Friday, June 25, 2010

Legendary Items Suck

In my my most recent post regarding 10man vs 25man formats, one of the common arguments used by commenters is that it would be unfair for 10man raiders not to have access to legendary weapons. Though I don't really see that as a problem, I do have an easy solution. Remove legendary items from 25man raids as well. In my opinion legendary items are one of the most poorly implemented features of WoW, and in the end cause more drama then they are worth.

Reason 1: They're Overrated.

Don't get me wrong. Legendary's are great weapons for their ilevel and even beyond their ilevel. If there was a caster DPS Legendary I would love to have it I'm sure, but the legend of the Legendary items is bigger then the reality. Lets look at a couple of examples.

[Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings] vs [Heartcrusher]

If you do a quick comparison of the stats you will notice that Val'anyr has 17 more stamina and 14 more crit rating. Heartcrusher on the other hand has 1 more int, 5 more haste rating, and a red socket that is likely to result at least 17 more spell power. If you are comparing pure stats Heartcrusher is the clear winner. Obviously the proc makes Val'anyr the better weapon, but it's important to note that the proc is really the only difference.

[Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings] vs [Royal Scepter of Terenas II]

I realize that the Royal Scepter is not an easy to obtain item, but if you are in a guild that allows you to get Val'anyr in a reasonable amount of time, then you are likely in a guild that has a reasonable shot at the Heroic Lich King at some point.

If you are able to pick up the Royal Scepter over Val'anyr you gain 24 int, 26 stamina, 5 crit rating, 22 haste rating, a red socket, and 272 spell power.

I tried looking for some theorycrafting on the Val'anyr proc but didn't find anything conclusive. I don't know what the value of the proc is but one thing is clear to me. If you upgrade to the Royal Scepter you gain a lot of stats, and at the very least all those additional stats erode the value of the Val'anyr proc, and the legendary mace will be replaced sooner then most people think.

Acting Like Idoits: Lodur's Experiences

While writing this post I remembered a post made by Lodur on World of Matticus. In it he talks about the Val'anyr curse and his experiences healing random heroics with the mace. In his post he talks about two experiences he had using the mace in a pug. The first was when a tank saw the mace an thought it meant he could pull several trash packs and a boss. The second involved a druid that insisted the only way a shaman could heal the ICC 5man heroics was if they had the mace.

In my opinion, if someone has Val'anyr it shows that they are very likely to be a very good healer. For a guild to go to all of that work of obtaining a mace they are definitely going to give it to when of their top raid members. So, the fact that Lodur was able to handle both of the situations is not a surprise, but the fact that his groups attributed his success to the mace is laughable. Both groups treated the Val'anyr as a heroic I.W.I.N. button when in reality it was the healer behind the mace that saved their butts.

Reason 2: Poor Distribution

Obviously, for a legendary to truly be legendary it has to be rare. If everyone is walking around with a [Shadowmourne] the it lose some of the mystique that makes it special. Blizzard has primarily used two methods (or a combination of the two) to make these items rare.

Random Drop: This method was used to its fullest extent in The Burning Crusade expansion since both the [Warglaives of Azzinoth] and [Thori'dal, the Stars' Fury] were random drops off of the end bosses in Black Temple and Sunwell respectively. However, random drops have been a part of every legendary in the game to some extent.

The problem with the purely random drop was made famous by Nihilum in TBC. They were the first guild to clear the Black Temple and proceeded to run Black Temple multiple times a week for almost a year without a single Warglaive drop. Other guilds were able to complete several sets with only 2 or 3 months of clears on the instance. It is clear that with a low drop rate these legendarys were not a reward for effort, but were just regular loot.

Guild Effort for Single Drop: The part that probably bugs me the most about legendary items is that it is a guild effort to reward a single member. The best example of this is [Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker]. Not only did the entire guild of 40 people have to farm an instance for months to get the mats to craft a quest item, once that was complete the entire guild had to kill a special raid boss to get the weapon to drop.

To make matters worse, since then all the quest items needed to form legendary weapons are Bind on Pickup. So, you have to choose who will receive the time months before one will actually be created. This can create a huge problem for a guild and cause their efforts to be wasted. For example, my guild never crafted a Val'anyr mace despite clearing Ulduar so many times that I cannot count. The first person who was to receive the mace was a very dedicated raider, but got burned out a bit and took a break when she had 28 [Fragments of Val'anyr]. At this point ToC wasn't far off, and we didn't have as much time in Ulduar as we did before, but we had another healer got 28 fragments as well. Unfortunately due to a variety of issues she was demoted and eventually left the guild. And this doesn't include 5 or 6 fragments that we gave to other people do to the first two being absent when when the fragments dropped. We had more then enough to make two maces, but the guilds efforts were wasted because of the actions of a few.

My Conclusion:

I realize that some of my issues could be fixed by creating a new Bind on Guild item type, but even after the item is created it would suck if the person who was given the legendary changed guilds. I would hate to be the person to just complete a Legendary item for the guild and then realize this wasn't the guild for me anymore. To some extent I think I would feel obligated to continue to participate in the unhappy situation or continue playing a game I no longer enjoyed. I would think having a Legendary would be a lot more pressure then I would want to handle.

In the end I just don't think Legendary's are worth the trouble. First off, it's clear they are not required for success in this game since any boss can be killed without one. Second the drama potential on these items is huge. Not only do you have to deal with picking someone to get the item, but you have to deal with what happens if they leave or have to reduce their schedule.

While legendarys are cool and I would love to have one personal, the relatively minor benefit we receive is not that significant when compared to the effort exerted by the guild that created it and the potential drama it can cause. Blizzard should just remove legendary's from the game.

Monday, June 21, 2010

10mans vs 25mans: Is Equity Needed?

Blizzards change in raid size philosophy has obviously been a big topic for me, but it has also been very controversial across the WoW raiding community. We supporters of the 25man format may be blowing the implications out of proportion to some extent, but I do think it is a very real threat to our preferred style of play. That is why I want to write on this topic once more (and hopefully for the last time). I do want to come at it from a slightly different angle. Is equity between the 10man and 25man formats really needed?

That said, I want to get one thing straight up front. I know some of you (my valued readers) prefer the 10man format. I think it's clear to everyone that I prefer the 25man format at least for progression raiding. These positions are what they are; preferences. I still think many 10man raiders aren't going to be so happy with the 10man format when it is more progression focused, but on the 10 vs 25 matter, I think we can agree to disagree. We are unlikely to change any minds as to which size is better, and it is useless for us to try.

This time, I will try to argue against the over all philosophy, rather then the strength of the formats. This time, I want to take a look at the stated reasons for the change in philosophy.

The Removal of Obligation:

In a recent forum post Ghostcrawler said:
We thought the LK design was asking raiders to raid more than they wanted to. When you see a boss twice a week, you just burn out on the fight that much faster.
To expand on that, because there were multiple raid that dropped emblems and such, Blizzard had to balance the game around the maximum possible emblems per week. As a result raiders felt obligated to run as many raids per week to get the maximum number possible to pick up gear quicker. Players have also expanded on this reasoning by saying 10man raiders feel an obligation to raid 25man raids for the better gear.

As an broad overall goal I completely agree that players shouldn't feel obligated to participate in an activity they don't enjoy. And I can see how having two versions of the same instance my cause that sense of obligation. The primary reason I've done the 10mans is for mounts and achievements, but in the early days of each raid tier I also wanted to get as many emblems as possible to get my tier sets as quick as possible. So, I can see why limiting all raid formats to a single ID is a good thing.

What I don't understand is why this sense of obligation means that the two raid formats need to be relatively equal.

Choices Reveal True Preferences:

When I posted on this subject last April one of the common responses I got was "I enjoy 10mans more but I raid 25s for the better gear." I find that statement to be nonsensical. Does this person truly prefer 10mans over 25mans? In my opinion they do not, and their actions prove it.

While this person may prefer the 10man size over the 25man size, their actions prove that they value the 25man gear more then they value the 10man size. So they are not being forced to participate in an activity that they don't enjoy. If that was the case they would stop. What they are really saying is that these raid formats don't allow them to maximize their raid enjoyment. They would be happier if they could get all the rewards of the 25man format but in 10man size.

It is a very reasonable desire to want Blizzard to design the raid structure around our own wants and desires. That is pretty much what I'm asking for here and in my other posts on the subject. I want Blizzard to design the PvE game around the 25man raid. We can disagree on which is better but we can't blame each other for wanting what we want.

In an ideal situation Blizzard would create two equal but different formats. Which is exactly what Blizzard is attempting to do. I think it is a noble desire, but ultimately impossible goal because of two key issues.

The Slippery Slope:

Assume for a second that they can make the two formats completely equal. Having a 10man format and a 25man format may be great for a lot of us, but what about the people who would really prefer a 40man format? Every couple of days a new post pops up on the forums asking when Blizzard is going to bring back the 40man raids so there is obviously interest in the size. Shouldn't the people who prefer the larger size have their preferences and desires be satisfied also?

What about the other direction? I don't have access to all the participation data that Blizzard collects, but I would bet money that more players participate in 5mans then participate in both 10mans and 25mans combined. Why should people who prefer the 5man format not be able to kill Arthas in their desired group size? You could easily argue that would make the game much more accessible.

True Equity is Impossible:

Balancing a fight around 10 people and 25 people is probably more difficult then a lot of people think in my opinion. Having more more people, less space, and more adds requires more decision making and a greater opportunity for error, but lets assume that Blizzard gets it perfectly right and tunes the 10man and 25man versions of the fight to be perfectly equal in fight difficulty.

Even if Blizzard is able to tune the fights to be perfectly equal it is impossible for them to make the formats perfectly equal. I know some of you refuse to believe it, but a 25man is more difficult to organize then a 10man, and it impacts more then just the officers or raid leader.

Unfortunately there is no way to structurally balance this additional difficulty. The only way to balance it is to provide additional rewards for the additional difficulty which creates another inequity. While I think extra emblems, boss drops, and gold are fairly limited rewards, I know that some of you disagree with them at all and given the proposed structure I think the disagreement might be loud. There is GC's comment on the topic:

We're still messing around with the numbers because we want a system that works not only at launch but once there are multiple raid tiers and perhaps weekly raid quests and the whole nine yards. A very general idea (meaning it could end up being different) is that a group that can clear a 25-player raid can earn all of their points that way, while a 10-player group may need to supplement that income with more Dungeon Finder runs.
So, if I understand this correctly by running 25mans I will get my my maximum emblems for the week, but 10man raiders will have to run something extra. Since loot is balanced around the maximum per week, Blizzard is basically forcing 10man raiders to do something extra that they may or may not enjoy. I know a lot of people do the daily 5mans for the Emblems of Frost, but that doesn't mean they want to. To me, this just looks like another form of the obligation Blizzard is trying to avoid.

Tell Players to Choose:

Since true equity is practically impossible, and they won't be able to please all of the players anyway, I don't understand why Blizzard feels the need to try. The Utopia that Blizzard is trying to create won't work. Either the rewards for 25s will be to great, and it will remain the defacto standard of raiding, or they won't be enough and the 25man format will gradually die.

In my opinion, Blizzard needs to draw a line in the sand and say "This is the game we've created. These are the ways you can play it. We hope one of these formats fits your wants, but unfortunately we can't create a customer version for every player, so you are going to have to choose the format you like most or choose not to play."

With single lockouts the player has to make a choice. They can no longer continue with this indecision of saying, I raid 10s because I like the size but I also raid 25s because I like the gear. They should choose if they like the 10man size or the 25man gear more and wear the choice as a badge of honor. If they choose the 10s they can say, "I'm a more casual player. What is important to me is seeing the content and playing with friends." If they choose the 25s they can say, "I raid for the competition and the challenge." Of course, these attributes are not unique to either format, but if one emphasizes them over the other, then players can make clearer choices without feeling like they should be doing both.

I realize that this argument might not go my way. It is quite possible that Blizzard could say "Your right Graylo, and we think 10man raids make for a better game," and get rid of 25s much in the same way they got rid of 40s. That would suck, but at least we would all know where we stood. I could choose if I wanted to try the new format or go find another game that better suited my needs. As it is I feel like I'm stuck in limbo.

A Response from Blizzard:

I made a very similar argument to the one above on the official forums, and got a response from Ghostcrawler.
We sort of tried that, Gray, and they all chose 25 (meanwhile telling us that they wanted to play 10 but felt stupid for doing so since they were missing out on gear).(src)

Yes, they have tried it to some extent WotLK and there have been some issues. However, does that mean that the entire concept is bad or that the implementation was bad?

I would argue that the real problem with the two raid formats in WotLK is that it didn't ask players to choose, or provide them with a way to show that they choose. Ten man strict guilds are constantly being devalued because many people assume that they run with some 25man gear. Well, have 10man specific achievements that will only trigger if you use only 10man gear. The 10man title achievements show that Blizzard has the technology.

It's also important to remember that people will say a lot of things, but don't always know what they are really saying or what they really mean. Actions in the end tell you a lot more about the players desires then what they tell you on a forum. If a player chooses the 25man format for 13 extra itemization points then it is obvious that the raid size really isn't that big of a deal.


It seems to me that Blizzard is trying to find this Utopia where the 10mans and 25mans can co-exist equitably and in harmony, but I think it is impossible. The structural differences insure inequity on some levels, but even the balancing of two fights has proven to be difficult at times in WotLK. Since we now that Blizzard can't please everyone, why try?

Instead of trying to make the two formats more equitable, why not try and emphasize the differences, and force people to find the system that suits their needs? Maybe if Blizzard provided 10man raiders more ways to be recognized for their achievements, the 10man raiders would feel better about their accomplishments and not feel like they need to do 25mans for gear. If they still felt the need to do 25s for the improved gear then it is obvious that the raid size is really not that important to them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cataclysm Changes

Update: Made an addition following Ghostcrawlers responce.

Blizzard recently did the Cataclysm Press Tour for official fan sites and I'm sure all of you guys have seen the flurry of information that has been released as a result. Here are my reactions to the news.

Path of the Titans: Gone!

It's hard for me to have a strong opinion about this one way or the other. It kind of sucks that something was removed, but how can I get up set about it when I never new what it would be in the first place.

If I am honest with myself, I have to assume that this is a good thing for me personally. I don't play my toons just to play them. I play them to do something specific. For example, when it is raid time I play Graylo. I am rarely on him otherwise. I never long on and think "what should I do with Graylo today." I always pick my activity before I pick which toon I'm going to play. If I want to level, I pick Graybel. If I want to explore the Horde side of things I pick my other Graylo. If I want to run some heroic I will probably pick the lock or the priest.

So, what does any of that have to do with the Path of the Titans? Well, with the removal of PotT i have one less thing I have to do. In my opinion that is a good thing. I was not looking forward to doing that with 5 toons. The real question is will I do Archeology now?

Guild Talent Trees: Gone!

The guild talents are gone and your guild now gets extra bonuses depending on its level. There are 25 levels and each level will automatically reward with more cool stuff. The leveling process remains unchanged and your guild will gain experience through PvP, Dungeon and Raid progression, questing, etc ...

Guild currency has also been removed and rewards will just be "unlocked" after you reach a specific level or complete a guild achievement. Once a reward is unlocked, members will be able to purchase it with gold. Some of the rewards include guild tabards, mounts, heirlooms, and it looks like you will finally be able to have a guild tabard on your mount. (Just like the Argent Tournament banners)

New members of a guild won't be able to buy everything directly, they will have to contribute to the progression of the guild before they can access the top rewards. Each time a player helps towards the leveling he will gain reputation with the guild, the best rewards will require players to be exalted with their guild before they can buy it.
I am a little disappointed that Guild Talent Trees are being removed, but it is hard to argue with Blizzard's logic. Ultimately how the guild is specced would be up to one person, the GM, but would impact several dozen players. This has the potential to cause drama, and I agree that people shouldn't make guild choices based upon a guild spec.

I love how they have changed it though. I think guild reputation is a great idea. First, it encourages new members to participate in the guild. Second, it gives guild members the incentive to stay with a guild. I don't think it will be or should be strong enough to keep someone from transferring, but hopefully it will be strong enough to prevent some of the silly "grass-is-greener" transfers. Finally, it provides another indication of seniority within the guild. I know that guild ranks already provide this to some extent, but that isn't necessarily true depending on how the guild is managed. With guild reputations you know who is new and in the same boat as you are. You know who is been with the guild for a couple of months and may be able to answer your question without bugging an officer. As long as it isn't a barrier I think it will help to create community.


Honestly I don't have a clue where to start this topic. It sounds like Glyphs and Inscriptions are getting completely redone.

Medium Glyphs: Medium glyphs are the kind of glyph you'd take if you had more choices. Medium glyphs are good for situational abilities, cooldowns, defense and utility. These sound a lot like optional talents to me. My guess is that things like Glyph of Innervate and Glyph of Rebirth will be Medium Glyphs for druids. Those are both great glyphs but there is no way they can complete with the DPS glyphs. The problem with medium glyphs is that they will just be nice. I doubt they will be anything to get excited about.

Non-Consumable Glyphs: Glyphs are in a weird place where they’re not consumables like potions but they’re not as permanent as say, talents, either. And we know that some players walk around with stacks of glyphs that they’ll swap in and out depending on the situation.

So the new glyph UI is designed more about collecting all the glyphs for your character and storing them there. Any time you want to switch glyphs you can just use that. Glyphs are now permanent.(src)

This is a big change. From a player's perspective I like it. I hated carrying around a stack of Typhoon Glyphs and Thorns Glyphs when we were running both ToGC and ICC. I know I didn't have it that bad off, but for anyone that was swapping glyphs frequently this is a great change.

The real question is what this will do to the Glyph market. I've seen some people predicting doom and gloom, but I don't think that is necessarily true. Assuming you still have to by glyphs from a scribe, all this will change is who buys your glyphs and which glyphs they buy. The people who swap glyphs in and out will buy less of course, but there are plenty of people who will buy all the glyphs even if they don't have any intention of ever using them. So we may sell fewer Glyph of Starfall, but we will sell more Glyphs of Wrath.

That of course is only going to happen if my assumption is correct. Unfortunately the following quote makes me doubt that assumption. "We’re going to focus inscription on more of the non-glyph aspect of the trade skill. So, Darkmoon Faire cards, trinkets, offhand items, things like that. We also want to tie the ability to change glyphs into inscription. We’re not sure of the name yet but the idea is that scribes would basically sell a kind of eraser and the eraser is what allows you to blank out your glyphs and write in new ones." To me this sounds like scribes won't be creating glyphs anymore.


The interface opens and you place the item in it. It then asks you to pick a stat to reduce, and then pick a stat to add. You can’t use primary stats like agility, strength and intellect, but you can use all of the secondary stats like hit, crit, haste, parry, dodge, things like that. Then you reduce one of the stats by – at the moment it’s 40% but to make the example easier, say it’s 50%. If you have 100 crit, you reduce that by 50, that then gives you 50 points to put on, say, hit.
Out of all the new features in Cataclysm Reforging is probably the one I'm most exited about, and GC finally spelled out how it would work. I've heard a few different interpretations on what GC said, so this is what I took it to mean. If you have an item on it with 100 crit rating, you can take it to the reforger and turn 50% of that crit rating into another secondary stat. So, you start with an item with 100 crit rating and end with an item with 50 crit rating and 50 hit rating and no loss of itemization. If I'm correct this sounds awesome.

The only question I have is what stats are Primary and what stats are Secondary. More specifically, which category will Spirit fall into. Some of you may have seen the post I made on the official forums, but here is the issue I see.

GC specifically states that Int, Agi, and Strength are primary stats and that all the rating stats like Crit, Haste and Hit are secondary stats. All of that makes sense, but Spirit has traditionally been grouped with Int, Agi, and Strength as Base stats, and Blizzard is making a big deal about how mana regen will be very important for healers in Cataclysm. Since spirit is the core stat of healer mana regen in Cataclysm it is easy to see how Spirit could be considered a Primary stat.

However, for Moonkin, Ele shaman, and to some extent Shadow Priests, spirit will act like Hit rating, a secondary stat. If we are expected to share gear with our healer specs then it is quite likely that we will have a ton of spirit on our gear and will likely be way over the hit cap without reforging.

Now, I will admit that reforging isn't the only way this issue could be resolved. First off, there is no reason that we have to have spirit on our tier set. So that is four or 5 items where we could ignore spirit all together. It's also possible that Blizzard will have both Spirit and non-Spirit leather drop from the bosses. But if all the leather has Spirit then we will need reforging to stay at the cap.

Reforging Update: Woot! Ghostcrawler stopped by the thread I started concerning Spirit and Reforging. (First time a blue has commented on a thread I started. This must be what it feels like to be Murmurs.) There is his comment:
We don't want players changing Agi, Str, Stam or Int (or armor!) on items for probably obvious reasons, but converting Spirit to something else or something else into Spirit shouldn't be a problem.(src)
As of now it sounds like Spirit is a secondary stat though GC did leave some wiggle room if they change their minds. All in all, I think this is good news, and not just for Moonkin, Ele Shaman and Spriests. It is a good deal for healers to if an abundance of non-spirit caster gear drops as well.

25man vs 10man loot: More badges marginally more loot

I know we debated this in early May, but let me try and reiterate my concern. People as a general rule will follow the path of least resistance if the rewards are the same. I know there are exceptions, but for a majority of people this is true. So if you provide two paths of raid progression with the same rewards then people are going to flock to the easier one.

In WotLK 10mans have been the easier option because, people out gear the instance with 25man gear and even Ghostcrawler said "Remember that in LK the 10s were specifically designed to be easier (with a couple of exceptions where we messed up)(src)" I doubt Blizzard will be able to perfectly balance the difficulty of 25man and 10man raids relative to each other but lets assume that they get close. In such a situation I think most people would agree that 10mans are organizationally easier. It's easier to find 10 competent players then it is to find 25. It's easier to manage the schedules of 10 people then it is to manage the schedules of 25 people. If this is true, I can see a slow but eventual death of the 25man raid structure.

That is why I am unhappy with these comments:

The amount of gear in the 25 person raids will be roughly equivalent on per-person basis to the 10 person raids. One thing to keep in mind it that we don't plan to allow players to upshift from 10s to 25s, only downshift from 25s to 10s on a given week.

The statements beforehand said that 25person would have more gear per person than 10s, so I wonder if "roughly equivalent" indicates a change in plans, or just not wanting to commit yet to either "exactly the same" or "more".
The number 6 per boss was being mentioned I believe, so slightly more I guess, but anything can change in testing so I wouldn't say that it is set in stone. But we all know you guys won't call us out if anything changes during a beta, right?

So basically there will be no real incentive (gear-wise at least) to run 25 man raids.
There are rewards like badges/gold for the additional coordination involved, but we are trying to avoid having gear be the reason that one style is better than the other.
Later on Ghostcrawler does go on to say:

I think this is one of those cases where it's not going to be possible to please everyone. Most players either prefer 10s and have no use for the 25s or want to run 25s and don't want to feel like they are being inefficient for doing so. In other words, half the community wants an incentive to run 10s and no incentive to run 25s and half the community wants the opposite.
I definitely fall in the bucket thinks there should be some additional incentives for running the 25man raid that is at the very least more organizationally difficult. However, I don't think more loot, badges and gold are a good incentive. Getting six items for a 25man is only slightly better then the five items 2 and a half 10mans would get.

I am also disappointed that Blizzard thinks Badges and gold are really any kind of reward. Badges are only valuable for the first couple of months of a patch and then are ignored for the most part, and gold is so easy to obtain that no one is going to go spend hours raiding to earn gold. Hopefully they will find a better system.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cataclysm Talent Builds Released

In what I think is a surprising move Blizzard released the preliminary versions of the talent trees for Druids, Shaman, Priests, and Rogues this week. The Balance tree they released is very similar to the leaked tree I commented on a month ago, but there are some changes we can discuss.

New Talent: Euphoria

Euphoria (2 Points): When you critically hit with Wrath or Starfire, you instantly gain an additional 2/4 Lunar or 4/8 Solar Energy. When you reach a Solar or Lunar eclipse, you instantly are restored 6/12% of your total mana.
I am not surprised by this talent, given Blizzard's goals for Eclipse and some of the other changes in the Balance Tree.

Blizzard has said many times that they don't want an entirely predictable rotation of SFx5 then Wrathx10, and the Energy on Crit mechanic helps with that. The real question is how big of an impact it will have. Will it mean that you will only cast 4 Starfires on average instead of 5, or could you possibly get an Eclipse in just 2 or 3 casts if you get very lucky with crits?

I am very happy to see the second aspect of the talent. Blizzard has said many times that they want Mana to be a bigger issue for healers. As a result they are changing the way everyone regens mana quite a bit by removing the 5 second rule and nerfing Replenishment. For Moonkin, they are also removing Intensity and the leaked talent tree no longer included the mana on crit mechanic in Moonkin Form. All these combined I was very worried about where Moonkin would get mana from with just Dreamstate and the weak new talent Lunar Justice.

My first reaction is that I like the Mana on Eclipse concept. Moonkin will never be Oom on the highest DPS section of your rotation and should be procing Eclipse regularly by default to regen mana. I still question if the current implementation is enough to support the needs of moonkin, but it should be fairly easy to balance by changing the rate at which Eclipse Procs or the rate at which mana is returned.

Modified Talents:

Starfall - You summon a flurry of stars from the sky on all targets within 30 yards of the caster, each dealing 303 to 348 Arcane damage. Maximum 20 stars. Lasts 10 seconds.

It's hard to say if this is a buff, nerf or neutral change. The splash component of the spell has been removed, but the base damage of the spell has been more then doubled from the 145 to 167 damage of the current version. The question is if the Spell Coefficient has been increased as well. Either way, it seems as they are abandoning this spell as an AoE spell entirely.

Moonkin Form - While in this form the armor contribution from items is increased by 120%, and increases the spell critical strike chance of all nearby friendly and raid targets within 100 yards by 5%. The moonkin cannot cast healing or resurrection spells while shapeshifted. The act of shapeshifting frees the caster of Polymorph and movement impairing effects.

Obviously it is a nerf, but not as big of one as was leaked last month. The 5% crit buff is still with the main talent, but mana on Crit is still gone and the armor contribution is nerfed from 370% to just 120%.

As primarily a PvE player the loss of armor isn't that big of a deal for me. Armor rarely matters in PvE and I will be wearing more Leather, it's not like I'm loosing 70% of my armor. It's probably more like 60%. This could be big for PvP players, but most seemed to think the 370% armor increase was overrated. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Improved Moonkin Form - You also grant 2/3/5% spell haste to all nearby friendly party and raid targets within 100 yards while in Moonkin Form.

This change was hinted at last week, and I commented on it here. As I said before, it is likely that this won't stack with Wrath of Air or the Improved Shadowform buff from Shadow Priests. However, I like that this buff is getting spread around.

Old Concerns:
These talents aren't all that different then what was leaked in early may, but they are still on the tree and I have issues with them.

Lunar Justice - When you kill a target that yields experience or honor, a ray of moonlight will shine underneath the fallen enemy instantly restoring 2/4/6% of your base mana to you or the first ally who stands underneath it. Lunar Justice lasts for 15 seconds.

This would be great for leveling or grinding, but I don't think it would be useful in any kind of Raiding or PvP build. I assume that the moonkin has to get the kill shot for the LJ to proc and that is just not going to happen often even in an add heavy PvE fight. In PvP there just aren't enough targets to make it all that useful when it would be necessary and not all that necessary when there are enough targets.

Fungal Growth - When your Treants die or your Wild Mushrooms are triggered, you spawn a Fungal Growth at its wake covering the area within 8 yards, slowing all enemy targets by 35/70%. Lasts 10 seconds.

Fungal Growth could be very handy. Saurfang is a great example of a fight where slowing abilities are very useful. My problem is that it combines a slow with two DPS abilities. Most of the time I want to damage my targets without slowing them. If I slow them unnecessarily that hurts the tank trying to position adds or even the boss. Therefore, it's likely that this talent will never be a part of my standard build, but I may spec into it if I know I need it for a specific fight.

Optional Talents Revisited:

Clearly the talent trees are not done, but I have made a stab at what would be my spec if Cataclysm was released tomorrow. I would advise people to use this as their base spec and spend the last 6 points as they like.

In the base spec, I have 8 options to spend 6 talent points. On the surface this sounds like a success for Blizzard given their new goals for the talent trees. I disagree though. I consider Gale Winds and Fungal Growth to be situational and the other 6 to be practically useless. I spec into Gale Winds by default, and would change specs when needed for Fungal Growth. The other 4 points I don't really care how they are spent.

As I said before, Situational and Useless talents aren't good talent options. Situational talents will be picked up by default like I would pick up Gale Winds. If you don't pick them up by default then there is something wrong with them, and not really optional. The useless talents I could care less about. It doesn't matter to me if I pick up Brambles or Genesis, because neither are very good. In the end I go with the lesser of two evils.

In my opinion the talent trees are not good enough yet and don't provide real options. Yes I could spend the points in more PvP friendly talents but that is not an option when there are no real alternatives.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Celestial Focus, Haste, and ICC Gearing

The WotLK expansion has been out for quite a while, and over the past year and a half we "experts" have said a lot of different things regarding haste and such. That is why I try to be understanding when it comes to questions where the answer seems obvious to me.

The question of the week seems to be centered on Celestial Focus and Haste. I've seen several questions asking what is the value of Haste? Should I drop Celestial Focus for another talent since I am way over the Haste Cap? Should I Gem Haste or Crit?

In this post I hope to answer some of these questions or show you where to find the answer and also explain why we "experts" seem to be contradicting ourselves.

The Value of Haste:

I can't give you a precise value for Haste Rating. That depends on a lot of things that are different for everyone. How I value Haste will be slightly different then how you value haste. If you do want a precise value of Haste Rating I suggest you read this post I wrote a few months ago.

That said, I can try and give you the big picture. As a general rule Haste Rating is better the Crit rating for ICC geared moonkin. Moonkin that are geared with ToC and Ulduar level epics will value Crit Rating more then Haste because it is unlikely that they have reached the Lunar Crit Cap. Prior to that it doesn't really matter because you should be running as many instances as possible to get badges and 5man epics.

Why is Haste > Crit Now?

I know what some of you are thinking. Last year everyone was telling you that Crit is better then Haste. What changed? What did we "experts" screw up? Well, we didn't mess anything up. The truth is that two things changed.

The Lunar Crit Cap is the first thing that changed. Having some of your Crit Rating rendered useless for 30% of the fight does diminish the marginal value of Crit Rating. That said, the Lunar crit cap is probably over credited for the late rise of Haste Rating. The fact is that the marginal value of Crit Rating was already pretty low if you have a 99% crit rating during Lunar Eclipse. Taking it over 100% doesn't change a lot.

The less obvious reason is Spell Power. Many people forget just how well Haste scaled with Spell Power for Starfire in TBC. Haste Rating was and still is more valuable on a point for point basis then Spell Power for well geared moonkin if you only consider Starfire. So, with the massive amounts of Spell power we are receiving by upgrading to ICC level gear, haste is improving dramatically even with the soft cap.

I won't detail the math but take a look at this graph.

What I did here was find the marginal gain in DPS by adding 1 point of Haste Rating and Crit Rating to various levels of Spell Power for the spell Starfire. The base levels of Crit and Haste were held constant at 55% and 31% respectively.

Notice that the gap between the lines at the start of the graph is much smaller then the gap at the end of the graph. This shows that the slope of the +1 Haste line is bigger then that of +1 Crit, and therefore Haste scales better with Spell Power then Crit Rating does when not held back by a soft cap. When you combine this with the fact that we've been holding our Haste levels relatively low and the dramatic increase in Spell Power we have received from ICC, it is easy to see why Haste Rating is surging in value relative to Crit Rating.

Yes, You Do Want Celestial Focus.

I can understand why some new moonkin would consider dropping Celestial Focus from their talent build. We "experts" tell everyone that Haste drops significantly in value after you reach 400 Haste Rating, and any moonkin who makes the right gear choices will be well over 400 haste rating by the time they are raiding ICC. Logically, if the soft cap diminishes the value of Haste Rating it also diminishes the value of Celestial Focus. If you don't have a lot of experience with the balance tree you may question if there is a better talent option past 400 haste. The answer is no, there is not.

First, as I showed above Haste Rating is very good for Starfire well past the Soft Cap of 400 haste rating. While that extra 1%-3% of haste that CF provides may be useless to Wrath and the instants, it is still very good for a good portion of your rotation with Starfire.

Second, if you drop Celestial Focus you are ignoring the value of pushback protection. In today's raiding environment it isn't a huge need, but it does help your DPS. Therefore, it is important to remember that if you drop CF from your talent build you are loosing more then just the Haste.

Finally, where else are you going to put the points. Genesis sucks. If haste is unimportant to you then Mana Regen should be as well. Brambles and Owlkin Frenzy are only minimally useful. Typhoon and Gale Winds are only situationally use full. Fact of the matter is, even though Celestial Focus is diminishing in value with our increasing level of Haste Rating, there is no better place to put the talent points.


If you want to find a precise valuation of Haste Rating you will need to use a tool like WrathCalcs or SimulationCraft, but I am confident in saying that Haste Rating is better then Crit Rating for ICC geared moonkin. I realize this may confuse some people given the number of times we "experts" have flip flopped on the value of Haste over the course of this expansion, but it is true.

When you combine the huge amounts of Spell Power we receive ICC with the Lunar Crit cap, haste surges in value as we close out this expansion, though it is still lower then it would be with out the Soft Cap.

This also shows that the Haste provided by Celestial Focus has value even past the soft cap. Given that there are no better options on how to spend those 3 talent points and Haste is still very valuable for Starfire, Celestial Focus should remain a part of the core moonkin talent build.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Optional Talents: Do They Exist?

One of the themes going into the Cataclysm development cycle is allowing players to have more choices. There are more race/class combinations. The Path of the Titans will offer you more choices on how to customize your toon. Probably the biggest expansion of choices is coming from the revamped talent trees.

It is a stated goal of this expansion to allow players to spend more talent points on "fun"/optional talents. In a recent blue post Ghostcrawler said "we just want to see more cookie-cutter builds that say things like 'spend the last 5-10 points wherever you want.'" I understand the goal, but I have doubts about possibility of the goal.

What are Optional Talents?

You don't have to look any further then the Moonkin talent tree to realize that Optional Talents do exist. When new moonkin asked for the cookie cutter raiding build they typically get the answer of "use this spec, and spend the last two points how you wish." So we already have some Optional Talents, but what does it really mean that these talents are Optional?

In all the WoW specs I've played every talent falls into one of three categories:

  • Mandatory Talents - If you want be the best DPSer or tank or healer then you have to have these talents.
  • Situational Talents - These talents are not that useful most of the time but in some fights become very useful. For moonkin, I would consider Gale Winds and Typhoon situational talents.
  • Useless Talents - These talents have little or no impact on a players core function, and if it was left untalented the player would not notice any difference. Though it is very useful for Resto Druids, I consider Genesis a useless talent for moonkin.
Some of you may disagree, but none of these categories immediately strike me as "optional". By definition Mandatory Talents are not optional. I also have a hard time seeing Useless Talents as optional. Can a talent truly be optional if you don't notice an impact when you pick it up. And that leaves the Situational talents. These seem to fit the "optional" definition best, but in reality they are really Mandatory Talents part of the time and Useless Talents the rest of the time. Go ask your raid leader if Typhoon is really optional on Saurfang. I doubt he will say we are ok with out it.

Theoretically, if Blizzard didn't change our Talent Trees at all, and just gave us 5 more talent points, we would fit into one of Ghostcrawlers definitions of success. We would hand out the same basic cookie cutter spec and say spend the last 7 points as you wish. If I was in this situation I would put a point in Typhoon because it is needed for Saurfang, and 2 points in Gale Winds because there are a couple of fights where AoE is useful. For the final 4 points I would put 3 in Brambles and 1 in Genesis, but they don't really matter because both talents are largely useless as a raider who rarely PvPs.

What options did I really have in this situation? Currently, I use my second spec to pick up Typhoon and/or Gale Winds if either truly necessary for the fight. With the extra "optional" talent points I would just pick up both by default, and the other 4 points I could care less if I spent or not. To me it doesn't feel like I have any options in this scenario.

How Could it Work?

Despite my skepticism I don't think this is an impossible goal. I just think that Blizzard has to think bigger then we are used to. Here are a couple of ideas I've had.

Allow players to fill a secondary role in the same spec. This may be because I have no experience as resto, but I don't feel like I can heal as a moonkin in an emergency. I don't have the proper tools, my heals are weak, and I would go out of mana very quickly.

My thought is if I could place a couple more points in the Resto tree I might be able to become a serviceable (but substandard) healer in an emergency. This could happen by allowing Moonkin to pick up some of the tools like Wild Growth. Another idea would be to have a talent deep in the Balance tree that allows you to heal in Moonkin form for say 30 seconds and increase you’re healing in moonkin form by 200%, but has a long cooldown.

Another option may be to have more talents in the Feral tree that allow for more survivability. When ever you need a ranged tank most people think of a Warlock to fill that role. Why couldn't there be some talents in the Feral Tree that allowed Moonkin to fill that role as well?

The big issue with this idea is how it would affect PvP. Extra survivability talents could make moonkin extraordinarily difficult to kill. The extra healing could have a similar impact.

Have more creative minor glyph-like talents. I am having a hard time defining what I mean without stating the obvious. Blizzard needs to create more talents that have value without being purely situational or so powerful that they become mandatory to the players role. For example you don't want to create a talent that makes a tank significantly harder to kill or provides a moonkin with a bunch of DPS. I know this is a difficult needle to thread, and would probably look a lot like minor glyphs.

One thought I had was what if the new talents provided random bonuses that couldn't be counted on but were useful when they procced. For example, there could what if your Rebirth talent had a random chance to put a soulstone like buff on the target when he rezzed. That way if he died again in the next minute or two he could pop back up?


I can understand why Blizzard is making a big push for more choices in the talent trees with fewer mandatory talents. I just have a really hard time seeing how they will do it. If you make a talent to powerful it becomes mandatory. If it is really weak does the choice really matter? Situational talents could fit the design well, but in the end you’re just going to pick up what situational talents you can and change specs later if you need something different. Despite my skepticism I do think Blizzard can get around these issues by allowing players to provide more utility in ways that are not game breaking.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blue Post: Imp Moonkin Form in Cataclysm

As many of you have seen news has been very slow lately. The rumor is that the blues are being very active on the alpha forums, and since most of their development efforts are now focused on the expansion under an NDA there really isn't much they can talk about.

This makes my life as a blogger very difficult. I am struggling for topics to write about. That is why I am pouncing on this little nugget.

At the moment, Shadow has the 5% spell haste buff, similar to Improved Moonkin Form. That could change as we iterate further on the buff and debuff design.

This is in addition to Shadow's existing healing debuff and general priest buffs such as Fortitude.

As posters above have pointed out, we aren't going to give any spec a buff so powerful that they automatically earn a raid spot. (src)
This comment was made by Ghostcrawler after a player questioned the role of Shadow Priests in Cataclysm since much of their utility is being removed or diminshed by changes in design philosophy. I find the comment interesting for two reasons.

  1. In the early version of the Alpha I commented on a month ago, Improved Moonkin Form was completely different then the current live version. The Spirit to Spell Power conversion was gone for obvious reasons, but the 3% Haste buff was gone as well. In it's place was a 6% buff to crit chance.

    Given the problems moonkin have with capping haste and that one of our passive bonuses is haste, I wasn't surprised that they were taking haste off of our talents. It just sucked that we were losing a little raid utility. This comment shows that Blizzard is planning to give that utility back.

  2. My guess is that the new Imp Moonkin Form will not stack with the Wrath of Air totem. So, they are giving moonkin the utility back, but they are still reducing the base level of haste moonkin will have.
Overall, this sounds like a Win/Win for moonkin to me. Our base haste levels do shrink so that we benefit from gear haste more at higher levels of gear, but we maintain some of our raid utility.

I am sure some shaman will be upset that other classes providing the Wrath of Air bonus but I've never liked that it was only provided by one class. My guilds have never had tons of shaman available so the 5% haste WoA provided was not necessarily a given every night.