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patches

4.0.1: No, you are not going to die (much)

It’s D-Day, kids.  We’re getting patch 4.0.1 today (or tomorrow for you folks on EU servers), which means we’re getting most of the mechanical changes that come with Cataclysm.  This includes the new trees, new skills, new glyphs, reforging, the removal of armor penetration and Defense…in short, think of it as its own little Cataclysm of how we play the game.

Well, I’ve never been one to avoid rolling with the crowd on a momentous day like today.  I’m a good little lemming, so let’s throw some information and opinions out there on Prot warrioring in the new and (hopefully) wonderful world of 4.0.1…

First of all, let me give you two awesome resources as you start scrambling around.  First, as I linked previously, Naithin at Fun in Games has put together a fan-damn-tastic Prot warrior 4.0.1 guide that will give you everything you need to get started.  There’s really not all that much I can add except to give my own opinions on a few things, which is what I’ll be doing in this post.

Second, the lovely (and freshly Kingslayerish!) Kadomi over at Tank Like a Girl has a great list of 4.0.1 warrior (and other) resource links.  These will get you up to speed on setting up your spec, glyphs, and reforging.

Now with all that linked and at your fingertips, you probably don’t need me durping around giving my half-baked opinions on things.  But, I’m going to do it anyway, because (a) it’s my blog, and (b) I’m out of town for a week starting on Thursday and need a blog post up before I go.  Suck it.

What things you can expect to see when you first log in, other than an assload of LUA errors and “SERVER:  Restart in 5:00″?  Well, your health will go up a bit thanks to a flat +15% from Prot mastery, and your armor will go down a bit, especially if you’re rocking bonus armor pieces like Pillars of Might or the Cataclysmic Chestguard.  The changes are probably within about 10% in both cases.  Defense is gone, and unlamented if you ask me.  Defense gems will change into…uh…something else.  Defense rating on items will change into straight dodge and parry.  There is no more shield block value; successful blocks now block 30% of that hit’s damage, or 60% on a critical block.  Shield Slam damage now scales off attack power like everything else.  You will have a base 30% chance to block, given by your Prot mastery; the only way to raise it is by adding Mastery rating, which will require us to use Reforging to add it to our gear.  And your mastery will give you Vengeance, which takes 5% of damage that you suffer and adds it to your attack power for 10 seconds.  All tanks get this mastery; it’s designed to crank up our damage, and thus threat, while tanking.

The talent tree changes are, obviously, probably the biggest single change we face.  (Hey, at least they didn’t change us over from rage to focus.)  To do a quick recap:  Talent trees are now 31 points deep instead of 51.  At level 10 you must pick a tree, and you are locked into that tree and only that tree until you take the 31-point talent…at level 69.  Only then may you pick things from the other two trees.  Talent points now come one every two levels (one at 10, one at 11, and one every odd level thereafter).  This means that your level 80 warrior tank will have 36 talent points to spend, 31 of which have to go into the Prot tree.  The days of any sort of hybrid build are over.

Now looking at the two-month span between now and the release of Cataclysm, it’s obvious that you won’t be leveling if you’re already 80.  You probably won’t be doing much if any solo questing or grinding (again, if you’re 80), unless you’re doing something like going for Loremaster.  So by elimination, you need a build that’s focused on tanking.

This is my first shot at one.  It gives up some talents that would increase DPS–talents that I’d consider taking in a build where I was doing more simple running-around-and-killing-shit–and leans toward multiple-target threat, damage mitigation, and self-healing.  Looking through the Prot talents tier-by-tier:

Tier 1: Incite just doesn’t grab me real hard.  It looks like a bit of a damage (and threat) boost but I don’t know that we’re going to need it with Defensive Stance giving us +200% threat on everything we do.  Toughness, that’s a no-brainer, especially with “bonus armor” taking the nerf bat in a big way.  Blood and Thunder is actually a fairly effective AOE threat mechanic.  I still think the dear departed Damage Shield was better, but B&T has seemed, in the beta, to be reasonably effective at holding threat over top of healgro.  It won’t save the DPS if they focus the wrong target, but it’s not meant to.  The one disadvantage to B&T is, obviously, you can easily stick a Rend on a CC’d mob if your placement is poor.  So make sure you fight well away from sheeps and saps and such.

Tier 2: Lots and lots of points here.  3/3 Shield Mastery is a no-brainer, as is 2/2 Gag Order.  The jury is still very much out on Hold the Line; I’ve got it on Lin in the beta because his crit is basically non-existent, he’s stacked a bit of parry to help this proc, and the crit boost helps his damage while grinding.  I don’t know how much use it will be in dungeon and raid tanking, though.  As for Shield Specialization, it hasn’t proven to be a “must have” talent.  Rage has not been a huge issue for Linedan in the beta once I learned to back off constantly hitting Heroic Strike like I was tanking Arthas.  My opinion is this:  put 7 points in this tier.  Five of them go into Shield Mastery and Gag Order.  The other two can go either 0/3 Shield Spec and 2/2 Hold the Line for a bit of a damage boost, or 2/3 Shield Spec if you think you’re rage-starved.  For now, I’ll go with Hold the Line here until I get a better feel on rage.

Tier 3: Take it all.  Take ALL the talents.  Last Stand, duh.  Concussion Blow, duh.  Bastion of Defense, duh.  Warbringer, duh.  Fill this tier.

Tier 4: Again, I would take everything here.  2/2 Improved Revenge makes Revenge hit like a truck on fire driven by angry burning bears, plus lets it hit a second target–very important for multi-target tanking.  Devastate is a no-brainer, it’s our major spammable everything-else-is-on-cooldown attack.  Impending Victory doesn’t buy you much against non-elites, but it helps on bosses, and trust me, anything that will take a load off a healer right now is going to be appreciated.  Healers have a brutally tough job in 4.0.

Tier 5: I’m not completely sold on Thunderstruck.  It does synergize very nicely with Blood and Thunder, though, so I’d probably take both points in it if I took B&T.  Vigilance doesn’t transfer threat anymore, instead it gives you the refreshed taunt if the recipient gets hit and gives you a small bit of AP from the Vengeance mastery (you get 5% of 20% of the damage they took as attack power…hence, “small”).  The Taunt refresh is the main use of it now.  Heavy Repercussions doubles your Shield Slam damage whenever Shield Block is up.  I think it’s an inefficient use of points, but we’ve got to put them somewhere, and I think it’s just barely a better deal than Incite.  Granted, I have no numbers to back it up, just a gut feel and an inordinate love for giant Shield Slam crits.

Tier 6: Safeguard still doesn’t seem worth it to me.  Sword and Board is a no-brainer.

Tier 7: It’s OK.  I’ve got Shockwave.

That gives us precisely 31 points in Prot, with five points left to spend.  The last five points are spent on things that help take the load off our overworked healer brethren:  2/2 Field Dressing in Arms and 3/3 Blood Craze in Fury.

This 2/3/31 layout is probably going to be pretty cookie-cutter, but there is a tiny bit of flexibility there in the Prot tree.  If you don’t think you need as much AOE threat but need more raw damage output you can drop the points from Blood and Thunder and Thunderstruck to put them into Incite.  If you’re rage-starved, load up 3/3 Shield Specialization at the expense of Hold the Line.  The thing to remember is that you won’t be able to get any second-tier Arms or Fury talents until Cataclysm comes out, you won’t have the points…and even then, you’ll have to plan ahead.

Now, glyphing.  Glyphs come in three flavors now:  prime (things that increase your primary function, DPS, HPS, threat, etc.), major (useful and helpful things), and minor (“fun” or small semi-useful things).  Prime glyphing a Prot warrior is easy because there’s only three pertinent ones for you to pick:  Devastate, Revenge, and Shield Slam.  For major glyphs, you’ve got more choices…but one of your three must be the Glyph of Victory Rush.  It supercharges your heals from Victory Rush and Impending Victory, and again, in the 4.0 world, you’ve got to do everything you can to make your healer’s job easier.  There are several useful major glyphs to pick from, including Heroic Throw (puts a Sunder Armor stack on the target), Cleaving (Cleave hits 3 targets instead of 2), Resonating Power (-5 rage on Thunder Clap), Spell Reflection (-1 second cooldown on Spell Reflect), Shockwave (-3 second cooldown on Shockwave), or Sunder Armor (Sunder a second target).  You can make a case for any of them, so pick whatever you want.  (I’m so decisive, aren’t I?)  For your minor glyphs, a common suggestion seems to be to stack all three Shout glyphs (Battle, Commanding, and Demoralizing); but don’t ignore the Enduring Victory glyph, which increases the window for Victory Rush use from 20 to 25 seconds.

Your tanking rotation really doesn’t change very much.  You no longer frantically hammer Heroic Strike to get 100% uptime on it (mousewheels everywhere rejoice!); instead you hit it every three seconds if you’ve got rage. You will leave yourself massively rage-starved if you don’t back off that HS key and use it as the rage dump it’s intended to be instead of just mashing it every time it lights up.  I will also be curious to see what the damage relationship is between Revenge and Shield Slam.  In the beta, Revenge is consistently hitting harder than Shield Slam unless Shield Block is up with 2/2 Heavy Repercussions.  When tanking packs of trash, you’ll hit Rend once on one mob at the start of the fight, Thunder Clap to transfer it to everyone, and then make sure you Thunder Clap at least every fifteen seconds to keep Rend refreshed on all targets.


And the veil was torn

(Hi.  This post originally linked to the WoW Cataclysm Friends and Family alpha screenshot content posted on MMO Champion in early May.  Blizzard asked MMO-C to take down the content as it violated the non-disclosure agreement.  MMO-C promptly complied.  Since the content that I linked to and referred to is gone, I’ve gone to the Joseph Stalin One-Hour Photo Retouching Studio and I’ve removed that section of this post.  I’ve left the section below intact, because it discusses my views on alphas and betas in general and how people–me included–sometimes overreact about things that are still very much in flux.  Also, if you are one of the lucky bastards that is actually in the alpha, remember, you’re under an NDA.  No spoilers here plox.  Thank you.)

Now.  You’ll notice all I’ve done is talk in general (albeit gushing) terms about how good it looks.  I haven’t said word one about the other stuff that got leaked–new items, new enchants, even new talent calculators.

And I won’t.

Why?  Because this stuff will change.  It always does.  This is frigging alpha, people.  Do you remember what the Wrath of the Lich King talent calculators looked like in alpha, and what they looked like on release day?  MASSIVE changes.  Numbers will be tweaked, talents will appear and move and disappear, spells will be buffed and nerfed again and again and again based on internal and external playtesting and feedback.  Why are you going to get your panties wadded up over an “underpowered” or “overpowered” talent that stands a damn good chance of not even being in the game when you finally get in line for that midnight release party?  Do not lose your cookies over anything you see there.  Blizzard has already given us their general pathways for our classes, and some specifics, in the class previews.  Go with that for now, and don’t stroke out over incomplete alpha talent calculators.

And finally, a thought.  The Cataclysm “friends and family” alpha is, supposedly, under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) of some sort.  Well, we see how well that worked, right?  Two days in and already we have this immense flood of hundreds of screenshots and tons of detail information ripped right out of the alpha…and it’s generating huge buzz all over the WoW community.  So if you’re one of the Powers That Be at the Blizzard Mothership back in Irvine, how do you feel right now?  Are you pissed off that the NDA got so flagrantly violated?  Or are you pleased with the crazy fever-pitch intensity of the glee people have at seeing this stuff?  Or perhaps some of both?


Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge

YO DAWG. I HEARD YOU LIKE TO REVENGE SO HERE'S SOME REVENGE SO YOU CAN REVENGE WHILE YOU REVENGE.

Yesterday, after the servers came back up and people got to start playing with patch 3.3.3, I felt a great disturbance in the Force.  No, really.  It felt as if millions of Prot warriors simultaneously hit their Revenge button…and suddenly went all Rotface and screamed “WHEEEEEEEEE!”

There was some serious giddiness around the Prot warrior side of the WoW blogosphere yesterday, and no doubt it’ll continue to today.  This is mostly because of the massive double buff that our Revenge ability received in 3.3.3.  Revenge had its damage improved by 50% anyway…and then the Improved Revenge talent was modified to remove the random stun chance, but now buffs Revenge’s damage by a further 30/60% and allows the ability to hit an adjacent target for 50/100% damage.  As I said yesterday, this makes patch 3.3.3 “Revenge of the Revenge.”

I think I can best sum up my opinion of what they did by recycling a tweet I did yesterday afternoon:

“Revenge used to hit like a truck. Now it hits like a truck towing a truck. Full of explosives. Driven by angry bears.”

Seriously.  In terms of raw, single-event damage, talented Revenge has leapt to the top of the charts.  Between these changes and the 3.3.2 damage reductions on Shield Slam, from the numbers I’m seeing in various spots around the Intertubes, Revenge is now top dog, dawg.  For some gear combinations, the change is so drastic that there’s actually talk of moving Revenge ahead of Shield Slam (including Sword and Board procs) in the Prot warrior priority system.  Veneretio espouses this in his post on the buffed Revenge.  He states test numbers of ~3800 damage on Revenge versus ~2000 damage on Shield Slam.  That’s huge.

I decided to try some informal testing of my own.  So I took Linedan out and played around with the big level 82 elite undead giants (Pustulent Horrors) that patrol the top of the Ironwall Dam in Icecrown.  They’re not hard to solo at his T9/T10 gear level, drop decent money, and have 68,000 health so the fights last long enough to get an idea of how things work.

I was surprised to find that my Shield Slams were averaging about 2800-2900 per normal hit.  My Revenges were averaging slightly over that, at around 3000.  That surprised me enough, but when I went back and thought about it, I came up with three things that put Revenge in an even better light:

  • Linedan has 4315 unbuffed attack power–that’s a bit low for his gear level.  He’s short on bonus armor (which translates to AP through Armored to the Teeth).  Revenge scales off AP; Shield Slam scales off shield block value.
  • He’s wearing two-piece T10, which provides a set bonus that boosts Shield Slam damage by 20%.
  • He only had one point in Improved Revenge, not two.  That means he was only getting a +30% damage boost to Revenge, not the full +60%.  (I have since rectified that problem by moving a point from Shield Specialization into Improved Revenge.)

And despite all that, it still scraped out higher than Shield Slam.  So it’s a no-brainer, right?  Revenge moves up in the rotation, Shield Slam goes and sits in the corner for a while.  Right?

Well, allow me to put on my best Jeremy Clarkson voice and say…not so fast.

Here’s the reasons why Shield Slam may still be better than Revenge for threat, even if it isn’t for damage:

  • Remember that Shield Slam, after patch 3.3.2, had its damage reduced but had bonus threat added.  Per folks on Tankspot, Shield Slam gets an extra 770 threat added to the damage, and then that sum is multiplied by 1.3.  Revenge doesn’t get the same bonus threat, it just gets the normal boost from being in Defensive Stance, as does Shield Slam, so that cancels out.
  • Shield Slam’s cooldown is 6 seconds compared to Revenge’s 5, but remember that Shield Slam can also come off cooldown at any time thanks to Sword and Board procs.  I have no numbers to back this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, factoring in SnB procs, Shield Slam’s “effective” cooldown is less than 5 seconds, meaning that’s how often you get to use it in a fight.
  • Shield Slam gets +15% crit chance thanks to Critical Block.  In fact, Revenge is one of the few big warrior heavy hitters that don’t get a +15% critical boost from either Incite, Critical Block, or Sword and Board–Heroic Strike, Shield Slam, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave all do.  Revenge doesn’t.  When you’re a tank like Lin with a base crit chance under 8%, and maybe 16.5% raid-buffed, that extra 15% is massive.

Some of the boffins over at Tankspot have been taking a few pokes at grinding out numbers, and so far, the preliminary results seem to indicate…it’s close.  Very close.  Close enough that there is no one hard-and-fast answer for whether you should prioritize Shield Slam over Revenge.  It’ll largely depend on gear (higher AP favors Revenge, higher shield block value favors Shield Slam), and whether you’re pushing for raw damage or threat.  Personally, I’m probably going to stick with Shield Slam before Revenge on Linedan due to his two-piece T10 set bonus (he’s routinely critting SS for over 10k in raids now), and the fact that I’m old and set in my ways.

One other point of interest.  These changes have revised interest in one of the weirder warrior specs that popped up initially about a year ago…the 37/2/32 (or thereabouts) Unrelenting Assault Arms/Prot hybrid.  Veneretio had an article on it last year.  The spec is designed around the Arms Unrelenting Assault talent–which reduces the cooldown of Overpower and Revenge by four seconds–so you can see why 3.3.3 has brought it out of stasis.  The ability to hit this immensely powerful buffed Revenge every single time you dodge, block, or parry, with no cooldown to speak of, is pretty tempting, and makes the spec capable of simultaneously boss-tanking and putting out high DPS.  There’s a significant cost to pay, though.  It’s horrible on trash, doesn’t work if you aren’t tanking, gives up a lot of the best Prot warrior toys (Devastate, Sword and Board, Critical Block, Shockwave), and requires a lot of avoidance to keep Revenge constantly lit up.  It doesn’t sound like a viable everyday tank spec, but for certain fights, it may be worth playing with.

There’s a bit of irony to this whole thing, at least for me as an old-school warrior who played a bit of Prot during the days of vanilla WoW.  Revenge used to be nothing but a threat ability.  The damage it did was beyond negligible.  It lit up, you hit it, you basically tickled the mob but it pissed it off that much more.  Well, five years on, we’ve gone from tickling with a feather to hitting with a cruise missile.  And I, for one, welcome our new vengeful overlords.


3.3.3 goes live

It’s Tuesday, and that means…IT CAN BE PATCH TIEMS NAO?  WoW patch 3.3.3 drops today, no doubt bringing with it the usual headaches of extended extended maintenance, broken addons, and crippling lag.  I guess you have to think of it as the pain we go through to get our new toys.

And for those of us of the warrior-ly persuasion, there are a few new toys in the box this time.  Straight from the talbuk’s mouth, here’s the last set of PTR patch notes for 3.3.3, which should be pretty close to, if not exactly the same as, what’s hitting the servers today:

  • Revenge: Damage done by this ability (base and scaling) increased by 50%.
  • Thunderclap: This ability now counts as a ranged attack, granting it double damage on critical strikes instead of 150% and ranged miss chance, and still cannot be dodged or parried.
  • Talents
    • Arms
      • Bladestorm: Warriors can now be Disarmed while under the effects of this ability.
      • Trauma: The debuff from this talent now lasts 60 seconds, up from 15 seconds.
    • Fury
      • Rampage: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc from critical strikes.
    • Protection
      • Improved Revenge: This talent can no longer trigger a stun, and instead causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% of Revenge’s damage.
  • Vitality: Now boosts Stamina by 3/6/9%, up from 2/4/6%. Strength and expertise benefits have not changed.

That’s a nice little set of changes…and if you’re an old-school warrior like me, you might be shocked to see that they’re all positive except the Bladestorm change.  Only one nerf out of a bunch of changes that big is not something I’m used to.

Of course, we’ll talk about the Prot warrior changes first, starting with Revenge.  Revenge post-Wrath has always hit like a truck.  For some combinations of gear, especially while leveling, Revenge is a Prot warrior’s hardest-hitting ability, outstripping Shield Slam.  In the endgame, however, with the recent big boost to Devastate damage, Revenge fell a bit down the priority list.  One Devastate, with nothing other than the global cooldown, could hit almost as hard as a Revenge, with a five-second cooldown.  Plus Devastate was always available, while Revenge requires a block, dodge, or parry in order to activate (which means, practically, it’s almost always available).

Well, call this patch Revenge of the Revenge.  A flat 50% scaling damage buff is big.  Very big.  Old Revenge hit for ([1454 + AP * 0.207] to [1776 + AP * 0.207]) damage at top rank.  New, improved Revenge hits for ([1635 + AP * 0.310] to [1998 + AP * 0.310]) damage, according to WoWHead’s PTR site.  Now that doesn’t look like a complete 50% damage buff to me because the fixed portions of the equation only went up about 200 points, so take these numbers with a grain of salt…but the scaling factor off of attack power indeed went from 0.207 to 0.310, a 50% increase.  And considering that a raid-buffed Prot warrior is going to have high attack power (Linedan, in ICC-25, buffs out over 7000), even if we don’t see a 50% damage increase, we’ll see a substantial one for sure.  I expect it’ll be quite possible to get close to five-digit Revenge crits…off a talent that costs two points of rage if you’ve taken 3/3 Focused Rage, which you should’ve.

This is combined with a change to the Improved Revenge talent to make it useful again…maybe.  The old 2-point talent had a 25/50% chance to proc a 3-second stun.  The new talent instead functions like a Cleave, and spreads 50/100% of the Revenge damage to a second target.  Obviously, this is Blizzard’s attempt to assuage those of us who continually mumble about Prot warriors’ worst-in-role AoE tanking capability.  But it’s really not a big help.  Yes, the ability to drop a big whammy on two targets at once is nice, especially for an economical 2 rage.  But we can already do that with Cleave, albeit at a much higher rage cost.  One extra target doesn’t help us that much when we’re fighting to handle a four-mob pull, or (even worse) one of those humongous trash packs in the Lower Spire in ICC.  I’ve found the stun to be very handy while leveling Latisha, and it’s literally saved her life more than once (including a fight in the Wintergarde Mausoleum just yesterday, in fact).  But you have to admit, this is smart on Blizzard’s part.  It provides a damage and two-target control buff for PvE Prot warriors, while removing one of the control mechanics (the stun) that had PvPers up in arms over PvP Prot warriors.  It’s a win, I just don’t think it’s a very big win.

The Thunder Clap change might sound odd, but here’s why this is important.  Thunder Clap has apparently always been considered a spell, not a ranged attack.  That’s meant it uses the spell hit cap, which is over 100 points higher than the melee hit cap of 263 hit rating.  It also used the spell crit rule of 150% damage on crit, not 200% as for melee and physical ranged attacks.  With it being classified (finally!) as a physical ranged attack, it will use the same hit and crit percentages as all our other attacks.  It will crit harder.  And, we may finally be able to use TC while silenced.  That’s a nice buff.

Finally, there’s Vitality now giving Prot warriors an extra 1/2/3% stamina boost.  I think this means that Lin should be able to buff out around 58,500 to 59,000 health when we hit ICC this week, if Hellscream’s Buff of Pity is still at +5%.  If it goes up to +10%, which is not in the patch notes?  60k, baby.

Arms warriors get one good and one bad in this patch.  The Bladestorm nerf is, obviously, a PvP nerf.  Why it’s needed, I don’t know; Lin’s offspec isn’t Arms anymore and I never PvP’d with it anyway.  (I wonder if the Bladestorm-happy Arms warrior in ToC’s Faction Champions can be disarmed now.  Hmm.)  This is made up for by having the Trauma bleed-enhancing buff last 60 seconds instead of 12.  Druids also get this change to Mangle, which makes my wife happy; that will slightly simplify her hellishly complex feral DPS rotation.

The Fury warrior change, making Rampage a passive aura, is in line with what Blizzard has done with other similar “on-hit” or “on-crit” abilities.  I don’t believe this stacks with Leader of the Pack; it didn’t used to, and I can’t see that changing.  Still, if you don’t have a bear or kitteh in your group or raid, bringing an always-on passive “4 to 5 percent” (huh?) crit buff is a happy thing.  Rampage is generally up almost 100% of the time with a high-crit Fury warrior anyway, but I can’t complain about them removing the “almost.”

So as always, enjoy crashing the addon sites, and good luck in your office pool for “when will my server be back up.”  Tonight should be an excellent night to sit around and roleplay!  It probably won’t be an excellent night for doing much else.


3.3.2 prot warrior changes announced

Blizzard has released the patch notes for the next minor content patch, v3.3.2, over on the Korean WoW site, and wow.com picked them up.  For those of us of the Prot warrior persuasion, here’s the changes we’ve been waiting to hear about:

Warrior

Protection

  • Concussion Blow: Damage decreased by 50%. Threat level remains unchanged.
  • Devastate: Damage increased by 20%.
  • Shield Slam: Damage modifier from block value decreased, and scales worse at low block value levels. Players in high-end gear shouldn’t notice the change. In addition, threat generated by Shield Slam has been increased by 30%.
  • Warbringer: This talent no longer allows Charge and Intercept to break roots or snares. Intervene remains unaffected. In other words, you can still Charge and Intercept in any stance and while in combat.

Basically, there’s nothing here that we didn’t expect.  The Warbringer change is a straight-up PvP nerf, which will have limited effect to those of us who hang out mostly on the PvE side…although let’s just say I’m not looking forward to dealing with Faction Champions without my snare breaks.  The Concussion Blow nerf was one I hadn’t heard about, and I assume that’s a PvP nerf as well, because honestly, I don’t think we were exactly blowing the top off the charts on Festergut with our l33t 30-second-cooldown Concussion Blow deeps.  Actually, while Concussion Blow can hit for a few thousand damage, I can’t see why it’s getting nerfed at all considering the 30-second cooldown.

The Shield Slam change…now that’s interesting.  “Damage modifier from block value decreased, and scales worse at low block value levels.”  But weren’t Prot PvPers stacking huge amounts of +block value?  Or, were they stacking huge amounts of +armor penetration instead?  In any case, I’ll be tracking how this affects things not just on Linedan, with his full rack of T9/T10-level epics and 2600 SBV in his block set…I’ll also be looking at how it effects Latisha, my 71 Alliance-side Prot warrior, with her level 70ish quest greens and King’s Bulwark.  If Blizzard’s found a way to fix the problem with Prot PvP burst damage (and you have no freaking idea how weird it is for me to type that) and not significantly lower Shield Slam damage in PvE, I’ll be mightily impressed.  In fact, if they didn’t lower Shield Slam damage by 30% at the high end–which would be a massive damage nerf–they’ve just increased its net threat, which may mean our snap threat, which was already excellent, is even better.  We’ll have to see once it goes into place and people can run some tests.

Finally, Devastate continues to get buffed.  Everything I’ve written on Prot warrior priority systems last year looks like it may be out the window now, because +20% more damage on Devastate will move it way up the list.  It may not be the “do it if everything’s on cooldown” move anymore.  It already hits quite hard once fully stacked at 5, so +20% may move it above Revenge in terms of sheer damage output.  Goody, yet more keys to frantically spam every GCD!

(EDIT:  I’m also wondering if yet another Devastate buff will drag the Puncture talent off the scrapheap.  Very few of the “conventional” 51- or 53-point Protection builds take Puncture right now, preferring the more general boost from Focused Rage instead.)


Panzercow hits 3.3. 3.3 hits back.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty short on blogfodder.  I’ve been going through a mild burnout with the game and been dabbling in EVE Online and Dragon Age instead.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my friends in game, raiding with The Anvil, all that fun stuff.  But things had stalled a bit.

For Linedan, the satisfaction was bleeding out of raiding.  Trial of the Crusader was, frankly, nothing more than a one-hour expedition to dispense 15 badges.  Trial of the Grand Crusader was nothing more than Trial of the Crusader with the red numbers on my screen turned up to ridiculous levels…and maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about taking a fight that we usually roflstomp on normal (Beasts) and having it pimpslap us into the ground on heroic that just grates me a bit.  I don’t get mad at my raid, I just get annoyed with Blizzard for undertuning ToC so badly that they left a cliff wall the size of El Capitan between normal and heroic.  I could, and should, RP with him more, but Lin is not exactly Captain Happy Fun Tiems in his personal interactions.  Besides, a schedule change has left me unable to attend Noxilite’s Monday night storytelling/guild meetup in the Barrens.

With Beltar, it was kind of the opposite.  He doesn’t have a regular raid.  He’s largely a roleplay character these days, and a great one.  But at the same time, I am serious about advancing him gear-wise.  On the rare occasions I can raid with him, I do.  That doesn’t happen often, though…and once you’re through the solo quest content, which he mostly is except for some Icecrown stuff, and you’re already wearing a mix of stuff from a few Naxxes 6-7 months ago and some loot-trashcan pieces from the rare Ulduar, what then?  So while I’ve been having fun roleplaying him, I often wonder just what the little guy could do if he was geared up like Linedan was.

And then there’s my stable of alts–Illithanis (80 BM hunter), Moktor (80 orc death nugget), my up-and-comers like Sakula (77 troll shaman and ladies’ man) and my prot warrior experiment Latisha (currently 68, and yes, she’s wearing Outland slut plate).  They need some love too.  But after the fourth or fifth time, even Storm Peaks gets old.  What to do with them after cap?  All of them are sub-Naxx geared.  They’ll never get into raids–too much of a gear gap to overcome, I’m needed as a tank where I am now, and I don’t have time to raid on any more than two characters as it is.  So why put forth the time?

Enter Patch 3.3:  Fail of the Lich King.  (Yes, I know it’s “Fall of the Lich King.”  Look at the font on the logo when you open your Launcher and tell me it doesn’t look like “Fail of the Lich King,” dammit.)

Suddenly, most of these problems have been solved.

Linedan has a new raid to play with.  No more Trial of the Big Round Room With Two Settings, Too Easy and Too Hard.  Welcome to Icecrown Citadel, and kids, let me tell you, it kicks so much ass it’s painful.  I rang up over 200 gold in repairs in there over the weekend and we only downed one boss (Lord Marrowgar)…and I don’t care. It’s fantastic.  You’d better bring your “A” game, because Arthas is not playing flag football.  Crowd control is back, with a vengeance…most of the trash pulls we’ve seen so far are between six and nine mobs.  (Priests, time to get your shackles out for more than just private fun in the cloisters.)  Lord Marrowgar is challenging but doesn’t seem to be over-the-top impossible once you use a little brainpower and figure out a good movement/tanking strategy.  The two fights we’ve seen so far on 25-man require three tanks–oh frabjous joy for a raid that carries four tanks every week, fewer people forced into their secondary role!

And for a second, ditch the mechanics, ditch the loot…this is Icecrown, people.  That’s Arthas up there.  That’s the Big Bad who’s been hovering over the Warcraft franchise for nigh on ten years now.  The special guest stars are everywhere…Tirion Fordring, Saurfang the Elder (and his son, in a way), Bolvar Fordragon, Muradin Bronzebeard.  Lore whores and roleplayers like me are loving this.  It looks good.  It sounds good.  It is good.

And then there’s the five-mans.  Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection.  I’ve only run them once, on normal, with one other attempt (unsuccessful) at the HoR gauntlet on heroic.  Forge of Souls looks big, but actually is fairly small and linear, and doesn’t appear too awful hard, though all these instances are considerably harder than existing level 80 5-mans, both normal and heroic–think Magister’s Terrace for the difficulty jump.  Pit of Saron is my favorite, a giant outdoor quarry full of Alliance and Horde slaves, with some awesome NPC interaction, funny boss fights (leper gnomes with mohawks FTW), a nasty but cool gauntlet, and twists near the end.

And then there’s Halls of Reflection.  Any instance that can simultaneously have me gushing at how awesome it is and literally screaming in frustration is probably doing something right.  HoR is brutal on tanks from a technical standpoint.  The first boss fight in there left me with an aching wrist and exhausted…and then I had to turn around and flee for my life while holding off waves of undead with the Lich King his own mother-humping self coming to eat my face.  The final gauntlet in HoR is simultaneously brilliant and frustrating, at least if you’re a warrior or a bear.

What about Beltar and the alts?  Looking for Dungeon, baby.  Random heroics.  It works brilliantly.  You can accumulate badges at a ridiculous rate, and at least so far, the idiot quotient seems to be quite low.  Most people I’ve run with have been quiet, and none have been RPers, but they’re mostly at least competent enough to get the job done.  The tanks and healers I’ve run with have, for the most part, actually been quite good.  Oh, and how ridiculous is “a ridiculous rate?”  Ridiculous as in, in one weekend, Beltar has gotten two pieces of Tier 9 (gloves/shoulders), a new gun from heroic Coliseum, a bronze drake from CoS, and the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement.  In one weekend.

So the final score for WoW over the past four days?

Thursday:  Icecrown Citadel 25-man on Linedan, downed Lord Marrowgar.

Friday:  Icecrown Citadel 25-man and Trial of the Crusader 25-man on Linedan.  Full clear on ToC, didn’t quite get Lady Deathwhisper in ICC but we’re doing better.

Saturday:  Trial of the Crusader 10-man (full clear, 5 for 5 on one-shots), Onyxia 10-man, Naxx 10-man (weekly raid quest, just Anub’rekhan) and ICC 10-man on Linedan with Lord Marrowgar one-shotted.  Plus a couple random heroics on Beltar, and all three of the new 5-mans on normal with Linedan.

Sunday:  7 random heroics on Beltar, two on Moktor my DK, one on Linedan.

Soooo…what do you guys think?  Think I’m burned out any more?

Me neither.

I’ve got a bunch more 3.3 posts mentally lining up.  One on the LFD system and its quirks, one on the five-mans in which I fully accept that Halls of Reflection has made me its bitch and I don’t mind, and one on Icecrown’s first two bosses with a little about strategery and a little about tanking.  Stay tuned.


Next stop, frozen hell

Welp.  This is it.  Today is the day that patch 3.3 drops…and after the obligatory extended expanded extended maintenance, we might even be able to actually play tonight.  (Currently, servers are one hour late coming up and the clock is ticking.)  Of course, after you factor in the hours of time it’ll take for some of us to make our heavily customized UIs workable again, the obligatory server wobblies, and the massive lag, we won’t be doing much more than chilling and RPing anyway.  Which, honestly, is just fine!  Tuesday is our informal Wildfire Riders roleplay night in Stormwind anyhow, and there’s Things to be discussed…so as Anna says, why not take patch night to roleplay instead of fighting the lag, instability, and addon hell of trying to instance or raid in Icecrown Citadel?

Anyhoo.  I guess I’m in a bit of a burnout period on WoW, either that or all the crazy stuff going on in Real Life at the moment–demanding job, house move, four-year-old daughter, etc.–is doing a pretty good job of making me feel like I’m in a WoW burnout.  While I’m looking forward to 3.3 and Icecrown, I’m not ZOMGHOLYCRAP enthused about it.  Yes, I want out of Trial of the Big Round Room, badly. I need 41 more badges to get Linedan his fourth piece of T9.25 (the helm) and after that, the place can basically burn down for all I care.  And the only reason I care about that is because the warrior T9 four-piece set bonus reduces the cooldown on Shield Block by 10 seconds.  Shield Block up for 10 out of 30 instead of 10 out of 40?  That’s just sexy right there.  I’m on that like Tiger Woods on a cocktail waitress.

Icecrown Citadel itself, honestly, I know little about except for what Blizzard posted about the “gating” setup for it.  I have not researched any of the fights in advance.  I’m one of these weirdos that can watch videos and read strategies all day, but until I actually get in there and experience the fight, it’s not going to stick.  (My raid officers are going to read this and /facepalm considering I’m a tank–sorry, guys, it’s the truth.)  We’re going to walk in there at some point this week, and I’m probably going to be coming in pretty cold.  And that’s OK.  I pick stuff up fast.

And then there’s this new cross-server PUG dungeon tool whatchamacallit thang.  I’m not so sure about that.  Yes, Blizzard is offering some pretty big carrots to randomly pitch yourself into a group with four people not only from your server, but your battlegroup. But do you remember the last time you went into Alterac Valley and found yourself listening to Istabbdurmom and Mastablasta having an all-caps textspeak argument about strategy (“ALL ON O RUSH DB!!1!”  “LOL STFU NOOB CAP SF FURST”) while Poosniffa sexually harassed your female toon and Neerdraaage kept whispering you “lolololol rp server nurd u sux”?  Imagine that set in the middle of Oculus.  You will have to decide if the title of “the Patient” and a Perky Pug pet is worth running the risk of that.

OK, maybe that’s a worst-case scenario.  The pool of PUG recruits should improve dramatically in quality because of the significant rewards Blizzard is offering to subject yourself to cross-server instancing.  But still, it’s a total crapshoot.  You might end up in a group with a solid bunch of people and have an easy run.  You might end up feeling like you landed in the middle of “Beavis and Butt-Head Play World of Warcraft” and realize all four of your groupmates are probably the result of inbreeding.  Such are the vagaries of random numbers, and such will be your life in cross-server PUGs.  I might not do them on Linedan, since I don’t like PUG tanking in general due to the stress level.  But my DPS alts?  Sure, why not?  I raid with Beltar rarely, and the others never, so this would be a good way to slowly build badges and money.

There are, of course, a ton of other things in the patch–class changes, profession changes, PvP changes, etc.  But really, just like patch 3.1 was about Ulduar and patch 3.2 was about the Trial of the Art Department Originality Fail, patch 3.3 is about Icecrown Citadel.  It’s about closing the storyline of Warcraft III–Arthas Menethil’s betrayal, the fall of the North to the Scourge, the destruction of Silvermoon, Arthas’ flight to Northrend and his becoming the Lich King.  It’s the third reel.  It’s Act V.  It’s time, after all the effort, to mount the final assault upon the stronghold of the Lich King and eradicate the leader of the Scourge from Azeroth once and for all…

…at least until the next raid reset.


Hi, my name is Linedan…

…and I’m an addon addict.

(“Hiiii, Linedan.”)

It’s pretty amazing, really, that Blizzard made the WoW interface so extensible.  I remember in the old days of the original Everquest, where the UI was the UI and that was that, period, end of sentence, and attempts to alter it one tiny bit would get you banhammered with lightning speed.  (And what a godawful UI it was, at least before changes in one of the early expansions.)  But not so with WoW.  Here, you can download literally thousands of different addons to tweak your experience in Azeroth exactly the way you like it.  Don’t like how–or where–your character’s health is displayed?  No sweat, take your pick of unitframes.  Don’t like that big clunky bottom actionbar with the dargons on the end?  Here, have umptysquillion different bar mods.

But there’s a dangerous, inconvenient downside to this endless tweakability.  Without fail, come time for a patch, especially a big “point-zero” content patch like the one that dropped yesterday…your shit is gonna break sooooo hard.

So that’s why I was up at 5:30 this morning, hitting Curse and WoW Interface before they get slashdotted later in the day, for new copies of all my addons.  And sadly, I run a lot of addons.

It started off small, as most addictions do.  In the beginning, there was Cosmos.  But Cosmos kept trashing my chat channels, and eventually, I found the nice, all-in-one CTMod, pieces of which I still run 3+ years later.  Then I decided I wanted a better set of action bars, so I tried a few different bar mods before settling on Trinity.  Then I discovered the sheer Heaven-sent high of XPerl Unit Frames.  After that, it wasn’t long before I was waking up in dark alleys after a bender of chugging BigWigs modules and mainlining Titan Bar plugins.

One of these days I’ll do a detailed “here’s my UI, you can stop laughing now dammit” post.  But here’s just a partial list of what I ran during 3.1.x, unlinked because I just can’t be arsed to link everything…

  • Unitframes:  XPerl
  • Bar mod:  Bartender4
  • Timers/buff mods:  ElkBuffBars, DoTimer, Quartz, OmniCC, NeedToKnow
  • Gear:  ItemRack, Rating Buster
  • Raid and combat mods:  Grid, oRA2, Deadly Boss Mods, Scrolling Combat Text, Omen, Recount
  • RP:  FlagRSP2
  • Appearance mods:  Tekticles, TipTop, FuBar plus a lot of Fu stuff

You get the idea.  Now I know there’s some duplication there; I don’t really need four timer mods, probably.  I only use NeedToKnow for timers when I’m in Arms spec and need to keep Rend up on my target–and honestly, I may switch to Power Auras for that anyway, given the good stuff I’ve heard about that addon.  (See?  It just gets worse!)  But after all that tweaking and downloading, I had a fully-custom UI that was set up just the way I wanted it, with everything arranged just so…more or less.

The problem is, of course, the administrative nightmare of keeping all that drek current.  It’s hard.  Half my addons were out of date before 3.2 even dropped.  I’m slack about updating stuff like DBM that changes frequently, unless it’s obviously broken.  Now throw in a large content patch that will cause half or more of those addons to break, sometimes spectacularly, and you see why I completely write off doing any playing on the day and night of a patch release.  (Well, that and lately, Feathermoon and the Cyclone battlegroup in general have been down longer and more often than any other set of servers when Patch Day comes.)

So there I was this morning, in front of the computer at oh-dark-what-the-fuck, starting to pull down addons to get ready to raid with No Bads tonight, assuming they get some new hamsters to power the server.  I got a few unpleasant shocks, as usual, worst of which was that XPerl, my beloved, awesome unitframe, wasn’t yet updated for 3.2.  This is Not Good, friends.  My UI, like a lot of others I’ve seen, has all the frames down near the bottom, where I can see them without having to flick my eyes to the top of the screen.  (The layout is largely inspired by Anna’s UI, though it’s not nearly as cleanly laid-out.)  Moving those frames back to the top left with the Blizzard default frames…uh-uh, kids.  It would not be a good thing with me trying to tank Ulduar.

So, somewhat frantic, I grabbed the Pitbull unitframe package…and then spent 45 sleepy, sunrisey minutes beating the damn thing into submission with all sorts of virtual sledgehammers until I got it looking the way I wanted it.  I still miss my XPerl, but this’ll do for now, and who knows, it might grow on me.  That’s how I’ve tried many other addons…a patch breaks one and it’s not updated on release day, so I grab something else just to try and wind up sticking with it.

(I note that even as I write this on Wednesday afternoon, XPerl has been updated to version 3.0.4a, which is patch 3.2 compatible.  I think I’ll probably try Pitbull tonight, and then if I don’t like it, back to XPerl I go.)

I know some people who have broken their addiction to addons and have gone back to a more vanilla interface.  Blizzard is actually making it easier to do so, really, as they seem to be very attentive to the better user-written addons out there and incorporate their functionality into newer versions of the game (without breaking the ability to use the user-written versions, which is a damn nice touch).  Me, I’m too weak.  I can’t do it.  I’m too used to the crutch of having Omen dancing in one corner of my screen while my target frame sits near the bottom with pretty cast bars in between, and having six or seven nicely lined-up small 12-button bars bottom center.  To me, the default UI looks like a hideously inefficient use of space.

But take heart, default UI-users.  There’s always my wife.  She has seven level 80s, that’s three more than I do.  She raids with me on her feral druid Rashona and is consistent top-two DPS in 10-man and top-four in 25-man, cranking out 4500+ dps with ease.  And she does it with a UI that’s 100% bone-stock except for FlagRSP2 and Deadly Boss Mods.

Oh yeah…and she clicks half her abilities, too.  How’s that taste?


Could it be…

The rumor mill seems to be going full blast that either tomorrow or next Tuesday will be The Day, the day that 3.1 drops, bringing us dual-specs, Ulduar, a whole rash of class changes, and of course, days and days of broken addons and borked servers.  Are you ready?  Are you looking forward to it?  Unlike Illidan, ARE YOU PREPARED?

In a way I’m looking forward to it, and in a way I’m not.  Our raid group has taken down everything except Sarth +3, so the new content of Ulduar is welcome.  On the other hand, I’ve got a huntardress that I’m trying to get geared up to the point where she could actually be a viable sub on the nights they don’t need a tank or need ranged DPS worse…and if Naxx runs dry up, she’s screwed.  Plus, vehicle fights, ugh.  I hate vehicle fights with a vengeance.  If I kill a big boss, I want to do it as whatever character I’m on at the time, not “dude driving a (drake|demolisher|golf cart of doom).”  I’m still looking forward to dual specs for Linedan, although my fervor for it has cooled somewhat since I tried out Arms and realized just how terrible my deeps was, even in half epic gear.  And of course, being the total addon ho that I am, I’m really not looking forward to having to replace almost everything and being crippled for a few days until Curse and WoW Interface get back up off the floor, quit being slashdotted, and let me download new versions.

So what are you looking forward to, or dreading, with patch 3.1 and the new content?


New 3.1 info–UI changes

Ghostcrawler’s got some info on 3.1 UI changes up on the official WoW site.  The highlights:

  • You’ll be able to switch specs anywhere out of combat (except Arenas or Battlegrounds), only taking 5 seconds to do so.  The only downside is that you zero out your energy, rage, mana, etc. when doing so.  No Lexicon of Power is needed to switch.  (This is perfect for me as a raid off-tank…switching between tank and DPS mid-raid on the fly.  Awesome.)
  • There will be a UI option to preview your talents before committing to them.  (HELL YES!  No more blowing a 50g respec because you fat-finger one click!)
  • It still costs 1000g to activate dual specs, but the minimum level is now 40.  (Twinks rejoice.)
  • The Equipment Manager (the built-in UI version of current addons like Closet Gnome or ItemRack) will move stuff to and from your bank if you’re at a bank while using it.  And you can hotkey your item sets.  (Handy!)
  • The UI will include expanded quest-tracking abilities, including putting icons on your window to use quest items without digging through your bags.
  • New LFG window improvements.
  • You’ll be able to queue for a Battleground from anywhere.

Go read the whole thing–there’s some seriously tasty stuff there.

(Hat tip:  TankSpot.)


3.0.9 going live today

Hey look, SURPRISE BUTTSE…uh, I mean, hey, look, a patch.  3.0.9 patch notes are not up on Blizzard’s normal patch notes page as of Tuesday morning EST, but are available here at MMO Champion and the other usual spots around teh Intertubes.  So expect “extended expanded extended maintenance” today; my guess for server uptime is no earlier than about 4:45 pm EST, which oddly enough, is about the time I leave work.

Oddly enough, this is one of the few patches I’ve seen that doesn’t touch warriors at all, good or bad.  There are changes to most other classes, including the reversal of a couple of 3.0.8 BM hunter nerfs.  Serpent’s Swiftness is now back up to +20% pet haste at max rank, and Kindred Spirits is now back up to +20% pet damage.  I think Blizzard figured out that they dropped the hammer too hard on BM hunters.  These are countered by two ability nerfs–Lava Breath and Poison Spit only slow target casting speed by -25%, down from -50%.  (Several other cast-slow effects like Slow and Mind-Numbing Poison got halved as well; this looks to be a PvP adjustment for squishies.)

One more semi-related hunter tidbit:  Big Red Kitty, your one-stop shop for all things huntrish, commissioned an interesting WoW Armory-mining survey of hunter specs and just what 3.0.8 did to the BM/MM/SV proportions.  The results shocked the hell out of me.  Looks like survival hunters definitely win the Flavor of the Month award for January.


3.0.8 patch notes up on the PTR

http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/patchnotes/test-realm-patchnotes.html

Nothing particularly unknown or unexpected there.  The only change for prot warriors is that Taunt (and druid Growl) have a 30-yard range now instead of 20.  There’s better news for Fury warriors…the extra 5% miss penalty for Titan’s Grip is gone.  I, for one, welcome our new dual-2H-axe-wielding overlords.  All the Titans Grip barbarians I know will be drinking and wenching far into the night in celebration.

Hunters, well, they don’t do so well.  Beltar, a hardcore marks hunter, will be pleased with the reduced cooldown on Kill Shot and the small buff to Improved Tracking, even while lamenting the moderate nerf to Steady Shot.  But Illithanis, my BM spec?  Not a happy belfette.  Her DPS is so low and her gear so terrible at 71 that she may not even notice, we’ll see.  But between the Serpent’s Swiftness attack speed nerf, the Unleashed Rage damage nerf, and the Kindred Spirits damage nerf?  Pet damage is going to drop considerably.  And, the Readiness/Big Red Pet cooldown change may be the death of the 50/21/0 gimmick build.  We’ll see.

And for you mages and warlocks:  Any ability that agros a mob will now “tap” it to you, so nobody else will be able to get xp/loot from it.  Yep, you won’t get your sheep stolen anymore, and locks won’t have that two-second window of vulnerability before the first DoT ticks hit.


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