Category Archives: Cynwise’s Battlefield Manual

Earning Conquest Points During Interseason Play

You can get a jump start on next season’s Conquest Points by winning random battlegrounds this week.

Daxxari mentioned this on Twitter, and confirmed on the forums:

Conquest points you’ve earned from Random Battlegrounds after the 4.3 patch was applied shouldn’t be going anywhere.

This issue was somewhat confusing during the last interseason patch because Conquest Points converted to Honor at the same time Honor (incorrectly) converted to gold. The correct sequence of events should be:

  • Season X ends.
    • Honor Cap is suspended.
    • All Conquest Points are converted to Honor Points.
  • One week passes. Titles and ranks are awarded.
  • Season Y begins.
    • Honor Cap is reinstated.
    • Excess Honor is converted to gold.

Before the daily random battleground quest was buffed, this represented 175 additional Conquest Points. Now that the daily quest is buffed, this represents 700 Conquest Points. Not only that, but with 50 CP for each subsequent win, it’s possible to hit the cap of 1650 with some grinding.

This is a major reason why a lot of Rated Battleground teams are running premades this week in regular battlegrounds. The incentives to cap are pretty high.

Still, even if you are a solo PvPer, it’s worth jumping in to get a head start on your Conquest Point grind.

To the best of my knowledge, these won’t count towards your S11 weapon purchases because the season hasn’t begun yet. You will still have to earn Conquest Points during each season to be eligible to purchase PvP weapons..

Good luck!

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An Open Letter to Blizzard About Mailing Transmogrified Heirlooms

Dear Blizzard:

Earlier this year, you said that mailing transmogrified heirlooms would strip the transmogrification. I was disappointed – I have a lot of alts, you see, even if I’m not the game’s best leveler – but I figured it was a technical limitation that you couldn’t work around in time. Got it! Spend your development resources elsewhere.

And then you released Patch 4.3, and OMG the excitement! New raids! New 5-mans! LFR! Bag searching! (Very slick UI, by the way.) Void Storage! And our very own transmogrification box! All my old gear is new again!

So I was testing things out, mogging all the things, when I decided to try mogging a loom and sending it one of my twinks. (It sounds cooler that way, you see. Saying that I altered the appearance of virtual gear bound to my account through transmogrification and then sent it via in-game messaging systems to a low level alternate character with locked experience might be correct, but it doesn’t flow. It’s kinda dorky to be that precise, if you want to know the truth.)

You can’t imagine how surprised I was when it worked!

I did it again, and again, and again. Usually it worked flawlessly, but sometimes it didn’t.

This was amazing. Wow. WOW. A world of possibilities opened up to me – of being able to create my own look for my leveling alts. I didn’t mind some of the heirloom sets the first few months I lived with them, but this world you’ve created has so many more clothes, and being able to create unique looks for my toons made me love the transmogrification feature all the more.

This … bug, as I suppose it is, made me really happy. It makes gearing up alts fun. Yes, I like PvP, and killing Internet Dragons, and leveling, and playing the Auction House, and leveling Engineering over and over again.

Ok. Maybe I’m exaggerating about Engineering. But I’m not exaggerating that having the ability to transmogrify my heirlooms and mail them to my alts rekindled my interest in the game because it is fun. It’s fun playing dress up. It’s fun making your characters look the way you want, of trying to find just the right look for them.

I told my friends about it, and they found it to be a lot of fun too. A LOT of fun. Simple things like character appearance matter. Looking put together makes you feel better about yourself, and it’s no different for our characters, too. People are embracing this possibility, of breathing life into the same old heirlooms and the same old leveling grind.

People are having fun mailing mogged looms around.

And that’s why I’m writing to you today, to ask you something kind of odd.

Please leave this bug alone.

Really! Just … don’t fix it. Leave it be. Ignore it, turn the other way, close that bugzilla ticket. It adds fun to the game. It doesn’t harm anyone – no one really believes that a level 10 Mage is in S10 PvP gear – but it sure makes the game more lively and interesting. Being able to change the same old heirloom into a Frostscythe for one character and a Warstaff for another is awesome.

There are other, more boring reasons I could ask you to keep it in place. Transmogrification extends the life of content by giving purpose to unused art content, and adding heirlooms to the list extends them even further, thus increasing the yield for your investment in the artwork. There are more important bugs that you can focus your effort on now, issues with the UI and gameplay which are normal after any given patch. There’s Mists of Pandaria, which I’m hoping you knock out of the park.

But I’m going to make a more straightforward appeal: being able to mail transmogrified heirlooms makes leveling fun.

I thought about not saying anything to you directly, of quietly mogging my looms and rolling alts. No one wants to be the person who spoils fun, and if this isn’t what you want transmogrification to do, well, you’re going to find out about it eventually. You probably already know about it already.

And that’s why I wanted to say something to you now, and let you know how ridiculously fun I’m finding this new feature to be. I’m spending hours combing Wowhead trying to make up outfits for my alts. I’m looking at each of my alts and wondering how to make them even more fun to play, how to let them acquire gear but still have a look. I’m suddenly looking at my cache of 30 or so heirlooms and going, this is not enough. I need more heirlooms.

This bug has made me pretty happy to be playing Warcraft this week. So please consider leaving this bug alone.

Some bugs actually ARE features!

Thanks!
Cynwise

This post is also available on the official forums. Please let Blizzard know your thoughts!

Update 12/6/11: My post has been deleted and this has been officially addressed in today’s hotfix note:

Transmogrified items should always lose their transmogrification when mailed.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am right now. I don’t care how silly it was; this was fun.

Update 12/7/11: My post was restored by Blizzard, though mogging has not been restored. In a tweet, Zarhym stated:

Level 20 characters shouldn’t be wearing raid gear.

Keep in mind the nature of twitter is for short messages; don’t read too much into the brevity of Z’s statement, though it goes further than just wearing raid gear – wearing certain specific raid gear is okay, other raid gear (or non-raid gear) is not.

This is a complicated issue.

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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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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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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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Arena Season 10 Ending November 29th

Stop buying PvP gear NOW.

Start stockpiling your Honor and Justice points for characters you want to PvP with in Season 11.

Blizzard announced that the current Arena Season will be ending Soon™, and Soon™ means possibly as early as November 15th, next Tuesday November 29th. Nethaera writes:

Arena and Rated Battleground Season 10 is scheduled to end as early as November 15. At that point we will determine who is eligible for the end-of-season rewards, a process that should take approximately one week. It’s very important for players who feel that they may be eligible for Arena titles and/or the Vicious Gladiator’s Twilight Drake to refrain from transferring their characters to another realm or faction until after Season 10 ends. During the break between seasons, all Rated Battleground and Arena matches will be unavailable.

At the end of the season, Conquest Points will be converted to Honor Points, possibly exceeding the 4,000 point Honor cap. All Season 10 items will cost Honor Points (equivalent to their previous Conquest Point cost) when the season ends, with the exception of any items with rating requirements attached. These items will no longer be available for purchase.

Please be aware that higher ilvl PvP items will be introduced and available for Honor points with patch 4.3.

The next Arena and Rated Battleground season will begin for level-85 players approximately one week after the end of Season 10 and will coincide with the awarding of Season 10 titles and mounts. At that time, any Honor accrued above the 4,000-point cap will be converted into gold at a rate of 35 silver per point. In addition, Season 11 rewards will be made available for purchase with Conquest Points awarded during the new season. Matchmaking Ratings will carry over when Season 11 begins, but all Team and Personal Ratings will be wiped.

This is very much in line with what I discussed in Preparing for Patch 4.3 / Arena Season 11, which is a very good thing. It’s a good thing because Blizzard is making sure to communicate the process in advance, detailing caveats about gear level increases, point conversions, and rating changes.

Again, my advice for preparing for Season 11 is pretty straightforward:

  • Stockpile Honor and Justice Points to their cap. This will give you the maximum amount of Honor possible to carry forward into Season 11: 70006667 points.
  • Prepare for 1-2 enchanting and gemming rounds. Get your PvP enchants, Resilience gems, leg armor, and engineering tinkers in place now before prices spike. Tonight, if you can.
  • Don’t buy any PvP gear during the interseason week. Complete your Conquest set if you like for mogging, but expect to replace it once Season 11 starts.

I would plan on taking the interseason week to work on capping your Honor and Justice points, and then either take some time off before the holidays or go play with some alts. It’s a good time to audition a new PvP main, try out new partners, or practice in the BGs.

Now taking bets on if Season 10 will end on 11/15 or 11/22. :) Glad no one took me up on a bet! End date is officially the 29th.

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Item Level Squishing in PvP

Ghostcrawler recently wrote an interesting blog post about the problem of item level inflation over the course of expansions. It’s a post that hit close to my heart, not only due tothe copious graphs, but also because it addresses some fairly significant problems in PvP – problems which, frankly, don’t exist in PvE.

Item levels have risen over the course of Warcraft’s development to convey a sense of increased power and character growth. Because the stats on the gear rose, damage rose – but so did the health pools of the monsters for that expansion. And, due to the diminishing effects of combat statistics, characters didn’t get any more effective as they leveled up, but instead became less effective as they entered a new expansion until they returned to their previous peak. This creates a strange illusion of getting more powerful in relation to older content, while actually becoming less effective in several key areas.

When you level from one expansion to another, each statistic becomes less effective in order to yield the same result. For example, when you level from 70 to 74, the same gear becomes about 25% less effective for certain key stats like Haste and Resilience. Even when you don’t move between expansions this is true – a level 10 character with 90% Haste will have 22% Haste at level 14 in the same gear – but between expansions it’s especially dramatic.

Expansions are the big culprit with power expansion in Warcraft, as each new expansion comes out with bigger stats, bigger damage and health pool numbers, and an increasingly huge disparity between the new and the old.

This chart from Ghostcrawler’s post helps show the stat inflation. It’s a good way to focus the discussion on the impending stat inflation which lies ahead in Mists of Pandaria if they don’t make any changes. If we carry forward his projections, the next line on the chart is going to go straight up and hit item level 600 in 5 short levels.

Put it another way – we could be looking at tanks with 500k… 750k… 1 million health… by the end of the next expansion. In PvP, we’re probably looking at around 400k to 500k health pools, and damage to match.

Let that sink in.

Ghostcrawler walks through two proposed solutions to this inflation:

  • Mega Damage: keep the scale the same, but represent the numbers with (effectively) scientific notation.
  • The Great Item Level Squish: adjust the game so item levels are flatter, except at the very end of the current expansion.

Both of these have some interesting pros and cons.

Mega Damage doesn’t change the underlying structure of the game, but rather presents it differently to players. Much like boss health is now represented by millions, the UI would be adjusted to present big numbers in a smarter fashion. This is relatively easier to implement, which means more developer resources spent on making new content (which is a good thing.) But it also fails to address the past and present issues introduced by item inflation, as well as ignoring the future computational issues when we’re dealing with really huge numbers for the smallest actions.

The Great Item Level Squish is a more involved solution; by reducing the item levels of gear through the leveling process, the entire game can then be retuned so that there’s a flat, streamlined progression through the game up until max level, when endgame gear inflates a bit, like so:

The Squish is a much more involved solution than Mega Damage, and the implications of it for PvP are really interesting. Really interesting.

Let’s take a look.

EXPANSION-FUELED POWER INFLATION AND LEVELING PVP

There are two serious challenges facing leveling PvP today brought about by expansion power inflation.I’m not just talking about low-level PvP, which has its own issues, but the entire curve of leveling PvP, going through from one bracket to another, starting at 10 and ending at 85.

  • First, the power inflation between expansions creates zones where it’s possible to gain the benefits of the next expansion without being in it – all the enchantments, profession perks, consumables, and early expac leveling gear can be gotten at levels lower than their target balance, which serves to destabilize the brackets leading up to an expansion.
  • Second, when a steep power inflation curve is compressed into a single bracket, it indicates a substantial gear disparity between the high and low ends of that bracket. The 80-84 bracket is a good example of this, with dramatically higher health pools at 84. We can presume, if nothing is changed, that the 85-89 bracket will suffer from a similar problem when Mists is released.

The first point has several elements to consider – gear, professions, enchants, consumables – but there are some common threads between each element.

It’s a fundamental axiom in twinking that the earlier you can get an item, the more overpowering it will be as you use it. This seems so obvious you might think it doesn’t bear repeating, but in the context of the Great Item Level Squish it deserves to be looked at critically.

Let’s look at a common example, a level 19 character who tries to get gear intended for a level 30 character.

  • Because the gear is intended for a higher level character, it has higher stats and therefore grants more of a benefit to the level 19 character than gear intended for that level. It’s simply a better sword, helm, belt, whatever it is, than what toons should get at that level. Let’s call this gear statistic improvement.
  • Because the combat rating system diminishes over time, lower level characters get more benefit from the same stats than higher level characters. This is counterintuitive, but the level 19 toon is more effective with the level 30 gear than a comparable level 30 character.

These two points are going to hold no matter where you are in an expansion or between expansions – the earlier you get good gear, the better it will be.

But the steeper the curve of the graph, the greater the inequality. The greater the difference between your level’s average item level and the higher level items you can acquire, the greater the advantage you can gain over your fellow players. And the places of the steepest curves and greatest inequality?

That’s right. In between expansions.

Each expansion introduces leveling gear a little before the endgame of the previous expansion, so at level 58 you can start wearing Outland gear, 68 Northrend gear, 78 Cataclysm gear. (I assume Pandaren gear will be available at 84, when it arrives.) This means that, in the x5-x9 brackets, the top of the bracket has two kinds of gear to choose from – the old and the new – and the new gear scale is usually significantly better than the old one, leaving characters at the bottom of the bracket at a significant disadvantage.

This isn’t really news; if you’ve played the 75-79 bracket lately, you’ve seen the devastating effects Cataclysm green gear has on bracket balance.

Let’s turn this idea around and put it another way: the shallower the slope of the graph, the less impact gear has upon your performance in PvP. Gear from 5-10 levels ahead will be a little bit better than what your average opponent will have, but not as much as it is now. Conversely, gear from 5-10 levels behind won’t be as much of a hinderance as it is now.

If gear becomes more equal in PvP, then class abilities, player skill, and teamwork rise in importance.

While this means twinks become less overpowering, it also means that leveling PvP becomes a bit less of a gear game, and a bit more of a battleground game, and I am very much in favor of that.

THE THORNY PROBLEM OF ENCHANTMENTS, PROFESSIONS, AND CONSUMABLES

While lowering the item levels of gear would help make leveling PvP a fairer, smoother experience, the real benefit comes when we apply the Squish to the real unbalancing elements of PvP – enchantments, profession perks, and consumables.

The above chart shows a rough availability of enchantments and profession perks by level, superimposed over Ghostcrawler’s item level chart. When you really start looking at when things become available, a surprising pattern emerges:

  • Vanilla enchants are available at level 1, but are geared for level 60.
  • Vanilla profession items are available starting at level 10 to grant items designed for level 30 or so.
  • Vanilla first aid can be learned at level 10 to use items geared for level 60.
  • BC enchants become usable in the late 20s and early 30s, but are intended for level 70.
  • BC profession perks are available at level 35, and fully realized at level 50, but balanced for level 70.
  • Wrath enchants are available around level 55, but are geared for level 80.
  • Wrath gems are available around 62-63, but are geared for level 80.
  • Wrath profession perks are available starting at 50 and fully realized by 65, scaled for level 80.
  • Cataclysm enchants and gems are available at level 78, but geared for 85.
  • Cataclysm profession perks are available starting at 65, fully realized by 75, and scaled for 85.

This mess is how twinking works – find the imbalance in the system and ride it for all it’s worth. It’s why you see Tazik’s Shockers and Synapse Springs in level 65 battlegrounds, why Green Tinted Goggles were so good in 10-19s, why Crusader and +25 Agility and +22 Intellect enchants are so overpowered at level 10-14.

The key to the problem lies in a steep item level curve.

Enchants, gems, and professions allow you to gain abilities and bonuses balanced for substantially higher levels – usually the endgame of the respective expansion. The flatter the item level curve, the less impact these abilities have on lower levels. The problem isn’t making them available at early levels – it’s a lot of fun pursuing these little advantages – but rather just how big some of the advantages are. Cataclysm-level damage in the middle of Burning Crusade? Enchants suitable for Molten Core and AQ-40 in level 10 Warsong Gulch? Mongoose at level 29?

This is only a problem if the item level curve is steep. If you bring down the level of each expansion’s endgame, and stop the power inflation between expansions, then abilities, enhancements and consumables geared for those parts of the game become less disruptive when brought down to lower levels. They still remain perks for smart leveling, but not overwhelming PvP advantages.

If you flatten the curve, these all become less disruptive to lower level PvP, and leveling PvP becomes more fair.

THE ENDGAME

The Great Item Level Squish doesn’t affect the endgame that much in terms of gameplay, though it has profound psychological effects. Going from 150k health to 15k would feel… weird. Disruptive. Like something had been taken away, even though the gameplay remains the same. Having Shadow Bolt crit for 20k one expansion and 1200 the next is tough to swallow if you like the big numbers.

I’m a number chaser too: I like big crits and I cannot lie. (You other brothers can’t deny.) I enjoy setting a target DPS for a character and eventually getting it. I like hitting a target health pool on a twink. And I like those numbers to be BIG!

But I look at the Squish and go… this solves so many problems in leveling PvP, I’m pretty sure I could get over that quickly. After a few weeks, the new scale of things would seem natural. Instead of going up in Mists, I went down, but that’s okay, because everything else went down too. I’m still superpowered compared to most of Azeroth – just with smaller numbers.

I don’t like the Mega Damage concept. I’ve played with similar concepts before in RPGs, and they just don’t work well. Having two different damage systems complicates things and solves nothing – except for the psychological need to have numbers that make sense, while still remaining “big.”

If Blizzard is going to spend time working on solving this problem – and I really, really hope they do – I hope they go with the more comprehensive Great Item Level Squish and flatten the gear curve.

Squish that curve as flat as you can, and the leveling PvP brackets will thank you.

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