Thursday, September 20, 2007

I live.

Barely. Will be back with more content soon.

*rails against hectic schedules*

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On Shinies!

All right, continuing our quest for better gear, let's look at gems.

Now, most people usually start thinking of gems by color first. I want to avoid that. Our first and primary concern should be what stats they give us. Only then should we look at the color of the slots we have available and the socket bonus. If the socket bonus is something we don't particularly care for, it's probably better to ignore it if the requirements would make us sacrifice other stats.

So, first, I'm going to look at meta gems. Then we'll tackle each of our desired characteristics: spell hit, spell damage, int, and spell crit. Obviously, there will be some overlap. Also, I'm pretty much going to ignore green gems - these will all be blue quality or higher. I'm also ignoring the purple gems from Black Temple because, well, if you're in BT you don't need my advice!

Meta Gems:

One of the things we face is that there is no Balance gear with a meta gem slot until Tier 4. So drool over these a bit, but don't plan a build around them. :) There are a few choices here, so let's start with the easily craftable ones:

Insightful Earthstorm Diamond - +12 Intellect, chance on spellcast to restore mana
This is one of my favorites. Specifically, the "chance" is a 2% chance to restore 300 mana. Now obviously, this is going to proc a lot more if you're casting spells more frequently. Math wise, it breaks down as follows:

1 cast every 5 seconds: 6 mana/5
1 cast every 3 seconds: 10 mana/5
1 cast every 2 seconds: 15 mana/5
1 cast every 1.5 seconds: 20 mana/5

Now obviously, you're going to get a lot more mana back with faster spells like wrath, etc. But if you figure that even with your standard starfire/insect swarm cycle you'd be getting somewhere between 10 and 15 mana/5, that's some great aid in mana regen.

Destructive Skyfire Diamond - +14 Spell Crit, 1% Spell Reflect
This isn't bad, but spell crit is the least PvE desirable, overall, of our four key stats. The spell reflect might be occasionally useful, but I doubt it would ever be more than a lucky break.

Mystical Skyfire Diamond - 5% chance on cast that next spell will be cast in half time.
This is a decent gem. Overall, it translates into about a 2.5% dps increase. The only catch is that you have to make sure you don't try to cast Wrath instead of Starfire, or the global cooldown will end up eating any benefit you might've gained. Overall, I'd say this is a better gem for mages, but it's OK for us.

Here are some meta gems that aren't crafted:

Swift Starfire Diamond - +12 Spell Damage and minor run speed increase.
This one comes from your faction base in Terrokar, in exchange for spirit shards from Auchindoun. It's okay - really more of a PvP gem, but it's easy to acquire and is certainly better than nothing in the meta slot.

Imbued Unstable Diamond - +14 Spell Damage and 5% stun resist.
Again, not a bad gem, but a bit more of a PvP oriented one. Plus, this one is apparently a real pain to get - you need a group to complete a large portion of the Assault on Bash'ir quest in Blade's Edge. This from all reports requires pretty much a raid group of people, and good coordination. Nasty.

Anyway, those are the meta gems. Now let's look at the others by category:

Spell Hit:

This is one of our tougher stats to acquire. Gems can make a valuable addition to boost it without compromising on other gear.

Great Dawnstone - +8 Spell Hit
This is your meat & potatoes craftable "give me spell hit!" gem. It's nice, but most of the time you'll get better benefits from multiple multicolor gems.

Veiled Noble Topaz - +4 Spell Hit, +5 Spell Damage
I like this gem. It's craftable and thus readily available, it has both spell hit and spell damage. It is your friend. :)

Shining Fire Opal - +5 Spell Hit, +6 Spell Damage
This drops from bosses in heroic Mechanar. I love this gem. The only thing that makes me cry is that it is unique-equipped. *sigh*

Lambent Chrysoprase - +5 Spell Hit, +2 mana/5
A decent mix here, adds a bit of casting endurance to your spell hit. This drops in heroic Underbog.

Vivid Chrysoprase - +5 Spell Hit, +6 Stamina
Another pretty nice gem, especially because it can be used to add more casting power to blue sockets, which generally are harder to find PvE offensive casting stats for (except arguably mana/5). Stamina, as always, helps with survivability.

Spell Damage:

Veiled Noble Topaz - +4 Spell Hit, +5 Spell Damage
Shining Fire Opal - +5 Spell Hit, +6 Spell Damage
Both these were mentioned above, and are great choices.

Runed Living Ruby - +9 Spell Damage
Your standard pure Spell Damage cut. Not bad.

Runed Ornate Ruby - +12 Spell Damage
This costs about 7000 honor, so you could get this in a good AV weekend if you dedicate the weekend to it. Nice solid boost in one slot, great gem. Too bad it's unique-equipped.

Glowing Nightseye - +5 Spell Damage, +6 Stamina
This is a decent bread-and-butter gem for blue slots. Survivability and damage, lots of fun.

Fluorescent Tanzanite - +6 Spell Damage, +4 Spirit
Spirit doesn't give us as much of a useful mana regen boost as intellect, normally. This isn't bad, but I wouldn't make it my first choice.

Glowing Tanzanite & Infused Amethyst - +6 Spell Damage, +6 Stamina
Both of these are useful as well, giving you a good amount of spell damage in addition to the survivability of the stamina. The Tanzanite is a quest reward for killing Nightbane in Karazhan, the Amethyst is from heroic Black Morass.

Infused Fire Opal - +6 Spell Damage, +4 Intellect
Another beautiful gem. This one comes from heroic Steamvaults.

Mysterious Fire Opal - +6 Spell Damage, +5 Spell penetration
As I discussed before, spell penetration is all but useless in PvE. This would be very nice for PvP. You can get this in heroic Botanica.

Potent Fire Opal - +6 Spell Damage, +4 Spell Crit
Pretty decent gem. Drops in heroic Auchenai Crypts.

Potent Ornate Topaz - +5 Spell Crit, +6 Spell Damage
Another honor-bought gem, this one costs 8,500 honor.

Phew! Okay, ran out of time today, Int & Spell crit gems coming tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

On supplementals

So, this week's edition will be on the supplemental stuff you need to eke the most out of your gear, namely Enchants and Gems.

Let's start taking a look at enchants first, by category.


Head - Yes, I'm starting with the head enchants that are available. Yes, I know they're not strictly "enchants" in the sense that an enchanter does them. Sue me. :P Anyway, to my mind, there is nothing that comes even close to the Glyph of Power from the Shat'ar vendor. You'll need revered to get it, but that shouldn't be too much. If you're looking for something a bit more hybridy and you like to mix it up with some feral action sometimes, the Glyph of the Outcast from Lower City isn't bad, but hey, this is a boomkin blog!

Legs - Again, not strictly an enchant, but Mystic Spellthread and Runic Spellthread are the obvious choices for a balance druid. I personally waited until I had some purple legs to splurge on the Runic Spellthread, but that's just me. The mats aren't bad at all for either one, except for the nether - that'll probably cost you 100-150g from the crafter, if you're not a tailor yourself.

Chest - Chest enchants suck. Face it. What sucks even more is the +150 mana to chest that was in Beta never made it through to BC. So what are your choices? I'd go with either the +100 mana or the +6 to all stats. I personally choose the latter, as 6 int gives 90 mana anyway, in addition to all the other int bonuses balance druids get, and the +6 to other stats is nice to have.

Gloves - Now we get into some interesting choices. There are three main contenders here: Blasting (+10 Spell Crit), Major Spellpower (+20 Spell Damage), and Spell Strike (+15 Spell Hit). If you're going to PvE, I think that blasting is something of a waste - what balance gear there is provides plenty of spell crit and very little spell hit. If you're low on spell hit, take Spell Strike. If you're doing okay with your spell hit (say, at least 50-60 points plus your Balance of
Power talent), major spellpower might be a better long-term DPS investment. If you've got a bunch of spell hit (100 or more, plus the talent), then spellpower is definately going to be the way to go.

Boots - There's not a lot of caster options for boot enchants. Vitality (+4 health & mana/5 sec) can give you a bit of a boost with mana/5, but I personally just go with Fortitude (+12 Sta). Remember that as you progress, survivability becomes a lot more imporant. It seems that ~8000hp absolute minimum is the magic number, at least through the beginning 25 man raids. To be safe, I'd aim a bit higher. And believe me, nothing beats being able to laugh at Aran as he fires his arcane missiles at you, and even if you don't resist at all, living and healing yourself. :)

Cloak - There are two readily available enchants that will probably catch your eye: Spell Penetration and Major Resistance. Spell Penetration looks great at first...until you do the math. If you are doing PvE, spell penetration is all but useless. Really. There are only a very few mobs that have resistance that can be reduced by spell penetration - a couple in MC, and the Arcane Watchmen in Karazhan. Those are the only ones I've seen pointed out specifically. And it helps with no bosses, which is huge. So it looks like you're stuck with Major Resistance, which is nice, but somewhat expensive. But wait! Come next patch, Subtlety will be commonly available, which I think is an incredible option for us.

Shoulder - Your shoulder enchants should be pretty obvious, depending on whether you're Scryer or Aldor. Inscription of Discipline and the Greater version of it are from the Aldor, Inscription of the Orb and the Greater version from the Scryer. I personally like the Aldor ones a bit more for PvE, but that's just my preference to spell damage rather than crit.

Bracers - There are 3 enchants that I find particularly appropriate for balance druids: Spellpower, Major Intellect, and Restore Mana Prime. I leand toward Spellpower if you've got a set of bracers that are going to last you a while, but Major intellect has the advantage of being really cheap, so if you're stuck with something you think won't last you too long, go for that. Restore Mana Prime gives 6mana/5, which is a decent amount and could help if you're having trouble with mana conservation.

Rings - If you're lucky enough to be an enchanter, you can get ring enchants from various factions. From the Keepers of Time, you can get a Spellpower enchant to add +12 spell damage to your rings. Best of all, you only need Honored with the keepers of time (I don't think you can manage to get Kara attuned without at LEAST getting honored, if not revered). And the mats are fairly cheap - two large prismatics, two greater planars.

Weapon - And finally, the big one. I see three main choices at this point: Major Spellpower, Major Intellect, and Spellsurge. The first two are a tossup - if you find yourself running out of mana a lot, intellect isn't a bad way to go, and 30 intellect also means extra spell damage, crit, and mana regen. If you're doing fine in the mana department, then go with Spellpower. Spellsurge is an interesting enchant - it seems that with just you alone, it means on average about 8-10 mana/5 to your group. The interesting thing is that it stacks if multiple people in your group have it. I've seen an analysis of a healer, a shadow priest, and 3 other casters all in a group, all with Spellsurge. The mana regen was disgusting. Also, I've seen people advocate trying Sunfire, since if you're doing a Starfire spell rotation the arcane damage applies. I personally don't like this - I don't feel the extra 10 spell damage on moonfire and starfire makes up for losing 40 damage on insect swarm, wrath, and most importantly, losing 40 healing as well.

Anyhow, I'm going to sum it up there for now, next post will be coming today or tomorrow with gems!