Friday, May 15, 2009

Tanks Side by Side

I will break down each tank individually in time but I need to understand them first. I have a pretty good idea on Paladin and Warrior tanking and their pro's and con's. DKs and Druids I have very little knowledge about how a 3.1 tank works let alone the in's and outs.

I made a little chart weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the four classes in several catagories:

  • Damage Mitigation: The more damage you can avoid taking, the better it is for your healers, and you will stay alive longer. This is typically melee damage. Paladin's typically take the least damage overall with blocks and high armor. Druids and Warriors take similar amounts of incoming damage depending on the uptime of a druid's Savage Defense; Druids have higher armor, so I would assume their damage intake will be lower. DK's are made to be avoidance tanks, so they will get hit harder when attacks land as they typically have less armor than the other classes.

  • Total Health: The more health you have, the bigger hits you can take before you die. This stat is most useful for bosses who deal large blows very slowly. After 3.1 DK's and Druids got big HP nerfs but they still have the largest health pools of all the tanks. Paladins are next since their stam coefficient is higher than Warriors.

  • Avoidance: How often the boss Misses/Dodges/Parrys when he tries to attack you. Avoidance is typically a secondary category to gear for as it is based on random chance. If you fail to avoid several attacks in a row, this could end up killing you if you cannot mitigate the damage or if the incoming damage is more than your total HP. DK's win this round, followed by Druids with their crazy high dodge rate. Paladin's typically have more avoidance than warriors ceteris paribus as agility gives us more dodge than warriors, although I don't see much plate with agility on it. I need to get some data for the warrior/pally avoidance.

  • Cooldowns: If you can use cooldowns to prevent/mitigate a large incoming attack, the less likely you are going to die. The more cooldowns you can use, the better your chances of surviving. Warriors have some of everything including their buffed shield block. DK's have short cooldown but potent abilities, which edges them out against warriors. Druids have a couple tricks. Paladins have one talent, with one glyphed not as good cooldown (Hand of Salvation).

  • AOE Tanking: Sometime or another you will need to tank more than one angry at a time. This may be 2, or may be 20. The less GCD's you need to use to keep them under control, and not get eaten by them, the better. Paladins shine in this category as we take less damage from many angrys beating on us while maintaining threat. DKs have very good/best AoE threat, but take more damage due to being avoidance tanks with not as much armor. Druids have swipe spam, and can take less damage with higher armor. Warriors have a lot more going for them in terms of AoE tanking than they used to including Damage Shield, Shockwave(Long CD), TClap, as well as Deep Wounds on crits (Thanks Warriors for the info)

  • Threat: The tank needs to be the most threatening person in the raid to an angry. If you cannot keep more threat than the DPS, they will be taking hits instead of you. Paladins have the highest threat due to our threat abilities being magical in nature and not mitigated with boss armor. DKs have some magic damage, Druid/Warriors bleed which is reduced by armor.

  • Moblility: A tank needs to be able to intercept incoming new angrys as well as get away from bosses when they become too dangerous to tank. The ranking is very tough as each class excells in a various movement type. Warriors take this one as they can charge angrys and friendly players. Druids have have the ability to charge. Paladins and DKs have passive run speed talents; DKs can also bring angrys to them instead of intercepting them.

  • Raid Assistance/Buffs: Some tanks bring raid buffs and can cast spells to assist your raid in completing your tasks better. Paladins edge out warriors as we have Hands of XYZ, Divine Sacrifice, and BoSanc. Warriors can Intervene, Sunder Armor, Vigilance, and have a few more tricks to help out the raid (Shouts etc). Druids have a buff (MotW, Leader of the Pack), and DKs do very little to provide additional raid support.
Hopefully those categories are sufficient to rate how well your tank performs. I will be updating this table as I research more about the abilities of other classes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's in a Tank?

So, Blizzard has given us four flavors of tanking other than gimicky encounters that have mages/locks/hunters soak damage. We have Death Knights, Druids, Paladins (yay), and Warriors. The next few posts will be commentary on the styles of each tank and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. I will also be posting on how these tanks interact with boss encounters in Ulduar. Each will be prefaced with a brief overview. For a more compresensive look at each tank, there are lots of resources found online which get into fine detail about the nuances. Elitist Jerks forums are some of my favorite places to go when I need maths.

Since I know Paladins the best, let's start there.

Paladins are tanks that rely on plate armor, and a huge damn shield to mitigate damage. We utilize Righteous Fury in concert with holy damage in order to generate threat. We have several ablities to use to generate threat: Judgement, Hammer of the Righteous, Shield of the Righteous, Holy Shield, Consecration, Avenger's Shield, and Exorcism. The first five are used in the basic 969 rotation, and the last two are great for ranged pulling of mobs. Paladins have two taunts in their arsenals as well, single targets with Hand of Reckoning and up to three targets (shotgun taunt) Righteous Defense.

The general philosophy behind paladin tanking is rely on your shield for damage mitigation whether it be single target or AoE tanking. Paladins excel at taking a steady intake of damage with each attack blocking a good chunk of the incoming damage using Holy Shield; more steady and predictable damage means that there is less pressure on the healers as healing you is generally easier.

Generally paladins do not have as many "Oh Sh*t" buttons as the other tanking classes, but that is the trade off for our ability to soak steady damage. Paladins in general have one damage reduction cooldown: Divine Protection. Basically a carbon copy of the Warrior's Shield Wall (50% damage reduction for 10 sec). We can glyph for a 20% reduction effect to Hand of Salvation, but this has a dangerous downside for threat sensitive fights. We don't get a Last Stand, or a Frenzied Regeneration type cooldown. A paladin tank can compensate with healer cooldowns, like Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, or Divine Sacrifice but these can't be always relied upon.

I would argue that paladin tanks take less damage than any other tank, but handle spike damage very poorly. Fight's like Loetheb, General Vezax, and any other boss that deals steady damage are ideal for a paladin tank.

Another strength of paladin tanks is AoE tanking. We have some of the best multi-target threat abilities in the game and when you couple that with the ability to block a good chunk of every incoming attack, AoE tanking becomes the hallmark of tankadins. Often it is better to put a tankadin on boss adds than bosses due to their ease in dealing with multiple enemies.

That's it for now, next up Warriors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I want three specs =P

Quick Post:

1) Main Tank Spec for guild progression - 80% of the time I am tanking Ulduar progression

2) PVP Spec. Prot is actually really fun in arenas. - 15% of the time

3) PVE Ret offspec. 5% There are some bosses in Ulduar that really truly only need one tank.

Respec's arent expensive. I used to blow 250g a night in sunwell in respeccing, when that was a lot of money (back in my day....) I have just fallen in love with hotswapping specs and having my bars good to go. It makes life so much easier. Glyphs however are pretty expensive and usually cost more than the respec.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ulduar Dificulty Adjustments

Looking at how Blizzard is "nerfing" Ulduar makes me giggle a little bit. There are open flame wars on our realm forums and everywhere with everyone claiming bigger E-Peens than everyone else because they downed the content before Blizzard nerfed it. I don't think it matters but when a new raid is released, I have belief that the difficulty is released on a sliding scale. Blizzard may claim the contrary and say that the polish was missing on some of the encounters, which is also very valid. Some fixes are bugs and some are much needed tuning. The raid difficulty is put in place as a barrier from guilds demolishing the place in a single night. A raid has a lifespan of about 6 months before your raiders have everything they could really want from the place and are chomping at the bit for some new content.

In my mind there are three types of raiding guilds: Top 100, Top 1000 and everyone else (EE).

Top 100 guilds are not necessarily the best raiders in the world, but they have the time and the dedication to beat their faces against any kind of content. They are competent and motivated and in some cases, just badass. Broken, badly tuned, insanely difficult (First 2 weeks of M'uru hard) these things will not deter them. I look at Ensidia's first Hodir hard mode kill as basically a F*ck you blizzard; you can over tune encounters and we will still find a way to beat them. These guilds also have seemingly infinite resources with active rosters probably nearing 100 geared raiders. My hat goes off to the guild leaders of these kinds of guilds as they are probably managing a logistical nightmare keeping everyone rotated in raids (multiple raid teams?), recruiting quality people, and making counter raid comps for every encounter during a progression race. /salute

Top 1000 guilds are usually the server 2-4 ranked guilds that most likely have the same skill and understanding of the game as the T100 guilds, but simply don't have the time or the resources to dedicate to raiding as these more organized guilds. These people most likely have careers or other obligations in their lives that take precedent over raiding. They still get the rush, they still have fun, and they can clear content arguably with less time invested on the encounters themselves. They can rely on a steady roster of people and go at raiding with less time input that the T100. These people understand their class and possibly even more about other classes. This is the kind of guild I raid with today.

Everyone else has a few quality raiders but they do not have a steady roster and are generally more social and touchy feely and not as skilled as the top 1000. These players generally do not optimize their gear with gems and enchants nor do they understand the finer subtleties of how to raid with the class they play. Raid optimization also falls by the wayside, a symptom of not having a steady core. These guilds are doomed to raid Naxx until the end of time, and I think they are fine with that. The good players with a desire to raid other stuff will eventually leave and join more organized guilds.

At one time I raided with a guild very similar to a top100 in the first days of Sunwell and it was one of the most fun times I ever had raiding, but I spent 6 hours a day, 5 days a week raiding (not to mention time to farm consumables) while having a girlfriend, a job, and night school to do at the same time. It burns you and everyone else out.

Eventually M'uru downed us simply because we did not have the right classes online when we were doing progression and it didn't matter that everyone else was ready. Most nights we were one feral druid short. We got to M'uru phase 2 in a few nights after the cockblock gate was opened, but the guild stopped raiding before the pushback and add HP nerf. If we could have stayed together for another week we could have nailed the encounter with the nerfs.

This right here gets back to my point. To this day, guilds hold this prize over their heads: stomping pre-"nerfed" content. When new content is released Blizzard’s demographic is the T100 guilds. They can pretty much do whatever they want in terms of tweaking the difficulty of the encounters to stymie these juggernauts.

This claim to skill is a false one. It is a matter of ultra guilds with limitless time and resource constraints throwing everything in their arsenal at content to see it fall. Time is the most important factor here, and to a greater extent in this game as well; if you give a player enough time, eventually all content is meaningless (raids, achievements, gear) and everything can be accomplished even if you are terrible at the game.

Blizzard does not try to get the tuning right the first time; not because they are lazy, but because they know that no matter how it is tuned, there will be ways to cheese the encounters, and monster guilds that will chew through all the crap. They are taking an iterative approach to having these monster guilds help them tune the instance for the people with time and resource constraints. The test realms only help so much as some guilds do not even log onto them as they do not want the instances spoiled for them in order to make that first night of new content that much more fun; there is also very little incentive to test raid content on the PTR as it all your effort goes away come the real release save some experience with the encounters.

Sorry for the long post but this has been on my mind from all the lvl1 trolls throwing insults at each other for defeating pre-nerfed content and stroking their own E-Peen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Raiding Recession?

I am seeing a lot more people apply to our guild after the new patch. Some are from players that want to break into raiding, and some are from guilds that fell apart after Naxx boredom/Ulduar shock killed their guild.

There are only so many players a raiding guild can comfortably handle before they become too many or not enough. I use a sponge as an analogy. If the sponge doesn't have enough water for a long enough time, it becomes dry and cracks; a guild like this will most likely split off into several directions/new guilds. If a guild has too much water, the excess simply falls away from it; players not being utilized in the raid will quit and find other guilds that can better utilize them.

It seems to me that on my server there aren't enough jobs for people that want to raid the new content. Well, not exactly that, but there are people leftover that want to raid, but can't find a spot to do so; simultaneously there isn't enough critical mass in the leftover raiders to organize a new group of players to fill an entire raid.

People seem to be still stuck in the BC mentality that raiding = 25man. Ten man raiding is thriving and is at a better place than ever it seems, but if I was a 10man raider it would eventually go dry and I would want to go back to the 25man stuff. It seems that it would not take much effort to start raiding 10 man stuff, and eventually merging guilds to get into 25 mans again;that transition is sometimes such a shock that some guilds don't survive it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Argent Tournament, take 2

So, the dailys at the champion level is not as bad as I said.

I can be done with about 12 dailys (including fishing and cooking) and what is nice is that the objectives for the valiant double count with the champion quests. So in essence, you don't have to do the quests twice. Thumbs up.

The champion duels are still a little lame but are easy enough. I think I am down to 5 minutes to best four champions.

So, all said and done, I can net about 170g in one hour. Not bad. Plus I can get the red chicken after a week or two.

Greedy Goblin posted on the economics of Healing/Tanking/DPS, where he called non DPS players slaves to bad players. I disagree; one excellent tank/healer a raid does not make. He believes that the free market economics and Pareto optimal situations act as an invisible hand, but in a social environment this breaks down tremendously. This is not a game of predictable actions, this is a very emotional game where people do not often behave rationally. I for example spent a weekend grinding old world quests to get rep with the Gnomer Exiles just so I could ride a robot chicken. People sometimes do things that just don't make sense.

I am a pretty good tank, but somehow I don't think if I started to charge for my services that there would be a market for that. Maybe I could charge people to get acheivements that get them a nice pretty red drake, but I doubt a) people know what they want and b) that they would pay money for it. At least the rational people that I know.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Argent Tournament

So, I have been doing the Argent Tournament daily's on and off for the last week, and I am glad and discouraged at the same time at the approach the developers have taken with it. I went into it thinking these would be simple kill ten rats and fed ex quests that would be quick (see SSO dailys from sunwell) and net some nice coin. I was half right.

There are three levels of dailys: Aspirant, Valiant, and Champion. You start out as an aspirant, and you do some basic combat quests, fetching swords from princesses and killing some scourge. Pretty simple. These quests give some nice coin, as well as Aspirant tokens. After you collect so many aspirant tokens you can turn them in to become a Valiant and the whole process starts over. Valiant quests are slightly harder, more to kill, harder combat training, and you collect your tokens to be a champion. You net more gold but it just takes more time.

Champion quests are retarded. In comparison to the time it takes with regard to aspirant quests, it probably takes double the time per quest, and there are about double the quests. In essence it takes you four times as long to do double the quests for double the aspirant gold, but you get Champion seals to excange for gear, mounts and pets.

I have two reasons for doing these quests: getting some easy gold, and getting the robot chicken mount from championing Gnomeregon. I am not a mount or achievement whore but I have always wanted to ride around on a mechanostrider as it seemed fitting because I will never drop engineering until you pry it from my cold dead hand; Bliz lifting the mount restrictions made me pee a little. Being that I never got to roll a gnome paladin, I have to become a champion of Stormwind first, then start the Gnome Valiant chain, and become a champion of Gnomeregon before I can get the red robot mount. I am also getting rep with some faction I could give 2 craps about, which is better than nothing. If these quests did not give me any gold I probably wouldn't do them solely for the mount, but hey it is something to do between Ulduar raids.

Pros: Good rewards for the non raiders, gold for your troubles, more achievements and mounts.

Cons: More time sucked out of your day depending on your tournament rank, achievements and mounts.

My biggest complaint is how much time you spend doing the mounted dueling, and mounted scourge killing at the champion level. I like a challenge, but the horse dueling is fighting with a computer for about 2-3 minuets in order to kill it. 4 duels can take up to 15 minutes depending on how stingy the NPC. This seems a little backwards in terms of effort/reward.

Mounted scourge killing is this exact situation, but with limited number of mobs to kill. This is frustrating as well, as you are fighting the scourge as well as other players for tagged mobs.

For the OCD completionists, I can see 2 hours of grinding a day for the next 3 months in order to get all their acheivements, mounts, and pets. Eff that. This is good for Blizzard cause it keeps people in the game and paying subscriptions. This is copy paste from the Sunwell dailys but worse. This might be Activision handing down shovelware to keep subscription numbers up, and the sad thing is that it will do exactly that as people will keep playing the game to do this new "content."

Just label me bitter old disgruntled if you want. I know I am. I am just clinging to the glory days of raiding T5 and T6 as a ret paladin =P

I will post more on Ulduar later. So far I am liking the direction that raids have taken (more challenging) but I don't see any less skilled guilds getting very far. We will see when we have done the hard modes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Airline Miles as Currency

Being an engineer (and working with many of them) there are a lot of pauses which become awkward silences. Given enough time, my mind starts to wander into places that most people would consider odd. Not surprisingly these two events intersect quite often. My lunches are the most time I get to freethink during the average workday between all the attendees looking over eachother's shoulders trying to not get caught holding up the conversation and the munching of calories as soon as the food arrives.

My boss and I decided that today was burrito day. He likes to use his credit card at the burrito place so he can earn double rewards on his Discover card. This sparked today's thought.

The thing people lack more than anything in my view is patience. They would rather use resources (money, credit, points) sooner for tangible gratification now than holding off and waiting for something possibly better down the line, which may or may not ever come.

Airlines use frequent flier miles in order to build brand loyalty, and in my view could do a better job to instill that loyalty. I almost prefer not to "earn" them as I know when times get tough, the member rewards programs that companies offer are often the first to go. I am even unsure if there is some sort of airline mile inflation that make redeemable ticket further and further away even though the earning potential remains constant (one mile of flight = one mile point.) Perhaps this is to entice you to sign up for a bonus mile credit card or something of the sort.

The whole point of the program is to give you an incentive to fly with one airline rather than flying with the lowest cost option every time you need to travel. It would seem that airlines could ammend their program to give those with frequent flier miles the option of spending those points on something else rather than holding out for free hotel rooms or flights. Some flights offer in flight TV at an additional charge, as well as premium beverages and snacks which all cost real money.

Why not offer airline services (In flight services, premium seating, additional bag fees) in exchange for airline points as an alternative to paying real money? This all depends on the marginal cost/revenue of these services in relation to the things they currently offer, but it would promote brand loyalty as well as hook those people who don't fly enough to save for a free flight.

I know my boss was sold on the idea if he could watch TV on the plane for free if he could give up some of his earned miles on a flight. I know I would if we could work a resonable Hi-Wifi deal or something. I could farm something I needed in WoW rather than do a sudoku, or kill some brain cells watching TV.