Depending upon timing, it’s entirely possible that Corruption or Shadow Embrace could expire as well.  If so, Corruption will need to recast at the cost of a Global Cooldown.  Your next Shadow Bolt will re-apply Shadow Embrace, but — again, depending upon timing — you may not be able to cast a Shadow Bolt immediately because your priority is refreshing Unstable Affliction (which fell off while you were reapplying Corruption) and then Curse of Agony (which fell off while you were casting Unstable Affliction).

In other words: one missed spell could wreak havoc on your entire rotation, not to mention cost you substantially more in lost DPS than you could have gained from the spell alone.

This isn’t unique to Affliction rotations, either.  A Destruction warlock who misses a Conflagrate in the last five seconds of Immolate’s duration forgoes not only Conflagrate’s base damage but also the 25% boost from Immolate.  Incinerate or Shadow Bolt misses lead to fewer Nightfall or Backlash procs, and — for Demonology warlocks or Demo/Destro hybrids — an Incinerate miss during a Decimation phase translates into lost DPS not only from Incinerate but from Soulfire as well.

The TL;DR is that the cost of a miss is seldom just the DPS from the spell that missed.  This is because for all three talent trees, misses tend to set off a chain reaction of events that could have been avoided had we simply stacked spell hit to cap and then worried about rounding out our other stats.

Diminishing Returns

That said, spell hit does suffer from diminishing returns.  As you approach the spell hit cap and your percent chance to miss decreases, the value of each additional point of hit becomes progressively smaller.  In other words, the less hit you have, the more important it is to stack — whereas the more hit you have, the less each individual point of hit is worth relative to stats like spellpower or critical strike.

This is why it’s so hard to rank gear, and why I personally have never bothered with a “BiS loot list” or a definitive gear plan.  Even for a warlock below cap, an item with spell hit isn’t necessarily an upgrade over an item without it; each individual piece has to be viewed within the context of your entire gear set, and assessed for what it adds versus what it takes away.

Gemming and Talenting for Hit

So, what does this mean for a raiding warlock, struggling to balance spell hit with spellpower, spirit, spell haste and critical strike?

In general, I recommend gemming and talenting for hit until you are spell hit capped from gear alone.  I love socket bonuses — in part because I’m OCD, and in part because free stats are free stats! — so I tend to use Rigid Autumn’s Glow (+16 hit) in yellow sockets, Veiled Monarch Topaz (+8 hit, +9 spellpower) in red sockets and Purified Twilight Opal (+9 spellpower, +9 spirit) in blue sockets … provided, of course, that the socket bonuses are worth picking up in the first place.

It’s also worth noting that one Runed Scarlet Ruby and one Rigid Autumn’s Glow provide the same amount of hit and one more point of spellpower than two Veiled Monarch Topazes — so if you ever find yourself in a position of needing exactly 16 more hit, I’d suggest socketing those in a red and yellow socket, respectively, over stacking two Veiled Monarch Topazes.

Once you are spell hit capped from gear, you can start swapping out hit gems for spellpower gems.

A Hit Set vs. an Output Set?

You don’t need a hit set, per se.  If for some reason you find yourself with two versions of the same chest (like I did, thanks to an overabundance of Conqueror tokens and far too many Undying attempts), and you find yourself tempted to gem one for raw spellpower and the other for spell hit for more situational use … hey, that works!

Personally, I’d recommend looking for one or two hit-heavy pieces (preferably totaling about +3% hit) that you can use in raids when you don’t have a shadow priest or balance druid around to provide hit via Misery or Imp’d FF.  I still use the Ward of the Violet Citadel (combined with the Leggings of Atrophy) for this purpose.  As an offhand, the Ward is especially nice because can be equipped in combat if the critchicken or shadow priest happens to eat a landmine in Mimiron, Phase 1.5.

… not that that’s ever happened to our raid, of course. >.>

In Conclusion …

  • Misses are bad, and the true cost of a miss is often much higher than the DPS of the missed spell.
  • Spell hit has diminishing returns; the closer you are to spell hit cap, the less valuable each additional point of spell hit is relative to other stats (like spellpower and critical strike).
  • Gem and talent for spell hit until you achieve cap from gear alone.  Then revisit your talent trees or start switching out hit gems for output gems.
  • It may be worth spending DKP on a couple of pieces with spell hit that can be used situationally.
  • Critchickens and shadow priests are wonderful things.  Love them.  Cherish them.  (Or use them and abuse them —  but don’t let them catch on!)

June 17, 2009 at 10:47 am 22 comments

Working as intended?

Working as intended?

Undocumented change in the 3.1:  Target Dummies now have souls.

April 15, 2009 at 9:11 pm 12 comments

Unmixy things: Castsequence Macros and Affliction

Like Buffy and cars, /castsequence macros and Affliction are unmixy things.

This is because Affliction doesn’t have a set rotation.  What it has is an opening sequence, which (in the 3.0.8 world) looks something like this:

  1. Shadowbolt
  2. Haunt
  3. Unstable Affliction
  4. Immolate
  5. Corruption
  6. Curse of Agony
  7. Siphon Life

Some Affliction warlocks pair Unstable Affliction with Immolate because these spells have the same DoT duration.  Others alternate their instant casts with non-instants to minimize the impact of global cooldowns, or cast Corruption sooner rather than later to maximize Molten Core uptime or Nightfall procs.  (I frequently do this if I’m still moving into position as the tank pulls, and can’t necessarily stop to cast a Shadowbolt or Haunt but can throw a few instants at a boss.)

As far as I can tell, this is largely a matter of personal preference.  Beyond casting Shadowbolt first (to proc Shadow’s Embrace) and Haunt second (for the +20% to DoT damage), there is no significant DPS gain or loss from casting Unstable Affliction ahead of Immolate or vice versa.

For this reason, most Affliction locks will choose an opening sequence that’s comfortable to them or amenable to the situation and simply memorize the keybindings.  For me, it’s 2-1-D-3-4-5-S.  Intuitive?  No.  But after several months of raiding as Affliction, my fingers know the cast sequence better than my brain does — so much so that if I respec Metamorphosis/Ruin or Felguard/Emberstorm, I literally have to trade keybindings.  Otherwise, I’ll find myself casting Shadowbolts instead of Incinerates because my fingers want to spam 2.

The (Sort Of) Exception

If your little black heart is absolutely set on macroing your initial sequence for simplicity or convenience — okay, fine.  I personally don’t see the point (you’ll have to memorize those binds sooner or later, because a /castsequence macro is ineffective for anything beyond your opening salvo!), but there’s no real harm in it.

In this case, a simple macro like

/castsequence reset=12/combat/target Shadowbolt, Haunt, Unstable Affliction, Immolate, Corruption, Curse of Agony, Siphon Life

will allow you to cast all seven spells by spamming the same keybind seven times.  It will also reset after 12 seconds, or every time you exit combat or change targets.

However, once you’ve cycled through your opening sequence, and have six DoTs of various durations rolling on a target — or multiple targets, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious! — then Affliction becomes a priority system rather than a rotation.  Some spells are more important than others (Hint: Haunt > *).  Some DoT’s can be clipped without a significant DPS loss; others can’t, or least shouldn’t be.

If you rely upon your /castsequence macro at this point, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Juggling DoTs

Managing a DoT rotation requires two things: (1) attention and (2) conscious thought.  A /castsequence macro isn’t capable of either — so maximizing DoT uptime is entirely up to you.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Haunt is your #1 priority.  Not only does it increase your periodic damage by 20%, but it also refreshes Corruption via talents.  It’s okay to clip Haunt; in fact, there will be times that you have no choice.  Because Haunt has both a cast time and a travel time, it has to be refreshed early.  If one of your DoT’s is expiring at about the same time, refresh Haunt even earlier so you can refresh the DoT as well.
  2. The final ticks of Curse of Agony and Immolate do more damage than any of the ticks that precede them.  Try to avoid clipping these DoTs.  Your goal is to refresh them immediately after their last ticks.  If you can’t — because Haunt needs to be refreshed or you know you won’t be able to stand still or stay in range long enough to cast — then it’s better to clip the last tick than to allow the DoT to fall off for more than three seconds at a time
  3. You can’t refresh a DoT early if the previous cast was modified by a talent or trinket proc, unless the same or an equivalent proc is also active at the time that you attempt to refresh it.  In other words: if your last Immolate was buffed by Molten Core, attempting to refresh Immolate early while not under the effect of Molten Core will result in “a more powerful spell is already in use” error and a wasted cast time.
  4. Use Shadowbolt as your primary filler when a mob is above 25% health, and Drain Soul when a mob is below 25% health.  You will still need to refresh your shadow DoTs (i.e., everything except Immolate) at 25% and below, but to maximize DPS, cast them after Drain Soul ticks (which come every three seconds) whenever possible.

Timing! is! Everything!

When it comes to Affliction DPS, timing is everything.  That’s why the spec is so hard to play right; it requires active thought rather than simple memorization, which absolutely cannot be replicated with a /castsequence macro. Do yourself and the rest of your party or raid a favor, and don’t use one beyond your opening sequence.  (I would even go so far as to suggest not using one, period, because of the bad habits it can easily engender.)

In lieu of a /castsequence macro, I strongly recommend downloading DoTimers and Quartz.  DoTimers is a wonderful little add-on that creates countdown timers — and, for the more visually inclined, bars — for each mob that you have DoTed.  It tracks the duration of each active DoT in descending order, and even changes colors when a DoT or spell effect is about to expire.  Meanwhile, Quartz is a modular cast bar that accounts for latency; I use it primarily to chain Haunt-Unstable Affliction-Immolate and time Shadowbolt casts.

The advantage to these add-ons over a /castsequence macro is that they will help you manage your DoTs and maximize uptime, not attempt to do it for you — and fail utterly in the process.

The moral of this post?  If you wouldn’t let your cat tailroll across the keyboard (and believe me, mine tries!), don’t use a /castsequence macro for Affliction DPS!

On the Other Hoof: Totems

That said,

/castsequence reset=8 Totem of Wrath, Flametongue Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Mana Spring Totem

is all kinds of awesome. 😉

April 10, 2009 at 11:00 am 9 comments

Answers for Abigore

Alternate title?  “Alliteration.Win.”

Abigore of Fear.Win is curious about what 3.1 has in store.  Sure, we’ve all read the patch notes (well, you probably have; I think I might be a build or two behind >.>) — but how are the upcoming changes going to affect how we spec and play?  And are these changes going to be driven by cold, hard math or by our enduring passion (<insert obligatory stamina joke>) for the class? 

What spec are you currently?

Felguard/Emberstorm (0/41/30) currently; Haunt/Ruin (53/0/8) traditionally.

How long have you used this spec and why did you choose it?

I much prefer the playstyle of Haunt/Ruin to Felguard/Emberstorm, but (as I’ve observed before) the former tends to be much less forgiving than the latter — and after raiding primarily as a resto shaman for the last few months, I’m finding that I’ve actually forgotten ‘how to lock.  /shameface

I recently had an opportunity to ‘lock it up in Obsidian Sanctum because some odd twist of fate had us running healer-heavy and DPS-light.  I was still specced Haunt/Ruin and slightly outgeared the other Affliction warlock in the raid.  Nonetheless, he trounced me — and everyone else — on the damage meters. 

The dust was still settling around Sartharion’s corpse as I fled to Undercity to respec Felguard/Emberstorm.  Going Demo/Destro doesn’t help me relearn Affliction, but it does spare me the embarrassment of subpar DPS when I PuG into raids.  Now, I’m just kind of waiting for 3.1; there’s no point in camping a target dummy to practice a rotation that will be obsolete in a few weeks.

What are you most unhappy with in your current spec?

It’s not Affliction. 

At the risk of repeating myself, the problem with Affliction isn’t its relative complexity; it’s the fact that it’s completely unforgiving.  If you’ve ever lost a 20+ stack on Malygos after eating two Power Surges in a row and had to start all! over! again! … then you know exactly what I mean. 

What spec will you be taking in 3.1?

I haven’t decided yet.  I haven’t been following the 3.1 news at all, and I never bothered to copy my warlock (or any other character, for that matter) to the PTR.  I’ve been so focused on completing Glory of the Raider that I think I actually managed to convince myself that if I didn’t think about the patch, it wouldn’t arrive until after I earned my Plagued Proto-Drake …

Rawr!

If you plan on dual speccing, what will be your offspec?

If I were still raiding on my warlock, I’d probably dual-spec Affliction for long fights and some variation of Demo/Destro for heroics and trash.  (Yay, burst!)  But since I’m semi-retired, I don’t think I’ll bother — as much as it pains me to admit that it what started as a “warlock blog.” 

The dual-spec I’m most looking forward to is Resto/Enhancement.  (Windfury, how I missed thee!)

April 9, 2009 at 11:19 am 2 comments

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

So, where are these dance studios again?

As everyone knows — I already looked under that rock and no one was home, so don’t even try that excuse with me! — 3.1 is live on the PTR and the patch notes are available … everywhere.  (If the patch notes don’t have their own profile on MySpace Music yet, I’d be surprised.)

Some of WoW’s most prominent bloggers are refraining from commenting on the grounds that everything is subject to change, so anything they write now is likely to be out of date tomorrow.  Others are already horns-deep (what? all of the best bloggers have horns!) in the analyses.

I might take a stab at some of the warlock changes.  I’m not sure; theorycrafting really isn’t my cup of Honeymint Tea (I crunch numbers for a living, so it’s the last thing I want to do when I get home), but … it is tempting.  To write about, I mean — not necessarily to math about. 

It looks like Affliction DPS is being simplified, courtesy of a shorter DoT rotation, with the Siphon Life effect baked into Corruption and Haunt’s benefit limited to shadow spells — which makes Immolate, once our highest DPCT, significantly less attractive. 

It also appears that raid utility is being moved out of the Affliction tree (Malediction no longer affects Curse of Elements) and into Destruction (at max rank, Improved Shadow Bolt applies a 5% crit buff and Improved Soul Leech has a 100% chance to proc Replenishment). 

Needless to say, this represents a complete role-reversal from TBC, when most guilds raided with exactly one Affliction ‘lock — usually the newest or least-geared among them, who grudgingly spec’d into Malediction, Improved Imp and Shadow’s Embrace, ran with a phase-shifted mana battery, and would have gladly sold her soul (again!) for a one-way ticket out of the tank group. 

Plate armor is loud, leather stinks when it gets sweaty and bear tanks have fleas.  Trust me; I know.

But I digress.

While I contemplate the warlock changes, and look for my long-lost calculator (I did promise to take another look at shaman gems…), here are some 3.1 highlights from elsewhere on the Web:

  • Siha of Banana Shoulders contemplates a respec, since the new Tier 1 protection talent, Divinity, looks too good for any healadin (or tankadin, for that matter) to pass up;
  • Euripedes whores himself out to Google somehow manages to write about Polymorph: Rabbit with a straight face (Warlock DPS gets buffed and mages finally learn how to pull bunnies out of hats?  Sweet!);
  • Ambrosyne reacts in her inimitable fashion (one part babble, two parts acerbic wit) to the paladin and priest changes;
  • Birdfall speculates about a new plethora of pets, as well as some faction-specific mounts (including a mechanical gnome head, if you can believe it);
  • Nibuca of Mystic Chicanery takes an in-depth look at the Affliction changes (and reassures me that there are still warlocks out there!, especially in light of Yet Another Warlock Nerf officially closing down);
  • Karthis of Of Teeth and Claws has a likewise detailed analysis of the feral druid changes, from both cat and bear’s perspective (although I can’t help but notice he insists on calling Bear bubbles “Savage Defense, ” or something ungainly like that);
  • and, of course, the WoW Insider bloggers burned the midnight oil on their respective class guides, which I expect will be updated many, many times in the upcoming weeks.  (But WI gets no link-love, because my Armani War Bear and I are still mad about that “dabbling in Zul’Aman” comment. :p)

Me, I’m lamenting the fact that “ghetto-hearthing” will soon become a thing of the past, e-mailing myself reminders to do my Northrend Inscription Research every single day, and squealing like a schoolgirl over the possibility that the new legendary could very well be a healing mace (even if it’s almost certain to go to my guild’s Holy priest). 

I’m also hopeful that all of the information that’s coming out of the PTR will re-interest my guild in the game, so we can get some more Sartharion 3D attempts in this week.  It would be wonderful to be able to say that we beat the hardest encounter in the game while it was still hard, and carry that confidence forward into Uldaur.

It’s getting closer!

February 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm 7 comments

Locking it up in an Eye of Eternity PuG

I took advantage of my brand-new alt status to join a Eye of Eternity PuG — or, rather, partial PuG, since a 10-man guild was hosting it.  I recognized the raid leader as my sister’s ex-boyfriend’s brother (who I’ve never met in real life, but have raided with a time or two and know to be an excellent tank), so I responded to his advertisement in /trade with the basics.  Five minutes later, I was en route to Coldarra for the second time this week.

The hosting guild turned out to be a reform of the one my sister raided with in The Burning Crusade, so there were several familiar faces in the group.  One of the druids even greeted me as I joined Vent: “Hey! It’s Mis’s not-so-evil twin!”  I giggled … and then promptly informed him that I was every bit as evil as my little sister, thank you very much!

Since PuGs and their requirements — some reasonable; others ridiculous — are a hot topic these days, I feel I should mention that this one did not require players to be “attuned” to the Eye of Eternity (i.e., to have the achievement from a prior raid).  There was no minimum DPS stipulation either, but I assume from the brief pause between my initial /tell and invite that the raid leaders were alt-tabbing to Armory. 

The raid was assembled quickly.  (I’m pretty sure I’ve taken longer setting up guild raids than these guys did their three-quarters PuG!)  As soon as the 25th player was invited, summons went out and we all zoned into the Eye of Eternity.  Vent info was posted in a /raid warning, along with the admonishment that only raiders who joined Vent would be eligible for loot.

Needless to say, Vent filled up quickly.

The loot rules were announced ahead of time and very simple: main spec rolls, with a one item maximum.  There were no minimum performance standards, no items held in reserve and no priority given to guildmembers over PuGs.  In other words: no drama.

I could tell right away that most of the players present had defeated Malygos before.  Several asked specific questions (“Clockwise or counter-clockwise in P3?”; “Save Bloodlust for two stacks?”; “Who’s healing the air phase?”).  Only one PuG seemed confused, zoning into Occulus instead of the Eye of Eternity.  He admitted in raid chat that he wasn’t familiar with the instance, but seemed reluctant to ask questions, so I ended up talking him through most of the fight in /party — much to the consternation of a shadow priest in our group, who complained loudly (insofar that you can complain loudly in text…) that people shouldn’t PuG into encounters without bothering to learn them first.

Gentle Heart LambI agree, in principle, but I think the shadow priest was a little too abrasive about it.  Then again, I’m a Care Bear … albeit an appropriately evil one. >.>

(That’s Gentle Heart Lamb, for the uncultured among us.  She’s technically a Care Bear Cousin — but then, I always liked the Cousins better than their ursine counterparts.)

All in all, the PuG went surprisingly well. 

We wiped once, because one of the two Death Knights on Spark-duty disconnected mid-fight.  This is the type of thing a decent guild could most likely recover from: if we lose a Death Knight in a guild run, then our raiders take note of it and adjust accordingly.  The ret paladin and boomkin take over stuns and snares, for example, or a hunter starts DPSing the Sparks at range so we’ll have more control over when they die, to make up for our loss in control over where they die.

In a PuG, with players who who don’t really know each other’s roles and abilities, an untimely disconnect or death can have a much more devastating effect.

Fortunately, we recovered quickly from the wipe, replaced the Death Knight, and downed Malygos on our second attempt.  Loot was distributed (the PuG Priest I coached through the fight won a new robe; grats to him!) and we disbanded on a high note about 30 minutes after forming. 

That was all.  No horror stories.  No Oh. My. God. I can’t believe that just happened! moments.  No unnecessary wipes; no cajoling or bullying from the raid leaders to get things done; no squabbling over loot or post-PuG snipping in /trade.  Just a solid raid experience, unique only because it was with virtual strangers rather than … virtual friends.

It’s not even blogworthy, really — just something I wanted to commemorate in writing because it was so very different from what I expected (and therefore worth remembering three months from now when I’m resurrecting my /tar desk /cast Bang Head macro in an ill-fated Uldaur-10 PuG).

*  *  * 

Some tips for warlocks for the Eye of Eternity, since Dagashi asked and I have Malygos on my mind anyway.  These are all from my personal experience (I’m not much of a theorycrafter), so your mileage may vary:

  • Right before the pull, drop a Demonic Circle next to the orb that summons Malygos.  Since Demonic Circle: Teleport is an instant cast, you can ‘port back to your Circle at the start of every Vortex phase and continue to DPS while the rest of the raid is spinning uselessly through the air.  Just be sure to watch threat, since the tank will have a hard time generating it while in the Vortex.  (Don’t be afraid to dust off that Soul Shatter button and move it back onto your toolbar!  The extra DPS time means I’m often threat-capped in this fight.)
  • Also, keep an eye on the cooldown on your Demonic Circle.  If DPS is slow or if the pull was delayed, then your Circle might expire during phase 1.  Drop a new one; trust me, it’s worth the global cooldown.
  • Ignore the Power Sparks, especially if you’re Affliction.  Unless you’re specced into some bizarre PvP talent that I don’t know about (I tend to ignore those tooltips; sorry!), then virtually everyone else in the raid including that level 78 Dragonhawk (You’d think the hunter who fo’shizzled me on Vent would know better!) and your White Tickbird Hatchling are better at Spark-management than you are.  This is because  you don’t have reliable stuns or snares to root them in place, nor do you have the burst capability to nuke them down after they’re anchored by someone else.  Ideally, your raid will have two Death Knights tag-teaming the Sparks (Death Grip = win!); we sometimes use a boomkin or a retpally.  If you absolutely don’t have a choice, then try to trade roles with a Holy Priest.  You can probably heal the raid more effectively with bandages than you can control a Spark, and he can lolsmite spam them better than you can anyway. 
  • Watch your buff bars during Phase 1 to make sure you’re really stacking Power Sparks.  Just because there are multiple Sparks on the ground doesn’t mean you’re standing in all of them; you may have to reposition to find the areas where they overlap.  (This applies to everyone, not just warlocks!)
  •  P2 is supremely pet unfriendly.  Put your pet on passive if you want to keep it around for buffs, or simply sacrifice it.  It’s going to die anyway. 
  • P2 is warlock unfriendly, as well.  Melee get priority on discs, so we’re generally left running from bubble to bubble, DoTing whatever we can reach.  Don’t worry unleashing your full rotation on the Scions.  They often spin out of range before you can finish it, anyway, and casting that initial Shadow Bolt to get Shadow’s Embrace up does you no good if you can’t follow it up with some serious DoT damage.  Just concentrate on getting as many DoTs on as many Scions as you can.  I’m one of those spatially-challenged individuals ^.^, but I find that tab-targetting between mobs and channeling Drain Life for a tick or two will help orient me.
  • If all of the melee have their discs, then by all means — grab one.  You don’t have to worry about breaths or even be healed while on a disc (bonus!) and you can DPS from it even more effectively than those melee types, since you won’t have to waste time chasing mobs through three-dimensional spaace.  (Who knows?  You could even get an achievement out of it.)  We let the melee take discs first because they’re completely useless without them — instead of just mostly useless, like us. 😉
  • Don’t panic if your P2 damage trails behind … everyone else.  Unless you’re lucky enough to snag a disc, this is not a ranged friendly fight.  The point is to survive.  (Take heart: gear permitting, you should absolutely dominate the meters in P1.)
  • You probably already know this, but the highest DPS in P3 is a simple 1, 1, 2 rotation.  Just make sure you have enough energy to get two combo points and a shield up if you’re targeted for a surge.
  • If at all possible, make sure that the raid is accompanied by at least one Stinker and either Bombay or a Black Tabby.  Watching those two do their thing while all hell breaks loose is pure awesome.  (In fact, I’m pretty sure that if that damn cat ever decides to return Stinker’s affections, then Malygos will be shocked into sanity.  He’ll submit instantly and Alextrasza will send everyone five-piece T7 in the mail out of sheer gratitude.  For reals!)

February 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm 4 comments

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