Thursday, 28 January 2010

Surviving PvE as Enhancement DPS

This is a post on a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic of how to survive PvE DPS for my class/spec, that being Enhancement Shaman! I am mostly talking about instances and raids here.

Earth Elemental Totem is on a 10 minute cool down, but in a tight spot, this guy will save you. He's got an AOE taunt which will pull aggro onto him, and is tough enough to survive for several seconds while you beat a hasty retreat, or the tank regains aggro.

Hex is the business and can be used to frog a loose mob who has taken a liking to you. It is on a 45 second cooldown so the tank needs to regain aggro before it pops.

Wind Shear is what I use if I somehow pull aggro, or Omen is warning me I am close to the tank's threat. It is also good practise to interrupt any spell you see being cast (unless you are assigned to a specific spell, of course) because some mobs do AOE casts which will hurt you as well as your faithful tank.

There are some talents such as Toughness or Anticipation you can take which will increase your survivability. Toughness is a minor health increase and as such is effective against AOE magic damage, whereas Anticipation seems useful only if you are being directly attacked, in which case you probably messed up and need to Wind Shear asap.

Maelstrom Weapon is a very useful talent to use to save yourself, although at 5 stacks it is most useful. Instead of casting Lightning Bolt, if I am low on health and no heals are inc, I will cast Healing Wave on myself, or if some melee are low, I'll cast Chain Heal on myself which will splash onto the tank and other melee. If I need to survive an incoming high damage phase, I will sometimes hold back using a MW5 and keep it for when I need healing, for example the whirlwind phase in Malygos. This is of course a DPS loss, but dead men do no DPS, right?

Don't forget that Shamanistic Rage has a damage reduction component, reducing all damage by 30% for 15 seconds. Very handy for XT-002 Tantrums, or if you get attacked by a stray mob, or you need to tank Mimiron's body for 5 secs because all the tanks have died (asif). Basically this is an "oh-shit" button similar to what the tank classes have, although you may still die, you can try to cheat death using SR.

Feral Spirit is the 51 point enhancement talent. These guys have Twin Howl and Bash, both of which will let you get away while the wolves tank, plus they do a reasonable amount of healing which may help keep you up if something is attacking you, or AOE damage is really hurting.

Not much to say here, I don't bother gemming for Stamina (lol) but I do take all-mail items. With Mental Dexterity mail items are as good as leather now, plus they usually have more armour, for extra damage absorption.

Macros and Action Bars
Firstly I always have a health potion or healthstone keybound to F12, so I can hit it really quickly when needed. I actually bound the last slot in the bottom right actionbar to F12 using the game menu, then I drop a health potion or healthstone in there.

I have Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Wave in my primary action bar, on keys 7 and 8. HW is needed quickly so I can MW5 Healing Wave for an instant cast heal. LHW is something I will use if I need a heal and Maelstrom Weapon is no where near 5 stacks - LHW is a quick heal I will cast in combat to prevent death. If I get focussed or in some puddle of something, I will back off from the fight, LHW and then get back in there again.

Finally I have Chain Heal on a secondary action bar to click, for MW5 CH action when party members also need heals.

A lot of damage can be avoided through proper positioning. Cleaves and bad stuff like that usually happen at the front of a mob. 4tehfite has posted a handy DPS positioning chart - follow this and you will avoid tail swipes and all sorts of nastyness.

One other tip, if I hear a whirlwind sound or see a whirlwind animation, I will back off from melee range, as some mob is usually whirlwinding and will knock my health down pretty fast. Then I will either LHW myself or a kind healer will drop a heal on me and I can get back in there.

Running the right totems help a great deal, yourself and the whole party/raid. On mobs which do poison or disease, I make sure a Cleansing Totem is up (ie in the whole of Azjol-Nerub) which helps the healer out and keeps poison/disease damage low. It also annoys the Black Knight a whole lot :) Don't run this on Rotface tho!

On mobs who like to fear, Tremor Totem is your friend because getting feared into another pack is really bad for your health, and healers don't heal well when they are running around like headless chickens (apart from Druids ofc).

Finally run Resistance Totems as appropriate on hard content. I used to run Nature Resistance on Loken for example, whereas now I don't bother. Still an extra 130 resistance will help.

PvP encounters
This probably only applies for Faction Champions, but a PvP Trinket with fear break is very useful on those fights. I use the Titan-Forged Rune of Determination.

Keep your wits about you and don't forget your Anhks should all the above fail!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Armory tells all (mostly)

Recently the WoW Armory was updated to add RSS feeds for character activity, stuff like gaining achievements and killing bosses. This seems like a good deal for those of us who want to show a box on our blog with recent achievements. But the feeds can be put to a more sinister use. Tracking your WoW time.

Anyone can load the Armory and take a look at the recent activity of a character, and that page will show which instance you finished (by showing the bosses killed), which items you equipped and even partial progress toward an achievement (such as /loving a sheep).

You can also log into the armory and create custom feeds for multiple characters, so you can keep up to date with someone's alts, or a group of friends. Add these feeds to something like google reader and you get a nice set of updates about what people are up to in-game.

Now this is all very well, but the activity items seem to update while you are logged in, and are very accurately timestamped. So the activity can be used to tell when someone did something and thus to check up on someone, maybe to see if they played when they weren't meant to, or for too long.

Say your son is sat in his room apparently doing his homework on his PC from 5pm. But yet when you look at the armory activity for his characters, you spot that one has completed Heroic Old Kingdom at 5:20pm, then proceeded to kill the bosses in Pit Of Saron, the last one dying at 6pm. Has any homework been done? It looks like not. Now I know you can use parental controls, but the play times are not very flexible so you may not be doing so.

However say you were round your friends house allegedly helping him restore his treasured classic car from 2pm to 6pm. Yet your armory feed seems to indicate you were actually completing the weekly raid quest and in some various heroics. Grats on the new loot, by the way! If your wife got access to this feed, there might be trouble. She might not understand the finer points of Forge of Souls, but she may well understand the implications of your presence therein.

So how could one play a WoW session without anything appearing in such a feed?
  • Don't kill any end bosses in the original Wrath instances
  • Don't kill any bosses in raids, or the new Wrath instances (Trial of the Champion onwards)
  • Don't complete any achievements
  • Don't even do parts of an achievement, such as the wrist part of Superior
  • Don't obtain any epic or rare loot, even if you don't equip it. Note a custom feed can specify to see Uncommon (green) loot as well, so no looting if you are paranoid
  • Don't kill Mr. Bigglesworth!
  • Don't get any Feats of Strength
There might be more things Blizzard are tracking - the Mr Bigglesworth kill certainly surprised me.

Pretty much you could do quests, but not any which award loot, or not too many if you are close to the 2000 or 3000 quests achievement, or the zone quests achievements. Any instance completion will show up clearly, so you can do the original Wrath heroics, but quit before the end boss. If you get Trial of the Champion onward, every boss is tracked so no killing any of them!

You can grind reputation as pure rep gains do not show up, but watch out if there is an achievement for exalted, and don't for heaven's sake buy a rep item. You could grind professions but again watch out for any achievements like Profession Grand Master.

Avoiding an activity trace will make for a pretty boring and frustrating play session, so keep your character names close to your chest. Whereas if you want people to know what you're up to in game, the new Armory activity feed is really great and detailed.

Now let us never speak of the Armory activity feed again.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Frost upgrades for a 10er Shaman

Yet another gear post, do I think about anything else? Not really, when we are farming the first 4 bosses in ICC and having... issues... with the new 3. So here is a list of the upgrades I have identified from Emblems of Frost, given my current 10 man gear level. These are for myself only of course, as I have simulated the difference using Rawr and Enhsim, but could be used as a guide if you wish.

Herkuml War Token
+138 dps for 60 Frost (2.3 dps/frost), this is the best upgrade for me. The only issue is the way the trinket works, in that you need to stand and DPS the same mob for 20 attacks to get the maximum stack. Drops in ICC are better such as Whispering Fang Skull, but this is solid anyway.

Totem of the Avalanche
+52 dps for 30 Frost (1.7 dps/frost), an upgrade over the old Totem of Quaking Earth. Again it builds stacks, but it seems the first Stormstrike adds 2 stacks, so after 2 SS you will get the full 438 AP.

Band of the Night Raven
+96 dps for 60 Frost (1.6 dps/frost). This belt is an upgrade from my old Belt of Dragons and because it is i264 the stats are very good. It also doesn't occupy a Tier slot, so it all round win. There is a heroic drop from Marrowgar 10 which is as good, but we need to kill Arthas before being able to try heroic modes, which is a big task in itself.

Recovered Scarlet Onslaught Cape
+74 dps for 50 Frost(1.48 dps/frost), there was no upgrade cloak in ToTC 10, so this one is a good upgrade from my current Ulduar cloak. Now Marrowgar 10 also drops Shawl of Nerubian Silk which is as good, mainly because it features expertise rather than armor penetration. Below the cap, expertise is very valuable and as Tier 10 has none, I am hoping for this drop instead. Still with a gem slot, the Cape can be made to give expertise too. I suspect to ensure Marrowgar drops his cloak, I will need to purchase the Cape 3 hours beforehand (so I cannot trade it back).

2 Tier 10 (gloves, shoulders)
+88 dps for 120 Frost(0.74 dps/frost). For some reason the DPS upgrade going from 4T9 to 2T10 & 2T9 is not that much, I pondered this before and the loss of expertise really hurts, although it can be made up by regemming elsewhere.

The Plan
In conclusion, it seems that getting Tier 10 should wait until I have splurged on the i264 stuff from Frost. Luckily I won Linked Scourge Vertebrae which although not as good as Band of the Night Raven, will tide me over and I can skip to saving for the Cloak and raid Marrowgar until he coughs up his one.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Breaking the 4 piece Tier 9 bonus

Having only just ground out enough heroics to earn 4 pieces of the Tier 9 Enhancement set, I now find myself with emblems of Frost and a couple of lucky drops. Unfortunately these are in the shoulder and chest slots I've currently got filled with Tier 9, so to equip them would mean bye bye 4 piece T9 bonus. But is this bad?

To find out, I used Rawr and Enhsim together to simulate my current DPS, then in Rawr I swapped out the chest and shoulder pieces, exported into Enhsim and reran the simulation. See this post for more details.

current gear, 4pcT9 bonus - 4768 dps
current gear, 2pcT9 bonus - 4666 dps
current gear, no bonus - 4610 dps
new gear, 2pcT9 bonus - 4747 dps

This is not so good. To equip those two new pieces, and put epic attack power gems in them, will result in an overall DPS loss of 21 DPS. We can see that for my gear, the 4 piece Tier 9 bonus accounts for 102 DPS alone. This is a very disappointing result, and means those items will most likely rot in my bank :( Even if I got another i251 item for legs or hands and dropped to no Tier 9 bonus, the item would need to give an extra 56 DPS to make up for the loss of the 2 piece Tier 9 bonus, THEN to match the stats of the i232 item I had, THEN to give more DPS to warrant the effort of gemming and enchanting. This also seems unlikely.

How about the 2 cheap bits of Tier 10, the gloves and shoulders, stuffed with expertise gems and enchants to try to make up the loss of 52 expertise rating from the gloves (ouch)?

2pcT10 & 2pcT9 bonus - 4820 dps

So dropping the 4 piece Tier 9 bonus to replace it with 2 piece Tier 10 & Tier 9 seems to be the way forward, giving 52 DPS increase plus more if I re-gem for expertise. I guess the chest piece will not rot forever, if I make my Tier 10 bits shoulders, gloves, helm and legs then I can use that chest instead of a Tier 10 one.

TLDR: I won't be breaking 4pcT9 unless it's for 2pcT10 2pcT9.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Icecrown Citadel 3/4

Remember in Karazhan when your raid needed specific abilities? How Moroes was a total nightmare without some sort of stun lock, frost trap or other crowd control? I sure do, I spent hours and hours on that fight.

Well the theme is back again in Icecrown Citadel! Kam got to go bosh some of the place in 10 player mode. Shocking that on the final raid of the expansion, some care might be needed in raid selection!

Luckily we had two priests, so the undead trash had some crowd control applied to it (CC!? Yes, I know!) and it went smoothly. Unfortunately I felt it wise to hold off the AOE stuff with actually-CCed mobs, so less MT spamming was had. We also had a rogue, so he could sneak around looking for traps which spawn large skeletons. We then sprung these traps, because at this stage the whole raid is after Ashen Verdict reputation.

Lord Marrowgar
Marrowgar looks very cool as you approach his room, as he is a giant bag of bones with 4 skulls for heads. The fight turns out to be a simple two phase deal - the first phase we stood behind him, just inside his hit box so that his line of frost attacks utterly missed us. Occasionally someone would get put into an ice cube, I mean Bone Spike, which has to be damaged to break them out. So spank Marrowgar, spank Bone Spike, etc. Hiding inside the hit box may be not entirely as designed by Blizzard, but it works so hey there you go.

Second phase Marrowgar goes mad and whirlwinds around the place, also spamming lines of frost, so on this one everyone was equal, melee and ranged alike, and we all had to run away when he was close and dance around avoiding the lines of frost. This was pretty easy and some cunning self-heals never harm if you manage to get caught on a wall or something silly like that. At the end the tanks picked him up and maybe took a nasty Saber Lash so no standing close by the tanks until they have positioned him again!

Any old raid would do for this, it was a fun fight and due to the tank-and-spank nature of phase 1, we got him killed first time and moved onto...

Lady Deathwhisper
This fight was fun and games with mob kill orders, plus some of the Reanimated adds are immune to magic damage, and some to melee damage. As a class who's damage is roughly 50/50 magic and melee, this is a bad thing and caused me to do much hard DPS where I barely tickled the mob in question.

Again a 2 phase fight, in the first phase all the deeps were assigned to kill the various Adherents and Fanatics who spawn from one side of the room, then switch spawn side 30 seconds later.

In phase 2 once her mana shield is gone, Deathwhisper turns part Patchwerk part Vezax and demands to be killed, while still putting green stuff on the ground. She tries to Frostbolt a random party member for 40k, with a 2 second cast, which must be interrupted. Luckily us Enhancement Shaman are ideal for this with Wind Shear so I got to it and the fight was all over quickly.

The spell and melee immune mobs are a real bitch tho, a bad mix of spell and melee DPS could bring you grinding to a halt on this fight.

The Gunship battle was fun and easy, I got the fun task of jetting over to smack the alliance mage while my melee friends stuck in the cannons. We 1 shotted the fight and I am really looking forward to doing this one again. Plus I snagged a Frost Giant's Cleaver which I've berserked up and everything, and unlike the Anubarak weapons, it is worn slung across the back so looks pretty damn impressive. I want another one now, especially as signs are the Battered Hilt will be pretty impossible to get.

I think any old raid would do for this thankfully.

Deathbringer needs some ranged people plus they seem to need slows and/or knock-backs to deal with the Blood Beasts. Sadly we had 2 ranged and no knock-backs so after some comedy attempts to "ping-pong" the beasts between our hapless spriest and lock, we called it. Pity, as I have read my role would have been to stand there and spank Deathbringer. Apparently another attempt later on succeeded, although I was not there to soak up the lore.

I reached halfway to friendly with Ashen Verdict for that run, so I am looking forward to a nice new ring soon when I can get Kam back into ICC.

The next wing opens this week too, so I needs my Deathbringer kill before it all goes a bit crazy with limited attempts, possible raid lock extensions and an utter inability to tell which bosses will be done on which nights. I also need more goes on the Gunship, for a chance at another big weapon.
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