Thursday, December 31, 2015

The New Transmog, Armor Classes, and Low Levels

The new transmog system is one of the most eagerly anticipated features of Legion. Working as a part of the UI that doesn't require you to hold on to every piece of gear you might want to 'mog in the future should free up an absurd amount of space, and going account-wide will make it easier to farm up the looks you want.

There will be some restrictions though, with the big one being that any class is going to only be able to "unlock" the appearances of gear that they can and would equip. By "would," I mean that a Paladin, who yes technically can equip cloth, leather, or mail armor, will only be able to unlock plate armor looks, because ultimately, that's what a Paladin should be wearing.

The intention is pretty clear here. If you love playing casters, and so your top characters are a Warlock, a Mage, and maybe a Balance Druid, you're only going to be able to soul bind cloth and leather gear. Meanwhile, if this restriction weren't in place, a Paladin, Warrior, or Death Knight would be able to collect all the gear looks they wanted, supplying them for Shaman, Demon Hunter, or Priest alts.

But there's a hitch.

You may not have played a character under level 40 for a long time, and if you had, there's also a chance that you were playing a Priest, Warlock, Mage, Druid, Rogue, or Monk - for whom that level 40 threshold is more about getting a new mount.

Back in the early days, level 40 was a really big transition - you'd start doing a lot more jumping around from zone to zone and to help you do that, you'd get your first, slow 160% speed mount. But on top of that, Shamans and Hunters upgraded from leather armor to mail while Warriors and Paladins upgraded from mail to plate.

And they still do. There is currently not a single piece of plate gear that you can get before level 40, because no one who is lower than level 40 can equip it.

Well, that's changing.

In Legion, Shamans and Hunters will start out with Mail gear, and Warriors and Paladins will start out in Plate.

Sounds simple enough, but this could have really huge consequences.

First off, this means that there need to be new quest reward options for everything from 1-39. Likewise, randomized gear and dungeon drops will need to be re-itemized. You'll never want Strength Mail to drop, because neither mail class can use that stat.

Now I suspect that they could just flip a switch on existing low-level mail to make it officially plate, but that still leaves you with the need to make a whole bunch of new mail gear, now that Shamans and Hunters will not be sharing with the three non-DH leather classes.

And since this is all about transmog, I also wonder about models. Currently, the mail armor that exists at low levels has more of a foot-solider look, appropriate to Warriors and Paladins. But mail at higher levels has tended to be a little weirder, reflecting the mystical shamans or the improvisational hunters. Simply flipping that low-level gear to plate might work ok, but some of it very clearly looks like it's made of rings. Now sure, Blizzard plays fast and loose with the looks of their armor, but I really wonder if they'll use existing, older assets or if they'll have to come up with new stuff for either the plate-wearers or the mail-wearers to use.

And then there's professions. Leatherworkers start to be able to make mail armor at around level 40 (or rather, at a skill level that you'd get to around then if you level up your profession with your toon,) while still obviously continuing to make leather armor into higher levels. Blacksmiths make a pretty serious shift from Mail to Plate, clearly intended to keep in step with the plate classes for whom the profession makes the most sense.

But this change would, I think, require a bit of a redesign, allowing Blacksmiths to make Plate armor from the start, and maybe even removing mail recipes from it entirely (many of their "mail" pieces already look plate-like enough, so that's not too difficult.) Meanwhile, Leatherworking needs to be able to make mail stuff immediately as well.

So ultimately, this fairly small change could have some serious reverberations through the low-level game. It's still probably worth doing, but I'm curious to see how Blizzard addresses it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Attempting to Break Down Vengeance

Ok, I know I said that Discipline was likely in for big changes, but I don't think there's any spec that's more subject to big "this will probably change" caveats than Vengeance Demon Hunters. Why? Well, not only is it a new class (and thus hasn't had at least two expansions' worth of iteration) but it's also not been playable in the Alpha. There is data about the spec, and thus we might be able to glean some sense of what they want the spec to look like, but we should take this with a spoonful of salt.

One thing to notice about the various tank redesigns (and I still need to do Prot Warriors, but their changes look more on the order of Paladin ones than, say, Monk ones - some very notable changes, but not a radical redesign) is that we've seen a move away from high-avoidance. Monks and Druids have both had a lot of focus on avoidance as a means of damage mitigation, and in fairness, it kind of makes sense given the fact that their primary stat (other than stamina) is Agility, which does kind of suggest a dodgy fellow. But Monks are getting more focus on their Brews and Stagger mechanics (which to be fair, is kind of like partially dodging - I interpret it as kind of turning a direct hit into a glancing blow) while Druids are focusing more on Hulking out and just becoming an indestructible bear-monster.

This opens up some design space for a more avoidance-oriented tank spec. Avoidance has always been a little tricky, given that too much focus on it (at the expense of other damage mitigation strategies) can turn a tank's health level into a ping-pong game. Avoidance is fantastic when you have it and utterly worthless when you don't. So any avoidance tank is going to need some way to smooth out the damage they do wind up taking - something that Brewmasters managed with Stagger.

Anyway, what I think this means is that Vengeance might be a bit more avoidance-focused (though given their comfort with iconic Demon Hunter glaives, it might be more parry than dodge,) they'll clearly need some other component to smooth out the damage that they take when they get an unlucky avoidance (or lack thereof) streak.

So let's look at what's currently up. Notably, there are definitely some mechanics that are only half-implemented, including what looks like an entirely separate resource system called Pain. I honestly don't know if this is a secondary resource or something that replaces Fury, so as I said earlier, take this with many grains of salt.

Blade Dance costs 50 Fury and has a 12-second cool down, dealing high damage to all nearby enemies and giving you 100% dodge for 1 second.

Blur has a 1-minute cool down, giving you 50% dodge and allows you to dodge spells and ranged attacks for 3 seconds. Each time you strike an enemy, you refresh the duration, up to a maximum of 10 seconds total duration.

Chaos Nova costs 30 Fury and has a 1-minute cool down, stunning nearby enemies for 5 seconds and dealing moderate Chaos damage to them.

Chaos Strike costs 40 Fury, dealing high Chaos damage to the target. If it crits, it is free.

Consume Magic is a 20-yard interrupt spell on a 20-second cool down. If you successfully interrupt a spell this way, you gain max Fury.

Demon Spikes costs 100 Pain and has 2 Charges on a 15 second recharge. It increases you parry chance by 20% and reduces all physical damage taken by 8% for 6 seconds.

Demon's Bite does moderate physical damage and generates 20-30 Fury.

Demonic Wards is a passive, reducing magical damage taken by 30% and increasing your Stamina by 20%. It also gives you your 6% crit immunity and your 3% lower chance to be parried (standard tank kit.)

Double Jump is the standard Demon Hunter thing, allowing you to jump again when you get to the apex of your jump.

Glide, likewise, after you jump allows you to hit the jump bar a third time to glide down gradually on demonic wings.

Eye Beam costs 50 Fury and is channeled over 2 seconds, dealing high damage to enemies in a line within 20 yards.

Fel Rush has 2 charges on a 10-second recharge, shooting you forward and dealing moderate fire damage to targets in your path.

Fiery Brand has a 45-second cool down and a long range, doing moderate fire damage to the target and reducing the damage the target deals to you by 40% for 10 seconds.

Immolation Aura has a 10-second cool down, dealing a burst of moderate fire damage to all targets around you and then pulsing additional light damage over 6 seconds.

Infernal Strike has a 30-yard range, 2 charges and a 15-second recharge. It allows you to jump to a targeted location, dealing light fire damage to all enemies near the landing site.

Mastery: Fel Blood increases the damage reduction of Demon Spikes.

Metamorphosis has a 3-minute cool down, increasing health by 30% and reducing damage taken by 30% for 10 seconds. Also, while in demon-form, Immolation Aura will automatically always be up.

Shattered Souls is a passive, causing enemies that yield experience or honor to drop a soul fragment on the ground where you land a killing blow on them. Collecting this fragment will heal you for 2% (this could be a typo, because I'd think 20% would be more like it) of your maximum health. If the fragment is from a demon, you'll also get 20% increased damage for 15 seconds.

Shear has a 3-second cool down, dealing moderate physical damage to the target and generating a Soul Shard nearby. It also generates 5 Pain.

Sigil of Inquisition has a 1-minute cool down. It allows you to place a sigil at the targeted location that activates after 3 seconds. Enemies within the sigil are drawn to its center and their speed is reduced by 70% for 6 seconds.

Sigil of Persecution works similarly, with a 1-minute CD and activating at the targeted location after 3 seconds. This taunts all targets within the Sigil, forcing them to attack you for 8 seconds.

Sigil of Silence has the same range, cool down, and activation time, but silences the targets within it for 4 seconds.

Soul Cleave costs 400 Pain and deals moderate physical damage to all targets in front of you and also heals you for 10% of your maximum health. It also consumes all Soul Shards within 30 yards, healing you for 2% of your max health (ok, maybe it wasn't a typo) for each shard consumed.

Spectral Sight has a 30-second cool down, allowing you to see Stealthed and Invisible things and also allowing you to see creatures and treasures through walls for 10 seconds, or until you attack or take damage.

There are two versions of Throw Glaive here, but I think the Vengeance one will have no cool down, dealing light damage to up to three targets.

Torment is your standard taunt, forcing the target to attack you for 3 seconds.

Vengeful Retreat has a 25-second cool down, causing you to leap backward, dealing moderate damage to nearby targets and slowing them by 70% for 3 seconds.

Felblade has a 6-second cool down, dealing high fire damage to the target and spawning 3 nearby Soul Fragments.

So as you can see, this is pretty incomplete. I've added in a lot of the utility spells here because I want to give a full picture of what you're working with. What I suspect is that a lot of the spells on this list are actually Havoc-only, but because that's the baseline spec and the only thing that's been playable, it's kind of left in (it's the same reason we have two Throw Glaives - I'm sure that one is the Havoc version.)

I'd suspect that Demon Spikes will be your main active mitigation ability. Metamorphosis looks pretty believable as a major tank cool down. Demon Spikes manages to get that avoidance theme while using the flat damage reduction as a way to smooth it out. And Felblade, Shear, and Soul Cleave all make the Shattered Souls passive (which exists in Havoc as just a standard "heal yourself up while soloing" mechanic) into a fairly major self-healing theme.

The really big question I have is what form Pain will take. We see things like Shear generating 5 Pain, but Soul Cleave costing 400, which means that unless there's some passive (like generating Pain as you take damage,) that's going to be a whole lot of Shears before you can use Soul Cleave. (Though even if it's only really 40, that's still 8 Shears.)

So while I've been wanting to figure this out for a while, I really don't think we have enough information to figure out exactly how the spec's going to work. I think it's likely we'll see some of this survive. Shear was an iconic ability (at least for tanks) that Illidan had, so I'd like to see some reference to it within the DH arsenal. I think names for standard stuff like Torment will probably be unchanged. And the mechanics of the Sigil spells are cool and unique, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them survive to live.

But the actual rotation and mitigation mechanics will definitely need some work. We don't even really know whether Vengeance will use Fury as a resource, so it's hard if not impossible to really get a sense of the spec's flow.

I do think that with things like Infernal Strike and potentially retaining Fel Rush, we're going to see an even more mobile tank than Warriors or Monks. Guess whose job it's going to be to pick up streaming adds?! So far it looks like flat mitigation, avoidance, and self-healing area all going to be potentially big survival themes. Immolation Aura and Throw Glaive should help for rounding up packs, so while the actual rotation is a cluttered mess, assuming we get abilities that look similar to what we have here, Vengeance should have the tools it needs to keep things running pretty well.

Expect to see another article - maybe an official break-down - once the next build comes out in January.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Breaking Down the New Discipline

Discipline Priests struggled in WoW's early days to distinguish themselves from Holy - the more go-to, classical healing spec for Priests. Priests were (and are) the only class to have multiple healing specs, and in general, the distinction has been more one of focus than anything really radical. Holy gets more straight-up healing spells, while Disc has focused on damage absorption.

But this has been a big problem. Having a shield that prevents damage instead of a heal that retroactively gives you health back is obviously better - it essentially makes your target seem as if they have higher max health than they do.

In Cataclysm (possibly as early as Wrath, though I don't remember it then,) they started playing with an idea with Discipline called Atonement - allowing the Priest to damage enemies and thereby create additional healing effects to help one's allies.

In Legion, Discipline is diving deep into this theme, becoming almost a hybrid of a damage-dealer and a healer. Given the removal of Mistweaving's Crane Style (Fistweaving,) it's kind of surprising that they're embracing it so whole-heartedly with Discipline, but my guess is that, thanks to the existence of Holy Priests, Priest players are not totally screwed if they want to heal but Discipline winds up being a train wreck.

They're even embracing this hybridization in terms of lore and flavor. Discipline will use both Holy and Shadow spells to heal and harm.

But in terms of gameplay, they're reining in a lot of the "smart heals" that made Atonement healing perhaps too easy. You're still going to be able to damage enemies to heal your friends, but you'll need to keep close watch on those friends to make sure that they get the benefits.

A big question for the spec is what the ratio will be. After all, a healer who also does half the damage of a DPS is going to be in high demand, but a healer who does half the healing of another healer is not. In a raid, this kind of half-and-half quality actually seems really easy to use - if your raid usually runs with two or three healers, you can run with two and a half! But for dungeons, where there's just one healer in the group, will Discipline Priests find themselves benched or forced to go Holy (or Shadow and run as DPS?)

I've been adding a little caveat to all these breakdowns, but honestly, even with a new class and some totally redesigned specs, this could be the biggest example of "expect changes and iteration."

So what have we got? (Also, I think I'll include base mana percentage costs with healing specs, as that's a bit more important for them.)

Smite costs 1% mana with a 2-second cast time, dealing Holy damage to the target.

Shadow Word: Pain costs 2% mana and deals a little bit of Shadow damage up front, with a lot of additional Shadow damage over 18 seconds.

Power Word: Shield costs 3.5% mana, creating a damage absorption shield that also prevents spell pushback that lasts a maximum of 15 seconds.

Plea costs 1.2% mana, and is an instant-cast heal that heals the target for a modest amount.

Penance costs 2.5% mana and is channeled over 2 seconds, dealing heavy Holy damage to the target. This can be channeled while moving.

Mind Blast costs 4% mana and has a cast time of 1.5 seconds, dealing high Shadow damage to the target.

Shadow Mend costs 3% mana and has a 1.5 second cast time. It heals the target for a massive amount, but then deals 10% of the amount healed as Shadow damage to the target every second until the target has taken 50% of the heal from all sources (so without any other damage source, 5 seconds) or if the target is no longer in combat.

Revelation is a passive, giving Smite and Mind Blast a 30% chance to reset the cool down on Penance.

Atonement is a crucial passive, causing Plea, Power Word: Shield, and Shadow Mend to apply the Atonement buff on the target for 15 seconds. All targets with Atonement will each be healed for 50% of all spell damage you deal.

Shadowfiend is on a 3-minute cool down, summoning a fiend to attack the target for 12 seconds.

Power Word: Radiance costs 7% mana and has a 2.5-second cast time, healing the target and allies near them for a modest amount and applying Atonement to them for 50% of the normal duration.

Rapture is a 1.5 minute cool down, removing the cool down on Power Word: Shield for 8 seconds.

Pain Suppression costs 1.6% mana and has a 3-minute cool down, reducing the damage the target takes by 40% for 8 seconds. This is cartable while stunned.

Power Word: Barrier costs 6.2% mana with a 3-minute cool down, and reduces all damage taken in the targeted area by 25% for 10 seconds, also preventing spell pushback.

Mastery: Absolution increases the healing done by Atonement.

Obviously healers don't typically have a "rotation" exactly. But given that there's a big DPS component to this spec, you could almost act as if there were one. Clearly you'll want to maintain Atonement on any targets your responsible for healing. Plea is clearly the cheapest and quickest way to do this, though you'll probably want to use Power Word: Shield on cool down. Shadow Mend's damage downside of course doesn't matter much when you've got a tank taking boss-damage, as it will be overwritten before the DoT component can do much. In terms of Atonement healing, you'll probably want to maintain Shadow Word: Pain on a few targets to get constant ticking heals. Penance will provide a nice burst of healing/damage, while you can kind of titrate healing by using either Mind Blast for heavier damage or Smite for lighter damage. Power Word: Radiance is clearly meant for periods of heavy raid damage, and the cool downs have rather obvious applications.

Breaking Down Guardian

It's odd, I thought I had done this already, but maybe I just started a draft that I never posted. Anyway!

Guardian, despite not technically existing until Mists, is actually one of the original tank specs (back in my day, we called 'em Feral Tanks!) Way, way back, during Burning Crusade, tanks who wanted to raid needed to get geared enough that they wouldn't be killed by "Crushing Blows." Warriors could easily do this by getting enough Defense Rating to be crit-immune, and then just use Shield Block to easily cover their avoidance table. Paladins had to work harder, since Holy Shield only gave them 35% extra block instead of 50% like Shield Block used to. Druids, whose leather gear never had any Defense Rating on it, could never do this. So what did they do? They'd stack stamina and armor to the high heavens and just soak those nasty blows.

Over the years, this designs has kind of faded away, and instead, Bear tanks have become extremely dodge-focused, using their natural agility (and their Agility, found on all their gear) to become very hard to hit - despite being a giant mass of shape-shifted fur, muscle and bone.

Well, things are changing! Guardian is getting a pretty nice and welcome redesign to reiterate the old design - Bears are tough. Bear tanks are massive beasts, and hitting them just makes them angrier.

As always, this is based on an Alpha build, so expect things to change. But here's what we have so far:

Bear Form is obviously what you'll be in most of the time as Guardian. It increases armor by 250% and reduces damage taken by 20% (there's another passive called Thick Skin that bumps this up to 30%.) It reduces your chance to be critically hit or parried by 10%, and also makes you immune to polymorph effects. Shifting forms will free you from movement-impairing effects. Being in Bear Form also allows you to use your Bear abilities.

Mangle has a 6-second cool down, generating 5 Rage, slowing the target by 50% for 12 seconds, and dealing a huge amount of damage, plus an additional 20% against bleeding targets.

Moonfire is an instant-cast spell, doing a bit of Arcane damage up-front and then a lot more over 12 seconds. It is now usable in Bear Form, which I think is really cool, as I often feel like the animal-druids kind of miss out on the magical side of the class. It's another way to distinguish Guardians from Warriors.

Maul costs 20 Rage and has a 3-second cool down, dealing a fair amount of physical damage to the target.

Thrash has no cool down or cost, simply hitting all nearby enemies for a bit of physical damage up-front and putting a bleed on them.

Lacerate has a 3-second cooldwon, dealing a fair amount of physical damage up front and then making the target bleed for a fair amount over 15 seconds, with the bleed stacking up to 3 times. Lacerate has a 25% chance to reset the cool down on Mangle.

Barkskin has a 1-minute cool down, reducing all damage by 20% for 12 seconds and can be used while incapacitated or otherwise cc'd.

Survival Instinct is your major damage-reduction cool down, with 2 charges on a 3-minute recharge, reducing damage by 50% for 6 seconds.

Ironfur is one of your main active mitigation abilities (though recall that in Legion, cool downs like Survival Instincts also count for any attacks that specifically look for active mitigation.) It costs 40 Rage and has a 1-second cool down, increasing your Armor by 100% for 6 seconds. Subsequent applications of this can overlap, which I suppose means you can actually have many times your normal amount of armor if you have the Rage.

Frenzied Regeneration has a 2 charges on a 20-second recharge and costs 10 Rage. It heals you for 100% of the damage you've taken over the last 6 seconds over 6 seconds, with a minimum of 5% of your total health.

Mark of Ursol costs 40 Rage and reduces magic damage taken by 30% for 6 seconds. This also counts as active mitigation.

Mastery: Nature's Guardian increases your maximum health and your healing received, and like all tanks, it also increases your attack power.

So the picture's relatively clear: Ironfur in particular is going to make you very tough. Essentially you're going to have a ton of health and armor, but you also get a boost to the healing you receive so you don't just become a mana sponge. Technically, the "higher health and healing received" effectively amounts to "you take less damage," but I doubt the healers are going to complain as their HPS gets inflated.

So here's what the rotation looks like, before we get into talents or artifact traits:

Active Mitigation:

1. Frenzied Regeneration if you just took a big hit or big series of hits.
2. Mark of Ursol if there's a big magic attack coming.
3. Ironfur most of the time, and possibly pooling 80 Rage if you know there's a really big hit coming so that you can get two stacks of it (assuming that's how it works.)


1. Mangle if Lacerate procs it.
2. Lacerate if there's fewer than 3 stacks on the target or it looks like it's going to fall off.
3. Maintain Moonfire DoT.
3. Maintain Thrash.
4. Mangle
5. Maul, but only if you don't need the Rage for active mitigation.

Depending on how much Rage you get from normal combat, you might want to just use Mangle on cool down. In AoE situations, Thrash is going to help you pick up and hold lots of adds, but if you feel like getting fancy, you can multi-dot Moonfire and Lacerate. The latter might even help with Rage, depending on whether the bleed from Lacerate can proc Mangle. In terms of defense, I think Ironfur will be your AM-of-choice 9 times out of 10, as Frenzied Regeneration is more of a reaction to bad stuff happening, and Mark of Ursol is situational.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Breaking Down (Atomizing?) the New Elemental

We're getting really close to the last of the DPS specs here, but I left out one of the specs that's getting the biggest changes until now. Elemental Shamans are not really changing quite as much as Enhancement, largely because in the divorce, they got to keep the Shocks and Lightning Bolt. But much like Enhancement, Elemental is moving onto a new primary resource other than Mana, which is the new Maelstrom (I don't know what color all of these new resources will be, though if any deserves to be kind of similar to the clear blue of Mana, it's Maelstrom, what with its tides-and-lightning connotations, and how Shamans' class color is a dark blue.)

Elemental still kind of interweaves four spells that are connected to each other in different ways, but a lot of the ways they have been connected has been streamlined into the Maelstrom resource (which is a cool name, but harder to type than mana.) You'll be generating Maelstrom with some spells and paying it off with others. Basically, the generators will be your bolts and the spenders will be shocks.

It also looks like Elemental will be the "default" spec - you'll no longer be spec-less from level 1-9, and instead simply get a free re-spec when you hit level 10 (though since re-speccing will be more like tri-spec, it's more like you'll just unlock the other specs at 10.)

As always, this is Alpha, and with a big redesign like this, you can expect changes to Elemental. It also seems like some of this information is a little self-contradictory, and since Shamans are not yet playable in the Beta, there could be lots of changes.

Lightning Bolt, good old trusty Lightning Bolt, is a 2.5 second cast that deals Nature damage to the target and generates 10 maelstrom.

Fulmination causes Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst to generate 15 Maelstrom (perhaps on top of the base amount, giving Lightning Bolt 25?) Chain Lightning generates 6 Maelstrom (I believe per-target.) It also causes Earth Shock to consume all of your Maelstrom, dealing damage based on how much you had.

Earth Shock consumes all of your Maelstrom (minimum of 10) to deal potentially massive Nature damage to the target.

Thunderstorm is instant cast on a 45-second cooldown, dealing light Nature damage to enemies in 10 yards and knocking them back as well as slowing them by 40% for 5 seconds.

Healing Surge is a 2-second cast, consuming Maelstrom and healing for a decent amount plus up to 100% more based on how much Maelstrom you spent.

Elemental Fury makes your crits deal 250% damage instead of 200%. Elemental Reach just gives you the range to be a real ranged class.

Flame Shock costs 0 to 20 Maelstrom, dealing light Fire damage to the target and then burning them every 2 seconds for additional damage for 10-30 seconds, depending on how much Maelstrom you spent - I assume you get an extra second per Maelstrom.

Shamanism increases the damage of your spells and reduces the cast time on Lightning Bolt by .5 seconds (to 2 seconds) and removes the cool down on Chain Lightning.

Lava Burst has a 2-second cast and an 8-second recharge (it currently says it only has one charge, but I suspect there might be a talent or something that increases this,) dealing high Fire damage to the target. If Flame Shock is on the target, Lava Burst will automatically crit, and it always generates 15 Maelstrom.

Frost Shock deals somewhat low Frost damage to the target and costs 0 to 20 Maelstrom, slowing them by 50% for 5-10 seconds, depending on how much Maelstrom you spend (presumably .25 seconds per Maelstrom.)

Chain Lightning has a 2-second cast, dealing somewhat low Nature damage to the target and jumping to two additional targets, generating 4 Maelstrom for each target hit.

Elemental Focus is a passive that causes your non-periodic critical strikes to increase the damage of your next two spells by 20%.

Lava Surge gives your Flame Shock ticks a chance to reset the cool down on Lava Burst and make it instant.

Fire Elemental is a 5-minute cool down, summoning a Fire Elemental to attack your foes. For 15 seconds after casting this, you generate 100% additional Maelstrom. It says the Elemental lasts until cancelled, but I don't know exactly how that works.

Earthquake Totem has a 10-second recharge (but apparently only 1 charge) and costs 80 Maelstrom, dealing a large amount of physical damage over 10 seconds to enemies near the targeted location, with a 10% chance to knock them down.

Earth Elemental has a 2-minute cool down, summoning an Earth Elemental to protect the caster and his/her allies. It lasts 15 seconds, and for 15 seconds after casting it, you take 30% less damage (and this can be used while stunned.)

Master: Elemental Overload gives your Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and Lava Burst a chance to trigger a second bolt for 75% damage that generates no threat (not sure whether it generates Maelstrom.)

So what I think is cool about this is its flexibility. You can front-load Flame Shock just to ensure it's on there, but when you get more comfortably into the rhythm of your rotation, you can spend more Maelstrom to make it last longer. You can also sacrifice a bit of damage if you need to kill some low-health add with an Earth Shock. So here's how I see the rotation before adding talents or artifact traits:

1. Maintain Flame Shock - ideally at high Maelstrom so that you save on global cool downs.
2. Earth Shock when you're at high Maelstrom - I'd guess 75 or higher, depending on what the numbers wind up being on how much a Lava Burst or a Lightning Bolt generates - you want to do it before you go over 100.
3. Lava Burst on cool down, being sure to watch out for Lava Surge.
4. Lightning Bolt as a filler.

In AoE situations, you'll sub out Chain Lightning for Lightning Bolt as soon as there's a second target. You also probably want to run Flame Shock on all your targets (which shouldn't be terribly hard, as you can toss up a short one at 0 Maelstrom.) Once you get a fair number of targets - I'd guess 4 or more - you'll want to start using Earthquake Totem instead of Earth Shock. And of course Fire Elemental is now your big cool down.

Breaking Down (Burning Down?) Fire

We're getting pretty far with all the DPS specs, and many of the tank specs. At some point I'll have to go into pure-theory mode (ok, to be fair I've healed one or two dungeons as most of the healing specs - possibly never Shamans) with healers, but let's knock out the rest of the DPS'ers.

Fire Mages, like their Frosty and Arcane brethren, are not getting huge changes because, well, Mages in general have been pretty fun to play and true to their class and spec fantasies for a long time. In fact, you could argue that a lot of the changes coming are sort of to bring the other classes up to the elegance and strong design of the Mage.

Fire is getting some new toys and some upgrades to old toys. Probably the biggest change is that Combustion is getting changed from a powerful DoT into a powerful cool down (well, it's always had a cool down, but now it's more of a buff than an attack.) There's also a cool and very flavorful change to the Ignite Mastery which we'll get to.

So let's get into the Fire spells. As always, remember that this is based on an Alpha build, and while I don't expect to see the baseline Mage spells change too much given how little they're changing from the existing design, you never know.

Fireball is, of course, the primary filler spell you'll be casting most of the time. It has a 2.25 second cast time and deals fire damage to the target.

Pyroblast has a (baseline) 4.5 second cast time, dealing a massive amount of fire damage to the target.

Hot Streak is a passive causing your next Pyroblast or Flamestrike to be instant if you get two critical strikes from direct-damage spells in a row.

Enhanced Pyrotechnics is a fun passive that makes each Fireball that does not give you a critical strike give you a 10% increased critical strike chance, stacking up indefinitely, but ending once you do get a critical strike. I love this, because it ensures you never go too long without a crit.

Inferno Blast has 2 charges on a 12-second recharge, dealing a modest amount of fire damage to the target, but always critically striking. It is not on the global cool down and can be cast while casting other spells. Its main purpose, I think, other than giving you something to cast on the move, is a guaranteed Hot Streak once you've crit with Fireball.

Combustion has a 2-minute cool down, increasing you crit chance by 100% for 10 seconds, and gives you Mastery equal to your critical strike rating (it doesn't double-dip on its own buff, but it makes all the crit on your gear still worth something while it's up.)

Molten Armor gives you an extra 15% crit chance and reduces incoming physical damage by 6%, giving you a nice healthy baseline before you start stacking up crit (I think base crit without anything is 10%, so that's a baseline of 25%.)

Scorch has a 1.5-second castime, dealing a small amount of fire damage to the target, but is usable while moving, which is probably the only time you ever want to use it.

Flamestrike has a 4-second cast time dealing a fair amount of fire damage to anyone standing in it and slowing them by 50% for 8 seconds.

Critical Mass is a passive that multiplies the critical strike chance of Fireball, Scorch, and Pyroblast by  1.3.

Dragon's Breath is an instant-cast spell on a 20-second cool down, dealing relatively low fire damage to enemies in a cone in front of you and disorienting them for 4 seconds, though this effect breaks on any damage. It replaces Cone of Cold.

Mastery: Ignite causes Fireball, Pyroblast, Scorch, Inferno Blast, and Flamestrike to add a 9-second DoT to the target based on your Mastery and the damage of the initial spell. Subsequent applications of Ignite will roll over, so you'll get the full Ignite effect off of each spell without worrying about "overwriting." Also, every 2 seconds, Ignite has a chance to spread to a new nearby enemy.

So as you can see, most of this is familiar, but won't have to worry about finding the perfect sweet spot for Combustion - in fact, Combustion will basically turn you into a Pyroblast machine gun. Before we get into talents and artifact traits (which will add new parts to the rotation,) here's what we're looking at:

1. Pyroblast if there's a Hot Streak.
2. Inferno Blast if you have the "Warming Up" buff - basically if you just crit.
3. Fireball.

AoE's kind of interesting. With Ignite now spreading, you might be able to just keep up the single-target rotation on two or possibly three targets. But at some point you'll want to start using Flamestrike instead of Pyroblast. With a similarly really-long cast-time, you'll probably only want to use Flamestrike 4 seconds before the pull or if you get a Hot Streak proc. Scorch is obviously the substitute for Fireball when you're on the move, but everything else should be instant-cast in your rotation, so you just swap it out. And of course, you'll now just want to use Combustion on cool down - no prep required.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cloud Strife, Bayonetta, and Corrin from FIre Emblem Coming to Smash Bros.

Today saw the last Nintendo Direct dedicated to Smash Bros. and with it, I believe, the final additional fighters available as Downloadable Content for the Wii U/3DS version of the game.

This latest iteration of Smash Bros. was already the largest so far, and we've seen some exciting new characters (and old ones) added as DLC.

Cloud is obviously one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, despite starring in only one game (though there was a spin-off and an animated film, and a high-profile remake coming soon.) He's the main character of Final Fantasy VII, which is probably the most popular entry in the series.

Bayonetta is the star of a somewhat younger series of action games, a witch who can manipulate time and fights with four guns - one in each hand and one on each foot.

Corrin... I have no idea who Corrin is. Nintendo seems to like to push Fire Emblem characters almost as much as Pokemon.

Anyway, Cloud and his associated Midgar stage will be available tonight, while it appears that Bayonetta is getting her own stage some time later.

With this being the last Nintendo Direct, it might mean that these will be the final additions to the lineup. My response? "Snake? Snake! SNNNAAAAAKKKKEEE!"

Despite the existence of some high-profile Wii U titles in the works and the fact that the Wii U is only a couple years old, Nintendo has already started talking about their next console, currently codenamed as the NX. Granted, talking about it doesn't mean that it's coming out anytime soon. The Xbox One and PS4 are only about a year old at this point, so I don't think we're racing toward the next generation just yet (especially given how long the PS3 and Xbox 360 generations lasted,) so I wonder if Nintendo is trying to beef up their specs to handle the kind of games that Sony and Microsoft's consoles can.

Anyway, Smash Bros. has become one of the big Nintendo franchises that kind of has to have an entry for each console. If the NX comes out any time soon (meaning the next three years,) it's likely we'll see another Smash Bros. as well.

Breaking Down Assassination

For the past few expansions, I've enjoyed how Assassination is kind of the "snappiest" of the Rogue specs. In some ways, Assassination is changing the least of the three specs. They're focusing it a lot more on damage-over-time effects - in fact, Assassination will now be the only spec to use both poisons and bleeds (though Subtlety gets a Shadow-DoT finisher that looks a lot like a re-skinned Rupture.)

So let's see what we've got!

Deadly Poison works much as it does, giving your melee attacks a chance to put a Nature-damage DoT on the target, with subsequent applications doing instant damage.

Mutilate costs 55 Energy, attacking with both daggers and granting 2 Combo Points.

Poisoned Knife is a new ranged attack, costing 40 Energy and striking a target within 30 yards, dealing physical damage and applying your lethal and non-lethal poisons, and giving you a Combo Point

Envenom is your major finishing move, costing 35 Energy and consuming your Combo Points to deal Nature damage (based on CPs) and increase your poisons' chance to apply by 30% for a second for each CP consumed plus 1.

Crimson Vial is actually an ability all Rogues will have - an instant self-heal costing 30 Energy on a 30-second cooldown and healing you for 30% of your health.

Rupture is a finisher that does bleed damage over time, lasting longer per combo point.

Venomous Wounds gives you 10 Energy each time you deal Bleed damage to a target that you've poisoned.

Seal Fate gives you an extra Combo Point when a CP-generating ability of yours crits.

Garrote costs 45 Energy and has a 15 second cooldown, dealing bleed damage over 18 seconds and silencing the target if you use it from Stealth.

Fan of Knives costs 35 Energy, dealing physical damage to enemies within 10 yards, with the normal chance to apply poisons. It awards 1 Combo Point.

Vendetta is a 2-minute cooldown, marking a target for 20 seconds, increasing the damage you deal to that target by 30% and allowing you to keep seeing them through stealth and invisibility.

Mastery: Potent Poisons increases your poison damage.

So it's clear that Assassination is going to be more DoT-focused, particularly with bleeds. This should make the revamped Venomous Wounds even more potent. I suspect Poisoned Knife won't really be part of the single-target rotation, but it will let you get some damage on stray targets with ease. So here's how I see the rotation working:


1. Maintain Rupture.
2. Envenom if Rupture's not going to fall off before you can get back to 5 CPs.


1. Maintain Garrote
2. Mutilate.

You'll be opening your fight with Garrote regardless of whether you're in stealth or not, and it will now be a continual part of the rotation, essentially taking the place of Dispatch as your secondary CP-generator. In AoE situations, you'll definitely want to get Garrote and Rupture ticking on multiple targets, though the Energy gains from Venomous Wounds will probably get overwhelming with only a couple targets. I'd guess that at 4 targets or even just 3, you'll start using Fan of Knives as your CP generator. Envenom will still be useful in AoE as it will increase your poison application rate (something Crimson Tempest, which seems to be going away, did for us in Warlords.)

Note: there's a new Alpha build coming out, and so we might see some of these Breakdowns getting outdated soon. I'd still expect most specs to have the same shape, more or less, but a few might get some radical redesigns, and certainly some numbers are going to change.

Breaking Down Mistweaver

Yes, I've now done I believe over half of the specs for Legion at this point, but no healers. Well, the main reason for that is that I don't really play healers very much. My second Monk character is a Mistweaver, and has made it up into Pandaria, so I guess I can talk a bit about them, but I've never done any serious healing in heroic dungeons or raids.

Two massive changes are coming to Mistweaver Monks. The first is arguably less profound - Chi is becoming a Windwalker-only mechanic. Mistweavers will simply cast their spells for mana like other healers. The other huge change is that Crane Stance and all damage-for-healing functionality is going away. This is a pretty big disappointment to me, as it's the main thing that got me to try the spec in the first place. While Discipline's Atonement mechanics are remaining (and becoming the core of that spec,) Mistweavers are losing their "Fistweaving." What's surprising about this is that Mistweavers were built from the very beginning to incorporate this, and I'd argue that it was the defining feature of the spec, even if there were traditional healing options.

But I suppose one reason they want to play conservative (or more accurately, reactionary) with Mistweaver is that if Discipline winds up being a disaster, Priests can always respec to Holy if they still want to heal. Monks only have the one healing spec, and Blizzard wants to make sure that it works properly, even if that's at the expense of spec/class identity.

So let's look at your heals.

Effuse is a fast and efficient heal with a 1-second cast time.

Enveloping Mists has a 2-second cast time, healing the target over 6 seconds and increasing your healing to them by 30%.

Soothing Mists is now a passive. When you heal a target with Vivify, Effuse, or Enveloping Mists, you trigger Soothing Mists on the target. You'll automatically continue to heal them every 0.5 seconds until you take another action. Essentially, this is your "filler heal," but does not require you to hit any buttons or take any mana whatsoever.

Renewing Mists is an instant-cast heal on an 8-second cooldown that heals the target over 20 seconds. If it overheals, it will travel to another target within 20 yards. Each time it heals, it has a 4% chance to increase the healing of your next Vivify by 50%.

Vivify is a 1.5 second cast heal that heals the target and two nearby injured allies.

Thunder Focus Tea is a 45-second cooldown affects your next healing spell. Renewing Mist doesn't trigger a cooldown. Enveloping Mists is instant-cast. Effuse does 200% more healing. Essence Font can be cast while moving. And Vivify becomes free.

Essence Font is a channeled spell over 3 seconds that sends out bolts of healing to up to 6 allies within 25 yards, healing them for a bit and then putting a HoT on them for 6 seconds.

Revival is a 3-minute cooldown that heals party and raid members within 40 yards. for a huge amount and clears them of magic, disease, and poison effects.

Life Cocoon is a 2-minute cooldown, putting an absorb shield on the target that increases the periodic healing they take by 50% for up to 12 seconds.

Mastery: Gust of Wind causes your targeted heals to also give the target a burst of healing.

In addition to all of these, there are a number of melee attacks to allow Mistweavers to solo, like Tiger Palm, Blackout Kick, Spinning Crane Kick, and Rising Sun Kick. These do not affect healing in any way.

Obviously, healers don't really have a "rotation" per se. Enveloping Mists looks like the most expensive heal at 6% mana, and will probably be mostly for emergencies. Likewise, Vivify costs a fair amount as well at 4% mana, so you'll want to use that for situations where there's high raid damage (as this is kind of a "cleave" heal.) For light damage situations, you'll probably just want to keep Renewing Mists floating around and Effuse targets if they're in trouble, but then let Soothing Mists keep the tank up.

New Alpha Build Coming, But Testing Taking the Holidays Off

Well, not Hanukah, as that's ended, but Xmas and New Years certainly. The Legion Alpha has been up for a few weeks now, allowing people to play Demon Hunters, get a good portion of the Artifact Weapons (I want to say more than half) quest in Stormheim and Highmountain, and run a couple of dungeons (I believe Halls of Valor and Black Rook Hold are the ones that have been open.)

While it's still officially still an "Alpha," there's a decent amount of the expansion to be open for testing. I suspect that after the holidays things will kick into a higher gear, and it might officially transition over to a Beta.

I don't know exactly what Blizzard considers the distinction between Alpha and Beta, but I'd guess that right now the only people who aren't Blizzard employees or Friends & Family of theirs are probably prominent WoW-journalists, like people at WoWHead, MMO-Champion, and Blizzard Watch. My guess is that the official changeover to "Beta" will mean inviting a wider selection of the playerbase.

There is a new build being pushed to the servers, and I think we might see some data-mining of it even if the Alpha is not officially up. My guess is that we'll see the other "any order" zones, Azsuna and Val'sharah, opening up, as well as perhaps some more dungeons and almost certainly more artifact quests (currently Shamans aren't even playable in the Alpha, so we haven't seen how they get their weapons.)

I also hope that we'll get a much more solid picture of how Vengeance Demon Hunters will work in this build. I'm also pretty excited to get the background on Truthguard (the protection paladin artifact,) and hopefully see some new model variations (right now all the accompanying sword models are just a lot of different color schemes for the same thing.)

I honestly don't really remember the pace of content being opened up in the previous Beta, but what I've seen of the Legion Alpha is pretty promising. We'll of course have to see how they keep up the pace of the rollout, but I think that it's not impossible that we'd get Legion in the first half of 2016 - in fact, I might even go as far as to say that it's more likely than not (knock on wood.)

Breaking Down (Destroying?) Destruction

Destruction is supposed to be the most chaotic and unpredictable Warlock spec. I don't know that it has always lived up to that, but we'll see as we look at how the spec's changes will work. All Warlocks are returning to Soul Shards as their secondary resource, which I'll be honest, kind of bums me out, as I thought that Demonic Fury and Burning Embers were cool and very clear ways to distinguish the specs.

Destruction is still going to be the Warlock spec that goes far more into direct damage than DoTs, and I don't think it's getting any really profound changes to the overall theme of the spec. If you're Destruction, you just want to watch the world burn.

As always, this is based on an early Alpha build, so there can and almost certainly will be changes.

Incinerate will remain your main filler spell, with a 2-second cast time to deal Fire damage to a target.

Immolate has a 1.5 second cast time and deals Fire damage to the target, then doing additional Fire damage over 15 seconds. Immolate crits will grant you a Soul Shard.

Conflagrate is instant-cast, with two charges and a 12-second recharge, dealing fire damage to the target and granting a Soul Shard when it crits.

Chaos Bolt costs Soul Shards (currently it says 0, but I think it's really 2) and has a 3-second cast time, dealing massive Shadow damage to the target. It is guaranteed to crit, and does additional damage based on your critical strike chance.

Rain of Fire has a 2 second cast, dealing Fire damage to the targeted area over 8 seconds (much like Blizzard, it's Frost Mage counterpart, it's no longer a channeled spell, and allows you to do other things while it's up.)

Havoc has a 20 second cooldown and is instant. For the next 8 seconds, all your single-target spells will also hit the target with Havoc on it.

Summon Doomguard and Summon Infernal now only have 3-minute cooldowns and last 20 seconds (I assume the cooldowns are shared, like they are now.) The Infernal's still for AoE, dealing a blast of AoE damage when it's summoned and then continuing to deal Fire damage while it's up and smacking your foes. Doomguards will shoot shadow damage at the target you summoned them to shoot at.

Mastery: Chaotic Energies increases the damage your spells do, by a random amount up to the maximum determined by your mastery stat.

Much of this should look very familiar, and crit remains a very potent stat. Before we get into talents and artifact traits, the basic shape of the rotation should be something like this:

1. Maintain Immolate on the target at all times.
2. Chaos Bolt if you have just under full Soul Shards (I think the max will be 5, so at 4.)
3. Conflagrate.
4. Incinerate

For AoE, you'll want to mark an alternate target with Havoc right before you cast Chaos Bolt - you might even try to get off two (or three if that's possible - it won't be if the Soul Shard cost is 2.) You'll also want to get Rain of Fire running on your targets.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How to Sustain Legion

Legion has the elements to be the best World of Warcraft expansion yet. There's a new hero class representing a class fantasy people have been wanting for years. Classes are getting seriously looked at to make sure that every spec has something cool and unique. Class quests are not just coming back, but becoming a central part of the expansion's gameplay. The story involves the long-foreshadowed confrontation with the Warcraft universe's biggest villains. We're seeing a recommitment to 5-player dungeons, but not at the expense of raids. We're seeing a new form of questing and leveling that will dramatically change the linear nature of everything that has preceded it.

It looks really great.

While I wouldn't say it's the only reason to worry (everyone is going to have their pet issues, and of course some peoples' tastes are diametrically opposed to others',) I think the big concern is how well Blizzard can maintain it.

Warlords of Draenor was a disappointment. There's been an anemic endgame, and while Blizzard has made some valiant efforts to spruce it up, you can't really argue with the fact that it kind of dropped the ball. The concern, other than the dip in quality (though, for the record, we're talking relative to Blizzard's usual efforts, which is a high bar,) is that Warlords was actually hugely popular and successful when it first began.

Questing through Draenor was probably the best we've ever seen. The experience of traveling through Draenor and playing through the story, as well as the clever Timeless Isle-style treasures and events littered through the world, was great. The dungeons were tuned excellently as well - not the breeze of Mists heroics or the brutally punishing difficulty of Cataclysm ones, but a nice robust challenge.

Really, where things fell apart was the lack of new content. The out-in-the-world content was not so hot after hitting the level cap. You basically had the daily assaults, which were kind of blah daily quests without much sense of progression. You had the garrison campaign quests once a week, which were ok, I guess, but didn't really feel as urgent to the overall plot as things like the 5.1 Landfall quests. And also, let's just take a moment to say that the Iron Horde was just not a very compelling set of villains. These were all figures we had already dealt with in one way or another, and even if it would have been cool to interact with these old lore figures (and it would be fair to say that it could be,) we didn't actually do much of that, instead spending more time with new characters like Yrel (and don't get me wrong, I think Yrel was great. But would I make an expansion out of hanging out with her? Probably not.)

The fact that there were only two raid tiers (if we're counting Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry as two, then we also have to count Mogu'shan Vaults as its own, and now it's disappointing that we had only three instead of the typical four) made it feel like we were really only getting two-thirds of an expansion. And even after Blizzard acknowledged that players want more 5-player dungeons, they still didn't add new ones with the later patch.

Part of why this was so frustrating is that Mists - certainly flawed, though I think its reputation is improving as time goes on and we gain perspective on it - sustained things so well (until the end.) Mists gave us several interesting content patches, each with cool new stuff and a developing story. Mists had four major patches, and the only one that felt underwhelming was 5.3 - but there was still some cool stuff to it. Warlords theoretically had two major patches, but 6.1 made 5.3 look like 5.1 (man, if you don't know what patches those correspond to, that might be the most meaningless sentence ever.) Really, Warlords had only one major content update, and while 6.2 was perfectly substantial enough to earn the name "Major Content Patch," it was really the only one in the whole expansion.

So how do you sustain interest?

To be fair to Blizzard, it's not really possible to do it 100% of the time. Even Wrath, now considered by many if not most players to be the best expansion in WoW's run, kind of lulled a few months after 3.3.

But here are some elements that I think can help keep people interested in the game:

Currencies from easier content: Doing Emblem runs in late Wrath kept players running those old dungeons. It became less of a challenge to beat the dungeon, but more to see how quickly you could do it. There were Azjol-Nerub runs that lasted less than ten minutes by the end. It also helped get high-geared players running with low-geared players. Was there ugliness? Sure. But it also sustained a large pool of players to run all the content in the expansion.

Easy lowest raid difficulty: In Wrath, players were easily pugging the first half of Icecrown Citadel. 10-man normal was truly an appropriate difficulty for friends-and-family guilds. These days, perhaps simply due to the designers trying to come up with new mechanics, normal raiding is very complicated and just not feasible if you want to bring everyone along. I've argued that you should be able to do essentially private LFR runs, which could solve this issue.

Gradually un-rolling stories that the player unlocks: One reason the garrison campaign failed to live up to the 5.1 story is that it was entirely based on time. Yes, the 5.1 quests were gated behind certain reputations levels, and that reputation was based on daily quests, thus gating it by time, but it still meant that it was the player's actions that allowed them to experience more of the story. Get people invested in the story by having them feel like a real participant.

Self-Expression: Transmogrification was just one of a few features that were introduced in 4.3, along with the new Darkmoon Faire and LFR. While LFR might edge it out, Transmog is a contender for the biggest thing introduced in Cataclysm. This is an RPG, after all, and the whole RP part of that is based on the idea that players want to be able to create a character. Due to the limitations of making a digital game, there's not a ton you can do to make your character distinct. Transmog gave us a fantastic tool to do so. One of the biggest flaws with garrisons was the resolute domination of function over form, when a lot of people had been hoping to use it as player housing - something that historically has been a means to express oneself.

Keep the world engaging: Warlords of Draenor did kind of leave us stuck in our garrisons while we queued for stuff. The reputation grinds were pretty underwhelming and boring (because they were truly just grinds) and the apexis gear was just not compelling until Tanaan Jungle opened up. Legion could have a good edge here, given that the level scaling will make every part of the Broken Isles appropriate for 110s. My advice: use it!

So that's my thoughts on keeping the game fun and engaging.

Breaking Down Frost (Mages)

Mage gameplay has kind of been a gold standard through Warlords as far as fun-to-play has been. As such, the Mage specs are not really changing all that much. Rather than tearing things down and building them up anew, each spec is really just getting some tweaks. They've all been pretty solid on the class fantasy and spec fantasy fronts (Mages magic at things until they die. Sounds about right!)

As such, this is going to be far less shocking than, say, the Survival or Demonology changes.

But I'm on a roll here, so let's get this one out there! As usual, take things with a grain of salt, since this is based on an Alpha build. That said, given that most of this is just a tweak to the existing design, I wouldn't expect anything super radical.

Frost is going to probably miss Multistrike more than other specs, given how easy it is to get instant spells that almost always crit (essentially giving you a low soft crit cap.) Also gone from the rotation is Frostfire Bolt, which I personally think is a travesty. Blizzard justified this removal by asking how a bolt of Frostfire would even work. Shouldn't the fire melt the frost? My answer? It's MAGIC! BECAUSE WE'RE MAGES! Seriously, Frostfire Bolt is one of the most gorgeous spells in the game, and I loved that Frost got to retain a little bit of out-of-element bleeding.

Ok, I've calmed down. At least on WoWHead, there seems to be some old information, like references to the lost beloved Frostfire Bolt, so there might be some out-of-date info here.

Frostbolt remains the heart of the rotation, taking 2 seconds to cast and dealing Frost damage while slowing the target by 30% for 15 seconds.

Ice Lance is an instant-cast spell that deals Frost damage to a target, and does double damage when the target is frozen (or if it "counts as frozen" thanks to Fingers of Frost.)

Frostbolt and Frozen Orb (Frostfire Bolt is still listed as well) have a 15% chance, and Blizzard has a 5% chance to give you Fingers of Frost, which allows you next Ice Lance or Deep Freeze to treat your target as if it is frozen. If you use Ice Lance with this, it will increase its damage by 140%, for a total of 380% of normal damage. You can have two stacks of this buff.

Shatter is a passive that increases your crit chance against frozen targets, multiplying it by 1.5 and adding 50% (so, against a same-level target, this effectively gives you a critical strike soft cap of 33.33%)

Frozen Orb has a 1-minute cooldown, sending an Orb of frost that lasts 10 seconds shooting forward (slowing down when it reaches a target) and that damages all enemies in its path and slows them by 30% for 15 seconds. The first time an orb deals damage, it automatically grants a charge of Fingers of Frost.

Brain Freeze is a proc that gives your Frostbolts a 10% chance to reset the cooldown on Frozen Orb.

Blizzard now has an 8-second cooldown, with a 2-second cast time. It deals Frost damage to a targeted area over time (I'd assume 8 seconds, but don't hold me to that.) Each time it deals damage, it reduces the remaining cooldown on Frozen Orb by 0.5 seconds.

Cone of Cold is an instant-cast spell on a 12-second cooldown, dealing light Frost damage to everyone in a cone in front of the caster and slowing them by 30% for 15 seconds.

Icy Veins is a 3-minute cooldown granting 30% haste and preventing all spell pushback for 20 seconds.

Summon Water Elemental summons your permanent Water Elemental pet. We don't have a list of abilities, but I'd assume that it's got what it has now - though we don't know the fate of Water Jet (personally I like it - giving you an option to deal with Fingers of Frost dry spells when you can't use Freeze.) There is a talent option that allows you to go pet-less, which makes Freeze one of your spells, so I'm confident that will be on the pet's bars.

Mastery: Icicles remains much the same, granting you an Icicle when you cast Frostbolt that is proportional to its damage that lasts 15 seconds. You can store up to 5 at once, and if you get a sixth, the oldest Icicle will launch at your target, or if you cast Ice Lance, all 5 will launch at your target in quick succession. (This portion of the Mastery really just effectively buffs the damage of Frostbolt.) It also increases the damage done by your Water Elemental.

Overall, the rotation looks mostly the same, but you'll be casting Frozen Orb considerably more. Given that it's only on a 1-minute cooldown, you're probably already casting it whenever it's up, but now you'll certainly want to do that all the time thanks to the new Brain Freeze. So before we get to artifact traits and talents, here's what we've got:

1. Ice Lance if Fingers of Frost is up.
2. Frozen Orb on cooldown (keep an eye out for Brain Freeze.)
3. Freeze if you can hit a target that is not immune to it - preferably two or more.
3. Frostbolt.

Once you get I want to say 5 targets or more, you want to start using Blizzard to get your Frozen Orb off cooldown instead of Frostbolt. Though if you can maintain Blizzard and squeeze in some Frostbolts, go for it, as you might be able to just reset Frozen Orb. With the changes to glyphs, the fate of Glyph of Splitting Ice remains a mystery. This is one of the few glyphs I've always thought is a 100% mandatory one, unless you're on a strictly single-target fight (and how many of those do we see these days?) Talents like Ice Nova and Comet Storm seem to be remaining, so you'll have other buttons in your actual rotation if you want.

Breaking Down Windwalker

Much like Retribution (the dps class of the other tank/melee/healer hybrid,) Windwalkers will be the only Monk spec to retain their secondary resource, Chi. Monks are going to have to take a step back, no longer the new kid on the block with Demon Hunters arriving. It looks as if Windwalkers are trying to fulfill to a greater extent the kind of fighting-game combat style. Mostly it seems that abilities are becoming more pro-active and less based on maintaining buffs and debuffs.

Also of note, it seems that Monks will be sheathing their weapons a bit differently this time. While Staves (for Monks only) will be slung over the shoulder, rather than just kind of upside-down the way they have been in the past, it also looks like Fist Weapons will always be out - important given that Windwalkers will have a Fist Weapon artifact (well, a pair.)

As always, this is Alpha, so don't be shocked if this undergoes some revision and iteration later down the line.

Tiger Palm has become the new Jab, costing 50 Energy, generating 1 Chi.

Blackout Kick now only costs 1 Chi, but has a 3-second cooldown, dealing moderate physical damage. It also does an additional 20% of its damage over time if you hit from behind, or heals you for 20% if you strike from the front of the target.

Combo Breaker is a passive that gives Tiger Palm an 8% chance to make your next Blackout Kick free.

Rising Sun Kick stills costs 2 Chi, has an 8 second cooldown, and does a large amount of physical damage, as well as reducing the healing received by the target for 10 seconds.

Flying Serpent Kick sends you forward at high speed for 2 seconds, and you can activate it again to stomp down, dealing damage and snaring all enemies within 8 yards and slowing them by 70% for 4 seconds, with a 25 second cooldown.

Touch of Death is now on a 2-minute cooldown. After 8 seconds, the target will take damage equal to the Monk's maximum health (though less against players.)

Touch of Karma redirects all damage you take to the target as Nature damage for 6 seconds, capped at 50% of your max health.

Fists of Fury costs 3 Chi and has a 20 second cooldown, channeled over 4 seconds and dealing high damage to all targets in front of you (though less against secondary targets, which I assume means that it deals full damage only to an enemy you have targeted.) You can move while channeling this attack.

Spinning Crane Kick costs 1 Chi and deals damage to enemies within 8 yards over 1.5 seconds.

Tigereye Brew now has 2 charges, with a 1.5 minute recharge. It increases damage by 30% for 15 seconds.

Storm, Earth, and Fire is now toggled on or off. You split into three spirits. You control the Storm spirit while the other two automatically find other targets to attack. Each spirit deals 50% of your normal damage, with the Earth and Fire spirits mirroring your abilities.

Mastery: Combo Strikes increases the damage of every ability that does not follow the same ability.

The Mastery here certainly complicates things. It seems relatively forgiving if you don't manage to always do something different with each attack, but it certainly incentivizes you to try to do so. Most of these abilities are familiar, but their interactions might be a bit different.

Tiger Palm only generating 1 Chi might seem to make it hard to pull off this "never use the same ability twice in a row" thing, but that Combo Breaker passive might be the key to it.

At the moment, it looks like the Mastery won't be an enormous bonus, so it might be more important to do Fists of Fury and Rising Sun Kick than always getting the bonus (and give their costs, it's likely that these attacks will always benefit from the Mastery.) But if it's super-important to get that bonus, you might have to wait for the procs to line up. Essentially you'd have one proc allow you to do Rising Sun Kick (so that you could do TP, BOK, TP, RSK) and you'd need two procs in a row to let you do Fists of Fury (TP, BOK, TP, BOK, TP, FOF.)

Still, I suspect that the bonus won't be big enough to justify that kind of gameplay, so it's more likely that we're looking at a priority list like this (before talents and artifact tratis - which might give you more options to keep that Mastery bonus active.)

1. Blackout Kick if it's free.
2. Fists of Fury
3. Rising Sun Kick, unless you can get the Chi for Fists of Fury without breaking the Mastery bonus.
4. Blackout Kick, unless unless you can get the Chi for Rising Sun Kick without breaking the Mastery bonus.
5. Tiger Palm

First off, I should mention that I'm somewhat less confident about this rotation than I've been about most others in these "Breaking Down" articles. Spinning Crane Kick is certainly part of the AoE rotation, but now that it costs Chi, you'll need to make sure you can get up to Fists of Fury levels of Chi to use it on cooldown.

Wrathion's Plans

Wrathion has been a figure in WoW since Cataclysm. Questing through the Badlands, we aid a red dragon, taking various samples of black dragon eggs and black whelps and using some kind of Titan technology to cleanse them. The result is a black dragon egg that is free of the Old Gods' corruption. Later in that expansion, Wrathion hatched from that egg and hired Rogues who took part in the Legendary quest chain for the Fangs of the Father (oh! which I just finished!) to help him wipe out every other black dragon on Azeroth. This mission is a success (though the fate of Baron Sablemane, who we saw in Blade's Edge Mountains on Outland remains uncertain.) Wrathion would then try to manipulate the war between the Alliance and the Horde, trying to bring about a decisive victory of one over the other so that one would absorb the other. To his dismay, the Alliance agreed to allow the Horde to exist as a separate entity with its own Warchief. While the cooperation between the two factions to take down Garrosh was along the same lines as Wrathion's goal, it was not the kind of permanent union that he had hoped to accomplish. The two factions went back to rebuild, still eyeing each other with distrust, instead of integrating their powers to become one Super-Faction.

Wrathion helped to orchestrate Garrosh's escape from his cell in the Temple of the White Tiger and flee with Kairoz, Zaela, and some of the Infinite Dragonflight to Draenor-B, thus setting in motion the events of Warlords of Draenor.

Spoilers to follow.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Breaking Down Marksmanship

While Survival is getting the big changes, Marksmanship is getting a fair bit of a revamp as well. The biggest aspect of this is that Marks is becoming the pet-less Hunter spec. In fact, thematically, Marks is going to focus a whole lot more on the kind of military-sniper flavor and less of a wilderness expert flavor.

As Marksmanship, you shoot things and they die. And you're a damned good shot.

As with other Hunters, Focus is changing to regenerate faster on its own, I believe at a rate of 10 per second (which makes it comparable if not identical to Energy.) I believe that you'll still have some regeneration mechanics (just as Rogues do,) but it should make the class feel a bit zippier.

As usual, this is an Alpha build, so expect changes, revisions, and iterations. But we probably have a sense of the general shape of the spec to come.

Aimed Shot costs 50 Focus and has a 1.5 second cast time. You won't be able to move while casting this, but it's the only thing that has a cast time.

Arcane Shot is instant and now generates 5 Focus. It also has a chance to apply Hunter's Mark to the target.

Multi-Shot costs 40 Focus, hitting the target and everything within 8 yards of it, and has a chance to apply Hunter's Mark to everything it hits.

Marked Shot is a new ability that costs 30 Focus, firing quickly at up to three targets with Hunter's Mark on them for a high damage. It also exposes Vulnerabilities on the targets it hits, snaring them by 15% and increasing the damage they take from your Aimed Shot by 25% for 10 seconds, stacking up to 3 times.

Bursting Shot costs 50 Focus, hitting all enemies in front of you for a small amount of damage as well as knocking them back and disorienting them.

Trueshot is a 3-minute cooldown that increases Haste by 40% and gives you a 100% chance to apply Hunter's Mark with Arcane or Multi-Shot for 15 seconds.

Bombardment is a passive that makes your Multi-Shot crits reduce the cost of Multi-Shot by 25 Focus and deal 60% more damage for 5 seconds.

Also, Marksmanship has 120 Focus to work with.

So there you have it: Hunter's Mark is back, though very different. I don't actually know what the duration of Hunter's Mark is, though, or whether it's consumed by Marked Shot, which could really affect the rotation.

But if we assume that it's something you'll have to re-apply (I vaguely recall something like a 6 second duration from the class preview) and we look at this before talents or artifact traits, here's what I think we're looking at:

1. Aimed Shot if you're at 115 Focus or more.
2. Arcane Shot if the target does not have Hunter's Mark on it.
3. Marked Shot if it does, but doesn't have Vulnerabilities or Vulnerabilities is going to fall off soon.
4. Aimed Shot if the target has Vulnerabilities on it.
5. Arcane Shot

I think we should keep an eye on this design, as having a randomly-generated debuff that is necessary to apply a separate debuff is maybe a little convoluted, and might wind up getting simplified. In AoE situations, I suspect that you'll mostly just be alternating between Multi-Shot and Marked Shot, and using Arcane Shot to regen Focus if you're low, though it does depend on how many targets you're fighting. The buff to Aimed Shot might be worth it if you're only facing two or three, and so you might then kind of alternate between Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot for applying Hunter's Mark.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Breaking Down Fury

While certainly not getting the kind of total revamps that some other specs are getting, Fury is in for some changes. Enrage will work a bit differently, and while you'll still want to get Enraged as much as you can, you'll have stuff to do when you're not.

Titan's Grip remains a thing, and the Fury artifacts will indeed be a pair of two-handed swords, strapped to the back.

It appears that they're going to focus more on auto-attacks for Rage generation, which should make Haste a more attractive stat to the spec.

As always, this is based on an early Alpha build, so everything's subject to change.

Bloodthirst is on a 4.5 second cooldown, doing physical damage, generating 10 Rage and restoring 5% of your health. It also has a bonus 40% chance to crit.

When Bloodthirst crits, you'll become Enraged, which now gives you 100% Haste, but also increases the damage you take by 30% for 6 seconds (good thing Bloodthirst heals you.)

Raging Blow strikes hard with both weapons and costs 10 Rage, but no longer has charges. Instead, you can simply use this as much as you want as long as you're Enraged and have the Rage to pay for it.

Rampage is a new ability. It costs 50 Rage doing 5 strikes over the course of two seconds (the last two do twice as much as the others) and always deals damage as if you were Enraged.

Whirlwind costs 30 Rage, dealing damage to all enemies within 8 yards and causes your Raging Blow to hit 4 additional targets for 6 seconds. (This second part is a passive called Meat Cleaver, which should be familiar, though it's been buffed.)

Execute costs 30 Rage and does a bunch of damage with both weapons to a target that's below 20% health.

Berserker Rage is a 30-second cooldown giving immunity to Sab, Fear, and Incapacitate effects for 6 seconds and Enrages you.

Recklessness is a 1-minute cooldown that gives you 100% crit chance for 5 seconds.

Mastery: Unshackled Fury increases damage you do while Enraged.

A lot of this should look familiar. You can add in abilities like Heroic Strike and Overpower (though they've been redesigned) via talents, but the overall shape of the spec is familiar, while being a bit more streamlined.

So, before artifact traits and talents, we've got:

1. Bloodthirst on cooldown.
2. Berserker Rage if not Enraged.
3. Execute if Enraged and the target's in execute range.
4. Raging Blow if Enraged and it isn't.
5. Rampage if not Enraged and Bloodthirst and Berserker Rage are on cooldown. (You might use Execute even if not enraged if you can, when you're in range, though I suppose that depends on how high your Mastery is, as Rampage always benefits from it.)

For AoE situations, you'll probably want to use Whirlwind instead of Rampage, and always make sure you have Meat Cleaver up before you hit Raging Blow.

Breaking Down Unholy

All the Death Knight specs are getting some changes, and Death Knights as a whole are getting the Rune system revamped in a way that's arguably more profound than the Cataclysm changes (if you started playing post-4.0, during Wrath all Runes regenerated immediately after using them, making gameplay a lot tighter. Cataclysm introduced Runic Empowerment and Runic Corruption to compensate for the slower runes.)

Unholy retains its two major themes - raising the dead and inflicting diseases. This latter one is getting a bit more emphasis than it has in the past, and the former is getting simplified in some ways while getting more options in talents and such.

Unholy will still be the DK spec that does DPS with a 2-handed weapon and has a ghoul pet hanging out with them.

As with all DK specs, you'll now only have a single kind of Rune that can be used for any ability that costs Runes. There's also only one disease to maintain, though Unholy has other effects that play on that theme of infection and decay.

Death Coil remains your main Runic Power consumer, costing 30 RP to deal Shadow damage at range. The healing component for friendly undead targets seems to have been removed.

Presences are gone, but you'll get a passive called Death's Advance, which increases your movement speed by 15%.

Raise Dead still has a 1 minute cooldown and summons your permanent Ghoul pet. (You can still only have one Ghoul at a time, though there's a talent that gives you a skeleton pet in addition to the Ghoul.)

Festering Strike costs 2 Runes and does a large amount of physical damage as well as putting 1-3 Festering Wounds on the target, which interact with Scourge Strike.

Scourge Strike costs 1 Rune, dealing physical damage as well as an additional 50% Shadow damage. It also consumes a single stack of Festering Wound on the target, causing the lesion to burst, thus dealing Shadow damage to the target and generating 3 Runic Power.

Death and Decay looks largely the same, dealing Shadow damage in an area for 10 seconds on a 30-second cooldown. However, while inside of it, your Scourge Strike will hit all nearby targets.

Sudden Doom remains, giving your auto-attacks a chance to make your next Death Coil free.

Dark Transformation is now a simple 1-minute cooldown, transforming your ghoul into a stronger minion with empowered abilities for 20 seconds, which means this should have a one-third uptime.

Summon Gargoyle is a 3-minute cooldown that summons a gargoyle to bombard the target for 20 seconds.

Outbreak costs 1 Rune, dealing Shadow damage to the target and surrounding them in a miasma for 6 seconds, infecting it and any other enemy standing inside the miasma with Virulent Plague.

Virulent Plague deals Shadow damage every 3 seconds for 21 seconds, erupting when the target dies or with a 30% chance on every tick. When it erupts, it deals Shadow damage, split evenly between all enemies nearby.

So it looks like the rotation's a bit more reactive than simply stacking up empowerment on your ghoul. Before artifact traits and talents, here's what I think we've got:

1. Keep Virulent Plague up on all targets.
2. Death Coil if Sudden Doom procs or if you're at 80 or more Runic Power.
3. If there is a Festering Wound stack, hit Scourge Strike.
4. Festering Strike
5. Death Coil

Death and Decay might also be worth it to use in single-target situations. Also, Dark Transformation is on a short enough cooldown that you should probably use it whenever it's up, even on trash. For AoE situations, you'll want to stack up Festering Wounds on all targets before you hit Scourge Strike, which you should try to line up with Death and Decay (if the enemies last long enough, you might even consider holding DnD until you've got a few Wounds stacked up on a few targets so you can pop them all with a single Scourge Strike.

Breaking Down Affliction

While the other Warlocks specs are losing their unique secondary resources (something that saddens me a bit, to be perfectly honest,) Affliction are retaining their Soul Shards, which have been a thing since vanilla and have been a true secondary resource since Cataclysm.

While Warlocks all like a bit of DoTs, Affliction is the Dot-iest Dot spec that ever Dot-ed. The changes coming to the spec are intended primarily to re-focus on that aspect of the class.

As usual, this is based on the Alpha build, so all this is subject to change.

Corruption remains pretty much the same, dealing shadow damage over 14 seconds.

Agony also looks mostly the same, dealing shadow damage over 18 seconds, starting low but getting higher with each tick. However, it also now has a chance on each tick to give you a Soul Shard. It will also maintain its current damage level when refreshed.

I believe the plan is to make Drain Life the main filler spell, dealing damage over six seconds and restoring health to you.

The big change comes with Unstable Affliction, which now costs a Soul Shard and has a 1.5 second cast time. It deals its damage over 8 seconds, but with some overlap protection so that you don't waste Shards if you cast it while it's already up. If the target dies while it's still on it, you'll get the Shard refunded. Also, if it's dispelled, the dispeller takes shadow damage and gets silenced for 4 seconds.

Seed of Corruption has a 2-second cast time, lasting 18 seconds or going off after the target has taken enough damage. It then explodes, dealing Shadow damage and applying Corruption to enemies within 10 yards of the target.

Mastery: Potent Afflictions increases the damage of your Corruption and Agony.

Summon Doomguard and Summon Infernal are now on a 3-minute cooldown (I believe a shared one) and might cost Soul Shards (though it's currently listed as "0 Soul Shards.") These will now function as your major damage cooldowns.

The rotation seems fairly simple before we get into talents and artifact traits:

1. Maintain Agony, being sure to refresh it so that you don't lose its stacks.
2. Maintain Corruption
3. Cast Unstable Affliction, especially if you're close to capping Soul Shards
4. Drain Life (presumably - though WoWHead still has Shadow Bolt listed.)

For AoE situations, Seed of Corruption is your best friend. You'll still want to multi-dot with Agony, but Seed of Corruption will take care of putting Corruption on everything.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Breaking Down Beast Mastery

While certainly not getting as much of an overhaul as Survival (no existing spec is getting as much of an overhaul as Survival,) Beast Mastery is also getting some changes to how it works. BM is, in a way, going to be the only really traditional Hunter spec, now that Marksmanship is going to be pet-less (and we'll be going over that in a later post) and Survival's going to be melee.

Beast Mastery has been pretty pet-focused for a while, but they're getting more of a focus on that than before.

Also notable is that Focus for all Hunters is going to be regenerating at a faster baseline rate. I actually think it's going to be 10 Focus per second, which I think is just the same as Energy, but I could be wrong. Still, even if it's functionally identical, Hunters will still get their unique brown-orange bar.

Actually, something I haven't talked about is that all players are actually going to start off with a spec at level 1, but they'll then be able to respec and choose a "primary spec" at level 10 (though what that actually means I don't know.) Given that BM is the only Hunter spec that's still ranged and has a pet, it shouldn't be surprising that it's the starting spec.

As always, this is Alpha, so things are subject to change.

Cobra Shot is now instant and costs 30 Focus, rather than generating Focus. It deals physical damage and appears to be your filler Focus dump. It's also the level 1 attack all Hunters will begin with.

Kill Command still has a 6-second cooldown, but now only costs 20 Focus, which, especially with the faster regen rate, should make it easy to use this on cooldown.

Dire Beast is now a baseline BM ability, summoning a beast to attack the target for 8 seconds, generating 4 Focus each time it hits the target. Summoning it will also reduce your Bestial Wrath cooldown by 15 seconds. This ability is on a 10-second cooldown, giving you a high uptime if used on cooldown.

Aspect of the Wild is a new 2-min cooldown, increasing you and your pet's crit chance by 10% and giving you 10 Focus per second for 10 seconds.

Go For the Throat causes your auto-shot crits to give your pet 15 Focus.

Wild Call gives your critical strikes a 30% chance to reset the cooldown on Dire Beast

Multi-Shot costs 40 Focus and seems to work largely the same, dealing damage to the target and everything within 8 yards.

Beast Cleave is a passive that makes your Multi-Shot cause your pet's attacks to hit all nearby enemies for 4 seconds.

Bestial Wrath has a 1.5 minute cooldown, increasing damage of you and your pet by 20% for 10 seconds.

Kindred Spirits is a passive that increases you and your pet's max Focus by 20.

Mastery: Master of Beasts continues to increase your pet's damage.

So the rotation is pretty straightforward, though remember that this is before we incorporate talents or artifact traits.

1. Dire Beast on cooldown, which is of course variable thanks to Wild Call.
2. Kill Command
3. Cobra Shot if you're going to have enough Focus to do your next Kill Command on its cooldown.

Bestial Wrath is also on a short enough cooldown that you probably just want to use it whenever it's up. In multi-target situations, it might be as simple as using Multi-Shot instead of Cobra Shot.

Death Knights, Runes, and Rune Regeneration in Legion

Let's take a break from breaking down the changes in various specs to talk about some changes coming to Death Knights. DKs have always had what might be the most complex resource system of all classes, with three different types or Runes, plus a special "Wild Card" type of Rune created by certain abilities or as a spec feature, and each pair of Runes functioning with odd cooldown mechanics and Runic Power on top of that, with talents that cause your Runic Power generators to refresh your Runes at a faster rate.

Things are getting a bit simpler in Legion, though I'd still say it might retain its title of most complex resource system - it just has more competition now.

As it looks right now (and remember, it's Alpha,) all Death Knights will simply have a set of six Runes. Not Blood, Frost, Unholy, or Death Runes, but simply Runes.

Ok, in a sense they're all Death Runes, in that they can be used for any ability that costs Runes. But they're just called Runes now.

The art is currently a kind of icy-blue skull, which some Blood or Unholy DKs might dislike as Frost favoritism, but I'm sure there will be plenty of addons to customize their appearance.

Runes still, I believe, regenerate at a baseline 10 seconds, sped up by Haste. However, without Rune types, you'll simply be able to regenerate three Runes at a time - they don't appear to be paired up the way they used to be.

Spending a Rune still generates 10 Runic Power (though some abilities generate bonus RP.) Runic Power spenders are also tied to two of the three "Rune Regen" talents.

The level 58 talent tier is all about Rune Regeneration, and Runic Corruption and Runic Empowerment are still there. However, Blood Tap has been replaced with Runic Longevity, which grants one extra Rune (for a total of seven) and increases your Rune Regeneration by 10%. I don't know how this seventh rune will play with regeneration - whether this means you'll be able to regenerate four runes at a time, or still just three. I'd suspect the latter, as that would put this more in line with talents and glyphs that would increase your max Rage or Energy.

Rather than a flat percentage, Runic Power and Runic Corruption appear to have a chance to proc based on the amount of Runic Power spent, though given that each spec really has one ability they're going to be spending RP on, it should look close to a flat chance, at least until you consider talents like Breath of Sindragosa.

The nature of Runes is a game-changer for Runic Empowerment, which I think will be a lot more powerful now. Currently, Runic Empowerment (and Blood Tap, though that's going away) is best used if you can game it. For example, in DW Frost you can try to always keep one Unholy Rune unused so that the one that you are using is always at least partially regenerating, so that Empowerment will be force to regenerate a far more useful Frost or Death Rune.

But with all Runes being equal, you're always going to be happy to get any Rune back, meaning that you can just spend every Rune you have and enjoy the return of Empowerment. It should also be pretty easy to use Runes quickly, as no matter what kind of Runes you have, as long as you have enough (usually just one or two) you'll be able to use the ability you're trying to pull off.

Combining this with the fact that each spec only uses one disease, and a lot of the more fiddly mechanics for Death Knights are getting smoothed out. I'll let you decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Breaking Down Arcane

Mages are the only class I haven't really touched on in this "Breaking Down" series. The main reason for that is that none of the specs look like they're really changing all that much. There are subtle changes, to be certain, but nothing on the level of, say, Survival Hunters, or even on the level of Frost Death Knights.

While my Mage is consistently Frost, I'm going with Arcane because of the change to its Mastery. Arcane has, since Cataclysm introduced the stat, really revolved around its Mastery, which until Legion will have increased damage done based on the percentage of your max mana you currently have.

In Legion, the Mastery will instead boost your max mana and mana regeneration as well as the bonus damage of your Arcane Charges (which will now be a secondary resource.) Thus, your damage will not depend on how much mana you currently have, but more on how much you're willing to spend. The danger, then, will not be of reducing your mastery bonus by too much and thus doing sub-par damage. Instead, the danger will be of not having the Mana to actually cast your spells. In a lot of ways, this mirrors how things were in Wrath of the Lich King. You will be able to have very powerful sustained burst (if that makes sense) but you'll pay the price for it by having to play conservatively for longer to get back your Mana.

As always, this is Alpha, so remember that both numbers tuning and playstyle design can and likely will change before this goes live. Let's get to the abilities!

Mastery: Savant will increase your Mana and your Mana Regeneration rate by equal percentages, while increasing the damage bonus of your Arcane Charges by a different percentage.

Arcane Blast is your main spell, with a 2.25 second cast time, it deals Arcane damage and generates an Arcane Charge. For each charge, the damage is increased by 50% (before mastery) and the cost is increased by 100%.

Arcane Barrage is instant, on a 3 second cooldown and consumes all your Arcane Charges. It increases in damage by 50% for each Arcane Charge and hits one additional target per Arcane Charge for 50% of its damage (on each extra target.)

Arcane Missiles has a chance to be activated by other damaging spells. It is channeled over 2 seconds, launching 5 waves of missiles over that time. It deals 50% additional damage per Arcane Charge and generates an Arcane Charge.

Arcane Explosion is an instant-cast spell with no cooldown, dealing damage to all enemies within 10 yards and refreshes your Arcane Charge duration as well as having a 30% chance to generate an additional one.

Arcane Power is a 1.5-minute cooldown lasting 15 seconds, increasing damage by 20% and increasing Mana costs by 10%.

You get the idea.

If you've played an Arcane Mage any time in the last few expansions, this should be familiar as more or less exactly how it has played before. The real change is with the Mastery. There could also be some interesting alterations thanks to talents and artifact traits.

Really I think what makes this Mastery change interesting is that it gives you far more flexibility - you can use your mana bar as you see fit, instead of always trying to keep it as near to capped as possible. If this design remains, you can expect to see Arcane Mages doing insane dps in short fights, as they'll be able to spam Arcane Blast.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Breaking Down Frost (Death Knights)

Well, having done Protection Paladins, it seems like I can take care of another one of my main characters' mainspecs. DK Frost is actually looking not too different than it is now, with a lot of the same procs and abilities, only that they'll be working in somewhat different ways.

As it is live, and how it has been for a while now, Frost has been kind of two different specs - one that dual-wields and does a bunch of Frost damage, Howling Blast-ing its way across the world, while the other has used a heavy two-hander, destroying enemies with enormous Obliterate crits. In terms of weapon load-out, Frost is getting oriented entirely toward dual-wielding - the other DK specs will have two-handers, but Frost will be the one who dual-wields. For those of us (myself included) who really like the idea of a Death Knight wielding one massive, legendary runeblade and are kind of unhappy with the idea of fighting with two little dinky swords, we can at least take solace in the fact that, in actuality, the artifact swords we get are far from dinky, as they were forged (a bit like Widow's Wail and Oathkeeper from Ice) from the shards of Frostmourne.

There are, I think, two other really big changes that we'll get to before going ability-by-ability. The first is that Runes are now all just that - Runes. No more Blood, Frost, or Unholy Runes. Effectively, all Runes are now the wild-card Death Runes. On the Alpha, these Runes have a kind of icy-blue skull look to them, which is pretty nice for our spec. You will still only be able to regenerate three runes at a time, but they will no longer be paired up. This should make rune management a lot easier, and you will no longer need to game your runes to ensure that you're getting the right kind from talents like Runic Empowerment.

The other is that each spec now has its own, exclusive disease. Frost will keep Frost Fever, but that is now the only one that needs to be maintained. As such, this means that things like Outbreak or Unholy Blight will not really be necessary - you'll still be hitting Howling Blast a bunch in your rotation, and since you have no other diseases, you'll have things ticking as much as you need.

Overall, my best guess of how the rotation is going to work (baseline, before talents) is that it will be a bit more like the two-handed version we have now, but let's get into the abilities before we really get into it.

Frost Strike remains your main Runic Power dump, dealing Frost damage with both weapons, and of course will then help regenerate Runes if you have Runic Empowerment or Runic Corruption, though you can opt out of this system if you so desire thanks to a new talent. Notably, Frost Strike is no longer tied to the Killing Machine proc, unless you take a particular talent, which I assume is there for people who really don't want the dual-wield rotation to change at all. It costs 20 Runic Power.

Howling Blast still costs 1 Rune, dealing Frost damage to the target and some fraction (not sure what the coefficient will be, but on live I believe it's half) of that damage to any other enemies near the target, and afflicting them all with Frost Fever.

Frost Fever still does Frost Damage over time, every 3 seconds for 30 seconds, and now each time it ticks, it has a chance to give you 5 Runic Power (it doesn't say how much of a chance.)

Obliterate costs 2 Runes and deals a large amount of physical damage with both weapons.

Rime is a passive that gives Obliterate a 45% chance to make your next Howling Blast free and makes it deal 300% additional damage, but the free Howling Blast does not generate Runic Power.

Remorseless Winter is now a damaging ability, and seems to replace Death and Decay for Frost. It costs 2 Runes and has a 20-second cooldown and duration, dealing Frost damage to anyone nearby.

Killing Machine is a passive that gives your auto-attacks a chance to make your next Obliterate automatically crit. So, same as before, but not affecting Frost strike baseline. Notably, there is one talent that makes it affect Frost Strike, but there's another that makes Obliterate deal additional Frost damage when this procs, which should help the Obliterate build scale with all your stats.

Icebound Fortitude is now Frost-exclusive, but only reduces incoming damage by 20% (and still grants immunity to stuns.)

Pillar of Frost is free, on a 1-minute cooldown, and increases Strength by 20% for 20 seconds and provides immunity to knockback effects.

Empower Rune Weapon is now on a 3-minute cooldown, reactivating all Runes and generating 25 Runic Power.

Mastery: Frozen Heart looks the same, increasing Frost damage dealt.

Without looking at talents or artifact traits, there's another question to ask before we can figure out the rotation: whether to spend most of our Runes on spamming Howling Blast or Obliterate. This is absolutely a tuning thing, and thus something that is guaranteed to change in testing. But right now, HB is listed as scaling with 38.52% attack power (we're assuming single-target here, and discounting Frost Fever, as we'll assume that you're at least maintaining that.) It looks like Obliterate is hitting for 258% AP with each weapon, for a total of 516% AP. That is a hell of a lot more, though HB will scale with mastery at all times. We also need to take into account that HB is half the cost of Obliterate, and thus you can get two for the price of one (though you also pay with an extra Global Cooldown.) Still, even if we assume that you've got an enormous amount of mastery, like at 100%, your two Howling Blasts are going to only do about 160% AP. Mind you, I might have this totally wrong - I'm not a theorycrafter. But as I see it, you're going to be spending your Runes on Obliterate by default. So let's put together the rotation!

1. Pillar of Frost (this is more of a cooldown, but it's only 1-minute, and if you hit it every time you'll have a 33% uptime.)
2. Maintain Frost Fever
3. Maintain Remorseless Winter (this will probably be good enough even in single-target situations, though we'll have to wait to see the numbers.)
4. Howling Blast if you have a Rime proc.
5. Obliterate if you have a Killing Machine proc.
6. Frost Strike if you're at 80 Runic Power or above.
7. Obliterate.
8. Frost Strike.

You'll want to have at least three of your Runes on cooldown at all times so that you're making use of that regeneration. For multi-target situations, depending on the coefficient on secondary targets, you'll start to want to just spam Howling Blast instead of Obliterate (though I'd expect not until you're dealing with 5 or more enemies, given the massive power of both Obliterate and the Rime proc it grants.) Remorseless WInter will definitely be used in multi-target situations, though it remains to be seen how powerful it will be. Assuming it's on-par with Death and Decay, though (and remember that it also scales with Mastery) you'll probably be using it in any multi-target situation, or even possibly in single-target situations.