Silver PG is NOT Hard

As you probably noticed, it’s been a while since my last blog. I’ve honestly not played WoW much recently outside of Saturday evening raids of BRF normal mode with my friends, and that hasn’t been exactly exciting for me due to a few reasons. But that’s for another blog entry.

I know I’ve talked about this on and off since the launch of Warlords, but honestly I’m pretty damn fed up with the vocal minority whining and bawling over the silver proving grounds requirement for random queuing Warlords heroic dungeons, especially now that we’re nearly six months into this expansion. I’ve done the tanking, healing and DPS PG scenarios up to gold on several different classes and specs with gear literally straight out of Nagrand/Spires of Arak in one or two shots. Continue reading “Silver PG is NOT Hard”

Blackrock Foundry Gear Boost

For those of you who may have been living under a rock, or just frankly don’t really care about raiding in general this expansion, Blizzard has decided to boost the item levels of all gear within the Blackrock Foundry raid zone by 5 item levels. This puts the gear on par item level-wise with higher difficulties of Highmaul. If you need a quick reference:

Highmaul difficulty & ilvl Blackrock Foundry Difficulty & ILVL
LFR – 640 LFR – 655, 660 for “LFR Set” pieces
Normal – 655 Normal – 670 (all)
Heroic – 670 Heroic – 685 (all)
Mythic – 685 Mythic – 700 (all)

Obviously add 6 item levels for what your warforged pieces out of BRF will have when you go to the armory. Despite some of the stupid comments I’ve read on MMO-C, Blizzard Watch, and the forums, the fact remains that this change was needed.

My raid group this tier consists of myself and a few friends who honestly don’t have the time to raid with a guild on a set schedule for 9+ hours a week. We’ve also unfortunately left our previous guild due to a raid team merger for mythics in Warlords that simply wasn’t working out for all parties involved, so we’ve opted instead to stick to raiding normal mode. Highmaul as an introduction raid for the expansion wasn’t too terribly overcomplicated with mechanics aside from Ko’ragh and Imperator Mar’gok — we started raiding in the ogre city nearly a month after the zone launched and managed to get 6/7N our first time in there, with a group comprised of half pugged raiders. Heroic modes in general don’t change mechanics at all, therefore the only real “challenge” is that things hit harder and that mechanic that might not have outright killed you on normal WILL one-shot you on heroic difficulty.

Much like Mogu’shan Vaults, Heart of Fear, and Terrace of Endless Spring during tier 14, Blizzard decided to delay the openings of those raid zones by a few weeks to get people’s feet wet and to make the previous “unlocked raid” viable. Where they fell short during Mists was unlocking HoF and ToES (both raids which dropped not only the actual tier sets, but also had higher item level loot in general) far, far too soon and almost completely made doing normal-mode MSV absolutely pointless.

Fast forward to Warlords, and you have almost a similar issue arising before this change was implemented. BRF’s opening was delayed by Blizzard for TWO MONTHS. That alone gave people and guilds in general two months to farm gear out of Heroic Highmaul (670) and go into Normal BRF (665 at launch) completely outgearing it as a whole. Yes, mechanics on certain fights (BLAST FURNACE, arguably Kromogh and Iron Maidens) can’t be overpowered by gear alone, but for these people who went into normal mode in full (or near it) heroic+ gear out of Highmaul? Yeah, you’re going to have a hell of an easier time beating fights tuned around 660+ than someone who is coming out of normal HM.

With how powerful the normal mode and higher tier sets bonuses are this tier for many specs, it’s easy to see why a heroic guild would be farming and replacing 670 pieces for 665 tier. And speaking from the point of view of someone who has only cleared normal mode Highmaul and is sitting at 3/7 heroic, it’s disheartening to do some of these BRF fights for gear that might only be slightly better optimized than what I already had.

TL;DR: Good change is good, if it helps get more people motivated to trying normal BRF without completely negating Highmaul, fantastic. It also gives people a reason to try higher difficulties in Highmaul as “farm” content when they hit a brick wall in BRF as well.

What Do You Like To Play?

My first foray into “MMOs” goes back to the days of me playing on a SMAUG-based MUD called Realms of Despair. Unlike most people who started playing the game, I wasn’t introduced to RoD until I was in my second year of college thanks to a long-time online friend who had played it for a couple of years before I started. Before that, I played classic FPS games such as Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, as well as Descent (all three titles, though the third installment was severely underwhelming) so I wasn’t completely new to the types of folks you’ll encounter in various facets of online gaming. Doom, Duke Nukem, and Descent were pretty straightforward games… you ran around until you found you opponent and blew them to Hell and back.

The class I started playing on RoD, oddly enough, was a vampire. Queue the “lol emo” comments, but for the MUD that was actually a decent all-around class to start playing the game with, as you didn’t have to worry about being overly squishy (like a mage) or constantly running out of mana (since your ‘energy’ was gained from leeching life out of enemies). It was there I learned concepts of “aggro”, “damage”, and group play–things you’d find in a regular graphical MMO today. It was also the game where I learned the beginnings of situational awareness. You see, since RoD was text-based, there weren’t any telegraphs or graphical warning signs to tell you when things were going to go south while fighting a particular mob. You had to pay attention to the scrolling text for emotes or room descriptions that warned you about a particular ability or danger ahead, or else you could find yourself without weapons, armor, or your life.

It was also the game where my altoholic bug began to manifest itself. By the time I had stopped playing the game nearly six and a half years later, I had leveled or owned over 50 characters, with multiples of each class in some cases. Unlike on WoW and other MMOs, I was able to create characters and trade/give them away. (Password = ownership was the philosophy of that game, and each character had the ability to have their own unique passwords.) One of my favorite classes to level and eventually play at max level was a paladin, which much like its WoW counterpart, could go sword and board for extra survivability, or could go two-handed or dual wield (which makes it more like a warrior or DK in this aspect) for added DPS. Paladins there had some healing capability and other utility (blessings, a “revive” skill) as well.

When I later emigrated over to MMOs, the first class I picked up in a game called Runes of Magic was the Knight, which when you cross-classed it with their Priest, was essentially a protection paladin. It did pathetic damage in raids, dungeons, and open world, but you were damn near unkillable and acted as a bastion of light-empowered fortitude for your groups. The reverse combination, Priest/Knight, was one of the best classes for raid healing, though it did share a similar playstyle to the holy paladin outside of being unable to wear plate gear. Eventually I made my way to WoW and fell in love with the Paladin class there, though sometimes it’s waxed and waned depending on whatever stupidassed decisions the devs have handed down with their gameplay. When I hung out in RIFT I enjoyed the hell out of playing the Justicar (Cleric-based tank that was essentially MoP-style Protadin, generating the majority of its threat with self/overheals), ArcheAge I played a tanky-toon for about 20 levels similar to a paladin, and now with my recent foray into Final Fantasy XIV I’m playing, you guessed it, a Paladin as my primary job.

I still haven’t nailed down what exactly it is about the paladin class that draws me to it, but I can absolutely say without a doubt that I enjoy tanking in general, and not JUST because I can level faster via dungeon grinding. Perhaps that’s the biggest draw of it to me, but I just love being a plate wearing badass with a huge shield and sword/mace in hand, ready to be the frontline for the rest of my friends/groups. How about you?

Haste: It’s Good to be King

Protadins Post-January 12th Haste Buff - Mythic Twins

This is why Protection Paladins can’t have nice things.

 

Once it was announced from the Mists of Pandaria beta that Protection was getting access to a previously Retribution-only passive called Sanctity of Battle, many top protadins including Theck were postulating that gearing for haste would forever change how our tanking spec played. With haste rating impacting cooldown reductions for our holy power generators, not only would we be gaining significant dps but also improved mitigation via higher uptime on our Shield of the Righteous buff. This was a good, needed change in a post-Cataclysm tanking paradigm where mitigation changed from something passive you had from stacking stats (dodge, parry, mastery) to actually hitting buttons (SotR, Death Strike, Savage Defense, Elusive Brew/Shuffle/Guard, Shield Block/Barrier) to make yourself a bit more impervious to those really hard hits.

Combine that with other benefits haste stacking gave us, such as massive self-healing potential (via Seal of Insight procs and Word of Glory/Eternal Flame) and high DPS, there was no question that from 5.0 all the way to the end of Mists as a protadin haste was king until that magical 50% unbuffed haste rating (21250, in case you were wondering). Sure, Blizzard tried to make other stats slightly more appealing by nerfing Grand Crusader procs to be triggered on dodges and parries only, or nerfing Battle Healer, or eventually nerfing Eternal Flame’s benefit from mastery/bastion of glory stacks, but haste was good. Too good.

Yet, with the stat squish of 2014, Blizzard saw fit to give protadins a haste attunement, aptly named Sacred Duty. The only problem? They squished haste too hard, and not just for paladins. 5% increased haste from all sources doesn’t amount to much really when haste in general was scaling so poorly, with a conversion rate of 100 haste rating to 1%. With Mastery having numerous benefits for tanking specs in general, it proved beneficial to protadins to ignore their ‘favored’, beloved stat haste for Mastery and other stats such as crit rating. Players in the Warlords beta mentioned this to developers, but it fell on deaf ears–even with both simulations AND sites such as Warcraftlogs proving them right even a month after Highmaul’s release.

Perhaps the holidays gave the devs the clarity they needed, as they gave haste rating an 11.1% buff for everyone, and also gave protection paladin’s stat attunement a MASSIVE buff (5% to 30%). Ironically, Theck had mentioned before the Thanksgiving holidays that in order for haste to be of value to prot, the attunement would need a buff to the 30-40% range. These haste changes combined catapulted haste from the bottom of our stat priority to the top, with mastery (for general/Holy Shield builds) and crit (Seraphim) coming behind it depending on what level 100 talent you took.

Most mythic protadins were already taking Seraphim for progression. As much I personally didn’t like the talent, despite using it for endless 30 attempts at level 100, even I had to admit the benefits you gained from it. Even with the 5 holy power cost, as long as you spec’d into UBS to have Divine Protection up during your holy power pooling every 30 seconds, Seraphim was literally an “I WIN” button due to the increased crit strike, mastery, and bonus armor ratings. The haste changes on January 12th virtually made Seraphim required for everyone due both to how fast you were able to generate holy power and the haste rating change. As witnessed by some of the protadin rankings I screencapped from WCL, you can see how and why Blizzard immediately nerfed Seraphim from 1000 to 750 rating within 24 hours. Even with the “nerf”, the talent is still almost mandatory.

Unfortunately, the haste buff also made tanking in Seal of Truth viable once again, and Blizzard nerfed that to the ground in the same manner they did back in 5.0–with damage reduced by 80%. According to Rygarius: “Protection Paladins should primarily use Seal of Insight for defensive value.” Lord forbid Protadin be allowed to do some meaningful damage with a DoT, yet they just buffed the hell out of Deep Wounds for protection/gladiator stance warriors.

So TL;DR for those who have been living under a rock lately as far as Protadin goes: haste is love, haste is life, haste is king.

My Old Frenemy

Me on wave 31 in Endless PG. Got to 35! (638 ilvl)

I still hate Sikari.

 

I wasn’t going to feel right until I did what I’ve now termed Proving Grounds 2.0 and achieved Endless Tank 30 again.

As we’re all aware now, in order to random queue in LFD for heroics without a full premade group, you are required to obtain a minimum rating of silver in the proving grounds for a specific role. While the initial achievements for obtaining said ratings are account-wide, you will still need to clear the silver rank of proving grounds on an individual character before you’re allowed to queue up for heroic dungeons. Wowhead has some decent guides posted to help you get your PG silvers easily, but I will admit for certain classes and roles it may be a bit more difficult than it is for others.

An important thing to note is, unlike the Mists version of proving grounds, your gear is NOT scaled down to a fixed item level. Mob health and damage scale according to your current item level, and scale pretty linearly according to said item level. This should actually help most specs and classes in tackling proving grounds, since there were several specs during Mists that were severely gimped with a fixed item level of 463 to the point of being almost impossible to play for proving grounds. Set bonuses are still disabled in proving grounds, and I believe that sockets (if your gear is lucky enough to have them!) are also disabled this time around, where as if you geared similarly for Mists-era challenge modes with all sockets in all slots, it helped immensely in higher difficulties/waves.

I’ve managed to attain silvers in all 3 roles on my paladin, DPS/healing on my druid as resto and balance, and dps on a demonology lock. Having done up to endless 34 on Tan as a tank during Mists, it was pretty easy to do the second time around since I was already familiar with the patterns. The only differences I noticed aside from being 10 levels higher without being gimped to a certain item level were talent choices. In Mists, Paladins had access to both Blinding Light and the glyph that turned it into an AOE stun, which was immensely helpful on those waves with lots of mobs/heavy damage to give you some breathing room to kite/run away, as well as had access to talents such as Repentance to help CC a mob, or Evil is a Point of View that allowed you to fear humanoids. In WoD however, Blinding Light is an AOE disorient only that replaced EiaPoV in the level 30 talent tier, with the glyph being changed to something else. It’s still useful to pop in order to give yourself some breathing room though, even if Sikari’s Palpatine Lightning breaks the disorient immediately.

My talent setup for Endless 30:

  • 15 – Speed of Light, because an on-demand speed burst is nice for kiting and running away like the scared little girl I am.
  • 30 – I went with Blinding Light for the disorient to give me some breathing room to escape, you could easily just stick with Fist of Justice or take Repentance for those <4 waves to take a big nasty out of the picture for a while (triple Wind Reaver wave, I’m looking at you).
  • 45 – Sacred Shield. Selfless Healer has almost never been good for Protection, and with Resolve and the Bastion of Glory changes to Eternal Flame, the HoT it provides isn’t really worth it.
  • 60 – UNBREAKABLE SPIRIT. The reduced cooldowns on Divine Protection, Divine Shield, and Lay on Hands are virtually required. The other two talents just don’t measure up to it at all for proving grounds tanking.
  • 75 – You could go either Sanctified Wrath for more Holy Wrath damage and holy power generation, but I found Holy Avenger to be a solid choice as a burst cooldown for more healing/damage and keeping that Shield of the Righteous buff rolling for those particularly nasty waves, and building up HoPo to pop Seraphim.
  • 90 – Either Holy Prism or Light’s Hammer would work here. I went with LH due to the snare effect it puts on mobs within its AOE.
  • 100 – Seraphim is too good to pass up. It’s a nice burst cooldown for damage, and the mitigation it provides in the form of Critical Strike (that converts to parry for us thanks to Riposte, remember), Mastery (obvious), and Bonus Armor (also obvious) makes it a good choice for proving grounds. You could go with Holy Shield if you want to be lazy or just don’t want to play the Pool 5 Holy Power game, but I found Seraphim more useful overall for my attempts, anyway.

For major glyph choices, I used: Divine Protection (20% physical damage reduction on a 30 second CD? yes please), Final Wrath (extra execute damage), and Alabaster Shield (free damage!). For your seals, as tempting as it might be to swap to Truth or Righteousness for extra damage, your job is to stay alive and survive, so I would recommend staying with Insight for additional self-healing. Obviously that suggestion is worthless if you’ve opted to take Empowered Seals, but if you’re using ES anyway I imagine you already knew that!

Another big tip, if you’re tackling Gold or higher: Hand of Freedom is your friend not only for clearing the snare debuff from the banana tossers, but also from preventing them from doing more damage to you or Sikari via their banana attack. So use it like an additional damage cooldown whenever you’ve got a banana tosser running around throwing stuff at you.

If all you care about is passing your Silver for heroic dungeons, you could get away with Holy Shield, Fist of Justice, and Sanctified Wrath for your talent choices. I’d still recommend staying with the other talents and glyphs though. Good luck, and feel free to obliterate my score on the tanking proving grounds! I don’t have enough patience to get past wave 35. >.>;

Dungeon Dailies

In Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard has chosen to bring back “dungeon daily” quests which require you to obtain an item from a specific dungeon if you have a Frostwolf Tavern or Lunarfall Inn built in your garrison. Some of them you can get just from the normal version of said dungeon, but most require you to do heroics to obtain them. These dailies in turn are required to unlock the level 3 Inn/Tavern plans, as part of the Stay Awhile and Listen achievement, but also award really nifty toys and items such as the Ever-blooming Frond that is likely to become any healer’s best friend due to the 15% mana regen per second effect outside of combat and CMs. Since you’re likely to still need items out of heroics anyway unless you’re like, Blood Legion or Method, it behooves you to just do the dailies in heroic mode. Unfortunately, this game has a surplus of jackasses who are basically only queuing up to get the quest item, then immediately dropping group, since the items are not on specific bosses and tend to be located towards the beginning of the dungeon. It’s not helping that the main culprits behind this are “geared” (read: players who are tackling the CM dailies for 640 welfare epics) tanks and healers, who are punishing solo-queing DPS by making them wait in queue both to even start the dungeon AND for replacements immediately after.

This has become a big enough problem that people have posted about it on WoW’s GD forums begging for a fix. Rygarius replied that a hotfix was in the works (and apparently as of this writing, is currently live) to change the dungeon dailies to require killing the last dungeon boss in addition to looting the quest item for quest completion.

I don’t know if Blizzard just places too much faith in its PUG community or what, but how could they not have seen this coming, especially once people started getting to the point where they no longer need anything out of these heroics? People in PUGs (even pre-made groups) are going to take the path of least resistance when it comes to things like this. Hell, there’s already people that will flat out drop if you don’t use the “skip” method of mounting up and rock climbing to avoid over half the trash in Everbloom, and the ancient protectors encounter was entirely skippable before Blizzard hotfixed it. There really isn’t much of a reward for completing and clearing the entire dungeon on heroic once you get past a certain gear point, so why is this even a surprise that this was happening? Why was nothing said about this in beta over the last year or so, aside from the main culprits doing this ARE people who WERE beta testing because they are in top region guilds.

On the other side, some of the whining over in-progress group queues is kind of stupid. I have literally NEVER had to wait longer than 5 minutes for the group to refill unless it was literally like, 3am on a weekday. And as one of those tanks/healers who usually end up getting put into partially completed runs A LOT when solo queue, I can sympathize with those tanks/healers who pop in and a boss they wanted to try their hand at loot from is already down. If they choose to leave, that’s their choice.

Blizzard really screwed the pooch on this one, on all sides. As for me, I was already hesitant about doing dungeon dailies without pre-queueing with friends, this just cemented that. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy these new heroics, but people are still in that MoP/Wrath “pull everything and AOE” mindset, refusing to interrupt or CC, and this is only going to continue to get worse with Highmaul open and people acquiring raid gear.

Queuelords of Lagmoar

Now that we’re finishing up our second full week of the new expansion, and with the Highmaul raid set to launch this coming Tuesday, I figured now would be a good time to reflect on how things are feeling at 100. Launch was a mess, I think you can find plenty of descriptions of that on the internet, but despite being all “lulz revamped AU Outland” I’ve actually been enjoying myself here in Draenor.

Continue reading “Queuelords of Lagmoar”