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.