Thursday, January 31, 2008

5v5 FTW?

New 5v5 team makeup: warrior x 2 (arms - no mace spec), elemental shammy, disc/holy priest and myself.

Wow, what a change. We went 8-2 for the night before it got too late and we stopped.

What worked:
- The priest main healed; this freed me up to always keep someone cycloned, helping spot heal between cyclone casts.
- The other team focused fire on the Shammy (~350 resilience, tons of armor w/ shield) or on the Priest (~350 resilience, pain suppression, fear). Those two can taking quite a bit of a beating.

What could be better:
- Mace spec! Mace spec! Two warriors and no mace spec, WTF? Those mace spec stuns, are in the words of the dgks mod, GODLIKE! (note to self: write post on DGKS). It's really because neither of them has a halfway decent mace or the honor points or arena points to buy one.
- Roots! I should cast roots in addition to cyclone. More CC ftw.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monday night blues

I posted a few days ago, pondering if Arena queue times are fixed. They're not.

Note to self: get at least 10 arena games in BEFORE Monday night.

13 minute 2v2 queues. 4 minute 5v5 queues.

However, if you're stuck trying to squeeze some games in on Monday night to earn some points, see if you can wait until 11pm Pacific Time. 5v5 queue times dropped from 4 minutes down to 1 minute in pretty short order. I'm sure 2v2 times were still north of 5 minutes at that time, but I was fortunate this last Monday to get 4 others for 5v5 action.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Druid healing in 5v5's

Last night, I tried my hand at 5v5 as the only healer with 4 dps (warrior x 2, mage, hunter).

It did not work out well - 3 wins, 7 losses and about a 1450 rating.

A druid healer's strengths in 2v2 (and to a little bit lesser extent, 3v3) do not work well in 5v5. You can't play the LOS game in 5v5 - there's too many people, and you need to be constantly healing someone - especially if you're the only healer. HOTs take time to ramp up - 6 seconds for Rejuv + 3 x Lifebloom, plus another 2 seconds for Regrowth. Your healing target is long since dead by that point. Sure, you could skip a couple of lifeblooms and go straight for the Regrowth - but either way you're not going to outheal the combined DPS of 3 or 4 opponents.

I admit I did not play well in a number of the matches. I got caught out in the open and killed in seconds (even with 256 resilience & 9K HP). I did not cyclone nearly as much as I should have.

Our wins came when we adopted the following strategy:
- All DPS charges in, and tries to nuke the holy living hell out of a single target (preferably a healer)
- Mage attempts to sheep a DPS (then goes to nuking)
- I attempt to Cyclone a DPS, stay out of sight, and heal + cyclone.

I learned a lot on what NOT to do in 5v5's. That being said, I don't think that particular team makeup is sustainable beyond perhaps a 1600 rating. I'd prefer to swap out a DPS for a disc/holy priest. The priest could main heal, I could support heal and do a better job of keeping someone constantly cycloned.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Epic WSG

I really wish I'd remembered to take a screenshot of the final score card.

Backing up a bit, we managed to scrape up 10 people for a premade WSG group for this WSG bonus weekend. We pretty much steamrolled through our first 2 games in short order. Our 3rd game turned into an epic 33 minute non-stop combat marathon. The first cap took 27 minutes. The 2nd and 3rd cap rapidly followed as the 1st cap broke the other team's morale.

Unfortunately, it was our morale that was broken.

When I say non-stop combat marathon, I'm not kidding. We grabbed their flag, they grabbed ours. We defended our flag in our flag room (for the most part) with about 6 people as the other 4 went off to try and grab their flag back. They mounted a 25 minute non-stop attack on us in a stalemate until our priest gave up.

We had 4 healers. Good thing too, because they had a warrior in 3/5 Season 3 gear (plus Season 3 2H mace) and 2/5 Season 2 gear. He put out over 800,000 damage over the course of the game (I think it was 830,000). The next closest (also Horde) put out over 400,000. Our top damage dealer came in about 350,000.

We had the top 4 healers, each over 350,000 healing - and that doesn't count final lifebloom blooms or prayer of mending heals etc.

Nuts. It really sucked to lose that one.

Edit: Just for kicks I did the math - 830K damage over 33 minutes is 419dps for every single second of the match. Of course, he wasn't in combat every single second, so his actual dps was much much higher.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Don't do this at home. Or anywhere else. Really.

So... you're feral. You've run 5 mans, Kara and done some PVP. You've picked up a few healing pieces or hybrid pieces over time because no one else wanted them. You think, what the hell, I'll switch to resto for some crazy silly PVP success.

You think, how about a hybrid build that picks up Nurturing Instinct in the feral tree to better maximize the gear I've got? After all, with some pieces of Moonglade and Gladiator's Dragonhide, that's a lot of strength that's getting converted into +healing.

Word of advice: Don't do it. Don't, for the love of all that is holy, go with some variation of a x/23/x build.

Even if you have the best hybrid gear in the game, Nurturing Instinct still sucks (~+150 healing) and you lose way to much from either the balance or resto trees to make it worthwhile. By all means, go deep enough to pick up feral charge in the feral tree. Don't go any further. Having tried this build myself, I speak from experience. Your talent points are much better spent elsewhere.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Preform AV Enabler

Download your Alliance enabled copy here. Note: use at your own risk. I've been using that copy of the mod for a number of days without any problems, but your mileage may vary.

And that obfuscation? Simple ASCII character set encoding. To be fair, there's really not much the guy could do. Since there's no compilation to a machine language binary (or, hell, even a machine agnostic intermediate language), the source code is wide open. Any competent programmer can reverse engineer the obfuscation without much difficulty, or even knowledge of Lua.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Arena queues fixed?

< 1 minute 2v2 queues last night.
< 1 minute 2v2 queues 2 hours ago.

Is it too good to be true? Has Blizzard finally fixed it?

A bitter add on programmer

Preform AV enabler - probably the best add on I've used to coordinate a group all joining the same AV. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but this particular add on is the easiest to use that I've seen along with the best feature set.

What's hilarious is that the author deliberately coded the add on for the Horde only. He obfuscated the code to discourage anyone from modifying it to work for Alliance players as well. That's one bitter, bitter programmer.

Here's a sample of his obfuscation methodology:

Wow. That's tough to figure out. However, I'm sure it's enough to discourage 99% of potential (Alliance) users not to use it - so I guess he gets what he wants.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Queues Suck

More specifically, long queues suck. My experience on various queue times:

Eye: < 1 minute
AV: 2-4 minutes
5v5 Arenas: < 1 minute
3v3 Arenas: < 1 minute
2v2 Arenas: 5-15 minutes

Personally, I think 2v2 Arenas are the most fun, with 3v3 close behind. 5v5 is just too much chaos, and relies more on tight team coordination than individual skill.

The big problem with 2v2 queues are that you're waiting in line longer than you're actually playing (typically). It's ridiculous. I simply won't do it anymore until Blizzard brings the queue times down to something reasonable (< 2 minutes, ideally < 1 minute). This sucks, because I can't do the one thing I most want to. The queues are long enough to negate the fun derived from the activity.

With 2007 profits in excess of $500 million (US), Blizzard has simply no excuse to fix this. Immediately.

Arenas are very popular, obviously. $500 million buys you a hell of a lot of servers.

Monday, January 21, 2008

More comprehensive Battlegrounds records

Since I started tracking my win/loss rate in battlegrounds, I've overall been losing in Eye (43% win rate) and winning in AV (57% - despite the Horde map advantage). I haven't played either AB or WSG.

Obviously my personal stats are statistically meaningless. Well, they're quite meaningful to me but they're bloody useless in assessing Alliance/Horde battlegrounds balance.

Only Blizzard holds the full stats and they're not releasing them. However, the chaps over at probably have the 2nd biggest data set here.

Here's the summary for US / Level 70:











Win %39.7%40.1%



So, overall the Horde do seem better than Alliance at Battlegrounds. However, the difference is not as large as I thought, and AV seems almost perfectly matched.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Medallion of Nagging Dissatisfaction

Read any blog / forum post / guide / whatever on gearing up for PVP and the first item they will all tell you to obtain is the Medallion of the Alliance. There is no doubt that this trinket is invaluable to PVP; getting out of CC once every 2 minutes can be a game changing outcome. The 20 resilience doesn't hurt either.

So why did I have a nagging sense of dissatisfaction when I spent my 16,985 honor points on this?

I think it comes down to these factors:
1) There's no visceral impact. There's no emotional appeal. You don't see your heals ticking for any extra X amount. You don't see your hits hitting harder by Z amount. You don't see damage coming in to be Y less. You get to click a button on your actionbar about twice as frequently (maybe). The resilience effect is defined by what doesn't happen. You're not going to get crit as often by a small percentage (0.51%). But you don't see a message saying "Resilience just prevented a crit!", so the effect harder to notice. Intellectually, I know I need this trinket. Emotionally, this trinket fails to deliver.
2) The cost seems to be disproportionate to other items that can be purchased for about the same honor. The PVP epic boots and PVP epic belt cost less than 1,000 additional honor points, yet are 31 item levels above the medallion (146 vs. 115) and are epic quality vs. superior (blue) quality.

In game items in a MMO have an emotional appeal (or at least, they should have if you want to keep your customers). This item needs help.

My suggestions: throw on a small measurable, visible on equip effect. +healing for whomever wants it, +crit % for melee, +spell dmg, whatever. Make the trinket epic. I'm a sucker for purple items, and I know most others are too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

AV Map imbalance

I'm not particularly a big fan of WoW Insider, but there's a very well written article on the current AV Map imbalance here.

The article describes how the introduction of reinforcements into AV (a change I welcomed) has dramatically changed the AV landscape.

Essentially it gives the Horde a choice: race to the general for a 50/50 chance at a win in a short amount of time - or - turn the game into a slow turtle where they will inevitably win after 20-30 minutes.

My experiences in AV pretty much exactly match the article. Highly recommend reading.

Crazy Silly Upgrades!

By sheer coincidence, I manage to accumulate 18,000 honor points and 1200 arena points on the same day. Time to go shopping!

First up, honor points. -17,850 points, and I've got a new pair of [Vindicators Kodohide Boots]! Just for reference, my PVP "healing" boots were my tanking boots - [Footwraps of Wild Encroachment]. That gives me +24 stamina, +11 intellect, +26 resilience, +75 healing and +9 mp5. Huge, huge upgrade. Topped with a Boar's Speed enchantment, and I'm all set for boots.

Next up, arena points. -1,125 points, and I've got a new pair of [Vengeful Gladiator's Kodohide Gloves] - a significant upgrade of my PVE [Mitts of the Treemender]. Based on how I gemmed the Mitts, this gives me -8 stamina, +12 intellect, +21 resilience, +50 healing (with +35 enchant), +8mp5 and -14 spirit.

Net result: +16 stamina, +23 intellect, +47 resilience (wow!), +125 healing (wow!!), +17 mp5, -14 spirit. I've neglected to factor armor (lost a bit on the boots, gained some on the gloves), agility, strength etc. and other stats not important my current role.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Drinkypoo's Theory of Battleground Healing

A guildmate, Drinkypoo, has a theory on battleground healing: Inspect all the warriors in the starting area, pick the best geared one and follow him/her around and heal him/her.

It's probably not a novel idea, but since I first heard it from him, that's whom I'll attribute it to.

A well geared arms/fury warrior can wreck havoc in battlegrounds. A well geared arms/fury warrior backed up by healing is a serious force to be reckoned with. I've seen that particular combo determine the outcome of PUG battleground matches. Assuming incompetent opponents (a reasonable assumption in a PUG), they'll focus on the first target they see (the warrior). He'll get more rage than he knows what to do with. Mortal strikes, whirlwinds, executes galore.

While not having played a lot of matches since I heard this theory, I've played a couple following fellow guildmate Kneegasher around. I'd have to say that so far, it's very effective.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

AFK in Battlegrounds

Blizzard introduced the "Report player as AFK" feature in 2.2. When enough players report someone as AFK, the reported player gets a debuff that prevents honor gain unless some action is taken.

While I think this is definitely a step in the right direction, there's several problems:
1) If you're busy playing, you're not watching for people taking no action.
2) If you're watching for people going AFK, then you're probably not doing your best even if you are concurrently playing.

Enter the Turing Test AFK Reporter mod. This mod will use some reasonable, lenient heuristics to calculate if a player is AFK, and then automatically report them for you. For example, if a player has no healing done or damage done, and is not defending a strategically important place - then that player is likely AFK and will get reported.

I've installed this mod, and I love it. I encourage everyone to install it. It's configurable, you can publish AFK results to the battleground chat and even put out an advert for the mod itself. My theory is that if I run the advert (/ttlm-advert) at the start of any battleground, it will discourage AFK behavior even if I wasn't actually running the mod.

Sidebar: This is a problem that should be solved server side. Additionally, the design of the battlegrounds and the associated reward system should not in any way encourage AFK behavior. I don't have a proposal right now on how to fix the battleground / reward system, but that's something I'll think about.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Alliance sucks in BG's, Redux

I've previously made the claim that Alliance sucks in Battlegrounds, based purely on anecdotal evidence. But is that really the case? I think people tend to remember the losses and forget the wins.

So, I'm going to track every battleground I do and see whether or not Alliance really does suck (at least from my perspective anyway). You'll notice a new "Battlegrounds Record" sidebar on my blog which I will keep updated.

As of this writing, I'm even on Eye of the Storm games and positive on AV games.

You probably won't see many WSG games. I hate with a passion WSG with PUGs. The games last approximately 14 hours each, as each team grabs the others' flag but neither is coordinated enough to grab it back. At least with Eye, AB and AV, you know the game will finish one way or another within 30-45 minutes at the worst. A WSG game, as with diamonds, lasts bloody well forever.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

McRaidNoMore Part Duex

Realistically, I'm done with raiding - I still like it but real life schedules don't quite allow for it. I have epic mounts for my 2 lvl 70's. I'm done with leveling alts (all 7 of them).

I enjoy PVP, and I especially enjoy Arena PVP. There's nothing else in the game that forces you to think so fast on your feet. Every encounter is different. There's only one thing that gets my adrenaline going in this game, and it's Arena matches. As an added bonus, PVP can be done almost anytime without need for scheduling. You don't need 10 to 25 people to coordinate their real life schedules to accomplish what you want to do in the game.

I love being feral spec. Being able to switch between crazy silly kitty dps and crazy silly bear survivability is fantastic. As a feral, you can solo so much content that theoretically is small group content. There's so much you can do, and so much you can contribute to groups and raids.

I've already mentioned how well resto druids do in 2v2 and 3v3 arenas. My guild isn't raiding, so they don't need a feral tank. I'm biting the bullet. I'm going resto to try out the vaunted arena spec (8/11/42). Uninterruptible cyclone, feral charge and lots of buffed Hots.

Friday, January 11, 2008


My guild, consisting mostly of friends, coworkers and friends and family of coworkers is very small. Nonetheless, we've been able to run completely through Kara more than enough times for me to hit exalted twice over (yet despite this, no StrangleStaff, Longboots, Great-Ring, Treads or T4 Gloves!). I call Shenanigans.

We've cleared 3 bosses in ZA (bear, eagle and wolf - at least I think he's a wolf).

However, over the holidays, key people in our runs have lost interest in raiding, and I have no interest whatsoever in finding a(nother) guild that does only 10 mans on a late night schedule (10pm+ server). You can see from my earlier post here why.

So what does that leave? PVP! Arena's and battlegrounds. Doesn't matter what spec you are for battlegrounds, but it sure does for Arenas - and by general wisdom - feral druid is not a competitive spec. What am I to do? Respec resto, I guess. More on that later.

Friday, January 4, 2008

1 + 1 = 0.2

1 feral druid + 1 arms / prot warrior = 20% 2v2 win rate.

Well, it did anyway for Kneegasher and myself (1-4). Anecdotal results that support the statistics in my last post.

Typically the other team would focus dps on me. I'd shift to bear, and soak up the damage. Problem was, I could not shift out to heal myself and the other team could heal through the damage that KG and myself could put out on their dps player. Shifting out of bear to attempt to heal resulted in my prompt death. Feral hots + leather < bear.

The two warlock team was just a disaster. They feared both of us, dot'ed us up and we died very rapidly.

Wrong arena spec FTL

Some chap at scoured the Armory for the top ranked (>2000 rating) teams, and computed the popular team setups and the popular class talent specs.

For 2v2 teams, the most popular setup by a large margin (22.6% to 11.4%) was warrior/druid.

For the druids on the 2v2 teams, the most popular build by an enormous margin is uninterruptible cyclone/feral charge/resto (8/11/42). Variations on 8/11/42 added at least another 18%. Only one feral build made the top 5, and it was at 2.7%.

The implication is that if you're a druid playing 2v2 arenas, if you're not resto, you don't stand much of a chance at achieving a high rating. Feral does not appear to be a viable 2v2 spec.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Molten WTF

Mages learn a new spell, Molten Armor, at level 62. It causes 75 damage to attackers, increases the mages chance to crit by 3% and reduces chance to be crit by 5%.

I have ~2500 AP in the gear I typically use in battlegrounds, and druids have a 1.0 attack speed. At 14 AP per 1 DPS, this means I should be putting out about 178 dps against a target with no armor. This ignores crits and special (yellow) attacks.

How do these statements correlate?

When I attack a mage, I'll be hitting him every second for roughly 170 damage. And in return, he's hitting me back for 75+ damage. That's a whopping 44% of the damage I deal, he's dealing right back at me without doing a single bloody thing. WTF?

Of course, that percentage is much lower in reality due to crits and yellow attacks, but it's still a very sizable number. I don't like it one bit.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why does Alliance suck in battlegrounds?

No, I don't have the answer. Others have speculated.

Yesterday it took 8 games (7 losses) for me to win an AB game and meet the requirements for the pvp daily quest (sidebar: why no arena daily quest?). Only 1 of those 8 games did the horde appear to have a premade group (10-2000 points!).

This is not an atypical experience.

Better communication? Better gear? More mature players? Less AFK players? I have no idea, but it sucks.