Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warlocks vs Healers

I've got two healers at 80 and have only just starting doing randoms on my now level 29 warlock so until recently I have been a little biased toward healers having the short end of the stick. I've come to realize that this isn't the case after just one Gnomeregan pug. It was the first time I got called out for my self-inflicted damage.

"Thank the warlock for that.", as the healer needs to stop for mana. Of course I am doing everything I can to heal myself and I wasn't really being a drain on the healer's mana so far as I could tell so I simply replied, "you're welcome". A little later the healer stopped to drink again and I thought it would be amusing to poke fun myself and said, "Give the healer a moment, he's drinking for two." Finally, near the last boss someone asked, "Why is the warlock taking so much damage?" I couldn't help myself and blurted, "I hurt myself...", "I get off on it. I know it's wrong, but I can't help myself." The RP realm guy was heartily amused as was the rest of the group and from that point on there wasn't another word on the topic. I've never really gotten into the whole role play aspect of my toons, but it has been something I've had a growing interest in. In this case it was an easy way to diffuse an otherwise awkward PUG situation without going into debating class mechanics. This little taste of role play has wet my appetite for more.

Unlike the middle of a PUG, now it is a good time to talk class mechanics. Fact: Warlocks life tap to regain mana. There really is no other way around it in a group environment, but warlocks also have the ability to heal themselves and take that burden off the healer. I'm speaking from an affliction perspective since that is what I play, but I am pretty sure that is the case for all warlocks. The main problem is that those two things don't happen at the same time, warlocks lose health to regain mana and then start regenerating health with life drain or using a healthstone. By that point the healer in me would see the missing health and fill it up much faster than the warlock can themselves and any healing the warlock would do would be overhealing. So the warlock continues to DPS and life tap while the healer shakes their head in disapproval.

The take away for healers is to give warlocks the opportunity to take care of themselves, or more specifically don't top them off if you are having mana issues. It is a good indication to the warlock that if their healer isn't topping them off that they should focus more on taking care of themselves. There are going to be bad players on both sides of the fence, healers that don't heal warlocks and warlocks that life tap to the point of death and expect heals. I actually felt bad life tapping as a warlock until fairly recently since I've only just started to get the tools to heal myself to make up for it. Now I realize that as a warlock you have to learn to strike a balance between life tapping, DPS and health regeneration depending on how much extra healing is coming your way. Some healers say go nuts and others will outright refuse to heal you if you life tap. Most, including myself when I am healing, are somewhere in the middle.

It is mostly a matter of common sense on the warlock's part, don't life tap unless you know how you are going to get that lost health back; when in doubt drink. If I am low on mana and see a promising life drain target I will dot it up, life tap and then start sucking that life back. One of the first things I learned in Gnomeregan was I can't get health back from mechanical targets, bummer. In between pulls I will life tap all that a healthstone will afford me and make a new one for next time. When I see a target with low health that few other people are attacking I will soul drain it and attempt to proc a mana boost. That is how I get most my mana back soloing, but it requires me or my pet to get the killing blow. Another thing to be aware of are hots ticking on you, if you are at/near full health then use those hots to life tap rather than let them get wasted as overhealing. One thing is for sure it is never the healer's responsibility to manage a warlocks mana, but a little help goes a long way.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Big Pulls vs. Chain Pulling

I was in a random group with three people who were obviously together, one DPS of appropriate level, a higher level healer and max level ICC entry geared tank. Neither the healer or tank even spoke, but it was apparent they were talking amongst themselves through some other medium, probably vent.

So the DPS calls out at the beginning of the instance that they will be making "big pulls". This is after a fairly long pause waiting for the healer to zone in. We are doing Utgarde Keep and the tank proceeds to pull the first two, and that is all.

The tank then runs in and grabs half the room where most tanks grab the whole thing. Pats come by and pull the rest of the room, mobs go straight for the healer and I'm starting to pull aggro on my level 70 pally from a 5k+ gearscore tank. Big pulls, yeah right.

So the next pull the tank whacks the single then runs off to grab more without any warning. The other DPS and I who weren’t in communication with the tank both pulled aggro, I stunned the mob and the tank came back to "tank" it while it was stunned. Next couple pulls were single groups again; then came the room with the drakes.

The tank pulls a single drake, stays there a second then takes off to grab the next group, again without any warning. I had aggro on that single drake pretty quick and being on a pally managed to bubble and stay alive. Obviously big pulls means randomly choosing to tank and not tank certain mobs.

The rest of the instance was much of the same with some oddly long pauses where the tank and healer would sit around the recently dead mobs and say a prayer or something. It was a very slow moving PUG even compared to the usual level 68-70 groups.

This was just another example of how pulling big is not something that should be executed by an inexperienced tank. Pulling additional mobs is something tanks learn to do over time by anticipating what their group can handle and more importantly what they can maintain control of. Big pulls are a pretty stupid idea in general as they are hard for DPS to anticipate without some communication from the tank and more often than not are less efficient than timely single pulls.

The more appropriate tactic for speeding up an instance is called chain pulling. Once you have adequate threat on one group of mobs you go ahead and grab the next, moving along at a constant steady pace. The DPS never stop which makes things go considerably faster opposed to waiting for a tank to gather a large group while the DPS does nothing in that time. It takes a very large AOE group to make up for a long wait time of zero DPS when it comes to average DPS.

The main thing to gauge your chain pulling speed by is your healer's mana, DPS mana is unimportant (even if they do complain about it). If your healer is doing OK mana wise then your DPS should be too, otherwise they are doing something wrong (most likely going all out on trash instead of doing slightly lower sustainable damage). In any case your affected DPS can hang back and drink while you move forward. The exception to the DPS mana rule is that it is often a good idea to let everyone start a boss at full mana, but that is only until you outlevel or overgear the content.

DPS Leaving Randoms After Tank/Healer

Last night I was questing on my paladin while queued to DPS a random. I rarely queue to tank as I wouldn't have any time to quest. The average wait times were between 30 and 45 minutes so I only got into 3 groups over the course of the evening, one of which didn't make it to the first boss. Why, because everyone dropped group except me.

You know how when you queue for a random as a DPS and one of the DPS doesn't accept and times out, you get another group pretty quick. This is because you are at the top of the queue. Even higher yet in the queue are groups already in an instance. Obviously this is a foreign concept to many players because no one in their right mind can possibly want to wait longer for a random. Perhaps many DPS aren’t in their right mind and 45 minutes sounds better than 5.

Another thing to keep in mind while you are waiting for the rest of your group is that you don't have to wait in the instance and do nothing, you can click the teleport out of dungeon option on your minimap and continue questing or whatever you were doing before you accepted the random dungeon. Then when the group is ready you just teleport back to the dungeon the same way.

It made even less sense last night as the group was struggling a little due to an inexperienced tank. The tank left shortly after running back after a bad pull which wasn't even their fault. Someone requeued and we'd of gotten another hopefully more competent tank if not for the healer dropping group rather than accepting a role. Both the other DPS drop right after that. Even if just one of the DPS stayed I wouldn’t of had to requeue at the bottom.

I often wish that groups were like raids in the sense that they don't automatically disband when only one player remains, just so I could stay at the top of the queue for randoms even if everyone else left to requeue at the bottom. Although you'd think those queuing as DPS would be more adept at working the system in their favor given the drastically longer queue times.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Druid Talent Trees

I have three goals in my druid's talent build(s): tank to the best of my ability, dps to the best of my ability and heal to the best of my ability, prioritized in that order. In reality my dps and healing goals end up flipped since tanking and dps share a talent tree and cannot be improved individually without dropping healing as an option entirely. The ability to heal opens doors that would not otherwise be open to a strict tank/dps, so long as that is of more value than the small DPS loss of a bear focused hybrid feral build then resto will remain my secondary spec of choice. Right now the DPS difference between my hybrid build and a pure cat build in equivalent gear is almost negligible and I find myself doing competitive damage with other classes.

Well, the latest feral tree still hasn't deterred me from a cat/bear hybrid build. I actually had a couple of points left to dabble after grabbing all the talents I really wanted. Those couple extra points really aren't extra when you consider that at level 80 we'll probably only have 39/41 points available.

Then I took another look at the resto tree; better, but pretty boring. There is so little choice in the first two tiers that the former trees of Azeroth are forced to waste 4 points in talents that don't help in any way to improve healing (3 if you go out on a limb and consider that taking 2% less magic damage helps your healing).

The rest of the restoration specialization is basically one large choice, "Do you want to sneak some DPS in?", and one small choice, "Do you want to PVP?". I was hoping for more give and take, "I can buff this healing spell or this other one...", but nope; you can take all the healing talents you want so long as you didn't want any damage focused talents or the one PVP talent.

Which leads me to my biggest disappointment, I can't reach moonkin form from the resto tree. The points are available, but the 31 point requirement in the first tree makes it impossible. I was totally willing to toss the new tree form aside in favor of having a bit of fun as a chubby owl. So far I definitely plan on sticking one point in Balance of Power though to get 2% hit, plus 50% of my spirit as hit. That one point will make a huge difference in whatever meager DPS I can muster.

One thing I notice in the new trees is that I find myself sticking 1 point in a lot of talents that take 2 or 3 points to max out. I think it kind of cool and never found myself considering it except for the last few points in the currently live talent trees. The main reason for this I see is the wider variety of "interesting" talents opposed to pure stat increases. Pure stat increase talents are boring and usually easy to prioritize. Talents that situationaly alter or enhance an ability however are great places to mix and match. The talents that best illustrate this are the ones that have both a constant utility portion and a scaling numeric portion, so if you take one point you get the same utility as if you took 3, but if you take more it procs more often or causes more damage.

One real example would be Empowered Touch in the resto tree which gives a chance to refresh a lifebloom stack with nourish, 50% chance for each of the two points. I think that is a cool idea so I'll put a point in, but I don't feel like I need to put a second point in since I bet in the times when I care I will cast at least two or three nourishes on my lifebloom target during the duration of the hot. One point means sometimes I won't have to refresh my lifebloom stack instead of I'd always have to. A little RNG, but I think it is interesting.

A somewhat less controversial example would be the feral Improved Charge talent for a cat, one point lets you ravage out of stealth for 3 seconds, a second point allows it for 6. One talent point gets ravage into your rotation. Two would let you use it perhaps twice after a pounce instead of once. I can't see myself not taking the one point here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dual Specs and Downranked Spells

It is a known bug that when learning new spells at your class trainer only your currently active spec is updated to use the new spell ranks. In fact there is an add-on, RankWatch, just to check for this. (Note: If you do use RankWatch use the '/rankwatch 80' command to have it only whisper people at max level. If you haven't fixed your spells by then you deserve a reminder.)

Anywho, the add-on lets you know there is a problem, but doesn't fix it for you. Worst case scenario you go through each action bar slot one at a time and check your spellbook for any updates. More than likely you just keep using the old ranks till your RankWatch add-on, or someone else's, tells you to update them. There is a better way, and it all fits in a handy macro you can use after training.

/run if not InCombatLockdown() then for i=1,120 do t,x,x,s=GetActionInfo(i)if t=="spell"then PickupSpell((GetSpellInfo(s)))PlaceAction(i)end end end

Obviously RankWatch should be updated to do this for you automatically when it sees you used a downranked spell the next time you are out of combat, but in the meantime this works nicely. :)

Stupid Pet Tricks

Once upon a time pets did exactly what you told them to, run up to whatever you told them to and hit it, predictable. At this point the stupid rested squarely on the shoulders of the hunter or warlock not to manuever their pets behind their targets. Then things change and pets automatically put themselves behind their targets and with that the stupid shifts to Blizzard's implementation.

A fix for a minor end game pet management inconvenience manifested itself in a very unfortunate way for solo hunters and warlocks. You send in your pet and it might choose to run off with the mob and try to pull as many others as it can. There are many theories as to why this happens, but the one sure thing is that it is related to the pet positioning changes. Obviously the change wasn't "ready", but was released anyway and hasn't been resolved for months.

The result is that the very first impressions any new hunter or warlock has of their new class/pet is of a bug, total immersion killer. I have a hunter at 80 that pretty much exclusively groups and no longer solos so I had all but forgotten about this bug, but I've recently started leveling my warlock again and now it is fresh in my mind once again. Hopefully this will get some attention for Cataclysm, if not sooner, since there is so much emphasis being placed on improving the leveling experience for new characters.

There is a workaround to avoid an untimely death, tell your pet to follow then shortly after that send it to attack again. You learn to catch the bug early after several repetitions so your pet ends up more or less where you want it. On the bright side this bug does teach new hunters and warlocks to be more mindful of their pets.

Monday, July 19, 2010

31pt Stealth Nerf?

Originally the plan was 5 more talent points and trees similar to the ones we currently have. Yay, 5 more points to flush out a couple more talents you wanted in your build. Boo, there is less of a compromise between level 85 builds if you are 5 points closer to everything you want. Plans changed and talent trees have been pruned to 31 points deep and the maximum talent points are cut in half. We only earn two or three new talent points from 80 to 85 depending on how our 1.875 levels per talent point are distributed.

Talent trees aren't finalized yet, but When working through them I can't help but to fear that today's builds at 80 will become tomorrow's builds at 85. Meaning that when the new trees go live level 80's would essentially lose 4-5 talent points which would be earned back leveling to 85. The only way to keep that from happening is for talents to get cheaper, which they are, and for there to be more of them on each tier, which also appears to be happening to some extent. Making some of the mandatory talents baseline also helps by providing more talent points to spend.

Ideally we'll be able to replicate our level 80 builds more or less in the new talent trees and then by 85 be able to pick up a couple new talents. We'll see how it balances out once the new trees are further along.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Got Ta Be Kiddin' Mon

I had two conflicting interests up until 5 minutes ago, have one toon of each class and have two druids if the troll or worgen forms were totally awesome. Druid is my favorite class after all and I can only play 2 specs at a time.

Well it turns out the new forms don't do anything for me at all. The troll forms look like they belong in a circus and the worgen forms are tauren with the horns cut off and perhaps a little more hair. These are probably completely desirable traits for troll and worgen druids though.

So now I know that my worgen priest and goblin warrior will be my two new alts for the expansion and fill out those last couple classes I've been neglecting. No more worrying in the back of my head of how I will enjoy all the alts I want with the limited character slots provided. A small weight has been lifted off my pinky toe.

Edit: Added images for those who couldn't access them elsewhere.