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.