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An ex-raid leader, gamer extraordinaire.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Introducing: Roguelike Series

I'm sure you've all heard that hunters are going to use Focus (Energy, only with a fancy new name), DK Runes are overhauled and Rage Normalization is coming to warriors. So, what do these mean for these classes?

Roguelike series will look at all tree classes -Hunters, DKs and Warriors- one at a time and try to explain what these classes should expect from the expansion pack.

The way DPS works in WoW, is that for physical classes, there's their auto-attacks, and special attacks. For spellcasters, there's only special attacks, unless you count wands, which no one does since Vanilla (And briefly in TBC). For all DPS classes, there's a cooldown model for special attacks. Notably:

  • Energy - For Rogues, Druids & Deathknights: You have a predefined set amount of power you can use. Your special attacks have organic cooldowns, meaning, you have to wait for your power to fill up.
  • Mana - For Spellcasters: You have a predefined set amount of mana you can use. However, since Blizzard thinks it's fun for DPS Spellcasters to go OOM, the only limiting factors are GCD for Instants and spellcast times for everything else.
  • Mana - For Hunters & Enhancement Shamans: You have a predefined set amount of mana you can use. Again, it's completely irrelevant. Your limiting factors are cast timers (Steady Shot pre soft-haste cap), GCD (Soft-haste capped Steady Shot) and artificial cooldowns.
  • Rage - For Warriors: The more autoattack damage you deal, the more rage you get.
You see a problem here? I certainly do.

There just has to be a way for people to not spam a certain ability every single GCD, to make them unique and interesting to use.

For Rogues & DKs, even though their most devastating abilities do not have cooldowns, they can't spam them at every single second. Rogues' Sinister Strike costs 40 Energy, and each second they gain 10 Energy so they can only use it every 4 seconds. 

For spellcasters, GCD for instants and spellcast timers everything else works to that fashion. A Mage's Frost bolt spam might give him the most damage, but he can only cast it as every X seconds only. 

Now for Hunters and Shamans, both Mana users acting like Rogues, they have instant attacks all around, but they also have mana. For them now to go OOM, their mana has to be large and keep refreshing. But what then they can just spam their abilities non-stop. What's the fix? Cooldown model, on spells like Arcane Blast, Storm Strike, etc.

For Warriors, it's even worse. Playing a DPS Warrior is a rollercoaster of an ordeal, dealing next to nothing at early levels of gear due how pathetic white damage is, and becoming the single best DPSer in ICC. Furthermore, to compensate it, their numbers are always crunched with introduction of new gear, to "normalize" their DPS with the rest of DPS classes.

Blizzard has finally, after five years of trying to make status quo work, giving up, and utilized the Rogue model for these classes. 

Stick around to hear how these changes will effect your gameplay.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

DPS in Trash

Gevlon doesn't disappoint with his latest post. Quote him:
"Posting damage meter on trash is considered impolite in WoW. There were even posts where this was considered "jerk" behavior, since "properly specced" DPS can't compete with a tank or a DPS who has a stupid AoE spec he made clearly to top the meters.
This is bullshit!"
You just gotta love the man.

For a long time, I've advocated using cooldowns and such in raid trash to speed up the process. It was even worse when I was level 70, a Rogue (We didn't have FoK back then) and on Karazhan stairs, an obviously AoE pull, I'd outdps several mages or warlocks randomly.

In Ulduar, there's this massive pull before General Vezax. Three of them, to be exact. There are 9-10 mobs each pull, and they can't be AoE'd. Or so our GM told us. We tried to sheep, hex, cyclone them so that tanks took less damage... Yes, no.

Even though I was an officer/raid assist, of course the GM's word was law. But not to my subjects. I told the DKs I had (We were three DPSers) to AoE shit down like their life depended on it, and to be ready to tank the sheep targets that they were likely to break. We pull, Team-DK goes nuts on bolts, we pull off around 30-35k DPS each, and the pack is down in meager seconds.

From there-on, those pulls became the most fun pull in Ulduar for us as I had successfully persuaded that they were AoE packs.

If there's something I hate more than raid trash, it's probably powerleveling (which I do with any-all characters I have a slight interest in playing). Raid trash is uninteresting, boring, heart-grinding. It's something all 25 people in the raid just want to get over with. So why not bring your A-Game to these ugly packs to make them die so fast it's actually a little fun?

I once even got a whisper once about my DPS in trash, pulling easily a few Ks over others, and the voice told me "Why do you use cooldowns and abuse the system on trash? Does pulling off more DPS make you feel a better player?"

There certainly is a notion, like Gevlon said, about people topping the charts. They "Abuse" the system. These people are the ones that say:

  • I don't care about DPS Meters (Then why do you play a DPSer?)
  • I cold easily top them if I could (Why don't you?)
  • I hate people who are obsessed with putting out highest DPS (Because you're not one?)
  • DPS doesn't mean skill (Both of which you lack)
Don't be deluded. Once at Freya, someone criticized me and a fellow Feral druid when we were "training" on Freya as the PvPers say. He said we were cheating the DPS meters because we were DPSing her when she was healing herself, so our DPS meant nothing. 

He completely ignored the fact that I was trying to roll a high-damage disease on her to spread to her adds, and that the feral was building combo points. But since most other DPSers didn't do anything to Freya, we were showing highest, and haters hated that we were cheating our way to success. 

There's one thing DPSers should know and care about -numbers. Beautiful, shady numbers. Our jobs is a quantitive one. We bring DPS, which is not an in-calculable objective. True, in some places, your DPS will naturally suffer, like when I was running around the room in General Vezax to Death Grip sparks to healers. I pretty much sucked those attempts. Does it make me feel useless? No, but I still make he best of my time when I'm not running around the room like a headless chicken, DPSing the boss to best of my abilities. For example, Yogg-Saron and the tentacles for the Brain Group. I'd have chance to kill one every few attempts when I didn't need to regain full sanity. Why shouldn't I do it, even if it's not my priority? 

Or, why shouldn't I work harder to do my job better?

Let the haters hate. Numbers don't lie. Yes, the person pulling off higher DPS than you are is likely (though not positively certainly) a better player. Conversely, you're a better player than the slackers in your raids. Just because people don't want to do what they were brought in to do doesn't mean those who do are evil, evil people. They just enjoy smashing skulls.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Return of the DK Tank in Cataclysm?

Death Knight tanks went through an interesting ordeal in WotLK. In the beginning, they were often deemed unworthy for progression fights with the spiky damage they took. Later on, their numerous Cooldowns were [ab]used to push many guilds to their first Hardmode kills, from Sartharion 3D to Ulduar.

Looking at the DK talents for Cataclysm now both intrigues me and scares me. The changes make them just far, far good.

Current state of DK tanks is that, they go down a path of their choice and end up with two cooldowns to blow: Icebound Fortitude for all specs, and Vampiric Embrace / Unbreakable Armor / Bone Shield for Blood / Frost / Unholy respectively [There's Mark of Blood but for most fights, it's really awful]. Looking at the Cataclysm talents, we see DK Tanks gaining this:

  • Icebound Fortitude [2M]: %50-70 Damage Reduction for 12 seconds. The talent that boosts it boosts it by %30, and with the current glyph it can go up from 20% to %40. 
  • Bone Shield [1M]: %20 Damage Reduction, 3.4 charges. Interesting this with this ability is, it's not removed with things like Mimiron's Blast, AoE or Dots. 
  • Vampiric Embrace [1M]: 15% Health, %35 Increased Healing taken for 10/15 seconds.
  • Dancing Rune Weapon [1.5M]: %20 Parry for 12/17 seconds 
  • Rune Tap [60/30S]: %20 Self-heal.
  • Death Strike: %17.5 health gain per strike and creates a shields that absorbs the same amount.
  • Will of the Necropolis [15S]: Below 30%, Blood Rune/Rune Tap is refreshed and DK takes %8 less damage for 8 seconds.
There are pseudo-synergies here worth mentioning.

DRW/Bone Shield when spammed together will highly increase the DK's avoidance and thus make each Bone Shield charges a lot more worthwhile.

IBF/VE combo will allow DK to have a lot more health, to receive a lot less, and be healed as if the healers had gear one tier higher.

Of course, when spamming all at once, you'd become as good as immortal, and if it's way into the fight with no problems of threat, but just a "GOGOGO DPS KILL IT NOW" scenario, you can save all your Blood runes for self-heal, DS for heal and shield, and pop Empower Rune Weapon for even more DSes. I can easily see a DK tank surviving a good 20-25 seconds even under current raid-scheme where damage is high and imminent, without a healer.

Of course, we don't know much about the raiding scheme in Cataclysm, but a nice comparison is other tanks. We currently have access to Druid and Warrior talents, and from what I've checked, neither classes pack the amount of CDs the DK has.

But that's not the only selling point of DKs. DK tanks have traditionally been the highest-DPSers in a raid setting, simply because all of their threat (Aside from Icy Touch for the moment) come from their DPS abilities. They're the only class whose Tank and DPS abilities do not change at all. This might come to change as a matter of fact, with Heart Strike being a tank-only spam now, as well as possibly Death Strike, these abilities might [and should] lose in their high damage output punch to stay balanced with rest of the tanks.

Furthermore, I sincerely hope Death Strike's unbuffed healing is no longer %5 per disease. That's just way too much. As you can see, 2 diseases bump this to %10, talents bring it to %17,5 and then the same talents give DS an absorb shield for the same amount. That's just.... overpowered. For comparison again, look at the Rune Tap talent. For a Blood rune, it gives %20 health, 30s cooldown. Death Strike costs Unholy/Frost (so 10 seconds cooldown for all it matters), gives %35 health, half of it being absorption. And any tank worth its salt can tell you %17.5 healing/%17.5 absorption is better than straight up %35 healing, because you can only heal up to full, but absorption will also increase your health effectively by %17.5 past %100 health.

Are DK damage mitigation going to be completely balanced around the fact that Blood Tanks will be vampire-like, so even with all these self heals, they're only going to be having their health globes up like a Warrior's? In other words, will the inherit damage reduction be lower compared to other classes so that healers have to heal the DK for the same amounts? I really think this is a slippery slope.

Personally? I'm in all likelihood going to be a tank in Cataclysm again. Currently, I'm browsing over Warrior and DK talents and abilities to see what will be the best. Now that Warriors are losing their monopoly on both of their shouts (Their Commanding Shout will be the same as Priest Fortitude, and Battle Shout will be the Agility/Strength of DKs and Shamans), I see few reasons to roll a Warrior but many reasons to keep it on with my DK.

Now, I'm not calling for "LOLNERF" here but this feels like 3.1 all over again when DK tanks reigned supreme and anything else wasn't really viable for Hardmodes. End result was, between minor patches and 3.2, DK tanks going from Uber to Lol and not being viable for... anything, really. Sure, they were tank when, for example, a Rogue was not. But most guilds didn't support a DK tank to ICC 25M Hardmodes, let alone TotC where Warrior/Paladin block reigned supreme.

I would just hate it if Blizzard wanted to give a lot of toys to Blood DKs to win their heart for killing two other tank specs (as well as Blood DPS spec) only after all this ordeal, realizing the error in their ways to nerf them again to the ground. Note that I'm not saying they're erroneous, but the possibility is high from what I can see, and if these changes make it to live, I hope, hope we'll stick to them until the end of the expansion.

Edit: I forgot to mention, I thought it was on talent build. DS's Absorption comes from our 3rd Mastery stat.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

History Lesson: Vanilla Raiding

As with all expansions and announced raid changes, I see veteran raiders sighing Vanilla raiding was awesome! and those fortunate enough to miss it exclaiming Oh my, wish I was around to see it!

Let me break the news for people who did miss the Vanilla Raids:

It sucked.

That's all. See you guys around.

(In the sad case you need to know why, refer then to my post here.)

Vanilla Raids Retrospective

Okay, so I gave you the choice. This is going to be a long post. Now I don't enjoy rant posts and will refrain myself from doing them. And this is not a rant post. This is just to dispel the illusion that;

Once upon a time, when Azeroth was young, when the grass was green and developers were still sane, God said "Let there be Raids" and lo behold, there was raids, and there was much joy...

Yeah, no.

People want to know about Vanilla raids? Okay, I'll bite. I will be as objective (however satiric at times) as I can be, and you decide whether or not raids sucked back then.

You see a lot of intelligent people discussing over ElitistJerks over usage of debuffs on bosses. Like how Rogues should use Deadly Poison and Rupture, and when a Fury warrior should stance-dance to apply Rend.

Yeah, you didn't get to do that in Vanilla. Why? Because bosses could have only 8 debuffs. Anything else would overwrite the old ones. This meant only a few debuffs (Sunder, Demo Shout, Warlock Curses, Ignite, sometimes Vampiric Embrace & SWP) would be applied in a given raid. Affliction? Na, there was only Demo or Destruction Warlocks in raids. No Serpent Sting for Hunters.

Now, some folks said "Dude, we've got all these classes applying debuffs and dots, but they can't do so in raids. We gotta solve this riddle!" and thankfully, after that, Only-8-Debuffs deal was fixed.

It was raised to 16.
Observant readers will remark I've only mentioned 6 DPS classes/specs for above example. Let's look at the raid-viable classes and specs of the time:

Fury Warrior, Rogues, Hunters, Mages, Warlocks, Shadow Priests, Protection Warriors, Paladins, Shamans, Druids, Holy Priests.

Yes -hybrid classes were healers. That's it. No Chicken DPS shenanigans, no face-roll Retri paladins. Feral druids could tank in UBRS if they had some tailored gear, but I never raided with one, nor have I heard about it. We had one Shadow Priest in our guild, and we took pride in being open minded about them.

As "Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None" Druids, their set items were completely balanced around healing, but there were some whacked up armor pieces with Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Spirit thrown around them.

I've heard there were some Paladins who would Tank in MC (I was a Horde, I really don't know much about them). But looking at their set pieces, it's clear they were the healbots they are now. But only... More strong. No, seriously. Their set pieces gave Strength. With Heal/Damage (There wasn't Spell Power back then, only +Damage OR +Heal/Damage, and if an armor had +12 heal, it had +3 damage. Don't ask me why they even bothered to add damage portion).

Shamans were healers. They would occasionally bring "LOLWFCRIT" to PvP, but they were hardly raid viable. Never had a DPS shaman in our guild.
It seriously deserves a bullet of its own. Let's take a look at copy/paste from Wowwiki:
After killing 42 Drakonids, no more will spawn (you still have to kill all the others that are up), and Nefarian lands on the balcony in Dragon Form. This is the beginning of Phase 2 of the encounter. Before landing he will cast an AoE (ignores LoS) Shadow Flame on the entire raid. 
What's Shadow Flame, you ask? Oh yeah, it kills you. Not in a funny "Yes, he's down!" way a-la Lich King. It kills you, and you die. So what's the catch?

On yeah, you needed Onyxia Scale Cloaks. It's made with Leatherworking. You need 1 Scale of Onyxia. A skinner loots that off her. You can only get 1-4 Scales per kill.

On the upside, she reset every three days, as opposed to seven- can I get a bat-swing animation here?

If you got 2,5 Scales per kill on average, you needed to kill her 16 times to gear up 40 players. That's about two months of farming. But since most 40M raid guild ran a rooster of somewhere between 50-60 members, you had to farm a bit more than that. And of course, you needed to give them to your Tanks to be able to tank some of the bosses in BWL, since most of them had frontal Shadow Flame attacks. And they would join another guild as soon as they got their Cloak.

All in all, it was a LOT of Onyxia farming, and a lot of deep breaths...

Oh and, that wasn't the only reason you had to kill Onyxia. You know why?
I wasn't even going to mention how you needed Flask AND Elixirs, Bandages, Sharpening Stones, Pots (You could use multiples in fights, and you were expected to), Foods, etc...

You know the silly old buffs you get when you turn in Onyxia's head? Yeah, you had to have them for Naxxramas. And Hakkar's heart. Ad infinitum. (I think there was a Green Dragon that also gave a buff, but I might be wrong here).

Also, there were some items, usually quest items and such that give stat boosts outside of the above items. I remember most of them coming from Felwood, details are fuzzy. Anyway, you had to stack on those as well.

Can you imagine our guild's fraustration when we figured out we needed Onyxia's head AND Hakkar's Heart reward shouts to progress in Naxxramas?

Fun times.
I'm guessing the Veterans told you about "Wait for five sunders before DPSing" that we followed in the old days. Boy, oh boy, that was only top of the icing. Wait for five sunders, sure, that's easy enough. But let me tell you the reality of threat management:

Most bosses were immune to Taunt. You're probably thinking, "Oh, it's like General Vezax. Cool." Well except, that's only half the story. Many boss fights also required tank-swapping.

Yes, you heard me right. Tank swapping without Taunts.

You didn't only have to stay below the Main-Tank, but usually below the second tank as well... Sometimes this list being 4 Tanks. Are you with me still? Good. Let's talk about threat now.

Back in the days, all tanks were Warriors. Period. As I said, some guilds gave a shot at Paladin tanks (Which were unavailable to the Horde at the moment), and Bears were... Well, let's say they weren't that good. If you have ever played a Warrior, you know how their damage works. The more damage they deal, more rage they build, and thus the more damage they deal. In the case of Tanks, the more damage they took, the more rage they build, and thus the more damage they deal.

Now imagine a Warrior OT, strictly in Tank gear, that's not being hit at all. The guy swaps to a 2H and starts building threat. Now, you were required to stay below that guy's threat.

I wrote before how I don't think Tanks are doing a super marvelous job nowadays as far as difficulty of the content is concerned. That's not how it was in Vanilla. Being a Tank was... Being Masochistic-al. Tanks nowadays complain that their biggest problem is DPSers yelling "gogogogo". A tank would have to bring enough threat to the table as to keep the DPSers safe, low enough to make it easier for second tank to catch and put up with the every other crap they're dealing with nowadays. And the threat between people were so close, two crits from a fire mage could just wipe the raid. Ranged DPSers would often chill, bandage up, /dance to get rid of their threat.

And yes, Rogues did use Feint, if you must ask.
Healers' Mana:
They ran out of it.

Usually, there were healing rotations that was put in effect. People would stop casting and let other healers take over, and enjoy the spirit mana generation after 5-seconds-rule. It was perfectly normal to have wipes that, everything was smooth, no one was dead, but healers were OOM. "Good job guys, nice try, go in a safe corner and get ready to wipe."

Fortunately though, Druids were required to spec into Innervate (It was a talent) and give it to their priests. And... that's about the usefulness of Druids in raids. They would go back to rogue form and stealth for the rest of the fight.
Killing Bosses:
So why did people (myself included) do all this shit if it was as bad as I make it sound to be? Well, for a variety of reasons. Being together with 40 other people was something epic in-itself. Epics/best PvP items came from these places as well, so that was another incentive for some people. But all in all, the process was such a challenge, its target-audience (People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, no really, if you raided Naxx at 60 at least a little successfully, you must to have OCD) took bitter pleasure from the masochism.

That, and we didn't really know there was/could be an alternative. That was the game we played.

I can say that, two things happened since Vanilla raid days. Raids became more fun, while boss-kills became less satisfying. Boss kills weren't about loot, weren't about anything but boss-kill. I heard such despicable vulgar blasphemies from 39 other white, basement-dwelling punk kids after our Nefarian kill that the most badass Gangsta-Rapper brothers would turn around and cover their ears. That's 40 nerd kids all ready to satisfy Rihanna's quest for a 'big enough'.

So what I feel about it all? I did enjoy some aspects of 40M raids. Namely, the epic feeling, the amount of work people were willing to put out and the solidarity. Boss kills were satisfying, and when a guild cleared a raid instance for the first time, people made topics about it instead of adding another bulletin to the "Realm PvE Progress" bore-thread.

But I disagree with the elitist nostalgia of insane players that that insanity was a good thing. It wasn't, it was catering to a small audience that were min-maxing beyond the healthy scope. And just because they insane and are willing to find out every little exploit (legit ones, ofc) in the game and use them doesn't entitle them to the beautiful content that Blizzard works so hard to put out.

And it's not like there's no challenge left to raiding now. For people who want to feel that epic boss killing moment again, they can go complete Firefighter, Alone in the Darkness, LK 25M HM. If you want insanity, it's there. Those fights are insane. Go do them, and stop pestering about how old days were beautiful and how gold used to be purple.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Open Letter to 25M Raid Leaders

Dear friends,

I know what you guys are going through. I've been there myself. The job you take, whether willingly or not, is most nerve-wrecking.

I know you're already distressed with your raiders laziness or inability to understand simple commands. It seems the whole raid is taking months to understand what you've just read on boss tactics.

Cataclysm's raid changes have been heralding the death of 25M Raids, according to some people. You are already fed up with wiping on easy bosses in 25M NM while you clear 10M HM on a weekly basis. With the normalization of gear and increase in raid difficulty, it seems there is little reason to do 25M content and pain yourself in the process.

I'm making preparations to find a new guild for Cataclysm. Since beginning, I've told myself to look out for quality before quantity, so, I was never going to go out my way to recruit half the server just to wipe at 25M NM bosses. I told myself that amount of players I had would determine the raid size, not vice-versa. But after raid announcements, I must admit I contemplated long whether I should just stick to 10M raids.

I had forgotten why I loved to raid lead so much.

I must admit there's some (Alright, a good chunk of) arrogance in me. I am not humble. If I had to take a shot, I would say most of us (the ones that drive their guild to progression) are some of the best players out there. By definition, a Raid Leader should be two-steps ahead of its guild. This causes us pain at times as we sigh "I am better than this!". We say, "Look at me, I'm doing the best I can as an X, explaining EVERYTHING to people, and we're wiping on THIS boss. It's not even Hardmode!"

There is a reason why I chose Hermes Trismegistus for the daily picture. He was worshipped by Greeks and Egyptians alike as the Teacher-God. I always saw him as a persona that was interested in developing the Art not for the sake of it, but to help his pupils to be better at it. This is why he's such an inspiration for me.

I can't speak for everyone's behalf, but I love teaching. So much that I'm contemplating being a teacher in the future. The reason why is I had unquenchable thirst for knowledge as I grew up. I had to know everything. This is why I'm a very rapid learner. And this is why I enjoy helping people learn how to learn. I don't sympathize with the poor, with the crippled, nor with anyone else for that matter -but I just can't stand when someone can't learn something. I feel obliged to help. 

Take a look at your WoW past. What do you remember the most? For me, it's the Yogg-Saron fight, 25M NM. Sure, we cleared 10M HM content as an A-Team, even did some TotC 25M HM before I quit WoW. But Yogg-Saron 25M NM was something else for me. It was watching helpless little chickens triggering clouds and wiping in P1 become serial killers in cold blood. I screamed my guts out on the Ventrilo when that fucking beast was down.

My exact part in execution of the fight was, as DK class leader, I was responsible for the melee group and the brain phase. I did some hefty work. In the end, I felt I accomplished something -and considering we were a "Casual-but-serious" guild, some of us even doubted we could be among the Yogg-Saron killers. People felt they had accomplished something and there was lots of joy. I can never forget that.

When I look back, I remember these moments, not the ones us officers facerolling in 10M HM content. Yes, we literally face-rolled it all. There wasn't a challenge to speak of. These were more "Chill & Fun" moments that make me miss the friends I had in that guild. But accomplishment? No.

I know that a good amount of you feel arrogant and burned out with the feeling of "Carrying people over your shoulder".  There are times you wished you were the basic Grunt in a Hardcore raiding guild, fulfilling your responsibilities dutifully, in an environment where you don't feel you're carrying others.

But that guild's Raid Leader's thinking the same with joining Ensidia,

And Kungen's probably singing Is There Anybody Out There?

The point here is, the Raid Leader will always feel one step ahead of their raid. If they don't, then they're not making any progress anyway. And there are times we ask ourselves "Is it really worth it?"

If you really only want to see the end-game content and the reason you're a Raid Leader is it's the only way to ensure that happening in your guild, you could either run a 10M HM guild or get a spot at a 25M HM guild, come Cataclysm. But if you enjoyed the perhaps a little megalomaniac feeling of watching a crippled raid turn into an orchestra of death, and took pride in your efforts to teach people how to learn the encounter, then I say: Give it a shot again. Guilds desperately need good raid leaders like you, and they will thank you for your work. For me, a few people personally took time to thank for my efforts, and I can say it was worth all the trouble.

Cataclysm 10M Raids & Buffs

For a while when our guild was moving to TotC 25 HM, we had an A-Team that explored TotC 10 HM to gain experience. I was de jure raid-organizer for these runs, even though the runs themselves were pretty much anarchic.

We didn't had Anub'Arak down on the second week, and tried to have a shot for some of the tribute rewards the next weeks. So we started to theorize a perfect setup that had best possible buffs. After hours of hours of discussion, drama in the guild and so, we downed it with a non-optimal setup with 45 attempts remaining (War/Pala tanks, Pala/Druid healers, Blood DK, MM Hunter, Spriest, Elemental Shaman, Mage, Boomkin).

This whole ordeal has given me an insight with the problems of 10M raid designs. Wrath's Bring the player, not the class motto pretty much works out in 25m raids, when you can cap out the raid buffs with ~15 people very very easily, and past that point, you really do bring in your best DPSers/Healers/Tanks for the job regardless of the class/spec.

My experience with 10M Hardmodes in Wrath was they weren't balanced around min-maxed groups, so pretty much a random group with a few exceptions would have a decent shot at any and all Hardmode Encounters.

When this does happen, there's a few consequences to it:

  • Shamans before anything else is the most important addition to 10M raids. Before tanks, before anything, we'd look at which shaman could make it to our raids, and compose our raids on that. When the playing ground is even, Bloodlust makes Shamans more equal among equals. Icing on the cake, their totems are absolute bonkers, and nullify the need for other classes. There is nothing a Blood/Frost DK can bring that an Enhancement Shaman can't. 
  • Retribution Paladin is the close second to Shamans. While Kings is God, it's just top of the iceberg. Replenishment, Haste, Damage, Crit Chance all are a few reasons why Retribution Paladins are gods. Now, all Wrath raids are balanced around Replenishment, so you need either a Shadow Priest or a Retri Paladin. And Shadow Priest does not compare to Reti Paladin, not even remotely closely.
  • Druids are the fail-proof additions. If you don't really care for the buffs past Replenishment and Bloodlust, each Druid is one more combat res and innervate. 
It's kind of a funny feeling that, once the ground is "level" for all classes, some classes are more equal. If you balance the raids for a DPS setting of Rogue, Survival Hunter, Frost Mage, Shadow Priest, Arms Warrior with no Restoration Shaman, then any of the classes I've listed in bulletins will make the content far, far easier. And if you balance it with at least the classes having moderate amounts of synergy together, and with Bloodlust, then it's mandatory. You just can't win this one. 

Case in point, my old DK was pulling 4.5-5k sustained DPS on Boss Dummy with no buffs and around 10k in a tank-and-spank in TotC. That's %100 damage increase. If you arrange the bosses for minimum DPS in a most most random raid setting, then for example a stacked physical DPS team (which is often the preferred medium for 10M HM raids) will absolutely destroy the setting. 

Another interesting point of Blizzard was "Making 10M just as hard as 25M". While relative DPS and HPS/Survival numbers were yes, in favor of 10Ms in Wrath, 10M HM were often much harder, at least from what was expected of a single player to do. The only reason more people did 10M HMs over 25M is logistic problems, since it's easier to find 10 people willing to go %150 than 25 people doing their %100. 

But for example, where a DPS in 25M encounter is %6-7 of the raid's damage output, a DPS in 10M was %17-18 of raid damage -a little more than a double. I remember us just giving wiping certain hardmode fights after one dps was down ~1 minute into a fight. Same as with healers -Most 10M Hardmode groups bring 2 healers to compensate steep DPS requirements, and as such, death of one healer is the loss of %50 healing on the raid. In most cases, it was just impossible to kill after a healer death (Though we did have a really uber Druid, who healed Anub P3 HM solo. That was some feat, that was something. I still have no clue how he pulled that off). 

But anyways, each healer/dpser is more responsible on 10Ms, which made most fights even harder than when compared to their 25M versions. To negate that, for example, adds-per-dps etc numbers were low and in favor of 10Ms.

Tuning it now even harder, I can see 10Ms being a retro-case of Burning Crusade, when raid-stacking was important and where 10M content (Especially Zul'Aman) was not just something that was PuGable. 

All in all, I have to say I (and most of the casual guilds strictly 10M) didn't mind to know that, yes, 10Ms were gimped, were easier on the whole and reflected the best "Bring the player, not the class" mentality. However, I'm not sure how casual crowds will reflect that, if Blizz does keep its word and make 10Ms harder, the fact that they're now wiping again for hours like a 25M guild. 

But in the end, it's always easier to find 9 more patient and sentient people to wipe with, as opposed to 24.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Obligatory Cataclysm Post

So, I really should do this to attract more attention, right?

Well, there's really not much to talk about, to be perfectly honest. Path of Titans idea is scrapped, Guild Talents are gone. There's going to be even more competition and name calling among guilds now, especially with Guild RSS feed, Guild Achievements, etc. This, I really don't like. I enjoyed "We did X!" over the recent "You noobs haven't done X!" elitism of WotLK. An ex-member of our guild didn't stop bitching about to a rival guild after we killed Freya Knock x3, rubbed it all over their faces.

Accomplishments in WoW is for personal satisfaction, and while it's fun to race server firsts and have some friendly rivalry, to the point of progress is the norm and thus lack of it is a cause of booing -that doesn't really suit me.

I'm going to high-light some changes that are relevant for high-end guilds:

Guilds: A lot of crappy fluff, which, if I don't have to exactly go out and grind ZG outside of my guild's weekly content farm for, I won't mind cool rewards like mounts with guild tabard and such. But most important point is Guild Reputation, you're going to need these to buy the rewards that your guild has unlocked.

Now again, from what I've understood, rewards are fluff only. If you can earn Guild Rep in only raids or trading with guildies or such, then I'm a happy fella that now has a metric source to measure my members' contributions.

Raids: There's a few changes, most of them I support. A quick glance over them:

Different raids, same bosses: Say, you went to Naxx this week and killed up to Patchwerk. Now, once your guild's raid catches up to Patchwerk, you both can join the same instance now. Sounds fun.

More Algalon: Heroic raids will have exclusive Algalon raids with half a tier above loot. More bosses = Fun! But, even now the casual crowd (Who has been given access to all the raids without even attunements just so they can see the content they complained that they were unable to see) complain how Algalon was for hardmode raiders only. I hope Blizzard won't listen to them for this one instance now.

Splitting it up: You can 'downrank' a 25-Men raid lockout to 10 men, for cases like it's Tuesday night, some assholes blew you up and you've got only 20 people, so you downrank your ID, and go with 2 x 10 groups. It only can do good.

Path of the Titans scrapped over: Personally, I've got mixed feelings. It was going to be another gold sinker that forced the raiders to put more effort into (Which already is a lot in the beginning, with insanely high prices for flasks, foods, enchantments and crafted epics). Also given the slow nature of its explained progression, either the raids would be balanced around the premise that guilds had max Acheology already, or not at all. In first case, it would take a fresh recruit months to get him in proper position to raid among the others, in the second case, the profession would make any half-decent raider just way over the top (even if it was just a simple %5 damage/health/healing increase).

Matt at World of Matticus said Cataclysm lost one of its selling point probably because of release rush, but I disagree. Path would make either characters overpowered, or the ones without it miserable. Neither are profitable for a raider guild, who's always looking out for bright talents on their side even if it's a fresh re-roll. I think it's nice that it's gone.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why was Faction Champions great?

Before I raided anything in Vanilla WoW, I had watched a few videos (mostly movement heavy ones with bosses charging random members around). In Vanilla, threat was a real issue. Especially for Horde side, where we didn't have Blessing of Salvation. Old school raiders still remember the saying wait for five sunders. Threat is now just a buffer for some classes (MM Hunters come to my mind) but mostly ignored by all but the tanks.

Most bosses were in fact immune to taunt. They would often charge random members. Shit would loose apart. DPSers had often access to much more damage than they were bringing to the table, but were limited by their threat. There wasn't an illusion of a fantastic tank protecting and keeping you safe. Even in Burning Crusade, many considered Blessing of Salvation to be the greatest DPS increase. It all changed in Wrath like many other things.

Fights we had in Wrath were mostly the "Tank & Spank" kind of variety we old schoolers called them back in the day. Not only most raids in Wrath had bosses with no kinds of adds -or adds that were just the same as the raid elites like Razorscale or Thorim- Karazhan's second boss was Moroes, and it was an achievement to down him. High King in Gruul's Lair was also a fight with a lot of things going on. KT Council, Illidari Council, Vashj so forth were benchmarks of Burning Crusade raids.

Flashforward. Back when Faction Champions were released, it seemed most guilds had a setback, even if only temporarily. Almost all guilds were one-two shotting Northrend Beasts, and Lord Jaraxxus was "merely an interesting fight". But Faction Champions really turned the tides and got some guilds wiping.

People were crying about how they had to do PvP for PvE. It was the biggest nonsense I ever heard.

I really enjoyed people changing specs, taking out certain trinkets for others (Usually the PvP trinket, though sometimes some whacky engineering trinkets did come into play), how abilities unused in raid instances was something valuable (When was the last time you sheeped something in a raid setting let alone a raid boss?). As a DK, even though I was one of the highest DPSers in the guild, my job was to make sure Rogue, Warrior, DK or pets were not disturbing the healers. Hungering Cold, Death Grip, Chains of Ice, Taunt were the skills I spammed the most. I would also Strangulate the healers whenever it was off the CD. People actually bandaged this fight! Everyone understood it was an encounter of survival and they treated it as such.

My only sadness with the fight was, the hard mode was not significantly different, aside from higher numbers and less room for breath. But still the encounter was just a fest!

It made people realize, they had to get out of their comfort zone to kill this boss. You had to learn a new ability, a new skill. In certain cases, people used different gear or even completely different, niche talents for this encounter alone. This is why this fight was one of the benchmarks of Wrath.

When was the last time you've seen a DPS class come to a raid with two different talent builds, even gear, to kill a boss? Hell, back in Burning Crusade, we had two different gear as rogues -one for bosses, well-over the yellow hitcap, and one for trash, with a lot of Agility/AP. We didn't really actively build the second set but it was just a by-product of all the loot that was laying around.

People have to realize that this sort of dedication is what's required of them for hardmodes in Wrath. In most cases, the numbers are so off the chart, you literally have to do everything you can. This is why, 25-men normal guilds have an A-Team of 10 men hardmode raiders, mostly composed of officers and co -because they know they can trust each other. When we were doing Firefighter in 10 men, we once had to invite a random priest from guild, not been in our hardmode runs before. We explained him the fight, wiped a few times before he asked "Why are we bothering to do it? Normal is much easier."

I'm often calm in raids and I can wipe a full day and a half without complaining about repair bills, but people had to calm me down after he said that. We had a guild who was pestering the officers (us) for lack of progress in 25-meh hardmodes, and they were the ones who threw towel after two full wipes. "I don't have the gold for repair bill soz".

This is what the Faction Champions taught -you couldn't rely on the rotation buttons, DPS, Healer or Tank. You had to get creative with your abilities, you had to think outside the box -and this wasn't even a hardmode fight. This was the 3rd fight in the instance, you just had to do it. People can complain about hardmode fights and how they were not cut out for the job, but very few people would like to admit they wiped on Champions and called it a day.

I really hope such fights in the future that greatly rely on people increasing their skills and their train-of-thought will be implemented in the future raids of Cataclysm.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bloodlust & You

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that most of the time, Bloodlust should be burned on the pull. This generated some interest and I promised to look back to the subject, so here it is.

First, we should compare Bloodlusting early or at Execute range, and ElitistJerks do not fail to deliver us some math. TL;DR version is (copied from EJ):

  1. If there is no other factor, use BL early to maximize the number of people and cooldowns available.
  2. If one particular phase needs to be burnt through in the shortest possible time, use BL then, and match cooldowns to BL.

There is a few good reasons why Bloodlust on the pull is so great. 
Proc-Based Buffs:
Make a Death Knight on the PTR, give him some proc trinkets, give him a runeword, and go to a dummy. Toggle auto-attack, and watch the number of buffs that appear from procs in 1-5 seconds. 

Most (if not all) proc based buffs have a very high chance to proc, with differing cooldowns. Usually, it's something like every 45 seconds (or 90, or 135. You get the drill). The nature of these abilities is they're unreliable, even if you keep track of multiples of 45 seconds. Even then, not all procs diligently go active every 45 seconds. So, the only time you can rely on these procs, is the beginning of the fight.
X Minute Cooldowns:
Classes' cooldowns do not always match. For example, Rogues' Adrenaline Rush, Death Knights' Summon Gargoyle/Empower Rune Weapon are five minute cooldowns that insanely benefit from syncronization of buffs. For all classes, it's a direct DPS increase to burn all their cooldowns at once on the pull, and later burn them as they come off CD. Now the problem is, some of these cooldowns do not come off CD simultaneously. There are 1.5 minute, 2 minute, 3 minute, 5 minute cooldowns. A large part of DPSers damage comes from timing the usage of cooldowns.

"We'll let you know when we're going to Bloodlust" is murder to DPSers. DPSers [should] plan ahead. We need concrete information to whether burn our Cooldowns to squeeze a bit more DPS or wait if we know there's a Bloodlust coming our way in a minute.

Haste is multiplative:
The simplest math is, if you have a cooldown that gives you %50 haste, and there's the goold old %30 Bloodlust, one might think that the final haste is %180. This is wrong. The correct math is: 100 x 1.5 x 1.3 = %195. Different haste effects stack insanely well. But this is the tip of the iceberg.

While haste for casters offer almost a direct damage increase, for melee classes currently it only effects the amount of while damage they do. To make the stat more attractive, Blizzard has several on-strike abilities that scale well with Haste: Druids proc Clearcasting, Death Knights proc Killing Machine, Rogues regain energy, Warriors gain more rage, Shamans proc Maelstorm Weapon and [I believe] Paladins deal more damage from their Seals. The faster you hit, the more yellow damage you will deal.

And what happens if you syncronize all Cooldowns at once? Haste gives you more special abilities, and your other buffs increase your yellow damage.

"Okay, we get it, but why more DPS?"
I think a lot of people actually understand the mechanics of Bloodlust and why is it a straight-up DPS increase when all of these are blown at the start. The problem is, the raid leaders often come from Tank/Healer roles who devalue exactly how is all this DPS is beneficial to their guild. They say, "We don't have a problem with DPS, our Tank dies at X / our DPSer die at Y" and to them, more overall damage from raid is unnecessary.

This is one of the fallacies I've time and time tried to combat. Or that the added damage is required for certain parts of encounter when the boss hits relatively harder. I'll bite, time for a little napkin math:

The boss has a one minute phase [based on your raid damage] when it hits like there's no tomorrow. Bloodlust, while not directly increasing the overall damage by %30, it does increase frequencies of yellow attacks and is multiplicative, so let's stick with this number. You blew the Bloodlost for %30 raid wide damage increase for a 1 minute phase:

First 40 seconds: %30 damage increase, effectively 52 seconds of damage. +4 seconds = 44 seconds.

You've gained 16 seconds of less punishment on your tank. [In case you're wondering, this is exactly how long Saurfang would take, if you had 15 DPSers pulling off 10k DPS each. Obviously, if your guild pulls 20k sustained DPS, he'll only take 30 seconds and if you blow Bloodlust then, you'll close it up in 22 seconds, gaining 8 seconds less of a punishment].

So what is this - Bloodlust now is another healer tool to heal the tank less? Why - I never knew!

Aside from the fact that, if you can keep up the tank for 44 seconds of saurfang cleavefest, you can probably spam it a bit more for 10 more seconds. That and, assuming you'll lose a few DPS on the way, while an early Bloodlust would result in perfectly delaying the first mark for a good while with all the alive DPSers rocking the boats. Yes, you should blow Bloodlost on him on the pull.

I was told Rotface is another fight where one should save Bloodlust for %30. Directly from Wowwiki:

"It's frequently recommended to use the DPS cooldowns at 30%. This is not a useful recommendation, since the encounter mechanics remain the same over the whole fight - there is no special enrage at low boss health. The only thing which changes is the Mutated Infection rate, the time between Infections slowly decreases. For this reason, it's best to use all cooldowns just a few seconds after the pull, as soon as everybody is in position. At that point, all damage dealers can maximize their output undisturbed from Infections or small Oozes. It's even possible to have the kiting tank help DPSing until the second Infection."
And in case you're wondering -no, I'm not a writer at Wowwiki. Heh.

Next time you go to a farm boss of your's, please redirect your raid leader to this page, and ask them for an experiment: That you blow Bloodlust on the pull and try to see if there's a difference. Ask for people how it felt [It should be gooood]. Ask whether your healers had mana issues with overall length of the fight cropped thanks to DPS optimization.

You should visibly see a difference between a boss being whacked and a boss being whacked. This also serves a second, nice psychological side effect - people enjoy seeing big numbers! They will see how fast the boss' health is dropping, and they'll be excited. This excitement is particularly useful in progress nights, where you struggle with the morale of the guild. Keep the spirits up -one particular way to do is spoil your DPSers and let them have fun with the 30 seconds of godmode. They'll be more eager to loose hell on the boss, and thus, your guild will reap the benefits.

One thing of note is, I don't suggest you use Bloodlust on the pull for every single boss. If you're unsure off boss' abilities, or you're confident the boss is not an asshole like Anub'Arak is at p3 and yes, your whole raid can instantly die over the course of 1 second, then opt to use it on pull as a default, which will help you see more abilities on progress wipes.

Optimization and DPS science is not easily "X is True, Y is False" for every single case, and Blooslust is an example of an ambigious discussion. Strictly mathematically speaking, Bloodlust on pull is undisputedly a DPS increase beyond your imagining. However, this doesn't mean it's undisputedly the right choise all the time. For example, I can't think of any boss in ICC where I don't want to Bloodlust immediately [Well, Gunship doesn't matter, but it really doesn't matter seeing how easy it is]. In previous content, we had bosses like Yogg-Saron and Anub'arak who laughed at Bloodlust.

I don't expect tough healers to think 10 seconds less off tank punishment is worth losing 1 minute of mana because the DPSers didn't benefit from Bloodlust the best. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. But please, for what it's worth -tell exactly when you're going to blow Bloodlust to your DPSers, before the encounter. They will thank you for helping them do their job.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

DKS on GamerOfSorts

In addition to my raid related content in this blog, I'll also be having a weekly spot over at Kirei's Gamer of Sorts. There, I'll expand my views of guild-related issues, notably my preparations for a new guild I anticipate launching come Cataclysm.

I'd like to thank the wonderful Kirei for having me write on her site. She's got loads of stuff going on with HoN, don't miss out on it!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Praying by Damage Meters

I think the name of the blog is biased enough to let you know what I think of Damage Meters. While the tagline is a tongue-in-cheek joke, I still base my analyses of my DPSers on how they perform on the Damage Meters. I got booed off the stage numerous times for defending Damage Meters, and even met some fellow DPSers who refused to install a Meter addon, just because they were opposed to the idea.

How more wrong can you get?

I've read a reader reply on Wow.com, that said "DPS is a science, Healing is an art." As much as the quote sounds biased on the "Healers & Tanks are the serious business har har har!" mentality, it's still true. Everything a DPSer needs to do, is shown on the Damage Meter. Let's refine our role for this matter, once again:

A DPSer's job is...

  1. To attack the right target and interrupt as needed
  2. To deal maximum amount of damage
  3. To receive minimum amount of avoidable damage
This is a science (While certain specs' rotations/priorities borderline the "art" scope, those are still rotations that could be better performed by a machine than a human if enough variables could be calculated). Everything we have to do, is calculated on the Damage Meter: Outgoing Damage, Damage dealt to whom, Damage received from what. This is why it's crucial for a DPSer to know how to handle the statistics gathered from Recount/Skada. 

Let's learn how to avoid the common pitfalls when using that data:
The Right Target:
Hodir is a fight of two priorities: After each freeze, rescue the silly DPSer NPCs (They fail horribly on the third bullet), and then unleash hell on Hodir. The fight's mechanics really help Mages with their DPSes, since NPCs give you a lot of crit and haste.

If you're good on the Damage Done meters, odds are some of your guildmates are going to grief about your constant performance, especially if you're a hybrid and they're a pure DPS class. This time, I was the Death Knight and the other suspect was a Mage. I heard the "Ha! I beat Nighthavk on DPS!!!11!" on Ventrilo. After the fight was over (as a wipe), I did what all the bad DPSers do after each fight: Linked the meter in raid chat. The one statistic I chose to show was Damage Dealt to Frost.

The top damage was an Arms Warrior (Who was usually Fury, but had changed to Arms for better movement during the fight for Hodir only. Talk about perfection!) and second was me. Our good old mage was nowhere to be seen.

It didn't help that we just had a wipe, especially because we were slow to rescue frozen NPCs.

This is where a lot of DPSers fail - they understand that they're performing a job with quantitative statistics, and want to "exploit" the system. The utter most important thing in a raid for a DPSer is to tag the right target and interrupt as needed. No excuses.

The old "Oh, but I lose precious DPS when I switch targets!" is a moot point. Rogues and feral druids even, one of the classes that benefit most to sticking to the target, just refresh their SnD/SR and switch their targets. Even better, some niche specs excel at AoE or Cleave damage. If you're so concerned with your performance that dropping a few slots from the Recount is important to you, why didn't you come with a better spec for this fight?

Any raid worth its salt will concern themselves with damage done to the right target first and foremost.
The Right Damage:
This one is simple: You should be constantly comparing yourself to your past performance and other members of your class. I've seen a lot of people who don't help others of their class just to show that they're valuable to the guild and do more DPS than the others of the same class. This is unacceptable. When I was DK Class Leader, I was the DPS/OT, and so my recruits were DPS alone. After a few discussion, me and the Guild Leader decided we needed three DK DPSers including me. So I had to find two other DKs who showcased insane damage.

It wasn't easy. I recruited around fifteen people, far more than any other class leaders did, and worked with them at Ebon Hold, burned literally thousands of golds to respec, reglyph. In the end, I found two other excellent members.

Those days were a blast, as the Recount's top three was painted in dark red at all times, and it made me more proud than just seeing my name on the top. It was a group effort, that my recruits volunteered to work with. In the end, we were constantly teasing ourselves for doing 23 more DPS than the other or silly stuff like that and generally having a blast. The guild leader congratulated me on my work, and my recruits were thanking me for the opportunity and for taking my time to work with them.

The work wasn't simply a matter of me teaching them either. I had dropped Unholy long after the nerf, only using it for gimmick fights with a lot of AoE requirements. I was Frost first after the buffs as it held the best single target damage, which was replaced by Blood in TotC gear. One of my members showed interest in going Unholy, and we went down to Ebon Hold, tested out several specs and in the end, he stuck with Blood with his overabundance of ArP, and I respecced to Unholy. Hadn't it been for him, I wouldn't have given Unholy another shot.

DPS should be handled by people who genuinely enjoy excelling at this science. Is it completely necessary? It can be done without all 15 DPSers in the raid min-maxing to the balls, though certainly more people who take it seriously should do it. But the more important question is, admit it: You're DPSer because you enjoy dealing big damages. Why don't you work harder for this joy?
Avoiding the Damage:
"Nighthavk, get away from the boss."
"Dude, he's going to Overload!"
"Yeah, I know. Watch dis:"


Anti-Magic Shield says "Hi!".

I loved Overload. Stormcaller of Ulduar's Council was a bitch, and I was constantly on interrupt duty on him. Overload meant I had seven seconds of freedom to just whack at him, and also using Anti-Magic Shield as a way to refill my Runic Bar. In the end, the damage I would take from him was about ~2k. Which I'd promptly Death Strike to regain back, and unleash my Runic Power to the boss.

(The side effect to my exploit was, a feral friend stuck with me DPSing the boss on next Overload. When I told him to move away, he told me "Watch dis:" and promptly died. We all burst in laughter on Ventrilo. Good times...)

I come from the school of rogues of the vanilla content. Raiding was a lot primitive back then. A DPS getting healed was a DPSer who was lucky. Between health potions you could use multiple times in an encounter, bandages, health stones, a DPSer was meant to take care of himself. While I understand that there's a lot of unavoidable damage that DPSers take nowadays, I learned to thank for every Renew or Shield tossed on my way. We had to get... creative, with out class mechanics. A Warlock would life tap as usual, but would Drain Life to regain back the health lost. Warriors would stance dance to get survival countdowns. We exploited the best of our abilities.

I see very rarely that abilities like Anti-Magic Shield, Icebound Fortitude, Feint etc used to minimize the damage taken. They should be keybound and used as much as possible.

Some fights, like Mimiron, brain room at Yogg-Saron, these fights make me nervous with relying on healers to survive, despite anything I might do.  In these cases, I either try to take talents that reduce the AoE damage a la Rogue and Feral Druids, or else ignore these cooldowns unless a real emergency comes up. The reason is simple: Healers flow into a rotation of HoTs and heals in these cases. You don't want to illusion them that you take less damage than other DPSers. They might put you off their rotations, and believe me, you'll notice it once your CDs wear off. Your health will drop like you didn't know it, and you'll be topped off by several healers wasting mana on Greater Heal equivalents. For fights like this, trust that your healers are good, and if shit hits the fan and one your healers die, you'll hear "Alright ladies, you're on your own!" which means, blow off those survival cooldowns and pray, pray that feral aura will be enough to keep you alive.

In both cases, you have to make your healers job easier. Know beforehand the abilities of the boss and understand the mechanics, plan ahead when to use your survival cooldowns and minimize the avoidable damage. In some cases like XT, using Icebound Fortitude/Feint/Dispersion will only make your healers thank you, but in others, such cooldowns will mislead your healers and make several healers blow off big heals on you (That's a NO!). Your own survival is more dependant on your actions than the heals of your healers. Understand this.

...What do you mean, "What does this section have to do with DPS Meters?"

But why, silly: We keep track of the source of damage you took! This is yet another area where you have to be competitive among others and impress with your magic skills. Your job is to stay low, very low on this meter. And again, if you're melee, compare the damage you took with other melees (Preferably of the same armor class). Ask around for tips if you can. No one likes a big DPSer who constantly needs a pocket healer to keep him up.

Wrapping up, we can see that the science of DPS is very much mathematically calculable and your friendly Recount will give you all the data you'll need.

Nature of DPS is competitive, especially because of this simplistic design. While in a raid there's only so much healing can be done, and as the same for Tanks, whose role is that of a success-or-failure, DPSers show their importance by the quantitative data. The line of "Player A is better than Player B" is much more refined than compared to other roles. Thus as a DPSer, you have to constantly keep your A-Game up, constantly think of ways to make things work better, to do more damage, to take less, and such. The simplicity of our roles demands a dedication that burdens you to use the few tools you have to the maximum efficiency.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Attunements & Everything That Was Right with TBC

I know I'm not going to make much impact with an idea that Blizzard apparently scratched out completely, but still. Ready Check: I miss Karazhan reminded me of the raiding in The Burning Crusade, and I don't mean the late stages when nothing required attunements. I mean the real raiding.

A wanna-be raider in The Burning Crusade had to do these:
  • Get attuned to Karazhan. This involved doing several quests, nothing comparable to Old Onyxia Attunement... And you had to do 4 Level 80 instances. No, silly, not Heroic. Normal. You know, the ones people never do nowadays. You would be surprised how many people were not attuned to Karazhan. 
  • Get several factions to Revered to enter Heroic Dungeons. This might sound surprising to WotLK children. "What? Attunement to Heroics?" In a sense, yes. There were several factions per instance areas. For example, being Revered with Thrallmar/Honor Hold  would unlock Shattered Halls, Burning Furnace, Hellfire Ramparts. For other heroics, you had to grind them to revered as well.
  • Farming your Heroics. Yes, Badge rewards were again handed out. But there were no daily dungeons in the beginning. And given that you had to grind a certain faction to revered just to unlock some heroics, Badge Gear held its value. 
What this system accomplished was making player ask questions before jumping into raiding. "How do I get attuned?" The attunement started in a rather secluded part of the Shattrath, Lower City. So, it wasn't something you'd stumble upon just about leveling up. This simple part, this little nuance, was the difference between average Joe SlackaLot and John Serious. Do you think there's a single player level 80 now that hasn't done all of the level 80 instances? I don't think there is. So still, about half the playerbase hadn't done the quest for Karazhan. Why? They didn't know how to look up for it.

A problem we Raid Leaders often have nowadays (And even before, but especially in Wrath) that we have raiders that are not autonomous. I remember my first TK raid as a Rogue. Our rogue CL opened up a trade window with me and told me the boss was immune to poison, and offered me stones. I knew Void Reaver was immune to poisons so I had some sharpening stones with me. I showed him my stones in the trade window, which amused him, and told me "You passed the first test!".

How often do you have raiders who did in fact read up tactics and watched some videos? 

Attunements served thus to eliminate people who didn't even ask how to get attuned (Or, as some applicants would say "Didn't bother with it, seeing I don't have a guild yet"). Of course there were still a lot of slackers among those who were attuned, but the process still ate up a vast majority of clueless chimpanzees. 

The problem with current structure is that, 10/25 raids, while mostly PuGable, are still difficult enough for said people who wouldn't even bother with attunement. If Wrath has hurt anything, it's the health of the Raid Leaders, who were suddenly facing a horde of players with good gear, but needed to be led like sheeps. 

A lot of raiders commented how, outside of Ulduar, Wrath-Raids lack the "Ooo" mystic aura of the old raids. Enterring Karazhan was something. Being buffed inside TK, in the tiny entrance, where the patrol was just outside, was something. It was different from todays' raids which feel more like easy battlegrounds. It depends on the premise that, there will be guildless players who are willing to bother lead a PuG and carry others on their shoulders, just to get the new gear. 

It worked in Wrath. Not saying it was best, nor that it was pleasurable, but it did work. Will it continue to work in Cataclysm? I do doubt that. There's already people asking for ridiculous amounts of GearScore for public raids. And to be honest, if I were playing still, I would do the same. When I made PuG raids, it wasn't for the best of my server, it wasn't a benevolent action, to help people see some content and get better gear. If I wanted to PuG ICC, it wouldn't be because I wanted to progress: It would be because I wanted to farm it, and farm it with people who have farmed it before. 

If you don't have ICC gear by now, too bad. It's not hard to get it, not hard at all. People complain on forums "How can I get ICC gear when I can't get into PuGs?!" Erm. Get into a good guild, maybe? PuGing raids, especially final content, was never easy. Most Naxx PuGs would fail, almost all Ulduar PuGs would fail. TotC was a mistake, as everyone else agrees that TotC in Ulduar gear was easier than Ulduar in same gear. People were spoiled with the easiness of TotC, and now complain they can't PuG raids.

Raids never used to be PuGable, and while I can't read Blizzard's intentions, they make it rewarding for Guilds, now especially with Guild Leveling up. 

In a sense, GearScore helps nowadays to create the same 'Absolutely Idiot/Not Absolutely An Idiot' buffer of the attunements. If you haven't got ICC gear right now, you haven't done the instance yet, and seeing how it's out for several months, most ex-TotC guilds are already working on Heroics or LK. Simple as that, you weren't a member of a good guild. You might be a skilled player, sure, but the easiest way to cut down on the awful people that cause headaches to raid leaders is to make sure anyone who were not 'skilled' enough to clear ICC several times already, not enter at all. 

The problem with Wrath wasn't that everything is accessible. Most stuff were not really accessible by a majority on their original release. But there's an illusion of accessibility. This upsets people when they realize they can't actually access the content. Sure, there are no attunements required! Yehoo! But you need to have a guild to enter ICC. That, or you have to have ICC gear to join a PuG.

So, bring back attunements. 

So that we can go back to judging people with their ability to look up a seven-steps-quest. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Optimization and You

Gevlon, a funny little anti-social Goblin (And a must read for a variety of subjects and his philosophical points of view, especially AH whoring) has expanded his views on The Myth of the Gear.

He and his guild cleared Ulduar 10 in iLevel 200 blues, and made a little progress in ICC 10. If this should tell anything, it should tell that for a random guild in random epics that haven't downed ICC 25 yet, that it's more of a matter of tactic than anything else.

Should we deduct that gear is not required at all to do raids / that epic gems are useless? That we shouldn't bother to gem everything with epic gems, or not buy out crafted gear on patch days?

Absolutely not.

Gevlon has said that iLevel 200 gear is sufficient to clear most of the game's contents, and thus on a binary stand point, higher gear level is not only unnecessary, but is a waste (of time and gold). There are two problems with this statement:
  • Gear decreases the learning curve and brings progress faster. In any serious progress guilds, not whether but when you've made the kill is what matters. Case in point: ICC. Did you clear it without the zone buffs? Are you still struggling with %20 buffs?
  • Gelvon's party, to my knowledge, hasn't done any hardmodes (yet). I could only imagine the punishment a blue tank would get from any hardmodes.
Case in point, here is their Damage Meter on XT. Let's see if it can pull off an heartbreaker.

In Heartbreaker, heart is exposed for 20 seconds, has 1.5M health, and takes double damage. For simplicity's sake, let's say that the heart has 750k health instead of 1.5m and takes normal damage. You need 37.5k DPS to bring down the Heart.

And Gevlon's party's barely pulling 20k dps.

So they need to almost double their damage output. 6k dps in blues? Even when you're pulling out all Trinkets and Bloodlust and such, it's just not possible (And let this be a challenge for Gevlon to do either Heartbreaker or well, any other hardmodes. Note on this challenge: Only 4 Towers for FL and 3 Trees are considered 'hard' mode.)

Leaving the trolling behind, we deduct that you do need gear, after all. And Heartbreaker is but one of the easiest Hardmodes, with a very easy DPS requirement. Most other hardmodes combine battle for survival with DPS race. Thus, you need to optimize.

There are two kinds of people I despise when we're progressing:
  • Mr. I'm Good Enough: I'm not talking about a full blue warrior with all of his gear enchanted and gemmed and sitting at 23k Health, Defense cap being ready for Naxxramas or not. I'm talking about the guy with same stats but in iLevel 232 gear for ICC 5 men, with no enchants or gems. I will always take the former than the latter to my raids.
The problem with this guy is he sets himself a qualitative limit. Optimization is not qualitative. Sure, last raid's BiS gear and BiS food/buffs are the most optimized, but it's still not a case of 1s and 0s. You do not optimize for being ready to an instance: You optimize to save down the time spent wiping.
  • Mr. I'm Better than Him: You know these people. These are the Frost Mages, Subtlety Rogues, Arms Warriors, whatever spec of Hunter that sucks nowadays. They point out they're doing better dps than their Fire/Mutilate/Fury/Whatever counterparts in the raid. This only means that the raid has not only one, but two slackers to get rid of! 
The problem with this guy is he's doing less damage on purpose. It's like trying to hang a painting on the wall with a nerf hammer. Sure, you can nail that wall with a nerf hammer. It would just take several generations of people, coordinately taking turns to hit the nail harder. We're trying to cut down on the time (Remember Gevlon: Time is Money!), not much else.

Why is it such a bad thing? Because I've explained before how DPS helps increase the progress cushion for your guild. For each of the %10 wipes you've had, the blame's on your Frost Mages and Subtlety Rogues.

Optimization is an attitude you bring to your raid. Take a loot at someone freshly dinged, with reputation gear, enchants, gems, some BoE epics, and some welfare faceroller. Even if the former has less of a gear-power than the latter, he's more dedicated to achieve a high-end result. 
  • He's done everything he can with his gear. 
  • Odds are, the blue guy spent more time in Wowhead and various forums to get a good pre-raid gear.
  • He also took time to learn a rotation because god damn it man, he spent 2k gold on epic gems in blue gear. 
This guy surely means business, and will make sure any and all piece of gear will be optimized in the best rotation he can pull out. 

Optimization is not competing with your fellow guildies, however the latter is a by-product of several DPSers, both sharing the same joy for bringing their best, having a friendly rivalry. But optimization itself is not about being the best out there, but it's about bringing the best of you out there

This can swing both ways: 
  • You might be the best DPSer in your guild but if you're a frost mage instead of fire, you're not optimizing. 
  • You might be the worst DPSer in your guild, but hey, you're pulling 8k DPS.
Optimization is a proactive action. Tanking and Healing both have proactive natures to them too, of course. For example, Tanks have to balance their own survivability with their threat generation. Healers have to think hard on what to gem and what to Glyph. But most of their work is reactive. 
  • Healers' healing is never the same in two raids.
  • Tanks will always recieve different damage spikes to monitor their survival cooldowns. 
  • And there's the matter of spawns, random mobs, threat losses. 
All in all, these two roles are more reactive, and are dependant on actual in-game variables (Both for serious progression raiders, of course these classes should try to optimize their gear, abilities and gems/glyphes). For DPS, most of the work is proactive. Case in point: Bruttalus, more recently, Saurfang. These are straight-up gear check encounters. Tanks will have to use their CDs as necessary and will have to adapt to RNG nature of incoming damage, the same for the healers. DPSers rarely have to react to anything. Outside of some Beasts spanking, it's just a tank and spank for them. 

For a DPSer, you have to figure out what gems give you the most benefit, what is the correct way to Glyph, how your guild handles Bloodlust (A note: It should be blown on the pull, I'll write a post later on that), and various number crunches you can easily find if you should lurk around ElitistJerks a bit, take a look at your class' spreadsheet, and work out on the target dummy. 

There is no excuse for the disrespectful DPSer, who:
  • Relies on Fish Feast
  • Doesn't Flask (Or use double Elixirs if it benefits him the most)
  • Doesn't give his pet food
  • Doesn't use bombs as an Engineer
  • Comes with a 'wrong' spec
  • Has wrong gems and glyphes
  • Doesn't know his rotation/priority list
Our job is simple! It doesn't take a Physics PhD. to pull off the right rotation. Consumables are not expensive. All the info they ever need is found from Google. And if you fail any of these steps, there's simply no excuse. 

I can forgive someone dying to avoidable damage. Everyone screws up sometimes. You might be tired, you might have had little sleep, or you might be in a perfect physical condition and just didn't see it. It's ok, try not to do it next time. If you do everything above, odds are you also understand the simple optimization golden rule that Dead DPS does no damage, and I'm confident you'll try better next time.

But if you show up with no food buffs and ask if there's going to be a Fish Feast?


Good lucking finding a spot in my raids.

Benefits of Insane DPS

I love to explain everything with a napkin math.
  • Let's say the boss you're working on needs 30k DPS from the raid (After Tanks' DPS). 
  • With 15 DPSers, it means each DPSer needs to bring at least 2k DPS to bring the boss down to the table.
Here's a common pitfall - "Anything else is unnecessary".

All DPSers learn from Rogues that 'A dead DPSer does 0 DPS'. Non-dps classes evaluating the raid DPS seems to miss this bit when they're evaluating the raid DPS. To their eyes, 2k DPS is the amount their members should be pulling off. This evaluation relies on the fact that not a single DPSer dies during the boss fights. These guilds go with the bare requirements, having read on TankSpot the DPS they need to bring, and then complain that the boss enraged after some DPSers dying to [un]avoidable damage.

The blame goes to 'LolDPS died to fire.' and the raid leader making a lecture like 'Guise, PvE is easy. Sometimes there's fire, sometimes there isn't. Don't stand in the fire.'

Darling, we all know that. If you want to blame someone, blame the healers who leave DPSers to heal themselves with pathetic bandages on progress nights when people are learning the encounter thus, learning where the fire stands and how to avoid it. Progress means learning. People will make mistakes. Healers are one of the key buffers to help DPSers when they couldn't have avoided avoidable damage because they are not used to the encounters. But the real progress buffer with fights for DPS requirements is simply more DPS.

Let's say that the each DPSer was on steroids, and were pulling 3k dps a man. The boss does an avoidable damage, but say 5 DPSers died, unable to react to a complete new encounter the first time ever. Your remaining 10 dpsers are still pulling 3k dps each, which means the 30k dps requirement is fulfilled.

Further exaggerating the same example, if all your DPSers were doing 4k dps, then you would still have a shot after your 7 DPSers dying.
  • Progress kills are messy.
  • Progression guilds seek clean kills. 
  • Hardcore guilds pull off the same encounter with 5 people remaining in the raid, all of them being healers and wanding and smiting the boss from his last 100k health. 
  • The difference between the two guilds is, the latter clears the said encounter a good few months before the former.
Some encounters (Mainly, VoA, Onyxia and anything of that salt) do not have steep skill requirements. Most of them are pathetically easy tank & spank. Lots of people can die to avoidable sources of damage on progress nights, and it's not a sign of being a bad player. Sure, a good player might have a lucky reaction time the first time and adapt quickly, but case in point: 

Mimiron 25 Firefighter.

The Stars completed this challenge after 500 wipes. Knowing the fight myself, I don't doubt their kill was messy as hell. They most probably didn't instantly become more adapt to react to the fires after the 499th try and then suddenly killed it with 25 players remaining. Go to YouTube and watch Ensidia's Firefighter. More than half the raid (including the main tank of the bottom) is dead when the boss is downed. Were these lucky tries?

No, it's a simple equation. There are two definite points that dictate the length of the encounter:
  1. Enrage Timer. Some of these 'instant-kill' the raid, even.
  2. Healers' ability to keep up the tank and then the rest of the raid before going out of mana.
Progress doesn't mean 'learning not to stand in the fire', it means killing the damn boss. Killing the boss without any deaths is farming. You have to progress through the encounter first before farming it. 

What does more DPS achieve with all these? While theoretically, it could be calculated through a function with variables and an average approximation, you may never know when the healers are going to go out of mana. But, if the [hardmode] encounter lasts its time, it's likely that one or all healers are going to get OOM even before the enrage timer goes off. People will take avoidable damages and healers will have to heal these damages. Which one would you prefer:
  • Wiping for one-two months on flavor of the month (Formerly Yogg-Saron, Anub'arak, currently Lich King) before all your members learn the encounter inside-out and get a 'clean kill'.
  • Wiping for a week and killing it first time with 7 people remaining alive, the number increasing by 5 every subsequent reset and having the said boss long on farm status when the former guild has just had its 'clean kill'
Long story short, more DPS means more room for margin of error for DPS deaths, which is more common in progress guilds than the healers being unable to heal their BiS Tanks. 

This is why, while there is always a bare minimum for the DPSers, but this number should at all times be ignored, because this specific number is so low that 15 educated monkeys staying alive could pull it off. You will easily top these numbers if you know what you're doing and you should set sky (And not even the #1 spot on DPS meters) as your limit and pour liquid destruction on the bosses accordingly. 

PS: Being good at DPS doesn't mean being on the top of the DPS Meter. While it's a good sign you're doing better than rest of the people, DPS Meters should make you race with yourself, constantly making you do better than the previous attempt. If you're top of your guild's DPS Meter, it doesn't mean it's OK to just do enough to stay in top - that's counter intuitive to everything DPSers stand for. And conversely, just because you aren't the top of the meter, doesn't mean you suck because you did 20k DPS and your Fury Warrior did 22k. 

PSS: Randomly, please also pour your hearts into killing the trash ASAP. Our guild's mad DPSers were notorious for pulling the mobs in General Vezax's room 10 at a time, and AoE them down with 20-30k DPSers per head. While a horror of most guilds, we had the mod time with trash in Ulduar in there. Respect your fellow raiders and kill the damn trash as fast as you can!

Introductions - Why DPS Meter?

So, one more blog to an ocean of blogs.

I'm a(n ex) Magic: The Gathering Tournament player. What's true there is also true in every aspect of life: If you're doing something, it must have a specific purpose, and it must succeed at hitting that said purpose. So what does this blog aim to achieve?

This blog aims to gather intelligent raiders, who are past lurking ElitistJerks and went beyond the theorycrafting, taking it on a deeper, philosophical level, with aims to see real-life results (or in our case, real pixel results). 

As the name of the blog might imply, I will often be writing from a DPSer perspective. I've been topping the meters since Vanilla as a Rogue, recently OTed often in faceroll raids or instances as a Death Knight. Yet, my heart lies with the DPS role. This is more or less due to my obsessive-compulsive nature, but also due to the DPS problem in raid guilds.

The guilds often have the most problem with DPSers, as opposed to PuGs having problem with Tanks. To understand it, you must understand first the tanks.

Tanks often come in two fashions.
  • First one is LFD Hero, a Fury Warrior, DPS Death Knight, Cat Druid or Retridin. The class doesn't really matter. This guy doesn't give a crap about raiding progress, sees hardmodes for something that no-lifers do, and for him, being a tank means shorter wait times for the next LFD. He's probably not even close to being optimised for his role, but for today's faceroll heroics, random badge gear and ICC 5-Man rewards are more than enough for an educated monkey to clear public raids. 
  • Second one is Guild's Tank, the guy who gives impression that even if he had a level 60 Mage in MC gear, he could tank Festergut 25 HM. This is the guy, who's often an ex-DPSer, often a control freak and likes setting other 4/9/24 people's pace to his own. Which is, given the healers are responsive, faster than a LFD typing 'gogogogo'.
Just like a raid boss' death, a guild is found on a solid foundation of at least two tanks of the latter type. For semi-serious guilds and up, Tanks are the stars of the guild, treated as if they're boosting all other 24 people with their Stamina gear, often get the first upgrades in a raid environment and they get priority on orbs. Good tanks are dime and dozen, and being the first requirement of raiding an instance, they're (naturally and respectfully) spoiled.

Just like Tanks, Healers (Who are always between DPSers and Tanks on priority list, regardless of which of the two is the most important) get their share of the love.

DPSers in raiding guilds are ruthless, vicious, unloved people with problems (And I do not exclude myself from these).

The great funny ultimatum of 'I'm the tank FFS, if I don't pull, the boss doesn't go down. Shut up and listen.' elitism (Which healers also share the market, with 'Do not heal Tom McDPS, he asked me to Rejuv him for DPS increase.' in their private channels) works every single time, while rest of the 15 DPSers in the guild don't have brains to say 'Heh, we kill the boss, you know. We'll just stand still after the pull.' and give the similar ultimatum.

Long story short, DPSers are the bastard children of progress guilds.

There is a reason why good guilds recruit tanks and healers, and best guilds recruit DPSers. DPSers face the same treatment in raids that tanks face in random heroics. Awesomenessess DPS is expected from everyone, and who pull off the insane numbers are regarded as the norm, even if rest of the raid is pathetic on the meters, die to fire etc, in which case those slackers are 'bad' but outperforming DPSers are treated like they don't deserve any recognition.

This obviously changes as you reach closer to guilds that start trying and downing hardmode bosses on the release day, but is still true for vast majority of guilds.

For the most part, 'Average' raider guilds (And I mean the ones that are progressing in 25 ICC right now, maybe having 10 men cleared, and maybe working on 10 men hardmodes) learn the mistake of the PuGs of not giving enough credit to Tanks & Healers but see DPSers as rest of the 15 people to fill in the raid.

Most of the Raid Leaders of such guilds couldn't care less about optimal usage of Bloodlust, about assigning a Resto Druids to HoT the DPSers for insane amount of Rage/Energy/Runic Power/Mana returns, and are happy to see members pulling off the minimum amount of required DPS (Calculated from Minimum DPS = Boss Health / (Enrage Time in Seconds X Number of DPSers) and anything more is wasted / unnecessary / not important.

To them, if the boss requires 8k DPS, and all your guild is pulling 9k, except for that Shadow Priest, who's mastered his rotation to pull off 13k DPS, the guild's DPSers are good. How can they not be? They're good enough.
  • No one asks how did that Shadow Priest beat the Fury Warrior who's got himself a Shadowmourne with concentrated efforts of the guild.
  • No one enjoys seeing Damage Done meter in raid chat, as it's 'A pointless number', the boss is down, everyone is happy
  • The DPSers are required to do Minimum DPS, those who don't are kicked, and those who top it are pricks. 
  • [Friendly] DPS competitions are frowned upon, and a fire mage mocking a frost mage (Or a Mutilate Rogue mocking a Subtlety Rogue) is not tolerated, even if it's a progress night, even if the boss had only 100k health left before wiping the raid, and that optimal spec on the DPSers would mean a kill. 
Being a DPSer in a progressing guild (As opposed to an end-raiding guild farming Hard Modes for next content) is a thankless job. 

But barring that most hardmodes have insane amount of DPS requirements that most of the Average Guilds can only dream to achieve (not because of gear but because of the lack of willingness on both the raid leaders' and dpsers to achieve maximum damage possible). How many times have you heard Tanks of your guild being invincible and awesome? And the healers doing a tremendous job? And compare in to number of times DPSers being congratulated for the awesome DPS. The latter is surely scarce.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not griefing. I've been in guilds that were top of the line. Where I could compete on the DPS meters with blood and tear. Where good DPS was valued and Raid Leaders saw the DPSers as the blade of the sword, constantly working to get a keener edge. But to my luck, most all of them were mindless retards. 'Yo mama!' jokes and mindless spam. Sure, they were playing pro, but I would often leave them after a month, getting my DKP back with items and seeing a little more content. I draw a line where I play with people with brains, even if they don't need one to dominate the game.

But this is a problem of all the guilds not having downed 11/12 ICC Hardmode yet.

Thus the name of the blog. DPS Meter. Upholding the honor of those 20-odd DPSers whom you rotate in your guild every night.

My next post is going to further explain what a great DPS can help your guild achieve.