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.





What’s Changed for Frost in 4.0.1

17 10 2010

As I continue to hit stuff in Frost spec, and read more EJ things, I keep noticing things that changed from pre-4.0.1 that might not be so obvious. So here’s a list of the changes and a brief explanation for each one. I’ll update for any changes I notice in future/commenters make me aware of.

DnD only costs 1 Unholy

Big changes to Death and Decay

The List:

  • Use KM procs on Obliterate rather than Frost Strike. With the new patch and talents, OB hits harder than FS, so all Killing Machine procs should be used for OB. Do not, however, wait for OB runes to come back up if you can FS. Delaying attacks is almost never a good idea given how close to GCD-capped the rotation is.
  • Frost Fever no longer HAS to be up for us to do any semblance of damage. Yes, diseases are still great, but the talents that buffed our damage by a lot when FF was up are no longer, so it’s safe to DPS down low-health adds without applying diseases. If you’re using Glyph of HB, however, you’re still going to be applying FF as you run towards the adds anyways.
  • Don’t pestilence for low numbers of adds, just HB+tab cast Plague Strike. Pestilence lowers disease damage by 50%, and so now it actually is more profitable to cast PS, tab, and cast again. HB glyph takes care of FF, and when casting lots of HB vs. OB you get excess unholy runes, so use them on PS.
  • Howling Blast is no longer affected by Killing Machine. This is a bonus for single target damage but a big loss for AoE damage; no longer can you crit on 10 targets at once with one HB. Frown.
  • Death and Decay costs one Unholy Rune! Holy crap. This is what happens when you don’t pay attention to changes for a while, then log in and have a number of WTF moments at the things that changed. Obviously, this makes it a lot easier to fit into AoE rotations, and so should almost always be used. Especially true because HB-AoE rotations leave excess Unholy Runes, as mentioned earlier.
  • AMS no longer energizes us with RP when absorbing damage. It only does so if you have the talent in deep Unholy. This sucks, but really, we have few excess GCDs so it’s not a big thing.
  • Runic Empowerment means you have to stay on your toes. This is a change for all specs, but it means that your rotation is even more priority-based than it was in previous patches. Having random runes popping up unexpectedly (and with no internal cooldown) is both a frustrating and incredibly rewarding experience. It really makes DPSing more interesting than it was previously, and also makes the ability to see runes clearly (requiring a good addon, Magic Runes being my favourite) and react quickly a lot more important than pre-4.0.1.

What else have you noticed that’s changed for Frost, or DKs in general?





How to Write a Successful Leveling Guide

14 10 2010

This is not a post about how to level your DK. This is a post about how to write a leveling guide that will do more than just tell people what zones to go to. In my opinion, leveling guides are more about how you should be shaping your character, especially in terms of gear, talents, specs, and important things to learn on the way to max level. No, it won’t tell you how to level a DK (it’s not very hard) but instead some tips for writing a leveling guide.

 

Hooray

Ding!

 

  1. Include a spec. If it isn’t obvious what order points should be placed, then you should make a note of that. For example with this Unholy spec, you’re better off putting 2 points in Butchery before getting Gargoyle/Subversion, since 20 RP on a kill is really quite useful (more so than some extra crit or a 3min cooldown). If you’re going to outline each tier individually, as shown here, make sure to include what the end result will look like. I would suggest only including one spec that is generally agreed to be the best leveling spec. People reading leveling guides are often focused on speed rather than exploration, so including only the most useful spec will be helpful to readers. Note: spec includes things like glyphs, pet talents, etc.
  2. Discuss basic rotations. For an Unholy DK, this means something very basic. For example: put up diseases, cast Scourge Strike, cast Death Coil, cast Blood Strike. Highest priority to lowest.
  3. Explain instance roles and strategy. Writing for Mages? Note some beginner tips on how to sheep things while still doing effective DPS, such as using focus macros. Writing for Death Knights? Depends whether you’re advising tanks or fledgling DPS DKs. For a tank, discuss when oh-shit buttons should be used. For a DPSer, mention what types of mobs usually die first (spellcasters, healers, for example) or how important hitting mobs from behind is. Learning these types of things as you level helps immensely when thrown into the craziness that is max level raiding.
  4. Note any class-specific leveling habits. One example: Hunters. What pets are good for leveling? Tank pets (e.g. turtles) or DPS pets (e.g. raptors)? To use another example, what totems should a Shaman use? Should a Shaman bother with totems while leveling? If so, when is it good to use them (multiple mobs in one place, etc.)?
  5. Mention important quests and questlines. Some examples: the Hodir questline, any quest that gives a new weapon to Hunters/melee classes, that sort of thing. A quest that has a large effect on max-level play or speeds up leveling is what I would consider important.

Character first

I think leveling guides are at their most helpful when focusing on combat-related information because this is the most complex aspect of leveling a new character. Wandering from zone to zone is pretty straightforward, especially since starting areas get you well-acquainted with the basics of questing and moving to new areas.

Professions also have very little effect on leveling, aside from derailing them to make time for crafting. Crafting gear for yourself is rarely effective since stuff gets outclassed so fast/heirlooms exist. When I read a leveling guide, I want to learn anything and everything that will make leveling that class faster.

What about you, what do you look for in a leveling guide?





Patch 4.0 Frost DW Talents

12 10 2010

Wondering how to spec in 4.0? Confused? Me too. This post is my attempt at creating a Frost DW spec that will do two things: get me to Cataclysm and help me get used to the new mechanisms and procs of DW Frost. Here’s the spec:

4.0 Frost DW talent specBrrrr

Some explanations:

Icy Reach vs. RPM: RPM lost a lot of its usefulness due to changes to other abilities, such as AMS not energizing runic power and Druids’ revitalize not giving runic power either. Icy Reach therefore provides more benefit in combat situations, since you should avoid capping your RP and a higher cap, if you are good at using up RP as it is generated, does not help you.

Endless Winter vs. On a Pale Horse: I lean towards EW because in the limited situations that both talents do anything, EW will help more. It frees you up to use your usual rotation and not lead to accidental wipes because you used up RP when you shouldn’t have. On a Pale Horse, on the other hand, is a more passive talent that, when it works, will help marginally, but will really not affect your gameplay very much. When you’re slowed, you’re still going to be slowed. Although both are narrow, I think EW has a more important effect when it is useful, since when interrupts are part of an encounter, they are often a significant part (see: Vezax, Jaraxxus, etc).

That’s all, folks?

The rest of the Frost talents for DW are pretty much must-haves, especially since many of them are new and the most important thing in the last months of WotLK is not to get uber DPS but to become used to how the new talents will work in tandem with the new rune regeneration system, which I’ll hopefully be able to talk about once the servers come back up.

Glyphs!

Prime glyphs: Two are fairly obvious, here being: Obliterate and Frost Strike, stalwarts of Frost glyphing. The only competition is between HB and Icy Touch. After some experimenting with both, I think I’ve come out in favour of HB, mostly due to being given the nod by EJ and some testing here and there. HB just hits harder. And means that you can do quicker, better AoE damage due to not having to rely on Icy Touch/Pestilence, which suffers from the Pestilence nerf.

Major glyphs involve a bit more choice, but mine are as follows: Pestilence, AMS, Hungering Cold (or Blood Boil). Frost gets pretty mediocre returns from these glyphs, but there isn’t a lot of choice because Pillar of Frost is likely more of a hindrance than a help for PvE. Blood Boil and Hungering Cold are exchangeable depending on how useful HC turns out to be in raids (I’ve been out of the game for a while, also never had it in PvE specs before). AMS will most certainly be helpful for obvious reasons, fire bad, etc. Pestilence range increase is still good, and the rest just don’t do anything.

Minor glyphs: These also don’t do much, but if you’re curious I’ll be taking Path of Frost, Blood Tap and Horn of Winter.

What about you? Have any other choices in mind? Have you gotten on the servers yet?





A Caper Story: Reforging Old Alliances

5 10 2010

It seems like Cataclysm has been on its way for a long time. And I guess it has been. And for what seems like the 30th time, I’ve renewed my subscription. It’s not because suddenly WoW is more exciting than it was when I left in November last year. But something else is happening, and that’s people returning to the game. Not just me, but a bunch of the people from my old guild who were the main reason that WoW was any fun.

Looking out past Dalaran

Feels like the beginning of a heist movie

At the beginning of Ocean’s Eleven, Brad Pitt and George Clooney start looking through their rolodex and picking the best people to make a team. That’s the kind of thing I was doing today–working out who we knew was coming back, who we could convince to come back, to make the best 10man Cataclysm guild we could. And it’s so great that 10man guilds are an option now, because it just gives you so much more freedom without limiting you, gear-wise.

But that’s not really the point of this post. Cataclysm is almost here, and the promise of a whole new way of doing things (changing far more than Wrath did, and in a much more interesting way, but again, that’s a post for another time) is leading people back to WoW. So here’s to bringing old friends together to beat up angry monsters.

More posts to come, hopefully.








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