Archive | November, 2010

My Beef With Tauren Paladins

Being the total nerd that I am, I’ve had to think carefully about all the new race/class combos and how they fit into the game’s lore.

I think there are a few combos that make quite a bit of sense:

  • Troll druids
  • Night elf and Dwarf magi
  • Human and Forsaken hunters.

However, there are a few that make me scratch my head:

  • Gnome priest
  • Orc mage
  • Dwarf shaman

Perhaps there is justifiable evidence for these bewildering combos in the lore that I’m just not seeing, and that’s okay.

What’s not okay, my friends, and what is most relevant to this blog: the blight of tauren paladins that is spreading across our servers.

Let’s look at a truncated history of paladins, shall we?

First there were human paladins. Alonsus Faol formed the Knights of the Silver Hand after the First War by rounding up knights and clerics and teaching them about the Light and how it can be used in times of war. Uther the Lightbringer was the first human paladin, followed by several others, including Tirion Fordring, Turalyon, and Gavinrad the Dire.

Gavinrad, by the way, is speculated as being the first dwarven paladin. Initially, the dwarves weren’t openly accepted into the Silver Hand, but after the Second War their membership was far more commonplace.

Then came the blood elves and the draenei.

The draenei are the more “legitimate” paladins of the two races, their order being the Hand of Argus, presumably founded prior to their arrival on Azeroth and well-founded in the Light-esque beliefs and powers of the naaru.

The blood elves, led by Kael’thas Sunstrider at the time, learned to be paladins when Kael’thas stormed Tempest Keep, captured M’uru, and brought the naaru back to Silvermoon as a source of magic for his people to sate their addiction. Since the naaru are beings of crystalline shards and Light-like energy, when the blood elves started siphoning energy from M’uru, they gained powers that normally one blessed with the Holy Light would gain, namely those of paladins and priests. The paladins, the first of whom was Lady Liadrin, named themselves Blood Knights.

To summarize the plot of Sunwell Plateau: Kael’thas, having been recently defeated in Tempest Keep, returned to Azeroth with his felblood elves, spirited M’uru away to the Sunwell Plateau. There, Kael’thas attempted to summon Kil’jaeden into the world but was thwarted by adventurers recruited by the Shattered Sun Offensive.

After the battle had been won, and the traitor prince now slain, Velen, prophet and leader of the draenei, reignited the Sunwell using M’uru’s spark (what I’m guessing is the very core of the former naaru and, as such, a source of immense Light-like power). Henceforth, all blood elf priests and paladins wield the Light properly through the Sunwell, thanks to the draenei.

I think it’s easy to see that I play a blood elf paladin. Also, what an odd twist for the draenei to redeem the blood elves! Anyway, moving on.

In some way, shape, or form, all paladins wield the Light, whether it’s directly (as is the case with humans and dwarves) or indirectly (through the naaru, as is the case with the blood elves and draenei). The Sunwalkers, the order of tauren paladins, derive their powers from… the sun?

An’she, as they call it, is the second eye of the Earth Mother, the other eye being the moon, Mu’sha. Blizzard attempted to justify the presence of tauren paladins through the use of balance. Supposedly, the tauren are a very balanced race, and it struck two beleaguered tauren as odd that their race would so revere Mu’sha, through druidism, but almost completely ignore An’she.

I’m not buying it. I can see the logic behind the balance argument, to be sure, but I think making the leap to paladins and priests is a little premature. It is my opinion that their link to druidism isn’t through the worship of Mu’sha but through their reverence for nature and all things living, much as their link to shamanism is through respect for the elements of Azeroth and not through the worship of some elemental lord.

In-game, the text “Forestlord and the First Druids,” as seen on the Elder Rise in Thunder Bluff, says that the first tauren (i.e. Shu’halo) druids arose through the teachings of Cenarius:

Cenarius taught the children of the earth to speak to the trees and plants. The Shu’halo became druids and worked great deeds of magic to nurse the land to health. For many generation the Shu’halo hunted with Cenarius and kept the world safe from the shadows that stirred beneath it.

Therefore, the tauren’s devotion to Mu’sha could be nothing more than the worship of the embodiment of the ideals which Cenarius taught (as he was fabled to be the son of Mu’sha and Ap’aro, known to the night elves as Elune and Malorne). Another explanation could be that the moon was simply another part of nature, much as the sun and the stars, and deserved their respect and admiration.

Indeed, there is a lot missing from Tauren culture concerning An’she, and that balance should indeed be addressed, but in my eye it does not give proper justification in the lore for the introduction of tauren paladins and priests.

But let’s shy away from the lore for a moment, I assume you’re getting a headache…

Logistically, the Horde only has one race to be paladins, whereas the Alliance has three. Remember, though, that before Burning Crusade, the Horde had no paladins at all. Paladins and shaman were faction-specific classes, and it was because of Blizzard’s unending quest to make the game “fair and balanced” that they eventually allowed a few to cross the faction borders and equalize the gameplay.

“But if I play Horde, and I want to roll a paladin, I have to be a blood elf! That’s not fair!”

To this claim, I say that there have always been restrictions on race/class combos that have been founded in, you guessed it, the lore. For the longest time, night elves couldn’t be mages. Why? Because the lore said that the night elf society despised those among them that practiced the arcane arts because it was those that had caused the Sundering by attempting to summon Sargeras to Azeroth through the Well of Eternity in their quest for greater magical power.

Draenei can’t be warlocks because it is through the manipulation of those same demonic powers that they become more like their distant cousins, the man’ari eredar, servants of the Burning Legion, their most hated enemy.

Okay, okay. I know I said let’s move on from the lore, but I felt those were good points to bring up.

Being forced to play a blood elf paladin if you wanted to play Horde? Okay, maybe that’s not so fair. Wanting another race to be available to players who aspire to be Horde paladins isn’t such a bad thing. What are our options, then?

  • Orc- No way in hell. The only possible link to the Light I could see would be through Thrall, but he is way too much of a tree-hugger shaman.
  • Troll- Again, no way, but slightly more likely than orcs simply because of Zabra Hexx and his embrace of the Light (which he learned by reading books in Scarlet Monastery; quite humorous if I do say so myself).
  • Forsaken- Maybe. With the recent turn of events in Northrend and Sylvanas’s use of valk’yrs to raise new Forsaken, I see some possibilities. Also, there are already Forsaken priests who worship the Cult of the Forgotten Shadow, so maybe some version of “dark paladin” could be devised. However, Blizz already went there with the Blood Knights initially bending M’uru’s energies to their will, so I’m unsure if they really wanted to do that again, reinforcing the stereotype that Horde = evil.

Tauren are all that remain, and it seems to me that Blizzard saw this and said “Okay, let’s roll with it.”

And that makes me a very sad, and irritable, blood elf paladin.

To the End of the World!

These past few days have been a most curious time.

Players big and small, old and young are taking in the last sights of a virtual world that has served them well for the past six years, a world in which memories have been made, alliances forged, and battles hard-fought.

A few have met a spouse, even more have met valuable friends. Azeroth truly is a place to many, many people, and not just the manifestation of computer code and gifted imagination.

So, as we all spend these last few moments before the Shattering remembering “the good old days,” let’s raise a glass:

I used to know a clever toast
But now I cannot think it
So fill your glass to anything
And damn your souls, I’ll drink it!
Life, alas
Is very drear
Up with the glass
Down with the beer!

Because I’m a classy kind of guy.

An Automatic Killer

I’m afraid there’s little time left. I started this blog to hopefully accrue enough of an audience to make a difference. Now… it seems I have little choice but to expose my true intentions.

I’m here to warn you, all of you. There’s a devious, cold-hearted killer on the loose who needs to be stopped.

I fear he’s hunting me. I’ve been hearing disturbing sounds, like metal grinding against metal, without oil to ease the din, and creepily-mechanical whispers that are slowly driving me to the brink of insanity. I have to get this out before he comes for me.

No one knows exactly how he kills his victims. Some have said that he simply stares at you while some “freak accident” leads you to your premature demise. Others claim that he has psychic powers, giving him the ability to control other creatures and bend them to do his evil deeds.

It is said that he lures in his victims by pretending to be a travelling merchant, selling his wares at reasonable prices. Sometimes he even stoops so low as to pretend to be your “humble servant,” someone you can trust to safeguard your most prized possessions. It is by forging this bond of trust that your death is assured.

Those who have seen him have quickly perished. His name is well-known but never uttered, for fear of empowering the maniac.

Oh God, the whispers are getting louder now. I sense he is nearly upon me. The sound of raging fire and grinding metal are deafening now. The heat… it’s becoming a labor to breathe.

I have enough of a charge on my camera… I swear, I will get this out, I will make his identity known to the rest of the world… even if it’s the last thing I do.

Especially if it’s the last thing I do.

OH GOD, IT’S YOU! I TRUSTED YOU! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS, TO MY FRIENDS, MY FAMILY?!

WHERE DID THIS FIRE COME FROM, OH SHIT WHERE’S MY CAMERA?!

YOU SON OF A oi;iaergio;ahhhhhhhhhhhhhharaklerghaerghioupeoih;hhhhhhhhhhhhh

Hello.

Antigen had to step out for a minute, he was feeling a mite feverish. Do not fret, he will return soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pressing engagement that is most urgent.

Take care.

Zealotry and Divine Storm: From Useless to Useful?

I’ve had my head in the sand lately when it comes to beta changes. So much is fluctuating that trying to follow it all without a beta account to actively test it and experience it is migraine-inducing, at least for me. So imagine my shock when I decided to roll up my sleeves and get elbow deep in some beta stuff… and discovered  a few things that sorta rocked my world.

Disclaimer: in case it wasn’t apparent in the opening paragraph, I’m not in the beta, nor am I heavily involved with the beta theorycrafting community. The following is merely a commentary on recent changes I’ve seen and common-sense ideas of how to further them.

1. Zealotry sucks in its current form, so the devs took it off the GCD and made it not consume Holy Power.

The re-directed blue post is seen on MMO-Champion here.

From browsing the EJ ret threads, it’s apparent that “the math” shows that fillers and outshining our finishers (i.e. HoW and Exo-AoW are exceeding 3-HP TV in damage and, therefore, rotation priority). A lot of this has to do with some hotfix nerfs to TV and CS damage modifiers, as well as buffs to Exo.

Essentially, the devs saw a trend developing where we were stacking haste to lower our cooldown on CS, allowing us to pump out more TVs per encounter. Since both CS and TV are based on weapon damage, and since these two abilities were comprising quite the majority of our damage done, that translates into a lower emphasis placed on keeping Inquisition up (since Inq only increases Holy damage), leading to a breaking of Blizzard’s intention for the playstyle of Ret.

That is to say, they wouldn’t give us Inquisition AND have it cost 3 HP  if they didn’t intend for us to use it.

So that’s where the current “fillers > finishers” talk is coming from. Now what does this have to do with Zealotry?

Currently, Zealotry uses up a GCD and 3 HP to start a chain of CS > TV > CS > TV, etc. The buff lasts 20 seconds, but not all of that is useful. Factor in the 1.5 second GCD you have to wait after hitting the cooldown, as well as the first CS you have to hit in order to start benefiting from Zealotry, and we’re already looking at something more like 17 seconds.

I know what some of you are thinking: “Big whoop, 3 piddly seconds.” But considering that, with the nerf to CS damage, that 3 seconds contains one “empty” GCD and another GCD filled with an ability that does sub-par damage compared to our other attacks… well, taking the average of the two GCDs and their usefulness looks like this mathematically:

(0) + (suck) = suck/2

That’s right. It doesn’t just suck, it sucks so hard that it’s not even a full “suck,” but merely half of a suck. It’s suck, but sucking. It sucks at being suck. OK THAT’S ENOUGH.

On the other hand, say these two GCDs were used for Exo-AoW and HoW (sub 20%, of course), you get this:

(“100% bonus damage to Exo OMFG” good) + (“HoW crits 60% of the time every time” awesome) = unreal number, in a good way

Sure, these are stupid, joke examples, but the point is that our HP generator / finisher system sucks. Putting Zealotry off the GCD and having it not consume HP is the first step to correcting the balance between our overpowered fillers and undertuned finishers.

2. Divine Storm no longer costs HP, has a 4.5s cooldown, and is affected by Sanctity of Battle.

The change can be seen in a beta patch notes post on MMO-Champion here.

I have to admit, I was not happy with the change of Divine Storm to basically the AoE counterpart of TV. We still have to use CS to generate the HP to use DS, and that just doesn’t feel very AoE-y.

I appreciate that they want us to use DS more, but I’m confused as to where they’re going with it. Allowing its cooldown to be lowered by Sanctity of Battle, and changing the base cooldown to 4.5s, makes me think that they want CS and DS to be exclusive (i.e. share cooldowns, like Heroic Strike and Cleave).

This is all well and good, but while CS procs a HP 100% of the time, DS does so only 40%. That is to say, if they’re bundled together, DS should generate a HP 100% of the time as well. Basically, they should turn the CS/DS pairing for Ret into the current CS/HotR for Prot; use one in single-target situations, use the other for AoE.

It seems like they’re leaning in the general direction of the CS/DS coupling, but I’m not sure they’ll actually go for it. In the mean time, it will be interesting to see what they do to keep our AoE capacity in line with other specs and classes.

Completing the Set

A hearty congratulations to our third Shadowmourne wielder and my fellow ES Retribution theorycrafter, Valenus!

We now have a warrior, death knight, and a paladin wielding that awesome weapon.

Also, unless someone else has a small collection of shards that I’m unaware of, that should be our last Shadowmourne before Cataclysm hits.

It pains me to admit it, but I have yet to finish my Infusion quests, and with three raid weeks before the release of Cata, that’s at most 36 shards (less if you figure in the fact that I need to do the BQL and Sindragosa infusions before I can even start collecting them).

As sweet as that weapon is, I’m going to have to pass. At least I know it will be wielded by a fellow champion of the Light, a great, wise, and modest paladin…

Yup, he’s a very humble paladin indeed.

Better Late than Never

I’m in a weird spot in my life right now. I have a lot of things that I need to be doing, but I can’t seem to focus on just one thing, get it done, and move on to the next. This is how I’m slowly discovering that I’m just terrible at prioritizing.

As such, this should’ve been two posts, the first part written a week ago and the second a few days ago, but it feels appropriate to wrap them into one now, kinda like bacon-wrapped steak. Mmmmmm.

Chances are if you follow my blog, you follow Righteous Defense. Just a wild stab in the dark here, but I think that’s pretty reasonable (if you don’t, you really should!). Therefore, I’m sure you’ve seen Rhi’s post about our 25-man team getting their drakes.

In case you are wondering, yes I did use the pronoun “their” for a reason. No, it’s not ignorance of the English language.

On that fateful night, we were hacking away at Neck Deep in Vile for a while that night, making some fairly good progress, but ultimately not getting it. One of our healy priests, Zilga, was supposed to come that night as shadow and help the ranged out but she ended up having to come late. When she did, and Rhi started talking about needing someone to step out for her to come in as to really seal the deal with this stupid, stupid achievement, something clicked. I think I whispered him even before he finished talking, volunteering my spot. Two minutes later, I was sitting in Dalaran listening to the rest of the raid work on NDIV.

Why did I do this, you ask? Well, two reasons really.

First, I knew that a lot of our raiders really, really wanted this. You could tell from the tones of the voices in Mumble, the stifled screams of Rhidach when a ranged started backpedaling away from a spirit and blowing it up, the efforts of others to refocus the raid, highlight our problems and offer solutions. Some of them didn’t have 10-man drakes, like I did, some are achievement whores (I use that term as light-heartedly as possible), and some felt that getting these drakes was another big victory for our team that we simply needed. It was because of this last reason that I chose to listen to my inner-Surak and see that, “[t]he needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Second, I feel like I’ve raided with ES long enough to know that they are committed to the guild, first and foremost. I’m not sure I could name any individual in our raids who is just there for themselves, their achievements, or their gear. Selfless is a strong word, but I think it warrants here. Therefore, I had little doubt that the following week, the same people would show up to help those of us who still needed a completed meta achievement to get our drakes.

So when we went back a week later, we approached NDIV with a much more confident and experienced Vile Spirit ranged team, and after relatively few attempts, the aforementioned cursed achievement was slated to end up on the evening news as the victim of a brutal schooling.

… Except I got disconnected right around 12%.

After having a brief laugh at how terrible my luck is, I logged back in to find my body at the beginning of the instance, way down in Light’s Hammer. I still had the “Fury of Frostmourne” debuff, so I figured I was okay.

I waited, and waited, and waited. I chatted with people over Mumble, assuring them that I was back in, sharing hopes that, since I had that debuff, I would indeed be rezzed with the rest of them when the time came.

Well, the time came. My fellow raiders’ Grid portraits lit up, one by one, until only one grayed-out frame remained… mine.

No big,’ I thought to myself, ‘surely I’ll get the achievement when they kill him.’

And then a loot window pops up from our loot master’s Bidder addon without the expected achievement accompaniment. UGHHHH.

Being the nice guy that he is, Rhi insisted that everyone in the raid submit a ticket about the disconnect. I expected maybe a couple people to do so, but the shouts of “Ok, submitted” in Mumble and raid chat revealed that many more people had opened tickets than I had originally thought, confirming my second reason for stepping out the week before.

Others were contacted by GMs after 10 to 20 minutes after having submitted tickets. I think mine popped at the latter end of that spectrum, while we were in RS clearing trash. Unfortunately, the GM I was “matched” with seemed fairly clueless, but luckily he or she transferred me to someone they assured me was an “achievement specialist.”

Edit: my brief conversation with the aforementioned GM can be seen here.

After another 15 or so minutes, I was connected with a very professional GM (read: the previous GM was fairly unprofessional, sadly) who, as promised, seemed to know exactly what to do. I logged over to an alt while the GM possessed my paladin, and a few minutes later, BAM!

Progress! … But where was the meta achievement? I asked the GM about it and he kindly looked into it for a few minutes, eventually re-possessing my poor paladin and producing another gem:

I thanked him probably seventeen times before he finally faded into the mist.

I soon noticed a little piece of mail in my inbox…

What a rollercoaster. There was one last thing I feel that I needed to do to truly celebrate this accomplishment:

Aww, a week too late to the group screenshot! Oh well.

I owe my drake to all of the ES raiders that both went back to get the achievement and helped escalate my ticket so quickly, as well as Blizzard’s speedy and efficient customer service team! Thanks again, all!

The Burden of the Hybrid

Judging by the title of this post, you may think that I intend to discuss the elusive “hybrid tax,” some sort of mysterious coefficient that gets applied to all of our base abilities to penalize us for being able to fulfill every role. I’m not even sure such a thing exists, I just know that it’s a term that was thrown around a while ago, before I got into blogging and min/maxing and all that stuff. What I really wanted to discuss was the personal burden of being a hybrid class.

Note: for this discussion, let’s take ‘hybrid’ to mean either druid or paladin; that is to say, a hybrid is any class that can fulfill all three roles of the Holy Trinity of MMO Gaming (Damage/Healing/Tanking). However, most of this logic can be applied to the quasi-hybrid classes as well: priests, shamans, death knights, and warriors.

I’m sure, as paladins, we’ve all gotten the whispers from random people asking us to “heal FoS?” or “tank Ony?” To be fair, if you’re just looking in /who for a holy paladin, there’s no way to distinguish between our specs without some form of outside inspection. However, I think everyone can agree that there is some sort of general expectation that we use our Dual Specialization ability to learn a different role.

After all, we can be tanks, healers, and DPS without having to reroll; why not learn something new and “be useful” for a change?

Reinforcing the “Main” in “Main Spec”

When you rolled your level 1 hybrid class, you read the description, you heard from all your friends how great it would be, and you had this grandiose expectation of what playing this class would entail.

Now that you’re 80, you’ve been through the thick and the thin. You’ve marched through quests and waded in the ankle-deep cesspool that is the LFD system. Maybe you’ve tried your hand at tanking or healing some dungeons. At max level, you feel like you’ve been through enough to know what it is you want to do with your class in the endgame.

And then it happens: you’re asked to do something else.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t like going from a holy priest to a disc priest; making the switch from DPSing to tanking was quite the transition for me, and the few times that I’ve tried holy were only after I read every “Holy Paladin 101″ post I could get my hands on AND after I got enough offspec gear from guild runs to make any freshly-80 holy paladin weep… and even then, it was messy.

I’ll admit that I’ve allowed myself to be coerced into things before. I was talked into healing on my druid for a 10m ICC with only one other healer when I had no clue what to do other than put a Rejuv on everything that was still alive.

When I raided on my shaman, I was coerced into raid healing Naxx and OS.

Hell, I was convinced to main tank ICC 25 back when my tanking gear and experience were a mere fraction of what they are today.

I hated every minute of all of these experiences. The feeling of not being in control, of not knowing what to do and when… it was anxiety-inducing, to say the least. I don’t think I’ll find myself in the same situations, though, since I have such great main tanks from which to leech information and experience.

Also, one of our holy paladins would literally kill me if I, or any other paladin, went holy.

In short, no hybrid class should feel responsible for bringing a “viable offspec” to the raid. If a feral druid loves to DPS, then that should be all he or she is concerned about. Same goes for a holy paladin, or shadow priest, or any of the myriad of hybrid spec and class combinations.

If you’re in a “hardcore” raiding guild, and your raid leader wants you to change roles, stick to your guns. Don’t be afraid to pull up your application to the guild and remind him or her that you are there as your main spec and your main spec only. If they truly need your spot for a healer, they can bench you and take a healer. If one isn’t on or your guild roster isn’t quite so large, it’s not your fault. Any half-enlightened raid leader will realize that trying to put a square peg into a round hole is a bad idea anyway.

Let’s face it, no one wants to play a game when they’re not having fun. So take a lesson from my past mistakes: don’t let anyone coax you into doing something you don’t want to do or don’t feel comfortable doing. Stick by your assertion that your main spec is your main spec for a good reason, and disregard anyone that says otherwise.

This post is brought to you by the Devil’s Advocate, because while Antigen loves the ability to be a versatile raider, the DA sees things… a little differently.