Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moonkin 2t10/2t9 vs 4t9

I have been debating recently on whether to switch to 2t10 earlier or later - everyone should be doing it once they can do 4t10, but 4t9 vs 2t9/2t10 is a pretty open question.

This is mostly just to help me organize my thoughts on the matter.
Increases the damage done by your Starfire and Wrath spells by 4%.
The major advantage of this bonus is that it is reliable - it has no RNG component at all.  It also doesn't have any major disadvantages, but it is important to note that the talent is additive and not multiplicative.  For example, during Solar Eclipse 4t9 is actually only a 2.66% increase to Wrath damage.  This makes it relatively weaker then you might expect at first glance.

Math generally shows 4t9 to be worth slightly less than 3% dps.

When you gain Clearcasting from your Omen of Clarity talent, you deal 15% additional Nature and Arcane damage for 6 sec.
This bonus has a couple of interesting factors to it:
  • If it works like other similar buffs, then the benefit will last the entire duration of a DoT.  A moonfire, IS or Starfall that you cast during a 2t10 proc should tick for 15% more the entire duration.
  • You can gain Omen of Clarity automatically by casting Gift of the Wild.  This means that if you need to, you can use 2t10 to gain on-demand burst dps.  Since balance druids generally lack this, it might be valuable to explore (for example, imagine if you were having trouble on Marrowgar hard mode killing bone spikes - it would be very possible to hit gotw just before the cast finishes and get that little bit of extra burst for ~5 seconds).  Keep in mind that for overall sustained dps, casting gotw is going to be a loss unless you can do it while you're moving.  This isn't something you add to your rotation every six seconds - but that doesn't mean you should ignore it either, and hitting it right before the fight starts (as another form of pre-potting) may also be valuable.
  • AOE - Omen of Clarity procs a lot when you're chaining Hurricanes.  2t10 should be a significant boost in damage on any fight with a significant AOE component.
 2t10 does have a few significant disadvantages:
  • RNG, RNG, RNG.  Omen of Clarity is a relatively low proc chance (6%), and on average you will see around 2.5 procs per minute on a single-target fight.  But there can be a lot of variance in that number - the odds of going an entire minute with zero procs is roughly 8%, which is high enough to occur relatively often.  Other fights might yield you 4-5 procs per minute, it's all up to the dice gods.
  • Six-second duration - spell damage is calculated when the spell cast finishes, not when it starts.  To get the 2t10 bonus you have to finish the spell cast within the buff duration, which means that calculating uptime on a six second duration is inaccurate - you will generally only get 5 to 5.5 seconds of useful buff time out of each proc.
 Overall, 2t10 looks to be worth slightly more than 3% dps, and significantly more on AOE fights.

Other Factors
  • Set itemization - separate from the set bonuses themselves.  2t10 allows me to drop two items with spirit.  Even with the marginalization of haste past the soft cap, it is still very much superior to spirit.
  • Item lvl - I still have mostly 245 t9.  Going to t10 gets me 251/264 items, which is a very nice stat gain.
  • Experience.  Using 2t10 optimally means paying attention to the procs.  I have 1.5 seconds left on a 2t10 proc during Lunar Eclipse - do I cast a starfire (which will not benefit) or do I put up Insect Swarm, which will?  Since I will definitely have this set bonus at some point, the earlier I start watching it and incorporating it into my decision tree the better off I will be later in hard modes, when paying attention to dps will take a second seat to fight execution.
The experience factor is what decided it for me - if I can pick up 2t10 next week and start getting used to it now, then that's all the better for eventual hard modes..  Waiting for 4t10 will push that learning curve back another three weeks at least, picking it up now means I can start playing with tracking, addons and GotW right away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boss Tuning and Hard Modes

When ToC first came out - and to a lesser extent now that ICC is out - there were a lot of complaints that the bosses were "too easy".  And a lot of these posts seem to imply that easy normal mode = easy hard mode.

The error with this is that it assumes mechanics are the primary driver behind interesting boss fights.  This is true to some extent - a straight tank-and-spank with nothing else happening would be very boring.  But the key factor is that mechanics are only interesting if you can't ignore them.
  • Marrowgar is easy now because, well, it doesn't matter if the whirlwind hits you or if you leave a dps in a spike for 15 seconds.  
  • Deathwhisper is boring because you can easily kill the add waves, dps the boss down and never hit enrage - and the Death N Decay and add damage isn't that impressive.  
  • Gunship has no real dps and barely any healing requirements - if you are undergeared you can just have your tank go over less often.
  • Saurfang is the most difficult of the first four - it has an actual dps requirement, although not a very high one.  With proper positioning we saw 3 marks in 25-man this week, and zero in 10-man.
The common factor between all of these is very simple:  Dps and healing requirements are too low for mechanics to be important.

To say it another way, what makes boss fights interesting is dps and healing requirements.  Not by themselves, but because they force you to pay attention to the weird stuff bosses do.  If Marrowgar has a tight enrage and his whirlwind will two-shot you, then suddenly it's an awesome fight.  Did the mechanics change?  No - but they became more important.

The same is true for practically every normal vs hard mode, and it's why I expect ICC Hard Modes to be awesome.  Every fight so far looks like it could be a blast on heroic, and Blizzard hasn't disappointed in the past.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Prepping for Icecrown Citadel

I recently re-evaluated my character choices in light of the 3.3 patch (probable release date of 12/08/2009, or next week), and just wanted to go over the changes I made.

No changes - I already use 4t9 and with the 2t8 nerf I see no reason to change.  I did modify my gems slightly, going back to Potent over Reckless for good yellow sockets.  I lost 120 crit rating when I picked up a second Reign of the Unliving, and with ICC as the primary focus I don't see a need to value haste over crit any longer.

After some deliberation I decided to go into Icecrown with my Anub spec.

This took some thought.  I originally planned to go with something almost identical to the above, but without Typhoon and picking up the last point in Imp IS - that's a pretty optimized single-target build, but also with strong AOE.  However, reading strategies it looks like a lot of guilds find unglyphed Typhoon to be useful on Saurfang - there are adds that can't be tanked and need to be CCed, and Typhoon is a good choice because of the knockback + daze.

You could also easily do a build with 3/3 Imp IS and 1/2 Gale Winds, but it appears that at least two of the first four fights will have a non-trivial AOE component (Gunship/Saurfang), so I opted to go 2/2 GW.  One point in Imp IS is a relatively trivial single-target loss, while one point in Gale Winds is a very significant AOE loss.

So Starfall and Reign of the Unliving walk into a bar.
RotU: "I'm a trinket that procs from critical strikes, but only every two seconds.
Starfall: "What a coincidence - I can crit on a one-second period which exactly matches up with you.  Maybe we can work something out?"

Silliness aside, the Starfall Glyph (30 second cooldown reduction, NOT the focus glyph) and the Insect Swarm Glyph have always been relatively close in value.  My feeling is that with the neat little synergy between Reign and Starfall will make the glyph a bit more valuable, especially since I now use two of them.

If however you don't have Reign there are a few other reasons I changed to Starfall:
  1. Each one of the first four fights - and many of the later ones - have adds.  Glyphing Starfall vs IS is a close call in a single-target situation, but as raids get complicated single-target situations tend to go away.  Expect a ton of adds in ICC, which will increase the dps benefit of Starfall.
  2. Glyphed IS is important to keep up - you don't want 100% uptime but you should work it into practically every part of your rotation.  Unglyphed IS is much less critical - you pretty much want it up during Solar Eclipse... and that's it.  This frees up Insect Swarm as an, "oh, I have to move" spell - moving from fire?  Hit IS. Icecrown will most likely have a lot of movement, so having IS available more often will help mitigate some of that otherwise lost dps time.
  3. 3% miss - I don't want to get into an avoidance vs EH argument, but suffice to say that 3% miss - while not being critical or even particularly important - is still, well, 3% flat avoidance.  Your tanks can't depend on it but it might prevent a death.
Keep in mind that if you Glyph Starfall you need to keep fairly close track of it and make sure you use it as often as possible - and as fight mechanics dictate.  I use Power Auras for this (and for Treants) to let me keep track of them easily and see when they'll be available, but other addons work as well.

Obviously any of the above might change in the future, but my goal is just to go into normal modes with something solid for all of the fights - for hard modes I anticipate optimizing on a per-fight basis, of course.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Latest 3.3 PTR - Moonkin Buff.

Both Eclipse effects have been increased to 40% from 30%.  Screenshot is in 4t9:

This is a pretty large buff.  If we use the 2t8 estimate of 6% dps (pre-nerf), then this should be on the order of 4% dps - just making up for the WiseEclipse nerf (if you weren't aware of it before, the Eclipse change in 3.3 is to nerf WiseEclipse).

The downside is that this buff comes in the form of increasing our reliance on Eclipse.  One of the big reasons moonkins have RNG issues is because Eclipse is such a large percentage of our dps, and this buff (while welcome) will only increase that issue.

This is concerning because the trend in an expansion is that later bosses = increased movement.  Now this is a generalization - obviously it's not true for all bosses.  But if you look at most fights, as mechanics get more interesting you also have to move around more, and this change is going to make movement a really big killer for moonkins.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Moonkin Icecrown Itemization

Ever since we saw the moonkin t10 stats, I've been following MMO with interest to see what's been data-mined.  It finally seemed like this is the tier for solid moonkin gear - even the emblem gear includes two SP/haste/crit leather items, a nicely itemized belt and decent gloves.

As more and more items have been found, however, I've been getting more and more uneasy.  The items I was expecting just weren't showing up - there's only one moonkin leather item so far, and it's 10-man.  Everything else leather has spirit, without exception.

Now this post is obviously a bit premature, because the loot lists we have (I'm going off of is of course incomplete.  And there's always the "data-mined info is data-mined" maxim, and there is some truth to that.  But I find it worrysome that there are zero 25-man leather items for moonkins found so far, in the final tier of the expansion.  And by the time we have complete loot lists, it will be (practically) too late to raise these concerns.

This was true in ToC/ToGC as well - we generally ended up with leather boots/belt, and they had spirit.  But that's not a significant issue because the cloth gear was identical or worse - there was no SP/haste/crit cloth belt or boots, for example.  And we had the Anub legs, which are very nice but also are only one slot of gear.  However, Icecrown cloth doesn't suffer from the same drought moonkins are - it looks like there will be nicely itemized pieces available for almost every cloth slot, and both below pieces are so far almost certainly BIS for moonkin:

I guess the current loot just leaves me with questions and concerns, especially if you consider this interview and the following excerpt:
Greg: The nice thing about Icecrown Citadel from an itemization perspective is that we have lots of bosses. That's something of a relief coming from the Crusaders' Coliseum, where we had only five bosses. For Icecrown, we can afford to have multiple options for a particular slot -- say a healing leather bracer or a melee trinket -- and even itemize some of the more unusual pieces.
So my issue becomes - how did we get a moonkin-specific leather item in ToC (5 bosses) but miss out in Icecrown with 12?  Why is it ok to have multiple healing leather bracers but nothing for a moonkin - especially if you consider that many resto druids would be able to use a "moonkin" bracer and put it to good use?

So, what do we do?
It seems to me that the best solution is simple and pretty straight-forward.  There's a lot of leather spirit gear on the Icecrown tables, and a lot of it has crit but no haste.  For resto druids with their new haste cap, this makes it feel rather subpar especially with how poor crit is for Trees right now.

It seems that some of this gear (and it doesn't have to be a lot - 2-3 pieces, tops) could easily be turned into moonkin leather and solve two issues at once.  Resto druids can afford to use some items without spirit - if anything it will make their mana use more interesting - and those items would help them toward their haste cap.  And this would give moonkins leather alternatives, instead of forcing us to go for cloth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Icecrown Citadel Raid Progression

Blizzard released their plans for ICC progression last week and the implications are pretty interesting - I wanted to give myself some time to think about it though.

Here's the post.  I'll try to cover the important bits:

Gated Release
Icecrown Citadel is going to be broken up into four distinct sections: The Lower Spire, Plagueworks, Crimson Hall, and Frostwing Halls. We plan on releasing these four sections of Icecrown Citadel over time and not all immediately when patch 3.3.0 goes live.
The first section that opens will include the Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Gunship Battle, and Deathbringer Saurfang encounters. Progress beyond that point will be prevented for several weeks.
In a nutshell, this means we'll probably get at least three weeks per wing before being able to progress behind it.

My Reaction: This is amazing, and thank you Blizzard.
If you're in an endgame raiding guild then you probably experienced (at least in the past) that the first 1-2 weeks of a new instance are hell.  When Ulduar came out my old guild raided 6-days for the first two weeks because of the progression rush - very top end guilds require more, with the very top (Ensidia/etc) going 24/7.  The really nice thing about this change is it spreads out the "learning the new bosses" phase across a period of two months or so.  I like raiding and I'm willing to put a lot of time into it, but I never liked the first few weeks of an instance.  With this change, we get to learn and see some new bosses, we get gear - but we also have time to go back and run ToGC, to run 10-mans, and to do heroics while experiencing all the new non-raid content.  It'll make for a nice change of pace.

Hard modes would of course take up more time, but it seems Blizzard thought of that:

Easy Mode First
There are other elements that gate access along the way. Players may not attempt any Heroic versions of 10 player encounters until they have defeated the Lich King in a 10 player raid. Similarly, players must defeat the Lich King in a 25 player raid before they can attempt a Heroic 25 player encounter. So players must master every normal difficulty encounter in Icecrown Citadel before attempting Heroic difficulty.
The Lich King may not be attempted until Professor Putricide, Blood-Queen Lana'thel, and Sindragosa are defeated. Furthermore, the Heroic difficulty of The Lich King encounter may not be attempted in any week unless the three aforementioned encounters have been defeated in Heroic difficulty that week. 
Simply put - no hard modes until you've killed Arthas once on that difficulty.  I feel this is another pretty positive change - it's nice to experience all the content once, and it also helps prevent weird situations where one guild may kill a boss months earlier then anyone else and skew rankings.

The Lich King gating is also good because it provides a more "final" Hard Mode boss, unlike Ulduar (where you could go kill YS-3 before doing any of the keeper HMs).  This gives a little more "linear" feel to a winged instance that otherwise wouldn't have it.

One could argue that the nice pacing would eventually go away once you get to hard modes, but no worries, once again we have:

Limited Attempts
The initial number of attempts provided for defeating Professor Putricide is only five. When Blood-Queen Lana'thel unlocks, the amount of total attempts remaining will increase to 10. Then when Sindragosa and the Lich King unlock, 15 total attempts will be available to defeat all four bosses. After a raid has exhausted their attempts for the week, the Ashen Verdict must withdraw their support and the four most difficult bosses all despawn and become unavailable for the week. The limited attempt system is a feature of both Normal and Heroic difficulty.
Yay, limited attempts!  This is a nice equalizer between the more hardcore guilds and the ones that aren't, so in general I'm in support of them.  This has a couple of interesting twists, though:
  • Only four bosses are limited - Putracide, Blood-Queen, Sindragosa and the Lich King are all limited.  The other bosses aren't.  This is a new look at the tribute system, where the "easier" bosses are left available to progress, but the harder "gate" bosses are limited.
  • Limited attempts on normal modes - this is completely new, and we're also not 100% sure how it works.  I am hoping that normal and HM attempts are separate (IE, you would have 15 HM and 15 normal attempts for the gate bosses) but Blizzard may go with a homogenous system.  Separate attempts would be preferrable because it would reduce the problem of "how many HM attempts can we try and still kill Arthas?", which can lead to raid drama and problems.
Of course, this means we'll have another instance where we sit trials and spend hours hoping the DC-boss loves us, right?  Well...

No Insanity
There will be no explicit rewards for defeating the Lich King with a specific number of attempts remaining as there was with Trial of the Grand Crusader. There will also not be an achievement to complete Icecrown Citadel without being defeated by a boss encounter, or letting a raid member die. (i.e. A Tribute to Insanity).
The only real problem I have with limited attempts was the Insanity achievement - not a problem itself, but the fact that it was tied into progression and gear.  And a lot of other people seem to agree, so Blizzard took them out.

There is one more section to Blizzard's post, and I think it's easily going to be the most controversial:

Progressive, Automatic Nerfs
In the weeks and months after all twelve encounters are unlocked, additional attempts against the final four boss encounters become available. This represents the Ashen Verdict growing more powerful and gaining a stronger foothold in Icecrown Citadel. To further help raids, Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream will begin to provide assistance by inspiring the armies attacking Icecrown Citadel. This is represented as an additional zone wide spell effect applied to all players that will increase their hit points, damage dealt, and healing done. This effect will also increase in effectiveness over time. Players may opt out of the spell's effect if they so wish.
There's two effects here, and both serve to make it easier to complete content.  Over time we will get additional attempts, and we will get a zone wide buff to health, damage, and healing that gets stronger each week/month (or however they do it).

My initial reaction was that this is ridiculous, insane and I can't believe Blizzard did it.  More attempts I can see - going from 15 to 20 attempts won't help a lot, but will serve to let guilds working on the content still feel like they have something to do.  The problem is with the second effect.

The problem is that gear already does this - it increases your damage, healing and health over time.  That's practically the definition of upgrades.  So what is the point of adding a "free gear" aura?  Raids that are doing ICC would already get this effect, so what is the benefit of this change?  It will let more people see the content, yes - and this is a good thing.  But from the viewpoint of a progression raider, it just seems like a horrible idea.

However, after thinking about it I started noticing the last line more:
Players may opt out of the spell's effect if they so wish. 
The wording here is kind of interesting - "opt out".  That sounds like something you might do for a more difficult run, and Blizzard has been known to reward those.  Maybe Blizzard intends for the "Glory of the Icecrown Raider" achievements to only be completable if you opt out of the buff?  Or possible additional rewards/titles by doing so?  If so, that would make a lot of sense - more casual guilds could see the content easier, but the hardcore raiders would be able to opt out of the effect for progression or additional rewards.

I think the system looks nice.  There is a good balance between gated/non-gated, and between limited attempts and unlimited.  They also managed to make Arthas the "ultimate" boss, both in normal and hard mode.

The only change that I'm not really happy with is is the raid-wide buff, but even that could be cool if done correctly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

11/16/2009 - General Update

I'll be posting something more substantial soon but I had a couple of updates I wanted to cover that are pretty minor:

1) I've started logging every raid I do to World of Logs, and I've added a link to that over to the right, under my armory and guild site.  There isn't much up there yet, but tonight's 25 ToGC should go up, and hopefully more content this coming Tuesday/Wednesday.

I use Loggerhead and run WoL's live-raid tool, so generally everything I raid will be up there.  This includes 10-mans (which I almost always tank) and anything my DK raids.

2) I've started rewriting my simulation spreadsheet.  The previous version had a lot of limitations - it's handling of DoTs and cooldowns was pretty clunky and it was hard to get good estimates for the value of RNG stats like crit or hit.  The new version should be a bit more robust and hopefully give more accurate values.

I did sit down and ask myself if I was reinventing the wheel (given tools like Wrathcalcs or SimulationCraft) but decided that it was different enough to be worthwhile - a dps simulation generated in a spreadsheet offers some advantages that Wrathcalcs and SimulationCraft don't (and of course, some weaknesses as well).  And there is always the value of having multiple tools look at the same information, just to see the differences in output.

3) The topic of my blog came up in guild chat the other day and my raid leader asked if I had talked about his gearscore yet - he has the best on the server and he gets tells two or three times a day about it.  Sadly this is actually true - he gets tells like, "Hey I heard you have the best gearscore on the server, that's awesome" (although usually with decidedly less capitalization, grammar and spelling).  So this is for you Romo.

Edit: Followup
Owlkin Frenzy - 0 procs Beast, 1 proc Jaraxxus, 6 procs Faction Champs, 1 proc Twins.  So, useless.

Bad News about tonights raid: I went full retard on Twins and died twice.
Good News about tonights raid: We still managed to one shot it and got our first Insanity (and I got my neck).

Friday, November 13, 2009

How Caster Haste Works

This is a topic I've talked about before (although not on this blog), but I still see a lot of confusion about it.  So if you're don't know exactly how haste works, this will hopefully clear that up for you.

Fair Warning: This post will contain formulas, although I'll do my best to keep it simple.  If you are allergic or if you already know the topic, feel free to skip it.

A Definition
Think of haste as increasing the number of casts you can cast in a certain time.  In other words: If you could cast X spells before in a fight, then 20% haste should let you cast 1.2*X spells in the same time.

This isn't exact - spells can run into the GCD (especially for moonkins), some spells have cooldowns or static durations (so you really can't cast more of them, but instead get more of other spells) and there are also queuing issues with instant spells.  But as a general idea, you need to think of haste working this way.

Keep in mind that while haste does reduce cast time, it isn't a straight reduction - 20% haste doesn't mean taking 20% off of a 3 second cast, for example. 

Calculating Cast Time
This is the current formula for cast time:
Final Cast Time = (Base Cast Time) / ((1 + haste1)*(1 + haste2)*...*(1 + hasteN))
I posted that first because I'm going to refer back to it, but let's start with a simpler example to get the basic idea.  Don't worry if you don't understand the formula at this point.

Let's say you only have one source of haste: Nature's Grace, which is 20% haste.  And you want to calculate the cast time of your Starfire when Nature's Grace is procced.  Then the formula is:
Final Cast Time = (Base Cast Time) / ((1 + haste1)*(1 + haste2)*...*(1 + hasteN))
Final Cast Time = (3) / (1 + .2)
Final Cast Time = 2.5
Note that I use .2 instead of 20% - they mean the same thing, but .2 makes more sense if you are plugging this into a calculator or other tool.  With only one source of haste it's pretty simple - you just take the cast time and divide.  Now take the above example and we'll add in Celestial Focus (3% haste) and Improved Moonkin Form (3% haste).
Final Cast Time = (Base Cast Time) / ((1 + haste1)*(1 + haste2)*...*(1 + hasteN))
Final Cast Time = (3) / ((1 + .2)*(1 + .03)*(1 + .03))
Final Cast Time = (3) / (1.27308)
Final Cast Time = ~2.36
What happens is that every source of haste you have is multiplied together.  Instead of being additive like crit (where 5% from talents + 5% from gear = 10%), we actually get a little extra - 20%, 3% and 3% ends up being the same as 27.308% haste.

So now, looking back at the original base formula:
Final Cast Time = (Base Cast Time) / ((1 + haste1)*(1 + haste2)*...*(1 + hasteN))
  • Base Cast Time - this is the base cast time of the spell before any haste effects, but after talents like Starlight Wrath.  The base cast time on Starfire is 3 seconds - the base cast time on Wrath is 1.5 seconds.
  • haste1/haste2/hasteN - these are placeholders for a variable number of haste effects - you could have two, three, four, or even more depending on raid buffs and talents.  In general every distinct source of haste should be separate and multiplied - each individual talent or buff, and then your haste rating as it's own category (note that this includes haste from stuff like Potion of Speed or haste food as well as haste rating on gear).
I'm going to finish this up with an example using my own numbers and then with in-game proof (just so you don't have to take my word for all this).  For this example I'm going to use Hurricane - Blizzard's spell book only gives you 2-digits after the decimal point, so a longer cast time gives better precision.

My Haste Buffs:
3% from Celestial Focus
3% from Improved Moonkin Form
20% from Nature's Grace (procced with Starfall)
17.17% haste from gear

Final Cast Time = (Base Cast Time) / ((1 + haste1)*(1 + haste2)*...*(1 + hasteN))
Final Cast Time = (10) / ((1 + .03)*(1 + .03)*(1 + .2)*(1 + .1717))
Final Cast Time = (10) / (1.491667836)
Final Cast Time = 6.7
And now in-game:
6.7 seconds, on the dot.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tier 10 Moonkin Stats


I know everyone else is already talking about this, but I think it deserves a post.  MMO data-mined the t10 druid sets, and the balance is amazing:

There also should be a Heroic set around ilvl 277, but that isn't available yet.  It should be pretty obvious though that the stats on this are incredible:
  • No Spirit
  • Three Spell power/haste/crit items (helm/chest/shoulder)
  • Two Spell power/hit/crit items (gloves/legs)
  • Only red/yellow sockets and only spell power bonuses, and every item has at least one red socket.  So you can gem for every bonus and be gaining dps.
I'm going to go out on a giant moonkin-shaped limb and state that either gloves or legs will most likely be our off-set.  Hit is going to be incredibly easy to get at t10 (moreso then t9) and using two tier pieces with hit will probably put you way over cap, especially with the rep ring adding hit.

Now which piece is off-set will depend on what other loot is available (and there's also a small potential for us to actually use 5/5, depending on what else is available), but at first glance this is very promising.

One more last thought - get used to having high haste values again.
  • 3x Tier pieces have haste, and you will probably end up using all of them.
  • The rep ring has haste.
  • The Emblem leather belt has haste (and is SP/haste/crit so you'll probably use it unless something better itemized is in 25 HM).
  • Wrist/Boot pieces that are BIS will probably be SP/haste/crit if the pattern continues.
So, to sum it up:
You will likely have haste on every single piece of gear, barring trinkets and 1-2 other pieces that have hit instead.  So be prepared to break 600 haste again, possibly at high velocity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Power Auras And Innervate

About one month ago I read this post on the WoW druid forums.  Since then it's become especially useful on fights like Anub, where mana-management is extremely critical to performance.

Power Auras is an extremely flexible addon available from Curse.  It allows you to create a visual "aura" on your screen based on almost anything: buffs, debuffs, buffs/debuffs on your target, mana/health percentages, abilities off cooldown, abilities ON cooldown, and more.  What's interesting about that WoW forum post is it utilizes multiple auras that reference eachother, which creates a neat "AND" logic.  The first aura tells you when Innervate is off cooldown.  The second aura activates whenever your mana drops below 65% (I find this to be the bext amount where I can hit Innervate and not waste anything gained).

By linking these two together you get an indicator of when Innervate is available and when your mana is low enough to justify hitting it.

First you create the Innervate aura:
  • To access Power Auras type /powa.  Then hit "New" to create a new aura.  After selecting it, hit "Edit" to start.
  • Set the Activation By to "Action Usable".  This tells Power Auras to display the aura when the named ability is available for use.
  • In the bar under Action Usable, type in Innervate.  Make sure this is exact, although you can tell it to ignore capitalization by checking "Ignore Uppercase" below.
  • Only if in combat - this is optional.  Checking this will make the aura only activate if you are in combat, which will prevent you from seeing it every time you change specs or otherwise drop in mana.  I don't use it because it rarely matters for something like this.
  • Set up the display - you will want to set up the aura to display in whatever manner you want.  I make the innervate aura nearly invisible by making it small and low opacity, because I let the mana aura dominate.  The post where I got this idea said you could turn one of the auras off (so the display wouldn't matter) but I had issues with getting it to work when I did this, so I leave both of them active.
Second, create the mana aura:
  • Activation By should be "Mana".
  • The bar below this will turn into a slide.  Set it to whatever percentage of your mana is around 10,000 down - I usually use 65%.  This ensures that after you hit Innervate you won't waste any mana from other gains, while still letting you use it early.
  • Set up the display.  This is the aura that I want to be visible, so I make it go bang - it's in the middle of my screen, it's pretty large, and it's blue (because my brain associates that with mana/innervate).  I use a middle opacity so it doesn't totally interfere with my vision, but it still shows up immediately.
Finally, you need to create the linkage.  Type in /powa and hover over each of the auras you just created.  If this is your first time with Power Auras then those numbers should be 1 for Innervate, and 2 for the Mana.  Personally, the numbers are 3 and 4 for me.  Whatever they are, write them down or remember them.

Now go to your Innervate aura and hit Edit.  Down under where you typed "Innervate", and to the right of the "Exact Name" checkbox, there should be a second little box.  In this enter the number for the Mana aura.  Your final Innervate aura should look something like this:

Do the reverse in your Mana aura - in the same little box, enter the number for your Innervate aura.  So if Innervate is 1 and Mana is 2, then you put "2" in the Innervate box, and "1" in the Mana box.  This tells them to reference each other and only activate if the other one is also true.  Your final Mana aura should look something like this:

The end result of these two auras is that they will only show up when you are both below 65% mana, and have Innervate off of cooldown.  My display shows up like so:

One more thing I do that's related this is create another aura that displays prominently when I'm below 10% mana.  This is the range where I can't afford to Hurricane, so it's significant - it lets me know when I really, really need to Innervate, or when I should consider hitting GotW.  You can simply copy your Mana aura and remove the reference to your Innervate aura (or leave it in, if you feel like), and then change the display to make it show up better - I changed the color to bright green and put it at 100% opacity.  The end result is something like this:


I find that this combination really helps me with mana management and lets me utilize Innervate as much as possible.  And while on most fights this isn't key, it's especially useful on stuff like Anub'arak where AOE - and therefore mana management -  is critical to both the fight and maximizing your dps.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Movement And The Hybrid Dps Tax

About one week ago Vaneras posted a sticky about hybrid vs pure dps.  The key part is about the hybrid dps tax:
In our design, the pure dps classes (hunter, mage, warlock and rogue) should do slightly higher dps than hybrid damage-dealers all things being equal. All things are rarely equal. Player skill, gear, raid comp, latency, random luck and most importantly the specifics of the encounter will often favor one class, spec or player over another.
This raises the question of what mechanics tend to influence dps.  There are two basic types: 

Direct.  These are buffs like Storm Power on Hodir or Shadow Crash on General Vezax.  They have an immediate effect and will obviously favor certain dpsers over others (high-crit classes for Hodir, casters for General).  Direct mechanics are generally a positive increase in dps, although there are exceptions. 

Indirect.  These are primarily mechanics that force movement (although something like XT's Heart that favor a 30-second window of dps count too).  These are present in practically every fight, and they generally decrease dps.
  • Ulduar: Nearly every fight has something that forces movement, with the possible exception of Flame Leviathan and XT (if you get lucky and never get a Light Bomb or Gravity Well).
  • Northrend Beasts: Snobolds and Fire on the Ground for Gormok.  Poison and Burning Bile for the Worms.  Moving to dps Icehowl when he's stunned.
  • Lord Jaraxxus: Legion Flame, and movement to keep Nether Portals or Infernal Volcanos in range.
  • Faction Champions: Yes.
  • Twin Val'kyrs: Light and Dark Orbs, and switching Essences for a vortex/shield.
Direct Buffs are the exception - the only one in ToC is from Lord Jaraxxus, and only one class (mages) can benefit from it.  Most mechanics that effect dps are of the indirect type, and practically every fight has them - because a fight where you stand still and never move gets pretty boring.

The problem with this is that fights with movement tend to favor pure dps, and most fights are movement fights.  Not for player skill reasons, but because all of the pure ranged dps classes have an instant/high movement ability:
Hunters: Disengage
Mages: Blink
Warlocks: Demonic Teleport

These abilities aren't perfect or flawless but they are much better then what moonkins, elemental shamans, and shadow priests have - which is nothing.  On any fight with a decent movement requirement (which is practically every fight) they give the pure dpsers an even bigger advantage then they might otherwise have.  I never expect to beat a good mage on Hodir, because I know that mage can blink to pick up Storm Power, to avoid crashes, to get fire - the list goes on.  I know that a warlock on Twins should beat me because he can teleport back and forth between essences as necessary, and he has an easier time avoiding Orb Surges.  A hunter on Mimiron should beat me because he can jump over fire, and I can't.  And the same holds true for most current fights - there are always mechanics that favor instant movement abilities, and therefore favor pure dpsers.

To a large extent I don't have a problem with this.  The issue is that hybrids come under a double tax, once for being hybrids and then a second time for dpsing a fight with movement.  If I can be within ~5% of a mage on a stand-and-nuke fight then I'm ok with that - the problem is when I drop to 10% or 20% below a mage because he has Blink, and I don't.

I hope that Blizzard fixes this in Cataclysm by giving all the hybrid casters some way to move around instantly, but I'm not super confident - it seems to be an issue that floats under the radar most of the time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

25 (Heroic) Trial of the Grand Crusader: Anub'arak

The subject of Anub'arak hard mode is coming up more and more - spec, gear, rotation, etc.  I've killed it four times now which doesn't make me an expert, but this post will cover my experience and thoughts about the fight.

If you're not 100% familiar with Anub'arak, it has three phases:
P1 - 80 seconds long, with two add packs spawning.  You will see P1 three times.
P2 - 60 seconds long (I think - I'm actually not 100% sure).  Little adds spawn and you will have to manage frost according to your guild's strategy.  After this, back to P1.
P3 - Rest of the fight.  Phase 3 occurs when you get Anub'arak to 30%, which you need to do by the third P1.  This is Phase1 with no time limit (except the enrage), and Leeching Swarm.

The key to dps here is maximizing it in P1 and P3 by using AOE intelligently.

This is pretty standard - there are only two things I want to mention:
  1. Pre-potting : This is a very good fight to pre-pot on.  Talk to your MT if you need to, but you should get a countdown - our MT does 5-4-3-2-1-go, and I generally hit a Wild Magic Potion just after she says, "1".  This will be hard on your bank during progression, but the dps increase is very much worth it.  This will let you save your in-combat potion for p3.
  2. It's Halloween, and that means Candy Buckets.  And Candy Buckets mean Soothing Spearmint Candy.  This is 11 spell power and can stack up to four times for 44 total.  This is a very large dps increase, equivalent to 1-2 upgrades, so you should use it for as long as you can.
Anub'arak is a fight with a large AOE component, and you should spec accordingly.  I use this:

  1. I spec for Typhoon for reasons that I talk about here - it is a very large dps boost on AOE fights.  On most Anub'arak parses it accounts for 3-4% of my dps, and it also serves as an automatic Nature's Grace proc.
  2. Gale Winds should be pretty obvious.  A large increase to Hurricane and Typhoon damage.
  3. I ignore mana regeneration talents because I have found I don't need them - Innervate is sufficient regen and I can usually hit it during p2 when I need to be moving anyway.  If you do not have access to your own Innervate, I would definitely drop the rest of Imp IS and move those points into Intensity - otherwise you will have severe mana issues.
  4. Improved Insect Swarm - I drop a talent point from this because Imp IS offers the least dps increase for one talent point compared to the other options.
  5. Balance of Power - I considered increasing my hit on this fight and dropping one point of BoP in order to max out Imp IS.  What stopped me was Phase 3 - raid healing for this is really, really intense, and anything you can do to decrease incoming damage is a good thing.  6% reduction doesn't sound like much but when you're hovering at <500 life, it can be important.
After some experimentation, I ended up back with the standard glyphs for this fight: Starfire, Moonfire, and Insect Swarm.  There are two other Glyphs (Starfall and Focus) but I eventually decided against them.

Glyph of Starfall - Reduces the cooldown of Starfall by 30 sec.
The problem I had with this glyph is that it just didn't fit into the timing of the fight.  You want to use Starfall on the add packs - with 5 targets it does quite a bit of damage.  The problem is that add packs spawn every 45 seconds and take approximately 15-20 seconds to die.  With a 60 second cooldown, this means that your Starfall CD generally comes up right as the second set of adds dies - which means most of the benefit is wasted.  A 90-second CD fits in perfectly - you can use it right at the start of every other add pack.

Glyph of Focus - Increases the damage done by Starfall by 20%, but decreases its radius by 50%.
The problem with this Glyph is that the damage increase is just too small.   Even with the Starfall Glyph I never saw more then 8% dps from this spell, which means that a 20% increase would be 1.6% dps.  Both the Moonfire and Starfire glyphs are worth more damage then that.

I also want to mention two Minor Glyphs I would recommend for this fight:
Glyph of Typhoon - Reduces the cost of your Typhoon spell by 8% and increases its radius by 10 yards, but it no longer knocks enemies back.
Glyph of the Wild - Mana cost of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild spells reduced by 50%

Glyph of Typhoon should be obvious - if you are using Typhoon as a dps increase then you can't be knocking the enemies around and messing up everyone else.  The mana reduction is of minimal benefit, but it also doesn't hurt.
Glyph of the Wild is less obvious.  The reason I recommend this glyph is because if you find yourself nearly OOM and you need to AOE, then this glyph becomes a mana regeneration talent.   The key is that Gift of the Wild - when cast on 25 targets - will very nearly always proc Omen of Clarity.  This means that you only need roughly 1100 mana to cast a 2800 mana hurricane, which is a pretty significant savings.  You probably won't use this option a lot, but it's nice to have it if you need it.

Part of being successful at a fight is choosing gear that is optimal, whether due to mechanics or other factors.  I gear specifically for Anub'arak 25 simply because it's the only thing approaching progression for my guild right now.
  1. 4t9 - 4t9 is better on this fight then 2t8/2t9.  Not for the 4t9 set bonus, but for the extra stats you get from the upgrade - extra spell power, crit, and haste all benefit your AOE, while set bonuses do not.
  2. Value haste over crit - I already do this, but for Anub'arak you should take it a bit farther.  The reason behind this is that Hurricane doesn't scale very well with crit because it doesn't benefit from Vengeance.  On the other hand, Hurricane scales extremely well with haste.  Since Hurricane will most likely be 30% of your damage or more, you can see significant gains by favoring haste for this fight.  
Moonkins have two general cooldowns - Starfall and Force of Nature.  I use Starfall on every other AOE pack, but Force of Nature is a bit trickier.

Anub'arak has a 9:30 minute enrage.  That means with a 30 second duration and a 3 minute cooldown, you can theoretically fit in four FoNs.  In reality it's going to be better to aim for three - hopefully you won't be that close to the enrage, and using three allows you to time one with Heroism/Bloodlust.

My three FoNs are:
First p1: Just before Heroism.
Third p1: Right at the start.
Late p3: When the cooldown comes up.

As we are killing the boss faster and faster I may have to change to this in order to keep 3 cooldown uses:
First p1: At the start.
Second p1: In the middle with ~30 seconds to submerge.
Middle p3: When the cooldown comes up.

Special Note: Barkskin.  Usually in p1 and p2 you won't have a need for this, but it can be good to use it in P3. Every time it's up, I use it on the last 12 seconds of Penetrating Cold.  The reasoning here is that generally your healers should be able to heal that first tick without any help from you - if they can't then you have bigger issues.  So you want to use Barkskin for the last 12 seconds, where it will both 1) keep you alive as they are trying to reduce healing on you and go to their new targets, and 2) decrease the amount you heal the boss from Leeching Swarm.

The only special thing about Anub'arak is that you will be weaving in AOE at predictable intervals.  This isn't going to make a big change - Eclipse is severely RNG-dependent, so it's hard to tell what spell you would be casting.  Anub'arak is thankfully a stationary fight in p1 and p3, so we don't get hurt by a need to move around.

In general, this is what I do:

  • IFF->IS->MF->SFx3 to start.  I use starfire right off the bat because I want to extend my Moonfire, and I know I'll need to AOE shortly.
  • (First Add Pack) : Starfall -> Hurricane -> Typhoon -> back to single target.  My phase1 AOE is shorter because some healers help out - you may thing that wouldn't be much, but keep in mind that balance doesn't have a lot of talents that benefit Hurricane.  A resto druid can put out some pretty respectable numbers, as can priests and shamans.
  • (Second Add Pack): Ignore and continue single target.  Once Anub'arak submerges, Typhoon -> Hurricane.  At that point they are usually dead and on to p2.
  • Run around, DoT/nuke adds, and do whatever your p2 strategy is.
  • IFF->IS->MF->SFx3 to start, for the same reasons as p1.
  • Odd add packs (1/3/..):  Starfall->Hurricane->Typhoon->Hurricane->Single Target.  Since healers actually have to heal in phase 3, you will get to AOE a bit more.
  • Even add packs (2/4/..):  Typhoon->Hurricane x2 -> Single target.
Keep in mind that all the above are estimates - I always hurricane until the enemies are dead or extremely close (<5%).  If your guild's AOE is weaker then mine, or if some people are dead and there is less AOE, then you may need to Hurricane more then I do.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How To Choose Gear Intelligently

I see a lot of threads with the following two topics:
"My dps is bad, how do I fix it?"
"Is X an upgrade over Y"?

Many times these threads reveal a lack of understanding about how to pick gear - it's very often that someone does poor dps not because they are bad at being a moonkin, but because they choose gear badly.  Picking gear can be fun (it's one of the reasons I play) and this post will talk about how I do it.

Gearing Toward a List or Not
There are basically two options you can use when choosing gear:
1) Gear towards a specific, BIS (Best-In-Slot) list.  This is a pre-determined list of gear that you feel gives you the best dps.
2) Pick up upgrades as they drop.

If you use the first method then this post won't really help you.  I don't really like gearing toward a BIS list because I have found that I never get it.  There is always an item (or two, or three) that refuses to drop or that I just can't get because of DKP/loot council/etc.  As a result, I prefer to take a more fluid approach to gearing.

This by necessity involves a little more thought then just following a list, and this post details most of the logic/thought process that I use.  Keep in mind while reading this that these aren't in a specific order - you want to consider everything, not just look at one particular section.  Just because Hit is more valuable then Spirit doesn't mean an item with Hit is better dps then an item with Spirit, for example.

You have to know what stats are good, and approximately how good.  This can be as simple as:
Hit (to cap) > Spell Power > Haste (before 400) > Haste (after 400) >= Crit > Spirit > Hit (after cap)

The only problem with this is that it's a little inexact - you don't know how much any particular stat is better then other stats, after all.  What I generally do is use the following values:
Hit: 2 (before cap, 0 after)
Spell Power: 1
Haste (before 400): 1.1
Haste (after 400) and crit: .8
Spirit: .33

These are loosely based on Graylo's numbers here.  I don't use the exact values because I don't want to bother multiplying stuff by 0.816, and I feel that these are close enough for eyeball work.  If I compare two items and they are close (within ~5 dps) then I break out a spreadsheet and compare them using more precise values, but for the majority of cases the above works fine.  Most upgrades are on the order of 20+ dps or more, so it doesn't matter if you use exact numbers - the result will be close enough.

Know What Gear is Available To You
You must know what gear is available.  The keyword is the one in italics, though - if you are in a 10-man only guild, then you are going to choose gear differently then a person running 25-man content.  There are a lot of sources for this:
Graylo's BIS lists, here and here.

Keep in mind that I'm not advocating a BIS list here - but it can still be useful to use a best-in-slot list simply to see what gear is available. 

Know What Gear Others Will Want
It's a simple fact of life that in WoW, you are gearing in a raid (at least in endgame...).  And that generally means you do not get every single item you want.  This especially refers to shared slots: Trinkets, Rings, Amulet, Tier gear, and Weapon/Off-Hand.  These are slots that a LOT of poeple are going to want, so you need to pick you gear with that understanding - because maybe something that would otherwise be BIS is something that it will take you a long, long time to get.

On the other hand leather spellcaster items are probably something you can pick up pretty easily, because so few people will want them.  This especially refers to non-spirit leather - there's not a lot of it, but you can generally expect only 1-2 people in the entire raid might be interested.

Set Bonuses
I've talked about some set bonuses, but now I want to discuss them in more general terms.  The key to set bonuses is that they don't take up itemization points like stats - they are essentially free dps.  This means that except for special cases, you are almost always better off aiming to have at least four slots dedicated to tier gear.  That can either mean going for a 4-piece bonus or a 2/2 split, but it's a rare situation where you want to use more then one piece of off-set gear.

Gear Toward The Hit Cap
I'm not sure I can emphasize this enough.  I see a ton of posts where people talk about having low dps and it turns out they are massively above the hit cap.  Unlike crit or haste, the hit cap isn't a soft cap - you get zero benefit from it once you pass the 17% mark.  So it's very important to choose your gear with the hit cap in mind (if you don't know the hit cap, I recommend reading Wisp's raiding sticky here).

I'm also going to take a second to talk about Balance of Power here - there are some people who advocate dropping BoP.  I'm not one of them - the problem is that BoP also provides a secondary benefit of reducing all spell damage you take by 6%.  While this isn't a big number, keep in mind that almost all the damage you take will be magic, and dead = 0 dps.

The primary reason not to drop BoP though is that there's just no benefit from it.  Balance is a pretty limited tree - the other talents you can pick up if you drop BoP are stuff like Brambles or Genesis, which provide single-digit dps increases.

Minimize Spirit
This is probably the second source of "well geared" moonkins doing low dps (after having too much hit) - having too much spirit.

Wotlk itemization has been pretty consistent.  Every caster item looks like this:
Spell Power
Two out of the following: (Hit, Haste, Crit, Spirit)

Out of those Spirit is by far the worst.  Some spirit is unavoidable - but in general if you pick items with spirit over items where you could get crit/haste, you are losing 30+ dps per slot.  That's for low-itemization slots like rings or bracers - you lose a lot more if you take a helm, chest, or leg slot with spirit, so avoid it whenever possible.

Maximize Sockets
Sockets, sockets, sockets.

They key to sockets is that they are cheap, itemization wise.  What you lose from adding a socket to an item is much less then you gain - so if you had two items that were "identical" (both SP/crit/haste and the same ilvl), the one with a socket will beat the one without.  I always choose gear in order to maximize sockets while keeping the rest in mind.

The Complete Whole
The end result of this generally ends up being very close to a BIS list - but a more fluid one.  I picked my weapon not because it's BIS (I'd prefer the Heroic Anub mace) but because:
  • I had the DKP.
  • It dropped.
  • Weapons are a very contested item, so if I waited for another one I'd have to horde DKP.
  • It's well-itemized, with a socket and no spirit.
From that I built the rest of my gear around it (because it provides hit) based on the other criteria I listed here.  I ended up with a little more hit then I'd like, but overall it's turned out pretty solid.

Monday, October 19, 2009

When To Reapply DoTs

I see a lot of questions about when to apply DoTs and I wanted to weigh in with my 2c.  I'm not claiming that my choices are optimal, but I find them to be a 1) workable, and 2) decent dps.

This post will be by necessity non-mathematical.  Not because I think math is a bad idea for this, but because I haven't been able to figure out how to model the benefit of a DoT when compared to casting another spell during Eclipse.

(An interesting thought I just had on that is that maybe my basic premise is wrong.  I've been trying to work out a formula of the form of f(A,B) = X, where A is the benefit of the DoT, B is the opportunity cost, and X would be the number of seconds left in Eclipse where it is still a good idea to reapply DoTs.  But if the number of seconds left doesn't matter, then a formula like this is impossible - I'll have to think on that more).

The basic problem I have with modeling the benefit of DoTs is that there are two negative factors.  When you apply a DoT during Eclipse:
1) You lost the benefit of Eclipse to one Wrath or roughly 1/2 of a Starfire.
2) You have to reapply that same DoT slightly earlier then you would otherwise.

The first is very easy to model, and my math based on it led to a "6-second rule" - if Eclipse has >6 seconds, it's better to reapply DoTs.
The second seems to be almost impossible - how to determine the negative effects of having to refresh Insect Swarm, for example, in 15 seconds instead of 21.  This makes it extremely hard to compare to the damage of a DoT and determine when to refresh.

The end result of trying to come up with this is I've changed my philosophy on reapplying DoTs. I previously used the 6-second rule on most fights.  After thinking about it though, it seems like this was optimistic - it ignores the effects of using slightly more GCDs on DoT damage... I think.  Therefore:

Single Target Stand-And-Nuke/Light Movement
1) Reapply Moonfire if it drops off to ensure maximum idol uptime.
2) Reapply Insect Swarm at the end of every Eclipse if it's off.  This has an additional benefit of allowing smoother Lunar->Solar transitions with WiseEclipse.
3) Reapply Insect Swarm during Solar Eclipse only if it falls off, no matter when it falls off.

The main benefit of these changes is that they require slightly less thought (as I never take into account the amount of time Eclipse has), and they lead to a slightly more predictable rotation, both of which are beneficial if I'm distracted, tired, or anything goes wrong during a fight. 

Single Target with Medium to Heavy Movement
1) Reapply DoTs if they drop off and I know I won't have to move for 5+ seconds.  Otherwise save them and use them for when I have to move.
2) Ignore the above for Insect Swarm if I know there's predictable movement in the duration of the DoT (for example: Ignis, and there's going to be a flame Jet within 14 seconds).

This is pretty simple - basically if I know I have to move a lot (H Twins as a goalie is a good example of this) then my DoT strategy changes significantly.  It becomes much more important to optimize dps by using DoTs as instant cast spells that I can hit while moving, instead of worrying about more optimal uptimes.  In general I try to keep Moonfire up just for the Idol effect, but other then that it's more important to save DoTs for when you can't cast anything else.

Two/Three Target Fights
1) Apply DoTs on any target that A) provides useful dps, and B) will last long enough for the DoTs to fully tick on.

The important note here is that it must be useful dps.  I don't advocate DoTing up all the adds on Iron Council because it's not useful - they heal to full.  I don't advocate DoTing up both worms in Heroic NrB because killing Acidmaw fast is key - lowering your dps to make the overall fight shorter just isn't that important.  Faction Champions is about focused dps, so again - no DoTing up targets (at least until the end, or on pets to draw off heals).

Good fights for this are stuff like Flame Leviathan (if you go up top and kill sentries), Freya triplets (as long as you don't kill anything too early), Mimiron p4 (same as Freya triplets), and Yogg-Saron p2.

AOE Fights (4+)

1) Keep up Moonfire for the idol effect.

It isn't worth it to spam DoTs on 4+ targets, Hurricane is better dps.

Hope some people find this useful.  I'd also be interested if anyone else has good math on when to reapply DoTs in Eclipse, I haven't seen anything concrete on it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Patch 3.3: tier 10 bonuses

So we have our t10 moonkin bonuses:

2 piece bonus - When you gain Clearcasting from your Omen of Clarity talent, you deal 10% additional Nature and Arcane damage for 6 sec.
Update - increased to 15% for 6 seconds.  So the benefit increases to approximately 3%

Omen of Clarity is something like a 6% proc rate on spells.  If we cast approximately 35 spells per minute (roughly the average based on WoL) then we should see 35*6% = 2.1 procs per minute, which matches what shows up in WoL.  2.1 procs per minute at 6 seconds each is 12.6/60 = 21% uptime.  So for a 10% increase, that should be about 2.1% dps.

However, there are several issues with this:
1) The 10% only applies to spells that are finished within the 6 second duration.  So some portion will almost always be wasted.
2) Omen of Clarity doesn't have an internal cooldown, so if it refreshes itself then part of a bonus will be wasted.
3) It's very RNG based.  At 2 PPM the number of procs per fight could vary widely.

So overall for single-target fights, I see this being very weak, <2%.  However, one thing to bear in mind - on AOE fights you will see a much higher proc rate on OoC, which means the uptime could be significant - 10% AOE damage on certain fights could be very, very good.

4 piece bonus - Your critical strikes from Starfire and Wrath cause the target languish for an additional 5% of your spell's damage over 4 seconds.
Napkin math time.  Say dps on single-target looks roughly like this:
20% DoTS/starfall/treants
40% Wrath
40% Starfire

Wrath crit rate should be about 55%, Starfire crit rate is about 75%.  Crits are 209% of a hit.  Then:
2.09*.55 / (2.09*.55 + .45) = 71.9% of your wrath damage is from crits.
2.09*.75 / (2.09*.75 + .25) = 86.2% of your starfire damage is from crits.

.4 * .719 + .4*.862 = 63.24% of your damage from Wrath or Starfire crits.  4t10 should just be a flat 5% damage increase to crits, so:
63.24% * .05 = 3.2% dps increase

>3% is certainly respectable and is roughly as strong as 4t9.  This does assume it's not buggy though.

Could be better, could be worse.  Depending of course on itemization, I don't see any issue with upgrading from 4t9->2t10, or from 2t9 to 4t10.  The set bonus + stat increases should make it worth it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

3.3 - Black Magic

In case you weren't aware, Black Magic is being changed in 3.3:
Enchant Weapon - Black Magic: now cause your harmful spells to sometimes increase haste rating by 250.

I'm going to use Graylo's numbers and put haste rating (past the soft cap) at approximately .8 spell power.  Then the proc is worth 200 SP over 10 seconds and would have to have 63/200 = 31.5% uptime to equal a spell power enchant (about 23% uptime if you were below 150 haste, a pretty unlikely scenario).

I managed to test this for about 15 minutes before connection issues forced me off the PTR.  I'll update this once I have better data, but some initial observations:

I never saw it proc twice within ~30 seconds (two Eclipse durations).  It also never refreshed itself.  So that strongly suggests there is still an internal cooldown, probably of 45 seconds.
I don't know the proc chance for sure, but it doesn't appear to be even as high as 50%.  I did four tests where I waited 1 minute between procs, and the number of casts to proc were: 2, 5, 11, 6.

Using the ICD of 45 seconds and estimating the proc rate at 10% (based on similar spell effects), you should expect roughly 1 proc per minute, or a 16.66% uptime.  That puts Black Magic at roughly 50% the dps of a 63 spell power enchant, so it's definitely not worth it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Class Balance and DPS Perception

There was an interesting quote today by Ghostcrawler:
"In the case of Shadow priests, we thought damage was a little low and made a very small adjustment. Many Shadow priests think their dps is still unacceptably low, but we don't agree. (That also doesn't mean we won't make changes in the future. We do change our minds.)"
The fascinating part to me is the disconnect between players and Blizzard -  and more specifically why that disconnect exists.  I think there's a couple of big reasons:

1) Sites Like WMO (
wowmeteronline is cool because it has top-20 lists for dps.  The problem is when players take top dps (or average of top 50, etc), rank classes by those averages and consider that to be represenative.  It's an inaccurate measure of class performance for multiple reasons:
  • Randomness.  Take two hypothetical classes, Tortoises and Hares.  Tortoises do 5k dps on average +/- 500 based on RNG.  Hares do 4.9k dps on average +/- 1.5k based on RNG.  Now even though Tortoises do more dps on average, a site like WMO would show the Hares being significantly ahead - because all of the parses where a Hare gets bad RNG are ignored, and only the positive RNG ones are selected.
  • Cooldowns/Fight Length.  Moonkins, for example, have Force of Nature.  Mine generally do roughly 40k damage, and I can use them once per 3 minutes.  40k/180 = 222 dps - but keep in mind that's a minimum.  If you graphed the dps gain from FoN compared to time, you would see 222 dps at every multiplier of 3 minutes - 3, 6, 9, etc.  And you would see spikes where the fight let you just fit in an extra FoN (30 second fights being the biggest, then 3:30, then 6:30, and so on).  Specs with cooldowns will therefore show as slightly higher on a site like WMO, because the parses where their cooldowns line up are going to be higher dps.
  • Fight Mechanics.  Generally people ignore cases like Hodir which obviously favor casters.  But even beyond that, certain fights favor certain class/specs just based on mechanics, movement, or even strategy.  Consider XT, where the heart phase favors cooldowns even more so then other fights.
  • Heroism.  Classes all scale a bit differently with heroism.  As a fight gets shorter and shorter, the classes that scale better will improve compared to others.
2) Self-Reinforcement
I was a feral (mostly tank, but I had dps gear) back in MH/BT.  Now feral dps was certainly sub-par because it just didn't scale.  But even if you took that into account, feral dps was lower then it should have been for a couple of reasons:
  • Feral dps didn't get gear.  Loot council wasn't going to give it to them over other classes, and many progression ferals in a dkp system passed loot to rogues/hunters/etc because hey - they get more use from it.
  • There's less incentive to min-max.  If no one expects you to put out awesome numbers, why does it matter if you do 1400 or 1300?
If there is a perception that your class does low dps, then that perception will create a negative reinforcement that will lower your dps even further - you will be less likely to get gear, to take gear (I know at least one of the spriests in my guild passes on certain upgrades because he feels other classes get more use out of them), and there's less personal incentive to do well.

And the real catch-22 of this is that these additional factors will reinforce that original perception of your spec, helping to cement it.  Perception that shadow priests do bad dps (maybe true) = shadow priests get less gear/min-max less = shadow priests do bad dps (true) = perception that shadow priest dps is low.

I don't know if ele shaman/spriest dps is fine now.  I'm doubtful that ~50 spell power would fix the spriest issues.  But I think the disparity players see is probably exaggerated compared to reality and the truth is somewhere in-between.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

4t9 update

I switched to 4t9 from 2t8/2t9 earlier this week and wanted to give an update of how it's going so far.

On most single target fights I noticed no significant difference between this and 2t8/2t9, dps was within the ~5% of RNG.  Hodir dps was better then expected (15k and I didn't get many crit buffs) so that was positive.
Freya3 I saw a slight improvement but not significant, YS1 I saw a decent improvement.

ToC (Heroic 25):
Northrend Beasts - no significant difference in overall dps.
Lord Jaraxxus - I managed to get RNG screwed on both portals this week and couldn't get Eclipse up for either, which made me feel better about switching to 4t9.  It's doubtful that extra bit of starfire dps made the difference, but you never know - portal dps is usually very close and 2t8 wouldn't have helped at all.
Faction Champions - N/A, since I spend most of my time CCing.
Twins - dps went up slightly.  I suspect most moonkins would have seen a dps decrease here, but our strat requires me to move a lot and play catcher.  So more damage from DoTs and lower Eclipse uptime means the stats/bonus from 4t9 showed up.
Anub'arak - Comparing to last week I saw roughly a 5-6% dps increase.  About 1% of this is from switching to the Starfall Glyph, but most of it is from extra damage to the boss - lots of haste/SP means adds die faster and I switch back to the boss quicker, which adds up.  Eclipse uptime is also a little lower here then normal, because I either AOE during Eclipse or during time I should be proccing Eclipse.

I'm happy with the dps increase just for Anub, that's the fight we're really working on this week so anything I can do to increase damage there I consider a good thing.  The higher mana pool seems to help for Anub as well, since AOE is so heavy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I am just going to talk about this briefly.  WiseEclipse is an addon that allows the last Starfire in your Lunar Eclipse to proc Solar Eclipse.  It does this by canceling your Lunar Eclipse buff right after the last Starfire (based on cast time).

Using this addon almost feels like hacking - it's not, but it's so good that it seems that way.  This greatly improves your dps by increasing Eclipse uptime, I highly recommend it.

The best download I've found is here:
Search for WiseEclipse.  If you don't want to use an addon, there's also a macro you can use for the same effect.  You will need something to open a .rar file if you don't have it, I use WinRar.

I found this because of Hamlet on TMR in this post - I don't know if he wrote the addon (it's unclear) but he deserves credit for the EJ post and the macro.

The Weakest Moonkin Talents

I'm sure most of you are aware that Lissanna recently asked an open question:
If you could change one talent in any of the druid talent trees, what would it be? You could talk about what you want it changed to, or just talk about what makes it a weak talent that should be either changed or replaced in some way.
 I was originally not going to post about it, but after reviewing other responses I realized that my answer was different from pretty much everyone else.  So here are the talents I'd change right now if I could:

Starlight Wrath - reduces the cast time of your Wrath and Starfire spells by 0.5 sec.
This talent isn't bad for dps - in fact it's extremely good.  The problem with this talent is that Wrath already has a base cast time of 2 seconds, and reducing that to 1.5 ties it to the GCD.  This is a major scaling issue for moonkins with Nature's Grace, as it soft caps our haste at 400.  I would like to see this talent changed to something like the following:
reduces the cast time of your Starfire spell by 0.5 sec, and increases the damage and mana cost of Wrath by 40%.
This would allow moonkin dps to scale with haste for a *lot* longer then before - in fact, during heroism we wouldn't haste cap with Wrath until 494 haste rating.

I'm sure some of you are going to point out that 40% damage is more then the 33.33% (repeating, of course) Wrath gets right now from Starlight Wrath, but that's not really true - remember that damage talents are additive (when they effect specific spells).  Just because of Moonfury this would drop to roughly a 36% dps boost, and it would also reduce scaling from Eclipse slightly - which should be balanced out by the haste/heroism scaling.

Moonglow/Nature's Majesty/Vengeance/Celestial Focus/Moonfury - gain X effect for A, B, C, and D spells.
This obviously isn't one talent, but rather is all the talents in the balance tree with a specific criteria - they effect 3+ specific spells by name, when I believe they should just effect either 1) all spells, or 2) everything in the balance tree.  If you look at pure dps classes, they have talents like "increase the damage of all fire spells by X%" or "increase the critical strike damage from all frost spells by 100%".  This isn't a huge deal for single-target dps, but it does have major implications for moonkin aoe when compared to mages/warlocks.

While there are other talents that are very weak, I consider these to be the most in need of an overhaul right now - they have the biggest impact because most of them are talents that every moonkin takes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Typhoon In a Raiding Environment

I just want to talk about a much maligned balance ability (at least in the context of raiding):
Typhoon - you summon a violent Typhoon that does 1190 Nature damage when in contact with hostile targets, knocking them back and dazing them for 3 sec.

Two caveats:
Typhoon has no place in a single-target build/rotation.  It's inefficient, is minimal dps even if you only use it while moving, and is difficult to use.
Unglyphed Typhoon is a tank's nightmare, and I've never found a good use for it in pve.  Eliminating the knockback is key, and there's no excuse as it's just a minor glyph.

So with that said, there is one situation where Typhoon shines and is absolutely amazing in a raid - burst aoe dps.  The reason for this is because of Typhoon's interaction with two talents every raiding moonkin should have:
Nature's Grace  - Typhoon will almost always proc this.  This means that you if you use Typhoon and then hurricane with the 20% haste, you will actually cast both spells in less time then an unhasted hurricane - meaning the damage from Typhoon is extra, it doesn't cost you any time to use.
Omen of Clarity - Typhoon has a pretty good chance of proccing OoC, which significantly defrays the cost when you follow it with a hurricane.

Now burst aoe dps is a pretty narrow nitch, but there are three difficult fights I like to use it on:
1) Freya 3-Elder:  This is probably the best fight for it, in my experience.  My detonating lasher phases look something like:
Typhoon->Hurricane->Hurricane->Starfall while adds are pulled away->Hurricane->Typhoon to finish them off

And as a secondary benefit, Typhoon is useful as instant damage to kill the roots (although they are much easier now because trinkets/freedom/shifting removes them), or on the triplet phase if you can arrange to hit all three.  But I find its best use to be in that lasher phase where it can really pump up the damage you put out.
2) Yogg-Saron, Alone in the Darkness:  Typhoon can be really huge in phase three as it really increases your damage on the adds - and lowering add health fast is pretty key to keeping tanks alive.  I do find it's not as useful as I originally thought, because you can't always turn around for Sanity reasons.
3) Anub'arak, Heroic 25:  While you will generally not be chaining aoe on this fight, a Typhoon->Hurricane near the start of each add set can be really big burst dps.  You may not need to aoe on this fight, but we find limited caster aoe helps get the adds down (NOTE: I have not killed this boss, this is only what I have done on progression - so take this with a grain of salt.  It does match with information I've gotten from other guilds that use limited caster aoe to help with adds).

There are of course other fights where Typhoon is useful (Kolo, Razorscale, etc) but they're not too difficult so I won't really go into them.  But the above three are the fights where I find Typhoon to be worth the marginal single-target dps loss of dropping a point from Improved Insect Swarm.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Switching from 2t8 to 4t9.

2t8: Increases the bonus granted by Eclipse for Starfire and Wrath by 15%.
4t9: Increases the damage done by your Starfire and Wrath spells by 4%.

I've recently decided to switch early to 4t9 from 2t8 (by "early" I mean before I can access ilvl 258 tier), and I just wanted to go over some reasons and logic for that, given that on average I should lose 1-2% dps from the change.

1) 2t8 is not consistent for burst dps.
Most if not all of the math I see on moonkin dps is about average, sustained dps.  I don't have a problem with this as it's the best and most consistent way to thoerycraft, but it is important to realize that it's not all of the story.  There are many situations, especially in hard modes, where burst dps is a very important consideration.  Off the top of my head:
XT's heart.
The Saronite Animus on General
Lord Jaraxxus, killing Nether Portals/Infernal Volcanos.
Twin Valks, breaking shields.
Anub p3
(Note: by "burst dps" I mean any dps situation roughly 90 seconds or smaller, where the value of cooldowns will be exaggerated by the short time frame).

The problem with 2t8 in these situations is that it isn't consistent, and I'll use an example from Lord Jaraxxus yesterday.  On the first Nether Portal of the kill I got lucky and it procced with a Lunar Eclipse, so I was chaining starfire crits at 16k each.  On the second, I couldn't get an Eclipse proc and so was only hitting for 7-7.5k, and less often - because of no nature's grace.  So while we killed both in time, my personal contribution dropped by almost 50% simply because of an Eclipse proc.  The fact that I use 2t8 increased that difference.

A second factor in 2t8 is that it simply doesn't scale as well with heroism - you will almost certainly waste a Solar Eclipse proc everytime that cooldown is used, and that means your 2t8 isn't doing you any good.

2) 2t8 increases RNG.
Obviously all classes have RNG (random number generator - in this case referring to how much randomness effects dps), some more then others.  Moonkins with Eclipse - and especially with 2t8 - have more then most.  2t8 is an average dps increase of roughly 6%, which is very good.  The problem is that 6% is only a theoretical number - on any single fight you could see anywhere from 4% to 10% from it, for example.  Possibly more or less - it's hard to say.

Now it's awesome when the stars align and you get a perfect dps parse to top the meters, but it's less awesome when the stars line up, beat you up with baseball bats and you place 15th.  Moonkins are always going to have RNG until and if they change Eclipse, but 2t8 adds even more. 

This is really important now with limited attempt hard modes - before we killed Twin Valks on heroic we had a 0% wipe, and it was close enough that if RNG had been a bit different we might have killed it.  So consistent dps can be really valuable.

3) I have way too much hit.
Ok, this is a personal reason and not one most of you will have, but it's one to consider.  The two pieces of t8 I use are the gloves and the legs, with a combined hit total of 116.  I recently picked up a dagger upgrade and gained 51 hit, which means I am now 87 hit over the cap.  Dropping 2t8 for 4t9 will let me convert some of that extra hit into useful dps stats, and while I might end up socketing a little hit to make the 236 cap, it will be more then worth it.

4) 4t9 will increase my gearscore.
...kidding.  Really.

5) 4t9 allows more flexibility in rotation. 
Another weakness of theorycrafting is that it generally only considers single target situations.  There are a fair amount of situations where this isn't the case - Yogg-Saron p2 being the biggest one right now.  This is a fight where dotting multiple corrupters plus the crusher isn't padding the meters but is a real necessity for the hard modes - that stuff needs to die consistently for p3 to be smooth.

The problem with 2t8 here is that it increases the opportunity cost of ignoring Eclipse - because so much of your dps is tied into that one ability, ignoring it to multi-target DoT really hurts.  It's still a dps gain, but it's less of one.  4t9 isn't tied to Eclipse, so it becomes more worthwhile to DoT up a bunch of things and just make use of Eclipse where you can.

Another benefit is that by reducing the benefit of Eclipse, you can reapply DoTs slightly more often and still see a dps gain - instead of being 6+ seconds, you instead want to reapply at 4+ for IS, and 3+ for Moonfire.  That leads to a bit more consistent rotation and damage, because more of your dps is coming from those DoTs instead of more RNG-dependent spells.

Those are the main considerations I made before deciding this.  I consider those reasons pretty valid, but of course your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Economics of Raiding

So this really isn't about moonkins per se, but it's something I've had bouncing around in my head for a bit and I wanted to post on it.  As you may or may not know, a lot of guilds (including mine for some attempts) used the soulstone exploit/trick to kill some bosses in H 25 ToC that otherwise probably wouldn't have died.  I don't want to get into whether or not we SHOULD use it, but I will point out that 1) Blizzard knows about it, and 2) top guilds (Paragon/Ensidia) use it.  Personally I consider it closer to an exploit then anything else, but I also don't mind using it if other guilds are to be competitive - WoW raiding is not exactly a "fair sportstmanship" environment.

The interesting thing I found about the soulstone exploit is this - it's only really viable now because the "currency" of raiding changed with ToC.  Before the primary driver of "how fast you downed bosses" was the number of hours you raided per week.  More hours = more attempts, more attempts = kill things faster.  Now obviously this isn't the only factor - skill also plays a part, and guilds like Ensidia/Paragon/Stars are almost certainly at a higher skill level then my own guild.  But after skill the number of attempts you make is a primary driver of how fast you kill bosses, and the reason a lot of top guilds WERE top guilds is because they could put so many hours into the game.  Not the only factor, but certainly one to consider.

So we have years of WoW raiding where a major factor in progression is hours raided per week.  Then we have 3.2, ToC and the tribute system.  Suddenly hours-per-week really isn't a factor anymore, and instead the major factor is the individual quality of each attempt.  This includes factors such as strategy, planning, individual awareness - stuff that normally develops over time as you learn encounters.  And suddenly soulstoning half your raid does not hurt you by limiting attempts, because your attempts are already limited by Blizzard.

And this is where the economics come in.  Because the tribute/ToC system changes the currency of raiding from "time" to "quality-per-attempt", you get maximum value for your raid by having as many cooldowns as possible for every single attempt, as well as checking combat logs and doing a lot of strategy discussion.  So legit stuff like battle rez, LoH, ankh, or other long cooldowns become important to have, and it also includes the soulstone exploit.  With the way Blizzard has designed the system and how sites like wowprogress determine ranking, it's something that a lot of serious guilds are going to start using - until and if it's fixed.