Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early tips on Cataclysim 5-mans

I haven't had time to write up anything about Cataclysm experiences, but a number of other bloggers are squeezing in some posts.

Lissanna has an awesome picture of a "fail tree". I'm feeling like a fail tree lately, when Arthus seemed easier to heal than a 5-man! She's has a large number of good tips. Just to quote one:
Start relying on Nourish & Healing Touch: People want to avoid these because they are slow. However, did you see how big everyone’s health pools got? The increasing of Health Pool size means that these two spells are how you will keep your tank alive in 5-mans (and raids!).

Kirstimah suggests using Clearcast strategically:
Malfurion's Gift. This has been a lifesaver on mana. Roll Lifebloom on the tank and use the Clearcasts to bring up the dps. I am not doing heroics yet, but so far this strategy is working well for normals.
This plays in well with the larger health pool: stop twitch reacting, rely on your dpsers health pools to keep them alive for a while, and heal them at the opportune moment. I hope healing stays like this for a while. I'm sure mana will be plentiful in a tier or two, but having to think strategically adds some fun to it.

Finally, Qieth has some quips for moonkin raiders. I chuckled at this:
Healing is.. OH MY GOD!
One thing I did notice is the apparant change of play for the healers. We are no longer seeing ourselves getting spammed up whenever we lose 1% health. Healers are much more conservative with their mana, and even then, they are struggling to keep everybody alive.
Glad to hear I'm not the only one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hang on to those quest rewards while leveling

Ohken is at level 83 now, and I've grabbed I think three quest rewards at this point. Tier 10 gear is simply good enough that I haven't needed to replace it. Plus, disenchant materials sold very well over the last week. Why not hang onto the tier 10 and make a bunch of money while at it?

I'll tell you why. The dungeon finder tool uses average ilvl to decide if you are geared enough for a dungeon, but it doesn't take into account whether the gear is green, blue, or purple! I've reached the point, now, where I can't queue for randoms.

I've learned a couple of things, though, about how ilvl is computed. If you go to the dungeon finder and select "specific Cataclysm dungeons", you can mouse over the individual dungeons and see what the game considers to be your current ilvl. Here are two interesting things about that computation:
  1. It includes everything in your bags. When I get an item, it goes up. When I disenchant an item, it goes back down.
  2. It doesn't correct for duplicates. I had two waist items, and then I disenchanted one of them, and my level went back down.

The good news is that the ilvl requirements are rather mild. However, I wish I'd hung onto more quest greens now. I'll definitely do so on my later characters.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thorns: back to wimpy

I was pretty excited with how hard Thorns hits in 4.0.1. I just noticed that now it is back down to wimpy:
In addition, Thorns damage has been reduced by 60%.
60%! The nerfbats hit harder in Cataclysm.

Lissanna on Eclipse

You get Eclipse now at level 10, so people leveling a moonkin need to learn how to use it. Lissanna of Restokin has posted a good guide on how to use Eclipse.

Just one thing, though:
At very low levels, things should die quickly with mostly spamming wrath and starfire (based on where you are in the Eclipse rotation). So, DOTs largely become optional at the lowest levels.
Yes, but without moonfire, then your moonkin does make BOOOM sounds! What's more important, leveling, or booming?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Portals begone

I play Warcraft to escape, to go to some other world. Like Shade so wonderfully wrote, I want to kill Internet dragons! As such, I'm with Qieth: I'm glad they removed the Dalaran and Shattrath portals. As he says:
Come here, son. Have a hard candy. I’ll tell you a story from my youth.

An excess of portals means that when you play Warcraft, you aren't so much logging into an alternate world. It's more like you are logging into a staging area, and then you select a portal to go to one little part of that world that is interesting. Dalaran becomes more like a filing cabinet or a bookmark list.

I certainly don't want to return to the days of classic WoW where they made you travel just to waste time. Duskwood questing was particularly horrible, because the quest givers and the quest goals were at opposite ends of the zone, and couldn't yet get a mount yet.

However, what's a few minutes of sitting on a wyvern or a zeppelin? It's pure goodness. It puts a pause between moving across massive distances, and it lets you gawk at some cool Azeroth scenery. You feel like you are going somewhere, rather than selecting a bookmark from your bookmark list. It puts the world back in the World.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Healing and tanking in PUGs

Jinked thoughts has a good write on it. On healers:
One thing I really love about being a healer is that whatever happens, I'll probably have it under control.
I've come to the same conclusion. I enjoy dpsing, and I enjoy tanking. However, on harder content, I want to be healing. When stuff goes wrong, I feel like there's something I can do about it.

On tanks:
They do all the work (especially in lowbie groups where the tank often does 50% of all the damage) and never get any recognition or love for it. One mistake and you'll have a choir of crying babies in your group.
Tanks work a lot harder than anyone else in the group. Holding aggro and using cooldowns is a second-by-second decision process, and you never know how it's going to go. Moreover, outside of raids, they usually end up guiding the party through the dungeon from pull to pull. Yet, as soon as anything goes wrong, the tank gets all manner of hate. It's a fun role if you feel like thinking a little bit, but you better thicken your skin. You're going to get flamed.

Notice one role missing? Dps. Dps is sweet and easy, and there's hardly anything to say. Just sit back and nuke whatever mobs the tank has pulled. Use whatever bizarre rotations you like; unless it's progression content, you'll still win.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

RestoDude on gearing and professions

RestoDude has an excellent summary up on gearing up a restoration druid in Cataclysm. It assumes you nothing, and it includes stats,

I hope it gets updated over time. I have a few comments on the details:

  • Spirit is not restoration-only. For restoration it gives mana regen, and for moonkin, it gives hit. Blizzard is always trying to make spirit valuable for all casters, and this is their latest effort.
  • It's true that mana regen is especially valuable at lower gear levels, but spirit isn't the best way to get it. In early Wrath, it made sense to gem for spirit if you were low on regen. In Cataclysm, you should gem intellect.
  • Herbalism is better than RestoDude says. It gives an extra cooldown besides Tree of Life for improved healing. You can either use it separately or macro it together with Tree, but either way it's a very helpful cooldown. Haste is great.

These are just nits. It's a great one-stop article for gearing up restoration druids in Cataclysm.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Keybinding your movement keys

Dreambound blog has an interesting idea:
If I'm moving around using WASD, I can't be using any spell with a cast-time, anyway. If I'm casting a spell that is cancelled by movement, I can't be moving anyway while I press the button to trigger it. So, cast-time spells can be bound to movement keys using modifiers to toggle them (ctrl, alt, shift).

I don't think I'll try it, but he does have a good point. I just don't think I need so many keys that I need to overload the movement keys. Here's why.

I use Bartender to get four rows of action bars. My top row maps 1-5, q, e, and r, giving me eight keybinds I can use without moving my hand off of WASD. My second row has shift-1, shift-2, etc., giving me eight more keybinds. My third row is for control-1, etc., and my fourth row is for control-shift-1, etc. This gives me 32 keybinds that are conveniently reachable from without moving from WASD. It's plenty.

By doing it this way, I hardly ever need to define macros. A lot of people write macros to make shift-3 do something different from control-3. This is more flexible, but it's more of a nuisance. If you use multiple action bars for the different modifier combinations, you can set them up using drag and drop.

Note that I left alt out of my list of modifiers. Adding alt to the mix would mean there are 64 keybinds available. However, I find the default meaning of alt to be convenient. It cuts down on the keybinding space significantly, but 32 is really already enough.

Stepping back from all this, I'm left with a big question: why doesn't Blizzard make the defaults better? They could give us four action bars by default, giving you a new bar every 20 levels or so. When we get a new spell, they could drop them into a reasonably place by default. Some people say that Blizzard can't do this because every user is different, but I call baloney. Blizzard knows very well what buttons people mash, and they know it better than most players. They've proven this by having the buttons light up when they are a good option to cast; why can't they do the much easier task of giving us good defaults?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Which direct healing spells on hard fights?

The common wisdom so far is that in 4.0, druids should mainly use regrowth for direct heals, even on targets that already have a regrowth hot. This makes our healing very similar to 3.x except that we use regrowth instead of nourish.

Meanwhile, the Blizzard is trying to change healing more fundamentally. We have mana problems now. We have three direct heals to heal from: small, medium, and large. Nourish, Regrowth, and Healing Touch. The small one is mana efficient, and the medium one is fast, and the big one is efficient but very slow. They all have tradeoffs, so Blizzard hopes we'll be choosing among them.

On fights that aren't demanding, the new conventional wisdom is the way to go. On less demanding fights, you have plenty of mana, and the healing isn't difficult. Just heal like you used to except use regrowth instead of nourish. Do use Thorns. Further, if it gets really boring, remember that you can throw out some dps spells and crowd control now without losing our healing buffs.

I've recently raided on fights that are a bit harder, at least for our group, and the story is a little different. Specifically, we did Algalon (yes, the old Ulduar boss!), and heroic Blood Queen. I'd like to share a few notes about that.

First, on Blood Queen, I had mana problems. I've reforged all my spirit to mastery, under the theory that on fights that are hard, it's usually tank death that is the biggest risk of wiping, not raid member death. Still, my in-combat regen is around 550-600 mp5. It's not enough for the most mana-intensive fights, so I had to tone back on the regrowths and rejuvenates a little. People with a wild growth didn't get a rejuv on top of it, for example. On Algalon, to contrast, mana wasn't as big of a deal. Dps in T10 gear is overkill for this fight, so the fight doesn't really last long enough for mana to be a big issue.

Second, I think healing touch would have been useful on both fights, had I been a pure tank healer. The tanks were taking high damage (something that should change in Cataclysm), but not so high that they would die in three seconds even fully hotted. So if I were in a 25 man and assigned to tank heal, healing touch would have been great. I'd keep up all hots, and cast healing touch as a filler. In a 10 man, though, healing roles aren't as sharply defined. The cast time of healing touch is an eternity if you see a dpser drop below 50%. Thus I mostly used regrowth even on Blood Queen. All I can say is, remember to hit innervate early rather than waiting until you really need it. You want to be hitting innervate early and then at every cooldown.

Third, I really wanted to save swiftmend for the tanks. I'm having a fun time with efflorescence, and on most fights I'm wasting swiftmend so as to place an efflorescence circle somewhere convenient. On both of these harder fights, though, I found that the tanks occasionally dipped below 50%. Swiftmend was much better used for those situations. I would have rather dropped efflorescence in the raid somewhere, typically the melee, but putting it on the tanks is a good second-best.

Finally, our cooldowns add an extra dimension to the play. Tree of life and tranquility are both good things to pop when things get nuts, and it's fun to plan ahead for when that might be. On Blood Queen, the time to use them is after she fears everyone and starts throwing blood bolts. I use tranquility on the first round, and our raid is practically invulnerable. I use tree of life on the second one, and berzerko tree's instant regrowth and improved wild growth really help keep everyone up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thorns hits hard

Thorns has been changed in 4.0, and it now hits HARD. In 3.x, you cast thorns on the tanks before a fight when everyone is buffing up, and then forgot about it. It was also useful in Culling of Stratholme, where you can cast it on the dps and healers and make the wandering zombies much of a nuisance. Honestly, though, it wasn't that important. It would typically add a few percent damage to the tank's damage only, and the tank's damage wasn't that big of a deal. I didn't always bother to cast it, and only once a month or so did a tank actually remind me when I forgot.

It's completely different in 4.0. Now thorns is of short duration and is on a cooldown. If you want to keep it up, you have to keep recasting it. In exchange for needing such active maintenance, though, it now does gigantic damage output! In 5-mans, I am seeing it provide 20-35% of the tank's overall output, and typically it is the highest individual ability in a damage breakdown. I've also tried it in soloing, and I've frequently seen it do more than 50% of my output, even on fights where starfall and treants were available. Consider that carefully: it does more damage than hurricane, but you don't get locked into channeling.

In short, cast thorns. Cast it early in the fight to give the tanks some initial threat, and then cast it again whenever you can spare the GCD. Furthermore, the Glyph of Thorns is quite helpful, if you don't know what other major glyph to take. I'm using it on both resto and moonkin specs right now.

Now that the spell is so much more useful, I have two questions about it?
  1. What happens if multiple druids cast thorns on the same tank? Will they both take effect, or just one of them? I'm guessing just one, but a tree can dream.
  2. Will Skada, World of Logs, and other log parsers ever account the damage back to the druid? Currently you contribute a lot of dps to insert invocations of thorns, but the meters don't give you credit for it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The best of PUGs, the worst of PUGs

Traxy of I Like Pancakes has a great article up on the foibles, let us say, that a tank faces in a random LFD pug. Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings has a similar article up, but that one describing the downright abuse that tanks often get, despite doing everything right. Beruthiel's post gives a strong suggestion about why tanks are scarce in the LFD tool.

I have tanked a few LFD runs, and I see a lot of what Traxy and Beruthiel describe. I've been flamed for using resilience to get uncrittable (when that worked), and I've been flamed for taking the Pit of Saron gauntlet in three pulls instead of two. It's usually something where there's a common way to do things, and then another way that is sometimes better but that isn't as well known to the player base.

On the flip side, I keep coming back for more. A lot of the fun of Warcraft is that it's multi-player. If you can let the jerks just go their way, you meet a lot of other people who make it fun.

If you feel the same way, you'll love Pugging Pally. It posted the above two articles as guest articles, and it has a steady stream of posts that "look on the light side of LFG".

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Regen stats

While mana is still plentiful at level 80 -- you get enough regen just by the mandatory intellect and spirit on our gear -- it looks like things will be different in Cataclysm. We won't be able to just stack all throughput stats. We need to watch out for mana as well.

Rank 4 Healing Touch did some math that compares intellect versus spirit for mana regeneration. In short, at level 85, one point of spirit gives about 0.5 mp/5 and one point of intellect gives 0.90--almost twice as much!

What this means is that, as things stand, spirit is mediocre Always stack intellect in preference to spirit. You'll get better regen, and you'll also get spell power to improve throughput. Further, when comparing same-ilvl gear, always prefer the gear that has no spirit, no matter what else it has on it. Even if you need the regen, you can make up the lost regen by gemming half as much intellect as the spirit you gave up.

Personally, I find this a little disappointing, and I hope Blizzard rebalances the regen stats. I find it fun to balance regen versus throughput, and even to balance different kinds of throughput (crit, haste, mastery, spell power). On the regen side, it makes no sense that the one stat that is purely for regen is underpowered. It becomes one of those things where players who read the tool tips and follow basic logic end up playing worse than players who go snoop around on the Internet for obscure calculations.

It seems like all Blizzard would have to do is double the regen from spirit and halve the regen from replenishment. Then, intellect would be a so so regen stat but also give throughput, while spirit would be the place to go if you are really hurting for regen. Intellect would still win out for most people, but at least spirit wouldn't be so bad that people avoid gear with it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Type H for Heals has done some great analysis on how haste affects heal-over-time spells.

One punch line is that, from the perspective of healing per cast time (HPCT) and healing per mana (HPM), haste doesn't improve a spell until you get an extra tick on the spell. For restoration druids, the only relevant extra-tick number is 37.5%. If you get to 37.5% haste -- from all sources including raid buffs -- then your rejuvenation has an extra tick at the end.

You also get a rejuv tick at 12.5% and a regrowth tick at 16.7%, but these are such low numbers that practically all druids will be past those points. There are also several thresholds for lifebloom, but those don't matter because...

The analysis is completely different for tank healing! When tank healing, even if you don't get an extra hot tick, you benefit from haste by being able to cast the hot a little sooner. Thus, for tank healing, you get higher HPS at all levels of haste. HPS will take an extra large bump when you get past 37.5%, but otherwise haste is all good. Assuming you have a 5% haste buff from a raid, you need 1016 haste rating to get there. There seem to be some rounding issues, so it's better to get a little more.

All this said, I'm not sure what the practical impact is. Haste is still great both before and after that number. First, you are probably at least rolling HOTs on the tanks even if you are raid healing, and for rolling HOTs, haste benefits them at all levels of haste. Second, every little bit faster that regrowth gets, the better.

Haste in 4.0

It looks like haste is an even bigger stat than ever for 4.0. We are casting a lot of direct heals, now, and more haste means they land faster. In particular:

1. Regrowth is now our top-up spell, and haste speeds it up until a cap of 50% where it has a 1.0-second cast. Faster regrowths on a tank mean it has a better chance of landing before the next melee swing. Faster regrowths around the raid mean we can top up more people after a decimate before they die.

2. Healing touch hits like a truck now. I’m seeing it land at twice a regrowth and three times a nourish. However, the cast speed is just sluggish enough that it’s difficult to use well. Getting it’s 2-second cast time lower makes it much easier to use. Haste is valuable for this purpose until healing touch is at 1.0 seconds, somewhere around 150%.

3. Rejuv and regrowth have better throughput when hasted, which is especially relevant for tank healing. This is useful up until stupid levels of haste. (Instant rejuv? Yes please.)

As much as it makes sense to talk about a soft cap, it's around 50%. However, 50% is already nearly impossible to attain at level 80, and it should be even harder at level 85. For practical purposes, resto druids have no haste cap in 4.0.

So how much haste should you get? Right now, mana regen seems to be fine for most players. Many are even spamming regrowth and not running out. So don't worry too much about regen.

What about throughput? To the extent you really want to worry about raw throughput, haste should be balanced against intellect, crit, and -- if you tank heal -- mastery. Right now, though, throughput is pretty high, and for many healers it is probably as high as matters for the raids they are doing. In that case, it's more important to get heals landed than to make them bigger, and landing heals faster is all about haste.

TL;DR: Haste is great. Get all you can without going OOM.