A Blog by Bajingobomb, Horde US-Malfurion

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Blood Shield Sucks and Made Me Hate Tanking

I always enjoyed tanking as a DK in Wrath – you had a few different specs to play with, each of which was more or less viable – and you pulled pretty awesome threat with some excellent survival cooldowns.  You could tank as Blood and get Vampiric Blood for boosted healing (and back then it increased Death Strike healing so it was amazing), Frost for Lichborne to heal yourself with Death Coil, or Unholy for Bone Shield and Anti-Magic Zone so you could get Realm-First 3-Drake Sartharion.  It was great to have different options, but more importantly they were all fun to play.

Then Cataclysm showed up and fucked everything up.

I had been really excited when Blizzard had initially announced that Blood was to become a dedicated tanking tree for DKs in Cata.  While the three trees offered some fun options in WotLK, DKs were missing some valuable tank benefits.  We had no way reduce a mobs attack speed and you ultimately couldn’t get all the tanking cooldowns collectively, you more or less had to pick one.  “Fuck yes,” I thought, “DKs are finally going to be fun AND fully viable as tanks!”

Due to the fact that we tried to raid as a 10-man guild at launch of Cata, I was called upon to fill a more or less full-time tanking role in the guild.  I was happy to do so because I had liked tanking so much in Wrath and I was excited to check out how a full-blown tanking spec would perform in Cata.  I quickly realized, however, that there were a few problems:

I had shit for avoidance, I sat around forever waiting for runes to be off cooldown, and Blood Shield was a steaming piece of shit

So let’s pick these apart from least-shitty to most-shitty.
Shit for Avoidance
When we started working on 10-man content (which was generally regarded as being way overtuned for the first tier when compared to 25-mans), I would frequently get face-fucked by bosses that our Warrior tank would handle with ease.  There was a running gag in the guild that I might finally have over 15% dodge by the time we killed Sinestra.
I remember working on Heroic Halfus shortly before our guild fell apart and remarking that I had 9% dodge and 11% parry, which our warrior had something like 12% to each in comparable gear and something like a 45% chance to block from his mastery.  Dude just straight up took a lot less damage than I did.  Yes, I realize Blood Shield is meant to serve as my version of a shield block, but more on that later.
Runes on Cooldown, Thumb up my Ass.
The most concerning change for me in Cata was how the DK rune system worked.  Rather than each rune having an independant 10-second cooldown, each PAIR of runes would now share that cooldown.  This meant that any one type of run would not begin cooling-down until both runes of that type had been expended.  Blood DKs get a talent that increases their run regeneration rate to make up for not gearing Haste, but things are still dreadfully slow.  Having never seriously tanked on my Warrior (or a Druid for that matter) in Cataclysm, I can’t say for certain if rage users have this same problem of resource availability, but from my experience tanking as a Warrior in Wrath I was never short on rage.
What it ended up doing to me was making tanking boring.  The Blood spec in Cata is designed to queue up a lot of death runes, so you can choose between spamming Heart Strike or Death Strike as the situation requires – more threat or more survivability.  The problem was that I was getting raped so hard in early content that I was pretty much solely using Death Strike (except when I HAD to use blood runes), leaving me with more open GCDs than any other class or spec I have tried to date.  You also face the problem of having to time your rune usage around the enemy attacks – using Death Strike after taking a hit is better than using it before – so you’re just sitting there waiting.  I realize other tanks must plan when to use things like Shield Block, and now Holy Shield, but they also have other buttons to hit in the meantime rather than just watching autoattack.
You’re left filling time with Rune Strike because you have to wait for that big hit to blow Death Strike, which in turn means you’re wasting the potential of Runic Empowerment while your runes are sitting there already full, waiting to be used.
Blood Shield Sucks.  It Sucks Hard.
This is the biggest one for me, and in a way it kind of feeds the other two complaints above as well.  Blood Shield from a design standpoint is a lot more unforgiving than the avoidance mechanics of other tanks.  Even Savage Defense, which bear tanks complain isn’t good enough, at least has the benefit of being a passive damage mitigation proc you gain just from doing your thing.  Warriors and Paladins also have the luxury of a passive avoidance in the form of blocking with a shield.  The discussion of Paladin mastery taking it in the ass compared to warrior mastery is one we’ll save for another day, but both are light years ahead of druids and especially DKs.
There was an awesome post I read a month or so ago (shows you how busy I am at work these days) where Blizzard responded to these concerns:  Blood – What is the Developer’s Design Goal?
There is actually a lot of good information here from the blues, but some of the things they say just really piss me off as someone who loves this class so much.  Namely, in a day and age where Blizzard has gone out of their way to make every aspect of the game more accessible to every walk of life, why do they think its fine for Blood mastery to be such a punishing mechanic?  I’m not bad at WoW, but I also probably couldn’t hack it in a guild like Ensidia.  Regardless, everybody makes mistakes and its something you have to accept in a raiding atmosphere.  I know the attitude of many guilds where I know people is that they won’t use DK tanks if they don’t have to because the playstyle opens the door to a greater detriment when a mistake is made.  A Warrior, Paladin, or Druid have passive avoidance built into their mastery, while DK avoidance is reactive.
Even if I’m the best player in the world, a single momentary lapse in judgment can mean the different between a wipe and a kill – but only if I’m a DK.  Why leave room for potential error when there are less risky alternatives?  I guess maybe if your raid is really dying for another battle-rez, but that’s about it.
Adjusting Blood Shield to be something more passive rather than based upon damage previously taken wouldn’t be a game-breaking change and it would put DKs back on an even playing field with the other autopilot tanks you’d rather bring today.
Having to sit on runes to use at the right time for Death Strike also can cause issues with disease applications at inopportune times.  Our diseases are directly tied to both of our standard tanking debuffs – damage reduction (scarlet fever) and attach speed reduction (frost fever).  The blue speaks to disease uptime and treats it as a decision you have to make between threat or survival – I call bullshit.  If you don’t put those diseases up again for 5-10 seconds, you’re taking 10% more damage from each swing and the swings are coming 20% faster.  Diseases are part of our survivability – not to mention the damage on their is laughable so claiming they are for threat is ridiculous.  You’ll never hear a Warrior, Druid, or Paladin cry mid-fight that they didnt have resources available to reapply their debuffs.  Bring back glyph of disease or give Blood a talent deep in the tree to lower the cooldown on Outbreak.
Anyway…
The whole thing really bums me out.  I truly love my DK – the skills, the talents, the lore, pretty much everything down to his silly modulated evil voice. I wish tanking wasn’t so much of a waiting game though, and more importantly I wish DK tanks weren’t considered liabilities in progression just for the sake of giving them a unique Mastery.
What do you think?  Maybe I just suck at my DK…

Is Blizzard Building Skynet?

I went to the WoW armory for the first time in probably 2 years today and found that the thing has gotten wtfhuge.

All my characters are flashy 3D, I can post and search auctions, I can even look at my pet and mount collections.  Perhaps the coolest (and saddest) thing I saw was that I can even find out which pets/mounts I don’t have, as well as where to find them.  I say it was sad because it was really exciting to me.

Here all along Blizzard has been building a home away from home for WoW players and I didn’t even notice because I was too busy playing the actual GAME.  Now I come to find out that even if I manage to pull myself out of Azeroth, I can still stay immersed in the whole thing while I am outside or at work.  This armory combined with the new mobile guild chat means I could theoretically never ever have to be totally removed from the game.

I’ll say it now, Blizzard is the herald of the rapture.  Eventually the armory will offer services that will let you level professions remotely, maybe go fishing.  Next maybe they’ll have wed-based daily quests you can complete towards actual achievements in-game.  Some of those Molten Front quests are so basic they could easily replicate them.

Eventually the armory will be able to play the game for you and then what?  Then it realizes it probably can do all the other stuff you do too.  Next thing you know, the Armory is self-aware and building giant orc robots to break down your door.

It could happen, just saying.

Frost Mages Suck in Raids

News flash, right?  The only time frost was considered a good raid spec was at the outset of vanilla raiding when everything you pulled was immune to fire damage.  Still though, Blizzard has made long strides since then in attempting to make all specs viable in both end-game PvE and PvP – so why is frost the seemingly lone remaining bastard child?

Anyone who has read the blog since I re-launched and cares to remember what I wrote for longer than 45 seconds might recall that I recently embarked on a new journey as a gnome mage.  The intent was to give me an avenue to check out all the revamps to 1-60 brought by Cataclysm, and hopefully give me new things to rant about.

When I hit level 10, I thought long and hard about which tree I wanted to lock myself into until level 70.  I ultimately decided to go with the frost tree just because my original mage had never been frost spec since the release of The Burning Crusade.

With heirlooms and a 50% slow on my main nuke, its pretty much faceroll to level as frost.  The pet is next to worthless except for the extra freeze, but thats fine because that’s usually all I need anyway.  I can easily down 5-6 mobs at a time with the ranged freeze + talented Blizzard slow – its mind-numbingly simple.

What I’ve realized from playing the spec though is that the same thing that makes it great for leveling is what makes it awful for end-game PvE.  Frost is a spec that has a very specific “flavor” to it – it favors roots and slows, as you would expect, because frost is something that is cold.  Without those mechanics, it wouldnt feel like a frost tree anymore.

The problem with it is that the damage has to suffer to give all those spells the “frosty” feel they come with.  Why would you use Fireball if Frostbolt hit just as hard AND slowed an attacker?  Why would you use Blast Wave for a daze if Frost Nova did equal damage and rooted?  I get that, and thats probably a trade-off that people are happy with.  It’s worked out for me so far in my leveling experience, and I can certainly see the appeal from a PvP standpoint.

That said, given that everything in raid content that counts (trash doesn’t) is immune to slow and root.  Even the bottom tier frost talent has to have incentive to use it against mobs that are immune to freeze effects.  You’re left with your gimpy damage that is being offset by utility that you literally cannot take advantage of.  Fingers of Frost goes a little ways in mitigating it, but even then Ice Lance is never going to be your primary source of damage.

So what could they do to make frost raid-viable?  They could probably sort it out with some creative glyphs – something that allows you to remove the slow effect from your frostbolt and increase its damage.  But if they did that, what’s the point of being frost?  As it stands, the slows/roots are what defines the class.  Take those away and bump up the damage and you might as well be playing a fire mage – you’d be using the same basic rotation with procs thrown in (mind freeze may as well be hot streak as it is).  Even then it would still be inferior because fire offers better options for getting dps on adds without having to fully abandon the primary target.

I guess what I am really saying here is that the leveling experience has given me an appreciation for something I thought was completely terrible.  It’s actually fun being able to kite around elite mobs and solo shit I probably couldn’t burn down with the glass cannon approach of the other mage specs.  I feel though that the aspects of the frost tree that make it unique will ultimately prevent it from ever becoming a fully raid-viable spec.

And maybe that’s fine.  After all, it’s not like being the black sheep is something new to the Mage class…

Cataclysm 1-40 Retrospective

Where was this shit when I had to start a paladin at level 1 in Burning Crusade??  Seriously, leveling is actually fun now.

I guess this is something most hardcore players totally write off as one of the features of Cataclysm.  Hell, I did.  I had already leveled all my alts to at least 70, the promise of new 1-60 content didn’t really appeal to me as a feature to list on the back of the box.

That said, the one thing I still have never done in 6 years of WoW is level a character to max level as Alliance.  I noted Friday that my Gnome mage experiment had begun – and I’m not sure if it’s the heirlooms, the new faction, the new quests, or all that shit combined, but I am having a great time.

The revamped Gnome starting area was largely disappointing start (if they were going to give trolls and gnomes their own areas it would have been nice for them to last a bit longer than the 20-minute 1-6 stretch), but past that it’s been a lot of fun.  Gone are the days of vanilla where you are sent back and forth between town and some random yeti cave, each time with a quest to go a little bit further in than you previously had.  Gone also are quests that send you clear across the fucking world to talk to some guy and then go back where you came from.

Each now has more of its own story and quest flow, much like the Northrend and high-level Cataclysm zones.  It makes for a more immersive leveling experience as you see how more or less every quest fits into the grand scheme of things in that zone, and more importantly it saves you all the hassle of going all over creation to get things done.

The best zone up to this point in my opinion has to be the revamped Eastern Plaguelands.  Now a level 35-40 zone, EPL has been reclaimed by the Argent Dawn and Argent Crusade and the storyline follows two paladins aspiring to join their ranks as they ride a caravan from tower to tower.  It’s designed to basically take you in a circle around the zone, and provides some cool bonus buffs to choose from as you add more and more members to your caravan.  The story of the zone even culminates in a short cutscene where your fully assembled party bands together to take down a banshee.  Really cool zone – nice flow, fun quests, lots of flavor.

In a way this makes me glad I no longer raid hardcore in WoW.  I would likely have never taken up the task of leveling a new character from level 1 were I still committed to a full-time 5-day raid schedule.  It’s nice to see this other side of the game that Blizzard assured us was so much better in Cataclysm than it was before, having previously not even seen it as a selling point.

Really the only downside I see to the 1-60 revamp (unless the upcoming 40-60 zones are a major drop in quality) is the fact that all I have to look forward to at the end of the fun is the soul-crushing wasteland known as Outland :(

4.1 – The Mage of Patches

So I know this is a little bit late to be posting about, but I just picked this up again so sue me.

Blizzard announced last week that 4.1 was going on the PTR and the dataminers immediately got to work pulling all kinds of cool shit from the game files.  They found things like crazy firebird mounts, Firelands zone files, new pets, and ZOMG LEGENDARY STAFF!  People were like, “Yay new content!  I can’t wait to kick Ragnaros in his little polio legs!”

But it was all for naught, as the announcement quickly came that none of this stuff was coming in 4.1, but was being added in preparation for 4.2.  Bummer.

So what do we get in 4.1?  Let’s go to the Blue Post!

The main content features currently planned for 4.1 are:

  • Zul’Gurub revamp
  • Zul’Aman revamp
  • New level-85 Stranglethorn quest line (phased) leading players into the troll dungeons
  • New tier of Heroic dungeon gear (epic item level 353) to give players a slightly bigger boost going into raids for the first time
  • New & updated flavor items, vanity pets, and mounts
  • Guild Challenges (new guild quests)

And the Ensidia’s of the world collectively groaned.

Let me tell you how I read this:

  • A new heroic that you saw 5 years ago.  It won’t be as hard as it was then.  It’s the one we removed in Cata so we could replace it with 2 quests for level 30s.
  • Another new heroic you saw 3.5 years ago.  It won’t be as hard as it was then.
  • A couple “feeder quests” to actually point you to the entrance, in case you don’t want to use Dunegon Finder.
  • Epic gear that is better than other heroics, but if you’ve done any sort of raiding then you probably won’t care.
  • A snail pet.  Also some reworked mounts from ZG and ZA that won’t be as cool as the ones that dropped originally.
  • We stole the guild quest idea from Rift, so it’s at least on our radar.

Let me start off by saying I really liked the idea of reworking some of the original dungeons from vanilla.  The new Deadmines is fun (though most people bitch about it taking too long).  New Shadowfang is a bit less cool but at least it has a neat nostalgia factor to it.  That said, I really don’t want this to be a well they return to throughout the course of Cataclysm.  Reworking 5-mans as updated 5-mans is one thing – reworking raid instances into 5-mans is another.  They’re already rehashing half the end-bosses from vanilla raids (Nefarian, Ragnaros) in new raid content, is it too much to ask for something (completely) new?

Given that I can’t raid hardcore anymore, I’ll probably take advantage of ZA and ZG despite my bashing of the idea.  After all, Death Knights weren’t able to ever obtain the Bear mount from ZA and 10 months worth of ZG runs twice a week resulted in the one Tiger mount drop I ever saw being won by a rl friend.  Still though, the mounts aren’t identical, couldn’t this have all been part of some new troll instance somewhere?

The bigger thing about 4.1 that kinda astounds me is that many (maybe thats an overstatement, maybe) people will be looking to this patch to determine whether they should stick with WoW or head to the greener pastures of Rift.  I know in my last post I wrote about how I would ultimately not be staying with Rift, but the fact remains that it looks to be the best MMO to be released since WoW and could actually steal some subscribers.  Blizzard should be responding to the release of Rift with something new and cool, something that says, “sure they have big rifts in the sky, but we have THIS!”

Instead they are saying, “here’s a lot of stuff you’ve already seen to some extent in the last 3-5 years with a new coat of paint.  New shit will be here in June so please stay tuned!”

Maybe they are underestimating Rift, maybe they really think these smaller, more frequent patches will appear to more players, maybe both – I can’t say for sure.  But it seems to me that, knowing many guilds blew through Cata release content a lot faster than Blizzard would have liked (unless you’re a 10-man guild – more on that in a future post), and knowing a new MMO just launched that actually provides an enjoyable experience comparable to WoW, now would be the team to present your best stuff.

In the long run, it probably won’t matter.  It’s not like Blizzard is going to lose 50% of their subscribers overnight to Rift or any other game.  They probably know that they’ll keep most of these folks either way.  And maybe that’s the real problem.

Return of the Suck!

Yep, we’re back. New, casual outlook on WoW, same shitty outlook.

Check out the post below, it might help you not waste your time with Rift!

My gift to you. Happy Tuesday.

Oh and check me out on twitter @mymagesucks !

We’re not in Azeroth anymore…

From Half man, half amazing

Like a bunch of my WoW buddies, I picked up Rift when it launched this past week and am currently stumbling through my free month of play time.  The free month is a crucial time for any MMO – they basically have four weeks to present enough interesting content to you to make you want to slap down 15 bucks a month after that to keep playing.

For most people, this translates to whether or not they have an enjoyable experience leveling a new character to max level and maybe getting a brief look at some PvP along the way.

The tagline I saw in all the commercials for the game was “We’re not in Azeroth anymore” – an obvious “fuck you” to Blizzard and World of Warcraft.  They threw down the gauntlet against a record-setting MMO juggernaut, but do they have the content to back it up?

What Trion has built to distinguish their game from WoW is also it’s namesake – the rifts.  Rifts randomly tear open in the sky in every zone in the game, invaders pouring out of them in waves which must be defeated by large groups of players.  If left to their own devices, more and more invasion waves will spawn out of each Rift and eventually overrun the various towns and quest hubs in the zone.

They smartly made the rifts a big part of the game right from the beginning.  Once you hit level 6 or so, you enter the first “real” zone of the game where you’ll regularly encounter death and water rifts.  They pop up all over the place, there are tons of people around, and its really a lot of fun banding together, kicking the shit out of mobs, and getting some shiny loot for your efforts.

The problem, though, is that everything just kinda goes to shit once you leave that first zone.

I’ve leveled up now to the point where I have seen all of the first three zones in the game and have just entered the fourth.  Past the first zone, where everybody was completely gung-ho to tackle the rifts, they are largely ignored.  The only time I see anyone actively battling the open rifts in these later zones is when the game forces you to do so with a “full scale invasion” which basically spawns 20 of them at once so they are impossible to avoid.

It’s a really neat concept but basically you are just tired of it by the time you reach level 20 – and that’s not even halfway through the game.

Aside from the rifts, the game is virtually indistinguishable from World of Warcraft.  The UI is so incredibly similar I almost didn’t believe it.  You might think this is a good thing because it would be easier to adjust to, but then you’ll remember anybody worth a shit in WoW has a custom UI anyway.  Basically they are copying the UI to make it easy for the masses of drones they hope will migrate from WoW, except they won’t, because it’s WoW.

The questing system, the talent trees, the crafting skills, achievements, guild perks – it’s all taken directly from the design of WoW.  The combat mechanics are actually more simplified, as everything either uses mana or energy/combo-points – no rage or runes here.  There are four classes which each have eight talent trees, which lets you fill more roles with one character, but makes it largely pointless to play an alt.  It’s easy to pick up but less varied, and therefore less interesting in the long run.

The game actually even manages to suffer by not copying a few things WoW has – and I feel like if you’re going to clone the game you should at least clone all the good stuff and leave out the dumb shit like archaeology (which they didn’t).

  • There is one flight-path per zone.  That’s it.  You run all over aside from that.  WoW used to be closer to this, but never this bad.
  • There is no LFG system or dungeon finder – good luck getting a group unless you are a tank, healer, or bard.
  • There is no incentive to level professions because you can never craft anything better than you’ll get via questing.  There are patterns to make better stuff but they require reputations to purchase that you won’t have raised high enough until the items are no longer useful.
  • It’s impossible to discern anyones role without just asking them.  All you see is “Warrior”, “Cleric, “Rogue”, or “Mage”.  Kinda dumb when any class can be one of eight specs and fill multiple rolls – why wouldn’t it just be in the tooltip!

I guess overall what I’m getting at is that, while I’m enjoying Rift for the most part, I constantly feel like I might as well be playing WoW.  They are similar enough in structure that there’s really no incentive for me to abandon all the years of effort I’ve put into WoW in favor of starting fresh in Rift.  The one distinguishable feature seems to be largely ignored by the playerbase after their first few hours in the game, which doesn’t make for a very good reason to rush to level 50 when all the raid content is just more Rifts.

I’ll enjoy my free month and then probably head back to WoW.  Because while in Rift you might not be in Azeroth anymore, you may as well be.

 

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