An Assassination

The timer rings 15 seconds remaining until the doors open. The warrior looks over to his partner and sees him doing his usual pre-battle routine of casting regrowth to that the long-last heal-over-time portion has the best chance at getting some ticks after they take a bit of damage. The warrior realizes that there are no more bells, just the anticipation for when the doors open. He grips his trusty Vengeful Gladiator's Bonegrinder ever tighter, but stows it on his back for now and gives one last battle shout to let his enemies know he comes for them. He begins mounting up as his partner gets into a prowling position to hide himself from his enemies' eyes. A tickle runs down the warrior's back, but he does not acknowledge it with a shake or a shiver; he's been down this road many times and come out victorious -- in higher rankings as well. The start of a new season meant fresh blood, the warrior knows that in order to get back to the top, he must distinguish himself amongst the unworthy opponents of the lower brackets and move on. He grips his reins ever tighter and can feel the doors are about to open.

Blinding light hits his eyes and he hears the cheering of the crowd. The warrior likes the Blade's Edge Arena, it has always felt more spread out in a very compact way. He digs his might heel into the side of his mount and it gives charge to the top of the bridge, where he stares across to see two lowly undead men. One appears to be an unholy priest and the warrior can tell from his dark and recessed eyes that this priest gave up on the faith a long time ago. The other is a warlock, what a pair, these two evil souls bound together in the arena. At first the warrior is a bit on edge, as spell-casters can often inflict slow and antagonizing amounts of pain upon him. It isn't the pain he is concerned about though, he has dealt with pain before and, as always, his ever merciful healer has always been there to repair wounds and soothe the pain. Rather, he is on edge because he cannot decide which one of the two poses the more immediate threat, be it the warlock who will obviously be able to take a hard beating, or the shadow priest who will spend the majority of the battle keeping his evil abilities on him and reducing his druid's healing energy.

It is all in the eyes. There are no misunderstandings here, everyone in the arena knows there is a druid, knows that he will be a great healer, knows that the warrior has the most elite and glorified gear from being one of the best. Their eyes give them away even more than their gear does: tattered and old from seasons past. The warrior gives a mocking snort as he thinks "they plan to fight in heirlooms! That's it," and charges at the shadow priest as the two dark casters scatter from the incoming assault. The warrior swings wildly at the priest's legs and hinders his movement, "this is too easy" he thinks as he feels dark magic corrupting his body. However, this evil presence only fuels his rage further and he lands a resounding blow on dark priest who had just managed to create a protective shield for himself.

The warrior looks over his shoulder and sees the warlock chanting an incantation and waving his hands in the air. He never understood how these sorts of magical abilities came to be infused with these feeble types of beings. All he believed in was the mace, swing it and watch the blood splatter against his armor. Though his armor burned now, scalding and smoldering. Aside from feeling mildly sick and having what could only be described as a near-blinding pain shooting through his body, he was now burning alive inside his armor. "Good," he thinks, "bring on the pain, it gives me focus, gives me power!" He swings again with all his might, inflicting a mortal blow into the side of the priest which rang a loud crack along with it signaling broken ribs and a deep wound which continued to bleed.

Out of desperation, it seemed, the priest gave a loud cry that pierced the warrior's mind for a split second. It filled him with fear from head to foot, but as his eyes widened, he furrowed his brow and shook off the feeling with a resolute wanting to destroy the priest in front of him. He heard an odd noise and saw his druid fleeing from the immediate battle. Now he was really angry; this priest was going to die very soon. Then it happened.

They sky turned dark and crushing evil presence forced itself down upon the warrior and he felt his bones crack a bit. It was done in an instant, but it left him stunned and dazed and hurting all over. A blast of pure flame hit him square between his broad shoulder blades, and he felt himself burst open as if the fire were exploding from within his chest. As he made to turn his efforts upon the warlock he realized he may have chosen the wrong target as a skull emblazoned in green fire hit him square in the chest and he was filled with resounding horror: he was going to die. The priest made a gesture at the coming druid who had gained his Nature's Swiftness, but too late, he could not speak, and then he turned and ran in fear again. Immediately, the warrior felt a burning cold sensation as flames black as the deepest cavern engulfed his body and were immediately put out. Then a figure appeared above him and struck like a dagger, straight through the warrior, and he fell dead. With the priest at about a third of his strength, and the warlock at full, the druid was no match for their onslaught of pain and destruction, he climbed the wall of the arena, trying to escape in complete terror.

The evil pair smiled.

So that was my attempt at a dramatic telling of one of our matches from last night. We have given up all hope of ever hitting anything about 1725 on the shadow priest warlock team. We got up to 1549 a couple times in our initial ten matches and never could get over that 1550 plateau to get the brutal gladiator's pants as felguard and shadow spec. So, we gave up, went and did the sunwell dailies, and over vent I said it: "I'm through caring about this team, it's time to have fun again... I'm going destro." No complaints from my brother, so we finished up our dailies and I went and spec'd destro. I am now more squishable than ever. For fun, I wanted to do a few arena matches just to see what it would be like. We faced a resto-shamang and warrior team, which we beat rather well, not super well, but decently. "So, let's do another," I said. We faced elemental shamang and rogue, which defeated us, but only barely. I was upset, so I queued again, because I knew we could do better than that, and my macros and spell rotations were finally coming together to play how I remembered. Then we had this match-up against druid+warrior, both of which were wearing full s3 gear.

I think I'm going to enjoy destruction. Essentially, I have to bait my spriest a bit at the beginning of the match, so I can get off some spells without being targeted and burst down, but aside from that, I drop more burst damage than anything I have ever seen before. Additionally, next patch they will be improving my curses so that curse of shadow and curse of elements will be one spell, so my spriest's shadow spells will be doing 10% more damage and my fire spells will too on the same cast. Definitely a sneak-attack buff by Blizzard. Also, they are making Fel Armor undispellable, which will definitely be a boon to our play as it gives me additional healing received from the spriest's vampiric embrace and from my health stones.

I want to find a good elemental shamang and just laugh about doing gibs in the 3s arena... all in good time.

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Yeah, they are really powerful. Here's some of the things about being a hunter that are hard: 1) you have to stand still to shoot someone whereas a warrior can chase someone and white swing, 2) there is no 2. Honestly, hunters have a few downsides, but they are simply part of the class. They do not have a huge number of survival abilities (even though one of their talent trees is called 'survival'), but they can survive against a heavy burst reasonably well, and with all their various snares, roots, and control mechanics, they seem an ideal partner for a druid in the 2s bracket. We started the team on thursday, and as of today we are 15-5, with 4 of those losses as "damn it... we should have won but I played retardedly at the end."

We lost to 1) warrior+rogue (I got burst really hard and got cocky when we lived through it... then I got a full duration intimidating shout into blind into sap combo after trinketing out of blind a few seconds before), 2) rogue+spriest (again... we were winning and my hunter said something like "I'm getting burst down by this rogue" which I took to mean "I need you to stun him" when he really meant "I need you to continue healing as you are... don't change," then I got a full duration AoE fear from the priest), and there two more teams I cannot remember. We lost to a mage+rogue, and it was the only match I feel that we actually lost. The other matches were all me being stupid, whereas the mage+rogue completely destroyed us without me being able to directly explain why. The only answer I can give is "my hunter got rooted" which is not really an excuse as much as an explanation: if frost nova hits someone and they cannot get out of it, frostbolts will rain death from the heavens. This team tends to destroy a lot of the more favorable compositions today, which came as a real shock to me. We beat druid+rogue, we beat priest+hunter, shamang+warrior, druid+warrior, and a good number of other rogue teams. Essentially, hunters are the anti-rogue class at the moment, though shadow step is a huge hindrance to the hunter's ability to trap and get mobile, we seem to fight through it rather well.

Okay, another thing I am finding: there is a definite trick to getting away from warriors and rogues. Forgive me here, I'm an old-time druid and I still miss the days of shifting causing the 1 second snare/root immunity. Lately, I've started recording matches of my druid, as well as my warlock, and I started noticing that when melee classes focus on me, I tend to run away in travel form until I get snared, then I do my instant "back to travel form" macro, only to be snared again. I can't believe how stupid this is of me, but I almost always prefer a timely escape to moving around in cast form; it just seems too slow to be of any real use. Anyway, I realized that I was doing too many snare breaks and it was 1) costing me too much mana and 2) not effectively getting distance on good rogues/warriors. See, shifting out of travel form is a free action, so it doesn't incur a gcd or mana cost, and it removes snares/roots just like shifting into a feral form. So, if I get my head out of my ass, I should be able to effectively roll a better timed and more mana efficient escape by first getting snared in travel form, then simply exiting travel form to remove the snare and gain a little ground on my opponent, then they will snare again and I will immediately (while their snare is on gcd) go back into travel form to break the snare and be off and running at travel form speed. Right now I'm breaking the snare and going immediately back to travel form to catch the next snare... which is dumb and probably why my warrior+druid team had so much trouble.

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Here we are again

It's the end of another piss-poor season. We are sitting in the rubble of a team that we all feel should be better than it is, and there are no fingers being pointed. Sure, there are plenty of questions floating about: "are we just getting counter-comped," "should we try a different target, or tactic," "are we doing this right?"

We queued up for 3s as rogue+warrior+druid, each with tons of gear (not the newest, but at least one season departed or newer), each with tons of skill and experience, each with a clear idea of what to do against all the teams we are expecting to see. What happened? We didn't see any of the teams we expected to see. Sure, we beat that rogue+hunter+priest team, but that was mainly on the fact that our melee-heavy team eats priests alive between mortal strike and mind-numbing poison. Sure, we beat a druid+warlock+hunter team, but only because the druid was terrible and busted all his ccs on me early on. The teams we weren't expecting, or really had any idea of what to do with were the armor-heavy teams. The warrior+pally+druid, warrior+pally+shamang, warrior+druid+retadin teams were the straws that broke my back (I'm a camel in this metaphor).

And maybe that's the trick... it just wasn't our time to queue... we got a bad run of melee-defensive teams and we just got counter-comped. However, that seems to happen to us a lot. However, I do tend to create teams that are pretty easily counter-comped. Warrior+enhancement+druid and warrior+restomang+druid are both counter-comped; the first is the same as rogue with half the survivability and the second has mana issues. It might be time to try a new strategy.

I have been watching Nerf Sap 10 a lot (mostly the commentary version) and looking at their composition. There just doesn't seem to be any feasible way that they can lose on that team unless someone knows of that comp and how powerful it truly is and happens to be anti-melee with a little luck on their side. For instance, the only team I think that could beat the rogue+rogue+lock team is a pally+pally+warrior, and the pallies would have to be amazing with their personal bubbles to avoid garrotes and blinds. Anyway, I'm talking to the rogue on my rogue+druid+warrior team and I suggest this, point out the video, and he says sure, he's got a rogue friend at 1900 right now, and next season will try it a bit with my warlock. Sweet. I'll keep playing 2s with my spriest, of course, but this sounds like raping-fun.

Other than that, I was thinking of switching out the rogue on my threes team of rogue+warrior+druid for a warlock. That way we would be less melee-heavy, have a little more cc, and would force a target off the bat. Not to mention that locks are easy to heal, can heal themselves slightly as sl/sl, and bring a spell-lock and dispel to the table.

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"Kiff... we have a conundrum!"

Okay, so my teams have never been mega-grinds. We don't play 100 games the first day of season releases (and maybe we should... but w/e). We don't usually hit 1700 until mid-way through the season. Admittedly, this season went much better as we got both our 2s teams to 1725 within 4 weeks of release, but I don't know how well that will work come 8 days from now.

WRY!?!? Well, that should be reasonably straight-forward to answer: both my toons are basically arena-point capped. My warlock will almost certainly be near the cap since he has 3900 at present, is slated to make 489 this week, and will likely make near that on the day season four starts, netting him a cool 4900 points or so. Like all my characters, I chose to upgrade the helm last (because it was the most expensive upgrade), and of course Blizzard must have known this, so they made the helm the highest rating-required item besides the weapons and shoulders just to spite me. Okay, so I have come to terms with the fact that I will likely be sporting s2 shoulders from now 'til season five (if there is even going to be a season five). I have also come to terms with the fact that if I want a new weapon, it is going to be a season three weapon, and I am going to have to work rather hard to get that. Like I say, these are things I have come to terms with; I don't necessarily think it's fair, but I am dealing with my state.

So, the question becomes "what do I do with all these points since I cannot purchase my helmet within the first couple weeks?" Well, I'm not sure... I might be able to "give up" the helm for a couple weeks, meaning that I will spend all my points the first day, then go ahead and upgrade my helm in 4-5 weeks when I have enough arena points to do so.



Apparently, I'm only buying the hands at first... then I'm buying the legs if we can get up to 1550... this is lame. I understand the need for Blizz to say "you cannot buy up 5000 points worth of gear right out the gate"... but not even letting me replace my previous season's gear because of a rating requirement as well... that's just stupid. So, it looks like both my guys are getting the hands the first day, and maybe the pants, if we do well enough. Also, if we do well enough, I will end up having to put another shit-ton of cash on the pant enchants.


Either I can save some arena points and assume I will do well enough to hit 1700 before a few weeks' time, or I can assume that we are going to suck amazingly and I will have a few weeks before I hit 1700 to buy my helm and chest and the like, so I could buy the offhand and ranged slot along with my hands, so I would spend 3100 points instead of just the 1100. The argument would be "if I can hit the 5k cap before hitting 1550, then I should buy out the offhand and ranged slot, otherwise just buy the hands and save."

Sigh... I guess that means just save, because I'll likely hit 1550 within a week... this is just dumb. If I could actually get in 100 games the first day, we'd probably get up to 1700 (or about there) and buy out our gear for 1700.... done.

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It's About That Time

Okay... so there's some alpha info out there, I have found a contact who is in alpha and is begging me not to release his info concerning unreleased stuff... and I find it really hard not to divulge it here. Though, Blizz would just apply pressure on me to give him up if I did post info, so I guess I will hold off doing that... for now. Aside from alpha info trickling out, we are getting to the point where we start saying things like "what's the point of arena points" and "what's the point of clearing Sunwell" etc. People are starting to sit back and wait for real content to creep out onto the page. Everyone is thinking about those level 80 talent trees being released before WotLK is even released (like back in TBC's new era). I am just not seeing how anyone will be able to take down a ToL druid without double dps... and even WITH double dps, they had better both be magic users.

So, in that same vein, I said to myself "self... your druid is on a decent 3s team that will earn him plenty of arena points for the remainder of the season, let's try out our 'drop/join team trick' on the 2s team and see how that works." After thinking about it for 3 seconds, I did just that. First, however, we played 3 matches on our warlock/spriest team, and won them all. We fought druid+hunter twice, then beat a priest+warrior that was pretty good (except the warrior never left zerker stance and was suitably raped for it). The druid/hunter team just had bad luck against us on the first match as the druid was doing a good job of keeping everyone topped off, but I could tell they were a newer team because they didn't communicate their tricks to one another. For instance, in the first match, I got hit with viper sting right off the bat. 1) You don't viper sting the warlock... he can get his mana back, 2) you always viper sting the priest... he ooms fast without viper sting on him, and 3) viper sting ticked once, then the druid cycloned me, so I got a full duration "get out of viper sting free" card. Because I didn't blow my trinket on cyclone (as my dots were out and I was avoiding viper sting and damage), when the hunter scatter-shot me, I naturally got ready to trinket out of freezing trap (which happened like I was listening on their vent). Then I feared the hunter, refreshed dots, and started dotting the druid. Next, the druid had to come out into the open a little bit because of the dots eating the hunter alive. They had gotten my spriest partner down to about 50% at this point, so the hunter is trying to keep his focus on him, but I started sbolting the druid because he was out in the open. I think I dropped two sbolts, then deathcoil and shadowburn as my priest rounded the corner for a mind blast, sw:d combo in the middle of the deathcoil for the kill.

The second time we faced them, it was much more cut-n-dry. For instance, the first time we played them it was on Nagrand, so the pillars were working in their favor because the druid can totally LoS us the entire match unless we pressure him into the open via damage on the hunter. However, the second time we were on Blade's Edge, which (in my opinion) gives our team a distinct advantage against most teams. So, the hunter is sitting on his side of the bridge, and we recognize the name, so we ride over and start dotting him, but he rides out of LoS. However, because of how oddly Blizzard has implemented pathing for pets, his pet takes this long weird way around the map, so we started dotting his pet, which is now dying along with his master and the druid is no where to be seen. Eventually the druid shows himself and tries to heal through the dots on the hunter and the pet, so I jumped down and focused on the druid a bit. We have a scuffle under the bridge for a minute with the hunter trying to solo my spriest and me trying to chase/kill the druid when everyone notices that my priest has the hunter at 10% and is casting mind blast, so the druid feral charges and bashes my priest who starts cursing (I'm sure). Do I lose my cool? No, I happened to have saved deathcoil for just such an occasion. I deathcoil the druid, then run around the pillar and make LoS on the hunter for the shadowburn kill.

Honestly, these two matches were awesome enough to warrant highlights in the video I'm making. Then the third match was against that priest+warrior. They were well geared (at least s3 weapons) and the warrior knew to target my pet for the gib on me, which came as a shock. Also, the priest did a great job of breaking LoS a LOT so we couldn't get any casts off on him. Essentially, what won the match was the warrior sitting in zerker stance the entire time (even at 10% hp) and ending with deathcoil on the priest and shadowburn-sw:d combo on the warrior. Then, the little fart ran around just dispelling and healing until he went out of mana instead of just letting us kill him or afking. What a bastardly waste of time. Oh well.

So, then we hop onto the warrior/druid team and I drop/join the team. Our first match is against a full s3 rogue and a mostly s3 mage. We lost... shocker... and ended up losing 15 points, so I started to wonder if my plan was working. I checked their armory and they were an honest-to-goodness 1775 team. "WTF!?!?!" I remember thinking, but I decided to give it another go. This time we faced hunter+rogue or some such nonsense. We mopped the floor with them easily (didn't even target me and I didn't use nature's swiftness at all), but only got 9 points for the win. I went into the armory to check and see, and sure enough, they were a 1565 team. We ended up playing the remaining 5 matches and only lost 1 more against a full s3 warrior and a mostly s1 shamang, and after checking their armory, I noticed they were doing the same thing we were: their warrior was a 1750 personal rating on a 1750 team and the shamang was 1450PR. We ended up losing 19 points to that team (lucky bastards... it happens from time to time though... and we knew what we were getting into when starting this trick). So, if we take into account every rating gain and loss, it went like this: +18, +16, +17, -15, +9, +5, +3 (lawl), -19, +9, +8, which is a +51 on the day. Long-story short, our team rating went up 51 points, and my warrior's personal went up more than that.

The idea behind this strategy is reasonably simple: fighting in the lower brackets, you expect to win a lot more than you lose, but your wins are worth less and your losses are worth more. So, you just have to ask yourself, are you better suited at facing lower teams and winning most of them, or facing higher teams and breaking even. My guess is that because we gained about fifty team rating on the day, we are probably better at facing the 15-1600 rated teams by a large amount more than the 1700 teams. Why this is, I cannot say for certain, but I am guessing that there are a lot of rogue+mage groups that simply cannot get above 1800 because there are a lot of rogue+druid and rogue+priest teams sitting at 1850 trying and failing to beat better versions of their team to hit 2k. I could be completely delusional, but I feel like we see more rogues in the 1700-1800 bracket than we do in the 1600-1700 bracket. Because rogues (and warlocks) are our only real weakness, we expect our games played versus net rating change to go up more quickly than if we were fighting in the 1700 bracket legitimately.


Okay, so I forgot I was writing this post... either a boss walked by or my mind was similarly lost. Either way, I ended up going home for the night and leaving this open without posting it. Also, I created a graph showing the progress using the 'gaming' method versus the legitimate method. I came to a scary realization, Kalgan may have been correct in saying that this method of "gaming the system" would not work. My graph shows that even with a 90% win rate, this method of doing arena would still cross 1850 at about the same games played as a 55% win percentage would legitimately. However, in my experiment I made the game change steeply, perhaps more so than the actual world would allow. For instance, I made it so that legitimately we would win or lose 15 points every time, which isn't a horrible misrepresentation of the truth, as we would expect it to work like that in the long-run. However, I used 1700 as my base for the 'gaming' method and used estimations for the rating changes. For instance, as we gained average rating (which I just used off the team's rating), the wins would be worth less than where we started (for instance, 1700 might be worth 8 rating whereas 1750 would be worth 6-7, 1800 is 4-5, etc) and the losses would scale inversely (a loss at 1700 would be worth 18, 1750 is 20-21, etc).

Okay, so let's look at the week, ignoring the first match (which was a loss against a 1700 team worth 15 points... we can assume that this was a first-time fluke, I think, and was running off my established personal rating before leaving the team, then the loss sank in the sub 1500 personal rating throughout the system) and the other loss we had against the full s3 warrior and his shamang friend who were trying to do the same thing (or at least, achieved the same thing by accident) that we were doing, we went 100% wins. We can probably state that if we don't run into any (I need to come up with a name for this trick... Pumping) Pumpers, then we should be able to defeat any legitimate team that the arena can throw at us. Maybe my 90% win simulation was a bit pessimistic, but I wanted to see how it went in the "worst" case (the worst case happens to be our only test case at the moment).

SOOOOO... if we play 25 games, and win them all, then we will have gained (let's say 5) rating per win, and have gained 125 team (and a little more personal for the warrior) rating. If 1725 is the starting point, then 1850 is what you have hit... it is almost crazy enough to work. So anyway, my rogue on our 3s team has a 2s team around 1750 right now, so I'm gunna try and Pump him to 1850 some time this week just to see how nasty the waters are.

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Let's Just Assume

Okay, after perusing the Blizzard ToS and EULA, I think that it is safe to say that I can discuss rumored unreleased alpha content, but I will comply with any take-down notices that I receive within reason. That being said, there are a lot of new abilities and talents that wikidot has posted that need to be discussed.

Let me start with the most hopeful changes I have see in the alpha leaks. First, there is the 51 point feral talent "Berserk" which "Reduces the energy cost of your Cat form abilities by 50% while in Cat form (lasts 15 seconds, 5 min cd), and increases your total health by 30% and causes your Mangle (Bear) and Maul abilities hit up to 3 maximum targets while in Bear form or Dire Bear form. Berserk instantly clears all effects which cause loss of control of your character, and makes you immune to them for the duration. Lasts 20 sec, 2 min cd." Feral druids have been complaining about the fact that while our damage output is good, we really do need a cooldown-based ability to help us dish out some burst damage to be competitive with other melee classes (most notably: rogues). As well as decent burst damage (from reducing the cost of all our abilities), we also get an opportunity to use our abilities via "The Beast Within" mechanics that keep us from getting rooted/stunned/snared/cc'd. This will definitely help us apply pressure for a short burst.

Second, the 45 point talent is subtle. I must have looked at the changes 100 times since returning from my vacation and had not noticed it until today. "Primal Aggression - Increases damage done by your Maul and Shred attacks on bleeding targets by 2/4/6/8/10%, and increases the critical strike chance of your Ferocious Bite ability on bleeding targets by 10/20/30/40/50%." The ferocious bite change is the one I am referring to, though the added 10% multiplier on shred is also really good and should not be overlooked. The problem with ferocious bite is, and has always been, that it takes all your energy to use it. It is decent damage, to be sure, but that is all the burst one could do for a couple ticks. Then I saw that another change was to make the energy consumption of FB scale with attack power. "Well," I thought, "that's good, at least I can put a little more burst out when I actually use FB every now and then in BGs." However, the best change was the Tiger's Fury was put on a 30 second cd at no energy cost... which confused me until I saw the talent "King of the Jungle (new) - While Enraged in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form, your damage is increased by 5/10/15%, and your Tiger's Fury ability also instantly restores 20/40/60 energy."

After a bit of thinking, I sort of pieced the combo together like this: get 3 combo points, use mangle, use rake. Now you have 5 combo points, mangle, and a bleed up on your opponent. Pop Berserk and it's time for Ferocious Bite (which will have >70% crit rate in really REALLY crappy gear and above 90% in great gear, not to mention that it will cost half as much and therefore give more damage as it eats the remaining energy from you), then use Tiger's Fury to instantly generate 60 energy, and shred 3-4 times (WITHOUT any OOC procs at all; each shred will cost 21 energy) without worry of being cc'd. Additionally, your shred will be applying the Infected Wounds debuff that will slow the enemy's movement and attack speed to 50% (when fully stacked). Essentially, the top-tier feral abilities REALLY give feral druids some amazing burst potential.

Another addition (yes, I know I started the conversation with "first" and should hit "second" some time... let's give up the counting game and just start listing them, shall we?) that aught to really help ferals control battles a little bit better is an ability called Lockjaw, which, for all intents and purposes, is Kidney Shot for ferals. Also, Predatory Instincts has been changed from an ability that scales your attack power with your level (lawl... end game uselessness at its best) to a talent that scales your attack power with your level and the attack power on your equipped weapon (hmm... that means that weapons will actually scale for ferals... interesting... that makes us like more warriors/rogues of 4 years ago which is a step in the right direction).

Kalgan has stated that the development is going to lean away from gear that is really class/spec specific. Kalgan specifically mentioned that pure damage gear (something like +80 shadow damage) would be removed in favor of damage/healing gear, which is a bit odd for Kalgan, as he is one of the premier min/max proponents and this change would make off-spec'd dps classes (shadow priests, elemental shamangs, balance druids, etc) more accepted as their talents will make their damage/healing gear even better than the gear by itself. Another rumor circulating is that healing gear will be done away with in favor of damage/healing gear as well, but the healing coefficients will be improved dramatically by talents in the healing trees. This is, again, catering more towards the hybrid classes, if the changes are indeed going to go through this way. The interesting twist on the matter is that Nurturing Instinct has been nerfed from 100% agi goes to +healing to 70% agi goes to +healing. My assumption here is that the feral gear is no longer going to have +healing on it, but will be stacked with agi and will be the same as the rogue gear, and if that is true, then we will be agi machines and therefore will need less to get the same bonus from Nurturing Instinct.

Additionally, one more released ability past 70 for druids (the first being Lockjaw... though the information on Lockjaw is pretty scarce at the moment) is Nourish, a trained heal. "Nourish (Rank 1) - 600 mana, 1.5 second cast. Heals a friendly target for 1550 to 1800. Heals for an additional 387 to 450 if Rejuvenation is on the target." This will be helpful for ferals, though I think that it will be more suited for Balance and less for resto (resto likes the instant heals most the time). It will likely be nice for grinding and perhaps small instance healing, but I doubt it will be the best heal even though it has a really low cost.

One sad thing for druids is in our history. When The Burning Crusade was released, each class got five new abilities trained. For instance, rogues got 1) shiv, 2) deadly throw, 3) anesthetic poison, 4) envenom, and 5) cloak of shadows. While many rogues would argue that anesthetic poison is useless, they got 4 other abilities that were awesome. Likewise, warriors got 1) intervene, 2) spell reflect, 3) commanding shout, 4) victory rush, and 5) that ability that lets warriors retain some rage when they switch stances that I cannot remember the name of or find on WoWhead. Anyway, the point is that everyone got five, if not amazing at least, useful abilities.

Everyone except druids, that is. 1) Lifebloom (amazing), 2) maim (good... not amazing... we definitely needed it), 3) cyclone (amazing), 4) lacerate (good for tanking... I guess), and 5) 1000 gold. Oh, sorry that last one was actually flight form, and while being able to instantly transform into a bird and fly (even when falling) strikes me as awesome, other druids were not so convinced and still think we got the shaft on that one. The point, now, is that in the alpha, we are getting a resurrection spell (finally) and people are starting to get worried that it is going to be flight form all over again. "Revive - Returns the spirit to the body, restoring a dead target to life with 1800 health and 1365 mana. Cannot be cast when in combat." While I agree that we evidently needed a rez, giving it to us as one of our abilities seems a bit harsh, and I am sure that it will only feel even more agitating once we see what the final toll for new abilities is for each class. For now, however, I am looking forward hopeful that these (and more) druids changes are on the way.

I'm even looking at shadow priest + feral druid as a viable 2s solution. Spriest+rogue is good right now, so I'm guessing that once we have some burst damage, a snare, and some stuns at our disposal (coupled with spriests being able to "iceblock" and drop snares with fade), that this team might actually make a decent one. Oh well, I am always hopeful until I am disappointed. Only time will tell. I will keep posting back information as it trickles out.

Some things I forgot to mention, but which are so crucial to the viability of ferals in both PvE and PvP scenarios:

  • Omen of Clarity is now a passive effect instead of a self-cast buff.
  • Entangling Roots can now be used indoors (nature's grasp too).
  • Base damage of Maul, Rake and Ravage has been increased.
  • Soothe Animal is now instant cast (lawl).
  • Frenzied Regeneration now only has one rank. Frenzied Regeneration will now restore 0.1% of your max health per rage instead.
  • Feral Charge is now available in Cat Form as well.

Most notable is, obviously, the fact that Omen of Clarity is no longer a buff. Dispelling OoC was the biggest dps drop that druids could sustain in any given fight, so much so that ferals could not fight against shamangs or priests because they would just dispel OoC and cut the feral's dps by about 33% (random testing of long battles shows OoC increases dps by about 33%... not to mention that that could be a free heal or cyclone etc). The proc remains dispellable, but the actual chance to proc is no longer dispellable. REJOICE!!!

Also, entangling roots indoors has been a long time coming buff that restos and balance druids alike need to be viable in PvE scenarios. There are so many times that such druids are turned down for PUGs because of "lack of cc on dps." Also, tanking druids will rejoice in the fact that frenzied regeneration will now scale with hit points. So many amazing (slight) buffs that really have been warranted for a good long time.

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Two Systems at War

So, guntir responded to my previous posts concerning the sad state of affairs in the rating system of WoW, and I started writing a rather lengthy reply, but I have since decided that such a reply could contain some nuggets of information. So, I am simply making a post out of the discussion.

Essentially, the conclusion drawn from guntir's post is that the Elo system employed by Blizz for rating arena teams in WoW is flawed, and while neither of us could come up with a better system, we still think that improvements could be made. Strive for perfection with full understanding that such is impossible. Reach for the sun and all that.

I pose the situation in which a 1500 team (a true 1500 team, in blues and some budget pvp gear) beats a 1700 team (a true 1700 team in mostly purples and last season's shoulders/weapon). The Elo system states that the 1500 team is better than 1500 and should be compensated for their achievement, and not only that, but they also defeated a team 200 rating higher than them, so their change in rating should be rather larger than if they were to beat a comparably geared 1500 team. On the other side of the coin, the 1700 team should lose a lot because they were bested by a team of lesser standing. In this scenario, the Elo rating system works perfectly well, except that the 1700 team may be a bit angry due to counter-comp or luck, or whatever. However, there exist cases where the Elo system is at a detriment.

Imagine the same two teams, except the 1500 team is a rerolled 2k team with full main season gear. This is where the Elo system has trouble, it doesn't fail, but it certainly is being gamed. In my opinion, there has to be a separation in process between the match-making system, and the rating exchange system. The Elo system definitely relies (rather, was constructed) on the fact that a 1500 rating MEANS 1500 skill level (and gear level... in WoW... chess doesn't have gear obviously). Essentially, the system relies on wins and losses to determine a given team's skill level, so putting a 1500 skill label on a team who is quite obviously geared towards the upper 1900-2000 range is a flaw in the system, which would let, if the 1500 team were treated as the 2000+ team they probably are, the 1700 team face a team more suited to their gear/skill level. In truth, some of the blame can be placed on these teams that reroll just to screw with people (or to sell points or rating). However, most, if not all, the blame resides with the developers for not foreseeing such a situation ever occurring when they were implementing the system originally.

Okay, okay. That is quite enough slandering developers. I am a developer, and I do not like my faults brought into such a public light. So, let us discuss possible ways to improve the system such that we close off all our loose threads, shall we? There are a few flaws that need to be addressed before the system is passable in terms of fairness:

  1. Rerolled teams should start appropriate to their gear/skill level, rather than 1500.
  2. Point selling needs to be done away with.
  3. Rating selling needs to be done away with (in the situation where gaming the system is involved).
Once these few points are eliminated, the arena system will be more fair to players who are there to compete. However, each of these points is multifaceted in that each will require at least a handful of changes to be properly dealt with. For instance, in order to fix the problem with 2k rerolled teams, we would need to implement a global ranking system which cannot be reset.

In essence, there are two main parts to the first problem: a 2v2 team is reset to 1500 after getting to 2k and buying all their main-season gear, or a 5v5 team is 2000+ and two members decide to start a 2v2 team at 1500. Of course, these are just two examples of all the combinations of ways to game the system, but the point is clear: there are a number of ways to get a 1500 rated team when one really should be rated higher from the get-go. To dissect the second part of this problem, we would need to assume that a player's skill usually has more to do with the player, rather than their team makeup and teammates, and therefore assert each player with their own single personal rating.

Rather than having a personal rating for each type of team (2v2, 3v3, 5v5), we would state that if you have a 2200 5s team, and that is all you play at the moment, then your personal rating overall should be about 2200. So, when he forms a new 2s team his personal rating is 2200, but his team rating is 1500, which causes the gap clause that Blizzard put into place to occur at the time of match making. Instead of facing a 2s team that is 1500, he would face (if his team mate was from his 5s team as well and comparably rated) a 2200 rated 2s team. If he won, his personal rating would change a little bit, but his team rating would change a lot. The idea here is that a player is the defining factor, not the team. While the team may play a heavy roll in whether or not a player can win against another team (in the case of counter-comps), one would have to assume that a 2200 5s pally would do better than 1500 on a 2s team when teamed with almost any other class. Perhaps he wouldn't be 2200 rated skill on that 2s team, but then his play will determine that as he is teamed against other 2200 2s teams. In this way, we give players "the benefit of the doubt" that they will inevitably be a high rated team because of gear from another team, but they will still have to prove that they can win, after a certain point, by doing just that to maintain their high stature. Losses in this system would cause the personal rating to shift marginally (15 plus or minus) but the team to change very slightly. In this way, we would expect the two vastly different ratings (personal and team) to converge if this player only played the 2s team from then on; the idea being that they would converge to their actual 2s skill-level, rather than dramatically out-gearing their first many opponents and getting to that point with relatively few losses.

To do away with point selling, the system would be changed so that instead of getting points via the team's rating, one would get points via their personal rating at the calculation of the 2s team. That is to say, it would not matter if a person was on a 2200 rated 5s team and a 1300 2s team with an 1800 personal rating, they would earn 578 points (as the current system would pay that many points to a 2s team with an 1800 rating). This will, undoubtedly, upset many of the higher rated 5s teams as they are usually the first to fill their entire gear-set with the main season's rewards, but it will essentially level the playing field so that 2s teams are rewarded as well as 5s teams for good play, rather than good play in the 5s bracket. Under this system, a player gains points based on their ability to play well and get a good personal rating, which makes selling spots on teams that much harder since a player has to win a lot of games to get their personal rating up, which would make it harder for a 5s team to win by putting a green player into their midst, as they would still be facing teams at or around 2000 (if they were trying to sell points for 2000). On the other hand, if we wanted to keep the "5s gets more points than 2s" idea, but keep point selling out of access, then we could employ a system that earns the player points based on their personal rating using the calculation from their most played team. If they play their 5s team the most, then they will earn their personal rating's equivalent of the 5s team calculation under the current setting. Again, this will keep people from simply putting someone on their 5s team and just try to win with an anchor, considering that their own personal ratings will fall if they lose matches, and in the proposed system, their personal ratings are more important than in the current system, so it would "cost" them much more to lose.

The last part of the problem is the rating sellers. Currently, if a rogue can get to 2000 and buy their gear, they can be teamed with almost any other member and win in the 2s bracket. This does not mean, necessarily, that rogues are too powerful, but it does mean that it is easy for a given player to sell a rating plateau to another player. A balance druid could team with a 2200 rogue in full main season gear and easily win matches all the way to 1850 where the balance druid will buy their weapon and either go on their way, or make a run for 2k to get the shoulders (obviously these numbers change in season 4, but the idea is still the same). In the system I described to combat problem one, the team would be formed at 1500, however the rogue would still have his 2200 personal rating, which would cause the balance druid (let's go extreme and say that the druid already has a 1700 personal rating) and the rogue to be teamed as if they were 1950. Likely, this team has played few (if any) matches together because the rogue is simply trying to turn a profit, so their cohesion will be poor and they will probably have bad communication which will likely lead to losses against teams of this caliber. This will effectively cause the balance druid (who is just trying to get to 1850) to likely be at a detriment going with the rogue as opposed to another team mate around his skill level or a bit lower, and going with that team mate (the one around his skill level) is no big advantage as that is what we expect the system to be: fair.

There are a few ways to game this system, but they require so much from a player that it is almost impossible to guess that someone would do it. For instance, if a player gets full main season gear, then they could try and force their personal rating to plummet. If they actually got their personal rating to an absurdly low point, say 900, then they could team with someone at 1500 and get matched against teams who are lower than they are. This will effectively still be rating selling, in that a rogue could completely destroy his personal rating with the idea being to easily pump someone else to 1850 (or whatever) to get their various gear easily. However, this would be so easily detected, that we could declare it a violation of the ToS and a ban-able offense, which would probably keep people from doing it. Additionally, this system still does not combat win-traders, but Blizzard is also noticing that such is easily detectable, and therefore a ban-able offense. Therefore, these changes would make the Elo system more accurately describe the skill-level of the teams playing.

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Well then...

It has been a while since I posted. I had a great trip in Maui and did entirely too much. Most of my days were filled with riding in the car and seeing sites that I have seen a thousand times before, but we did it for the sake of my girlfriend who had never been to the island. This was a mistake because we barely had any time given to us just laying on the beach enjoying the sun and surf. At least, the last few days of the trip were devoted to such idle pleasures.

In my last post I said that if I could come up with a better arena rating system, I would discuss it in full here. However, I came to the lazy conclusion that a better system would require more work than it is likely worth. Sure, the current system is broken, or perhaps it is simply "not perfect", yet we have to admit that there are more pressing matters concerning the arena system than the Elo ratings that make it flawed. Without getting too entrenched in a discussion on fairness in competitive environments, let me just say that team composition, battlegroup population, battlegroup play times, and class balance are at the core of this discussion and would likely be another semi-essay a la my previous post concerning the Elo system. Suffice-to-say, that is not what I want to talk about.

SOOOO, I had to take a three hour break there because of work, so I am going to switch directions here and talk about the alpha stuff that is being released at the moment. Wikidot has been really good about keeping up to date with the alpha information that has been trickling out since it began. I am actually rather surprised that it has not complied with a take down notice as of yet... seeing how Blizzard likes to hand those out like candy concerning unreleased information (in fact, I got a perma-ban from the WoW forums for simply posting in a thread with unreleased information... they want everyone to stay away from it, I guess). SOOOO, because my account MIGHT (I don't really remember) be connected to this blog via my email address, I am going to hold off from posting discussions about alpha information and, instead, only post that link to Wikidot where all said information can be found. I think that this is sufficient to not be violating any terms of service that I have engaged with Blizzard about (and I might even be well within my rights to talk about information on the wikidot site... but I want to reread my contracts with Blizzard on the matter before I go off the deep end).

So, until I get more understanding on my agreements, I guess that I will only talk about current stuff...

Such as my 3s team. I am rolling warrior+rogue+druid and doing rather well. Obviously, we have trouble with the harder makeups and are usually beating the easier makeups. For instance, we can beat most teams like ours, dps+utility/dps+healer because of my ability to heal on the move, but we tend to lose (every time) to PMR. Also, we fought a very odd warlock+pally+pally team that was 2k rated and beat us... although we lasted a lot longer than they were expecting. The difference between our teams (I was restokin at the time) is that while I would not OOM if they only targeted one of my team mates throughout the entire match, they would never OOM because FoL is nigh-free and they had two people casting it on a warlock who would cut-self to sustain infinite mana.

We beat a bunch of teams that would kill one of my team mates right off the bat. For instance, shamang+beastwithin+priest would start off by bloodlusting and simply destroying my warrior, but we would end up winning once beast within and bloodlust wore off because my rogue is almost full s3 with comparable pve weapons while I was restokin, and would never OOM while the priest would eventually die. We also faced hunter+hunter+restoshamang which would try the basic same idea of nuke the warrior and hope to have enough left over to take down a restokin+rogue team. They did it once, but then I figured out to cyclone one of the warriors before he could beast within, and he would also miss the bloodlust (because the shamang was terrible in s3 shoulders... that pissed me off). So, the splitting of that damage and my warrior's ability to stay out of LoS with me via intervene was enough to beat that team the second time. We beat a mirror-match team because their druid was full resto, not restokin so he eventually OOM'd and I kept healing. Pretty snazzy if you ask me. I am probably going to try some 2s with my rogue friend to see if we can't hit 1850 to get him the s3 weapons... which will act as a bootstrap to get our 3s team to 1850 so my warrior can get the s3 weapon. The only problem now is that I am no longer spec'd restokin... which is the claim-to-fame with a rogue in 2s.

Also, our warlock+spriest team got some more video in this week. It turns out that we just destroy most warrior+healer teams, but we don't face enough of them anymore. We face rogue+healer a lot, which is becoming a problem as neither of us can take a rogue on (as if someone actually could). We should have won 5-6 of our 10 matches this week, but I was rusty having not played my warlock in over two weeks, so I ended up costing us two matches. One of those matches was a definite win if I had played better, while the other could have been a win, but there was no definitive "we should have won except I didn't cast shadowburn" moment to decide whether it would obviously be a win. So, our rating dropped a little, but it really could matter less as brother was so close to the cap that he had to buy the Vengeful End Game, which cost him 1000 arena points and only gained him two stam and a couple spell damage. The fact that we are missing gear and cannot buy anything else is starting to irk me.

However, we got a good video of us beating druid+rogue that was half due to a less-than-amazing rogue and a brilliant play on my behalf that gamed the druid. We were on Blade's Edge, fighting on top of the bridge with my felguard on the druid (who is at about 50%) and the rogue on the spriest after getting me to 50%. The rogue is 100%, my spriest is 90%, I am 50%, the druid is 50%. I notice that the druid is at about 40% mana, so I figure he would love to go and heal+drink to get back to a reasonable state of the fight. So, I sick my pet on the rogue, who is just tearing the priest apart, and the druid is good enough to notice this and run off, heal, and drink. However, that is exactly what I wanted, because the usual thing happens, the druid is a nelf, so he runs behind one of the pillars on the ground starts to drink, and shadowmelds, putting the pillar directly between himself and his rogue and us. At this point, I just start unloading shadow bolts (along with all my dots) onto the rogue, who had just recently used CloS, so I knew he would get the big hits. Then it happened, the druid noticed his rogue taking damage, started running up the opposite side to try and cyclone me then start healing, but I saw him coming. So, I fire off my last shadow bolt, it crits for about 2k, but also puts shadow vulnerability up, so I unload deathcoil and shadowburn right before getting cycloned... not that it matters at this point, I have done my damage. I see SW:D land and take the rogue to 1%, THEN cheat death procs, and the dots kill him before the druid can swiftmend. To say the least, that match was very close at the end, and we got a killshot off luckily against a rogue, which doesn't happen much anymore because of cheat death (I cannot wait for abilities that might go through immunities/resists/etc... I hope they add something like that as the warlock's 51 point talent in destro lawl).

So, now we have probably 150MB worth of video captured, not all of it is great, but it is enough to start composing a preliminary video without sound, trying to work them into a flow. I will probably begin doing that this week, maybe next depending on how busy everything is. Check back for more.

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