Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Ten Commandments of the Raider (Reformed Raid Bible)

So. . . yeah, despite what you may have heard, the Rambling Bear is still alive and out there somewhere. Unfortunately, I haven't even had the time to keep up on my reading, let alone writing, of blog posts. But, as I'm stuck at work this weekend, I do at least have time to put the spit and polish on an article I started before Easter. So, I present to you the Raider's Ten Commandments:

1: Thou Shalt Raid With No Other Guild Before Me. When you joined a raiding guild, one of the conditions you agreed to (explicitly or implicitly) was to raid WITH that guild. For some of you, this may be a "No, duh?" comment, but others of you know exactly what I'm talking about. There are people out there who sign up to raid with one guild, then end up spending raid nights running with another group. Thats not to say you shouldn't be able to raid with other people, but don't do it when your guild needs you, and don't go raiding content your guild is still running with another guild or group. And if you do, don't be surprised when you find your spot permanently filled by someone else.

2: Thou Shalt Not Make thyself an Ignoramus. Some guilds choose not to follow written strategies for boss fights, instead preferring to learn encounters the hard way. I have absolutely nothing against those who choose to play that way, and in fact even envy you a bit. Most guilds, however, prefer to use all resources available to them to progress, and instead focus on execution of proven battle plans. So, unless your guild is the sort that goes in blind, do us all a favor and read up on encounters BEFORE you come to them. There is little more irritating than having to explain a boss fight multiple times because one or two people don't know how a fight goes. Its a huge waste of time, when a group of 25 informed raiders could get by on a 5 minute overview of a fight just to get roles assigned.

And on that same note, a raider should also not be ignorant as to the workings of their own class. Now, as a blogger, I'm preaching to the choior here, but I'm sure we've all experienced people who, for example, don't know what a misdirect is (that hunter didn't last long in the guild), or don't know what is meant by "Judge Light on the Tin Man" (Likewise with that paladin, I believe). While levelling and running 5-mans, folks can get away with half-assing it, but raiders need all the advantages they can get if they ever want to get far in endgame.

3: Thou Shalt Not Take the Raid's Time in Vain. This one is a bit of a catch-all. Don't show up late to raids. Don't go AFK after every boss attempt *glares at a certain shaman*. Don't wait for the rezzers to run back, run with them (unless you have a good reason). Time limits are a big limiting factor in raiding, between hard limits like respawns and enrages, and soft limits like curfews, jobs, and just plain mental fatigue. Sometimes delays are unavoidable, because the baby just puked in your lap, the dog is about to crap on the floor, or the missus is about to lop your head off if you don't take out the trash NOW! But if you're interrupting the raid every 10 minutes for things like that, perhaps you shouldn't have signed up for that particular raid.

4: Remember the Consumables and Keep Them Handy. I'll be the first to admit that I don't use consumables all that much. Farm content doesn't really require it, at least at my level of play. However, if I'm maintanking in a 25-man I'm damned sure to chug some elixirs and eat some food. Or if we're working on a boss that we don't have on farm yet. Progression content is where your entire raid really needs to be sure to take every advantage you can get. Yes, flasks, elixirs, buff food, weapon oils, potions, and the like are all very expensive. Get over it, raiding is expensive. Always use your consumables on tough fights, and for God's sake, pack enough with you to last the night. In fact, pack twice what you think you'll need, because most people seem to underestimate what they'll go through, and even if you heavily overestimate, that just means you can help cover for the schmuck who didn't pack enough.

5: Honour Thy Guildmaster and thy Raid Leaders. There is a time and a place for bringing up issues with the guild and how things are done. Raid time is not that time, and the middle of a 25-man instance is not that place. If you have a suggestion for how something can be done better, by all means suggest it. But if the raid leader chooses not to take that advice, suck it up. You can debate the issue all you want after the raid, but during the raid, be a good little soldier and follow orders. Even if your ideas really ARE good, you'll just cause more problems than you'll solve by picking a fight with the leadership mid-run.

6: Thou Shalt Not Kill the Fun. Repeat after me: "Its a game. Its only a game. Games are not work. Games are fun. I will have fun. I will let my friends have fun." Good. Now, if you AREN'T enjoying a raid, don't go and ruin it for everybody else by screwing around and not pulling your weight. Either get yourself replaced, or suck it up and deal. You're not participating in a 25-man team "sport" to be selfish, young man!

7: Thou Shalt Not Commit if you Can't Come. Here's a hypothetical (if just barely) situation for you. 26 people sign up for a raid. 25 of them get accepted into the group, and the 26th decides to cut his losses and go out with some friends since there's no room for him. Except, come raid time, raider25 isn't there, because he forgot he had to go see his Aunt Bernice tonight. Nobody is online who can replace raider25, and the whole raid gets cancelled (and its too late for raiders1-24 to make other plans, to boot). I've seen this sort of thing occur far too many times, and its quite preventable. Always make sure you really CAN come to a raid before you sign up. Don't sign up "just in case", or at the very least make your situation known to the raid leader beforehand.

8: Thou Shalt Not Steal From the Guild Bank. The guild bank is a great tool for furthering a guild's raiding goals. In prophecy, it is a place to both share commonly used materials among guildies, as well as a place to stockpile BoE blues, Nethers, Flasks, Elixirs, Buff Foods, Oils, and the like for when they're in short supply. Certainly, if you find yourself in need of something from the guild bank, you should make use of what you have available to you. But don't abuse the privelege and, say, have the guild bank provide your raid consumables every single day, unless you're also conributing just as much. For example, I personally have been bad about this lately, and have been using the guild bank to restock my elixirs and potions. Which sounds especially strange considering I'm an alchemist, but unfortunately my mage has seen little playtime lately, and he is my herbalist. But, at other times in the guild's history, I have also been a huge contributor, having payed a large amount out of pocket for tabs when the banks were first introduced, provided elixirs for entire raids for a few weeks back when I first became an Alchemist, and once the mage gets to 70, I fully plan on paying the bank back in full for all of the mooching I've done as of late. Treat it like a bank, not a welfare line.

9: Thou Shalt Not Bear Ill Will Against thy Neighbor's Epics. Seriously guys, they're purple pixels on a screen, created by a string of 1's and 0's on a server somewhere. Don't get all huffy because the enhancement shaman got his DST before you, or you're the only Warrior/Druid/Priest without your T5 shoulders. Remember that even if you don't PERSONALLY recieve an item, every gear upgrade recieved by a guildmate makes your raiding team as a whole stronger, and is thus still of benefit to you personally. Sure, your gear can be a point of pride for gamers, but if all you want are shiny items to wear, why are you gambling on gear dropping in a raid, when there are plenty of equally shiny pieces to be gotten with Honor, Arena Points, and Badges that are sure things?

10: Thou Shalt Not Covet thy Neighbor's Meter Ranking. Damage meters, healing meters, and whatever all other meters people look at can be a useful tool for raid leadership at times (Especially if you use a tool like recount, like I do, and get to see things like the hunter that fired off 27 Aimed Shots on a Gruul fight, or the time the tank died on Nightbane because he got no heals for 9 seconds). But competing for the top spot on meters is the sure way to drive a healer OOM, or to push a DPSer to out-threat the tank. Sure, a little friendly competition can be good at times, but hide the meter during the run, at the very least. Play smart, and remember you're there to beat the boss, not to beat your friends.
Continue reading 'The Ten Commandments of the Raider (Reformed Raid Bible)'

Monday, March 17, 2008

Epic Tanking Weapons. Yep, All Three!

So, I was recently surprised to see someone say that the Earthwarden was a druid tank's best option until the legendary LOL that is the Pillar of Ferocity. And while I'm not sure if he felt that the weapon commonly regarded as our best tanking staff (Wildfury Greatstaff) was inferior to the Earthwarden, or if he simply didn't know about it since its a trash drop, I felt compelled to compare the three items formally.

The Suspects:
All translated values assume a standard spec with all tanking talents taken.

Drops From: Cenarion Expedition Exalted Reputation
500 Armor
39 Stamina
27 Defense Rating
24 Expertise Rating
712 Feral AP

--Which Translates To--

0.46% Crit Reduction
2750 Bear Armor
0.91% Avoidance
663 HP
712 AP
3.05% More Accuracy (Dodge/Parry Reduction)

Wildfury Greatstaff
Drops From: Serpentshrine Cavern Trash
500 Armor
75 Stamina
54 Dodge Rating
992 Feral AP

--Which Translates To--

2750 Bear Armor
2.86% Avoidance
1275 HP
992 AP

Pillar of Ferocity
Drops From: Anetheron (Hyjal Summit, Second Boss)
550 Armor
47 Strength
96 Stamina
1059 Feral AP

--Which Translates To--
3025 Bear Armor
1632 HP
1166 AP

Round 1: Earthwarden V. Wildfury Greatstaff

Earthwarden Advantages:
0.46% Crit Reduction
3.05% More Accuracy (Dodge/Parry Reduction)

Wildfury Greatstaff Advantages:
1.95% Avoidance
612 HP
180 AP

The Lowdown: Crit immunity comes first. If you ned that defense on Earthwarden to stay crit immune, by all means stick with it for the timebeing. However, once you find a way to replace that with a few gems or some PvP bracers (for examples), the story changes. Earthwarden's only advantage here is the 3% effective hit provided via Expertise (and some slight avoidance via reduction in parrys, though not enough to make up the 2% gap). Assuming 2500 AP and 30% crit with the Earthwarden, if we plug in the threat stats into the handy, dandy threat calculator, we find that the hit and AP almost exactly cancel each other out (Wildfury comes out 1 TPS ahead). So it appears that Wildfury is a cut-and-dry upgrade from Earthwarden, with more health, more avoidance, and the same average threat.

Hold on, though, don't go vendoring that hammer just yet. There are situations where you just might want to swap it in: Pick-ups. No, not those horrendous groups of slackers you get for 3AM Steamvault runs, I'm talking about picking up mobs on pulls and after threat dumps. Three percent more effective hit makes it much less likely your Maul/Mangle combo will miss. Lets say you have 82% effective hit without EW, and 85% with it. Earthwarden increases the chance both Maul and Mangle will hit from 67.2% to 72.3% (Yes, 5% more likely, funny how that works huh?), and reduces the chance both will MISS from 3.24% to 2.25%, which means more than 1 in 4 of your double-whiffs would no longer happen, causing a very sensitive threat situation. Normally, this isn't a big deal, but on threat-sensitive fights like Hydross and Leotheras, losing a bit of mitigation for some increased threat reliability can be a very good idea. And you can always switch back to the Wildfury once you've picked up your target.

Round 2: Wildfury Greatstaff V. Pillar of Ferocity

Wildfury Greatstaff Advantages:
2.86% Avoidance

Pillar of Ferocity Advantages:
275 Bear Armor
357 HP
174 AP

The Lowdown: First of all, lets remember where the Pillar drops: Early T6 content. At that point, most bear tanks are already going to be butting up against, if not exceeding, the armor cap, making the extra armor on the Pillar more or less useless. Even if we don't take that into consideration, though, 275 armor isn't a whole heck of a lot (Probably about 0.6% less damage taken), and even combined with the 357 extra health the Pillar affords us, I would much rather be hit 3% less often, thankyouverymuch. So even though the Pillar drops from a later instance, its actually the inferior mitigation weapon.

But, as with the Earthwarden V. Wildfury comparison, the Pillar of LOL does have one redeeming quality: Superior threat generation. If we assume the same basic stats as before, Wildfury would boost our threat by about 31 TPS. Not a whole heck of a lot, but if you're really struggling to stay ahead of your DPSers on threat, it might be an option to swap this in. As a bonus, you'll be getting hit more as well, so will have extra rage to work with (Yeah, even lower mitigation can be an advantage sometimes).

Round 3: Earthwarden V. Pillar of Ferocity

Earthwarden Advantages:
0.46% Crit Reduction
0.91% Avoidance
3.05% More Accuracy (Dodge/Parry Reduction)

Pillar of Ferocity:
275 Bear Armor
969 HP
454 AP

The Lowdown: So, since Wildfury wins out against both of its competitors, I guess we should go ahead and compare Earthwarden, obtainable via rep, to the Pillar, obtainable through deep endgame raiding. The good news is, the Pillar comes out ahead in my opinion. The bad news? Not by much. In terms of threat, I'd call it even between the Expertise rating of the Earthwarden and the extra AP on the Pillar, as the pillar's overall threat advantage is counterbalanced by the earthwarden's higher reliability. In terms of mitigation, though, I would actually have to give the advantage to the Earthwarden. The Pillar's armor gives about 0.6% less damage per hit, granted, but assuming you're around 50% dodge, the 0.9% avoidance on the EW actually translates to about 1.8% fewer swings landing (I refer you again to "The Diminishing Returns is a Lie")

Why, then, to I give the Pillar top billing on this matchup? Nearly 1000 more health, thats what. While I'm a firm believer in getting enough health and then focusing on mitigation, that amount of health would take over 5 Solid Stars of Elune to make up, and thats a lot of gems I could switch from, say, +12 stamina to +8 agi to make up the avoidance difference.

Putting It All Together

So, in terms of overall quality as a tanking weapon, it seems that the Wildfury Greatstaff is better than the Pillar of Ferocity, which in turn is an upgrade from the Earthwarden. Not surprising results, really, as most druids already knew that the Pillar is one of the worst itemized pieces of gear Blizzard has ever come up with. Not that the Living Root of the Wildheart is terribly incredible either, mind you. Seriously, though, hold on to that Earthwarden for making those critical pick-ups, since having a bit less mitigation is always preferable to that mob going and beating on a clothie or three because your aim sucked.
Continue reading 'Epic Tanking Weapons. Yep, All Three!'

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Work Ramps Up, Blogging Ramps Down

So, as I'm sure many of you have noticed, my posting has been sporadic at best the last couple of weeks, and its getting more so. When I started writing this blog, I decided to try to hold myself to a Monday-Friday one-post-a-day schedule, but it just hasn't been working out that way. Its not for a lack of topics to write about; I actually have quite a few potential topics lined up and ready to be written. The problem is my job. . .

At the beginning of last week, I started being transitioned into a new work area. Well, that's not exactly the right way to put it, because that makes it sound like I'm being shifted to a new role completely. I'm actually just acquiring more responsibilities. Before, I was responsible for a single module (Essentially a freestanding car engine, I work for General Motors as a Fuel Cell Test Engineer for those who didn't know), which ran in an environmental chamber. It meant a LOT of downtime, because for most tests, I had to let the module thermally adjust for hours after each run. And with all that downtime, I started to get bored, and from that boredom eventually came blogging.

Well, last Monday, I started dividing my time between two work areas: My old one in the environmental chamber, and a new one down the hall, with two more modules. In a purely work-related sense, this is a GREAT thing for me, because with three modules to keep running (only the one requiring thermal "soaks"), I keep a lot busier, I LOOK a lot busier, and time goes by much more quickly. On top of this, because of the scheduling of the person who runs that other lab during the day shift, I was given the opportunity to shift my hours back to a 1:00 to 9:30 slot, which is immensely better than going home at midnight, both because I actually get to see my fiancee (and guildies) before they go to sleep at night, and because the people who know much more than I about things are around for a larger portion of my shift for when (not if, when) things go wrong. An all around winning proposition.

The problem with this, of course, is that all of that downtime I used to have was my blog writing time. I still have bits of downtime here and there, but I can only really write if I do it in big chunks (usually writing an entire post in one stint, but sometimes 2-3 large pieces instead). So right now, I'm looking at a few options:

Option 1 -- Blog when I happen to get the time (like today), and don't try to stick to any schedule. This, obviously, is the model I have pursued up to this point. I'll probably go this route for a bit longer, just to see if, as I settle into my new schedule, I'm able to find more time to write. However, if I continue to only be able to write a couple times a week this way, I'll definitely be pursuing other options, as I really do enjoy my blogging time on many levels.

Option 2 -- Stockpile Articles. I know a lot of bloggers out there have multiple posts they work on at any given time, going back and forth between them. As I said, I'm more of a "write it all at once" kind of guy. But if I could get multiple completed articles written, and just push them to the front page one per day, I could keep up my posting schedule despite my work schedule. There are two problems with this, though. First, I would still have to find time to actually write my articles. I could probably set aside some time on the weekends, but generally when I'm at home, I would really rather PLAY the game than write about it. And second, I would have a really hard time not just immediately publishing my completed articles. I love getting feedback from you guys! And that goes double for posts about current events.

Option 3 -- Write at Night. I'm an extreme night owl, largely due to working the shift I work. And since most of the WoW population does not follow my schedule, I often have very little to do in game at night (last night, for example, I spent 3 hours farming up about a dozen Charged Crystal Foci). If I can get myself to write during those downtimes, I could not only still get my one post a day up, but would probably be the first blogger a lot of people read every day due to the timing (albeit, I generally post later in the evening anyhow, so that may already be true). The problem there is, while my mind is very much awake in the wee hours of the morning, it doesn't tend to be all that focused, so my writing quality might suffer, or I might just get chronic writer's block. So actually, I'd probably have to write the night before, and put in some editing time the next day to bring things "up to snuff".

Option 4 -- Badger people into "Guest Blogging". This really wouldn't be a solution on its own (remember, I LIKE writing this, its a hobby, not a chore). However, if I found that I just can't get around to doing 5 articles a week, it would be an option to fill the gaps. I have to admit, I've played around with the idea in the past, and think it would be really cool to have, say, a weekly guest article, maybe even a regular contributor, or some sort of point/counterpoint type deal. Something to set the Rambling Bear apart from all the other bear tank blogs. But again, there are two problems with this. First, I have no idea who I would get to do it. It would probably be someone from my guild (since most of the other gamers I know, I know through their blogs). But I have no idea who I would get, what they would write about (a weekly RP story, probably), or even if anybody would be interested. And second, and more importantly, I'm a rather overzealous editor. I have a tendency to take other people's writing and, in the process of checking it over and fixing mistakes, inadvertently rewriting much of what they say in my own writing style. Something I'm sure any guest contributor would get a bit annoyed with.

So, anyhow, I hope to be able to get back to a more regular posting schedule for you all soon. Bear with me in the meantime. Heh, bear *snicker*
Continue reading 'Work Ramps Up, Blogging Ramps Down'

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mauling Your Computer: Not a Good Rage Dump

World of Warcraft is a game. An escape from reality. A way to let the stresses of real life disappear as you enter a fantasy world where you can vanquish anything that so much as poses a small annoyance to you. But WoW can also be a source of frustration, resentment, and anger at times, especially when dealing with other players. Bad PuGs can make you miserable. Bad experiences with guildies can make you wish you never logged in. And 6 hour wipefests when trying to learn that new raid boss can just plain make you want to gouge your eyes out with a spork!

So what do we do when the game we play causes more of the very same stresses we were hoping to get away from when we sat down at the keyboard? Well, today I present to you a list of 5 techniques I use to relieve my WoW-related rage, as well as a sixth that I have yet to use in WoW just yet. I list them here in order of stress levels, with the first relieving the most minor of stresses, and number 6 being a last-ditch move.

1: Commiserate. Sometimes, when I'm in a bad group, or stuck doing something I really don't want to do, all that I need is someone to bitch about it to. For example, this past Saturday, I was in a really, REALLY crappy mood. I logged in to attend Prophecy's first night of attempts on Leotheras the Blind, after making a quick stop at Tidewalker, who for some reason just would not die for them on Friday, and whom I was told I would be tanking that day. And while I did not expect to get to tank on Leo (despite sharing with my guild the words of Karthis, who says that is one fight you want a druid to tank), I was looking forward to tanking an add, and then showing my guildies how meleeing on him is done!

Well, not only did I not get to tank Leotheras, I got the wonderful opportunity to respec to tree form for the fight. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy healing, and have often offered to respec tree when we're a bit light on the healers (ironically, I usually get a response of "NO, we need our SuraBear!" from one or more of my fellow guild leaders). But after having been asked to tank Tidewalker, I had my hopes set on main tanking at least one raid boss (and admittedly I was secretly wishing for two), and so going tree that day was a huge letdown.

In order to make it through the 6 hour raid without completely losing my mind, I turned to my fellow feral druidess and pretty much just bitched about the situation all night. She's generally willing to lend a furry ear, and that day I needed to chew it off. So I spent much of the night complaining about how "I could have picked him up that time no problem", or "I wouldn't be having any problem whatsoever killing MY inner demons". And I made it through the night with a grimace on my face, and the bittersweet realization that my sacrifice (and the similar sacrifice made by our guild's ret paladin) made it possible for the raid to even happen, and because of it we have another notch in the raiding belt (Yep, we downed him, first night of attempts.) And just in case my guildies read this (I know a few of you do), I have nothing against that, or any of our prot warriors, he did a great job, especially for his first time main tanking on a 25-man boss.

Oh, and for the record, I was able to completely OBLITERATE my inner demons when they popped up. Of course, I did spec 19 points into balance specifically for the fight *grin*.

2: Play an Alt. Often times, just going and doing something completely different can be just what the doctor ordered. If your steamvault run ended prematurely because the DPS just couldn't be arsed to kill Thermaplugg's repairmen, maybe you need to switch to your level 35 arms warrior for a bit and smash some faces (Though you might not want to do it in Gnomeregan, in that particular case). Playing the same character your problems popped up on can simply serve as a reminder of the stresses, and if the problem was with guildies, playing on an unguilded alt can be the only way (shy of not playing WoW, of course) of distancing yourself from the situation.

3: Write about it. Sometimes writing about bad things that happen to us helps us get them out of our heads. Of course, that's easy for me to say, I have a blog that I can fill with my rants and ravings. But even if you cant publish what you write (and to be honest, sometimes I write things here and DON'T publish them because I don't actually want them to be seen by others), just writing stuff down (or typing it out) can be a great stress reliever. Of course, you'll probably have to wait until AFTER whatever you're doing to write about it, but at least that way you wont ruminate about it for days.

So, remember that Leo raid Saturday? Well, I left out one thing before. As it turned out, we didn't have any Prot paladins available for the raid. We probably could have asked one of our other pallies to tank it, but we were tight on healers as well, and Tidewalker is sketchy even with perfect raid balance for us. Now, we DID have one Prot paladin online, in fact our best geared one. But he was raiding Karazhan. With another guild. On a raid night. Which is completely AGAINST OUR GUILD'S RULES (you can raid Karazhan with whoever you wish, but if you're raiding on a progression raid night, you're raiding with us). So even if I WASN'T a tree at the time, I wouldn't have gotten to tank the fight I was asked to tank, because someone just had to spend a progression day farming badges. In the excitement of our guild first, we all kinda forgot about that paladin, and so the situation hasn't, to my knowledge, been dealt with just yet, but it will be.

And yes, in a way, this post is just an excuse to bitch a little bit about Saturday. But hey, if me disseminating useful information to the masses gives me some psychotherapy, so be it!

4: Just walk away. I've been known, once or twice, to simply walk away from a group or discussion in WoW if its really starting to piss me off. Generally, if I'm bailing on a group, I'll try to make up some excuse to leave, or will fake a disconnect, but occasionally, I play it straight and tell the offending group/guild exactly why I'm signing out. If continuing to play the game in any capacity is going to just keep stressing you out, this is probably your best option.

One time when I did this, I really did it HARDCORE. Some of you may remember me mentioning in my second blog post ever how I left one guild, Patronus Veritas, in the middle of a Molten Core run. Even back then, I was a bear-specced druid (and yes, unlike now, bear and cat specs used to be quite separated). I was THE druid tank in PV. And for the most part, I was accepted as such, allowed to bid on most druid tanking gear (against the rogues, of course), and even occasionally getting thrown a bone and allowed to tank something minor (ZG, corehounds on the packs, Garr. . . ). Keep in mind, at the time bears were rather suboptimal tanks, and popular WoW culture deemed all healing classes used only their heal buttons, especially on raids.

Well, this one MC raid REALLY pissed me off. I had been kind of down about druids being pigeonholed as healers, and once we got to Garr, I quite happily switched into my tanking set (actually, I had it on for the trash too, one of PV's tanks was rather unable to build aggro, so I often built threat on his Giants "just in case"). And. . . the raid leader told me to DPS, and one of the fury warriors to put on their tanking set! WTF? I pointed out the stupidity of that decision to my class lead and he brought up my concern to the officers, but to no avail. It made no difference that the fury warrior was not tanking specced, and I was not DPS specced (and had tanked Garr's adds just fine many times before), he was going to tank it, and I was going to DPS. Alright, fine, whatever.

Fast forward to Sulfuron Harbinger, another boss with a bunch of adds to tank. Once again, the raid leader puts the fury warrior on tanking duty, and has me go catform. That was it, the straw that broke the grizzly's back. As if I had practiced it a thousand times before, my hands glided over my keyboard. Not to curse at the raid leader. Not to berate the guild. Just seven simple keystrokes: /gquit[Enter]. Actually, I think I left the raid group and clicked my hearthstone before typing, so it kinda came out as a one-two-three punch of "Hey, Surania left the group. . . no wait, she left the instance. . . no wait, she left the GUILD." And while the way I went about things absolutely reeked of Drama Llama, I honestly never resented my decision, and ultimately feel that leaving the guild really was the best thing for me.

5: Take a WoW vacation. Yep, sometimes things get so bad you just want to leave it all behind. But don't go and close your WoW account just yet. Make a conscious decision to not play Warcraft AT ALL for a while. A day, three days, a week, maybe even a month (in which case you may actually want to cancel your account just to save a little money). And stick to whatever period of time you decide on, even when the WoW bug eventually bites you again. Time heals all wounds, distance makes the heart grow fonder, and all that crap (hey, just 'cause its crap doesn't mean its not true!)

I can think of two such vacations I've taken. And to avoid delving into guild drama crap, suffice it to say both times were due to constant and escalating guild drama. And both times, I was GM of Prophecy. I don't know if something deep inside of me thought that my disappearing due to the drama would help solve it, but I figure when someone who was as quiet and laid back of a leader as I said something to the effect of "You guys are all just starting to piss me off, so I'll be back in a week", it might at least highlight the ridiculous, unproductive nature of petty arguments and squabbles. And yes, I know that I was in effect adding to said drama, but ultimately I needed the breaks anyhow, and both times I came back with a new found desire to play.

*: Delete your characters and cancel your account. Can I have your stuff? No, but seriously, even if you do get to the point where you just don't see yourself wanting to play ever again, don't be a tool and sell all of your gear and delete your characters. If you do change your mind later on, you'll just kick yourself for it, and really what does doing that accomplish? The only possible reason I would even come CLOSE to accepting for deleting your characters is if you're leaving the game in an attempt to break yourself from WoW addiction. But if you don't have the willpower to stay away after making a conscious decision to, perhaps you need to see a professional.

Continue reading 'Mauling Your Computer: Not a Good Rage Dump'

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Set Bonuses and the Feral Druid

So, for those of us who have been feral druids since long before the Burning Crusade, the expansion brought us a great number of new concepts. Before Survival of the Fittest, crit immunity was something only the ignorant ferals strove for. Raid viability was when your healing set was good enough to overcome the fact that your spec sucked (for healing). And, while it didn't set in for a while, those of us who are fortunate enough to at least be killing Prince Malchezaar on a regular basis got one more system shock: Feral Set Bonuses. Well, ok, so some folks may have had 3-piece Genesis Raiment, which yielded a couple bear tanking bonuses, but that was far from mainstream gearing.

Adding to this "Set Bonus System Shock" is the fact that Tier 4 has some EXTREMELY good set bonuses on it, bonuses which quite frankly dwarf T5 and T6. This, unfortunately, means it is very hard for us to upgrade beyond our first feral set into the higher tiers (mind you, for some of us, there are other conditions keeping us from Tier 6 gear as well, like that pesky "gotta kill the T6 bosses" requirement). And so, today I want to take a look at our raid set bonuses, from the ungodly two-piece T4 bonus for cats, to the utterly craptacular two-piece T5 bonus.

Malorne Harness (T4)

Two-Piece Bonus:
Your melee attacks in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form have a chance to generate 10 additional rage.
Your melee attacks in Cat Form have a chance to generate 20 additional energy.

Does this set bonus look familiar? It should, because its essentially a second Omen of Clarity for feral druids. At a procrate of 4% per hit, combined with an average of about 5 attacks every 4 seconds in catform, the set bonus alone will give the average cat druid 1-2 more shreds per minute, which could easily yield an extra 20-30 DPS! Bears dont necessarily get as much benefit from this, getting only about 2 procs per minute, but that should still be enough for one more maul (Remember, maul costs more than the 10 rage the tooltip tells you it does due to loss of autoattack rage generation). This is such a strong cat bonus that many people keep two pieces of tier four all the way up to four-piece tier six (And with T6 being expanded to an 8 item set, cats may NEVER get rid of it).

Four-Piece Bonus:
Increases your armor by 1400 in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form.
Increases your strength by 30 in Cat Form.

For catform, this is a fairly decent buff, giving us about 80 attack power with raid buffs. But lets face it, strength as a set bonus is kind of. . . boring. For bears, though, that 1400 armor is damn nice. Sure, the set bonus isn't affected by the bear modifier, but even so, 1400 armor is approximately the same as 255 armor on an item, about 5/6 of the armor on the coveted Badge of Tenacity! Much like the two piece bonus for cats, many bears hold on to their four piece malorne bonus until they start picking up T6 pieces. However, while this is a signifigant chunk of armor, the overall stat upgrades on T5 can easily overtake the benefit of this bonus, especially when you factor in T5 bonuses (or, better yet, lets not bother factoring in T5 bonuses, for reasons discussed below.)

Nordrassil Harness (T5)

Two-Piece Bonus:
When you shift out of Bear Form, Dire Bear Form, or Cat Form, your next Regrowth spell takes 2 fewer sec. to cast.

Umm. . . oooooookay? From the stellar PvE bonuses on our first Raid set, we go to this. Frankly, this is a PvP and soloing bonus, and nothing more. Sure, you could whip out that raid-saving spot heal, but odds are you're going to be too focused on doing your job (DPS) to notice someone moments away from death in time to heal them before the actual healers do. And even if you do get the heal off first, you're going to heal what, maybe 1800 if you specced Nurturing Instinct? Odds are, if you really need to pop out to help the healers out, you're going to need to throw more than one spell, and ultimately, all this bonus does is cuts HALF A SECOND off of the effective casting time for Regrowth, since the global cooldown delays you for 1.5 of the 2 seconds you thought you just saved. Oh, and dont even THINK of capitalizing on this bonus while getting beaten on by a raid boss, since you'll get stuck out of bearform for about 1.5 seconds too long. Seriously, Blizzard, give the raiding gear raiding bonuses next time.

Four-Piece Bonus:
Your Shred ability deals an additional 75 damage, and your Lacerate ability does an additional 15 per application.

Ok, this bonus is at least a bit better than the first one. 75 bonus damage on shred can add up pretty quickly. But 1.5 extra shreds per minute would tend to beat it out, both in terms of raw damage, and because of the extra combo point generation of the latter. And while I haven't specifically done out the math, I suspect the superiority of the 2-piece T4 bonus wins out, even after considering the increased stats on T5 (if only because a lot of people stop at 3-piece Nordrassil). Oh, and lacerate DoT damage boost? Whoopdy-freaking-doo. Wake me up when my lacerate is as good as Nalorakk's bleeds so I can care about its damage.

Thunderheart Harness (T6)

Two-Piece Bonus:
Reduces the energy cost of your Mangle ability in Cat Form by 5 and increases the threat generated by your Mangle ability in Bear Form by 15%.

Ok, well, its not a crappy one like Nordrassil had. Actually, for bear form, this one is rather nice, giving us a nice big chunk of extra threat on our heavy hitting Bear Mangle, improving both snap aggro and long-term aggro generation. The catform mangle bonus leaves a lot to be desired, though, since the only reason we have for using that ability is re-applying the debuff every 12 seconds. Kinda leaves something to be desired, especially if you have multiple feral druids, and thus have to use mangle even LESS often.

Four-Piece Bonus:
Increases the damage dealt by your Rip, Swipe, and Ferocious Bite abilities by 15%.

Another reasonably solid bonus. 15% more damage on finishing moves in catform can really add up. And more swipe damage means more swipe threat, boosting both multi- and single-target threat generation in bear (remember, by this gear level, Swipe will do better single-target threat then lacerate). I'd hit that!

So, in short, T4's bonuses are made of epic win. T5's bonuses are the dregs from the bottom of Blizzard's Tea (though the swipe damage boost is a rather tasty looking dreg), and T6's bonuses are fairly solid without being too obscenely good. This just reaffirms my decision to pass on my T5 tokens to let those who need them more have them first. And remember, sometimes the best way to make yourself better is to make the warrior, priest, or other druid next to you better.
Continue reading 'Set Bonuses and the Feral Druid'

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pulling With . . . Cat Form??

Usually, when a druid talks about making a pull, they either talk about using Feral Faerie Fire to do it from bear, or they fire off some balance spells and then quickly shift to bear. Details of such pulls have already been covered in a previous post, but there's one more type of pull that I find myself using, in specialized situations mind you, to great effect. . . the Cat Form Pull!

The cat form pull is, at its most basic, simply another form of Line of Sight pull. Pulling using line of sight refers to aggroing a group, and then ducking behind some form of solid object in order to force those mobs (mainly the casters and ranged mobs) to follow you. In most situations, this can be done simply by pulling from next to a doorway, corner, or other solid construction, then taking a few steps to one side or another. However, in some situations, such as the four ghost pulls immediately before and after the Shade of Aran in Karazhan, there may not be convenient obstructing materials near your pull site. This is where the cat pull comes in.

The key difference for pulling in cat form is that you need to move a significant distance, for whatever reason, between the place you aggro the mobs, and the place you use to move out of LoS from them. As you may have guessed by now, the reason for using catform is Dash, also known as the "I can recover from wipes faster than you schmucks", or the "Oh shit, I didn't notice Malchezaar's enfeeble!" button. Bearform has the armor to take a hit, but catform has the speed to avoid taking any hits in the first place, and as we all know, the only thing better than taking a hit for the team is that hit never happening in the first place!

Now, since not everybody who reads this blog is necessarily in Karazhan, I'd like to first discuss this pull in a context most of you should be familiar with: Shattered Halls. One of, if not my favorite instance to run. So, lets assume you have gone through the first hall, done the slime gauntlet (or picked the lock on the door), killed the first boss, run the orc gauntlet, and killed Porung to end the event.

Now you're staring at the training hall, with gladiator groups sparring in the alcoves to the sides, some single-pull orcs beating on training dummies in the hall, and most importantly, two big groups of orcs in the middle of the rooms. Now, if you're here with a decent group on nonheroic mode, you may very well just kill off everything in here.

But lets assume that you're going to leave those groups be, either because your group cant handle them (they're not the easiest trash pulls in the world), you dont want to bother with them, or you dont have the time to deal with them (you're on heroic mode and want the badge/potions/primals from the Executioner). You pull the patrol, pull the first big group into Porung's room using the doorway to LoS pull, and clear the orcs sparring with training dummies. And now you're faced with a second large pull, deep into the hallway. You dont want to fight them where they stand, because the third and fourth group of gladiators are right nearby and likely to get pulled (either accidentally or via someone getting feared by the Darkcaster). You cant pull back to where the first group is via LoS because gladiator groups 1 and 2 are still there. Your options are to fight them where the training dummies are, leaving it up to the ranged DPS to take out any casters ASAP (which wont be for a while, due to the urgency of killing the Legionnaire) or pull all the way back to Porung's room.

Obviously, we're going to pull back. First off, mark the pull. The Legionnaire needs to die first, and the casters should either be next, or should be sheeped/trapped/seduced. Once the group is marked, and the rest of your party is patiently waiting in the previous room, its time for the magic. Target the Legionnaire, and drop a Hurricane on the group (remember to use proper hurricane positioning). After a couple of ticks, quickly do a 180 degree turn while shifting into catform, running down the hall toward your companions, and hit your dash. As long as you didn't cast hurricane for too long, and have good mobility, you should at most get hit by a single shadowbolt while running. once you get to your group, take a hard left (or right, but left takes you to a more open area to kill in), shift to bearform, and prepare to mangle that Legionnaire the moment he sticks his head around the corner! Congratulations, you just used 3/4 of your class on a single pull, more or less (Balance spells, catform, and bear form).

There is one other place where this pulling technique is highly recommended, and that is the four-ghost pulls in Karazhan on either side of Aran's room, specifically the first two and the last one, all of which are found just after an upward ramp. Here, the issue is not the potential for adds, but instead the not-so-ideal terrain itself. Your options with these groups are to fight them where they stand (which can lead to some nasty line of sight issues on the initial pull), fight them on the ramp (a fairly cramped area), or pull the group down the ramp to the previous room. Obviously, I prefer pulling down the ramp, and its not that long of a pull, but there's a catch: The LoS issues at the top of the ramp means you have to pull at close range.

Because of the range issue, I pull the ghosts a bit differently. Instead of pulling with a couple ticks of hurricane, prowl to the top of the ramp in catform, face back down the ramp, and when the time is right, pop dash, pull with a feral faerie fire on your tanking target (or one of, if you have multiples) and run like hell. Once the ghosts arrive at the bottom of the ramp, pick up yours as normal. Assuming the other tank and crowd control pick up their targets in a timely fashion, you should only ever get hit by your own tanking target.

Now, while the dash pull is extremely situational, it does illustrate an important point. Always be on the lookout for ways to use your skills that may not be obvious. A healing spell may be the perfect way to grab aggro on mobs (Tidewalker's Murlocs). Rebirth may be usable while main tanking, even when it may not seem like it (Gruul, before shatter). Sometimes tanking a mob means rooting them to the ground (Scouts on the way to Dragonhawk Boss). Sometimes bear form can be used to increase the time you spend doing damage (Feral charge after Aran's AE). Figuring out the little tricks is how a good druid becomes a great druid.

Or so I hear. . .
Continue reading 'Pulling With . . . Cat Form??'

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blizzard Entry: Fix

Fix (v):
1: To repair; mend.
2: To make fast, firm, or stable.
3: (informal) to castrate or spay (an animal, esp. a pet or Druid)

See Also: Patch 2.0.10, Patch 2.4

From Blizzard's special version of Continue reading 'Blizzard Entry: Fix'

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

RIP Gary Gygax, July 27, 1938 -- Marc 4, 2008

Today, at the not-so-old age of 69, Roleplayers everywhere lost one of the biggest icons the genre has ever seen, Mr. Ernest Gary Gygax. The man who, along with Dave Arneson, created the timeless classic Pen-And-Paper RPG, Dungeons and Dragons. The man who is commonly referred to as the father of the Role Playing Game.

If it weren't for Mr. Gygax, we would probably all be Halo addicts today, as Roleplaying Games, and in turn MMORPGs, probably would have never become mainstream. Any gamer who doesn't know his name is no gamer at all in my book.

May your THAC0 always be low enough, and may your Keen Scimitar +5 always crit. Rest in Peace. Continue reading 'RIP Gary Gygax, July 27, 1938 -- Marc 4, 2008'

Are You Cat or Bear Specced?

I imagine that for the majority of druids, the answer is "both". But while most feral talents dont favor one form or the other, it is still possible to build a spec that leans further one way than another. So today lets take a look at the feral talent tree (and the extension to it in the resto tree) to get a good idea of how our talents break down. Note that this is strictly from a PvE raiding standpoint, as well. Oh, and dont worry, I'll still be playing with the new pages on my calculator, but I'm a sucker for a special request, and this topic was big enough to warrant more than just a casual reply in comments.

Please note, I am not advocating cat-only or bear-only builds. No matter how good you, your gear, and your skills are, you WILL be asked to perform both roles during your career as a feral druid, so you wont want to skip the critical skills for these roles.

Universal Talents: These are the core talents that any feral, whether bear, cat, or balanced between the two, will want to take.

Sharpened Claws 3/3: More crits means more rage and threat for a bear tank, and more damage and combo poitns for cats. A must have.

Predatory Strikes 3/3: 105 attack power ups your DPS and threat a little bit, but the real reason this talent is a must have for all specs. . . its a prerequisite for Heart of the Wild.

Primal Fury 2/2: This talent ups your rage efficiency in bear form (ESPECIALLY while swipe tanking), and speeds up combo point generation (Remember, keeping rip up is our first priority) for cats. Cool beans.

Heart of the Wild 5/5: The shining star of the feral tree. Incredibly good bonuses in both forms (and if you powershift, you get the extra bonus of a much larger mana pool). If you dont take it, you're insane.

Leader/Improved Leader of the Pack 3/3: These two talents combined give us our incredibly valuable raid buff, with a group-wide total of 25% crit, and a lot of health returned if in a fully melee group.

Predatory Instincts 5/5: Ups your crit damage by 10% (Making crits hit for 220% damage, not 210%). More damage is. . . well, more damage in cat form, as well as more threat for bears. Also helps you against those hard-to-avoid AoE spells, like Tidewalker's Tidal wave (assuming you're tanking it) or Magtheridon's fire patches (assuming you get shaken into it during an earthquake, or are having a blonde moment).

Mangle 1/1: I was tempted to say this is skippable for cat druids (as long as you have another feral druid keeping mangle up in a raid), but really, for one point, every raiding feral druid should have mangle, especially since sometimes you just cant get to a foe's backside to shred (Aran during flame wreath, for example).

Furor 5/5: I recommend this for both flavors of feral druid, if only because Improved Paw is such a crappy talent, you need one or the other to get to the rest of the resto talents, and your friendly neighborhood tree druid probably has it anyhow (And nice side bonus: You dont have to help rebuff *snerk*). Its a very nice talent though, giving bears another 10 rage to start a pull with (and 10 rage to start with after hitting the Hunnypot). But the real beauty is cat druids with this, as they can use it to powershift for extra DPS (and if you're trying to get into a raid as pure DPS, you should probably be looking for all the boosts you can get).

Naturalist 5/5: 10% Bonus damage means a lot of extra DPS and threat. Dont even think about skipping it.

Omen of Clarity 1/1: Who can complain about free attacks? With how amazing the 2-piece T4 bonus is for us, who would dare pass up a 1-point talent that gives us twice the effect or more (assuming equal proc rates).

This gives us a total of 33 talent points that any feral druid would be INSANE to skip. Notice that I didn't include quite a few talents that most people consider core abilities. . . I'll explain why a singleminded druid might possibly skip them as I get to them.

Bear-Focused Talents: These are talents which a druid focusing on only bear tanking would take, while one who only cared about catform might possibly skip.

Ferocity 5/5: For bear druids, ferocity is a crucial part of our arsenal, making our Mangles, Swipes, and Mauls cost 5 less rage each. If you never plan to don your bear skin, you might be able to skip it, though, since these days, a raiding kitty only benefits from the reduction on Mangle, an ability you only use once every 12 or more seconds, and may never need to use if you have a bear tank or other cat druid putting up the debuff for you. I'd still recomment getting it though, since there are some fights where getting behind the mob may not be an option (Aran during flame wreath comes to mind), and at that point you have to use Mangle as your main attack.

Feral Instinct 3/3: This is absolutely critical for maximum bear threat generation. All that a pure cat would get out of it is a bit stronger stealth, something that is by and large useless in a raid, since you're unlikely to be grouped with 24 rogues and druids doing stealth runs on Tidewalker.

Thick Hide 3/3: Although some folks say that you can drop this talent once you get armor values over the cap, I think keeping this talent and using some lower armor, higher stamina/agility/hit gear would be preferable, or just keeping the extraneous armor for mobs that sunder and the like. For cats, this would give a minimal reduction in damage taken by physical AoEs, and as most such AoE attacks are avoidable, can be safely skipped.

Feral Swiftness 2/2: 4% pure avoidance is, well, at the very least 4% less damage taken, and taking less damage as the tank is always a good thing. For cats, the movement speed is completely moot unless you mainly raid ZA, and the dodge is, once again, only good for dodgeable AoEs, which are generally avoided entirely.

Feral Charge 1/1: Its a bear form ability. One that I wouldn't skip as a bear tank, as it allows you to quickly get to a mob that may have peeled off of you to taunt/threat dump it back to you. Generally, if a cat needs that much mobility, they need to run AWAY from a mob (and lucky us, we have dash for just such occasions).

Faerie Fire (Feral) 1/1: Feral Faerie Fire is extremely helpful as a pulling move, if nothing else. It can also give you something to use if you're rage starved for a small bit of extra threat. Honestly, I'd advise all druids to get this, since its just one point, and cat druids are in the best position to reapply Faerie fire mid-fight, since they often are stuck autoattacking to regen energy.

Survival of the Fittest 3/3: Another absolutely crucial bear talent. This is the only way a bear will ever reach uncrittability without heavy investment in PvP gear. Cat druids may find that 3% extra Agility, Strength, and Stamina are helpful as well, and thus I advise both cats and bears to pick this one up.

Primal Tenacity 3/3: This is something only bears will probably be interested in. It'll give you a small chance of resisting things like Nightbane's fears, or those annoying stuns that leave you unable to dodge or build threat. Ultimately, though, I find this talent to be too unreliable to, well, rely on, and thus feel it is an optional talent for bears, and quite nonessential for cats (though resisting those same fears from nightbane can save you from some painful cleaves, tail swipes, and the like). Nonetheless, a bear-focused druid would probably pick this one up.

Intensity 3/3: This does absolutely nothing for cat druids. For bears, it lets you, when combined with Ferocity, start any fight with at least 40 rage, enough for a very respectable front-loaded threat pile. Another one of those talents you can live without, but if you're only focusing on tanking, a very good choice.

Cat-Focused Talents: These are talents which a druid focusing on only cat DPS would take, while one who only cared about tanking might possibly skip.

Feral Agression 5/5: Especially when 2.4 comes out and makes undead and mechanical mobs bleedable, this talent is not that great for most boss fights (which I always focus on, trash mobs are called trash for a reason). But a focused cat build would likely pick this up (as well as Ferocity) to improve their trash DPS, especially since the second tier feral skills are largely useless in catform on raids. PS: You'll notice I don't even mention the improved Demo Roar component of this talent. Thats because, even improved, a warrior's unimproved Demo Shout will overwrite our shout, and a warlock's Curse of Weakness will drop any mob's AP to 0 (I dont remember the exact number, but mobs only have something like 250 AP)

Shredding Attacks 2/2: Shred is your bread and butter DPS ability in groups. Reducing its cost by 18 energy is HUGE. If you dont have this talent, you have no business being in catform on a raid. Bear druids will generally want this too, at least until they reach the breakpoint where swipe is better threat on single mobs, since its basically one free rage per second on your typical Mangle->Lacerate x3 threat rotation.

Savage Fury 2/2: This talent falls into the same category with Ferocity, really. It only affects your mangles, and if you're in a raid group where someone else is keeping the mangle debuff up, this does nothing for you. But, once again, if you ever cant get to a mob's back, this talent will up your yellow DPS signifigantly. Absolutely WORTHLESS to bear druids since 2.0.10.

Natural Shapeshifter 3/3: In a raid setting, the only reason you really need this talent is if you're using Furor to Powershift in cat form. a 30% reduction in shifting cost means you can powershift nearly 43% more often. A bear tank will only really shift into form once every 2 minutes at most (to pot), and should regen more than enough mana in those 2 minutes to forego this talent.

PvP Talents: These two talents (as well as Nature's Grasp) are not likely to be taken in a pure raiding spec, and are more geared toward PvP purposes.

Brutal Impact 2/2: The only time I ever stun in raids is when my growl is resisted while reacquiring a rogue mob (in which case if I cant get aggro back in 4 seconds, I'm probably not getting it back in 5), or to pounce those annoying drum-pounders on the way to dragonhawk in ZA (But usually just spam Entangling Roots on them instead). Generally, you only need that one extra second of stun in PvP (or if you prefer using stealth tactics when you solo, but we're talking raids here).

Nurturing Instinct 2/2: Feral druids make CRAPTACULAR offhealers, since they wear absolutely zero spell gear (save for maybe a couple pieces of gear with a little int on it). If you find yourself needing to shift out to heal often, a macro to switch to a healing weapon/offhand/idol is going to do you much more good than this talent. In 2.4, it looks to be getting a buff, but even then, I doubt cat offhealing will be a very viable strategy, and the only reason to get this for raiding would be the 20% extra healing recieved while in catform (which I dont see warranting 2 talent points).

Putting Together Specs:

So, lets use this breakdown to put together a cat-only spec and a bear-only spec. First, we pick up our universal talents, giving us a 0/22/11 core build that must be common to both specs. It leaves us with a lot of holes to fill in our feral tree, especially near the bottom.

Filling in our bear spec will all of the bear-focused talents, we come up with a 0/43/14 spec, though we still have a single talent point hole before the 25-point talents. Going back a second time and picking up all the cat talents that are recommended for bear (That is, shredding attacks), we fill that hole in, and come up with a 0/45/14 + 2 spec.

If we instead fill in our cat spec, we first come to a 0/31/14 build, with plenty of holes in the feral tree. Picking up the recommended bear talents for cats, we still come up short, with a 0/40/14 build. Lets say we pick up Feral Swiftness to fill in that hole (and giving us a better chance to survive when we're stupid and stand in front of that cleaving mob). So our final cat-focused build is 0/42/14 + 5.

Now, both of these builds are similar, but not *quite* similar enough to allow us to make them the same with those few extra talent points left over. HOWEVER, lets say we drop Feral Agression (Trash killing and soloing/PvP talent, we can live without it in our raiding build) and Primal Tenacity (Personal choice, you can drop Furor or Natural Shapeshifter if you don't need the extra 10 rage on pulls, or don't powershift). Now, looking at our cat spec, we have 10 talent points to blow. Just enough to pick up Feral Instinct, Thick Hide, Feral Charge, and Intensity. And in our bear build, we now have 5 spare points we can put into Natural Shapeshifter and Savage fury. And guess what, doing either of these two things gives us something interesting. . . MY spec! And I really dont miss the talents I lack from both the cat- and bear-focused builds, so its not like I'm sacrificing to be a hybrid, we can literally get the best of both worlds.
Continue reading 'Are You Cat or Bear Specced?'

Monday, March 3, 2008

Using the Calculator to Compare Gear

So, as promised (albeit a bit late), today I want to show the kind of thought process I use when considering gear upgrades. In particular, I want to look at two items: Upgrading my Heavy Clefthoof Chest to T4, and swapping in the new Alchemist's Stone upgrade for my Pocketwatch. In order to facilitate multi-swapping, note that I've added space to put in up to 5 new items and 5 old items in the spreadsheet, instead of having to calculate the total changes yourself. There are also new tabs for talent spec, but those are a work in progress. Lets start with the chest, since I already have some numbers prepared from the other day. . .

The Chest/Bracers Double Swap:

So, we already have the stat difference from simply swapping the two chests (corrected for my gem preferences: 12 stam, 6 stam/4 agi, and 6 stam/4 defense). But alas, theres one glaring problem from this straight swap: I become crittable, as I'm right now at -2.61% crit out of -2.6 I need. So I'm going to add a second item swap to this: Swapping out my Bands of the Swift Paw for the Vindicator's Leather Bracers *gag*. I'm also going to swap out my 5 resilience/6 stamina gem for a +8 resilience gem (the resilience on the bracers, alone, isn't enough to shore up uncrittability). So, with the double gear swap, my change in stats looks like this:

Now, at first I was worried that the downgrade to my bracers was going to overcome the upgrade to my chest, but looking at these numbers, I guess not. I still gain 293 armor and over 2% avoidance, as well as a nice chunk of threat (mostly crit, and I forgot to add in 26 attack power also), as well as 1% less DoT damage (hello Nalorakk. . . ), at a measly cost of 68 health. Now if only Magtheridon would only drop the dang token when I'm there!

Not likely now, though, since he and I got REAL friendly last Saturday. Got to tank the sucker for the first time, and it was a oneshot despite doing the fight with only three tanks (I tanked the first two 'locks, paladin tanked 3 and 4, both of us had misdirects to help pick up the seconds). But, that is completely off topic. . .

The Guardian's Alchemist Stone

For those who haven't heard, there are four new Alchemist Stones available on the 2.4 PTR, created from the original stone, some Nether Vortex (which will be purchasable) and other materials. One of these stones is the Guardian's Alchemist Stone, which trades in the +15 to all stats in order to pick up a whopping 54 defense rating. If I decide to make this (which requires making my base Alchemist Stone as well, ick), I would be replacing my Moroes' Lucky Pocketwatch with it, losing a bunch of dodge and half of BearVasion. On the plus side, I would be getting an extra 1200 or so health from the Hunnypot, so its not all a loss from an emergency button perspective.

The question becomes, is it worth losing bearvasion over? Well, lets look at the upgrades I can pick up via re-enchanting, regemming, and getting rid of those PvP bracers from above (gee, that was quick, eh?).

Right now I have one enchant that is solely there for crit reduction: 12 defense on my bracers. Additionally, I have that 5 resilience on the gem in my bracers that I could replace with a +8 agility gem (yellow gems kinda suck, and as I've stated in the past, I prefer sticking agility into items I use for my cat set as well).

Just looking at those replacements, I'm looking at losing 25 resilience from the bracers and gem swap, and 12 defense from the bracer enchant. Which, when I check my overall stat changes, still gives me a net gain of about 0.075% crit reduction, pretty close to the break-even point. As for the rest of my stats:

So, it looks like I'd gain about 700 more armor, my avoidance would go up a very small amount (0.1%), I'd gain a laughable 34 health (every bit counts, right?), and would take a little more damage from DoTs. And while 700 more armor is nice, and the extra health from potting is a nice bonus, I dont think I'm prepared to lose an "Oh, shit" button for it. So, thanks for the offer, Blizzard, but no thanks.

Tomorrow on The Rambling Bear: A look at one of my favorite Druid-only pulling techniques, useful for occasions like the ghostly trash around Aran's room, and the big pulls in the latter portions of Shattered Halls. 15 points to anyone who guesses what it is, and an additional 10 points to anyone who can direct me to a free, easy to use capture program so I can make some video for it!
Continue reading 'Using the Calculator to Compare Gear'

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