Monthly Archives: October 2011

Five Reasons Deathwing Should Have Visited Major Cities All Along

1. Deathwing has been an impersonal villain this expansion. We should get to see his softer, gentler side. With catapults.

2. Raiders would have a truly personal reason for killing Deathwing: avenging their slain bank alts.

3. Human hunters named Bard are currently out of fashion.

4. Scatters alts throughout cities in hopes of 1) getting burned and 2) figuring out how Deathwing is going to get into Ironforge, Undercity, and The Exodar.

5. Maximum epicosity.

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On the Problems of Lowbie Healing

Cynedra_-_stables_captured_-_arathi_basin

Quick sketch post tonight.

Lowbie shaman healing has pointed out flaws with healing model that further exacerbate balance problems in low level PvP. Level 10 primarily.

All healers are not created equal.

Shammy has 1 heal – long, slow – and a defensive shield. Shield helps mitigate dots but not high burst. Also, can only be placed on single target. Slow direct heals can’t keep up with the burst – too weak. Have to stack Haste to make it work.

Pally has 1 slow heal, and an instant one with Holy Power. A ltitle more versatile but still problematic if you don’t stack Haste.

Druid has 2 (?) HoTs, one instant, one cast time. Three if you count Swiftmend. Rejuv is good because it’s instant, but must have Swiftmend to make it work. Swiftmend can keep up with burst (kinda) but CD is too long; also consumes Rejuv through level 25. Rejuv can’t keep up. HoTs are just too weak.

Disc has 1 instant shield (which can be potent), 1 HoT, 1 Channeled instant on CD, 1 direct cast. PW:S allows instant negation of burst, with Renew healing previous damage taken. Penance serves as a great filler spell when you need to heal NOW. Direct cast is fast, expensive heal, not slow.

Holy, I haven’t played yet.

Just looking at the ability distribution, it’s pretty clear why Priests dominate as healers in the early brackets.

But it’s also interesting to see how hard it is to heal well in this kind of PvP. The burst damage is something you need a toolkit of spells to handle, and 3 out of the 4 classes lack those tools. I can handle the burst at 70 on a druid, no sweat. I can’t handle the burst on a druid at 10.

Much like the difference between warriors and hunters, priests and shamans have very different skills at 10-14. Shamans have PvE skills, but they have this weird hybrid of all kinds of three different roles. Priests have two roles, and two specs are healing, so their healing bag is more stocked.

If quick, dirty heals were more prevalent, maybe even instant, healers might become more effective in low level PvP.

That, in turn, might be a different kind of fix to lowbie PvP. Don’t fix burst – fix healing the burst instead.

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Corpse Running in Battlegrounds

Base running – knowing how to get from base to base, knowing how to reach, steal, how to tag up on a fly ball – is a baseball skill that is essential for winning games. If you’re on second and the ball pops up, you need to know if it’s going right or left to make a decision about stealing third (or home). (goes right, steal and evaluate home, goes left, third is probably all you can do.)

Knowing the situation with the bases isn’t rocket science – it’s a set of decisions based on a set number of variables – but it can be very challenging. Making cool decisions under fire is the mark of a good player, both on offense and defense.

Corpse running in PvP is similar to base running.

You die. You’re at the Spirit Healer. The resurrection timer is ticking, and you have to make a decision.

  • Do you stay and rez where you’re at?
  • Do you run back to your corpse?
  • Do you run to a different graveyard?

Most players will just resurrect at the spirit healer they wind up at. I know I do, most times. The GY is a good chance to catch one’s breath and evaluate the battleground as a whole – how are we doing? What did I lose track of when I was busy getting killed?

But it’s important to remember that you always have a choice about how you resurrect.

I use the term resurrection vector to describe how forces move en masse across a BG when killed. You killed someone; where does the game say they will resurrect? Now, how do you use that to your advantage?

In terms of strategy, it’s safe to assume that people will pop where their resurrection vector sends them. Most people don’t think about running to their corpse in PvP. (Many don’t think about it in PvE, either, lazy folks.)

Corpse running screws up resurrection vectors. It’s unpredictable, risky, and can lead to huge payoffs when done right. It can be used to bypass choke points and launch surprise attacks. It can be used to recap nodes, steal flags, and move across the map unhindered.

RUN BACK, NOOB

I was in Arathi Basin on my Horde Hunter tonight when we got overrun at the Farm. I started calling out the rez timer when I realized that my insignia hadn’t been taken yet. My corpse was right next to the flag.

Then the flag got capped, and I was sent back to the Defiler’s Den.

It’s easy to just go ahead and rez where you are. But as I checked to be sure that my insignia was still there (it was, this was a lowbie bracket) I realized I had a chance to get back into the battle very quickly.

Furthermore, the Alliance was already riding away.

So I ran back to my corpse, rezzed, and defended the Farm. Lok’tar Ogar!

Arathi Basin has two places where running back makes a lot of sense when your nearest base is assaulted – the spawn points. Battle For Gilneas has two, as well. But even when you’re not in a good position, take a moment to think about where your corpse is and what you’d gain by running back to it.

There are some risks.

Your insignia could be taken, leaving you stuck far away from the Graveyard with no body for your spirit to inhabit. While legend has it that this is how ghosts enter our world, in Warcraft all you’re risking is time away from the battle. This used to be a highly risky option, but the addition of the Return to Graveyard button negates the chance that you spend 2 minutes getting to your corpse, only to find there’s no way to rez.

Now, at worst, you can get back in the game 30 seconds after your insignia is taken.

You could hit a resurrection timer when you get to your body. I think this depends upon the number of times killed in the BG, but I don’t know the specific algorithm – but I do know that sometimes, I’ll show up at the corpse and be told I have to wait.

I hate waiting to resurrect.

There are a lot of situations where it’s smarter to run back to your corpse and rez than to accept the Spirit Healer’s guidance. Keep in mind that this is an option, and you’ll start to see them open up.

HEALS REZ ME PLS?

In multi-graveyard battlegrounds (everything but WSG), you can go run to another Spirit Healer and let them raise you from the dead instead of the one your resurrection vector sends you to.

Why would you do it? Consider the following situations:

  • You’re at Trollbane hall and the Horde is strongly holding Stables, pushing up the hill to hold you in place. (You’re getting farmed.) Step out, go to a base you still control before it slips away.
  • You’re encountering stiff resistance moving past Icewing Bunker… but you were able to cap Dun Baldar Aid Station. Instead of going back to Stonehearth, start having people race north to get in position to pull Van.

There are judgement calls you’ll need to make – let’s say you’re in EotS, and the base directly across from yours is getting attacked, or will be attacked soon from opponents spilling off the flag bridge. Corpse running allows undetectable movement between the two nodes… but it is going to be slower. Should you do it? *shrug*

Getting around choke points is important. Sometimes (like in AV), you just can’t get around a point, and you need to – they’re waiting on tank and heals down at Drek! – run to the Relief Hut. Wintergasp allowed you to choose your Spirit Healer, which is a feature I’d love to see in more battlegrounds.

The biggest drawback of running to another node is the time it takes to get there. You might head out for a graveyard, only to have it captured before you arrive. Even if it’s still there, you are out of the battle for longer than following your default resurrection vectors.

STOPPING THE RUNNERS

Stopping your opponent from corpse running is impossible, but you can frustrate and stymie them. If you make them waste their time being unproductive in the BG, you win. The best way to do this is to not immediately collect their insignia, but let them get a little ways out before yanking it. (Shaman and Warlocks are the exception – take their insignias as quickly as possible to prevent self-rezzes.)

Generally speaking, you don’t have to worry so much about corpse running or graveyard switching in PvP. Most people don’t do it. I don’t do it often enough; I kick myself every time I spent an entire AV cursing out how I couldn’t get around Tower Point when we held the Relief Hut.

But, when done well, corpse running can be highly disruptive.

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On Learning to Accept the Role of your Class

Screen_shot_2011-10-12_at_10

I want my warriors to be better at PvP than they actually are.

It’s strange for me to say that, because there’s really not much more I could do on Cynderblock to improve her. She has BiS gear for every situation I’ve been able to plan for. All three specs, different situations, PvP and PvE. Low level questing, high level questing. Trash tanking, boss tanking, instance soloing. Stamina stacking, Armor stacking, Avoidance stacking, Crit stacking, Intellect Stacking – all of it.

But no matter how good I make her, she’s still going to suffer from some huge drawbacks in PvP:

  1. Inability to maintain Time on Target due to lack of Warbringer, Hamstring, Concussive Blow, etc., reducing overall DPS as well as burst damage.
  2. Only gap closer requires you to get out of combat.
  3. Rage issues due to lack of shouts.
  4. Lack of true self-healing like Paladins and Druids.
  5. Overwhelming potence of Hunters, Mages, and Priests in the bracket; ‘block can be killed by a Hunter’s pet in 5-7 seconds while the Hunter kites.

The counterbalance to this is that she’s incredible in PvE. In a traditional 5-man setup, she’s an awesome tank. She’s fun to quest on. She can kick ass with authority in a dungeon.

But in PvP, she’s … listen, I play a lot of classes in PvP. Warriors are weak against Hunters and Mages in the 19 bracket. They’re one of the two weakest DPS classes. They can be strong FCs, but they really need a pocket healer to be fun.

Tonight, I queued up for WSG, got in, and saw that there were a few familiar names. Everyone was over 1000 HP, something I haven’t seen in a while, and I attribute that to the removal of the F2P twinks from the bracket.

But I wasn’t the FC – a shaman was, and she did it very well. I don’t sit there and pout when this happens; I switch over to Offense, slap on my DPS gear, and give it my best go. I get in position to repick, or I make myself a nuisance with the EFC – I try to contribute as best I can.

It’s usually not a lot of fun. Hunters zoom in on me as a free HK if I’m crossing the field. I’m not very effective.

Warriors are the best tanks at level 19, surpassing Paladins for threat (especially AoE) and Bears. They’re fun and dynamic little pocket rockets, stance-dancing their way through an instance. I know that with the threat changes it’s not really saying much that Warriors have great threat from 15-24, but… it’s what they have.

Tanking Deadmines? Great. Having versatility in PvP? No. Not yet. They can be extremely versatile at level 85, but … not at 19.

Level 70 is better, but not balanced yet. You have a lot of the gap closers, but hunters and mages are still nightmares. DKs are crazy good. I prefer playing Prot PvP because of the mobility it gives me, letting me ping-pong around the battleground, stunning, shocking, pummeling, charging from one caster to another. I see how the toolbox has improved, and how it just needs a few more tweaks.

It took me a few weeks of playing both warriors as my primary characters for me to realize a few things.

TIMES I WAS HAPPY PLAYING PROT PVP

  • Alterac Valley. Hot damn, A little PvP for a warmup, then tank Drek? Sign me up.
  • Warsong Gulch, as the FC. I’m getting pretty good at FCing, but I need a good healer, too.
  • Arena. I did one level 70 Arena. Even though we lost, I had a lot of fun.

TIMES I WAS NOT ALL THAT HAPPY PLAYING PROT PVP

  • Arathi Basin. Sometimes it would be okay, sometimes I’d just get steamrolled.
  • Strand of the Ancients. This could be frustrating, or it could be an easy game to get through. The mobility of Prot helps a lot with slowing down the tanks.

TIMES I WAS MISERABLE PLAYING PROT PVP

  • Warsong Gulch, any DPS role.
  • Eye of the Storm. I usally love this one, but I would get destroyed every time in EotS. The open fighting style – heals are very distributed on the map – spells trouble.

Interesting breakdown, isn’t it? I was tempted to say, hey, this is problems with these specific brackets. But I didn’t struggle in the same BGs on my Priest, and my Druid handles them all pretty much the same – Bubble/HoT all the things!

I remember this happening on Cynwise (warlock) and Cynwulf (death knight), when they were pretty much the only toons I played. I struggled on WSG with ‘wise – a lot, OMG, did I use to hate that BG – but once I switched over to ‘wulf, WSG was cake. It was easy. AV was fun on both toons, but I did very different things there. Areas where I struggle on one toon are trivial for another.

Warlocks are a good example right now. If I were to base my opinion on warlocks based on how they do in leveling BGs, I’d be really down on them. Man, they suck in almost every bracket.

Except 85, where they become kings and queens of the 3s. Where they do just fine in PvE. Where they do fine in most BGs, though they’re not part of a standard rBG comp.

Screen_shot_2011-10-12_at_10

Isn’t that odd?

I mean, we talk a lot about class parity and homogenization in PvE, but – in PvP at least – I’m not seeing it. Sutble differences in abilities affect playstyle, which then interacts with our individual preferences.

I like playing AV on Ashwalker. I enjoy tanking on her. But I’m discovering that I enjoy PvP a lot more when there’s a healer involved, because she kills waaay too slowly. I enjoy PvP more on my Druid, where I feel like I’m making a massive difference by healing everything in sight, than I am on my warrior – except when my Warrior is tanking or FCing. So I’ve stopped queueing for randoms on Ash, while I continue to random it up on Cynli.

I have been thinking on and off about Vidayla’s struggles with Firelands healing and the Hybrid’s dilemma - what happens when you want to play a character, but the spec you want to play is not a good fit? There’s tension that arises there, between the suitability of the class for the role, your comfort in playing different things.

There’s also tension when you have a main (like Vid does, like I … used to) and that main is you, it’s your avatar, and you realize that because of the way in which you’ve strucutred your relationship with your avatar – the limits placed on the toon transfer to you. I’ve looked at a lot of PvP achievements and realized that they’re just easier for some classes to do than others, so if you happen to play one of the harder classes, guess what? You’re screwed. Not your character, but you get screwed over by the game and made unhappy.

Vid had a good example of this – The FL fights she’s on needs more DPS, fewer heals. So she either had to stick with the character she liked (for healing) and DPS in a spec she didn’t like, drop healing and go full time DPS, or sit out the fights.

I can play Ash in AV and WSG as PvP, or I can tank all the things. Those are the places which make me happy to play her. I can play other BGs on her, but it’s not as much fun, and is sometimes downright painful. Blcok is even more limited in her scope right now, which makes me sad.

This may be a good side effect of the project-based toon creation I’ve been doing of late. I get them to where I want them, and then see where the fun actually resides. It’s been a challenge learning to be honest with myself about where I do and don’t have fun on a given toon, of accepting that not every character can be everything at all times. We’re all just searching for balance, here.

I think it’s important to be honest about how your playstyle interacts with the class, and how that in turn will make certain activities in the game more or less enjoyable for you. If it’s raiding or PvP, questing or running 5 mans – accepting the role you fit best into is vital for long-term happiness.

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Graveyard Camping

Graveyard camping is a controversial tactic used to corral and demoralize opponents in PvP. By killing opponents as they resurrect at the spirit healers, teams can control the flow of the game, achieve battleground objectives unimpeded, and undermine the spirit of the enemy. It is an effective tactic to farm honorable kills and killing blows, though it is less effective at farming honor when compared to quickly achieving the goals of the battleground.

It is controversial because many players maintain that it is fundamentally unfair, that it is the mark of bad players, and that it is morally objectionable to camp the graveyard. You have your enemy at a disadvantage and continue to press it, sometimes past the point where it serves any good game-related purpose, and instead are just farming HKs/KBs. In most brackets with a strong community, players and guilds who regularly camp the GY are called out on their behavior for public shaming. Screenshots are often provided.

When one team is able to sit on the other team’s GY and kill them as they resurrect until time runs out, it’s hard to sit there and say that this is a fair practice.

But things are rarely that simple in PvP.

WHY IT WORKS

Graveyard camping is effective because of three factors: positioning, preparedness, and the timing of rez waves.

Take a look at the above diagram, which I originally drew to explain why the changes to the WSG graveyard in 4.1 were going to encourage camping, and pay attention to how the opponents are arranged. Melee gets right up into the GY (Rogues and Warriors will literally get up the hill), ranged and healers stay at a distance. Meanwhile, the defenders are reviving all in a small, confined area, with few escape routes.

  • Rezzers are positioned poorly to defend healers and ranged when they return to the battle. Opponents can focus on them first, which eliminates a key element of the defense, because…
  • The camping healers are untouchable without focused ranged attacks. While some healers may move in a bit closer (especially if melee Shadowsteps/Charges into the GY), they aren’t in range of melee classes, and often ranged DPS will stay by the healers, peeling off any attempts to take them out.
  • Rezzers are susceptible to AoE attacks. When they come back, defenders are all within range of a good Pestilence, Howling Blast, Shockwave, Soulburned Seed of Corruption, etc.. While some of the attackers will be focusing on the healers, others can spread the damage around with ease. Death Knights are especially good at causing incidental AoE damage while DPSing down a target, but really any class can do it.
  • Rezzers often have no escape. Stealth is nullified, you can’t slip around to a better position. Open graveyards (like those in Arathi Basin) are much harder to camp than closed ones (WSG, AV, E/W GYs in SotA), so the defenders have no chance to reposition the fight for their advantage. The changes to the WSG GY encouraged camping precisely because they limited the number of escapes from the GY; now the prey has no where to run.
  • Campers often have multiple avenues of attack. Every time I get fired upon by ranged Horde on the ridge above Stormpike GY in AV, I curse out the GY design. Narrow canyon where I can get strafed by ranged but can’t get back at them? The terrain of many GYs allows campers several different positions, while defenders are stuck with one way out.
  • Rezzers can’t (easily) choose to go somewhere else. The only BG I can think of that allows you to really choose where you resurrect is Wintergrasp; WSG has no choice at all (only one GY), making it the most prone to camping. Yes, you can run to another GY, and that is sometimes the best option.

The campers are in a strong tactical position; the rezzers are in no tactical position at all. A group has to be disciplined and communicate how they are going to break the camp in order to make this work – usually a coordinated assault on the enemy healers – and many random groups can’t manage this. Even vent-coordinated groups can’t always manage something so simple as “kill the healers,” especially if there are multiple healers present. (Smart campers will get out of combat and resurrect fallen opponents, or have people run back to their corpses.)

Exacerbating the tactical weakness of positioning is that the defenders are unprepared. I don’t mean mentally unprepared, though there’s usually a second or two of absolute confusion when you come back to the BG. No, I’m talking about buffs – most buffs fall off with death and need to be reapplied. Melee may only have one or two buffs they want to apply (shouts, Horn of Winter, etc.) but casters often need 2-3 GCDs to get back up and running – GCDs which are spent getting attacked or, more often, not breaking the camp.

Buffs matter. A warlock going in without Demon or Fel Armor is weaker than one who has it up. Inner Fire is pretty important for Priests. The camping team will have full buffs; the defending team will be lucky to get even a few buffs on them. These little things add up. It’s personal weakness on top of tactical weakness, which doesn’t help matters. At all.

Not only is one team organized in good tactical position while the other side is disorganized, disoriented, clustered together with few avenues of escape, not only is one side better buffed than the other, to make it even worse, the camping team’s job gets progressively easier due to the timing of the resurrection waves. Every 30 seconds the defense starts off as strong as they’re going to get, but through focus and AoE, the defenders will quickly get outnumbered. Every 30 seconds they get reset into the same bad tactical position; only through killing the opponents heals and attrition will they be able to break it.

Oh yeah, but they have to break it before the reinforcements arrive from the enemy GY, which is usually only a minute or so away. Defenders generally have to break a camp within 2 rez cycles or it’s all for naught.

IS IT WRONG TO CAMP A GRAVEYARD?

I admit it; I’m a little perverse when it comes to finding things in PvP which are obviously wrong and only baddies do this and shaking them around in my head, trying to apply morality and ethics and tactics and strategy to them to see what happens.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that graveyard camping sucks when it’s being done to you. It does suck. I hate it. I hate feeling like there’s nothing I can do – especially in WSG – and that I’m just beating my head against a brick wall trying to get out. (Best tactic if you can’t break free after 1-2 minutes? Stop rezzing. You’re getting farmed, just refuse to play along and they’ll give up eventually.)

But just because something sucks and is personally frustrating, is it wrong?

It would be one thing if the tactic wasn’t effective at helping to win battlegrounds; it unquestionably is. There are valid strategic reasons for assaulting the enemy’s graveyard in every single battleground.

  • Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks: Keep opponents away from your FC and reinforcing the EFC.
  • Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, Battle for Gilneas, Tol Barad: Hit the GY to keep defenders away from the node while you capture it.
  • Strand of the Ancients: Keep defenders away from your Demolishers, keep attackers away from the demos and walls.
  • Alterac Valley, Isle of Conquest: Bottle up defenders in non-essential graveyards (or the Caves) to allow your team to capture important objectives.

Each and every one of these is a valid strategy to use in battlegrounds. Occupy the enemy in once place while you win the battleground in another – that’s an elementary tactic. If you distracted them outside of the graveyards, it would be a valid tactic – get them to commit to a battle in Stonehearth while you take Dun Baldar, for instances. Camping a graveyard is even more effective than a mere distraction – you are forcing the enemy forces to stay in a single spot while your team roams free.

But … it lacks honor, doesn’t it? It lacks chivalry, and fairness. It’s not nice. It’s exploiting a weakness in your opponent. It’s hitting them when they’re down.

That’s … wrong.

/SMACK

What the fuck is wrong with you?

This is Warcraft PvP. This is a street fight. There is nothing fair about this game at all.

This game is about finding every single advantage you can use against your opponents and using them to win.

Every. Single. Advantage.

You have terrain that can be used to your advantage? Use it.

You have better gear than they do? Great. Use it.

You have better positioning? You’re using your healers effectively? You’re using the terrain of the game against your opponents? You’re creating a numeric advantage in other parts of the map because a few of your team are holding up a bunch of their team?

Great. G-fucking-G, as the kids say. You have done your job correctly.

This isn’t warfare in the 18th century, with lines of riflemen lining up in a broad field, standing shoulder to shoulder, allowing themselves to be mown down. You’re not a redcoat; you’re a skirmisher.

If camping the graveyard helps you win, do it. 

This game isn’t about playing fair. It’s about winning.

Snap out of it!

ALL IS NOT FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR

Battlegrounds are about winning… except when they aren’t.

Camping a graveyard is, in many circles, one of the most dishonorable things you can do. My previous bravado is to make a point – that winning is the goal of each battleground, and working within the set rules of the battleground and the game (no exploits, for instance) there isn’t much that’s off-limits.

There are some things I don’t personally like. I don’t like insulting opponents with /rofl, /chicken, or /spit (/spit especially gets my goat). I think taunting is unsportsmanlike in real life, and it’s unsportsmanlike in a game. But I realize it serves a purpose – to get under your opponent’s skin, to make them come after you and not your FC, to goad them into a fury so they make mistakes.

Taunting isn’t my style. I think you’re a punk if you choose to taunt, to be honest – but I get that it has a place, that it’s a valid tactic. I rarely think it’s worth doing to win, and that the world is a better place if we keep games civil.

But smack talk has its place in games, and that the best thing you can do is rise above it. They’re just words.

Graveyard camping is a bit different from taunting. I’ve seen it called “disrespecting your opponent,” which it isn’t, really – teabagging is disrespecting your opponent, taunting them is disrespecting them, because that’s the intention behind the action. The intentions behind camping a graveyard are less clear, though. Is the team doing it to help win? That’s not disrespect, that’s just playing smart. Respect (or lack thereof) isn’t part of the action or intention – it’s a strategy, nothing more, nothing less.

What if they’re doing it to farm honor/HKs? It’s not a terribly effective way to farm honor, to be honest – you get many more Honor Points from a quick win and requeue than you do from farming a GY. Honorable Kills are a different matter – you can argue that it’s not really that great, you’re better off getting into a AV turtle, but it’s still pretty decent as long as the opponents keep rezzing. (Hint: STOP REZZING.)

People don’t like being turned into a number. People don’t like being put into a hopeless situation, which is what graveyard camping does. It’s most definitely not a nice thing to do to someone, but if you’re doing it in support of winning the game, your intentions are not to torment the other players.

What if you’re just doing it because you can, though? What if you’re doing it to farm honor, to farm HKs? What if you’re doing it to be a jerk?

Whenever I see the FC farming the GY I’m like… this isn’t helpful, guys. Just cap the damn flag already, put the other team out of the misery. The other team can’t break the siege.

When you camp the graveyard to secure a victory, you’re doing what’s necessary to win, and it’s a morally neutral action. When you camp the graveyard to prevent a win, though, when you prolong it longer than necessary, your intentions are now front and center, and they’re a little unsavory.

See, the discussion about right or wrong isn’t really about graveyard camping – camping the GY is just the means to the end, not the end. The debate is really about what happens when you (or your team) achieves an overwhelming position of strength.

What happens when you can’t be beaten? What happens when you’re level 85 facing flagged level 20s? What happens when you’re a skilled Arena player facing freshly-dinged 85s? What happens when you’re a team of twinks facing a undergeared pug?

  • Do you hold your fire?
  • Do you kill quickly, win, and move on?
  • Do you kill slowly, draw out the inevitable?
  • Do you outright torment your opponents before killing them?

How you behave in a video game says a lot about you in real life. Graveyard camping is a window into how you think about a lot of things, big things – honor, compassion – but the biggest of which is mercy.

Do you feel pity for your opponent? Can you show them mercy, to inflict only as much suffering as you need and no more? Or are you caught up in the bloodlust, desiring to not just win, but to demonstrate your dominance?

See, graveyard camping isn’t really the problem. It’s a valid, effective tactic to use in every single battleground.

The problem is when players can’t take pity on their beaten opponents.

And the problem is when beaten players can’t tell the difference between camping to win, and camping to be cruel.

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On the Differences Between the PvP and PvE Gear Models

MMO Melting Pot highlighted an interesting post over at Killing Me Slowly about gear, where Fulguralis compares his experience gearing up via raids versus gearing through Arenas, and finds the PvE experience… lacking. Fulguralis has some interesting points about how the VP grind is necessary because the raid drop tables are terrible. And yet, the VP grind is slow, while the CP grind is comparably fast.

On a completely related vein, Perculia and Hamlet have a great post up at FTL about Failure, Challenge, and the Decline of WoW, which touches on the transition away from the drop system to the badge/point system and the implications of gearing up through something other than the primary activity (5 mans vs raiding).

Consider the KSM and FTL articles together. Forget PvP for a bit, if you can. KSM expresses the frustration with the current gear process that’s described in FTL – one is the expression, the other the analysis. I recommend reading both, just to see how they intersect.

Okay? On to the PvP.

When I first read Fulg’s post, I was like… wait, PvP gearing is good? The hell? What are you talking about, Willis?

Then I remembered how much fun I had gearing up through Arena in Season 9. It was fun. Getting my Conquest gear was more enjoyable than my Honor gear. Two hours of Arena play and I’d get a piece every 1.5 weeks or so. Definite, measurable progress there – but also doing the thing that I wanted to be doing, namely working on rated PvP. I ended up doing about 6-10 hours of Arena every week – basically, whenever anyone was on in the guild who wanted to cap their CP, I would hop on to their team and play with them.

Compare that to the roughly 80 hours of grinding Battlegrounds it took to get my Honor set together, just so that I could play more Arenas. (I didn’t take advantage of the Tol Barad Honor Lottery.) It was slow. Really slow. And the devs realized this, eventually, and doubled Honor Point gains, but for a while it was harder and slower to grind out mid-level PvP gear than it was PvE gear. It sucked.

My perception of the latter obscured the former – I remember the HP grind sucking, while the CP grind was actually fun. There was no other way to get PvP gear than to do PvP, and that’s how it should be. I’ve talked to folks on Twitter who would be hugely frustrated with their PvE drops, and then turn around to do Arenas and get exactly what they wanted, on a consistent schedule, because it was the only way to get the gear you needed to play that part of the game.

The PvP gear process needed tuning, to be sure, but once it was tuned a bit (CP down, HP up), it’s hit a pretty decent balance. I don’t honestly think I have much to complain about with the process of gearing up within a Season. While higher rated players will gear up faster than lower rated players (thus widening the gap), that’s an incentive to get a higher rating earlier than later! Eventually, all other things being equal, everyone will end up in pretty much the same gear by the latter parts of the season, and games should be about skill and class composition, not about gear discrepancies.

So let me come right out and say: the PvP gear system has some strong points, especially when you start looking at the PvE gear problems described in the KSM and FTL posts above.

But let’s take a look at the two different models.

(I’ve had a long day at work talking to executives, so I’m thinking in bullet points tonight. Be glad it’s not a power point.)

PvP gear pros:

  • Gear is non-random, only purchased.
  • Comes from doing the activity it is designed for. Woah, I know!
  • Requires a night a week of effort to get a piece every week or so.
  • Rewards skill in that activity, not time, with more rapid gearing (higher CP caps), prestige items (2200+ armor), and (slight) gear advantage (2200+ weapons).
  • Eventually equalizes player base’s gear as season goes on.
  • Usually looks better than PvE gear. Sorry, it’s true.
  • Each season starts fresh with a gear reset.

PvP gear cons:

  • Gear value depreciates very rapidly at the end of a season. Conquest gear from one season is worse than Honor gear in the next, nullifying the efffort spent acquiring it.
  • No random drops means gearing can’t be accelerated.
  • PvE gear is sometimes better than PvP gear for PvP, encouraging players to spend time doing PvE for PvP gear.
  • PvP gear is boring. Not visually boring, but rather – each piece is pretty much the same. There’s no flavor or character around individual pieces. You don’t sit there and go, WOW, that piece not only looks great, but it has a really unique ability! No, you pretty much are stuck with Very Angry Gladiator’s gear.
  • (Theory: PvP gear looks better as a set to compensate for the lack of indvidual excitement about pieces.)
  • Each season requires a completely new gear grind.

Compare that to the PvE raid gearing model.

  • Some gear is random drops, some gear is purchased with points.
  • Some gear – like the absolute best gear, Heroic gear – only comes from raiding. The basic set, however, comes from doing 5 mans, which are not raids.
  • Requires 2-3 nights of play to get a piece every 2-3 weeks or so.
  • Purchased gear rewards time spent, not skill. Skilled players may be able to grind VP faster than unskilled players (making them spend less time each week), but they can’t get more VP each week.
  • (Dropped gear may reward skill – but it also rewards luck.)
  • Gear value relative to the content inflates over the course of a tier. As the content is nerfed, PvE gear becomes more effective to accomplishing it’s goal.
  • PvE gear retains its value when new tiers are launched, relative to the content it was designed for. If you get a T11 set, you will always be able to do T11 raiding with that set. Just because a new tier comes out doesn’t mean your raid gear suddenly sucks in the old raids.
  • PvE gear has unique stats and abilities, with each tier sporting new bonuses, with random, interesting drops, and with excitement about the randomness of drops.
  • Stratifies the player base over the course of a tier, as skilled raiders down Heroic bosses, promotoing player inequalities.
  • Gear is not reset with a new tier. Players who did well in one tier are granted an advantage in the next.

It’s interesting how different the percieved problems are, isn’t it? It’s like looking at mirror images of gear problems. PvP is constant, steady, and rewarding, but since the difficulty level of opponents is dynamic, the gear value deteriorates. PvE is slow, with a chance of random gearing, but becuase the content will be nerfed over time, gear improves and becomes more effective as the tier goes on.

Two very different sets of problems, but … one gearing model in common. The point/badge model.

The problems in PvP gear are between seasons – of rapid gear deflation, of no carry-over of value from one tier to the next.

The problems in PvE appear to be struggles to combine both a random and consistent gear reward model, with neither working well together. Changing from one tier to the next isn’t really an issue.

There aren’t a lot of easy answers here. It’s not like you can just say, points are the problem in PvE. Badge gear served a purpose, and if you take it away, then that task – providing catchup gear for raiders who struggled with the previous tier – still remains. If you leave that in there, then guilds will remain stuck in a single raid. (Now, you may ask: is that a bad thing? I am unqualified to answer that.)

There aren’t a lot of easy answers – for either realm of the game.

But at least it’s good to put the problems with PvP gear into a larger perspective.

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On the Reclamation of Cyn’s Wayward Druid

Cynli_in_westfall

She started out small, one of my first real alts. She was my first healer. I struggled with her a lot, made mistakes, but kept at it.

Cynli_level_30_twink

Some of my mistakes were fashion mistakes. I admit it.

I beat a level 19 pally on her at level 16 because I knew how to use Entangling Roots and nuke from a distance, then went Bear and kicked his ass. The pally was a punk who tried to start a fight with my guild leader.

I took him out back and showed him that he needed to L2P.

The_trees_of_wsg

I PvPed as a healer. It went well until I got Tree of Life form, when suddenly I discovered I was popular in battlegrounds. Really popular. Super popular.

So I tried Feral. I wasn’t very good at Feral in PvP, but I could be a Bear. So my little healer became a Bear.

There were good runs in LFD. There were okay runs.

Then there was a really bad ZF run. I decided to put my druid away for a little while.

There were Druids I looked up to during that period of time; Druids who showed me what the class was capable of, of how FREAKING hard they were to kill in PvP. But I had Banish, so I didn’t feel the longing to return to my Druid. Besides, I wasn’t very good at Druiding, ZF had shown me that.

Looking at her made me sad, so eventually, I deleted her.

***

A few months passed, and for one reason or another, I decided I wanted to move some things over to the other side of my server. So I brought her back, loaded her up with things, and turned her into a he.

Thus began my druid’s career as a mule.

3 server transfers, 2 faction changes, 4 name changes along the way. I didn’t know who she was anymore. I leveled her/him – she was a male tauren in Mirren’s Drinking Hat, I’m not vendoring that again – up through the 60s, slowly, flailing at Bear tanking. It was like being a Warrior, which I did know how to play, only without all my warrior tools, so I didn’t play it well.

I tried healing once or twice. It didn’t go well.

I updated my UI several times. My keybinds got all messed up. I couldn’t play this toon anymore. Better to reroll.

I deleted her again.

***

I brought her back, one last time, to serve one last heriloom transfer to a new server. She was high level but unplayed; even her professions weren’t useful to me. So I brought her back.

But I had a new healer, a priest, one that I was actually getting pretty good at playing. Maybe I could …

No, Cyn. You can’t play a Druid. Remember ZF? Remember Durnholde? Remember Mana Tombs? Remember every time you’ve queued up for PvP?

But wait.

Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can ask for help, maybe I’m trying to do too much. Maybe I need to simplify down and say “what 10 keys do I need, screw the rest?”

I asked for help. I got it, in spades. Almost too much at times, too much information, wait, I don’t understand, where is Healing Touch, I used to spam that, it worked well. It’s now level 72? Okay, wait, how do I cast on people? How do I use Vuhdo again? Wait, what?

70 levels doesn’t come back to you in one night. Not when it was a slow, fragmented leveling, with different specs, over two years. There’s too much to learn.

I looked at her, more often than not, and wondered if I should just delete and reroll. Even though I’d already rerolled and deleted a druid in the meanwhile, I still thought… maybe this time.

Maybe it’s me.

Maybe I can’t play a druid. I’m so much better on my priest at this, maybe it’s me.

***

Things slowly fell into place.

I tried out a macro on a spell, saw what worked and what didn’t. A lot of things didn’t work.

Kept asking for help. Felt like I was getting nowhere, but really, I was slowly leveling again, realizing those things that make sense if you’ve played a character straight through. When do I Lifebloom? When do I Swiftmend? (All the time.) When do I use WG? (All the time). Nourish? (Never in PvP.)

Locked XP at 70. Figured I’d get the gear out of the way and just focus on the class for a while – classic PvP pause.

Finally, last night, it happened.

Screen_shot_2011-10-04_at_9

We lost this AB, but I did well in it. Can’t win these things on my own, not at level 70.

Screen_shot_2011-10-04_at_9

Hard-fought Strand. I kicked ass in it, and not just because of the numbers. Entangling Roots and Moonfire spam? I can do that! I didn’t think we were going to win – Alliance went first, only got the relic with about 1 minute left on the clock – but after losing 2 gates to an initial rush, we put up a brilliant goal line stand in the courtyard and never let up. YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

I got jumped by a rogue. He beat on me for about 2 minutes while I just healed away, healing the people around me after my own HoTs were rolling.

He gave up, eventually.

(I rooted him and let a Ret Pally tear his face off. It felt good.)

Screen_shot_2011-10-04_at_10

Alterac Valley, won on reinforcements. We couldn’t get past the Horde Turtle once we had a few towers down, so we just whittled them down. I healed for 5 minutes effectively OOM; I should have rushed into the Horde to get killed and reset my mana pool.

A punk DK yelled at the beginning of the battle that the healers sucked. I took that as an insult and was not going to heal him – but I ended up doing it anyways. As the front slowly pressed on south of Tower Point, he remarked:

Holy fuck, our healers are beasts. I take it back, I must not have been in range.

Damn straight you weren’t in range before, punk. You’re alive because of ME. And the 5 other healers who kept you, and that whole team, up.

I am a beast of a tree.

Word.

***

I didn’t expect to get comfortable with Cynli again. To get to a position where she’s playable, where I’m competent with her, where I could do both PvP and PvE with her.

I still have a long way to go – I haven’t learned anything to make me think I’m a good Druid player, per se – just that I can be competent. I need to learn other specs. I need to learn shifting between specs better.

But still, I can keep a warfront alive.

I can keep a tank alive, too.

For the first time in a long time, I look at this toon and go – you’re fun to play. (You need a better looking outfit, but you’re fun to play.)

Thank you, tree-signal. I’d written this character off a long time ago. Last night, I proved I shouldn’t have done so.

/use Tree of Life

/dance

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Five PvP Gear Set Names I’d Like To See In The Next Expansion

  1. Mildly Irritated Gladiator’s Gear
  2. Tiny, Angry Gladiator’s Gear
  3. Ugly But Still More Attractive Than PvE Tier Gear Gladiator’s Gear
  4. My Little Gladiator: PvP is Magic Gladiator’s Gear
  5. Fucking Hostile Gladiator’s Gear

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On Gear Value Deflation and Making Gear Matter

Ashwalker_-_how_do_you_have_all_purple_gear_-_hmgt

Last night I dove back into a topic I’d been blissfully putting off for the past few days – the upcoming PvP Season 10-11 transition. It’s not that I mind writing a guide to it – I think it’s valuable to sit down and plan out what you *really* need to do to be prepared for a new season – but rather that it brings up the Season 9-10 transition.

And that transition broke the endgame for me. 

I can say that now, in hindsight, though I didn’t realize how fundamental a break it was. My warlock, my main in name but not in practice, sits in her dusty Season 9 gear, not raiding, not PvPing, not really doing very much. She occasionally makes some Dreamcloth or quests around the Cata zones. Actually, she’s done with the Cata zones, so that’s finished. 

No dailies. No dungeons. No BGs.

Lots of alts. Lots of twinks. Lots of projects.

It’s hard to watch a character go from (near) the top of a gear chain to the bottom. In a few weeks, Cynwise will be wearing worse gear than a new level 85 starting PvP with crafted gear. This happens, it’s part of the game, but… but it’s disheartening.

It brings up all the anger I felt when I’d walked away from the game and came back, tentatively, only to find out that the grind I thought I’d already done wasn’t done at all

It turns out, I’m still pretty angry about it. I am starting to feel an itch to play my Warlock again, but I look at picking her up now, and it’s like… why bother gearing? It’s going to be replaced in a few weeks. Like, literally, 6-8 weeks. 

The picture at the top of this post was from an amusing run through H-MgT when someone finally bothered to inspect Ashwalker and discovered I was in full epics. Not even real tanking epics, but PvP epics – but epics, nonetheless. “OMG HOW ARE YOU IN PURPLES?” amused me at the time, but it also reminds me of an important fact – as long as I choose to keep her there, she’s geared as well as she needs to be. I could tank BC raids in her gear if I wanted. I can play around with Fury or Arms in PvP, I can just go tank Drek if that’s all I want to do. I can log in and do the Dalaran JC daily, if I’m really bored, but I have all the epic PVP gem patterns now, so I’m set.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well.

Warriors are really weak in the 70s bracket – possibly the weakest PvP class. It shows. I flip from Prot to Arms/Fury and die immediately without the mobility of Prot. There are BGs where I can do well – WSG and AV! – but I really struggle on EotS, and AB and SotA are kinda tough. I’m geared enough that I can actually read the bracket issues as class balance issues, not as gear issues, or even player issues. Mages own the 70s, and Mages own Warriors. 

Ashwalker_and_icedragon_-_kara_nap

Tanking is still pretty fun, but the only place I can get gear upgrades is Sunwell, so aside from the Kara runs for pretty shinies, there’s not a lot of motivation there to just randomly tank heroics.

I have a priest and a druid in the 70 bracket, too. They’re not completely geared/gemmed, but they’re getting close. I thought I’d quest around more on the priest, see the Horde side of things, but I basically have her around to PvP and heal for @druidis4fite’s baby tank. (Got a great Sunwell healing mace on her, though.) I’m slowly learning how to heal on the Druid, she’s doing better now. But the 70 bracket is unbalanced, just like most of the low level brackets. It gets tiring getting facerolled by mages. It’s good practice but is starting to feel stale.

Gear only matters for so long, even for twinks. Once you have best of everything, then it comes down to – are the other activities enjoyable in and of themselves? Do you feel like you’re still accomplishing something, or is it just another night in gorram Warsong Gulch?

(At least if you level to 75, you can get a maxed profession mule for your troubles.)

Once upon a time I thought that the problems I have staying with playing Cynderblock, who really is my best-geared toon, was just because she’s a weak class in a tough bracket. Warriors were nerfed to the ground in level 19 play with the Sundering, and it took me a while to reconcile with switching entirely to being the FC, nothing but the FC, and that is fun enough. 

But I have a level 24 hunter now, and that’s about as OP a twink as you can get – OP class in an OP bracket – and she’s pretty boring to play. Once you get the basics down, lowbie Hunter PvP isn’t that hard, playing WSG well is hard. The quality of the play in the 20-24 xp-off bracket aren’t up to the 15-19 xp-off bracket – you do see a lot of WTF things going on in the 20s that just don’t happen in the 19s. But being OP doesn’t hold my attention either. 

(I should remember that as I struggle to retain interest in leveling a Mage via PvP.)

There’s an interesting dichotomy here; I don’t know how to resolve it. I enjoy gearing up toons. It’s obvious and apparent with my twinking obsession that I actually like making them more than I like playing them for long periods of time. I like going and doing crazy things on them, but once the crazy things are done, I don’t feel the need to obsessively play them. They’ll just sit there, waiting, for when I want to play them again.

But the problem with twinks is that, once they’re geared, they’re done. They’re not as interesting to me once they’re geared up; sure, I could spend hours and hours trying to farm Sunwell gear on them now, but … why? Their gear is good enough for their primary activity, I don’t really have the time to raid (no matter what the level), meh, done.

If I’m going to spend time getting gear, I want the gear to matter. I want my effort getting it to mean something, for it to be an accomplishment that retains value. That’s my major problem with the Cata PvP transition – it shortens the useful life of the gear I get even further than it was previously. 

The dichotomy between an endgame character, where you are always gearing up a toon, and a twink, where you gear them up once and are done, is pretty big. What I’m wrestling with again, what I am probably always going to wrestle with, is that I enjoy gearing up toons, but that I want that gear to matter.

I’m starting to think my problem isn’t with the endgame grind, per se, but rather with the perception of the value of gear relative to effort spent acquiring it. If it takes me an entire PvP season to gear up to Conquest gear, and that gear has little value in the next season, then I feel it’s not worth it at all.

If my effort had more lasting value, if the endgame gear had some more longevity, I think it could draw me back in. 

Right now I’m looking at it going… I have an itch to play my Warlock, but having to go back and redo everything has very little appeal when I know it will all be replaced soon. Real soon. 

I could literally go farm cloth, Volatiles, and Honor/JP and get more bang for my buck than kitting out Cynwise right now.

That just doesn’t feel right.

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