Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Antisocial Behavoir (PVP)

PVP is an entirely different boat than PvE. To be perfectly honest, I'm better at it in theory than I am in practice - but that being said, I'm not bad. So here's what I do know - I'm sure others know much more. This is going to be mostly a smattering of random tidbits I've picked up through experience and conversations with other druids.

As a Balance druid, you have the advantage of your DPS capabilities boosting your healing abilities. Unfortunately, you have the disadvantage of limited crowd control and no reliable spell interrupts.

The first thing to look at is what stats you need for successful PvP. Your focus is going to shift toward spell crit, stamina, and resilience. Spell damage is still very important. Intellect remains important but is shifted back a bit - most PVP battles will be over before you have a chance to exhaust a large mana pool. Basically, the name of the game is to put out enough burst damage to kill the opponent while having enough survivability to withstand his attacks while doing so.

Most of the time in PvP, you are not going to want to be in Moonkin form. True, it gives you 5% crit. But it completely takes away your ability to heal. I know that if I get a good crit heal in, I can heal myself to full. This means that you're in essence sacrificing 5% crit for the ability to double or triple your available health. Healing in PvP > 5% crit.

Surprise is huge. Even a couple seconds of being able to do something to the enemy without retaliation is an immense advantage. One "trick" that I find successful is to start of in cat form, stealthed. This allows you to approach the enemy, find a nice position, and open up when they aren't expecting it. My 2v2 arena team is called "Spanish Inquisition" for just this reason - 2 rogues, 2 druids. As in "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" The added bonus is that when people are watching out for stealthed opponents, they usually don't expect that opponent to be using ranged attacks. After dropping 200 points and figuring out what the hell we were doing, we've climbed back up to about 1500 and are winning more often than we lose.

If running away is an option, that is one of the druid's strengths. If you're taking a beating, cyclone/root and travel form away. Heal up and re-engage.

Other opponents:

Warriors - Root is your friend here. A rooted warrior can't do much. Just watch out for diminishing returns, kite in cheetah form if needed to let those wear off, and take him down from a distance. Watch out for charges & intimidating shout.

Rogues - Probably the class that I find the most annoying. In my opinion, Cloak of Shadows is overpowered with the 1 minute cooldown. That being said, if you get caught by a rogue with a cheap shot/stunlock, immediately barkskin. Then just target them and spam cyclone. Hopefully you'll survive and get it off, at which point Healing Touch + Lifebloom. Wait a half second or so and start casting roots so it lands as soon as the cyclone wears off. Back of and toss a faerie fire on him, and start DPSing from there, but be ready with your trees. As soon as he goes to Cloak of Shadows/Vanish, throw your trees up just behind where he was standing, so that they run toward you and through where he was. With any luck, they'll end up running straight through him, breaking his stealth. With vanish on cooldown, you can hopefully finish him off.

Warlocks - The initial consideration when fighting a warlock is his pet. You are generally going to see one of 3 in PvP - Succubus, Felhound, or Felguard. Either the warlock or one of the pets should be an immediate target for your roots. If the Succubus or Felhound, root the warlock - Fear only has a 20 yard range - and nuke the pet quickly. If a Felguard, then it is a Demonology lock, and you should root the pet. Immediately drop trees on the warlock, and take a second to decurse yourself if the warlock got a shot or two off. Toss a HoT up and start nuking. If the warlock gets off a drain life, cheetah and get out of the range (30-40 yards depending on spec). If you can manage to deal with the pet and stay out of fear range, you should be able to take out the lock.

Hunters - I almost always like to start by hibernating the pet. If the hunter immediately Bestial Wraths out of it, at least I made him use it early, know he's BM, and I can go cheetah and avoid as much damage as possible while BM is up. Apart from that, use instant cast HoTs to keep your health up while DPSing. If you can abuse line of sight - drop MF/IS/Trees on the hunter then run behind something - that can help a lot. Rooting the hunter can help keep him in a suitable position for a few seconds.

Priests - Holy Priests are squishy, and shouldn't be too much trouble. They may take time to kill though, because of uber healing. On the other hand, your HoTs can probably outheal their damage output. Shadow priests are like mini-warlocks. Avoid letting them heal themselves by hurting you. Trees help, and can make them at least waste their fear. Silence is the only real trick they have up their sleeve, so be prepared to cheetah-kite if you get silenced. Discipline priests are similar to holy priests, except harder to kill. Be prepared for a drawn-out fight.

Mages - Polymorph isn't a huge deal for a druid. Watch out for counterspell on heals - insta-cast heals are best. If you can, use DoTs and LOS to wear them down, by damaging them while they can't do the same to you. Apart from that, not a whole lot to worry about.

Shamans - Elemental Shamans are pretty much in the same boat you are. If possible, draw them away from their totems. They have earth shock to interrupt casting, so watch out for that. Enhancement shamans can be dealt with much like a warrior, just still be aware they can still toss a few ranged things at you and heal themselves some if need be. Resto shamans are just a royal pain to kill, but you should be able to outheal their damage as well. For all shamans, watch out for grounding totem - not a lot you can do about it, just be aware it can be there and take it into consideration.

Druids - Other balance druids are your mirror. There's really not a lot complicated in a fight between us, it's just a bunch of smacking and trying to outposition the other person. Resto druids are much like Resto shamans - you can heal through their damage, and they can heal through yours. Annoying. Feral druids you have a bit of an advantage over - both hibernate and roots work on them. Granted, they can shift out of roots, but that's 2 full seconds and a hunk of mana for them.

Paladins - The bubble is the single most annoying ability in PVP ever. 10 seconds of pure immunity in a fight is just a pain. If they're a healer, there's not much you can do to stop them from using this. If they're a fighter and they're coming after you with the bubble on, cheetah-kite them away until it wears off. Apart from that, Paladins are tactically similar to warriors, so the same considerations apply. You just can't give them as much breathing room, because they can heal themselves as well.

Finally, remember your setting. If you're doing battlegrounds, the object is not to kill the other team. It is to accomplish the objective of the battleground. Don't engage in needless fights. I've helped win AVs by running up to the horde around Stormpike, moonfiring a couple healers, and running away. Do it a few times and 8-10 horde peel off to try to kill you. Evade them, tapping them with a moonfire now and again, and you effectively cut the enemy's forces by that much for however long you can occupy them.

In arena, you absolutely have to kill the other team. Talk to your team, figure out kill orders, tactic, etc. I honestly doubt you can be an effective arena team without voice communication of some sort - use it.

I think that's it. Not very neat or pretty, but PvP isn't typically my game. Still, it's fun now and again. :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On Tankadins (an Alliterative Aggro Addendum)

Okay, since a couple people pointed out the lack of Tankadins in the previous post, let me address them.

They are exactly the opposite of what I said before.

Tankadins start with full mana, like you. Unlike you, they don't have a huge honkin' pool of blue to burn through. They do, however, have abilities that let them regain mana - by being healed, hit, and hitting back. That being said, Pally tanks can have Oom issues. And that's where the fun begins. And by fun, I mean mobs flying everywhere and wiping you.

A pally tank has a much more difficult balancing act than a bear or warrior tank. Bears probably have it easiest - armor, stam, dodge. Strength/AP to do more damage and thus more aggro. That's about it. Warriors have to incorporate block/parry into that, but are otherwise much the same. A pally tank has to balance everything a warrior does, plus int, spell damage, and mana/5. That's a TON of stats to be concerned about. And thus, it means there can be a few different things that you need to be concerned about.

If the pally is well balanced, you should be fine except possibly in long fights. Once you're partway through a long fight, make sure you start paying attention not just to the amount of threat on the pally tank, but the RATE of threat. If that drops sharply, your tank is OOM, and you should be ready to back off. If you can, toss a HoT or two on the tank - this will save your healers some mana, but it will also provide a steady stream of mana back to the tank, which is in general more valuable than a large chunk at irregular intervals. Of course, if a fellow druid is healing the tank, he's probably got this going on already. :D In a worst case scenario, you could innervate, but Paladins are one of the classes which benefit least from this, and hopefully your tank has done his job and balanced his equipment, making this unneeded.

Paladins also generate a lot of their aggro by BEING hit. So, if your paladin tank is having aggro issues but is taking the hits fine, skip insect swarm. More hits = more aggro for the pally.

Also, AOE tanking is where the Paladin's ultimate strength lies. They completely outstrip warriors and druids for holding AOE aggro. This is especially good for healing them while they tank two or three or nineteen mobs. For fun, a Pally friend who was a Tankadin at the time and I cleared the entire lower platform of blood elves on the south platform of Black Temple (after we killed the elite). It was great fun.

Apart from that, the rest of the advice still applies - early on, be conservative, although the tank will probably be generating enough aggro so that you can go a lot quicker at first. Later on, ride the 110%-120% line. And again, to reiterate, talk to your tank! Paladin tanks are perhaps the most complex tanks in the game, but they definitely hold their own.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Aggro

The enemy of the Balance druid. Aggro. Granted, in moonkin you can handle it a little better than squishy clothies - but face it, once you start raiding, anything other than trash mobs will likely two-shot you if you're doing anything resembling good DPS. And even some of those trash mobs will destroy you (Phantom Valet in Karazhan, anyone?)

Hopefully this is at least basically understood by everyone, but I'll go through the more specific details. Maybe you'll pick up something helpful.

The math of aggro is fairly simple. Whoever has the highest threat to the mob is the one the mob will attack (to an extent, see below). That is the person who has aggro.

Threat comes from a few different places. Damage is the most obvious - each point of damage you do to a mob will generate 1 threat on that mob. Healing generates .5 threat per point of actual healing done to ALL mobs in the fight. Special abilities generate a variable amount of threat. And of course, tankish classes tend to have things that increase their threat, while stabby/boomy/healy classes tend to have options that reduce it.

Now, once someone has gained the initial aggro - i.e., the pull has been made - the tank should be getting beat on. What you have to realize is that to pull aggro at range, you need to go 30% threat OVER the person who currently holds it. For the record, melee needs to go 10% over to pull aggro.

So, we know all the mathematical ways to reduce threat - Subtlety, the newly available subtlety to cloak enchant, and to do less damage. What I want to look at here is behavior.

Let's take a simple situation. The tank pulls a single mob. Let's say he generates about 2k threat in the first couple seconds. Meanwhile you're charging your starfire, and you drop a 4k-5k crit on the guy. Congratulations, you lose.

The basic thing to realize is that for tanks, threat generation is back-loaded. They need rage to do their thing. In order to get rage, they either need to hit the mob or get hit by the mob. So they start slowly, building up rage, then as they start doing more damage and taking some more hits, their threat generation takes off. You, on the other hand, are front-loaded. You start off with your full reserves and full potential to cause damage, until you go OOM and are then pretty much dead weight. So, what you need to do is build up slowly, and then go all out.

Here's one important thing to realize - as the fight progresses, you can take more and more advantage of that 30% buffer. Take the following examples with completely made up numbers:

20 seconds into the fight:
Tank threat - 15k
Your threat - 14k
Your threat = 93%

2 minutes into the fight:
Tank threat - 100k
Your threat - 93k
Your threat = 93%

For the sake of argument, let's say your damage is about the following:
Wrath - 1200/2400 Crit
Starfire - 2300/4600 Crit

Now, in both of these examples, you are at 93% threat. You probably have at least insect swarm going generating a constant moderate feed of threat. Do you push out the damage or do you hold back a little?

In example 1, you should hold back a little. Why? This early in the fight, a lucky crit or two will add enough threat to push you through that 30% buffer. In example 2, you can go balls-to-the-wall DPS for a bit. The tank is already at 100k, and you would need to generate 37k threat to overtake him, even if he stopped doing anything and just stood there. When it's later into the fight like this, push the envelope. Try to ride around 110%-120% threat if you can manage it without being inefficient and going OOM.

Generally, the start of a fight is a good time to do a couple things. First off, once the tank has aggro, and as long as he did not body pull, it's probably safe to toss faerie fire on the mob as it's running over to the tank. This will lower the mob's armor, which will help the tank's hits do more damage. That means a bit more threat generated early, and every little bit helps. Even better if you have improved faerie fire.

Once the tank has been beating on the mob for a couple seconds - a good rule of thumb is when you see a sunder/lacerate on the mob if the tank is a warrior/druid - toss up your insect swarm. The miss chance will help mitigate early damage a bit, which means slightly less healing. This helps your healers not pull aggro. If that is an issue, you may want to toss a lifebloom or two on the tank - this spreads the healing aggro around so no one healer passes the tank, plus if you let the spell bloom, all that healing aggro gets put on the tank.

Honestly, after I've put up faerie fire and insect swarm, I tend to wait a good two or three seconds before starting my starfire rotation. Your mileage may vary depending on your tank and the exact situation - sometimes I can jump right in, sometimes I have to wait longer. Keep in mind that if the tank has multiple mobs to handle, he won't be generating threat on a single one as fast, since he's probably going to have to toss a couple hits on the other mobs to keep them from going after the healers.

Oh, and one more thing - trees. If there's no place in a fight that you need to save your cooldowns for, toss your trees up ASAP. They hold their own threat list, so if worst comes to worst, they'll just pull aggro and get smacked. Chances are, they'll get to do their thing, and that's another good hunk of damage thrown in at the beginning without having to worry about it adding to your threat.

If you find yourself having issues with aggro, talk with your tank. See if there's something you're doing that is specifically making it hard for him to hold aggro. See if there's something he might be able to do to hold it better. People talk about the tank/healer dynamic all the time. The tank/DPS dynamic should be just as important, especially in fights that come down to a DPS race. And believe me, if you're asking your tank how to make sure he keeps aggro, he's going to love you. The fact that you're asking alone is going to put you above 90% of the DPS out there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

From the Peanut Gallery

So, this comes to us courtesy of Jerome:

"I am wearing my (bad) healing gear at the moment and am specced resto as of a couple days ago. I was a restoration druid up until level 50 and then I tried out balance (the inability to solo much of anything with a fully specced resto really became evident around that time). I levelled to 70 as a balance druid, and did not have much trouble finding groups (and Setthek Halls is a favorite instance of mine due to the fact that we do actually have some CC on the birds!)

"I've returned to the game after a few months away, and I am wanting to raid end game and get the tier armors (eventually tier 6, which is natural for everyone to want seeing as it is the last tier armor available at the I absolutely adore how it looks!) I had got in touch with a guild leader on this server and s/he explicitly stated that "Balance sux. What is your +healing?" I told him how low it was, and I got no response until I said "How about I get some better gear and let you know" and he said "ok".

"ANYWAY, My question is this: Should I go resto and be a healbot until I'm able to get tier 6 balance armor (at which point I will go back to balance, naturally)? Or do you think it takes longer for a balance Druid to get each of the tier armors because no one wants one to come?
The reason this bugs me is because a few things have gained my attention. Firstly, a new patch is coming with ZulAman (I have no clue when) and I remember someone mentioning that there will be a BUNCH of Balance gear available in the instance (as well as being outdoors like ZF, so we would actually have some CC). Should I be relying on that? Or would it just be a quicker path to the tier 6 Thunderheart if I restoed for my tiers 4 & 5?

Thanks a million, not sure what to do in game until I get some advice from you guys! (although I *hate* not being able to solo anything..even in my damage gear.. with the resto spec)."

I think you've got a couple options here, Jerome, but let me say this first:

Do you enjoy healing? If you do, and you don't mind seeing new content in that role, then so be it. I love my resto druid friends, and I honestly don't mind taking a walk on the tree side now and then if need be. So if you're comfortable joining this guild as a resto, by all means do so. But keep in mind that if you join a guild with that attitude, 9 times out of 10 they're going to get pissed when you say you want to try Balance for a while. Frankly, chances are that as soon as you get your first piece of T6, if you DON'T turn it in for the resto version and get the balance one instead, you'll get kicked. And where are you then? Geared up for Black Temple as a healer, and looking for a new guild, probably having to repeat some content to get back in. And possibly facing the same issue.

So, your options:

1) Cave in and go Resto. (Self-explanatory)

2) Stick to your guns and go Balance, and try to find a guild that will take you. Try this approach - find a guild that is normally running with 3 healers in Karazhan. Say "Take me in as a Balance druid instead of your third healer. As long as your two main healers are decently geared and competent, I will off heal as needed and still bring DPS to the raid. Give it a run or two, and if you don't like it, that's fine." Make sure you have the gear to back up your claim. Mention Zul'Aman - let them know that it's going to be outdoor and roots and hibernate are supposed to be two of the main forms of crowd control. Plus, they'll have Moonkin gear in there, among other things, and if there are drops specifically itemized for you, that means they don't have to worry about you always bidding on cloth.

3) Try a Dreamstate healing Balance/Resto spec. It basically takes the mana regen of Dreamstate and the bonus healing of Lunar Guidance and adds it to a resto build. Look here for an example that relies on Healing Touch. You must downrank effectively for this build to be efficient, but if you can learn that, it can be great. And since it has a 34 points in Balance, it can still be quite viable for soloing.

4) Do what I did and create your
own guild - but that's a whole different can of worms, and probably ended up being a heck of a lot more effort than if I'd done one of the other routes. :) And honestly, it was dicey at points. I'm still surprised sometimes that we've gotten as far as we have.

Okay guys...

My schedule is finally under control. I apologize for the huge amount of downtime, I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't happen again.

At the moment, I'm starting to work on some math comparing Int to MP5/Damage/hit/Crit. This is probably going to take me a few days, as the recursive stuff makes it interesting. In the meantime, if you have any questions in general that won't require a ton of math, let me know!