29 April 2009

Help with gear

That title's a call for help, not an offer.

Pretty much all my gear is now of a similar item level and relatively similar stats. I've got a surplus of it, some with more haste than crit, some with more spirit than haste, and all with varying amounts of hit and spellpower. I know the weightings, but still my head hurts.

I'm firmly of the opinion that the differences are so small as to be academic. But what the hell, I may as well get it right.

So, what do you use to help you evaluate gear? Are there any models out there like I've seen for mages? Any speadsheets that work out stat weightings for me? Any sites I should be using, or addons? Pretty please?

World of World of Warcraft

The Onion is breaking with the news that Blizzard's next gen MMORPG is to be World of World of Warcraft. You get to control a World of Warcraft player. "Characters can be directed to drink soda, eat hot pockets," the site reports.

I never get tired of the Onion, even though it only has one joke. Go check out the video.

27 April 2009


My race summoned the Burning Legion, caused the War of the Ancients, destroyed the Well of Eternity, then kidnapped and tortured a naaru to insanity.

I am addicted to magic.

I am allied with:
  1. a legion of reanimated corpses intent on destroying all life on Azeroth
  2. a band of warmongerers fixated on their violent heritage
  3. cannibals

I traded my faith for power.

I have a goatee.

I'm not one of the good guys, am I?

24 April 2009

Death to replenishment

More proof if every any was needed that replenishment is broken:

We are making a hotfix (any minute now probably) so that replenishment in arenas will only affect the character and not the whole team. It will continue to function as it does currently outside of arenas. We feel replenishment is balanced for larger groups, but just makes too much of a difference on smaller arena teams. Making the rules work differently in PvP and PvE isn’t a solution we like to use often, but in this case we think it fixes the issue cleanly, while still making the talents in question useful to the character who takes them. Alternatives, such as nerfing the amount returned by Replenishment in arena or making it not function at all, seem like more punitive choices from which we want to stay away. Source
My views on replenishment are well documented. Replenishment is bad. Replenishment is the worst thing to happen to Azeroth since Sargeras went loopy.

Well ok, not that bad.

But it's up there with leper gnomes.

Replenishment is so borky they had to REDESIGN THE WAY MANA REGENERATION WORKED. And now they need to hotfix it in arenas. Why am I not surprised?

Vampiric touch's mana mechanic was so broken they had to remove it from the game. And what did they do? They GAVE IT TO EVERYONE.

Oh, my mistake. Poor sad druids and shamans don't have it. Yet.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you try and control mana regeneration with one, generic sweeping mechanic across diverse classes with varying personal mana management options and gearing priorities you will fail.

Replenishment is nothing but a millstone forcing increasingly desperate changes across the board, to the detriment of all. Take replenishment away. Give each class the tools it needs to manage its own mana in its own appropriate ways.

21 April 2009

Skada redux

Quick update on skada, the damage meter I reviewed the other day.

As promised, I took it into Naxx for a more thorough road test.

The first thing I noticed when logging in on Merlot was my old paladin data. Oddly, it does not work independently on each character. Is that going to be an issue? Probably not, I don't know.

We zoned into Naxx, I reset the counters, and off we went.

You'll remember I mentioned it tracked overall data and recorded individual fights at the same time. This made it much easier to track my personal performance as well as the raid's overall on the fly. From one window, you can click through to total or single mob breakdowns - and if you can do this easily on recount, I've never figured out how. It's a sad reminder of just how sluggish I am on bosses compared to trash.

The actual data seemed to tally closely with recount's, which is encouraging. But I surprised myself by wanting to see how much my dots were ticking for, and how big my thadius crits were, and that's something I can't find in skada.

I really don't want to have to run two damage addons at the same time (my system's creaky enough as it is) so I hope the skada dev is looking into this. I'll leave an encouraging note on curse.

Overall, I'm still impressed. It works out of the box and it seems to work well, and there's probably a lot more I don't know about buried in the options.

BTW, what happened to my dps in the patch? Have I forgotten how to play or have all the other classes left shadow in the dust?


Thank you very much for your advice and encouragement. Maybe I'm not such a priestard after all :)

20 April 2009

Owning my mistakes

Time for some naval gazing after a disastrous attempt on the Instructor. This fight is much more appealing in theory than it is in practice. Lovely idea to give priests a novel role in a raid fight but if they wanted to tank, wouldn't they have rolled a mage? Hmm?

Razuvious should be easy.

Step 1. Mind control mob.
Step 2. Cast bone shield and taunt.
Step 3. Repeat step 2 every 40 seconds.

That looks easy, doesn't it? So what's my problem?

Mistake number 1 — not watching the channel time
This is my biggest problem. A minute feels like a lot, a minute is enough to lull me into a false sense of security. A minute is longer than my short-term memory. With the taunt switching every 20 seconds, even in ideal circumstances that means the cast will expire towards the end of only your second time tanking. And circumstances are never ideal. Damage from the knife will push back the channel, the spell will break early.

Solution: drop and recast after every switch. Even if this is overly cautious, it will minimise the risk of mind control breaking during my tank time, and that's a Good Thing.

Mistake number 2 — mistiming bone shields and taunts
Something else that should be much simpler than it is. Neither priest has voice, so we couldn't should out to each other. Trying to track cooldowns while watching the channel time and picking up dropped mind controls is easier said than done. The result? Razuvious either flattens a tank without his bone shield or runs after the dps when both taunts are on cooldown. I'm sure it's easy enough to do this without voice if you're practiced and have modest situational awareness, but I fail on both counts.

Solution: get voice. Strong preference for voice-enabled priests to tank.

Mistake number 3 — terrible positioning
Ok, the big guy is running amok and flattening the dps. Clearly something has gone wrong. He's bouncing around so fast I can't even catch up to him. And there are so many damn melee I can't even see him. But I'm going to fix this, I just have to get close enough to taunt and then... and then I run out of range and mind control breaks and it's all over.

Solution: assign positions for everything. All ranged here, all melee here. If he runs at you, suck it up. If he moves, stand still.

I have to say, this boss would be much easier if the taunt worked at range. You'd be able to position the tanks a couple of feet apart and it would be much easier to see when the switch occurs. Don't player class taunts work like that now?

Also, I hate being in melee. How do you see what you're doing? How do tanks cope when mobs break loose? Do people volunteer for this job?

On a personal note, it feels very, very shit to know your raid is wiping because you — and only you — can't get the hang of something. Tanks have a huge responsibility, and while some players respond well to the pressure, and have the reactions and the sharp mind to deal with changing circumstances, these aren't qualities that you nurture in the dps. My admiration and respect go to the players who choose this path.

I can't wait to get back to ranged.

Blizzard: never ever do this to me again.

17 April 2009

Merlot reviews an addon ...and it's got pictures

I'm not very addon-literate. I don't understand how they work and struggle with the setup and management of some of the more complex ones. I like things that I can just load and forget.

But over time, I have wrestled with a few beasts like ag_unitframes, grid and auctioneer. I use the curse client to keep them all up to date (when it works) and even occasionally delve into the murky depths to see if someone somewhere has invented something to do that special thing I've been struggling with. That's how I found shacklewatch.

Recount has been my constant companion since I began raiding. But, like my computer, I am vaguely aware that is capable of much more than I use it for. I have no idea what a lot of the tick boxes do, and when it starts reporting strange numbers and randomly loosing data, I have no understanding of why or how to fix it.

Trouble is, I wasn't aware of any other options besides wws, which frankly looks even scarier than recount, doesn't deliver real-time information and requires all that fannying about afterwards.

But last night, while browsing curse, I saw "skada damage meter" in a list of popular addons. It promised something similar to recount in a simpler format (or words to that effect...)

So on a whim, I installed it to my paladin alt and set off for some questing in dragonblight to give it a road test.

Skada's report window is clean and smart. It uses a simple system of left-click to drill down and right-click to move back up the navigation. It's a bit disorienting to begin with, without a navigation bar, but it very quickly becomes second nature.

It provides many of the main top-level reports that you get in recount, but this main view shows you a useful overall summary:

Drill down — into damage, for example — and you get first the totals:

Then a summary of where that damage came from:

And finally a full breakdown of individual moves:

I like the recount pie chart, but doubt I'll miss it.

If skada records the minimum, average and maximums of each move, like recount does, I couldn't find it. I like looking at those numbers, but I'm not sure I need them for performance analysis.

Skada makes accessing individual fight data much easier than recount, as you can see from this view:

You then drill down to see your performance against each individual mob. This might rapidly get unweildy in trash pack scenarios, I'm not sure. But I assume it would come in very handy for boss kills and consecutive boss attempts.

I have yet to test skada in a raid setting — that's next — so I can't comment on its accuracy or on how it handles data for 25 people. It promises a low system profile, but I admit I don't really know how to test this claim or how it stores all this data without hogging at least some resources.

Skada is slicker and more intuitive than recount in many ways, while superficially appearing to provide close to the same level of data. But it is not as neatly packaged as recount. You do not set up and control skada from the report interface. In fact, there are two — yes, two — separate menus for doing this.

To configure what skada records and how you share it with other gamers, there is a minimap button with a simple but extensive list of expanding options, much as you get with, say, grid. To send a report to chat, you've got to go into several separate lines, check the appropriate options, then click a separate option to send the report. It's not hard, but it's not as easy as recount.

Then, to control the appearance of skada, and a few other things, there is a separate set of options via the in-game addon menu. These are fairly standard too, but resizing the report window could be easier than it is.

A lot of these limitations and frustrations may simply be down to the addon's immaturity. Over time, the developer may well improve and extend how it works. From what little I've seen so far, I believe they have a very strong foundation. I'll be taking skada into my next raid with Merlot and seeing how it functions with 24 other people to watch.

Have you tried skada? What did you think? Any hints or tips on getting the most out of it?

16 April 2009

What the patch notes didn't tell you

Mind flay now correctly applies one stack of the shadow weaving buff per cast. How tedious. As if we weren't slow enough to get moving to begin with.

Honestly, I don't understand Blizzard's approach to shadow at all. They seem perfectly willing to acknowledge and address the bugs of other classes and engage in conversation about them on the forums. Why then can't we have a similar dialogue about pain and suffering?

As our glorious leaders don't seem to read the European forums, let alone comment on them, if you're in the US and feel like prodding for a blue post on this — or any other — issue, please let me know how you get on.

Merlot, by the way, is currently stuck in Naxx. Just about every instance going was bugged to hell last night. Ah, the joys of patch day...

Edit: if the anonymous commenter below is correct, mind flay is actually applying one stack per tick. If that's true, it will take approximately the same time to get the buff to five stacks as before. This makes me very happy and very annoyed at the same time. While it would be better than one stack per cast, according to the strict interpretation of shadow weaving, this would still constitute a bug. My point in all of this is that the mechanics of shadow in several ways do not deliver what the official documentation promises, and we really need an open dialogue with Blizzard to try and get to the bottom of it.

15 April 2009

Merlot waves

I can tell it's patch day when my hits rocket. You guys still locked out of your servers? Hmm. I've got to get back to work, nothing to see here. Go read this, or this, or this. Enjoy :)

14 April 2009

Back to earth

I love Easter. Not for religious reasons (Thrall is the only self-ressing guy I worship), but for the two glorious days of public holiday. If you had to work over Easter, I feel for you — for about two seconds, then my attention wanders back to my four-day weekend. Toe-curlingly glorious.

The only bad thing about a public holiday is the come down. Emails at work, emails at home. Who'd have thought the ProBlogger guys would be working over Easter? I'm so far behind I'm nearly in front again. This blog aint getting better any time soon.

In the four days in which I have fannied (it's a word) around London, spending money I don't have and gorging on food I don't need, Fear.Win has published seven posts. Seven!

That's what I should have been doing, I just don't have the work ethic. I am inherently lazy (that's why I play dps).

For what it's worth, I suppose you should know some patch thing is coming and everything's getting reset. Or something.

Now I've gotta go apply for my own job. If you find the guy who caused the credit crunch, give him a slap from me.

8 April 2009

3.1: out of time

It is time to draw a line under the imminent patch 3.1. I had high hopes for this patch, but those hopes have passed. I'm ready to concede that the bulk of my prayers for shadow priests have gone unanswered.

I've written and scrapped this post three times already. There is always a slim chance that it's not over yet. It is true that we do not yet have a release date. But when other bloggers start posting their 3.1 survival guides and patch reviews, you know that time is running out.

This then will be my catharsis, a purging of all false hope and tightly knotted expectations. Our aim is to jettison these poisonous ambitions and surrender to our lot in life.

It also rather handily ticks the boxes for my day-two ProBlogger challenge: write a list post. Brace for bullet points!

I shall be balanced, of course. There are some small baubles of delight dangling from the Christmas tree of disappointment. But if you'd rather just rake through my frustrations, feel free to skip to the last section.

Stuff we like
  • Divine spirit will be baseline. This is a minor buff in the grand scheme of things, but it's welcome nonetheless.
  • The shadowfiend has been buffed. It will return more mana, deal more damage, and take less damage from aoe spells.
  • A new improved devouring plague talent will boost the damage of the spell considerably. This will inadvertently relegate shadow word: pain to a thoroughly miserably third place in our arsenal of dots. It feels very lacklustre now, but I guess we can't have it all our own way.
  • Dots will be able to crit. While dots already benefited from critical strike rating, this change will ensure they benefit from things that increase your chance to crit without directly affecting that rating — such as winter's chill and improved scorch. It's a modest buff and slightly increases the value of crit over haste (I think). From what Ho Ho says in the comments, there's no buff here. I don't then understand how people are reporting an increase in dps on the test realms. Perhaps some of the other changes, such as improved devouring plague and mind meld (see below) account for it. If you know better, leave me a note please.
  • Mind meld will provide additional critical strike chance to dots, transforming a mediocre talent into a glorious one.

Stuff we don't care about
  • Healing stuff. We glazed over.
  • PVP buffs blah blah.
  • The new hymns. Both are going to be extremely difficult to use, and of almost zero value to shadow priests. This could have been a chance to put the faith back into priesting; instead, write it off as a missed opportunity. I want to say more, but I'll wait till I've had chance to try them out.
  • Increases to mana regeneration talents, such as spirit tap and meditation. To all the people who think these changes are a buff: they are not. The amount of mana you regenerate while casting after the patch will be exactly the same as it is now.
  • Vampiric embrace increased to five minutes and cooldown removed. Without the improving talents, this spell is almost worthless in raids — but who has the points spare to pick them up?

Stuff they forgot
  • Dear Blizzard: why doesn't shadow word: pain pick up shadow weaving stacks when it is refreshed by mind flay (via the pain and suffering talent)? If this is a bug, when will you fix it? If this is not a bug, when will you wake up and realise it is stupid and needs changing? Yours etc.
  • Still no baseline 30-yard range on mind flay. I have banged on about this too much already, but this is not a nice-to-have, this is not something that shadow priests should have to cope with in raids. Raiding shadow priests are at a disadvantage as long as this anachronism is allowed to fester.
  • WTB decent raid-worthy glyph options. Do you know why the shadow priest community isn't up in arms about mind flay's range? Because they can glyph for it. And we're only happy to do that because there's nothing else to go in its place.
  • Shadow priests are still missing an ability to ramp up damage output on bosses. No cooldowns to blow, no executes, nothing. This will become glaringly obvious as encounters in Ulduar get harder and demands on DPS increase. It's not asking for an advantage over other dps, it's asking for the same level playing field.
  • Shadow is all so... sterile now, all numbers and balance and business. Where's the spirit? Where's the poetry? Give me a dark prayer, or a hymn of despair, just one core ability that proves I am a terrible, formidable priest, not just the shadow of a warlock, and I will forgive all other sins.

You know, now that it's down on paper, it doesn't look so bad. Only five things Blizzard need to do to entirely satisfy me. Not many people have it so easy :)

If we are indeed out of time now, and the patch is imminent, I will enjoy the buffs and hope that the gods of WoW may hear my prayers for the next round.

Happy patching!

7 April 2009

Note to self: get better

I hate Malygos. Or rather, I hate the minds that contrived to assemble so many irritating mechanics in one encounter. Just because everyone else can defeat him with no problems does not mean it is good design. So there.

Right from the start, the damn platform gives me motion sickness. It can't just be me. But I grit my teeth and prepare for phase one. It 'should' be easy, I know what needs to be done. But the sparks spawn well out of range, are hard to see, and impossible to manouver without a death knight. With all the time wasted running around trying to target the damn things, never stacking the buff, my dps is way too low. I vaguely think I need an 'Illhoof'-style spammable macro but one that checks for range too. Is that even possible?

Phase two feels a little gimmickey, but it's not so bad. I have just enough time to ramp up some damage in-between bubble hops. I even get to ride the disc things occasionally. I feel a bit like the green goblin.

Phase three is the paradigm of gimmicks, it makes other gimmicks look conventional. I can spam the fire spells, I even have an addon to track my combo points and dot stacks, but it's hard to move at the same time and even harder to keep enough focus in reserve for the shield. I fail, I die.

So I need to get better at two things:
  • Dealing efficiently with sparks with minimum interruption to my Malygos dps
  • Staying alive during phase three
Any advice?

6 April 2009

This blog will get you laid...

On a whim, I signed up to ProBlogger's 31 days to build a better blog on a tip from Matticus.

Every day for the next month, we'll learn a little bit of blogging theory and be challenged to create something for our blogs.

If nothing else, it may inspire me to fill in the rather pregnant pauses between usual posts, and with any luck Misery should emerge the other side a better blog. That is assuming the extra pressure doesn't cause me to crumple into a whimpering ball and get dragged away by psychiatrists. (One post every day!?) But then I'd get free drugs and time off work; it's all win.

Challenge one is to write an elevator pitch. If, like me, you're left cold at the sound of business slang, I refer you to the wikipedia entry. You can skip over the first two sections... venture capitalist blah blah... wait, what's that? It's like that scene in Working Girl? Why didn't you say so in the first place!

I may not speak business strategy but I am fluent in 80s rom com.

It's like you've got fifteen seconds to convince the high school quarterback to read your blog thereby securing his invitation to the prom. (Yes, that's how it works in American high schools.) What do you tell him?

Misery is a blog about football that will help you get laid.

I think I've just coined the definitive elevator pitch for teenage boys, but I'm not sure it quite fits the bill for Misery.

How about:

Reading Misery will make you rich and cause people to fall in love with you.

Closer? No?

Well that's all my 80s plotlines exhausted. I'll just have to resort to the honest but dull truth. Now that I think about it, being true to yourself (and thereby getting rich and laid) is a very 80s message:

Misery delivers news and comment about World of Warcraft for shadow priests and their admirers.

And I'm not even sure it does that, all of the time. There should really be an "attempts" or "aims to" in there somewhere, but I think confidence sells. My gym says it will make me look ten years' younger, not attempt to... No quips about false advertising thank you very much.

Challenge one accomplished! What do you think? It's a good job I have another 30 days to get good...

I fully expect tomorrow's challenge to be devising suggestive headlines that entice readers in while having nothing to do with the subject matter. I've got the jump on that one...

1 April 2009

Cait's Ultimate Blogroll

My Google reader is getting out of control. Every day I discover a new game-related blog to add to the list, but I'm just not organised enough to put them in nice neat folders and keep up with the housekeeping.

I'd guess that Caitlin, over at One Among Many, had a similar problem, because she's collecting as many WoW blogs as she can in her Ultimate Blogroll, a very worthwhile project that deserves a plug, not least in thanks for all the traffic she's sending my way.

She's got the blog links categorised by subject, and even notes blogs that have fallen out of date. My Google reader's great, but if I want something specific and don't know who's blogging about it, this is where I go first.

Go, browse, and if you see a gap, please let Cait know.