Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Disc + Renew = True?

Don't use renew if you're discipline.

That is what I've been hearing since forever, heck what I myself have been proclaiming for all of Cataclysm (and Wrath). It's been a truth for us for so long that we've probably completely missed out that it might not be true anymore. I remember when Renew was so bad I in fact considered not even using it in my holy spec. It was too weak and too slow to be worth the time and effort, and as holy I've already got a bunch of nice instants and on the run casts, so why waste a gcd on Renew? This was even more true as discipline since I lacked most of the talents that really could've made Renew worthwhile. But things have changed, and I think we need to take a second look at Renew and how useful it is to us now.

Renew has bad hpm
This definitely used to be true for a discipline priests, and is probably the main reason we decided that Renew was the enemy in the first place. But does this argument still hold? If we compare Renew to some commonly used spells;

IF = Inner Fire
IW = Inner Will
Green = Disc
Pink = Holy

we'll see that the hpm of Renew is far from awful anymore, in fact the difference in Renew hpm between Holy and Disc is about the same as often used spells like Heal, Flash Heal and Greater Heal. When disc it actually has a better hpm than Greater Heal and equals out to Heal, if we use Inner Will instead it has better hpm than Heal. Eventhough hpm always is subject to gear and other outside factors, this will hold true for most of you, and in any case it definitely warrants you to take a look at the current state of your own spells hpm. To say we shouldn't use Renew because the hpm is too bad as compared to Holy, or compared to other commonly used spells means we shouldn't use spells like Heal, Flash Heal and Greater Heal with the same line of reasoning.

It's mostly overheal
As with any other spell in your arsenal you have to decide whether this is true for you or not. Whether you end up using Renew at a good or bad time is nothing I can do anything about. Overhealing is indeed one of the weaknesses of Renew and one of the weaknesses of hots overall, mostly because of how fights (and incoming damage) are designed. As a druid/holy you take the overhealing into consideration when you use your spells, and we would have to do that too. But that is a problem inherent of the spell, not of a disc priest using it. It's not like it magically turns into more overhealing when we use it as compared to a holy priest - what we really have to focus on is whether it is worth the mana and gcd. We've already established that it's worth the mana, but what about the gcd?

It doesn't heal enough
It's a fact that Renew is weaker for a disc priest than a holy priest, and part of the long reasoning behind not using it at all has been that it hasn't been worth the gcd. Because even if the hpm is good, the hps might not be. I do think that out of all the arguments against using Renew, this probably holds the strongest. I'd even say that in most cases you'll probably want to use another spell, so what is Renew good for? First of all we have to remember that a lot of the strength from Renew as holy comes from talents and glyphs that are available to us as disc if we'd like. I'll admit that what we have to sacrifice to get Improved Renew probably isn't worth it, but Glyph of Renew might very well be. However, the real strength of Renew is that it also fills one big spot in our healing arsenal that currently is only filled by two spells, both with relatively long cooldowns. Just as with Holy, we should consider using Renew as soon as we have to move around, which in current content is quite often. Right now we've got the Shield and Prayer of Mending (or of course, Holy Nova), but both of these options are soon exhausted and on some fights with a lot of moveement there might be a lot of downtime for a disc priest unless we want to spam shields everywhere (tornadoes during Alysrazor for example). Instead of thinking that the Shield is our only option we should definitely consider spamming out Renews on anyone who's taken some damage - it is basically as throwing a Heal or Greater Heal on that target. The Shield isn't a heal in the first place, and we have to be able to acknowledge the times when the Shield won't do any good. During those times a Renew might very well be the answer. Renew isn't a substitute for the Shield, but a complement and should be treated and used as such.

And also
Renew does benefit a lot from haste being a really good stat choice for discipline priests. Stacking haste like I have ensures we easily get that extra tick. Each tick procs a trinket like DMC Maelstrom, can crit and crits procs Divine Aegis - that's worth noting too. If we know how and when to use our Renew it really only has one major drawback, and that is that it doesn't scale as well with spellpower as most of our other spells. Nonetheless, even without proper talents and glyphs it holds equal footing to spells like Heal and Greater Heal as shown above.

Other people have also voiced their interest in the efficiency of Renew, and whether it is worth implementing into our healing rotation or not. Here are a couple of other things said regarding the usefulness of Renew in t11 from forum threads here and here;

"Renew is just prone to overheal, but it has it's uses. It also has its detractors. In a way, they are right. You really should be casting penance, prayer of healing or mending and Shield. (higher hpm/hps) and renew takes a backseat to all of those.

  However, I use Renew for things like furious roar, to stack healing on the tank while I am CC'd. If you know a big hit is coming, it's good to cast Renew on the tank pre-empetively."

"I love renew in PvP, great for folks taking a little damage or with DoT's on them that I don't have time to dispel at that moment. At least slows the drain until I can cast something larger."

"If you're willing to invest in Renew it can be very good.  Renew hits 5 heals at 12.5% haste, which is easily reachable with nominal rating (~5%) and raid buffs, or automatic after 2/2 Borrowed Time.  If you keep a constant 12.5% haste then you get 6 heals any time you have BT + Power Infusion/Bloodlust/Time Warp/Ancient Hysteria.  5-tic Renew is extremely efficient, talented and glyphed healing for nearly as much as Greater Heal for 1/3 the cost.  6-tic Renew is the most efficient heal we have available. 

Mechanically, your raid should not be topped off all the time, making Renew an ideal tool for keeping people out of the danger zone.  Renew is also the only means we have of casting two heals at once, effectively stacking throughput, which is very handy on tanks.  Renew also helps proc chances on most trinkets and all weapon imbues.  It's instant-cast and good for periods when your raid must move, extremely handy when used in conjunction with PW:S. 

In short, yes, Renew can be good for any flavor priest."

"Is renew good for disc?  The answer is pretty simple to me.  It depends on what you are doing and who you are doing it with.  25 man hardmodes, I wouldnt touch renew with a 10 foot pole.  10 man regular mode, depends on your healing assignements and who you are healing with.  5 man heriocs, I use it all the time."

And a thought from t12, taken from a mmo-champion thread.

"Here's the truth about renew for disc; it's situational and only to be used if the following are true:

1.) You're moving
2.) PW:S is on the target/has been used on the target/You have put the amount of PW:S your gear can handle maintaining on the raid
3.) PoM is Out
4.)You are NOT moving into a stacked pile during an AoE damage mechanic where Holy Nova till Stationary is better

If these are the circumstances, renew's niche becomes clear. It's also not terrible to keep rolling on the tank, but definitely not needed.

Renew has it's place in the disc arsenal, and anyone who tells you otherwise is spewing bullcrap. "

Overall priests nowadays mostly seem to argue whether it is needed or not (kind of like the discussion about Atonement/Archangel), not whether it is worth the mana or time or not. Only you can know that for sure really. The above four points are pretty good ones (although I don't completely agree about the Holy Nova one since HN has a cap and really heals for so little).

The short version of it is;

Should we use a gcd for Renew instead of any other heal? No
Should we use a gcd for Renew when there is no other heal to cast? Yes

Like I said earlier it's not supposed to substitute for our other heals, and if you're standing in a safe spot you should probably always use another heal over Renew. But it is still a fact that our on the move healing lacks something and we shouldn't consider Renew completely worthless. As such, Renew definitely has a spot in our healing arsenal.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

4.3 Tidbits

We got a couple of tidbits from Blizzard during Gamescom, regarding some designer choices in the future - here are some I found worth commenting on;

"Armor dyes are unlikely to be included in the game, but mount customization is a possibility."

Although I am very happy about the new Transmogrifier I can't say that I've been longing for the possibility to either dye my gear or my mounts. Now, they say mount "customization" so that could mean more than just changing its color, but what more? Size? If we got to change much more than that it wouldn't even be the same mount anylonger, so I doubt it'll go that far. And are there really that many people out there who've always wished they could run around with a red kodo instead of a teal one? Well now that I think of it it doesn't sound so bad.

"Class Quests are unlikely to return due to the amount of time it takes to design and implement them."

I'm quite sad to read this actually. Class quests were one of the things highest on my wish list for things to be implemented in WoW, or in this case rather re-implemented. It could be that I have my nostalgic pink-tinted goggles on when I think about how much fun I had with my class quest, but I seriously think people would enjoy it. There were several different types, some showed that you had massive skills, some showed that you had massive patience and money and you always needed a little luck for it as well. In either case, my class quest turned out to be one of my fondest WoW-memories, my hunter friends class quest too. It doesn't have to be "mandatory" in that it rewards the best item in the game, but it could be something cool - much like the new hunter pet challenges show that you have skills and reward you with a cool looking pet to tell everyone you made it. Is it too difficult to make things as personalized as a class quest is in the current state of WoW? Has the magic totally gone away? It would be really sad if that was the case and if Blizzard think they only can give simple, repeatable quest chains. I also think that saying that time is the major reason they won't implement it is the badderest excuse of them all. If there is anything we as subscribers deserve from Blizzard, it is them taking their time to implement cool things for us (as long as there is a reasonable ratio between time spent and coolness factor of course). If they had said that it would be too difficult or that not many enough people are interested or just about anything than basically saying they're too lazy to implement them (because that is how I interpret it) - I'd be happy.

"A real money Auction House is not planned for WoW."

I don't think it would've bothered me much if they would've implemented a real money auction house for WoW. It's not the fact that money is involved that has ever bothered me, it is always what you can buy for it that really matters. If the auction house would work the same way, in that you still only can buy items (as opposed to levels, skills, talents or whatnot) then fine. It would allow people with a lot of money to get their hands on some nice gear, sure. But that is already the case - but with people who have a lot of in game money instead. I don't see the difference really - if people want to spend their hard earned irl money on game stuffs, then be my guest. I can go farm in game gold instead and buy the same stuff, so I don't think it would make much of a difference.

"RealID LFD grouping was originally going to be paid because of the similarity to Paid Character Transfers, but they decided it was the right thing for the game to offer it for free."

And they did the right decision. I've already vented some thoughts on this matter, and I am really happy they changed their minds. This is one example of the things I don't want people to be able to buy with irl money. I wouldn't mind if it cost in game money to "unlock" or what have you, but you shouldn't connect irl money with something that, according to me, is part of the core mechanic of the game. Unless of course they allowed you to buy it with irl money and in game money (see above), now that's a whole nother thing. There has been suggested around the bloggosphere that us bloggers hook up and do instances together. While I secretly think that is an awesome idea it will probably take some time before I actually dare to take that step, because I am a lonewolf by heart.

"New players are still having trouble with the first 30 minutes and five levels of the game, more hand holding is coming for very basic concepts like moving, questing, fighting, and looting."

I find this really interesting. I can only assume they are talking about people who play WoW as one of their first real games ever (by real game I mean something other than Angry Birds and Farmville). Indeed Blizzard mention this over at DigitalSpy;

"I think the people that get past about level five or so, they're having a better and smoother experience. I would say we struggle with getting players through the first 30 minutes because the audience that we get for new players becomes increasingly more casual over time.

"They struggle with the very basics of controlling the camera in a 3D space, moving their character, and often, they are unfamiliar with RPG concepts such as looting a monster after you kill it. We still have a long way to go to improve that part of the experience, but level five and on is a lot better."

People around me basically go into two different categories - the ones that know games because they enjoy them and the ones that don't know games because they don't enjoy them. The latter ones probably wouldn't enjoy WoW no matter how easy it was at the start because the whole idea of running around and killing monsters on a computer simply does not appeal to them. The one who comes closest to some sort of middle thing would probably be myself, but that wasn't because of lack of interest, but because of lack of a viable computer to play computer games on. But even I had played a lot of games before I started with WoW, I knew the concept of how to control the character, leveling up, combat, looting and all that. Indeed, when a friend of mine, who's basically only ever played Mario on NES, tried out WoW she almost panicked when the first mob started hitting her. She had no idea on how to handle the spells, although there were only two or so, or what to do with quests. I find it really hard to see how you could make the game so easy so that she would be interested in playing. Am I evil to say that people who can't get through the first 30 minutes of a game that is as simple as WoW should be trying something else instead? Can WoW ever be the learning grounds for people who've never touched a game before?

"The shared 10 and 25 man lockout has had both positive and negative effects, it solved the need to do both every week but removed some extra content that could be done every week. Some changes will be made in the future to make everyone happier with the solution."

I've always felt like there was more of the negative than the positive with the shared lockout. Personally I never felt like I had to do both (but I am the one not doing dailies either) but I always thought it was good that I could jump into a 10/25 pug if needed or if I felt like it. To me, the shared lockout didn't fix anything but removed something. These mysterious "some changes" perplex me though - what could they do to have this work better? It would seem like you could only have shared lockouts or not have shared lockouts, how can there be something inbetween? I am glad they are trying to fix this however. We'll soon (hopefully) find out what they've come up with.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Plex - Level 30

Level 20-30 seem to have just flown by. Probably because I've been having a complete blast doing the quests in Hillsbrad and as you know, time flies when you have fun. My most prominent memory is how much I got my ass kicked by the various elites that reside in the area. How is that fun, you might ask? Well it wasn't actually, after my fifth or so death I was pretty fuming angry - but everything else was fun! Even when outleveling them I really have to bust my ass off to make it, and I have as I am writing this still not been able to kill Yetimus. I've been damn close but that thing he does where he throws you half across the screen just kills me. Literally. I don't mind it, actually I kind of enjoy that the difficult world elites are back. But then I look at Loves fresh warlock, fully decked out in BoA gear of course and how he just steamrolls stuff that totally would've killed me. Ah well. And then I see him getting his ass kicked by Yetimus too and then I think maybe I wasn't that bad - maybe Yetimus is simply the incarnation of evil. It wasn't exactly made easier by the fact that I couldn't find anyone to help over the course of asking for several days (!). I had to buckle up and level to 31 before I could get this big boy down, and even then it wasn't cake walk.

But I finally got the bastard!

My healing hasn't changed much, mainly due to the fact that I'm running around with basically the same healing tools since I dinged level 10. It means a whole lot of renewing, and not so much else. Healing isn't as easy as it was the first couple of dungeons though, but that is something I mentioned already in my last post. A boss can actually oom me and have me healing on fumes. I like it, it adds some challenge to the fights and I don't think my failures are due to bad tools but due to tough encounters (made tougher by new players who don't always know how to do things). It actually means I have to be active and care, not like before where the healer pretty much could be afk the entire instance. On Zinn I've bound the Shield to unmodified RMB and renew to alt+RMB, since I use the shield a lot and renew not so much when disc. On these levels however, the shield is still more of an "Oh shit" button rather than a regular heal, and I use it very scarcely (especially since I don't even have Rapture yet). It eventually made me switch my bindings between Renew and Shield on Plex, and it'll be interesting to see when I feel the need to switch back. Here are two examples of my healing done from Gnomeregan and SM GY.

Doing lowbie dungeons has also made me dig out my old "HEALER HAS AGGRO" macro. I don't think I've had to use that since... well since Cata and probably even well before that, but lowbie tanks do need some help with their attention. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it helps them keep the mobs off me. I'm also using Fade quite frequently.

I've also remembered that one of the biggest benefits of being a healer, as compared to a dps and especially tank, is that you can join even very high leveled instances without it being much of a problem. Just make sure to keep out of range from the mobs, since you'll probably pull easily, and there's no problem. Being underleleved as a dps or tank is a big problem however since you probably miss everything you do. That is what is so lovely about healing, that other players are your main targets and you mainly have to adapt to that.

My guild that showed such promise has since pretty much died. Since my last post no one has been online for two weeks, except for someone being online briefly yesterday to write in the GMOTD that he won't be online much (yeah thanks, I noticed). I'm not sure why I stick around in it, since it's only level 1 too. I just really have trouble with leaving guilds (separation anxiety?), I don't just join them for nothing and it takes quites a lot to have me leave them too. But a guild with no one else in it and no perks... yeah that's pretty much useless.

I got to buy my first set of glyphs at level 25, and yet again I marvel at the prices. On my main I just shrug at them, because I know it's an investment. I only have to pay for them once. But 200g for a glyph just really stings when you're level 25. That's more than most epics cost at that level. I could probably get 5 really good blue items for those money. Those prices always mean I have to go pretty much glyphless on my first chars on new servers, fortunately I have a warrior with some 900g on the same server this time around. Acquiring money isn't difficult at all, but having the hundreds of g often needed to get at least two good glyphs at level 25 still isn't done over night. I chose Renew as my first prime glyph, since that is the heal I use the most currently, by far. For major I got Divine Accuracy obviously, since it will help me out with both my questing and later on Atonement healing.

Speaking of Atonement healing, at level 30 is the first time you actually get it, if you put a point in it that is. Tier 3 in the discipline tree is overall the "tough choice" tier. I get to choose between Atonement, Power Infusion and Inner Focus (and Borrowed Time, but that is less awesome). Those are all really good talents, but in the end I decided to get Power Infusion first. This was because I was struggling against the elites in Hillsbrad and I had this idea of being able to burn them down before I oomed. In hindsight I'd probably have more use of one point into Atonement though. Fortunately I don't have to wait long before I get it.

In a way I think it's good that you don't get Atonement healing until level 30. I think that is just enough time for a new player to get acquainted with the regular way of healing, before introducing what actually is a very unique and completely different way of healing. One of the biggest issues I see with lowbie disc priests using Atonement healing is that they forget that they're actually there to heal. Either they tunnel in on Smite spamming and forget to heal whoever isn't affected by Atonement, or they just spam it even when no one needs heals and oom too fast, meaning they have no mana when people actually need heals. The key to using Atonement succesfully is to know exactly when to use it, just as with any other heal really. I am really looking forward to see how it will work out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The transmogrifier will make us all special snowflakes

So Blizzard have announced what probably is their best idea yet, or at least not far from - the Transmogrifier. In case you've been living under a rock the last week it'll basically allow you to convert your current gear into looking like any gear in the game (that you can wear). Yes, that's right - you can finally run around with those banana shoulders like a boss. DISCLAIMER: Banana shoulders are limited to plate using classes.

I can't even express how happy I am about this implementation. There are so many things I like about this idea.

First of all, it'll allow me to tailor my character - the thing I am currently spending several hours a week looking at - to look exactly like I want her to. I've collected rp gears before, but the only time I've had a chance at using it was when idling around in some major city. Now I'll be able to finally wield my Benediction/Anathema in a raid with pride!
Secondly, it will allow me to go back into old raids/dungeons/farming mobs and actually be happy about the gear drops. Eventhough I enjoy doing old instances and raids from time to time I usually don't do it very often because it doesn't feel like well spent time. I could've spent that time getting VP for better gear. You all know the choice - doing something boring for something good or doing something fun for something bad. Unfortunately I am not that hedonistic that I always choose the latter (only in real life). But now I can run Karazhan and be as happy to be there as I will be happy when the Masquerade Gown drops.
Thirdly, I am no longer at the mercy of some mere gear designers flimsical will. No longer will I have to dress i horribad creations, I can finally turn my character into an individual and not into something that looks like every other of my class on the server.
Fourthly, with more and more people gearing the way they prefer, we'll hopefully no longer be able to exactly see someones progress in raids based on their gear, which somehow always have reminded me of how you can see what people with beards had for breakfast and lunch. It just aint cool.
Fifthly, no gear piece will ever be thought of as useless crap ever again. It is all a potential piece in the puzzle that is your future magnificent looking gear. There are so many really cool looking green items out there that never get seen, so this is a great way for Blizzard to get full use of all their skins, and even make midlevel crafteds worthwhile.
Sixthly, maybe it will have the gear designers actually make an effort to invent some cool looking gear, since no one will bother with it if it looks too boring (like so many cloth tiers do nowadays).

When I first read about this change
I seriously thought it would be impossible for anyone to find anything even remotely negative about it. I am sure something will turn up eventually of course, it always does, but I've also seen a couple of posts that have voiced some concern. More specifically they're worried that it will make everyone run around looking exactly the same. I don't see how people can look more the same than they already are. And also, since when do people want to run around looking like everyone else, if they have the choice not to? As soon as there is one type of gear that is the most popular, you can bet your ass that no one will want to use it anylonger. Especially since basically any gear is attainable by anyone who has a handful of friends who can run raids with them. This means people who care will bust their asses to find either the gear set that make them look the craziest, the most original or just exactly like they've always wanted their character to look. I'm not worried that everyone will run around in the coolest looking tier set for their class. In fact everyone looking the same is exactly what the Transmogrifier is trying to fix.

Some argue that it is coming too late and yeah, I can agree with that. Together with the Void Storage (which is something I recently asked for), this is something I've been wishing to get into the game for ages. Blizzard have implemented flavor changes like these occasionally before, but never these many and these changing at once, not counting new expansion releases. Becoming rocking-chair-on-porch-musing I think this is an indicator that Blizzard think they need to keep us in the game increasingly more through these funsie things rather than just adding new content, which seems to not satisfy us enough anymore. For me this is one of the things that, more than any new instance could, will add countless hours of extra fun into the game trying to collect the perfect gear for myself, so in this case this really feels like any huge-content-patch-game-revival.

Blizzard answers some of the questions regarding the details of how the Transmogrifier works and I'd like to comment some of them myself;

You will not be able to transmogrify using a legendary item as either the source or the recipient of a change.

Initially I thought this was a good idea since I thought legendaries should be kept legendary by not having anyone and everyone run around with them. And this is also probably exactly what Blizzard have thought as well. But then I remembered that whoever wants to transmogrify a legendary also must have said legendary, and then I don't think it would be too lenient to allow people to fully enjoy those legendaries that they've probably spent an awful lot of time to get. And again, if they become too prevalent, people will stop using them. I'm never worried that people will actively want to look like everyone else.

We have an obligation to players and to our hard working artists to keep the game from looking too silly. I know looking ridiculous is fun for some players, but World of Warcraft was established with a design that the game overall kept its silliness in check. That's one of the reasons we resisted adding a feature like Transmogrification for so long.

So weapons that look like fish, for example, probably won't be available as source items for Transmogrification, even if one is technically a dagger and has stats. There are a handful other weapons with "silly" models (such as frying pans, brooms, etc.) that may or may not be allowed -- it's still under discussion.

In a way I agree with this. Whether or not you play on an rp server you don't want people to ruin the immersion too much by being called Hulkhogan or yet another Sephiroth dk. The same would probably go for gear where, if you would allow people to really wear anything, there will always be some wise guy who has to run around looking like a Christmas tree on crack (or a penis). But on the other hand I wonder how many of those people there are? Maybe one is too many. And then I also wonder if a person running around with a Frying Pan really would be that horrible? Maybe I shouldn't underestimate the ingenuity of people who like to be the server idiot.

Sunnier over at A Sunnier Bear (and plenty others since I wrote this post) actually has the best approach to these news - she goes on to offer some tips on what kind of gear you should get to your druid to make it look really cool. And that is exactly what I am going to do as well, so here are a couple of interesting gear choices to make for your priest once the Transmogrifier is in place (I'll only mention the visible gear)

Head: Cowl of the Illidari Highlord - this bad girl makes even the wimpiest of gnomes (sorry for the tautology) look like a mean-bean killing machine. Raid bosses will whimper, cry and run away in fear when they see you in this. Another option to attain this effect would be by using the Red Winters Hat. Cowl of Malefic Repose is another good head. Or The Hexxer's Mask.

Shoulders: Shoulders is what makes me sad that I can only Transmogrify cloth items, but on the other hand if there were no restrictions that would have me spend endless hours sifting through cool shoulders, trying to gather them all and still not be able to choose one to use, so it's probably just as well. If I had to choose one, why not the tier 5 shoulders? Or the tier 7 ones, seen above.
As close to banana shoulders as I'll get.

Back: For a back, either something that fits the rest of your gear, or Stoneskin Gargoyle Cloak for old reference. Actually I usually hide my back, whether it looks good or not totally depends on race.
Still longer than average?

Except perhaps on a goblin...
Chest: There are many good chests. If I had to choose only one it'd be the Venomshroud Silk Robes, because they're simple yet so cool looking. And they're part of a complete set which of course also would be totally awesome to own. Or maybe finally there is some use to Queen Azshara's Dressing Gown? Or what about that endless list of world event/holiday chests you've got molding in your bank?

Weapon: This is your best opportunity to brag about that Anathema/Benediction you've got. Yeah, I'll totally do that. In case you weren't able to get one, Sulfur Stave is pretty cool too.

And it is two weapons in one too!

Bat on a stick.