Friday, January 30, 2009

DPS Numbers Need Context

Ferraro's recent conversation with a random priest reminded me of an exchange I experienced last night with a death knight. I was forming a pick-up group for Obsidian Sanctum 10-man, starting with 5 people (myself and 4 guildmates), and needing 2 healers, 2 tanks, and a ranged DPS (since the DPS I all ready had were 2 melee and a ranged - I was hoping to leave Tenebron up, I needed some AoE). In response to my trade chat spam of "LFM OS-10 need tanks and heals," this death knight whispers me...

DK: need DPS?

Josh: ranged only

DK: oh

DK: but i do over 2k dps!

Josh: I don't care how much DPS you do.

DK: why are you such an asshat @_@? (that's a direct quote)

Josh: because your DPS number means nothing without context

DK: how am I supposed to tell you my DPS?

Josh: you don't

DK: huh?

Josh: what buffs did you have? what boss were you fighting? without context, your DPS value is meaningless.

DK: so what's the correct way?

Josh: just don't disclose a number

DK: ur like that cat in alice in wonderland

What's the point in all this? When attempting to entice someone to invite you to their group, telling them how much DPS you did once is not very useful. For example, if I ran a DPS meter when I fought Thaddius, I might see that I did 6,000 DPS. Should I go around telling people that I can do 6k when trying to join a PUG for Malygos? Absolutely not! The fights are very, very different, and the Thaddius fight inflates numbers greatly because of the polarity buffs.

Linking a WWS report is informative. Then the recipient can look at the entire situation - what boss was killed, how long the fight took, what buffs you had, and so forth. Without this context, your DPS number becomes a mutant statistic, a number who's relevence has been warped and lost. Interested to know more about when a number crosses the line from useful to impractical? Read Dr. Joel Best's Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activitists. Without correct context, any number can melt into absurdity, as Dr. Best notes.

So what should you do when trying to snag a PUG invite as a ret paladin? Well, simply saying "I'll go" in response to trade chat spam will usually suffice. If the raid leader presses you for details, dish out your relevent ratings - unbuffed attack power, hit, crit, expertise, haste, & armor penetration. If he or she still wavers, then you can fall back on a statistic, but carefully. Use Patchwerk, as he's a standard DPS check, and be sure to include detail on the size of the raid, what relevent outside buffs you received, and how long the fight took. For example, I did about 3,300 DPS on a 4 minute Patchwerk-10 kill with Blessing of Might, Blessing of Kings, Gift of the Wild, and Horn of Winter, and Sunder Armor on Patchwerk. Yea it's cumbersome, but at least it's useful.

That said, I'd just stay away from telling people how much DPS you do. If a raid leader presses you for a number and doesn't care about the details of how that number was formed, he doesn't know what he's asking for, and you might not want to be in his raid anyway.

EDIT: More evidence of my untapped blogger ESP abilities - BRK just posted this about how asking for a hunter's stats before a group invite is folly.
/creeped out

Examining Ret Glyphs

After finally giving in to better judgment and replacing my Glyph of Seal of Command with Glyph of Consecration, my attention turns to my third glyph. Currently, I have Glyph of Crusader Strike equipped, which decreases the cost of Crusader Strike by 20%. Let's do a little math, shall we?

The cost of Crusader Strike is 6% of the paladin's base mana, which at level 80 works out to 351 mana. With the glyph, the cost drops by 20% to 281 mana, saving 70 mana per strike.

Over a 5 minute fight, a paladin can do a maximum of 50 Crusader Strikes - that would be if the paladin used Crusader Strike on cooldown, every cooldown, with no interruption and no latency. Unglyphed, those 50 Crusader Strikes would cost 17,550 mana. With the glyph, however, those same 50 strikes would cost 14,050 mana - a savings of 3500 mana, half of a raid-buffed mana pool.

But wait! There are other glyphs to consider! What about Glyph of Hammer of Wrath? This glyph reduces Hammer of Wrath's mana cost by 100%, making it free to spam your Hamxecute. At 527 mana per Hammer, you only need to cast Hammer of Wrath 7 times to have the mana savings from this glyph surpass that of Glyph of Crusader Strike in a 5 minute fight. That would mean that the boss's under 20% phase would need to last about 45 seconds so that enough hammers could be thrown to get that much of a benefit - that's 15% of the total fight.

I'm not convinced that a boss would only die 5% faster with warriors Executing, paladins Hamxecuting, mages throwing Molten Fury-empowered spells, and everyone going "full burn." However, as the "under 20%" phase gets stretched out and the paladin can use Hammer of Wrath more and more, the scale tips toward Glyph of HoW. For every Hamxecute used, that's 527 mana saved, versus 70 mana per Crusader Strike with Glyph of CS. So, if you experience long-ish fights (be it because the boss has tons of health or your raid DPS is low), Glyph of HoW is better. But, if you burn down bosses quickly (be it because the boss has low HP or your raid is uber), Glyph of CS is better.

There is also Glyph of Seal of Blood, which Alex uses and likes. I am not sold on its usefulness at first glance, but I am willing to entertain the thought. This glyph ups the mana return from Spiritual Attunement by 10% while Seal of the Martyr /Blood is active. 10% of 10% is 1%, so while a paladin has this glyph equipped and Seal of Blood going, he will receive 11% of the heal as mana instead of 10%. Now, I don't have numbers to validate how much a paladin will receive in healing over a 5 minute fight, as this varies wildly depending on the encounter, encounter length, and the damage output of the paladin. Let's consider the same 5 minute fight as above - to achieve the same mana gain/savings as Glyph of Crusader Strike, the paladin would need to take 35,000 healing from outside sources. That 35,000 healing would yield 3,500 mana returned from Spiritual Attunement, unglyphed. With the Seal of Blood glyph, that 35,000 healing would return 3,850 mana, a gain of 350 mana. For encounters with a lot of raid damage, or for paladins that tend to wander into non-lethal environmental hazards, this glyph might prove more useful than either of the ones mentioned above. This is, of course, a very contingent glyph - you must take an immense amount of damage to get the benefit.

However! There is also Glyph of Spiritual Attunement, which increases the mana gain from Spiritual Attunement by 2%. This is an additive effect - it increases Spiritual Attunement from 10% to 12%. So, no matter what, this glyph is superior to Glyph of Seal of Blood. It has the same stipulations as Glyph of Seal of Blood (must take enough damage and get healed by other people to make it work), but it's flat-out better at its job.

Despite the fact that a paladin will get a flat 1% more mana from Glyph of SA over Glyph of SoB in all situations, I still remain skeptical of using it. To be in the same realm as Glyph of CS or Glyph of HoW, a ret paladin would need to take 30k damage over a 5 minute fight and be healed through HoT's or direct heals from other people.

Now comes some more math, hold on to your hat.

Let's say a paladin does 4,000 DPS over a 5 minute fight. And lets that 25% of his damage was from Judgement (33% kickback), and 15% from his Seal (10% kickback). That would come out to 300,000 damage from Judgement (99,000 kickback), and 180,000 from his Seal (18,000 kickback). That works out to 117,000 kickback damage. Spiritual Attunement would return 11,700 mana if someone else healed that 117k damage. With Glyph of Spiritual Attunement, the heals would return 14,040 mana. That's 2,340 mana extra from kickback damage, but that's just over half the savings that Glyph of Crusader Strike would provide over that same period. To get the effectiveness as Glyph of CS, with a 5 minute encounter and 4k DPS out, the paladin would need to take well over 200,000 additional damage over the course of the fight to trigger enough Spiritual Attunement gains.

I don't know about you, fair reader, but I think that there's way too many strings attached to Glyph of Spiritual Attunement. Sure, it scales with your damage and your damage taken, but I don't have the computational skills or the data available to chart out when Glyph of SA would overtake Glyph of CS or Glyph of HoW. For Glyph of SA to be worth it, the following criteria would need to be met:

  • High personal DPS
  • Appreciable raid damage taken
  • Low/no self-healing

... and I can't give numbers at present for threshholds for either of the first two bullets.

Last but not least, there's Glyph of Avenging Wrath, which drops the Hamxecute cooldown from 6 seconds to 3 seconds while wings are up. Again, this is very conditional - a paladin will need to have an additional 2,100 mana (enough to throw 4 more Hammers) in reserve above and beyond the mana to sustain the rest of the rotation, and have his wings off cooldown, and be assured that the boss will be alive for the next 20 seconds to get full benefit from Avenging Wrath. That's a lot of criteria.

So, wrapping it all up: Glyph of Judgement, Glyph of Consecration, and then your choice of Glyph of Crusader Strike (well geared, shorter fights) or Glyph of Hammer of Wrath (undergeared, longer fights) are your safest and most dependable glyph choices for retribution. Glyph of Avenging Wrath is good if you have absolutely no mana problems. Glyph of Spiritual Attunement is acceptable if you take *a lot* of raid damage - and when I say a lot, I mean possibly fatal. Glyph of Seal of Blood is inferior in every way.

That's the scoop on ret paladin major glyphs - choose wisely, and Light be with you.

EDIT: Typo in Glyph of Seal of Blood section fixed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Optimizing Your Wings - Squeezing The Most Out Of Avenging Wrath

A comment by Fedaykin98 on my post Wednesday sparked some thought. Here's what he said:

When exactly do you pop [Avenging Wrath]? Ideally, one would pop it when your cooldowns are all coming up, but I haven't really been doing that.

If I pop it at the beginning, I'll likely pull threat off of some of the non-pally tanks out there. If I pop it on Judgment's first CD, I won't get the most bang for my buck because some things won't be off cooldown for a bit. If I wait until a later, more optimal CD to pop it, I reduce the chances of using it multiple times on one boss.

I guess the thing to do is to use it on the 2nd Judgment CD (meaning, after using Judgment twice, popping AW right as Judgment is becoming available) on short boss fights to maximize it's effectiveness, and as early as is safe on longer fights. Or do you try to make it overlap Hammer of Wrath?

Meter chasing Retadins want to know! =)
I generally use my wings as soon as threat is solid and Vengeance is stacked, which, broadly speaking, is sometime around the 10-15 second mark. It's all feel with me.

Now, Fedaykin is a tank, so he's speaking from the perspective of a protection paladin. However, asking about when in relation to his rotation he should pop his wings got me thinking. Is there an optimal rotation while inside of Avenging Wrath? Is there one combination of buttons that can get the most cooldowns crunched inside of 20 seconds? I mathed it out, here's what I came up with. All of the following assume the boss is above 20% health, the paladin has Glyph of Consecration equipped, zero latency, and starts with everything off or nearly off cooldown. First, let's consider cycles with 4 pieces of tier 7 equipped:

CS > Judge > DS
0.0 Avenging Wrath
0.0 Crusader Strike
1.5 Judgement
3.0 Divine Storm
4.5 Consecration
6.0 Crusader Strike
7.5 Exorcism
9.0 Judgement
10.5 Holy Wrath
12.0 Crusader Strike
13.5 Divine Storm
15.0 Consecration
16.5 Judgement
18.0 Crusader Strike
3 Judgements, 4 Crusader Strikes, 2 Divine Storms, 2 Consecrations, 1 Exorcism, 1 Holy Wrath

Judge > DS > CS
0.0 Avenging Wrath
0.0 Judgement
1.5 Divine Storm
3.0 Crusader Strike
4.5 Consecration
6.0 Exorcism
7.5 Judgement
9.0 Crusader Strike
10.5 Holy Wrath
12.0 Divine Storm
14.0 Crusader Strike
15.5 Judgement
17.0 Consecration
20.0 Crusader Strike
3 Judgements, 4 Crusader Strikes, 2 Divine Storms, 2 Consecrations, 1 Exorcism, 1 Holy Wrath

Judge > CS > DS
0.0 Avenging Wrath
0.0 Judgement
1.5 Crusader Strike
3.0 Divine Storm
4.5 Consecration
6.0 Exorcism
7.5 Crusader Strike
9.0 Judgement
10.5 Holy Wrath
13.5 Crusader Strike
15.0 Divine Storm
16.5 Judgement
18.0 Consecration
19.5 Crusader Strike
3 Judgements, 4 Crusader Strikes, 2 Divine Storms, 2 Consecrations, 1 Exorcism, 1 Holy Wrath

No matter how you slice it, you're going to pack 13 cooldowns into 20 seconds with zero latency. I didn't consider leading with Divine Storm, as it leads to a lot of cooldown clash. However, it seems the rotation with the most wiggle room for latency is CS > Judge > DS with 4-piece T7 equiped and while under the effects of Avenging Wrath.

Now, let's consider rotations without 4 pieces of tier 7:

CS > Judge > DS
0.0 Avenging Wrath
0.0 Crusader Strike
1.5 Judgement
3.0 Divine Storm
4.5 Consecration
6.0 Crusader Strike
7.5 Exorcism
9.5 Judgement
11.0 Holy Wrath
12.5 Crusader Strike
14.0 Divine Storm
15.5 Consecration
17.5 Judgement
19.0 Crusader Strike
3 Judgements, 4 Crusader Strikes, 2 Divine Storms, 2 Consecrations, 1 Exorcism, 1 Holy Wrath

Judge > DS > CS
0.0 Avenging Wrath
0.0 Judgement
1.5 Divine Storm
3.0 Crusader Strike
4.5 Consecration
6.0 Exorcism
7.5 Holy Wrath
9.0 Crusader Strike
10.5 Judgement
12.0 Divine Storm
14.5 Consecration
16.0 Crusader Strike
18.5 Judgement
3 Judgements, 3 Crusader Strikes, 2 Divine Storms, 2 Consecrations, 1 Exorcism, 1 Holy Wrath

Judge > CS > DS
0.0 Avenging Wrath
0.0 Judgement
1.5 Crusader Strike
3.0 Divine Storm
4.5 Consecration
6.0 Exorcism
7.5 Crusader Strike
9.0 Judgement
10.5 Holy Wrath
13.5 Crusader Strike
15.0 Divine Storm
16.5 Consecration
18.0 Judgement
19.5 Crusader Strike
3 Judgements, 4 Crusader Strikes, 2 Divine Storms, 2 Consecrations, 1 Exorcism, 1 Holy Wrath

Without 4 pieces of tier 7, as long as you start with Crusader Strike before Divine Storm in your cycle, you'll get the same 13 cooldowns in 20 seconds. However, again, you get a tiny bit more wiggle if you go with CS > Judge > DS.

The bottom line in all this is that there isn't one wings rotation that really sticks out as the best of the best. If you time it when either your Judgement or Crusader Strike are coming off cooldown just as or just before you hit your wings, and the other will not be far behind, you're good to go.

Boss Spotlight: Thaddius

That's right, folks, Boss Spotlight is back on the air!

In a continuing effort to educate the community on how Retribution Paladins should approach fights that pose specific difficulties to the class, E4AE proudly presents another "Boss Spotlight!" In today's crosshairs: Thaddius.

Thaddius is a flesh giant, and the last boss of the Construct Quarter in Naxxramas. Sewn together of women and children and powered by tesla coils, Thaddius is a fearsome foe. However, you must topple him to gain access to the upper level of the citadel, where Sapphiron and Kel'Thuzad lie in wait. When you enter Thaddius's chamber, he is on the far side of the room and un-attackable. You must engage and kill two mobs, Feugen and Stalagg, before you can take some swings at the big undead man on campus. The boss's abilities are limited - regular melee on the tank, Chain Lightning, and a Polarity Shift that will debuff everyone in the raid, much like Mechano-Lord Capacitus in Mechanar from The Burning Crusade.

Why are we talking about this boss?
At first, Thaddius doesn't seem very dangerous. His melee isn't especially strong, his Chain Lightning hits for about a quarter of a DPS's health bar, and the Polarity Shift debuff doesn't seem like it should pose a threat.

Your enemies here are time, latency, and other people.

Thaddius has a 6-minute hard enrage, which isn't hard to beat if everyone stays alive and executes correctly. However, if the Polarity Shift isn't handled correctly, many will perish in shocking fashion as electrical charges fry the offending parties. Allow me to explain how Polarity Shift works, for those who are unaware:
Not long after activating, Thaddius will stop attacking and channel his Polarity Shift ability. When the cast is complete, everyone in the raid will either have a positive or negative charge debuff. About 4 seconds after the debuff is acquired, anyone with a positive charge standing next to a negatively-charged person will deal damage to that oppositely-charged person, and vice versa. A negatively-charged person standing in the middle of a pack of postively-charged people will experience near instant-death once the charges are set after 4 seconds.

Paraphrasing the immortal Dr. Egon Spengler, crossing the charges is bad.

Conversely, anyone standing near a like-charged person will gain a stackable buff that increases damage done. The same-charge buff-stacking is necessary to do enough damage to burn through Thaddius's large health pool.

What to do when facing Thaddius
First and foremost, don't miss the jump. If you don't make it onto Thaddius's platform immediately after killing the tesla twins, you will cause major problems re-entering the fight after the Polarity Shift. Move to the edge of the platform, onto the lip, and take a running jump. If you're especially worried about it and you're an engineer, use either a pair of Nitro-boosted boots to long-jump the gap or a cape with a Flexweave Underlay to safely float to the lower platform. The jump isn't especially difficult, however, and these are just extreme measures for the under-confident.

Once the Polarity Shift happens, make sure you know a) what your charge is, b) which direction is your safe zone, and c) which direction traffic is flowing. As soon as you recognize your charge, move to your safe zone in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion around Thaddius, depending on what your raid designates as proper etiquette. Make wide turns. After re-positioning, stand at maximum melee range. If you and another melee'er with opposite charges stand close in to Thaddius, you'll fry each other. Don't worry about Thaddius parrying your attacks - it's lost DPS, but it's unavoidable for this fight. The good news is Thaddius doesn't parry-haste his melee, so there's no consequence to your tank.

Once you and your 9-24 friends master the time-lost art of not electrocuting each other, it's a simple tank and spank. Pop your cooldowns early and often, keep your rotation flowing (he's undead, remember to throw Exorcism and Holy Wrath in when you can!), and collect your loots.

Until next time, this has been another edition of E4AE Boss Spotlight, with your host, Josh!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adventures in PUG'ing & Amending the To-Do

Last night started off hopeful. I set my bank alt on the auction house, selling off any materials of value he held - Frostweave, spare Heartseeker Scopes, Saronite, Frozen Orbs, Eternals, rare quality gems. Sitting at just over 5k gold between my main and my bank alt, I could taste my Dalaran ring. After throwing half my wares to the auctioneers, I logged over to Cathmor.

I had posted on my guild's forums the night before trying to generate interest in a Naxx-10 run. I got a very lukewarm response - no tanks, only 1 healer, and about half the DPS needed. Since most of the other raid guilds I know and trust have scheduled guild runs on Tuesday nights, I had no luck pulling trusted individuals into my rag-tag crew. After nearly two hours of searching for additional bodies, I gave up.

While I was desperately digging for dastardly dudes to dabble in deeds unsavory, I went and changed out my Glyph of Seal of Command for a Glyph of Consecration, as I promised myself I'd do.

When I had given up trying to form my own Naxx run, I started looking for a suitable PUG for any raid instance. I joined a heroic Obsidian Sanctum run that was forming, thinking that a few Valor tokens and a chance at Valorous gloves and Fury of the Five Flights isn't a bad thing. When I joined, there were many people in raid asking what the boss did, and others asking whether we were leaving drakes up. I explained in raid for those who needed about Sartharion's flame wall. The raid was very poorly run, though - half the raid members were killed on the first pull, the healers let a tank die, there was no target coordination, and the tanks did not keep anything under control while they were alive. Rather than get myself saved to a raid instance that might end in utter failure, I bailed. I hate leaving a group, but if
a) Half the raid doesn't know the fight at all,
b) They can't handle the first trash pull cleanly,
c) The raid is physical DPS-heavy, and
d) A good deal of the raid is in greens,
I wasn't going to enjoy myself anyway.

Going back to Dalaran, I checked on Wintergrasp - 1 hour until the battle, Horde currently in control. Phooey, no Archavon right then.

I turned my attention back to Naxx. Joining LFG, I found 3 10-man raid groups looking for 1 more. One was a pure PUG of names I didn't know, one was group from one of the other raid guilds on the server that was seeking a tank, and the last was a group from a guild I did not know seeking a DPS. Despite thoroughly borking my optimal tanking rotation with my new Glyph of Consecration, I offered myself up as a tank to the second group - the leader informed me that they had just filled from within the guild. Phooey. The first group's leader then approached me, asking "r u holy?" "No," I respond. "prot?" "Why do you want to know," I retort, becoming a bit miffed at the lack of common courtesy, like saying "hello" and using complete sentences devoid of 1337-speak. I end the conversation with him, saying I'm not interested in tanking this evening.

Then the third raid's leader approaches me, asking if I'd been to Naxx before. He must not have looked at my armory or read my guild tag (my guild has downed Sarth-25 +3D, it's a safe bet that anyone in the guild can handle Naxx-10). When I reply in the affirmative, he asks if I have about 3-4 hours and Ventrilo. "Of course," I tell him. This guy sounds like he's got his shiznit together. What follows is an account of the raid, with the first wing in death-defying detail.

We start pulling the construct quarter, slowly but surely, and make our way to Patchwerk. There's a prot paladin and a frost death knight tanking - the death knight keeps disconnecting and has terrible latency. My failure-sense starts tingling. As we wait for the DK to reconnect for Patchwerk, I start inspecting people. The prot paladin doesn't have Improved Judgement. The holy paladin (yes, with me there were 3 paladins in this 10-man raid - not good times for token drops, we'll get to that) is gemmed and enchanted for spirit. The rogue raid lead doesn't have Relentless Strikes. The frost DK is invested 66 or so in frost and dual-wields. I didn't bother checking the rest, because I was starting to get a little dizzy from the sheer lack of good sense.

The first pull of Patchwerk ends in complete failure - the frost DK disconnected, I got hateful'ed, and I didn't notice that the raid leader had elected to leave a trash pack up, so they came barreling down the slime highway and finished everyone off.

The second pull ended with a kill, but I was pushing real close on threat and took a few hatefuls. If we had wiped, I would have left - but that saved me to their instance, so I was committed now.

The fight gave me a chance to compare my mana usage with and without Glyph of Consecration. This glyph is mandatory. Last week, I was running dry on mana at the end of a 3.5 minute Patchwerk, using Divine Plea on cooldown and gulping down a mana potion. This week, even though I had to ease up a little at the beginning of the fight due to bad threat from the tanks, I didn't need a mana potion at all. If you're a ret paladin in PvE content, Glyphs of Judgement and Consecration should be equipped. Period. End of story. I didn't have any mana concerns for the entire night.

Grobbulus took a while, but he died just fine. Then came Gluth. At first the raid leader asked if I wanted to kite the zombies. I hesitated. Then he asked if I could tank Gluth. I said that I would do either if he wanted, but I'd rather straight-up DPS. I didn't check the DPS meter, but I suspected I was top DPS in the group and didn't want Gluth to take an eternity. He ended up having the prot paladin kite the zombies and his fury warrior hop into tank gear to double tank Gluth with the DK. Everything went off without a hitch until about 15%. The fury warrior died. I threw on my sword/shield and stepped in front, tanking in my ret gear with the DK. Kids, don't try this at home. I taunted off the DK when his debuff stack got high, bubble-walled and prayed. Thankfully I didn't get crit to oblivion. The DK took Gluth back in short order and the doggie died.

No leg token from Gluth. Oh well.

Thaddius was an adventure. For the two mobs before Thaddius, myself and a PUG'ed Frostfire mage (#'s 1 and 2 on the DPS meter, respectively, according to the raid lead) were on one mob with the DK tank, and the rest of the DPS were on the other. The DK's threat is terrible, so I had to stop attacking several times in the first 20 seconds. The other mob gets a good 15% ahead. So, the mage and I turn it up and get our mob down first, despite spotting the other 3 DPS a good margin.

/pat myself on the back

No one missed the jump to Thaddius, but one or two people did get fried by the polarity shift. I was pushing the prot paladin on threat the entire way.

Now comes the fun part - Conqueror legs dropped. With 3 paladins and a priest in the raid. Mind you, this piece will get me the 4-set bonus and is one of two or three things I'm after in Naxx-10.

I rolled a 2.


Makes me wish I was in a raid that rewards based on performance, like a Loot Council or something...

The plague wing yielded no Loatheb's Shadow, and the spider wing went off without a hitch. Despite my apprehension about the group's questionable members, they did get 3 wings done in 3 hours. Granted, I didn't get anything I wanted and I didn't finish the instance (which I usually do with guildmates, 3 hours is enough to go from zone-in to Kel'Thuzad down for them), but at least I didn't get saved without getting shots at the loot I wanted from Gluth/Thaddius/Loatheb.

After we were finished, I checked in on my bank alt. He had sold quite a bit! With the cash I raised, I was able to purchase my Dalaran ring. For those that are interested, the teleport use does not share a cooldown with your hearthstone. Now the Circle of Death from Sapphiron would be nice to replace my Hemorrhaging Circle, but it's not a necessity. T7 legs and a trinket are what I need, and then I'll be heroic/10-manned out.

I started an in-game to-do list yesterday. Let's see how I did:

  • Replace my Glyph of Seal of Command with Glyph of Consecration. Glyph replaced, with excellent results!
  • Start liquidating some of my materials to raise cash to buy a Ring of the Kirin Tor -it's better than my PvP ring and has strength, crit, and expertise. Plus I can use it as a hearth to Dalaran. These are a few of my favorite things. Ring purchased, much to my surprise!
  • Research how much it would cost me to get a Darkmoon Card: Greatness. If I can't stomach the price, I'll resume praying to every deity I know for a Loatheb's Shadow.
    Loatheb killed, no trinket.
  • Get some Dragonfin Filet. I'm all out of leftover Clefthoof from Burning Crusade, so I find myself lacking in the food department.
  • Start advertising my Engineering services in trade again to raise money for all the purchases I've detailed above.
    Whoops, forgot to do that...
  • Use my surplus Badges of Heroism to buy rare quality gems and Frozen Orbs to sell for profit.
    That's my next task so I can start saving for the Darkmoon Card.

Progress is tangible. There were many disappointments last night, but I did get a few things done. Raiding task for tonight, should I have time: Vault of Archavon and/or Obsidian Sanctum.

Apologies for the long and winding "this is what I'm doing" sort of posts lately. I know it's not my norm. Hopefully I can get back to tips, tricks, and guides soon - I know I never did make that post on pre-raid gearing...

When Bloggers Collide

Ratshag linked over to Windpaw's blog and a funny post about a fictitious encounter with an infamous Dwarven hunter. It's not retribution related, or paladin related, but I got a chuckle out of it, being a closet-RP'er.

In a thought exercise, I browsed down my feedreader to see who amongst bloggers I read I would write a similar encounter about. It dawned on me that, aside from a select handful, almost all the blogs I read are written by Alliance mains. I wonder if this is just my internal preference for the "noble" Alliance, there are just more Alliance blogs out there, or there's some other factor.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To-Do List - Taking My Own Advice

This is more for me than anyone else. I updated the 3.0 FAQ again with new glyph prioritization. I had turned a blind eye to the benefits of Glyph of Consecration, because I semi-frequently respec protection to tank and that glyph would cause havoc with my rotation. However, after running dry for mana toward the end of Patchwerk last week, and with my slow realization that Seal of Command isn't that useful even in PvP (Seal/Judgement of the Martyr hits for more on average and spikes for the same amount), it's time I listened to the power of reason. The Consecration glyph saves nearly an entire mana bar over the course of a fight and eliminates some GCD clashes.

So, my plan going forward:

  • Replace my Glyph of Seal of Command with Glyph of Consecration.
  • Start liquidating some of my materials to raise cash to buy a Ring of the Kirin Tor - it's better than my PvP ring and has strength, crit, and expertise. Plus I can use it as a hearth to Dalaran. These are a few of my favorite things.
  • Research how much it would cost me to get a Darkmoon Card: Greatness. If I can't stomach the price, I'll resume praying to every deity I know for a Loatheb's Shadow.
  • Get some Dragonfin Filet. I'm all out of leftover Clefthoof from Burning Crusade, so I find myself lacking in the food department.
  • Start advertising my Engineering services in trade again to raise money for all the purchases I've detailed above.
  • Use my surplus Badges of Heroism to buy rare quality gems to sell for profit. I had no idea that a vendor in Dalaran started offering 10 badge per gem exchanges!

I've got some selling to do!

Let The Blessing Crusade Begin

Step 1 - Post blessing idea to the Suggestion forum, with cross-posts to the Raid & Dungeon forum and Paladin forum.
Step 2 - ????
Step 3 - Profit!

Cross-post, linked above, follows -

In the past, Ghostcrawler and other Blizzard posters on the forums have openly stated that one of their goals is to make the game more fun and remove/change things that are viewed as monotonous or tedious. I'm here to posit that the paladin blessing system is tedious.

Since the blessing system is class-based, a single paladin will have to cast at least 10 times each time he wants to buff in a well-balanced and diversified raid. If the raid has differently specced hybrids of the same class (for example, an elemental shaman and an enhancement shaman), the paladin may need to cast a 10-minute blessing over the greater blessing to provide one or the other with the proper buff (for example, Greater Blessing of Might on shamans and then Blessing of Wisdom on the elemental shaman). Consider this in conjunction with blessing duration (30 minutes for greaters, 10 minutes for regulars), and over a 4 hour raid with all classes represented, a paladin will have to buff 80 times, and that's only if no one dies and there are no deviant hybrids. This is and of itself is a measure of tedium. When you consider it in the context of other raid buffs, however, it appears even more tedious. Priests, druids, mages, and other buffing classes can cast their buffs (Prayer of Fortitude, Gift of the Wild, Arcane Brilliance, etc.) with one cast on all raid members, and benefit from an hour duration. So, a mage over a 4 hour raid will only need to cast Arcane Brilliance four times, when compared with the paladin's minimum of 80 casts and 15-20 seconds every half hour spent simply re-casting his greater blessings.

In my view, what keeps paladins from being able to move toward a raid-wide buff system instead of the current class-based buff system is the dichotomy of Blessing of Might and Blessing of Wisdom, especially when considered in relation to hybrids. Let's say there are 3 paladins in the raid - a ret, a holy, and a prot. Normal blessing conventions will have the prot doing Sanctuary on tanking classes (feral druids, death knights, warriors, himself), the ret doing Kings on the tanking classes, and the holy doing Might on them.

But what about the boomkins and restoration druids? They certainly don't want Blessing of Might, they'll want Blessing of Wisdom! And Blessing of Sanctuary isn't a huge buff for them, since they aren't primary damage targets. So now you're faced with the decision of giving the caster druids Greater Blessing of Wisdom and having the holy paladin cast Blessing of Might every 10 minutes on the feral druid, or the prot paladin cast his unimproved Greater Blessing of Wisdom on the caster druids and then cast Blessing of Sanctuary on the feral druid every 10 minutes.

Melee DPS hybrids want very different blessings from caster hybrids, but they both use the same resource pool. A ret paladin wants Blessing of Might and Blessing of Wisdom, he just wants the Blessing of Might a whole lot more. What can we do? Roll Blessing of Might and Blessing of Wisdom into one, catch-all buff. This way, you have 3 blessings - Kings, Sanctuary, and the Might/Wisdom conglomeration. In a 3-paladin 25-man raid with all classes represented, you could then have one paladin on Kings, one paladin on Sanctuary, and one paladin on the Might/Wisdom conglomerate, with no need to babysit 10-minute buffs on deviantly-specced hybrids. This would also free any barriers preventing greater blessings from being a one-cast raid wide buff with an hour duration to match the buffs of priests, druids, mages, etc. The mana cost and monetary cost of Symbols of Kings would be increased to match, of course. This, coupled with increasing blessing duration to 30 minutes, would bring paladin buffing in line with other classes and remove the tedium surrounding blessings.

If rolling Blessing of Might and Blessing of Wisdom into one buff would be overpowered in PvP for the mana-using physical DPS classes (hunters, enhancement shamans, ret paladins), then simply making greater blessings a raid-wide, one hour duration buff and increasing blessing duration to 30 minutes would be a decent "meet us halfway" point. For the example of the holy paladin in the 25-man 3-paladin raid, he could cast Greater Blessing of Wisdom on the entire raid, and then Blessing of Might on 2-3 warriors, 2-3 death knights, a retribution paladin, a feral druid, and an enhancement shaman. If nothing else, that just reduced the number of casts per raid by half by increasing the duration, and reduced the number of blessings per buff round by one. Repeated wiping would still be a bear for a paladin, but if all goes well, this would be less time spent and less casts required. At the very least, the situation remains the same for one paladin, but the other two paladins will likely see a reduction in their blessing casts required. The Kings paladin especially will simply buff once and drink.

Engineering in PvE - An Accelerated Affair

Well, after extolling engineering as a good PvP profession, now it's time to trumpet its benefits for PvE. As you might know, the Hyperspeed Accelerators got buffed in patch 3.0.8 last week. HamSlammer over at the EJ forums answered a question in the ret thread about the Hyperspeed Accelerators (340 haste on use for 10 seconds, 1 minute cooldown), and how they now measure up against the Crusher glove enchant (44 AP), which is currently considered the "best in slot" glove enchant. Here's what he said:

Using Redcape's numbers, Hyperspeed is 25.5 DPS. +44 AP (Crusher, I believe) is 29.92 DPS. These have the benefit of stacking ALWAYS during Bloodlust and AW, so that brings it up a bit. All in all, I'd say whichever is easier to obtain. Hyperspeed might pull ahead on fights where your DPS time is limited, to where this tinker could have a high up time in comparison to your DPS time. Like... um... Heigan, possibly?
... and Gothik, and Sapphiron, and Malygos... I think you get the picture. Any boss that doesn't let you hit him/her for 100% of the fight ups the stock of this handy-dandy tinker.

Now, before everyone jumps on him and says "Haste sucks! Don't listen to him," think this out.

Hyperspeed has a 17% uptime over the course of a fight if used every cooldown. That's like giving yourself a 57 constant haste rating boost. Since haste rating conversion is 32.7 rating = 1% haste, you're looking at nearly 2% constant haste. It may only affect your Seal of Blood and auto-attack damage, but that's still an increase of 2% scaling damage to those two damage sources.

And, on top of that, you can stack the cooldown with your Avenging Wrath cooldown, as HamSlammer noted. Simple napkin math can't capture how much of a damage increase that is, but I'm willing to venture a bet that at tier 7 levels of gearing, getting an extra 10% haste from your Hyperspeed Accelerators for half the span of your wings can make up the 5 DPS difference between Crusher and the Accelerators that HamSlammer theorized.

In addition, as noted earlier, not every fight is like Patchwerk, where you can just flail away at the boss until it keels over. Sapphiron, for example, rotates like clockwork between air phase and ground phase, spending 45 seconds on the ground before taking off and doing his ice block thang. So, you can use your Accelerator during the ground phase, let it cool down during the air phase (when you can't hit him anyway), and then activate it again when he lands, giving the Accelerator haste effect more up-time and therefore more effective haste relative to your on-target time in comparison to the flat 44 AP from the Crusher enchant. With a 10 second up-time and a 45 second window to hit the target, you're talking about a relative up-time of 22% of your DPS presence. 10% haste for 22% of the fight? That's like a miniature, personal Heroism/Bloodlust for over one-fifth of the encounter, and who wouldn't like that?

Conclusion? I'm not investing in the Crusher enchant. I'm making use of my engineering goodies, gorramit! Patch 3.0.8 cutting the cooldown on the use effect of the Accelerators definitely made them a lot more useful. Even if it works out that stacking the Accelerators with wings doesn't make up the small amount of ground separating Crusher from patch 3.0.8 Accelerators, just the cheaper price of the engineering option makes it appealing. Plus, if what the crab said is true, haste might see a buff for melee in the forseeable future:
Haste is a worthwhile stat to some casters but it is not useful for many melee. We are trying some different things to make it more apealing. - Ghostcrawler, 1/24/09
If I may, my friendly crustacean-enamored game developer, I'd like to posit the suggestion that haste lower the global cooldown for melee as well as casters. It'd solve some rotational issues that us ret paladins run into, and I'm sure getting 7% (Note: completely fabricated number with no evidence to back it up) more Heroic Strikes or Sinister Strikes wouldn't be objectional. Am I right, warriors and rogues? (Note: I know that rogues and warriors are not the only other melee classes.)

On a broader note, I might even venture to say that the Personal Electromagnetic Pulse Generator might find a use in Ulduar, since it is a Titan-related instance and they tend to employ mechanicals, but I'll hold my tongue on that one until the instance is actually released.

So, fair reader, if you happen to be one of the tinkering few that remains faithful to M.E.G.A. or G.E.E.K., pop some Accelerators on your gloves and try it out. You might be surprised to find that it's as good if not better than your run-of-the-mill enchanting option. This won't outgain an extra two gem sockets or prismatic gems, but hey, it's something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Of PUGs and People

I want to do more 25-mans, but don't want to commit to an X-day-a-week "mandatory" schedule or spend precious hours wiping with a$$hat FPUGs. I also don't want to transfer or leave my guild (which I cannot do 25's with, since my classes will clash with their raid nights this semester). I'm in a predicament.

That was me, circa January 23rd when I wrote this post. Today, I stand here a new man.

I PUG'ed some 25's. I'm not entirely sure why I ignored my inclination to avoid what ordinarily ends up being hours of wasted time, but the allure of shiny new gear overtook me.

I'm also pissed about it.

First up, a pure pick-up group in trade chat was seeking healers and additional DPS for Obsidian Sanctum. The group was not terrible. They were doing it with no drakes up, which I can understand since it was a PUG. The drakes went down quickly, even though the trash pulling was painfully slow. No one died to flame walls on Sartharion. The tank bit it with 5% left on Sarth, but some death knight picked him up and we burned the crap out of him. Cool beans, I killed a 25-er that wasn't Archavon!

Then the loot happens. It's not on master looter, and it's a PUG... not everyone is on Vent, but the raid leader calls out "everyone pass, we'll /roll for stuff." Being an untrusting S.O.B., I didn't do anything, I just held my rolls for everything that I cared about. Fury of the Five Flights, the Conqueror glove token, and the satchel and bag, along with Illustration of the Dragon Soul and a Vanquisher token, dropped. Four of six mattered to me.

Some a$$hat paladin rolled greed on everything. Glad I didn't release my rolls. We /roll for the loots, and I lose the "fair and square" rolls for the blessed trinket of awesome and Conq token. I pass on those and they go to dumba$$ paladin ninja greed roller, who did not bother to /roll at all, and has not said anything in raid chat to this point, and is not on Vent to hear the commotion. I don't wait around for the satchel and bag, I just leave. There's no point in me sticking around, even if they do put in a GM ticket to transfer the loot from this guy to the "true" winner, that winner isn't me, and I don't care enough about the bag or satchel to deal with it.

Master loot for the win, people. Don't PUG without it.

After a break for some food, I come back on and get a random tell whilst questing in Icecrown - "hey wanna come to naxx?" Not being saved to either version, I am intrigued. I grill the whispering warrior from a guild I'd never heard of about the group and the rules - he says they're master looting and doing /roll for everything, main set priority. It's a 25-man run: they've cleared all but the Construct wing and are just looking for a few healers and a DPS or two. It's mainly a guild run but they don't have the numbers to keep it in-house, so they're filling the rest from without. I didn't bother to ask how he came to whisper me, but I would later learn he just did a /who paladin and I came up. Hooray for names that come early in the alphabet, I suppose.

When I'm done grilling the poor guy, I say "sure I'll come, but FYI, I'm ret." "Aw dammit," the warrior responds. I suppose he was hoping I was holy. I suppose he also doesn't know about this blog. And he probably has no idea that I haven't had a single point in the holy tree (aside from Divine Strength when it was located there) in months.

He invites me anyway, though.

After they round up additionals, I find that there's only one other paladin in the group, but there are a few DPS warriors and death knights for me to compete with for plate drops, and plenty of priests to grab the conqueror tokens. Oh well, something is better than nothing, I guess.

They wipe twice to Patchwerk due to terrible healing on the hateful tanks. Sign #1 of terribad FPUG. But third time's the charm, no deaths. Huzzah! I end up #10 on damage done, but #1 in effective DPS. I waited a few seconds before starting my damage, 'cuz I was afraid of getting hateful'ed like the first 2 times. Nothing I want from him, so I navigate the frogger boss and wait to move on to Grobbulus.

Several people keel over in the middle of the slime highway. Sign #2 of terribad FPUG. Whatever, lag and such, or maybe they haven't been here (eep, worse thought...). I wait for them to fill positions that were vacated in the raid so we can pull Grobb.

Grobbulus goes off without a hitch, even though they took forever to pull. I definitely think I was top or near top damage on him, as one of the hunter's recount meter put me at #3 in damage from Patchwerk to the end of Grobbulus.

Then came Gluth. Gluth is, I think, a simple fight. Tanks trade aggro, a few people slow and kite some zombies and keep them the hell away from Gluth, and rogues/hunters keep the big bad doggie from enraging. Other than that, kill the zombies when Gluth does Decimate, and then go back to stabbity-stabbing the dog in the arse.

Apparently it's not so simple for other people. The 3 kiters had tons of trouble keeping the zombies away from Gluth, and then the DPS didn't switch to the zombies fast enough. Our first attempt, Gluth ate a handful and healed nearly to full. Double you tee eff.

Raid leader determines that it's a kiting problem and asks for additional kites. No one steps up, so I say "f*ck it" to myself and raise my hand. I throw on my prot gear for additional health and armor, buff up Righteous Fury, and get ready to run around like a maniac tagging loose zombies.

The second attempt goes better, but the tanks die due to terribad healing, and the other kiters don't drop their slowing effects (Earthbind Totem, Frost Trap) in good spots. Wipe.

Not wanting to sit there while things get sorted out and the raid leaders of this quaint little guild reinvent the wheel, I chime in on Vent. I assign the slowing effects to zones and have them drop their shiznit in those zones. I swap the paladin healer from tank healing to kiter healing and have him use Righteous Fury to keep the zombies in a controlled area. I then tell the other kiters to pull stuff off the healers ASAP and run around tagging everything.

Dead dog. I are effective raid lead.

Conqueror chest and shoulders drop. I lose both rolls. I are sad paladin.

More replacements are shuttled in as we move to Thaddius. I have a mini-panic attack when they start discussing strategies over Vent that involve the tank being stationary and the random rabble of this PUG needing to watch their own charge, their own relative position, AND the tank's charge and his position. Not only is that more complicated for everyone but the tank, it also makes the melee stand out if they don't have the same charge as the tank. The way I'm used to doing Thaddius, if you're positive you're on the right, negative on the left, and everyone rotates around Thaddius clockwise if their polarity shifts.

I explain this to the raid lead in whispers, and he says "hmmm, good strategy, but we'll try it this way once or twice first."

Everyone gets fried on transition.

They then shove Thaddius on the right side of the platform and have the tank in the corner, and they have the DPS shuttling in and out according to their charge.

Morons cross the charges in transition and fry almost everyone. The remainder, who aren't morons and did what was described, keep going until the enrage. I was DPS-off for most of the fight, as I had to stand at range to avoid frying the opposite-charged melee DPS.

I plead with the raid leader in whispers to put the generally accepted and successful "rotate clockwise, don't suck" strategy into use, but the raid falls apart due to the lateness of the hour. Anger abounds, but I politely leave the raid without further discussion.

Hours spent, and nothing to show but a handful of tokens, a hefty repair bill from Naxx, and further confirmation that I hate PUG'ing instances for a variety of reasons. WTB a Leftovers-type raid system for Malfurion-US 25-mans...

Making Blessings Less Tedious

An anonymous poster left the following comment in response to a post I made on Friday:

Simple, combine BoW and BoM into the same blessing. Much like how sanctuary provides runicpower/rage/mana, the new combined blessing could offer AP and mp5.
I mean, ultimately why would it matter if it's seen as "OP"? You have both of those blessings anyway in just about any raid you do, and alot of the times in heroics (especially if there's 3 paladins running them, which happens suprisingly often). I don't see this an issue for balancing encounters. I suppose a few classes will benefit slightly more from it than others...pallys/rogues/hunters, but like I said, you're going to probably have both of the current blessings in a raid anyway, so this just simplifies the application of them.

I like where this is going. Here's what I envision - eliminate the Improved Blessing of Might talent, and merge it into the Improved Blessing of Wisdom talent. Do the same with Blessing of Might itself. Rename them Blessing of Light and Improved Blessing of Light so that they have a neutral connotation (and yes, I know that Blessing of Light used to be a blessing). BoLight will provide both attack power and mana/5 to the recipient.

I left the talent in the holy tree for two reasons:
1) Holy has a more natural connection to the Light, and therefore should have stronger blessing power.
2) Retribution paladins usually bring Kings to a raid, and protection brings Sanctuary, so why not give the holy's something to do.

Ideally, I'd like to see Kings swapped with Deflection in addition just so we'd have a blessing associated with every talent tree (Light -> Holy, Sanctuary -> Prot, Kings -> Ret), but that might be asking too much of Blizzard.

If we went about making these changes, we could do away with the class-based buff system. Paladins world-wide would be rid of Pally Power and ZOMGBuffs. One reagent, one buff, one hour duration, all raid members affected. One paladin does Kings, one paladin does a blanket Light on the raid, and one does Sanctuary. Bing, bang, boom, done. Of course, the price of Symbols of Kings would be increased to compensate for the decreased frequency of blessing.

I wouldn't mind though, as I wouldn't have to keep 200 symbols on me at a minimum for a raid.

At face value, my vision of Blessing of Light probably provides too much from one buff in the way of resources to any physical DPS class with a mana bar. However, Blessing of Might right now pulls double duty for warriors - the harder a warrior smacks something, the more rage he gets, and therefore the more often he'll be able to hack and slash. Well, Blessing of Light would provide resource and direct DPS-boost to the mana-using physical DPS classes. Fair is fair, right? Plus it wouldn't scale with damage like rage, so if anything it's underpowered vs. the current incarnation of Might for warriors.

Rohan has his crusade to change Hand of Reckoning's name to Rebuke (which I agree with), and now I've got my cause to champion. It's simpler for paladins, takes a measure of tedium out of the game, and unless I'm underestimating the effect of mana/5 on mana-using physical DPS (which, in a 3 paladin raid, they'd likely get anyway), it isn't throwing off game balance. My question is this: how can I make this happen?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mutterings and Mumblings 1-23-09

Some random thoughts as I head toward the weekend...

I don't understand how Alltop arranges the blogs on its "virtual magazine rack." I'm sandwiched between Megs and BRK, and right next to Tobold. There's no way E4AE belongs in such company, it's a much smaller readership with a much narrower focus.

I have a ton of quests unfinished on Cathmor. Half of the Storm Peaks, a good deal of Icecrown, a handful of Zul'Drak, and all of Sholazar Basin. I'm a completist, so I want (no, need) to do them, but my freshly minted death knight is calling out for attention. I got him through the death knight starter area the other night and now I want to mess around with him. Death knight is fun once you figure out how all the skills fit together.

Is it sad that the first alt I'm truly jazzed about playing is the one that plays very similarly to my main character? Am I just a two-hander junky? I need to branch out more.

Orcs with glowy eyes look cool.

Siha's right - having the Lich King as involved as he is in the death knight starting area cheapens the experience a bit. I loved what they did with the DK starting experience, but having Arthas so hands-on at every stage seems odd. In BC, there wasn't enough Illidan, but in WotLK, there's almost too much Lich King.

I hate the look of Redemption shoulders. I did in vanilla WoW, I still do in WotLK. I want new shoulder graphics, pronto. I might start carrying around my Lightbringer shoulders and wearing them out of spite.

A lot of bloggers out in the WoW-niverse host or have appeared on podcasts of various sorts. It recently occured to me that I've never listened to many/any of them. I feel like I should give some a listen - especially BRK's, I love listening to him on his hunter guide movies. I don't even play a hunter, it's just fun to listen to him get all hyped up about stuff.

Should I migrate my blog to another platform? Wordpress, perhaps? Or give it a makeover? E4AE has never been especially easy on the eyes. I've been messing with the sidebar recently (which you RSS feed readers can't see, nyah nyah).

Blog Azeroth seems to be a lot slower than when I was last active on the forum. Why is that?

I want to do more 25-mans, but don't want to commit to an X-day-a-week "mandatory" schedule or spend precious hours wiping with a$$hat FPUGs. I also don't want to transfer or leave my guild (which I cannot do 25's with, since my classes will clash with their raid nights this semester). I'm in a predicament.

I must do more arena. The Deadly Gladiator libram will be mine.

Finding time to do the Glory of the Hero achievements is becoming a problem. I have a handful left, and I want that darn proto-drake, but I can't be arsed to schedule a run ahead of time. Nowadays, I don't know when I'll have time to play. This is also factoring in to the previously mentioned 25-man predicament. And I'll be damned if I PUG some of those achievements. I'm not that crazy.

Speaking of PUGs, I was in a pick-up 10-man Obsidian Sanctum group last reset and ended up as top damage. Yea, I know, top damage in a PUG, big deal. The funny part was that I did close to 30% of the total raid damage. /facepalm

Okay, that's it for now. TGIF!

Woe Are Us - Paladin Blessings

Siha turned the tables on a guildie mage in an argument about reagent costs, but the discussion points to a broader issue with raiding in WoW right now (an issue that I've addressed before). The 3.0 patch brought with it raid-wide buffs - instead of a priest needing to cast Prayer of Fortitude on 5 groups in a 25-man raid, one cast now hits every raid member in range. This change was applied to all the major buffs - Arcane Brilliance, Gift of the Wild, Prayer of Fortitude, etc.

But not blessings.

The duration of blessings has increased from Molten Core days from 5 minutes to 15 minutes to 30 minutes, but to get an entire raid ready to go, it still takes at least 7-10 casts. The most basic example is the paladin assigned to Blessing of Kings. There are 10 classes in WoW, and chances are all 10 will be represented in a balanced 25-man raid. 10 classes? 10 buffs - which means 10 casts of Greater Blessing of Kings every 30 minutes. Over a four hour raid, that's 80 casts of Greater Blessing of Kings, not to mention 80 Symbols of Kings used and a great deal of mana consumed.

That is, of course, if no one dies. Add one cast per class death after encounters. And for a total wipe, the number of blessing casts needed scales up exponentially against the number of "raid-wide" buffs.

And it gets even more cumbersome if you're *not* the Kings pally - if you get assigned to Might/Wisdom, hybrid classes become a total bear to deal with (pun intended). The feral druid wants might, and the boomkin wants wisdom. You can't give them both a greater blessing... so for a balanced raid with all classes represented, if you've got both feral and resto/boomkin druids, ret and holy paladins, enhancement and ele/resto shaman (shamans? shamen?), add at least 3 extra blessing casts - so we're up to 13 casts per buff period (plus 3 10-minute ones that you need to keep an eye on between greater blessing rebuffs, so 19 casts per 30 minutes).

Ghostcrawler et. al. have been saying that they want to infuse more fun into the game and eliminate the more tedious parts? Blessing maintenance is tedious, here's your sign.

That said, if I ever hear about a mage complaining about using reagents to throw down a table, or a druid belly-aching about having to re-buff Gift of the Wild, I am going to take my finely crafted mace and, very gracefully, pummel his or her face with it. We paladins have got it worse, so I don't want to hear it.

Leveling Up - Gearing Your Ret Paladin

I have received several e-mails lately regarding leveling a paladin to 80 as retribution, mostly asking the questions "what gear should I get?" and "what stats should I aim for?"

The answer is very, very simple. Strength. If it don't got strength (or an equivalent amount of attack power), it ain't worth yo' time.

Recall my 3.0 FAQ - I listed a hierarchy of stats to acquire with strength atop the list. That doesn't change whether we're talking about level 80 raid preparation or level 55 gearing to quest through the Plaguelands - strength is king.

What changes is the position of hit. Hit goes from near the top to middle of the pack. Because most PvE encounters while leveling are very short and against mobs that are at-level or +1 to you, the base 5% miss chance in a short window of time is not something that necessarily needs to be geared for, especially since most leveling encounters are not life-threatening. Hit capping vs same-level mobs in PvP is important as a missed Hammer of Justice can turn the tide of an arena match. A missed Crusader Strike against a mob that hits for 2% of your HP total per strike is not something to gear for.

That's not to say hit is useless. A missed swing is still a missed swing and therefore is lost damage. Here's my rules for gear while leveling:

  • If it has strength (or AP) and at least one other DPS stat (crit, agility, hit, expertise, haste, armor penetration), it is worth considering as a piece of ret gear.
  • If you are quibbling over whether this piece with haste is more valuable than that piece with armor penetration, just throw it in your bag and do another quest. You're wasting valuable time that could be used getting to that next quest reward that trumps both of those pieces.
  • Wear the higher item level one, and if they're the same item level, wear the one with the more valuable stat based on the FAQ stat hierarchy, aiming for 5% hit before discounting it as a stat.
Is it the most optimal way to deal with your gear? No! Does it get the job done? Yes! It is entirely possible to level to 80 naked and unarmed, so leveling gear is really not a major concern. Stop worrying and just hit something!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Google Verb!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I subscribe to the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel. Hank and John Green are silly people. They sure make fun videos, though! Hank recently posted one about a meme/game involving Google and your name - take your name, pick a verb, Google them both together, and record the results! Well, here are my results. Enjoy:

Q: Type in "[your name] needs" in the Google search.
A: Josh needs a holiday or just a cuddle.
You know, I could use a hug...

Q: Type in "[your name] looks like" in Google search.
A: Does anyone know what Josh looks like?
I am pretty mysterious.

Q: Type in "[your name] says" in Google search.
A: It's clear that when Josh says "f*ck" he's totally biased against Obama!
... what?

Q: Type in "[your name] wants" in Google search.
A: ... Josh wants sex to be kinky...
Whoa, hey now...

Q:Type in "[your name] does" in Google search.
A: Josh does brain surgery
Now we're just getting ree-god-damn-diculous

Q: Type in "[your name] hates" in Google search.
A: Josh hates life
You don't know me, Google! You don't know me at all!

Q: Type in "[your name] asks" in Google search.
A: Josh asks the CSS Guy about row locking with jQuery.
Row locking? jQuery? Now I speak a foreign language?

Q: Type in "[your name] likes " in Google search.
A: Josh likes Men.
In a totally neutral, platonic way. It's guy love, between two guys.

Q: Type in "[your name] eats " in Google search.
A: Josh Eats Drake.
I hope that's referring to Drake's coffee cakes. Those are delicious.

Q: Type in "[your name] wears " in Google search.
A: Josh Wears a Red Cape.
I'm a superhero.

Q: Type in "[your name] was arrested for" in Google Search.
A: Josh was arrested for Distribution of Marijuana with intent in Spring 2005.
... I'm a superhero drug dealer?

Q: Type in "[your name] loves" in Google Search.
A: Josh loves hayley?!?
... I'm a superhero drug dealer that may or may not love someone named Hayley?

Well, there you have it folks. Apparently, I'm a lot more interesting than I thought, with the cape-wearing, kinky sex-wanting, and prior for weed trafficking. Now you know, and knowledge is power!

Avenger's Oath

Armor is but a front.

The blade is but a tool.

True strength flows from the Light.

I am a vessel of vengeance, meting out justice and spreading the Light to the darkest corners of the world.

Those that came before me are gone, but their tradition and their vision lives on.

In me.

Their sacrifices will be remembered. Their deaths will be avenged. By my mailed fist, this world will be pulled closer to the Light, and the evils of this age will be swept away. The blood of the fallen has dried, but vengeance still burns as bright as the rising sun.

I am the sword in the darkness.

I am the light that brings the dawn.

I am the shield that guards the realms of men.

Retribution is at hand.

Inspired by Joanadark's "The Guardian" short story, as well as the Oath of the Night's Watch, and the Jedi Code / Sith Code.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Learning to Death Knight

The Stoppable Force, whom Matticus has plugged several times but I never bothered to read until now, has a great guide for the beginner Death Knight, found here. As someone who was eagerly anticipating the release of 3.0.8 so that I could roll a DK anywhere I wanted (bwahahaha, I'm going to roll an Orc Death Knight on Eredar and pester Lore - we'll see if this guy lasts longer than my hunter or druid alt attempts), this guide is very helpful. My first DK has been languishing at or near level 55 - I truly did feel like I was just mashing buttons, I didn't understand the interaction between DK abilities. Stop's guide lays everything out all orderly-like and breaks down the differences in skill rotation of each specialty.

Now I just need to think of a good name for an Orcish Death Knight...

Secret Blogger ESP

Do I have some sort of psychic link to other bloggers? I posted a mailbag this morning, and so did Rohan and Megs. It's almost as if I telepathically conferred with them in my sleep and said "hey, let's all post reader submissions tomorrow!"

... or not. Coincidence I'm sure.

... OR IS IT?

Dun dun duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

ANYway, I updated the FAQ again yesterday with more accurate enchanting advice (thank you Fedaykin98 for pointing out that there are no WotLK strength enchants... I was aware whenever I logged into the game, but whenever I was sitting in front my blogger screen, that fact just whizzed over my head). Enjoy!

The Mailbag: Targeting and Rotations

Kevin writes:

Ok. I’m a later 40s something guy been playing about 9 months but mostly soloing. I have a problem. My hand to eye can’t compete with the younger crowd.

I’m playing (Azulmoon on Doomhammer) ret pali and have some pretty decent built gear. My hit is a bit low but for the instances I’m doing it’s not an issue yet. I’m still under 1000DPS. I need help. My son (playing since the original release) played him never playing a pali before and against the dummy burned 1300DPS so it’s capable…

Two problems –

1) Targeting. When we burn someone down it’s quick enough I’m having trouble swapping to the new attack fast enough losing valuable time. I used to click target but T is working a bit better it’s just slow. I’m always hitting a target in the melee different than the tank. I just seem to not be able to get to it quick enough in a melee, I guess I get to excited watching timers, watching the actual battle, etc. All of the sudden I realize I’m not hitting anyone. REALLY frustruating (and embarrassing).

2) I tend to get excited and just start hitting keys… Timers throw me, especially global timer which causes me to miss my judgments then it seems like hitting consecrations and other spells with cool downs causes me to miss things.

Can you point me to a reference for a macro or several to help me out? I’m not stupid (at least I hope I’m not), just slow.
Targeting - make an assist macro for one of the other DPS or the tank, slam that button every time you need a new target. It'll save you the time of needing to have the reflexes to click or tab to the correct one. It's a simple macro to make, just open up the macro interface, create a new macro, and for the only line in the macro type the following:

/assist [name]

Replace [name] with your groupmate of choice.

If you're having trouble with keeping your rotation going with Crusader Strike, Divine Storm, Judgement, Consecration, *and* any undead-related ability in there, start small and work your way up. Just use Judgement > Crusader Strike > Divine Storm and get your targeting down. Once you're comfortable, work Consecration in. Then work the undead-specific stuff in.

As for any other issues, I hit a lot of major topics in my FAQ - if you need any other questions answered above and beyond the above and the FAQ, hit me again!

Good luck, and Light be with you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Engineering - Not For The Min/Max'ers

Everyone says that the Engineering profession is weak, needs buffing, yadda yadda yadda. Consider this:

  • The Hand-Mounted Pyro Rocket is instant cast, one minute cooldown, and can be fired at (30 yard?) range to deal ~1150 fire damage. Great for firing at an opponent as you engage at the beginning of an arena match, or to harass a kiting opponent.
  • The Nitro-Boosts for boots is a five two second duration run speed increaser with a five minute cooldown. Who needs Intercept or Death Grip? Click your heels together and you'll be 30 yards from here in a blink!
  • The Sonic Booster is a stamina trinket with an AP-boosting proc. Great for entry-level arena!
  • Saronite Bombs are grenades that can cause siege damage. If those pesky clothies keep hopping in the drivers seat of siege tanks, grab your bombs and blow up the walls of Wintergrasp Keep yourself!
  • Charged Titanium Specs give you stealth detection and a nice amount of stamina/strength, which are three things that a PvP'ing ret paladin loves.
Engineering may not be the best profession for min/max'ing your gear in PvE, but it sure is handy in PvP! Sure, you won't be using most of this stuff in a raid, or even a 5-man, but for battlegrounds, arena, and Wintergrasp, I'd argue that Engineering is, in the nomenclature of the medium, "teh secks." Clutch rocket-boots usage can turn an arena match. Seeing/unstealthing a stealthed rogue before he saps you can really mess up an opponent's game plan. Or, my favorite, launching a pyro-rocket at a mage who just rooted you and blinked away with a little more than 20% HP, lighting up your Hammer of Wrath button for a quick finishing blow.

Don't write the tinkers off! We've got some cards up our sleeves that, when leveraged properly, might be qualititatively better than two extra gem sockets or some ring enchants.

Bottom line is this: the community is right, Engineering isn't strong from a min/max standpoint. However, it does bring to the table a few tricks, tools, and toys that cannot be found anywhere else. They are unique, situationally useful, and can grant the engineer the element of surprise (whoa, how'd that ret paladin end up 30 yards away? Or hit me with fire damage? WTF?) or quickly turn the tide of battle (how the f!@$ did he just see me in stealth?). You'd rather have those two extra gem sockets than two extra cooldowns? Fine, enjoy your extra points of strength - next arena season, we'll be back to matches where the team that runs out of cooldowns first loses, and I'm going to have a few extra.

E4AE concedes the point that Engineering stinks for PvE, but based upon the above, contends that Engineering is a great choice of profession for PvP providing the user knows how to employ his techie tools properly.

EDIT: As of 1/20/09, the Nitro-Boosts are a 2 second duration. The above post has been edited.
EDIT2: Lady Jess correctly informed me that the Noise Machine is the SP trinket, and the Sonic Booster is the AP trinket. I edited the above accordingly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Attack of the Birds

Anyone remember how I made note of all the bird-themed NFL franchises making noise this year? Yea, well, chew on this for a while, courtesy of Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy:

So you have the Cardinals beating the Seahawks in Week 17, then the Falcons in Round 1, and now, potentially, the Eagles in the NFC title game. Meanwhile, if the Ravens topple the Steelers, then the Cardinals could potentially beat every other NFL team with a bird nickname during their improbable five-game winning streak to capture the Super Bowl, and if that's not enough, birds took down Thursday's U.S. Airways flight heading from New York to Charlotte ... the city that's home to the team Arizona beat five days ago in Round 2. All I can tell you is this: Something better not happen to Larry Bird. You hear me, Arizona? Leave the Basketball Jesus out of your weird bird vendetta! Got it?
Cover your heads, football fans, it's the year of the bird. I'm utterly stunned by the fact that the NFC representative in the Super Bowl will not bring with it a double-digit regular season win total, and that if the Sports Guy is right, we might be watching the team that was last in the NFL in rushing yardage in the big game.

If it comes down to Ravens vs Cardinals in the Super Bowl, I'm going to have to betray every moral fiber in my body and pick the Ravens to win. I still haven't fully recovered from the debacle that was Super Bowl XXXV, but just going by team mascots, the Ravens are scarier. That Cardinal doesn't instill confidence in them or fear in their opponents. Plus, you know, defense wins championships, and the Ravens' defense smashes people in the mouth.

But if I go with my team mascot theory (which is tried and true during March Madness, so why the heck not in the NFL?), then we're staring at an Eagles-Ravens Super Bowl, with the Ravens still winning. And I'd want to jump out a window watching that game, 'cuz I hate both teams.

I blame Eli. No wait, Kevin Gilbride. Bah, this is terrible.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mutterings and Mumblings 1-15-09

Seal of the Martyr / Seal of Blood is stupid. Paladins shouldn't have to cut themselves to maximize their damage. You know who does that? Warlocks. Warlocks are the polar opposite of paladins. Paladins wear plate - warlocks wear cloth. Paladins hit stuff with big, honking weapons - warlocks set stuff on fire from a distance. Paladins can heal others - warlocks can steal the life force of others. There's a trend here, and none of it points to both classes sharing a commonality. I don't want to hurt myself to hurt you, this is all patently silly.

DPS who can't beat the tank in damage should have their DPS license revoked and forced into remediation classes on the first offense. Seriously, 1000 DPS wasn't acceptable at level 70 in T5+ raids, and it sure as hell ain't any rosier nowadays, especially when the tank is doing 1100+. There is no fight in WotLK that has such a difficult enrage timer that extraordinary DPS and raid stacking is necessary. If a group can't beat an enrage, that's an indication that at least some of the group needs to (and I hate invoking this term, but it's warranted in this case) L2P.

Divine Purpose works on King Ymiron's paralyzing scream thing. I need to make a list of what else it works on in PvE. Between a Divine Purpose-empowered Hand of Freedom and Every Man For Himself, I'm nearly unstoppable.

I need a new trinket. The Sphere of Red Dragon Blood is great, I love it - but it's time for an upgrade. I have a bunch of hit rating on other gear to replace it, like the bracers I picked up from Grand Widow on Tuesday. Should I invest in a Darkmoon Card: Greatness or just pray nightly for a Loatheb's Shadow?

Speaking of the bracers from Grand Widow, I'm going to actually listen to my (and the EJ community's) advice and enchant them as well as my gloves with AP... soon. Expertise is nice, but more AP is better.

I'm consistently dropping 10k crits from Judgement of the Martyr in 10-mans while my wings are up. That's ree-dick-you-luss.

I hate the Oculus. I want the red proto-drake, but I vowed never to go back to that instance after the last time I was there. Bleh, that sucked.

Does the blue proto-drake from Skadi even exist? BRK has one, I've seen it! I don't ask for much, I just want a sweet blue ride.

Okay, maybe I just want a proto-drake.

When 3.0.8 comes out, I'm buying the new Kirin Tor DPS ring. Expertise, strength, an extra Dalaran hearth... I wants it.

Is the mechano-hog plan worth buying? I don't know if there's much of a market for them.

I need to make some Saronite Bombs for Wintergrasp fun. Also, Megs is a genius.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Improved Retribution Aura, Addendum

I'd like to address something from the comments of my previous post. In response to my questioning of Imp Ret Aura's worthiness of two talent points, BigFire wrote:

If you're a PVE retribution paladin, the improved rebtibution aura is not for you, but for the tank, especially for a protection paladin in your raid. I'm a protection paladin, and for the most part, I put up improved devotion aura for the secondary effect of 6% extra heal. With your better scaled retribution aura, I'll do a whole tons of threat.
Now, I agree with him on principle - in a group setting, the points are not for me. BUT, the claim that a prot paladin would do "a ton more threat" seems... off. I thought I just got finished with a rambling rant about how the feedback damage is larger than if the ret paladin did not talent into Imp Ret Aura, but the numbers after avoidance and boss attack speed were figured in would end up smaller than expected.

So, let's take a closer look. Imp Ret Aura, as I last stated, is probably about ~30 DPS (rough estimate) at a T7 level of gearing and raid buffs vs a single target boss with a 2.0-2.5 swing and a tank with T7 levels of avoidance. If you take that as a given, you're looking at ~60 TPS (rounded up) for a prot paladin from Imp Ret Aura.

This will only add threat if the mobs are all ready attacking the prot paladin. But so will Holy Shield, Consecration, Hammer of the Righteous, and ticking stacks of Seal of Vengeance. The additional TPS from the aura will not help in picking up mobs, it will only help in cementing a threat lead. Are any prot paladins that hard up for AoE threat in this day and age? Are any tanks at all (aside from feral druids, they have issues with Swipe, so I've heard) hard up for AoE threat? Because, in truth, we're talking about less than 60 TPS, and I don't think that many tanks are having much trouble holding things in place nowadays.

Where else could the points go? Divine Purpose for situational stun removal, on the ret paladin, a healer, a tank, whatever. Vindication to chop down trash clears a smidge. Guardian's Favor to protect a clothie more often on initial mob pick-up - this is a pro-active way to let the tank get aggro instead of the passive Imp Ret Aura, which would only increase the aggro lead slightly and only once the tank has control. All three of those talents are two-pointers that have situational effectiveness, and might possibly be worth more than 30 DPS (or 60 TPS for the tank).

Weigh in with your opinion. Provide me with a reasoned argument why I should stay invested in this talent. And if you can quantify the benefits of Divine Purpose, Guardian's Favor, and/or Vindication for comparison purposes, I'll love you forever.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Improved Retribution Aura

Until the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the Improved Retribution Aura talent was a laughing stock. The base aura did not scale at all and was a fairly small amount of damage - a small amount boosted by 50% is still a relatively small amount. However, when WotLK shipped, Retribution Aura was changed so that it scaled with the paladin's stats. Now it is possible to have the feedback damage reach up above 200, whereas it used to be about 60 in the Burning Crusade.

Since the base aura now scales, the Improved Retribution Aura talent has gained new life. Boosting a somewhat larger number (that can grow even larger with buffs and gear upgrades) by 50% makes it a much wiser investment. For example: wearing my PvE ret set, my base ret aura hits for about 215 in a group. When I talent into Imp Ret Aura, it reaches up near 295. I'm not sure how the improvement is calculated, but it doesn't seem like it's a straight-up 50% increase.

So after extolling the virtues of Imp Ret Aura at the onset of WotLK, now I am not sure. It seems the improvement (at my level of gear, in a 10-man raid of assorted classes) is only ~80 damage. And against single targets, that ~80 damage doesn't even equate to an 80 DPS increase for the tank. Since Ret Aura damage does not get reflected when a player parries, dodges, or otherwise avoids the damage (excluding a full block), and bosses do not always attack once a second, this damage gets averaged out to much less than 80 DPS. As a rough estimate (I have no backing for the following numbers whatsoever), I'd say that the DPS increase for the tank from Imp Ret Aura is probably more like 25-35 DPS in a 10-man raid setting.

Now, of course, this number fluctuates based upon the number of things being tanked, the attack speed of the mobs, and the avoidance of the tank(s). But, for a single target fight and damage being taken from physical attacks every 2.5 seconds or so, I'd say that you're looking at about ~30 DPS for your 2 talent points. Is it worth it? That's for you to decide. I've posted a subjective poll on the sidebar - weigh in with your thoughts there and in comments. Your feedback may have an effect on my suggested cookie-cutter raid spec!

I'm considering swapping the points over to either Vindication or Divine Purpose, since they each have limited application but very real effects. Divine Purpose can be used to un-stun people, for example to remove the web-wrap from people vs. Maexxna. Vindication is sometimes applicable vs. trash mobs, which would chop their HP and therefore kill them quicker. The main question I am considering: are these effects worth more than ~30 DPS?

Monday, January 12, 2009

3.0 FAQ Updated

I made some changes and touch-ups to my 3.0 FAQ today. Nothing fancy, no major switcheroo's. The main thing to note is that I edited the section on hit/expertise ratings.

The PvE raid hit cap is 8% - you need 262 hit rating before racial bonuses and raid buffs are taken into account to reach this mark.

The PvE raid expertise cap is 6.5% - you need 214 rating, or 26 skill, before racial bonuses and raid buffs are taken into account to reach this mark.

On a personal note, tanking is a lot tougher than it was in The Burning Crusade. The rotation is much tighter, and whenever I have to re-position myself I end up mucking it up and sometimes letting Holy Shield drop, which leads to bad things if something is beating me over the head while I'm moving. I tanked 10-Malygos and 10-Sartharion +1D this reset and, despite my apparent inability to keep my rotation tight while moving Malygos to avoid sparks or get control of Tenebron's hatchlings while still tanking Tenebron, I survived. Big shout-out to Something Wicked's awesome healers, thanks for covering my ass.

Hopefully I can slip in some 10-Sartharion +2D sometime this week!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Alex Golub, My New Hero

WoW Insider recently spotlighted Alex Golub, PhD., an anthropology professor at the University of Hawaii, in their "15 Minutes of Fame" column. Alex moonlights as a restoration shaman for a 4 year-old raiding guild. He is currently performing an anthropological study on Warcraft raiding culture and Ventrilo interaction for a book he hopes to publish on WoW.

Alex Golub is, without a doubt, made of awesome.

Read the interview on WoW Insider. Even if you don't have a BA in sociology (like your's truly) or a perverse infatuation with social interaction and personal perception, just reading what Dr. Golub says in response to some of WI's innocuous questions makes you sit back and think "huh, I never thought of it that way." Being a career anthropologist and having done research through participant observation, he has a knack for putting run-of-the-mill WoW events and interaction in plain English terminology so that everyone knows what he's talking about, not just WoW players.

I, for one, can't wait to read his book. Which shouldn't come as a surprise, since I'm the same person who got giddy about an article about scientific summits in-game and who's read a zany book entitled Digital Play, Culture, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. Yes, I really am that nerdy.

My favorite snippits of the interview follow -

In response to WI's question about his research impeding his ability to immerse himself in the guild/raid:

Being an anthropologist is great, though, because eventually you are going to want to interview everyone, which means you can't make enemies in the guild. We have a Boomkin in our guild who is notorious for pulling aggro, but in raid I can't be like "IF YOU PULL THE MOBS OFF THE TANK ONE MORE TIME I AM NOT GOING TO HEAL YOU ANY MORE YOU PIECE OF S@#$" and then afterwards be all "Oh hey, can I interview for my research afterwards?" They'll just mute you.

In response to WI's question about the relative ease of WotLK raids:

We cleared at T5 and T6 content before Wrath, and we were a little disappointed with how easy Heroic Naxx was -- at least until we got to Patchwerk and he carved the words "gear check" into the still-twitching torso of our main tank.

Go read!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whoa...Um, Hi?

It's funny what a little spotlight on WoW Insider and a bit of link-love from Rohan will do for a site. The scary part? It's only 11 AM, and today's numbers have all ready doubled my high from December (to say nothing of the ridiculousness that was Wednesday. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - who are all you people?)

To those who are new to the site, welcome. What we do here is babble about retribution paladins and their place in World of Warcraft, mostly slanting toward PvE, and occasionally indulge my need to drone on and on about gaming research or football or music whenever I feel like it.

Anyway, thank you WoW Insider and Rohan for the lovin'. Much appreciated.

The Party's Over, Daddy Blizzard Came Home

Zarhym dropped some highly anticipated but generally deflating news on the forums (thanks Ferraro of for reporting it) - paladins have been experiencing a bug related to the removal of the Precision talent, and Blizzard will (or has) hotfix(ed) it.

Last call guys, time to enjoy (or mourn the loss of) your free 3% hit while it lasts (or lasted? Has this been hotfixed all ready?).

It remains that strength is still our best stat, even better than hit, expertise, or crit, and even if you are not hit/expertise capped. So keep on stacking the strength. However, this hotfix will (or all ready has) probably put a dent in mana returns from Judgements of the Wise. You only get mana back if you hit your target with Judgement. So, if you found yourself going out of mana and blowing your load early in encounters before... it's time to haul out some of the hit gear. That's just way it is, guys and gals.

Ret Is The New Shadow

In the Burning Crusade, priests who specialized in the shadow tree and invested in certain talents had the ability to actively regenerate the mana of their party-mates. This idea was new and exciting - outside of a druid's Innervate, no one had any abilities that gave characters an outside source of mana regeneration (aside from mana/5 buffs like Blessing of Wisdom & Mana Spring Totem, and of course mana potions).

With the inclusion of 41-point talents and the re-invention of the shadow tree for priests, this all changed. Raid leaders began planning their raids around having 1-3 shadow priests to keep the casters mana bars topped off. It was widely held that a raid without shadow priests was an underpowered raid - the caster classes couldn't sustain their mana pool for upper-tier and bleeding-edge raid encounters without them. So dependent on their mana-batteries were some raids that scheduled raids were cancelled for lack of crack-priests.

Shadow priest dependence was part of the larger problem of buff stacking in The Burning Crusade expansion. Many guilds went with whacky raid compositions in order to exploit powerful buffs that some classes provided, and in turn several classes got the proverbial shaft when it came to raid invites. Some raids in Sunwell would bring 4-5 shamans (for their Heroism/Bloodlust and totems), 3-4 paladins (a ret for Judgement of Wisdom, and all for their blessings), and 3-5 priests (shadows for mana regen, and all for Mass Dispell against Felmyst), which meant the other 6 classes could bring an average of 2 characters per class. There was severe class imbalance, and Blizzard sought to correct that in Wrath of the Lich King. To do so, they made like socialists and spread the wealth.

WotLK saw a reinvention of buff classifications, and duplication of raid benefits amongst several classes. Previously, raid compositions were created with certain buffs/debuffs considered necessary, so raid leaders invited classes and specs instead of players. The thought process was "well, I need a warlock for Curse of X, shadow priests to regen caster mana, an enhancement shaman for Windfury/Unleashed Rage on the melee, a ret paladin for perma-Judgements, a..." and so on and so forth. To combat this line of thinking, Blizzard instituted a rule that only the most powerful buff of each "buff type" would be counted toward raiders character sheets, and only the most powerful of each "debuff type" would actually provide its raid-wide benefit. All raid buffs and debuffs were then classified by benefit type - for example, Battle Shout and Blessing of Might both provide a static AP-boost to those affected, so only one of them can be active in the raid. To ensure that this didn't lead to further class exclusion, these raid buffs and debuffs were all balanced against each other so that their base and talented versions matched each other in power across all classes. In our example, that meant the untalented Battle Shout provided the same amount of AP at level 80 as the untalented Blessing of Might, and their fully talented versions had the same AP value. Blizzard hoped by doing this that each potential raider would be considered on their experience, skill, and gear, and not on the bais that they're the only one available that can provide X essential raid buff. It leveled the playing field for all classes.

More to the point, Blizzard socialized party and raid mana regeneration mechanics, undercutting the shadow priest monopoly on this niche. In place of scaling mana refunds to those affected by a shadow priests Vampiric Touch is now Replenishment, a buff that smart-targets a set number of people in the party/raid and regenerates a set percentage of their mana over a short period. Talents in the hunter's survival tree and paladin's retribution tree can also provide the Replenishment effect. So, shadow priests have some competition!

There's a kink in the works, though. Most hunters eschew the survival tree, gravitating toward beast mastery instead. Amongst damage-dealing classes, beast mastery is currently the highest potential damage of all damage dealers, not just hunter specs. Couple that with physical damage generally scaling faster/better than magic damage, and most priests being pressured to go holy for Circle of Healing, Judgement of Wisdom adding additional regen to the DPS'ers, and another set of Blessings almost never being a bad thing, and you've got a potent little cocktail that has one very noticeable effect: ret paladins are the preferred choice of mana regeneration in raids.

How do I know that ret's are preferred? Anytime I log in while my guild has a 10-man Naxx in progress (in which I participate frequently), I get no less than 2 tells from raid members saying "Grah! Wish you were here!" or "DPS is so low, why aren't you in here?" I usually then check the roster and see, sure enough, there are shadow priests online but not in raid (and we have no survival hunters). Sure, it's a subjective, personal anecdote, but golly gee-whiz I'll be damned if I don't see random spam in trade chat looking for a ret paladin for PUG 10-mans.

So there you have it, ret fans - we're the new "flavor of the month" for mana regen, as they say. Until the hunter survival tree gets a kick in the pants, or shadow priests get a little bump in their overall damage potential, ret is the new shadow. Soak it up while it lasts.