Friday, November 23, 2007

How To Not Pull Threat

A very real danger to any DPS class is the risk of pulling aggro from your tank, and thus getting yourself horribly squashed, and potentially wiping the party.
If you have mad DPS, but keep pulling aggro and getting killed 15 seconds in, you are useless. Worse than useless, you are a liability to the party.

Don't be the warlock who opens each fight with a Shadowbolt crit of 4k.

Don't be the Boomkin who starts off every boss fight with a Starfire crit.

And please, for the love of all that is Mageness, don't be the mage who fires off PoM + Pyro the same second the Paladin first hits the mob.

So, here are some strategies on mitigating threat, and how to work with your tanks to avoid being a dumbass.
You may not always be able to avoid threat, but you can mitigate it.

  1. The most obvious way to avoid pulling aggro is to put points into whatever talent reduces the threat your spells do. For Arcane, its Arcane Subtlety (40% reduction), Fire mages have a 10% reduction through Burning Soul, and Frosties have a 10% through Frost Channeling. There is no reason not to get these talents, and the Fire and Frost versions are painful to go without.
  2. Give your tank a little bit of a head start. If there is a hunter in the party, misdirect will give your tank a huge boost to their threat, but it still won't be enough if you drop three crits in a row right off the bat. As Arcane, ease slowly into the fight with Arcane Missiles, and ramp up from there. Does AM hit hard? Why, yes, it does. But, as a channeled, its threat is more spread out than any other Arcane spell. An excellent opener. As a note, though, the Arcane tree has rather low innate threat, so you can simply open as normal with Arcane Blast. As a frost mage, don't worry about it. Chances are pretty good frostbolt won't cause any problems, and if it does, well, the target is slowed and so easily controlled. You can Ice Block twice as much as anyone else. If you do ever run into aggro issues, ope with an Ice Lance or two to start the crit debuff with generating practically zero threat. As Fire, open with Scorch. Scorch does not produce a lot of threat, even when it crits, and has an added perk that practically requires you to open with it. The whole increased fire damage thing? Yeah. You gimp your own damage if you don't have that at max debuff at all (or almost all) times. If there is still aggro issues with opening with Scorchx5, then downrank. Rank 7 works very well for avoiding early aggro, and has the added bonus that it still tossses up the debuffs. Wait to use fireballs for at least 10 seconds.
  3. Get an enchant. A new enchanting formula for your cloaks and capes reduces all threat by 2%. Far, far better than the 20 Spell Penetration alternative... unless you're one of those kinky mages who likes Agility.
  4. Don't be afraid of using Invisibility when it is needed. Whatever threat you have, it cuts it in half. If you use it around midfight, or a little earlier, it effectively means that it is impossible for you to pull aggro, no matter what you do. Take, say, Mechano-Lord Capacitus in heroic mode as a fire mage. Full Scorch debuff, then fireball away, and let the crits flow. When you hit about the 110% aggro mark of the tank, hit invis, let 6 seconds go by, cancel it, and keep right on fireballing. You'll be at the bottom of the threat list, blasting out thousands of damage in a single fireball.
  5. If you suddenly snag aggro, Ice Block. This option will become avaliable to any and all mages soon, and its an instant aggro dump. You get all that threat back, however, but its ten seconds where you were doing nothing and your tank was furiously getting aggro back. However, don't dump the aggro on the poor Holy Priest next to you. That's just uncalled for. Dumping aggro in the Hunter next to you is acceptable.
  6. Do something else. Mana running low? Evocate. Took some AoE damage in a fight like Grandmaster Vorpal or Thespia? First-aid yourself. An add pop up that needs to be taken care of? Sheep it if you can. Healer suddenly pull aggro from a flesh monster thingy in Arcatraz? Take care of the situation, and save your healer and tank a helluva headache. The latter option is especially good for frost mages. A non-elite mob that can be rooted? /scoff
  7. And above everything except #1, KNOW YOUR TANK. If its a Warrior, give them a bit to get at least one or two sunders up before you damage the mob at all. Same with druids, except its called Mangle or something. It looks like a little slashy mark on the debuff bar. In the case of a Paladin, you can start right away, but start low. Use a downranked spell a time or two. In the case where multiple mobs are being tanked, Warriors are the most sensitive here. Do not attack ANY mob until the warrior has put at least two sunders on it. Again, same with druids. Paladins it doesn't matter too much, so long as you let Consecrate do its work for a bit. A good rule of thumb: on the main mob, let about 8 seconds of continuous casting go by on the main mob. Fire can judge this the best, as the perfect time is when Scorch reaches max debuffs. Then, unload with some AoEs. Flamestrike, Blastwave, Dragon's Breathe, whatever, you'll be good to go. Paladins are the best AoE tanks in the game, revel in it.
  8. Get an addon that shows people's threat levels. Omen is arguably the best one out there. It's pretty, full customizable, it keeps track of aggro on multiple mobs, and is backwards compatible with threat meters like KTM.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Patch 2.3.2

Arena season 2 doth draw to an end, heralding the start of a new season of bloodshed and gnashing of teeth.
Less than a quarter moon's cycle from now, a new season of slaughter will begin.
And lo, in this season of killing, a voice descended from the heavens, and did announce in a blue voice:

"I am Eyonix, your Lord and Master. I speaketh thus!
There are a few nice improvements we're making to the mage class in patch 2.3.2 (a small patch that will be on the public test realms soon) and we wanted to share them with you. First, we'll start out with two changes affecting all mages. Ice block will become a core ability, trainable by all mages at level 30. Additionally, conjure mana (rank 6) will restore 1800-3000 mana and will now have three charges, meaning you can use it three times before having to create a new one.

To be sure we're clear here, yes, the same cooldown will still apply between usages. :P

Cold snap will be moved to Ice block's position in the talent tree and its cooldown will be reduced. As a side note, it will no longer reset the cooldown on fire ward. Moving in to Cold snap's spot will be a brand new ability called Icy Veins. This new ability will decrease casting time for all spells by 20% and increases the chance that chilling effects freeze the target by 25%. It's an active ability, lasting 20 seconds and has a 3 minute cooldown."

And there was much rejoicing.

Ok, first off, I would like to say the following.


So. Let's have a look at how this all plays out.

First off, the change to mana gems is very, very nice. Blizzard apparently does listen to the community, and the mages issues with mana seems to have been heard rather nicely. They already fixed evocate, a joyous change that was only dreaded by those mages that stacked spirit (/mock).
And now they're fixing mana gems. Making them restore a far heftier chunk of mana, and giving it multiple charges.
Oh, God, multiple charges. That is a very sexy mana gem now. Now if only I could trade them to the healers in the raid group, I'd leap for joy. As it is I can only bounce up and down happily.

Ok, now to the meat.

Icy Veins.

Mmmmm..... tasty.
20% reduction in cast speed, and 25% increased chance for freezing. Will this be QQ'd about by other classes? Hellz yes it will. Will mages rejoice? Hellz yes we will.

Let's look at it practically.

Let's say you cast Frostbolt. It has a 2.5 second cast time, and a 15% chance to freeze the target it hits.
Activate Ice Veins, and that frostbolt now has a 2 second cast time, and a 40% chance to freeze. Therefore, in a 20 second window, you can cast 10 frostbolts, rather than 8.
And of those ten, roughly half of them will freeze your target to the ground.
And every time that happens, you can unload with a Frostbolt/Ice Lance shatter combo.

If Blizzard renamed this ability from "Icy Veins" to "God Mode", I wouldn't be surprised.
This ability, used right, is incredibly powerful.
Look at it this way:

This ability makes you do more damage. As well, any damage you do has a high chance of letting you do even more damage. And every time you do even more damage, you have a high chance of being able to do more damage. And so on, and so forth.

I'll give you a paper doll example.
Let's assume frostbolt hits for 1500, crits for 3000. Ice Lance hits for 1000, and crits for 2000.

Say you see some random mob. You activate Icy Veins and fire off a frostbolt. It hits the mob for 1500, no root. 2 seconds have gone by.
So you cast frostbolt again. This time it roots. (1500 + 1500 = 3000 damage so far) 4 seconds have gone by.
You cast frostbolt again, and add Ice Lance at the end to get a shatter. They both crit, for a total of 5000 damage, putting your total damage dealt at 8000. 7.5 seconds have gone by.
You cast frostbolt again, it hits for 1500 (Total damage is now at 9500). 9.5 seconds have gone by. Freeze procs again.
Another Shatter combo. Frostbolt doesn't crit, Ice Lance does, but frostbolt procs Freeze again.

Now, at this point, only 13 seconds have gone by. You have dealt 13000 damage (thus putting your dps at 1000), and your target is rooted, ready to be struck with another Shatter combo.

So you see the power this will have?

It won't be quite this good in PvP, as you have to take into consideration that your opponent will try to ruin your fun. As well, you have to factor in diminishing returns into the whole root equation.
Realistically, after the first freeze, the second and third ones will only let you have time to get off a single Ice Lance. And the fourth will be immune... until 15 seconds from the first has gone by.
Since the ability lasts 20 seconds, you will be able to get a full on Shatter combo in at the end, and at the beginning. And a couple Ice Lance thingies in the middle.

Now, toss in Water Elemental anf Frost Nova into here, And you could easily be looking at keeping your target perma-rooted for almost 20 seconds.
(Permafrost, W/E's Freeze, and Frost Nova all have diminishing returns, but they are all on different timers at this time.)

When this hits the PTRs, I will be spending a LOT of time there.

Hell, I'll probably spend the cash to do this on live servers too. 'Cause it is, quite simply, that good.

And if you're a mage trying to do Arenas without speccing frost... after Icy Veins gets introduced, you have no choice. You must be frost... you just have to. No if's or but's, your speccing frost if you expect to get anywhere.

And to the rest of you... I hope your Paladin's Blessing of Freedom isn't on cooldown.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Arenas on the PTR

Thanks to Anathema and the joy that comes from raiding and shooting fireballs at Lootreaver, I will probably NOT be spending a lot of time within arenas on the live servers.
I will most likely be doing my competitive arenas on the test realms.

Here is my thinking:

Respeccing every week or so from raiding fire, to PvP frost would cost a fortune. Can I make up for it with dailies? Yep.


I could remain fire on the live servers, hit the honor cap, borrow 2k gold, copy my character over to the test realms, give the gold back, and spend all that honor and get a ridiculously awesome geared out dude on the test realms. Even better, I can copy myself four times to have 8k gold ready to go, if I wanted.
And... here's the kicker. I've already done the latter with the PTR's for 2.3.

I partnered up with a Blood Elf (female, obviously) for some hawt two on two action.

[Random rogue build that I could never even pretend to understand] + [Frost mage] = 1803 rating.

Thats right. You heard me. 1803 rating.

Don't believe me? I would gladly show you proof, except I can't, because for some extremely odd reason, whenever I hit the screenshot button, the screen simply freezes, and I need to reboot my PC. Natch, the pic is gone. Hoo boy I'm going to get some flak if I ever post that on the forums.

Anyways, where was I?

Ahh, yes.

So, on the 2.3 PTRs, our team was called "What Would MacGyver Do" after a T-shirt the rogue thought was hysterical.
His rogue, rather appropriately, was called "Cárcelcebo", which is Spanish for "Jailbait". Directly translated, he tells me, via the google translator.
Obviously, my name was far more simplistic, "Spade". Named after the technical term for a shovel.

Anyways, our strategy was simple. Since "Cebu" (as I called him) was always stealthed, I'd open combat... in some way, and he'd go from there. My job primarily was to tank, at least until someone started targeting him. At that point I'd rush in and save the day, giving him a chance to Vanish or some such rogue thingy.

For example, one of our earlier battles was against a Warrior/Paladin team. Natch, the warrior rushed me, and Cebu went after the Paladin. It takes a good 7 seconds for the warrior to realize his healbot is being shitcanned, so he intercepts Cebu. At that point, I bust out the water elemental, and root them both. Thus letting Cebu to run off... leaving both the Paladin and warrior deliciously rooted. Being 17/0/44 specced at the time, I silenced the Paladin, and dropped a Shatter combo, and that was done.
NOTE: Cebu always ran with Crippling and Wounding poison up. Thats just what he did.

In general, our fights went very well. I'd always take the opening hits, and then Cebu would kill something. Almost every single fight went that way.

For example. Warlock/Druid team. He opens up on the resto-druid, correctly guessing the warlock was soul-link specced.
Natch, with Wounding poison, the druid is turned into a sad panda and is quickly slaughtered. The whole focus-fire thing is just awesome, especially when your partner is smart enough to tab target + Blind the warlock. We kept that poor warlock out of comission the whole time we killed the druid.
I sheeped him first off, which he trinketed out of. Then got blinded. When he came out of that, his fear was counterspelled by yours truly.
Poor little impotent gnome warlock.

As a side note, frost mages love soul-link warlocks. We really do. You know why? Because of that damage sharing thing, Ice Lance doesn't break Frost Nova. Meaning, of course, that I can Frostbolt + Ice Lance + Ice Lance + Ice Lance before the thing breaks.

Meaning that I do more damage to you when you have your damage reducing skill active.

Feel free to cry. You won't be the first.

Some other notes.

Enhance shammies were almost scary with 2.3. It's almost a return of the juggernauts of the pre-TBC era. Scary-arse, relentless killing machines.
This is not due, too much, to intrinsic changes to the Enhancement tree. Quite bluntly, excellent shamans, who were resto up to this point, gave Enhance a try. Now, all these shamans are very good players, which means their nigh-unstoppable as enhancement, simply because they're damn fine players.

Retribution Paladins are actually a threat now. In one battle, I was gang-rushed by two of them, and before I knew it, had taken three crits of almost 2k damage. !BOOM! There goes half my health to a fucking Paladin.

Did we still win? Yes, we did. Did I, personally, survive? Yes, I Ice Blocked, and let Cebu (who prided himself on his skill of slaughtering Paladins) kill one of them while I was blocked. It was an awe-inspiring sight, really, watching a Paladin be killed off in less tha ten seconds. Poor guy didn't have a trinket, I think. He sat all the way through Kidney shot...

Anyways, a quick rundown.

Warriors were, in general, easy for me to kill, but almost impossibly hard for Cebu. In the arenas, he'd mostly annoy them while I killed them, and run away like the little girl his elf was whenever they targeted him.
A couple times, he was ham-stringed and killed by them. It made me laugh. He called me a jackass.

Druids are a tough class to beat as a mage. Well, when they're played properly anyways. Insant HoTs, the ability to break/be immune to any and all CC effects makes them a dangerous foe.
Fortunately, for a rogue, a druid is pretty much a non-issue. /gank, /rinse, /repeat.
I'd usually just frost nova/rank one frostbolt to annoy them while Cebu did some creepy animal molestation thing involving a pointy object.

Hunters were... interesting. It fully depended on skill. Poor hunters were rapidly, and rightly so, annihilated by the two of us. Good ones were infuriatingly hard to kill for Cebu, but only a moderate challenge for me, depending on spec. In general, one good ambush from Cebu and a Shatter from me would spell the end for them.
At least a dozen times, though, Cebu was killed by the hunters while I was otherwise occupied running away from a BigAngryPet, Ice Blocked, or silenced. Once, I was even Wyvern Stinged and caught without a trinket/iceblock or anything else. (That was a survival hunter/affliction warlock combo... ridiculously hard on the CC-breaking abilities).

Mages were... well, it made me sad, actually. Our strategy came to this: sheep the mage, then start opening fire on the other guy. Cebu would rape the mage. If the mage was any good, I'd chuck a silence on him and wait for Cebu to get around to killing him again whilst I harassed the other guy. Usually I'd start casting polymorph on the other guy as soon as it had gone through on the mage, simply due to the fact that I expected the rogue to break sheep right away. I was wrong only once, when a fellow troll mage was arcane-specced and didn't have a trinket.
Feh, Cebu killed the poor guy in about 4 or 5 GCDs.

Paladins were generally easy. I'd kite them, Counterspell when needed, and let Cebu sit on their heads and sing merry Irish jigs about revenge.

Priests were also laughably easy to kill, no matter the spec. We would ALWAYS focus fire the priest, and it would ALWAYS die really, really fast. Apparently, Water Elemental Freeze + Shatter combo + Ambush + Rogue resisting AoE fear (or trinketing out of it) leads to a very dead priest. And that is, of course, assuming the poor priest even gets a spell off. Generally, he had been kicked/counterspelled or even Blood Elf Racialed into impotence.
I pity them. I really do.

Rogue fights were hysterical. We developed a strategy, whereby if nobody was visible when we started, Cebu would walk almost right behind me. Usually, it would go like this:
Random rogue Ambushes Spade!
Cárcelcebo Ambushes Random Rogue!
Spade uses blink!
Rogue realizes he is basically fucked!
Rogue fights are generally determined by who gets off the first blow. That's just the way it is. So when a rogue fights another rogue, it's very similar to a knife fight in a phone booth, where the second rogue gets to shoot the first one with a musket first.

Shamans were almost a non-issue. Both me and Cebu can quickly shut them down and kill them. They died fast and often.

Warlocks varied a lot. It kinda depended how the fight started with one of them. Generally, if I fail to land a shatter early in the fight, it's going to be tough. On the same token, if Cebu didn't get to use an opener from stealth, we're far, far worse off. Teams with warlocks we lost to on a very frequent basis. A warlock could keep Cebu crowd-controlled a long time; he'd have to blow trinket and CloS just to touch the damn thing a few times. Of course, when Cebu touched things, they died really fast. If Cebu was given at least 4-ish seconds uninterrupted on the warlock, we'd most likely be victorious.
Generally, we would quickly kill the warlocks partner and try to keep the warlock subdued (counterspelled, kicked, blinded, anything and everything).
Makes the fight soooo much easier.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Spartan way of Life


Fire in PvP.

I've been specced fire on the Public Realms for a couple weeks now, and I feel it is only fair that I provide a somewhat more in-depth analysis of how it plays out at 70.

Well.... where to start?

The first thing you notice is that the damage you can unleash on hapless foes is... ridiculously high.
Like, we're talking I three-shotted a fellow mage in Arathi Basin. With fireball, fireblast, and Dragon's Breath.
We're talking I fight a rogue, and they pop sprint and run for it. To slow them down, I hit Dragon's Breath... which outright kills them.
We're talking a fireball/fireblast combo that drops a hunter from 100% life to 20%.
We're talking sheeping a warrior, killing the paladin in 6 seconds, then slaughtering the warrior in another 8.
We're talking a stalemate on the alliance bridge in AV, where a bunch of hunters/healers are bunched there holding off the entire horde offensive. And Blastwave/Dragon's Breath scattering them like flax. And netting me over 20k damage done in 3 seconds.

If that isn't a good enough idea, it's effortless to top the damage charts when you're in the game. The damage fire dishes out is at an unholy level, and I found myself the #1 kill target within minutes of each fight.
In a Warsong Gulch, I fought middle with a warrior and a holy priest. 66 honorable kills later, the alliance stopped trying to attack us. Needless to say, I was top of the damage meter, beating the number two slot by... get this... 202k damage.
I was even responsible for killing 5 alliance flag carriers, who made the fatal error of trying to "Go Tun".

Quite simply put, Fire is devastatingly power of you leave the mage alone for 2 seconds or longer. And even then, it still kicks ass.

Also, sheeping something and getting off a full-cast Pyroblast is an incredibly evil and fun thing to do. Especially when it drops half their health in a non-crit. L2Trinket, imo.

The second thing you learn is that you are incredibly squishy. Like, we're talking three shotted by a dual-weilding warrior squishy.
A geared Season 2 Warrior killed me in under 4 seconds.
That's how squishy a fire mage in PvP is.

But to be fair, we have better survivability than arcane mages, because Dragon's Breath, quite simply, is a godly spell. About 1k damage on non crits that stuns for 3 seconds? AND it's an AoE?
I fully support renaming it "Summon Warlock" because it can be that devastating. It can shut down 5 or 6 healers at once, and do enough damage to them that they won't be healing anyone else for a while... or ever.
As fire, there is no end to how badly you can fuck with a healer. First off, you have a ton of damage. Then, every fire spell you cast has a 10% chance to stun. Third, you have a ton of damage. Second... err... fourth, you have a spell that interrupts, stuns, has a chance to stun more, and does more damage. Oh, yeah, and Counterspell, which prevents any healing spells from being cast for 8 seconds.
Now, go find a Holy Priest. Make it your bitch.
Paladins are also acceptable. Please be sure to Spellsteal Blessing of Freedom and Frost Nova the hapless Paladin.

The tl;dr version: Dragon's Breath is a sadistic spell, that causes emotional anguish among anyone and everyone who gets struck with it. Used properly, it's like an AoE deathcoil with a twenty second cooldown.
Used wrong, you look stupid.

A critical problem with any non-frost build is the lack of a certian reliable crowd-control breaker.
Every mage has access to Blink and (unless you suck) a trinket. That gives every mage two reliable ways to break things like fear and stunlocks. But... thats not enough.
What if you need blink to escape Intercept? What if you escape Kidney Shot with it, but then find yourself Blinded seconds later? Hmm? What then?
Quite simply, to be better able to survive this highly unfortunate situations, you want, nay, NEED to have a third reliable stun-key (opposite of stun-lock... get it? Oh, I'm so classy!).
And that skill, that tool, is the godly Ice Block.
Damn, I'm like a priest for that ability.
I should go form the church of Ice Block or something.

I cannot believe how incredibly awesome that ability is.

And I am finding hard to believe how I survived without it.