Tuesday, June 30, 2009

[Paladin] Quick Arena Update

Ended the week at 1765. Raiding four nights in a week and being on two active arena teams while still trying to keep a couple nights free for personal stuff sure makes for a crowded playing schedule. We only got in 10 games this weekend, but they were enough to push us back over 1750 so that when I log in this evening I will be able to get my Furious chest.

The range of people we're fighting is starting to get a bit wilder. We actually ran into one 2200 team and a couple 1400-1500 teams. I can't help wondering if that's because there are fewer teams at our rating playing on any given night now.

I have no remaining suppositions for what rating to shoot for, or even what piece of gear I want next. The Furious chest is going to wipe my bank of arena points, though if I wanted to and my rating remained steady, I could buy the Deadly shoulders next week if I felt like it. It doesn't seem worth it though. And yet, I'm not sure what piece of Furious gear I can save for.

There's a surprising lack of gear at 1800. There's just nothing; no honor gear, no arena gear. At 1850 I could get a shield, though again that will take another three weeks of points. I also could get a weapon at 1850 which would be much cheaper in the way of points, and I have the honor for it, but I'm not sure if they would be worth it. It seems most of the top 3v3 holy paladins forsake the Furious weapons and shield in favor of PvE equivalents. There's probably some itemization reason for it.

Of course, this assumes we can push onward, because if we don't, what I can buy becomes a moot point.

Unrelated to arena, the whole faction change business might be the first time I use a paid service beyond my monthly fee. If there's any character I've wished I had reason to play again, it's my 51 Alliance warlock. All her old guildmates transferred away and I only play Horde these days, so it would be nice to bring her into my current guild.

Friday, June 26, 2009

[Paladin] Illumination Nerf? Oddly It Doesn't Scare Me

After doing some reading I've come to the conclusion that not everyone is entirely happy with the changes to holy paladins in 3.2, mostly due to the changes to Illumination (which supposedly comes due to the change to Beacon of Light). With patch 3.2, Illumination will only return 30% mana from a spell that crits instead of 60%. Some paladins are very proud of their niche as the tank healer and fear that the nerf to Illumination will mean they won't have the mana to keep their tank up.

While tanking healing is an important assignment, and the expensive-to-cast Holy Light is extremely useful for it, I admit I've always been a little baffled by the philosophy of stacking int and crit and spamming the tank with Holy Light to no tomorrow. If the tank is already topped up an extra Holy Light isn't going to help him.

But then, I have never been a progression raid healer. I have never had the "optimum" PvE healing spec because prior to dual spec I wanted to support my PvP and PvE with the same spec, so I went 51/20/0. I healed 10- and 25-man Naxx just fine even though I was less than optimum and had what must've been considered a heinously low amount of crit. But I did well enough that once dual specs did come out I kept my holy/prot spec (now modified to 52/19/0) for my primary spec and nabbed prot as my secondary.

Even now, I hover around 20% crit unbuffed in my raid gear (and not counting talents that specifically increase holy spell crit). It is unspeakably low for a holy paladin. And yet I don't run out of mana. My healing is competitive (if one likes to look at meters) so my lack of crit is not resulting in a lack of output. I'm not even running dry. If I'm oom I either made a bad judgement call (forgot to use Divine Plea or Divine Illumination or both) or something terrible happened (pug VoA tank charged the boss while I still drinking after a wipe, good going).

When I hear that Illumination is getting nerfed I know it will affect me, I do have the talent after all, but it will not affect me nearly as much as the holy paladins who have come to take their mana regen from high crit for granted. I don't think it will be as reasonable to spam HL on the tank (or anyone really) as it used to be, but that's fine by me. I'm used to playing with a lower amount of regen than other paladins and truthfully, the high crit isn't necessary.

My guild master, who is an extremely fine paladin healer, respeced her raid spec from 51/5/15 to 51/20/0 in Ulduar because she decided she was never running out of mana so she didn't need the crit from the ret tree and the benefits of having Divine Sacrifice to mitigate raid damage in Ulduar were too good to ignore.

Both of us are huge fans of Beacon. Neither of us are consistent HL-spammers. Back when Naxx 10 first came out and most groups were running with three healers we managed to do our first Sapphiron kill with only two, one of which was her, which was possible because she's excellent at maximizing heals on both the raid and the tank through Beacon.

When we did our 8-man Malygos A Poke in the Eye achievement, she was the only healer, and she managed to keep everyone alive.

I'm pretty confident when I say she's good.

So when I want to see what I should be doing in a raid, I look at her performance in our guild's WWS or World of Logs report. And the funny thing is, when I look at her performance, the bulk of her healing is coming from Flash of Light. She's not slacking, she's high on the meters, she's often tank healing (her husband is our MT), and this is for Ulduar! She does cast Holy Light, don't get me wrong, but more of her healing comes from FoL than HL. Our wipes rarely come from lack of heals on the tank so obviously this works for her and our heal team.

My take on this is that continuous Holy Light spam isn't necessary to begin with. Generally large incoming damage comes at predicable intervals and so we can be ready to spam at those moments and then HL any other time as needed.

What this upcoming change to Illumination does is take away a paladin's ability to be wasteful with mana. Smart players will be relatively unaffected, or will be only for a short time. I might actually have to manage my resources more than I do, and paladins that currently do not may have an unpleasant learning curve in front of them.

But playing with a 30% return from Illumination isn't going to kill being a holy paladin or even being a tank healer. Regen has nothing to do with how big our heals hit for, and Holy Light is still one of the strongest single target heals in the game.

I decided to browse through one of my guild's recent 25-man raid logs to look at our holy paladins and how big of a hit the Illumination nerf would be for them.

My guild leader (51/20/0) would lose 16% percent of the mana she gained over the course of a 25-man run from Flame Leviathan to Hodir.

Our other holy paladin (51/5/15) would lose 22% of his mana regen from that same run. It's more, because he's specced for more crits, but it's not like he's losing half the mana he ever gets.

I don't have a comparable run for myself, having not taken my paladin to 25-man Ulduar, but a 10-man run shows that I would lose 14%. My biggest source of mana regen was Divine Plea, and 3.2 is not touching it.

Can I lose 14% of my mana regen?

Considering that I usually hover around 40-60% mana once I hit my rhythm, I think so. I already have a buffer of mana I can afford to "lose." Aside from that, I know I'm not the best player and there are things I could do better.

Sometimes I forget to use my Divine Plea when the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes I notice that Divine Illumination has never been touched and it's five minutes into a boss fight. I could also be better about cancelling unneeded heals if comes down to it and the fight allows for it (obviously not during an enrage). If the 14% loss presents a problem, there are things in my own play style that I can tighten up and it will make me a better player.

I'm cool with that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[Paladin] Three's Company: 1750

It's Tuesday, so that means crunchy sweet arena points here I come. We really did it this weekend. My 3v3 team hit 1750 and our next achievement milestone. When I first joined my team I didn't think we'd get this high, and certainly not this quickly. I thought we'd plateau earlier on and I'd end up spending my arena points on the Deadly set to gear myself up before we could push on to anything better.

Instead I find myself hoarding points for Furious gear. Even with a 1700+ rating it'll take 3-4 weeks to get any set-piece aside from the gloves. Granted we'll get more points every week the higher we go, so it could eventually be faster, but I'm starting to wonder, how much higher can we go?

The three of us didn't have a lot of play time available with the Father's Day holiday this weekend so we shot for our ten games and stopped shortly thereafter. This actually resulted in us ending below 1750 for the week since we lost our last couple of games, but we're not that concerned. None of us would have had the arena points to buy anything this coming Tuesday even if we'd maintained the 1750 rating, so we'll just work on getting back to 1750 next week.

We lucked out and didn't run into any RMP this week, but we did run into two different teams that used a dual-healer setup. One was a warlock with a druid and a priest. The other was a death knight with a priest and a paladin.

We'd never seen anything like them before and found out that they completely wreck havoc with us. We have very little CC (especially anything that can be chained) so it's hard for us to lock someone down for more than a few seconds. This made it incredibly difficult for us to burn through their heals. We almost got the priest down once in the priest/paladin/DK team, but at the last second he managed to heal up and we never got him close again.

The biggest irritation in facing a dual healer setup is that it leaves one of the healers (priest *cough*) greater freedom to do utility functions such as dispelling and mana burning.

I rarely run out of mana in 3s. Unless I'm being burned, I shouldn't run out unless I make a bad judgment call. I'm trying to get better at breaking LOS, but sometimes it's hard when Holy Shock is on cooldown and a teammate needs a heal. That said, I think I did a good job for the most part this weekend, but I'm not the only possible burn target, and when our hunter gets burned it really hurts his dps. One match I even threw wisdom on him mid-fight because he was almost empty.

With today's points I should be at about 2000 arena points to spend, so if we hit 1750 again this weekend and can hold it until next Tuesday I should find myself the proud owner of a new chest piece. I don't have a PvP chest yet (Archavon has not been kind to me, and I can't bring myself to buy the Deadly or wear the Hateful), so this will be much appreciated.

Monday, June 22, 2009

[Druid] 3.2: Balance Buffed, Feral Nerfed, and Mix for Resto

So now I've had the weekend to digest that mammoth list of details Blizzard has called the 3.2 patch notes. I won't quote everything here. There's the official site for that.

Things all druids can look forward to the next patch are the new bear and cat forms. I'm rather pleased with the tauren druid forms. Even if I'm not sure how much I'll like them, even the worst of them looks better than the ones we have, but I also feel for my night elf brethren whose bears have sideburns and whose cats wear bracelets and strange neck dongles. I liked the night elf cat form the best of the old models and if I was a night elf I'd be sad to lose it.

All leveling druids will be happy to get travel form at level 16 and flight form at 60. I have a baby resto that is at level 20 (yes, I'm insane enough to have started a third druid and level it resto no less) and my feral is 59, a hair away from 60. Faster travel will always be appreciated, especially for my feral, who is located on a PvP server. (Eat my tail feathers, gankers!)

Also of use to all druids is the change to Innervate.

  • Innervate: Duration reduced to 10 seconds, and cooldown reduced to 3 minutes. This means each use of Innervate will give half as much mana as before, but it will be available twice as often.

  • Sure, it'll cost another GCD in a long running boss fight, but the flexibility more than makes up for it. I usually don't need the full benefit of my Innervate in a raid, so now I can use one cooldown on myself early in the fight (to top up) and then have another one available later on when a healer is more likely in trouble. Also, for a longer fight I'll be able to use Innervate a third time.

    Perhaps even more than my balance druid, my feral alt is going to like this change. Feral mana pools are so small that the current version of Innervate is overkill, but running out of mana as a PvP feral is a real possibility with all the shapeshifting and spot healing a good druid does. You can tell who the bad ferals are in a battleground because they never shift out to heal themselves, even when combat is over.

    Balance Changes

    • Balance of Power: Now reduces all spell damage taken by 3/6%, rather than reducing the chance to be hit by spells by 2/4%.

    • Eclipse: The Starfire and Wrath buffs from this talent are now on separate 30 second. cooldowns. In addition, it is not possible to have both buffs active simultaneously.

    • Owlkin Frenzy: Now also restores 2% base mana every 2 seconds for the duration (10 seconds) in addition to its current effects.

    If Balance of Power wasn't tied to spell hit I wouldn't have taken it, but the chance to be missed has no doubt factored into my survivability at some point or another. Though there will no longer be an increased chance to be missed, the overall damage I taken will still be less (making this change a buff) since the flat percentage of damage reduced is higher than what would be missed. It's nice, but not a reason to increase the desirability of this talent from a raiding perspective. I think it's probably more of a PvP change since feral has had similar avoidance chances changed to reductions.

    Eclipse is a flat out buff. Now as soon as one eclipse is down we'll try proccing the other. This will also make us less dependent on mods such as Squawk and Awe to track how long we should be casting our chosen nuke during the internal cooldown. We'll always want to be swapping nukes after eclipse anyway. I'm sure there will be an inflection point where it will be desireable to change nukes without proccing an eclipse (say you're trying to get a lunar eclipse, but Wrath isn't cooperating and the lunar cooldown is almost up), but the less mod/theorycraft-inclined player will not suffer as much if they choose to just twist eclipses as they come.

    Graylo did bring up a good point in that this means the Starfire and Wrath idols become outdated with the Eclipse twisting. Will one be better than the other anymore? The solar and lunar eclipses have pulled about even to each other depending on gear/latency with Ulduar. Is it really any good having an idol that only affects half of our new rotation?

    The change Owlkin Frenzy is a bit odd to me. I'm not sure why it exists. Generally I expect some kind of synergy between the different benefits provided a buff (if there's more than one), but I don't know what the connection is between increased damage, no spell pushback, and mana back. If a moonkin is getting hit, does that mean it also needs more mana?

    I'll be the first to admit I am the worst moonkin a person could possibly challenge to a duel (as in I'll lose so fast you'll wonder how the hell I can possibly be competent at the rest of the PvP I do), so I'm probably not the person who should be commenting on this talent, but I think it won't make much of a different in arena, and probably not in battlegrounds either. If my arena team is on a moonkin we don't care how much mana it has. We don't drain. How many times is a little extra mana regen going to help a focus-fired moonkin stay alive?

    It seems this change would shine the most when the moonkin is being hit by splash damage, where it's taking damage but isn't likely to be immediately killed. PvP moonkin will no doubt have this talent anyway and derive some benefit for it, but it still seems an odd combination to me.

    Feral Changes

    • Mangle: Ranks 4 and 5 base points reduced by about 11%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.

    • Rake: Ranks 6 and 7 base points on initial and periodic damage reduced by about 7%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.

    • Rip: Ranks 8 and 9 base points and points per combo point reduced by about 6%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.

    • Savage Defense: The animation for gaining this buff will no longer make the bear stand upright

    • Shred: Ranks 8 and 9 base points reduced by about 10%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.

    • Swipe (Cat): Percent of weapon damage done reduced from 260% to 250%.

    If you're not sure whether or not you use the affected kitty ability ranks, they're all abilities gained from levels 71 and 80. Clearly high level cat dps is being nerfed, but pre-WotLK leveling cats should be all right. My guess is that both ranks had to be nerfed or the highest level rank would not be much of an improvement (or maybe even weaker) than the previous rank.

    I'm not sure if the Mangle nerf affects both bears and cats, since that would affect bear threat, but I'm pretty sure it affects cats given everything else that is cat-specific. The Savage Defense fix is nice, but cosmetic.

    The puzzling thing is that Ghostcrawler said that they're trying not change cat form so that it's useless in the hands of lesser skilled players. The cat form "rotation" is incredibly complex as is right now, leading to amusing flow charts such as the one linked here. This nerfs the dps for all players, but hurts the bad players as much as the good.

    Good raiding cats have to be positionally aware of where they are relative to the boss as well as managing an incredibly complex set of buff/debuff/DoT priorities. There are mods to help with the latter, but the players who go to the effort of finding those mods are often the hardcore players who least need the help.

    Resto Changes

    • Lifebloom: The final heal that occurs when this spell blooms has been reduced by 20% on the base and on the spell power coefficient.

    • Empowered Touch: Now also increases the amount of bonus healing effects for Nourish by 10/20%.

    • Improved Barkskin: No longer provides dispel resistance to all effects on the druid, but now reduces the chance your Barkskin is dispelled by an additional 35/70%.

    And Lifebloom is nerfed once again. I used to use it a lot while healing as balance for 5-mans or as the occasional backup raid healer during TBC, but these days I only toss it up if I already have a rejuv on the target and I feel they need a little more healing. I nearly always expect that Lifebloom will bloom on anyone except possibly the tank, and the bloom is a nice heal I've come to count on. It costs only a single GCD put out, and heals for a nice amount some seconds later. Perfect if you don't expect your target to die in the time it takes to bloom.

    But it's been nerfed. I suspect this was largely a PvP nerf since I don't recall hearing that Lifebloom blooms heal way to much in PvE, but resto druids can be insane in arena. Squishy resto druids aren't a problem, but a well-geared one with plenty of resilience can take a lot of punishment with minimal impact to its ability to heal. Even if you incapacitate them for a few seconds, if they have hots up, their teammates are still getting healed.

    I suspect Improved Barkskin is being nerfed for the same reason. Keeping the Barkskin itself is important for the druid, that's why they use it in the first place. No one wants their emergency button purged off of them. But this way it'll be easier to get rid of the hots and supplemental buffs that the druid may have.

    In what appears to be the sole buff for resto, Empowered Touch is a talent is going to affect Nourish as well. Since the advent of tree form (which at the time could only cast spells with a HoT component to it) Healing Touch has fallen to the wayside, making this talent lackluster; more of a filler for lack of anything better to put points into. Healing Touch might be macroed to a Nature's Swiftness for a big emergency heal, but it's a long cast compared to anything else in the druid's arsenal.

    I'm not sure that the bonus to Nourish will make the talent that much more appealing to resto druids, seeing as some of them have taken to Nourish like burning hot oil being poured down their throats, but that said, restos do use it (I've seen them doing it in arena!), so this talent should get some more usage, or at least a second glance.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    [Paladin] Changes to all specs in 3.2

    Wow, there's a boatload of stuff here. Too much for me to realistically comment on the whole thing without making this an extremely long blog post, so I'm just going to quote the snippets I find relevant to what I do or what I'll miss. If you want to read the whole post by Eyonix, it's here.

    Ardent Defender has two important changes. The first is that the damage can no longer “skip over” the 35% health level – it will always be reduced. Secondly, it has a new effect that if a blow would kill you, it instead sets you to 30% health. This portion of the ability cannot occur more than once every 2 minutes. Think of it as a Last Stand that you don’t have to push.

    I'm not sure I like the idea of a Last Stand I don't have to push. On the one hand it's nice that it'll go up without any thought, and with a 2 minute cooldown it's unlikely that it would proc inconveniently (where you would want to be killed and then not have the proc available when you need it), but on the other I like being in charge of my own destiny. It makes me feel a better player if I push the button that saves my butt rather than the game pushing it for me.

    I'm happy with the first change though. Damage leapfrogging over the 35% mark has been one of the reasons Ardent Defender isn't as appealing as it could be. Now that the damage won't leapfrog, it'll likely find its way into more tanking specs.

    A second change to Protection is we want to make sure Blessing of Sanctuary is always the tanking blessing of choice. A likely change here is to have it boost stamina as well.

    I agree it should be because we spec for it, but the fact it isn't always has never really bothered me. More stamina would help make it more appealing, but it feels like a bit of a bandaid if that's all they're going to do with it. I think something like more avoidance would make it extremely clear that "Hey, you want this for tanking!"

    We also recognize that block does not provide the mitigation it once did. While we have long-term plans to change the way block works entirely, in the short term we are doubling the effect of bonus block value on items (so jewelry, but not shields).

    I haven't tanked high end content, and though I know a lot about tanking, I'm not tanky enough to have noticed that block value specifically is weaker than it used to be, save that hitting the old 102.4% avoidance (formerly uncrushable, now block capped) isn't what it used to be. I wouldn't dare tank a raid in TBC without the 102.4% avoidance.

    But I've yet to hit the 102.4% avoidance on Gillien and I've comfortably tanked all of Naxx 10 and bits of Naxx 25. I think I could even do parts of Ulduar 10. So blocking? Not what it used to be.

    First, we are changing Flash of Light so that it places a heal-over-time effect on any target with Sacred Shield on them (the effect will be similar to Sheathe of Light). This should make Flash see a little more use.

    I'm going to hope this means "in addition to" FoL's normal effect. If FoL is otherwise left alone this will give us a nice buffer on our tanks while we heal someone else. But would the HoT portion stack (say like a druid's Lifebloom, up to three stacks) or just be over-written by repeated FoL spamming? If it will not stack for a single pally, will it stack for multiples?

    When I'm tank healing, I don't normally weave FoLs into my Holy Lights. If I need to use multiple HLs it's generally too risky to go for a FoL. And if I'm FoL healing, it doesn't seem like the HoT portion will be that useful unless it stacks. The HoT works best as a buffer, which means I have to leave the tank to heal someone else to get the most out of it. Fortunately, leaving the tank to heal someone else is more viable now thanks to this:

    Second, and more importantly, we are changing the way Beacon of Light works. Currently, it does not count over-healing on the target. We are changing that. In other words, if you place Holy Light on a rogue who is already at full health, it will still have the full effect on a tank with Beacon of Light on them. This is a huge buff, particularly when you consider the Holy Light glyph which allows for a small amount of “splash” healing. This effect isn’t common when you use Holy Light on a tank because the tank is often standing alone. But if you heal the melee, you are likely to get a lot more total healing from this effect (while still healing the tank through Beacon of Light).

    Now healing other people will not risk the life of the tank because overheals will continue to heal the tank. I'm extremely happy with this change because I'm the sort of person who likes to heal as much of the raid as reasonably possible while still keeping my assignment up. I hate to see anyone die as a healer, even if that person was not my assignment. (Exception being deaths due to stupidity.)

    Bonus for arena: Since you do not have to be in line of sight with the beacon target in order for the beacon to get heals, it'll now be possible to overheal someone with the Light's Beacon buff (which shows that heals on this person will be mirrored on the Beacon of Light) and still heal the beacon target.

    For instance, I run 3v3 with a DK and a hunter. The DK might run around pillars and such chasing after people, making it difficult for me to heal him, but he'll still be close enough for the hunter and me to be affected by Light's Beacon. With patch 3.2 I'll be able to heal myself or the hunter even if we're at full and still heal the DK who is LOS from me.

    Blizzard is also looking into letting multiple Beacons of Light (from different paladins) stack on a particular target. For a Naxx or Ulduar raid I don't think this should be necessary, since there are often 2-3 tanks, and a healthy variety of healer types, but this will be nice for VoA pugs or Malygos runs which run the risk of having more holy pallies than tanks to Beacon. One horrible 25-man VoA run I was on ended up with five paladin healers. Ugh...

    With the Beacon of Light change, the paladin can provide a lot more raid or party healing. To adjust for this, we are going to reduce the amount of mana returned by Illumination. If you use Holy Light too recklessly (such as on targets who don’t require that much healing) you do risk burning out of mana too quickly. Of course, they will still have Divine Plea and other mana regeneration mechanics.

    These changes should lead to healing as Holy being more dynamic – you are going to be targeting a lot more group members than just the tank, while still providing massive healing on the tank. However, you won’t be able to just constantly spam your biggest heals, at least not on the more challenging encounters. There is an opportunity here for skilled players to really do some outstanding healing as paladins, but it’s going to take a little more effort.

    I rarely have an issue with PvE mana, and I've always healed with my PvP holy/prot spec (which results in me having a lower crit than most holy PvE paladins), so if Blizzard wants us to care about mana, this is a good place to hit us. I like caring about mana, it makes gameplay more interesting, so all this sounds fine to me.

    And these changes will give me free license to play my holy paladin the way I like playing him; tossing out heals on the raid and still keeping the tank alive. (I love beacon, what can I say?) Earlier I couldn't always risk it because I would be risking the tank, but now it's all open season!

    First, Exorcism has a cast time of 1.5 seconds but can be used on players again. This will let paladins use it in PvP, but not while moving towards a target.

    Non-instant isn't so great, but it's still a ranged attack and I'm sure I'll use this in arena. The cast time makes it a risk against any team that can lock me out of my holy school, but it'll help when I'm clear to use it and my team needs a little dps.

    Fourth, we are removing Seal of Blood and Seal of the Martyr. The damage recoil increasingly felt like a liability in PvE, and wasn’t serving to offset the massive burst damage capable in PvP. We are buffing Seal of Vengeance / Corruption and redesigning Seal of Command with the expectation that these are now the seals of choice for PvP and PvE. Righteousness can remain a tanking seal.

    Righteousness is a tanking seal? The only action bar I keep it on is the one I use when I'm soloing. I've heard it's better than Vengeance/Corruption on trash that's due to die before all five stacks gets up, but I'm too lazy to change my keybindings for it.

    But with the buff to Vengeance/Corruption… phew… that's going to make some tasty threat. I'll probably drop my Armsman enchant (been thinking about it anyway) and replace it with the soon-to-be buffed Reticulated Armor Webbing.

    There's a part of me that feels I'm about to miss out on an opportunity to understand what Seal of Blood is all about. I have never been ret, and have a ret set that is middling at best. I only put it together because I got so many Naxx 10 leftovers that people said should go to me on the off-chance I would ever use them. I might put that set on and tool around Icecrown for a little while and smack myself with SoB just to see what it's like.

    While I've been writing this, the patch notes for 3.2 have gone up and it's a long list of stuff. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    [Paladin] New Paladin-Only Charger Mount in Patch 3.2

    So says Blizzard

    New Mount: A new Argent Crusade paladin-only charger will be available.

    This is regarding patch 3.2. Other fine paladin blogs have already posted about this.

    For me this presents a bit of a quandary. Gillien is my 80 paladin who I very much enjoy playing whether it's as a raid tank, raid healer, or BG/arena healer. But he is not my main; at least not from a progression raiding standpoint.

    The Argent Tournament has not been that interesting to me. I have attained champion status on my druid for Thunder Bluff, started doing the valiant dailies for Orgrimmar, but have lacked the motivation to finish them. I just don't like flying all over the continent getting swords and the mounted combat is boring. It takes too long and there's not enough strategy to make it interesting.

    To get this paladin mount I'd have to put more work into my alt than my main and it will involve doing tons of dailies I don't really care for.

    Granted, I did do this before with the Netherwing faction, because I adored the idea of getting him a nether dragon mount. Though he has other epic mounts, to this day Malfas (yes, I remember the name of the purple drake) is the only flying mount that resides on my paladin's action bar.

    I'm not sure the charger mount will get the same react from me where I like it so much I'll sink a lot of my time into getting it. I'll have to know for certain what it's going to look like. So far people are just guessing and it's a lot harder grinding rep for dailies with a full schedule of raids and arenas. When I did Netherwing it was during the pre-WotLK lull when my last guild had pretty much broken up/stopped raiding.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    [Paladin] Arena's Getting Harder, But Still Not Giving Up

    We hit 1700 in our 3s team, and even though we're once again making progress by 50 points a week, the comps we're fighting are getting deadlier and deadlier. For one thing, we're running into RMP (rogue/mage/priest) fairly frequently now and that team drives us nuts.

    Generally the rogue will gib the hunter, the mage will poly me, and leave our DK madly trying to pull the rogue off the hunter or trying to solo-finish a burn that had begun on the mage or priest.

    Such a team can be beaten, but requires substantially more effort than any other comp due to their amazing ability to CC and dish out the damage when it counts. It's really no surprise that this comp has endured for as long as it has.

    We've found we fair best when we run into the same RMP team multiple times because we can learn who's the squishiest. Every time we lose we discuss how we'll beat them the next time we meet them.

    The other night we'd lost to a 2000+ rated RMP team two times in a row. Given their rating in comparision to ours it was the sort of thing we could've blown off as "Well, they're just better than us." It was the usual the mage kept me CCed, the rogue started gibbing the hunter, and the DK couldn't finish off the burn before the hunter died.

    But even though we lost our first match to them pretty fast, we actually held out for a long time during our second match before we were killed. By our third match, we had a pretty good feel for how we'd approach them.

    Match three opened in the Ruins of Lordaeron arena. We stayed behind the tomb in the middle of the arena floor, but pretty much expected that someone would get sapped and then the mage and the priest would run in.

    Someone did. Unsurprisingly it was me. And then the mage and priest ran in.

    Now everyone was more or less on the same side of the tomb in the middle, except the priest who was slightly to one side, but still in view of us and his teammates.

    For those first few seconds no one really took any damage. With no ability for any of us to break line of sight, our DK dropped an Anti-Magic Zone to absorb the worst the mage could dish out. The hunter kept CCing the priest at every opportunity (Wyvern Sting/Scatter Shot), and between the hunter and the DK they managed to burn the rogue down.

    Me? I was able to wait out the sap without endangering my teammates, and made a run for the AMZ in an attempt to get there before the mage might develop a taste for paladin BBQ. I got poly-ed instead. (But you never know... being able to switch burn targets in PvP is the sign of a good team.) I eventually blew trinket and bubble trying to get out of LOS from the mage's polys while still keeping my teammates alive and even then spent too much time running around as a pig.

    The mage and the priest still put up a good fight after their teammate went down. Oddly enough I feel like I did just as much healing after the rogue died as before. It might have been I was so excited at the possibility that we were doing to win that I didn't want to screw up in the slightest.

    We've noticed that RMP puts together a lot of momentum right at the start. Because of the rogue and the mage poly the fight nearly always starts on their terms. Even if we charge them first, they can quickly isolate and burn someone down. But if we can all live through the initial 30 seconds of the fight our chances are much better that we're going to win.

    We suspect that the reason we lasted so long during our second match (during which our hunter was dead the majority of the time) is because they have a tough time burning through my heals once they can no longer CC me (Blind was used up, poly on diminishing returns, and I'd used Aura Mastery to prevent interrupts).

    For our efforts in that final match of the night we got a sweet 20 points, which pushed us over the hump to 1707 for the week. We decided to call it there and not risk being pushed below it before getting our weekly allotment of points on Tuesday.

    Furious Gladiator gear is so expensive I'm going to need another three weeks before I'll be able to buy the legs or chest. There's also the matter of getting to 1750 to get the chest in the first place, but I'm feeling good about our progress. It may take more than our ten matches in a week to get there, but I think we can do it.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    4-Manning Sartharion

    My guild isn't really known for doing raid achievements. We might go for a few of them, we might not. Whether or not we do depends on how far out of reach the achievement is and whether or not there's loot involved. But 4-manning Sarth has got to be nuttiest way to earn Less is More, which is what I did last night.

    Apparently one night some of my guildies had done a 5-man Sarth because they couldn't get enough people for a 10-man and decided to try anyway. They succeeded and said it really wasn't all that hard, so they thought they'd try again this week.

    Problem was... there was even less interest. We mostly run Ulduar these days and OS/Naxx/EoE runs are typically limited to alts. In actuality, there was only one person who really wanted to go and the rest of us who went were roped into the job because that's what happens when you're not just guildies, but friends too.

    The disc priest pulled in a feral druid, a survival hunter, and me (on my paladin). I'm normally holy, but switched to my prot off-spec so we'd have a second tank, so our group make-up was really two tanks, one dps, and one healer. I'd say that's pretty close to the bear minimum you can get away with without resorting to some crazy stuff. (I think it could be possible to 3-man Sarth with the right hybrid dps also acting as the OT, but I don't want to think about how long that would take.)

    We cleared all the trash, just the four of us, and it was pretty lethal. We wiped on our first pull. The dragonkin packs are murderous for an undermanned team. Normally raids don't worry about those flaming spheres and just heal through the damage, but with only one healer and one dps (so the mobs died much slower) this wasn't practical so the druid and I kited the dragons away from the flame spheres whenever they spawned.

    I would have to use Divine Protection at some point in every pull, guaranteed, and even used Lay on Hands to keep myself alive. After a couple of those awful dragonkin packs it dawned on us that I really should have my Fire Resistance Aura up instead of Devotion. Preventing the damage in the first place would be much more useful than the extra armor and healing.

    Fortunately, it turns out that our first wipe was the only wipe of the night (though I did die during the second dragonkin pull, which is what promptly the fire resist discussion).

    The big drakonoid pairs were less trouble. Initially the druid would grab one and I the other, which is traditional for clearing OS, but because there was no one else to de-curse we changed it up so we could kill them faster. (Even undermanned, we did have the dps to burn through the healing, but that was taking too long for our patience.)

    We decided I would tank both of them so the druid could de-curse and dps in kitty form. It still took a few minutes to down each pair, but not nearly as long as if we'd tried the burn without de-cursing method. The priest also found it much easier to heal a single tank rather than two of them.

    The drakes themselves were fairly straightforward, with only a mild adaptation of existing strats.

    For Vesperon, the druid tanked the drake and when the portal opened up I would wait for be shielded and then the hunter and I would jump through the portal and kill the acolyte, knowing I wouldn't get healed again until we killed him. This did not turn out to be an issue. The dps was good and I used Judgement of Light to give myself a small health return. I usually came out a little over half health.

    We had to jump in more times than we would with a full 10-man raid, but we never felt in any danger, even though we had less than half the people we were supposed to.

    Tenebron was a different story. We thought this one would be relatively simple, and in a way it was. We planned to do this one just like in a normal 10-man. Druid would tank the boss and I'd drop a Consecrate to pick up the whelp adds.

    Everything went as expected except for the fact that we had a lot of adds because we didn't have the dps to kill the boss fast enough to prevent more than one spawn. We had a full three or four waves of whelps on us by the end and cut it really close. I had one of those crazy moments where I almost died, time was slowing down, and I didn't know how we were going to make it, but I found my Lay on Hands about the same time the priest hit me with Pain Suppression.

    We ended the fight with the druid and I hovering around 10-15% health and somehow no one died. Not a single whelp had gotten free, but there were so many of them our druid ended up eating a couple void zones just because he couldn't see where he was standing. I remember calling out over vent "Blackleaf! Void!" out of fear he would eat it so bad we wouldn't be able to recover.

    As crazy as the Tenebron fight was, Shadron was the drake that proved to be the most mind-numbing, due to the fact he goes immune with his acolyte was up. We knew we would repeat the jumping in and out of the portal that we did with Vesperon, but because of how long it would take to kill the add, and because of Shadron's immunity, we generally would only get a few seconds of uninterupted dps between portals. It took us about 14 minutes just to kill this guy and by the end of it we wanted to stab our eyes out.

    Like Vesperon, we didn't get any feeling of danger with Shadron. It just took so long... and by this time we'd been in Obsidian Sanctum for about an hour. I didn't say anything at the time (for which the priest later said he was grateful), but I realized that we'd been in here so long that if we wiped on Sartharion all the trash packs would probably respawn.

    The priest said the last time he'd come for the 5-man it had taken them about 12 minutes to kill Sarth, and with one less dps it wouldn't be surprising if it took us longer. He'd actually become more skeptical about our chances after having cleared all the trash and the drakes because he said that 4-man OS was turning out much, much harder than 5-man. The loss of the extra dps really hurt.

    Still, we were going to give it a shot. The druid was going to take Sarth, and I'd grab the adds. By this time it was 1am, I was getting pretty tired, and add duty on Sartharion is one of the crappiest tanking jobs there is, but hey...

    We ran in, let the druid position the boss, and opened up with our dps.

    Doing Sarth with four people is much the same as with ten. Dodge lava waves. Pick up the little fire elementals that spawn everywhere except where you'd like them to be. The exception was that when I got enough adds on me I was supposed to drag them over to Sarth to make sure that the hunter could hit the boss while simultaneously AoE-ing the elementals.

    I got carried off by lava waves twice over the course of the fight, which I largely blame on the fact it was past 1am, but since it wasn't a drakes up fight, the damage wasn't as bad and the priest said afterwards that in all honesty he hadn't noticed.

    No doubt due to all the pummeling I was taking anyway from the elementals.

    After about twelve minutes, the same amount of time as the previous 5-man run, we downed Sartharion. For our trouble we got a [Dragon Hide Bag] (given to the priest, who was the only person who didn't have it), [Crimson Steel] (given to the hunter because no one else could use it), [Gloves of the Last Vanquisher] (given to the druid for off-set purposes), and the requisite [Satchel of Spoils] (which I won on a greed roll).

    Unfortunately the [Majestic Dragon Figurine] the priest had wanted didn't drop, so I have a feeling he's going to be asking for more Sartharion runs in the future, but I think after last night the four of us were in agreement that even though we did have a lot fun, let's never 4-man Sarth again.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    [Paladin] Have We Plateaued in Arena?

    Two weeks ago we broke 1550 in our 3v3 team. Earning this achievement wasn't in doubt due to knowledge of our MMR (yay for transparency), but it was sure sweet to see it. We powered through to just over 1600 before we called it for the week.

    The rating was high enough that I could buy my Furious neck and our hunter his gloves. (I didn't have the arena points yet because I'd bought my Deadly libram.) We were getting better as a team and our MMR continued to go up. I'm not sure what happened, but we really kicked it in gear that week. We faced multiple 1800+ teams, and event beat a 1900+ one.

    We were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

    Then this past weekend we ran in and it was like hitting a brick wall. Suddenly we kept losing matches, with the worst part being when we were 1-5 for our win record for the week.

    Both our MMR and our actual team rating took a hit, and ruined my dreams of getting to 1650 for the week. I started having flashbacks to season 4, where I never got to buy my best arena gear because the time I had the points I no longer had the rating.

    Fortunately our DK, who is something of our team leader, is more prosaic about arena and reminded me that ratings go up and they go down. Sometimes you hit a bad streak, but then you hit good ones as well.

    The funny thing was, almost immediately after we had that conversation, our luck changed and we fought our way back up to 1600 again. We didn't have a lot of time to play this weekend, so we decided to call it there. No gains, but no losses for the week, and I would be guaranteed to get my Furious gloves once I got my arena points on Tuesday.

    ...Which I did, this evening. I'm now sporting my first piece of Furious Gladiator gear and it's nice enough that I'm thinking of tossing my PvE gloves away (non-set from Naxx 10).

    This week we're going to try to make that push to 1650. Even though I had my plateau fear... I look at the 1800 teams, and even the 1900 team we beat two weeks ago, and I really don't want to think those victories could have been a fluke.

    We probably just got a bit sloppy, and I know I'd made some judgement errors. I don't think there's a person on my team as self-critical as me, since so much of the survival of my teammates depends on me being able to stay out of CC and keep them healed.

    Of course it'll be rougher now that Hand of Freedom has been nerfed (as if the nerf to my Nitro Boosts wasn't bad enough), but the loss of the four seconds shouldn't be game breaking. I'm specced for the improved version so mine lasts for 10 seconds, which is still decently long (or so I tell myself).

    The next achievement milestone won't be until 1750, and I probably shouldn't raise too many hopes of getting there, but if we play like we did two weeks ago it should be possible. We just need to play a little smarter, gear a little more (I just finally broke 500 resilience), and I need to have fewer of my "oops" moments.