Gear and math

It’s been a nice relaxing couple of weeks in my WoW world. In my guild, we all took a break from what was becoming a very dull Nighthold raid circuit, and I seized the opportunity to work on a couple of alts — my balance druid and my destruction warlock. I find I enjoy playing them both, but the lock possibly a tad bit more than the druid. I still find the boomkin tedious for its long casts, but it gets better with better gear stacked for haste.

Both alts are hovering very close to ilvl 900 or a bit under, and the one thing that amazes me is how much better they are simply by virtue of having better gear. Trust me, in the last two weeks I have not suddenly become vastly more proficient on either one, but the difference in damage for both is pretty astounding. The only change has been upgraded gear. In some ways this is fun, because gear is relatively easy to get, even without subjecting yourself to LFR or mythic dungeons. But in other ways is seems kind of cheesy and not quite right. I guess it is an inevitable result of Blizz stepping away from the “bring the player not the class” philosophy — class/spec mechanics and gear seem to count for more and more these days. Nobody likes to blame gear for poor performance (well, okay, maybe some people like to), but that excuse is actually becoming more and more reasonable as Legion goes on.

I was thinking about this as I started last night to prepare my main hunter for resumption of raiding Tuesday when Tomb of Sargeras opens. Patch 7.2.5 brought some changes to BM hunters, and in spite of giving us a baseline 2-charge Dire Beast/Dire Frenzy, it is looking like overall we are in a worse place damage-wise than we were for Nighthold. Seems like Blizz just could not stand to have BM hunters close to the top, had to take away more than they gave. There will still be some class tweaks coming along in hotfixes, but honestly I am not holding my breath that any of them will include buffs for BM hunters.

At least two sites I read regularly have openly stated that MM is clearly — and by quite a ways — top of the hunter heap. From the IcyVeins BM hunter guide:

Now that 7.2.5 has released, we can say with reasonable confidence and assuming no major changes, that Marksmanship will be the optimal raiding spec going into Tomb of Sargeras, mostly due to the potency of its new set bonuses.

Beast Mastery remains a solid choice, though rather than being very competitive and sometimes even better at single-target than Marksmanship in ideal situations, it is now fair to say that its potential output is less than Marksmanship in nearly all situations.

And even the redoubtable Bendak, in his most recent BM post about Patch 7.2.5, is brutally realistic about BM, stating it will likely fall out not only in the middle of the damage pack, but likely in the lower middle at that.

Whatever. I am a hunter in WoW, that is who I am. And since Blizz has seen fit to destroy the essence of my vision of “hunterness” in MM and SV specs, I really have no choice but to continue playing BM. Numbers have never meant that much to me anyway, so what seems to be a sudden plunge from lower-top to lower-middle position is not a calamity. Some class/spec has to be in that position, it is the nature of rankings. Still, I will be interested to see what the actual numbers spread is when the ToS results start to become available. If the spread between top and bottom is large, then Blizz will have once again failed in its never-ending attempt to “balance” the class/spec mess they themselves caused.

My alt gear-centric push over the last couple of weeks also served to reinforce to me the utter insanity of Legion’s gear complexity. On my alts the calculus was relatively easy, since I never intend to actually raid with them: higher ilevel = good, secondary stats pretty much be damned. But when I started to weigh gear and talent combos on my main in preparation for ToS, I found myself once again despairing over the sheer mathematical enormity of the task.

It has gotten so bad that AskMrRobot is now implementing a SETI-like mass computer sharing approach to solving the gear problem for players. Mind you, modern computers already have pretty massive computing power. Certainly enough that even a middle-level server could perform general arithmetical comparisons, even for thousands of users at a time. But Blizz’s insane interdependencies of gear stats, talents, different types of raid bosses, RNG-dependent proc rates, and specialized legendary and set bonuses have gone exponentially past arithmetic calculations. To properly assess the relative value of gear, only massive computer simulations approach accuracy. One or two simulations at a time are handled (though slowly) on a home desktop computer, but if you are trying to do it for large numbers of players, you need vast computational resources, and the cheapest way to get them is to set up a distributed grid of community computers. (I applaud AMR’s ingenuity here, but honestly I would like to see a bit more detail on their app’s security setup before I open my computer to it.)

The point is, you need the power of modern computers to decide if a piece of WoW gear is actually an upgrade for you, or to decide which legendary works best with which set of talents. 

But Reforging was “too much math” for us.

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See you after the release of ToS.

Class dismissed

As some of my regular readers may¬†know, I have recently begun raiding again with a new guild — fun/alt HFC(N) runs, but that is a huge step forward from where I have been for the last 9-10 months. I am enjoying it a lot, and some of my raiding skills are starting to come back.¬†However, I am disappointed in my damage numbers, not because of the numbers themselves, but because I know I am not maximizing my current gear/spec to what it could be.

I should by all rights be actively seeking to improve my MM hunter skills, but I am having a hard time convincing myself to put much work into doing so. I am angry, depressed, and –to be brutally honest — still pouting over the current as well as future changes to hunters. This state of mind is not conducive to ¬†motivating me to improve my hunter skills.

To start with, I am angry that Blizz has made MM hunter the only really viable raiding spec in WoD. I was a SV hunter, loved the feel to it, had played it since Cata, and was good at it. Then Blizz completely destroyed it in 6.2, without so much as a by-your-leave or even a screw-you to those of us who loved the spec and had invested a lot of time in perfecting it.

Then Blizz proceeded to ignore BM as a spec, doing no further balancing for it, while at the same time buffing MM with talents as well as with the 4-piece tier set. In fact, they made the tier set a defacto requirement for a smooth MM rotation. Without the 4-piece, MM is a clumsy, clunky, annoying spec to play. In my opinion, that is piss-poor and lazy design. (And no, so far I only have 2 pieces, and honestly given my horrible RNG luck I am not expecting to get the full set.)

So I am already annoyed that I am more or less forced into playing MM if I wish to raid effectively. Now add the fact that anything I learn with MM now will be useless when Legion goes live. For one thing, every hunter¬†spec will change so drastically as to be virtually three different classes instead of variations on a single class. For another, I have absolutely zero intention of continuing to play MM in Legion. And since I stubbornly refuse to play the new melee¬†class Blizz calls “Survival hunter”, that leaves me with Beastmastery as my only possibility.

No, spending time and effort getting good at MM right now is not appealing to me at all. Oh, I will work at it a little, because my stubborn pride is still there, but my heart is not in it. In the past, whenever I worked on improving my¬†hunter skills, I had fun doing it — I actually enjoyed the learning process, loved seeing my skills improve. (I spent days learning how to do a forward disengage, and I loved every minute of the process.) But not now. Now it will be tedious and largely futile.

I have been devouring every tiny bit of info I can find on Legion hunter specs — especially the comments from the alpha testers — and I remain very pessimistic about the future of the class I have loved since my first day in WoW.¬†Of course, everyone hastens to point¬†out that it is very early in the development process, and much will change before the class changes go live. To that I say horse hockey! Yes, there will be changes to fix obvious bugs, and likely a few balance tweaks, but my reading is that there are fundamental, foundational flaws in each spec that can only be fixed by a complete rewrite of the spec. Which Blizz almost certainly will not do.

I encourage you to read the alpha tester comments yourselves to see the specifics, but in comment after comment what I see are¬†variations on the theme of “This just feels wrong.” For example, a recurring criticism of the new BM (for me, the only hunter spec I will consider playing) is that there is no player-controlled focus generator. This removes a huge amount of player choice in shot selection — it basically puts the “rote” back into rotation. It also implies there might be a significant amount of down time, like the current combat rogue complaint.

Another baseline change is that only SV hunters will be able to trap, a change that will require a complete rethink about hunters not only by hunters themselves, but also by raid leaders. Most BM and MM hunters have spent a significant amount of time honing their trapping skills, have woven them into kiting and soloing play styles, and now they must start all over again with those. This is a another change I do not see being reversed during the development process.

And not for nothin’, but why in the hell would anyone¬†think traps would be a good idea for melee fighters? No tank I know would stand for some melee damage dealer willy-nilly dropping slow or freezing traps in a boss scrum area. Not to mention the visual clutter it will contribute to an already over-cluttered area. The spec that really needs traps is MM, because their pets have been taken away, and a robust trapping ability would have helped them while soloing. But Blizz’s response to concerns about MM soloing? “Suck it up, other classes manage without pets.” Yes, that is true, and if I wanted to do that I would have rolled one of those classes….

There are other fundamental flaws I do not see Blizz changing, such as a perceived over-reliance on RNG for MM damage interactions. One tester pointed out a huge design flaw where in several situations Arcane Shot (which applies the new Hunters Mark debuff) takes longer to arrive at the target than the GCD, so you will not know whether HM has been applied or not by the time you have to get your next shot off. There are similarly serious design flaws in the new SV spec, but I pay little attention to them because there is no way in hell I will ever play that spec again.

The point is, even though there will be minor adjustments to hunter specs, I think we are in a WYSIWYG situation with the basic feel and play styles. BM hunters were just added to the new alpha build, so there are no real test results on that spec just yet. I expect to see some in the next couple of days, and I am holding my breath that it will seem even remotely playable.

But I am not optimistic about it. If Blizz had started out in 6.2 to deliberately obliterate the hunter class, they could not have done a better job. I fully expect to be playing another class entirely in Legion, and that makes me sad beyond belief.

 

 

 

 

What makes a boss fight fun?

After procrastinating for a few weeks, I finally queued for an Archimonde group in LFR a couple of days ago. After all the player complaints and anecdotal horror stories, I was expecting my experience to be an exercise in frustration. Imagine my surprise when I found it to actually be fun.

I was in what I imagine must have been a good (Tuesday) group. We started fresh and downed him on our third try, with very few deaths. After the first wipe, someone calmly explained a few of the mechanics, no name-calling, no personal insults or rage quits, all very grown up and polite. Of course, Blizz has nerfed the LFR version of this boss a couple of times, so that was a factor, too. But in its current form, I found the fight mechanics to be very straightforward, at least for damage dealers, and not too complex for a group of strangers to manage. My only real quibble with the fight is that once again Blizz has designed it such that the fail point comes near the end, and it is a very long fight. Too long for LFR, even for a final boss, but that is a pet peeve of mine.

Nevertheless, as I said, I thought it was fun. Which got me to thinking, what makes a boss fight fun for me? Turns out this is a hard question to answer. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of porn — “I know it when I see it ” — a “fun” boss is easy to identify when you experience it but very difficult to define in advance. Also, I am certain that — like porn — everyone’s definition varies somewhat.

What are some¬†boss fights I thought were fun? As I only really started raiding with a regular team near the end of Wrath, I won’t go back to the fog-enshrouded of BC and before. But here is a list of my top ten¬†boss fights (not in any particular order):

  • The Lich King¬†(from Icecrown Citadel)
  • Theralion and Valiona (from Bastion of Twilight)
  • Alysrazor (from Firelands)
  • Ultraxion (from Dragon Soul)
  • Spine of Deathwing¬†(from Dragon Soul)
  • Warmaster Blackhorn¬†(from Dragon Soul)
  • Murozond (not a raid, but last boss of End Time instance in Cata)
  • Sha of Fear (from Terrace of Endless Spring)
  • Siegecrafter Blackfuse (from Siege of Orgrimmar)
  • Brackenspore (from Highmaul)

I really don’t know what it is about these fights that I like, but I know I do. One thing that I notice is that in most of them I had some sort of special raid duty — part of the price of being a hunter, lol. I always kind of liked raid duties, didn’t try to avoid them like most people do. I wonder if that particular aspect of being a hunter will be gone in Legion. Actually, it may be gone now, with the destruction of SV as a viable spec. BM hunters lose a lot of dps in any fight requiring a lot of target switching, and MM hunters really are not nearly as mobile as all hunters used to be. SV hunters were perfect for flame thrower duty in Brackenspore, you could leave your pet on the boss while you bopped around burning moss then stepped back in range for some great dps, rinse and repeat. It was fun. As was Siegecrafter, once you figured out how to jump while on the conveyor belt, and dodge the fire. Those kind of extra duties break up the monotony of long fights. Even though Garrosh was not one of my favorite bosses, I always like having Engineer duty. And I loved the extra duties I had in Ko’agh and even The Butcher.

The other thing I notice is that most of my favorite fights required a reasonable, but not excessive, amount of movement. As a hunter, I am extremely mobile compared to other damage dealers, but I like to move when I want to, for better positioning, etc. I do not enjoy constant movement just for its own sake. For example, I always did quite well on the Hanz and Franz fight in BRF, but I never really found it fun, too much required movement. Same with the trains one.

(Ultraxion is an obvious exception to everything I just listed as reasons I liked the bosses. I think he¬†is in there because it was fun for a change to just stand still and unload everything you’ve got on a target dummy type boss. Kind of a live fire exercise¬†for everyone!)

Last, but not least, my favorite bosses were challenging when they were current, but they did not seem impossible.

I like mechanics that are easy to understand but challenging to execute. I think the toughest set of mechanics to understand in my list were on the Lich King — not because they were so complex, but because there were so many of them,¬†they changed every phase, and almost any one of them could kill you if not properly dealt with.

I like mechanics that are novel and creative, too. So that usually means I like bosses with new mechanics the first time they are used, but when Blizz incorporates the “new” mechanic into the next several bosses, I lose interest. Thus, I liked Siegecrafter for the conveyor belt mechanic, but I did not like that same mechanic in Hanz and Franz or the trains in BRF. I liked the whisk-you-away mechanic in Sha of Fear, but it was not nearly so much fun for me when repeated in Kargath Bladefist in Highmaul.

And some mechanics I just hate, no matter what. I could never get the hang of the maze in Durumu the Forgotten in Throne of Thunder, and so that boss would be very high up on my list of most hated fights. The mechanic was novel, I will grant you, but it was just impossible to execute for some people. (And yes, I tried every conceivable camera angle, every possible graphics setting, every hint ever posted anywhere, so please don’t write me about the one foolproof way you found to do it. I guarantee you I already tried it and it did not work for me. When a significant number of players who are not idiots cannot manage a mechanic, it is a terrible one.)

I like bosses that can be defeated with good teamwork and individual alertness, not ones that can kill you just by bad luck, for instance that target random raid members (including tanks and healers) with raid-wiping debuffs.

There is, however, a fine line between “challenging” and “almost impossible without pure luck”. My all time worst boss was Ragnaros. Our guild almost disbanded over him. I have lost count on¬†how many wipes we had on him, but it went on for literally months, to the point where raid night became one long painful trudge with sullen guildies driven only by a rapidly diminishing sense of loyalty to a raid leader with more stubbornness than good sense. Several people did in fact leave the guild over his refusal to allow us to start the new tier until we had downed Ragnaros. When we finally did get him down, it was due to fantastic luck and came down to our one pally left alone, eking out enough damage and self heals to kill Rags just milliseconds before he himself died. I have never gone back to that boss since.

Anyway, I still don’t know if I can define what it is that makes a boss fun for me, but it certainly includes:

  • Having a specialized role to play, beyond straight DPS.
  • Enough movement to highlight hunter mobility, but not so much as to force it on me and not so much as to make all ranged¬†casters miserable.
  • Easy to understand mechanics that require practice and alertness to execute properly.
  • More or less guaranteed success if the fight is properly executed at the level being fought. That is, the fight has zero dependence on RNG factors such as random selection of players for catastrophic debuffs, The harder the fight is, the more this last stipulation is important.

That’s it for me, I think. I would be interested to know what it is that makes a boss fight fun for you.

Ring-knockers of WoW

Unless I have the most stupendous run of bad luck in the history of the world, I should get my final legendary ring on my main today. I have the naval mission quest line completed, and I ended up last week with 32 tomes. I certainly should not have to run more than a couple of LFR bosses today to get that final tome.

I suppose I will be happy to get the ring, although truth be told I am actually kind of meh about it. I think I really only want it in order to be admitted to “the club”, not because¬†I am excited about its potential for damage boosting. Only one other damage dealer on our raid team has the ring, so until now he has pretty much used it whenever he wanted¬†to. Now, of course, we will have to coordinate its use if we want to get the max buff. This could be kind of challenging, since both of us are ranged, and ideally you want to be fairly close to each other when it is invoked, because of the last part of the proc that deals huge damage to all enemies within 20 yards of the initiating player’s location.

In¬†fact, the whole intricate timing and positioning thing seems too complex for any but the most elite raid teams to coordinate optimally. For damage dealers, not only do you have to be very precise in your positioning, but you also should try to ensure most players are at a place in their rotations where they can get the most¬†benefit from the proc. This¬†of course is impossible. Which means the ring by design is poorly optimized. Worse, its impending use may cause some¬†players to change¬†up their normal rotations — thereby losing significant DPS — in anticipation of saving even their minor cool downs for the ring proc.

Group use mechanic aside, the proc seems to me to be poorly designed. Ideally, you would save its use for a boss, probably for when you decide to use Hero/Time Warp/ etc. So for¬†15 seconds all ring-wearers have their individual damage buffed up, but then after the 15 seconds that 20-yard AoE thing kicks in. It just seems like there will frequently be no one but the boss to hit at that point, or if there are a bunch of adds most likely the off tank will have them positioned away from the boss. I’m sure some¬†of you who have used the ring in raid settings have better insight than I do on this, but it just seems like a lot of the proc will frequently be completely wasted.

The legendary ring seems to line up with the mood of this entire expansion, best summed up for me as “Ugh.” I did like the idea that you got incremental versions of the ring as you progressed through the quest line, but other than that the whole legendary has been extremely lackluster in WoD.

I think maybe another telling point about the boringness of the ring is that I almost never see Raid Finder groups requiring it as a condition of acceptance. High gear levels, previous boss kills, minimum DPS — yes, but ring? No one seems to care. Maybe that will change as more people get it, but I think there is a pretty good chance it won’t.

So, yeah, I will probably get my ring today, but no, I am not especially excited about it.

(And the “ring-knocker” term in the title of this post is a reference to a derogatory characterization of West Point graduates in the Army — that they get good leadership positions solely by ostentatiously knocking their rings on the table, not by being competent. Almost never true, but an enduring stereotype nonetheless.)

Hunters — it’s not easy being green

MMO Champion published a graph today of — well, I am not sure what it¬†is of because it is horribly confusing and seems to violate most of the rules of graph design. But it is supposed to show active player class representation in Patch 6.2. It is also supposed to show data on item level within classes, but the legend does not match the graph, it is not well labeled, and so on. Never mind, what I was interested in is the basic class representation numbers and the responses to them.

No surprise, hunters were the most populous class, followed by druids, then pallies and warriors. After that, the next group was DKs, mages, priests, and shammies. At the bottom were rogues, warlocks, and monks — monks being¬†the lowest. (Weirdly, my two most played classes by time are hunter and monk, which I guess may say something about my tendencies to operate along border areas….)

Predictably, the nutosphere vomited hate on hunters over this graph, pointing out in barely literate terms how easy it is to play a hunter, how boring it is to play a hunter, only bad players choose hunters, hunters are OP no fair no fair no fair, we hates them, we hates them!

Perusing the forum comments, my reaction was oh here we go again, another opportunity to hate hunters, nothing new here, move along. But then I began to think about it. Why is it that hunters are, and have been since the inception of WoW, the class everyone is allowed to hate and to dump on? What is it about the class that inspires cretins everywhere to unleash torrents of vile invective against it, given any slight pretext? No other class has been so consistently and¬†so¬†openly hated as hunters. Yet it remains the most-played class. (Reminds me of the idea that “no one” — certainly no right-thinking individual — reads those trashy “newspapers” at the supermarket checkout, yet mysteriously they stay in business and make a profit.)

Hunters have always been an attractive class for beginners. They are easy to level, taming pets¬†is fun, and — let’s be honest — with the popularity of movies like Hunger Games, the bow as a weapon appeals to adolescent females, who demographically tend to lose interest in the game before reaching level cap. In fact, anyone just wanting to try the game out for awhile has a high probability of selecting a hunter, and many of these beginners stop playing before level cap. This means that there is a high percentage of unskilled hunters in the game, making the same mistakes and social “foopaws” as every other newbie, except hunters are more numerous and thus more visible for these things. So I suppose I kind of understand the genesis of “huntard” (a term I abhor, not for its slur of hunters but for its mean slur of a group of people for whom life is a constant challenge).

What I don’t understand is¬†the stubbornness with which hunter haters cling to their hatred, their vocalness in demanding this or that hunter nerf at every opportunity. Mind you, they don’t want their own class buffed with hunter traits, they want hunter traits to be destroyed, to make it “harder” for hunters.

As Blizz has said for years, their goal is a game that is easy to learn but hard to master. Hunters — along with nearly every other class — adhere to that philosophy. Yes, they are easy¬†to learn. And no, they are not easy to master. And the same can be said of nearly every other class. Yet it seems to be only hunters that vocal morons in forums and trade chat constantly denigrate for being “easy”. Many¬†of them go on to point out — apparently for credibility — that they have a hunter alt, but it is too boring¬†and easy and so their main is one of the “skill” classes. Uh-huh. Almost certainly they never mastered their hunter, so¬†of course it is “easy”.

Not everyone loves the hunter play style. They identify strongly with a different class. Still, they are interested enough to try it out, maybe play it once in a while for variety. That is perfectly understandable. I feel the same way about mages. But I do not seize on every possible opportunity to express spittle-flecked hatred for the class. If mages happen to be at the top of the DPS charts, I do not rant against them as OP, I do not lobby to have them nerfed, I do not stamp my feet and hold my breath until I am blue and scream about it bring unfair. In that situation, if my goal were to do top damage, I would get better at my mage and play it as my main.

Is playing a hunter easy? No, not if you want to do it well, no more so than playing¬†a DK or rogue or druid is easy at skilled levels. Putting out high DPS while mobile is¬†a skill you learn with practice. Cheerfully saying yes to raid duties is a team skill you learn that comes with the territory of being mobile. Managing a pet along with a your own constant rotation is a skill — you don’t have to learn it, but good hunters constantly manage their pet’s threat stance and positioning. Managing your focus to never miss a signature shot — while constantly moving — is an advanced skill.

But here’s the thing. Since most players have tried a hunter at one time or another, they think their experience with them at the “easy” level is all there is. When they see hunters topping the raid damage charts or mopping the floor with them in PvP, they assume these skilled hunters are just mindlessly mashing the same buttons they themselves did at level 5 or 50 or 70 or whatever. Hunters are like belly buttons — everyone has one, but not many are willing to flaunt them in public. If mages were the most popular beginner class and were as easy to level as hunters, I guarantee you the forums would be consistently full of mage hate. It’s a function of popularity.

Still, it gets old. And of course it is a mob mentality that feeds on itself. Players new to WoW quickly learn that hunters are the red-headed stepchild of the game and that no one will ever flame them for hating on hunters. (The cynical me even wonders if the reason Blizz seems to choose hunters to experiment with is because they know no one will object except the hard core hunters, and no one likes them anyway.)

We hunters are tough and independent, though, and truthfully don’t give a crap about the opinion of the lesser classes. In the words of Kris Kristofferson (Jesus Was a Capricorn):

Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on
Prove they can be better than at any time they choose
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

Still, is it asking too much for you to be witty and grammatical when you hate us?

Specs and stats

When Blizz first announced Patch 6.0.2 class and stat changes, they went to some pains to explain to us how much better and less complicated our lives would be with the changes. In particular, they eliminated reforging because they wanted to save us from math and from having to go to a website like AskMrRobot to figure out our optimum secondary stats for a piece of gear. As it turned out, they didn’t save us from anything other than being able to get and use decent gear. Thanks, Blizz, your Nobel Prize nomination is almost finalized.

Just my opinion, of course, but secondary stats are a mess right now. First, they are a part of the loot-by-luck RNG scheme, and it is a double-blind system. Not only do you have to be lucky enough to win class-appropriate gear, but you also have to be lucky enough to win spec-appropriate gear, even if you are not a hybrid class.

Think about that for a minute. It is no longer possible for a pure damage class like hunters to switch specs without also switching gear sets. Not if they want to maximize their damage which of course is their only reason for being. In Mists, if I knew that an upcoming raid would face bosses that Beastmastery would be much better for than Survival, for example, I could switch specs to BM, pay a quick visit to my local reforger, and be set to provide my best effort for the raid team. But in WoD, that is impossible. I can still switch specs to fit a fight, but if I do not have a ready-made alternate gear set, doing so will probably yield less damage than if I did not switch specs, even if I am equally skilled in both specs.

And getting spec-appropriate gear is completely luck-based. Blizz has made gear for pure classes as spec-dependent as it is for hybrid classes, without the ability to select gear for a particular spec. On my monk, I can play as a windwalker but select to receive mistweaver gear, and I will get gear with intellect, possibly also spirit and multistrike.  But on my hunter, even if I opt to receive Beastmastery gear while playing Survival, it makes zero difference. All the secondary stats are pure crapshoots. Yet they are a very significant part of hunter damage.

In fact, secondary stats now play a much greater role than Blizz originally led us to believe they would. (Surprise!) When first announced, it was to be a simple 5% increase to your attuned stat — for example, +5% multistrike for SV hunters. This indicated that getting multistrike gear was desirable if you were SV, but it wasn’t a major problem if you didn’t. Similarly, if you had gear that was a mixed bag of secondary stats, you really wouldn’t be penalized by switching specs. All that would happen is that, for example, whatever mastery you had would be increased by 5% if you switched to BM.

But of course Blizz had to go completely overboard, they could not leave well enough alone. Trinkets, buffs, spells, passives, etc. suddenly had their benefits greatly enhanced by the amount of your attunement stat. This meant that something that started out as a nice-to-have suddenly became crucial to your ability to perform your role. But in their usual slipshod way, Blizz failed to adjust baseline mechanisms when they went berserk on attunement-based numbers. ¬†Instead, they made band-aid fixes that ended up doing more harm than good to some classes. ¬†Obviously, for me the example that springs to mind is Survival hunters, where the band-aid fix to extreme multistrike attunement resulted in a non-viable spec. In fact, I venture to say that the mass “fixes” to secondary stat attunements resulted in greater class imbalance, at a time when class balance was none too strong to begin with.

So, for a Survival hunter like me, I am left in the situation where:

1. ¬†I can no longer play my spec. In addition to nerfing AoE, which was the spec’s strength, there are no cooldowns and no surge capability, rendering play purely mechanical, without meaningful player choices.

2.  Since I had gone to a lot of effort to accumulate gear with multistrike on it, and since I have been forced into another spec, now most of that gear is nigh unto worthless for me.

3. Blizz has removed reforging, so the only way I can get more appropriate gear is by double-blind luck with loot drops.

4. I have to trust that, even if I do get some spec-appropriate gear, Blizz will not suddenly decide to make that spec unplayable and force me to start all over again.

Basically, Blizz has given pure damage classes all the bad attributes of hybrids and none of the good ones. That is, we have to carry multiple gear sets but it is close to impossible to assemble and continue to upgrade the gear. The only raid role we can provide is damage, but we are greatly hindered in our ability to maximize that role.

So in Patch 6.3 (because there will be such a patch), I would like to see two major changes regarding secondary stats:

Bring back reforging. Very few players do their own math even now, everyone goes to MrRobot even to check if a piece of gear is an upgrade, because the secondary stat computations have gotten so intricate. 

Take away the second RNG factor in loot drops — make¬†appropriate secondary stats automatically conform to your spec.¬†

Have a good weekend.

Closet cleaning time

Once again, time for me to clean out my drafts closet — those bits and pieces of ideas for posts that never really got fully developed. No logic, no order, just my virtual version of 1-800-GOTJUNK.

Watcher Hazzikostas. He’s still no Ghostcrawler, but I have to give him begrudging credit for — finally — understanding the value of discourse and for recently putting himself out there for interviews, Q&A, Q&A follow ups, and some detailed and thoughtful¬†blue posts. I still disagree with much of what he says, he relies way too much on sly¬† corporate lawyer weasel-wording for my taste, and I never get the sense that he is passionate about any aspect of this game beyond the corporate earnings bottom line. Nevertheless, he does seem to have figured out that there is value in more frequent, more detailed, non-snarky communication with the player base. So, with that extreme back-handed compliment, I encourage him to continue on his journey of enlightenment. I would, however, like to see him grant a few interviews where he had to field some questions that were not huge softballs scripted in advance.

Guilds. I’ve been wondering lately if there is such a thing as a perfect guild. Maybe perfect is the wrong word, but what I mean is, are there any current guilds out there able to offer robust activity in many areas? Are there viable guilds that offer value for the PvP-er, the raider, the leveler, the social butterfly, the achievement hound, etc.? And if such guilds do exist, how are they coping with the guild-killing aspects of WoD?

I started thinking about this while I was making the difficult decision to leave the social guild I had been with for close to five years. Eventually, I abandoned it on its deathbed, which I am not especially proud of, but in truth there was no hope for it, and even now it is defunct in all but name and one or two players logging on sporadically out of habit.

That guild in its heyday was a social guild with a fairly strong raiding arm, a fledgling but feisty PvP arm, and lots of both ad hoc and planned guild activities. It was a great guild brought low by two things: WoD and the continuing and simultaneous absence of both the GM and the Raid Leader.

I thought for awhile that WoD was the main culprit for¬†this guild’s demise but now I am not so sure. I am beginning to think that a strong leadership presence plays a much greater role in guild viability than I had thought. And that leadership presence really has to be the GM or someone with equal stature, not just a few officers. I say this because I am starting to see a noticeable decline in the raiding guild I now belong to. It, too, is a great guild with excellent people and an environment I find very comfortable. It is not a hard-core raiding guild, but it was established for the purpose of raiding, and the core raid team takes its raiding — but not themselves — seriously. It is a fun team, and the GM/RL is one of the best I have seen. But he has had some IRL schedule changes that prevent him from logging on except at odd hours. Also, we have lost some key people from the team, notably a couple of healers and our top DPS. Consequently, we have not started raiding the new tier, and we really have no clear plans for how/when we will start up again. Guild¬†participation¬†is suffering as a result. Whether it is the start of a death spiral for the guild, or just a temporary lull, is yet to be seen. But it has been going on since the end of March, and the longer it continues, the harder it will be to pull out of it.

I wish I had some wise insights about this, but I don’t. I just know that I have been in four guilds since I started playing this game, that every time I switched guilds it was because the guild was dying, and that the common denominator in every case was prolonged absence of the GM.

Hunters in 6.2. I can’t seem to get over Blizz’s deliberate dismantling of Survival as a viable hunter spec. It really is the spec I love best, and if it were even close to viable I would play it anyway. But it is not. It is now so broken that even a die-hard survivalist like me has had to abandon it. Bad enough that 6.0 removed all burst damage capability from it, and that single target damage was made mediocre, but now combined with the gigantic AoE nerf from 6.2, it hardly even qualifies as a damage spec any more. This makes it useless for soloing/leveling, and downright irresponsible as a raid choice.

But I miss it a lot. This was driven home to me last night as I blasted my way through some rares, both solo and in quick teams. Out of desperation, I have been playing Beastmastery now for a month or so. It is not a bad spec, can be quite powerful when you get your Focus Fire timing down. But if the RNG gods do not smile on you by providing the appropriate number of pet¬†frenzy stacks at the right time, Focus Fire loses much of its effectiveness. If your pet¬†dies you are hosed, and you MUST stop DPS and rez it (instantly if Phoenix is up, otherwise it takes a few seconds). You lose a lot of DPS in fights where there is rapid target switching. And honestly — and this is what I realized last night — it is boring. Boring and annoying. Once you get the whole Focus Fire thing down, you end up spamming filler shots while you wait for RNG to grant you some frenzy stacks so that you can augment your filler shots with a real rotation.

I keep trying Marksman, but I just can’t like it. To me it seems like it reduces my mobility beyond what I am comfortable with, making my hunter seem like a physical damage dealing mage. I leveled my hunter as MM, and years ago it was THE hunter spec both for damage and for depth of play. In 6.2 it is probably once again the spec for hunter damage, but it feels too un-huntery to me.

I want my Survival back!!!!!!!!

Jewelcrafting. Not a big fan of the profession “experiment” they are trying with it in 6.2. Brawlers Guild rep in order to get a key recipe? Raiding requirement to get another of the key recipes? Nope and nope. Hell, if Blizz is going to require raiding in order to craft, why don’t they also require crafting to raid? “Sorry, but in order to get into HFC, you must have completed crafting at least 3 epics on a crafting profession. Why? Oh, because we are conducting an ‘experiment.'”

Let JC’s learn their own recipes? No no no no no, we can’t have that! Let’s make them jump through their butts to get recipes FOR¬†A ROBOT WAY THE HELL UP IN NORTHERN TANAAN, and then make them go all the way up there to have the robot craft their gems¬†for them. Heeheeheehee, we have so much fun when we pick on JC’s!

And while we are at it, let’s make each gem require an insane amount of the scarcest resource we have. HAHAHAHA, let’s see them make any gold off gems now!

Once again, Blizz is attempting to fix something they themselves have broken by breaking it even worse.

OK, that’s it, drafts closet once again is all neat and tidy.