Sunday, 6 December 2015

Ashran tides

A while back I commented on Ashran and the changes made after 6.2 that included the removal of entering as a raid group. I thought that the problems largely came down to PvP population imbalance, and hoped that further changes in 6.2.2, including mercenary mode, would help this.

In the weeks following that patch, I didn't notice any real changes, but as stated at the time I enjoyed it whenever it wasn't being dominated by one side, and hoped it had reached a point where people might start looking past its bad reputation. So I visited the Ashran forums to see if there had been any change in mood, but unfortunately it was persistently flooded with complaints about premades, specifically by a group called Hydra. As far as I've seen, they don't seem to have a presence or be a problem on Oceanic realms. So I didn't get anything useful out of that, and after getting full conquest gear, I stopped doing Ashran regularly. I'm back in it now, so time for another look.

The biggest trend I've noticed is that winning seems to come in waves that turn around every couple of hours. If you get in at the right time, you can win everything for quite a while, which is great, but eventually there will be a moment where the tide will turn, and then you'll start losing everything. On the face of it, as long as both sides have an opportunity to succeed, this is not a bad thing. But it is not enticing gameplay, it is purely rewards driven. Something we need to do, rather than want to do.

Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can't explain that. Image source: wowhead

The invisible buff to the event losing side obviously contributes to this swing, but it's more than that. It is still possible for a team to continue winning even when the other side has a significant buff. This is due to the losing side also having a numbers deficiency, as player numbers constantly bleed and many choose not to participate as a group. When things aren't going so well, you frequently see new joiners ask 'are we winning?' and then leave immediately, unless you lie to them. This is compounded by the delay upon leaving the group - if you run or even hearth out of Ashran, your spot is retained for 30 seconds.

People on the winning side are more likely to hang around while succeeding, and then leave en masse. This is often due to the weekly quest reward system, which requires 4 events and 1 faction leader kill. Usually, with a constant flow of players, different people will finish the weekly and leave at different times. But let's say one side has had 7-8 event wins without a faction leader kill. Everyone in the group will be calling for it, and when the kill happens, a large number of people leave at once, the threshold is passed, and the pendulum swings the other way. I'm not sure what the right reward structure is to prevent this, perhaps one where points are earned individually for completing objectives on a diminishing basis.

When your side is down, and there is high player turnover, the reinforcements come in dribs and drabs. Players entering to outnumbered battles get discouraged and leave, reinforcing the cycle. To help minimise this, players could be entered in waves. This could be as simple as spawning new players as ghosts in the graveyard, so that they are released together with the dead as a larger group, or as a new group spawning mechanism of some sort, that release a wave of reinforcements every couple of minutes. The goal being to resemble the start of battlegrounds.

Another part of the problem is putting in large numbers of players and then encouraging them all to be in the same spot at the same time. Tol Barad at least had 3 control points to capture, and 3 towers to attack/defend. Battlegrounds like Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm work well because players need to split effectively between different objectives. Both have 30 players, but you'd seldom see them all at the one objective. In Ashran, the only real group decision is to whether to pursue the next event, or pursue the faction leader. Much of the time this results in no contest, the rest of the time a clearly defined loser (no reward).

They can't hold multiple concurrent events with equal rewards, as that too would discourage PvP. Instead, 'events' could be boosts to ongoing objectives. For example, the fires at Brute's Rise could be always active capture points, providing an ongoing reward, but the Brute's Rise special event could reset this and provide a greater reward to the winner. Teams could commit everyone to the active objective, but they would potentially lose the other objectives in the process. The ongoing reward could be somewhat less than the event reward, balanced over time to how often events occur.

Finally, there should be a comeback/catch-up mechanism that doesn't reward losing. Buffing losing sides may inevitably be necessary, but it should be an active objective, rather than just waiting for the other team to win more. This could be in the form of faction specific objectives that increment the invisible buff, but only whilst 'losing' (or are more frequent whilst losing). For example, the faction leader could demand blood (20 PvP kills) or a rarespawn kill, or running an artifact back to base (like the carts in Deepwind - no flying or town portals). This would give players incentive to pursue minor objectives when they don't have the large, coordinated group to contest the main objectives.

  • Spawn players in waves.
  • Instantly remove deserters.
  • Change reward structure to no longer encourage mass desertion.
  • Implement concurrent, secondary objectives to spread the combat.
  • Don't reward losing; provide incentive catchup mechanisms to losing side.


I hadn't had much luck with other people's 2 pet teams for Taralune. Then I saw this post from a blue, and thought surely it would be more successful. Unfortunately it seemed unreliable like the rest of them. But this helped me actually come up with something that works for me.

The problem with starting with your leveller is you switch into a cocoon, and cop a second effective counterspell in round 4. For example, using the Azure Whelping goes like this:

2: switch in, Cocoon strike
3: Breath to remove cocoon
4: Get Counterspelled
5: Arcane Storm, 197 damage
6: Another cocoon, so Breath
7: Counterspelled, but ineffective. Surge of Power. Does not kill.

You only get 2 rounds of damage in 7, so I went defensive with a mech instead. The Sunreaver Micro-Sentry (1 1 2) is perfect for this.

1. Extra plating, Counterspelled
2. Extra plating, Cocoon strike
3. Ignore Cocoon and Supercharge
4. Laser until dead.

This will easily defeat Serendipity, and you can switch your leveller in when Atonement enters, as it will always buff itself the first round. But even doing it this way, I'd be defeated by lightning storm and moth balls.

Nether Faerie Dragon (2 2 1) can moonfire to change the weather, and life exchange to recover after switching back in to moth balls. I'm sure it's not 100% reliable but it works best for me, and seems quicker than Emerald Proto Whelp healing.

TL:DR - Rematch import string: Taralune:87125:1178:482:392:208:0:0:0:0:557:421:277:595:

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Keeping busy

On the one hand there's a whole heap of games I've never touched that I feel I should. On the other there's so much I want to get done in WoW, which a reduced raid schedule will allow. I can sort of do both, by rarespawn mount camping in the background.

Whilst on the home stretch of 100 arena wins, I was flying around Frostfire mining between games, and chanced upon the portal for the Voidtalon of the Dark Star. No camping required for that one - sweet. Since then I've also got the Swift Breezestrider from Pathrunner in SMV, but unfortunately I foresee a lot of camping in my future if I want to find Poundfist. I've already experienced 2 occasions where people kill these rare mobs in 10 seconds without announcing or waiting.

For now I persist with the garrison mine and herb garden as much as possible, because I've yet to see the Nightshade Sproutling and Ore Eater drop. They can be bought for 2-3k on the AH, but I am persisting, as a test of my luck but also because of the steady income.

My addon to track kill numbers but was giving confusingly low numbers for the Disturbed Podling until I realised there are actually 7 different mobs with that name, each for a different herb type. In total I've killed 633 of them. There's only one Goren Protector from mines, and I've killed 246 of them. At some point though I'll call it quits on these just as I did with the salvage yard.

I've been looking out for Blackfang claw groups whenever I can, for I Came, I Clawed, I Conquered and in turn, Rumble in the Jungle. A tank is necessary if you want to make any decent progress, but often the tank will either finish his rep or get tired/bored within 10 minutes, and the group dies as a result. End is in sight however - I'm currently at 4400/5000. Should only take another hour or two.

Archaeology... I am attempting to make progress, currently sitting at 35/49 pristines. Cymre recently posted stats on how many solves she needed to completion - a total of 1072 for Draenor. I've only done 245 - this completely demotivates me. Seems like too much effort for 70 achievement points.

Similarly for Pandaria, Cymre needed 1230 solves. I have done 782, and am only missing 5 normal and 1 Pristine solve. Working on this can feel like the biggest waste of time, because you get nothing out of it otherwise.

I am trying to manage archaeology motivation by aiming for 5 crates a day, so I can always complete an archaeology mission. This usually means only 3 or 4 dig sites, but at that rate, I won't be done by Legion unless I can do it every day.

I'm finding motivation for battle pets a lot easier currently. Wowprogress pet battle rankings helps, I'm currently sitting at 238th realm, which feels about right, but I'd like to be a lot higher so I'm putting more effort into it lately. Still only 382/2000 battles done in Draenor, however.

I also got my warlock to 100, which makes 7 at max level. This was primarily to help establish income on a 2nd server, to go towards TCG pet and mount purchases. I haven't pre-ordered Legion, yet, but there's another one there if I need it.

Finally, the new arena season and PvP gear has made Ashran relevant for me again. I've been playing BM since 6.1 but it feels weak in large scale combat, even with the Ancient Artifact. Not sure whether I want to go back to Survival, or try Marksman for the first time in many years. 1630/2000 bloody coins, I would love to finish this before Legion which will allow me to switch back to my shaman if, hopefully, elemental is in a better place then.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


The last patch of Warlords is upon us.

The availability of the moose mount item will get me back in for at least one more raid. Mythic going cross realm has opened it up to us, but I'm just not interested, unfortunately. Maybe this is because I'd already come to peace with it being out of reach for our guild, maybe it's because we are forced to run with another guild to make numbers, or that combined we won't take it seriously enough, just to pass the time. But probably just because running the 3 prior difficulties for 5 months expended my interest.

The mythic dungeon gear changes, reintroduction of valor upgrades, and the fact all balance changes were buffs, are all a clear leg up for Hellfire Citadel completion and sound great for those still working on it. But without new content, I don't need them. Maybe my mind will change if I see some activity come back into the guild and people earning achievements without me. :P

The arena season has also wrapped up. My rating won't be worth anything, but fortunately I finished my goal of 100 arena wins for the saddle about a week ago. When I found out the mount is not account/server wide, I sent the saddle to my shaman and bought the Vicious War Kodo. Unfortunately the horde flag sticking out of its back wobbles back and forth rapidly with every step. It's distracting and looks silly, at least on a tauren, so I won't be using it. I'm definitely considering that next saddle, so the patch keeps arena relevant to me.

I appreciate more timewalking dungeons to keep that fresh, but on the flipside there's also more things to collect. I have to say at this point, I like that it is an event held every few weeks, rather than weekly or ongoing. It definitely gives motivation to do them regularly without overloading on them.

So that's that, until the Broken Shore then. The busy work to keep occupied has already started, I'll follow this post up with another to talk about that in more detail.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Legion class preview

The shaman class preview blog went up yesterday. The changes are few and largely quality of life related, and based on a lot of the comments, people seemed to be hoping for something more. I normally think shaman reaction is justified, and while there were some truths remarked, I felt the reaction was a bit overblown, almost self fulfilling. Not to worry, here are some thoughts.

Maelstrom power

Maelstrom power is replacing both mana and lightning shield charges. This delineates our rotation more into generators and spenders - with the spenders revealed so far as earth shock (single target, as per current), earthquake (aoe) and healing surge. As I suggested the other day, I think this is partly aimed at limiting offhealing.

We'll be able to cast healing surge with 0 maelstrom, to enable out of combat regen, but it would have to be less effective than it is currently, otherwise there is no point in making it consume maelstrom. This won't really matter in PvE, our healing is already incidental, but the concerns remain for PvP. Healing will now actively decrease damage output (ie consuming maelstrom) in addition to passively reducing it by consuming cast time otherwise spent dpsing. Fine in isolation, terrible when compared to the passive healing you see from other classes.

Shock cooldowns

Shocks limited by maelstrom has allowed the removal of the shared cooldown, finally. Earth shock requires at least 10 maelstrom and consumes all maelstrom (assuming a maximum of 100) so cannot be spammed, but flame shock doesn't require maelstrom, but uses some if available to extend its duration. So it can be spammed, and supposedly will function as our movement dps. No mention of frost shock. I sincerely hope fulmination and its lightning bolt effect remain, because the shocks are dull by themselves. The description suggests the damage is just being loaded into Earth shock :(


  • Searing totem (and magma totem?) are being removed
  • Totems have more health, are no longer type limited, and can be placed without needing a talented cooldown.
  • Elementals are not bound to totems.
These are all positive changes that people have been wanting for a long time. However, it is still dependent on us having useful totems to use. The only totems that regularly get used in PvE right now are being removed, and in their place we are getting Maelstrom totem, a 15 second ability on a 30 second cooldown. It generates maelstrom as well as doing damage, so it's not quite as bland as searing, but it's double the maintenance. And current estimations suggest maelstrom will not be hard to come by, so we can't yet tell what place it will have.

We need more, better totems for these changes to be meaningful. The best part of these changes is probably the freeing up of talent spots, hopefully we get some great replacements.


Not much changing here before talents, lava burst still has its flame shock dependency, and earthquake (maelstrom spender) effectively depends on chain lightning - no word on whether enhanced earthquake is remaining. If it isn't, then earthquake should become instant cast baseline, which will have the side effect of making it far more useful in PvP.

Expectation is that unleash flame will be removed, as it probably should have in the WoD purge.


Blizzard believe elemental has a strong identity: "Through the body of the shaman flows bolts of lightning, as if from storm, and bursts of fire, as if from molten earth". Lightning and lava, that's what we're about. The theme is there, and it is hard to argue that our abilities don't reflect that. A lot of the complaints I've read seem to conflate spec identity with implementation - not liking the spells we have, or the rotation that results in, is a different issue. We also get elemental overload back as multistrike is removed, which should help reaffirm our identity - but I hope molten earth remains in some form, possibly as a talent. It does look cool and complements earthquake well.

If there is an area we are lacking, that is in the frost school - only reflected in frost shock and partially in elemental blast, both barely used as elemental. If frost should be part of our identity, we need abilities to better reflect that. If not, frost shock should be replaced with something thematically relevant. Water is reserved for restorative powers, but no reason frost couldn't reflect water used offensively. The problem here is frost mages - we barely differentiate from fire mages with 'lava' based abilities, but frost mages seem to have everything icy wrapped up. There's a dozen things they could do to incorporate frost and spice up our rotation, but I don't see it happening due to frost mages, and I think that's a real pity.

Perhaps the removal of frostfire bolt presents an opportunity... imagine a water totem cooldown that changes spells like lightning bolt and/or lava burst into frosty variants, that have synergy with the spells they replace. In fact, it'd be fun to explore the idea of one totem for each school, effectively giving us short lived 'stances' with higher attunements to each element. If I get time one day...

Enhancement in my eyes has had the bigger problem with identity, which Blizzard have attempted to clarify; they are not 'enhancing' others in battle (as they did prior to WotLK), but fighting with weapons/attacks enhanced with the power of the elements. I don't know enough about enhance, but if this new multi-spec feature eventuates, I'd love to try it again.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Blizzcon '15

Not a lot to take out of Blizzcon on shaman. The artifact weapons were revealed, but functionality aside, everyone gets one, so at this point it is just a type, a name and a paragraph of lore. The one tidbit we got was that both elemental and enhancement are losing mana as a resource, to be replaced by maelstrom charges. This has the potential to be a cosmetic change, or a complete overhaul, so there's little point speculating just yet, apart from to say that I suspect it will limit dps shaman offhealing capability further than past attempts have done.

Only need to wait another two days for the shaman class blog so there should be some good information then, if today's hunter blog was an indication. They did however admit on one of the panels that the classes getting the bulk of the attention are hunter, rogue, priest and warlock, so reigning in my expectations.

Elsewhere, there's a lot to look forward to, but I'm a wait and see kinda guy, particularly after WoD. The cinematic for Legion was typical Blizzard quality, but of course does not represent the final product. There was some hype and some ridicule for the movie, but all those people will probably see it anyway. When you slow down the trailer, there's a lot of detail in there, and this is the stuff that got me interested more than anything. This video by HeelvsBabyface shows a lot of the cool details but beware there are some big potential spoilers in there.

I'm not big on transmogging, but I am a hoarder, and big on bag space issues, so the new system will be great. I'll also be drawn into it if they add in achievements for completing your wardrobe. But, I put this change in the same box as the model updates for WoD, both quality of life, 'modernisations' that were probably necessary in a 10 year old game, and, like the models, I can definitely foresee parts of this not being ready for launch and being sold as patch content.

Of course, the launch date being as late as September, but likely mid year next year, is not good news, and neither is Legion having only two raids. There is already a big concern with retaining players - once the Blizzcon hype dies down, this won't help. If this were in that mythical faster expansion cycle then it might be okay, but then the price probably wouldn't be. At $70 AU for the standard or $95 AU for digital deluxe, it's still good value for money with the amount of play you and I get out of it, but WoD definitely delivered less for more. At that price, on a subscription model, Legion can't afford to do the same.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Wrapping up

We've recently got our first couple of guild heroic Archimonde kills and are not considering mythic, so raiding feels like it is starting to wrap up. Our numbers were already a bit low and while others are starting to raid with alts, I figured I would get more enjoyment playing other games in the meantime.

In terms of raiding, I'd still love to grab the heroic class trinket from Archimonde, do some achievement runs, and take another look at mythic highmaul if there is enough interest.

Outside of that, looks like I'm entering boring, grinding territory. I'm currently trying to reach 100 arena wins for the mount before the end of the season, availability being a factor, but if we've got more than a week we should make it. There's archaeology, fishing and pet battling to be done, in small doses. And continuing to hunt down old mounts and pets. It doesn't take long before that feels completely unproductive though, especially when considering mounts like the camel spawn in Uldum.

A couple of guildies are taking advantage of a quick levelling method that involves near completion of bonus areas in WoD, using the Elixir of the Rapid Mind, and then quickly finishing them all off. I've got at least 7 of the things, unfortunately the only characters I want to level are on another server, and they are not BoA. They sell for a couple of thousand gold now, but I wonder how that will change in the future.

Blizzcon in 10 days, expecting the Legion beta, and hopefully with it some information on what is in store for shaman.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

LFR, fun and rambling

LFR is getting a bit of attention since the normal HFC nerfs. I've read opinions from various sides of the argument and few seem to be happy with it. Today I read Casually Odd's contribution which got me thinking and a comment turned into a bit of a ramble so I decided to rework it into a post here instead.

Despite being a heroic raider, I can appreciate the point of view of a non-raider. That is, you are happy LFR exists as a means to see the raid zones and to finalise storylines, you are focused on enjoyment and not improvement, playing what you want to play, how you want to play it.

But it comes as no surprise to me that you wouldn't find LFR fun. When mechanics are removed or nullified to the point they can be ignored, fights devolve to the point where the only thing that's different about them are the boss models and the yell emotes. The whole instance just blurs into a bland experience.

Image courtesy wowhead

As an example, Iskar, the fight with a hot potato (Eye of Anzu) where mistakes can see your poor raid members slowly, amusingly blown off the edge, becomes just another tank and spank on LFR, where it is practically impossible to get blown off the edge as the wind is so slow. (I suggested in guild they should have kept it at the same speed, but have players blown off being a temporary effect, like Ji-Kun in ToT. Same mechanics, less punishing).

So the fights become a simple exercise in using your abilities, but the difficulty level means there is no requirement to execute them well - so you are not motivated to improve over multiple runs. You don't care about spec or rotation. You just want to get in there, see the content, collect your rewards and get out. Once.

That leads us to legendaries - all tied into the expansion story. To experience it, you have to get the legendary, and therefore you have to raid. There is no 'legendary grind' for normal+ raiders (ignoring the shipyard, but I won't go there), it just comes eventually, in the process of gearing up and boss progression. But it becomes a grind for you, because you don't really want to be there. You want to do LFR once, maybe twice per character, not every week for 6+ weeks. But it has to be a grind, because otherwise all raiders can also do it once and instantly get their legendaries.

In doing this, you are lumped into the same basket as people with varying levels of skill and motivation. The ex-raiders who are skilled and think performance matters, but are low on time to commit to higher raiding difficulties. The main raiders playing catchup, or playing their alts. This is part of the problem - the audience for LFR is not cohesive. The other part is the reward for participation, so to speak, but I'll get to that.

This is where I start drifting away from the non-raiders problems with LFR and more towards mine.

For normal to heroic raiders like me, the fun of raiding is at its peak when you are presented with a challenge, and with some effort, you overcome it. Not when bosses are so hard that you are just getting stomped on, wipe after wipe, but also not when you outgear the boss and it becomes trivial. LFR starts at this level, a level that sets expectations that you can succeed without putting in effort, without coordinating and communicating with the other people in the raid, without understanding mechanics or rotations. So people don't - and some even AFK their way to victory.

The fact most people consider two wipes on an LFR boss to be completely unacceptable, and one barely tolerable, means they expect not to wipe (read 'fail'), they expect to succeed, regardless.

This isn't to say that Blizzard always gets the balance right, that they don't overtune bosses for LFR. But we know that is where the bar is set because they have said so.

On the one hand I see people rejoicing LFR as this 'tourist mode', that they get to see things they wouldn't otherwise, but on the other hand they will equally talk about rewards. I've seen all the remarks, from not being able to upgrade your legendary ring from an LFR Archimonde kill, to the LFR tier sets, and even as far as complaining that you don't get the achievement and the garrison monument. Imagine the shitstorm if LFR were only to give Baleful level gear (650) - and yet, that is probably the level of reward that the effort warrants.

If LFR is meant to be so easy anyone can participate and succeed, make it so, but don't reward people for participating. Unfortunately, I think if you reduce or even take away the reward, no-one will actually want to do it, despite what people say otherwise. This is why I don't hold much hope for LFR, and have leant in the direction of 'remove it'.

Someone, somewhere, is going to have to draw a line and say, yes, there is a success state in this game, this is it, and no you are not good enough/not dedicated enough/don't have enough time to reach it, yet. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I'm not trying to push an anti-casual agenda, just that few people are happy with the current situation and there are better solutions. I maintain the problem is one of lack of content, not lack of access or excessive difficulty. Bellular made some good points in his video on WotLK Casual Content Done Right? - including differentiating between time and skill, and championing a return of mid expansion dungeons and the old weekly raid quests. Currently, casuals are simply railroaded into LFR. There are a lot of ideas to improve the end game experience for non-raiders (explicitly, non current tier raiders), and with more of that, there would not be a need for LFR.

I hinted at the idea in my previous post, but I think yesterday's raid should be today's LFR. There is no reason to make older content so irrelevant. There just needs to be a shift in mindset from the players, and Blizzard could do some things to assist this. For example, enable the ability to queue for last expansions raids as a dungeon group (5 man for a 10 man raid, in wings), instead of removing all mention of it from the queue interface - heck do the opposite and shove the idea in their face via the adventure guide. And implement level downscaling, like all the other MMOs are doing, to keep even older content interesting. I'll probably expand on this in another post, but it is not 'fun' to be able to clear entire instances with one button press (eg barrage, starfall).

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Ele timewalking set

I wasn't planning on timewalking more than once, then they chucked a whole lot of worthwhile rewards behind them. With some egging on from one of our tanks who was also interested, I put together a timewalking set to make the grinding as quick and painless as possible.

There's a great guide I recommend reading if you want to know the hows and whys, but it comes down to maximising the number of sockets, preferably red for primary stats, using all available enchants and taking advantage of legendaries and set bonuses where applicable. There's a bit of research involved but not many optimal options in the end, so this might save someone some work?

One thing to note for elemental is that we want multistrike as our first secondary, but multistrike is not available on anything before WoD, and sockets are harder to come by on WoD gear. Sockets definitely take priority so the main multistrike source will be enchants. Haste is the best secondary, but with how much I used earthquake, a bit of mastery didn't hurt.

I read a recommendation for the Tier 15 (ToT) set bonuses so I started with 4 pieces of that. The 2-set did 2-3% damage overall but the 4-set bonus I didn't find that useful, as Ascendance usually felt wasted on anything but bosses with how quick everything died, and the cooldown is only 2 minutes now anyway. Tier 16 has more red sockets, but again the 4-set is not very useful. So I'm changing to 2-set from each tier, and the best option to maximise red sockets and socket bonuses seems to be Shoulders and Legs from Tier 15.

As always, if you are missing an item, eg the legendaries, not a massive deal, make do with what options are available to you.

Headpiece of Celestial Harmony Tier 16 (SoO) with Sinister Primal Diamond.
The legendary metagem requires a helm with base ilvl 502+ so for helms with a meta and red socket, it's that or Cowl of Smoking Dreams from Garrosh Hellscream.

Flowform Choker with Gift of Multistrike.
There's also Necklace of the Terra-Cotta Invoker but that is BoP zone drop so much harder to come by.

Shoulderwraps of the Witch Doctor Tier 15 (ToT) with Greater Crane Wing Inscription.

Xing-ho, Legendary cloak with Gift of Multistrike.

Hauberk of Celestial Harmony Tier 16 (SoO) with Glorious Stats.

Thundering Deathscale Wristguards (crafted) with Super Intellect.
These bracers have spirit, and took some effort to craft, but they are the only option with two sockets, red ones at that. The other options generally also have spirit, or 1 yellow socket.

Gloves of Celestial Harmony Tier 16 (SoO) with Superior Haste.

Girdle of Shattered Stone (DS) with Ebonsteel Belt Buckle.
The other option here is Krasari Prowler Belt (crafted) with Living Steel Belt Buckle.

Kilt of the Witch Doctor Tier 15 (ToT) with Greater Cerulean Spellthread.

Cloud Serpent Sabatons (crafted) with Greater Haste.

Legendary ring.
Ashen Band of Endless Destruction (ICC rep) with Gift of Multistrike. There are other options with red sockets, but the proc from this ring is a bonus worth seeking.

Dragonwrath with Mark of the Frostwolf.

Touch of the Void (garrison mission) is supposed to be really strong on bosses.
There are many options for trinkets, just check Wowhead for how they scale down. Some trinkets become next to useless. I went with Will of Unbinding (DS) - easy to keep the buff up.

For me, that adds up to 23 sockets (excluding meta), 19 of which are red. The best option to fill these are WotLK and BC epic gems, as they have the highest stats and do not have gear ilvl requirements. The red varieties are pretty rare at this point and can go for as much as 500g on the AH. If you wish to farm some yourself, you can run Battle for Mount Hyjal with a miner to mine the gem veins, and kill Onyxia and Magtheridon for their gem bags. The gem cuts you want are:

So after all that, is it worth the bag space? I believe so, output increased substantially and we will be running 5 timewalks every time they come up for the foreseeable future. It is an effort to out dps my equally geared paladin tank, as melee can kill things before you can even rampup, but we were both eclipsing the pugs in our groups.

Friday, 2 October 2015

HFC normal nerfs

I found the the normal difficulty Hellfire Citadel nerfs that went out yesterday - removal of mechanics - confusing at best. Someone in raid referred to Archimonde normal without Wrought Chaos and Living Shadows as baby's first raid boss, which was an amusing take even if exaggerating. I wanted to see the other side of the argument, so I sat back and waited for the inevitable reaction and blue response.
Image credit: wowhead

Watcher stated that normal difficulty should be suited to Friends and Family groups, where people won't be dropped/punished for performance reasons. So it should cater for those that can not (or will not) get out of the fire or provide sufficient output. I thought that was what LFR was for, but the distinction is obviously solo queuing via the UI versus premade/pug groups.

I continue to believe 4 difficulties of raiding are too many - they make up too much of end game content, and force people who otherwise don't want to raid, into raiding. The solution would be to consolidate LFR and normal into the one difficulty, harder than current LFR and easier than current normal, and provide the means to run it both as a closed group and an open queue. If this is the direction they are headed for Legion, then I can buy into it, and will accept the nerfs for what they are. Not aimed at me, for starters.

There was also the declaration that if they are nerfing mechanics to the point where they can be effectively ignored, then they might as well remove them. A symbolism for LFR as it stands, if you will...

Difficulty in raiding can involve compounding mechanics. A good example is on Socrethar, where Gift of the Man'ari by itself, you can deal with - have the player stand out of the group and heal them. But throw in a Shadow Word Agony and an Apocalypse, and death will occur if mishandled.

So whilst these removed mechanics might have otherwise been reduced to insignificant damage, it could have still caused lethal damage in combination with other abilities. With it removed, that is simply not possible.

Removal of mechanics is a pure difficulty reduction, as opposed to number reductions that allow a greater margin for error.

They also seem intent on reducing personal responsibility, targeting abilities where one player's mistake can wipe the raid.

If this is all aimed at difficulty consolidation, like I said above I can accept that. But I have not seen any indication that this is the case, just community (and my own) speculation. In isolation, I don't like the idea of dumbing down for the sake of access. I don't think LFR provides an accurate representation of the raiding experience, and therefore I'm not in favour of moving normal difficulty towards LFR.

I've always preferred the idea of access/progression through a combination of gear and zone buffs. If normal Hellfire Assault is too hard for a particular guild on release, give them options to obtain better gear over the coming weeks through other end game content, and it will get easier. Then, half way through the raid tier, introduce an increasing HP/damage/healing zone buff, as was done in Icecrown Citadel.

But why should casual players have to wait, we pay the same subscription, we deserve to have access to the same content. But we shouldn't have to work for it, so provide it in tourist mode, now, thanks.

If HFC is initially too hard for a group, they can do BRF or Highmaul. Right now, they don't want to, because they did it all in LFR the week it was released. There's nothing new for them to experience.

The problem is not lack of access to raids, but lack of other end game content.

Put the effort currently put into LFR into non-raid content, that provides trickled gear upgrades that will in turn increase access to raid content.

This will give everyone more things to do, reduce the hardline distinction between raiders and casuals, and raid content won't become (as) redundant the moment the next tier comes out.

Original image credit: hyperbole and a half

I'll leave it there for now. But I do think there is a problem with this new paradigm of 3 tier difficulty via additional mechanics, where normal + more mechanics = heroic, and heroic + more mechanics = mythic. That is difficulty via complexity, which is fine for some bosses, but it can feel like a clusterfuck when every boss throws a bazillion mechanics at at you. Half the battle is then reading about abilities and relying on addons.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Tol Barad mastered

When I came back in Mists, Tol Barad was one of the things I had to play catch up on. With the help of a couple of my guildies I got almost all of the Master of Tol Barad meta completed. Fortunately, unlike Wintergrasp, the meta only requires 25 wins and not 100 (my GM is still trying to get WG completed). However the Tol Barad Saboteur achievement appeared bugged, as I couldn't get credit for killing siege engines no matter how I did it, and comments on Wowhead confirmed the problem, so I abandoned it for the time.

I've recently headed back to TB by myself to finish it off, and there is basically no-one there now. I've seen the odd horde player but only once encountered any alliance resistance. So to get that last achievement I had to get creative, using my alliance rogue.

Firstly, horde had to be defending. To pilot a siege engine, you need an honorable kill, so I had to get my rogue to kill my shaman. There were a couple of hurdles of course:
  1. They are both on the same account so I had to work around timeouts to get the hk.
  2. My rogue was fresh and not well geared so couldn't kill my shaman before it timed out.
  3. Whenever you enter/relog, you get ported to either the entrance or the centre tower depending on whether you are attacking or defending. And you lose the buff gained to pilot siege engines when you switch over.
So the process went like this:
  1. On shaman, run to entrance and take off all gear.
  2. Alt F4 and log onto rogue quickly.
  3. Kill shaman, pilot and position siege
  4. Alt F4 and log onto shaman.
  5. Resurrect, put gear back on, run to tower, pop cooldowns and kill siege.
  6. Repeat.
The first time I did this I only managed 2 siege kills before TB completed. However on subsequent tries I positioned 2 sieges each time, and allowed a tower to be killed to get an extra 5 minutes. This allowed me to get at least 5 siege kills per TB, and I was done in no time.

I was not done with the dailies however. There are a lot of goodies to buy using the Tol Barad Commendation currency: 2 mounts, 2 pets, a toy, a battle standard and a tabard. 745 commendations if you wanted everything today.

Unfortunately before my guild died in Cata, I'm pretty sure I bought a Stump of Time for 125, which in hindsight was not well spent. But, the battle standard is no longer useful, the tabard isn't really useful given TB's proximity to Orgrimmar via portal, and my good friend gave me a Fox Kit, which eased the burden a lot.

The Fox Kit was originally not available on the vendor, only on an extremely low drop chance from killing foxes around the island. You can still get them as drops, as I got into the habit of killing any foxes I saw and was lucky enough to get a second one recently.

I'm glad to say I've finally finished, getting the last item I needed on Tuesday. It was a bit of a chore, but it's mainly because it is irrelevant and empty - there are things to like about the place when looking at some of the issues Ashran is having, and seeing good old content sit dormant is disappointing. These are topics for another day though.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Raining trinkets

A big turnaround in fortune and a fantastic week in WoW.

At the start of the week, I was still using mythic Blackiron Micro Crucible along with the Chipped Soul Prism from Kazzak.

First up, we hit Iskar and while we still haven't had it drop, I coined a socketed Unblinking Gaze of Sethe. Nice.

Completing the mythic dungeon weekly, I wasn't expecting anything but was rather fortunate to get a warforged Prophecy of Fear.

Now all that was remaining was the class trinket. I've obviously made enough noise about wanting it, and about my lack of luck using personal loot, that my guildies tried to wind me up about it. But we went with master loot after 6 kills using personal, so finally I got a Core of the Primal Elements.

The trinket makes flame shock much more powerful and changes the talent selection and priorities a bit. It might take a few days to get used to, particularly not automatically flame shocking when switching back to a target after killing an add. I'm hoping it will improve my results on some of the earlier bosses, in particular Hellfire Council, where last week Warcraft Logs had me at 75% overall, but only 9% within my bracket, presumably down to the missing trinket. However I think we've reached the point where no-one needs those bosses and they may just get skipped.

I was also fortunate to have a Cursed Demonchain Belt drop from trash, and again socketed. With this and the trinkets, I don't really need anything before Heroic Archimonde, and as we are not doing mythic, all that's really left for me is the kill. After spending 2 hours on him, the only major hurdle left seems to be separating the infernals. Once we get better at that, they should die a lot quicker and we should see him defeated.

A funny moment on normal, I switched to the Void Star because it looked like we wouldn't get out in time to ignore it. I was wrong, everyone else got out, leaving me to eat the Void Star - but I landed on a little ledge off the edge and didn't die. I couldn't get back up, and eventually the Nether Storm surrounded me and killed me, but it was pretty amusing.

To top off my good week with loot, I also knocked off a couple of big ticket items on my to-do list. Firstly, a Highmaul Coliseum group helped me get the Lord of War title and Warlord's Flag of Victory, something I'd long since given up on doing solo. Secondly, the amount of rep you get from mythic dungeons is superb, and both Auchindoun and Everbloom give Laughing Skull rep, so 5-6 runs later I finally got exalted, saving me many, many trips to The Pit and Everbloom Wilds. Finally, I also got wave 30 endless proving grounds on my hunter. I set out to do it on my shaman, but gave up and went and did it on my hunter, as I did in Mists, because it is still so much easier.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

PvP pet battle levelling

I had been planning to level my warlock and mage, so that I could max out Herbalism and Tailoring, to complete Grand Master of All. I had put this off until we could fly in Draenor.

A guildy had been grinding out 2000 pet battles for the Draenor Pet Brawler achievement/garrison monument, and noted that progress was account wide. As pet battles give experience, he was able to level a character while doing this grind. He battled the pets outside the garrison in Frostfire. It wasn't an efficient way to level, but it killed two birds with one stone.

I thought it was worth investigating, which lead to the discovery that PvP pet battles also count. Imagine that, being able to level a character, progress on the garrison monument, AND make progress on:
So I dipped into it to see if it were feasible. I quickly found that not many people queue at this stage. There were times when it seemed no-one was queuing, and others where I'd just encounter the same opponent or two. This leads to the next problem, strength of teams. Those who are queuing seem to be mostly experienced battlers, using some powerful teams that unless you have an equally strong team and know what you are doing, or get lucky with a hard counter, you will not defeat.

An example team I encountered was Fragment of Anger, Graves and Zomstrok. I tried a few combinations of aquatic type and critter attack pets that I had, but he'd do massive damage to my back line pets. After 6 or so losses, I figured he needed to die quickly, and without evasive type manoeuvres, I could use Iron Starlette to nuke him, with aquatic back line pets to minimise damage taken. I scored 2 wins - but this was a hard counter that would fail against other teams. I stopped queuing at this point, somewhat satisfied that I managed to get a couple of wins, but dismayed with how.

I've done enough PvE battles to have a decent stable (105 level 25 pets), but am still overwhelmed at the number of pets/moves and possible teams/counters. I couldn't tell you what the strong teams are, or what the current metagame is. I try to maintain my own notes on what works but I'm just not invested enough to learn it all the hard way. That leaves two realistic options - look up strong teams and FOTM counters, and/or copy other strong teams I encounter along the way.

This will first require work on my collection, as a lot of the pets I might need either aren't levelled, or I don't have. For example, the Fiendish Imp looks like a good candidate (I ran Karazhan and killed Illhoof so many times trying to get that pet that I got sick of it and just bought it off the AH, but it remains at level 1). I'll have to make do without pets like Murkalot, as I don't do Blizzcon tickets or collector's editions.

Initial impressions are that it probably isn't feasible. My primary interest is not getting the PvP battle achievements, so between the queue times, and the investment required to make it work, I'd imagine I'll either give up, or make sufficient progress on the monument just working on my collection, such that I won't end up doing many PvP battles. A realistic goal would be completing the 250 wins for Brutal Pet Brawler to get a Stunted Direhorn.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Goodbye multistrike?

After the Legion announcement, with the talk about how specs would be differentiated, I had been wondering about multistrike. Elemental's mastery was essentially multistrike until it was made into a stat and given to everyone, and as a result elemental lost a unique characteristic. So I was thinking about people's reaction if that was to be reversed, and today we learn that in Legion multistrike is actually being removed. This surprised me; most people, if asked what stat should be removed, would name versatility. I like multi, but that is primarily because it's our best stat. I have a few reasons to dislike it as well:
  1. As it was elemental's mastery, we needed a new one and got molten earth, which is conceptually cool, but weak in practice, with mastery our worst stat as a result.
  2. It has a reduced effectiveness in PvP, so specs that are attuned to that stat suffer comparatively.
  3. It's a percentage chance for an attack to do more damage - so it is very similar to crit, but on a separate damage event.
  4. It contributes to 'spam' - lots of little combat numbers as opposed to fewer, bigger numbers, more spell effects/sounds.
  5. It's not great for resto, for when I switch specs.
So I won't be too sad to see it go, as long as elemental gets back a unique multistrike element akin to our old Elemental Overload mastery. Moving away from it completely could be quite harmful to the spec's already weak popularity.

Blizzard also needs to find some way to keep secondary stats interesting. Removal of multistrike with no other additions would leave 4 stats for DPS classes - haste, mastery, crit and versatility. If each piece of gear has 2 secondary stats on it, that would reduce the number of possible combinations to 6. This would be good for getting the optimal stats from random stat rolls, but would this simplify gearing too far?

Tanks and healers each have another stat, in bonus armor and spirit, that can be found on rings, necklaces, cloaks, and trinkets. I think spirit works well as it gives some options in gearing that players can utilise depending on the fight, but bonus armor is the best stat for all tanks, so it doesn't provide any options. And DPS have nothing equivalent - perhaps this is in an area for improvement.

Leech, avoidance and speed (tertiary stats?) are completely inconsequential. They currently function as a bonus, but their effect is minimal, and attaining them is unreliable. These stats could become permanent secondary stats rather than random chances at a bonus, but their effect would probably need to become a bit more pronounced to make them valuable, as it is hard to find any worth in them at their current levels.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ashran mercenary

Ashran has received a lot of hate, and I have to admit some of it is warranted. I spent a lot of time in there in 6.1 and it was premade dominated. Getting in one was great, I often acted as leader, and given control of the Ancient Artifact, you didn't lose. But if I entered solo, I'd just encounter instances where alliance were controlling, presumably with a premade group, creating a feedback loop where both sides needed to join one to have any lasting success. Due to the reward structure the dominant side would usually farm events leaving the other to kill the general or farm mobs - two balanced teams rarely clashed.

It's obvious a change was needed. After the 6.2 changes, when both sides are relatively balanced, and teams are coordinating, it actually works really well - events are often competed, with the losing side able to pull out and progress the main road while the winner completes the event, often culminating in a big clash at the base defence. No aspect of Ashran seemed underutilized, and there seemed less downtime as well.

However, more often than not (at least during the week), the sides aren't balanced and therefore it doesn't work well. This seems to be a result of the PvP population imbalance. Looking over the fact that, as a whole, alliance may now have more geared, skilled players, more importantly they also have large queues. This has the tendency to weed out the less dedicated, and once they get in, they stick at it. Horde players on the other hand, enter Ashran, see we are not winning, and leave immediately.

As a result, the typical horde Ashran has high turnover, creating a numbers deficiency, and many just stand around not contributing, rather than trying and inevitably dying. Eventually, a leader may be able to entice players to group up, and the invisible balance buff turns the tides - but mostly it is an uncoordinated mess.

All of these problems seem to come down to population imbalance. That's why I'm looking forward to seeing if mercenary mode has a positive effect. Whilst I don't expect we will be able to use it, as we are on the underpopulated side, I'm not a roleplayer, so I don't have any qualms about playing with undercover alliance players. It depends a lot on at what threshold it becomes available, and whether it only impacts queue times, or whether it has a flow on effect to balance aspects as well. If it turns out that alliance queuing mercenary just enter a losing instance, they won't be likely to do it.

But I think players from both sides would be willing to trade-off queue times for balance and hopefully a better PvP experience all round.

Friday, 28 August 2015

PvP spec choice

Well, there it is. You know, the start of WoD was the first time I'd properly considered main switching from my shaman. Elemental was in a particularly sorry state, and resto wasn't really an option for me as the guild had a wealth of healers. I really didn't want to change, but up until the last moment it seemed like the logical decision to switch to my hunter. Fortunately, we received numerous bandaids along the way to keep us above water in PvE, so I didn't have to.

But the situation in PvP never improved, so for that I did make the main switch. I find shaman PvP frustrating at the best of times, but having elemental lose everything that made them workable in the past, I just couldn't do it, and committed to playing my hunter instead. This tweet, suggesting nothing will change until Legion at the earliest, completely vindicates that decision.

In 6.1, I grinded out all the nemesis quests in Ashran, earning Warlord of Draenor, something I would never have stuck at on my shaman. So I've got mixed feelings - I know I made the right decision, but I'm still unhappy that I couldn't PvP on my main without hating it. And I'm a little angry with Blizzard's continuing apathy.

As for a spec change? Playing enhance doesn't entice me, particularly when their effectiveness seems to be limited to 1 or 2 compositions in arena, which I do not enjoy. Resto is bearable if you've got friends to peel off you - hard to come by. Now that I've 'finished' Ashran on my hunter, I can be effective in there by free casting heals in the middle of a pack of 30 players, but it is not very engaging or rewarding. However, resto is totally unsuitable for farming Bloody Coins - up to 1350 out of 2000 on my hunter. Getting that many killing blows as a healer, while transformed, would take me a decade.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Earlier this year, one of my priorities was to get Shadowmourne on my death knight, and because my mind was already focused on that, I'd go in and kill the Lich King on my other max level characters as well, for a chance at the mount. But once I got Shadowmourne, other priorities took over and I stopped doing it for the most part.

But after reading a tip from Big Bear Butt I figured I'd take in a couple of characters that I ordinarily wouldn't clear the whole instance with as it'd be too slow - my moonkin (that was my WoD free boost) and my 92 warlock. I hadn't played my lock for some time - it has been sitting dormant waiting for flying so I can level it - but figured I could stumble my way to a kill.

The first attempt, I forgot to dismiss my demon pet, and didn't set up a demonic circle of course, so I got dropped off the edge by a valkyr. It was pretty slow going, as I tried to remember what buttons to press and deal with all the adds I ignore completely on my geared 100s, but eventually he went down and in addition to the achievements for killing him, there it was. Invincible's Reins.

It's not like it was my first kill ever, but there was some amazement and satisfaction at getting it on my first kill on that character. Unfortunately my lock is over on Barthilas and it was about midnight, so no-one was on to see it happen. But I quickly jumped back onto my shaman to check it out.

Now normally, by the time I've farmed the heck out of a place, using the mount is actually secondary to not having to run the instance again. For instance, after getting Mimiron's Head, I started using it just for the jealousy factor, but it didn't suit my cow much and the noises it makes are annoying, so I quickly put it away. But despite the inevitable tauren clipping issues, Invincible has gone straight into my favourite mounts list.

It's no longer really prestigious - there were a stream of people flying into ICC solo, and, well, if my lock can kill it without a struggle, anyone can. But it looks great, is recognisable, pleasant to ride around on, and I can cross ICC off my to do list. Ohh, how good is this? (reference)

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The 1 percent

We've had some interesting new boss kills lately. A couple have been 1-2 players left standing, bringing relief that we didn't miss it by that much. And we also had a few progression kills on the 'last attempt for the night'. It is a pleasant surprise when you figure attention would be wavering and performance slipping at that point. Sometimes with some luck, you just pull it off.

Fel Lord Zakuun is one of those fights where it doesn't take much learning to reach the 'enrage' part of the fight, but then everything gets hectic and being down a couple of players or low on healer mana matters. It then needs time to improve the execution of the fight as a whole to ensure a kill. So it seemed a natural fight where it might happen again.

On our last attempt, we wiped below 1% for the second time of the night - the agony and humour in seeing the last man fall certainly provides a spark to the raid. These close calls make for memorable boss kills when they come, which I'm certain will be next raid.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015


I picked up the Hexcells pack on Steam during one of the sales recently. Hexcells is a relaxing puzzle game that involves using logic to uncover a blue pattern in a hex grid in a way that is reminiscent of Minesweeper.

The primary mechanism is a grey cell type that contains a number showing how many adjacent cells are blue. The game introduces further mechanics as you progress through the levels, such as the number of blue cells in a given row, and the pacing is pretty good.

Each puzzle gives you a starting point, and while there is some freedom in how you solve it, for the most part the solution unfolds logically. Completing a puzzle rewards you with a predetermined number of hexes, which are required to unlock later puzzles. If you make a mistake, this is subtracted from the hex reward count, however the unlock requirement is quite lenient. You can play at your own pace, there are no timers or real score mechanics, so there is no need to guess; the satisfaction comes in finding the logical solution and solving it with no mistakes.

The first game is relatively simple, and short as a result - expect to finish it in a couple of hours. The puzzles get more complex from there so you'll get more time out of those, and the third game adds a random seed mode that I have yet to try, and mid-level progress saves that are sorely missed in the second game.

The game has an ambient background noise that when combined with the notes played when uncovering cells creates a relaxing soundtrack, but it gets repetitive particularly when you get momentarily stuck. I'd have liked an option to disable the background track, in addition to a complete mute button.

This type of game is right up my alley, requires thinking but isn't stressful, and can be played in short bursts. I would recommend the pack (I got it for under $US 3) and playing through them in order, over picking up just one installment.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

All the wrong upgrades

New raid week, we started upstairs first and Iskar dropped Surefooted Chain Treads (socketed) which are heroic BiS even without the socket, would have been stupid not to take them. Later, clearing the earlier bosses, Kormrok dropped protector helm and no-one else needed it. I had normal helm so again it would have been stupid not to take it. Both great upgrades, but neither filled the gaps and there goes my EP advantage.

So off to Archimonde normal tonight, and we one shot it. Hoping again for the gavel or class trinket, used my last coin and got nothing but gold.

Off to work on heroic Xhul'horac, made steady progress throughout the night and killed it for the first time on our final attempt. Protector shoulder and Voidcore Greatstaff dropped. The shoulders would be a solid upgrade via a gear shuffle. But the staff was a 685/705 to 715 upgrade with the right stats - a definite priority.

Here's the beef. Tier goes up for bids first as usual, and I bid pending the weapon result. I would have won it, but given an option to take it or leave it, I passed in favour of the weapon. Unfortunately, one of our warlocks also wanted it and, due to the above upgrades, he now had priority. Walked away empty handed and a bit jaded, but got over it soon enough, just gotta take what you can get.

Still need to do something about the weapon though. Was planning on running Kazzak's tomorrow night for Felblight but maintenance has thrown those plans out the window too. Fully expecting Kilrogg to finally drop his weapon the moment I bite the bullet and craft, thus why I'd rather farm the mats than buy them. Just seems a bit silly crafting at this stage when theoretically, so many other options should be available to me.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Personal loot

My guild is currently considering a change to personal loot from master loot. This is commencing with a trial in normal runs, and whilst the change would not occur mid tier in heroic, the idea has received a favourable reception from those that spoke up about it.

The up front reasoning that it is better is that a) it drops more loot, and b) it makes looting quicker and removes any loot drama. I totally buy into the second point, and it is a strong positive. However I was skeptical about the first being beneficial, and didn't want to take it at face value.

A fairly lengthy discussion took place that then made me look like I'm more for master loot than I actually am. Rather I wanted to understand why personal was better rather than just rely on anecdotal evidence.

I could not discern how the quantity of the loot was of primary concern, and not that to get more loot, we have to give up any say in how it is distributed, and give in completely to the roll of the dice. More loot is not important, only more useful loot (upgrades). And personal loot increases the chance of receiving loot that is not useful.

I also questioned why Blizzard would want one loot system to be superior to the others, but arrived at the conclusion that it would simplify and reduce the number of loot related support tickets they receive. So it wasn't out of the realm of possibility.

I was directed to this watercooler discussion where changes to personal loot in 6.2 were highlighted. This basically smoothed out the rewards from boss to boss to give more consistent results, so experiences prior to Hellfire Citadel should not be considered. Some of the other points discussed included:

  • Minor upgrades more likely to be used - people don't "waste" GP on small stat increases, to save it for the big ones.
  • Raid doesn't get loot no-one can use - for example, rogue gear and our lack of rogues.
  • Can't assign gear to most needed or deserving, or for tier, those completing set bonuses.
  • Can't send BoE gear and disenchanted gear to the guild bank - less gold available for guild repairs.
  • No incentive to turn up on time or stay for the whole raid.

Given there are valid reasons for both systems, the crux of it seems to be that the increase in total loot received needs to be greater than the increase in duplicate/downgrade loot received, otherwise it is a net loss.

As this ratio decreases with every rewarding boss kill, it would make the most sense to use personal loot for the first 2 or 3 kills of a boss, and switch to master looter for farm kills to assign loot efficiently and still feed the guild bank.

If EPGP were abandoned under this system, any competition for master looted drops would have to come down to loot council, or a roll. However, it could still work with EPGP - we just may need to compensate in some way for the upfront increase as a result of not accumulating GP for the first few weeks.

Of course, the luckier ones who get more of their loot via personal loot will have higher EPGP and therefore preference to master looted gear, but luck is already a significant factor with bonus rolls, and it tends to even out over time.

I can't say I'd be in favour of a complete switch to personal loot, but utilising it to maximise opportunities on progression kills, and minimise loot distribution delays, makes sense.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Normal HFC cleared

With the portal to bypass Gorefiend now open to us, there was the possibility of reaching Archimonde on our Sunday normal run. Tyrant only took 1 go, and Mannoroth 2, so we got some time to learn it. It was pretty much straight to phase 3 from the get go, but from there it was untidy. The officers determined we would do better to continue on him the next night with our heroic raid team, rather than trying heroic Xhul'horac. Finally, a chance to spend my EP and get a class trinket, jahaha!

I feel like I've been slipping on performance a bit, relatively, so there were 3 upgrades I was banking on; weapon, tier shoulders (to make 4-set), and the aforementioned class trinket.

For the weapon, I'd been waiting on Fallen Warlord's Mindcarver from Heroic Kilrogg, leaving Kormrok's dagger and Gorefiend's staff (both mastery items) to others - but it hasn't been dropping. I was considering the crafted weapon but went with bracers instead, as I already had a pair with the right stats that became BiS when fully upgraded. It has now reached 'take whatever you can get' stage.

For the tier, I was after the shoulders as I'd already picked up a Jungle Flayer's Chestguard (socketed) for off piece. We went to Xhul'horac first and two protector tokens dropped, but I was outrolled by 2 hunters. Later on, after they picked up 4-set off Socrethar, I was outrolled again on the Mannoroth chest but passed on it for me - not ideal but 4-set nonetheless, I couldn't refuse the gesture. The other chest piece remains in my bags for now.

And so Archimonde... still a chance to pick up a much needed trinket or weapon. We managed to kill him on the last pull of the night, with only a couple of people left standing. We weren't aware that if 3 people don't soak the Nether Banish, Archimonde heals for 5%. Someone made the call for a tank to eat it solo, and it very nearly could have been a sub 1% wipe as a result.

Alas, a trinket was not to be. The raid had favoured personal loot instead of EPGP for that kill, and predictably the rolls did not go my way. Hopefully this week.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Demon Hunters

When death knights were introduced, a lot of people planned on rolling one straight away when WotLK landed, and potentially main change if they liked what they saw. From what I remember at the time, the enhancement shaman community in particular took a hit because the DK could fill a similar role and style, with their recent design (shaman having not received a class review), plate armor and hero class status making them superior. We can expect that there will be a similar influx to demon hunters, but I wonder if rogues and demonology warlocks will be impacted more than other classes due to role or identity?

The announcement suddenly made more sense of some 6.2 spec changes. Demonology locks were hit by the nerf bat pretty hard, and the reasoning given was that they didn't like the way it played, and to promote the use of the other 2 specs. They were in a pretty strong place in BRF, but players couldn't make sense of the severity of the nerf, and speculated that it was a scaling or tier/class trinket issue in Hellfire Citadel. But in hindsight it seems that it was because demon hunters would be taking some of the identity of the spec, and having demo really strong/popular at the time of the announcement would have taken more shine off it than otherwise.

That might seem a bit of a stretch in isolation, but survival hunters were also nerfed heavily, and it would seem now that was because they had plans in place to rebuild it as a melee spec, and it's just easier if it isn't FOTM. Not that I agree with the approach, but it makes more sense looking at it that way.

I had expected any new class addition to the game would be a mail wearer, because there are 3 classes for each type of armor except for mail, which is only shaman and hunter. Blizzard this weekend explained that they considered mail for demon hunters but it didn't fit the class identity, and that having 4 classes wear leather won't be an issue because of personal loot. Interesting, as we still use ML/EPGP... would like to see stats on that.

On the other hand, demon hunters will be put on the conqueror token, making 4 classes on each. Not that it impacts our current raid group, having 0 mages and rogues, and over half the raid on protector tokens.

The class concept and lore is pretty cool I admit. What they play like, we only have a glimpse so far, but the standout features are listed as 'unrivaled' mobility, metamorphosis, and spectral sight. For mobility, they have the ability to double jump, glide, and 'vault in and out of combat' - probably Metamorphosis and Demonic Leap straight out of demonology. However I can't help but think of Shadowstep as well. I don't see double jumping as gamebreaking - anything other than clearing small obstacles would get patched out pretty quickly, especially in PvP. Gliding sounds like a steerable moonkin flap (which I love - but probably just because it is cute). Spectral sight is likely to be an activated ability that is only useful in arenas.

I also saw a note today that demon hunters would get glaives as a new weapon type, coming as a pair that fills both weapons slots. Now that will work fine for artifact weapons given weapon drops won't be available, but I can't imagine the idea of a weapon type for only one class existing beyond that. Enhancement shaman getting Doomhammer as their artifact are reportedly dual wielding a spectral duplicate of it, perhaps that will operate similarly to glaives when equipped.

All up, I am slightly intrigued and will inevitably use my 12th character slot for a demon hunter, but I'm a shaman through and through. I will roll one long past the initial rush is over.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Tiny Terrors

I've only just this weekend started looking at the Tanaan Jungle pet battles. I have some reservations about pet battling, but primarily it was just because I had other priorities, like the reputations and the shipyard. But I've long since cleared those up and the PvP pet battle event reminded me that I should take a look at them.

My doubts were confirmed when a guildie, who is a really experienced pet battler, said you can basically use one team of pets to defeat all of the new battles. It's less that one team can do so that is the problem, more that there are few alternatives that work. The encounters are made difficult by introducing abilities outside the base ruleset (like Elite and now Fel Corruption) that have the unfortunate side effect of rendering most pet teams incapable of defeating them, even if they counter the pet types. So pet battling to me just becomes an exercise in research - I don't enjoy it enough to self-impose a "no Google" rule. With an addon like Rematch or PetBattle Teams I don't even need to remember what works.

So I've done the circuit twice and it already feels like a grind. I started off thinking that if I could do these 15 battles daily, it would only take 4-5 months to get the Draenor Pet Brawler achievement/monument (laughs). But without flight, it takes at least 90 minutes to go around, making it unlikely I will complete the circuit every day.

The reward for defeating each pet is Fel-Touched Pet Supplies - the tooltip explains it. I opened all 15 at once and noted the contents:
There are 4 pets to be earned randomly from the bags, and I suspect once I have got them all, I will stop doing the pet battles - the other rewards are not worth the time. The bandages in particular just seem to stack up, because the garrison menagerie bonus makes Revive Battle Pets a 4 minute cooldown, so by the time you defeat a pet and run to the next one, it is available to use again. The bandages may be useful once flight is available, however.

I don't know what could be done to keep these pet battles difficult, but require a more varied pet collection to defeat. But doing so would provide a lot of motivation to collect and level some of my other pets. It seems a shame that I have 533 unique pets in my collection but only need a handful for battling.

By the way, I used my Ultimate Battle-Training Stone from the weekend bonus event to level a Zandalari Anklerender, which happens to be a member of one of the Tanaan capable teams.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Legion reveal

I was considering staying up for the expansion announcement all week, the schedule had it at 2am AEST which was a bit of a stretch for me on a work night, but doable. This was until a guildie pointed out that they usually draw out events like this and it could be hours until the reveal occurred. But, I was still wide awake come 1am so I committed to finding out, and fortunately the wait wasn't that long.

There was skepticism leading up to the announcement, what could Blizzard possibly do to right the ship, what could they announce that would get people excited at this point. The answer seems to lie in the quantity. They aren't just tackling one of the popular expansion ideas, but seemingly many of them.

In our small late night guild gathering, the reaction was one that quickly moved from blasé to acceptance to amazement, as Blizzard pulled a Demtel and kept reeling off features that seemed to cover so many of the theories and long standing appeals for future expansion content.

"But wait, there's more"

It is an ambitious list, some questions arise naturally about whether they can pull it off that only time will tell. Will the quality stand up, will adequate attention be given to all the locations and lore, or will we see features cut and storylines resolved in short questlines?

And then there's the when. WoW expansion betas have lasted between 3 and 6 months in the past, so with the Legion beta starting "later this year", it is unlikely to make a Christmas release. The only expansion to date to be released in the first half of the year was the Burning Crusade, and that was a date slipped for quality control. The Blizzard of today seems unlikely to do this, so it'll be interesting to see what their target dates are.

For now the main question I have regards the location and size of the Broken Isles. Based on past representations, it was a chain of small islands, some of many, that surrounded the maelstrom. Other times it has been considered part of the South Seas, where Pandaria now largely occupies. In the announcement, it is described as a new continent 'at the heart of Azeroth' - wherever that is. From what we saw of the maelstrom in Cataclysm, it may just be a case of it being over-represented on the old maps, and with a little 'adjustment' the new continent fits in easily. Or has the Broken Isles' location been retconned to sit somewhere else completely, such as on the opposite side of the world from the maelstrom?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Fulmination chain

I've had 2 pieces of tier 18 for a week or so now. The elemental 2-set bonus states:
Your Earth Shock has a 45% chance not to consume any Lightning Shield charges and to have its cooldown instantly reset.
What this means is that when you earth shock, to drop your lightning shield stacks into a fulmination, a proc allows you to instantly cast it again for the same effect. The extra cast also gives the set bonus another chance to proc, meaning you can get lucky and chain multiple earth shocks/fulminations in a row.

These are independent events, meaning two procs in a row, resulting in 3 earth shocks, has a 0.45 x 0.45 = 20.3% or roughly 1 in 5 chance of occurring. This continues as follows:
4 in a row - 9.1%
5 in a row - 4.1%
6 in a row - 1.8%
and so on.
The first time I had 6 earth shocks in a row I was briefly shocked, until I got a moment to think about it and realised you could easily experience that a couple of times in a raid night. When I had 9 in a row, I thought I probably wouldn't beat that for a while. But on our heroic iskar attempts, I had a new personal record of 11 earth shocks in a row.

This did cause a 'holy shit' moment, where I had to bring up the calculator and figure the probability of that happening - 0.034% or a roughly 1 in 2940 chance. I hope to beat that at some point, although I suspect it might be a once in a raid tier level event.

For now I will save my thoughts on the set bonus until after I get my fourth piece and I can see the interaction with the 4 set bonus.

A quick final note, last night I ran LFR to get the last 5 Tomes of Chaos I needed to form the legendary ring Nithramus. I look forward to trying it out, but I am only aware of 2 others in our raid team having it so far, so the full effectiveness won't be visible just yet.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


A little bit about my WoW history.

My main is my first character, a tauren shaman named Crooked. I started off on Barthilas, in a guild with a bunch of players from my previous addiction, Wolfenstein/Enemy Territory.

I was a reluctant WoW player at first, having seen friends 'disappear' into it, but eventually succumbed towards the end of vanilla. I first started raiding as resto in Karazhan, and continued with Ostralyan Pain (OP) throughout the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. I levelled to 80 as enhancement with the intention to raid, but changed to elemental as the raid team already had 2 enhance. And I've been ele main spec since.

Making a good early case for transmog

I enjoyed my time with OP, raiding in both a 25 man group and a 10 man group. But when the cataclysm came and made both raid sizes the same lockout, the guild was divided, and many left to form a 10 man guild. The remaining old guard lost interest, and OP bled to death*. At this point I quit the game, returning in 5.4 to check out a discounted Mists of Pandaria. It was then that mozzey, an old guildmate, suggested I transfer to Saurfang and join him, and that's how I ended up in Frostwolves.

(*OP was deserted, but has since been resurrected with new blood for WoD by a couple of returning players).

I enjoy most aspects of the game barring arenas and "world pvp" - having experienced both PVP and PVE, I now much prefer PVE servers.

I am a moderate achievement hunter and completionist. I persist with things I mightn't otherwise if there is an achievement at the end of it, but I have little desire to grind things out for the sake of it. As an example, I love trying to collect pets, but I only level what I need to defeat opponents and get achievements.

I have a passive interest in the 'state of shaman' and shaman theorycraft as a result of playing and raiding on my shaman for a long time.

I have a number of alts including at level 100 a death knight, hunter, druid and paladin on horde, and recently I reached max level for the first time on an alliance rogue. I have a few more that are parked that I am considering levelling up once flying is available in Draenor.

You can view my armory here.

Monday, 3 August 2015


I've been considering starting a blog for a little while, and the timing of the announcement of the next wow expansion provided a good opportunity to just jump into it instead of perpetually holding off. If it turns out it's not my thing, so be it.

I still feel it's a bit of a precarious time to be starting a warcraft related blog. Firstly, the game is over 10 years old, and whilst the idea of a new expansion holds a lot of hope, so did Warlords of Draenor, and myself and many others have been disappointed by that in many ways. There seems to be more doomsaying now than ever. That said, I'm still playing and still enjoying it, so I simply decided to not give the blog a wow related name. That way I can blog about whatever has my interest at the time - which, lets face it, will probably be wow. More on that later.

I don't personally believe anyone wants to know the daily ins and outs of what I'm doing. But I envision dumping thoughts on whatever is happening at the time, and hopefully improve my writing skills in the process. I don't write much, and whenever I have tried it might turn out okay, but it is very slow going. Even when it comes to things like work emails, it takes me a while to translate my thoughts into words, and I am overly meticulous and critical. I hope this is just being out of practice, and would like to develop the ability to do quick, sharp, interesting posts. However, I have resolved to not be attached to it, for it not to become a chore, and therefore won't be setting any real targets.

Next up, a bit of history.