• Bares mostly like the taste of fase!

Tag: Gear

Preparing for Challenge Modes

February 10, 2014

Challenge Modes

Introduction

I’ll be honest, I was really trying to find a way to justify watching Lego Movie tonight. But I knew I had to get this post out instead. A lot of people have been asking me lately about what they should do to prepare or get through Challenge Mode dungeons. I’ve been getting back into them in a big way recently with my friends, so I wanted to share my knowledge and things I’ve learned with everyone else.

Before you even step into a CM, there are some mechanics differences that are specific to CMs that you won’t find in any other aspects of the game (at least right now). Once you understand those differences you can prepare your gear, talents, and glyphs. Finally I can leave you with some basic ideas on when to use cooldowns, how to to pull, and what sorts of dangers to look out for as a tank.
 

Challenge Mode Mechanics

Vengeance doesn’t behave the same in Challenge Modes compared to everywhere else in the game. You’ll probably recall that for 5.4 it was nerfed from a 2% gain on unmitigated damage, to 1.5%. Not only that, but a diminishing returns was added if you’re receiving damage from more than one source (1/n based on melee damage of the mob – highest first). The beauty is, neither of those nerfs apply to Challenge Modes. This means that it’s always advantageous to pull as much as you can handle to increase your damage as much as possible. Tank DPS is incredibly important, especially for sub-optimal compositions that may not have great AoE potential (I recently did a Scholomance run with a Ret Paladin, Rogue, and Moonkin).

The timer forces you to pull mobs as quickly as you can conceivably handle them. However it’s incredibly important to keep track of where your cooldowns are at from pull-to-pull. The last thing you want to do is initiate an incredibly dangerous trash pull before you’re ready to do so. While DPS is a substantial determining factor in a successful Challenge Mode run, communication and execution of a plan to handle each pull is by far the most important.

Challenge Modes are divided between two distinct types of encounters – Trash and Bosses. Trash encounters will vary wildly, but by and large you want to pull as much as possible. That means that trash will not only take significantly less time than a given boss, but will be much more dangerous. Both of these factors should obviously tell you that survival cooldowns like Survival Instincts will be used on trash, whereas DPS cooldowns like Incarnation will be used on bosses.

Finally, Legendary Items and Set Bonuses do not function in Challenge Modes. Therefore you will want an Agile Primal Diamond for your meta. You don’t need to throw away your tier 16 gear for Challenge Modes though, since it’s so incredibly well itemized. Nor do you need to throw away the cloak, for exactly the same reason. Heck you don’t really need to swap your meta if you don’t want to, you just need to be aware that it won’t work.
 

Gear, Talents, and Glyphs

Selecting Gear for Challenge Modes is basically the same as any other kind of content for a Guardian. The first priority is to make sure you are capped on both Hit and Expertise (2550 and 5100 rating respectively). Your second priority is to get as much Critical Strike Rating as you can get your hands on, for the same reasons as you would want it for a raid encounter or Proving Grounds. Of course you can really use any old gear to accomplish this, but the more gem slots a piece of gear has in it, the better. The budget from a gem slot only comes from the primary stat – Agility – and secondaries. The value of Armor and Stamina is unaffected, which means it’s a net increase in value to have an additional gem socket on a piece of gear.

The place it gets kind of messy is with trinkets. Almost all of the Siege of Orgrimmar trinkets (like Vial of Living Corruption) scale down to near uselessness at 463. Heck even most of the RPPM trinkets introduced in Throne of Thunder are pretty bad, especially after the RPPM nerf in 5.4. On-use trinkets, or trinkets with the most passive stats are the best options you have – with one exception: Delicate Vial of the Sanguinaire. This trinket is incredible for Guardians in Challenge Modes – in fact it’s probably the only situation in the game where this trinket excels. Combine huge numbers of mobs swinging at you on many of the trash pulls with a naturally high dodge chance, and you get very large chances to proc the trinket. On many of the larger trash pulls it’s very common for it to stack to 3, which grants you a whopping 50.79% armor increase.

For survival it’s a no-brainer really.

My favourite 2nd trinket for Challenge Modes is easily Ghost Iron Dragonling. 1800 undiminshed stats is really hard to turn down. The one problem is that the pet will sometimes proc at inopportune times. In my opinion that’s a small price to pay for such a valuable trinket. In reality you can pick any two trinkets and do just fine, but those are definitely my personal favourites.

Talents are a little more 50/50. Some tiers have purely default choices, whereas others are basically user’s choice.

  1. Tier 1: Take Feline Swiftness or Wild Charge. The problem with FS is you’ll often have other party members which will be slower than you – but on the other hand you almost always want to be the first one to reach a trash pull or boss. Charge is incredibly useful for kiting, which is quite often something you’ll end up doing to stay alive.
  2. Tier 2: This tier offers something of an interesting choice. Typically Cenarion Ward doesn’t get much traction in in raids because any predictable damage you can use it on is easily covered by normal healing. However in Challenge Modes it’s very easy to find a GCD between pulls to throw a CW on yourself to give your healer more time to react when you pull a new group of trash. Of course Renewal is still off the GCD on a much longer CD, and Ysera’s Gift will still provide constant passive healing. I prefer – and recommend – CW for Challenge Modes, you can use any talent on this tier and do fine.
  3. Tier 3: There really isn’t any real choice other than Typhoon. It functions either as a secondary interrupt or to give yourself breathing room in order to kite.
  4. Tier 4: At the launch of the expansion Soul of the Forest was pretty worthless. It’s since been buffed to be competitive with Incarnation over time. The problem is boss encounters in Challenge Modes are where you need the most damage, and conveniently bosses are usually 3 minutes apart more or less. That makes Incarnation the easy choice for Challenge Modes. Don’t even ask about Force of Nature.
  5. Tier 5: This is a choice between Mighty Bash and Ursol’s Vortex. You can pick the talent that’s appropriate to your group composition or the dungeon you’re doing.
  6. Tier 6: You might think there’s actually a choice here at first pass, but there really isn’t. Heart of the Wild isn’t usable as a tank on any bosses except maybe the first one in Jade Temple. Which brings us to Dream of Cenarius which is a complete DPS loss if you use an HT instead of any offensive ability, and unlike a raid scenario the healer will cover all of the incoming group damage. That leaves us with Nature’s Vigil as the obvious choice.

That leaves us with Glyphs.

  • Unlike a raid scenario I’d avoid Survival Instincts. You want to have the full 12 second duration, and conveniently the most dangerous pulls are 3 minutes or more apart. Leave this one out.
  • Also unlike a raid scenario Fae Silence is actually incredibly useful. Silence effects are far more uncommon than stuns, and being able to keep dangerous casters locked down is valuable.
  • A no-brainer glyph slot goes to Maul. Nobody says “No” to free extra damage.
  • Stampeding Roar can be valuable, but over 90% of the time when you use Roar in a Challenge Mode, your group will be stacked up for an Invisibility run.
  • The last glyph that can definitely be useful is Faerie Fire. Combining this with Fae Silence allows you to grab dangerous caster mobs from range.

 

Tactics

The first thing that you will learn when doing a Challenge Mode is when to use your survival and DPS cooldowns. I’ve mentioned this before, but our major survival cooldowns – Survival Instincts and Might of Ursoc – are primarily used on dangerous trash pulls. That leaves our minor cooldown Barkskin available to be used whenver you need it, due to the buff it received in 5.4. If you think you might be in danger in the next few seconds, don’t be afraid to press Barkskin. I often use it pre-emptively on any new trash pull to give Delicate Vial of the Sanguinaire a chance to stack up and carry you through the pull.

Single target DPS cooldowns – primarily Incarnation – should be saved for bosses. Whereas Berserk is best used on either large trash pulls, or bosses with more than active target on which DPS is valuable. That leaves Nature’s Vigil which should basically be used on cooldown to maximize the benefits.

Be adaptable. Just like a raid encounter, hardly anything goes your way the first time you attempt it. Don’t be surprised if you need to alter your strategy for a specific boss, how much trash you pull, or how often you pull it. You don’t need to be perfect to get your transmog set, but you do need to execute a plan from start to finish. That plan can only be formed if you know what to expect, so be open to only getting Silver or even Bronze your first time through.

What about you? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Hello Guardians!

Welcome to the 5.2 Patch Survival Guide. Below you will find a nice list of all of the things you need to know about 5.2. Obviously a lot of this is repeated on various sites around the interwebs, but here we only care about things that affect Guardians. I’ll take you through talent and spec changes, new factions, gear, and finish up with some…..PvP?

Talent Changes

  • Feline Swiftness will no longer stack wit hthe speed bonus from the PvP set. This doesn’t affect PvE at all, or RBGs (since they have a movement speed cap anyway), but it does affect regular PvP. No more zoom zoom flag caps for you.
  • Displacer Beast has been redesigned. A pretty irrelevant change from a PvE perspective, but could be interesting from a PvP perspective. I don’t know if the jump causes you to drop flags, if it does it’s pretty worthless. If not it could be neat to experiment with in PvP.
  • Cenarion Ward has had its healing done doubled. This is actually pretty incredible for Guardians on fights where you are taking constant damage (Tsulong, Will, Stone Guard, Garalon), or have very predictable burst (Elegon, Lei Shi). I already liked CW a lot, and this will make me love it more. Plus it’s even more incredible for soloing.
  • Faerie Swarm can now affect multiple targets. This seems really strong for Challenge Modes, as it gives you infinte kiting on up to 3 mobs. Doubt it’ll see much use in raids, and ME / Typhoon are much stronger in PvP.
  • Mass Entanglement has had its cooldown reduced to 30 seconds. This makes it a much stronger competitor to Typhoon in almost all situations. As always it will still depend on the encounter/map/etc.
  • Typhoon‘s cooldown is now 30 seconds. Obvious change is obvious so that Mass Entanglement doesn’t always straight up lose.
  • Force of Nature has had a bit of reworking done to it. Unfortunately it’s still awful and you should pretend it doesn’t exist. It might be useful situationally for some encounters, but you should never go out of your way to get it.
  • Soul of the Forest now grants 3 Rage instead of 2 per Mangle. Too bad it’s still completely shit compared to Incarnation. Don’t take. Ever.
  • Nature’s Vigil had its damage increase cut in half, but so did the cooldown. The “hybrid” nature of the talent remains at 25% though, which means it’s a straight buff for Guardians. You’ll still take HotW for DPS or pure off-role purposes, but Nature’s Vigil is definitely the default choice.

 

Ability Updates

  • Frenzied Regeneration now scales at a factor of 2.2*Vengeance. This is a 10% buff from where it was before. I’d definitely hold on to your 4pT14 for an even bigger bonus set just in case another fight like Garalon or Lei Shi pops up. Also makes the 2T15 much better.
  • Tooth and Claw also got a 10% buff to 1.1*Vengeance. There was some confusion earlier since datamining had done the automatic math incorrectly, but Rygarius confirmed earlier today that it is in fact a buff. Should be interesting to see how this shakes out now that we can take full advantage of it.
  • Our Mastery got buffed by 20% as well. It doesn’t really mean anything since RPS builds are generally better anyway, and we don’t have enough base RPS yet to make a Mastery build worth going for. That doesn’t make it “bad” per se, but it’s still not a good idea unless you can put 2 full sets of gear together.
  • Both Rip and Wrath received damage buffs this patch. I haven’t revisited the “I’m not tanking what’s the best DPS” problem yet for this patch, but that will be what I look at this weekend. Cat’s problem was pure combo-point generation and lack of AP, while Wrath spam was ridiculous as fuck in Heart of the Wild. I’ll do some tests and let you know how this shakes out.
  • And in clearly the most important change in this patch both Mark of the Wild and Revive have had their mana costs reduced by 55%. I CAN ACTUALLY REZ MORE THAN ONE PERSON NOW.

 

Factions & Rep

There are two new factions. The Shado-Pan Assault is attached to the new raid instance. Unfortunately none of the gear there is “Best in Slot” but that doesn’t mean you can’t find any upgrades on day 1. For example Flanker’s Battletags are actually not half bad, and you can get them at Neutral.

The Kirin Tor Offensive or Sunreaver Onslaught are the new “story” factions. Unfortunately all of their gear is 496 or lower, which makes it almost completely irrelevant. But it’s another rep to grind, so there’s that.
 

Gear

This is the part you all wanted, I know. I was originally going to put it here, but then I realized that would be a shit-ton of work. On a whim I tested the list on the forums (where the real item links are) and IT OMG WORKED.

So yeah you can get your BiS lists here.
 

PeeVeePee

In addition to all of the above, there have been a couple of changes that are straight buffs to Guardians in PvP. Since we’re already one of only two top-tier RBG tank specs, this just makes us even better.

  • Thick Hide now reduces the critical strike chance of all attacks, not just melee. This is an obvious PvP buff since we were weakest against spellcasters already.
  • We also received Guardian-specific bonuses on the PvP set. The glove bonus now increases the duration of Bear Hug by 1 second, which is an extra 10% of your HP in damage. That’s pretty big. Not to mention a longer stun. The 2pc bonus now increases the Crit reduction of Thick Hide to 20%, which is amazing. And finally the cooldown of Enrage resets on a successful interrupt.

That might just get even me into PvP.

And there you have it! I wish you much fun in the next patch :)

Nomnomnom.

Monday Roundup – February 19th, 2013

Hello Guardians!

Here’s your news and updates for the last week.
 

T15 RPS Trinket Analysis

I’ve promised this for a few days, but I’ve been waiting to confirm the math before posting any sort of results. As you know most of the new trinkets have been moved over to the new RPPM format. You’ll probably remember the RPPM idea from the weapon enchants. Both Hamlet and Theck have previously done work in this area, but there are two new things to consider:

  • Stacking buffs that refresh uptime.
  • Stacking buffs that refresh uptime and modify the proc rate with each stack.

Now, one thing you have to understand is that my area of expertise is limited to two (2) things: Practical Experience/Analysis (actual gameplay) and Basic Algebra (BEDMAS stuff). I’m absolute shit when it comes to calculus level math. This kind of thing is definitely in the calculus level math arena.

Thankfully I happen to be on good terms with two of the best math people available – the aforementioned Theck and Hamlet (that 2nd link is actually Hamlet & Perculia’s personal blog) – so I asked for some help. Both were more than happy to oblige, and I am very thankful for it. I’m not going to go into detail with the math here, but if you’re interested Theck made a nice PDF which explains the proofs I use in this analysis. You can get it under the “Maths” menu above, or just here.

Just like any other kind of evaluation you need a set of gear to generate the values required to determine what is “best”. I used what I’m tentatively naming my Normal T15 BiS list, which you can find below:

You’ll notice that I overwhelmingly favour RPS pieces. RPS is the best way to “handle” incoming damage, provided you are skilled enough to do so. Not only that, but Hit=Exp>Crit>Haste is the best DPS build, which as we progress through content is going to become more and more important. That’s not to say Mastery and Dodge are “bad” or anything, they’re actually quite good at what they do. I just like RPS better because it encourages the player to aim for a higher level of play.

That all being said, this is what the trinket results look like:

There’s two things you’ll notice immediately. The first is just how overwhelmingly fucking good Gaze of Twins is. What amounts to 8% passive Crit from a trinket?!? Are you kidding? That’s just plain fucking insanity. Obviously that makes the first trinket slot without even looking at anything else.

The second thing is that Rune of Re-Origination is missing from this list. There’s a good reason for that. When using a core RPS build, your stats are going to overwhelmingly be Haste and Crit. Both of these provide (relatively) equal amounts of RPS. Changing from one to the other is at best an RPS neutral change, which makes the proc effectively useless for RPS.

Ghostcrawler recently gave us an update about Gaze of Twins. Apparently it will not actually proc for Agility users:

Gaze of the Twins will only proc for Str users.

Which brings us to our second change:

We’re going to make some changes to this trinket based on testing and feedback. Our goal was to make it decent if you didn’t game it at all but offer some opportunities for enhanced benefits if you did. We’re going to try to meet that goal better with these changes:

- 10 sec duration (down from 20 sec) but with double the proc rate.
- Increase your highest secondary stat by 200% of the sum of your two lowest secondary stats. For example: you have 3500 mastery, 5000 crit, 7000 haste. Rune procs, and you get [-3500 mastery, -5000 crit, +17000 haste]. Same logic as before, just double the size of the buff to your highest stat.

Orly? As you can see above that makes Rune of Re-Origination an incredible DPS/RPS trinket. One thing to remember is that you can choose whether to have it proc Haste or Crit. The question is, which one is better?

In truth, the procs themselves provide relatively the same amount of RPS. The difference is whether you want more mitgation (via T&C) or more DPS. A Haste proc could take you down below 1 proc per 5 seconds. Whereas a Crit proc is a huge DPS increase. I suspect the overwhelming majority of people will take the DPS increase over the mitigation increase. In either case it’s still incredibly good.

But what about Mastery?

You need ~32000 Mastery to cap in 522 gear (when using the Legendary meta). Of that, you can get north of 12000 just from gear. With that big of a difference you should be able to arrange it so that you don’t go over the Mastery cap if the trinket procs by gemming and/or reforging for Hit or Expertise. However once we get up to 535 gear (or even 541) it becomes much more of a possibility that you will cap if using it as a Mastery proc.

That brings our second trinket slot to either Renataki’s Soul Charm or Talisman of Bloodlust. It’s not exactly clear which is “technically” the better choice, as there is some pretty significant variance in the stacking self-increasing proc rate model as the change increases. Theck was running some basic simulations earlier today which peg the model as under-estimating the actual benefit of changing its own proc rate by up to 20% at high deltas.

However since nobody else has even attempted this yet (as far as I can tell) I have nothing to compare to. For now, you can’t really go wrong with either trinket.

The one thing that remains to be seen is whether or not Gaze of Twins will be available to Guardians for Coin/LFR. I haven’t heard 100% from GC on this yet, but I’ll keep trying. I’ll definitely let you know when I do.
 

A look at “Defensive” Trinkets

Most of the stereotypical “tank” trinkets are pretty underwhelming compared to the RPS options. But here’s a quick glance at them anyway:

  • Steadfast Talsiman of the Shado-Pan Assault: Pretty decent as far as on-use trinkets go. Ideal for a huge hit that you really need to dodge. I’d definitely pick this up just to have it on you.
  • Ji-Kun’s Rising Winds: For Guardians this is completely terrible. Just use an FR, it’s not like we’re starved for Rage or anything.
  • Soul Barrier: I like this one, very useful for a Stamina trinket. Definitely grab it.
  • Fortitude of the Zandalari: This one could have its uses, especially as a supplement to Might of Ursoc when needed. I’d grab it just for the sake of having it.
  • Delicate Vial of the Sanguinaire: On paper this trinket looks cool, but in practice it would only be good for fights where there’s a high number of incoming attacks (ex. Windlord). Otherwise it’ll hardly ever actually proc. Pick it up to play with if nothing else (because nobody else will want it), but that’s all.
  • So what do you think? are you exicted about the new trinkets? Let me know!

The addition of the “Thunderforged” items in 5.2 has sparked a lot of discussions on 10m vs 25m raiding. Large scale raiding as we know it is dying off. The number of 25m raiding guilds in the world is shrinking due to one simple reason: The onerous task of organizing a 25m raiding guild doesn’t come with enough rewards to make it worthwhile for most people. Having managed a 10m raid team for almost 3 years and having to deal with how unbelievably stressful that was, I can only imagine how bad it is for 25m raid leaders.

I don’t think this is really news to most people. Given two choices that yield identical rewards and the only difference being scale of the encounters, players will overwhlemingly gravitate towards the option that requires the least investment. Those two choices we have right now are 10m and 25m and unsurprisingly players are choosing the option that requires the least administrative commitment. People want to spend their time playing the game, not sitting around waiting for the last 2-3 people to show up.

In order to get people to participate in the larger raid sizes, Blizzard has historically gone with one of two methods:

  • Make it the only raid size available.
  • Offer substantially better rewards.

Neither of those are the case now. With 10m and 25m offering the same rewards, there’s nothing left to entice players into 25m raiding beyond simply wanting a bigger experience. Blizzard has come out and said that their ideal solution would be to simply convert to one universal raid size (15m has been thrown around a lot) – but that isn’t something practical for the players. So the question is how to get 25m groups into stable condition without destroying one raid size or the other.

Enter “Thunderforged” items.

I don’t think it’s enough to attract the large “swing vote” in the player base that simply goes where the item levels are. We don’t know what the exact drop rates are yet, but they’d have to almost be a guaranteed drop in 25m for it to be worth it. And if you go that far, why not just do it properly? Consider:

  1. Split Lockouts: Split the Normal and Heroic lockouts for both 10m and 25m.
  2. Change Item Levels: Make 10N drop loot at X item level. 10H and 25N would drop loot at X+13. 25H would be X+26.
  3. Identical Loot Tables: 10m and 25m must have the same loot tables. Just different power levels of the same items.
  4. Legendaries in Both: Legendary items must still be available in both raid sizes. I cannot tell you how unbelievably pissed I was when Val’anyr wasn’t available for 10H groups in Ulduar.
  5. Keep 10m Challenging: 10m raids must still be challenging for groups using the loot intended for them. 10N would be the same difficulty relative to items dropped as 25N.
  6. Exclusive Achievements: You can’t get 10M achievements – including meta – wearing 25M gear. Can be implemented using the item tag system.

Some of you may notice that this bears a lot of similarity to the design used in Ulduar. There’s a reason for that. It was a great system. The only problem with it was the different loot tables between 10m and 25m. That meant 25m raiders were forced to do 10m for their best items in some slots. That should never happen.

It also retains the illusion of separate progression paths. Those players who play 10m purely for the more intimate experience retain their progression path. While this may not be as difficult as 25m in absolute terms, in relative terms it will still be a challenge. This would essentially be Blizzard implementing what the players called “10-Strict” in Wrath.

Unfortunately there’s one underlying reason why Blizzard won’t do this: Resources. It would require a lot of additional testing resources to implement the model I’m suggesting. Obviously Blizzard doesn’t want 25m raiding to completely die (at least not yet), but I don’t think they’re willing to go as far as to make it the only source for the best gear.

We’ll see what happens, but I’m not holding my breath.

Blizzcon! – Part 2

October 22, 2011

This morning made me remember why I don’t drink that much anymore.  I feel like “bleh” in the morning.

So after staying up until 2:30am putting together yesterday’s blogpost, I rolled out of bed at around 9.  Went and met Lissanna for breakfast and started our day quite late actually, we didn’t make it to the con until 11 or so.

We wandered around for a bit, and met up with Hamlet.  We had a great chat with him about Druids, raid design, game design, mechanics, and various things.  It was a great time.  He even sat with us during the Diablo Q&A panel before leaving to go do his own thing before the WoW Class/Talent/Profession Q&A panel began.

Lissanna and I got into line pretty easily.  We ended up behind another reader of TiB (<3 fans!).  I made sure his question wouldn’t overlap with mine.  Unfortunately the answer given by the devs was pretty terribly worded.  I wanted to follow-up on it and provide a chance for them to dig themselves out of their hole but I was scared I wouldn’t be able to ask my question.

So Lissanna went up and asked her question and I could tell she was very excited when they announced healing mushrooms for MoP.

I walk up and I’m super nervous.  I unfortunately forgot to mention Reesi (:() but I did remember to say who I was, and I asked my question.  It was heavily paraphrased on MMO, but WoWHead got a more complete version of it.  I did tell them that the existing restriction on the 4pc bonus won’t prevent Cats from using it, but we’ll see what they do with that information.

Afterwards I watched the rest of the panel and /facepalmed at a lot of the questions.  Sigh.

Got lunch, bought stuff (yay Griffin Hatchling plushie!), and headed back to the hotel.  Right now I’m trolling the Druid forums and putting this blogpost together.

I’ll have a talent breakdown post up either later tonight or more likely, sometime tomorrow.