Archive for January, 2011

Mah Hat is on FIRE!

Posted: 23 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Mage, misc

A mostly trivial post today, I just had to submit a screenie because the Mage tier 11 look is so freaking awesome.  Remember kids, anyone not a Mage sporting this look is clearly just a wannabe.  Yeah you heard me Warlocks and Shadow Priests!  Shoo!

Halp! Mah hat is on FIRE!


With apologies to Tam

The Margin For Error

Posted: 18 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Dungeons, Tanking

I finally bit the bullet and tanked a Heroic on Gorn a couple of days ago.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.  I might even go so far as to say it was mildly fun and not at all butt-clenchingly scary.  Which is strange.  See, I’ve run many Heroics on Gorn as a Fury warrior and they’ve ranged from “Ok” to “So awful you’d rather stick needles into your eyes than take one more step”.  Yet the first one I actually tanked myself was really rather pleasant.

Gorn’s not an incredible tank.  He’s not tanked anything since Icecrown except a normal Stonecore at level 84, and that was pretty rough.  What made the difference was the group I ran with.  First of all, they were all guild members.  Raiding guild members or their alts, and were geared appropriately.  They were not selfish cocknockers gaming the Dungeon Finder by queueing for Heroics in pvp gear half an hour after they hit level 85 and expecting to be carried through.  These folks know their shit.  Secondly, we actually used what crowd control was available to us intelligently.  Thirdly, everyone knew the fights, where to stand, where not to stand, and what to kill first.  Targets were marked and killed efficiently.  No-one stood in Bad. And finally, we were all on voice comms.  Result – Heroic Halls of Origination completed, no wipes, a couple of achievements knocked over with a newbie tank in less than an hour.  Job done.

Now the purpose of this post isn’t to flex my epeen over the lesser mortals who struggle through a heroic for three hours and then give up on the third boss.  (Although it is a pretty impressive epeen and you can touch it if you ask nicely)  Instead, I’m going to talk about what the military call “force multipliers” and something I like to call “the margin of error”.

Force Multipliers
A force multiplier is essentially something that helps you punch above your weight.  Let’s look back at the previous expansion.  In Wrath of the Lich King, we had force multipliers coming out of every orifice available.  Take two level 80 tanks, one who just dinged 80 half an hour ago and who’s sporting the finest in green world drops and quest rewards, and another who’s had the Lich King on farm in 25 man heroic for two months.  One tanks heroics with 23k health fully buffed.  The other tanks heroics with 50k health unbuffed and has over 60% avoidance.  Having better gear is a force multiplier.  You hit harder, have more health and avoidance and heal for more with less than people in lesser gear.  Even your Joe Average tank towards the end of Wrath was rocking 35k health unbuffed.  Your average level 80 quest mob in Icecrown had 11-12k.  I was one-shotting them with a single Arcane Blast while doing dailies.  That’s why Blizzard had to give starting mobs in Cataclysm triple the expected health pools, anything less would have been a joke, and we still facerolled over mobs even though they had 35k health.  Just to put things into perspective here, we’re doing dailies and killing mobs with 80k health, some of them have 115k health.  It’s not a problem.  Fel Reaver, that terror of Hellfire Basin, the sound of whose feet could send noobs scurrying for the hills in panic….   104k health.  I have more health than Fel Reaver.

The Margin For Error
Having all these force multipliers thanks to gear gave us a massive margin for error.  What this means is that if we make an error, we have a comfortable margin in which to compensate for it.  If the tank doesn’t round up all of the mobs and one goes for a healer or a dps, it wasn’t a big deal, because the healer could just heal through it or the dps could just kill it.  If the healer tabbed out to check Facebook and missed the pull, it wasn’t a big deal because the tank had so much health and avoidance they could pretty much tank without heals for the first fifteen seconds of any fight, and in any case, the dps put out so much raw damage that no trash pull lasted much longer than fifteen seconds anyway.  I’ve even seen tanks stay up through bosses with a healer disconnected.  People were so overgeared and the dungeons were so relatively easy that the margin for error was so huge we relied on one force multiplier and one force multiplier only – our gear.  This made us lazy.

Fast forward to today and we’re playing a whole different ballgame.  It’s almost like the start of Wrath, where we had rubbish gear, crappy health pools and struggled to push out 2k dps on a good day.  Except it’s not like the start of Wrath, because dungeon mobs in Cataclysm are not the gentle, playful, happy go lucky funsters we all know and love from Halls of Lightning.  The mobs and particularly the bosses in Cataclysm Heroics are lean, mean killing machines that want to tear our your guts and wear your spleen as a hat.  And if you give them half a chance that’s exactly what they’ll do. Again and again and again until you lose the will to live and go to cry on the forums demanding nerfs.  The problem here isn’t that we have relatively crappy gear.  It isn’t that the dungeons are too hard.  The problem is that we’ve had such good gear and had such gentle dungeon mobs for so long that we’ve forgotten that other force multipliers exist.  We believe that we have no margin for error.  But we’re wrong.

Crowd control is a force multiplier.  Focus fire is a force multiplier. Spell interrupts are a force multiplier.  Talking to each other is a force multiplier.  Hell, just paying attention is a force multiplier. But like any force multiplier, having it and knowing how to use it are two very different things.  Take two paintball teams and give one of them voice comms.  Instant force multiplier, but only if you teach them how to use it.  If you don’t, you just have one team getting their arses handed to them by a team that aren’t telling “Your Mom” jokes to each other from the opposite ends of the playfield.  Similarly, it’s all well and good telling the Mage to polymorph the target marked with the Blue Square, but if you then slap a blue square over the head of an elemental and immediately pull, it’s not the Mages fault that the elemental eats the healer.  Top tip – Polymorph only works on humanoids and beasts.

Stripped of our great gear we need to use our other force multipliers to overcome problems that our crappy gear alone clearly isn’t going to carry us through.  But we need to know and understand the limitations of the options available to us.  Rogues can’t Sap Elementals, and they can’t Sap anything that’s in combat.  Warlocks can’t Fear undead.  Shamans can’t Hex elementals, but they can Bind them.  A Mages polymorph heals the target to full, so probably best not used on the mobs surviving the dragon bombing run in Grim Batol.  A Mage can interrupt a spellcast, but only once every 24 seconds.   Yes, your Priest or Shaman can dispel that spell haste buff on the enemy caster giving you so much trouble, but it’d be a lot better if your Mage used Spellsteal on it instead.  Curse of Elements might be a significant dps boost for your casters, but if the mob casts a fast heal that restores 50% of its health and you’re short of interrupts, Curse of Tongues might be a far better option.

I’ve played every class to level 80 (and four to level 85) so I know these things.  I wouldn’t expect everyone to.  That’s why talking to each other is probably the most simple but effective thing you can do to help punch above your weight in Cataclysm dungeons.  It’s where everything listed above begins.  The rot set in when the Dungeon Finder tool was introduced.  With one stroke, people didn’t even need to speak to each other to find a group, let alone to faceroll their way through Wrath dungeons.  Most folks find speaking to their groupmates an alien experience these days.  Just remember that like any tool, talking is something that needs to be practiced, and not everyone is good at it.  If the number of Worgen Deathknights named on a variation of “Evilclaw” is anything to go by, there are still plenty of people for whom English isn’t a first language but who are reasonably fluent in Stupid.  Keep it simple.

Above all else, remember that this is just a phase.  It won’t be that long before you’re covered in Tier 11 epics and feasting on Ozruks tears.  Loken in Heroic Halls of Lightning killed more players at the start of Wrath than any raid or dungeon boss in living memory, six months later he was a joke.  In the meantime, get out there and talk to each other.  Learn your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.  It might do you some good, and you might actually have some fun along the way.

Capitalism: A Love Story.

Posted: 4 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Rant

The start of a new expansion is never a good time to level a profession.  Which is kind of ironic considering it’s exactly the time almost 100% of your server are going to want to level a profession.  Actually, that’s not 100% true.  The start of a new expansion is exactly the best possible time to start levelling a new gathering profession, but it’s Shitsville, Tennessee if your profession depends on those raw materials, because the price goes right through the roof and doesn’t stop until it reaches low earth orbit.

On my server, a single hypnotic dust, that’s ONE dust, not a stack, was selling for 70g.  A single cindercloth, and yes that’s ONE cloth, not a stack, was selling for 20g.  A lot of people got very rich, very quickly at the expense of people who were trying to level their tradeskills.  Now you could argue, and it’s a perfectly valid point, that there are all sorts of ways to turn this situation to your advantage.  Instead of desperately trying to gather enough enchanting materials to level your skill to a useful level, you should disenchant everything you loot and get from quests and dump the raw materials on the market, make an absolute killing and then buy back the material a few weeks later when the market stabilised to less ludicrous levels, in order to level your enchanting then.  Same with any other skill that relies on things people gather.  The problem here is that if you’re in any kind of raiding guild you need your tradeskills to be maxxed out in order to make the epic quality gear that gives you the best start in the raid environment, with the best enchants on them.  So I, and I’m sure many others, spent 36,000g levelling my enchanting and tailoring in order to get to the stage where I could make stuff I was actually likely to need.  Yeah, that’s not a typo.  Thirty-six thousand gold.  Ouch.

The next kick in the teeth was that covered in Icecrown25 Heroic gear as I was, I couldn’t even use levelling enchants on my gear until around level 84, because the gear I was getting from quests wasn’t worth using, and the gear I was wearing was below item level 300 and therefore couldn’t be enchanted with any of the new stuff I was learning.  Technically, the quest rewards were better in a lot of cases, but taking into account the fact that the stuff I was wearing had shoulder enchants I could actually use and gem slots I could fill, they were still pound for pound better than a lot of the new gear available that didn’t come from a reputation faction at level 83.  I suppose it’d be churlish to complain too loudly about this last point because at the end of the day I was actually covered in Icecrown25 Heroic gear.  So I wasn’t exactly struggling.

Once you’ve hit level 525 in those professions, however, the fun doesn’t stop there.  Leatherworkers, Engineers and Blacksmiths need Chaos Orbs to actually make any of the shiny stuff available, and for whatever lunatic reason, Blizzard chose to make these things Bind on Pickup AND allow any mouth-breathing moron capable of staying conscious long enough to queue for a random heroic the ability to click Need on them.  Not only does this mean your Blacksmiths, Engineers and Leatherworkers got screwed out of masses of gold levelling their professions in the first place, but they also got screwed by their fellow players out of the materials they needed to actually do anything useful with those maxxed out tradeskills.  Let me assure you, if an asshole can click Need on a Chaos Orb they can’t actually use, they will click Need on a Chaos Orb they can’t actually use.  Because they’re assholes and that’s what assholes do.  It took Blizzard two weeks to realise how fundamentally broken this was and change the loot rolls so that only people a) with the relevant profession and b) with a skill level of over 425 were able to roll Need on the Orbs.  Tailors, however, were included in the list of people who could click Need.  Because there’s precisely one tailoring recipe that needs the things in order to create Dreamcloth, which is what tailors use to make their epic cloth gear; and there are FAR easier, cheaper and less dickheaded ways of making Dreamcloth than screwing other professions out of Chaos Orbs for it.    So now you Blacksmiths etc only need to worry about asshole Tailors screwing you out of your Orbs, which is, at least, an improvement.

One way in which Blizzard attempted to make tradeskills more rewarding, or at least less of a grind, was to award mutiple skillpoints for the recipes that used the most expensive materials.  This is actually a very good idea.  You could, in theory, gain up to five skillpoints on certain recipes.  I know in the past that I’ve had the choice of making six or seven yellow items for a potential five point gain using materials that are easy and cheap to source; or five orange recipes using materials that cost a second mortgage on your parents house, and I go with the yellow recipes every time.  Now it can actually be more economic to make the more expensive item, because you’re going to get more guaranteed skillups from it and you get a useful item to boot.  Or at least that’s the way it works in theory.  Let me tell you about enchanting…

I’ve just spend about a billion gold and levelled enchanting to 470.  I can now make the Mighty Agility on a Two-Handed Weapon enchant, and it’s going to give me FIVE skillpoints every time I do it.  Fantastic.  It should only now cost me a few million more gold to do that enchant a few times to get to level 480.  So, what do we need?  Three each of dust, essence and shards.  Ok, I’ll only need to sell one of my childrens kidneys to afford that, it’s do-able.  Er…  why is it still being filtered out from my “Have Materials” filter?  Let’s look at that again.  Oh.  I need a Runed Elementium Rod for this.  Great, so where do I get that?  It’s not on the trainer…  Wowhead to the rescue!  Sold by a vendor in the Twilight Highlands.  Ok, that’s not too bad, I’ll just remortgage my house to buy the shards it costs for the recipe.  Got it.  Wait, what’s this…  why is the Rod recipe red?  Needs skill level 515.  FIVE ONE FIVE? To make a level 470 enchant?  Are you fucking kidding me?

Just to make sure this is all spelled out properly for everyone, in order to actually make the enchant that gives you a five point skillup you need to make a Rod that requires such a high enchanting level that the five point skillup is now greyed out and 100% completely useless to you.  Yes enchanters, they fuck you coming and they fuck you going.  You do in fact, get fucked both ways.  They’ve since reduced the skill required for the enchant to…..   drumroll….  more drumroll…  trust me it’s worth the wait…  500.  Sorry, but yeah, you’re still getting fucked.

There is a bright side to all of this pain and grief, however.  Once you’re in a position to actually start producing anything useful from your tradeskills, you can start making the money back pretty quickly.  Prices for crafted epics are outrageously high for a number of reasons.  First, they’re better quality than heroic dungeon gear, equivalent to current tier raid gear, which is a new move from Blizzard.  Secondly, people are basically venal, avaricious, greedy shits who will screw you out of as much gold as you are prepared to hand over in exchange for this epic crafted gear.  But you did have it coming by listing your hypnotic dust, obsidium ore and cindercloth on the auction for such ridiculously high prices in the first place, so we crafters are not shedding Tear #1 over your crying as we pocket our 16,000g for the pants you desperately want that only we can provide. And it’s not like you can’t afford it, you’ve got 36000 of my gold out of me, time to give it back.

Of course, the only real winners in this situation are the herbers, miners and skinners.  And they’re all Chinese and work in shifts from a dormitory in Beijing.  But hey, they’re hiring, because judging by the price of just about anything on the auction houses these days, business in the gold-selling sector must be very, very good.