Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The man who doesn't like to pug...

...pugs the 10-man version of the Wintergrasp raid.

I decided to have a go at Wintergrasp whilst online just to see what the zone was like and see how well the Eviscerator's set I've crafted holds up when fighting against everything else.

As it turns out the Horde were outnumbered but the Tenacity buff and some good work from those involved (no real idea who) meant we won, provided the buff to all the instances the rest of the guild were running and made the raid instance available.

There were soon messages running around the General channel, and having heard good reports about pugging normal and heroic instances I decided to give it a go, especially as there would be the chance for some nice epics. Sadly no rogue loot dropped but I did get a chance to have a look at the boss fight.

First up, we are definitely in a dps race, there's a 5 minute hard enrage timer so you need to get him down within that time. Second there's a lot of damage everywhere, the boss has a couple of random target abilities and leaves an AoE effect about the place meaning ranged need to keep on their toes as well as the tank if he leaves one on top of the melee. Finally he'll wildly lunge and grab the main tank, meaning he needs to be picked up by an off tank for the duration.

As a rogue there are two key things for this fight.
1) Stay below both tanks on threat. Think Gruul, think Moroes, just stay below both of the tanks or you'll be dead as soon as the main tank gets picked up.
2) Tricks will aid which ever tank needs it most so use it as much as possible.

The week lock out means you're not going to be farming it any more than the other raid instances but with the right group (or even within guild) there's a potential quick way to some epics and a couple of emblems.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Rogue DPS in instances

I was lucky enough to run a couple of level 80 instances with some guildies and as with most things I had recount running as a way to check how I was doing. I'm very aware that having respecced that my dps cycle is not down pat yet, the variations in combo point generation, energy regen and mob abilities mean that I'm not keeping up all buffs and debuffs that I should.

There were times that I was feeling about down about my performance, out of the five of us I was running third overall in damage done, behind a DK and slightly worrying the tank. However before running off to the forums and QQing about how rogues are broken and need x, y and z done to fix them let's look at how the pulls were being done.

Generally we would have a group of 3 or 4, the tank would mark the skull and charge in, we'd take down the skull and then pick off the rest. Given I have no real AoE dps, other than Fan of Knives which is currently on a 10secs cool down trying to get poisons and rupture up on mobs that are already below 50% health means there's little to no chance of getting those key abilities up for any meaningful time.

Ok, so my damage is nerfed, how come I'm below the tank? Well while there's 3 or 4 mobs on him he's busy using Swipe and a glyphed Maul which means he's hitting multiple mobs as is the DK who has a ghoul minion in tow.

Let's compare this to the final boss fight in Halls of Lightning. Loken requires that everyone stay close within range of each other and then run away when he starts casting the large AoE spell. This is a single target fight, and while there's movement, it's not bad enough that every debuff drops off. Checking the stats for that fight showed me well up in the number 1 spot in terms of damage done and raw dps figures.

What this shows is that rogues are still the kings of single target dps, and needs to be considered when looking at damage meters just how the damage was being dished out and how the mobs were being taken out.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Mutilate Solo DPS

As I mentioned in the last post I've switched back to mutilate spec and have found it very, very efficient for killing mobs whilst keeping me alive. So I thought I'd share what I've chosen in terms of spec, what buffs I have up, glyphs and what rotations are used.

The spec I'm currently using is 57/8/5 and is geared to being a soloing spec, hence why there isn't 5 points in Precision and I haven't taken Blood Spatter. However Deadly Brew and Improved Kidney Shot are great soloing abilities as well as for use in PvP.

In terms of poisons I run with Instant on the main hand and Deadly on the off hand. Instant on both wouldn't allow for the poison debuff from Master Poisoner and Mutilate to be available and Deadly on both is over kill due to having 1.4 speed daggers and some haste rating available on gear. Along with the increased chance to apply poisons from the Improved Poisons talent getting a deadly poison debuff up isn't a problem.

Ability rotations depend on whether I successfully get the jump on the mob from stealth or pull (either by proximity or Throw).

Pickpocket -> Cheap Shot -> Mutilate -> Kidney Shot -> Mutilate -> Envenom
There may be time (and energy) to get a second Mutilate after the Kidney Shot, and if you're unfortunate enough to come up against a poison immune mob then replace Envenom with Eviscerate.

Mutilate x2 -> Kidney Shot -> Mutilate -> Envenom

Finally in terms of glyphs I'm still running with a Glyph of Slice and Dice, but have also picked up a Glyph of Vigor giving me a total of 120 energy, and am looking for a Glyph of Rupture to fill out the slots. If the dual spec implementation also allows you to swap glyphs then I may revisit but at the moment they're mostly geared to group play.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Ding 80!

Some heavy questing (thanks in part to a four day Thanksgiving weekend, I'm not American but whilst working here I get the holidays) has meant that Crash has dinged 80 and now it's time to play the rest of the game without the nagging though in the back of my mind that I need to be levelling and how much XP I need to hit that next level.

Along the way I've replaced nearly all the epics I had from TBC which was a bit hard for the first few but gave way over time as it became clear they were definitely upgrades. Also with the exception of trinkets they've all been blue rewards from the end of quest chains or group quests.

I managed one afternoon of serious instance boshing doing Gun'drak, Halls of Stone, Drak'tharon Keep and the Violet Hold (twice). In all this I managed to pick up one drop, sometimes the RNG is a harsh mistress. The instances on the whole feel very good, the trash isn't horrendous and the bosses are different without being insane. My only complaint would be that too many so far have relied on switching target or some other mechanic which causes a loss of combo points or things like Slice'n'Dice fading. While it's not been a massive problem or caused a lack of damage output on my part it does seem slightly frustrating.

I've switched back to Mutilate and wow, it's just fantastic now. Mobs die within a stunlock if I cheap shot them or if I'm not in stealth then they don't have long to hit me before being stunned and finished off. I thought losing blade flurry would hurt more when I had two or more mobs on me but due to the speed at which things die it hasn't been a problem.

For weapons a friendly blacksmith made me a couple of Saronite Shivs which are so loaded with goodness that I don't see them getting replaced quickly and the speed means that poisons are nearly always up, which is handy for using Envenom to refresh Slice and Dice. I'm just about getting a skills rotation down but the fights and spec means it's not as cookie cutter as combat swords was at 70 so expect a write up soon(ish) on what I do and the spec I'm going to use for raiding. Currently my spec is more suited for solo questing so when duel specs finally come in it may be worth switching between the two rather than anything else.

Right, time to decide which faction to champion first :)

Friday, 28 November 2008

(Over) Half way there

The questing continues and having blitzed through Grizzly Hills and heading into Zul'Drak, Crash finds himself at level 76 with some new abilities to try out and Cold Weather flying within stabbing distance.

I am going to be hitting up an instance with my guild so Tricks of the Trade is going to get some testing (and may be a life saver given I'm a few levels above the tank) so a macro is going to be required. Most people have recommended setting the tank as the focus target and then having a macro like this:
#showtooltip Tricks of the Trade
/cast [target=focus] Tricks of the Trade

However if I'm going to be sapping things, I tend to set the Sap target as the focus target so that Class Timers can show me how long is remaining on the crowd control. In this situation the following macro may be more useful:
#showtooltip Tricks of the Trade
/target "Tank"
/cast Tricks of the Trade

The only disadvantage here is that there will be some loss of white damage whilst I'm not targetting the mob, and will need to be careful about how combo points are preserved when switching targets.

Finally I'm planning to switch back to mutilate, a blacksmith in guild has agreed to make me two Saronite Shivs which appear to be awesome for PvE so it'll be fun to go back and see how the changes in the Assassination tree pan out.

(Thanks to One Rogue's Journey for the details on the macros)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Catch up time

Wow, where does the time go. I've been busy working on a project in Poughkeepsie for the last two weeks and totally forgot to update this blog with what's been happening in game.

The cunning plan for getting me into the expansion kinda worked, it turns out you can't hack a US install to talk to the EU servers, but having already updated my account with the CE key I was able to download the expansion overnight on the hotel wireless. Finding that my hard drive didn't have enough space did cause a slight panic but the game runs just fine from a USB hard drive.

Anyways having logged in to find Shattrath deserted I retrieved Frosty from the mail box and headed to the Undercity ready to catch the blimp to Howling Fjord.

Having arrived in Northrend I was struck by just how different the landscape was. The buildings were more details and the zones seem more alive. Watching the wildlife fight each other as you run past makes a massive difference to just having everything wander along it's patrol routes. The detail in things like burning forests and snow capped mountains is a huge step up from what we've previously had.

The quests are also a lot more interesting, Crash is currently level 74 and been through most of Howling Fjord and Dragonblight and there's only been one or two quests that I've been frustrated by. I do like the way that quests become available once others have been completed, it feels a lot more story like and much more development. Also they're nicely grouped for you, so you don't have to spend huge amounts of time working out the best way around the zone to avoid retracing your steps unnecessarily.

One of the things I was looking forward to was running instances at the right level, unfortunately time zone differences mean that this isn't really possible at the moment, but I am pugging a lot of the group quests when someone asks in General chat and so far I haven't had a single problem.

My deathknight has escaped and is currently sat in Ogrimmar, not sure when or if he'll get levelled but I was very impressed with the starter zone and the quest chains that you go through.

So I'll carry on with the levelling, trying to keep a few professions up at the right level whilst getting my sneaky backside up 80 and enjoying the quests and lore involved with the zones.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The cake really isn't a lie

Again the achievements have driven me to get some more completion in things. This time it's cooking and the possibilty of being an 'Outland Gourmet'. I discovered I had most of the recipes already, and a quick trip to Worlds End Tavern and the Sporregar got me the last of the ones that could be bought. Switching my quest reward from the crate of meat to the barrel of fish picked up two of the extra recipes from there, leaving me with just the delicious chocolate cake recipe to get.

Well having picked Mana Berries again for the Rokk the crate of meat the final recipe dropped which meant I could complete two cooking achievements. Bring on the expansion which means I should be able to get a third title to go along with the Shattered Sun and Hallowed ones I've already picked up.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

It's all in the timing

Nearly everyone who hasn't been hiding under a rock for the last few months will have spotted that the new expansion comes out this week. I decided to pre-order the collectors edition, mostly for the free pet, but it nicely ramps up my playing of wow. Original game got as a free giveaway with a newspaper, TBC bought quickly and as a normal edition so I could play an elf on horde with friends up to where we are today.

So the plan was sorted and ready to go, when work gave me the opportunity to do a residency for four weeks in the United States. This wasn't an opportunity to pass up so I'm currently blogging this from my suite in Fishkill, NY with plans afoot on how I can get hold of the game key from my collectors edition and some installation media ready to make the journey to Northrend (even if it's a few hours different to the rest of the guild).

So far playing from the US to European servers over the hotel wireless doesn't seem too awful but my plan of being able to do instances whilst levelling at the right level may have to be slightly delayed due to time differences.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Another feral armor change

After the change to feral armor and the removal of the big green numbers from things like the clefthoof set other items such as rings, trinkets and weapons still kept them and still provided a huge boost when shifting into Dire Bear Form.

It appears now that while these items will still have the large armor values it won't be multiplied by the shift into bear form, giving the same benefits as to the other tanking classes. Obviously the lack of shields means that a bear needs some other way of staying alive rather than just mitigating the damage through massive amounts of armor.

My personal guess is that it will be through dodging (as opposed to Death Knights which will parry, or dodge as well) especially with the change that gives rage everytime we dodge. I'm not too worried about this change given the developers wish that all tanking classes are able to tank end game content but it does mean that it appears that rogues and feral druids are going to be rolling on the same armor items almost constantly.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

WTB: Patch 3.0.3

Hallows End has been a lot of fun again, the Headless Horseman remains a loot pinata with the added bonus of a new mount and sword. Plus there's all the extra achievement fun from flying around all over the world getting candy from the buckets and trying to get all the wand transformations.

Thanks to some help from willing Guild members I managed that (didn't realize you couldn't use them to transform yourself) and winning the helm meant the Sinister Squashling I won last year didn't have me hoping for two rare drops. However getting a second squashling on the same character is not fun and slightly depressing as you're forced to delete it from your inventory.

Anyways once the patch hits and the slightly crazy mask achievement is removed as a pre-requisite I can choose whether to be known as
Crashandburn of the Shattered Sun

Crashandburn, the Hallowed

I think it will depend on the situation, but having got a lot of stick for buying the title (it fitted my character to have it) having one that I've earned is going to be just as sweet.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Hitting the heroics

Having got used to the new druid spec, keybound all the new abilities to something useful and checked out the changes to armour etc. I felt that if there were enough willing volunteers in the guild it was time to hit up some instances for fun (and achievements).

Fortunately the normal and heroic instance of the day was Black Morass so there were a few takers so in we went. Once the group was formed and I was given lead to mark up I duly set the difficulty to heroic and in we went and cleared the beasties the patrol around. I started the event by running towards Medivh and then swiftly moved onto the first portal. The group consisted of feral druid, enh and resto shaman, ret pally (seriously how my damage are these guys doing at the moment) and a shadow priest. So I tanked the big elite next to the portal and the pally used consecrate to pick up all the adds allowing me to swipe for more aggro.

After the 3rd portal went down with no real problem, questions were asked as to whether we were truely running this on heroic mode (in fact I had to check the settings in the difficulty menu). Everything said we were doing the right thing so we pushed on to the first boss who promptly died, saved us to the instance and dropped a badge confirming what everything else was telling us. The rest of the instance went just as smoothly and again Medivh was able to bring the Orcs to Azeroth whilst we were able to complete the quests for extra badges.

Buoyed by our success we decided to go for another one with the same group and decided on Shattered Halls. If I'd been nervous about doing BM as a heroic, I was very nervous about Shattered Halls, especially given the amount of crowd control the group didn't have. Oh yeah, roots works in doors now, and is a great way to initiate a pull providing you pick the right add. Also the change to feral faeire fire to act as a DoT (which can crit) means that you can easily break crowd control from range (our Pally was using Repentance as another form of cc) whilst mopping up the adds.

There were a few deaths along the way (including mine) but at times we were just taking the whole pulls of 5 or 6, marking the skull and then just taking down all the rest having swiped for England to keep the rest off the healer or the dps. We even managed to take down all the bosses in time for the timed event for the Trial of the Naruu.

Other than the changes for swipe, faeire fire and swipe there are some other fun things in the feral druid arsenal.
Survival Instincts - Health boost for those 'Oh S***' moments handy for trying to survive those extra few seconds should you end up with more than you can handle or the healer gets incapacitated.
Beserk - Wow, just wow. Mangle hits 3 mobs at once and has no cooldown other than the global one. Unfortunately didn't make me immune to the Death Coil of one of the bosses but does provide a chance for a massive threat lead if you use it at the start of a fight.

There's still plenty of things to get used to and remember, potions and the herbalism heal being the main ones but there's some more finesse required to the tanking in the game now and more judgement calls. Currently the fights and instances might seem a little easy but once we start hitting Northrend and the fights our new abilities are tuned for it's going to be a whole new ball game. Can't wait :)

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Achievements can be embarrasing

Ok, not going on the raid this evening due to extreme tiredness so when a group starts being formed for heroic Arcatraz (the daily) I figure why not. I've only tanked this instance the once but otherwise it's only been up to the key frag.

Given the changes in the last patch, it wasn't that tricky, though the first boss did give us a bit of a hard time (stupid shadow novas) we successfully fought our way through and defeated the end boss. Suddenly there's the achievement spam as we all get the heroic achievement, but in amongst that was my achievement for defeating Harbringer Skyriss, which counts as the normal achievement.

Suddenly the question comes out over vent, with a slight mocking tone, "You've not completed Arcatraz before Crash?". Well no I hadn't, I levelled up long after most of the rest of the guild and so didn't do a huge amount of instances as we were starting to raid around the time I'd have been looking to hit the instances with no-one really around and me aiming to hit 70 as soon as possible.

I don't mind really, and it's quite nice that you can get both achievements from the heroic version but soon there will be very little you can hide from those you play with regularly.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Didn't see that coming

Wow! The patch notes for the 3.0.3 PTR have been made available and there's an interesting entry in the Druid section.
The Swift Flight Form is now available on the trainer at level 71, requiring 300 riding skill, and Flight Form learned.

There are similar announcements for warlocks and paladins who can get their epic land mount at level 61. I can understand the reason for the change, as people level up it's going to be trickier to get groups together for instances such as Dire Maul or Stratholme, heroic Setthek Halls is more of a challenge given the need for a heroic key. When Medrare got his quest complete we had to spend some time grinding Arrakoa feathers in order to help a willing victimvolunteer get the heroic key in order to get in.

At least they're not removing the quests so you could still go back and do them, especially with the extra chance of a land mount from Anzu for druids. For druids I would recommend doing the quests even if you don't do the last part mainly for the fun of having to play every part of your class and being involved with some of the basic lore of being a druid.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Druids after 3.0.2 or where the heck did all these skills come from

Having mucked about with Crash mostly since the patch hit I thought it was only fair that Medrare got a chance to learn some new spells and play with the new feral talents.

I've followed BBB's lead and sunk enough points into the feral tree to pick up Beserk at the cost of Omen of Clarity. With feral charge now available in Cat Form, Survival Instincts, Berserk ready for use in feral forms, Nature's Grasp now trainable I've run out of space on the 1-= action bar for everything I want to use. This isn't a massive problem as I'm used to keybinding extra abilities on other action bars for Crash it's just going to be a case of sorting out what abilities are going to be key regardless of bear and cat form and binding them easily.

The obvious ones are those that require either of the forms, so that'll be charge, survival instincts and berserk. I could also add Feral Faiere Fire but that's been on 0 for so long that changing it will most likely cause more confusion whilst trying to tank.

Anyways, druid posts are likely to be a bit fewer and farer between over the next few weeks and months as Crash gets levelled but I'll try and keep an eye on things an may well tank some of the early stuff if people are really desparate.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Well this is getting silly

The Headless Horseman is once again tearing up Brill and setting fires so as a responsible level 70 rogue it's time to head into the Graveyard in the Scarlet Monastery to break the curse.

The first time we tried this we had a full group of healer, tank, 2 warlocks and my sneaky self. The fight was over before I'd fully remembered what was going on. One member had to drop out so with one less warlock and a shaman healer instead of the priest we decided to try it 4man given no one else in guild was available. Whilst not as quick as the first time, there didn't seem to be any major problems so we carried on with the rest of our summons.

At the start of a subsequent fight our warlock dc'd so we effectively three manned it. Again the time taken was longer but the boss died and there was loot to be shared around.

Today a group was put together and cleared it for each of the one summons, under the threat of a server restart our warrior tank realized he had another chance to summon and promptly did. Our healer and one dps had already left the instance, so knowing I could Vanish should it all go wrong I stuck in. A hunter ran back and between us we took him down, I was amazed and slightly shocked to see that recount had me at over 1000dps with just a Mark of the Wild buff and a couple of poisons.

Gotta love the new talents and abilities that have come in the last patch but I think it shows just how tough the new bad guys we're going to have to face in the frozen north.

Achievements, discuss...

One of the big new changes recently was the introduction of achievements. Something that has sent certain members of my guild to the very corners of the world discovering things.

At a personal level I've been going for the 50 pet achievement especially with the UI change that means they don't take up bag space. I'm currently sat on 34 on Crash but may be able to get hold of the rest of the Alliance racial pets which should get me a lot closer to 50 and the extra pet.

While it is generating a reasonable amount of spam whilst in cities and from guildies I'm very happy to see it in game for the extra things it allows you to do. There's also the added bonus of having things to work towards, and random things that you can pick up without realizing you were going for them.

A recent example I was fighting in Arathi Basin trying to get 50 HKs with the G.N.E.R.D buff up as part of the Hallowed End achievements. Whilst in there I took the chance to pick up the Make Love, Not Warcraft by hugging a fallen member of the Alliance before they released. Having been on a HK grinding spree I was quite surprised when it was announced I'd achieved Arathi Basin Assassin. For this reason I shan't be reading up on all possible achievements (not that I'm convinced you can possibly remember them all) for the extra surprise when you hit one of them.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Raiding after the patch

Thursday is one of our normal raiding nights and true to form we tried to run one, however this time it was a chance to hit up some of the old world instances as an easier way to check everything was still working and get used to some new 51pt talents. Once the servers came back from an unscheduled shutdown we went in and downed Onyxia with no major hassles, though being able to spam 'Moar dots!!!' through raid warnings was great fun.

Once we'd turned the head in to Thrall, confusing a few people in and around Org we went off to kill some trolls in Zul'Gurub. Again this didn't cause any major hassles and soon we'd killed off all the Avatars and Hakkar himself. No mounts dropped sadly but we did get the achievements which does generate a large amount of spam when 15 people all get it at the same time.

Having completed the raids I have a few thoughts on how raiding is going to work (for us) until the expansion hits.

Raid addons
CT_RaidAssist is dead, it has ceased to be, and seriously screws up your chat window if you try to load it. In it's place we're running with oRA2 which provides all the same functionality and a little bit more. Suddenly raid votes and ready checks bring up a window showing who's voting which way.

Omen3 is the latest update to our favorite threat meter which now uses the built in threat information from the game. What this means is that the threat information is more reliable and should be able to cope with mechanics like threat resets, if we do something like the Nightbane fight this can be put to the test. There are also more information available during fights, such as when you're high on threat, losing threat, the mob is attacking you and if a mob changes target. Extra information is always good regardless of whether you're tanking, healing or dpsing.

Personal Addons
Most things seem to be working, and I'm taking the opportunity to have a clear out of addons which I no longer use or don't really need. Hopefully this will speed up some loading times and allow me to get the the occasionally mentioned, often done UI post.

The key thing at the moment is to get a working HUD up and running, ArcHUD2 is getting there but the latest build didn't show combo points properly which is a bit of an issue for a rogue. I'm currently playing with DHUD which shows everything I need but is slighlty different and not completely bug free.

Combat style
The standard 1pt S'n'D/5pt Rupture holds, but with a few new twists to the tale. My spellbook is currently inscribed with a Glyph of Sinister Strike and Glyph of Slice and Dice. The extra combo point generation and duration on Slice and Dice meant that I could refresh Rupture twice before Slice and Dice ran out. Not that I'd suggest trying this all the time but it's certainly worth considering based on the type of fight you find yourself in.

Now that a poisoned mob take a flat damage increase from everybody it's more of a requirement that there's at least one Deadly Poison debuff is on the mob. This means keeping an eye on the poison stack and using Shiv when appropriate to ensure it doesn't drop off.

Killing Spree is a lot of fun, as an AoE ability it doesn't really work on more than 2 or 3 targets, and jumping about all over the place can be a little disorientating. However on boss fights it's a good burst damage move and allows for energy regen whilst it's happening. Probably best that you do this right after a Rupture application to try and avoid any buffs dropping off.

Other than that everything seems to be carrying on ok, though with raid stacking buffs the huge number available now means you've gotta check very carefully to make sure you get the ones you want need.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Post 3.0.2 Spec

So with the patch going live it's time to look at how to spend all those refunded talent points and what the new bottom of the tree holds in terms of goodies.

I've decided to stick with combat swords for the moment mainly because I went all out once I had the S2 swords and had Mongoose put on both, a double Lightening Speed proc is a wonderful thing to behold and I'm not in a position to get my daggers up to the same level.

So without further ado here is the planned spec with explanation off the key points to follow.

Assassination (5 points)

5/5 Malice - Extra crit chance, key in any PvE build

Combat (51 points)

2/2 Improved Sinister Strike - SS spam for combo point building so make it cheaper
5/5 Dual Wield Specialization - Key talent for PvE builds
2/2 Improved Slice and Dice - Longer on S'n'D means more time to be able to refresh it
5/5 Precision - Key PvE talent, reduces need for hit rating
2/2 Endurance - Extra stamina and a reduced cooldown on Sprint and Evasion, very nice for soloing and possibly a heroic 15seconds of tanking a mob/boss.
2/2 Improved Kick - A personal choice mainly because I like the extra silence involved which can help the tank on a chain casting mob once Garrote has worn off.
5/5 Aggression - More damage from SS, enough said
1/1 Blade Flurry - Extra haste and a limited AoE, key in a combat build
5/5 Sword Specialization - Extra main hand hits, key talent that makes this combat swords :)
2/2 Weapon Expertise - Help reduce dodges from mobs (and to a lesser extent parries)
2/2 Blade Twisting - An interesting addition to a previous builds, but again extra damage for SS
3/3 Vitality - Quicker energy regeneration => more dps
1/1 Adrenaline Rush - Double the energy regeneration, not sure yet how this stacks with Vitality, time for some homework there.
5/5 Combat Potency - Extra energy, procs fairly regularly with a quick off hand weapon
1/1 Surprise Attacks - Make sure that Kidney Shot always hits home
2/2 Savage Combat - Raid support talent, just need to ensure that deadly poison stacks don't fall off.
5/5 Prey on the Weak - Increased damage for 100% of your dps time in raids (assuming bosses don't get heals)
1/1 Killing Spree - Another limited AoE or single target burst damage

Subtlety (5 points)

5/5 Relentless Strikes - Must have talent, see here

I'm holding off on a full 80 point talent tree, as it's already been said by Ghostcrawler that there's still some adjusting to do between now and the expansion release and almost certainly some more balancing to be done once the expansion hits.

Plus there's the whole dual spec detail to come with a decision on whether to have a PvE and a PvP spec, or a trash killing and boss killing spec, or a soloing and an instancing spec.

Monday, 13 October 2008

What glyphs to use?

So according to all indications patch 3.0.2 should hit this week (Tues for the Americans, Weds for us here in Europe) and with it comes the new profession, Inscription.

Alongside this level 70 characters will find themselves with the ability to have 2 major and 3 minor glyphs augmenting their spell book and with a variety of glyphs available which one's should the raiding rogue use.

I think the key one will be Glyph of Slice and Dice, however given this is the 2piece set bonus from the Tier 4 rogue set you may want to pass on this one while you've got the armor pieces.

Second to this will be Glyph of Rupture which increases the duration of Rupture. As the other key finishing move for raiding, increasing the duration of it will not only increase the damage from this finishing move but gives you a few more seconds to get that last combo point before refreshing it.

Assuming that you still have space for another major glyph at this point, your decision will be based on the spec you're playing with.

A combat swords rogue will want to take Glyph of Sinister Strike for the change for extra combo points, a combat daggers rogue will want to take Glyph of Backstab for the extra damage. Mutilate rogues will want to consider a choice between Glyph of Eviscerate for bigger damage when using this to refresh Slice and Dice or Glyph of Shiv to make it easier to get a poison on the mob before using Mutilate.

I've concentrated more on the damage glyphs as they suit the role of the rogue in current raid instances, the utility glyphs like Glyph of Sap and Glyph of Feint may well find place once we hit level 80 and get access to another major glyph slot. Also the dual spec changes that are coming with their different glyphs and hotkeys will certainly make things interesting and will be the subject of a future blog post.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Rogue 101: Stealth

There's been some discussion recently centered around the fact that rogues are getting something very similar to Misdirect in the form of Tricks of the Trade, whilst Hunters are not getting Camouflage because it was too similar to stealth and the developers referred it to a class defining skill.

Now I'm not going to go into the relevant merits of whether this is right or not, there's plenty of that here and on the forums but some of the comments about stealth were so inaccurate it's prompted me to write another Rogue 101 article.

So let's start by looking at the in-game description of this ability:
Allows the rogue to sneak around, but reduces your speed by 30%. Lasts until cancelled.
This is the current highest rank of stealth available (trainable at level 60), lower levels provide the same buff but have a higher reduction in movement speed. It is worth noting right at the start that stealth is not the same as Invisibility, any buffs (such as detect invisibility) that allow you to spot invisible targets will not help you spot a rogue in stealth.

To be spotted in stealth you need to be in front of the mob/player and close to them. How close depends on your stealth level compared to their stealth detection level. The general rule of stealth is that each level grants you 5 points of stealth and 5 points of stealth detection. So differences in level will be a big factor in how close you can get before before you're spotted. When sneaking up towards a mob, if you're spotted you'll get a warning as the mob makes a noise and turns to look at you, if you stay very still or back away you'll normally get away with it, otherwise the mob will attack and you'll lose the element of surprise.

An important thing to look for on a mob is an eye like symbol above their head which you can only see whilst in stealth. This indicates that the mob has the 'True Seeing" buff and will see you from a lot further out than a normal mob of that level. This is particularly important in dungeons and raids where there are more of these mobs and it'll negate the use of Sap as crowd control as you won't be able to get close enough to use the ability before they spot you and attack.

There are a few buffs that can be used to increase your stealth level which can be found on armor, talents or potions. Using these may allow you to sneak past higher level mobs or make you harder to spot whilst participating in a battleground.

Now that we know how stealth works and how it relates to other players and mobs, let's look at how we can use it during questing and playing in a group.

There are some key abilities that can only be used whilst in stealth:

Cheap shot is the standard opening move whilst questing which stuns the mob and adds two combo points.

Ambush requires the use of daggers but is great for burst damage either in PvP or soon in groups with the use of Tricks of the Trade on the tank.

Garrote adds a bleed dot and silences the target for a few seconds, this is a standard opener in PvE groups now, since the change making more mobs susceptible to bleed effects came into effect. Doing damage over time means that you're less likely to steal aggro from the tank in those first few moments of a fight.

Sap is the rogue crowd control which currently only works on Humanoids, but will soon be expanded to anything with a brain. Doesn't have a chance to break early and lasts 45seconds keeping the mob in place.

Distract causes mobs to look where you've put the distract. When used a targetting circle appears, everything in the circle will look at the centre of it should it not be resisted. Be wary of resists as you'll need to either wait for the cooldown or make another way round.

Pick pocket accesses a second loot table on humanoid mobs which always has some cash in it along with the possibility of some other goodies such as potions or junk boxes. Be vary careful using this before sapping as a resist on this will break you out of stealth and in the middle of a group of angry individuals.

The abilities we can use whilst in stealth as rogues are what make it such a core ability of the class. The fact that it's used to sneak around, bypassing mobs and getting the jump on opposing players only really scratches the surface of what it provides.

Monday, 6 October 2008

That's annoying

Just tried to login, enter password no problem, enter code from Authenticator and again no problem when suddenly a message pops up saying I've used all my prepaid time and need to purchase some more.

Now this comes as a bit of a shock as I pay monthly by credit card so I logged into the account management website and spot that the charge for this month is still marked as pending from the 4th. A quick check on the technical support forum and it appears I'm not alone (and someone else in my guild has hit it) but there's no ETA and no indication whether the problem is understood.

I shall just have to wait and see what happens and hopefully it's only a temporary problem.

Update: Everything seems back to normal today (07/10), however checking the account management page my billing date has shifted 3 days and there's still no explanation as to what's happened. WTB apology and explanation PST.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Do I need to spend 5 points there?

Whilst I've been mucking about a bit on the PTR (inbetween downloading patches) I've not really felt able to talk about the new talents and specs as they are still going through fairly big changes. Once you've got a handle on how things might work, things change and you need to re-evaluate whether the points are worth spending in a particular way and how it may affect your rotations.

One of the big changes that has been permanent for a while was the change to Relentless Strikes from a 1 point talent in the Assassination tree to a 5 point talent in Subtlety. As described in my post on energy and combo points, this talent makes the key finishing moves Slice and Dice and Rupture free when it procs, and it's a guarantee when you use 5 combo points on a finishing move.

Having to spend 5 talent points when you used to only have to spend 1 (and this is a key talent in any cookie cutter PvE build) made me look to see whether is was still required or whether other talents could mean you could spend those 5 elsewhere. For the purpose of this I'm looking mainly at the Combat tree as this has the Vitality talent which has changed from increasing stamina and agility to increasing energy regeneration by up to 25%. This means that instead of regenerating 20 energy every 2 seconds you'll regenerate 25 which will soon add up over the course of every fight. I'm also ignoring any procs of Combat Potency as they're a bit random and can't be relied on during a combat rotation.

So the question for me then was would the increased energy regeneration make up for the fact that your finishing moves no longer have a chance to return 25 energy?

In short no, and if you're not interested in my maths you can stop reading here and work out how best to spend the other 66 points you'll have at level 80.

Still here, ok, calculations are based around a combat style rotation of
1xSinister Strike->Slice and Dice->5xSinister Strike->Rupture
starting at 100 energy and using each ability as soon as you have enough energy to do so.

Once you've hit Rupture you're sat there with 0 energy and watching it smoothly come back. So the quicker you can get a combo point available for a Slice and Dice refresh the better and you'll need 40 energy to use Sinister Strike (talented). With all that in mind let's look at some figures for how long it will take till you can get that point:
Without Relentless Strikes
  • Normal - 4secs
  • Vitality - 3.2secs
With Relentless Strikes
  • Normal - 1.5seconds
  • Vitality - 1.2seconds

Looking at the results it should be clear that Relentless Strikes with it's 25 energy from the 5point finishing move beats the improved energy regeneration, though Vitality does look like it will add a nice DPS boost as you generate and spend combo points faster.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

RP Gear for the Expansion

Now I'm not an active role player and don't play on a role playing server but I do love all the extra touches Blizzard puts into the game which add some variety and can seem at times incredibly random. Being a rogue a huge source of these can be found from pickpocketing mobs (which you should be doing anyway for the extra income and lock boxes) but occasionally they can be found in the normal way through the killing and looting of mobs.

With the expansion coming up there are a couple of groups which are going to have some significance and there are ways you can look the part whilst doing it.

Dalaran - The new Shattrath of the expansion. So a place you're likely to spend a lot of time whilst repairing and sorting out bank/bag space etc. It's possible to look the part with a Dalaran Wizard's Robe which drops off the wizards in Silverpine forest. Easy to pick up as a Horde character, but if you're with the Alliance you'll have to check out the neutral auction house and hope to get lucky.

The Scarlet Onslaught - What's left of the Scarlet Crusade in Northrend. Try some extra deception by wearing your own Tabard of the Scarlet Crusade whilst keeping them at bay. This can be picked up by either side, all you need to get to the end of the Armory in the Scarlet Monastery, kill Herod and then decimate the Scarlet Trainees that spawn. Once they're all dead loot away and hope that it's dropped. Else run out reset and repeat until you do.

So there's my suggestions and the things you may see me wearing around Northrend, have fun.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

My new favourite toy

So Brewfest is back again and being celebrated around Azeroth. Along with the now traditional ram racing and Brewfest barking the Dark Iron dwarves are making a bigger impact with their attacks on the festival and their boss Coren Direbrew hanging around in Blackfathom Depths.

This bad guy is the daily boss of this festival, running along the lines of The Headless Horseman and Lord Ahune. With the added advantage of a shortcut from the instance entrance to the bar and the boss respawning without you having to run out and reset. A group of us went in and ran it a few times today, the new mount dropped but I lost the roll however over the course of the runs I picked up a new trinket and a new dagger.

However the coolest drop I won was this little doodad which not only provides a once an hour teleport to The Grim Guzzler but once there allows you to talk to the roadies for the L80ETC who will summon the band for a sound check. Cheering at them will grant you a +10% to all stats buff for 5 minutes which is quite handy for fighting the boss and lasts just about long enough to down him and try and get one of the elusive mounts. (Actually I've already got the ram due to obsessive brewfest ticket grinding last year).

Pirates vs Ninjas - Tis the turn of the pirate

On 19th September most of the world takes part in the noble tradition of talking like a pirate, something we took very seriously for our Friday night Karazhan jaunt as we all arrived in pirate costumes either from Savory Deviate Delight or from visiting Booty Bay and speaking to those celebrating on the roof. Here we can see Crash in all his piratey goodness along with pet parrot.

After the raid I looked at the pet and thought, well where can I get something a bit more unique. A quick search around and the Deadmines seemed to a good bet. Having never really played an alliance character this was also a great way to see some new content and wow running that as one of your first instances would be awesome especially with the quest to explaire the place.

Anyways, on the first run, Cookie dropped his Cat and on the 3rd run through one of the pirates gave up a parrot. I also have a nice head piece should I need to use it, there's always something good about a rogue wearing some kind of facemask.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Class Homogenization: Rogue perspective

There's a few posts going around discussing the class changes that are coming up and how they are removing some of the unique properties from classes and giving something similar to another class. Some people aren't looking forward to it (further explanations here) whilst others are looking forward to it. Personally I'm coming down in the second camp for one particular reason, the new raiding progression for 10 man groups and the ability for this many people to take down the raid bosses involved.

As has been mentioned our guild has successfully cleared Karazhan and had a couple of stabs at Zul'Aman with limited success. While we are running through Kara now for badges and to gear alts it's becoming clear that we can start to run with groups that would have horrified us when we first started trying to down the bosses.

Anyways one of the problems you face when hitting the 25man raids is that there are suddenly key classes that must be there for the fight to succeed. We're talking about Warrior tanks for things such as Illidan, Warlocks for Magtheridon, Hunters for the High King Maulgar fight. Which is fine in a group with 25 key players, once you've sorted the number of tanks and healers you require, there's still some room to have the right number of key classes and bring the rest of the players that have signed up. Once you scale that number down to 10 there's a lot less room for manourve.

You'll probably still need 2 tanks and 2/3 healers which leaves you with 5 dps spots. If you suddenly need say 3 hunters then your rogues, dps shamans, mages, warlocks etc. are left fighting for the last 2 spots. However if the key ability that a hunter had that is required for the fight and someone else has an ability that is similar well then it makes sense that a.n.other class can do it in their stead.

What does this mean for the rogue, well suddenly we'll be required to do more tasks than just dpsing down the current dps target, and this is going to make instancing and raiding a lot more fun and varied. A misdirect, AoE, ability to disarm and the like all mean we can do something that will benefit the raid as a whole and help support other classes. A feral tank can't disarm like a warrior but with a rogue in the party there's suddenly one available to them.

So while other classes may decry the loss of something they felt makes them special, and die hard dps monkeys may cry about having to spend precious energy on something other than something to put the hurt on the big bad I say bring it on, let's start having some fun and learning some new tricks. It's a brand new world so lets enjoy it and help our guilds/groups destroy the new big bads hiding around the corner.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Rogue 101: Energy and Combo Points

The unique combat mechanic of the rogue class is the use energy and the generation of combo points. For anyone who's been more used to rage or mana which are just used in order to perform an action or spell things can be slightly confusing, and this is where this article hopefully comes in :)

The basic rules of energy are that you have 100 energy which regenerates at a rate of 20 energy every 2 seconds. Currently this appears in 20 energy blocks, however the next patch will change this to a much smoother rate of 1 energy every .1 second.

In the same ways that spells cost mana, rogue abilities cost energy and it's always a fixed amount for each ability. If you don't have enough energy then you can't perform that ability and an error message will appear in the same way as if you try to cast a spell when you don't have enough mana.

There are various items and talents which can affect energy regeneration which we shall look at now.

The first is Thistle Tea which is a special rogue only potion made via the cooking profession and gained by completing a faction specific quest. Up to level 40 it returns 100 energy and after that returns 100 - ((level-40) * 2) energy meaning that at level 70 it'll only return 40 energy, which is only really an emergency finishing move or a talented sinister strike so isn't seen very much in current end game raiding.

In terms of talents there are 4 major ones to be aware of (patch 3.0/WotLK stuff included).
  1. Relentless Strikes - A tier 3 assassination talent which gives a 20% chance per combo point to restore 25% energy. In real terms this means that a 5-point finishing move such as rupture and slice and dice is effectively free as they cost 25 energy and are guarenteed to restore 25 energy due to this talent (5 * 20% = 100%). In patch 3.0 this talent is due to be moved to a tier 1 subtlety talent and will require 5 points in order to gain the same effect.
  2. Combat Potency - Lurking at the bottom of the combat tree we find this talent which with 5 points invested in it will give successful offhand attacks a 20% chance to restore 15 energy. Now with slice and dice up you're going to be hitting the mob a lot (especially with a fast off hand weapon) so this will proc fairly often and allow for extra attacks sooner than initially expected.
  3. Focused attacks - A new talent for patch 3.0 in the assassination tree which with 3 points in gives melee crits a 30% chance to restore 3 energy. This is very similar to the Improved Leader of the Pack heal on melee crit, but doesn't appear to have the hidden cooldown.
  4. Arcane Torrent - One of the Blood Elf racial talents, currently restores 10 energy for every mana tap you've got stacked (up to 3). Come the next patch this is changing to restore 15 energy but is more likely to be used for the silence component when kick or gouge are on cool down.
Finally, I said at the start of this section that you have 100 energy, well it is possible to have more through a couple of means.
  1. Vigor - Another assassination talent which increases your total amount of energy by 10 so with this alone you can go up to 110. More energy means more damage and given that Mutilate costs more than Sinister Strike an assassination rogue can always do with that extra top up. Patch 3.0 is moving this higher in the tree so we may see more rogues taking it for end game at level 80.
  2. Gladiator's PvP gear - The 4-piece set bonus increases maximum energy by 10 so an assassination rogue could end up with 120 energy for double mutilate goodness in a battleground or arena fight.

Combo points
Combo points are gained in 1s 2s or occasionally 3s when you sucessfully perform an ability that grants them. If the attack is parried, dodged or misses then you aren't awarded the points so it's always worth checking to see whether the attack landed. Combo points are tied to a particular mob and you can have a maximum of five on that mob. Finishing moves consume the combo points and are generally more potent the more points that are used. This can be in the form of increased damage or a longer duration buff or a combination of the two depending on the move.

Each ability that generates combo points will generate a fixed number which is listed in the description but there are other ways combo points can be generated.
  1. Seal Fate - 5 points into the assassination talent means that every combo point generating move that crits adds an additional combo point. The additional is the key point, a mutilate (which adds 2 combo points) that crits will add 3, which is enough to consider a finishing move if you need to.
  2. Premiditation - A subtlety talent which adds 2 combo points which are available for 10 seconds or until used. Not having played a subtlety spec fully I'm not always sure of when to use this, but I suspect it would be useful for increasing the duration of a stunlock or ensuring a bigger eviscerate/envenom should you need to finish someone off quicker.
  3. Initiative - Another subtlety talent and with 3 points spent in it gives you a 75% chance to add an additional combo point when using one of your abilities from stealth.
  4. Ruthlessness - Back in the assassination tree, 3 points in this talent gives each finishing move a 60% chance to generate a combo point.
  5. Netherblade - The Tier 4 rogue armor from Karazhan, Gruul's Lair and Magtheridon, 4 pieces of which will give your finishing moves a 15% change to generate a combo point.

A useful fact about 4 and 5 is that they are independant chances so when the random number generator is on your side a finishing move can generate 2 combo points and cost no energy (see above).

Energy is something that is always available and will always regenerate at a constant rate. It is used to perform abilities that generate combo points and spend them. Always ensure you have enough energy to perform the moves you need and wait for the energy to regenerate if you don't. Combo points are available on a use them or lose them basis on a single mob but the more you have the more powerful the finishing moves you'll be able to perform. When playing keep a watch eye on both how much energy and how many combo points you have at any one time.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

I'm in

Characters have been copied successfully and were there when I logged into the PTR this morning. Crash (or Crshnburn as he's had to be called) has got a shiny new assassination spec to play with. Initial testing show it's a lot of fun, though I'm going to have to go up against something quite tough to make use of all the new talents and abilities.

Also going to have to hack in some addons, really can't cope without my Hud showing energy amount and combo point totals.

Stay tuned...

Monday, 15 September 2008

Experiences of the PTR process

1) Download large installer file.
2) Set installer running overnight
3) Get up at 3.30am to stop now running client playing music, use time to make use of empty transfer queue to initiate character copy for both 70s
4) Watch average transfer times rise and fall whilst yours are pending
5) Decide to check out the PTR forums to see if there's anything relevant
6) See the *huge* amount of whinging and trolling and pointless posting
7) Log out and do something else

Now this isn't a whinge on my part, yes I'd like to get in there and start playing with stuff but I understand that with all the new stuff there's probably most of the player base wanting to get in there and trying things out.

However if you've managed to get a character copied and are trying things out please be constructive, yes ret paladins have been heavily buffed, yes rogues are still going to be a problem to casters (remember to wave to your anti-class), no this isn't the final product.

The whole point of testing is to see how things are working and adjust them when necessary. It's also worth remembering that all the shiny 51pt talents that are available have to be suited to our roles as brave adventurers against the Lich King in Northrend so are going to seem a bit over-powered when used at our current level. In the words of the current big bad, 'We are not prepared', but need time to grow into these new skills and ensure that they're right for what we need to do.

Let's not forget that there will be changes after the expansion hits, just look at what's happened with the Cheat Death talent, and things will be adjusted as the developers see how players make the best of their class.

If you really want to ensure the game remains fun, play it and play it well, only then can the developers see what can be done with the talents and abilities they've given you as no matter how good you are you'll never think of every little way things can be used.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

I've been on a bit of a collecting mission recently, with the change to the pet UI coming in the next patch it's not going to be so much of a bag space problem keeping all those cute lil guys around and can randomly pick one to have by your side for a particular fight.

The whole collection has been augmented with Don Carlos' famous hat for the added bonus of appearing to have a tame shaman in tow. Killing the man himself was a lot of fun as we took Crash, our MT feral druid and a shadow priest to help with healing. Providing we didn't do anything daft like swipe a patrol or miss a need to taunt him off the priest he died fairly smoothly and provided the entire team with the aforementioned stylish headpiece.

After that the bear and I went to pay Baron Rivendare a visit which was a bit of a laugh. The only major problem we faced was when killing Baroness Anastari. Not fully understanding the mind control aspect of the fight I duely got posessed had all the useful abilities (Evasion, Adrenaline Rush) used and I took down the druid before he could damage me enough to release the posession. Other than that we had a clean run through and even managed to kill him before the hostage got sacrificed. Sadly the mount didn't drop but it was a trip which allowed for some lore based exploration and a map I'll need to learn for the new Caverns of Time instance.

Loads of people have suddenly found themselves with a beta invite, but I haven't but given my main aim was to try out some of the new talents and spells I'm going to have a go a getting onto the PTR for the patch which will include all that stuff. The client is downloaded and I'm just waiting for the copy queue to clear up so I can get Crash and Med across and have a play. If all goes to plan I'll put some stuff up about new talent spec's I've tried and how things work out.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Oh yeah it does that...

When putting together the previous post I initially was going to state that druids didn't have any interrupts. Fortunately I was asked to tank Arcatraz (all the way through which was a novelty) for one of our mages who was keen to get his Sha'tar rep to revered for the glyph.

Whilst tanking Dalliah the Doomsayer our plan was just to dps through the heal due to lack of rogue/shaman. As I got out of Whirlwind range the dps did the best thing whilst the boss isn't being actively tanked, and continued nuking. So to get back in quickly I used Feral Charge hoping to either keep the stack of lacerates up, or get it back quickly enough. The mechanics of the fight mean that she always casts heal straight after the whirlwind, and as I shot back in faster than the average bear I noticed the heal fail to complete.

D'oh, /facepalm, time to cut up my tanking licence, I forgot about the interrupt component of the charge, mostly because of the amount of times I charge at something that isn't casting, or is immune to the effects. I'm sure there's been others, and it's probably only going to get worse as the next expansion (and probably the following ones) introduce new abilities.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Things I miss when playing the other character

We had another of our weekly Karazhan runs last night and due to a surplus of tanking specced classes Medrare got to go as dps. With no other feral druids in the party I had the extra challenge of keeping Mangle and Faerie Fire up on the mobs being focussed on. It was a lot of fun especially as I was acting as raid leader again so had to run tactics as well.

Given that running around in Cat form is a lot like playing a rogue it got me thinking about what I miss from one class whilst playing the other. So here is a non-definitive list for each of them:

Heals - Relying on food, bandages and natural regen can be slow and expensive at time. Linked with this is Improved Leader of the Pack with it's improved crit chance and heal every so often when you do crit helps you to do the Duracell Bunny thing and keep on going.
Instant pulling - Whilst stun locking and getting the first blow in from stealth is the way of dispatching a mob 99% of the time. That other 1% requires you to pull 1 away from the group to dispatch away from his friends who might be slightly upset with you. Throw or Shoot take time to happen plus the travel time which means that the bad guy has the opportunity to wander. Something like faiere fire means that you use it you know you're only going to pull the mob you're interested in.
Variety - When raiding or instancing the rogues job is usually the same in every fight, do as much damage as you can whilst not causing the tank a headache, an occasionally preventing a spell cast. Whilst you can tweak and perfect your rotation to try and eek out those last 1 or 2 dps after a while it can become a bit samey. With a druid, even a feral one you've got all the tools to heal and provide ranged damage, it's not the best but whilst raiding I've provided a combination of tanking/dps and healing all in the same run.

Interrupts - There is nothing more annoying that seeing a mob casting something that would cause a lot of pain should it complete. Whilst Maim can be used it does rely on not just having spent all your combo points on Rip and having the energy to use it. Having something else in Cat Form such as Kick would be fantastic.
Vanish - Not only great for dumping threat should you need to during a fight but when things get a bit tricky due to running mobs or things wandering in during the middle of your fight being able to trick them all that you're not there can be a big life saver.

Now this isn't a wish list for either class, just trying to highlight some of the key things each class can bring by noticing them when they're missing when you play a different one.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A quick loss would've been better?!

So I was playing a couple of games of Alterac Valley last night trying to gather together the last bits of honour needed for the S2 OH dagger ready for the new talent trees.

It does appear in my battle group that once you get past midday you end up with every stereotype of battleground player. There's the AFKers keeping the cave safe, the wannabe generals shouting orders regardless of who's paying attention and the whingers who complain that everyone is useless and the Horde always lose.

Having won one game, I queued up again and off we went. The Alliance played a good game and soon we were all pushed back to Frostwolf Keep and required to defend heavily. So defend we did, when rogues and druids sneaked past and tried to capture the towers we ran back, flushed them out and prevented the capture and then ran back to keep them at bay.

Do you know what, it was a lot of fun, we were organized in that chaotic way, we got healed, we took out the healers and generally made life difficult for the invaders. As the battle raged it was clear the the Alliance reinforcements were running out quicker than ours were and sure enough we won the match.

As we entered the closing stage the immortal line from the title was uttered by one of our side, the full quote as I remember it was "I would say gg, but a quick loss would of been better". I was so surprised that I completely forgot to screenshot it and managed not to say something unfortunate in battleground chat. It did make me wonder though, if you're going to play a game in such a way that a quick loss is better than an epic, well fought for win why are you playing it.

Sure when playing with complete strangers things might not always be exactly as you would like it, but if you can't try and find something to like then get out, and stop causing me to fill up my ignore list with people who feel the need to spout off about how wrong everyone else is for trying to enjoy the game.

Anyways I've now bought the dagger so I can hopefully avoid these people and just hang out with all the lovely people in my guild.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Now is the pre-expansion lull of our discontent

Unless you've been very cunning with what you've been reading on the interwebs you'll be aware that there's an expansion on the way, and before that a hefty content patch with some of the new stuff.

Will all this exciting stuff in the offing there are a couple of view points which are surfacing and being discussed.

The first is expansionitis which means people cut back on their playing because anything you might be able to gain in game now will soon be replaced by quest and dungeon rewards from the frozen north.

The second is what I shall call preparationitis, where people are trying to get everything they might need for the progression through the new levels, professions, dungeons. This can include but is not limited to crafting materials, armor/weapons and of course gold.

Either of these can suddenly make the game seem like a chore as you wait patiently for the new exciting stuff just peeking it's head above the horizon. So my advice is don't let it; if you've lost interest in raiding, why not go back and do some old quests around the place, check out Tranquillen if you've not rolled a Blood Elf, go kill Hogger (I might do this as I've only played Horde). If you're sick of all the dailies or flying around mining, herbing or skinning stuff, go look for fun stuff to pick up from in game. There's loads of things that are in the game for fun whether it's a non-combat pet or random trinket which should be very easy for a level 70 character to go and collect.

If you've still done all this and looking for something then why not roll an alt, not for any particular purpose, they don't need to hit 70, they don't need to be geared for whichever raid you're currently running, they can just be there for a laugh and something new to learn. If you're doing any kind of raid leading or boss tactics, nothing gives you a better insight into how a class works than to have played it, at least out of the starter zone and a spending a few talent points.

Personally I've got a troll hunter who's running through the Arugal quest line and searching for Mankirk's wife again. Come the expansion he'll probably be forgotten whilst Crash and Med and a yet to be named Death Knight head towards 80 but it's a bit of a laugh running through the old content and quite frankly ridiculously easy with my ickle cat keeping everything at bay.

So what are you doing in the pre-expansion lull, or are you not feeling any problems and WotLK can arrive when it arrives?

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Stats for the young feral druid

Rakhman from Flameshock added a comment to a recent post asking whether AP or crit would be better for his baby druid as it levels through the mid 40s.

There is a quick answer which I could just give but that might lead to more questions, so in the style of all the best exam questions I'm going to explain my answer. Now this is my first real theory-crafting post so should there be any errors etc please be kind.

The druid in question is level 45 so I'm going to assume a build something like this, which is based on the leveling guide put together by BBB.

Looking at the talents alone, 2 points in Primal Fury provides an extra combo point every time one of your special moves crits. This does mean that you can build up combo points quicker and execute more powerful finishing moves.

Before we get all giddy and start stacking crit let's look at the moves we'll be using and how they work. A good rule of thumb would be to prowl up to a mob, pounce on it, Shred 1-3 times depending on energy and OOC procs. Once the mob is facing you it's time to use a combination of Claw and Rake. Once you have 4 or 5 combo points Rip, or if the mob is very close to death, Ferocious Bite. As an aside we use the finisher at 4 points as if the next combo point generating move were to crit you would lose the bonus combo point.

Digging into the description of these talents we can see a repeated phrase, "scales with Attack Power", which as it suggests means the more attack power you have, the more damage you do when using it. Attack power also increases the amount of white damage you do, which will be a lot in cat form due to the 1.0 swing speed of your claws.

So in answer to the orignal question I would take the AP increase even if it meant losing a small amount of crit. It is also worth remembering that in a few levels it will be worth respeccing to pick up mangle and at the same time you'll get Leader of the Pack which will increase your crit chance by 5% whilst in cat or bear form.

Whilst looking at gear from quest rewards and possible from the auction house it's worth remembering which stats go directly towards attack power.
Bear Form: 1pt of Strength == 2AP
Cat Form: 1pt of Strength == 2AP, 1pt of Agility == 1AP

So there we go, take the AP increase and have fun clawing the faces off all the mobs in your path.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Now where'd I leave my daggers?

A few weeks back I posted my thoughts on what would be a good rogue build once Crash reached level 80. Now in hindsight I should have listened to BBB's advice and not got quite so giddy about the new information, but I fear I might be about to do the same again.

Latest posts on the beta forum has shown some really interesting news and changes which may have suddenly made me decide on who gets levelled first. I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail but the changes to mutilate just make me smile all over.

The removal of the positional element will make a massive difference to game play and style. Whilst 99.9% of the time the phrase rogues do it from behind is apt, there are times when it's not possible to be behind the target due to game mechanics. Think of the Romulo fight where he has a backward stab, Aran where he's spinning like a top channeling arcane missles at the ranged and Nightbane where you need to stay away from the tail.

I always enjoyed my mutilate build, it was a lot more technical to play, and it looks like the new talents are only going to complement that style of play. Having had Malchazeen in my bags for ages it might well be time to break it out for some fun (though I probably should get the S2 offhand again).

Once the patch hits the live servers I'll have a play and post what I come up with right here.

I have seen the comment asking for information regarding AP vs crit for feral druids and I'm working on it, but it's turning into a chunky theory crafting post so will take some time to put together, stay tuned.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Knowing your (threat) limits

So if you've done much instancing or raiding you'll have a threat meter installed and running. If you don't go install Omen, don't worry we'll wait for you to come back.

Ok, so now we've got it installed there's some very funky configuration you can do to help stop pulling aggro without having to stare at the bars. Opening up the configuration we can go to the options for 'Single Target Mode' and under that we see a set of options for 'Warnings'.

The tick boxes should be fairly self explanatory, so turn on as much as you need to ensure you know when you're getting close to aggro. Personally I have a sound played (war drums), flash the screen and stick a warning message out. The warning message also hooks into Scrolling Combat Text if you use that for information whilst destroying the enemy.

So the final thing to consider is when one of these warnings should go off. In the options is a slider which ranges from 60 to 130. Before we go picking which number is best, let's remind ourselves of the threat mechanics for pulling aggro. If you are in melee range then you need to exceed 110% of the threat the current player the mob is targetting before it will attack you. If you are at range then you'll need to exceed 130%. The value you set the slider to means that when you hit that percentage of the tanks threat the warning will go off as you've configured them.

I personally have the slider set to 90, and I'll explain why. While I'm not going to pull aggro till 110% it's always worth being careful of the nasty situations, such as the tank gets a string of misses/parries and you get a string of crits. By leaving a bigger gap you can just use white attacks for a bit without relying on any threat dumps which use energy or have a large cooldown. As a ranged dps player you may want to set it higher but that's my recommendation for melee people (which is the target audience for this blog).

As a final word please don't be swayed by those chasing the dps meters who suggest leaving the warning to the last possible moment, stealing aggro from the tank isn't big or clever and can cause problems for the rest of the raid. If you want a fun game see how many times you can trigger your warning during the boss fight, which means you're right on your limit but not causing issues for everyone else.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Proof Alchemy doesn't hate me

While the discovery mechanism is a nice touch it can be very frustrating to have some great recipes available in game which can only be found through a remote random chance whilst making other things.

So having got to 375 alchemy and made a while bunch of elixirs and potions on the way it was a bit frustrating to not have made any discoveries. Well know that flying around and picking herbs is that huge amount quicker I've decided to recoup some of the flying skill costs by making and selling potions (something made a bit smoother by being a potion master). Well there I was busy making haste potions when this happened.

Not a flask I'm going to use often (well not without a respec and regear) but I know there'll be some mages and boomkins out there that will be after them.

Is it a bird...?

Due to a lack of sign-ups our Friday raid was canceled and in it's place our veritable raid leader suggested that we head into Sethekk Halls and defeat Anzu so that Medrare could get his Swift Flight Form. Our party for this mission would be two feral druids, a resto druid, hunter and mage.

Our start time was slightly delayed by the discovery that our Mage didn't have the Auchenai key due to a lack of Lower City reputation. The Arrakoa of Terorkkar didn't know what had hit them as 3 of the party went to grind feathers whilst the mage and healer looked for quests which could be completed for extra reputation. A couple of hundred feathers later we were ready to go.

A couple of attempts on the first boss and we were on our way up to the main event. Our main tank had slight reservations about some of the pulls (based on when we ran this instance for his quest) but we bravely fought our way through and then it was up to face the Raven God. It was a flawless fight and soon the Emerald Dream was saved from the menace and on a slightly selfish level I completed the quest. Sadly the mount didn't drop, and we were unable to kill the final boss but I was able to ditch Flight Form and speed my way back from Cenarion Refuge to Shattrath for a fly past show.

The instance run again required a bit of everything from me, mostly cat dps, with the occasional OT role for cc, using Hibernate for cc and healing the MT should it desperately be required. This relates very closely to the whole quest chain which leads up to the instance run, which has been the most fun quest chain I've done in game. Requires a bit of everything you have as a druid and making sure you do a bit of everything a druid can do.

We can only hope that there are more quest chains like this that can be experienced in future gameplay as the expansions come out.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Rogues and Battlegrounds

I've done a few battlegrounds during my WoW playtime, mainly to grind for the S1 and then S2 swords but occasionally to get some gold from the daily quest or just let off some steam by beating up some alliance.

Having heard enough calls to nerf rogues from priests, mages, warlocks and just about anyone else who's had their behind handed to them on the end of a dagger/sword/mace I thought I'd share some tactics I use and that way other people can know what might happen and start thinking...

Arathi Basic Defense
I love playing defense in AB and in fact can get quite possessive of my flag and go a bit gung-ho to get it back should the enemy manage to steal it away from me. Anyways being in stealth is an obvious state of affairs, but a key aspect of the AB map is the amount of bushes and shrubberies near the flag. These can help camouflage you even more and are away so any AoE that a class does next to the flag doesn't de-stealth you before you can hit the stunlock.

It is very amusing to watch someone and start capping the flag only to find themselves at half health and with a stack of poisons applied. So remember if the flag looks undefended there's a rogue, no really, there is. Don't come crying to me that you got killed because you should know they're there.

Make use of fear
Yes it's annoying when you do the headless chicken dance due to some warlock or priest hitting a magic defense button but watch your combat flag, chances are that once the fear has worn off you'll be out of combat and able to re-stealth without having to Vanish and of course stealth equals stunlock which is always nice.

Kick the Elemental
99.999% of the mages you come up against in a BG will be frost specced and so have a pet water elemental which they can summon to cause mayhem. However they only have one school of magic available and kicking them leaves them stood there with nothing to do except watch their master get obliterated.

So there's a few tips and what you should be looking out for. If anyone has any for playing a feral druid (other than trying to be a rogue in cat form) I'd be very grateful for them.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Going back for fun prizes

One of the disadvantages of having started to play after The Burning Crusade expansion came out is that I never did any of the higher level dungeons or the raids. Our guild has done a couple of retro runs to Molten Core and Black Wing Lair but that still leaves several dungeons, quests and loot I've never seen.

Well what's the point of having two level 70s with stealth if you can't go sneaking around things to get just what you need. Firstly I headed into Stratholme, a place I'd been only once to help a fellow guildie get their paladin epic mount, but with 3 other level 70s in the group it didn't really take long and a lot of things died before you got a chance to see what they were. Regardless I snuck my way in, killed a couple of groups and started sneaking around looking for Hearthsinger Forresten. He died the first time no problems (alongside the mobs I aggro'd) but only dropped some mail loot. No problems, run out, reset and repeat. Second time I had a better understanding of what I was doing and he could be taken out without aggroing anything else. A quick stunlock and Piccolo of the Flaming Fire was mine, which is going to be fun whilst we're hanging around in raids.

Next up were the pets awarded from the quests from Kibler which required going around Lower Blackrock Spire collecting spider eggs and a worg pup. The only problem was the sprawling nature of the instance and trying to find my way out once I'd completed the quests. A quick run back through the Burning Steppes to hand in and a Smolderweb Carrier and a Worg Carrier found their way into my bags.

Finally the giant cannon outside of the Aldor bank indicated that the Darkmoon Faire was back in town. So what should have been a quick run to Blackrock Depths to pick up some Dark Iron Ale in order to return Jubjub to his owner and get my own Jubling. If I thought LBRS was sprawling it was nothing compared to this. Fortunately lockpicking meant I could bypass a lot of things once I found my way round and as you can buy the ale in bulk it meant Medrare could also get a pet.

In other news the Spirit of Competition smiled on the little druid as a fantastic 5cap win in Arathi Basin rewarded him with a Gold Medallion.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Karazhan Off Tanking

Now Medrare has the Master's Key, he's fully able to sign up to guild runs on his own merit and start tanking things with his face. The run was pretty smooth with only one wipe due to a ninja pull of an elite pack and we survived it the second time it happened (well I didn't but it's not a wipe if half the raid survive). It was good to learn boss fights from a new perspective even if you can't really see a thing of what's going on with the rest of the raid.

Attumen the Horseman
A place for the off tank to shine as you start the encounter by tanking Midnight until the mount up. Our boomkin pulled aggro and died before I could grab him back but other than that it was smooth whilst he was dps'd down. Once phase 3 started and I wasn't needed to tank anymore it was time to go cat and pretend to be a rogue. However one of our priests didn't survive the transition to phase 3 and so required a battle rez and innervate before I could get back to it and down he went.

No need to run after adds here, just a case of keeping up with the main tank on threat and staying alive when the MT gets gouged. Again we lost a healer due to a bad combination of the MT being gouged and me being blinded. No problems a quick battle rez and innervate again and we'll be back in the fight. Unfortunately I didn't spot that I wasn't targeting the healer before hitting the button and innervated myself. As it was we managed and got everything killed without losing any of the raid.

Little Red Riding Hood
A rarity for our guild as we always seem to get Wizard of Oz, but an Opera where I wasn't really required to tank so time to go cat again. The plan went a bit south when a priest died whilst Red Riding Hood I needed to shift back out and help keep the tank alive with rolling lifeblooms, and the occasional big heal when I managed to resist the fears.

Maiden of Virtue
Again only one tank required so this fight was almost identical to when I've done it on Crash except running out to heal is a lot easier when you not relying on potion and bandage cool downs, and again it's possible to help keep the main tank alive when the main healers are all stunned due to Repentance.

Sadly no tanking/cat dps loot dropped but there are the lovely badges to compulsively collect and it was a lot of fun fighting the encounters with a different set of skills and responsibilities. Hopefully there will be enough raids over the summer that I can get along to to try out all the fights again and hopefully get my gear a good leg up ready for the expansion.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Little Bear in Big Raid

Last night was the last of our scheduled Kara runs for the raiding week, with the run from Aran up to Prince staring us in the face. Given that Med still isn't keyed I was all signed up with Crash ready to interrupt Aran's spells and run away whilst enfeebled from the Prince's Shadow Nova.

However when invite time came around we found ourselves a tank short so Med was called in to try and not die to the nasty elite mobs that patrolled around the former home of Medivh.

Things went fairly smoothly, our healers did a great job keeping my health a positive value and deaths were just a part of learning to deal with the new tank and how well I can cope with the damage from the bad guys.

Anyway we were soon outside the Shade's room and it was decided tanking on the summoned elementals would be better than dps and interrupt given we didn't have any warlocks to fear or banish. One quick(ish) fight later and Aran was dead and there was badges and loot to be distributed.

After a quick bio break we headed up to the Chess event which was very smooth and the dust covered chest gave up a very nice necklace for me before disaster struck. Suddenly a few internet connections (including my own) broke down and we had to call the raid early before the Prince could feel our wrath.

All in all a good night given the 'chucked in the deep end' feeling at the beginning and trying to learn the encounters from a new perspective. Hopefully once I can get the key and on the quest chains inside the rest of the encounters will have that shiny new feeling to them again.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Gathering the karazhan key fragments

Now while patch 2.4 removed the need to hold The Master's Key in order to enter Karazhan our guild still has a rule that any character that wants to go raiding should have gone through the atunement quests, partially to open up the other quests for the nice reputation reward rings, and to ensure that people have had at least some experience of playing that character in a group, which is important given that it's now very easy to level to 70 without stepping foot into an instance.

So now that Medrare is 70 and getting some tanking experience under his belt, the key fragments needed to be collected from the various arcane containers. The first step was to head into the Shadow Labyrinth and required the full clear.

Our group did fairly well considering, the first boss didn't cause any major headaches, the time for fun guy killed a few people but we got him down before he got all of us or incited enough chaos for us to kill each other. Grandmaster Vorpil gave us a couple of scares, once for not getting out of Hellfire, and the other when a rogue skeleton popped up and took out our healer. The third time was the charm and we moved on and stood face to face with the essence of sound Murmur.

I've got bad memories of this fight on Crash who managed to die on every attempt due to getting hit by Sonic Boom. However this time no such problems, Quartz made it a doddle to know when to run out and Feral Charge means that you're always on the very edge of the hit box when it's time to head back in there. Down he went and after defeating the guardian the first fragment was retrieved.

Lessons learnt: Having important information up front and centre in my UI makes things so much easier in terms of keeping aware. Once I've sorted out the full tanking setup I'll post some screenshots along with Crash's dps version.

The 2nd and 3rd fragments require trips into Steamvaults and Arcatraz and whilst not a full clear enough to warrant a full group and some team effort.

Doing things a bit backwards we went into Arcatraz first, and seeing how we went past the first boss we took a chance and had a go. Our boomkin died quite soon in and our healer succumbed quite close to the end. Unfortunately I died just as the boss did so whilst not a complete wipe, the two mages left standing meant that it was a runflight back from the graveyard. After that we cleared the rest of the necessary trash and the third fragment was secured.

Lessons learnt: Trying to spot void circles on the floor, whilst tanking a boss with your butt against the wall is impossible, and moving out of line of sight of the healers can cause greater problems than just your health going down.

Finally we went into Steamvaults, a place I will learn to love if the Earthwarden is to be mine. The was a slight hiccup when I managed to pull two groups but other than that things went well and we managed to down the first boss again even if it did require the mages to go nuclear on the elementals.

Lessons learnt: Just because every other pull has been flawless doesn't mean you can be any less careful about the next one.

Just Black Morass remains to get the key blessed by Medivh and I can go test my tanking skills in Karazhan against some of those nasty raid bosses.