Does Anybody Really Enjoy Faction Champions?

31 10 2009

I don’t try to hide it. Whenever I down Jaraxxus, I sigh at the upcoming fight. I hate Faction Champions. I’d rather lose Eye of the Storm than do this encounter, which says a lot since I’m not a huge fan of PvP. I know there are a lot of other people who don’t like it (and some crazy weirdos who do) so I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why I don’t like it.

  1. Randomness. In very few other fights can you get gibbed so easily, especially while CC’d. I can break fear once every two minutes with my PvP trinket, but when I can’t break out? More often than not the melee champions start chasing me and kill me while I’m CC’d. Is there any other encoutner in Wrath where something so random can happen (and happens frequently)?
  2. I don’t get to DPS. I spend most of my time in heroic FCs casting Chains of Ice on the Death Knight and the Rogue to keep them off our casters. So basically I end up running around, away from the kill target, to cast Chains. That’s boring. It’s not the same as having a few interesting gimmick-things to do in an encounter, like switching essences in Twin Valks.
  3. It’s not PvP. One of the irritating things about this fight is that I would likely perform better if I used a PvP spec. Since it is a raid, and not a battleground, I find this to be something of a design flaw. I’m all for some off-the-wall talents being useful sometimes (like reduced Death Grip cooldown to help with Sparks on Malygos) but when it’s better to completely nuke your DPS in favour of a bit more survival? I’ll pass, thanks.
  4. Morale. I play on a PvE server, so there are a lot of people in my raid who just don’t like PvP. Whatever people say about FCs, it will always be a PvP encounter forced into a PvE situation to me. Again, this is bad design in my opinion. If anything, this is the kind of encounter that should be put behind a PvP barrier like Wintergrasp, since at least the flavour of PvP is retained. So when we do this fight, and half the raid is irritated even before we wipe, well, it just doesn’t help the raid’s morale.

So why don’t you like Faction Champions?





Lessons WoW PvP Could Learn From DotA

29 07 2009

While I was on vacation, I downloaded Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne to play some DotA, or Defense of the Ancients if you’re not in the loop. Playing DotA (a game made based almost completely on PvP) got me thinking about how WoW’s battleground system could be improved if Blizzard took a few lessons from DotA creator Icefrog. It might seem far-fetched or even pointless to compare a WC3 custom map with WoW, but think of it like a battleground. Each play-through of DotA takes around 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and I realized that if battlegrounds could be as fun, varied, and complicated I might play them more often.

Instead, running battlegrounds often feels more like a long, tortuous grind, especially if you’re not playing with your guild or even a group of people you know. So what does DotA have that BGs don’t?

Variety: the spice of online violence

BGs

Each DotA game lets you choose between a large number of heroes and, as the game progresses, items. While variety like this can’t be directly translated into WoW (you only get the gear and abilities available to whatever character/class you’re playing), maybe a similar effect could be achieved. Battlegrounds are already moving in this direction, what with the addition of vehicles, seaforium charges, etc. To go further than this, though: what if a new battleground revolved entirely around vehicles, and allowed you to choose one at the beginning of each BG (or on respawn) such as the Flame Leviathan fight?

This would bring vehicles closer to the way heroes are used in DotA while giving BGs a bit more replayability due to the ability to choose different vehicles each time.

Powerups!

Both BGs and DotA have powerups that you can pick up to buff your character in some way for a short period. WoW has movement speed, damage and regeneration. DotA has double damage, haste, invisibility, illusion (creates two controllable copies of your hero) and regeneration. The difference between the two is that these runes (as they’re called in DotA) are central to successful DotA play, while their equivalents in WoW are nothing more than afterthoughts. Speed buffs are usually wasted (except in twinking and WSG) due to the existence of mounts. Making these short buffs strategic rather than near-useless could add new elements of play to battlegrounds.

There could even be powerups for vehicles, such as armor upgrades, speed boosts (more useful for vehicles since they usually move slower than mounts) and extra siege damage.

Map interactivity

DotA is a lot like the old Alterac Valley, but back when people actually did the quests and captured rams or wolves and turned in armor scraps. In DotA, there are neutral creeps that you can farm for gold, a neutral boss (Roshan) who drops a special item, and neutral shops scattered around the map. This means that there is more to do than solely capture enemy objectives and kill enemy heroes. For example, it offers the choice between “laning” (staying in one of the three lanes present in DotA and fighting the creeps the opposing side sends) or “jungling” (running around in the forest killing neutral creeps, usually unopposed by enemy heroes).

Some ideas to translate map interactivity into WoW are: the ability to pick up items unique to specific battlegrounds; perform tasks other than capturing objectives and killing the enemy; and maybe even teleporters or items that allow you to teleport around the map (not entirely new to WoW either, see this item).

Killing enemies

In DotA, killing an enemy hero gives you gold and experience while simultaneously denying the dead hero time in the lane, experience, and taking a bit of gold out of his coffers. In WoW BGs, killing an enemy doesn’t give you anything, aside from eliminating the competition on the way to capturing map objectives. In Wintergrasp, you gain rank (the only way to get vehicles) but it’s often easier to simply kill the NPCs scattered around the map. This is especially true if, as on my server, tenacity is often fudged up at the beginning of a game, giving one side 20 stacks for a short time.

In 3.2, Blizzard is changing the way honour works in BGs, giving bonus honour for defending objectives and capturing flags or bases. I applaud this change, but also think it should be accompanied by a different one. If there is some in-BG penalty (i.e. something that does not affect your character outside of the current battleground) for dying, it might make you think twice about rushing off headlong into a crowd of enemies, which is a popular style of BG play. In DotA, part of the punishment for death is a long respawn time, which gets longer as you level up your hero. While I don’t think WoW BGs should take on this same method (people, including me, would complain) perhaps dying repeatedly could leave debuffs, akin to resurrection sickness (but with a variety of different negative effects) and killing enemies could leave behind buffs.

This is similar to a mode called “item drop” in DotA, which, as the name suggests, causes your hero to drop an item from his inventory at each death, allowing opposing heroes to pick it up.

A 5-man battleground

People, including me, love small teams of people. I love Warsong Gulch for this reason — it’s really the only battleground that I can play with a full guild group, rather than playing with pugs. If a 5-man BG were introduced, as opposed to a new 40-man, it would make premade BG play a lot easier. It might even allow for a more serious BG, akin to arena, rather than the spray and pray approach taken in most other WoW BGs (which typically rely on large crowds of people running around attacking lone opponents). Playing with strangers generally reduces the amount of teamwork and fun available in a given BG, so a small one might make people take BGs more seriously.

Obviously not all of the features in DotA can translate successfully into WoW since the games are so different, but I certainly think that WoW could do well to craft a BG based on DotA’s successful model.





What Should He Have Asked/Answered?

26 06 2009

Some people asked what questions I think should have been asked and answered. So here goes (in no particular order).

1) What’s the deal with Armor Penetration? I know it was addressed (kind of) in the Q&A, but I would really like to know if there are plans to make this stat valuable to Frost and Unholy DKs and how it might be accomplished, not just a vague implication that it will be. This stat was prevalent on Ulduar gear and, unfortunately, badge gear, and yet was useless to me and the Unholy DK in my guild. I’m not sure if it appears at a similar rate for gear from the next raid, but it’s already on both the new plate DPS Blacksmithing recipes, as reported by MMO-Champion. Will we have to continue avoiding many upgrades due to Armor Penetration, and what possible fix(es) is planned for the stat? Perhaps a talent that converts ArPen rating into something else, like frost/shadow damage done?

2) The Glyph of Disease, though I don’t use it, is rather buggy. Will this glyph be fixed in an effort to make it a more viable choice for those who want to use it?

3) Why is Blood being let off the hook nerf-wise while Frost and Unholy (which do similar to less DPS in PvE) both got significant nerfs to their main strike? Was this a PvP-related change? Will we see Blood nerfed in PvE but given buffs to its PvP viability?

4) Will we get one-handed weapons itemized for DK DW in the next patch? In Naxx, we got rings with strength. In Ulduar we got capes and necks with strength. There are even guns with strength now, for warriors. I can’t imagine Blizzard wants us rolling on tank weapons to DPS with, so it’s problematic that Frost is being made the DW tree while all one-handed weapons have agility on them.

5) With the buffs to shield block mechanics, will we see any similar changes to Unbreakable Armor, which as a tank cooldown functions very similarly to shield block (and so ends up being vastly underpowered compared to Bone Shield and Vamp. Blood)?

6) Will Blood Plague see a buff? It used to remove HoTs, but now has no added effect, where Frost Fever reduces attack speeds, so now the two diseases feel unbalanced.

7) Courtesy of commenter Jezzlez: Will we see a tweak to each tree’s main Tanking Cooldowns to make them dependable tools again, but without needing to be stripped down because of their PvP dominance…? (again)

If I think of any more, I’ll edit them in. Similarly, if any interesting ones come up in the comments I’ll put them up here as well.





Bored of WoW?

7 06 2009

Play battlegrounds while your GM is completely drunk. Best way to revitalize your WoW interest, ever.

"What do you mean you can't kill three dustruction warlocks at once? Stop whining!"

"What do you mean you can't kill three dustruction warlocks at once? Stop whining!"





3.1.3, or How Will I Tank With 20% Less Bonus Armour?

26 05 2009

So tonight the patch notes for 3.13 dropped onto the interwebs from wherever Blizzard keeps them. Here are the two important Death Knight-related changes:

Frost Presence: Armor bonus is now 60% down from 80%.

Death Knight PvP Gauntlets: The chance to refresh a Frost Rune when casting Chains of Ice has been removed. When equipped, these gloves now generate 5 additional runic power whenever Chains of Ice is used.

I may look angry but nerfs make me cry on the inside.

I may look angry but nerfs make me cry on the inside.

The armour nerf (owie)

I’m not sure where this came from, to be honest. I also don’t know if this is aimed at PvP or PvE. The main complaint about DK tanking seemed to always be about the ability to negate burst magic damage through IBF, Bone Shield and AMS. This nerf won’t do anything to change these strengths. If the nerf is PvP-related, I can see the reasoning behind it. Being able to gain a ridiculous amount of armor with no real loss of damage dealing is very strong against Rogues, Warriors, and other melee classes. I know that’s my strategy in arenas, anyways. So much of tank-damage is magical these days that I’m not sure this will have a game-breaking effect on PvE DK tanks, but I’ll have to see if I notice a difference when the patch hits.

Onoes my PvP gloves!

I saw this coming a mile away. Granted, I didn’t expect a glove bonus that I would be incredibly meh about, but such is life as a DK. Ghostcrawler has been responding to QQ posts on the forums saying things like “What if it [the problem] is the glove bonus” (Source)? Granted, the current incarnation of the glove bonus was probably too strong, and likely a result of Blizzard not really knowing what is OP and what isn’t for DKs. For another example of this, see the original t7.5 bonus (+10 RP on Obliterate, Death Strike and Scourge Strike) which turned out to be incredibly awesome. Then look at the t8.5 4-piece, which is pretty much trash and barely even worth considering, especially as Frost.

Although I am not enamored of the new glove bonus, I am wary of it becoming powerful. The nerf means we can’t cast CoI quite as much, but we’ll also be generating more runic power, an ability which can often get out of control. See again the t7.5 bonus. I don’t think this nerf will damage a DK’s ability to kite all that much, but it might force more strategic use of Death Runes. Rather than always using them on a Scourge Strike or whatever attack your spec uses, it might be better to save the runes for casting Chains.

A happy note

Since this post has otherwise been about nerfs, here is a change that may make you happy if you are a raider.

The flight time of Rocket Strikes has been increased, and Rocket Strikes will try to prefer players at range.

The Leviathan Mk II component of the V-07-TR-0N will become stunned during Phase 4 when the VX-001 component begins to cast the P3Wx2 Laser Barrage ability.

Proximity mines now deal less damage and have a lower duration. A small arming time has also been added so proximity mines will not immediately detonate on creation.

All extremely convenient (and not uber-nerfs) to the Mimiron encounter. I hated running back to the boss only to randomly get mines tossed into my path killing me before I could move. Stupid mechano-gnome and his Voltron powersuit thing.





How Not to Be a Fail Knight

14 05 2009

Similar questions have been posed by For the Horde and Gnomeageddon about their classes, each providing a list of typical class-related problems and solutions. So, what are some of the more difficult things to do as a Death Knight, in either PvE or PvP?

Timing Anti-Magic Shell (AMS)

In a raid, AMS performs two functions. First, it helps your healers by absorbing a lot of damage. Second, using it will often fill your RP bar to full (depending on what damage you’re taking). This makes it invaluable and, in Ulduar, usable on almost every cooldown. A couple of examples are Kologarn’s Shockwave, Hodir’s Frozen Blows, Ignis’ Flame Jets… the list goes on. Soaking up RP through AMS is helpful for all specs, though most of all Frost due to the uber-awesome nature of FS.

In PvP, AMS is more of a defensive cooldown. Save it for when your partner can’t heal/help you, or when you are being focused by spellcasters. If you’re going toe to toe with an opposing DK, AMS can give you an edge by preventing application of diseases as well as damage from DC, SS, and FS.

Balancing DPSing and Survival

In almost every Ulduar encounter, melee has to move to get out of something. Missiles, Overloads, Fire, Weird Glowy Stuff, etc. It’s not incredibly hard to just strafe sideways out of whatever is hurting you, but the problem remains that when you’re moving you may not be in melee range or even paying attention to your DPS rotation. So, when you’re running around avoiding whatever is ailing you, consider these things. Always remember, though, that survival comes first.

  1. You have ranged abilities. Use them.
  2. Don’t let your diseases fall off, even if you’re running in and out.
  3. Pay attention to your rune cooldowns. Do you have time before running back to the boss to use more than one rotation of ranged abilities?

The longer you’re away from a boss’s melee range, the more important it is to keep tossing ranged attacks and refreshing your diseases.

Macroing Rune Strike to Everything

For example:

/cast blood strike

/cast rune strike

This is great for levelling. You rarely need to do anything complicated with a mob and the faster you kill it the quicker you get to the next mob. In PvP and raiding (well, mostly tanking rather than DPSing) doing so can quickly become problematic. First, PvP. In the first arena I played with Rune Strike macroed to everything, I often found myself lacking the RP to cast AMS, IBF or Hungering Cold. Add to that the importance of keeping RP to DC if your opponenets are at range and macroing Rune Strike can be dangerous.

If you’re tanking in a raid, the same principles apply. You need to have RP available to use defensive cooldowns to survive. Rune Strike should always be secondary to your survival as you should be able to generate enough threat to keep the boss on you without it anyways. If you’re DPSing, macroing Rune Strike can be slightly beneficial since in certain fights (think the ton of little flower adds that Freya spawns) you have the opportunity to parry and dodge random attacks.

Using Your Cooldowns

Each DPS spec has cooldowns to increase damage, for 20-40s at a time. When is the best time to use them? A well-known saying applies: early and often. One caveat applies: many fights have specific phases where the boss takes extra damage or you need to pull off some burst damage. Some examples of this are XT, Emalon, Razorscale, hard-mode AoI (Steelbreaker does crazy things!), and the list probably goes on to bosses I have yet to experience. In these instances, save your cooldowns or at least time them so they’ll be up at the important times. In other fights, like Ignis and Kologarn, the fight is fairly constant and the more you use your cooldowns the more damage you’ll do.

The hardest cooldown to manage and use properly is Army of the Dead. There are places where it shines, doing about 100,000 damage if allowed to DPS one target without being distracted by shiny adds or AoE’d down by a brisk gust of wind. AotD ghouls will also taunt any non-boss (mobs that don’t have a skull where their level should be) thing in the area. As a result, you won’t want to use AotD on Ignis because of the importance of the OTs and dragging constructs around. On the other hand, Razorscale is the perfect fight to use army for these reasons:

  • You know in advance when you need an extra burst of DPS (landing at 50% or waiting for the final harpoon to be shot)
  • There are no (or very few) adds around during the DPS burst phases
  • LOL LOOK AT ALL THE GHOOLS!!!!111

Even if you’re DPSing, you should also remember your IBF as, in certain situations where you might take lots of physical damage (XT’s tantrums), it helps out your healers quite a bit. If you ever have to pinch tank, it’s good to pop your IBF to ease the transition (especially since you’ll already be taking extra damage from not being in tank gear/spec).

The hardest part of properly playing a Death Knight is to keep track of and efficiently use all of your resources. This goes for runes as well as cooldowns. Don’t get tunnel vision in either PvP or PvE, keep thinking, and you too can avoid being a Fail Knight.





What Runeforge Should I Use?

10 05 2009

180px-Runeforge

NOTE: Updated for 4.0.1

From the limited data WordPress provides me on Google searches that lead to my blog, it seems people want to know what runeforge they should be using for DPS.

USE FALLEN CRUSADER.

The reasoning behind using Fallen Crusader over the other enchants is that the +15% strength it provides (it was nerfed from 30%, but its ppm [proc per minute] was increased, which greatly increased its uptime) affects ALL the spells and strikes a DPS Death Knight will use. Cinderglacier and Razorice have a narrower scope and so are generally less useful.

For Frost Dual Wielding, you should be using Fallen Crusader on OH and Razorice on MH. Razorice on MH stacks it faster, while the proc rate for Fallen Crusader on MH/OH is the same.

Tanking is a different ball game

Stoneskin Gargoyle is the optimal choice here. 4% armour and 2% stamina? Yes please.

PvP is another metaphor describing how it’s different, almost like it’s a horse of a different colour

For BGs, I would suggest using Fallen Crusader due to the damage and healing. In arenas, however, Swordshattering is worth consideration due to cutting disarm time in half. If you face a disproportionate amount of warriors and rogues, Swordshattering could be a boon and worth losing the DPS/healing of Fallen Crusader. You’ll also get more Rune Strikes from the extra parry chance. That said, this is really only a good option if you know that you face more melee, especially rogues and warriors, than other classes. Against spellcasters this rune goes to waste, which is a large downside.

Spellshattering is simply not worth consideration. 4% spell damage isn’t all that important and you’ll most likely never get silenced, especially if you play with a healer as a partner. Mages/Spriests who think outside the box, or even opposing DKs might silence you on occasion, but it’s not threatening enough to be worth runeforging to prevent.





From Raiding to the Arena

8 05 2009
180px-Dalaran_Arena

Out of line of sight! In line of sight! In sight of the line! Argh!

I’ll be honest, for a very long time while I played my druid and my first few months as a Death Knight, I abhorred PvP. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of Wintergrasp, arenas and BGs to get geared and help a druid friend of mine get one of the furious gladiator weapons. I won’t purport to be able to present strategies that will help you become an expert in PvP, because I’m still learning these kinds of things. I will, however, offer some advice on what I’ve found helpful in learning to be better in arenas.

1. Situational Awareness is different in arenas than raids

In a raid situation, situational awareness is largely related to your own survival. Stay out of the fire. Move out of the eyebeams. In an arena, you need to pay as much attention to your feet and the fire you may or may not be standing in as to those of your partner. I’m really only playing 2v2 with any seriousness, but one of my biggest failings so far (though hopefully it’s improving) was not being aware of what my partner was doing or what was happening to her. Love your minimap, keep track of your arena buddies and try not to LoS away from your healer. Learning when to use Death Grip or Chains of Ice to keep her safe from rogues and other dangerous things. This brings me to my next point.

2. The UI you use for PvE may not work for PvP

The UI and mods I use for raiding are largely set up to let me know when the boss is going to do the next thing. These events are typically on predictable timers and so you can often avoid them by thinking ahead and planning what you will be doing. You also rarely need to target more than one mob, and extra targets are usually tanked and so stay relatively stable. In an arena, this is not the case. You need to have a way to easily cast on 2+ (depending on the type of arena you play) targets as well as switching between them. This can mean setting up hotkeys to cast on a focus target or using Clique and a PvP unit frame (I use Gladius) to make casting easier. A mix of these is probably best so you can best protect

My UI in a raid.

My UI in a raid.

your partners by way of being able to cast, without searching for buttons or tab-targeting, Chains of Ice, Death Grip and Strangulate.

3. You need to learn a new kind of timing

In raids, it’s obvious when you have to interrupt, switch targets, or turn on Frost Presence. Kel’Thuzad casting Frostbolt? Time to Mind Freeze. One section of Mimiron going down faster than the rest? Switch targets. OT dead? Turn on Frost Presence and do your best to tank whatever’s loose. In an arena, you have to decide when to use Mind Freeze, Strangulate, as well as the spec-dependent abilities such as Gargoyle, Hungering Cold and Mark of Blood. Since these abilities all have CDs that feel like they take forever to end, managing them is important. Some tips:

  • Save strangulate for when you think you can achieve something important, like killing one of your opponents, within the duration of the spell.
  • Save Mind Freeze for important spells. This seems obvious, but I sometimes mistakenly interrupt a Restoration Shaman’s Lava Burst only to have him cast Lesser Healing Wave two seconds later.
  • Use Gargoyle when you are going to have at least 6-10 seconds of uninterrupted (i.e. not running around feared) burst on an opponent. Gargoyle is immensely helpful in killing healers
  • Don’t pop your PvP trinket (or Every Man for Himself, damn humans!) on just any stun. Save it for when you absolutely NEED to get out of it to save your partner or finish off a wounded opponent.

For every cooldown, there’s an appropriate time to use it in order to get the most out of the spell, whether it’s a simple Leap/Gnaw combo or the invaluable Empower Rune Weapon.

4. Macros are your friends.

For spells you cast a lot, like Chains of Ice, it may help to have macros set up that automatically cast on your focus target. For example:

/cast [target=focus] chains of ice

This macro will cast the aforementioned spell (or any other spell you want) on your focus target without you having to click unit frames and lose your current target. Macros like these save you time, which is worth a lot when you are trying to get a warrior to stop beating your healer’s face in with a big stick.

In conclusion, if you’re moving from raiding into arenas, like me, the switch can be quite jarring. My advice is to slowly start using more and more PvP-related mods and macros to give yourself time to get used to them. Just as moving your hotkeys around often can slow down or confuse your reactions, completely changing your UI or the way you play is hard to do all at once. Take time, enjoy the process, and kill some horde.








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