Archive for the PvP Category

Learning a class anew

Posted in Guides, PvP, Raids and Instances, Theory with tags , , on August 8, 2012 by Natarumah

When a new expansion is introduced, you will always see people switching their main characters. Either they got tired of their old class, they want to try out a new role, or they believe that that shiny new alt they rolled is going to be a better fit for them. With Mists, you can also add the reason: “help, my class has been completely overhauled”. You will find that there’s a lot of catching up to do, and you don’t really want to wait until the next raiding season to practice all those cooldowns, rotations and gimmicks.

So here’s what you can do: find equivalent practice.

Equivalent practice

In the basics, it’s looking for a training experience equivalent to whatever you are practicing for, except easily repeatable and sometimes secluded for better number crunching. It’s like stepping into a simulator to train your muscle memory for the operations needed to drive a car before setting foot into a real vehicle. You already get the kinks out before stuff gets real.

Training Rotations

The first step in learning your rotations is to map them out: find a good blog, elitist jerks or a skilled friend and find out what buttons you push and in what order. A simple way of doing this is to make a sort of flow chart on a piece of paper, where you put the abilities you cast into boxes and connect them based on 1) what needs to be up in what order of priority and 2) what needs casting based on a prerequisite (such as SW:Deathx2 below 25% health).

You then map out your button bar so that it reflects this chart; in other words, the most important and often used abilities go at the start of the bar, in easy reach. I like to keep Fade and Shield at the back side of the bar, still within quick click range, in case things go wrong. This is a good place for DPS cooldowns as well, such as Archangel and Shadowfiend. Then comes the next step: practicing at a training dummy.

Training Dummies, while awful for finding out what your DPS would be in a raid or the like, are really amiable targets for repeated and continuous spamming. So basically grind out your basic rotations for half an hour or so, trying to get the best grip on it you can. Because there are no mechanics to worry about, you can easily focus on your buttons and bar to work on a good sequence and timing.

Many people would now consider the next step to go into a dungeon – however for reasons I will mention this is usually a bad place to practice these things. Instead, join up for an LFR run. Since with moderate skill you can already do really well there, and mechanics (while present) are not really dangerous, you can afford to spend more time working on your casting sequences. I imagine that this will be no different in Mists of Pandaria, although it does mean you will need to already have reasonable gear for your toon.

Training burst damage and spatial awareness

For these things, the random dungeon finder is awesome (or even better: queueing up with friends). Assuming you know the basic rotations well enough now, this is the place to learn how to apply burst damage and train spatial awareness. Since people in dungeons are often overgearing the place once the raid seasons started, you will have less chance to practice sustained DPS. The more damage the other people are doing in your group, the less time the mob has to live – and the less time you have to practice.

There’s also the matter that low DPS and attempting to learn a rotation while in a random dungeon (especially heroic) is going to make people really edgy. Most people there just want to rush through for gear and Valor points, and they aren’t really waiting for someone who’s still learning the ropes. However, the fact that the heroics/dungeons have proper encounter mechanics to follow means that you will get practice in spatial awareness and performing your role while paying attention to your surroundings.

Survival and creativity training

To be fair, nothing beats learning to survive and creative use of your skills as does PvP. Random battlegrounds are a good start, and you can easily jump right in with a starter kit made by a crafting profession. In the beginning you will die a lot, but as you become more savvy and get better gear you will live longer and be a more threatening target. This is great to learn what possible means of survival you have when playing that class.

Second, since you fight against Human opponents, you need better and more surprising tactics to fool them. This means you will learn by instinct what abilities (and combinations) will work to lock an opponent down or leave them behind while you escape. All skills which will be valuable while raiding.

Class and spec-specific tricks

These are perhaps the only things that can only be learned by using them in arenas, rated battlegrounds or raids. These are either class-specific tricks (Prot warrior charge/intercept, hunter kiting/jump shot, Priestly Hymn of Hope + Shadowfiend) or role-specific (corner pulls, heal stacking, multidotting) and you are going to have to learn them the hard way, by experience. Often it’s these tricks that make the difference between a good DPS and an amazing DPS, and you will learn a lot instinctively and with experience.

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to train yourself in your class before the raids start – and with Mists of Pandaria bringing in a breath of fresh air for a lot of classes, even experienced players might benefit from a few simple tips on how to (re)learn critical skills for raiding and PvP. If you identify yours now, you can be up and running while your fellows – I mean competition – are still learning to walk again.

The grand design…of sorts

Posted in Fun, News, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by Natarumah

There’s a lot of clamoring about Shadowpriests in the current Beta build; I can’t verify any of it since I don’t have Beta access myself, but I will try and make a coherent baseline setup of what we’d be looking at doing in the current build from what I’ve gathered.  (I received Beta access with the second wave of keys, with most of the other GreyBeard accounts). There are, as always, major concerns and gaps which need to be filled, but we’ll have to hope these get addressed as time marches on.

Keep in mind the general changes to the game, such as Intellect no longer providing mana, meaning we all have the same mana pools, and that Replenishment is gone.

Note that, due to my personal affection for my class, some ranty elements might be included in this post, for which I apologize beforehand. I love my class, and that sometimes gets the better of me.

The base system: Shadow Orbs

Shamelessly lifted off of the Paladin model, Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Blast generate Shadow Orbs, which are used to unleash our most potent attacks. I can’t tell if there’s a limit to the amount we can have, but this picture by Theed on the MMO-Champion forums suggest 3 (three), since the UI has been changed to make room for three slots under the character portrait.

Option 1:Shadowy Apparitions is now a triggered ability, which consumes all Shadow Orbs to generate 1 SA per Orb.

Option 2:Psychic Horror now costs Shadow Orbs to trigger, no mana, and lasts longer with more Orbs. [PvP, do not touch!]

Mastery

Our new Mastery is a straight %Increase to our Shadow damage dealt, and when we trigger Shadowy Apparitions, there’s a chance to be refunded Shadow Orbs when they deal damage. This seems to feed into a system where we trigger Shadowy Apparitions in “lean times”, hoping to be refunded the Orbs. Currently, since the only other thing we can do with them is triggering Psychic Horror, we will do this a lot.

Talents we take

Tier 1: Psyfiend (Static Fear), Shadowy Tendrils (Root), Dominate Mind (New Mind Control) – all of them are as useful or useless as you make it, pick one.

Tier 2: Path of the Devout (Increased speed while Levitating), Phantasm (Fading currently gives you a Smoke Bomb effect as well as a Root escape) – take Phantasm, unless you like recasting Levitate every 5 seconds. (There’s currently word that the speed buff lasts 30 seconds, which would make this a more equal draw).

Tier 3: Dark Archangel (25% Damage boost) or From Darkness Comes Light (VT damage procs an instant MSpike without losing DoTs) – We probably need to calculate burst damage benefits versus the benefit of having a semi-useful MSpike every so often – I probably will go for Dark Archangel then. There’s one spot for an unannounced talent, so let’s hope there’s something good to be had here.

Tier 4: Void Shift (Swap Health and heal lower health target by 25%) – the others are healing talents.

Tier 5: Power Infusion (Straight damage buff), Divine Insight (MB casts allow you to treat your target as <20% for SW:Death), Twist of Fate (15% damage on healing and damage on targets below 20%) – Divine Insight will be the key to the immense damage overload of SW:Death, so I would take it over ToF. PI will be the winner in the beginning, when we have to adjust to our rotations and our mana returns are still bad.

Tier 6: If the “Coming Soon” talent in the preview is Shadow related, take that. Else take Divine Star (Holy Jojo) to steal a Mage’s Fire Orb that also comes back because our spells are loyal to us.

Spell changes

  • Vampiric Touch no longer triggers replenishment, which has been removed. It instead heals you for 15% of the damage it deals.
  • Devouring Plague has been removed; its initial damage aspect has been moved to SW:Pain.
  • SW:Pain now deals instant damage, and generates 1 Shadow Orb when it is cast (no when it ticks).
  • SW:Death now deals X damage to both you and your target, 4x times damage on a target below 20%. It no longer provides mana. When you fail to kill the target its cooldown is reset, as if you had the current SW:Death glyph.
  • Vampiric Embrace now has a 3 minute cooldown, but when triggered heals (Party Memebers) for 50% of the damage you deal.
  • Vampiric Dominance (New) used to be a talent but is now baseline or replaces VE possibly, heals 3 nearby low-health targets for 15% of damage dealt. It cannot be cast in Shadowform however, which is completely against the nature of its ability, name and icon.
  • Mind Control has been removed and replaced with Dominate Mind, which has a 30 second cooldown, maybe (?) instant cast, and affects all non-mechanical targets. Considering people are speaking of using other spells while mind controlling, it might be that this is a full CC or that you get a pet bar instead of losing control.
  • Psychic Scream is baseline again, because screaming like a little girl while tossing dots around didn’t go out of style, no matter what the Devs thought.
  • Spectral Guise is a new ability, generating a copy of you while making you invisible. If your real form is hit with direct attacks 3 times, the spell dissipates.
  • Inner Fire: Now gives a 10% static boost to Spellpower.
  • Shadowfiend’s cooldown has been reduced to 4 minutes.
  • Empowered Shadows is gone entirely.

The good

The dynamics of a [SW:Px3, SA, MB, MF] rotation, while horribly similar to a Paladin’s or Fire Mage’s rotation, can be very interesting but it’s a sudden change in direction. We have one less DoT, and the remaining DoTs need to be more significant to not let this talent spec become the “infant terrible” among DPS, with lots of new kids lolling about how “easy the spec is”. There’s an immense amount of battlefield control – Scream, Horror, Dominate/Tentacle/Psyfiend, Silence which will make us versatile in PvE but a destructive train engine in PvP.

The combination of SA, MB and SW:Death in its current form also means we are absolute masters of the Execute, which will have people cry for nerfs in PvP about three minutes into Live.

We have strong (albeit strange) escape mechanisms including the new Phantasm and Spectral Guise, which seem aimed at making us more like real ninjas than rogues are. I mean, we can’t just go invisible, but we leave  a double behind. We have a Smoke Bomb which also breaks roots. It feels a bit like being in an episode of Naruto.

The bad

Shadowpriest talents and abilities still seem horribly aimed at healing (VE, VD, Void Shift, Divine Star), while our raid support otherwise is still non-existent. TBC saw the nerfing of our raid Shadow healing, WotLK saw the nerf to replenishment and subsequent increase in our damage. Cataclysm saw our first real revamp where Shadow Orbs and advanced SW:Death techniques were added and VE healing further nerfed. But through all this, we haven’t gained anything worthwhile (in fact everything that was added will be removed or completely revamped in MoP) whether in personal or raid support.

Dispersion is a survival cooldown and I am called on a lot to soak/survive crazy stuff like solo-soaking Zon’ozz orbs or Hour of Twilight from heroic Ultraxion. So only now does that ability really shine. But when I compare it to things like the Doomguard/Infernal, Demonic Teleport and Demon Form from Warlocks, or most of the awesome things Unholy Death Knights get I feel a bit shortchanged. And when I look at what extra work is done on these classes for MoP, it makes sticking to my Shadowpriest actually hard. I mean I want to play my Shadowpriest, and I remind myself that this is only Beta, but I see ourselves being so much more boring than the Warlocks while offering nothing an Affliction Warlock couldn’t.

The ugly

There does not seem to be a real proper design direction for Priests, which heavily impacts the current choices. It all seems like some random “do damage”, “boost damage” and “heal crowd” abilities being tossed about at various levels, trying to put them in such an order that we’d have a hard time picking between them. The developer Metagame of “tease the player, not the class” takes an all new high in attempts to make us jump through hoops to do the same damage as other classes while still being elected “off healer of the year” the moment a healer doesn’t show up for a raid.

I’d say forget about the talents for now. It’s obvious they will either fall in the “pick one, they don’t matter” or “mandatory” classes. The core of the class is the manner in which we deal damage. We used to be “Dots with benefits” but it seems the designers want to move away from this role to give the Affliction locks more breathing room. This is fine, but this does mean we need to have a new, proper role that does not make us infringe upon the intellectual property of Mages.

I have made several posts before about design philosophy and design, and I see the same mistake being made daily in Process Management and Document Control – the lack of a proper foundation, lack of a “Management Summary” which all designers can stick to, no “winning themes” or “design document” which details the end result that the designers want to achieve. I am not sure, I have to assume that the Developers have these, but the more I see the new changes I am wondering what it could be…

Concusion

The change from Shadowpriests to a more balanced, direct-damage type seems to be in full swing, but otherwise there is no real flavor to the class. The mana issues have recently been handled with reductions in mana costs across the board, but the lack of raid utility seems rampant. To this, I must ask: “Why would I play a Shadowpriest over a Warlock? What does a Shadowpriest have that is fun and unique?”

I am currently looking for the answer and dreading the outcome. I want to play my Shadowpriest, but I won’t sacrifice my fun to do it.

The legacy of Blizzcon 2011

Posted in Fun, News, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by Natarumah

Alright, it’s official: the new expansion’s going to be Mists of Pandaria, as reported by Boubouille at MMO-Champion. So far, there’s a few things to be excited about: Panadaren race which will choose to be Alliance or Horde, depending on your choices after building the character/finishing the starter zone. And a Monk class, which will probably be the new plate-less and shield-less Paladin. Right.

Some of the other things that can work out really well:

  • Level Cap Increased to 90: Learn potent new spells and abilities while exploring uncharted zones and taking on challenging new content.
  • New Zones: Explore the lush Jade Forest, treacherous Kun-Lai Summit, and other exotic areas of Pandaria designed for high-level characters, and uncover the mystery of the Wandering Isle.
  • Scenarios: Join up with some friends to achieve a common goal, such as mounting a defense against invading monsters, in a flexible new type of PvE challenge.
  • Dungeon “Challenge” Modes: Master the ultimate 5-player time trial and earn prestige rewards in a new dungeon mode that will put your resolve and coordination to the test.
  • Pet Battles: Challenge other players’ companion pets with your own collection in a new tactical mini-game, and find out who’s king or queen of the pint-sized battlefield.
  • New Talent System: Customize your character to suit your play style with the newly overhauled and improved talent system.

I heartily recommend you to watch the trailer, honestly. It softens the blow when I start talking about the new talent system.

And check out the details on the Minipet battles – they are awesome. On one hand, it’s just Pokemon, really. But it’s fun because it’s using all those Minipets we already had anyway. So expect to have your Tortledy-…err I mean Toothy, come out of its bucket for a scrap.

  • You will be able to collect, level, and battle with companion pets.
  • It will be accessible to all players.
  • Works with almost every pet
  • Pet Customization, you will be able to name your pet, give them visual abilities, etc …
  • There will be “Wild pets”, you can find them in the world and engage in battle with them. You will then be able to get that pet and add it to your Pet Journal.
  • Pets have random stats, some of them will be very good at tanking, some will have a CC ability, etc …
  • Some pets will only be found during a specific season, while it’s raining, or during the day or the night. Some of them will only spawn in the spring, when it’s raining, in elwynn forest at night!
  • Most pets will become tradable, even after it’s leveled, etc …
  • Pets will be account wide
  • Your pet journal will display info on all your pets, including stats, skills, and also drop locations and lore info for the pets you don’t have yet!
  • Winning battles earns you experience, and levels your pets.
  • You will learn new abilities. Every pet can use 3 abilities in a battle at one time.
  • Every time you level you will also increase the stats of your pet.
  • You will level multiple pets to build your team.
  • You have 3 battle slots, one for each pet in your team.

So yeah, Pokemon. Totally.

Talent System

The talent system will be overhauled completely – again. Last time it was heavily simplified, and a base set of abilities have been tied into your choice of primary tree. This will now follow evolution to its eventual end: every 15 levels you will get to pick a single talent from among three choices. Generally, one of these will be Utility/Healing/DPS/PvP, depending on the available specs for the class.

We’re screwed. Two of our trees are healers.
Druids and Paladins and triple-screwed. They have a lot of options, but still only three boxes to put them in.

Check the ideas they have for the priest, in the picture below:

The key here is also that these seem to be toggle-based, meaning that outside of combat and for some fee/reagent you will be able to choose a new set of (6) talents, and then click Learn to finalize it. No more talent point ranks, no more complicated respeccs. Most likely dual-spec will still be available, so that you could have more than one primary talent set to choose from.

It’s quite likely, considering the design philosophy they extolled here and the main Pandaria FAQ that we will not be able to heal much at all, even out of Shadow Form. It feels a bit like more and more of the regular class abilities (especially if one spec is hinges on them) are confined to talent tree abilities. On the other hand, it would make little sense for a healer to not be able to quest or PvP.

Warning concerning Shadowform

I certainly hope it’s not going to happen, but – in the pictures, references are made between Caster Form and Shadow Form. I hope with all my heart this is not an early reference to making Shadowform a cooldown (like Tree of Life) rather than a stance. It would be pretty bad, for the community as well. When Tree of Life became a cooldown, the resto druid community practically collapsed. A dozen bloggers vanished without a trace (I kid you not) and more restos simply respecced because they hated the Macho Tree. They didn’t return until the glyph was introduced that returned its original form.

But it would be a bad thing for us too – not purple means not a Shadowpriest. That’s it.

Recap of the philosophy

Talents 2.0

  • Major change to class talent trees, and this is a new phase of development for the talent system.
  • The goal is to have you sit to another next to another combat rogue, and this combat rogue will actually have different talents than you do!
  • Character customization was the original point of talents in the first place but overtime cookie cutter builds dominated the scene.

New Model

  • Class Abilities are available to all specs in the class. All warriors learn heroic strike for example.
  • Spec Abilities are available to certain specs. Only Arms warriors learn Slam. Retribution and Protection paladin get Hammer of the Righteous, etc …
  • Talents are optional skills/bonuses available to all specs. Any warrior can choose Throwdown, and you will have to pick between 3 different crowd control abilities on this level of talent.
  • Level 15 – You pick your first talent. For example, warriors have to pick between Juggernaut / Double Time / Warbringer and players will have to pick which mobility ability they want to pick depending on their playstyle.

Talent Philosophy

  • Access to stuff you never could before. If you were a subtlety rogue you knew you weren’t going to get something like Killing Spree. And because talents are going to be all in the same tree, you’re going to be able to combine them in a way that you never could before. For example, any rogue can have Shadowstep!
  • Several new, overpowered (feeling) talents will be added to the game.
  • If you don’t see a beloved talent in your new talents list, don’t worry, it’s probably something we gave your spec as a baseline. For example all Holy priests now have Circle of Healing.
  • No mandatory talents anymore.
  • Every choice should be hard but fun!

Talent Preview

  • Design will iterate a lot on individual talents
  • Don’t obsess about the numbers

Initial feel on the talent changes

The first five seconds of me reading these changes made be go “nononono” considering I could see a new leveling player being sharply regimented into a “Choose spec at 10, get reward at 25+” sort of game. Having rewards spread out too much will make leveling even more of a grind. But it looks like they are planning to take some spec-iconic abilities and add them to the class abilities while leveling. For example, I could see for us that Shadowy Apparitions (not in the trees now) becomes available at around level 55 or so.

Tier 1 – Psyfiend for PvE, Psychic Scream for PvP. The tendrils are nice, and could be used in specific add-based fights, but otherwise are not that special.
Tier 2 – Phantasm for PvP and any fight with roots – else Body and Soul to shield yourself for movement. Don’t take Path of the Devout since Levitate is broken on damage and thus no good in any environment with damage.
Tier 3 – From Darkness comes Light (Surge of Darkness) will provide more DPS in all likelihood – Dark Archangel looks good as well but without a mana regen component, it’s basically a 15% damage buff that is up every 90 seconds. RNG is more involved in the former than the latter.
Tier 4 – Final Prayer on average, for when your healer is asleep
Tier 5 – Power Infusion – Twist of Faith is only good for boss battles with insane time at 25% or lower (Ragnaros) which is also a burn phase.
Tier 6 -Vampiric Dominance – with Void Shift for specific fights

So while it seems “hard” to make a cookie cutter build, it’s not hard to make a baseline. Going Psy/Pha/FDcL/FP/PI/VD will give you enough utility in most fights and you can always swap for specific fights. However, just like with glyphs today, it will probably not happen much.

Pros:

  • Clean talent trees, easier to balance
  • True hybridization
  • Utility and Survival is a personal choice, basic DPS should be baseline
  • Easier to swap and switch

Cons:

  • Less choice, and most often the logical choice is obvious
  • Slower progression might discourage newer players
  • Pidgeon-holing and alienating older players (again).
  • Healers get to our goodies – and we don’t want theirs.

Will Smite priests survive? Will Shadowpriests actually have any benefit from these changes? To me it just sounds like we’re on the short end of the stick since Disc/Holy will have a use for all our talents – even in PvE. We don’t have any use for their talents. I mean, Vow of Unity is a poor man’s Divine Sacrifice (Paladin). Why take it? A healer might, but why would a DPS other than because the specific fight dynamics demand it?

This also means you will have a hard time explaining an average simple-minded puggy that he needs that talent, or you won’t win the fight. He’ll go “meh, I am DPS – I take the DPS talent”. And there you go, stranded until you can make it clear.

The Metagem Conundrum

Posted in Guides, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , on November 24, 2010 by Natarumah

If you logged in after the Shattering, you may have noticed that your Metagem no longer functions. That is because most of us use the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond, and this has been changed to require more blue gems than red gems to function. This is a major hassle if you are of class (like us) relying almost solely on Brilliant Cardinal Rubies.

Of course, this was most likely done to make us gem for different gems, rather than the simple “all reds” we’ve been adopting. General outrage ensued. Already blue posts confirmed that this will be redesigned, but as it can’t be hotfixed, it will be done in “a future patch” which could be a month or more from now.

This presents us with major hassles if we want to continue our raiding and have an active meta. As it stands, we have one of a few ways to handle this change:

Meta borked? Who cares?

The approach that will be taken by those who don’t raid or PvP at the moment is possibly to simply leave the Meta inactive. Let’s face it, it would cost a lot of money to regem ourselves and for what? 21 Crit strike rating and 3% critical strike damage, which is not the end of the world to lose. We will likely be able to adjust again once Cata hits, and we can always spend our money once we have new gear to review our gemming choices.

Change our Meta

The cheapest option is to simply go for another Meta until the mess has been sorted out. There are quite a few that are interesting for us out there:

None of these are pure DPS upgrades, but each does have a small merit of its own. Bracing might allow us to deal with tanks still getting a hold of their threat, and Insightful smooths our mana use. Tireless might allow us to choose a different boot enchant, but there’s not much of an option to go for there. And finally, Invigorating might allow us to get used little by little to our VE nerf.

My advice would be to go for Bracing or Ember if possible, those seem like the best options.

Gem for the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond

The expensive option, and already widely discussed in this Elitist Jerks post. In short it all comes down to the following;

  • Regem Hit in blue sockets to have (Blue gems) be more than (Red + Yellow gems).
  • Purple gems don’t count as they are both red and blue at once.
  • Try to get socket bonuses in doing this, to squeeze out more Spellpower/Intellect.
  • Reforge Hit/Spirit into Haste if possible, or Crit/Mastery if you must.

As an example for myself: I can replace 2 red gems with blue gems without losing socket bonuses, giving me 16 additional spellpower. However, since I have 19 “red gems” (including the orange ones) and no blue ones, this will mean I still wouldn’t make the Meta work. I’d have to sacrifice more than 60 Intellect from gems to make it, which is simply not worth it, since I can never recoup those losses from spellpower gained through socket bonuses. I could reforge about 40 Hit into Crit/Mastery, which isn’t very good.

Conclusion

All in all, what choice you make is up to you – currently it seems like the best option is to simply go for another Meta. Bracing for now, and once we reach 83-85 and our mana’s getting tanked by our spells becoming more expensive going for Ember.

Edit: blue gems are needed, not purple, so the resocketing strategy should be straight Hit gems or Hit/Haste. That makes it even worse to regem.

On the beta: Survivability and DPS at stake

Posted in News, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , on October 28, 2010 by Natarumah

The current Beta build, 13221, has some nerfs for Shadowpriests in store which will hurts us bad – and I mean really bad. I am not talking about “oh gosh I am no longer in the top 10 DPS anymore” but “even I am wondering why this class is getting this treatment”. Of course, this being the Beta, no numbers are final – this means that we could be on the “downward swing” of balancing and we’re not going to see ourselves being molested this way.

Let me shed some light on the situation:

Shadowy Apparitions Limiter

In the current Beta build, the number of Shadowy Apparitions spawned is limited in number. How many we can spawn is not confirmed yet, but it seems to be about the same as a glyphed Mirror Images spell – so I’d say four.

Why this is bad: Shadowy Apparitions was already nothing more than a “fun” talent, since its damage is not that high, and the whole point of the talent was to limit our DPS lost to moving around. Of course, the more you had to move, the more DPS you lost. The more you had to move, the more apparitions would spawn. In other words, it seemed balanced.

Losing out on the apparitions is no concern in most stand-and-nuke fights, but Cataclysm promises that very little. There will be a lot of movement and tactic involved, so less nuke time, which means that SA was a balancer. It no longer is.

This nerf is of course largely for PvP, to prevent us from dotting up multiple people and running around. While this tactic seems brainless and probably is only used by people who really don’t like hitting buttons, it was obviously enough of a threat.

Why this is good: I am guessing it is a bit confusing to people in the raid to see me walking around twelve times, exploding on contact with many mobs. I can also see that in fights where you have to not stand in fire, people think you’ll be standing in fire and yelling at you.

You can save yourself the pain and skip the talent, getting Improved Psychic Scream and Silence instead. You will be able to interrupt and have some added value controlling adds (if you have glyphed your Fear). If the numbers turn out that a maximum of 4 apparitions provides sub-par DPS, no matter how fun this talent is, out it goes.

Vampiric Embrace to 6%

The biggest hit we’re taking is that the self-healing component of Vampiric Embrace has been reduced to 6%. Yes, you heard that right. We will be healing ourself for 6% and our party-members for 3% of our single-target Shadow DPS. Let that sink in for a bit.

Why this is bad: Well, for a number of reasons actually, some game-breaking. First off, Shadowpriests have always been based around the idea of siphoning health and mana from our foes. Through repetitive nerfs (some justified, some less so) these abilities have faded more and more into the background. Our only realy kicker was being able to survive incidental AoE or the occasional big hit unassisted by VE self-healing. With this changed into this meager trickle heal, combined with our lack of AoE (Holy Nova is our best AoE!) means we will continually multi-dot just to get enough health and DPS in to do our thing.

Second, we are the only class with an Execute (<25%) ability that hurts us…bad. VE helped us survive our Shadow Word: Death. It no longer will. The nerf to the Glyph will be meaning less since you can only use it twice in a fight or risk dying. And since SW:D is also our mana refiller (10% mana when you are hurt by it) it also hurts our mana regeneration.

Third, don’t forget that Health pools will start to grow immensely in Cataclysm. Shadowpriests will be running around with 60-80K health easily, so the value of VE was already going down significantly since our DPS will drop wildly at first until we have Tier 11, and then probably will settle at the same value as now.

So we got hit in self-healing, but also Burst (ironic!) and our ability to increase our DPS during Execute phases. This also hurts our mana regeneration, when reports from the Beta indicate that we really, really struggle. With less mana regeneration, the only sensible thing is to stack more Intellect, but we cannot. It’s already our number 1 stat, we would already stack it as high as we can.

Finally, of course, this is a blow to PvP. I can’t say much for PvP on the Beta, but on Live currently PvE gear rules. My PvP gear used to give me 4K extra health, but putting it on now actually loses me health. And the Resilience present on it could be reached by gemming and enchanting for it, resulting in a same-level kit with more health and a little less Resilience. Which leads people to go into BGs without Resilience at all, and then cry when they are hit by monster-combos or the Shadowpriest helaing himself up to full with VE healing.

Why this is good: No reason, I can’t see it as more than a knee-jerk PvP nerf, unless our Cataclysm entry-level raid DPS will be over 25K. Anyone on the Beta who can tell me what entry-level DPS is for a Shadowpriest? If it’s less than 20K we’re in trouble I guess.

Conclusion

I have the idea that if this vicious cycle goes live for Cataclysm, we will see a marked drop in:

a) Survivability, caused by the degradation of VE compared to health pools
b) DPS, caused by lower stat budgets than on live
c) DPS, caused by the lower value of SW:D in Execute phases
d) DPS, caused by lower value or removal of SA for moving phases
e) Mana, caused by not being able to use SW:D on cooldown due to healer rage

I can’t suggest much for the Shadowy Apparitions, since in my opinion they are just a novelty if their function is not maintained to off-set lost DPS in movement phases. Perhaps the fix would be to make them proc ONLY when you are moving, and remove the base chance altogether.

As for VE, considering ours will now self-heal for less than Affliction Warlocks (6% of 20K DPS is 1200, 2% of 60K health is 1200 – so we need to have DPS equal to 1/3 of a Warlock’s health pool to be on par) it might be an idea to have VE proc a heal on the group members for a % of their health as well. A simple suggestion would be to heal yourself for 2% of your total health when dealing damage, and your group for 1%. This would maintain Shadowpriest self- and group-healing abilities and also make them easier to scale.

Percentages of health are much more controllable, even in PvP, than percentages of DPS.

Guides: Feedback and Requests!

Posted in Guides, Professions, PvP, Raids and Instances, Reputation, Roleplaying, Shadowpriest with tags , , on August 2, 2010 by Natarumah

As we are slowly marching on to the release of Cataclysm, I have come to the realization that there are many things I still want to do; my hunter’s epic level 60 quest, completing the Scepter of the Sands questline, completing a few of the old questlines and reputations. So, with a light heart I started completing the Scepter questlines (about halfway now) and started gathering materials for a lot of old world factions like the Thorium Brotherhood.

This prompted me with an idea, for which I will need your assistance. What I want to do is to create a series of guides on some of the old world and Burning Crusade material from the perspective of a Shadowpriest.

Guides I am sure to do at this time are:

  • The Insane title
  • The Scepter of the Shifting Sands questline
  • RP outfits from the old world with RP commentary
  • Loremaster’s Compendium (this will take a while!)

What I will do in those guides is make a clear and step-by-step documentation on how to do it, from a Shadowpriest perspective. I don’t care if it can be solo’d by a Hunter or Paladin, but if a Shade can do it – and if not, what you will need to get it done. The usual niceties apply; maps for quests and locations, questlines in order, requirements listed beforehand and if any useful addons currently exist to help you.

I also want to include a “cheat sheet” with each guide, basically a one-page checklist of all the materials you will need to fulfill the requirements of the guide, including some optional stuff if applicable. To me it should feel like this one page when printed out and put next to your keyboard should answer all your needs when checking the AH or grinding.

I know there are many other guides out there, most of them paid, but what I am going for is to make it specific for our needs and to put some brains in it. That is to say, if there is a smarter way of getting it done than the usual, I go for it. I will try to get a sample guide done this week to show you what I mean.

What I need from you guys is to tell if you feel a guide should have more “meat” in it than I described. I need these guides to be usable and complete, not quick rundowns. Consider this your chance to get your wishes across – I am writing these guides for you, after all!

Second, I want to know if there are any reputations, questlines or other guide-worthy subjects you want to see published; I am open for requests and there’s plenty time for me to go and get firsthand experience as well as research these subject matters. Just keep in mind I am looking for things that are Shadowpriest-specific; I don’t think I will make a guide on completing the hunter epic quest or a showcase of Paladin armor. It also doesn’t need to be Classic-only. The Burning Crusade has a lot of fun things to do that would be helped by a clear how-to.

Let’s get the ball rolling!

Shadowpriesting Styles

Posted in Fun, Guides, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , on June 24, 2010 by Natarumah

We all know that in real life, you sometimes have to adjust your pace, speech or actions to your environment. It will do little good to address a businessman for a deal wearing baggy trousers any more than speaking like the prime minister to your mother’s going to get you anywhere. The same goes in World of Warcraft, where your current environment can drastically alter the way you play.

Raiding

When raiding, you can be sure that the tank will have reasonably steady aggro. Tricks of the Trade and Misdirect add a huge chunk of threat, so that issue is generally off the table. You still have to be careful in those fragile first few seconds, but after that, going full-out makes no difference anymore.

Once you have your raiding priorities and keybinds engrained into your memory, you will find the time to look around you, avoid danger and make optimum use of environmental bonuses (like the fires and moonlights on Hodir) or ways to assist others (killing zombies on Valithria).

Raiding in many ways presents an “optimum” baseline for us, because there are plenty of times when we can “stand and deliver” and we have little worries about being beaten on by scary monsters.

5man Heroics

This is where you will find a few more restraints being placed on us. Heroic fights are usually very short and very deadly, meaning that it isn’t rare for our DoTs to not even tick fully before everything is dead. This is why in heroics, we usually put a VT or DP on the main target and Mind Sear away.

This generates quite a bit of threat, and the tank is not guaranteed to be of equal gear level or having Tricks/Misdirect. As a result, watching the aggro meter suddenly becomes a little more important. We can take a hit or two, Fade or use Dispersion, but pulling aggro on a tank is also a dent in our style. We should be better than that.

The need for burst damage and less reliance on making our mana last through a 10 minute fight also means we regularly skip Replenishment. Always check your healer’s mana though – if he goes OoM fast or seems a bit spammy on the heals (fresh healers are like that) at least chuck in a VT + MB combo every 15 seconds.

Player-versus-Player

Here we come to the greatest restrictive environment of all. Aggro does exist, but it is player-controlled, and not calculated by the server. This means we can be attacked at any time, by any class, with any of a myriad of abilities. This makes PvP combat one of the hardest to get right, because there are many variables and a limited time to respond.

The two greatest dangers we face to our performance (aside of being killed) are being Stunned and Silenced. Silenced also includes being locked out of our Shadow school (by Counterspell, for instance) because that is effectively the same.

When we are stunned, this leaves us quite defenseless, and without aid from our friends we can be dead in seconds. Two options exist, namely to use your PvP trinket/Every Man for Himself to get out of the stun, or use Dispersion to weather the storm. Against Rogues, with multiple stuns and combos, this can be an exceptionally tricky choice.

If you get out of the stun, chances are you will be stunned again right after. And Dispersion is simply six seconds of free combo point generation to a rogue. Unless you have DoTs ticking on him, you’re toast. A good trick here is to use a /cancelaura Dispersion /Cast Dispersion macro, which you can press a second time to remove Dispersion. Use Dispersion when you are stunned, and cancel it on second 4 or 5. Rogues will be able to see how long you’ve been in Dispersion, but hardly ever anticipate it being removed early, followed by a Fear. Those one or two seconds can save your life against a non-veteran rogue.

Being Silenced means that you cannot do much of anything to save yourself, except move away. When locked out of Shadow you can at least put a shield on yourself. This debuff is not directly dangerous like being stunned is, but indirectly it is all the more dangerous.

All of the above, and a dozen other tricks and responses, will be part of your toolkit when PvPing, and that is in combination with staying with allies, not getting boxed in, putting pressure on healers and not wandering into the enemy group accidentally. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and this is also why good PvP players are a rare breed.

Going Solo

Alone, you are free to cast whatever you want and even heal yourself. There’s very little pressure on you except for the fact that you will have a mob or two beating on you. A good example of this is the daily quest in Icecrown where you are tasked to kill 15 cultists. They are not very dangerous, just shield, DoT up 5 or 6 of them and kite them around until they die.

Your DPS will be low, since you put only one DoT on each, but you save time by killing a boatload at once. Such behaviour in a raid or 5man would earn you ridicule, but it works wonders when questing. At T9/T10 level of gear, your offensive power is so high you will reach the Warlock’s God of Death Mode (healing more than any level 80 quest mob can damage you for) if you do it right, and very little can hurt you.

Going out of your comfort zone

The final “change of style” I’d like to address here is the one where you do something out of your normal business entirely. Tanking Keleseth, for instance, even though this is designed so it can be done by a caster, is a tough thing. You have to keep the shadow orbs on you so you do not die from his Shadow Lance, while generating enough aggro to allow the raid to DPS him. This style is more like thinking as a tank, and your pure DPS suddenly matters a lot less. Survival becomes key.

Shadowpriests at T10 gear level can tank normal dungeons just fine. If you are worried about being Crit, take some PvP gear (high stamina)  and you can get to uncrittable. Your only drawback is 30% threat reduction in Shadowform, but if you are running a few characters below 80, their aggro will likely be much less than yours.

I accidentally even ended up tanking one of the Val’kyrs in a ToC10 run. I happened to over-aggro on the tank by mistake, and the mob stuck. I seemed to survive it quite well with little real attention from the healers, so the tank decided to just leave it on me, and it died pretty quick after. Out of my comfort zone, but possible.

Conclusion

Being a good Shadowpriest means that you can perform well in your chosen role (most likely raiding) and know how (and why!) to do things. You will be able to survive with minimal healing and while our priority system’s not the easiest, it is very rewarding.

However, a great Shadowpriest manages to go beyond it, able to adjust his style to the current requirements, make decisions on the fly and obtain a measure of situational awareness close to that of tanks and healers. All that is required is that you first get your basics down, and then experiment with it. Enter battlegrounds, Wintergrasp and Arena to taste the excitement and faillure of PvP. Try and squeeze out all damage you can in the 10-second fights in Heroics. Offer to tank for your guildies’ alts and surprise them when you succeed.

Squeeze out of this game all the fun and challenge that you can, and bask in the glow of your new-found sense of tactics.

Why I wrote this post? Next week I will be attempting to get some PvP achievements, and I will need my own advice to get through it in one piece…or at least as few as I can manage.

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