Thursday, February 25, 2010

[Druid] Starfall Love

When the 3.3.3 patch notes originally came out I'd noticed there were no changes to druids. I just shrugged and moved on. (And then I saw there were no changes to paladins either, and there still aren't, which I have mixed feelings about.)

But now a few new changes have come to light:

  • Nature's Grasp: Now has 3 charges, up from 1.

  • Typhoon mana cost has been reduced from 32% of base mana to 25% of base mana.

  • Starfall damage has been increased. Now causes 563 to 653 Arcane damage (Up from 433 to 503) and 101 Arcane damage (Up from 78) to all other enemies within 5 yards.

  • The first one, Nature's Grasp, will be fantastic for PvP (or ToGC faction champs or Deathbringer Saurfang adds gone bad). I've had more than a handful of occasions where my Nature's Grasp was spent all too fast and I still could not get away. I know other classes don't like it, but druids are born runners and the current one charge NG is barely anything at all.

    And for those who still don't like druids running away... don't forget paladins can Judgement of Justice them to bring them to normal run speed, and forcing them to burn mana by repeated shifting to break snares will be as effective as always.

    I'm hearing that the Typhoon change is a PvP change, but since I don't PvP on my moonkin I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes. I do know that when I arena on my paladin the moonkin is often the first kill target so the poor owlbear never has a chance to go oom. Spending less mana doesn't seem so useful when you don't run out in the first place.

    The change to Starfall though... that looks to be big.

    I use it almost every fight. It does too much DPET (damage per execution time) not to. The only reason I wouldn't use it would be if there was some circumstance where AoE was not advisable (I remember being made fun of back in Naxx for destroying some of Loatheb's spores will an ill-advised Starfall).

    What I hadn't thought about though, was the impact on our glyphs. Fortunately, Graylo and Foofy are bigger theorycrafters than I am and they immediately considered the usefulness of the Glyph of Starfall and Focus versus our current weakest glyph, Insect Swarm.

    I don't like the idea of using Focus just because it means I have to stand closer to the boss in order for it to be useful, and I don't want to be in a position where I have to run up to the boss, cast Starfall, and then run away because of some other fight mechanic. Any extra running may very well cancel out any extra dps I might have gained.

    If the theorycrafters come back and say that it's just too good a dps increase I'll do it, maybe even carry stacks of glyphs in my bag to switch between fights as needed, but I'm hoping I won't have to.

    The Glyph of Starfall, though, looks like it'll be a dps increase over Glyph of Insect Swarm. I'd suggest looking at Graylo's Starfall post for the math. It's not going to increase our dps by hundreds, but it'll be an increase nonetheless.

    Graylo thinks IS would still be worth using even unglyphed, and even if the damage turned out to not be worth it, I'd still use IS for progression fights because the 3% hit reduction is an uncommon debuff that isn't easily provided by other classes. Hunters can do it with Scorpid Sting, but that prevents them from using any other sting and does no damage. A moonkin using an unglyphed IS would still be contributing dps as well as the debuff.

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    [Druid] Is Moonkin DPS Really That Bad?

    I was reading Foofy's and her post was just the latest in the rumblings I've heard. Moonkin are falling behind in ICC. Moonkin are too tied to Eclipse. Moonkin suffer too much when RNG is bad to them.

    But oddly enough I haven't been that concerned. I mean, sure, there was a twinge of worry when I noticed one night that I was bottom overall dps for my guild's ICC 10, but I had a couple crappy item level 200 trinkets at the time and was still using my neck from Malygos. Now that they've been replaced I'm comfortable in the middle of the pack, sometimes second. (For the life of me I don't think I'll ever beat our hunter unless he's on disco ball duty for Princes, or something similar to that.) Of course the buff from the last minor patch helped too.

    My lack of concern might be because I've always been moonkin. Vanilla WoW didn't stop me from being a moonkin. In TBC I raided as a moonkin, and don't think I didn't hear some grumbling from a pure dps class about being beaten by a hybrid. If all else being equal I'm a little behind due to mechanics, well, it wouldn't be the first time.

    I don't normally go to VoAs on my moonkin. I know I probably should, but I don't PvP with her so I tend to be ambivalent about participating in WG. When the battle begins I show up on my paladin, so I tend to go to any subsequent VoAs… on my paladin.

    But about a week ago I saw an advertisement in trade for VoA 25 while I was on my druid. I knew the new boss had come out, so I figured, what the heck, and whispered the raid leader to add me.

    I found out that my guild's hunter was also in the raid, and the raid had several members of various 25-man raiding guilds; guilds whose progression we knew. It looked like a competent group, which is more than I can say of my VoA raids early in the patch when Koralon came out. And indeed the group was competent. We one-shot Toravon.

    What I was very pleased with, though, was our performance. The raid leader for some reason liked to post the top 5 damage dealers of each boss fight (and no, he was not leading the meters) and consistently in the top 5 were the two of us. For Kolaron and Emalon we were even the top 2. Particularly of interest to us was out-damaging similar ranged dps from the 25-man guilds, players with names we knew and who we knew were on their raiding toons.

    It was a fun outing, my guildies and I like to "represent" when we pug VoA, to show that just because we're 10-man doesn't mean we can't kick ass, and it's nice to use VoA as a gauge for what we should be doing vs. what we are doing since we can compare with people from other guilds. And I seem to remember thinking that night that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my dps. I was behind Cursedhoof, our hunter, but I'm nearly always behind him anyway (he's a godly good hunter), and I was holding my own with 25-man raiders.

    Granted, there is not much moving in VoA. There is some, when those ice orbs spawn behind me I have to turn around. I have to get out of cinders in Koralon. But is there really that much more in ICC? Okay, maybe bad RNG in Rotface can have me constantly running around, but the Marrowgar shuffle is much the same as VoA. Even the Putricide fight wasn't as bad as I'd been led to believe. Our first kill I was slighty behind, but close to neck-and-neck with the mage, the warlock, and the hunter, all pure dps classes, and I even had to break dps at one point to battle rez our rogue.

    Murmurs, in his new column, agrees that moonkin dps isn't in that bad a state. Maybe all else being equal that mage/warlock/hunter over there is still going to kick my butt, but it's still possible to be competitive.

    Moonkin do seem somewhat rarer than they were at the start of WotLK though. While I haven't run into the horrible moonkin with armor pen gemmings that Foofy saw, it's rather odd that when I think about it, it's rare for me to see a 25-man ICC raiding moonkin on my server whose name I don't know. And I don't know a whole lot of them.

    When my 10-man guild was still pretty new, one of my mage friends wanted me to come to his 25-man guild, which had recently lost their moonkin to another guild. He knew I could play since we had been in my old 25-man guild together, and had every confidence in my competency. And, like most mages, he loved my crit aura. (Sometimes it's almost creepy how dewy-eyed mages get around moonkin.) His guild was recruiting all kinds of casters to fill up a raid deficit regardless, but out of the four or five casters they got from their recruiting binge, none were a moonkin and he said they were hurting hard for a good one.

    Maybe it's just that moonkin are harder to play now?

    I don't really think the difficulty has changed from Naxx. Sure we twist our Eclipses now, but if anything I actually find that easier than banging my head against the keyboard because I got the "wrong" Eclipse because I was a half second too late at recognizing the internal cooldown was over. And is there really any more movement in ICC than there was in Ulduar?

    There's always been a case for moving out of the fire (Mimiron, Kologarn), moving to a safe spot (Hodir), being tasked with special assignments (killing Ignis adds), and running all over the place depending on what the situation calls for (phase 2 Yogg), and no one complained about moonkin dps back then.

    Probably the hardest thing for me since starting ICC has been integrating Typhoon into my arsenal. I'm getting better at spewing it out when my dots are up and I gotta move anyway, but it's still a work in progress, and ultimately it's just a matter of practice. I don't think lack of Typhoon skills alone is enough reason for moonkin to fall behind, and I'm not sure that they are.

    I was looking at one of those heroic kills on MMO-Champion, one of those world firsts, and one thing I noticed is that one of them had a moonkin. If a top guild in the world has a moonkin, when they more than anyone are looking for reasons to bring the best dps and squeeze every ounce out of their players, then we can't be in that bad a shape.

    Maybe it's just that the allure has worn off. Moonkin were flavor of the month at the start of WotLK, because they hadn't been nearly as raid viable, and now people have had their fill and moved on, leaving either the moonkin-for-lifers or the newbie moonkin who are still very much in their learning phase. According to Zardoz's datamining at the end of last month 25.4% of the druid population has a balance spec. Allowing for dual-speccing, since some of those are probably restos with dps off-sets, the main population is probably smaller.

    I think our numbers are still higher than during TBC, but I don't see quite the number of fluffies in Dalaran. I'm skeptical about chalking it up to dps, since long time moonkin played when our dps was significantly worse in comparision to other classes than it is now. I just don't know what to attribute it to.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    WotF Contest Winner

    This is not a WoW-related post. WotF in this case ≠ Will of the Forsaken. But I have a bit of news I'm excited about so I want to share.

    I am an amateur fiction writer. If you've been reading for a while you might remember that I was an Honorable Mention in Blizzard's Global Creative Writing contest last year.

    In the world of science fiction/fantasy fiction writing, there are contests from time to time, but there's one contest that's kind of the big daddy of all sf/f contests, and that's the Writers of the Future contest. It's held four times a year and is available only to amateurs. The top 3 winners of each quarter are collected in an annual book anthology you should be able to pick up at your local B&N or Borders (not to mention online stores) once it's published.

    In addition to the cash prizes from actually winning, the winners are paid again for publication rights to their stories.

    In short, it's a very, very good deal for the newbie author who has talent, but hasn't broken in. There's no entry fee besides the postage to send a printed copy of the story to the contest administration's office and the judging is done blind so there can be no favoritism.

    And because it's so easy to enter, the competition is understandably fierce. The Q4 2009 judging quarter there were a crazy 116 Honorable Mentions (compared to 80-something the last). The coordinating judge said that it was much more difficult than usual to whittle down the number of stories to the 8 finalists which would go on to the judging panel, who will then choose the top 3.

    The WotF panel judges include authors you might have heard of if you read any sci-fi/fantasy; people like Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern series) and Orson Scott Card (Ender series). They don't all review at once, but four at a time so each quarter has a different suite of judges. This is a well-regarded contest.

    Last month I received notification that my story had made the cut. I was a WotF finalist and my story had moved on to the judging panel. The thought that one of my favorite authors could be reading one of my stories was pretty scary and exciting all at the same time. What would they think? Would they find it entertaining and original? Or would they decide it's decent enough but too flawed to be a winner?

    I found myself thinking about the rough points I had during in the writing process, when I wasn't entirely happy with a scene and patched it over in a new draft. I was scared to go back and reread the story. What if it sucked?

    This was the farthest I'd ever gotten in the contest (I've had two HMs before and a half dozen flat out rejections), but even if I did not place in the top 3 for my quarter there was still the possibility of being published. If there's room leftover in the book after the 12 winning stories for the year are selected, then finalists who did not place in the top 3 for their quarter may be paid to fill out the rest of the anthology. It's just a question of space.

    And then this morning...

    I woke up and realized that I hadn't checked my cell phone for messages all weekend. (I'm not very tied to my cell phone.) It turns out that I'd gotten four calls within a short span of each other during last night's raid. I nervously listened to the voice mail, and it was the WotF contest director. She'd been trying to get in contact with me, and each message urgently said to call her back right away.

    I was honestly kind of panicky after listening to her. Did something happen? Was I going to be disqualified if I didn't get back to her right away?

    It was 7:47 am on my computer clock. I knew we were both Pacific coast. So I called the cell phone number she left me.

    And it turns out that it was all good news.

    Not only did I make the top 3, I am actually the first place winner for Q4. I'm now in the running for the grand prize against the other first place winners from the prior three quarters, and I am definitely going to be published in the anthology towards year's end.

    It's all pretty overwhelming for someone who's been paid pocket change for stories up until now. The prize money I'm getting now is in the ballpark of seven or eight times the amount of money my previous stories have earned combined. And then there will be the anthology payment. I wrote a novelette, longer than a short story, so that should be a decent amount. I'm not talking thousands of dollars, but still large enough that you wouldn't turn your nose up at it if it was offered to you.

    I won't know if I won the grand prize until the award ceremony in August.

    For now, the contest is making copies of my story to be passed out to the grand prize judging panel, a different group of judges, and to one of the top 3 illustrators from the companion contest Illustrators of the Future, who will then be required to make an illustration of my story in a competition for their own grand prize.

    In my meantime I've notified everyone I can safely do so and I let my boss know that I'm going to need time off in August to attend the award ceremony and the writing workshop that all winners get to attend. Tim Powers is going to be the instructor. He's not as big a name as McCaffrey or Card, but well regarded. The workshop isn't supposed to be just about the craft, but also the business end of writing. I assume that will be about agents, publishers, and possibly more mundane things such as filing taxes.

    The most nerve-wracking thing, I think, is that I now feel pressure to follow this up with another story, and soon, so that I can get another story in the publication pipeline while my win's still fresh.

    Note: This post was written on Tuesday, but the contest director asked that I refrain from posting the news on the interwebs until she had a chance to contact all the other finalists. Not that I think the other finalists were likely to find out that the winners had been selected from my blog, but just in case...

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    [Paladin] Blood Princes – Like Getting Slapped In the Face With A Dirty Sock

    Last night was the third time we killed Blood Princes in our ICC 10 since the Crimson Halls opened, and one would think that after having seeing the fight (and even one shot it last week) that it would have become a no-brainer. Our tanks all know the fight, our hunter (with his pet) can keep up the disco balls almost entirely by himself.

    But we had two new folks with us last night and that resulted in a lot of Empowered Shock Waves throwing healers around the room that just shouldn't have happened. Aside from that, we had a couple jaw-dropping tank deaths in the first few seconds of the fight that resulted in me calling for a wipe, and since I'd come on my paladin as a healer, that resulted in much self-berating (as well as a request for the bear to Barkskin while running into position, just to give a little breather).

    When we first beat the Blood Princes I came away from the fight loving it for its franticness and coordination, but it's funny how a few weeks later it's still crazy frantic. I did this first as a moonkin dps, and twice now as a paladin healer and it's just so much OMG OMG OMG, I can't screw up or we're gonna die.

    Our first few Festergut attempts were like this, where if I didn't start spamming Holy Lights we were going to lose a tank, but we've gotten Festergut to the point where we can almost do him with two healers (providing we have four ranged dps). The Blood Princes still require three healers going full bore. Our vent chat is full of healers calling out their mana regen cooldowns or shouting at someone running out of range (usually the warlock tank or the hunter on the disco balls).

    When I say that Blood Princes are like getting slapped in the face with a dirty sock it's because last night was like a rude awakening, a surprise, and it stank. It was a reminder that we still have to pay attention even if we know the fight, because it's tricky enough that we can't go on autopilot, not yet. Sure, some of it could be attributed to new people in the raid, but the two early tank deaths were definitely due to unprepared healers.

    I got back in the habit of spamming Holy Lights at the start of the fight whether I thought the warlock needed it or not, because I couldn't risk that he would get one-shotted, and even if he didn't, my beacon was on the bear, and I needed to make sure the bear stayed up.

    As the fight wore on I could afford to mix up the HL/HS/FoLs together, but that opening while everyone was getting into position was critical. I'm not sure why our one shot last week hadn't brought that home. It had been my first time healing it. But maybe we'd gotten lucky.

    One thing that helped over the duration of the fight was that I recently set up Power Auras for my paladin. While healing Festergut I'd noticed that I tended to get tunnel vision in regards to my mana bar, and sometimes I wouldn't remember to Divine Plea until I noticed I was running on fumes (<25%). Not a good thing.

    Now there is a row of three possible icons that appear beneath my feet in a raid (where I can't miss them) if the cooldowns are available; one each for my Divine Plea, Avenging Wrath, and Talisman of Resurgence cooldowns. Additionally I added a blue ring around me that shows up when I have 50% mana to I make sure to use DP when it's both available and I can use the regen, and as a general reminder myself that I might have to start playing a little conservatively (or use a mana pot) if DP is on cooldown.

    I like to alternate between using Avenging Wrath and the Talisman of Resurgence to offset the healing penalty when using DP, and once I have the two piece set bonus for T10 I'll probably add Divine Illumination somewhere, maybe make a little T with the icons. It's not often that I feel I need to Plea while both Avenging Wrath and the Talisman of Resurgence are on cooldown, but it happens sometimes, and the two piece T10 is stronger than either of them.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Vetoed My First Vote Kick

    I've vote kicked people, even been vote kicked myself, but this is the first time I've veto-ed one. I've heard about people taking a stand against kicking undergeared tanks and healers, and of course Gevlon has been promoting vote kicking poor dps, but that last type of vote kick hadn't come up on previous runs I've been on.

    Generally we vote kick because 1) the person has been afk too long, or 2) the player was an incompetent jerk (incompetent is one thing, but blaming the tank and healer for one's shortcomings is quite another).

    Last night a tank guildie and I were running our daily heroic. I was healing on my paladin. LFD gives us three pug dps, all from different servers, and drops us in HoL.

    Before long it becomes apparent that the enhance shaman isn't that good. I even outdps him on a couple pulls. (Since I knew my tank I was comfortable laying down Consecrates and tossing out Holy Wrath, Exorcism, SoRs, offensive Holy Shocks, etc. when healing wasn't needed.) The shaman isn't abysmal, he's not doing triple digit dps like some folks I've run with, but he's managing a steady 1200 dps for the heroic, and he's in epics.

    The hunter in the group picks up on this and starts asking the shaman why he's sucking so much. When the shaman dies to the gauntlet adds the hunter says, "Fail shaman is fail." Which unsurprisingly results in the shaman doing /spit on him repeatedly after I rez him.

    We keep clearing, knocking out the second and third bosses, with the occasional rude remark from the hunter, and then about three or four pulls from Loken the hunter intiates a vote kick on the shaman.

    While I agreed the shaman's dps sucked, I wasn't going to kick a guy that close to the last boss, especially since we'd already cleared the majority of the instance. If it meant that much to the hunter to kick him, he should have initiated it at the start of the instance. Kicking him now would have meant that the shaman's 15-20 minutes in our instance was wasted and he'd have to wait another 15 in the queue to get his frost badges.

    I vetoed, my guildie did too (for all I know our warrior dps also veto-ed, he seemed a friendly sort), and the shaman stayed.

    The hunter was apparently shocked that no one else saw his view, since he asked "WTF who didn't vote kick" in party chat. In retrospect I'm a little surprised it didn't initiate a new round of spitting from the shaman, but perhaps the shaman felt better knowing that the rest of the group didn't feel as antagonistic to him as the hunter.

    The thing is, I know it's annoying to see someone doing way lower dps than they're capable of, but it doesn't make sense to kick someone at the tail end of the instance. That's just being a jerk. Any new dps would've had to run all the way up to join us in time for Loken and probably would have cost us time, even if we cleared the remaining pulls as he caught up. There was no reason to kick the shaman at that point other than to be mean to him.

    Maybe, maybe I would have been sympathetic towards kicking the shaman early on when the instance had barely started, so as little of his time was wasted as possible while still sending the message that he should pick up his game, but if he's been welcome the majority of the instance he's going to finish unless he's doing something so horrible that it's a detriment to the party, and by that I mean making us wipe, which he wasn't.

    Also, I need to get back on druidy and paladiny topics. I feel like I've been wandering from those too long.