Monthly Archives: November 2011

Cross-Server Battleground Queuing Now Available with RealID

Well, 4.3 is turning out to be a patch of a lot of surprises. One of the biggest? You can now queue for regular battlegrounds with your RealID friends. This is confirmed as an intentional change earlier this evening by Daxxarri, and a very welcome one.

This is a really welcome change. It’s always been a frustration to not be able to PvP with people on other servers. The only way this could be better is if you could also PvP against your friends!

But I digress. Let’s enjoy this one.

Thanks to @lufitoom, @loqiel, @slowpoker, and @eldacarJS and for the tips and confirmation it worked for them, and to @daxxarri for confirming it’s working as intended!

SO EXCITE SO SO SO EXCITE!

 

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Level 60 PvP Gear Not Available for Transmogging

I, for one, was really hoping that scenes like the above picture would have become more commonplace: the bright and dramatic designs of the level 60 PvP gear filling the streets of Azeroth’s cities, allowing players to choose some dramatically great looks at a relative pittance.

However, it is not to be.

Quoth Bashiok, who is just the messenger:

The items out in the world (Marshals, Grand Marshal’s, High Warlord, etc) that use the level 60 PvP art are un-transmogrifiable (including the item level 115 stuff that shares the name from Burning Crusade).

In Area 52 a set of vendors has replaced the PvP Vendors who used to live there. Grex Brainboiler, Krixel Pinchwhistle, Tini Smalls, Kezzik the Striker, Big Zokk Torquewrench, and Leeni “Smiley” Smalls. These vendors sell new, transmogrifiable versions of the classic armor to players who have the Feat of Strength for Legionnaire/Knight-Captain or higher under the old PvP system.

There was a bug with the Feat of Strength granting access to these items, but was hotfixed within the last couple of minutes. If you meet the criteria log out and back in and you should be able to access the vendor.

The design intent with the Feat of Strength achievement requirement was specifically to limit these particular art styles to players who earned them through the OG (and relentlessly difficult) PvP honor system, while keeping the door open to reward them to more people in the future.

In a future patch the items sold by the Area 52 vendors will also be renamed ‘Replica of’ to be more consistent with the items sold by the Darkmoon Faire – they’re currently exact duplicates of the original items that allow transmogrification, which is obviously a bit confusing.

Potentially related, since he’s in the same area, Kezzik the Striker sells inaccessible Season 1 Gladiator’s, Season 2 Merciless Gladiator’s, and Season 3 Vengeful Gladiator’s gear to all players, as the majority of that gear didn’t have restrictions.

This is somewhat confusing if you’re not up on PvP gear sets, so let me summarize:

  • Level 60 PvP gear, of all ranks, is not available for transmogrification. This includes any armor you may have had purchased previously from the Legacy Honor Vendors.
  • If you had the right to wear this armor back in Vanilla, you have the ability to wear this armor as a mog set. However, you can’t use your old set – you have to go to Area 52 and purchase a lookalike set. You have to have the Feat of Strength to be eligible.
  • Arena sets which had been removed from the game (S1, S2, S3) are now available for purchase again in Area 52.  This gear should have no restrictions.
  • All other PvP gear looks to be eligible for mogging. Brutal and Wrathful gear both appear to have no issues. All the level 85 gear I checked seemed fine, too.

This issue with the level 60 PvP gear has led to some confusion about what does and doesn’t work with transmogrifying PvP gear. It’s a pretty simple rule – everything but the  distinctive level 60 gear should work.

To be frank, that kinda sucks.

I THINK WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

I confess, I was really disappointed by this exclusion. I was really looking forward to trotting out the Knight-Lieutenant’s gear I’d ground Marks for back in Wrath and rocking the old-school Vanilla Warcraft look. I knew that there were some things that I wanted to try mogging that probably wouldn’t work – Direbrew’s Bloodied Shanker for one, Dark Herring for another – but that’s because they fell outside the mogging rules as explained by Blizzard.

Having the level 60 gear be excluded really made me go … wait, what? I see a lot of the gear while leveling through the 60-70 bracket, the shields are some of the best looking in the game, and it’s a really distinctive, Warcrafty style. It’s a great look, and I wanted it.

But there’s another side to this, too.

There’s the side of the Warlords and Marshals and all the players who ground out the truly hellacious PvP grind back in Vanilla. For a long time, they had their titles, and they wore them as badges of pride. Once removed from the game, those titles were impressive and had an aura of Old Skool about them, something that later PvPers couldn’t touch. Anyone could get their gear, but no one could get those titles.

Cataclysm took those titles away from these players. Oh, they still had the titles – but Rated Battlegrounds allowed anyone to get them. They were no longer unique signifiers. The vestiges of the old grind were washed away.

So here’s something for those players who did that grind – they’re the only ones who will get to wear the really great PvP fashions as their daily wear. They’ve gotten something special back, something unique, something Old Skool.

I think, had this just been communicated in advance, I wouldn’t be sitting here going, man, this sucks. I’d have gotten over it, just like wielding a beer bottle or fish. It sucks, it’s arbitrary, it’s confusing as all getout, but at least it wouldn’t be a surprise.

I think it’s a surprise to a lot of people, sadly.

ACCEPTANCE

This is going to confuse a lot of players, especially those who pick up some of the 60 PvP gear as they level an alt and then wonder why they can’t use that great outfit later on for transmogrification.

I think it’s a nice gesture to say, hey, as a tip of the hat to our long-time PvP players who did the grind way back when, let’s let them be the only ones who can wear the old armor. It returns some uniqueness to the old PvP grind, and instills a sense of wonder around these outfits.

I’d love it if Blizzard presented it as such, not slip it in unnoticed. Someone at Blizzard made this decision and got it implemented. Someone approved getting the new sets in to Area 52. Folks at Blizzard knew this was coming, and it has the potential to be cast in a really good light.

But it wasn’t. It was dropped in unnoticed. And when gear changes get dropped in unannounced during a season transition, I start getting really nervous. Bad things happen when Blizzard doesn’t talk to their PvP playerbase. I’m really trying hard to forget the last time they forgot to tell us things about how the PvP gear system was going to change.

Sure, I’d selfishly like this change reversed, because then I can have the great old Vanilla PvP fashions for my Wrath and Cata and Mists toons. But if this is a way to honor Vanilla PvPers, I’m actually really okay with that. What they did was special! Preserving uniqueness is a great thing! I can go wear the Burning Crusade PvP gear!

It just would have been nice to not get my hopes up.

 

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Implications of Increased Conquest Rewards in Battlegrounds

Patch 4.3  will dramatically increase the Conquest Point rewards from regular battlegrounds, offering 100 for the first victory and 50 for each subsequent one. It’s a big change for battleground incentives and adds a layer of complexity to gearing decisions in both PvP and PvE. I personally don’t think this is going to ruin battlegrounds, but I also, upon reflection, think that this quality-of-life improvement indicates a lot about where Blizzard is going with rated and unrated PvP.

THE PREMADE QUESTION

Gevlon has written a series of posts on the change where he makes an argument that this change is going to be overall a negative one to those people it’s supposed to benefit due to the increased number of premades which will flood the BGs. It’s a nuanced argument and I think it’s worth reading both posts in their entirety.

Will the new Conquest Point rewards create enough interest in making premades that the overall experience for players? Specifically, will it hit those players who seem to stand to benefit the most from the change – the competent but time-constrained PvPers? If you queue up solo, will your win rate drop below 50% just because you’re facing premades all the time?

There are incentives for people to organize premades. Gevlon takes his experience in organizing and running BG premades and spells them out nicely.

  • Doesn’t affect your rBG rating, so if a few members of your team are out you can just bang out Conquest Points with no risk.
  • Provides visceral fun for your team, because quick, decisive wins can be a LOT of fun. (At least for a bit.)
  • Provides a nicer social environment while PvPing, filtering out the ragers, afkers, and whiny elements you sometimes find in /bg.
  • Yields a little less CP/hour than rBGs, making it an attractive alternative to rated play.
  • Can be done with fluid group sizes, since even a partial premade can have a great impact on a battlground.
  • Allows you to influence BG team composition, avoiding no-healer no-FC scenarios.
  • Great initial gearing tool, since in the first few weeks everyone needs Honor Points.

There are a lot of good reasons there for people to start organizing premades, especially at the start of the season. But will premades have a long-term effect on the season?

Gevlon comes right out and says that the biggest weakness of premades is that there are too few of them to really matter or make a statistical difference in people’s experiences. I agree with him here. I have seen fewer premades in endgame Cataclysm than I did in Wrath, but I attributed that to Rated Battlegrounds siphoning premades away. More small groups and partial premades? Yes, absolutely, we’ll see those. But I suspect full ones are never going to be the norm, since they 1) aren’t possible with the default client and 2) because rated play is still more rewarding per hour.

Premades are probably going to be pretty popular during the first few weeks as everyone gets geared up. But after a while, the dual-reward system becomes a non-motivator and it’s even easier to toss together a 2s or 3s team as it is to get a premade going. Arenas will remain the gearing activity of choice for the semi-organized.

I fully expect people to complain about premades and the Premade AV Enabler, though. No matter how many premades really flood the system, I’m sure they’ll be pointed at as everything that’s wrong with PvP today, which … well, frankly, that attitude overlooks a lot of other issues, as well as puts too much weight on something that I don’t think will be statistically important.

If it does become a problem, though, one solution would be to reward Honor Points in rated play. Taking away the uniqueness of premade rewards would eliminate some, but not all, of the incentives for doing premades.

(They’re still a heck of a lot of fun.)

THE PVE QUESTION

There are two areas in which this change could possibly affect PvE: making it easier to get PvE gear, and sending PvP gear into PvE.

Will this change make it easier to get PvE gear through PvP? Not really. Unlike changes to Honor Point rewards, Conquest Points are isolated from PvE because they don’t convert to anything else. You can’t flip them to Valor Points, you can’t flip them to Honor Points in any meaningful way, so adding meaningful CP to regular battlegrounds doesn’t change things there.

You could argue that it’s better to gear up an alt through regular battlegrounds than through rated play, even once their Honor gear set is complete. While you might not get as much CP as rated PvP, you will get Honor Points at the same time, which can be converted into Justice Points and a solid T12 PvE kit can be built that way. This doesn’t really unbalance things, though.

Will this change send PvP gear into PvE? Probably yes, but not as much as the other gear changes we’ll see with Season 11/Patch 4.3. S11 Conquest gear will be very good (ilvl 397/403) but there are other ways to get it, too.

What we are far more likely to see is crafted ilvl 377 PvP gear flooding the LFD/LFR. Here’s is a case where gearscore gating for Heroics/Zulroics will completely fail, as the PvP gear might be acceptable for DPS, and maybe even healers, but tanks are going to be really squishy and lack avoidance.

That’s a problem unrelated to this specific change, though.

THE BOTTER QUESTION

Will there be more afkers and botters in regular battlegrounds because of this change?

To be honest, probably yes at first. Not a flood, and it should get better over time, but I think there will be an uptick in botters, less so with AFKers. It’s not like grinding Honor, which can be done win or loss. You actually have to win to get the Conquest Points, so AFKing doesn’t really help.

But I wager people who bot now, or who are on the fence about botting, would look at the losses as a cost of gaining the Conquest Points – they’re not actually spending time at the computer doing anything.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

THE FUTURE OF PVP REWARDS

I still think that this change is a net benefit for most players. Getting 25 CP a day was like getting a bad tip for playing battlegrounds – it wasn’t enough to be meaningful with current gear prices. Meaningful CP rewards give players incentive to win, while the Honor Points for the loss are a good consolation prize for losing.

One of the biggest challenges in designing a PvP environment is motivation, especially motivating people when they lose. Not Beck-style losers, but those who find themselves on the losing side. How do you make it so that there’s a feeling that it’s still okay to requeue after getting pummeled? How do you make it so that pursuing your preferred PvP activity still feels valuable, win or lose?

Related to motivating players on a loss, Conquest Point caps motivate people to play up to their cap, and no further. That’s a big problem of rated PvP in Warcraft – once you have hit the cap for you, and your teammates, you’re done for the week. Extra time spent practicing doesn’t net you anything. Blizzard took a step towards fixing this with Rated Battlegrounds by offering Honor after Conquest is maxed out, but that’s an incomplete solution (and also ignores Arenas.)

I think Blizzard is going in the right direction for solving both of these issues.

Having both Honor and Conquest be rewards from any PvP activity (but only Conquest from winning) lets the system give people something for their time spent playing. This motivates people to win – win and you get CP! It motivates people through the losses – at least you got a few honor for that fight, requeue and try again! It motivates people to keep doing the activity after the CP cap is hit – still need Honor gear? Keep playing Arena with your team if that’s what you like doing!

I’d like to see them keep going in this direction in Mists. It gives me some hope that they’re talking about “play what you like,” but the systems have to be adjusted to make that vision a reality.

There are also technical challenges for awarding Honor Points in Arena that I don’t want to dismiss. Should it be based upon kills? Wouldn’t that drive people into 5s, then? What if the opponent AFKs out and no kill is scored? Should it be a flat value for the match, perhaps modified by rating? What if that promotes quick AFKing if the fight looks tough? Should it be a flat per minute rate? What happens if you just run around for 60 minutes? (What if those 60 minutes are spent authentically trying to kill a Holy Pally or Resto Druid?)

I have a feeling that a combination of match-based values and time-based values is the most fair, but it’s not a trivial problem to solve.

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On the Hero with a Thousand Faces

Cynli_-_arahi_basin_-_blacksmith_in_background_-_farm_defense

We, imperfect humans that we are, are always seeking self-definition. By our actions, by our choices, by our beliefs, by our tribes, by our appearance – all seeking to give us a sense of self.

I am this and not that.

Ashwalker_-_eye_of_the_storm_-_bet_and_dr_-_lightning_strike

The choices we make coalesce, slowly, into something grand and magnificent. A person. A hero. A hero of many stories, but most importantly, our own.

Cynix_-_wailing_caverns_-_earth_shield

We head out into the world, seeking. We try new things, try to to find purpose and meaning amidst the struggle for survival. We experiment. We find things that work, and things that do not work, and hopefully we learn the difference.

Cynwulf_-_wsg_-_doomsday_-_silverwing_hold

We may fail. We may go astray, fall victim to despair and chaos. We may surrender to our dark impulses. We may redeem ourselves.

Or we may not.

Cynedra_-_stables_captured_-_arathi_basin

We learn that there are many perspectives, many voices, many sides. We have to choose. We learn that there are some choices, once made, which cannot be undone.

We learn that there are other choices which never mattered in the first place.

Sometimes, we don’t know the difference.

Cynwyn_-_arathi_basin_-_farm

Each day, we arise, and wonder in what way will today call upon us to be a hero. Every day brings a new opportunity, a new chance, a new story. Sometimes we succeed. Often we fail.

But we can never go back and rewrite what has come before.

Cynwise_-_northshire_-_black_embersilk_gown_-_fire_woman_-_stylized

Then one day, we realize that we were seeking ourselves the entire time. That the journey itself defined us, that we are naught but the sum of our desire to define a sense of self.

No more, no less.

Cynderblock_-_durotar_-_hearthing_home

I am this, not that. This is my story.

And it is the story of a journey.

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On the Mists Warlock Talent Preview

Blizzard released a new Mists talent calculator. Warlocks have some interesting things going on. Quick notes on just the talents:

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 15 Talents

Soul Leech leaves the Destro talent tree and becomes something that any warlock can use. Has good potential to be the default PvE talent for this tier, as the three nukes involved should still see heavy rotational use. PvP utility is really dependent upon the fate of Nightfall and Backlash, which are absent from the current model. These are the long nukes.

Harvest of Life could be really interesting in BG PvP, but less so for arena or duels. PvE would be situational based on an encounter with a lot of adds.

Dark Regeneration is probably the Arena PvP talent of choice. Situationally good for PvE if there is burst damage that needs to be mitigated.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 30 Talents

The biggest change here is not that Affliction can get Shadowfury or Destro can get Improved Howl, but rather that every spec loses some depth of their CC toolbox here. Instead of Howl + Death Coil + Fearbomb or Shadowfury, you now have to choose one of three.

The loss of Death Coil, which I think is implied by the addition of Mortal Coil, is going to take some adjusting for all warlocks.

That said, Howl of Terror is now instant. The CD gets reduced when you take damage, a nice touch.

Mortal Coil replaces Death Coil, I think. Health boost is a little bigger, easier to understand as % of total.

Shadowfury. Of note is that it loses its damage component and becomes a pure stun.

I expect we’ll see Mortal Coil and Shadowfury be the favored PvE choices, depending on playstyle and raid comp. Mortal Coil will be used as a self-heal, while Shadowfury remains a great AoE stun.

I honestly don’t know which I’m going to take. I hereby dub this talent tier the “Choose Between Your Favorite Children” tier, because, man, I love all of these things as they are right now.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 45 Talents

Some interesting choices here in the damage reduction tier.

Spell Drain is going to be an interesting PvP talent. If you time it right, it can negate big burst attacks and turn the tables on your opponents. If you time it poorly, you waste it. This will be a skill talent to watch in Arenas.

Soul Link doesn’t say 20% damage anymore, but if we assume that it stays the same then this becomes an interesting passive choice for PvE and PvP alike. The big difference is that healing will now be shared with your demon, too, reducing healing effectiveness on the warlock. Woah.

Because of that little change, PvE warlocks may flock more to Sacrificial Pact, giving them an immunity bubble to just ignore huge boss attacks. This has a lot of PvP utility too, allowing warlocks to negate a focus fire situation where a lot of CDs are chain-popped.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 60 Talents

Blood Fear makes Fear instant, but takes 10% of your health when you cast it. Depending on baseline self-healing abilities, this might be worth it for PvP. Not for PvE.

Burning Rush looks to address one of the biggest weaknesses of the warlock class – mobility. Depending on the CD of this ability (right now there’s none) warlocks finally have the ability to run away from melee REALLY FAST. Obvious PvP utility, obvious PvE utility, and damnit, I think Engineering just got nerfed.

Dark Bargain is a damage reduction CD with a twist – you’ll take the remainder of the absorb shield as damage. How typically warlockian, I like it. :)

Dark Bargain might be required in some PvE encounters, but there’s a lot of overlap with Sacrifical Pact. It will be best used against DoT classes in Arena PvP, since people will learn to see the graphic and immediately shift to a different target while CCing the warlock, negating the use of the CD as well as causing damage without doing anything. It might do okay in BGs.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 75 Talents

Ah, the Demon tier.

Grimoire of Supremacy buffs your demons 10% and gives them better abilities. The abilities will need to be evaluated to say if this is a good move in PvP.

Grimoire of Service gives you a second demon. I don’t know if it’s a different demon, in which case do you get all their abilities, too? Or will it be a duplicate of the one you have, in which case this is again a straight up DPS increase with possible PvP use.

Grimoire of Sacrifice could be really good for PvP, giving each spec some burst that it might otherwise lack. The tradeoff of sacrifice in PvP is an interesting one – do you lose the demon’s utility for increased damage and health? There are going to be a lot of situations where this will work well. But what if the demon is banished, etc.?

In PvE this will come down to number crunching and situational DPS increases. If Sacrifice gets you more DPS than having a pet out with a 10% buff, then raiders will go with it. If not, Supremacy will probably be prefered. Service will probably be the skill talent for PvE, working well with abilities like Heroism/Bloodlust making its burst more effective than the 10% buff.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 90 Talents

Archimonde’s Vengeance will probably see a lot of use in Arena, and should be appied to the focus target whenever the warlock comes under attack. Good for comps where the Warlock is the soaker. Situationally useful in PvE if there’s a lot of raid damage going around.

Kil’jaeden’s Cunning is another one that has a lot of PvP potential. Casting while moving, coupled with a 25% speed buff? Oh yes, even if it’s slow casting. The challenge will be casting while moving and not getting interrupted – almost every spell will go to a 2.5+ cast time while moving. Obvious benefits on movement-heavy PvE fights.

Mannoroth’s Fury adds spash damage to the spec nukes, and 100% burst splash damage on CD. With the right positioning, this can be great for big BG PvP and PvE alike. Less useful on small-scale BG PvP and Arena, but certainly not a bad choice. Again, depends on the fate of talents like Nightfall and Backlash, which appear to be gone.

There are changes to the spells as well – click on the talent tree and you’ll see the new spell abilities. That’s a different post, though.

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Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking 2011

Pilgrim’s Bounty is my favorite holiday in Azeroth. It’s the one holiday which allows you to take a normally tedious task – leveling a secondary skill – and get up to Grand Master levels in about an hour. It’s so good that I wait all year to level cooking on my characters until this week, because doing those first 350 points any other way is just silly.

How great is it?

  • You can get any character to Cooking 350 in 1-2 hours.
  • You can start at any level. That screenshot up above? That was my priest getting it at level 19 last year. It can be done all the way at level 1, if you really want!
  • There’s no level limits on these quests. They’re a great way to get started on a new alt, or getting a stuck alt unstuck.

My original Guide to Powerleveling Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking is still accurate, as far as I’m able to tell. I’ll post any updates there and here if I find them – please let me know if you find any discrepancies!

Wowhead, as always, has a great guide to the entire holiday, which runs through November 26th of this year.

Now, I have to decide which of my (many) alts are going to need to get their cooking leveled this year. :)

Good luck! May your cuisine reign supreme!

 

Update 11/22/2011: Slow-roasted Turkey is now staying orange well into the 400s. This appears to have gone in a hotfix yesterday. Looks like this holiday has gotten even better.

I’ll update the original guide.

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On Focus

Ashwalker_-_eye_of_the_storm_-_pensive_warrior

Something a little different tonight. Steve Jobs, 1997:

You look at the farm that’s been created with all these different animals going in different directions, and it doesn’t add up. The total is less than the sum of its parts. So we had to decide what are the fundamental directions we’re going in? …

When you think about focusing, focusing is about saying yes. No. Focusing is about saying no. Focusing is about saying no. No, no, no, no. And when you say no, you piss off people. …

Focusing is about saying no. And the result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.

I’m having a lot of trouble focusing these days. I started talking about it in On Decadence, and then in more detail in On Revelations, but I’m basically all over the map in WoW.

Tonight I didn’t even really want to log in, but my son wanted to watch me play a little bit before bed. So I went over to my druid and healed Eye of the Storm. It was fun, I enjoy playing Cynli a lot now. Then I switched over to my baby mage, who now has dual AGM trinkets, and proceeded to dominate 2 more BGs. Arcane is so OP if you know what you’re doing it’s not even funny. Then over to my gnome clone, becuase she needs some leveling and I’ve been really bad about leveling her. Worked on her for a bit, then got bored and looked for another character. Maybe the Shammy!

Then I’m like, holy crap, 2 hours have passed, the boy’s been asleep for an hour, and what am I doing?

I closed up my laptop, did some chores, then surfed the web for a bit.

Found elephant poo in a box. That made me laugh. Found another movie about traditional Japanese sword-making. That made me thoughtful. Found the above video clip. Made me even more quiet than I was before.

Thought a lot about saying Yes and No to things. In game, out of game, Of getting pulled in a lot of different directions and not getting anywhere. Of working two jobs, but not building something successful.

There was another post on Presentation Zen – an old favorite site of mine, by the way – where Garr talks about Jobs’s presenation on marketing yourself and your core values. From his post:

(M)arketing is not about touting features and speeds and megabytes or comparing yourself to the other guys, it’s about identifying your own story, your own core, and being very, very clear about what you are all about and what you stand for…and then being able to communicate that clearly, simply, and consistently.

Things were simpler back when I had character focus. Warcraft was an effective escape back then – I was a PvP Warlock. You want warlock, you want PvP, I’m your blogger and teacher.

And then I lost it. I lost focus in my job – two jobs will do that to you – but I lost focus in WoW, too.

Because I’ve lost focus in other parts of my life, the lack of focus in Warcraft is perhaps understandable. But it doesn’t make finding that focus any easier.

I wonder which characters I need to say NO to in order to find it.

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How Warlock DoTs Work in Cataclysm, Part II: DoT Refreshing, Proc Stacking, and Getting Your Warlock Black Belt

In my post How Warlock DoTs Work in Cataclysm I went into detail about how Cataclysm’s significant changes to Haste mechanics affected Warlock damage over time spells. Haste went from a simple DPS increase to adding DPCT breakpoints, Haste values where DoTs gained new ticks and dramatically increased their importance.

There were a few other smaller changes to DoTs that were made at the end of Wrath of the Lich King that I didn’t talk about in that article, as well as how the new refresh mechanics work in Cataclysm, which I should have covered. The Haste changes were so big that talking about Spellpower and Critical Strike didn’t seem as important at the time. Mea culpa; I get enough email questions about how refreshing works that I realize I should have tackled these stats, too.

UPDATING DOTS: DYNAMIC VERSUS STATIC STAT UPDATES

What happens to DoTs when your combat abilities change mid-combat? If you get a proc from Power Torrent or Eradication, what happens to your Corruption or Unstable Affliction spells? You might think that all procs are handled the same way, and that the game client updates all DoTs automatically when you get a proc.

Not quite.

DoTs update all player-based values – Haste, Spellpower, Crit – upon cast or refresh. When you cast the DoT, the client takes your current combat values and buffs and computes the spell duration, ticks, crit rate, and damage. These values then remain until the DoT is refreshed, at which time new values are applied.

DoTs update all enemy-based values – debuffs like Haunt, Shadow Embrace, Curse of the Elements – every tick, regardless of cast or refresh. When you gain another stack of Shadow Embrace, all of your DoTs are affected without refresh. If Haunt falls off, the next tick of Unstable Affliction will lose 20% damage.

There is a lot of confusion on this matter. One reason for the confusion is the spell tooltip for your DoTs will update dynamically for all player-based buffs. If you get a Haste proc, the duration will fluctuate if you’re mousing over the tooltip. If Dark Intent is cast upon you after casting Corruption, the duration in the Corruption tooltip will drop. If you’re testing this out on a training dummy, your WoW client will make it look like Haste procs are taking effect. But if you look at the number of ticks each DoT has, you will never gain a new tick from a Haste proc without recasting or refreshing the spell.

The only time a DoT updates for buffs on the Warlock is when it’s refreshed, either through a hard cast or a refreshing ability (i.e. Everlasting Affliction, Pandemic, or Fel Flame). This is a change from how things worked in Wrath, which contributes to the confusion.

See, in Wrath, DoT values would be set on cast, but not on refresh. Refreshing a spell maintained the values it was originally cast with, leading DPS player to prepot and trinket before entering combat, blow trinkets before refreshing DoTs, and generally making initial casts as powerful as possible so that the refresh mechanics could maintain that high damage DoT for the entire fight. Really skilled DPS learned how to reset their DoTs when big procs happened – any Warlock who cleared their Corruption with Seed of Corruption just to take advantage of the Nevermelting Ice Crystal remembers what I’m talking about. You could boost your DPS by huge amounts just by preserving a series of procs.

This was changed near the end of Wrath, in patch 3.3.5, so that an automatic refresh of the the DoT updated all combat values on that DoT. If you got a lucky proc, you couldn’t apply it for the entirety of the boss fight.

The system that exists in Cataclysm is in some ways simpler by changing how DoTs are refreshed – you could now clip the last tick of your DoT without reducing your DPS – but that mechanical change introduced a new set of decisions into optimizing your DPS.

THE TWO SECOND RULE, AND WHEN TO BREAK IT

All other things being equal, Warlocks should refresh DoTs when they hit 2 seconds or less. This rule of thumb serves for Warlocks because our only fast-ticking DoT (Bane of Agony) is also the only one that you never clip, so we can ignore it. Everything else has a 3-second or greater base tick, which Haste almost never modifies below two seconds. So Warlocks can use the two-second rule with impunity, and it will serve their DPS well by never allowing DoTs to fall off the target.

Refreshing DoTs in this way is a path to good, solid DPS. But if you want to try advanced DPS techniques, you’re going to have to engage in some creative use of game mechanics. You’ll have to know your procs well, know how to refresh quickly, and learn to juggle refreshes to give you maximum uptime when procs occur.

The general idea is to take advantage of procs with a fairly long duration – 20 seconds or so – and get your DoTs ticking with the enhanced values at the start of the proc, but then refresh them before the proc drops off, effectively doubling the duration of the proc.

Make sense?

This gets tricky to apply in actual usage, so let’s consider two different methods: one that follows the two second rule while triggering Demon Soul, and one that tries to optimize uptime of the proc.

We’ll use a standard Affliction DPS rotation but ignore Haste and Bane of Agony for now. (Banes are a special case we need to consider later.) Demon is the Felhunter for the 20% damage increase. The Warlock in question has all DoTs rolling on a target when she hits Demon Soul. UA has 10 seconds left, Corruption has 8, Haunt’s got 4 seconds on CD.

I’ve illustrated these two methods in a separate spreadsheet (Warlock DoT Refresh Examples 1.0) so you can follow along; each cell represents a half-second of time in game.

(Click to embiggen)

Method 1: Haunt on CD, 2 second rule. This straightforward method yields pretty good uptime of Demon Soul on the two DoTs, giving 24 seconds of enhanced damage to Corruption and 15 seconds to Unstable Affliction. 9 Shadow Bolts were cast during the 35.5 seconds plotted out. Considering that Corruption’s normal duration is 18 seconds, this is pretty good.

Method 2: Timed refreshes, keep Haunt up (but not cast on CD). This method is more unorthodox: instead of casting Haunt on CD and following a normal rotation, prioritize getting DoTs recast, even if that means hard casting Corruption if Haunt is on CD. Getting all DoTs rolling with Demon Soul affecting them, and refreshing them as the buff is about to drop, is more important than any of the normal filler spells with this method.

And oh boy, while you might only get 25 seconds of enhanced damage on Corruption doing it this way, you get 29 seconds of Demon Soul + Unstable Affliction with this method, all at the cost of 1 Shadow Bolt – you fire off 8 instead of 9 with method 2.

Now, in this very simple example, if the 20% damage that you’d get from those 4 extra UA ticks outweighs the damage you’d lose from the Shadow Bolt, then Method 2 yields higher DPS. If it doesn’t, then it’s not useful and you just stick to the 2 second rule.

But real DPS isn’t quite this simple.

PROC CHAINING AND BLACK BELTS

If we were only talking about a single buff, then breaking the 2 second rule isn’t very appealing, to be honest. There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made for a marginal DPS gain.

But the key is to chain procs and stack buffs so that it’s not just a single buff affecting your DoTs refreshes.

Instead of just popping Demon Soul whenever it’s on CD, time it to correspond to other buffs – Power Torrent, Metamorphosis, a trinket proc, Heroism/Bloodlust, Eradication. Macro your on-use trinkets to abilities like Demon Soul or Metamorphosis. Make sure you use those Volcanic Potions. Watch for procs off your enchants and time your CDs accordingly. Details matter.

It’s tempting to take on-use trinkets and just macro them in to your normal attack rotation. It’s a good way to ensure that your trinkets are firing all the time, so that you’re getting maximum average benefit from them. I did this myself for a long time, so that my initial casts were always potent.

But I’ve learned is that to really get the great DPS, you have to have more control over your buffs than that. Waiting 15 seconds for a Black Magic or Power Torrent proc to pop Demon Soul and a spellpower trinket really hits hard. Chaining Metamorphosis, a trinket, and a potion all that the same time – and then hitting Immo Aura – is awesome.

Also consider your spell choice. I ignored Bane of Agony in my example above, but you should ask yourself – what happens if I switch Banes and put Bane of Doom on my target during time when I’ve got 5 procs going? Bane of Doom becomes a monster DPS increase, that’s what! It takes all the buffs from short, 10-20 second procs, and applies them over the course of a minute. Bane of Agony might gain a lot during 24 of those seconds, but there will be a second BoA cast that is unbuffed during that minute. Bane of Doom absolutely should get refreshed during a proc stack.

All of these details can seem daunting when you first approach it. What procs should you look for? How should you tie them together? What if they’re not lining up well, what if I wait for the perfect storm and it never comes?

But really, it’s not that complicated. There are only so many procs and cooldowns you need to track. You probably have a weapon enchant, and a trinket or two. There’s Demon Soul and Dark Intent at endgame for CDs, and you may have an on-use trinket, too. You may be in raiding gear with a proc that enhances your damage.

Once you’ve figured out which buffs could be impacting your DoT damage, you can start chaining them together. Macro Meta + trinket or Demon Soul + trinket to make sure that your boost is as strong as it can be when you sacrifice fillers for DoTing. Time your potion use for these burn phases. Make sure your Infernal or Doomguard some out during proc chains, not after.

You may want to consider customizing your interface to help display procs better. Power Auras/Weak Auras, Need to Know, Tell Me When – there are many addons which can give you a better view into which buffs are happening now, and, more importantly, what you need to do with them.

Raid buffs can be tricky to manage, but the challenge is more in coordinating your actions with your team members’s than in knowing what buffs are coming your way. You want to have already summoned your Infernal or Doomguard before Heroism/Bloodlust so they benefit, not after. But you don’t want to blow your other CDs until after they’ve cast it and you get some random procs, too!

It can be tricky. But it’s navigable.  It’s knowable.

Knowing just when to do these things is how you get your black belt in raiding, in PvP, and in warlockery.

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Patch 4.3 Battleground Conquest Rewards

Huh. Wow. I didn’t see this one coming.

In patch 4.3, normal battleground victories will reward Conquest points – even those run after the daily random or Call To Arms reward. 100 CP for the first win, 50 CP for subsequent ones.

Bashiok writes:

In patch 4.3 we’re changing the daily battleground (BG) to reward 100 conquest for a win (up from 25). In addition, every non-rated BG that you win will also give you 50 conquest. There is no limit to how many BGs you can run this way, up to the normal conquest cap.

Our intent is to start acting even more on our Mists of Pandaria philosophies of encouraging players to approach the content they want to, how they want to, and be able to work toward meaningful player progression. Arenas and rated battlegrounds will still earn Conquest faster, but with this change you can now work your way up by running normal BGs, if you so choose.

This isn’t a lot of Conquest Points, but it is enough so that a dedicated battleground enthusiast will be able to actually afford Conquest pieces, which is a very nice change. The previous award of 25 CP for the random daily could get you, at best, two non-set pieces per season if you did them every day.

If nothing else changes, Arenas will still remain the easiest way to gain Conquest Points, though to cap you will still need to do Battlegrounds, too. It remains to be seen if this will be faster than points gained in Rated Battlegrounds; I’m inclined to think it will not, but the dynamics of taking 5 coordinated, geared people into a regular BG might result in a higher win rate that would put them on par with Rated BGs. You’d lose out on the other  benefits of competing in rated battlegrounds (like MMR and achievements,) but that might not be a bad tradeoff. I do think that if we see that happening the rewards for Rated BGs will get buffed.

Honor gear will still be very necessary, especially in the early parts of each PvP season. The Conquest Point cap is still in place and you will not be able to circumvent it; all this changes is how you can earn CP.

It would be nice to see this philosophy extend to Arenas and let them award Honor Points after the Conquest cap has been reached for the week. That would complete the circle and really let all PvP players participate in the activities they like and still get rewarded for it.

Please note that this change does not affect gearing advice for preparing for the next season; you will still start out with zero Conquest Points.

This is a very positive change for Battleground PvP, and will encourage players of all skill levels to continue participating in regular battlegrounds after the initial rush for Honor gear is over. Waiting for your Arena partner to log on? Warm up by pugging a BG and get rewarded for it. Not enough online for your Rated BG tonight? Split up into smaller teams and still work on your Conquest Points for the week.

There are a lot of benefits here, and not just for the casual PvPer or solo battleground enthusiast. This is a quality of life improvement for PvPers of all calibers.

Don’t believe the hype that this is just for casuals.

(Thanks to Narci from Flavor Text Lore for the tip.)

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On the Length of Time Between Arena Seasons

If Season 10 ends November 15th, does that mean that patch 4.3 is necessarily a week behind?

Possibly. The length of time between seasons has varied. Using the Arena season dates from WoWWiki, we get:

  • S1-S2: 1 day.
  • S2-S3: 2 days.
  • S3-S4: 1 day.
  • S4-S5: 63 days. This period was between BC and Wrath.
  • S5-S6: 7 days.
  • S6-S7: 7 days.
  • S7-S8: 14 days. Opening of Crimson Hall wing in ICC.
  • S8-S9: 63 days. This period was between Wrath and Cataclsym.
  • S9-S10: 7 days.

The BC data doesn’t really count; it’s obviously a different kind of season transition now. The inter-expansion periods don’t count, either, because there’s such a huge gap (9 weeks!) and we’re not between expansions. So that leaves us with 4 Arena Season transitions of the modern era.

It’s correct to say that there is normally a week between Arena Seasons. Three out of four have done so, and I think it’s Blizzard’s intention to continue to only have a week between seasons.

But it’s not correct to say that there is always a week between Arena Seasons.

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