Elemental, Opinion, Shaman, WoW

On Beta, Halion, Podcasts and stuff

The lifting of the Cataclysm testing NDA means that I can post a lot of these utterly sumptuous (and not necessarily related) screenshots at last!  It also means we can talk freely about the developing shape of shaman stuff as it happens, which I intend to stay fully abreast of over the coming months.

I’ve been wanting a good ramble/rant for a while, so as well as talking about some of my experiences so far on the beta server, I’ll also use this post to talk a bit about some current content and other current events.  On the latter topic, I’ve been invited to take part in the Raid Warning Shaman Round Table.  After not noticing the email for a week, forgetting about it for a few more weeks, then losing Internet access for several more days after that, I think I’m actually going to appear on the podcast!  There’ll also be an astonishing number of other great shaman personalities, bloggers and commentators (so much so, actually, that I probably won’t have much to say) so it should be something well worth tuning in to.  They’re soliciting questions and discussion topics and stuff so head on over to the Epic Advice thread to comment on what you’d like to see these members of the shaman community discuss.

On beta

As everyone can access the beta forums now I guess there are no more secrets to be kept on them, so it’ll be well-known now that even the classes whose talents were earlier previewed still have a lot of change to go through.  Quoth the Ghostcrawler:

We are making some more dramatic changes to the existing talent trees (even the ones we have released publicly already)

I expect to see the elemental tree change somewhat more significantly than we’ve seen so far and wouldn’t be hugely surprised if they tried fiddling with some basics – maybe like the way Lava Burst works? Well, OK, maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but other class/specs are getting some fundamental makeovers and it’s a good time to experiment.  At any rate I’m pretty confident elemental will be fun to play whatever they do – after all, despite various issues in WotLK it’s still remained my favourite class-spec throughout.

Unleash Elements (as it’s now called) is shown for Flametongue in the shot above.  There’s not yet an obvious niche for its use as elemental, though as numbers get fiddled with that may change.  (Edit: Oh yeah, and the Rockbiter unleash is a taunt – very cool possibilities for kiting and gimmick tank fights!)

Lava Surge is hard to get used to, and obviously not much use when soloing.  Most of the mobs in the Hyjal and Vashj’ir starter areas die in a single FS+LvB combo, but by level 80+ health has increased dramatically and it takes an extra LB/CL/shock to finish them off.  Interestingly enough, if Surge procs on the flame shock tick just before my LvB finishes casting, it does reset the cooldown properly at the end of the cast – that is, there’s just enough of a delay that you can actually fire two LvBs back to back if you’re lucky.  The trouble is that you’re not expecting to be able to, so you’d already be queueing a filler spell in most PvE situations (and a second LvB is way overkill on quest mobs at level 81 – will see how that develops, though).  Despite the delayed proc, the “dead zone” thing I talked about earlier is a very real issue with the talent hands-on – or maybe I just need to get better at reacting to it.

I need to try using Unleash Flame after a Flame Shock while soloing, as I figure it could be a faster way to kill the higher HP mobs than FS – LvB – LB.

I’ve not yet tried any serious healing yet as I’ve not had a huge amount of time to play, but hopefully with the influx of folk from beta invites I can heal a dungeon or two over the weekend.  I’ll write more on shaman beta stuff, particularly elemental, when there’s more to write about.  There’s also a new page on the Primer menu, Beta shaman questions?, through which you can ask me specific questions about current shaman beta stuff which I will attempt to answer directly from the beta realm.

Vashj’ir is an amazingly beautiful zone and great fun to quest in, and the story itself is hugely driven by Earthen Ring shamans.  Yep, it’s basically an entire zone full of shamans doing shamanistic things, and there are some really cool shaman lore moments to boot – including an interesting perspective on what exactly the shaman-elemental relationship is from a broken called Toshe.  The zone is also utterly vast – I’ve already quested through three separate named subzones and there’s still a lot of questing to go.  I’ve not spent much time in Hyjal yet, but it’s a more druidy and conventional zone, though also with great lore, interesting quest mechanics and pretty scenery.

The lower level zone revamp is utterly astonishing, with some really outstanding new quests and stuff – it’ll keep even the most alt-resistant of us busy for several months, I hope, just exploring and experiencing it all.

Oh, and the default UI has seen a lot of improvement.  Of particular note to theorycrafters is that the damage/healing of spells is noted accurately in the tooltip depending on your talents, spellpower, etc, which makes figuring out mechanics and coefficients way easier – as well as making it way more obvious what spells are higher DPS.  I hope they add critical strike chance and damage to the tooltips too.

On Halion and hard mode healing

Enough rambling, here’s a bit of a rant.

I love World of Warcraft, and especially the endgame.  I think few things are more enjoyable than playing one’s class in a raid environment, especially if you’re fortunate enough to do it with good friends and good players.  But I’m starting to get a bit fed up with Lich King raiding.

Ulduar was an amazing raid instance, quite possibly the best ever.  It had graded difficulty, loads of unique and interesting mechanics, beautiful scenery, a great story and a meaningful meta-achievement to work towards.  Since Ulduar, however, I’ve basically not enjoyed raiding as much.  Room of the Crusader actually housed some very interesting fights, but the whole place just felt punitive, claustrophobic and – simply because of the scenery and lore – dull.  Let me say that again: some of those fights were great fun, but the location, the way loot worked, the way lockouts worked and the hard mode design spoiled it.  The difficulty of each encounter was also all over the place: heroic beasts was actually really punishing in Ulduar gear, but then the next few fights were a total breeze… except the combination of RNG and raid balance for Faction Champions (a serious issue for 10-man raiders in particular).  And then there was that stunning brick wall that was heroic Anub’arak, who we got to 7% after a few nights and realised we couldn’t beat him without serious gearing up.  Due to the way lockouts and loot and emblems worked in 3.2, it took us a few months on our raid schedule to gear up to the point where we could reasonably face Anub’arak heroic – months of farming stuff that had ceased to be challenging or fun or even, for most of us, rewarding.  I’m glad we killed him and it was a great feeling of accomplishment, but I basically didn’t enjoy it.

Icecrown was much more sensible, with only one lockout per raid size, graded release and more interesting scenery and lore.  But with stats now out of control and raiders so well trained, the heroic versions of the fights were really brutal in terms of the sheer number of things to account for, the amount and speed of damage, the split-second timing needed and – a really serious problem on 10-man, by the way – the vast difference in difficulty caused by your raid group class-spec balance.  I’ve been enjoying heroic Icecrown as my guild’s made fairly consistent, speedy progress… but actually, I don’t really like many of the fights on heroic.  They just feel too punishing, especially as a healer.  Often there’s simply way too much going on and way too much damage to handle way too quickly.  That is, instead of the fights being slick, well-choreographed affairs, they sometimes feel sort of like big teetering piles of multiple confusing abilities and instant-death mechanics jumbled together to make it feel difficult instead of fun.

I know this is a key change they intend to make with Cataclysm and reintroducing triage-style healing, but honestly I’m sick of what we have now.

Which is why when we gave Halion heroic a try, the sheer amount of damage which is thrown at the raid in phase 2 made me want to just quit raiding there and then.  Not only is there a constant shadow damage aura, but the way Soul Consumption works and the timing of Shadowy Death Lasers is utterly brutal.  Oh sure, we’ll get used to it, get better at avoiding as much as possible and adjust our strategies, practising until we beat it – but when I encounter a boss and have a sinking feeling rather than a feeling of challenge, expectation and excitement I don’t think it’s a good sign.  And it’s a feeling I’m getting more and more often these days.

I’m not narcissistic enough to assume everyone shares my view of the fight, but I do feel that hard mode raiding at this stage of the game has almost jumped the shark.  It’s such an impossible balance, isn’t it?  Too easy and you alienate the truly hardcore, too hard and you alienate the capable casuals.  Make normal too easy and even the least raid-focused of guilds will struggle to find it entertaining and make it too hard and suddenly people are locked out of content again.  I don’t envy the job of the Blizzard design team, and I have to say kudos for the amazing job they do.  But I’m so, so, so fed up with walking into a heroic boss fight and seeing health bars constantly dropping all over the place and healers struggling to find the GCDs to keep people alive – even when everyone’s doing everything right.  (And then inevitably there comes the crunch point in the fight that you have to struggle through 3 minutes of some boring but difficult first phase to reach, and you have 10 seconds to practice it before you wipe and have to go through the entire first part of the fight again just to practice that second bit.  Ugh.)

For the same reason I’m looking forward to the increased focus on 10-man raiding in Cataclysm and the further consolidation of important buffs/debuffs, because there are some fights which are made unreasonably hard or easy in 10-man mode simply depending upon which specs you brought.

On the ICC buff

The ICC buff has been good to my guild – it gave us the extra edge we needed to become Kingslayers, to get heroic Saurfang on farm and to get Lana’thel down before her enrage.  But as it continues to creep inexorably towards 30%, I feel like it’s starting to have a negative effect on my group – like, there’s more margin for error so we’re sloppier and less focused, so when a genuinely dangerous ability comes along we’re not as prepared for it as we should be.  Considering we’ve managed to succeed on the hardest 10-player fights in the game – Firefighter, Algalon, Anub’arak, the Lich King – it’s very distressing to suddenly start wiping on a boss we’ve previously killed with poorer raid balance, a lower buff level and worse gear.

I don’t think we could kill half the heroic bosses we have done if we didn’t have the buff at all, so turning it off seems counterproductive.  We somehow have to stay focused and motivated enough to keep going and take advantage of the extra DPS/healing/etc, which we’ll almost certainly need for Sindragosa and the Lich King.  But you know, I’m not even slightly looking forward to trying those fights on heroic.  I’ve heard stories and it doesn’t sound fun.  I fear we’ll do them – if we do them – just for the achievement, just for the sake of having done it.  And that kinda sucks.  I think that really contributes to the lowering of our performance – the feeling that what awaits us is just what we’ve done before, only harder.  And Icecrown is, ultimately, a dank, dark, dull place to spend an evening even if it’s an incredibly well done dank, dark, dull place.

Overall I’m enjoying WoW more than ever, and I’m so very privileged to have so many great friends to play with, but the raiding itself is starting to feel at risk of becoming a chore again – and not all the things the game has done to make it fun are actually working for me.  At the moment it’s a combination of the people I play with and the fact that I do still enjoy being an elemental (or resto) shaman in challenging content which is keeping me going.

(I also feel it’d be really hard to speak with any integrity about elemental theorycraft if I didn’t raid, but I should make it clear that I have absolutely no plans to quit and still really enjoy the raid game overall.  I’m just letting off some steam by wildly blowing issues way out of proportion, in true blogger tradition.)

Here, have a soothing picture of some fish.



17 thoughts on “On Beta, Halion, Podcasts and stuff

  1. Concerning hard mode raiding, this is all very true and then some. I’m not sure how best to express my thoughts because you’re covering so much grounds and touching on so many different issues, so the following comment will probably be a chaotic mess of loose threads and word diarrhoea. I apologise in advance.

    Maybe I should start with my thoughts on Icecrown Citadel. I think WoW has some of the best encounter design I’ve seen in games, and Blizzard continue to surprise me with the mechanics they come up with to make fights interesting and fun. It’s got to be a bitch after all these years, considering they’re working with a limited framework (their tech can’t do everything) and there are so many limitations to deal with (it’s multiplayer, you’re dealing with certain classes, your players can only do so much, there are lag issues to handle, the list goes on).

    They need to be commended for not just going back to tank ‘n spank. This also means we’ve come to expect a certain standard from them. In terms of encounter design, they’ve only improved over the years. One of the reasons Naxx felt so dull was because, while the encounter design might’ve been fantastic at the time of its release, after everything TBC threw at us it just felt incredibly dated.

    Ulduar to me was probably the pinnacle of encounter design (and not just encounter design). It had A LOT of inspired boss fights, which were often mechanically interesting, some with hard modes which completely changed the way the fight worked. And then there were graded hard modes, which eased you into the harder version of the encounter based on your own preferences. So many fights in that place are just a joy to experience. They feel well thought-out, streamlined, structured properly, and for the most part balanced pretty well.

    I’m not even going to mention TotC because it was just a pathetic excuse for an instance, very obviously filler content to tide us over for ICC. Of course that single point already says something about ICC itself: it had expectations tied to it. Not only did this have to confirm Blizzard’s brilliance in terms of raid design after that horrid filler instance (“it’s ok guys, we’d just been working on ICC all along. THAT’s why TotC was so poor!”), it was the final instance of this expansion. The Lich King’s lair, man. We’d all been looking forward to seeing this place since WotLK was announced (maybe not ALL, but most players, I’d reckon). This was helped by the hype Blizzard themselves created, with more background lore released than ever before, interesting design decisions like the buff, the promise of an epic conclusion in the form of an ingame machinima, end-of-endgame gear, etc.

    Why then does it feel so underwhelming in the end? Maybe I (and others, as the above post indicates) are just being too harsh. Maybe part of our criticisms are just linked to a bit of burnout, not in the least because we’ve been raiding this place since before Christmas. That’s a long time for any instance, no matter how good it is. Expectations through the roof probably have something to do with it as well, after the stupidity of TotC we were craving for an instance that was actually GOOD. I think largely it has to do with encounter design, though, which this post touches on.

    It’s not that I’m not having fun. I still am. But the encounter design frankly feels everything from unpolished to uninspired to just plain frustrating. Maybe the testing period was too brief and they tried slightly too hard to push it out before Christmas? That’s not really an excuse though, they’d had LOADS of development time and time to make changes even after the release, due to the way gating worked. I’ve got several problems with the encounter design itself, and others with the instance in general, some of which have already been looked into by Charles’ post. The only encounters in ICC I genuinely “appreciate” on a mechanical level are Gunship because it’s so different from anything that came before – and let’s face it, jetpacks are just awesome, Rotface, possibly Valithria and Lich King. With the following disclaimers: Gunship is pretty dull when you’re not using your jetpack or the turrets, Rotface is only fun for me because I’m kiting the oozes (the rest of the fight is just tank ‘n spank), Valithria isn’t really all that enjoyable for me personally as it’s just an add fest and I’ve never seen Lich King past phase 4.

    Blood Princes is frustrating as fuck due to several really annoying mechanics. Spawning rapidly descending orbs throughout quite a large room (even in the tiniest, most invisible corners) with only 5 ranged dps, and linking a mechanic to that which limits your movement (talking about heroic here), isn’t fun. It’s fucking stupid. Having the Keleseth tank, who’s not necessarily a ranged dps, gather up shadow vortexes with his ranged abilities from across the room, isn’t fun when targeting is as much of a bitch as it is. Neither is getting one-shotted by Empowered flame orbs and not being able to do much about it. Lana’thel is an OK encounter, although let’s face it: for the dps it’s tank ‘n spank with very little interesting mechanics and movement (not to mention the tanks), and for the healers it’s just “OK here’s a trillion damage on everyone in the raid, please heal through it thanks ^.^”. The vampire mechanic is neat, I suppose, but without voice comms it’s again something that’s more frustrating than fun.

    Festergut is dull. On heroic (speaking from the perspective of a dps here) it’s vaguely interesting thanks to the oozes, but that’s about it. And once again it’s one of those “oops I missed a GCD and we wiped” fights for healers. Which isn’t fun. It’s stupid design. Putricide is such an enormous clusterfuck I don’t even want to talk about it. And for the heroic version all they could think of was “THROW MORE STUFF AT THE RAID”. It just gives me a headache. It doesn’t feel streamlined or structured or polished, it feels like a chaotic mess of an encounter which needed more time on the drawing board. And don’t get me started on the fucking bugs in that one (yes, three adds at once is a bug, shut up).

    What else is there? Oh, Marrowgar I find quite enjoyable, even on heroic. It’s chaotic, but the good kind of chaotic. Very few abilities to deal with, but if you’re not careful they can quickly make a mess of things. Saurfang is a dull tank ‘n spank as a dps, as a healer on heroic it’s yet more stupid design (“here’s more damage to everyone you basically can’t do anything about! Have fun”). Sindragosa is fun. The first couple of times. Then you realise it’s a bit like heroic Anub’arak, which means the hard part comes after 5 minutes of doing the same thing over and over again.

    Overall, I don’t consider this good encounter design. I could go over the fights in Ulduar, but let’s just say I found them a lot more enjoyable and mechanically interesting. And streamlined and polished. Mimiron (hard), Freya (hard), Hodir, Flame Leviathan+x, even something fairly simple like Razorscale just feel FINISHED. Their mechanics aren’t overly complex, they don’t just throw a million abilities at you but rather go to a core couple of abilities which determine the entire fight.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on about encounter design long enough. I think it’s one of the main problems with ICC but not the only one, by far. For all the hype and the significance in the lore, this is a pretty disappointing instance. It’s visually uninteresting. This was sort of expected if you look at it from the outside, but to be honest Black Temple had the same dreary exterior and compensated for it with pretty varied, aesthetically pleasing interiors (Shahraz’ area anyone?). ICC, for all its luster and presumed size, feels small and dull. Every room looks the same. As far as integrating the narrative with the instance and providing an epic conclusion to WotLK’s storyline, ICC feels like a failure as well. But that’s something I can forgive seeing as Blizzard’s never really succeeded at that. Visually though, it’s just disappointing. Maybe the winged design is sort of a limiting factor for that, but the wings themselves just feel much tinier than they should as well.

    Hard mode raiding is a difficult nut to crack. I think overall they’re doing a decent job with providing different challenges for different players (disregarding individual encounter design, just looking at the general execution of the concept), but there’s still a lot of work to be done if they want to get it right and balance everything properly. I fear that may just be impossible though. One thing they do need to look at, aside from concerns about encounter design, is as Charles mentioned the healer’s role. I won’t say much about this as I’m not at all experienced with the healer.. experience, but from what I’ve seen healing is at the moment more frustrating and punishing than any other role BY FAR. “Fun” mechanics are substituted for “MORE DAMAGE MORE”, which obviously isn’t very good design. And naturally when they do integrate a mechanic which healers have to pay attention to besides fluctuating health bars, they can’t because they’re fully focused on the enormously fluctuating health bars. It’s a conundrum Blizzard’ll have their hands full with to “fix”, and I doubt they’ll ever entirely succeed.

    Hard modes were handled far more interestingly back in Ulduar, where a lot of fights changed drastically when you activated the hard modes, it wasn’t just a binary system, etc. I think this is about the same issue people were discussing before WotLK hit, but in a different shape: back then people were worried Blizzard couldn’t possibly drastically change encounters for their two versions (10-and 25-man). Which, some argued, would make the whole idea of two separate versions stupid, because they wouldn’t be different enough to experience them in both versions (which was significant as we’d been used to running both 10-and 25-man instances back then). Now we’re left with four versions of every instance. And even when you just run two as I do (the normal and heroic version in 10-man), it just creates so much potential for burnout. Farming one instance for a couple months is more than enough for most people. Farming what is basically the same instance but with bigger numbers TWICE for months, having to work on each boss TWICE, is a pretty weird idea.

    I see three possible solutions. And this is disregarding balancing issues, which are just a bitch with four versions of the same instance. Solution #1 is going back to an Ulduar model, and have about half or slightly more of the bosses have a hard mode. The rest just have normal and nothing else. That’d hopefully allow Blizzard to make the modes significantly different, which would make things far more interesting. Solution #2 is what they’re already doing: several medium-size instances per tier instead of one big one (TotC lol). It increases variety and thus reduces burnout, no matter how hard modes are handled.

    Solution #3 is a sort of paradigm shift, and in that sense naturally the hardest to realise. Going back to my analogy: before WotLK, people saw 10-and 25-man versions of the same instance and said “we want them to be sufficiently different from each other if you’re going to expect us to run both”. What happened, at long last? One lockout for both versions, extending what was already happening in the community and basically forcing us to run one version of the instance, either 10-or 25-man. Now, we already have a single lockout for heroic and normal versions (thank the lord for that). What I’m suggesting is taking that one step further: we all need to stop running normal modes if normal modes are too easy for us, and go straight for hard modes.

    This has important implications, of course. For one thing, Blizzard needs to design their instances so that we can actually do that. In the current design philosophy, this doesn’t really work either. The buff in ICC is part of this: a lot of guilds probably need it to do heroic modes, which means that if they were to tackle heroic modes from the start, they’d just get destroyed. In other words: even if heroic modes were available from the start, guilds’d still be virtually forced into normal modes, waiting for the buff to become available to allow them to tackle heroics. Furthermore, this is tied in with encounter design: if you design encounters which are mechanically uninteresting for healers, but basically just increase damage in heroic modes, people will get demotivated fast. I think the first two solutions combined are probably easier to realise by design than the third one. Although I’m fairly certain Blizzard has no intention to push the first one, as it’s just too “hard” to do from a development perspective (too much costs for the benefits, basically). A shame though, it could make hard mode raiding a lot more interesting.

    As for the buff, I’m not sure if I like it as much as I thought I would. It’s probably more of an irrational thing than anything else, but there’s something jarring about so explicitly seeing your chances increase on the same bosses from one week to the next. Maybe hardcoding everything and making everything visual isn’t the right answer? Although I admit the old idea of unpredictable nerfs wasn’t really that attractive either. Hmmz. What I do know is that not only is this buff making us slack more and more (pretty sure that’s not just caused by the buff, but it’s contributing), it feels like it sort of devalues your accomplishments. I was pretty sure we could’ve killed a lot more bosses with the 15% buff, but then the 20% one came around and it was take it or leave it. Naturally we took it. It also makes gear feel less useful (and consequently, upgrades less “fun” or exciting), as no single piece of gear is even going to approach the strength of one of those buff increases. Of course, as I said this is all just visually representing and streamlining what Blizzard was already doing, but it just doesn’t FEEL right. I dunno.

    I think I’d like it if there were a reward for killing bosses without using the buff. At least there’d be a motivation to do so in that case. But then that’d just introduce a hard hard mode, where you’ve already killed both versions of an encounter and then have to go back to the hard mode and kill it without the buff. Which is just ugh. Less identical-bigger number fights, please. So I’m not sure what to do about that. I can’t help but feel happy about Blizzard stating they’re probably not always going to use a similar buff, though.

    Posted by Razz | July 1, 2010, 11:12 pm
  2. What *is* the Unleash Elements effect for Flametongue? You have a screenshot there, but no actual info.

    In other words: need moar dataz.

    Posted by binkenstein | July 2, 2010, 3:19 am
    • It still does what was initially previewed – a direct hit of fire damage and a short buff increasing the damage of the next fire spell by 20%. Presently at level 81 (when trained) it does 1021-1210 base damage with a ~46% coefficient (depending to what extent the dynamic spell tooltips can be trusted), which is slightly more DPS than a Frost Shock and somewhat less than LB. It doesn’t affect the DoT from Flame Shock (yet?) – the spell only recently gained its coefficient and seems still somewhat under construction. (Also it’s got a 15-second cooldown, and a 30-yard range which is unaffected by elemental reach at the moment.)

      It’s too early to evaluate the numbers – everything’s in flux and we don’t have access to even the present values for level 85 spells – but in order to be used in “normal” PvE the hit damage + 20% fire damage gained would have to exceed the damage of the LB it’d replace. Though at very least, if it continues to be more DPS than Frost Shock, it’d certainly have a niche during movement. I don’t know if they plan to make it part of the normal elemental rotation or not, but it would seem odd if they didn’t.

      It’s worth noting that Lava Burst Overloads do scale with Unleash, but presently Lava Burst Overloads are only doing ~40% damage even with Acute Overload (whereas LB overloads are ~60%). This may be because they decided to make Lava overloads do less damage but haven’t put it in the tooltips yet, or it may just be a bug.

      Posted by Charles | July 2, 2010, 2:52 pm
  3. Ah. I’m kinda bummed that Unleash WElements doesn’t feature as obviously -yet- and the issue you describe with Lava Surge is ‘sort’ of similar to Frost Mages+Brain Freeze (chance to proc a free, instant fireball) where it always procs after you’re already queueing other stuff up, or the mob has just died.

    I am SO EXCITED about Vashjir. Seriously geeking out now.

    And the changes to the UI sound really cool 🙂

    Posted by Pewter | July 2, 2010, 9:14 am
    • Frost mages are the most frustrating class-spec I have ever raided with. I hate relying so entirely on procs, especially with the 2t10 bonus. Last night I went for entirely half of Rotface without a single Brain Freeze proc, and naturally all my Fingers of Frost (Deep Freeze) procs occurred immediately DF was on cooldown. So immensely frustrating.

      I’ve figured out that one of the reasons Vashj’ir feels so huge is because you can really use the entire zone, from ocean floor to water surface, rather than just skittering about on the ground. And unlike flying over land zones, there’s stuff going on in the middle of the water and dismounting isn’t fatal – so you really do feel “immersed”. Going up to the surface after questing in the depths feels astonishingly wild and lonely.

      Re: Unleash niche: the obvious uses would be to regularly buff Flame Shock and/or Lava Burst, but the different cooldowns/durations make it unclear how that’d end up looking. If it was a DPS boost to use UE on FS but not LvB then that’d be pretty convenient, but if it was a DPS boost for both it’d be more complicated. If it was just more DPS to use it on LvB then we’d just use it whenever the two lined up… but precise priorities when both are off cooldown (hello, Lava Surge) would need to be theorycrafted.

      So lots of possibilities even with just the two fire spells. Will be interesting to see how it pans out, and if it gets any talent support in future builds.

      Posted by Charles | July 2, 2010, 3:12 pm
  4. I love that lightning bolt talent in resto. IF they actually make the healing less about throughput and more about mana management, this talent combined with elemental focus could be alot of fun/mana saved, and add a lot of depth to your individual strategies. Better start reading up on target of target macros

    More challenge, more fun! In my mind at least, ’cause in ICC, most of the fights can basically be movement and chainheals for a shaman. (not on heroic)

    Posted by Monsieur | July 2, 2010, 11:47 am
  5. If tracking Lava Surges is going to be that much of a pain, I can see us macroing it to all of our nukes. Worst case, we delay it by one cast.

    Posted by Maker | July 2, 2010, 12:35 pm
  6. Another thing about Lava surge is that with more lava bursts, crit will be even less worth than it is in WOTLK. So, int, haste and mastery? Really wondering about how the mastery thing pans out, and how elemental will scale with gear.

    Elemental kicked ass because of autocrits at the beginning of the expansion, and this time it will be even more lava bursts, aaaand elemental overload procs. Hope they reflect our stat needs the mail items, and if not, maybe the reforging can fix some of those problems. Tho, I predict elemental will be reeeally powerful at the beginning of cataclysm.

    Posted by Monsieur | July 2, 2010, 1:46 pm
    • I’m not certain about that. It depends how big a proportion of our damage is going to be contributed by LB, CL, FS and Unleash Elements (and if Unleash is going to be affected by crit rating.)

      We are losing a lot (most) of our built in crit talents also, but I’m not sure how that will impact on the value of crit in Cata

      Posted by Pewter | July 2, 2010, 2:27 pm
      • Hadn’t thought about losing the crit talents 🙂 But Blizzard will probably want us to cast lava burst when it’s of cooldown, and if they don’t make that the case, we’ll be LB spammers instead. So, i’m guessing they’re building us around LvB on every cooldown. Right now that means that crit is useless in about 1/5 casts I guesstimate, you guys know the math 🙂 With FS ticks having a 24% chance to reset the cooldown, that would be on average(without haste, man, this talent will scale hard) a 2 sec reduction on the LvB cooldown.

        So, basically that means 25% more LvB in out “rotation”, and that’s 1/4 of our unhasted casts. Of course with haste, there will be more LBs, but also more FS ticks leading to more LvBs.

        I am assuming Unleashed weapon will be more of a spell on the move than a top prio dps spell tho.

        A factor counting FOR crit is the +damage portion of elemental oath/clearcasting.

        Posted by Monsieur | July 2, 2010, 2:49 pm
      • aaa, a cool fix would be to let flame shock crits proc Lava surge, that way you would let LvB be buffed by crit chance too.

        Posted by Monsieur | July 2, 2010, 2:53 pm
      • At the beginning of WotLK, elemental was actually rather underpowered in raids and it took the emergency buffs of 3.0.8 – which IIRC was about a 25% DPS increase on a single target – to bring us about even. Lava Burst (+ CL) was pretty amazing when soloing and in early heroics, but they’d scaled back Lightning so much to make Lava desirable that the rest of the elemental package was poor. They rectified it quickly and we’ve actually seen our spell package balanced pretty tightly in the latter days of WotLK.

        The beta process will no doubt feature a lot of crazy balance-of-power shifts between spells and talents. At the moment Lava is probably being over-emphasised through Lava Surge, Overload and Unleash Elements, which would be an absolute nightmare using today’s mechanics. But at the end of the day when Cataclysm launches, the entire spellbook will have been rebalanced to make talents like the above fit – if they make it that far, of course 🙂

        If LvB remains a guaranteed crit then more frequent Lava Bursts combined with lower haste levels (so less overall LBs) will mean even less dependence on crit for Clearcasting uptime as well as less of our overall damage depending upon crit.

        Posted by Charles | July 2, 2010, 3:02 pm
  7. So ARE you going to be on Totem Recall? I’m even more excited to download the podcast now. Looking forward to learning about the beta release with a perky British accent! (much more interesting than my Canadian one) 😀

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on the trees, spells, and fun stuff like the questing areas. I love questing too, so it’s a treat to learn positive things about the expansion. It’s actually one of the big reasons why I love the summer festival, you get an excuse to ride a white unicorn across beautiful fantasy landscapes and playing Erasure – “Believe” really loud. Otherwise, taking a break from the grind of signing in to wipe for 3 hours on H 25 Professor Jerkicide. (I loved your analysis of raiding, it encapsulated the confusing frustration I’ve been feeling but didn’t know why, with regard to raiding lately.)

    This is probably a silly question, but do you notice any other cosmetic improvements? I’m really hoping they modernize a few things…

    Posted by Acariel | July 2, 2010, 6:00 pm
    • Well, I did accept the invitation (and they did say they still wanted to have me despite me delaying by several weeks) but I’ve not heard anything since then. So I’m not sure, but I think so. I won’t be able to supply the British accent though, as mine is sort of a mongrel South African/English hybrid which segues between the two extremes depending on who I’m talking to 🙂

      Re: UI updates, WoW.com just did a big feature on a whole bunch of the biggest changes – there are more smaller ones but not the sort of things I’ve thought to try and document. Like, the text used when you swap zones/subzones is now a bit different and somewhat prettier, but it doesn’t have much bearing on the game. I get the idea they want to do significantly more than even that – and let’s face it, the default UI could really use a facelift right now. I’m especially hoping for better party/raid frames and more customizable combat text.

      Posted by Charles | July 2, 2010, 10:11 pm


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