Drink!

March 19, 2008 at 11:24 am (Game Design, Hunter, Shaman, Warcraft, World of Warcraft) ()

In an effort to get Pike drunk, I give you the shaman gear drinking game for hunters. All references to mail may be changed to leather if the item is below level 40. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shaman Review

February 15, 2008 at 10:42 am (Game Design, Shaman, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

It’s almost like Bliz wants shaman to hate them:

[Shaman] Elemental Season 3 arena set 4-piece bonus nerfed to 50% chance to avoid interruption caused by damage while casting Lightning Bolt (was 70%)

So I was reading through this list of shaman concerns for 2.4, and had some thoughts about how I would revamp the class. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Little Something for the Shaman

January 31, 2008 at 8:56 am (Shaman)

From thinkgeek.com.

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Why Not to Level as a Caster

January 30, 2008 at 12:09 pm (Game Design, Shaman, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

I haven’t played my Shaman much since tons of gankers started showing up in Duskwallow, but Pike’s post about leveling alts got me thinking about my experiences with him again.  When I first started, my plan was to go straight down the elemental tree.  Everyone leveled enhancement, and I like to choose the road less traveled.  It was really frustrating.  I had to compromise stamina for int, weapon DPS for a shield, and I still ended up doing most of my damage by meleeing.  The compromises meant survivability was really bad.  Having and add or even just a chain pull, meant death.

At level 25 I gave up.

The next patch (2.2?) showed some signs of improvement though, and I gave it another shot.  Didn’t help me near enough to make it fun.  I switched over to enhancement rather than throw in the towel since during the downtime, I had managed to pick up a Burning War Axe for cheap on the AH.  I struggled up to level 28, and replaced my Smite’s Mighty Hammer.  Suddenly, I was a killing machine.  Add in Windfury 2 levels later, and suddenly I was enjoying myself.

But that got me thinking.  The trees are more or less balanced at 70, why would one build be so much more superior to another?  Answer: gear.  By buying a single piece of equipment, I increased my white DPS by 8.  Of course that doesn’t include the huge impact 8DPS make on windfury.  That’s with melee, but what kind of increase could I see at those same levels as a caster?   At level 20, the best I could find was +10 spell damage Medicine Staff, and at 30, it’s around +20.  Those are both for single schools of magic by the way, so better be lucky on the AH to see them.  The 10 extra spell damage actually translates into +8.5 damage because of spell coefficients.  With a 2.5s cast time, that’s +3.4 DPS if I constantly spam Lightning Bolt, and never get interrupted.  Keep in mind, that’s the best you can do… and those conditions are obviously unreasonable.

The majority of caster gear focuses on int, spirit, and stamina, and I had a hard time finding  any of those stats in leather.  The extra crit from int is nice, but it’s unreliable and without a decent amount of damage to increase, it’s more for saving downtime or long fights.  This goes doubly for spirit and stamina.  The glass cannon becomes a plexiglass slingshot, while the tank becomes a juggernaut of death.

So in summary, if you have a choice, you’ll find it much easier to level a physical DPS class than a magic based one.  It’s easier to boost physical DPS which in turn makes kills and exp gains faster.

Now, I don’t like pointing a problem without a solution.  My thoughts are that 50% of listed DPS should go towards spell damage.  At low levels, a 20 DPS weapon automatically granting 10 spell damage is not overpowered.  The best weapons in the game only have around 130DPS and 65 spell damage still isn’t unreasonable.   A little caster love would go a long way.

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I am a … Conduit

November 21, 2007 at 9:35 am (Shaman, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

I think I’d rather be a mohawk, but since that’s not in the game…

Overall I am now enjoying my Shaman. The small improvements have helped quite a bit, as has level 30. Seriously. As a hunter, the first 10 levels are really painful, particularly #9 where you really start to lag behind. Then you get a pet, and everything suddenly clicks. The class just works.

It’s the exact same thing with the shaman, except that it happens at level 30. This is based around 2 things: Windfury and Totemic Recall.

The lesser of the 2 is Totemic Recall. Basically, it makes totems worth dropping. The original cost may be too much, but the refunded mana makes it a bit easier to bear. Plus, there’s the no more random agro from nowhere when a patrol walks by one of your 2 min totems.

Windfury. Holy cow. I never understood why the shaman were so, up in arms about one single ability being nerfed. I mean they have probably 50+ spells in their spell book at 70, why should a change be that big a deal. Lemme tell you hunters, it’d be like nerfing your pet. This is the single reason Shaman can melee. Couple that with cheap leveling epics and a single proc can easily take 30-50% of the mob’s health, and it procs almost every fight.

I’m much happier.

[Note to self: Develop a mohawk class]

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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.

Conclusion:

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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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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