Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More About Paladin Threat

After my last post, it was nice to hear from a couple of folks that they were also having trouble with threat, so I'm not just being a baddie (for once).

So. I'm mostly interested in solutions, not just complaining. How do we get around this? Let's take about threat from the top.

Hit and Expertise are the two threat stats we're concerned with.

Hit is fairly obvious, it lets you hit things more accurately. The way it works out, you can refer to the following table to see how much hit you need at any given moment. Keep in mind, there is no mob in the game more than 3 levels above yours when you're at cap, so right now, raid bosses are level 88. As an aside, this means for your PvP set, you only need 5% hit.

Difference in Level Hit needed
0 5%
1 5.5%
2 6%
3 8%

Expertise pushes your target's Dodge and Parry off the combat table. Melee DPS only need to push Dodge off the table as mobs can't parry attacks from behind, but tanks will need to worry about Parry. Expertise used to be really good for mitigation, as some bosses would gain a haste-buff any time they parried an attack, which gave tanks an incentive to stack Expertise, but that mechanic was taken out of the game and is no longer a factor. Expertise is purely for threat now.

The amount of expertise you need is the same for any mobs of a level higher than yours, but basically, 26 Expertise is the magical number you're looking for to kick Dodge off the table. Chasing the Parry cap is a loosing game and not worth the effort.

Okay, so why did you put that Hit chart up there?

Because you need to consider your environment, and what kind of threat output you need for that environment. The only mobs that need 8% hit are raid bosses. No other mobs in the game need 8% hit. Even heroic dungeon bosses are only level 87.

Why is this important? Get to the point, man!

Sorry, I tend to ramble. Unless you're tanking a farm raid-night to get through all of Tier 11 in 2.5 hours, you (generally) never need to worry about threat on a raid boss. Even if you don't have a hunter or rogue to give you Misdirects or Tricks, you should be able to have the raid sit on their hands for 5 to 10 seconds and with Wings, Inquisition and a small bit of luck, build up a solid lead before DPS goes nuts.

However, when you're clearing trash, when you're in a heroic dungeon, once you get some raid gear, build that threat set and use it.

So let's get set up for tanking dungeons and trash like threat kings.

A Hit cap of 6% means you need 720.65 hit rating. That isn't too much and honestly with items like Soul Blade, Elementium Earthguard, Retribution Tier pants, or even the Valor Hit trinket you can easily get there without giving up a lot of mitigation.

Paladins have it easy with Expertise. Glyph of Seal of Truth gives us an amazing 10 Expertise rating right off the bat. That's almost half the expertise you need total, from one glyph. You should always have this on. The rest you can get with some items here and there, or if you're feeling gutsy, with a Heart of Ragefrom Chimaeron.

The nice thing about those trinkets, is that they have a random on-equip strength boost which is also a very nice thing to have kick in now and again to give your threat and damage output a nice kick in the pants.

One more thing - Glyphs and Talents.

If you're mostly only doing dungeons, you probably don't need Glyph of Word of Glory. You can safely swap it out for Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous. This one glyph will boost your DPS output to amazing levels on AoE mobs.

And again, if you're mostly doing dungeons and don't expect to raid tank, make your talent spec something like this (0/31/10). It gives you everything you need for AoE tanking and pushes your threat stats up front and center. Keep in mind you're giving up a fair amount of Word of Glory utility so you'll need to be on your toes with survival cool downs.

If I didn't use my off-spec for Retribution all the time, I'd run with two protection specs. (This goes into another rant about why Blizzard need to remove the spec-cap, but that's a different story)

So, you have your threat set. You've changed your glyphs and talents, and you're ready fro that bear run. Right? Well, before you head out, check a few things first.

Make sure your healer is okay with this. If a healer is under-geared, the slightly increased damage you take could make things messy, especially since you won't have WoG to fall back on. When you do get into a scuffle, play defensively - use Holy Shield wisely, and be careful not to over-pull. I would run this with a guildy healer or someone I know before doing the LFG thing with it.

I tested mine this weekend with the amazing Vidyala healing me (I love the cross-realm grouping with the Battle.Net system so much!) and have been using it ever since for everything but raid bosses. I ended that experimental Z'A run even with the DPS on damage done and had absolutely little trouble with threat. And I was pulling like mad on that run, as it turned into a spontaneous bear-run with 2 PuGs and no vent, and we still managed to get to Lynx boss with 2 minutes on the timer (but didn't make it).

Anyway. That's how I went about making a threat set and I'm loving it. If you do something similar, have any thoughts or try any of this in the field, please let me know, I'd love to tweak or change things around to optimize this in any way possible!

Good luck out there. :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Paladin Threat in 4.2

It's my vengeance and I'll cry if I want to.

Am I the only person having issues with vengeance stacking, then dropping then slowly building up again so my DK friend who does 20k+ DPS in 5-mans winds up sitting on her hands a minute in the fight while I build a lead again?

Vengeance has become the be-all-end-all thing when it comes to threat. Tanks will gain attack-power capped by their stamina (which scales up with gear) as a fraction of damage done to them (which scales up with tier). Brilliant. Except for when I get a lucky dodge or parry streak and my Vengeance goes from 9k AP to poop and my threat bar slows to a crawl as the other bars race up to my nose like it's a sprint to the finish. Firelands loot has a fair amount of threat stats on the gear, especially some of the vendor stuff, but I reflexively take that threat and dump it into Mastery or Dodge because that's what's ideal for Paladins, so say the learned and mighty masters of Paladin tanking.

"Don't worry about threat," Ghostcrawler pipes in on the side, "Vengeance is your friend, it'll take care of you."

"Alright!" I say, heft my shield, grin at my 99% block-cap without procs and stride up to smack the boss with my mace and suddenly the boss who was snarling at me a second ago has pivoted away and is using the Mage like a chew toy.

I kick at his leg and throw out a taunt, "Hey, drop it!"

That gets the bastard back to me and I'm building Holy Power to smack it harder as fast as I can, but that invisibility is about to drop any second, and now the DK is going all out because we're so close to the enrage timer on this fight, we can't afford to waste time. A couple of hits land, and I've got a full bar of golden, glowing Holy Power. Now's my chance! I swing my shield.


I spit out an expletive, spit sprays, I can barely see through the streaks on the screen, I cast a Judgment to fill the time and smack that Shield again.


Omen is blinking red and yellow, suddenly alarm appear, red and spinning, and someone is blowing an air-horn in my ear. Wait, why is the goddamned *Hunter* chasing the meter? "Misdirect," I squeal into my microphone, "For pity's sake, give me some threat!"

Bang. I take another solid hit, my Vengence is now buried in the red, and I grin and bloodied grin, as the glowing Shield from Power Auras alerts me that I have Sacred Duty proc up. YES! NOW! Swing that shield! Hit! Hit! Hit!

And does it? Who knows. By this point I've screamed at the DPS so much they're all pouting and holstering their weapons, in search of a better tank and the healers chase after them and suddenly, the boss is carrying me away and I kick and flail helplessly, while he digs a hole to bury me in.

(The boss is, apparently, a puppy.)

Right now (for Paladins at least, correct me if I'm wrong about other classes, though I know on my DK I love mastery as well) block capping, mitigation balancing and survival gearing necessitates exclusion of threat stats, which in turn, along with threat at pull, and a lack of hits from abilities is leading to a very knife's edge situation with threat... but it's not that way all the time. Other times, everything is great, I manage to grab threat and drag it up so far, so fast, I might as well white-swing and AFK till the fight is over.

Here's the thing - I don't mind fighting for threat. I don't mind gearing or working hard for it. What I mind is the gross inconsistency of threat from pull to pull.

If I do go for threat stats, I'm increasing my damage intake. So I gear for avoidance and rely on Vengeance.

But Vengeance  isn't an ideal tanking tool. But in execution, every time I dodge or parry a hit, I'm reducing my ability to push threat, and as a Paladin every time I miss with Crusader Strike I'm not building Holy Power or every miss of Shield of the Righteous, I'm loosing a major threat burst. Sometimes, it's my Censure ticks that's all the damage I'm doing in a three or four, second interval.

I don't want to just bash the idea, it's great in theory - it scales very well with gear and encounters - it's just that its effectiveness diminishes with scaling mitigation and the buff can be completely wasted with missed attacks, and it's not there when we arguably need it the most - at the start of the fight.

However. All of this is besides the point  - it works, more or less, and is generally an okay way to deal with the old issue of DPS scaling a lot faster than threat. I know that the math behind the builds makes sense, I like math, I don't have an issue with it. But is it fun? Hell no.

It is not fun to miss three Crusader Strikes in a row. It is not fun to have a full bar of Holy Power, a Sacred Duty proc and miss twice with Shield of the Righteous till the buff drops off. It is not fun to just waste GCDs on nothing.

That's my issue. Missing is not fun.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

H. R. is my least favorite R.

I haven't been talking about raiding much lately because I haven't been able to do much raiding (well, real raiding, which is Firelands) lately. When 4.2 dropped, we went in to Firelands the first two weeks and had a lot of trouble. One of our healers was severely under geared and we had a lot of trouble keeping the raid alive.

This week, we decided we'd go do some hard-mode/T11 clearing for some gear and upgrades and then go back into Firelands for the second night, and then the roster issues rose up again. Next week I'm on vacation and that means the earliest chance I'll have to see Firelands again is 7/26. Which is not a pleasant thought. It's not that I'm trying to compete with the guilds on my server - most of them have pushed forward fairly quickly and many congratulations to them, however, it's frustrating to be side-lined.

Last night we wound up PuGging to go clear some raid achievements because hey, 2 missing raiders means I don't want to wipe for hours on Shannox, so we cleared all of T11 (which, BTW, seems easier than Zandalari these days) and Halfus on Heroic.

Our roster is growing more stable, slowly, one person by one person. We picked up one semi-regular friend from another guild which is super-awesome, and last night, yet another PuG who was raiding with us last night wanted to join after the night ended, and I hope his attendance will be stable.

Right now a third - solid, geared, aware, and reliable - healer or tank would make life a lot easier. That's the big gap in our roster right now. My co-tank has swapped to healing and one of our top DPS has taken to tanking, but I miss her epic DPS (though she's a fine tank as well) and their off-spec gear sets are not as well-tuned to these roles as their main-spec sets are, naturally.

There are maybe three or four other raiders who are on the roster, and they are all awesome and I would love to see them attend consistently, but their real-life obligations make them hit-and-miss and I can understand that, and they know that if I do find stable positions they would become bench-warmers, but these HR problems continue to crop up, and I hear about it even from the very top-end guilds on my server who never used to have a problem with their rosters.

I'm wondering if I'm noticing it so much because of the smaller size of our guild (before we formed Turtles, we were in fairly large guilds with many people and often had folks to step in to fill raid (even if they were sometimes less than ideal, which is a completely separate issue)). Or is this a Cataclysm issue? Is there just a lot of burnout with Cataclysm in general? I don't know.

There is also the time factor. I do think that the new encounters are just, plain, harder, and the biggest resource they require to clear is not gear (though it helps) but time to practice and learn. So many guilds are doing at least three nights, and often four hours per night. We're doing six hours a week, total. I can't help but stare at that fact and wonder if it's a factor in our stalling progress.

Solving HR problems is the hardest thing for me - thankfully my GM is amazing at recruitment and when we find good people PuGing with us, she is relentless at getting them to accept a Guild Invitation. I don't know how anyone can resist her pursuit. It's like the adds on Maloriak casting Fixate - she just doesn't let go  until you say yes! The problem is finding good people who are reliable.

Anyway. This post is just a ball of QQ and I didn't intend for it to be that - I'm trying to remain optimistic and it was actually a pretty fun night to kick back, crack a beer and just steamroll T11 while picking up achievements and yak with friends. Isn't that what raiding is supposed to be about, anyway?

Next week, I'm off to Cape Cod at a beach house with my wife and baby, so the only thing I'll be raiding is the Oyster bar. Lots of yummy, briny Oysters to shuck and slurp, while reading lots of books and dreaming of Dagon sleeping off the coast of New England.

You guys have fun, and I'll see you when I get back, unless I get inspired and write from vacation-land.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Summer Of PvP

Man, is it me, or is the blogosphere quiet lately? Most of the blog I read are, anyway. I probably need more blogs to read. I suppose I'm part of the silence lately as well.

Anyway. 4.2 has been out for two weeks now, and I've been enjoying the game quite a bit lately - the dailies and progression along the Molten Front is actually fairly engaging, and I really love the achievements you can get out there. My favorite one so far has been King of the Spider Hill. I died way up high on my first attempt and had to take a spirit rez for the first time in who knows how long.

Last week was also the first time a few guildies and friends pulled together a ten-man and ran a couple of Rated Battlegrounds, and we actually won our third match against a guild from our server. It was fairly hectic but a lot of fun, and my 2v2 partner and I also moved up to a 3v3 team and went 50/50 in our first week with what is, I think, a sub-optimal composition (Retribution/Holy Paladin/Shadow Priest) but I think we'll get better as the season goes on.

We're still getting used to having a third person in our team and figuring out how to incorporate her - I'm thinking Shadow Priests might be in the same role as Affliction warlocks, which is more of a pressure-and-control role and I'm finding that I can bring a lot of burst forward when I put my mind to it. Thanks to our mid-range MMV from last season, we were up against some fairly decent teams, and we saw one very good team three times, winning 1 and loosing 2 against them. They were kind of like our twin - two paladins and a warlock.

I'm finding 3's to be more interesting and dynamic in terms of what's actually going on - there's less of chasing a healer over half of creation just to get them to OOM and more about setting up kills with your team which is far more engaging, and crowd-control is a vital, vital tool and I often have to decide whether I want to eat a CC or break out of it. I also really need to get better at my Repentance usage and being better at off-heals.

After about 15 matches, I think our strength, as it was in 2s, is against any kind of cleave team - we have so much off-healing and survival, that if we play defensively and survive whatever burst they throw at us in the first 30 seconds of a match, we have the game.

Tonight we're going to try a few more rated BGs and see how it goes - hopefully we have enough people and are able to post a guild team. Whenever I start to feel the game getting a bit dull (not that it is, what with all the trash to farm, new bosses to kill, dailies to unlock...), PvP is always there to make things interesting again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hyjal is backwards

Ever since I did Hyjal back in December, I've been thinking about why I don't like that quest line. And I think with 4.2 and the invasion quests, it finally makes sense to me. Hyjal is written backwards. It starts where it should end and then tries to back out of that, and winds up feeling trivial instead of challenging and threatening.

I think one of the big problems with Blizzard is that they are writing on such an epic scale they can't see what makes stories good - they do not let us as characters experience struggle. And yet, it is exactly struggle that makes heroes what they are. It's in the wake of loss that victory has meaning. That is why Wrathgate was so widely accepted as a genius move - it was about the heroes making a massive mistake and being absolutely ruined because of it. It was about the loss of names we thought were immortal.

Cataclysm - and Warcraft in general - could use some more of that.

Think about what happened in 3.1 through 3.3 - nothing. Did we as heroes ever loose ground? Did we have even one setback? Was there ever a point where we saw Dalaran under threat even though it was a 30 second flight from the Citadel? Did the Lich-King more or less tolerate a Renaissance Faire on his doorstep for months? By the time we killed Arthas, it was a foregone conclusion. We were on a relentless march forward with barely a false step along the way.

The victory was not earned in blood and we felt cheated.

In general, Cataclysm feels half-done. We know why we're in Throne or Bastion - there are clear indications even if a few quests leading directly to raids would have helped, but what about Nefarian? There is absolutely no questline devoted to his threat in the end-game. Even something local to Orgrimmar and Stormwind where the old Lady Prestor and Lord Nefarius stories could easily have been done as they tried to re-gather their resources and suddenly we were aware of their threat and moved in before they could get too far down that line - which would explain the limited resources Nefarian seems to bring to bear.

Anyway. Back to Hyjal - I'm going to take a stab at it by looking at Hyjal and seeing how it might have been done so as to follow this back-and-forth swing of loss, regroup and victory.

So imagine, if you will, a different Hyjal storyline. One in which Hyjal is whole, or as whole as it was before the invasion - nascent forests, lush and green, blue streams of water, rich with animal life when an urgent call goes out for help to put out forest-fires. You arrive to see a small volcano and elementals - nothing too much to worry about but as you fight and quest, you find that on returning to your quest hubs, they are overrun, and you have to move back, further up the mountain to regroup - echoes of what happened when the Scourge came.

Over and over, you try to contain the fire but are pushed back, more and more powerful Fire Lords appear, and take over the lower levels of Hyjal and you continue backwards, imploring the Ancients for help but even their intervention isn't enough - only after all four are summoned are they able to put up a defense, but it's too late - by then, much of the forest is already gone, the forces of Ragnaros are on the doorstep of Teldrassil and the world-tree is truly threatened on all side, as Ragnaros' lieutenants wander openly, transforming Hyjal into a part of the Firelands itself.

We are left with dailies to combat the skirmishes against wandering fire elementals and rescuing druids from behind enemy lines and such - we are under siege. You are sent as an emissary to call for help, but the world is too fractured, too busy dealing with their own local problems to care much about a tree on some distant land.

Desperate for something to happen, we become a part of Malfurion's gambit - while the bulk of Ragnaros' forces are on the offensive, he suggests a daring attack against the enemy. He calls for resources to be gathered from the enemy, that he will collect and use to open a gateway into the Firelands itself - dangerous dailies with rich rewards, perhaps.

Imagine, further, a small instance within the barrow-dens. With all this disruption, the various prisoners held by the Wardens are breaking free as the Wardens are called out to battle. Staghelm is making a move, aided by unknown forces that have infiltrated the Dens, perhaps even druids who lead us in and then mislead us while they rescue Staghelm, we see the betrayal and corruption of Druids first hand - a sign of things to come later.

4.2 finally arrives and Malfurion, along with the Aspects and the Elders having gathered enough resources finally opens that gate - straight into the Firelands itself, bypassing all the defenses Ragnaros has put in place. The Avengers of Hyjal take a skeletal crew into the Firelands along with the adventurers and begin their own invasion - one of foliage. The quests can continue as they do now - we plant our own trees in the Firelands and solidify our foothold even as Ragnaros recalls some of his forces, aware now of his exposed flank.

The fight is two-fronted - the invasion and the repel - do dailies in Firelands to grow the trees, and do a new (shorter) questline in Hyjal to retake the land. As quests are completed in Hyjal, the Guardians move forward, take new land, open new dailies and quest hubs, regrow their lands bit by bit.

Meanwhile, the fight continues in the Firelands - adventurers raid against Ragnaros refusing him the opportunity to advance against the tree himself, and tangle up his strongest lieutenants. 4.2 ends with the fires of Hyjal finally extinguished, and Ragnaros finally defeated.

This keeps things very close to the way they are but it just changes the tone of things and adds a palpable sense of desperation to things - it brings a sense of danger. Something sorely lacking in the game right now. With phasing technology being so evocative in its ability to change the world, I think the storytellers can afford to be a little more risky and let us loose things at the end-game a little bit.

It'll make the victories all the more meaningful.