Hello Bear Fronds!

There’s not much to talk about this week, but I did want to mention a couple things.
 

Dev Watercooler Part 2

There was a second part in the latest Watercooler series, this time focusing more strictly on healing. There isn’t anything that specifically relates to tanking here, but you can make some implications, even for Guardians specifcally. With the shift more towards better decision making with healing it’s far, far, more likely that we’ll see tanks being prized for their ability to stay alive on their own. That’s a change I’m fine with really, since it’s more “tanky” and seems in line with the previously announced change of de-coupling Vengeance from offense.

For Guardians specifically this blog post all but confirms that we’ll be seeing changes to Ysera’s Gift, Nature’s Vigil, and possibly Tranquility. Although it’s not really clear whether or not we’ll even still have Tranquility in Warlords. Only time will tell.

If you’re interested Ashunera wrote up a very good analysis of the changes, which you can read here. Jasyla also wrote something slightly more snarky which I enjoyed.
 

Realm Maintenance

Rho from Realm Maintenance interviewed me for this week’s episode of Realm Maintenance. It was a lot of fun to be on a show that wasn’t my own, and I wish I got to do it more. Go check it out, as he puts a lot of work into this show and it really pays off.
 

Final Boss

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that Buraan and I will be on Final Boss this Sunday! I’m really excited since both Bay and Ana are friends of mine, and I’ve been a fan of their show since day 1. Don’t worry, Buraan and I are already planning some shenanigans. :D

You should come watch! 1pm PST (4pm EST) this Sunday the 16th of March over at their twitch stream.

I was originally going to do this in like a Pastebin or something, but then I realized that screenshots are useful. Basically a couple friends of mine were recently musing about connecting to Twitch chat through an IRC client. Then I realized that I had promised them instructions like a week and a half ago – and promptly forgot. So here they are.
 

How To: Connect to Twitch Chat with an IRC Client

Step 1: Get an IRC Client. Any old IRC client should work for this, but personally I use mIRC. That means all of my screenshots will be for mIRC, but you should be able to translate them into the client of your choice.

Step 2: Add Server Info. This is actually pretty easy. You just set up a new server with the information shown below:

Step2

The “Password” field in the screenshot above will be the password to your Twitch account.

Step 3: Configure Identd Info. Again this is simple. Simply configure as shown below:

Step3

The “User ID” field in the screenshot above will be your Twitch username.

Step 4: Connect. Once your server is configured, select and connect to it. You will be prompted to enter a channel name:

Step4

Enter the name of the Twitch channel you would like to connect to, preceded with a hashtag (“#”). For example if I wanted to connect to my channel I would enter “#deastin”. Click “OK” and you’re good to go!

Hello Bears!

We haven’t had one of these in a while since there hasn’t really been anything to talk about. But on Thursday Celestalon posted a developer blog and followed it up with a bunch of tweets. I’ll cover whatever pieces of the Guardians might care about, but it isn’t much.
 

Dev Watercooler

There really isn’t much here honestly. We already knew that the stat-squish was coming, even though I haven’t mentioned it specifically. It doesn’t really impact any specific class overall, it’s just a change for the overall improvement of the game.

However all of the base damage modifiers are being removed, of which we have a ton. Our abilities don’t scale as well as other classes’ – most notably Monks and Warriors – but have higher base damage. Ideally this won’t be a problem in Warlords, and the damage of all tanks will scale at somewhat the same rate.

The next part of the watercooler talked about Racials. Since Worgen racials remain unchanged (1% Crit, Darkflight), the other three Druid races become the following:

  • Night Elf: 1% Crit during the day, 1% Haste at night. Quickness now also grants 2% movement speed.
  • Tauren: 2% Critical Damage/Healing, Stamina bonus that scales with level.
  • Troll: Berserking now grants 15% Haste instead of 20%. Has +20% Experience from Beasts instead of damage.

Of these Night Elf and Tauren are the obvious choices for tanking, purely for the extra survivability.

I’m not really worried about the pruning of abilities. Druids in general don’t really have any “extra” abilities that can be removed without causing any problems. Of course there are things like Innervate which should just be outright removed from Guardians, but taking away abilities from the spec that we don’t need is perfectly fine.

The changes to crowd control aren’t really that interesting for Guardians. Heck, Blizzard doesn’t even know what they want to do with tanks in PvP yet.
 

Blue Tweets

That wasn’t even the biggest piece of news either. Most of the interesting stuff was passed on through Twitter after the blogpost went live. I’ve summarized the most interesting and relevant information below.

Might annoy some specs that benefit from one stat but not another (e.g. feral druids benefit from crit, but not haste)

We’re making sure that everyone benefits from them.

Normally things like this doesn’t really interest me. However there could be an interesting implication here. Consider that Feral really doesn’t like Haste other than what it does for Rune. At first glance the only real way to make Haste attractive to Feral is if bleeds were to scale with Haste like other DoT effects do. Now consider Guardians. Haste is basically a negligible DPS increase for us, we only get it for the increase in T&C procs and better Rage generation.

What if our bleeds also scaled with haste? That would be kinda cool.

Wait, the ONLY offensive cooldown will be Hero/BL/etc? Every other one is gone?

No, only *raid-wide* offensive cooldown is Bloodlust. I’m referring to removing Stormlash and Skull Banner.

Well that was kind of a no-brainer. This shouldn’t surprise anybody.

What of the Raid Wide CDs, other than Bloodlust, like devotion aura?

Defensive cooldowns stay. May tweak them of course, but as a concept they stay. Only offensive one will be Bloodlust (etc).

This tells me that their minds aren’t 100% made up on what to do about non-healer raid cooldowns. We know for a fact that something is going to change about them, but it’s not clear exactly what yet. Given how annoying Tranquility is to arrange for Guardians already, it will either become easier to use or get axed entirely from our spellbook. I don’t particuarly care which way they go, but the latter is definitely easier to do.

When are we getting those changed from Haste to Amp? Makes much better sense as raid cooldown

Based on our experiments with the SoO trinkets, we’re holding off on doing Amp and Cleave as stats, at least for now.

Again, surprising nobody.

That’s everything that qualifies as “news” at this point. Everything else has long-since been confirmed, and is just Celery re-answering the same questions over-and-over again. Assuming no new crazy things come out in the next week, my next post should be about simming Heart of the Wild DPS as a Guardian!

Preparing for Challenge Modes

February 10, 2014

Challenge Modes

Introduction

I’ll be honest, I was really trying to find a way to justify watching Lego Movie tonight. But I knew I had to get this post out instead. A lot of people have been asking me lately about what they should do to prepare or get through Challenge Mode dungeons. I’ve been getting back into them in a big way recently with my friends, so I wanted to share my knowledge and things I’ve learned with everyone else.

Before you even step into a CM, there are some mechanics differences that are specific to CMs that you won’t find in any other aspects of the game (at least right now). Once you understand those differences you can prepare your gear, talents, and glyphs. Finally I can leave you with some basic ideas on when to use cooldowns, how to to pull, and what sorts of dangers to look out for as a tank.
 

Challenge Mode Mechanics

Vengeance doesn’t behave the same in Challenge Modes compared to everywhere else in the game. You’ll probably recall that for 5.4 it was nerfed from a 2% gain on unmitigated damage, to 1.5%. Not only that, but a diminishing returns was added if you’re receiving damage from more than one source (1/n based on melee damage of the mob – highest first). The beauty is, neither of those nerfs apply to Challenge Modes. This means that it’s always advantageous to pull as much as you can handle to increase your damage as much as possible. Tank DPS is incredibly important, especially for sub-optimal compositions that may not have great AoE potential (I recently did a Scholomance run with a Ret Paladin, Rogue, and Moonkin).

The timer forces you to pull mobs as quickly as you can conceivably handle them. However it’s incredibly important to keep track of where your cooldowns are at from pull-to-pull. The last thing you want to do is initiate an incredibly dangerous trash pull before you’re ready to do so. While DPS is a substantial determining factor in a successful Challenge Mode run, communication and execution of a plan to handle each pull is by far the most important.

Challenge Modes are divided between two distinct types of encounters – Trash and Bosses. Trash encounters will vary wildly, but by and large you want to pull as much as possible. That means that trash will not only take significantly less time than a given boss, but will be much more dangerous. Both of these factors should obviously tell you that survival cooldowns like Survival Instincts will be used on trash, whereas DPS cooldowns like Incarnation will be used on bosses.

Finally, Legendary Items and Set Bonuses do not function in Challenge Modes. Therefore you will want an Agile Primal Diamond for your meta. You don’t need to throw away your tier 16 gear for Challenge Modes though, since it’s so incredibly well itemized. Nor do you need to throw away the cloak, for exactly the same reason. Heck you don’t really need to swap your meta if you don’t want to, you just need to be aware that it won’t work.
 

Gear, Talents, and Glyphs

Selecting Gear for Challenge Modes is basically the same as any other kind of content for a Guardian. The first priority is to make sure you are capped on both Hit and Expertise (2550 and 5100 rating respectively). Your second priority is to get as much Critical Strike Rating as you can get your hands on, for the same reasons as you would want it for a raid encounter or Proving Grounds. Of course you can really use any old gear to accomplish this, but the more gem slots a piece of gear has in it, the better. The budget from a gem slot only comes from the primary stat – Agility – and secondaries. The value of Armor and Stamina is unaffected, which means it’s a net increase in value to have an additional gem socket on a piece of gear.

The place it gets kind of messy is with trinkets. Almost all of the Siege of Orgrimmar trinkets (like Vial of Living Corruption) scale down to near uselessness at 463. Heck even most of the RPPM trinkets introduced in Throne of Thunder are pretty bad, especially after the RPPM nerf in 5.4. On-use trinkets, or trinkets with the most passive stats are the best options you have – with one exception: Delicate Vial of the Sanguinaire. This trinket is incredible for Guardians in Challenge Modes – in fact it’s probably the only situation in the game where this trinket excels. Combine huge numbers of mobs swinging at you on many of the trash pulls with a naturally high dodge chance, and you get very large chances to proc the trinket. On many of the larger trash pulls it’s very common for it to stack to 3, which grants you a whopping 50.79% armor increase.

For survival it’s a no-brainer really.

My favourite 2nd trinket for Challenge Modes is easily Ghost Iron Dragonling. 1800 undiminshed stats is really hard to turn down. The one problem is that the pet will sometimes proc at inopportune times. In my opinion that’s a small price to pay for such a valuable trinket. In reality you can pick any two trinkets and do just fine, but those are definitely my personal favourites.

Talents are a little more 50/50. Some tiers have purely default choices, whereas others are basically user’s choice.

  1. Tier 1: Take Feline Swiftness or Wild Charge. The problem with FS is you’ll often have other party members which will be slower than you – but on the other hand you almost always want to be the first one to reach a trash pull or boss. Charge is incredibly useful for kiting, which is quite often something you’ll end up doing to stay alive.
  2. Tier 2: This tier offers something of an interesting choice. Typically Cenarion Ward doesn’t get much traction in in raids because any predictable damage you can use it on is easily covered by normal healing. However in Challenge Modes it’s very easy to find a GCD between pulls to throw a CW on yourself to give your healer more time to react when you pull a new group of trash. Of course Renewal is still off the GCD on a much longer CD, and Ysera’s Gift will still provide constant passive healing. I prefer – and recommend – CW for Challenge Modes, you can use any talent on this tier and do fine.
  3. Tier 3: There really isn’t any real choice other than Typhoon. It functions either as a secondary interrupt or to give yourself breathing room in order to kite.
  4. Tier 4: At the launch of the expansion Soul of the Forest was pretty worthless. It’s since been buffed to be competitive with Incarnation over time. The problem is boss encounters in Challenge Modes are where you need the most damage, and conveniently bosses are usually 3 minutes apart more or less. That makes Incarnation the easy choice for Challenge Modes. Don’t even ask about Force of Nature.
  5. Tier 5: This is a choice between Mighty Bash and Ursol’s Vortex. You can pick the talent that’s appropriate to your group composition or the dungeon you’re doing.
  6. Tier 6: You might think there’s actually a choice here at first pass, but there really isn’t. Heart of the Wild isn’t usable as a tank on any bosses except maybe the first one in Jade Temple. Which brings us to Dream of Cenarius which is a complete DPS loss if you use an HT instead of any offensive ability, and unlike a raid scenario the healer will cover all of the incoming group damage. That leaves us with Nature’s Vigil as the obvious choice.

That leaves us with Glyphs.

  • Unlike a raid scenario I’d avoid Survival Instincts. You want to have the full 12 second duration, and conveniently the most dangerous pulls are 3 minutes or more apart. Leave this one out.
  • Also unlike a raid scenario Fae Silence is actually incredibly useful. Silence effects are far more uncommon than stuns, and being able to keep dangerous casters locked down is valuable.
  • A no-brainer glyph slot goes to Maul. Nobody says “No” to free extra damage.
  • Stampeding Roar can be valuable, but over 90% of the time when you use Roar in a Challenge Mode, your group will be stacked up for an Invisibility run.
  • The last glyph that can definitely be useful is Faerie Fire. Combining this with Fae Silence allows you to grab dangerous caster mobs from range.

 

Tactics

The first thing that you will learn when doing a Challenge Mode is when to use your survival and DPS cooldowns. I’ve mentioned this before, but our major survival cooldowns – Survival Instincts and Might of Ursoc – are primarily used on dangerous trash pulls. That leaves our minor cooldown Barkskin available to be used whenver you need it, due to the buff it received in 5.4. If you think you might be in danger in the next few seconds, don’t be afraid to press Barkskin. I often use it pre-emptively on any new trash pull to give Delicate Vial of the Sanguinaire a chance to stack up and carry you through the pull.

Single target DPS cooldowns – primarily Incarnation – should be saved for bosses. Whereas Berserk is best used on either large trash pulls, or bosses with more than active target on which DPS is valuable. That leaves Nature’s Vigil which should basically be used on cooldown to maximize the benefits.

Be adaptable. Just like a raid encounter, hardly anything goes your way the first time you attempt it. Don’t be surprised if you need to alter your strategy for a specific boss, how much trash you pull, or how often you pull it. You don’t need to be perfect to get your transmog set, but you do need to execute a plan from start to finish. That plan can only be formed if you know what to expect, so be open to only getting Silver or even Bronze your first time through.

What about you? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Hello Guardians!

It’s that time again. The time when I go through a bunch of tweets and news hoping that maybe I’ll find something worth talking about.

Celestalon Tweets

Any chance active talents on the same tier could all get a “Mage Bomb” style button?

Yes. We will do this when it’s appropriate (similar role, all actives)

I’ll be the first to admit that this confused me at first. Then once he elaborated with:

Sorry, I think you still misunderstood. We’re not talking about the design of the buttons. Just the button UI.

I was like “Awwwww man, that’ll only work for ONE tier of my talents. Boo.

Druids were unfortunate enough to be blessed with 5 tiers where at least one talent is passive. It’s a great design don’t get me wrong, but for changes like this it means we get left out in the cold.

There are addons that will let you do this currently, but it would be nice to have in the default UI.

NV resets? Are you sure the CD doesn’t just expire? I’ve never had 3m CDs reset. Ever

Yes, pretty certain. Ironic b/c 1.5m cd. Additionally racials don’t reset. Often waiting for these b4 pulling a boss

This isn’t strictly a “Celestalon Tweet” but it was a reply to one. Apparently Nature’s Vigil resets after a wipe even though it’s only 90 seconds? I’ve never tested it personally since it’s always available for the next pull after you recover from a wipe. If I looked for it I could tell, but I never need to.

Has anyone else found this to be true? It’s probably a bug if it does, but a really meaningless one.

While I sit here, waiting for my lunch, tell me… What ability do you have that you’re afraid we’ll cut due to button bloat, but love?

The developers have actively said they’re looking at the masses of keybinds we have and trying to find ways to remove some of them. Thankfully after the Feral/Guardian split, and because of shapeshift bars, this isn’t really that big of a deal for us. Pretty much every ability we have while in Bear form is used in some manner.

The buttons we could stand to lose are things like Innervate, Soothe, Maim, or Ravage. I’ve often thought about what a world would look like without Enrage, but I think it’s a better idea to re-purpose that ability instead of cutting it entirely.

Will full pets always benefit? Didn’t on H stone guardians/protectors of endless for sure. Possibly sha of pride and norushen?

Yes. Any encounter buffs to your damage should affect your pets and guardians as well.

For us this only affects Force of Nature. However since nobody actually takes that talent anyway, it’s a pretty meaningless thing to note.
 

Watcher Tweets

Ty for clarifying. Totally quoting this when pugs try to blame hunter pet for a ravager in flex.

Yes. When a damaging spell/attack hits Nazgrim, he asks “is the source a player?” If yes, +rage. Else, no.

Again something that only affects Force of Nature. Too bad there isn’t a Guardian that actually cares.

And that’s it! Still a slow news week (or two) obviously. I’ve been asked a couple of times about Challenge Modes and how to do them recently. I want to write something on the topic, and hopefully (/crossfingers) I’ll have time to do that this week.

I’ve also been (slowly) adding new heroic raid videos. I forgot to record Pride the last time we killed it (/sadface), but we’re re-clearing this lockout so I should grab it, and everything up to Thok then.