Saturday, 19 July 2008

WotLK - Druid Changes

I am a fail... an EPIC FAIL! I promised myself I wouldn't get caught up in the WotLK hype and speculation until at least PTR Beta, because everything was going to change. I promised myself faithfully that I wouldn't. Epic Fail!
  • Survival of the Fittest - Now reduces the chance you'll be critically hit by 6% at rank 3.

In other words, crit proof without any +defense. I can hear the Warrior and Pally QQ already, but I'm not convinced blizz will be breaking out the nerf bat. Blizz have already said that they want to simplify itemisation - combining spell and healing power, making +hit apply to both melee and spell etc. Without this change, Ferals would be the only class in the game needing +defense on leather which would complicate itemisation again.

I'm not sure that I like the 6% figure though - bears can be crit proof before they've even reached 350 defense?. We could still get some defense from rings, cloaks, weapons, trinkets etc. so setting it at 5% would mean a wannabe tank would still have some work to do to get that extra 0.6%.

I'm going to pick up a number of changes together now...

  • Feral Instinct - No longer a passive threat increase but an increase in damage done by swipe
  • Mangle - Now increases damage done by Maul as well as Shred

Blizz are making a number of changes to threat mechanics to a lot of classes - Pally's Blessing of Salvation has been changed to a single target reactive spell and the Greater version has gone completely, Shammies Tranquil Air totem has been removed with the comment in the patch notes "Threat is being addressed by modifications to the base threat of players and/or "baked" into tanking abilities".

Interestingly, warrior threat hasn't had the same change as Feral Instinct. Defiance has been removed but Defensive stance now has +45% innate threat - broadly similar to now.

I have to be honest here and say that, on single target tank assignments, it's boring being a bear. Unless your dps are much better geared than you are Mangle, Lacerate x3, rinse and repeat with Maul as a rage soak and "Hey guys, you just try getting aggro away from me, go ahead it ain't gonna happen". So making things a bit more interesting here is no bad thing.

However, when it comes to multiple targets, we already struggle even with tab swipe. Now maybe the increased damage from swipe will balance things out and maybe the changes to the UI to make threat more visible will help dps to manage things better. I guess only time will tell.

  • Omen of Clarity - Now passive, procs on spells and has an internal cooldown of 10s with a 6% proc rate
Phae has already done some theorycrafting on this for casters over at resto4life. If I'm interpreting it correctly for melee we should be seeing about 2.25 procs per minute. I couldn't find a definitive answer on the current proc rate but the consensus seems to be about 2 ppm, so the change looks balanced. Making it passive is welcome and long overdue and the ability to proc on spells means we might even get a proc on that FF or Hurricane pull!

  • Primal Tenacity - Now reduces damage taken while stunned and reduces the amount of time you are feared. This used to be a straight stun and fear resistance.
Other classes have had similar changes. For PvP I think it's an improvement; certainly against rogues anyway. What happens if I resist his stun opener? He just waits a GCD and tries again. Now at least, I've got some damage reduction for when he does pull it off.

For PvE, again, probably an improvement - 15% less damage from Maiden? I'll take that. I stand by my original view on this mechanic in PvE though - it sucks!

[Blizz designer 1] Hey these guys are killing instance bosses too easy what can we do?
[Blizz designer 2] I know, let's take control away from the player to make it harder for them
[Blizz designer 3] Hey, even better... let's take control away from the player and GIVE IT TO THE INSTANCE BOSS so they kill each other

GG blizz, GG!

  • Feral Charge - Will work in cat form.

Rocket kitteh, ftw! This will be fantastic in PvP. Being able to get away from that MS warrior while interrupting a healer at the same time is pure awesome sauce.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

New Physics Engine

One of the things that was only briefly mentioned at the recent WWI was the new physics engine. Just my guess here, but I reckon that WoW and Diablo III will be sharing a common physics engine; in Diablo III "environments will be interactive and destructible"; Lake Wintergrasp will have "destructible elements such as bridges and keeps". So it's worth keeping an eye on Diablo III and WotLK features to see what might get shared across.

One of the things that players loved about Age of Conan was the knockback. For those who haven't played, this allowed you to throw mobs in front of you back a few feet with a temporary stun - way cool fun even if it had its problems with positioning in a game which had collision detection. Now what do I see here? Death Knights have a Death Grip ability "drawing the target toward the Death Knight".

You heard it here first... Blizzard will reverse that mechanic in a future patch to bring knockback to WoW. Funcom must be so pissed!

And in the new Dalaran arena "a blast of water will push people out of the pipe"? That's not as new as the DK ability I admit. Anybody who's been to Magister's Terrace has had their toon pushed around or floated in anti-gravity... heck, even Baron Geddon was pushing us around (up) back in the day.

What is new, though, is the ability for players to start doing these things to the mobs instead of the other way around.
  • Healer's Haven - Holy Priest Talent - The priest explodes with divine light throwing back any attackers and temporarily stunning them.
  • Breathing Space - Prot Warrior Ability - The warrior spins in a crushing arc slamming attackers to the ground.
  • Force of Nature - Shaman Totem - Lasts 30 seconds. The totem pulses every 5 seconds pushing back nearby attackers.
  • Fatal Attraction - Prot Paladin Talent - The paladin's charisma shines forth, dragging nearby enemies toward them in a daze which slows their attack speed.
Heck, I'm no game designer but I'm sure you guys can think of other potential for this mechanic as well.

Monday, 23 June 2008

AoC: Knockback and Collision Detection

OK, I know... knockback is cool, knockback is fun... knockback is dangerous! Why? Because of collision detection.

See, as a tank, we can't generate aggro on things we can't hit. And when we don't generate aggro mobs get loose. And when mobs get loose squishies die. And when squishies die parties wipe. And when parties wipe... well, things get ugly 8-(

As a tank in AoC, positioning the mobs is quite tricky because of collision detection... basically, there may be mobs stacked behind other mobs that s/he can't hit because they can't all stand on top of each other to hit him/her. Once the initial pull has happened you might see your tank doing one of two things.

Firstly, if the mobs to be tanked are all one handers, your tank will probably do a skip back or to the side to get them to re-align so they can all be hit. However, if one of the mobs has a pole-arm this doesn't work because the mob will sit out of range of the tank but still attack. In this case, the tank needs to knockback and step forward to re-align the mobs so that s/he can hit them all.

OK, to recap... the tank needs to hit all the mobs or things get ugly... the tank has skipped or knocked back and spent a couple of seconds getting all the mobs aligned so that things don't get ugly. Purrfect... game on... lets DPS.

OK, you melee dps guys behind the mobs... are behind the mobs, right? Where they can't block or parry? Where your dps is highest? Yes, of course you are, sorry I even asked...

... if you knock back, you are actually knocking forward. Firstly, you are pushing the mobs behind your tank (so your tank can't block or parry) and towards your squishies (oops). Secondly, because your tank is now taking more damage (because s/he can't block or parry) the healer has to up their healing which... surprise, surprise... increases their aggro generation at the same time the tank aggro has reduced (because they can't hit the mob). Hmmm, wonder what happens then?

Now is the time you really need that knock back to save your squishy healer from the mob that's crawling all over their face, but... oops... it's still on cooldown because you've just used your knockback.

Please, all my dps buddies, all you guys who help me haul my lame ass heal and tank toons through instances... please don't use knockback on tanked mobs. Knockback that unexpected add? Please be my guest. Knockback that mob that's just broken away from me for the squishy? I will kiss your feet in praise. Knockback the mobs I'm trying to position and tank? I will throw a hissy fit and call you unimaginable names in my head even though I may be very polite to you in public... but I won't party with you again.

Just to avoid any misunderstandings, I've instanced with both my Guardian and my Bear Shaman, so I've seen this from the tank, the healer and the melee dps point of view. This isn't a tank QQ 8-)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bear Shaman Basics

For those of you who haven't got a clue what a Bear Shaman is, you can stop reading now if you like because this post is about Age of Conan. I've got a post semi-finished about why I'm playing AoC instead of WoW but I can't seem to get all the thoughts in order right now so that'll have to wait for another day.

Melee Healer

So, my BS has just dinged 48 and I thought it was about time that I could sit down and say something sensible about the class. Being a melee healer is a game style that I hadn't seen before and it takes a bit of getting used to. In summary:

  • Medium armour is good and needed for a melee class but not great at mitigating damage
  • Our health points are low for a melee class so do what you can to boost your health
  • Our survivability rests on as many HoTs and buffs as we can stack
  • We have some kick-ass combos that really deal the pain

So, as a soloing/levelling BS your game plan for a fight is:

  • Make sure you're buffed and stack your HoTs
  • Open with a combo, followed by a combo, followed by a combo, followed by a combo... get the message yet? The mobs have to go down quick or you are in trouble
  • If you get low on health, use a "pause" move (see later) to refresh your HoTs and go back to combos


Don't worry about your mana while levelling. I know we're a healer class and that would normally mean we need lots of mana but, honestly, while levelling I really have had no problems with mana. Really focus on increasing your health and increasing your stamina pool. You don't want to die and unless you can keep dishing out those combos you will die - so focus on health and stamina.

I haven't really noticed much benefit from strength although it may be affecting mechanics under the surface. Constitution and dexterity on the other hand do contribute directly to your survivability so favour gear that has these. Also good is anything that increases your defence rating or has melee invulnerabilities on it.

I've seen a lot of gear out there with the same bonuses but with a higher level. I don't know, yet, whether the higher level increases armour or not as there doesn't seem to be a stat for armour rating. Anybody out there know?


Melee-wise we can only use two-handed blunts which I think is the thing I like least about the class. It does mean you will see lots of blue quest rewards that you can't use (which is annoying itemisation by funcom) but it also means that you don't have to put much thought into your choice of weapon... just get the biggest 2H blunt you can get.

At level 20 we can also use ranged weapons which are incredibly useful for pulling that single mob away from the group. Get one as soon as you can it will make your life so much easier. I prefer crossbows because, although they tend to be slower, they have a bigger punch on the first hit which is all I'm really using it for.

Combo order

I've played around quite a bit with this and I wouldn't say it was optimal but it works very well for me. The main combos are:

  • Crush Armour - Obtained from level 7
  • Internal Bleed - Obtained from level 5
  • Ursine Brawl - Obtained from level 20
  • Shrewd Blow - Obtained from level 10

First thing to say is don't be fooled by the tooltip on Crush Armour - it does a goodly amount of damage as well as reducing armour. I've just got Rank III at level 48 and this will almost wipe out a same level mob on it's own! This is always my opener.

Internal Bleed is my follow up to get the DoT ticking. If you're in a one-on-one situation then you may want to skip this, but most fights in AoC aren't one-on-one. The advantage of the DoT is it allows you to switch earlier to that dang ranged caster/bowman that is sitting there piling on the pain while you deal with his melee buddy. You need to time the target switch right to make sure the DoT does actually kill the guy who you left behind though. Needless to say, on bosses and mini-bosses, DoT is a must.

Shrewd Blow is my next up - this is a kick-ass combo with insane amounts of damage - nuff said. Use it, love it, take it to bed and enjoy those fatalities!

Finally, I use Ursine Brawl. It doesn't do as much damage as Shrewd Blow so I use that in preference. There is an argument for using it earlier on a boss fight to reduce the incoming damage but there are other tricks for managing that (see later on Roars). By the time I've triggered Ursine Brawl, the cooldown is usually up on Crush Armour, so, after refreshing your HoTs just rinse and repeat.

"Pause" moves

During many fights you are going to need to take a time out from dishing out the pain to heal yourself back up. First thing that will help with this is points spent in the Casting Concentration skill. There are two other goodies in the kit bag that can help as well.

First up is Ferocious Smack obtained at level 32. This is a knockback that gives you time to get that big heal off. The only thing to be aware of is that it works in a frontal cone, so you might want to position yourself so you are facing all the mobs for best effect.

Second up is Ursine Crush obtained at level 20. This is a temporary stun of all targets in a 5m radius. As such, it's easier to use than Ferocious Smack. However, it doesn't give you nearly as much time as Smack does.

Buffs and Heals

Buffs first. Pretty easy for the most part - use them all. The only question I still have is whether to use Spirit Totem: Feral for the regen or Spirit Totem: Stone for the mitigation. I vary between the two at the moment. Anybody got any thoughts on this?

Heals next and there are three main ones - Blood Flow, Fierce Recovery and Renewal.

Blood Flow is an initial heal with a HoT and should be a no-brainer before opening any fight. However, when combined with the Blood Warrior feat in the Spirit tree it does a lot more than just heal. Each cast of Blood Flow stacks Blood Warrior up to 5 times which increases dps. The HoT from Blood Flow doesn't stack but increasing your dps is a no-brainer given our play style.

Fierce Recovery is the big heal plus HoT to use just after a pause move. If you can refresh a stack of Blood Flow at the same time then all the better.

Renewal has an aspect that isn't documented in the tool tip. As well as placing a HoT it also increases the damage of the next attack. This can be increased further with the Empowered Renewal feat. This is best used just before the final move of an opening combo to add another HoT to your Blood Flow at the start of a fight. In my case that becomes Crush Armour III, UL, Mid, Renewal, UR.

Nature's Wrath is yet another HoT you can stack if you choose the right feats (see below).

Given all of those HoTs it's not suprising that a BS can be a pain to take down!


I haven't put any points into the Priest tree at all yet. As I said earlier, mana is no problem and the tree requires you to put 5 points into mana regen before you can do anything else. So, Spirits and Wrath trees...

In Spirit, I've gone for the following...

  • Blood Warrior 5/5
  • Empowered Renewal 5/5
  • Improved Spirit of the Bear 5/5
  • Deft Renewal 1/3 (so far)

Blood Warrior gives you the stacking dps buff from casting Blood Flow. A full 5-stack gives me +24.5 damage. When you look at the fact that my weapon does a base 80-108 damage that is a very nice bonus thank you very much.

Empowered Renewal increases the damage of that first opening combo if you use it as I described earlier and we need to drop mobs quickly.

Improved Spirit of the Bear increases our health pool from Spirit of the Bear buff. With full 5 feat points this buff adds almost 50% to my health pool.

Deft Renewal adds additional evade chance while the renewal HoT is up. Every little helps and I have some stuff further down this tree that I like the look of.

In Wrath, I've gone for the following...

  • Nature's Wrath 5/5
  • Animalistic Fury 5/5
  • Improved Grizzled Hide 3/3
  • Crushed Bones 5/5
  • Crushed Organs 3/3
  • Rupture 1/1
  • Battle Roar 1/1
  • Ursine Roar 3/3

Nature's Wrath gives you another HoT which passively procs from normal attacks. Animalistic Fury increases your damage - nuff said. Improved Grizzled Hide increases the defence bonus from your Grizzled Hide buff. All fairly standard stuff.

Crushed Bones and Crushed Organs both improve your Internal Bleed combos. There seems to be a debate about whether it's best to use Internal Bleed or skip it and move straight to a Shrewd Blow after Crush Armour. I use Internal Bleed so I'm going to improve it, but I could be wrong.

Similar reasoning for my choice of Rupture. I always open with Crush Armour so it makes sense to improve it.

Battle Roar and Ursine Roar I'll treat together because they're flip sides of the same coin. Battle Roar increases your damage and your health; Ursine Roar decreases mob damage. These are useful little "oh s**t" buttons for when that ranged pull brings his 4 other buddies with him. When that happens you still have time to pop both roars before starting your Crush Armour opener.

Other stuff

One of the "downsides" of our survivability is that we can run out of stamina quite easily and a BS without combos is a dead BS normally. Adrenaline Surge is a useful spell for this situation but you have to get to level 35 to get it.


I'm not really sure what to say here as the affects seem to be a bit patchy. So take the following with a pinch of salt.

  • Put some points in climbing because some quests require it
  • Put some points in Bandaging to reduce downtime
  • Put some points in Recovery so that a rest will fill your stamina bar completely
  • Put some points in Casting Concentration to make sure you can get those battle heals off

Final words

I'm really enjoying my BS for soloing/levelling as they are an incredibly resilient class. I'm a bit stuck at the moment because at lvl 48 I can't finish off Field of the Dead and move on to the next zone (level 50) but will push on with the grind because at 50 I can continue my destiny quests and advance my gathering professions.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

We now return you to our scheduled programming

I feel guilty. Not only have I not posted in a while but my two last posts were non-wow posts. Can you imagine a big panther kitty hiding under the sofa looking guilty?

In guild news today...

Like a lot of guilds we're struggling to get regular 25-man raids together so we've been looking for a guild to run with. We've got a raid scheduled for Tuesday with Arcade Fire to see if we can work together. For some reason it's got me all silly like I was 13 again and going on a first date!

I'd really like to go with kitty. She needs the badges and gear more than my priest but... and here is where I go all silly... I want to make a really good impression with Arcade Fire so I want to take the priest. She's better geared and I've healed Gruul several times before and know what I'm doing whereas I've never been there as dps or tank. I feel stupid for being like this but I guess we're all held ransom by our emotions sometimes.

In gear news today...

Kitty Ceera has been uber-lucky over the past week or two and picked up Gloves of Dexterous Manipulation, Primalstrike Vest and Shattered Sun Pendant of Might for her kitty set, Belt of Natural Power for both kitty and bear set and Boots of Natural Grace for da bear. She also finally dinged exalted with the Aldorks last night so I got to see a few procs from the pendant while doing the dailies.

It took me ages to find a crafter for the belt. It seems most people on Turalyon quit general and trade chat ages ago to dodge the spam. Then I tried the following in yell...

Feral drood lady WLTM tall, handsome crafter of Belt of Natural Power for mutually beneficial relationship. Prepared to compromise on tall and handsome in exchange for GSOH.

Within seconds I had two whispers from crafters with a sense of humour!

There's still a lot of gear that Ceera needs though even without going near 25-mans but it's all drops and badge loot so I guess the epic rate will slow down for a bit now *sadface*

In other news...

Keera has dinged 70 which means I can't call her babyshamm anymore *very sadface*


When I saw this chess game yesterday I felt really sorry for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

The chess board shows the finishing position from a game between Mamedyarov and Peter Svidler from the first round of the FIDE Grand Prix currently being played in Baku.

When I first saw it, I thought that Svidler must have resigned. Mamedyarov is a bishop and a knight ahead for a start and at grand master level a single pawn is enough to tip the odds.

Added to which Mamedyarov has some nasty little threats he can unleash.

For a start there is Bh6 trapping the black king in the corner. Black can't move his f pawn forward to release his king because of white's pawn on e5. And after moving his bishop white can bring his a rook across to d1 and force the exchange of rooks.

Mamedyarov's other lovely move is Nf6 forking the black king and bishop but, more importantly, revealing an attack on black's a rook by the white bishop on f3. That's just a killer!

But then I looked at white's king all the way up the board on a6 and I thought "wtf"! The last few moves of the game were 21... Bc8+ 22.Kb5 Bd7+ 23.Ka6 Bc8+ 24.Kb5 Bd7+ 25.Ka6 draw. In other words Svidler escaped with a draw by perpetual check. Mamedyarov's only way to avoid the perpetual check would be to move his king to b4 but then he would be checkmated by a5.

Two pieces ahead with all those lovely threats just waiting and to have to draw the game. As the title says "Gutted!"

Friday, 21 March 2008

How do you "feel" about your guild?

That looks like a simple question doesn't it? Except I stuck those pesky "quotes" around the word feel.

If I'd asked "What do you think about your guild?" then the question becomes even easier doesn't it? But I'm not going to let you take the easy way out... no sirree!

I'm asking "How do you feel about your guild?". Why am I asking this when all you've come for is a bit of light fun?

As I said yesterday, BBB set me to thinking a lot about a number of things including guild progression and guilds. And I realised I couldn't think about two of those things in isolation. I can't separate guild progression from switching guilds because they're all fundamentally tied together in how you feel about your guild. That probably doesn't make a lot of sense right now, but bear with me while I meander my way through all of this.

Guild progression - Part 1

For the record, Renegade of Funk are:

  • 11/11 Karazhan
  • 2/2 Gruul's Lair
  • 1/4 Temple Keep (Loot Reaver ftw)
  • 6/6 Zul'Aman (As of this Wednesday huge gratz guys!)

On the normal scale of how these things are measured that's not bad; not uber-leet great, but not bad at all.

We've also been to SSC and popped in to say hello to Magtheridon, both only once or twice because... you've guessed it, we're struggling to get those 25-man raids together.

My guild history

I've been in a few guilds in my WoW history. But setting aside the early days when I didn't really know what I was doing I've only really been in three guilds (and the middle one of those was a new guild that died an early death).

My first real guild was a place I loved to be. We had a casual approach but raided regularly. We had a core of around 15-20 people who had multiple high-level alts and were on most of the time. Guild chat was lively and there was always someone asking "anybody fancy this?" and, more often than not, a number of responses of "I'm up for that".

We were OK when it came to raiding - we had a guild alliance for MC and Onyxia; we raided ZG and AQ20 as a guild - but, for example, we never downed Raggy or Hakkar and only got the first two bosses in AQ20. Our main problem was technical execution. We could do the tank and spanks, we could get by on the simpler fights but when it came to an encounter requiring co-ordination and no mistakes we suffered. And then came TBC...

I raced my priest to 70 re-specced holy and then started instancing and I started to get worried. Some of the instance encounters in TBC were just as technical (and much less forgiving) as some of the raid encounters in Azeroth... what the hell were the raid encounters going to be like for us? I stayed with the guys until we hit Moroes and it broke my heart.

This was a bunch of guys who had welcomed me into a home from home; a bunch of guys that made we want to rush home from work to logon; a bunch of guys who had helped me and who I'd helped to grow their charachters. But I stood staring at this brick wall that was Moroes almost at the start of the raiding journey and asking myself "Can I really stand 6 months of struggling through entry raid content?".

I hope I was honest and straight-forward about the way I left. The fact that I still chat with the GM and the officers and still instance with some of them occasionally says I probably did something right at least.

And that brings me to Renegade of Funk (RoF). I was looking for similar things to my old guild: a good bunch of people to relax with after work; an active community; a semi-casual approach to raiding but with no obligation to raid if you didn't want to... but the difference I was looking for... at the time I called it "progression". I'd probably use a different word now.

I'm happy to say that I've found what I was looking for. RoF is a great place to be and I'm getting the same things as I was from my old guild as well as the opportunity to raid in the new content.

Guild Progression - Part 2

Now as I mentioned earlier, we're stuck at that point that a lot of people are. We can't seem to reliably get 25-man raids together to keep going in Temple Keep or start in Serpentshrine Cavern. So am I thinking of shifting out? Big fat NO to that one!

I know that we have the ability to progress in TK/SSC. Any group of people who can deal with a 5-phase encounter like Zul'Jin has the technical ability to do so. Any group of people who have downed Gruul after 7 growths has the raw dps and after 16 growths has the tank and healing power.

And this brings me back to the heading for this post... see I told you I'd get there eventually.

I feel at home in RoF, I want to rush home after work to be in RoF, I respect and admire the guys in RoF and I am proud to say I am a RoFer.

If your guild can engender those same feelings in it's membership then, to me, that is real guild progression.