Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Has Blizzard found raiding perfection?

Back in the old wild west days of vanilla and Burning Crusade, Blizzard tinkered with how to tune endgame raiding instances to make them challenging enough for the most elite guilds formed in the world while also making the content accessible. As it turns out, their solution was t make progessively harder and harder raids until they ended up with Sunwell, which is still damn hard on 80's in my humble opinion. Sunwell was basically impossible, and that's if you could even get to it! I played when Karazhan was the opening endgame raid and that place was brutal. But it was a far cry from the instances leading up to the Sunwell.

Then to cater to the masses Blizzard would bring the nerf hammer down hard on these raids, especially right before a new expansion. Thus, Sunwell became hard but doable with a serious raid team while other TBC raids beame truly useful to 50-70% of the raiding population. And so the cycle continued into Wrath of the Lich King, where Blizzard dedicated themselves to making the endgame more accessible. Thus, they made the rehashed Naxxramas not all that hard to open the door to more people. Ulduar continued the trend to a degree, but Ulduar also had some very legitimately hard bosses as well. But without a nerf hammer, the only way this content ever gets easier is by overgearing it, which became instantly possible with Trial of the Champion, which was a joke to hold us over.

All in all, this system basically pulled a Goldilocks. First, it was too darn hard for anybody to enjoy except for an elite few. Then, they made it too darn easy by nerfing it completely in one fell swoop or making the instances weaker. How could you find a middle ground that fit both the goals of catering to the real pros of Warcraft and achieve maximum exposure to endgame raiding? Along comes Icecrown Citadel to save the day.

Although there has been much hemming and hawing every month about the new 5% bump in the raid bonus, Icecrown has kept the attention of raiders for many months because they gated the content out every 3-4 weeks initially and then have increased everyone's healing/damage by 5% every month or so until they reach 30%. Now 30% is a nerf on the order of the old nerfs of content, but by slowly rolling these out it gives raid teams that maybe get discouraged on a certain fight a chance to get that extra bit of DPS or healing necessary to finish the fight and move on. Even at 10%, not many raid teams had downed Arthas. Once 15% hit though, many of your better raid teams got him down and as time goes on, this is a much more enjoyable progression than just a nerf at the end. Plus you can turn it off if your raid team wants to challenge themselves. What a brilliant system we have here.

Do you cater to the hardcore pros? Yes by not only allowing them to raid the content as normally designed forever, but also allowing them to prove themselves by making the content too hard for most guilds initially. Do you cater to the regular raiders? Yes because you give them a continuing sense of accomplishment as things get slightly easier every month and they move forward. Do you cater to the masses? Yes because eventually you still get those people into ICC where they can down a few bosses even if they cannot get them all.

So while other changes may be positive or negative like getting 10 man and 25 man raiding on the same weekly cooldown, I really like the concept of extending the longevity of dungeons like Ulduar and ICC with this progressive buff over time. In my raid team that I'm not a regular on, we struggled mightily with Marrowgar and Saurfang at 0%. Then at 5% we really had issues at Festergut and Rotface. Just as we started getting those down, we hit 10% and starting taking on Blood Princes and Professor. In our last guild run at 15%, we downed 8 bosses, leaving only Blood Queen, Putricide, Sindragosa, and Lichy to go. Now that we have 20% I highly suspect our weekly run will get to Sindragosa and start learning that fight more. And once we get to 30%, we will likely have learned enough about the Lich King encounter to down it in a hard battle. We're not elite, and this has been a blast for us.

So all in all, I think this experiment has worked perfectly. I just hope they do not tweak a good thing in Cataclysm!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time for Tank Advice

Sorry for the short entry in advance but something needs to be said. Listen up well tanks, for while I love you dearly, sometimes you drive me up the wall. And I'm looking specifically at the three errors of three kinds of tanks.

1. PALADINS LISTEN UP! Just because you have an ability than gives you some mana back for effective healing, it DOES NOT MEAN that me using Power Word Shield is a mistake with you. Keep in mind this is what makes a priest unique and perhaps a better healer in an expert's hands, is the diversity of tools including shields. And if you run out of mana, drink! For goodness sakes, healers should not be the only people who drink in a party all the time, and the benefit to your mana regeneration is not all that big a difference. Please stop telling all the other priests in the world differently, forcing those of us who know what we're doing to reteach them their own class when we raid with them.

2. DEATH KNIGHTS LISTEN UP! You have a little ability called Death Grip. Now I know when you starting playing the class people complained about your silly antics with the grip. However, it's there for a reason, such as pulling a caster to you and gaining aggro on it. If you don't snag a caster right away and it is out of Death and Decay range, GUESS WHO IS GETTING NUKED IN WET PAPER TOWEL ARMOR? Me! So pay attention to your aggro bar and don't be afraid to Death Grip!

3. most importantly, WARRIORS, FOR THE LOVE OF AZEROTH, LISTEN UP!!! I know you guys missed out on the patch notes while being all self-centered on Titan's Grip and how Death Knights were making you obsolete blah blah blah. But let me make it clear for you. POWER WORD SHIELD DOES NOT, DOES NOT, DOES NOT!!! AFFECT YOUR RAGE GENERATION IN ANY WAY. NONE! Read the Patch 3.2 notes if you do not believe me. The problem has been fixed, and we can now heal you like every other tank. Stop, please stop telling priests otherwise. You are W-R-O-N-G. And for the record, you are still more enjoyable to heal than Death Knights.

So there you go. I hope you tanks were listening up. And now that I've pissed off 95% of the tanks on the servers, I'll go bum a ride from my favorite teddy bear tank. Until the druids do something that makes me insane anyway.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Crafting a Profession Team

I don't know if I've treaded this topic before, but I know it is one I think about a lot. Once I came into the game at the end of The Burning Crusade, I just picked Tailoring and Skinning on my main, a priest, because that seemed like what a priest would do to get by. As time went on, I decided that my group of friends did not have a dedicated enchanter, so I leveled that up as I went along despite the expense of not having a true gathering profession.

After getting Ekaterinae to endgame, it was time to select what I wanted to do with alt characters. As you will likely remember if you've been following this blog, I fell in love with healing and tanking to a lesser extent, but not DPS unless I needed a break. So I decided to level a healer team, two healers on each side of the aisle and one DK on alliance-side just because. With the classes selected, the only other real consideration outside of which classes to play one each side was how to best set up a team of professions to garner the most profit for the team expenses and also take care of my character needs. Here's my setup:

Ekaterinae has Tailoring and Enchanting
Navarionae has Jewelcrafting and Mining
Arielae has Alchemy and Herbalism

I feel like the things I spend the most repeated money on for my raiding character Ekaterinae is flasks, gems, and enchants (as well as gear when necessary). As you can see, each of my characters plays a vital role in giving me one of those things, although my Alchemist is still leveling up so I still buy flasks. However, everything is set up to benefit the priest in the best way possible, while also providing side benefits for making money with JC and Tailoring bags mostly. I may also dabble in the flask market eventually. Oh and Ekaterinae also is a maxed out fisher and cook, meaning she makes fish feasts all the time. So I think this mix of professions is good enough for me.

Of the things I'm lacking, none of them seem all that important, although I do not think these professions are bad. they just do not help me reach my own goals. Engineering is fun and I tried it for a while, but it has no great endgame benefits. Blacksmithing and Leatherworking are helpful if you have characters that raid a lot in those armor proficiencies, but Ekaterinae remains my only raiding toon for a reason. Hence, Tailoring is it for me. Plus, making bags for profit is much better for me than armor kits or weapons. Inscription is nifty, but you do not need to switch glyphs that often and I see it as another tax like the 50g whenever you respec, which I do occasionally to have Shadow in the mix. And Skinning is just a placeholder unless you have no better ways to make extra cash and if yo have a leatherworker.

Now the key question is what to do to set up the same success or Horde-side. Right now my shaman is alliance just to make it easier to handle the costs, and she will transfer any extra money my paladin may need to finish things off when she goes Horde-side in Cataclysm. However, I'm struggling with what professions to focus on. I'm definitely going to be a paladin main over there, so I think maybe a mix of Blacksmithing, JC, Enchanting, and Mining (because having the two professions that require mining without mining is silly). So I think I will level Mining/JC on Biancae and Mining/Blacksmithing on Clarissae. Unless there's some reason to have blacksmithing on the person wearing the gear (BoP? I need some recipe guides). Then at endgame I will swap to enchanting on Biancae, giving me the ultimate JC/Enchanting bonuses. I will lack the ability to make money off bags and will have to buy flasks, but it's a small matter as I've lived that way Alliance-side for so long. And to be honest, my Horde-side followings will likely never be more important to me than my Alliance-side travels.

Anybody have thoughts on this? Perhaps you have an elite set of professions to support your raiding or top PvP characters, and maybe you just do what's fun. But I like having a synergetic team, and I think this is my decision. Hence, I've not only crafted a healer team but a profession team.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Weird Things You See

Short entry since I have to go off to class (last day I can say that as Monday it's back to work!), but it strikes me as funny how sometimes you see weird coincidences in your world. I'm in a weeklong intensive USPTO bar exam prep course this week, and as usual the male to female ratio is slanted towards the males. There's 11 guys and 3 ladies, to be exact.

So one of the ladies is from Belgium, and it finally dawned on me who she reminded me of yesterday afternoon. Her facial expressions, her mannerisms, etc are dead-on Felicia Day, at least as seen in The Guild. And although the similarities for the other two women are more superficial, we have an asian woman who dresses like Tinkerbella and a blonde white woman who is similar in appearance to Clara. Creepy, no? The Guild has invaded my patent bar class!

We don't have a Vork, sadly. If we did, I would make them take a picture because that would be a very creepy "real life looks like the movies/TV/webshow" circumstance!

So happy this course is over in one more day. Then 3 months of worrisome test prep up to another bar exam, which will hopefully be my last one. These are not for the light of heart (college exam = 5-man, law school exam = 5-man heroic, bar exam = 25-man hardmode raiding, for those wanting a comparison).

Also, I finished School of Hard Knocks last night, which means Navar is still on track for his proto in Hallow's End. That achievement is by far the worst holiday achievement because it helps nobody. It teaches you to play the battlegrounds in a bad way, and opens up PvE players to absolute ridicule and harassment from those of us who enjoy PvP occasionally or a lot. But 90% of the holiday events are true bliss, so I'll put up with Blizzard's crap on this one.

With 310% mounts being purchaseable in Cata, I believe Navar will be my last holiday hunter. I'd rather redo the stuff on Ekat than take new characters through a grind for no benefit outside a snazzy looking proto drake.