Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spec dancing. Have I found the one?

A couple of nights ago, I went on a heroic Botanica run with an ex-guildy friend, one of his guild mates, my wife and a rogue from our guild. The run went pretty swiftly, and fairly smooth. The guild mate of the ex-guildy friend used a very similar talent spec to mine... One that I feel stupid as hell for not thinking of.

What are my two favourite specs?

Arcane + Ice.

I completely bypassed the spec he uses - its basically arcane, that uses Frostbolts instead of Arcane Missiles. As an added bonus the spec has Icy Veins and Cold-Snap...

That means that ever 3 mintes: Arcane Power, Presence of Mind, Icy Veins, Trinket Instant frostbolt and damage spamming...

Direct unenhanced DPS is about the same as my previous spec which relied on empowered arcane missiles and Pom Pyro's + arcane power periods for burst DPS. I visited Dr Boom to test this.

60 seconds spell burst:

Arcane: 685 DPS, about 6.6k (out of 12k) mana left and about 42k damage done.

Frost: 704 DPS, about 9.5k (out of 12k) mana left and about 44k damage done.

The damage boost to direct damage is not really noticeable - and there are clear good and bad things about each.

As Arcane: I seem to pump out a lot more mana (naturally, Empowered Arcane Missiles means I use more mana for a boost to the DPS) BUT the arcane missiles do not suffer Knock Back when hit.

As Frost: Mana use is a lot more conservative, theres a slowing effect on the mobs but if I pull multiples it means my actions are limited as the frost spells get knocked back when I am hit.

What does this mean? It means using the frostbolts makes it trickier to solo with. With the use of trinkets or my AP-POM-IV-Trinket macro I can nuke down most things before they get close (hey, chain casting 5.5k frost bolts every 2 seconds is quite impressive...) and with icy veins going (either through macro, or cold snapping for continued haste boost and knock back immunity) I can pretty much spam out damage without a lot of trouble.

The specs are pretty much on par for soloing - the frost really comes into its own when raiding...

20% spell haste is basically a straight up +20% DPS for 20s (with Arcane Power on the go, this is immense) in addition I have the survivability of a second Ice Block available, and that mana being consumed at half rate? Yeah, its nice. The ONLY drawback I have found with this frost spec, is purely down to the amount of damage it does - agro management is required. you get almost the same reduced aggro that you get using the arcane missiles - but the damage boost means that its quite a challenge. Thankfully my learning curve was done with salvation on, so I got to learn the effective way to use this new spec, witout pulling aggro every spell (just ever third spell instead!)

Here is a brief summary of each of the specs:

Arcane/Pom Pyro (old spec) 44/15/3

Soloing: 7/10 - You do good DPS, you dont suffer knockback - but you dont have a lot of control. Just straight out nuking

Raiding: 7/10 - Decent sustained DPS, Low Aggro, good mana consumption/balancing

Burst damage: 8/10 - Pom Pyro can provide anything from 3k-7k crits (with my +1000 spell damage) and arcane power provides a nice period of arcane missile nukage.

Arcane/IV 40/0/21

Soloing: 8/10 - Unless using burst damage, you do the same DPS as above, and you suffer knockback, but you have more control of the mob with straight nuking. You do have two ice blocks too.

Raiding: 9/10 - Excellent sustained DPS, moderate Aggro control, Excellent mana balancing. for example, I used 2k of mana by the time the first boss in Underbog dropped... Thats insane as far as im concerned. Increased survivability through two ice-blocks is also a bonus.

Burst Damage: 9/10 - With Icy veins you basically have an extra 20% dps on top of the burst damage Arcane/pyro does. You miss out on the Pyroblast niceness - but Frostbolt is a good substitute - I usually hit for about 5 to 5.5k when I launch off the Pom Frostbolt. I have not tried it with a fireball yet, but that could also be pretty if you can afford the aggro twitch.

When all is said and done: I noticed a marked improvement in my DPS in the two heroics I done yesterday, and I done a batch of dailys with a significant speed boost.

typically: In kara i pull 750 DPS average, in 5 mans, I pull about 550.

Ill find out the Kara dps tonight (assuming I am draughted) and in 5-mans Im averaging 850 DPS. Thats a marked 300DPS improvement - almost 40% more DPS!

Velks recommendation: Give it a go!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First battleground in months...

I decided last night to tackle an AV daily I have had in my quest log for about a week now, and toddled into one that was two-thirds done. I hopped off the slope and landed in the Graveyard to go defend. (no point running down to go offence when most of the horde are between me and my destination…)

I landed – spotted a gang of horde, and promptly died.

I resurrected up by Vandaar Stormpike, and proceeded to bounce about POM pyroing, arcane missiling and arcane explosioning the enemies with great glee – dying fast but doing lots of carnage at the same time.

After a couple of minutes of this, the horde stormed in and started attacking Vanadaar Stormpike, so I bounced in, started explosioning, died, spawned and Bam. We won. I was genuinely surprised at this, me and the handful of defenders managed to delay the horde zerg (<3 empowered arcane explosions. Got about 10k+ average damage off on a cluster of 10+ horde sat outside before they realised and the remaining took me down) for long enough that our forces managed to take down Drek with at least one war-master still active.

Fantastic, that was a quick and easy 10 minute battle ground – I didn’t do a whole lot – I barely know how to PVP with my mage bar spamming spells and spell-stealing every priest with a bubble I see, but regardless:

I got my competitors tabard and the golden medallion. Not bad for my first try at getting them! This was my main reason for going in – I ALWAYS miss out on the special event pets, and thought I would at least have a go.

Yey! \o/

If anyone has not listened to the latest Elune's Grace podcast, it would appear that the Medallions are handed out to everyone in a winning battleground when it "procs" so to speak... I.E - everyone that was in that battleground that did not have one, would have recieved one. Not 100% sure this is accurate, and it doesnt really make any difference to anything, but I just thought I would mention it :D


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Experimentations with Frost spec. (A spec I like! yey!)

After reading a number of mage blog’s, (Critical QQ and Frost is the new Black, amongst others.) I decided to give frost spec a play. I have not touched frost since about level 65, apart from a brief clueless foray into it, with no real clue for combat tactics.

I went for a heavy frost spec, with enough talents into arcane to attain clearcasting. The basis of the spec was that I have the water elemental pet for extra dps and to assist in shatter combos, icy veins for burst DPS, and all the bonus damage I could squeeze out of the spec.

To start off, I went to Quel’danas and started nailing demons at the portal. Not bad. I went round to the blood elf village, and died over, and over, and over again. I hated the spec. After a day of determined practice, it clicked. My tactics were fundamentally flawed, and a few changes helped up my survivability and dps.

1) I had the wrong rank of frost shield… (Rank 1… twit!) a quick change on my hot-bar and bam, 1k damage shield available at all times.
2) Learning to use the shatter combos. (below)
3) Macros! (below)
4) Using the Water Elemental (went from hate to love of this chap. I call him Terrence.)

Shatter combos:

Whenever the target has a frost root on it, fire a frost bolt and just as the cast bar is finishing – tap ice lance – both will hit simultaneously thanks to the way that the maths engine works – this means both get the 50% shatter crit combo (as well as the ice lance doing triple damage against a frozen target) – typically this his harder than my empowered pyroblast did as arcane/fire. 3-4k frostbolt and 2-3k ice lance (average 5k damage) the water elemental is the perfect tool to setup shatter combos (explained below.)


I picked up a few macros that I set up when going this spec: (apologies for the lack of links but they are easily googleable.)

Firstly, I got the ice-block macro (tap once to block, again to unblock – saves mousing around the screen)
Secondly I got the polymorph focus macro (yey, no more chasing targets, thanks to X-pearl I always have my target on screen, and hitting 7 sheeps the target again -shift 7 will re-target the focus and sheep the new target. This means I can DPS the Skull and have a quick re-sheep available)
Thirdly a pet summons macro that I found – Casts Icy Veins, uses your trinket and then summons your water elemental. this brings out the elemental and gives you your biggest dps boost through trinkets and icy veins, and opens up quick easy shatter combos (under water elemental below.) – a fantastic macro. Saves clicking a lot of buttons.

Water Elemental:

I always summon Terrence with the use of the icy veins macro mentioned above – due to the order of triggering your specials (icy veins, trinkets THEN pet) your pet gets a nice boost to its cast speed and damage output, as well as yourself.

As a basic tool – the water elemental gives a nice boost to your DPS (for me, a 700 damage frost bolt every 2 seconds.).

But, this fella can help do so much more!

Try this: Cast frost bolt at your target – about 1 second before landing shift-5 and drop a frost nova over the target and tap 5 – you freeze the target just before launching the frost bolt-ice lance shatter combo. In a raid or an instance, this is normally the only way you will get a shatter combo. This is the cream of your DPS. My frost bolts (+800 frost spell damage) I crit with frostbolts about a quarter of the time (without the winters chill debuff) and do 2-3k crits, and about 1500 normal damage per frostbolt. In a raid, this is not high DPS.

As a summary of frost:

The shields are fantastic for survivability.
The shatter combo produces some fantastic DPS (it is unpredictable – but you can rely on getting two shatter combos off using your pets ranged frost nova every 3 minutes – this already is higher than pom-pyro – albheit a lot of mobs + bosses are immune, so you don’t get this dps boost)
The pet provides a nice boost to DPS, is straight damage and the reliable shatter combos allow for good dps bursts in most circumstances.
It is a fairly mana efficient spec. Spells are cheap and do good DPM (Damage per Mana)
The spec also produces a reasonable amount of agro. It is higher than arcane – but significantly lower than fire (plus, two ice blocks means you can risk being higher on the damage meters, as long as you are quick to ice block if you pull agro before it leaves the tanks melee range, and likely chases after any healer foolish enough to try to help you out.)

Remember the rule: If the tank dies, it’s the healers fault. If the healer dies, it’s the tanks fault. If the DPS dies, its their own damned fault.)

I am arcane/PomPyro specced again (47/11/3). I enjoy the higher constant DPS, the better mana efficiency and lower agro – but I actually miss frost spec!

My sole reason for going back to arcane was consistent raid DPS. Frost when used correctly was producing higher dps (790 instead of 750 on runs as a rough guide) but against bosses when you NEED high DPS – I was just not doing the same constant damage. At my peak I have icy veins flowing, and an elemental throwing out frost bolts. This produces at best 1.5k/sec from me and 350/sec from my elemental, for 15sec (on me) and 45sec (elemental) – and again with a cold-snap. With Arcane/PomPyro – I am able to whack out 700/1400 DPS regardless, and then throwing out PomPyros (4-7k + 40% dot + pyro dot.) which then start 15 seconds of empowered casting – 900/1750 dps from the arcane missiles. Note: this comparison does not include fire blast which is more powerful in my arcane spec due to Ignite and bonus spell damage + crit damage from the arcane tree.

When WOTLK comes out: I’m leveling frost baby! Definitely more fun and higher DPS for most fights. The survivability is kinda nice too. The only thing that might put me off this is that I hear they are boosting the effectiveness of Arcane… and Northrend is likely to have a lot of frost-resistant mobs. *shudder*

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Recruit a friend follow up:

Man, what a rant that post was... Im going to follow it up with some more rambling. Enjoy.

Reading through more issues on the programme - it occurs to me I kind of missed some crucial points in my last post. You will level faster, naturally, (maybe about 50% faster, which I reckon is about the same boost patch 2.2? gave, when reducing levelling requirements and boosting the 20-60 grind.) But this does not mean you will miss out on content or group experiences...


It does mean you will have to make the choice between one or the other (when working with your "Recruiter" that is... otherwise from what I gather, its solo-xp gains.)

Think about it, if you were about pre-tbc:

Levelling was slow. Not as slow as in some games, but not particularly speedy. You would do two-three zones in each levelling band, and would run instances to flesh out the times you dont want to do green quests, but all your alternatives are red.

With the speed patch in TBC - you did not need as much xp to gain levels, and quest xp was boosted. This means that you dont need to run all these zones, and instances are more of an option now. doing them will net you a few quick levels of xp, and it is feasible to jump from instance to instance with only a small chunk of questing between each.

With the recruit a friend programme - you will only need to knock out all the quests in one zone to level through it - alternatively, you can do an instance run, and it will have the same effect. Therefor, you have the choice - zone content (possibly, a couple of zones if you wish it) or instance experience - after the instance, its time to go gather all the new quests because the ones you had will be green/grey.

Basically, in most cases I think you will find that if the new recruit wants to see all the content, they will go it alone, or will make an effort to go out and view it - when not grouped with their recruiter. Other than that, it will basically be the unhealthy power-levelling that people keep mentioning - although this is not necessarily a bad thing, the relevant skills can still be attained if you go about levelling the right way. (instances).

Personally, I am just gonna keep on trucking with what I have - no interest in any more alts unless it was on another server, and by the time that I would choose to do that I will probably cease playing, at least for a while. If someone wants recommending, great, new mount. but they are on their own :p If they want quick levelling ill boost them somewhere with my mage - or use one of my many mid-ranged alts to give them a temporary xp boost. There is no-one i can think of I would want to play with (and do the work for :p) that will benefit from a power-levelling.

Also, I aint gonna multi-box. If I want to do that Ill get the laptop out and play my wifes character to keep her the same level as me if she wants me to keep her alongside me in level.

Recruit a friend programme

So, I was reading the post Recruitment at Too Many Annas, (If you thought you had a wall of text... check this! lol.) and it made me think...

As I read through the post - I realised that the effects on the "new-start" member will not be as grievious as many are imagining.

First-off - the benefits to the recruiters account are great. You get to level an alt with increased speed, and recieve free levels from your recruit, as well as a few other bonuses like the funky Zhevra mount.

Whilst its true that a lot of the players are going to use this ability to multibox and level up new alts, and probably sell off the new account once they have a lvl 70 or two, and quickly boost an alt to 70, or whatever, there are of course a number of people that will bring new-players to the fray.

The biggest piece of Neigh-saying I am reading about this, is that the new player will not get to experience the old world content, because they will level so fast they will miss most of the plotline. Also, there is talk that they will never group - because instances will be redundant - youll level so fast, and the gear you may get will be outdated so quickly, that you wont need to go - limiting your grouping skills at the same time.

Well, my priest is now level 48 - and thinking on this, I dont think the impact will be as huge as everyone is expecting. For the Recruiters account, there will be HUGE speed boosts (free levels, hello??) but all that the recruit gets is a triple xp bonus to kills and quests. This is a huge boost - but thinking about it, not so much so.

My priest has been levelled exclusively with rested bonus (double kill XP) and efficiently levelled through planned quest loops (thanks to experience of doing all zones twice so far, and the mod, Quest Helper.) and instance blitzing.

I have done a lot of instance questing, and runs with friends - and when I think on the new recruit a friend programme, I dont see a lot changing. Many people WILL lock themselves off into a 2-man speed grinding group, and that is their choice - most people end up doing runs with alts of friends, or that pug made from people that dont know anyone in the first place, so a slightly smaller pool, but no biggie. Instances will still be run. I took my priest through Uldaman at about 34, and again at 40, both times I had a huge batch of quests, and I leveled in the instance, and again cashing in quests from the run. This is a LOT faster than if I was out kill-grinding or trying to get a batch of quests out of the way. Nothing will change for the new recruit - everything just goes that bit faster when with your Recruiter.

If the rant above is not very clear, here are some of my main points that Im trying to reach:

Levelling will be boosted, but not to the extent most people think. The quest XP boost WILL make a difference, and thus will also give great benefit to those instance runs where you can knock a huge batch out at the same time. The kill xp wont be too huge as a lot of people will normally play with rested bonus if they can help it. Players still have to commute to their new quest zones, to do fedex quests, to go to the place they want to kill things or do their quests - this time is XPless and will remain so (excluding the trickle of xp for area discovery)

People will be doing the quest chains and instance runs still because the instances are a great source of kill xp, money, loot and the ability to knock out large chunks of quests, and the chain quests can be followed up on sooner, so your less likely to move to another zone and start doing seperate quests only to realise you missed out on finishing a chain off.

Imagine two scenarios.

1) You are running around wetlands doing your quests, you go get crocolisks, then you get murlocs, then you go round to the slimes, then help Green-whatever-his-face-is to kill gnolls, you come back and perhaps take on some raptors and return to Menethil to cash them all. Old levelling, you would get maybe 2 levels for this all. Currently you would get 1-2 levels from the killing (rested) , and maybe 2 levels for quest handins. With the scheme, you get 2 levels from kills and maybe 3 levels for handins. Note: not triple xp all around, because of deminishing returns. As you levelled more doing the quests - handing them in will lose a bit of xp (which by the law of multiplication being used here, means this drop in xp is a triple drop in the xp you would have gotten. clear? good!)

Originally: 2-3 levels for the loop
Currently: 4 levels
RAF: - 5 levels.

2) You go down Black Fathom Deeps. You take with you half a dozen quests, and a few friends that want to get some quests done. Old world, you get a level or two in there, and a half level for quest handin. Currently you get a couple of levels in there, and a couple for quest handins. With the scheme - 3 levels for kills, and 3 for handins.


Quest loop: 1.5 hours, 5 levels - and maybe a gold in loot and quest rewards.

Black Fathom Deeps: 1.5 hours, 6 levels, a blue or two from kills, a couple of cracking quest rewards, and maybe 5g for quests and trash. You enjoy it more working with friends, you get experience working in a party, you dont have "travel downtime" that you would have moving from place to place on the quest loop - although you have "preparation time" (visiting ironforge, darnassas and Auberdine to gather quests, and perhaps a chain quest or two in Darkshore.)

Take this context to Uldaman - some dozen or so quests you can go in with... or you can run around the mass that is Stranglethorn Vale (theoretically killing everything in your way for the xp.) I got 3-4 levels for quest handins for Uldaman - between 34 and 40... (first trip 34, second trip 40. was almost 42 by the time I handed in second batch of quests) that will probably be something like 6 levels for quest turnins. (at some point they gotta be worth next to no XP :p) and not to mention the fact the things your killing are worth a lot more xp, you get a group xp bonus, good loot and lots of money and group experience. In at 38, and then move to Zul' Farrak.

I hope thats clear, cos now my brain hurts. I take no responsibility in the accuracy of my calculations, its just a bit of cell-mashing and estimation, but the main point to bear in mind is instancing is still beneficial, and the xp gains only take effect when killing or handing in quests, the downtime is still XPless. In addition you need to work with your recruiter to get these gains, and they aint always gonna be there. The biggest pains are indeed going to be a) outlevelling your gear (but lets face it, some items like the Illusionary Rod last for a dozen levels or more anyway!) and having to go get training every hour (commuting time = no xp... you gotta fly to IF to get them skillz? that griffon may as well take 3x longer to fly there cos of the xp you could be getting...)

On the other hand, I do have to agree, going this route will mean you miss out on a lot of interesting regular quests as you will be much more likely to bypass them whenever you go to an instance. Theoretically you can go: Deadmines - BFD/Stockade - a few quest loops then Uldaman - Zul'Farrak - Maraudon/Sunken Temple - outland.

Moderation people. And optional. And Im going to get an ice pack for my head...

Arrgh! Brain melt!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Arahnid-gladiatorial matches, and busted PCs.

So yeah, I spotted a giant spider when in the shower this morning, and ended up in a gladiatorial standoff with the thing. I spotted it behind the radiator, legs sticking out from behind the piping -let out an audible grunt and ran out the bathroom, and came back wielding a kitchen knife and a makeshift shield - a win bucket. After a few minutes of chasing it around the bathroom, through piles of dirty clothes, towels, toilet tubes I managed to corner it and had to resort to squashing it (it was like a tarantino movie, spider guts and blood all over the place.) with the wine bucket...

Other than this, I am recently back from visiting family up north again - and am in the midst of PC repairs.

My PC is pretty aged as far as modern computers go - 3700Xp athlon, Asus A8N-SLI delux motherboard, a gig of ram and a 3850 ATI gfx card. I had a raid array setup and if anyone out there is familiar with the motherboard, they come with a design flaw where the chipset fan basically dies very very quickly - so I fitted a passive, that I think is no longer keeping the chipset cooled - that just so happens to hold the raid controller - and my PC grinds to a halt whenever this warms up as it is not operating the hard drives properly. I connected the drives to non-raid SATA sockets and it seems to be working fine now - although I have problems with Internet Explorer since reformatting (think I got a virus :( ) - anyhow, I just downloaded and installed Firefox 3 via my laptop, so hopefully that should resolve any problems I am having.

As for WOW- I really have not had much gametime. Had a Kara run on Friday night, and got my priest to a couple of boxes off of 42.