Archive for the Raids and Instances Category

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.

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.

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.

Ten ways to increase DPS that should be obvious

Posted in Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on February 22, 2012 by Natarumah

Looking back on all the posts I made, I realized I never made one in the style of “Ten ways to…”, so I decided to rake together a number of ways to increase your DPS that, while obvious, aren’t known or used by everyone. Considering the current lack of real news regarding priests in general (and Shadowpriests in particular) that emerges from the Blizzard HQ these days, we might as well make the best of the content we have…

10: Un-clutter your UI

A clean and well-organized User Interfance makes the battlefield a lot easier to oversee, gives you swift access to your abilities and the information you need and may also reduce (input) lag. One of the things you could go for once you have mastered keybinding is a minimalist UI, where nothing shows up unless you need it (not even buttons). However, it might be that you have very different needs if you switch between PvE and PvP a lot, or if you want to have a minimalist setup only on fights that aren’t on farm.

In this case, you might use an addon called Reflux, which allows you to save the setup for your UI as a profile, and switch between them with a text command. By making your UI match your personal preferences and making use of as little interface as possible, you can gain valuable time and focus.

9: Always be casting – Always

While it should be somewhat of a mantra for most DPS, any time where you aren’t casting is time where your DPS drops. No matter what else you are doing, you should always be hitting buttons around the GCD. Devouring Plague spam, Shadow Word:Death, Shadowfiend are all prime spells to cast in such times. But if there’s heavy damage incoming that might kill you, you can also use movement time for Power Word:Shield, Renew+Shadowform, and the like.

8: Practice Fights

If you are in any way serious about raiding, you should know what you’re getting into. At least read the boss’  abilities in the Dungeon Journal (Shift+J) for a basic idea, and a strategy guide as found on Bosskillers, Icy Veins, Tankspot, Wowpedia or Wowhead. If you have time, check out a video of the fight, preferably from a ranged DPS view. This gives you an idea what the fight will look like in reality, since looking at 2D maps and John Madden Charts will not prepare you for where to move.

If you are going to go to a Dragon Soul fight with a (new) raid, try running it in LFR difficulty first. Sure it won’t be quite as difficult as the fight will be on Normal mode, but it will tell you how and when boss abilities fire, what they look like, and a basic idea of where not to stand and what not to do. This will allow you to focus on refining your tactics in the normal run.

7: Use consumables and Services

When raiding, always have a Flask active. If it isn’t done yet, ask if the tanks can count down before they pull the boss and use a Potion (Volcanic Potion for us smart types) on the count of “2″. This way you will have the benefit of the potion the first 12 seconds of the fight, and are able to use another potion somewhere halfway the fight (during Heroism or below 25% is a good call). Known as “double-potting”, this practice can easily put another 50-100K damage on a boss in a fight per raid member.

Try to carry a stack or so of Volcanic Potions with you at all times – two stacks if you plan a wipe night. While this might seem expensive, you will shorten the time to kill and learn a boss, increase your DPS and show that you are a real contender in a raid.

6: Move in the GCD

There are quite a few fights where you have to move only a little bit at a time. Haggara’s storm strikes on the ground you move out during her lightning phase are an example, or when shifting DPS to a tentacle in the Madness of Deathwing. As an extension of “Always be Casting”, it will pay to learn to move in the Global Cooldown. Even when you have metric kilotons of Haste, the GCD will always be a second (give or take, with lag). This means that in many cases you can cast a spell, and hit a movement key right as it ends to start moving. When the GCD is finishing, immediately queue another spell.

This way you minimize the movemement you need to make, meaning you maximize DPS time. Oh, and if you are having difficulties with movement or are a bit slow, enchant run speed on your boots. If you aren’t sure of it, this will increase your DPS most of all.

5: Toss and Turn

Another trick is the “half-strafe”, which I jokingly called the “PvP Run”  when I was a wee pre-60. If you use WASD to move, simultaneously hold your right left mouse button and move the mouse to move your view around without changing directions. If you let go of the mouse button, you will immediately shift directions to move where you were looking. You can use this technique to keep an eye on objects/creatures you will need to target soon (Haggara’s ice phase pillars, Yor’Sahj’s globules). Using the right mouse button will allow you to turn the camera and also move in that direction.

As another obvious point, Mind Flay will turn you in the direction of your target if it means. This means that you can use Mind Flay to keep you turned without moving when fighting Yor’Sahj’s globules for instance. If it passes you by, use Mind Flay and immediately once you turned around cast another spell at it. You will never waste DPS turning again.

4: Use boss-specific opportunities

Every boss fight has special opportunities to increase (or minimize loss of) DPS. Your job as a Shadowpriest is to recognize them and use them to your advantage. Whether it is casting at Morchok from between two of his pillars during the black sludge, multi-dotting giants and dragons during the Blackhorn encounter or using Dispersion to soak Hour of Twilight on Ultraxxion. Many of these opportunities are explained on blogs, tactics or class-specific sites, but also research the fight yourself to make sure you get all you can out of it.

Speaking of Dispersion, if you use the following macro, you can Disperse and tap the button again to get out of Dispersion and resume DPS quicker:

#showtooltip
/cancelaura Dispersion
/cast Dispersion

3: Get a hold of your loot

If you are in a raiding guild, chances are you will be using some sort of loot distribution system. Regardless of the type (Suicide Kings, DKP, EQDKP, Loot Council, etc.) you are best off learning exactly how it works. Nothing bogs down your DPS like not being properly geared, and the loot system is in place to make it fair. However, if you lack knowledge, others have a distinct advantage in getting better gear.

Avoid tactics that are considered to be unfair, like driving up a bid for an item you don’t intend to buy, or change your mind after bidding, and the like. Be sure you know what you want – make a list of the items you want to have, order them by how hard you need them and make sure you have a maximum bid in your mind. It doesn’t help if you pay a lot for an item, only to lack points to bid on/opportunities to win an item which is one you have more need for.

Also: be proactive. Bid aggressively on items you really need. Don’t buy Valor Point items for yourself before a raid, do it after a raid when you know nothing you wanted for that slot will drop. Run LFR difficulty to fill up any “weak spots” in your gear. If a particular trinket is in high demand, chances are that even if it drops, others will bid on it heavily. Best thing is to run LFR difficulty and try to get at least that version of it, so that you don’t stick with lesser trinkets just because you are hoping for that one big payday.

2: Don’t be a miser

It may take you weeks to get a good set of DPS gear together, only to find that your next upgrade puts you over the Hit Cap, or somehow skews your Haste rating. Don’t be cheap and leave it like that, continually invest in keeping yourself at top of the line strength. Reforge, regem as needed, stock consumables, carry extra food and the like. You’re going to spend more on repair bills, I can guarantee you that, and this will at least show up in the meters.

When buying or bidding for items from raids, or even LFR items, don’t just consider whether they fit your kit now. If you know that the “leg” slot of your tier is the weakest link, but it’s all you have to keep your 4piece, don’t hesitate to still get the Best in Slot leg piece. One day you are going to get a replacement tier piece so you can get rid of your tier legs, only to find out you now have to wait for the BiS leg piece to drop again…

This also goes for gearing up an alt, applying to your first raiding guild, or switching mains – if you want to impress people and show that you can handle it, you may need to spend some big piles of gold to get it done. Don’t fall in the trap of “good enough” – eventually those little slip-ups and lazy moments will catch up and show you a 10K DPS difference with your class colleague.

Last but not least – level your professions. It happens quite often someone applies for a raiding spot and then has “10 Mining” or “300 Alchemy”. It’s ok to be in the process of leveling them – but tell it to your raid leader/in your app and make sure you get it done. Profession benefits add to DPS in almost all cases, and not having them shows that you are either lazy or unwilling to invest.

1: Socialize and be flexible

Being sociable not only helps in meshing well with the raid. Talking with your fellow class members may bring you a fresh look on things, or a previously unknown trick of the trade. Your other raid members might also help in upping your DPS when it helps the raid as a whole. For instance, a Power Infusion during a really difficult add phase, Dark Intent from a Warlock, or a Paladin’s bubble-of-immunity are all things that greatly help to increase DPS (or prevent loss of it by dying). Don’t be afraid to at least bring it up, and how it helps the raid as well.

And always remain flexible, especially now in the face of a coming expansion. Talent trees are overturned, stat balances change, even getting better gear might make you rethink your gearing strategy. Stay flexible, willing to learn and wide-eyed. Imagine every raid to be like your first and keep a mindset that you have to prove yourself to win your raid spot. You will find that the early adapter scores some quick wins in the DPS department.

Conclusion

There are many small things that contribute to better DPS. But remember to make sure that this is quality DPS. Massive damage on adds which leaves the boss alive to reach the enrage timer is not quality DPS, and while you may win on the meters, eventually it will be found out and you will be asked not to. Make sure that every point of damage you do contributes to reaching the raid’s goal – a boss kill and nerd screams on vent.

Daily Dose of Dragon Soul

Posted in Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest with tags , , , on December 6, 2011 by Natarumah

Now that the patch day bugs are gone, addons are updated and the lag seems to be a lot less, it’s time to dive into the heart of the new raid instance. This time, the raid is once again located in the Caverns of time, at the North-east part of the cavern. You will notice a cleft with petrified trees, which looks grey and dead – follow the path through past the first portals (they are for the new 5mans) and turn left at the end.

You will find yourself at the Path of the Titans, staring down a pile of Elemental trash and a big stone giant trying to hammer down the path towards Wyrmrest temple. This is the first boss, Morchok.

Morchok

Morchok is an easy boss, a classic piece of basic design like Marrowgar. The raid needs to stack up behind him for AoE heals, and seven ranged DPS need to run around when he spawns cystals. The crystals will explode, and deal damage to the seven (7) nearest players. The further away they are, the more damage it deals, so be sure to stick on top of it. A line will be between you and the crystal, where red=dead, yellow=ouchies and blue=excellent.

Every now and then he will call down very large crystals and begin to do a corrupted earthquake. Run away from him and hide behind the pillars. Black goo will spread across the floor, avoid it and DPS the boss. Once the goo disappears, rush back in and stack up, repeat until loot pops up.

Once he dies, you will be able to enter the temple and access two new bosses – Zon’ozz and Yorsahj the Sleepless.

Zon’ ozz

Welcome to a good match of tennis. The boss has two phases, and the raid controls when this switches. First off he stacks a buff on himself, increasing the damage he deals and his attack speed. The raid needs to stack up behind him at the edge of the pool. Put melee behind him, and tank him facing the raid. He will create a ball of shadow energy and toss it at the raid, at which point the tank should turn him away from the raid.

The ranged will intercept the ball, which explodes, dealing damage spread among all ranged. It then goes back towards Zon’ ozz. The melee should then intercept it and send it back to the ranged. Again the ranged intercepts it, shares the (now quite big) damage, and it will move back towards Zon’ozz again. At this point, all melee moves away from the boss, so that the orb of shadows hits the boss. It will then explode, and the boss will lose his stacks of Rising Anger and will take increased damage from all sources.

This starts phase 2 – he will run to the middle and for 30 seconds all manner of tentacles will spawn around the pool and hurt everyone. A black sludge will be filling the area for even more damage. This needs to be healed through, and is a healing check. After thirty seconds, resume phase 1, turning the boss away from the raid once he spawns his ball of shadows. Repeat until he dies.

The only real complication in the fight is that a few people in the raid will get a debuff, which deals damage. This is better dispelled, but doing this knocks people back, so mark a spot a bit away from the raid for people with the debuff to run to. Assign one healer to dispelling this timely.

Yor’sahj the Unsleeping

Yor’sahj himself is not much of a threat, mostly tossing a Shadowbolt at the Tank. The raid should be stacked close behind him. Every so often he will call in a random set of three slimes, which move towards the boss. The raid must choose 1 to DPS down, the other 2 will become immune to damage and give new abilities to Yor’ sahj. The available options for him to summon are:

  • Purple (Shadowed) – Every 5th heal or absorption efffect a player receives will deal massive Shadow damage to all payers – Avoid at all costs
  • Red (Fire) – AoE Fire damage – Stack up close and AoE Heal
  • Green (Acid) – Nature damage on all players and splash damage – spread out
  • Yellow (Glowing) – Yor’sahj will use all other abilities he gets more often, and Shadowbolt will now hit all raid members
  • Blue (Cobalt) – Summons a blue add, which drains all mana from players. It needs to be killed and healers stay close so that when it dies, it gives them their mana back.
  • Dark – Summons many small Forgotten One adds, which fixate on players and need to be killed with AoE.

Generally the priority for killing the slimes is Purple > Green > Glowing. Purple is bad because it makes the healers’  job much harder. Green forces the raid to spread out while all other abilities encourage stacking up. Glowing will make his other abilities hit harder and deals even more AoE damage.

If you get a combo of Purple – Red – Green it means you have a problem, since if you do not kill the purple one, healing through the red or green damage is a pain, while if you do, you have to choose between spreading out making healing harder or stacking up and getting more damage from the acid. This is not a pretty choice. Otherwise, this priority seems to work, and quick communication on which add to kill is very important.

Otherwise this boss should go down rather quickly.

Hagara the Stormbinder

A Forsaken Mag/Shaman thing, Hagara first has a few waves of summoned trash before jumping into the middle of the room. Of note to Rogues, she is the one to pickpocket tocomplete the first Legendary quest. She can be reset by attacking her and then using Vanish.

She has three main phases – a normal phase, and then either an Ice or Lightning phase. The order will be Normal – Ice – Normal – Lightning – Normal – Ice – Repeating.

Normal Phase

She has a Focused Assault, swinging wildly and there’s a tank swap involved. Around the room, crystals are spawned that put a beam on a random target, which then shoots ice lances. People can stand in the beam to soak the Ice Lance instead – Shadow Priests make good soakers for this. She also casts Ice Tomb, which will trap 2 (LFR/10man Normal), 5 (25man Normal) or 6 (25man Heroic) targets in ice. They need to be killed before she casts Shattered Ice and kills the player in the tomb. Easiest is to mark a spot for people with Ice Tombs on them (blue arrow above your head) to run to so that all tombs can be DPS’d down with AoE.

Ice Phase

The inner ring will become an orb of water – players in it will drown and die quickly. Hagara will be immune to all damage at this time. So move out and DPS the ice crystals that spawned at the edge. Rnadom spots will get a blue circle, where ice rocks will fall down and knock players away and deal quite some damage. After a few seconds, four ice waves shoot out from her and form walls of ice which run around the platform clockwise. Make sure to stay ahead of them, and try to stay as close to the water wall as you can.  Once all ice crystals are destroyed, she goes back into Normal phase.

Lightning Phase

She will become immune to damage and will cast massive Lightning AoE around the platform. A few conductors will spawn, as well as a Lightning Elemental. When you kill the elemental, people nearby become conductive, and you can form a line of people from conductor to conductor, channeling the lightning and overloading it. Once all conductors are overloaded, Normal phase begins again.

Ultraxion

Killing Hagara allows the aspects and Thrall to start their ritual with the Dragon Soul – but they will be interrupted by Deathwing and the corrupted Red Dragonflight. Protecting them from the Drakes allows the Dragon Soul to be used to deal a nmassive blow to Deathwing. However, he will call in his most powerful experiment, the unstable Twilight Dragon called Ultraxion.

Ultraxion has few real abilities that we as Shadowpriests should really mind – he’s mostly a massive DPS and healing check.

Everyone is pulled into the twilight realm, and you will receive a button called “Heroic Will” in the middle of the screen. If you do not, you can make a macro with the following text in it to achieve the same effect:

/click ExtraActionButton1

What it does is pull you out of the Twilight Realm for up to 5 seconds, or until either Hour of Twilight or Fading Light occurs. Then you are dragged back in the Twilight Realm. The ability has a 5 second cooldown. So if you want to avoid Hour of Twilight damage and use it 2 seconds before the end of the cast, you will be pulled back into the Twilight Realm after 2 seconds and have to wait 3 more seconds to use Heroic Will again. This bit is important for survivability.

First, Ultraxion does raid-wide AoE damage with his unstable purple lightnings. This damage increases as time goes on and he becomes more unstable.

Second, one of the tanks and a few random players get the Fading Light debuff. Once this expires you will die unless you are not in the Twilight Realm. So the tanks have to swap, and both the tank affected and the affected DPS must use Heroic Will to survive.

Third, every 45 seconds Ultraxion casts Hour of Twilight. This is a long cast-time AoE that will deal massive damage to all inside the Twilight Realm. Almost everyone should use Heroic Will to avoid the damage except for the current tank and 2 additional players which stay behind. Rotate people who soak the damage – Shadowpriests, Mages, Paladins, Hunters and Rogus with glyph of Feint are all good for it. If fewer than 3 people soak the damage, the aspects will take the hit and the raid will wipe soon after.

The aspects will help in various ways, but this only helps healers – Red buff for bigger heals, green buff for AoE heals and blue buff for Haste. We don’t care for it, obviously. However, Nozdormu will help the raid by using Time Loop on the raid at the 5th and 6th Hour of Twilight. At this time raid damage will be enormous – if you have the buff and die, you instead will be healed to full and lose the buff. In theory, you can skip death two times in the fight…and you will need it.

This is basically a hard burn phase where every drop of DPS counts. Pre-potting, Heroism at 35-25% and potting again at this time are all advised.

Blackhorn – Lootship 2

Warmaster Blackhorn rides Gariona, and the vestiges of the Twilight Hammer’s aerial forces attack the skyship with which you chase after Deathwing. The setup of the fight is simple in essence: kill everything before the ship is destroyed. The ship sometimes catches fire, stay out of it.

Gariona : drops Twilight Onslaught onto the ship (large pink circle) which the raid must stand in to share damage.
Assault Drakes: Drop adds on the deck and small fireballs which small groups of people must stand in to share damage. Must all be killed
Twilight Slayers and Twilight Dreadblade: big elites which charge (avoid the yellow lines in front of them) and need to be tanked seperately. Three waves must be killed of these.

Of note are Twilight Sappers, small goblins with explosives that jump on deck and rush for the cabin. They need to be killed asap, and fortunately can be slowed and stunned.

Priority for killing is: Sappers > Elite Adds > Drakes

Once three of these waves has been killed, Blackhorn jumps on deck for phase 2. He silences people close by and applies Sunder Armor (which requires a tank swap). He also uses Shockwave in a cone, which people need to move away from. Spread out a bit in small groups to keep up DPS on him. The more health he loses, the more damage he deals, so the last bit the damage he deals is massive and healers need to spam the tanks.

Gariona also joins the fight, and puts fires on the deck – avoid these. Generally it’s best to kill her first, since avoiding fire and shockwaves with tanks taking ever more damage is a major pain.

Conclusion

The first few encounters in Dragon Soul are not all that involved. Yor’ sahj the sleepless might take a few tries to get a feel for the events triggered by the combinations of oozes, and Zon’ ozz requires a bit of raid awareness as does Hagara. Ultraxion is simply a massive DPS check and calls for steady nerves (don’t panic and simply use Heroic Will when needed). Blackhorn’s encounter is quite easy to grasp – we didn’t get him down yet but that was because it was late and a new fight takes a bit of getting used to.

Next up will be Deathwing – where we check whether he really does have a spine, and find out what draco-demonic putty looks like!

 

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