Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New gear in 2.3

Artwork by 02Dazone.comThe upcoming 2.3 patch is a big one, with changes to every class (including some very significant changes for shaman), interface improvements, new daily quests for battlegrounds and 5-man instances, new profession recipes, guild banks, improved levelling speed, new Dustwallow Marsh quests, and of course Zul'Aman, the new 10-man raid instance.

With so many changes, it's hard to pinpoint which is the most exciting. Regardless of your priorities, however, new [Phat Lewtz] is almost certainly up there. In addition to a few tweaks to existing items, there's Arena Season Three, new PvP rewards, new Badge of Justice turn-ins, and, of course, new drops from Zul'Aman. Talk about Christmas in ... November? December? (No ETA has been given for 2.3 yet.) Update: Patch 2.3 is scheduled for release on November 13.

Changes to existing items
Blizzard has made changes to a vast number of pre-Burning Crusade items to make them more desireable as part of their efforts to make levelling new characters easier and more fun. Battleground twinks may want to take a closer look, but none of the changes are particularly interesting for end-game purposes.

Three changes are signficant to a raiding Restoration shaman, however:

  • The two-piece bonus for the [Cataclysm Raiment] (Tier 5) has improved to a 5% reduction in the mana cost of Lesser Healing Wave (currently 3%).
  • The four-piece bonus has changed significantly as well:
    • Pre-2.3: Reduces the casting time of your Healing Wave spell by 0.15 sec. In addition, your critical heals from Healing Wave, Lesser Healing Wave, and Chain Heal reduce the cast time of your next Healing Wave spell by 0.85 sec.
    • Post-2.3: Your critical heals from Healing Wave, Lesser Healing Wave, and Chain Heal reduce the cast time of your next Healing Wave spell by 0.5 sec for 10 sec. This effect cannot occur more than once per minute.
    Needless to say, this greatly reduces the incentive to obtain the new (relatively useless) four-piece bonus.
  • The four-piece bonus for the [Skyshatter Raiment] (Tier 6) will now be a 10% reduction in mana cost for Chain Heal (currently reduced Lesser Healing Wave cost). This is a great change as CH is our most commonly cast spell.

Arena Season Three
Blizzard has stated that Season 3 will not necessarily coincide with the 2.3 patch, but the forum consensus is that it will either start with the patch, or two weeks afterwards. begin one week after patch 2.3 (that means November 20th, if all goes well with the patch on the 13th).

Going from Season Two to Season Three is generally a better upgrade than going from Season One to Season Two, simply because additional itemization points were spent on stats other than Resilience. If gemmed for PvE, they generally fall somewhere between Karazhan/Tier 4 and Tier 5 items in quality. Several important changes have been made regarding Arena gear:
  • All seasons of Arena gear will count towards the two- and four-piece set bonus (e.g., three pieces of Gladiator Ringmail and one piece of Merciless Gladiator Ringmail will activate the four-piece bonus). Items from different sets will not combine, so if you want to double up on the +35 Resistance bonus, you can wear two pieces of Mail and two pieces of Ringmail.
  • The four-piece bonus on the Restoration and Elemental arena sets have changed. The Restoration (Wartide) bonus is now a 1.5 second reduction to your Grounding Totem cooldown and the Elemental (Thunderfist) bonus will be a phenomenal 70% chance to avoid interruption while casting Lightning Bolt.
  • The [Vengeful Gladiator Ringmail Gauntlets] will now have an improved range on Shock spells (similar to Season One and Two Elemental gloves). There will be no change to the Gladiator or Merciless Gladiator Gauntlets, however.
  • A personal rating of 1850 will be required to purchase Season Three weapons and a rating of 2000 will be required to purchase Season Three shoulders. There is no rating requirement for Season Two items.
MMO Champion has posted screenshots of each of the three sets: [Gladiator's Earthshaker] (Enhancement), [Gladiator's Thunderfist] (Elemental), and [Gladiator's Wartide] (Restoration - note that the glove bonus was changed after this screenshot was taken).

PvP Gear
A new set of PvP honor gear (boots, belt, bracers, rings and necklaces - but not cloaks) will arrive with the start of Arena Season Three (screenshots of the boots/belts/bracers are included in the links to the Season Three gear). In addition, all of the Season One Gladiator gear will be available for purchase using honor (a full pricelist of PvP and Season One gear can be found on MMO Champion). Several new trinkets that increase health by 1,750 for 15 seconds will be available for 30,000 honor as well (they share the same cooldown as the trinkets available with Badges of Justice, so you're unlikely to want both). This means a lot of honor grinding for competitive Arena players, but the battleground dailies should provide 400 bonus honor each, slightly reducing the amount of time required to obtain all the new items.

Badge of Justice Turn-ins
As of 2.3, bosses from both Karazhan and Zul'Aman will begin dropping [Badge of Justice] (the same items that currently drop in heroics). It's a good thing, too, since there's a whole slew of new gear available - most of which is on par with (or better than) Tier 5 items!

World of Raids has posted screenshots of the new mail items, along with new totems, new cloaks, new trinkets, and new necklaces. I'd also suggest looking at the leather items as well since they may be superior to the mail versions in some cases.

Overall, this is a great source of gear. Running two or three heroics a day would give you a complete set of upgrades in a month or so, especially if you're also running Zul'Aman and Karazhan on a weekly basis. For avid PvPers, the cloaks are especially good - particularly the healing cloak since there is no equivalent available currently.

Rounding out the list of new gear are the Zul'Aman drops. Like the Badges of Justice items, they're of approximately Tier 5 quality. The only downside to this gear is their rather bizzare appearance. But hey, the stats are definitely pretty, even if your character won't be!

Neither MMO Champion or World of Raids have a nice, combined screenshot, but gsDKP has a listing of Zul'Aman loot with mouse-over tooltips that you can peruse.

All in all, there're plenty of great items out there to keep striving for. These should prove to be a big boost in power to any guild that's still working on the early 25-man content as more gear will almost always make encounters easier. And for the more casual player, these are phenomenal pieces of gear well beyond what would have been available to them prior to 2.3.

Continue on to my review of healing gear for 2.3

Continue reading "New gear in 2.3"

Monday, October 29, 2007

2.3 Shaman Changes - Updated

A new patch build was released for the PTR over the weekend, so I figured this would be a good time to expand upon and update my original posting.

Blizzard's 2.3.0 Patch Notes remains the official version of changes, but MMO Champion has a lot of additional information about the upcoming patch, including screenshots.

All* items that currently have an Equip or Use bonus of "Increases healing done by spells and effects by up to <X>" will have bonus spell damage added equal to one third of the current healing bonus. This includes gems and enchants, but not temporary buffs or items that currently grant both spell damage and healing already. For example, the bonus for [Living Dragonscale Helm] will soon read "Equip: Increases healing done by up to 81 and damage done by up to 27 for all magical spells and effects." The nominal reason for this change is to give pure healers better soloing capability and with most healers sporting 1300-1400 +healing in pre-Kara blues, this means an extra 400-500 spell damage. You're probably better off switching to more DPS-oriented gear if you're doing any significant amounts of grinding, but at least now you won't have to collect two sets of gear.
* A few green "of the <whatever>" items won't receive this bonus due to a maximum of four bonuses allowed on a single item.

Despite the developers' stated intent, the greatest effect of this change will actually be to PvP. Healers won't be packing quite as much spell damage as our DPS compatriots, but it will be enough to supplement our healing role with occasional burst damage and give us a better chance to win a one-on-one encounter with a DPS class. The change may also nudge a few players towards a more hybrid spec to take advantage of the bonus spell damage, but with so many strong talents deep in the Restoration tree, I don't foresee many shaman making the switch. However, Elemental shaman (especially 3X/0/3X hybrids) may want to consider wearing a few pieces of "Resto" gear to increase their emergency healing ability with only a slight loss to their overall spell damage total.

Mana Spring Totem will now provide 20 mana every 2 seconds at max rank, rather than 12. This is the equivalent of 50 mana/5 (62.5 with the Restorative Totems talent).

Water Shield will no longer cost mana to cast and will provide 200 mana per globe. In addition, unused globes will grant their mana at the end of the shield's duration of one minute. This is the equivalent of 50 mana/5, with even higher rates for fights where you're taking damage. There does not appear to be any interest in changing Lightning Shield, but they are considering making changes to Earth Shield.

Cure Disease and Cure Poison have been increased to 40 yards range.

Frost Shock will no longer be effected by diminishing returns in PvP.

The base casting time for Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning are both reduced by 0.5 seconds, but are paired with a corresponding reduction of the Lightning Mastery talent's effect (netting the same casting time). In addition, Lightning Overload has been changed to a 4% chance of casting per talent point. The LO spell only causes half damage, but generates no threat. The reduced casting time is a boon for Restoration shaman (especially with the addition of spell damage to healing gear), but it's an overall nerf to Elemental shaman DPS because of the reduced coefficient for bonus spell damage (from 86% to 71% for LB, and from 71% to 57% for CL). Even with the improvement to LO, Elemental shaman will see about a 5-10% reduction in DPS.

Elemental Focus "clearcasting" has been changed from a 60% reduction in cost of your next damage spell to a 40% reduction in cost of your next two spells. This will result in a little extra mana longevity for Elemental shaman, assuming your crit is below 50% (graph created by Binkenstein).

Two-handed Axes and Maces will no longer require a talent and will be trainable by all shaman.

The Enhancement tree gets some much-needed love in 2.3: Spirit Weapons will now reduce the threat of all melee attacks, including Stormstrike and Windfury attacks, by 30% (was 15%); Shamanistic Rage will reduce damage taken by 30% during its effect; and Mental Quickness will now provide 10/20/30% of your Attack Power as bonus spell damage and healing. In addition, a new talent has been added in place of Two-Handed Weapons: Shamanstic Focus. This talent will reduce the mana cost of your next Shock spell by 60% after landing a melee critical hit.

A wide variety of new gear will be available in 2.3. I've written a brief overview of the new gear along with a review of new healing gear, but among the biggest changes are:

  • Zul'Aman drops and new Badges of Justice turn-ins, all of approximately Tier Five quality.
  • New versions of PvP honor gear. Season One arena gear can be purchased with honor.
  • All seasons of arena gear will count towards the two- and four-piece set bonus.
  • New set bonuses for Restoration Cataclysm (Tier Five) and Skyshatter (Tier Six) sets as well as the Restoration and Elemental arena sets.

Stay tuned for a discussion on the new gear in 2.3 and I'll continue to update this post as more information becomes available.

For discussion of 2.3's effects on other classes, check out:

Continue reading "2.3 Shaman Changes - Updated"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Elitist Jerks Class Guides

I've been swamped with work, so haven't had much time for blogging this week. However, I wanted to point out a very useful set of threads on the Elitist Jerks forums. The guild has been encouraging its forum regulars to post compiled class theorycrafting guides and a number of very excellent posts have already been put together. I'll update this list (and my links page) as more are added, but if you're interested in how to play one of these classes well, I'd strongly encourage you to read them. (Some of these are currently works in progress, but I expect them to be fleshed out relatively soon.)

Edit 11/2: New Restoration Druid guide added.

Continue reading "Elitist Jerks Class Guides"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Draezele's UI

Based on the principles I listed in my previous post, I set several specific goals for Draezele's UI:

  • Player, target and raid frames clustered in an easily-visible location.
  • Clickable buttons should be grouped together and less used ones should be hidden except when moused over.
  • Use the fewest possible addons.
  • Reduce the clutter.
So without further ado, here is Draezele's UI...

Base UI
Click to view clean full-size version

1. Player Frame - Using X-Perl UnitFrames.

2-4. Bartender 3 Bars - Both bars labeled "2" are standard bars with a slight transparency (left bar is for consumables, right bar for other frequently-used clickable abilities). The bars labeled "3" (including the mini-menu) are only visible with mouse-over and have even greater transparency. Bar "4" is not intended to be clicked, but monitors spell/item cooldowns that I want easily visible.

5. Totem Timers

6. Chat windows - I use two chat windows: the bottom for general chat (plus /raid, /party and /battleground), and the top only for whispers and /guild chat. This keeps me from losing track of whispers in the spam of battlegrounds or raid emotes. I color-coded each channel to make each visually distinct. I don't display the combat log because I find it just a distraction.

7. FuBar - To the left is LocationFu and RegenFu (displays regen rates and time in 5-second rule), with FactionFu, HonorFu, and Farmer Fu below it. In the center is MoneyFu, BagFu and Durability. To the right are ClockFu, SwitcherFu (switches between full-size and windowed mode), PerformanceFu, UsageFu (shows memory usage), and VolumeFu. Below them is Recount's plugin (disabled in this screen shot), NameToggleFu (turns name plates on and off) plus Aloft, Grid and Bartender's plugins.

8. Mini-Map - Resized and given a new skin using SimpleMinimap. Attached are BC_TrackingMenu and ItemRack. I hid all other minimap icons, prefering to use / commands for the few remaining mods not attached to FuBar.

Raid UI

Click to view clean full-size version

9. Target Frame - Also using X-Perl. Below the target frame are the target's target (left) and target's target's target (right).

10. Focus Frame - From X-Perl. I use /focus for setting my Earth Shield target.

11. Raid Frames - Using Grid and GridManaBars, with only the most critical information displayed. (I'll make a separate post on how I set up Grid later.)

12. Deadly Boss Mods Displays - I chose to move these out of the main field of view so that I didn't clutter my screen.

13. Natur Enemy Cast Bars - I also moved these out the way since they're infrequently referenced.

14. Casting Bar - Using Quartz. I wanted this to be immediately visible, so placed it just below my character. My target's casting bar is placed right beside it so that I can use Earth Shock if appropriate.

I still make the occasional tweak to my setup from time to time (such as adding the Proximo arena frames over the Deadly Boss Mods area), but I'm pretty content with my set up right now.

Continue reading "Draezele's UI"

Friday, October 12, 2007

Designing Your UI

Creating a good UI takes planning and a seemingly endless number of minor adjustments, but finding that "perfect" UI design is worth the trouble. A custom UI can definitely improve your overall game experience because it will meet your specific needs and sense of aesthetics. There are a lot of "plug and play" UI packages out there, but ultimately the only one who knows exactly what you want is you. So why not take the time to create a UI that suits your needs?

When designing a UI, I try to meet the following goals:

  • Maximum game-world visibility
  • Important information easily available
  • Minimize the clutter/distractions
  • Make it stylish
  • Keep it simple
Sounds easy, right? Let me expand on those goals a little bit.

Maximum game-world visibility: Something I hated when I started raiding "back in the day" was how little of the scenery and encounters I saw thanks to the clutter of raid frames, damage meters and the default UI. The artists went to a lot of trouble to make the game world a visually interesting experience, so why not make it so you can actually see it? From a more practical standpoint, the boss fights in Burning Crusade (and PvP, for that matter) place a lot of emphasis on environmental awareness, so the more you can see, the better. When designing a UI, I try to leave not only the center of my screen open, but the sides as well to provide a more "natural" experience.

Important information easily available: Are there certain pieces of information you always find yourself looking for? Wondering how many spaces are free in your bags? How much ammo you have left? What your frames per second is? These are all great candidates to have displayed on your UI.

Where you put this information, and how you display it, is important as well. If you have to search your entire screen, or squint to see that tiny number, you're not doing yourself any favors. Aside from making sure that these items are readable and in an easily-located spot, it's helpful to have related information close together so that your eyes don't have to move all over the screen. For example, I chose to cluster my player frame, target frame, and raid frames below my character for greatest visibility. I also placed general information at the top of my screen where it wouldn't be obscured by the game world. Any situationally-required information (damage meters, raid warnings, etc.) should ideally be toggled on and off as necessary, and placed in a distinct area.

Minimize the clutter/distractions: While some information is critical, too much information just complicates things to the point of being more of a hinderance than a boon. First of all, make sure that the information you're displaying is relevant. If you don't really need it easily accessible, why clutter your screen? One prime target is the default action bars. If you're using keybindings for these abilities, you only need to see the ones with cooldowns, freeing up a great deal of space. Bar addons like Bartender can also give you the option to hide bars unless you mouse over them, improving your overall visibility and reducing distractions.

Make it stylish: The Blizzard UI is pretty well designed, but creating a slick-looking interface that suits your style makes the game more fun. Some people may want all kinds of bells and whistles, with 3-D portraits and fancy art, while others want very simple, utilitarian looks. Make your UI match your personality.

Keep it simple: There are a lot of great addons out there that can help tailor your UI, but I've found that the really complicated ones can sometimes be a hassle. If updating your mods requires completely reseting your UI, you may want to think twice before devoting a lot of time to learning a particular addon.

Once you have an idea in mind, take a little time to review exactly what you want to do. If you only want to make a few minor adjustments, that's easy to jump in to, but if you have lots of changes you'd like to make, you'll want a good idea of exactly how each part should be set up. You'll inevitably have to make changes along the way, but minimizing them from the outset makes the process less onerous.

Continue to Draezele's UI
List of mods used for Draezele's UI

Continue reading "Designing Your UI"

Hunter tips

I recently posted a bunch of tips for my guild's hunters on how to improve their performance for DPS race fights. Since I'd intended to post a few hunter-related discussions, this seems like a good place to start.

Shot Rotation
For Beast Masters, it's easy: Steady Shot between every Autoshot. Don't bother with the rest unless you're moving (in which case replace with Arcane Shot), but Steady Shot has a MUCH higher damage per mana used ratio (DPM) compared to the others. Aim for a 1:1 ratio between Steady and Auto on the WWS performance meters.

For MM and Survival, it's a bit more complicated. Steady Shot between every Autoshot, but add in Multishot/Arcane every other time for something like:

(auto) Steady - Multi (auto) Steady (auto) Steady - Arcane (auto) Steady ....
You won't be able to fit in two specials between every Auto without clipping, so don't bother trying. Steady should always be your highest priority, however. Once again, aim for a 1:1 between Steady and Auto and a 1:4 each between Arcane/Multi and Auto.

Other Shots
Don't use Aimed Shot, it resets your Autoshot timer, so actually causes you to lose DPS. Stupid, but that's the way it works.

For now, also skip Serpent's Sting. Its DPM is lower than Arcane and Multi and it could theoretically push another debuff off (it's one of the worst compared to warlock and mage debuffs). (Note: 2.3 is buffing Serpent's Sting, so we'll see if this changes things.)

Scorpid Sting is good, however, and someone should be in charge of keeping it up.

For our current gear level, if you can use your pet well, Beast Master is far and away the best DPS. If you're not good with your pet, it's still pretty even (Serpent's Swiftness really is that good). Sadly, Survival has the worst personal DPS until we hit Tier 5/6 gear. The Expose Weakness buff is nice, but it's debatable whether the DPS tradeoff is worth it. A second Survival hunter, however, is a net loss of DPS.

I'd actually recommend that all but one hunter spec to either MM or BM (the loss of trapping abilities will matter less once we're out of Karazhan). It should result in an increase in your DPS, although your mileage may vary. (Jezele's spec is not the ideal BM raiding spec, BTW. Something along the lines of 41/20/0 would be better - Efficiency and Imp. Hunter's Mark are interchangeable, as long as SOMEONE has it.)

Other improvements
The rest is just typical mechanics, which it looks like our hunters have down. Keep your +hit close to 9%. If you're not there, focus on that first. Use Rapid Fire every time it's up. When using pets, try to send them to the rear of the boss to avoid glancing blows (2.3 should improve their AI to make this automatic). It's not worth spending a lot of time repositioning, but if it only takes a second or two, it's worth the effort (especially for BM).

Continue reading "Hunter tips"

Keybindings and the Nostromo Speedpad n52

Although there are certainly players out there that excel using nothing but mouse-clicks, most players' find their reaction time is greatly improved through the use of keybindings. All classes have lots of skills in their arsenal, but the majority only need a half dozen or so to be truly effective (with most everything else clickable in a more leisurely fashion).

As shaman, we don't have that luxury. Between our various healing spells, shocks, lightning bolts, and totems, we could easily fill the entire keyboard with key bindings. The most difficult part is that we actually use most of those skills and don't want to rely on getting our cursor over the right spot to click. For maximum speed, however, we need those key bindings to be close by and easy-to-reach.

Enter the Nostromo Speedpad n52 (and the soon to be released n52te). This wonderful accessory gives you a bunch more keys in a comfortable, more accessible fashion (especially if you're willing to use the mouse to move, freeing up your other hand for casting spells exclusively). It takes a little bit of time to set up initially, but after you've gotten used to using it, you won't want to go back.

The first step is to configure your Speedpad to the desired key configuration. By default, it's set to the usual QWERTY keyboard layout. I chose to use the keybindings used by Blizzard's action bar (plus a couple extra) simply so that I could still function using the basic keyboard if I was using a different computer. I bound the most commonly used skills to 1-4 since they're the easiest to reach on the standard keyboard, and assigned them to the middle keys of the n52 because they are where my fingers rest naturally. The layout I eventually settled on was:

My Speedpad n52 Layout

Fourteen keys weren't enough, however, so I assigned the thumb button to the 'CTRL' key to double the number of possible keybindings (either through directly binding macros to the CTRL-<#> key or by placing a [modifier:ctrl] in my macro to switch spells). I also set the directional pad to forward/back and straffe left/right and the red button to 'ESC.'

After you have your Speedpad set up, it's time to assign bindings. I prioritized my list of spells and came up with the following keybindings (keys refer to the key map above). In all cases, I tried to group the base key and the CTRL-key functions to similar skills.

KeyAction+CTRL Action
1Lesser Healing WaveNS + Healing Wave macro
2Chain HealHealing Wave (Rank 1)
3Healing Wave (Rank 8)Healing Wave (Rank 12)
5Lightning BoltChain Lightning
6Earth Shock (Rank 1)Grounding Totem
7Frost ShockEarthbind Totem
8Flame ShockMount macro
9Healing Stream TotemTalasite Owl trinket
0Mana Spring TotemMana Tide Totem
-Cure PoisonCure Disease
=Earth ShieldWater Shield
\Fire Resist. TotemFrost Resist. Totem
`Tremor TotemTranquil Air Totem

In all cases, my healing spells use the [target=mouseover] modifier as I described in my Useful Macros post.

Continue reading "Keybindings and the Nostromo Speedpad n52"

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Useful Macros

Image by Scorch 07 on Flickr.com Another great feature of the Blizzard UI is the ability to create personalized macros. The macro language is surprisingly powerful, allowing you to go from something as simple as an often-repeated emote to complex, "smart" macros that will cast a different spell based on your selected target. (Note: It is no longer possible to base your macros upon your or your target's health or buff/debuff status.)

Blizzard has created a basic macro primer for those unfamiliar with how to set up or create a macro. I'll assume for now that you're familiar with the basics and suggest several useful macros (mostly shaman-specific, but a few general ones as well).

Summon Mount/Ghost Wolf
This macro does a variety of things: If not in combat, it will summon the appropriate mount, or cast Ghost Wolf if you right-click the button. In combat, it will cast Ghost Wolf. If mounted, or already in Ghost Wolf form, it will cancel it. (I use the question mark icon so that the correct icon will display depending upon the situation.)

/cast [stance:1] Ghost Wolf; [combat,nomounted] Ghost Wolf; [button:2] Ghost Wolf; [flyable] Red Riding Nether Ray; [nomounted] Reins of the Silver War Talbuk
/dismount [mounted]

If you use raid frames, the use of [target=mouseover] can be a huge timesaver, allowing you to hover over the frames and use your keyboard to begin casting spells. If your mouse is not over a friendly player, it will instead cast on your target (if friendly), or your target's target (if an enemy is selected). I include /equip to ensure that I have the optimal gear equipped (my Lightning Bolt macro equips items with more +spell damage and the Totem of the Void).
/cast [target=mouseover,help] [help] [target=targettarget,help] Chain Heal
/equip Shard of the Virtuous
/equip Triptych Shield
/equip Totem of Healing Rains
I have separate macros for Chain Heal, Healing Wave (Ranks 1, 8 and 12), and Lesser Healing Wave, each with the appropriate totem.

Nature's Swiftness/Heal
It's very helpful to have NS linked to the appropriate spell so that you can simply spam the correct key until it goes off. I include /stopcasting initially to make certain I don't have to wait for a longer spell to go off and [combat] to make sure I'm not "wasting" NS when not in combat. The second /stopcasting is technically not necessary, but I've found that not including it usually requires pressing the key twice to cast the second spell.
#showtooltip Nature's Swiftness
/cast [combat] Nature's Swiftness
/cast [target=mouseover,help] [help] [target=targettarget,help] Healing Wave

Nature's Swiftness/Chain Lightning
Similar to the macro above, only I make sure I have a live enemy targetted by including [harm,nodead].
/cast [combat,harm,nodead] Nature's Swiftness
/cast [harm,nodead] Chain Lightning

Earth Shield
I use the focus frame for this macro to "mark" the MT. This macro will cast the spell on my focus, my target if no focus is set (and the target is friendly), or myself if neither is true.
/cast [target=focus,help] [target=target,help] [target=player] Earth Shield

Earth Shock
Stops whatever you're casting and casts Earth Shock instead, assuming you have an enemy targetted.
/stopmacro [noharm]
/cast Earth Shock(Rank 1)

Continue reading "Useful Macros"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2.3 Shaman Changes

I have updated this posting. Please follow the link for the newest version.

The upcoming 2.3 patch looks to be a doozy, with a huge number of changes for every class, including some very significant ones for shaman. Elemental shaman are in a "wait and see" mode to see if the changes will be a boon or a bust, but for restoration and enhancement shaman, the changes look very promising. There will also be changes to levelling speed, modifications to the Alterac Valley battleground, the addition of Season 3 Arena and new PvP gear, and, of course, the brand new Zul'Aman instance! Lots of exciting stuff!

MMO Champion has compiled the various "blue" postings into Unofficial 2.3 Patch Notes The Official 2.3 Patch Notes are now available and I'd like to highlight a couple of the more important changes that will affect our class (and especially Restoration shaman).

Bonus spell damage from +healing gear: Of all the changes in 2.3, this one has received the most buzz so far (with he possible exception of Zul'Aman). In essence, items that currently grant a bonus to healing will have 33% of that bonus added as additional bonus spell damage (Note: This only affects pure healing items, not items that grant spell damage/healing already. It does include enchants and gems, but not temporary buffs and a few green "of the <whatever>" items). For example, a pre-2.3 item that granted +30 healing will now give +30 heal/+10 damage. In effect, for the same itemization points as +15 heal/damage, we get twice the healing for only a loss of 1/3 of the spell damage. Not bad, huh?

The nominal reason for this change is to give pure healers better soloing capability. With even pre-Kara healers sporting 1300-1400 +heal, an extra 400-500 spell damage will definitely help us when grinding. You're probably better off just switching to a more DPS-oriented set of gear, but at least now you won't have to collect two sets of gear.

Where this change will have the greatest effect, however, is in the arena and battlegrounds. As healers, we won't be packing quite as much spell damage as our DPS compatriots, but it will be enough to let us supplement our healing role with the occasional burst damage (though obviously not as much as we would if properly spec'ed for it). Elemental shaman and other DPS hybrids may also want to wear a few pieces of "resto" gear since it will increase their emergency healing with only that 1/3 loss of spell damage bonus. Some hybrid classes such as druids may also consider a talent revamp to take advantage of the new dual benefit of healing gear, although with the number of great talents deep in the Restoration tree, I don't see this happening much with shaman.

Mana Spring Totem will now provide 20 mana every 2 seconds at max rank, rather than 12. This is the equivalent of 50 mana/5.

Water Shield will no longer cost mana, will provide more mana per globe, and unused globes will provide mana at the end of the shield's duration of 1 minute. Specific numbers haven't been given, but there's hope that this will greatly improve our mana regeneration. Each globe will provide 200 mana, and you will receive the full 200 for each "unused" charge at the end of the shield's duration. This is the equivalent of 50 mana/5 if you're not getting hit, with even higher rates for fights where you're taking damage.

Cure Disease and Cure Poison have been increased to 40 yards range.

Casting time reduced for Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning by 0.5 seconds, but a reduction in effectiveness of the Lightning Mastery Talent (netting the same overall casting time). For Elemental shaman, this is a bit of a nerf as it reduces the effectiveness of +spell damage (from 86% to 71% for LB, and from 71% to 57% for CL). Although Eyonix states that compensatory improvements in Lightning Overload (4/8/12/16/20% chance of procing, though for 1/2 damage) should lead to an overall increase in DPS, theorycrafters are less convinced, citing a 5-7% reduction depending on the mechanism of LO. The reduced casting time is great for PvP restoration shaman, however, especially with the new addition of +spell damage gained with healing gear.

Elemental Focus (Tier 3 Elemental talent) "clearcasting" has been changed from a 60% reduction in cost of your next damage spell to a 40% reduction in cost of your next two spells. This will result in a little extra mana longevity for Elemental shaman (assuming your crit is below 73%).

The Enhancement tree also gets some love: Spirit Weapons will reduce threat by 30% (was 15%), Shamanistic Rage will reduce damage taken by 30% during its effect, and Mental Quickness will provide 10/20/30% of your AP as +spell damage/healing.

Two-handed Axe and Mace skills will no longer require a talent and will be trainable by all shaman.

New gear will also be available in 2.3 from Zul'Aman, Badges of Justice turn-ins, Season 3 arena rewards, and new PvP honor gear (including Season 1 arena items which will now be purchaseable with honor). Among the new items will be relics appropriate for all talent specializations. MMO Champion is putting together a list of new loot. Much of it is equivalent to (or even superior to) tier 5 gear! In addition, Skyhoof has updated his Healing Gear for Raiders post and has highlighted the near gear for easy comparison. As of 10/15, he has not yet updated his Elemental gear list.

Overall, there are a lot of exciting changes coming. Undoubtedly many of these changes will be modified to some extent in the PTR, whether for better or for worse, but even if only half the changes make it in, shaman should benefit overall.

For 2.3's effects on other classes, check out:

Continue reading "2.3 Shaman Changes"

It's time to get your mod on!

Blizzard's basic UI has just about everything you need, but most players, including myself, find that third-party modifications can make playing the game easier and more visually appealing. I've always tried to remain "mod light" to avoid unwanted problems and system slowdowns, but since beginning Draezele's career, I've found myself slowly adding mods and am currenty up around two dozen altogether. I'm constantly reevaluating these mods in the vague interest of "performance," but there are several that, while I could live without, I'd sorely miss.

The majority of the mods I use are from the Ace2 library, so if a link isn't provided, I suggest trying WoWAce Downloads first. Failing that, Curse is the other major source of mods I use.

  • Deadly Boss Mods - An indispensible tool for raiding, DBM provides timers and raid warnings for all boss fights currently in the game. No serious raider should be without this mod!
  • Natur Enemy Cast Bars - Displays debuffs, stuns, cooldowns, DoTs, HoTs and respawn timers for a wide variety of PvP and PvE scenarios. DoT- and HoT-heavy classes may want their own specialized timers, but I've found this more than sufficient for my needs as a shaman (or hunter).
  • X-Perl Unit Frames - One of many unitframes mods, X-Perl modifies all of the unit frames to more visually appealing versions. It allows a fair amount of customization, including moving frames to different locations and (for the visually inclined) 3-D portraits. I actually don't use the raid frames myself (I prefer Grid), but a lot of my guildmates swear by them.
  • Bartender 3 - Bartender is one of the better bar addons I've found, which allows you to create (and hide) up to 12 different bars. It is highly customizeable and can be used to place buttons where you really need them, such as the middle of the screen, and to hide the ones you always use keybindings for.
  • Grid and GridManaBars - Of the variety of raid frames available, I've found Grid to be the best. It's compact and can be customized to provide just the information you need (I'll describe my own settings when I post about my UI setup). For non-healing classes that want to see the entire raid at once without all the clutter of most raid frames, I would recommend Grid.
  • Totem Timers - There are a dizzying number of totems, more than you can reasonably assign to keybindings. Totem Timers organizes them all for you in an easy-to-use format, allowing you to cast your "usual" totems with a single click, or to select others from a drop-down (or drop-up) list. It also includes timers for weapon buffs (Windfury, etc.), your Reincarnation cooldown, and Earth Shield and Water/Lightning Shield procs/time remaining.
  • zHunterMod - An autoshot timer is critical to playing a hunter well and zHunter provides just that. There are a lot of other timers out there (including Quartz below), but I like the included Aspect and Trap selection menus simply so that I don't have to clutter my UI with them. (Jezele's UI is much less modified, otherwise I'd probably just use Quartz and Bartender to achieve this functionality.)
  • Quartz - One of the best casting bar replacements available, Quartz includes a latency indicator as well as a swing/autoshot timer. It will also display casting bars for your target and focus target.
  • FuBar - FuBar is a modular addon that can be used to dock a variety of mods and information. A list of plugins is available on the WoWAce Downloads page. The ones I currently use are: AmmoFu, BagFu (displays empty slots), ClockFu, Durability (shows armor durability), FactionsFu (tracks faction gains), FarmerFu (item tracker), HonorFu (tracks honor earned), LocationFu (includes coordinates), MoneyFu, NameToggleFu (toggle character nameplates), PerformanceFu (displays FPS, latency and memory usage), RegenFu (displays time inside 5-second rule), SwitcherFu (switch to full-screen/windowed mode), Usage (shows mod memory usage), and VolumeFu.
  • ItemRack - Although no longer supported by the original author, I still find ItemRack to be the most intuitive and easy-to-use gear-switching addon out there. It's also integrated with TrinketMenu for those who swap trinkets frequently (I don't, so I don't use it).
  • Rating Buster - Integrates with tooltips to display the actual effects of the combat ratings (crit rating, hit rating, etc.) and provides comparisons to currently equipped gear.
  • Aloft and AloftPresets - Replaces the health bars displayed over characters' heads using the 'v' key. I find it less visually cluttered than the default, plus it integrates with MobHealth3 (also found on WoWAce) to provide estimates of health remaining.
  • Recount - One of the most complete damage meters out there. For personal use, it may be a bit much (it's definitely a system hog), but it's a great tool for raid leaders to judge players' performance on the fly. I previously used
  • KLH Threatmeter or Omen - Being able to gauge your current threat is a major advantage for all DPS and tanks, to the point of becoming a "must have" addon if you play either of these roles. For healers, it's less critical since you should rarely be pulling aggro unless the MT is dead (I personally don't have either installed, but it could be useful in knowing who the next target of a loose mob is likely to be).
  • Proximo and WitchHunt - I use these mods for arenas. Proximo displays your opponent's health bars and syncs with your teammates, while WitchHunt displays alerts for all spells cast by your opponents.

Other mods that I'm currently using, but are not "critical" are:
  • Align - Displays a grid over the UI to assist with aligning UI components.
  • ArkInventory - Customizable inventory/bag replacement
  • Cartographer - Map replacement, including instance maps (and loot). Can also be used to track gathering nodes.
  • Clear Font 2 - Font replacement
  • Range Recolor - Colors buttons red when out of range.
  • Simple MiniMap - Modify and move the minimap.

Continue reading "It's time to get your mod on!"

Friday, October 5, 2007

Comparing Healing Gear (Part 4)

So now you have a measure of how much each of the various healing stats will improve your overall healing output. Great! But what about other stats like Stamina, spell haste, or Armor? How important are they? Should you assign weights to them as well? And what other refinements can (or should) you make?

It is relatively simple to calculate the percent improvement for the majority of stats. The difficult part, if you want to directly compare these numbers to your healing stats, is determining how much weight you should give each one. For PvP, for example, a 1% increase in survivability (Stamina, Armor and Resilience) is probably as important as a 1% increase in healing output. While raiding, however, only Stamina is likely to be of real use to you, and almost certainly not at a 1:1 ratio.

The formula to calculate the percent benefit for increasing a point in Stamina (i.e. health) is equal:

10 / Buffed Health * 100
Including Blessing of Kings, Fortitude (Improved = 71 * 130%), Mark/Gift of the Wild (14) and [Blackened Sporefish], this becomes:
11 / ((Base Stamina + 102.7 + 14 + 20) * 11 + 2979) * 100
For PvE, I consider a 1% increase in healing stats to be about as important as a 5% increase in Stamina, so when assigning weights I divide the result by 5. For my PvP calculations, I use a 1:1 ratio.

The improvement to physical damage mitigation for each point of Armor is equal to:
1 / (Current Armor + 10557.5) * 100
Armor is relatively unimportant for PvE, so I assign it a weight of 0. For PvP, the increase in survivabilty is about ½ of the Armor's mitigation increase (spell damage is not affected by Armor). I therefore divide the percent improvement by 2 when calculating weights.

It takes 39.4 points of Resilience to reduce opponents' crit rate by 1% and their crit damage by 2% (for about a 1.5% reduction in damage taken). Resilience is a flat-rate improvement (assuming you're not already capped), which results in:
1/39.4 * 1.5 = 0.038%
Resilience is another survivability stat that I consider unimportant for PvE, so I assign a weight of zero. For PvP, I give survivability improvements a 1:1 ratio to healing output.

Spell Haste
Although Spell Haste doesn't affect your total healing output (assuming the fight is long enough that your limiting factor is mana reserves and not simply having enough time), it does affect your healing per second (HPS). As of patch 2.3, 15.76 spell haste rating will provide a 1% increase in casting speed (and therefore HPS):
1/15.76 = 0.063%
How much weight to give spell haste is a personal choice. I consider haste effects to be about half as important as output for PvE, and equally as important for PvP.

Other Considerations
There are various tweaks and improvements you can make to these calculations based upon your own preferences. Some examples are:
  • PvP/Arena: I've calculated a different set of values for my arena gear because I'm not able to count on the majority of my raiding buffs or mana regeneration sources. I consider improvements in survivability equally as important as improvements in healing output and have shortened my fight length to 5 minutes. If you're interested, here are the comparitive weights:

    Relative "value" of PvP healing stats for Draezele
    Spell crit0.640.80
    Spell haste0.972.42
    Note: I reduce the weight of mana/5 in PvP by ½.

  • Non-Healing Spells: I use a weighted average of HW, LHW, CH and ES based on my usual spell mix, but there's no reason you have to stop there. For example, totems, Earth Shock and Purge easily make up 10-15% of my total spells cast during arena fights. If I wanted to create truly accurate evaluations, I could include these as "zero health healed" spells. In practice, however, including these numbers will not greatly affect your overall results.
  • Damage Spells: If you play a dual-role as a healer and damage-dealer within the same fight, you could also include the improvement provided by DPS-oriented stats (+damage, hit rating, crit rating, etc.). Unless you're playing a hybrid role in arenas, however, I suspect that you'll have fairly defined roles for each individual fight, making their inclusion unwarranted.
I hope that this analysis was of use to you. Obviously you'll need to adjust the formulae to your own personal gear and playstyle, but the basic premise is still the same. Likewise, this methodology can also be adapted for other classes as well.

Go back to Part One (Average Heal Amt.)
Go back to Part Two (Maximum Spell Casts)
Go back to Part Three (Stat Valuations)

Also see Comparing Healing Gear (Revisited) for further discussion.

Continue reading "Comparing Healing Gear (Part 4)"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Comparing Healing Gear (Part 3)

Once you calculate your theoretical healing output, it is relatively simple to modify the general formula to increase each stat by one point for an adjusted total output. The relevant stats for our analysis are: +Healing, Intellect, Mana pool, spell crit rating, Mana/5, and Spirit. You can then use these adjusted numbers to compare the absolute increase in healing output, the percent improvement each stat provides, and the relative values of each statistic.

Once again, the general formula for healing output is:

[(Base Heal Amt + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*crit) * Multipliers] / [(Mana Pool + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + (OOC regen*O5SR)+ Add. Mp5) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
I won't clutter this posting with the math for each stat (that's what spreadsheets are for!), but will instead list the calculated improvement each would provide with my current gear using the following formula:
(New output - Base output) / Base output * 100
This stat is the easiest to adjust for:
[(Base Heal Amt + (Healing Bonus + 1) * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*crit) * Multipliers] / [(Mana Pool + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + (OOC regen*O5SR)+ Add. Mp5) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
  • Percent improvement: 0.033%
Intellect has several effects on this formula. It increases your base mana by 15, with a slight additional effect on your Mana Tide returns (not shown), and increases your crit by 1/70%. Each point of Nature's Blessing will also add 10% to your +healing, and for Elemental Shaman, Unrelenting Storm will convert it into 0.02 mana/5 per talent point. Assuming you'll receive Blessings of Kings (adds 10%), this results in:
[(Base Heal Amt + (Healing Bonus + 0.11*NB ranks) * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*(crit + 1.1/70%)) * Multipliers] / [((Mana Pool + 16.5) + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + (OOC regen*O5SR)+ (Add. Mp5 + 0.022*US ranks)) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
  • Percent improvement: 0.063%
Very straightforward (with a miniscule effect on Mana Tide regeneration):
[(Base Heal Amt + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*crit) * Multipliers] / [((Mana Pool + 1) + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + (OOC regen*O5SR)+ Add. Mp5) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
  • Percent improvement: 0.003%
Spell crit rating
Each point of spell crit rating improves your crit by 1/22.1%:
[(Base Heal Amt + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*(crit + 1/22.1%)) * Multipliers] / [(Mana Pool + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + (OOC regen*O5SR)+ Add. Mp5) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
  • Percent improvement: 0.021%
Another easy one:
[(Base Heal Amt + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*crit) * Multipliers] / [(Mana Pool + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + (OOC regen*O5SR)+ (Add. Mp5 + 1)) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
  • Percent improvement: 0.167%
Spirit increases a shaman's mana/5 regeneration outside of combat by ½.
[(Base Heal Amt + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5*crit) * Multipliers] / [(Mana Pool + Mana Sources + ((Mp5*I5SR) + ((OOC regen + 0.5)*O5SR)+ Add. Mp5) * 60/5 * Length) / Mana cost]
  • Percent improvement: 0.008%

Looking at the various improvements, you can easily see that mana/5 provides the biggest improvement in overall healing ability. Dividing each by the improvement provided by one point of +heal, you get the relative "value" for each stat.

Relative "value" of healing stats for Draezele
Spell crit0.64

How to use this information is really up to you. When comparing gear, I usually calculate the percent improvement I would receive based on the increases in stats (just adding them up, basically). I find that this is a good judge of whether an upgrade is worth taking or whether I should pass it along to someone else who could put it to better use.

Before I move on to the final section, I want to highlight a few things about this analysis:
  • This calculated output assumes you are casting nothing but healing spells. No totems, no Purges, no Earth Shocks, etc. More time (and mana) spent casting non-healing spells reduces the effective amount healed per spell cast since they have a healing amount of zero (this reduces the effects of Healing and spell crit, primarily - Intellect's major effect is on the number of spells able to be cast).
  • The relative value of mana/5 and +healing are inversely proportional: The more mana/5 you have already, the more valuable additional healing becomes; the more healing you have already, the more valuable additional mana/5 becomes. If you stack one preferentially, it becomes less and less effective, so you ideally want to have a balance of the two.
  • There are several reasons why my calculated value for mana/5 in PvE gear is significantly different from the 11:1 ratio calculated by my guildmate Phaelia. Aside from any differences in our characters' current stats (and stat balance as mentioned above), shaman have a much lower base mana efficiency for their spells. Adding more mana can be thought of as "throwing good money after bad." Casting slightly more mana-efficient spells therefore has a greater effect than casting more spells (in comparison to a druid's Lifebloom, for example, which is already incredibly mana-efficient - "retardedly" so, according to Phae). Healing styles also play a major role. Shaman have no instants and no heal-over-time spells, so it's a little harder for us to "use up" our pool during any fight that requires frequent movement.
  • As always, use common sense when applying these numbers. If you find yourself continually running out of mana, you probably need more mana/5 or Intellect, even though the improvement "value" may be lower. Likewise, if your tank keeps dropping while you still have most of your mana bar, you may want to focus more on +healing. These values don't mean anything in a vacuum, so don't just use them blindly.
Continue to Part Four (Refinements)
Go back to Part One (Average Heal Amt.)
Go back to Part Two (Maximum Spell Casts)

Also see Comparing Healing Gear (Revisited) for further discussion.

Continue reading "Comparing Healing Gear (Part 3)"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Comparing Healing Gear (Part 2)

The next step to calculating your theoretical healing output is to determine the maximum number of spells your character is able to cast during a fight based on available mana reserves (this includes both his or her initial mana pool plus any mana gained or regenerated throughout the course of the battle).

Of the two halves of the healing output equation, this is purely theoretical as it's based on an ideal situation where you do nothing but stand still and spam heals as often as possible. While this is obviously never going to happen, it is still a good basis for comparison.

Maximum Spells Cast
This calculation is much more complicated due to the wide variety of mana regeneration sources:

(Starting Mana Pool + "On Use" mana sources + ((Base Mp5 * I5SR) + (Base OOC regen * O5SR) + Additional Mp5 sources) * 60/5 * Length of Fight) / Mana cost per cast
Key: Mp5 = Mana per 5 seconds; I5SR = Percent of fight inside the 5-second rule; O5SR = Percent of fight outside the 5-second rule; OOC = Out of Combat

  • Starting Mana Pool is equal to your tooltip Mana pool plus additional Mana gained from buffs. With Mark/Gift of the Wild, Arcane Brilliance and Blessing of Kings, the additional mana equals: (59.4 + 10% * tooltip Intellect) * 15 * (1 + 1% * ranks of Ancestral Knowledge talent).
  • "On Use" mana sources includes a wide variety of items including Mana Tide Totem, potions, and trinkets.
  • Base mana/5 and Base out-of-combat regen are both obtained from your character sheet. Estimate the amount of time you spend inside the 5-second rule (i.e. casting spells less than 5 seconds after your last cast). If you're uncertain, there are mods such as the RegenFu plugin for FuBar that can help you estimate your I5SR and O5SR. For my typical casting habits, I run about 20-25% O5SR, but for the purposes of this analysis, I will use 10%.
  • Addition mana/5 sources includes Blessing of Wisdom (41 mana/5), [Flask of Mighty Restoration], [Superior Mana Oil], and [Blackened Sporefish].
    • Assuming that you place a Mana Spring every time it runs out, it provides the equivalent of 50 mana/5, multiplied by (1 + 5% * ranks in Restorative Totems talent). The 2-piece Cyclone Raiment (Tier 4) bonus increases its effect by 7.5 mana/5.
    • Water Shield currently provides a negligible amount of mana return for most fights. However, as of patch 2.3, it will provide the equivalent of at least 50 mana/5 if it's applied every time it expires, more if you take damage during the fight. I have not included it in this analysis, but it's certainly an important consideration when calculating your values going forward.
    • I'm usually in our melee group to provide Windfury goodness, but if you're usually grouped with a shadowpriest, be sure to include the amount of mana their Vampiric Touch gives you. You're on your own here, but I've heard estimates of as much as 200 mana/5 equivalent from well-geared shadowpriests.
  • Mana cost per cast is equal to: Base cost * (1 - 1% * ranks in Tidal Focus). Be sure to also include effects such as [Totem of the Maelstrom] or the Cataclysm (Tier 5) and Skyshatter (Tier 6) 2-piece bonuses (all of which affect the base cost before the Tidal Focus reduction).
    • Although technically a mana restoring effect, [Insightful Earthstorm Diamond] is best represented by reducing the mana per cast by: 300 * 2% (2% is the proc rate for the effect).
Assuming a 7½ minute fight, the buffs and consumables I mentioned earlier, and my current gear:
  • Starting Mana Pool: Base Mana + Bonus from buffs = 10823 + (59.4 + 10%*543) * 15 (I do not have Ancestral Knowledge) = 12,529
  • "On Use" mana sources:
    • Mana Tide: Starting Mana Pool * 24% * # of times used = 12529 * 24% * 2 = 6,014
    • Potions: Average gain * # of times used = 2400 * 3 = 7,200
    • [Figurine - Talasite Owl]: Average gain * # of times used = 900 * 2 (5 minute cooldown) = 1,800
    • [Pendant of the Violet Eye]: Average gain * # of times used = 500 * 3 (2 minute cooldown, mana gain based from Elitist Jerks forum) = 1,500
    • Total "on use": 16,514
  • Base regeneration: Base Mp5 * I5SR + Base OOC Regen * O5SR = 135*90% + 234*10% = 144.9
  • Additional Mp5 sources: Mana Spring (including 2-piece Tier 4 bonus) + Blessing of Wisdom + [Flask of Mighty Restoration] + [Superior Mana Oil] + [Blackened Sporefish] = (30*(1+25%)+7.5) + 41 + 25 + 14 + 8 = 133
  • Mana Cost per cast (weighted average): (HW*5% + LH*5% + CH*85% + ES*5%) * (1 - 1% * ranks in Tidal Focus) - [Insightful Earthstorm Diamond] effect = (720*5% + 440*5% + 540*85% + 900*5%) * (1-5%) - (300*2%) = 527.9
Plugging these numbers into:
(Starting Mana Pool + "On Use" mana sources + ((Base Mp5 * I5SR) + (Base OOC regen * O5SR) + Additional Mp5 sources) * 60/5 * Length of Fight) / Mana cost per cast
(12529 + 16514 + (144.9 + 133) * 60/5 * 7.5) / 527.9 =
102.4 theoretical maximum casts
Multiplying this number times an average of 4,490 healed per cast, the theoretical total output with my current gear is 459,776 health over a 7½ minute fight (or a bit over 1000 HPS). (A brief caveat: There are a lot of assumptions made when calculating this "ideal world" number. You shouldn't expect your real-world performance to match it.)

Continue to Part Three (Stat Valuations)
Go back to Part One (Average Healing Amt.)
Skip to Part Four (Refinements)

Continue reading "Comparing Healing Gear (Part 2)"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Comparing Healing Gear (Part 1)

There are a variety of ways to calculate the relative worth of each healing stats - from simple estimation to complex calculations based on your current stats. Theorycrafting junkie that I am, I of course go for the complex calculations.

The method I prefer is to calculate the maximum theoretical healing output with my current gear (the average amount healed per spell multiplied by the maximum spells I can cast in a given timeframe based on available mana reserves). I then calculate the percent improvement if I increase a single stat by one point. (For true accuracy, you can compare two pieces of gear directly - calculating total output while wearing one piece of gear compared the total output while wearing the other - but the results are very similar unless you're changing complete sets of gear at once.)

I'll demonstrate how to calculate total healing output in my first two posts and then explain how to calculate the percent improvement for each stat in Part Three. Part Four will include additional refinements such as applying weights to stats such as Stamina or Armor.

Required Information
In order to calculate total healing output, you need to know:

  • Your tooltip stats: Intellect, +healing bonus, spell crit, base mana pool, and mana regen rates (both combat and non-combat)
  • Length of fight: I use 7½ minutes as a good estimate.
  • Buffs/Consumables: Determine which buffs you expect to receive, along with your typical consumables. For my calculations, I assumed I would have/use: Gift of the Wild, Arcane Brilliance, Wisdom, Kings, [Flask of Mighty Restoration], [Superior Mana Oil], and [Blackened Sporefish]. I also estimated that I would use 3 [Super Mana Potion] in that 7½ minute timeframe.
  • Spell use: You'll need the minimum/maximum healed, mana cost, and casting time for your most commonly used spell (I use a weighted average of 5% HW, 5% LHW, 85% CH and 5% ES for my calculations based on my typical use of these spells as I feel it provides a little more accuracy). You also need to know the approximate amount of time during the fight you will be outside the 5-second rule (O5SR) and gaining out-of-combat (OOC) mana regen. I'll use 10% O5SR for my calculations, although in practice I'm generally higher.
Average Amount Healed
The basic formula is:
(Base Heal Amt. + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5 * crit rate) * (1 + 2% * ranks in Purification talent)
If using Chain Heal as your spell of choice, add:
* (1 + 10% * ranks in Imp. CH talent + 5% for the Skyshatter (Tier 6) 4-piece bonus)
  • Base Heal Amt. is obtained by averaging the minimum and maximum healed from your selected spell. If using CH, I suggest multiplying by 1.4 with the assumption that you'll heal an average of two targets every cast (each jump heals ½ as much: 1*1/3 + 1.5*1/3 + 1.75*1/3 = 1.4). Note that the [Totem of Healing Rains] adds directly to the base amount healed by CH, whereas the majority of Totems add healing bonus.
  • Healing Bonus is equal to your tooltip healing bonus.
    • If you have points in Nature's Blessing, you also need to factor in the effects of Mark of the Wild (+14 Int), Arcane Brilliance (+40 Int) and Blessing of Kings (+10% to all stats). Assuming 3 points in NB, this is equal to: (59.4 + 10% * tooltip Intellect) * 30%.
    • Include any spell-specific +heal effects (Totems, primarily).
    • If you use on-use trinkets such as [Lower City Prayerbook], add in their average effect over the long term: (+heal granted * length of effect) / cooldown (I'm bad at remembering to use my clickable trinkets, so I often multiply these effects by 50% to simulate the "wasted" opportunities.)
  • Spell Coefficient is equal to (base cast time/3.5). If using CH, multiply by 1.4 for the average effect of two players healed (yes, this will make your coefficient greater than 100%!). The coefficient for ES is 300% (30% each charge * 10).
  • Crit rate is equal to your tool-tip rate plus 1% for each rank of Tidal Mastery. You also need to factor in the three buffs listed above, which increases your crit by: (59.4 + 10% * tooltip Intellect)/70 * 1%.
For my current stats (1641 +heal, 543 Intellect and 8.99% crit), using [Totem of Healing Rains], [Totem of Spontaneous Regrowth], and [Totem of the Plains] as appropriate, and with no on-use trinkets, this works out to:
  • Base Heal (weighted average): HW*5% + LHW*5% + (CH + Totem bonus)*85%*1.4 (assuming 2 targets healed on average) + ES*5%*10 (10 charges per cast) = 2285*5% + 1112*5% + (884+87)*85%*1.4 + 270*5%*10 = 1460.3
  • Healing Bonus: Base + Bonus from buffs + Bonus from Totems (weighted by usage of respective spells) = 1641 + (59.4 + 10%*543)*30% + (88*5% + 79*5%) = 1683.5
  • Spell Coefficient (weighted average): HW*5% + LHW*5% + CH*85%*1.4 + ES*5%*10 = 3/3.5*5% + 1.5/3.5*5% + 2.5/3.5*85%*1.5 + 30%*5%*10 = 106.4%
  • Crit rate: Base crit + Tidal Mastery + Bonus from buffs = 8.99% + 5% + (59.4 + 10%*543)/70*1% = 15.61%
  • Multipliers: (1 + 2% * Purifcation ranks * (1-5%)) (Purification does not affect ES when cast on another player) and (1 + 10% * Imp. CH * 85%) (weighted by % used) = (1 + 2%*5*(1-5%)) * (1 + 20%*85%) = 128.1%
Plugging these numbers into:
(Base Heal Amt. + Healing Bonus * Spell Coefficient) * (1 + 0.5 * crit rate) * (1 + 2% * ranks in Purification talent) * (1 + 10% * ranks in Imp. CH talent)
(1460.3 + 1683.5 * 106.4%) * (1 + 0.5 * 15.61%) * 128.1% =
4,490 healed per average spell cast.

Continue to Part Two (Maximum Spell Casts)
Skip to Part Three (Stat Valuations)
Skip to Part Four (Refinements)

Continue reading "Comparing Healing Gear (Part 1)"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Totems! Totems! Totems!

Imaged credited to TheOnyx on WoWHead The biggest advantage (and biggest pain) of the shaman class is the incredible buffs provided by their totems. The downsides to these great buffs are a limit of one type per element, a lifespan of two minutes or less, and a limited range of 20 yards (30 with a Restoration talent). These make the buffs somewhat less flexible than shaman (and their raidmates) might like, but they're still very valuable nonetheless.

I'll quickly run down the four elements (remember that you can only have one out of each element) and provide comments on each. Benefits listed assume non-talented, max rank totem.

Of all the elements, Air has the greatest collection of useful totems. Sadly, you're limited to one.

  • Grace of Air: Hunters and feral druids will love you for the extra 77 Agility provided by this totem. It's also useful for providing additional damage mitigation to your tanks and a little bit of melee crit as well.
  • Grounding: A great situational tool, Grounding Totems "eats" one single-target spell. It can occasionally grab two if they were cast simultaneously and non-damaging effects like Cyclone won't consume the Totem. It's one of the best totems for PvP, but can also be useful for some raid bosses (Maiden of Virtue in Karazhan, for example).
  • Nature Resistance: Useful for when you don't have a hunter in your group, it provides an additional 70 NR. Does not stack with Mark/Gift of the Wild or Aspect of the Wild.
  • Sentry: One of those "Huh?" kind of totems, it allows you to view the area the totem's in for 5 minutes. Potentially useful in battlegrounds, I guess.
  • Tranquil Air: Reduces threat by 20%, which does stack with the paladin's Blessing of Sanctuary Salvation. Obviously of little use in 5-man or in a tank group, it can be helpful to drop at the beginning of boss fights to keep your party from pulling initial aggro due to an unlucky crit string. For truly threat-limited characters, this may also provide a bigger cushion.
  • Windfury: By far the best totem in the game, Windfury grants a 20% chance for a second attack with main-hand weapons. This totem can improve a DPS warriors damage output by as much as 20%! Rogues can also see similar results, especially with a sword spec. It's also great for helping your tank generate rage (and therefore threat) faster. This totem is important enough to warrant additional discussion:

    • The WF buff is only available if no additional buffs are on the weapon (mana oils, sharpening stones, poisons, etc.). So make sure your rogues click off their main-hand poisons beforehand (all classes of rogues benefit more from WF than from poison).
    • The WF effect is applied as a 10s buff. This makes it possible to "twist" totems, to grant both Windfury and Grace of Air by casting WF, letting it pulse, and casting Grace, repeating this every time the WF effect wears off. Although this gives an additional boost to your melee, it's generally regarded as a waste of mana and your global cooldown, so don't bother.
    • The shaman's WF effect is significantly better than WF totem plus another weapon buff (Rockbiter, Flametongue, etc.). Always go with the WF buff and use the totem only when grouped.
    • WF? Or GoA?: If there is a DPS warrior in your group, use WF. If there are 2 or more rogues in your group, use WF. If your tank doesn't need the additional mitigation, use WF. If you have hunters/druids (and no warriors and 0-1 rogues), use GoA.
  • Windwall: This totem is not very useful, reducing ranged damage by 102. Occasionally useful when taking ranged fire from multiple sources (the AV towers, for example).
  • Wrath of Air: A favorite of casters and healers, this increases healing and spell damage by up to 101. The improvement is generally less than melee receive from WF or GoA, so if in a mixed group, generally go with the melee totems.
Earth also has a wide variety of totems, including one of the two elementals.
  • Earthbind: Primarily a PvP totem, it slows enemies down. Its effect is pulse-based, unfortunately, so it doesn't always kick in before your enemy gets out of range.
  • Stoneclaw: A pretty weak totem, it casts a small-range AoE taunt and stuns enemies that attack it. Pretty much useless for raiders (both because many mobs are immune and can easily one-shot the totem, even with its 1315 health), it has occasional uses in PvP (pulling pets off of you, for example) and soloing (to allow you to get away).
  • Stoneskin: Another weak totem, it reduces melee damage by 43. The amount is miniscule in a raid setting, so is really only useful in occasional solo situations (fighting fast-hitting, relatively weak mobs, for example).
  • Strength of Earth: One of the totems you'll be dropping frequently when you're in a melee group, it grants 86 Strength. In addition to the added bit of Attack Power, this is also useful to your tanks to increase their blocking ability.
  • Tremor: Tremor totems remove Fear, Charm and Sleep from your party. It's also on a pulse system, so depending on when the effect kicks in, it's possible to run out of range of the totem. It's still a very useful totem, however, since most of the time it ends these effects much earlier. Obviously a great totem for PvP, especially when facing priests, warriors or warlocks.
  • Earth Elemental: Summoning the Earth Elemental requires a totem as well, so be careful not to accidentally overwrite it with another totem. The elemental has a fairly strong taunt ability, but doesn't survive long against a raid boss. It's more useful when overwhelmed while soloing or for creating a little extra havoc in PvP (especially around flags). Be careful of using it in fights requiring crowd control as you do not get to control who it attacks.
Fire is probably the least-used group of totems for Restoration and Enhancement shaman, but is a favorite of Elemental.
  • Fire Nova: Takes 5 seconds to "arm" before casting an AoE fire blast. It creates a small aggro pulse before arming, so if fighting multiple mobs, there's a good chance that one of them will hit the totem before it goes off. It can be used to good effectiveness in PvP often times.
  • Flametongue: Provides an additional 20-60 fire damage to all weapon attacks. This is an inferior buff for melee, but is affected by +spell damage, so can occasionally be better for casters. For those few times they melee, anyhow....
  • Frost Resistance: Provides 70 FrR. Does not stack with Mark/Gift of the Wild.
  • Magma: Creates a pulsing AoE effect, which can be useful against large packs of mobs.
  • Searing: Shoots fireballs at your enemies. With enough +spell damage, this totem can actually provide a pretty significant boost to DPS, although it can occasionally break crowd control, so use with caution.
  • Totem of Wrath: The Elemental 41-talent, it provides +3% hit and +3% crit to the party. Many caster groups are built around this totem. Generally, this talent will do you more good than casting Searing totem for additional DPS, but is significantly better once you add in another player.
  • Fire Elemental: This elemental has a decent DPS output (both AoE and single-target), but is fairly squishy. Be careful of using it in fights requiring crowd control as you do not get to control who it attacks, and the AoE will often break CC.
Along with Air, Water is the most commonly used raid totem.
  • Disease Cleansing: Instantly removes one disease effect from all party members and then on a pulse basis. More mana efficient than Cure Disease if you have more than one party member affected.
  • Fire Resistance: Provides 70 FR. Does not stack with Mark/Gift of the Wild of paladin FR aura.
  • Healing Stream: Heals party members for 18 every 2 second, but is improved with +healing. It can be very useful for combating regular, low-level AoE effects. In general, however, you will heal more from the extra mana from Mana Spring than Healing Stream will heal.
  • Mana Spring: Another caster favorite, it restores 12 mana every 2 seconds (20 mana/2 with patch 2.3). This should be the default totem for any Restoration or Elemental shaman.
  • Mana Tide: The Restoration 31-point talent restores 24% of all party member's mana over 12 seconds, but on a 5-minute cooldown. This can be a huge boost for healer or caster groups.
  • Poison Cleansing: Similar to Disease Cleansing, only for poisons. Very useful against rogues in PvP.
So what should I drop?
In general always drop Mana Spring for your own mana regeneration (Enhancement may not want to bother, however). Also drop specialty totems depending on the fight (resistances, poison/disease cleansing, etc.)
  • Melee/tank group: Windfury or Grace of Air (see the WF discussion above) + Strength of Earth
  • Caster/healer group: Wrath of Air + Mana Spring (+ Totem of Wrath)
  • PvP: Grounding + Tremor. Depending on your group/arena makeup and your opponent's classes, Windfury or Wrath of Air may be more appropriate.
  • Continue reading "Totems! Totems! Totems!"