Saturday, 31 May 2008

To Group or Not To Group?

Aurik at /hug posted an article on his blog about boosting or PUGing 'old skool' (pre-Burning Crusades) instances. I thought the topic was interesting and wanted to put my own thoughts without bombing the poor guy's comments.

Why Do People Get Boosts?

Many people I know who get boosts do so because finding a group for a given instance is hard, because no one wants to do it. They fail to see the chink in the armour of their logic here. If they take themselves out of the availiable pool of people looking to do the instance, then there's fewer people looking and so getting a group becomes harder. Not many people need to decide to get a boost before a tipping point is reached where most people get boosts because a given instance has a reputation for being hard to pick a group up for.

Another reason people get boosts is because they're sick and tired of people who can't play their class making the instance harder than it needs to be. The mages opening with Pyroblast? the healers who actually can't? The rogues stealthing ahead of the group and pulling? The tanks only even trying to hold agro on one target? The groups who don't want to use the Lucky Charms, or seem incapable of following kill orders? I am talking to all of you guys. You, and people like you, make those of us who have seen what a competant person playing your class at your level can do, not want to continue PUGing low level instances. You guys make it too hard to be fun.

Why Are There Problems With Boosting?

I have already somewhat covered why there are problems with people getting boosts from my first point - they add to the problem of too few people wanting to run a given instance.

People who don't run instances because of point two have a similar effect. They remove the number of competant people from the pool of available PUGers. If you're noticing people doing things outragiously stupid, chances are you are not doing those things yourself. Chances are also good that you are raising the general group competance just by being there, doing your thing. Taking yourself out of the pool means that future competant people will find the same situation you have, and do the same thing you have done.

Why Should I Care?

Well, most of the points I have raised have been about your decisions impact on those who come after you. The general disintigration of the PUGing community for the pre-Burning Crusades instances isn't something that's going to get people protesting in the streets of Stormwind and Orgrimmar, or indeed, caring very much at all. But it's worth bearing in mind the next time you bemoan how crap PUGing lower level instances is, you can either become part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Also, I disagree with Aurik's assessment of the potential experience benefits of not getting a boost. I have always found that a run with people of the right level is of benefit when learning my class. I may not have all of my killer abilities, but I will have my staple abilities (generally, probably exception being Ragefire Chasm) which I can learn to use well. As a tank it's less stressful to learn how to hold multiple targets' worth of threat when you have some give with regards how fast people die to rampaging mobs. If you were to wait until level 70 to learn this stuff (because that's when you'll have all of your killer abilities at their max) then chances are you'll be labled as the worst tank in the world and ditched fairly quickly. Unless you are on a server with a massive lack of tanks, of course, when you will still be fed caviar and told how awesome you are.

Final Thoughs?

Boosting is here to stay. As are losers who ask over trade for a boost for 5g. I play a feral druid, which is possibly the best boosting class in the game (prot/holy paladin might be better, case dependent). I have boosted people through Blackrock Depths, soloed Lower Blackrock Spire, and two manned Upper Blackrock Spire (with the hinderance of a third person we had to call in to activate the first boss) without a healer. But I get nothing out of boosting some little scrub who asks over trade. It's not a profitable thing to do. In the time it takes me to boost them in Shadowfang Keep (20 minutes in and out), for example, I could do three or four daily quests and get about 30 gold and not have the hassle of them pulling agro.

I'd like to not have to boost or be boosted in any instance, but the fact is that I have friends who are going to get frustrated (and am going to get frustrated myself) and ask me for a boost. I will almost certainly help these friends, because that's the sort of person I am, and it can be fun to boost someone who is cracking jokes over the party channel every now and then and isn't trying to help out. 'Helping out', in my experience, often leads to running around like a loon trying to stop them from being killed.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Leveling Professions

Generally I will level up my professions as I go. I don't spend money on them, really, except for learning new patterns, but I do try to keep them at the right level for me so I don't have to face the grind when I hit 70. Another reason I do this is because you can generally make some money out of your professions. Not much, sure, but it is enough to cover the costs of learning the patterns for most professions.

Enchanting is different. Enchanting is my bane. I want a high level enchanter, because when you start to get the really good enchants you can start to make some money at it, and you also become really helpful to your guild and friends. Sadly, since there is so little money to make from leveling it I tend to let it slip behind my leveling and have yet to get my enchanting skill much over 100 with any of my characters.

What I would like to see is enchants being made more like the glyphs and inscriptions. Namely something that the enchanter can make and put up on the auction house for someone else to buy and apply themselves. Meeting up with morons is the hardest part of selling enchants and making them into self-apply patches would help take away the need to actually meet your customer and wonder if he's ever going to put your fee in the trade window so you can accept and get going.

Also, if you could trade them over the auction house then you'd actually get to see what value most enchanters put on their enchants. The number of times I've had some bottom-feeder tell me that an enchant isn't worth the cost of the mats I am putting into it (they often claim that another enchanter did it for them for a fraction of the mats cost) is silly. I want to see if these people are right. If other enchanters reall are selling an enchant with 2g worth of mats for 20s. Mainly because I'd like to laugh at them, then slap them, then sulk off into a corner and cry.

So, yeah. I want enchanting to be made into a profession which can be done as if on a one-player game, so sue me. I just don't like dealing with the great unwashed of WoW and with every other profession I get to avoid dealing with them.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Class Choices

Class choice can be hard. With so much conflicting information around it can be difficult to choose which class to play. The best advice I can give is to try it. If you like the look of a class, give it a go. Level it for the first twenty or so levels to get a bit of a feel for it. If you like it then keep going. However, some people like to know a little about a class before they start, so here are some of my opinions, given with a pinch of salt.

So here's a brief class by class... well... ramble I guess is the best word.

Druids

This is my current main class, and one that I've only ever played as feral. However, I know that if I were to take Ghosthoof PvP I would respec resto, because most PvP fights are won or lost by the healers, not the DPS, and druids make excellent PvP healers because they're so hard to crowd control. Anyone who has tried to take out a group of three players, two of who are resto druids protecting a third damage dealer, will know how impossible it is without a good healer of your own and at least six effective damage dealers to keep both the druids busy.

In PvE all three of the druid's specs can be useful. Resto druids can heal with the best of them, balance druids (also known as boomkins) can make some nice DPS and feral druids can tank better than warriors or paladins until abour T5 level.

Hunters

For all that you will be told that hunters are the easiest class, they aren't. You need to invest a lot of time into theorycrafting to get the best out of your hunter. You need to work out which pet is the best for your current gear level. You need to work out which rotation to use with your weapon. You need to work out whether your current gear level means agility or attack power gems are better for you. And as soon as you get a gear upgrade you need to work it all out again. You will also probably find that you need to respec your talents more than any other class because what was a good talent spec when you hit 70 might not be great once you've got a lot of attack power and crit. And so it goes on. Hunters, easy to level, pains in the backside to play at level 70.

Marksman hunters are terrible in a raid environment. Beast master hunters are very good as are survival. However, none will reach their potential without a lot of work. We recently had a T5 equipped hunter doing 300 DPS less than a T4 equiped hunter because of the T5 hunter hadn't put the time in to learn their class. And to head off any suggestions to the contrary, the T4 hunter was also bringing more raid buffs and utility. The T5 hunter was just bad.

Traps make the hunter a very good PvP class for taking out melee classes, while an appropriate talent spec can make them very good caster killers as well.

Mages

Mages tend to have to arrange their talents for either maximum DPS or for survivability. Mages, like hunters, have tricks they should learn in order to maximise their DPS, but it's no where near as difficult or time consuming to master a mage as it is to master a hunter. Mages also have the easiest and most sought after crowd control in the game - Polymorph.

Deep fire with some arcane tend to be the highest damage dealers, while deep frost with some arcane tend to be the most survivable. The arcane tree provides some nice boosts to your damage, but it is generally better to go deep into either fire or frost and fill out in arcane.

Mages have some nice PvP power, but due to their cloth armour can find themselves the prey of rogues and other high burst damage DPS classes.

Paladin

Paladins have two viable raiding specs, holy or protection. Retribution is alright, but will often find itself skipped for a better DPS class. I've seen people boast about getting 800 DPS in their retribution gear, but invariably an equally geared true damage dealer will be on more like 1100 - 1200 DPS.

Holy allows the paladin to root their feet and heal almost constantly, with the right gear, while protection paladins are the best multiple (4 or more) target tanks in the game due to consecration.

Priest

Discipline priests are rumoured to be excellent in PvP, although I have never really played with one.

Holy priests are generally the first thing to be killed in PvP, but they make excellent raid healers, with a vast number of abilities meaning that they can either take main tank healing or group healing duties, and do both very well.

Shadow priests provide a raid with a lot of utility and are able to provide another source of mana for your other casting classes, which can greatly reduce the cost to the raid of pots. However, shadow priest damage is not amazing and most of the time one shadow priest is enough for a ten man raid.

Rogue

Rogues make fantastic PvP and PvE damage dealers. With the right spec a rogue will almost always be the top of the damage meters and kill charts. Rogues also benefit from being able to choose their fights by using their stealth ability. On more than one occasion as my shaman I've found myself sapped as I ran along with the pack in AV and had to watch the rest of my group rush off while I awaited the inevitable stun-lock death.

Once you have mastered the stun-lock you will be most of the way towards being an imba rogue in PvP, while the correct skill rotation will enable you to be the best damage dealer in an instance.

Shaman

The only really viable talent spec for a shaman in PvP is resto. Enhancement is particularly bad as it requires you to get up close and personal, without any means of crowd control.

Elemental shamans are exceptional damage dealers in a PvE environment, and provide good raid buffs with their totems, and even in poor gear will be able to keep up with the other DPS classes. Enhancement shaman provide good damage with excellent raid buffs. An enhancement shaman in a DPS warrior and rogue group will boost the DPS of those group members, sometimes by as much as 100 DPS each. If that bonus DPS were added to the shaman, instead of to the rogue or warrior, then the enhancement shaman would be the highest damage dealer in almost every raid.

Warlocks

A well played destruction or affliciton warlock is a boon to any raid, providing a large amount of damage output with some of the best AoE and raid utility power in the game.

Demonology warlocks suffer greatly in a raid environment, and should not really be allowed in unless there is no other choice.

In PvP warlocks are able to fear, an excellent form of crowd control, while DoTing up multiple targets and healing themselves at the same time. Many people complain that they kill the warlock, only to die a while later from the warlock's DoTs.

Warlocking

So, I get a little bored of daily quests. Okay, very bored. I can't just do the same thing day after day (some may argue that leveling is just the same thing due to the nature of Blizzard's quests, but at least each day you're in a different place with different mobs).

Because of this I wanted to make a new alt. So, some time soon I am going to adding a warlock to my group of 70's.

Now, I know that many people will probably consider me a little crazy, since I only recently got my shaman to 70 and am in a guild that, aside from not needing any more warlocks at all, needs to concentrate on progression raiding and gearing up mains rather than gearing up lower geared alts. But I just don't like running around doing nothing except farming mats for consumables and raiding. I want to be doing something else, something that will keep my interest for a good length of time.

Also, leveling a class that could actually do damage (shaman) was a real eye opening experience. My priest was hell to level, I hated it. My druid was nice to level, he plodded along being really hard to kill, but also being really slow to kill stuff. Then my shaman just blazed through mobs as if they weren't there. I'd often be able to kill something before it even made it half way to me. It was amazing.

So now I'm going to play about with a class that has innate tanking from its pet and see how that suits me. The only realistic choice was a warlock, since hunters at level 70 are so god damn complicated, with shot rotations and weapon speed theorycrafting to consider, that it's not worth the hassle.

PvP Part 2

A while back I wrote a post about my opinions of PvP and the skill required to take part in it. You can find that post here if you want to read it first and come back to this post.

Little has happened to change my opinion of the order of importance in a PvP battle. I still firmly believe the order goes: Class synergy > Gear > Connection > 'Skill'.

People who PvP a lot will argue for the 'skill' component to be higher, claiming that they have this 'skill' as shown by the way they have gotten better at PvP. Most people like this that I talk to will argue that the gear they have picked up as a result of the boring PvP grind hasn't helped, they have simply gotten more 'skillful' and so more able to win in PvP.

As an example of my order I would like to tell a little story. I play a PvE tanking druid, as anyone who has read much of my blog will know. I PvP with my tanking gear on because I will often be able to take the heat of three or four of the enemy guys for a good while, and if they are focusing on me then they are not working towards the objective of the battleground and they aren't even HK farming very well! One on one I will almost always beat a rogue. The only time I don't is when I meet full S3 rogues who manage to start off by stun-locking me while I'm in cat form. Even then it's a close run thing since if they let me have a moment to change forms to bear then they start to find that their once imba hits are now weak and pathetic, and if I get to face them then I have between 36 and 40% dodge rate, so they tend to fail at continuing their stun-lock. Then it's just a matter of DoTing them up with Lacerate, continuing to use Maul and Mangle whenever I can and watching their health dissapear. They can make it take longer by using Evasion and Cloak of Skill, but for every seven or eight seconds the fight lasts I'm getting an extra 750 health from Improved Leader of the Pack procs, and they're doing 75% less physical damage each hit they manage to land due to my armour mitigation. If a friendly healer comes along then the rogue will normally be able to kill them before I kill him, since it does take me a while, but it can be funny when an S3 rogue jumps you, stun-locks your poor feeble cat-self, gets a good slice of your HP off of you and then is winning the war of attrition, only to find that his hard work is undone in seconds by some priest who just happened along. The feral druid class synergy is so much better than the rogue that I can often take two rogues who are equally geared as me, since they hit for next to nothing on my thick bear butt while I still hit for my full amount.

Of course, as a feral druid I don't have the burst damage to kill a healer. On the other hand though, a healer can't kill me. So it tends to become just a case of /greet and move on.

On the other hand, my elemental shaman is killed as soon as any PvP fight is engaged. I think this may be because of the reputation of the shaman as a 'free kill', but then any class that has the entire enemy line start to hit them is a 'free kill'. The only class I've seen be able to stand up to a long duration of enemy focus fire is a restoration druid in really good gear. It took a full group's worth of horde to kill one restoration druid in a recent AB I was in, for example. Shaman are fun in PvP before level 70, where it seems that people have decided that the shaman must die first and so they focus in on me with an accuracy that would make most 'smart missiles' blush and admit their total lack of 'smartness'.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Tempest Keep Take One

Yesterday Coup de Grace took their first tentative steps into a tier five instance. Our raid leader who was initially supposed to be organising the run was hit by a terrible case of Real Life just before it was supposed to start, so I decided to take it on my shoulders to get things moving. I invited everyone who was online and signed up for the run and monitored people logging on and brought them into the raid when they were on. It took a little while to get 25 people together but we eventually managed it, despite the run looking like it was cursed to never happen.

Our plan was to go into Tempest Keep and take out Void Reaver. We spent two hours on the trash on the way to him. I don't think anyone was really prepared for how long that would take (except the two people in the raid which had been in The Eye before). So, we arrived at Void Reaver eventually and a little bit of tactical discussion took place. Then a little bit more. Then a bit of reorganising the groups. Then a little more discussion. Finally I suggested we take a pop at him and then decide what had gone wrong if we wiped, which people agreed to.

I was tanking, along with three other tanks - a warrior, a paladin and another druid. The agro was passing between me and the other druid tank as Void Reaver did his knock back. Our first attempt went really well. We lost too many people to the orbs so we didn't beat the enrage timer but we got him down to 9% before he killed us all. After a small number of adjustments in the raid layout (spreading the healers out and keeping the tanks on the same side of VR as the tank healers) we managed to down the big fel reaver. So now that's Gruul on the first night, Maggy on the first night and Void Reaver on the first night. Lovely.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Progress

Darkmaw had his first Karazhan outing this week. Despite being still in greens and some blues (one green was level 62!) the guild was willing to take me. I came third on the damage meters in some fights too, fourth overall, which I was so happy about. At least I was contributing to the effort, not just soaking up the loot.

I got a cloth robe and the nature damage ring as well as my T4 heap piece, which was great and has really boosted my DPS. Now if only I could get an upgrade for my level 62 green cloak...

We also did our first guild-only Gruul run this week. One-shotted both bosses and walked away with the loot. I went there with Ghosthoof and took home my T4 legs. Excellent.

The reason we were able to get a guild run to Gruul is that we recently absorbed another guild. It's fantastic to be able to integrate a bunch of people with such similar aims!

There was me thinking the guild was self-destrcuting a while back, now we have 30 sign ups to one Gruul run! We are also running multiple ZA runs and multiple Karazhan runs for badges and gear for lower geared characters (like my Darkmaw!)