24 October 2010

A case for DPS jewelry

With patch 4.0.1 shuffling up stats quite a bit, Bear Druids get the endless pleasure of re-gearing part of their equipment. Where previously we used AGI/STA leather and STR/DEF jewelry, with the new patch, we'll be using AGI/STA stuff in our jewelry (and cloak) slots as well.

The might of agility
Since the patch, each point of AGI provides 2 AP in bearform (before buffs and talents and such). This was 0 before the patch. Consequently, agility is now just as good as strength when it comes to attack power. But, agility also provides crit and dodge. Dodge is gained at approximately the same amount with agility as with dodge rating (dodge rating is slightly better). And while you get crit a bit faster with crit rating, the difference isn't large. The only thing that's less awesome is that agility no longer provides armor.

Now AP and crit are nice for threat, but since the patch, Savage Defense plays a much larger role in our survival. The shields can go up to 15K or more with a maximized stack of Vengeance in high-end raiding gear. And that really takes the edge of those big hits.

And while agility has become more awesome, the removal of defense rating means that the classical tank jewelry now has more dodge rating. In itself, this isn't bad, but the conversion defense -> dodge isn't 1:1, since most of those items already had some dodge-rating and the itemization formula makes stats more expensive the more you get of them.

An example
So all the pieces line up for DPS jewelry/cloak to strike a decisive blow at their tank counterparts. Lets look at an example to see what's up:

The tank-cloak:
Royal Crimson Cloak (heroic), item level 277.
599 armor, 78 strength, 141 stamina, 102 dodge rating, 44 hit rating, 1 socket

The dps-cloak:
Shadowvault Slayers Cloak (heroic), item level 277
599 armor, 102 agility, 141 stamina, 60 crit rating, 68 haste rating, 1 socket

The armor, stamina and the socket are equal, they cancel out. The dodge from both cloaks is close, but the DPS cloak actually gives slightly more with raid buffs. The AP from the agility outweighs the AP from the strength (to be fair: Most comparisons between equal level tank and DPS jewelry/cloaks will show the same agility and strength, giving equal AP in both cases).

So the main difference we're left with is a whole truckload of crit (from agi and crit-rating) and some haste versus a little bit of hit on the tank cloak. Both threat-wise and survival-wise this massively favors the DPS cloak. Losing the hit can be a bit unfortunate, but it can be reobtained by reforging for example.

And that's just this specific example. If you run the numbers and compare tank-jewelry with their AGI/STA equivalents, then the DPS stuff wins every time. There's only a little over 1 month to go before Cataclysm, so it may not be needed to go all-out on regearing. But this trend will most likely carry on into Cataclysm, so it's good to know. And if you're planning to level as kitty, then you will have a very nice overlap between your leveling DPS gear and you instancing tank gear.

15 October 2010

4.0.1 - The Bear Essentials

A short summary of bear-related changes in the recent Cataclysm pre-patch. It will turn out to be a pretty long post, since there are simply so many changes.

The first thing to note when respeccing is that before you're allowed to invest any talent points, you first have to pick a tree to specialize in. This specialization unlocks a key ability for the spec as well as some passive bonusses. For Feral, the key ability is Mangle and the passive bonusses are +25% AP, Vengeance (more on this later) and the mastery-ability Savage Defense (bear) and Razor Claws (cat). More on masteries later. So some of the most important things that set Ferals apart from other Druids (Mangle & more AP) are available immediately to leveling Druids. After picking a specialization, you need to get all the way down that talenttree before you can place points in the other trees.

The total number of talent points was cut in half. As a consequence, most talents gives considerably more benefit per point and some talents have been replaced by the specialization-bonusses mentioned before. The Bear spec is fairly straightforward:
Tier 1: Furor and Feral Swiftness
Tier 2: Everything (Infected Wounds and Feral Aggression are optional depending on raid-setup)
Tier 3: Feral Charge, Stampede and Thick Hide
Tier 4: Leader of the Pack
Tier 5: Survival Instincts, Endless Carnage and Natural Reaction
Tier 6: Rend and Tear and Pulverize
Tier 7: Berserk
Resto Tier 1: Heart of the Wild

If you spec this way, you have 2 talent points left at level 80 that you can put in King of the Jungle (more threat) or Brutal Impact (better stuns / interrupts).

A new tier of glyphs was added: Prime Glyphs. These are the most powerful glyphs that simply buff your stuff without any drawbacks. Currently there are 3 Prime Glyphs affecting Bear abilities (Lacerate (+5% crit), Mangle (+10% damage), Berserk (+5sec duration)) and 3 slots for Prime Glyphs. Do the math. For the Major Glyphs there's slightly more choice. The Maul glyph now causes the 2nd target to only take 50% of Mauls damage. The Frenzied Regeneration glyph now removes the self-healing effect and adds a 30% bonus to healing received. Then there's the Faerie Fire glyph, extending its range by 10yd. And finally the Feral Charge glyph, reducing the cooldown by 1sec. For raiding, I'd say FR is mandatory. Maul I would keep whenever it's OK to hit more than one mob (so not on Saurfang). Between Faerie Fire and Feral Charge it's up to personal preference, I'd say. Minor Glyphs were unchanged.

Pretty much all our abilities were changed and we even gained some new tricks.

Mangle - The ability itself is one of the few to not have suffered any changes, but the Berserk talent now has the added effect of making Lacerate DoT ticks have a 30% chance to reset the cooldown of Mangle and make it free (similar to the Sword and Board talent that Prot Warriors have).
Maul - Maul is no longer on-next-attack, it is now an instant attack that's not on the global cooldown. The rage cost has been increased to 30 and it has a 3 second cooldown.
Lacerate - Lacerate has had its DoT damage lowered and the direct damage increased. In addition, it now only stacks to 3.
Swipe - Swipe now has a 6sec cooldown, but deals significantly more damage.
Faerie Fire - Faerie Fire now applies the Sunder Armor effect instead of its own armor-reduction. It stacks to 3. Feral Aggression allows you to apply 3 stacks of FF in one go, but it doesn't noticably improve the threat of the ability.
Demoralizing Roar - Now decreases physical damage done instead of attack power.
Pulverize - Consumes Lacerate stacks on the target and deals damage based on the number of stacks. Gives you 3% crit per stack consumed for 12 seconds (18 talented).
Skull Bash - New short distance (<13yd) charge and interrupt ability.
Survival Instincts - Now reduces damage taken by 60% for 12secs, 5min CD.
Frenzied Regeneration - Now has the old Survival Instincts effect (+30% max health) as well as its original rage-to-health conversion.

Rage changes
Rage gains were normalized, which effectively means that the amount of rage you gain has decreased. This means that rage management is more important. Maul is the rage-dump, just like before. But unlike the last years, you can't always expect to have all the rage you need to Maul as much as possible. Users of Maul-macros may suffer.

Stat changes & Mastery
Defense rating is gone. Items with this stat have had it converted into other stuff (mostly dodge rating). Armor penetration is gone as well, it's mostly been converted to crit. Finally, attack power (as a stat on gear) has left the building and is now fully replaced by agility and/or strength.

A new stat was added, mastery rating. This stat does not natively appear on current gear, but can be obtained via Reforging. Mastery has a different effect for every spec. As you choose your spec, you are granted one mastery-ability which is enhanced by your mastery rating. For Bears, this bonus is Savage Defense, a 50% chance on crit to proc a shield absorbing up to 65% of your AP on the next attack. Mastery improves the amount of damage absorbed by the shield, you start out with 8 mastery points (not rating), providing a 32% increase in the absorption.

Finally, the weapon damage -> Feral AP conversion has been removed. The base damage of a bear (before any contributions from strength, agility or attack power) is now determined directly from the weapon you're carrying, modified to the bears native attackspeed of 2.5. So if you equip a 600 DPS weapon, your base DPS in bearform will be 600. As a consequence, your total AP will be lower than before the patch, though the damage will be unchanged.

Vengenance is a spec-specific bonus that all the tank-specs are getting. It causes you to gain a stacking attack power buff whenever you are hit by a mob. The size of the stack that's added depends on the size of the hit and the maximum of the stack depends on your maximum health. This provides a scaling mechanic that lets your threat generation ramp up as you get into harder content (bosses hit harder -> faster stacking) and as you gear up (more HP -> higher maximum AP bonus). It does require the tank to get hit, so tank-swap fights like Saurfang may see some threat-issues. When a tank is not getting hit, the Vengenance stack decreases in strength until it disappears or until the tank is getting hit again.

Basic rotation
The basic rotation on bosses will be roughly the following:
- Keep FF up (once every 5 minutes)
- Keep Demo Roar up if needed
- Mangle whenever it's available. This is either every 6 seconds or whenever Berserk procs (free Mangle from a Lacerate tick).
- If Lacerate isn't at 3 stacks, stack it up.
- When Pulverize is about to run out, Pulverize the Lacerate stack.
- Use Lacerate as filler when you have enough rage, use FF if you're low on rage.
- Use Maul every 3 seconds only if you have sufficient rage to keep your normal rotation going. You need 45 rage to be able to Maul and still have rage for the next attack.

On smallish groups / trash:
- Swipe whenever it's not on cooldown.
- Keep Lacerate up on a few mobs to cause Berserk to proc often (3~4 mobs should do it).
- Mangle when it's available (this should be often). Tab between targets.
- Use Lacerate as filler. Try not to stack it when there are still mobs without Lacerate around as free Mangles are very strong.
- Use Maul every 3 secs if rage allows it. If you get plenty of Berserk procs, then your Mangles are free and rage should not be a problem, so Maul can be used plenty.

The three core concepts of the rotation are Mangle as the main threat-move (use it before anything else unless important debuffs would fade otherwise), the interaction between Lacerate, Pulverize and Berserk-procs and finally rage-management through dosed usage of Maul.

There's not much indepth analysis behind this, but it should keep a bear going until the fine details are worked out. In 2 months everything will change anyway, with Cataclysm and 5 more levels.

09 July 2010

Im in ur beta, testing ur Cataclysm

Our merciful Blizzard overlords have granted me access to the divine realm known as the Cataclysm Beta. I've not had much time to look around yet, but so far it looks good.

After installing the beta, I had to go through a very lengthy patching process. There was over 3 GB of patches to download and install, but I guess that's the consequence of dramatically altering the world. As an added bonus, the EU patching server was down for the last 2 patches, so it took me some time to find manual downloads of the patch-download-executable.

But after an evening full of patching, I managed to start up the beta and log in. At that point my wife said what any sane wife would say: "Ooh, Cataclysm beta. Can I try the Worgen starting zone?" Since resistance is futile, I relinquished control of my computer and pulled up another chair for my new spectator position.

Worgen Starting Zone (Spoiler alert!)
The Worgen start out as ordinary humans, inhabitants of Gilneas. There is no narrative yet for the introduction sequence. I assume that will be added at a later stage, possibly even after the beta. You start in Gilneas City, which is under attack by Worgen. Your first quest-giver is Prince Greymane (the son of the King). As you slowly retreat through various parts of the city, you'll notice very heavy use of phasing. Three main quest-givers (Greymane Jr and Sr as well as a local mayor) move with you through the use of phasing.

Eventually, you're cornered in a cathedral and an NPC yells something about a cutscene about your transformation to a Worgen that's supposed to show, but is not yet implemented. After this non-existent cutscene, you find yourself, as a Worgen, on the brink of being executed when there's a debate between NPCs whether or not your humanity can be saved. Obviously, you're given the benefit of the doubt and you continue to quest on, with familiar quest-givers recognizing you and saying things like "Oh, it really is you, $name". At this point the Forsaken are attacking Gilneas from the sea to the south and you're tasked with stopping them.

One thing I noticed is that Blizzard really polished up the new-player-tips. They now include graphics such as a part of the UI that is being explained or a mouse with the correct button highlighted for some new action. It takes you through the basic concepts of the game, such as combat, trainers, looting, vendors, etc... in a nice way. For veterans it's useless of course, but I can see new players gaining much more from this than from the old tip-system.

Back to the L80 Druid
This morning I had a chance to actually log my Druid. I've seen very little yet, so there's not much to say. The newly announced talent system has not yet been implemented, so saying anything about talents is somewhat pointless. There was a new skill on the trainer though, Skull Bash. It's available both in Cat (25 energy) and in Bear (1 rage, probably not final) forms. It has an 18 yd range and when used causes you to charge the target and interrupt any spell being cast with a 5 second school-lockout. The base cooldown is 1 minute, but it can be talented (Brutal Impact, though that may change with the upcoming overhaul) down to 10 seconds, making it equal in power to Kick from Rogues, but with the charge effect added. What will happen with Feral Charge is not known yet. It seems to be a bit too much to have this charge effect as well as Feral Charge, both on short cooldowns. Not that I would mind though...

More spoilers follow
In other news, Orgrimmar looks great. Much more city-like. But there are no mailboxes yet, so I had to fly (yup, flying in Azeroth is long overdue) down to Razor Hill (which is pretty much unchanged) to fetch my mail (nothing interesting in there). Then I went to Vashj'ir to check out some of the new areas. One thing I noticed is that there isn't really anything that directs you to the new areas. I would've expected an ingame mail and/or plenty of pointer-quests in popular places, but other than one quest to travel to Vashj'ir, there wasn't really anything. Maybe that's still on the todo list.

Going to Vashj'ir is a little event on its own: You board a boat together with some Orc Warriors that are chatting about a new island having emerged close to Stormwind, which is going to be claimed by the Horde so they have a staging area for an assault on Stormwind. Originally, this is the goal of your journey. Once in the area, you see a capsized boat with some survivors standing on it, asking for help, but large tentacles come from below and pull them down. The tentacles then attack your boat and you're pulled away and thrown into the sea. As you sink, a naga approaches you and tries to pull you away, when a Draenei Shaman from the Earthen Ring rescues you. You wake up in a sunken boat, where a bubble of air remains, the Shaman is there to give you your first quest. The reward for this is a spell that allows you to breathe under water and move 60% faster while in the Vashj'ir area. You're then tasked with rescuing the others from your ship and then gathering supplies for the Orc troops.

And that's as far as I've come. There will be more :-)

07 July 2010

Real ID & forum posts - Has Blizzard finally lost it?

My last post was about the new Real ID chat system and its flaws. My main point was that showing your real name instead of a nickname in these chats is a bad idea for 2 reasons: the first being privacy, the second being practicality, as the people I want to chat with ingame know me by my nickname and not my real name. The first point, privacy, did not weigh all that heavily for me, as you can choose yourself who to add to your friendslist (though being able to see your friends friendslist is still a stupid thing).

The Forum Cataclysm
However, yesterday, Blizzard announced that once Cataclysm goes live, all posts in the official forums will show your real name, attached to your Real ID. Your character name can be added to it, optionally. The reason for this: The quality of posts on the forums is too low because people hide behind internet avatars.

I, just like many others, am at a loss for words to describe just how terribly awful this decision is.This change will singlehandedly turn the quite lively (though not always very useful) forums into a ghost town with most quality posters gone. Post something controversial and you can end up with someone ordering a pizza in your name or something equally stupid. As an example, one of the Blizzard forum-moderators posted his name on the forums to show that it wasn't a big deal. In no-time, forumers had found his Facebook page, his age, his address, names of his family members and even some info on a run-in with the law that he had had.

I don't know what went through the heads of the people that came up with this that made them believe it was actually a good idea. I mean, people can be completely twisted in their minds, we see those examples often enough. But for an entire management team to have the same mental breakdown is quite bizarre.

But what should they have done then?
Now you'll tell me: Ranting is all nice and easy, but how then should they combat the crap quality of the official forums? Well, there are a few easy ways to do this. First of all, stricter moderation. Moderators on the Blizzard forums are extremely lenient. If you look at a forum like Elitist Jerks, you will hardly see any bad posts, since mods are very strict. Okay, they're extremely on the other end of the strictness-spectrum, but somewhere in between there's a good spot for Blizzards forum-moderators to sit. Faster (temp-)bans for people that don't contribute.

Secondly, force everyone to post on the highest level character they have on their account. Most trolls hide behind low-level alts, as they value their ingame reputation on their main. Forcing the forum to always select the highest level character removes that element to some extent. People with several characters that are the highest level can choose. Some have proposed this in the past and a common objection was "what if I want to ask/discuss something concerning my low-level alts class?" Well, I don't think you will gain much credibility by posting on your L30 Warrior alt instead of your L80 main of any other class in a discussion on Warriors. And if needed, you can always post an Armory-link to your alt if you have specific questions. Obviously, this method is not going to be 100% foolproof as people can just use L80s they don't care about to post and some even have a second account they can use, but I think it would greatly cull the troll population as the threshold for anonymous trolling goes up considerably.

Finally, let forum offenses and penalties carry over to the actual game. Second time banned on the forums? A couple of days of ingame-ban as well. Right now, the forums and the game are separate entities and people can troll all they want. The worst that can happen is that their posting privileges are revoked. Put some serious ingame penalties on trolling and other forum offenses and people will think twice before posting an easy troll.

Neither of these solutions is perfect. But all, especially combined, are a hell of a lot better than what Blizzard has in mind.

As a conclusion, I would like to post the following that I found on the US WoW forums and that catches the mood of the forums right now. I have never seen them this busy (the main US thread on the subject has 17000 posts at the time I write this, less than 1 day after the news came out) and pretty much everyone agrees with eachother. This happens about as often as the Netherlands reaching the world cup finals (yay!). Anyway:

Good morning.

In less than a day, forum posters from my realm have joined others from around the world. And we will be launching the largest forum battle in the history of the Blizzard community.

"Blizzard Community..."

That phrase should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps it's fate that today was Maintenance Day, and you will once again be waiting for your game to work correctly... Not for quest item drop rates, buggy NPCs, or missing auction items... but for Anonymity. We are fighting for our right to play. To post.

And should we win the day, Maintennance Day will no longer be known as a day the GMs did their duty, but as the day the world (of Warcraft) declared in one voice:

"We will not be revealed by something so contrite!"
We will not be exposed without a fight!
We're going to post on!
We're going to survive!
Today we celebrate our Maintenance Day!

30 June 2010

Real ID - Its potential and its flaws

Patch 3.3.5 is out and with it came Real ID, a new friend-network that Blizzard introduced for communication between players on different factions, realms or even games. Sounds good, right? I'm planning on getting StarCraft 2 when it launches and spending time in there when not raiding (since there isn't much else to do in WoW right now for me) and it'd be great if guildies could give me a poke because they need a tank for a 10man or so. However, the way Blizzard has chosen to implement Real ID leaves much to be desired. I'll quickly go over how Real ID works and what's wrong with it.

How does it work?
Next to your regular WoW friendlist, you can now add players as friends by inputting their Battle.net username, which is the email-address you've used for your B.net account. The other person gets a friend-request and if he/she/it accepts, you will become "Real ID friends".

You can talk to Real ID friends from any up-to-date Blizzard game. Right now, that's just WoW, but in a month, StarCraft 2 will be added to this list and Diablo 3 will follow when it comes out. In addition, classical WoW-related boundaries like realm and faction do not apply to Real ID friends, so you can keep in contact with a friend on a different realm.

As a bonus, you get what Blizzard calls "Rich Presence" information about your Real ID friends, which means as much as being able to see which game the player is logged in to and where he is in the game (WoW) or what he's doing (SC 2). So you can check if your friend is raiding in ICC or playing a ladder-match in SC 2 before disturbing him with the latest Chuck Norris jokes.

Since Blizzard wants Real ID to become sort of a mini social network within Battle.net, you will be able to see the friends of your friends, so you can add them to your friend-list if you would want to.

So that was the happy story, what's the bad news?
In a world where information is power, you have to give away quite a bit of information to use Real ID. First of all, your unique identifier is your Battle.net email-address. Now you could use a secondary spam-address for this, but it's quite a bit of extra hassle. On top of that, your display name within the Real ID system is your full name associated with your Battle.net account.

Not only is it not directly desirable to have to give away this information in order to use Real ID, it's also not convenient in an online world where nicknames have replaced real names long ago. If I were to whisper a guildie who is online in SC 2 and it would say "Rannasha says: ...", they'd immediately know it's me. If it would say "Gideon says: ...", most of them would have no idea who it is that's talking to them.

Now, Blizzard claims that Real ID is meant to keep in contact with real life friends that are online in a Battle.net game and that therefore the whole real name business makes sense. But ask yourself: How many real life friends do you know that play WoW / SC 2? And how many people in WoW do you know that you would like to keep in touch with? For most people in solid guilds, the second group will be bigger. In addition, most people will already have their real life friends on some communication network like MSN, Skype or Facebook, which they can use without having to be ingame.

Then there's the "friends of friends" feature. I don't want this. I want to be able to turn it off and as far as I know (EU realms are still down, so can't check), it's not possible. I just want a way to chat with guildies when either I or they are not online on our realm. I don't need to build my online social network. If I wanted to do that, there are several superior systems for that already.

I will use Real ID. With SC 2 coming out, the ability to cross the boundaries between games to chat with guildies is too useful to pass up. But I would've preferred if Blizzard had made Real ID more focused on actual gamers: Nicknames instead of real names as identifiers and no visible friends-of-friends. Save that for Facebook and co.

23 June 2010

Bloodlust - When?

Bloodlust is one of the key abilities that when properly used can greatly ease an encounter. But, since it's only available once per fight (LK Heroic excepted), it needs to be timed properly. There are different views on how to time it. The naive claim is that it should be popped when the boss is below 35% HP, because several classes deal more damage then (the so-called Execute-phase). However, this turns out to be false.

Execute-phase or not
When you Bloodlust in the Execute-phase, the time you spend in this phase goes down, which means that the raid has less time to benefit from that sub-35% DPS boost. It turns out that this effect exactly compensates for the increased damage you get from Bloodlusting during the sub-35% phase. And since math says more than a thousand words, I'll show this.

The following variables are used:
- H = boss HP
- R = base raid DPS without Bloodlust or sub-35% bonus
- D = duration of Bloodlust (40 sec)
- e = raid DPS increase factor due to Execute-phase (1.2 means 20% increase)
- b = raid DPS increase factor due to Bloodlust (1.2 means 20% increase)
- t1 = time from start to the moment the boss hits 35% HP
- t2 = time from the moment the boss hits 35% HP to the moment of death
- t3 = time to kill the boss, so t1 + t2

If we Bloodlust early (say, at the start of the fight), then we have some time with Bloodlust, during which we deal D * R * b damage. So the time left to burn the boss to 35% is (0.65 H - D * R * b) / R. And we need to add D to this to account for the time we spent during Bloodlust. Then we can obtain the time needed to burn the last 35%: (0.35 H) / (e R). Adding this up gives the total time:

If we Bloodlust when we hit 35%, the calculations follow the same idea:

Notice anything special? Right, both results are the same. The conclusion is that whether you Bloodlust early or late, the time-to-kill remains the same.

So when do I use Bloodlust?
Seeing as there is no DPS-gain from waiting for 35% to Bloodlust, I can give some compelling arguments to Bloodlust as early as possible, once all the relevant debuffs are up and people have their rotation going. This way players can pop their trinkets and cooldowns early and automatically have them sync up with Bloodlust, which is a decent DPS gain. If you postpone Bloodlust until the 35% phase, people will either not have their cooldowns available or they will have postponed using those cooldowns, which makes them get less benefit from them over the entire fight.

Another reason to Bloodlust early is that people die from time to time. Especially on new bosses, where DPS actually matters, you may lose people during the fight. At the start, everyone is alive and at full capacity, so you get the maximum out of your Bloodlust.

Decision-altering circumstances
All the conclusions made earlier assume a simple tank-and-spank bossfight with no adds or different phases. This is not entirely realistic and in actual fights, there may be circumstances that make you want to adjust your Bloodlust timing.

Encounter-specific damage buffs (such as Icehowls stun) are a great thing to combine with Bloodlust. A dangerous wave of adds is more easily disposed with a Bloodlusted raid. And finally, don't forget the healers: Bloodlust makes their work easier too, so if you anticipate a period of very high raid damage, Bloodlust can help the healers get through it.

ICC Boss-Bloodlust Guide
A quick summary of when to Bloodlust (IMO) on ICC fights:

- Lord Marrowgar: Preferably shortly after the pull or after the first Bonestorm.
- Lady Deathwhisper: Start of phase 2. Alternatively, during phase 1 after clearing up an add-wave.
- Gunship Battle: People Bloodlust here?
- Deathbringer Saurfang: At his 30% Frenzy. This phase is the most dangerous, so you want to get it over with quickly.
- Rotface: Just after the pull, people will be busy running around to drop their oozes later on.
- Festergut: Just after the first tank-switch. The old tank will be DPSing with alot of damamge-increasing buffs and Festergut will hit 3 stacks of Inhale Blight, causing alot of damage to be healed.
- Professor Putricide: At the start of phase 3 (normal mode) or during the second double-ooze transition phase (heroic mode)
- Blood Prince Council: Once Taldaram or Keleseth gets empowered. Empowered Valanar requires too much movement.
- Blood Queen Lana'thel: At the end of the fight, just after the last round of bites and after the second fear/airphase. More vampires means more DPS.
- Valithria Dreamwalker: Your healers decide, but generally once they have high stacks of their buff and just after they exit a portal.
- Sindragosa: Phase 1. We like to stress that Phase 3 is not a DPS race and just maximize the time we have for that phase by getting through the first 65% of her health quickly.
- Lich King: Second transition phase (normal) or right at the start and again in Phase 3 (heroic).

16 June 2010

Solo: Heroic Skadi the Ruthless (UP)

Last night I was doing a random heroic on my alt after the raid with some guildies. One of them asked if the place would be 2-mannable up to the third boss, Skadi the Ruthless, for the mount. I said it should be quite easy to 2-man it and started wondering if I could solo it. So, after the heroic ended, I logged back to my Druid and started flying towards Utgarde Pinnacle.

Preparation and trash
I used my regular tank gear (ilvl 264 & 277 stuff) with the usual buffs, MotW and Thorns, along with the Drums of the Forgotten Kings. I used my Flask of the North for some extra strength. Not so useful, but better than not using it. In addition, I used an Endless Mana Potion, because I had no regular ones on me.

All trash can be skipped with stealth. One time I accidentally ran into a pack of 4 mobs in the second hallway (before the first boss) and that turned out to be quite deadly. The first and second boss can be skipped, just like many pugs do, by simply not engaging / activating them.

The gauntlet
The gauntlet is fairly straightforward in the sense that it most likely won't kill you. However, transitioning from the gauntlet phase to the boss phase can be tricky. The first batch of mobs are all melee mobs that are rather weak and you can charge in and Swipe them to death like you would do on a regular run.

After that it gets a bit more involved: The Harpooners, but mostly the Witch Doctors deal more damage and you'll need to start handling the pairs of adds that run towards you. I opted to pull slowly and to prioritize DPSing the Witch Doctors, then the Harpooners and the Warriors last. My "rotation" on these packs, with 2-3 mobs being up, was to debuff my #1 target with FF, Mangle and Lacerate, then do the same with the #2 target and then just spam Swipe, obviously using (glyphed) Maul every auto-attack.

The Witch Doctors don't move easily, which means you may have to charge them and by doing so aggroing the next pack. This can't really be avoided. Don't hesitate to pop cooldowns, including SI+FR, when needed. Pick up 3 harpoons when you have time.

After the stationary packs have been dealt with, it's time to heal your wounds and wait out your cooldowns. If you DPS the mobs down efficiently, you should regularly have some time to heal yourself. Regrowth followed by Nourish spam until you need to shift back to Bear. Also shoot 2 harpoons at the boss when he's in the right position, that way you only need to shoot one last shot when you decide to transition.

Transition and boss-phase
Once your SI+FR and Berserk are back up and you're at reasonably high health (70% or so), the time has come to push to phase 2. Each pair of gauntlet-adds spawns quite a while before it actually activates and runs towards you. This means that you most likely won't be able to DPS down a pair of adds and shoot the boss down before the next pair spawns (not to mention the timing-luck required to have the boss in the right position when you down the adds). So you should transition with adds up.

Since the Witch Doctors hurt the most and the add-pairs alternate between Witch Doctor/Warrior and Harpooner/Warrior, I opted to only transition the boss when I was fighting Harpooner/Warrior or if I wasn't fighting anything, but Harpooner/Warrior would be the next pair to spawn.

When the time is right, shoot the last harpoon (this takes you out of form FYI), pick up the boss and pop Berserk to get rid of the adds that are still up. At this time you will definitely want to use Barkskin+Enrage to reduce damage intake and you may have to pop SI+FR as well. Once the adds are down, the actual bossfight begins.

There are 3 abilities that the boss uses besides his regular auto-attack. The first is a short stun, that you can't really do much about except soak it. The second is his whirlwind. If you react quickly, you can outrun the boss while he is whirlwinding, especially with Cat Form (with or without Dash). You should only take 1 or 2 hits of the whirlwind. Once you've made some distance, you can cast heals on yourself, while running away. I used Rejuvenation and 3x Lifebloom. After that, the boss is closing in and I would stop to cast as many Nourishes as I could (between 0 and 2 typically) before shifting back.

The final ability and the one that I found to be the most deadly is a Poisoned Spear he throws at you. This leaves a poison DoT that hurts quite a bit. However, since it's a Poison, you can remove it. To do this, I changed my heal-plan to include an Abolish Poison at the last moment before shifting back to Bear. Most of the time, Skadi would use his Poisoned Spear before Abolish would fade and with Abolish Poison ticking every 2 seconds and the DoT every 3, the poison is cleansed before it can tick. For all Poisoned Spears after that, I would just shift out and cast Abolish Poison on myself. The extra damage from taking a hit in casterform is worth not having to take the poison damage and with a bit of luck, Skadi will try to reapply the Poisoned Spear before Abolish runs out, giving you 2 cures with 1 cast.

The main limitation with this tactic will be mana. You will shapeshift often and cast inefficient heals (HoTs are quite bad without spellpower to boost them). Use Innervate as soon as you first run low on mana. Then pop a mana potion the next time you run low and pray that Innervate is back up when you need it. Use Barkskin and Enrage on cooldown to reduce damage intake. Keep Frenzied Regeneration up and pop SI+FR whenever you can, but ideally not during a whirlwind or when a whirlwind is about to start. You don't want to run out of rage and only get reduced benefits from FR. The SI glyph is useful for this fight, as it boosts your SI+FR healing quite a bit. I didn't use it. Swapping to a healer weapon during whirlwinds to boost your healing is another great idea that I came up with only after the kill.

On my kill, after 3 failed attempts, I went down to 10% when the boss was at 35% HP while I was waiting for SI+FR and Innervate to come back off cooldown, so it was quite close. However, during the next whirlwind, I could Innervate and spam myself up a bit and when he caught up with me SI+FR was back and I went back up to 75% and the deal was sealed at that point.

Encore: Soloing Oculus heroic
A few weeks back I tried soloing Oculus on heroic mode for no particular reason. Despite the trash dealing mostly magical damage, it was easy to deal with using cooldowns. The first 3 bosses were not so hard, the third boss requires you to kite him around the platform to prevent the frost DoT from stacking.

The last boss turned out to be impossible though. I flew a green drake and had swapped in a few items that had a higher itemlevel than my tank set (Go go ilvl 277 Moonkin-offspec-gear) to maximize my drakes health and damage. The damage from the boss is outhealed by the leech-DoT, but the whelps spawn too quickly and will start to overwhelm. Stacking the DoT to 3 on a whelp and letting it tick is not sufficient to kill most of them (whelps have different levels and their HP scales with level), which means you have to go back to that whelp and spend a global cooldown on it to finish it off. And that takes too much time, because the next wave will be up by then.

Kiting the boss, as was done on solo-kills (and green-only achievement runs) in the past turned out to be unsuccessful as Blizzard apparently hotfixed the encounter at some point to give the whelps infinite range on their spells. Perhaps that with a couple more upgrades (Steelhoof, if you're reading this and I know you do, give me extra DKP for the sake of science!)
I can do enough damage to kill the whelps with one 3-stack of the DoT and I can keep up, I don't know.

10 June 2010

Feral Cataclysm talent preview

Along with Shamans, Priests and Rogues, Blizzard has released a talent preview for Druids. I'll go over the Feral talents. Note that some talents are marked "TBR" which stands for "To Be Redesigned" or "To Be Removed". In either case, the talent is not expected to make it through unchanged.

Tier 1
Ferocity and Feral Aggression remain unchanged. The Tier 3 talent Sharpened Claws is moved to Tier 1, but its effect is changed to the effect of Savage Fury in Tier 2, which was removed completely. A bit confusing. But what it really means is that Savage Fury (+20% damage on Claw/Rake/Mangle/Maul) moves down a tier and is renamed and Sharpened Claws (+4% crit) is removed.

Tier 2
As mentioned above, Savage Fury was moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 1. Shredding Attacks was moved from Tier 4 down to Tier 2, but the energy-reduction on Shred was reduced from -9/-18 to -5/-10. The Lacerate component (-1/-2 rage) remains unchanged. Thick Hide and Feral Instinct remain unchanged, but Feral Instinct is marked as "TBR".

Tier 3
Feral Swiftness remains unchanged. Predatory Instincts was moved down from Tier 8 to Tier 3, its AoE-damage-reduction in Cat form component was removed and the +3%/+6%/+10% critical strike damage bonus is no longer restricted to Cat form only, changing the talent from pure Cat to all-round. Feral Charge is moved down from Tier 5 to Tier 3 and a new talent, Improved Feral Charge, is added to Tier 3. Imp. FC causes the damage done by your next 3 attacks to be increased by 5%/10% after using Feral Charge (Bear) and it causes Ravage to no longer require stealth for 3/6 seconds after using Feral Charge (Cat).

Tier 4
Nurturing Instincts has come down from Tier 5 and Primal Fury remains unchanged. A new talent, Fury Strikes, was added: Fury Strikes gives a 4%/8%/12% chance when auto-attacking in Cat or Bear to generate a second auto-attack against that target, with a 6 second cooldown. Think pre-WotLK Windfury/Sword-spec here. Note that Maul will no longer be an on-next-attack in Cataclysm, so all your auto-swings in Bear form will actually be auto-attacks dealing white damage that can proc this.

Tier 5
Improved Bash remains unchanged. Heart of the Wild moves down from Tier 6. Survival Instincts moves up from Tier 3. Predatory Strikes moves up from Tier 4, loses the AP-benefit (50%/100%/150% of level + 7%/14%/20% of AP on weapon), but gains: Ravage has a 25%/50% higher crit chance against targets above 90% health. The instant-cast proc after using a finishing move remains the same. This talent has become a PvP talent.

Tier 6
Natural Reaction and Survival of the Fittest remain the same. A new talent, Endless Carnage, was added that increases the duration of Rake, Savage Roar and Pulverize (see below) by 3/6 seconds.

Tier 7
King of the Jungle moves down 2 tiers from Tier 9, but loses the mana-reduction of the Feral form shapeshifts. Leader of the Pack and Improved LotP remain unchanged. Primal Tenacity has had the damage-reduction while stunned in Cat form halved to 5%/10%/15%.

Tier 8
Protector of the Pack remains the same. Infected Wounds was reduced from 3 talentpoints to 2, for the same total effect and now includes Ravage as well as the original Maul, Mangle and Shred.

Tier 9
Mangle and Improved Mangle remain unchanged. A new talent, Primal Madness, was added, which requires King of the Jungle and causes your Tigers Fury and Berserk to increase your maximum energy by 6/12 for the duration of the effect and cause Enrage and Berserk to instantly grant you 6/12 rage.

Tier 10
Rend and Tear remains unchanged, but now has a followup talent called Pulverize. This teaches you the Pulverize ability which consumes all Lacerate stacks on the target, dealing weapon damage plus 786 per stack of Lacerate (unknown if this scales or has additional ranks). In addition, it will give you 2% crit for 10 seconds for each stack of Lacerate consumed. 20 rage, no cooldown. Another talent was added, currently called "Nom Nom Nom", but it's flagged to be renamed, sadly. Nom Nom Nom gives you a 50%/100% chance for a Ferocious Bite on a target with less than 25% health to refresh the Rip on that target. This should give Cats a bit of added "Execute"-style DPS as they can bring out the big FB burst without Rip dropping.

Tier 11
Berserk remains unchanged.

Resto talents that affect Feral
Blessing of the Grove replaces Imp MotW in Tier 1. BotG increases damage done by Claw and Shred by 2%/4%. Furor remains unchanged, as do Omen of Clarity, Natural Shapeshifter and Master Shapeshifter. Naturalist moves up from Tier 2 to Tier 3. A new Tier 2 talent is added, Perseverance, reducing spell damage taken by 2%/4%/6%/8%/10%.

Conclusions and summary
The changes are not world-changing. The largest changes are in the position of talents, alot of them were moved down and some were moved up. Moving down talents has made room for some new talents to be added. Of the new talents, I think Pulverize is the most interesting. Together with Maul no longer being an on-next-swing attack, we will have 2 new buttons to choose from for our global cooldowns. Pulverize will interact in interesting ways with Lacerate, as you have to rebuild your stack after Pulverizing, but you do quite a bit of damage and gain 10% crit if you consume a full stack.

In Resto, Perseverance looks pretty strong for some tanking purposes. I'd kill for such a talent on fights like Sindragosa hardmode. But on other fights it may be practically useless. Next up is trying to work out something of an ideal spec using this new information. But it may be a bit too early for that as we're still missing info on glyph changes and possible scaling changes (especially Maul!) and all this is not final.

28 April 2010

The non-linearity of the ICC zone-buff

Today (or yesterday, depending on which continent your WoW servers are) the ICC zone-buff was increased from 10% to 15%. That's an increase of your DPS, HPS and HP by 4.5%. I think that the main benefit of this buff is the DPS component, not only does it affect more people, but 4.5% more HP or HPS doesn't drastically alter your ability to survive poorly handled boss-abilities. Sure, there may be borderline cases where those few percent are enough to save you, but in general that Malleable Goo or Vengeful Shade will kill you just as hard today as it did last week.

So why then does this not apply to DPS in the same way? Knocking a few percent of the duration of a 5 minute fight is not a major difference. Except for two things. The first is the enrage timer. On heroic modes, enrage timers on some bosses are a real threat. Especially since we typically have someone die here and there, bosses like Festergut and Blood Queen can end up being close calls, especially on earlier kills.

The time-based add-spawn mechanic
The second effect is far more interesting. Quite a few boss-encounters involve some type of spawns or secondary targets that need to be killed. These spawns are almost always on a fixed timer. In ICC we have Marrowgar (bonespikes), Deathwhisper (cultists), Saurfang (blood beasts), Putricide (oozes) and the Lich King (val'kyr, vile spirits). I've skipped over Gunship and Valithria because the "boss-kill" mechanics are very different from the regular boss-encounter.

Now, with this type of add-spawning, you will have to divert your DPS to the adds before going back to the boss. And this is where the fun kicks in: Higher DPS means the adds go down more quickly and you spend more time on the boss with your higher DPS. The effect of a DPS-increase on your effective boss-DPS (which is what determines the length of the fight) is amplified by the fact that there are periodic adds that need to be killed.

Enough talk, let there be math!
Assume a boss with B HP. Let R denote the raid DPS on the boss and f R the raid DPS on the adds (In case of single-target adds 0 < f < 1, as you lose DPS by swapping to an unbuffed target and having to ramp up your rotation. For AoE adds, f can be larger than 1.). We have adds with a total of A HP spawning every Ta seconds.

To kill the adds, we need A / (f R) seconds, which leaves us with Tb = Ta - A / (f R) seconds to DPS the boss per wave of adds (Pro-tip: If Tb < 0 then you're doing it wrong). Divide by the interval between two waves, Ta and we obtain the fraction of time we can spend on the boss:
1 - A / (f R Ta)
Multiply by raid DPS on the boss to find the effective raid DPS on the boss:
R - R A / (f R Ta) = R - A / f Ta

Not a big surprise, eh? If you have adds with a total of 300K HP spawn every 30 seconds, your effective DPS on the boss is lowered by 10K, divided by the DPS-correction-factor caused by the difference in DPS between boss and adds. Could've worked that one out without the whole derivation...

Buffing your DPS
So now we get 5% more DPS from a new ICC buff (Yeah, I know it's actually 4.5% for this weeks change as I said before, but I'll take 5% for simplicity). How does that change our effective boss DPS?
1.05 R - A / f Ta
So the term that adds a positive contribution to effective boss DPS is increased, while the term that adds a negative contribution remains unchanged. The net effect will be a greater positive contribution on effective boss DPS.

An example
Lady Deathwhisper has 6.7M HP on 10-heroic. In phase 2, she will summon a single add every 40 seconds. The add has 176K HP (averaged between a Fanatic and an Adherent). Lets assume that raid DPS is 30K on the boss and 20K on the adds (So f = 0.667). Your effective boss DPS will be 16.8K. Now, add 5% raid DPS (31.5K on boss, 21K on adds). Your effective boss DPS will increase to 18.3K, an increase of about 9%.

This effect becomes more noticable, the more time you spend on adds. The most notable example was pre-30% nerf M'uru (which I never had the pleasure of fighting, unfortunately), where the tuning was so tight that there was very little time to DPS the boss. Small increases in raid DPS had large effects on the time it took to burn the boss down.

Conclusion and take-home message
We've seen a quick analysis of how the commonly used add-spawn mechanic can amplify the effect a DPS increase has on your raids performance. The effect becomes stronger the longer you take to kill the adds. Obviously, there are all kinds of other benefits to having the adds down more quickly (preventing the Val'kyr from dropping your buddies off the ledge in the Lich King encounter is one such benefit), but from a mathematical point of view, the boss DPS effect is the most interesting.

22 April 2010

How stuff scales

I'm currently working on getting some equations for threat-generation of a Bear as a function of a bunch of stats to see how strongly (or weakly) we scale with certain stats and how powerful some of the threat talents are. As an intermediate step, I had to determine how much damage each ability does with different amounts of AP. The effect of haste, hit, expertise, crit and ArP are well-documented or easy to deduce, but there wasn't much on how things scale with AP. So I made the Heroic Training Dummy my new best friend for an evening.

Most of the testing was performed by testing the damage of an ability at different levels of AP by taking off gear. Most of the testing was done with my Moonkin spec, to prevent pesky talents from obscuring the raw data. Master Shapeshifter was clicked off, so there were no damage-increasing talents or buffs. I kept all gear with ArP off for the entire test, as it complicated calculations. This immediately meant that 2pc T10 was also not used, which was useful to keep Swipe and Lacerate testing clean.

At each level of AP, several attacks were made to determine the damage of the ability. Other than abilities that scale with the Druids weapon-damage (Maul, Mangle, auto-attack), all abilities have a fixed damage value rather than a damage range. A non-integer value means you can get both the integer below and the one above the precise damage value as outcome. Simply dividing the increase in damage by the increase in AP gives the scaling factor. For Maul and Mangle a larger number of attacks was needed. I took samples of about 40 hits and averaged the results.

Some results
  • The initial hit from Lacerate is affected by armor, it is not buffed by the Mangle debuff, but it is affected by the 2pc T10 set-bonus.

  • Faerie Fire (Feral) is a spell in all aspects: It uses your spellhit chance (17% chance to miss against a boss-mob without hit), your spellcrit chance and it crits for +50% damage rather than +100%. It deals Nature damage and is not affected by armor.

  • Maul and Mangle do not scale as their tooltip would have you think. First of all, they seem to double-dip from Naturalist: The talent increases your normal melee damage by 10%, but Maul and Mangle scale with this melee damage and are increased by another 10%. This double-dipping, coupled with Savage Fury, makes the predicted scaling match what I observed from hitting the dummy. For Maul, there is a 10% discrepancy (the measured scaling is higher). In my result, I've taken the measured value. I still have to work out where this comes from.

  • Maul and Mangle deal damage based on melee damage plus some bonus component. The bonus component in the tooltip does not seem to match the actual bonus component when hitting a target at all, no matter how I twist all the talented buffs that affect it. I will keep looking.

The numbers!
In the following table you'll find how much the damage from an ability increases when you add 100 AP. This includes any talents or debuffs that you can reasonable expect to be part of a Ferals spec or to be active on the boss: Savage Fury, Feral Instinct, Rend and Tear, Naturalist, Mangle/Trauma, a bleed effect, Blood Frenzy / Savage Combat and Arcane Empowerment / The Ret Paladin buff whose name I forgot.

Note that by 100 AP I mean a character screen difference of 100 AP. Talents (such as Protector of the Pack) and buffs (Trueshot Aura and such) increase the amount of AP you get from gear and buffs. I assume we're fighting a L83 boss-mob with appropriate armor value. Below you'll find the results for a fully sundered and Faerie Fired mob with 500 armor penetration rating (which is a typical value for a Druid gearing up with ilvl 264 T10 and similar offset items). Values are for non-crit attacks.

AbilityDamage increase from +100 AP
Faerie Fire (Feral)15.5
Swipe (2pc T10)8.4
Lacerate hit0.85
Lacerate hit (2pc T10)1.02
Lacerate 5-stack tick7.66
Lacerate 5-stack tick (2pc T10)9.19

Well, the numbers speak for themselves, I'd say. Maul is easily the best-scaling attack, trailed by Mangle and FFF. The initial hit from Lacerate scales horribly with AP, which explains why Swipe takes over as filler-attack at pretty much any L80 gear-level.

This is just the start of my little research. It's all just damage, but what really matters is threat. I'll continue to work with these results, couple them with other stats, threat-modifiers, etc... Hopefully I'll find out what causes the strange discrepancies between the predicted and measured damage-values for Maul and Mangle in the mean time.

13 April 2010

The Cataclysm Druid Preview

Last friday Blizzard posted the preview of upcoming changes to the Druid class with the Cataclysm expansion. I'll take a quick peek at what will change for Bear Druids.

Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.

More variety to our AoE tanking rotation! That must be good. Swipe dealing more damage to bleeding targets is also mentioned, which will couple nicely to Thrash. My main concern though, is that this still looks like a rather static rotation: Thrash -> Swipe -> Swipe -> Swipe -> Thrash -> repeat. I'd much rather see some procs and similar mechanics that will force us to change our rotation on-the-fly. But, this is just the initial preview, there's bound to be more to come.

Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

AoE Dash. Whether this will be a powerful new tool or just another gimmick will only be clear once we know what the encounters look like. It has the potential to be very useful though.

  • We want to add tools to cat form and depth to bear form. If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt. Bears need to be pushing a few more buttons just so the contrast between tanking and damage-dealing is not so steep.

Yes! Right now, tanking is very straightforward. More depth is sorely needed as it will make the role more fun to play and it will create a larger difference between strong and poor players.

Mastery bonuses for Feral (Bear)
  • Damage Reduction
  • Vengeance
  • Savage Defense

They make sense, I guess. Vengeance is something that all tanks get. It will give the tank a stacking AP-buff whenever they get hit. The buff adds 5% of the damage dealt by the attack to your Vengeance-stack with a maximum stack-size equal to 10% of your maximum HP. This should make threat scale properly with new content without having to overload the tank gear with DPS stats (which, in our case, will happen regardless, since we share it with Cats and Rogues).

Overall it's looking promising, I'd say. It's still very early, so many things can and will change. But the promise of more depth to the Bear rotation is something that pleases me greatly.

The full preview, including changes for Cats, Moonkins and Trees (who will no longer be trees most of the time!) can be found on the WoW forums

06 April 2010

Rage changes in Cataclysm

Blizzard posters have shown us what's in store for Warriors and Druids when it comes to rage in Cataclysm. The full story is on the WoW forums.

The changes and how I feel about them:
1) Rage is no longer generated based on damage done by auto-attacks. Instead, each auto-attack provides a set amount of Rage, and off-hand weapons will generate 50% of the Rage main hands do. This amount is based on a constant formula which factors in the base swing speed of the weapon. This means the Rage gained should be averaged out between fast and slow weapons. The constant formula also gives us the ability to easily increase the rage gained if it feels too low (or reduce it if is too high). We are also implementing the following mechanics, which will still allow rage to improve to some extent as you improve gear:

  • If the attack is a critical strike, it will generate 200% Rage.
  • Haste will accelerate swing times to generate Rage faster.
Rage gains will no longer depend on the damage you deal with your attacks. This is nice. This mechanic was one of the main sources of the exceptional gear-scaling that Warriors had: Getting more gear means you hit harder which allows you to use your specials, which also hit harder, more often. In Cataclysm, the scaling will be far more linear, which makes it easier to predict and to plan for.
2) Rage from damage taken will no longer be based on a standard creature of the character’s level, but instead will based on the health of the warrior or druid. Again, there is a constant that is multiplied by the rage generated in order to allow for fine-tuning. This calculation ignores all damage reduction from armor, absorption, avoidance, block, or similar mechanics, so improving your gear will not reduce Rage gained.
This one confused me at first, but followup posts by Blizzard employees cleared it up: The amount of rage you get from a boss hitting you depends on two things: Damage done by the boss and player health. The more damage, the more rage, as it is now. But more health means less rage per damage. So in theory, the Cataclysm equivalents of Patchwerk and Festergut would give the same amount of rage to tanks geared for the individual bosses. But a T10 tank going back for the Naxx weekly would gain alot less rage from Patchwerk then he did before (due to the increased health). This mechanic seems a bit clunky, depending on how strong the inverse-health-scaling is.

On the other hand, rage-gains being the same regardless whether you got hit, blocked, parried, got missed or dodged is an excellent change. No more rage starvation due to avoidance-streaks.
3) We will provide warriors and druids with more instant sources of rage. For example, the warrior shouts are changing to work more like the death knight ability Horn of Winter. Instead of Battle Shout consuming Rage, it will generate Rage but have a short cooldown. Both classes will have additional methods to generate Rage in an emergency or bleed off Rage when they have too much.
That sounds nice. I'm not sure which ability would make sense here for a Druid (Demo Roar?), but more on-demand rage and rage being an actual resource to manage should make things more interesting.

4) All “on next swing” attacks in Cataclysm are being removed. Heroic Strike and Maul will be instant swings that cost a variable amount of Rage. For example, imagine Heroic Strike costs between 10 and 30 Rage. You must have at least 10 Rage to use the attack, but it will consume all available Rage up to a maximum of 30. Any Rage consumed above the minimum will cause the ability to hit harder, and in some cases much harder. We will tune the ability so that it’s generally not a good idea to hit it when you have low Rage (unless everything else is somehow on cooldown) but becomes a more attractive button the higher your Rage.
I like this as well. Maul (and Heroic Strike) have become things that you don't even think about using anymore, you just spam it every auto-attack (or macro it to all your instant abilities) and forget about it. Other than RSI, these abilities don't give you anything, yet they're essential if you want to generate enough threat. Together with the rage-generating shouts, this change should help make rage more of a resource to be managed, like energy is for Cat Druids and Rogues and not like mana is for most DPS casters.

I like most of the changes, they should make Warrior and Druid gameplay more interesting. All this obviously assumes that the new mechanics and scaling factors will be balanced properly. The rage from damage taken mechanic I'm not entirely happy with. Depending on how harsh the inverse-health-scaling will be, it might make revisiting older content an unpleasant experience.

In related news, the coming week will feature previews of Cataclysm changes for all classes (except Paladins, they have to wait one week longer because they're special). Druids are scheduled for friday.

24 March 2010

Trinkets yes, pretty trinkets!

Most gear is pretty straightforward to select: pick whatever has the highest stamina, agility and hit / exp depending on your needs. Trinkets are a different matter however, since they almost always have just two wildly different effects (one passive stat and one proc or clicky) you can form many combinations with the two trinket slots.

I will post a list of viable tank trinkets (mostly from recent raids) and how I feel about them. Although I will try to provide some extra numbers and analysis when possible, the matter of trinket selection remains highly subjective and depends greatly on the circumstances: Your gear, the composition of your raid and the boss you're facing. Note that everything is written from the point of view of a Druid, but most of it also applies to the other tank classes.

A short note on armor and stamina as contributors to EH
You'll find that alot of trinkets feature armor and/or stamina and both stats contribute to your "Effective Health", which is the amount of damage (before mitigation) you can take in a worst-case scenario without dying. Why this measure of Effective Health is inadequate, the reader is referred to an earlier blog-post I made.

However, assuming the naive definition of Effective Health, one can calculate the contribution of 1 point of armor versus that of 1 point of stamina. This is fairly straightforward:
R(a) = a / (a + 467.5 * l - 22167.5)
R(a) is the damage reduction from armor expressed as a fraction of 1, a is your armor-value and l is the level of the attacker (83 for bosses). We then find that:
EH(a,h) = h / (1 - R(a))
Or: Your effective health (EH) as a function of armor (a) and health (h) is your health divided by one minus your damage reduction from armor.

You can differentiate this function to a and h and find the respective contributions to EH from 1 point of armor and 1 point of health. Then you just have to work out how much health you gain from 1 point of stamina (answer: 16.35 for a Feral Druid with BoKings) and you get the final numbers. For the further discussion, I will use 66K HP and 35K armor as numbers. The scaling factors are not massively different if you change these base numbers a bit. None of the Druid talents and abilities change the armor on trinkets. The Austere Earthsiege Diamond (meta gem) does, but it adds only 2%, which doesn't really affect the balance between armor and stamina.

1 point of armor = 3.97 "EH" (4.05 with meta gem)
1 point of stamina = 50.76 "EH"
1 point of stamina = 12.79 points of armor (12.54 with meta gem)

Again, I'd like to emphasize that this analysis overrates the value of stamina in almost all fights. Additionally, the added benefit of armor in that it reduces the mana-drain on healers is completely ignored.

The trinkets
Darkmoon Card: Greatness (DMF cards, BoE) - [Passive: 90 agi] [Proc: Dealing damage, 35% chance, +300 agi for 15 sec, 45 sec ICD] - Despite being low-level, this one deserves an honorable mention. Agility isn't the best stat, but it beats dodge-rating thanks to the contributions to armor and crit as well as the scaling with BoKings. With an uptime between 25% and 30%, the proc is pretty good. It doubles as DPS-trinket, making it an excellent purchase for a new Feral Druid.

The Black Heart (ToC5 normal) - [Passive: 126 sta] [Proc: Hit by melee attack, 25% chance, +7056 armor for 10 seconds, 45 sec ICD] - The Black Heart is surprisingly good for its item-level. The proc is rather strong, but can't be relied on of course. It's also very easy to get, as ToC5 normal can be farmed repeatedly making it a very good starter option, but one that you can safely stick with for a while if your luck with trinkets is bad.

Eltrigg's Oath / Fervor of the Frostborn (ToC10) - [Passive: 114 (H: 126) dodge] [Click: +1265 (H: 1422) armor every time an attack hits you, stacks to 5, entire effect lasts 20 sec, 2 min CD] - This trinket is one of least interesting. Avoidance is weak and WotLK and due to the ramp-up-time, the clicky-effect isn't "there when you need it", like a clicky-effect should. The Darkmoon Card: Greatness beats this one in almost every way.

Ick's Rotting Thumb (PoS heroic) - [Passive: 113 dodge] [Click: +4104 HP, 15 sec, 3 min CD] - Just like the ToC10 trinket, this one is pretty weak. It's only saving grace is the clicky-effect, which is not bad.

Juggernaut's Vitality / Satrina's Impeding Scarab (ToC25) - [Passive: 192 (H: 216) sta] [Click: +4610 (H: +5186) HP, 15 sec, 3 min CD] - The normal mode version is pretty much the baseline trinket for tanks these days. ToC25 can be pugged quite effectively and this trinket shouldn't be that hard to get. At ilvl 245 it's unmatched and you won't find upgrades until you go to higher item levels. The heroic version is even more desirable, but hard to get now that most guilds ignore ToGC in favor of ICC.

Glyph of Idomitability (50 EoT) - [Passive: 1792 armor] [Click: +512 dodge, 20 sec, 2 min CD] - The armor corresponds to 143 stamina in the naive EH model (so in reality it's more!), which makes it rather strong. Unfortunately, the clicky-effect is pretty weak: When you use a clicky, you usually do it because you're at risk of dying and you want something solid to save you. And dodge just doesn't cut it there. It's easy to get though and I think it beats all lower-level trinkets.

Unidentifiable Organ (ICC10) - [Passive: 1890 armor] [Proc: Hit by melee attack, 60% chance, +24 stamina for 10 seconds, stacks to 10] - The armor corresponds to 151 stamina in the naive EH model (so in reality it's more!). The proc is quite controversial and its value greatly depends on what you're fighting. Some people claim the trinket is crap, since the stamina proc is so random, but they forget that the main benefit of the trinket is the armor and the proc is just icing on the cake. Overall, it's just another random proc trinket, but it's one of the better random procs. You'll have some stacks up most of the time. Obviously it's best suited for fights where you get hit alot. Consequently, it's not very useful outside ICC, where you avoid 20% more and bosses attack less often.

Corpse Tongue Coin (ICC25) - [Passive: 152 (H: 172) dodge] [Proc: Melee hit that takes you below 35%, +5712 (H: 6426) armor for 10 sec, 30 sec ICD] - The idea of a proc that's there when you need it the most is quite good. Unfortunately, its execution leaves much to be desired. Using the numbers I mentioned earlier (66K HP, 35K armor) and assuming the hit that procs the trinket lands you at just below 35%, the armor proc will let you take 2555 more damage before dying (assuming no healing). In reality, the hit that procs the trinket might land you anywhere between 0% and 35% reducing the effectiveness of the proc. Furthermore, magical burst does nothing unless it's directly followed by a melee swing (that doesn't outright kill you). The passive dodge on top of the weakish proc makes this trinket not worth getting.

Corroded Skeleton Key (60 EoF) - [Passive: 228 stamina] [Click: 6400 damage absorbed, lasts 10 sec, 2 min CD] - The de-facto successor of JV / SIS from ToC25. The clicky can be seen as a very beefy healthpot and can be nicely combined with a pot and a healthstone for a big HP boost in emergencies. This one should be high on your shopping list unless you already have two good ilvl 258+ trinkets.

Sindragosa's Flawless Fang (ICC25) - [Passive: 228 (H: 258) stamina] [Click: +239 (H: 268) resists for 10 sec, 1 min CD] - The clicky of this trinket is very situational: It's excellent for bosses that have large magical bursts (Ironically, Sindragosa, the boss that drops it, is a prime example), but it's rather weak if the magic component of the damage only comes from minor AoE effects. The stamina makes it a good competitor for the CSK though.

So what would I use?
Right now, I use CSK and normal mode Organ for most of my tanking. I value the Organ over normal-JV (not had much luck with heroic-JV), but I swap Organ out for JV on fights with alot of magic burst: Primarily Sindragosa. I've passed on the Corpse Tongue Coin a couple of times, it's simply not worth it. I also have the heroic Eltrigg's Oath in my bags, but it's only collecting dust.

Ideally, I would probably use the heroic Organ with heroic Sindragosa's Flawless Fang. However, sticking to normal mode loot, my preferred combo would be Organ + CSK which I use now for regular fights. On fights with alot of magic, I'd like to use SFF + CSK.

For a starting tank, I would strong recommend The Black Heart, it's easy to farm and can last you a long time. In addition, pick up the Glyph of Indomitability. You can replace The Black Heart by the CSK if you have enough EoF (and nothing else you'd rather buy with them). In the meantime, keep running ToC25 for JV / SIS.

19 March 2010

Growl and hit confusion

Growl (and the taunts of the other tank classes) is a funny ability. It being classed as a spell has resulted in a lot of confusion about what you need to hit-cap it. The +8% glyph doesn't decrease the confusion. So time to shed some light on the matter.

A little bit of history
Most of the taunt-hit-confusion arises from the various changes that have been applied in this area over time. Growl (and the other taunts) are classed as spells. Before WotLK, there were 2 types of hit-rating: spell-hit-rating and "regular" hit-rating. The regular version applied to physical attacks: melee attacks and hunter shots. Spells and physical attacks had a different cap: back then it was 17% for spells and 9% for physical attacks against raid bosses. Growl was affected by spell-hit-rating and you'd need 16% spell-hit to cap Growl (back then you always had a minimum of 1% chance to miss with spells).

In patch 2.3, Growl was changed to be affected by regular hit rating. However, the rest of the mechanics didn't change: You still needed 16% hit to cap it (keeping the 1% minimum miss chance). The only change was that instead of spell-hit-rating, it was now regular hit-rating that did the trick. This was useful, of course, since regular hit-rating was found on tank gear, where spell-hit-rating was not.

With patch 3.0 and WotLK, both flavours of hit-rating were merged into a single stat we now know and love as hit-rating. However, Growl remained a spell with all its properties. And even though both spells and physical attacks use the same hit-rating now, you need more hit-rating for 1% physical hit than you need for 1% spell hit.

So how is it now?
To never miss a Growl, you need 17% hit. You need 26.23 hit-rating for 1% hit with spells. You can glyph for 8% (210 rating), get a Draenei aura for 1% (26 rating) and get a Shadow Priest or Moonkin to debuff the boss for 3% (79 rating). So that leads to the following numbers:

Glyph/BuffsRating needed for taunt-hit-cap
Glyph + Moonkin/SPriest157
Glyph + Moonkin/SPriest + Draenei131

The thing you can control yourself is the glyph, you can (and should!) swap this one in for any fight where a successful taunt is required. With the glyph, you need less hit-rating than you would need for the regular melee cap of 263. In a 25man raid where a Moonkin or Shadow Priest is pretty much garantueed, you can quite easily hit-cap on Growl already.

Due to the Growls spell-character, you don't need to be at the regular melee hit-cap to never miss a taunt. With the glyph, a lower value suffices. I would like for Blizzard to fix these oddities in Cataclysm, they seem to want to make stats easier to figure out and this is one area where some shrouds of mystery can be lifted.

Effective Health - The holy grail of tanking?

Go to any tank-related forum and open a thread on gear-choices and the first thing you'll notice is that everyone always talks about Effective Health (or EH). It's great, it makes you live longer, be the star of the raid, get epics and possibly create world peace. However, the concept as it is used by 99% of the posters on these forums is wrong. They assume circumstances that simply do not happen in actual raids.

What is EH?
EH is a measure for the amount of damage you take before you die in a worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario being: You don't avoid any hits, you don't get healing, you don't get shields and you don't use any cooldowns.

This means that there are 2 main contributions to effective health: HP and garantueed damage reduction. HP is straightforward, get 10% more of it and you'll live 10% longer when there's no healing. By garantueed damage reduction, people generally mean armor. It reduces the physical damage you take and since this is the majority of the damage, having more of it will make you live longer.

Health comes from stamina. Each point of stamina gives you 10 HP. However, various talents and buffs increase the stamina you get from gear. A Feral Druid gets 25% more stamina from being in Dire Bear Form, 10% from Heart of the Wild, 6% from Survival of the Fittest, 2% from Imp. Mark of the Wild and finally 10% from Blessing of Kings. Since these bonuses stack multiplicatively, the Druid ends up with 16.35 HP from 1 point of stamina on gear. Plate tanks have less of these talents, so they gain less from 1 point of stamina, but their gear tends to have more stamina, so it evens out somewhat.

For armor, the following formula holds for L83 opponents (which means: raid-bosses):
DR = Armor / (Armor + 16635)
Fill in 30000 and you get DR = 0.643, so a 64.3% damage reduction from armor.

If you have 60K HP and 65% damage reduction from armor (30894 armor), your EH is 171429. This means that a mob has to do 171429 damage before armor-reduction to kill you. Adding 1 stamina gives you 16.35 HP and this translates into an increase of your EH by 46.71. On the other hand, adding 10 points of armor increases your damage reduction by 0.00736%, which changes your EH to 171465, an increase of 36. So at these stats, 1 point of stamina gives you more EH than 10 points of armor (note that 1 point of armor is equal to 6.7 points of armor in terms of itemization-budget).

With just the built-in Windows (or in my case: Linux) calculator, you can redo these numbers for your particular situation.

So where does it go wrong?
The above calculation makes sense in the absence of any form of healing, shielding or cooldown-usage. And since the goal of EH maximalization is to gear for the worst possible case, this sounds reasonable right? Well, no. Sure, no healing at all is the worst possible case, but in any realistic raiding environment, there will be heals landing on you all the time, even if the main tank healers are focused elsewhere.

In my raid, there's always at least one Resto Druid who has a whole array of HoTs on me. There generally are HoTs from Priests or Shamans ticking and there's often some form of shielding as well: Sacred Shield from Paladins, Power Word: Shield from Priests, but most of all my own Savage Defense shield which is up for the vast majority of the attacks that land. Since bosses don't one-shot you, but instead need several swings to kill you, the HoTs plus any incoming splash or direct heals will heal you. And direct heals will land, since my healers know that a tank needs healing and will be casting their heals. And I don't know of any 25man encounter that takes all healers out of the game for a little whle at the same time.

Suppose a boss takes 5 seconds to deliver a series of burst attacks that could kill me. In this time-frame it's not unlikely to have 20K worth of heals and absorbs in total. Going back to the numbers-example I mentioned above, this means that my "effective" health would be 80K, not 60K, since in the no-healing scenario, I would have the same survivability with 80K HP as I would in the scenario where I have 60K HP and 20K healing/absorbs coming in. At 80K effective HP, the EH benefit you get from 10 points or armor increases from 36 to 47.88. That's a massive difference.

If you weigh in the costs of both stats in terms of itemization budget, stamina still wins out, but the gap is alot smaller now. And these are just some randomly picked example values. In most boss-fights where tank-death is an issue, you can generally identify the moments that are the most dangerous and use your cooldowns during these moments. Take Festergut for example, once he hits 3 stacks of Inhale Blight, he starts to hit like a truck. During the largest part of this phase, I have Survival Instincts active, this increases my HP by 30% (even more for people who glyphed it) and thereby gives the EH-contribution of armor a massive boost.

On the other hand, bosses that use magical damage as their main tank-killer don't care all that much about armor. On Sindragosa, that Frost Breath when you're at high stacks of Mystic Buffet will play a much bigger role in your death than the melee swing that follows it. In these cases, your EH is purely determined by your stamina (and to some extent your frost resistance).

EH is seen as the holy grail and a straightforward way of calculating the value of stamina compared to that of armor exists and is used regularly. However, which factors actually contribute to your EH depend greatly on the encounter. The naive EH formula assumes a 100% physical damage encounter, which is not always the case. And even in fights where all the (dangerous, bursty) damage is affected by armor, the fact that you're never in the "worst-case-scenario" assumed by the naive EH-computation means that your actual EH is not so easy to express as a number. On top of that, using cooldowns during the dangerous phases again shifts the balanace of stats compared to the non-cooldown phases.

So take EH arguments with a grain of salt: They're often based on some sort of idealized environment that will never occur in the actual game. Think about the encounter when you select your gear and only play the numbers game once you factor in the specifics of the boss and how you plan on reacting to them.

18 March 2010

Soloing Molten Core as Feral Druid

With Cataclysm the entire old world is going to be remade. So it's not unlikely that old raid instances like Molten Core will be remade or removed. So right now is the perfect time to return to that infamous hole in the ground, either to farm rep or, more ambitious, farm for Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros. Various classes/specs can solo Molten Core these days and Feral Druids are no exception. With 2 players, more or less any combination of classes and specs can handle the place.

This post is on how to solo Molten Core with a Feral Druid. I first did this with T8 level gear and some bosses needed some thought. Now with mostly T10 level gear, alot of the tips that I'll mention are no longer needed. Gear has a big effect on how easy it is to solo the place, so keep that in mind when reading this. Your mileage may vary.

Gear & Setup
Melee damage from the trash and bosses is really low. The majority of the damage you'll take will be magical in nature. This means that armor and avoidance are fairly useless. Stamina and resistance are king. Resistance has a big effect on the damage you take and most of your healing (Imp LotP and Frenzied Regen) scale with your HP. The tanking rings from Onyxia are very nice. Additionally, a Lesser Flask of Resistance can be a big help and they're dirt cheap. I like to run with Drums of the Forgotten Kings as well, the +8% stats is useful to have and the drums are not that expensive to make. DPS stats on gear are always useful, but I prefer survivability in the form of HP and resistance over more DPS. Beat stuff with endurance.

To enter a raid instance, you need to be in a raid group. What I found most convenient is to log an alt, invite a guildie to a raid group, make the guildie raidleader, log my Druid, get invited and get leadership. The offline alt stays in the raid and the guildie can now leave without the raid disbanding. Finally, make sure you have plenty of bagspace, as there will be a lot of stuff to loot and the epics sell for anything between 1 and 10 gold each, so that's not too bad.

Imp. LotP will provide most of your healing. If you go low, use Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regeneration combined with any trinkets that increase your max health (such as Juggernauts Vitality) for maximum returns on Frenzied Regeneration. Use Barkskin and any other damage-reduction cooldowns whenever they're up and you're not at full HP. If you need to heal, pop Barkskin as you shift out, cast Regrowth and then spam Nourish. Innervate yourself before you shift back if you expect to have to heal again before your mana has replenished.

Lucifron is quite straightforward, the majority of the damage will come from his shadowbolts. You can ignore the adds, they will die when you Berserk and from Swipe and glyphed Maul. The curse that double the rage cost of your abilities can be annoying, but it's not a major issue. You can decurse yourself if you want, it'll make it go a bit faster, but it's not needed.

The main challenge in this boss lies in the trash before him. I opt to clear the two packs closest to him to ensure I don't get adds when I get feared. Make sure you see healthbars on the Corehound packs (press "V") and make sure they die at roughly the same time or they resurrect each other. Magmadar himself is not a problem. Make sure to move out of the fire and save Berserk to break a fear. Other than that it's just a long fight.

This boss used to give me the most problems. The reasons for that are first that he casts Shadowbolts and Rain of Fire almost continuously and rarely uses melee, bypassing your Savage Defense. Secondly, he applies a curse that reduces healing taken by 75%. The curse has cooldown, but he seems to not use it if someone is already affected. So when you decurse yourself, expect a new curse shortly after. Decurse once more and you should have a window to heal. Do this when you hit 30~40% HP, heal up with SI+FR. Repeat this with casterform-heals if you drop low before SI+FR is back up. In the meantime, run out of the Rain of Fire when you can. If you have any resistance buffs, now is the time to use them. The adds are of little consequence, ignore them and they'll die eventually from Berserk, Swipe and Maul.

Garr is very straightforward. Depending on your gear you either want to focus-fire down the adds or just start on Garr and let the adds die from Swipe and Maul damage. Although you'll resist most of the explosions from the adds, make sure to get your back to a wall so you don't get knocked into trashpacks you've skipped.

Baron Geddon
Geddon does only magical damage, so your armor is useless. The main dangers are his Hellfire, that increases in strength with time (Just run out of it) and the Living Bomb. The falling damage you take after Living Bomb explodes can be painful. Make sure you have rock above your head that you can bounce into to reduce the fall-distance. The tunnel before Geddon is a good spot, but you can also use the area just before the ledge overlooking Golemagg. Additionally, Feral Charging Geddon while in the air makes you take no falling damage.

If you need to heal in casterform, do it during the Hellfire, as Geddon isn't hitting you then. The mana drain debuff he casts doesn't do anything as long as you're in Feral form, but it will quickly drain your mana if you shift out. It lasts for 5 minutes, so it can be slightly annoying if you need to heal after the boss.

This boss is trivial. You will most likely outheal its damage with Imp. LotP and if not, SI+FR will certainly do the trick.

Sulfuron Harbringer
You're in for the long haul with this one. Sulfuron has 4 adds and they all heal each other. Alone you will not have enough DPS to burst down an add, so the only option is to outlast them until they run out of mana. Most of the damage will come from the spells cast by the adds. Just stay alive by cycling your damage reduction and healing cooldowns until they run out of mana. The adds die very quickly once that happens and Sulfuron himself does not pose a big threat.

Golemagg the Incinerator
Golemagg has 2 adds that can't die while the boss is still alive, but they don't hit very hard. Attacking Golemagg gives a chance to stack a fire DoT. Once you get high stacks, you should stop attacking Golemagg and wait for the DoT to fade.I like to hit one of the adds when doing this, to keep Savage Defense going. Use Barkskin at this stage, as the damage intake will be highest. At 10% Golemaggs damage output goes up considerably, so make sure you're high on HP and low on DoT stacks at this point.

Majordomo Executus
This fight is rather easy. There are 8 adds that need to die to beat the encounter. Even though 4 of them are called "Priest", they don't heal. Just take them out one at a time. When there's only one add up, it's healed to full and its damage increases, but this is hardly worth mentioning.

The final boss. His melee damage is rather low and you'll outheal most, if not all, of it with Imp. LotP. The main threat is the periodic knockback. If you get knocked back and end up out of melee range, Ragnaros will spam 6K damage Fireballs at you, which can eat through your healthbar rather quickly. To counter this, make sure you save at least 5 rage for Feral Charge and quickly spam Feral Charge when he does the knockback. This instantly brings you back in melee range. If you don't manage to charge back, make sure you get back to the boss as soon as possible. Once the boss submerges, just Swipe-spam the adds, they die very quickly.

Farming for Sulfuras
For Sulfuras you need the following items:

  • Eye of Sulfuras - This is the legendary drop from Ragnaros. It seems to have a 3~5% drop-chance so you'll just have to hope for the best.
  • Sulfuron Ingot x 8 - These drop with a 15~20% chance from Golemagg, but they're not BoP, so you can fetch them on the AH as well.
  • Blood of the Mountain x 10 - These drop from Molten Destroyers (~5%) and can be mined from Dark Iron Ore nodes (~1%). Your best bet is to farm the Molten Destroyers in the zone, get out, wait 30 minutes for the place to soft-reset and go again. The Bloods can be traded, so check the AH, since these are hard to farm.
  • Dark Iron Bar x 20 - These need 8 Dark Iron Ore per bar. The Dark Iron Ore is mostly found in Molten Core, though there are some nodes in the Searing Gorge as well. Your best bet is to get a miner in your cleared raid to grab the ore or to fetch it from the AH. The bars can only be created in Black Rock Depths.
  • The rest is all easy to get and you'll get automatically while farming MC for the other components.

Good luck!

And so it begins...

Have you ever considered writing up a detailed analysis of some WoW-related concept for posting on the official WoW forums, possibly even written a paragraph already, and then thought "Nah, why bother?" and just cancelled the idea? Well, I have. Several times. The problem with the WoW forums is that the signal-to-noise ratio is so low that even a well-written post with insightful and new ideas will quickly be buried by the nerf-cries, flamebaits and related waste of database-space.

So to keep my random thoughts, calculations and rantings in a place where it doesn't get submerged by uninteresting spam, I've decided to create an account here. I already have a couple of ideas that I would like to post about.

Since I play a raiding Bear-Druid, my posts will mostly be about tanking, Druids, raids and some general WoW things. I tank in a 3-day 25man raid guild. Our progress isn't world-first or even server-first material, but we get stuff down at a good pace. I've been playing feral since before it was cool, starting at around patch 1.8.

IRL I'm a 24yr old guy who is a graduated mathematician, currently doing a PhD in numerical mathematics / computational physics. As a consequence, I tend to not take other peoples theorycrafting results at face value, but like to run the numbers myself. Since I'm absolutely terrible at making a decent user interface for my simulation programs, I tend to just keep them for myself.

So, I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy my postings. Maybe learn something new or see something from a different point of view, providing some food for thought.