Why I preferred my raiders to have PvP experience…

Ashran

… and why I think Ashran will help with this!

Back when I used to recruit for and lead a raid team, I will admit one of my vices was to prefer players that had experienced both PvP and PvE. If that wasn’t the case with new applicants, I’d be more than happy to take them in 2’s or in BGs to get them that kind of experience if they wanted it – it’s partly how I managed to get nearly twice as much guild participation as the person in second place. I felt back at the time that if raiders could get used to unscripted events that often happen in PvP, they’d be much more likely able to react to when things don’t go too smoothly in raids and some people didn’t follow tactics perfectly and having to make up for that mess up.

Since me stepping down from raid/guild leadership and having been in new guilds with different leadership styles since, I’ve seen plenty of cases where I’ve been proven right or wrong. The best Windwalker Monk I’ve ever known, and definitely one of the best raiders I’ve had the pleasure of raiding with in the past 10 years, has barely set foot in PvP whatsoever – he doesn’t even hold 10k HKs to a single character. In my current guild, there are certainly people there that are excellent at following what boss mods tell them to. Some people do however panic once something goes awry and find it difficult to recapture the situation. If it’s just the nature of the later bosses in Siege to be difficult to pull back the slightest of situations, I don’t know, as I haven’t done the later bosses with anyone other than my current guild. But I do still feel like if they had a bit more PvP experience (as far as I know, most of them have pretty limited exp on that front) that there’d be a bit more initiative to survive easier. I have on the other hand seen one or two people who focus primarily on PvP being brought in to raid, and failing either in terms of performance output or just generally not following tactics and causing one-shot wipes. So there are certainly boots for both feet, for sure.

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Regardless, we found out from the Warlords release date event this week that Ashran would have mechanics in place that you collect a currency while fighting or completing objectives – including whenever you kill an enemy, you can loot half of their Ashran currency! I don’t know how that’ll work out for groups of gankers in terms of who gets the loot, but it certainly brings a bit more of a disincentive to die other than being set back up to 30secs and placed in the wrong side of the map to prevent immediate combat re-entry.

You see, one of the main reasons why I tried to push for PvP is to try and get people to use all of their toolkit, bits that they wouldn’t ordinarily use in a raid setting, and I also saw on logs that one of the leading reasons why people died or took too much damage is because they weren’t using their defensives effectively, if at all. I will admit that after missing two seasons of PvP that I’ve gone back into bad habits and forgetting I have abilities such as using Cenarion Ward preemptively to quickly gain health after a big damage nuke comes in, or keeping an eye on healers mana to innervate them early to be able to cast it again later in the fight, or even just using a quick NS+HT on people at low health. Admittedly at this stage our healers have so much regen that it’s mainly GCDs that kill people off if it’s not one-shot mechanics (or silly DPS getting crit streaks on the pull and dying to threat), so the latter example there would likely end up being overhealing for either myself or the healers, and I lose the ability to instant res for a minute, but it’s still areas that I know I’m slacking on from my break in PvP.

Ashran also provides a great outlet to just smack some faces around. With the new faction hubs being on the outskirts of the zone (with stronger guards than what we currently see in Mists’ Shrines) it allows people to not only have easy access to world PvP, but also to have a safe refuge when you’ve had enough or have realised that the opposing faction is dunking you hard. As much as I dislike mixing PvP and PvE content together, I would love to see Ashran as one of the ways you can earn bonus rolls in raids. It’s no secret I have a large dislike for dailies, so I’m glad that won’t be one of the methods of gaining these bonus rolls (other than the weekly quest chains, but seeing as it’s reminiscent of 5.1’s dailies, I’ll let that one pass).

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I guess my view back in the day was largely jaded because of the ease that the top guilds on our server also happened to have the best of the PVPers too, and even when there was a PVP focused guild that managed to snatch many multi-glads as well as gain Grand Marshal ranks they managed to clear the hardest raiding content in a matter of a scant few weeks of first setting foot in the raid altogether. There are certainly exceptions to the rule as I outlined above, and I certainly won’t hearken that I’m an excellent player in either PvP or PvE, but I will certainly argue the fact that in order to play better with people, it’s good to play against them to really see how people react in different ways to different situations, or to certainly find out better ways to increase their own life expectancy. With Ashran and arena skirmishes being very easy ways to get into PvP next expansion, it’ll be a much better time than any to dip your foot into it… As long as class balance isn’t as terrible as it has been at the end of Mists.

I’ve certainly learned that the best way for me to increase my life expectancy in raids these days is to constantly yell out for MD’s, Tricks and Hand of Salvs so that I don’t pull threat mid-cooldowns.

Spoiling the End Boss

garrosh_by_hipnosworld-d6gvty1I won’t lie, I like my spoilers. I also kick myself when I realise that the spoilers I’ve gone out to find has overall spoiled the entirety of a story for me. It’s partly why I ignored any forum thread or any article concerning Christie Golden’s War Crimes novel recently before I had read the book. Though the outcome of the end was still spoiled, because I knew of the events to come in Warlords. It was a great book, don’t get me wrong, but I can guarantee that some of the plot twists would have been much more surprising and enjoyable had I not known what eventually happens to Garrosh. Please note, there will be spoilers in this article, especially in the final sections where I talk about Warlords of Draenor.

The journey on which he gets there was good to read, and I imagine it’s why a lot of Game of Thrones book readers continue to watch the TV series (other than some parts of the TV version not being in the books) is that although they know what’s eventually going to happen a lot of the time, they still enjoy where the producers of the show take the books and present it to us as we sit on our couches and watch the epic fantasy unfold. Personally, I feel that knowing the end result kind of nullifies a lot of the twists and turns that many stories make, and looking back on the story of Mists of Pandaria I feel that this expansion was a prime example of that.

We’re greeted at the start of the expansion with the pre-expansion event of the Destruction of Theramore, Garrosh’s plan to get all of the Alliance’s generals and leaders into one place and them drop a devastating mana bomb on the city, further separating the Horde and Alliance ties, especially severing any kind of diplomacy Jaina had with the Horde. Shortly afterwards, a massive continent was discovered in the mists south of the Maelstrom in the Great Sea when Horde ships were attacking Alliance ships – one of which carrying Anduin Wrynn.

Paint this new continent red

The first couple of months of the expansion was us, both Horde and Alliance taking part in a small task force set out to explore this new continent. Of course, with residual animosity between the two factions, we recruited the Hozen and Jinyu,clashed and caused the ancient horrors of Pandaria, the Sha, to resurface on this new continent. The rest of the first few months were to clean up after ourselves and defeat the six prime sha that the last emperor of the Pandaren Empire locked away many years ago.

Once the bulk of Horde and Alliance forces made landfall a couple of months after the players had, a small chain of events followed concerning Garrosh’s attempts at creating a weapon capable of crushing the Alliance – pretty standard follow-up to what he attempted in Theramore. To this, he tried to use the Divine Bell, fabled to have increased the strength of the user’s warriors by fueling their hatred and anger while also striking fear and doubt into its enemies. The Alliance got their hands on the Bell before Garrosh, but that didn’t stop him from sending agents into Darnassus and stealing it for his own use. Anduin Wrynn ended up stopping Garrosh in this particular path of conquest by shattering the Divine Bell with an artifact known as the Harmonic Mallet.

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A secondary plot started in the Jade Forest of the Mogu returning, a powerful race that had enslaved the Pandaren over 12000 years ago before being defeated. This storyline continued through most zones in Pandaria, alongside a renewed ancient alliance with the Zandalar trolls. In Kun-Lai Summit, players are sent on a wild goose chase across multiple mogu tombs and ruins, only to find that the Zandalar have resurrected the first emperor of the Mogu Empire, the Thunder King Lei Shen. After several months in the Pandaria campaign, after the sha were neutralised, this Thunder King had returned to his island stronghold known as the Isle of Thunder and had gotten to work uniting the scattered Mogu clans, enlisting the aid of his ancient Zandalari allies, and re-awakened the horrors his people had engineered in order to re-conquer and crush Pandaria (with a Zandalar secondary plan for taking on the rest of Azeroth).

After the assault on the Throne of Thunder, both Alliance and Horde came away with artifacts and powers that strengthened both factions – the Horde made use of the anima technology and the Alliance gets to empower Jaina’s staff with the powers of the Thunder King. Now imagine that we didn’t have the leak from BlizzCon ’11 that Garrosh was the final boss of Mists. After all of this, it would have been very interesting to see in patch 5.3 to see events such as Battlefield: Barrens, Secrets of Ragefire scenario, the digging up of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and Dark Heart of Pandaria scenario. We could have assumed that the Horde and Alliance would continue to come to blows, as that’s what we’ve essentially been doing since the Wrathgate event back in the Lich King expansion, but for the Darkspear to go in all out rebellion against Garrosh and end up causing civil war – that might have been an interesting surprise to see.

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Had we not known that Garrosh was the end boss of Mists, would we be even more up in arms right now that there’s such a long span of no content? Could it have given Blizzard a bit of opportunity to have created an extra filler raid (as much as we adore them) to explore races like the Yaungol in more detail, or chase off some more Zandalar trolls after the defeat of Lei Shen? Knowing that he was the final boss just left me feeling throughout the entire expansion “So what is Garrosh going to do that gives both factions the desire to kill him, not just the Alliance?” Segregating Orcs from the rest of the Horde in Cataclysm wasn’t enough. Trusting Magatha Grimtotem, silent enemy of Cairne Bloodhoof, to enchant Gorehowl in his mak’gora against Cairne and ending up killing him wasn’t enough. Going against honourable combat – the very foundation of morals most of the Horde follow – in the destruction of Theramore wasn’t enough. Attempting to assassinate Vol’jin in 5.1 wasn’t enough. Killing off anyone and blowing up Razor Hill’s inn because people spoke against him as outlined in the Shadows of the Horde novel wasn’t enough. All of these slowly built up into the rebellion in 5.3, but the real kick that got Alliance, Horde AND Pandaria’s participation against the Warchief was the destruction of the Vale and consumption of an Old God’s heart. Ever since BlizzCon 2011 I’ve been following the story on both factions, just trying to piece together the different clues that ultimately led up to the big picture we all knew to expect in the Siege of Orgrimmar.

This is why I’m so far looking forward to Warlords of Draenor. We don’t know who the end boss is: as far as the warlords themselves go, we’re already killing off Ner’zhul, Blackhand and Kargath Bladefist in the first few months of the expansion. Durotan is for the moment allied with the playable Horde. That leaves Kilrogg Deadeye (though I believe I read somewhere that we’ll be confronting him in the Bonetown scenario), Grommash Hellscream and Gul’dan. This leaves plenty of speculation as to where the expansion will take us, and what encounters we might end up fighting against. I’d imagine that with 5 of the 7 featured Orcish Warlords being taken care of in the first patch, that we’ll either see Grommash as the fourth boss in the final raid or that we’ll be taking care of the rest of them fairly quickly, with a side-raid concerning the Spires of Arak and then dealing with whatever Gul’dan has gotten us into.

Active Mitigation into Active Regeneration

active mana regeneration

So these details have been out a little while now, meaning this article is largely going to be about my views on the matter now they’ve been out for some time, and what could happen in the future as a result from this, instead of a general news post with my initial reactions to the changes.

What I’m talking about is the changes healers are seeing to their mana regeneration going into 6.0 and beyond. Please note that at the time of writing this article, Warlords of Draenor is in its alpha stages, with changes happening left, right and center, so chances are details in this article are likely to change. It didn’t take long for Blizzard to re-implement Innervate for example, unless it was their plan all along to completely scrap it and rebuild it from new with a new spell ID.

The full details of the changes to healers’ mana regeneration can be found here, but I’ll list a brief overview below:

  • Druid: Innervate has been redesigned to have no cooldown, have a two second cast, and every 4 seconds for 8 seconds will restore 2.5% of their max mana. Innervate will cancel if any healing spells are cast during this time.
  • Monk: Crackling Jade Lightning will have no mana cost in Stance of the Wise Serpent (baring in mind Mistweavers can now choose between Serpent and Crane stances), and once channeled for the full 4 seconds will restore 2% of their max mana.
  • Paladin: Divine Plea has been redesigned to have no cooldown, but now consumes 3 Holy Power to restore 7% of max mana.
  • Discipline Priest: Penance now restores 1.1% of max mana every time it hits, but no longer triggers Atonement.
  • Holy Priest: Red Chakra (Chastise) will cause Smite and Holy Fire to restore 0.75% of max mana instead of costing mana.
  • Shaman: Telluric Currents is now (finally) passive for Resto Shamans. Casting Lightning Bolt will restore 1.25% of max mana instead of costing mana.

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So it looks like Blizz have taken a look at Mistweaver Monks and Power Word: Solace, and decided that they like that particular model of regenerating your mana in a more active role, as opposed to a button you just pressed every couple of minutes to greatly regen your mana like the Innervate or Divine Plea we’re used to in Mists. Just like how Blood Shield for Blood DKs was kind of a testing ground for what all tanks eventually received in Mists through active mitigation, it seems that all healers now get this active mana regeneration model as a result of the success with Priests and Monks.

I have to say, I’m most intrigued by the Druid and Paladin ones. The Druid one less so, but they both have something a little more unique than “deal damage to regen mana” – something that builds upon the Monk’s mechanic for Mana Tea. We’ve had Telluric Currents for years, just slapping the same thing onto both three more specs doesn’t make it any more interesting. What about something like “Every 3 Renews you cast makes your next healing spell cost no mana” or bring in the return of mp5 through saying something like “Not casting a healing spell for 5 seconds will increase your spirit by X%”. Monks could make use of their secondary resource, chi, to instantly restore something like 0.5% of max mana – baring in mind that spending chi gives them stacks for their tea too, it could be a good way to actively dump throughput to gain a ton of mana back.

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I think the active mitigation model has worked extremely well in Mists, even going as far to say that out of them all, ironically the Death Knights are the tanks that seems to be the weakest and most dependent on lucky streaks from dodge and parry in order to stay alive. But what’s worked out the best is that because of all the different resources tanks have to increase their survivability – healers on the other hand largely just have mana to work with. Monks and Paladins have their combo points, sure, and I’m not trying to push for all healers to get some kind of combo point mechanic to spend as that’ll just feel shoved in for complexity’s sake. But simply dealing damage to regen mana just seems like boring design.

I do want to make a point on the new Innervate too: It essentially means the Druid isn’t healing for 6-10 seconds, taking the cast time into account. I don’t know if haste will have an impact for partial mana ticks at all, but it does involve a bit of communication with the raid to only expect heals to tick out for the next few seconds – if we’re going into Mythic raiding with 4-5 healers, that means for 6-10secs at a time raids are going to have to make up 20-25% healing while an Innervate is going out. With triage healing being the focus of the expansion, with Blizzard planning to reduce the huge damage output and expecting raids to spend most of their time at sub-100%, it’s going to take a lot of intuition of the encounter for Druids to time their Innervates correctly without being tempted to throw a Wild Growth out or sweep a few extra Rejuv’s out. What Blizzard are telling Druids to do with Innervate in its current form is to essentially do nothing while they regen mana, as casting will negate the regeneration from Innervate anyway.

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So yeah, I’m complaining about using damage to regen, and I’m complaining about one of the few mechanics that doesn’t involve using damage to regen mana. I sound like the average forum user… The proof is in the pudding, Blizzard made active mitigation work extremely well for tanks – it certainly breaks up the main problem I have with tanks: long periods of nothing to do, maybe taunt every so often, but then suddenly all the weight of an encounter is on your shoulders, and you could be the cause of a wipe. It’s up to the tank to be able to cope with the sudden switch in responsibility, so for those that tend to lose focus from boredom, this active mitigation model certainly makes much more interactive gameplay.

It makes me think about the future though – if this active mana regeneration model works out well for healers, could it be something we see for DPS? Perhaps removing some DPS cooldowns to combo some abilities together to grant more damage. As much as people hate it, Rune of Power from Mages could be a good template to start from, or Steady Focus on Marksmanship Hunters.