Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Raid Dropping Exploit of Tol Barad

I heard about a putative exploit in Tol Barad earlier this week, one that would potentially allow you to break the 1:1 ratio of the zone and let you stack players on your side to overwhelm the opposition.

The theory behind it is:

  1. People enter Tol Barad via the queuing system which should try to slot for an equal number of players of both factions. If one side has fewer people than the other, then people on the more populated faction will not be allowed in until the levels are equal again.
  2. Once in Tol Barad, players are automatically placed into 40-man raid groups.
  3. If you drop the raid group, the queuing system thinks that the raid groups are not equal, taking a person from your side’s queue and porting them into the zone without triggering a corresponding add from the other faction.
  4. If enough players on your side do this, you will stack the zone in your favor.

Step 3 is where the exploit supposedly lies. It’s possible that the zone works this way – that raid groups are used to calculate the current population, and therefore could be fooled by removing players from the raid.

That’s the theory. If it’s happening, then this is game-changing – it’s no longer about which side can win this broken battleground, it’s about which side can get more people in through this exploit.

But is it really happening?

STAND BACK, I’M GOING TO TRY SCIENCE

I can talk until I’m blue in the face about how the victory condition of the battleground coupled with a broken capture mechanic all combine to make Tol Barad very hard to win (say that three times fast), but perhaps it’s possible that there is an exploit in progress. Perhaps the Alliance on Durotan did use it to win Tol Barad last weekend. Perhaps the Horde does use it on a regular basis to keep control.

At some point, you have to stop speculating and start experimenting. So let’s test it out.

If the exploit works, then you should be able to observe several behaviors during the battle.

  1. Players should be asking for invites into the raid. This would be due to their dropping the raid that they were originally invited into in an attempt to stack their side.
  2. The number of players in raids should be fewer than the number of players in the zone for any given side. This is also due to the attempted exploit.
  3. The number of players in the zone for one faction should exceed the number of players on the other faction over the course of the battle. This would be the result of the exploit working.

The first is easy to observe by zoning in to the battle and watching general chat. The second is a little more challenging to measure, as you only have visibility into your own raid, but you should be able to measure this through watching the first raid fill up and a combination of /who and counting the people in the /1 General chat channel.

The final criteria, however, requires cross-faction cooperation. Trying to take an accurate tally of people in a crowd is hard enough, but virtual people, engaged in a battle, where they don’t have collision detection, and might be sporting pets, demons, totems, or companions? Nearly impossible to do by observation.

But it’s not impossible if you use /who and the general chat channels on each side. At least, that’s the hope.

But how could I measure the Horde numbers without transferring or leveling an alt?

Unfortunately, lab coats don't come with Resilience.

THE EXPERIMENT

Enter Ermoonia and Rosasharn of <Tech Savvy At Risk Youth> to help with data collection. Ermoonia is a reader of this weblog and killed me the other day in Tol Barad – an action, by the way, which I highly encourage, getting killed by readers honestly makes my day – who also happened to transfer over to Durotan’s Horde side a short time ago. I proposed my experiment to her, and she agreed to help out in this unnatural cross-faction analysis of Tol Barad. (“For SCIENCE!” was our rallying call.)

About two minutes before the battle, I logged in to their Vent server, where I was treated to the most entertaining Tol Barad I think I’ve ever gotten to run. I’ll get to why it was so entertaining in a bit, but here’s what we observed.

  • Alliance players were both leaving the raid without leaving the zone, and then asking a few minutes later to be re-invited back into the raid. Horde players, conversely, were not asking for raid invites.
  • The /who tool proved to be highly unreliable. It seems to max out at 49 results, and also includes people in the Tol Barad Peninsula zone, confusing the count further.
  • We changed over to counting people in General – Tol Barad chat as an alternate benchmark, which seemed to be more accurate.
  • The Alliance started out with 24 players and maxed out somewhere around 46.
  • The Horde started out with around 30 players and maxed out somewhere around 47. Horde generally had 1-2 more players in the zone than Alliance, but the numbers were sometimes equal.
  • At no time, at counts below 40, did the count of people in the General – Tol Barad exceed the raid browser count, on either side.
  • The count between sides would sometimes vary by a few people, usually when Alliance players would leave. Rosasharn mentioned that there was usually a lot of Horde players queuing for Tol Barad, and that not getting in was a sadly common occurrence.
  • The Alliance lost badly. Again.

The implications of these observations are interesting.

  1. It appears that Alliance players (attacking force) were trying to use the exploit, while the Horde players (defense) were not.
  2. Getting accurate counts is much more difficult than it seems. I thought that /who would be the easiest way to provide a running count, but since it counted both Tol Barad zones (combat and non combat) the total it provides is worthless, and the cap on display made it even more worthless.
  3. The faction which was supposedly committing the exploit (Alliance) never outnumbered the faction which was not (Horde), as measured by General – Tol Barad chat.

My conclusion after watching the battle for a while was that if this exploit exists, it doesn’t work very well.

In talking to Ermoonia and Rosasharn, I realized there was an additional factor we couldn’t ignore in all this – the queue size for each faction.

  • The Horde of Durotan regularly queue for Tol Barad and do not get in. As the usual defenders and victors, they have a pool of players for the battle larger than Tol Barad will hold, guaranteeing that any slot that opens up will be filled. The rewards of the battle and access to the raid are such that players look at is as a good investment of their time to queue.
  • The Alliance of Durotan, as the losers, do not regularly queue for Tol Barad. Even though Alliance dominates the server (1.6:1, last time I checked), the player base doesn’t feel that queueing is worth their time, so Tol Barad is filled according to the Alliance queue.
  • It is possible that the Alliance exploit worked, but failed to make any measurable impact due to the lack of people in queue. If someone drops raid and the system can’t replace them, it’s possible that the exploit is working – just not having any effect.

Despite this, I’m don’t think that exploit was working, however. At the earliest stages of the battle – when both sides were around 30-35 players – not once did the Alliance outnumber the Horde. Not once. Even when I saw several people begging for raid invites all at once, the Alliance remained outnumbered or almost evenly matched.

I know that this isn’t conclusive proof. There are several problems with the methodology I can’t deny:

  1. If the faction with the stronger queue was exploiting, then you would see it work in action better than the weaker queue. We observed the weaker queue exploiting, not the stronger.
  2. The measuring methods are not to be trusted. You can only count the raid you are in. /who does not work. General chat may be accurate, but counting manually in a battle is fraught with the potential for error.
  3. The exploit could remove people from the count of General chat as well as the raid browser, rendering them invisible to detection.

But even with these exceptions, this experiment left me concluding that the exploit does not work.

And that’s a good thing.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DEFEAT, QQ, AND EXPLOITS

How you react to failure is at least as important as how you react to success.

It’s not easy to admit failure. It’s not easy to admit that you just weren’t good enough in a contest, to accept defeat gracefully. The whole idea of good sportsmanship – y’all remember that one, right? – is to counter the very natural feelings of anger, despair, and frustration you feel when you lose a competition. It’s okay to feel depressed, angry, apathetic, or even relieved when you lose. Culturally, we mask all of those emotions with small rituals designed to keep the competition civil – the handshake after a match, the concession speech by a political candidate, the salute after a surrender – but civility is for the playing ground, not the locker room. Emotions are emotions, after all, and denying them just makes them stronger – and uglier.

Warcraft PvP lacks the post-game handshake. There’s nothing to humanize your opponents, to force you to look them in the eye and say, good job, you outplayed me today. So whatever emotions you feel at losing are yours to deal with, and yours alone.

You can look back on your defeat and say, I was not good enough today, but I will get better. There is always another fight.

You can look back on your defeat and say, the contest wasn’t fair, it wasn’t my fault. It had nothing to do with my skill or ability, or my opponent’s skill – it was a no-win situation. Move on.

Or you can look back at your defeat and say, they cheated. The dirty, stinking bastards cheated.

This is the white elephant in the room when discussing any type of exploit in a group PvP environment. Is the exploit really happening, or is it fulfilling the desires of those who have lost to explain their defeat? Software bug or rationalization? Did your opponent cheat to win, or were you just not good enough? Sometimes it’s easy to see a bug in action, but often, it’s not.

The psychological problem is compounded by a very real fact: we are playing a computer program with known bugs. Stuff doesn’t work right all the time. (Heck, sometimes, it barely works at all!) And unlike a real-life sporting event, where you can assume things like, oh, the laws of physics apply, and if there are 11 people on the field then it means there are 11 people on the field – in computer games weird shit can and does happen.

When I wrote How DID They Win That Wintergrasp?, I was acutely aware that there were legitimate bugs affecting Wintergrasp. Driving vehicles through the walls was bad enough, but worse was that that bug lent legitimacy to the idea that the weaker faction could glitch out the system into an instant-siege scenario. Even after the weighting structures of the zone were confirmed by blue posts, players still complained about the other side cheating to get a mass of siege engines at the start of the game.

Well, there are legitimate bugs that have affected Tol Barad. It was possible to gain massive amounts of honor without ever participating in the battle by walking across the bridge at a certain time. I’m sure we’ll find more bugs as time goes on.

And now we have this rumored exploit.

The presence of one bug lends credence to the idea that there may be others. The bugs of Cataclysm gnaw at our psyches, making us doubt if the world is really working as intended or not. Maybe the other side is cheating. Maybe we should cheat to win, too, because they’re obviously doing it.

This rationalization is the path to the dark side of ourselves. Tread carefully.

THE MANY FAILURES OF TOL BARAD

Rosasharn: Are you guys just mindlessly zerging IC?

Cynwise: Uh, hang on. *checks map* Yes, yes we are.

Rosasharn: *pauses* Er. Why?

Cynwise: *scrolls back through general chat* No one’s running the show. We’re completely leaderless right now.

Cynwise: *pauses* It’s working out well for us, isn’t it?

Ermoonia: *laughs*

The Alliance on Durotan-US has gotten its ass kicked in Tol Barad pretty much since it opened. Excepting the Win-Trading Week, we’ve held it for about a day, maybe two, since Cataclysm launched. I’ve been in well-led offenses that can’t crack the 2/3 barrier, and been in total clusters of fun that barely manage to cap 1/3.

So, yeah. I lose Tol Barad every single time I play it. Haven’t won it yet.

I’m pretty firmly convinced that the design of the battleground is the biggest problem Blizzard should address, and that the Horde on Durotan don’t need to do anything but show up and execute a simple defense strategy to hold Tol Barad against the Alliance. The incentives are all there for the Horde to show up – plenty of honor, access to the dailies – and winning has created a culture of success, where they expect to win, they know how to win, they’ll field enough people to win, and if they lose they’ll make it a priority to take it back.

The Alliance, on the other hand, has accepted defeat in Tol Barad.

Rosascharn: How are you guys getting to exalted? That must be a painful grind.

Ermoonia: I’ve wondered the same thing.

Cynwise: *thinks for a minute* I don’t think I know anyone who’s exalted yet. Most people assume it will happen, eventually, but they’re not pushing to get it done.

The mentality of defeat is hard to admit, but honesty compels me to admit it – I don’t see taking Tol Barad as being worth my effort. Will I get all the rewards from there that I want? Sure, with time and some patience. It’s not worth my time and energy to bang up against a really tough battle for some extra gold and a little more progress towards a goal I don’t care all that much about. The gold from the dailies is worthless as a motivator; I make more farming in 10 minutes than those quests reward. The trinket? I’m focused on PvP right now, it’s not the trinket I want. The raid? Hmm. Not raiding right now, and PuGs have always been iffy. The mounts and pets? I’ll get there eventually.

The problem is when individual apathy becomes cultural. The Horde care about holding Tol Barad – they are used to doing it, they have a lot of people interested in the rewards, they have more spirit and enthusiasm for the place than the Alliance. The Alliance doesn’t seem to care. We’re resigned to not having it, so even when we do take it, there’s no cultural impetus to keep it. It’s not a habit Alliance players have formed. Rousing people to keep control of the zone is more work than actually taking it – when we get it, I get texts and twitters from guildmates telling me to get my ass into TB so we can hold it, but it rarely works.

And then there is the problem, clearly demonstrated in watching the Alliance play, that most of the time, we’re not even trying anymore.

Cynwise: Warden’s just fell, so you’re going to Slag next, right?

Rosascharn: Er…

*awkward silence*

Cynwise: *laughs* It’s the logical place to go, you’re going Slag. It doesn’t matter, we’re all still zerging Ironclad.

Of the Tol Barad battles I’ve witnessed, some have been good attempts with strong leadership, but many have been rudderless zergs, with AFKers leeching honor while other players raced randomly over the map, each according to their individual whim.

The Horde comes in, they know their plan, they execute it. IC is falling, go WV. WV is falling, go Slag. Slag is falling, go IC. They know that if they execute that plan, they win.

The Alliance doesn’t know how to win, and when it has a plan, it doesn’t execute it properly. The strong leadership isn’t there, because most players have quit Tol Barad out of frustration.

The most sobering finding of my experiment was discovering that Horde on Durotan don’t need to cheat to win. The Alliance simply isn’t playing well enough, and doesn’t care enough as a server faction to hold it for any length of time.

Player frustration is one thing; at least they’re trying to participate in the game. Player apathy is another matter entirely, and far more dangerous to a game developer. I think this was the problem Blizzard was really trying to fix when they increased the Honor Point gain for offensive wins in Tol Barad – they wanted to interrupt this culture of losing before it began.

But here it is. That people have come up with this exploit, real or imagined, is a symptom of that culture.

Players want to play a fair game. They want to think there is a good chance of their winning if their skill and ability is good enough. It doesn’t matter if you look at a game and go, wow, the odds are really in the house’s favor on this one, people can and will convince themselves that they have a good shot of winning. That delusion is normal human psychology at work. We adapt our model of reality to fit our desires, not to fit reality.

If we don’t win a fair game, then the other side must have cheated.

Yet, we delude ourselves – this game was never fair to begin with.

Do not mistake me: I consider this exploit to be a cheat on the level of the Arathi Basin Fast Start exploit. It is deliberately trying to circumvent the rules of the game to achieve victory, and – if I thought it was really happening – I’d agree that this is a bad, bad thing.

But Tol Barad’s problems are deeper and more fundamental than just the rumor of an exploit. The incentives for participating but losing are too low. The rewards are geared wrongly. The capture mechanic, combined with the victory condition, is broken. Something needs to be changed to make it feel more fair. It doesn’t need to be more fair, just give the impression that it’s that way.

CONFRONTING YOUR OWN BIAS

I’m grateful that <Tech Savvy At Risk Youth> let me crash their vent server for this experiment. It was a nice reminder that we’re all playing the same game, no matter what faction we might be representing at the time. It was funny trying to get together for a post-battle screenshot – I kept getting killed by other Horde players, they nearly ran into the Alliance guards – but it offered a sense of completeness to the evening, that post-game handshake that this game lacks.

But I was also struck by how personal an experience these world PvP zones are, how difficult it is to really form an unbiased opinion of them. So much depends on your server dynamics; intra-faction, inter-faction, if guilds are working together to take the zone for the raid boss or not, PvP experience on each side. I am a player in these games, just like you, and I’m acutely uncomfortable crying too loud about how hard Tol Barad is, precisely because my side happens to lose a lot. I worry about that white elephant in the room named QQ a lot whenever I complain publicly.

Seeing your team’s efforts through your opponent’s eyes is a wonderful thing. We sucked as a team during this particular battle. There’s no way to sugar coat it – our side had absolutely no business winning. We lacked the coordination, strategy, and ability to execute.

And we were trying to cheat to win.

Instead working harder, communicating better, and outplaying our opponent – people on my team were trying to cheat the god damn system to win.

That makes me feel pretty damn awful, truth be told.

It’s pretty disappointing to have to face that your teammates are willing to cheat. I don’t want to cheat to win. I want to beat people on fair, even terms. Yes, I advocate using the absolute best gear you can afford when going into a battleground and training your skills to absurd heights for your level. Yes, I advocate using terrain to your advantage.

But I can not condone breaking the rules of the game.

It’s even worse to think that this isn’t unique to Durotan, but is becoming more widespread as the rumor of it spreads. Players are desperate to win, and they will convince themselves that this works. Maybe it does, and I didn’t test it correctly. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s been hotfixed, and it did work before, but not since I tested it. I personally don’t think it ever worked, but it’s not really the point anymore.

We have a PvP encounter which is tuned to be hard for the attacking side. With the introduction of rated Battlegrounds, perhaps Blizzard was expecting more coordinated groups to be fighting in Tol Barad. Ultimately, that’s the kind of discipline and communication you need to win as an attacker! Trying to take the zone in a PuG is the real nightmare.

Perhaps that’s the right analogy to cleave to: just as raids are tuned towards challenging even great raid guilds right now, Tol Barad is oriented towards the rated Battleground groups, where discipline and communication are the norm, and PuGs will, by necessity, suffer.

Or perhaps, that’s how I see it – because I’m losing all the time.

THE TRAGEDY OF TOL BARAD

I looked at Tol Barad when Cataclysm launched, when I was putting together my PvP gear list, and I dismissed it. I was polite about it, but let’s face it – I dismissed it as a source of PvP gear or points.

The Week of Win Trading did nothing to change my mind: the gear is not worth getting for PvP. Period. In an area where Resilience is king, none of those items are good enough to waste your time grinding.

This leaves you a PvP zone with PvE rewards, which baffles me as to how it’s supposed to motivate the right people to come in to make it a good battle. The motivation is for raiders to go and try to get the shiny trinkets and gear; but the raiders are not necessarily the ones who are running rated BGs now. Perhaps that’s it; this is a test of coordination for a raid group, to show them how running a rated battleground would work, to show players that yes, you can do this if you work together. It’s the carrot to get people into battlegrounds.

But it’s frustrating enough that people want to believe the other side cheats, which is not normally the case in normal battlegrounds. (There, people blame their own team for sucking.)

You want to know why you lose a given battleground? 99% of the time, it’s because you were outplayed. Maybe your opponents were better geared. Maybe they stuck to their strategy. Maybe they had a better class composition during the individual engagements. Maybe they used vent or /bg chat. Maybe they were just better players than you were. Whatever it was, you got outplayed. Get over it.

Most of the time, when you lose in PvP, you get over it. You learn what you can from the loss and move on. So you got outplayed in a video game! Big fucking deal. Boo fucking hoo. Get over it.

This started off as a discussion about a simple question – is the raid dropping exploit of Tol Barad real? – but in trying to answer that question, it’s become a discussion of personal motivation and bias, of the desire to win at all costs, of what makes something QQ versus raising legitimate problems with a battleground. The exploit itself is not as important as the fact that people believe it works, that they want it to work.

I think the real tragedy of Tol Barad is not that it’s unbalanced, not that it’s too hard to assault, not that Blizzard turned it into a loot pinata for a week and screwed over the idea of fairness.

No, the real tragedy of Tol Barad is that it’s giving people the wrong idea about what PvP should be like. Winning is not about skill in PvP, or of choosing the right battle at the right time and winning it – no, in Tol Barad, PvP is about working together to cram as many people as possible into a node, and then play musical chairs until someone falls out of a chair.

No wonder people want to cheat.

I find Tol Barad hugely frustrating. I don’t want to write about it too much, because I see that my biases are affecting my judgement on it. There are problems there; lots of problems. But I’m also left wondering: why should I, as a player, even care about the problems anymore?

I wish I had an answer to that.

 

Update 1/27/2011: Blue post confirms this exploit doesn’t work. Hooray for science!

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

The Battle For Gilneas

The Battle for Gilneas is one of three new PvP battlegrounds introduced in Cataclysm. It is a relatively straightforward 10v10 resource match between the Horde and Alliance, set in the wonderfully gloomy atmosphere of Gilneas. There are three nodes to control – the Lighthouse (LH), Waterworks (WW), and Mine – and each node generates resources for your side. Each node has a flag you need to click and channel for a few seconds to capture. The more nodes you control, the faster your team gains resources. First team to 2000 resources wins.

If this sounds like a 10-man, 3-node Arathi Basin, well, that’s because it is. This is a half-court AB, designed to be fast and engaging.

Let’s take a look at the topology of the battleground.

If you haven’t seen one of my topological maps before, I go into a lot more detail in their original post, but the general idea is to only present the logical flow between objectives. Large circles are capturable nodes, small filled in circles are graveyards, and colored circles are graveyards which do not change control. Squares are important locations, but non-capturable. Terrain is pretty much ignored.

Looking at the map, calling BfG “a half-court AB” isn’t really a joke – it’s the AB map cut in half, with the Blacksmith removed. The three nodes are arranged in a rough triangle, with the Overlook in the center. Capture two of the nodes and hold them to win. Any two will do.

The Overlook is one of the more interesting elements of the Battle for Gilneas. It has no flag, no resources – but you can see every single node from it. This is something that sets BfG apart from AB – the ability to actually see every flag from a single point. In AB, at least two nodes are always hidden from sight from the absolute best vantage points (Farm, Lumber Mill, Stables). Not so from the Overlook. There is a tactical advantage to holding this spot, though it comes at the cost of not fighting near a flag.

The flow of this battleground is, thankfully, very linear. You are fighting within a triangle to capture nodes at each point. In the center is a vantage point that lets you see what is going on, but ultimately you will shift your team around the triangle.

The terrain in this battleground is really well done. While the flow of the battle is deceptively simple, the terrain is varied and forces you to become acquainted with the numerous choke points and obstacles between each node. A river cuts through the southern part of the map, encircling the Waterworks, but is not a huge impediment. The area around the Overlook is full of gullies and ridges, perfect for funneling your opponents into traps and area of effect spells.

Like with any other battleground, I encourage you to just run around on the map and see what it’s like. You can experience it without the thrill of combat using the new War Games feature.

WINNING THE BATTLE FOR GILNEAS

Fight at the flag!

I am absolutely serious about this: you want to win, fight at the flag.

I am amazed at how many people I see who have apparently forgotten how to fight at the flag in my short time in this battleground. The attackers let themselves get pushed away, intercepted before they ever come close to capping the node. The defenders let themselves get lured away down the road to the Overlook, until half the team is fighting over a piece of land that only has intelligence value, while the node gets capped behind them.

That kind of behavior doesn’t fly in Arathi Basin, and it won’t fly in Gilneas, either.

Get to know the terrain. If you’re attacking, use the buildings around the various nodes to mask your approach. Approaching from the Water Works seems to have more cover than the Overlook. Get between the flag and the graveyard and force the defense away from the flag. Make it so the rezzing defenders have to go through you to get back to the node.

Defense, intercept them away from the flag, but then fall back and do not chase. Don’t get caught up in the thrill of it all and let them sneak around to cap the undefended node.

Reinforcements arrive quickly in BfG, so call out incomings early, often, and as accurately as you can.

If this all sounds like the strategy for Arathi Basin, well, that’s because it’s the same strategy. First to 2000 points wins, after all! The smaller team and map size makes for some pretty intense fights around the flags, with everyone having to contribute to succeed. But it’s basically the same game.

I like the Battle for Gilneas. It’s taken many of the good qualities of Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch and combined them into a fun game. It fills out the 10v10 bracket nicely, a nice addition to the smaller format that formerly was limited to Warsong Gulch. The rules are familiar, but the map is all different, which makes for an interesting and fun experience.

Just remember – fight at the flag!

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Filed under Battleground Strategies, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Warlock Macros in Cataclysm

I am a strong believer in using macros to help automate tasks.  They allow you to react quickly in game, switch targets, juggle multiple actions at once…

Yeah. I <3 macros.

If you have never used macros before, you may find my Introduction to Macros post helpful. If you’re just getting started with macros for your warlock, you may find my first post on Warlock Macros useful, though it is becoming rapidly out of date, as both the macro syntax and warlock class have changed.

Let’s get down to some new macros.

THE NEW HAWTNESS

Your Imp is now pretty damn good at PvP. It’s not just that he packs a wallop and can kill people on his own (because he can, daaaaamn) – no, it’s that he inherited the Felhunter’s friendly Dispel Magic.

If you run Destruction, you must have this macro:

/cast [@player] Singe Magic

and use it whenever possible. That Imp is going to burn the hostile magic off of you.  Affliction?

/cast [@mouseover] Devour Magic; [harm] Devour Magic

This will eat the buffs off of your mouseover target, or your target if your mouse isn’t pointing at something.

You know what else is pretty good? Fel Fire. You know why it’s good?

If you answered “green fire,” I will cut you. Yes, we know it’s green. Get past that.

No, it’s good because it’s an instant cast nuke with no cooldown. And that means you are, once again, a Shaman’s worst fucking nightmare.

To nuke those totems:

/cast [@mouseover,harm] Fel Flame; [harm] Fel Flame

Warlocks haven’t been able to use pet stomping totems for about a year, but with Fel Flame and a mouseover macro, we’re back in a big way. This macro will cast Fel Flame at your mouseover target (if you have one) or your target (if you don’t). When you see a totem forest, mouse over the totems and start spamming FF at them. If you don’t have a mouseover target, it will hit your target instead.

This type of macro is also really useful if you want to try using more mouseover targeting in general. You can put any spell in there and swap between your target and your mouseover target with impunity.

You know what else is kinda cool? Soul Swap and a focus macro.

/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/focus [@mouseover]
/cast [@target] soul swap
/cast [@focus] soul swap
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1
/clearfocus [@focus,dead]

Much like the Fear Focus macro (which you’re using, because you CC like a Pro, right?), this one:

  • Makes your mouseover your focus.
  • Sucks the DoTs off the target on the first press.
  • Shoots the DoTs onto the focus on the second press.
  • Clears your focus when the mob dies.

Awesome for handling adds on a boss, putting pressure on people in PvP, being popular at cocktail parties, whatever. Awesome.

Update 1/5/2011: There’s only one … itty bitty problem. Sometime in the past week, this macro became bugged, and now responds with the error message, “Spell Not Learned.” The answers I’ve seen on the forums is that you need to drop your current spec and respec to fix it, which is crazy, but there you have it. It *does* work, just… not right now. :-(

Moving on.

I tend to spam keys, which can be great for DPS but bad for channeled spells or targeting circles. Something about hitting a key repeatedly tells the UI “this person is a hyperactive moron who can’t make up his or her mind about Shadowfury…”

But I digress. Drain Life is definitely something you want to let tick through the whole way. So:

/cast [nochannelling] Drain Life

or, a slightly more complicated version (which I use):

/cast [mod] Drain Soul; [nochanneling] Drain Life

will prevent my spammy fingers from stopping DL before the healing ticks come through, and:

/cast !Shadowfury

keeps the circle from going in and out while I pound on the keyboard.

(I do not want to talk about the removal of Drain Mana.)

Improved Soul Fire is a totally hax buff, but keeping it up in PvP can be a pain. You’ll want to take advantage of burning a shard and making it instant cast, like so:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Soulburn, Soul Fire

If you’re Affliction, you can use this as well:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Soulburn, Seed of Corruption

Bang this key twice to empower your Soul Fire and Seeds, or just once if you want to do something else.

If you want to be extra special, add Curse of the Elements to the end. Since Soul Fire and Seed of Corruption has a travel time, you can sometimes get Curse of the Elements on before SF hits, giving you an additional 12% damage and lowering the target’s resistances. I usually don’t spam it, just tap it twice… but having the additional curse at the end is always nice if I’m on the run.

Speaking of being on the run, you need to be able to cast on the run, no matter what your spec. Make a macro solely for you instant cast spells so you can be dishing out the pain when on the move:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Corruption, Bane of Agony, Curse of the Elements, Immolate

I end with Immolate because I want something to let me know that I’m out of DoTs to cast without stopping. You can use Unstable Affliction or Fear here too, just give yourself something with a cast time so that you don’t cycle continuously through three DoTs and waste your mana.

At the same time, you should have a fairly standard setup for questing. This is less about doing the most DPS, and more about killing things in the most efficient manner possible.  For Destro I use:

/castsequence reset=2,combat Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Chaos Bolt, Fel Fire, Drain Life

This is pretty straightforward; just have a macro you can pound on that delivers the spells you need onto a mob as quickly as you can. I usually pop a Soul Fire before starting that one, but it’s not something I always have time to stand around for.

OLD STANDARDS

Here are some modified versions of macros I published in my first Warlock Macros post.

Buffs! Everyone likes them, and they’re a bit easier to manage now. I prefer a post-GY rez macro for when I’m coming back from the dead; I just hit it until all my buffs are back.

/castsequence reset=@player,2 Fel Armor, Soul Link, Unending Breath, Create Healthstone, Create Soulstone

Now that stones don’t cost shards, there’s zero reason not to buff yourself with them. Combine the above with:

/cast  Create Soulstone
/use [nocombat,help,nomodifier:alt] Soulstone; [nocombat,@player] Soulstone

which will apply a Soulstone to a player if one is targeted, or to yourself of not.

THE MISSING PARTS

I’m obviously missing some abilities here – I’m not playing Demonology right now, and it shows, as I’m not really up to speed on the Felguard’s abilities or Hand of Gul’dan. I’m also somewhat focused on PvP right now, so haven’t dived into a lot of PvE-specific macros yet.

So, I’d love to see what you’re using – post your macros below in the comments!

(Don’t forget to look at Wowwiki for more Warlock Macros, too.)

Enjoy!

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Warlock CC and You: How to Crowd Control Like a Pro in Cataclysm

I love Fear.

Let’s get that out of the way right now. There are a lot of things about playing a warlock that I like, and near the top of my list is Fear. That spell is bound to the 4 button in every spec I play.

I am going to quote from the great “How To Battleground” thread by Dusk:

These people want to kill you. You are a warlock. They all hate you.

They are going to go out of their way to harm you as deeply and as earnestly as they can, and then they are going to /spit and /lol at your corpse, because everybody hates warlocks.

They hate fear, they despise dots, your felhunter is a rage magnet and deathcoil once made the entire wow population cry floods of bitter tears for over a year.

You want to know why I quote from that thread so much? Not because it’s about Warlock PvP – though it is – but because it’s about what it is to be a great Warlock, a complete Warlock, a master of this crazy class.

And in PvP, that means you are a master of Fear. You rip control of other characters away from their characters, and then you kill them. And they can’t do anything about it.

But in PvE, Fear didn’t have the best reputation. It tended to send mobs scurrying hither and yon, sending them screaming into packs of their friends that the tank wasn’t quite ready to pull just yet.

That changed dramatically in Cataclysm.

CROWD CONTROL IS A REQUIREMENT IN CATACLYSM

I have been told that the new dungeons of Cataclysm are hard. That they are punishing. That they are not facerolls, where you can press your AoE spell of choice and go check Twitter!

I have also been told that there are damage dealers out there who have forgotten that when the going gets tough on the tank and healers, their job is to make it easier on those tanks and healers! That these people, playing DPS classes, are refusing to use crowd control! That they don’t even know what that is!

I have even been told that there are WARLOCKS out there who are refusing to use crowd control!

This cannot stand. Do you hear me? THE LINE MUST BE DRAWN HERE.

THIS FAR! NO FURTHER.

You bring shame upon this great class if you refuse to CC.

If you are a warlock, you have the best PvP CC in the game. Do you hear me? IN THE ENTIRE GAME. You have the biggest damn CC toolbox of any class. You have Fear, which when glyphed freezes the mob in place instead of running to bring their friends. You have Banish and are fighting an invasion of Elementals. You have slows, and stuns, and an instant terror that damages your opponent while healing you.

You have no excuses left, Warlocks. You are going to CC like a fucking pro, because Fearing things while killing them is what you do.

DO ONE THING WELL, NOT TWO THINGS POORLY

You want to know why CC looks hard in PvE? It’s not because people can’t open up their spellbook and drag Fear to their damn action bar. No, it’s because it involves multitasking. Instead of tracking one target, you have to track two. You have to watch your normal rotation as well as make sure CC doesn’t fall off.

The key is to not treat them as two targets.

Wait, what?

You heard me.

Don’t multitask – integrate your CC with your normal priority rotation instead. Monitor the CC just as you would any other DoT or CD. Do it in the same place on the screen, in the same mental space.

To do this you’ll need two things – a decent macro and a decent debuff tracker. Let’s start with the macro.

CC FOCUS MACRO

The Warcraft UI has a handy feature in it that allows you to track two targets at once – a Focus. Focus are an advanced kind of Target and is only available via macros and slash commands. Your Focus persists until you change it and is independent of your active Target.

If that’s confusing, think of it this way.

  • Your Target is set by tabbing or clicking on things. It shows up next to your character portrait.
  • Your Focus is set by macros, doesn’t care what you click on, and is separate from your Target. It shows up near the middle of the screen.

So what we’re going to do is use a macro to set your CC target as your Focus, while the thing you’re supposed to kill remains your Target.

Let’s take a look at a Fear Focus macro.

#showtooltip
/focus [target=focus, noexists][target=focus, dead] mouseover
/cast [target=focus, exists] Fear; Fear
/stopmacro [nomodifier]
/clearfocus [modifier:ctrl]

This macro is straight off of WowWiki. It’s simple and does the job. (If you haven’t used macros before, here’s a brief tutorial.) Make one for Fear and one for Banish.

Here’s what it does when you press the button.

  • Sets your mouseover target – whatever your mouse is pointing at – to be your Focus, if you don’t have one. Then it casts Fear at it.
  • If you aren’t pointing your mouse at anything, it will cast Fear at your normal target.
  • If you press Ctrl while clicking the button it will clear your Focus.
  • It also clears your Focus when your Focus dies.

Here’s how you use it.

You’re in a dungeon, and the tank has marked the mobs Skull, X, and Moon.

  • You target Skull.
  • Put your mouse over Moon.
  • Press your CC button. Moon will become your Focus. You’ll cast Fear at it.
  • Cast your normal DPS spells against Skull.
  • When Fear is about to fade from Moon, refresh it by pressing the CC button again. Do not retarget.  CC will go to Moon, everything else goes to Skull.
  • When it is time to kill Moon, just shift your target to it. Don’t bother with your CC button or clearing the Focus.

The reason to use a Focus macro is so that you do not have to shift your targets back and forth. Your CC goes to one mob, everything else goes to the other mob.

If you’re having trouble understanding this, go to the nearest set of target dummies and try this macro out on two separate targets.

NEVER DROP A BEAT

The Focus macro is only the first part of becoming an awesome Crowd Controller. The next step is making sure that your CC is always up, and that the mob you’re assigned to tank stays tanked. That mob is going nowhere while you are on duty. If it gets hit by an AoE attack, or someone tab-targets a DoT on to them, it does not matter.

They are going to stay put until you are damn well ready to kill them!

Remember that crazy thing I said about not multitasking? Well, the one thing you don’t want to do is have to track DoTs on two different mobs in two different places on your screen. Don’t focus solely on your target, because then you won’t see that your CC victim got hit with an AoE attack and is running loose. Don’t focus solely on your CC, or your DPS will suffer.

No, what you need is to unify your interface. Track your Focus CC alongside all of your other important DoTs and CD tracking.

I recommend the addon Need To Know for this.

I’ve covered my personal setup of Need To Know in more detail elsewhere, but the basic idea is to take only those the buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns you need to track and put them all into one central location, like so:

Here I’ve called out the essential things I need to track as a Destruction Warlock for DPS – Improved Soul Fire buff, Immolate duration on my target, Conflagrate CD – but I’ve added in a line for my CC, above my cast bar space.

But it’s important to note something – NTK isn’t monitoring CC on my target, it’s monitoring CC on my Focus. Once I start CCing that mob with the macro above, all I have to do is make sure that that bar stays up. If it breaks, the bar disappears and I recast. If it’s about to run out, I hit my CC button and recast Fear or Banish.

I don’t have to multitask to keep a mob under control. And neither do you. It is awesome when you don’t have to split your attention – just watch the NTK bars.

You set up your CC bar like other NTK bars, but with one key difference:

Instead of monitoring your Target, you monitor your Focus instead.

Also, since you will probably need to switch between Fear and Banish on different mobs, you can make NTK look for both in the same bar. I put all my CC into a single line – just separate them with commas.

These two things in combination make CC a breeze in dungeons. Do them, and Crowd Control becomes trivial. You will make it look easy, which is as it should be.

You’re a Warlock. You are the best damn CC class in the game.

WARLOCK TIPS AND TRICKS

The Glyph of Fear is what makes this all work, of course. It’s one thing to have a great CC toolkit for PvP, but the biggest problem with Fear before Cataclysm was how it sent mobs running all over tarnation, where they’d pull packs of their friends and make you less than popular among your PvE group. But you’re not limited to Fear.

Choose the right tool for the job. Fear is your default, but Banish is useful against Demons and Elementals. There are subtle differences between the two – Fear breaks on damage, Banish does not, but Banish is harder to chain – but they also give you the option of CCing two mobs at once (though you shouldn’t try DPSing the third.) Your Succubus’s Seduction ability is yet another CC option against Humanoid opponents, if you already have her out for her knockback.

You are the tank for your target and responsible for positioning; move them as necessary. You are not helpless in the face of AoE damage to your CC target. Many melee DPS classes rely upon area of effect spells as part of an effective rotation, and they sometimes errantly hit the CC target. Or, the tank might start AoE tanking and nick your mob – perhaps they didn’t pull the main pack far enough away, or things just aren’t going right. If this happens, you are not helpless.

  • Death Coil will break Fear and send the mob fleeing for a short burst of time, letting you reposition them away from the main fight. Reapply Fear when you get them where you want.
  • Searing Pain can be used to break Fear and draw the mob towards you. Position yourself in the direction you need the mob to go and use Demonic Circle to get out of harm’s way while you reapply CC.
  • Your Succubus has a knockback effect – Whiplash – and you can get your controlled mob out of the way of AoE with it. Blow a shard, summon the Succy instantly, then move the mob.
  • If your mob is Banished, casting Banish will break the banishment and move them towards you again. You can apply DoTs to make sure you have the mob’s attention, then reposition them as they come after you.

Howl of Terror and Death Coil are in case of emergency. These two spells are both very powerful when used correctly. If the tank totally loses aggro on a pack of mobs and they are all going towards the healer, Howl at them. Tanks don’t like gathering up fleeing mobs, but at least they’re not eating the healer. Death Coil is a similar tool; it can be used to peel a mob off a healer, but you aren’t in control with it. Use it as a way to seize control, since it’s an instant cast on a CD.

I personally also recommend that you glyph Shadowflame, as that will give you an awesome slow for PvP and PvE alike. It is a huge, huge slow – 70%! – but not everyone will want to spare the glyph slot. Consider it, at least.

THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET

I know that I can be… uh… enthusiastic? about Warlocks. But if you’re another DPS class with CC, you can absolutely take this approach and use it to become awesome Crowd Controllers, too.

Mages, if you can’t see that this works perfectly with Polymorph, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s bad enough you have Frost Nova, but there is no reason you can’t be sheeping and pigging and lord knows what else to mobs! Seriously, you have a rep to protect here! Are you going to let Warlocks show you up? Again?

(Also, buy my Tomes of Polymorph: Turtle off the AH. I have alts to support.)

And all the rest of you! Every DPS class with CC, no matter how good or how poor, can use focus macros and a good debuff tracker to ensure that they are controlling their assigned mob. Rogues have Sap. Ele Shammies have Hex. Druids have Hibernate and Entangling Roots. Hunters can trap and kite like no one’s business.

Every DPS needs to look at their bag of tricks and figure out what they can do. If you can’t CC, you can interrupt. Everyone has something. If you aren’t CCing, you should be on Interrupt duty. Period. End of story.

But this is what Cataclysm PvE is like; DPS needs to look at CC as something they have to do, and take pride in doing well.

And to my fellow Warlocks: I expect you to be among the best in the game. Show those Mages what we’ve got.

When everyone competes to be the best CCers, we ALL win.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery