Archive for March, 2013

12
Mar
13

Rogues in patch 5.2

How patch 5.2 going for everyone?

This is my busiest time of year in my life outside the game.  My son’s baseball season is in full swing.  My work responsibilities are more significant in this part of the year than during other seasons.  I can barely find time to sit at my desk at home.

I’ve logged on enough to do the Isle of Thunder dailies once and have two nights of raiding in MSV and HoF.  That’s all the time I’ve spent in WoW so far since the patch.  I had to figure out a lot of changes by trial and error since I have not had time to keep up with them.

Right away in MSV, I noticed that my Combat spec did less damage than normal on Stone Guard.  That’s because of the change to Blade Flurry in the patch.  It now hits for less damage, but affects more targets.  On Stone Guard, when you’re hitting two or three dogs, you’re not getting the most out of Blade Flurry.  Damage is good, but not as spectacular as it once was.

I also noticed that my single target damage in Assassination spec was a little higher, but not much.  Assassination got buffed a bit in the patch.  I hear that Subtlety got a small buff as well.  I expect Blizzard to keep giving us small buffs until more people play rogues.  For those of us who still play our rogue mains, it just makes us that much more awesome.  However, I will also note that I wasn’t as far ahead on the damage meters as I usually am on some MSV fights, like Elegon.  I suspect that other classes got buffed as well, and maybe more than we did.

I was really surprised when I went to use Ambush as an opener and I teleported to directly behind the target without using Shadowstep.  That’s when I remembered that there were talent changes in the patch.  Preparation was removed as a talent, and now all rogues have it as a baseline ability at level 68.  Instead they added Cloak and Dagger in Prep’s old spot on the talent tree.  It works like Shadowstep built into your stealthed openers.  It essentially gives your openers a 30 yard range.

A change that I noticed while I was fighting Elegon was for Cloak of Shadows.  It now has a shorter cooldown (1 minute), but its no longer reset by Preparation.  That surprised me.  I usually use Cloak-Prep-Cloak to mitigate damage at the end of the fight when we’re burning Elegon down.  Didn’t work this time.

I was, as usual, dismayed when our raid got to Will of the Emperor.  I don’t like that fight.  At some point in that fight, I always end up far from my target with Vanish and Sprint on cooldown.  This time I specced into Shuriken Toss.  This gave combo points and also made my autoattacks into ranged shuriken throws.  I don’t think it was very effective, but it was fun.

Also on the Will of the Emperor fight, when we all grouped up to AoE heal through the Titan Gas phases, I threw down my Smoke Bomb.  It was just given a new ability – reducing incoming damage by 20% on everyone in its range.  I have a defensive raid cooldown!  That felt good.

There’s another talent change that I tried.  Versatility was removed as a top-tier talent and replaced with Marked for Death.  This gives 5 combo points to start with on the fight, so its much like the Premeditation ability on steroids.  A major difference is that when your target dies, Marked for Death resets.  That makes this good for burst damage in target-switching situations, since you can start with 5 CP on each new target.  Its not useful on most boss fight in PvE, but good in fights with a lot of adds that need to be bursted down.  That said, I tried to use it on Garalon’s legs, and the cooldown never reset when a leg died.  Is it because the legs don’t really “die”?  Is this a bug?  (not Garalon himself, but the lack of cooldown reset).

Most of the changes were not very noteworthy, although a lot of rogues are affected by the alterations to the talent tree.  The Smoke Bomb change is nice – I wonder how long it will take everyone to realize that it is there, so that raid leaders call for it at times of high incoming damage.

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11
Mar
13

Trash – thumbs up or thumbs down?

Trash_heapA trend that has been taking over WoW since its creation is optimization and efficiency.  We want to find an optimal talent build, optimized reforging, and optimal gear.  We want to find the most efficient gearing path to get us through our raids as efficiently as possible.  In the early days of WoW, this was an ongoing process.  Now, with online tools, optimizing is just a few clicks away.

How much does the game benefit or suffer from this?

This tendency toward optimization has been adopted throughout WoW by Blizzard.  They call it “quality of life” improvements, and they are changes put in to make the game play more smoothly and with fewer frustrations.  Some are awesome, but others can oversimplify the game and (in the minds of some) de-emphasize things that once made the game fun.

What does this have to do with trash (the title of the post)?

This all came to mind when I was reading some other blog posts about trash mobs in raids.  The posts in question had complained about trash pulls in MoP raids.  That got me reminiscing.  Skipping past raiding in vanilla WoW, which everyone agrees was over-the-top, I used to enjoy trash pulls.  As time has gone one, it seems like a lot of people would prefer to get rid of trash.  That, to me, is just another aspect of the optimization trend.  Trash doesn’t drop epics or get you an achievement, so any time spent on trash is time not spent on progression and therefore it is undesirable.  Blizzard has followed these desires by changing trash in raids over time.

Burning Crusade

Karazhan trash was really fun and challenging.  The way the respawn rate on the ghosts before Attumen pushed you to pull quickly.  The mix of elites and non-elites in the packs of dancers before Moroes.  The ghosts that could almost one-shot a careless tank in the hallways outside Nightbane’s area.  The pairs of trash mobs that were immune to CC and would freeze the tank in the hall before Opera.  Exploding ghosts.  Mana drains.  Sometimes a trash pull took as much strategy as a boss fight.  Those were great.  However, they did take a long time.  You couldn’t just nuke them down the way trash is usually done now.  This was in the tail end of the age when raiding was still though of as something for the elite players, although Karazhan did a lot to overcome that mindset.

Later BC raids had a lot of trash (not counting the shorter Gruul and Magtheridon raids), often very challenging and time consuming.  Upper tier raids like Black Temple, Hyjal Summit, and Sunwell were generally only for dedicated raiders, though, and time-intensive trash was considered just an unpleasant part of the raiding process.

Wrath of the Lich King

The raiding model changed a lot during Wrath of the Lich King.  This is when Blizzard took steps to make raiding accessible to all.

Trash in Naxxramas (v.2, in WotLK) was not terribly challenging, although early in the gearing process it could slow you down.  It wasn’t so hard that it was a roadblock, but it took some time and pulls had to be planned.    There was less of it than in Karazhan, and some of the trash packs had unique abilities (I hated the Dark-Touched Warrior in the construct quarter).  It almost seems like the trash was there in quantity similar to prior raids, but undertuned to make it less of an obstacle.

Ulduar – considered by some to be the best raid Blizzard has ever made – had much smaller amounts of trash.  Most trash pulls between bosses were short (except before Freya).  They introduced unique mechanics like the vehicle combat before Flame Leviathan.  Typically, though, there were only 2-3 trash pulls between each boss encounter.  This is less than Naxxramas had and much less than the BC raids.  Ulduar’s boss fights are memorable, but most of the trash is not.

This push for efficiency came to a head in WotLK’s Trial of the Crusader raid, which was all bosses, no trash.  Not only was this a total departure from previous raid models, it also fit very poorly into the storyline (in the middle of a war with the Lich King’s army, lets have a tournament!).  It was received very poorly overall.  So there is a point where too little trash bothers us.

Icecrown Citadel moved back toward Ulduar’s model – a couple of trash packs between each boss.  One aspect I liked about trash in ICC’s was that it sometimes helped prepare you for the boss’ abilities.  In some cases, the trash mobs before a boss would have abilities that mirrored those the boss would use.  This is the concept that Blizzard seemed to like.

Cataclysm

Bastion of Twilight had some interesting trash.   There were a few pitfalls for the unwary if you took them lightly.  That was fun.  There were some areas where the trash was plentiful – at the start of the raid and before Twilight Council and even before Cho’gall.  Most of it was just AoE nuking, though.  In contrast, Blackwing Descent had almost no trash, but Blizzard pulled it off better than they had in previous raids with little trash.

Firelands followed the Bastion of Twilight model, where there were lots of trash pulls, but they were not terribly difficult.  This frustrated some people.  I remember a lot of complaints about all the trash pulls before you could even engage the first boss of the raid.

Cataclysm eventually introduced the Raid Finder, which (in my opinion) was the death knell for interesting trash.  Since you never know what type of player you’re going to get in the random group, the developers can’t expect a raid to have coordination, concentrated dps, or viable crowd control.  Thus, raid trash is now dull and uninteresting.    [As an aside. the trend away from CC had already happened in 5-mans due to the Dungeon Finder.]

In Dragon Soul, the groups before Morchok were just group AoE.  The tentacles before Zon’ozz were easy.  The only trash that carried any kind of unique challenge in DS were the slime packs before Yor’sahj and, for groups with low dps, the dragonlings before Ultraxion.  On top of that, after Ultraxion, there was no trash at all between Ultraxion, Warmaster Blackhorn, Spine, and Madness.

Mists of Pandaria

I’ve only personally done Mogu’shan Vaults and the first boss of Heart of Fear.  MSV trash seems almost like an afterthought.  The AoE trash packs before Stone Guard, the packs of trolls before Gara’jal, then the groups before Spirit Kings are all non-events, there to be nuked down.  Only the last pulls before Elegon have any risk to them.  They seem to be there just because they are expected, not because there is any development behind the trash encounters.

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My personal opinion is that I liked the trash in Karazhan and in ICC.  The Karazhan trash was interesting and varied.  I’d rather do that than nameless mass AOE trash.  In ICC the trash mobs were not as plentiful but had a definite connection to the boss that followed them.  At times they seemed like part of the story.

What do you like?  The extensive, challenging trash in Karazhan and BC raids?  The plentiful but easy trash in Bastion and Firelands?  The non-existent trash in Trial of the Crusader?

05
Mar
13

And so it begins (the QQ, I mean)

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” – John Lydgate

Patch 5.2 has brought with it yet another chapter in the endless “hardcore vs casual” debate.

In MoP, Blizzard has been gating the LFR difficulty differently than the normal and heroic modes, opening up wings gradually.  With this schedule, the final boss of tier 15 won’t be available at LFR difficulty until April.

Yet they are releasing the entire tier today on normal mode, and the entire tier next week on heroic mode.

This is not a new phenomenon.  All of tier 14 had a comparable staggered release.

  • Mogu’shan Vaults LFR Wing One opened October 9
  • Mogu’shan Vaults LFR Wing Two opened October 16
  • Heart of Fear LFR Wing One opened November 6
  • Heart of Fear LFR Wing Two opened November 13
  • Terrace of Endless Spring LFR opened November 20

Each raid’s first LFR wing was opened a week after normal mode was released, and the second LFR wing was opened a week after that.

So lets be realistic here.  Can we look back on the tier 14 raids and think that so-called casuals got the shaft?  Was that delay such a burden?  Was there not enough to do to keep everyone busy during that waiting period?  Did “casuals” feel somehow insulted that they couldn’t steamroll the entire tier within the first few days?

I put “casuals” in quotes because I don’t feel like the big complaints are coming from actual casual raiders.  I could be wrong, but I feel like a lot of the complaints are from people who simply don’t want to play the game that Blizzard is designing.  Raids represent thousands of man-hours of design and development time and resources.  Are we so spoiled that we expect Blizzard to hand us all of that on a no-challenge platter so that we can faceroll through it in a week’s time?  Is it wrong for Blizzard to give people a chance to play the encounters as they were designed before they allow the masses to be farm them on LFR?

And yet nothing is black and white.  There are many shades between lazy, casual, dedicated, hardcore, or whatever other labels you want to throw around.  Its just a shame that online forums are dominated by the loudest whiners, while the vast majority of people who are satisfied – even appreciative – toward all the different in-game options are drowned out.

Personally, I think this is a good model.  The heroic raiders aren’t pressured into running LFR repeatedly for gear.  The normal raiders have a chance to see encounters as they were intended before a predominance of LFR gear dilutes the difficulty.  LFR players get to see the content, albeit a few weeks later.  Everyone gets something.

 

04
Mar
13

Current raid status and how it is affected by the new tier of raids

With patch 5.2 about to drop and bring a new raid tier, my guild finally completed Mogu’shan Vaults on normal mode this past week.  We’ve definitely been far behind the curve in this expansion.  This is very different than our situation in Cataclysm, when we kept up with the raid content (normal mode) as it was released.

This time around we’ve been hurt by the dps checks.  We spent a long time on Gara’jal before we could beat his enrage, and then another long while on Elegon with the same problem.  Our raid dps isn’t up to par (separate post coming on that) and as a truly casual, friendly guild, we don’t try and pick and choose our raid composition.  We take who wants to come, for better or for worse.

This week we will be setting our first steps into Heat of Fear, and we won’t see Terrace of Endless Spring until some time after that.  The new Tier 15 raids are in the more distant future.

Unfortunately, our experiences in the remaining tier 14 raids will be somewhat disappointing for a couple of reasons – one that is raidwide and one that is personal to me.  Here’s the point of view of a truly casual raid guild on the current situation.

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For the raid, the challenge of HoF anf ToES will be vastly diminished on two fronts.  First, they are getting nerfed by 10% in the upcoming patch.  While we could disable the nerf, it makes no sense to do so.  Guild morale will be improved by quicker progress through the raids, and it catches us up to current content faster.  Its just a shame that we won’t see the fights as they were designed.

In addition, the new T15 raids will soon be available to us at LFR difficulty.  That will allow our raid members to get higher iLvL gear, further reducing the challenge of the tier 14 content.  It took us three months to get through Mogu’shan Vaults.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we finished the next two T14 raids together in half that time.

On a personal level, I refuse to enter an LFR raid until I have seen it on normal mode first.  I have yet to ever see a single boss from Heart of Fear or Terrace of Endless Spring.  I won’t do the new raids on LFR either.  My raid-mates don’t have the same stance on this, and they will be gearing themselves up in LFR.  As a result, I will personally fall behind them in gear.  (although I still expect to lead the raid in dps, for what its worth).  That’s disappointing in the short run, but it will all work out eventually.

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I think that our current position is not that uncommon.  We are currently ranked #43 on our server and #11,155 in the USA.  There are still lots of guilds behind us in progression.  Here’s the question: is this situation damaging to casual guilds?  Will we see guild defections to move to more progressed guilds?

Next week, when new gear is dropping and people are getting new items from the new raids, it can certainly generate gear envy.  In a guild that is still working on T14, a jump to a T15 guild might be appealing.

I don’t think this will happen in our guild, since we are a pretty tight knit group.

WoW hasn’t really had the “feeder guild” issue since Burning Crusade.  The difference between then and now is the presence of LFR.  Back in BC, if you were in a Karazhan/Gruul-level guild, your only chance to see SSC and then Black Temple was to guild-hop.  Today, you can see all available content on LFR difficulty.  Will that be enough?  I really think so.  Time will tell.




Armory

Dinaer - 100 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 92 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 91 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 100 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 100 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
March 2013
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