PvP is...

Spoiler alert: PvP is fucked at the moment. I could post reviews about Hunters and their ability to essentially kill a target with a single cooldown regardless of the target's defenses, but I think that the following complaint and response from a player and a blue speaks for itself:

393 k chaos bolt crit in Arathi basin and I have 55 % dmg reduction
Chaos Bolt always crits and requires considerable build up time.
Now, I do not want to hype this response up too much, but this feels like the blue acknowledging that that is more health than most players currently have on live, it is a single spell, and they are pretty much okay with a single spell doing that damage because it requires a lot of build-up. Maybe I am the crazy one here, but it seems to me that the consideration for Chaos Bolt's "considerable build up time" is pretty silly. For those who are not up with their Warlock play, you need only cast Incinerate (their primary nuke) three times to use a Chaos Bolt that can do more than a player's full health. This is absolutely insane to me; I have to use my direct damage attacks a minimum of three times (and sometimes as much as five) to land my hardest-hitting direct damage attack, and it will never do more than 100k on a player (in fact, right now it is hitting more like 50k on players who have 350k hp).

I do not want to get too deep into it here, but Blizz has done poorly so far this expansion in terms of PvP balance. Warriors, Hunters, and Warlocks are all hitting too hard, all healers except Priests have infinite mana in 2s (although this may be due to the fact that Feral's damage is so poor right now), and there is generally too much CC that does not share diminishing returns. Warrior+RDruid is basically the best 2s team right now (aside from Hunter+Hunter, which is unbeatable) because the Druid will never run out of mana, the Warrior does the second best burst and the best sustained damage in the game, and the Druid has a 5sec stun, 9s of Cyclone, and an 8s instant-cast AoE Fear.

The thing that makes the least amount of sense aside from all this is that just about everyone is at their damage-reduction cap. That is, you start off at level 90 with 40% damage reduction and you can get that as high as about 55%; Guntir and I are both at around 50% damage reduction now, and Warlocks are still hitting me for 300k Chaos Bolts and Hunters are killing Guntir in a Silencing Shot with their Stampede (call all pets from the stables). Additionally, everyone is going to be picking up another 15% damage done to players as they get more and more PvP gear, so damage will actually be going UP.

Shit's busted.

On a side note, there are two new BGs: one has mine carts involved and is stupid; the other has a really fun deathmatch style game-play where players have to pick up orbs and survive. The longer the player has the orb (and the closer to the center of the map that player is), the faster that team gains resources in a race to 1600. I did not think that this sounded like much fun but when I actually got into one of these bgs, I found it to be VERY entertaining.

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FINALLY (again)

So, Guntir and I dinged 90 last night. This grind seemed different than grinds in the past. Perhaps I am just not as in love with WoW as I once was, but I feel like there was this huge anticipation in the past for hitting the highest level and working through zones and getting gear and run-on sentences; now all these things just annoy me. Then I start picking holes in things and start looking for annoyances.

Well, I have found one. Guntir and I ding 90, and we port back to Orgrimmar with the naive notion that that will be where the honor vendors are. Nope, sorry. We get back there and the honor vendors have been removed. So, we start Googling about to try and find out to where these fellows have moved and there is basically no information out there. I tried wowhead to no avail, then tried wowdb to no avail, and eventually googled the phrase "where are the honor vendors in mop?" There was a link to a forum post where a guy shows some place, so I go there only to realize that that is the Alliance honor vendor area. Finally, we find the Horde version and it is on the big wall no where near the major city (of which I have not yet bothered to learn the name). That was annoying.

Since I basically dinged, bought the honor helm/gloves, and logged for the night, I do not even have a grasp of how Dream of Cenarius plays yet. We will probably start doing arenas in the next day or two, but I wanted to get a post out this week with something. I will post again when I have a few games under my belt.

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Grinding Day 2

I hit level 87 last night, trained up enchanting a bit, and called it a night. I just wanted to jot down some of the stuff I gleaned from finally getting Symbiosis and my general feeling of the expansion thus far. First, let me say that I think Blizz did a pretty good job with the landscape and I am enjoying the scenery. Second, let me say that just about every NPC voice in the game comes off as racist (that's probably not the right word; I am annoyed by the redneck pandas as a man of the south). Third, I have no idea how Blizzard plans to reconcile the fact that Ferals are nigh-unkillable now.

Okay, that last sentence may require a bit more explanation (or not... who knows). I have Barkskin, Survival Instincts, Might of Ursoc, instant-cast Healing Touches that crit for 90k fairly regularly, Cenarion's Ward which is basically a free 50k reactive HoT (at level 87; it was closer to 25k at level 85), and now that I am level 87 I have Dispersion. To top all that off, I always have Frenzied Regeneration if things get dicey. All told, I have roughly seven defensive abilities that will keep me alive while saying nothing about utility abilities that might keep me alive like Cyclone, Entangling Roots, Mighty Bash, Typhoon, and the like.

Okay, so I have come to terms with the fact that Guntir is likely to be getting trained in 2s matches instead of me, since I am an unstoppable juggernaut that cannot be killed under normal circumstances. So, that means that I must bring utility to the forefront. I am bringing Cenarion's Ward for supplemental healing, I am bringing instant-cast Healing Touches for supplemental healing, I am bringing Typhoon for exploiting certain maps like Dalaran and Blade's Edge, and as always I have my CC abilities in Cyclone, Entangling Roots, and (what is looking better and better every day) Mighty Bash. I do not want to mince words here, so let me be clear:

Being able to use these abilities without the requirement of shapeshifting out of and back into form is what makes all this possible.

I was trying to explain this to Guntir before MoP dropped, but I do not think I did a good enough job so I will try and get the words out here. Having the ability to use instant-cast nature spells is huge; many old-school Ferals actually hate this mechanic because of how powerful instant-Cyclones can be if your partners know how to pool resources and drop huge burst on a target. However, the biggest problem with instant-casts for Ferals in Cataclysm was that it would knock the Feral out of Cat Form... our dps goes to near-zero for a bit. I have harped on this fact for the longest time (we spend 3 seconds of our 6 second CC shapeshifting) and Blizzard finally agreed that the shapeshifting was too painful and removed it. That being said, since we spent so much of our Cyclones shapeshifting, we would basically never get the chance to use our instant cast procs on anything except Cyclones and Entangling Roots.

With Feral now able to use our instant cast procs in form without shapeshifting and Guntir getting Cyclone, which is in Guntir's Nature School by the way (if he gets kicked on Cyclone he can still heal and vice versa), I can actually spend less of my instant casts on Cyclones and more on Entangling Roots and, more importantly perhaps, Healing Touches. In addition to all these improvements, Feral healing now makes more sense than in any other expansion prior. Again, my Healing Touches are hitting for 45k and critting for 90k and I have barely any PvP Power at all at level 87; when I start getting actual gear my Healing Touches might still heal Guntir for 25% of his total HP in full PvP gear.

How is Blizz letting this happen?

I have no idea... Feral is looking an awful lot like a Ret Pally toward the end of Cataclysm in terms of his ability to off-heal, but we bring arguably more sustained damage and a lot more CC. I remember that no one was really playing Ret+Disc in Cataclysm 2s because (besides 2s not being supported anymore) Ret did not bring enough for a Disc Priest to land Mana Burns. Feral, at least, brought Maim+Cyclone combos for Mana Burns so Disc+Feral was all the rage. Toward the end, it was still about landing Mana Burns, so no one ran Ret+Disc, but 3s was all about Ret+Dk+Disc because of the insane survivability, pressure, and burst the comp could bring. With Mana Burn finally being removed, I would not be surprised to see more 2s comps like Ret+Disc that were simply underplayed for the reason of not being able to sustain against Mana Burns.

However, the one thing I can say is that Feral's utility is really going to open up Disc's playability in terms of mana usage and nuking potential. Guntir is already a pretty good survivalist; he can withstand a beating from a double-dps team for a good while when rotating his cooldowns coupled with my instant-cast Cyclones and really nothing else. When we step into the arena with that same survivability potential on Guntir and me being a target that will never die, I simply do not know what other teams will think of it.

It really is too early to tell, but at the moment I am leaning away from Tree Posse and Incarnation. I tried them both out in BGs prior to MoP being released and I was underwhelmed with the Live implementations. Incarnation has always bothered me; the timing of the ability makes it awkward to pair with Berserk though it seems natural to do so. Additionally, Ravage is a good burst ability, but it is still cost prohibitive given that you can really only do it when Berserk is rolling. True, tying to two together with a macro would make the it seemless, but then you have got to watch your bleeds and pay attention to Ravage damage; it just never really clicked into a comfort zone for me. Tree Posse, being the exact opposite at first, has fallen by the wayside as Blizz has completely neutered the damage. Having an additional stun might be the kind of thing that is useful, but with the Tree Posse only doing 1200 a hit against the target dummies (with no resilience) is just too weak for me to seriously consider.

Therefore, I have been grinding with the new and improved Soul of the Forest. At four energy per combo point returned, I may very well step into the arena with this as my selection. The one thing I will note about Soul of the Forest is that the energy return is awkward when combined with Omen of Clarity or Ferocious Bite, and when you use both it goes full retard consuming zero energy, giving back twenty, then consuming twenty-five more. Basically, an OoC+SotF-FB will end up giving you 5 energy as long as you are between 25 and 75 energy when you use it. Other than that, it is great: Rips are free, SRs give 5 energy back, and I am feeling less and less energy-starved.

Lastly, I am still heavily looking at Dream of Cenarius for the arenas. As I mentioned, I am expecting to use lots of Healing Touches on Guntir for supplemental healing and expecting that he will end up using Cyclones since defensive dispels are so heavily hit this expansion. Essentially, Guntir will end up Mind Controlling a target (which can only be offensively dispelled off of Guntir; I learned that last night), forcing him to walk over to Guntir (if he is not already there), then following that with a Psychic Scream. If the target gets dispelled, then I can follow with an Entangling Roots which cannot be dispelled, and Guntir can follow that with a Cyclone which cannot be dispelled. Other than my Entangling Roots, I will be free to use my instant cast procs as Healing Touches on Guntir so that he will not die from having to use all this CC, and Dream of Cenarius will increase my damage-dealing capabilities by healing Guntir.

It just sounds nasty.

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Man... Grinding, Right?

GRINDING... I hate grinding. Well, it is actually an interesting blend: I do not like questing; I do not like being forced to do it to progress; I like the stories; I do not read the quests.

Bah, nothing to report this week except that we are busy getting back into the grind. I will post more next week when we are finally doing arenas again (hopefully).

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No WoW Updates

Man, I have been waiting and waiting for SOME bit of news to pop its head out, but it seems with MoP firmly set to release next Tuesday there is nothing new to say. I am going to have to scrimp and save to find time to actually grind Rey up. Time has been hard to come by of late, and to be honest I have spent most of mine doing non-WoW related things. The powers that be finally released Black Mesa Source (and I highly recommend this game to anyone who: 1) never played Half Life, 2) played Half Life and loved it, 3) played Half Life but hated the graphics; essentially, I recommend this game to everyone).

Black Mesa is a completely beautiful remake of the original Half Life in the Source Engine (the graphics engine used for Half Life 2 and all the episodes). To say nothing else about the game, the graphics improvement is absolutely breath-taking. I loved Half Life, though I only played it a few years after its initial release. In fact, by the time I had played it, Blue Shift and Counter-Strike (and a number of other mods) had been in the wild for a good while.

Which brings me to my next en devour that has been taking up all my time. Many of you know that I have been an avid L4D player for a good while now, but like Half Life I was (somehow) slow to the scene and only started playing the game around 2010. Sure, that is two years ago at this point, but the game was released in 2008 and had been a thriving competitive scene since then. Like arena, I thrive on competition; this stems back from the days of playing Counter-Strike in Cal League and getting to a rather high division (though not Cal-I; made me sad... that was my Gladiator aspiration circa 2000). Unfortunately, the competitive scene for L4D has pretty much gone the way of the competitive scene for Counter-Strike 1.6; that is, it is now dead and gone.

However, there is still a rather large community that still participates in competitive scrimmages from time to time, and if I am ever in a pick-up game with randoms and find one of these people, they will usually start kicking the baddies to make room for their friends for some competitive pub-games. It really is fun to do a lot of the time, but the problem becomes that unless you know someone, you are forced to use Valve's dedicated servers. Now, do not take this the wrong way, but there has been a lot of plugins/mods to improve the state of the game (competition-wise) since the release, and somehow Valve never got around to implementing these until a few weeks ago -- but they only did it for L4D2.

So, this got me thinking that I would just run a L4D server on my work machine when I left for the day. My machine is plenty powerful enough to run a top-notch server, and we have plenty of bandwidth to support it, so it was pretty straight-forward to me. The problem, I found, was that almost none of the competitive plugins were readily available online via Google searches. I have to admit, this has not been a problem for me in almost 15 years: wanting something that I know exists online somewhere and having no idea how to find it. Eventually, even though I had installed and set up my server on my work machine, I had to admit defeat since I could not find any of the needed plugins. After a long process of trying to come up with other solutions, I finally decided that I am a computer programmer and should see this as an opportunity rather than a defeat. There is no reason, given that I know exactly what the plugins I wanted do, that I could not simply write my own versions for each. So, that is what I started out doing.

The first plugin I wanted was something I had seen on only one or two servers before, and they were (like my workstation approach) often offline unless the owner wanted to spin them up to play. The plugin was a module-loader of sorts; it would respond to votes cast by chat communications. For instance, if there were only two players on a server and they wanted to play one on one, they would both have to type "!load 1v1" in chat and it would cast each vote, and after a short time (or after all players voted) it would decide whether the majority wanted to load the 1v1 module, then load it. This was really the lynchpin of my plugin wants and truth be told, I could have gotten around the rest missing with simply being an admin, but the compulsion to have this module overwhelmed me and so I wrote it myself.

Having 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4 configs was enough for those game styles since everything they required could be set up in simple configuration files to be loaded via the load-module, so once I knocked out the load-module, these configs came naturally. However, in 1v1 there are a special set of rules that were enforced on the servers with the original 1v1 module - no wall-kicks from hunters. For a little background, a wall-kick is something a hunter can do if he has not touched a player and has a "loaded" pounce ready (which simply means that he has pounced and come in contact with a wall). If all of these are true, then a hunter can run around silently, jump into the air with his back to a wall silently, and pounce off that wall as if he were doing a standard wall-pounce. What is more important is that hunters spawn in "loaded" to pounce, so there is a distinct advantage in a 1v1 game where a hunter can run around completely silently and make a last-second pounce on a player without that player having time to react. I ended up writing my own version of this as well; it seemed simple enough to put a small timer on a player when he jumps (if he's a hunter) and if he successfully uses a pounce within a short time (a half-second seems to work best), then he likely did a wall-kick and is killed (don't worry, the spawn timers are extremely short in 1v1; this penalty is usually learned once and then adhered to for the rest of the game).

The next plugin I wrote I do not think I actually ever saw in the wild; it might be all my own creation. Essentially, L4D is fun to play as an infected, but the game really opens up when you start getting amazing at the survivor side. In L4D1 (as a polar opposite to L4D2) the most effective infected unit is the hunter. Capable of landing one-forth of a players health in one hit and able to deal it all if not cleared quickly, the hunter is worth practicing both as and against. Learning how to deadstop, or "ds", (hitting a pouncing hunter with a melee thus stopping his pounce) is an extremely effective defensive tool. The more advanced players can also, using a shotgun, land a shot that will instantly kill the hunter mid-pounce, though this is much more difficult. Shooting a hunter out of the air as he comes to deal damage to you (very quickly, might I add), is called a "skeet"; so named for skeet-shooting -- clay pigeons and the like. I am reasonably good at deadstopping hunters on the damage-pounces (pounces from larger distances do more damage; the most being 25 of a player's maximum 100), but my skeeting needs work. I though of another loadable module for the server and decided to write a plugin that would make it so that players had infinite health, but when a hunter pounced a player, the hunter would be slayed and information (remaining health, etc) would be sent to the would-be skeeter.

One problem with the skeetpractice plugin was the no matter how I set up the server configurations, I could never get it to reliably allow a player to switch teams more than once. Essentially, if the game randomly put you onto the survivor team, you switched to infected, and later you decided you wanted to practice yourself (more hunters joined or what-have-you), you would have to reconnect to the server to pick survivor again. This is terrible, so I ended up writing a plugin that would allow anyone to type "!infected", "!survivor", or "!spectator" to switch to those teams. This is another plugin that I had seen on a few servers, but for which I had never been able to find the plugin or source code.

Similarly, in competitive games, there is the expectation that there will be a tank on ever chapter of a campaign, which is easily controlled via a server configuration. I had been on servers that reported who did what damage to the tank after the tank had died or the tank had wiped all the remaining survivors. Again, I could not find this tank reporting plugin, so I began writing my own yesterday and finally got it working last night. It still requires quite a bit of polish before it is ready for an actual game (the numbers need to be ordered descending, there are some colors needed, etc), but it works and as opposed to the versions I have seen in random games, mine will show the report in a HUD rather than the chat (which is small and prone to spamming).

Overall, the coding experience has been extremely fun and rewarding. I am hoping to get my server to the point where I would be proud to show it off to my L4D buddies and actually use it in PUGs or Scrims. The "problem" is that as I continue to write more and more functionality, I continue to find more and more worth-while plugins to rewrite; I am just now considering writing a plugin for witch reporting in addition to expanding my tank report to include more information than just how much each survivor did to the tank (such as how much damage the tank did to each player, how many punches were landed, how many rocks landed, etc).

Oh, and the last bit worth mentioning here is that I am storing all my plugin code on a GoogleCode  repository. That is, my code is open source so that anyone who wants to set up a L4D server need only look to my releases (eventually) for an all-in-one package setup for a server so that no one has to go through what I did to get a server running for a competitive environment.

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Very Interesting!

I know that I said I would be aiming for writing posts for Wednesday releases, but this is too interesting to let go for too long. A hacker (and I mean this in the earliest form of the word) who goes by the handle 'Sendatsu' has posted on ownedcore that he has found tracking information in the form of a watermark on in-game screenshots taken by the World of Warcraft client. Without getting too into the details, which you can find at the website linked in the previous sentence, it has been determined that the watermark in question is not jpg compression artifacts although it seems that the developer who put in the watermark did indeed aim to make it seem that way. By default, screenshots are captured at a "quality level 9" jpg, which is a fairly destructive compression algorithm even at that "lossless" level. Kicking the quality up to 10 causes the watermark to disappear.

However, another hacker going by '_Mike' posted a hack that showed the application deliberately removing the watermark when set to a more lossless format (or a level 10 quality jpg). For those who are not following here, _Mike has essentially shown that there is an if-else block of code in the application that says "if really high quality [subtext - so we cannot blame the watermark on compression artifacts], do not show the watermark, else show the watermark". He essentially wrote some assembly code to run at the system level that patches the World of Warcraft application to never satisfy the first if-block and therefore always show the watermark regardless of the quality or image type.

A few other guys on the forum went so far as to decipher the watermarks from their in-game screenshots and discovered that the information is mostly character name, realm ip, and account name. Mostly, this information is innocuous in and of itself except that Blizzard is doing it without telling their user base in either the ToS or contract agreements to which we must agree every time there is a patch. So, if the information shown is just for tracking purposes (i.e., they can tell 'at a glance' who/where/when they are looking at), then to what end are these watermarks used?

I have read through the forum post and it seems that most people have only found screenshots as far back as early Wrath of the Lich King, but there is at least one person who claims that he might have a screenshot from 2003 (well before WotLK) that has the watermark, but he has not be able to decode it like the more recent screens; so far, it seems it may actually be jpg artifacting he is seeing in this early screenshot. Okay, so we have a time-frame with WotLK and that was the most tight-lipped Friends and Family Alpha experience to date.

My guess? I would say that this was put in place to try and fish out who was leaking the early alpha screens to the various rumor sites at the time. The Burning Crusade had the same type of NDA during its alpha/beta phases, but it was basically Blizzard's first go at an expansion and keeping the lid on such a huge project (remember that it had 6+ million users at the time of TBC's alpha all clamoring for info and that population was still growing). When WotLK came around, Blizzard knew what was to be expected of their FaFA NDA, so they probably put this watermark trick in place to see who was the leak. Basically, posting a screenshot to one of the wow rumor sites that was never wrong (I do not recall any of the sites urls, sorry) would show the public an image with that user's account information. As soon as Blizzard sees the screenshot, they run it through a tool they designed and they know exactly which account is to blame.

It is probably too early to tell whether or not there is any real malicious intent from the watermark, but the feeling I get from the examples posted so far seems like tracking in the most devious of cases and probably nothing more than a staple to catch leak-prone insiders. That being said, I will continue to follow the story and post more as information surfaces.

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Sorry Kiddies

I went out of town and completely forgot to post anything about the late post this week (and no post last week). That is my bad :-(

Let us get down to business! Guntir and I walked into the 5.0 servers last night for the first time to see what BGs felt like. To say nothing of the hilarious damage getting dished out by some classes *cough*mages*cough*, the 'new game' plays very differently than the previous one. Damage feels a lot slower, which I have always felt was a good thing, but it seems like just about every class and their mother has gotten a cooldown-based self-heal.

Wait... wait... let me back up for one second here. Let me explain something: while I try and play all the classes to some extent and even try and pay attention to all of the various changes happening across all classes, I cannot keep up by myself. I know the Feral changes inside and out at this point and I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp on how Priests will play out, but I have to say that any other class is largely a mystery outside of my cursory knowledge. I know Warlocks will either be DoT-based, Nuke-based, or Pet-based, I know that Rogues will continue being a thorn in my side, and I know that Warriors will continue charging over and over again and dealing rather strong damage while on a target. What I do not know is the specifics of the changes to every other class out there.

That being said, I feel like Feral became a hilarious BG machine. Feral has so many gap-closers that it really should be seen as unfair. A 15s cooldown Wild Charge being the mainstay of the issue. I need to start getting my addons back in place -- mainly my unit frames and nameplates addons as those are the ones that I really rely on for gameplay visibility. I had no idea what debuffs my opponents had on them at any time last night; I kept finding myself applying Rake over and over again because I did not recall whether I had applied it recently or not. Once I get my unit frames back up and running, I should be off to the races again.

One thing that is really annoying is that I have to apply SR again in PvP and really pay attention to it in terms of applying my bleeds. Blizzard may think this is a good design, but I am quite sick of it in PvP. Also, and Guntir is right on board with me on this one, we completely forget about new abilities regularly. I continuously forgot that I had Mighty Bash and Tree Posse, though I was using Mighty Bash much more often, and I had the macro of Cenarion Ward to Guntir, but having to press it every 30 seconds when we got into combat was a bit hard to remember, particularly under heavy stress situations. Toward the end of the night we started getting back into the swing of things; I was getting used to the SR rotation, applying bleeds, and trying to deal meaningful direct damage, and Guntir was healing like the best of them and coordinating moments of nuking.

Overall, we both liked how well Feral and Discipline meshed together. I had taken Glyph of Cat Form and was taking enough healing to get by, and even without Symbiosis (Dispersion), I was having a pretty straight-forward time surviving between Barkskin and Survival Instincts; I had Might of Ursoc on my survival-buttons-bar, but I never found a need to use it. I felt like my burst damage was a bit lacking, but that could be due to my opponents having hitherto unknown survivability buttons (like Warlocks having a 30% self-heal) as well as not having the level 90 PvP gear and thus missing out on Ravage. Tree Posse still feels like it does pretty good damage coupled with a 5s stun, but my Shreds just did not feel like they were hitting very hard, and FB really relies on being used at 50 energy to deal meaningful damage.

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Sometimes I Think...

Sometimes, and I mean pretty regularly, I think that it does not make any sense for me to post on Mondays. On the one hand, I like posting on Mondays because those are usually my slowest days at work and I have more time to spend thinking about any given topic. On the other hand, posting on Mondays usually means that I am either recapping a Tuesday post from the week before, or I am writing something that I will eventually bump with a Tuesday/Wednesday post because a new patch will drop the next day. During an expansion when changes are few and far between I feel like Mondays make a lot of sense, but during a beta when the world gets changed almost every Tuesday it probably makes more sense to do a Wednesday post.

So, I will be trying out this format to see how it plays out until the Mists of Pandaria is released, at which point I will go back to the Monday postings.

Yesterday marked another patch to the beta servers. This time around, there were a few nerfs to Feral that I did not really expect to see, but then again there was yet another buff to Dream of Cenarius that I did not expect to see either. Dream of Cenarius was buffed from 30% increased damage on the next two melee abilities to 50%. Readers will recall that I spent the majority of my last week's post discussing how strong Dream of Cenarius is, so I probably do not need to rebuff that topic and we will just say that this is pretty strong. However, in order to balance this increase (I assume as I do not see any other reason for it), Shred and Mangle have been reduced from 420% weapon damage to 400% weapon damage.

DISCLAIMER - I still have not tested this ability, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

What I find interesting is the synergy of the ability with itself. Dream of Cenarius reads:

Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, and melee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%. Tranquility is not affected.

Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next 2 Moonfire or Sunfire casts by 50% or by your next 2 melee abilities by 50%.

Each of these bonuses lasts 30 sec.
and I have been entirely focused on the second portion ever since it was changed to include all casts of HTs, instant or not. However, what I really find interesting having given it another look today is that I completely ignore that first bit because nothing is listed directly. The first sentence says that "... melee abilities increase healing done ... by 30%. ..." How have I not given this any notice? Actually, in one of my first posts about Dream of Cenarius I mentioned that I might take this ability to couple with Cenarian Ward just for the "deal damage, get 70% [now 30%] bonus healing, use Cenarion Ward," but I completely forgot about that. With instant-cast HTs being part of the party now, I can get the 30% bonus healing from dealing damage normally and let the buff stay up as long as I need since there is no internal cooldown at the moment, then drop a 30% stronger Predator's Swiftness HT on Guntir for some absolutely silly healing, and get 50% additional damage to my next two melee abilities. Woof!

Another awesome change from yesterday's patch is that Cat Form's innate speed has been buffed from 15% to 25%. Now, the nay-sayers will be quick to point out that we have 30% movement speed on live at the moment from Feral Swiftness, and while that is true it came at the cost of talent points while this is simply by virtue of being a cat. I have tried to remain quiet on this one as losing 15% movement speed is something that irked me, but not enough to complain since we got a 15s Wild Charge. With Feral still getting that extra 15% movement speed bonus from our PvP 2-set, that gets our movement speed in MoP very close to that of live (143.75% in MoP vs. 149.5%). What gets even sillier is that a Feral could take Feral Swiftness instead of Wild Charge (this is not smart for most arena play, I am forced to point out) and get his speed to 165.3125%, which is pretty damn fast to be moving around normally. All the 50% snares in the game would take you to is 82.66% speed which is much faster than a Deathknight with Death's Advance (you cannot be snared below 70% movement speed).

I mentioned in a comment on the mid-week update that I would talk a bit about the feeling of Feral in MoP versus the feeling of Feral in expansions past. Particularly, I read a comment that made me think back to The Burning Crusade, though I am not sure why since this expansion was largely terrible for Feral. I have gotten nostalgic in past posts regarding how I felt about Feral back then, but even though I was upset with the state of Feral, I still look back fondly; it truly makes no sense to me sometimes.

The main thing about Feral that I liked when looking back has to do with much more of the way the game played than anything particular to Feral. In TBC, arena matches, and PvP in general, was slower paced; there would still be a lot going on, but the reality is that you had more time to play your character. Because of this, Ferals spent a LOT more time shapeshifting, which is something that I think a lot of Feral players are going to miss in Mists. That requirement of leaving Cat Form to do something else useful was interesting, albeit terribly implemented and a horrible leash that would hold back many players.

In Mists, the only time a Feral is going to have to switch forms is in order to break a snare or root. Many Ferals will argue that this is the way it was meant to be, but there are many still who would argue that going to Bear Form should still be part of the specialization. I do not know what my heart tells me about the new Feral with regard to play-style and feeling, but I know that I will be more competitive without having to worry about clipping a GCD while waiting to get back into Cat Form and the like. There are simply too many little tiny annoyances that can creep up on even the best players with a tiny bit of latency and/or some bad luck. I cannot count the number of times that I did not end up using Berserk because I hit TF just before it and thought I had pressed Berserk then started spamming Shreds only to find that I did not hit Berserk and I wasted a lot of energy; I possibly missed the opportunity to land a kill.

I think that I will miss having the ability to use Bear Form to some degree. I do not like the fact that Bear Form, at present, is so weak at dealing damage and only minorly more survivable than Cat Form. I can still recall the beginning of TBC and Bear Form being absolutely hilarious damage output as well as extremely strong at soaking up damage. I would, on rare occasions, come back from a 2v1 where Guntir had died but we got both of our opponents to 75% hp simply by going Bear Form and beating everything to death with Mangle.

TBC was also a time where healing as a Feral was still alive and well. One had to have a healing weapon swap and be ready to apply Rejuvenation and Lifebloom at the drop of a hat, and also have the where-with-all to know when it was safe to drink (yes, Feral had to drink in arenas back then because of our mana problems due to healing). I am somewhat looking forward to seeing the return of a dps-healing Feral again in MoP; it will definitely be interesting, although the devs probably need to tone down some of the dps-healing that is going on the beta at present.

Sidebar: I watched a 30m Hydra 2v2 video from the MoP beta and it basically shows that every dps has some capacity for healing on a cooldown and it really makes landing a kill impossible in some instances. It seems that Monks, as a dps, are unkillable in a 1v1 situation simply by virtue of their self-healing capacities. While I am fond of having the ability to provide some supplemental healing in a 2s match, I do not want to see the situation we have on live where Ret pallies can WoG someone to full from 15% hp but with all dps classes. Only time will tell on this one.

Back to TBC, I can still remember playing WotLK and being in a better position shifting-wise, but still having to do odd implementation plays like having a macro that would go Bear Form and start mashing Feral Charge (Bear) on my focus target to land an interrupt, which would be followed by a 5s Bash, which I would follow with a hard-cast 6s Cyclone before going back to Cat Form to deal damage. This was interesting but ultimately annoying; why did Ferals have to spend so much time, as a dps class, not dealing damage and instead on some other target applying CC?

No, now that I remember that, I have to say that I am looking forward to leaving all that in my past. I will definitely miss certain things about previous expansions, and I know that TBC will always hold a special place in my heart and memories, but I cannot wait to be able to stay in Cat Form more and do my job as a dps -- including landing CC without having to leave my target for 15sec at a time while Guntir tries to burst them down instead.

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Mid-Week Update

Just a few Feral nods from the devs:

Feral PvP on the other hand, needs some help. Our defense is almost non existent and the SR situation is just awkward at best. Feral PvP HP looks like a roller coaster... falling and rising fast, it's stressful and isn't very fun to be honest.
We gave Survival Instincts back to Feral recently. Not sure if you have that change.
Whoa. I am not sure what the original poster is talking about in terms of Feral needing help, or why a 3min damage reduction cooldown is going to help overall, but that is a huge buff to Feral+Disc since Feral is getting Dispersion from Symbiosis. That means that I will have access to Barkskin (20%, 1m), Dispersion (90%, 2m), and Survival Instincts (50%, 3m) at my disposal to survive. Dispersion is obviously the winner here since it can be used while stunned and it has the most damage reduction at a medium cooldown, but having all these different damage reductions is going to be amazingly overpowered. I really do not see how anyone is missing this.

The rest of the posts were regarding Moonkins, so I will skip them, but there was one more post I wanted to share:
P.S. Why are treants even there?
Because they do good damage? And they want to be your friend?
I honestly think that people have this perception of the Tree Posse; they do not understand just how good they are in a PvP context. Maybe this quote is in reference to Moonkins and Raiding, but for Feral this talent is a no-brainer for PvP. I hate to go on these rants all the time, but Incarnation is not a very good damage-dealing ability.

Let me explain one last time: Incarnation puts you into a state where you simply stop using Shred and instead use Ravage. Straight off the bat, Ravage is better damage (720% vs. 504%) but costs 5 additional energy; if we work out the DPE, then Ravage is 16% damage per energy with Shred at 12.6% per energy, and until the last patch where the cost was reduced from 50 to 45 for Ravage the dpe was 14.4% which is much closer. Now, we can see plainly that Ravage is better than Shred, and with the costs being roughly the same now there is even a decent argument for choosing it.

However, the difference is really the damage boost we need to look at. Incarnation gives 30s of up-time on a 3m cd, which means that we need to look at the best-case number of Shreds-vs-Ravages that can be used in a 30s window (and let's assume Berserk is up as well for best-bang-for-buck). If we look at it naively and assume someone else is providing bleeds and ours have 100% up-time and we applied them a long time ago (not going to happen in practice, but is good for an upper-bound), then we can say that in 30s we will gain at least 300 energy with zero haste. Let us say that we pooled to 100 energy meaning that we netted 400 energy over 30 seconds to use entirely on Ravages-as-Shreds. Keep in mind that we are not even talking about finishing moves here... just Ravage-spam all the time.

This is equal to 17 Ravages (400 energy banked / ( 45 energy cost / 2 berserk ) ) instead of 20 Shreds (400 eb / ( 40 ec / 2 b ) ). Adding up the napkin maths to pretend we are dropping one big Ravage and one big Shred gets us the following:

Ravage: 12,240% damage (17 Ravages * 720%)
Shred: 10,080% damage (10 Shreds * 504%)
Difference: 2,160% damage

What does all this mean? This means that Incarnation IN THE BEST AND UNATTAINABLE CASE will get you basically 4 additional Shreds. If you assume that Berserk will not be used during this time, then the difference is basically 1 Ravage. If you start factoring in things like having to use energy to apply Rake, SR, and Rip (and maybe you want to throw an FB in there) then the balance really starts tipping toward Ravage, but the difference goes down significantly. Remember, Ravage is better damage overall, but the fewer landed means the better burst wins out with the difference being potentially smaller.

Just to put a nice little bow on this rant, if you also factor in that in PvP a large chunk of your Incarnation time is going to be spent eating CC, then it looks even less appealing. Additionally, that 2,160% best-case damage difference looks pretty paltry when you consider that a 3min cooldown is going to net you four additional Shreds in damage. However, if you look at Tree Posse, you get roughly that same amount of damage (4 Shreds), but it comes with a 5s stun, a 1min cooldown, and it does not matter if the opposing team CCs you through its duration -- the trees keep hitting stuff.

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It Rhymes With Monday

Well, no... actually it does not. I would have written up a post yesterday, but from the moment I got in to work I actually had work to do. My job would be great if I did not have any requirements...

So, there were a few small patches to the beta since my last post. The few changes that were made include reducing the cost of Ravage! from 50 energy to 45 energy (which is hilarious given that I had post test results showing that it was not a dps gain to take Incarnation because of the energy cost; it still does not look amazing, but it is at least an ability that provides a dps boost now), Dream of Cenarius increasing the next two melee abilities by 30% instead of just one, and Soul of the Forest being increased from two energy per combo point used to three.

The Soul of the Forest change is interesting in that it shows that Blizzard is paying attention. At two energy per combo point, the maximum returned energy would be 10 which, when combined with the energy returned from a zero-haste GCD, would mean at least 20 energy returned after using a 5cp finishing move. My biggest gripe about this was that 20 energy returned for a minimum of 25 energy spent is still lost energy (albeit a small amount as compared to the 15 energy lost without this talent), and that is our cheapest finishing move in Savage Roar, on which no one really ever spends five combo points. A better example would be using Rip, which costs 30 energy and would mean 10 energy spent with Soul of the Forest instead of 20. That's not terrible, but it still had room for improvement. I had been petitioning for 4 energy per combo point consumed, but them bumping it to 3 is a decent test. That means that Rip is going to cost 5 energy instead of 20, which is definitely worth-while. I still do not see this talent getting picked up over Tree Posse, but anything can happen between now and September.

The Incarnation-Ravage change is really boring; the talent is still pretty lackluster at that tier as it is less damage provided for a 3min cooldown than Soul of the Forest will provide over a 3m span, and certainly less damage than 2 uses of Tree Posse. Really, the only interesting change from the last few builds is the Dream of Cenarius bump. Dream of Cenarius no longer requires a non-instant cast of Healing Touch to give the bonus 30% damage, and what is better is that it provides that bonus to the next two melee abilities and lasts 30 seconds. Admittedly, in the 2v2 context, I did not use Healing Touch very often (instant or otherwise) simply because it cost so much mana and did not heal very much when compared to other hybrid healers (SPriests, Enh, Ret), but I can see a few things changing here that are really rather interesting when taken in full.

By changing Dream of Cenarius to allow instant-casts of Healing Touch, that really opens the talent up for Feral just by allowing it to be used in PvP. By changing it to the next two attacks instead of just one, that makes it a real boon for Feral because it will allow for some silly combos like "bank of 5cps, pool to 100 energy, NS+HT Guntir, Tree Posse (5s stun + damage), FB (30% bonus), 4-piece Ravage (30% damage)..." I tried to come up with a use that revolved around Predator's Swiftness, but it is essentially impossible to do so since it takes melee abilities to build combo points for FB.

What will be really interesting to test (if they ever enact premade level 90s... I want the first time I grind MoP to be an experience for real - not just a beta test that I will have to do once again when MoP is released) is to see if that 30% bonus applies to all our melee abilities. I am, of course, referring to Rake's DoT component and wondering whether that 30% bonus will continue for the duration of the bleed. If it acts anything like Savage Roar, which increases our physical damage done by 30% as well, then it will indeed increase the bleed damage from Rake, which is already rather strong.

What I am most excited about from all these changes is the fact that I basically never have to leave Cat Form anymore except to break snares and roots. The devs changed Predator's Swiftness to allow the cast to happen in Cat Form as well as changing up all our talents to be able to be used in Cat Form as well (Nature's Swiftness, Cenarion Ward, etc). This means that I can use an instant-cast Healing Touch on Guntir with Predator's Swiftness after applying Rip to a target and immediately start spamming Shreds again with the first two hitting 30% harder. In fact, the rotation might be as simple "TF+Rip, insta-HT Guntir, Rake, 4p Ravage, Shreds" which would allow for some seriously interesting damage output since TF and DoC would mean 15% bonus damage and 30% bonus damage at the same time. In fact, this burst rotation is starting to shape up really rather nicely:

Pool to 5cps and 40 energy
Tree Posse Stun
TF+FB (1s - 50 energy left plus 10 energy from the gcd = 60e after FB)
insta-HT Guntir (2s - 70e)
Rake (3s - 35e + gcd = 45e)
4p Ravage (4s - 55e)
Shred (5s - 25e)

In that 5s stun, I will have landed an FB, a Rake, a Ravage, and a Shred and all but the FB and the trailing Shred are getting 49.5% bonus damage (15% bonus damage and 30% bonus damage: 1.15 * 1.3 = 1.495); the FB and trailing Shred got the 15% bonus damage. The cooldown on Tree Posse makes this a rotation I can pull off once every minute, but it is unclear if there is an internal cooldown on Dream of Cenarius or not. I have to suspect that there is no ICD simply because it would be a truly awkward ability to manage if it did.

This revelation about damage-dealing and the dropped caster-form requirements across the board really just solidifies my appraisal of Mighty Bash. I continue to marvel at how I wrote this talent off at the onset and have come back around to really consider it to be the likely front-runner in my build at that tier over Disorienting Roar and Ursol's Vortex. Likely, I will be using Tree Posse as my on-target stun while I use Might Bash as a CC proper. In addition, with Guntir getting Cyclone from Symbiosis, that means that my Predator's Swiftness procs are free to go to Healing Touches which will increase my burst damage potential. Basically, the idea for 2v2 is the following:

1) I set up 5 combo points on a target I am going to try and burst down and start pooling energy.
2) Guntir and I coordinate so that he is in LoS of the healer.
3) Mighty Bash on the healer.
4) Wild Charge back to the kill target; start my rotation from above (Posse, FB, TF, HT-G, Rake, Ravage, Shreds; Berserk might be in the mix)
5) Guntir lands AT LEAST a SW:P and Mindbender / Shadowfiend (likely it will be Mindbender).
6) Guntir hard-casts Cyclone on the healer (he's standing on top of the stunned healer after all).
7) Guntir follows his Cyclone with a Psychic Scream.
8) Guntir lands another Holy Fire and Smites.
9) Guntir follows his Psychic Scream with Dominate Mind.

Ignoring all the hilarious damage we are putting out throughout this combo, that is a TON of CC from Guntir while I am doing my thing. I think that 2v2s are going to be a little bit on the ridiculous side...

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Just a Minor Update

There is not a lot going change-wise regarding PvP or Druids on the beta, so this is going to be a short post.

Symbiosis was changed, at some point and I may have simply missed it, so that Disc/Holy Priests get Cyclone instead of Entangling Roots. This change is somewhat unwelcome news since Entangling Roots was an interesting spell to give to Priests since I use mainly Cyclone in 2s for peels. With Cyclone being given to Priests, this now means that Guntir cannot as easily run off on his own and CC a melee while his healer is across the map without worry of me not being able to peel again once the melee gets back into the fray because of diminishing returns. That being said, Cyclone could certainly still be used by Guntir as an off-target CC in some situations or a last ditch effort to bait out kicks so he could continue healing (or use it when he eats a kick on his healing school). I am still entirely unsure how this is going to play out in 2s.

Going back, I am still a little miffed that Priests are given one of the Druid's CC abilities rather than something more useful; however, basically every healer is looking at what they get from Symbiosis and saying "wtf!?" The list is pretty lackluster overall. Holy Paladins get the short end of the stick with Rebirth, obviously, but even Resto Shammies are probably a little bit peeved with Prowl given that it will only really be utilized in the beginning of an arena match and since it starts Ghost Wolf form, that means that placing totems is put off until the Shaman shows himself. All things considered, being able to cast Cyclone as a Priest might be better than the alternative.

Consider situations in 2s where I get CC'd, Guntir gets kicked on Holy, and Dominate Mind and Psychic Scream are both on cooldown; if nothing else, he will be able to throw in a Cyclone on a dps to simply outlast that kick interrupt. In fact, given that Cyclone is undispellable, it might actually play out better in this one example simply because there is truly nothing an opposing team can do if they threw all their stuns and interrupts into Guntir to try and land a kill; he will still have his Nature school to fall back on and just hard-cast a Cyclone into the biggest damage-dealer until I get back on the scene to land a stun. Sure, this example is very specific and probably will not play out much in our matches (we're pretty good at not falling into these types of situations... tooting my own horn here).

Lastly, there was an update to Rogues worth noting: Deadly Brew has been removed as a talent and is now on the Rogue season 12 PvP set 4-piece bonus. In Deadly Brew's position in the talent tree we now see Prey on the Weak, which causes 10% increased damage taken from all sources (meaning not just the Rogue but his friends as well) while the target is affected by one of the Rogue's control abilities. This is not an amazing talent at 10% damage bonus, but it leaves the door open for Rogues to take the other two talents at that tier, which are Paralytic Poison and Dirty Tricks.

Since Paralytic Poison's stun shares a diminishing returns with all stuns, I doubt that many Rogues will end up taking this ability rather than continuing to use Kidney Shot; although, it may work out to be a PPM system meaning that it would be a 5s stun every 20 seconds for "free". With Wound Poison being made into a Lethal Poison, that means that the choice would be between Paralytic Poison, Mind Numbing Poison, and Crippling Poison. Early on in the expansion, we will not be seeing Rogues with their 4-set bonuses, so they will likely be forced to use Wound+Crippling at first, but eventually everyone will get their sets and I feel like Wound+Mind-Numbing is going to be the flavor for the entire expansion.

Dirty Tricks is, for lack of a better description, bad. It allows the Rogue's CCs to not break from his DoTs, but in PvP Rogues simply do not use Rupture (outside of a few edge cases), and with Wound being a lethal poison, that means that Deadly is out of the question. Basically, that means that Rogues will end up likely taking Prey on the Weak simply because it is better than the other two.

I just noticed something when looking at the new Rogue 4-piece PvP bonus (which is just Deadly Brew): the PvP sets now have two interesting bonuses. On live, Rey's 4-set bonus is moving 15% faster while in form, but according to this link, the latest set has a 2-set bonus and a 4-set bonus. The Dragonhide 2-set bonus is still that 15% movement speed bonus, which is fine by me, but the 4-set bonus is now:

Once every 30 sec, your next Ravage is free and has no positional or stealth requirement.

Hmmm, that sounds oddly familiar... is that not just a better implementation of Stampede! from live? It is really unclear (since I have not grinded Rey up to 90 and have not equipped this set) how this will work implementation-wise, but I am guessing that Ravage will "pop" into active once we leave stealth (just like how using Feral Charge Cat "pops" it into active on live) and there is an ICD of 30 seconds to keep us from using it again out of stealth.

This is a really nice addition given that it is directly related to dealing damage by way of  additional combo points and free burst damage from Ravage. I had made a post last week (or maybe the week before) about me removing Ravage from my bar in MoP, but with this little bonus, I am going to have to take back my statement for sure. Ravage does great damage, but it is truly too expensive and it "costs" us a 4sec stun opener that can be used from any direction; allowing it to be used out of stealth for free and from any direction makes it the best ability we have in terms of burst.


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5.0 PTR Spinning Up

Welcome again to another Monday. I am, as always, your host Reygahnci! Late last week the blues announced that they were going to spin up the 5.0 PTR servers. This strikes me as a bit odd since the feeling I get from beta is that rather large class changes are still happening week-to-week, but maybe it is Blizz's intention to see how the class changes are going to affect live before MoP is released. I think that the timetable that Blizz has laid out has roughly 3 more months until the release of MoP, and soon we can expect to see the talents and abilities list finalized (at least finalized enough to go to live and only requiring small changes for MoP's release).

At this point, neither Guntir or I have played live WoW in about three months (maybe more). Like a dope, I still pay for my subscription, but with RLS running rampant and 2s being somewhat silly (just about every team is either Afflic+Healer or Ret+Rogue) we simply cannot justify playing WoW rather than D3, which is super fun being as we just got into Inferno last week. Additionally, I have been playing L4D again and finally (since the the steam summer sale happened) got L4D+L4D2 for my wife, so we have been going through the campaign to train her up a bit for more competitive head-to-head play.

Looking back at Cataclysm, I have to say that I find myself both impressed and disappointed. On the one hand, I found their story-telling to have improved amazingly; I actually enjoyed questing and grinding my character up more-so than any other expansion. In addition, the zones in this expansion were both thoughtful and well-designed with fluid layouts that led me to actually explore for the sake of exploring again. In Northrend, I did not even bother exploring except to get the title, and in The Burning Crusade, I found all the zones except Blade's Edge to be stale and poorly laid out which resulted in a LOT of "go out and do 3 quests, then travel for 5 minutes to get back to town". To be fair, The Burning Crusade was the first expansion for World of Warcraft, and they were trying new things out. The Frozen Throne was the first expansion where I actually enjoyed questing, but the zones were somewhat dry and lacked a lot of what makes a zone interesting - depth of story. Cataclysm had zones like Vashj'ir which were extreme attempts at a new feel and I think they hit a home run; I can only hope that MoP has more quests/zones like that once it's released (I'm not questing on the beta; I find it ruins my first run-through when it finally goes live).

However, I found myself disappointed when I reached the end-game and started out playing PvP. Blizzard had not seemed to have learned anything from either TBC or FT with regard to balancing. There were, at the onset, obviously superior classes which could be teamed with strong classes to make undefeatable teams. Early on it was obvious that RLS was going to be the continued unstoppable juggernaut as it still had the unbalanced aspects of all three classes - a 70% snare, high mobility, huge survivability, and infinite mana on the healer coupled with three extremely strong CCs. Blizzard had finally addressed the issue of Rogues having two separate 5s stuns that did not share diminishing returns, but then added in Smoke Bomb to make Rogues that much more powerful.

I do not want to go into yet another diatribe about my disdain for imbalances amongst classes; I think that I have a good enough track record on that that all my readers know my feelings. Yet, I am hopeful for Mists of Pandaria PvP. Blizzard has already taken a lot of my suggestions and tried them out on the beta and while they are not being received as all-purpose panaceas to the state of PvP (particularly from Rogues), they are showing a more balanced state of game-play already. Rogues have been toned down in both control and damage, Warlock control has been reduced a bit, Feral quality of life has been improved and we received a number of buffs, and all the healers have had their mana conservation looked at and tuned to (hopefully) be finite. To say nothing else about the state of PvP, it looks like it will be interesting from the vantage point of a strong Feral class in 2s.

Hopefully, double-dps will not be so prevalent this time around, but on the other hand no one wants to see never-ending dps+healer matches either. I have been asking for the mana change for a long time now, since it would mean that matches revolve around a balance of damage out, damage in, mitigation, and successful smart use of resources (with the caveat of being able to drop combat and drink when you can). At least with all healers having finite mana, we would naively assume that matches would not last indefinitely even with damage dealers who can self-heal a bit and have other defensive cooldowns. Personally, I think that Feral+Disc is likely to be one of the stronger 2s comps in the onset of MoP simply because of Dispersion and Guntir getting another CC on a different spell school (let alone all the CC Feral will bring in addition to
supplemental healing).

I wanted to spend a minute discussing talent selection with particular regard to 2s. I have, in the past, spent a lot of time talking about tier5 talents being a toss-up between Ursol's Vortex and Disorienting Roar. I still think that both of those talents could have a place in a 2s context really easily, since they are both strong and Roar does not seem to DR with anything except Blind/Gouge/SS at the moment, but I continuously seem to overlook Mighty Bash. The reason for my quick dismissal of MB early on had more to do with an earlier tooltip which read "activates Bear Form" at one point. Giving the talents another look of late made me realize that the devs have since removed this stipulation and instead made the talent into a melee-range 5s stun on a 50s cooldown that costs nothing but a GCD.

This got me thinking in particular about 2s. I have been begging for Maim to be removed from the game and Pounce be made (via a talent or a glyph) into a 4s stun that can be used at any time, but when used out of stealth invokes a 30s cooldown. Well, Mighty Bash, for all intents and purposes, is roughly for what I have been asking but it is instead a stronger stun with a longer cooldown but without the resource cost. In fact, I find myself looking at Mighty Bash as the answer to my kit in terms of energy issues.

Maim is too expensive.

Maim costs 35 energy, all of my combo points, deals basically no damage, and stuns for at most 5 seconds. Long story short: Maim is a great way to stop dealing damage. The only use I have had for Maim since the Frozen Throne expansion is as a button to hold someone still while Guntir lands Mana Burns, and once again Mana Burn is going away in MoP so I do not see the need to use this ability anymore. Additionally, with the addition of Tree Posse to my kit, I know that I am going to have another 5s stun on a 1min cooldown in MoP that deals supplemental damage to my kill-target. In addition, I am going to need all the combo points and energy I can muster to keep SR and Rip rolling on my targets for full damage, so I cannot spare any for Maim.

That being said, Mighty Bash might be the answer to my prayers in a 5s stun on a cooldown with no cost. This will basically give me 5cps and 35 energy every time I need to stun something, and what is better is that I can use it to stun off-targets as yet another form of CC that does not share DR with my normal CC kit. Cyclone, Psychic Scream, Dominate Mind, and a 5s stun if I need it will bring the lion's share of CC in a 2s team. Even better is that with Guntir being able to deal with melees on his own a little better and me having a DR in Dispersion (should I get into trouble), I can sit on healers and basically rotate 5s stuns every ~30 seconds between Mighty Bash and Tree Posse and keep the healers on their toes (rather, back on their heels).

What I find funny about this is that in the latest patch to beta, the devs have realized just how powerful Dream of Cenarius and Cenarion Ward is for a Feral (we have plenty of spare GCDs and spam yellow attacks... this was a no-brainer), and as such they nerfed Dream of Cenarius particularly with regard to Feral:
Dream of Cenarius now increases healing done by your next healing spell by 30%, down from 70%.
Well, that was quick. I still think that this talent may be worth-while, but it will depend entirely on how strong or weak Feral damage-dealing is in a 2s context. Moreover, it will depend on how good at survival and outlast our twos comp is under normal circumstances. If Guntir can survive on his own rather well, and I can pressure a healer to run out of mana before Guntir does, then I will likely end up taking Dream of Cenarius for the supplemental HoT. However, if it turns out that healers are still not dying even when they run out of mana, I will likely be forced to take Nature's Virgil for the boring-but-effective 20% damage buff (read: 20% damage buff to Berserk, since that is the ability to which I will macro Nature's Virgil as they have the same long cooldown).

Closing thought: if I take Mighty Bash and Nature's Virgil, my talent build is a hilarious "all right-column talents".

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It is About God Damned Time!

First, let me explain last week because I had planned on writing a post, but I ended up getting a stomach bug that kept me out of commission until Tuesday, and I had so much work to catch up on that I never ended up writing it. I checked up on my analytics and saw that I had huge traffic on Tuesday, and no new post; I can only assume everyone leapt to the conclusion that I had been hit by a bus. Again, sorry to keep you all waiting!

However, on to the good stuff:

Predatory Swiftness now allows your next Cyclone, Entangling Roots, Healing Touch, Hibernate, or Rebirth to be castable in all forms.
I am continuing my trend of blatantly stealing the colors of the MMO-Champion site, which I hope they will not mind (though they stole the white+blue combos and only added the greens as their own, so I cannot see how they would).

Wait, what? Does that really say what I think it does? Predatory Swiftness will FINALLY allow me to cast abilities IN FORM? Thank the devs! As the title suggests -- It is About God Damned Time! Feral is finally moving in the direction for which I have been begging for years and should, after this change, no longer require shapeshifting for anything but breaking roots. In fact, if Blizzard aimed at balancing Feral entirely, they would only need to look no further than removing root-breaking from shapeshifting (again), and switching up the immunities from being shapeshifted. I doubt that this will happen because of the backlash felt from the original rootshifting nerf, but one can never tell with Blizzard.

This change is going to make Feral a lot easier to play well in practice. No more having to time your gcds and movements appropriately, no more trying to Cyclone someone and lag causing you to get a "Not in line of sight" and being caught in caster form, and no more extremely smart Shamans waiting for you to fall out of form to NS-Hex you (while I consider this good play, it was completely unfair when playing against Feral+RSham early in the expansion because I would eat CC after CC with nothing Guntir could do about it and none of them sharing DR).

In addition, it means that Ferals can finally start using Cyclones offensively. I truly feel that this buff will likely result in a Feral nerf in the near future simply because of how strong Cyclone is as a CC. Cyclone was roughly balanced for Ferals in that the 6 second CC was only half-felt because the Feral spent 3 of those 6 seconds actually able to deal direct damage to a target: it would cost a 1.5s GCD to cast the Cyclone, and another 1.5s GCD to shift back into Cat Form, and usually it would require a non-zero amount of time to get back on the target because they were moving away to survive (warriors were the worst with their handful of mobility buttons). Against extremely good teams, I could land a full duration Cyclone and only get 1-2 Shreds on the kill target before the Cyclone ended.

In the 3v3 scene, it would mean that Cyclones had to be used either early or chained with a longer/better CC in order to get enough damage out during the duration for it to matter. For instance, if you are running Kittycleave and you land a Cyclone on the healer, your Warrior is going to continue dealing damage (hopefully a lot) while you are doing the Cyclone position-cast-shift-get-back-in and then you can start dealing damage again. You essentially made the match into a very odd 2v2 for a short duration (3s in the best case) and then a 3v2 for a short duration (3s in the best case). I have seen Warriors solo-kill something before, but not at the upper tiers of play. With this change, we will be better equipped to move toward our CC target, instantly Cyclone them, and Wild Charge (15s cooldown, recall) back to our kill-target and get the most bang for our buck (4.5s of CC plus damage-dealing in the best case).

In fact, in 2s, where Guntir and I spend the majority of our time, this change will play huge in conjunction with all the changes that Priests are getting. It looks, at least at a cursory glance, like Discipline Priests are going to end up playing very aggressively and nuking a lot for healing and supplemental damage. Additionally, the newest talent flip has Guntir potentially picking up Power Word: Solace for mana longevity and low-to-medium-low damage. The idea being that I will be training a healer non-stop with Guntir following me as closely as possible to bring the other DPS with him. I, then, have free range to insta-Cyclone without leaving form to peel for Guntir while he barrages the opponent with Solaces to restore his mana while the opposing healer has to heal afterwards and spend his. We could play the comp as an outlast like we do currently (although, 'currently' means '2-3 months ago') except that Mana Burn has been removed from the game.

On the other hand, Disc has an extremely potent kit of damage-dealing abilities that may end up mattering more in the long run. Holy Fire hits like a truck, and with Evangelism being part of the spec baseline, he will end up getting 20% bonus damage to all his spells almost all the time. I probably sound like a broken record here, but I cannot fathom how Feral+Disc is going to be balanced in MoP for 2s. The change to dispelling coupled with the hilarious amount of CC that Feral+Disc brings to the table is going to make teams hate themselves: Cyclone, Entangling Roots, Psychic Scream, Dominate Mind. None of these share diminishing returns with one-another, a single dispel of one means eating a full-duration of another, and with Cyclone being the undispellable one in the bunch, it will allow us to reset DRs and the dispel cooldown of our opponents.

I am getting very excited for MoP ^_^

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Two in a Row... New Record???

That's right folks, it is a Monday and this is a new post for the second straight Monday. What is even better is that I am not even posting for the sake of posting, but something interesting was actually revealed over the weekend! Before I get into that, let me just get this out there: I have not played on the live servers for probably over two months because of the wedding, for one, and because of how hilariously broken the game is at present, for two. I still subscribe to Squanky's YouTube channel and as such I receive email updates whenever he posts a new video. He recently came back to the WoW scene of late to run some triple-dps Hunter games, and I have to say that they really illustrate how broken PvP is on live at present. His Ret Pally can heal just about anyone on the team for ~80% of their total HP, Squanky can (in decent gear) drop 30k crits regularly, and Rogues are still a broken bag of control, damage, and survivability. That being said, I have been sticking to L4D and DIII.

Enough of that! What did the Devs post over the weekend? Well, it did not make much of a splash on MMO-Champion because it was posted on the European site, but there was a developer blog entry entitled The Future of PvP in Mists of Pandaria. In this post Tom Chilton, the original and current game director, answered questions posed from Nethaera regarding the direction and design of PvP in MoP. While the majority of these questions are fed from Tom, it seems, we get two small pieces of truly interesting PvP insight.

First, the new arena is called ToL'vir Proving Ground and is located in Uldum. Interestingly, the arena is hyped as a new Nagrand-style arena with less gimmicks and more balance, but has a definite lopsided feel given that there are only three pillars.

From this view, one can see that there are two definite entrances with two pillars are the (what I will simply call, for now) southern side of the map and a single pillar finishing the triangle at the mid-north. What will be most interesting about this map, besides the interesting pillar count and placement, is the extra angles gained from each southern pillar against a vantage that remains in the starting zone. Think about tournament 3v3 matches on Lordaeron; almost always one team or the other will decide the best positioning possible is in the jaws of the starting area. On Lord, this is more due to the fact that the mid-pillar is so ill-designed and the teams who utilize this technique are nigh-unkillable and put out insane damage when LoS is not an issue *cough*RLS*cough*, but on this new map, I could see the allure for moving from a pillar to a starting area for LoS purposes.

The second interesting piece of information from the blog post is that arena matches are getting an update. Particularly, Tom suggests that prior to the start of an arena match, every player will know the class and specialization of their opponents. Apparently, the UI will be updated to show the classes and specialization names of each opponent before the gates open, giving teams a bit of time to strategize before being tossed into the match. This is a boon for teams like mine who usually do not have a set strategy for a lot of odd comps, and take a few moments before acting, but it is also a huge boon for less experienced teams who might make the mistake of seeing two players and a stealthy and not see the buffs at first leaving them caught off guard when what they thought was an RLS turns out to be an MLS and the mage was Invisible. Similarly, it gives teams ample time to pick a target and get a strategy ready for facing triple-dps teams where surprise is usually part of their success.

Sadly, there was acknowledgment from the devs regarding the 'blacklist' (being able to set two maps to 'never play this map ever' on randomly queued BGs) as it pertains to arenas in a different post:
At this time blacklisting is not a part of the arena queuing system, but maybe this will change in the future.
There is a very subtle hinting at the understanding that players only want this implementation so that they can effectively turn off RoV and Dalaran Sewers (though I would rather play on Dalaran than on Lordaeron sometimes).

Lastly, another bit of sad news from the devs suggests that while they understand that players want the ability to spectate arena matches, they have no plans to implement such a feature at this time. I am afraid that this speaks largely to the death of competitive arena play supported by Blizzard. There is simply no future for Blizzard supporting such a feature because they could never utilize it properly since they no longer have arena tournaments in their conferences. Sure, it would be neat for the players to be able to spectate a given arena match, and it would certainly make broadcasting third party tournaments that much easier, but it would be of no use to Blizzard (much like the skirmish system that was removed to make way for the arena challenges).

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Incarnation Continued

There was some interesting discussion over at the beta boards regarding Feral Incarnation (and Force of Nature as well), so I thought I would give it some spotlight:

So let's pick the best scenario possible. By getting 18 Ravages off you'd get a 890 DPS increase with Incarnation. Sounds like a very solid DPS increase, huh? Well.. not really. As soon as i started testing Force of Nature, i realized that Incarnation is a really poor choice. Let me elaborate.

Force of Nature will summon 3 Treats to fight for you for 15s and it's on a 1min CD. This means that i can use FoN 3 times in the 3min Incarnation window. So all we have to do is figure the expected value for the DPS increase on that 1min and then multiply it by 3. By doing that, we can compare these two abilities with respect to DPS. To do that, i simply had to measure the average damage and how often each of the Treants would attack my target. After some time, i saw that each of the Treats would attack my target ten times in that 15s window.I also noticed that Treants attacks are classified as white hits and are affected by Glancing. The average damage based on a 68 normal hits sample was 4790. Since each of the Treants will attack ten times, we get a total of 30 hits over 15s. To calculate the expected value i considered my 30% crit chance and did the following:

From 30 hits - Expected 9 crits, 5 Glancing and 16 normal hits. So the damage would be:

9*9580 + 16*4790 + 5*3592.5 = 180822.5 expected damage.

This is a straight 3013.70 DPS increase.
This is basically inline with what I experienced on the Beta boards and have been trying to convey to Druids: Incarnation is hilariously weak when compared to Force of Nature from all aspects. Force of Nature is one-third the cooldown of Incarnation for three times the burst damage, a huge increase in sustained damage, does not cost resources, and gives a free 5s stun to boot. The only problem with Force of Nature, now, is that it is on the radar for the developers thanks to this maths:
Your analysis of Incarnation looks about in line with our expectations; we expect that the fact that you can line Berserk and Tiger’s Fury up with it will be significant. Force of Nature’s damage for Ferals looks rather out of line; we’ll investigate that.
The problem I have with this GC quote is two-fold: first, it ends up suggesting that he did not actually read the maths from the post because Berserk and Tiger's Fury were included in the calculation; and second, it shows that the devs think that Force of Nature should not be so strong for Feral. Bah!

Getting back to Incarnation for a moment, even if one lines it up with Berserk, the ability is lackluster and on a long cooldown. I am not sure why this is considered acceptable; Incarnation (for Feral, anyway) might as well read "Improved Berserk" and simply be a tie-in to that ability... which is boring. Personally, and I know that I am in the minority on this one, I do not want all my damage and burst revolving around a single ability which can be avoided via CC. There is something to be said for skilled players who know how to counter burst with control, but when all of my meaningful damage can be avoided by a trivial CC train, then the game gets annoying.

Specifically, when I played Boomkin for fun at the end of Season 8, I really did enjoy the cooldowns I had; there were basically a bunch of mid-length cooldowns to manage/use and if I got CC'd through one of them, I still had the potential to apply some pressure with the others. I am still hoping that Force of Nature remains a viable burst cooldown, but it looks like GC did not realize how much damage the trees were putting out, so we are likely to see that "toned down" in the next few patches.

Another thing that changed in the last patch that I did not bring up is that Displacer Beast has been getting more and more buffed. Keep in mind, the devs have no intent on making DB into Vanish+Blink, so it can only be improved so much, but the cooldown keeps getting lowered. As of the last patch, Displacer Beast is down to a 1min cd that teleports the Druid forward 20 yards, puts him in Cat Form, and attempts to Prowl the Druid. I write 'attempts' because any DoT will immediately break the prowling, so it has extremely limited use. Additionally, if there are any effects on the Druid which prevent stealth abilities (such as Faerie Fire), then Displacer Beast cannot be used at all.

This brings up he question of talent-balance again (I thought I had a quote to put here, but I guess I don't). The devs have expressed in the past (again, I cannot find the quote, so this is from memory) that if a particular talent is the 'obvious' choice at a tier, it probably means that the other talents at that tier are undertuned or the 'obvious' choice is overtuned. When I look at the first tier of the Druid talent tree, I feel like the other two talents simply do not exist. I will never look at Feline Swiftness as a viable talent unless it is buffed rather extraordinarily; 15% bonus movement speed just is not very strong in any context as a talent.

Similarly, I will likely never see Displacer Beast as a viable talent choice, either. Being able to blink and stealth would be useful, but only if it were given the same treatment as Vanish. Giving Displacer Beast the same implementation as Vanish will never happen because Vanish is a powerful ability that is a Rogue-flavor ability; it is a staple of the Rogue's kit that will never be shared entirely with another class. What is more is that Displacer Beast also has the blink function built in, so it would actually be better than Vanish (in some sense) in that it would position you away from the fray and activate Prowl. Saying nothing else on the matter, if Displacer Beast acted the way described above, then I would certainly consider taking it on a 1m cd. However, it would be blatantly overpowered for Restos and Boomkins, as it would given them a 'get out of jail free' card once per minute, making them non-viable targets (and Restos already are pretty non-viable for Ferals).

No, the real issue here is that a 15s cooldown Wild Charge is so blatantly overpowered that anything else at this tier is really a second thought to the matter. Why on earth would I want an ability like Displacer Beast which will put me 20y in whatever direction I am facing once per minute when I could use Wild Charge to get back to Guntir who is 40y away and safe at a pillar once every quarter-minute? It is just bonkers! Many will claim that it will be used to close gaps on the kill-target more than anything, but at a 15s cooldown, I can easily stay on my target with Wild Charge and mash my "get out of dodge" macro to charge out when things get dicey. Mark my words - if Wild Charge goes live as-is, there will be SOOOOOOO much complaining about how mobile Feral is in a PvP context.

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Just Blue Piecemeal

So, the blues on beta actually responded to some Druid questions. Let's look, shall we (also, I am trying out some colors to distinguish the quotes better ^_^):

Currently Cenarion Ward will not consume the healing bonus from Dream of Cenarius. This makes Dream of Cenarius completely and totally undesirable for Guardians. That may be intentional, but some clarification would be appreciated.
This is a bug; all three level 30 talents will benefit from the increased healing buff from Dream of Cenarius. For example, a Guardian druid in Bear Form, with Dream of Cenarius and Renewal, who has recently Mangled a target so they have the Dream of Cenarius buff up, can hit Renewal to instantly restore 51% of their max health. We just fixed it to apply to Renewal and Cenarion Ward a few minutes ago, though, so you won’t see that for a build or two.
Well, that is certainly welcomed news. In basically every post I talk about how I think my 2s setup with revolve around having Cenarion Ward and Dream of Cenarius, so it is good to hear that that build has the same design as my plans.
Incarnation - As of this point Incarnation is bad for Feral druids. Due to Ravage and Pounce's 50 energy cost, there is just not enough energy to compensate normal shreds. based on my analysis you are looking at a 600 dps loss if you spec into Incarnation. If Ravage and Pounce cost 40 energy instead, then it would be a dps buff.
Incarnation should allow you to replace several Shreds with Ravages. Ravages are indeed more expensive, so the CP per energy will be lower (except above 80%, where it will be much higher). But, Ravage does ~50% more damage than Shred, for only 25% more energy. Is your modeling show that that’s not enough to be a sustained DPS increase? (Not to mention being a significant burst DPS increase.)
I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I have lots of tests on beta showing that Ravage is only really 25% better damage than Shred for 25% more energy cost. Additionally, even if Ravage could be break-even with damage as compared to Shred, the cp-gen lost from it is still overwhelming. I keep coming back to this, but Incarnation is just reasonably terrible for Feral.

EDIT: This needed some maths.

Shred - 420% * 1.3 * 1.2 = 655.2% weapon damage
Ravage - 750% * 1.3 = 975% weapon damage

So, the blue is correct in that Ravage does ROUGHLY 50% more damage for 25% more cost, and if the target is at greater than 80% hp, it will definitely be worth the cost increase because of the increased critical strike chance. So, I have to concede that Incarnation is not terrible for Feral, but I will likely still avoid it because the damage gained pales in comparison to that of Tree Posse. They bring so much damage and another stun that does not cost resources to the table on a cooldown of 1 minute as opposed to Incarnation's 3 minutes.
Mastery - As of right now Mastery is going to be the stat to miss COMPLETELY. Only two (three with Incarnation) abilities will benefit from it, both of which are based on Attack Power ONLY. Even then in 483 PvP gear, with full raid buffs and ZERO Mastery, Rip is still hitting for 300k damage.
We’re currently modeling Mastery as roughly equal in value to Crit and Haste for Ferals, typically a couple % better. If you can provide any more detailed analysis, we’d be interested in seeing it.
Well, I must say that this is interesting. The two abilities (for Feral) affected by Mastery are Rip and Rake; I am completely confused by the statement that Incarnation would give us a third because Pounce's bleed is still around 1000 damage at level 85... soooo... yeah. That being said, Rip and Rake are still over half our sustained damage in a raid setting (and probably a PvP setting as well); anything that increases our ability to apply damage through undispellable bleeds is a worth-while state. However, Blizzard admitting that it is modeled higher than crit and haste innately is fun. It had been worked out mathematically prior to the statement, so it comes as no surprise, but the fact that Blizz knows that they have it as the 'best' scaling stat for Ferals and intend it to be such is where my intrigue is piqued. The reason that this is interesting is because of the change to PvP gear in MoP.

Recall that in MoP, PvP gear will end up having normal stat allocation as well as the new "PvP" stats for defense and offense. This means that overall, we will have more stat points allocated which will turn into additional stats in general (gear that was agi+crit+resil will be agi+crit+mastery+pvp-stats, agi+crit+haste+pvp-stats, and agi+haste+mastery+pvp-stats). With this in mind, we are more free to reforge our gear as we need; now the hard-n-fast rule is "if it doesn't have mastery, reforge to mastery; else, reforge to either haste or crit".

It will be some time before we figure out how much critical strike percent Feral will have at level 90 in starter PvP gear, but I am going to guess it will be around 25%. Yes, this sounds CRAZY-LOW as compared to what we are accustomed to on live, but Blizzard has been dropping crit-rates across all classes, so it should not come as much of a shock when you take a broader look at the state of beta at the moment. Additionally, that 25% crit rate will also have no reforging, probably around 30% mastery, and maybe even as high as 15% haste, so it really will play differently than 25% crit does today. Remember, haste is going to be the wild-card in all this as it will increase our rate of energy-regen, which directly affects our cp-regen basically as well as crit, so adding 15 and 25 together and you will find that 40% crit to which we are accustomed.

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My Nostalgia Hurts

I promised a post this week, and so it must be! First and foremost, let me just say that this post is going to be a little scatter-brained, as I am a little scatter-brained this morning. I have a routine, you see, that involves getting up at 6:15am every day, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, and eating one fried egg with 12oz of 2% milk while I take my pills - yes, this makes me an old man of sorts, but the pills are like fish oil and a multivitamin... everyone of every age should be taking these. Well, I forgot to buy milk over the weekend, which was a blur, but my mother-in-law (still not used to that title) made me an Irish Soda Bread muffin to take with me to work today, so it ends up working out: skip the egg and milk and have a muffin and some coffee instead. Life is good.

Guntir came up from San Diego this weekend, so I did not have a chance to get him to help me test Savage Roar. The one thing I will say about that is that two beta Druids I trust with these matters told me that SR is no longer dispellable, and while it will be annoying to have to keep SR up when dealing damage in PvP, this change is a welcomed one. Guntir and I went to lunch on Saturday and talked about WoW a bit; apparently, the Undead racial was changed from Underwater Breathing (lawl) to some proc-on-damage Life Drain. Essentially, Guntir found that roughly 1/8 of the nukes he cast would return equal amounts of life... not too shabby.

One of the reasons that I have not been posting very much about Feral in MoP is because I have covered all the theoretical stuff. I discussed talent builds, game-play general points, and even intricate assumptions based around numbers and guesswork. However, without Blizzard putting in pre-made level 90s (or even 87s), I cannot test Symbiosis which is really the only thing WORTH testing besides Dream of Cenarius and Cenarion Ward, which I think will be rather overpowered in a 2s context (and maybe Nature's Vigil, but it looks pretty bland as a "macro this with Berserk" talent... it will be good for burst, albeit boring).

Another reason that I have not been posting is because Diablo3 was released and I honestly have not played WoW in a few months. Diablo3 is just one of those games that allows me to just sit down, Skype Guntir, and mindlessly kill stuff for fun and profit for hours; it is amazing. The game is stunningly beautiful, the story is about as good as I remember either Diablo or Diablo2 being, and the soundtrack is pretty solid (although, I really do miss hearing the original). I rolled a Barbarian simply because I always play a barb in the diablo universe, and while they are not the most amazing character right now (Demon Hunter and Monk are topping the bill in terms of power), I have a build which makes me nigh indestructible as a tank, which allows Guntir, who rolled a Witch Doctor, to throw flaming nightmares at our opponents and sweep them aside easily.

As I say, my nostalgia hurts. I was listening to the track (linked in the previous paragraph) on loop most of the morning while writing this post, and all I kept thinking of were the fun times spent in Tristam in D1/2. I know that sounds odd, given that the games were about going out into the world and smashing baddies, but I really did enjoy the music immensely. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I base a lot of my affection of a game on their soundtracks. WoW's soundtrack is somewhat tepid; it just does not get the job done for me. And while I enjoy D3's gameplay, the soundtrack is a bit bland in places and never really sets the tone of boss fights appropriately. There's a fight against a giant spider lady that is particularly creepy, but the soundtrack never plays at that angle: it stays with the fast-paced feel of boss fights, but you never feel the adrenaline pumping because the music never pushes your imagination. It is really hard to describe in words, but for a giant spider fight that has elements of "where did she go?" thrown in, it should have creepy music that gets intense when the boss comes back into the fray.

We will finish up with Diablo3 soon enough, I am sure, and MoP is still on track to have pre-mades ready in the coming weeks, so there should be plenty to talk about.

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Sorry Guys

Work is going crazy right now, so I have basically no time to write any posts. I have done next to no testing on the beta for the last few weeks, and D3 has taken the remaining free time I have.

I am going to try and get some testing done and a post written for next week.

Again, sorry.

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Symbiosis is Silly

Since I have been out of the game for a bit, I have not had a chance to really discuss much about the MoP beta level cap getting bumped up to 88 (or is it 89 now?). One of the nice things about the cap getting raised is that Symbiosis is now an ability that we can test. I have not started the grind at all - I like my grind to be something new every expansion and I do not want to have to do it multiple times. However, the nice people over at WoWHead put together a nice compilation of Symbiosis abilities for us all to enjoy:

Symbiosis Abilities

There is a lot to digest here and I think that many of these will end up changing, but it is an interesting look into how Symbiosis is truly going to change the way Druids play on teams. For example, I always take a first look at new abilities in the light of "how will this affect 2s with Guntir?" Priests, for the moment, get the short end of the stick in that they are given Entangling Roots. This is not terrible, but it definitely leaves me wanting; why would they give a CC to another class when I still have that CC? It just means that Guntir will be able to use Entangling Roots on targets while I am able to continue dps'ing which is a boon, I suppose. Additionally, it means that Guntir will have another school to use when locked out, or another school with which to bait out kicks. All told, this is not the worst spell the Devs could have given him; Priests could have gotten Rebirth like Holy Pallies did...

On the flip-side of the coin, Feral ends up getting Dispersion from Priests. This is a hugely powerful defensive cooldown, and it could not come at a better time. In MoP, Feral is losing Survival Instincts as our 2min 50% damage reduction cooldown, so we are sort of squishy feeling at the onset, but with us having access to Dispersion, we gain a 2min 90% damage reduction cooldown that can be used while stunned. I am enjoying all the fruits of that ability swap, I am afraid, and Guntir as much (though he is more confident in gaining Entangling Roots than I am).

Like I mentioned in my last post, I am looking more like a dps with supplemental roles in healing at the moment (tons of offensive cooldowns, but if I take Cenarion Ward and Dream of Cenarius, I will be an off-healing machine as well as being a strong dps), but Feral should also end up being pretty strong defensively given Dispersion getting thrown on the table as well, and with Guntir getting Entangling Roots, he may be more self-reliant when it comes to peels which would mean less healing required in the long run and more offensive support. Right now, Feral+Disc is looking rather strong.

However, I want to go back and talk about 11-Man Cleave a bit. 11-Man Cleave is the name I came up with for Feral+Enh+Disc which largely relies on the specializations to build upon. Feral ends up taking Tree Posse, since it is a good offensive cooldown anyway, and uses Symbiosis on the Enhance Shaman instead of the Disc Priest. Yes, the Feral loses access to Dispersion which is a huge defensive cooldown, but gains Feral Spirit, or Dog Posse, on a 2min cooldown. The wolves provide decent damage output, mobility, and self-healing while dealing damage, so the ability to survive while dealing damage is intriguing.

However, what is most notable about the comp is the fact that the Feral can pop out 3 trees every minute and 2 dogs every 2 minutes (and so can the Shaman). So, your burst attempts revolve around the tree posse, with your big burst attempts revolving around have 3 trees, 4 wolves, the Feral, the Shaman, the Disc Priest, and potentially the Shadowfiend (or Mindbender if talented for it) on the kill target all at once. The wolves have a small stun, but the tree posse has a 5s stun, so the wolfy-stun will be pretty much ignored. In addition to this, Berserk is still on the table and since this team is less about keeping Guntir alive and more about running down healers with insane pressure, I would probably swap my tier90 talent over to Nature's Vigil for the 3min cd that increases my damage done by 20% and heals nearby friendlies and just macro it to roll with Berserk.

I am really having a hard time seeing a healer live through the following:

1) Treant damage
2) Wolves damage
3) More wolves damage
4) Feral damage (Berserk + Nature's Vigil)
5) Enhance damage
6) Disc damage (HF+Smite spam is insane plus double-SW:D sub-25%)
7) Mindbender damage
8) 5s stun
9) Feral's 8s interrupt

This just seems like "nerf-me-cleave" at the moment.

Additionally, I intentionally left the best part for last: the Enhancement Shaman also has Solar Beam for that added "yeah, you're pretty much fucked" factor that comes with a 10s AoE silence.

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