WotLK Tuning

Much has been said and written about the tuning of Wrath raid content. Naxx is tuned to be much easier than in its previous 40 man incarnation. I am not going to beat that dead horse. What I do want to go over a bit is the tuning of other elements of this expansion. This will be a rare post from me, one that is not raid focused. Dogs and cats, living in sin... (Ghostbusters reference ftw)

From the starting zones all the way to the last quests you do before hitting 80, most are tuned to be easily soloed, but not crazy hard. Players can blow through quests at a fast pace. And there are soooo many of them! Other then just the difficulty tuning, I have to say I am very impressed with how well the quests are laid out. There are tons of quests where you start out heading for Objective A, along the way pick up a quest to go to B, where you additionally pick up something for Area C. You get sort of lost and absorbed in these great little side trips, with a bunch of extra quests before finally getting back to A.
There are only a few of those chains that send you back in to the same area to kill the guys you just killed, but there are a few. I hate those. Its like "Hey, I just killed a dozen of those things to get to the stuff for the last quest, and now you want me to kill more of them?" Fortunately, there aren't that many.
And the quests are generally a lot more interesting than the standard gather-pig-spleens quests of old. The quests where you ride a dragon, or a boss, or a vehicle are just a blast!
In general, WotLK quests are very nicely tuned, well laid out and fun.

The leveling dungeons are tuned to be easy, possibly a bit too easy. That may not be such a bad thing; lots of people got to see lots of dungeons while leveling. And wow, most of the dungeons are just amazing! The visuals are awesome, and many of the boss fights are more creative by far than the older dungeons.
Once you get to the heroics, difficutly ramps up quite a bit. I was continually amazed at how tightly they were tuned. I was mostly healing the first heroics we were doing. The margin for error was slim indeed. I would run out of mana often right as the boss died, and had very little downtime or margin for screwing up. This was with fresh 80s like myself, all of who I consider to be above average skilled players. Once some heroic gear started piling up on us, the heroics became much easier quickly. The difficulty of heroics is tuned very tightly for fresh 80s, extremely good tuning job by Blizzard.

Pre-Raid Gear
This is another area where WotLK is tuned very well in my opinion. My Druid was wearing pretty much full Tier 6 coming in to the expansion, with several best-in-slot pieces, both Resto and Boomkin. Don't think I replaced any gear before hitting 80. At 80, heroic gear started replacing my old stuff really fast, and rep gear as well.
This indicates to me that Blizzard designed a 'parity point' of sorts, a point that all players would reach where their gear would be close to the same level, whether they entered the expansion geared to the teeth or wearing greens. That point seems to be very shortly after you reach 80. I find this an amazing feat of tuning.
My Hunter is 73 with now, and was geared with Kara and Badge gear. I have replaced 1 piece of gear on him so far I think. The quest reward gear is getting very close to being upgrades. In many cases, the only reason they aren't upgrades is the enchants on the gear he has right now. I am not going to put expensive enchants on leveling gear of course.

Other than the raid content being tuned to be too easy, I think that all other aspects of WotLK are tuned amazingly well. I am hoping that the next raid instance released will be a good chunk harder.


Random Resto Ramblings

Wild Growth Nerf INC
As you probably know, Wild Growth is going to be on a 6 second cooldown come patch 3.0.8. While I am not thrilled about this, I can definitely see the reasoning behind it.

In its current state, its pretty easy to abuse. For example on Sapphiron, all it takes is a pair of Trees running in circles around the raid, spamming WG, to pretty much counter the entire AOE/Aura mechanic of the fight. I can't see that as being the intention of the encounter designers.

On the other hand, some fights are going to get interesting. Phase 1 Malygos, when the raid gets tossed and whirled, comes to mind. Thats going to get interesting. While that phase isn't hard at the level of say, Sunwell, that specific part of that specific encounter is going to be out of wack with the intended difficulty level. Between the WG nerf and the corresponding CoH nerf, I suspect that the damage done to the raid is going to have to be pulled back a little bit, perhaps 10 or 20 percent.

HT Spam?
After reading the excellent post at Resto4life about current healing values (http://www.resto4life.com/2008/12/15/direct-healing-in-wrath/), I got thinking about the possibility of a HT spam spec. With the tremendous throughput of glyphed HT, it looked to be worth a try.

Before I get in to the specifics, a little history!
I first started raiding on my Druid back in Molten Core. At that point, if you raided on a Druid, you were a healer, period. We had Regrowth, Rejuvination and Healing Touch. Regrowth was horrendously inefficient, so it was pretty much out the window. Rejuv was a bit weak but not too bad. It was a milestone to have your Rejuv tick for 400. As raids progressed in to BWL, it became obvious that the most efficient and effective heal for a Druid was a downranked Healing Touch, specifically HT rank 4.

Druids spammed HT4 through BWL, AQ40 and Naxx. It was a bit boring, but overall pretty good.

Then the pre-BC patch came out, and something drastic happened: Hots stacked! If 2 Druids both put Rejuv on a single person, that person would have 2 Rejuvs ticking away. This was a huge huge change to Druid healing. On Patchwerk for example, instead of complex HT4 spam rotations, smart healing coordinators would have Druids keep up Rejuv on all the tanks.
Then came Burning Crusade and Lifebloom. Nearly all healing Druids went with Lifebloom as their primary heal, using it with other Druids like the Patchwerk healing strategy I described; roll hots across all the tanks. Or, roll hots across the raid.

At this point, there was a second heal spec to consider, which came to be known as the Dreamstate spec. It was actually originally the HT/Mana Battery spec. The goals of the spec were to be able to cast gigantic HTs, and to have ridiculous mana regen. This spec was very, very, very hard to master, but incredibly powerful. Instead of being reactive or preventative, it was as *predictive* based healing style. HT was far too slow to react to incoming damage, you had to accurately predict the damage and wind up your massive heals before the damage happened. Done correctly, it was by far the highest throughput single target healing spec that WoW has ever seen. It was also a very misunderstood and often maligned spec, mostly because very very few knew how to use it correctly. Make no mistake, having one good DS Druid in your raid made a *massive* difference.

Then came Wrath of the Lich King, and the complete destruction of any downranking. The old DS spec was dead.

Or is it? I decided to try out a DS spec again, based around glyphed HT. I was running about 2100 heal, with about a 19k mana pool and 200 haste. Mana regen was about 1100/300, very high. The build was:
The goals of the build are the same as the old school DS build; maximize HT and mana regen. There are a lot of 'throw-away' points in there, unavoidable to get DS and as deep in to resto as possible.

So I fired up the spec and off we went to Naxx. Patchwerk was on the menu, a perfect chance to try an HT spam spec! Woot!

Keeping in mind that I was not geared specifically for the spec (would want to emphasize int for better mana regen from Replenishment for example), the results are still a good indication of how it can work.

First thing I noticed is that my glyphed HT had a cast time of .85 seconds. You read that correctly, point eight five seconds. Mmmm, this is looking interesting!

Patchwerk inc, let the spam begin!

Pause. I use Quartz. If you don't know what it is, oh are you in for a treat!
(That link is at Curse.com. Based on past incidents, proceed with caution. It is probably available elsewhere)
So I am in the habit of several quick button clicks at around what my next cast time will be to minimize delays due to server/casting latency. Again, if you don't know what that is about, you are probably missing a ton of your peak possible efficiency. You really do need to get Quartz, or at least understand what it does and why.
The HT cast bar goes, gets to the red, and I start the clicking for the next... what the? Oh snap, HT cast time is shorter than the freaking GCD! This seems like a minor thing, but it seriously screwed me up. I got through the best I could, but old habits can be very hard to break.

After making some marginally effective mental adjustments, the HT spam proceeded. In short, I could not make it as effective as it looked like it should be on paper. My overall throughput was not all that stellar. I really didn't dig the whole thing. I respecced after the fight.

In conclusion, I couldn't make it work. That doesn't mean that it can't work, just that I couldn't make it work. As someone who healed through all the BC instances as DS, I figured I would be more qualified to make a new HT spam spec work than most. Perhaps I will revisit it in the future. I also may revisit it without the HT glyph.

On the State of Regrowth
Good Lord its an efficient heal, at least when it doesn't get stepped on by other heals. However, this post just reached the 12 mile long mark, so I am going to shut up for now, and plan to revist the RG thing some other day.


To Crit or Not To Crit?

Another Boomkin-centric post this evening. Boom!

Crit Theory
There is much discussion around various places frequented by Laser Turkeys about the value of crit. I know I sure like to see those big crits flying. There aren't many things when nuking away that are as satisfying as a nice long string of Starfire crits. But how good is crit for a Boomkin really? I mean, exactly how good?

One very cool website is of course MaxDPS.com. Although some people might take the numbers there a little too literally, when used with a bit of common sense and knowledge about how your class works, its really a great tool they have there. According to it, with my current gear, each 10 points of various stats would translate in to more DPS like this:

(+) 10 Spell Power:7.40
(+) 10 Crit Rating:7.02
(+) 10 Hit Rating:0.00
(+) 10 Haste Rating:10.96
(+) 10 Intellect:4.88

So, I should be looking for haste first, Spell Power second, with crit a close third.

Another good resource is of course the forums at ElitistJerks.com. There is some very good info there, and some seriously deep math discussion. I mean the kind of stuff that makes your brain melt, pour out your ears and all over your keyboard. Deep stuff. There are usually a few spots there where you can find information about how crit rating stacks up against spell power, haste, Intellect, etc.

Crit Fact?
But last night, I think I found the ultimate authority on the real effect of crit for a Boomkin. WWS reports! More specifically, Loatheb numbers.

On the Loatheb fight, you will have a buff that gives you an extra 50% crit. You will have it most, or all of the fight. You can go over 100% crit on Stafire with Eclipse for short periods.

With that massive of an increase to crit, we can see how it really does stack up for us. I have to say, the results were pretty surprising. I did about 500 or 600 more DPS on Loatheb than other, more normal boss encounters. That's all. Not thousands, but hundreds. The other Boomkin in the raid, same thing. Mages on the other hand, seem to be scaling very nicely with that extra crit.

On Loatheb, thats about triple the normal chance to crit that I have. For a DPS gain measurable in the hundreds. So that got me thinking. What would my DPS gain be if I tripled Spell power? I am pretty sure that would be up in the 5 digit DPS range. How about tripling Haste? Imagine casting Starfire in just over a second. That would be pretty high 4 digit, maybe 5 digit DPS. Triple the crit, and its hundreds of DPS higher, not thousands.

Some folks have long said to never gem or enchant for crit. I personally have always gone spell power and haste. After reading Loatheb WWS reports, sure I am glad about that!
Now this does not take in to account the mana return from critting alot. On Loatheb, my mana bar practically stays glued to max. But with better gear, and a mana pool hitting 20k or 21k in raids now, and the added benefit of Replenishment that comes with that higher mana pool, I rarely have mana issues anymore.
So despite wanting it to not be so, I have to say, Not To Crit. Gimme spell power and haste all way!


Swipe! Now with 50% More Threat!

A hotfix went in today that increases the threat generated by swipe by a whopping 50%!

Whoa. Didn't see that coming. And of course the QQing has begun in full force. I swear, if Blizzard decided to send everyone 100 gold for Christmas, to one character per account, there would be a massive QQ outcry.
Thats not fair to people who earned their gold the hard way! (translation: I am an elitist snob)
Hey! What about people that have like 35 alts? They got 3500 gold!!! (translation: I didn't read how it works, and am probably the guy in your raid who asks 'So wuts this guy do?' after the raid leader spent 5 minutes explaining the fight)
Some guy in our guild has 4 accounts. He got 400 gold. Thats not fair to me! (translation: I totally fail at the whole greater reward for greater effort concept, and am probably still angry that they won't give me a raise at work even though I slack off more than the rest of my department put together)
100 gold is a slap in the face! What am I going to do with a measly 100 gold? (translation: I am self-entitled ungrateful little worm who thinks everyone owes me something for just being me)

So back to the swipe buff! How can this be a bad thing? I see this as a win for everyone. DPS gets to unload AOE harder on big pulls. It hasn't been an issue on a lot of pulls in heroics, but I have been seeing AOE nukers getting unwanted attention on some AOE pulls in Naxx. It would probably be better for them to hold off a few seconds more of course, but heck, everyone is nuke happy! Even me! So, this is going to be a very cool change in raids.

One thing people are saying is that this will make Bears the best AOE tanks in the game, making Pallys and others obsolete. This is wrong. Swipe still only does 180 degrees. Pallys get 360, T-Clap does 360. DKs do amazing and strange things for full radius aggro too. Nobody is going to lose their job because of the swipe buff.

This is going to be awesome! I am hoping I can go Boomkin tonite instead of heal, in order to really stress out our Bear tank, I mean to see this in action.


Hunter Weapon!

With the massive change to Feral Staves in the next patch, things may get interesting. If you haven't seen examples yet, check here:

So with all the juicy AP and agi, how awesome are most feral staves going to be for Hunters? Very, very, very. Does this mean that ferals are going to have to roll against Hunters for their weapon now? Yup, totally. Is this catastrophic (pun semi intended)? I don't think so.

For those that raided SSC, how many feral staves got sharded? In most guilds, a ton of them. Then again in Hyjal, same thing. And, consider that weapons other than feral staves will be good for ferals now, like the ones that, you guessed it, Hunters would have been drooling over. In the end, this is probably going to mean a bit less sharded gear, and a more well geared raid. If it pans out like that, this weapon change will be a really good thing.

I guess the big question is this: Will this hurt cat DPS and/or Bear tanking? Blizzard of course says no. I have seen these kind of changes not work as intended too many times to beleive it until I see it. It's probably not going to be that big a deal, but you never know.


Mana Mana

Got Mana? When we started heroic 5 mans a few weeks ago, I sure didn't. Had to stop and drink after every... single... pull. It was rare that Innervate was off cooldown for more than a minute or two, unless we were almost at a boss where it would be needed even more. Mana pots? Went through more than I want to remember. 80 Vendor Waters would last *maybe* 2 heroics. This was without a source of Replenishment though.

After a bunch of heroics 5s, the difference was signficant. Now what I really lusted after was more spell power, whether healing or nuking. And I got some. Not tons, but some. The major change in BC gear to new gear though was the basic stats, Stamina, Int and Spirit. And wow, the new gear has a TON of all those.

Once we started raiding 25s, we made a point to have 2 or 3 Replenishments in the raid. That made a massive difference. I still had to drink after a lot of pulls, but it was so much better. As new gear kept coming in, the mana issue got better and better. The thing about Replenishment is that the bigger your mana pool, the more mana you get from it. It gives you a percentage of your mana, so that makes sense.

Last night my Boomkin had over 20k mana for the first time. With 3 Replenishments in the raid, I dare say mana was almost not even a consideration. Burn baby burn! Longer boss fights I still had to drink a pot or use an innervate on occasion, but rarely.

So, got mana issues? Once your gear gets better, you probably won't anymore! Woot!


Haste makes... headaches?

Haste, how I love thee, let me count the ways. Fast.

How much haste is good for a Boomkin? Is spell power better? How about crit? Or Int? Well, many people are fond of plugging in their stats at MaxDPS.com to get an idea of what is going to give them the most bang for the item budget buck. Its a pretty cool website, I use it often.

However, don't let it run your life. Because it says that one piece of gear is going to give you a 1.55233332555 DPS increase over another doesn't mean it is so. If one piece of gear shows as having a 45 DPS increase over another, yeah, its probably better. But always check the stats, and figure it out yourself. God gave you a brain, use it!

The most interesting part of MaxDPS.com, at least to me, is the little thing on the right that shows you how much DPS 10 points of each stat will give you. At least in theory. Its pretty cool to give you a general idea, but again, use your brain.

So, on to the whole haste thing. If someone can clear this up a bit with some solid math or extensive testing, please do! No, posting that "I red 1 tiem on teh WoW forums that hastes r rediculously gud" doesnt count.

A fellow Druid and I have been hashing out how to maximize our laser turkeys a lot lately, and the results have been excellent. Both of our DPS has gone up a big chunk quickly. We got talking about haste, and the more I got in to, the stranger it got. Here is a PM I sent:

Haste: (WowWiki says that 32.79 haste rating = 1% at level 80.)

Lets consider a spell with a 3 second cast. If I get enough haste to cut that down 10%, I am shaving off .3 seconds for a 2.7 second cast time. 10% more haste got me exactly 10% faster than what I had.
Now lets say I already have a massive chunk of haste, say enough to make that same spell a 1 second cast. I add an additional 10% here and I shave off another .3 seconds for a .7 second cast time. 10% more haste got me 30% faster casts than I just had!
Looking at it this way, haste would be more valuable the more of it you already have, at least until you reach the GCD.
This would be a logarithmically scaling valuation for stacking haste.

Looking at it from another perspective, mana issues aside, casting 10% faster *should* net exactly a 10% damage increase. This would be a linear valuation for stacking haste.

I was going to write about other stats, then compare to haste, to arrive at some relative value for each at various levels of spell power, crit, etc. However, the napkin math I just laid out about haste seems enough of a brain twister for now!

I checked the EJ forums briefly and didn't find anything about this. It would almost seem that haste would have to have built in diminishing returns to *not* be logarithmic in it's scaling. IE, if you have 0 haste, 32.79 haste gets you 1%, but if you have 500 haste, maybe 60 haste is needed to add another 1%. However, I have not seen anything written by anyone that indicates this is the case. This would probably be easy enough to check though. Take off haste gear, see what the Stafire cast time is in the tooltip. Add a little haste, check it again. Add a ton of haste, check it again. Then compare the results. Maybe I will try this later!

My brain is going to explode.


Target Practice!

Posted this in the Druid section of our guild website tonite. Interesting Boomkin stuff!

I went to the training dummy in Org to test out stuff. With about 150 hit, I very rarely miss against raid bosses, at least WotLK bosses. Against the raid boss dummy, I missed so much I stopped even trying to test. Instead, I tested against the level 80 one. That may have skewed the results a bit, but probably not much.

I would have done more testing, but my food buff fell off, and I didn't have another food with me that had the exact same spell power. 

Couple of random things I noticed:
Ran out of mana fastest with Wrath spam. No surprise there.
Starfire spam lasted the longest. 
Crits really do return a good amount of mana.
Crits add a TON of DPS. Not just the crit amount, but the .5 second cast reduction on the next spell.  

Here are the numbers: (most tests run twice, casting until OOM)

ROTATION - DPS (Eclipse procs where applicaable) 
Wrath spam: 2311, 2289 (AVG: 2300)
Starfire Spam: 2217, 2345 (AVG 2281)
Eclipse: Wrath spam then Starfire: 2319 (2), 2354 (2), 2370 (3, last one at the very end, with 2 Starfires) (AVG 2348)
Eclipse: Starfire spam then Wrath: 2361 (3), 2321 (3) (AVG 2341) 

Then for grins, tried the trusty old rotation. Moonfire/Starfire: 2314, 2530 (AVG 2422) Don't compare this to anything but the Starfire spam numbers. Had I done Moonfire with the other rotations, they probably would have seen a similar DPS increase. 

What do I make of these numbers?
Running a test 2 or 3 times is far from a super solid measurement. However, since the ranges between tests are fairly small (in most cases) these numbers do indicate a few things to me. 
* Moonfire sure does add DPS! No surprise there. Would have liked to try with IS too, and Moonfire/IS with the Eclipse rotations. 
* As expected, Wrath and Starfire are pretty close in DPS. However, Wrath drains mana quite a bit faster.
* Both Wrath and Starfire spam ran roughly around 2300 DPS. Both Eclipse rotations ran around 2350 DPS. Eclipse proc watching added something in the range of 50 DPS. I had hoped for quite a bit more. On longer fights, it may show a little improvement.


Boomkin Bugs?

General Stuff
So, here we are a few weeks in to Wrath of the Lich King! It has been for Druids so far.

Let's see. We had a Bear with over 45k hitpoints tanking Hatefuls last night. A Boomkin was hitting 3600 DPS on the same fight. Resto is better than ever too. Man, its a good time to play a Druid.

Currently, our guild has 4 bosses left in Naxx. Seems like most of the guilds on the server that finished BT are at about the same point, or a little ahead.

Thats the state of other stuff. How about the state of Druids? I have spent most of the time since the expansion came out doing the Boomkin thing. And its good. Very, very good.

Why is it so good? Many reasons. There is good gear that supports the spec. The talents that make up the spec are very nicely done, best they have ever been. All those things and more make it a glorious time to be a Boomkin! And of course the two big bugs help too.

Huh? What two big bugs? What are you talking about? Boomkin seems to work fine. I have to agree, it does seem tobe working quite well. Especially with the two bugs working in our favor!

The Hit Bug
When was the last time you saw a spell miss? Really think about it for a second? Been a while hasn't it? How is your hit rating right now? Well, mine is sitting around 150, which is way way below hit cap. During a typical 3 hour raid in Naxx 25, I will usually see like 1 spell miss. No seriously, 1.
The Boomkin hit cap is a hard number. Depending on who you talk to, it is usually quoted as being around 350, with talents. Any less, and against raid bosses, you should be missing. At 150, you should a LOT. I don't. And neither do other Boomkins I have talked to.
What possible explanations are there for this? Maybe the Dranei racial is helping, but probably not since I play a Tauren. Talents help, but not enough to add up to 18% hit. Other players in the raid have stuff that helps too right? Again, not even close to 18%.
And the plot thickens! I soloed Ony the other day, who is a skull level boss. That means she is 3 level higher than you as far as hit goes. I missed a lot of spells, about what one would expect. So why there and not in Northrend? Your guess is as good as mine.
So Boomkin hit rating is wacked. Right now, you need very little in raids. I can dig it!

Starfire Crit Crit Crit Bug
I probably don't pay as much attention to damage meters as most do. I do keep an eye on them usually, see where people are at, where I am at, and that kind of stuff. Since I lead our raids, I need to, at least to an extent. But I don't five in to my own stats like I probably should.
During a heroic 5 man with a guildie who is much smarter with stats than I am, he asked me what my crit rating was at. I told him around 20%. Turns out that for the last 20 or 30 minutes, I had been around 70% crit on Starfire. Now I am not *completely* oblivious, it did seem like there were a lot of bouncing big numbers flying around my screen. But I hadn't really thought about it that much, since I was not doing the whole eclipse proc-watching thing.
I started checking my post-fight stats a bit more, and sure enough, my Starfire crit rating is 2-3 times what it should be. I checked Recount on our other Boomkin in raids a few times, same thing.
I am very upset about this massive oversight on Blizzard's part. Not.

Working As Intended
Probably not. Sure am going to miss these two bugs when they are gone, but for now, YEEEEEE HAAAAA!

Our glory days of free hit seem to be over. Misses have, sadly, returned to a casting rotation near you. The number most thrown around now seems to be 250-ish, assuming a Shadow Priest in the raid, without the Dranei racial.