Thursday, June 29, 2006

Debuff Priority System

Currently, you can only put a maximum of 16 debuffs (continuing negative effects) on any one target. This limit is often reached in raids, and so raid groups try and control the amount of debuffs put on a target. This is hard, because currently all debuffs are considered the same, and many common effects, such as Fireball, have a small attached debuff. If a 17th debuff lands, one of the existing debuffs--perhaps an important one--gets bumped off.

Blizzard is working on implementing a debuff priority system, so that minor debuffs do not replace greater ones. But this is obviously a large undertaking, so they are taking some time on it. So I thought I'd take a stab at what a debuff priority system should look like.

To my mind, there are four main categories of debuffs, listed below from most important to least important.

1. Controlled Enablers - These are debuffs which a player chooses to place on a target and grant some effect other than damage. Examples include Judgement of Wisdom or Curse of Elements.

2. Uncontrolled Enablers - These are effects which are randomly placed on a target, or are a side-effect of another spell, and grant an effect other than damage. Examples are effects like Vindication, the Thunderfury proc, or Shadow Weaving.

3. Controlled Damage - These are the classic damage-over-time spells, like Corruption.

4. Uncontrolled Damage - These are effects which add a bit of damage, but are more of a side-effect of another ability. The classic example is the Fireball DOT, or the warrior talent Deep Wounds.

Of course, there is a spectrum between controlled and uncontrolled damage. Some spells have both an initial component and a DOT component. Which category a spell should be in depends on how the total damage is divided.

I think that the four rough categories above are the basic elements of a debuff priority system. Controlled enablers are the most important, and should not be bumped off by spells from the lower categories. Uncontrolled enablers are the second-most important, and so on.

Controlled effects are more important than uncontrolled effects because the player deliberately chose to place them on the target. That choice should be respected. If a raid has too many controlled effects, and needs to reserve space for an uncontrolled effect, it is within their power to do so.

Enablers are more important than damage because the effects provided by the enabler are fairly unique. Damage can be compensated for from other sources. But an effect like Shadow Weaving is not easily replaced.

Combining these two rules gives the four categories above. At first glance, I think they seem pretty reasonable. There is a little fine-tuning within categories, and some ordering in the damage categories, but I think this debuff system would cover 99% of the cases in WoW.

But there are a lot of effects out there, and one important one may have slipped my mind. Is there any effect that would not fit nicely into this system?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dead Guild Walking

I don't have much hope for my guild. Something like 90% of the raiding core has left. The remaining 10% are frantically recruiting. We're essentially going to be starting a new raiding guild, only under the old name.

I have no idea what I should do. I could stay, and help them rebuild. But I think that will take a long time. And there doesn't seem to be any inclination to correcting the structural flaws that, in my view, caused this rift. Rather, the leadership appears to be treating the problem as a social problem, as if it's merely a problem of sufficient numbers before we start raiding again. I am not sure that this is a prudent course of action. Of course, I'm not one of the guild leaders, so I may just be out of the loop.

I could leave and apply to another raiding guild. This guild allowed me to melee-heal, though, and I really don't want to healbot. As well, most other guilds on this server have an EST raid schedule, and I'm PST. In fact, the server is CST, but I think it got transfers from both EST and PST servers, which led to silliness.

A last option is to wait until character transfers open for this server, and go back to my old realm or another PST realm.

It would be easier if I felt loyalty to, or was good friends with, anyone in the guild. Then I could follow their lead and go and stay as they did. But I'm don't. I'm just a member who shows up and does my part. As well, I think neither side of the split was fully wrong or fully right. They both made mistakes, and both sides had their virtues. It would be easier if one side was absolutely wrong, because then I could just make a decision based on what they did.

Where did this guild go wrong? Looking back, I think it came down to a lack of order. Rules were not fully thought out and laid down properly. The leadership structure was unstable, basically split between three people. The split came when one officer was on an extended absence, and the other two officers had a serious disagreement.

The DKP system, while fair, was very complex, and burned out multiple DKP Officers. As well, the DKP system wasn't really auditable. You couldn't really keep track of your own DKP, and easily correct the officers when they made a mistake. Instead all you had was a vague sense that things weren't adding up. To be honest, I could never tell how much DKP I had, only in relative terms to the other paladins. Of course, this never mattered, as Lawbringer rarely dropped.

(The guild also had an annoying habit of /gkicking people as a joke, which I didn't like. Does being in the guild mean so little that being booted is a laughing matter?)

Of course, I'm a very lawful sort of person, and not all that good with people, so I may be seeing things through that lens. To me, rules create expectations, so one knows what is required of all parties. Otherwise, you have go by feeling and unspoken agreements. The trick, of course, is to have the exact amount of rules to create shared expections. Too many rules lead to inflexibility and stagnation. But this guild didn't really have enough rules. Or rather, enough rules spelling out the basics.

I kind of wish I had spoken up a bit earlier. Outlined my concerns. But you know how it is, when you're not part of the core that really runs things. You're hesitant to interfere with them, especially as people seem to be happy with how things are going, and things are actually going well. You don't really hear the different factions.

Oh well, regrets.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Guild Drama

My guild is going through some major drama at the moment. I'm not going to get into specifics, as I've seen some blogs descend into flamewars when someone posts something that another person feels is unfair.

However, we're up to Ragnaros, and it's this point that I think the greatest stress on a new raiding guild appears. I've seen several guilds run into trouble at this point. It really has nothing to do with Ragnaros, just that this is the point in time when the guild structure is really tested.

A guild has usually been in existence for a couple months, and for a lot of this time period guild members are proceeding in spite of any flaws in the guild structure. They are taking things on faith, that the officers will sort out flaws eventually. The officers, meanwhile, are mostly learning how to run a guild. Their solutions are jury-rigged, and fixes to mask the fundamental flaws in the initial structure. Sometimes a guildmaster is holding their guild together through pure force of personality.

Additionally, bad habits may have started in the guild, and the officers only realize that these habits are negatively affecting the guild far too late, after they have become entrenched. The problem is that most officers don't really know how to build a successful guild when they start. In a lot of ways, it's something that you can only learn by doing. And if you are an officer in a successful guild, why are you starting a new guild?

Eventually, though, faith runs out. And then a guild's core structure becomes tested. If it is good, the guild survives. If not, the guild either changes or dies.

Edit: To be clear, I don't think it's the Ragnaros fight that causes the problem. It's more that by the time you get to Ragnaros, you have MC on farm, loot is being to flow steadily.

It is at this point where deficiencies in structure begin to show up. People start wondering at percieved unfairness in loot distribution, problems with attendance, problems with rules, etc. At the start of MC, you're more willing to push through in spite of things like this, because it's new, and the high of downing bosses the first few times makes up for a lot.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Patch 1.11: Scourge Invasion

Patch 1.11 came out today. So far it looks pretty solid. I did the first couple Argent Dawn quests and got in some undead killing. Multiple paladins dropping Consecration and Holy Wrath is really fun. Of course, since it's the first day, the necropolises were beaten back really fast, disappointing some people who logged on later. Hopefully they will respawn fairly fast. I was fighting in the Burning Steppes and one of the Scourge one-shotted Volchan (60 elite giant that wanders around). That was highly amusing.

I really like the new mechanic where price is determined by reputation level. You have access to all the items, but it allows you to find your own sweet spot. It's much better than the old mechanic where you had to have reputation level X before you could get an item. I'm Revered with the Argent Dawn, so I'll probably stay at Revered, rather than attempt to get to Exalted.

As well, I like how items needed for the Scourge quests are sellable. You don't have to grind the items, you can buy it instead if you prefer. Or you can make money if none of the rewards interest you. I also like how items drop both inside and outside instances. Even the Craftsmanship quest can be auctioned. This way, if you get a Craftsmanship quest that you can't do, you can just AH it, or give it away. Basically, there's a lot of choice in how you can attain the rewards, and I like that.

There are also a lot of nice small touches in this patch. Spell icons on a non-main bar display a little red mark when out of range. Bind-on-pickup items look very different in the Rolling window. The new raid leader features are also nice. Also, repairing all the items in your inventory is a godsend, especially for paladins who switch between gear a lot. Another nice thing is that if you are inspecting someone else, the set pieces lists works properly.

As for the new epic dungeon Naxx, I'm not going to see it for a long time, so it doesn't really matter.

The one serious negative change is that the LookingForGroup channel is now global. I can't see how anyone thought this would be a good idea. It's sort of good for looking for high end instance groups, because you don't have to hang around in a main city, but it's absolutely terrible for every other situation possible. As well, since it's a chat channel, most of the chatter has nothing to do with Looking For Groups. I don't think I've ever left the LookingForGroup channel before today. The only hope is that people calm down, but still, if I'm in Plaguelands, I don't really care that people in Silithus are looking for groups to do Silithus quests.

But aside from that, patch 1.11 looks pretty good so far.

Edit: Also, I'd just like to say that the anti-griefing measure with the new Flight Paths in Un'goro Crater and Ratchet was very stylish. Having a goblin as the Flight Master for both factions was an elegant solution.

Friday, June 16, 2006

PvP or PvE

One of the first choices you are faced with in Warcraft is what server to roll on. My first character, a warrior, was on a PvP server--mainly because other friends were playing there--then Coriel was made on a PvE server, and recently I've been levelling a warlock on the PvP server.

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with world PvP. Before I started playing WoW, I used to be a pretty hard-core PvP type of guy, even to the point of advocating perma-death. After all, if there are no consequences, what is the point of playing in a persistent world? Now, however, I've moved far away from that position, and probably into the "carebear" side of things.

In my view, a PvP server offers much higher highs, but also much lower lows.

My single favorite memory of WoW is a world PvP memory. My warrior and a priest friend were around level 30 and adventuring in Durnholde Keep in Hillsbrad at night. A level 30 rogue snuck up behind me, sapped me, and attacked the priest. She killed the priest, and I came out of the sap and charged her. She took off, leaping from roof to roof on the buildings in the Keep. We had a crazy, moonlit chase, jumping across rooftops, which ended when I mistimed a jump and fell off a roof, allowing her to make her escape.

But I remember thinking to myself, as I was leaping, that this was awesome. It was a good fight, against a skilled opponent of the same level. The chase was like something from a movie. This was an encounter that simply could not happen on a PvE server.

But then you have to balance that experience against all the times a 60 rogue has decloaked inside a town and slaughtered me. And then proceeded to corpse camp my body. Higher highs, but lower lows.

A PvE server on the other hand, is much more restful. On a PvP server, you always have to have your guard up, watching for the enemy. It's a very tiring playstyle. Sometimes it is nice to be able to quest in peace. As well, I like concentrating on one task at a time, and PvP interrupts that, making it annoying. Finally, a fair fight on a PvP server is rare, and something to be treasured. Realistically, the vast majority of world PvP consists of a high level character ganking a low level character.

So if I had to chose between a PvE or PvP game, I'd probably choose to play the PvE game. But I'm glad that WoW offers the choice.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ideal Qualities of a Raid Guild

Mynia, of Archetype X, wrote a really good post on the ideal qualities of a raiding guild. As the thread will eventually disappear into the void, I'm reproducing it here.

Here are the most important things for me:

1) The people should be polite and respectful. Cursing is fine as long as you aren't cursing AT someone. If you respect the people in your group and know they are doing their very best then there is no need for the stereotypical yelling etc. If they aren't doing their best rethink if they should be there.

2) No hotheads please. The worst thing about raiding is it sometimes is stressful. You are spending hours wiping repeatedly on bosses to learn the encounter. Everyone needs to be mature enough to step away when frustrated. With the right attitude and respect for others even wiping for hours can still be fun and challenging instead of miserable. A good sense of humor also helps here.

3) Punctual.

3a) Everyone should be on time and prepared. 39 other people are waiting on you and for many people game time is valueable. If we are starting at 6 show up before 6. Not at 6 and not after 6.

3b) The raid leader should begin the raid on time, even if everyone isn't there. Most instances you can clear trash etc without the entire 40 present.

3c) The raid leader should also end the raid on time. If the raid is supposed to end at 10 then end it then. People need sleep and if raids run too long it hurts everything. Tired people are not as sharp and reflexes get slower. Tired people also might be late to work/school etc making said person unhappy in RL and make them not want to raid with you.

4) Recruitment.

4a) The recruiting process should be a long one. If your group is close knit and spends hours and hours raiding you need to be sure that this person wants in for the right reasons, fits the personality of the guild, has the same goals in game, and their RL schedule works with the appointed raiding times. Applications, causal instancing, trial runs, and then probationary status are all good ways to confirm if someone is a good fit. If it takes 3 weeks then it takes three weeks.

4b) Part of this process too is determining if the person understands his class well. Find out how they are specced and ask questions. Let them defend their build. If they know there stuff and put thought into it then they should do well.

4c) Look at their gear. Is it a random hodge-podge? Their gear is an indication. A motivated individual will spend their time farming good gear with stats and abilities that complement their build.

4d) Asking questions about alternate characters and knowledge of other classes is also a good thing. Playing other classes broadens your knowledge of the roles and importance of the other people in the raid and how they all work together. This is important, as the raid needs to work smoothly together and understand everyone elses role.

5) Your Guild.

5a) Don't overwhelm your guild with tons of people and don't over fill your classes. There is nothing more frustrating than having to sit out of a raid because there are like 100 people and only 40 spaces available. If you spend the right amount of time recruiting you shouldn't have issues with low attendence etc.

5b) Guilds with "mixed" types of players are more difficult to manage and its hard to make everyone happy. Stick to one focus if you want to raid. Everyone or 90% of your guild should be raiders.

5c) The rules of the guild should be clearly written and posted somewhere for reference. This includes recruitement processes, guild goals, processes for displinary action, attendance requirements, loot distribution rules, raid times/schedules etc. Miscommunication and undocumented "rules" are often points of contention.

6) Strategies.

6a) Stratages are fine, but if you use them be careful. Nothing adds more chaos to a new encounter than changing the strategy that everyone has studied mid fight. Be sure that everyone knows what the strategy for your next boss fight is and that everyone has read it. Have a plan B strategy as well, if the first plan really isn't working for you.

6b) There is no law that says you must beat the encounter the way that everyone else does it. Find the way that it works for your group and do it that way.

Those are the highlights anyway for me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

WoW Videos

A bit old, but still funny:

World of Warcraft Community Manager Meeting

My favorite WoW music video. Still the best one I've ever seen. Perfect song for the story:

Here Without You

Monday, June 12, 2006

Soulstones and PvP

I have a warlock alt on a PvP server. One of the interesting/annoying things about warlocks is that if you are killed in world PvP, you will almost always have your corpse camped.

Why? Because they know you have a soulstone. They are just waiting for you to resurrect, and they'll kill you again. You can't even release and run back, because they'll still be waiting at your body. It becomes a waiting game between them and the release timer.

So what does a warlock do? Personally, I minimize WoW, open a web browser, and make a blog entry.

Is +Heal a Mistake?

A very common complaint among healing classes is that upgrading their gear only helps them in one area of the game: raiding. This is in contrast to the DPS classes, where raid gear is often just as good for PvP and farming as it is for raiding.

Perhaps stepping back a bit will provide some perspective. As a caster levels, you often find gear with very specific bonuses: +Fire, +Frost, +Shadow, +Arcane, +Heal. However, as you get closer and closer to 60, the more specific bonuses tend to get subsumed into +damage/heal. At 60, there are essentially only two categories of gear that makes your spells more powerful: +damage/heal, and +heal.

So the gear naturally gets split up into two categories. Damage casters go for +damage/heal, while healers go for +heal. The problem, though, is that +heal does not help you pvp or solo. So healers would also like some +damage/heal gear to make them more effective in non-raiding situations. This starts fights with the damage casters who see +damage/heal as their gear, and healers being in less "need" of it.

Now, imagine if +heal had also disappeared as endgame approached. Or that you wake up tomorrow and every +heal bonus on epic items has been replaced by the equivalent (lower) amount of +damage/heal. What would that change? Obviously, healing spells would be significantly reduced in power. But now healer gear, such as class sets, help in all situations. There is no longer a divide between damage casters and healers, there are only casters. All of whom get the same rights as each other.

Honestly, I think that this would be a much better situation than what we have now. But it would probably be a lot of work to try to retune all the boss encounters to work with a reduced amount of +damage/heal. As unfortunate as it sounds, the best hope is to wait for the Burning Crusade expansion. In BC, Blizzard should phase out +heal as people reach level 70, much like they phased out +fire or +shadow. Then at level 70, all casters will be using +damage/heal, which will allow them to be effective in all areas of the game.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Loot Systems and the Human Factor

A lot of times, when people look at loot systems, they are concerned mostly with the "fairness" of the system. While fairness is important, there are other factors which are also very important. These include factors such as ease of administration, transparency, error detection, and error correction.

In particular, I think ease of administration is greatly undervalued by the WoW raiding community. Many loot systems are complex, and are not trivial to administer. Often they require you to keep track of 40 people, with people coming and going, and loot being distributed. And it's not an easy task, especially for game, where the officers would like to have fun too.

If you have a perfectly fair system, but it is so complex that the loot officer makes mistakes with it, is it still a fair system?

Even the system I proposed in the previous post is complex. Look at all the elements the loot officer must consider. She must make sure that she sees all the bids, which can be very hard when people are spamming raid chat. She must correctly identify both the top bid and the second-highest bid. She must confirm that both these people actually have the DKP that they are trying to bid with. One mistake in any of these areas, and the fairness that the system is striving for is thrown out the window.

And that's just the spending DKP side. There's still distributing DKP to consider, which is its own headache.

Lately, I find myself more and more attracted to loot systems that are robust and easy to administer, even if they can potentially be less fair than other systems. As long as the system is reasonably fair, I would say that it is good enough.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Pricing in Loot Systems

I've been reading this thread on Loot Systems in the Guild Relations forum. It's a pretty interesting read.

There are several issues to consider when designing a Loot Systems. One important one is pricing. There are two main ways of pricing items: fixed prices, or bidding. The problem with fixed pricing is that an item's true value really depends on a number of factors, including class, spec, amount of DKP, guild's progress in endgame, other options available, rarity, etc. At best, a fixed price can only approximate all these factors. For example, I do not have the Illumination talent, and as such, I value [Azuresong Mageblade] a lot less than a Holy paladin would.

As well, getting the price wrong makes your loot system act funny. For example, when my guild killed Onyxia for the first time, we set the price of Onyxia's Head at twice the amount of a Tier 1 set piece. Because no one had really built up significant DKP reserves yet, only one person was willing to take the Head (and I think he did it just so it didn't rot). Now, I'm not saying that the price was absolutely wrong, just at that specific point in time, people considered it to be overpriced. Now, when people have started building up DKP, more and more people are considering it reasonable.

The other option of setting prices is bidding. Bidding generally measures how much a player wants an item for her character. Items go to the player who is willing to pay the most for it. This is an amount which is closer to the item's true value at that point in time.

The problem with bidding is collusion. This is where an item is only valuable to a small subset of the players and that subset agrees to buy the item for a smaller amount than it's true value. They do this in order to save points for when they need to compete against the entire group of players. In WoW, collusion is really attractive because of set pieces. Set pieces provide a ready-made subset of players who know that their collusion will not be interfered with. So all the paladins might collude to spend very little on set pieces, saving their points to outbid the warriors for the uber-2H weapons.

In addition, a strong class-priority system on non-set items will also encourage collusion on those items. If paladins have priority on 2H weapons, there is a strong incentive to collude in order to maximize effectiveness when bidding on healing items available to multiple classes.

I think I prefer bidding systems, though. Allowing the player to determine the value of items for himself is the most effective option, in my view, and one that gives the most power to the player. As well, bidding systems tend to automatically counter problems with inflation, because value can also be expressed as percentage of your current total. If something costs 40 DKP, is it expensive or cheap? If you only have 50 DKP, it's expensive. If you have 500 DKP, it's cheap.

The problem then, is how to resolve collusion in a bidding system.

To resolve collusion, I think the best way is to separate out class sets from non-set items. When awarding DKP, give each player Set DKP, and Non-Set DKP. This way, colluding on set items does not give an advantage when bidding on non-set items. It also has the advantage of ensuring that players can save up for something special, while still improving themselves.

As well, I would not impose class priorities on non-set items, making collusion ineffective there. This has the added advantage of fitting into my philosophical beliefs on character improvement.

So my ideal loot system would feature Set DKP and Non-Set DKP, no class priorities, using a Vickrey Auction (single secret bid, winner pays price of the second highest bid) to determine the actual winner of the loot. I like the Vickrey Auction, because the optimal tactic is to bid your true valuation of the item.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Damage Meters

Another week, another MC run. This one didn't go quite as smoothly as the first, probably due to class imbalance. We had about 8 warriors, 8 paladins, and were very low on actual dps classes. We did get our 8 bosses, but we ran about 20 minutes over our scheduled time of 3 hours. We didn't get any paladin loot, but one of our paladins got a [Vendorstrike].

In any case, I got 3 melee DPS in my group, so I had to healbot most of the instance just to keep them alive. Oh well. I did try to get in some melee.

I also downloaded and tried out a DamageMeter for this raid, just to see if I could quantify my performance. I also respecced (yet again!) to 19/32/0. Curiously, I know (and DamageMeter confirmed it) that I do less DPS with this build, but it feels much more satisfying. I guess I really don't like the whole guessing-game that is Seal of Command.

Anyways, I'm not really sure how accurate the stats are. I have no idea if it synchronized itself with other people, or whatever. But I like my results, so I will pretend it's accurate. Here are some stats that I think are probably the important ones for paladins:

Damage Done: #30, 12% of lead
Healing Done: #2, 88% of lead
Curing Done: #4, 58% of lead
Net Healing: #6, 77% of lead
Overheal %: #40, 14%

Now, the position values are not that useful, mostly because who I'm comparing results to changes. But I'll leave them in just for comparison.

I think the numbers show that I healed a lot. 88% of lead is quite good, even if it drops to 77% when you consider that some of that was healing myself. The damage is low, but understandable in light of the healbotting with a 1H healing weapon. The curing amount is pretty weak. I need to be much closer to the top value. I think part of my problem is that Cleanse has a 30 yard range as opposed to the 40 yard heal range, so I am misjudging distances.

The overheal %, or amount of my heals which were wasted on a target with full health, was really good in comparison to the entire raid (including the non-healers somehow). However, 14% seems a bit high, especially as I wasn't healing tanks for a lot of it. I think the raid in general needs to work on our overhealing, and I would like to get my number down to less than 10%.

So basically, I need to do a bit more damage, heal a little bit less, and cleanse a little bit more. Sounds like a plan.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Interactivity

To me it seems like paladins don't have as wide a range of abilities as other classes. Every other non-dps class has a different set of abilities that it uses while soloing. This makes soloing as interactive as grouping. As well, the game enforces this difference through different means.

Paladins, on the other hand, only use a subset of their abilities while soloing. So soloing is far less interactive than grouping.

Look at warriors. For soloing, they have Battle and Berserker Stances, along with all the associated abilities only used in those stances. Then in group play, they have Defensive Stance and the high threat moves. The different forms enforce the different ability sets.

Druids have different forms (cat, bear, moonkin!) and abilities that they use while soloing. Then in groups, they use a different set of abilities to heal. Like the warrior, the different forms enforce the different ability sets.

Same with Priests. Soloing with a priest is interactive because of abilities like Smite, and various damage spells. Being a priest in a group uses a completely different set of spells. In the priest's case, the different ability sets is more enforced by threat. Mindblast is the perfect example. You don't cast Mindblast in group play because it's high threat. You cast it all the time in solo play.

Shamans have possibly the opposite problem from paladins. In solo play, they can use all their abilities, while in group play they generally use a smaller portion. I believe the game enforces the different ability sets by limiting their mana. A lot of their moves have a high mana cost, making those moves sub-optimal for group play, but perfectly fine while soloing.

A paladin, meanwhile, is pretty interactive in group play. Run in, judge, seal, auto-attack, and then start healing, cleansing, tactical buffing as needed. However, in solo play, it's: run in, judge, seal, auto-attack ... and that's it. The healing, cleansing, tactical buffing that makes paladins somewhat interactive in group play simply doesn't exist in solo play.

The paladin needs a set of moves that it can use in solo play, but CANNOT use in group play.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be that much hope for us. We have no forms, unlike the warrior and druid. We can't be limited by threat, unlike priests, because that would make us godlike tanks. And being limited by mana is at cross-purposes with our highly efficient heals.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Shamans vs Paladins

Onto a controversial topic: Shamans vs Paladins, which one is better? I've never played a shaman to any significant level, only fought against them in PvP, so my impressions of them may be flawed.

In PvE, my thoughts on which are better is a bit complicated. I think a group with paladins is better than a group with shamans. Most people would agree, and say it is because paladin buffs cover the entire raid, while shaman buffs only cover the group. I don't think this is true though. A normal 40-man Alliance raid gets 200 person-buffs (5 paladins x 40 people). A normal Horde raid gets 100 person-buffs (5 shamans x 5 people in party x 4 totems). So on a strict level, shamans give about half the buffs of paladins. However, shamans have far more flexibility with buffs. I believe that they have 16 different totems to chose from. In contrast, paladins only have 6 (and 2 of them are talents). Additionally, the tactical blessings erase the raid blessings, so they are rarely used.

The lower number of buffs is the price the shamans pay for flexibility. I actually think that in terms of number of buffs, Horde and Alliance are reasonably balanced. Alliance covers more people, but with limited choice. Horde covers less people, but has a lot more options available.

In my opinion, the reason an Alliance raid is stronger is because a single Blessing, Blessing of Salvation, is overpowered. Salvation basically allows the Alliance dps and healers to do 20-40% more damage or healing than the Horde equivalent, or never worry about pulling aggro. Quite honestly, Salvation spoils the Alliance. I find that Horde warriors and dps are far more tuned to the nuances of aggro. In fact, I think if you removed Salvation (and Tranquil Air Totem), an Alliance raid would be significantly underpowered compared to a Horde raid.

(As an aside, you often see Horde complaining on the message boards about Blessing of Kings, which amuses me. If you ranked the Blessings in order of importance, Kings is #4 behind Salvation, Wisdom, and Might. It's really only good for tanks, and while it's a strong Blessing, it's not necessary in the same manner as Salvation.)

In PvP, on the other hand, I think shamans are clearly more powerful. They do significant damage, and have a lot more options than a paladin does. Their greatest strength, however, is their mobility. This includes effects like Earthbind Totem. A good shaman has a lot more options that allow them to control the battlefield. The shaman's advantage in PvP is the fact that she has a wide variety of tools. The paladin's advantage is her survivability. A paladin has a few very powerful tools on long cooldowns. A Hammer of Justice may be strictly better than a Shock, but HoJ is once a minute and there is a choice of 3 different Shocks available every 6s.

In my opinion, mobility and flexibility trump survivability and rare powerful effects, especially in games with 30s ressurrection timers. The fact that a shaman can do more damage than a paladin is not what makes her superior. It is the arsenal of options available to a shaman that gives her power.

Comments from any shaman readers are appreciated.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Gorgeous MC Run Today

7 Paladins. 8 Bosses. 3 Hours. 0 Wipes. 1 Portal/Summon chain to get an Aqual Quintessence to put out the last rune.

(Yeah, we're noobs. :) )

I didn't get any loot but it was a ton of fun. The raid leader apparently decided that we were good enough, and started chain pulling like crazy. I don't think I was out of combat at all for the first 20 minutes. I only died once, I think, on Gehennas where I took a 3k Shadowbolt fairly early. I don't think I've ever survived that fight, for some reason. No idea what I'm doing wrong.

I ran around with my [Earthshaker] for the first half, and it was a great deal of fun. Too bad everything in MC is immune to stuns. Though now that I think about it, this could have been really bad during Lucifron when I was Mind Controlled ([Earthshaker] has an AoE stun proc). I'll have to remember that for next time.

The more I run with this guild, the more I feel that paladins meleeing is the best way to go for an Alliance raid. If our paladins had all been standing back and spamming Flash of Light, I think it would have gone much slower and not nearly as cleanly.

Also, a random thought about damage meters. I think an absolute ranking is misleading. For example, in today's raid, the #1 guy had slightly more than 5% of the total damage, and the #10 guy had slightly less than 5%. With such a small spread like that, position is very misleading. I think a much better metric would be % of the #1 person's damage. Someone being position #15 isn't that much of a problem if she's doing 90% of the top person's damage, but it is potentially an issue if she's doing 40%.

But then again, I don't think this guild cares too much about damage meters. As long as we're killing everything, life is good.