Challenge Mode Video Guides for Warlords

In case anyone follows this blog and hasn’t come across me talking about these elsewhere, I just finished a pretty large project: a full set of video guides for the challenge mode dungeons in Warlords.

Click for a playlist with all 8

These provide a lot of detailed info on everything you should need to know about each zone to seriously work on getting the Gold time.  Let me know what you think with comments here or on the videos!

Healing Discussion Podcast #9

Getting back together after only a few days to start digging into Blackrock Foundry healing.  We talk about both interesting healing details at some of the encounters in early Blackrock, and how they raise various general principles of setting up a healing team.


0:00 – Intro
1:05 – Set Bonus discussion Follow-up
>1:20 – Mistweaver 2pc (Serpent Stance) applies MS bonus to instants
>6:15 – Discipline Priest 2pc and value of a Penance tick
10:15 – our Blackrock Foundry WeakAuras project
13:00 – BRF Encounter thoughts
>13:45 – Gruul & understanding a damage profile
>21:40 – Oregorger & mitigating Acid Torrent
>26:30 – Flamebender Ka’graz & the value of stacking the raid for healing
>32:20 – Hans’gar & Franzok & Bloodlust/Heroism on a %hp-based fight (my post on use of Bloodlust)
>39:50 – Operator Thogar &  Bloodlust/Heroism on a time-based fight
>45:10 – Beastlord Darmac & dropping healers
>59:15 – Kromog & adding healers
1:08:10 – DPS vs Survivability, revisiting the Butcher discussion (at 41:30), and Versatility
1:16:15 – Outro

Previous episodes

Healing Discussion Podcast #8

Dayani and I have both been occupied with various projects lately, particularly her raid guides and my challenge mode video guides.  But we finally got back together to catch up on healing, and spent most of the time on a topic we hadn’t gotten into yet, T17 set bonuses.


0:00 – Intro & What we’ve been up to
1:30 – New Patch 6.1 Notes — Updated HealerCalcs
1:45 – PW:S nerf, and what it does for Disc Priest priorities
8:15 – Resto Shaman’s Restorative Waters buff
12:30 – PoM charge change reverted
13:20 – Crane Stance/Rising Sun Kick buff
18:45 – Challenge Mode difficulty
21:00 – Tier 17 Set Bonuses
23:00 – Shaman Set Bonuses (2pc 4pc)
31:20 – Druid Set Bonuses (2pc 4pc)
39:50 – Holy Priest Set Bonuses (2pc 4pc)
45:00 – Disc Priest Set Bonuses (2pc 4pc)
56:00 – Paladin Set Bonuses (2pc 4pc)
1:06:10 – Mistweaver Monk Set Bonuses (2pc 4pc)
1:16:00 – Good-bye!

Previous episodes

Raid Awareness, Applied: Blackrock Foundry Edition

If you read this blog, you’ve hopefully seen my post on how I think about raid awareness.  I’ve always wondered exactly how to follow up on it, and while this post isn’t nearly so broad in scope, it’s way of trying to revisit that topic.  I’m not introducing any fundamentally new ideas, but rather, using Blackrock Foundry as an example of how those ideas can be applied.  This post tries to make it as easy as possible to implement some of the most important and universal UI techniques for yourself.

WeakAura Downloads

In some cases I included WeakAuras I built so that you can try them out with a minimum of effort.  I got Dayani (who researched the BRF fights in extreme detail in order to prepare her set of guides) to work on a list of boss abilities with me, and think about the best way to handle each one.

If you do nothing else upon reading this post, try installing these Auras–your raid leader will be happy with the outcome.  All you have to do is download the addon and import these two strings:

BRF – Debuff Alert and Standing In Fire (v 0.91) (for everyone): Link

BRF – Interrupt Bars (v 0.91) (for interrupters): Link

(These are substantially complete, but we’ve only been able to do limited testing on our own, and I expect to make some tweaks after people try them out and provide any suggestions or problems)

Thus far it includes Heroic difficulty Blackrock Foundry.  An added module for Mythic is something we hope to do after finalizing this one.

3/3: v.0.91:

  • Exported from newest WeakAuras (2.1)
  • Alert for standing in someone else’s Blazing Radiance disabled until I figure out a way to prevent it from firing erroneously
  • Some debuffs split into their own aura with manually-selected icon, since “Automatic Icon” didn’t seem to be picking them up correctly.  Please report more of these if you see them.
  • No changes to Interrupt Bars.

The Big Debuff Alert

This component is the one example of completely universal raid UI that I illustrated in the raid awareness article.  You should want everyone in your raid to have it, and in fact a big motivation of this project was simply to increase uptake by handing over a WeakAura, or at least a debuff list, that people could use.  I split it into two parts: 1) encounter-specific debuffs that require immediate movement and 2) the specific situation of “standing in fire”.  In both cases, the concept is as described in the article: if any of these is happening to you, a UI that makes it possible for you to miss or ignore that fact is inadequate.

Both parts are in the first Aura I linked above.  I’ll address the specific-debuff module first.

The Aura pops up a giant icon like this when you have any of the listed debuffs:


If someone in your raid didn’t move out with this debuff, they probably didn’t have this alert.


Continue reading

Quick Notes on Efficient use of Bloodlust

You probably hear this all the time for various encounters, especially from DPS: “Bloodlust at the start of the fight, because everyone’s standing still and [some mechanic] isn’t happening yet, so you get the best DPS value out of it.”  This post is slightly tricky because I want to talk about 1) a subtle fallacy here (that Bloodlust is inherently better at times when raid DPS is higher), while also noting that, 2) in the end, it often is correct to use it at the start of the encounter (because it will have the strongest intersection with everyone’s cooldowns and trinkets).

There are two reasons that (1) can be incorrect.  First, it can be more important to get through a hard phase of the fight faster than to end the whole fight more quickly.  This is important but I’m not going to get into it too much here.  It’s generally well-recognized and, when Bloodlust isn’t used at the start, this is typically the reason.  What’s more interesting and counterintuitive though is that using Bloodlust when the raid’s doing the most DPS isn’t even necessarily best for ending the fight quickly.

How is that possible?  It’s (roughly speaking) a uniform %-based DPS increase.  It’s most valuable when the underlying damage is the highest! (You might be saying).

Basic Example

Say you have a 2-phase encounter.  Phase 1 goes until 50%.  It does nothing–it’s a target dummy and the raid does its maximum DPS (our hypothetical encounter designer is very amenable to setting up weird examples for me).  Phase 2 has lots of abilities that interfere with DPS, movement and the like.  Say the raid does half of its maximum DPS here.  The boss has 20 million HP and the raid’s maximum DPS is 100,000.  And forget about potions and trinkets etc. for the moment (I’m keeping things very abstract and continuous for now, but will revisit some of these assumptions below).

  • Without Bloodlust: P1 takes 100 seconds, and P2 (at half DPS) takes 200 seconds.  Boss dies in 300 seconds.
  • With Bloodlust in P1: the raid does 130,000 DPS for 40 seconds, doing 5.2 million damage.  The remaining 4.8 million of P1 take 48 seconds.  P2 still takes 200 seconds.  Boss dies in 288 seconds.
  • With Bloodlust in P2: at the start of P2, the raid does 65,000 DPS for 40 seconds, doing 2.6 million damage.  The remaining 7.4 million damage of P2 takes 148 seconds.  P1 still took 100 seconds.  Boss dies in 288 seconds.

“Ok Hamlet,” you might say, “what kind of math voodoo is this?  Bloodlust to add 15000 DPS for the 40s duration is equally effective as Bloodlust to add 30,000 DPS for the 40s duration?”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.


The whole show is us discussing patch note items. It generally goes in the order things are written in the notes.
Previous episodes

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.


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

Previous episodes

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.

Continue reading