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Filed under: Raiding

Warlords of Draenor: Flex scaling to 30 "still on the table"

I'm one of those people who hates leaving people on the bench. I hate it when I have to step out myself, hut I hate it even more when someone else sits for me - it just irritates me. So I'm very interested in this tweet from Ion "Watcher" Hazzkostas. When asked if the idea of flexible raiding going up to 30 people, he responded:

This makes me very excited, especially with the change to Mythic raiding (20 man total cap) meaning that some current 25 man groups are going to have to bench players once they make the step into Mythic - I do, however, hope a little downward flexibility is also introduced at some point to allow 10 player raids to progress when that one key player is unavailable.

I'd like to see this change actually get implemented - here's hoping we get it by Warlords of Draenor release.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

The case for catch-up loot

I talked a while back about catch-up dungeons. Now, we'll talk about the more basic issue - why have 'catch up' mechanisms at all? Why have gear that exists so you can skip content? Recently Celestalon responded to this question on twitter and his answers are very, very interesting to me.
This idea of playerbase consolidation reminds me, as it always does whenever anyone brings it up, of the old days of Vanilla and BC raiding. That's how you can tell I'm crazy old - everything reminds me of something that happened years ago. But in this case it's apt. Back in Vanilla, there basically weren't any catch-up mechanisms. If you wanted to join a raiding guild that was clearing Blackwing Lair, if you hadn't set foot in Molten Core yet, you probably simply weren't getting in, and if you did, you'd likely end up being dragged through several MC and Onyxia runs (assuming you didn't have to get attuned) to get you caught up on gear. Often guilds didn't really want to do that, so if they didn't, you were basically out of luck. The 20 man raids Zul'Gurub and AQ20 served as stopgaps, with gear that could help, but it wasn't enough in many cases.

BC improved this to a degree. There were still attunements for a while, but guilds could at least rely on the Badge of Justice mechanic and get newer players geared up faster. I actually took some time off playing WoW after Vanilla ended and didn't start raiding in BC until my then-guild was working on the Tier 5 raids (Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern) and so, in order to get ready to join them, I ran a ton of Karazhan and heroic dungeons and bought tanking gear off of the Justice vendors - I ended up still having to tank in Zul'Aman with a green tanking ring and belt and a bunch of dungeon blues on, but at least I had some gear by that point.

Since those days, we've seen various mechanisms (Wrath and Cataclysm's patch five mans, Mists with justice and honor gear and the Timeless Isle) to allow players to get caught up to current content. And to my mind, while I'm not always on board with the specific way it's implemented, it's the best change imaginable for a variety of reasons.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding

German guild Casuals 5-mans Garrosh Hellscream

German guild Casuals, who killed Garrosh on 10-man heroic back in early December, putting them in the western top 80 guilds, have taken the expansion's end boss on in normal difficulty with a team of five, and won. Even more remarkably, given recent history, none of them was a blood DK.

The kill is filmed from the perspective of a DK, though, frost DPS Cize, and shows the entire kill from start to eventual finish. What's surprising is that they don't seem to hit the apparent enrage timer, with the fight lasting 14 minutes and 27 seconds. Their team was Cize, ilvl 576, as well as Lyzian, a prot paladin (572), Vayce, a discipline priest (575), Vranis, a fire mage (569) and Depression, a combat rogue (573). The armory is having some issues which are preventing me from seeing the characters today.

The kill took them 30 attempts, and the logs can be found on World of Logs.

[Thanks for the tip, fate47!]

Filed under: Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

Simplify point-based currencies in Warlords

We've covered in the past how the best way to gear for PvP is to grind justice points, and I have recently experienced this - since I wanted to get some pieces of Season 14 for transmog (and to do some PvP on the side, since I like running random BG's) I spent the past couple of days capping honor so that I could pick up several pieces as soon as possible. This led to running dungeons for justice points. Lots of dungeons. And this led me to realize that justice points themselves have a lot of uses - picking up older gear to catch up, converting to honor for PvP gear - but they feel strange and antiquated.

There's literally two ways to get them in the current endgame - run scenarios or dungeons - and they only upgrade blue dungeon gear, so their use as an upgrade currency is fairly limited. While you can in fact also buy them with honor, that would have been self defeating in my case.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

You're bad at WoW, and so am I

Blizzard Community Manager Lore recently posted a brief reply in an excellent thread, which brought up a topic I've wanted to address for some time: how it's OK to suck sometimes. While I'm not going to copy his two posts here, he talks about arenas, discussing how, when he and his team lose, he looks back and tries to work out where things went wrong, and what he could have done to help. He also discusses the merits of doing things like recording matches, to replay and examine what went wrong.

While the option of recording your WoW play may not be open to everyone, self-examination is. And it's something we can all afford to do. None of us ever play perfectly, we are not robots. But the key to becoming better is to admit that, to see our failings, and to improve upon them.

Sometimes it's you

Sometimes it is. Sometimes you'll lose an arena or wipe in a raid because of someone else's error -- your tanks messed up the switching, or the person who had a debuff failed to perform correctly. Even in those situations, it's good to think back and wonder whether your performance was optimal. Sure, you weren't the reason why your team wiped or lost, but what more could you have done to perform well on your own personal scale?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding

Tanks, healers, and the most dangerous LFR bosses

Recently I wrote a small article wondering whether the fabled Monday night Raid Finder festival of ugly death was just an urban legend. Opinions in the comment section were mixed, so I wanted to do a little ingame research to figure out whether the conventional wisdom was right and Mondays are an unusually deadly day for LFR runs.

While I'm nowhere close to being done with that little project, my first venture into the numbers in Siege of Orgrimmar and the Raid Finder did turn up some interesting results with my characters. The deadliest Raid Finder boss of tier 16 was not who I thought it was, the safest Raid Finder boss was really not who I thought it was, and there are some eye-raising numbers on the fights where a well-geared tank or healer was disproportionately likely to swing the odds in the raid's favor.

Also, the Gates of Retribution wing sucks. But you knew that already.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Patch 5.4.7: Targeted nerfs to Garrosh on 10-man Heroic

Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has made a characteristically excellent post on the US forums, detailing targeted nerfs to Garrosh on 10-man Heroic difficulty. Watcher's full post is, as ever, after the break, but the main details are as follows.

There were several encounter mechanics where the numbers scaling for 10-man meant that the difficulty was higher than in 25-man. Watcher particularly notes the interaction between Malice clumps and Iron Star triggering. In 25-man, the Malice groups, a total of six players, were never large enough to trigger the Iron Star, when they inevitably overlapped with Bombardment in the fourth Malice. On 10-player heroic, the Malice clump size of three in total would also trigger an Iron Star in the fourth Malice. Now, in 10 Heroic, the Iron Star trigger clump size is four, bringing it in line with 25 Heroic.

Additionally, Garrosh's health is reduced by around 5%, and Minion of Y'Sharrj health is reduced by 10%. DPS checks for 10 Heroic were causing guilds to try to single-heal the fight, and 25 Heroic players are able to kite the adds while 10 Heroic guilds don't have the spare manpower. These changes show the process Watcher has discussed in the past, specific targeted nerfs, and will bring the two sizes in line. Hit the break for his full post.

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Filed under: Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

Warlords of Draenor: Raids will be non-linear wherever possible

Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has taken to Twitter to discuss the developers' plans for raid linearity in Warlords of Draenor:

We can see the map for Blackrock Foundry above, and understand what Watcher means with regard to the ICC-esque layout. The circular room at the top is likely to be the room you're looking to unlock by completing wings. And a Firelands-ish layout has much the same effect on raiders. While the world first progression guilds will dislike it, as they thrive on assessing who's behind and who's ahead in the race, they're a tiny percentage of the total raiding playerbase. For the rest of us, it's incredibly frustrating to get stuck on a boss, for whatever reason, and feel like there's nothing you can do but repeatedly throw yourselves at that same encounter.

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Filed under: Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Mobility and disparity

We know that change is coming to cast on the move. Let's talk about it, and why I think it's necessary.

Casters want melee mobility reduced in PvP so that they can turret down melee. Melee want caster mobility in PvP reduced so they can avoid being kited. Ranged want cast on the move mechanics to remain in PvE because without them, they have to stop casting when fights force movement. Melee want those mechanics gone because they're part of why ranged are brought to raids over melee - melee can't DPS on the move nearly as effectively, between having to stay in range of bosses and having a positional requirement ranged don't have. If the boss drops fire on himself, the ranged don't care, but the melee have to either stop DPS or die.

We know some or all of these things are going to be addressed in Warlords. The perennial fight between ranged and melee in PvP (ranged want to stay the heck out of melee range, melee desperately need to get into that range) and the constant tug of war that is raiding (where balancing between ranged and melee tends to always favor ramged - most raids bring twice as many ranged players if at all possible) will be affected by the expansion's sweeping changes. To quote CM Lore's twitter feed:

So let's look at one proposed change and discuss how it will affect the game, namely, the trimming down of cast on the move mechanics.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

The dangers of Monday night LFR

After my guild finished raid on Monday, we voted to do the fourth wing of Siege of Orgrimmar in flex for another shot at Garrosh's heirlooms. Before queuing for flex, people took a break to let their dogs out, get something to drink, or jump on alts to do their farming. My fellow tank hopped to his alt warrior and wondered aloud over the wisdom of doing an LFR on him later that night. "Don't do it," was the universal consensus. "Monday night LFR is just asking for trouble. The only winning move is not to play."

That got me thinking about the weirder aspects of the game's culture, in which a single day and a raid lockout divides an alleged nightmare (Raid Finder on Mondays) from a safe bet (Raid Finder on Tuesdays). The usual story is that people run their better-geared mains through Raid Finder soon after the weekly lockout finishes, but come Sunday and Monday they're running their less-geared alts, and usually on classes with which they're less familiar. There's got to be more to it than this, but it's a narrative that most players are probably aware of by now.

Out of morbid curiosity, I've occasionally taken my main or alt shaman through Sunday and Monday LFRs but can't say I've noticed a massive difference. There are definitely more times late in the week where I've zoned into a squabbling raid with a two-stack of Determination, but most runs are fairly uneventful. However, one player's experiences are rarely representative, and your own gear and experience play a role as well. A well-geared toon, especially if it's a tank or healer, is at least marginally more likely to contribute a successful raid, and vice versa.

I'm tempted to do a series of LFRs and measure overall raid DPS and number of deaths by day. I'm genuinely curious whether the conventional wisdom is right, and late-week Raid Finders are more likely to encounter trouble than their early-week counterparts.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

The coming tank squish?

When Wrath launched in 2008, the last thing I ever expected to see was a decline in the number of druid tanks. We'd just come off a successful expansion of not being Innervate bots, and I thought we'd capitalize on a new set of talents and skills in Wrath to hold our own against the brand-new death knight. Not so: The population of feral (now guardian) druids went into freefall and has never really recovered, and at the time, protection paladins took a hit too.

My best guess remains that the popularity of the death knight and the protection warrior in early Wrath pushed a lot of druids and paladins out of tanking. We had more role options than they did, so respeccing to melee, heals, or ranged DPS was a better option than getting yourself or others benched. There were other things going on that probably didn't help much, but at the end of the day it was a numbers game that the bear and paladin simply lost. It was a vivid lesson that design decisions that don't necessarily have much to do with your class or role can wind up having a serious impact on them anyway.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Siege of Orgrimmar updating to Warlords-mode raiding in 6.0

Mythic mode raiding will be coming into play a little sooner than previously thought. A tweet by Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas yesterday confirmed that we will be seeing Warlords-style raiding implemented into the Siege of Orgrimmar raid with patch 6.0. The raid structure in Warlords includes Raid Finder, Normal, and Heroic difficulty all available in Flex-scaling formats. Raid Finder mode as it stands today will still be called Raid Finder mode, however Flexible difficulty will now be called Normal, our version of Normal raiding will be Heroic, and Mythic raiding, a 20-man only format, replaces our Heroic mode as it stands today.


While we knew these changes would be coming in 6.0 via screens shown at BlizzCon 2013, what we didn't know is that this format will be applied to Siege of Orgrimmar, as well as all raids going forward into the new expansion. A later tweet by Hazzikostas pointed out that there will be plenty of advance notice before the change goes live, and there will also be more information on the topic at a later date. Considering we're just now seeing patch 5.4.7 on the PTR, we shouldn't expect Mythic modes to be dropped on us immediately.

Filed under: News items, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Hamlet talks raid awareness

Lei Shen encounter
If you're at all interested in the world of WoW blogging, there's a good chance that you're already familiar with the one run by the inimitable Perculia and Hamlet. If you're not, Hamlet's most recent post is a very good reason to change that. One thing I've always enjoyed about Hamlet's writing is that he has a very good grasp of perspective, and this latest entry is par for the course. This is a post about how to be a better raider, and it's not about DPS or meters. It's about correcting personal errors, specifically the kind that kill you, and in particular, about not standing in the fire.

Hamlet's principle thesis is that raid awareness is a skill that can be learned and practiced. That sounds simple enough in plain terms, but awareness and how to improve it isn't something I've seen often discussed seriously in WoW circles. Sure, I've heard many complaints (and made plenty myself) about people who die to easily preventable things such as fire, or void zones, or whatever, but it's usually talked about as if it's a done deal--"so-and-so pisses us off because they always die in the fire." Not "what measurable steps can so-and-so take to stop dying in the fire?"

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Raid Guides

Patch 5.4.7: PvP gear will be ilevel 550

Senior PvP Designer Brian Holinka has confirmed via Twitter that PvP gear in season 15 will be ilvl 550.

And just in case, like me, you weren't 100% convinced he was serious, Community Representative Lore also tweeted confirming the item level was correct. Does this mean that the season is imminent?

Is this good or bad news? Depends what you play the most. If you're a PvE-er this is not such great news. Double-upgraded Flex gear is now 2 item levels behind Conquest gear. But more relevant is honor gear. What this means is that, if you're starting from scratch, the best way to hit a higher item level is no longer to farm Timeless Isle. It's to kill rares in Krasarang, do dungeons to get JP to convert and buy honor gear, which will likely be 522 or 524 ilvl, or to do PvP.

No player with a preference for PvP or PvE likes to feel they have to do the other to gear up. While this PvP gear won't have the PvE set bonuses or similar, and may not be superior to Flex gear as a result, it could still be perceived as such by someone focused on ilvl alone.

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Filed under: News items, PvP, Raiding

So you want to be a theorycrafter

detail of screenshot from simulationcraft.org
Theorycrafting.

If you're anything like me, just reading that word filled you with a sudden sense of intimidation, inferiority, awe ... and, whoa. Wait a minute. What's that other emotion huddled there in the corner, being beaten up by our fear of failure? Is that curiosity?

If you've ever used Ask Mr. Robot and asked yourself, "How do people determine which of our stats are better than others?" If you've ever played a healer and asked yourself, "How do people figure out which spells are the most efficient to use at which times?" If you've ever played a DPS class and asked yourself, "How do people figure out what my spell priority should be?" Basically, if you've ever wondered how some of our game's brightest players find the answers to our most pressing questions about game mechanics, then there's at least some small part of you that's interested in theorycrafting.

So, great, you're interested. Now what? How the heck does a person get started, especially when theorycrafting seems so complicated?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

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