Arena Gaming

Hello again my avid (and mostly imaginary) readers, it is again time to talk about how to get the most bang-for-your-buck from the arena system. There has been some huh-bub in the forums over Kalgan's post regarding the Elo system (which, for those who are unfamiliar, is the queuing and rating requirement system to promote a competitive and fair environment in the arenas). Kalgan makes mention that they have a PhD in-shop with Blizzard's developers who "did his dissertation on competitive ranking systems" (source). The reason he brought this tidbit of information to light was because there is a new and shiny "exploit" that has started to appear, though Kalgan stands firmly behind Elo and claims that this new "exploit" is nothing more than a way to increase the number of wins necessary to get to rating plateaus (i.e. 1850, 2000, etc).

The exploit works like this: first, have a 1700 2s team. Sounds easy right? Have your team mate drop the team and rejoin, knocking his personal rating down to 1500. Next, give him ownership while you drop from the team and rejoin, knocking your personal rating to 1500. Here is where the interesting quirks of the Elo system take effect. Queue up! The theory here is that because your personal rating is more than 150 below the team rating, you will be matched as if your rating is the average of your two personal ratings (1500). Presumably, if you have a 1700 team rating, then you earned it, and therefore should be facing opponents in the 1700 skill/gear range, but if you are queued as if you were a 1500 team (as this case proves to be), then you would expect to face teams who are of a skill/gear level of 1500. This is where this particular "quirk" gets interesting.

Presumably, if everyone (but you) is playing legitimately, then you (as a truly 1700-skilled team) would be able to make short work of a 1500 team. So, you do this 10-15 times and have an amazingly high win percentage (something like 80-100) and your personal rating is 1700-1750 because you were getting about 15 points per win and 15 per loss; at an 80% win rate, you would net about 120-180 personal rating and your team rating should no longer be 150 above your personal rating because of your high winning percentage and the fact that your team rating was getting prorated for being much higher than the opponents you face. Now, you have another quirk to play with.

You have 1700 personal rating, and your team rating is up to 1800 (you made 200 rating, your team made 100... that's about right after a few losses and the steep prorate). Bummer, now you would be matched against an 1800 team because the lowest person in the queue would be within 150 personal rating of the team rating, so the team rating would be used in match-making (in practice, it would have happened before now, but I am just showing an example). Party's over right? Now you have to legitimately earn those last 50 team rating and 150 personal rating, right? You have completely screwed yourself... had you done it right from 1700, you would have hit 1850 in fewer matches... ... ... but only if you had won in the same fashion you have been winning in while facing scrub teams. That is the big "if" to the argument.

But wait... you did it before... why not do it again!? Except, this time only ONE of you is going to leave and rejoin so that the other can keep his personal rating. Alright, you drop and rejoin, now your personal rating is 1500 and your partner's is 1700 while your team has an 1800. How does that help? Well, right now the averaged personal rating of the members is more than 150 less than the team's. So, your team is now being matched via the Elo System's rule of "150 below means average the two queued members and match on that rating." The average of 1700 and 1500 is 1600, so you will be facing a 1600 rated team (and remember you originally got your team to 1700, so you are good enough to beat 1600 rated teams, most likely)(source). From here, it should be relatively straight forward to see the progression this takes. A team can reasonably easily push one member into the 1850PR/TR level to get their weapon as long as one member bites the bullet and gets fewer points and lower personal rating.

Problems with this system:
Well, for one, if this is becoming the way to power someone to an 1850 rating for the s3 weapon, then all the high-level weapon-sellers will be doing it too. That means that the 1500-1700s will be littered with s3 shoulders teamed with s1 teammates in hopes of getting their 1850 PR/TR for the weapon. If the aforementioned situation arises, then this method will not work because your team will be facing other teams who are doing the exact same thing (which means that your 1850 team, with an 1800 warrior, and a 1500 druid will be facing the exact same except it will be a 2000 team with an 1800 paladin in blues and greens, and a 1500 rogue in full s3).

Really, this is not the worst situation in the world. I hypothesize that if you play at peak hours, then this is the best thing ever because the 1500 teams you face are more likely to actually be 1500 teams, whereas the off hours will be littered with these types of teams trying to power up against scrubs. Additionally, this is not even cheating, per se, because your are not abusing the system in underhanded ways, you are simply rejoining the team. Even Kalgan states that this is not a form of cheating as far as he is concerned because one would have to play (and win) more games to get to 1850 than you would doing it legitimately (source). What he fails to realize, however, is that he assumes that your winning percentage is constant at all rating levels. He is making the assumption that we would have that same 80% winning percentage in the 1800 brackets that we have using the Elo-reset system in the 1500-1600s, which is just unlikely.

After going onto Wikipedia and reading more about the Elo rating system, I found that this system suffers from a few flaws that were ignored by the Blizzard developers. Initially, the Elo system was created for the Chess circuit so that chess players around the world would have a ranking system by which to set themselves. This is a natural idea, so the Elo system was created, which would state that if you were a 1600 and played against a 1600 and won out-right, you were obviously more skilled than your opponent, so you should be rated higher, and consequently, he should be rated lower.

This is interesting because the adaptation to other games seems like a reasonably good idea. However, if we look at the aspects of chess, it becomes rather clear as to why this cannot (rather, should not) be adopted to WoW arenas. Chess is a one-on-one game that pits skill AND ONLY SKILL against an opponent. Chess is a dance amongst pieces that can all take other pieces (except king cannot take king, etc); that is, there is no chance that when I move my rook down the board and onto your knight's square, he will overcome my advance and defeat my piece in a defensive maneuver. Likewise, there are no auto-attacks that are made for me without my having to play them fully aware of their consequences. Therefore, we can plainly say that the game of chess has no luck associated with it (unless you count your opponent's inability to see your next move... but I would argue that such is skill rather than luck).

Because there is no luck in chess, then it is completely suitable to create a rating system that states when player x beats player y, x is better than y. Logically, the argument holds water, so to speak. However, the moment luck is introduced into a game, such a rating system is dashed to pieces. If, for example, I make a last-ditch effort to take your piece with my piece, and this move will either win the game for me or lose the game for me, and the outcome is based on probability a la "20% of the time, this move will succeed," then we cannot say conclusively who is the better player. Sure, the argument to use such a low-percentage move in such dire straits could (and would) undoubtedly be argued as a gamble rather than skill, but what if the move had a 50% chance to succeed? Could we then argue that player X's defeat was due to lack of skill when player Y quite obviously had a similar chance to win? Such would be the arguing over whether flipping a coin the way the flipper wants requires skill. Quite clearly, adding any luck-based components to a game diminishes the ability to, without bias, state who is a better player.

Another reason that the Elo system is inadequate for use in the arena rating system of WoW is because the Elo system accounts for ties and close matches. Yes, the arena does account for ties as well, I have seen screenshots of zero gain matches that ended in a no-decision because sinister strikes landed at the "same" time. However, in chess, if two players play amazingly well and end up with just kings left, and one player finally corners the other player into no possible moves, then this is a narrow victory for the cornering player. It could be argued that such a victory was as close as victories come, and therefore the players were pitted equally against one another. So, their ratings will change very little after the match is concluded because of the nature of the victory. In this example, 'close' matters in both horseshoes and chess. The arena system does not have a way to determine close matches as "near-draws" and award points based on narrow victories or losses. If we play an arena match that lasts 5 hours and ends in a narrow victory with one player killing the other while keeping 2 hit points at the end, with comparable healing and damage done (etc etc), then one could argue that such a match (epic though it may be) would be a "near-draw" resulting in only 1-2 rating differences between the two teams because they were obviously near-equals with regard to one another (so long as their respective ratings were equal).

Personally, I feel the need for a new "fair" rating system that 1) is impossible (read: extremely difficult to do, or easily noticed and punishable) to exploit/game, 2) renders fair judgments and rewards between losers and winners, and 3) pits skill against skill, rather than gear against gear. I do not have any ideas for such a system, but I will have about 2 weeks (taking a vacation) to mull it over and talk with my brother about it. Such a system would need to be WoW-specific, and therefore take a grand scheme of things into account when determining rating. For instance, two undead rogues should always be able to defeat a warlock+shadowpriest team... every time if the two rogues are not incompetent. This is due to the nature of the rogue class having magic immunity, fear immunity (as undead and the pvp trinket), and amazing damage output against low armor classes. Sorry for the tangent here, but I know first hand how annoying it can be to go against a counter-comp team and lose 18 rating with no chance at winning, and I think that these scenarios should be addressed and accounted for the in fair rating system for the arena.

Oh well, if I come up with anything good, I will post on it back here.

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holy camoly

... let me start by saying that IF Blizzard keeps the talent trees comparable to how they look now, WotLK might not be a complete disappointment. Rather, it looks like they actually listened to the concerns of the player-base and have attempted to implement them accordingly. No no... don't think me crazy, what I say is true (as of now).

I am going to list every complaint I have ever had about druids in WoW briefly:

  1. Very weak survivability as a healer, no shields, no burst heals, ToL imposes a snare making the situation worse

  2. Feral has no snare

  3. Feral has no ability to kill a healer due to lack of cc/ms

  4. Feral has no cooldowns to use in PvP/PvE scenarios

  5. Feral is very susceptible to cc forcing them to break form and lose damage output

  6. Boomkins are undesirable in raids due to lack of cc

  7. Boomkins are undesirable in raids due to lack of AoE

  8. Boomkins are undesirable in raids due to lack of raid buffs

  9. Omen of Clarity is dispel-able

This is the WotLK alpha leaked talent tree for druids. I almost shat myself when I looked the talent overs. The first issue is taken care of by Improved ToL, which gives the druid a grand amount of armor for survivability, and now ToL can actually cast Barkskin. They added a snare as the 45 point talent in feral, which also takes care of the "cannot kill a healer" issue by adding a "mind-numbing poison" effect as well. A big ability with a cooldown was added as the 51-point talent for feral which either breaks all cc's a la the pvp trinket, or does that and leaves the druid in a rage a la "The Beast Within". Moonkins were given an AoE aside from TreeBrigade called Typhoon... which no one has any idea how it works except that it seems like a projectile that hits everything it comes into contact with (a la shadowfury) except it sustains... like hurricane... and it's instant cast... how confusing. Additionally, the moonkins have a talent that will improve their dps ability and cause them to land a debuff which increases arcane and nature damage received, and the improved moonkin aura improves the haste rating by 100% after a crit.

All these changes are amazing, and will likely be toned down before the actual release (or even announcement by Bliz) of the WotLK, but I must say that I am impressed by Blizzard's appeasement strategy. It has always seemed that Blizzard does not care about off specs and they would rather help the "traditional" specs of the game rather than the weaker offspecs. However, it definitely seems like they took the community's comments to heart when designing some of these talents. The snare is my favorite... though it will obviously be nerfed into oblivion before the release of the game. While it is true that a 50% snare is needed by ferals, and making it stacking to 50% so that they could not keep it applied indefinitely was needed, it can also be noted that 50% spell-slow is amazingly high. Also, the talent tree does not say precisely the type of debuff that infected wounds places, but my guess is that it is either a disease or a physical debuff. I really would have thought that this would be a 1-application effect that would have a 30% chance to get applied... but I like it better this way (as it is quite clearly overpowered).

There is probably more I would like to gush about... for instance, the fact that ToL gets armor, a bonus healing ability that gets applied to the target getting your heals, and can cast the very first flash heal resto gets (called Nourish)... but I have to go, for now...

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Player versus Player

Pitted in an epic struggle, two teams enter the arena not knowing who their opponents might be. Their opponents may be the counter-composition to their team, at this point there is no way to tell. The team talks strategies briefly while buffing up for the fight to come. They say things like "if it's pr, then focus the priest and I'll try my best to cc the rogue after CloS" to try and calm their nerves while, at the same time, enhancing their senses for the battle. This team is dedicated, they are ready to try and vie for glory as they do their 10 matches for the week, hoping to improve their barely-over-break-even record by a margin better than 6-4. They grit their teeth as a thick silence falls. Their hearts beat faster, and the familiar sound of cast-iron gates swinging open rings in their ears, revealing an empty battle field and the faces of enemies.

Every week, this is the feeling as we start our matches. Every week, it seems that we find only the counter-comp teams. Every week, we do our best, and occassionally beat a team that should have beaten us, and we often lose to the cookie-cutter makeups that tend to win against non-cookie-cutters.

Why do we continue? Why do we strive for what seems to be unattainable to us? Why do we put ourselves through this toil and struggle for what seems like little-to-no gain, especially when considering that the next season will force us to get fewer pieces of gear and stockpile arena points that we will never end up using? We do it because we enjoy the struggle. We enjoy facing a team of equals who will pit their best against ours. We want to win, but we know that it is not such a reality. We keep coming back because we have a desire to be the best, even though that is essentially impossible.

We are self-masochistic.

Let me speak plainly, for a moment. What makes the best teams the best? Arguably, at the top of the ladder, there are teams who will end up facing each other 50 times a week. That one warrior+resto is going to play that warlock+resto 50 times in their week of trying to get to the number one spot. They do not have the same options that we have. At the 2300 rating, there are only a handful of teams (let alone comps) one team will be pitted against, and so they only need to have strategies for those few teams. At our level of competition, there are at least 15 compositions in the 2s bracket, and 10 of those are counter-comps to our teams. Of course, everything becomes much simpler when we break down into "rogue+healer" as opposed to the four different permutations possible, yet there are times when these generalizations are purposeful.

On our warlock+spriest team, going against rogue+healer is almost always a loss. This is because rogues are impervious to death against casters, but most especially against dotters. Additionally, we are counter-comp to most healer+warrior variants, so we tend to ignore the specifics. However, we also face a slew of teams that will never get above an 1850 rating based on their composition, but we are one of the teams that they can beat. For instance, rogue+rogue will never be a top contender, but they will beat our team every single time if they are both undead, and they will win 75% of the time if they are not. Additionally, it does not matter which team we are on, warlock+healer will essentially always beat both our teams, even though the top-level contender version of our warrior+druid team will always beat it.

Maybe there is something to be said about this. Maybe there is a method to the madness that is arena matching. Before the 2.4.2 patch, it seemed that we would face more comparably geared opponents reliably. Sure, the matches took 10 minutes to pop, but now it seems as if there used to be some match-making module that would take gear into account, and now it seems to be missing, possibly accounting for the quick match-up times. Perhaps, since it is so easy to get matched up against a team, we should look into hedging our bets, so to speak.

We play, mostly, on Wednesday nights at around 9 P.M. server time. This, while not strictly peak hours, is a high-point in server activity amongst hardcore PvPers. We have been farmed at this time on more than one occasion. Perhaps we should start looking into different times to play, or at least, try to come up with some data as for when certain opponents play, and when we can best avoid them. I do not think that we continually play against the same teams; we do not continually get Jim and Bob from ServerX in our battle group 3-4 times a week, but we do get a few repeats. My brother is constantly of the view "queue again, right now!" However, I find myself wondering if this is the best strategy.

Obviously, if we face one team that beats us, queuing against immediately is not the wrong answer as the likelihood of us facing the same team immediately should be slim. However, when we face the same druid+warlock team 3 times in a row, I have to wonder if we should not step back and say "let's wait a half hour and see if we cannot get a new opponent." Furthermore, I am starting to think that we should change the dates and times that we do arena, if we see the same teams as the same times weekly (and I am not saying that such is the case, as I have not been documenting our opponents... though I am strongly considering it now). Could there be a "golden time" for each composition on each realm?

Could it be that a hunter+priest team will do better on ServerX if they queue at 10:00 A.M. server time, rather than 9 P.M. server time, simply because the players who constantly play at that time on that battle group are counter-comped by the hunter+priest team? On the corollary, could it be that warlock+healer simply gets to face the teams that they are the counter-comp for at 9 P.M. server time for BattlegroupX? Perhaps we are simply playing into the hands of lucky players; concerning luck, I would almost say that it is a certainty that we are unluckily paired against our counter-comps at our current play times/dates.

With this season drawing to a close, the amazingly improved queue times, and the fact that my brother and I no longer have nightly obligations (read: school-work), I will likely be recreating our second 2s team so that each team can play more than 10 games without destroying the chance for the other to get points and personal rating. Additionally, I want to broaden our sample-size of times that we do arenas to see if such a statistic matters. Sadly, our warrior+druid team will likely be losing their titles for next season, as they have not played 10% of the games played on the spriest+warlock's team, and were I to recreate the other 2s team, they would not likely have enough time to get to a rating that would give any title besides "Challenger".

Perhaps with my, and my brother's, knowledge of lua scripting, we could write a light-weight plugin that will capture the name, server, class, and races of our opponents in a file that we could later parse to see what we play against most at what times. This would certainly allow us to best chose when to play to gain the most ground when doing arena, should the data point to a statistically significant segregation in team compositions. While I am intrigued by this, it would take a wider adoption to truly get the data needed to compose such a document.

I like this idea, I will be putting some effort into writing such an add-on in the next few days to see if I cannot hammer one out rather quickly, and try to get it adopted by a larger number of players to see if there is not a way that such teams can better organize their play-times.

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What Makes a Great WoW Video?

I am an addict, true story. I will be sitting here at work, doing what I should be doing, checking the logs of some application server that had an unexpected peakaboo contest with the database server, and the database server forgot to move its hands away from its face again, leaving the application server singing (in what I perceive to be) the dulcet tones of "where did you go?" a la Portal. Then, it hits me: my poor ADHD-riddled brain decides that I am bored. There is nothing I can do about the situation other than give in and do something else; the database server can wait, it will probably come back any second anyway. So, what do I do? I venture over to the druid forums; my home away from home.

Same old garbage as usual. There are at least five threads complaining about how druids are the most overpowered class (funny... ferals are pretty gimp atm, but apparently if you can be resto, that's overpowering enough) in the entire game, which is comical to me because they are only powerful when teamed with a warlock, rogue, or warrior and only in the 2s bracket... interesting... must be the druids </sarcasm>. Following those insightful, and usually mistake-ridden (both of grammar, spelling, and logic), threads, we have the requests for help from the paladins and priests who believe that resto druids have it best and decided to reroll. "Grinding is soooooo terrible, what am I doing wrong!?" The answer is always "you are not yet level 20... once you are level 20 grinding will go faster." Then there are the threads that talk about the famous druids: Rueful, Trusty, Deep, etc. They basically are either gun-ho fans or critics of the aforementioned druids' playstyles and/or skills. Oh, and of course we have the latest release anouncement of Rawr, the druid outfitting and theory-crafting application (now available on Mac OS X).

But wait... what's this; a thread with "vid" in the title!? I am immediately intrigued and must see what this video is about. "Here is my video of my 2s team, resto+warrior in 2200+" Meh, boring, I know how all those fights go: don't get teamed against a good rogue+healer and slowly but surely kill your opponents via outlasting their mana pools. Oh, another video thread, let's see... "My 2s video, restokin+rogue." Ooooo, before restokin+rogue became amazing, this would peak my interests. Odd combinations playing oddly well is interesting enough to make me start the download.

This is why I love the Deep videos, he is an amazing cinematographer who captures great video, puts amazing music to it, and has wacky combinations. In season 1, he was a gladiator feral+marks 2s team... WHAT!? Yeah, that's right, hunter+feral and gladiator. His first video shows off his ability to win against nubs and against teams who played the s1 cookie-cutter teams well (pally+warrior). In season 2, he showed off his ability as feral+rogue, since hunters were somewhat extinct in the 2s circuit at that time. In season 3, he shows off 3 different play styles: he plays feral+rogue, restokin+hunter, and resto+rogue+hunter. I had seen feral+rogue from his last video, but he showcased it against the cookie-cutters of the day at 2200+ (warrior+druid, rogue+priest, mage+rogue, warlock+rogue). Then, he teams with his hunter from s1 (awesome) and tries restokin+hunter to great success against the same team-comps. Lastly, he faces off with the rogue and the hunter on a 3s team with him as a resto druid. The video is all paced well and set to amazing music.

This is what makes a great video. This ability to capture great video of one's exploits and put them together in a way that is both entertaining and interesting. Odd team combinations makes the videos interesting, and seeing a fluid flow of matches set to great music that follows the same theme makes the movie entertaining. This is why I started recording our spriest+warlock matches. Okay, so that combination was a popular build before the resilience-affects-dots-nerf, but now it is much harder to win as this comp. That is where my "I think people will be intrigued by this video" aspect comes from. Our team is no 2200 (not even 2000), but I think that we play well against most of the cookie-cutter-comps today, so it works out reasonably well. We tend to beat up on warrior+healer really hard, but we lose to warlock+healer. Additionally, we can occassionally take down a rogue team, but they are harder being immune to magic so much of the match. Now, I have about 8 great quality matches, but I cannot decide on the music or direction yet. So, hopefully I will get some inspiration from some more videos that I have been downloading while writing this post. Cheers.

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Restokin... again

Man, I really enjoy this spec because it honestly will never oom. Also, you have the added survivability against melee early-on in fights. Here's a question though: restokin seems to work well with outlast classes and/or control classes. For instance, it works well with rogues because of the high mobility/survivability/damage output. Also, it works well with hunters (when the hunter is good) because hunters can control fights reasonably well given their traps and wingclip, etc. Also, both these classes are not prone to taking huge burst damage. So, I was wondering, why are there so few restokin+sl/sl combos? Sl/sl will deal damage all day and night, and restokins will never oom. I just don't see how that can lose, even against a drain team. I dunno... just a simple musing.

Additionally, I watched Tombstone last night. Man, Val Kilmer is a pimp as Doc Holliday.

"Johnny Ringo... I'm your huckleberry."

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Rogue+rogue+warlock beat our resto+resto+warrior team twice on lord last night... it was infuriating. So, I say how much I hate this team to a co-worker (who plays on a different battlegroup) and he points out that "you know a class is overpowered if you can team two of them on 3s and still have an amazing team."

I thought about this, and he's right. There really is no other team combination that I can think of where pairing a class with itself and a utility/dps will result in a win. Warlock+warlock+rogue does not have the burst potential nor the CC to bring our team down. Two warriors just slowly kill stuff, but with two healers we ought to pull through. Two hunters is just laughable (even one is usually laughable). Two mages can put down some extreme damage, but I haven't seen a mage in 3s unless he is with rogue and priest.

We almost beat them, but their insane CC coupled with their ability to silence my shamang makes our team worse off until my shamang gets himself some better gear. He is rocking 180 resilience with 8.5k hp and he is waiting for s4 to buy anything. I can understand this... he wants to become geared faster by buying cheaper versions of the gear out now; this makes perfect sense. However, the most maddening part of the whole venture is that we have to pvp with him to GET him arena points to get the gear later. Don't get me wrong, I like pvp'ing with the guy, but he has a lot to learn about how to heal.

He finally respec'd yesterday in the middle of our 3s fights... but he did it wrong. I told him to go with this spec, but he botched it and went with this spec instead. Sadly, he will not be getting enough melee crits to really utilize Shamanistic Focus, and he put too many points into resto, so he does not have toughness: arguably the best friend of restoration shamangs now. I am not angry about it, since it was an accident, he clicked too many times and did not want to spend another 50g to fix it... fine. However, he plays a little odd at times.

So, we are on Lordearon, I am explaining how to LoS into my heals and out of their attacks. We see that there is a priest+hunter+warlock facing us. Okay, I stealth out, my shamang stays on our side of the pillar, the priest shadowmelds, and my warrior runs in and starts eating the hunter's face. The priest pops out and puts up full dots on my warrior, sw:p, starshards, you name it. So, I start peaking over the top and throwing lifeblooms while ducking back behind to avoid LoS for too long. The shamang has yet to put down a totem, but he figures it out and puts down earthbind (not the best against a ranged team, but helpful none-the-less), windfury (out of the warrior's range, but behind the pillar expecting the battle to move to us... good move imo), and mana spring (horray, more mp5 for me). At this point, my warrior has moved from the hunter to the priest so the priest cannot mana burn. This is key because we can avoid viper sting easily as the hunter is terrible and has the cat pet instead of the scorpid, I just throw abolish poison on the shamang as he runs around the side to toss out some heals.

Awesome, we are just widdling away at the priest, there goes pain suppression and pw:s, my warrior moves over to the hunter who is STILL at 50% hp because the priest was so busy healing himself he never threw so much as a HoT on him. We end up working the hunter down to 25% and I start the cyclone train on the priest while my shamang earthshocks the warlock who is casting fear on me (obviously), and we down the hunter. At this point, my shamang is at 50% mana, I am at 90% mana and I stopped using abolish poison on myself a while ago and just started eating the viper stings because I have infinite mana as a lifebloomer, and my warrior has 100% hp. We are looking good except I am at 75% health. So, I start lifeblooming myself and I notice my shamang turn ghost wolf and run into the frey. "Wtf..." I think to myself as I am feverishly healing myself through the warlock dots. Then I notice that my shamang is at 30% hp suddenly, and I have no idea where he is. So, I have to run into the frey trying to get LoS and into range for heals. I am yelling "WHERE ARE YOU!?!?" on vent trying to figure it out and he says "I am in their starting area."

"WTF... why are you in the starting location, I can't heal you in there."

"I'm fine, I just took some shadowbolts and sw:d to the face, so I'm healing up while the warrior smashes the priest."

At this point, I had been running around feverishly looking for him (I was foaming at the mouth livid at this point) and I notice my health is at 30%.


Fear, dots, sbolt and sw:d kill me. So, I am yelling now... but I don't have vent queued up because I don't think that my teammates need me yelling in their ears when it just became undergeared and oom shamang + warrior versus 100% warlock 75% priest with 50% mana. So, I start spectating and giving calm advice, like "shamang... why do you not have water shield up" and "shamang... why do you not have water shield up again?" Another favorite quote from that match is "SWEET JESUS PUT UP WATER SHIELD IT'S FREE AND THE WARRIOR NEEDS HEALS."

Eventually, they bested that team and won us a sweet 14 points. Yeah, they weren't even worth that in my opinion. They were terrible and I only died because of lack of communication from my team mate. So, I go into a diatribe about how "if you are not casting a heal or putting down a totem, you are refreshing water shield as it costs no mana and gives you great mana regen." Honestly, it took me 45 minutes to say the essay version of that sentence. He would ask questions like "but what if it has 2 charges left and I am not doing anything but LoS'ing them?" to which I would respond "then you cast water shield."

Apparently, and I only found this out this morning but, if one were to continually casting watershield over and over and over again, each cast would give 50 mana along with the 50mp5 given from water shield. Effectively, this raises the mp5 of watershield (while not having to heal... which is a lot of the time on our team) to ... my windows calculator has gone missing. How odd... anyway, it's a lot. Use water shield all the time... this makes me want to finish up grinding out my shamang.

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Scaling and Hybrids

Let me speak plainly about Blizzard's view of hybrids, for a moment. Blizzard's development team is comprised of ex-Everquest developers, so their view on any type of balance in the game goes back to the "holy trinity." That is, their mindset is one of "if your class has multiple varying roles you can play, then it will have zero roles desirable to a group." The general idea from Everquest was one of "min/maxing" for success and balance. They took a game that follows the original RPS (rock-paper-scissors) ideology, morphed it for an MMORPG such that RPS became healer-tank-damage. In doing this, they essentially made the game function as the class one choses determines how they play the game. This makes some sense in that if a person choses to play a priest, they should come in with the understanding that they are playing a healing class.

Without going much more into the history of Everquest (which I have limited knowledge of, never having played it myself), let me say that this same strategy was utilized in the design of World of Warcraft. However, in order to be bigger and better than WoW's predecessors, it had to have more classes to choose from with a variety of play styles. Thus, the 9 classes of WoW were born, each with 3 different styles to chose from. Originally, though the creators will never admit to it, those three different play syles were purposefully designed as: a grinding specialization, a primary raid specialization, and a primary pvp specialization. Admittedly, the designers originally had not thought of PvP specs in their design. Rather, they had a utility tree to coincide with the other two trees.

This is all well and good, except that many players pick their character based on what their friends tell them about the class or what they see others playing. For instance, if someone tells their friend how fast and fun leveling is as a shadow priest, then someone might pick up the game with the misunderstanding that a priest could be played solely as a shadow specialization, even when the leveling is done. In fact, this is exactly what happened with many players. They decided to cling to their leveling specializations in the "end-game" striving to play how they wanted. Sadly, this was unintended by the developers, but for one reason or another they decided to condone it. Eventually, the developers even decided to give gear and specific roles in raids to these "offspecs" so that players could play how they wanted.

This gap is completely warranted by the simple fact that I succumbed to my ADHD and wandered away from this page. Without getting too poetic about it (and yes, I know I am not the best writer in the world), Blizzard has developed a game of "mix/maxing." In order to succeed, you can play however you wish, however, in order to excel, one must play the way Blizzard wants that class to play. "Want to play a druid in pvp? Fine, but you have to heal otherwise you will be mediocre at best." The same is true of priests and shamangs, etc etc. The list is not that long, but it is a complete slap in the face that Blizzard would allow someone to deliberately debilitate their ability to destroy in player confrontations.

This leads me nicely into the discussion of scaling. The biggest problem with "end-game" pvp is that once there is a "best" gear category, the game either becomes stale, or there is better gear added in a latter patch. The latter situation is one that Blizzard has decided to take up. So, a rogue will have a full set of end-game gear, play with it for a while, then Blizzard will announce that a new set of end-game gear is coming out which is better in every way to the last set. To keep the content fresh, the weapons do more damage, the armor has more stat point allocation which makes the rogue do more damage, there is more stat points added (read: resilience in TBC and armor penetration in the latest patches), and finally, there is some armor added.

What's wrong with this? Well, the classes that rely on certain stats scaling versus others simply do not keep up with the rest. For instance, that same rogue will upgrade his weapons when the next "end-game" gear sets are released, which will improve his damage output by 50 damage per swing (as an example... not as exact data) against a mob with no armor. A casting class will improve their spell damage by 50 per averaged cast (the tick of a dot, the damage of a 1.5 second cast spell, etc). However, the rogue also gets some more stats, such as armor penetration, and haste rating, etc, which will make their damage output scale faster than the expected 50 damage per swing. Similarly, casters will get some spell haste rating, but there is no stat equal to armor penetration, and they do not get additional armor to compensate against armor penetration.

Back in the 60s days, shadow priests were one of the best dueling classes because they had a relatively high armor value coupled with a 15% physical damage reduction and damage abilities that would continue doing damage even if the priest were running away from their opponent. Now, their armor is the lowest, which provides essentially no physical damage reduction, except by shadow form which amounted to a shield in the hands of a paladin or a shamang. So, now that we are nearing season 4 in arena, the shadow priests are falling behing in terms of scaling because their survivability no longer scales with gear, and their opponent's ability to do damage through their mitigation is still scaling.

Very sad times... similarly, ferals are scaling poorly too, but they are so lacking in abilities that the similarities tend to end there. Shadow priests have a silence and an AoE fear, both can be used in small-scale pvp to control a target for a good duration of time. Ferals have cyclone, which forces them to leave their primary damage form to control a target, and it costs mana to get back into form. Feral needs reduced mana on shapeshifting, a snare, and a fear (a la warriors) before they will be arena viable. Hopefully, Wrath of the Lich King will help in these avenues.

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Yeah, I spec'd it. I have given up on warrior+druid 2s teams. The play-style is just too luck-based against good teams. Essentially, if you cyclone gets resisted, or they get that lucky mace stun off, etc, then we lose and it takes 10 minutes. Also, rogues chew through me like a drill against wet toilet tissue. It is quite depressing, so we're going to focus on 3s for a while and see how that goes.

Again, this is why I'm restokin. Restokin has longevity in both mana and survivability, but really only when there is another healer; lucky stuns will still beat up on a restokin whereas when there is a secondary healer, I can pop over to moonkin form and soak some damage while getting healed. We tried it with my girlfriend's brother (shamang) who spec'd resto for the first time. He was rocking about 120 resilience and 8k hp... not the greatest start, I'll admit. However, we did reasonably well considering the low-gear. I think that if we could get some more games in we would be doing even better.

Here's the draw for having shamang+druid+warrior: purge and infinite mana on the druid. We played against an amazing warrior+rogue+druid team that we eventually beat, but it really did take some doing. We started out like we normally do, focused on the warrior (since he was the only thing we could see) and tried to dps him down while I shot in heals and wraths from the pillars (we were on Blade's Edge). So, the rogue pops on our shamang and the druid starts to heal the warrior who has started chasing me. Our warrior switches over to the druid and chases him off before he can get a 3x lifebloom stack going on his warrior, so I cycloned the warrior to drop his hots at low (30%) hp, then I busted the hots on him, had him rooted away from my shamang who was healing his best through the rogue's damage, and I wrathed the warrior down to 10% when the druid showed up with my warrior. I cycloned the druid before he got off ns-ht and my warrior executed their warrior ftk.

Now, things got interesting. At this point, our shamang was at 50% hp/mp and my warrior needed some patching up too, so I switched over to healing and kept 'em up. However, their druid was at 80% mana and full s3 versus us, the best geared being me with 3 vengeful, 2 merciless, and 1 gladiator's (lawl... I'm saving for s4) with the s2 mace/oh and vindicator's gear. Also, their rogue and warrior were both in s3 gear (weapons anyway, their shoulders were lacking), so the rogue was doing a mean-beat-down on my shamang. At this point, he didn't have anymore cooldowns and needed support in the healing department, so I really had to stick to him and spam regrowth/ht (Yeah, I actually got a couple HTs off when they weren't looking). Meanwhile, my warrior got back onto the druid and continued the chase hoping a lucky windfury/sword-proc would fire. I decided that my shamang just needed to get away from the rogue or we'd lose, so I rooted and told him to bust his trinket and get to me. Long-story short, or perhaps even too late, there was a 5 minute period where I was healing while out of mana (God, I love dreamstate) and the other druid had ~3k. However, eventually we oom'd the opposing druid and killed the rogue while I R1-moonfired the druid to keep him in combat and, thus, not drinking.

It was a hard-faught battle, but one that really should be easier once our shamang gets better geared and plays a little more. He needs to work on keeping his mana stream totem up all the time, he needs to know when to use tremor totem, he needs to spec into improved ghost-wolf for quick get-aways, he needs to learn about how awesome stoneskin totem, he needs to use earthbind, and he needs to learn not to break LoS on me when he's under heavy damage. I really think that he has quite a bit of potential, but he just needs to learn to think on his toes because we cannot call everything he needs to do out over vent. However, I sympathize as I, too, was once an off-spec dps class that decided to heal one day (for no great reason). I think that once we get him some gear he will be a perfect fit in the team.

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Just stoppin' in to say hallo!

My brother is graduating from college this week with a degree in computer science. How very exciting. Additionally, my girlfriend is graduating the following week. Oh, and her brother graduated from high school this week (which came as a huge surprise to everyone involved, but a happy surprise none-the-less). On top of all that, my girlfriend has been insane with projects and requesting my help, etc etc. We had to go to the hometown fair on Saturday so that she could get some photos for her photo project.

Whew... at least the worst of it is overOHMYGOD... YESTERDAY WAS OUR 7 YEAR ANNIVERSARY AND I FORGOT IT!!!! Man... I am such a yutz. I spent all day with her, we were watching movies and hanging out. Mostly, she was working on her projects and I was doing laundry and the various weekly chores... you know how I do. So, I make a nice spaghetti dinner for the two of us, we have some wine, hang out for a while, and she says that she wants to go get some ice cream. We have been dieting for the last couple months, but I figure, whatever it's been such a good day, let's go get ice cream. So, we go to Denny's because it is 10PM and it is essentially the only ice cream vendor open. I order a banana split and she orders the oreo shake. Once the food gets there she says "so, is this like our anniversary desert?"

I swear to god, I almost killed myself on the spot. She is great and understanding about the whole affair, and she said that it was a good anniverary even though I didn't say "happy anniversary" all day until she reminded me, but I still feel like swine for having forgotten. I literally have post-its all over my desk at work reminding me. Oh well, damage done... I owe her diamonds...

Let's talk WoW. We had to post-pone our matches until this weekend because of my brother's crazy end-of-year-schedule, and as such, we fought only our counter-comps. I decided we should try some extra druid+warrior in hopes that they would do better... only to be saddened by getting better geared warrior+healer comps 4 times. So, we switched over to warlock+spriest and I decided that I didn't care anymore, I was going to record some arena footage. The first match I recorded was against rogue+paladin, which we lost, but only because of lag. My brother simply could NOT get mass dispel to fire... at all. The rogue was feared around a pillar at 15%, the pally was bubbled at 15% trying to heal his rogue who lost LoS on him, and my brother couldn't get mass dispel to fire. I have the video recorded, and it's pretty funny because I had written off the rogue and just kept firing sbolts into the pally expecting bubble to burst at any second. Then, the rogue came back and killed my brother, then me. Very disturbing.

The second match I recorded was against a hunter+priest in Lordearon. We came out guns-a-blazing and tried to burst down the hunter while cc'ing the priest... which worked pretty well until the hunter turned big and red. I got scared, as I was the target. However, I am always prepared to hide from huge damage dealers. I had full dots out with the priest feared when big red popped, so I played LoS really hard against the hunter on the pillar and tried to dot down his pet at the same time. I was taking pretty insane damage the whole time from the pet and the disc priest's dot, and I got down to ~4k health after healthstone when big red wore off. So, I started doing direct damage on the hunter again while cc'ing the priest. At this point, I had basically written off the match as a loss because our hp disadvantage was so amazing... we were both at <5k and the hunter was at 75% with the priest at full. So, I started by botching an immolate on the hunter, then jumping off the pillar without dotting the hunter to fear the priest. I got back on the hunter and dropped a shadow bolt, and the hunter went from 50% to dead. In the video, I can be seen following after the dead hunter and trying to target and cast sbolt on him again because I thought it was feign death. At this point, I turned off my video recording because I was at 400 hp and figured it a loss.

My brother and I had to watch that video about 5 times each before we figured out what exactly happened. My scrolling combat text apparently didn't catch a shadowbolt crit, because the hunter gets shadow vulnerability for about 1/10 of a second before dying as my brother drops mind blast and death on him as a last-ditch attempt at victory. If the math works out, my shadowbolt crit against 350 resilience should do about 2000 and give shadow vulnerability, which increases shadow direct damage by 20%. My brother's mind blast would then hit (not crit) for about 2k and death would do about the same. All tolled, we probably dropped about 6k damage (maybe more if his stuff crit too) the instant my sbolt landed. As for timing, it has never been more perfect. Sadly, because I thought that the match was a loss and turned off the video recording, it ends right after we kill the hunter... so I cannot prove it was a win... people will just have to take my word for it. If nothing else, it will look awesome as a "we can do 50% of a full s3 hunter's health in <1 second" clip.

I finally got my video recording thing (the built in mac recording by blizzard) working so that I don't get any frame rate lag while recording, and the output is really quite astoundingly good. So, the hope is that in a few weeks (maybe a month or two) I will have some video to post as once my brother graduates we will actually do more than 10 arena matches per week. Here's hoping.

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