21 February 2008

Buff shackle!

Wow insider is reporting that the paladin spell turn undead has been upgraded on the PTR to 'turn evil':

Turn Undead(Rank 3):This spell has been reworked and has been renamed to “Turn Evil”. It will now work on Demons in addition to Undead. Turn Evil is subject to diminishing returns, and lasts 10 seconds in PvP.

No doubt locks will be shaking their fists and stamping their feet at the news, but this is effectively the buff I've been asking for with shackle undead.

I'll be petitioning Blizzard to see if they'll share some of the love with priests. Watch this space.

Edit: here's the thread. Go comment!

Heroic or just plain stupid?

I ran heroic Botanica last night with a very good team of warrior tank, priest healer, mage and hunter.

It was the mage's first heroic. She had been put off attempting them before by some elitist jerk who told her 500 spell damage wasn't enough. Botanica is generally regarded as one of the easier heroics so I thought we'd be fine. And we were; more than fine. We cleared it with only one or two silly wipes on the trash and got all bosses down first time.

The hunter, in very good gear, topped the damage metre as you'd expect. But the mage, with about 300 less spell damage than me, came a clear second place, even while busy sheeping. And she is frost spec. It really did feel like I was a fifth wheel at times. So I wonder, is there really a place for shadow priests in heroics?

There's a chance it's just me, not all shadow priests, of course. I was a bit laggy last night and a bit sluggish to respond at times. And then there's a chance that Bot is simply not very shadow priest friendly: the fourth boss, Laj, actually resisted four consecutive attempts to land shadow word: pain, which seems a bit unlikely given that I am now spell capped.

But I doubt those things were a big factor here. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that shadow priests simply aren't designed for heroics. There are four things I think a group needs going in to a heroic:
  1. a well-geared, skilled tank
  2. a well-geared, superb healer
  3. reliable crowd control
  4. massive amounts of controlled, sustained damage

Now, with the exception of Sethekk Halls, we bring no reliable crowd control. So our role is clear — we are there to burn things down. And in heroics, where the mobs hit hard and the trash groups are big, you'd better do it quick. The problem is, more than any other class, our burst potential is poor. We rely on DOTs and a channelled spell to do the bulk of our damage. Affliction locks suffer from similar issues, but they have more nukes at their fingers and more cc functionality to balance it out. And they always have a nuke talent tree to turn to if they can't keep up. On trash, I don't always have time to build up steam. While my comrades are unloading at full throttle, I'm still applying spells.

It's a different story on boss fights, which usually last long enough to allow me to reach my full potential. But typically, the bigger challenges in heroics are the trash leading up to them. What do you think? Am I doing something wrong? Or should I accept the limitations of my class and move on? Is burst damage as important as I think it is, and what does that mean for the future of shadow priests if it is?

19 February 2008

How to be imba

If you are focused on improving your character and gearing up for end game, a new tool called Imba could be a good place to start. All credit to Zarah, the Pugnacious Priest, for sharing this with her readers.

Imba claims to be the first World of Warcraft character auditor, and from my early tests I'd say it's a pretty nifty little tool.

All you have to do is put in your server and character name for your report. It looks at your gear, gems, enchants and talent points to come up with an overall pve rating and suggest some instances in your range. It works for all classes, analysing things like hit, spell hit and defence ratings.

Here's my report.

No surprise to learn I have some low quality items and gems, and some gear not yet enchanted (why would I enchant low quality gear!?)

Interestingly, it also suggested I have too many points in shadow weaving. That's something I'll have to look into more closely.

It concludes I have an overall gear rating of 144.85 and should be looking at heroics and Karazhan, which is reassuring.

It would be nice to know what that number actually means — where on the Karazhan scale am I? How much higher would I need to be to be ready for further raids? What kind of improvement can I expect from swapping certain gems or enchants? But overall, it's a very useful tool. I'll be keeping my eye on it as I work to improve my gear, rack up some more enchants and maybe move a few talent points around.

18 February 2008

In the beginning...

What does a budding new face melter need to know when they roll a priest? Or, for that matter, what does any new player need to know when they take the plunge into warcraft? That's the question posed by Evil Sheep over on Blog Azeroth after he intervened with a fledgling hunter to spare the world another huntard.

The truth is, for priests, the tutorial starts before you even roll because of the grave and infuriating matter of priest racial abilities. Priests uniquely gain two spells specific to their race, ranging from the delicious to the downright useless. They are both learned from the trainer; the first at level 10 and the second at level 20.

First, go here and read up about the different spells. Then come back.

Back? Ready? Good.

You see what I mean? A very mixed back of tricks. There are some who think priest racials are rather imbalanced — mostly, it has to be said, those who have the shit ones. If you intend to roll a priest you will have to decide for yourself.

Your choice may be influenced by your intentions for end game — do you want to heal or dps, pvp or pve? You will find some spells stand out for a specific role while others have no imaginable application. Chastise and Elune's grace have very clear pvp uses while symbol of hope could come in very handy in instances. They are definitely worth considering. I rolled a priest before I even knew about them and now I feel a little miffed. But at no time should you feel pressured into choosing a particular race simply for the corresponding racial abilities.

Put simply, they don't matter. Not really. Do I wish I had devouring plague? You betcha. Am I bitter that I was cursed at birth with touch of crapness instead? Hell yeah. Does it stop me enjoying my class and playing it well? Not for one second. I'm far too handsome and stylish to wish I'd rolled undead instead, which just goes to illustrate that WoW is about far more than a couple of underwhelming spells. Racials can be icing on the cake or they can be completely irrelevant. In WoW, as in life, the secret of success is to play the hand you are dealt. Sometimes you will win, sometimes you will loose; always you should have fun playing.

And now I've banged on for a whole post without actually addressing the topic. So that tutorial will have to wait till next time.

13 February 2008

Mind control for megalomaniacs

Mind control is the ultimate in role-playing malevolence for the remorseless shadow priest. What better way to demonstrate your superiority than by dominating the feeble minds of your foes and forcing them to do your bidding? Of course, if you get it wrong, you'll just be that smug bastard wafting about in purple fog. No pressure.

Why mind control will get you killed

Mind control does just what it says on the tin — it enables you to take control of a mob for a period of time. This is what we're dealing with:

Mind control: controls a humanoid mind but slows its attack speed by 20%. Lasts up to 1 minute.

That sounds pretty sweet doesn't it? Not only can you take a mob out of combat for up to a minute, but it can attack for you! Where can I sign up!?

But wait, you haven't read the small print. Number one, it only works on humanoids. I can live with that, I hear you cry. It's also a channelled spell, so it will be pushed back and possibly interrupted if you take damage. Meh, you say. And for the duration of the spell, you will be unable to move or cast spells of you own. Huh? Indeed.

When you take control of a mob, you effectively become that character. Your viewpoint switches to theirs, and your cast bar changes to show spells and actions available to that character. You can move and act as the mind controlled mob. Other mobs will be hostile and your party, should you be in one, will be friendly. You can attack the baddies and buff your friends according to what's available. Most mobs have some small range of attacks, a few have heals, and a small number have buffs. (For a comprehensive list of what's available, it's worth checking out the forums or a database like wowwiki.)

So already, you will have spotted the problem with mind control as cc. It ties your hands as much as the mobs. Sure, you can cast some nifty spells, and some of them even put out a fair bit of damage, but it's a gimp nonetheless.

It only allows you to control mobs two levels above you. In end-game, that's not a consideration, but it might make a difference as you are levelling. On top of that, the spell has a 20 yard range. Don't do what I have done countless times and agro a group while trying to get into range. And once you've gained control, don't skip merrily away from your body because the range still applies while channelling.

If, at this point, you're still licking your lips and jumping at the bit to squash puny minds, allow me to kill your buzz. Because the biggest issue with mind control is the chance it will break early. Due to game mechanics, the spell checks periodically for a chance to break, taking into account the level of the mob, the distance from you, and its resistance to shadow magic. I've been unable to discover exactly how often it does this, but my guess is every tick. And when it breaks, that mob is gonna be really pissed off with you, we're talking vein-popping, ear-steaming, Yosemite Sam insane mad. Your tank is going to have to insult their mother to get agro back, it's that serious.

So it's a tricky spell. It's disorienting to switch views and toolbars, hard to do anything useful for your group while channelling, and when it breaks you could be squashed like a toad in one hit. Blah blah. Now for the fun bit!

When to mind control

  • As this is a pve blog, let's get it out of the way — mind control is great fun in pvp. Use it whenever you are near a cliff or lava, when you are on a roof, a boat or an airship. Take control and run them to their doom.
  • When you need a boost — very rarely, you will come across a mob with a spectacular buff, such as the menders in Botanica with the holy fury buff (+295 spell damage). If you have a couple of casters in your group, how can you pass this up?
  • When you are short of crowd control — if you find yourself grouped with paladins and shamen, it might be the only way to control the fight. Pop a mind control and pray.
  • When you are outnumbered — my favourite strategy for dealing with those impossible five and six mob pulls is a kamikaze mind control. Strip off your gear and tell the rest of the group to stand back. Control a mob and watch the rest of the group smack it down. They'll come after you next and you will die horribly. That's why you took your gear off (to avoid the repair bill). If your party is out of agro range, the group will reset minus one mob. You won't be able to loot it, but it's only one mob and it's a small price to pay for avoiding a wipe.

How to mind control

If you're hell bent on taking over the world, one minion at a time, these steps may help:

  • Use mind soothe so you can get in range without risking a bad pull.
  • Max your spell hit. We know all about spell hit, don't we? More spell hit equals less chance to resist and break early.
  • Ask a lock to use curse of shadows first. This will lower your target's resistance to shadow spells and help to prevent early breaks.
  • Pick a caster. Not only do they have more useful spells available in general, but they are less likely to one-hit you when it breaks.
  • Do your research. Know what spells the mob will have and how you are going to use them.
  • Park them nearby. Some indications suggest the change to break increases with range.
  • Ask a hunter to drop a frost trap at your feet to catch the stray mob if it breaks early. Or ask a friendly mage to standby with a frost nova. With any luck, your tank will have time to grab agro before you are squashed.

Follow my advice and you might just survive to dominate the next unworthy creature to cross your path. I wouldn't bet on it though.

11 February 2008

Future love for mana addicts?

The official test realm notes for patch 2.4 are out, accompanied by the usual plethora of caveats. It's early days on the test servers and many of these changes may undergo significant alteration or vanish altogether before they reach the light of day.

For the pve shadow priest, there's not much to write home about. We may be able to cast fear ward in shadow form, which will save a bit of mana in a few fear-sensitive encounters. I don't use it enough to care (I assume PVP would be another matter).

One change, however, hints seductively at better times ahead:

Spirit-Based Mana Regeneration: This system has been adjusted so that as your intellect rises, you will regenerate more mana per point of spirit.

Don't ask me how mana regeneration works. It has something to do with spirit and involves all sorts of horrendous, stroke-inducing equations. I don't have the brains to even tackle it. But I do know a buff when I see one. This should hopefully see our two mana regeneration talents, spirit tap and meditation, work a bit harder for us both in and out of battle.

I'm reserving judgement till I see the figures (or, to be honest, till others have seen the figures and told me what they mean). If intellect is to increase mana regeneration, the crucial question is by how much? This could significantly improve our longevity in battle and while grinding. Or, given a shadow priest's notoriously small mana pool, it could see us at the back of the buff queue once again.

8 February 2008

Don't call me Shirley

How do you pick your characters' names? Do you invent traditional fantasy names or draw your inspiration from the real world? Do you like puns and jokes, or are you one of those strange people who use the random name generator?

I look for names that seem to capture the race and class of my characters. Merlot suggests to me a refinement and snobbery that sits perfectly with his blood elf ancestry. My Tauren druid, on the otherhand, is called Chorus, a word that I hope echoes his deep spiritual connections with the earth and with nature.

There was a female blood elf paladin on my server called Bubbleslut. Sadly the GMs stamped on it. And then there's the Tauren called Hasselhoof, which I think is the best name ever. Sometimes, I've been so inspired I've gone out and started a character just for the joy of a name, even though they rarely make it past level 10. The female Orc Missthing, male orc shammy Sonofsham, and undead frost mage Hypoxia are all sitting unplayed and unloved in my character list. And I fully intend to start an undead priestess called Elsa if I ever get time.

What's your naming strategy and what are the names you wish you'd thought of first on your server?

7 February 2008

WoW bloggers unite!

Elite bloggers Valenna and Phaelia have launched a forum dedicated to the growing community of World of Warcraft bloggers.

Blog Azeroth is a venue for blog authors to share ideas for content, give feedback and criticism on other blogs, and help each other with platform problems.

It's such a simple, wonderful idea. For new bloggers like me, it's the perfect place to start when you're first toying with the idea of a blog. There is already a huge amount of advice on setting up and improving your blog. And for the power bloggers out there, it's a convenient forum for bouncing ideas around and conjuring new topics to write about.

Expect some improvements to Misery as I absorb the expert advice.

4 February 2008

The deal with spell hit

Spell hit describes the chance your spells have to, er, hit your target. It's very similar to the standard hit rating for melee, which determines whether a blow will land or miss, but casters have a few quirks to deal with.

On an even levelled mob, your spells have a base chance of 96% to land. The chance goes up for lower level mobs and down for higher level mobs. At level 70, the highest level mobs you will face are raid bosses and for the purposes of spell hit they are considered level 73. Against a level 73 mob, you have an 83% chance to hit with spells.

Here's the first bit of quirkiness for casters. When a spell misses, you won't see 'miss' anywhere on the screen; it will say 'resisted'. This is confusing, because there is a second type of resistance which applies to the amount of damage your spell does. But for this discussion, that's a red herring. All you need to know is that when you see the word 'resisted' pop up above your target, your spell missed. (I might talk about the second resistance another time, but only if I can get my head around spell penetration first...)

And here's the second quirk. Spell hit caps at 99%, regardless of all other factors. A level one creature has a 1% chance to resist everything a level 70 player may throw at it. Clearly, this is not a good chance. If you were a lowly scarlet convert from Deathknell facing a level 70 mage, you would not bet the church that that incoming pyroblast will slip off you like a pair of cheap knickers. You are doomed. No, all this fact means to the practicing shadow priest is you have a shorter ground to cover when improving your hit rating than our thuggish cousins, who can reach a 100% chance to hit. Don't ask me why.

Anyhoo, now you know what spell hit is and you have an eye on those instance bosses with their malevolent 17% chance to resist your spells. They are not good odds for a shadow priest. You have a limited mana pool and can't afford to be recasting every sixth spell. So what can you do about it?

The first thing you should do is put five talent points into shadow affinity. This will reduce your target's chance to resist your spells by 10%. Ten whole, huge, amazing percentage points. Those are the best five points you will spend. This is one of those rare occasions where you have the upper hand on the competition. Only shaman can beat a flat 10% improvement to their spell hit by talents alone, and they have to spec deep into two trees to achieve it.

Speaking of shammies, that's the second thing you can do. Find a lovely elemental shaman and rub up close to their totem of wrath. This will add another 3% chance to hit.

But given how hard ele shammies are to come by in end game, you're going to have to plug roughly 6% through itemisation. 12.6 points equals 1%, so your target is 75.6; call it 76. And surprisingly, it's not that hard. Lots of Outland gear includes spell hit points and you can also get spell hit gems. The spellstrike set, which I recommended in my last post, gives a whopping 38 spell hit from just two items — and that's before gems. You may well find some spell hit items lack in other aspects, such as stamina, damage or intellect. You'll have to decide on a personal level whether you think the trade-off is worth it, but the prevailing wisdom is that 1% spell hit equates roughly 1% additional damage in the long run. The amount of damage you would need to compensate for a loss of 1% spell hit is beyond the computation of my puny brain, but I think it's big.

One last option is the spellstrike enchant for gloves, which adds 15 hit points for some modest materials.

So there you have it, the deal with spell hit. I'm currently languishing at around 68 spell hit, but will let you know when I'm capped.