Archive | August, 2011

Firelands Quick ‘n Dirty: Majordomo Staghelm

This is the sixth of seven guides for Firelands bosses, designed specifically for melee DPS. Some of this can be used for other roles, but I figure that most of my readership should be either part-time or full-time Rets, so here’s content designed specifically for you!

Okay, since it took us a while to find out how to deal with the trash, and since any and all trash “strats” were forum posts where people were mocked for wiping to it, I’m going to give you a Majordomo Staghelm Trash strat right now:

Kill the humanoids first. Watch out for the leaping cats; they’ll stun you. You can dispel this stun, though if you use Mass Dispel it will dispel it from the cats as well. After the humanoids are down, burn down the cats. They will target who they are going to leap before they actually leap, so it’s possible to give warning to their targets to get out of the way. Also, you may need to use Bloodlust/Heroism to make it through the massive raid damage; we did.

Abilities

Majordomo Staghelm has three forms: Scorpion, Cat, and Caster.

Scorpion Phase

When the raid is stacked together, Staghelm will shift into his Scorpion Form. While he’s in this form, he will cast Flame Scythe, which will proc a stack of Adrenaline, meaning he will scythe faster and faster as the phase progresses.

Cat Phase

When the raid is spread out, Mr. Former Arch Druid will shift into his Cat Form. Much like Flame Scythe, Domo will cast Leaping Flames on a ranged raid member and jump to them, which will also proc a stack of Adrenaline and spawn a pulsing fire puddle where he lands. When he leaps, a Spirit of the Flame will spawn in his place.

Caster Phase

Every third shapeshift, Staghelm will swap out to his caster form to do a special ability. During his first such phase, Domo will cast Searing Seeds on the raid, all of which have random durations and explode when they have run their course. His second caster shift will see Burning Orbs spawn.

Also, every time Majordomo switches forms (caster doesn’t count for this) he gains a stack of Fury, increasing his damage done with Flame Scythe and Leaping Flames, presenting a soft enrage.

Strategy

Scorpion Phases

We pulled Domo while stacked, so he started in a scorpion phase. You should note that this is your main DPS phase, so it’s very important to pop your cooldowns and go to town on him. One crucial bit of information – there is a “sweet spot” near the front of the scorpion that technically counts as being behind him, and yet you are still able to share cleave damage from Flame Scythe. Visually, it should be somewhere around the area in the screenshot below, right near the blue square:

Of course, you should find this area for yourself each time in one of two ways.

  1. Have your resident rogue inch farther and farther away from the stack until their Backstab icon lights up. Both of our rogues were Combat but this still worked for them.
  2. Have your feral druid do the same, except with Shred in place of Backstab.

The tank shouldn’t be moving the boss at all, so you can safely sit in this spot and DPS without worrying about parries.

Your healers will be sweating bullets during this phase, and those with raid cooldowns will be coordinating and doing their thing. Save your glyphed Divine Protection for when the stacks start piling up and your healers start falling behind; Flame Scythe is Fire damage, after all.

As I said, these are your main burn phases. We took our first scorpion phase to 12, chaining raid cooldowns like Divine Guardian, Aura Mastery, Power Word: Barrier, Anti-Magic Zone, Tranquility, and Rallying Cry. We only took subsequent scorpion phases to 6 or so because of the stacking Fury buff.

Cat Phases

These segments are more about bursting down adds than anything. Domo will be leaping faster and faster as the phase progresses, resulting in adds spawning more often. This means that, depending on your rDPS, you might get about 3 or 4 leaps where you’re still hitting Domo for a few seconds before adds become your entire world. We usually took these phases to 6 or 7 because they serve no other purpose than to let healers regen a little mana.

Caster Phases

For Searing Seeds, here is a neat trick that a guildmate of mine clued me into doing. Since we know Staghelm will change forms when people stack, you can anticipate a shift as people are piling into melee range. Therefore, if you pop Divine Shield just as everyone is collapsing, you will be immune to the Searing Seeds debuff and not even get it! This way, you won’t have to run out to drop it, meaning you won’t have to leave the raid with one less person to soak Flame Scythes for a short period of time, and you can DPS for that much longer. Win, win.

For Burning Orbs, there isn’t much you can do unless one of them is spawned near melee. Hand of Sacrifice an orb tanker in need, but generally stay out of their way and let them do their job. Remember, the orbs generally spawn at range, so if you’re out soaking some orb damage you’re not DPSing the boss, meaning you’re just prolonging the fight. Of course, if there is a dire need for a quick replacement, glyphed DP lets us be a temporary hero.

Otherwise the rest of the fight is rinse and repeat. Our sequence went like so:

Scorpion (12) > Cat (6) > Caster > Scorpion (6) > Cat (6) > Caster > Scorpion (5) > Cat (1) > Dead

Good luck!

Fireworks or Flares?

A string of big announcements have rocked the WoW-verse in the past few days. Let’s recap a few of them:

Tanking and Threat

  • Threat woes will soon be a thing of the past, with threat modifiers being changed from 300% to 500% for all tanking specs, implemented via hotfix. Also, Vengeance scaling will be changed in a future patch to make it more consistent and reliable.
  • Blizzard wants to see a change in tanking playstyle towards a more active role in mitigation, to something more like the current Blood death knight model.

Patch 4.2 Hotfixes

  • Multiple bosses in Firelands have had their damage reduced on normal difficulties.
  • Meanwhile, a few bosses in Firelands have had their mechanics changed to be less random.

Patch 4.3

  • “Transmogrification” will allow players to change the appearance of their armor.
  • The Deathwing raid we’ve all been waiting for will be released.
  • Three brand-new heroics will be introduced, with the possibility of one of them being a Caverns of Time instance.
  • “Void Storage” will be some sort of large, maybe intra-realm (maybe even inter-realm) bank.

Tack on the cryptic quote from Zarhym about their impending plans for cross-realm raids, and you have a half of a Blizzcon’s worth of announcements in the span of a couple of days, two months before Blizzcon itself.

What’s going on over at Blizzard HQ? Is it coincidence that all of this news is spilling at the same time? Are the blues in panic-mode after their 600K subscriber hit in Q1? Or are they trying to prime the hype machine to compete with SWTOR’s targeted Q4 release?

As players, we can only muse at what is happening in Irvine, and whether these sweeping changes are cause for celebration or concern.

Guest Post: Just Say The Word

Hi there. I’m Pliers, the new ret paladin in town. Antigen’s been kind enough to offer me a chance to guest post. I’m working on a longer post that’ll go into how I came to be a ret paladin and the steps I took in deciding to pick up a real spec (I should say, the only spec), but put that on hold while I wrote this post about our utility.

In Antigen’s last post, Meloree and I had a good conversation in the comments about looking past the damage meter, and how there’s more to us than meets the eye. If you have a few minutes, I really recommend checking out the comments in that post.

To sum it up, we spoke about two different approaches to playing a ret paladin: pure DPS and support. The first group focuses on being the best DPS you can be, maximizing personal performance and squeezing out as much damage as possible. The second group is willing to sacrifice personal performance if it may help out the raid. Antigen considers himself to be in the former group, while I am working to train myself to be in the latter. Neither is strictly better than the other; both come with advantages and disadvantages, and you should look at your personal raiding situation before deciding which is for you.

Today, I’m going to talk about Word of Glory. Paladins have more ways to help out the raid than any other class, and even though it was sizably nerfed when 4.1 gave it a cooldown, this often overlooked ability deserves the spotlight. I will use Baleroc as an example of where, how, and why we should be eager to WoG, rather than reluctant or unwilling.

To start, here’s a link to the spec used, which has 1 point in Eye for an Eye, and no Repentence, to allow for 2/2 Selfless Healer.

Here’s one of my WoL reports, for a heroic Baleroc attempt from Tuesday. In this instance, Baleroc has 196 million health, and enrages after 6 minutes.

Before I get into the meat of my post, you might notice that I cast precisely 0 WoGs. I got off to a bit of a rough start, and made sure to do what was needed of me before I worried about saving others. While it is a shameful example of not meeting ret’s potential, it does make for a good control for the rest of what I have to say.

First, the obvious. WoG is a heal that requires Holy Power to use, scaling linearly. Without Selfless Healer, a regular WoG will land for around 20k from a ret paladin, with roughly a 30% crit rate. It’s not a regular part of our rotation, since it takes the place of Templar’s Verdict, our highest source of damage. TV accounts for roughly 25% of our damage, once you include HoL procs. Looking through my WoL report, in 5.25 minutes, I did 38 TVs, or one TV every 8.3 seconds. To make things simple on myself, scaling it to a 5 minute fight would have 35 TVs.

Say I noticed people occasionally dying, and decide to keep an eye on the raid frames to toss out the occasional heal when someone was dipping low. Let’s examine what would happen if I were to use WoG once per minute on average. I lose 5 TVs from using their Holy Power on WoG, plus 1 DP proc that I wouldn’t have gotten due to losing those TVs. So, that’s 6 lost TVs out of 35, and TV is 25% of our damage.

(6/35)*.25= 4.3% damage lost.

Mitigating this loss, I’d gain some damage from Selfless Healer: 4% damage per Holy Power, for 10 seconds, once per minute.

(10s/60s)*(.04*3) = 2%.

4.3%-2%= 2.3% net loss.

That is a 500-550 DPS loss. Looking at it slightly differently, I would have done roughly 165k less damage total. That number doesn’t hit me as hard as “500+ DPS”, but regardless, it’s a noticeable loss for a ret pally and will show at the end of the fight. However, it comes out to less than 0.1% of the total damage the raid needs to deal. That means I would lengthen the fight by 1/3rd of a second.

In the meantime, you fired off 5 heals on low health targets. Your healing done from the 5 WoGs will be the 20k baseline, times 1.5 for Selfless Healer, times 1.3 for your crit rate. In return for your 165k damage sacrifice, you will have done 20k*(1.5)(1.3) = 195k healing, and had 5 separate opportunities to save someone who may otherwise have died, while sparing healers mana and potentially cooldowns.

Check out a second spec variation here. I’ve given up 1 point from both Blazing Light and Eye for an Eye, and picked up 2/2 Last Word, giving my WoGs an extra 60% crit on people under 35%, which covers just about every WoG you’d be tossing out. On that attempt, Exorcism came out to 8% of my damage. The top parse for all ret paladins has 10% damage for Exorcism, so I’ll use that. A high estimate for Eye for an Eye on that fight puts it at .5% of the total. Losing 1 point from Blazing Light will put my Exorcisms at 110% damage instead of 120%, going from 8% to 7.3%. Combined, I have lost another 1.2% damage, on top of the 2.3% from using WoG, putting me roughly 800 DPS lower than where I started for a total loss of 240,000 damage. I’ve now lengthened the fight by just slightly over half a second. This is equivalent of a single raider stopping DPS completely for about 12 seconds. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

On the other hand, WoG has increased dramatically in potency. Making the same calculation as above, only with 60% more crit, your WoGs will be landing for an average of 57k, totaling 285k healing. To put that in perspective, 57k is over 40% of the typical raider’s health bar.

Let’s assume the following:

Someone dies. Fortunately, the raid has a battle res up to spare. Miraculously, the raid’s debuff rotation hasn’t changed, and no one else is dead or debuffed as a result, so the raid as a whole can continue as if nothing happened. It takes 3 seconds for a druid to decide to Battle res, target the person, and start their 2 second cast. The res goes off and is instantly accepted. The druid buffs MotW and immediately continues DPSing, while two other people toss out their buffs, and, in a stroke of luck, all other combat buffs are automatically applied by other classes in the course of their DPSing, instantly. The person who died didn’t need mana, didn’t clip their cooldowns, has no ramp-up time, and only loses 1.5 seconds moving back into position before starting to DPS again.

In this ridiculous extreme, the druid lost 2 seconds of DPS ressing and 1.5 seconds buffing, two other people lost a global each, and the person who died is out of commission for 5.5 seconds, putting us back at, yes, 12 seconds, the same amount of time you effectively cost the raid by changing your spec and firing out WoGs.

There’s no guarantee you would have saved someone, but you’re only using it in situations where people are most likely to die without help. Battle resses are a commodity, and there will be significantly more time lost in getting the person up and back in the fight. The cost is cheap. Shit will hit the fan if people die. You could very well be the difference between a kill and a wipe, and if nothing else, you can pat yourself on the back knowing that wipe was in spite of you doing your absolute best.

Mostly, what I’m hoping to do here is outline an alternative method of play that de-emphasizes our position on a meter. Just because we’re not #1 on stateofdps.com doesn’t change that we’re the best class in the game. I focused on Word of Glory and Baleroc for this post, but we have a ton of other tools that will help on just about every fight which aren’t part of our standard dps rotation. Using them at the right times can and will turn the tide of a fight. In the end, what matters is getting the boss down, and I know that when a boss finally bites the dust, there’s no better feeling than knowing I made a difference.

As always, play intelligently. Don’t wait around with 3 Holy Power, or start topping off people who aren’t in danger. Stay alive, stay focused, and push the limits of your DPS potential. Just remember to keep your eyes open for opportunities to show what sets you apart from the pack. The only reason Recount doesn’t have a tab for “Awesome” is because there’s already a tab on Blizzard’s raid frames that says how many paladins are in the raid. Work to make your teammates jealous when you whip out another tool from our utility belt, not just our dashing good looks and fabulous hair.

Side note: Mouseover macros are awesome. Using heals, Hands, and taunts without having to swap targets (and losing autoswings in the process) is something everyone should be taking advantage of.

#showtooltip
/cast [target=mouseover,help] Word of Glory

This macro will attempt to WoG whatever you have your cursor over, and if that fails, saves the holy power so you can use it on TV. I have this bound to my mouse button 4 for super easy use (you cannot use mouse buttons for mouseover macros in general, but I went into my mouse settings and remapped my mouse button 4 key to work around that issue).

Is Ret Fun?

I’ve spent far too much time on the official Paladin forums lately, responding to some threads, reading a few others, and I’ve picked up on an attitude that seems to permeate each Ret post:

“Our rotation is too hard / not fun at all, GG BLIZZ! Change it back to the way it was in Wrath!”

Do we really want this?

Wrath of the Lich King

Here’s a quick screenshot of my UI during some heroic Sindragosa work:

What did we have to manage at this time? Well, the Power Aura shining brightly there is for Art of War, which at the time allowed you to cast Exorcism or Flash of Light instantly. Otherwise, there was our one cooldown, Avenging Wrath, to worry about.  If you notice, I was specced into Aura Mastery at the time… oh God, the nostalgia is critting me!

So basically, during Wrath, we had one proc to watch for, one cooldown to use, and seven attacks to keep on cooldown in a priority order.

Oh right, two-piece T10 turned Divine Storm into an interesting proc as well, that proc being “When you see DS light up before it’s technically off cooldown, MASH THE SHIT OUT OF IT!”

Cataclysm

And to counter my Sindy screenshot, here’s a Shannox one:

So what do we have to keep an eye on now? Art of War is still on our list of “procs to watch,” but now we also have Divine Purpose to look for. We have to keep Inquisition up for as close to the entire duration of the fight as we can, intelligently refreshing while not to sacrificing too much DPS. We need to juggle both Avenging Wrath and Zealotry, though it is recommended to macro them together nowadays (I started doing this a couple weeks ago; I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!) We also have Bananaman (Guardian of Ancient Kings) to pop every five minutes.

Of course we got a whole new resource system to keep track of and utilize effectively, and after a few patches we finally got our AoE DPS groove back.

If you add it all up, that’s two procs, three cooldowns, one buff to maintain, a second resource mechanic to manage, and seven attacks.

What is Fun, Really?

Okay, you’re probably thinking, Ret has certainly gotten more complicated than before, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more fun.

I completely agree. “Fun” is a subjective term, of course, but I don’t think it’s completely disjoined from “complication.”

Look at Blizzard’s raid encounters over the past couple expansions. For someone who started on a paladin during Wrath-era Naxx, Patchwerk was a pretty boring fight to me. It was a great fight to measure e-peens and chart DPS on, but the fight itself was extremely blah.

Fast forward to Firelands, and the closest analog you will find to Patchwerk is Baleroc. Sure, he stands in one spot the whole time; sure, there isn’t any AoE damage or fire to avoid, but his Shards of Torment, healing buff stacking, tank swaps, and level of coordination necessary far surpass that required for Patchwerk.

In essence, Blizzard has made fights more busy, more complicated, in the hopes that the player-base would find them engaging and, hey, fun. I think we can all agree that killing bosses week after week that just stood there and said “Oh, I’m going to kill you in the name of my master!” and did absolutely nothing else would be quite boring.

This design philosophy extends directly to player classes, Ret specifically.

Is the spec harder to play? Definitely.

Is it less fun? That depends:

If you happen to believe that folding laundry, counting change, and watching water pour out of a faucet are the most amazingly fun activities in the world, then maybe the spec isn’t for you.

However, if you’re the type of person that enjoys learning from his or her mistakes, finds satisfaction through honest effort and hard work, and just generally likes to use that spongy organ we call a “brain,” then I think you’ll fit right in.

Let’s Not Be So Hasty

There seems to be a lot of hub and a lot of bub about Haste lately and how it pertains to our stat weights. Exemplar on the EJ Ret forums has apparently done some work and came to a few bold conclusions:

Having corrected autoattacks, Censure, and tweaked SoC this is what I am presently getting:

Mastery ~= Haste > Crit

I’ve tried various setups both in my present gear (4 T11), along with T12 and Heroic T12, with the same results.

Any severe imbalance in stats causes the ratio to shift. You want about 20% more Mastery than Haste (1.2:1 Mastery/Haste). Too much more than that and Haste becomes superior. The rate changes so slowly, though, that you could be as far as 1.4:1 before you would even get a few DPS variance. Thus it should be pretty safe to just reforge for Mastery without worry that you’re going too far.

Crit is a reasonably close third. In most reasonable gear/reforge setups their values are about 1.25 (M/H) to 1.1 (C).

In general if you swap Haste and Crit from our old reforging desires, you get what you want. Hit/Exp cap, then reforge Mastery. If an item already has Mastery, change some Crit to Haste.

To use myself as an example, my current Mastery:Haste ratio is 2.506:1 (1784:712). If I were to take his advice and change my Crit reforges to Haste, let’s say I would gain about 350 Haste rating without sacrificing Hit, Expertise, or Mastery (my own quick napkin calcs are around this number, if a bit lower), bumping the ratio up to 1.680:1. I can see as we get more T12 gear, this ratio will drop a bit to Exemplar’s predicted range.

Okay, we can get there. But how did Haste end up above Crit? Exemplar has more explanations:

  • Correcting Censure increased the value of Haste, but being informed (and verifying) that it crits for 200% (not 150% as other spells) helped temporarily restore Crit’s balance.
  • Correcting Autoattack then greatly increased the value of Haste. Haste obviously produces more Autoattacks (and seal/SoC Procs!), but this also impacts generation of Exo procs. This can ripple in a minor fashion to Mastery as Exo could proc DivPurp and produce a new TV.
  • More Haste should increase everything equally (more attacks = more crits, more CS/TV = more HoL damage), but due to talents it appears to increase Mastery more than Crit. More Haste means shorter CS. Shorter CS means more HoL damage and more HP, therefore more TV for yet more HoL damage.

I’m not too sure what he’s talking about with the whole “correcting Censure” business. I know that the crit damage of Censure got bumped up to 200%, but perhaps Censure just wasn’t modelling correctly in his spreadsheet. Personally I don’t use his sheet, though now that Redcape is retired I may have to.

More SoT/SoC damage is a given, but I think Exemplar is overstating the production of AoW procs and subsequent Divine Purpose procs. Yes, I know he said “minor”, but let me show you how minor it really is.

This is a simple table translating Haste rating into weapon speed, using the following equation:

Weapon Speed = Base Weapon Speed / (Haste1 x Haste2 x Haste3… x HasteN)

In this equation, you have to calculate each Haste effect separately (Haste1, Haste2, etc.). For the purposes of this very general discussion, I am not including our raid buffs (5% from Mind Quickening/Wrath of Air Totem, 9% from Judgements of the Pure)

Why do we need weapon speed, you may ask? Because it is used to calculate your number of autoattacks:

So, over the course of a five minute fight (300 sec.), with a 3.6 weapon speed and no Haste, you would get 83.3 (repeating, of course) autoattacks. For those that may have missed it, that calculation is just a simple,

300 / 3.6 = 83.33

The other two columns aren’t so clear, so let me go over those.

Art of War, as the talent states, is a 20% chance on autoattacks to generate a free Exo. Therefore, it makes the most sense to model this as “procs on 20% of autoattacks.” Obviously, the longer the fight duration, the closer to 20% you’ll actually come, but for right now this is the best way to model it.

In case you were wondering, I also did 10-minute and 15-minute fight duration tables:

As for the “DP from AoW” column, this is where things get a bit wonky. Divine Purpose states that each attack listed (of which Exo is one of them) has a 15% chance on cast to proc DP, which is essentially a free TV. Now, if you’ve had enough time to Ret it up in raids recently, then you know that DP is a weird proc and it often likes to proc itself, so these numbers admittedly might be a little low. But let’s play it safe and not assume it’s going to proc seven additional DPs in a row, shall we?

Anyway, this all means that any additional AoW procs you get from more Haste each have a 15% chance to proc DP.

Taking all of this data, I can plot both the number of AoW procs and the number of DP-AoW procs against Haste Rating and see how it scales:


It’s just lovely when you get trendlines that have an R² value of 1.

Anyway, I’m sure this looks like just a bunch of numbers to a lot of people, so let me summarize these graphs for you:

Click to embiggen.

What this table is saying is that, in order to go from X procs to X+1 procs, you need the specified amount of Haste Rating to do it. Most fights these days are between 5 and 10 minutes, so to get just one more Exo you need between 769 and 385 additional Haste Rating.

Clearly, fight length is a limiting factor. The longer the fight, the bigger role Haste is going to play. Of particular hilarity is the amount of Haste Rating need to get just one more DP proc from an AoW proc; that’s what happens when you have a low percent chance to proc something on a spell with another low percent chance.

I think Exemplar wrapped things up nicely here (emphasis added):

After slight cleanup I am still finding Hit > Expertise >>> Mastery > Haste >> Crit (quantity of greater than sign used to show relative superiority). Reforge to Hit/Exp cap. Then reforge Mastery. If an unforged item has Crit/Mastery, then reforge Crit->Haste. I understand and appreciate this is controversial and still under discussion. At this time the OP has not been altered from the previously believed Mastery > Crit > Haste.

I do not see a way to (dis)prove this definitively via testing or logs. RNG for DivPurp, AoW, and Crits, as well as Fight Length, optimum usage of CDs, just one more or less raid buff produces too much variance. Theory is only as good as our tools and we’ll keep working on them.

Of course, as I stated before, Seal damage is only going to go up in a linear fashion with more Haste, I’m not disputing that. What I am disputing, though, is the impact of Haste on Art of War and Divine Purpose. It definitely has an impact, but I feel that it’s not the ‘new stat to stack’ that everyone seems to believe it is.

Stacking Haste is essentially buffing the Random Number Generator. Sure, it may provide good results 15% of the time, but we can’t and shouldn’t base our gear choices around random chance.