Raid Awareness WeakAuras, Hellfire Citadel

I’ve been busy lately and not as much into theorycraft projects as usual.  But a lot of people have asked me during this first week of Hellfire Citadel whether I was going to reprise my Blackrock Foundry Weakaura project for the new zone.  Since this is something I wanted to do anyway to help my own raid group, I figured I’d try to get a basic version ready for people who were interested.  Note that a lot of these are untested; I’ve only seen about half the fights so far, so give me any feedback on how it works.

Once again, I got Dayani from Healiocentric to go over all these fights and mechanics with me, as she put a huge amount of work into learning them on the beta for the purpose of writing her guides.  If you want any explanation of the encounters/mechanics listed here, I recommend you take a look at those.

For I’m just going to include the WeakAura downloads and the list of abilities I used.  See the BRF post for more explanation of the setup if you need.

WeakAura Downloads

Addon: WeakAuras 2

Awareness Auras (debuff alert and standing-in-fire alert), v 0.9: WA String

Interrupt Bars (target/focus castbar showing important spells), v 0.9: WA String

So far, includes Heroic difficulty mechanics only.  These include all the bosses already, but I haven’t gotten to test the later ones, so please report anything odd on those ones especially.

Last time around, there was a bug, I think on the WA side, where the icon displayed wouldn’t always match up to the current debuff (I have the display set to “Automatic Icon”).  I worked around it by breaking a lot of debuffs into separate auras and setting the icon manually, but that was a pain and made the package a lot bigger.  So far I haven’t done that here; let me know if you see anything wrong (or are a WA expert who might know how to address this).

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Healing Discussion Podcast #12

It’s been a while!  But here we are again, starting to ramp up thoughts for 6.2: both reviewing where we’ve gotten on some topics like Spirit and trinkets, and anticipating what the most important issues might be for potential class changes.

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Topic List:
0:00 Intro
1:53 Spirit Growth in 6.2
> 2:35 Mana Economy and Spirit Acceleration in 6.1-6.2 (my recent post)
> 6:15 Mana inflation in previous expansions
> 8:20 Flattening the Spirit growth curve
> 14:45 Adjusting to a lower Spirit playstyle (Current 6.2 trinkets)
> 30:00 Design Principles: Constraining player ability to promote engaging choices
35:15 Raid comp balance for healers
> 35:40 Where we were at the end of MoP
> 37:55 The guaranteed Disc Priest raid spot
> 40:26 Interlude on using HPS meters to evaluate class balance
> 48:10 The guaranteed Holy Paladin raid spot
> 49:05 Interlude on Raid CDs, their role in healer balance, and Avenging Wrath
> 53:52 WoD Beacon : tank healing :: MoP smart heals : tank healing
> 56:28 Holy Light’s efficiency, and Holy Power’s diminished role
> 66:56 The tank healing “niche” & the value of Clarity of Will
> 69:15 Dayani’s rant about Resto Shaman perception
73:40 The TL;DR: Mana failed to matter, and this skews class balance
76:30 Outro

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Thoughts on the No-Flying Announcement

I was originally asked about my thoughts on ask.fm, and my reply was so long that part of it got cut off. The core of this post came from a reply I made to the Wowhead newspost as well as some Twitter discussions over the weekend.

The devs have a vision they want to implement and I respect that. Communication surrounding the decision could be smoothed out though and that’s not the fault of the devs–PR/community could also be involved. Since it’s a bold choice, blogs on the official site would be good that explain the decision and also help players see that even though the devs may disagree with feedback, they’re engaging with it.

If they want people to explore more, they need to get people out of the Garrison. Right now the Garrison provides a lazy way for me to get gear, gold, and profession materials. I could get more if I went out into the world, but…effort. I’d rather just log onto alts with Garrisons if I need ore, vs take a miner out into the world. You can gear up with Garrison Mission rewards vs treasures in outdoor zones or even heroic dungeons. This caused a problem for me at launch, I fell into a routine where I just checked my Garrison for gear upgrades and didn’t push myself to socialize by doing things like heroic dungeons.

And since I spend so much time in my Garrison, I get complacent and think less about cool stuff I want to collect to show off to others–mounts, pets, toys, transmog. When I go to Stormshield, which is rarely, I’m reminded that I should farm mounts more, or that I should put a cool title on to show off. But inside my Garrison with just followers for company, I’m not reminded to socialize or go out in the world.

There’s also the issue where max-level content could encourage exploration/travel more vs the leveling treasures. I did grind out some WoD reputations, but all I had to do was travel to one area, use group finder, and grind mobs in exactly the same place for a few hours–flying wouldn’t have enhanced that. An exception is Steamwheedle–this felt the most memorable because it emphasized some travel and exploration with the rares and treasures scattered about.

I do think that flying could be added to zones when they’re no longer current (I thought most of Draenor would have flying in 6.2 tbh), but I also need that motivation to want to leave my Garrison in the first place. I can’t really think of a place I’d want to go to, but decided against it because it couldn’t fly. I just think about mainly staying in my Garrison and clicking on the latest Work Order/Mission that’s done. Maybe it would be neat if you could get flying after opening X amount of treasures, or doing Loremaster–demonstrating that you’ve participated in the actual content.

Cool Shop Mounts and reward mounts should be geared more towards ground areas–don’t have the fancy details shine in flying-only areas if we’ll be mostly showing them off in current no-flying zones. I liked the Runesaber’s wings, but you could really appreciate them only in flying zones. The new Apexis Crystal mount has awesome wings, but it’s a bit bulky on the ground as well. In contrast, the Infernal Direwolf is a ground mount from Hellfire Citadel with lots of awesome fel effects–that’s an example of a ground mount done well. In addition, many of my old mounts I’m proud of are flying mounts, and they just don’t translate well in Draenor, like a waddling Mimiron’s Head.

I’ve seen some criticism that recent interviews have been done on general gaming sites vs fansites. It’s good to have a mix and Blizzard can reach new audiences via general sites. It can also help them get new feedback–a Polygon audience may latch onto something unexpected in an interview, and that’s useful for Blizzard to see. However, the recent interview trend on top of the dev Twitter consolidation/Warcraft Devs transition does leave players hungry for more detail-focused conversations. It would be good if could move towards the 2014 twitter setup where that section of the playerbase felt like they had questions answered more. For example, a long-time player may ask specific follow-up questions about flying, such as what the devs thought were successful areas that worked without flying in WoD, the Garrison’s thorny content role in WoD, or potential no-flying improvements to make the travel experience smoother.

Warlords Spirit, 6.2 Update

Continuing my discussion on projecting Spirit and mana growth in Warlords

The last time we checked on Warlords mana and projecting how far it would go was after the general raid trinket buffs and the reveal of the BRF raid loot (including two high-Spirit trinkets).  Those two changes had severely accelerated potential Spirit growth from what I initially projected.  Because of that, I went from saying that Spirit was looking to be fine (at launch) to saying that the growth had to be arrested, and that an easy and effective approach would be to simply put less Spirit on trinkets.

Since all that, there have been two more developments:

  • Blizzard, going directly counter to my opinion, further increased the Spirit on BRF trinkets.  Not only through the global 5-ilvl buff, but through a significant Spirit-only buff to the two trinkets I linked above.  The reasons for that have to do with the trinket itemization dilemma I touched on here; I won’t go into them now.
  • Completely reversing course, the datamined 6.2 healer trinkets now have low amounts of Spirit again.  379 at ilvl 695 (or equivalent) on all of them, far less than Autoclave and Talisman.  This is now in line with exactly what I recommended.

So of course the question is, after all this, where did we land?

A Somewhat Convenient Truth

By now you’re probably familiar with the bar graphs from the previous versions of this analysis.  If you’re not, the framework I use is to compute how much total mana a healer will have available to spend, in an encounter of fixed length (I use 6 minutes).  This is to give a more practical and in-context comparison than simply looking at Spirit numbers, although in the Warlords system, Spirit on gear is the only part that varies.  Without further ado:

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.50.41 AM

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Quick Notes on Blackrock Mountain Wing 4: Blackwing Lair

I’ve been noting down my experience with, and strategy for, the Hearthstone Adventure encounters each week on the EJ forum.  I just realized there’s no reason not to put them here for people working on the fights now.  I know they’re mostly over, but I’ll put in this week’s anyway, and maybe paste in the old ones sometime for people trying to do them later.

Descriptions of the bosses and their decks can be found here.

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Razorgore: Probably lots of easy ways to do this.  I went with typical Freeze Mage-ish board clears.  His only value advantage over you is creating 4-5 HP worth of stuff to beat down every turn, which is not hard to overcome just by establishing board control in conventional ways.  An early Doomsayer and a late Flamestrike help you lock it down though.  He Corruptions big threats, so typical midrange creatures to own the board work great.

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Healing Discussion Podcast #11

After a bit of a break, suddenly a huge heap of new information from 6.2 patch notes and data (and items) gives us no shortage of things to talk about.  As soon as it all started coming out, we got together to discuss our immediate reaction upon reading it, recording 2 segments over the course of the evening.  So, an extra long show today (or 2 shows, however you want to listen!) with everything that healers should be interested in in the initial 6.2 information.

Part 1

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0:00 Intro
0:25 Patch 6.2 Notes
> 1:50 Losing Aspect of the Fox
> 6:25 Losing Amplify Magic
> 10:32 Mistweaver Monk changes – DPS nerfs and Crane stance
> 12:50 Resto Shaman changes – Riptide/CH spell interaction is gone!
(Dayani’s older post on High Tide math)
19:10 Patch 6.2 Speculation
> 21:00 Addressing mechanical balance concerns
> 22:45 Discipline Priest speculation
> 26:38 Holy Paladin mobility and utility
31:16 Mythic Dungeon thoughts & Challenge Mode comparison
42:06 Outro & Good night

Part 2

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0:00 Intro
1:10 Legendary Ring procs (examples discussed: HealerCasterTank)
6:45 The Archimonde Class Trinket
> 9:45 Druid (TrinketFlourish)
> 13:40 Monk (TrinketSoothing Breeze)
> 15:40 Paladin (Trinket; Magnifying Light)
> 17:52 Priest (Disc) (Trinket; Naaru’s Discipline)
> 22:20 Priest (Holy) (Trinket; Complete Healing)
> 25:35 Shaman (TrinketLow Tide)
29:35 Healer Trinkets & Spirit Balance (Previous podcast about Spirit Balance in 6.2)
> 31:55 Healer Trinket 1
> 32:37 Healer Trinket 2
> 34:50 Healer Trinket 4
> 38:34 Healer Trinket 3
42:18 Tier 18 Set Bonuses
> 43:05 Druid (2pc 4pc)
> 45:01 Monk (2pc 4pc)
> 48:00 Paladin (2pc 4pc)
> 48:20 Priest (Disc) (2pc 4pc)
> 50:51 Priest (Holy) (2pc 4pc)
> 51:40 Shaman (2pc 4pc)
55:50 Outro & Good night (again)

Previous episodes

The Guiding Hand of Dark Souls

Dark Souls is widely regarded as an outstanding game for a variety of reasons, such as the “hard but fair” ethos in which its only demand is that you prove your growth as a player at each step.  The world is similarly praised for its clever interconnectedness.  I want to illustrate the level of thought that went into the level design, using a series of highlights progressing through the game.  This is somewhat inspired by this analysis of Super Metroid, a game which itself is clearly an element of the Dark Souls pedigree.  Many of the concepts described in that article apply to this game as well, but Souls has to maintain a special focus on one particular element: quietly helping the player endure the intense difficulty that the game itself created.

One of my goals is to refine the image that both fans and non-fans have of Dark Souls, as being defined solely by difficulty.  Perhaps its best-hidden secret is that it does not actually leave the player lost in the wilderness with no direction and death awaiting at every turn, but rather guides and supports them in subtle ways.  The game fulfills two roles at once: presenting a seemingly crushing challenge, but also, behind the scenes, doing what it can to make it more likely that each player finds a way through.  The defining emotion of Dark Souls is the thrill of both facing the challenge and then eventually surpassing it, and the game succeeds because it does everything it can to provide both of those experiences.

This post will take us through ringing the Bells of Awakening.  Many of the themes of the level design are shown most strongly in this first segment, when it’s critical to give a player an understanding of how this game works, and most importantly, to give them the tools to succeed in what comes after it.

Undead Asylum

The game opens with one of the very few moments that I’m going to question.  Before its threadbare tutorial is even complete, it throws the player into a boss fight, the Asylum Demon, where the solution is not to fight, but to escape through an open door elsewhere in the room.  I’m not sure what this is intended to teach, since nowhere else in the game is there a boss fight that you can run away from; you’re always sealed in (there are occasional large non-boss enemies you can run from, such as the Bridge Hellkite or the Hydra, but they’re in open outdoor spaces that make it obvious anyway).  These opening minutes are precious for hooking the player and starting to teach them, and adding a potential sticking point with no teaching utility is not parsimonious.  Arguably, one hint is that the boss fight is completely unfair (you don’t have a real weapon yet, so no non-expert player has a chance), but it’s too early to rely on the player’s trust that Dark Souls is never unfair.  Building that trust is a key goal of the early levels.

The escape door is behind the pillars on the left.

The escape door is behind the pillars on the left.

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Healing Discussion Podcast #10

Back for another show!  We start with some current goings-on related to trinkets; there have been a few recent changes that affect healers.  That gets us into a discussion of some aspects of healer stats generally and the mana situation.  Then we use remaining time to get started on a topic we’re both always happy to talk about, Challenge Mode healing.

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0:00 – Intro & Catching Up
1:35 – Recent Healer Trinket Changes
> 1:55 – Patch 6.1 Changes to healer loot tables (background)
> 3:20 – Spirit’s historical budget & value on trinkets
> 7:20 – Bonus Armor analogy and why Blizzard made the change
> 12:50 – Loss of interesting loot choice
> 14:45 – Mana inflation concerns (my post on the situation before this)
> 20:55 – BRF Trinket re-evaluation (AutoclaveTalisman)
> 23:30 – Distinguishing Int DPS trinkets from Healer trinkets
31:35 – Alchemist Stone trinket
36:55 – Tertiary stats and the case for Avoidance
40:35 – Challenge Mode Healing
> 40:35 – Differences from raid healing
> 44:20 – Tank healing & encounter knowledge
> 45:40 – CM mana management
> 50:40 – Spirit vs Int for CMs
> 57:35 – Pacing for speed in CMs
> 1:00:55 – Hamlet’s Gold CM guides
1:02:05 – Outro & good-bye!

Previous episodes

Quick notes on Int/Spirit trinket changes

Quick notes for now since I’m at PAX East. I’m I’ll give this more discussion going forward, probably on the next podcast (hopefully soon) especially.

As many healers have noticed, in Patch 6.1, all non-Spirit items were removed from the healer classes’ lootspecs.  So healers can’t get them from any source that respects lootspec (bonus rolls, personal loot in dungeons or raids, LFR, mission tokens, challenge mode rewards, and so on).  This seems like an odd choice since Int vs. Spirit, especially on trinkets, was generally considered an interesting loot choice and there was a lot of variation in people’s views on it.

To briefly summarize why it happened: tanks have a similar situation with Bonus Armor, and for them there isn’t as much choice.  Bonus Armor is unequivocally better for tanks, and so this change was needed in their case–it prevent them from getting non-Armor items they’d never use.  But for healers, Spirit is not always unequivocally far better than Int; in fact many healers have situations where they choose Int on trinkets.  So this change has the odd effect of removing an interesting loot choice.  Blizzard’s stated reason is that they want “healer” and “DPS” trinkets to be clearly delineated, so there aren’t items with overly broad competition in a raid, which is frustrating.  That makes sense, but overall I don’t think the 6.1 solution is a good way of addressing it.

There are some mana balance issues unrelated to all this.  Disc has a super undercosted spell so they have excess mana (separate class toolkit issue). Paladin doesn’t have heals with enough marginal gain over Holy Light casts (separate class toolkit issue).  For now, let’s take a class with a very well-working mana game, and a good spellcasting options which are influenced by mana constraints (Shaman or Druid).  Right now, the weird thing is, things should be totally fine for these classes.  Int and Spirit (on trinkets) are reasonably well-balanced options.  That’s a hard thing to do and it’s done surprisingly well.  There are good cases for both stats and it can vary with content/encounter.  Furthermore, they removed the choice from most slots (4 where you always want Spirit and many where you never do) to prevent being able to swing it too much, but left the choice in 2 important slots (trinkets).

Everything about this, so far, is so good and healthy that it’s a little bizarre that they feel a need to stamp it out.  We’re talking about removing actual, good, gameplay in the form of meaningful stat choices (one of the most prominent places such a thing remains).  The biggest problem with the solution is that it seems to ignore that the class/stat design doesn’t support this notion of Spirit being unequivocally far better in every situation.  That’s not even close to true, even for a class like Druid (even if Spirit is often slightly better in many situations).  That might take an expansion-level change, again.

And furthermore, they’d have to massively buff Spirit in a way that didn’t accelerate mana flooding (which is okay in Warlords, but touchy, as I got into here: Healing Theory: Warlords Spirit Update | It’s Dangerous to Go Alone ).  That’s okay–for example, the recent Monk change was careful about this.  Watcher’s suggestion in a recent interview of making Spirit also give SP to healers would do it for all healers.  But totally reworking the function of the stat seems like next-expansion territory.

If they do make an big fundamental change, wouldn’t it better to still have the option of regen stat vs. throughput stat–an option that is already designed, implemented, and well-balanced (rather than mashing them into one stat)?  It would be perfectly fine to have Spirit and Heal Power trinkets, both of which were not shared with DPS.  Or simply go the Mists route of having some trinkets that only proc on damaging events and some that only proc on heal events.  There are various potential ways to have clearly-defined “DPS trinkets”, “Healer Spirit trinkets” and “Healer throughput trinkets.”

In short, this change feels a little reactionary in response to players exercising a choice of stats (which is of course a good thing).  Not only does it sacrifice a solid, if minor, bit of decisionmaking, but it doesn’t even solve the problem.  Healers will still want exactly the same items they wanted before, but now, in certain cases, it will be much more annoying to get them.