Aug 302012
 

(No WoW content, just a quick PSA. Feel free to skip.)I like this, even if it's an XKCD knockoff.

As August winds down, I see that the site broke 50k visitors this month for the first time since the Cataclysm release, which is totally awesome. Seriously. I’m waving graphs at my wife right now, and she’s laughing at me. Yes, I’m a big nerd. Leave me alone.

Unfortunately, donations haven’t kept track. This whole month, I’ve had a grand total of 2 (yes, two) donations.  For you stats fans, that’s a 0.00004% donation rate.

This isn’t a “hey give me money you freeloader” nag. I have a great job with the Army that pays me well, so I’m not starving or anything, and frankly, there’s a hell of a lot of more important things to be spending money on then donating money to some dude who writes about numbers in an online game.  That said, I’m now spending several hundred dollars a year on various web-related expenses, and my wife has hinted that the family budget would appreciate it if the site could support itself a little better.

As such, I’m going to be exploring some advertising options for the site. (Yes, I have Google Adsense right now, but that’s pennies a day.)  I promise that this won’t turn into AdTown Central; I hate the damn websites that have a tiny square of content surrounded by fifteen ads, and I know you do too. If you’ve been following me for a while, you should know I have standards; I try really hard not to put out something that sucks. If someone wants to pay me to pitch something, you’ll know it’s a sponsored post/placement, and I’ll never do stupid stuff like “hey, I’m going to break this 2000-word article into five parts so you have to click through and read a new ad on every page!” If you think I’m being hypocritical, let me know in the comments/forums and we’ll talk about it.

If you want to advertise, contact me via the form on my About Me page, and we’ll work something out.

PSA over. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. If you read this far, here’s a bonus: I’ve started working up a feral/guardian gear list, and here’s the first draft.

P.S. Oh,  I don’t mind if you use Adblock or something to that effect; hell, I use Adblock all the time. Just remember that for a lot of Internet-types who aren’t as fortunate as me to have a great job, ad revenue is something they eat off of, so try to do something to help them out every now and then. Doesn’t have to be a donation; just share a link, tell a friend, namedrop in trade chat, whatever. Thanks.

 Posted by at 11:26 am
Aug 282012
 

Since we’re in maintenance hell, I did some quick preliminary stat value runs with Simulationcraft. Obviously, this is very subject to change depending on what Blizzard changes, what SimC bugs get fixed, profile changes, etc., but at least here’s a starting point. All weights have a 0.035 margin of error; DPS has a 0.1% MoE. (Please don’t look at the DPS number too strongly, it is likely off substantially.)

Balance (T14H profiles, one with DoC, one with NV)

Stat NV DoC
DPS 107191 120151
Intellect 4.05 4.50
Spirit/Hit 2.90 2.70
Crit 2.25 2.21
Haste 1.88 2.01
Mastery 1.77 1.85

Balance is pretty interesting, as it has some good secondary stats. The numbers in bold above indicate the stats that currently surpass intellect in terms of gemming (since you get twice as much secondary stats as primary stats on gems). Mastery’s pretty poor, but crit jumps in front of haste as the go-to stat after you hitcap.

Feral (T14H profiles, one with HoTW, one with DoC)

Stat HoTW DoC
DPS 111066 117657
Agility 4.05 4.82
Hit/Exp 1.33 1.52
Crit 1.49 1.61
Haste 1.36 1.36
Mastery 1.56 1.88

Feral is a little less interesting. Mastery is definitely tops if you have DoC, and still best for a more traditional setup, though not by as much. Crit is second (CP’s are precious), and hit/exp is next or tied with haste. Either way, though, there’s no reason to go away from stacking all-agi like some of the other classes do; none of the stats come even withing spitting distance of 50% agi’s value.

I’ll rerun this closer to release to see how things have changed.

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Aug 272012
 

Apparently, there were a TON of cool blue posts for druids over the weekend, so here’s a roundup.

GC on Savage Roar:

A single post on a feral thread that said “we’re aware of your frustrations, but we really believe this is the best course for the class” would go a long way towards keeping a happy community while literally asking for 15 seconds of time. If you can give us a reason that’s even better, but if you can’t, just let us know you see our problem but believe the dev team is right on this one.

I actually disagree with this, but we’ll see what happens. Usually when we say we disagree with a change for which players are arguing passionately, our comments don’t usually resolve anything. They throw fuel on the fire and players can get more worked up because now they see a glimmer of hope that if we’re communicating on the topic, that they now have a glimmer of hope to get us to change our minds.

We regretted what Savage Roar became in Cataclysm. We know that the depth of the Feral rotation was something that attracted a lot of players to that spec, and we feel like we removed too much of that by de-emphasizing Savage Roar to such an extent. Yes, Savage Roar takes some attention and skill to manage. The effectiveness for which you do so is one of the things that separates great cats from merely good ones. Furthermore, if you screw up Savage Roar completely, the penalty just isn’t that dire.

Now I chose that word “depth” on purpose. We don’t believe in needless complexity for its own sake. We greatly respect Cynwise, but when you read what he or she is talking about, a lot of it comes from warlocks having these extra buttons that weren’t really intended for their rotation but that players understandably try to jam in there because it will theoretically improve their DPS. Part of the Mists overhaul of what specs and talents mean is not to give specs buttons that they really don’t need and aren’t intended for them. In 5.0, Destruction warlocks don’t have Corruption to mess with.

That’s not the case with Ferals. It would be if you were trying to use say Faerie Fire or even Maul rotationaly. The Feral rotation we designed is pretty much what Feral players are actually using. Yes, the rotation would be easier if you could spend every combo point on Rip without having to worry about also maintaining Savage Roar. The rotation would also be easier if we removed Rake and just let you always Mangle instead of Shred. We think that’s too much simplification though.

In our minds, the Lich King Feral rotation was too complex. We think we made it too simple in Cataclysm. The change is intended to strike a balance between the two.

Sadly, I agree on the glimmer of hope thing. Either devs comment on something and attract hundreds of unrelated posts to that thread since “hey, here’s where the devs are!” or they don’t comment and we start seeing “devs obv don’t play X class” posts.

Moving on from that, though (and go back and read the original post in full, not just the quote, as it doesn’t make sense otherwise), GC appears to have two points, which I’ll address in turn.

  • Feral rotation was too complicated in WOTLK, too simple in Cataclysm, hopefully right for Mists. I’ll give that assessment a tentative thumbs-up, but that’s not really an answerable question without point #2.
  • He reiterates how he doesn’t want you jamming in non-rotational abilities to increase DPS; unfortunately, he fails to address the concerns about Dream of Cenarius/Healing Touch or Heart of the Wild/Wrathspam (more on this below), which is doing just that. From this, all I can conclude is “working as intended,” which tells me it’s not parsing especially high, so they’re not overly concerned about it. Either our sims are off, their data is off, or the sims just don’t translate well to a raid environment.

Crithto in the Class Analysis Part II:

We’re getting progressively closer to balance with each build. Despite some of the proclamations we’ve read lately, no class is intended to be on the bottom of the meters. The difference between the highest and the lowest DPS in the latest build is not 30%, 20%, or even 10%. Though certain fights may favor specific specs, we’re actually seeing most specs within 5% of each other. There are a few exceptions, however, which we intend to bring in line soon: Subtlety, Frost DKs, and Frost mages. Most are actually within 2% but the few in the 2-5% range (Arms, Fury, Marksmanship, Survival) will also be brought in line soon as well. Of course, we’ll be vigilant with keeping an eye on balance and making necessary tuning tweaks as time permits.

Now, this post was from a few days ago, but all indications are that they’re essentially done with balancing druid DPS. We shall see who’s right when we get actual log data, as Simulationcraft still has a theoretical 20% dropoff from first (fire, 13ok) to worst (marks, 102k).

There have been reports of absolutely ridiculous amounts of DPS being done with HotW. As a Guardian, Wrath is hitting for ~140k with a SP weapon when active. Similar values are being reported for Healing TouchI know I’ve been saying that HotW needed a buff, but even I think that’s a little on the overboard side of things.

The intention was that HotW allows you to DPS as strong as an equally-geared druid of each other spec on average. In other words, if a Guardian druid can Wrath for 140k with a 2sec cast, that’s 70k DPS before haste and crit. However, we’re not sure what gear exactly that was in, or with what cooldowns involved (it does seem on the high side). If you do any testing of how much DPS each spec can do while HotW’d into each other spec, we’d be very interested in seeing it. It’s quite possible that we over-buffed some of the combinations. Random aside: If anyone has logs that they’d like to share with us but keep private, we understand. Just post here about it and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do. No promises, though.

Well, glad we’ve got the design intent, we’ll see if it actually gets there. Based on the limited testing and observation I’ve seen, the cross-gear role switch is performing much better than intended (ferals doing 150% of their normal DPS just spamming Wrath, for example) so I imagine nobody wants to talk about it and just stack Druids to victory. SC is deliberately not modeling this behavior, believing that its a bug and it should not be a DPS increase to deliberately HoTW, but if it stays this way it’ll get added in eventually. We’ll see what happens.

The next posts presented mostly without comment:

Is it intended for there to be such a disparity between Starfire and Wrath?

Yes. Lunar side should be noticeably stronger single target damage than Solar side.

Force of Nature Treants should cast Healing Touch back-to-back so long as there are viable healing targets, so they do not lose potential casts under Heroism or even just from our own Haste. They are also maybe not inheriting our Crit? I got 3 crits out of 40 trials of 18 casts each, and my Crit rating is a lot higher than 0.4% ;)

We’ll see if we can get the trees to be more responsive. They should be inheriting your crit and haste, just not mastery.

Soul of the Forest is not affecting Tranquility at all, but Tranquility still consumes the Soul of the Forest buff.

The devs just tried this out today and when they looked at the data, everything seemed to be functioning properly. The haste from Soul of the Forest is reducing the channel time of Tranquility. It does not affect the HoT from that Tranquility, though, because it’s already been consumed by reducing the channel time.

Dream of Cenarius is not increasing the HoT portion of Swiftmend, even though that is now part of the spell itself and no longer an additional talent with a different spell name. DoC does work to empower both the direct heal and HoT components of Regrowth, which is IMO a similar enough spell to Swiftmend now that it should work both ways.

A fair point. It’s not built such that that would work, but we’ll consider making it work that way for the future.

Is the healing of Wild Mushrooms still being reworked? Transferring the mana cost to the Bloom spell instead of the Mushroom summon spell was a great change, but the Mushrooms themselves still do not heal for enough to warrant their usage. I could see very occasional use for them in fights where there is a long lull and the 3 seconds we spend setting up the mushrooms does not interfere with our healing, but honestly, using the GCD to blow them up is just not as compelling as using that GCD instead to cast a Wild Growth, or a Swiftmend, or even 1.5 Rejuvenations!

Wild Mushroom: Bloom (and Detonate) are instant and off the GCD. If you place them ahead of time, detonating them does not take any time away from casting anything else. They’re not intended to be used for sustained healing or damage, only for burst healing or damage.

Soul of the Forest does not give energy when used on Ferocious Bite, it correctly works with SR/Rip/Maim.

Yep, we found this bug and we’ll get it fixed as quickly as we can. It actually wasn’t always working with Rip, either.

Yay! SOTF should come up a bit now in actual parses (SC wasn’t modeling that bug, for obvious reasons). That’s it for the blue text; I’m still concerned about HoTW/DoC, but I think we’ll have to wait and get some solid WoL live data before that gets relooked.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm
Aug 272012
 

Patch 5.0 is coming! Of course, you’ve got my 5.0 survival guide if you’re just looking for the highlights, but several other druid bloggers have posted more detailed spec-specific stuff, which I’d like to highlight today.

  • Balance: The indomitable Lissanna has her 5.0 guide at Restokin. Team Waffle also had a Balance roundtable podcast; haven’t listened yet, but I’m pretty sure they covered everything you’d need to know.
  • Guardian: Arielle wrote a book (aka 7 forum posts) on prepping for 5.0 over at TIB.
  • Feral: *crickets* (Go read my forums or the official forums…if any other feral discussion is going on anywhere, I’d love to know.)
  • Resto: Beru’s got a 5.0 Resto FAQ at Falling Leaves and Wings.
 Posted by at 10:51 am
Aug 232012
 

Aggixx, who is maintaining the feral branch of SimulationCraft, helpfully shared this recently. (There’s some more detailed info in the thread on my forum here.)

DPS Chart

What does this tell us? (Remember, all of these rotations are still being tweaked in SimC, and Blizzard could still adjust abilities as well.)

  • A Dream of Cenarius rotation remains the theoretical best after the nerf, but only by a narrow margin. It looks to be a 3-4% DPS advantage, but it  remains to be seen whether the full DoC rotation can be implemented under actual raid conditions. Heart of the Wild and Nature’s Vigil appear to be relatively equal in terms of DPS benefits.
  • Soul of the Forest is also 3-4% stronger than the other two options, and unlike DoC, there’s no rotational change imposed by using it. At this point, I see no reason to take Incarnation/Force of Nature for DPS-maximization unless the fight mechanics explictly favor it. Force of Nature is very slightly ahead of Incarnation, by roughly 1%.
  • There is a less than 10% difference between the “worst” set of talents and the “best” set. This is a good thing; the vast majority of players will be able to pick the talents they prefer most.
 Posted by at 11:44 am
Aug 222012
 

 

I bumped into a friend yesterday who had casually played a Druid back in the early days of Cataclysm, and mentioned to him that the 5.0 patch was dropping next week. After giving me the “Really? o.o” face, he asked me, simply, “well, what changed?” I didn’t have a good answer,  so I decided to come back here and write a few thousand words. Behold! The Patch 5.0/Mists of Pandaria Druid Survival Guide! These short spec-specific guides will get you spun up for Mists within 15 minutes…or your internet back. (Really. I have two internets in my back pocket right now.)

  • Play a cuddly yet ferocious feral cat, rending enemies and balls of yarn with equal vigor? The 5.0 Feral Changes Guide is for you. Mind the memes. (EDIT: If you’re looking for something more comprehensive, here’s a full feral guide and gear list for 5.0.)
  • Prefer a great bear, gleefully hitting enemies’ fists and blades with your face? The 5.0 Guardian Changes Guide (new spec!) is this way.
  • Maybe you’re a manchicken spacecow who blasts things with lasers because nobody appreciates him? *cough* Er. Right. The 5.0 Balance Changes Guide.
  • Or last but DEFINITELY not least (yes dear), an arboreal-curious healer with delusions of leafhood? The 5.0 Restoration Changes Guide has taken root over here.

I have almost undoubtedly missed something while writing these up, so please comment here or on the guides themselves and I’ll fix it up.

Top post for a while; newer posts below.

 Posted by at 8:13 am
Aug 212012
 

Release candidate build!

Talents

Balance

  • Sunfire damage increased by 10%.

Well, kiss that top ranking for Feral in Simulationcraft goodbye. I don’t know actual numbers yet, but my feeling is that DoC will remain the top DPS talent for Feral, but by a much closer margin.  Balance, meanwhile, should climb out of the cellar a bit, though I’m not as tuned in to where they were on DoC so I can’t say for sure if that’ll remain tops for them.

 Posted by at 6:41 pm
Aug 192012
 

Hey druid fans, as many of you know, I’m also writing WoW Insider’s monk content, so I’m composing  guides for both classes. As it happens, I finished up the windwalker guide first, so go check it out and let me know what you think! I’ve excerpted the beginning below.


Introduction

Windwalker monks are a melee DPS class that was newly added to the game for the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Any race, except Worgen and Goblin, can be a monk. (All my pictures are pandaren because, well, that’s all the art at the moment.) Like all monks, they have two resources that must be managed; energy and chi.

Energy regenerates at a constant rate (10/sec), and is used to power several abilities. Windwalkers have a 100-point energy pool. Energy regeneration does scale with haste, and can also be temporarily buffed by Energizing Brew.

In contrast, chi is a static 4-point pool, similar to a paladin’s holy power, that decays when out of combat. To build chi, a windwalker monk will typically use a “chi builder,”  such as Jab, which hits for very little but generates chi. The windwalker monk’s hardest-hitting abilities, or “chi consumers,” use that chi to generate the bulk of the windwalker’s damage. The key difference between chi and other secondary resource systems (such as holy power or combo points) is that all chi consuming abilities have a fixed cost and damage, compared to the others where damage/effect scales based on the amount of secondary resource currently banked.

What does that mean? Well, it opens up your flexibility quite a bit. Rogues, for example, pretty much never use a finisher unless they’re at maximum combo points, because of the way it scales. In contrast, windwalkers have the flexibility to alternate chi builders and consumers for steady damage, or use multiple builders to store chi, and then multiple consumers for extra damage during a burst period.

Every fight against non-trivial enemies will require careful management of both resources. The two primary mistakes you want to avoid are chi dumping and energy capping. Chi dumping is using a chi builder when you are already at full chi (thereby wasting time and energy) whereas energy capping is allowing your energy meter to fill to 100, which causes your energy regeneration to stop. As you get used to the spec, you’ll learn how to weave chi builders and chi consumers together to keep a constant flow going.


Primary Abilities

These are the abilities you’re going to use most often, so know them, love them, hotkey them.

Ability Icon Discussion
Jab 40 energy, no CD. Basic attack. Increases chi by 1 baseline, increased to 2 via Stance of the Fierce Tiger. Can proc a free Tiger Palm/Blackout Kick via the Windwalker’s Mastery, Combo Breaker. Primary chi builder for single-target.
Rising Sun Kick 2 chi, 8s CD. Heavy damage to current target and causes all targets within 8 yds to take 10% additional damage (from the Monk) for 15 sec. Use this on cooldown.
Fists of Fury 3 chi, 25s CD. Unlike the other instant abilities, this is a 4 sec channel that hits 5 times for significant damage. It also stuns enemies during the channel. Downsides: expensive, it’s channeled (can be interrupted, no autoattack during the channel) and it splits damage among targets hit, which makes it not very good for AoE unless the stun works.
Blackout Kick 2 chi, no CD. Hits for good damage, and adds a DoT for 20% of the damage if attacking from behind, or a self-heal for 20% if attacking from the front (Combat Conditioning). Occasionally usable for free due to Combo Breaker.
Tiger Palm 1 chi, no CD. Moderate damage; adds a 10% armor debuff for your damage to the target. The debuff stacks 3x, so 30% armor reduction. (10% armor reduction = 3-4% more damage, roughly.) Occasionally usable for free due to Combo Breaker.
Spinning Crane Kick 40 energy, no CD, generates 1 chi if it hits three or more enemies. Channeled 3 sec AoE that hits 4 times. Primary chi builder for AoE.
Energizing Brew 60s CD. A energy regen cooldown, very similar to a feral druid’s Tiger’s Fury except slower. Like TF, you’ll want to use this as soon as it comes off cooldown and the extra energy isn’t wasted.
Tigereye Brew  This is your “click me for more damage” button. It doesn’t have an actual cooldown, but you’ll want to use it at 10 stacks to maximize the effect, so roughly every 75s-90s, or more if you have to stop attacking a lot.
Zen Sphere Your Level 30 talent. At the moment, things are fluctuating as to whether this (or the other L30 talents) will be used in the rotation, or just for self-healing purposes. More on this in the Talent section.
Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger Your Level 90 talent. The other options appear to be more AoE focused, so we’ll rely on Xuen for the time being.

That’s it! Master those 10, and you’ll be 95% of the way there for single-target DPS situations.

Reminder: Hit this page for the full guide.

 Posted by at 8:22 pm
Aug 162012
 

Another day, another patch.

Build 15983, changes from MMO-C:

  • Mangle now does 280% weapon damage, up from 250%.
  • Rake damage increased by 23%.
  • Wrath damage increased by 12% and SP scaling (111.6% of SP) added.

Talents

Balance

Balance & Restoration

Restoration

Feral sees a big buff here: Rake was already ~25% of our damage, so buffing that by 23% will add a significant amount of DPS. I won’t be surprised if Feral is topping the charts (or close to it) after SimulationCraft incorporates that change. (Enjoy it while it lasts!) I’m not convinced that the developers are going to let the Dream of Cenarius feral playstyle (use an instant HT after every PS and NS) stand, as it massively overpowers the other two talent options.

Balance gets a similar buff split between Starfire and Wrath, but they were already down near the bottom after the last set of changes. Think they might need a little more of a kick.

Resto gets a semi-nerf to Wild Mushroom which makes the planting of 1 or 2 mushrooms significantly less efficient (Instead of paying 3% mana per mushroom, you pay 10% for the bloom). Perhaps this is a precursor to changing WM to a single charge, which I think would be greatly appreciated.

Guardian gets a Mangle buff, though I haven’t kept up on tank DPS numbers lately so I don’t know how significant that is.

Oh, last and definitely least, the Displacer Beast cooldown got cut again, which still won’t change anything. As I’ve discussed before, the problem with DB isn’t the cooldown, it’s the base ability that’s terrible. If it gets a threat drop like Feign Death, or a DoT wipe like Vanish, then it will begin to catch my attention. Maybe I’m just not creative enough to see how it could be used offensively?

 Posted by at 7:44 pm