Thursday, April 29, 2010

ICC10: Sindragosa Hardmode

My guild has a knack for doing things differently. In this case, we went out of order: Heroic Putricide seemed nigh-impossible, so we opted to work on Sindragosa hardmode, first. I took great amusement in looking down the 10-strict world progression list on guildox and noting that of all the 10/12s, we're the only ones with Sindy but not Putricide :D

I digress. Sindragosa normal mode is difficult enough to learn, so I thought I'd give some tips on hardmode based on what we learned.

Raid Makeup:
  • 2x tanks (we used pally MT, warrior OT)
  • 3x healers (we used two resto druids and a resto shaman)
  • 5x DPS, physical/magical mix (we used lock, ele sham, feral druid, hunter, mage)
To be honest, the best healers you can get for this fight are those that are mobile. If you can stack three resto druids, do it! Holy priests would also be decent, and one specced with the speed-bubbles can be useful for rescuing slow players during Novas and speeding the tank to picking up the dragon after air phases. We had to force our poor turkey into tree-spec to get this done: the insta-cast HoTs are rather OP in this fight. He had top healing on the kill.

Differences from normal-mode:

In addition to heavier damage, there is an AoE explosion whenever stacks of the Instability debuff (from Unchained Magic) fall off of a player. This will impact your strategy a bit.
  • P1: we decided to have our two afflicted players split to either side of the main ranged group: the healer went right (same side of the room as our tank stands), and the magic DPS went left. Thus they could continue casting, exploding periodically safely out of range of the rest of the raid.
  • Icy Grip/Nova timers need to be carefully monitored, so that stacks drop off BEFORE you are gripped into the dragon with all your friends. If you miss your timing, try to cast a few times (hots/dots/instants) as you run from the dragon to keep your stack from exploding, though sometimes you will loose the Unchained Magic debuff at the same time and you'll just explode anyway. Err on the side of caution.
  • P3: limit your Instability stacks in this phase as much as possible, and attempt to LoS your Mystic Buffet stacks farther away from the ice block so that you do not explode on other players if you do have Instability. Whenever possible, try to explode when you're at low Mystic Buffet stacks. This will take some trial and practice.
In addition, getting caught by Ice Bombs during the air phase will one-shot any player (assuming they don't have some tank-saving cooldown on them).

LoSing Stacks:

I didn't put too terribly much thought into this, myself, but Beruthiel at Falling Leaves and Wings put her sanity to the test figuring out all the eccentricities of the ice blocks' LoS capabilities. Check out her post if you'd like a quick Power Auras import for monitoring stack size, and tips on positioning (including part of the dragon and watching your z-positioning/vertical axis from the floor).

Frost Resist:

Some guilds have run the whole raid in frost resist gear to mitigate the amount of raid damage going out. Vortex decided to limit the frost resist gear to the tanks only (those breaths are painful), and rely heavily on the healers to keep everyone alive. Your choice on frost resist gear for the DPS/healers will probably depend on your healer class makeup: those that are more mobile (druids, holy priests) will have an easier time healing the raid than those who are more stationary casters (shaman, pally).

Enrage Timer:

After some playing around with the timing, we opted to use our bloodlust/heroism as soon as she landed after the 3rd air phase. Getting a 4th air phase meant the enrage timer would kill us, and using it before the third air phase meant (often) that part of the bloodlust would be wasted by the following air phase. We used the bloodlust to push her into P3 before she went into a 4th air phase.

If you are having further difficulties with the enrage timer, try to position your P2/Air Phase ice blocks in the center of the room, thus limiting how far your raid has to move during transitions before resuming DPS. Our raid did have to move our blocks to the center circle of the room and learn the new positioning, rather than running to the corner of the room as we did for normal mode.

P3 notes:

We had our tanks taunting back and forth every 6-7 stacks of mystic buffet. To avoid sharing a frost breath or cleave, we had them flip the dragon around 180 degrees every time they traded: thus, the next tank would taunt from the tail, being careful to not be tail-whipped. They needed to call out in advance about the taunts (about 5 seconds before the swap) so that healers could get HoTs rolling on the new tank and ensure that they had range on the new tank.

We put our P3 ice blocks in parallel line with where Sindragosa's head would be each time she flipped. This kept them close enough together that (in most cases) we could reach both tanking locations from both block locations with heals.

Healers: pump the ice-beaconed player with HoTs as they run to their ice block location. The block itself will do massive damage to them (if they are low health, it will easily kill them), and the HoTs will continue to tick after they are blocked to heal them up. Rejuv + lifeblooms are effective.

The DPS could, generally, skip every other ice block for dropping their buffet stacks (assuming the current ice block was not a healer), and our ele shaman helped to heal while she was behind the ice block. We decided to assign our caster DPS (lock, mage, ele shaman) to killing ice blocks full-time, and our physical dps (hunter/druid) only helped with healer ice blocks.

IF A HEALER WAS ICE-BLOCKED: we immediately dpsed down their block as quickly as possible. Healers would call out that a healer was being ice-blocked, and that re-directed the physical DPS from the boss. All DPS would hide behind that block and focus-fire it down, thus limiting the healing needed on them and reducing how long the raid went with the lack of healing from the ice-blocked healer. On our kill, I (a resto druid) was ice-blocked 4 times in a row, and we had a little under a minute left on the enrage timer.

This is one of those execution fights where the whole raid needs to be on their toes. A trio of battle-resses certainly helped, too :) Best of luck!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What is 10 Strict Raiding Like?

10-strict raids have been, for most WoW players, something of a mystery: either ignored from lack of interest, mocked for lower gear, or simply misunderstood. Since 10 "strict" will become the baseline format for any guild running 10-man raids as their primary format in cataclysm, there is obviously interest being drummed up and misconceptions are flying all over the place, so I'd like to share some info on what being 10-strict is like.

First, I'd like to touch on the history:

Ten-man raids had been available in previous editions of the game, but they were not available for all of the content, so the vast majority of raiding guilds were built for 25-man (or earlier, 40-man) raiding. Ten-strict raiding is a format that became available at the beginning of the WotLK expansion for raiders who wanted to see all of the available content, but without having to deal with the bureaucracy of a larger guild. It was an interesting experiment. Many say that it was aimed at "casuals," but it also catered to a small subset of burnt-out officers and raiders who would otherwise have just quit the game from the social drama seen in larger raiding guilds.

In trade for the smaller, less-traumatic raid organization, these newly formed guilds had lesser rewards. Their gear would be "subpar," making PvP and pugs slightly more difficult, and they would constantly have to put up with many (not all) of the "better geared" 25-man raiders sneering down their noses at their gear, raid style choice, and achievements.

In spite of this, it WAS chosen by many, and not just those "casuals." Guilds like Vox Immortalis formed, striving for progression with all the intensity of a hardcore world-leading 25-man guild. Guilds like my own Vortex formed, a bit more relaxed but still quite serious about skill and dedication to the guild's progression. Other guilds formed, taking things at a somewhat slower, more casual pace. Some 10-man guilds opted to allow their members to pug 25s, while others opted to take the strict rankings. Some guilds formed that were the stereotypical casual 10-man team: a bunch of friends dabbling in raids for fun and not putting any headache into it. This is the same gamut of raiding focus seen in the 25-man raiding scene, just on a far smaller scale, as each player CHOSE to forgo the higher rewards in favor of the more intimate, smaller guild.

  1. Recruitment
  2. Difficulty
  3. Roster Size
  4. Time Commitment
  5. Leadership
  6. Raiding Experience
  7. Gear
  8. Performance Expectations

1) Recruitment

These guilds must hunt down players who are interested in purely 10-man format. This meant giving up 25-man pugging if you wanted to be truly ranked as strict: tackling the content with the item levels and loot table it was balanced for. GuildOx set the ground rules for this as the only ranking site that acknowledged 10-man raiding, using the guild's kills and achievements to monitor whether they were raiding or pugging 25mans that would give them an edge with gear.

The GuildOx rules were such (at the time of ICC's release):

The 10-man strict rankings show the achievements of pure 10-man raiding guilds. A 'pure' 10-man raiding guild is one that does not participate in 25m progression content. We recognize that 25-man guilds or guilds that regularly participate in 25m pug runs often have a distinct advantage since they can gear up at accelerated rates and move faster through 10-man content. Consequently, our 10-man strict rankings exclude guilds which access any 25-man content that offers higher ilvl gear than what the current 10-man normal content provides. If you are a 10m guild that has members which want to run 25 man pugs then the 'strict' classification is not for you.

Guilds will be excluded when they earn any Icecrown Citadel (ICC) 25 normal kills or any TotGC 25 hard-mode kills. Guilds must also have their 10M Progress World Rank be better than (lower than) their 25M Progress World Rank.

We have added a special trigger for the ICC 25 normal kills that will exclude a guild from strict rankings when 8 players achieve it over time. For example, if your guild pugs ICC 25 normal then you will be excluded from the strict rankings when a total of 8 players in your guild participate in the Lord Marrowgar 25 normal kill. Please ensure you discourage your guild members from participating in any ICC 25 normal and TotGC 25 hard-mode runs if you wish to remain on the strict rankings. Also be sure minimize the recruitment of players that have previously achieved these kills since they will contribute to the guild total, regardless of when they achieved it. VoA 25 and Onyxia 25 are exempt from the criteria and can be run without risking your 10m strict rankings.

Some 10-man guilds were more casual and ignored the GuildOx criteria, allowing their raiders to pug 25s: they are not included on the strict rankings, and thus loose that extra bit of advertisement for new players to track them down. 10 man casual rankings were added later to GuildOx to track these guilds. As you can imagine, though, even those recruiting for purely strict (and its subsequent lack of legendaries and superior item levels) have a tough go of finding players. While there are fewer players needed to fill the roster, finding players who don't care in some way about item levels and "best gear" is a truly difficult task.

If a ten-man guild picks up players who really are just interested in gear, then the guild is nothing but a stepping stone, and they'll have to recruit to fill that spot again in a short time. 10-man guild recruitment is very difficult in WotLK.

Beyond this, 10-mans often need to recruit for very specific class/spec combinations to provide a certain buff--and offspec tank or healing role--for their raid. Applicants' secondary specs need to be reviewed in far more detail than for 25-mans, as well, because WotLK 10-mans often require a raider to swap their spec, even if they are a pure DPS class.

Cataclysm will broaden the interested pool as greed towards item levels, the "best" drops, is removed as a stigma against 10-man guilds. Granted, there will be a smaller pool for recruitment for 25s due to the larger number of 10-mans that will form, but I doubt it will be as difficult to recruit for 25s in Cata as 10-strict recruitment is in WotLK. Things will certainly be shaken up on the recruitment front in Cataclysm for both sides.

In terms of offspec and specific class recruitment, the previously released plans for the homogenization of class buffs and skills for Cataclysm hint at making this a bit less of a hassle in a "bring the player, not the class" sort of way, but buffs will still be limited to certain classes. Thus, recruitment will still be more specific than just a "looking for a ranged dps."

Every expansion has seen the rise and fall of guilds. It is a prime time for guilds to disintegrate and others to form, as differing goals and personalities create rifts in a guild and fresh guilds tempt players to "greener" pastures. The small leveling scene is ripe for meeting and recruiting new players, especially as some guildies level more slowly than others and leave the fast-levelers bored and looking for parties to play with. Cataclysm will be no different, it will just have the additional choice of recruiting players based on your advertised raid size: some players will still prefer 25s, others will look to 10s. The guilds that hold together for 25s will be those that are most successful in maintaining a raiding core and recruiting as they level. Some 25-man guilds may voluntarily fracture, or stick together for a pair of 10-man raids that has a larger, more vocal guild community to participate in outside of raid times.

2) Difficulty

10man is still difficult content when wearing the appropriate iLevel gear. No 10-strict guild has killed LK-hardmode yet, as of my typing this (Edit: the first 10-strict HLK kill occurred almost 4 months after posting this), and not for lack of skill or trying. There is still a pressure to perform if you want to be "cutting edge" progression on the 10-man listings, just as much as there is in 25s. There are guilds in 25-man gear who still haven't cleared normal 10man, and pugs don't get far past the first wing (as of time of writing). Some mechanics are easier with 10m, others are harder. Raid composition is a struggle when fighting new bosses, and dual specs are required even among pure DPS, so they can swap between certain spec strengths or buffs.

Most players view 10mans as easy. In 25man gear, yes, it is much easier. Even in full 251/264 gear, the normal mode ICC content can be laughable (if you know the strats): you're meant to be doing hardmodes then (especially with the ever-growing zone-wide buffs in ICC!). The minor stat upgrades on gear make a huge difference in overall health pools, healing power, and mana, and the instance isn't always properly balanced towards this. Sometimes the mechanics are accidentally left on 25-man mode (see Rotface ooze spawns at ICC's release). However, because most raiders are in 25s and use the 10s as a more casual, fun, badge-farming run, they have trouble believing that the 10s may actually be difficult for someone who is not overgeared for it, while often at the same time barking about their gearscores and requiring certain gear levels for their pugs. Irony?

Outside of those who forget or underestimate the gear differential, some like to harp on the smaller raid size making it easier to spread out, ignoring that this is easily fixed by other mechanics such as the need for AoE heals (and their limited range) or regrouping mechanisms for things like the council's flame orbs, or that the smaller size can be countered by the devs altering splash radius, growth speed, or increasing the size of void zones. This prevents a 10-man raid from making use of all the available space, especially when they don't have the same health pools or spellpower to handle less AoE healing.

For further details on 10 vs 25 man instance difficulty, you can read my previous post here.

Many have wondered at Cataclysm's making the 10s and 25s "equal difficulty," thinking it to mean that either 10s will suddenly become incredibly hard or 25s will become easy. This stems from the misconception that 10s are easy content. I think it means, instead, that the devs don't want the raiders used to steam-rolling 10s in their 25m gear to think they can have an easy time on the future 10s. It's not so much a "change" as a statement of how it will be, that the instance will be balanced to the expected gear levels.

I think it also means they're going to be very careful (read: more careful than they were in WotLK) balancing the raid difficulty across an instance, based on mechanics and typical raid compositions. Some bosses may be easier on one raid size or another, but I believe they'll be balanced out by other bosses in the same instance. 10-strict is a challenge now, and raiding progression 10s won't be a walk in the park in Cata, either, for anyone.

3) Guild Size and Roster

10-strict guilds have a small raiding roster of (usually) 13 to 14 players. This allows for about 2 extra players available per party to sub in for fights based on raid composition or simply absences: a ratio seen in 25-mans as well, where 35 raiders is a common roster size. Dualspecs allow coverage of tanking and healing roles. The raiders will need to be rotated through the week to allow all players a chance at the limited content, however.

14 is, plain and simple, an easier group to manage than 35. With a little under half the players to be wrangled, this is the draw that 10-strict players have in WotLK to run in this format. It is less stressful from an officer stand point, all players can be more involved in the guild and be heard, and it is easier to get to know all of the players and watch for mistakes. Loot distribution is far, far easier: a simple, quick discussion usually settles it, sometimes a roll, though items tend to be disenchanted at a far higher rate for lack of a present player who wants them.

If you're looking for an active community, however, you need to look to 25-man guilds: most 10-man guilds are going to be rather quiet on off-nights, especially if they don't have a large number of casual friends and family hanging out with them. Personality and your ability to get along with your fellow guildies is also a big deal, given the smaller guild size: these are the few you have to help you, and the few who will be asking for YOUR help on heroics, side raids, achievements, and random farming or PvP sprees.

This won't change with Cataclysm, except in cases where a large guild decides to host 2 or more 10-man raiding teams in place of running 25-mans. At that point, you could conceivably have a community-guild feel with a ten-man raid style. However, with that comes the added difficulty of internal competition, as players on the less-progressed team may feel envious of the more-progressed team, and shared guild materials may be fought over as well; it will take careful community management to prevent the two groups from splitting the guild. Pros and cons!

4) Time Commitment

Most 25-man guilds felt pressured to run both 25s and tens to maximize their badges and pick up a few minor upgrades where they were either missed in the previous tier's 25man or due to the discrepancy between the loot tables (more on that, later). Many of these guilds raided 5, 6, or even 7 nights a week; some required offnight 10-man raids, even if they didn't advertise it in their raid schedule.

A few ten-man guilds require a similar time commitment as they spend the entire week working on a certain boss or achievement. Some follow a more casual schedule of 2 or 3 nights, allowing their raiders some freetime each week for alts, farming, or just being off the game to tend to other activities such as martial arts, sports, evening jobs, or family activities. Some 10-man guilds decide to pug 25s or create guild alliances to raid 25s (though these guilds were not technically "strict"), and used those to fill the time.

Thus, for any given raider in a progression-driven guild with a pressure to perform their best, the overall time commitment to raiding for 10-man guilds is a bit less than those in 25s. Dailies may still be expected and farming for consumable/enchant materials is a given, but actual raiding hours are (in most cases) less intensive for the ten-man raids, just because they do not require 25-mans as well (a few rare exceptions exist). This helps to avoid burnout, which makes the format further attractive to those raiders who would otherwise have just quit the game.

The devs do not want 10s to be required by 25-man guilds to maximize badges, leading to both the shared lockout and the cap on cataclysm's badge/point system. It is unknown at this point what that will mean for players who use tens to fill their week: whether there will be content available for them (and that doesn't count the pre-farmed instances they've grown bored of) or whether they'll have to spend more time with alts, or whether they'll be encouraged by randomized loading screen messages to get up and spend an evening out doing community service or sports (or partying).

Ten-man guilds who pug 25s or run them in a guild-alliance will also loose that weekly activity, leaving them in the same boat. 10-strict is probably the only raiding format that will not be heavily impacted by the shared lockout.

5) Leadership

In a more intimate 10m raiding size, there is still a need for some leadership, but it is less rigid and demanding than in 25-mans. There is certainly still work to be done, everything from rule-enforcement to recruitment to drama-referee to decision-making (be it dictator or just prompting votes), even to enforcing consumables and proper spec/gear/enchants, but it is more manageable than with a 25-man guild because there are fewer cats to herd.

Overall (and this has been supported by those in the comments), 10man guilds have a more transparent leadership and decision-making system. The whole guild can more easily be involved in all decisions; at the least, having the members understand why rules or decisions are made--and that their opinions were heard--makes for a more happy membership. People want to be heard, and a smaller guild makes it much easier for leaders to listen to everyone. This results in less drama, rumor-mongering, and misunderstandings, though it does not make them immune.

Thus far, nothing will change that. Again, the only exception may be the guilds hosting two or more ten-man raids, which will have the added bureaucracy of trying to keep the different raid teams from going at each others' throats.

6) The Raiding Experience

The "epic feel" of a 25-man raid, where you're a part of an army taking down colossal monsters, is a big contrast to the more intimate 10m raid. Each has its pros and cons: 25 mans are more likely to have all of the available class and spec combinations, all available buffs, etc. This makes it far easier to theorycraft caps on stats like hit, haste, etc, as the raider can assume they'll always have the buffs that boost them. Each individual player compounds the likelihood of a mistake, which is especially problematic in cases where that mistake may wipe the raid. The spell effects and additional players make it more taxing on a computer system, as well, though it does add to the grand feeling of the larger assault raid. 25s are also more capable of carrying a weaker player (be it skill, experience, or gear) than a strict-10 can support into a progression fight, provided that player's death or disconnect (DC) doesn't automatically wipe the rest of the raid.

10s, however, have a less chaotic feel, as if they're a small, surgical strike squad. Ventrilo conversations can be held more easily as there are fewer voices fighting for attention, and the raid leader is less likely to be missed or spoken over (my 40-man guild used to play music in vent during raids just to keep people quieter). Fewer spell effects and fewer player models can make it easier to see boss effects like void zones. The raid composition itself must be more fluid, dynamic, and flexible, with raiders shifting specs and gear to meet optimized raid compositions, buffs (including resistance buffs, tank cooldowns, and healing niches), or stat caps. This in turn puts a higher demand on individual player skill, as they must often be able to perform in different specs or roles. Each death also has a greater impact on the raid than in a 25: you are 10% of the raid in a 10man, as opposed to 4% of the raid in a 25-man.

I'm not expecting a change to the overall feel of the "grand assault" 25-man army and the "intimate" 10-man strike-team. These will probably be the biggest deciding factors for players in which format they choose.

I do, however, expect the buff situation to change: the homogenization of buffs (including cleanses) and the smudging of healer niches planned for Cataclysm are for the purpose of 10-man raid balance. While I regret (seriously, I do regret) the homogenization of these buffs and skills that make many classes/specs unique, it will make organizing tens' raid composition much easier.

7) Gear

You don't join a ten-man guild in WotLK if you care about having the best gear in the game. Ten-man players usually care about their gear, but the gear is not why they are playing the game: they have placed their priorities on the experience rather than having the best loot. 25s, meanwhile, are run by a mix of those who just prefer the larger format, by those that feel obligated to run them because their close friends all want the larger format, or by those who simply want the best gear in the game.

This doesn't mean ten-man players are all lax on enchants, gems, or finding upgrades where available. This doesn't mean that some are not jealous of the better gear. This doesn't mean it won't hurt their ego or feelings when others laugh at their lower gear or brush off their achievements, when they know that they probably have more skill and experience than the one who is laughing at them (those that laugh are often those that were carried by their 25-man guilds: interwebs bully covering for their own insecurities). All it means is that they valued the experience of seeing the content--without the drama of a 25-man guild--over getting the best gear.

Loot Tables:
Unfortunately, WotLK had separate loot tables for 10s and 25s. While 25s could slip into an "easy" 10 to farm some gear, 25-man pugs are generally more difficult to organize and run than 10-man pugs due to the number of random players involved, and the "strict" 10-man guilds couldn't even allow it for risk of falling off the ranking sites. Ranking sites are important not only for some players' ego or need for accomplishment (e-peen), but also as a recruitment tool to help advertise themselves to the scarce players who are trying to find a ten-strict home.

Item drops that were usually found in 25s and not in tens include decent trinkets and healing offhand items (excluding shields), and legendary weapons. Sometimes a certain gear slot (belt, boots, wrists) itemized for a certain spec or role could only be found by crafting, or even as an Auction House purchase as a BoE 25-man drop. Itemization of drops in terms of a spec's needed stats was not always met, especially in terms of ArP, spirit, or haste. 10m loot tables were truly tested and experimented on throughout the expansion. As these items (especially trinkets and legendaries) made such a huge difference in DPS or healing, it further widened the gear gap and relative difficulty of instances for 10man guilds vs 25s.

Loot Systems:
Things like DKP aren't really needed for 10man, because it is much easier to track who needs an item, who has more recently gotten gear, and who it is a bigger upgrade for. A quick and painless discussion, maybe mediated by a /roll, is all that is necessary. This saves a lot of time and headache: trust me, I've helped run DKP databases AND loot councils before!

Cheating: *
There are also some ten-strict guilds who would "cheat" the GuildOx ranking system, allowing a small handful of their raiders to continue to run 25s after joining the guild to maximize their gear and pick up the exceptional upgrades that are found in the 277 gear levels--and things like trinkets and legendaries--all in an effort to overcome the content and progression rankings more quickly. While this is not in the spirit of 10-strict, GuildOx's buffers against recruitment of 25-man geared raiders had the downside of allowing this to happen. Most guilds did not do this, but a handful did. There was, of course, some amount of drama on the progression threads stemming from this as every little piece of gear was brought into question, whether it could have been a legendary earned after joining the guild or even if it was a side-grade pair of boots earned before joining the guild. Personally, I frowned upon the blatant cheating, but I can't begrudge someone wearing gear they'd won in a previous guild before being recruited by the ten-strict guild.

* Let's call it "creative use of ranking loopholes."

With shared loot tables, itemization discrepancy will no longer be an issue. 25s will no longer feel compelled to slip into 10s (even though they will be unable to without locking themselves out of 25 for the week) for the sake of a certain drop, and 10s will no longer be in subpar gear sitting jealous of a trinket. The difference in gearing will be a matter of speed and the raid's skill: the devs have not yet said the exact planned drop rates, except to say that they want 25-mans to gear up overall faster than 10-mans, as the reward for their more difficult organization (which is mostly shouldered by only a few players in that large raid, anyway). This includes both drops and badge/points. They may change their minds about this, however, as the question of how to award those few who shoulder the burden of leadership without also awarding those who did no additional work continues to be considered.

8) Performance Expectations

Just as with 25-man guilds, there are 10-man guilds on each end of the friendship vs progression spectrum (otherwise known as the casual vs elitist jerks spectrum), and many all along the line in between. Some guilds are very "casual" and forgiving in how they raid: if someone is always standing in fires, they may moan and groan about it, but it's their buddy and they laugh and roll their eyes and try to just carry him/her along. Other guilds on the opposite end of the spectrum won't allow that player to step foot in their raids, even if they're married to a raider, unless it's farmed content they can easily 9-man. Some guilds will be forced to bench you if you seek to swap mains to a class they don't need; others will try to fit the new character in even if it hurts raid composition.

Similarly, some guilds may ignore that their friend is suddenly lagging behind in performance for unknown reasons, while another 10-man guild may bring the situation into question, seeking to help that player improve and fix whatever the problem is (be it a patch change they missed, a mechanic they don't understand, or that they're simply having a bad day) before bringing them to the next progression attempt that "stellar performance" is required at.

There is no difference in how a guild handles friendships vs performance between the two raid sizes: it is all a choice of the people who are playing in it, and how they want to play.

However, most ten-man guilds are built with a wish to play with like-minded players who are friends, people that they actually like. As a smaller community, there is more importance placed on getting along with each other, as a ten-man guild is usually too small to support separate cliques. Proper recruitment steps will, in most cases, prevent the need to remove a raider based on performance, should a guild decide to place performance over friendship in progression raiding. More often, a player will be replaced from attendance issues rather than performance.

There will be no change in this. Guilds can choose for themselves how demanding they are of their raiders' performance or class/spec, no matter what raid size they have.

Hopefully this will dispel some of the mystery or misconceptions about 10-man raiding. Fellow 10-man/10-strict raiders, please comment if you have more to add!

  • Keeva at TBJ later posted a good explanation of why some players feel obligated to run 25s in WotLK even though they prefer 10s.
  • Maestro at RDR makes several excellent points towards the equalization of 10 and 25-man gear, in regards to obligations vs rewards in WotLK.

Oh, a shout-out to some of my fellow 10-man bloggers who have commented on the Cata raiding changes:

Vortex Streaming Tonight

Warlock PoV.
  • Toravon and Sarth25 done
  • Marrowgar Hard down
  • Deathwhisper Hard down
  • Gunship "Hard" down... in flames. lol.
  • Saurfang Hard down
  • Valithiria Hard down
  • Council Hard down
  • Lanathel Hard... omgwtfrabidtree, they surprised me and made us 2-heal it. /whimper. Somehow we managed to one-shot it anyway, but it HURT!
  • Rotface Hard down

And that's it for the night :) join us tomorrow at 7:30 EST for Heroic Sindragosa work, hopefully we'll get her down!

Raid Difficulty Balancing Act: 10s and 25s Equality

The obvious difficulty of balancing/equalizing the difficulty 10s and 25s, assuming the gear is equal, is raid size. Raid size impacts:
  • Room to spread out:
    In a 10m with the same size and layout, the raid has lots more room to spread out to avoid splash damage abilities. 25m raids, with more players, have to squeeze in more tightly, or stack more raid healers to handle the damage. An option on balancing this is to reduce the available size of a room (even in as simple a way as putting a deadly moat of doom encircling the playing field on 10) or to increase the radius (or growth rate) of splash effects. It is likely that Blizzard has already implemented things like increasing damage in other areas to balance out the "spread" mechanics in WotLK; as it is, most 10-mans cannot spread out to fill all of the available space, due to the limited range of AoE heals. This one is a relatively easy fix compared to the others.

    There are, on the flip side, mechanics that punish having a smaller raid size, notably mechanics such as heroic blood prince: orbs spawning around the room to reach and dps down, flame orbs to physically tag before they annihilate a player, and a penalty to moving, all combined with the need to spread out from shock vortexes. While a larger raid could spread out initially and move very little while still covering those needs, a 10-man needs to reshuffle itself constantly during the fight to make sure orbs are reached and flame orbs are lessened, while the movement can also kill them and they must maintain a certain distance from each other.

    There is one big concern with trying to spread out in a ten-man raid: AoE healing. This is the single largest limiting factor in how far a 10-man raid can make use of a room, as the vast majority of "spread out" mechanics also incorporate raid-wide damage. For example, on Putricide, we have to group the raid together to soak green ooze explosions and AoE heal, reshuffling frequently around slime pools and goo, rather than spreading out as wide as there is physical space. Lana'thel must be organized in as close proximity as possible to each other to maximize AoE healing, for sake of survival. With fewer healers and those healers needing to both raid heal and tank heal together, AoE healing does not allow a 10-man to spread out to use all available room space.

  • Class abilities available:
    10m raids simply have less room to fit in the full variety of class-specific abilities and cooldowns available, including battle resses and types of tank-saving cooldowns. Alternatively, one battle res in 10m brings back a relative 2.5 of the raid in 25m, and though you have more room in the raid for more battle resses, the devs have considered putting a tied cooldown on a raid's battle resses. Blizzard is already working on addressing this in terms of "herolust" (blame Rahana for the term) by granting mages a similar ability, but the simple fact is that some classes are better in certain mechanics than others. For example, heroic marrowgar and heroic sindragosa favor stacking resto druids due to their high mobility: a ten-man raid without a resto druid (or two) will be much harder pressed to get that fight down. Valithria, meanwhile, favors healing classes other than resto druids.

  • Impact of a disconnect or death:
    1 player down in a 10m is the same as, by numbers, loosing 2.5 players in a 25m. 2 people down? You just lost a whole party in a 25. Did 5 players just jump ship after killing Toravon in your VoA? You can probably still kill Koralon in a 25, but in 10-man, you're out of luck. Did your hunter just take a swim in the pool of poison? Less of a problem on a 25-man than a 10. Did your MT just disconnect and get a defile on them? That will probably wipe either raid size: better hope their character despawns before it gets too big. A healer get bugged out on the teleporter pad (unable to leave the pad) and not notice until the Lich King is engaged? You might be able to get through P3 without them on 10 after they're destroyed by the aoe in the transition, let's hope they don't get a defile in P2. (...yes, all of these have happened to my raid before. Scary, isn't it?)

    While many of these things are dependent upon WHO they happen to (loosing one of 2-3 tanks in a 25 man can be just as devastating as in a ten), the overall loss of dps or healing from a death is magnified by the relative raid size in a ten-man.
  • Healer/Tank/Raid ratio:
    The relative tank/healer/total-raid-size ratio is different for each raid size. Currently, 10s run either a 1/1/5 or 1/1.5/5 ratio (2-3 healers); 25-mans run between a 0.4/1/5 to 0.12/1.4/5 ratio (2-3 tanks, 5-7 healers). Simply put, there are more available healers than tanks in 25-man raid, allowing for more focused tank-healing without the tank's healer having to worry about raid-healing at the same time. 2 healers in a 10-man with two tanks each have a tank to heal AND the rest of the raid, while those same players in a 25 will have the raid-healing job taken over by 3-4 other players, with split attention being granted to also help them with the tanks (hots, bubbles, cooldowns, etc).

    Why does this matter? Well, when gear and raid buffs are homogenized in Cataclysm, the tanks should, in most cases, have the same health pool regardless of their raid size. Damage from the boss will have to be balanced with consideration towards how many healers (in terms of HpS) will have their sole attention on the tank... and to some extent, how many raw healers there are in the raid who have tank-saving cooldowns available to help out in emergencies. Otherwise, if it's the same damage to match the same tank stats, then having more healers available to help that tank in the 25-man (or even just having the complete focus of one healer who doesn't have to OT or raid heal as well) will make it seem easier than in the 10-man. Similarly, designing the boss to do more damage in the 25 (to counteract the higher concentration of healers and cooldowns) will make the tank seem squishier than in the 10, and run a higher risk of a tank being one-shot in the 25 when they could've taken the hit in a 10.

    There are other ways to counter this, however: the 25 could require more concurrent tanks (be it by adds or damage-sharing links like Lana'thel/Marrowgar), or adds may do more damage in a 25 than in a ten (requiring more attention from the 25-healer and letting the ten do raid heals in conjunction with healing the add tank), or raid damage could be made more avoidable in the ten, freeing up the "raid healing" to allow those healers to focus on their tanks while keeping the raid healers busy in the 25.

  • Dualspecs and Raid Flexibility:
    Simply put for 10's, there are fights where you want 2 healers, and some where you want 3, and the difference between them is like night and day when it comes to your raid's dps, as compared to a 25's choice of 5 vs 6 healers. Most fights you want 2 tanks; sometimes you want one tank and an extremely durable DPSer (see my sindragosa first kill! go go offspec kitty-bear "tank."). Some fights simply call for a certain class' niche abilities over another, forcing a DPSer and a tank or healer to swap roles with each other.

    This impacts not only your recruitment (looking for specific hybrid classes), but also puts much more pressure on dualspecs and cross-spec skill: you need to know how to play your offspec and keep it geared, as each individual hybrid-class player is much more likely to get called upon to swap their specs than they are in a 25man. Some few players in 25s will swap regularly as well, but it is unlikely that most of them will, simply because their specific dualspec class is more likely to be already covered by a mainspec player. Can a 10m instance be balanced to assume that it is packed with dual-spec-savvy players to fit the specific needs of an encounter? Is this fair to pure dps classes, who may be left out of a 10m raid in favor of a hybrid with dualspec due to varying boss mechanics and a wish for raid flexibility, such as ignoring a rogue in favor of the shaman/paladin/kitty/DK/warrior hybrids who could heal or tank in a pinch?

Even with all of these balancing difficulties the developers face (and probably others I haven't yet considered), they seem to believe they can balance the raid difficulties to make them equal. They've had to do so already, with the further wrench of item-levels to consider; in some cases a 10m version is easier (aside gear level) than a 25m, and in others, the 10m has been more difficult (the most obvious of these is OS3D).

Will it always be equal? No. Will they try their best to make it as equal as possible? I certainly believe so. Will 10m sometimes be harder, and will 25m sometimes be harder? Probably; my hope is that in the balancing, they will balance out the relative difficulty across the instance, even if they can't get the specific boss fight exactly the same difficulty.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cataclysm and Raid Size

Big news coming down the pipe today: Nethaera posted the following on the forums, and sent up a cheer through the ten-man raiders (among others!). I've copied it here if you don't wish to follow the link.

(click here to skip the blue)

We're continuing to refine the raid progression paths in Cataclysm, and we'd like to share some of those changes with you today. Please enjoy!

The first of the refinements being made is that we're combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn't apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.

We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we'll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They'll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.

Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards
10- and 25-player (normal difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
10- and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items.

We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.

We recognize that very long raids can be a barrier for some players, but we also want to provide enough encounters for the experience to feel epic. For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid. All of these bosses would drop the same item level gear, but the dungeons themselves being different environments will provide some variety in location and visual style, as well as separate raid lockouts. Think of how you could raid Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep separately, but you might still want to hit both every week.

We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we’re likely to keep that design moving forward. We don't plan to impose attempt limitations again though, except maybe in cases of rare optional bosses (like Algalon). Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.

In terms of tuning, we want groups to be able to jump into the first raids pretty quickly, but we also don’t want them to overshadow the Heroic 5-player dungeons and more powerful quest rewards. We’ll be designing the first few raid zones assuming that players have accumulated some blue gear from dungeons, crafted equipment, or quest rewards. In general, we want you and your guild members to participate in and enjoy the level up experience.

We design our raids to be accessible to a broad spectrum of players, so we want groups to be able to make the decision about whether to attempt the normal or Heroic versions of raids pretty quickly. The goal with all of these changes is to make it as much of a choice or effect of circumstance whether you raid as a group of 10 or as a group of 25 as possible. Whether you're a big guild or a small guild the choice won't be dependent on what items drop, but instead on what you enjoy the most.

We realize that with any changes to progression pathways there are going to be questions. We're eagerly awaiting any that we may have left unanswered. To the comments!

The TL:DR:
  • Each instance has a shared raid lockout across both 10 and 25 raid sizes. This means you can't hit up both the 10 and the 25 versions in the same week.
  • Difficulty of the instance between raid sizes will be equal as much as possible.
  • Loot will be identical in both raid sizes. 25-man raid loot will not be better than 10-man raid loot. Both will drop the same iLevel loot. Both will share loot tables. /does a trinket dance!
  • 25m will get more loot per kill, gold, and badges than 10m boss kills. The exact proportion is not mentioned, but it is hinted at being more than an equal percentage (ie. rather than 2 drops in 10m/5 in 25m, it is more likely to be 2 in 10, 7+ in 25). The 25m raiders will also be able to purchase badge items far more quickly; overall, 25-man raiders will gear up more quickly. This is the carrot to run with more cats.
  • Limited Attempt mechanics will be rare and likely only on a couple optional bosses.
  • Gated content (especially heroic mode) will likely continue in Cataclysm.

Instance Length and Raider Rotations:

Additionally, the initial raid instances will be small, about 5-6 bosses. In multi-night raiding guilds, this is a big plus: if you have only one huge instance to raid and your guild always raids (using Vortex as an example) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, and if you have a raider who can never make Tuesdays, then that raider will always miss the bosses, gear, and experiences of the first part of that one big instance that is run on Tuesdays. Considering how specific bosses drop specific gear they may need, or that many raiders like seeing all parts of content to experience it and get variety, this is no small matter for guilds. This is a situation that occurs in many guilds, and this exact example is one I have seen with my own husband.

If you have an option to swap instances or even wings that you start on each week, then that raider gets to see the content and access the drops involved on an every-other-week rotation.... compared to current ICC, where the only option to start is Lower Citadel or, oh, Lower Citadel. VoA takes 10 minutes, and ToC is all but forgotten when you're raiding hardmode ICC. This seems to be what they are trying to remedy: allowing guilds to hit multiple instances in one week that offer the same level of gear and content commitment, and thus allow guilds to rotate what nights they raid which content.

...never mind that in equalizing gear (and difficulty to match the gear) across the floor, there will be far fewer raiders snubbing their noses at 10-strict guilds as being subpar or "nubs" (being as 10s are clearly so easy for them in their much higher gear).

Thank you, Blizzard.

Difficulty Levels:

Many of the comments I have seen from the knee-jerk forum posters are to the effect of "lulz we can raid the easy tens to get the same loot as 25, gg blizz for catering to the casuals and making wow too easy," which blatantly ignores the whole "We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve." This is remnant of the misconception that 10mans are easy: they are easy in 25-man gear, but they are not easy in the gear that they were BALANCED for. When the gear is balanced, so too will the difficulty feel balanced. 10s in Cataclysm will not be easy in 25-man gear, because 25-man gear WILL BE 10-man gear.

Of course, we might be seeing more Sarth10-3D in the difficulty scaling between tens and 25s, but it will simply be from the difficulty of balancing the mechanics rather than gear levels.
  • For a breakdown of ways that 10 and 25 are different in terms of difficulty balancing, you can read more detail in my post here. It includes space, class balance, dual specs, and even disconnects and how they impact the different raid sizes, and how they can be made to balance: if not equally on a certain boss, then balanced across multiple bosses in an instance.
  • If you are curious about what 10-man raiding guilds are really like to play in and be a part of, you can read my rather depthy explanation.
  • If you just need to see a cute puppy picture to feel happy and fuzzy again, go here. I'm still jealous, Zing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Still working on it!

For those awaiting the LKP2 comic, I promise I'm still working on it :) Work's just gotten busy, and I don't have photoshop at home!


I think this image provides a wonderful opportunity for me to point back to an old post I did (eh? eh? Earth day post recycling?)... about not standing in bad stuff.

...that means defile. Kthnx.

Advice from a Druid

An awesome gift I received this past holiday season is a hat and sweatshirt from the National Wildlife Federation Store with the "Advice from a Wolf" text. There are, of course, shirts with other subjects, including trees, bears, cats, and owls (moonkin!)...

From a Tree:
  • Stand tall and proud.
  • Sink your roots into the earth.
  • Go out on a limb.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Remember your roots.
  • Enjoy the view!.
  • Start from the ground up.
  • Stretch your limbs.
  • Branch out.
  • Root for others.
  • Make room for new growth.

From a Bear:
  • Live large
  • Climb beyond your limitations
  • When life gets hairy, grin and bear it
  • Eat well
  • Live with the seasons
  • Take a good, long nap
  • Look after your honey!

From a Cat:
  • Be frisky!
  • Pounce on possibilities
  • Enjoy the night life
  • Always land on your feet
  • Stretch often
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long nap
  • Create your purr-fect day!

From an Owl:
  • Stay focused.
  • Be "hoo" you are.
  • Trust in a wise friend.
  • Live off the land.
  • Glide through dark times.
  • Be observant.
  • Life's a hoot!

While these are fairly in-tune with a druid already, I can't help but grin at the additions a warcraft druid would add to this list...
  • Grow a thick Barkskin.
  • Share your Wild Growth with others.
  • The breath of life is but an acorn (and a cooldown) away.
  • Revel in your own Tranquility (it has pretty lights!).
  • Keep the untrustworthy (rogues) in your sights.

I know others will have ideas on things to add to the list!
So, how about you: what is your "Advice from a Druid"?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vortex Raid Streams

...take 2. Our warlock (Harsesis) has been playing for a few months to get his connection and streams more reliable, and recently it's been pretty stable. If you're curious to watch, we do raid Tues, Wed, and Sunday evenings from 7:30 to 11:30 EST (GMT-5), and you can spy on me here:

It is streaming as of the time of this posting :) About to kick over Toravon then go play with ICC10 hardmodes.

  • Toravon down
  • Valithria Hard down
  • Princes Hard down
  • Lanathel Hard down
  • Festergut/Rotface Hard down, that's it for tonight :) Put, Sindy, LK on Sunday evening.

Offtopic: Avatar has a midnight release tonight. Yays.

Haiku Reply

ArcaneTinkerTank via Murloc Parliament

With my shield I stop

Damage from hurting my friends

Thank you would be nice

Thank you, says the tree
With many hugs and healings;
I can has cookie?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Sometimes Shift, Part 2

Hana of Flash of Moonfire: "I'd like to see an outbreak of violence from the tree should there ever be a second panel. ;D "

Ancient of War, anyone?

My cookie. Rabid melee attack tree, rawr.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Link: Anaram's Resto Healing Guide

I'm still recuperating from a very long weekend of volunteer work (hello, aches and sunburn!) and from the mental exhaustion of wrangling 80 kids, so I really can't spill much in the way of legible thoughts of my own out on the blog right now... but today a guildie linked me a very interesting resto healing guide from Paragon (EU). It is not so much focused on what spells to use as how to work with other healers in raids: target priorities and choosing WHO to heal, based on the mechanics of our HoT-based class.

In other words, it's more about resto co-healing psychology than the specific mechanics.

Although it is written from a 25-man raider perspective, I still found several of the tips resonated with ten-man raids, as well, particularly in terms of target priorities and watching for PW:S (wasted HoT time, particularly if they are either full health or are getting an influx of direct heals to top them off) and Weakened Soul (no chance of getting a shield to stop the incoming damage).

I highly recommend taking a read through what he has to say here on the Paragon forums.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Offtopic: Breast Cancer Awareness

Going to touch on a different kind of healing, a real kind. This video was linked to me when it was first released back in November, and it makes me smile every time I watch it or even just listen to the song.

What makes me extremely happy is to find that the artist of the song the hospital chose to use, "Down" by Jay Sean, said he was honored that they had chosen his song for such an important message, and he held a live concert, complete with pink gloves:

In the above vid, there's an interview with Jay Sean about the viral video.

Cancer has touched my extended family in many ways, including breast cancer. Cancer has touched my guild: we have a very special rank called "Remembered." Videos like these are inspirational for millions across the world: catch it early as possible, and fight it, fight it as hard as you can.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stick-Figure Seekers...

I decided to go back and add a few illustrations to my Cataclysm druid-preview post.

Included is my first stick-figure Moonkin, who looks a bit like a Peep. Or maybe a Totoro. A Totoro-Peep.

Moonkin are made of marshmellow, FYI.

Cataclysm Kitty Combo Points

In reading through the rogue review, I came across this interesting comment on combo points:

(Rogue) To complement the change to combo points, non-damage abilities such as Recuperate and Slice and Dice will no longer have target requirements and can be used with any of the rogue’s existing combo points, including combo points remaining on recently killed targets. This will not affect damage abilities, which will still require combo points to be present on the specific target you want to damage. To coincide with this, the UI will be updated so that rogues know how many combo points they have active.

After reading this, I was curious if they are considering to implement similar for druids: I'm thinking especially of Savage Roar. Someone else thought the same thing and asked on the forums. GC's response:

  • Q u o t e:
    Are cats receiving a similar change for Savage Roar and their UI, or is this going to be completely rogue specific?
It will most likely apply to cats as well. (source)

This is also mentioned in another blue post:

Using Savage Roar after a target with cps on it has died will help too. (source)

/happy kitty. It's not 100% definite, but it is likely that cat druids will be able to use combo points from recently-dead mobs to fire off a Savage Roar, rather than having those combo points completely lost and useless to them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Treeform is a Sometimes Shift

...sorry, I couldn't help it... >_>

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hardmode Marrowgar Photoshop Funtimes

Jasyla at Cannot be Tamed posted today about various hardmodes her guild has been working on. One of them is Marrowgar, and her description prompted me to comment,

"Marrowgar hardmode is as hard as easymode is easy. It's like a flipflop of night and day, where Easymode he is sleep-walking and stumbles on his own axe, and Hardmode is like he's been possessed by the Lich King himself, with Illidan, Kael'Thas, C'Thun, and Lady Vashj replacing his weapons.

...yeah that's quite a mental image. :D"

Jasyla photoshopped it together. Go see ;) *giggles*

April 9 Druid Preview: Thoughts on Each Point

Last Friday the cataclysm preview was released. Here, I will quote each part of the preview and give my thoughts on it. And some stick figures.

New Abilities

(Feral) Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.

Sounds like a bear-only ability, though it would be interesting to see with cat form as well. Adding bleeds to an indefinite number of aoe-tanked targets will certainly make those that rely on bleed effects quite happy (I haven't read the rogue report yet, but my WotLK Kaeya-rogue is grinning at the idea). Interesting part of this is that there is NO mention of "threat" in this ability description, despite being added as a bear tanking ability.

On the flip side, I also find it interesting that they are granting bears another AoE tanking ability, when they've also stated that they plan for instances in Cataclysm to be heavily CC/tactics rather than the WotLK AoE-fest.

(Feral) Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

I like this. Oh yes, I like this.
"I'm a huge frikkin bear, and I'm gonna maul yur ass if you don't MOVE."

Only better motivation to get your fellow raiders to run faster is to attach a chocolate bar and/or a Hot Pocket on a stick and hold it out in front of them.

Sindragosa-type nova and someone lagged? RAWR you can has speed buff. Good times.

(ALL) Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

.... wild and crazy magical mushrooms: not for consumption. Explosive. They must have a spore cloud of doom. In my opinion, it should debuff the AoE enemy targets with a poison spore cloud when it detonates, but no, they just explode.

Exploding shrooms.


Mechanics Changes

(Resto) All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.

I was expecting this when I first noticed the warlock changes calling for hasted DoTs that didn't reduce the debuff duration. This change makes me a very happy druid: I can have my cake (faster HoT ticks) and eat it, too (targets are swiftmendable for a longer period of time), though it will make theorycrafting a PitA to calculate the number of HoT ticks your hasted spell will have over its duration. I see charts in the future, big haste-to-ticks charts. As a plus, they can crit. Mmmmm crit.

FYI, a later blue post clarified that crit/haste will also effect other druid DoTs like moonfire, ISS, and rake/rip. Fear my moonfire spam. Pew pew.

(Resto) Unlike the other healers, Restoration druids will not be receiving any new spells. They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.

AND (in a later blue post)

(Resto) Druids don't have perfect analogs to the priest heals, but you can imagine Regrowth as the Flash Heal, Nourish as the heal, and Healing Touch as the greater heal. Lifebloom is something you'd put on a tank before healing with Nourish or Healing Touch (which might even refresh the stack). Rejuv will still be good for the reason hots are good. Wild Growth is still a group heal. Tranquility is an emergency heal, and we'll change it to act more like Divine Hymn.

AND (in a later blue post)

(Resto) (response to a post saying, "Other from the universal healing changes Resto Druids have absolutely NOTHING to relearn or spend time to master unlike the other healing class notes released", Let me know how that Rejuv spamming with WG on cooldown works out for you at 85

I am content with this. Resto druids have a large arsenal of spells already, and if anything, they need to have certain spells revamped rather than be given new ones (I'm looking at you, Tranquility). The breakdown of lifebloom/nourish/regrowth/rejuv sounds spot-on and it doesn't sound like it'll require much alteration of playstyle for myself (except to make HT and Tranquility more situationally useful beyond NS+HT), though I know many druids these days rely much more heavily on just blanketing a raid with rejuv, as the style lends itself well to larger raids than my ten-strict. Based on GhostCrawlers' response, it sounds like they're expecting restos to heal more like the ten-strict druids and less like rejuv/wildgrowth bots.

(Feral) We want to add tools to cat form and depth to bear form. If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt. Bears need to be pushing a few more buttons just so the contrast between tanking and damage-dealing is not so steep.


(Feral) We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility.

Good to see a revamp or addition to the cat-interrupt Maim, as a CP-using interrupt is far more unwieldy than a good Kick (nevermind the idea of bear-charge and bear-bash).

The comment on bears intrigues me, as it suggests they have further plans in mind beyond adding the Thrash ability.

Ninja kitty, go!

(ALL) Barkskin will be innately undispellable.

Ummm... okay. Yay for not having naked, barkless trees? ;) PvP change, aside cases where they may throw in a boss mechanic that dispels buffs (which has happened in the past).

(Feral) We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss.

This tells me they do not intend to remove the "must be behind your target" component to shred, something I've been expecting to see happen ever since they removed it from Mutilate (rogues) for WotLK. However, cats are currently far more viable with their from-behind Shred than Assassination rogues were in TBC with their from-behind mutilate, so I'm not shedding tears over it.

(Resto) Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

We were shown this in the previous dispel mechanics preview. I will miss abolish poison, as abolish was very useful in situations where you were expecting a poison--particularly a sleep effect or a rogue--and could abolish poison and keep on healing without needing to reapply the cleanse for a decent chunk of time. It was a good tactic of thinking in advance. This change will, unfortunately for us, make poison cleanses purely reactionary... and they've told us it will also cost us more mana to cast it.

Talent Changes

(Resto) Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time.

This one has caused quite a stir in the druid community. The key comment in here is, "druids rarely actually get to show off their armor." Yes, that has been a common (and loud) complaint among druids for some time now, but taking the shapeshifts AWAY is not the answer: what druids want to see is armor applying in-form, and a far less ugly treeform. Bears with barding, with a polearm strapped across their furry shoulders; trees with a hood and gown flowing down like the branches of a willow. Shapeshifted armor is what druids have wanted to see, not their chunky cow forms. Caveat: elves are much prettier than grumpy-old-man trees.

I spend plenty enough time in raids and heroics in my (chunky) cow-form. When I'm not needed for super-amazing heals, I can HoT up the tanks in cow-form and cast hurricane and oooh and ahhh at the pretty lightening. If my tree form were prettier (grumpy old man tree? no thanks), I'd have complained far less about loosing my pretty elf form when I played Alliance back in the end of vanilla. Why is it that when you're offering to finally grant us a graphic update (hopefully one prettier than the ugly model now), we're now being told that resto is the ONE spec of druid that is expected to spend most of its time in base form?

Blizzard has heard our past form-armor complaints, but went off in an unexpected direction with it. I am with Lissanna on this: "I really want to see what the new tree mechanic would actually look like before I start freaking out."

(Feral) We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake. The changes here will be on par with increasing the duration of Mangle like we did for patch 3.3.3.

The take-home lesson from this is they do not want hit-caps to be such a big deal, something I noticed with the stat-change preview (and Scythe reminds me that the haste changes will grant faster energy returns, which in turn makes the rotation more forgiving as well). In regards to actual ability chances, this chunk of the preview is a vague "yeah things'll change but we'll have to test it to see how it all plays out before we tell you anything."

Edit: I have found clarification on this,

The recent Mangle change is a good example. Other candidates include letting Rake last longer, changing Mangle's damage such that it's not such a gigantic dps loss not to Shred, and / or changing the bonus of Savage Roar so that it's not such a crippling dps loss if it falls off. Using Savage Roar after a target with cps on it has died will help too.

We still want the John Madden crowd to be able to try and maximize their dps. We just want players not playing at that level to not be so far behind (though behind is fine).
FYI, the "John Madden" comment is in reference to flowcharts like this.

(Balance) Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown.

Another button to push for the turkeys, one which sounds to be intended to break up the starfire/wrath rotation (ie make it more interesting) without actually interrupting it.

(Resto) Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.

Moonglade: your new go-to florist shop for all of your Valentine's, birthday, anniversary, and get-well-soon needs!

It seems to be a little mini wild-growth splash from your Regrowth crits; interesting. It's not a major change from what I can tell, though that would depend on the amount of healing the sprouted flowers do, and whether it is AoE or single-target or some sort of floral light-well (pick a flower, get a heal? Humorous, but I don't think the mechanic would go over well!).

(PvP) We want to make sure Feral and Balance druids feel like good options for an Arena team. They need the tools to where you might consider a Feral druid over an Arms warrior, or a Balance druid over a mage or warlock. Remember that the PvP landscape will probably look pretty different for Cataclysm with a focus on rated, competitive Battlegrounds.

I like that they are returning battlegrounds to the spotlight over arenas. Arenas were nasty (imo) and had no goal but to slaughter the other team: battlegrounds had goals and more interesting terrain and felt like they actually had a story-roleplay purpose for securing and defending your territory. I don't have plans to return to any sort of hardcore battleground team like I did in vanilla, but I still like seeing it happen.

(Balance) Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.

AND in a later blue-post,
We're going to try a few different things and see what feels the best. Spells cast is the simplest system, but we also get a little more dynamic system if it was damage done or even if just crits moved the meter more. We still don't want a rotation that is just 1111222211112222.
This reads to me like the PvP alliance-to-horde ownership meters, revamped for Eclipse, and removing the proc (and thus nixing the RNG dependency). The key question now is what sort of rotation they are wanting to see in terms of how OFTEN you will need to alternate spells to "maintain the balance:" moonkin may need to alternate every other, or alternate every three, or every 10... but it sounds like Moonfire/ISS/Starfall/Typhoon will play into it as well as crits, and possibly even the damage ticks from the DoTs will budge the meter around.

(Feral) Bleed Damage and Savage Defense: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears.

Pretty self-explanatory, moving some current WotLK talents and turning them into passive bonuses that can, conceivably, be gained at lower levels, making lowbie tanking much more forgiving, among other things.

(Resto) HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.

My immediate reaction is that they liked the idea of the original Glyph of Rejuv (double-healing ticks below 50% health) and decided to throw it on all of our spells with a passive mastery talent, especially since so few druids have the glyph flexibility to glyph for it. It will aid in the "triage" aspect of healing, especially on a DPS who strayed into fire and you can't spare more than a single HoT to keep them alive.

(Feral) Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn’t fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character’s unbuffed health. For boss encounters we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Feral tree and the druid is in bear form -- these values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Feral tree and are in bear form, so you won’t see Balance, Restoration, or Feral druids in cat form running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today -- there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so the Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is that all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

Interesting: "Whenever a tank gets hit" and "...threat) doesn’t fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear" are not really the problems I see in my instances. Usually, when I see a group over-gear content (as a whole group), the tank's threat problems stem from NOT getting hit due to high dodge/block/parry (or the mob dieing too fast), which causes paladins to go OoM from lack of needed heals or warriors/bears/DKs not generate rage or runic power from being hit, and THEN they have threat problems. The non-pallies can get a few swings in of their own and start building rage eventually, but pallies are just out of luck on mana if they are not being hit by the mobs.

Unless they are seeing this Vengeance thing as a pug-fix where an undergeared tank (who WILL be hit but may not deal much damage) is grouped with overgeared DPS (who will be high-threat), I'm not fully understanding their direction with this.


The most ground-breaking changes are in the revamp of Eclipse and the consideration of removal of "permanent" Tree of Life shapeshift in trade for (what sounds like) a click-use cooldown. I am wary but keeping an open mind with the tree form changes (we are getting new art, finally), but will state flat-out that I'd rather see remodeled (prettier) trees wearing armor and shift out to cast a damage spell (costs no GCD to unshift), than see look-alike trees on a cooldown providing some crazy temporary x-amount-of-spellpower buff that would be replicated with a trinket. Now, if the cooldown-tree-buff provided something really cool, like heals providing a bark-like damage shield on the tank for the duration, I'd be quite happy.

Time will tell how many of these changes stick around, are changed again, or are nixed altogether.