Tuesday, November 27, 2007

300 Riding Skill, Pursuit of Justice, & DK tanking


Sorry about that. But this weekend I finally reached 5,000g and purchased my 300 riding skill. I immediately flew out and began my Netherwing rep quests, doing the dailies got me the 200g I needed to get my Epic Flight mount (Swift Purple Gryphon). By now I'm up to Honored with Netherwing and I'm going to keep plugging away at it until I get my Netherdrake.

Next, two posts ago, Galoheart asked about my thoughts on Pursuit of Justice. I picked it up with the patch for the -3% spell hit chance. Well, first off is the reason I took it, the -spell hit chance. Unfortunately, as one might imagine, it's hard to gauge the value of decreased spell hit chance, but I know it's there and I know (at least to a small degree) it's increasing my survivability.

Then there's the bonus side effect: +15% movement and mounted speed. This is a really great thing. First off, for flying around Nagrand mining it means I can do it without Crusader Aura. Since Crusader Aura doesn't stack with other movement increasing effects instead of getting +20% from it, I only get +5%. This means that when I need to land in Nagrand to get the ore I'm hunting for I can have Devotion Aura on for additional survivability. As far as the running speed goes it's a mixed bag. On the one hand I can get reposition faster (this one is very important), get places faster to rez folks, and get through indoor places more quickly. But on the other hand, when running with folks I'm constantly running a little bit faster so I need to stop for them which makes me feel like a jerk.

Finally, DK tanking. Over on Maintankin forums Lore posted a link to and quoted a Tigole interview stating that Death Knights would be viable tanks. Tigole's exact words were:
"We made some really good strides in The Burning Crusade to improve the feral druid as a hybrid tank/dps class. That will be the general direction we'll be looking to go with the death knight. Obviously, the protection warrior is in a good place in terms of dungeon and raid tanking. And the protection paladin is hands-down the best multi-target tank. Of course, there's always room for improvement, but you can see the general direction the tanking classes are headed. While all of these classes are capable of fulfilling similar roles, they offer very different abilities and playstyles."
This makes a lot of sense. One of the key problems for Paladins and Warriors who tank is in dungeons that require multiple tanks for some of the fights, on the fights where only a single tank is needed, the Warrior or Paladin is much less useful. An example of this is in Karazhan you generally need 2 primary tanks for the Attumen, Moroes, Romulo & Julianne, Crone, Illhoof, and Netherspite fights. On the other hand you never need 2 tanks for Maiden and Prince fights. There are also a number of fights where the role that can be filled by a second tank can also be filled by another class, like any class with high DPS and high health can be the bolt soak for Curator. On fights where you don't need another tank, having a class like Feral Druids that can easily shift from Tanking to DPS without needing a respec is a huge boon.

Over on the Subcreation forums I posted my thoughts on where the Death Knight will exist in the current realm of tanking:

"If you can imagine each of the current tank falling along a line. This line represents the value to the raid the class generally brings with a "true tanking spec", when it is not tanking. By the phrase "true tanking spec" I mean an investment of no less than 41 points in the given tanking tree, with or without the 41 point talent.

On the far right you have Protection Paladins and Protection Warriors. I'm not going to say which is further down on this side, because that boils down to individual players, specs and gear. Fact is that someone who specs as deeply into either of the Protection trees as I mentioned above will have very little utility outside of the tanking role. An additional bit of info is that I've found most people who spec to be tanks for raids will, in addition to spending over 41 points in their given tanking tree, spend their additional points outside the tanking tree on talents that will improve their abilities while tanking. By taking this approach they are able to expand their abilities while tanking at the expense of their non-tanking role value.

On the far left you have Druids. Unlike Paladins and Warriors, Druid's melee DPS tree and their tanking tree are the same trees. While there will be some differences between someone who specs to be a bear tank and someone who specs to be a cat DPSer, many talents have overlap into both forms. This combined with both forms generally calling for the same stats (STR, AGI, & STA) means that a tanking Druid can more easily adjust to a DPS role, both in combat and out of it.

While I have no hard evidence to back this up I imagine that Death Knights will fall somewhere inbetween the two extremes, probably more towards Warriors/Paladins than Druids, but not very much so. The ability to shift between an effective tanking role and an effective DPS role in-combat is not something I'm expecting. I consider it highly unlikely that Blizzard will allow for changing armor in-combat, combined with the statement Blizzard has already made that you cannot change rune configurations in-combat means that much like the Paladins and Warriors, once they pick their role and combat has begun, that's what they are doing. Also I'm guessing Blizzard will not make the Unholy tree (according to Tigole a rune setup for tanks would be 4xUnholy, 1xBlood, 1xFrost which indicates that the Unholy tree will be the tanking tree) much more than a debuff/tanking tree. I would be very surprised if it had a significant DPS aspect to it, again putting them closer to Warriors and Paladins than Druids. But the fact that they can alter their rune setups to emphasize other trees, would give them much more out-of-combat flexibility than Paladins or Warriors. No matter how it turns out, it's possible that a Death Knight will require a fair amount of STR to tank effectively (having a stance/buff/form that gives increased threat, some additional mitigation and decreased damage output), meaning that if they are required to tank then transfer to DPS, they could move from one role to another without taking too much of a hit in DPS output."
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I'm really going to prefer being a Death Knight tank to a Paladin tank. Before I can go into detail on that I need to post my views on Druids:

One of the prices that Druids pay for being a semi-fluid tanking-DPS hybrid is that they generally take more damage (even with the high increase in armor). Now as all three classes get better gear their armor will go up, so the difference in percent of damage mitigated between them will (generally speaking) stay the same or close to it. Warriors and Paladins have higher avoidance in general (hello 2 u Parry), are uncrushable, and have the flat damage removal of Shield Blocks.

A Bear Druid's much higher armor and health balance out the lack of things listed above. Problem is somewhere after entering SSC, a Bear will hit 31,750 armor. For those who don't know what that number signifies it's a little over the hard cap for armor mitigation, which is 75%. At that point the Bear can focus more on STA and avoidance, and start swapping out the high armor rings and cape they were previously using, but in the end it's not enough. Paladins and Warriors continue to advance in all ways becoming better tanks while Druids have hit the cap in one of their perks.

Now I'm not making this up. Using the sandbox at Warcrafter (btw a great site for figuring out the effects of gear changes and gem swaps) I found that with the best of the best gear, a Druid (make sure to buff him to get the right numbers) sits at 75% mitigation (32.2k armor), 24.3k health, and 48.22% avoidance. While these stats are really good, putting together a Paladin also wearing very good tanking gear (went for set pieces, non-set might be better in certain slots) has 65% mitigation (20.3k armor) + 6% from Righteous for 71% mitigation, 22.4k health, 54% straight avoidance, and 350 block value. The difference in mitigation and health is more than made up for by the blocks and the additional avoidance. The flaw with druids as tanks is that once the advantage in armor caps out and begins to shrink, the other advantages of Paladins and Warriors start to shine. As tanks, Paladins and Warriors will come out ahead, but since Feral Druids can shift from Bear to Cat it can put out respectable DPS. Doing some minor changes to the setup (different buffs and Cat Form) the Druid I linked above can put out a minimum of 800 DPS with a tanking spec and wearing tanking gear with gems and enchants for tanking. This type of flexibility is just not possible with a Warrior and forget about it with a Paladin. Simply put, when you need a secondary tank for an instance like Karazhan, a Bear Druid is the best option since on fights with multiple mobs where they are killed first (Attumen) or fights where you just don't need another tank (Prince) they can put out very good DPS with a tanking spec.


Now, back to Death Knights. If my interpretation of what Tigole is saying is correct, Death Knights will be made for being off-tanks much akin to Bears. While this are certainly not just a guess, there are questions that still need to be answered before I can figure out where a DK stands in the grand scheme of things.

For example it's been stated that you will be able to engrave the runes you want onto your blade when not in combat. Are these runes engraved onto a "runeblade" you carry around or the actual weapon you will wield? (Preface: I'm making the basic assumption that they will not have us "upgrade" a runeblade and only use that, and also that you cannot change armor in combat.) If it's the latter of my two suggestion, then can you carve two different rune sets onto two different blades and once you kill the boss you're assigned to you swap blades (like a Druids changes forms) giving you access to more DPS oriented runes. Like have a tanking sword with 4xUnholy, 1xFrost, 1xBlood and have a DPS sword with 3xBlood, 2xFrost, 1xUnholy, and swap them out as needed (Note: in an interview, Tigole stated that the first rune setup I posted would be an ideal setup for tanks)? Or once you go with 4xUnholy, 1xFrost, 1xBlood you're stuck that way until combat ends no matter the sword. If it's the latter then, while a DK will be much less flexible than a Druid, the innate flexibility of being able to design your rune setup will still make a DK more flexible than a Warrior or a Paladin making them a better "secondary tank" option than another Warrior or Paladin.

Also another key question that needs to be answered about Death Knights is how much of the Unholy tree will be tanking oriented? Will Death Knights be similar to Warriors in that the Blood and Frost tree are both purely (or mostly) DPS trees and the Unholy tree is mostly tanking, or will it be more similar to Druids in that the Unholy tree will directly mix DPS and Tanking in one?

Once these questions are answered along with knowledge of the basics of how Death Knights tank at all, I'll begin to be able to decide what I will want to do. While it's very tempting to go Death Knight just because I've been frustrated by how useless I feel as a Paladin when I'm not tanking, the idea of standing back for Paladin or a Warrior just because I'm not as good a tank without a gear advantage leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. It's really a case of picking which type of poison I want.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Zul'Aman & shiny new helm

This weekend, being the first weekend after the 2.3 patch, we decided to take a stab at Zul'Aman. According to Blizzard it is "for guilds that can defeat Prince Malchezaar", and one of the officers used this to base that we would be ready for Zul'Aman (since downing Prince is something we do almost every week). Problem was that I believe when Blizzard said "for guilds that can defeat Prince Malchezzar" what they meant was "for guilds that have all of Karazhan on lock-down".

We haven't even done a full clear, let alone have the place on lock-down. Even for guilds that can do Kara in a single night, if they aren't doing 25 man instances, they probably need to get some upgrades from the BoJ vendor. Very clever of Blizzard to add those items to help guilds that can't do 25 mans catch up a little to do ZA.

Anyway, so we went in and poked around. Met some of the mobs, like the Amani Bears, Amani Warbringers (eeek!), and did the gauntlet leading up to Akil'zon's area. The Akil'zon gauntlet is a total blast and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately our group was ill prepared to fight the pull right before Nalorakk (lack of humanoid CC hurt us badly). As for our few attempts at Akil'zon, we learned some stuff but we weren't really ready for it. In the end we left without beating a boss, and really decided we just weren't ready for ZA quite yet. But we'd be back with a vengeance some day!

After our less than successful attempt on ZA on Saturday, the next night we went back to Karazhan. We did a mandatory-only boss run up to Prince. As I've already stated, there's nothing I want from Moroes, Opera, Curator or Chess save the Badges, but we got some good loot. When we made it to Prince we had a little trouble with our first two attempts from Infernals dropping right on top of me, but our third try was just easy as cake. Prince then dropped his healing cape, healing mace and the token for my helm! Wooo! Since I was the only one in the raid who could get the token and hadn't already gotten it, it defaulted to me. I now have both pieces of my T4 from Karazhan, and everything I want from Kara that we can currently get. The only things that I really care about getting now are the Mantle of Abrahmis and the
Shield of Impenetrable Darkness (going to replace my Breastplate very soon).

I was originally planning on making this post two more topics long, but since I take so long in making each post I'm just going to do this one, and follow it up with the next two topics.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's list time!

It's been a while since I put together an item upgrade list. Of course that's because almost every upgrade I could get was dependent on a raid level boss dropping them, so it was less a case of working towards them so much as just praying they drop what I want. But with 2.3, suddenly there's a ton of shiny shiny BoJ items. I'm going to list the items, and list them in the order I plan to get them.

1) Chestguard of the Stoic Guardian: Plate Chest, 1607 Armor, 60 STA, 22 Defense Rating, 38 Dodge Rating, 35 Spell Damage, Red/Yellow/Blue Sockets, 6 STA Socket bonus
Cost: 75 Badges
Personal thoughts: The basic fact that it's a Paladin tanking piece is not the driving reason this is first, though that's a definite perk. Due to Nightbane being probably the last boss we'll fight in Karazhan, the Breastplate of the Righteous will most likely be the final rare-quality piece I replace. Instead of hoping for the Panzar'thar Breastplate, I'll be proactive and replace the Breastplate of the Righteous first.

2) Slikk's Cloak of Placation: Back, 346 Armor, 37 STA, 16 Defense Rating, 25 Dodge Rating
Cost: 35 Badges
Personal thoughts: Again, buying this to replace a blue. The only real drop from Karazhan that was a tanking cloak was the Gilded Thorium Cloak, which would cause me to lose too much dodge compared to the Devilshark Cape.

3) Girdle of the Protector: Plate Waist, 904 Armor, 40 STA, 11 Defense Rating, 11 Dodge Rating, 18 Spell Hit Rating, 23 Spell Damage Yellow/Blue Sockets, 4 STA Socket Bonus
Cost: 60 Badges
Personal thoughts: While I already have an epic belt from Kara, the
Crimson Girdle of the Indomitable, with it's wasted points on STR, it's definitely a Warrior belt. While I could aim for the Iron-Tusk Girdle, the thing that pushes the Girdle of the Protector from "Nice" to "Awesome" is the spell hit. Such a rare stat on tanking gear so I'll give up points elsewhere to get it.

4) Unwavering Legguards: Plate Legs, 1406 Armor, 73 STA, 22 Defense Rating, 30 Shield Block Rating, 59 Shield Block Value, Red/Yellow/Blue Socket, 6 STA Socket Bonus
Cost: 75 Badges
Personal thoughts: Upgrading to the Girdle above and the Sabatons below will cost me a fair bit of avoidance, possibly putting me into the realm of being crushable (I have some blue gems I can swap out for green or purples if needed but I'd prefer not to take that route). By getting this fourth instead of fifth, I'll be able to ease the pressure I think I'm going to feel from losing a fair bit of avoidance. In addition, the 30 Shield Block Rating along with the amazing Shield Block Value makes these an awesome upgrade from the Wrynn Dynasty Greaves.

5) Sabatons of the Righteous Defender: Plate Feet, 1105 Armor, 45 STA, 18 Defense Rating, 18 Spell Hit Rating, 30 Shield Block Value, 23 Spell Damage,
Red/Blue Sockets, 4 STA Socket Bonus
Cost: 60 Badges of Justice
Personal thoughts: Much like the Girdle of the Protector, the Spell Hit Rating on this makes it a humongous upgrade from anything else available. Unfortunately, since I currently have the Boots of Elusion, upgrading will cause a net loss of a little over 2% avoidance (pre-gems), which is why it comes after Unwavering Legguards, despite being cheaper and having spell damage and hit.

6) Bracers of the Ancient Phalanx:
Plate Wrist, 703 Armor, 45 STA, 23 Defense Rating, 22 Expertise Rating
Cost: 35 Badges
Personal thoughts: The Expertise on this makes me giggle with glee, but since it will be an upgrade from the Bracers of the Green Fortress, I will lose about 10 Dodge Rating (gain a little Defense Rating), so I'll need to be careful of my slots when I upgrade to these.

Bonefist Gauntlets: Plate Hands, 1005 Armor, 51 STA, 30 Parry Rating, 21 Hit Rating, Red/Blue Sockets, 4 STA Socket Bonus
Cost: 60 Badges
Personal thoughts: Amazing Armor, Stamina, Sockets, Parry Rating, along with Hit Rating for more threat and less resists on Righteous Defense. Unfortunately, compared to the my current gauntlets, the Iron Gauntlets of the Maiden or the Justicar Handguards loss of all Defense Rating, Shield Block Value, and other stats may not make this a worthwhile upgrade. Will need to do some actual number crunching once I get my hands on them.

Brooch of Deftness: Neck, 48 STA, 22 Hit Rating, 21 Expertise Rating
Cost: 35 Badges
Personal thoughts: Wheee! More expertise! Unfortunately, this will (possibly) replace the Barbed Choker of Discipline and has absolutely no defensive stats. Until I can reach uncrushable without the Choker, this one is my lowest priority. :(

All told I need 435 Badges to get everything. @_@ Looks like I need to get cracking!