Posts Tagged ‘Wrath of the Lich King’

In this week’s Totem Talk, Rich Malloy points out using Shock and Awe’s priority system as a guide for our DPS rotation “is a net DPS loss for experienced Enhancement players.”

I’ll take it one step further and point out it’s a net loss for everybody.

Shaman priority system

Windfury: The ultimate priority.

We’ve had quite a few posts on this subject, and I’ve repeated it like a mantra — there is no DPS rotation. While the guys over at Elitist Jerks take math to the extremes (bless their hearts) and tweak on down to the fraction level, it’s been established since early in the expansion that the beautiful new synergy between melee and casting gave us a unique system that couldn’t be simplified in terms of macros or “rotations.”

Simply put, you can’t be lazy when playing this spec, and macros are only going to hurt your DPS contribution to your raid. While that’s fine for heroics and older tiers, DPS spots for current tiers are almost always competitive, especially at the 10-man level. In a 25-man there are always a few spots for people to get “carried” through content…but do you really want to be that guy?

For my own set-up, I use Shock-and-Awe for one thing: to flash a small bar bright red and give me an audio cue when Maelstrom Weapon reaches five stacks.

That’s really all the help I need for rotation-specific, real time information. I stick to the standard priority system otherwise, and DBM takes care of my other split-second information needs. Everything else is purely cosmetic, and my personal preference has always been a clean UI — I find clutter only increases my chances of missing something critical and letting the raid down.

If Enhancement players were the type of people who are bothered by having to do extra work, we wouldn’t have rolled Shamans. After all, easy as it is to forget, it wasn’t until a few months ago that we had to set up each individual totem on every pull. Hunters, Warlocks and Mages don’t have to do that, and they can open up as soon as the threat numbers look favorable.

Maybe we’re spoiled by the revamped totem system. Or maybe — and this is my suspicion — the awesomeness of the Enhancement spec in Wrath has lured in players who might otherwise have specced Elemental or Resto, or rolled a different class altogether.

But I try to look at it this way — the more control over DPS abilities we have, the bigger the upside if we work hard. And that’s a wonderful problem to have.

Related posts from Stormstrike:

Patch 3.3: Enhancement Shaman Talent Specs, Now With More Fire Nova

Patch 3.3: Enhancement Shaman rotations

From the department of missing tier sets, some news: We still haven’t seen a single screen shot of the new Shaman Tier 10 armor set from Icecrown Citadel, but thanks to MMO-Champion, now we know its name: Frost Witch’s (Garb/Regalia/Battlegear.

Going by previous naming conventions, we (Enhancement Shamans) will wear the Frost Witch’s Battlegear.

I was initially disappointed when I read the news, but on second consideration it might not be that bad. It depends on how you visualize the word witch. There’s the Wicked Witch of the West (lame), and the Wicked version of that same witch (also lame), and you’ve also got the Salem “witches” (not very fun), but then again there’s the Witch-King of Angmar. And he’s badass. So badass, Blizzard decided to lift the character pretty much wholesale and splice it into its own lore.

Besides the superficial and visual similarities, the backstory of the Witch-King is echoed in the backstory of the Lich King — both are former mortal men, both are former royalty, and both became corrupted by inanimate objects imbued with dark magic. If you want to take it even further, both of them like to retreat to angular-looking fortresses with towering black gates and spires when they’re not terrorizing the rest of the world.

And, yeah, as a player of Battle for Middle Earth II, I’d noticed this at the time:

witchking
wrath-of-the-lich-king
The ridiculous thing is, EA managed to nerf the Witch-King in very expansion that was named after him. In vanilla BFMEII, Mordor was laughably weak in the early game, but capable of an insane level of cheesiness in the mid- to late-game. I have many fond memories of leading Mountain Trolls and Nazgul, with the Witch-King at the forefront, against opponents in multiplayer.

But EA has such a disregard for its playerbase, that it’d rather devote all its developer resources into the next title than squash simple little bugs and cheat-permitting holes in an otherwise beautiful, memorable game. Seriously, BFMEII was the best multiplayer RTS since Age of Kings. But EA sucks, and Blizzard takes the longevity of its games seriously, which is why I’m playing World of Warcraft and not one of the EA shit festivals.

So, yes: Witches. Let’s hope for Angmar, and not the West.

The past week has seen a flurry of data-mined art depicting Tier 10 sets for almost every class besides Shaman. Maybe that’s a good thing, because Tier 10 sets for classes like Rogues and Hunters don’t seem to be going over very well, at least aesthetically.

The good news is, MMO-Champion’s given us a preview of Tier 10’s two- and four-set bonuses, including the bonuses for the as-yet unrevealed Shaman set:

  • * 2 Pieces (Enhancement): When you activate your Shamanistic Rage ability you also deal 12% additional damage for 15 second.

  • * 4 Pieces (Enhancement): Each time the beneficial effect of your Maelstrom Weapon talent reaches 5 charges, you have a 15% chance to gain 20% attack power for 10 seconds.

The two-set bonus seems ridiculously good, especially compared to Tier 9 and considering Shamanistic Rage is on a one-minute cooldown. I’m sure I’m not alone among Enhancement Shaman in not using Shamanistic Rage very often when it comes off cooldown — in a way, Improved Stormstrike does its job almost too well, and the rare times I find myself hurting for mana are during extremely mobile fights like Anub, when I find myself re-dropping all four totems because the raid has run out of range.

With the two-set bonus, there’s incentive to use Shamanistic Rage every time it’s off cooldown. Players can also use it like an on-use trinket, timing it with Bloodlust and Feral Spirit to squeeze even more DPS from the ability.

The four-piece bonus is a little more confusing, as a percentage-of-a-percentage. Essentially, more than one out of every seven times you get a Maelstrom five-stack, you’ll gan 20% of your Attack Power. But only for 10 seconds. This set bonus is trinket-esque as well, with the caveat that you cannot control when it procs, adding yet another RNG element to Enhancement DPS.

Still, compared to Tier 9’s universally reviled set bonuses, Tier 10’s bonuses look flat-out incredible. Here’s to hoping they stay intact through the PTR to the live patch.

Related posts from Stormstrike:

Enhancement Shamans in Patch 3.3: Should we respec?

Lord Marrowgar down! The fight, from a melee perspective

The Frozen Halls: Enhancement Shaman Gear

Fall of the Lich King Trailer: So how easy will it be to kill Arthas?

Not really.

But I have returned to write this blog, after a long (and much needed) respite from the game.

If you’re like me and you’ve played World of Warcraft for any number of years, burnout may be a familiar sensation. I started playing the game in the early stages of the Burning Crusade, and this was my second bout of full-fledged burnout, accompanied by all the symptoms — disinterest in raiding, a renewed focus on PvP followed by a feeling of disgust with arena, and then finally the slow realization that I really should be doing something else with my time.

For me, that point comes when I’ve realized I’m no longer using the game as a means to unwind — if I hate a particular heroic, but I’m running it for those last two badges needed for a new item; if I can’t stand a certain raid instance, but I want those elusive shoulders to drop; if I’m getting tired of unbalanced PvP, but I stay to grind out 20 extra matches to reach a higher bracket. All these things are signs of burnout.

WotLK started out auspiciously enough — upon touching down in Vengeance Landing, that feeling of whole new realms to explore and new adventures to be had was strong. I remember rushing to the Dragonblight after dinging 76, glad to be back on my flying mount and eager to circle around the gorgeous Wyrmrest Temple a few times for some screen shots.

Leveling up was fun — I was worried I’d be deterred by the perpetual wintery atmosphere in Northrend, but the quest were more immersive, the new enemy models were engaging, the music (especially in Storm Peaks) was epic, and hey, there’s always Sholazar Basin. I zoomed around Scholazar, taking in the verdant sights on my flying mount first from high up in the air, then in low swooping dives, speeder-bike-on-Endor style.

And there’s something about that limbo between leveling up and the first stages of end-game that makes everyone a lot friendlier and willing to cooperate. At level 75, when people are wearing a mix of WotLK dungeon blues and last expansion’s epics, people don’t seem to feel the need to flaunt their e-peens. They just want to level up, and if the damage meters don’t exactly show parity, well hey, we’re all within a level or two of each other and will replace this gear in two weeks anyway.

From there it was heroics, then Naxxramas and Sartharion, and finally Malygos. I joined a new guild and I loved it. We had a couple small squads for heroics, which were a lot of fun with the folks in the guild, and our 25-man raiding efforts were largely successful, if a bit sloppy at times. We downed Sartharion with his three drakes on 25-man hard mode and came damn close to getting the 10-man achievement before I took a break from the game.

Ultimately, it was a series of unfortunate in-guild drama episodes that killed the fun for me. As one of two main officers under our guild’s GM, I was the guy tasked with holding our guild together during a rough patch, while our GM took his own sabbatical to care for his wife, who had just had surgery.

With one crisis barely averted, and various egos reassured, one particular rogue  — whose attacks should be based on a drama bar instead of an energy bar — started sowing seeds of discontent, alleging loot favoritism while promising more epics and more success as he whispered into the ears of a few key raiders.

In my guild, I had a reputation as an extremely fair officer and an all-around nice guy. I’d mediated disputes, I’d been thanked countless times for staying above such disputes, and during loot council I tried to be an advocate for parity and fairness.

So it was that when a fourth of our guild /gquit after a particularly animated tantrum by the rogue in question, I was bombarded with tells from those key players, many of them like this: “You’re a great officer, and we want to continue raiding with YOU, but we can’t stay in this guild…”

I didn’t have it in me to lead the rebuilding efforts, and after two weeks our GM was still MIA. The slow trickle of /gquits that comes after a mass exodus was threatening to turn into a torrent, and suddenly my in-game stresses were beginning to feel a lot like the stress of real life.

Bottom line: It wasn’t fun anymore. I had to take a break.

So why did I come back? When 3.2 dropped, the idea of raiding and participating in PvP once again started to appeal to me, and I couldn’t resist the call of an entire tier of raiding sans trash. I love Trial of the Crusader. Plus, some old friends offered me an invite to their casual-but-skilled raiding core, and I knew I’d be running with people I like, people who are fun to raid with and know how to get the job done.

Now that I’ve been back for a few weeks and I feel like I’m a bit more in the loop, it felt like a natural step to return to writing this blog. Here’s to hoping more than a few Enhancement Shaman — and WoW players in general — will find some interesting posts and useful information here on Stormstrike.

Woot!

twilightassist1

We’re behind the curve, we’re not leet, we’re scrubs, blah blah blah. You could say about a guild that hasn’t gotten Sartharion plus a drake down until March. But a couple things make me proud: 1) This is only the second night we’ve attempted it, the first consisting of two wipes before people had to go, and 2) We did it with only 22 people.

My guild’s not hardcore. Most of our 25-man raids are more like 20-man raids, because we have trouble filling all 25 spots on any given night. We’ve got a nice little core of raiders, but we simply can’t do 25-mans without bringing along whoever we can — including people in quest blues who log on maybe two or three times a week.

So tonight it felt good to zone into OS and take down Sarth and Tenebron on our second attempt. When all was said and done, 19 players were still standing when Sartharion fell, and /cheers were abundant.

Next week: Two drakes. We might have 22 people or fewer, but we’ll still give it a shot and have fun doing it. And I’m sure with enough persistence and solid leadership, we’ll be moving on to three drakes before Ulduar drops.

From WoWWiki:

The Nexus (formerly Ice Caverns) is a level 71-73 wing of the Nexus Dungeon Hub in the Borean Tundra. The dungeon layout is very open. You can go into different “wings”, but the final boss Keristrasza, a captured red dragon, can only be freed from her ice prison when you kill the previous three.

I ventured into The Nexus the day after my first foray into WotLK, having run Utgarde Keep twice the night before.

With a Warrior tank, a Priest handling the heals, and a pair of Mages rounding out the DPS, we headed inside and tackled the first couple of pulls — solo Blue Dragonkin who patrol the long corridors between wings in the rune-covered instance.

From the main hallway leading into the instance, you can see Keristrasza, the imprisoned Red Dragon (and the instance’s final boss) encased in ice.

Keristrasza (background)

Keristrasza (background)

Lore-wise, there’s a bit of a disconnect here: If Alexstrasza is the benevolent leader of the Red Dragonflight, and Keristrasza is her faithful lieutenant, why are we tasked with killing her?

Turns out Malygos, the Blue Dragon Aspect, imprisoned Keristrasza as retribution for trying to stall him with an army of Red Dragonflight, and players have to defeat her in order to free her.

Keristrasza

Keristrasza

Leading up to the Keristrazsa encounter are a trio of bosses — Grand Magus Telestra, a High Elf mage who summons clones of herself, Ormorok the Tree-Shaper, who really doesn’t do anything special besides tearing lines of jagged ice in the ground, and Anomalus, a voidwraith who summons groups of adds that have a nasty mana burn.

Anomalus on his rune-etched platform.

Anomalus on his rune-etched platform.

I’ve seen the Nexus described as a “McInstance” in a forum post critical of its design, but I enjoyed the run, and like Utgarde Keep there were clear signs that Blizzard has learned a few things about dungeon design.

On the practical side, graveyard walks (few, thankfully) weren’t painful — the graveyard is about 100 yards south of the instance portal, and the open layout made it easy to get back into the action after a wipe. The non-linear boss order also made it easy to progress at a quick pace, despite the impression of labyrinthian complexity.

In visual terms, the design was at times stunning. Grand Magus Telestra’s perch is layered in a blue-tinged “digital rain” reminiscent of Matrix code. A gauntlet-like series of trash pulls leading to Ormorok runs a winding path through an indoor “forest” of frosted trees. And every entranceway and surface is covered in glowing blue runes and latticed cartouches, contributing to the atmosphere of an ancient, frigid, subterranean lair.

Unlike Utgarde Keep (and the similarly quick Azjol Nerub), the Nexus takes some time to clear. But thankfully the trash waves aren’t as numerous as, say, a Shadow Labyrinth or Botanica. This is a place that can be cut through without following a linear route and painstakingly marking each pull with kill orders and crowd control. Part of that can be attributed to the new AoE tanking abilities enjoyed by every tank class, but part of it is just good dungeon design.

While it won’t go down as one of the greatest instances in the game, the Nexus is a fun trip that stands up to repeated visits.

Here’s my statline upon entering Northrend:

Attack Power: 1955

Crit Chance: 28.46%

Expertise: 8 (2%)

Hit Rating: 109

Stamina: 9886

Mana: 5894

Pre-3.0, before Agility was converted to give Shamans 1 AP per point of Agility (and Strength was changed from 1 Str = 2 AP to a 1:1 ratio), I was sitting at a healthy 1630 AP and 33% Crit for Tier 5 and early Tier 6 raiding. Although the Agility change offered us substantially more AP, it also came at a loss to crit, with a new conversion ratio similar to the ratios used for Hunters and Rogues.

Since I’m writing about my stats from about two weeks ago, I’d have to make an educated guess and put the Armor Penetration numbers somewhere around 450-500, with a bit more now that I’ve replaced two pieces of level 70 epic gear with WotLK blues. Crit and hit rating have suffered immeasurably from level 70 to 74, because of the dipping conversion rates at each level, but more on that later.

Taking the Shaman Out for A Test Drive

The first thing I did upon arriving at Vengeance Landing was grab the round of quests available to me and head off to the Undead-Human frontline about two hundred yards south of the town.

Riding past the Horde cannoneers and their Undead Blood Elf commander, I started to carve through mobs in a path toward human NPCs I had been instructed to assassinate.

Having been on extended hiatus, I initially forgot to summon my Spirit Wolves, but perhaps that was a result of not needing them. With Maelstrom Weapon, five-stack procs were plentiful, and it was easy to pull four or five mobs at a time, drop a Stoneclaw/Magma Totem combo and toss Chain Lightnings en route to easy kills.

Spirit Wolves

Spirit Wolves

Like all Enhancement Shamans newly arrived in Northrend, I found the biggest challenge was not burning through my comparatively shallow mana pool in a few short seconds.

With the changes to the spec, and a new Attack Power bonus based off of Intellect, by level 80 most players are expected to favor “Hunter mail” and roll with a higher ratio of Intellect on their gear.

But any Shaman worth his or her salt in The Burning Crusade ran with rogue leather in most slots, with a piece of mail here and there. It was the only way to be competitive in raid DPS, thanks to poor mail itemization.

Later, while questing north of the Great Lift-esque Taunka elevator that carries players above the shoreline, I found myself  at a Vyrkul camp east of Utgarde Keep, staring at a level 70 elite and three mobs surrounding him.

I pulled each mob carefully with max-range Lightning Bolts and was surprised to see the entire group didn’t aggro on each bolt. A minute or so later, it was just me and the named elite.

With Strength of Earth, Windfury, Healing Stream and Searing Totem down, I pulled the mounted elite and hit Feral Spirit, siccing the dogs on him before I ran in for my first Stormstrike. Maelstrom procs stacked quickly with white attacks and a Lava Lash to follow up, and I tossed my second Lightning Bolt, following it up with an Earth Shock.

The elite was dead, and I was at more than 90% health.

While probably not the best gauge of Enhancement performance (Blizzard intended the quest to be 2-manned), it was still illustrative of the buffed PvE state of the spec. Most of the surrounding Vyrkul had been three-shotted, with nothing but mana issues along the way.

Later, I’ll post some notes on DPS numbers and aggro management in the entry-level instances (Windshock is amazing), where we can go more in-depth on the group dynamic.