Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hybrid Feral Spec (3.3.3)

So let's say you're the type of druid that rocks out with your HoTs out. Or maybe you're the type that spends most of your time chargin' yer lazers. But you kinda have that urge to use your second spec seeing what it's like to spend your time with four on the floor. And you want to be able to fill either of the roles your furry brethren can. Maybe not as well as the ones who specialize in either form, but well enough to pull your weight. How would you spec for that?

Here's where I would suggest you start

Restoration - 11 points
Improved Mark of the Wild - 2/2
Maxing out this talent is always a good idea for Ferals. There's a few talents in the next two tiers of the Resto tree that benefit both our forms and are very worth getting. Since you have to spend 5 points in the first tier to get to them, there's no reason not to put 2 here.

Furor - 3/5
These points are here to get you down to the next tier. They shouldn't come into play very much, though. Even as a hybrid Heral, you're probably going to be performing one role or the other at any given time. They're too disparate for you to be in a situation where you're constantly switching forms.

Naturalist - 5/5
DPS increase for your Kitty. Threat increase as a Bear. Since you're not likely to be one of the tanks benefiting from Misdirection or Tricks in this kind of hybrid role, you want the threat increase.

Omen of Clarity - 1/1
Basically amounts to a free attack every time it procs. From the information I can find, this has about a 6% proc chance off your auto-attacks, or 3.5 procs per minute (on average). In either spec, it's very helpful, but especially for boosting your Cat DPS.

Feral - 55 points
Ferocity - 5/5
Almost any talent that reduces the resource cost of your abilities (especially the number of them that this one touches) should be picked up.

Feral Aggression - 0/5
For the "base" build, no points go here. But I'll touch more on this topic later.

Feral Instinct - 0/3
Same as above with Feral Aggression. We'll come back to this.

Savage Fury - 2/2
DPS for your Cat, threat for your Bear. Simple.

Thick Hide - 3/3
Since you plan to be spending at least some time tanking, you'll absolutely need the armor increase.

Feral Swiftness - 2/2
Again, since you'll be spending some time tanking, you'll want the extra dodge. The added Cat speed isn't horrible, either.

Survival Instincts - 1/1
You'll want all your emergency buttons for tanking, and this is one of them. Can be useful in Cat form, too, during heavy raid-damage fights.

Sharpened Claws - 3/3
Crits contribute to your Cat's DPS, your Bear's threat, and your Bear's mitigation (thanks to Savage Defense).

Shredding Attacks - 2/2
This is a resource cost reduction on a couple of the abilities you'll be using most in either form, so it's pretty key.

Predatory Strikes - 3/3
Another entry in the DPS/Threat boost category.

Primal Fury - 2/2
Free rage and free combo points. Good for both specs. Take it.

Primal Precision - 2/2
The biggest part of this talent is the 10 Expertise Rating. That's huge for both DPS and tanks as both are looking to, at minimum, hit the 6.5% Expertise-Dodge cap.

Brutal Impact - 0/2
This is more of a PvP and soloing talent than a PvE one. It would be nice to have a shorter cooldown on Bash sometimes, but it's still not going to help you enough to make wasting points here worth it. Cats should never be Pouncing in a group environment, so you can forget about that right off. :-)

Feral Charge - 1/1
This is pretty much a must-have for Bears, and it's a very, very nice-to-have for Cats. At one point, it's a steal.

Nurturing Instinct - 0/2
This only affects Cats, and in PvE it's not even that great.

Natural Reaction - 3/3
Even though it's only for Bears, the Dodge boost is critical.

Heart of the Wild - 5/5
10% AP increase for Cats, Stam increase for Bears. Get it!

Survival of the Fittest - 3/3
The 6% stat increase is good for both specs, but the 6% reduced crit chance is absolutely, 100% needed for Bears.

Leader of the Pack - 1/1
The crit bonus helps both specs. Plus it passes the bonus to your whole raid. Sweet.

Improved Leader of the Pack - 0/2
Coming back to this one.

Primal Tenacity - 0/3
This is primarily a PvP talent. Not really worth spending points in a raiding build.

Protector of the Pack - 3/3
Even though it does nothing for Cats, this is a pretty critical Bear talent. You'll need to max this out.

Predatory Instincts - 3/3
This is a cat-only talent, but a pretty important one. Your DPS in Kitty is already going to be a little gimped since you're not fully specced for it. The 10% crit bonus and the healing help are both very nice.

Infected Wounds - 0/3
Coming back to this one.

King of the Jungle - 3/3
Another Cat-only talent, but one that's 100% essential to keep your DPS even close to respectable.

Mangle - 1/1
Absolutely required. No questions asked.

Improved Mangle - 0/3
With the 3.3.3 changes to this talent, it's pretty much a wash. Cats don't really need it at all anymore, and it doesn't do much to help bears, either. You can probably leave this empty.

Rend and Tear - 5/5
Extra Damage/Threat. And needed to get Primal Gore, which you'll definitely want.

Primal Gore - 1/1
Bleeds are a huge part of a Cat's DPS and a Bear's threat generation. Allowing these to crit is huge.

Berserk - 1/1
You'll probably use this more in Cat form than Bear. It's a Cat's OMGDPS cooldown. For bears it's not bad, though. It can break or prevent a fear, which is helpful at times. If you need quick threat on 3 targets, it'll also allow you to Mangle spam, which is useful.

Alright, that right there is your base build. They're are the talents that I believe you should take in a hybrid Feral spec no matter what. But wait...add them up. You still have 5 points left over.

These last five points are very situational. You can spend them based on personal preference or on your raid's composition. Here's some suggestions to help you make that decision. They're listed in a rough priority order, but your mileage may vary:

Improved Leader of the Pack (2)
This is a pretty good utility talent that will take some of the strain off of your healers. Not a significant amount, but sometimes every little bit counts. However, only one Feral needs this talent for the raid to benefit, so if it's already covered, you can skip this. (On the flip side, it might be worth it to take this and let them move their talents to further improve their more specialized role.)

Infected Wounds (3)
Pretty much the same as ILotP above. Great for utility, but only needed by one Feral for the benefit.

Feral Aggression (5)
This will pump up your single-target DPS while you're in Cat and the Demoralizing Roar buff will help your survivability when you're tanking. Neither are crucial, but both are helpful.

Feral Instinct (3)
If you're doing a lot of AoE tanking or DPSing down large trash packs, the points here will boost your contribution in those areas. (This is a great talent if you plan on running a lot of heriocs as a Feral.) If you're dealing with single, strong enemies most of the time, you can probably leave this talent alone.

Natural Shapeshifter/Master Shapeshifter (5)
It's a benefit to both Bears and Cats, but not a huge one. And it's costly since 3 of these 5 points are spent on the completely useless Natural Shapeshifter. But if all your utility talents are already covered and you're not really looking for the specific boosts to either your AoE or single-target damage, then this almost becomes a reasonable choice.

Nurturing Instinct (2)
The lowest priority of the open talents. You should really only get this if you're dying all the time as a Cat. And only if all of that "all the time" consists of unavoidable random-target or AoE damage. If it's because you keep pulling aggro, well...this talent won't help you fix that problem.

The link to the Wowhead build at the top of the post also includes my suggested glyph choices. Of course, you could carry a stack of glyphs to switch in and out based on the needs of a given fight (which isn't a bad strategy for anyone trying to min/max, really). But if you're like me and would rather set 'em and forget 'em, the ones attached to that build should serve you pretty well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Might as well just move in

So, somewhat related to last night's doom-and-gloom introspection...

It's shaping up to be a really busy week for me. I'm going to be spending every night in ICC in various forms.

Monday night we put together a guild 10-man run comprised of toons (mostly alts) that didn't get saved when we ran 2 concurrent 10-mans the previous Friday. That group was able to clear up through the Ugly Bros (Fester and Rot). Since San tanked one of the Friday runs, I was there healing on Dal.

Since our officers had (loosely) decided to slow down and focus on 10-mans for a while, I had tapped one of my guildies that ran 25's with a pretty reliable and consistent pug group to start going in there on San. Well, our officers decided to give a guild 25 run another shot this weekend. Being that I'd have to save San for that, I was able to finagle an invite for Dal instead.

It was a pretty good two nights for Dal. Remember how in my buyer's remorse post I mentioned that I'd be happy getting the occasional upgrade when I could. Well, when it rains, it pours, I guess. Here's what he picked up in just two nights:

Deathspeaker Disciple's Belt
Ice-Reinforced Vrykul Helm
Nobundo's Handguards of Conquest (Purchased because the helm upgrade cost me my 4pT9 bonus)
Mag'hari Chieftain's Staff (Overall not so good for Resto Shams, but it was going to be DE'd otherwise and it was an upgrade over what I was using: Argent Resolve and the Temple Crystal Fragment)
Ashen Band of Greater Wisdom (Yay, rep!)
Holiday's Grace

Linked Scourge Vertebrae
Taldron's Long Neglected Boots
Abomination Knuckles
Leggings of Northern Lights

Yeah...I know, right? I felt bad getting all those 10-man upgrades, but it's not like I was rigging the loot tables. I passed on anything that anyone else wanted on that run, but the only thing that cost me was Lockjaw.

Tonight we'll be starting a guild 10-man progression group with the goal of getting Putricide and maybe Lana'thel this week. That group will be running Saturday and Sunday in addition to tonight.

Thursday will (hopefully) be a continuation of last night's 25-man pug.

Friday will (hopefully) be our guild ICC 25.

So, yeah...7 nights, 7 trips into ICC.

Guess I can't complain about not finding enough time to raid anymore...

Oh, and since I reference the buyer's remorse post...I did end up getting the tier gloves on San. The agreement I made with myself was to try VoA that week to see if I got lucky with drops. If I did, I would have had enough badges to get the Primordial Saronite for the boots. If not, I'd just buy the gloves and be content.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Looking into my crystal ball

Yeah, I'm posting a bit late today. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

So it's been a little over a day now since Blizz announced the upcoming changes to the raid structure in Cataclysm, including lockouts. If you haven't heard the details some blogs other than mine. I'm not the only one out here. Just the best. *cough*

No, seriously, though. If you haven't heard about them, you can get the lowdown from

Let me just say that I think this is a much needed change for the game. While the BC method of a moderately tough 10-man intro raid leading into more challenging content that required 25 people wasn't quite right, at least there was a clear path. The only way to overload your raid schedule was to hit a brick wall in your progression and end up trying night after night after night.

The problem was that it was punishing to a lot of guilds. Kara wasn't hard, hard. But it wasn't Naxx. You had to work your way into Kara, and once there it took some work to get through. Not everyone was able to do it. You didn't have to be awesome at WoW, but you couldn't face-roll through it either. Then it just got harder from there. And if you didn't know 24 other people who could make that cut, then that's where you stopped.

Wrath came along and made the game a lot more friendly to those of us that didn't have the time, patience, or connections to wrangle with the beast that is 25-man raiding. (Yes, I know it's not 40...but it's still not easy.) We could run any of the content in the game with just 10.

The problem came in that the 10- and 25-man versions of the raids weren't equal. 25-man raids dropped better gear and more of it. Plus the fights had extra mechanics that often weren't seen in 10-man raiding. It created a stigma that guilds that preferred to or could only do 10-man raids, for whatever reason, were inferior. To run with the big dogs, you had to hit the 25-man content.

And if you could do the 25-man content, there was additional pressure to also split up and tackle the 10-man content. Both for extra practice and for faster gearing.

The inequities and the pressures aren't really something that are healthy for a game like WoW and the new solutions are definitely a step towards addressing those. Will they accomplish it in the way Blizzard hopes? I don't know. Time will tell.

There's another side to this story, though. It's the side that belongs to guilds like mine. We want to be a 25-man raiding guild. And we want to be a 25-man raiding guild that gives anyone who wants to raid a chance. We don't impose strict limits or any kind on our raiders. What this means is that we can't reliably field a 25-man team (no attendance requirements). And when we do field a team, there's no guarantees of how successful it's going to be.

Some of our members are very good, though. They enjoy raiding, they enjoy pushing themselves, and they enjoy the mini-game of trying to get the most out of their gear that they can. While they're willing to hold themselves back in 25s to allow others to have a chance to enjoy raiding, they use 10-mans to get their fix for pushing progression at their own pace. It's hard to find enough time to do that, all the time, though. We try to rotate people into the 10-man teams sometimes. Partly to help people experience more content--especially when our 25-man teams are significantly behind the 10-mans, if they're running at all. Partly to silence the nagging voice in the back of our head that says we're being exlusionist pricks.

It's a delicate balance, but it works for us. At least, it works well enough.

The new changes are going to be a death-knell for a guild like ours. It's going to force us to sit down and make a hard decision. Do we want to continue to strive to be a 25-man raiding guild, or do we want to focus on 10-man content?

Either way, there's dangers.

Yes, the new structure is going to push people to raid with their guilds. It's safe to assume the raid pugging scene is going to all but disappear. This means more incentive for the people in our guild to raid with our guild.

But is also safe to assume (based on the coming re-emphasis of CC abilities and de-emphasis of LOLAoE pulls) that the difficulty curve will be getting steeper again. Maybe not BC steep. But steeper than it is now.

It means that, in order to run a 25-man raiding guild, not only will we have to be able to regularly assemble 25 raiders on our scheduled nights, but we'll have to assemble 25 good raiders.

Even using that word ("good") I feel...elitist. But the only other word that comes to mind is "competent" and that's even worse.

I hate to say things in such a way that suggests that at least a small number of the players we fill our current raids with are neither of those. It's not fair. Whether they lack time, attention, maturity, dexterity, drive, know-how, or doesn't mean they're bad or incompetent. It just means...well...that they have to be carried a little bit. Which is fine with me. I get my "challenge-myself" fix in 10-mans. And a lot of the more progression-oriented people in our raids feel similarly.

But if the progression-oriented people don't have that extra out for progression when our 25-mans stall, they're going to get frustrated and leave for places where they can get their progression fix. This, in turn, will leave the rest of us short(er).

So what if we decide to go 10-man? Well then there's going to be an exodus of people that feel they're not being included enough in those runs. And there will be those people. I couldn't blame them.

That all said, I want to be a 25-man guild. Yes, it's logistically harder. Herding 10 focused people is much, much easier than herding 15 focused people and 10 semi-focused people. It's the reality of the beast. But 25-man raiding just feels more...right. More epic. Spells flying around from every corner of the room, a mosh pit of axes and swords and claws desperately trying to hack a boss's just more impressive. And it's more satisfying when it ends well. Plus, at the end of the day, it's getting to play the game with that many more people I enjoy playing the game with.

Regardless of how things change for our guild, there's no question in my mind that things are going to change. There's going to be tough decisions. I think we're going to lose some people no matter what path we go down. The question is which some, and why.

It's a sucky decision to have to make. These people are more than just players who happen to be in the same guild. They're friends. How do you make a decision that you know is ultimately going to push some of those friends away?

But it's a decision we're going to have to consciously make lest we run the risk of inadvertently losing everyone.

Monday, April 26, 2010

General musings from the weekend

How raw of a deal is it to be a Draenei in WoW? Think about it.

You start off at level 1 right after the ship you were on, The Exodar, crash landed on Azeroth. Being that the 3 other satellites of Tempest Keep (Botanica, Mechanar, and Arcatraz) required that you be level 70 and in halfway decent gear to get through, it's reasonable to assume that the orders you were getting from your superiors right before reaching the Exodar to steal it and fly it away consisted of "stay behind me, shut your mouth, and don't do anything stupid, or--so help me A'dal--I promise every moment of your soul's existence in the Twisting Nether will make a day with Kil'Jaeden look like a beach vacation."

Some how, you succeed. And you crash on this strange planet. Most of those who came with you didn't survive the crash. So you set out on a grand adventure and end up right back where you started. You go through the Dark Portal, step out into Hellfire Peninsula and think, "you have got to be effin' kidding me."

I can only imagine how that feeling multiplies on top of itself as you start clearing through the various wings of TK.

Incidentally, if we ever have to evacuate Azeroth, I'll be suggesting that we round up all the Draenei and shove them in the cargo hold with strict orders not to touch anything. I mean, seriously. They flee Argus and end up crashing their ship into what's now Nagrand. Then they flee Outland and crash their ship into Azeroth. Frankly I'm surprised we even trust them enough to fly a gryphon at this point. The hell they're ever getting anywhere near the controls of another space ship.

Moving onto a slightly different topic, my mind wandered off at one point and starting thinking about the lore-centric implications of trade skills. From a gameplay mechanic, they make perfect sense and I don't really question them. But think about it from the view of the lore. What does it mean that so many people running around are Alchemists or Blacksmiths or Jewelcrafters?

All of these people (and I use that word in the broadest sense possible) aren't the trained defenders of their realms. They're not the brave military commanders or genius strategists. They're the craftsmen of Azeroth. The simple peasants armed with little more than a crude weapon and the clothes on their back, and with a small inkling of talent (magical or otherwise) that maybe their peers don't have. And they're called to do their part because just about everyone before them has already died trying.

They're the ones who stopped Ragnaros from re-entering our plane. Who curb-stomped not one, but two old-gods. Who told the head of the Buring Legion to gtfo. Who saved Azeroth from being rebooted by the Titans. Who put an end to one of the Dragon aspects. Who felled the greatest generals of the Lich King and, ultimately, the Lich King, himself.

I'd say that's pretty impressive considering the humble beginnings.

On to my third and final topic of general musings from the weekend: my hunter. (He's a dwarf.) I spent some time leveling him last night and had a lot of time during cross-continental flights to ponder random nothings.

First, his pet--a white gorilla named Loki--is about twice his size. (He's a dwarf.) This greatly amuses me, though I'm not sure why.

Also, in regards to the upcoming Hunter Camouflage ability in Cata...I don't look at my hunter and associate this skill with his character. (He's a dwarf.) I think the only way he'd ever camouflage himself is to pass out drunk in the forest long enough for the area flora to grow over him. This would be very effective camouflage, granted...but it wouldn't get a lot of hunting done.

This has been a brief glimpse into the things my mind occupies itself with. Congratulations if you made it this far.

I like π!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Revisiting the Past

This is kind of a post about Blizzard rather than just WoW.

I've dabbled in each of Blizzard's big 3 in the past: Warcraft, Startcraft, and Diablo.

I played Diablo, but never beat it. I was too unsophisticated as a gamer back then, I think. I remember playing the Warrior (or equivalent) class. By the time I got to the latter third of the game, I was pretty much going down to my current dungeon, killing a few enemies, chaining my health pots in the process, and then heading back to town to restock. Rinse, repeat. It got to feeling like way too slow of a grind. I was pretty sure I was doing it wrong, but wasn't sure how to do it right. So I just stopped.

I don't even know if I own the game anymore. If I do, it's in my parents' basement (as it was technically my dad's game anyway).

I never played Diablo II. After my experiences with the first, I just couldn't muster up the desire.

I played Starcraft. Just the first release, not the expansion. And only the Human campaign. The Zerg and Protoss play-styles both turned me off. One one side, I had to destroy my workers to create anything, meaning I had to churn out an endless supply of them. And I also had to spread that blight stuff around to place things...which meant actual pre-planning was required. On the other side, stuff was strong, but prohibitively expensive to my run-and-gun playstyle. If I lost one big battle, that was it for me.

On top of that, I really didn't follow the story. It was just kinda jump in and do the missions.

Consequently, I never played the expansion. Though I think I may still own both. (Don't ask...I'm not sure how that works out, either.)

I got into Warcraft with the first RTS. I played that one and the second. Although, like Starcraft, I only did the Human campaigns. And I kinda glossed over the story (though I've learned much of it through WoW).

By the time WC3 came out I was in college. I had my own comp, and it was bad. It couldn't handle the demands of WC3, so I never got to play.

Now I'm an adult (which is not to say I've grown up, really) and I have more patience. I'm a more sophisticated gamer than I was before. I care as much (if not more) for the stories of a game than the game itself. I can grasp the intricacies of combat systems and what abilities are meant for what situations. I can play RTS games with a sight on tactics rather than just defending my base while I amass a fleet of the biggest unit available and then charging in to the enemy and hoping I win. And I have a computer that can run just about anything I really want to play. Especially if the games in question are 10 years old now...

With all the time I've sunk into WoW, I've had an itch to go back and (re)play the RTS games that led up to it. Especially WC3.

With SC2 and Diablo III on the horizon, and looking freakin' amazing, I've had more than a slight itch to go back and give those franchises another try right from the start.

Blizz needs to put together and sell (even if only in digital format) an OMGALLOURPASTGAMES bundle. WC1-3 and expansions, SC and expansion, Diablo 1 & 2 (were there expansions)? I'd totally jump on that. Probably faster than I did my sparkle pony...

Update: It turns out I still had my copies of SC and Brood Wars, so I installed those over the weekend and started spending some time here and there playing.

My dad did still have Diablo, and I managed to get that from him.

So 3 down...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recycled Post Day!

It's Earth Day today and, as such, many bloggers are taking the time to recycle an old post for the day.

For my part, I've finally gone back and updated my Cat Raiding Spec post to reflect the Mangle change that came in patch 3.3.3(.3.3.3).

It's didn't have a huge affect on my spec...just moving around 3 points. But at least the information in that post is current now. :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Professor Putricide

Professor Putricide is the last boss of of ICC's Plagueworks. At its core, it's not an insanely complicated fight. Certainly not on the magnitude of the Blood Prince Council or Valithria Dreamwalker. The trade-off for that is that the execution is very, very tight. There's not a lot of room for error here.

Like the Rotface fight, the two tanks in this encounter have very distinct roles and a lot of pressure is on the tank not holding the boss to do their job well. It's very easy for that tank to wipe the encounter if they don't keep up.

Professor Putricide is a 3-phase fight. The first two phases are very similar and will see each tank performing their same tasks throughout. One tank will be the Putricide tank and the other will be the Abomb driver.

Phase 1:

Putricide tank:
Once you've decided which tank is going to perform which role, everyone needs to get in position. The Putricide tank (and the rest of the raid) will start on the side of the room with the orange vat. Pull the prof and drag him back near the wall under the vat. Soon after the encounter starts (and on regular intervals thereafter) he's going to spawn 2 slime puddles under the feet of two of your raid members. You'll want to move so that you're tanking the Prof near these puddles. Specifically near the puddle that the Abom driver is soaking up (more on that in a moment).

Not long after that he's going to cast Unstable Experiment and summon a green ooze from the vat on the other side of the room. The ooze will target a random raid member (other than the tank) and link with them, causing immobilization and heavy damage, and then start moving towards them. The link is very visible. It's very green and arcs through the air across the raid. When/if the ooze reaches the linked individual it will explode, sharing it's damage among all targets in the immediate area. Don't do anything special here. Since you're already taking damage from the prof, you don't want to stack on the linked person (as the rest of your raid should be). Just wait for your raid to kill it. Once it's dead, move the Prof to the center of the room. (The raid should follow.) If/when there's ooze puddles in the area, tank him next to them just like before.

The second time the Prof casts Unstable Experiment, he summons an orange ooze from the orange vat. Again, it's going to link with one of your raid members. Unlike the green one, they'll be able to move and will have to kite this one while the raid burns it down. You just keep doing your thing. Once it's dead, move back under the orange vat and get ready for another green ooze. This process will repeat continually.

Your positioning may be a little unclear from all that, so let me try and summarize really quick. First priority is being in the correct area of the room: under the orange vat for the green ooze summons and in the middle of the room for the orange ooze summons. Second priority is tanking him near any slime puddles that are in the general vicinity of where you should be.

Edit (6/7/10), Alternate Strat: Our guild has been using a different positioning strategy lately and it's worked very well for us. Tank Putricide near the doors where you enter the room. Only move him to keep your raiders away from bad stuff. Your raiders should still switch sides of the room, depending on which ooze it going to spawn, but it severely cuts down on their movement. As long as they stay on the opposite side of the center line as the spawning ooze, everything should be peachy.

Abom tank (driver):
You can start the encounter anywhere, though I like to line up on the opposite side of the room as the rest of the raid, near the orange vat. As soon as the Prof tank pulls, run up to the table where the Prof was standing and start drinking from the flasks there. I usually go kitty and Dash to get me there a little faster. It takes about 5 seconds to drink the potion once you click and you don't get a channeling bar (though you do get a drinking debuff). Once the drinking is done you turn into a large abom, not very dissimilar from Rotface and Festergut.

A quick note here, the transformation is a disease. You do not want this to be cleansed! If you have priests, shamans, or paladins in your raid, make sure they are very aware of this fact.

The other thing to note is that the Abom puts out a raid-wide aura that ticks AoE damage. It's not extreme, but it's there. So if you see floating damage numbers popping up all over the place, this is why.

You now play a key role in this encounter and your ability to perform it well is about 90% of the determining factor of your raid's success or failure. No pressure.

When you're driving the Abom, you have 3 abilities, each very important and used very specifically.

Your first priority at almost any given time is to soak up the slime puddles that the Prof spawns under your raiders. You do this by standing in the ooze puddle and spamming your "1" ability, Eat Ooze. The puddles will gradually shrink until they disappear. This has the added bonus of filling your resource bar. You can attack while soaking up the puddles, so if there's any oozes or Professors in melee range as you're soaking, you should be whacking away at them. This is why you want the Prof tank holding him near the ooze puddles.

What's key here is that the ooze puddles will slowly expand the longer they're out. If you're not on top of soaking them up you can reach a point where you fall too far behind and cannot catch back up as more puddles spawn. This will ultimately wipe your raid.

The only time that soaking up a puddle is not your top priority is when either the green or orange oozes spawn. Shortly after they fully form, you need to get in range of your "2" ability, Regurgitate Ooze. This slows the speed of the ooze significantly and puts a DoT on it. This is key in helping your dps get these things down quickly and, more importantly, keeping them from getting to their intended targets.

Note that this uses 45 of your accumulated ooze energy, so you don't want to go flinging your ooze around willy-nilly. Be conservative so that you have it available every time an ooze spawns. Missing one could very easily wipe your raid.

The last ability on your bar, in the "3" spot, is Mutated Slash. Any time you're soaking up puddles and something bad is in melee range, you should be nailing him with this as well. If there's no puddles out, but there is an ooze, you should be chasing it while spamming this ability after you've slowed it with your nasty gut juices. The moment you see puddles form, peel off and get to soaking them.

Phase 1 ends when your raid gets the Prof to 80%. At that point he stuns everyone in the room and runs to his table to prep for phase 2.

Edit (9/13/10): Now with video!

Phase 2:
As far as the tanks are concerned, nothing really changes here. All the abilities from Phase 1 will still be in play.

Additionally, the Prof will start tossing out bouncing goo balls at random raid members. Anyone in their path should GTFO. He also starts dropping glowing orange beakers of doom that will explode after 20 seconds. Everyone should watch out for these and avoid them.

Phase 2 ends when the Prof drops to 35%. Again, everyone gets stunned as the phases shift.

As you get the Prof close to the end of Phase 2, it's important to time your DPS so that the phase ends while there's no green or orange oozes forming or active. Keep an eye on his health bar and plan accordingly.

Phase 3:
This is a burn phase. It's a flat-out DPS race before massive damage is able to wipe your raid. At the start of this phase the abom tank is automatically cleansed, becoming his normal tanky self. This is why it's important there's no oozes out at the start of this'll have no way to slow or debuff them while your raid tries to get them down. Additionally, you need all your DPS on Putricide the moment the phase starts. Wasting time on the ooze will almost certainly lead to a wipe.

At this point the tanks need to start kiting the boss around the edge of the room. The rest of the raid needs to stay either behind the boss or to the inside of the room. Putricide will still be spawning ooze puddles under people's feet and it's important that the kite path be kept clear. The puddles will slowly expand, eventually taking over the room if Putricide isn't killed quickly enough.

During this phase he hits pretty hard. Additionally he'll be stacking a debuff on the tanks. The higher the debuff stacks, the more damage that's done every 3 seconds when it ticks. The damage is applied to the whole raid, not just the infected tank. On top of that, the damage done as the stacks are applied is increased exponentially. 1-2 stacks is pretty manageable. 3-5 is pretty bad. More than that is wipe-inducing.

If the disease drops off (most likely because the tank died), Putricide is healed for 300K per stack that was on that tank. So it's imperative that you do what you can to help the healers keep you alive. Rotate through your cooldowns responsibly while you have aggro.

Ideally the tanks should be taunting back and forth every 2 applications of the debuff.

And that's the fight.

On 10-man you're looking forward (and I mean really looking forward) to the Unidentifiable Organ. It's the only thing from 10-man you'll want, Amazing.

From 25-man you can hope for Astrylian's Sutured Cinch, which is a pretty good belt for ya. There's also the Vanquisher's Mark of Sanctification which you can use to upgrade one of your tier pieces.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Impending buyer's remorse

I almost made this part of yesterday's post because it's the internal debate that raged around this dilemma that led to the revelation I discussed yesterday. However, in the interest of trying to keep one post about one topic, I felt these two should be separated.

This past weekend while running ICC, I broke the 60 Frost Emblem mark on San again. It's time to start seriously thinking about what my next gear purchase might be. I'm at the place where I feel like I have two options.

1) I can buy my tier gloves.

Pros: Doing so, combined with the information I presented yesterday, would get my my 4-piece set bonus for my Bear (I already have the Legs, Chest, and Shoulders) and my 2-piece set bonus for my cat (as I'd do all the necessary re-gemming to share the chest and and gloves).

Cons: The gloves do drop from VoA, which I run weekly, although I'm dependent on the RNG and group composition when it comes to getting them. Granted, I rarely have Feral competition even in 25-man. But if they do drop after I've bought them, then I've kinda wasted 65 Emblems. If it weren't for this fact, it'd be a no-brainer.

2) I can buy the Primordial Saronites needed to craft the Footpads of Impending Death.

Pros: I'm still using the Footwraps of Vile Deceit for tanking, so these boots would be a huge and very needed upgrade.

Cons: I'd need to spend the Emblems of both my 80's to get all the Saronites I need, which means it'll be a while before my Shaman sees any Emblem upgrades. Plus I don't get two different tier-set bonuses this way. And I hate the general idea of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

On the other hand, I don't play my Shaman much in ICC. Tier 9 is treating him pretty well. And if I can just get the occasional ICC drop on the rare occasions that I do heal it, it should be sufficient for his role.

Yes, I could just buy the Primordial Saronites off the AH. I know. But, like I mentioned in my Pre-Cata Goals post last week, I'm a gold-miser. And the thought of spending that much gold for one piece of gear...just can't do it. Not an option.

I could go with the noob's method and find gear spreadsheets and/or simulators and plug-and-play with pieces of gear and configurations. But that's not quite my style. It feels too much like work.

So instead I'm going to solicit debate. None of which will ultimately help me make a decision (probably), but if I can get people to agree with each decision then at least I can assuage some of the guilt from either decision by claiming I had support in making it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Animals don't share: Gearing for dual Feral specs

Gearing for two Feral specs is not as easy as it may first sound. Through most of BC (by which I mean Tier 7) I collected separate gear sets even though I didn't have separate specs to support both until after 3.0 dropped. It made sense, right?

When Wrath dropped, I had one common piece of gear between the two sets. As I progressed through Wrath and started running dungeons and early heroics, I got my sets whittled down to the point where I only had about 3 or 4 unique pieces between them (from the obvious contenders: cloak, amulet, trinkets and rings). This was, of course, at the point in time where I was running around in mostly greens and blues with no gem slots. And I wasn't too concerned about enchanting them, either, because I knew they were all going to get replaced at a fairly quick pace.

Fast forward to now. I'm back to having 3 common pieces of gear between the two sets: Darkmoon Card: Greatness, Idol of the Crying Moon, and the Shaft of Glacial Ice. This last is because I just picked it up this past week and it's a pretty big upgrade to both weapons I used to carry around. I have it gemmed and enchanted for Bear, though.

Now the reason for the huge differences in sets is that even though Bears and Cats pull from the same pool of gear, their stat priorities are very different. I need much more Stam on my Bear than I do on my Cat. Same with Armor. My Cat cares more about AP, ArPen and Crit than my Bear. Agi is important to both, but in different ratios.

My Cat gems for the Hit cap, then the Expertise cap, then straight Agi. My bear gems Stam and Agi (using almost entirely Shifting Dreadstones), then the two caps if I feel I have the room to spare. And, of course, meta gems are very different for the two specs.

Enchants vary on almost every piece of gear if I'm going for the optimal setup. Bear weapons need Mongoose, Cats get Berserking or Massacre. There's different shoulder, different leg, and different head enchants. Same with just about every piece of two.

As I was doing some calculations this past weekend, I realized one important fact that I'd overlooked for the past two years: the enchants used on my gloves and my chest are the same regardless of set. Gloves and Chest are also pieces that are included in tier sets. So, if done right, those pieces can always be shared.

The premise is this: since Agi is important for both Bears and Cats, fill the gem slots on chest and gloves with Delicate Cardinal Rubies. For every gem slot filled this way, replace one of the Shifting Dreadstones on my Bear set with a Solid Majestic Zircon to keep the Stam/Agi balance constant. Use other pieces of gear on the Cat set to hit the Hit and Expertise caps when necessary.

After this lightbulb went off in my head, I took stock of my current gemming. To make this work for me (once I get my tier gloves) I'll need to cut 10 new gems. Gonna be expensive. I'm already saving up the honor to buy them all. (Thank you WG weeklies!)

But now I know, and in the future I'll be able to plan around this. (Depending on what Cata brings, of course.)

The more you know, right?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yeah. I did it.

I feel so ashamed. So...dirty.

I think I'm going to name it Markab.

For the love of the Trees

Ever since the Druid class preview came out last week, there's been a common, recurring theme among my fellow Druid bloggers, especially those of the leafy variety. The loss of their Tree of Life form as a permanent I-do-my-job-in-this-form form is not sitting well with them.

(As a quick aside, has anyone seen a tree the looks less alive than that form? I mean it's a tree and it's obviously "alive" in a way most trees aren't. So it's not exactly false advertising. But for the love of Cenarius, get some foliage on those things! Adam and Eve had more leaves on their bodies.)


Allison Robert wrote a very good post over on about why both sides (Blizzard and the players) are correct in how they feel about the removal of the tree form. If you haven't read it, I suggest you go check it out.

The Tree and Moonkin forms were added in BC because they were specs that lacked what many view as the core characteristic of the Druid class: shifted forms. Ferals got these cool, useful Bear and Cat forms (although prior to and through much of BC they were neither cool nor useful...discuss) but the specs that were far more common lost out on those.

So suddenly they were able to shapeshift into meaningful and fun things, as well. Like the Feral forms, they came with some penalties (namely the loss of a huge chunk of abilities) and some bonuses. But there's still a major difference. The bonuses are passive. There's nothing you can actually do in those forms that you can't do in caster form (unless I'm missing something, in which case this entire post is blown).

When a druid goes Cat, he suddenly has access to about 18 abilities (give or take, depending on spec) that he can't use in caster form. Same with Bear. A Feral's forms are not just a skin change and a passive buff to existing abilities. They mean something.

That's something that the Tree and Moonkin forms need. But to do that--that is to give them such a wide array of unique tools to use--the devs would have to take those tools away from the other specs. The direct translation would be that only Trees can cast healing spells and only Doom Chickens can cast offensive spells. And you have to be in those respective forms to actually cast those spells.

This would gimp the Druid class significantly for every spec and I think every single druid would be up in arms over it. Rightly so.

Now I understand that there's heals only deeply specced Resto druids have access to. Same with spells and Balance druids. But they're still able to cast those spells at any time, regardless of form. I can't Mangle as a NElf.

So Blizz's plan is make the Tree form part of a cooldown ability. When used, the Druid gains the Tree form and uber-heals for a short period of time. After the uproar, GC conceded that they could do something like put a minor glyph into the game that Resto druids could equip to make their tree form permanent.

Incidentally, how would that work? Would they never be in caster form, able to show off their armor and weapons, unless they took out the glyph? Would I, as a Feral, have access to that--since it would be a glyph--and be able to run around in a tree form? I think that would upset some people. Even me. I use trees to sharpen my claws. Being one would feel weird.

How would Mages feel if the devs said "We're going to make Blizzard look more like falling snow than huge ice shards, unless you use it with this other cooldown ability. But we'll put in a glyph to always make it look like the cool version if you want to use that." (Bad example maybe, but you get the idea...changing something that's kind of iconic for the class and then letting them glyph it back the old way.)

And while we're at it, why is it only the Tree form getting the axe (ha!), when the Moonkin form is no different from a mechanics standpoint?

But then we get back to the heart of the issue. Once the passive (mastery) buffs are given for just speccing down a certain tree, regardless of form, Trees and Moonkins have a vanity form. But you know what? That's okay. Because shapeshifting is still what Druids are all about. And when you see a Tree or a Moonkin running around the city or in your raid, you instantly know what they're there to do. Don't take that away from them.

Karmaze over at I Be A Tree had the right idea, I think. Let Restos keep their tree form. Bake it into one of the other deep Resto talents. Even if it is just a skin. And then have the new cooldown "Transform [the druid] into a freakin huge blooming Tree of Life...And when I say freakin huge that’s what I mean...With leaves. And maybe fruit." (Quoted from Karm.)

A tree. With leaves. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The never-ending battle

A few months ago, through the latter half of the Ulduar days and most of the ToC era, we faced a problem in our guild. We were having issues getting 25 people on (at all, ever) for our guild raid nights. As a result we often ended up trying to run T7 content with a very much less-than-full group or just telling 7 or 8 people "Thanks for coming, but...sorry," and putting together a 10-man run of something. Obviously neither situation was very desirable and it was having a clear affect on guild morale (as well as that of the officers having to make these decisions).

We spent a couple weeks in the Officer section of our guild forums coming up with a plan on how to run a rotating 10-man schedule to get as many people into raids as possible, balancing between progression teams for current content and mixed teams for the rest and when to run each and how often and all that stuff.

The week we planned to put it all into play, it became moot point. We had 28 people show up on raid night.

For the next couple months we regularly ran ToC 25 with a few other raids thrown in from time-to-time for a break. Finally we cleared ToC 25 as a guild...and then it fell apart again. Since that week it's been a struggle (on the best of nights) to fill up a 25-man raid.

Lately it's hit a critical point where we can hardly get 17 or 18. This past weekend looked very hopeful. We had the largest number of signups on the calendar that we've seen in a long time. And several of our core people that could usually be counted on weren't among them.

It didn't matter. We still only got 22. After failing Sarth+3 a number of times we moved on to try Marrowgar. By the time we got the raid moved over to ICC and cleared the trash we'd been whittled down to 17. Not even worth the attempt. In order to make the night not a complete wash we did the weekly (Razorscale) and called it good. Saturday we opted to just put together a targeted-invite 10-man ICC.

(As an aside, this kind of thing makes me feel like a huge failure as a raid leader. I should know well and understand the capabilities of the raiders in my guild. All of them. And I need to schedule content that we can handle as a collective group. Challenges are fine, but when we go a whole night without downing a single boss, it hurts. I understand that's not an unusual thing for a progression guild/team, but casual guilds work differently. That's on my shoulders to get right.)

Since the start of the weekend the officers have been back in our section of the forums discussing a rotating 10-man schedule. This upcoming Friday is our last-ditch attempt at a 25-man raid (largely because we're planning on bringing in a couple new members this week via friends already in the guild). If we can't get it together we're going back to focusing on 10's.

In most regards, this is a huge bummer. Our stated goal as a guild is to be a 25-man raiding guild. We were largely successful in accomplishing that in Naxx. We held the momentum a little longer in Ulduar. Then it collapsed. We got it together again long enough to eventually clear ToC, but now...not so much.

There's a lot of contributing factors to this. Summer is approaching. Daylight savings kicked in. School is in the end-of-the-year rush for students and teachers alike (we have at least one of the latter in our guild). The expansion is 17 months old and the cycle is coming to an end. Naxx is a lot less demanding than ICC to the casual raider. So on and so forth.

I think that last point is one that I, as a raid leader, have forgotten to take into proper consideration. A lot of our raiders don't even run heroics regularly. They haven't accumulated the "charity" gear that is out there and available to ramp people up quickly. They're still wearing what they earned in Naxx and the front half of Uld. That's just not going to cut it in ICC.

That and the experience level and execution isn't quite there. Again, in Naxx, this can be compensated for with enough players that do have the experience and skill. Even in ToC we managed because we had enough people in ICC and Frost Emblem gear that we could pick up some of the slack. In ICC, not so much. If you're not on your A-game, you can't be propped up by others. The encounters just don't have room for that and there's not an extra tier of gear out there that the rest of us can suit up with to make up the difference.

Perhaps this was inevitable all along. Maybe it's my fault for not seeing it coming and planning according. In Cataclysm, I'll know.

On the other hand, this is a bit of a relief to me. Partly because it'll make scheduling easier. I won't have to deal with figuring out how to tell a handful of people who did show up ready to raid that we can't accommodate them because 7 other people didn't show the same enthusiasm.

But also partly because I know that I'm personally capable of pulling my weight in ICC 25, as a tank or a DPS. I've been passing on opportunities to do so's kinda my responsibility as a raid leader to not get saved to things we're trying to run as a guild.

If we do officially go to a 10-man focused schedule, this opens the door for me to finally flex my muscles with a group of equally-ready individuals. It's an opportunity I've been hungering for and I'm selfishly looking forward to being able to sate that hunger. I'll feel a little bad about it. Kinda guilty. Like I'm betraying my guild. Because that's the kind of person I am. But hey...WoW is game. I'm willing to make (reasonable) sacrifices to make it fun for my whole guild, but sometimes I have to be able to have fun the way I want to as well.

Then Cata will drop. We'll all be looking at fresh, shiny level 85's after a while. And we'll start the cycle all over again. :-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Pre-Cata Goals

Cataclysm is coming ever closer. We have some time yet (afterall, the ICC buff is only up to 10% of a possible 30%) and, of course, we haven't even seen a beta start. Nonetheless, time is growing short.

There's a short list of things I want to have done before Cata falls upon us. Or even before 4.0 comes out, really.

1) Get my Mountain o' Mounts achievement

I picked up mount #95 from the Argent Tourney Sunday (the Ironforge Ram). Nine more days of Tourney dailies (less if I do my ToC runs and/or find extras in the prize bags) and I can be done with them for good! Then I need to find four more mounts from somewhere.

Leading candidates include:
Turtle from fishing nodes
Skadi's Blue Proto-Drake
Black Drake from Sarth(10)
Rivendare's Steed
Green Proto-Drake from Oracles

Lesser likely but still possible options are:
Midnight (Kara)
Zulian Tiger (ZG)
Razzashi Raptor (ZG)
Twilight Drake from Sarth(25)
Mammoth from VoA
Time-Lost Proto-Drake
Onyxian Drake
Brewfest Kodo
Horseman's Mount
Dark War Talbuk (I'd have to camp Halaa like woah to farm up battle tokens, though. And I hate picking on people 15 levels lower than me who are just trying to level.)

All else failing there's also:
Traveler's Tundra Mammoth (16K Gold)
Grand Ice Mammoth (8K Gold)

The problem with the last two is...well...some people might call me a cheapskate. That's one way to look at it. I prefer to think of myself like a dragon. Gold is good for hoarding. Pile it up in some corner and sleep on it. I hate doing anything that makes my pile smaller.

I learned on Sunday I'm not awesome enough to solo Heroic Skadi. I can stealth all the way to him and I can live a pretty long time once the fight starts, but I can't put out enough damage to keep up with the trash and eventually get overwhelmed before I can even shoot him down. So I'm still gonna have to hope to win a /roll if I'm in a group that sees it drop.

2) Get my Exalted achievement

I'm up to 38, so I need 2 more.

Possibilities include:
Scale of the Sands (11433/12000)
Ashtongue Deathsworn (5462/6000)

These two reps go up pretty quickly. I'd just need to find a way to run MH and BT each week for a little while to cap them off.

Booty Bay (5007/21000)
Gadgetzan (2940/21000)

I can grind out about 1000 rep per hour of each of these by killing the pirates south of Ratchet. So I'd need just over 18 hours to complete it this way. The problem is that I can do this for about 15 minutes before I'm bored, 30 before I'm losing my mind, and 60 before I want to smash my head into my desk rather than continue.

3) Get my Master of Arms achievement

Being the awesome Feral druid that I am, I pretty much never actually use my weapons. But this is technically an easy achieve to get, and I'd like to do so because it's going to be removed (become a Feat of Strength) when Cata drops (since they're removing weapon skill).

4) Kill the Lich King

Pretty obvious. This is the first expansion where I've actually had the opportunities to kill every boss (save Algalon) without coming back when I outlevel and outgear the raids like crazy. I've cleared all the pre-ICC Wrath content and I want to finish the job.

We did a mixed ICC 10 run on Saturday night. About half was comprised of core progression members and the other half from some other vets and fresh ICC rookies alike. We cleared up to Putricide and got in a few attempts on him, our best being 50%. That's the best attempt we've had on him yet (I think it makes a grand total of 8).

Need to find more raiding time...

5) Get my Priest to 80

I don't care if he doesn't step foot into a Raid or even a Heroic before Cata comes. I at least want him at 80 so that when Cata does come, he's in good position to start making his way to 85 alongside San and Dal. I hope to get a lot more use out of him in the next expansion. He's the first caster-type I've ever really enjoyed.

This past Sunday was spent leveling like crazy. We (my partner on his Warlock and I) ripped through HFP and got our toons from 58 to 62 before parking them in Zangarmarsh and logging for the evening.

It's funny how quickly things die when they have umteen-thousand DoTs on them from a Shadow Priest and an Affliction 'Lock. I never get to use my Shadow Word: Death. By the time something gets low enough in health that I can cast that without worrying about damaging myself, it's dead in the next fraction of a second anyway.

So, yeah...there you have it.

What are you hoping to get done before Cata comes?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Testing Disqus

Just upgraded my comments to the Disqus engine (thanks, Zalmaru!). Testing it out here.

Cata Druid Preview (for Ferals)

Ok, I know I'm one of the last to the party on this. But, by and large, my weekends are my weekends. Unless I have some downtime where I have nothing else I need/want to be doing, I generally avoid blogging on the weekend. Since the Druid preview came out right as we were getting our Friday night raid together, I had to put this off.

So...Cata preview for Druids. Lots of stuff in there, but a lot of it not for Ferals. (Rightly so...but it gives me less to talk about.)

If you haven't seen/read the preview yet (I doubt there's any of you) here's the official blue post.

First off, my absolute favorite thing about this preview:
We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake.
It's not my favorite because they're wanting to make the rotation more forgiving. No. It's my favorite because they're practically apologizing for wanting to make the rotation more forgiving! Leave it to Druids to be the only class where they have to assure us it's okay if they make easier to put up huge dps.

But it's an epeen thing, right? If you see a Cat doing high DPS, you know he knows his stuff. That person is getting high DPS because they're good. I put up 7.2K against Koralon in a VoA group on Sunday and got a whisper from an impressed 'Lock over it. It felt nice. I enjoy playing a class where someone putting up a number like that in gear like mine is something people don't see everyday.

Moving along.
Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.
This is an interesting ability (to me) in that the duration is one second longer than the cooldown. Our current AoE "rotation" is to spam Swipe and Maul. We already know Maul is going to be put on the GCD (since it will be instant and not on-next-attack), so that's out. It seems we'll be doing Thrash -> Swipe x3 for our base AoE rotation now, with the occasional Maul (or other ability) replacing a Swipe when we have the Rage to spare and need additional threat on our current target.
Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.
Honestly, I felt like (Improved) Leader of the Pack was a pretty big group buff. But, hey...if they want to give us a group-wide "GTFO, now!" ability, I won't complain. I could definitely see the value of this on fights like Sapphiron (air phase) or Festergut (angry poo explosion). Or, for the more offensive-minded, helping the melee dps get to the green oozes faster on Putricide.
We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility.
Yes, please!

And then there's the Mastery bonuses of buffing our Bleed Damage (Cats) and Savage Defense absorption (Bears).

Overall I'm very excited and nothing but pleased with these changes. Obviously this isn't everything coming our way, but it's a very good start. Hopefully we do end up a little more differentiated from our Warrior brothers, but I suppose we'll have to wait for Beta to see where that goes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Play "The Time is Right!" Win Prizes! (Seriously.)

EDIT: Contest is over. Linda won, guessing the exact right time of 17:59. I'll be contacting her in the next 24 hours. Thanks for playing, all. (My thoughts on the changes will have to wait until tomorrow...tis raid night.)

Ok, here's the deal. Anyone who's been watching the Blizz forums like I have over the past day and a half has seen way too much QQ over the rate at which the class previews are being released.


True, the wait can be agonizing when you're anxious for something, but still...

So this is what we're gonna do. We're gonna counteract the angst with a little fun.

Leave a comment below with the time Friday (April 9) you think Blizz is going to post the Druid preview.

The commenter that comes closest will win their choice of the Panderan Monk or Lil' KT in-game pets. I'm not kidding. I will purchase the pet of your choice from the store and email you the key.

If you already have both pets or don't care about them, play anyway. You can pass the key on to anyone you want once it's in your email. Wouldn't it be cool to tell your Guildmate/Friend/Family Member/Kinda Stalker-ish Love Obsession that you won a prize for them?

Again, closest guess wins.

Earliest posted comment wins in the event of a tie.

All times guessed must be in PDT (Blizz HQ time). If you need a time zone converter, go here and make sure to choose "America/Los_Angeles" for the To Time Zone option. I will not do time zone conversions on my own.

If you don't use 24Hr time (i.e. 17:45) make sure to specify AM or PM.

Whole minutes only. No seconds.

I'll be using the timestamp at the top of the Blue post on the Blizz forums to determine the winner (seconds rounded down).

One guess per person. If you make multiple guesses, I'll only take the first one.

Try not to guess the same time as someone before you. If two people do guess the same time, the first person to have guessed will be the only one that counts.

If you accidentally do guess the same as someone else, you can guess again. Make sure to note in your subsequent guess that you guessed the same time as someone else and let me know who. This way I won't automatically ignore it as a second guess.

If you don't comment with an ID that can be traced back to a blog or a profile with an email address, I'll need a way to contact you if you win.

Your guess must be posted to the comments at least 5 minutes before the Blizz post appears over on the forums to be valid.

Umm...I think that about covers it. Guess away. Spread the word. And good luck. :-)

My Feral Wishlist for Cata

As I'm beginning to type this, 4 classes have gotten their Cata previews published up on the Forums. My impressions of the changes so far have ranged from meh (Locks) to F-YES (Shaman). A direct correlation between my excitement and my knowledge/playtime of the classes may exist.


Anyway, Druids are due up tomorrow (or early, early Saturday morning depending on posting order and your timezone). Based on what's been put out so far I have some predictions about what's going to come down the pipe for Ferals. But rather than spend time on those, I'd like to take a minute to discuss some of this things I hope to see.

Overall I'm happy with Bear tanking. There's a few things we know for sure already (I discussed them a couple days ago), but it's obviously not everything.

The single biggest thing I hope for is more uniqueness. My biggest complaint about Bears is that it feels like we're handicapped Warriors. Moreso now than ever since we've lost our BC niche of having absurdly high health and armor. Lemme demonstrate:
Maul <--> Heroic Strike
Feral Charge <--> Charge
Bash <--> Shield Bash
Demoralizing Roar <--> Demoralizing Shout
Survival Instincts <--> Last Stand
Frenzied Regeneration <--> Enraged Regeneration
Barkskin <--> Shield Wall
Berserk <--> Berserker Rage
Savage Defense <--> Carries a shield

A lot of these things are exactly the same. Some are tweaked just a little. Hell, half of them are practically named the same thing.

We need some separation. Some uniqueness. Honestly, I feel like the only thing I can truly do better than a Warrior tank is AoE tank (and do so on the move) thanks to Swipe. This is a huge niche and one very unique to bears. But it's not enough.

Okay, and we dodge a ton more. But we can't parry. So it evens out.

I understand bears weren't originally designed to be masters of their craft. We weren't intended to be end-game tanks. So it was okay that we behaved like crippled warriors. There wasn't a lot of reason to make us feel unique.

BC came around and Blizz worked hard to make us viable tanks. They did a pretty good job, too. We still didn't have the toolset of Warriors and Paladins, and what we did have still looked a hell of a lot like the things a Warrior had. But we at least had those absurdly high health and armor pools. We felt special enough.

Time has eroded that. My health pool is about the same size as any equally geared tank. My armor is a touch higher, but not by what I would consider a significant amount. And I still have a toolset that mirrors a subset of a Warriors.

Granted, you ask me to pick things on that list that I'd be willing to give up and I'd have a really hard time doing it. I like them. They're useful and they work well. I also have no concept of what I'd replace them with.

What I think I'd like to see with tanking abilities is something similar to what they're doing with dispells. Decide on a very small set of essential tank tools (single-target taunts, for instance) and give them to all tanks. Then create a pool of useful and well thought-out tanking tools and divide it among the four tank classes such that only two of the four have any given tool and no two of the classes are too similar. Then come up with a small set of tools that are very unique to each of the four classes and assign those.

Tools can be abilities or traits. (I want at least one of my absurdly high pools back.)

The tanks then should have enough in common that balancing encounters such that any tank can complete it isn't a complete nightmare. At the same time, we'll all feel unique enough from each other that we feel special in some way.

I also want more buttons to push when tanking. But I covered that in my Rage post, too.

Again, I'm not terribly disappointed with the way cats work right now. Our rotation is complicated, but that's part of the fun. I don't want it simplified drastically. Or really even at all right now since the 3.3.3(.3.3.3) Mangle change already made it a bajillion times easier.

We are very Rogueish, but I feel we're somewhat unique in that the vast majority of our damage comes from our bleeds. And under the right circumstances we're very capable of serious burst damage.

Additionally, unlike the Bear/Warrior paradigm, it's okay that Cats are very much like Rogues. Why? Because when we're dpsing, we can stop to provide support in ways that are very unique to druids. We can throw out a brez or an Innervate to a raid member that needs it. Or a couple spot heals. Or curse removal. We can go Bear to grab an add for a few seconds if things get out of control. Bears can't do these things while tanking. The boss doesn't stop hitting them for six seconds just because they're asked nicely. If a bear gets hit out of bear form, he's toast.

One of the things I would like to see is more ways to proactively reduce our threat (buff Cower and make us have to use it when we're geared equally to our tanks) or ways to dump it off on someone else (ala ToT or Misdirection). Either that or give us an ability called Play Possum that works like Feign Death. We could even shift into a Possum while it's active. That would be great for comedic value alone. (Except it would probably fail in PvP since anyone with a brain cell could tell the difference.)

Granted, if we're fast enough, we are able to just shift into Bear form. But if we pull aggro in a raid and aren't insta-killed, we're usually left with so little health that even in Bear form we couldn't survive another.

So yeah. Some kind of useful threat management would be nice.

Okay, so that's one thing per form rather than "some." But they're really the only things jumping immediately to mind. With Bears it's a pretty big thing. With cats, not so much. But again, we already have special advantages there.

So we'll see what comes down the pipe tomorrow (or Saturday) and then ultimately down the line in Beta. I'll do my best to keep you all informed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monthly Moderation

As the loading screen tip tells us: "Take everything in moderation (even World of Warcraft!)"

I did this last month because I was having trouble coming up with any other ideas. However, I think I want to make it a once-a-month recurring thing. So here is your monthly moderation from Primal Precision.

Hyperbole and a Half

Some of you have probably found this blog already. But if not, you owe it to yourself to go spend some time there. If you're not laughing until it hurts you have no soul and I'm sorry for you.

I have been a completely unproductive person for two entirely separate afternoons because of this blog.

If nothing else, make sure to read the pain rating scale for doctors. I almost died.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rage balancing in Cata

I think just about every other Feral blogger (and some not-so-Feral as well) posted about this yesterday while I was bemoaning what a horrible officer I am. I'm just going to call this being fashionably late and run with that.

I've also realized that for a Feral Druid blog, there is a disturbing low percentage of Feral Druid-centric posts here. I'm aiming to fix that.

Anyway, Rage changes coming in Cataclysm. What is this going to do to us big ol' bears?

Well, first we need the details. I'm going to summarize, but if you want the full set of details straight from the Orc's mouth, here you go.

1) Rage will no longer be generated from the amount of damage done by auto-attacks. Instead, an auto-attack will generate a certain amount of rage based on the un-hastened swing speed. Crits will generate 200% normal rage.

This is a very good starting point. There are too many variables that affect damage done, which makes balancing rage around it very tricky. This change (not taking into account other sources of rage) will make our Rage generation feel like our Energy regen when we're in Cat form. Every time we swing, we know we'll get X rage. It makes it a pretty liner regeneration pattern.

This is even more true for us (as opposed to our Warrior Rage-brethren) because our swing speed isn't based on our weapon. Instead it's a static 2.5 seconds. Since the rage generation is based on that base swing speed, haste will essentially speed up how fast we can generate rage (but still in a very predictable manner).

As a bonus, since we Agi stack like woah, we crit a lot. A fair number of our auto-attacks will be giving us the rage of two. This change likely heralds the death of Primal Fury as a bear talent.

2. Rage gains from damage taken will now be based on our health pool. It will be calculated based on the full force of the hit before any avoidance (dodge) or mitigation (armor, absorption) mechanics are applied.

At a glance, it appears that this will make it easier to maintain rage in content that we vastly outgear. Yes and no. While we'll still get "equal" rage from a hit that we take all of versus one that we dodge or shrug off 70% of because of our armor, our (presumably) higher stam pool will mean that hit would take away a smaller percent of our health. I assume this means it will generate less "actual" rage.

Still, it's a welcome change that I think will help stabilize our rage regardless of whether we're running heroic-mode raids or just leveling dungeons.

Similar to point 1 above, this change will probably mean a significant reworking of Natural Reaction is on the horizon.

3. We will be getting more ways to instantly generate rage and more ways to dump rage when we have excess.

Right now Enrage is the only Rage-generation ability we have, and it's not exactly optimal for use in combat because of the armor loss. Granted, in content where you're rage-starved and actually need to pop this in battle you can probably afford the armor loss. Sometimes, though, you go through that rage quick, especially if you aren't the primary focus of the attacks. Having more options open will be nice.

On the flip-side having more rage-dumps will be nice. Right now we have Maul and it's less of a Rage-dump than it is a necessary threat-generation ability. (We're pretty much balanced around being able to hit this the vast majority of the time.)

When I see a full rage bar, I'd like to be able to get giddy and prepare an uber-destructive attack, the same way I do when I'm playing Cat and get ready to unleash a Ferocious Bite with nearly full energy.

4) Maul will no longer replace your next auto-attack. (All "on next attack" abilities are going away.) Instead it will be an instant attack costing a base of 10 Rage but consuming all available rage up to 30 and doing more damage for more rage consumed.

So it's basically turning Maul into the Bear's version of Ferocious Bite. We'll actually have to consider when it is and isn't a good time to use this ability instead of mindless mashing the button. I'm all for this change. While I don't think our (or any other) tanking rotation should be on par with the complexity of a Cat's DPS rotation I definitely think we need a boost in the intellectual requirement department.

I'm also a huge fan of the general abolition of on-next-attack abilities. I've never enjoyed them on any class that has them.

I know there's a lot of trepidation about these changes. That's pretty much par for the course whenever anything comes along that vastly changes the mechanics of the way a class works. Maybe even moreso in this case because Blizz tried to rebalance rage mechanics in BC and kinda bombed it.

But I'm fairly excited for these changes and I'm actually looking forward to getting an opportunity to play around with them. I think they'll add a new (and very much needed) dimension to Bear tanking.

Monday, April 5, 2010

But what have you done for ME lately?

Last week as I was heading off to lunch one of the people I follow on Twitter posted a question. Kind of a poll. A couple hours later he posted another tweet bemoaning how he doesn't like Twitter because he asks a question and none of his 874 followers answered.

At first this may seem harsh. 874 followers and not a single reply?

Here's the thing. The guy built up a follow-list of about 2000 people. About 40% (including me) were silly enough to follow him back. (I'm allowing that 4% might be actual friends/acquaintances/people who care.) He then uses Twitter as a glorified ad platform. Nothing about him or anything like that. Just random tweets pimping his various products and projects.

So yeah. When you put out a general tweet (of the self-fellating how-much-time-will-you-spend-playing-with-my-product variety) to a list of people who don't have any personal investment because they don't know the first thing about you, you're probably not going to get a whole lot of response. Especially when the vast majority of those people are too nice to be honest and tweet back "zero."

So by now you're saying to yourself, "Self, that's an interesting story. Why is San sharing it in a WoW blog, though?"

Glad you asked.

WoW is a lot like Twitter. At its very core--at the foundation--it's a social tool. Unlike Twitter, it has a lot of things to do while you're being social and a very pretty interface with which to do those things. And yes, you can ignore the social component of the game and still get those other things out of it, but you're not likely to keep your wallet open playing as long as the player that does involve themselves in the social aspects.

Right now in our guild we're having raid attendance problems. We haven't been able to come close to fielding a full 25-man team since we cleared ToC 25 a little over a month ago (and we even had one substitute that night).

Some of this is expected. It's the end of an expansion cycle. These kind of drops happened at the end of Vanilla (I'm told) and BC. Plus the summer is fast approaching. Students are in that last rush for the school year. And with Daylight Savings in full swing, people are out more doing things.

Some of it, though...I can't help wondering if it's partially the fault of the officers. I think we've fallen into the same mindset as Twitter-guy. We advertise our guild and bring in members, then throw out raid invites and assume that's enough incentive for people to show up on time (or at all), ready to go, and run with us. We're not doing a very good job of getting them personally invested first.

Even though I'm typing "we," I mean "I." I speak for myself, first and foremost. My intention is not to state this as fact for all of my fellow officers; just my own actions and general overall perceptions. A lot of them read this blog, though, so I know they'll see this and I doubt too many of them will disagree.

We haven't been taking the time to make our new recruits feel like they're an actual part of the guild. We toss out an ginvite when we're asked for one, say "Welcome" in gchat and then...kinda leave it at that.

It's only when someone's proven themselves and earned a slot on the progression team (as either a primary or a backup), that we start to go out of our way to include that person. We normally use our 25-man runs to get an idea as to whether or not we should give someone a chance on a progression team. So if we're not filling the big runs, our smaller ones become stagnant as well (which has also been happening).

We say we're about having fun first and raiding second, but we've been acting exactly the opposite. In fact, we've been acting is if raiding is the fun and if you're not in on that, well... *shrug*

Granted, this is kinda true at the moment for me. Raiding and mount farming are about the only things holding my interest at this point. But that's kind of besides the point.

I think we (again, by which I mean "I," specifically) need to start remembering that even though life is busy and game time is short, we can't expect to be able to just log in, put our head down, and tunnel-vision through whatever we wanted to accomplish that night. If we want to do that, we need to step down as officers. Otherwise we need to go out of our way to be more open, more friendly, and more social to all the guild members. Newly invited and vets. The best and the rest, alike. We need to make other guild members feel like we care about them, that they're an important part of our guild, and that we want them there. Only when they have that sense of personal investment are they going to start responding readily to our raid invites.


At the very least, it couldn't hurt.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Raid Quote of the Weekend

This was in Vent, so I have no screencap of it. But several of my guildies can vouch for the fact that I said this (yes, me) without realizing how bad it sounded until they all started snickering:

"There's a fish feast at the bottom of the bone pile."

The Great Noblegarden Blogger Egg Hunt!

Happy Noblegarden, and Welcome to the Great Blog Noblegarden Egg Hunt!

The army of Noblegarden bunnies has been out and about overnight and hidden eggs all over the Blogosphere!

Click here for more details!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Friday

Here's what I accomplished yesterday:




Yeah, it was a pretty good Friday for me. Only 6 to go...

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Banes of my Existence

I was going to write about something else today. I'd been purposely avoiding talking about the ICC raid buffs because it's kind of a "dead horse" topic at this point, but I had a really good experience with them a couple nights ago and I wanted to share it as an example of how it's more than a "pity buff."

Well, turns out the Noob beat me to it. Seriously. Almost word for word what I was planning to say.

Just as well. I've done it to him before. So now we're even.

Instead, I'm going to go a little bit ranty here and talk about some of the things that are on my personal WoW shitlist.

Hunters - We have 50 bajillion of them in our guild. I think every third person that joins and wants to raid with us is a hunter. Everyone else has an alt hunter. Here's the problem. They take my weapons. Seriously. There's only so many weapons in the game that are good for bear tanks. And they usually don't drop off the first couple bosses of an instance, which means some effort is required to get them.

I know it wasn't 4 days ago that I used Origin of Nightmares as an example of how awesome I am. But I mean...come on. I'm trying to tank the upper wings of ICC and I'm still using a weapon that I got from the second boss in Naxx's Abomb quarter. It's damn good for Bears, don't get me wrong. But in 3 tiers of raiding, I should have been able to pick up better.

On the rare occasion (and when I say rare, I mean rare) that I've seen a potential upgrade drop I've been outrolled by a hunter if I didn't outright pass on it because they were still using a blue-quality weapon or something.

Mongoose - On that note, how obnoxious is it that the best weapon Enchant in the game for Bears is one from BC? Every time I do get a new weapon (twice over the span of Wrath so far) I have to either dump a ton of money on the AH for items that there's a very very small supply for, or grab an enchanter and run around Kara for a few hours letting them DE everything that drops. This should not be the case!

Oracle Egg - According to my achievement history I hit Exalted with the Oracles on Jan 7, 2009, which means I probably got Revered (the rep that enables you to start buying the egg) sometime in mid-December 2008. Based on that, I've gone roughly 67 weeks without getting one of said eggs to hatch into a nice Green Proto-Drake. That's a lot of time, money, and disappointment.

And I really want the mount because I really want to finally be able to switch over and rep up with the infinitely-cooler puppy-men. Screw the big-tongues. Hate them, I do.

Old World Raids - Is there any good reason I can't enter these solo? Really? I'm level 80 and decked out in gear (mostly) from ToC and ICC. I'm am at least this tall. I can ride this ride alone! It's absolutely silly that when I want to go on one of my Midnight or ZA Tiger/Raptor farming runs that I have to ask my partner to log onto his level 15 bank alt so that I can form a raid group to go in. If he's not around or otherwise occupied, I have to bug guildies for the same. And if they're not around or otherwise occupied, I'm pretty much SoL.

The Armory - Don't get me wrong, the Armory (and the Armory App) are freakin' amazing and I love them. But do you know what I want infinitely more than the ability to see and pose my toon in 3D? I want to be able to fully manage raid invites. Not just accept or decline. I want to be able to create and delete them. Update invites. To set members to confirmed or out. Reschedule. Update descriptions. All that kind of fun stuff. Way more useful. I hate doing that stuff in-game. When I sit down and log in, I want to play.