On Exploits: A Philosophical Musing

On Exploits: A Philosophical Musing

a chivalric engagement

There’s been much talk lately, on WoM and elsewhere, of in-game “exploits” and their proper punishment. Most recently, Exodus has been censured with a 72-hour suspension for taking using Yogg’s mechanics to their advantage. A while back, Karatechop of Vek’nilash received a permanent ban for using the god-mode Martin Fury shirt. Even further in distant memory, Ensidia publicly admitted to using a buff from Freya trash to complete a “mathematically impossible” hard-mode Hodir. In this post I am going to muse about what is right, what is fair, and what is permissible in the World of Warcraft. Let me make clear that I don’t condone cheating, but it does make me sad when players get punished for actions that they don’t realize are wrong, especially when there’s no clear rule or precedent.

On Play

In such ambiguous cases, I almost always sympathize with the so-called cheaters. To explain why, I’ll share a few thoughts on the philosophical bent of World of Warcraft. First of all, it presents itself as a game. In any ludic world (ludic being a fancy pants academic word to describe an environment in which play is permitted), the “rules” are relaxed. Don Quijote, for example, operates in a ludic world of his own creation. Thus, the self-styled knight is exempt from rules that apply to “normal” people. Don Quijote has created his own “rules” as he plays at being a knight–according to him, he no longer needs to eat or sleep, he doesn’t have to pay when he stays at an inn, his wounds will magically heal when he applies a mixture of rosemary, olive oil, and salt to them, and windmills and other giants of industry deserve a good beating.

The World of Warcraft is by definition ludic, and no one, least of all Blizzard, should be surprised when people do things that aren’t exactly normal. In fact, I’d say that gaming encourages players to test the limits. Is theorycrafting an exploit? I should say not. But when players of a game optimize, they tend to do so to the limit of their abilities. I would say Exodus’ kill of Yogg+0 was pretty darned clever, even though it’s been ruled illegal. I’m sure I wouldn’t do the same thing myself–because I’m both too dumb to figure it out and too fearful to follow through with it. Without a precedent to tell me them that the technique was wrong, how was Exodus supposed to know? What they did falls under the aegis of being creative on a boss kill. Sure, I’m much more likely to do things like Wowwiki says I should, but how do the pioneers draw the line between brilliance and exploit? After all, the word “exploit” is used just as often in a positive light, to mean a great deed, as it is to indicate taking unfair advantage.

On War

The idea of the “exploit” as a masterful feat brings me to my next point. We all play a game called World of WARcraft. Notice the war in Warcraft? While the old proverb claims that “all’s fair in love and war,” most educated readers probably realize that warfare does in fact have rules. It always has, from ancient times until now, and these rules are culturally determined. The rules of war work to preserve life, particularly among civilians and other innocents, but also among soldiers themselves. However, these rules of engagement are always changing. For example, the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan is helping to establish new parameters for warfare–for better or for worse.

For me personally, I am a pacifist. No one is ever going to convince me that there is glory to be found in killing and maiming other human beings. However, I’m fascinated by battlefields. They bring out feelings of sadness, loss, and anger at the stupidity of humanity–and yes, I’m just the kind of person to wallow in such melancholy imaginings. I recently stopped at Gettysburg on my drive from NY to NC–there are few things that bring me to tears, but reflecting on human suffering on a mass scale does it every time. As a southerner and a passionate advocate of equal rights for all, any Civil War battlefield evokes in me a mixture of guilt and nostalgia that I can’t quite get anywhere else. Since my Gettysburg visit, I’ve been reading up on the different generals whose names I saw on the monuments. I can tell you based on even a little reading that in times of war, I’d rather serve under a general who pushes the boundaries than one who does not. If I have to be an ordinary Confederate soldier, I’m probably going to be killed or mutilated anyway, my amputated limbs stacked up like cordwood outside the makeshift camp hospital, but give me Longstreet over Lee any day as my commander. In the case of the Civil War, an ignominious, guerilla-style defense kept people alive where a gallant frontal attack would get them killed.

The point is that the rules of war are not fixed. What worked for Napoleon won’t work for Lee, and what seems most “honorable” is often most stupid. In our World of Warcraft, the designers should expect people to be constantly testing the limits. That’s why I don’t support banning people for exploits–essentially, you’re banning players for an excessively winning strategy. It’s hard to argue that Karatechop’s magic shirt technique was a failure, though it certainly was a cheat. However, killing a virtual robot without hardly trying does not seem like a “war” crime to me–no innocent bystanders, after all, were injured in the course of said illegal kill. In cases where malice is not present, what I would do is suspend rather than ban the player. Why would Blizzard want to ban people for using the best strategem available in their personal “war” against internet dragons?

On Honor

Along with play and warfare, I’d say the third principle that the World of Warcraft depends on is honor. We’re encouraged to seek out “honor” and “honor points” through PvP–which means the brutal killing of “enemy” players. Many quest texts also appeal to our sense of personal honor. “Honor” however, is not one singular concept but rather something that is both culturally and individually determined. Before commenters chime in that I have no idea what honor is, I’d like to say that in my day job as an academic, I study chivalry. This means, among other things, that King Arthur and his very honorable knights might as well be my best buddies. I think I have a good idea what honor is in the chivalric sense. It means a sort of personal integrity, an adherence to a code. However, for the Knights of the Round Table, this code is rather idiosyncratic. Certain parts are common to all. For example, an honorable knight aids the helpless, shows mercy when his opponent yields, keeps his bargains, and behaves himself when he is a guest in someone else’s home. However, for some knights, honor comes to include not only these secular virtues but also religious ones like purity and chastity (Percival or Galahad), while for others, “honor” is pretty close to the aphorism that might makes right (Yvain or Tristan). “Honor” also sometimes means defending oneself against real or perceived insults, often with bloody results. Honor is always idiosyncratic, and it has always caused social trouble–just ask Desdemona how she feels about the concept!

Now, since “honor” in World of Warcraft is tied to the PvP system, isn’t it closer to the “might makes right” model? How then, are we supposed to know how to be “honorable” when it comes to in-game bugs? I’d say there are some serious philosophical conflicts in WoW. The case that most stands out to me is the Martin Fury shirt, probably because the two players involved, Karatechop and Leroyspeltz, play on my old server Vek’nilash and are both acquaintances of mine. Leroy and I were in the same casual guild for about a year and were co-officers for part of that time. I can testify to Leroy’s lack of malice–he’s the kind of happy-go-lucky casual player that Blizzard is usually happy to support. In fact, my first response when I saw the story was not “Leroy, you cheater!” but “Leroy, how could you be so stupid!” My feeling is that Leroy, and probably Karatechop too, are innocent victims of their own failure to understand how Blizzard works.

On Fear

In a game where one earns “honor points” for randomly killing people whom they have no reason to fight as they’re trying to finish their Hodir dailies, how do I, as a player, know what I should and should not do? I do, in fact, wish to be as “honorable” as Galahad …but it’s hard to figure out what that means in WoW. I’d have to say that my code of personal honor in WoW has to do with how I treat other players (kindly, of course) rather than how I approach game mechanics. As for my philosophy on PvE, I turn to Machiavelli, who tells us that if one wants to be an effective leader, it is far better to be feared than loved. I fear, rather than love, the Blizzard developers. I have spent quite a lot of time building Syd and developing an in-game social network. I couldn’t bear to lose her. In the whole Martin Fury debacle, the only thing that bothers me from the players’ side is Karatechop’s cavalier attitude toward getting his guild and raid members suspended. I would be furious if I were a victim of such shenanigans. I would be grieved and regretful if I had inadvertedly deprived anyone of their character for any length of time.

Because I fear Blizzard, I take a pretty hard line on cheating and exploits for myself. I won’t buy gold or fight a boss in a doorway because it’s easier, even though neither of those actions seem “malicious” to me. Sure, on Prince Malchezzar my raid spent quite a lot of time figuring out the best “spot”–but I can also tell you that we never found the magic nook or cranny that made Prince beg for mercy and give us our helmets for free. If we had, I probably would have insisted that we take him back to the middle. I’m all for innovation, but I err on the side of caution–not because exploiting feels “wrong,” but because I fear the consequences. Heck, I even worry if I make a lot of money in the same day on the AH. Sometimes I get lucky to the tune of a couple thousand gold, and I find myself looking over my shoulder. I do the same thing whenever I see a police car on the highway, even though I never speed.

On Right and Wrong

Many things that I feel are “wrong,” like corpse camping a lowbie or shouting racial slurs in General chat, are never punished in game. Many actions that seem less dishonorable, like gold-buying or using an item one received in the mail, result in permanent bans. How am I to tell what is right and what is wrong? My internal standard for good and evil doesn’t seem to work when it comes to WoW. The Terms of Use itself is rather vague, and it cannot serve as my guide to virtue and prosperity. As a player, I try to do my best by others (you’ll never catch me ganking Horde) and err on the side of caution when it comes to the Terms of Use. After all, the TOU pretty much declares that whatever Blizzard decides is wrong, IS wrong. That sounds pretty Machiavellian to me.

Monday Midnight Musings (Patch 3.2 and Exploits)

It’s not often I do late night posts. They usually come out all funky and misunderstood or full of typos and other clerical errors. At the same time, the evening is when my mind is at it’s most active. This is going to be a fairly decent sized blog post about some big changes that have been announced.

Yogg Saron

Tonight we managed to kill Yogg-Saron on 25. It took us around 6 weeks (or about 12 hours total) to clock him out. Previous weeks involved the melee clicking and the ranged DPS still struggling or some melee players having portal difficulties and the ranged just killing tentacles one after the other. I’m proud to say that everything came together tonight. I believe that this was one of our most complete attempts and kills. I felt like a hockey GM in the week leading up to the trade deadline. Trying to add the pieces and classes that would help us cash in on a playoff run (Raid bosses are my playoff series). Syd did a beautiful job looking for diamonds in the rough. It took us two shots tonight. I’m extremely proud of the players in the raid tonight and grateful for the players who weren’t there but helped contribute to the learning process over the past few weeks.

Hard mode attempts begin this week. Leaning towards Flame Leviathan first. Just found out that it’s possible for a Demolisher to have a driver, a gunner, and a player loaded and ready to fire at the same time. This presents some intriguing possibilities.

One buys all

Universal armor tokens. I’m surprised this wasn’t reported earlier. My wow.com colleague Mike Sacco mentioned this during the day and it took me a few seconds to realize what it meant. You won’t have to fight specific bosses for specific tier tokens anymore. As in, there is no more head token, chest token, or shoulder token to cash in. You get one tier token of your armor set (Protector, Conqueror or Vanquisher) and then it can be used to buy whatever piece you like.

And I know someone’s going to come in here and say something about catering to the casuals. But hell, this caters to everybody. Loot council’s going to have a fun time assigning these tokens. Sacco presents some great arguments in his post that I will reiterate briefly here:

  • Upgrade sets at your own pace: Several players in Conquest have held out on tier pieces until they acquire a certain amount stating that they wouldn’t use them right away because their current items were better. This change allows players to specifically target which pieces benefit them the most.
  • No wasted tokens: Mix and match your 10 and 25 man tokens. You don’t have to feel empty for replacing your Valorous gloves with Conqueror gloves.
  • You’ll get your 4 piece… eventually: At the rate you’re organization is going, it really is going to be possible to get it.

Many of the Triumph and tier tokens are functioning as a partial gold sink. Not only do the tier 9 pieces require a Regalia token but you’re going to have to shell out some coinage to pick them up. They’re in the neighborhood of the 50 to 70 gold range. Doesn’t seem like the gloves have a monetary cost.

But, it’s the PTR and nothing’s ever finalized.

Priest tier 9 pieces

I wrote about that on wow.com. You can find my thoughts on it (and a history of the names) on there. Wyn seems disappointed at the 4 piece bonus.

Triumph vendor items

Here’s a few screenshots for you to check out. I think images are worth a thousand words.

shoulders-triumph trinket-triumph

Pair it with the Intellect trinket from Mimiron (Pandora’s Plea) and you’re good to go.

helm-triumph

Hit rating helm, I know. BoE though. If it wasn’t for the hit, it’d make a fairly juicy helm for Discipline Priests.

ret-libram

(Am I going to want that Libram on my Ret Pally if I have the one from Naxx that increases my Crusader strike damage or should I pursue other items with badges?)

rings

I managed to replace both of my rings tonight. Packing both Radiant Seal and Lady Maye’s Sapphire Ring now. I wonder who Lady Maye is.

Exodus exploit thoughts

Ingenious. The method used to down the boss was absolutely brilliant! The idea calls for something like a Warlock and a Paladin entering the brain room. You’re relying on healing aggro to cause the outside mobs to evade bug. So the Warlock soulstones the Paladin, the Paladin DI’s the Warlock upon transition from phase 2 to phase 3. Paladin pops up, warlock clicks off DI, starts casting Life tap like crazy while the Paladin bomb heals him for an insane amount causing the outside mobs (the ones that are piling up) to immediately aggro on to the Paladin (who is untouchable as he is inside Yogg) and trivializing the encounter.

There’s some comparison to the method that Ensidia used to exploit for their Hodir hard mode kill. It involved kiting and tanking plant trash from Freya to Hodir. Mages would spell steal that buff and proceed to use it in the encounter. While it wasn’t exactly causing mobs to bug out, it’s still an unintended side effect. Of the two exploits, I have to admit that the Hodir one is a little more impressive.

These upcoming weeks are only going to get busier. Actually, the next few months are going to be flowing with news and features. If the faction change is something they announce in a blue post, it makes me wonder what else could possibly be announced at Blizzcon.

Heading to bed. It’s 2 AM.

Faction Change Service Announced

I normally don’t post news but I think this one merits something. I’m a bit stunned by this. Blue’s have announced that a faction switching service is in the works. It allows players to transform an existing character into a roughly equivalent character of the opposing faction on the same realm. In other words, I can switch from Alliance to Horde and back. I wonder what a Dwarf would transform into.

More ways to make money, I suppose. I’m almost certain this service is going to involve cash. Hands up anyone out there who would take advantage of this service. Why? Who wouldn’t? Why not? Personally not a bad idea as this would enable Wyn to raid with me if it ever came down to it.

Some more news is coming up on how tier loot and tier tokens will be handled in 3.2.

More on this later…

Aura of Command

bridge

Some players have it. Some players don’t. The aura of command allows you to take charge. Having the aura causes you to feel zero discomfort when you impose your views and opinions upon others.

Is it the confrontation aspect?

No. Confrontation does not scare you. It is a means to an end. That end is resolution. Others turn a blind eye or choose to ignore ugly side of things. Possessing the aura of command allows you to present the facts and the truth despite how good or bad the situation may be. It’s a challenge to keep other people honest. The person with the aura of command comes across as opinionated and intimidating. But they’re often willing to differ to them. It’s difficult to explain, but such people attract players. They have this presence around them that enables instructions to be followed.

I’m getting used to the command chair myself. It’s not a small feat to take over the raid leading position when it’s been executed well over the past year. My lieutenants have aided me wonderfully. I don’t show it but I constantly second guess my decisions. I am not the decisive leader that I want to be. Sometimes it feels like I’m a step or two behind.

When you’re in command, there’s two things that have to be balanced.

A correct decision

The right decision. What is the right decision? No one ever knows. Sometimes the path is quite obvious. Other times it’s hidden. Hell, the rest of the time you have to blaze through and make your own path. Command is all about taking the information and resources you have available and then coming to a seemingly logical conclusion. If it’s not a logical one, then it has to be the best case one.

When it comes to raids, there’s all sorts of choices that go through my head. There’s all these conditions that has to be met.

For Yogg, the brain room team needs a Heroism. No Enhancement Shaman available. I do have an Elemental Shaman. But the outside group needs an Elemental Shaman. They also need more DPS. I had to ask Syd to switch to Space Turkey form and do her best. There are all sorts of command decisions, influences and situations. It’s not always easy. Everything is much simpler to digest when you look back at it all.

A swift decision

In addition to choosing the correct path, it has to be done in a timely fashion. I have 24 other players depending on me to not only make the right call, but to make the right call now so that we can get the ball rolling.

I never forget that indecision itself is a decision.

At times I can be slow. I wish I can process information as quickly as others but it takes a few seconds extra for me to digest. I’m embarrassed to say that others are able to come to a conclusion faster than I can. But I chalk that up to inexperience on my part. Certainly I’m eager to learn and apply. There’s no manual or readme for this type of stuff. It comes with practice and exposure.

When it comes down to it, a choice has to be made. Command does not equal clairvoyance. You can’t see in the future. An option is picked, a quick prayer is whispered, and the best is wished for.

But it’s damned great to have a support system and network in place to help you through it. It really is lonely at the top.

Image courtesy of ZoofyTheJi.

Ardent Defender Overrides Guardian Spirit

I want a Paladin tank. One of my tanks will be retiring from the game soonly and I’m hoping to start shopping around. So if there’s any free agent Alliance Prot Paladins looking for a raiding guild, get in touch with me.

Some intriguing information coming out of Honor’s Code lately.

The Hammer has reported (via Modus) that the Paladin’s tank saving ability, Argent Defender, activates first over Guardian Spirit. Ardent Defender has priority. Raid leaders then are going to have to reconsider and re-order which save to activate if they’re working on progression bosses. Paladin saves will need to be factored in first.

It’s a great read for all healers as we gain a sneak peek into the future. Our play is tied directly to our tanks so its good to keep up with that stuff.

Again, free agent Protection/Holy (dual off spec) Paladins looking for a raiding guild are players I’d love to speak to. Check out the Conquest guild site. We’re presently raiding 9 hours a week, but I will be adding an extra day just after the Independence Day weekend.

Any free agent Balance (DPS) Druids are also encouraged to apply.

Why Emblem Changes are Great

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let’s cut to the chase.

Badges of Heroism and Valor are going to be phased out. Every raid instance and 5 man dungeon is going to be dropping Conquest emblems.

I like this change from a raid leader perspective! Here’s why:

Raising the floor – The minimum standard is being raised. During Burning Crusade, many guilds were either starting on Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair or Magtheridon. Other guilds were wrapping up in Mount Hyjal, Black Temple and Sunwell. There weren’t a lot of guilds working on SSC and TK. But this change will help shrink the gear gap between upper end guilds and lower end guilds. The minimum gear standard is going to go up.

Less time spent gearing – Are you a skilled player? Your gear just doesn’t show it right? Good, then this is another change. I’ve met many “skilled” players who wanted to apply to Conquest. Unfortunately, their gear level did not meet the minimum requirements to enter Ulduar. I’ve had to turn them away. Now those same players can come back and reapply. Since gear won’t be as big of an issue, they can demonstrate their skills in a raid environment. The fact that gear sucks won’t be much of an excuse.

Reduces the links in the progression chain – Currently, the order of operations in which players go through to get loot is:

  • Heroics/Badge gear
  • Naxx/OS/VoA
  • Eye of Eternity
  • Ulduar

Similarly, let’s look at the projected badge drops.

  • Emblem of Heroism
  • Emblem of Valor
  • Emblem of Conquest
  • Emblem of Triumph

What’s essentially going to happen is that the game will be reset so that Conquest badges are going to be at the bottom of the ladder. Who knows what the Triumph gear will be. Right now it takes players a lot of time investment to work their way up from zero to hero.

People have a reason to do stuff again – Hard time finding healers for Naxx or DPS for an instance? Fear not. Trade chat will rev up again and you won’t have to spend hours trying to find a player to fill that spot. From my perspective, once my Priest hit a threshold in gear, I never went back to Naxx. The badges meant nothing to me. I didn’t need the items anymore. I had no reason to go back into Naxx. I know other players feel the same way. Why participate in an activity when there’s no reward for the time invested? Now there is. Conquest badges give players an incentive to head back in. That’s a bonus to everyone. Epic gems, right? With Triumph badges dropping from heroic daily quests, I think they’re going to raise the cost of new Triumph level items. I remember some of the stuff we got from Sunwell vendors. That was over 100 badges for several of the items.

Alts – This makes it really easy to gear up alts now. I’ve got a Ret Paladin and an Elemental Shaman that I like to mess around on from time to time. This will help hasten the rate at which I can join Ulduar pickup groups or other raiding alliances.

Yes, I am very much in favor of this change.

Patch 3.2 in Brief

So I’m a little long-winded. My typical posts run somewhere in the 2000 word range, with the longest of them hitting a staggering 4000 words. As a personal challenge, I am going to provide a little commentary on multiple aspects of Patch 3.2 . . . in two sentences or less. Patch changes are listed in descending order according to the very scientific standard of my personal interest in them.

Coliseum Raid Instance

Five bosses is far too few for a new raid dungeon, regardless of how many times we can play through it in a week. Also, if Blizzard thinks I’m going to be satisfied fighting a Jormungar that looks like every other big worm just because it drops Tier 9, they are fooling themselves.

Normal and Heroic Versions for both 10 and 25 players

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I really don’t enjoy killing the same boss repeatedly–regardless of the “extras” in hardmode–in the same week. I used to really, really hate the 3-day reset on Zul Aman for that reason.

New Druid Art

I applaud any and all new artwork in game, including the pink kitty. Now, if I can have one of these forms, I might just go feral myself.

Resto Tier 9 Bonuses

Lackluster compared to Tier 8. HoT ticks that can crit will have less impact than a small front-end instant heal on Rejuvenation.

Three Flavors of Tier 9

They had better not be Rum Raisin, Licorice, and Bubble Gum. In all seriousness, the designers need to take care that the color mix doesn’t make us all look like clowns.

Lifebloom Nerf

Wait, didn’t they realize that the Bloom is nearly 100% overheal anyway? This spell’s now awkward mechanics and situational use have already minimized its place in my rotation, and I’m quite sure that we don’t need it at all as things stand.

New Resto Idol

This will be the new must-have Resto druid accessory, more stylish even than a pair of Manolo Blahniks.

Changes to Mp5 allocation

It’s about time! Even in BC this stat was too “expensive” for its value.

Upgrades to Profession Bonuses

These are all fantastic and I applaud them, but I had really wanted a new alchemist stone. I just really like the idea of manufacturing my own Pet Rock of Uber.

Epic Gems Available

There goes all my hard earned flask money! Seriously, did we even need these?

Reuseable Flask of the North

Why haven’t they thought of this before?

New Moonkin Idol

Probably not as good as the Resto idol since Moonfire is a low-priority spell.

New Heirloom Item

With this stacking bonus, my baby priest will be leveled up to . . . 40 in no time, before I forget her again.

Streamlined Emblem System

Golf claps. The system as it was could be pretty awkward, and at this point in progression it’s appropriate to use emblem gear to facilitate a reroll.

New Pets

I want a baby raptor, especially if he makes a cute squeaky noise.

More Argent Tournament Dailies

I wish I didn’t have to have exalted reputations to unlock them. Dailies are a nice thing to do on alts, and I’ll be stuck doing them on Syd–I just can’t really see myself getting the Argent Dawn/Crusade rep a second time.

More Argent Tournament Mounts

The dailies didn’t hold enough of my interest for me to buy even one of the mounts yet, so I’m indifferent. I still have two pets to go as well.

More Tasks For My Argent Tournament Squire

I love how Averna calls him her pet boy. I humiliate mine by making him carry the Gnomeregan flag, and I can’t wait to make him fetch my dry cleaning.

Changes to Mounts and Mount Prices

I am extremely puzzled by anyone who opposes these much needed quality-of-life changes. To them, I will only say that every generation, as it ages, always claims that when they were young, things were “much better” because they had to work “much harder”–It’s annoying when Gramps says it, and it’s annoying when you post it on the forums.

Venomhide Ravasaur for the Horde

That’s just ducky, but why doesn’t Blizz let everyone get both this mount and the Winterspring Frostsaber? I have never understood the resistance to cross-faction mounts.

Changes to Shield Block on Items

This is not a genuine fix to warriors and paladins, and is barely a bandaid. I still foresee a day of reckoning ahead for tank balance.

New Battleground

Funny, I still haven’t managed to visit Strand of the Ancients yet . . .

Koralon the Flame Watcher: New VoA Boss

Here’s a first look at the new VoA boss.

This what ultimately VoA is going to look like. We have an Earth boss, a Storm (air) boss, and now a Fire boss. I wonder where the Water boss is going to be situated.

Boss abilities

Not sure if there’s official names for them. That video was shot from the perspective of a Warrior (Arms I think).

First ability is the assorted flame patches that drop around. Stand out of the fires.

Second ability is the flame whirl like thing he does where he spins around and unleashes fire in every direction.

Expect this boss to drop tier 9 level loot.

1_24_06_09_9_21_23

I’m still downloading the 1.15 GB file right now for the PTR patch. I should be suiting up and ready to go within the next several hours.

Resto Shaman Tier 9 and More!

Resto Shaman Tier 9 and More!

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the tier 9 sets that have been released. Unlike Tier 7 and 8, instead of having two different levels of gear, there are three levels.

Conquest (ilevel 232)

Triumph (ilevel 245)

Heroic Triumph (ilevel 258)

This is kind of nifty. It adds more opportunity for raiders of all levels to gain tier set pieces. There is no artwork for it yet, but you can click the link and check the stats. The big thing here is the set bonuses.

Instant cast
Increases the healing done by your Riptide spell by 20%.
Instant cast
Increases the critical strike chance of your Chain Heal spell by 5%.

These might not seem like a lot, but these are quite nice as it stands. Lets take a look at the 2 Piece. Riptide already seems to have received a little buff in it’s healing come the patch but lets use the value of the Rank 4 Riptide and according to the 3.2 talent sheet, the current rank 1 Riptide

The spell has two parts we’ll make the assumption that the set bonus affects both parts. The spell initially hits for 1604 to 1736, a 20% increase on that 1925 to 2083 on the front end. After the initial heal it places a heal over time for 1670. With the set bonus that HoT becomes 2004 over 15 seconds. While that might not seem like a lot consider a couple things. First it’s an instant heal and HoT for Shamans, never a bad thing. The new ranks for the spell haven’t been released yet (that I can find, if you see them please link them to me) so you can imagine those numbers will be higher. Secondly combine the 2 piece with Glyph of Riptide which increases the duration of the HoT by 6 seconds (or with these numbers should be another 800 healing if my math is right) and 2 piece Tier 8 , which lowers the CD of Riptide by a second and you have an instant heal that places a 21 second HoT on your target, and it only has a 5 second cool down. I can see that being extremely useful. Oh, and it still buffs chain heal on the target by 25%.
Let’s take a look at the 4 piece bonus now. Increasing the critical strike change of Chain Heal by 5% might not seem like a lot either, but you have to keep in mind a couple things. Before raid buffs I’m packing close to 27 % crit, maybe more depending on what pieces I am wearing. I suspect the vast majority of the Shaman Healing community falls between 25% and 30% before buffs (cursory glace at armory seems to support that theory) in a raid environment you can already get close to 40% crit. Adding another 5% to that is just insane, it will definitely increase our throughput quite a bit. It will also work hand in hand with changes to Improved Water Shield which now procs off of chain heal without consuming an orb. This will do wonders for our mana regeneration along with our healing throughput.

The newest item I’m probably most excited about though so far is not the Tier 9 set (while it is nice) but we have a new Totem. The Totem of Calming Tides is, quite simply put sexy. When you cast Chain Heal you have a chance to gain 234 spell power for 15 seconds. That is just nice any way you slice it. Combine that with the increased crit chance and the fact we’ll most likely be packing enough haste to have 2 second or sub 2 second chain heals and I suspect more often then not we’ll have the buff. There is no information on proc percentages yet, but it’s still very early in the PTR.  It should also be noted that this so far does not just affect your chain heal spell power, but your overall spellpower, meaning when it procs Earth Shield, Riptide, our various Healing Waves and even Healing Stream Totem will gain a benefit. Personally I can’t wait to get my grubby little Shaman fingers on this one.

Along with the Tier Sets we were provided information for Badge Goggles andBadge Shoulders. While they are pretty good I just find myself hard pressed to get excited about them. Maybe after the models are released for Horde / Alliance.

The new totem and the Tier set fits very nicely with the talent and spell changes for Shamans in the coming patch, you can read my initial thoughts on them Here.

For those who don’t remember here they are again.

  • Call of Air – Simultaneously places up to 4 totems specified in the Totem Bar. Can call different totems that Call of Fire or Call of Water.
  • Call of Water – Simultaneously places up to 4 totems specified in the Totem Bar. Can call different totems that Call of Fire.
  • Call of Fire – Simultaneously places up to 4 totems specified in the Totem Bar.
  • Totemic Call has been renamed to Call of Earth -     Returns your totems to the earth, giving you 25% of the mana required to cast each totem destroyed by Call of Earth.
  • Tidal Waves has been changed to -     When you cast Chain Heal or Riptide, you have a 100% chance to lower the cast time of your Healing Wave spell by 30% and increase the critical effect chance of your Lesser Healing Wave spell by 25%, until two such spells have been cast. In addition, your Healing Wave gains an additional 4/8/12/16/20% of your bonus healing effects and your Lesser Healing Wave gains an additional 2/4/6/8/10% of your bonus healing effects.
  • Nature’s Guardian now give you a 100% chance to increase your maximum health by 15% for 10 sec instead of 50% chance to heal for 10% of your total health. Cooldown increased from 8 second to 30 second.
  • Mana Tide Totem now has 10% of the caster’s health. (Up from 5 health)
  • Nature’s Swiftness now has a 2 min cooldown. (Down from 3 min)
  • Improved Water Shield no longer consumes a Water Shield Orb when you gain a critical effect from your spells, now also has a 10/20/30% chance to proc from Chain Heal.
  • Ancestral Healing now reduces your target’s physical damage taken by 3/7/10% instead of increasing its armor by 8/16/25%.

Looking at those and looking at the set bonus I’m definitely starting to get excited. I’ll report more on it after I get some time in on the PTR, Lodur is transferred over on the PvE server for the PTR and will be getting some play time tonight after my raid and tomorrow for sure. I’ll update this when I get some more information on how the talents are working and how it feels in a raid environment, particularly hard modes.

What do you guys think of the Tier set and the Relic? Are you going to transfer over onto the PTR and try the new talents out? Are you looking forward to hard mode as a Shaman healer?

Until next time, Happy Healing.

Sig

The Summertime Woes

The Summertime Woes

summertime

Summertime and the livin is easy
Fish are jumpin and the cotton is fine
Oh your daddys rich and your ma is good lookin
So hush little baby, don’t you cry

-Gershwin

So the weather outside is becoming nice once again for many of us. With the nice weather comes what I like to refer to as the “Raider’s Lull” . What is the Raider’s Lull you ask? It’s that time of year where people start to take a break from the game and venture forth into the outside world for a while. For some guilds in Warcraft it’s not a big deal, they simply replenish from within and keep trudging through content while waiting for the other players return. For others it becomes an exercise in recruitment methods. I’m sure you’ve seen them on the realm forums, various websites and services like Twitter all asking for recruits and potential applicants to head over to their site. For some guilds it’s the beginning of their death throes.

The first category, the guilds that don’t feel the bite, tend to be the more progression oriented. They normally have several raiders waiting in the wings or rotating just for the reason of filling gaps due to holidays and such. These more often then not are also the top guilds on your server in those terms as well, normally one of those “server first” type guilds. If you find yourself in one of these guilds, then you probably haven’t seen the Raider’s Lull

The second category is more common, and I freely admit my own guild recently falls into this category this year. These tend to be not less progression oriented guilds, but ones that are more laid back in their approach to getting there. Attendance issues pop up in the summer when weather is nice and kids are out of school. It’s understandable and more often then not the guild just has to bide it’s time until the raiders return, utilizing other members of the guild who maybe don’t normally raid.

The third group is a bit trickier. Usually this is a guild that has had ongoing attendance issues year round, or has been subject to some form of drama. Sometimes more progression oriented guildies have just left for another guild or even their members are looking for a guild that fits their ideals better. The summer time seems to bring these to a head and they wind up splintering and finding new homes, some players even quit the game as a result.

Breaking the Depression!

So how does one from the second and third category keep going into the summer time?

Recruitment!

recruitment2

Oddly enough recruitment can solve both the second and third groups problems. I’ll use my guild as an example again. Summer time hit and we saw the loss of a handful of raiders, the problem was these were people integral to our raid and raid strategy on some accounts. We have veterans we can pull for raids when they are on, but since they are veterans and not raiders their schedules tend to be a bit more erratic and pinning them down can be difficult, but pulling from our friends and family in the guild we have been able to keep raiding fairly consistently with good results. They may not be hard mode ready, but they can still kick like a mule when they need to.

The raiders we lost were well geared and performed well. It left us with several holes to fill. Our officers proactively hit recruitment hard utilizing various methods. As a result we have had an influx of  very solid recruits. The recruits are from a guild of the third option above. Their guild was not a comfortable fit for them anymore, and they happened to see a post of mine saying we were looking for geared intelligent raiders. I talked to one of them for almost a month answering questions as best I could. They were from another server so a certain leap of faith was required though this app process as my guild requires our apps be on server for the trial periods and such. After much communication, enter four applicants. They are currently going through our application process, but they have already been making friends and feel like a good fit. Recruitment has kept us going strong and has helped us keep raiding, and it helped four very awesome people find a potential new home with new friends. So thank you Kaylestera, Trull, Andorel and Lysah for taking a leap of faith and putting in those apps.

For recruiting there are several different ways to go about it. For my guild we utilized internet services such as

Twitter,

Realm Forums,

Guild Website,

We also utilized Word of Mouth along the server, with friends from other guilds letting people know we were recruiting. Members of our guild spread word among their real life friends as well as their friends on server letting them know we were hiring so to speak. So far it’s been working out very well. Unpossible is still going strong and we’ll survive our Raider’s Lull.

So, is your guild facing the Raider’s Lull? If so, how are you compensating for it? What category does your guild fall into?

Until next time, Happy Healing.

Sig

Images courtesy of akmg.com and electrotestservies.co.uk