Raiding — feast or famine

Last night my guild dipped its toe back into the raiding pool. For a variety of reasons, we had stopped raiding in mid-March, so for me who hates to pug, that means other than LFR I just have not been raiding. It was tough to go cold turkey like that, and I think not raiding had a lot to do with my growing hatred of WoD.

I joined my current guild specifically because I liked the raid philosophy and the people on the core team, plus the raid leader really knows his stuff. I liked it so much that I was willing to raid on their West Coast time line even though I live on the East Coast. This makes for some late night raiding — typically midnight to 2 AM my time, but it was so much fun it was worth a little sleep loss.

So when we stopped raiding I really felt adrift. The game lost a lot of its fascination for me, and I started kind of half-heartedly looking for another guild, one with an active raid team I might have a chance of getting on. I don’t like changing guilds, I am a very loyal person not to mention a creature of habit, so really I was not trying very hard to find another raid team, it was more of nagging little thought in the back of my head.

As a consequence of not raiding, I have not paid much attention to continuing to gear up my main, because — why? I kept doing LFR and my shipyard for the ring, but if I missed a few days on the naval missions or a week on LFR tomes it was no big deal, because the ring is really a raid tool anyhow. And my inventory of health and agility potions, 125-stat food, and agi flasks was low, because again why did I need them? Certainly not for LFR or the odd world boss.

So yesterday, knowing we would be raiding later, I spent a couple of hours frantically preparing. It was probably comical to watch. I switched off among all my alts multiple times, transferring mats and crafted gear, allowing me to:

  • Replace my helm with a 6/6 crafted one. Of course first I had to go through several Leather Refurbishing Kits to get the right flavor of helm.
  • Upgrade and equip 3 pieces of Baleful gear. I would have done more, but I only had three pieces that came close to the secondary stats I need, and even those are not ideal.

    Side rant: This whole notion of random secondary stats really stinks. If I select Marksman as my loot spec, I should get only loot with ideal MM secondary stats. Even better, there should be a way to change the stats, like, oh, say reforging! Because as it stands now it doesn’t matter which spec I select as my loot spec, all secondary stats are totally random anyway, and there are so many flippin’ possible combos that the chances of getting the one ideal one is infinitesimally low. I have a total of 83 pieces of baleful gear on 4 characters, and not one piece is the ideal secondary set for that character. There is something very wrong about this.

  • Transmog my new gear, because, well, can’t show up to raid looking anything less than cool, right?
  • Craft and equip an Immaculate level gem for my one gem slot.
  • Make food, flasks, and pots.
  • Grind out my last rep for exalted with Hand of the Prophet so I could buy my Empowered Augment Rune.
  • Review IcyVeins and Fatboss videos and strategies for the first three bosses of HFC, in case there was anything different than for LFR.
  • Make some rapid targeting macros for the important adds in the fights and bound them to my “targeting” row of keys.
  • Review my talents and glyphs to make sure they were what I needed.
  • Update all my addons, especially DBM.

Whew! You would think I was planning the Invasion of Normandy. But at least I felt as prepared as I could be.

We had only 7 of our normal core raid team, so we pugged and wound up at 13. We only had one stinker in the pug group, a hunter who called us noobs and idiots for not having higher DPS after we one-shotted Iron Reaver. Unfortunately, he rage quit before the RL could kick him, so we were deprived of that small satisfaction. I was embarrassed on behalf of all hunters.

But it was a great night. We downed the first three bosses, only wiping once — on Kormrok. We had expected to have a lot more trouble being as we were out of practice and most of our gear levels were somewhere in the 690-ish area. Best of all, we had a lot of fun. We didn’t go any further because it was getting late, but I think it was such a success that we may at least start doing once a week scheduled raids.

Interestingly, as I was waiting for the raid to start, I got whispered by two different people asking if I would consider joining their guilds to raid. I knew both of them. One was a group my old guild co-raided with, and the other was someone I have run into in LFR and a few other places. I wonder if maybe some of the guilds are getting more energized now that WoD is on its way out and we have something new to look forward to.

I chatted with both of them and ended up asking if I could think about it and thanking them for the offer. I said I would let them know Monday. The co-raid group said they would be happy to take me on an alt — especially if that alt were my healer — but the other group wanted my main. Both groups raid twice a week.

A few days ago I probably would have jumped at the chance, but after last night I am not so eager. As I said, given even the slightest pretext, I will stay with whatever guild I am in, and now we are back into raiding, that is my pretext. Also, earlier this year I was raiding three nights a week with two different guilds, and I got pretty burned out, it was starting to feel like a job. If I am honest with myself, two nights a week is probably my max, and for now I am even happy with just one night a week. I would like to get more proficient on my healer, so the offer with my old co-raid group is tempting, but that would mean at least 3 raids per week, one on my main and two on my healer. Seems to be more than I want to take on at this point.

Anyway, I will think about it. (Maybe we will get to the point of doing alt runs again in my current guild, and that would allow me to play my healer more.)

Meanwhile, woohoo for us, we had a fun night of raiding again!

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.

Why do you have alts?

My plan today had been to write about the effects T2 is having on alts, but The Grumpy Elf beat me to it, and honestly he did a way better job with it than I would have, so please stop by and read his post. But thinking about alts and the shabby — in my opinion — way they have been treated in WoD got me to thinking about the various reasons people have them, and the various ways they play them.

I will take myself as an example, because I think I have a representative number of alts but I am not what you would call an altoholic. My main is a Worgen hunter, and my alts are:

  • A level 100 Night Elf hunter (who used to be my main but who has fallen behind in WoD, due to not being with a decent raid team for most of the expansion, but who still has most of my account achievements).
  • A level 100 Pandaren monk who is my healer.
  • A level 100 Gnome destro warlock.
  • A level 100 Human arcane mage that I have never learned how to play and that spent over a year being a bank alt.
  • A level 91 Night Elf balance druid. (See mage comments above.)
  • A level 90 Pandaren elemental shaman that is mostly a bank alt but that I had fun playing around with in Mists.
  • A level 18 Human priest that is strictly a bank alt.

Over the years I have created a lot of alts, but I deleted most of them and the ones above are the ones I am left with for now. The first two alts I ever created were my druid and my mage, and my newest alt — created in Mists — is my lock.

The only reason I have ever created alts is to try out play styles on non-hunter classes. You will note that with the exception of my healer all my alts are ranged damage dealers. This is because so far I have not been able to really get into melee style game play. I have tried every melee class but never stuck with them beyond about level 60 or so, I end up getting really bored with them and deleting them. I chalk this up to it being a bad habit of mine, and I still intend to pick a melee class and level it to max, just haven’t picked out the right one for me yet. I have toyed with the idea of making a strong melee off spec for either my druid or my monk, but again I have not devoted much time to that. But it is still an option.

The other thing about my alts is that they are all Alliance. I have tried a couple of Horde side alts, but my imagination is so strong and my game immersion (can’t believe I am actually using that term) is so great that I cannot shake the feeling that I am being a traitor, so I always end up deleting them. Plus, to be honest, I think all the Horde races are disgustingly ugly, and I just can’t enjoy being surrounded by them. (I know, I am shallow!)

Of all my alts, I enjoy playing the healer and the lock the most (not counting my alt hunter, because nothing could be more fun than a hunter). I like the healer because it is so completely different from damage dealing. I find healing stressful while I am anticipating it, challenging while I am doing it, and fulfilling when I am done. If I were not mainly a hunter, I would be a healer.

I like my lock because she has a ton of personality. She is tiny and cute but totally kick-ass. If you met her in a dark alley, you would back away as fast as possible because one look and you would know she is no one to mess with. In Mists, the destro lock play style was great fun, but it has become less so in WoD. I still find it engaging, just a tad slow and tedious to get going in that you have to build up your embers before you can have fun spending them, and you are pretty much dependent on standing still to do well. And locks are fun to level and quest with because like hunters they have their own private tank.

Anyway, this is not about the things I like or don’t like about each of my alts, the point is that I created them in the first place to play them. If/when I create another melee class it will be because I want to explore that play style.

If you believe Ion Hazzikostas, that is the only “approved” reason for creating and having alts. But I have another reason for maintaining my alts (and I suspect many of you do, too). I take care to ensure that between them they have all the relevant professions, so that I can be self-sufficient with crafted gear, enchants, glyphs, gems, mat gathering, etc. Apparently Blizz frowns upon this and is taking steps to make it more difficult. But it remains for me a very strong reason to have them, and I don’t intend to change. (*sticks out tongue at Blizz*)

In addition to exploring different play styles and being self-sufficient, a third reason I have alts is to be a good raid team member. I feel like having a couple of viable alts is the responsible thing to do if you are on a decent raid team. They don’t have to be top performers, just viable in a pinch. This means that you should do your best to have them raid-ready by gearing them as best you can and by maintaining some level of proficiency with them.

The last reason I have for alts is as boredom insurance. As expansions wear on and you have done pretty much all you care to do on your main, you can always turn to either a new or existing alt and experience the expansion in a new way on them. I guarantee you that T2 will be a completely different experience on my mage than it was on my hunters, for example. Same with LFR — it may be the only way I can get close to raiding on my weaker alts, so it will be quite a bit different from my hunter LFR token-hunting reason. As I have mentioned, I was never bored in Mists, even though it went on for a long time, and I attribute most of that to being able to spend quality time with my alts.

So that’s it. I enjoy alts, I have multiple reasons for creating them, and I wish I had more time to play them. I also wish T2 was not such a hostile environment for them. I intend to create more alts, especially as WoD ages. They are a way for me to keep the game fresh, reminding me again of the reasons I started playing in the first place.

What about you? Why do you have alts, or if you don’t have any why don’t you?

Raid finder and things I don’t understand

Last night I had some extra time on my hands and realized it has been almost a month since I really played my main hunter. Our raid team is on break until 6.2, and I felt like I might be losing some hunter skills by not raiding. Plus I have had zero luck getting any tier gear beyond two pieces of the crappy LFR version. So I decided to try to get into a Heroic BRF.

What was I THINKING??? /headslap

Before I go into this long sordid tale, I will save you the effort of reading to the end: I never did get to the point of actually killing any bosses or even any trash mobs.

Let me state up front that I detest pugs. While I have done them on occasion, and while I have had a few good experiences with them, the overwhelming majority of them have ranged from “pretty bad” to “guided tour through Hell.”

At any rate, in my state of (hopefully) temporary insanity, I pulled up the Raid Finder, filtered on “BRF”, and commenced to scrolling through. This in itself is a frustrating exercise, for several reasons. First, there is no way to sort the list so that the most recent posts are listed first. In fact, I couldn’t see any pattern to how they are listed. So you may see the first entry was posted 43 minutes ago, then the next one one minute ago, then the next one 12 minutes ago, and so on. Generally if something was posted over 20 minutes ago, it is a safe bet they are no longer looking for anyone, but the RL just didn’t remove the listing. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a raid, you have to scroll all the way through to see what is available, by which time every listing will be outdated.

Second, it is both amusing and frustrating to read through all the conditions RLs feel they must put into their listings. (This also takes up lots more time which makes going through the list even longer.) I found that the longer the list of conditions, the more ridiculous they were.

 Fresh H BRF. Full clear, don’t sign up if you can’t stay for all. Guild alt run. RL is 9/10 M BRF. Need dps. AotC priority. Know fights, don’t suck, under 30k dps=kicked. ML MS>OS, BoE reserved for guild bank. Carrying warrior, all druid gear reserved, [Big Shiny Mage Staff] reserved.

Level required: 680


Well, gosh, who wouldn’t jump at a chance like that? Help them carry their alts, get a big ole ration of attitude, and probably get zero gear. Whoopie!

I have never really understood dps numbers. Damage per second is just that — per second. It changes every second. There are a large number of variables involved, not the least of which are type of fight and your role in the fight (special raid tasks almost always lessen your damage). Yes, you can average the numbers over the course of one fight, or one entire raid, but the variables still impact that.

When RLs require a certain dps number, I am never sure what they are asking for. My hunter sometimes has huge dps numbers, for example on AoE fights or when I get very lucky with procs. Sometimes the numbers seem low, for example on onesie-twosie trash mobs that die quickly, or for a boss that has a lot of adds I am required to kill (thus rapidly switching targets, not my best thing), or because I got a sneezing fit in the middle of the fight.

So I find arrogant announcements of dps requirements stupid and off-putting. A good RL knows if you are performing well or if you are performing poorly given all the factors, and some arbitrary dps threshold is usually not the best way to ensure good performance.

I also don’t understand the concept of MS>OS for non-hybrid classes. Especially now that secondary stats play such a pivotal role. Prior to 6.0, for example, a hunter was a hunter, no matter what the spec. If you rolled on a piece of agility mail and got it, that was pretty much your gear drop for the night. You couldn’t roll on a piece for off spec because there was really no such thing as off spec for hunters, rogues, locks, mages, etc.

But I think secondary stats have changed that, or at least they should have changed it. There really is a big difference between mastery and multistrike for a hunter. (Currently — whether that distinction will count as much in 6.2 remains to be seen.) Same is true of other non-hybrid classes. Whether any given RL realizes this us anyone’s guess, though.

Secondary stats might have also changed the concept of “upgrades.” I don’t run with a guild that uses Loot Council, but I wonder if most LCs take secondary stats into consideration when they consider the upgrade factor.

Similarly, with the 3-item restriction on crafted gear, loot that appears to be the same level and have the same stats as a piece of crafted gear could actually be a significant upgrade to a player, since it might allow them to equip a piece of crafted gear in a different slot that would be a big upgrade.

With all the secondary stat and crafted gear and tier piece factors, I really don’t understand hard and fast rules on ilevel any more. For example, if I just equipped my highest level gear on my main hunter, I would have an ilevel approaching 690. But it would be worse gear than the 679 set I am wearing. (Thanks to my inability to get any tier pieces beyond LFR level, and thanks to my bad luck on secondary stats.)

So should I go ahead and try to sign up for raids that require 680 ilevel? I am sure some RLs would consider I was close enough for them to try out anyway, but my experience last night was that I got declined for every raid (maybe 10 or so) that had a 680 requirement, even if I put a short gear explanation in the comments section.

Back to the Raid Finder. One other very frustrating “feature” is that it does not show you the class composition of the raid members. It shows number of tanks/healers/dps, but not classes. Twice last night I got accepted for a raid but once I got in I saw there were way too many hunters to give me any decent chance at tier gear, given the apparently universal preference for group loot. On one team there were already 3 hunters and on the other there were already 4! I didn’t want to be a jerk about leaving these teams once I found out the composition, so I said something like “Looks like you already have plenty of hunters, so I’ll bow out to give them a better chance at gear. Good luck and have fun!” But I shouldn’t have had to do this — the Raid Finder should have shown me this in advance.

I was surprised that Raid Finder is so cumbersome. I have used it in the past to find world boss groups, apexis groups, garrison groups, rep groups, etc., and I was very happy with it. But — due to my hatred of pugs — I had not used it to look for an actual raid group.

So I ended up spending a couple of hours trying to get into a raid and not getting into a single one. I know Blizz loves to hype this as a big feature that has made life easier for players, but I found it to be enormously annoying and time wasting. It is useful for RLs, because there is basically no burden for them to list their raid. And it is useful for one-off groups. But for someone trying to find a raid, it is overwhelmingly bad.

Proving Grounds revisited

Yesterday I decided to try and gear up my destro warlock and discovered, when I went to queue up for the 3 instances needed for round two of the legendary, that I had not yet completed the proving grounds requirement. So I took a deep breath and entered the PG instance.

I have only done the WoD version on my two hunters and on my MW monk, all of them when they were at relatively low ilevels. The instance starts at 615 and scales up the difficulty if your gear is above that level. I think my three characters were all around ilvl 600 when they did it, but the instance does not scale down the difficulty to account for anything below 615.

The DPS PG is ridiculously easy for a hunter — even an undergeared one, and especially a survival hunter — and I had zero problems getting silver on both of mine, first try, plenty of time left over.  (And no, I have no interest whatsoever in getting gold or god forbid endless.) My MW was a little more challenging, it took me about 6 or 7 tries to get the silver. It’s been awhile, but I seem to remember that I got much better results when I pitched in with some damage to help out the pitiful DPS NPCs.

My lock is somewhere around 652 ilevel, and honestly getting silver was not a walk in the park. I got bronze immediately, but it took me a few tries to get the silver. I attribute most of this difficulty to my lack of recent practice with my lock. Once I switched around a few talents to get more AoE power and had regained some proficiency with using my cooldowns, I was fine.

The experience made me think a little about the whole PG concept. I recall that I was pretty excited about it when it was announced for 5.4, thinking it would be a great way — finally — for tanks and healers to practice without subjecting a group to the painful realities of their learning curve. In fact, Blizz promoted it this way, saying it would be a tutorial  experience, a hands-on way to improve your skills. Unfortunately, I envisioned a somewhat grander and more useful tool than what we got, but still it was a good game addition.

In the hype leading up to WoD, Blizz said that the PG would be improved by providing much more in the way of tutorials, and also that it would be a requirement for heroics. I think this was yet another example of Blizz over-promising, as what I see is that the “more tutorials” consists of that NPC “teaching” you to not stand in bad shit and to interrupt casters. Big whoop.

I don’t feel I can comment on the heals PG, as I have only done it a couple times. But I’ve done the DPS one now something like 10 times on various alts, up to silver. It has one or two extremely limited uses, which I will discuss below, but in general it stinks as a DPS tutorial or even as a DPS gate for heroics. In my opinion, it is basically just an AoE race. The single target guys are easy to deal with, and the required “movement” consists of getting behind the shield dudes and kiting that Big Ball o’ Wax so that it hits a mob.

Where the challenge comes is when you have to apply AoE on those disgusting little rabbit creatures as you are killing the single targets. You cannot engage the rabbits one by one or you will run out of time. This is simple for a hunter and a lock, not so simple for some other classes. Classes/specs that lack a robust cleave or AoE will have a significantly harder time completing silver in my opinion. Not sure I will even attempt it on my arcane mage, but that is one example that comes to mind.

The only use I can see for the current PG is that it forces you to practice with your class/spec buttons. That’s it. So if you have not used your character for awhile, it serves as a quick refresher. Or if for example you leveled your hybrid as DPS but really want to play it at level as a healer or tank, the PG  can help you practice a couple of rotations as a practical exercise that is different from using a target dummy. Will it teach you how to tank or heal? Not even close.

There is no good reason to require PG silver for heroics. Beyond a pre-school kind of “training” it is meaningless as a predictor for competence. I am not saying Blizz should get rid of the requirement, just that it is useless as one. It’s like requiring players to visit Goldshire before they can queue for heroics — possibly interesting, more likely annoying, but completely unrelated to performance in an instance.

I still believe there is a lot of potential for the idea of Proving Grounds. For example, offering a better variety of scenarios would be interesting. You might choose, for example, among scenarios including little to no movement, high movement, single target or lots of adds, tank switching, raid-wide damage versus heavy tank damage for healers to contend with, etc. You could also work on certain mechanics in a PG. For example, the conveyor belt mechanic has been used a lot since 5.4, so having that in a PG  might be useful as an option.

Another nice innovation would be the option to take one or two people into the PG with you. This would be useful in lots of circumstances. For example, someone just learning a new role or class might ask the guild expert on that to give them pointers while in the PG. One or two raid team members might want to work on some specific coordination techniques. Lots of possibilities.

Proving Grounds in their current state are close to useless, in my opinion. But that doesn’t mean Blizz should abandon them. It would be nice to see them expanded and improved in the next expansion.

Close encounter of the 6.2 kind

Last night I stuck a toe into the PTR waters to test them a bit. Didn’t last long, the pool turned out to be quite chilly, so I decided not to jump all the way in. Initial thoughts and impressions:

Garrison resources. Huge barrier, in fact it was the reason I got no further than the initial quest line that, once completed, allows you to build your shipyard. You need 6000 resources right off the bat. This is the price of admission, along with whatever gold it costs to buy the plans, build the place, etc. As I copied my main over, and as it had only 4000+ GR, I could go no further unless I embarked on a GR-gathering grind, which I am not going to do on a PTR. I get enough grinding on the live version, thank you very much. I believe there was a dev tweet explaining that the number of GR was a “placeholder” that would be changed, but unless and until that happens I won’t be returning to the land of 6.2.

Even if the GR problem is soon fixed to allow people to experience the PTR fully without grinding for a couple of weeks just to be able to play, it brings to the forefront one of the fundamental patch problems I mentioned previously. That is, it doubles down on the whole garrison-grind time sink people have grown to hate. I seriously doubt that I will bring any of my alts to Tanaan, as doing so requires a level 3 garrison just to get started, then adds even more garrison chore time once you actually gain admittance. Plus there is the significant cost of thousands of gold and GR. All to increase the load of an activity I hate.

(Incidentally, lots of bloggers have alluded to the time sink that garrisons are, but I thought this post over at Gwendlyn’s World of Warcraft perfectly captured what we have all been talking about.)

Class changes. I did not step foot into any instances, but I did get an initial feel for the SV hunter class changes as I worked my way through the introductory quest line. In a word: awful. (There are other words that better describe it, but I try to keep this blog PG-13.) The changes to Serpent Sting cascade down to affect our entire rotation and talent selection. Multishot of course is now only useful once when facing a group of adds. Arcane shot against a single target felt like I might as well be tossing Awesomefish at them for all the damage it did. And with these two shots gutted, Thrill of the Hunt and Focusing Shot were pretty well useless. Black Arrow still procs Lock and Load, thankfully, but of course Explosive Shot does not do as much damage, which deflates the value of LnL somewhat.

What I was left with for crowds was Explosive Trap and Barrage. Both of these are iffy when dealing with mobile mobs. Heck, Barrage can be downright dangerous if used imprudently. (Go ahead, raise your hand if you have been the cause of mega trash pulls in BRF because you were 2-3 pixels off in your positioning when using Barrage.) To have to rely on it as my main AoE shot just seems bad.

I admit some of my discomfort while trying to deal damage was due to my over abundance of the now-useless Multistrike and consequent scarcity of Mastery on my gear. Also, I had not yet developed a new rotation and talent set to deal with the changes. Fixing those things would undoubtedly help.

But honestly, I don’t think doing that will help eliminate the feeling I got that SV is about to become a bland, mediocre, soulless spec. No burst capability, no raid cooldown, average on single target damage, slightly below average on AoE, best hope is to dismiss your pet and go Lone Wolf, but really BM/MM are way better specs, sucks to be you if you love SV.

I still would like to know WHY I should be forced to learn a new rotation, replace most of my gear, or else change specs IN THE MIDDLE OF AN EXPANSION WHEN NOT ALL CLASSES WILL HAVE TO DO THE SAME? Everyone expects huge changes in new expansions, and sometimes the changes are pre-loaded in a patch just prior to a new xpac, but to do it to one or two classes mid-tier just seems capricious.

I get that Blizz totally screwed up Multistrike by failing to foresee its effect especially on SV hunters, but there really has to be a way to fix their mistake without punishing the players that have dutifully worked within the established framework to progress within their chosen spec. And honestly, it’s not like SV hunters are gods of destruction now. If we were zooming out of sight on the DPS charts I could see a reason for change, but we are not.

I will probably jump back into the PTR in a couple days, to see if there is a fix to Garrison Resources, and also to check out the profession changes. Meanwhile, we are supposed to have a beautiful weekend here, and I plan to make the most of it by doing lots of outside activities and not playing WoW. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Mages and warlocks and monks, oh my

Hope everyone had a nice Easter/Passover/Spring Break/Noholidaywhatsoever weekend. I did. Spent time with friends, figured out all the cool things about my new GoPro camera (birthday present from the spousal unit), did the spring maintenance on my bicycle, and played quite a bit of WoW. Guess which of these things was not nearly so much fun as the others? Actually, if you guessed playing WoW, you would be wrong, in this case it was the bike maintenance. (Note to self: There are probably more efficient ways to manually tighten spokes and true up wheels on a warm sunny day than with a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Just sayin’.)

The truth is, I actually enjoyed my WoW time this weekend. Not because this expansion has suddenly gotten better, don’t be silly, but because I had zero raid and/or raid prep responsibilities (on break for both my raid teams). This left me with the main resource that WoD has deprived me of: Time. I actually spent some quality time with 3 of my alts, and it was enjoyable getting to know them again.

I spent the least amount of time with my mage. She is still leveling, and I got her from 92 to 95. She and my druid are my least favorite alts (luckily they don’t have Internet access and thus won’t read this blog). I know people who are just phenomenal at playing mages, and they love the class. Not me. I think of them as squishy, petless hunters who have to stand still to do damage. I am sure this attitude is the main reason I am so lousy at mage-ing. Clearly I don’t understand the class, it has never seemed as easy and natural to me as the hunter class.

I have thought about deleting my mage, but we have a history together. She was my second ever character in the game, she dutifully spent a couple years doing bank duty, and she is a very useful inscriptionist. Also, I think mages have the most awesome spell visuals of any class. So I feel like I owe it to her to level her to 100, get her some adequate gear, and basically get her ready for the next expansion.

My warlock has been level 100 for several weeks now, but has been hanging out in garrison mainly doing tailoring and alchemy duties, and building up followers for missions. I like my lock. She is a cute little gnome with a real kick-ass attitude. Locks were a blast to play during Mists, but not so much now. Heck, I even finished the Green Fire quest on mine AFTER Blizz reverse nerfed it. It was the most challenging quest I ever did in WoW, and I am too embarrassed to tell you how many tries it took me, even with decent gear. But I got it, and I really learned to love the warlock class.

So my lock has been stuck in her garrison most of the time, but running missions and crafting finally got her to the magic 635 to run LFR BRF. (Without any version of the Legendary ring — I went back and picked that up after the LFR run.) So I queued for Slagworks. Out of curiosity, I ran a DPS meter during the raid. To my chagrin, but as I expected, I was dead last in damage. My gear was barely adequate (still had one green and a couple blues), none of it was enchanted or gemmed, and I was very rusty on my destro rotation. I had spent a little time selecting damage-enhancing and higher defensive talents and glyphs, and trying it all out for a bit on my garrison target dummy, but yes I “bottomed” the damage chart for that run. I will say, though, that I knew the fights well, and I took the least amount of damage of any DPS-er. So I guess that’s something. Plus I got two decent pieces of gear, so with those plus stage one of the Legendary, all my gear is now purple, and it is fully enchanted and gemmed. And I had fun playing my lock.

My panda mistweaver monk has also mainly been hanging out in garrison, with a few forays out into Draenor now and then. I think I mentioned previously that my first attempt at WoD healing — normal Skyreach right after I hit 100 — was a disaster. I stupidly let that get to me and pretty much went into hibernation for several weeks. But recently I decided to give it another go, now that I have some better gear and some practice LFRs under my belt.

Mainly I wanted to get the 3 quests for the second stage Legendary. I was worried about it, though, since it requires 3 heroic 5-mans. LFR healing is easy, but I find 5-mans stressful. I finished them, though, and we only had two wipes, both in Grimrail Depot. Those were entirely due to an idiot rogue who said the tank was “too slow” so he kept running ahead and pulling every mob in sight. For the record, the tank was not too slow, he was doing fine. After the second wipe I was annoyed and told the rogue that since he felt he could do his own tanking I hoped he could also do his own healing. He proceeded to rush in and pull again on the last boss, so I let him get down to about 10% health and gave him the bare minimum of heals to pretty much keep him on the edge of dying for most of the fight. Then just as the boss was going down I let him die, and no I did not rez him before I left the group.

I guess I was finally feeling the power of a healer! 🙂 Also, I was semi-proud of myself that I had decent enough control over my heals that I could keep the rogue close to dying but not quite, until I was ready for him to die.

I know that sounds mean, but he had it coming to him. Even if the tank had been too slow — which as I said he wasn’t — that does not justify a DPS pulling on purpose. The guy was a rude jerk, so if I was able to annoy him at the end, so much the better. His selfish actions had been sabotaging the whole group.

I find that I really like healing. I wish I were better at it, and I do sometimes find it stressful, but in the end I always feel good about a successful run. I would like to have some opportunities to raid heal, but unfortunately my monk is in my social guild, and my raid leader there rarely if ever lets me out of hunter DPS duties. Bummer, because I think I could become a decent healer given some practice.

Anyway, I had a good weekend. This week it’s back to the raid schedule grind again, but the break was nice while it lasted.