Initial thoughts on Cataclysm dungeons

December 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ve already put together posts with information on the boss fights and the loot for the new instances.  Having done several instance runs at this point, I felt now would be a good time to provide some of my own thoughts on the dungeons and what makes each of them easy, difficult or interesting.  Unless otherwise noted, comments below refer to the regular versions.

Blackrock Caverns:

  • Easy instance, provided a few people in your group know the tricks to each of the boss fights.  I’ve found, though, that the bosses can be very unforgiving if people do not know to move out of Shatter, to block the beams, to only hold the boss in the fire for a brief while, or to kite the adds instead of tanking them.
  • Healer mana is not yet an issue at all.  With a good group, you can pull like mad.

Throne of the Tides:

  • An odd contrast to BRC in the sense that it is similarly easy for knowledgeable groups, but the mechanics don’t seem to matter.  An unprepared group will be fine here.  As long as your group can tank adds, do ok dps, and get out of the fire the bosses will go down.

Vortex Pinnacle:

  • I found the trash here to be more difficult than the bosses.  Having two good cc classes simplifies this instance.
  • On heroic, the trash is punishing.

Stonecore:

  • Stonecore trash felt the most like Wrath of any of the new dungeons.  With the exception of the hallway with sentries, it’s all “charge in, aoe it down”.
  • For warrior tanks, I found Heroic Leap to be very useful on the last boss for picking up multiple packs of adds.  Having the healer stick close to the tank makes that portion of the fight much less annoying.

Grim Batol:

  • Hands down, my favorite of the new dungeons.  The boss fights do a lot to reward good tanks and punish bad ones; positioning matters.  Being able move and direct bosses, time cooldowns correctly and keep debuffs running was a lot of fun.
  • The amount of trash can seem onerous on a first trip here, but after a few runs drake control gets much better and I was nearly able to chain pull the half-dead packs.  This could be the Gundrak equivalent for Cataclysm — the instance where you can grind out a few bosses very rapidly if you know the tricks.

Tol’vir:

  • If you can silence casters to start the pull, the trash here is very Wrath-like.  The only slowdown is healer mana, which becomes a real issue by the time players hit 85.
  • Some groups found Heroic Lockmaw and Augh challenging, but this fight seems to be fairly simple.  I haven’t seen this explained elsewhere, so here is what I do: I tank Lockmaw in the middle and have the mark target (baby crocodiles inc) move on top of me.  I keep Rend running on Lockmaw so that when the baby crocodiles arrive, they can be killed with a TC and Shockwave.  The only other major mechanic is to run away from Augh’s Whirlwind, which produces a cloud of dust.
  • Heroic Barim can be a tough fight, too.  Some strats suggest kiting the shadow phoenix, but we found that made the fight overly complex.  We just tanked the bird in place, had dps blow up the little adds (they buff the bird), and used cooldowns to get through the phase.
  • I found Siamat to be difficult the first time on reg, but no great increase in challenge when transitioning to heroic.

Halls of Origination:

  • Seven bosses, each with very different mechanics, provides a lot of potential for an interesting instance.  On reg it felt like some of the fights were too brief, privileging big dps over smart play, but I have hopes that heroic will be a good warmup for raids in terms of requiring crisp play and knowledge of mechanics.  Generally, I wish the game did more to scaffold players in terms of learning how to play in raids.
  • I forsee a change to the new priest Life Grip ability within two months due to rampant misuse on the elevator.  Until then, I will continue to make sure I am better friends with our priest than the shaman is.

Shadowfang Keep (H):

  • The first boss, Baron Ashbury, is novel in how interrupts are handled.  It will be a while before anybody can power their way through this fight without getting the mechanics right.  A very fun fight, though I worry that it could be a group killer if LFD doesn’t make sure somebody other than a resto shaman can interrupt.
  • The third boss, Commander Springvale, requires big dps.  Most dps players right now, however, are struggling to stay ahead of the tank.  Not a good combination.  Thankfully, this fight can be skipped.  This fight feels like the real end boss for the instance, not Lord Godfrey.

Other thoughts:

  • Tank dps is really good right now.  On some fights I was doing 8k single target.  I haven’t seen anything higher than 14k from dps so far, with most falling in the 4-9k range.
  • Despite good dps, I find I am having more aggro problems than I was a month ago.  I feel this is due both to poor play (by me and the rest of the group) and also to an increased use of streaming adds.  For this reason, I recommend switching glyphs around for more aoe ability.  I’m now using both Glyph of Cleaving (hits 3 instead of 2 targets) and Glyph of Sunder Armor (hits 2 instead of 1 target).  Cleaving, in particular, I find useful when TC and Shockwave are on cooldown.
  • Getting to the 329 average ilevel threshold for heroic queues is a struggle.  I found myself stuck at 327 for a while, with few options for upgrades.  Keep in mind, however, that the WoW ilevel calculator is based on the gear you own, not the gear you wear.  Don’t be afraid to buy some cheap crafted 339 gear, even if it’s cloth; it can get you closer to the magic 329.
  • Somebody else (I can’t find a link, unfortunately) suggested that the changes to mana may result in healers becoming even rarer in Cataclysm.  Anecdotal evidence so far suggests that this may be true.  Tank queues on my server are now longer than healer queues, about 1-5 minutes.  Possible alternative explanations include: healers taking longer to level, lack of healer drops via leveling, and the weakness of disc resulting in a loss of many healers from a popular Wrath spec.  Even with a fair helping of 277 gear from Wrath, my 81 disc priest is incredibly mana hungry when focusing on throughput instead of efficiency.  I am told that this gets worse by 85.

Hit and expertise caps in Cataclysm

December 7, 2010 at 1:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The various rating conversion coefficients are changing in Cataclysm.  The nice people at Elitist Jerks have been kind enough to figure out the numbers for us, but here is the brief summary:

  • At 85, you need 30.0272 rating per point of expertise.  So, to reach the soft cap for parry (26 expertise), you will need 781 expertise rating.  The hard cap (56 expertise) is 1682.
  • For hit, you need 120.109 rating per percentage point.  So, to reach the 8% threshold for raid bosses, you will need 961 hit rating.  Draenei can relax this a little thanks to their racial.

The new character stat sheet has done a lot to make the value of these stats more transparent, but it’s still useful to have the information.  As for the relative value of expertise and hit for threat, priorities are as follows:

  • Before hitting the expertise soft cap, each point of expertise gives 0.25% reduction to both dodge and parry.  This means that 60.0544 expertise rating produces 1% more good swings.  So, as at 80, expertise is preferred prior to the softcap.
  • After hitting the expertise soft cap, each point of expertise gives 0.25% reduction to parry only.  This means that 120.1088 (rounding error?) expertise rating produces 1% more good swings.  This is basically the same as hit rating, so hit is probably preferred due to its role in reducing misses of Taunt and similar abilities.
  • After hitting the hit cap, expertise is obviously preferred.

Prior to Cataclysm, expertise also had a substantial avoidance value in terms of reducing parry-hasted attacks by bosses.  There was some talk about this being removed in Cataclysm, but I have been unable to find a solid reference regarding this, though it is mentioned on EJ.

New Cataclysm 5 man dungeons

December 6, 2010 at 4:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New dungeons are coming! Below is a table listing the new 5 mans and providing links to information about them.

Dungeon name Level range Location Loot lists Boss information
Blackrock Caverns 80-81 Searing Gorge / Burning Steppes MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video
,
SnB cheatsheet,
Wowhead
Throne of the Tides 80-81 Vashj’ir MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video,
SnB cheatsheet
,
Wowhead
Vortex Pinnacle 82-84 Uldum MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video,
SnB cheatsheet,
Wowhead
Stonecore 82-84 Deepholm MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video
,
SnB cheatsheet,
Wowhead,
Pwnwear (trash only)
Grim Batol 85 Wetlands / Twilight Highlands MMO-C MMO-C,
SnB cheatsheet,
LoD video
,
Wowhead
Tol’vir 85 Uldum MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video
,
SnB cheatsheet,
Wowhead
Halls of Origination 85 Uldum MMO-C MMO-C,
Tankspot video
(warning, long),
JAG (heroic),
SnB cheatsheet,
Wowhead
Shadowfang Keep (H) 85 Silverpine Forest MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video,
Wowhead
Deadmines (H) 85 Westfall MMO-C MMO-C,
LoD video
,
Wowhead

How to get there?
Some very nice pictures showing how to find the instances were recently linked by Gravity. It appears you can discover the entrance to BRC right now, but for the others you will have to wait until after the 7th.

Warrior avoidance calculator: updated for 4.0.3

December 3, 2010 at 6:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As noted previously, the mastery coefficient would change in 4.0.3.  For many tanks, including myself, the value of mastery now surpasses that of dodge and parry.  My calculator is now updated to reflect this change.  You can find the new level 80 warrior avoidance calculator at the usual location.  Please be aware I have not yet added functionality for 81 and beyond, though these should be forthcoming.

One feature of the calculator that I find especially helpful is the expected damage reduction from adding +20 to various stats.  This lets you know how much mitigation can be expected from gemming/reforging for dodge, parry, agility or mastery.  In general, you get the most out of your available gear budget by keeping these values balanced.

Tank gear: Cataclysm from 80 to 85

December 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I haven’t found any good loot lists or information on faction grinds so far, so I present below my best attempt at compiling said information.  This list is, in spots, alliance-oriented.  Apologies to my horde readership.  If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.

Dungeons:

Stonecore: sword, ring, trinket

Throne of the Tides: legs, ring, trinket

Blackrock Caverns: chest, back, shoulder, shield, neck, ring

Vortex Pinnacle: axe, trinket, cloak, head, boots, gun

Grim Batol:ring, trink, shoulder, mace, cloak

Tol’vir: belt, trink, ring

Halls of Origination:neck, head, gloves, sword, ring, bracers, shield

Crafting:

Blacksmithing: for epics, waist shield and chest.  many blues.

Jewelcrafting: neck, ring

Leatherworking: back

Factions:

(note: to begin building rep via tabards, you first need to get to friendly)

Earthen Ring: legs, head enchant

Ramkahen: wrists

Wildhammer Clan: feet, head

Guardians of Hyjal: back, neck

Therazane: ring, shoulder enchant

Baradin’s Wardens: trinkets

Quests:

No idea here.  I’ll need to spend a day or two browsing wowhead, I suppose.

Justice points:

Magatha Silverton: neck, sword, belt, chest, waist, legs, head, hands, shoulder, shield (ie, everything except boots, rings, gun and trinkets)

Conclusions:

It looks like feet, belts and, to a lesser extent, gloves and legs are going to be hard to come by.  Trinkets and shields may be easier than we are accustomed to.

Link dump

November 23, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Below are some links I found useful, informative or funny and wanted to share.

Righteous Orbs provides an example of hilariously bad raid explanations.  What is notable, I think, is that despite providing so much information, the explanation actually communicates very little about the fight.  This is part of what bothers me about some of the more recent videos from Tankspot; they list abilities rather than describing fights.

Gamasutra has a fairly detailed and interesting look at MMO economies.  I don’t know that it’s especially useful during periods of little change in WoW, but I can see it being helpful in translating what you already know to a new environment, whether that be a new WoW patch or a new game.  What you think you know to be true might not always be correct.

Rhidach describes some of the scaling problems with the new Vengeance mechanic for tanks.  Tank gearing will be interesting during Cataclysm, particularly given healer mana constraints and the accompanying need to reduce overall damage taken.

Caffeine Smokes and AH Fees describes how the changes to heroic strike and other on-next-swing abilities has radically changed the difficulty of the Razuvious fight in Naxx.

Player vs Developer observes that the changes to healer mana and the seeming increase in difficulty may affect LFD queue times in Cataclysm.  I found the following portion particularly insightful:

Group content in World of Warcraft (and most other holy trinity MMO’s) is designed to require 20% or more of players to play healers.  This constraint on class requirements for groups has created a situation where large numbers of players who do not want to play healers are doing because someone has to (and/or because their personal wait times are lower as a result).  When someone is doing something that they want to do, you can appeal to their sense of reason that increased challenge will make their victory more enjoyable.  When someone is only doing something because their guild needed another healer, increased challenge only makes an unpleasant task even less enjoyable.

[...] if the majority of players (who choose DPS) have dramatically less access to actually playing the game because the guy with a healing off-spec no longer thinks he can handle healing the instance and decides to queue with all the other DPS instead.  It’s going to be very interesting to see whether Blizzard sticks to their guns if the increased difficulty leaves the highly popular random instance grind unplayable.

Regular readers here know that role balance in LFD is a particular interest of me, so this change is worrisome.  With the changes to tank snap AOE aggro generation and the purported increase in the technical difficulty of pulls, we may see something similar occur with tanks, too.  I know more than a few mainspec healers and dps that queue as tanks for the fast queue time; what role will they queue as next month?

Tol Barad: Bizarro Wintergrasp

November 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

After the release of Cataclysm, Tol Barad will be the new world pvp zone similar to Wintergrasp in Wrath.  As described on the Blizzard website (emphasis mine):

Reachable by portals in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, Tol Barad will accept up to 100 players per faction to engage in brutal combat across the island’s surface. Unlike Wintergrasp, Tol Barad will not have Tenacity buffs. Instead, the queue system will match each side at a 1-to-1 ratio down to a minimum of 25 players. Battles will take place every two hours and thirty minutes, giving the offensive faction a chance to claim territory.

In terms of making the actual battles competitive and fair, this is a great idea.  At present, Wintergrasp is usually won predominantly by the more populated faction.  I’ve had a chance to play on both sides of unbalanced servers and it’s unfair for the small faction and boring for the large faction.  That said, I suspect this solution will be a case of the pendulum swinging to the other extreme.  Players on the large faction will now find it very difficult to even participate in the Tol Barad battles.  I can’t imagine it being acceptable for only one ICC 25 raid to run at a time, so it’s puzzling that Tol Barad is participant-limited in this way.  It’s sort of a Bizarro Wintergrasp.

Making a world pvp area like Wintergrasp or Tol Barad is a difficult task for the developers, particularly when they must accommodate a huge variety of different team sizes for each side.  I do think, though, that their task is made much more difficult by the near ubiquity of imbalanced servers.  (From the link, notice how there are more servers with a 3:1 imbalance than there are servers with an imbalance of less than 1.2:1)

Warrior avoidance calculator updated for 4.0.1

November 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ve updated my avoidance calculator for level 80 warriors.  It should now be working correctly for both mastery and the new avoidance coefficients.  As with the old one, it also provides information on which gems will provide the greatest expected damage reduction given your current stats.  Please let me know if you find any errors.

Please be aware: the current conversion for mastery is 1.25, but it has been announced that it will be changing to 1.50.  I believe this transition will be made in the 4.0.3a patch.

Expected Warrior stats for level 85 raiding

October 19, 2010 at 12:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Zarko has put together a spreadsheet estimating tank stats at level 85 when well-geared and raid buffed.  Here’s what warriors can expect to have:

  • 46784 armor (36432 without Devotion Aura)
  • 3316 strength
  • 7625 stamina
  • 2329 dodge rating
  • 688 parry rating (I believe this does not include 829 rating from strength)
  • 1967 mastery rating
  • 634 agility
  • 728 ‘other’ rating (eg, hit, expertise)
  • 7 gem sockets

In terms of avoidance, he calculates that these will yield 14% dodge, 12% parry, 56% block and 5% miss.

Due to how mastery scales, making choices about whether to gear for mastery or other stats is not always straightforward.  I’m currently working on a small calculator to help with such decisions.  Zarko’s gear profile should be helpful for that project.

Armor Formula Change

October 19, 2010 at 12:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As described here, the armor formula has changed from this

Reduction = Armor / (Armor + MobLevel * 467.5 - 22167.5)

to this

Reduction = Armor / (Armor + MobLevel * 2167.5 - 158167.5)

For a level 80 warrior in mostly 264 gear, losing a few percentage points of damage reduction isn’t a huge change, but it will probably be noticeable.  This is particularly true if you have abandoned the Glyph of Indomitability for a trinket that retained its stats in 4.0.1.

 

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