Thursday, January 31, 2008

We Interrupt this Program . . .

So, the next installment of the ACLaBT series isn't going to be going up today. General Disasters. . . er, I mean GM, was keeping me busier than usual today, and I just didn't have the time (nor privacy) to sit down with the threat calculator to play around. On the plus side, I got to put in some time on improving the site itself today, and while I'm rather pleased with the results thus far, I have plenty more I want to try to get done today.

What I've Done:

First of all, with the help of Phaelia at Blog Azeroth, I've implemented cuts on my blog. What are cuts, you might ask? Well . . .

. . . Thats a cut. Just a nice way to condense the front page here. From now on, all you'll see when you first pop over to the Rambling Bear is an introduction to the posts, the actual meat of the articles will be behind links. Less cluttered and all. Oh, and I went back through everything I already posted and did likewise (Remember in school when your english teacher taught you to start every essay with an introduction paragraph? Sometimes it pays to listen to your teachers!).

Second. . . is actually what I did first. Yesterday, I signed up for a feedburner account, and set everything up for people to subscribe to the Rambling Bear as an RSS feed, or even through e-mail. So, while the option to subscribe to the blog was already there, its now in a more prominent location. Subtle hint? Perhaps.

Third, at the urging of the Blog Azeroth community, I have added a copyright notice to the bottom of the site. Can't hurt, eh? I'm not too fond of the appearance of it, though, but I'm too rusty with html/css/schwatever, and wasn't able to get the formatting looking good. I'll get back to it eventually, but honestly, with it hiding at the bottom, its not top priority.

Fourth, I went and adjusted the page widths a bit. The overall page is a bit wider now, and the sidebar is narrower, giving plenty of space for actual posts.

What I've Yet to Do:

First and foremost, I need to fix the images I'm using. Apparently, when blogger "uploads" a web picture, it doesn't actually upload a damn thing, it just hotlinks it off-site. Now that I've noticed this, I need to fix it so all of my images are local copies. Badwidth is bandwidth, and stealing it is bad, even if it's accidental.

Second, I need to figure out how I want to handle my blogroll. Right now, I have a short list of my frequently visited blogs (though even two of THOSE I'm not so sold on any more), and my guildmates' blogs. I want to keep my actual blogroll short, but also want to give a more extensive roll for all of the great blogs that are out there. I just have to figure out how I want to go about doing that, and also have to decide whether to keep my guildmates on the front page, or move them to the expanded roll.

Third, I need a banner. Badly. Unfortunately, my artistic skills are somewhere between 0 and none, at least in the graphic arts. I tried offering my guildies 100g to make a banner, but nobody's bit on that offer. Any suggestions for what to do in it are greatly appreciated. On the plus side, the mrs. does know a thing or two about photoshop, so I can probably get her to make it once I have the concept and some images to work with.

Fourth, I need to get item links working. I've tried to install the "Powered by Wowhead" item links on the site, but every time the script just makes IE toss errors around, even though I follow the instructions exactly.

Fifth, I need to work on the overall layout. While I'm more of a "Function over Style" sort of guy, if I want to build a community of readers, I need to at least have SOME sense of style. And style sheets. Ugh, again with the breaking out the books.

Anyhow, I'll try to get ACLaBT3 up tomorrow. Actually, no trying, I WILL get it up, even if I have to work on it until 3 in the morning to do it (Yes, I know, technically that would mean it didn't go up until Saturday, but timestamps are adjustable *grin*)
Continue reading 'We Interrupt this Program . . .'

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ACLaBT2: Swipe vs. Lacerate and the Efficiency of Maul

So, now that we have this fancy calcumalator here, lets get to using it. Today I want to look at two subjects: Swipe vs. Lacerate for single target tanking, and the effectiveness and efficiency of Maul. We'll get to other topics, like the value of hit, expertise rating, and how to use the calculator to make a good offtanking threat rotation, in a future post.

The Surprisingly High Efficiency of Maul

I'm going to start with the second subject first, because it really surprised me when I actually started looking at the numbers. Using the numbers from yesterday, Maul is only about 10% less rage efficient than lacerate, coming in at about 27.2 threat/rage compared to lacerate's 31.4. The lower your AP and crit are, the more rage efficient Maul is, though even if we reduce ourselves to 1500 AP and 20% crit, Maul is only AS efficient as Lacerate. The lesson here is simple: Dont worry TOO much if you Maul one too many times, and because of it miss a lacerate. You're not losing that much threat. . . unless you also miss a mangle, which has an INCREDIBLE amount of rage efficiency!

Now, you might be wondering, how does Maul have negative scaling? Well. . . it actually has no scaling whatsoever (Save for a little bit of scaling with crit, I suppose). The reason Maul's numbers look worse and worse as we get better threat generation stats is actually due to the scaling of autoattack. The better our autoattack damage, the more rage our autoattacks generate. . . and since I'm factoring the loss of an autoattack into Maul's rage cost, Maul actually costs MORE rage the better your gear is.

Swipe Vs. Lacerate: the Breakpoints

Some of you may not realize this, but there comes a point where Swipe actually pulls ahead of lacerate for single-target threat generation. The question is, where does this breakpoint lie. Well, funny thing, its actually pretty simple to extract the data, but it relies on two factors: your crit, and your attack power. I'm going to assume that hit is meaningless here (since both attacks suffer the same miss rate). I'm also discounting the lacerate bleed effect for now, basically assuming we're comparing Mangle->Lacerate x3 to Mangle->Lacerate->Swipe x2, just for ease of calculation. And I'm going to look at 2 values for mob mitigation; 30% because thats what I used as the default in the calculator (And coincidentally, is about what Void Reaver sits at after raid debuffs, that being a very threat-sensitive fight), and 20% (Which will be the new default, based on the research done on boss armor at Elitist Jerks, and assuming full raid debuffs and average armor, more or less). The results, which are also now saved in the calculator, are as follows:

To read this table, just find the row that most closely resembles your Attack power, and the colum that resembles how you want to compare swipe and lacerate (20% or 30% mitigation, Threat/swing or Threat/rage). Where they cross is a crit value. If you have more than that amount of crit, Swipe outperforms lacerate. Less than that amount of crit, and lacerate pulls ahead. So, for example, I figure that, raid buffed, I have about 2600 AP and 35% crit. Looking across the 2600 AP row, I see that, believe it or not, there is only one occasion where swipe DOESN'T outperform lacerate on a single target: Threat/Rage on a target with 30% armor.

What this says to me (and yes, this actually is news to me) is that I need to switch my tanking rotation to more heavily use swipe, except for when I'm tanking on the Lootreaver fight AND am threat limited (Not actually VR's target). Looks like its time to start using that Mangle->Lacerate->Swipe x2 rotation I mentioned earlier!

Tomorrow: Earthwarden Vs. Wildfury Greatstaff, and Offtank Threat Rotations

Continue reading 'ACLaBT2: Swipe vs. Lacerate and the Efficiency of Maul'

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Closer Look at Bear Threat, Part 1

Today's entry is going to be relatively short. Mostly because I've spent most of the last 2 hours creating a threat calculator for our various druid threat attacks, taking into account ALL the variables I could muster. Overall hit rate, crits, bonus threat, talents, heck, the only thing I think I left out was the possibility of having SALVATION on! Well, that, and the possibility of fighting mobs that are lower than level 73, because I dont care about trash *shrug*. Special thanks goes to Karthis; your post on rage generation was a great help, the formulae on wowwiki were just too painful to try to interperet.

First off, here are the numbers that appear in the calculator by default. I assumed a reasonably well geared, raid buffed tank, using an Earthwarden (Note the Expertise rating):

And here is a link to the calculator itself. Simply adjust the green values to suit, and witness the magic!

Tomorrow's post is going to use this calculator to analyze druid threat generation. What fun!

Nonetheless, If you happen to find something I did leave out, or think I might have, say so, I'll get it in there before Part 2 tomorrow. Oh, or any mistakes I may have made (Especially if you happen to have a reliable source with an exact value for swipe scaling).
Continue reading 'A Closer Look at Bear Threat, Part 1'

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ring Ring Ring . . . Bananashoulders!

Siha, of Banana Shoulders, recently posted the first in what is likely to be a regular series of questions for bloggers such as myself. Be on the lookout for other Blog Azeroth patrons putting up their responses to the question:

Q: What do you enjoy about the class you play the most?

Well, there are a few different reasons I play a Druid. . .

Druid was my first class -- Even before I played the game, I was doing my research on it. Before WoW, I had always played casters of some variety. But I was starting to get curious about more melee-oriented roles. Rather than make multiple characters to experiment with, I figured I would go with one of the game's hybrid classes and experience everything at once. Since I wanted to try both tanking and melee DPS, my options were either Paladin or Druid. Two factors tipped the scales toward Druid: I had an "RP family member" who would fit very well as a druid (though Jasminne was also an obvious choice for paladin), and more importantly, the literature I was reading tended to treat Paladins as a sort of easymode class. Not saying what I was reading was CORRECT, but I like a challenge, so I went with Druid.

(Feral) Druids dont have downtime -- One of the things I absolutely HATED about other games was the immense downtime inherent in most systems. Lineage II was the absolute worst in this regard, with special mention going to casters in D&D Online (where mana was so restricted that many fights DURING A RUN were effectively downtime since you couldn't hit a damn thing with weapons unless you were super-specialized in their use, and wanted to save as much MP as possible for the big fights). I have never had any downtime whatsoever as a feral druid, though. If my health runs low, I pop out, heal myself, and keep going. And if my mana runs out. . . LOL, yeah, I think thats happened like 3 times while soloing, and I just innervate myself.

Tree healing is fun! -- Believe it or not, I'm one of those nuts that actually enjoys healing (But only if I have a tank who knows how to keep mobs off of me). I dont think I've ever complained about having to heal a run, and have always tried to keep a decent healing set (Which I carry with me at ALL times, even when I'm soloing, you never know). When the expansion came out, and I got Lifebloom, things got a little bit more fun, tossing out heals on a 7-second fuse. Then the Lifebloom +heal change hit, and druid healing became a blast. Honestly, while I'm levelling my paladin to be a healer, I think I'd almost rather respec Surania to healing (She has damn good gear for a feral, 1500 +heal and 150 mana/5 while casting) and have the paladin be the tank. Almost.

I like big numbers. -- Which is not to say that I particularly care about the biggest crits ever, I never really got that, since its all about DPS in PvE, not the single big hits, leave that for the PvP arenas. But when I see 20k health (and then realize its actually low), 35k armor, and over 50% dodge when fully raid buffed for tanking, it makes me all giddy inside. To the point that I guess I've pissed some people off in the past when bragging about gear upgrades (Mind you, I've only gotten one signifigant upgrade recently, the ring from Mags' head).

The Swiss-Army-Knife effect. -- This is actually a mixed blessing. I love being able to do whatever the raid needs me to do, and to be able to (to a good extent) switch between roles at a moment's notice. The problem is, I never really wanted to be a melee DPS type. Sure, I levelled feral, but I never really got all that interested in LOLkittyMewMew for groups. That was reinforced, pre-1.12, by the fact that there used to be a definite split between the feral tanking spec (11/33/7 baybee) and feral DPS spec. Druids specced for tanking did pretty piss-poor DPS, and druids specced for cat DPS weren't terribly great at tanking. Not that druid tanking and DPS was all that great in general, mind you. Anyhow, with the streamlining of the feral tree, I was all but forced to embrace my inner kitty and learn the ways of The Shredder. And while I've started to enjoy cat DPS a bit, I still much prefer tanking or healing.

The one thing I truly HATE. -- Switching gears for a second, perhaps to an idea for the next installment of this blogging exercise, is the one thing I truly hate about being a bear. And that is the #^($ing armor cap. Seriously, blizzard, just take it out already, or at LEAST balance the game around never being able to reach it under normal circumstances. Armor is our primary scaling stat as a feral tank, and while I've already covered the fact that diminishing returns is a big pile of crap, it doesn't scale exponentially like dodge, either. Honestly, its not like we'd be able to get very far past the cap anyhow. In fact, just increasing the cap to 80% increases the cap on the actual armor number to 47,840! Good luck getting that without some hardcore, short-lived buffs *coughinspirationcough*

Continue reading 'Ring Ring Ring . . . Bananashoulders!'

Friday, January 25, 2008

What People Fail to Realize About Guilds and their Leaders

First off, let me just state that this is by no means intended as some sort of attack on my guild's membership. I love Prophecy. . . hell, I wouldn't have stayed as long as I did as the GM if I didn't. Some of this may be inspired by my experiences leading Prophecy, but most of it is more generic, and spans all the guilds in all the games I've played. I just wanted to make public some of the things I think to myself when the fecal matter meets the rotary air circulation device.

  • Guild leaders pay the same 15 bucks a month you do: Believe it or not, Guildmasters dont get paid 6-figure incomes to fulfil their role. In fact, they pay just as much for the privelege of logging in each day as you do. You are not one of their customers, and as such you shouldn't expect 24x7 service from them, even if they're logged in. Hell, even the people who ARE paid to moderate the game have response times ranging from bad to abysmal!

  • There is no such thing as a degree in guild leadership: There isn't even so much as a brochure handed out to the new guys. At most, we have an online community to draw from for ideas on how to best lead our guild members, though more often than not, the stories you find online only deal with what NOT to do. Don't expect your leaders to have the magical formula that makes everything run perfectly. I assure you, if it existed, somebody WOULD be making that 6-figure income selling it!

  • Guild leaders are not psychic: Last time I looked, guilds had leaders with names like Surania, Cheetara, or Killerets. Rarely will you find Kreskin, Geller, or Cleo in the upper ranks. What this means is, if you have a problem with something going on in the guild, and its not being addressed, thats probably because the folks in charge don't actually know about your problem. Voice your concerns, and dont be surprised if it takes a few tries to actually get the problem addressed, as your voice is one among many.

  • Guild leaders are not peer mediators: Often times, when somebody has an issue directly related to their interactions with a fellow guild member, their first reaction is to bring up their issues with the guild leader. And while sometimes that may be an appropriate first step (Usually when the problem is something like sexual harassment or general asshattery), small interpersonal problems should NOT require a third party to be settled. Have a problem with the shadow priest playing favorites when he makes groups for the daily heroic? Talk to HIM about it! Upset because that cute shamaness you've had your eyes on is now dating your best friend? Thats nice, you expect me to do what, exactly? You handle your personal problems, and leave the Guildmaster to deal with the problems that affect the guild as a whole.

  • The stress of leadership grows exponentially with guild size: Small guilds, like what Prophecy started out as, are relatively easy to lead. Everybody knows everybody else pretty well, and everybody can have a say in guild affairs. Raiding-sized guilds, on the other hand, keep Bristol-Myers Squibb in business. Thus, the larger your guild is, the more stressed out you can count on your guild leaders being. Try to be understanding if they occasionally get snippy, reclusive, or whatever, because sometimes it takes a lot of effort just to log in to a guild full of people who need you.

  • Its just a game: This one is for my fellow leaders. If the mere idea of logging in gives you a migraine, don't. If this is you, cancel your account before you give yourself a heart attack. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to start taking WoW too seriously, and to actually stress yourself out over it. You're paying 15 bucks a month to have fun, not to have a second career.

In conclusion, I'd just like to give a big round of applause for my comrades-at-arms from all guilds. I know all too well what running a guild entails, and I wouldn't wish it on anybody!

Continue reading 'What People Fail to Realize About Guilds and their Leaders'

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chaotic Order and Orderly Chaos

So, now that I have some readers, I'd like to pose a question that I found myself pondering after reading Yashima Plays a couple days ago: What makes an instance run fun to you? In particular, do you prefer a nice, controlled, safe run, or do you thrive in the chaos that tends to breed in PuG runs (and Prophecy heroic runs when we're bored)?

I personally really enjoy chaos, at least when I'm tanking. "Three mob pull? Put the Crowd Control away, silly! Five mobs? Meh, drop a trap at the healer's feet in case one gets away. A whole busload?? Stack some extra heals on me, my friends, its time for a barkskin/hurricaine kamikaze pull! Yes, I know this is a heroic, whats your point?" I think I do that partially because I trust my own ability to hold aggro over my allies' ability to keep mobs under control (Even my guildies, some days the RNG just hates you). And I'm sure in the back of my mind somewhere I like to relive the old days, when swipe and maul put out ENORMOUS amounts of threat and I could tank huge groups with out breaking a sweat.

Ultimately, though, what I really get out of pushing the envelope is a chance to hone my skills. When a mob breaks away from the pack to eat the healer, I have a feral charge/growl combo go off before it gets halfway to its destination (Of course, half of the time I then notice the ice trap the mob was wandering to, as the hunter pumped half a ton of lead into that mob to get it there). My reaction time is a little slower when one of the melee DPS starts to drop, either due to not attacking the right target or overusing multi-target attacks. It takes me a moment to tab through all of the targets, find the one that doesn't have me in the target-of-target frame, hit a growl-mangle combo, and tab back to the primary target. And if I'm running with guildmates, it takes me even longer, as I tend to relax and not pay too much attention to the DPSers when I know that they know what they're doing.

On the rare occasions that I'm healing, though, I tend to like a more controlled environment (Unless the tank is a paladin). Most warriors and druids just aren't able to hold more than 2-3 mobs without having at least one or two run off for the healer. If they can keep the mobs off of me, by all means AoE tank, but otherwise, I'll take all the cc I can get, my cyclone will only keep me alive through so much. And if I'm DPSing . . . do whatever the heck you want, especially since if you lose some mobs, I'm just a couple clicks away from becoming an offtank. Alas, I dont spend much time in the DPS role, though thats just fine by me.

Kirari is not a big proponent of crowd control. I mean, I'm fine with it if the hunter wants to trap, or the mage wants to sheep, doesn't hurt my time any. Just don't make me Seduce. Most annoying crowd control EVER. In fact, if you really want me to perform in a CC role, give me something I can fear kite behind the group, thats actually kinda fun! And dont get me wrong, I *CAN* keep a mob seduced just fine, but it absolutely hammers my ability to actually put out damage, since even as an affliction 'lock, a major portion of my DPS comes from shadowbolt spam.

Chalith and Kibler, however, absolutely LOVE performing crowd-control roles. Heck, mark up two mobs for Kibler, he'll lock 'em both down now that double trapping is possible again, at least for the first 36 seconds of the fight (Go go Wyvern Sting!). Actually, I get sorta bummed when the tank for a group I'm running on the hunter is being tanked by a paladin, as it kind of negates the strengths of my trap-focused survival build.

Jasminne, obviously, doesn't bother with CC. Consecrate will keep that mob off of the healer just fine, thanks, rather have everything on me for more reckoning procs! Do I feel bad when she tanks an instance AND tops the DPS charts? Well. . . no, not really *evilgrin*

So, how about you folks? Chaos or Order?
Continue reading 'Chaotic Order and Orderly Chaos'

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Diminishing Returns is a Lie

Oh, and The Cake Is Too. But LOLcats speak only truth!

Anyhow, Karthis, author of Of Teeth and Claws has honored me with a great Recommendation in his blog. And while I feel excited and validated by this, thats far from the point here. In the comments for that post, the issue of diminishing returns was breached. Now, the theorycraft has already been done a million times over, including at least a half dozen times myself, but I like playing with numbers, so this gives me a good reason to do it again. And instead of addressing the theorycraft behind the issue in his comments, I realized that I now have the power to ramble all I want in my own blog. Fancy that!

First, I'd like to start with a simpler example of variable returns: Dodge. Both because there's one less layer of complexity to it, and because the exponential returns on dodge are fairly well accepted by all camps. I present the chart to your left. Nice and simple, only three columns. The first represents a character's dodge percentage, while the second represents the remainder, the character's percent chance to be hit. The third is a bit trickier, it is the relative value of additional dodge percentage based on your current dodge. You would expect that every 1% dodge you acquire is 1% fewer hits you are taking, and in the most simplistic way, you are right, and in fact if you have no dodge, that is the case.

But what if you already have, say, 50% dodge (I myself have somewhere around that when raid buffed)? Well, for every 100 swings a mob takes at me, 50 of them land. But if I get an upgrade and suddenly have 51% dodge, what happens? Well, obviously I now only take 49 hits for every 100 swings. I'm getting hit 1% less often right? Actually, no:

Yes, thats right, even though we only increased my dodge by 1%, I'm actually taking 2% fewer blows than before. And ultimately, its not the damage you DONT take that matters, its the damage you DO take. Taking this to the extreme for a second, if you have 99% dodge, and gain 1% more dodge, you actually have reduced your incoming blows by 100%!

Ok, now that we've laid some groundwork, on to the real issue: Armor mitigation. For starters, it will help if we know how the game converts armor to damage reduction:

This is the formula for Damage Reduction when being hit by a level 73 mob. Since raid bosses are level 73, and are of the greatest concern for us tanks, this is the one everybody uses. Note that if you plug in the accepted armor cap value of 35,880 into this equation, you get a DR of exactly 75%, as expected, while if you plug in 0 armor, you get 0 DR. Now to show you some calculations. . . this data set is a BIT larger than the last, I apologize. . .

A good bit more information here, but we have THREE different ways to look at armor, and I want to give all of them their due. For now, ignore the HP and DPSwing boxes, those will come in later. The columns are, in order, your armor, the Percent Damage Reduction (as per the above formula for level 73 mobs), your Percent Damage Taken (Remember, its not the damage that doesn't come in that matters, its the damage that does), the change in the damage reduction number per thousand armor, the percent reduction in damage taken per thousand armor, and then the last column, which takes those two values at the top and tells you how many hits you can survive given those parameters.

First off, lets look at the simplistic (read: wrong) view of armor, which is to simply look at column 4. Going from 0 to 1k armor increases your damage reduction, as it would be displayed in your character stats, by 7.7 percent. To contrast, going from 34k to 35k armor would only increase that number by a measly 0.55 percent. Pretty heavy diminishing returns, eh? But, as we noticed in the dodge calculation earlier, these raw mitigation numbers dont accurately tell us how much an upgrade will truly affect our survival; they are misleading.

So lets do the same thing we did for dodge: Calculate the ratio of damage you take with 2 incremental armor values, in this case, increments of 1000 armor. Using the same basic logic we did with dodge, you come up with the numbers shown in column 5. The first thing you'll probably notice is that, yes, there ARE STILL DIMINISHING RETURNS on armor when you look at it from a more practical angle. But, they aren't nearly as steep, and this shows that as you approach the armor cap, your armor increases are nearly 4x as valuable as the first approach would have suggested. Even gaining your last 1000 armor to hit the cap is over a 2% reduction in damage taken, and thats nothing to sneeze at!

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Surabear, people keep saying that there is no such thing as diminishing returns on armor, does this mean they're wrong?". No, it doesn't, it just means they subscribe to the third way of looking at armor: Time until death. Assuming a tank has 20k health, and is taking hits that, unmitigated, would deal 1673 damage, we get column 6, Swings to Death (I'm assuming 0% dodge for simplicity). Yes, the numbers were chosen specifically so that every 1,000 armor will allow the tank to survive one more strike, but any combination of health and damage will yield the same relative results: For every 1000 armor you have, your survival time increases the same amount. No diminishing returns at all. This means that armor linearly affects how long you can live without heals, no diminishing returns.

So, why do I look at armor in terms of mitigation, instead of in terms of survival time? Well, to put it simply, right now I have a little over 33k armor unbuffed, so would survive 45 hits in this scenario. In order to increase that to 46 hits, I can do one of two things: Find another thousand armor (182 pre-bear form) somewhere, or pick up approximately 450 health (30 stamina) At this level of gearing, both of these options are relatively equal in difficulty to obtain.

But here's the clincher: you only need to worry about the number of hits you can survive without heals if you're actually having a problem dying to spike damage. If you're NOT dying to spikes, then you're either dying to healers going out of mana, dying due to wipes, or not dying at all. In the first case, its your MITIGATION that will save you, because the more you mitigate (or avoid), the less your healers have to cast, and the more mana they conserve. In the second case, no amount of armor or stamina is going to save you, unless it affords you enough time to run past a reset point for the fight (good luck, my friend). And if you're not dying? Well then, all you're doing is making your healers' jobs easier, and once again extra mitigation is pretty much just letting them save some mana.

I hope that this has proven to be informative, even for those who have already been exposed to the Great Diminishing Returns Debate. If nothing else, I hope that those who used to be "Type 1 Theorycrafters" have come to realize the error of their ways and embraced either Type 2 or Type 3 (or both!). Knowing is half the battle!

EDIT: I went back and ran a few quick numbers, and came to a realization. If you convert the time until death numbers into a "% increased time to death per 1k armor", like I do for armor mitigation, you get the EXACT SAME PERCENTAGES for both. So if you instead look at the percentage of extra time that armor gives you, its exactly the same as the percentage of mitigation increase it gives. Kind of intuitive, but an interesting correlation nonetheless.
Continue reading 'The Diminishing Returns is a Lie'

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Altoholicism: The Descent Into Addiction

Ok, so I dont have THAT many alts yet . . .Hi, my name is Surania, and I'm an Altoholic.

(Hi Surania)

I have a problem. I'm addicted to making alternate characters. Actually, I think its a deeper problem, I'm addicted to character progression. If I'm not somehow a little bit better, a little farther along every week, I start to lose interest, and start making new characters.

I first started developing my disorder when I was with Patronus Veritas. We had finally started to down Ragnaros in Molten Core, but were unable to get past Razorgore in BWL (We got past the egg phase exactly ONCE. . . with 6 people left standing). Surania's gear was good, certainly nothing left to upgrade in normal 5-man instances, so when I wasn't busy helping guildies get some gear, I started to level alternate characters. Between then and the release of The Burning Crusade, I managed to get three different characters to the mid-30 level range: Kirari (originally my bank/disenchanting alt), Chalith, and Tornaq (34 Shadow Priest). Thats as far as they got, though, because soon my mind was on levelling and gearing Surania, and rebuilding a guild whose leadership suddenly became my responsibility.

Surania occupied all of my time for quite a while. Lots of time was spent gearing her up, then gearing the rest of my guild up, then learning Karazhan. Eventually, the guild grew big enough that we started to plan for running two Kara groups per week. One problem I saw was warlocks: We only had one (And only had the one because I recruited an old raiding friend from PV after that guild fell apart when a major clique mass-quit the guild), and we had JUST started downing Aran and Illhoof, two fights where having a Warlock is damn near a necessity until you out gear it. And seeing this problem in the future, I decided to start hammering levels out on Kirari so I could gear him up and sub him in on those fights, and maybe Netherspite when we got to him for blue beam duty.

Around the time my warlock had hit 70 and gotten some decent starter raid gear, my fiancee started to get some decent levels on her priest. I decided that when she caught up to my mid-30s alts I should try to keep one of them at her level so I could play with her without just powering her through random instances on Surania. And thus, Chalith started gaining levels. I actually ended up racing ahead to 58 on him, because I decided to make him a gathering mule for Surania (Skinning/Herbalism to complement Surania re-levelling Leatherworking to make the SSC pattern boots while still keeping Alchemy since she has ALL the flask discoveries and the coveted Major Mageblood Elixir). He tends to only get played a few times a month, unfortunately, as the fiancee usually is kept busy with work, college, and other obligations, and often when she has free time, its at the same time I'm needed in Gruul/Magtheridon/SSC/TK/TLA.

When Kirari's upgrade opportunities became limited (I dont care to farm for Spellstrike mats/gold, and I dont get to run many heroics on him), it was time to start yet another alt. I decided, after trying to play him again, that priest just was NOT my class, so Tornaq was ignored in favor of a new class. Since I wanted to make a healer, but wasn't really into the ways of the shaman, I went with a Paladin, Jasminne. I got her to 41, I think, before patch 2.3 hit and introduced a new set of shinies to collect on Surania with heroic badges, and she is now 43 and holding, probably waiting to be my next 70 after Kibler gets geared.

Ah, Kibler. Kibler was created the day 2.3 came out. I saw someone link the new pet food pattern in guild chat excitedly, and my twisted mind decided that it would be fun to have a hunter named Kibler, with a pet named Bits. And so, I quickly made a hunter named Kibler to hold the name, with no intent to actually play the character. But, less than 2 weeks later, I got absolutely fed up with our guild hunters' propensity for NOT using Feign Death proactively and pulling aggro at exactly the wrong times and actually started playing her to, in my mind, show them how to play their dang class. And hot damn, did the levels pile on fast! I think it took me about 3 weeks total to get her to 70, due to the combination of new easy levelling (Unfortunately, pet levelling wasn't fixed until the week after she got her last ding) and the disgusting ease of playing a BM hunter. She's my current focus, though I'm sure it wont be long until she's "finished" and its time to kick the Paladin into high gear again, or start gearing up my Mage assuming the missus finds more time to play.

Anyone know of a good 12-step program?
Continue reading 'Altoholicism: The Descent Into Addiction'

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Looking for Group == Looking for Repair Bills

To your right, you will see the makings of your average. . . or perhaps even ABOVE average, PuG run on Steamwheedle Cartel. I'm pretty sure the guy on the left is a 20/21/20 Druid, and the one on the right is a mage wearing a set of matched gray clothes. Toss in a Shaman who swears he can tank everything, A warlock who cant stop tossing Seed of Crowd-Control-Breaking, and just for the sake of headaches, I'll throw myself in there on my hunter. Oh, wait, actually, I think I had that exact group last thursday.

It amazes me how BAD people can be at playing their class, it really does. Yesterday I, on my trap-focused (Read: Not DPS optimized) hunter, Kibler, I ran a regular mechanaar and ended up doing over 48% of the total damage for the group. I wish I had taken a screenshot of the SWStats screen at the end. The TANK did nearly 20%. I think our other DPSers could be summed up in one brilliant comment by the warlock in the group: "I was wanding because I want to conserve my mana".

Dear Warlock,

It has recently come to the attention of the Shadow Council of Dalaran that you are in dire need of De-noobification. In order to rectify your current situation, we must now insist that you follow one of two pre-selected protocols:

1) Visit your local Warlock Training Officer (WTO) and attend the 5-second training course on Life Tap. Upon conclusion of this training, please place your new Life Tap button in a convenient place on your hotbar, and learn to love it.

2) Send the aforementioned WTO your Shadow Council membership card and badge in the mail (or, if desired, we also accept Imp Deliveries). Upon surrender of your membership paraphernalia, please log out, delete your character, and cancel your World of Warcraft account.

We apologize for this inconvenience, however, we cant afford to have incompetent warlocks representing us.

Twistedly Yours,

Its more than just incompetence on the server, though (And dont get me wrong, there are also plenty of COMPETENT players on the server, but they're rare to find outside of guild runs). My biggest beef as of late is the insane lack of TANKS on our server. Any tanks, even the incompetent ones. I estimate I've sat on the LFG channel for 60 hours since Kibler hit 70. In that time, I've successfully run TWO instance runs. I've gotten probably 20 groups, but all of them end up the same:
[4. LookingForGroup] [Kibler]: LF1M Tank for _______, PST

Now, I blame this partially on Blizzard for changing class balance every time they change group size (20% tanks for 5-man and 10-man instances, but only 8-12% tanks in 25-man raids). But what really boggles my mind is that people dont try to fill in the need. Hell, even the other FERAL druids wont tank on this server, they all claim "Oh, I'm cat specced, I cant tank". Bull shit, cat spec hasn't existed since 1.12, I should know, I was there as a Bear-spec (11/33/7, or as I called it "1 1337 Bear Tank"). All of the paladins on the server are Holy, most of the druids are Resto (Amazingly, no shortage of healers for PuGs. . . just for Raids), and all of the warriors are Arms/Fury. But alas, as I already mentioned, PuGgers are idiots on this server, and thus probably cant wrap their brains around the idea of respeccing in order to gear up faster. So, we all sit in LFG, waiting to jump on some poor, unsuspecting tank that wanders in.

Actually, a couple days ago, I decided to be just that sucker on Surania, after giving up all hope of ever getting a group on Kibler. And doing so made me realize why I never noticed the poor PuG quality before: A good tank can cancel out a LOT of bad play by the rest of the group. My favorite moment from that day was at Warlord Kalithresh in The Steamvault (nonheroic). I had been tanking the instance in my DPS gear (In which I still have 25k armor, 12k health, and my dodge jumps up to about 50% unbuffed), but decided to switch to my tanking gear for the last fight. Turns out it was the best decision I ever made, the DPS failed to kill the first fishtank in time, causing the boss to enrage early in the fight. Which wouldnt have been a problem, except I guess the healer had gotten bored and decided to DPS the boss a bit. . . while he had his spellshield up. . . at the same time. Oh, look, a big red boss, and there's an angel in the corner over there.

Amazingly enough, I managed to keep myself vertical long enough for us to kill off the second fishtank and the boss. I owe my life to a combination of BearVasion,Frenzied Regeneration (One of the few times I think it actually made a difference), Improved LotP procs, and everybody's favorite toy from the 2.3 patch, my potion/CCF macro. I think I ended the fight with about 1.5k health, and about 4 amazed group members. That was a fight I wont forget for a long time, I think, ranks right up there with the time I tanked Magmadar in my MC healing set (After both warrior tanks went down) way back when.

The kicker? Despite the headaches they cause, I still recommend EVERYBODY, regardless of gear and experience level, go on a PuG run at least once a month. PuGs offer a unique challenge, especially the bad ones. They make you think about what you can do to survive, or at least minimize your losses, when faced with an unexpected challenge. The skills you learn in PuGs are the skills you use in fights like Prince Malchezaar, or High King Maulgar, how to deal with it when the shit hits the fan and your backs are up against a wall. And if you have these skills, you can pull off some incredible saves.
Continue reading 'Looking for Group == Looking for Repair Bills'

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Its an Armored Bear!

No, this isn't about The Golden Compass (Though I definitely enjoyed the movie, and it really made me wish we could choose fur color and display some armor on feral druids). Instead, I want to touch on one of the hot topics of the feral community. . . the Armor Vs Dodge Vs Stamina tank gear debate. There are roughly a trillion posts made each day on the druid boards touching on this subject, and in most cases they have valid, but narrow-minded points.

First off, there are those who base all of their gearing decisions on other people's theorycraft, such as Emmerald's Gear Guide. And sites like this can really prove to be a great resource, I personally use them to find hidden gearing gems I may have missed. But if you use the list to actually decide what gear to use, be careful. The lists are based around a specific set of stats, and disregard defense and resilience for crit immunity. Not to mention they attach no value to threat generation and other important, non-mitigation factors which, while a secondary concern of a bear tank, carry value nonetheless. Watch your stat balance, or you could easily end up with horribly lopsided stats and crit vulnerability.

I break down a tank's gearing into 4 phases of development: Levelling, Pre-kara, Karazhan/Heroics, and Post Karazhan. In my experience, each phase needs to focus on a different stat/stat balance for best effect. And given the number of times I have been told "You were the easiest tank I've ever had to heal" or "Take some damage, Surania, I'm bored!", I'd like to think my personal gearing philosophy is a good one. But enough flexing of the e-peen. . .

While levelling, tanking gear should be a peripheral concern, at best. Your tanking set is likely to be your DPS set, at least until you hit the outlands. Pick up high armor pieces when possible, ignore defense, and if you expect to be doing much tanking, lean more toward agility than strength for the extra dodge, but ultimately you should be able to tank instances just fine with very little tanking-specific gear.

When you hit 70, its time to start collecting tanking gear. At this point, you have 2 major goals: Build a full set of tanking gear (generally identified as gear with green armor values), and reach uncrittability; 103 resilience, 154 defense rating, or some combination of the two to hit -2.6% chance to recieve a critical strike. One of the biggest, and easiest, steps in this is to pick up a full Strength of the Clefthoof (Heavy Clefthoof) set. Many of your other pieces will come from quest rewards like Manimal's Cinch and Verdant Gloves. Others, like the clefthoof set and the incredible Badge of Tenacity can be found on the auction house. Oh, and dont forget to run LOTS of Steam Vaults (Or, once you get geared enough, heroic coilfang instances). . . The Earthwarden is going to be your best friend for a LONG time. Overall, by the time you start doing instances that drop epics, you should be shooting for at LEAST 12k health, 21k armor, and uncrittability, unbuffed. Dodge is great, but dont stress if you dont have much, armor and health are your best bets for now.

When you hit Karazhan and heroic instances, its time to focus your gearing efforts on armor, while also boosting your stamina a bit. This is where a lot of people start preaching the "all stamina, all the time" gospel, but frankly they're WRONG. Stamina does nothing but provide a time buffer for healers to get your back up. Its spike damage defense, and does nothing for your actual mitigation. As such, if you have enough, you dont need more, there IS such a thing as too much health (not that having too much is a BAD thing, but your item stats are better spent elsewhere once you have what you need). Nonetheless, boost your health to at least 13.5k or so, and crank up that armor (T4 gloves and helm are both great, and despite popular opinion, so are Zierhut's Lost Treads). Oh, and pick up Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch to go with your Badge of Tenacity, those two trinkets together give you a great alternative to a warrior's Shield Wall, on a 2 minute cooldown. Additionally, there are a TON of good tanking items to be bought with the badges that now drop like candy in Kara, including the new 2.3 batch of Tier 5 equivalent gear, and its crowning glory, the Idol of Terror, the first and only druid tanking MITIGATION idol. Once you have close to 14k stamina, and approximately 29k armor (and likely a good chunk of dodge too, without you even trying), you're ready to graduate from Karazhan (Even if your guild/group isn't).

And then we reach where I am currently, the post Karazhan club. This is where you pretty much drop armor out of the equation and start focusing on dodge and stamina. Yes, I am well aware that the armor cap is 35,880 armor, not 29,000, but I stop you there for two reasons. First, your armor will continue to increase with future upgrades anyhow, and second, this is where you hit the armor cap every time you get the Inspiration or Ancestral Healing buff. And while you cant count on those buffs always being active, they proc often enough when you have a few healers on you to cause armor to start to have signifigant diminishing returns (whereas before this, armor has a SLIGHT diminishing return only, the math of which I'll probably address eventually). So up your agility when you can, both to decrease the amount of healing you need and to increase your threat generation via crits, increase your stamina as needed, and dont forget to keep yourself crit immune, especially as you replace your heavy clefthoof gear.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: If you're dying to damage spikes, you need to boost up your stamina (assuming it isn't a problem with your healers). If your healers are running out of mana too fast, you need to up your mitigation via armor and dodge. And if you aren't having any problems at all, keep boosting your mitigation, and maybe switch to some gear with better threat generation to increase your DPS' ability to do their job. And of course, the numbers I give here are rough guidelines at best, your mileage may vary.

Happy Tanking!
Continue reading 'Its an Armored Bear!'

Friday, January 18, 2008

And to follow it up. . .

I dont expect to be having many two-post days, but its kinda silly to have a blog with only one, rather boring introduction post in it. So instead, there shall be TWO boring introduction posts, this one a bio-in-brief regarding my WoW Guild history. Be warned, this is a long one, as I've been playing for nearly 2 years now, and I'm not known for being short-winded. I promise, next time I'll post about something more interesting and less. . . journalish.

I started playing in. . . late March or early April, I guess, of 2006. I had finally gotten fed up with D&D Online and figured that any other game out there had to be better (Though, in retrospect, even DDO was better than Lineage II). So I picked up a copy of WoW, installed it on my machine, and hoped for the best.

Before even buying the game, I had done some research to try to figure out just what I wanted to play. Now, before WoW I only ever played casters. But I was toying with the idea of trying out this whole melee thing this time around, just for a change of pace. So, having come to the conclusion that I didn't know what the hell I wanted to do, I rolled a Druid, figuring a hybrid class would let me explore all the options. Why a female, and a Night elf? Well, I have a sort of stock RP family I carry from game to game, and Surania (The personification of my fiancee) was the closest fit for a druid (She's the reason we have most of our 8 pets). And since Surania is a high elf in her purest form, Night Elf was a much better fit than Tauren.

As with most games I've played, I quickly got addicted to WoW. And before long, I found myself in my first WoW guild, the . . . Twilight Congregation, I believe we were called. An RP religion, but they were recruiting (As most guilds were, since SwC was only 2 weeks old at the time), and I didn't know any better. It wasn't long before I encountered my first major guild drama, the guild's GM and second in command both deleting their characters, having not even bothered to transfer guild leadership, instead leaving a note to the members to "Make Surania the Guild Leader". . .

Now, first of all, I didn't WANT to be the head honcho. I was still exploring a new game. And my one experience with guild mastery in the past (reviving The Codex of Wisdom in an obscure game by the name of Ashen Empires, originally Dransik) failed horribly. I did what I could to salvage the guild (Starting with Petitioning the GMs to assign me leadership of the guild, as deleting a guild master character leaves the guild paralyzed), but after a few weeks, I gave up, and urged the remaining members to do likewise, as the guild was truly a sinking ship.

I had reached level 45 or so by that time, and had been shopping around for a raiding guild anyhow, so it wasn't long before I joined my second guild, and my first "Raiding Guild", The Phoenix Order. This is also where I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted, of all things, to be a tank, as I met my first dedicated Feral Tank, Charle. I never got to see him in action, unfortunately, but his mere existence gave me hope that it was possible even in a gaming culture that discouraged "offspecs". Actually, I never got to see TPO in action at all, as the guild was having a hard time recruiting raiders, and ended up being absorbed . . .

I think I was the last TPO member to actually join the guild that absorbed us, Patronus Veritas, but I did eventually follow the crowd. I dinged 60 while I was in PV, and did most of my Pre-expansion raiding with them. Mind you, the extent of my pre-expansion raiding experience was clearing most of ZG and AQ20, and reaching farm status on Ragnaros. And, while the guild let me collect feral tank gear, it was rare that I actually got to tank, especially in MC, since after all, Warriors were the only viable option for tanking (Despite the fact that I could tank circles around at least one of our warrior main tanks).

I was content with the guild for a while, understanding the culture that surrounded their decision to not let me tank much, and finding sneaky ways to flex my tanking muscles in unofficial capacity, but after getting told to DPS on both Garr and Sulfuron Harbinger in one MC run, while a DPS warrior was forced to offtank on those fights, I got pissed off and, in a fit of Emo, /gquit, hearthed, and logged off. . . right before Sulfuron was pulled. I still maintain friendships with many members of that guild (in fact, a few old members are now members of Prophecy), but I refused to raid with a guild who would put in a DPS spec warrior to tank while a tank spec druid did melee DPS (Remember, pre-1.12, cat and bear druid specs were rather different).

Anyhow, after a week or so, I decided to join the Blades of Oblivion, after an old paladin tank friend from the TPO days convinced me to join him. I figured if they let him tank, they'd let me tank too. And I was right. My first week there, I got to tank the Ossirian fight in AQ20 (A fight which PV still hadn't successfully done, despite having Ragnaros on farm). Mind you, I did it in my resto gear on accident, but we killed him anyhow. Alas, it was only another week before the guild was literally split in two, the split happening due to the Guildmaster's extremely harsh, militaristic leadership style. My paladin friend stayed loyal to the guild, but I personally had to side with the rebellion on this one, as I had already been contemplating leaving because of the GM (whose name escapes me, I guess I finally purged my mind of him completely).

The mass exodous led to the formation of a new splinter guild named. . . yep, you guessed it, Prophecy. We ended up with something like 15 members initially, but before long grew large enough to run the 20-man raids. Despite only having been with my guildmates for a week, I was elected druid class lead for the simple reason that I was the only druid in the original roster (That, and I tend to be a very likable guy I guess). We mostly ran ZG, and were known on the server for our half guild-half PuG runs. After a few months though, we started running into problems. People were getting burned out on ZG. Others were just not raiding because TBC was going to be released soon. And the biggest blow of all. . . in early December, 2006, our Guild Master mysteriously disappeared.

We all seemed to pretty much avoid the purple elephant in the middle of the room, and our membership slowly dwindled. By Christmas, we were down to maybe 15 members (off of a high of 35-40), and we were pretty much dead in the water. Not wanting to see the guild die of attrition, I stepped up to the plate and actively worked with the rest of the remaining guild membership to rebuild. The first step was to get the title of Guild Master into the hands of one of our members. . . and since I was spearheading this rebuild, and had prior experience in dealing with the GMs on such issues (From TC), I got stuck with the title of Guild Master. Not wanting to be the head honcho, but not wanting the guild to die either, I accepted the position, but under the condition that the guild's structure change to that of a Tribunal, with one of our warriors taking the second "GM" position, and a third to be filled later. We also changed over from having 8 class leads to having 4 "Role Leads", one for healers, one for tanks, one for melee, and one for ranged. Eventually we had one of our paladins take that third Guild master slot, and we gradually re-bolstered our numbers and ventured into Karazhan.

Around the middle of last year, we decided it was time for a restructuring of the guild, as most of our official positions had very vague responsibilities, and we tended to step over each other when getting things done. We ended up going with a 1 GM, 4 officer system, with each officer having a specific area of expertise (Raid Organization, Loot Rules, Recruitment, and Public Relations), and I gratefully stepped down as GM to become the guild's Loot Master, with the Paladin GM taking the helm.

I thought I was out of the GMing business for good. . . but I was wrong. A few months later, the Guildmaster left us, and the reins were dropped in my lap. But I went along with it, and led the guild up until last week, when I finally got to (well, was asked to, mostly due to my inability to be around during peak play hours) pass on the reins to another officer, retaining my duties as Loot Officer. Can't say it was a bad run, though, I got to take a lot of credit for the progression of a bunch of GREAT people who, while not the most progressed guild in the world, had as of the time of the transition downed two bosses in Serpentshrine cavern and ALL of the T4 instance bosses (Including Magtheridon).

In a way I miss being the GM, but at the same time I'm relieved to be rid of the pressure of holding the reigns. Never been much for being the boss, I prefer middle management. Which isn't to say I wouldn't do it again if my guild needed me. . . I just hope that day doesn't come.
Continue reading 'And to follow it up. . .'

Obligatory Introductory Post. . .

So. A Blog huh? How did I end up talking myself into this one? Oh, right, I guess it started when I stumbled upon Another Feral Druid's Blog and ended up becoming a regular reader. The more I read his blog, as well as those he himself read, the more the idea of having a blog of my own grew on me . . . especially after some of the treatises I started leaving in response to posts. And earlier this week, I decided to take the plunge, and here I am.

But, you might ask, who the heck ARE you? Well, I am many people. In game, I am Surania Lorezon, Night Elf feral tank extraordinaire of the Steamwheedle Cartel server (Well, I don't know about that extraordinaire part, but everybody I tank for seems to love me *shrug*). Well, usually. Sometimes, I'm Kirari Jacol, the snarky gnome Affliction Warlock. Or Kibler, the huntress, travelling with her two pets Bacon (the pig) and Bits (the ravager), all puns obviously intended. Or any one of a number of other alts I have. . . those were just the ones at 70.

How do I have time to level up so many alts? Do I not have a life? Well. . . yeah, pretty much. I admit it, I'm an addict, and I dont have much of an out-of-game social life to pull me away from the game. It doesn't help that I work a 3-11:30pm job, and thus having a social life is nearly impossible. But really, I find that WoW gives me MORE of a social life than I'd otherwise have, as I've found a wonderful (and rapidly growing) group of friends to spend my time with in-game, we're practically family. . . right down to the feuding.

Of course, its not enough for me to just PLAY the game, I had to go and become an officer of my guild, Prophecy. And not just an officer, up until recently I was the dang Guild Master. Talk about fun *grumbles*. In fact, its my experiences as an officer that inspired me most to start this blog, and most likely will inspire a great number of my future postings, at least at first. The most bizarre thing is, people actually seem to think I'm a good leader. Weirdos.

When I'm not playing Warcraft, I'm usually either at work (reading Blogs) in a General Motors Fuel Cell research facility in Honeoye Falls, NY, or at home spending time with my fiancee (Who also plays), my 3 Rabbits (Nosey, Smokey, and Oreo), 2 Cats (Pounce and Bear), Guinea Pig (Patches), Chinchilla (Twitch), and Parrot (Beaker). Did I mention I live in a two-bedroom apartment? Yeah, its a madhouse to be sure.

Now, for one warning. I have this nasty tendency to not follow through with things like this. I once had a LiveJournal that lasted a couple months, a couple of online D&D campaigns that died before they really got off the ground, and I really haven't looked at my MySpace page since I made the silly thing. Now, since I have a great deal of free time at work, something I didn't have the luxury of for the rest of those things (Save the MySpace page, but I can't access that service from work), I hold out hope for this project, but we shall see.
Continue reading 'Obligatory Introductory Post. . .'

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