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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