Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Raid Tools: CompareBot

Over the years, I've gotten a lot of emails asking for help. People will send me their parses and ask why Moonkin X is doing better DPS then they are even though Moonkin X is similarly or lesser geared. I want to help these people, but the truth is most of the time it was difficult to find anything significant to point out.

I think most people will agree with me that WoL parses are not easy to interpret. It's not hard to navigate your way around a log, but it can be difficult to pull all of the relevant pieces together to get a fully developed picture of the situation. Tearing a parse a part to find the detail can take an hour or more. As a result most people only go for the low hanging fruit and as a result begin and end their analysis on the Damage Done tab. In the end they get very few answers because they are comparing apples to oranges or don't go deep enough to see what is driving those numbers.

In this post I want to introduce you to a tool that can help you analyze your parses and hopefully give you more information on how to improve your performance. That tool is CompareBot.

How to use CompareBot?

CompareBot is a tool that will summarize up to three parses and present the information in a way that is easy to compare and find discrepancies. The web site provides fairly simple and straight forward instructions on how to make the page work, but there are several different strategies you could use to analyze you performance.

Week to Week Analysis: You can compare yourself to yourself from week to week or from attempt to attempt. This could allow you to evaluate several different DPS strategies, or possibly identify why one attempt went really well while others did not.

The week to week analysis is nice because it limits or eliminates the impact of gear and strategy differences. The downside to this type of analysis is that it's limited by your own ability and imagination. If there is a fundamental flaw in your performance, you are unlikely to identify it by comparing yourself to just yourself.

Internal Peer Analysis: If your guild raids with multiple moonkin comparing yourself to the other moonkin in the raid can be very helpful, especially if they are performing better then you. Internal Peer Analysis is great because it limits the impact of strategy differences and other variables like fight length that can skew the results when comparing different attempts.

Internal Peer Analysis is limited by the ability and dedication of your guild mates and depends on your guild running multiple moonkin. If you're the best moonkin in your guild it could help you identify what they are doing wrong, but could do very little to help you.

External Peer Analysis: The great thing about External Peer Analysis is that the possibilities for review are endless. As long as the moonkin has a parse on WoL you can see how you stack up to them. You can compare yourself to a rival in another guild, or a well known moonkin like myself or Murmurs. Maybe you want to see what makes Lappè so good at Paragon, or find out why a particular moonkin has the number one ranking on WoL for Cho'gall.

This can be very helpful in identifying why the greats are great and where you are different, but you also have to be a little weary of the results. There are a lot of variables that can impact performance that are not easy to identify in a WoL parse. Strategy differences between guilds can have a big impact that won't show up in WoL gear differences can also be very difficult to quantify. The quality of other players in a raid you can have a significant impact on a player's

What should a Moonkin look for:

In this Link I compare myself to another moonkin in the raid. At first glance Rootcanal appears to be awesome, and I appear to suck. How else would he beat me by 3k DPS? Honestly, that was my first reaction when I saw this comparison. So I dove into it to see where the differences where.

  1. Hits per Minute: The number one rule of DPS is to Always Be Casting, because the number one driver of DPS is how much you cast. Therefore, the first thing I would look at is the Hits per Minute of each spell. Looking at the total number of casts can be misleading because it's skewed by fight length, but Hits per Minute is a pretty good indication if someone has excessive amounts of down time between casts.

    Ticks per Minute is another good thing to look at for DoTs. Though you should be careful when comparing Ticks per Minute for a moonkin. How you utilize Nature's Grace could have an impact on the numbers you see.

    If you look at the example, Rootcanal and I compare fairly well. He beats me slightly on Wrath and Insect Swarm. There are also very slight differences on Starfire and Starsurge. However, I do a little better with the Moonfire/Sunfire combo spell. I am a little bit behind here, but the difference isn't huge and I doubt it's responsible for the 3k DPS difference.

  2. Eclipse: As we all know Eclipse is drives moonkin DPS, therefore it is the next stop on my comparison. First off, ignore the uptime stat. Having a higher uptime isn't necessarily good, because you could have the buff up but casting a spell that it does not affect. What I would look at is the number of procs per minute. This number could be a little skewed by Euphoria procs, but it's the best indication we have of how well we transition from one Eclipse buff to the other.

    On the Buff tab of the comparison you can see that Rootcanal procced eclipse 9 times while I procced it just 8. This suggests that he may have been a little more efficient in his Eclipse Transitions then I was, but it is ever close.

  3. Other Buffs: There are other buffs that can give you a hint as to what happened in a fight as well. Nature's Grace is another good indication of how well you transitioned from one Eclipse to another. Shooting Stars is RNG based, but it can also help to explain a DPS difference. I also like to look at it to compare the uptimes of Shooting Stars. This is a case of where a lower uptime is better because it shows that you are good at keeping Starsurge on cooldown. There also may be fight specific buffs that need to be managed

    In this example Rootcanal had Owlkin Frenzy and I didn't . He was also a little better at using Shooting Stars then I was, but for the most part we were about the same.
So why did Rootcanal beat me in DPS by 3k DPS? He did cast a tiny bit faster then I did and got an additional Eclipse proc, but I have a hard time believing that those differences resulted in a 3K dps difference.

There are three other reasons why he how performed me on this particular fight.
  1. RNG: Look at the crit rates of Wrath and Starfire. My Crit rates were below average. His crit rates were above average. RNG is rarely the problem people like ot make it out to be, but every so often it does raise it's ugly head and bite someone. This is clearly one of those cases, and there is nothing I could have done about it.

  2. Power Generator: He had twice as much uptime on the debuff as I did. It's hard to judge special buffs some times because it may or may not be your fault for not getting them. In this case, we had one spawn during a spread out phase of a fight. He was near it and I was not.

  3. Gear: Honestly, I hate to list gear as a reason, because most of the time gear is used as an excuse to ignore the other reasons for poor performance. That said, it is a factor, and needs to be taken into account.
A Word of Caution:

I think you can see how powerful a tool CompareBot can be when used correctly. However, you have to be careful how you use it. Make sure you pick a relatively equal player for comparison. If your guild is 5/12 on normal modes it's may not be a good idea to go and compare yourself to Lappè of Paragon who is 13/13 on hardmodes. In this situation it could be hard to tell if the differences are gear based or performance based. I would also suggest that you use multiple people to compare yourself against.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Catching Up on 4.0.6

Life has been smacking me around quite a bit lately. Between work, family and raiding I haven't had much time to blog and a ton of information has come out and almost past me by. Well I hope to correct that to day. There is lots of news about patch 4.0.6 that I would like to comment on. Lets get started.


Total Eclipse (Mastery) benefit from mastery increased by approximately 33%.
To be more specific the 12% damage increase from Total Eclipse is being increased to 16%, and the 1.5% increase you get from each point of Mastery is being increased to 2%. This is a decent size buff but not huge. When I hard coded this change into WrathCalcs it increased the DPS by 2.75%. Basically it's a welcome boost but it's not going to move you to the top of the DPS charts in an instant.

Some of you may be wondering how a 33% increase in Total Eclipse can result in just a 2.75% increase. There are two important things to remember. First, This has no impact on the 25% damage increase you get from being balance. It only impacts the Total Eclipse ability you train at level 80. Second, Eclipse only impacts about 50% of our rotation. As a result this increase is watered down by a very large base increase and only impacts a part of our rotation. This is how a 33% increase becomes just a 2.75% buff.

This will change the way we value stats. Currently Crit Rating and Mastery Rating are very similar in value with Crit Rating holding a slight edge. If this change goes live Mastery Rating will be clearly superior. Again, I used WrathCalcs to see how this change would impact stat valuation. Our current set up values Crit at 29% of Int with Mastery being close behind at 28% of Int. After the 4.0.6 patch Crit is still at 29% of Int, but Mastery increases to 36% of Int. Both stats are still well behind Hit Rating and Haste Rating, but will change the way we reforge and possibly slightly change some of our gear choices.

Wild Mushroom:

  • Fungal Growth duration has been increased to 20 seconds, up from 10. In addition, it should now be much more responsive when detonating Wild Mushrooms.
  • Wild Mushroom is now instant cast, down from 0.5 seconds. In addition, the radius of detonation has been increased to 6 yards, up from 3, and damage done increased by 30%.
I've already commented on WM now being instant cast and the increased radius detonation.

What's new is the change to the WM damage and Fungal Growth. In a prior build they increased WM damage by 15%. At the time I said it's nice but put the reason people don't use WM isn't because it's a weak spell. I have the same opinion now. A 30% increase in damage is even nicer, but it's probably meaningless without good mechanics. The good news is I think the increased radius of WM detonation will fix it's primary problem.

The Fungal Growth changes are very welcome. As I said in my last post I was unimpressed with the talent when I tried to use it. The primary problem I had was that it took to long to spawn and the mobs hit by the detonation were rarely snared by the slow. If they have fixed that issue I may have to give the talent another try.

Shapeshift Change:

Shapeshifts: Entering or leaving a shapeshift no longer cancels root effects. It continues to cancel movement slowing effects.
I think this change took a lot of people by surprise. My guess is that this change is a classic example of why PvP sometimes means we in PvE can't have nice things. Blizzard probably made this change, because they didn't want druids as a whole to have an unlimited CC breaker for PvP. I can see how it might be overpowered. However, I will miss it for PvE.

Other Changes:

Starfall will no longer strike targets that are not in combat and will now drop stars at a slightly faster rate.
A good quality of life change. I think we all been in the situation where we pop Starfall at the wrong time and pull an extra trash pack or something. As a result, I haven't been using a Starfall for anything but boss fights where I know I won't pull adds. It won't have a big impact on our over all performance, but it does give us some peace of mind.

The only thing that makes me a little sad about this change is that I've found Starfall to be helpful with Archeology. When surveying in some of the low level areas. I can pop Starfall and clear out pretty much every mob around me. Obviously, it's not a huge need but I liked it.

Moonkin Form now grants 15% damage reduction instead of increased armor.
Assuming this affects all types of damage, this is an awesome change for PvE and probably PvP as well. The increased armor on a moonkin was always a bit of a strange concept. As a ranged caster we shouldn't be getting meleed often and the armor was usless 99% of the time. Taking 15% less damage is a big improvement. It's not going to save you if you stand in the fire or do a lot of things stupid, but it does give you a greater margin for error and makes you less of burden on healers.

Enchant Bracer - Mighty Intellect - Permanently enchant bracers to increase Intellect by 50.

I think everyone saw this coming a mile away. Without an enchant like this, leatherworking would be clearly superior to all other professions in raiding buffs. Given how much effort Blizzard has made to equalize professions over the past few years, there was no way that a change like this wasn't going to be made. If you switched to Leatherworking just for the buff. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Glyph of Entangling Roots redesigned. It now reduces the cast time of Entangling Roots by 0.2 seconds, rather than making it instant cast.

Another example of why how PvE can't have nice things because of PvP. I'm really going to miss this. In this new era of CC, it was very nice to be able to root a target as soon as the pull happened. It made my life easier but I can see why Blizzard is getting rid of it. It's probably a bit over powered in PvP to allow a player to CC on the move. That said, they should get rid of the cooldown as well then.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Meta Gems and Moonkin Changes

Patch 4.0.6 is on the PTR and you can find the patch notes here. This is primarily a clean up patch for all the hot fixes Blizzard has done over the past month, but there are several balancing changes that you guys should be interested it.

Meta Gems:

  • Chaotic Meta gems now have a requirement of 3 red gems.
  • New meta gems have been added: Agile Shadowspirit Diamond (Agility/3% critical damage), Reverberating Shadowspirit Diamond (Strength/3% critical damage), and Burning Shadowspirit Diamond (Intellect/3% critical damage). These new recipes are unbound and can drop from any Cataclysm creature. The new meta gems have a requirement of 3 red gems equipped.
First Reaction: "Finally they are fixing the Chaotic Meta Gem."
Second Reaction: "Who cares about the Chaotic Meta Gem?"

This is good news all around, but I'm amused by the new meta requirement. Requiring DPS to socket three red gems is like requiring an active smoker to smoke cigarettes. The requirement is useless because we would have done it anyway. However, that's fine with me. I would rather not have to worry about meeting my meta requirement every time I add a piece of gear. It wasn't a big concern in WotLK either, but now it's not a concern at all.

The addition of the Burning Shadowspirit Diamond and the others is also quite interesting. A guildie of mine commented on the fact that it probably wasn't a good idea to have every single DPS spec want the same meta gem, and apparently Blizzard had the same thought. However, it's not that big of a buff assuming that the Meta bonus on the new gems operates the same way it does on the Chaotic meta gem. Obviously 54 Int is better then 54 Crit, but the true value of the Meta comes from the 3% additional crit damage and everything else is just frosting.

What I find most interesting about these new cuts is how this will affect the economy. Most people will switch to the Chaotic at first because it's widely available, but the advantages of the new gems is obvious. Will the new patterns be so common that the Chaotic is completely abandoned? Could the new patterns be so rare that the new metas will be so expensive to preserve a market for the Chaotics? As a progression raider I will be going for the Burning no matter what the cost assuming it's not astronomical, but I wonder if this is a small return of TBC where everyone was fighting over rare patterns on the AH.

Wild Mushroom Changes:

  • Wild Mushroom is now instant cast, down from 0.5 seconds. In addition, the radius of detonation has been increased to 6 yards, up from 3, and damage done increased by 15%.
It's fair to say that Wild Mushroom has been a flop in Cataclysm so far. They are difficult to place. It's difficult to make them affective given their very small radius. Overall they just weren't worth the effort. I've tried to use them in several fights but in most cases they were a waste. The question is will these changes cause people to use them?

Increasing their damage by 15% is nice, but I don't think anyone really thought of them as weak. Increasing their damage probably won't increase the spells usage much on its own. Making the mushrooms instant cast makes it possible to cast them while moving. This could give you something else to do while your running around the room other then spamming Moonfire, but if the mouse is the primary way you move your toon then this will be very difficult to pick up.

The big improvement in this patch is the increased range. Increasing the blast radius from 3 yards to 6 yards quadruples the area affected. This allows for less precise placement and a greater margin of error with out being a full scale AoE spell. Of all the changes this has the most potential to make the Wild Mushroom a useful spell. That said there are some other changes that could be made that I think are both reasonable and and would make the spell more valuable.

First, I would have one mushroom do the same amount of damage as three mushrooms. You could still place three mushrooms if you wanted spread the damage and/or Fungal Growth over a larger area, but the amount of damage done by each individual mushroom would diminish with each mushroom placed. I think this would make the spell easier to use without significantly reducing it's utility.

Second, I would like to see feral druids be able to detonate the mushrooms in feral forms. I don't know how useful this would be because they would obviously be weak in feral gear, but it could be a great tool for a feral tank to pull newly spawned adds and get some burst aggro.

Third, I've been unimpressed with Fungal Growth. It spawns to slowly after the mushrooms have been detonated. I've had several instances where a mob is hit by the explosion but not slowed by fungal growth because they've already ran out of the area before it spawns. Blizzard needs to tighten that mechanic up a little bit. It might be a good idea for the explosion to have a very short duration slow affect as well as the patch on the ground.

Other Druid Changes:

  • The Shooting Stars buff duration has been increased to 12 seconds, up from 8 seconds.
  • Glyph of Wrath now increases damage done by Wrath by 10% and no longer requires Insect Swarm on the target.
These are helpful changes, but fairly minor. The shooting stars change is more for leveling and PvP in my opinion. As a raider I've rarely not been able to cast Starsurge in the 8 seconds the buff is up. In other forms of play though there is more movement and this makes the talent more useful for people who favor those activities.

From a raid perspective, the Glyph of Wrath change should be a small DPS increase, but not a big one because Insect Swarm should be up on most of your targets. That said, it will be helpful on low health adds where it's not beneficial to put Insect Swarm up and a short cast time spell is favored. However, this may be intended more as a PvP change, since DoTs are dispelled quite frequently in PvP.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Two Updates and a Rant

Two Updates:

Ok, The expansion has been out for just under a month and I finally updated both the Gear Guide and the Raiding guide. In the gear guide I added locations for almost everything. The tier pieces were a little tricky since I don't necessarily have specific locations for any of them. That said, every item on the list is linked to it's WoWhead site. If your question isn't answered there then I probably don't have the answer either.

The raid guide is mostly the same. I've decided the mana regen talents are a little more optional then I first thought so I've modified the spec section a little as a result. I made some tweaks to other sections as well, but there is nothing really new that you need to know about if you were familiar with the old version.

As always, if you find a problem in either guide please feel free to let me know either in an email or in the comments of this post.

The Tol Barad Rant:

Update: Obviously my Moonkin/Blogger powers of persuasion are great, because Blizzard applied a hotfix less then 30 minutes after my post. The honor gain from attacking TB has been reduced to 360. The Honor gained from defending TB is still 180. (src)

I'm not sure how this will affect the zone. If I have to guess I think it will return the zone to the way it was at release. The thing to remember is that the fight is balanced with the same number of players on both sides. Therefore you're not going to get more players when you are attacking. You’re not going to get better players when attacking because I think the queue is random.

The only thing you can change by changing the reward is the player’s motivation. People may be more willing to attack with a reward of 360 honor, but they are still limited by the number of people willing to defend. If the defenders are motivated to win then the attackers are likely to lose. So it's a bit of a binary situation. You can either have one side dominate the competition or you can have the two sides trade wins.

I'm sure there will be a little grey area, because the attackers will always be motivated to win, but how the defenders feel may change from battle to battle. Either way this isn't a fix.

The problems with Tol Barad are well documented (1 & 2). I completely agree with everything posted to that regard. TB is way to easy to defend and thus limits who had access to the dailies each day if both sides are actively competing to win the zone.

Luckily Blizzard sees the problem and had a couple of things to say about it.

The odds are already stacked against the attacking force. In fact, they're stacked in favor of the defense more so than we would like at this point. We're looking to address this in an upcoming patch so that defending Tol Barad doesn't feel like there's virtually no fear of loss.

In line with that design goal, we made this hotfix to ensure winning Tol Barad back for your faction feels much more rewarding.

Hot fix: Tol Barad - Winning as an attacker now rewards players with 1800 Honor Points, up from 180. Winning as a defender still rewards players with 180 Honor Points.
To a lot of you I'm sure this sounds great. Hamlet did a great analysis of what this can mean in if Honor is your primary motivation for contesting Tol Barad. If you are able use it to it's maximum potential you could get a full set of PvP gear very quickly. Since all of the Honor rewards are between 700 and 2,200 Honor, a single win can mean a new piece of gear especially if you can get a few honorable kills along the way.

Here is the problem. I don't care about Honor or PvP gear. I already have over 3,000 honor and don't have a good idea of what to spend it on. I go to Tol Barad for two reasons: Rep and Tol Barad Commendations, and the hot fix makes accumulating both actually harder in my case. That is why I hate the win trading.

To be fair, the situation before the hot fix worked out perfectly for me. Graylo is a Horde toon on a Horde dominated low pop server. I basically had maximum access to Tol Barad and it's dailies. I remember the Alliance having TB only once before the hot fix.

The way my days typically went was I would log on and do the six dailies on Tol Barad itself if I had time before the next battle. Then I would do the six available on Tol Barad Peninsula. Then I would wait to for horde to win TB again and I would do the next set of rotating dailies on Tol Barad. Then I would wait another two hours and do the last set of rotating dailies. I could get all 18 dailies possible with very little effort and in a fairly predictable time frame. That is not true any more and why I hate the current system of win trading.

Adding Insult to Injury:

The funny part about it is I actually tried to defend some after the hot fix was made. I thought that TB might be so imbalanced that the few of us who did value something other then Honor might still be able to win it. Turns how I was wrong, but to make matters worse, I was insulted the entire time I tried to defend.

Those of us that defended were being called noobs, kids, and a variety of other names that aren't all that nice. If Honor was the only motivation for playing TB then I would agree that we were being stupid, but it's not. At least in my case I had a very good reason to try and defend TB and I'm no more of idiot for defending it then they are for throwing it.

That said, I've given up trying to defend TB, because it is obviously pointless currently. However, I find the reaction of the people throwing it funny. What few of them realize is that throwing the match isn't nearly as profitable as they think it is. Hamlet's analysis is completely correct in a theoretical sense. Both sides can get more honor if they cooperate, but when you look at the situation practically there is an issue.

As I said before my server has a huge faction imbalance favoring the Horde. As a result there are a lot more Horde queuing up for TB then there are Alliance, but Blizzard has made sure there is a 1:1 participant balance in the zone. As a result there are a lot of Horde sitting outside every battle. It doesn't matter if we are attacking or defending. This is creating a situation where the Alliance on our server are getting the 1,800 honor every attacking round they want it. The Horde however, are going to miss at least a few round. I've queued up to be an attacker at least 10 times, and been selected only once. I doubt everyone is having my bad luck, but if you are getting in only one of ever ten attacking sessions then your honor gain is pretty much the same as if you defended the zone.

What I understand and what I don't:

Blizzard's hotfix didn't fix the problem and I'm sure Blizzard knows that. It's a temporary fix. I'm sure Blizzard doesn't want to see win trading in game, but accepted it as a necessary evil where the ends justified the means. I don't think Blizzard has a big issue with one side consistently winning the zone, but had a huge problem with one side being consistently locked out of the dailies you gain from winning. Win trading is not be an ideal situation, but at least it guarantees that each side will have relatively equal access to the dailies and the rewards they provide.

What I don't understand is how Blizzard got it so wrong in the first place. I know the Beta is not a great place to test PvP balance since there isn't a whole lot of competitive PvP in the test realms. However, though I have the benefit of hind sight, it seems obvious that having one side needing to attack three targets while another side needs to defend just one is seems obviously imbalanced.

I also don't understand the design behind the rotating dailies. They are obviously designed to be very similar since the three quests for each of the areas are almost identical, but then they are different in a couple of ways that makes the Human quests significantly harder then that of the Demon or Undead areas. Why is the warden so far away from the entrance when compared to the other areas? Why do I need to collect 12 rations, when I only need to pick up 8 shackles or 4 journals? It's probably just my frustration talking, but there seems to be more mobs with faster spawn times in the Human prison as well.