Archive for Beta

Dot Removal – an early view

Posted in News, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by Natarumah

One of the things that seems to be the newest hit in Shadowpriest design land is the “dot removal”. For one reason or another, after the relative faillure (read: very situational use) of Mind Spike, the addition of Shadow Word: Insanity seems to solidify the juxtaposed phasing of Shadowpriest abilities in a “Dotting up – Explode dots”  model.

How it is today

Mind Spike as a spell hits as hard as Mind Blast, but removes all dots on the target. Properly talented, it is buffed by Shadow Orbs and itself will reduce the cast time of Mind Blast, effectively making the next one instant. The basic idea is that this spell will only be used when its Shadow Orb-buffed damage exceeds the damage your Dots do in that time plus the time it takes to reapply them all.

Currently, the only time when this happens is when you have small, easily killed adds that you cannot AoE down, or on Spine of Deathwing (once you have 4piece T13). The latter is because you will use all cooldowns on the Tendon phase, meaning Shadowfiend will give you a lot of Orbs, causing practically all your Mind Spikes and Mind Blasts to benefit from a full three Shadow Orbs.

In Mists of Pandaria

You won’t have the tier 13 bonus, unless they choose to roll it into a talent or glyph, which is highly unlikely. This removes the benefit of using Shadowfiend as a buff for Mind Spike. This means that Mind Spike will once again struggle to overcome the barrier of (Damage Done)>(Dots DPS + DPS loss from recasting dots).

Shadow Word: Insanity has a similar model, except that it will extinguish your dots and then increase its damage done by up to 100% per dot removed. The bolded part is important, because it is dependent upon how long your dots were ticking when they were removed. This means that the SW:I will deal the most damage at the last second of each dot.

The picture above is a basic model of how this would work (click it for a larger view); base damage of the spell is rather low (arbitrary “half a DoT’) but is boosted by the consumed DoTs. It has a break-even point, after which the SW:I will deal more damage that the DoT itself, but you’d want to wait a bit more to ensure you also “cover” the time lost recasting the DoT.

This is split-second timing over 3 dots (SW:Pain, Vampiric Touch and the currently languishing Devouring Plague) and their respective durations. Fortunately it’s instant-cast, so it only has to overcome the barrier of lost recasting the dots, which you would have to anyway considering you cast this spell close to the end of a dot duration. There are a few scenarios to think of as to the use of (and reason to introduce) this spell:

SW:Insanity as a cycle ender

Basically, using SW:Insanity as close as possible to the end of the dots, using it to clean the slate and reapply all dots. This comes down to casting this spell every 12 seconds or so, after which you spend 3-4 seconds reapplying them. This could be a DPS gain or loss – but it would take quite some maths to figure it out since the break-even point of SW:I is highly dependent on gear and scaling. It is, without a doubt, hideously mana inefficient if not used at the split second before a dot would expire needlessly – and with three dots this is likely the case.

SW:Insanity as Burst

If the target is going to die before the dots will do their job (a problem we Shadowpriests are well familiar with) then you can use SW:I to “explode” the dots, allowing you to at least get some damage in before the target dies. This will be mostly useful in 5mans, where dot classes suffer noticeably under more bursty classes. If a mob has 1 million HP, and your party members burst more than you, you end up at the bottom of the meters. It may not be important, but neither is it fun – so this is probably the best use for this spell.

New mechanic is new

A last scenario is not a scenario for the uses of the spell, but the reason for its introduction: innovation. In order to distinguish us from the (arguably superior, more fun and better presented) Affliction Warlock, the developers tried to diverge our methods. We both rely on dots, but where the Affliction Locks use Malefic Grasp to “supercharge” their Dots, we “explode”  them.

This is of course a valid option, although I find my nose rankling at the thought of being a dot class that removes its dots willingly. Mind Spike at least was only marginally useful, so it was safe to ignore this spell all through Cataclysm until the Spine of Deathwing encounter. Shadow Word: Insanity is liable to become one of those spells the entire spec is going to be balanced around.

Conclusion

Maybe this is a gesture towards the Shadowpriests who clamored for maths and complexity, or maybe it’s an unintended complicated mechanism – this is its second incarnation, with a more clear description.

Personally, I think  the spell has potential in the margins. With superior gear, it’s possible an advanced Dot-Explode-Dot cycle becomes a bursty and viable way of dealing with bosses. It’s also a good way to ensure that your dots will not go to waste, as any lost potential is pumped into its instant damage. With proper development it might have use, but it will require more information and a truckload of maths to figure out when it’s useful and when it’s a loss.

Expanding our Minds

Posted in Fun, News with tags , , , , on March 22, 2012 by Natarumah

Well, pun intended of course. With the release of the NDA and the cataclysmic flood of information on what we (might/will/could) see in Mists of Pandaria you will see blogs all over the blogosphere light up as people try to make sense of it all. Some predict the end of the game because of “Casuals” while others see it as the new hope in gaming. I for one do welcome a lot of the preview material, if only because it makes the game more cohesive and enjoyable.

Pandaren

Well, the debate is reasonably settled on the Pandaren Female form, but the nice thing here is that Blizzard did not decide to go for the Black Panda – Red Panda disconnect. Rather, both will be part of the customization options for the race. This means that rather than picking “sides”, Blizzard decided to allow both the Black and Red Panda concepts to co-exist. I applaud this, since now basically everyone gets what they want.

And besides, how many black-and-white Panda combos can you make, anyway?

Things to do in Azeroth before we die

Thanks to the addition of the 11th Character Slot (Oh yeah!) I would be able to make a Panda of my own (Monk of course) and play it as a fat epicurean. With the sneak peeks on pet battles, exploration, improvements to archaeology and cooking specializations it means we will have plenty to do that isn’t dungeons or raids. And it was about time.

Archaeology improvements include the addition of mob spawns in dig sites which drop goodies, including a convenient teleportation option to the next dig site. This cuts down on the immense travel time involved, and also means that your level starts making a difference while braving through dark jungles into abandoned temples and explorer’s tents.

The various cooking specializations will each benefit a primary stat – other than offering a bit of diversity, it also makes having cooking on multiple characters worthwhile, and dovetails nicely with the Pandaren’s reputation as epicureans. My fun and fat friend in slot 11 is going to be a lot of fun!

AoE Looting

Shamelessly mentioned as an upgrade for the game after it has been included in RIFT and Star Wars. After all, looting individual creatures is quite a waste of time for some of us mass-murderers (Paladin Tanks, I look at thee!). Sure it’s a nice-to-have and not a necessity, but it will certainly make life a lot easier.

Graphics Upgrade

Yes, upgraded character models are on the table, but probably won’t be finished in time (other than what is needed to make Monks). This might be sad news, but it shows that upgrading old content to more modern standards is definitely in the pipeline. I hope this also includes eventually a pixel-upgrade on some of the old sets, especially now that they are being used for Transmogrification. Some pieces can’t match each other simply because their quality diverges between 8-bit pixel style to rendered goodness.

What I was especially impressed with were the videos released with the new models, such as the Sha and the Celestial dragon. I have to say that the quality (while somewhat cartoonish) is very good and I am looking forward to seeing it live. Many people decry the cartoony style of WoW, but so far most games haven’t stood up to the test of time quite that well, and the same goes for WoW’s movement style. For some reason to me it seems a lot more fluid, and this will help a lot once the Monk comes into play.

The Beta and Annual Pass

One of the main topics now is the Beta – everyone wants to see the new graphics, class, game and direction. Many of those bought an annual pass in the hopes of just that, and now that the first invites are sent to people who opted in, they fell entitled to join as well. Of course, the devil is in the fine print. Yes, you will be in the Beta, but Blizzard decides when. This will most likely be in the large Open-Beta push towards the end a month maybe two before release, where only the last bugs need ironing out.

I understand some people feel “meh” about this, but also realize that this was already quite clear before. Yes, it’s a bit misleading, but certainly not a breach of contract or anything else that is cried about on forums. You can still get an invite (if lucky) through the opt-in before the grand public opening, so be sure to have those boxes ticked in your battle.net account!

Conclusion

This expansion will be in part about Pandaria and part about the titanic struggle of Horde versus Alliance. Exploration and hobbies become as important as raiding. All in all I think Mists of Pandaria will be an expansion where we slow down from our daily lives, rather than stay in our modern-24h-per-day speed. Raiding will be big, as ever, as will be PvP.

But the focus will be more on it being a game, and on enjoying ourselves. So that those who call themselves truly casual, or those who are not but relaxing on an alt, can have as rich a gaming life in WoW as anyone else. And I applaud a little R&R before we save the galaxy again…

Stay tuned as I take a fine-tooth comb through the changes and announcements, and see how we as Shades can gain a benefit!

Expectations for Shadowpriest design in 5.0

Posted in Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on November 10, 2011 by Natarumah

The class Q&A which unfolded last night shone in the relative absence of any Shadowpriest information. This is to be expected, considering that we are the odd one out as a DPS spec for a primarily healing-oriented class. Still, they give a bit of insight in the direction that Blizzard wants to take the game (and us) as well as some glaring holes in our basic design if this comes to pass.

Shadow Orbs

Currently, Shadow Orbs are generated by SW:Pain ticks and Mind Flay. You can store up to 3, and when you cast Mind Spike or Mind Blast, the orbs are consumed for additional damage. It also triggers Empowered Shadows when Mind Blast is cast with at least one orb.

According to the Q&A, Shadow Orbs will become a resource (probably more akin to the Monk’s Dark Force) with no cap. Casting Mind Blast will cost one Shadow Orb, and it will have no cooldown of its own. This indicates that the damage boost to MB and MS will have to be baked into those spells to keep us competitive, and that something is likely to be changed in Empowered Shadows.

My initial guess would be that it is removed entirely – Blizzard originally wanted to give us original gameplay, but juggling both Evangelism and Empowered Shadows at the same time might have been too much for the average player, as well as cause too much ramp-up time. Battle-rezzing a Shadowpriest currently is a sub-optimal choice because it takes us half a minute to get up to speed again, versus a lot of other classes who can just put up one or two buffs and be at full efficiency.

If it isn’t removed, then it would need to be procced by something else – an interesting choice for that would be Mind Spike. If the dot-removal effect of Mind Spike was removed (since to be honest Mind Spike sees use today mostly on Ragnaros adds and PvP which is hardly a good basis for keeping the spell in the game) and casting it on a boss would cause Empowered Shadows, the gameplay would be a bit more manageable and less prone to randomness.

Replenishment

After the severe reduction in efficiency of Vampiric Embrace (putting us well below the Warlocks in terms of self-healing through damage – let alone Affliction) it was only a matter of time when Replenishment got the boot. Blizzard wants us all to manage our own resources, and not be shackled to outside help (for healers especially). Instead of a team of 25, a raid should be 25 individuals who just happen to work together. But, you know, if they don’t that’s also fine (queue LFRaid Finder jokes).

What isn’t fine is that this reduces our utility yet again – and we bring very little PvE utility to begin with. Our fear is mediocre as add control, and if the talents shown are anything to go by, the old vanilla Psychic Scream is a talent choice next to more interesting but niche-based fear spells. Of course, most people will take Psychic Scream since it’s the most generally useable one. As long as people don’t finger it as a reason to say that “our fear is fine” it’s acceptable I guess.

So what do we bring in 5.0 – without tremendous loss of DPS?

  • One (1) root or fear effect
  • Vampiric Embrace
  • Fortitude Buff
  • Possibly Vampiric Dominance at level 90
  • Offensive and self-dispel of Magic and Disease
  • Mass Dispel
  • Mind Control (also a self-CC)

I say ” possibly” at Vampiric Dominance because it’s not only a level 90 talent (meaning a choice), but also because I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to remove Vampiric Embrace entirely and force us to buy Vampiric Dominance to get back a similar, but less useful ability. If it is in addition to/stacks with VE – then huzzah.

Compare this to Warlocks:

  • One single-target Fear
  • One AoE Fear, single-target Horror or Stun
  • Battle Rez through Soulstone
  • Healthstones
  • Self-healing or a healing received boost through self-buff as well as a tier-1 DPS talent
  • Self-dispel of Magic, Offensive Dispel or Fascinate through Pet
  • Mobility through Demonic Circle
  • Summoning raid members (depreciated in most cases through guild perks)
  • Dark Intent

Or Mages:

  • Arcane Brilliance
  • Polymorph
  • Spellsteal
  • Dispelling Curses
  • One (1) root
  • One (1) Stun
  • Counterspell
  • One (1) Slow/Knockback/Disorient
  • Focus Magic

It is quite likely that quite a few of these abilities are going to be changed, limited or removed. But still you will find that the Mage and the Warlock not only have more utility and encounter-interaction, but also more interesting ones. Sure we can heal by dropping Shadowform – at the cost of DPS, mana lost returning to Shadowform and building up our DPS again. And when we do heal, we go OoM very quickly.

Current Design Philosophy

It is obvious that Shadowpriests currently do not occupy the minds of the developers much. The talent trees revealed so far give our goodies to the healing priests but give nothing back. In fact, the very statement made during the Q&A revealed all:

“Leap of Faith will continue to have a facing requirement because healers should not just be staring at health bars but should also be paying attention to the raid environment.”

They don’t even consider us using this spell, since it drops Shadowform. Obviously only healers use it. Shadowpriests are generally more suited for using Leap of Faith because we are in the fight, but we lose tons of DPS while using it. So we don’t, on the whole, if another priest can do it instead. A prime example of a wasted opportunity.

What we need

It is not just that we’d need more utility – for one, without a hybrid tax we can only hope that the DPS can now be homogenized enough that it’s easier to divide the utility around the various classes and specs. What we need is something exciting, something new. We’ve been clamoring for it for ages, and got nothing.

  • We got an “exciting” Archangel/Evangelism + Empowered Shadows combo to replace the old – equally unexciting – Shadow Weaving
  • Shadow Orbs rangs from floor-scrapingly bad RNG faillure to practically overpowered – all within the same minute
  • Mind Spike’s introduction was a faillure – it’s a PvP spell and used in a limited fashion on adds (hint: 3+ adds means Mind Sear, which is the rule in Firelands today)
  • Raid utility was reduced as abilities were removed – other classes got more utility (and in a few cases, our utility was given to them instead)

I think the problem lies with our theme. We are shadowy punishers, who bring pain and misery on our enemies as we bring power to our allies. But if it’s anywhere near cool, it is given to Warlocks instead. And if it’s shadowy, the Rogues have first dibs. This leaves us in a lot of cases with nothing more than “not the healing priest”  as theme or using ” the mind”  as part of the theme, which just is not going to give us exciting visuals.

What I think we need is a redesign in philosophy – going back to the basics. Even just a few minutes of thought provides some ideas:

  • Shadowpriests don’t heal – in fact, you could permanently transform all our healing spells to damaging effects while Shadow-specced. Smite equals Mind Blast already, so no problems there. Holy Fire would make an interesting Direct-Damage spell that leaves a DoT. Leap of Faith could be reversed into a single-target knockback and Divine Hymn could become an Channeled AoE effect.
  • Our powers deal with the mind (Mind Vision, Mind Control, Fear) – since we seem to lack CC/control, one more effect along these lines in the talent spec abilities might do wonders. If the information at Blizzcon is any indication, we might get Psychic Horror and Silence as baseline Shadow abilities. That would solve all of this.
  • The very Shadows are part of our theme – and a lot of things can be hung on this theme, including a mobility effect allowing us to move closer to our allies through the shadows.
  • And finally, we bring pain and misery – creatures of vengeance. If Monks can balance Light and Dark, why can’t we balance Agony and Mercy, for instance? Increasing agony would increase our damage done, while mercy would increase our defenses or bolster our utility effects. This is not dissimilar to how a Demon Hunter works in Diablo III, for instance. I don’t think it’s a coincedence that the new Monk class’  abilities seem quite close to systems used in Blizzard’s new game either.
  • Since they are planning not to directly base mana off Intellect anymore, I can see us either needing even more mana regain abilities, cheaper spells or indeed more use of a secondary resource. It would be quite a stretch of technology, but I wouldn’t mind being a Shadowpriest meaning we’d lose Mana and instead gain the aforementioned Agony as resource (like a Monk who gains or loses Mana as a resource based on spec).

There are plenty of ideas to pick from, and the imagination hasn’t been stretched at all yet. Granted, the above is very unlikely, but it shows that there is plenty you can do without borrowing from the Rogue, Mage or Warlock toolkit directly. It pays to make abilities that are fun and useful, while still remaining unique. I hope we can look forward to positive changes in the beta for Mists of Pandaria, quality input by Shadowpriests and a listening ear on the part of the developers.

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.

Guide preview – In the Service of Dragons

Posted in Fun, Guides, News, Shadowpriest with tags , , on August 18, 2010 by Natarumah

Hello again! I’ve been working a bit on an example guide as I promised in a previous post here. Like I stated there, I am looking into making a couple of guides that will allow us to spend some quality time getting things done that we’d normally leave by the wayside. Ancient questlines, achievements, lost pets and evil Dwarves are lurking!

This is the first in the line, something I am actually working on as we speak – the Scepter of the Shifting Sands questline. Once used to open up the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj by a simultaneous effort of multiple guilds and hundreds of contributors, it has now been largely forgotten. But you can still claim the Scepter in the last days before the Cataclysm, before it might get removed.

In Service of Dragons

Follow the link to open up the guide as a PDF file. It’s complete including two cheat sheets; one with a roster of all quests and one with all required materials in the quest lines. Even though I made the list as clear and lean as I could, I still found the room to add a bit of eye-candy as well.

Tell me what you think, and I will incorporate the feedback into the next guide I am making; unless someone feeds me a better idea, I am thinking of doing Cass’ request for a Shadowpriest Dungeon Solo guide next.

In other news

After weeks of working and tweaking Unity managed to complete Glory of the Icecrown Raider on 25man difficulty. We also managed to snag more Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquishers from the 10man as well, which leads me to have two shadowy bone dragons to pick from.

Stirrings at the Beta

Dedicating a full post on what’s going on in the Beta for Cataclysm seems a bit pointless, as more changes than I could report. Just some highlights then:

  • Mind Spike now stacks a crit buff for Mind Blast to 100%, instead of reducing cast time
  • Shadow Word: Death now has a 10 second cooldown (down from 12) and deals 10% extra damage
  • Vampiric Touch no longer deals damage when dispelled
  • Twisted Faith now gives 1/2% hit and 50/100% of Spirit as Hit
  • Improved Devouring Plague does not increase DoT damage anymore
  • Paralysis, new talent, roots the target for 2/4 seconds with a Mind Blast crit (see Mind Spike above for PvP implications)

In the Guild department, some of the rewards have been released such as the awesome Dark Phoenix mount and pet, Heirloom head items, Heirloom cloaks and Guild banners/heralds. Heralds? Yes.

Like the little Argent Tournament Tyke, it seems you can have your own flagbearer announcing the awesomeness that is your guild by having him put up the guild’s banner. While not equally exciting to everyone, there is at least one good tactical use for it as well, and historically correct: using it as a collapse point during PvP encounters or raids. “Collapse on Banner” might become a new slogan in raiding…

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