Friday, May 7, 2010

Trees can Moonfire, wha?: Resto Druid Talents in the Cataclysm Alpha

So, a Turkey is still a Turkey, except for the dizziness from the nerf-bat and the fact that we can throw mushrooms and summon lasers from the sky.

But a Tree is no longer a Tree, at least in the 'traditional' sense.

The Resto talents that have been presented with the Alpha leak are quite interesting and my analysis is presented for you to, er, analyze.

Please bear in mind that all of this information is subject to change between now and release!

The talent changes presented via the leaked information can be found here.

New Talents

  • Blessing of the Grove: Providing small buffs to a key ability for each spec (alright, feral gets two), this talent will likely be taken by everyone, just as IGotW was, on the way to that lovely Clearcasting talent.
  • Perserverance: The 6% spell damage reduction taken from Balance of Power in the Balance tree has been moved here, but now for 10% over 5 points. It's a low-tier talent but with three points needed for Natural Shapeshifter as a pre-req for Master Shapeshifter, I'm not certain there are more than two points to spend on it. Edit: Actually, after looking through it further, I lied; since I'm still not sold on the new usefulness of Tranquility you could easily place all five points into here in order to reach Tier 6.
  • Fury of Stormrage: Blessing of the Grove hinted at a dual-nature for Resto druids; this slaps us in the face with it. Nourish one person and get a nuke, free! Except that the 'free nuke' will likely trigger the GCD which, as a healer, I might be using to heal someone else. With the Moonfire->Starfire portion, this really feels better placed in the Balance tree where it would likely be overpowered.
  • Efflorescence: God, trying to type that out is a pita. I expect it to be called 'Eff' or 'Flower Patch'. Have you seen the patch of flowers that sprout under the feet of someone who uses the Herbalism HoT Lifeblood? I expect this looks a lot like that, except with maybe more flowers. 15 yards is a reasonable distance (the same as Lifebloom) but this HoT is uncontrolled; your party members are going to have to run to it themselves. Highly useful in fights where people are clustered and this extra HoT will of course heal the person you originally healed unless they move. Overall expect lots of overhealing and grumbling because you finally critted on that lone guy over there and not on the cluster of six you've been healing for the last two minutes. Also, the spell doesn't say what part of the healing done by Regrowth is transferred; healing from an entire Regrowth or only from the direct heal? This talent is 'broken' and displays as Living Spirit's tooltip for Rank 2 and Rank 3.

Old Stuff that's Really New
  • Empowered Touch: If we're seeing HP values dip that low... I'm excited and worried all at the same time. The Nourish->Lifebloom synergy implies that the devs really do expect us to use our entire bag of tricks now.
  • Revitalize: I am not a fan of the Lich King fight. Trees are not strong on this fight; in fact, I'd say overall we're pretty weak for raid-healing here because we cannot directly battle Infest. What we still bring to the fight, however, is Revitalize which ups DPS overall and at least helps us kill Arthas more quickly. Blizzard says there will be no more of that! It makes sense, else many druids would continue in a 5x1 rotation just to keep Revitalize on everyone. Now we're going a complete 180, to the spells that are used very little currently. Another sign that crit is coming.
  • Tree of Life: This is the biggest change to the entire tree in the eyes of most Resto druids. We're no longer trees while healing--at least most of the time. The druid community is split on this matter; I personally am excited from a PvP standpoint. However, we didn't just use a cosmetic effect. Not only do they remove the 20% mana reduction to healing spells, it looks like we're back to being slow. If they don't provide a glyph to remove the movement decrease, I probably won't use it except on Patchwerk-style fights. AoE and other fight mechanics that require movement are too dangerous to have a speed decrease; hell, they're too dangerous at normal speed, which is why a huge majority of raiders currently use Tuskarr's Vitality on their feet. Some information on what the 'temporary enhancements' might be will help with determining just how useful this will be, but don't expect that info for some time. At the moment, I'd say this should be a useful cooldown for a raid-wide damage phase, such as during BQL's Bloodbolt Whirl, but there's too little information to really say what good it will do. The slow, however, pisses me off. Notice the removal of spell restrictions, which leads us to...
  • Improved Tree of Life: Doesn't have Tree of Life as a pre-req, heh. 5:00 to 3:30 is not terrible; in a 10-minute fight, you'll be able to use it 3 times instead of 2. 15% damage increase, though? They've removed the 'healing and buffs-only' restriction of Tree of Life form but since when do healers get to DPS? Since Cataclysm, it seems.
  • Gift of the Earthmother: Goodbye haste and a CD reduction to a spell we really didn't use much (pretty sure no one ever took the talent for the Lifebloom CD reduction), hello buffs! Again the talent is a little-here-little-there to a few different spells but, with all that it's bringing, I can certainly see why this talent is Tier 10. The Tranq buff is, of course, situational. The LB bloom will be useful if LB becomes useful (the devs certainly seem to think it will) and since Rejuv will still be used a lot while people kick the 5x1 habit, the immediate heal will be of use overall.

Old Stuff with New Changes
  • Naturalist: Moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3; replaces Intensity as the pre-req for Nature's Swiftness.
  • Improved Rejuvenation: Bonus now affects Swiftmend as well.
  • Nature's Swiftness: Naturalist replaces Intensity as its pre-req.
  • Improved Tranquility: This one is a little odd. The first point switches a cooldown reduction of 30% for a 25% damage reduction while channeling the spell. The second point goes back to the original talent of 60% cooldown reduction. Assuming the change is the first, 50% damage reduction will be amazing, but Tranquility is still a spell that I'm uncertain about and I'd rather have the cooldown reduction.
  • Living Seed: Moved from Tier 9 to Tier 6 and is now the pre-req for the new Efflorescence talent.
  • Nature's Bounty: Now the pre-req for Swiftmend, it looks like crit will be added to our plates once again.
  • Swiftmend: Nature's Bounty is now a pre-req. Cost decreased from 16% of base to 12% of base.
  • Natural Perfection: Removed the crit chance and moved from Tier 7 to Tier 8. Still a PvP talent if you ask me, just a less useful one with the crit removal. So, why did this go up a Tier?
  • Empowered Rejuvenation: Now affects Swiftmend.
  • Improved Barkskin: No longer reduces the chance for Barkskin to be dispelled. PvPers everywhere are mourning.
  • Wild Growth: I almost put this one under 'unchanged', but the mana cost has: up to 37% from 23%. Combined with the promise of 'mana problems' during a fight, devs certainly don't want this one spammed on cooldown.

Old Stuff that's Gone Missing
  • Improved Gift of the Wild: Blizzard is removing all 'improved' versions of buffs; bye-bye super-paw.
  • Intensity: Here's the first hint of Resto mana conservation. Naturalist is now the pre-req for Nature's Swiftness.
  • Gift of Nature: Swiftmend's new pre-req is Nature's Bounty.
  • Living Spirit: Most trees were beginning to drop this, anyhow.

Nothing's Changed... Yet
  • Nature's Focus
  • Furor
  • Subtlety
  • Natural Shapeshifter
  • Omen of Clarity
  • Master Shapeshifter
  • Tranquil Spirit

My thoughts? It's not that unheard-of for a DPS to switch to healing in the middle of a fight to cover some slack while a battle-rez happens or during a nasty transition. But for a healer to go DPS? No, usually you want your healers watching for that next big damage spike or constantly spamming their big heals with /stopcasting macros built in. Aside from BQL after 16 bites when folks are self-healing enough that Moonfire from healers is alright or during Arthas' last 10%, healers don't DPS while raiding as a healer.

Blizzard seems to have other ideas.

I HATE the slowdown in tree form. Without knowing how some spells will be specifically affected by being in Tree of Life form, there's not much to say at the moment other than if we get to look like the Ancients in Darnassus, hell yeah, and I want it to be permanent! The speed thing is going to be a sticking point with me, however.

Blizzard has removed just about all of the appeal of the 5x1 rotation: the insane mana regen and cost reductions are out the window, the increased cost of Wild Growth, the changes to Revitalize--they've attacked 5x1 from all sides. Most of the talents now look like a hodge-podge of synergistic "if this then that" thought processes that will just require nice, new mods that tell us what we should be doing (see feral's Bad Kitty mod). Sure, haste will be useful with HoTs affected as well as cast times, but with so much emphasis on criticals to trigger other abilities as well as the permanent implementation of 4T9's crit for HoT ticks, I think we'll be trading in our current haste-stacked gear for new crit-stacked gear come Cataclysm.

Tranquility is another matter. As it is now, I use Tranquility to heal my group to full after a wipe, that's about it. It's already been said that Tranquility will now be raid-wide which ups its usefulness significantly. Two Resto druids popping this after a Precious/Stinky Devestate would be quite sick to see. It could also potentially give you some fast, over-time healing that gives you a moment longer to survey the battlefield and figure out who needs to be fixed up next--or to heal while scrounging the mini-map for where the silly hunter died so you can brez. I'd still want to see it in action before I pass judgment, but something so situational and on such a long cooldown probably won't cause me to spend Talents on it.

Keep in mind that the above is from a raiding perspective; PvP and 5-mans are a different story. I DPS while healing quite often in 5-mans because otherwise I would fall asleep at the keyboard. Assuming we ever get to the point that the healer can go AFK for the whole run and everything be alright in a random heroic Cataclysm dungeon, the changes won't be so bad.

As with the Balance tree, however, the PvP side seems to be getting better. Since our heals outside of Tree of Life form in Cataclysm should be in roughly the same ballpark as they are inside of Tree of Life form currently, being a Resto Druid in PvP has become more viable. Sure, we could just heal like crazy and keep ourselves and our allies alive, but having to drop from tree form to cast Cyclone or Entangling Roots is annoying--and don't get me started on the Hurricane bug a few weeks back. I spent most of my time in BGs in caster-form with gimped heals but with more options available to me and without the huge 'kill me!' sign over my head that Tree of Life form is.

All in all, I'm interested in knowing how this will play out.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fried Turkey: Balance Druid Talents in the Cataclysm Alpha.

Note: I'm making some updates as I continue pouring over the talent tree and finding new nuances and typos. I'll flag important ones.

You know how curiosity killed the cat? Well, it's a good thing I'm a tree. I'd read a bunch about the talent information that had been released and I finally lost my willpower. I must say, if these talents are representative of the new place of druids in WoW society, we're becoming the epitome of hybrid-mode.

I'll start working on Resto now that Balance is done, but it won't be posted until later tomorrow morning since Anakha and I have a movie date and I want to have more time at it. From what I've seen so far, the Resto tree is where the hybrid feel is stemming more from at the moment.

Please bear in mind that all of this information is subject to change between now and release!

So, first, a link to the tree of leaked information can be found here. (No pun was intended in the writing of that sentence.)

New Talents

  • Lunar Justice: This could be interesting. Unless Blizzard plans to reduce our mana pools significantly, 2/4/6% of base will not be a huge boost. Nice for PvP, grinding, and no downtime on groups of enemies, sure. Not as useful for boss fights unless they have adds that will actually trigger it. I hope the 'first ally' clause is actually 'first ally who uses mana and is not already at full'; wasted triggers will be annoying. Edit: The bonus is only granted if 'you kill a target'; the BoA trinkets have a similarly-worded proc and only proc if you actually get the killing blow, not if you assisted with the kill. This talent is now leaning more toward 'not impressed'.
  • Solar Beam: This reminds me of the Hammer of Dawn from Gears of War, except without the ability to move it once summoned. How wide is this beam? Is the 'disoriented' effect like Blind? How or will this affect bosses? So far it seems like only a PvP tool to me; nice for that cluster of healers standing just inside the corner of the boss rooms in AV.
  • Starsurge: 2s cast to knock down, so don't expect to use it as an interrupt. You can get a free crit on someone laying down, but does being knocked down count? Especially if they stand back up again immediatly. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Spellstorm damage is mixed Arcane/Nature, similar to a mage's Frostfire. Solar Beam is a pre-req.
  • Fungal Growth: A Magic Mushroom Enhancer that also affects our Treants, could be great for kiting boss-fights if they'll actually be affected. Also nice for running away in PvP or the leveling scene.

Old Stuff that's Really New
  • Lunar Guidance: The old SP-from-Int version is out the window. The new version increases the range of Solar Beam by 2 (from what? 10?) and causes Starsurge to generate some of that new lunar or solar power that Eclipse will be based around. Starsurge is a pre-req.
  • Wrath of Cenarious: This almost should be listed as a new spell, since the old static buffs to Wrath and Starfire are gone and replaced with MOONFIRE SPAM! I won't be the only one doing this in PvP anymore. It's nice that they're trying to give something for us to do without losing DPS on movement fights, but why embrace that stupid old cliche'? Changed from 5 points to 3.
  • Eclipse: Another new incarnation of an old talent, it looks like the Lunar/Solar meters will be innate to all Turkeys, rather than only gained through the Eclipse talent. Without knowing how this new balance-of-power works, it'll be hard to know how good this talent is. The extra-energy-when-critted is interesting; will it apply to your current highest like Lunar Guidance? Sounding like a PvP talent unless bosses are going to have 100-yard 360-degree cleaves--I wouldn't put it past Blizzard.

Old Stuff with New Changes
  • Genesis: Now affects Swiftmend
  • Nature's Majesty: No longer a pre-req for Nature's Grace and Nature's Splendor
  • Improved Moonfire: No longer increases crit chance and no longer affects DoT portion of moonfire
  • Celestial Focus: Moved from Tier 4 to Tier 3 and no longer increases haste
  • Nature's Grace: No longer has Nature's Majesty as a pre-req.
  • Nature's Splendor: Now a 33%/66%/100% chance to increase duration of those spells by 3s, rather than the scaling increases across them per point. Moved from Tier 3 to Tier 4; no longer as Nature's Majesty as a pre-req. Edit: It looks like this is another 'broken' talent; rank 1 is identical to the current version; rank 2 and 3 are the new version listed here. Take that as you will.
  • Brambles: Moved from Tier 2 to Tier 5. Should we assume that Treants, Thorns, and/or Entangling Roots are going to become more commonly used/useful?
  • Vengeance: Moved from Tier 4 to Tier 5.
  • Balance of Power: Spell damage taken has been removed and shifted to its own talent (see the Resto tree). Flat 4% hit and 100% spirit-as-hit-rating? The exponential growth of ratings must be getting out of hand; soon the required hit rating to reach boss-level creatures will be infinity.
  • Moonkin Form: Turkey got nurfed! Lost: Damage reduction while stunned, party critical chance increase, and mana return from criticals. And we still can't cast Rebirth without wasting a GCD. They should make the turkey-Rebirth the party member hatching from an egg in 10 seconds; could make timing fun.
  • Improved Moonkin Form: The 5% crit from the old Turkey form is moved here for 6% over three talent points. No haste, no SP-from-Spirit. Ironically does not require Moonkin Form to take.
  • Owlkin Frenzy: Removes the mana restoration but otherwise it's our familiar feral-turkey. Also does not require Moonkin Form to take, heh.
  • Typhoon: Now a pre-req for Starfall. Edit: Cost increased from 25% base to 32% base.
  • Force of Nature: Now a pre-req for the new Fungal Growth.
  • Earth and Moon: Spell Damage taken reduced from 4%/9%/13% to 2%/4%/6%.
  • Starfall: Base damage nerfed, no longer splashes. It was too good to last. Typhoon is now a pre-req.

Old Stuff that's Gone Missing
  • Insect Swarm: This talent is missing but the spell is still referenced by Nature's Splendor; looks like it'll be going the way of the trainer.
  • Improved Insect Swarm: Also missing.
  • Moonfury: Gone. Too much of a good thing?
  • Improved Faerie Fire: Honestly not missing this one. If you ended up in a run with no shadow priest and two turkeys, someone was going to have to scrounge up more +hit for the fight.

Nothing's Changed... Yet
  • Starlight Wrath
  • Moonglow
  • Nature's Reach
  • Dreamstate
  • Gale Winds

My thoughts? I'm really feeling the PvP vibe here. With the new rated Battlegrounds, that's not as surprising, but if some of these new abilities existed in current content, that's all they would be used for. I have faith in Blizzard and their making use of these abilities in PvE... eventually. The loss of many regen abilities, namely from Owlkin Frenzy and Moonkin Form, will cause more turkeys to hoard that Innervate for themselves rather than giving it to the silly mages. It is of course too early to tell as any and all of these are subject to change, but it certainly will give food for thought.

Friends and Family Alpha: Not-so-secret anymore.

Early this morning one of the main WoW-news websites started posting a massive amount of screenshots and spell data onto their front page. A number of surprised individuals flocked to the official forums to inquire as to whether or not the NDA is still in effect--it is.

What I've gleaned so far is that the Alpha client was leaked on our glorious interwebs and news sites, your neighbor down the street, and that kid over there with his finger up his nose could all download the client for datamining and not be held to the NDA. This is exactly what they did.

The question is, "Whose heads are going to roll?" NDA is still in effect and folks discussing the leaked information on the official forums have had threads locked, deleted, and received swift justice of the ban-hammer (and I do mean swift; threads were being locked a few minutes after posting, which is quick for forums of this size).

The main site posting these leaks is in an interesting position. The main news-feeder received an Alpha invite himself and is under the NDA. However, the data he obtained is from the leaked Alpha client (as can be seen from the lack of people in any of the screenshots). By using the leaked Alpha client as the source for his information, is he clear of the NDA?

My understanding is that, even if he doesn't fall under the purview of the NDA, Blizzard can issue a cease-and-desist order as well as sue for losses. The forums have been debating whether or not Blizzard is likely to pursue this course and many folks are of the opinion that 'no publicity is bad publicity'. However, the site in question has likely received a large influx of visitors (to the point that the server has been taking a huge beating) which means a greater probability of ad-hits and thus revenue. Blizzard has their own ads on their front page, selling t-shirts and those new personalized figurines; how much revenue would they have made if they had been the ones to release the information? Sounds like losses to me.

I'm curious what the devs think about this situation. Are the upset that their work was released prematurely? Are they thrilled that people are seeing their hard work rather than watching it rot in a closet for a few more weeks/months? Are they apathetic as their zombified minds try to crank out the content that isn't finished yet?

I'm going to admit, I peeked. Not at much, but I saw a few screenshots and looked at a few spell links. The stuff is looking good--some if it actually sent chills down my spine.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

AFK for the week.

I'm AFKing from WoW for a week. I can't quite get away from WoW-related things, considering I spent three hours talking WoW with a friend at work yesterday, but I'm not going to be playing the game at all for a week.

Question is, what do you do without WoW for a week? My list of things-to-do so far:

*Iron Man 2 midnight release
Anakha and I haven't seen a midnight release in months because raid doesn't end until midnight. Hopefully the night will be a bit warmer than it has been lately so we can bike there and home.

*Eat at Screen Door
Some of the closest I can get to Southern cooking. They're a little more fancy than Bojangles and they also dip a little into the spicy side of Creole fare, but their mac 'n' cheese is to die for as are their collard greens. Top off dinner with a Mint Julep, mmm... The little place is constantly packed so we'll probably go tomorrow night or maybe Thursday before our movie.

*Clean the house
I've got stacks of D&D books thrown everywhere, Legos all over the floor thanks to Minco, and the kitchen stove could really use a scrubbing. This will probably continue to be procrastinated, but it really needs to be done.

*Moar Games!
I've got a huge stack of them that I've started and haven't finished. Time to get working on them:
-Final Fantasy XIII
-Final Fantasy Tactics (18th or so play-through)
-Final Fantasy X
-Final Fantasy VIII (speed-mode planning)
-Dragon Age: Origins
-Neverwinter Nights 2
-The Sims 2 (alright, you can't beat it, but I haven't touched it in months)
-Fallout III (beaten once at level 8; playing with DLC and trying to do *everything*)

*Plan my Eberron campaign
I worked on this off-and-on for a few months and then set it down about a year ago. We had a normal Friday night D&D group but after a TPK when the party split (it's dangerous, I tell ya!) folks seemed to lose interest and I started hanging around on WoW on Fridays hoping to get into a 10-man ICC. Time to get my D&D groove back on and get this going again. My campaign-in-progress can be found here.

*Catch up on the blog
I need to finish writing up the second part of my Boosting guide and I have an interesting server-wide event I've been planning that will be announced here and on the Nessingwary realm forum at about the same time.

Any ideas for other things I should do? Aside from jump Anakha hourly, of course. ^_~

Monday, May 3, 2010

Follow-Up: Children's Week = Profit.

I spent a few days farming eggs and buying out every Mageroyal and Small Egg on the AH. I'd been discussing this whole plan with a guildmate who ran off to the Silvermoon sweet spot and farmed over 200 eggs in under an hour and spent the days following farming Mageroyal.

Total I had 21 cakes ready to sell on Sunday morning and I posted 10 of them at 100g each at roughly 00:45 before going AFK to play Final Fantasy XIII for a few hours. Returning at 07:00, only one cake had sold, much to my chagrin. Seems I missed the huge undercutting war that broke out but I was now the only one with cakes on the AH and they began to steadily sell with six more flying off the shelf in the span of thirty minutes. Wanting to see what the market was willing to pay, I canceled all of and relisted half of my cakes at 200g each; only three sold during a one-hour span before the undercutting began anew. I also began listing Mageroyal in stacks of 3 for 50g.

My cakes were undercut at 75g but I was certain that no one had a supply of hundreds of cakes, I canceled and reposted at 100g each and took a nap. On returning, all of the cakes had sold and prices were back up so I listed more at 100g each before being undercut again. My guildmate and I agreed to whitelist each other unless the competition started getting nasty on undercuts and the market bombed.

I did not realize that the Lovely Cakes had a thirty-minute cooldown or I'd have started this two days ago, but the profit from these were quite nice. The cake from a vendor cost me 14g40s (Exalted rep) and makes five slices. I turned around and sold each slice for 10g, making about 33g profit from each whole cake after AH fees. A few others caught on but the slices sold rather consistently all day.

I did not bother with the Tasty Cupcake or other markets. My guildmate had success selling the spices and flour in proper stack-sizes for crafting. By yesterday afternoon we had each made over 2000g with more potential on the horizon.

Sunday would have been the big rush day for this as the achievement is one of the easiest to obtain and a large population of people are online then. Monday (today) should be fairly steady in demand as those who don't play on Sunday log in and with a general lack of Monday raids folks have nothing better to do. Tuesday through probably Thursday the demand will be lessened as most folks will have completed the achievement already, but those PvPing on the AH will also be lessened as many will be raiding. Friday may see an increase among the 9-to-5 crowd and folks working on alts, while Saturday will see the last-ditch rush of folks trying to complete before the event is over. Saturday will be hit-or-miss, depending on how many people still have stock; if everyone still has plenty, prices will plummet as everyone tries to ditch, but if most of the contenders are sold out, the person with the last small supply could pull in a large amount of gold from the desperate.