Archive for World of Warcraft

Gold Mode Gunner: Temple of the Jade Serpent

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

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

The first pull: from start to Wise Mar’i

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

The library

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

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

Rumble at the courtyard

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

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

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

Enjoy your gold medal!

Shadowpriests specifically

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

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

 

Ahead of the game

Posted in Guides, News, Shadowpriest with tags , , , , on July 30, 2012 by Natarumah

So, with the annnouncement of Mists of Pandaria to be released September 25, we can conclude that the Beta and PTR have done their job and all that is left is some touch-up points. Sadly, this means that while the Shadowpriest remains a solid class and probably will do really well in the DPS department, we still get shafted with a lack of interesting goodies. The new DPS rotation will probably remain a more simple “keep up 2 dots and hit buttons that glow up” – but at least we’re not broken!

This post isn’t going to be a very long one – my plan for this week is to scour all resources I have (Beta/PTR info and the like) to make a preliminary stat and spell priority listing.

Leveling and Storyline

Mists will have a good old, solid storyline with overall more interesting quests than “slay 12 boars” (although they are still represented, and the Nesingwary Safari will follow us into Pandaria). A lot of phasing makes the questing zones very dynamic, and also means that once you pass certain quests, you leave people behind in their own phase. This spreads the load a bit, and you’re not going to have everyone on a single pile.

The quests are also woven into the dungeons and raids, meaning we will have less “tacked on” raids where the storyline seems only sideways connected to the main plot (Throne of the Four Winds link with Deathwing was tenuous at best, and even Blackwing Descent as fun as it was merely was a son-of-DW event). Some of the dungeons are actually quest hubs on themselves, meaning that the leveling zone and dungeon are directly connected (as was done in Cataclysm).

All in all I am very pleased with how the questing was done – and for the Alliance I truly love how Anduin Wrynn shapes up to be a real leader character.

Dungeons and Raids

Admittedly I have done no dungeons or raids in the beta, but looking at some of the videos on MMO-Champion I have to say that raiding looks to be more interesting – especially for the tanks. I mean, us DPS are happy enough when the numbers fly, but tanks like to have some mobility and survivability challenges, neither of which were properly done in Cataclysm.

Cataclysm saw the rise of some truly bad tanks, who learned very little about mititgation, use of cooldowns, mobility and situational awareness. Hard Mode Spine of Deathwing suddenly jumped up – here survivability and awareness are paramount to survival, and new tanks had to relearn quite a bit to cope with it. Conversely, old school tanks quit in digust at how brainless tanking seemed to be, and even a large portion of tank bloggers and theorycrafters became extinct. Granted, they loved Heroic Spine – but didn’t want to wade through the rest of Dragon Soul to get there.

So to see mobility and awareness become key points in defeating some bosses is a sight for sore eyes – and might entice some of the good tanks to come back. They also hold great lessons for DPS – like adds that must be damaged from the back or they reflect damage. Like with Cayaclysm, it does seem that mobile DPS is more important as well. Expect challenge mode dungeons to be an excellent teacher in reaching for the bottom of the jar.

Preparations for the release date

Of course, there’s plenty to do before the release to ensure a smooth and solid rush to level 90. I have to admit that WoW seemed to be dreary and dull, with little reason for me to log in. I have played at least a dozen games over the last month, and in the end I still return to WoW. So to prepare, here’s a list of things I am planning to do, maybe it will be of value to you as well:

  • Clear out my bank alts and bank alt guilds to get rid of all pre-Cata stuff that is not critical to powerlevelling professions
  • Also throw all bound gear and fun items I haven’t used in more than three months into Void Storage – I paid for it, might as well use it
  • Gather and arrange enough pre-cata materials to level 2 alts worth of two professions (for one Monk of any kind and one Pandaren of any kind)
  • Gather enough materials to level all my characters’  professions another 5-10 points on Cata materials – mileage may vary
  • Place these materials in the alt guild – each tab named after the character it is for
  • Make a list of the pets I still want to gather before the pet battle system goes live – their prices might skyrocket after that if they are powerful
  • Re-arrange parts of this blog to record my levelling experience and screenshots of the areas
  • Make sure all my characters, before they go off to level, have cleared bags and updated gear
  • Install Mists of Pandaria
  • Go!

Conclusion

Despite myself, I am actually pretty excited about Mists of Pandaria. It feels different somehow – more casual and less hardcore, but also just as enchanting as TBC felt when it was announced. To be fair, it feels like a fresh start more than Cataclysm did. Where Cataclysm felt like the destruction of the old ways and the reduction of raiding and PvP, Mists seems more like building it back from scratch. The game has changed, and we have to change with it. As much as we might want things to remain the same (even if for just one expansion) I will simply see if I will fall in love with the new game over again.

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.

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