Monthly Archives: October 2010

How Warlock DoTs Work in Cataclysm

Cynwise, mounted on the Headless Horseman's Mount, stands in front of one of the Ironforge Training dummies.

Look out, Cynwise! The Training Dummy is sneaking up on you!

As part of the massive mechanics revamp that came in patch 4.0.1, substantial changes have been made to the way damage over time spells are handled in Warcraft.  The way you thought about DoTs in Wrath is now wrong; it’s time to start thinking of them the Cataclysm way.

Let’s take a look at the bread and butter DoT of Affliction: Corruption.

Setting aside abilities that refresh DoTs for a moment, in Wrath, the right way to refresh a DoT was to let it tick the last tick, then immediately refresh it, like so.

This gave you 12 ticks for 2 GCDs of work.  Warlocks need to evaluate the DPCT (Damage Per Cast Time) of a spell, and in this case we see that those 2 GCDs gives us the full value of each Corruption spell (6 ticks) in the most amount of time.

What you wanted to avoid, at all costs, was clipping the DoT.  Clipping your DoTs meant refreshing it before the last tick, like so:

Clipping the DoT overwrites the first cast entirely, so the final tick of the first one is cancelled out by the delay preceeding the first tick.  In the time it took you to cast two Corruption spells, you got 11 ticks instead of 12.  The DPCT of each Corruption has been lowered by 8% just because the DoT was clipped. That’s a huge DPS loss.

I like to think of it as a single unit, the pause first and then the tick.  Casting the DoT starts with the pause, ignoring the previous spell.

This has been changed for the better in Cataclysm.

If you cast in between the penultimate and final ticks, your first Corruption spell gets its last tick in, and then the duration is extended beyond that as you’d expect.  You don’t want to let it fall off, because then you’re introducing the lag we used to have, and you have about a 2 second window between ticks to refresh Corruption.

Why after the penultimate tick?  Why not refresh it all the time?

Well, let’s see what happens then.

This example shows refreshing the DoT after the third tick.  The fourth tick still happens – it doesn’t get clipped – but the duration doesn’t stack up to a full 36 seconds.  You get 10 ticks for 2 GCDs of work, or a 17% DPCT loss for doing this early.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should NEVER do this. In a real fight, your instant casts should be refreshed whenever you’re moving, especially now that they don’t clip a tick in the middle of the rotation.  If you’re moving, you should be casting your Curse, Bane, Corruption, and then Life Tap to keep up your mana. Never stop casting!

But standing still, yeah.  Wait until the second to last tick, then refresh the DoT.

THE ONE DOT YOU STILL DON’T CLIP

The new refresh mechanics are fantastic, but there’s still one DoT you let fall off.  Can you guess what it is?

That’s right: Bane of Agony.  Take a look at its ticks:

Bane of Agony hits REALLY HARD at the end. (Not quite to scale.)

Bane of Agony has quick (2 second) ticks that ramp up over the course of the DoT: 4 weak, 4 middle, 4 strong.  This makes it ideal for use while pet tanking, as the aggro starts off very slow and ramps up with the damage.

But it also means that if you refresh the DoT before the final tick, you’ll overwrite a strong tick with a weak one.

This is somewhat counterintuitive, given how Corruption works above.  You’d think that you’d get your strong tick off, and then 4 weak ticks.  But no, you get 5 weak ticks.  Strip off your gear and hit a training dummy, you’ll see it in the logs.  Everything goes smoothly, you get 24 ticks total, but during the refresh you’ll get 5 weak ticks.

So. Let your Bane of Agony fall off, and refresh it once it does.  Everything else? Hit before the last tick.

THE EFFECTS OF HASTE & HASTE PLATEAUS

Haste has changed so that it tries to fit more ticks in to a static spell duration, instead of reducing the duration with the same number of ticks.  Each cast can give you more ticks of a spell than before.  In Wrath, Haste could make an 18 second/6 tick Corruption spell a 13.5 second/6 tick spell, giving you a DPS increase without actually changing the DPCT of the DoT.

In Cataclysm, Haste adds more ticks into the existing duration, which maintains the same DPS, but increases the DPCT of each DoT.  Let’s look at the two models.

Haste reduces the amount of time between ticks equally in both models, so the ticks are coming at the same frequency.  Assuming spell damage has not been altered, then the DPS is exactly the same between each model.

What’s different is the DPCT of the DoT goes up dramatically in the Cataclysm model.  Over a boss fight, you will spend less time refreshing the DoT if it adds ticks within the existing duration instead of shortening the duration.  In a 5 minute fight, you’d spend 23 GCDs casting Corruption in Wrath, but only 17 GCDs in Cataclysm, for the exact same DPS.  That’s a 35% increase in DPCT.

This means you have gained 6 GCDs to cast other spells during that fight, just by changing the way Haste is calculated.  That’s pretty cool!

However, this new mechanic has created some interesting problems when stacking Haste.

See, the game now has to decide when it’s going to add another tick.  There’s a specific amount of Haste which will give you a new tick, and when you hit that level of Haste, your DPS goes up by a large amount. But Haste only really benefits your DoTs when it gets you over the threshold. This rounding off leads to a phenomenon called the Haste Plateau.

Here’s the difference between 24% Haste and 25% Haste:

A very small amount of Haste in the first scenario would add a big DPS boost.  Haste in the second situation doesn’t help very much (until you get near adding a 9th tick, of course.)

This is different from the Wrath method of simply compressing the DoT down – Haste scaled linearly with that model, with the more Haste added, the faster each DoT burned.  In the Cataclysm model, Haste scales in a quantum fashion – you hit a threshold where the game rounds off, you get another tick.  Then you plateau out until you reach the next threshold.

Here’s a graph, definitely not to scale, about how the different models worked.

This graph shouldn’t be taken as a DPS comparison between the two systems – it’s just a way to show the different kinds of scaling going on here.  (Besides, DPS should be static between the two models.)  But the idea is straightforward: there are Haste values where your DoT DPCT will take a big jump.

Now, you’re probably asking, what are those Haste values?  When do I need to start looking to prioritize Haste over Mastery or Spellpower?

Well, for a Destruction Warlock using Immolate in a raid environment, Elitist Jerks has the Haste Plateau values as: 157, 781, 1406, 2030.  My own testing shows that I don’t gain an extra Immolate tick until around 10% Haste, which I think was around 500 Haste.  Not having raid buffs is probably the reason for the discrepancy in our two tests, so I’ll just put both out there and encourage you to hit the dummies with your own gear.  Swap pieces in and out, reforge them, and then count the ticks on the dummy.

The most important thing to take away from this is that while Haste is, in general, very good for Warlocks (and other DoT-based caster classes), there are times that Haste will be better for you than others.  Also, different spells will scale differently with different amounts of Haste due to duration and intervals between ticks.  Bane of Doom (4 ticks every 60 seconds) scales poorly, while Bane of Agony (12 ticks every 24 seconds) scales really, really well.  Immolate, Unstable Affliction (5 ticks over 15 seconds) and Corruption (6 ticks every 18 seconds) are all on the same 3-second scale.

There's a lot of math in this part, so Cynwise is going to reenact some of her favorite parts of The Return of the Jedi for you. You're welcome.

AUTOMATIC REFRESHES AND HASTE

All of the above is important theory for warlocks to know, but in practice, Affliction Warlocks never worry about refreshing Corruption manually.  They keep it going with the Everlasting Affliction talent, which gives Haunt, Drain Life, and Drain Soul the ability to refresh it for them.  This DoT-refreshing ability simplifies the Affliction priority list considerably, because all you have to worry about is keeping Haunt on the target, as it will take care of Corruption.

But, Affliction still needs to keep Unstable Affliction and Bane of Agony rolling on a target, and those now have two different methods they’ll need to consider.

Demonology has joined Affliction in the DoT-refreshing camp, as the new talent Cremation refreshes Immolate when Hand of Gul’dan is cast.  This is cool, and helps reduce the complexity in an already complicated priority list.  But the Cataclysm Haste model can do wonky things to this refresh.

Take a look at the 24% Haste example up above.  See the dangling blue line at the end of it?  That’s a good conceptual representation of what’s going on – you’ve got almost, but not quite, enough Haste to make it to that last tick.  And the duration between the ticks is still really close.

But the DoT ends on the last tick.  So while it’s convenient to say that Haste doesn’t reduce the duration of DoTs in the Cataclysm model, it’s not entirely accurate.  But only Demonology warlocks refreshing Immolate with Hand of Gul’dan actually do need to worry about it right now.  Pay attention, Demo locks!

I mentioned earlier that the game has a way to determine when you get another tick on your DoT.  It takes the time between ticks – reduced by Haste – and divides the total duration of the DoT by that number.  It then rounds off the result to figure out how many ticks you’ll have.

In other words:

  • Take the time between each tick – for Immolate, it’s 3 seconds.
  • Apply Haste to it by dividing it by 1 + the Haste percentage.  For 9% Haste, it would be (3/1.09).  10% Haste would be (3/1.1).
  • Divide the total duration of the DoT by the hasted tick speed to find out how many ticks the DoT will have.  Immolate is 15 seconds, so 10% Haste would be 15/(3/1.1) = 5.5 ticks.  9% Haste is 15/(3/1.09) = 5.45 ticks.
  • Round that number to the nearest integer, so 10% rounds to 6 ticks, while 9% rounds to 5.

So while you get 5 ticks at 9% Haste, and 6 ticks at 10% Haste, keep one important fact in mind: the tick speed is not rounded off.  The spell ends when the last tick ticks.

DoT duration equals tick speed times number of ticks.  So the following Haste values give you the following values:

  • At 9% Haste, each Immolate tick will take 2.7523 seconds.  You’ll get 5 ticks, for a duration of 13.76 seconds.
  • At 10% Haste, each tick is 2.7273 seconds long.  You get 6 ticks, for a duration of 16.3636 seconds.
  • At 15% Haste, ticks are 2.6087 seconds, you get 6 of them, and Immo lasts 15.65 seconds.
  • At 20% Haste, ticks are 2.5 seconds long, you get 6 of them, and Immo is exactly 15 seconds long again.
  • At 29% Haste, ticks are 2.32 seconds each, you have 6 of them, and Immo is 13.95 seconds long.
  • At 30% Haste, ticks are 2.3077 seconds long.  This is the breakpoint for 7 ticks on Immo, and the DoT is 16.15 seconds long.

While this has interesting implications for Destruction (who should strive for 10% Haste no matter what), it is even more interesting implications for Demo.

Consider: Hand of Gul’dan is on a 12 second cooldown, with a 2 second cast time, before Haste.  That’s 14 seconds between each refresh of a spell that, unhasted, has a 15 second duration.  Okay, no problem, right?

Only, Haste can both shorten or lengthen the duration of Immolate, depending on the specific value.  It never goes outside a certain range (13.64-16.36 seconds), but the lower end of that range drops below the CD and hasted cast time of Hand of Gul’dan.

Take 9% Haste again.  9% Haste brings HoG’s cast time down to (2/1.09) = 1.8349.  With a 12 second CD, that means HoG can be cast once every 13.8349 seconds.  Awesome!

Except you’re refreshing a spell that has a Hasted duration of 13.76 seconds.  Oops.

There isn’t really a great solution for this, aside from Demonology locks knowing where their Haste is and making sure that they can effectively refresh Immolate.  The area between 7-9.5% Haste seems to be the really dangerous area; the next such place where this happens is around 29% haste, and the HoG cast time is only 1.55 seconds then.  So it’s not a big deal then, just at low Haste levels.

I don’t think the Cataclysm Haste mechanic is broken because of this issue.  I think, if any technical solution is really needed, dropping the CD of HoG to 10 seconds through a Glyph would suffice.

This is just one of those places where the math gets really interesting, and where a little bit of Haste stacking can go a long way towards improving your DPS.

Did you have any idea DoTs could be so fascinating?

A FINAL WORD FOR HUNTERS (AND ROGUES AND FERAL DRUIDS AND…)

A final note about this article.  While I’m writing this for Warlocks, these new rules should apply across the board to all magic DoTs.  If you’re a caster  with DoTs – Mage, Shadow Priest, Boomkin, Elemental Shaman, Warlock, and maybe even Death Knights, though I’m not positive – these rules should now apply to you.  If you’re a class with physical damage DoTs, I’m 99% sure that Haste doesn’t affect your tick speed.  You can also still clip your DoTs (if they don’t automatically refresh).  The reasons behind it aren’t really clear to me, but I’ve been assured that this is how it works.

Basically, if your Haste is tied into your energy regeneration, you’re probably not getting any benefit to your DoTs from Haste.  And that sucks.

Because this new way of handling DoTs?  Sure, it requires some math to understand.  But the changes are awesome.

I hope all DoTs start working like this soon.

Questions?  Corrections?  Leave ‘em in the comments.

Update (January 11th, 2011): Somehow, I forgot to mention that I put together a calculator for Haste Sweet Spots. If you want to toy around with your own values, give it a try!

31 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

A Pre-Cataclysm Warlock Guide

In case you were worried, Warlocks are going to be awesome in Cataclysm.

No, really.  While the changes 4.0.1 introduced might have everyone off-balance right now, and let’s face it, things are really screwy in terms of balance – the changes to Warlocks haven’t altered the fundamental awesomeness of the class.

The end of Wrath left Warlocks in a good, balanced state.  My primary concern with the changes was: is this going to make us unbalanced again?  And more importantly, will this fundamentally change the enjoyment we have in certain playstyles?

4.0.1 introduced a lot of changes, but it didn’t fundamentally change the way you play a warlock.  Yes, there is some increased complexity in some areas and rotations.  Yes, there is a lot of simplicity in other areas.

But overall, now is a great time to either roll a new warlock, or play your favorite one.

Let’s look at the changes.

MECHANICS

The Warlock’s Den has a great compilation of the changes in 4.0.1, but it’s all the changes.  If you’re just diving into the new patch, the changes can seem overwhelming.

The biggest news is that Soul Shards are completely revamped.  Gone is your old Soul Shard bag; in its place are three shards that you can use to empower certain spells through the new spell, Soulburn. This spell empowers other spells to either make them faster, hit harder, or give different effects.  Another new spell, Soul Harvest, regenerates both Soul Shards and your health.  Using Soul Shards creatively in combat is one of the new great challenges of playing warlocks.  It’s actually quite fun watching the bars light up when you burn a shard now!

As far as gear and stats go, you can Reforge your existing gear at a Highborne trainer near the Enchanting trainer in major cities.  Reforging allows you to swap one stat on gear, like Spirit, for another stat that isn’t on that gear, like Hit.  It costs 10g a pop and only works on ilvl 200+ gear.

You should consider reforging your gear for three reasons.  The first is that you need to get up to 17% hit to get raid bosses – not 13-14%, like before.  Why? Because all of the Hit-enhancing talents other people brought to you in raids are gone. If you’re still raiding, you’re going to need that Hit.

The second reason is that Spirit is officially useless to Warlocks again.  Life Tap’s spell and glyph have both changed, and Fel Armor has been modified, so that Spirit does nothing for you.  Reforge it or swap it out.

The third reason is a new stat: Mastery.  Mastery increases your damage according to your spec, and you can only get it via Reforging in 4.0.1. The value of Mastery depends on both your spec, your Hit, and your Haste, but in general it is a desirable stat.

Stats have been completely redone.  Intellect now gives you Spellpower, and Spellpower has been removed from most items in the game.  Intellect is now a desirable stat. How desirable?  Well, current thinking is that:

  • Leveling: Hit (until cap, 4%) > Int >  Haste > Spellpower > Stamina > Crit
  • Affliction raiding at 80: Hit (to cap, 17%) > Int >> Haste > Spellpower >> Mastery >> Crit
  • Demonology raiding at 80: Hit (to cap), Haste > Int >> Mastery = Spellpower > Crit
  • Destruction raiding at 80: Hit (to cap) >> Int >> Mastery = Haste = Spellpower >>> Crit

So take a look at your gear and consider stacking that Intellect.

Another major change is that DoTs now refresh duration instead of clipping them.  One of the major annoyances of DoTs was that you would drop your DPS if you cut them off before the final tick of damage, so you needed to let it fall off and immediately refresh.  Now, you can refresh them and just extend their duration without overwriting the last tick.  The best time to refresh a DoT is just after the second-to-last tick – this gives you the biggest time extension without reducing the overall number of DoTs. The only exception to this is Bane of Agony, which hits harder on the final ticks.

This is kinda an important change, so I’m planning a followup post to cover just how DoTs work in the new system.

You’ll notice that it’s not Curse of Agony anymore; some Curses (Agony, Doom) have been retitled Banes. Banes and Curses can both be applied to a target.  This gives you both a Bane (which causes damage) and a Curse (which applies an effect) that can be stacked onto a target, no longer forcing you to chose between damaging an opponent or cursing them.  The new names take some getting used to, but eventually they’ll stop squeaking every time we say them.

Your Infernal and Doomguard no longer displace your summoned demon, allowing you to use them as a massive DPS boost on a 10 minute cooldown. Use them every chance you can – Infernal for AoE, Doomguard for direct target.  They no longer require reagents or help in summoning.  This is a very cool change, and get used to seeing them all the time.

Soul Shatter now works. It’s now a 90% threat reduction, which is good, because aggro in the pre-Cataclysm world is a harsh mistress. Soulshatter actually working makes my head hurt to think about.  Also, your Spellstones and Firestones are gone.  Sorry about that.

So, yes. There are a lot of changes to mechanics.  But tackle them one at a time, and you’ll do fine.

LEVELING A WARLOCK

All of the advice that people had on the best spec to level a Warlock with in Wrath?  Worthless.  Throw out any guide that isn’t updated for 4.0.1, because the leveling experience is completely different.

At level 10, you get to choose your specialization: Affliction, Demonology, Destruction.  Each one of them introduces a cornerstone spell immediately at level 10, allowing you to start playing that style early on, instead of waiting for those key spells in the 40s and 50s.

This change makes each spec immediately viable for leveling.

If you’re having trouble deciding which way you want to go:

  • Affliction is the route for the slow, steady, unstoppable kills.  You gain an extra DoT spell, Unstable Affliction, which combined with your improved Corruption and Bane of Agony will be enough to kill most any mob you come across.  Drain tanking is alive and well!  You’ll want to use many of your demons with Affliction, depending on situation and playstyle.
  • Demonology is if you like having something else take the damage for you.  You get a Felguard at level 10, and he is a brute.  Use him for most pulls, switch to the Voidwalker for pulls that require AoE tanking.
  • Destruction is for those who like the quick, bursty kills.  You get Conflagrate, a instant-cast explosion, which combined with Searing Pain and Incinerate will let you kill most mobs before they ever reach you.  You’ll probably favor the Imp, but your other demons will be situationally useful.

The simplified talent trees actually make leveling advice quite easy.  Take talents that make the spells you use hit harder, cast faster, or heal you.  If your using your demon for a lot of your DPS, buff it instead.

If you don’t have a Warlock, or have one you haven’t played in a while, consider rolling one.  They are huge amounts of fun at the low levels.  They’re an absolute blast.

If you’ve already leveled one, though, the next section might interest you a bit more.

RAIDING AT LEVEL 80

Raiding at level 80, when the trees are designed for an endgame at 85, is a little strange.  But there’s still loot to be gotten and achievements to achieve, so people are figuring out how to raid at 80.

Below are some pages I’ve found extremely helpful in navigating the waters with this new raiding environment.  Especially helpful is the first link, at Elitist Jerks.  If you go no where else for raiding advice, go there.

General PVE:

Affliction:

Demonology:

Destruction

I would love to find some more articles to help with raiding, but we’re well past the expiration date of the current content, and new content – with new abilities – is going to be coming up very soon.  There will be a lot more focus on raiding articles when Cataclysm drops and folks start leveling up to 85.

PVP AT LEVEL 80

PvP is totally unbalanced right now, and I wouldn’t hold out much hope that it’s going to get radically better before Cataclysm strikes.  That means that casters are going to remain overpowered, Resilience values are going to go up and down as the developers try to introduce some kind of sanity to the battlegrounds, and you’ll get to experiment a lot with your ‘locks.

I don’t have any great links to share with you for PvP.  High-end PvP doesn’t tend to invite the kind of analysis that raiding does, and while there are some builds that are popular right now, folks are figuring out new and creative ways to kill each other and nothing’s set in stone.

As far as the specs:

  • Demonology seems to have made an incredible comeback in the battlegrounds.  The Felguard’s new abilities at level 80 are awesome, hitting very hard with a number of stuns and interrupts that can’t be beat. I am seeing a lot of Demo locks out there right now.
  • Destruction is having an excellent time out there, as well.  High burst damage is ruling the day, and the Imp has made an unlikely appearance on the battlefield as the Destro pet of choice.
  • The reports of Affliction’s death in PvP are wildly exaggerated.  While some of the Drain Tanking talents have been nerfed, Soul Swap and Empowered Seed are making up for it.  Sending an Empowered Seed of Corruption out into a surging mass of defenders in Wintergrasp means you are going to see a LOT of numbers come rolling through your combat text meters.  Petwise, the Succy is a little more useful than the Felhunter right now, but both have their place.

Much of this will change in the next six weeks.

But in the meanwhile, there’s a lot of fun to be had with your warlock.  (Or warlocks, if you’re crazy like I am.)

Now go out there and be awesome!

21 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Pre-Cataclysm Honor Grinding

With the changes to Honor Points and new Arena gear becoming available to unranked characters in 4.0.1, the timeless question of how to most efficiently grind Honor has come up, once again.

It’s been a while since we’ve had to address this question – the Random Battleground Finder pretty resoundingly ended that debate earlier – but there are now several new options with the new currency.  And until Ihra returns from his break to do a complete HPM (honor per minute) analysis, you’ll have to settle for my math.

So let’s take a look.

HONOR THROUGH PVP

PvP remains the best way to grind Honor Points.  You get HP by killing opponents, by capturing objectives, by defending flags (!), by winning matches.  Winning battlegrounds thoroughly is preferable to winning them quickly and skipping objectives.

Daily Random Battlegrounds remain the best way to gain honor at level 80. The first win of the day gives you an extra 90 Honor Points.  Subsequent wins give you 40 extra Honor Points.  Even if you don’t win, you’ll still get an extra 15 Honor, so running randoms gives you a consistent boost that you should not skip.  If you win 50% of the time, with 15 minutes a match, you’ll be getting an extra 250 Honor Points over the first two hours.  Call To Arms events in specific battlegrounds give the same benefits (that do not stack), so if there is a BG that you really enjoy running having a CTA weekend, run that instead.

My experience so far has been about 75 Honor Points per BG.  I’m actually losing more than I’m winning right now, but my queues are instant, so it’s working out to a decent grind.  I’ll collect more data and update this post with it.

Wintergrasp Battles give a decent amount of Honor Points by themselves; I received 40 Honor Points in a recent victory where all towers went down before time expired. This could vary widely due to your HK count and how the battle progresses; it actually doesn’t compare that favorably to regular battlegrounds, let alone random battlegrounds, but there are reasons you should do Wintergrasp anyways.  (More on that below.)

World PvP also gives Honor Points.  Unless you’re participating in mass World PvP, I don’t think you’re going to gain a tremendous amount of HP this way, but you do gain rewards this way.  If there’s active World PvP on your server, engage away!

HONOR THROUGH QUESTING

Some quests award Honor Points.  This isn’t a new concept – Wintergrasp quests have done this for a while – but since all PvP rewards have been standardized to a single scale, there are now more ways to gain Honor Points outside of the battlegrounds.

Wintergrasp Quests are still a viable Honor Point boost.  Each weekly quest rewards 16 Honor Points, and there are six of them (Victory, Kill 10 Enemy, Destroy a Tower, Destroy 3 Siege, Defend 3 Siege, Gather 10 Things), so there’s a potential of 96 Honor Points from these quests each week.  These quests may be bugged on your server so that they reset both on Tuesday & Sunday, so you may be able to do them twice.  (I’ve given up tracking them and just check back every few days.)

What’s new is that Venture Bay PvP Quests award Honor Points instead of the almost-useless Venture Coins.  There’s XP for you while leveling, gold at endgame, and a little bit of Honor for a few minutes of work each day.  The quests don’t reward as much as Wintergrasp – 3 HP each – but since they can be done every day, you could get 126 Honor Points each week from these quests.  There are six quests scattered around the bay, including the Blackriver Skirmish quest up the river.

One quest, Seeking Solvent, is a repeatable quest and could be done without flagging for PvP.  This quest involved stealing Element 115 from the ship in the harbor, and returning – slowly – to the quest giver.  This quest could yield up to 260 Honor Points an hour, though I never got quite that high personally.  (I was distracted, and still got about 120.)  This was a great way to get honor if your queues were long or you had desire to really PvP.

Unfortunately, when I went back today to check on this quest, it appears to be broken – probably deliberately.  You can’t start the quest anymore, and even getting a new Refurbished Shredder Key doesn’t help.  (I now have 2.)  I have a ticket open and will let y’all know if the GMs tell me anything substantial.

The Blue Sky Logging Camp PvP quests, interestingly, do not give Honor Points.  They just give gold and experience.  So skip them if you’re grinding honor.

HONOR THROUGH PVE DUNGEONS

What’s that you say?  Has Cyn finally gone daft?

No, I have not, or not any more than I was before.  Dungeons now give Honor Points. Specifically, Northrend dungeons when the Wintergrasp buff is active.  If your faction controls Wintergrasp, you get ~6 Honor Points per Heroic boss or Raid boss killed, in addition to the Justice Points you’re already getting.  I got 25 HP in a H-HOL run this morning, which I assume means there’s some decimal carryover from each earning and we’re just seeing the integer result.  (4 bosses x 6 HP per boss = 24, at least in my funny math world.  But I definitely got 25 from the run.)

Before, you could get certain kinds of gear through Heroics – Wintergrasp gear.  These are great offset pieces, they were relatively cheap, and differently itemized for your class and spec.  With the standardization of currency, you can now buy set pieces, Wrathful offhand pieces, whatever you like with these Honor Points.

For people who are already grinding Justice Points, this is very good news.

GEARING STRATEGY

Your strategy really depends upon your goals.

  • If you are just upgrading your PvP gear, run random battlegrounds, do the WG quests, and then run more battlegrounds.  By focusing on PvP you generate the highest amounts of Honor Points.  If your queue times are bad, fill in with the Venture Bay quests and some world PvP, but try to PvP all the time.
  • If you are gearing a new character for PvE and PvP, run Heroics and Wintergrasp. Make it your mission to hold Wintergrasp as much as possible, because the most efficient way to completely gear a toon is through dungeons. While it’s not as efficient for getting PvP gear, it gives you the most total points per minute.  Also, once you have maxed out your Justice Points, you can use those to purchase lower-grade set pieces (Relentless, Furious) to help fill in the holes in your PvP set.

What’s interesting is that once again, control of Wintergrasp is absolutely key.   If you’ve forgotten how WG works, you can revisit my Introduction to Wintergrasp for a quick refresher.  The side that holds Wintergrasp will, in general, be gearing up for PvP faster than the side that does not.  So don’t be afraid to recruit in Dalaran for each battle – it will pay you, and your side, dividends.

(On Durotan, a predominately Alliance server, the Horde has gone from winning 1/4-1/3 of the time, to 1/2, and most of the time it’s in prime-time hours.  They are taking it seriously even though they are outnumbered.  You can too.)

If you don’t care about PvP, well, you should still help out in Wintergrasp.  Why? Because some of the best weapons and shields available to players are available at a pittance of 70 Honor right now.  270 shields that make Protection Warriors and Paladins weep for joy – 70 honor.  264 guns that dwarf nearly every other gun in ICC? 2550 honor.  264 wands with wicked, wicked stats?  230 honor.

As an individual, your best strategy is to run random battlegrounds.  As a faction, your best bet is to control Wintergrasp and run randoms.

Got it?  Good.

Time to get to work.  Cataclysm is coming.

20 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Level 19 Warrior Changes in 4.0.1

Cynderblock readies her shield for an incoming attack in Darkshore.

The original title of this post was “What Is This I Don’t Even,” because the changes to Warriors are that extensive.

To say that Warriors have changed at level 19 is an understatement.  Everyone has changed in 4.0.1, don’t get me wrong, but Cynderblock is completely different now than she was in Wrath.

I mentioned this on the Gaming Worlds Collide blogcast, but the biggest difference is the influence of choosing your specialization at level 10. Before, one of the defining features of early play was that you weren’t specialized – Fire vs. Frost was the wrong question.  Twinks looked across the talent board, not down it.  You’d pick the best abilities suited for a particular job.

No longer.  Now you are a Frost Mage, a Destruction Warlock, a Subtlety Rogue, all starting at level 10.  And for Warriors, that opens up options we didn’t have before (Fury Dual Wielding!) but takes away some of the flexibility we enjoyed with hybrid talent builds.  Protection Warriors get Shield Slam, which is a great primary attack and buff dispeller all in one, but at level 19 it lacks the synergies it gets later on with Sword and Board.

But all of this comes at a cost.  Across all classes, abilities have been moved around, giving a better distribution as you level, but also removing a lot of the complexities I enjoyed with the Warrior class.  To sum up the changes to level 19 Warriors:

  • Battle Shout now requires level 20.  Not only do we lose the attack power buff, but shouts are the new way Warriors gain rage.
  • Shield Bash, our primary caster interrupt, also requires level 20.
  • Overpower now requires level 22.
  • Hamstring, one of our key PvP abilities, has been moved up to level 26, removing it from our repertoire.
  • Revenge has been moved way up to level 40, removing a key DPS ability from Defensive Stance.
  • Demoralizing Shout requires level 52, so there’s one of our three melee debuffs gone, and the other way to gain rage quickly gone.
  • Bloodrage, the primary way lowbie warriors used to generate rage, is gone from the game completely.
  • Mocking Blow is also gone.
  • Heroic Strike is no longer a On-Next-Swing ability, but instead is a normally activated attack.  It’s still a Rage hog, though.
  • Execute, a finishing move for when the target is below 20% health, has been added at level 16.  Will use a lot of Rage if you have it, though.
  • Sunder Armor only stacks 3 times, not 5, but each stack has a greater effect, so it’s all cool.
  • All Glyphs are gone, since they require level 25.

The specializations give some interesting abilities, don’t get me wrong.  But let’s just look at the above changes to see how the playstyle has been altered at level 19.

RAGE

The biggest single issue is Rage.  Warriors are supposed to generate Rage before a fight through their shouts (which no longer cost Rage), but those are not available at this level.  So what generates Rage?

  • Charge, which gives you 15 Rage, but can only be used out of combat.
  • Hitting things for white damage.
  • Getting hit.  Ouch.
  • Anger Management, the Arms special ability, gives you a steady stream of Rage in combat, and slows the loss of Rage out of combat.
  • The Blitz talent (Arms again) increases the Rage your Charge generates.
  • 1/3 Shield Specialization (Protection talent) generates 5 Rage when you block an attack.

Now, you do seem to gain more rage by just hitting things in combat than before. That’s the good news.  But unless you can get off a Charge, you’re not going to have enough Rage to unload burst damage in PvP.  You will gain Rage in combat at a decent rate, but forget the days of unloading Heroic Strikes, Thunder Claps and Revenge on targets.  You are going to have to manage your Rage very carefully.

The previous advice of binding Heroic Strike to everything?  Ditch it. Heroic Strike only to dump Rage.  That’s it.

Rage starvation is the single biggest issue you’re going to have to deal with on your lowbie warrior until you hit 20.  Get used to Charging and using your abilities sparingly.

THE LOST ABILITIES

Losing Hamstring hurts in PvP.  A tried and true Warrior tactic in WSG was to spam Hamstring on targets to proc your weapon’s enchant as well as slow people down. Hamstringing the FC was what you did.

Now, the Shamans and Druids have better speedy forms, and Warriors have no way to slow them down.  Forget taking out the FC now.

As a Protection Warrior, I loved having Revenge as my primary damage dealer.  It lit up all the time while tanking and PvPing, and I’d hit that button every chance I could. Like Overpower, it’s gone, and there’s no equivalent replacement.

Losing the Shouts means that we’ve lost both a buff and a debuff.  Demo Shout was very useful both for AoE tanking situations when TC was on cooldown, but also against melee classes in WSG.  You used to get Demo Shout up to slow down Rogues and the like against you, just like you’d put up Thunder Clap’s debuff.  No more.  The fact that Rage generation is now tied into these abilities is just icing on the cake.

I’m lost without Shield Bash.  I think this was what confused me the most when I tried to PvP on ‘block recently – I had no more interrupts.  I couldn’t stop level 10 Holy Paladins from casting, so they were invulnerable.  Interrupts are important!  Now those stupid Druids of the Fang will be able to run roughshod over the rest of my party with Sleep spells, and I have no way to stop  that.  Wailing Caverns runs are going to be hard without those interrupts.

THE NEW STUFF

Okay, so Warriors have lost a lot of their toolbox in 4.0.1.  What have they gained?

  • Increased health.  In most gear sets I’m over 2000 health now.
  • Execute.
  • Talent specializations.  Shield Slam is pretty cool while tanking, though in AoE situations it’s tough to choose between that and the Rend/Thunderclap combo when your Rage is low.
  • Resilience has been buffed.
  • Armor has been reduced.  Oh wait, that’s not a good thing.

I think the abilities you gain from choosing your spec are great for their respective roles; but when taken in the context of all the missing abilities, Warriors are hurting right now.

TANKING

I used to pride myself on my ability to tank low-level instances with Cynderblock.  She could roll through them like a freight train, a rock of aggro that made Deadmines look like Heroic UK to folks in HM ICC25 gear.

No more.  I’m superbly geared and struggling to hold aggro, which means low level LFD is going to suck for a while for normal tanks.  If equivalently-geared DPS starts up too soon, I can’t get aggro back.  If someone AoEs mobs before I’ve TC/Rended them, I will not have enough Rage to do anything to save you.  You’re going to see me slamming Taunt and Shield Slam in a frantic effort to save you, but it’s likely DPS is going to die.

This is a very different experience than I’m used to.  Perhaps it will get better with time; changes, dramatic changes, are coming to the low-level instances.

But right now, tanking has gone from an exercise in confidence to the same, frustrating experience I have tanking Heroics at level 80.  That’s not a good thing.

PVP

The 19 twink bracket of Warsong Gulch is a hot mess right now.  Rogues are doing huge, HUGE amounts of burst damage out of stealth.  Casters are also doing massive burst damage (see: Destro Locks and Fire Mages).  Hunters are still potent, with those freakin’ bats EVERYWHERE.

But it’s the level 10 Holy Paladins who are beating everyone in sight.

Level 10 twinking is not a new thing, but with recent buffs to Resilience and how abilities scale at level 10 and under, level 10 twinks are practically unkillable now. Damage mitigation is through the roof, which negates their smaller health totals, and the out of combat regeneration is amazing.  It’s like a free reset if they get OOC.

Making them is pretty straightforward:

And I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.  Level 10 characters are more resistant and scale better than level 19s, though level 19s have more abilities and health.  Both Psynister and I are trying out this brave new world, because nothing is worse than a level 10 Holy Pally in WSG right now.  Nothing.

CHANGE HAPPENS

Things don’t look very optimistic for Warriors right now in the level 19 PvP bracket or lowbie tanking.  Warriors have gone from being a very good class for both to average, or below average.  That’s okay.  There’s a lot of things changing in Azeroth in the next few weeks, and the low-level experience is definitely one of them.

Leveling is one of the not-so-subtle motivators used within Warcraft.  The game rewards it; more abilities, more power, more cool talents, more range.  Expecting to balance around crazy people like me who park at a given level is unreasonable.

But the way classes play at low levels is fundamentally different now.  My experience with Cynderblock (and talking to endgame warriors about her) shows just how different things can be.  I know that whatever leveling advice I could give you on Warlocks (my main’s class) is now invalid.  Things are very, very different.

It will just take some getting used to at level 19.

14 Comments

Filed under Green Tinted Goggles

Gaming Worlds Collide Blogcast

If you’re not getting enough Warlock news here, I’m appearing tonight at 6:30 EDT on the Gaming Worlds Collide blogcast to talk about the state of Warlocks in 4.0.1 with Esh and Kat.  There will be PvP talk, for sure, but I’ll also talk a bit about how ‘locks are doing in PvE.  (Short version: Warlocks are doing very well.)

You can listen via your browser at the above link, or dial in to (917) 932-1937 to listen on your phone.  (Analog technology? What is this madness?)

Sorry for the short notice on this one; I’m looking forward to talking about ‘locks – because I’m crazy, I’m leveling 3 of them, one of each spec – and hope you have a chance to listen in.  The recording will be available later if you can’t make the session tonight.

4 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

The Broken Battlegrounds of 4.0.1

So I logged in last night with the intent to get my PvP spec squared away, get my new Wrathful gear gemmed and enchanted, and spend some time in the battlegrounds to get a good, solid impression of how 4.0.1 has changed them.

It was, frankly, an awful experience.

Most nights when I have a bad night in the BGs, it’s because I’m losing, a lot, and my fellow teammates are being nasty about it.  I don’t mind clueless, I do mind vicious.

No, it was awful because of the bugs.  Glitches, freezes, disconnects, all conspired to make trying to fight in a battleground an exercise in frustration.

The worst part, in asking around, I know that this is not universal.  It’s there, people are having problems — but not everyone.

I’ve debated posting this.  I’d much rather have an analysis for you of what’s happening in the BGs right now, which, I’m told, is horribly imbalanced, with Resilience stacking making certain classes unkillable, with clothies running roughshod over melee… but all I have are bugs.

Here are the bugs I’ve seen.

THE FLAG BOSS / MAGE TABLE / CLICKING IS DANGEROUS

There’s a bug with one line tooltips where your client locks up/disconnects when you mouse over anything that turns your cursor into a cogwheel – like, say, the flags in Arathi Basin, mage tables, warlock portals, the Headless Horseman’s altar – anything you need to click that has a 1-line tooltip can cause it.

For this one, there’s a fix: CogFix, an addon that eliminates the tooltip.  It works okay in most situations – I stopped crashing at the flag, at least – but there were still some other situations that still did it, like the fantastically bugged EoE.

RANDOM DISCONNECT AND DESERTER DEBUFF

I love this one.  For no rhyme or reason, the client locks up, crashes or disconnects, and when you log back in you have the Deserter debuff.  This one happened to me a lot last night, and unlike previous patches, there seems to be no way to get back in without picking up the Deserter debuff.  I’ve DCed before and gotten back in to the same battle within 30 seconds; now, the debuff prevents that.

I don’t really care about the Deserter debuff.  It’s annoying, but if this is just a case of the debuff being tuned more strictly, I can live with it.

But I DCed from 8 out of 10 battlegrounds last night.  It didn’t matter how much activity was on the screen, or system load, or anything like that – I’d be running along, then BAM, client crashes, I start fumbling for my authenticator.

Deserter.  Ugh.

This instability has made any sustained BG play basically impossible for me. After a while, the sane response is to go do something else.

SCOREBOARD ERRORS

I’ve seen two different kinds of scoreboard errors so far.  The first is that people who leave the BG are still listed on the scoreboard, causing it to be useless as a roster.  When you see that you’re facing 44 people in Alterac Valley, something is definitely wrong.

The second bug is that not everyone shows up on the scoreboard, and if you’re not on the scoreboard, you apparently don’t get any honor for winning or losing.  Which, kinda sucks.

HONOR POINT REWARDS

I did the Grizzly Hills and Wintergrasp PvP quests for a few honor points, but figured I’d work towards my next Wrathful piece in the battlegrounds.  The quests aren’t bugged, they appear to give you the amount they say they will.  The BGs don’t, though.  I had two losses, which I completed all the way through, and failed to get either the amount of honor listed on the scoreboard or the daily quest minimum.

If I can force myself back into the BGs, I’ll try to track this more concretely.  It was only when I opened up my currency tab and saw 72 honor points for the entire night that I realized what was happening.

CLASS IMBALANCE

See, this is what I wanted this post to be about – how are things going in the battlegrounds?  Which classes seem to be doing well, which are struggling?

I don’t really have a lot of firsthand knowledge, though.  Demo seems strong, though I’m having trouble playing it.  Destro is definitely strong.  Affliction seems to be fine, actually.  Casters seem to be doing quite well in general.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some crash-free playtime in soon to give a better update than that.

BEFORE YOU ASK

2008 Macbook 4,1, 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB RAM, Intel GMZ X3100 video card, 144MB VRAM, fresh installation of Warcraft.

HERE’S WHERE YOU SAVE THE DAY, OR AT LEAST THIS POST

So I was writing up this bug report known as a post when it occurs to me: I might not have any clue what’s going on in the BGs right now because they’ve gone all Crashy McCrasherson on me, but my smart readers surely must!  YOU have been in the battlegrounds of 4.0.1 and seen the effects of Resilience, of class changes, of the new water textures!  YOU have got the knowledge we all seek!

Let me know your impressions in the comments.  If I can’t BG directly, I’ll do it vicariously through you.

Here’s to hoping 4.0.3 is more stable!

22 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Destruction Warlock Raiding in 4.0.1

Time to spend some time with your favorite dummies!

Patch 4.0.1 introduced major changes to every class. The talent system was redesigned, every spec altered, combat stats altered… it’s the patch before Cataclysm where our classes change in anticipation of the new expansion, without having any new content available, so we can learn to play again in a familiar environment, and not have to worry about new quests and new lands and new bosses while we’re also struggling with new rotations and new mechanics and new spells.  A lot of the focus of the next two months really should be on relearning our classes, of experimenting with new things, of challenging old assumptions.

It’s a smart move by Blizzard, really.

My patch install was not smooth, so I ended up reinstalling and have been rebuilding my UI from the ground up.  With all of this external change around me, I decided to go ahead and switch specs as well, going from Affliction PvP/Demonology PvE to Destruction PvP/PvE.  Destruction is a familiar spec to me, having played this dual-Destro setup for most of 3.2 (ToC) when it was the dominant spec. I enjoyed Destro a lot during this time, and it looked like there wasn’t too much that had changed.

Well, I was pretty much wrong about that.

I’ve been having trouble getting into endgame Battlegrounds since the patch – haven’t managed to get past the preparation phase without disconnecting – so my look at Destro PvP is going to have to wait.  However, I’ve already raided some with Destruction in ICC, and it is awesome.  The changes have made it more complex without being overwhelming, there are several subtle things you can do to enhance your DPS, while missing them is not the end of the world.  It feels like Destro has grown up and joined the other specs in having a lot of things going on, without becoming totally overwhelming.

So I hopped over to Elitist Jerks, looked through their 4.0 Pre-Cataclysm Raiding guide for Warlocks, and gave it a try.

Let’s take a look.

DESTRO BASICS

If you played Destro in Wrath, before 4.0.1, you’re familiar with the 4 spells that made up your main rotation – Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, and Chaos Bolt.  Immolate was your primary dot, with perhaps Curse of Doom or Curse of the Elements used as the situation called for it.

You can still play Destro like this in 4.0.1, which is good for a transition, but the spec has a few more things going on now.  You’ll have a bit more to juggle to get the most out of your DPS.

The core spell of Destruction remains Immolate.  Immolate is both your most potent DoT spell, as well as a spell that allows other spells to hit harder.  You should keep Immolate up at all times.

Immolate’s presence allows you to use Conflagrate, a huge instant nuke which takes your Immolate or Shadowfury DoT and blows it up.  (The DoT remains intact now, which is a nice change from Wrath.) Conflagrate is your biggest nuke and should be used whenever it’s off CD.  Conflagrate also procs Backdraft, which hastens your next 3 Incinerates, Chaos Bolts, and Shadow Bolts.  This proc is a nice bonus but is no longer the focus of your rotation.

You have two other DoTs to manage as Destruction, now: Bane of Doom and Corruption.  Yes, Corruption.  Depending on your raid composition, you may also need to cast Curse of the Elements, but these are your main DPS dots. Bane of Doom is like the old Curse of Doom, except that instead of delivering its damage every 60 seconds, it does so every 15, making it preferable even in short fights to Bane of Agony.  Corruption is an interesting addition to the Destro toolkit, but with a few talent points in Affliction it becomes a potent DPS increase, and a nice change from solely nuking something down.

There is a final DoT that your Imp’s Firebolts or your Soul Fires will place on the target: Burning Embers.  Your Imp should be able to keep this one refreshed automatically.  It’s an important DPS increase, but not something you have to worry about once the firebolts start flying.

You have three nukes in your rotation: Chaos Bolt, Soul Fire, and Incinerate.  Chaos Bolt is a hard-hitting direct damage spell on a long CD.  Soul Fire is a new addition to your routine – a long cast time nuke with great damage.  The removal of the Soul Shard mechanic means that we’ll want to cast Soul Fires either at the beginning of the fight, when Empowered Imp procs and makes them instant cast, or deliberately made instant by Soulburn.  Incinerate is an old friend, but relies upon the presence of Immolate to deal increased damage.  Never cast Incinerate if Immolate is not present on the target.

A really interesting addition to the rotation is our frontal AoE attack, Shadowflame.  Shadowflame has been buffed and is now a viable spell for use in your rotation.  Using it requires situational awareness, though, since you don’t want to stand next to every boss all the time if you can help it.  Demonic Circle can help a lot here.

On top of all this, you have one proc you need to track: Improved Soul Fire.  This was formerly a reverse execute, applying only to the first phase of the fight (> 80% boss health) but has now been changed to apply throughout the fight.  The haste it grants is a huge boost to your DPS, and should be kept up at all times.  Because it has been modified recently, I don’t know if it’s going to stay as an all-the-time buff you have to maintain, or will go back to being > 80%, or be turned into an execute (< 25% boss health) – but it’s a proc you’ll have to track for at least part of the fight.

So, to sum up, Destro has:

  • 3 DoTs you need to worry about
  • (1 DoT you don’t)
  • 2 CD-limited nukes
  • 2 standard nukes
  • 1 frontal AoE spell
  • and 1 buff that needs to be maintained.

It can actually be a lot of fun keeping all this going.  Let’s look at how you can do that.

Chojub STILL LOVES Chaos Bolts!

PRIORITY, NOT ROTATION

Like most specs at this point, Destro is on a priority system, not a rotation per se.  You cast the most important spell on your list, then move down until you find the next one that needs to be cast.  If you get to the bottom, you cast your filler, Incinerate.

Your priority:

  1. Improved Soul Fire.
  2. Immolate.
  3. Conflagrate.
  4. Bane of Doom.
  5. Shadowflame.
  6. Corruption.
  7. Chaos Bolt.
  8. Hasted Soul Fire (from either Empowered Imp procs or Soulburn)
  9. Incinerate.

Generally speaking, the Improved Soul Fire buff will take a bit of work to keep up, so learning when to cast slow Soul Fires vs. waiting for Soulburn to come off CD (and gambling on a Empowered Imp proc) takes some practice. Don’t worry at first if it falls off; just get it back up when you can.

Shadowflame may only be practical in certain fights, and you should skip it if it’s too risky.  You can’t DPS if you’re dead because you got to close to a boss.

If all of this seems overwhelming to try to manage, let me let you in on a little secret: Need To Know.

ON A NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS

Need To Know: Keep the bars up!

Above is how I make sense of the priority rotation in my UI.  Instead of trying to track CD timers in one addon, procs in my buff area, and DoTs in another, I use the Need To Know (NTK) addon.

NTK allows you to group buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns in a customizable interface.  By ordering the items I’m tracking by priority, I’m able to look and quickly determine what I need to do next.  In the above example, I am casting Incinerate, Conflagrate is about to come off CD, and Improved Soul Fire is about to drop off.  I can hope for a lucky Empowered Imp crit and start spamming Conflag, or start casting Soul Fire to keep the buff alive.

I color code the bars so I can see at a glance what is going to drop off, and which bar needs to be filled up.

If you’ve never used NTK before, the setup is relatively straightforward.

  • First, open your Interface menu and go to the NTK options.
  • Enable group 1 of the bars, and increase it to 6 bars.
  • Enable group 2 of the bars, and decrease it to 1 bar.
  • Arrange them around your cast bar as desired.  I placed the ISF buff above my cast bar because it’s a proc that (formerly) wasn’t up all the time; you may want to group it with the others.
  • Right click the single bar, and set the effect to monitor to Improved Soul Fire.
  • Next, set the type of effect to Buff.  (This is the default)
  • Set the Unit to Monitor to Player, since you are monitoring this buff on yourself.
  • Select “Display Icon” under effects, and choose a color that resembles the buff.  You’re done with ISF.
  • Right click the first bar in the set of six, set the effect to Immolate, and the type to Debuff.  Set the Unit to Monitor to Target, set the icon to display, and set the color.
  • For the second bar, right click, set the effect to Conflagrate, and set the type to Spell Cooldown.  Repeat the same process as above to fill out the bar.
  • Go down the list, choosing Debuff/Target for Bane of Doom & Corruption, and Spell CD for Shadowflame and Chaos Bolt.

A few notes about this setup.

  1. You can set a single bar to monitor different types of effects, with the first effect in the list taking priority of all are listed.  Just enter the names of the effects separated by commas.  Some helpful examples would be “Bane of Doom, Bane of Agony”, “Fear, Corruption” (for when you need to start CCing in Cataclysm), and “Curse of the Elements, Curse of Weakness” for your curses.  You can get quite fancy with this (checking all debuffs instead of just your own to see if CoE needs to be cast, for example), but that’s really for when you’re comfortable with NTK.
  2. You want to track the Shadowflame CD instead of the debuff because you’re using the timer to regulate your actions, not to actually monitor the debuffs on the target. (That is what unit frames are for.)  The Shadowflame CD is substantially longer than the effect itself, so if you looked only at the debuff you’ll try to cast it before it’s ready.  Tracking the CD, however, means that you might miss and not know it.  That’s fine, but be aware that just because you see the purple bar doesn’t mean you’re actually hitting the target.
  3. Backdraft doesn’t require monitoring anymore.  Backdraft used to be a vital part of the rotation but is now relegated to a nice-to-have – if you can cast your Chaos Bolt or Incinerate under its effects, do so, but not at the expense of a higher priority item.
  4. Soulburn might require monitoring.  I’m using OmniCC and watching my bars to see when this comes up, but in general I’m saving the Soulburn -> Soulfire combos to keep the ISL buff up.  I would rather leave Soulburn off CD for when I need to keep that buff up but am not getting lucky with the Empowered Imp procs.
  5. Your big companion demon CDs – Doomguard and Infernals – might also be a good inclusion here.  They are a significant DPS increase, don’t cause your existing demons to despawn, and can be cast every 10 minutes.  I tend to want to save these for Heroism/Bloodlust, though.  I’m on the fence about monitoring them as part of my standard procedure, since I don’t need to know when the CD is up – I need to pick the right time to use them, instead.

I’m a big fan of NTK over other buff/dot trackers, because it allows me to parse out the data I don’t need, and focus instead on only what I need to know instead.

TALENTS AND GLYPHS

For my talents, I’m using the 2/3/31 build from Elitist Jerks right now.  There has been some good discussion about how far you should go into Dark Arts given your current Haste levels, but in general that build will serve you well.  Yes, there are some “wasted” talents – Searing Pain is no longer part of the rotation, for instance, after a recent round of nerfs – but those talents are needed to get to the next level, and you do what you gotta do.

The recommended glyphs of Immolate, Conflagrate, Imp and Life Tap are all relatively straightforward – improve damage directly (Immo, Imp) or indirectly through lower cooldowns (Conflag, LT.)  Other Prime glyphs that do similar things can be used in a pinch (Chaos Bolt, Incinerate) but in general you’ll want to buff your best spells first.  The two remaining major glyphs are at your discretion – I went with Shadowflame (to give me a slow for the Valks in the LK encounter) and Soul Link, to help out the healers.  Fear is likely going to be another good option for your Major glyph selection.

MACROS

With the new installation, not only did I throw out my UI, but I’ve started throwing out all my old macros and starting over. There are a few things I’m still macroing – my Imp’s Firebolt, for one – but I’m trying to use fewer macros than I did during Wrath in PvE.

(PvP is still macro city, though!)

The biggest challenge to reducing macro use is the need to manually trigger your Imp’s Firebolt because of the spell queuing delays.  Pretty much every spell you cast should have this in there, like so:

#showtooltip
/cast Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

This simple macro can have a substantial impact on your DPS, so, do it.  Bind it to Immolate, Soul Fire, Chaos Bolt, Incinerate at a minimum.

Next is making sure that your Soulburn-empowered Soul Fires are as fast as possible.  In PvE you will never need to use Soulburn to hasten another spell, so just make a castsequence macro you can tap to fire off a big ball of flame like an instant-cast spell.

#showtooltip
/castsequence reset=2 Soulburn, Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

Finally, I do use a setup macro to get everything rolling.  This doubles as my Immolate button during the normal rotation (due to the reset timer) but can be used to place everything on the target during a pull.

/castsequence reset=target/combat,2 Immolate, Conflagrate, Bane of Doom, Shadowflame, Corruption, Chaos Bolt,  Incinerate, Incinerate
/use 10
/use 13
/use 14
/startattack
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

I’ll keep experimenting with macros to see if there are other combos I’m always hitting, but for now I’m trying to keep it simple.

AOE

Area of Effect spells aren’t as effective now as they were in Wrath, as the stated design goals are to move away from AoE fests and focus instead on single-target burndowns and CC.  That’s great, but we’ve still got big trash packs in ICC that sometimes need to get burned down.

Ideally, each Warlock tree would have its own AoE spell – Seed of Corruption for Affliction, Hellfire for Demo, and Rain of Fire for Destro.  This model makes sense, and I can’t wait for us to get there.

Unfortunately, it still looks like Seed outperforms Rain on Destro by a bit.  Test it out on some dummies yourself, since this could vary by Mastery and Haste, but… yeah.  I’m still going to be spamming Seeds into trash packs for the near future.

Update: Rain of Fire got buffed this morning.  Back to the training dummies!

GEAR

There’s been some major changes to how gear is itemized in this patch, and you can also reforge unused stats (like Spirit) into other stats.

The current itemization priority is:

Hit (to 17%) > Intellect > Mastery = Haste = Spellpower >>> Crit

Basically, get rid of Sprit first, then Crit.  Get hit capped, then look at Int, Mastery, and Haste.

WATCHING IT IN PRACTICE

I’ve put together a video of how this works so you can see it for yourself.  Sometimes, seeing someone else do it (no matter how expertly or not) makes all the pieces click.  Hopefully this will help put it all together if you still have questions.

HAVE FUN

I am really enjoying the challenge of relearning the warlock class.  There are a lot of interesting changes that make me think about how things work.  None of this is set in stone right now.  Changes happen every rolling restart.  There will be a lot of discovery over the next few weeks, both in the endgame and in leveling, in PvE and PvP.

I’m enjoying Destruction now, but I can’t wait to see how some of the other specs do, too!

59 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Wrathful Gear Now Available To All

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Wrathful Gladiator’s gear – the final tier of PvP gear – is now available to be purchased without an Arena rating.  All PvPers can upgrade the majority of their gear to Wrathful using Honor Points.

The text on the gear is still red, and the rating requirement is still there, but you can buy it.  The only exceptions I’ve found so far have been the Shoulders, which require a 2000 rating.  The headpiece, which only requires a 1950, is certainly purchasable.  I am out of Honor Points to try for some weapons, but will PvP a bit this weekend and test them out.  (I was able to purchase a wand, but that’s a lower rating requirement than many of the weapons.)  I assume the tabard is also out of reach.

So… go forth!  Upgrade your gear!

I will be posting updates to the 4.0.1 PvP gear guide as I find out more.

Special thanks to Gnomeaggedon and Hints in the comments for passing this along!

19 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Blizzard Killed My Dog


Shaggy always did have a sweet tooth.

I was looking forward to Patch 4.0.1.  There’s something exciting about having things change; new things to learn, new ways to do things, new stories to tell.  Sure, there was apprehension, because changes that you don’t know about can be scary, but in general I think change is necessary.  It forces you to adapt.

My enthusiasm even kept me going through problems with the patch download, the first time I’ve ever had problems there.  Even though the servers have been up for about 12 hours, I still haven’t gotten to log in because my installer can’t handle baby murloc noises.  Maybe they’re too cute?  I don’t know for sure, but I’m reinstalling from scratch to see if maybe a fresh installation will do it.

But my enthusiasm vanished when I heard that warlock minions had been renamed in 4.0.1.  Last night it was temporary; today it is permanent.  When you summon your demons, you may have one of them keep the same name, but the rest… are all new.

Helola HATED that I put her in this shot. Heh. I called her Penguin-Girl for weeks!

Warlocks don’t get to choose their demon’s names.  We find out their names as part of the summoning rituals, of enslaving them to our will.  And while they’re our slaves, servants, and minions, they are also our constant companions.  They adventure with us, they fight for us, they die for us, they come back for us; we didn’t choose them, they didn’t choose us, but together, we’re a team.

Cynwise’s demons are part of her, part of her character.  Her relationship with each one of them is complicated and unique.  Part of the story that I’ve spun as I’ve played this crazy game has been around those demons; lesser characters, but characters in their own rights.  They make each warlock unique; no matter how you try to replicate them, the demons distinguish us from each other.

The names may not be unique, but they make the warlock unique.

But now, without warning, that part of my character is gone.  The sinister, sexy Helola who graced the pages of Arren’s site, the one who provides the dark reflection of Cynwise’s personality? Gone. Thoglos, the voidwalker who always stands on my questgivers, the one who shields ‘wise when she hurls herself into melee?  Gone.  Chojub, her imp with a sense of humor who randomly pulls bosses? See ya.  Skelzeras, the grumpy Felguard who was really quite a pushover?  Thanks for the help in ICC, buddy.

And Shaagrym, dear Shaggy, Cynwise’s felpuppy, the rage magnet, the reason Affliction is so feared in battlegrounds… my companion in so many of these fights that you’ve read about on this site. Shaggy is gone, too.

From the blue post:

We apologise for any inconvenience these name changes might cause and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Patience? Understanding?

You killed my dog and replaced him with a lookalike, and you want my understanding?

I’m a Wrathbaby; started playing in November 2008.  In two years, I’ve grown really attached to my demons.  I can only imagine what it’s like for warlocks who started playing in 2004.

This is changing my character, without my consent.  In RP terms it would be godmodding. Even though I don’t RP with others, I do experience the story of Warcraft through the view of my character; and now a fundamental part of that character is gone.

Chojub LOVES Chaos Bolts!

I shouldn’t be this angry.  I shouldn’t let myself get so upset over something that I do for fun, for something that I do to amuse myself in my idle time.

But I am.

I’ve been an IT professional for 15 years with experience in large enterprises. Professionally, I understand that there are likely technical reasons behind this, and that the mistake, once made, is irrecoverable.  The names were probably not permanently stored, but randomly assigned and it’s that random assignment that was lost.  There were significant changes to the way in which demons were handled, and summoned… I get that.

Yet, as a player, I can’t get past that my dog is dead.  I might have a new dog, just as good as my old one.

But I don’t want a new dog.  I want my old one.

See, Shaggy wasn’t just a mobile DoT with special abilities I could keybind.  From a development perspective I can see treating him as such, but from that perspective, my warlock is just a mob that accepts player instructions with a defined set of abilities that can be executed in specific sequences with specific results.  This perspective, while absolutely factual and correct, ignores the elements of imagination that make us want to participate in this game.

I could play a little floating box that casts a damage over time spell that inflicts 40-80 points of Shadow Damage every 3 seconds for 18 seconds.  Or, I could play Cynwise the warlock, the ambitious girl from Northshire who was jealous of her sisters and forged her own dark path to power.  And who mastered a series of increasingly powerful demons, bending them to her will.

Which one is more interesting to you?

The first time I met Skelzeras, he helped me kill Ony-60. Thanks, you big lug!

Each and every warlock has a story to tell about their demons.  Cynwise didn’t meet Skelzeras, the Felguard, until she needed to spec Demonology to take on Onyxia at level 60.  Now, a year later, I’ve been raiding ICC as Demonology for 9 months and depend on the big lug to do major damage and provide the buffs our raid needs.  He is the one who pulls Lady Deathwhisper, who charges ahead of the tank on Marrowgar, who is the sign to every tank in the raid that Cyn is pulling, get ready to fight to hold threat.

Skelzeras is impressed by the decor, not the boss. Don't let his expression fool you.

For someone who I didn’t expect to like very much, Skezel has grown on me.  He and I have seen a lot of things together I’d never thought I’d see in the game.

Thoglos is my Voidwalker, first my leveling companion, later my best friend against rogues and other melee classes.  Thog has tanked entire instances for me, rounding up all the mobs for me to then Shadowfury and Hellfire down. He shares every Voidwalker’s tendency to stand on quest givers, but he was always apologetic.

Thog, COME DOWN FROM THERE! I can't take you ANYWHERE!

He just never moved unless I told him to.

CHOJUB LOVES FIRE! YES, MISTRESS!

Chojub is my imp.  He pulls bosses and then pretends he had nothing to do with it.

You know no one in the guild believes you, Chojub?  You do know that, right?

Oh, whatever.  He doesn’t care if they know or not, he’ll keep on causing trouble no matter what.

"Mistress, surely I can find you a date somewhere else?"

Helola was the most evil of all of Cynwise’s demons.  Malicious, ruthless, manipulative, always willing to do whatever was necessary, Helola is the dark side of Cynwise, always tempting her to do what is effective versus what is right.

She’s also really good at Seduce-nuking people to death.  Damn, she was good at that.

Shaggy likes the Underbelly. He's got a bed there and everything.

This is my dog, Shaggy.

There are many felhunters like him, but this one is mine.

Remember when we pulled Deathspeaker’s Camp together, Shaggy?  Good times.

Chojub likes to practice his skateboarding when I'm not looking.

I know that there are probably technical reasons why it’s impossible to go back, why when I log in I’ll be faced with at least 4 strange new demons.  With Cataclysm on the horizon there may be no resources available for this kind of a bug fix, and even the simple fix – giving warlocks the ability to rename their demons – might be too much to handle with a major deadline approaching.

I don’t care. My practical, professional side can go shove it.  I don’t care.

Blizzard killed my warlock’s dog.  And her blueberry, and her sexy whip-cracker, and her big guy with the axe, and the little dude who throws fire.  If I’m lucky, I get to keep one of them, but the rest are all gone.

There was a story there, a story I was looking forward to continuing to tell, of seeing the new lands of Cataclysm.  My demons were a part of that story… or they were, until now.

Warlocks are the single least played class in Warcraft.  They’re tough to master, hated by opponents in PvP, hated by tanks and healers in PvE.  They are complex, confusing, squishy.  Players who not only play them, but love playing them, are a minority.

And Blizzard just killed our dogs.

I don’t know if I’m going to play Cynwise at this point.  I feel that strongly about this, that I just don’t know.  I may as well race and faction change her, since she’s not the character I was playing this weekend.  In game, and in the pages of this weblog, I tried to create a strong female character who represents a way of looking at battlegrounds – and her demons are part of that.

It’s odd for me to write that.  Cynwise is my main, and I really had no intentions of changing that.  But Cynwise without Chojub, Shaagrym, Helola, Thoglos, and even that big lug Skelzeras?

She’s just as strange to me as these replacements are now.

Damnit.

I can’t believe they killed my dog.

—-

UPDATE: Blizzard is at least looking into this now.  Blue post:

The Warlock naming issues is still under investigation but thus far it appears that the change was not intended but an after effect.

Under investigation, at this time, is if the name change can be reversed. Though that may not be possible, we await more information.

Let’s hope it can be reversed.
—-
BIG HUGE UPDATE: Blizzard found our minions!  From Bornakk, who I could hug right now:
Since the release of 4.0.1, more than a few warlocks have noticed that their pets are in fact no longer their familiar demonic servants, and instead appear to be new entities with different names. We’ve been able to pinpoint the cause of the issue, which should be resolved by tomorrow for any warlocks that log in for the first time from then on. We’ve also been able to determine that we will be able to restore any renamed warlock pets to their original pre-4.0.1 names during next week’s scheduled maintenance.
For those of you who like your new pet names, we’re working on a feature for a future patch that will allow you to refresh your summons and essentially generate a random pet name without having to level a new warlock.
I’ve left the original post as-is, because it’s basically a love letter to my demon minions and is worth keeping.  I <3 you guys!
—-

58 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Battleground PvP Gear in 4.0.1

Looking good in the starting areas is important, people!

Patch 4.0.1 is here; the patch that starts wrapping up Wrath of the Lich King, and gets us ready for Cataclysm.  This patch brings some major changes to the abilities and talents of every class, the combat statistics on gear, and how gear is purchased.  The next two months will be filled with adapting to those changes before Cataclysm is released.  We are in for some interesting times!

The class changes are going to take some time to get our collective heads around.  Personally, I enjoy periods of experimentation, where players creatively tinker with new possibilities and challenge previous assumptions.  (From the perspective of my own main class, Warlocks using Imps in PvP seems like a terrible idea, but it’s working fantastically.)   The stat changes, too, will require some time and experimentation to understand.  Gear at all levels will change, and what was once Best-In-Slot for leveling PvPers may not be anymore.  There’s lots of work to be done there.

RESILIENCE

The biggest change to PvP gear is that Resilience will no longer reduce your chance to be Critically Hit; it just reduces damage taken from other players.  This makes Crit-heavy builds even more viable, so you may want to experiment with swapping out Haste gear for Crit gear if you’re overloaded.

ENDGAME GEAR

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 6 months since the last substantial change to endgame PvP gear.

The currency changes I noted in Preparing for Rated Battlgrounds are now in effect, which has some great implications for battleground players.  Only Honor Points are available, and since higher tier Conquest Points will only become available when Cataclysm launches, all gear that’s available in Wrath is now available for purchase through Honor Points.

Unfortunately, the top level gear still requires ratings, so you can’t get a full Wrathful set from running normal battlegrounds.  You can, however, get Relentless gear without a rating, so this still represents a step up.  I’m a little disappointed that the Wrathful set still requires a rating (since the Arena season is over), but not entirely surprised.

Update: Wrathful gear, up to rating level 2000, can now be purchased without an Arena rating. My previous information is now out of date, and you can get nearly an entire Wrathful kit, sans the shoulders, some weapons, and the tabard. I’ve updated the list below to reflect this change.

Here’s what the full PvP kit will cost you in the new system.

  • Head: Wrathful  – 1650 Honor Points
  • Neck: Wrathful – 725 Honor Points
  • Shoulder: Relentless/Titan-Forged – 695 Honor Points
  • Back: Wrathful  – 725 Honor Points
  • Chest: Wrathful – 1650 Honor Points
  • Wrist: Wrathful – 600 Honor Points
  • Hands: Wrathful  – 1040 Honor Points
  • Waist: Wrathful – 945 Honor Points
  • Legs: Wrathful – 1650 Honor Points
  • Feet: Wrathful – 945 Honor Points
  • 1st Ring: Wrathful – 725 Honor Points
  • 2nd Ring: Relentless  – 485 Honor Points
  • Trinket: Medallion of the Alliance/Horde  – 945 Honor Points
  • Trinket: Battlemaster – 725 Honor Points
  • Main-hand: None (still requires rating)
  • Off-hand: Possibly Wrathful 70-260+ Honor Points
  • Ranged: Possibly Wrathful – 260+ Honor Points

This entire kit will cost at least 14,025 Honor Points. If you’ve been working on your PvP set for some time, you’re only going to need to update a few items, so it should be pretty easy to bring yourself up to speed.

(I would also recommend that you not get the second PvP ring, and instead get the Ashen Verdict ring instead.)

PVP MOUNTS, ACCESSORIES, AND GEMS

There have been a few changes to the PvP vendors; pre-cut gems are gone, for one – but by in large all the gear you used to be able to get is still available for Honor Points.

Mounts are now 2000 Honor Points.  Depending on how much currency mount collectors carried over, this may be easier to get now than before in terms of time to acquire, but in general PvP mounts are as easy (or as difficult) to get as before.

Other accessories you might be interested in are below.

  • Battle Standard: 2550 Honor Points
  • Level 70 PvP Trinket: 140 Honor Points
  • Epic Gems: 165 Honor Points.

In general, the currency conversion is really the only thing that’s changed with PvP accessories.

 

The PvP Jewelcrafter is still in the game, so you can still PvP For Profit.  The rumors of his demise were much exaggerated.

Though, seriously – there are plenty of other ways to make money in Warcraft. Trust me.

LOW-LEVEL PVP GEAR

One of the pleasant side effects of the 3.3.3 removal of Marks of Honor was how accessible low-level PvP gear became.  At level 18, 28, 38, and 48, you can visit the Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin vendors and get awesome leveling gear for a pittance in terms of honor gained.  The prices are a little different now, and we’ll have to see how the costs scale with Honor Points gained in the leveling battlegrounds, but you should be able to get gear with the same minimum effort.

Those vendors are:

The AV gear continues to be good for the early 50s, but is quickly replaced by Outlands gear at 58.

The stat changes have some serious implications for lowbie twinks, which I’ll be covering in more detail over at Green Tinted Goggles when I have a chance to absorb all the changes.

PVP HEIRLOOM GEAR

The currency changes obviously affect how you purchase Heirloom Gear; Emblems and Stone Keeper’s Shards are out, Justice and Honor Points are in.  Champion’s Seals are still a viable currency from the Argent Tournament for the PvE gear, but the Stone Keeper’s Shards are gone as the way to get PvP heirlooms in Wintergrasp.

Interestingly, the costs of Heirlooms have been scaled up to account for the rate at which points should be earned at level 85, not at 80, so they are more expensive now than they were in 3.3.5.  So if you’re looking for PvE Heirlooms, the Champion’s Seals are probably your best bet right now.  For PvP Heirlooms, here’s what you’re looking at.

  • Shoulders, 1H DPS Weapon: 2175 Honor Points
  • 1H Caster Weapon: 2725 Honor Points
  • 2H Weapon, Ranged Weapon: 3500 Honor Points
  • Heirloom PvP Trinket: 2725 Honor Points

The stats have also changed somewhat on this gear, just like all the other gear.  Depending on your class, this is either great or terrible.

Hopefully, the Heirloom Items Scale will be updated soon to reflect all the new stats!

LEARNING TO PLAY AGAIN

One of the biggest challenges of the next two months is understanding the changes to the classes and combat systems 4.0.1 has brought us.  The currency we use to buy gear is different, and the stats on it might be altered — but the gear itself isn’t new.  That’s okay – we have enough to learn without having to worry about new types of gear.

That will all come soon enough, when Cataclysm launches.

Special thanks to @quaunaut and @zombiegopher for helping me check prices tonight, since my patch is currently stuck on the baby murloc wav files. Thanks, guys!

6 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual