WOD alpha summary for frost mages

Now that my main has been a frost mage all of Mists of Pandaria, I thought I would take a look at the current set of changes for my primary raiding spec. The three resto druids already in my guild will have all our healing needs covered. So, what’s in store for frost mages for PVE? Lots of changes!

Frost Mage Ability removal: Some abilities/effects will only be available to certain specializations, so reducing off-role abilities was the primary place that mages had abilities outright cut. Some of this was meant to differentiate the AOE toolsets of the three specs, as well as other changes to remove redundancy of shared abilities.

  • Fire specialization only (no longer available to frost): dragon’s breath, flamestrike, molten armor, fire blast, and Living Bomb (no longer a frost talent).
  • Arcane only (no longer available to frost): Evocation, Arcane Explosion, mage armor, presence of mind (no longer a talent), and Nether Tempest (no longer a frost talent).
  • Removed from all specs: Mana gem, temporal shield talent, Invocation talent, Incanter’s Ward talent.

Frost major talent changes: Two abilities (Alter Time and Mirror Images) were converted to talents. Overall, there were major talent changes. You can see the current talent tree form mages on WOWhead. Some of the talents now vary by specialization, so my focus below is on frost options only.

  • New talent: Evanesce (level 15) – survivability talent that provides invulnerability from damage for 3 seconds. (replaces presence of mind talent). If you take this ability, you no longer have ice block.
  • Alter time (level 30) – Now a utility talent only (Replaces temporal shield talent).
  • Frost Bomb (level 75) – Frost mages no longer have access to living bomb or nether tempest. Frost bomb has undergone some changes. It no longer interacts with Frost Fire Bolt. It now (instead) does AOE damage when ice lance crits. The level 75 talents for frost are all AOE/cleaving abilities now.
  • Unstable Magic (level 75) – causes our single-target frostbolts to explode and do AOE damage, 25% of the time.
  • Ice Nova (level 75) – If you take this ability, you no longer have frost nova. Instead, this ability allows you to freeze and damage enemies in an 8 yard sphere around your target (instead of you).
  • Mirror Images (level 90) – Mirror images is now a talent, that is more awesome than the current version, and scales better with gear (replaces Invocation).
  • Inchanter’s Flow (level 90) – A damage increasing buff that ramps up and down over 10 second intervals. My comments: This talent is likely to undergo revisions across beta. This seems like the ramp up and down might be too quick to get spells off at the perfect timing, since you would gain 1 stack per second for 5 seconds, and then lose 1 stack per second for 5 seconds.
  • Rune of power is still a talent, but no longer interacts with mana regen, and has a longer duration (3 minutes).
  • Thermal Void (level 100): Ice Lance extends Icy Veins by 2 seconds. Now that icy veins gives us multi-strike (a chance to get bonus damage), I’m not sure this is going to be a very good talent in practice.
  • Prismatic Crystal (level 100): Cast spells at the crystal and it does damage to things nearby (1 minute cooldown). If your targets are stationary for long enough, this could be okay. However, I don’t see the ability to have the crystal follow your tank around, so the usefulness of this talent depends on frequency of tank movement.
  • Comet Storm (level 100):  A 30 second cooldown. Icy Comets split their damage between nearby targets within 4 yards.

Frost gearing changes:

  • A primary goal was to reduce the problem of soft-capping on secondary stats. This means they are making it more difficult to haste and crit soft-cap, and are making Multistrike a more interesting new stat.
  • Multistrike: The simplified version is that this stat gives you a chance to do bonus damage to the primary target. Increasing the stat increases the chance to do bonus damage. Read Lhivera’s post on Multistrike for more specific details.
  • Intellect no longer increases crit chance. Shatter was changed to impact the crit soft-cap (now multiplies crit strike chance by 1.5 instead of 2). My comments: The shatter change could interact strangely with the frost bomb redesign, with frost bomb only doing damage on Ice Lance crits.
  • Frost armor now gives increased Multistrike chance instead of increased haste.
  • Icy Veins now gives multistrike chance instead of increased haste.

Other Spell changes and overall notes on frost rotation:

  • Brain Freeze procs no longer make frostfire bolt instant-cast, but the goal is still to have Brain Freeze increase FFB’s damage enough that you will want to cast it. The new brain freeze procs can stack to 2, and come from frostbolt casts (where multi-strike procs from frostbolt increase the BF proc rate).
  • Perks for leveling from 90 to 100: Reduce frost bolt’s cast time by .5 seconds, once every 15 seconds. One extra ice lance stack (now up to 3). Teleport back 10 yards after casting frost nova. Improved Icy Veins benefits.  Blizzard ticks reduce cooldown on frozen orb. Passive increased damage for frostbolt, frostfire bolt, and Ice Lance.
  • Water elemental pet gets Water Jet ability (helps you generate FOF procs) as a leveling perk. This is primarily designed for PVE where pet freeze doesn’t really work in most situations. If it shares a cooldown with pet’s freeze ability, water jet won’t really get used in PVP.
  • The primary single-target rotation appears to rely on Frostbolt, Ice Lance on FOF procs (that come from casting frost bolt), and hard-casting FFB with Brain Freeze procs  (with the full cast time). We still have Frozen orb and icy veins as our primary DPS cooldowns (plus a level 90 talent that could either be active or passive). So, our single-target rotation won’t feel that much different, except that we lost a lot of mobility.
  • Frost will not multi-DOT for AOE, since we won’t have DOTs in a frost spec at all. I’m really not sure what they want frost’s AOE rotation to look like at this point. It will depend some upon whether or not the channeled Blizzard AOE is really viable. Which talents we choose will also primarily impact our AOE rotation more than our single-target rotation (both the level 75 and 100 talents include cleave/AOE talent options). We will have to do a lot of math during beta to figure out what to do with regards to AOE.

WOD alpha summary for resto druids

So, we finally got a first look at alpha patch notes for Warlords of Draenor. Much of the information we already knew from previous info releases. However, we have a better idea of what the system changes and spell details look like thus far. Keep in mind that the early Alpha patch undergoes significant class revisions, so what it looks like now isn’t necessarily what it will look like 3 to 6 months from now. Below is a summary of major changes, but isn’t inclusive of every change to the class.

Overall healing style changes:

  • As discussed before, we are having the anticipated stat squish. Health pools are increased relative to the size of the heals (post-squish).
  • Smart heals will be less smart: They will target any injured player (and still prioritize people over pets), but wont’ specifically target the most injured person.
  • They want people to use more single-target heals, instead of just spamming AOE heals, so single target heals should be more efficient when you need to heal 1 to 2 people for a large amount.
  • Based on the desire to make single-target heals more meaningful, Nourish is gone, leaving us with Regrowth and Healing Touch. HT and regrowth should heal for about the same amount, except that regrowth is faster and is less mana efficient.
  • Symbiosis is also removed, meaning that we can’t use tranquility on the move by putting symbiosis on a shaman anymore.
  • My Commentary: Keep in mind that they’ve always wanted us to use single-target heals in high-end raids, but the amount of AOE damage done to the raid since Wrath of the Lich King has largely made single-target healing less desirable in raids. So, the desire to increase single target spells hasn’t always worked out in raiding situations. The raid design will determine how much single-target versus AOE spells versus rejuv blanketing you actually do.

Mana Management:

  • There will be less spirit on gear, so we’ll be better balanced in terms of throughput at various gear levels. Gaining more spirit as we leveled meant that we had more room to use low efficiency spells at later raid tiers. The goal is to make managing your mana matter both at the first raid tier and the last raid tier.
  • On this same note of mana management, Innervate (and some other mana increasing spells for other classes) have been removed.
  • With these changes, the starting mana regen rate will be higher in WOD compared to Wrath or MOP. Thus, the mana regen growth curve across the expansion won’t be as steep, but mana issues shouldn’t be so great as to prevent your progress in the game. The goal is just to force players to make real deliberate decisions, instead of mindlessly mashing buttons.
  • They reduced the mana cost of resurrection spells so that mana won’t be as much of a limiting factor in recovery after wipes.
  • My commentary: Healing gets boring when you basically have a static rotation and don’t make decisions about who to heal. In this respect, encounter design actually matters just as much (or more) than the base toolkit design. The original “trinity” of single-target spells introduced in an earlier expansion was quickly made meaningless when single target spells couldn’t keep up with the damage done in raids. So, encounters will have to be designed around the mana and healing spell changes for any of this to be particularly meaningful.

Overall spell changes:

  • The list of removed abilities for resto druids includes Innervate, Nourish, Symbiosis.
  • Wild Growth now has a 1.5 second cast time.
  • Efflorescence is now permanently tied to shrooms.
  • Survival instincts is available to all specs, to make up for the loss of symbiosis: “Survival Instincts now reduces damage taken by 70% (up from 50%) with a 2-minute cooldown (down from 3)” for resto druids.
  • They changed how tranquility works a little bit, to make it less confusing: “Tranquility now heals every Party and Raid member within range every 2 seconds for 8 seconds. It no longer places a periodic effect on each target.”
  • Swift rejuvenation was removed, making it such that it’s no longer starting at the GCD haste-cap (making haste more valuable to resto druids). One of the perks you gain leveling up from 90 to 100 is extending rejuv’s duration by 3 seconds (back up to 15 seconds), meaning that the removal of swift rejuv is probably a wash in terms of total blanket coverage.
  • Other leveling perks in addition to rejuv include: Increased healing to Healing Touch & Regrowth by 30%. Increased crit rate of Healing Touch on targets effected by Lifebloom. Increased HOT healing on targets effected by Ironbark. Increased living seed heal size by 20%.
  • Some glyphs are going to be automatically learned as you level up, instead of having to buy the glyphs. Here’s some of the more relevant ones: Rebirth (increased baseline health level), Rejuvenation (now that we don’t have nourish, I’m not sure if it will impact healing touch instead?), Healing Touch (reduces Nature’s Swiftness cooldown), Master Shapeshifter (reduces mana cost of shifting).

Talent changes: You can see the full level 100 talent tree on Wowhead (based on the data available to WOWhead at this time). Note that the talents change by specialization, so to see the resto talents and level 90 to 100 perks, make sure you choose the resto specialization. Some highlights below:

  • The current changes to resto talents relevant to raiding include primarily the level 90 and 100 talents.
  • They made changes to the level 90 talent design. Heart of the Wild won’t increase your int, and they’ve toned down main role bonuses for DOC and Nature’s Vigil.
  • My level 90 talent commentary: Based on the numbers I can see without doing math, Nature’s Vigil is still probably a net healing bonus to resto druids, whereas heart of the wild is probably something you would skip entirely for progression raiding. Dream of Cenarius is going to be a better damage talent than Heart of the Wild since it will still provide some healing benefit. These talents are still likely to undergo revisions when every resto druid just defaults to Nature’s Vigil.
  • The level 100 talents are new and provide different functionality to existing abilities, such as extending omen of clarity’s mana benefit, allowing 2 rejuvenations on the same target, or dramatically changing how swiftmend functions (e.g., munching your own HOTs with no cooldown on swiftmend).
  • My level 100 talent commentary: I’m not sure which level 100 talent will work out best until after we see what the WOD healing content is like. I don’t really like the swiftmend talent all that much, since eating our HOTs was never a part of swiftmend we liked at all (and Efflorescence isn’t attached to swiftmend anymore, making it not have AOE functionality).

In general, there may be fairly drastic changes to how healing works coming in WOD. We won’t really know how all the puzzle pieces come together until after we get a chance to play with the changes in 5-mans and raids in the actual beta client. Resto druid healing should overall still be pretty fun in WOD. We still have a lot of work to do!

Springing forward: The long wait

Now that it is officially spring, the hope is that the long days of snow will soon be over. Much like waiting for winter to end and the blossoms to spring forth outside in the real world, most of us are waiting for WOD beta to blossom and give us new content. While we wait for this new Warcraft content, I still have some things to keep me busy. I don’t, however, have a lot of things worth writing about related to WOW until Blizzard gives us new topics to write about. So, here is an update on me:

What I do in WOW

In world of warcraft, I am an officer in a 25-man raiding guild. As the recruitment officer, this the time before new expansions is a challenge for me. As the officer of a raiding guild, I have plenty of things to keep me busy. I get to plan social events, search the internet for new friends to play with, and also diligently search for new expansion information, too! I’m also working on gearing up the warlock I boosted to 90, though I haven’t had much time to play it (I still don’t know how to do much on the warlock yet!). I’ve also been playing a little on my druid to get ready for the next expansion.

I am also still raiding 3 days a week. My guild is currently 10/14 heroic in Siege of Orgrimmar 25-mans. Our members also run flex raids, challenge modes, old-world achievement runs, and other activities to pass the time while we wait for new content.

Join our 25-man team!

Our guild is currently recruiting for current Siege raids. Join our team as we prepare for the next expansion! We have openings for a tank (our favorite bear friend is retiring after tanking with us from early Cataclysm, so this is the first time since early Cataclysm that we’ve been accepting applications from tanks). We always have open spots for ranged DPS (we would really love a moonkin, shadow priest, or elemental shaman – but any ranged DPS can apply!  If you are looking for a home and have availability during our raid times, now is the time to secure a raid spot for Warlords! We raid Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday from 8 to 11 Eastern.

We are currently going strong and looking to do whatever we can to have fun and enjoy the rest of the Pandaria expansion until WOD is released in the Fall. Recruitment is something I have been doing for so many years that I know it’s something I really enjoy doing. I like talking to so many different people. I love the enjoyment of finding people who want to join our team, and the enthusiasm that new people bring to the guild.

What I do In Diablo 3

With the release of Diablo 3’s new expansion, I’m currently working on finishing off the last few levels on my way to 70. We have a clan in D3 comprised of people from our WOW guild, along with family and friends of our members. I’m having a lot of fun playing my Wizzard. I also got a barbarian up to level 60 during the increased experience bonus days leading up to the launch of the Diablo 3 expansion.

Other games?

I have been playing around some with other games. I’m looking forward to Hearthstone being released on the ipad so I don’t have to sit at my desk to play the game (where Diablo ends up being more tempting!). I have also played around some with the beta for Wildstar, and it seems like a pretty neat game. I’ve also been poking around League of Legends a tiny bit (I just played part of the tutorial today), so I can see the basic mechanics.

Outside of gaming

Work has been keeping me really busy! For as much as I want to be playing games, I’m really only getting to spend a small number of hours plugged into the games. We have been making really good progress with designing the autism social skills game. I’m doing data collection with adolescents on our other research projects, looking at how adolescents (with autism or with typical development) get good at recognizing faces. So, most of my time I spend working! I do, however, really love the science that I’m working on and I am very passionate about my job.

Long Distance Travel: Better with flying mounts

With the slow times waiting for beta to get started, one of the hot topics that keeps popping back up is about the convenience of travel with flying mounts. The forum community for WOW seems to be relatively split between people who think it would be a good idea to not let people fly at the level 100 cap in Draenor, and people who think that we absolutely need flying mounts at level 100.

I’m personally in the camp where I think we need flying mounts at level-cap because taking twice as long to get anywhere we need to go is unacceptable to me. To prove the point about why we really need to be able to fly at max level in Draenor, I’m now going to present two scenarios in Outlands with and without flying mounts.

First, here is the size and scope of Draenor compared to Outlands. If anything, the full size of Draenor is slightly larger than that of Outlands. The layout and size overall, however, is quite similar.

Outlands_Draenor_Scale

 So, how long does it take to travel in Outlands with and without a flying mount? For the first test, I went from the summoning stone by the Black Temple and attempted to travel to the summoning stone for the instances in Netherstorm. Due to how flight paths are laid out, these are close to the longest distances you can travel. This is made even more difficult by the fact my mage didn’t have high enough reputation to get the closest flight path to Black Temple (since those require either Aldor or Skryers reputation grinds).

Running on the ground & use of flight paths: Thus, from the summoning stone by Black Temple to my closest unlocked flight path takes a 2 minute walk via ground mount (it would have been a 1 minute run to the closer flight path that I didn’t have access to). The flight from Shadowmoon Valley to Netherstorm takes between 6 and 7 minutes, depending on which flight paths you take. My current route took 6 min & 23 sec to fly. This is partly due to the fact that it doesn’t take a direct flight path between the two points, but instead takes a circular path around the longest way possible. These gryphons appear to be afraid of the open spaces between the zones:

Netherstorm_Run

The complete journey took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to get from Black Temple’s summoning stone to the summoning stone in the Vortex Fields of Netherstorm, using only a ground mount and flight paths.

Netherstorm_Run2

Direct flight with a flying mount: Flying back from this summoning stone in Netherstorm to the Black Temple summoning Stone using a direct path on my flying mount, however, was much quicker. By the 2 minute mark, I’d made it from Netherstorm to almost the other side of Hellfire Peninsula.

Netherstorm_Flying1

By flying directly on my flying mount, I cut a 9 minute trip into a 4 minute trip:

Netherstorm_Flying2

Another example without flying mounts (Shatt -> Coilfang Reservoir in the neighboring zone):

Using a shorter bechmark of travel in Pandaria, I went from A’Dal in the middle of Shatt to the entrance to the Coilfang Reservoir pipe. Using flight paths and ground mounts to travel took just over 4 minutes (including landing in Teldrador and having to take the elevator, and swimming in the lake).

Coilfang_Run

When using my flying mount directly between the same two landmarks, the return trip instead took 1 min and 44 sec. So, in general, travel in Outlands without a flying mount takes twice as long as flying somewhere directly yourself.

Coilfang2

Same problems in Pandaria: If you think that this problem is unique to Outlands, I’d like to point out that the flight paths in Mists of Pandaria often have the same problems of taking long and indirect paths across the world. For example, it can be really awkward to use flight paths to get to the timeless isle. From the Shrine to the timeless isle takes about 3:40 seconds (so the path below is slightly longer than that). I haven’t had time to finish my bench marking, but direct flight should be about a minute faster for this path in Pandaria, though getting dismounted over the water on your flying mount is a little bit annoying:

Timelost_flightpath

In conclusion, unless somehow this flight system that Blizzard uses is significantly upgraded, including more direct paths from place to place, we’re going to run the risk of doubling our travel times at level 100 trying to get around the world to different zones. We’ll spend less time playing with our friends, less time actually paying attention while traveling, and instead spending more time going afk on long flights. Unless the flight path system is actually fixed, we are really going to need the ability to  fly places directly ourselves with our flying mounts at max level so we can spend more time playing with our friends.

There are other problems with not having flying mounts available to us. Those other problems include the travel time in terms of resource farming (e.g., herbs, ore) out in the open world vs from the comfort of our own garrisons (that would discourage us from stepping out our front door).

While people call longer travel time “immersive”, I really don’t see how immersed in a game you are when you are spending 3 to 10 minutes on twitter/forums/facebook or otherwise AFK while the flight path takes you between two points. If they want us to actually spend time immersed in the game, flight paths need to get us where we need to go quickly so we can deal with not having access to flying mounts in Draenor. If they really want us immersed in the game, they can fix flight path technology to allow us to spend more time playing and less time “/afk flight path”. If we had to do combat in the air while taking the flight path, that might be more immersive. Until then, though, slow flight paths aren’t going to increase the enjoyment of the game.

This old flight path technology is really a long-standing problem for Blizzard. Even with the faster flight paths now than when Vanilla WOW launched (with a 20 minute trip from Darkshore/Moonglade to anything on the south size of Kalmdor in Vanilla) it still takes 10 to 13 minutes to fly on the flight paths to fly from Darnassus to the southern tip of Kalimdor. I just don’t have that much time in my 1 to 3 hours of play time every day just for getting to where I want to go now that I’m almost 10 years older than I was in Vanilla WOW and have more life responsibilities. Some days, I just want to be able to get where I need to go.