How About 'dem Purps!?

I got home from the gym at around 5:15p on Friday, so I had about an hour to kill before doing dinner and going out and all that. On a whim, I decided to visit the arena junkies to see if there were any videos worth watching. Low and behold, I happened upon the NAO live stream, so I clicked over and ended up getting to watch Datah's team playing. Datah ended up playing very well, though his opponents seemed at odds over what they should be doing to handle the Junglecleave. Unfortunately for Datah's opponents, their biggest advantage was exploited (maybe too harsh a word) z-axis via Demonic Teleport and TStorm, but FCC does not require a path, and Hunters do not require melee range, so it was largely a non-issue even on Blade's Edge and Dalaran Sewers.

Aside from Datah's victory in the losers bracket (sadly, I missed the main-bracket action where Catlol was putting on a stomping running Feral+Shadow+RSham), the announcers were busy with their propaganda. It became clear mere moments after opening the stream that this was going to be a lecture on balancing PvP with some background of high-rated arena matches being played as well. The topic up for "debate" was whether PvE gear should be allowed in the arenas. The NAO tournament had the rule of "no PvE gear", which included Dragon Soul and Firelands purples (no trinkets or legendaries, basically). I do not believe that this is a debatable topic at the higher brackets, or even a few seasons into an expansion; I think that regardless of the player, most will agree that PvE gear in the arenas is unfair.

I can see the argument from the side of "but I worked so hard for my legendary and OP trinkets... I should not be barred from using them!" and to a certain extent, I agree that if someone put in the effort to get nigh-unobtainable gear and got it, they should be allowed to use it how they see fit. The problem, in my eyes, is a question of balance as it pertains to procs, although, in the case of weapons, there is obviously a question of ilvl for melees. I remember in s4 getting pitted against RMPs with the Twinblades, and just laughing as they trained someone down effortlessly because of their unfathomable damage. Keep in mind that this was a time before "heroic raiding" was even a concept, so the legendaries in question were OP in their only form. In this case, it was not so much the weapons' damage output (though that helped) as much as the proc, which made Rogues attack roughly twice as fast (as a spec which relied heavily on white-damage).

Today, we have a similar situation - weapons and trinkets with procs that are without a doubt too strong against other players. The list of culprits are well-known: Cunning, Vial, the staff, and the daggers. Each one of these has a proc which can shift the game in the player's favor easily. Cunning and Vial both have procs that simply deal way too much damage to the kill-target instantly with no cost. These are the most easily remedied procs, though only Vial is going to be patched soon, and the "fix" in place will not so much resolve the issue as make it less bursty; good, but not great. The daggers have a proc, but it stacks and makes the Rogue powerful, but not super overpowered until we look at the big picture - essentially, Rogues with double-legendaries get to walk around with a "bonus 1200 agility" buff, which is a HUGE gain in attack power over any other melee. Lastly, the staff - the proc itself is absolutely astounding and I honestly cannot believe that it is still allowed to proc in the arenas. Doubling a damage-dealing spell-cast is so mind-blowingly overpowered that it really does not need me to describe why.

I think that Blizzard cannot simply make a rule like "PvE gear not allowed in the arenas" because early-seasons for expansions will have people in blues getting into the arenas and trying to compete. Amending that rule to "purples" will essentially limit rerolls later in the expansion from easily stepping into the arenas. The only viable method of balancing the issue is to make a rule like "PvE gear will not proc in the arenas". This opens up an entirely new can of worms as it would also cast a light onto the BG and rBG stages and probably leave people wondering whether the same rule should be applied there.

The vicious cycle continues and we can see this spiraling out of control. The slippery slope is whether the procs on PvE gear would function everywhere, just not arenas, just not PvP, or no where but in raids and dungeons. The value of those overpowered weapons starts dropping unless the player's focus is non-arena/pvp in a number of those cases. In fact, a lot of high-rated players would probably stop raiding altogether if there were little-to-no incentive for PvP in doing so.

Without going much further into the subject, I am reminded of a long time ago when strictly-PvP players were not rewarded with any weapons at all until they attained rank14. Essentially, if all one did was PvP (battlegrounds, back then), there was no way to get a weapon upgrade. The only players who could realistically get a PvP weapon were the ones with overpowered PvE weapons. The grind was annoying and largely impractical for all but the diehards. Blizzard saw this as a failing on their behalf and added in PvP weapons that were attainable by more PvP-ers with the addition of the arenas, and the process has been getting tweaked ever since.

Ultimately, the debate rages between PvE and PvP. There was a situation in The Burning Crusade where PvE players would doing 10 matches a week to get points to buy a PvP weapon to progress their raids, since the PvP weapons were "easy" to get as compared to the raid content. There have been a great number of discussions as to whether this was a failing on Blizzard's PvE design or its PvP design, but basically what it came down to was a change to make it more difficult to get PvP weapons so that PvE-centric players would largely not look at them as a viable option for progressing in PvE. We are at a similar stance, at the moment, but looking at it in the mirror; left is right and all that. Many PvP players are looking at PvE content (looking for raid making this easier than ever) as a means for getting one of those OP trinkets so that they can progress in PvP.

As in season one, the damage is already done; Blizzard cannot take the Vials and Cunnings away from the LFR lucky few who won them fair and square just because they haven't gone back into an LFR and are moving their arena teams forward. The toothpaste is out of the tube; there is no going back. Additionally, Blizzard cannot simply nerf those trinkets - many rely on them in PvE to continue their progress. Well, now we have a problem; the PvE'rs have got arena weapons again... but it is not season one. We cannot fix this with a new season and a more learned item mechanic (no trinkets drop in LFR will not even fix this since normal mode progression is still rather easy). Blizzard may end up having to take rather drastic measures to truly fix this problem.

There are a lot of grumblings, at the same time, about the human racial (every man for himself), since it allows the player to equip two role-centric trinkets rather than a PvP trinket and a role-centric trinket. This is an interesting side-effect of the same issue, in my eyes. I do not really mind humans having access to two trinkets, as I would see them with a Vial or Cunning either way, but the human would have ~450 more resilience than another race. I think that the problem is, and has been for a while, resilience.

Okay, this is getting long. Resilience is essentially the crux of PvP and largely the difference between PvP gear and PvE gear. I believe that the problem has always been that resilience simply does not have enough inventive to use it over some powerful trinket or weapon from a raid. Why would I go for a tier-2 weapon if I could get a legendary? Why would I use the Badge of Conquest over a Vial? The tradeoff is always "resilience versus an overpowered proc".

Well, when put like that, it makes the problem simple to view and understand. The proc is "worth" more, in the eyes of a PvP'er, the resilience lost. We simply need to make resilience a better stat than the proc without really changing the game; since the NAO tournament shows us a relatively balanced play-field (everyone is in full PvP gear with no PvE gear; roughly the same resilience across the board) and allows us to view the game on that even ground, we can assume that this is the balance-point.

So, what if we change resilience rating to be per-slot. By that, I mean, that resilience rating would largely correspond to a number; 400 resilience rating is worth 1 resilience (say). That would mean that full PvP gear would be ~16 resilience (16 slots, 17 if you equip mh/oh, but that should add up to the 2h equivalent). Okay, so what we do is make it so that in any given season, 16 resilience is the goal for resilience for all players, so that any player who drops a piece or two of gear for PvE gear loses something valuable... simple!

All damage and healing done to another player is at -48%. So, if you hit the target dummy for 10,000 with Shred, you would hit a player for 5,200. Similarly, if that Greater Heal would normally heal your tank with no buffs for 15,000, it will only land for 7,800 on another player.

"Wtf Rey... that doesn't fix anything... that just makes everything happen on a smaller scale and stam will out-pace it very quickly!"

Fine... here's the fix:

1 Resilience increases damage and healing done to player controlled characters by 3%.

If a player has 16 resilience (meaning that they are wearing resilience in every slot), then they will have +48% (3 * 16) damage and healing to  player controlled characters.

Boom. Fixed. Fixed forever, in fact. Essentially, all players start out at the same deficit at the beginning of the expansion (when HP, damage, and healing are low), but as each progresses and gets more and more resilience, they will be gaining more and more damage/healing against players. When everyone has full PvP gear, they will have 16 resilience, and therefore have their "balanced" damage output.

If a player decides to drop a resilience trinket for a PvE trinket, then they will do 3% less damage with everything, including the trinket's proc. If they decide they want to use legendary dagger, the gain might not be 3% overall damage, but the loss certainly will be. Now, this idea is far from polished; there are definitely things to consider with a change like this.

* Would resilience keep its current functionality of reducing damage from other players?

Of course - this is why resilience is a good stat in general. Balancing damage so that it is manageable for healers and defensive/offensive cooldowns. The issue at hand is how to deal with people who trade 1% more damage received for a huge burst from a trinket or weapon. It is not the damage received that needs to be increased, but rather the tradeoff in damage done when NOT using PvP gear.

* How would rerolls in the middle of an expansion ever expect to get up to geared in a quick manner if they will be losing all their games to teams at low ratings, but 16 resilience, since they will be doing roughly 50% damage and healing?

Well, the honor gear would have ALMOST as much resilience as the main PvP gear. If we make it so that honor gear gets you to 12 resilience, and full conquest gets you to 16, then you are close enough to compete after kitting out an honor set that you can start acquiring arena gear.

* What if 3% damage is not enough to dissuade people from using trinkets like Vial and Cunning; they might not care that they do 3% less damage overall as long as their burst is still stronger?

Good point, what if we make the scaling of resilience non-linear again but favor it in the opposite direction? Say that having one piece of resilience gear does not get you a point of resilience. Maybe even three pieces does not get you to one point of resilience. Maybe if you are half-geared, you will have 4 points of resilience. Once you get to 12 pieces of gear, you are up to 9 resilience, and at 14 pieces of gear, the player will be at 11 resilience. At 15/16 pieces of gear, the player will have 13 resilience as opposed to 16. Now, that player is at a 9% damage or healing deficit as compared to his full-PvP wearing counterparts. We can scale it so that being "mostly PvP-geared" is simply not the same as "entirely PvP-geared", but not cripplingly so, just enough to disencentivize players from putting on a PvE trinket.

* What happens next season when new gear comes out, do we get more resilience than 16?

No, the scaling simply changes (like crit rating every expansion) during a season transition. Say you have 16 resilience today (at 4800 resilience rating, or whatever the number is), and tomorrow the new arena season starts - you might have 8 resilience tomorrow (at the same 4800 resilience rating). Now, as you upgrade your pieces of gear (16 upgrades total), you will gain a 0.5 resilience. That means that every two upgrades you get gives you 3% more damage or healing as well as more stam and your primary and secondary stats (more crit/mastery and agi, in Feral's case).

* What about the honor gear, though? That is still an upgrade from last season's arena gear, but just not as much.

Correct, the honor gear (12 resilience) is exactly half-way from last season's arena gear (8 resilience in the new expansion) to this season's arena gear (16 resilience). This is actually a good thing! The start of the new season actually gives rerolls the chance to gear up at nearly the same rate as last season's gladiators. Additionally, if forces to the gladiators of last season to actually roll BGs to upgrade their gear to honor to improve their resilience while they are capped on conquest points.

As I said before, this method probably could use some tweaking, and I definitely have not seen it from every angle; I am positive there are edge-cases that I am missing. Point them out and I will try and answer them as best I can. I do not know what, if anything, Blizzard plans on doing about PvE gear in PvP content, but I think that my solution is clean, simple to implement, and straight-forward to understand.

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MoP is a Helluva Drug

Happy Monday, everyone! Firstly, let me say this - Feral+Rogue+Priest is hilarious control when not going against melee-cleaves (TSG and Enh+War+Pal). When we are firing on all cylinders, we have a hard time being stopped. Tentmonto also swapped his spec to a slower Hemo spec and threw on some 397 LFR axes, and suddenly his damage went through the roof (almost catching up to me on some matches, hur hur). Additionally, Tent brought over his warlock and we started carrying him on 3s until he gets geared a little better running Feral+Aff+RSham. This team is actually the more hilarious of the two; as soon as his warlock gets gear, this comp will be gladiator viable (not to say that Feral+Rogue+Priest isn't, but we have hard-counters in plate-cleaves whereas Feral+Aff+RSham seems like bad-rls - decent-to-OP against everything).

Mists of Pandaria.

Guntir and I were talking on Sunday about some of the unmentioned changes that we are seeing in various tooltips on the calculator. I have pointed most of those out either here or in the Druid boards, and most of these are Druid-centric (though, I did mention how Rogues are losing their +20% healing received as well as Ferals, so I cover some other classes as well). Guntir was looking more into which healers would be the flavor of the month once MoP dropped and the arenas were opened again and has basically narrowed it down to Holy Pallies, who are getting a spammable CC amongst a handful of hilariously overpowered abilities in their kits (including AoE blind as their level 87 ability).

I do not care to talk too much about Holy Pallies here; I am more concerned about a post from the blues last week concerning abilities and talents.

We're going to give you all of the "mandatory" talents to your class spec, and you'll learn those talents at certain levels like you do with core class spells. Players who skip over what we consider mandatory talents today -- like Raging Blow or Hot Streak -- are unintentionally (or maybe even intentionally) gimping themselves, and that's not what we want to have happen. We want players to be able to experience the full power of their class, so we're going to award certain talents straight-out. 
Specifically, there are a number of talents in the Feral tree to which this quote directly applies. One of my favorites to hate on is Blood in the Water, which is now just a part of the Ferocious Bite tooltip. I have always liked this talent in general, as it can be a truly powerful one if the stars align. My main annoyance with it is the fact that Blizzard stated that they wanted players to spend more time in an "injured state" in Cataclysm as compared to Wrath. This, of course, never came into fruition and healers are still largely playing the "heal 50% of the target's hp in one cast" game, which leads to opponents never being sub-25% except right before they die. The 2-set bonus from PvE gear gets that number to sub-60% hp, which is much more of a reality in PvP situations in my experience, but I doubt that Blizzard will be changing our "execute" any time soon.

Ravage has also gotten this treatment in that it now innately gains a 50% critical strike chance against any target above 80% health. Similarly, we notice that Brutal Impact is now baked into both Skull Bash (although, it looks like Skull Bash might actually be free; there is no energy cost associated with it) and Bash. Rend and Tear gets this treatment baked into Shred's tooltip (20% more damage to bleeding targets) and Rake now simply has a 15s duration as if Endless Carnage was baked into it.

I thought that this stance by Blizzard makes a lot of sense in light of their new talent design - six tiers per class and one point per tier as opposed to six tiers per spec with five points at each tier makes for very little room for "flavor talents" like Blood in the Water, which is mandatory in PvE, but certainly not PvP. Blizzard has basically said that the non-mandatory talents that are still almost always taken are the heart of the new talent system - Feral Charge is taken by every Feral regardless, but it is in no way mandatory in a PvE sense; so it becomes a talent choice and gives flavor to the class.

Another interesting change that Blizz talked about was the less mandatory, but still defining talents in the current system:

The third category of talents are still pretty cool, but they just aren't at the same level as other talents. These talents make good glyphs. For example, an early version of the warrior tree had Rude Interruption as a talent, but we feel it's too situational to compete with the other talents, so we'll likely make it a glyph.
This is, without any pretense, huge; staggeringly huge. Notice amongst my listed talents which will be baked into our abilities out-right which are missing: Furor, Fury Swipes, Feral Aggression, and Primal Madness (I suppose that we could include Heart of the Wild, Natural Shapeshifter, and Master Shapeshifter in this group, but these are, what many consider to be, mandatory talents and I expect we can see these simply baked into the class some how).

Now, basically all Druids have considered Furor to be a mandatory talent since Vanilla - being able to have enough rage to Feral Charge (Bear) someone has been mandatory for PvP forever, and since Furor was updated to allow the generation of energy in cat form while not in cat form, Furor has been a mandatory Feral talent. I am hoping - nay, praying - that Furor is simply baked into the class come MoP; I cannot see it going live without this being a part of being a Druid since it has been for so long. Elle has pointed out that Cat and Bear forms both have their Furor-aspects baked into the tooltips, which is awesome!

However, Feral Aggression and Primal Madness seem ripe for being turned into glyphs. With Faerie Fire being changed to only be a single stacking application in MoP, we can ignore that portion; however, we can see the bonus 10% damage to Ferocious Bite easily being part of an FB glyph, and Primal Madness seems like it would be a decent glyph addition as well. Fury Swipes is something of a mystery to me; I do not see it being anything but free damage for Ferals and to be quite honest, I do not see it really fitting with Druids at the moment - I would guess that it is either being scrapped entirely, or Blizzard simply forgot to put it into the talent kits for Feral (and maybe Guardian).

"But wait... you said 'staggeringly huge'... these don't sound so amazing!"

Okay, you got me there, that was just house-cleaning for the huge stuff. Blizzard said that they want to change up the glyphs situation a while back. I do not have the quote on hand right at the moment, but from what I recall of it they wanted it to be like this:

Primary Glyphs - huge ability-defining differences
Major Glyphs - smaller flavor changes, but still somewhat useful
Minor Glyphs - ... might be going away in favor of just baking all these into the classes

What I took from that coupled with this latest talent explanation is that the PGs are going to be revamped. At present, Feral does not really have a choice when it comes to PGs; we take Bloodletting, Rip, and Berserk because they are the obvious dps choices. This, again, is boring! Bloodletting is the most interesting amongst them, and if we look at Rip's new tooltip, this is baked into the ability already. NOW YOU SEE IT! This is the staggeringly huge bit - a lot of the boring glyphs are going away in favor of more interesting ones. Dare I say it? Glyph of Ferocious Bite might be changed to allow it to refresh the duration on Rip on targets at or below 60% health? What about amending the current primary glyphs like Tiger's Fury - "Reduces the cooldown on Tiger's Fury by 3 seconds and also causes Tiger's Fury to give 20 energy for the duration. At the end of Tiger's Fury, the energy is lost"; Glyph of Berserk - "Increases the duration of your Berserk ability by 10 seconds and causes your Berserk to give 20 energy for the duration. At the end of Berserk, the energy is lost."

I can see a whole slew of these "new" primary glyphs being added in MoP. It could make for some very interesting choices!

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Apparently, mid-day the blog went to some "mosaic" view... not really sure wtf happened there, but I'm back now and the SOPA/PIPA blackout has ended.

Hope everyone enjoyed it! ^_^

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Mondays Are Hard

Ugghhhh... I got into work yesterday and had, in essence, an all day emergency with a production machine, which is why I did not get a chance to write up a post. Additionally, I went home and drank in excess and did not have the capacity for rational thought, let alone decent writing. However, it is now Tuesday, and I am feeling well (sort of) and it is about time I kick this pig, as they say.

First, let me give up an update and an apology for last week's novel of a post. Ultimately, I think that removing Vengeance from PvP is probably a decent decision balance-wise, I simply take issue with the precedent it sets. Well, I have finally updated my kit to include a season eleven first tier weapon, so my damage per second has gone up by at least 100. With nothing else said, this damage upgrade is somewhat shocking, but when I look at the damage output of other classes, I can understand it. There are essentially two types of damage-dealers in the PvP game right now: those based on control and therefore low damage, and those based on high damage and less control. Feral happens to blur that line ever so slightly with Cyclone, but is leaning much more towards the high-damage and less control side.

I got home from work last Tuesday around 3:45p. Guntir does not normally get home from work until 5:30p, so I did both of my LFRs (and was lucky enough to simply get in on the last boss of each and down each on the first attempt; woo!) and collected my 500 "dragon-points". I realized a while ago that those points simply do not get me anything I care too much about, so I traded them in for Conquest Points, which go against my weekly total, but also give me earned points against my season, so that put me 500 points closer to my tier one weapon, which I could get that day by knocking out some games.

So, now I'm sitting there at 4:15p thinking "if only i knew some people who would run 5s with me for points, I could have my weapon ready for games tonight." So, I get into trade chat and start spamming "2300 exp Feral, LF 5s, pst". I get a few tells from 1800-rated guys saying that the server was dead and the only few good PvP'rs are already on teams and what-not. So, I am sitting there a bit discouraged, but not too bad; I sort of knew that the server we were on was not very lively. Then, out of the blue having not spammed trade chat for at least ten minutes, I get a tell:

"Hey, we might have a spot on our 5s for you." - some Rogue

Hmmm, well, let's see what he's got. His achievements had him listed as a 2200+ player in 2s and 3s, but he has no Duelist title... hmm. I respond and explain that I am really just trying to get points today for my weapon, but I would run 5s with him. Then he starts explaining to me how he had rolled this Rogue up two seasons ago because he wanted to play a Rogue instead of his Warlock, who is a multi-gladiator. Whoa, did not see that one coming. Anyway, we started running FRP, and while we still have some kinks to work out, we are playing very well. We have yet to run the 5s team, but I am excited to see how we play together, given that his priest friend is also a multi-gladiator (Guntir would be playing his shaman).

The thing I notice the most about playing with a gladiator-caliber player is just how coordinated he makes the game-play. I am not specifically talking about calling out everything he does and making smart moves and target-calls, though that is definitely part of it; I am mostly talking about how having a teammate who plays so well affects how well we play. He will apply pressure so instantly that I will have an opportunity to apply pressure on a different target via Cyclone or a stun, which will allow Guntir to land the perfect fear-bomb. Just getting everything to click is much easier and it allows us the opportunity to beat teams we have had trouble with in the past, such as caster-cleaves and hard-core melee-cleaves. Seeing him Shadowstep to a healer to land a kick and follow it with a full blind while running back to the kill target is something beautiful to behold, and it makes my Cyclones that much more powerful.

Okay, while that is exciting, I want to talk about Symbiosis. Obviously, we are slowly marching toward MoP and are likely to hear more and more about the level-87 abilities for various classes. Symbiosis is nice in that it is not outwardly obvious how it will operate, which leaves people like me miles of room to speculate. Symbiosis is also nice in that it sets the tone for how the ability should work in theory, and it is expressed in a way that makes it seem like two possible scenarios could unfold:

First, I see the scenario where it is basically a useless ability. We are all hoping that this is not the case, obviously, but I really could see the Daily Blink's rendition (gives everyone Seal Form while we take useless spells like Fortitude or Shiv) coming to fruition. Why would Blizzard do it this way? Well, simply because the alternative to this scenario is, to put it bluntly, scary.

The other scenario I see for Symbiosis is that it acts exactly as worded, and it is blatantly overpowered and inherently unable to be balanced. Think about the following use-case: I cast Symbiosis on Guntir in 2s; I gain Leap of Faith, and he gains Healing Touch. At face value, Leap of Faith for me is not a huge boon, but when you consider the fact that I have Wild Charge at my disposal, it becomes a game-changer. If we are fighting on Blade's Edge, Guntir can now jump down to try and pull down a melee, and I can grip him back up. Alternatively, if I chase a Warlock down from the bridge and Guntir follows to heal, then the healer might follow as well. When the Lock teleports back to the bridge, I can Wild Charge up to the Warlock, and grip Guntir up to follow to keep me healed up. More-over, Guntir can run in to Fear-bomb a group without much worry at least once a match, because I will be able to grip him back to a pillar if need be. There is also the case where Guntir gets into a full Kidney Shot from a Rogue and the Rogue starts his Shadowdance; I would be able to pull him out and waste most of that dance.

So, there is a really interesting bit of play there, but what is more interesting is that I gave Guntir Healing Touch. Why is that interesting? Well, if Guntir has a melee on him and he needs to heal, he can just start spamming Healing Touch. If the melee kicks him, he would be kicked on Nature and could continue to cast his normal disc/holy spells. There is definitely a case to be made for giving a healer a heal, that would otherwise be useless to me, especially if that heal is in a completely different school and therefore would not be locked out from kicks (or vise versa).

Additionally, since the tooltip reads "grants the Druid one ability from the target's class, varying by the Druid's specialization", it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see that Rogues, as a class - not a spec, get Evasion, Sap, Recuperate, Gouge, Vanish, Dismantle, Cloak of Shadows, Redirect, and Smoke Bomb, just to name a few. I feel that it is easiest to visualize the swap with a Rogue, since our play-kits are so similar, but even a warrior would have Execute, Overpower, Berserker Rage, and Shattering Throw to trade. Obviously, when we start looking at other classes with completely different resource systems, we have to stretch our imaginations a bit more to see how it would work.

I expect that any abilities we gain from Symbiosis (and abilities we give) would have to be class/role specific. That is, we might get Overpower, but it would be the same functionality, but a different spell built around our scaling and mechanics. It might read "Overpower - Requires Cat Form - Instant - Instantly overpower the enemy, causing 540% damage [same damage as a Shred, but doesn't require being behind target]. Only useable after the target dodges. The Overpower cannot be blocked, dodged, or parried."

Of abilities we could give a Warrior or a Rogue that would be useful, Stampeding Roar comes to mind. The problem I see is that we simply do not have a number of utility skills that would not make for a completely broken rotation for another class. If we give Warriors Rake, for example, they now have another ability in their rotation that provides a strong damage over time bleed; would that give a Warrior/Rogue/Dk/etc the upper-hand dps-wise in a PvE environment? What about Dash? Could we give a Warrior Dash without it being overpowered? I am honestly struggling with what we could give a Warrior that would not be either useless or overpowered.

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The Second Monday

I was walking back from Starbucks on Sunday morning when it dawned on me that I had not wish any of you a happy new year. I sometimes forget just how long I have been maintaining this blog (believe me, it is a surprisingly long time), and it is readers like you for whom I write; happy new year!

Briefly, there is a patch up on the PTR and while most of the listed changes are bug fixes *cough*magesnerfeddamage*cough*, there is one aspect I would like to discuss more deeply:

Vengeance is no longer triggered by receiving damage from other players.

Okay, I see where Blizzard is aiming to go with this; it makes sense to a certain degree. Allow me to put some things into perspective by saying that yes, Blizzard needed to do something about most tanking classes in the arenas, and yes, this is definitely a change that will affect tanking specs in BGs as well and that might have been needed to a certain degree on a small number of maps. I think that, overall, this change will be warmly received by most BGers (save for the tanks, of course), largely not affect most high-rated PvPers, and generally ruin an interesting and fun way to play the game.

Okay, so you step into a battleground and end up going toe-to-toe with a Blood DK and you do not happen to be a Druid, Hunter, or Rogue; what do you do? Generally speaking, you run or die. How about a more specific case to which most mid-range PvPers can relate - you are running Warrior+HPal and you get into a match against BloodDK+BloodDK; what do you do? There is currently a lot of debate going on over whether this should be a supported style of play, and generally the argument makes its way back to BloodDKs more than most any other tank (though Feral comes up frequently as well since our dps spec also has access to Vengeance).

While I tend to agree that Vengeance is a mechanic that needs to be examined thoroughly in PvP, I do not believe that it is one that needs to be absent from PvP entirely. Largely, I do not see any benefit from Vengeance except in BGs, and let's be honest - BGs are sort of gimmicky PvP anyway and should be taken with a grain of salt when discussing game balances. In the arenas, if you are a tank spec, then you are rolling the dice that you will not be matched against a decent Rogue, Hunter, or Druid, and while Druids seem to be in short supply in 3s, Hunters and Rogues make up half of the DPS toons one faces (more-so Rogues than Hunters... by a HUGE margin).

I think that the Vengeance change just bothers me mainly because of the tone it sets - Blizzard thinks that Vengeance is well balanced in PvE, and is largely unwilling to attempt any changes to it in a PvP context because of the ramifications any change might have on PvE. Many cynics will end up calling this a "lazy fix" because of that tone. These are the types of changes that Blizz has stated again and again that they truly do not want to do but, without doing some extremely hard balancing, are necessary.

I think that one argument that could be made is one for the Blood DKs. Believe me, there is no love lost from me on DKs in general, but I actually do feel for long-time Blood DKs because Blizzard essentially made a stance that Blood was the tanking spec, removed all dps viability from it, and in doing so removed the play-style from any competitive PvP environment except for running flags in WSG and WSG2. Now, when old-time Blood DKs probably just queued up in 2s to get some points for the week and found a comp that works as well as a niche in BGs, Blizzard is again coming in and saying "you should not be viable at this - we are removing that viability next patch."

Once again, it is tone. I do not like how Blizzard approaches some of the changes in the last few months; swinging the nerfbat wildly at anything that peaks up. I feel like this change, in particular, will end up disenfranchising a huge number of players who have come to enjoy the play-style which, around Vengeance, they have built. Moreover, I feel that this nerf is simply another that ends with the casuals feeling a little better (though they are largely still going to lose half their matches and BGs, and will find something new to gripe about) while the players who had found a genuinely interesting way to play the game in the medium brackets are left to pout and again have to go back to the cookie-cutter specs and glyphs and play a game they were probably bored of already.


It is probably worth switching messages here; I have beaten that horse to the ground by now and all of you get it - I do not like the Vengeance change, but I think it will largely "fix" the "problem".

Of course, this does incur new problems. Looking ahead to MoP, now any tanking class is going to have 2 other options except for Druids, who randomly get a fourth option. That is, DKs will have 2 dps specs, Pallies will have 1, Warriors will have 2, and Druids will have 2. Essentially, what ended up happening to DKs was done because it was the "easy" choice to make Blood the tanking spec since they had two separate melee dps specs; doing the same to Druids would have been impossible as any Feral (such as myself) would have quit the game on the spot since no other melee dps specialization exists. In MoP, Blizzard is giving Druids a new melee spec, but it will be a tanking role and Feral will be the melee dps role.

There are a lot of subtle changes happening that are truly laying the ground-work for MoP. Vengeance not proc'ing against Players is just one of the larger one-line changes that sets up the MoP landscape. In essence, MoP will have "tank as a spec" beaten into everyone's head by the time it drops that no one will question it - Blood, Prot (and Prot), and Guardian will be synonymous with tanking. Will tanking specs still be required to tank things like Van/Drek in AV? Will a dedicated tank still be required for IOC? What about carrying flags? Essentially, all the tanking mechanics in the game are going to be balanced around Vengeance and if Vengeance only procs when an NPC hits you, then tanks will have no place in PvP except tanking AV. Even running the flag will be left to survival-heavy classes, but maybe not tanks, since so much of their survivability revolves around Vengeance.

Feral, moving forward, will require a lot of changes. I do not think that many yet realize just how much survivability Feral is losing from the split between Cat and Bear. Survival Instincts, while a strong defensive cooldown, is going to be Guardian-only. Going Bear Form is going to be useless in MoP as the armor and damage reduction, both innate and Faceblock (honestly cannot recall the name), are going to be Guardian-only. Cat Form is losing its innate "20% extra healing received" and really not seeing any new defensive cooldowns in the spec, forcing Ferals to choose talents which provide survivability such as Displacer Beast and Renewal.

Will said talents be enough to overcome our losses? Probably not; at least probably not in my opinion. I feel like there is a ton of choices to be made that simply leave Feral at a strained position vying for any semblance of a niche in PvP. At the moment, Feral is the spec that brings an instant-cast Cyclone, but training said Feral means those instant-casts are few and far between already and removing the damage reduction options we currently have just means we will have fewer opportunities in the future.

What can be done?

Well, I think that MoP is far enough away that we can expect some more changes to be made in many different means, but we must stay vocal about Feral's needs (as well as our wants). In my opinion, Mangle needs to be treated as the PvP dps button. Our survivability, at the moment, relies on our ability to pick up Displacer Beast at the first tier, and if Shred is around what our damage is balanced and it does 20% more than Mangle, then we cannot use Mangle without a change; this means we cannot take Displacer Beast over Feral Swiftness without a change.

I am, as I have done in the past, lobbying for Mangle to provide 2 combo points baseline, and an additional combo point upon critically striking (via Primal Fury) for Feral but not for Guardian. This would be a distinguishing change that would make Mangle a viable alternative in terms of utility and damage-dealing with limited up-time on a kill-target (particularly, with limited up-time to the target's backside, as is mostly the case against mages). Shred would still do 20% more damage than Mangle, as it is currently set up to be in MoP, but Mangling would provide more finishers with a limited up-time; this leads to more ability to use Predator's Swiftness as well as Maim and Savage Roar in a PvP context. Additionally, this allows Ferals to make choices like Displacer Beast without having to worry about how they will ever get behind their opponents.

I feel like Feral will, at one point or another, require an ability to reduce damage aside from Barkskin. Additionally, Feral will be the only melee dps that can do nothing against a caster in order to either reduce damage or immune damage all together, and I am expecting this will change, but I would not be surprised if it were overlooked. Hopefully, we see another iteration of the talent trees and abilities book before too long.

... and there is still the question of how Symbiosis will work and what it will mean for Ferals.

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The Honor Grind

As many have probably guessed, I am having a bit of trouble stepping back into the arena after my hiatus given that my gear is "old-n-busted" as compared to the current season's gear. That being said, I have been grinding honor. Maybe it is just my broken memory, maybe it is just me being a cynic, but I remember BGs being a lot more annoyingly bad in the past. I have had a great number of BGs where I will be sitting at LM in AB and calling out in bg-chat "inc farm" or "4 inc bs" etc, and the team will, without any protest or conflicting words, rotate properly and defend the node. The only exception to this rule is in EotS where my team will insist on fighting over mid in a 2-2 bout with me holding the flag at FR saying "I am not capping; push MT and stop fighting at mid".

By the way, I missed when this happened, but apparently the scoreboard informs player specializations now. Fantastic! I have seen a number of addons that print summaries as the BG is about to begin showing how many healers the opposing team has and how many my team has. Guntir tells me that this was a ninja addition in one of the posts between 4.0.6 and 4.3 (the builds I have played). Technically, it should not really matter how many healers your opposition has, but seeing that your team of 15 has 4 healers is a pretty welcomed sight which, in my view, fills the team with a bit of confidence - especially when you see the opposing team has one or fewer.

Another aspect to BGs that was added in my absence is the "role" indicator. While it is largely useless in EotS and AB, knowing who the tank is and who the healers are in AV, WSG, TP, and to a lesser extent IoC is extremely helpful. In the last few days, I switched my spec over to my "tanking" feral build (which long-time readers will recall was an attempt at adding survivability to my double-healer+Feral team back in June) to run flags. Basically, I take Natural Reaction and one point in Thick Hide over Primal Madness and an additional point in Fury Swipes. In essence, I get 18% damage reduction in Bear Form, rage when I dodge, a bit more dodge, and some minor armor, and chance to be crit reduction in exchange for 20 energy from TF and Berserk. With a pocket healer, this spec makes me nigh-invincible now that I am around 4200 resilience (as compared to ~3500 last week).

Another thing that shocked me was my discovery that the season 11 honor weapon was only a 6 ilvl improvement from my season 9 tier 2. I was grinding to try and replace my weapon thinking it would be a decent little upgrade, but I have basically given up that idea. It will be another few weeks before I have "earned" enough conquest points before I am allowed to buy my weapon, but I am looking forward to seeing that upgrade. Additionally, I think all the kinks are worked out now and we should be running a kittycleave variant this week on Wednesday. Seeing the damage potential from Warrior+Feral in bgs (random warriors), I am excited at the prospect.

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