Apr 09

Hey folks, sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately — between family health woes and recovering from being sick myself, I haven’t had two brain cells to rub together! Things should be back to normal now, though.

There are plenty of guides around – my own, and other people’s – that tell you what gear goals you should set, how you should gem, what consumables you should use. The big problem with most of these guides is that they don’t tell you why. They don’t make the relationships between healer stats clear, so people wind up following a set of rules they don’t understand.

If comments on my posts are anything to go by, there are a lot of other-spec paladins learning the ins and outs of Holy, trying to make sense of all the advice. Knowledge is power, so let’s take a step back and look at first principles: your attributes.

1. Spellpower

This is your single most important stat, in the sense that if you don’t have enough of it, all the other stats in the world won’t help. There’s no point having a mana pool that will last for ten minutes of chain-casting if your heals aren’t big enough to keep your tank up.

Spellpower, obviously, increases the size of a number of your spells: Holy Light, Flash of Light, Holy Shock, Sacred Shield, Consecrate, Judgement of Light, and Exorcism. Healing spells have the following Spellpower coefficients:

  • Holy Light: 166%
  • Flash of Light: 100%
  • Holy Shock: 81%
  • Sacred Shield: 75%

What this means is if you have 1500 Spellpower, your Holy Lights will heal for an extra 2490 (1500 * 1.66), your Flashes of Light will heal for an extra 1500, and so on.

2. Intellect (and mana)

Intellect is the new black, as far as holy paladins are concerned. I’ve written about this before in detail, but to reiterate: all the important sources of mana regeneration are either based directly off the size of your mana pool (Divine Plea, Replenishment, Mana Tide Totem) or are affected by the amount of Intellect you have (Illumination-based mana return from heals that crit).

So Intellect has three main benefits:

  • It increases the size of your mana pool, thereby increasing your mana regen
  • It increases your crit chance, thereby increasing both your mana return and your throughput
  • It increases your spellpower (via Holy Guidance), thereby increasing your throughput

Great synergy; there’s nothing about Intellect that’s useless, and that’s why you’ll see holy paladins running around with a 30K mana pool in raids.

3. Crit rating

Crit rating increases your chance to crit, and that has three flow-on effects:

  • It increases your throughput; a crit heal does 50% more healing than a non-crit.
  • It returns 60% of the mana cost of the spell, from the Illumination Holy talent.
  • If it’s a Holy Shock that just crit, it will trigger the Infusion of Light effect, making your next Flash of Light instant or your next Holy Light very fast indeed. This is fantastic for healing-intensive moments and mobile fights. (Note that in 3.1, Infusion will still make FoL instant, but it will increase crit chance on HL instead of cutting 1 sec off its cast time.)

Obviously, crit is very popular with most paladins; including talents, you can get over 40% unbuffed Holy crit chance in Naxx-25 gear.

At level 80, 45.9 Crit Rating gives you 1% chance to crit.

4. Haste rating

Haste is something of the ‘new kid on the block’; it’s something that most paladins haven’t seen on their gear before (unless they were raiding Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau). It decreases the time required to cast a spell, but the way the mechanics work make a lot of people go crosseyed.

I read a fantastic guide to spell haste the other day, but stupidly I forgot to bookmark it, so I can’t link you all to it. So, I shall roll up my sleeves and attempt to explain it myself.

The way to make sense of Haste is in terms of how many spells it will allow you to cast in a given time period. 10% spell haste doesn’t knock 10% off the cast time of a spell, it means that in a given amount of time you can cast 10% more spells. In fifteen seconds, you could normally cast 10 Flashes of Light. 10% spell haste makes each FoL faster, so that you can fit 11 of them into those fifteen seconds.

The formula for calculating your cast time when you have Haste gear is:
[New Cast Time] = [Base Cast Time] / [1 + Spell Haste]

So the base cast time of Flash of Light is 1.5 seconds; if you have 10% Haste, it reduces the cast time to (1.5 / 1.1), or 1.36 seconds. If you have 20% Haste, FoL’s cast time is (1.5 / 1.2), or 1.25 seconds. And so on.

There are a few things to know about Haste:

  • It reduces the Global Cooldown as well, down to a minimum of 1 second.
  • It does nothing to affect your mana efficiency on a per-spell basis, so if you don’t have enough Intellect/mana, Haste just means “I can go out of mana even quicker!”
  • As your Haste rating increases, more Haste has less effect on the cast time of any one spell, but it still increases how many spells you can cast over a given time by the same amount.
  • Haste is multiplicative, so if you have 10% haste from gear and another 5% from buffs, you actually have 15.5% Haste, not 15%.
  • If you incorporate all the haste effects you might get in a raid (Wrath of Air Totem, a Ret paladin’s Retribution Aura, your own Judgements of the Pure talent, et cetera) 20.6% Haste from gear and consumables will get you to the ‘cap’ of 1.0 second Flashes of Light (and a 1.0 second GCD).

At level 80, 1% spell haste requires approximately 32.79 Haste Rating.

Bear in mind that haste has two effects on your healing: a) it increases your overall throughput, by allowing you to cast more spells in the same amount of time, and b) it increases your responsiveness by reducing your cast time, allowing you to get that emergency lifesaving heal off that much faster. As your Haste increases, the effect of more haste on the latter decreases – it still reduces your cast time, just not by as much.

5. Mana Per 5, aka mp5

mp5 does exactly what it says on the tin: you regain the listed amount of mana every five seconds, regardless of whether you’re in combat or not, casting or not, moving or not – the only requirement is for you to be alive. :)

mp5 used to be beloved of holy paladins, back when we were all Flash of Light spammers. Because Flash of Light is much more mana-efficient than Holy Light, crit-based mana return didn’t matter as much, whereas well-stacked mp5 let you cast Flash of Light til the cows came home.

That’s changed in WotLK however; for starters, we need to use Holy Light heavily to keep up with incoming damage, and the mp5 needed to keep up with that would be prohibitively high. Secondly, gearing for Int gives better mana regen and throughput than gearing for mp5.

mp5 is not a bad stat, and there’s no need to ignore an item just because it has mp5. However, taking mp5 at the expense of superior mana return stats – that is, Intellect and Crit – is generally a mistake.

There are a couple of limited situations where mp5 may beat Int and Crit: if you’re silenced a lot, and can’t cast (to cast Divine Plea or regen mana from spell crits), if you have to move a lot, or if you never have a Replenishment buffer in the raid, no access Mana Tide Totem, and are bearing a lot of the healing load so you can’t afford to Divine Plea often.

mp5 may also become more valuable in Ulduar, if the tanks are taking Ridiculous Amounts of Damage™ and we have to heal so hard that we can’t afford to Divine Plea on a regular basis. However, there’s still a dichotomy in that gearing for mp5 probably won’t provide enough regen to compensate for such heavy healing; at that stage, stacking crit is likely to be more valuable (although I haven’t done the maths yet to model that;

So, What Do You Pick?

Most paladin guides you read say “stack Intellect!” with no exceptions or explanations. However, I tend to believe that that’s overly simplistic and not terribly helpful advice without context – these are generally guides aimed at raiding paladins, and stat advice for a geared healer in a 25-man raid group is quite different from guidelines appropriate for a starting healer in 5-mans.

Assuming you’re starting from scratch as a fresh 80, you’ll be running 5-mans and heroics while you’re gearing up for raids. (If you’re swapping from ret or prot as a raider and you’ve picked up a fair bit of offspec healing gear already, you can probably jump to the last stages of this process.)

As a fresh 80, in 5-mans and heroics, people aren’t going to die because you ran out of mana after a ten-minute fight; if the fight’s long enough for you to OOM, your DPSers are probably underperforming. No, in my experience, people generally died in 5-mans and heroics because I couldn’t keep up with incoming damage, or I couldn’t get a heal onto them fast enough after a spike.

As such, you should be gearing for spellpower first; extra mana’s no good if your heals aren’t big or fast enough to keep the tank up. So focus on spellpower until you have a reasonable level of it – as a rule of thumb, I’d say you should stack spellpower until 1650 or so. (Within reason, of course; don’t equip green “of spellpower” gear that has no other stats on it.) You’ll get Crit and Haste as part of this process, as just about every piece of appropriate gear has one or the other on it – sometimes, if you’re lucky, both.

Once you have a reasonable level of spellpower, start diversifying. Make sure your crit and haste levels are up to scratch – 30% holy crit, unbuffed, is a reasonable target for crit, and somewhere around 250 haste rating (8% Haste). This is the point at which you can start stacking Intellect in your gem and enchant selection.

TL/DR! What’s the bottom line?

You need to gear for spellpower first, to make sure you can keep up with incoming damage, before you start stacking Intellect like all the other guides say.

Mar 29

So, in what I can only assume is an attempt to grievously insult me, Mr. The Stoppable Force has awarded me the “Honest Scrap” award. Scrap meaning ‘junk’ or ‘rubbish’, of course. Mind you, Stop claims that

“This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.”

…well, okay then. If you’re sure you’re not trying to insult me…

In any case, there are strings attached – aren’t there always?

  1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.
  2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.
  3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!

Unlike Larisa, I rarely talk about me-the-player (as opposed to me-the-paladin), so let’s do that.

1. I used to write roleplaying game books. I co-wrote about a dozen books, for Shadowrun and Demon: the Fallen (by FASA/FanPro and White Wolf respectively). I produced some work I’m really proud of, but eventually burnt out – and, unfortunately, flaked out on some obligations in the process, which I still regret.

2. Ten and a half years ago, I was hit by a car – while a pedestrian – and nearly died. The episode has left me with quite a few lingering health problems, but all in all I count myself lucky – as the cliché goes, every day is a blessing.

3. I have terrible spatial perceptions. I’m not bad at reading maps, because I’ve trained myself to do it, but I’m still doing the mental equivalent of turning the map around to match the direction we’re going. It makes for real comedy in complicated instances (after raiding in Molten Core for a year I could still get lost, and let’s not even talk about Karazhan). I’ve lived in the same part of town for 13 years and I still have no real mental picture of where one suburb is in relation to another.

4. I’m an only child, and very happy to be so. I have a great relationship with my parents, and I’ve never really missed having brothers or sisters. Plus I get way more presents at Christmas this way!

5. I’m a gadgetaholic. I had a PDA back before they were useful! I’m a technology junky in general; I’ve frequently had a six-computer network, which seems a bit excessive for a one-person household. My study has a row of power sockets under the window, above the desk – fourteen double sockets. My electrician thought I was insane. (Only two of them are currently unused.)

6. I am, in many ways, the stereotypical geek. I love sci-fi and fantasy, as genres; I’ve been a gamer (RPGs, I mean) for half my life; I read voraciously; I have almost all of the Star Trek serieses on DVD; I know the history of the Star Wars universe; I read comics. I even wear glasses!

7. My undergraduate degree was a B.Sc, in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. My original ambition was academia; it wasn’t long after I’d finished the degree that I realised I’d be a terrible academic – I’m way too much of a dilettante, not focused on specifics. I don’t regret doing the degree, though; it was great training in analytical thinking.

8. I hate gender stereotyping, and media suggestions that men and women are supposed to lie to or misunderstand each other (i.e. most sitcoms and comedy movies). My closest friends are all guys, and I resent the implication that our friendships are unnatural or doomed to failure.

9. I don’t evangelise or bug people about it, but I use a Mac for my day-to-day computing needs, and I love it. I started using a Mac about six years ago, when I bought a 12″ PowerBook laptop, and then found myself using it for everything instead of my big shiny desktop PC. I figured that was a sign, and my next desktop upgrade was to an iMac. I’m now using a Mac Pro tower, and I love it. (I’ve also got two Mac Minis as media centre computers, an iMac as my backup machine, and a four-year-old PowerBook in desperate need of a reformat and reinstall.)

10. I love design, and aesthetics. My mother calls me her Colour Nazi (brought on by one too many cases of “no, that blouse does not go with that skirt”). In another life, I would have been happy as an interior designer.

So! that’s me. Now, to tag a few participants!

  • Ila, from Binary Colors, because she is not just awesome but fuckawesome.
  • Anna, from Too Many Annas, because you can never actually have too many Annas.
  • Mister Shag, of Need More Rage. He’s welcome to delegate one of his team to collect the award, of course. I know he’s a busy man.
  • Josh, of Eye For An Eye, my favouritest retadin blog.
  • Rhidach of Righteous Defense, a recent and much-enjoyed addition to my RSS reader.
  • Mania, of Mania’s Arcania, who is also responsible for two awesome sites I use and love – Petopia and Warcraft Mounts.
  • Rohan, of Blessing of Kings – he’s probably much too sober and serious to participate, but I can hope!

Mar 27

Credits: This FAQ was developed in response to a request from Josh of Eye For An Eye, and was created at the PlusHeal forums with input from the community there. I’m posting a modified version of it here as a number of readers don’t frequent PlusHeal (although you should! it’s great!). The format is based on Josh’s excellent Ret 3.0 FAQ.

Holy FAQ – WotLK – Pre 3.1

  • Current as of 27 Mar, WotLK 3.0.9 build 9551.
  • This FAQ includes details that will be not be relevant after 3.1 goes live. It will be updated ASAP.
  • Many answers are simplistic and don’t go into details about choices in gearing, consumables, et cetera. This is intended to be an all-in-one FAQ; detailed discussions are elsewhere.

ROLE

0. What do I do?

More than any other healer, paladin healers have a clearly defined role: you excel at healing a single target (or two) for massive amounts. You have no Heal-over-Time spells and no AoE heals, but you can keep a tank up through tremendous spike damage.

Which is not to say you can never heal a 5-man, or raid heal successfully – you certainly can, but it’s not your speciality.

TALENTS & SPELLS

1. How should I spec?

For PvE: 51/0/20 or, if you can’t rely on having Kings from another paladin, 51/5/15.
Some paladins choose to take the two points out of Pursuit of Justice, and put them into the Holy tree, into Conc Aura and/or Aura Mastery for a 53/0/18 build.

For PvP: 51/20/0 is the most common build for pure healing and support, although there are popular Holy/Ret hybrids for PvP as well.

2. What Seal should I use?

Use Seal of Wisdom or Seal of Light, depending on which one you have Glyphed (see Q. 7 below). This is purely to activate your glyph, as you’ll rarely be swinging in melee.

3. What spells should I use?

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what spells to use in what order, as healing is fundamentally a reactive activity and your choice of spells should always be based on the situation.

Flash of Light is a low-throughput spell with very good mana efficiency. Use this for non-urgent raid heals, and topping off the tank if they’re not taking much damage.
Holy Light is a high-throughput spell and is often used as the core heal for tank healing.
Holy Shock is a talent-based spell; it heals for a little more than Flash of Light, but is instant (with a 6s CD). Use this for an urgent heal. A crit Holy Shock gives you the Infusion of Light buff, making your next Flash of Light instant or your next Holy Light very fast and is a good way to put out a lot of healing fast.

Beacon of Light is excellent in situations where a couple of people are taking heavy damage, and can allow you to toss some raid heals while still healing your tank. Keep it on your tank in 5-mans; in raids put it on your heal target (if you’re going to be doing a lot of raid healing as well) or on someone else taking heavy damage. It’s costly on mana, so don’t cast it if it won’t be any use.

Sacred Shield should be used on people who will be taking multiple sources of damage, as it only kicks in after the first damage is taken. It does scale with spellpower, so it can absorb a lot of damage when cast a holy paladin. Try and keep it up at all times on your heal target.

4. What Judgement should I cast?

This depends on the situation:

- If you are the only paladin, use whichever your raid needs. If they’re not short of mana, go with Judgement of Light as a default.
- If there are multiple specs of paladin, have the ret paladins judge Light and the prot paladins judge Wisdom. (If the ret paladins want to judge Wisdom, that’s okay too.) Do not overwrite the prot paladin’s Judgement.

For more information on the complexities of who judges what, see this PlusHeal thread, and my previous blog post on the subject.

5. What Blessings do I want?

Wisdom > Kings > Sanctuary > Might until you start getting well-geared, then Kings > Wisdom.

See this post by Gryphonheart for details.

GEAR & CONSUMABLES

6. What stats do I want?

There is no easy answer to this question. Gearing as a healer is a balancing act between stats that improve your throughput (Spellpower, Haste, Crit, Intellect) and stats that improve your mana longevity (Intellect, Crit, mp5).

Intellect is the primary stat for a paladin healer because it affects your mana longevity (via mana pool, mana return effects like Divine Plea, Replenishment and Mana Tide Totem, and increasing your crit chance) and it affects your throughput (via Holy Guidance and increasing your crit chance). However, stacking Intellect early in the gearing process means you’ll never run out of mana, but your heals won’t be big enough to keep your tank alive.

As a general rule, go with the following order of priority on stats:

1. Intellect
2. Spellpower (which should be #1 on this list until you reach about 1700-1800; after that, focus on Intellect and the Spellpower will come via upgrades anyway)
3. Crit
4. Haste (but don’t go over about 500; much more than that is wasted due to the extra haste from your Judgements)
5. mp5 (far less important than the first four, but not useless)
6. Stamina

Bear in mind that unlike priests or druids, you will rarely get any benefit from Spirit. Don’t throw gear away just because it has Spirit, but ignore it completely when assessing an item’s worth.

7. What glyphs should I use?

Major:

Minor: none of these are essential; feel free to change them.

8. What enchants should I use?

See this post for a full run-down. In brief:

Helm: Arcanum of Burning Mysteries, Revered with Kirin Tor
Shoulders: Greater Inscription of the Storm, Exalted with Sons of Hodir, or Master’s Inscription of the Storm if you’re a Scribe.
Cloak: Greater Speed
Chest: Powerful Stats or Exceptional Mana
Bracers: Superior Spellpower or Fur Lining – Spellpower if you’re a Leatherworker.
Gloves: Exceptional Spellpower
Belt: Eternal Belt Buckle
Legs: Sapphire Spellthread
Boots: Icewalker
Ring: Greater Spellpower if you’re an enchanter.
Weapon: Mighty Spellpower
Shield: Greater Intellect

9. What gems should I use?

The best gems for socket colors are:

Red sockets: Runed Scarlet Ruby

Yellow sockets: Brilliant Autumn’s Glow or Smooth Autumn’s Glow

Red or yellow sockets: Luminous Monarch Topaz or Potent Monarch Topaz

Blue sockets: Royal Twilight Opal or Dazzling Forest Emerald

Follow your order of priorities from Question 6. If you’re still in the stage of gearing up spellpower, use Runed gems in red sockets, and Luminous or Potent gems in yellow sockets. If you’ve hit your target for spellpower, use Luminous gems in red sockets, and Brilliant gems in yellow sockets.

For blue sockets, the gems are so weak (relatively speaking) that you should think long and hard about whether you really need that socket bonus; there’s nothing wrong with putting an orange gem in a blue socket if the socket bonus is only 2 mp5.

Meta socket: The Insightful Earthsiege Diamond is streets ahead of the competition. (See this Elitist Jerks thread for the maths.)

For more details see this post (although bear in mind it’s old and some of the advice could use an update for raiders).

10. Should I stack any melee stats?
Generally, no.

- Crit and Haste Rating are equally useful for spells.
- Stamina is always nice; don’t gear for it, but consider it a bonus.
- Hit Rating is useful for making sure you land your Judgement for the haste buff, but shouldn’t be taken over anything more healery.
- Strength, Attack Power and Armor Penetration are useless. Defense, Dodge, Parry, Block Rating and Block Value are nearly as useless.

When it comes to the ‘perfect storm’ of holy paladin stats – Spellpower, Crit, Haste and Intellect – you’ll often find similar stats on elemental shaman mail, and it can make a good stopgap while looking for plate alternatives. Resto shaman mail is decent too, although it often has mp5 instead of crit, making it much less attractive.

11. Does my weapon matter?

Only the caster stats on it. On the rare occasions you melee with it, your ‘white damage’ (the damage caused by the actual DPS of the weapon) is irrelevant.

12. What consumables should I use?

Potions: Runic Mana Potion or Potion of Speed depending on your needs.

Elixirs: Flask of the Frostwyrm as the baseline flask, or Spellpower Elixir and Elixir of Mighty Thoughts for Elixirs instead of a Flask.

Food: Fish Feast if your raid uses them; otherwise Firecracker Salmon or Tender Shoveltusk Steak

See this post for more options and alternatives.

OTHER RESOURCES

13. What addons should I use?

This is very much a matter of personal choice, so I can’t give you a canonical list of ‘the best’.

Plus, of course, any normal addons you might want to use like boss mods, threat meters and so on.

14. What macros should I use?

Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules here. Commonly people will talk about two frequently-used macros:

Mouseover Macro

This macro is used where you float your mouse cursor over your raid frames and hit your macro keybind when you’re mousing over the heal target. It’s fast because you don’t have to select a target, and good for healing lots of people at once (eg raid healing) or decursing/cleansing.

#showtooltip Flash of Light
/stopcasting
/cast [target=mouseover][help] Flash of Light

Replace with the spell of your choice.

Healthrough Macro

This macro is designed so that if you have a hostile mob targeted (like a boss), you can cast your heal spell and it will land on the hostile mob’s target. It’s great for healing where you need to save whoever the boss is targeting and change targets fast.

#showtooltip Flash of Light
/stopcasting
/cast [button:2,target=player][target=target,help][target=targettarget,help][target=none] Flash of Light

In order, this macro:
- Casts FoL on myself if I right click. If I left click or use the keybinding, then:
- Casts FoL on my target if they’re friendly. If they’re not, then:
- Casts FoL on my target’s target if they’re friendly. If not, then:
- Gives me the glowy-hand spell targeting cursor.

Replace with the spell name of your choice.

Rez Macro

This is used if your healers don’t use addons with rez monitors, to help cut down time wasted by three people rezzing the same corpse.

#showtooltip Redemption
/cast Redemption
/stopmacro [combat,nohelp,nodead]
/say Upsadaisy, %t!

Change the /say to /raid or /# (where # is your healer channel number) if that suits your raid group better.

For more useful macros, see PlusHeal: thread 1, thread 2, and the Macros forum.

EXTERNAL LINKS

Mar 27

So, you may notice it’s been a bit quiet around these parts lately (and I’m overdue with Part 3 of the Argent Tournament guide, for which I apologise).

Two reasons; first, I’ve had some RL health issues to sort out, which are still bugging me. Second, and more engagingly:

I’ve been playing in the Arena Tournament with Stop of The Stoppable Force and Llanion aka Bob of Mad Cow Chronicles aka Bobbing For Cows. We’re terrible – but it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages.

Mar 24

…it’s like Barrens Chat, only with more lol.

Go! Read!

Excerpt:

[theLichKing]: I was thinking. How much trouble do you think it would be to have a thermostat installed in the Throne Room?

[Kel'Thuz4d]: …

[Kel'Thuz4d]: y?

[theLichKing]: It’s really really cold in here.

[theLichKing]: I’m Lord of the Scourge. I think I should get a thermostat.

[Kel'Thuz4d]: no its a frozen throne

Comedy gold!

Mar 23

Login ScreenThose of you who’ve tried to log in to any of the Account Management features lately – including PTR character copies, and the official forums – will have seen a new login screen, asking for your account name or email address.

This is the first step in Blizzard’s new plan of integrating their game accounts into Battle.Net accounts. For now, your usual game account details will work fine; at some point in the future, you’ll have to convert to a Battle.net account to keep playing.

The Process

You’ll need a new Battle.Net account; old battle.net accounts from the Diablo II or StarCraft days don’t count. You can turn your current WoW account into a Battle.Net account here. It’ll become a single login for all future Blizzard games and services. (It currently only works for US/Oceanic accounts, but I imagine it’ll roll out to the EU realms soon.)

Multiple Accounts

From the Blizzard Battle.Net FAQ: you can add and access up to eight WoW accounts under a single Battle.net login. When you log in to the game with a Battle.net account, if you’ve got multiple WoW accounts you can select which one you want to play. You can still log multiple WoW accounts in at once.

(I have now typed the word ‘account’ so many times that it’s starting to look weird and wrong.)

The Ramifications

Battle.NetRight now, there’s no need to use a Battle.Net account, or to merge your accounts. However, in future, Blizzard says a) you’ll need to, and b) you’ll want to – there will be new features accessible when you use a Battle.Net account. (Also, all new Blizzard games will require a Battle.Net account.)

I am hoping that this will allow better cross-account play in WoW. For instance, my main – on whom I do all the raiding and Wintergrasp’ing – is on one account, but the alts who could really benefit from Heirloom gear bought with my paladin’s Emblems and Stone Keeper Shards are all on the other account. I’m hoping that what’s now ‘Bind on Account’ will eventually be accessible within all accounts on a Battle.Net account. Ditto for Achievements when they become account-wide, too. It may be a pipe dream, but I can hope.

I’m wondering how much of this is an effort to cut down on account sales, since I’m assuming you can’t un-merge a WoW account from a Battle.Net account once they’re linked. Characters powerlevelled specifically to be sold will still be around, of couse, but people are much less likely to sell off a cancelled WoW account with a tricked-out level-capped character if it means selling access to their other WoW accounts too, not to mention their StarCraft II and Diablo III access.

Edit!

I am so impressed. I just signed up for a Battle.Net account, merged my WoW accounts into it, and started scouring my study for other Blizzard games to register. I found one empty jewelcase for StarCraft, entered the CD key on the back, it automatically recognised the software and gave me a link to download it. This service will be a blessing for those of us who can’t keep our offices organised!

…Now I just have to work out where I left the CD keys for Diablo, Diablo II, DII: Lord of Destruction, and SC: Brood War. Oops?

Mar 19

MMO-Champion has just posted information on the Tier 8 gear in the recent PTR patch (build 9704).

The sets:

First, let me say that the set does look better with a kilt than with pants, but I’m still pretty sad about the way this armor set turned out (compared with the awesomeness of the concept art, especially). This is one helm I won’t be showing, for fear of feeling like Thomas the Tank Engine.

Secondly, I’m disappointed: the Helm and Chest of the 25-man set are available on the Emblems of Conquest quartermaster, for 48 Emblems of Conquest each. However, logically the Emblems of Valor vendor should have two pieces of the 10-man set for Emblems of Valor, and they… don’t. Which makes it tough for people in 10-man teams who have poor luck with the RNG, or who pug and don’t get to rely on getting an equal shot at loot. I hope Blizzard will put the items on there.

That said, now let’s look at the stats.

For comparison’s sake:

  • 10-man Tier 7: 299 Stam, 309 Int, 35 mp5, 9105 Armor, 184 Crit, 181 Haste, 391 Spellpower, 1 meta socket, 3 red sockets, 2 yellow sockets, 2 blue sockets. (Socket bonuses total: 5 mp5, 12 Haste, 4 Crit)
  • 10-man Tier 8: 353 Stam, 363 Int, 74 mp5, 9432 Armor, 153 Crit, 214 Haste, 481 Spellpower, 1 meta socket, 2 red sockets, 1 yellow socket, 4 blue sockets. (Socket bonuses total: 28 Spellpower, 4 Haste)
  • Net effect of upgrading all 5 pieces: +54 Stam, +54 Int, +39 mp5, +327 Armor, -31 Crit, +23 Haste, +90 Spellpower, plus a change in gemming (if you socket for color).
  • 25-man Tier 7: 335 Stam, 345 Int, 40 mp5, 9335, 212 Crit, 203 Haste, 453 Spellpower, 1 meta socket, 3 red sockets, 2 yellow sockets, 2 blue sockets. (Socket bonuses total: 5 mp5, 12 Haste, 4 Crit)
  • 25-man Tier 8: 381 Stam, 386 Int, 79 mp5, 9538 Armor, 167 Crit, 249 Haste, 525 Spellpower, 1 meta socket, 2 red sockets, 1 yellow socket, 4 blue sockets. (Socket bonuses total: 28 Spellpower, 4 Haste)
  • Net effect of upgrading all 5 pieces: +46 Stam, +41 Int, +39 mp5, +203 Armor, -45 Crit, +46 Haste, +72 Spellpower, plus a change in gemming (if you socket for color).

It’s interesting to note that both armor sets nearly double their mp5 at the expense of Crit, and that the socket colors are an attempt to push people to socket more mp5 gems. I’ve never been more thankful to be a jewelcrafter, with my prismatic gems.

And the set bonus:

  • Paladin T8 Holy 2P Bonus — Your Holy Shock critical heals now also place a periodic healing effect on the target, healing for 15% of the Holy Shock’s heal amount over 9 sec.
  • Paladin T8 Holy 4P Bonus — Increases the damage absorbed by your Sacred Shield by 10%.

The 2P bonus sounds nice, but at 2k spellpower a crit Holy Shock lands for an average of ~6200, which means the HoT component only does 930 healing over a further 9 seconds, which is virtually insignificant.

The 4P bonus again sounds nice; at 2k spellpower your Sacred Shield will absorb 2200 damage instead of 2000 damage. (Sacred Shield absorbs 500 + 0.75*Spellpower.) Given that each Sacred Shield iteration will absorb that much, and it’ll trigger up to five times for one cast of the spell, this means you’re potentially gaining about 1000 damage absorption.

However, to be honest, both of these feel pretty underwhelming next to the Tier 7 set bonuses: 2pT7 is +10% crit to Holy Shock, 4pT7 is -5% cost to Holy Light. Unless I’m missing something, the T8 bonuses just aren’t in the same league.

And there’s a relic:

  • Paladin T8 Holy Relic — Increases spell power of Holy Light by 160.

This is available for 25 Emblems of Valor, on the EoV quartermaster in Dalaran. However, I don’t think it’s superior to the Libram of Renewalfor 40 Emblems of Heroism – especially not given that Ulduar is meant to be a more mana-stringent raid. Still, if you’ve got spare EoVs lying around, it could well be useful for fast-furious-spam-frenzy fights where mana conservation isn’t an issue.

Mar 17

A quick handy tip for you all that’s made my life easier in countless raids and instances: Zoom Out! On any fight with environmental factors, it can make a huge difference. Want to not be the nub who can’t dodge a lava wall on Sartharion? Zoom out!

But, of course, the camera doesn’t zoom out very far – even when you scroll out as far as you can go, even when you go into your interface settings and set the maximum zoom to the end of the slider.

Fear not: you can go beyond the values that slider offers you; you just have to enter a console command to do so.

There are various commands that will give you the desired effect; the one I use is:

/console cameraDistanceMax 50

That will let you scroll out much, much further than the interface settings will give you. How much further? My zoom, let me show you it:

How to Increase Your Camera Zoom

Click the image to see a larger version, making it clear just how much you can zoom out. Hope this helps?

Mar 16

Patch 3.1 brings the Argent Tournament, a new world event featuring mounted combat, new daily quests, new mounts, pets, tabards, and new and interesting ways to get reputation. Read on for a guide to the Argent Tournament!

I’ll present this guide in three posts:

  • Part I: explains the scenario and the location, the side quests and the Aspirant stage of mounted combat.
  • Part II: covers the Valiant stage of the mounted combat event and questing.
  • Part III: covers the Champion stage of the questing, and where to go from there.

Caveat: This guide is based on the quest chains in build 9658 (current as of March 13th 2009); the devs have been actively adjusting this event, so some details may be different when it goes live. I will keep it as up to date as I can, however!

Approaching the Argent Tournament

Phase 3: Becoming a Valiant

So! You’ve acquired your 15 Aspirant’s Seals and you’re keen to qualify as a Valiant of your faction? Read on!

Hand those 15 seals in to your faction’s leader – Arcanist Taelis for the Silver Covenant, Magister Edien Sunhollow for the Sunreavers – to complete Up to the Challenge. The leader will give you a new quest, The Aspirant’s Challenge. This quest asks you to equip your lance, mount up and ride to the Aspirant’s Ring (location B on the map below).

Map of the Argent Tournament Grounds

When you’re there, speak to Squire David; he summons a Valiant for you to fight. (Tip: he also offers a dialogue option – ‘How do the Argent Crusade riders fight?’. It’s worth a read for fight strategy.)

Be warned: this fight is not easy. You need a good grasp of your mount’s abilities and decent decision-making on the fly about what to use when. In a way, it’s like very slow-paced PvP (only with a character whose abilities you’re barely familiar with).

That said, it’s not necessarily hard, either: it’s just not a straightforward ‘easy win’ like most PvE quests. If you fail, you can keep calling for an opponent until you win, so you don’t have to spend another three days getting more seals to try again.

Tips for fighting the Valiant:

  • Have your Defend at three stacks before you start the fight, and keep it up during the fight as he Charges or Shield-Breakers you.
  • Rather than messing about with manoeuvering, let the Valiant be the one to get range – periodically he’ll back off; be ready to Charge him as soon as he’s at range. This is essential, else he’ll Charge you instead. Make sure if he’s backing off you keep your GCD clear; don’t try and be clever and throw a Shield-Breaker, you won’t have time.
  • Once you’ve charged him, wheel around for some melee Thrusts, and while you’re wheeling throw a Shield-Breaker or two to keep his Defend stacks down.
  • Repeat until win!
  • At present, you can be assisted on this challenge by a friend who attacks the Valiant once you’ve engaged. This may be disabled once it goes live, if Blizzard want this to be a truly solo affair. If it remains an option, it’s best if your friend keeps at range and uses Shield-Breaker and Charge repeatedly to keep the Valiant’s Defend stacks at nil. The Valiant will consistently attack you, so your assistant will have a much better chance to keep at range than you will.

Note: apparently this fight has yet to be tuned, and may change in difficulty.

(Edit: Note that this quest has been tuned, downwards in difficulty. It’s still not a walk in the park, until you get the knack of fighting the Valiants, but it’s easier than I described. You can have a friend assist you, but only on foot; they can’t co-joust, but they can attack with special attacks and spells, although threat will be an issue.)

Once you’ve beaten the Valiant, return to your faction’s leader and hand in the quest. You’ll be offered the quest A Valiant of [City], depending on your character’s racial home. This quest sends you to talk to the leader of your city’s delegation, who’ll enter you into the tournament on your city’s behalf.

Go and talk to your city delegation, who are based in the same pavilion. Congratulations! You’re a Valiant!

Phase 4: The Valiant

Each city has four NPCs in its delegation: a Grand Champion, a Master of Arms, and a Master of Horses (or Rams, Nightsabers, Chocobos, et cetera), who all give quests, and a Quartermaster who sells items purchasable with Champion’s Seals.

The Grand Champion gives you The Valiant’s Charge, which is the quest to acquire 25 Valiant’s Seals and pass the test for Champion rank. He or she also gives you one of A Blade Fit For A Champion, A Worthy Weapon, or The Edge of Winter; these are the same dailies you did as an Aspirant, although they now reward 2 Valiant’s Seals instead of 2 Aspirant’s Seals.

The Master of Arms offers you the daily A Valiant’s Field Training to kill Scourge in Icecrown, which rewards 1 Valiant’s Seal. The Master of Horses/Rams/Whatever offers two dailies: At the Enemy’s Gates (worth 1 Valiant’s Seal) and The Grand Melee (worth 1 Valiant’s Seal).

At the Enemy’s Gates

This quest sends you to the Argent Crusade forward camp at Corp’rethar, where there’s a Stabled Campaign Warhorse for you to mount. This mount has the same four basic abilities as the Tournament mounts; it lacks a heal of any type, and a duel ability.

Approaching the Argent Tournament

My thanks to Quirell of Gnomeregan, who was a very friendly and informative questing buddy when I was learning about this area.

Near the camp, there are formations of Scourge Boneguard forces; these are elite undead mobs that interact with your mount’s abilities in various ways. This area is also the focus of a similar, harder daily at the Champion level.

  • Boneguard Scouts

    These are flying gargoyle mobs; their spell attacks strip away Defend stacks. Kill them with ranged Shield-Breaker attacks; it should take two hits to kill one.
  • Boneguard Footmen

    These are skeletal soldiers; they’re grist for the mill. Run over them on your mount and they die, literally.
  • Boneguard Lieutenants

    These are mounted fighters. They’re vulnerable to melee attacks; they do use Defend, but they don’t reapply it. Just use your Thrust to beat them down.
  • Boneguard Plague Wagons

    These are vulnerable to Charges; a single Charge will take off half its health. Use Shield-Breaker to get the wagon down to half health or below – it won’t retaliate or attack you – and then Charge it to finish it off. (Wheel very sharply after your charge or you’ll probably wind up in the middle of a lot of nasty mobs, and then it’s off to the glue factory for you and your horse.) (Edit: Note that these are no longer reqired for the quest.)
  • Boneguard Commanders

    These are the nastiest of the lot. They’re needed for the Champion daily, but not the Valiant version – but there’s a Commander in each formation, so you’ll have to avoid him where possible. (He’s way too much of a pain to kill if you don’t have to, so don’t aggro him.)

The Grand Melee

This is the other significantly new daily, compared with the Aspirant’s dailies, and requires you to mount up and challenge and defeat three Valiants. You need to do this in your faction’s Valiants’ Ring – C or D on the map above.

You can challenge Valiants from each city, and they use different strategies depending on their race.

  • Draenei: run slowly. Don’t melee them; kite with Shield-Breaker with occasional Charges.
  • Dwarves: try and burn their defense down as quick as possible, then get in a Thrust before they reapply Defend. Slow and tedious.
  • Gnomes: are fairly balanced, much like the Valiant you fight to be promoted from Aspirant. Keep Defend up, stay in melee range, use occasional range to throw Shield-Breaker.
  • Humans: have an anti-Charge ability, but are ‘unbalanced’ by Shield-Breaker. Throw a Shield-Breaker to unbalance them, then Charge before they get back to normal. Otherwise, stay close.
  • Night Elves: stay in melee to stop them using their superpowered Shield-Breaker. Keep Defenses up and Thrust them down.

Note that Horde has equivalents of each of these, but I’m not sure on the pairings yet. Also, for Alliance, there’s a good write-up of the differences at this WoWwiki page.

Edit: Note that none of the above applies any longer; all the NPC valiants have the same racial abilities. The simplest strategy is to stay in melee and Thrust the enemies to death; when they move away to get range, throw a Shield-Breaker to knock off a Defend charge and then run up to them so they can’t Shield-Breaker or Charge you. If you feel daring, Charge them instead of Shield-Breaker, then throw a Shield-Breaker when you’re wheeling around and closing again after the Charge. This is faster, but riskier.)

Each faction only has 2 Valiants; if both are on the field, it seems that you have to wait for them to win or loseWeight Exercise before you can challenge them. I foresee a lot of people helping each other to get the matches over faster, to free up the popular Valiant types faster.

It may be the case that you can only beat one of each type of Valiant each day, to stop you finding a single strategy and working it to death; however, this behaves inconsistently at the moment on the PTR, so it’s hard to tell. (Edit: It’s one an hour; you get an hour-long city-specific debuff after defeating each Valiant.)

My Impressions

This stuff is hard. Veteran PvPers and kiters will be fine, but for the average player used to zapping their way through quests with ease, it’ll be a nasty shock – and I can see a lot of people giving up because it’s too hard to be fun. (Let’s face it, it’s not often – in standard WoW gameplay – that you fail a quest if you’re not doing things like pulling an entire camp at once.)

That said, I’ve heard that this content has yet to be tuned, and right now the Valiants might just be harder than Blizzard wants. If not, though, you can expect co-operation to be the order of the day, because most people just won’t want to spend hours failing on solo content.

My feelings are mixed. On the one hand, I like the mechanics, the level of detail, the setting, the concept. On the other hand, this is the kind of content I’m not particularly good at – twitchy, highly-mobile, PvP-like stuff reliant on positional advantage and excellent skill use. On a personal level, I’ll doubtless play the Argent Tournament content, but if it takes as long as I expect to get decent at the combat, I’m honestly not sure how much I’ll enjoy it.

Mar 15

Things are changing pretty fast for paladins at the moment. This is nothing like the huge revamp in 3.0.2, but there’s a lot to adjust to anyway.

From MMO-Champion, an update to the official patch notes and a list of undocumented changes.

General

  • Divine Plea can once again be dispelled.
  • Exorcism: Now can be used on any target and has a 100% chance to be a critical strike when used on Undead and Demons.
  • Shield of Righteousness: Base damage and scaling factor increased by 30%.
  • Spiritual Attunement: Removed from trainers. It is now available deep in the Protection tree for 2 ranks at 5/10%.

Divine Plea being dispellable is a PvP issue; I have some reservations about this, but until there’s strong PvP on the test servers it’s hard to judge the impact. (That said, it feels like something of a bait-and-switch, since Divine Plea was made undispellable when they nerfed it to reduce healing by 50%.)

The Exorcism change is a nice one; it helps normalise paladin damage, and gives Holy paladins in particular a bit more oomph in solo content. The Shield of Righteousness change is a straight buff, so woot for that.

The Spiritual Attunement change, on the other hand, is extremely disappointing. Now you will have to be Protection to tank anything; no more tanking as Holy in Prot gear. I can understand why they didn’t want non-tanking paladins to have access to Spiritual Attunement, to help control our mana, but it really detracts from our nature as a hybrid if we have to spec Prot to tank anything. Rohan over at Blessing of Kings has an excellent post on the issue: Will the Last Hybrid Paladin Please Turn Off the Lights? which includes a couple of much more elegant ways of restricting access to Spiritual Attunement.

Holy Talents, Patch 9684Holy

  • Judgements of the Pure was moved from Tier 10 to Tier 9.
  • Sacred Cleansing was moved from Tier 9 to Tier 8.
  • Enlightened Judgements was moved from Tier 9 to Tier 10.
  • Infusion of Light was moved from Tier 8 to Tier 10.
  • Aura Mastery now causes your Concentration Aura to make all affected targets immune to Silence and Interrupt effects and improve the effect of all other auras by 100%.
  • Blessed Hands: Now reduces mana cost of Hand of Freedom, Sacrifice and Salvation by 15/30%, and improves the effectiveness of Hand of Salvation by 50/100% and Hand of Sacrifice by an additional 5/10%. Moved to Tier 4.
  • Pure of Heart: Now reduces duration of all curse, disease, and poison effects by 15/30%.
  • Purifying Power: Now reduces the cooldowns of Exorcism and Holy Wrath by 17/33% instead of increasing critical strike chance.

The talent shifts are a little confusing to read like that; click the image on the right to see how the tree actually looks. (Please ignore the slightly dodgy spec; I was just picking up Aura Mastery to test it out.) For the classic 51-point PvE builds, it’s still perfectly straightforward to get all the abilities you need.

The Blessed Hands change is a nice buff; it previously reduced mana cost and increased dispel resistance for all hands. It’s worth noting that the new version provides no benefit for Hand of Protection, but the other changes are useful both for PvP and PvE. It’s actually a viable alternative to Imp BoWis or Imp Lay on Hands now.

Protection

  • Greater Blessing of Sanctuary now gives the target 2% of maximum displayed mana when the target blocks, parries, or dodges a melee attack.
  • Guarded by the Light got an additional effect – In addition, your Divine Plea spell is 50/100% less likely to be dispelled.
  • Ardent Defender: Reduced to 3 ranks for 10/20/30%.
  • Avenger’s Shield: Base damage and scaling factor increased by 30%.
  • Blessing of Sanctuary: Now only grants mana on dodge/parry/block. In addition, will only grant mana if that is the active power type of the friendly target (Bears and Cats won’t gain mana).
  • Improved Hammer of Justice: Reduced to 2 ranks for 10/20-second cooldown reduction.
  • Holy Shield: Base damage and scaling factor increased by 30%.
  • Judgements of the Just: Now also reduces the cooldown of Hammer of Justice by 10/20 seconds, and increases the duration of the Seal of Justice stun effect by .5/1 second.
  • One-Handed Weapon Specialization: Reduced to 3 ranks for 4/7/10%.
  • Shield of the Templar: No longer increases the damage done by Holy Shield, Avenger’s Shield, and Shield of Righteousness. Now grants 33/66/100% chance to silence your Avenger’s Shield targets for 3 seconds.

From a healer perspective, most of these changes won’t make a significant difference. The change to Imp Hammer of Justice will affect 51/20 PvP specs slightly, but that’s about it.

From a tank’s perspective, I don’t have current enough knowledge of Protection to talk intelligently about these changes, unfortunately. Clearly I need to spec Prot for a week and go Heroic my face off!

Retribution

  • Sanctified Seals was renamed to Sanctity of Battle, now Increases your chance to critically hit with all spells and attacks by 1/2/3% and increases the damage caused by Exorcism and Crusader Strike by 5/10/15%.
  • Divine Purpose: Moved to Improved Retribution Aura’s position.
  • Improved Retribution Aura: This talent has been removed.
  • Swift Retribution: Now grants its haste bonus while any aura is active.

None of these changes significantly impact Holy; they’re a step towards slimming Ret down (although I didn’t think Ret was particularly bloated in the first place, to be honest).

Of note, I’d seen some concern about Sanctity of Battle no longer adding to healing spell crit. I’ve checked on the PTR and it does still affect spell crit, and the crit part of the talent is worded exactly the same as Sanctified Seals, so this appears to be intentional.