Thinking Through Totem Usage

June 27, 2007 at 11:48 am (Game Design, Shaman, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

I’ heard some complaints with Shaman Totems with reguard to making strange choices. Looking at the totems in each element, I could see that possibility.

Earth Water
  • Stoneskin Totem
  • Earthbind Totem
  • Stoneclaw Totem
  • Strength of Earth Totem
  • Tremor Totem
  • Earth Elemental Totem
  • Disease Cleansing Totem
  • Fire Resistance Totem
  • Healing Stream Totem
  • Mana Spring Totem
  • Mana Tide Totem
  • Poison Cleansing Totem
Air Fire
  • Grace of Air Totem
  • Grounding Totem
  • Nature Resistance Totem
  • Sentry Totem
  • Tranquil Air Totem
  • Windfury Totem
  • Windwall Totem
  • Wrath of Air Totem
  • Flametongue Totem
  • Fire Nova Totem
  • Frost Resistance Totem
  • Magma Totem
  • Searing Totem
  • Totem of Wrath

Lets look at the choices for the 2 soloing playstyles an the 3 grouping styles.

Water is the multipurpose ‘white magic’ totem. Most of the time it’s either regenerating mana or hp, with a dash of disease or poison cleansing. Last the fire resist. I don’t think many will complain about the trade offs here.

In the air totems solo casters will almost always drop Wrath of Air, while melee will go for Grace of Air. In a group situation, casters have the option to switch to Tranquil Air to lower agro for the ranged party members, and melee can choose to drop Windfury to give all the other pincushion makers a chance for an extra attack, provided they don’t already have a temporary buff such as poison or sharpening stones. Of course there are a few situational defensive totems to consider where needed. Grounding Totem seems out of place here as it could be a generally useful totem in groups, but there are already more powerful options available.

Fire totems seem a bit tricky, but the one thing you can say they do well is extra damage with little thread added to the Shaman. First off, Flametongue’s only use is for an enhancement shaman in a group fighting a mob with extremely high armor. Windfury will almost always be a superior alternative. Fire Nova, Magma, and Searing are all useful for the close in Enhancement whether solo or in a group, and good for any solo casters.  Searing is the choice of the grouped caster shaman.  Of course there are other utility totems here that have their uses.

Enhancement also get Totem of Wrath thrown in for good measure. However, in a group this will also increase the threat for casters making a choice between tranquil Air and Wrath of Air difficult. While soloing, the other totems may be just as good. It doesn’t seem like a great 41 point talent to me…

It seems like Earth totems are begging to get reviewed. Four of the totems are situational, leaving two that are more general purpose: Stoneskin, and Strength of earth. Grouped casters find both useless, and in all other solo and group situations they’re ok, but they aren’t that great. Currently, I’d say drop SoE if you’re melee, Stoneskin if you know your going to fight multiple mobs at once, and if you’re a caster in a group just save your mana.


There are three problems I can see with totem classification

  1. There are few generally useful Earth totems, and there are configurations where there are no good options.
  2. Totem of Wrath is very useful in a raid, but replaces totems that do damage without increasing threat.
  3. Grounding Totem is a general use totem that is buried by other useful Air Totems

So, a group of totems that need more choices and 2 useful totems that are in groups that already have lots of useful totems. What to do… What to do…

Moving Grounding Totem to Earth element is a great fit. It gives casters something really nice defensively to drop in a group as they already have a choice between WoA and Tranq for Air totems, and melee already have a choice between Windfury and Grace of Air. Solo it will still be situational, but those will be at times when Stoneskin and SoE would be useless.

Another suggestion would be to move the elemenal’s Totem of Wrath here which would clearly give them the extra DPS they earned through the 41 point commitment, and still gives them the nice Zero threat DPS from the other fire totems.


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If-then logic

June 22, 2007 at 11:17 am (World of Warcraft)

If-then logic can be tricky. So hopefully this is an explanation to clear it up. Terminology here is that both p (premise) and q (conclusion) are statements that are either true or false, the arrow (->) can be read as implies or as a whole statement ‘If p, then q.’ Here is the truth table for if then logic:

p q p -> q

I’m going to use these statements for examples of p and q.
p: “The weather is clear”
q: “I will walk to school”

If the weather is clear, then I will walk to school.
Good weather and walking go together p->q is true.

If the weather is clear, then I will not walk to school.
The weather being clear isn’t a good reason not to walk so p->q is false.

If the weather is not clear, then I will not walk to school.
For most people this is a given truth as not clear usually means rain, and who would walk to school in the rain. p->q is true.

If the weather is not clear, then I will walk to school.
Here’s where people get tripped up. How can the weather not be clear and still walk to school? It’s cloudy. There’s a storm coming, but not here yet. The person absolutely must be at school whether rain or shine.

This brings up 2 very important conclusions.  First, since a false premise (p) always leads to a true statement, using one for reasoning most likely brings no clarity to the problem.  Second, a true conclusion (q) always leads to a true statement, whether the premise is actually true or not.

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Pet stat variation

June 19, 2007 at 9:22 am (Game Design, Hunter, Pets, Warcraft)

It’s amazing how often I am asked “Hey I’m a new hunter, what pet should I take?” I’m sure this applies to any hunter over 60. Back in the days of only having 4 pet abilities (claw, bite, growl, cower), I would carefully explain that there were 4 categories of pets based on their highest stat: armor, hit points, dps, and well-rounded. Each had its own place based on what you wanted to do. The spread was actually really well balanced so that you would notice which area the pet was strongest in, but not so far that it was too gimped in it’s weaker areas. (As an aside, I’m going to ignore attack speed and chase speed for this history lesson.)

In otherwords, if you really, really loved the look of a crocolisk, you didn’t really have to worry that it’s damage was too low. Damage was fine, just not as high as cat, the peak of the DPS pets.

Patch 1.7 came and along with fixing many other problems with the class, pet families were given new skills. Once again, the new abilities stayed more or less in balance. However, the limited number of families definitely made certain pets better than others. For example, cats and raptors have almost exactly the same stats and both can learn all 4 of the original abilities, but additionally, cats can learn prowl and dash which are both great PvP abilities. Purely from a gameplay standpoint, there was no reason to choose a raptor over a cat.

With the coming of BC, hunter’s received new pet families and new abilities for them to learn. Additionally, many other aspects of the class changed. The biggest being ‘Steady Shot’ which gave the hunter something to press every time an AutoShot fired whether soloing, PvP, or raiding. Yes, there is some variation, but pre-BC soloing basically consisted of AutoShots and Arcane or Aimed Shot whenever it was up, possibly throwing in a multi-shot if you really wanted to DPS.

The addition of Steady Shot is a source of damage that cannot be over looked in any hunter’s rotation, however this increase in DPS has not scaled with the threat that a pet can generate. Even as a beastmaster (read lots of extra pet damage) with poor gear (read only quested and BoE blues) and a high DPS pet with claw, bite, and growl, a simple Steady Shot rotation will easily pull agro away from my pet. Any other pet has even less of a chance unless it has an especially powerful ability. A crocolisk with only bite and growl cannot hope to create as much threat as any DPS pet.

Now when I am asked “what’s the best pet?” I no longer need to go into detail. I just point them to the high DPS pet list, instruct them not to take spiders, and mention that many like boars too for their charge ability in PvP.  That’s 7 out of 23.  The rest simply don’t pull their weight.  Some of those other pets that aren’t bad if a hunter has some experience and the class knowledge to use effectively, but if you’re asking random people for advice, those are characteristics you probably lack.

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Tale of a lonely crab

June 15, 2007 at 12:41 pm (Game Design, Hunter, Pets, Warcraft)

My crab is lonely.

He sits day and night next to an empty pen. The pet that used to keep him company had to be released in order to gain some new pet skills. He never gets a chance to stretch his claws anymore either, due to his in ability to hold agro while I leveled up, he was replaced by a high dps pet with 2 offensive abilities and growl. Even that pet had trouble keeping up with the experience points I gained. There were several times that I had gained a level before that pet could catch up. Now poor Frothy the crab sits at level 62, impotent when confronted by a mob that would yield experience, and several days /played away from 70.

It’s too much for his little crabby mind to handle. I see him sometimes looking around hoping for someone to see his plight and fix it. Soon he may have to be released back into the wild, for a pet that is actually useful.

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The Shaman class

June 13, 2007 at 1:39 pm (Game Design, Shaman, Warcraft)

Having played alliance for most of my time in World of Warcraft, I was really looking forward to trying out a Shaman in Buring Crusade. When I was first leveling up (spring of ’05), they were the bane of my existence. Huge damage from ranged, critical strikes all over the place, and just when I was getting close to finishing one off, they’d heal and I’d be back where I started. I did notice that these times had become less frequent, but then at 60, the overall ganking had gone down quite a bit.

Thus, it was with great enthusiasm, that I started a Shaman

I tried to recruit some friends to level with me as a Shaman, and I ended up with a paladin partner. We got to 15 solo and then quested together up to 23. Blessing of Wisdom became my favorite buff of all time. We had a great time too, but I noticed that the armor I was acquiring wasn’t helping my offensive capabilities much. I always thought of Shaman as an offensive class so that was a bit disconcerting. I ended up just throwing out Lightning Bolts, usually 1-2 per fight before the pali finished it off, and healing when the pali agroed more than he could handle solo. I rarely dropped totems because every fight was in a different location.

At 25 my partner’s schedule changed, and we could no longer play together. What a difference. Leather armor means I take lots of damage each fight, and I lose tons of mana. Just two lightning bolts, a shock, and a lightning shield each fight and I’ve lost 1/3 of my mana and close to 40% of my hp fighting one mob of equal level. If I get an add at any time during a fight, I basically have to run, but that usually isn’t possible because it takes longer to get out of range than it does for 2 mobs to kill me (thank you daze!)

Here’s my list of solo/leveling shaman issues:

  • HEALING: I had been healing between fights to try to keep up my DPS, but obviously that wasn’t working. A friend suggested I start to heal myself whenever my HP got below 80%. Unfortunately, with a single mob on me a flash heal only put me at 85% with a flash heal and 75% with a healing wave due to interruptions. With the flash heal I wasn’t even able to get a hit in before the mob again had me below 80%. Having 2 mobs on had the same result if the stoneclaw totem was able to agro the mob, but was much, much worse if I had accidentally done any damage to the add.

Note that of the 4 healing classes, 2 can bubble heal, and 2 have instant cast heals. I’m not saying Shaman need a bubble or an instant cast heal, but it does point out that healers need the ability to heal while under attack.

Quick fix? Have stoneclaw do an actual AoE taunt instead of a gain X threat This still leaves PvP vulnerable, but I’m ok with that. The 2 seconds it takes for the mobs to kill it are 2 sec they’re not interrupting my healing wave.
Better fix: Give all shaman the ability to thunder stomp (a la Tauren’s War Stomp), a 2 second stun with a 5 minute cooldown. It fits with control of the elements lore-wise, and at least gives a chance to get a heal started before the interruptions resume.

  • TOTEMS: As totems seemed to be the defining class ability I was really unimpressed with them. They are a buff that can be removed by any mob, a spell that any hit will cancel. With these vulnerabilities, I expected some good benefits while solo, and great ones in a group. There are really 4 components to totems: ability, mana, radius, and duration, and these seem very out of balance for what is useful.

For example (and continuing my healing issues), Healing Stream Totem heals for a total of 360 over 120 seconds for 65 mana vs Druid’s rejuvenation at this level which heals 180 damage over 12 seconds for 105 mana.

HST uses 2/3 the mana, 2x the effect solo (upto 10x the effect in a group), 10x the duration (whether in group or not), can be canceled by any enemy, and has no effect for anyone more than 20 yards away from where it was cast. Overall we can see how the 2 spells are balanced against each other, and I would have to say that overall they are in balance. Here the problem is duration. Who the heck needs a 2 minute heal? It makes this totem rubbish. The only place this balance actually occurs is in a boss encounter during a raid.

If this could be balanced to a 30s heal or even a 60s heal it may actually be worth dropping. Something like 65 mana, for totem that heals 10 damage every 2 seconds on up to 3 party members targets. This does less total healing for a single target, but in a shorter amount of time. In a 5 man group it loses nothing by the 3 target limit, because most likely 2 people are out of range, but this limit keeps it from being overpowered in a raid situation where 5 people could be in range.

Quick fix? Add 75% effect, half duration, limit to 3 party members, Shaman + 2 random in range, (or chosen via the same method as hunter’s misdirection as group forms). I also realize this would cause OOM even faster, I think that’s ok. I’d rather be given the choice of ‘should I drop this totem and lose the mana or not?’ than be left with ‘why bother, it won’t make any difference.’

Better fix: There needs to be a major review of totems in terms of their usefulness in all aspects of the game not just balanced for raiding.

  • MANA/THREAT: You may say Huh? Obviously, I have no experience raiding as a shaman, but my mana/downtime solution might help. Shaman burn through mana like nothing. I’m ok with that except that it leads to a lot of un-fun downtime. Here’s my solution: Chug
  1. A level 1 shaman spell (each rank coincides with ability to use the next level of vendor drink.)
  2. One minute cooldown
  3. Reagent: Refreshing Spring Water
  4. Channeled
  5. Restores 100 mana over 10 seconds
  6. Can be used in combat and does not remove from combat
  7. Does not produce any threat

Basically its like a bandage, only for mana. It gives 2/3 the total mana you would gain for about 1/2 the downtime. For solo you spend less down time, for raiders it regens your mana during fights. Threat will be lower just because on average 1/6 of the time the shaman are not casting. Have a chain of crits? Don’t just stop casting… Drink!

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Shot rotations

June 12, 2007 at 7:44 am (Hunter, Warcraft)

This is taken directly from ‘lythrdskynrd’ @ I am only posting here should something happen to the ‘probable’ sticky.

What is Shot rotation?

Shot Rotation is the order in which you shoot your bow/gun/crossbow. At any given time you can choose a number of different special attacks – the order you choose to do them in makes a *BIG* difference in the damage you do.

Optimal Shot Rotation

This first image shows the theoretical ‘perfect’ shot rotation … autoshot starts, you start a steadyshot, steady shot finishes and fires you fire off an arcane, while you’re waiting for the global cooldown your first autoshot goes off.

You start your second set of shots in plenty of time to never be wasting anything.

BM Shot Rotation

Bow speed and talents change the way we look at things … the beastmaster hunter for example gets a 20% increase to their shot speed. The BM hunter therefore leaves some thigns out of their shot rotation.

Everything but steady and autoshot in fact … though if they’re good they toss in the occasional Kill Command.

Bad Shot Rotation

Note that whenever possible you don’t want to delay your autoshot. Autoshot is damage that you do that costs NO mana at all … in terms of efficiency (Damage Per Mana) your auto shot is infinite.

All that red? Wasted damage.

Button Mashing Shot Rotation

Stop your button mashing! You make more red wasted space!!
Wasted space makes Baby Uuther Lightbringer cry!

You’ll notice the other things that AREN’T on this shot rotation
Serpent Sting
Aimed Shot

Serpent Sting isnt’ there because it has a low damage per mana rating – at any given timeslot in your shot rotation you can choose: Steady / Arcane / Multi / Serpent / Aimed if you choose to fire a serpent sting you essentially MISS the opportunity to fire a far more valuable shot – like multi or arcane.

Aimed Shot isn’t there because it commits the worst crime of all … it resets your Auto Shot counter to Zero … wasting all that free time and damage (yuk)

Early Auto Shot is Bad

Don’t forget: always be patient enough to actually let all that free damage get out of your bow!

For Marksman and Survival hunters

MM-SV Shot rotation

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Warcraft pet skills

June 8, 2007 at 6:34 pm (Game Design, Hunter, Pets, Warcraft)

When I originally tamed Frothy back in December of ’04, it was with dreams of a unflinching rock that mob’s stuck to like glue.  Now at level 70, I find I have to use a high DPS pet just to have a chance of keeping a mob at ranged.

My friend this should not be so.

It is my opinion that Blizzard never thought through the design of pets, but that’s understandible.  They’re having enough problems balancing classes, how could they possibly balance 15+ pet families to make each desirable but not have a single ‘best’ pet.  Unfortunately, except for the wonderful 1.7 patch, they’re response has been to make every pet the same (see attack speed, and persuit speed).  Many families of pets are completely inferior simply because of lack of abilities.

The problem is that it’s very hard to see the consequences and place required limitations on the pets.  My suggestion is to create spells based on ‘ability schools’ and allow each family to learn only set abilities from each school, and any given pet can only learn one ability from that school.  Here are the schools and some examples

1) Agro – controls threat in some way

  • Growl
  • Cower
  • Claw twist – each attack does additional agro
  • Blind spot – each attack does slightly less agro
  • Bristle (Taunt)- Pet jumps to top of mobs agro list

2) Movement

  • Dash
  • Dive
  • Charge
  • Warp
  • Pathfinding – Passive, but gives X% speed boost always
  • Leap – Damaging attack
  • Pinch – Target’s movement is reduced by 30% for 3 sec.
  • Side-step – Increases Dodge by X%
  • Avoidance

3) Attack

  • Cobra Reflexes
  • Blind Flurry – Increases attack speed and threat (higher than CR) but DPS remains the same.
  • Spirit of Lupos – lower’s damage but attacks are shadow damage.
  • Opportunist – Lower’s attack speed, increases damage.
  • Sloth Reflexes -Lower’s attack speed, increases threat (higher than Opp.) but DPS remains the same.
  • Heaviness  -Each attack has a X% chance to knockdown the target.

4) Zero CD ability (Focus dump)

  • Claw
  • Gore
  • Bite (40 focus, 0 CD)
  • Poision
  • Lightning Breath

5) Secondary ability (has a CD or a crossover from a different school)

  • Bite (current version)
  • Fire Breath
  • Shell Shield
  • Thunderstomp
  • Bristle
  • Avoidance
  • Mule kick – Knocks target backwards X yards.

In general, as long as the abilities are balanced within a school and every family has access to at least one spell within that school, every family will be balanced.   This is not to say there will not be ‘best’ pets, but instead best pets for certain situations.  And that’s really what we’re going for, tough choices based upon what you want to do and how you want to play.

At this point I’m not interested in discussing which families get what, but more giving a framework to what each familiy needs.  For instance, one could say there are no zero cooldown abilities for gorillas, but to create one that’s already balanced all that is required is to rename ‘claw’ to ‘punch.’  Also note that any school can have either passive or active spells chosen.  I’d  like to state again that for some families, there will only be a single possible spell to learn, but as long as they get extra options in other schools I believe this will even out.

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Define Mystic

June 8, 2007 at 4:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Mystic – a person who claims to attain, or believes in the possibility of attaining, insight into mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge, as by direct communication with the divine or immediate intuition in a state of spiritual poetic inspiration.

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