Friday, April 20, 2012

How I play dis?

For the first time since I hit level-cap in 2008, I have no tank-spec on Innana.

We have picked up what will (hopefully) be a consistent Warrior tank, our off-tank remains on her Death Knight and rather than try our luck with the fifth, sixth or seventh healer to fill our vacant 3rd healer slot, I decided to bite the bullet and get a Holy set together and become that third healer, while going Retribution or Protection as necessary, the rest of the time.

But don't worry - I'll still be writing about tanking, as it is my passion in the game, and I'm hoping I can add to my knowledge of the class by playing all 3 specs better, while helping the raid at the same time. If you were worried that I'd stop writing about tanking in the first place, that is, and I don't know why you would be because I don't really write about tanking all that much, to be honest, and when I do it tends to meander a bit and isn't particularly specific to Paladins, except when I go into mechanics and stuff... ahem, I'll stop now.

SO! After raid last night, I swapped out my gear and spec to Holy and ran a couple of dungeons with guildies where their DPS was killing stuff so fast, I didn't really get a gauge of how I was healing, but at least I figured out my UI somewhat, with a set of Mouse Over Macros and so forth.

First impression was: wow, I have a lot of spells to worry about.

Beacon of Light, Holy Shock, Holy Light,  Divine Light, Holy Radiance, Flash of Light, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn and Cleanse.

On top of that, there are the emergency Cooldowns - Divine Plea, Avenging Wrath, Divine Favor, Aura Mastery, Guardian of Ancient Kings, Lay on Hands, Hand of Sacrifice, Trinkets - and a couple of defensive cool-downs - Divine Protection, Divine Shield - and then the spare Hands - Freedom, Salvation, Protection. Whew.
 
But the fact that I can key-bind and mouse-over everything is makes it a lot easier to deal with, for me. All the base healing spells are key-bound with mouse-over macros, all the hands are click-through macros on Grid and all the cool-downs are key-bound as they stand.

For the most part, though, at least in the Hour of Twilight dungeons, I found myself casting Holy Shock, Holy Light and Word of Glory most of the time. Holy Radiance was cast occasionally and I tended to use procs of Infusion of Light for instant Flash of Light. I really only had to use Avenging Wrath and Aura Master a couple of times and Lay on Hand once. I also enjoyed being able to just hit Divine Shield to get mobs off of me and keep healing and using glyphed Divine Protection to ease AoE damage for myself.

With a mana-pool of about 110k, I also didn't have any trouble with getting low on mana, except when I had to heal up a bear from 10k to full using only Holy Shock, Flash of Light and Word of Glory - that ate up a lot of my mana very, very fast - and I imagine that's what a lot of hectic raid damage looks and feels like. Need to see if I can sneak into a 2-heal Firelands run tonight to practice.

Stat-wise, I'm a little boggled. I like Haste, I like the way my casts feel at about 1900 Haste without any buffs, I forgot to check what it was like with raid-buffs, but the faster GCDs and casts just feel better than having to worry about Crits and wondering if my Mastery Bubbles are worthwhile. It feels more reliable and has an instant return.
 WTB raid willing to let me practice healing by letting me solo Beth'tilac on the ground?

Now for the most important question: HOW DO I MOG? I want to look all holy-choirs-and-god-beams but I also want to use a dress. I'm thinking of starting with the Ulduar tier 10-person mode skirt and going from there.

Suggestions welcome!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Top 3 raid bosses in Cataclysm

I was thinking about this after reading Clara's post on Ragnaros, though a lot of people seem to be reviewing Cataclysm raids lately (Dragon Soul in particular) and it made me think about my top 3 favorite fights in Cataclysm. The thought led me to a weird place.

My favorite fight in this whole expansion is the one that gave me fits of anxiety. It was the fight that kept me awake at night, shaking with dread, the fight where I made mistakes over and over and over again wiping the raid until I learned out how to do it over a brutal, brutal 3 straight nights of raiding the same boss. A rather masochistic exercise, I think.

So, anyway. I thought it would be kind of a fun exercise to see what other people thought, so here is a call-out:


What are your top 3 raid bosses from Cataclysm?

The Rules:
  1. You may only pick 3 bosses
  2. They must be from a Cataclysm raid
  3. It must be a boss you encountered pre-nerf
  4. Add a Most Memorable Moment from the encounter, whether a mechanic or from your own personal experience with the boss
You don't need to have killed them - just tried them a good number of times to get a good gauge of the encounter.

Okay - so to start it off, here is my list of top 3 favorite raid bosses in Cataclysm. I wound up sticking to normal-mode bosses to try and keep it universal, though no hard-modes really stand out as being all that exceptional anyway.



NEFARIAN


This has been the hardest boss to tank pre-nerf in my career as a raid-tank. Kiting adds in Phase 3 was the do-or-die part of this fight and the responsibility of the fight's success was purely on the ability of the tank to get those resets, not to mention the positioning of the drakes and his breath, CD rotation between the healer and tank.

Did I mention the hardest part come in phase 3 after an intense 2 phases where everyone had to execute everything perfectly? DPS and interrupts on the adds in phase 2, surviving the 100k AoE every time you shaved 10% of his health, having a healer or DPS tank the adds in Phase 1 and position them correctly without getting killed...

Pre nerf - this was the most difficult thing I've done in this expansion. This was the hardest fight in all of Cataclysm, specifically for me at least, in Phase 3 and when it was nerfed, I felt really sad that no other raid would ever face up to him at that level. I suppose you could do Heroic Nefarian, but it lacks the simplicity of what made the original encounter so great that it just bit into you and didn't let go. Overall, this would be my favorite raid boss in all of WoW but for Heroic Mimmiron. Firefighter is still the most exhilarating kill I've ever had in a raid, hands down. But Nefarian is a very, very close second.

Most Memorable Moment: I don't know, the moment when Nefarian floods the arena with lava or realizing with head-smacking horror that stunning the adds in phase 3 with Holy Wrath was the biggest mistake I could have made? Either way - brilliant!

RAGNAROS


This fight was more about coordinating your own movement and cool-downs for all the individuals involved, rather than any single particular mechanic that any one person has to handle, but how each individual person helps the raid with damage both incoming and going, with adds in transition phases, and with meteors made or broke this fight. It's an elaborate, choreographed dance that everyone had to execute perfectly.

Not nearly as hard as Nefarian, it was still a worthy and memorable end-raid fight, and it took us a few nights of work to get this. Figuring out how to handle Sons and Scions, two-healing it on our first kill, figuring out positioning for the Smash with Seeds while dodging the fire on the ground, juggling Trap detonations on top of all the AoE going out... nobody was ever bored during Ragnaros (the tanking was relatively boring but I'll give it as pass on that).

Meteor juggling in phase 3, now that I can look back at it in hind-sight, was a hilarious mechanic and I've seen it deliberately knocked into people lately. Bad raiders! No biscuit! Regardless, this fight pushed healing to the limit, and required heavy DPS and demanded precise execution from every single person in the raid, and that's what I loved about it. If they had added some really hard tanking component to this fight, it might have been my favorite fight over Nefarian.

Most Memorable Moment: On our very first pull we coasted through Phase 1 and then at transition I saw the Sons land and zoom to Sulfuras wiping the confident smirk off my face in 3 seconds flat. It was an awesome, "how the hell are we going to do this?!" moment.

CHO'GALL


Deal with interrupting Worship, with fire on the ground, with debuffs on tanks, with the adds, avoiding the Shadow Crash, killing the Corrupter and then the Bloods in time, making sure everyone had very low stacks of Corruption going into Phase 2 and the massive DPS burn needed to kill it at the end - another fight where you just can't fall asleep.

If you're slow on that interrupt, the boss builds stacks and the tank get gibbed. You fail to dodge the Shadow Crash, you wind up with a ton of Corruption and get yourself killed. You fail to swap and kill tentacles in phase 2, you wind up hitting like a limp noodle. You fail to turn away to puke at high stacks of Corruption, you kill people. This fight was great, and the heroic version tuned it even better, adding the elemental mechanic to really keep DPS on the razor edge of swap/killing and pushing the meters.

Most Memorable Moment: The night we had multiple - multiple - sub1-million wipes and at least 2 sub 100k wipes. Heartbreaking. Came back the next night to one-shot it, naturally.



I'm sad that none of the Dragon Soul bosses are memorable enough to stand out in my list, and though I do like some of the Heroic mode fights (particularly Heroic Yor'Sahj and Heroic Ultraxion), I'll remember doing Dragon Soul, but I won't sigh wistfully over fights it, like I sigh over the fights listed above, or other fights from Wrath like Firefighter, or Yog or Lich King or Heroic Putricide or  3-drake Sarth or Malygos...

And while Tier-11 was a lot of hard work and fun, it was really draining on raids to attack the number of bosses at the level of difficulty they came in with. I'm hoping Pandaria finds a middle-ground. I felt Firelands had a just-about perfect level of difficulty for us to tackle but with too few bosses - and the current tier of Normal modes feels vastly under-tuned, and Heroics feels like it is tuned just about right as well, and maybe a hair over-tuned for 10s but that's okay.

Friday, April 13, 2012

This Is How I Mog (April, '12 edition)

I played with the idea of making some very specific mog-sets in the past, and have had the luck of getting a few drops that let me finish my sets. These might not look incredibly creative but I like complete sets and I think a good way to set the look of a full-set apart is, as my friend Maara said, to accent it with a couple of off-set items that compliment the themes. It's a very good way to distinguish the uniqueness of your character, I think.

Given that, here are my sets that I'm using now, and will likely use until either I get bored of them (unlikely) or Pandaria (very likely).

ARMOR OF RADIANT GLORY
This to me is the best paladin tanking set in game right now. The white and gray accents are lovely, they match well, the feathered shoulders are delicate but evocative, and with a good tabard, you can hide the hideous plate-belly-shirt. Of course, snagging Holy feet and belt to complete the look is important and you can luckily buy both of them from Valor vendors along with almost all the other pieces. So, if you can win the Shoulders the rest of the set can be purchased with Valor making this an easy 'mog to put together and yet I almost never see people in it.


The accents here are the weapons. The sword is Honor's Call which comes from being Exalted with Honor Hold in Hellfire Penninsula (many thanks to Maara for suggesting the sword.) The shield is the current Season Conquest PvP shield (which I splurged on despite the fact that I don't play Holy-PvP). Here are all the pieces I'm using. Oh, and no helm, no cloak.

Slot Item 
Shoulder Shoulderguards of Radiant Glory
Chest Chestguard of Radiant Glory
Tabard Argent Crusader's Tabard
Hands Handguards of Radiant Glory
Belt Dragonfracture Belt
Pants Legguards of Radiant Glory
Boots Pillarfoot Greaves
Sword Honor's Call
Shield Cataclysmic Gladiator's Redoubt

ARMOR OF VINDICATION
If the objective of PvP armor is to make you feel like a bad-ass while giving your class as aggressive a look a look without descending into farce and brutality, then this set manages the look hands down. Even the helm is awesome! However, the belt is a bit under-whelming so I'm using an off-set belt which matches it quite nicely. Also, I don't have the feet quite yet as I can't splurge on Transmog gear just yet, but I will have the matching feet by the time the set is finished.


However - the sword is what takes this set over the top. Ashkandi has always looked good but it seems to just match this set in a way I can't describe - the colors accent well, the scale and size of it just brilliantly reflects the kind of sheer power and burst Paladins can bring to bear, while being majestic and graceful - it never seems brutal. If it could reflect a subtle, smoking enchantment of some sort, it could be perfect. No cloak, no helm. Pure awesome.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm In The Money And You Can Too!

A few weeks ago, I saw something precious on the AH that I had wanted for some time but had so far been too exorbitantly priced for my taste - in the 80k - 100k range, but I'm guessing someone had to make some quick cash and they posted it for 63k.

I did some quick math, realized that after the 5% auction house cut, a 63k sale was worth 59,850 gold to the seller; contacted them, and offered them 60k cash if they canceled their auction. I'd pay less, and they'd make 150 more gold. They agreed, I had my thing, and I was down to about 10k gold which left me feeling a bit nervous.

At that point, I immediately went on an AH binge and made about 45k over the next 48 hours, and re-posting what didn't sell, I made another 10k over the next 48 hour period putting me back up to 65k leaving me feeling rather comfortable again. In the weeks since, I've been bit by the AH bug and have double that amount, and my goal is to double it again before I head into Pandaria.

I did a sort of quiet celebration on Twitter and was asked by a couple of folks how I did this, and so I thought I'd go over how I make money.

And as I planned this, it got a bit detailed as well, but I'm going to try to keep it very high-level, accessible and easy and avoid any massive amount of data-mining, spread-sheet keeping, hedge-analysis, purchasing and re-posting massive stacks, or anything like that because that kind of detail turns me off on most of the gold-making sites and guides I've looked at.

Caveat time:
This is how I make gold on any given day when I need it. Please keep in mind that what works for me might not work for you, and while I'm no Goblin, I'm generally quite comfortable gold-wise and enjoy playing the economics game now and again.



CONTENTS:

- Assumptions
- Auctioneer
- What to sell
- Professions
- Shuffle
- Volatiles
- Premium Items
- Pricing
- Selling

ASSUMPTIONS:

1. Your server/faction has a decent population and a decent Auction House
This is a major factor and can be a non-starter for some people, as one of my two servers has a very lackluster auction house and I have a lot of trouble there when a very small number of sellers have completely  cornered and dominated the market, but my home-server of Moon Guard has a massive population and an even split across both factions, and quite a few AH Goblins (who can work to your benefit.)

Ideally, you want a lot of sellers and a lot of buyers - the more people involved the better things are for everyone.

2. You have access to some maxed out, lucrative professions - namely Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Alchemy
If you have maxed out all three professions on any mixture of alts, you're going to have no problem making money. Blacksmithing and Inscription aren't bad, but (in my experience) have a much smaller footprint and you can easily get locked out of the market, as the turnover isn't great. Engineering isn't bad for the Chopper and pets, Tailoring is decent for the Threads and Bags, and Leathercrafting is just terrible outside of tank and DPS enchants, but none of them come close to the power and synergy of Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Alchemy.

I'm going to avoid the gathering professions entirely as we're trying to make money quickly and not from farming for hours.

3. You have some starting collateral - it doesn't have to be significant, even having 3k or 4k gold to invest could be a good starting point depending on the AH and your goals
This is just to start out with, so that when you do need raw materials you can get access to them quickly and easily and then flip it for a quick profit - this is mostly for Ore and Volatiles, which will account for the bulk of your purchases.

4 You want enough money to be very comfortable and not think about gold but aren't necessarily interested in becoming an AH hero
This process is not designed to make you a millionaire or even someone who's raking in tens of thousands of gold every day - it generally works out to be slow at the start but in a few weeks you'll have a good amount of stock and you will have a modest but steady income if you're willing to spend about 10-minutes a day doing a bit of work. This also means that you're willing to settle for lower margins than your competitors and will often depend on these Goblins to buy you out wholesale netting you a quick and smaller profit than an extended, bigger profit.

5 You're willing to install one add-on to make some on-the-fly math easier (Auctioneer) and visit one web-site to get prices (The Undermine Journal)
That's really all you need - a lot of the gold guides overwhelm me with the number of add-ons I need to manage the production cycles of various flips and I'm just not interested in turning my game into something like that - I enjoy the economics and I enjoy playing the AH market now and again, and observing it through Auctioneer but other than that, I want to be in and out as quickly as possible.

AUCTIONEER:

The only thing I use Auctioneer for is to gauge the single-item price on stacked items. If the base UI had a way for me to do this, I wouldn't use Auctioneer at all. I mean, the undercut price from scans is nice... but it's not particularly useful as you're always setting price by hand anyway. There is a toggle check on the lower-left of the window.



I talk a lot below about "check the price" - assume that I'm always talking about unit prices, that's how you want to measure what you're posting for. Check the price of a single unit and price your sales based on where you set your unit price.



If you look at the above example, the two stacks of Shards at 20 and 17 gold are both listed for the same price (84.05/shard) but you can't really get that by looking at the summary values. So if I wanted to sell aggressively, I could reasonably set the price to 80 gold per and quickly move a ton of shards.

The above screen-shot, BTW, is from the web-version of the Auction House, which, honestly, is far, far better than the one implemented in game. Unfortunately, the game doesn't allow you to browse the AH while logged into game, or there would be no need for Auctioneer at all.

It really helps you cut through the mess of prices you see and is a far better way of setting prices than the averaging that Auctioneer's automatic pricing process.

WHAT TO SELL:

More than 95% of my income is from the following three stocks:

- Raw Gems
- Enchanting Mats
- Volatiles

Premium Items will be part of your income, but they're based too much on luck to be a reliable source.

PROFESSIONS:

Enchanting and Jewelcrafting can be very expensive to level-up but they are extremely lucrative, Alchemy is the only other thing that comes close to the money-making potential of these professions and it's a distant second.

The few thousand gold you'll spend leveling them up (if you don't have a tailor to help with enchanting or a miner to help with Jewelcrafting) can seem significant but they will pay you back big dividends. Alchemy is relatively easier and cheaper to level, especially if you have an Herbalist alt. I recently leveled these from zero to cap at the same time on a new character on a new server where I had no access to resources and it was a bit painful, so I empathize with anyone being daunted by these - but if you have farming alts, it gets much, much, much cheaper than buying all the raw mats from the Auction House.

Do your Jewelcrafting daily as often as possible and stockpile those tokens. Buy only the cuts you absolutely need and horde the tokens for when you need them.

For your Alchemy specialty you want to go with Transmutation. Elixirs are good at the start of the expansion when we were churning out flasks like crazy but thanks to Cauldrons I haven't bought a flask in ages. Right now, Transmutation is king.

SHUFFLE

At the core of how I make money is the good old-fashioned Ore Shuffle which has been documented in various places and is very popular. But it's also about how your posting strategy works and how often you post, and what you post.

For those who don't know, here is how the Shuffle basically works:

1. You buy cheap ore from the AH or hire someone to deliver ore to you regularly for a set price (say, someone will send you 5 stacks of Obsidium every day for 250 gold so they have a regular income every day regardless of how the ore prices fluctuate on the AH and you have a regular and reliable source).

2. You prospect all the ore with your Jewelcrafter

3. You take your Carnelians and send them to your alchemist and transmute them into Infernal Rubies with a similar number of Heartblossoms (a very cheap and abundant herb on the AH)

4. You craft green jewelry with the other green gems and then disenchant them for mats

5. You sell the enchanting mats, any blue-proc jewelry, and gems for more money collectively than what you paid for the ore

That's the basic shuffle, but serious investors are not going to invest 250 gold into it, they're going to invest thousands and thousands of gold into it for hundreds of stacks of ore and run the mill for hours through add-ons.

What I do different, is that by working on a very small volume, I'm building up a stock to sell when I need the cash and only investing a very small amount of money into the market in purchasing small amounts of cheap ore. It keeps my bank very, very well stocked and it costs me very little money. In the mean time I'm building a lot of asserts that I can liquidate at any given moment for a massive amount of money.

If you want to, you can also make high-demand, high-price enchants like Power Torrent or whatever, but I generally stick to the raw materials - much safer and faster turn around. Obviously, if you farm your own ore this is even more lucrative, but the objective here is to minimize the time spent making gold.

VOLATILES

While enchanting mats and gems are your stock assets, volatiles are your every-day money.

The basic transmute process goes like this:

Every day, look up the average individual price of Volatile Life and then the average individual price of all the other elementals. Typically Fire or Air will be the highest by far and Life will be the lowest. On the average, I buy Volatile Life for ~3 gold per and send it to my transmute-spec'd alchemist who travels to Uldum or Hyjall depending on what I want to sell and transmute them. If I buy a full stack, that's an investment of ~60 gold, and selling 3 stacks of 5 Volatile Air at an average price of ~20 gold per, I get back ~300 gold. Over a week, that's 2,100 gold from an investment of 420 gold.

Here's a visual example of how cheap the Life is and how well priced the Air is:


This is one of those things that farming might make even more lucrative as you can just sell the herbs you gather and transmute the Life for even more profit, and you can likely get enough Volatile Life for a week's worth of transmutes in an hour or two depending on how fast you pick flowers.

I'm aware that you can use your Transmute on MetaGems and TrueGold but on my server at least, those markets are pretty saturated and the margins are pretty low. This is one of those every-day things that takes about 5 minutes and over a period of time will build up a sizable amount of cash on hand.

PRICING

This is where I imagine a lot of people will have an issue with me.

Unlike the Volatiles where the margin is everything, in the case of gems and enchanting mats, I don't really care about how much of a margin I'm making. Generally speaking, I see these as assets to liquidate and anything I get is profit, and a significant one.

For example, during my selling binge, I hit a small patch of time where I was able to sell individual Maelstrom Crystals for 200 gold. I sold 100 crystal and made 20k gold. However, a lot of other people were selling in the 220 - 300 gold range. Yes, I absolutely underbid them, got very quick sales, and made a ton of money by sacrificing a higher margin by lowering my expectations and cashing out quickly. I gave up at least 2k gold in profits, in the interest of a faster turnaround.

That's the biggest thing about the way I look at this game - I'm not maximizing my profits here because I don't care about a long-term trend, market sustainability or price stability - I'm just in it for a quick cash-out and this kind of pricing is absolutely perfect for it. Many times, the people who buy your stock out will be the Goblins who're looking out for the market and trying to sustain high-prices for certain items that they have cornered. Nothing wrong with selling to these guys at all! In fact, I depend on them.

Same goes for gems - put them up at a reasonable, competitive and tempting price, undercut your competition and quickly cash out.

But.

You don't want to wind up selling too low - and how do you know? You might hit your AH during a bear moment and see prices that average out to be significantly lower than where they should be and you might only be a day or two from a correction. That's where The Undermine Journal comes in. And there is really only a couple of things you're looking at here - the average price of the item to see how far the current price is fluctuating and how many of the current items are on sale.

Say you have some Rubies to sell and they are on for 150 gold per and there are seven of them on the AH. Undermine says the trending average is closer to 200 gold. Well, post them for 199 over 48 hours and walk away. Chances are, the lower priced ones will sell and people will purchase your higher priced gems because they are the average and further posts will also elevate the market price and help with the adjustment.

Don't fret this too much - just take a look at the average price, if the undercut price is reasonably close, go for it. And set your own price, don't let Auctioneer do it for you.

PREMIUM ITEMS

If you're raiding, you'll gain access to some premium items that you can use to get a big boost of gold. For example, Epic Gems - when DS launched, I didn't use a single epic gem, and sold every one I got instead, as I knew I wouldn't be using them on my normal-mode gear anyway, and I wanted to make some money while the making was good.

Same goes for BoE's that you aren't going to use on your main that you might win in raids - selling those might take you a few days but you will be able to move it as long as you post consistently and keep it in the market.

Lastly, the Valor gear - it looks like this is going to go away in Pandas with the changes to Valor planned, but either way, what I do is advertise a direct price for the BoEs - say 3k for Boots and 2k for Belts - and you immediately become a lot more attractive than some guy who's just offering to sell BoEs and then the buyer has to negotiate a price. Offer a price right up front and you're far more likely to get sales (or at least I do). Often, I'll even negotiate subsequent sales, and try to keep a good relationship with these people by offering a free enchant or gem cut or whatever, so that the next time they want to buy something they'll use me instead of random dude in /trade.

This is a side-business, and something to do while standing around in Stormwind chatting in guild or whatever. It's a very nice income to be sure, but not something I depend on.

SELLING

How you stack stuff is incredibly important. I absolutely hate sales of massive stock listed one item at a time and there are pages and pages of these posts. I don't care if it's more profitable, I don't care if certain add-ons make it easier to deal with them - people who do this are incredibly inconsiderate to the purchasers and it really kills the pace of interaction.

However, it gives you an opportunity to take advantage - you should split up your sales as well, but stack your items in such a way that they're more attractive right off the bat compared to other, competitively priced items. If you see fifteen individual Shards for prices mixed anywhere from 97.87 to 105.35 and then you see 3 stacks of 5 for 499.99, what are you more likely to buy?

Lastly, retail pricing works. It works because we like round numbers, we like seeing a digit lower than the one we're willing to pay, and even if it means a slight loss of revenue, pricing and stacking things to make them seem more attractive will generate more sales.

For the record, I set stacks as follows:

Gems: 3
Volatiles: 5
Hypnotic Dust: 5
Heavenly Shards: 5
Maelstrom Crystals: 5
Greater Celestial Essence: 3

One final point of warning: you don't want to hold on to stuff for too long. Right now, I'm not stocking anything, pretty much everything I get, once I have it in enough volume to make a few stacks, I'll post and sell. You don't want to get caught with a bunch of devalued assets at the end of the expansion.



And that's about it. I know it doesn't seem very exciting and it doesn't seem very glamorous and it doesn't promise to make you a millionaire overnight but.... that's kind of how I stay very comfortable with my gold level pretty much all the time.

Good luck, let me know if you have any questions, I'll be happy to try and answer them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Happened to Paladin Tanks?

Throughout Firelands, I never felt like I had a problem as a Paladin tank, I could handle every single encounter, even heroics, just okay, I didn't feel like I was holding the raid back. Dragon Soul on normal mode was also the same, in that I thought we were just fine and I solo-tanked almost every boss in here except for Ultraxion and Warmaster. We might have been a bit overpowered in Tier 11 (remember all the add-tanking fights where we basically put up Holy Shield and giggled? Paladins were gods on Nefarian, arguably the toughest normal-mode boss in T11 which was full of tough, tough fights.)

So, going into Dragon Soul heroics I felt confident of my ability to continue to lead the tank-team as my co-tank puts out amazing 40k+ DPS in her beloved Frost spec anyway, we were both happy. Then we ran into two nights of wipes with Heroic Yor'sahj.

World of Glory just wan't enough to keep things going during Purple phase and if I ran out of cool-downs, I was dead. Lay on Hands was an uber-powerful tool but I really only got to use it once during the entire fight. After trying many, many, many strategies, we swapped me out for the DK. He died in 4 pulls.

I shrugged it off, I didn't think it was going to be indicative of a long-term problem, and my ego is strong enough to handle the fact that I don't get to tank EVERY fight in the entire expansion, that's okay. So we get to Heroic Hagara and every time she puts up Focused Assault, I get gibbed unless I'm hitting so many cooldowns that I have nothing left to go for the second cast of Focused Assault.

After the fourth or fifth time I was gibbed right out of the gate, I frowned and looked through my combat log looking at the damage done, whether I had Holy Shield up or not and... it didn't seem to be making a difference. I check my block-macro and it shows me a big, happy 102.7% coverage number which is 0.3% over where I need to be. Curiously, I do a couple of searches for Holy Shield and Hagara and, sure enough, Focused Assault is unblockable.

From the description of the Mastery, the Protection Paladin class is build around being able to soak through some of the incoming damage on their shields. There is a reason block-capping was not removed and Mastery was not nerfed throughout the expansion - because it became an easy metric to balance encounters around shield-tanks. Ferals had their physical damage shields and DKs had Death Strike.

The model worked - tanks were generally balanced enough that using shield-tanks didn't stone-wall raid groups. Until we get into a fight where the primary point of execution for a tank is to survive a narrow band of burst damage... using tools that are ineffective against the source of damage.

Now, there are ways around it, but none of them are pleasant or reliable.

  • Kiting is unreliable at best, and risky given the stacks built from Shards.
  • Bubble/Taunt is a weak, weak solution prone to its own problems
  • Taunt/juggle only works if you have a Paladin healer

So, rather than try all of that, we had our Boomkin go Feral just to see how it handles, and he is gear a little bit better than Firelands - 380something while I am at iLevel 397 in my tanking set. The healers never lost him to a Focused Assault.

It was jaw-dropping to see the difference in damage intake - and depressing.

Am I going to be able to tank Heroic Zon'ozz or do we have to let the DK handle it as well due to the amount of Magic AoE damage in phase 2? That would be three fights that I'm useless for as a tank, and if I didn't keep a set of DPS gear and play the spec at a reasonable level of competence, I would have to be benched because my class cannot do these fights, or at least not without making things unnecessarily difficult.

It isn't all doom and gloom - this week, our DK was missing and I was able to tank Heroic Yor'sahj with very, very twitchy fingers over my cool-downs and I was in constant communication with the healers. It felt more difficult than it needed to be, but I'm not concerned with that - I will always, always take the most difficult job whenever I can. What botherse me when I feel like I'm holding up the progression and making life hell for the healers by insisting I tank through mechanics that are not ideal for me. This is the second boss Paladins should be benched from tanking in Dragon Soul.

For the first time in this expansion, I'm feeling weak as a tank-class. And it feels like crap.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pre Panda Planning

As the new expansion looms closer, I'm starting to look at my roster of characters and wondering what I'm going to do with them. For the sake of planning, here they all are, listed in order of preference in terms of how much I play them, and pay attention to them.


I suspect pruning is necessary in the case of Rakshas - I fear he might have to go, as I don't enjoy the Death Knight class enough to play two of them. It's unfortunate as he is my second Alchemist (Transmute spec'd), but we have to do what we have to do.

Consolidation might also need to happen for my two Horde characters. They are currently on different servers, and I'm finding that US-Argent Dawn (RP) is a bit too slow and the AH a bit too dead for me to have much fun there - I've re-rolled the priest on US-Area 52 (PvE) to see how I like it - it is the third most progressed server in overall rankings, is in the New York server cluster giving me a latency of about 30 in Orgrimmar and much, much bigger in terms of population and activity. If I like it as much as I hope to, it will become my Horde home.

After I consolidate, I won't be rolling any more Horde characters, as between the Death Knight and Priest, I will have tanking, melee-DPS, ranged-DPS and healing covered.

My Alliance characters will, for the foreseeable future, remain on Moon-Guard, where I want to have another go at a Hunter and Shaman, both of which I have had a lot of trouble getting into in the past. I might even do the Resurrection Scroll thing for my wife's account and steal an 80 of one of those classes... tempting. Meanwhile, there is the Mage and the Rogue to get to 85. Hrm.

Ideally, I want to hit Pandaria with all classes at 85, 8 Alliance side and 2 Horde side. It'll also give me the leverage I need on the Alliance side to cap out all my professions (I'm just missing Leatherworking and Engineering right now.)

That is a lot of work, especially as I don't really enjoy leveling anymore... or so I thought until I started playing my Priest and man, Trisfal Glades is relatively fun to level through! I really want to play through the Forsaken Zones but didn't want two Forsaken, so I moved the Blood Elf after I hit level 5 and did all the quests starting from Death Knell. So far, so good.

Conservatively, I'd like to get all the characters I've got up to 85 at least, and maybe think about doing the Hunter and Shaman at some point when the leveling bug bites again. Ideally, I want to see this when I log into Pandaria:


How far will I get? We'll see how I do.

As for Innana, she'll finish What A Long Strange Trip It's Been later this month, with Children's Week and park me somewhere around ~10,500 Achievement Points which is respectable, even if that puts me a distant fourth behind three other Achievement junkies in my guild. I'd really love to knock out the old Wrath 25-mode mount achievements but those can be finicky to get together.

Then there are the remaining Heroic modes in Cataclysm to do... sometimes it feels like there just isn't enough time, and wasn't it just yesterday we were talking about Pre Cataclysm Planning?

Ah, well. We're all getting older!