Gold Mode Gunner: Temple of the Jade Serpent

Posted in Challenge Mode, Guides, Shadowpriest with tags , , , , on March 12, 2013 by Natarumah

ability_druid_flourishTemple of the Jade Serpent is a good introductory dungeon to try for a Gold challenge mode. It’s not a very long instance, and while there are a few places you really shouldn’t screw up, there are also remarkable areas where you can save time if you’re savvy. There’s a definite advantage in this dungeon for melee and ranged that can cast on the move.

The first pull: from start to Wise Mar’i

All trash up to the first boss should be pulled; if you have a sturdy tank or one capable at kiting, you should pull the boss while keeping DPS on the adds. Use heavy damage reduction cooldowns to survive until the first three adds are down, including the one spawned by the boss. Options are gathering together and using Spirit Link Totem, or having them tanked by an Army of the Dead. Once the boss is dead, rush to the library.

The library

Pull and kill the first group of adds, two Pandaren spirits and a Sha. Kill them and use an invisibility potion to rush over the bridge and stand near the corner. Pull the packs on the bridge and any of the other packs as your are capable of handling. Have someone start the fight by killing the sha-touched book on the ground floor, while the rest kills of the mobs. There’s plenty of time spent in a small section of RP to kill them, and even if you have an add left it’s not a real bother.

When killing the two minibosses here, allow the stack to go up to 8. This will kill them considerably quicker, especially with DoTs ticking. Stop immediately at 8 however, or you risk them getting ultimate power and becoming immune.

Rumble at the courtyard

Rush over to the courtyard, and use serial AoE stuns and fears as much as you can to keep the small adds controlled. When the last add is dying is a good time to use Hymn of Hope and help the healer get some mana.  Fireblossom will spawn, but if the healer needs to drink you can probably help keep up the tank with a PW:Shield plus Prayer of Mending long enough. Vampiric Touch is also very good here, as the boss can have some mean damage spikes.

When the boss is between 7% and 10%, if you have a Hunter in the party, have him or her get ready at the door. Other classes also work, but will require a battle rez. When the boss goes down, this person will aggro the three Sha through the door, and rush to the far left corner. The rest of the party gathers in the right corner. Hunters feign death now, the rest has to die quickly. The moment the Sha are reset, pull the Sha of Doubt and they will be gone as well.

This fight goes much as usual. AoE down the shadow copies when they spawn, and burn him down with whatever cooldowns you have after killing the first spawn of adds.

Enjoy your gold medal!

Shadowpriests specifically

  • Because of the many adds and high mobility, you might want to consider From Darkness Comes Light and the glyph of Mind Spike to put out more damage on the move.
  • As most mobs will be clumped up or running after the tank in front of you, Shadow Jojo (Divine Star) seems the most solid option.
  • Before the challenge mode starts, use PW:Shield and Prayer of Mending on the tank to help out in the first pull, unless your healer is Disc.
  • Movement is key here – Body and Soul is a solid choice for movement if you have any healer other than Disc, where I’d suggest Feathers.
  • Divine Insight or Twist of Fate is a tossup; you will have plenty mobs at <20%, but also multidotting running all over.

Turning over a new leaf

Posted in News with tags , , , on March 5, 2013 by Natarumah

spell_shadow_twistedfaith1Over the course of Mists of Pandaria, I started to feel the effects of my “old age” in WoW terms. I’ve been playing my Shadowpriest ever since the Burning Crusade, and during this time, the changes I experienced have been minimal. Many things were shaken up in Mists of Pandaria, but even here much of my playstyle remains the same. This has been leading to me becoming somewhat disappointed and disillusioned. I began to slack more in the raids, and my damage started to deteriorate.

In addition, Unity has seen a recent surge of new and returning Priests, meaning we’re pretty swamped. On the other hand, all of our Strength DPS seems to have vanished. So to combat my ennui and provide additional worth for my raiding group, I have decided to switch my mains.

Currently I am gearing up my Death Knight in rapid time, and hoping I can jump in quickly when 5.2 hits us. I will try to complete the posts I had been working on about Shadowpriests in challenge modes, but I do feel that I am lacking the emotional reach to get it done right now. However, my enthusiasm about my Death Knight is only growing, so it’s quite likely I will be switching around my blogs as well, when I am settled in.

This means my absence is going to last longer, and new posts will be slower in the making. I dearly love my Priest, and my guild was shocked about my intention to switch my mains, but it is a necessary change to stave off the stagnation I had been feeling for months now.

I am currently considering using Twisted Faith to house my three favorite classes: Priests, Death Knights and Warlocks. That way I will have plenty to write about, and the general theme remains viable. What do you guys think?

Insanity – and they weren’t kidding!

Posted in News, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory, Theorycraft with tags , , , on January 17, 2013 by Natarumah

ability_warlock_eradicationIt is hardly a secret that Shadowpriests have been avoiding Power Word: Insanity like the plague; an ability that consumes your Shadow Word:Pain in return for a modest amount of damage (and only if consumed at the very last moment) is like trying to play whack-a-mole with a set of tweezers. Now Blizzard noticed this and tries to put the plague back into this talent, redesigning it for patch 5.2.

The Deal

The current incarnation of the ability as presented is “Solace and Insanity”. We ignore Solace – that’s for our healing brethren. The “Insanity” portion basically causes your Mind Flay to deal double damage while there are three shadow damage DoT’s on the target. This wording is very important because it’s the difference between Insanity being total suck or total win.

First Impression

When you think of the reasonable application, it means that Mind Flay deals double damage only with three of your shadow damage over time effects. That would be all three of VT, SW:Pain and DP. And considering that DP can be applied with 1 to 3 Shadow Orbs (increasing its damage) it suddenly becomes a pain game of deciding whether a 2-Orb DP + double damage MF more often is worth it over a 3-Orb DP with less double damage Mind Flays. In practice, it won’t be.

Taking an 8 second cooldown, you will have a 3-Orb Devouring Plague every 24 seconds, after which your Mind Flay (3 second channel base) will deal double damage. Of course you might get lucky with the Divine Insight procs, but we should discount this for now to get the base value of the talent. This “bare increase” will give Mind Flay a slight boost in DPECT (Damage per Effective Cast Time). Basically, it’s DPECT value increases by 100% but only 1/10 of the time.

To get to this 3-Orb Devouring Plague we need:

  • Three Mind Blasts (1.5 second cast time)
  • Three Mind Blast cooldowns (8 seconds each)
  • Devouring Plague (Instant cast + GCD)
  • We can start casting Mind Flay

Total time required: 4.5 seconds casttime, 24 seconds cooldown, 0.5 seconds GCD = 29 seconds (let’s round to 30); Devouring Plague lasts 6 seconds base, giving us room for 2 Mind Flay casts. This gives us an active time of 12 seconds per minute; 20% uptime on the buffed Mind Flay. This also means a 20% increase (roughly) of the Mind Flay damage you’d see in your logs.

In the red corner, replacing our retarded Shadowfiend: Mindbender. With a minute cooldown base, the Mindbender is fire and forget, deals more damage and restores more mana than the Shadowfiend. It deals about 60% of the damage of a normal Shadowfiend, but can be used three times as often. You will see your “Shadowfiend related damage” increased by 80% if you have the Mindbender talent.

The key here is: which one’s higher?

If we read the tooltip literally

Well, we’d be happy with all our Warlock and Shadowpriest colleagues in the raid, that’s what. If we read it literally, it doesn’t say that we need 3 of our own shadow DoTs on the target, meaning we get the buff as long as aside of our main DoTs (VT, SW:P – which we should keep on our target at all times) one other Dotter is doing his job.

Corruption, Shadowflame, Unstable Affliction, Doom, and Shadowpriest DoTs will all count, and we can effectively say that in a 25man raid we have a 100% uptime on Insanity. That quite changes the outcome of things.

The Match

I am going to take the damage per cast time for Shadowfiend and Mindbender, and bring them back to damage per minute (the shortest cooldown), then I can see the benefit that Mindbender gives as opposed to having a vanilla Shadowfiend over a similar span of time.  I don’t need to do that for Mind Flay, because it has a convenient channel time I can abuse for this. Here I can simply check the direct increase in damage based on its uptime of roughly 20%. (so also 20% more DPECT). 

Shadowfiend DPECT (my gear):51529 (3 minutes cooldown) = 17.176,3 per minute
Mindbender DPECT (my gear): 36.129 per minute
Benefit of Mindbender vs Shadowfiend = 18.952,7

Mind Flay DPECT (my gear): 38.969 (3 second channel)
Insanity DPECT increase: 100%
Active time: 12 seconds/minute (20%)
Benefit of Insanity vs vanilla Mind Flay = 15.587,6

If all DoTs are counted, then the uptime of Insanity becomes about 10o%, massively improving the output of Mind Flay.

Mind Flay DPECT (my gear): 38.969
Insanity DPECT increase: 100%
Active time: 100%
Benefit of Insanity with all DoTs = 77.938 (!)

Results

We can tell that if Insanity is triggered only by our own DoTs, it suffers from giving us a smaller increase in damage even if we’d time our Mind Flays perfectly, and on a Patchwerk style fight. With increasing Haste, the value of Insanity will slowly creep up to the value of Mindbender, but as soon as we have to move or suffer from lag, its value drops significantly. Also note that the 20% active time is really generous, considering it’s 6 seconds of buff for 29 seconds of rampup. Over a fight of 10 minutes you will have 34  buffed Mind Flays (so closer to 17%).

Only when it counts for all Shadow DoTs, from all other raid members, does Insanity catch up – and then it shines. Of course I did count 100% uptime here, but I think that’s reasonable considering that it takes only two Shadowpriests or Warlocks to get this done.

Do note that Mastery, which increases our Shadow DoT damage (and thus Mind Flay) scales very well with this talent. While Mind Bender doesn’t benefit from Mastery at all, a Mastery-heavy gear set will not only bump up DoT damage a lot more, but when combined with Insanity will also interact with the 100% damage buff. A +10% damage from Mastery effectively doubles while Insanity lasts and with a 17% uptime this will work out to 11,7% in practice (or +20% if all DoTs count).

I am not sure which design Blizzard is going to take, but if my napkin math hits anywhere near home, this choice will determine whether we will ever use the talent or not.

2012 in review

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2012 by Natarumah

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog – and it shows that I definitely haven’t shown Twisted Faith the love it deserves.

Definitely time for a new year’s resolution!

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 50,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 12 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Challenge Modes

Posted in Challenge Mode, Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest with tags , , on November 30, 2012 by Natarumah

inv_misc_toy_01pngAs part of a new installment I am going to focus on the role of Shadowpriests in the various Challenge Modes. There will be a page set up specifically for our general role and abilities, considering challenge modes aren’t unlike an arena team in that it literally challenges you to make the most out of the abilities you have. I will give a general overview of Challenge Modes in general (and Shadowpriests specifically) after which I am going to give each of the current Challenge Modes a pass with specific tactics and caveats.

What are Challenge Modes?

Challenge Modes are a tep up from Heroic Dungeons, and are comparable to 5-man raids. While (mostly) the boss mechanics and the dungeon layout remains the same, damage has been amped up and the mobs have more health. This requires sustained DPS, power-pulling and squeezing the most out of class abilities and healer mana. A Challenge Mode typically consists of a Tank, Healer and 3 DPS – but each of the various roles needs to be able to pitch in, thinking outside the box.

When you step into a Challenge Mode (you will have to get into it yourself, no queueing up), your gear is adjusted to an item level of 463 (Heroic). All items are calculated down equally, but gems and enchants remain the same. This way, no matter how you run challenge modes, your gear (once 463+) is irrelevant. This also means that you can easily run Challenge Modes on an alt – it’s skill, not purples that count.

There will be a screen in front of the dungeon (so you can’t go further than the start) with an orb. Clicking the orb causes a timer to count down to zero – and a set of objectives to appear. These are killing the bosses of the dungeon, the number of mobs (trash) you have to kill, and the time remaining. Complete them, and the timer shows your final completion time, which is included in your “personal best” but also in your guild and on the server itself.

Sometimes you can kill trash packs, or use dungeon-specific tricks to easily kill or maneuver past trash. All is allowed – but you need to reach that kill counter. To reset a Challenge Mode, the party leader can reset it from the objectives screen. If you wipe, you have to run in – Mass Resurrection is disabled. But there’s one bonus there: you will not suffer durability loss from death.

Which is good. You will die a lot…

What do Shadowpriests offer?

Shadowpriests offer passively our Fortitude Buff and (in Shadowform) our Haste buff. We also have highly customizable DPS, being able to Single-target burn effectively as well as provide AoE and moderate kiting abilities. Our DPS “on the move” is quite decent, and important point when you’re power-pulling through an instance.

We also provide a Fear (which can be glyphed to cause targets to tremble in place), Horror (1 target), Silence (1 target) and a variety of talented CC. Vampiric Embrace is a strong healing cooldown in a 5man dungeon, especially when glpyhed (more healing, shorter duration). While the healer drinks, we can provide short-term healing through PW:Shield and Flash Heal, with sufficient mana regen and use of Shadowfiend to be back in the action once the healer’s full on mana again.

We have a slow on our Mind Flay (unless we glyph it away for more damage) and can use our Mind Blasts for a root if glyphed as well.

You will find that over the course of Challenge Modes, once you learn how each works, you’re using different glyphs and talents throughout a single run, to benefit of the party. So my first round of advice would be to bring plenty of tomes to respec with – at least a stack.

Synergies

In a Challenge Mode, you will likely want as many of the debuffs and buffs as you can have; this includes Heroism (Shaman/Mage/Hunter) and a Battle Resurrection (Druid/Death Knight/Warlock/Hunter). As you can see Hunters are versatile, but they can bring only a single buff at a time since it depends on the pet they bring.

Second, there’s the concept of “soft CC”. You’re going to a find a lot of packs are made easier by chaining stuns, silences and similar effects to keep them locked down and interrupt them. An example in our own team is our Brewmaster’s Leg Sweep, then our Death Knight’s Winter followed by my Fear, followed by our Shaman’s Capacitor Totem after which our Brewmaster could use Breath of Fire (if Glyphed). While diminishing returns will make the later forms of CC less useful, altogether this is about 20 seconds of burn time with less damage on the tank.

There’s also personal synergy – you’ll need a group with people you can work with, there has to be a “click”. And, like with an Arena Team, you have to discuss your goals for the team. There’s a daily quest for a  certain Challenge Mode, completing that is a goal in itself. Then you can get “medals” for completing the Challenge Mode as fast as possible – from Bronze to Silver to Gold. Completing all Challenge Modes at a certain level of skill will give you a reward, including a set of special transmog gear at all-Gold. But reaching this requires preparation, training and dedication. You have to make sure that your team will be able to go that extra mile to reach it.

Secondary Benefits

Running Challenge Modes is a test of skill – and in the beginning you’re going to have a tough time. You might have to brush up skills that have been rusting since Wrath (Shackle Undead *cough*) or amp up your situational awareness. These are not heroics – these are Shattered Halls Heroic (pre-Nerf) affairs, and it shows. But once you start getting some Bronze medals, things become easier, as your team starts to mesh together.

This also makes you a better raider and PvPer – it will sharpen your awareness, allow you to think outside of the box and puts “clear thinking under strain” on your resume.

Preparation

Investment of time and effort is one thing – but you’re going to need a lot of resources as well. Flasks aren’t a luxury, especially when attempting to reach a Silver score or higher, as is food. Usually you can make do with the lesser (250 stat boost) food, but again at Silver times you might want to use even better. Bring a stack of potions (better yet, two!) and some unconventional items such as:

  • (Lesser) Invisibility Potions, which allow you to skip some trash packs
  • Bandages (yes really!) to spare healer mana between pulls
  • Embersilk Nets if you are a tailor, they might work
  • Off-spec flasks and pots, if you might need to respec mid-way into the dungeon
  • Gear with various stats to facilitate AoE vs. Multidotting vs. Single Target

Note that Challenge Modes are like raids in that you also will need the standard 15% hit, so keep this in mind when choosing gear. The steps above (especially the last two) are extreme, but the closer you pull to Gold, the more you will find a use for it.

Next post: Shadowpriests Talents and Glyphs in Challenge Modes

 

Unity Raiding Community – Recruitment Post

Posted in News, Raids and Instances with tags , , , on November 2, 2012 by Natarumah

One of the things we face as the game grows older is that sometimes we outgrow the game; I’ve been a part of the Unity raiding community since Ulduar, and it’s the best time I’ve ever had. The people are great, good atmosphere and while we’re certainly not the most hardcore progression group, we’ve being doing quite well and consistently. Recently, some of our members have quit the game for personal reasons (most of them happy occasions!) and that means it’s time to step up recruitment and welcome some fresh new faces!

What is Unity?

Unity is a 25-man raiding community on Steamwheedle Cartel (EU), Alliance side. As a raiding community we don’t ask of people to join a particular guild, so people can remain with their friends if that’s what they like. The core guild of Unity is the House of Elements, and many members of Unity are in this guild. We’re a moderate progression guild – we don’t push for world-firsts but aim for steady progression and a sustainable raiding experience.

Past achievements include achieving every single Glory achievement since they were released and completing several Legendaries (Val’anyrs, Shadowmournes, Dragonwraths and Fangs of the Father). Our current progress is 4/6 Mogushan Vaults, and we’re very close to killing Elegon.

We raid every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 20:30 server time until 24:00 server time. Gathering time for the raid is 20:15. Our voice chat is based on Mumble.

Recruitment Status

We’re looking for:

  • Warrior (Fury or Arms)
  • Mage (Any)
  • Possibly Warlock or Priest (Shadow)
  • Paladin (Retribution)
  • Death Knight (Unholy/Frost)

We are full on Hunters and Druids. Our Tanking and Healing team is very strong and reliable, so we don’t need mainspec tanks or healers. You are welcome to have those as off-spec, but it’s unlikely they will be called on for the time. Monks would compete directly with our other Agility users, so we’re not going to accept any Monks unless you prove to be of exceptional skill with this class.

Key talents:

  • Knowing your class, and willing to improve
  • Willing to listen to orders, perform encounter-specific functions and discuss tactics
  • Teamplayer
  • Ability to raid on at least 2 of the 3 days mentioned above

Join us in saving Pandaria!

If you’re interested in joining us, please visit http://unity.home.pl/forum/index.php for more information. You will find our recruitment forum here, with more essential info and our current applications. Your application is your first impression, so be sure to answer the questions and give us good insight in who you are. We recruit people based on their personality as much as their skill.

Note for cross-server applications:

We accept people from other realms, and some of our members today are the result of successful cross-realm applications and transfers. I strongly suggest making your app and linking us a combat log (such as from worldoflogs.com) which shows us how you perform, before you transfer. There will be plenty of time to hop over to Steamwheedle Cartel (EU) once we decide to give you a trial run, and it’s a waste of time and money if you transfer blindly.

The Cycle of Alts

Posted in Fun, Guides, News on October 1, 2012 by Natarumah

The content added during Mists of Pandaria is already staggering. Even in the starting zone people mill in confusion, while the quests attempt to guide them into the storyline in an orderly fashion. But it’s all nice and good when you try to rush your main to 90 – after that you have an even longer road ahead. You will need to grind reputation with factions – to allow you to grind reputation with other factions. This return to the old TBC model of reputation as the main precursor to raids does have a rather unsettling side effect, namely that you will find yourself actually running out of progress, normally filled in by levelling alts.

That said, the content is much more focused on lore and your character’s role – it allows less for alts. In fact, leveling an alt in Pandaria will be much more of a chore than in Wrath or TBC before. So in the light of most people reaching or approaching level 90, a few tips on how Alts can make your day better.

Levelling alts

The best advice is to get through the starting sequence in Pandaria and then ride on to Halfhill in the Valley of Four Winds. The ride there is with very little danger for a level 85 character, and it gives plenty herbing and mining opportunities if you are so inclined. With the many creatures being killed there daily, skinners will also find it a lovely place to visit. You will find an adventuring gear vendor here (Grummel with a big pack) who can sell some good stuff. After you are done here, you can fly back to the starting zone with better preparation.

If your cooking is not up to scratch, this place allows you to quickly level cooking through “Pandaren Cooking”, where you get specific recipes using Pandaria ingredients to level quickly. A lot can simply be bought at the trainer, for the rest you will either need Ironpaw tokens or materials sent in from other characters or the AH.

Do the starting quests for the farm, and make sure you plant stuff there daily for use in cooking. Now, the trick is that the dailies for the tillers do not actually appear until level 90 – but this place is a good spot to put your hearthstone. And, even if you decide not to level through questing, you can easily use it as a home base while running random dungeons or battlegrounds. If you keep any alts here that you don’t plan on levelling yet, you ensure a steady stream of ingredients for your main’s cooking – and trust me, you will need a lot of them. Once they do level to 90, you can farm crops daily for about 200 rep a day – plus whatever daily quests you do. Once you get to revered, you can start farming special crops. This means that every character you get to level 90 can potentially have 16 farming slots, each with a plant that provides 1 or more pieces of cloth, leather, herb or ore. Even enchanting mats or Harmony can be farmed this way.

This will severely relax the need for farming alts (except that they will be farming literally of course), allowing you to sustain yourself with what comes off the farm. This also means less time spent running after resources, which are then available for people levelling who need them. This also means that the Cross Realm Zones will affect us less, again. Winning all around, but it takes some effort to get the engine running.

Reputations for alts

Lorewalkers, Anglers and the Order of the Cloud Serpent reputation is either less important for alts, or is simply very hard to do without a flying mount. In such cases, only go for these reputations on alts where you feel you must have access to the items they provide. If you want to have a permanent fishing/hunting alt, specifically for providing fish and meat for cooking, then feel free to go for the Anglers reputation.

Black Marketeering

The Black Market is a pretty dangerous place to get to, but if you manage to get an alt there (bonus points if it is a Warlock) and your friends put an alt here as well, you can have a quick summoning stone relay to get mains in to place a bid on items at the right time. Not many people actually come here, some don’t know and many don’t have the money for it. But if you want early access to epics, this place offers an opportunity.

The alts here can be used to check what’s on sale as well, and using a guild form or guild message of the day to report what is for sale will make your guild respond a lot more efficiently to the stock.

Old materials

Right now the Auction House is flooded with low-level materials brought in by levelling Pandaren and Monk characters. New tradeskills being levelled creates demand, meaning prices are outrageous for the TBC and Wrath materials. This is a good stock to cash in on now. Starting materials will quickly stabilize, and Cataclysm materials are in great supply (leftovers), but might rise in a week or two.

Note that the Cata inks are still used to trade in for lower level inks in Stormwind – if you have a scribe make sure to use the cheaper herbs and whatever stores you have left to trade them in for glyphs to sell.

If you have alts running dungeons and have no use for the Justice Points, they can still be used to buy Cataclysm grade materials for a modest profit or levelling an alts’ professions.

Gearing Alts

Alts that managed to hit 90 can be very quickly geared. Level 90 quests and normal dungeons equal the new Justice Points gear, while heroics equal the new Valor Points gear. This means that every option is open to get yourself up to snuff. In fact, many people are currently using the PvP crafted sets to gain their last few skill points in Blacksmithing, Leathworking and Tailoring, and their prices are dropping steadily.

These PvP items are cheap to make, meaning that they are a quick avenue to meeting the iLevel for Heroics. In fact, because PvP sets take up a lesser amount of item budget, PvP gear is almost as good as the PvE gear of the same iLevel. This is good news for newly dinged 90s.

A special note to tailors

Dear tailors,

Northrend cloth farming, or whatever it’s called, works in full force. You will still find many, many additional pieces of cloth and therefore will have no difficulty completing your daily tailoring in the Silk Fields, reaching 600 tailoring or finding expensive lint all over your bagspace. Please consider using it for First Aid on your main (for Cloud Serpent dailies) or on any alts that might need it.

Personally I am sitting on 50-60 bolts after hitting 600 on tailoring, so I might commit the unforgivable sin of actually leveling First Aid to max…

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