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.

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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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Supporting the community: Blizzard Watch

As most of you likely know by now, AOL shut down the Joystiq website that included our favorite WOW Insider. The staff who used to work for WOW Insider have been uprooted! However, all is not lost.

They are starting a new website called Blizzard Watch. This new site will bring all the features you loved from WOW Insider plus much more! They can now flexibly expand their reach to other Blizzard games. They can grow their brand to be an even bigger deal than they were before.

However, starting out, they are now without their overlord sponsor, and are thus in need of funds to get started. This is our chance as a community to give back to the site that has given so much to us! They have started a Patreon to help with getting the site up and running, and continuing to fund the site for a long time to come. The Blizzard Watch Patreon is a monthly subscription pledge that helps cover their staffing operating costs.

What the WoW Insider community meant to me:

WoW Insider actually helped launch this blog with a post Dan O’Halloran made many years ago!

Wowinsider_Archive3_Cropped

They have also been big supporters of this blog in terms of giving me periodic signal boosts by linking to various posts over the years. While I never wrote for them, I always considered WOW Insider to be part of my Blizzard community. I raided in WOW with Matt Rossi for a while in Mists of Pandaria, and their former warlock writer, Poneria, is one of my current guild members. Thus, I consider this community to be a really important part of my life. Nothing matters more in Warcraft than friends, family, and community. They have done so many important things for so many members of the community that it only feels right to return the favor in helping support them in their time of need.

How we can help!

The new Blizzard Watch crew are fabulous people and I want to see them succeed! Head over to Blizzard Watch and help support Alex Ziebart, Adam Holisky, Anne Stickney, Matthew Rossi, and Elizabeth Harper start this new adventure! You can also follow @BlizzardWatch on twitter to hear updates (note that any of the old WOW Insider social media pages are now no longer under their control and have been taken over by the AOL overlords!). Please consider sponsoring their Paetron to help them get on their feet and get the site running! The more we pledge, the more awesome things they can bring us! Lets keep the spirit of WOW Insider alive at their new home at Blizzard Watch!

Goonies never say die!

Update: The Patreon for Blizzard Watch passed 10,000 per month in pledged donations! I am very excited to watch their new adventure! They are even bringing back class columns, so maybe we’ll see the return of Allison Robert’s druid analyses (or her cough syrup mad rantings, one of the two). If not Allison, we may see a new druid take up the mantle. I can’t write for the site due to my real-life job being so demanding of my time, so I look forward to reading the work of someone else to bring more joy to the druid community!

Posted in Written By Lissanna

Starsurge Recharge – How do I Use These Things Anyway?

Hi everyone! We have a new guest writer today, Alame. He will be covering moonkin topics on the blog to help new and experienced moonkin. I am happy to have him join the team! Since I’m busy writing mage and resto things, I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to moonkin. I hope that Alame can help answer some of your pressing moonkin questions! – Lissanna

Hi Restokin readers!  I am Alame.  I am a Balance Druid for Last Word on US-Ner’zhul Horde.  I have been playing World of Warcraft since the release of Cataclysm, as a Resto druid until Siege of Orgrimmar where Balance became my main spec.  I am very much into progression raiding and theorycrafting.  Outside of Azeroth I study Immunology & Infection, and can be found in the Gym or the local bar.

Starsurge management

Starsurge charge management is one of my favorite aspects of the new Balance Druid that Warlords of Draenor has brought us.  This is mostly due to the duality of the mechanic; you can manage your Starsurge charges very simply by using them and do quite well.  You can also go several steps further in analyzing and predicting recharge rates to pool and dump charges to push your DPS that little bit higher.

We’ll get to usage in a moment, but first let’s look at Starsurge Recharging.

You have two sources of Starsurge charges – the base recharge and Shooting Stars procs.  The base recharge is nice and predictable at a steady 1 charge every 30s.  Shooting Stars on the other hand can be unpredictable and in my experience very streaky.  Some fights I am swimming in procs and charges, and other fights I am struggling to keep up.

Shooting Stars has two levels of inherent RNG attached to it, which greatly contributes to how unpredictable it can be.  The first level of RNG is the proc chance itself, a 5% chance whenever your most recent DoT deals damage.  The second level is the critical strike bonus, where your 5% chance is doubled whenever the DoT deals a crit.  The important thing to take away from the mechanics of Shooting Stars is that you can increase your chances of receiving procs.  You do this through your Haste (more ticks!) and Crit (higher chance!) ratings.

The chart below shows the number of charges acquired per source over a ten-minute interval.  The graph operates under 2 assumptions which we will address up front:

  1. Haste and Crit levels are equal at either 1,100 or 1,500.  The 1,100 line represents around 680 ilevel, and the 1,500 line is approximately 710ilevel and used to demonstrate the scaling.  Haste and Crit are used in equal values as they are weighted very closely, and you should strive to balance the two wherever possible.
  2. The proc rate for Shooting Stars is calculated as a statistical average! In no way should you take away a message that you will always get 21 SS procs in 10 minutes. That’s not how RNG works.

Charges gained per source over 10 minutes

For those of you not quite in 680 gear yet (It’s a little high I know.  I hit that landmark recently so I’m a little excited about it!) you can extrapolate your gear from the given values.  Around 660 the Shooting Stars generation will be very close to the base recharge rate, and around 20 ilevels corresponds to an extra charge every 10 minutes assuming your stats are distributed evenly.

The key thing to remember looking at the graph is that you benefit from both the base recharge and Shooting Stars simultaneously.  At 680 ilevel you will on average, generate 41 (20 base, 21 SS) additional Starsurge charges over ten minutes for a rate of 4 per minute, or 1 charge every 14.5 seconds.  At our theoretical 710 ilevel, you’re looking at 1 charge every 14 seconds flat.

Now that we understand where the charges are coming from, lets move onto Starsurge Charge Usage.

There are four rules we try to follow when consuming our Starsurge charges, but it’s important to note that each of these rules has exceptions to them.  Rules are made to be broken you know.

Rule #1:  At no point should your available Starsurge Charges reach 3.

The reason for this is three-fold.  Firstly, reaching 3 charges will freeze the base recharge timer.  If this happens you are not actively generating an additional charge, and not maximizing the number of charges you will generate in the encounter.  Keep that timer working!  Secondly, any Shooting Stars procs received while charge-capped will have no effect.  Again in the interests of maximizing charges gained you want to make sure your Shooting Stars procs always have room to add another Charge.  Thirdly, reaching 3 charges via a Shooting Stars proc will reset the base charge timer.  If you are halfway through the timer (15s until next charge) and this occurs, you will now be 30s away from the next charge when you charge-dump.  The ideal place for your Starsurge timer to be, is 1 charge stored with 10-20s on the base timer until the next charge.

Rule #2: Lunar and Solar Empowerment should be consumed and not overwritten.

This is the most frequently-excepted rule, for reasons we will cover when we talk about charge-dumping.  The two (Lunar) or three (Solar) stacks of empowerment you receive when casting Starsurge in a given eclipse should all be used before casting Starsurge again in the same eclipse.  Overwriting these is a pretty straight up DPS loss.  Again there are exceptions to this rule that will be covered shortly.

Rule #3: Starsurge versus Starfall.

This is much more simple than it is made out to be.  When in Lunar eclipse, Starfall instead of Starsurge at 2 or more targets.  When in Solar eclipse, Starfall instead of Starsurge at 3 or more targets.  The exception to this rule is when you should NOT be AoEing (Hello Ko’ragh & Imperator Mar’gok) in which case you should use Starsurge regardless.  Seriously, Starfall is incredibly strong right now. Make the most of it before the nerf bat catches up to it.

Rule #4: When charged-starved, save charges for Empowered Starfires instead of Empowered Wraths.

Just simple math here.  Starfire does 234% of Spellpower, multiplied by 2 and empowered for 30% results in 608.4% Spellpower.  Wrath does 146.3% spellpower, multiplied by 3 and empowered for 30% spits out 570.57% Spellpower.  608.4% > 570.57%.  Good?  Good.

With those rules in mind the last concepts I have for you today are Charge Pooling & Dumping.

Charge pooling is super simple; it’s saving up charges past where you normally want to sit (1 available and halfway to the second) in anticipation of an event.  These events are usually Celestial Alignment coming off cooldown, add phases (hello Kargath, Tectus, Ko’ragh, Imperator) or the like.  Around 20-25s before whatever event I will stop casting Starsurge and being pooling.  With our 14.5s per charge recharge time we determined earlier, this will usually sit me very close to 3 charges when the event begins.  This is however, playing with fire in capping your charges and breaking Rule #1.  This is okay.  The DPS gain you will see from an additional Starsurge during Celestial Alignment, or an additional Starfall during an add phase will be much greater than the DPS loss from a small base-timer reset, or a wasted Shooting Stars proc.

Charge dumping is slightly more complicated.  The purpose behind charge dumping is to avoid breaking Rule #1.    It involves burning Starsurge charges where you normally wouldn’t in anticipation of your charges capping.  The three best ways to charge-dump are:

  1. Starsurge on the downswing of Eclipse, carrying the Empowerment buff through the next eclipse. (This does not mean casting Starfire in Solar!  Simply hold onto the buff until your eclipse changes again and you can consume them in the correct eclipse.)
  2. Starsurge while moving, regardless of Eclipse state / empowerment buffs.  Thanks to our WoD perk making Starsurge instant, we can cast it while on the move.  Whenever you are looking to charge dump (2 or more charges) and need to move, hit Starsurge with glee.  Not only does this charge dump for you, it also mitigates the huge impact movement has on our DPS.  You should never consume more than 1 charge at time like this, as you will quickly charge-starve yourself if you do so. You are breaking Rule #2 doing this, and that’s totally okay.  However, if you are overwriting 2 Lunar or 3 Solar buffs like this, do dump #3 instead.
  3. Starfall!  I love Starfall.  You should too.  If you can’t Starsurge while moving without overwriting too many empowerment buffs, hit Starfall.  Even on one target Starfall does excellent damage (in fact it does MORE single-target than Starsurge without empowerment buffs) and it’s an instant-cast you can use on the move.  However please do not Starfall where it will negatively impact your raid!  Ko’ragh and Imperator adds are the best example for this.

That’s all I have for you guys on Starsurge management.  If you need some clarification please leave a comment below, and if you’d like to see me cover a particular topic drop me a line on twitter @Starfeathers!

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS, Patch 6.0, Warlords of Draenor
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