Thursday, February 25, 2010

Update on the 3.3.3 PTR Starfall buff

Something that wasn't in the patch notes but has since become clear:  Blizzard is also planning to drastically increase the spellpower coefficient for Starfall (the main star, non-splash coefficient has been increased by just over 75% (or possibly much more...hard to say exactly how Ghostcrawler's numbers are working...some of them appear to show a 770% increase, but that seems a bit high)).  Details on Lissanna's blog.  This makes Starfall scale significantly better than Insect Swarm, and Graylo's math indicates that this makes the Glyph of Starfall worth approximately 20-25% more dps than the Glyph of Insect Swarm (plus, as discussed below, there are advantages to an unglyphed Insect Swarm). 

Thus, I'm forced to change my advice below.  After 3.3.3 goes live, assuming these numbers haven't changed, all boomkins should switch from Glyph of Insect Swarm to Glyph of Starfall.  And tell your hunters they can stop using Scorpid Sting once you do so.  Its 3% miss debuff does not stack with Insect Swarm's, and it costs them a bit of dps.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thoughts on healing the Lower Spire for the first time

Our priest was absent last night so I healed the entire Lower Spire in tree form.  Fortunately, our pally tank healer is plenty good enough to snipe heals at the rest of the raid when I was falling behind.

It was actually quite refreshing.  I'm usually only called in as a third healer on the fights with massive raid damage (Marrowgar and Festergut, so far).  I often feel a bit overwhelmed in those fights and do my best to hit Wild Growth every six seconds and keep the raid blanketed in Rejuvs, but nothing more than that.  This has given me the false impression that all healing in ICC is a matter of brute force. 

It was good to see things like Deathwhisper and, surprisingly, Saurfang that had relatively controlled raid damage and permitted me to react and anticipate who would need heals when, rather than simply racing to keep everyone covered at all time.  Saurfang has remarkably little raid damage.  I was able to keep HoTs rolling on the tanks with no problem at all (same with the Gunship Battle), and only had to keep an eye out for who had boiling blood on them at any given time.  By the end, I was rolling Lifebloom on the Marked raid member as well, and still didn't feel overwhelmed. 

It was good, it was fun, and it let me practice druid raid healing with a bit more finesse than I'm usually able to.  We'll see if any of that translates over to Festergut tomorrow...

New druid changes in PTR 3.3.3 patch notes


  • Nature's Grasp: Now has 3 charges, up from 1.
  • Balance
    • Typhoon mana cost has been reduced from 32% of base mana to 25% of base mana.
    • Starfall damage has been increased. Now causes 563 to 653 Arcane damage (Up from 433 to 503) and 101 Arcane damage (Up from 78) to all other enemies within 5 yards.

From my PvE perspective, the Nature's Grasp change will pretty much only be helpful in fights like the Faction Champions in ToC. I believe that, other than that, it will still be better to simply run in to the tanks if you end up pulling a mob.

The Typhoon change makes it slightly more efficient to cast Typhoon. However, unless you've glyphed it, you are still likely to use it only in boss fights (or to knock adds you pulled back to the tanks). I am trying to think of trash groups in ICC where you may wish to use it every time it is off cooldown. I suppose you could at any point where the trash is largely up against a wall. The important thing is to avoid pushing them too far from the tank or, worst of all, into another trash pack. Frankly, I still won't use Typhoon on boss fights except when running. I don't think it's worth the GCD (though someone should let me know if the theorycrafting indicates otherwise).

The Starfall change is quite welcome. It seemed like a lackluster top tier talent to say the least, especially since it has such a high risk of pulling additional mobs in any non-boss situation. It's a low damage AoE on a long cooldown. Hopefully this will fix at least one of those issues. We should already have been hitting it every 90 seconds though, so I don't think this will have a major impact on PvE rotations (or, in all likelihood, dps). I suppose that, in high movement fights, it may now be worth dropping Glyphs of Starfire and Insect Swarm to take up Starfall and Focus. The damage increase would need to be pretty big though, so we'll have to wait and see.

EDIT: The Starfall changes take it from 433-503 damage per star (20 stars total) to 563-653 damage per star. Assuming you hit it every cooldown and have 3000 spellpower, this will increase dps from this spell from 137 to 206 (unglyphed with a 90 second cooldown) or from 168 to 252 (glyphed with a 60 second cooldown). In other words, the glyph used to get us an additional 69 dps, and is now worth 84, by my back-of-the-napkin math.

The question is, is it worth dropping the Insect Swarm glyph for the Starfall glyph now? Insect Swarm scales better with spellpower than Starfall does (120% to 100% per duration), and the 30% increase to damage from the glyph is applied after spellpower has been factored in, if I understand it correctly. Based on 3000 spellpower, the Glyph of Insect Swarm is therefore worth 122 dps, if I've done the math correctly (407 dps to 529 dps).

In damage terms, the Starfall boost is decent, but still not worth dropping the Insect Swarm glyph for. However, it may be worth switching in order to provide the 3% hit loss in some ICC fights, if you are the only boomkin. Regretfully, this will cost you around 38 dps if I've done my numbers correctly. Note that this is pretty are doing 11,400 less damage over the course of 5 minutes, or thereabouts. On a 10-man, that's less than one-half second of raidwide dps. It is worth it to give the buff to tank survivability.

Thus, if you are the only boomkin in your raid, use the Glyph of Starfall, not Insect Swarm. Otherwise, stick with Insect Swarm. You'll do more damage.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ready? Yes/No

I haven't posted in a while due to extreme hours at work.  Things seem to have calmed down for a little bit at least.  Due in part to my schedule and to others in our regular 10-man group, we still haven't progressed beyond Festergut.  We are, however, getting very good are charging through and one-shotting all the Lower Spire bosses (and even 9-manning all but the Deathbringer), so I'm sure we'll get Rotface down soon.  We do have a tendency to wipe a few times on the trash leading up to Marrowgar though...

The best strat we have for Festergut so far is to keep 7 people right on top of him and the minimal 3 out at range (often all hunters).  The trickiest moments come when the two people with spores are the current tank and the pally tank healer.  Rapid adjustments must be made.  This is where 10-man is actually a bit harder than 25.  The loss of one healer due to movement represents a loss of 1/3 to 1/2 of our total healing capacity.  We have only been successful with 3 healers so far.  My guess is this will stay fairly constant, but our dps is picking up quite a bit as we get more 251 pieces (and a few 264 crafted or emblem items to round things off).  That should ultimately make this fight easier.  If we can get him down before the second blight (exhale) phase, our chances of wiping will drop by at least a third. 

Anyways, I'm back, at least for a little while.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Shifting Perspectives Post on Balance Druids

There is a new Shifting Perspectives post up on, by the newly-hired Balance specialist.

I'm going to be honest.  This post was overly detailed, rambled at times, and was somewhat poorly organized.  It is his first post, and it did give a good overview of the current problems of Boomkin (which, he argues, aren't that bad because we're having scaling problems only at the highest limits of gear in Wrath).  But I had to read it a few times, which was frustrating.  I'd recommend that he put a lot of the detailed number explanations in a forum post and simply link to it, just showing his conclusions in the actual column.  It would make it easier to follow, while preserving all of the detail for those who want it. 

The biggest things he argued were that (1) scaling isn't the issue we make it out to be since we're just barely over the effective Starfire crit cap (he did not talk about the Wrath haste cap), and (2) movement and lost Eclipse procs are frustrating at the time, but equal out over the length of the fight and thus aren't nearly as much of a problem as the boomkin community makes them out to be.

Lissanna, in comments, pushed back a bit on the second point, noting that her dps fluctuates to the tune of several thousand depending on whether she is at melee or out at range in the Festergut encounter.  Given that Festergut doesn't actually require that much movement, I think it's a fairly telling example.

The biggest takeaway for my play style is the ABC rule that the column references.  "Always Be Casting."  I need to remember to use movement phases to refresh DoTs, hit Starfall and Treants, and knock out a Typhoon when, for example, I'm running through Rotface to avoid his spew.  Even if it's not the most mana efficient, you might as well refresh DoTs just before the end of a movement phase so you don't need to waste the GCD during the standing-still phase and can concentrate on Wraths and Starfires. 

Festergut 10-man, Success!

Our regular 10-man made it through the Icecrown Citadel gear check tonight!  I'll write up our exact strat when I have more time, but we did end up using three healers. 

Druid tank, warrior tank, holy paladin, holy priest, deathknight, rogue, and elemental shaman all stayed in at melee range.  Two hunters and a tree (me!) stayed out at range, with the hunters collapsing on me each time a spore came up.  Collapsing to a known location rather than spending time figuring out who had the spore definitely made things easier. 

We got Festergut down with 12 seconds left on the enrage...but we did get him down!

Graylo's Guest Post on

Graylo, of moonkin theory crafting blog fame, made a guest post on about the problematic position of Eclipse in our rotation. 

In short, he argues that Eclipse is too big a part of our rotation to be as random as it is.  That one buff accounts for between 10 and 20% of our total damage output, but we can't control when it occurs and we can't make any use of it when we're moving.  Further, we are rapidly approaching a crit cap for Starfire during an active eclipse (i.e. the point at which Starfire crits 100% of the time).  We're already at the haste cap for Wrath, which isn't helping matters either.

While it feels cool to know that something is as good as it can be (casting as fast as possible and critting every time), that means that we know longer scale with gear.  We can't crit more often, or cast more frequently, so the only stat still helping us is spell power.

It's not quite that bad...yet.  And it never will be, for me, since I will be in mostly ICC 10 normal gear.  But it is possible to hit the crit cap with ICC 25 normal gear, per Graylo's calculations.

So, in short, there are two problems.  First, the Wrath item levels have simply gotten too high, and boomkin have trouble scaling beyond item level 260 or so, meaning we will fall behind other players in full ICC 25 gear.  The developers have acknowledged this as a global problem, indicating that the extra half-tiers of gear they put into Ulduar and ToC were not initially anticipated and caused ICC gear to be significantly more powerful than originally planned.

Second, Eclipse needs to either be more predictable or not be entirely lost to movement, or some of each.  They could also scale it down and give us another spell or two to make our rotation more interesting.  The latter would be more in line with other classes, but I actually like the random aspect of Eclipse (and I adore the moons appearing over my head).  I personally would like to see the Eclipse proc give you a stack of charges that can be used any time in the next thirty seconds.  If used as quickly as possible (i.e. spamming Wrath or Starfire) they would last no longer than the current Eclipse duration.  While you have any remaining, the other Eclipse cannot proc.

That would give us twice as long to use them and thus greatly reduce the chances of losing all or most of an Eclipse uptime to a movement phase.  Of course, in fights like the Professor, we're still screwed, but I can't think of any way to fix that without dramatically changing our talents (or making Eclipse do something totally different and reduce casting time).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Awesome return to ICC-10 this week

After a week or two (for me) of not getting enough people on at raid times for Icecrown Citadel, we made a heroic return this week and managed to clear up through the Deathbringer in 2 hours.  That may not sound incredibly impressive to the guilds that are already banging away at Arthas, but it's quite an achievement for us and it was a lot of fun.  Smooth pulls through the trash to Marrowgar, followed by a one-shot.  A near wipe on the final trash before Deathwhisper, followed by a one shot.

Though I had an embarrassing moment and died by standing in fire death and decay.

One wipe at 1% in the gunship battle, then a quick victory the second time around.  That battle is a lot of fun...if and only if you one-shot it.  Otherwise it gets old pretty quickly.  There are so many moving pieces that need to function independently, and many of them are quite sensitive to lag.  Which would be fine...if that wasn't our traditional bete noir.  Ah well.  Falling off sky ships is fun.  Anyone who knows anything about steampunk knows that much.

The Deathbringer took us three tries, and we only got him by playing extremely well.  Extremely well.  The best I've ever seen us, actually.  Everyone was doing off the charts dps, no one was targeting the rooted blood beast, the tanks were switching on a dime, and the healers were doing an intricate dance to keep all the Marked players up.  It was tense.  We got him down to 2%, and then our Marked rogue finally died and he jumped back up to 7%.  Everyone blew cooldowns and popped speed potions and he a neutrally buoyant helium balloon.  But we did get him.  Barely. 

There was something off about him tonight.  He was gaining blood power significantly faster than before.  Last time I saw us down him, he Marked one person when he was a bit below 50% health, and we killed him before the second Mark.  This time, he Marked the first person at 70%, the next around 45%, and a third before he died.  Our priest was discipline, and throwing shields left and right like usual.  I assume that they either bugged him with the 3.2.2 patch, or purposefully changed it so that he now gains blood power through shields.  Though they never stated that they considered that an exploit.  Many, many others have reported his increased blood power tonight as well, so we'll see what happens...

In the meantime, he's dead (again) for now, and I'm looking forward to getting a whole night on Plagueworks come Thursday!

EDIT:  The Deathbringer has been hot-fixed, server-side.  It sounds like the design team had made at least one change and purposefully adjusted the mechanics so that he did not gain blood power from damage dealt by the Mark.  The intent of this was to do away with the (otherwise optimal) strategy of allowing the first Marked player to die in order to delay the casting of the second Mark.  Essentially, especially in 25-man raids, you could cut the exponential growth curve of blood power gains off at its knees by allowing the first Marked player to die after they had blown any useful damage cooldowns.  This prevented the curve from ever reaching truly dangerous heights.  Blizzard didn't like this tactic and adjusted the mechanics so that blood power gained no longer increased exponentially.

Frankly, I'm guessing that they increased the blood power gained through his other abilities in order to balance this out.  They were hoping for a constant rate of blood power gain, instead of an exponential one, but wanted that constant rate to be higher than the base rate was in the exponential scenario, in order to keep the encounter difficult. 

I think they actually hit it right on, it just came as a shock since it was not listed in the patch notes.  We were still able to do it, it was just harder.  Given that they set it back to prior levels, it may have been harder than they were planning.  I'm unclear on whether they also rolled back the change to the Mark or not.  We'll have to wait until next week to find out.