Mists of Grindaria

November 25, 2012

I’m drowning in content.  So much so that I have had more than one moment of reflection where I considered deleting my characters, cancelling my account, and smashing my authenticator.

In the last two expansions for World of Warcraft I have not had major trouble finishing the pre-raid grind.  For Mists, however, Blizzard decided to slow down the rate at which some elements, notably faction reputation and the cooking skill, of the pre-raid grind can be finished.  Other elements, such as 5 man instance gear and standard professions (Blacksmithing, Alchemy etc), were trivialised (it takes about three hours to gather the materials to maxamise a profession).  For a progression raider, it feels like you have to finish the reputation grinds in order to gain the raid quality rewards that they drop.  But then you find four hours a night, every night, for months, as you slowly finish off the reputations.

When Blizzard announced that in patch 5.1 they were doubling the rate of reputation gains once you hit Revered status, I immediately stopped doing all non-enjoyable dailies.  That pretty much left just some of the August Celestial daily hubs, and the Tillers.  Even then that is two hours of my life every night.  Its hard to find time to do anything other than World of Warcraft, and although I find the game fun, I do actually want to do other things with my life.

So far the grind has cost my raid group two members, as they have found they simply don’t have time to play the game at the level they would like to play it.

Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms are a new currency for Mists.  Complete  a daily and you get a Lesser Lucky Charm.  Get 90 Lesser Charms and you can, once per week, get three Lucky Charms from a quest-giver in your faction city in the Valley of Eternal Blossoms.  These charms can be used for a chance at a bonus loot item (or bag of gold) each time you kill a Boss in LFR or a Raid.  Extra loot is cool, but the chance is low, so its often frustrating to use a charm and get just a bag of gold.  The charms take note of your spec when selecting what bonus loot you might gain, so f you want tank gear, you have to go tank the fight.

Charms have a cap of 10.  One thing I see happening prior to future content patches, is that raiders will have a choice between using charms now for upgrades, or stockpiling to ten for the new content.  I prefer stockpiling.  In a new tier of content, your first few upgrades are usually going to be the most important in terms of survivability and throughput increase.

Charms are democratic, in that any raider can acquire them.  They are not, however, transparent.  No one can force you to grind out the charms, and no one can require you to use them.  Well, they could ask, but short of requiring you to video all your fights, they have no way of proving whether you used a charm or not.

Remember the grind?  Well, a raider will be doing 13+ dailies every day, forever, in order to make sure they always get their three bonus rolls each week.

Here are some basic strategies for using charms:

  • if you can only kill three bosses a week, use your charms on those fights
  • if you kill a boss for the first time, use a charm, as this is when you are least likely to get a duplicate of an item you already have
  • if the boss drops a weapon upgrade, use a charm because weapons are always the biggest throughput increase for damage/healing
  • as the tier progresses, you will have gear gaps, so use the charms for an extra chance on the boss that has been holding out on the item you want
  • for a new tier, save ten charms, spend three charms, hand in the weekly quest … now you can spend a total of 13 charms in the first week of raiding.

Lucky Charms favour pure DPS classes.  Its always easier to gear up with only one spec, but a pure DPS class gets three charms for one spec, while the hybrid gets three charms for 2+ types of gear.  Nothing new about that scenario.

Valor Points – The Reputation Grind That Never Ends

In Patch 5.1 people will be able to spend 750 Valor Points to upgrade an items iLevel by +4, purchasable twice for a maximum of +8.  While I would like the cost to be cheaper, that would undermine the value of the VP gear from vendors (which cost 1250-2250 VP for what is usually a +26 ilevel boost over 5 man gear) to the point where no one would want to waste VP on it.

This means that Raiders will feel obliged to grind 1,000 VP every week, forever.  The chances of a character not having an item that could be worth upgrading are vanishingly small.  While the grind will get easier over time, right now that is a commitment of 10+ hours a week.  While you can make a judgement call, that for you as a player that is asking too much, if everyone in your raid group makes the same choice, then your progression is going to be slower than it is in guilds where people do make that commitment.  AT least with faction reputation grinds, the grind does end.  Once you are exalted, that is all you need, especially now that most titles and mounts are shared across characters.

Most characters have 17-18 items that could be upgraded, each requiring 1500 VP.  That will cost 27,000 VP for one gear set, 54,000 VP for a hybrid.  Even if there is a year long gap between content tiers, I don’t actually imagine anyone will finish fully upgrading multiple gear sets.

While I will enjoy making my gear better, I’m not going to like the obligation to cap my VP each week.  I used to enjoy the lulls between raid patches, where I had time to explore old content, level alts, or go do other stuff with my life.  Now I’m going to be struggling on Tuesday nights to muster the enthusiasm to grind out the last couple of hundred VP for the week.

My strategy for VP upgrades is similar to Lucky Charms:

  • first upgrade is for BIS gear (like my 509 boots)
  • next priority upgrade is a Sha Touched weapon, could be a while before I get one of those
  • trinkets are upgraded next
  • tier gear is upgraded after that

While charms help mitigate bad luck with gear, VP upgrades will help too if you get unlucky with raid drops.  If I had not purchased the Ward of the Red Widow shield on the AH, I would have used a crafted 359 shield all the way into Dragon Soul.  Even there I was using the LFR shield until Mists was released.

Current Progression

4/6 MV 10, yet to enter any other raid instance.  Elegon is a progression block for us right now, the fight hinges too much on execution for us to power through.  I’m not enjoying it at all as a tank, its okay as a healer, just completely and utterly unforgiving of errors.  If we don’t actually get the fight down soon, there is going to be trouble, in that neither Elegon nor the Will of the Emperor encounter have useful gear for some squishy DPS characters, and they will want to move on to Heart of Fear for its tier gear and weapon drops.  I can’t say I blame them either.  Wiping on normal mode content when you think you could be getting upgrades elsewhere is a demoralising feeling.

Legendaries for almost Everyone!

The Black Prince’s quest chain will be continuing in patch 5.1.  One part of the quest chain that caught my eye was a requirement for ten Battleground victories.  I’m not fond of PvP content in WoW, but this means I’ll have to do some at least.  On the plus side, it looks like you wont have to PvP flag for most of the quests in the Karasang Wilds, and I’ll eat a loss in reputation rate of gain if it means I can avoid the 5:1 open world pvp battles that occur on my home server.  While I have crafted some PvP gear and done a few random BGs, its reminded me just how much I dislike the running/capture the flag style games of Warsong Gulch and Twin Peaks.  I far prefer just plain capture the flag games.


WoW Cataclysm: the Grind

January 2, 2011

The Grind: the period after the level cap when you do the same thing over and over in order to get ready for raiding, whether its farming resources, running instances for gear, or doing daily quests for faction reputation.  So, my impressions of how the grind is going.

Healing
 
Five minute duration of Beacon of Light: every boss fight in a 5 man should be finished in less than 5 minutes (most seem to take 3-4 minutes, a far cry from durations in WotLK where we were down to sub-20 seconds for most and where I think early expansion fight durations where around 2 minutes), its when DPS die early that fight durations extend over 5 minutes.
 
Steady state attrition: minor amounts of damage (10-20k per tick), covered with Holy Light, or Holy Shock.  In a relative sense, incoming damage is often much less than Wrath, often when a tank dies it takes a minute for the boss to wipe the survivors, compared to the 10-20 seconds to do so in Wrath. So its a change from hard and fast to hard and slow damage.
 
Standing in flames: (30k per tick) can be healed, but requires cooldowns, so cannot always be done or done for long periods of time.  On a trash pull it means the healer has to waste a minute after the fight on mana regen.  On a boss fight it means the healer may go OOm before the Boss dies.
 
Tank spike: (30-50k) can be healed, but requires mana inefficient nukes (Flash of Light, or Divine Light).  This may make avoidance more useful than stamina, as a fat mana bar is just a big mana sponge.  Tank hitting zero health is usually mechanic fail, tank pulling too many mobs or pulling too soon or healer incorrect decision on type of heal to use. I seem to start Divine Light casts too often when the Tank is low health, and Flash of Light might be better because its faster.
 
Insta-gib: attacks that do > full health bar, cannot be healed (use SS or Brez), attacks that do 500,000 will not be outgeared until the next expansion (at the earliest).  There are not too many of these, but where they exist, you can’t carry someone who fails on the mechanic.
 
Soulstones are better on tank for learning new fights.  Reason: lack of mana after a healer resurrects, means the fight may be a soft enrage wipe.
 
Mana management: the more things everyone else does right, the easier it is for a Paladin to judge, which makes for less downtime between pulls.  When I have to Always-Be-Casting heals, mana regen stops.  Ability to cope with AoE heals/damage spikes depends on part on ability to maintain stacks of 2-3 holy power for as long as possible (and this is pure RNG, can be 1 stack/18 seconds or a continuous stack for the same period).
 
Brainlock: all the healthbars are orange/red – use Holy Radiance, Lay on Hands or triage (having 1-2 DPS die makes all future healing decisions much simpler for a Paladin).
 
Midline concept: if a health bar is on 50+% mid-fight, that’s okay, as health bars dip below 50% the intensity of healing output needs to be scaled up with bigger/faster heals and cooldowns.

Problem: if holy power is zero and tank health redlines, there are very few options for healing – LoH or 2-3 quick FoLs followed by WoG.
 
Game Economy
 
Far more bottlenecks than in Wrath, which will drive up the cost of raiding, as people can extract rents from sitting on the bottleneck.  Some crafting materials (Dreamcloth, Chaos Orbs) are bind on pickup, so a lot of gear is hard to acquire – you can’t just pick up the materials from the Auction House, you have to find a crafter with them who is willing to sell, and you have to take the price they want or walk away.  Mat sinks for vendor patterns (means patterns currently cost several hundred gold, not 10g, also means people do not acquire all patterns at once, which reduces ability to supply, e.g. I can only craft a few patterns my healadin can use, plus belt buckles).  Higher vendor value for mats, increases minimum price, which increases AH price, and gold lost to AH cut.  Enchants: BIS require raid only mats (not obtainable from 5 mans like in Wrath.
 
Gear Grind
 
Justice Points pile up fast, due to the 4k starting bank after less than ten heroics I am out of main spec JP gear that is a strong/BIS upgrade.  In Wrath  the Tier 7 shoulders took 60 kills to obtain, in Cataclysm the JP Shoulders only take 24 kills to obtain (but not equivalent Tier 11 equivalent, 13 iLevel difference).  So faster grinding, but dual specs means acquiring two sets of gear, and being subject to two sets of RNG for slots that do not have JP purchase options.

Its not that bad really.  If you do all the quests in the levelling zones, you should be able to enter directly into heroics.  By the time you hit exalted with all the dungeon factions, combined with Tol Barad dailies and rewards, you should be more than ready to raid.