Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Nitro Boost Includes a Painful Backfire.

I love Engineering, you love Engineering. And so it pains me to say that there's been a bout of mass amnesia during the events of the Shattering (probably from too much Mind Amplification) and everyone seems to have forgotten how to make Nitro Boots. Goblins and Gnomes have rushed to bring a quick substitute to the marketplace of innovation, Nitro Boosts, with rather mixed results.

The first thing to note is that Nitro's are no longer a Boot augmentation, they now take up the Belt tinker slot in which you may previously have had the Frag Belt/Spyglass. No, I don't think that a speed boost coming from your belt is at all logical either, but I won't be complaining too much. The upshot is: you can now use regular Enchants such as Greater Assault on your boots (Yay!) but lose the use of Frag Grenades (Boo). At a very reasonable 6 Volatile Triggers and 6 Handfuls of Cobalt Bolts, Nitro Boosts are hardly likely to break the bank and would be a no brainer.

I say 'would be', because there's now a couple of pretty big downsides to this Engineering augment. Backfire rates are up, way up, and can now occur in Raids and Battlegrounds. At level 80 there are some reports that the tinker is backfiring more often than it's actually working, but under normal circumstances the tinker would still be well worth it.

The second pieces to this horrid puzzle is a new additional backfire effect. No longer will Nitro backfires only throw you up in the air and deploy a parachute for a nice and soft landing, you additionally may get the following debuff in BGs and Raids:-

Yes, that's 120% of your Maximum Health over 8 seconds, otherwise known as 'ouch'. The idea was probably to discourage the highest-end raiding guilds from stacking this profession simply for the Boots, but now using the boots is just too damn risky unless the levels of healing flying around is huge. I'm tempted to suggest that Blizzard adjusted the backfire rate for >lvl80 and inadvertently upped the level 80 backfire rate. If you're an Engineer you may want to consider just using the Frag Belt for now.

It's a shame really, Nitro Boots were a massive boon to melee specs in Wrath (especially for 'stay out of the Defile' moments) and a very competitive profession in end-game raiding if you looked beyond the pure numbers. In Cataclysm it's a shadow of its' former self for melee dps, though Casters will gain the very strong +480 Intellect/12 sec Synapse Springs and Tanks an armour cooldown in the form of Quickflip Deflection Plates. As times goes on Engineering remains pretty weak for Retribution, and without at the very least a lvl85 speed boost (with associated low backfire rates that do much less damage) it may well be one to avoid if you're a top-flight Raider.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Damage Via Tradeskills - Retribution Professions in Cataclysm

EDIT: Made a few updates based on corrected information. Doesn't change Profession priority.

EDIT2: Tentatively included the changes in 4.0.6 patch notes which would have an singificant effect on the value of the professions, namely changes to Bracer Enchants and the Synapse Springs Engineering Tinker.

Upon the Shattering you'll have the chance to roll a new character and experience a new adventure in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Some few of you (very few I should think by now) will be levelling a brand new Paladin, and a sub-set of those will be Retribution and levelled to engage in end-game content. In this endeavour, it behoves you to choose your professions wisely and maximise your potential. To that end the following is a brief run-down of the options available to you and their relative value:

1) Leatherworking.

**** UPDATE: In 4.0.6 (build currently on the PTR servers as of 11/01) Bracer Enchants for +50 Intellect/Agility/Strength are being added to the game files. Leatherworking will be once more on a par with Blacksmithing, Inscription, Jewelcrafting, Enchanting and Alchemy. *****

Previously, Leatherworking is been somewhat overlooked by Retribution Paladins in search of more bang for their tradeskill buck. Not any more however as the profession gets four new wrist slot enhancements worth 130 of your Primary stat, with a Strength option for Plate DPS. Tanks have the option of a well-budgeted equivalent - 195 Stamina.

Budget-wise the profession isn't over-valued, it replaces level 85 Wrist Enchantments which are up to +65 in a Secondary stat. Par for other professions (which can utilise wrist enchantments) is +80 in a Primary stat, so you could even argue that it's under-budget. However given that in Ret's case Strength is worth ~100% more than Crit or Haste Rating (the best 65 Rating Enchantments) and 33% more than Hit Rating (50 Stat enchantment) Leatherworking is obviously slightly better. In fact, any class which values a Primary stat >33% more than Crit or Haste Rating will find that Leatherworking is the best profession for them.

2) Tailoring

Tailoring is at least the second best or perhaps even the best Profession to take if you're eager to maximise your DPS, it's all down to the as-yet unknown proc rate of Swordguard Embroidery Rank 2. Like Leatherworking it replaces a +65 Crit enchantment, though casters also have the option of a highly rated +50 Intellect enchantment to their cloak instead.

If this enhancement follows the mechanics of its' WotLK equivalent it will have an 45 second internal cooldown and very high proc rate, generally modelled as a 15 second up-time with 50 second cooldown. This averages to around 300AP, the equivalent of ~135 Strength, more if synchronised with cooldowns such as Avenging Wrath.

3) Blacksmithing, Enchanting, Inscription, Jewelcrafting, Alchemy.

Each of these Professions, in their own way, provide a bonus of exactly 80 Strength (or 80 of your primary stat if you're not Plate DPS). Blacksmithing allows you to add a socket to gloves and wrists for a total bonus of +40 Strength each. Enchanting has a +40 Strength Ring enchant. Inscription trades a +50 Str/+25 Crit shoulder enhancement for a +130 Str/+25 Crit one. Jewelcrafting has +67 Strength Epic gems available (the +67 is rounded up, three net you 200 Strength total). Alchemy's passive benefit of increased effectiveness for flasks grants you the extra 80 Strength when you imbibe a Flask of Titanic Strength.

Ancillary benefits, such as the ability to craft your own gear or generate gold, should therefore factor into your decision. Jewelcrafting and Inscription are without doubt the better gold generators and Inscription is just about the most interesting of the four in terms of 'other things' it can create. Enchanting doesn't really require a gathering profession to support it, making it ideal if you're rerolling fresh on a new realm. Blacksmithing in theory allows you to make what you craft, but raw materials are costly and crafted items can usually be bought from the AH anyway.

4) Engineering

*** Patch 4.0.6 features a change to the Synapse Springs tinker. It will increase your Primary Stat (Strength in Retribution's Case) by 480 for 10 Seconds (1 min cooldown) rather than Intellect, pushing Engineering from one of the worst professions for this spec to one of the best. The Engineering Tinker recipes are randomly discovered as you craft your way to 525 profession skill ***

It's not looking good for our old pal. A Primary stat boost on the order of +80 in the glove tinker slot would place it in the leagues of Leatherworking and Tailoring but only Intellect is represented. Melee DPS are lumbered with a rehash of the rocket-glove, the Tazik Shocker. Used on cooldown (every 2 minutes) it's pretty much a flat 40 DPS increase, modified slightly by Avenging Wrath. This activated ability could be boosted to a 45 second cooldown in the future to match that of the rocket-glove, so if you already have very high level Engineering (400+) it's probably worth holding out for a bit before jumping into a better profession.

There's no Nitro Boost boot tinker for Cataclysm, and using the current one has a high backfire rate outside of Raid zones. On the other hand unlike WotLK Nitro Boosts do stack with boot enchants, though they no longer have an additional 24 Crit Rating bonus.

I should probably also mention the new Engineering Goggles. This time around they're item level 359, the same as Tier 11, and have a stat budget commensurate with that. Retribution has access to the Reinforced Bio-Optic Killshades, a set of plate +Strength goggles with a Meta and two Cogwheel sockets. Cogwheels are an engineering-only gem type which feature 208 Rating of a Secondary Stat of your choice, allowing slightly better customisation though obviously reforging won't be an option. Whilst they're unlikely to be better overall than dropped Tier 11 Helms they will allow you to gear up more quickly than you otherwise would be able to if you're willing to shell out the gold on Materials. More casual players with less consistent access to raiding environments should appreciate this.

Currently Engineering is in a pretty bad way, but a Profession parse before the first major patch would hopefully alleviate much of the issue. If you're rolling a new Paladin it may be best to avoid it, especially as many of the most useful utility tinkers are being prohibited in Rated Battlegrounds.

5) Skinning, Herbalism

Maximum proficiency in Skinning grants you Master of Anatomy Rank 7 which increases your Crit Rating by 80. It's definitely not the most optimal of professions, and should probably only be taken if you intend to sate the voracious leather requirements of other characters.

Similarly Herbalism is only really suitable if you're looking to invest in herb-dependant tradeskills on other characters, primarily Alchemy and Inscription. Skilled Herbalists gain Lifeblood Rank 8, a buff granting 480 Haste rating for 20 seconds on a 2 minute cooldown.

6) Mining

Very simple. Toughness Rank 7 grants you 120 additional Stamina and is gained when you max out the Mining skill at 525. This is a profession ideal for tanks, not for DPS or Healers.


So there are your options. I certainly wouldn't beat yourself up if you don't have the two absolutely most optimal professions available to you, but if you're still using gathering professions you may want to replace it favour of the better ones.

A point to note: as we up the gear Tiers to a higher value of Gem all the professions will probably be adjusted to compensate, staying the same relative strength. On the other hand if a new range of ultra-power wrist enchants with the a high budget and utilising Primary stats is released the value of the major crafting professions could be turned on their head.

As always, choose the best fit for you, and enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Paladin Tier 11 - First Impressions

Boubouille at MMO-Champion has just posted High Definition pictures of the final armour models for Tier 11, and my goodness are they a hodge-podge of styles. Without doubt Mages got the best of the lot, followed by Druids and probably Death Knights. Those with the short-end of the stick are Warriors (HAH!) and Rogues, though Hunters looking like they've spent a lot of time on their anglerfish trick-or-treat costume.

Paladins are somewhat middle of the pack. Most sets look better in-game than they do in screenshots and Reinforced Sapphirium is no exception, though more discerning Paladins may want to turn off helm graphics. It's certainly no Judgement or Lightbringer even in its' preferable white and gold colour scheme, but neither is it the obscenity that was Crystalforged.

Anyway, lets take a look at the Sets in more detail:

Retribution - Reinforced Sapphirium Battleplate

Hit Rating337
Expertise Rating168
Crit Rating228
Haste Rating754
Mastery Rating377

Hit, Mastery and Haste are strongly represented; Expertise and Crit much less so. The weakness of Mastery as a Stat for Ret makes it a prime choice to reforge away, especially in the leg slot which alone features a whopping 228. Remember, you can only Reforge into a secondary stat which isn't already present on the item, so choose carefully.

Set Bonuses.

2 Piece- Increases the damage of your Templar's Verdict ability by 10%
4 Piece- When you cast Inquisition its' duration is calculated as if you had one additional Holy Power.

The 2-Piece bonus is pretty straight-forward - Templar's Verdict represents around 20% of your damage at level 85, so it's worth a straight 1.5-2% of your damage. That's not quite as good as previous set bonuses for the class, but not bad overall.

By contrast the 4 piece bonus is harder to quantify. Inquisition is a better alternative than Templar's Verdict only if you refresh it after 17 seconds on a 3 Holy Power cast. In one aspect the 4-Piece bonus is therefore a quality of life bonus, but on the other hand it frees up one GCD every 2 minutes or allows you to cast TV sooner. The gents over at EJ have calculated that this effect is worth another ~2%, but this will be greatly dependant on gaps in the GCD-Space and hence Haste. The more Haste you have, the more worthwhile it becomes.

Each of the above bonuses are worth more than a typical upgrade to a Heroic version (i.e. 13 ilvls). If you have 4 non-Heroic (ilvl 359) Set pieces it's not worth breaking the Set until you have at least two Heroic (ilvl 372) alternatives to those slots.

Overall, I'd prefer it if the Set bonuses were swapped. I'm aware of the compelling reasons for having the simple bonus from 2 pieces; being able to easily quantify if set items are upgrades makes Badges/Point hoarding in advance of an elusive break-point less likely. However I quite like the idea of changing-up the rotation as early as possible, as Tier 10 used to, which leads to some very interesting gearing options at Tier 12 as and when we get there.

All in all it's not a bad set, even if it does lack the wow-factor of previous Tiers.


Protection - Reinforced Sapphirium Battlearmour

Hit Rating241
Expertise Rating0
Dadge Rating682
Parry Rating505
Mastery Rating257

The Paladin tanking sets strongly favour Dodge and Parry, as you might expect. Somewhat surprising is the complete lack of Expertise and relatively low levels of Hit. Capping Hit and Expertise will prove fairly challenging, especially if you choose not to take the Glyph of Seal of Truth.

Set Bonuses.

2 Piece - Increases the damage done by your Crusader Strike ability by 10%.
4 Piece - Increases the duration of your Guardian of Ancient Kings ability by 50%.

No doubt Rhidach will have a post up discussing the relative merits of Tier 11 soonish, but till them you'll have to make do with my mumblings.

The 2 Piece bonus is obviously a fairly strong Threat-Per-Second boost to your main threat-generating ability, and at 10% it scales better than the Warrior and Deathknight analogues. However I find it interesting that there isn't a commensurate increase in the AoE threat-generating ability - an attempt to keep AoE threat from getting out of hand perhaps?

The 4-Piece bonus is pretty much the same as that for other classes, and the cooldowns they affect are roughly comparable. Guardian of Ancient Kings has a duration of 12 seconds for Protection, so the bonus increases the duration to 18 seconds. I'm pretty sure that's a good deal, but I'm really not an experienced enough tank to decide if it's worth keeping over a half- or full-Tier upgrade.

Holy - Reinforced Sapphirium Regalia

Crit Rating540
Mastery Rating337
Haste Rating0

Setting aside the bonus for a moment, the stats on Holy Tier 11 seem very, very strange. They are absolutely chock full of Critical Strike and Mastery but lacking in Haste, which seems somewhat obtuse. Haste is obviously a raw throughput stat and as such as independently useful in almost all situations, but perhaps diminishing returns were starting to bite when you factor in multiple Haste Talents. Crit however is just not that good even as a mana efficiency stat given the loss of Illumination. It synergises with the Communion talent pretty well, but once you reach a certain level of crit the diminishing returns hit hard. Mastery is a straight through-put talent but like Crit the effect can be wasted through its' short duration and non-rolling nature.

Basically, Crit and Mastery are both situationally good, whereas Haste is just Good full stop. To not have any on our Tier gear is bizarre in the extreme, even though you have significant amounts via Talents and Raid buffs.

Set Bonuses

2 Piece - Increases the critical strike chance of your Holy Light spell by 5%.
4 Piece - Whenever your Holy Radiance spell is active, you gain 1620 Spirit.

The 2 piece bonus is your standard fare filler for each healing spec. Shaman and Priests have an analogous bonus on their Tier 11, whereas Druids have a crit chance bonus to Lifebloom ticks. In another time I'd have called these 'placeholder' bonuses, but not today when imaginative set bonuses are sacrificed to the alter of class equality. The value is strongly linked to how often you use Holy Light in your rotation (no flies on me, eh ;)), so this may be one Tier bonus you'd be happy to trade in.

The bonus for wearing 4 pieces of gear is roughly the same as all the Tier 11 healing sets. Holy Radiance has a 10 second duration and 30 second cooldown if you invest in the Speed of Light talent, so unlike other classes you're not able to keep a particular buff up 100% of the time but to compensate you gain more Spirit for a shorter period of time. Previously this may have allowed you to take advantage of other cooldowns to boost your regen rates to high levels for a short period of time, but I'm not sure that any 4.0 abilities function that way.


So there you have it, a longish introduction to the Tier 11 sets. As always, everything is subject to change

Friday, November 12, 2010

DPS Meta Gem Requirements for Retribution.

UPDATE: Blizzard have announced an intention to revert the colour requirements of 3% Crit Damage Meta Gems back to 3.3 specs - 2 Blue one Red for Chaotics and one of each colour for Relentless. The changes should come into effect in an upcoming patch, making the rest of this article moot unless the revert is reversed.

Level 85 Meta Gems have been implemented on the Beta Servers, or perhaps that should be partially implemented. You can find the full list of Meta Gems discovered so far on Wowhead Beta Site here, but lets have a quick look at those useful to Melee Specs. Note that rare gems in the Beta (the highest Tier available so far) have a budget of +40 stats i.e. +40 Strength/Hit Rating/Expertise Rating etc.

PvE Melee/Caster DPS

Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond
+54 Critical Strike Rating and 3% Increased Critical Damage
Requires more Blue gems than Red gems

PvE Tanking

Austere Shadowspirit Diamond
+81 Stamina and 2% Increased Armor Value from Items
Requires at least 2 Yellow gems

Eternal Shadowspirit Diamond
+81 Stamina and +5% Shield Block Value
Requires at least 3 Blue gems

PvP Melee/Caster

Destructive Shadowspirit Diamond
+54 Critical Strike Rating and 1% Spell Reflect
Requires at least 2 Red gems

Enigmatic Shadowspirit Diamond
+54 Critical Strike Rating and Reduces Snare/Root Duration by 10%
Requires at least 1 Blue gems
Requires at least 1 Yellow gems

Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond
+54 Mastery Rating and Minor Run Speed Increase
Requires at least 2 Yellow gems

Impassive Shadowspirit Diamond
+54 Critical Strike Rating and Fear Duration Reduced by 10%
Requires at least 1 Blue gems
Requires at least 1 Yellow gems

Powerful Shadowspirit Diamond
+81 Stamina and Stun Duration Reduced by 10%
Requires at least 2 Blue gems

Obviously the majority of these are variations on a theme intended for PvP, no biggie. But look at the change to the Chaotic gem requirements - "More Blue than Red Gems". With the changes in 4.0 melee DPS can finally get some use out of Blue Gems via the Hit Rating, but in the case of Retribution Red +Strength Gems are still point for point on the order of 33% better when below the Hit Cap. We can't even revert back to a level 80 RED, both it and Chaotic Skyflare are being retroactively changed to have the same Blue>Red requirements.

For Retribution, and many other specs if what I'm hearing bears out, whether or not to satisfy Meta Gems requirements is going to be a thorny issue. Tier 11 gearing levels will include 8 sockets at minimum and 12 or more in optimal configurations, so that's between 7 and 11 Purple gems and 1 Blue gem. In Ret's case, when below the Hit Cap you're trading up-to 260 Strength (all-Red) for 260 Hit Rating (Blue>Red), obviously a reduction in overall DPS. To be an attractive proposition this has to be less than the value of +3% Critical Strike Damage.

So, is it better to socket all Red rather than aim for the Meta Requirements? Well, it's a tough call. Current World of Logs parses indicate the +3% Critical Strike damage bonus is a not inconsiderable ~1% of total DPS, but the relative value of 260 Strength over 260 Hit is in that ball-park too. There's not an awful lot in it, but the equation gets much worse for Chaotic Shadowspirit as you gain more sockets, discover gems with higher stat bonuses, reforge Crit into other stats, or surpass the Hit Cap. For what it's worth, quick calculations of my own lead me to believe that running with the Chaotic Meta is fractionally better than not.

If 3% Crit Damage is worth it Gemming and Reforging priorities won't be affected, though the numbers game would become more interesting. Gems choices will tend to be Purple Etched Demonseye (as they are more convenient for item socket bonuses) plus one Rigid Ocean Sapphire or Green Gem with +Hit/+Other Rating when near the Cap.

Reaching the opposite conclusion - that 3% Crit Damage just isn't worth it - will mean you have to reforge much more aggressively to reach all the relevant Caps. The priority of Hit then Expertise will remain in place but you may find yourself reforging away stats that in an ideal world you'd like to keep. It goes without saying that the Meta Gem of choice when gemming straight red would be the Destructive Shadowspirit Diamond.

But that's not all, for that would be too easy, there are still Socket Bonuses to cogitate over. Cataclysm Socket bonuses are much, much more significant than they are in Wrath itemisation, to the extent that it's not uncommon to see +20 and even +30 bonuses in key slots. Any bonuses valued at 10 Strength or greater per off-colour choice will be valuable, and they occur with considerable frequency at Tier 11. Yellow gem slots are ideally filled by Inscribed Ember Topaz until +Strength/+Haste Orange gems are included, but don't forget to balance with an additional blue if you're aiming for the more stringent Meta bonus.

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