16 October 2008

An appeal for help

I'm slightly panicy that a few people have recently started following me on twitter. I haven't logged in for months. The truth is, I don't really know how to use it. Not technically, but functionally. It's like sitting in front of piano and not knowing what to play. I signed up just to see what all the fuss was about but all I really did was broadcast my new blog posts. Surely there's more to it than that? If anyone has any tips or suggestions on how to make the most of it, please let me know. And if you're one of the poor wretches that decided to follow me, don't give up on me just yet :)

It's just like Christmas...

Like a drunken santa, patch 3 has crashed and spilled its presents onto the live realms. Now we're all busy scurrying around the wreckage looking at the gift tags and saying, 'oo this one's for you Barbara' while we shake it and try to guess what's inside. Everyone's busy tearing off the wrapping paper and playing with their new toys. Hunters are like the spoiled kids, with a zillion new gadgets that they'll probably only use once before discarding. The odd huntard is now happily engrossed with the packaging. Paladins are the teenage girls who were hoping for something sexy like makeup or perfume, but mum decided they're just not old enough for that and got them a Jackie annual instead. Next year girls. Warlocks got a chemistry set, and you just know they're on the internet right now trying to figure out how to turn the litmus paper and soda crystals into a lethal weapon. I'm sitting here in my over-sized jumper that some nice resto shaman knitted for me, with a glass of sherry and a mince pie. It's a good feeling, but it's not like Christmases used to be. I'm probably too old for lego and transformers, but I can't help wishing wistfully for something more exciting than book tokens and slippers. The Queen's speech comes on in a minute and it'll be good to see what the new year has in store for us. Then I'm off to eat my body weight in turkey and play twister with the druids (they're such terrible cheats...)

15 October 2008

Merlot taps his foot in frustration

Last time I checked an atlas, Europe was ahead of the US in time zones. Someone must have forgot to tell Blizzard this because we always seem to get our patches the day after. Now I'm at work and I am led to believe the marvellous new world of talents and changes await me.

It's all terribly exciting. Well, at least, my hunter is excited, and my shaman is curious and my druid is mildly interested. Merlot is pensive.

We thought everything bad that could happen had already happened, but then we wake up to a Wow Insider report that vampiric embrace has been screwed into the ground too. What a really, truly cynical time to hack our last remaining unique ability into bits. I'm reminded of the UK government's preference for burying bad news on big days. Alastair Campbell would be proud.

In return we get a reason to stack spell crit. It sounds good on paper, I'll reserve judgement till... well.. somebody else tells me if it's good or bad.

First thing I'll do is jump in and tell you exactly how awful, or not, the divine shadow build really is. Watch this space. Or not. No really, please come back soon.

8 October 2008

The divine shadow

Raiding went out of the window for Merlot weeks ago, now my biggest concern is how to spec and dress to surge through Northrend like a dose of clap. I think the weeks of inactivity have gone to my head, because I'm playing with a rather wacky hybrid idea.

What I really want is a heavy spirit shadow build. It suits how I like to play — dot, wand, loot, rinse, repeat. The combination of high base regeneration and spirit tap make for a single-target grinding dynamo. Or so I like to think.

It's a great idea in theory, but there are some practical obstacles.

Gear is one problem. I have only slightly more spirit on my current raid gear than agility. In Outland, spirit is almost exclusively a healer's privilege.

Had I the foresight to collect an off-spec set of healing gear, I'd be in a much stronger position now. With the upcoming changes to spell power, healing gear is looking ideal for my needs.

Sadly, I didn't. I can run a few instances now and pick some up, but my best bet is badge gear. I have over a hundred burning a hole in my bank, which should be enough to boost my spirit for starters.

Longer term, spirit seems more prevalent in Northrend so it should work itself out as I go.

The real headaches start when I look at talents. Spirit stackers have a clear incentive to pick up twisted faith, which increases spell damage by a proportion of your spirit. But if you're stacking spirit, you also want divine spirit and its improved version. Unfortunately, you can't have both.

In a raid situation, it's a no-brainer, you take the shadow talent and hope you have a disc priest in your group. But solo, I'm not so sure. The purpose of a levelling build is not to min/max but to support solo questing and grinding. Improved divine spirit also provides mana regeneration.

The question then becomes: can I kill quickly and easily enough without the greater spell damage? If the answer is yes, being able to kill mobs continuously without drinking downtime wins out.

So you see I'm leaning slightly in favour of improved divine spirit for levelling, but there's another problem. I can't get improved divine spirit and vampiric touch at 70. Meh. The earliest I can have the two is 73.

Do I really need VT for levelling? If they hadn't changed the mana regen, I would have said yes, absolutely, without question. But now I'm not so sure. Considering you have to cast mind blast to trigger replenishment, which just isn't in my normal grinding rotation, I doubt it. And anyway, I'm planning to end up with full mana between pulls, I shouldn't need replenishment.

I might need it for damage though. I just don't know. Maybe devouring plague will be able to take its place.

So in the end, I'm facing the possibility of a hybrid build for the journey to Northrend, one with divine spirit and shadow form — what I've taken to calling the divine shadow. But it all hinges on how much damage I need to put out on the way.

I know it's not going to win any dps race, and I'll almost certainly have to respec to run instances. But you've never needed high dps to burn through world mobs anyway, and I can't help drooling at the thought of those huge spirit tap ticks.

What do you think? It's a terrible idea right? Should I suck it up and spec dispersion? Go on, you can be honest. Just try to be kind :)

4 October 2008

Improved fort back where it belongs

We can all breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief. Improved power word: fortitude has been returned to tier 2 in the discipline tree as of the latest build (9038).

They've swapped it with improved power word: shield, which to be honest, is what they should have moved to tier 3 when moving improved inner fire to start with. They had some concerns for pvp specs not being able to pick up an improved shield. We'll see if that's still a worry for many.

In the meantime, I'm happy this now puts improved fort back in reach of most builds, which can only be a good thing.

2 October 2008

Stamina dilemma approaching

Improved inner fire has been switched with improved power word: fortitude in the latest beta build, giving all specs easier access to a talent that, in Wrath, will boost spellpower as well as armour value.

Edit: this equates to 54 spellpower at level 80 (thank you Ho Ho).

I'm pleased with the increased accessibility of the inner fire buff — I've been scratching my head about how I would free up three more points to pick up improved inner fire anyway.

But the trade-off puts improved fortitude in a rather awkward place.

For shadow priests, it was always a filler talent on the way to meditation. There was simply nothing better to spend your points on. But that worked to everyone's benefit — we got the maximum stamina boost solo, groups where we were the only priest benefited, and we could help holy and discipline priests with buffing assignments in raids. Now it's probably going to be out of reach for most raiding shadow builds.

Its new position in tier 3 makes it look equally awkward for holy and discipline priests. I don't know enough about healing builds to say for certain whether they will be able to pick it up easily, but I suspect it raises a few difficult choices.

I can imagine a guild's raiding priests having to draw straws for this talent.

So on the one hand, I predict improved fortitude will become less ubiquitous, and will give priests pause for thought in their level 80 raiding builds.

But on the other hand, it's not that good a talent to start with (conveying as little as 230 hit points at level 70) and is even less attractive higher up the talent tree.

Is it time for the improved fortitude buff to be baselined?