I Am Empty

Sorry for the late post (again). I am simply too tired and do not have enough information to make a constructive post. Yeah, I could take another day or two and probably come up with a good topic, but I will just save it for next week. Instead, I will just post some things that happened of late.

Firstly, I found a Holy Paladin who hates himself as much as we do and we started running H8rsGunH8Cleave again. I tried the comp with a Blood in the Water build and my two-piece LFR bonus, and it worked pretty well at some points, but largely the loss of stats was too hard to overcome once we started getting matched against 2200 teams. We would end up stalemated for a long long time, then someone on our team (usually me) would get sloppy and cost us the match. We lost one to a Rogue+Enh+Disc team that was sitting around 2200 and shocked me.

Secondly, I watched and rewatched a number of Feral PvP videos just to see some play-styles of high-rated Ferals. I always feel like going back to damage-dealing as a paradigm makes for better play overall, so watching great Feral play can almost always teach me something. Notably, this time through I re-learned that I need to pool energy for burst opportunities. One of the problems I have with this is that in order to start a burst opportunity, I almost always want the healer to be CC'd and usually this means Cycloning them, but if I am pooling energy and combo points with bleeds rolling, then I will not really have the opportunity for the Cyclone. What I learned is that even though an early Cyclone can net a kill, it is usually disruptive to burst; almost all the high-rated Ferals I watch allow their teammates to use their CC first when initiating a burst attempt so that the Feral can follow with a Cyclone (since the first thing you do in the burst rotation is usually FB, we should have our instant cast available for the next 6 seconds in case of a trinket, and if no trinket is available, getting the burst window to be a double-FB rotation means that an instant Cyclone will be available against with 1-2 seconds left on a standard 8s CC).

Thirdly, I keep encountering Enhancement Shamans in just about every arena match. I do not know when Enhance became such a flavor, but since more than half the teams in arenas will have a Warlock on them and the other half will have a Priest, I can only assume that Tremor Totem sits behind the issue. In fact, we faced (and got completely stomped by) a Feral+Enhance+RSham team that was staggeringly strong. I know absolutely nothing about Enhancement and how they burst, but I took a screenshot of getting hit by Lava Lash for 40k in my 4700 resilience, so I have to assume that their burst revolves around that. Facing this team truly made me think about running it if I could find a decent Enhance shammy.

Lastly, I purchased a new application for recording video and audio (it handles the Skype recording for me, which is pretty dang cool). It is called ScreenFlow and it works amazingly. It does not cause any visual hangups, hiccups, or slow-downs, and it stores the videos as raw data so that I can create a video with limited compression and have really nice quality. Additionally, it records both the outbound and inbound sounds for me and keeps them as a separate track from the video, so I can include or exclude them on exporting to an editor. So, we may yet see the rebirth of my youtube channel and hopefully get some 3s footage out soon.

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It Has Been Said

... that is is Monday once again. Okay, technically it is Tuesday after a Monday holiday, but I ended up doing quite a bit yesterday and somehow writing up a post did not make it into the schedule. Instead, Guntir and I spent the majority of the day playing arenas with a Hunter we knew. Junglecleave, as it is called, is a silly team composition. It provides a lot of offensive pressure, good spacing for all teammates, and a ton of instant-cast crowd control. We ended up doing very well against all the teams we faced except for RLS and ThugCleave (although, one ~2k ThugCleave was farming us and in desperation we tried the strat "throw everything we have at the Priest" and accidentally killed him before he used Pain Suppression). Interestingly, what I want to discuss has little to do with the match-ups and composition strengths and weaknesses, though that is interesting; Guntir said it best when we were discussing the StealthCleave we were running with Tent as "StealthCleave is a solid comp, but it gets countered by too many of the FotM comps [RLS, VIP, ThugCleave]."

No, composition and matching is interesting, but I want to talk about the Elo system for match-making. Long-time readers will, just now, have said "again!?" rather loudly. It is true, I have discussed this system ad nauseum back when it was first explained to the player base, but with recent MMR changes I feel it is worth another look. For those readers who are unfamiliar, the Elo system of "fair match-making" was originally introduced as a means for rating and matching professional Chess players. The idea is fairly straight-forward and easily understood by anyone who has stepped into the arena: a weighted system that suggests, rather accurately, whether a given player should or should not defeat another player. Specifically, if you are 1800-rated and you face a 1600-rated, you should defeat your opponent if both ratings are solidified.

Interestingly, what becomes contended is when and how ratings become solidified. As an example, I had something like 111 games played in 3s on my current team up to yesterday and we had something around an 1800 rating. In fact, we very quickly got to around 1800 and then sat there for a large number of those games; something like 50-60 games bubbling right around 1800. Yesterday, we decided to give JungleCleave a try and ended up playing 65 games; we went 39:26:0, which is exactly a 60% win-ratio. Again, for long-time readers, bells should be going off. At a 60% win-ratio, our team should be showing signs of improvement in the Elo system. Essentially, we were at ~1800 and getting matched against other 1800 teams (having been firmly solidified at 1800ish), and we were winning more than half of these matches. The Elo system corrects rating by giving out proportional rating amounts to winners and taking (what should be equal but is not any longer) some from the losers.

Okay, so this rehash is sort of boring and old-hat at this point; you go above 50% win-ratio and you move up; I ended up finishing around 1900 yesterday. My concern is the distance traveled, however, in that we ended up playing 65 games over the course of many hours and ended up only gaining ~100 rating with a 60% win-ratio. Obviously, other things factor into the mix; we did end up losing to a fair few 1700-1800-rated teams to whom we should not have lost, but we balanced that out by also beating a few 2k-rated teams. Essentially, our low-losses were about 50-50 with our high-wins (we farmed a 2k Kittycleave down to 1900; they had to be pissed), and we ended up carrying a 60% win-ratio against evenly matched teams.

What I am mainly annoyed by is the rate of change. I ended up having, and I use this term lightly because it was fun doing so, to play 65 games over the course of probably 4 hours to gain 100 rating. I feel a 60% win-ratio is pretty strong, though definitely not gladiator material. In fact, I would have to imagine that a 60% win-ratio, if sustained, would eventually get a team into gladiator range all things being equal. In fact, the Elo system subtly points us towards this fact by showing that once a team sits around 50%, their rating stops moving. Okay, so I guess that if we continue playing this team for weeks and weeks and maintain our 60% win-ratio, we will eventually hit 2.2k, but that seems like an awfully hard grind, when compared to the PvE content. Maybe it should be hard; maybe the MMR-reset that has made 2.2k almost Gladiator-range on my battlegroup was a good thing overall. We are seeing fewer 2400+ teams and basically no 3k teams, and maybe that means taht the MMR system is finally evening out.

I do not know... I just know that it is frustrating playing 4-5 hours of successful arena matches and only gaining 100 rating when I am still 300 rating away from the best weapon I can get. I keep joking with Guntir that if I ever get the shoulders in an LFR, I am going to respec to Blood in the Water and find a Resto Shaman to run double-healer Feral again. Recall, I made the double-healer Feral team work with a Holy Pally who did not speak much English and it was before the days of Vengeance being hilarious overpowered; largely, nothing has changed for that comp from season nine to season eleven except that the PvE gear available is much more easily attained and much less of a detriment for me to wear. I have trouble giving up two pieces of iLvL 403 for two pieces of iLvL 384; twenty item levels is quite a bit of stats to give up, but the increase in damage and pressure from a 60%-range Blood in the Water is extremely appealing.

On a different swing, the fine folks over at MMO-Champion are of the opinion that the internal alpha has started and is likely pretty far along over at Blizzard. The reasons for this belief are pretty lacking except that the community managers have been answering questions on the forums, which is unusual, and posting in-game screen shots of tooltips with the spellbook opened in the background with texts like "NYI [not yet implemented".

I tend to agree that this evidence looks strong enough to support a claim that the internal alpha has begun. Usually, this means that while things are being nailed down, information will start to trickle out more and more; however, since Blizzard is planning a press event, rather than BlizzCon, in mid-March, I have to believe that the Friends and Family Alpha will not begin until then. The FaF-Alpha is always the time when information, that is supposed to be under a strict NDA, starts to leak out and Blizzard always has a hard time keeping such things under wraps. In fact, the NDA-breaking was so rampant and rough with Cataclysm that Blizz eventually lifted the NDA early and pushed the Beta a month earlier than planned (according to my source who got me into the Beta last time).

I would not go so far as to say that Blizzard likely will give us no more information until the press release, but I certainly would not be surprised by that should it come to pass. I am, of course, hoping for additional information like everyone else, but I suspect that Blizzard has given us our large information "hay bale" and expects us to live through winter until the press release.

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Holy Talent Calculators, Batman!

That's right, kiddies; they updated the talent

Tier 1

At the first tier, the changes are rather staggering. Displacer Beast, while still a 3min CD, now teleports the Druid forward 20 yards rather than randomly, but no longer removes DoTs from the Druid. I feel like this ability could be useful in some situations in PvE where it would put the Druid in stealth and thus wipe his threat, but ultimately it has lost all its usefulness in terms of PvP. Feline Swiftness is still on this tier, but it has been reduced from 30% to 15%, and Cat Form now innately has a 15% movement buff. The idea, as far as I can guess, is that these would stack to the normal 30% movement buff that most Ferals have grown to love. Wild Charge has been moved to this tier in place of "Dash2.0", which really was a useless talent and was (as I guessed it would be) removed as a "filler".

My pick: Wild Charge

There is no contest here; while a lot of PvP Ferals will complain about losing out on 15% run-speed, Wild Charge is now a 15s cooldown for all forms though it no longer gives free Ravages after use. This is fine, in my opinion, as it is back to what it was always supposed to be - a gap-closer. There really was no reason to have it give a free Ravage after use as this only caused annoyance in PvP during the burst rotation when the Feral would run away from his target (???) and charge back in to land a Ferocious Bite, a few Shreds, and a Ravage.

Only time will tell as to whether this ability goes live as-is, but it feels like a pretty obviously powerful (borderline OP?) ability. In caster form, you can pick a friendly target to brogrip you every 15s; there is a reason why the actual spell brogrip has a 1.5min cd. Cat Form still has the daze effect, but the cooldown is forgiving enough that I will not mind so much.

Tier 2

The second tier is largely unchanged except that Nature's Swiftness has had its cooldown reduced from 2 minutes to 1 minute. This is enough to make me stand at attention; I used to look at Renewal as a mandatory talent (a free 30% heal on a 2m cd? Yes, please!), but with Nature's Swiftness increasing the effect and duration of the spell used and allowing said spell to be used in Cat Form, it has to be said that this is definitely worth a try.

My pick: Nature's Swiftness

I am just imagining 8s duration Cyclones cast in Cat Form coupled with Wild Charge being on a 15s CD. It will be simple to run to a target, mash the NS+Cyclone macro, then Wild Charge back onto the kill target in high-pressure situations. I am still thinking about Renewal as a good ability, but if CC is still reigning supreme, then Nature's Swiftness will likely end up being my pick.

Tier 3

In the third tier, nothing really changed except that Faerie Swarm now directly replaces Faerie Fire and it does not say anything about a cooldown. Interestingly, Faerie Fire has been changed to suggest that its application also applies a 3-stack of another debuff called "Weakened Armor" which reduces the target's armor by 4% per application. Additionally, it seems that neither Faerie Fire or Faerie Swarm suggest that they can be used from Cat Form, though Faerie Fire says that it deals damage when cast from Bear Form so I have to assume that it can be cast in form.

Another change that happened at this tier is that Mass Entanglement now has no cast time to go along with its 2min CD. I was intrigued by this ability and I know that a number of moonkins are already talking about how good it will be, but I think that a 2min CD for it is just too long; a 1m CD would make this ability strong without being overpowered. One change that is less seen if all one has done is perused the talent tree is the fact that defensive dispels now do two things: dispel all magical (and whatever other types) debuffs and have an 8 second cooldown. The reason that this is such a huge change is that having an AoE magical root effect will actually be powerful against a double-melee comp as only one can be dispelled for the duration.

My pick: Typhoon

Just like last time, I really cannot express how useful Typhoon can be. There are a number of moonkins out there who are talking about taking Mass Entanglement, and I understand the sentiment here. If the cooldown is reduced, then I would definitely consider taking Mass Entanglement since it can be used in Form; it would be a great peel for Guntir.

Tier 4

The fourth tier went from being one of the most boring to being one of my favorites. Incarnation is still bad given that it will not reduce the cost of any of those openers (Ravage or Pounce); I feel like it is missing something as a dps cooldown for Feral, or perhaps more appropriately Feral's openers are poorly designed in terms of energy efficiency. I am still of the opinion that the bleed effect of Pounce should be worth-while and that both Ravage and Pounce should cost 30 energy.

Force of Nature, which I lovingly call Tree Posse, is still undetermined as to what it actually provides each specialization. It could be that the posse will provide some worth-while buff or utility (maybe a silence or an energy-regeneration aura), but until then we will just have to wait and see.

Lastly, a new talent popped up on this tier called Soul of the Forest which restores 2 energy per combo point consumed by a finishing move. This might not seem like much at face value, it essentially reads "all your finishing moves [except perhaps SR] now cost 10 energy less", but this talent could be coupled with a clear-casting proc to gain 10 energy (really 20; one would gain 10 from the gcd). In addition, Feral has always had trouble with generating combo points and this largely makes the using of finishers that much less painful and allows us to get back into our rotation.

My pick: Soul of the Forest

I would really like to see this talent return twice as much energy per combo point so that we could basically have the same treatment as Rogues instead of being Rogue_v0.8, but this talent is better than Incarnation (so far) and Tree Posse is such a wild-card that I cannot take it at present. If nothing else, taking Soul of the Forest will mean that we can always land a skull-bash after a finisher (although, Skull Bash still has no cost associated with it, so this might be a non-issue).

Tier 5

Demoralizing Roar was renamed Disorienting Roar and changed to be available for use in all shapeshift forms (I believe that this means Cat/Bear/Moonkin but NOT caster... not for sure, but this is my feeling). This is a great change as it has a 30s cooldown, has no cost associated with it, and provides an AoE disorient peel for a healer. At this point, I really do not see melee-cleave teams succeeding in MoP given the state of dispelling and the amount of peels that Feral is getting. I am very excited at the prospect of Disorienting Roar.

Ursol's Vortex was updated to have a 30y range and suggest that it will have a cast placement a la hurricane or tree posse. It still lasts 15 seconds and has a 15 yard range, but we still have no idea how this talent works. Does it effectively "keep" targets in its grasp for 15 seconds? That does not seem likely, does it pulse every 3 seconds for 15 seconds, so you would use it as a tank? Maybe... it really is unclear.

Lastly, replacing Wild Charge we have Mighty Bash, which is simply Bash but can be used in all forms. Sadly, yes, this means that Bash is no longer a staple of being a Bear. In addition, it continues the tradition of removing Resto Druid utility in that they will no longer have access to a stun and with Skull Bash being Guardian and Feral specialization abilities, Resto will not have access to an interrupt either.

My pick: Disorienting Roar

Again, I have no idea how Ursol's Vortex will work, but I have to believe it will be no more than a gimmick for PvE tanking. If it turns out that it is some sort of "quicksand" ability that causes spell interruption when it moves you, it might have some uses, but having AoE Gouge is just too strong a peel, in my opinion. I also might open in for Mighty Bash if the cooldown were reduced to 30 seconds, but that might be too strong for a free 5s stun.

Tier 6

Heart of the Wild is unchanged and still awful, in my opinion. It may have some niche use in PvE, though from my LFR experience, it will not. Disentanglement is still the same, surprisingly, though I thoroughly expect it to be nerfed in some manner before MoP goes live.

A new talent called Dream of Cenarius has been added which feels like an odd ability for PvE only as it causes the non-instant cast heals to grant 30% bonus damage to the Druid's next ability. So, if I throw an HT out on someone, my next Shred will hit 30% harder. This is interesting, but largely will be impractical in PvP (outside of BGs where looking for hilariously large FBs will be fun... get Berserking, get 5cps, cast Healing Touch, go Cat, pop TF with SR up, FB crits for 200k >_<). In PvE, I could see this being used on phases where the boss kills everything in melee range (think phase one of the robot boss from Ulduar with the lightning shock), so the Feral leaves melee range and throws an HT on the tank (or whomever) and gets his next Rip/Rake to have a bonus 30% damage. I do not see this going live, however, for that exact reason - it is a highly awkward mechanic that provides enough incentive to become part of the rotation. It has a 30s CD, so it will mean casting a heal every 30 seconds so that you next big ability does 30% more damage... this just feels weird.

My pick: Disentanglement

With dispels getting an 8s cooldown, I cannot fathom not taking Disentanglement.

Okay, that is the rundown on the talents. There were some interesting changes, but largely the PvP build is unchanged. Allow me now to discuss some of the subtle changes that were made to the game as a whole and how it affects Feral (this post is going to be long).

First and foremost, I have already brought it up, but Dispels are going to have an 8s cooldown. This is rather huge for classes which rely on dispel protection. Retribution, for instance, is truly scared of wings getting dispelled, but with an 8s cooldown, this means that basically offensive dispels will be a thing of the past; who would try to dispel Wings with a 1/6 chance to dispel the right buff and then open your team mates to CC for 8s? No one, that is who! The second interesting part of the dispel changes are the defensive dispel mechanic - it now dispels all debuffs of every dispel type. That is, Shamans have a dispel that removes Magic and Curse afflictions from a team member, so if an Affliction Lock gets a full row of DoTs up on a target, a Shammy can dispel all curse and magic effects from that target (and eat the silence from UA). This is really interest as it makes UA that much more powerful against healers; dispelling Fears just became nigh-impossible without eating a UA silence.

There are some things to note about Druids that are worth mentioning:

* Cat Form has innate +15% movement speed
* Cat Form gets a free +100% auto attack damage (???)
* Claw now does 350% weapon damage (as compared to the 425% for Shred and unknown amount for Mangle)
* Bear Hug is now baseline (3s self-cc that will do 10% of your current hp per second in damage and stun a target)
* Thrash is usable in all forms and applies a debuff called Weakened Blows which reduces physical damage done by 10% (basically demoralizing roar currently).
* Skull Bash does not seem to have a cost
* Resto/Balance get a passive ability called Natural Insight which increases the size of their mana pool by 400%; meaning that Feral will have 1/5 (or 1/4 depending on blizz's meaning) the mana pool size of most casters.

In addition, there are some things to note about non-Druids that will directly affect Ferals:

* Desecration is no longer an ability as far as I can tell (yay! no more pooping AoE snares all over the map for free!) [EDIT: It may end up being a glyph :-( ]
* Crippling Poison is now a 50% snare (yay! no more overpowered snares that are auto-applied!)

Lastly, we have a preview of how Symbiosis will work:

* All players will have a spell in their spell books called Symbiosis that does nothing.
* Once a player is affected by Symbiosis, their Symbiosis spell turns into the spell they are given (same for the casting Druid); much like Dark Simulacrum.
* A player may only be affected by one Symbiosis at a time.
* Has a 30 yard cast range
* Lasts 1 hour, persists through death.
* 6 second cast time.
* May not be cast in combat.
* Has a maximum range of effect before falling off.

That last bit is interesting in that the range would have to be large enough such that if I died at Lumber Mill and got resurrected at spawn, I would not lose the buff, else it would be unfair to make Druids (and their targets) have to reapply a 6s cast before mounting and running into a fight. My guess is that this ability will have a range that makes sense (100y probably), but that 6s cast time will be reduced to instant cast (at least, it SHOULD be reduced to instant cast).

Additionally, we were given some examples of spells that would be traded. I felt that the layout used on the forums was a tad unwieldy, so I am going to rewrite it here in a more straight-forward way:

DK: Chains of Ice
Mage: Mirror Images
Priest: Mass Dispel

Hunter: Feign Death
Mage: Frost Nova
Warlock: Soul Swap

Hunter: Ice Trap
Priest: Fear Ward
Paladin: Consecration

Mage: Ice Block (whoa)
Paladin: Hand of Sacrifice (whoa)
Priest: Leap of Faith

Druids Give (regardless of Druid spec)
Hunter: Dash
Warlock: Rejuvenation
Holy Paladin: Rebirth (lawl... this has to be wrong)
Arms/Fury Warrior: Enrage (makes sense)
Enhancement/Elemental Shaman: Solar Beam

Okay, that last one is interesting in that it sets the stage for sharing a spec-based ability rather than a class-based ability. That is really interesting in that it may mean something like Feral sharing Tiger's Fury with a Rogue, or Barkskin with a Disc Priest. Again, all these are subject to change as the beta starts rolling, but one that I wanted to touch on briefly was the Warlock's. Soul Swap... wat? Why would a Feral get Soul Swap? Feral does not have any magic DoTs to swap, why would OH MY GOD (dramatic yelling mid-sentence)!!!

What I am suspecting will happen is that our Soul Swap will be a special version of the ability that contextually changes: if we use Soul Swap on a target, it will turn into Soul Swap Exhale; if we use Soul Swap Exhale, it will turn into Soul Swap. Further, I am speculating that Soul Swap would work on our bleed effects instead of Shadow Magic. This could be potentially very powerful in a PvP setting, but it would rely on how Soul Swap ends up treating our bleeds; if they are not refreshed, then it won't be super amazing, but it would allow us to swap more freely, which would mean more burst opportunities.

All things considered, I am very excited about the changes. I still want to wait and see how Symbiosis ends up playing out, but I am hopeful to see the list of changes to other classes bringing them into line with Feral, and Feral getting some silly buffs that probably will not go live. At present, if MoP were to go live today, I think that Feral+Lock+HPal would be a R1-viable comp. o.O

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I was having difficulty coming up with a suitable topic for this week's post; it seems like everything is at a hushed state of waiting at the moment. Between the impending news that is guaranteed to be released mid-March during the Blizzard press tour (whatever that is) and the hinted updated talent calculators that might come out mid-February, we are stuck in stasis waiting for any hint of news. I could write a huge post about how the talent calculators have Savage Roar with Wrath's tooltip and how that will make PvP nigh-impossible for Feral because of how easily dispelled it is and how it makes our already flaccid cp-gen that much worse, but there is no guarantee that that was not simply a mistake and has been updated out of the talent calculators in the next build. We could continue speculating over the implementation of Symbiosis, but again it would come down to new information we simply do not have yet.

/sigh ... I really want to know more about Symbiosis; it seems so potentially OP.

So, we have been running FRP and FLS with Tentmonto, a former gladiator Warlock and his re-roll Rogue. FRP is very strong against some traditional comps like RMP, RLS, and the like. Basically, any comp that has mixed caster/melee setups or even some caster-cleaves, we do very well. However, we have some real trouble against comps like VIP-Cleave, TSG, Kittycleave, and the like. Basically, a lot of melee-cleave comps give us trouble because everyone on the team is so susceptible to being trained down quickly. I, personally, feel like FRP is probably 2.2k-viable, but it will take some lucky queues where we get comps against which we excel and minimal melee-cleaves.

On the flip-side of the coin we have FLS, which plays entirely different from FRP by spreading DoT damage around to everyone and putting out tons of control via Fear/Cyclone/Roots/Hex/Bash. The only problem we are having at present is that Tent's lock is his second lock (he has two because one was a gladiator and some friends wanted to make a gladiator run with him in s9, so he rolled another lock... did not get gladiator with them, but got above 2.2k) and so he is still gearing up at the moment. He is up to about 4200 resilience now and only has one remaining piece of Ruthless (blue) gear in his PvP trinket, so he will likely be a lot less squishy soon and therefore able to start pressuring people a lot more. What I continually find interesting with this comp is how much stronger it makes Feral CC.

Feral has traditionally been all about Cyclone and Bash for control. Entangling Roots is one of those edge-case spells that simply gets trivially dispelled unless used in very specific instances on certain targets while they break LoS on their dispeller and cannot self-dispel Root effects (lawl Rets). However, when you put a Warlock into the mix, UA starts making Entangling Roots extremely effective against melees in a lot of cases. Essentially, when we open on a target, we will often have Tent getting UA up on the non-stunned target first so that I can use Entangling Roots on him immediately. Against a lot of healers, this is a full-duration CC or else they risk getting silenced while we apply DoTs and damage to the stunned target and we Cyclone off the guy who got dispelled.

Entangling Roots with UA allows us to play a lot more like an MLS comp with regard to control and damage output. We can even use Entangling Roots to give Tent time to set up the rest of his DoTs on a melee while I regenerate some energy and CC other targets. We can reset by CC'ing the entire team - Cyclone one, Root another, Fear a third, and if anyone trinkets, they eat a Hex. This, in turn, allows Guntir to play his Shaman a lot more aggressively and not worry so much about sticking his neck out to dispel or get offensive with Hex. Against a lot of teams, if he gets too cavalier, he will get swapped to, and it turns out that RShams, while being the best healer at the moment, are extremely swappable. Having a slew of options available to us to peel for him (Cyclone, Roots, Fear, Death Coil, Feral Charge Bear, Bash, Warstomp...) means that he does not need to worry so much when getting swapped.

Well, there is not much to say otherwise. We are all waiting for some MoP updates, and believe me when I say that I will post as soon as I read any.

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Whoa, Monday Happened!

Sorry for the late update, everyone; I completely blanked on my post today and was hitting my work issues hard in the face. Let's talk about that NAO tournament!

Okay, so the finals came down to RLS and Ret+DK+Disc. This did not really surprise me. Okay, well, the RLS being in the finals did not surprise me - it was snutz, original, and kollectiv; no one should be surprised by this. What did surprise me is the Ret+DK+Disc team getting past the Feral+Shadow+RSham team. It did not really seem like Yipz and co were having much difficulty in defensive cooldowns being popped and landing insane CC-chains, but in the three matches that mattered, they simply could not etch out a kill on the DK, nor could they peel the cleave long enough to get through the insane damage (and Necrotic Strike) that the DK and, to a lesser extend, the Ret put out. To put things into perspective, the Feral, who had essentially all the up-time in the world, hit about 500,000 damage in the second match, but the DK, who was peeled a LOT and kiting with defenses, ended up doing close to one million damage. The Ret, who is brought along for burst, also ended up doing about 600,000 damage that game and was largely the focus of the CCs put out.

Personally, there were a fair few things I took away from this tournament:

1) PvE gear in PvP is broken; it makes for overpowered classes and not everyone has access to them - this needs to be addressed.
2) DKs have insane damage output but weak survivability against melees; maybe this is the balancing point - DKs against melee-cleaves will get trained to death, but against caster teams are invincible, and against both teams put out more than any other damage-dealer in the game.
3) Feral is there for sustained damage and selective burst.

Really, I want to stress the last two since I have harped on the first point for the past few posts. First and foremost, DKs are INSANE. If a DK gets to sit on a target without getting peeled or forced to play defensively, that target is going to die. Against casters, DKs never really have to play defensively; all the defenses a DK possesses work while being offensive against casters. However, against a melee team, DKs have to actively use stuns, roots, and silences defensively and try to kite out of kill-shots. To top this all off, bad DKs can simply train damage into both melees and casters with impunity. On top of that, their damage output is staggeringly higher than every other damage-dealer in the game presently. Their burst is strong, their control is strong, their sustained damage is strong, and NS puts them over the top. Oh yeah, and I am referring to Unholy here... not Frost... which gives up some sustained damage and survivability for more control and twice the burst. I, personally, do not feel any empathy for running trains on DKs and killing them in smoke-bombs... they deserve it for their crazy damage and control.

Okay, but the main point I want to talk about is with regard to the 3s team dynamic and the shift in understanding I have been going through for the past couple weeks. While watching the NAO stream, the one thing the commentators continually looped back on was each player's role on their team, and rather than looking at "melee" vs "ranged" vs "healer", as I tend to, the commentators kept saying things like "brought for his situational burst" or "brought for the sustained damage and CC". Really, when discussing the Feral+Shadow+RSham team, the commentators made a point of saying that the Shadow Priest was there for control and setting up huge burst attempts. In fact, they went further in saying that while Ferals bring strong CC and sustained damage, they really teamed well with Shadow since they both have on-a-dime burst that is extremely strong.

It took me a while to realize exactly how this dynamic plays out, but eventually I started seeing a trend. Most arena teams that played in the tournament were variants of "control and pressure, then CC and burst". In fact, if we look at RLS and RMP, we can see this dynamic played out really well - the Rogue is largely there for control and sustained damage, but has some strong burst that he can bring to the table. In the case of RMP, the Mage brings pretty unreliable sustained damage, but good control and amazing burst; in the case of RLS, the Lock brings amazing sustained damage pressure and, good control, and some on-demand burst (by way of Demon Soul). In fact, if we take this a step further and start looking at teams like Shadowcleave and PHD, we start seeing this trend in full - there is good sustained pressure, good control, decent-to-good CC, and on-demand burst for kill attempts.

Really, when all the dust settles, it is less about whose CCs do not share diminishing returns, or whose spells work well with whatever... it comes down to "can you put pressure on your opponent, make them use a strong CD before you are counter-pressured, and score a kill during that window of weakness?" All that must be done is line up your CCs, control, and burst damage; do not kick into immunities, do not waste finishers on damage reductions, and keep them from killing one of your teammates. It is a tricky balance, but one that is decided quickly.

I have long felt that Feral needed to keep Rip up 100% on the kill-target to pressure the opposing team. Once I learned more about burst rotations in PvP, I found that I do not really even have to use Rip all that often except when matches start running long. In fact, I am starting to see that FMP is probably the best Feral comp simply because it relies on the Feral's sustained pressure and control, then sets up burst opportunities every thirty seconds with the Mage. Watching the NAO has left me wanting to play this comp more than anything ^_^.

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