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