Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Scritch, Scratch, Drip, Drop

Bears are about to see a boost for tanking.

What's that mean? Well, we have no numbers, but I can tell you that threat is not something I have an issue with. I tank for people that far outgear me: the iLevel totals of their gear makes mine look anemic.

At first glance one might think that means I have problems holding aggro, but that's not really the case. My GM is an amazing tank, and is about as well-geared as an early-T5 Warrior can be. When we race for aggro on the same mob such as for Gruul, he's always asking the Hunters for misdirects while I stop using abilities and just auto-attack for long periods.

My aggro is continually through the roof. On a single target, no one in my guild can match what I put out (at least according to MY meter, and discounting the crit-happy dps at the beginning of a fight).

So...what's the point?

Well, first of all, it isn't a change I NEED as a Bear. As I said above, my threat is nothing shy of awe-inspiring so long as the dps isn't retarded. With that said, anything that gives me threat independent of a hit roll is still a nice addition. So...maybe I'm wrong? Bleeds are already a staple of Druids both as Bears and as Cats, and this gives us a source of armor-ignoring damage that scales with our AP, hence also increasing our threat by default.

Thing is, the bleed damage from this ability is so minimal as it is that any increase from AP is likely to be equally unnoticable. From a PvE perspective, I just don't see the point unless this is a *really* big increase.

Secondly, this should have been in place since day one. Rip scales with AP, why hasn't Lacerate? Oversight? I don't know but it's silly that it's taken this long to do it.

Third, could this be - as stated by several posters in the thread linked above - a PvP change intended to help Ferals in BGs and Arenas? Well that's going to depend entirely on how well it scales.

If it scales like the Idol of Ursoc helps threat, we can safely pretend no change was made at all. On the other hand, if it scales well, perhaps the bleed will be significant and notable...perhaps a further change to the Idol is coming, but I doubt that. Mine is still in the bank collecting dust on the off chance something DOES change.

As a tank, I'm doubting I'll see much of a change. Perhaps when I hit the arenas and spend more time trying to kill another player in Bear form this will become a staple of my arsenal rather than something I use only desperately to get a Rogue to waste Vanish. After all, PvP gear carries more AP with it than tanking gear typically does(blame Primal Fury for part of why we like AGI so much as bears).

On the bright side, at least some attention is being paid to Ferals, and even if it isn't the right kind of buff, I seriously doubt this change will do any sort of harm in spite of some of the proclamations. Then again, maybe I'm wrong and maybe...just maybe...there's more to this than we know.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Race Girls

Another non-Tanking related post...hopefully that's okay...

What goes into the selection of a character, their race and gender, their class and appearance? Like anything, I feel this is intensely personal. Regardless of why you picked what you did, your selection says something about you, even if it isn't what you or others might think.

Some decisions are highly interdependent such as the fact that there are certain classes for each faction that only have one available race. Perhaps conversely, your class was selected after you picked your race and you just picked what looked fun from the available choices.

Despite the severely limited character design options of World of Warcraft, each player still has a lot of things to consider when selecting what to play. What role, what faction, what sort of gameplay does one enjoy?

One thing that crops up again and again, independent of the other decisions above which are widely viewed as legitimate design choices, is the furor over cross-gender characters. Without getting into the virtues and oft-claimed vices of such a choice, I do wonder why we do these things.

According to Warcraft Realms census page, the most popular races are also arguably the most humanocentric ones with Humans, Night Elves, Blood Elves, and Undead topping the charts as the races with double digit percentages of the character population from 10-70 across all servers.

A number of reasons could be in play here and likely are. I'm no socio-cultural anthropologist nor am I sure that's really what you'd need to be to make educated assumptions on this topic, but there are a few reasons that jump out at me, the layperson.

Remember that the bulk of this comes from completely unscientific anecdotal evidence, conjecture, and other spurious points of origin.

Perhaps the most important thing that occurs to me is a certain level of identity. I assume that the popularity of the more humanocentric races is a direct result of identity psychology. Most people identify well with these sorts of characters, making it easier to invest in them and their success.

But the level of literal identification with a race is highly subjective as elves and zombies aren't exactly like anything extant in the world we inhabit offline, at least not in the forms presented. Additionally, the male humans are ridiculously muscular even when casters and the females have some odd shapes themselves. So while one can identify more readily with one of these 4 most popular races, there is still a high degree of separation from what we know.

Concessions are made for the fantasy. Beautiful, muscular, artful characters that are both more and less than we are become the front for our interaction in the lands of Azeroth, providing a certain level of anthropomorphism that make the characters both alien and accessible, appealing and inoffensive.

But some of the same logic can be applied to the highly inhuman races (if any such actually exist in the game...which is arguable). While the level of popularity of the familiar speaks to the desire to identify, those that select the inhuman could be said to be looking for a degree of separation.

Tusked elven neanderthals, ridiculously diminutive gnomes, bovine tribes and hooved aliens all provide a degree of distance that makes it easy to view the character as separate from the player. Without assuming that the players of humans and elves are looking to play themselves (though some claim they are), those that select these other less-human races seem to be looking to up the fantasy quotient of their game, to find something truly different to immerse themselves in.

Inevitably, we come to the selection of gender. Highly controversial is the decision to pick a gender that isn't your own.

Like race, the selection of gender reflects a degree of identification, though the motivating factors are somewhat different.

I won't touch on others' decisions, but discuss my own.

My main character is a Female Night Elf Druid.

My friends were and are primarily Alliance players. As such, when I went to make my Druid, my selection was restricted to Night Elves. I'm not averse to them however, and at the time humans were my preferred Alliance race. From this, I think I wanted somethign relatively close to home, something I could identify with.

So while I had no choice in the selection of my character's race, I was prone to such a selection anyway due to my desire to have a degree of familiarity present in the character.

But when I went to pick the gender of my character, I unthinkingly selected a female. As most of my readers have surmised, I'm male. My primary character (and most of the others I play, for that matter) is female.

Why did I do that? Is it because I want to be a girl? Am I homosexual as so many detractors would claim? Am I a pervert, an extortionist, sexually repressed? Well, none of the above (okay, I might be a bit of a pervert ;P ).

I don't think it's any of the above, but I'll leave it to you to decide what you think for yourself.

First, though, I think I wanted some distance. Night Elves are, despite being elves, still largely human in appearance. Certainly they have many alien characteristics that set them apart, and in fact I'd argue that they're really no less alien than say a Troll or Orc, but they have strong appeal to people that want an attractive human-like character. Because they're still largely human-like, the most distance I could get was to make the character female.

It helped that I found the male Night Elf to border on ridiculously stupid-looking, but lets face it, the females have their own proportion issues and sometimes I think they look like really tall monkeys. Still, clicking female was remarkably easy.

But I don't identify myself with my character. I don't look at her and think, "Me." Okay, maybe a little, but by making her female I could more easily be different from my character whereas a male one might have run a tad too close to being "Me" in digital form.

Playing a female doesn't feel weird to me but neither does it feel overtly distant. She's me, but she isn't remotely me. That doesn't make any sense, but I can't articulate it any better than I am. There are parts of her that ring in strong identification and parts of her that are very alien and definitively not like me.

Finally, there's the part that might scuttle my claims of feminist sympathies: I care about her more than I care about my male characters.

My male characters are almost wholly disposable. I don't give two rats' toes what happens to them. It's a game and nothing permanent really happens to any of them beyond deletion, but I don't know how else to describe it.

The female characters, Currant in particular, are like little digital friends (no, not THAT kind, fellow pervert!). Does that make me a freak? Maybe. Okay. Regardless, I want to take care of them, make them better, and do things that people say girls can't do with them.

See, whenever I make a face-hitter, I think it'd be cool for it to be female because in our world, that sort of thing is uncommon and in many cases frowned upon. I like strong women. I like capable independent women and this satisfies that predilection. I like it when women do things people say they can't or shouldn't do. Female warriors are a thing with me, I suppose.

I married a proverbial tomboy, in point of fact.

On the other hand, I can't bring myself to make a super-testosterone-laden male into a caster, so they end up female, too. It snaps my disbelief suspenders for some irrational reason to think of men built like the humans and elves and orcs of Warcraft being magical bookworms. They're more like magical beefcakes with faces that have been smashed in by a panful of fried steroids. I don't mind other people playing them but I can't bring myself to do it.

That said, I'm really enjoying a Troll Rogue and Undead Priest right now, both male. Is it the separation of race, the distance in identity that makes it possible? I'm not positive, but I find the thought intriguing. Perhaps making them male makes them just accessible enough to play an alien race, much as making an elf or human character female provides just the right amount of separation for me.

I recognize the cultural impact on my view of gender and how it's influencing what I play and I'm not making any excuses. I like strong women. I'm a bit nervous throwing my personal process out here like this, but I'm curious about this, about how each of us decide what to play from those who just click random everything and go, to those that agonize over every detail; from those who want something completely apart from themselves to those who are looking for a virtual version of themselves to turn into a fantasy hero...and everything in between.

So even if you play a human of the same gender as yourself, or an idealized elf of your gender, think about why you really made that decision and what it says about you, to you. Don't concern yourself with what other people think, consider how your sense of identity factors into the characters you play. You might surprise yourself.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Hybrid

So there's an interesting forum discussion right now. While there's a bit of snarkiness from some posters, it is a generally insightful thread. Check it out here.

Come back when you're done.

One of the most interesting things brought up, one that comes up time and again is the role and meaning of a hybrid class.

In and of itself, the term is very very vague, and most attempts to define it in terms of the game either end up excluding one of the traditionally regarded hybrid classes (the Shaman) or including a traditionally regarded specialist class (the Priest or Warrior).

Traditionally, the hybrid classes are the Druid, the Paladin, and the Shaman. The distinction, as we'll see, is largely arbitrary.

So just how do we define a Hybrid class? Technically a hybrid is a composite, typically an amalgamation of two disparate things. But such a definition is easily applied outside the traditional hybrid classes.

If we assume a hybrid is capable of filling multiple roles, the definition immediately breaks down. Warriors are DPS and tanks; Priests are DPS and healers.

Let's try another one. A hybrid class could be considered a class that combines elements of two others. After all, a Shaman is a face-hitter like a Rogue or Warrior but can also cast spells. Well, Warlocks are a similar combination of a spellcaster and a pet class. Priests do ranged magical damage like a Mage and Warlock, but are also outstanding healers.

Depending on how far down you drill, even a Shaman only has damage and healing specs available, just like a Priest...unless you make a further arbitrary division between ranged and melee dps...but Enhancement has some range...so we're further muddying things.

Okay, so...is it a class with a healing button that can wear something more than cloth? That seems to be the only real delineator, but it's still incredibly arbitrary.

Regardless, we'll run with the fiction that Druids, Paladins and Shaman are hybrids, but quite frankly, it's become a term used to marginalize classes that heal but don't bear the title 'Priest.'

But the three classes are not comparable in any honest sense.

Shaman have two broad-scope specs: Damage and healing. Within this, they have two damage specs, one melee and one spelldamage.

Paladins have three broad-scope specs: Damage, healing, and tanking. Some Paladins have even gone so far as to create a secondary damage spec that is very similar to the Class' healing spec.

Druids also have three broad-scope specs identical to those of the Paladin, but when drilled down as far as done with the Shaman to get 3 distinct specs, we get 4 for the Druid. It is at the Druid that things get interesting, too.

Whereas the Paladin and Shaman spec for specialization and gear for the same, never do they lose access to baseline class abilities. A dpsing Paladin does not lose access to her heal buttons nor does a Shaman lose theirs. A Druid, however, can lose up to 3/4 of their class abilities with a simple change of form.

Let's back up just a bit. It is often said that these three classes should never perform as well as a 'parent' class because of the breadth of capability they possess. In practice this was found to be un-viable. A character doing 66%-70% of what a specialist class does won't be included in groups except as a gimmick or because of social networking. Their raw output in a given role was therefore boosted to more equal performance through talent and gear changes.

The resulting cries to nerf them because they can also heal failed to account for the fact that none of the three classes in question possess the same range of capability within the role they choose to specialize in. While a Shaman dps machine can put out amazing damage they trade poisons, status effects, stealth and more for their healing and damage spells. While a Druid might have access to stealth and a gouge-like ability, they get healing rather than Vanish, and a rez instead of a blind. The list is endless and it appears, endlessly debatable. Still, these classes are no more powerful than any other, just more broadly capable, even when specialized.

So back to the Druid losing access.

In spite of a Retribution or Protection Paladin's healing being abysmal in gear for their role, and in spite of an Enhancement Shaman having terrible mana efficiency and so on, these two classes never lose access to their breadth of capability.

When I Paladin, I can often find times to use abilities that are not for the role I'm performing. When I dps in particular, it's easy to toss off an emergency heal without breaking stride. There are issues with any and all of this behavior, to be sure, but it's all still there and highly desirable in certain circumstances.

The Druid, on the other hand, sacrifices much to do what they do.

When in Cat they have no spellcasting, no tanking, no healing; when in Bear they have no spellcasting, no dps, and no healing; Moonkin give up healing and tanking; healers give up all feral abilities but keep their ranged damage; Tree Druids give up not only ranged damage and all feral ability, but some key support abilities (though this last is slowly changing).

Shifting in and out of forms is our only option to get at abilities that are often further diminished (at least for Ferals) by the cost of shifting itself, both in terms of mana, rage or energy, and in terms of time lost.

Add in the Paladin and Shaman gearing for role issues and suddenly you see that the Druid actually has very little in common with either. Less, at any rate, than is commonly ascribed to them.

Druids, through these mechanics and the vast breadth of role they can assume (never forget that they have two baseline healing specs that require very different gearing schemes...arguably adding a 5th functional element), are often thought of by their community as a collection of discrete classes under the umbrella of a single title. Granted this is somewhat disingenuous as the same character IS technically capable of doing it all without releveling, but the factor of re-leveling is really ALL that is taken out of the equation.

So this link above, like so many other Druid-centric observations, stems directly from the uniqueness of Druid class realities and the fact that we are often more like the specialist classes we ape than we are like the Paladin and Shaman with whom we are commonly grouped.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Girl

Okay, I've been a total slacker again and it's not really worthwhile to come to a site that never gets updated, so here goes:

I'm going to introduce you to my girl. Currant, Solid Bear of Elune.

As the story goes, I first played World of Warcraft on a 10-day trial where I made - wait for it - a Night Elf Hunter. I played for a bit, but went back to Guild Wars when it was all over and figured it wasn't really for me.

A couple months later, a friend convinced me to play and talked me into trying a Paladin. I deleted the Hunter on the trial account and made a Paladin. Paladins are a lot of fun, don't get me wrong (I've since taken this character to 70 and geared her okay), but when I got to 60, I couldn't do what I had thought I'd be doing. I envisioned the character as a tank but couldn't tank. People didn't want me to heal so much as not take loot from other more valuable classes, and my damage stunk.

I was pretty disillutioned, so I turned to the character I'd made to be my healer, my Druid. I started leveling and quickly realized (pre 1.8, mind) that Feral was my best leveling option. It helped a lot that I was able to heal just with a switch of gear for everything up through Sunken Temple. Beyond that it got a little dicey, but by then, I'd found my calling.

The very act of leveling had shown me a glimpse of the power of Dire Bear form, and suddenly I realized I was playing the very tank I'd wanted. I launched into a search for all the high armor, high stamina gear I could find, and by the time I was 60, was widely known in my guild as the little Druid that wanted to tank. I wanted to tank so badly I spent a LONG time at 60 wearing Warbear gear, scrabbling for whatever gear upgrades I could snatch from the fingers of Rogues, leather-wearing Hunters, and other Druids.

I transferred servers, from Icecrown (where my Druid was named Starsong) to Scarlet Crusade (where trying to get the name Raspberry ended up with Currant as an alternative, a name I'm actually enamored of now) in order to play with some friends who'd been Horde for a while, and some other friends who'd been there all along.

In pickup raids on Onyxia and a Green Dragon, I got my first epics. The Stormrage Cover and a Feral Attack one-hander, one of only 4 such items in the game. These things were huge for me. Huge enough that I tanked in my Stormrage for a long time, and that I went back to Duskwood to find that 50 armor offhand to use when tanking. Gradually, slowly, I managed to build a better and better set (though never did I find upgrades to my Warbear gear - leading to names like 'Bare Tank' and 'Jungle Girl'). I tanked BRD, ST, LBRS, and others for my friends who'd have me while I put on my dress and healed in every raid with the single exception of the Jin'Do encounter, which I got to tank fairly regularly.

My guild was VERY understanding and supportive in spite of the difficulties of a Druid wanting to do something the game didn't support well at the time. My friends were encouraging and when word came of Burning Crusade and its changes to Ferals, I could barely contain my excitement.

I leveled as a tank, geared as a tank, and now I raid as a tank. An offtank to be sure, but a tank nonetheless. I can main tank everything I have access to, and I'm a fairly content bear.

So here I am at the end game. I tank, but my schedule is REALLY bad for raiding, so I do heroics when I can and lately, I've been gearing my Paladin and leveling a Hunter. But it hit me that I always come back to the Druid and how much I love that silly character. I love her enough that she's the only character for whom I have a vanity outfit.


I realized I wanted to feel like I'd actually gotten somewhere with her before Wrath launches, so I'm back to gearing her weak spots and making sure I'm around to help with my guild's general need of tanks and occasional dps for a raid.

Anyway, that's a brief, mind-numbingly boring introduction to my Druid. I'm visual so here you have some pics stripped from the Model Viewer (I'm at work and didn't have any screenies handy, but these are accurate). I like the light blue skin she has and the facial tats are my favorites. I'm still not sure why I went with white hair - sometimes I think of her as some sort of albino elf - but I suppose that Wrath will have a solution for that. We'll see. As it stands, I like contrast and that's why her vanity outfit is all black...ish. So yeah...her hair...needs something maybe.

Now for the shocker: Currant is considering a respec to Resto just to give it a whirl since she hasn't been Resto since 54 after a 2 level experiment with a Balance-Restoration healing build.

I'll try to keep you updated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Hibernation of Style

One of my biggest complaints about playing a Druid is that when I tank, I have to have a gigantic furry bear ass filling my screen, and trust me, when you're backed into a corner while tanking, it really IS what you see.

At level 10, I was excited and pleased to be able to transform into my first animal, a bear. I was sturdier and it was a lot of fun and whetted my appetite for my panther form to come at 20.

On my way to 20, Bear form was really of limited use (I did this prior to the 1.8 feral overhaul), but I used it. I wasn't fond of the visual, but I figured, "I won't be spending all my time in that form!"

How wrong I was.

As it happens, I am only effective when in a form. The same applies to dps Druids (whether Cat or Moonkin) and healers (Tree of Life, to be sure). So when we play, we look like fat-assed bears, purple panthers, malnourished saplings or giant laser-chickens from space. In and of itself, this is not a problem. We're turning into something, after all. Animals or laser chickens or trees.

The problem comes, especially for Ferals, in that you spend all your playtime in this form. At least Balance and Restoration Druids have some of their leveling time able to see their character and that character's gear, but even they eventually find that all their time is spent in a single form in order to do their job.

Maybe that's the real reason for the popularity of a Dreamstate healing build.

Regardless, one of the fun things about all of the MMOs I've played is the ability to play dress up. I know that sounds silly but hear me out.

One of the draws of this sort of game for me and for many others, is the ability to take on this fantastic persona, to pretend to be a different person with pointy ears and massive swords and particle effects, maybe a different race or gender. As characters in these games progress, the gear they wear gets progressively more spectacular. It is used as a gauge of competence, bragging rights, and personal vanity. It is integral to the experience of the game.

Sadly, Druids largely miss out on this unless they want to spend a lot of time standing around posing for the masses. Aside from speccing Dreamstate Healer, though, Druids can - and typically do - spend the vast majority of their playtime looking just as they did at level 10. They look about enviously as their compatriots get neater and neater gear they get to adventure in while they wonder if some epic waterproofing gel will drop for their fur, feathers, or bark.

Are there solutions to this? Most likely.

First, find a way to display armor on a Druid in forms.

This is likely the most problematic. In spite of watching the Golden Compass and wondering why I can't have badass bear armor like that I understand that Malorne shoulders might be hard to skin onto the bear model and if a healer dropped into Bear while wearing the Panties of the Naaru* they might look a bit silly.

It would require the most effort from the art team and is hence the least likely option.

At least one friend of mine said that it would also put more strain on the systems running the game by bumping the models per zone...but I see so many effects and models and such that I have a hard time buying that.

So what about basing appearance on level, and at 70, changing appearance based on total iLevel of the gear worn by the Druid?

This enforces some standards while still allowing a form of progression.

Suppose every 10 levels, each form gets an overhaul with flashier effects or more accoutrements and so on. Who wouldn't want their bear to look something like this?

Then at 70, certain iLevel totals would be assigned a new look, allowing for Druids to continue progression of appearance just like other characters busily fighting for life and loot.

Additionally, this provides quick identification of a Druid's potential capability, something you can eyeball with any other class in Arenas and BGs.

A third option would be allowing Druids to, at the point of getting each new form, to select the animal they like from a list. While the least capable of fulfilling the request, it would be the easiest to implement. Beasts already have models and animations necessary for their use and it'd be easy to slap a Druid sigil on their shoulders for identification.

For example, Bear form could be re-described as Tank form with Dire Bear becoming Dire Tank. Players could select a Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Boar, Turtle or Crocolisk. At 40 with Dire Bear, they could again select from this list, but with larger and possibly slightly more ornate versions of those animals. True ambition might include a Worgen as an option...but that one could wear gear...and show weapon animations...gah, I'm getting sidetracked.

Cat form could be re-labeled Melee form. Options would include the standard panther, snow leopards (yay!), raptors, spiders, lions, wolves, or hyenas.

Travel form would include the standard cheetah, foreststriders, talbuks and so on.

Aquatic form seems pretty self explanatory.

Moonkin could be given the option of selecting a furbolg or maybe one of those big trolls from ST.

Trees of Life...treants or small ancients?

Sadly even this option would require a rather sizable code implementation that is unlikely to ever occur.

Until and unless we see a new form or WoW 2.0, I seriously doubt that Druids will look any different at 80 with Wrath of the Lich King than they do now at 70, or than they did at 60, or 50, or 40...you get the picture.

So there you have it. The real reason Druids whine...we don't get to look as cool as you.

*Not that there's anything wrong with the Panties of the Naaru.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Heresy in the Woods

So apparently the official forum search function blows today. Therefore you'll have to take my word on the following statement:

It is generally considered that the Wildfury Greatstaff is better than the Earthwarden for tanking.

When my guild went on their first trip into Serpentshrine Cavern, I wasn't able to go, but another Feral Druid did. While she was there, the Greatstaff dropped for her. She linked it and all were happy.

I checked it out (as I couldn't remember the stats on it at the time), and I came to the realization that I didn't really want it. For months and months I've been reading from other Druid tanks that this is the best tanking stick they've found and many claim to have vendored their Earthwarden within moments of leaving the Caverns.

People that speak in favor of the Earthwarden are frequently belittled and marginalized.

The thing I can't understand is: why?

I understand it brings significant dodge, that it has almost 500 more health than the Earthwarden, and that it's significantly more Feral AP. These are all good things for a tank.

When I considered what I'd lose, though, I couldn't bring myself to use it as my tanking stick.

First and foremost is the Defense rating. While a great many Druids are engaging in PvP for the Resilience gear with high armor and mitigation stats, not all do. I am doing some arenas for gear (as my Armory likely shows), but this really only reinforces my point. There just isn't enough other gear in the game to abandon a stick like the Earthwarden without very careful consideration. For a PvE-only Druid, there is no other viable option for this slot if you are using the Defense.

Before 2.3, there was Feral Combat Skill, but since that's no longer in place, we'll deal with its replacement, Expertise.

My GM is a tank and as such we occasionally lament tanking issues. One thing that both of us agreed was extremely high on our wishlist for tanking gear was +Hit. Now, with recent additions to the game via Heroic gear and Feral PvP-re-itemization, there's a lot more of that available than there has been in the past. That said, the Expertise on the Earthwarden is extremely appealing in spite of it.

Expertise provides a reduction of 0.25% per point to your target's chance to dodge or parry attacks. Earthwarden has an Expertise rating of 24, which becomes an Expertise of 6. -1.25% chance for all my targets to dodge or parry when I tank.

Best of all, it's immune to Defense skill. That's HUGE.

I'm not sure I can express how vital this is especially if you deal with undisciplined dps or run Heroics where healing aggro (due to the major heals required) can be fatal to your lifeline, your healer.

The Wildfury Greatstaff gives me none of that. There are times, no matter how rare they appear to various individuals, when that missed attack can mean the difference between keeping aggro and losing it to someone that can't survive the attention.

So in spite of the dodge and health buff, the rest of my gear isn't yet at the point where swapping out the Earthwarden for the Greatstaff makes any sense. Until I do some math with a gear list, I'm not sure that day will ever come. I'm incredibly durable as it is, and while I never scoff at mitigation stats, I've come to realize that there are some items that may - at first - look outdated, but that retain value due to factors often overlooked.

I tend to think back to when people were complaining in the early days of the Burning Crusade that the Kara epics were sidegrades rather than upgrades for the lion's share of gear. Back then I learned to realize some rares were better than epics and that's a philosophy I'm trying to hold to. Just because the iLevel is higher doesn't mean the item is necessarily statted appropriately.

Maybe I'll use the Greatstaff for a resist fight but I can't see any other place for it right now. For me, the Earthwarden has a continuing role as my primary tanking stick.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Heroic-Sized Ursine...

...it still comes with fries.

So wow. After all my bitching and whining about terrible idols...very little has changed. On the other hand, everything has changed. Things are looking better for Bear Tank itemization.

First of all, with the publication of 2.3 to the PTR, we have a plethora of new gear available for Badges of Justice. One of them...wait for it...is an idol. A tanking appropriate idol. I very nearly fainted from excitement when I saw it.

So here's a quick look at some of the gear a Bear Tank may be interested in with some comments and maybe a few comparisons.

Let's start with the big news, the Idol.

The Idol of Terror now stands as my newest best target for badges. While the 85% proc rate being reported seems a bit over the top the linked page shows several mitigating factors. Still, 4.4% dodge and about 3.25% crit - even with unreliable uptime - is a monstrous buff both to mitigation and threat. I'm guessing all the popular Bears will be wearing this the day the patch launches. After all, it's only 20 badges!

While this is less an actual fix to general itemization, it sure does take some of the sting out of it. This is a good idol that still uses the design conceit of 1-2 narrowly focused abilities being buffed.

Next up, for a mere 35 badges, is Slikk's Cloak of Placation. Now the name is bizarre and several jokes have already been made about placating the Bears, but the stats on this are...nice. Very nice, making this an outstanding alternative to the Illhoof cape.

The new cape offers somewhat lower armor and Defense, but adds 7 STA and 25 Dodge rating. While Agility would have been preferrable, this cloak can still stand up as a very fine tanking cloak, especially for those unable to readily access and defeat Illhoof.

According to some, if you don't need the Defense Rating it's even better than Illhoof's.

Next up is the second 35 badge item, the Band of the Swift Paw. Sporting more armor, Strength, Agility, and Stamina than either of the other PvE alternatives (Umberhowl's Collar or Forestheart Bracers), this is a clear upgrade that I'd recommend to any Bear tank. It has 6 less Int than the Forestheart (Oh Noes!) but sports a Yellow socket for added customizability.

Now come the pricey items.

Earlier, I discussed some boot options you could go for should you find you don't need the Def from the HCH boots. Two options were from Kara, and another was a Heroic drop. I don't know about you, but my luck with Heroic drops is pretty spotty. I got my Forestwalker Kilt my first trip to the Mana Tombs, but I haven't been able to score the Heroic Ramparts belt for anything.

Coming up are the Footwraps of Wild Encroachment. These are so far and away better than the Barkchip Boots that it is more appropriate to compare them to the Treads of the Den Mother.

Now, no one can realistically argue that the badge boots are better, but they're FAR easier to obtain and can be socketed to grant more health than the LW alternative, or may be socketed for Defense should a Bear find themselves short. Very nice. If I can make up the Defense elsewhere, I'll be upgrading to these.

Right now, I'm wearing the lovely quested Manimal's Cinch. In Heroic Ramparts, there is the Tree-Mender's Belt. With 2.3, we're getting the Waistguard of the Great Beast.

Setting aside that it's socketable and a clear upgrade in every way from the green item and in many ways to the epic drop, this thing has +Hit on it. Many many times I have lamented the lack of +Hit on my tanking gear. A few unlucky misses at the beginning of a pull coupled wtih dps that won't wait or feels that it's somehow your fault you can't hold aggro when they're the only ones hitting something and you immediately start wondering if you can swap in some Cat gear instead of mitigation gear.

Never fear, 60 Badges of Justice will get you what you need! It isn't a lot, but it's something and I'm taking it.

Finally, there is one rather questionable item. The Vestments of Hibernation. Obviously a dps piece, it may tempt people with its high armor to think that it is a viable tanking piece. I'd advise against that line of thinking. If you're well geared enough to not need the stamina a real tanking chest would provide, then you likely don't need the armor or other stats from this item either. Still, I can see there may be setups where it becomes viable to use this, and lets face it...sometimes you just want out of your last few blues.

On the plus side, this can make a very nice chest piece for Cat to Bear work. That isn't common but it does happen and it's nice to be geared for the eventuality should you find that's something you encounter with any frequency.

Sadly, this is one slot where I almost have to advise you to hit the Arenas to find an upgrade from HCH if you haven't managed to get the T4 alternative or, like me, don't stand a good chance of doing so in the forseeable future.

But lets suppose I manage to upgrade my belt and bracers as noted above. Gemming the way I do (all Solid Stars) this nets me +46 Stamina. Switching to the Vestments, I actually gain 1 Stam over what I have now. Hmmm...

While I don't like dumping Stamina gained, I sport a large health pool as it is, and the added mitigation and threat from this item...is tempting. Maybe it's a tanking chest after all...

I can make up the lost Def with enchantments for my head and shoulder slots.

If, however, I decide to swap out my boots instead while using the Defense enchants, I gain significanly in mitigation and lose a mere 2 Stamina. I'll have to sit down and do some math on which option is better.

One thing I've learned is that sometimes, making a sacrifice of Stamina is required for a nice upgrade in other areas. That said, give yourself a benchmark to operate from, a minimum you won't fall below while gearing and go from there. For me, that's 14k Health in Dire Bear while only self-buffed.

However, it looks like one way or another unless I grab a piece of PvP gear, I'll be stuck with at least one piece of HCH for some time to come. Now to farm up 285 badges...and that doesn't even count the dps gear I want.

Hmmm...this blog isn't running the way I wanted it to. I'll tell a story next time...or something.