Monday, 26 April 2010

Raiding format changes in Cataclysm (the sky is falling)

Some interesting changes for raiding in Cataclysm have been posted. Check the full post here. These are generally to do with the 10 man and 25 man format. Some highlights are below:
The first of the refinements being made is that we're combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn't apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.

Ok so this is the fix proposed by Vox Immortalis in their recent interview on, where they talk about sharing the lock so guilds can only do one format or the other. Not being able to run both raids in the same week will have consequences.

I hope this change means less emblems to grind per tier piece. Blizzard said they currently balance the cost of Tier 10 around doing both 10 and 25 mans each week plus the daily heroic daily. Now if they balance around one raid per week less, that's less emblems to gather, which makes me happy.

For our 10 man guild this means no more pugging the same raid in 25 man any more, because toons will be locked to the 10 man raid. This means less loot opportunities and no more higher level loot for those who can get it, so we may not be able to overpower certain fights with twinked out toons. The single lock also means no running the VoA-equivalent twice for 2 tries at tier pieces, I know some guildies will go from VoA 25 to VoA 10 in the same PUG. This will of course slow down their acquisition of Tier pieces, myself I rarely bother with VoA due to its infuriatingly random availability.

The raid itemization is also interesting:
Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards
10- and 25-player (normal difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
10- and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items.

Charles talked about the disparity in items across the raid formats on Planet of the Hats. What is really exciting is this change means Blizzard have 1 raid to concentrate on itemizing properly for everyone, instead of sprinkling desirable loot over two raid formats like some sort of crazy purple pixie dust. This means I will have access to all the good loot for my class, rather than half or a third of it.

This change also means for the first time, everyone in a 10 man will be in the same level of gear. True, 25 man raiders may get more of it and maybe more badges, but essentially the gear level itself will be the same. Hopefully this means when raids are tested in 10 man on the PTR or in Beta, Blizzard can tailor the difficulty level properly as the raiders will be in the gear they expect for 10 man. Currently I get the impression the 10 man raids are done in 25m gear and thus sometimes tailored to be too hard for people in strictly 10m gear.

So why would you run 25 mans in Cataclysm? Blizzard say "25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold)". This is interesting and the fact that more badges will drop in 25m than 10m may mean 25 man raiders can gear up quicker through the Tier pieces on badge vendors. This may prove to be a motivation to continue with the 25 man format. I keep on reading on blogs that 25 man is a lot of hassle and some motivation to do them is the better loot, so it will be interesting to see how many 25 man guilds stick around when the loot is the same as 10 man.

Does this mean the end of the "strict" 10 man category? The gear will be the same and people will have the same chances to see the fights, what with limited attempts most likely not coming back. I guess if the number of badges dropping in 25m is twice that of 10m (to pick a silly example) then 25m raiders will gear up in Tier items quicker, so this may give them an advantage if they ever did 10 mans.

All in all this is a really good change for me and our guild, because we just run 10 mans anyway. Their difficulty should be tuned better, the loot should be better itemized and the cost of Tier pieces should be more attainable. Oh, and did Blizzard just refer to the emblems in Cataclysm as "badges"? Please can they be called badges in Cataclysm, "emblems" is all very well but doesn't lend itself to catchy badger songs as much. Emblems emblems, mushroom mushroom!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Quick Tips for ICC Lower Spire

Here are some quick Enh tips for the Lower Spire of Icecream Citadel in 10 man:
Marrowgar - Use Fire Elemental right away. Chain Lightning the spikes to splash onto Marrowgar. At the beginning of Bone Storm, if FS is not on cooldown, use a jump shot to hit Marrowgar with Flame Shock while you run away. Ditto for MW5 Lightning Bolt. Practise jump shots, they really come in handy sometimes (sorry kb turners).
Deathwhisper - When you come close to Deathwhisper, drop Fire Elemental who will continue to damage the shield while you deal with adds. Wolves on Deathwhisper too. Drop other totems in the center then keep on the square floor (do not stray up the small steps in front of the alcoves, you will be out of range of totems). You can tank the Cult Adherents no problems. During phase 2 use Wind Shear to interrupt Deathwhisper's Frost bolt every time.
Gunship - In the cannon, warm up the gun to near-max heat before the fight starts so you can drop a Incinerating Blast on the enemy gunship as soon as it appears. During away phases, use the jetpack to hop between the guns and the adds on your boat, landing does an AOE effect for more damage (plus its quicker than running).
Deathbringer Saurfang - The time between Call Blood Beasts is about 30 seconds, so if the ranged get them away within 5 seconds, you can drop Magma Totem for moar DPS on DBS and it will disppear shortly before the next set of Blood Beasts spawn.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cataclysm Class Changes: Mage

Mage changes are up. Most is not relevant to Shamans, but what is this:

Time Warp (level 83): Grants a passive Haste effect much like Bloodlust or Heroism to party or raid members. It also temporarily increases the mage's own movement speed. Time Warp will be exclusive with Bloodlust and Heroism, meaning you can't benefit from both if you've got the Exhaustion debuff, though the movement-speed increase will still work even when under the effects of Exhaustion.

1. How "much like" Bloodlust or Heroism. Have they done what I think they have done?
2. If so, can I have movement-speed increase on Bloodlust kthxbai
3. What's up with all these movement-speed increasing spells we are suddenly seeing, I smell a rat. A big rat involving having to move away from things in raids far quicker than we currently do.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Yet more Shaman tidbits

More questions were answered after the Shaman changes were posted, which I commented on here:

Q: Will Maelstrom Weapon include Lava Burst?
A: That’s the plan currently.

Ah so remember how they said they wanted to alter Enhancement so it would penalise bad decisions more, and reward a "good decision"? This initially seems that you would want to just cast Lava Burst on every MW5, as you should have Flame Shock up on the target so it is an auto-crit. However, Lava Burst has an 8 second cooldown and I sure get more than one MW5 in every 8 seconds. Therefore this seems like we will need to prioritise how to spend MW5 - Lava Burst first, but then Lightning Bolt if Lava Burst is on cooldown. We will also need to keep FS up on the target so the LvB crits. The reward for getting this right will be better DPS than if you LvB with no FS on the target, or use LB instead of LvB for a MW5.

Q: Elemental doesn’t want to drop Searing Totem at range. We want to drop Magma Totem.
A: Searing Totem needs to so more single-target damage than Magma. That said, if we’re happy with the ability to occasionally place totems at range there is no reason it couldn’t apply to any totem. Imagine, “After using this spell, the next totem you drop will appear at the feet of your target.”

I think they forgot that Searing Totem randomly chooses a target, so its not ideal anyway cos it might go after some crowd controlled add instead of the boss! Hopefully they have some cunning plan to address this shortcoming, but tossing a ranged Magma Totem would be cooler.

Q: Will Unleashed Weapon consume your enchants?
A: No.

Handy, I sortof thought that anyway.

Q: Are you supporting two-handed weapons for Enhancement?
A: Once you start to get into the dual-wield talents, then Enhancement is a dual-wield tree.

I'm quite happy to dual wield. The cost of Berserking two weapons is somewhat silly, but that's what a guild bank is for, right? ;)

Q: You didn’t address Enhancement survivability or mobility or X and Y!
A: This was just a preview and is not a comprehensive list of every change. Much more will be revealed in beta and much will change during beta.

Fair enough. Much is left unanswered like the lack of Intellect on gear, more stamina or more utility for our beloved Sentry Totem. But wait, what is this...

Q: You didn’t answer the most important shaman question! What about Sentry Totem?
A: The Cataclysm is a time of great upheaval. Deathwing’s return to Azeroth tore a hole in the fabric of the universe that tragically resulted in the ultimate and irrevocable destruction of all Sentry Totems. Level designers are contemplating a shrine for the Sentry Totem near that of Uther the Lightbringer. We know shaman players will greet this news with grief, but as with all class changes we’ll have to get into beta before anything is final.


Cataclysm Class Changes: Shaman

Are up here Shaman Changes. Here are some horribly early impressions.

Primal Strike (available at level 3): Primal Strike is a new weapon-based attack that every shaman will learn very early in the game. Our goal with this ability is to make leveling as Enhancement rather than as Elemental more viable, since many key Enhancement talents become available at fairly high levels.

Should make leveling more interesting. A later post clarified that this spell shares a cooldown with Stormstrike and as such, won't be used at 85.

Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants. Instant cast. 30-yard range. 15-second cooldown. Undispellable.

Here are a few examples of effects we're considering for this ability:

- Windfury Weapon – Hurls a spectral version of your weapon at a target, dealing 50% weapon damage and increasing the shaman's Haste for the next five swings.
- Flametongue Weapon – Deals instant Fire damage and buffs the shaman's next Fire attack by 20%.
- Earthliving Weapon – Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman's next healing spell by 20%.

This sounds quite interesting, although with a 15 second cooldown we are likely to be spamming it all the time. I like the "after" effects which may work well when chained with other abilities. If they also increase the Lava Lash cooldown this may be one we alternate with Lava Lash.

Healing Rain (level 83): An area-effect heal-over-time (HoT) spell that calls down rain in a selected area, healing all players within it. There is no limit to the number of players who can potentially be affected; however, there are diminishing returns when healing a large number of targets, much like the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells. This should give Restoration shaman another healing tool that improves their group-healing and heal-over-time capabilities. 2-second cast time. 30-yard range. 10-second duration. 10-second cooldown.

Very nice for those encounters where people have to be spread out further than the range on chain heal. Sounds like Druid's Tranquility, which is very handy even if you are not Resto, so I would quite like to have the option to pop this spell should it all go pear-shaped.

Spiritwalker's Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it’s necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.

This is quite awesome given the amount of movement forced on us by encounters. Of course melee don't suffer that much unless we have to move out of range, but for casters and healers, well... awesome. It might be good for a few lightning bolts on the move, but Enhancement spell damage isn't that good really. If they implement the "even your own attacks" then we're talking, maybe we can be casting Chain Lightning whilst continuing to swing melee hits and proccing Wind Fury.

# Totem of Wrath now will replace Flametongue Totem for all shaman, and dropping this totem will buff the group's spell power by 4%. Elemental shaman will have a talent that lets all Fire totems provide +10% spell power, allowing them to drop Searing, Magma, or Fire Elemental Totems without losing their spell-damage buff. The 4% and 10% buffs will be exclusive with each other and with the warlock's Demonic Pact, so you can't benefit from all of them at once. We're also considering letting Elemental drop Searing Totem at range.

Interesting although it remains to be seen if Magma still beats it even on single targets. The current spell power of FT Totem is around 8% of my spell damage, so this is a drop of overall spell power, but it should have the existing +3% spell crit. Still, Magma always comes out ahead for single-target DPS at the moment. On the Elemental front, dropping Searing at range is ok, but I'm sure we would rather drop Magma at range for AOE, right?

# We want to free up Enhancement global cooldowns to make the spec more dynamic to play. We're considering, for example, increasing the cooldown of Lava Lash so shaman have time to work other interesting abilities into their rotation.

Personally I really enjoy enhancing and feel we already have a good variety of spells in the priority queue (8 at last count), but being able to set off more interesting abilities would be good. Bring it on.

# Enhancing Totems will be replaced with Focused Strikes, which will improve the damage of the new spell Primal Strike and Stormstrike.

Except that currently ET increases SOE effects, so buffs the raid more. I'm not sure I like reducing the unique buffs Enhancement bring.

# With the Mastery system, we're also considering removing a number of talents that grant passive bonuses, such as Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature's Blessing, and others, to allow players more freedom to choose more interesting talents.

Fair enough if I can have their effects as mastery bonuses anyway. However remember that Improved WF totem buffs the raid more than a vanilla WF totem does.

If this change and the Enhancing Totems change happen, then the Enhancement Shaman goes from providing improved melee buffs to just providing the same melee buffs any other spec of Shaman does. I like the current design where the Shaman is a master of the elements, and for each spec, provides specialisation in buffing for those elements they spec into. The Enhancement Shaman buffs melee, the Elemental Shaman offensive spell casters and the Resto Shaman buffs mana regen and spell casters. To loose this distinction and have Shaman party buffs just be a matter of which totems you drop (no matter your spec) would be a real shame in my opinion.

Ancestral Knowledge will boost mana pool size, not Intellect.
I guess we will be needing that talent then so as to not run dry in 0 secs flat then.

Mastery - Enhancement
Melee damage
Melee Haste
Nature Damage: This will provide a passive bonus to the Nature damage dealt by the Enhancement shaman.

All of these bonuses sound very good and will increase our DPS, so I'll be quite happy to invest into the Enhancement tree.

Overall quite interesting. I'm a bit concerned over the potential loss of spec-specific improved buffs.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Hot P**s!

Despite all the rubbish going on with removing our disease and poison dispels (I guess the nature elements don't want to return our calls any more), this little post made me jump for joy. Buff inc!
We agree with some of the recent discussion about Enhancement dps. We are going to hotfix a change to the Flurry talent to increase it from 25% to 30% attack speed with 5 ranks.

We also agree that Enhancement may have survivability problems and understand that players don't necessarily feel they can afford the bonus Stamina from the Toughness talent, at least in PvE. We don't have an immediate change to deploy here, but it's something we'd like to fix and a candidate for future patches.


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Level 80 Elite Tuskarr Shaman

Race change
I've finally decided to do it and Kam has a new shiny race. Although Taurens are very cool and warstomp has its place, lets face it, the racials pale in comparison to others like Orc blood fury or Troll berserking. I, however, have gone for the best race possible, newly available in Account Management.

Behold Kam, Tuskarr Shaman:

I'm really looking forward to making use of the imba fishing racial in raids.

Armory bugs
However all is not well in WoW. According to the armory this morning, Kam has been up to some shady activity in Pit of Saron. I did in fact win those legs fair-and-square thank you very much.

Even stranger, on my other characters the armory is showing that I "cheesed" certain achievements, even though they were earned properly.

I think that something has gone seriously haywire with the armory this morning, hopefully it will all get fixed once this day has passed (whatever date it is, I forget).
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