Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Patch 4.1 - Impressions of good and "could've been better"
The new shaman aoe
The shaman aoe was revamped completely, in what seems to be the umptififth time. The problems about shaman aoe were plenty - it wasn't very intuitive and it wasn't very good even when you got it right. Initially you had both magma totems and nova totems, which of course replaced any other fire totem you might've used. In its current implementation, the Fire Nova skill will have any of your Flame Shocks burst into aoe, making it work something like Seed of Corruption. There are several things about this change that are really good, like Josh Myers of WoWinsider pointed out. First of all, it means we don't have to smack a totem to do aoe damage anymore (unless you count the still-existing Magma Totem). To enhancement, which I happen to prefer, this is awesome since Searing totem is one of our most important buffs and having to choose between that and Magma Totem was always a hassle. Secondly, smacking totems means stationary aoe. And since it isn't aimed at the mobs specifically, you could be smacking a totem where there won't be any mobs 3 seconds later. The problems with shaman aoe prior to 4.1 were so vast that basically anything would've been an improvement, more or less, which Josh also pointed out. Question is, if what we got really is a good solution?
Let me just say that I of course prefer it over the totem smacking any day. But the current implementation is tricky to say the least. There are plenty of aoe types that require you to retarget to be able to aoe, the already mentioned Seed of Corruption is one of them. Fire mage aoe is another good example. The difference is that most aoes require you to either retarget or to actively activate the aoe, such an aoe could be Swipe, FoK, Arcane Explosion. You press a button and things get hurt. With seed, you place a debuff, wait, and things get hurt. The one means just spamming a button, and Blizzard have said they really want to move away from that kind of "mindless" spamming. In the other you have to tab target and spam a button. With shaman aoe however you have to both debuff the target, and activate the aoe. A debuff that has a cooldown by the way. That means that instead of spamming a button, or retargetting and spamming a button, we have to keep track of two cooldowns (Flame Shock and Fire Nova) and constantly retarget. The cooldowns are the key here. It suddenly makes aoeing a lot more difficult.
It kind of reminds me to how I used to "aoe" as a rogue when levelling. Since we don't get Fok until level 80 (!), there is really no way to aoe as a rogue unless you do a little trick that I developed, which requires you to be subtlety. When engaging a pack of mobs I would shadow dance and throw up Garrote on as many mobs as possible, then go on and place Rupture (thanks to Honor among thieves I got cp easily). That way I had two good dots up on most mobs and could deal some nice "aoe" damage. But it meant busting my ass to get it. Dotting every target with two dots was way more troublesome than pressing the Rain of Fire button. And I didn't always deal more damage than everyone else, actually more rarely.
It's a lot like how enhancement shaman worked in Wrath. It had one of the trickier rotations, yet it didn't really pay off enough to make it worth it. It was part of what made me enjoy enhancement shamaning, but in the end you were just frustrated that all your efforts were in vain, you could never compete and retridins could easily faceroll their way past you on the meters. That's my point really - I don't mind things being tricky or even troublesome, I just want it to be worth it. If I have to use five times more attention and skills to get something going, I want it to be five times as good when and if I succeed. I don't feel that way with the shaman aoe at the moment. I think the fire mage aoe is one of the better ones in the game right now. It's about as easy and as difficult as you like, depending on what skills you use, and if you really want to pull out the big guns you can - and it does require some skill to get the most out of it. I don't ask of Blizzard to design the perfect aoe for every class, but it has to feel worthwhile.
I will throw in a but here however, as I often do, I do feel like the current aoe-style has potential. I will admit that my lack of skill could very well be the contributor to my sense of fail. I hope that once I get the hang of it, it will actually be really good.
So far I am quite pleased with the CTA implementation, although I would've really liked to see it at low levels as well. I was really looking forward to being able to run through some instances with my warrior and getting the goodie bag. It doesn't have to include 80g and a possible pet/mount, but something. But alas. I run lowbie dungeons anyway because I really enjoy it, but that doesn't mean there isn't a long queue to get into one sometimes. Since they revamped all of the vanilla dungeons, I really think they should encourage people to give them a try by lowering the queues. At max level, it has already proven to work. It might be true that it's still only the novelty of the bag and that the initial glee over it will subside pretty soon. On the other hand it made me pug (!) ZA and ZG on my paladin, and I swear by my SNES, I would've never have done that if it wasn't for that bag. Although the contents aren't awesome, something about it made me hover above the "join queue" button, and actually decide to go for it. It persuaded me, and best of all, both runs I've done so far (tanked ZG and healed ZA) were really fun. I didn't have perfect pugs (I've even had a fail run with a dk tank who thought blood presence was all you needed to succeed), but with some patience we usually made it, I had a good time and we were all happy in the end. Also, the CTA seems to be active nearly as often for healers as it is for tanks, which loads of people doubted.
I'm not going to be all sunny peaches about the CTA though, because there are of course some things that aren't as good either. People, healers and tanks, who join the queue only want to get it over with. They rarely do anything extra and skip any part of the instance that is skipable. I've also noticed that as soon as the reward isn't up, I'm very reluctant to joining the queue. Also I notice that I am reluctant to tell my guildies that I am going to a ZA/ZG, so that they won't ask me to get to join and I have to tell them that I rather pug for the bag. I'm a bad person. But even with these flaws I see something positive. Even if tanks/healers do skip parts, they're also a lot more eager to stay the full instance than they used to be. Yes I am talking from personal experience here. And even if I don't join the queue when there is no reward, I've still been tanking a heck of a lot more instances the last few days than I did before the CTA. And even though I don't run with my guildies, without the bag I most likely wouldn't have anyway, so to them there is no change. For the difficult things, like timed and achievements, I still do it with my guild of course. And pugging is more fun than I thought it would be. I allow myself to have more patience, and I don't allow myself to get easily annoyed, because I think it is worth the effort.
So far I am happy with CTA, time will tell what I feel about it in a couple of months.
I don't know anything about druids myself, but I've talked about them with Love of course. The changes made to druids are interesting in that they represent the general issue about this patch pretty well - many buffs aren't good enough or misplaced which makes you question the reason for having them at all. Feral druids saw a humongous buff to swipe. Although welcome, especially for tanking, the problem about melee aoe usually isn't the aoe part, but the melee part. For raids, whenever aoe is needed, it's usually in the form of ranged. The larvas on Magmaw, adds on hc Maloriak, adds on Cho'gall and even the sparks on Al'Akir (although those aren't aoed), all prefer ranged dps over melee. Increasing the damage of Swipe won't solve the issue of the current raid encounters being heavily biased towards caster dps. They also buffed Stampeding Roar. Yet again, although it's nice that it now makes you run a little faster, the problem about it wasn't really the run speed, but the area of effect. 10 yards is too limited to make it useful in most situations. In most cases it will only affect other melee, who usually are the ones who have tools to run out of shit fast enough in any case. Boomkins and restos can't really use it since it requires you to be in cat form and have the right amount of energy. The group that would really benefit from being able to move fast, namely healers and/or tanks, are in most cases left out from benefitting from this tool.
The ZA/ZG instances
I already wrote what I thought about Blizzard revamping these instances, and the people who whined about it, a couple of weeks ago. After having been able to try the instances out myself, both with "hardcore" guild groups and pugs, I still feel the same way. I failed about equally much, or little, in any setup and role, which only shows how important it is to have a good tactic and not only reasonably skilled players (although they often go hand in hand). So far I've had pugs that were good enough, sometimes even better than my guild runs. The problem about pugs generally is the lack of communication. But people can really find something wrong about everything. So far I've heard about ZA/ZG that they're just "the same old", that they're too long, that they're too difficult, that they're too unforgiving and so on. And like I said, most fights in ZG/ZA require a good tactic to get through. Some things are just as horrible as they used to be in the "real" raids, like the blasted Scouts and Flame Casters in ZA. Overall I think they've done a great job with keeping the feeling of the old raids, while still tuning the fights to work with 5 people. The fights are difficult, no doubt about that. But on the other hand, if you follow the tactic they're actually fairly easy. And there are few fights like Ozruk (although nerfed now) that means one seconds failure is death and wipe. Right now I think ZG/ZA are great at rewarding good play, and by being difficult without throwing in loads of one shot mechanics. It's usually the kind where "ok, you failed this time, but if you do it again, you're dead". Because of this I never get the feeling of hopelessness that I got in early Cata heroics, thinking "my lawd, we'll never make this shit". Now, if I wipe in ZG/ZA I know it was because we executed the tactic the wrong way, not because someone did a minor mistake at the wrong time.
As I suspected, the nerf to shields weren't going to be that much of a change. At least not generally. On some fights I definitely notice. There are some fights where I just pre-shield a lot more than others, and on those fights my mana takes a blow when I shield something, hope it will make a difference like it used to and it doesn't so that I must also heal my target. A fight like that is Magmaw hc for example. I'm usually the ranged healer, and being able to shield my fellow ranged targets along with myself has always been very comfy on that fight since it has allowed me to keep them alive while on the move. Maybe I will have to switch position with a druid now, since our healing on the run has been quite nerfed. This was also one of the places where I could use my bubble off cd, which means I notice the extended cooldown a lot more. But overall the changes haven't affected me that much. And the raid as a whole has still been buffed because Spirit Link Totem is seriously imba.
Spirit Link Totem
I am quite certain that the reason we finally managed to down Conclave hc after one trillion billion tries, is spelled Spirit Link Totem. The main reason this totem is so great is that it is a raid wide smart heal. You know that during those 10 seconds, no matter who or how you heal, someone will benefit from it. No heal will be wasted or overheal, you can just mindlessly pump out healing, which during pressing times is exactly what you need. SLT didn't just give us the Conclave kill, it made heroic Maloriak a breeze. We usually have some trouble keeping people alive during the aoe in the end, but SLT made that phase a cake walk. A cake walk I tell you! I'm really happy shamans got this cooldown because it will make a lot of tricky situations a lot easier. I just hope they've balanced Firelands somewhat with SLT in mind, so that those fights don't get too easy. I wouldn't be surprised if they nerfed SLT actually, although the only way I can see how right now is if they removed the damage reduction bit or increased the cooldown. As soon as Blizzard realizes that raids will want to bring shamans over other healers (and right now it wouldn't surprise me if they did), they will start swinging the nerf bat.