Monthly Archives: March 2011

Healers Have To Die and the PvP Addons Arms Race

I’ll come right out and say it: I like the addon Healers Have To Die. This addon looks through your combat log to see who’s casting healing spells around you; if it detects that a player has cast a healing spell, it puts a big red cross over their nameplate. Friend or foe, it doesn’t matter. There’s also a mouseover function that will sound a chime when the nameplates aren’t visible, though I confess I don’t play with the sound up loud enough to hear it.

In a chaotic place like Tol Barad, Isle of Conquest, or Alterac Valley, this kind of information is a godsend – my screen gets very cluttered, I have trouble seeing who is doing what, and I rely upon nameplates to convey information. HHTD marks those folks who cast healing spells – not healers, that’s an important distinction – and marks them so you can target them easily. In a courtyard scrum or pitched fight in a keep, HHTD makes finding the healers easy, and killing them easy, too.

Healers Have To Die is also one of the most hated addons in the game right now, with people on the forums regularly calling for it to be banned or broken by Blizzard, at the same time people are encouraging its use in Tol Barad. It is a hard time to be a dedicated battleground healer because of HHTD, with opponents focusing on you relentlessly. If you’re sitting behind a group of your teammates, healing away, you may find ranged fire focusing on you. Melee will cut through the crowd to get at you. Stuns, interrupts, CC – all are directed your way, and in some part because of the spread of HHTD. It doesn’t feel fair, and it certainly doesn’t make BGs very much fun.

So here we have a UI addon – just like Gearscore, or DBM, or Recount – which changes how World of Warcraft plays for people. It has limits, but it’s also an incredibly powerful tool when enough people run it.

It’s also a litmus test for how you feel about addons in general, though you may not know it yet.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Addons take information that is already available to players and display it in a different, hopefully more useful, manner. Recount and Skada parse through your damage logs to give an accurate measurement of how your character performed. Deadly Boss Mods looks for boss emotes, buffs, and debuffs to track events in dungeons, raids, and battlegrounds. Gladius helps Arena players answer tricky questions like: is their trinket still up? (Always assume yes, until you see them blow it.)

None of them do anything that you couldn’t, theoretically, do yourself. Recount would be extremely difficult to do in real time, mind you, but you could manually parse the logs afterwards if you really wanted to. DBM shouts out warnings that aren’t necessary if you’re paying attention to cues within the encounter. Are you in fire? Don’t stand in it. Boss yells about something or other? Get ready to move.

Addons which confer knowledge also confer power. You don’t need these addons to play well – you honestly don’t. But by increasing your awareness of what’s going on around you, of parsing information and giving you only the important things you need to know, addons can help you play better.

And that gets to the crux of the first complaint about HHTD: that it makes targeting healers too easy.

You know how I used to identify healers in a battleground before HHTD came out? Easy.

Look at the opposing team’s roster at the beginning of play. Check in periodically. See those folks leading the healing column, without a lot of damage done? They are the healers, memorize their names, they have to die. This is the most straightforward way to identify who the healers are in any situation – see who is healing!

What about when there isn’t a scoreboard?

Hey, those people standing in the back? Wearing cloth or leather, casting spells with green or yellow sparkly bits? The ones who aren’t shooting out black beams or fireballs or lightning bolts?

They’re probably healers. They probably have to die first before anyone else on the other side dies, so kill them.

What about when things get crowded and you can’t see what’s going on?

There are only four classes in Warcraft who can be healers, and their healing specs all have highly distinctive visual effects.

  • Druid hanging out in caster form? Not in cat or moonkin form? Uses travel form a lot? They’re a healer.
  • Priest not in shadowform? Healer.
  • Shaman not running after people to smash their faces in, and not casting big bolts of lighting? They’re a healer, too.
  • Paladin not running after people to smash their faces in? Maybe wearing a dress? Healer.

Members of these classes are highly visible, and any addon that lets you see classes can get you almost all the way to the functionality of HHTD. If they show cast bars (which they should), you can see the spells their casting and be absolutely certain they’re a healer or not.

These methods are all tried, true, and mostly independent of anything other that situational awareness.  The information is all out there, and is accessible in ways that any player can learn to detect.

But Healers Have To Die takes all of that information and boils it down to one thing: a big red cross over a healer’s nameplate.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

Is using addons the mark of a bad player?

This is a serious question. You see this charge thrown around in various forms on the forums, on blog posts, on twitter, usually with more vitriol than I care to repeat. Sometimes it’s about using a specific addon, sometimes it’s about using addons entirely; but when people start making the charge that only baddies use a specific addon, I take notice, because underneath the ad hominen attack, the underlying argument is fascinating.

“Only baddies use Addon X” breaks down to the following logical form.

  1. This game has tasks with a set difficulty.
  2. Addon X reduces the difficulty of performing these tasks by some amount.
  3. Player A is able to complete the tasks without Addon X, thereby completing tasks at their normal level of difficulty.
  4. Player B is able to complete the tasks with Addon X, thereby completing tasks an an easier level of difficulty.
  5. Because Player A exhibited more skill in performing the task than Player B, Player A is more skilled than Player B.

The final statement is incorrect for two reasons, of course. First, Player B may be more skilled at performing this task at the normal level of difficulty than Player A, which would be masked by the different standards each player was asked to perform at. Second, attributing overall competence based upon performance of a single task gets tricky.

And then there’s the unavoidable fact that this is an ad hominen argument – the personal attack upon Player B (and by extension, all users of the addon) has no relevance upon whether players should or should not use it. It’s a logical fallacy, a red herring to distract you from considering what’s being said. It’s not about the skills of Player A or Player B, it’s about the only truth within the entire statement:

Addon X makes the task easier to complete.

That’s it. Ignore all the name calling, take away considerations of the community of users, and you have that simple truth. Addon X makes it easier to do the job.

So.

You have a tool that makes a task easier. You can either:

  1. Use the tool and complete the task with less effort, time, or error than without the tool, or,
  2. Forego using the tool, complete the task without it, and have the satisfaction of having done more with less.

Neither option is inherently right. There can be value in using a manual screwdriver over a powered one; perhaps you need very fine control, or you’re learning how to use a screwdriver in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that the powered screwdriver doesn’t have value, either – just ask someone putting together furniture with many, many screws to tighten!

In some cases, choosing to use addons feels like the choice between manual or automatic transmissions in a car. There’s more to keep track of with a stick shift, but you have a lot of control over the vehicle, you’re always aware of how the engine is performing, and the slight inconvenience of having to shift becomes automatic. At least, until you have to spend several hours in stop-and-go traffic, where having an automatic transmission is invaluable.

In other cases, choosing to use an addon can feel like it’s reading the Cliff’s Notes version of a book instead of the book itself; hindering learning by just giving you the knowledge you need to pass the test, without imparting deep understanding of the subject. I honestly think there’s something to be said for learning to play a class with fewer macros and addons than you use at the end game, just so that you understand the subtleties of your abilities better.

But I also think that once you know what you’re doing, automating actions, making your workflow more efficient, running a lot of addons – optimizing your UI is actually the mark of a good player, not a bad one.

Yes, you can argue that using addons is the mark of a bad player, because it reduces the difficulty of the tasks you’re asked to perform, therefore allowing players with lower overall skillsets to accomplish more than the default program would allow. Running without addons is a great way to learn the intricacies of your character.

You can also argue that not using addons is the mark of a bad player, because they are refusing to use tools which would reduce that difficulty, therefore choosing to play a harder game.

The counterargument to “only baddies use Addon X” is “only baddies don’t use Addon X,” which , in the case of some popular PvE addons, you see a lot of. A good threat meter and a boss tracker are practically requirements for endgame raiding.

Like I said: I find this argument fascinating when it comes up.

THE ADDON ARMS RACE

Due to the nature of the environments, there’s a big disconnect between PvE and PvP addons. PvE addons are reducing the difficulty of a static task with no dependencies on other humans; there may be random elements in the encounter, but by in large PvE is static. The utility of an addon is measured in relation to a static environment.

The effectiveness of PvP addons is always measured in relation to the opponent, and, by extension, the addons that they may be running, too. Magmaw doesn’t get to run DXE to tell him when to interrupt your healing spells, but Ipwnyou-Arthas can run as many mods as he likes to gain an advantage. Addons confer advantages in combat that stack with your natural skill; you can choose to not pursue those advantages, but other players will likely not, and you’ve made winning harder for yourself as a result.

I think the behavior of the top raiders and gladiators helps illustrate this point.

  • Take a look at a world first boss kill, or any hardcore raiding video. How many are running stock UI, no Omen, no raid frames, no CD tracker? I would wager you can’t find a single one that doesn’t use addons.
  • Watch tournament Arena games. How many are running modified UIs? None, because they’re not allowed. Stock UIs and macros are all you get, and it’s to keep the playing field level.

On the one hand, you have top players using addons to make progression raiding easier. I don’t think this is limited to world-first guilds, by the way – most raiding guilds I’ve encountered have requested UI screenshots to validate that you’re running certain addons. This is part of a hardcore raiding philosophy – you do whatever you can to make downing a boss easier. Addons make the game easier. It’s a simple truth, and it doesn’t have a thing to do with being a good or bad player. By presenting the right information to the player, addons can make anyone play better, both in PvE and PvP.

The lack of addons in tournament PvP play sheds light into the nature of addons. Addons are inherently unbalancing – they augment player’s skills, and in PvP, that means that when all else is equal, addons can tip the balance. Getting the right information at the right time and making the right decision off of it can lead to clutch plays – that’s why people use Gladius in Arenas to consolidate information about their enemy’s status. Tournaments ban them precisely because they are unbalancing, and at that level, the matches are truly supposed to be about skill versus skill.

But outside of tournaments, addons are prevalent and extremely useful.

Addons in PvP are an arms race. If you don’t have them, your opponent almost certainly will. Just like gear is likely to not be equal in any given battleground, there is no standard interface people are required to run in normal PvP, and I’m a big advocate of pursuing every single advantage possible.

The spread of Healers Have To Die has been part of that arms race, and an interesting one at that. In places like Tol Barad, the more people on a side who had the addon, the more efficiently they could eliminate opposing healers, which often led to victory. But, word certainly has gotten out, and now there’s a more equal distribution curve between factions, which negates the early adoption advantage – but it doesn’t nullify the effects upon healers, which is that they are dying more rapidly now than before.

I’m not arguing that you should download a crapload of addons from Curse and that running them will make you a better PvPer. Picking the right tool for the job is essential if it is to improve your play.

But not running with an game-changing addon like Healers Have To Die in today’s PvP environment is deliberately crippling your own play. It’s totally fine if you don’t do it – but you can probably find healers faster with it than without it. You’re probably going to be more effective in battlegrounds if you plug it in.

Choosing to bring a knife to a gun fight is always a viable option. You’re just better off bringing a gun with a scope.

Show me the healers in this screenshot. I dare you.

HEALERS HAVE TO LIVE

We’ll just start off with this: all healers are your friends.

I do not care if he is from a different server and has a silly name, he is your friend. Bad people are going to try to hurt your friend.

Save him and he will reward you by making you immortal.
Do not ever abandon your friend to the rogues.

- Dusk’s How To BG

The problem with Healers Have To Die is actually very simple: healers are dying more than they used to. Now that a critical mass of players have downloaded the addon, healers are finding themselves focus-fired in battlegrounds where they formerly were assured relative safety in the crowd. No more – now healers are finding themselves huge targets on the battleground, unable to do their jobs while getting cut down by ranged fire and charging melee.

My first battleground healer was a druid. I went into lowbie battlegrounds and had a blast running around, healing from caster form, hotting everything I could reach. People didn’t bother me, apparently not suspecting that the night elf running around behind the lines, waving her hands with green swirly marks might be, you know… healing?

But it all changed when I got Tree of Life form. Shifting into ToL meant I became an instant target, and BG healing became a lot less fun. A tree is a highly visible target, one that I reflexively sought out on my Warlock, and being on the receiving end of that focus was absolutely miserable. No one helped defend me. Two rogues climbing all over me? You better believe teammates would run past me.

I mean, did my flailing branches look like they’d be super effective at swatting the rogues away from me? Did my running around spamming glyphed Healing Touch on myself inspire confidence that I had this under control?

Being targeted as a healer sucks. Being targeted as a healer without peels or support of any kind sucks even more.

And there’s the one real problem with Healers Have To Die – it makes it easier to spot and kill a healer, without the corresponding balance in healer survival. There is no corresponding Healers Have To Live addon which alerts you to healers on your side, those folks who need protection, who you need to be watching out for at all times.

Except… wait. Healers Have To Die also picks up the healers on your team and marks them. Healers Have To Die has the functionality we’d want out of Healers Have To Live, only it is not having the effect you’d expect. It could be used to protect your own healers… but it isn’t. Why is this?

Some of this is due to interface limitations. Much of the time, DPS run with Enemy nameplates on, not Friendly nameplates on, just to reduce screen clutter. So the information that there are healers on your side may not even be communicated.

But I also think that the UI is only part of it; I think it’s just hard to realize that someone needs help in a battleground. There is so much shit going on when taking a base in Tol Barad, I barely know who is targeting me, let alone how to help the healers that I don’t know about running beside me.

There’s the real problem. Unlike in Arenas, where I’m watching the status of my healer(s) very closely, in a random pug BG, chances are I don’t know you’re a healer until you do something to let me know. If you talk about it in /bg, if you are on the scoreboard with a lot of healing, if I actively see what you’re doing – then heck yes, I can defend you as a DPS.

One of my favorite addons for PvP is a simple mod called SaySapped. When a rogue saps you, you say “Sapped” to alert your teammates. You can modify the files to yell it, or say something different – but it is extremely effective because it communicates your problem to people who can directly help. I know what the sapped visual looks like in other players, and I watch out for it when guarding flags and towers – but actively, automatically communicating that information to people who might not know, or might not spot it is hugely valuable. People dismount, spam AoE, and find the rogue when that addon fires off. It’s awesome.

SaySapped helps illustrate the problem of making Healers Have To Live a reality. HHTD is personal information, only available to the player running the addon. Spotting a healer is something that can be done without the addon, players are learning that the healers have to die first, and there’s nothing stopping people from running a macro that says:

/bg %t is a healer, they have to die first!

(Interestingly, HHTD does not do this yet, though it’s a logical extension of the mod.)

I don’t actually see that level of communication in most pug BGs, but it’s a good macro to have in your toolkit, because it transforms the personal information of HHTD into intelligence the rest of your team can use.

SaySapped conveys this intelligence automatically to the people around you who are best suited to help you. This is what’s lacking in HHTD/L – actually conveying the information the mod picks up and making it information everyone can use. (I think this is actually a good thing, since you want to be selective about which healers you’re targeting. Not everyone who casts a healing spell in a BG is a healer.)

If I were to offer any advice on how to make Healers Have To Live a reality, it’s that healers need to be more proactive in battlegrounds about letting people know they need protection. The way to counter HHTD is not more nameplate mods, but rather a good macro:

/y I’m a healer, and I’m under attack by %t! Please help!

Bind that macro to a key, and when you get into trouble, hit it. Put a healing pot on it as well, or a free action potion, or Barkskin, or other defensive CDs – but take the initiative to secure your own safety and get assistance from your teammates.

And if you’re not playing a healer? Simple.

/bg %t is a healer and needs help!

They have to know you’re a healer in order to know that you have to live.

BANNING ADDONS IS NOT THE ANSWER

I’ll come right out and say that I hope Blizzard doesn’t ban HHTD. It sets a bad precedence for addons that provide any kind of information in PvP. Gladius tells me if someone has their PvP trinket up or not. SaySapped tells my teammates that I’ve been sapped, reducing the effectiveness of Rogues. Vuhdo and Healbot help me heal my teammates faster than I can do with mouseover macros – Vuhdo even tells me what direction people are in!

The real complaint against HHTD is not the addon, but that there’s no corresponding defense against it in PvP. It doesn’t share information positioning information like AVR did, or even exchange information like SaySapped does. It makes finding healers easy. And people are using that to kill enemy healers while not protecting their friendly healers, and that’s the crux of people’s complaints. Banning HHTD doesn’t address this fundamental problem, which extends far beyond the scope of a single addon.

What we need here is more aggressive identification of healers on your own team, not less. If you’re a healer, speak up. If you’re not a healer, find the healers and call them out to your teammates. Calling out healers should become your second priority in battlegrounds, right behind calling out incomings.

If you feel nervous about putting yourself forward as a healer, don’t. Your team needs you. Your team needs you alive, they have to know you are there to protect you. It’s better to be vocal and win than to be dead and lose.

If you feel nervous about calling out healers in your battlegrounds, remember: healers are your friends. Do not abandon them to the rogues.

Watch out for each other out there.

***

Update September 16, 2011: I’ve written a followup post on using HHTD to protect friendly healers that continues the discussion in this post. You may find it useful.

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Resilience Scaling in Warcraft Patch 4.0.6 and You

So on my most recent post about optimizing your gear for PvP, Nadilli left a comment saying:

Resil works in a way different to most stats. The more you have, the better your next point of resiliance works (the ammount increases exponentially). Ie. a character gains more of an effect from resilliance if they have 3400 points of resil than if they have 0.

I disagreed with that comment, because I’m an idiot who doesn’t always think things through, and have reading comprehension fail syndrome, just like the rest of the internet. My response was correct in that the scaling provided by Resilience is linear – which is correct – but I’m completely, totally wrong in that the effect of it is linear – because it’s not.

That’s confusing. Let me explain.

Resilience is funky. Let’s just start with that. Resilience has always been funky, will probably always be funky, and claims that Resilience Will Fix It ignore the fact that Resilience is a funky stat.

This post on the forums helps describe the problem. Each point of Resilience will grant the same amount of damage reduction to you, which makes sense – at level 85, every 100 points of Resilience grants you a little more than 1% reduction of incoming player damage. That’s the linear part. It’s increasing player survivability where Resilience becomes exponential.

Here’s the example used:

  • The attacker is trying to do 100k damage with an attack that does 10k damage. If the defender has 0% Resilience, the attacker needs 10 attacks to kill the defender.
  • If the defender has 10% Resilience, a 10k hit now hits for 9k, which means the attacker will need to do 11.11 attacks to kill the defender. Resilience saved the defender from 1.11 attacks.
  • If the defender has 20% Resilience, a 10k hit now hits for 8k, which requires 12.5 attacks. Resilience saved the defender from 2.5 attacks.
  • At 40% Resilience, the attacks are now hitting for 6k, which means the attacker needs 16.66 of them, which means that the defender is saved from 6.66 attacks.

Each 10% is providing a flat increase to the amount of damage reduced, which is logical and linear. But player survivability increases exponentially with Resilience, which is where confusion sets in. Linear application with exponential effect.

This is changing in 4.1, according to the PTR notes:

Resilience scaling has been modified for linear returns, as opposed to increasing returns. Under the new formula, going from 30 resilience to 40 resilience gives players the same increase to survivability as going from 0 to 10. Resilience now scales in the same way armor and magic resistances do. A player with 32.5% damage reduction from resilience in 4.0.6 should see their damage reduction unchanged in 4.1. Those with less than 32.5% will gain slightly. Those with more will lose some damage reduction, increasingly so as their resilience climbs.

We’ll have to see how the math on this shakes out – I’ve seen some reports that the new scaling on the PTR is buggy and not working as intended, so it’s hard to say how the curve will look.

I think it’s safe to say that player survivability will go down a bit with this change in the higher PvP brackets, and that while gemming and enchanting for Resilience will still be viable, it will be less viable than it is now past about 3.1k.

Thanks to Nadilli and Xylotism for setting me straight on this.

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Optimizing Your Character’s Gear For PvP

How do you know what the best gear is for you to use in PvP? The best talent build? The optimal rotation to use?

It’s with some interest that I’m following Ask Mr. Robot’s PvP Optimization project. Ask Mr. Robot is an online PvE gear optimizer, which shows different levels of gear that should, in theory, result in the optimal PvE performance of your character and spec. I looked at it a few weeks ago, and it looked very slick – but also, as most gear and talent sites have done, ignores PvP and focuses on PvE. I think that focus is actually a good thing, since PvE optimization is more than challenging enough, so focusing on an area of the game with definite metrics for success while building a site means a cleaner product in the end. And while Mr. Robot and Elitist Jerks may not always agree on the best gear and spec for a class, the discussions around class mechanics and simulating performance, and how gear affects that performance, makes for better results overall.

But tackling PvP is an ambitious step, and one that I’m pleased to see the Mr. Robot team tackle. We do these things because they are hard!

PvE seems easier to model than PvP for one simple reason: in most cases, you are able to focus on a single variable’s output to determine success. Damage dealing is the easiest one to model, with one metric – DPS, damage per second – to measure. Healing and tanking are slightly more complicated, but reducing your optimization question to healing throughput (including damage mitigation) and threat generation gives you a concrete goal to focus on. And while I’m glossing over some important nuances here, especially for optimizing tank performance, you can simulate a fight based on these three variables – how much damage do you need done, how much damage is the raid going to take, how much threat needs to be generated to compensate for the damage being done – and optimize individual classes and entire raid groups that way.

PvP is different, and those differences make it a challenge to model.

THE CHALLENGE OF MODELING PVP

The obvious difference between PvE and PvP – the kind of opponents you face in each activity – is only part of the challenge in optimizing for PvP. I’d argue that for modeling, it’s actually not a very big difference at all – you can evaluate performance in a neutral setting, and then modify those results situationally, according to class and environment.

I think a bigger challenge is trying to find balance between competing priorities in PvP which, frankly, don’t exist in PvE. In a typical raid environment a DPS can focus entirely on squeezing out every last drop of performance at the expense of survivability. Self-heals or resistance gear might make it easier to stay alive during specific encounters, but as long as DPS players can move out of bad things, they can delegate healing duties to the healers. Healers are expected to heal tank and raid damage as part of the encounter. DPS are expected to deliver a certain minimum amount of damage to the elements of the encounter.

Success in PvP, however, doesn’t come with optimizing solely for a single task. Generally, you can’t sacrifice your defense for offense, but neither can you emphasize your defense too much, or you won’t have the power for offense.

So what are the kinds of things that you have to take into account in PvP?

  • Survivability – You have to be able to stay alive to complete the goal of the match. In Arenas, dying means you lose. In Battlegrounds, dying means you are getting sent to a penalty box and moved around the map, possibly causing you to lose – but not always.
  • Output – You have to be able to cause damage or heal, and you have to do this job well.
  • Establishing Control – Controlling your opponents through CC abilities, interrupts, knockbacks, etc., all are essential to both staying alive and killing your opponent.
  • Regaining Control – Being able to take back control, when you lose it, through good use of trinkets and other abilities, is essential. Any discussion on optimization can’t ignore the value of a PvP trinket, and the escape abilities of a Flag Carrier are of paramount importance to success in WSG and TP.
  • Unpredictability – You are fighting a human opponent, and doing the unexpected can be the difference between victory or death. It could be simple things, like using Demonic Circle: Teleport and terrain to get melee to follow you into a bad position, or clever things, like using Barov’s Peasant Caller to keep a rogue in combat.
  • Variety – Within each class, and even each spec, there are many ways you can play it well. This lesson was drilled into me when I played a mage twink at level 19; I could build for damage OR control within the Frost tree, and it all depended on how I wanted to play the toon.
  • Environment – Different PvP activities require different emphasis and gear choices. In Arenas, you can build your class and gear around your known teammates, and can be assured of specific buffs or healing types. In Rated Battlegrounds, you have many (but not all) of the limits of Arenas, but often will need to be self sufficient – you will not have the same 1-4 people around you at all times. In regular BGs and world PvP, you may be completely on your own.

The more I think about it, the more gutsy the Ask Mr. Robot team seems for even making the attempt!

GEAR LEVELS VERSUS GEAR CHOICES

The best part about PvP gear is that, at least at the endgame, it’s pretty simple to figure out what you should be wearing. There is only one source of gear after the crafted sets – PvP vendors, no messy drops – so your endgame goals are pretty straightforward – get the best PvP gear you can afford in each slot. If you have Conquest points, get Vicious Gladiator’s Gear. If you have Honor Points, get Bloodthirsty Gear. If you don’t have any of those, get crafted gear.

But this kind of thinking is really about gear levels, not choices. It’s actually pretty easy to optimize for this, since you just have to look at your current activity level and figure out if you are able to get the next tier of gear. Instead of Heroic Modes / Raids / Heroics / Regular dungeons, you just ask Rated PvP / Unrated PvP / Crafted and you’re set. If you have Bloodthirsty gear but do Arenas, you should be looking at Vicious gear as your optimal set.

Gear levels are easy to code for. Gear choices are where we get into difficulties. Which neck piece should you get, the one with Spirit … or the one with Spell Penetration? Should you chose Mastery, Haste, or Crit? What about mixing in some PvE pieces? How much Resilience is enough? What do you enchant for? What do you gem for?

This is where the going gets tough.

Generally speaking, there are a few stats we need to make sure we take care of in PvP:

  • Hit: 4% spell hit, 5% melee hit, more if you’re DW)
  • Spell Penetration: 196 to cap, 240 to cap against Mages, but only for casters … and DKs.
  • Resilience: as much as possible.
  • Your primary stat: as much as possible.

But when we get down to the brass tacks of each class, how do we make a call on secondary stats? Some choices are obviously bad – Spirit does nothing for Warlocks, for instance, and Spell Penetration does nothing for Warriors – but some are not obviously bad, just not optimal. That’s where the Ask Mr. Robot algorithms can come in handy.

RESILIENCE BUDGETS

So one of the big changes I made in my own PvP gear this weekend was going away from PvP gear and getting the Darkmoon Card: Volcano for my warlock. This cost me 301 Resilience (0.82% damage reduction) in exchange for 321 Mastery, a 1600 Intellect proc, and damage procs that seem to happen all the time. It’s been a huge upgrade that causes my output to go through the roof, but at the expense of 1% damage reduction. I honestly think this is a better setup than what I had before, with dual PvP trinkets.

When do you make these tradeoffs? Is it on an item-by-item basis, or a overall sense of where your character is in their gear?

I think, unlike PvE, you might be better off looking at your entire set and making a judgement call. I think my biggest driver towards getting the Darkmoon Card was that my Resilience was at 3300, and that losing 1% (which brought me to like… 32%?) was a small price to pay for the gain of such a good trinket.

I’m fumbling around with the idea of a Resilience budget for each tier, instead of each item, to make these kinds of judgement calls. If you’re doing Rated PvP, you’ll want to have a certain amount of Resilience, but at some point you can make tradeoffs to do what you want to do. Perhaps it’s 80% of the total possible, or 90% – I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure that if you just do an item-by-time analysis, you’re going to lose out on some benefits.

Of course, if Blizzard decides to apply diminishing returns to Resilience, then that changes the equation substantially.

Balance is tricky.

NO ONE TRUE WAY TO KICK ASS

I actually think that it’s pretty easy to pick good gear for PvP – know which secondary stats benefit your output the most and favor them, hit the caps you need to hit, have a PvP trinket, and stack your primary stat and Resilience. Go pwn.

But good gear is not optimal gear. I guess that’s the part I honestly struggle with when discussing optimization for PvP – you’re going to need to do things that sacrifice one stat for another, and that those choices depend upon your playstyle. You could build a Destro Lock who stacked Crit and play Drakedog-style, or your could stack Haste and play Run-And-Gun. You could balance out between the two and be very successful!

But still… this is still a computer game. It follows rules which can be divined. There is a set of gear for each class which will produce optimal damage or healing while providing adequate protection, because that’s how computers work. There are a set of logical, calculable rules that are being followed here.

I think this is the point where people’s opinions diverge on optimization, be it Mr. Robot, Elitist Jerks, or any of a dozen other Warcraft think tanks. A rational analysis and simulation of optimal conditions provides a mathematical certainty about behavior; but that certainty doesn’t necessarily translate into actual gameplay. At the same time, just because gameplay is so important, it doesn’t mean you can ignore the effects of optimal gear and talent choice!

PvE, PvP, it doesn’t matter: if you come up with a set of rules to evaluate gear, there will be an optimal set of gear for your class and spec. It may not be the best set of gear for you, but it will be the best set of gear for those rules.

I know a lot of players in both PvP and PvE who break gear rules. Lufitoom (the Bloodthirsty) is a great example of a player who defies traditional wisdom with her spec and stacks Mastery as her secondary stat, to great effect.

Ask Mr. Robot is essentially trying to divine a set of rules that will produce optimal gear and talent choices in PvP. I think that’s an admirable goal – otherwise I wouldn’t have written this post. They are trying to produce a friendly tool that will help players pick the best gear by doing the math for them.

But, just like in life, the most optimal path may not be the best one. Use your own judgement.

(And if you’re an Affliction PvP warlock, Haste > Crit > Mastery, because your dots will be easily expelled, and you’re going to need to cast other things, too.)

A CALL FOR HELP

You likely know more about PvPing on your class than I do. It takes working with a class for a while to really understand the nuances of it, and I don’t even claim to get all the nuances of all the specs of playing a Warlock. (You don’t see me Demo PvP for a reason!)

You almost definitely know more about PvPing on your class than the folks at Ask Mr. Robot. They’re building a tool to help players choose gear and talent builds, and are dipping their toes into the waters of PvP for the first time. I think this is a gutsy project, and hope that you will stop by to give them some advice on your favored class.

In the meanwhile: get the best gear you can get, but don’t think that gear is going to make you great at PvP.

Gear is just one factor to being successful.

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