Friday, May 29, 2009

Dual Wielding and Hit

Dual-wielding has been on the brain lately, both with a new guildmate leveling Enhancement as well as my DK acquiring his second spec, a Dual-Wield Frost DPS spec (0/53/18). The contrast between the two dual-wielding classes is pretty striking - the melee Shaman relies heavily on spell damage for DPS these days, and much of Lolknight DPS relies on abilities that scale with physical damage and actually making contact with your target.

Hit Rating
When it comes to "not missing skull-level bosses," caster DPS have straightforward goal: reach hit cap, then focus on other stats. For my Draenei Elemental Shaman, this magic number is 342. (source)

For dual-wielders, the hit cap idea is less straightforward. Since there's a huge to-hit penalty imposed on dual-wielding (24% instead of 5%), the actual hit cap for DWers (untalented) is in the 800s (source). Of course, the sheer number of hits-per-minute exceeds those of say a Mage, who's large nukes take several seconds to cast. So at some point, the DW's misses become acceptable, assuming other stats like AP are in good shape.

Thanks to math junkies and spreadsheet jockies (/salute Elitist Jerks), "soft caps" and other hit rating milestones have already been figured out for us. :)

Special Attacks (Yellow Hits)
The first hit milestone relates to special attacks like Stormstrike. This number is very low and attainable almost without trying: 66 for Shaman (33 for Draenei Shaman). (source)

Spell Hit
Since Wrath, spell damage has become a much larger part of Enhancement DPS - so much so that even Magma Totem is considered part of the "rotation," even against single targets. The conventional wisdom now seems to be the actual soft cap for Enhancement is the same as the hard cap for Elemental: 368 (or 342 for Draenei). (source) Melee hits will still miss at this number, but as long as your specials and spells are hitting, you should be free to buff your other stats (AP, crit, haste) - any hit rating beyond that number is bonus.

DK Hit
Death Knights were clearly built around the notion of using large two-handed weapons for DPS and Tanking, so for those of us who "just like the idea" of dual-wielding, we have a large hill to climb. Our DW talent is Nerves of Cold Steel, inferior to a Shaman's Dual Wield Specialization or a Rogue's Precision.

After some Googlin', the DWDK hit numbers I've been able to come up with are upwards of 400-500 (source). Ouch. In my own testing, there does seem to be a significant difference as hit rating is added, but my DKs gear is (at this point) barely passable for heroics, with hit rating in the low 300's and AP only in the upper-2000's. I have a feeling that DW scales better with higher gear levels, so we'll see!

Lots of Other Factors
Whether you're a Titan's Gripper, Enhancement Shaman, Death Knight or Rogue, being a successful dual-wielder ultimately comes down to some combination of things: theorycrafting, talent specs, rotations, weapon imbues, and of course, player skill.

Now if I could buy a third spec, my Shaman could 1) have his cake, 2) eat it and 3) throw frosting at Patchwerk with both hands, too. In the meantime, I'll fulfill my dual-wield fetish with my gimped DWDK. :)

After giving it my best effort of getting my DK to almost 400 hit rating with heroic-level gear (mix of blues and epics), I was averaging maybe 1,700 DPS on a single target. By switching over to a more typical two-hander DPS spec, he can now reliably output 2,200+ in the same gear. Looks like if I really want to get my dual wield on, I have to roll a Gnome Rogue. /sigh

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ulduar First Impressions

Naxx is pretty fun, but getting to see new raid content with guildies takes the cake. The rumors are true: Ulduar is not easymode, coordination matters, and folks need to stay on their toes. I'm sure over time these encoutners will become more trivial, but for the moment, it's great to have a little challenge in front of us.

Flame Leviathan

The Occulus is my least favorite instance. The Aces High daily bores me to tears. Quests with horses and dangling carrots make me nuts. Sensing a pattern? Yep, I'm not a huge fan of fights where you have to assume the abilities of some other thing.

So I admit I went into Ulduar annoyed that the very first thing to do was climb into a vehicle. Luckily, the vehiclular combat turned out to be surprisingly fun! Ex got to ride shotgun in a Demolisher, blowing stuff up on the ground and shooting stuff out of the sky.

Nothing really Shaman-specific to go over here - but becoming familiar with the various driver/passenger abilities beforehand is recommended so you can cover whatever duties your raid leader assigns you to. Also keep your highest item-level gear equipped here, as your vehicle's stats increase with ilevel rather than your personal stats.

When picking through FL's wreckage we found the Firestrider Chestguard, not a bad piece but unfortunately a downgrade from my T7.5, especially considering the loss of set bonuses and sockets.

This brat was our second boss tonight, and we chose to employ the "spread-out" strategy rather than the "clump-up and run-out" one, which seemed best for sustained DPS. Pro tip: use DBMs /range feature to make sure you're 15 yards away from the others (right-click the range window to change radius), and you can stay still to ranged-DPS or heal when infected with the debuffs. Melee enhancers will still need to run away from others, of course.

Add control is one of the keys to this encounter, and since they conveniently make a beeline for the boss, it's easy to lay down Earthbind and Magma totems in their path. One thing to take care with are the robot bomb adds - I'm pretty sure I killed one of our priests by downing one too close to him. Doh!

Even as a DPS shaman, throwing a few spot heals during Tympanic Tantrum can help take some pressure off your healers, as the fight is a little less of a DPS race now that the enrage timer has been nerfed.

There's something especially cool about dragon fights, and Razorscale is no exception. The first half of the fight alternates between taking down waves of adds and working on Razorscale when he's brought down to the ground, and then a kite-n-dps strategy for the second half.

Things can get a little chaotic between multiple adds, fire spots on the ground, fireballs hitting, and Razorscale being close enough to DPS - but keep your focus, stay out of the nasty stuff, and epics shall be yours!

It's been a while since I've had a "whoa" moment in WoW, and the appearance of Kologarn was one of those moments. (I purposely haven't done a lot of previewing fights in Ulduar.) This dude is BIG. So BIG you can target his arms! Craziness.

Lots of nature damage in this fight, so if you don't have a hunter handy consider Nature Resist totem. Avoiding the beams is pretty important, but also don't drag the beams into others. Sometimes I'd find myself boxed into a corner, so some self-healing was useful here, as well as backing-up on raid heals whenever a healer gets gripped.

Was finally able to replace some lame reputation boots with the Greaves of the Earthbinder from Kologarn, which I made into DPS boots using a Glowing Twilight Opal and the Icewalker enchant. The boots do seem to favor Resto, though, with the blue socket and all. Still, a little Mp5 doesn't hurt us Elementals:

Mana Regen
I had noticed the effects of the Great Mana Regen Nerf of 2009 in our recent Naxx runs, but it was especially noticeable in Ulduar. I was finding that liberal use of Thunderstorm was necessary to produce steady DPS over long periods. Also adjusted my rotation on some longer fights, going with FS > LvB > LB spam > repeat, rather than incorporating too many Chain Lightnings and Earth Shocks.

Overall, had a great time, and am looking forward to seeing more of this raid in the coming weeks/months!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Problem with Emblems

Back in The Burning Crusade, we had Badges of Justice which dropped in all heroics and raids, and were used to purchase all sorts of "endgame" gear.

The scenario worked out pretty well, allowing new 70s to run a few heroics to help get geared for raiding, and towards the latter stages of TBC, allowed the purchase of some pretty awesome gear, stuff that was close to the same level as Sunwell loot. For us casual raiders, this meant that (some, not all!) close-to-best-in-slot gear was within grasp if we worked hard enough for it. This was a good thing, as it kept raiders involved with random guild heroics as well as raiding.

Nostalgic moment: I remember working for a looong time to get my dual Vanir's fists, 150 badges total. It's a shame they look so ridiculous, because they're badass. Still have 'em in my bank!

In Wrath of the Lich King, we've got multiple levels of badges... err emblems:
The Problem
I understand the goal of tiered emblems was to appropriately reward raiders with purchasable gear of matching level, but in practical use, for players in casual raiding guilds (which I believe makes up the vast population of WoW players), it causes several problems:

For one, I've completely lost interest in running heroics with my main, as EoH are basically useless for Exelus, who already has two four-piece sets of T7/T7.5 (healing and DPS). I believe this has a negative effect on casual guilds, as the incentive for geared players to participate in heroics diminishes over time.

Blizzards stated goal is to allow even casual guilds to see all endgame content, which is great, but along the way we'll end up with little piles of emblems that just won't be useful for the next/current level of raiding. This is just kinda annoying, since emblems are meant for level 80 players but can lose practical value rather quickly.

  • Add a few next-gear-level items to be purchasable with many lower-level emblems (like Vanir's in TBC!), or an equivalent emblem trade-up program (3 for 1).
  • Make emblems (and Stone Keeper's Shards!) account-bound to help gear-up alts.
  • Make emblems vendor-able for some non-trivial amount of gold (to help with raiding consumables, repairs)
  • Some professions (like Jewelcrafting) use a token or other currency system to buy patterns and mats, so make emblems tradable for these tokens.
  • Allow PVP gear to be purchasable with PVE emblems.
  • Make emblems the currency for Scrolls of Level-Granting!
OK some ideas are a stretch, but we did see some of these types of solutions implemented towards the end of The Burning Crusade, hopefully we'll see similar adjustments as we move through Wrath.