Thursday, April 29, 2010

Death of 25-man a bit premature.

I think the one factor that almost every blogger who has weighed in on the topic has missed is that people raid for easy top-quality loot.  Likewise, people do a daily heroic random for their Frost badges, again for easy top-quality loot.  Back in BC, people flowed into arenas, once again, for easy top-quality loot.  Loot is a tool, a reward offered from Blizzard to get the playerbase to enjoy the game in the manner that they are putting the most effort into.  People (and by people I mean the overwhelming majority of the endgame playerbase) will swarm to the easiest way to get their top-quality loot, to the best of their abilities.

If Blizzard wants to kill 25-man, they're welcome to do so, it's their game after all.  Shifting the effort-to-loot balance towards 10-man is a sure way to do it.  I, for one, don't think we'll see quite the abandonment of 25-man as is being feared... all it takes is one legendary item that only can be earned in 25-man and all the top-tier raiding guilds will jump on that like a puppy on an unattended turkey sandwich.

Not all the information is out.  Don't start making plans to dump 60% of your raid core just yet.  Blizz may yet surprise us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sindragosa Down

It's amazing what an extra 5% can do.

Our normal rogue is still MIA, but aside from that we had nine of our core ten present and accounted for.  I switched over to my ele shaman and we brought in our backup ret pally, and we flat-out steamrolled the place.  The first wing was fully cleared in a half hour, and Saurfang Jr. went down in just two minutes and five seconds, didn't even get half a bar of runic power.  From there we decided to skip the farm bosses and head straight for the Frostwing Halls.

We had our ret backup go holy for Dreamwalker; it was his first time healing the fight, so he had a little trouble stacking the cloud buffs, but not so much that we had any trouble one-shotting it.  The extra damage outside mowed down the adds so quickly that I had plenty of time to throw a bunch of extra Healing Waves on the boss between waves, and by looking at the meters it seemed that our outside healers had plenty of time to do so as well.  From there it was on to Sindragosa.

We decided to run only two healers, hoping the extra damage on the table would shrink the burn phase enough that we could kill her before the ice blocks and mystic buffet spiralled the fight out of control.  Well, let's say we were about half right on that.  The plan was the two ranged (ele shaman and warlock) would be on ice blocks, giving extra priority if one of our healers got iced; meanwhile, our enhance shaman would pop out a Maelstrom Weapon-powered Chain Heal any time our healers got stressed.  Suffice to say, they got stressed every time one of them was in an ice block.  And even more so when one was in an ice block while Blistering Cold was going off.  Yeah, that happened.  We lost three people due to a misplaced ice block during that, but by then the boss was at 5%, so we called for an all-out burn.

It was messy, it was close, but god was it satisfying.  Next week I'll need to get it on my main.

After that, we cleared out the Plague wing with nary a scratch and called it.  Thursday we'll wipe out the Crimson Halls, then it's on to the Lich King.  Can't wait to see those defiles.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm a Tank Again

Lately I've mostly just kept around my Holy spec for the Dreamwalker fight; I don't think I've really healed anything in weeks.  With another solid holy pally around and a top-notch disc priest (not to mention two other pallies with Holy offspecs), there's really not the demand for more tank heals.  And since healing the Dreamwalker fight can be done just as well as Retribution with Holy gear, I decided it was time to dust off my tanking set and respec.  We've been trying to get a second ten-man going, so we'll need another quality tank for that.

My tank gear is unfortunately quite a bit dated, since I was last tank mainspec in the Ulduar days, and have only sparingly added offspec drops.  My health pool is rather pitiful compared to what an ICC tank should have nowadays, my hit rating is an abyssmal 1.8%, and even that is mostly due to socketing Vivid Eyes of Zul in my yellow slots.  What it has in spades, however, is Block Value.  At rest and unbuffed, it's sitting at just over 3100, and that's before the Libram and Trinket are factored in (though admittedly I'd swap in a Brewfest stamina trinket instead of the shield block one in a raid).  So I'm basically invulnerable in heroics, and even with the pisspoor hit rating, the DPS and threat is way up there.  It'll be a bit before it's ready for ICC though.  But with how little gear our main paladin tank still needs, it shouldn't be long before I can start eating boss crotch again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cataclysm Raid Lockout Change

Oh my.

For those of you who haven't seen the news this morning, here's the meat of it:
  • 10-man and 25-man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-man and 25-man raids will drop the same items.
  • 10-man and 25-man raids will be tuned to as close to identical difficulty as possible.
  • To compensate for the logistical difficulties of organizing 25-man vs. 10-man raids, 25-man will drop a disproportionately high quantity of loot / badges, making it the more efficient way to gear more people faster.
  • Blizzard will be distancing themselves from the single epic 12-boss mega-raid, in favor of two or three smaller raids per tier.  More along the lines of TK and SSC, rather than the Naxx/Ulduar/ICC model featured with this expansion.
Huh.  Well, I like it overall, but I can't help but wonder how they're going to tune the specifics. 

Splitting tiers between two or more raids is certainly a welcome change. If my alt is pugging, I'd like to be able to pug more than just 1/3 of the bosses on a tier, then sitting around with a lockout that's never getting touched for the rest of the week.  On a related note, thank god I'll only have to do one raid per week per toon. TOC was horrid, four lockouts per week. Loot pinata or no, that was excessive.

How diverse of a 10-man lineup is raid difficulty going to be tuned to?  If I run three death knights, four priests, two warlocks, and a druid, will I even have a chance?  And if I bring in one of each class with every buff, debuff, and resistance available, will we destroy the content without breaking a sweat?  Not enough info here to make a judgment, but the fact that mages are getting Bloodlust implies that they're spreading the buff love around a lot more, hopefully making it easier to field an ideal 10-man raid composition.

I understand that they are going to need to offer some sort of incentive to run 25-man raids instead of the far more logistically simple 10-mans, so there would need to be a greater than 5:2 loot ratio.  An extra badge per boss almost goes without saying.  But if we end up with Legendary items only acquirable in 25-man in cataclysm, then 25-man will remain the standard for raiding guilds, and 10-man will be largely relegated to PUGs, alts, and casuals.  But hey, maybe Blizzard wants that distinction.

Battlegrounds, Resilience, and the Race to 85

A few of us were chatting in vent the other night about Cataclysm, and the accompanying World PVP hell that was certain to break loose the day it drops.  Now we're on a PVP server, but our guild is fairly heavy on folks who would normally only be found in a battleground with a child in tow, or to prepare delicious pig meat for the more martially-inclined.  Myself, I tend to go where the loots are, so for most of the expansion I've stayed pretty firmly in the PVE realm, with an occasional BG to blow off steam and grabbing the Challenger title with a casual (but rather capable) 5s team.  Nowadays, with the random BG tool, I find myself in there a lot more often.  Arena points for cheap 270s is always fun, plus free gems from honor does a lot to save cash when getting multiple gearsets raid-ready.

But talking about that race from 81-85 the first week or two of Cataclysm pointed out to me just how much getting some PVP practice in now can do for you, especially in Battlegrounds.  Cause face it, if you're on a PVP server, the gank squad will be out en force from day one.  But toss on a full set of Wrathful Gladiator gear, no matter what class or spec you choose to level as, and you'll find it a lot easier to turn the tables on anyone looking to get their frustrations out over not having the expansion on day one.  Or, for that matter, to proactively help secure the prime questing real estate for your faction, if that's your cup of tea.

You don't need a highly-ranked arena team to get 251s or off-set pieces, those will serve you just fine questing.  And if you have a decent PVE set, you'll do fine in a battleground, just expect a few more deaths than you'd see with a similarly-equipped PVP set.  Just do your research on what you need to do on the more complicated BGs, Alterac Valley and Isle of Conquest, specifically.  If you're a high-survivability melee class, just jump right into the fray, blow your damage cooldowns, and try to take as many people out as you can before you fall.  If you're a healer, keep your distance, and surround yourself with as many thugs as possible.  If you're a squishy damage dealer, either pick out weak targets in the opposition to snipe, or go for the opportunity objectives, like any unguarded flags you can find.  Cause trouble.  Even PVE tanks can play along as flag carriers, territory defenders, or most importantly, tanking the enemy general.  Anyone of any class and any spec can be useful in the chaos of a Battleground.

Put in the time now and grab that resilience gear, and you'll be thanking yourself when that 80 rogue whose parents didn't buy him the expansion yet is taking out his frustrations outside the quest hubs of Mount Hyjal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Try Not, Do, or Do Not. There is no Try.

One-shotting Putricide last night was a great feeling.  With 9 out of 10 returning from Tuesday's nine-boss juggernaut (we brought in a fresh hunter for our missing rogue; a bit of a DPS loss, but the extra ranged capacity was certainly welcome on getting those oozes burnt down), hopes were high and ambitions were higher.  All that stood between us and the Lich King was some pesky bone dragon.

Eight wipes later, she's still there.  Taunting us.  Glaring at us with those vacant frost-coated eye sockets.  Laughing over an ever-growing pile of Tauren, Orc, and Blood Elf skeletons.  Our best attempt clocked in at around 13%, but it was still quite honestly a mess.  It reminded me of my former guild's early attempts at Mimiron back in 3.1.  So much going on, so many ways for a mistake to turn into an early death, and every early death compounded the issues of the encounter.

And that's where the frustration kicks in.  See, our restoration shaman we brought in this week was not running the most top-of-the-line rig in the world.  And no matter what efforts were made to minimize the effect of latency and framerate issues, he simply could not get himself clear of her Blistering Cold in time.  At all.  Over 8 wipes, he got hit with it 15 times, with most of the successful avoidances thanks to a Body and Soul-enhanced PW: Shield.  And when that didn't cut it, Aura Mastery, Hand of Sacrifice, and Guardian Spirit at least kept him alive long enough to Bloodlust at the start of the burn phase.  It's bad when a group needs to use external cooldowns on a non-tank.

Now I empathize with the kid, and up through now he's been a solid backup and a good asset to the guild.  He switched his main from his paladin to his shaman to fill a hole in our roster.  And on fights without such a narrow margin of error, or without the need for immediate reaction he's done fine... below average, but fine enough for farm content.  And he has never complained when he was sat for a regular.  But last night, despite that he himself offered to step out the second someone else logged on (a trademark of a mature team player if ever there was), no one showed up who could fill that 10th slot.  But we all stuck it out, progression bosses need whatever practice we can get, after all, and I (and most of the guild for that matter) are of the mind that it is better to raid and wipe than to have never raided at all.

We'll be picking up the raid again on Monday, hopefully we'll have some better luck.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Raid buffs in 10-man content

Last night, we had what everyone present would easily call a good night of raiding.  Nine bosses in three hours, and only one wipe not on Putricide (and he's dying Thursday, mark my words).  Couple new faces in the mix, alongside our stalwarts.  Our usual resto/enhance shaman couldn't make it, so we shifted our lovely and talented holy priest GM to the hybrid role, letting her dust off her shadow offspec, and brought in a new resto shaman for the raid healer slot.  We also had a new holy paladin in the place of our normal disc priest.  Aside from those two slots, we had everyone else show up, on time and ready to go.  A rarity among the smaller, more relaxed guilds, as I'm sure anyone else in such a position could attest.

We also had on a few fairly consistant backups who had been rather hankering for a slot.  It happens when you're in that uncomfortable spot between 10-man and 25-man.  Now our GM has always given me tremendous latitude when forming raid groups, and honestly if there's one thing I value over all others when it comes to picking the night's raiders, it's consistency, so the ones who I can count on to be on from first pull till we call it 95% of the time are getting in, no questions asked.  And after that, I know the designers have been pushing the "Bring the player, not the class" mantra, but the fact is when it comes to 10-man raids, especially progression 10-man raids, it's "Bring the buff, not the class," especially those vital passive debuffs that don't throw entire rotations out of whack (don't even try to get an affliction lock to drop Curse of Elements, or a mutilate rogue to Expose Armor, unless there's literally no other option).

Replenishment is offered passively by 5 specs, so it's one of the most easily-obtained raid buffs you can get, yet in our normal 10-mans I'm the only one who gives it.  The melee and spell crit auras come from 2 specs each, likewise for melee haste and spell haste.  There's literally dozens of these buffs out there split between every class and every spec, so much so that many raid leaders need to resort to web tools or addons to make sure they've successfully shoehorned as many of the critical performance boosts as they can into their 10-mans.

So when the second ret paladin or fury warrior asks for a raid slot in our 10-mans, there's not a lot I can do to accommodate when the margin of error on the edge of our progression is so thin.  If the choice is between doubling up on a spec already in the raid, or getting Demonic Pact, sorry, but unless there are severe mitigating circumstances involved, the demo lock gets the spot.

Now don't get me wrong, it's great we don't have to stack X class because they pull out the best damage-per-raid-slot, but building a successful raid team is still a balancing act, and the more buffs and debuffs we can balance, the better.

On introductions...

So I had a conversation with myself this morning as I set up this blog.

"Zebb, you've blogged before, on both real world stuff and gaming.  Multiple times each.  Just go ahead and do it."
"Yeah Zebb, but know and I know that we both suck at making introductory posts.  How am I supposed to let any prospective reader know where I'm coming from?"
"Well look at your previous blogs, what sort of introductory post do you have there?"
"Well, nothing really, I sort of just dove right in to my first topic."
"And that won't work now?"
"Well how am I supposed to show my cred?  I mean, there's a million paladins out there facerolling their keyboards, and a fairly sizable quantity of them switched windows by mistake and started a blog."
"So what, you want to differentiate yourself from the masses?  How exactly do we plan to do that?"
"Well, I do it all: Ret, Prot, Holy, PVP, PVE, plus I've been a raid leader, a guild leader, and I like to think I have a fairly good perspective on how most every class in the game works, at least on some level."
"And how do you plan on establishing your cred on all that in a single post?  You in a top-100 guild?"
"No, but--"
"A 2000+ rated arena team?"
"Got the Kingslayer title?"
"Er well--"
"Twilight Vanquisher?"
"Hey, I could get that any time I--"
"Right.  That's what I thought.  Any e-peen drop you try to unload on the interwebs here will be dwarfed by the fact that half the blogs out there are working on their 25-man hardmodes."
"The hardcore guilds just don't fit my style though.  I'm skilled enough to do it, sure, but I like it a little more mellow.  We're in a very good casual-style progression guild, we're just rebuilding a little.  And making amazing 10-man progress while we do.  Nine bosses in three hours last night is great time, considering we had two regulars who couldn't make it, both healers to boot."
"So that still brings me back to my first question.  What makes us different, and how are we going to display it in a single post?"
"Or we could just jump right in."
"Right on in?"
"Okay, I'll give it a go."