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Trading gold for game time is good for everyone

World of Warcraft posted more details today on their new system that would allow purchasing of game time tokens with real money, and then allowing people to buy those game time tokens with gold. Thus, you can basically buy gold with real money – with the caveat that you have to use Blizzard’s official system to do it. I believe that this is a very important thing for the game, and that it has more benefits than negatives. Keep in mind that this system is NOT yet implemented in the game.

Why people keep buying gold

Back in Vanilla, I met someone who told me that they bought gold from a gold seller for WOW. I told them it was against the rules, and they didn’t care. I told them that the gold was stolen from other accounts, and they didn’t care. I told them that they could get banned and they didn’t care. In fact, no amount of reasoning convinced that person that they were doing anything wrong. Blizzard has spent the last 10 years trying to beg people to behave. All that begging, banning, and admonishing hasn’t worked. People who want to buy gold with real money have always existed, and they’ve been willing to overlook the harm that this practice has caused to others. Due to the fact they can’t buy gold legitimately, they are willing to break the rules. Thus, Blizzard has hit the point that there is no way to beat the gold sellers, unless they beat them at their own game.

If you can’t beat them, join them?

After 10 years of trying everything under the sun to stop gold selling & buying, Blizzard has come up with a new solution. This new solution allows for trading gold for game time via the auction house. This new solution allows for people to buy game time tokens they can sell on the auction house for gold.

This solution, however, isn’t Blizzard’s first attempt. Their first trial run with gold -> real money transactions was in the form of a pet. You could buy the pet on their website for real money and sell the pet in the game for gold. However, because people only needed one pet (and many people just bought it and kept it), it didn’t do anything for helping support a healthy gold trading economy and didn’t impact real-money gold selling.

So, with their first attempt not hurting the game (but also not helping the game), this new system is meant to create a better system for undercutting the people who steal gold from your accounts.

How the game token works & avoiding scams

Note that this system is NOT yet active. Anyone currently claiming to have access to these tokens are scammers. 

Game Time for Gold

  • You will be able to buy the WOW tokens online directly from Blizzard with real money (They will NOT be available via other methods).
  • You can sell them on a special market on the auction house for gold (you can NOT sell them anywhere else besides the auction house. You can NOT trade them with people in the game at all. You can NOT give them to your friends.).
  • You can buy the tokens from the auction house with real gold (you can NOT buy them from anyone in trade chat).
  • When you buy the token from the auction house, you can redeem it for a month of game time (You can NOT resell the tokens, as they become soulbound. You can NOT sell the game tokens themselves for real money).
  • If your account is currently not active, you can buy the token for gold in the character select menu.
  • These market values are fixed at a certain amount by Blizzard, but long-term the trade value may have minor market fluctuations over time based on supply and demand. You can NOT “game” this system for profit.

What about the market impacts?

People are wondering what impacts this will have on the WOW economy. I believe the impacts will be largely temporary and minor – that is, for the first week or two, the market might fluctuate a little bit. While some people who are gold-poor now will have more gold, this only means that more people will be able to buy stuff. That is, this has the potential to take some of the gold from gold hoarders (who can now fund their game time via their gold stores) and redistribute that wealth amongst a greater number of people. Given that people have always “bought” gold (even if illegal),  the impacts of gold buying just meant that it gave a small group of people a large and unfair advantage (due to cheating). With this new system, it is likely that this advantage is now being evened out across the players as a whole, leading to potentially increased fairness. We might see AH prices tick up a bit for BOE gear items as more people suddenly have gold they want to spend on gear items. However, any market changes will eventually also settle down within a few weeks of the system going live, as the system dynamically adapts to change. Within a month of this going live, we won’t really notice market impacts. I’m all for trading a couple weeks of market instability for many years of reduced value for gold selling scams. I think the trade-off is more than worth it.

 In conclusion, this new market is beneficial to the game

Blizzard’s goal is to provide people with a safe, efficient way to buy gold with real money. Blizzard’s second goal is to prevent gold scam websites from profiting off of compromising our accounts. In both of these respects, I believe this system will work. We can’t ever 100% eliminate the scam websites, but we can greatly undercut their market by providing a system where you can buy gold in such a way that is legal and protected by Blizzard.

That is, when the new system goes active, there is never an incentive to buy gold from the scam websites because the scam websites come at a substantially higher risk to all involved. When you buy gold from scam websites, you risk having your WOW account permanently banned. When you buy gold directly from Blizzard, you have a guarantee that the transaction was legitimate. If you buy time tokens with your gold, you benefit by allowing people to have a legitimate system for purchasing gold. Thus, we protect our own game assets from being stolen via account hacking if we get everyone to use this system instead of scam websites. Lets make gold selling websites a historical relic by using this system. There is no reason for people to hack your account and steal your gold if we provide them with no market to make real-life money off those thefts.

Please note that you can’t trade these tokens in trade chat. You can only buy and sell them in the marketplace. Thus, anyone trying to sell game time tokens on other websites, in-game trade chat, or via other methods are all scams. Protect your gold, money, and time by waiting until this system is implemented and then using this new legitimate system. We all benefit by using this new system to protect ourselves from scams.

Posted in Farming, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

Patch 6.1 Balance Druid Rundown

Patch 6.1 will be downloading in your clients and the patch itself will go live this Tuesday.  There’s a handful of changes to Balance druids you should be aware of. Here’s the notes:

Force of Nature’s Treants has been buffed with a 35% increase to their health and spellpower, and an 80% increase to their armor and attack power.

Stellar Flare (Balance) damage has been increased by 16%, and now has a duration of 24 seconds (up from 20 seconds).

Healing Touch no longer heals for 50% more when cast-on-self for Balance Druids.

Balance Druids now learn a new passive ability at level 38, Nature’s Bounty.  – Nature’s Bounty causes Healing Touch to be Critical Strikes for 8 seconds after killing an enemy that yields experience or honor.

Starfall damage decreased by 16.6%.

Starfall and Sunfall now only hits targets affected with Moonfire or Sunfire by default. – Glyph of Guided Stars has been renamed to Glyph of Untamed Stars and is now a Minor glyph. Glyph of Untamed Stars expands Starfall and Sunfall to hit all targets within range.

Displacer Beast is now classified as an Arcane School ability and can no longer be used while silenced.

First up, let’s talk about the Starfall nerf.

Starfall right now accounts for around 20-25% of total DPS by Balance Druids across all ten fights in Blackrock Foundry.  The nerf means starfall will only be doing 83.4% of it’s previous damage.  The net result is that the average DPS for Boomkins in Blackrock Foundry will drop by 3.32%.  Single target fights like Gruul will see no change, while fights like Kromog and Beastlord Darmac will see a much larger reduction.  Overall, while no one is happy to get nerfed, this isn’t too bad.  There’s no playstyle changes here, you’ll just do a tiny bit less damage.

Next lets talk about the Talent changes; both of them have the same outcome. 

A slight damage buff to Force of Nature and a damage & duration buff to Stellar Flare.  This makes both talents a little closer to being competitive but at the end of the day you’re still not going to take either.  Why?  Force of Nature’s problem has always been rooted in the poor AI behavior and this damage buff doesn’t change that.  Even despite this buff Force of Nature still won’t compete with Incarnation.  As for Stellar Flare, Euphoria is too good for low-targets and Balance of Power is better for multiple targets.  To understand just how weak Stellar Flare is, here’s some math:

  • Stellar Flare does 39%+156% spellpower over 24 seconds, or 8.125% spellpower/second
  • Moonfire does 40.5%+292.5% spellpower over 20 seconds, or 16.65% spellpower/s
  • Sunfire does 40.5%+351% spellpower over 24 seconds, or 16.31% spellpower/s

Not only does Stellar Flare do approximately half the damage of Moonfire & Sunfire, but it’s hard casted!  The terrible damage combined with the clunky useability of the spell makes it simply not a viable talent choice in a realistic raid scenario.  There are extremely niche cases where 6+ high priority adds are alive for 30 seconds or more in which Stellar Flare will outdamage Euphoria or BoP, but this scenario simply doesn’t exist in the current Raid Tier

Next, the change to Starfall’s mechanics.

Starfall is now only going to hit targets affected by your DoTs.  This was previously the function of Glyph of Guided Stars, but they are making the Glyphed function baseline, and you can use the new glyph to return Starfall to it’s current state.

Do this immediately.  This change is catering to those learning to play Balance or unable to control their Starfall.  You are a raiding moonkin and understand the concepts of LoS and range.  You do not need this hand-holding to protect yourself from errant Starfall pulls.  Glyph of Guided Stars was always a DPS loss and they are now baking this DPS loss into the baseline skill.  The first thing you should do when patch goes live is acquire a Glyph of Untamed Stars and stick it in a glyph slot.  Fortunately this is only a minor glyph, and not a major (RIP Glyph of Aquatic Form.)

Time for self-healing.

Thanks to PvP, our self-healing got nerfed.  Where previously we were healing for diddly-squat, now we’re healing for two-thirds of diddly-squat.  This doesn’t change how you use Healing Touch, as if you were desperate enough to spam healing touch on yourself it doesn’t matter if it’s 100 hp or 66 hp, you need it and you need it now.  But hey, they gave us Nature’s Bounty so you can get 8s of free Healing Touch criticals when you kill something.  Yippie *eyeroll*

Finally, Displacer Beast was added to the Arcane School.

Just a useability issue.  If you get locked out of your Arcane School (by say, Hans & Frans roar) you will be unable to cast Displacer Beast.  This is pretty important if say, there’s a press coming down on your head and you can’t get out of the way without Displacer Beast.  This is what we call a ‘lose more’ change, as if you screw up and get locked out of Arcane, the potential to be punished for your mistake goes up.  Just don’t get locked out of your spell schools okay?

Welcome to 6.1.  Use the Untamed Stars Glyph, take a selfie of yourself crying about the Starfall nerf, and tweet it to me @Starfeathers.

Posted in Druid - General, Moonkin Balance DPS, Uncategorized, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Alame

Group Finder PUGs: Personal Loot is Your Friend

Dear people who run PUG raids – forget everything you have been told. Personal Loot is the only loot system you should accept when joining groups using the Group Finder tool and 100% of the raid is a PUG. The common lore that Master Looter will give you more stuff in our PUG raid is absolutely wrong. It both fails at basic math (because mathematically ML and personal loot give the exact same amount of loot), and  it doesn’t take into account the amount of scams happening in raids every single day by random people making Group Finder raids for the sole purpose of scamming others (or who accidentally scam people because when it comes time to distribute loot, they have no reason to be honest). Instead, Master Looter is only of benefit if you are in an organized group (e.g., guild or other group of people who know and trust each other, or groups like Open Raid that can be organized and tracked so people can build reputations). The math actually shows that under cases of heavy loot competition (as would happen in PUG raids), you get more loot from Personal Loot than Master Looter.

The PUG problem:

The community in World of Warcraft has a huge loot problem. With the advent of Group Finder and tons of cross-realm raids, we have tons of people forming up raids to scam other players so they can keep the loot to themselves. While some honest people do form up raids and do master looter, someone joining a raid has no idea whether they are joining a scam raid or a real raid. In this loot culture, it feels as though there are  people every single day flocking to the Customer Support problems where someone “stole” their loot. In these loot dispute cases, if Blizzard finds evidence of the master looter running a scam, Blizzard deletes the items from the community and doesn’t give them to anyone. That is, every day, it’s theoretically possible that dozens or hundreds of loot items under the master looter system from PUG raids from the group finder are being destroyed and no one has them. There are even people making instructional videos to teach other people how to scam others without Blizzard being able to punish them. When people calculate the value of master looter, however, they don’t count these items that are lost to the void due to scams. Instead, they calculate the value of master looter assuming you are a guild group that distributes loot fairly – which is inherently untrue in PUG situations.

The people calculating the value of master looter aren’t taking into account the amount of pain that master looter causes to people who have their items ‘stolen’ in PUG raids by dishonest master looters every day. So, the question needs to be: why should you trust your master looter? If you have a good reason other than “because they said so,” then master looter is probably fine. If someone doing the master looting has a social contract or reputation to maintain, then master looter is probably fine. If they are a random person you found in the group finder and you don’t have a reason to trust them, then why should you let them control whether or not you get loot? While there are plenty of honest people out there in the game, Personal Loot is just a dramatically better loot system when you are running with complete strangers and you have no way of knowing if the raid leader is honest or not. In things like Oqueue raids where you can get a sense of whether someone is honest or not, then Master Looter is a great system. In random PUGs, there is no social contract to handle loot disputes, so even honest raid leaders benefit from Personal Loot in fully random PUGs with complete strangers, because then you aren’t responsible for dealing with petty looting issues and you can focus on having fun.

That is – even if you are an honest PUG leader in the Group Finder, you are still doing it wrong if you don’t run with Personal Loot because you are perpetuating a myth that Master Looter is better than Personal Loot for PUGs when Master Looter is worse for PUGs than personal loot by far. You do players a disservice by running master Looter in true 100% PUG raids where no one knows each other because there is no way to tell the difference between honest runs and scam runs, and that sets people up to be victims of the scammers. Instead, personal loot gives everyone the same amount of loot in real runs, and gives people substantially more opportunities for loot by totally eliminating scammers. That is, when you join a PUG raid, unless someone posts explicit, detailed, and clear loot policies in raid chat where everyone can see – you have agreed to hand over all rights of the loot to the person with master looter privilages.

Guilds do Benefit From Master Looter

You want organized guild groups among friends to be running with Master Looter - because that gives you the ability to redistribute items among your organized guild team and fill in gear gaps of people who need things. In this way, organized guilds get more items spread across their raid in ways they think is best. That is, the closer you get to your raid being saturated with gear, the more you need to control who is getting the items (e.g., gearing up a new raid member, getting the bow to a hunter who has had a terrible time finding a weapon, etc.).

So, master looter is only better in situations where the loot competition is actually controlled by gear saturation across a raid tier. When there are 4 people competing for a drop in the guild, each time someone gets the item, the number of people competing for the drop goes down by 1. You want to take away the loot opportunity from the person in full BIS gear and give items to the people who are under-geared, and that’s basically the only reason why guilds prefer Master Looter to personal loot in raids. In organized groups, controlling gear distribution means that items go to people who need that item the most, and fewer items get lost to being vendor trash by people who can’t disenchant.

We sometimes bring PUGs into our organized guild raids, and because we are a highly organized structure, we can’t take advantage of those people because our reputation matters in terms of being able to stay a guild. Thus, master looter only works when the person doing the master looting is tied to a social contract and has a social reason for wanting to stay honest – AND when you are guaranteed to have gear saturation with most people running together each week to hit a saturation point where master looter actually starts paying out better than personal loot in the first place.


In PUGs, Personal Loot Gets You More of What You Want

In random PUGs, personal loot is better and personally gets you things you want more. That is, in PUG groups, there are likely to be more people for whom this is their very first time in and they also want that same item you want. That is, rather than one hunter with terrible loot luck you want to give the bow to, you now have 5 hunters who all want that one bow under a master looter situation. Every time someone gets what they want, they stop running in the PUGs and are replaced with a person who needs gear. Because the raid composition changes every single time, and you have no benefit of carry-over from the previous raid.

Master Looter is thus not superior to personal loot in PUG raids because you never benefit from gearing other people up – because you never see those raiders again (when they hit gear saturation, they stop running raids). If you assume that you always have to compete against 2 other people for loot, then personal loot always pays out better – and you may get up to twice as much gear from personal loot than master looter over the course of the expansion (e.g., your chance of getting loot drops from 79% over the course of a full Highmaul clear for personal loot to 33% across the course of a clear for Master looter – that is, master looter costs you tons of loot over time when you run in PUGs where lots of people need gear).

In the PUG, personal loot is better because it always gives you opportunities to get loot in PUG raids. Thus, personal loot actually gives you (an individual person in the raid) a higher chance of getting what you want in a PUG raid because you never compete for your loot rolls in the PUG situation with personal loot. Combined with the likelihood that a person running as master looter in a PUG raid will scam the other players in the raid, it’s not worth the risks to have a minuscule statistical chance of getting the item you want.

There are also risks to being someone who serves as the master looter in raids, because anyone unhappy about how loot was distributed will accuse you of scamming them and will report you. Thus, the risks of being a master looter in PUGs have a cost that people don’t talk about. The fact that actual scams happen every day with the master looter in random PUGs makes being a master looter in PUGs come with an unacceptable level of risk. Being in the raid with a master looter you don’t know also comes with an unacceptable level of risk. There is tons of risk, but no reward, to using master looter in random PUG groups with people you have no social connection to.

Why the myth of Master Looter is persists in PUGs

People are stuck on the conclusions that organized raid groups have come to and use the loot rules for PUGs that help high-end guilds be successful. People want easy answers, and so “master looter = the best looter” has become pervasive and consistent. Personal loot will give people in PUGs a higher chance of getting an item, whereas organized guilds benefit from being able to choose who gets the loot.

Letting someone choose who gets the loot in a PUG, however, pretty much guarantees you will not come out of the raid happy more often than not. If they make personal loot so much superior to master looter mathematically that even guilds would have to swap to personal loot, it would ultimately hurt the ability for organized groups to function. Our guild’s loot system is how we reward people for showing up, for communicating absences, and otherwise adhering to the social contract of our guild. That social contract also ensures that no one in our guild has to ever feel the risk of being scammed when it hits time for loot.

So, there has to be a different way to teach PUGs to use the loot system that benefits them the most. Getting scammed by dishonest PUG master looters, and reducing the risks involved in running PUGs is exactly WHY personal loot was invented, and everyone who lets themselves get burned just contribute to the problem. While some PUG master looters are honest, without a social contract with that person, you have no way to tell the scam artists from the honest, great raid leaders.

Common loot scams

This type of loot scam happens every single day.

PUG raids need to demand personal loot for people to stop getting scammed.

There isn’t a good solution to the problem, other than for players to just refuse to go on scam Group Finder Tool raids. It seems like the more obvious solution would be for Blizzard to prevent group finder groups from using master looter, but that won’t work. Instead, by taking away choice, people would just simply stop running in the group finder and would go back to using addons and other systems to bypass restrictions. Blizzard can’t make decisions about whether or not you trust the person who is controlling your loot. Instead, the community has to put their foot down and demand that Group Finder raids run personal loot if they are true PUGs. In groups where there is no social contract to ensure that loot is distributed fairly, you should demand that personal loot be the only loot system of choice. The only way to fix this cultural problem is for people to decide that Master Looter risks in PUGs are unacceptable and force PUG raids to run with personal loot.

That has to come from us as a community to say – no more chances for scammers to steal our loot. If your raid leader doesn’t have crystal clear loot guidelines, doesn’t have a good Oqueue reputation, isn’t someone you know, and doesn’t have any reason to be fair – then in you just shouldn’t trust them. The Group Finder tool isn’t meant for you to run Master Looter Raids. The new Group Finder tool exists for strangers to run together, and in this case, you should be wary of Master Looting Group Finder runs where there isn’t a clear set of loot rules stated in writing (MS>OS isn’t a clear set of loot rules). By Blizzard’s standards, all loot belongs to the master looter unless there are clear loot rules that show the person scammed you, and you never get the loot after you are the victim of a scam. Personal Loot gives you just as much loot over time as Master Looter will, especially if you end up in scam runs periodically where you have no chance for loot (even if you have 10 good runs for every 1 scam run where someone takes your junk). While some PUG raid leaders are honest, even PUG raid leaders would benefit from using the Personal Loot to avoid having loot drama. Guilds have a social contract to handle loot drama. Random PUGs are either going to have Personal Loot or drama. I think people should be asking for Personal Loot to avoid drama.

Posted in Uncategorized, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

Mathfall, or Alame re-learns Trigonometry

Today we’re going to talk about my favorite spell, Starfall.  It should be your favorite too, because this spell is incredible.  Starfall is the big driving factor as to why Balance Druids perform so exceptionally well in Highmaul.  Long story short; every fight in Highmaul except Butcher (unless you’re padding!) provides some period where Starfall is amazing.  You’ll be thrilled to know that Blackrock Foundry launches tomorrow and also has lots of fights that make Starfall great.

The math of starfall in 6.1.

There are a couple changes currently slated for 6.1.  These changes increase the spellpower scaling of Starfire, Wrath, and Starfall.  Once I got over my initial shock of Balance being buffed (as I and many others were expecting nerfs), I re-ran the math on Starfall versus Starsurge to see if I could justify even more Starfall usage.

It should be noted that all the following math is using numbers from 6.1.  These are neither final nor are they live.

To start with we’re going to evaluate starfall vs starsurge while ignoring mastery.  Mastery is tricky to calculate and apply as it is a dynamic value, so we’re going to keep it real simple and just look at base damages.  What we’re interested in is the damage dealt by each usage of a Starsurge charge at a given number of targets.  For using Starsurge, it’s the damage of Starsurge itself plus the damage of the empowerment buffs.

As you can see, Starsurge with either starfire (SF) or wrath (W) slightly outperforms Starfall at one target, and Starfall outperforms Starsurge heavily whenever there is 2 targets or more.  You’ll also notice that the lines corresponding to Wrath (W) and Starfire (SF) are virtually indistinguishable.  This is because the scaling adjustments for 6.1 brings them much closer in strength, so 2 empowered Starfires no longer do significantly more damage than 3 empowered Wraths.

Next we’re going to isolate Starfall’s 6.1 damage increase from Mastery.  This is where I had to re-learn trig, to properly establish a function for the dynamic Mastery that I could use to scale up the damage.  It took longer than I would care to admit.

The graph only looks at one target, in Lunar eclipse.  Solar obviously doesn’t give any mastery benefit to Starfall so there’s no scaling to account for.  40% mastery is a level you can expect around 680 ilevel.  100% mastery is only shown to display the scaling, as it’s much easier to see the two inflection points on the graph.

Putting it all together! So now that we’ve established the dynamic mastery benefit we can bring back our numbers from the first stage, combine them all together and see what the end product looks like.  I’ve scaled up the Starsurge damage for ~60 energy, and the empowered Starfire/Wrath casts for an average of ~95 energy which is slightly better than what you will usually fit in your rotation.

Look at that sweet, sweet mastery benefit.  Whenever someone asks you what a Moonkin’s best stat is you should show them this graph because it really speaks for itself.  In addition to Starfall being better than Starsurge in both eclipses (which is contrary to today’s common knowledge) the mastery makes Starfall almost on-par at 1 target and significantly better at 2 targets while in Lunar after the 6.1 changes.

So my original goal of wanting to Starfall more is achieved.  While previously I had been using Starfall at 2+ targets in Lunar and 3+ targets in Solar, once 6.1 hits I will be able to Starfall at 2+ targets in both eclipses.

Starfall is love, Starfall is life.

You can find me on Twitter at @Starfeathers.  If you’d like me to cover a certain topic tweet at me and I’ll see what I can do.

Posted in Druid - General, Moonkin Balance DPS, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Alame
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