How and When to Use Necrotic Strike: A Speculative Guide

10 12 2010

I’m only 84. I know, how tragic! Can’t do heroics yet, can’t run around a city at max level being idle, oh the woe of it all. However, I did learn Necrotic Strike at 83. And I’ll admit that when I read about the ability all those months ago, I cried “another PvP ability! Wah!” Only two days after learning the skill, I am in love with it.

There are a lot of casters in every instance. Bosses cast spells. Healers cast spell. Necrotic Strike, in my non-heroic dungeon experience, works on these mobs. I haven’t had any immunes that I can remember. For a typical example of what the spell does, it turns a 2.0s cast into a 2.6s cast. That’s a big difference.

Necrotic Strike

Courtesy of Wowhead

Aside: This post is speculative, however. If NS doesn’t work on raid bosses or boss encounter adds, well, sorry. Then it’s mostly a wash in non-trash PvE. Sucks, but I won’t be entirely surprised (Dark Simulacrum will likely be fairly unhelpful in raiding).

If you’re ever assigned to interrupt something in a raid setting, you should almost always be waiting until the last possible second to cast your interrupt. Why? Well, mobs don’t melee or do anything else evil while they’re casting. So your healers get a reprieve, and people don’t take damage, etc. And NS makes that both easier and more effective. An extra half second can be the difference between not interrupting and interrupting or simply force the boss into another few milliseconds of cast time.

Fitting Necrotic Strike into your rotation

Since it costs only one Unholy Rune, it’s pretty easy for most specs. Unholy replaces an SS with an NS. Blood can easily use a Death Rune (they get a lot of them from Death Striking) to NS. Frost is a little more complicated because we typically want to use Unholy Runes strictly for PS, Obliterate, and (in AoE situations) DnD. So that doesn’t leave a lot left over.

Typically what I have been doing is either using Blood Tap, replacing Obliterates with HB/NS, or using Death Runes from Blood Strikes. If you end up with one Death Rune, the other one can be used for Pillar of Frost or something else that usually disrupts the rotation.

All of these options involves stretching our limited GCD space. So be warned: excessive NSing will often lead to an overabundance of resources: RP, runes building up, etc. Make sure you’re not NSing more than absolutely necessary. Remember that as long as a mob starts a cast while NS is active, the whole cast will be affected.

Where to use Necrotic Strike?

  • Regular instances. Mob names typically give you a hint as to whether they are spellcasters or not. Or just check if they have mana bars. If they do, it’s a safe bet NSing them will be helpful.
  • Soloing. It’s not useless when soloing. When you have to kill caster mobs, you usually have to kill more than one of them, so at least you know when you have to NS. However, often when you engage a caster mob it immediately starts casting, making NSing less than efficient. Interrupting or just straight out killing mobs while soloing is likely more effective.
  • Raiding. I’ll likely have more updates on this once I start raiding/just link to what EJ posters put up regarding using this in raids. If you’ve started raiding and have some advice, please let me know!




Streamlined Questing: The New Darkshore

24 11 2010

While I was leveling my new spacegoat Shaman yesterday, I popped over to Darkshore instead of doing Bloodmyst to start experiencing the new post-shattering questing world. First experience: it’s great. After some time and some pondering, I noticed a few significant changes to the way questing was set up.

Kill ten of that, find me this, rescue those guys, discover that and then come back

In BC and Wrath, and especially in vanilla content, leveling was often a matter of collecting all the quests from a hub and going out to complete them. This is still the foundation of questing (at least, based on my Darkshore experience), but there’s more to it. I arrived in Lor’danel somewhat disappointed to only see two available quests for my level 10 Shaman. Assuming that there was more than met the eye, I took my quests and wandered off to kill things and save people.

I did a few quests (all of which were pretty much adjacent to the town/questgiver) and returned to the town. On the second set of quests which sent me into a cave, I at first was annoyed. Typically cave quests mean you have to kill far more of a mob than usual to get to the desired named mob/item in a quest. This time, however, there were two extra quests found in the cave, and these also played into the storyline of the zone! I was pleasantly surprised.

This trend continues into the rest of the early parts of the zone. Questing is much more streamlined and organic. There has been no point so far where I have been starved for quests. I have always been on my way somewhere, finding quests as I go. Also, named mobs appear as a skull on the minimap. This makes me very happy.

Story, story, story

Another thing that strikes me as excellent about the new questing is that the quests are very focused. Something is going on in the zone, and the quests go beyond “we are being attacked by x, kill them.” I won’t give away what the story is, but suffice it to say that the quests really tie in well to a story and while there might not be any significant phasing going on, you feel pretty involved with what is happening. Also, there are elementals attacking the city. (Will they be attacking the city for the next two years/until the next expansion comes out?)

Tangent, tangent, tangent

Speaking of story, a guildie who saw a burning tree asked in gchat yesterday: “So will this tree be burning for the next two years?” I answered probably. I hope that I’m wrong, however. A Cataclysm occurred, yes, but I think it’s important to keep the story moving as much as possible, and this should involve more than the introduction of new raids. Citizens of Stormwind should slowly rebuild the broken sections, cities under siege should be calling for reinforcements or fall to the attacks, etc.

So please, Blizzard, let us rebuild, or make us fall; just continue the story! (They have demonstrated the ability to do this without too much interruption: see the way the elemental invasion unfolded without major patch downloads between stages.)

A taste of what's to come





Ultima Online and the Player Housing Debate

12 11 2010

I wrote this as a comment on Larisa’s (the author of The Pink Pigtail Inn) post about player housing. It got really long, so I figured I would put it up here and burnish it with some screenshots from Ultima Online.

As someone who played Ultima Online (UO), a game in which player housing played an important role (I’ll expand on that in a second), I think there are two important pros for player housing and one big caveat that Larisa mentioned in her post.

The Ultima Online player housing model

Before I get to those, let me explain how player housing in UO worked. Your bank could hold a maximum of 140 items. In UO, this was not a lot of items. There were things like reagents, crafting materials, gold, rare items, house decorations (plays a large role in UO), etc. Far more than WoW has and with no easy things like how mounts are “learned” rather than carried around. In addition, UO has a weight system; each item weighs x stones (stacks of items, such as gold, weigh more or less depending on the amount) and the amount you can carry depends on your strength.

So a house (depending on the size of the house) allowed players to hold secure containers, which could in turn each hold a number of items. Larger houses could hold more items. This was necessary for any player intending to do more than just run around the graveyard killing skeletons (the UO equivalent of, say, killing boars in Goldshire).

The UO graveyard outside Britain

The graveyard outside of Britain, the main city of UO

Player housing also was not instanced or separated from the main game world, which it likely would be in WoW. Instead, houses dotted the countryside (weren’t allowed in cities) and your house was in a specific place that you often got to know well, as though it really was your home. This presents a problem for potential WoW housing: it wouldn’t feel integral to the game world because it likely would be somewhere you teleport to by use of a magic key type item.

Customization is king

My house

My house in UO. Lots of decoration

In addition, UO housing was very, very customizable. Not only could you buy a fair number of types of houses (from small one-room to a keep, with 4 wings and a courtyard), your house came empty. This meant that players (and NPCs sold basic stuff) sold and crafted items for decoration. Rare drops from mobs were often decorative items, unlike the traditional weapon/armour rare drop model. Vanity items played a larger part in the UO economy than they do in WoW, and crafting was also more than a means to creating/enhancing equipment.

The pros and cons of homebuilding

Now that the preamble is out of the way, here are the two pros and one con of player housing in WoW:

Pro 1: Allows players to decorate a piece of the game world, making it their home. Much like phasing quests allowed players to make an impact on the game, decorating player housing lets players directly affect a part of the world. Decoration also has a big effect on the economy and has the potential to make crafting more interesting if Blizzard followed a UO-style model of decoration (easy to do since we have things like Tinkering, Tailoring and Blacksmithing already).

Crafting skills

The various crafting skills of UO

Pro 2: A place to call home. I’m not an RPer by any means, but when I played UO, I always made a point to log off in my house. Even though I could just as easily log off at the inn in a city. In addition to RP benefits, homes give players a more logical way to store additional items. Instead of the traditional method of “bank alts” and “alt guild banks” which are a hassle and don’t really fit into the world very well, having a chest in your house where you store crap is pretty sweet. Things you could also do in your house: craft, auction, bank, get your hair cut, etc. Gold sinks galore.

The caveat: People leave cities to go into houses, leaving cities more empty. The image of cities being empty sucks. It’s always great that cities are filled with people in the streets, yelling crap about Chuck Norris. However, people are always going to need to be in big cities to pug raids, use trade chat, see what guilds might be recruiting, train professions and skills, buy items, reforge gear, etc. Striking a balance between what you can do in a house and what you can do in a city would be very important to making sure people still had incentive to go to Dalaran, Stormwind, etc.

Pipe dreams

I would like to say that, while I think player/guild housing is an interesting concept and generally good for MMOs, I have a feeling Blizzard has no plans to add it to WoW. Adding such a huge thing to a game not really designed with it in mind is a huge undertaking, one I imagine Blizzard will keep in mind for its mysterious future MMO, whenever that appears.





Rotations: What’s Okay, What’s Not?

9 11 2010

In a recent post on WoW Insider, Matthew Rossi quotes a post from Ghostcrawler about Blizzard’s past and future stances on killing/changing certain specs/rotations. I, of course, was waiting for a mention of the once-great 32/39 spec (I’ve tried in vain to find a screenshot of an old talent calc, but to no avail).

The post focused on diseaseless Blood tanking rotations in 4.0.1. Ghostcrawler said: “It doesn’t bother us unless ignoring diseases becomes the only reasonable way to play.” In the past, Blizz has killed a few specs. Notably diseaseless Blood and 32/39. 32/39 did some funny things, like focus on Howling Blast, Icy Touch, and Gargoyle instead of using Obliterate. Diseaseless Blood similarly did funny things; both specs were head and shoulders above the alternatives.

And while GC couches this in terms of making changes because some spec or rotation didn’t match up with the core values of the class, I can’t help but see it as quashing innovation in favour of keeping us tight to Blizzard’s vision for us. The example GC uses, of Rogues becoming ranged DPSers, is far more extreme than anything that’s ever happened to DKs. Yes, we’ve sometimes used abilities where clearly we weren’t intended to (for example, the phase where Unholy used Obliterate instead of SS), but we never changed the way the class played in a way that would affect more than our own DPS, as Blizzard suggests ranged Rogues would.

32/39 no more

NO 32/39 ALLOWED

The Great Innovator

I imagine that at some point in Cataclysm, DKs will start doing something odd again. We’ve had a lot of stuff changed in 4.0.1, and probably a lot more to come in major patches in Cataclysm. And I hope that Blizzard won’t feel the need to stomp on really cool things like the 32/39 spec. They didn’t just nerf it down to acceptable numbers, remember (it was definitely OP). They completely destroyed the spec that the rotation was built on by moving Gargoyle and Howling Blast deeper into their respective trees. Because in their minds, the spec was wrong. Similar things happened to builds that spammed Icy Touch, which I thought were also cool.

This has been something of a windy post, but my main point is that I hope we continue to innovate and do really cool, interesting things with our DPS rotations as Cataclysm matures, patch by patch. And I hope Blizzard takes a cue from this GC post and let’s us roll with our weird, non-intuitive rotations, because that’s part of what makes Death Knights interesting.





The Default UI and Its Flaws

30 10 2010

As you’ve probably noticed, in patch 4.0.1, Blizzard introduced what is essentially a default-UI version (WoW Insider gives a brief explanation of it here) of Power Auras, a mod that let you create large, visible notifications for procs, debuffs, any number of things. At first it was confusing–I didn’t know what meant what, and big things were popping up on my screen confusing me during combat. That quickly passed as I became familiar with new talents and abilities. And while the WoW Insider post I linked above says this about Bizzard’s auras:

It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s pretty. I was really impressed with these ability notifications because, frankly, there aren’t really any options. The system is just … there. Believe me, it’s a plus. Sure, there are options to turn it on or off and set the opacity, but that’s all you get. Fewer options, in this case, is better,

Blizzard auras

No countdown to be seen

I have to disagree that fewer options is better. The images are nice, yes, and it’s good that we can set the opacity, but frankly, that’s not better than Power Auras. This isn’t really a complaint, seeing as how this is the case with almost all basic UI elements that are inspired by addons–the Blizzard version is functional but not customizable. But rather a plea that raiders do not use these over Power Auras or similar notification systems.

Timing is everything

The most important feature that the Blizzard auras are missing is a timer. When Killing Machine or Rime procs (the two Frost DK auras), I need to know when they’re going to run out so I can plan my next few abilities appropriately. It’s also crucial to know what’s going on with other abilities. Again taking the example of Frost DKs, Unbreakable Armor, on a 1 minute CD, needs to be used often, and Power Auras will help while Blizzard’s won’t.

I haven’t yet had a lot of experience with the raid UI, but my guess from looking at the options is that it has about half the functionality of Grid. When I healed as a Druid, one of the most important uses of Grid was seeing where my buffs were and how long was left on them without having to click on players individually. Grid does this–admittedly with a fair amount of setup–and does it well.

 

Raid frame options

Limited options

Too much is too much

On the opposite side of things, some default UI stuff just does way too much. Again, this comes down to a lack of customizability, but leads to a problem of too much information busying up your screen. The default Floating Combat Text is a great example of this. Realistically, you don’t need to see any kind of damage in a raid environment, but it is nice to see when you hit a big crit or something. It’s also really important to see certain things, like immunes, parries or misses since that can either mean you’re positioned wrong or have been standing in something bad (e.g. dust clouds). You don’t need to see your DoTs ticking, your pet’s attacks, other raiders’ hits, white hits, etc. I set my combat text to display the following:

  • Any incoming damage above 3k (probably will raise this once Cataclysm raiding begins since health pools will be much larger)
  • Outgoing damage above 5k (this means I don’t usually see non-crits or white hits)
  • Parries, dodges, misses, immunes, buffs and debuffs

    Floating Combat Text

    Can't control the flow of numbers

That’s the really important stuff you need to see. Blizzard’s combat text just isn’t this flexible. And your level of addon customization should ideally reflect how seriously you raid. If you do 5-mans and that’s it, well, most of this stuff won’t matter. But in a 10-minute long boss fight, it’s extremely important to see what matters most in a clear and understandable way. Lack of information or missing something in a cloud of text is no excuse for a death. So get customizing!

Like stats, raiding UIs should be min-maxed

For raiders, the barrier to entry is already steep. If you want to seriously play your class, there’s a lot of information you need to know, and more and more comes with each patch/expansion. 4.0.1, for instance, introduced entirely new abilities, a new rune system, more glyphs to work with and an easier way to switch glyphs around, and reforging. Addons are simply another aspect of this. Many great addons do far too much or far too little out of the box, such as MikScrollingBattleText, of which I use a very pared down version. 

So when you’re going into your next raid, pay attention to exactly what you’re using the default UI for and how you could do it better with addons. No matter how much Blizzard incorporates addon-inspired ideas, these will almost never be ideal for any serious raider.





The Fringe Benefits: Beyond Death Knight Raid Buffs

25 10 2010

In the process of forming my Cataclysm raid group, there has been a lot of discussion of what classes we need to get all available buffs. As a primarily Frost specced Death Knight, I bring a few things: 20% attack speed debuff (Frost Fever), 4% physical damage taken debuff (Brittle Bones) and 10% ranged/melee attack speed (Improved Icy Talons). This isn’t much, and a lot depends on having other melee/hunters in the raid to benefit. If I’m in a 10-man with mostly casters, I’m not helping much at all.

The Fringe Benefits

Falling down

AMS will save me, right?

This buff-induced unhappiness got me thinking about what else I bring to the table as a Death Knight. These things won’t be unique to DKs, particularly, but they are still important considerations when dreaming up an ideal raid group.

  • Survival. Few DPS classes have as many ways to stay alive as Death Knights do. Paladins and Druids come to mind because they can heal themselves in a pinch, but that’s far more reactive than most DK survival tools. The abilities involved are: Death Strike, also a reactive tool; Anti-Magic Shell, now with 7-second glyphed goodness; Death Pact; and Icebound Fortitude. These survival tools benefit a lot from knowledge of the fight. To use some old-timey examples: Death Striking after Gluth’s decimates, Icebound Fortituding in preparation for XT’s tantrum… you get the point.
  • Slows. Chains of Ice, while not as awesome as it used to be, is still a potent slow. And there are fights where this matters. Mimiron’s Bomb bots, for example. I also read there was an ooze that needed slowing in the Omnitron Defense System encounter. Awesome!
  • Army of the Dead. Hey, don’t look at me like that. I swear this spell will be the lynch pin of an encounter some day.
  • Interrupts, taunts, emergency tank, Death Grip, lions, tigers, bears, etc.

My point in all this is that a class is more than the three or four buffs it brings and some DPS/tanking/healing. No matter how much our gear is standardized between classes, or however much we’re reduced to numbers and buffs, each class inevitably brings its own stuff to a raid.

Note: I also posted this as a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic idea, so if you have your own blog, check it out!





One-Handed Weapons: A Death Knight Conundrum

21 10 2010

This has bugged me ever since I started Dual Wielding as a Death Knight. It still bugs me to this day. And it bugs me even more given the recent hullaballoo over simplifying stats and making sure each class has access to properly itemized gear. Changes in this vein include: all healers getting mana regeneration from spirit, reforging and the removal of ArP in favour of mastery (ArP was worth more to classes that did lots of physical damage compared to classes like Paladins and DKs whose rotations include magical damage). So what’s bugging me? Where are the one-handed weapons itemized for DKs?

Agility One Handers

Bad itemization, bad!

Oops. This post has been edited to reflect the truth

As excellent commenter Argon pointed out, not only can Fury Warriors also use one-handed DPS weapons again, but there are also a number of properly itemized one-handers for DKs and Fury Warriors that have popped up on Wowhead. So instead of deleting this post, which I considered, I’m going to turn it into a more positive one.

Thanks, Blizzard

Since 4.0.1 hit the servers, I’ve been noticing a lot of little things that just make life easier and more fun. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give thanks.

  • ONE-HANDERS WITH DPS STATS AND STRENGTH! (Thanks again, Argon!)
  • General UI improvements (everything looks a lot prettier and is generally more elegant now, especially the spellbook)
  • Guild achievements and leveling
  • The amazing transformation of Haste and making it a useful, interesting stat for DKs (it’s really cool to have a stat that isn’t a straight DPS increase like most are)
  • The new glyph system

That’s all I can think of for now. There’s lots more. The only reason I didn’t include reforging in the list is because it’s just so complex and I have yet to wrap my brain around my feelings toward it.








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