Wednesday, 24 March 2010

3.3.3 Patch Notes

Hey 3.3.3 goes live on European servers in around... 1 hour (probably), so here are the massive changes for Shamans:

Classes: General
  • Several raid buffs have had their ranges increased to 100 yards, up from 45 yards, to prevent select buffs from repeatedly getting applied and removed during highly mobile encounters. Some buffs, such as paladin auras, totems, shouts and Blood Pact are intentionally meant to have shorter ranges and remain unchanged.

Curses, a 100 yard totem range would be... most welcome.

  • Flame Shock: The damage-over-time component of this ability can now produce critical strikes and is affected by spell haste.
  • Talents
    • Elemental Combat
      • Elemental Oath: This ability is now always on as a passive aura.
    • Enhancement
      • Unleashed Rage: This ability is now always on as a passive aura.

The dot changes to Flame Shock give a very small DPS increase according to Enhsim, but this is bigger news for Elemental Shamans. The passive aura changes are welcome, but my Unleashed Rage uptime was around 99% before, so again no big DPS boosts here.

Luckily no other changes which will make me need to relearn which buttons to press, so thanks for that.

Shaman Tier-10 4-Piece Elemental set Bonus: This bonus has been slightly adjusted to account for the fact that haste now modifies Flame Shock's periodic damage ticks. The bonus now makes the shaman's Lava Burst cause Flame Shock to tick at least two additional times before expiring.

Ummm... go read an Elemental blog for more details ;)

The rest of these notes are not Shaman only, but are of interest to me, so off we go...

All weekly quests will now reset during each region's scheduled maintenance, rather than at a single global time.

A "makes sense" change, the raid locks all reset during maintenance, so why did the weekly raid quest reset on Tuesday in the EU? This lead to many people unable to do the weekly raid until Wednesday because they were already locked. Having said that, it worked to my advantage as I don't raid anything other than ICC, so I could PUG the weekly on Tuesday when it was new and enthusiasm (and bodies) was high. Now I shall be back to trying to PUG it on Tuesday when its about to reset and only 4th alts are left to do it. Thus my respeccing to healing on my underused off spec for a better chance of getting in. I'm only healing Naxx and Flame Leviathan though!

Frozo the Renowned has moved into the Dalaran Magus Commerce Exchange and will be trading your Frozen Orbs for various other trade goods.

The biggest news of the patch, causing Frozen Orb speculation on a rampant level. Will they go up? Will they stay low? Will Eternal Fire go up due to demand for Titansteel items? Will epic gems crash because honour from battlegrounds has been increased by 100%? It might be a good time to stock up on under-priced frost lotus.

  • The Pet Bombling and Lil' Smoky non-combat pets are no longer Bind-on-Pickup.

Big news for pet collectors, now we can get these two engineering-exclusive pets for some amount of gold on the AH. The cost will obviously depend on how many Engineers list them, the mats are quite obscure and take effort to get, so I wouldn't expect these to end up being very cheap. Myself, I gathered the mats for my own a few weeks ago, so I just need to get a-crafting.

Other miscellaneous changes are: posting in multiple stacks on the AH (like Auctioneer does), being able to widen the quest tracker (like MonkeyQuest can) but yet no making the font smaller (like QuestHelper can), Dungeon Deserter buff up to 30 mins (no quitting those slow dungeons), and Frozen Orb rolls in dungeons are now Greed or Pass only (wth just after we all got used to Needing them).

Now where does that Celestial Steed come from? My money is on some sort of Blizzard store item, which if its Bind On Account and scaling, would be a killer. I am not sure why they would add it to Algalon at this stage (the obvious match), and they have added non-combat pets for old bosses before (Lil KT & XT), so is this the first mount in the Blizzard store? The only other reason I have is that some new boss will drop it, but that would need to be something Algalon-like and that doesn't fit with the dragon theme going on in the Ruby Sanctum. Or I suppose it could be a TCG loot card reward :(

Friday, 19 March 2010

Noth the Plaguebringer Must Die! Again!

Something was amiss in the land of Aszune last night. Despite completing Noth the Plaguebringer Must Die! on Tuesday, the quest was available again on Thursday, during the same Weekly-Raid-Quest-Reset week.

Perhaps during server maintainance Archmage Lan'dalock forgot he had tasked adventurers with doing the deed, and is once again handing the quest out. Either way, I couldn't possibly condone doing it twice in one week. That would be naughty.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

But what if I got *two* ICC 10 items?

Having claimed I'd not drop my 4 piece Tier 9 bonus for anything less than 2 piece Tier 10, last night I found myself the recipient of both Pauldrons of Lost Hope and Handgrips of Frost and Sleet. These are gloves and shoulders, so could take the cheapest Tier 9 (and 10) slots. Equipping them would mean loosing the 4 piece Tier 9 bonus, but getting some better items. I also grabbed Shawl of Nerubian Silk which handily has +56 expertise, compensating for the loss of 52 expertise from the Tier 9 gloves.

Dumping the 4pcT9 bonus
I turned to Rawr and Enhsim to find out what the impact of the switch would be, using the usual profiles.

Current gear: 4728 dps
Equipping the new gear, gemming for AP and Haste: 4818 dps

This is a DPS increase of 90 DPS which is quite significant. It seems that the 4 piece Tier 9 bonus can be overpowered by some lucky ICC 10 drops after all.

Which T10 now?
This does place me in a sticky situation, because now all the Tier 10 items which upgrade item level 232 gear are the "expensive" ones which cost 95 Frost apiece (Helm & Legs). If I were to hold off until I could grab 2 piece Tier 10 before dropping 2 piece Tier 9 that would be 190 Frost I would need to collect (or some lucky VoA action).

I worked out the impact of just getting one piece and equipping it, to see if I could sneakily grab some Tier 10 early.

Frost Witch's Faceguard with +20 Exp gem (same as current) = 4817 dps
Frost Witch's War Kilt with same expertise gem = 4828 dps

So getting the Tier 10 legs and dropping the 2 piece Tier 9 set bonus works out ok, with a 10 DPS increase, but getting the helm gives no increase at all. Given 10 dps is quite small, it seems prudent to wait and see what VoA might cough up and save all 190 Frost to spend on 2 bits of Tier 10 at once.

This is hardly a surprising result, although somewhat depressing as 190 is a large number. At my rate of around 20 a week it will be two or three months before I can get some Tier 10. At least I got some upgrades, for which I am quite happy.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cataclysm stat and system changes for Enhancement Shamans

Finally Blizzard have posted their oft-promised details on the stat and system changes coming to us in Cataclysm. have a load of columns going up for every class, so I expect some Shaman analysis soon, and Flow has posted some thoughts. In the meantime, here are my idle thoughts. The interesting stat changes for Enhancement Shamans are:

  • Stamina: We'll have a lot more stamina than before, which could mean better survivability, but they Blizz might just tweak the raid damage up a notch.
  • Intellect: No more intellect on our mail gear any more.
  • Mastery: New stat which does some talent-dependent things, which may or may not lead to a whole bunchload of theorycrafting.
  • Armor: Plate will offer a bit more armor than mail, but not a whole lot.
  • Resilience: Only affects things done by players, thus a pure PvP stat.
  • Agility: Will appear on gear rather than AP and likely give 2 Attack Power per point.
  • Hit Rating, Expertise, Critical Strike rating: Still there on gear.
  • Armor Penetration: Gone from gear and frankly good riddance.
  • Attack Power: Gone from gear although still working away there in the background for us.

Much of this is what we knew from Blizzcon anyway, but there were some interesting changes announced.

Haste: "Haste will become more attractive for melee classes by allowing them to recover resources such as energy and runes more quickly. Our intention is for Haste to let you 'do stuff' more often". It was also later confirmed that "The change to haste for melee dps is 'in addition to its current affect'". Haste is a good stat for us currently and unless it affects mana regeneration for Enhancement Shamans (Spirit will affect regen for Restos), the new "do stuff more often" feature is somewhat superfluous, because we are mana and cooldown limited, not resource limited. It is good to see that the existing effect of haste will remain.

Hit Rating
Blizzard say of combat ratings that "All ratings will be much harder to 'cap out' at maximum gear levels. Ratings will be steeper in Cataclysm, and creatures in later tiers of content will be harder to hit or crit, similar to how level-83 mobs are harder to hit or crit than level-80 mobs".

Thinking about this, it strikes me that we will be persuing ever-increasing levels of hit, crit and expertise rating just to stay at the same level for each new raid tier. Maybe in the introductory Tier 11 raids you need 600 hit rating to cap your spell hit, but when they add Tier 12 you will now need 700 hit rating to always hit with spells (against T12 bosses). This does mean all that extra hit on gear will be useful, but it also means no more capping hit and expertise somewhere in the first two raid tiers, then balancing gear to free up more gem slots & stats for Agility for subsequent tiers. It's effectively having to recap hit & expertise for every single new tier of raiding, which I predict will become somewhat tiresome.

Agility to AP
Going full circle (for hunters at least) Agility will equal 2 Attack power and we will be looking at Agility on our gear and going for upgrades in the Agility level, considering the other stats as well, but no more "Agility or AP" considerations. Unfortunately stacking Agility will not mean massive crit percentages, Blizz say "Agility may provide less Crit than it currently does". For may read will provide less Crit.

Blizzard say "we are going to give players a way to replace stats on gear as part of the existing profession system. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll be able to convert one stat to 50% of another stat". This has potential to alleviate the need to recap hit & expertise, if you can just go reforge your current gear to get more and drop some Agility for hit rating. Sadly glass cannons need not apply as "some conversions (like converting Stamina to Strength) won’t be permitted". There might also be some limitations to watch out for in that you can only reforge once.

The lol patch
Much like the lol patch before Wrath, these gear and stat changes will hit us before Cataclysm is out. Blizzard say "for the most part, the gear you have will still be good for you, though there will be exceptions, such as warriors using leather and mail armor", so leather users beware. They will most likely also nerf raid bosses in the pre-Cataclysm patch, so it will be difficult to see how the new stats play out until we are level 85.

For our specific play style Blizzard say:
If you are a melee DPS class, druid tank, or hunter, expect to see:
* A lot more Stamina. Bear-form Stamina scaling will be lowered as a result.
* Strength if you wear plate. Agility if you wear mail or leather.
* Existing Attack Power becomes Agility and Stamina. Armor Penetration becomes Haste or Crit.
* No Intellect on melee gear. Hunters won’t need Intellect since they will no longer use mana. Shaman and Retribution paladins will get mana and spell damage in other ways.

Other than the expected, what is interesting is they say "Shaman and Retribution paladins will get mana and spell damage in other ways" but then do not provide any particular information about how. Blizzard later point out that "Retribution paladins are already working this way on live realms, given that they rely on mana. You're just cooldown limited". I've speculated about how Enhancement Shamans with no Intellect might work in the past anyway, so I won't do that again, but I am very eager to find out more. As several commenters have said, it is nice to have a big mana pool and decent spell power to throw out some heals from time to time.

Mastery "is a new stat that will allow players to become better at whatever makes their chosen talent tree cool or unique. It's directly tied to talents, so what you gain from improving this stat is entirely dependent upon your class and the talent specialization you choose". Unfortunately no more information is forthcoming, but I can see Mastery being a source of much headache. For example, if Enhancement Mastery improved critical strike damage, crit change and overall damage, then getting 1 extra point will change your DPS in many different ways all at once. While this is a good thing, if you were pondering whether to take 1 point of extra Agility instead, you might have some head-scratching to do.

Enhancement Shamans are already used to the "simulate it" mind set, where an increase in one stat can ripple through all our randomness-based damage in such a way you really have to run a sim to see the result. But if Mastery is also going to involve several aspects working together to produce an overall DPS change when you increase in Mastery, other classes may need to turn to a sim as well.

Overall much of this is what we knew before. Although the news on Haste and Combat Ratings is interesting, I am really waiting for the information about how Enhancement mana provision & regen is going to change. Oh, and can we stop calling our armor "Hunter Mail" yet please? ;)
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