Friday, April 30, 2010

Why Hard Modes Need to Change

Please Note: This has been a good week for me. I've been called shallow, elitist, and a moron among other things. Well, now I'm about to put a cherry on top of the sundae. I'm sure parts of this post will piss some of you off. Just remember that these are my opinions and you are free to disagree. Insults however will not be tolerated. If you can't provide a thoughtful argument as to why you disagree with me, feel free not to comment.

Despite what some of my commenter say, I don't think I'm an elitist. I didn't get up set when they released all the badge gear in TBC that was equivalent to Black Temple gear. I didn't get upset when they made it so a new 80 could get a full set of T9 gear with just badges. And overall, I like the concept of hard modes.

I am all for everyone experiencing the content and story that raiding provides even though many people do not have the skill, time, or desire raid in a focused progression guild. I agree that it is unfair for Blizzard to spend millions of development dollars on an instance like Naxxramus that only a handful of raiders saw the first time it was released. Therefore, in concept Hard Modes are a fair balance. They give the progression focused players a challenge, and they give the experience focused players a way to see the content.

In theory it's a win/win, but I don't like the way they have been implemented in WotLK. I've already talked about what I think makes a good hard mode and a bad hard mode. In this post I will address what I think is wrong in the current hard mode structure, and take a look at ways I think hard modes can be improved.

What's wrong with current hard modes?

Blizzard has tried a lot of different things with hard modes in Wrath of the Lich King, but they seem to have come upon a favored format. With both ToC and ICC they released the normal mode first and then made the hard mode available when you cleared normal mode. So the raid progression path is normal mode, hard mode, normal mode, hard mode. This structure has a few problems.

First, it forces progression focused raiders to participate in watered down content that they don't necessarily find enjoyable. To illustrate my point let me use an example. When my guild was progressing through Ulduar we one or two shot Hodir on normal mode the first time we saw him. After the kill one of my guild leaders lamented that before hard modes Hodir would have had a 3minute enrage timer. Without the time restriction Hodir is basically a don't stand in the fire tank and spank. For a progression guild, not standing in the fire should not be a challenge, The real challenge of Hodir is using all of the various buffs to maximize DPS. (For the record,I realize we could have gone for the hard mode right away on Hodir. In fact we did on Flame Laviathan and Iron council. However, that does not seem possible going forward given how ICC and ToC were designed.)

Second, the normal mode acts as a stepping stone to the hard node and takes away some of the gravitas that I think an Hard Mode encounter should have. Lady Vashj is one of my all time favorite encounters because it was so challenging and it felt so good to finally kill her. Now imagine if you had to do that fight with only 2 shield generators and no Striders before you could do the full version. It's like being forced to read the Cliff Notes version of a book before you get to read the entire thing.

Finally, I don't think the current structure provides enough rewards for high achieving players or enough ways for players/guilds to distinguish themselves in the early days of new content. It also doesn't provide any incentive to go back and work on old content that you haven't completed. In the first two months of ICC it was near impossible to rank the guilds on any server because guilds could kill most if not all of the bosses available right away.

Since Blizzard is bending over backwards to make sure 10man raiders don't feel compelled to run content in a format they don't enjoy. Why should progression raiders be compelled to participate in a format of content they don't enjoy? Here are some changes I think Blizzard could make to fix the situation.

My Proposed Changes:

Allow two paths for hard mode attunement: I know attunment is a bad word for a lot of players, but hard modes already have an attunement process. Having to clear an instance on normal mode before being able to attempt the hard modes is an attunement. I propose that we allow guilds to attune themselves to hard modes in two ways. First they could clear the normal mode of the current instance as we currently have to do, or you could clear the prior instance on hard mode. Basically, if you want to attempt Heroic Marrowgar, you have to kill normal Lich King or heroic Anub. I am not proposing any attunements for normal modes.

I like this idea for two reasons. First, it allows progression guilds to skip the watered down versions of fights that they may not find enjoyable. Second it encourages guilds to complete content. When ICC was released there was only one guild on my server that had killed heroic anub. My guild killed him in the first week of ICC, but several of the progression guilds on my server skipped him for months, and I think that is a shame.

Release hard modes first: I like this idea, because it rewards high achieving guilds, and it helps to create a more distinct path to measure the quality of a guild and ultimately facilitates the progression race that many WoW players enjoy.

I know the casual raiders out there won't like this and I can hear the accusations of elitism already. No one wants to wait for content, especially when they know it is ready. That said, no one has a problem with letting the elite marathon runners start 30 minutes ahead of everyone else in the Boston Marathon. We don't hear a massive out cry from the runners starting later saying it is unfair.

I am sure that some of you will make the point that hard modes and normal modes could be released at the same time, which isn't a horrible idea either. However, I don't think it would provide enough of a separation. Releasing hards and normals at the same time would allow guilds to practice on normal with alts and then try the hard on mains after they figured out the mechanics. I also like the idea of rewarding achievement. Allowing progression guilds to see content a couple of weeks earlier would be a nice reward and provide some incentive for players to challenge themselves. If you only want experience content, then what does it matter if you wait a little longer?

My Vision:

To use ICC as the example, in my vision the hard versions of the first 4 bosses in ICC would be released first. If you haven't completed ToGC, you know have incentive to finish it up. If you have completed ToGC, you have two content to measure yourself against with out having to worry about other guilds cheating by practicing the fight in another format. A few weeks later the Plague Wing of ICC is released for hard modes and the normal mode of the first 4 bosses are released. The guilds that having completed ToGC now have new content. They can still move up to the heroic content by completing ToGC if they want to. The other wings would be released in a similar fashion. Eventually casual raiders would have access to the entire instance. Then they could try hard modes by either completing ToGC or by completing normal ICC.


The current format of hard modes forces progression raiders to run content that they don't necessarily enjoy. The current format also provides little opportunity for guilds to distinguish themselves in the early days of new content and I think doesn't provide enough rewards.

With that in mind, I propose two changes to the current format. First, allow progression guilds to attune for hard modes by completing the previous hard modes as well as competing the current normal mode. Second, release the hard modes first to reward high achieving guilds and allow for a better way to measure the progression race that many players enjoy.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Can 10mans and 25mans coexist? A Possible Solution

This is a version of the Part 2 I originally intended concerning the Cataclysm Raid Progression Changes. In this post I propose a possible solution to the 10vs25 controversy, and look at some of the other topics brought up. However, I will ignore Heroics in this post and save it for another day. If you thought my "10mans are not fun" post was controversial, wait until you see my Heroic post coming up soon.

As we've all seen over the last few days the 10man = 25man change is very controversial. The general tension between 10man raiders and 25mans raiders has boiled over into name calling even though both sides have good points. Despite all of piss and vinegar being thrown around, I think this change has been proposed with the best of intentions. From a high level it sounds like a great goal. Allow raiders to achieve a high level of progression through multiple paths. In this utopia 10man raiding and 25man raiding coexist as separate but equal paths.

Unfortunately that is not the way things work in the real world, and I think I've found a good example to show why 10man raiding and 25man raiding will have a hard time coexisting has equals. Here is a quote from a comment made by Ghostcrawler almost a year ago.
The basic design problem for Balance, as I know you know, comes down to Wrath and Stafire just being very similar spells. One is always going to win out by virtue of damage or cast time.(src)
Of course, Ghostcrawler wasn't talking about raid size in that quote, but I think the observation applies to the current situation. I think Blizzard is capable of making 10man raiding and 25man raiding very similar in quality and difficulty, but I think it is impossible for them to make the two perfectly equal. In the end one will be better then the other in the eyes of the raiding community.

I won't speculate as to which format would dominate because there are to many unknowns at this point. That said, I do think there is a high risk that one of the formats will dominate and prevent the happy 10man/25man coexisting utopia.

Why 10man could dominate raiding: Blizzard said it themselves. "We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people." While I don't think 10mans will run themselves as some of the current WotLK groups do, I do think it is a reality that organizing 10 people is less difficult then organizing 25. Everything else being equal most players will choose the path of least resistance and 10mans will dominate.

Why 25mans could dominate raiding: If Blizzard truly values the 25man format then they will try and come up with away to reward the increased logistical difficulties found in 25man. In fact, Blizzard has already made a proposal to do just that. "25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people."

The problem is that for this to work, the raiders have to value the reward (more loot) more then the cost (higher logistical difficulty), and I'm not sure that more loot will do that for more then a few weeks. I went over this in some in my first post but loot is only a reward for so long. Eventually, people will gear themselves up and need fewer things from the instance. More gear will be sharded, badges will just be collecting dust, and I doubt raiding will be an efficient way to make gold. Therefore, "more loot" is unlikely to hold people to the 25man format for long.

So, once again, lets assume that Blizzard truly values the 25man format and tries to come up with a way to reward those that participate in it. They could do this by offering titles, achievements, or mounts, without offering something with game value like better loot. But this presents separate issues. Once again Blizzard would be favoring one format over the other. If 25mans have exclusive and desirable rewards then players would feel compelled to participate in 25man raids and they would become the favored format. The 10man format would not get the respect from the community that many people think it deserves and we will be in pretty much the same situation we are now.

A Possible Solution:

All that said, I think I have an interesting idea on how 10mans and 25mans could coexist peacefully. What if 25man raids were the exclusive source of raid resources like epic gems and BiS enchants?

This could be similar to what happened in TBC with Black Temple and Hyjal, but without such a restrictive attunement process. It could be a way to provide 25man raiders with better "gear" without restricting the 10mans access to it. The 25man raiders would have access to cheap resources to gem and enchant their gear when the got a new item. When they no longer need the gems and enchants they could sell them on the AH to make some gold.

In the end, I think it would be a market based way to balance the 10man and 25man raiding communities in a natural and fair way. If there were very few 25man guilds on the server, then gems and enchants would be very expensive. This would encourage people to form more 25man guilds to either get the resources or just to make gold. If there were many 25man guilds on a server then the market would be flooded with cheap raid resources. This would encourage 25man raiders to switch to the 10man format because they could get the same level of challenge, with less hassle, and the cost would be small because raid resources would be so cheap on the AH.

There are holes in my play. They would need to find a way to prevent 10mans or goblins from farming lower level instances to get the greater rewards and flooding the market. For example, I wouldn't want to see bunch of ICC geared players farming Naxx for gems, but I think those issues could be worked out. I'm sure the JC's and Enchanters out there would cry foul as well.

I think this idea has promise. Ultimately the fewer logistical issues that 10mans have would be counteracted by the greater need for gold and farming. I the end this would reduce the 10mans logistical advantage.

Other Topics from the Raid Progression Changes:

Gating: To be honest I go back and forth on this topic. I don't like being held back but I think it eases the transition from one tier of content to the next. For example, when we moved from ToC to ICC, my guild was able to burn through the first 4 bosses fairly easily. With that we were able to go back and spend a little more time in ToGC and complete Heroic Anub. If the switch had been flipped completely on the first day, we would have gone right to Festergut right after Saurfang and might have missed out on the Anub kill. On the other hand, I can see where the elite raiders are coming from. We've already done these instances for months. When new content is finally released we want to see it as soon as possible and I would hate getting it in bite size pieces as well. In the end, I favor gating for selfish reasons, but I can see where the opponents are coming from.

Limited Tries: When limited tries were first announced I had high hopes. I thought it might be a good way to balance the playing field between the guilds who raided 20 or more hours a week when instances were released and guilds like mine who only raided 9 hours a week.

In the end it didn't work out and I think most people agree that this was a failed experiment and are glad to see them gone. In ToGC 50 tries was to much and didn't limit anyone but the most elite of raiders who raided for hours on end. In my 9 hour guild I don't think we ever used more them 25 tries in a week. In ICC, 10 tries was much to little for Putricide. In the end it prompted conflict between raiders for even small mistakes, excessive discussion, and eventually the forces many guilds to practice on ten mans and with alts. Hopefully they will be gone in all forms in Cataclysm.

Badges/Emblems become Points: I think this is a natural progression of the system. The way Badges of Justice worked TBC had big issues with people farming huge amounts of badges be fore a patch was released so that they could get the rewards right away. In WotLK, having 5 different types of emblems has been confusing and annoying. Converting my Triumph emblems to Hero emblems means I have to talk to 4 different vendors just to buy a gem or a piece of BoA gear. I welcome this change.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

10mans Are Not (Inherently More) Fun (than 25mans)

This is not the Part 2 I had planned. After reading some of the comments on my post yesterday, I felt compelled to write this post. Think of this as Part 1.5. Part 2 will be coming soon.

Authors Note: WoW, 20 posts before 6am. I new the title would spark some heat but I assumed most of you would read beyond the attention getting headline and look at the substance of what I posted. I will write a more detailed comment later, but please realize that I am not saying 10man raiders suck, that you don't find 10man raids enjoy about. What I am saying is that the things you like about your 10man raids are generally not a result of the format. The positives you site can also be found in 25mans and the negatives of 25mans you site can and will be also felt in 10mans.

Authors Note2: There I changed the title because it is clear that some of the commentors can't get beyond the title. I am very disappointed with quite a few of the comments I received. I thought my readers would give me a little credit before calling me an elitist and a moron. Thank you to those commentors that could post rationally even if they disagreed with me.

Lets get a couple things straight.

10mans are not fun.
10mans are not more relaxed.
10mans are not more casual.

There is nothing inherent in 10 man raids that make them more fun, relaxed, or enjoyable then a 25man raid. I realize that through out WotLK we have associated 10mans with these adjectives, and I'm not saying we haven't found 10mans to be more fun, relaxed, or enjoyable. I'm saying that it is not the 10man format that causes these experiences. It is my belief that what has caused 10mans to be fun will not transfer to Cataclysm with this change.

What makes 10mans fun?

The answer is simple (for WotLK at least). The 10man raids are easier then the 25man raids. As much as people say they like a challenge, they like killing bosses and getting loot more. Since that is easier to do in 10mans, 10mans are more fun.

So, why are 10mans easier?

The first and probably biggest reason is gear. Blizzard has said the 10man raids are tuned assuming that the raiders have 10man gear from the previous level. Since the normal versions of 25man raids have been so accessible, most players out gear the 10man raids right out of the box. It may take a few attempts to learn the fight, but you don't have to be perfect because or gear level will cover up some of the mistakes.

Second, the structural differences between 10man and 25man also makes the 10mans easier. Take Professor Putricide for example. A big part of Putricide is the need to spread out. Since the room is the same size in both 10man and 25man, it is much easier to maintain spread and range in the 10man version.There aren't as many people I have to avoid. Boss abilities are also less frequent or in lower quantities in 10man. In normal 25man Professor Putricide, he throws two Malleable Goos out, but in 10man he throws only one. It is much easier to pay attention to where one goo is going then it is to track two of them.

Finally, I think a lot of the 10man groups out there benefit from the organization provided by 25man raids. Part of the reason it is easier to form a 10man raid is that we already have the 25man guilds where everyone knows what roles people can play. To form a group you just make a post on your guild forums or make an announcement in Gchat and group comes together fairly easily. Now what if you don't have the structure of a 25man guild to help you. What if you have to recruit 10man raiders like you recruit 25man raiders. Now you're dealing applications and players you don't have experience with. All that 25man "work" that people don't associate with 10mans comes into play.

Why these attributes won't transfer to Cataclysm.

Since 10mans and 25mans will drop the same gear we already know that the gear advantage current 10mans have won't transfer to Cataclysm. And lets assume for a second that Blizzard does a great job in developing the Cataclysm raids, over comes the structural differences, and creates 10man and 25man raids that are roughly equal in difficulty.

If these two things hold true then 10mans are not easier then 25mans, and the pressure to perform in a 10man will go up. The thing that makes 25man raids more stressful isn't the size of the raid. It's that 25mans are harder. Your mistakes matter more. Therefore, a stupid death, a missed heal, or general poor play means you wipe. In a 10man this is intensified because losing one person in 10man is like losing 2.5 in a 25man.

The 10man format is not immune to these issues. They currently avoid them because the margin of error is larger therefore, people associate 10mans with more fun. If you add the pressure to perform to 10mans and you will see it start to include all of these pressures as well. I guarantee it.

I do think that 10mans will still be easier to organize then 25mans in Cataclysm, but I don't think they will be as easy to organize as they are right now. This change will cause a much more distinct line between 10man guilds and 25man guilds. And building a 10man group will require a similar effort that is required to build a 25man group. You will have to go to the WoW forums or where ever, to try and recruit people to your guild particularly to raid. You can't pull your group from a larger 25man group. Therefore the people who currently find organizing their 10man group less stressful will have more issues in Cataclysm because they will have to do more.

On top of that, if someone quits a 10man guild it a much bigger impact on a 10man guild then it would for a 25man guild. I realize that 25man guilds can lose a lot of people quickly as well, but its less likely to happen. In the end, I don't think managing a 10man group is going to be a whole lot easier then it is to manage a 25man group.

10man progression is based on a false premise.

Why do we have 10man progression in WotLK anyway? If you go back to the WotLK beta, Blizzard said the popularity of Karazhan and Zul'aman showed there was an interest in the 10man format, and they wanted to provide a way for 10man raiders to progress through content as 25man raiders could.

I know that there are some people out there who like the 10man format. If you have a tight group of friends this allows you to have more informal raids with just the people that you know. I do thing that they are easier to maintain then a 25man group to some extent. That said, I don't think that the popularity of Karazhan and Zul'aman was necessarily and indication that people liked the 10man format.

I didn't play vanilla WoW, but in my opinion Karazhan and Zul'aman were some of the best instances that Blizzard ever created. For an appropriately geared group the fights were difficult and interesting. It was also the best way to gear up new alts and get a sense on how to play them. Do you think people would have ran Kara quite as much if they could have gotten a full set of T5 gear by running a heroics using the dungeon finder? Do you really thing BT geared players would have continued to run ZA if it wasn't for the Bear mount? I doubt it.

I believe that the ultimate attraction of 10mans for most people isn't the format itself. It is the rewards you get from running the instance in that format. Why do 25man raiders run 10mans? There are 2 reasons: Gear and Achievements. In my experience most 10mans stop running once their goals are met. Once my Naxx group got the Meta achievement and all the gear we needed we stopped running. There was no reason to stay up late and do it. If Karazhan and Zul'aman had sucked. Do you really think people would have ran them forever?


Once again, I am not saying we don't enjoy 10man raids. However, the reasons many of us find 10mans more relaxed and casual is because they lack the tension created by a progression focused 25man. If 10mans become just as difficult and just as progression focused as 25mans currently are, then the tensions we feel in 25man will transfer to the 10mans. With that, all of the adjectives I used at the top of this post will go away unless you already associate them with 25mans as well.

Overall, I think the combining of 25man and 10man raid IDs will result in a overall drop in raid participation. The players who currently focus on 25man raids will have to choose which format to favor. Some of the players who currently favor 10man raids will probably quit raiding. The relative ease of the format is what attracted them to raiding in the first place. When 10mans become more stressful and therefore less fun, they will stop raiding casually.

Cataclysm Raid Progression Changes: Part 1

I decided to break this in to two parts. This first post will look at my first reaction the change and how it will impact raiding. My second post will deal with some of the broader topic brought up in the post like Gating and Hard modes.

The Cataclysm news continues to roll today with this post from Nethaera. If you haven't read it I highly suggest that you go and give it a look. It is to long for me to quote the entire thing.

First Reaction: VERY Negative

There is a lot of stuff in that post, and I'm not sure what exactly I was reacting to, but I hated this change from the start. Through out WotLK I've had fairly good luck with 10man groups. My T7 group was one of the best, and was one of the first to complete the Meta on my server. In Ulduar, it took a while for a group to form that fit my needs, but eventually we put together a very good group that cleared Ulduar, ToGC, and is now working well through ICC. We've had some issues along the way with roster make up, and such, but I consider my 10man group to be one of my WotLK highlights. This change will take it a way from me.

I like being able to get the drake rewards and such a little easier then I would be able to in 25mans, but the best part about 10mans is that they are more laid back. We joked around a little more. There was a little competition between the guilds two 10man groups. It was just fun. Plus I was hoping that I might be able to start of Cataclysm by tanking 10mans. Once again, that is all gone with this change.

Second Reaction: Weary but not fully negative

While I am not all that positive on the post, I am a little more rational on the subject. I still see the negatives, but it also opens up the doors for new positives.

Not having the 10man option means I will have 4 extra hours a week to do what I please with. In particular I feel like I've ignored my alts in WotLK. In TBC when I leveled an alt to 70 I would take him into Kara. I would get some gear and a sense of how the class was played. I haven't had that experience in WotLK. I did get a chance to play my Warlock through Naxx but that was primarily because Naxx was so under tuned. To get out 20 man achievements for the meta, we ran it twice in a single weak with half the raiders being on alts. When Ulduar came out the progression on my warlock almost completely stopped. Most of my guildies were in 10man groups that took up there WoW free time and there weren't many alt runs. I also found it hard to commit to any of the alt runs that did happen because I needed to balance WoW with my real life.

Taking 10 mans out of the equation means I can sleep when I need to sleep, and may give me an opportunity to focus a little more on one of my alts when Cataclysm comes around. That isn't so bad.

This will also help me as a blogger. Believe it or not, I hate my gear lists. I know you guys love them. They bring a lot of traffic to the site, but having multiple ilevels of gear in the same tier is a problem. My gear lists are now freaken huge. Having the same gear drop out of both 10man and 25 man should make those lists much easier to produce and maintain. This doesn't mean I don't have concerns though.

Balancing Issues:

My first big issue with this philosophy is the 10 vs 25 balancing. For this new structure to work well Blizzard is going to have to get this balancing near perfect. Unfortunately Blizzard has not shown a lot of skill at this in the past. I am going to go way back to Sarth 3D as my primary example but I've had similar experiences through out WotLK.

Ask any serious progression raider during T7 what the hardest fight was and you will get the same answer every time: 10man Sarth 3D. It was a tough fight. Much tougher then it's 25man version. Most of the top guilds on my server got the 25man version down first and then the 10man version a month later. We were a 25man guild at this point with near BiS gear from 25mans. What we had to do in the end was to stack the group. We sat Casters the first week for a Melee heavy group, and then did a Caster group the next week. There was no way 10man strict guild could have gotten this.

That was a long time ago, and I do think Blizzard has gotten better over time, but the problems are more structural then that. If they keep the rooms the same size between the two versions then 10 mans are always going to have an easier time avoiding damage. not to mention it will always be easier to avoid one Malleable Goo then it is to avoid 2. Sure you can increase ranges of the boss abilities and such but then it becomes overly difficult on the healers because I doubt they would increase the range of their heals

The problem is that 10man and 25 mans are very different at their core. If they are not able to maintain a good balance between the difficulty then you are going to see guilds treating their raid ID like a talent spec. Raiders will fight which ever version is easier. If you can change the raid size mid instance then raid leaders will kick 15 people from the raid to down an encounter.

Destabilization of Guilds:

I think creating one lock out also has a good change to destabilize all kinds of raiding guilds.

What is the incentive to raid a 25man raid? I know Blizzard says that there will be a greater quantity of gear, but how big of a deal is that? A good portion of our gear already gets sharded every weak. If your guild is already highly geared the extra loot provides little incentive to do 25 man. Not only that I would assume that only one of each item could drop as it is now. Therefore, if everyone wants the awesome trinket that drops off of boss X you have more incentive to do two 10man raids because you have more chance of it dropping and having multiple people get it.

The 10man guilds will suffer as well, due to their limited roster size. In my guild we have about a 30man roster. We assume that a couple of people won't be able to make it each week for what ever reason, and only expect to sit 2 or 3 people each raid. In a 10man you will need an back up tank, healer, and at least one DPS. One person can fill multiple of those roles with dual specs, but in many cases the second spec will have lesser gear and less experience.

In the end, one person being absent from a 10man raid can be devastating, but 25mans can handle it better due to the larger roster size. Ultimately I worry that the incentives are not there to keep people raiding 25 mans, but that a 10man raid size is to small to really support serious raiding.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fun w/ SimulationCraft: Moonkin Trinkets

The Question: What are the best Trinkets for Moonkin?

This is a fairly common question I see asked around the internet. Unfortunately most trinkets behave in unusual ways that make them difficult to evaluate using simple math and spreadsheets. On top of that the typically provide a large quantity of a single stat and therefore can sckew the results of a typical valueation.

So, what's the answer? Throw it in SimulationCraft and see what it says.

My Theory:

Honestly , I don't have much of a theory on this one. I've made several statements about the valuation of trinkets over the past few months and they seem to change with each statement. You may remember back to my first ICC gear list I said the two Reign Trinkets would remain BiS. Well I am now sure that I was wrong then.

I was wrong because I didn't take into account the amount of Spell Power I would be picking up by upgrading to T10 level gear. That dramatically helps Crit and Haste but has little impact on the proc value of either Reign trinket. Don't get me wrong. Both Reign trinkets are still very good trinkets in ICC, but I think the ICC trinkets are giving them a little more competetion then I first expected.

What SimulationCraft Says:

As usual, I used myself as the example. First, I assumed two base level trinkets: [Illustration of the Dragon Soul] and the normal [Reign of the Unliving]. I realize that not everyone has had luck gaining these trinkets, but Sarth and ToC are very pug able. Therefore I don't think they are out of the realm of possibility to be concidered baseline trinkets.

After I established a base level of DPS I started to exchange the IotDS for the DPS trinkets available from ICC10 and ICC25. In the table below are all the DPS values I got from SimulationCraft for each trinket.

As you can see the Heroic 25man trinkets all did very well for me. Even the Heroic version of Reign of the Unliving was comparable to Heroic DFO and Heroic PotNL. I am a little surprised with how low both Spyglass trinkets were. I thought the heroic version would at least be a little higher upPlease, do not take this as a definitive list of which trinkets are better then the others. If I ran this in a month with different gear it might be different. I highly suggest that you try running theses through SimulationCraft for your own toon.

Do It Yourself:If you don't have it already, you can download SimulationCraft from here.

After you have it downloaded you want to make sure it is set up correctly for you to import your toon, and assume all of the correct buffs. Click the Options tab at the top. You should see several more tabs appear below it. Click the Global's tab and make sure it is selecting the lates patch and make sure that the Armory region is set to your region. Then, if you are with the Alliance, go to the Buff tab and make sure Heroic Presence is checked.

From here it is fairly easy import your toon. Go to the Import tab and search for your toon on the armory and hit the import button. You can also import your toon from WoWhead or Rawr if you use either of them. After you click the Import button it will populate the Simulate tab.

Here is where it gets manual. In the middle of the import your gear will be listed. Towards the bottom of your gear there will be two lines for Trinket1 and Trinket two. These are the lines you want to replace to evaluate new trinkets. Here are the lines for the trinkets I used in the post:

If you are familure with WoWhead or Rawr it is much easier to change the trinkets with those tools and reimport the file.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gold Capped: My Thoughts on the WoW Economy

Some of you may remember that I jumped head first into the goblin arena at the end of last summer. I didn't need the gold for anything specific. I did it for two reasons. First, I'm cheap and I don't like being low on gold. I want to be able to buy any gold sink that available that I think is useful with worrying that I will be low on gold. Second, it sounded like an interesting challenge.

Well, the goal has been met. I reached the gold cap a few weeks ago. In the end, reaching my goal was both easier then I thought it would be and harder then I thought it would be. In this post I hope to explain that dichotomy, share a few of my thoughts on how to improve the WoW economy, and maybe give a tip or two on how to make gold.

Easier then I Thought:

Reaching the gold cap was easier then I thought it would be because there is no real trick to it. There are no hidden secrets. I don't know what I expected, but earning 215k gold when you are at about 20k feels like a big task. The bloggers who write about gold making give you all these little tips, but many of them didn't seem to work for me in the way I expected them to. I always felt like there was some trick or secret that I was missing.

As far as I can tell I wasn't missing anything. I didn't find any secret product that I could sell and make 20k gold a week or a magic farming spot (I didn't farm at all in fact). My process of making gold is all about crafting and selling. Buying the mats cheaper then the finished good will sell for and then posting it on the AH. And I wasn't crafting odd things. Most of my gold came from Inscriptions, but I also made quite a bit from selling the obvious things like spellthread, meta gems, and bags. I just looked for markets where the mats cost less then the AH prices, and participated even when there was a lot of competition. So, making gold was a lot easier then I thought because I already had most the tools I needed just by having my professions leveled up.

Harder then I Though:

If you ever have read a gold blog, then you know that some of the claims sound outlandish. They make it sound like once you find the right system the money truck backs up to your house and dumps a bunch of gold in. Gevlon at the Greedy Goblin made it sound particularly easy when he claimed he was making around 15k a week with just 30minutes to an hour a day of work. That may not sound like much but it is more then you may think. If you spend an hour a day on the AH that is 7 hours a week. That is almost as much as I raid each week.

In the end, working the AH is a lot of time consuming work. You are able to automate a lot of things with the right addons, but there are some things you can't automate like crafting and milling. Therefore I spend hours each week in front of my computer hitting a single button. It isn't a lot of fun for me and I know understand why you find very few people to play the AH for extended periods of time. Even Gavlon has taken breaks after reaching the cap.

How to Improve the WoW Economy:

Just so you know, I work in the financial industry. I have a degree in Economics and a MBA. So, I have some experience with economic theory. That is why I find some of the common gripes amount the WoW economy so funny. Everyone seems to think that the goblins out there are ruining the market in one way or another. One guy will complain about getting under cut. The next guy will complain that people shouldn't be able to post a glyph for 50g when it cost 3g to make. They all eventually say that these people need to play fair or be punished and they want Blizzard to put more controls on the market. The funny thing is they are 100% wrong.

The problem with the WoW economy isn't the lack of control that allows people to do pretty much what ever they want. The problem with the WoW economy is the artificial roadblocks that make goblinish activity more difficult and ultimately cause people to quite after artificial goals are completed. This reduces the competition in the market, creates more imperfections, and ultimately increases the prices for consumers. Here are my suggestions.

Allow for more batch processing: When you mill herbs you currently have to hit a button for every herb you mill. The same is true for prospecting. It's not unusual for me to mill 3000 herbs in a sitting. In a perfect world it would take you 10 minutes to mill 3000 herbs, when you add lag and such into the equation you will take at least 15-20 minutes.

Crafting is even worse. When I make my glyphs I usually have to make 50 different glyphs in varying amounts for a total of about 800 glyphs in a sitting. Since most glyphs take 1.5 seconds to create that is a minimum of 20 minutes spent crafting, but longer when you consider lag and such. As you can probably imagine the process is quite boring and I think is the primary cause for most goblin burn-out.

Blizzard needs to create an interface to mill and prospect much like they have for smelting ore currently. That way I can tell it to mill and walk away and use that time to do other things around the house or on the computer. They also need to upgrade the crafting interface. There are several mods that already allow you to queue multiple crafting jobs, but they all require you to push a button to go on to the next step. Removing that button click would again allow the goblin to walk away during one of the more tedious portions of the crafting process.

Allow for Batch Mail Retrieval: This may be easier said then done, but the next big time sink in a crafters process is picking up the mail. I list 1200 - 1600 glyphs a day across 3 alts. Since you can open only 50 mails every minute it takes at least 25 minutes to go through all of my mail generally. I recently found the addon Mail Opener that allows me to go AFK through that process, but I think it can be done better.

The Auctioneer addon currently allows you to download the entire auction house in just a few minutes. Why couldn't we have the same thing for mail. The only issue I see from a player point of view is what would happen if your bags were full, but I think we can find a work around. Gold requires no bag space and therefore could always be pulled in a lump sum. The cancelled and expired auctions could also be consolidated into fewer mails to make them easier to view and empty.

Allow for more stacking: I made some of my gold with Jewelcrafting, but avoided it for he most part. Since cut gems can't stack it is very difficult to mass produce gems and achieve the economies of scale that you can in the glyph market. This is one of the things that I think seriously holds back JCing as a profession.

Reduce some deposit costs: Another key thing holding back Jewelcrafting as a profession is the fact that it costs several gold just to list a gem on the AH, but Glyphs and Enchants have little or no cost to post.

Why I think these Changes are Necessary:

Don't get me wrong, I understand that these suggestions would hurt a lot of the producers currently in the market. This would likely push all prices down to the materials cost of those professions. However, it would be good for consumers, because it would be easier for people to enter and stay in the market. This would increase competition and push prices down.

The key to the WoW economy's problems and the solutions is the fact that it is a fictional economy. No one's kids are going to starve because daddy didn't sell some glyphs last night. Participating in the market is purely optional and has few real world consequences. The fact of the matter is that the problems with a perfectly free market in the real world don't apply to the virtual world. If someone trys to monopolize the bag market, all you have to do is go farm a few mats, list the goods cheaper and their monopoly is broken. Since it is impossible for any player to control the market for any length of time then there is no reason to not allow perfect competition.
Tips for Making gold:

Use Addons: The key to making a lot of gold on the AH is selling in volume. To sell in volume you have to do a lot of things, and addons are required to automate those things. Without this automation you would spend all of your playing time on the AH and not out killing stuff.

The gold related addons I use are: Auctioneer, QA2, Skillet, KTQ, Lil Sparky, Postal, Mail Opener, and Altoholic.

Sell Armor Vellum and Runescrolls: It's funny whenever anyone talks about Inscription as a money making profession they always talk about selling glyphs. I rarely if ever hear anyone talking about vellums or scrolls, but I swear I've made 50% of my gold off of these two products alone. The key here is that they are in high demand, but not an obvious market. You don't need vellums to make enchants, and you don't need runescrolls to raid.

I think the primary purchasers of Armor vellum is the guy that needs to send an enchant to an alt. Therefore thy are not going to bat an eye at spending 4g to pick up a vellum.

Watch Trade Chat: I know that this can be a horrible experience, but trade chat is the best place to find deals. For some reason some people don't like to post things on the AH and will sell their goods for much less then they are worth in trade chat. I've bought Herbs for a third of their market price. You may also be able to pick up some BoE epics cheaply and flip them. Also, always bargain with trade chat sellers. Never offer to pay their price from the start. Most of them can be talked down.

Recruitment: My guild has had a bad run of some real life issues and burn out, and we are recruiting once again. If you are interested in a serious progression guild that only raids 3 nights a week you may want to consider Lords of Eternity. You can find more information here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The General Rules of Raiding

As you can imagine I get quite a few requests to help people improve their DPS. Unfortunately I am not very good at responding, I have no excuse except that I get busy and forget to respond. So if you have sent me a question and I have not responded I apologize.

That said, most of the requests fall into one of few distinct categories:

The Uninformed: These people have clearly not done a lot of research or don't know the right places to look for information. These are the people that do not have a Chaotic Skyflare Diamond equipped or have 5/5 of Genesis talented. They are easy to respond to because their issues are so obvious. I point out the obvious and then send them to the think tank and sticky.

The Poorly Geared: These people have all the right talents, gems and enchants, but their gear is just strange. They may be missing a set bonus or have a wide range of gear from the 200 ilevel to the 264 ilevel. The may have quite a bit of spirit gear or a strange trinket choice. Gear is obviously a problem, but the cause of the problem is not obvious. I have a hard time responding to these folks because this may be the only gear available to them. For example I once got a comment asking why I use the Illustration of the Dragon Soul instead of Muradin's Spyglass because the commenter thought the spyglass was better. I agree. The spyglass is better, but I've run ICC 10 over a dozen times and not seen it drop once. It's not that I'm gearing incorrectly its just that I'm using what is available to me.

The Fundamentally Flawed: These are the hardest to address. They have the right talents, gems and enchants. Their gear is very reasonable for the level of content they are doing. The rotation they say they use is in line with the recommendations. There is nothing obvious I can comment on. In the end I usually provide a list of general rules for them to think about and hopefully improve their performance.

In this post will go over some of what I consider to be the general rules of raiding for a ranged DPSer.

Fundamentally Flawed is not an insult:

Before anyone gets their feathers ruffled, when I say Fundamentally Flawed, I don't' mean you suck. I think most of us including myself are flawed to some extent. There is skill involved in this game, and skill related issues can't be fixed by changing a glyph or a piece of gear. When I say fundamentally flawed I mean that there is a problem with how you approach the game. It could be something as big as not casting spells quickly enough or as small as not pre-planning your positioning.


This may sound obvious or silly to some of you but I've become a firm believer that sleep is a key for successful raiding and high DPS. I also think more raiders have an issue with a lack of sleep then they are willing to admit. Many raiders raid 25mans for 10 to 15 hours a week, then they spend more time raiding 10mans, leveling alts, and other stuff in game. Then when you combine this with work, school, and family obligations it is quite easy to get to a point where you are only sleeping 5 or 6 hours a night.

Most of us can't operate and peak levels on such a limited sleep schedule and most of us that think we can are wrong. In my own play I've noticed some pretty dramatic swings in my performance that I mostly relate to sleep. When I'm well rested and I am much more focused. I notice hazards more quickly and I'm able to react more quickly. Ultimately I make fewer errors in casting and avoiding damage.

As a result I try and set priorities in my play and not over extend myself to often. For example, many months ago I had an opportunity to become a regular part of a regular 10man alt run. If I committed to it I would have gotten a drake for my warlock. Ultimately I chose not to because it would have added another late night my schedule. In addition to that I have a couple of alts that I want to level. I don't have a lot of time on weekend due to family time but my nights are generally free. It would be very easy for me to play until 2 in the morning but I have purposely limited my play on those nights to try and not over extend myself.

If you are having performance issues, think about how often you play and how often you sleep. The best choice might be to take a step back and focus on the activities that are most important to you.

Positioning and Limiting Movement:

As we all know movement is a DPS killer. If you are moving you can't cast your nukes and they make up 70%-80% of moonkin damage. Therefore it is important to think about ways to limit your movement so that you can maximize your casting time. A good example of this is the Beasts encounter in ToGC. My guild would focus down Acidmaw before we switch to Dreadscale in phase 2 of the fight, but Gormok tended to be positioned in the center of the room. In our first heroic kills on that encounter the worms were spawning right as Gormok was going down and making a quick switch was important to meet the DPS requirements of the fight. Therefore I tended to position myself as far left as I could. Therefore, I could switch targets without moving and allow my fellow raid members to move into to get range.

Another part of this is to move purposely. One big movement is almost always better then several little movements. If you are moving to get in range of a target. Make sure you are in range of any adjustments that the target might make. If the target is constantly moving away from you then inching forward ever 15 seconds will result in more cancelled spells. Much better to move once for 5 seconds and to not have to cancel any spells.

ABC - Always Be Casting:

I've said this before, and I will say it again. The real key to high damage in a raid setting is to cast as much as possible. Casting the wrong thing is generally better then not casting because when you don't cast or cancel a cast you are not DPSing the target. Therefore, if you don't know what to cast, cast something. Put up your DoTs while moving. Even overwriting your existing DoTs while moving can be a DPS increase.

Also push the limits of when you can start casting. Remember we have a lot of low threat spells that we can start an encounter with. Your trents have their own threat tables, Fairie Fire and Insect Swarm have very little threat when they are first cast. Moonfire doesn't have much either if it is glyphed. The reason we lead with these spells isn't just because DoTs generally have a good DPET or to Debuff the boss. They also allow the tank a few seconds to build threat before we get into the heavy hitting part of our rotation.

Switching Targets and Macros:

ABC is really easy when you have only one target and don't have to move much. It gets more complicated when you have to change targets quite a bit and the positioning of your targets are not constant. It is easy to lose 5 or more seconds tab targeting through the available targets. There are two things I try to do to minimize the time it takes me to switch targets.

The first is the use of targeting macros. If you know you have to switch to a target quickly create a little targeting macro and add a spell to it. For example have two macro's for the Lich King encounter. One for the Val'kyr Shadowguard and one for the Raging Spirits. The macros are very simple. One is posted below.

/target Val'kyr Shadowguard
/cast Wrath

All it does is target the target and cast a nuke. What is great about it is that I can start spamming it even before a target spawns, because it doesn't cancel the cast if the target is not available yet. Instead the cast will just go to my current target.

The second thing I do is to click while casting. Clicking a target can be a problem especially if there are a lot of targets group up, but it can be helpful in some situations. The first thing to remember is that you can change targets while casting. Your spell will still hit he original target, but you don't have to delay your next spell to hit the new target. I use this a lot on trash, adds, and bosses that have pieces that have to be burned down all together. I also suggest that you use the overhead unit frames for enemy targets. It is much easier to target the name plate of the target then the actual target if you need to do a lot of click targeting.


A lot is said about keybindings in raiding circles, but newer players may be unfamiliar with them or how to improve them. A keybinding is when you've linked a class ability to a specific button on your keyboard or mouse. The default WoW UI comes with a lot of keybindings automatically. For example your 1 through = buttons are mapped to your main action bar. Other keys are mapped to game functions like B for opening your bag. I think most players use these default keybindings when they first pick up the game, but a lot of raiders expand on or modify these keybindings in an effort to improve their performance.

The standard keybindings are perfectly fine for a more casual player, but they are not set up will for someone trying to maximize there performance. A good keybinding is one that is easy to reach win a minimum of effort. The default keybindings are all in a single line. Moving from key 5 to key "-" is a pretty big movement and has a higher risk of error as a result. Moving from key 5 to key "T" is a much smaller movement and is less likely to be missed in my opinion.

The other problem with the standard keybindings is that there are only 12 default spots, but I have 15 abilities or macros that I use with decent regularity. Even if i was comfortable with having all my abilities on a single line, I still wouldn't be able to bind everything I needed.

Keybindings are fairly simple to create. Just hit the "ESC" key and click the Keybinding button from the menu that pops up. This will bring up the keybinding UI. From this window you can bind your keys to the other available action bars.

Here are my current keybindings.

Faerie Fire
Insect Swarm
Health Stone
Num Pad 1
Num Pad 2
Force of Nature
Num Pad 4
Cyclone Macro
Primary Targeting Macro
Secondary Targeting Macro
Primary Self Heal
Secondary Self Heal
Changes depending on fight.
Gift of the Wild
Self Innervate

You will notice that most of the buttons are easily accessible to my left hand. The Number Pad buttons are easily accessible because I have this mouse.

After you set up your keybindings it is important that you get used to them before you are expected to perform at a high level. How much practice you need depends on what spells you are binding and how many changes you are making. I highly recommend that you don't make any significant changes in your bindings until you have time to run a few low stress instances.


The DPS issues that most players face aren't caused by gear, spells, or talents. They are a result of more basic issues that are hard to teach or correct in a guide. The fundamentals of raiding have nothing to do with class, rotation, or gems. The fundamentals of raiding are about awareness, movement, and quick reactions.

When you look for ways to improve your DPS, think about more then just what spell I should cast. Think about where I should stand? What is the best way for me to change targets? Are the tools I need to use readily accessible? Thinking about these questions can have as big of an impact on your DPS as picking up a new piece of gear.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Druid Cataclysm Preview

The wait is over, and the Druid Cataclysm Preview has been released. I'm going to primarily look at the Moonkin pieces of the preview since I have little experience with those trees.

Before I get into the preview I just want to remind everyone that all of this information is subject to change and will likely change to some extent before Cataclysm is released. If you look at the early days of the WotLK Alpha leaks and compare that to what went live on release, you will see two very different things. What looks good here may not last. What looks bad can be improved. Don't over react to these notes.

New Spell: Wild Mushroom
Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.
First Reaction: "Druids are getting a Hunter's trap."

It seems like it is designed to help our movement DPS. Since it is instant cast we can cast it on the move. Plus we could place it in front of a moving target. However, I assume it would be targeted like Force of Nature, and I find that difficult to do while moving.

It definitely seems to have situational uses. For example, on a fight like The Lich King you can put it down in the Val'kyr path before they spawn. That way you can put some extra DPS on them without spending a GCD during the critical burn period. It could also be good for bears that want to get some aggro on spawning adds, but It probably wouldn't hit very hard for them.

This description leaves a lot of questions about how it will work that won't be answered until we can test it in the Beta.

Changes to Abilities:
All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.
First Reaction: "What the hell?"

I have no problem with the change, but I'm a little shocked by what it's missing. I was 100% certain that our DoTs would get the same treatment. If you read the Warlock preview and the Priest preview, then you know that both class's DoTs will be innately affected by Crit and Haste. Ghostcrawler then went on to say "Almost all dots will crit. The exception will be things like Deep Wounds and Ignite because those are already the product of a crit. Rend will crit."

Since Moonfire and Insect Swarm are not like Deep Wounds or Ignite I expected our DoTs would get the same treatment.

The important thing to remember here is that they still might. This may be a case of where they don't want resto's to have strong versions of Moonfire or Insect Swarm. Therefore, they may place a talent later in the talent tree that buffs them based upon our Crit and Haste. It is obvious that they are open to the idea at the very least. The key here is DO NOT PANIC.

If the truly aren't allowing our DoTs to Crit and benefit from Haste, I would love to hear the explanation for why.

The Change to Eclipse:
Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.
First Reaction: "It's like capping towers in EotS."

As silly as that may sound, the first thing that popped into my head was the little bar that pops up when you try and capture a tower or something in PvP.

It is definitely a novel idea, and I am quite intrigued by it. It is a play off of the charge system that I think a lot of us expected, but it seems to have more depth then a simple charge system.

It give you a much greater ability to control when your spell is buffed. For example, if you know that Heroism is going to be used in 30 seconds, start casting lots of Wraths so you can machine gun some Starfires out right when it is popped. It also stores the value so you don't loose it when you have to move to a better position or get out of the fire. Both of those improvements are pluses.

The description also implies that they are changing which spells are buffed and how they are buffed. Notice that it says when you cast an Arcane spell your Nature spells will be buffed. Therefore, it sounds like Moonfire and Insect Swarm will benefit from Eclipse as well. The comment also makes no mention of +Damage or +Crit. This leads me to believe that they are normalizing the buff for the two schools of magic. (note that this is just an assumption on my part) If that is true then I think it will help with the scaling and balancing of our various spells.

Obviously, we will need more details on how it will work before we can give it a true thumbs up or thumbs down, but right now it sounds promising to me.

New Talented Spell: Nature's Torrent
Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown.
First Reaction: "We're getting Frostfire Bolt also?"

At first I was a bit confused by this ability (partly because I hadn't read the Eclipse change yet). At first it sounds a lot like the dual school spells that that seem to be popular in Cataclysm. I can see the use of Mind Spike for priests and even Fel Flame for warlocks, but we've never had an issue with not being able to switch magic schools, and we don't need another nuke. So was a little confused.

After a little thought, I realized that was not the goal of this spell. I expect this will be a way for us to manage our Eclipse buff. It will be interesting to see how it will work in Beta.

Quick Comments:
  • Mastery Bonuses: The increased spell damage was a no brainer and I kind of expected that Eclipse would become our 3rd mastery. The only question I had would the second be crit or haste, and I'm glad it is haste. If we haste couldn't be capped for Wrath we would scale so well with haste it would be ridiculous. By ICC level gear Haste would likely be superior to spell power point for point. Having haste be the second mastery bonus will hold it in check which is good.

  • We want to make sure Feral and Balance druids feel like good options for an Arena team. They need the tools to where you might consider a Feral druid over an Arms warrior, or a Balance druid over a mage or warlock. Remember that the PvP landscape will probably look pretty different for Cataclysm with a focus on rated, competitive Battlegrounds. - Woot for moonkin who like to PvP. Lets just see if they can get it right this time.

  • There was no mention of Nature's Grace in the preview. We know it's going to be nerfed, removed or changed in some way. I just hoped we would learn how.

Overall I am content. None of the changes or additions really exited or pissed me off.

On the positive, the two new spells sound interesting, but I want to see how they work in the game before I make a final opinion. I am impressed with the new Eclipse. It sounds like something that could actually be fun and not a standard charge system.

On the negative, I'm a little disappointed that they didn't say anything about Moonkin DoTs being affected by haste or crit. I also wanted to see what they had planned for Nature's Grace.