Monday, November 5, 2012

Anniversary the Fourth

Yesterday, as it turns out, was this blog's 4th anniversary. Yay! Let's go back and see how things compare to my initial goals, shall we?
My Goals for The Lion Guard:
  • 5 posts per week, on average, with at least 1 "meaty" post per week.
  • Provide myself an inspiring means to exercise and develop my writing skills.
  • Practice public expression. I tend to be one of those quiet, shy people in public. Perhaps this blog will help me become a more confident individual.
  • Express myself. Most of the people I interact with regularly in real life are uninterested in WarCraft. I hope that here I can create a place to freely converse with folks who are genuinely interested in at least some of what I have to say.
And that's 0 for 4. /facepalm

Oh well. Here's to a better year 5!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reviving 25-Man Raiding

It seems to me that there is a perception (whether based on reality or hyperbole, I cannot say for sure) that the growth of 10-man raids has created a stranglehold that is slowly - but inevitably - suffocating 25-man raiding to the point of extinction. There are many reasons for this: blog articles such as "The last gasp of 25-man raiding" on WoW Insider and "Dont let the 25man raids die..." from the official World of Warcraft forums , as well as my own personal experience indicates that there is, at least, some truth to the notion, but whether it has been a mostly-completed shift in average raid size due to changes to raid design philosophy made for the start of the Cataclysm expansion or remains a continuing trend of 25-man raid erosion is uncertain.

Regardless, whenever people call for Blizzard to instigate a revival of 25-man raiding, they always seem to not only cite the same reasons for its demise - at the forefront of which is the substantially higher investment of leadership and organizational effort required to run and maintain a larger group - but also propose the same solution: incentivize larger raids with better quality or greater quantity of loot. (I admit, I have been guilty of this very thing, myself.) However, Blizzard has rejected this approach, so it's time to reexamine the problem and see if any other viable solutions present themselves.

When we break the problem down to its base factors, here is what we get:
  1. Blizzard does not want to offer incentives to run 25-man raids over 10-mans.
  2. Blizzard's philosophy seems to be that roughly equivalent effort should yield roughly equivalent reward (on average).
  3. 25-man raids necessitate significantly more logistical overhead than 10-man raids.
  4. 25-man raiders feel the additional organizational requirements negate the "roughly equivalent effort" portion of part 2 above.
You see the point of conflict here, don't you? So where are the potentially viable solutions? If Blizzard's stance is "equal effort -> equal reward" and 25-man raiders' stance is "25-man raid logistical effort > 10-man raid logistical effort" and therefore "inequal effort should -> inequal reward", where is the flexible point from which a compromise can be reached?

Right here: "25-man raid logistical effort > 10-man raid logistical effort". In other words, Blizzard needs to reduce the organizational overhead encountered by 25-man raiders. How? By investing some development time and energy into improving the in-game tools used by raid leaders for raid management.

I don't believe it will ever be possible to eliminate the differences between 10-man raids and 25-man raids, but significantly improving certain in-game tools can serve to bring the two groups into greater parity. It's not true in all circumstances, but generally speaking: simple tools favor smaller groups whereas feature-rich tools favor larger groups. This is because leaders of smaller groups can mentally compensate for tool deficiencies much more easily than in leaders of larger groups, where the sheer volume of additional details to keep track of can quickly become overwhelming.

With that said, below are some concrete examples of how tools can be improved, as well as why these suggestions would benefit 25-man raids in particular.

In-Game Calendar - While significantly better than no calendar at all, the design of the in-game calendar facilitates 10-man raiding far better than 25-man raiding, because the information it provides is so limited. Organizers of smaller groups can more easily memorize the information that the in-game tool leaves out, whereas organizers of larger groups may feel pressured to use out-of-game tools (which are more difficult to get Average Joe raiders to use) to compensate for its lack of features.
  • Problem 1: What does "tentative" even mean? I don't mean in terms of dictionary definition, but rather in terms of how invitees to events use it. Does it mean "maybe, if I feel like it"? "Probably, but there's a chance something might come up"? "I might have other plans and I'm waiting to hear back from people"? "I'll be half an hour late, so don't hold a spot open for me, but if you can't find a replacement I'll be there eventually"?

    • Solution 1: Add an ability to attach short notes to attendees for both event organizers and invitees. That way people have a way to communicate important things (such as what they mean by "tentative") in a place that organizers are much more likely to see it and keep track of it.

  • Problem 2: "Do we have enough tanks and healers?" The in-game calendar tells you what class characters are, but not which roles they are willing to perform. It's easy enough to just remember who can do what for 10-man raiding, but keeping track for 25-man raids can become a real pain, especially when you add raid-ready alts to the equation.

    • Solution 2: Allow event creators to also require invitees to select which role or roles they are willing to perform when signing up for the event. Display this information not only in a format easy to read at a glance (similar to the display the current calendar has for how many of which classes have signed up), but also allow event organizers to see a list of everyone who signed up for a certain role and the option of confirming a single role for each attendee who has selected multiple roles (that way there's no confusion amongst leadership and amongst attendees about who is doing what). Oh, and don't forget to assign confirmed roles automatically in the raid frames when an organizer presses the invite button!

  • Problem 3: "Wait, who's alt is that, again? Did he really sign up on all 7 of his characters?! How many people do we actually have, then?" (i.e.: The current in-game calendar system is character-based, while actual raid attendance is player-based.) Again, this is pretty easy to mentally keep track of in 10-man raids. Not so much in 25-man raids.

    • Solution 3a: Allow event organizers to invite RealID and BattleTag friends, not just individual characters. Consolidate characters from said RealID or BattleTag invite into a single listing to avoid confusion (possibly with each signed up character listed in a mouseover tooltip or as an expanded drop-down listing under the consolidated one), and allow each eligible character to be signed up and select roles individually so that the invitee can pick and choose which character(s) to attend with. To preserve privacy, such multi-character listings should be displayed as BattleTags (minus the identifying number) and no character should be listed until and unless the invitee has signed up with it.

    • Solution 3b: Implement a "bring the player, not the character" toggle for event creators. If the toggle is enabled, any player invited to the event on any character can sign up with any other eligible character in addition to the invited character. This includes selecting roles individually for each character. The initially invited character would serve as the "primary" character for display purposes. Again, to protect privacy, no character other than the initially invited character would be displayed on the listing unless the invitee has chosen to sign up to the event with that character.

      • By "eligible characters" in Solutions 3a and 3b above, I mean either institute Blizzard-set general eligibility requirements (such as requiring the character be level 90 to sign up for a Mists of Pandaria raid); or allow event organizers set a custom minimum character level and/or minimum average item level; or some combination of the two. Any character that does not meet the eligibility requirements would be prevented from being signed up for the event, thereby assuring some measure of quality control for event organizers.

  • Problem 4: Calendars are meant to be a convenient way of keeping track of various events. Having to swap characters to check the in-game calendar events for each character is not at all convenient.

    • Solution 4: Give players the option to share their in-game calendar across all their characters (or at least all characters of that faction on that realm), rather than having to log into and out of each individual character to check and reply to event invitations. The fewer hoops players have to jump through to access and use tools that make raid planning easier, the better.

  • Problem 5: Who gets to raid? Since 25-man raids require a larger bench of extra raiders to fill up raids during times of lower attendance, deciding who gets to raid during times of high attendance becomes a significant concern. The current in-game calendar offers virtually no tools to help raid leaders make informed decisions.

    • Solution 5: Implement significantly better sorting options for event invitees. For example, the ability to sort or filter invitees by role as proposed in Solution 2 above; by sign-up time, since the current mouseover display requires parsing the tooltip of each response individually and is inefficient for larger groups; or even by past event attendance for events created by the same person. The goal here is to put 25-man raid organizers on a more even footing with 10-man raid organizers by ensuring they have all the tools they need to plan and manage raids without having to resort to more feature/data-rich out-of-game alternatives (such as requiring raiders to sign up for raids on websites or via forum threads) since that only serves to raise a barrier of entry to larger raids that smaller raids can avoid.

Loot Distribution Tools - Loot distribution is one of the most important duties held by raid leadership, as loot itself is one of the driving factors for many raiders. Sadly, the tools for distributing loot are largely lopsided in favor of smaller groups due to the fact that fewer pieces of loot have to be distributed per boss kill and fewer players are likely to be interested in any given item that drops. This means that while 10-man raids can get by with simpler looting rules - or even automated looting systems such as Group Loot or Need Before Greed - and thus can sort through drops fairly quickly, 25-man raids often spend a sizable chunk of time waiting for some poor loot officer to sift through all the whispers and bids and loot council discussions before finally having to manually dole out the goods via Master Loot - and as a result are more susceptible to having the entire raid grind to a halt because half the players have suddenly turned into immobile Gorlocs who are too busy coveting potential shinies to actually keep the raid progressing.

  • Problem 1: "Whisper me your bid for [Item] now!" "If you want [Item] please link what your currently have." "[Item] - /roll now if you want it!" (i.e.: Master Loot does absolutely nothing to help inform the loot master's decision, so loot masters waste a lot of time gathering basic information.)

    • Solution 1: Add a new feature so that when an item that a player can equip drops and loot is set to Master Loot a small window pops up (similar to the roll window in Group Loot or Need Before Greed) on which the player can click a button to indicate interest (or disinterest) in the item. For the loot master, rather than players be sorted purely by which group they are in within the raid, interested players would be sorted first, and the item currently equipped in that slot by any given interested player would be shown upon mouseover. This way the loot master can focus more quickly and easily on distributing the loot.

      • It also might not hurt to allow the raid leader and raid assistants the ability to access this loot information as well, so that the loot master does not have to pass that information on to them in the event of a loot council. If that's too much to add to Master Loot, consider adding it as a new Loot Council choice.

  • Problem 2: "This boss' corpse smells! Why does my face have to be so close to it?" With the addition of the 2-hour grace period for trading Bind on Pickup items, it is more efficient for the loot master to simply take everything first and trade it to the winners later rather than have to kneel over the boss' corpse for the next few minutes sorting things out.

    • Solution 2: Allow loot masters assigned under the Master Loot system the ability to keep the loot window open even after moving away from the corpse or chest they are looting. This way the loot master can proceed to the next trash pack with the rest of the raid and distribute loot without interrupting the pace of the raid, and without feeling like they have to circumvent the in-game loot distribution tools to actually distribute the loot.

Guild Finder - I've never actually used this tool, but I've heard tales of its inadequacy. Extremely vague options for activity types and times, severely limited space for guild descriptions, inability to offer invites to offline applicants, etc. If the stated intent for raid sizes is going to be to let players decide which raid size they enjoy the most, then the tools for finding such raids need to be worth using. This is especially important considering that larger raids already have a greater barrier to entry in the fact that they require more like-minded people just to exist, in addition to suffering from a higher rate of natural attrition purely due to the numbers involved, so guild/raid finding tools are especially critical to their health.

That's quite a lot already, so I will do everyone the favor of stopping there, but the above is just the tip of the iceberg. There are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of other potential solutions Blizzard can consider to ensure a more even playing field between the raid sizes. Everything from improving the in-game voice chat feature (smaller raids can more easily make do with self-hosted VoIP programs whereas larger raids often have no choice but to pay for professional service) to ensuring that setting one's graphics to bare minimum will still accurately convey raid mechanics (since 25-man raids naturally require a larger share of any given computer's resources) and beyond has an impact, and though it may seem insignificant at first, the cumulative effect holds the promise of 25-man raid revival.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mists of Pandaria and the Possible Return of the Shockadin

Thus far in the Mists of Pandaria beta I haven't really done much of anything. Most of my "adventures", if they can even be called that, have involved running around Stormwind City and experimenting with the various spells, talents, and glyphs available in the beta thus far. However, one of the things that I have been noticing—and getting increasingly excited about—is that a preliminary look at what's available seems to suggest that the Shockadin may be making a return soon. The evidence for such is still slim, but ultimately it comes down to two particular glyphs:

  • Glyph of Holy ShockHoly Shock, as you may know, is one of the signature abilities of the Holy specialization, and is the reason why the Shockadin is named such. While it isn't a particularly powerful damage-dealing ability initially, the glyph halves its healing potential in exchange for doubling its damage-dealing capability. Considering how central Holy Shock's damage is to the entire concept of the Shockadin itself, this glyph is essentially what makes the Shockadin potentially viable.
  • Glyph of DenounceDenounce is a new Holy-only ability learned at level 20 that basically acts as our spammable ranged nuke. It's incredibly cheap, and has the added benefit of preventing its target from being able to deal critical strikes for 4 seconds after being hit. When glyphed, Denounce also gives the Paladin a 6-second buff that increases Holy damage by 20%—and virtually all damage a Shockadin deals is Holy damage, which makes this glyph a significant boost in DPS.

While the two above glyphs essentially act as the heart of the beta Shockadin, there are some additional factors to be considered

  • Sacred Shield is one of our level 45 talent choices. It provides a 30 second buff on a single target that occasionally acts as a damage shield, but also increases the critical effect chance of Word of Glory by 30%. While this may not seem like that big of a deal, the lack of a Holy Power cost (unlike its alternative, Eternal Flame) and the buff to Word of Glory allows the latter become the go-to Holy Power dump. Since Holy Paladins have no way to spend Holy Power for offense, Word of Glory becomes the next best thing thanks to the Glyph of Word of Glory.
  • Glyph of Word of Glory: This glyph causes Word of Glory casts, regardless of target, to also grant the casting Paladin 10% additional damage for 6 seconds. While this buff shouldn't make Word of Glory a rotational ability, since the damage boost won't make up for the lost global cooldown, it does at least mean that casting Word of Glory is slightly less of a damage loss than either Light of Dawn or Eternal Flame, which are the only other Holy Power-consuming abilities available to the Shockadin. Plus, combined with the Sacred Shield talent, Word of Glory will likely be significantly more potent for self-healing than the alternatives, as well.
  • Sanctified Wrath is one of our level 75 talent choices, and allows Holy Shock to be cast without cooldown whenever Avenging Wrath is active—and that's in addition to the 20% increased damage from Avenging Wrath itself. Considering Holy Shock is the hardest hitting ability in the Paladin arsenal, and that Holy Power is significantly less useful for a Shockadin due to the fact that it cannot be used for dealing damage, Sanctified Wrath is really the only choice amongst the level 75 talents that makes any sense.
I'll probably be experimenting more with the Shockadin as I get more time for the beta test, but from basic target dummy tests it doesn't seem like it will fare too badly. It almost certainly won't be up to Retribution's standards, but given it's high potential for healing in a pinch, I think the trade-off may be worth it. At the very least, it seems like it could be an effective Holy leveling/PvP spec, if nothing else.

Monday, April 9, 2012

PvP Thoughts: On Battleground Losses and Honor Rewards

As I've been PvPing more often in WoW, I've increasingly run across some of the unsavory characters people often complain about in PvP—I'm sure you know the types: botters, AFKers, and (most infuriatingly) "just let them win"ers. I think the most frustrating thing about running into these players is that the controls put in place by Blizzard to prevent these kinds of behaviors are completely overshadowed by the incentives the game gives to engage in any or all of the above. Essentially, people do these types of things because they consider gaining a mediocre reward for little to no effort as being far superior to gaining a slightly less mediocre reward for a substantially larger amount of effort.

And the fact of the matter is that they're right. The reason for this, as contradictory as it may seem at first, in my opinion is because Battlegrounds are simultaneously too rewarding of and not rewarding enough of failure—it all depends on the degree, the particular shade of gray, of that failure. While there is some level of pride that can be had from pushing the opposing team to their limits and losing by the slimmest of margins, at present there is quantitatively little additional reward for doing so.

Consider it from a PvE perspective. If you zone into a dungeon or raid and wipe on the first trash pack before the group disbands, you get nothing but a repair bill and some wasted time. If you kill a few trash packs but are unable to down any bosses, you get some gold and maybe some vendor/crafting/green items. If you down the boss, you'll have a chance at winning a blue or purple and maybe some Justice or Valor Points. Complete all but the final boss, though, and you'll still have earned a decent-sized sum of gold and goods, even if you don't get the bonus prize(s) for ultimate success.

In PvP, though, the difference in reward between standing around at a graveyard twiddling your thumbs for an entire match and losing by the skin of your teeth is fairly negligible. As such, I think that widening this gap significantly is the best way to give players reason to give it their all every match. "Just let them win so we can requeue" is a far less appealing argument to make if you know that you're within spitting distance of a better reward no matter what the current situation looks like.

Imagine if the following system were put in place: if you win a Battleground you earn 100% of the bonus Honor that Battleground awards, and the bonus Honor awarded by each Battleground is significant enough as compared to slaying enemy characters such that it is more economical to complete the Battleground's objectives and queue for another one rather than stall victory and farm kills. On the other hand, if you lose, you have a potential to earn a percentage of the bonus Honor depending on how close the fight was. If you lose by a slim margin, you earn up to 75% of the bonus Honor that Battleground awards (so almost as much as the victor, but not quite). The wider the margin of your loss, the less bonus Honor you receive, down to gaining no bonus Honor whatsoever for getting totally steamrolled.

As an example, the metrics could work out as such:

For Arathi Basin:
0% bonus Honor baseline for losing
+10% bonus Honor for each base controlled at end of match (maximum of 4 = 40% total maximum)
+5% bonus Honor for having more than 800 resource points
+5% bonus Honor for having more than 1000 resource points
+10% bonus Honor for having more than 1200 resource points
+15% bonus Honor for having more than 1400 resource points
=75% cumulative maximum for a loss with 1400 or more resource points and with 4 bases controlled at end of match

For Warsong Gulch:
0% bonus Honor baseline for losing
+15% bonus Honor for each flag capture (maximum of 2 = 30% total maximum)
+10% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 10 minutes
+10% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 15 minutes
+10% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 20 minutes
+2% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 21 minutes
+2% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 22 minutes
+2% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 23 minutes
+2% bonus Honor for a match lasting longer than 24 minutes
+2% bonus Honor for reaching the 25 minute time limit
+5% bonus Honor for a tied loss
=75% cumulative maximum for a tied 2-2 momentum loss from hitting the time limit

And so on and so forth for the various other Battlegrounds.

Assuming the bonus Honor is significant enough to be enticing, I think the net result would be this:
  • Losing teams would have a reason to put up the best fight they possibly can, because the closer the match, the better their reward.
  • Winning teams would be disincentivized from resting on their laurels because winning quickly and requeuing would be mathematically superior Honor gains than allowing things to draw on longer than necessary.
  • "Just let them win"ers would have less reason to give up the fight when investing incrementally more effort gives a reasonable chance at incrementally greater reward.
  • AFKers and botters who contribute nothing would earn less rewards over time as their lack of participation would result in wider margins of loss for their teams. This would also encourage reporting of said individuals since they'd immediately cut into potential honor gains for everyone who is participating. As it stands right now, many PvPers have such little faith in Blizzard's reporting system that botters and AFKers seem to be able to hang around for entire matches due to lack of votes against them.
I do think that there are other methods Blizzard can employ to reward participation and discourage giving up, but I'll get into those in a future post.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Brief First Impressions of the Mists of Pandaria Beta

Note: WoWhead linking isn't really playing all that nicely with the beta data. The tooltips appear to be the live version of abilities, but clicking them will take you to the Mists of Pandaria equivalents, so be sure to click through to see the beta tooltips.

I finally managed to set aside some time to check out the Mists of Pandaria beta last night and answer some questions on PlusHeal, and here were some of my first impressions from running around Stormwind and messing around with target dummies:

  • Holy Radiance no longer has a HoT portion. Additionally, it's splash healing has been reduced to 50% of the healing done to the primary target, but the splashes can crit independently (thus healing for the same amount as the primary target), and it all triggers our Illuminated Healing mastery. Yes, the Illuminated Healing shield is triggered on the splashed targets, too.
  • Light of Dawn no longer has a facing requirement: it now heals the most injured targets in a full 360° circle (sphere?) around the Paladin rather than a frontal cone. This seems to make the Glyph of Light of Dawn a little less valuable, even in 10-man raids, though it may become more useful for Scenarios or Arenas. It still only extends 30 yards, though, which seems a bit inconvenient considering all of our other heals are 40 yards. Also, the animation looks a bit stupid, since the healing cone now erupts straight upwards from the top of our heads.
  • Mana is normalized to 102,000 mana for a level 85 Holy Paladin, regardless of gear.
  • Haste is less potent. The rating now converts to a smaller haste percentage than before, plus we no longer have the 9% haste from Judgments of the Pure or the potential haste rating from our relic slot, so heals feel somewhat sluggish. My normally 1.94 sec Holy Light was suddenly taking 2.19 sec to cast, which is enough to be noticeable.
  • Crit rating is also converting into a smaller percentage, but as I didn't gear crit for PvE, I'm not sure how noticeable it is.
  • Spirit converts very nicely at level 85, with 1 Spirit equaling 1 mana regenerated every 5 seconds while in combat (at least, according to the tooltips). I wonder if this is consistent throughout all levels, or if the ratios change like the various stats that use ratings.
  • Crusader Strike is dirt cheap at 600 mana, and might be a decent way to build up Holy Power when in melee range. In comparison, Holy Shock costs 2800 mana. It does almost no damage, though, since Crusader Strike is based on weapon damage and Holy weapons sacrifice weapon damage for spell power. Also, Sanctity of Battle seems to apply to Holy, too, (though this might be the result of a character copy error) which means Crusader Strike is available fairly frequently - roughly one in every 3 GCDs with my gear.
  • Denounce (formerly Holy Wrath, though closer in current implementation to Exorcism since it seems to no longer have an AoE component) is also really cheap at 1880 mana, and does about as much damage as Holy Shock. Also, it has a new graphic.
  • I miss Daybreak. Not having any mechanic that allows back-to-back Holy Shock casts makes me sad.
  • My action bars feel very empty. Very empty, indeed.

Monday, April 2, 2012

When It Rains, It Pours

About two and a half weeks ago, TRI Mark 3 (the 10-man raid group I run with) had an absolutely momentous night. Not only did we manage to defeat the Madness of Deathwing for the first time as a group, but thanks to saving our Dragon Soul raid ID from the previous week we managed to have enough spare time to go back and do a full clear of Firelands for the first time, as well.

Then life happened, and I've barely been able to find the spare time and mental bandwidth to do much of anything else, including play the Mists of Pandaria beta, for which I've received an Annual Pass invite but have yet to anything with beyond installation. Fortunately, absence does occasionally make the heart grow fonder, and so I've been itching to get back into the thick of things, both in terms of the game and in terms of the blog. Let's see if the Mists of Pandaria beta will help stoke that particular fire. =P

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Updated Feb 15th: Preliminary Paladin Ability Changes in Mists of Pandaria

Back before last Thanksgiving, I posted a list of Preliminary Paladin Ability Changes in Mists of Pandaria based on the Official Talent Calculator preview. Well, said calculator was updated just today, so let's go back and look at the changes once again to see how things compare. The changes listed herein are in comparison to the current 4.3.2 live game, and many are simply copied over from my previous post on the matter with details unchanged or only slightly tweaked. Note that for the most part, I will not be taking changes to mana costs into consideration unless the change fundamentally affects the purpose or usage of ability (such as turning a cooldown-limited ability into a spammable mana-limited one) because these numbers appear to still be very much in flux.

Level 1:
  • Parry (Passive) was conspicuously absent in the previous update, but has now returned and is at level 1 rather than level 10.
  • Armor Skills (Passive) remains relatively unchanged. It just removes the reference to training, since classes will automatically learn abilities rather than having to train them.
  • Weapon Skills (Passive) is unchanged.
  • Crusader Strike deals 100% weapon damage (down from 135%). The new version makes no mention of generating Holy Power, but this is likely an oversight considering the changes to Hammer of the Righteous.
Level 3:
  • Seal of Command: a new single-target damage-dealing seal. "Fills the Paladin with Holy Light, causing melee attacks to deal 9 additional Holy damage." Seal of Righteousness is being moved to level 42 and having the AoE component from the Seals of Command talent built in.
  • Judgement is being moved to level 5.
Level 5:
  • Judgement is being moved here from level 3 and given a 30 yard base range (up from 10 yards) and 6 sec base cooldown (down from 8 sec).
  • Devotion Aura is effectively being removed. There is a new Holy specialization ability with the same name at level 60, but the effect is completely different.
Level 7:
  • Hammer of Justice is being moved here from level 14, but is otherwise unchanged.
  • Holy Light is being changed to a level 33 Holy specialization ability.
Level 9:
  • Word of Glory appears to be having the base cooldown changed to 1.5 sec for all Paladins (down from 20 sec for Protection and Retribution, and up from the potential 1 sec minimum global cooldown for Holy Paladins).
Level 10:
  • (Holy) Holy Shock remains as-is, though the new calculator seems to imply it now has a full 40 yard range for hostile targets. Not sure if this is an intended change or oversight/tooltip limitation, but considering the change from the previous public talent iteration, it might be intentional.
  • (Holy) Walk in the Light is gone.
  • (Holy) Holy Insight (Passive) increases your mana pool by 400%. This is likely to compensate for the removal of Intellect's ability to increase maximum mana.
  • (Holy) Meditation is back! [See previous post on the topic.]
  • (Retribution) Templar's Verdict appears to require 3 Holy Power to use, and deals 165% weapon damage (up from 90% with 3 Holy Power currently).
  • (Retribution) Sheath of Light renamed to Sword of Light.
  • (Retribution) Sword of Light (Passive) is renamed from Sheath of Light and some effects have been changed. It now increases spell power by an amount equal to 100% of your Strength (up from 30% of attack power), no longer increases your chance to hit with spells by 8%, but instead increases the damage you deal with two-handed melee weapons by 25% and grants 5% of maximum mana every 2 sec.
  • (Retribution) Judgements of the Bold is being moved to level 28.
Level 12:
Level 13:
  • Redemption is being moved here from level 12, and is mostly unchanged from the 4.3 version which increases the range to 40 yards. There's also a fairly hefty mana cost increase to 75% base mana (up from 64%).
Level 14:
Level 15:
Level 16:
Level 18:
  • Divine Shield is being moved here from level 48, but is otherwise unchanged.
  • Exorcism is being changed to a Retribution specialization ability at level 46.
  • Hand of Protection is being moved to level 48.
Level 20:
  • No mention is made of the summon mount abilities for Paladins. Not sure if they're being removed or just not mentioned in the new talent calculator.
  • (Holy) Holy Wrath is being moved here from level 28 and is now a Holy specialization ability. It only costs 9% of base mana (down from 20%), has no cooldown (down from 15 sec cooldown), takes 1.5 sec to cast (up from instant), and no longer stuns demons and undead, but instead "prevents targets from causing critical effects for the next 6 sec." Additionally, the ability is now centered on an enemy target rather than on the player, and has a 30 yard cast range.
  • (Protection) Hammer of the Righteous is moved here from the Protection tier 3 talent position. Damage reduced to 20% weapon damage (down from 30%). Additionally, it now also places a Weakened Blows effect on all affected targets, which reduces their physical damage dealt by 10% for 30 sec. Weakened Blows is likely a debuff applied by multiple classes (similar to the Replenishment buff).
Level 22:
Level 24:
  • Consecration is being changed to a Protection specialization ability at level 33.
  • Seal of Truth is being moved here from level 44. It now replaces Seal of Command (from level 3), and causes melee attacks (changed from single-target attacks) to deal 10% Holy weapon damage in addition to applying Censure.
Level 26:
  • Retribution Aura is being removed, as are all current Paladin Auras. =(
  • Divine Protection is being moved here from level 30, and is having the Glyph of Divine Protection effect folded in. It now provides no physical damage reduction (down from base 20%) and instead provides 40% magical damage reduction (up from base 20%).
Level 28:
  • Holy Wrath is being changed to a level 20 Holy specialization ability.
  • (Holy) Judgements of the Pure (Passive) is being moved here from the Holy tier 1 talent position. It no longer increases haste, but retains the 4.3 function of increasing mana regeneration from Spirit. It now states "Your Judgement increases your mana regeneration from Spirit while in combat by 30% for 1 min".
  • (Protection) Judgements of the Wise (Passive) is being moved here from the level 10 Protection specialization. It no longer grants mana, but instead states "Your Judgement hits grant one charge of Holy Power".
  • (Retribution)  Judgements of the Bold (Passive) is being moved here from the level 10 Retribution specialization. It no longer grants mana, but instead states "Your Judgement hits grant one charge of Holy Power and cause the Physical Vulnerability effect." Physical Vulnerability appears to be a new debuff which increases the physical damage taken by the target by 4% for 30 sec, and is likely a debuff applied by multiple classes (similar to the Weakened Blows debuff above and the current Replenishment buff).
Level 30:
Level 32:
Level 33:
  • (Holy) Holy Light is being moved here from level 7 and is now a Holy specialization ability with a 2.5 sec cast time (down from 3.0 sec).
  • (Protection) Consecration is being moved here from level 24 and is now a Protection specialization ability with a 9 sec cooldown (down from 30 sec).
  • (Retribution) Supplication (Passive) is a new passive class ability with an effect similar to the last part of Crusade. "For 15 sec after you kill an enemy that yields experience or honor, your next Flash of Light heals for an additional 300%".
Level 34:
  • Cleanse now removes all Poison and Disease effects (up from 1 of each).
  • (Holy) Sacred Cleansing (Passive) is being moved here from the Holy tier 4 talent position. It no longer mentions the 1 Magic effect limit so it likely dispels all Magic effects.
Level 36:
  • Rebuke moved here from level 54, and cooldown has been increased to 15 sec (up from 10 sec).
  • Righteous Defense appears to be removed.
Level 38:
  • (Retribution) Divine Storm is being moved here from the Retribution tier 3 talent and is changed into an AoE version of Templar's Verdict. It now requires 3 Holy Power to use rather than 5% base mana, no longer generates Holy Power, no longer heals allies, and has no cooldown (down from 4.5 sec). It now states "An area attack that consumes 3 charges of Holy Power to cause 50% weapon damage to all enemies within 8 yards".
Level 39:
Level 40:
  • Again, no mention of the Paladin summon mount abilities.
  • (Protection) Shield of the Righteous is being moved here from the Protection tier 4 talent position and now requires 3 Holy Power to cast and has a 1.5 sec cooldown. In addition to dealing damage it causes the next melee attack against you to be blocked and increases the amount your shield blocks by an additional 25% for 6 sec.
  • (Retribution) Hammer of Wrath is being moved here from level 46 and is becoming a Retribution specialization ability. Additionally, it will generate a charge of Holy Power when used, but can only be used on targets with 20% or less health or during Avenging Wrath.
Level 42:
Level 44:
  • Heart of the Crusader (Passive) is the always-on passive replacement for Crusader Aura and only affects the Paladin.
  • Divine Plea is being changed to a level 46 Holy specialization ability.
  • Seal of Truth is being moved to level 24.
Level 46:
  • (Holy) Divine Plea is being moved here from level 44 and is now a Holy specialization ability, but is otherwise unchanged.
  • (Retribution) Exorcism is being moved here from level 18 and is now a Retribution specialization ability. It no longer costs mana, and instead generates a charge of Holy Power and is instant cast (down from 1.5 sec), but has a 20 sec cooldown (up from no cooldown).
Level 48:
Level 50:
  • (Holy) Infusion of Light (Passive) is being moved here from the Holy tier 3 talent and no longer increases Holy Shock critical effect chance, but retains the 4.3 change which includes the option to reduce the cast time of Holy Radiance.
  • (Retribution) Art of War (Passive) is being moved here from the Retribution tier 3 talent and now gives autoattacks a 20% chance of resetting the cooldown of Exorcism rather than its previous effects.
Level 52:
Level 54:
  • Rebuke is being moved to level 36.
Level 56:
  • (Holy) Divine Light is being moved here from level 62 and is now a Holy specialization ability with a 2.5 sec cast time (down from 3 sec).
Level 60:
  • (Holy) Devotion Aura is effectively the Holy specialization ability designed to replace the Holy tier 5 talent Aura Mastery and its combinations with Concentration Aura and Resistance Aura, and has no real relation to the current Devotion Aura other than reusing the name. It is an instant cast, 2 min cooldown ability which states "Inspire all party and raid members within 40 yards, granting them immunity to Silence and Interrupt effects and reducing all Fire, Frost, and Shadow damage taken by 20%. Lasts 6 sec."
  • (Protection) Sanctuary (Passive) is a Protection specialization passive ability that combines the 10% increased armor value from items effect of the Protection tier 2 talent Toughness with the 10% damage reduction effect of the Protection tier 3 talent Sanctuary. It no longer decreases your chance to be critically hit (this effect has been moved to the Guarded by the Light passive at level 10) or restores mana on blocks or dodges.
  • (Retribution) Crusader's Zeal (Passive): a new Retribution specialization passive ability. "Your autoattacks have a 20% chance to increase your attack speed by 25% for your next 3 melee swings."
Level 62:
  • Crusader Aura is being removed and replaced by Heart of the Crusader at level 44.
  • Divine Light is being changed to a Holy specialization ability at level 56.
Level 64:
  • Seal of Justice is being changed to a Retribution specialization ability at level 70.
  • (Holy) Tower of Radiance (Passive) is being moved here from the Holy tier 6 talent, and no longer generates a charge of Holy Power whenever Holy Radiance is cast (this effect has been built into Holy Radiance instead).
Level 66:
Level 70:
  • (Holy) Light of Dawn is being moved here from the Holy tier 7 talent position and is unchanged from the 4.3 iteration.
  • (Protection) Ardent Defender is being moved here from the Protection tier 7 talent position and is otherwise unchanged.
  • (Retribution) Seal of Justice is being moved here from level 64 and is now a Retribution specialization ability. Now properly slows instead of capping movement speed, and states "Fills the Paladin with Holy Light, causing melee attacks to deal 4 additional Holy damage and reduce the target's movement speed by 50% for 5 sec." It's unclear how this might work with the level 30 talent Burden of Guilt, which causes Judgement to reduce the target's movement speed by 50% for 12 sec.
Level 72:
Level 76:
Level 78:
  • Turn Evil was going to be moved to level 46, but now it seems it's being removed. =(
Level 80:
Level 81:
  • Blessing of Might moved here from level 56. No longer increases attack power and mana regeneration, but instead increases mastery by 5.
  • (Retribution) Inquisition is being changed to a Retribution specialization ability and as the latter portion of Inquiry of Faith partially baked in so it lasts for 10 sec per charge of Holy Power (up from 4 sec per charge without Inquiry of Faith, but down from 12 sec per charge with Inquiry of Faith).
Level 83:
  • (Holy) Holy Radiance is being changed to a Holy specialization ability and is being changed to have a 2.5 sec cast (down from 3 sec) and generate a charge of Holy Power innately (rather than requiring Tower of Radiance).
Level 85:
  • Boundless Conviction (Passive) acts as a new buffer zone for extra Holy Power to prevent it from being wasted. It reads, "You may store an additional 2 Holy Power beyond the maximum of 3. No ability ever consumes more than 3 Holy Power."
  • Guardian of Ancient Kings cooldown is being reduced to 3 min. Effects are otherwise unchanged.
Level 87:
  • Blinding Light: a new short-duration crowd control ability that costs 23% of base mana and is instant cast with a 3 min cooldown. "Emits a dazzling light in all directions, blinding enemies within 10 yards, causing them to wander disoriented for 6 sec."

Monday, January 16, 2012


On Thursday, the casual 10-man raid group I run with managed to take down Ultraxion (on normal, not heroic). While I know that's not really a big accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, I think it's reasonably decent for a group that raids a fairly laid-back 3.5 hours per week.

Of all the fights we've faced thus far, I think Ultraxion has been my least favorite. Part of this is because while I was the healer lucky enough to get to pick up the blue crystal - which is the final (and, in my opinion, most appealing) of the 3 crystals to spawn - the vast majority of wipes occurred prior to its appearance. The other part of why I dislike the encounter is, I think, because its mechanics are designed in such a way that just one single failure from any individual in the raid almost invariably leads to an unnecessarily slow and drawn-out wipe. Now, I don't mind single failure wipes or slow wipes in and of themselves, but both mechanics together mean that raid groups like mine with particularly limited raiding schedules are disproportionately punished.

If a single failure is going to result in a wipe, then I'm of the opinion that said wipe should be brutally quick and immediately recognizable, because not only does it reinforce the idea that certain mechanics are extremely dangerous, but also makes it so that people can give the encounter another try with minimal delay and a reasonable opportunity to understand what just happened. Similarly, I think a slow, drawn-out wipe should provide ample opportunity for the raid group to try to recover and rally itself to a victory. Combining the two disproportionately punishes the people with the least amount of raiding time, since those are the same people who are most likely to have the least experience with gauging whether a given situation requires a passionate or pragmatic approach.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Brief Thoughts on PvP

Lately, I've been getting more and more into PvP in WoW. Part of this is because how efficiently I can cap out Valor Points these days - all it takes is one day of Raid Finder and one day of raiding and I'm either capped, or extremely close to it. As such, it makes little sense for me to run heroic dungeons, because I've already obtained most of the meaningful upgrades they provide.

The other significant reason, as silly as it may sound at first, is the introduction of Void Storage. I think one of the biggest problems I had with PvP in the past is how squishy I'd felt, and since I didn't have enough bag space for a full set of PvP gear with which to unsquishify, PvP would easily become a source of frustration rather than enjoyment. Thanks to Void Storage cleaning out much of my bank and bags, I now have the inventory space necessary to maintain a complete set of resilience gear (well, nearly - I'm still using a PvE weapon because it's better than what's available from Honor Points), and as such I find myself leaps and bounds tougher to kill.

Momma said heal you out!
Rather than being frustrated by my own helplessness in one-on-one scenarios, now I find I can easily survive as long as I need to in such situations - often long enough for reinforcements to arrive or for my opponent to get bored and try to find someone less difficult to kill. It's gleefully heartening.

Plus, it seems that more and more of my raiding friends are also taking a new interest in PvP. While I certainly still queue solo almost all of the time, just the mere prospect that I know people I can go to for advice and the occasional Horde-slaying somehow makes the whole experience all the more enjoyable. What a difference a change as simple as that can make.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another Healer-Friendly Grisly Trophy Place

Yesterday, I posted a couple of places in the Shadow Wardens area of the Molten Front where healers can more easily acquire Grisly Trophies for the Darkmoon Faire monthly quest Test Your Strength, given by Kerri Hicks (The Strongest Woman Alive!). Unfortunately - for the sake of argument, anyway - let's say you haven't unlocked the Shadow Wardens daily quest hub yet. Instead, you chose to first recruit the Druids of the Talon...and that's as far as you've gotten. Well, fear not! There's actually a semi-decent place for a healer to grind Grisly Trophies on the Druids of the Talon side of the front, too.

Healer go down the hooole!

The place you're looking for is known as The Molten Flow, a massive cavern which can be accessed through the a giant hole that opens up in The Furnace area during the Into the Fire quest given by General Taldris Moonfall. If you follow the leftmost path through The Molten Flow, you'll run into a cavern filled with Charhounds.

What distinguishes these mobs from most other level 85 mobs is their total health - or, rather, their lack of it: they only have about 31,000 hit points. This means that they die remarkably fast, even for healers. Additionally, since they're sleeping in packs on the cavern floor, it's fairly easy to grab and AoE down several at a time. Once you're in the right place, there are really only two things you have to worry about: a single Flamewaker Hunter that patrols through the area, and the respawn timer for the Charhounds themselves, which can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on how many other players are in The Molten Flow.

D'awww. Aren't they cute? Time to murder them all!

Good luck and happy hunting!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Farming Darkmoon Faire Grisly Trophies as a Healer

If you've visited the revamped Darkmoon Faire, you've probably run into the quest Test Your Strength, for which Kerri Hicks (The Strongest Woman Alive!) requests that you gather a whopping two hundred and fifty Grisly Trophies off of reasonably challenging enemies across the world (of WarCraft). Now, for whatever reason, Blizzard decided that when people are partied up, rather than giving everyone an equal shot at being able to loot a trophy, it would instead only drop for the person who attained the killing blow. In other words, it means that healers will inevitably get the smallest share of trophies in a group, since we are usually more preoccupied with keeping everyone alive than with trying to snipe kill shots.

Considering that, in addition to the group dynamic above, healers also tend to have the slowest killing speeds out of the 3 roles, it means that any healer who doesn't have a damage-dealing off-spec will have to either spend a disproportionately large amount of time trying to complete this quest, or they'll have to learn to play smarter rather than harder. In the spirit of that idea, here is a place healers can go to maximize their Grisly Trophy acquisition:

In Patch 4.2: Rage of the Firelands, Blizzard added a brand new quest chain and a variety of daily quests that told the story of Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage's offensive into a place in the Firelands known as the Molten Front. As it turns out, the Molten Front is a fantastic place to farm Grisly Trophies if you know what you're doing, especially if you've progressed far enough to enlist the aid of the Shadow Wardens. The key to this are two quests given by the Shadow Wardens:

  • The Wardens are Watching is a daily that is occasionally available from Marin Bladewing at the Forlorn Spire. It's not always available, but when it is, it can be a particularly helpful quest for a healer collecting Grisly Trophies because it grants you a Shadow Warden guardian who will help you kill enemies in The Widow's Clutch and close to the Forlorn long as you don't attack and capture a Druid of the Flame. Since killing blows from pets count for the pet's owner, this means that the Shadow Warden guardian can help deal damage for you without sniping away your chance at looting Grisly Trophies.

The Wardens are Watching this area here. It's fascinating.

  • Enduring the Heat is a guaranteed daily quest (unlike the above, which has a random chance of being available each day) along the Shadow Wardens route. The quest asks you to head into the Igneous Depths and destroy 8 blue runes inside the cavern. While inside, fire elementals will spawn and try to kill you, but by standing on the runes you will receive the Flame Protection Rune buff which significantly reduces the damage these elementals deal to you. Additionally, when you destroy the rune, not only will it detonate and instantly kill any nearby elementals, but it will also credit you for dealing the killing blow, thereby granting you Grisly Trophies. What this means is that if you simply run onto a rune and stand on it, wait for elementals to gather up around you, and then detonate it once you're surrounded, you'll get plenty of Grisly Trophies with very little effort. Unfortunately, if you're the only one doing the quest at the time there's a maximum of about 6-8 elementals up at once per person, but even with that limit you should still get between 48 and 64 trophies just from intelligently handling this one quest. Considering that you'll have to complete a good few other dailies to unlock this quest for the day, chances are that you'll only have to do the chain once or twice to fill up your Grisly Trophy quota.

If you can't take the heat...stand on the runes. They help. ;)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Hopefully, the world won't come to an least, not until I've managed to attract a 4th regular reader. =P

...And I feel fiiiiine!