Quick Notes on Using the Wrong Gems

This was prompted by two recent conversations I had–first, the one surrounding this tweet, and second, someone telling me about a guildmate of theirs complaining about a different guildmate who was using bad gems for their class.

So, the odd thing about someone using completely wrong gems (or some comparable character setup choice) is that it doesn’t matter, on its face.  Gems (especially now) are such a tiny fraction of your overall character strength, and the difference between two secondary stats is such a small fraction of that, that you’re pretty hard-pressed to conclude that someone using the wrong gems has any effect on anything whatsoever.  Maybe in some unusually strong cases, that 1 person out of the 20 in your raid will have a 1% shortfall in their output?  Even that much is probably rather rare.

Basically, if you imagine that you couldn’t inspect people’s character sheets or stats directly, I’d posit that there’s no experiment you could conduct that would reveal to you whether the people in the raid had optimal gems or slightly suboptimal gems.

So why do they matter?  I’ve always only thought there was one reason, and this is including all the way back when I was in a very serious high-level guild and would review applicants.  It’s a way of showing that you’ve researched your class.  That is something you want to know about an applicant or raid member, and is kind of hard to find out directly.

It’s a little tricky because they don’t necessarily need to be able to know the theorycraft rationale for why that stat is preferred.  Just like the gems themselves aren’t the actual point of interest, being able to do/understand a lot of math isn’t the right criterion either.  It’s entirely possible for someone to understand the spellcasting decisions, which is the actual important issue, without articulating the theory.  But I think what it comes down is, there’s really no way to develop an good practical understanding of the class that won’t, somewhere along the way, involve the information about what stats are best.

Practically speaking, the only way to get solid information on the best play of a class is by reading resources written by others who used some kind of mathematical tool.  And those always include information on stats (conceivably they might not include that topic, but that would be rather odd).  The only exception is if you’re the person making the tool, in which case you of course can work out the stats for yourself as well.  If you’ve gotten all of your class understanding from sources (including “play experience alone”) that don’t contain stat information, then you must not have looked at things which are rigorous.  And that actually is something worth selecting for in applicants and guildmates.

So gems turn out to be good signal.  It’s not very discriminating, sure.  Someone might be using the right ones just by some whim, or by following their Attunement (which is often right), or from seeing other players do it.  But I’m of course not saying you should conclude that anyone with the right gems will be a great person to play with (wouldn’t be nice if that worked).  I am saying that using wrong ones all but rules out that the person has used any meaningful resources in learning to play their class.  And that is very likely to have more than a 1% effect on their performance.

Quick Notes on Menagerie Pet XP Farming

Today is the Grubbles/Scrags/Stings daily at the Menagerie.  It’s one of the ones that’s suitable for farming rapidly for XP (although not quite as well-known for this as the Jahan daily).  I figured I’d use the chance to mention a few thoughts on Pet Battles.

I captured a short video to make clear what I’m talking about.  This is two repetitions of the fight, with a carry pet, in 2.5 minutes.  It gets the carry pet (Frostwolf Pup) from level 1-12, although it would go considerably faster if I had both levels of Pet Treat on in addition to the Safari Hat.  With those it’s 4 battles to level up to around 22 (at which point it’s easier to get the last few with Training Stones).  So you can grind this as much as you want on the appropriate days, powerleveling as much as 1 pet every 5 minutes.

The basic question is whether or not this should be prevented, but that question brings up a few interesting points about how the Pet Battle system as changed since its introduction.

Levels, Rarities, and Breeds

I see Pet Battles as possibly exceeding anyone’s expectations as far as how rich they wound up being.  As of now, the gameplay inherent in the massive number of pets alone (and their complex combat interactions) would be a great game, even if there were no levels, rarities, or breeds.  I know why those things are needed to some extent (rarities give some excitement to wild pets, levels so that initial progression exists).  But it’s worth pointing out that most pet battling among enthusiasts is all max level and among rares (both PvP and PvE), so these mechanics don’t play much part, and it has no shortage of good complexity.

So the solution taken in Warlords has been the right one–don’t cut out these concepts, but make it so that once someone is experienced and capable of doing difficult fights, they can skip past them.  Once someone is good enough at Pet Battles to do the difficult Draenor and Menagerie dailies repeatably, they can buy both rarity and level stones cheaply.  That removes most of the hassle of worrying about those concepts and lets pet enthusiasts do what they care about–try an interesting variety of pets in different situations.

And I emphasize again, this is largely the case because the Pet Battle system is good, and so rich and complex, that it doesn’t need any filler material.  Leveling or grinding or whatever, as a gating mechanism to getting to use more pets, has very little place once someone has moved beyond the basics.  I’m sure that when they were starting to put this minigame together, the fear was in the opposite direction, that it was imperative to ensure was sufficient complexity and variation.  Like when you’re working on a writing assignment for school, and at some point you transition from the initial terror of the blank page to the realization that you’re gone over the required length and now it’s even more work to remove the parts you don’t actually need.

As an aside: the one pet “variation” mechanic that is still not circumventable by purchasable upgrades, breeds, continues to be a thorn in the side of players.  This one the game would have been fine without.  I do imagine that it was put in with the idea of anticipating a future system of (oddly enough) breeding, and that of course could be interesting.  I’m generally guessing this from the way that each pet’s breed is made up of two “genes” (leading to the typical nomenclature players use for breeds: B/B, H/S, etc.).  But right now it’s not needed, and breeds existing on their own haven’t helped anything.

Powerleveling

In more detail, here’s how pet leveling looks in the absence of farming XP at Menagerie:
–Every day, do Menagerie daily for 8 tokens (with 3 pets, like you currently do on most days when it’s not a fast farmable one like Jahan or Scrags).
–Do a round of Draenor 2-petting a handful of trainers, maybe 4 out of the 6 that are easy (Cymre is a pain to 2-pet, and Tarr’s out of the way).

That actually works out really conveniently to almost exactly one pet leveled 1-25 per day–1-19 or so from dumping 4 trainers’ worth of XP into the carry pet, and you can buy the last few levels since you got around 24 tokens from doing all that, and buy a Battle-Stone if needed.

That’s how it looks without any unusual grinding, and indeed how I did everything in Draenor since I didn’t discover Menagerie grinding until later, and the pace was okay.  As with anything, the longer you do it the more you’d prefer to speed it up.  But overall, this scenario was fine.  If Menagerie grinding was removed, my ability to do pet stuff wouldn’t be overly hampered.

So between that, and the fact that, from what I hear, people some who get tipped off to Menagerie grinding early might never do any other Draenor Pet content, it should probably be nerfed.  However, I do think that its effect, of increasing the pace at which you can level pets, is on balance a good thing, so I’ll be a little sad.  One other thought is that having to visit all the Draenor trainers every day, more than many other things, will make the case to get flying back sooner rather than later.

Conclusion

Mixed feelings on this overall.  Yes, it’s slightly more aggressive powerleveling than is allowed otherwise.  I just want to keep in mind that there were powerleveling methods before this, and they were good and honestly even necessary for fun pet gameplay.  So in short, yeah, this breaks the rules a little more than previous methods–and it’s a way of grinding one thing repeatedly, always a red flag.  But, giving players easier ways to improve level/rarity of pets more efficiently has only been improving Pet Battles.  So it’s hard to get worked up about this one.  Overall, I’d say Blizzard realizes this–not only were the easy methods of gaining levels and rarity added in Warlords probably just for this purpose, but in 6.1 they are giving each character one free L25 pet upgrade, further shortening the barriers to get to the good part.

Is it right to nerf the farming of these few easy Menagerie dailies that can be 2-petted? Probably, since ultimately it’s a good principle to not encourage endlessly farming one thing.  But it’s not in the least bit because the ability to quickly powerlevel pets is some kind of problem.  It’s actually one of the best improvements to the system in Warlords.

 

P.S.: One intermediate solution might simply be to buff the Jahan fight. This is really only coming up so widely because that one is so easy to farm that even comparative beginners can get a team to do it.  3 pets with the same elemental weakness, plus a huge damage buff (plus they use Arcane Storm with plays right into their own weakness), means it’s really easy to make a team that blows them up in a few rounds.  Some others are farmable like Scrags, but 1) it’s slower, and 2) it tends to require rare pets like Xu-fu that you don’t have unless you’ve already put your time in.

Healing Discussion Podcast #7

With the arrival of the first 6.1 patch notes today, we did an impromptu show where we read through them together and discussed points of interest to healers.

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The whole show is us discussing patch note items. It generally goes in the order things are written in the notes.
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Healing Discussion Podcast #6

After a few more weeks of raiding, challenge modes, and hotfix and patch notes to discusses, we get together for another chat about healer goings-on.

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0:00 Intro & catching up (My recent post we mentioned, as well as the videos I’ve been working on)
3:15 Healer Balance, with bonus digression on Ko’ragh mechanics
7:30 Patch 6.1 Notes, Mana Tea, and making healers want mana
20:15 Recent Hotfix: How do you solve a problem like PW:S?
41:30 Recent Hotfix: Haste buff and implications for healers
52:30 Challenge Mode healing thoughts
1:11:00 Outro & good night

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Resto Druids: Haste vs. Mastery

With all the various things I focus on lately, one thing I haven’t been doing often enough is giving play advice and analysis of my favorite class, Resto Druids.  Today I want to give a detailed discussion of one of the topics that has gotten a lot of attention lately–whether our most favored stat should be haste or mastery.  In my Resto Guide I say haste, but don’t have the opportunity in that format to explain the recommendation in detail.  Here, my goal is to work through the question very thoroughly, answer your questions, and see if I can help get you comfortable with a stat decision for this expansion.

The Stats

Mastery increases the bonus from Harmony by 1% per 88 rating.  It is additive with a flat bonus of 16.25% from the baseline effect and raid buff.  Measured against a starting point of having no mastery from gear, each relative 1% increase requires 102.3 mastery rating.  So long as the buff is maintained, it improves all healing other than the Lifebloom bloom, Ysera’s Gift, and Dream of Cenarius.

Haste has two effects.  First, it increases the tick frequency and therefore the total healing per cast (I described the mechanics details here) of any HoT effect by 1% for every 90 points (as of this week).  With Resto’s attunement taken into account, this is 1% every 85.7 points (haste rating is not additive with anything).  Second, it reduces the time it takes to cast all spells by the same amount.

Breaking Down Haste

Because so much of Resto’s healing is in the form of HoTs, haste, above and beyond its cast time and GCD reduction, directly adds healing done to many of our spells.  For most other healers this is a feature generally reserved to non-haste stats, which contributes to my low view of haste for other healers.  For Druids, most heals go against the general rule and increase their output with haste like they do with other stats.  This includes Rejuvenation (except for initial tick), Wild Growth, Lifebloom (except the bloom) and Wild Mushroom.  It also includes a few rarer spells, Force of Nature and Dream of Cenarius, which are essentially throughput increases since they get cast time reductions with no related mana cost.

The important heal effects which are not improved by haste beyond the reduction to cast time are Tranquility, Swiftmend, Healing Touch, and Regrowth.

The basic analysis of haste in this post will be done by keeping the two components separate throughout, and remembering that haste is as strong as their sum:

  • The cast-time reduction, which applies to all spells, but does not improve healing per cast.  Therefore, it increases HPCT (healing per unit cast time), but not HPM (healing per mana), of all spells, by an amount equal to the haste percentage.  Because some spells have cooldowns and some don’t, it only increases the cast frequency of certain spells.
  • The value of added healing on certain spells, which increases HPCT and HPM to those spells and does nothing for the others.

The result is a complex mosaic of effects, unlike Mastery’s totally uniform HPCT and HPM increase to nearly all spells.  Some spells have their healing per cast increased and not the rate at which you cast them (Wild Growth), so the effect is parallel and easily comparable to mastery.  Some spells don’t have any healing per cast, HPM, or frequency increased at all (Nature’s Swiftness-HT).  And on the flip side, some get an HPM increase as well as a double-dipped HPCT increase (Rejuvenation).  So there’s no simple comparison; it will largely come down to the frequency with which you use the various types of spells.

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Healing Discussion Podcast #5

Coming back after the holidays to catch up on a variety of topics.  Enjoy!

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0:00 Intro & welcome back
1:45 Revisiting Warlords and Spirit scaling (recent post)  (a few other posts that relate to this)
12:30 Raid CDs, how they’re different in Warlords vs MoP, and how to use them (Dayani’s recent post)
41:30 Healer Raid Spots in Warlords
55:10 Biweekly update on annoying things about Disc Priests (Glyph of Reflective Shield)
58:00 Wild Growth breakpointing (post explaining partial ticks)

1:02:45 Consumables: Draenic Channeled Mana Potion vs. Draenic Mana Potion; Healing Tonic vs. Shieldtronic Shield*; (Dayani’s referenced tweets about mana in M Butcher)
1:20:10 Outro & Happy New Year!

Previous episodes

*We said that Shield is about half the size of Healing Tonic; it’s actually 3/4 the size. The argument/discussion doesn’t change, but it’s less of a dramatic difference.

Healing Theory: Warlords Spirit Update

All posts in this series can be found here.

Before the launch of the expansion, I made this post outlining, among other things, how I projected healer mana availability to increase over the course of Warlords.  The conclusion was that, due to the fact that much of our mana comes from constant sources and comparatively little on gear (due to the limited slots on which Spirit can appear), the growth would be slow.  It appeared that there would not be an explosion of mana that eliminated significant mana constraints on healer gameplay until ilvls beyond 750.  Now seemed like a good time to revisit that analysis with any new information we’ve gained since launch.

x-axis is ilvl.  y-axis is thousands of mana available in a 6-minute period.

The previous post’s projection of mana resources in Warlords.  x-axis is ilvl. y-axis is thousands of mana available in a 6-minute encounter.

New Information and Assumptions

To review, the prior post’s analysis was done by examining the amount of Spirit available at each ilvl character with Spirit on two rings, a neck, a cloak, and one trinket, assuming all slots grew according to the standard ilvl budget formula.  The framework used in the post is to look at the total mana a heal has available to spend during an encounter of a certain length (I used 6 minutes) from all sources: starting mana, base regen, Spirit, and so on.  By and large the analysis is still correct.  There are a few things that have either changed or were not taken into account the prior post:

  • You have a legendary ring.  This made starting Spirit a little higher than projected, since many ilvl 615 characters had a 680 Spirit ring.  However, it appears that you will keep the 680 ring at least into Foundry, and the next step is 690.  The highest one currently datamined is 710.  Finally, the proc doesn’t give Spirit, but rather Int (a lesson they probably learned from the Mists meta gem).  So in the end, the ring doesn’t significantly affect the analysis.
  • You (probably should) have a Spirit enchant.  It gives 500 Spirit, with a 15s second duration and a 40 second ICD.  I’ll use 15/45 uptime below.  In any case, it is constant, so it doesn’t affect growth.
  • Most or all healer-intended raid trinkets have Spirit.  Wearing two Spirit trinkets will probably not be unusual; it’s worth considering.
  • Everburning Candle, when the dust settled, gives twice as much mana as its tooltip indicates.  This results in it having an equivalent of 211 Spirit.  That is actually less than normal for a Spirit trinket of its ilvl, so we can ignore it (the reason it continues to be so good is the extremely high Int).
  • Finally and most importantly, raid trinkets were all buffed to account for the trinket itemization problems that were noticed after launch.  Because some trinkets were overbudget, Blizzard buffed all raid drop trinkets to ensure they were still strong relative to the others.  This results in Highmaul and Foundry trinkets having stats that are higher that would be expected for their ilvl.  One might guess that Blizzard will have to keep this up in future tiers to continue the trinket progression; in effect, they’ve been forced to increase the expected budget on trinkets.  This is the main change we should focus on now.

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Healing Discussion Podcast #4

For the first time since Warlords, we sat down and talked about healing.  This was more of an open-ended discussion of things happening since launch, generally focusing on trinkets, the Disc Priest situation, and on how the Warlords healing system is starting to play out in raids.

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00:00 Intro – What we’ve been doing since launch
05:45 Trinkets – #candlegate and Highmaul trinkets.  This is a chart of healer trinkets I made while I was preparing for this show: Trinkets
26:00 Healing in Highmaul – the WoD model, Mar’gok vs Butcher/Kargath
42:10 Power Word: Shield, with bonus digressions on Prayer of Healing design and the role of healing assignments in WoD
1:12:00 Outro & Merry Christmas :)

Previous episodes

Quick Notes on Warlords Trinkets

Just copying some comments I’d made on this in case it’s handy to people in figuring out what’s going on with trinkets.  Trying to remember to do this more where the info might be generally handy and the post is clear without context.

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I liked the Mists model that generally had a primary stat and a secondary stat on each trinket, in equal amounts, with either one or the other replaced by a proc. Made it easy to conceptualize and evaluate trinkets at a glance. So for example, at equal ilvl, you might have:

X pimary + X secondary (passive)
X primary + [proc for 6x secondary lasting 20s, 115s ICD]
X primary + [Use: for 5x secondary lasting 10s, 60s CD]
X secondary + [proc for 6x primary lasting 10s, 0.92 RPPM]
X primary + [unique proc tuned to equal X secondary]
[unique passive tuned to equal X secondary] + [proc for 6x primary lasting 10s, 0.92 RPPM]

And so on (the above actually decribes most Mists trinkets). Technically yes, it’s all consistent with itemization where Int is valued at 2x a secondary. But you’re not even getting to the point of having to worry about that; you just stick with a basic framework where a trinket has two “halves”.

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Warlords started very similar to that, with two caveats:
1) Spirit and Bonus Armor take up the “primary” half where they appear. I’m just going to flag that and leave it alone for now.
2) Some trinkets were off at release, with a proc that was too high or too low, and they’ve been adjusted by changing the passive rather than the proc, leading to some confusion.

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Healing Discussion Podcast #3

We’re not going to be able to do one of these again for a few weeks due to Blizzcon and other traveling, so we made sure to get in one more before leaving.  As we did last time, we spent an hour on one topic.  This time it was Level 100 talents (handy link so you can look at them while listening).

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0:00 Intro
2:40 Druid Level 100 Talents
14:45 Shaman Level 100 Talents (extra reading)
28:20 Priest Level 100 Talents (Disc and Holy)
46:40 Paladin Level 100 Talents
57:15 Monk Level 100 Talents
1:03:15 Outro — See you all at BlizzCon!