World of Warcraft: Raiding the Metagame
These are my World of Warcraft thoughts, concerns, and random musings. If you want to know more about me, my characters or my setup, please see Deepone's lair. World of Warcraft isn't my life, but I've played long enough to have developed a fair sense of the game. I'm also prone to doing quite a bit of "theorycrafting," but unlike other theorycrafters, I like to look at the whole game, not just the mechanics of combat at max level. You'll find articles here about progression, leveling, patches, expansions, specs, classes, and even some opinion and humor. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. Come back often, as I'll keep updating the site with new articles every few days or so.
2008-09-26: Fixing Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft
There's a movement afoot to make Battleground gear require Arena ratings for everything. I'm against this, and in fact could not be more against it. In my article Fixing Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft, I make a suggestion for how this could be avoided and Battlegrounds could become the a source of PvP progression once more.
2008-08-05: 3-Man Guide to Blackrock Depths
Based on the adventures of Saturnalia, we've come up with the definitive 3-Man Guide to Blackrock Depths, detailing how we took out every boss in BRD with only 3 players! There are no cheats or gimmicks. The only real trick is using a paladin tank, but other than that it's mostly common-sense advice. I hope this helps lots of other Saturnalia-like guilds to start running old-world content at appropriate levels in order to level up their alts instead of trying to get a 70 to run them through so fast that everything merges into a soupy blur of pureed content.
Wondering where the updates to RtM have been? I've been spending my time on the site for my guild, Saturnalia. Visit saturnalia.ajs.com for frequent updates on our adventures in running every instance we can get our hands on with only 3 party members!
2008-03-04: Warlocks in 2.4
For those of you who don't know, Warlocks in 2.4 will be getting a major class mechanic change: Life Tap will return 20% of max mana in return for 20% of max health instead of a fixed amount of both. There's a lot of fear and misinformation about this change, so I figured it would be best if I explored it in depth.
Right now, Warlocks treat stamina (STA) as an offensive stat, roughly the way Mages treat intellect (INT), at least with respect to mana. Warlocks don't stack INT because they get more benefit from a large pool of health that can be transformed into mana via Life Tap. With 2.4, that will no longer be the case, and that's not an accident. The reason in two-fold. First, PvP gear heaps on tons of essentially free STA in ever-increasing amounts as the seasons roll on. Blizzard just can't keep giving Warlocks such vast quantities of free mana while giving other classes comparatively low offensive stats on PvP gear. The other reason is that Blizzard wants to move toward giving out fewer types of gear. They've said this explicitly with Retribution Paladins who they want to see wearing the same (non-tier set) gear as dps Warriors. In the case of Warlocks, it's pretty clear that this change will push them to wearing the same gear as Mages.
So, is this a nerf or a buff? In PvP, it's pretty clearly a nerf. There's just no way around the fact that they're taking the huge advantage of massive stamina on PvP gear away from Warlocks. In PvE, it's not so clear-cut. In the gear that they're wearing today, Warlocks will probably see their returns from Life Tap go down. However, with some INT gear added in in judicious slots, it's quite possible (easy, even) to build up a mana pool that will make this an overall buff to PvE.
So why is everyone upset? A few reasons:
- Many Warlocks can't get past the idea that their large health (from tiered gear and talents) will result in large losses when tapping. Frankly, I don't think this is an issue. Warlocks who don't stack huge amounts of unnecessary STA will have fairly typical health pools if on the high side, and healers won't break under the weight in those situations where locks need raid / party healing. The Warlock T5 set has 95 additional STA over the equivalent Mage set... that's not enough to break the bank. Also, consider: after tapping do you want to have 6400 health (starting with 8000) or 8000 health (starting with 10000). Your choice.
- There's a claim that it's impossible to find INT gear for Warlocks. This is simply false. First off, on non-tier set gear, Warlocks have exactly the same choices as every other cloth-wearing caster class. There's no difference between the INT options for a Mage and the INT options for a Warlock. As for tiered set gear, just by way of example full Warlock T5 has exactly 12 less mana than Mage T5. 12 points. That's it.
- Then we get into the more esoteric class balance concerns. This is where it gets fuzzier. For example, some Warlocks point out that they have fewer options for getting out of trouble than other cloth-wearers, so they need the STA to survive. In solo PvE, this is clearly not true (pets being a huge advantage), however in party and raid PvE as well as PvP, there's a strong case to be made here, and I think it's a good reason to ask Blizzard for some buffs to survivability down the road (perhaps they're in store already in WotLK).
Overall, I think this is an unfortunately necessary change. With STA being handed out like candy to increase survivability in PvP, there's just no way around the fact that Warlocks need to decouple STA and INT. I also think that Warlocks will learn to love this change, as it will simplify their gearing options. It will mean that their set gear is a bit odd for now, but once WotLK comes out, I doubt they'll have such issues any longer.
2007-12-07: The Economy and You
I've written up the findings from the creation of my Auction House pricing and statistics database site: Wowstreet. This takes the form of an essay: The Economy and You. Please give it a read. I think you'll find it as fascinating as I did to look deep into the WoW economy and how it behaves.
2007-11-26: Item pricing search
I've been working on a new tool: Wowstreet, my World of Warcraft prices database. While the data that I have is useful for just about anyone, it's specifically aimed at 3 servers: Argent Dawn, Thorium Brotherhood and Dentarg (Horde only, as Dentarg is a PvP server). Please try it out, and see what you think.
2007-11-16: Two new hunter arrows
In case you don't know 2.3 introduced two new critical hunter items: new arrows. These are the Adamantite Stinger (WowheadPricing) and Mysterious Arrow (Wowhead). The Adamantite Stinger (43 dps) is made by the Adamantite Arrow Maker which is crafted by Engineers (335 skill) and is better than the Cenerion Expedition faction arrows. These little boxes have 5 charges and produce a full stack of arrows per charge, so you can store lots of extra arrows for later! Mysterious arrows, on the other hand, have 46.5 dps (yes, you read that right), making them second as general-purpose arrows only to Timeless Arrow (Wowhead) which you have to be raiding tier 6 to get! These require revered with Violet Eye which you get pretty easily if you've been raiding Karazhan for a little while.
2007-11-16: The Warden "controversy"
Recently, there's been a bit of a tempest in a teacup about Warden, the software that runs along side World of Warcraft and looks for bots and keyloggers. In the article that I linked to above, you'll find all of the detail and my thoughts on how concerned you should be (not very). I hope this helps to inject a little sanity into the discussion.
2007-11-13: Leveling guide
My World of Warcraft leveling guide is just getting started. Right now, it's just an outline of what it will eventually contain, but even in its current state, new users should find it quite useful.
2007-11-06: Typical hunter pets
Hunters have hundreds of choices of pet in 23 different categories! How do you choose? See my typical hunter pets article for help.
2007-10-31: Mage specs
Mages can be a complex and confusing class to spec. Their talents are sharply divided into 3 very different types of spell use, but all three specs interact in more complex ways than most classes. I've written an overview of mage specs for leveling for anyone trying to unpeel this onion.
2007-10-10: AV: is the map really imbalanced?
I've written up my thoughts for a forum posting about Alterac Valley, where I point out why it is that the Horde win so often in AV right now, and how that will change (at least, how I think that will change) with the 2.3 patch (see 2.3 and You for more details on that). I've made a copy of the posting here on the site at Alerac Valley map imbalance in 2.2.
2007-10-09: Wrath of the Lich King and You
In my ongoing series of Warcraft and You articles, I've started to write up World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and You, which is not at all complete right now, and lacks a great deal of the commentary and released details that I want to get in there, but you can see it in its early state right now.
2007-10-09: TBC Progression Checklist updated
I've updated The Burning Crusade Progression Checklist, and added some additional analysis (things like why a guild would do Karazhan these days, and what they should expect). Enjoy!
2007-10-05: 2.3 and you
2007-07-13: "Fix Hunters in Arenas" thread on the forums
There's a thread on the official forums, requesting a number of Hunter fixes. Unlike most threads of its sort, this one is pretty comprehensive. It talks mostly about the arenas, but most of the issues are common to all modes of play. I recommend it.
2007-07-13: Quickie quote
This showed up in a forums post from Kalgan:
- "being "right" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with siding with the majority or minority. If this weren't the case, you could make a great game by polling people to make every decision. As far as I can tell, that hasn't ever been vaguely close a successful strategy."
I'm a developer, and I have to say that it's good to hear the developers of World of Warcraft speak this way. One of the deepest fears I have is of the day that WoW bends to the loudest group of players.
To take this one step further, the whole discussion that that quote comes from centers around Blizzard's use of feedback from players. Now ideally, Blizzard should be listening to everyone who plays the game and making sure that every move they make has the maximum beneficial effect on the whole community. This, of course, is absurd as it would require omniscience and infallibility... traits which developers are faced with their own bugs far too often to claim.
No, the developers instead have to make most decisions based on their own instincts and research. That research is going to include play-testing, observing what some players do and trial-and-error. The sticky part in the conversation was, "observing what some players do." This implies that the actions, capabilities and strategies of some players are affecting the developers' opinions and actions. This, of course, sends everyone into a frenzy over whose voice is heard.
Let's step back and, instead, ask the question: other than the myopic "the last guy that killed me was OP," or "the last encounter my raid wiped on was poorly tuned," what are the parts of the game that are not rewarding or that cause players to leave. I'd list three:
- The perceived "end game"... this is a huge problem. An MMO dies when its players feel that "it's over." Every raiding guild right now that kills Illidan is in serious danger of unraveling.
- The lack of appropriate rewards for the level of effort in PVP battlegrounds. The focus on the arena has left those who prefer the battlegrounds in a limbo from which the only escapes are to convert to arena play or stop playing.
- Leveling for new players. Have you started a new character recently? You can now look forward to the original 60 levels of grinding (well, 59 really) plus the new 10. And then you get to start building up a decent gear set by running dungeons or PVPing. For someone who just started playing, that's a rather daunting thing, and there's no one in the low or mid-levels that's interested in helping you out because there's nothing in it for them.
This last is Blizzard's single largest challenge, and they need to address it. Crying over decisions that tweak class balance really isn't helping them to focus on the issues that matter.
2007-06-26: Coolest quests in the game
As you may know, I've been playing a bunch of low-level alts recently to get a feel for the early game again. I'd never started a Draenei, so I tried it out... Blizzard certainly has some cool quests lined up for them. I don't recall anything that my Blood Elf did that was nearly as cool as the blow-up-the-fish quest or the totem translation. That got me thinking... what other quests are there that are really cool and out of the ordinary? I'm going to start tracking them on my new article:
2007-06-21: Hacking World of Warcraft
<amazonitem>0470110023</amazonitem> A new book is out by some prominent members of the mod-building community about how developing add-ons is done. These guys have written or worked on mods such as Ace2, Atlas, Clique, and a number of others, so it's almost certainly serious reading, and I'll be getting my copy soon!
2007-06-19: Never buy these weapons
Over and over I've fallen for it. I've started a low-level character and bought some weapon on the AH only to find that it's sold by a vendor for far less. Never again. Here's a link to Wowhead's list of green weapons sold by vendors (and the same for armor). Never fall for buying these again.
PS: As you can see I'm starting to play some low-level alts. Right now I'm leveling my 53 Mage and 15 Rogue, but once the Mage hits 70, I'll also be leveling my 12 Priest (shadow). So, expect a more balanced set of articles here that aren't quite so hunter-focused.
2007-06-12: How to be a newb
Being new to World of Warcraft isn't a bad thing. Making everyone suffer for it is. In an attempt to help out those who just got started, here's my list of top 10 pieces of advice:
- Read your spellbook (even if you're not a caster) and read the details of each ability. Think about them, and move them to your button bars as needed.
- Know the best Web sites to get information from. WoWWiki, Wowhead, Thottbot, and the official forums are some the of the best places to start.
- Quests are the best way to level, instances are the best way to get gear (at first). Do them together, and in moderation and you'll do well.
- Get flight nodes every time you travel somewhere new.
- Any vendor that sells armor or weapons will also repair your gear. Do this often.
- Sell green or higher quality items that you don't want on the auction house.
- When grouping with others, the goal is for the person who can take the most damage (tank) to keep the attention of the attackers. If you are a damage dealing class or healer, stay in control of your damage, and don't pull things off of the tank. Knowing how threat works is key to this. There are also mods that will track your threat.
- "Crowd control" (CC) is one of the most important things in a group. If you are about to attack a group of NPCs, you need all of them except the one that you're going to kill first to be kept away from your healers and damage dealers. If you are a mage or hunter, you gain abilities at very low levels that let you CC any NPC. Learn to use them. Everyone else has to be very careful to only attack the primary target, not the CCed targets.
- Keep at it. You'll make lots of mistakes, but learning from them, and looking up information on what to do next time is how you learn.
- Guilds are an excellent way to get to know people and support each other while leveling. Join one early, but don't feel that you're locked into your choice. Announce plans to group in your guild channel (
/g). This really helps.
The forums have been abuzz with the word that Beastmastery (BM) is now the preferred hunter dps spec. Kill shots for some of the most advanced guilds constantly show "big red" pets, including those of Death & Taxes (image). So, is this true? Is BM the spec?!
Well, that's a complex problem, and the only valid answer to it is "no," but that doesn't mean that BM dps isn't well worth having on your raid.
The bottom line is that hunters have a variety of strong abilities, and with BM and MM, dps is certainly one of them. Since MM and BM are now fairly close in dps, with most measurements showing BM in the lead, either build can work well for raiding.
My typical hunter specs article evaluates many of the more common specs and progressions. One thing you'll find is that having an MM hunter (with TSA) and a BM hunter (with FI) in a raid together can be quite powerful. In the same group. they benefit each other's dps and that of the other party members (assuming they benefit from attack power). So, for example, two hunters in a group with two rogues and a dps warrior will do stunning amounts of damage.
In separate groups, a BM hunter fits in best with magical dpsers while the MM hunter fits in best with the physical dpsers. In this way, they can boost the dps of all of the raid's top dpsers.
Yes, BM is a strong choice in the current game, but it's not the only choice. That said, prior to about 800 AGI, players who favor survivalist might want to consider BM as a stopgap. The only hard part of switching is the loss of trapping ability (since the value of the SV tree as a secondary tree is dwarfed by the dps advantage of GFTT to BM hunters).
2007-05-30: Hunter Steady Shot macro
Someone just posted a wonderful, and finally complete hunter Steady-Shot macro for the post-2.1 age. This is, by far, the best use of the macro system I've seen to date. Bravo to Gasty <Emerald Sin> of Maiev! Here it is:
#tooltip Steady Shot /castsequence reset=3 Steady Shot, Auto Shot /cast [target=pet, dead] null; [target=pet, noexists] null; Kill Command
I'll be trying this out tonight!
Some updates: This macro works well, but for ranged pets seems to fall down a bit. It seems that the Kill Command ability is not ranged, so a range-attacking pet (Wind Serpent) may have to close when you issue a KC. That means that there's a distinct delay between when you activate this macro and when your pet actually "casts" the KC, and during that time your Steady Shot is unavailable. Workarounds: get a non-ranged pet; don't use this macro. For now, I'm returning to my two-button approach.
Further update: The macro has gone through some evolution. For BM hunters, this is pretty much all you need:
#showtooltip Steady Shot /script UIErrorsFrame:Hide() /castsequence reset=3 Steady Shot, Auto Shot /cast [exists,target=pettarget] Kill Command /script UIErrorsFrame:Clear(); UIErrorsFrame:Show()
For other hunters, this macro still works fine as a stand-in for steady-shot, but you'll want to do your normal shot-rotation manually (if you prefer to inject it into the macro, that's also doable, but I always found that it worked out better doing it manually.
2007-05-30: Videos from Serpentshrine Cavern and The Eye
My guild is getting ready to move on to Serpentshrine Cavern, so I'm collecting together a list of videos of fights there and in Tempest Keep for everyone in my guild to review.
Update: I've moved and expanded this info to its own article: The Burning Crusade Boss Infoz
2007-05-22: The Armory
The Armory is worse than you think it is. Being a Web developer of some years, I can assure those of you who aren't aware of all of the technical details that the Armory is one of the worst Web-based pieces of software to land in recent memory. In the vain hope that someone from Blizzard will ever read this, I'd like to suggest a few ways in which it could be improved (almost all of them hinging on usability and performance):
- When a link/button-like thing is clicked, load a new page. This vastly improves the user experience and behavior of the "back" button.
- When the system experiences an error, provide more detail to the user than "Armory: Error Encountered / An error has occurred."
- Do not rely on Flash, as far, far too many users don't have it or explicitly disable it for security/privacy reasons.
- Don't fill in search boxes with text unless it's a search default. This confuses users into thinking that the search box is a flag or label.
Overall, the problems with the Armory are the same problems with the Forums. It's very "active", and attempts to subvert the browsing experience (especially the back button) at every turn. Caching is almost impossible. Pages load and then take an extended period (and a great deal of CPU) to "finish rendering."
2007-05-21: Hunter Macros
I'm writing up all of the hunter macros I use along with an index of all of the macro sites that I visit. Hopefully, this will help other raiding hunters out there.
2007-05-14: Burning Crusade Progression Checklist
I've put up a giant list at: The Burning Crusade Progression Checklist. This is every step you need to do to get access to Shattered Halls, all of the heroics, Karazhan, Serpent Shrine, Tempest Keep, and eventually Hyjal. Once more detail is available on Black Temple and Hyjal, this list will likely change.
2007-05-01: Random names
Just for fun, I've made a quick modification to my old random name generator to generate names that are "in the style of" World of Warcraft Lore characters. You can generate a list of random names here:
And for the various lore characters that were used, see:
2007-05-01: Arena bow nerf
The Gladiator's Heavy Crossbow has been modified in test. It's now slightly faster, and roughly the same dps. So why is everyone yelling about it on the hunter boards? Because making it 0.1 seconds faster means that it's 9 less base damage, which will make a small dent in top-end crits.
As I've pointed out on the forums, this isn't really a nerf. It's a single change in the larger context of the 2.1 hunter buff, and it's meant to make sure that hunters are stronger in PVP, but not nearly so much stronger as they will be in PVE. Make no mistake, hunters that spec to take advantage of 2.1 will be more powerful in burst and sustained damage than they were in 2.0.x!
2007-05-01: The why of "crit stacking"
Elakuan's simple summary of hunter damage stats: "beyond 300 paperdoll dps, you need to start stacking crit. Thatâ€™s it. Thatâ€™s all. Have a nice day. " He goes on to discuss numbers which match Grunticus's much more formulaic analysis (see below) in another thread.
All told, the non-BM mechanics in the current end game are pointing to one conclusion: crit is the way to go.
2007-04-30: Hunter stats
Hunters put a lot of time into determining how their stats work. Survival hunters (like myself) spend even more time, because we're forced to deal with the realities of crit vs. attack. Here are some good intros from the forums:
- A Marksman's guide to Survival Conversion
- Grunticus's opus: Complete calculation of AP / Crit% conversion
That last will introduce you to the dangerous world of Hunter Calculus... if you read it, be prepared to never play the game the same way again.
Specifically, Grunt's formula is:
- s = WeaponSpeed
- D = WeaponDamage = (WeaponDamageMin + WeaponDamageMax) / 2
- S = ScopeDamage
- A = BaseAP
- C = BaseCrit
- g = AmmoDamage
- M = MortalShotModifier
This establishes a relationship between attack power and critical strike percentage that can be solved anywhere along the curve. He gives a great couple of examples, but let's just look at one:
- BaseAP = 2000 (this is your attack power before you put on whatever gear you are considering)
- BaseCrit = 25% (again, before any changes)
- Weapon: Gladiator's Heavy Crossbow
- WeaponSpeed = 3.2 (speed as listed on character sheet)
- WeaponDamage = (202+304)/2 = 253 (min+max damage over 2)
- Scope: +28 crit (we adjust BaseCrit by 28/22 as a result -> baseCrit = 26.27)
- ScopeDamage = 0
- MortalShotModifier = 1.3 (full 5/5 talents)
- AmmoDamage = 37
- RWS = 1.05 (5/5 Ranged Weapon Spec)
- DamagePercentagebonus = 1.00 (assume no humanoid slaying)
That means that 1% crit (22 crit rating) added to this base character is the same as adding 36.17 attack.
I've recently reminded someone on Slashdot that the myth of stagnant WoW lore is the fault of the players alone. If you find yourself thinking that WoW's lore is unchanging, immediately stop grinding for that next belt upgrade, and go talk to a few quest givers. Every patch brings a few more tidbits to the lore, and it's often worth knowing!
Talents are the secret sauce in WoW. EverQuest added something similar, late in the game called "Alternate Advancement," and Star Wars: Galaxies and EverQuest 2 did something like the WoW talent trees. However, no game has been so popular as WoW, so there must be a lot of the talent trees that are done right. Is there anything that's done wrong? One poster to the WoW message boards thought so. In a survey that he performed, he found that the least popular talent trees were, by far:
- Survival Hunters
- Subtlety Rogues
- Discipline Priests
I found this amusing, since I play a survival hunter and my SO plays a priest that used to be discipline for a long time.
The other interesting bit was the least popular deep talents. For those that were deep in a tree, who didn't take the 31 point talents?
- Holy Priests
- Discipline Priests
- Affliction Warlocks
And who didn't take their 41-point talents?
- Holy Priests
- Arcane Mages
- Arms Warriors
All of this seems to point to the talent trees that either the player base doesn't understand sufficiently, or are just bad talents, when compared with the other options available. Either way, I think the onus is on our friends at Blizzard to step up and fix these trees so that all players can enjoy their classes to the fullest.