Lightning Shield for Elemental in Next Beta Build and Cataclysm Collectors Edition Revealed.

August 18, 2010 2 comments

Elemental Changes in the Next Build.

In light of the shaman Q&A after the last beta build, a blue poster has confirmed that in the next push, elemental shaman will be using Lightning Shield in preference to Water Shield.

While the precise changes being made to the shield haven’t been confirmed, the blue poster is quoted as stating it will provide a damage increase in some capacity.

In addition to the shield changes, it’s also been stated that elemental shaman will be utilising Earthquake rather than Fire Nova in AoE situations. Once again, the specifics of this haven’t been detailed.

The full quote can be seen below:-

In the next beta build (or the one after that), you will see two important changes to Elemental shaman. First, you will use Lightning Shield (for damage!) instead of Water Shield. Second, you will want to use Earthquake for AE over Fire Nova. These changes, especially the former, will provide Elemental shaman with a bit of an upgrade in the rotation over what you’re used to in LK.

I don’t want to oversell it, because players have a tendency to imagine herds of glittering ponies when left to their own imaginations, but it should be a fun change

Firstly, it will be great to finally use a shield more specifically tailored to the elemental tree. The mana regeneration of Water Shield has been nice but wouldn’t we all prefer a damage increasing shield? On the other hand, this may mean we are pressed towards taking mana regeneration talents that have been mostly skipped over in possible Cataclysm talent builds. If Fire Nova is indeed made unattractive to us however (or sub-part to Earthquake at least), there is perhaps the potential to ignore the Improved Fire Nova talent. This is pure speculation however and it has yet to be seen how a talented Fire Nova will compare to Earthquake after these changes go live.

Cataclysm Collector’s Edition Revealed

Full details for the Collector’s Edition version of Cataclysm were released yesterday. The full press release reads as follows:-

IRVINE, Calif., Aug 17, 2010 — Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced plans for a limited-release Collector’s Edition of World of Warcraft(R): Cataclysm(TM), the third expansion for the world’s most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game,* World of Warcraft. The special Collector’s Edition package, which will only be available at retail stores, will include the following exclusive bonus items in addition to the game disc:

– Art of the Cataclysm art book, featuring 176 pages of never-before-seen images from the archives of the Blizzard Entertainment cinematics department and the World of Warcraft development team, as well as progressive visuals from multiple stages of development.

– Exclusive in-game pet: he may not be a breaker of worlds just yet, but Lil’ Deathwing will still proudly accompany heroes on their struggle to save Azeroth from his much, much larger counterpart.

– Behind-the-scenes DVD with over an hour of developer interviews and commentaries, as well as a special Warcraft(R) retrospective examining the rich gaming history of the Warcraft universe.

– Soundtrack featuring 10 epic new tracks from Cataclysm, including exclusive bonus tracks.

– Special-edition mouse pad depicting Deathwing menacing the ravaged continents of Azeroth.

– World of Warcraft Trading Card Game cards, including a 60-card starter deck from the Wrathgate series, two extended-art cards, and two Collector’s Edition-exclusive hero cards, marking the first appearance of goblin and worgen heroes in the TCG.

The first two World of Warcraft expansions, The Burning Crusade(R) and Wrath of the Lich King(R), each shattered PC game sales records upon their release. In Cataclysm, the face of Azeroth will be forever altered by the return of the corrupted Dragon Aspect Deathwing. Players will explore once-familiar areas of the world that have now been reshaped by the devastation and filled with new adventures. In an effort to survive the planet-shattering cataclysm, two new playable races — worgen and goblins — will join the struggle between the Alliance and the Horde. As players journey to the new level cap of 85, they’ll discover newly revealed locations, acquire new levels of power, and come face to face with Deathwing in a battle to determine the fate of the world.

The beta test for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is currently underway. To set up a Battle.net account and sign up for a chance to participate, please visit the official Battle.net website at http://www.battle.net.

The World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Collector’s Edition will be available on DVD-ROM for Windows(R) XP/Windows Vista(R)/Windows(R) 7 and Macintosh(R) at a suggested retail price of $79.99. The release date and other details for the game will be announced in the months ahead. For more information on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, please visit the official website at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/cataclysm

The mini Deathwing confirmed as the exclusive Collector’s Edition pet can be seen below:-

World of Warcraft TCG cards have been featured in the Collector’s Editions before and are a good marketing ploy given the relaunch of the game after the licensing changes seen in early 2010. The inclusion of a mouse mat is new however. An interesting point gleaned from the press release reads as follows:-

The special Collector’s Edition package, which will only be available at retail stores

This has caused speculation amongst the community that online retailers will not be distributing the Collector’s Edition this time. Conversely however, Amazon are already listing it for preorder.

There’s still no word, hint or rumours about possible release dates, though the press release states we’ll here more about that in “coming months”. It is still set for a 2010 release though.

Most of the remaining news has revolved around the guild levelling system being introduced with the expansion launch. I’m intending on dedicating an entire article to these changes over the course of the next week.

Categories: Cataclysm

Shaman Class Changes and Q&A with Ghostcrawler

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

A new beta build was applied to the test servers over the weekend. In addition to changes for all three shaman specs, there has been a Q&A panel with Ghostcrawler.

The spec changes in the new build are as follows:-

Elemental Changes

  • Magma Totem now costs 18% of base mana, down from 27%
  • Lava Burst damage has been increased by 25%

Restoration Changes

  • Totem of Tranquil Mind *New* – Summons a Totem of Tranquil Mind with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 5 minutes, causing party or raid members within 30 yards to lose 0% less casting or channeling time when damaged. (Value not yet implemented.)

Enhancement Changes

  • Maelstrom Weapon now also reduces the mana cost of the spell.

Shaman Q&A

When will elemental not have to run into melee to do aoe?

When you’re casting Earthquake?

Are resto shaman now the only healer being forced to spec into a hit talent to supplement their active mana recovery ability? Paladins now apparently get the hit that was in enlightened judgements for free?

Our goal was to not have all of the healer talent trees to be mirror images of each other. So a priest might get one thing for free and have to talent into something else. As long as the end result is pretty similar (e.g. the priest can’t get everything for free and just be able to spend talent points on candy) then it should be fine.

Personally, I’d like to know the rationale behind the fact that the Elemental Shamans did not recieve any spells that alter their rotation on ‘primary’ targets. Their level 10 effect was something halfway between a mana restore, an AoE, and a pvp gimmick. Our capstone of the talent tree is an AoE. I can’t think of any other dps spec that doesn’t get something ‘unique’ that changes their rotation from the other specs.

That’s just part of the shaman design though, namely that Enhancement still cares a lot about spells instead of being a 100% melee weapon class. I’d argue that Enhance and Elemental still play fairly differently (such that you do have to adjust when respeccing). I’m not sure the mage design, where there is virtually no overlap among talent trees, is a superior model. It’s just a different model.

Mana – I’ve heard mana has recently begun to be an issue for Enhancement in the last few beta builds. Will the ultimate solution just be to tweak Primal Wisdom s’more? Oh, and what about all that discussion about moving Primal Wisdom to being part of Enhancement’s lvl 10 skillset? It’s going to be hellish on new Enhancers not having their primary mana restoration technique until much later. Also on the table here, and I’m sorry it touches on totems again – a full set of totems or an AoE rotation kills Enhancement’s mana very very quickly. It’d be nice if the mana cost got reduced on some of these abilities.

It’s not the intent that Enhancement has to worry about mana a lot. Generally you should have enough mana to do what you want to do. It’s a model we’re still adjusting. We haven’t quite established a base regen for the casters and healers that we’re happy with and every time we tweak that, it affects the Ret paladins and Enhancement shaman, who aren’t really supposed to be mana-constrained.

This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Tier 1 of Enhance is one of the bigger culprits. While tier 2 has one talent that’s really attractive (nigh on required for Elemental and Enhance), tier 1 is pretty bland. People would prefer to skip over Imp Shields, and Elemental Weapons is a flat spell power buff that scales with level rather than gear.

The model we’re trying to use for all the classes is that you can’t just soak up no-brainer talents in the first few tiers. Often there is a dps talent, and then a survival talent and then maybe an efficiency talent. You definitely get the first one, but you often need to get one of the others to progress down. This is what we mean about not being able to cherry pick just throughput-oriented talents and skipping everything else that is utility, etc. It’s an evolving process though. I’m not sure I could point to a class yet and say “There. We nailed it.”

Also, Enhance has 9 “required” points in Elemental – would be 10 if it weren’t for Ancestral Swiftness – on top of their own tree being filled up, which highly limits their utility options (well, to be more specific, limits them to 0). Even if an additional point or two were freed up, they may feel obligated to spend those to grab the third point in Acuity (which I don’t like as 3 points to start with – it creates a ‘floater’ point in Elemental specs rather than getting us stuck around tier 4 needing to pick a full utility talent, which I think is a good thing. But I digress), or Improved Shields, even though all three are fairly marginal DPS gains.

Yup. This is a challenge. As I mentioned above, Enhancement likes spell damage so it’s hard to put anything in Elemental that Elemental wants that Enhancement also doesn’t want.

Lightning and Water shield do not seem that useful for Elemental in many ways.

Agreed. This is something we’re discussing. A new shield doesn’t have to be the answer though.

Nature’s Blessing doesn’t feel like a bonus when healing earth shielded targets, it feels like a penalty when healing targets without it. If the intent is to make shamans better tank healers, perhaps make it work in some other way. Perhaps change it to Earthliving or Riptide instead of Earth Shield?

This is the kind of feedback we struggle with a lot on most classes. As soon as something grants a bonus, it feels like a penalty when it’s not up because players are very efficiency-focused. If it was say Riptide, wouldn’t it feel like a penalty whenever Riptide wasn’t available? Or a penalty because every heal cost that extra GCD for Riptide in order to behave at maximum efficiency?

Honestly GC when our dps is competitive with the other hybrid specs you barely ever see us whine. We just really want to be as good as others. It’s when it isn’t that we come out in masses to whine about everything. Since our totems are our thing they are what is an easy target for our QQ. I guarantee you that if we do competitive DPS and never fall behind the endless Shaman crying will be puddles instead of rivers.

I agree with that. I think a lot of the complaints about “we’re the only class” or “are buffs aren’t awesome enough” only come to bear when dps is low. As I said recently, we think Enhancement dps was competitive when there wasn’t a lot of movement involved and when you weren’t competing with guys using orange weapons. We can fix the movement problem. We don’t think we need to fix the legendary “problem” because those Shadowmournes will all be banked at level 85.

I honestly don’t see how healing rains AND chain heal are needed. Both are AoE heals fill the same role (heal people grouped together).

They are different spells with different niches. Chain Heal excels when you have a small number of players injured and Healing Rain is more for those big bursts when everyone takes damage. There are enough occasions when you need to heal say more than just the tank that we think healers can stand to have several different strategies to deal with it.

Any chance that the stoneclaw glyph can become baseline or something? I’m mostly fine with the totem utility vs. buff thing, but it seems fairly weird to have this non-scaling bubble as a secondary effect of a totem. If it can’t be baseline, is it being compensated for? Hance isn’t exactly a survivability powerhouse.

We are changing a lot of glyphs. It’s too early to know which ones we are keeping. If this one dies then we might consider putting in the functionality elsewhere<

At this point tho, after getting the current tier hit/spirit cap, I’m pretty much forced to handpick items with no or little crit rating however. Mastery and haste just seem so overwhelmingly better.

That’s not the intent. Hit / spirit can be capped, but if you start viewing haste, crit or mastery as junk compared to another stat, then we need to change something. It’s fine if one stat is slightly better than another. Remember that crit values overall are going to be far lower than the 70%+ that some players can reach in current content. Lava Burst crits, sure, but you cast a lot of spells besides Lava Burst.

Whether it will continue to attack stuff we are not in combat with (especially if it’s range is increased).

This is something we are trying to fix. We already have the totem choosing your target. Next we need to make sure it doesn’t “helpfully” grab additional mobs.

Commentary

The increase on the damage of Lava Burst is, obviously, great news for elemental players and it’s nice to see a mana cost reduction on Magma Totem given that heavy AoE situations tend to be a severe drain on our mana pools.

The addition of the new restoration totem, Totem of the Tranquil Mind is interesting and adds more utility to the spec in keeping with Blizzard’s aim to spread buffs more widely (and you can think of this like Concentration Aura.)

From the Q&A section, Blizzard clearly believe that the implementation of Earthquake will help a great deal with the movement issues facing elemental players. There’s no mention there of their original idea to allow us to “throw” our totems into the thick of the action rather than having them drop at our feet. I’m hoping this idea will still be pursued before Cataclysm’s release as it would be a huge improvement to how elemental plays.

The issue of neither Water Shield nor Lightning Shield being specifically aimed at the elemental tree was mentioned. I’ve seen numerous suggestions on other forums calling for some kind of “fire shield” to be added, allowing us to benefit from an increase in fire damage for a short period of time. Evidently the developers are at least acknowledging the lack of elemental shield for our tree but whether they choose to tweak the mechanics of a current shield to benefit us more as opposed to designing a new buff entirely has yet to be seen.

The final question, though it isn’t apparent when quoted in such a fashion, refers to the changes to Searing Totem whereby it is more likely to choose a target that you have already applied Flame Shock to. It’s comforting to see that they haven’t finished working on the totem AI yet (and perhaps this also indicates that we will see changes to how we placed these totems.)

There has a been a lot of more generalised Cataclysm news over the past week ranging from clarification of the rewards earned from guild advancement to UI tweaks and crafted items from various professions (including details of the engineering only “cogwheels”.) I’m going to aim to do a couple of blog updates this week to catch up with these changes and I’ll also update the Cataclysm F.A.Q section as I go along. For now, enjoy the shaman changes!

Categories: Cataclysm

New Beta Build Brings Shaman Changes Across the Board (In Addition to Stealth Changes)

August 5, 2010 7 comments

A patch released to the beta yesterday delivered both a new launcher and more class changes all around. After the lack of shaman changes in the last build, all three specs have received some tweaking.

In addition to the detailed changes, there appear to have been some stealth changes that have been pushed out without mention. These didn’t occur yesterday (yes, I’m slow on the news, my apologies), but they are quite significant.

Elemental Changes

The official elemental changes are as follows:-

  • Hex now lasts 1 minute, up from 30 seconds.
  • Searing Totem now prefer to target enemies that are afflicted by your Flame Shock or Stormstrike effects.
  • Reverberation is now a Tier 2 talent. Down from Tier 3.
  • Improved Fire Nova is now a Tier 3 talent. Up from Tier 2.
  • Elemental Warding now reduces magical damage instead of all damage.
  • Ancestral Knowledge is now named Acuity and increases your critical strike chance with all spells and attacks by 1/2/3%.
  • Convection now reduces the mana cost of your damaging offensive spells.

In addition to the above official changes, it’s also worth mentioning that Lava Burst is no longer affected by the cast time reduction of Eye of the Storm. On live, Lightning Mastery reduces the cast time of all three of our offensive spells. It’s tooltip (for maximum rank) reads:-

  • Reduces the cast time of your Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning and Lava Burst spells by 0.5 seconds

Lightning Mastery was removed when the thirty one point talent trees were released. Eye of the Storm was made a primary skill as opposed to a talent and had the cast time reduction component from Lightning Mastery incorporated into it.

Without the cast time reduction, Lava Burst’s effective cast time has risen from 1.5 seconds to 2 seconds. In addition, it has seen a small increase in it’s base damage.

Update:- I’ve finally patched the new launcher and this change no longer seems to be on the beta build. Eye of the Storm lists Lava Burst in it’s tooltip and it’s cast time reduction appears to be applying.

Enhancement

The enhancement changes are as follows:-

  • Heroism’s “Exhausted” debuff now also affects Time Warp (Mage)
  • Static Shock now procs from Primal Strike, Stormstrike, or Lava Lash (as opposed to all melee attacks and abilities). Chance to proc increased from 2/4/6% to 15/30/45%.
  • Totemic Reach – New Talent – Increases the radius of your totems’ effects by 15/30%.

Restoration Changes

The restoration changes read as follows:-

  • Totemic Focus is now a two ranks talent, down from three ranks. Now also increases the duration of your totems by 20/40%.
  • Cleansing Waters – New Talent – When your Cleanse Spirit successfully removes a harmful effect, you also heal the target for [ 1093 to 1164 ]/[ 2187 to 2330 ].

Thoughts on the Changes

As always, you can see the current talent trees via the calculator at MMO Champion. For your convenience, here is the direct link to the shaman tree.

Ancestral Knowledge has been removed and replaced with Acuity. Ancestral Knowledge provided a 10% increase in intellect. In Cataclysm, intellect effects spell power, critical strike chance, mana pool size and potentially, mana regeneration depending on whether or not you choose to take Unrelenting Storm. Acuity increases our critical strike rating. It’s worth noting here that the patch notes state it provides a 1%, 2% and 3% increase while the talent calculator is showing a 5%, 10% and 15% increase. MMO Champion have stated that they’re aware of some tooltips in the talent calculator showing incorrectly and the values of the post are correct.

Critical strike chance awards us with a few possibilities. The most obvious is the chance that our spell hit deals more damage than normal. For an elemental shaman, a critical strike also triggers our Elemental Focus talent, allowing us to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state alone reduces the mana cost of our next two spells by 40%. Finally, when Clearcasting is active, we deal 10% more spell damage due to the Elemental Oath talent.

In addition to the above, our critical strike rating influences the stats of our Searing Totem or Magma Totem at the time of placement. (Note though that this doesn’t apply to our Fire Elemental Totem.)

This all sounds great and indeed it is but there’s a downside to the stat. Critical strike rating always has an RNG factor. It doesn’t provide the static DPS increase that haste or spell power do. A higher critical strike rating increases the statistical chance to receive a crit from an offensive spell but it’s still a chance.

The second problem for an elemental shaman in regards to critical strike rating is Lava Burst. Assuming Lava Burst is cast when Flame Shock is ticking on a target, it’s a guaranteed critical strike anyway, regardless of our personal stats. Having our critical strike rating not influence one of our primary nukes detracts somewhat from it’s value to us.

On live, elemental shaman derive crit from a number of sources in a raid environment. One such source is the enhancement Thundering Strikes talent that is included in most cookie cutter elemental builds. This provides a 5% increase at max rank and is a talent we’re losing in Cataclysm. Call of Thunder, also removed for Cataclysm, increases the critical strike rating of our lightning spells by 5% (again at it’s maximum rank.) It’s possible therefore, that the introduction of Acuity is to make up for some of the talents being removed.

Searing Totem now prefer to target enemies that are afflicted by your Flame Shock or Stormstrike effects.

The AI of offensive totems has been criticized for a long time and it’s undoubtedly frustrating to drop a Searing Totem next to a boss and then watch it hit a completely different target. While this change is welcomed it doesn’t address the range issues of Searing Totem (and the movement problems this can cause elemental shaman) nor is there mention of a fix to the bugs encountered where the totem just sits and does nothing. Hopefully there will be more changes to the Searing Totem mechanic in the future.

Reverberation is now a Tier 2 talent. Down from Tier 3.

This change puts Reverberation in reach for enhancement shaman, particularly if they choose to take the newly added Acuity talent (and note that the increased critical strike from Acuity affects attacks as well as ranged spells.)

Improved Fire Nova is now a Tier 3 talent. Up from Tier 2.

This is purely a positioning switch to allow Reverberation to reside higher up the elemental tree.

Elemental Warding now reduces magical damage instead of all damage.

This is slight modification to Elemental Warding from it’s live incarnation where it simply reduces damage across the board by 6%. It’s slightly sad to see this change made (though in a raid situation if you’re taking melee damage, Elemental Warding probably isn’t going to save you.) I suspect that with the inclusion of Ancestral Resolve in the tier one restoration tree, there was the potential for elemental shaman to have too many damage reducing talents. Spark of Life’s place also on the first tier of restoration could give the further option of a increasing healing spells on us and while it wouldn’t be a talent you’d take in a “general” elemental build, you could stack all the damage reduction talents for specific encounters (for example, having an elemental “caster tank” a boss as Spark of Life is very reminiscent of a Warlock’s Demon Armour.)

Hex now lasts 1 minute. Up from 30 seconds

This is a hefty increase on Hex and while it’s use through PvE in Wrath has been quite none existent (Kel’Thuzad springs to mind as an exception) that may change in Cataclysm. Wrath saw the days of crowd controlling trash as a distant memory and AoEing became king. There has been a great deal of talk of this changing for Cataclysm and Hex may indeed become more vital. (Anyone who raided in Sunwell will remember the importance of using crowd control on that trash at least.)

Convection now Reduces the mana cost of your damaging offensive spells.

On live, Convection reads as follows:-

  • Reduces the mana cost of your shock, Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Lava Burst and Wind Shear spells by 2%

This change basically removes the mana cost reduction of Wind Shear; our interrupting spell.

Heroism’s “Exhausted” debuff now also affects Time Warp (Mage)

This is a highly predictable amendment to address any players questioning whether these two buffs could be used back to back.

Totemic Reach *New* – Increases the radius of your totems’ effects by 15/30%.

Shaman have been asking for a talent to increase the radius of our totems and Blizzard have delivered. Does this talent also increase the range of Searing totem? The inclusion of this talent gives us more interesting choices to make regarding our build. It is possible to take both Totemic Reach and our beloved Ancestral Swiftness (see this build as an example.) However, that does mean sacrificing points elsewhere. I’ve mentioned before that I personally see little compelling reason to take Elemental Reach unless the range of our Searing Totem is increased to match it. (If I have to either stand closer to a boss to keep placing Searing Totem, I see little benefit from having my spells out range this.) If this talent allows a greater distance on Searing Totem however, Elemental Reach becomes more interesting yet the build shown above doesn’t allow for both it and Elemental Warding for example. Taking both Ancestral Swiftness and Totemic Reach would also prevent us dipping into the restoration tree for Ancestral Resolve.

I think with the more interesting talents available to us, we’re going to see more situational specing in Cataclysm. You can focus on the damage reducing talents for new fights or encounters where there is a huge amount of raid damage going around. We could, potentially, take a great many of these and step into the role of “caster tank” if we took all the survival talents (click here for an example.)

Categories: Cataclysm

Cataclysm: The Goblin Starting Experience

August 4, 2010 1 comment

Having been fortunate to receive Cataclysm beta, I’ve been keen to try out the Goblin starter area. Why Goblins you ask? They can be shaman! In addition, the lore behind the race and the artwork and design of their city had intrigued me. As such, this is how I spent a few hours today and I’m going to relay my thoughts here. Be aware, this one will be image heavy and I suggest those of you who don’t like spoilers read no further.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of lore and I’m one of those people that mostly skip quest dialogues in order to just level faster. I’m every developer’s worst nightmare when it comes to “immersing” me in the world simply because it takes a lot to do that. I’ve played many MMOs and I consider myself quite hard to impress when it comes to story lines. When I sat down to play, I told myself firmly that I would be paying attention to the story as it was new and important for the article. I also groaned slightly expecting that in itself to be a battle. (I’m more a whizz round the city and take some pretty pictures kind of girl.) Imagine my surprise then, when a few hours flew past painlessly and I can honestly say that I knew (and enjoyed) the opening story.

Everything I expected of the Goblin starting area was present. There are bombs, there are tinkered cars, there’s a pool party, a bank hiest and general money swinderling. It all begins here…

The City

The design of the city itself is amazing. It truly feels like a seedy coastal town built on an industry of mining Kaja’Cola; the ultimate brain energy drink for the ever ready Goblin (now infused with 100% more ideas.) The city is large and sprawls along the side of an active volcano. A crazy road system staggers throughout the city and as one of the first quests in beta, you receive a car to help navigate your way around.

The vehicle mode interface is stylish and for those wondering what the hotkeys are:-

The car makes questing feel much less tedious. It looks great, it feels immersive and it removes that feeling of being a total noob running from A to B at a snail pace. There is no where you can’t drive (though there are places that are too small to accurately navigate. Be warned, however, the locals soon become infuriated with a lack of respect for pedestrians!

The city itself is split into it’s own distinct areas.

KTC Headquarters houses the class trainers and the first quest NPCs. The mine area is the basis of Kezan’s Kaja’Cola industry. The “downtown” area houses the Kezan bank (and in true Goblin style, this appears to be close to a social hub for the locals.)

In addition there is the ghetto area of Dredge Town, where shady individuals can be found discussing organised crime and where you’re later sent to recover a few debts and Kajaro Field where Goblins gather to gamble on some peculiar sporting activities.

The Quests

While some of the quests are as predictable in mechanic as any starting area (kill x number of mobs, collect y number of items you’ll find on the ground), others are a lot of fun. Vehicle type quests that were initially introduced in Wrath of the Lich King are utilised here but not excessively and certainly not to the point of monotony.

A pool party sees you “entertaining” a crowd full of guests by reacting to their needs with the correct responses. (Somewhat in the style of the beverage making quest of Sholazaar Basin for those who remember it.)

The same basic mechanic of responding to a trigger with the correct response is implemented for the bank heist quests and while it’s very simplistic, it’s still a nice variation from the mundaneness of normal starting area quests.

Interface Changes

While not connected to the Goblin starting experience, there are a couple of interface changes that are worth mentioning. The first time you level, you’ll notice the newly designed congratulatory message in the centre of your screen.

What you’ll then notice later is upon reaching a level where you receive new skills, these are also clearly stated across the screen. This is a nice addition in my opinion. It stops you inadvertently missing new skills and will be particularly useful for new players.

The Story

I’m not going to delve into too much depth here so as not to ruin this for other players but suffice to say, it’s very entertaining. While innocently completing a quest that has you kicking a football into an opposing team’s goal on the Kajaro Playing Field, the ground begins to shake. The quest NPC nervously points out that your winning kick appears to have disturbed the adjacent volcano and lava begins spewing forth.

Nervous citizens of Kezan begin to panic and opportunistic looters start to run riot in the city seizing everything that isn’t nailed down. Finally, the governing Goblin (ironically known as the Trade Prince) begins his personal evacuation plans on the basis that “everyone is going to die”. Ever the sympathetic ruler, he readies his yacht and offers to sell you a place for “one bazillion macaroons” (the Kezan currency.)

In desperation to flee the eruption, the quest stories centre around you trying to earn an escape passage for yourself and your friends.

Goblin Racials

The two Goblin racial abilities are:-

  • Rocket Barrage
  • Rocket Jump

Rocket Barrage reads as follows:-

  • Launches your belt rockets at an enemy, dealing 64 fire damage
  • Instant Cast
  • Two Minute Cooldown
  • Thirty Yard Range

Rocket Jump reads as follows:-

  • Activates your rocket belt to jump forwards
  • Instant Cast
  • Two Minute Cooldown

Totems!

Finally, the Goblin totems. The screenshots I have seen before do not do these models justice. They look amazing in game and have merely fuelled my totem jealousy more, though I have to say having a totem that is taller than you felt very weird.

Summary

Overall, I was very impressed with the Goblin starter experience. It’s humorous and it’s fun. The story line is loyal to the opportunistic and wealth focused nature of the Goblins. The artwork for the city is incredible and the screenshots honestly do not do it justice. Air balloons bark advertisements for Kaja’Cola at every turn and this results in a real feeling of a corrupt city controlled by “The Corporation.”

I will be trying the same process with the Worgen starting area though I think the Goblin experience will take a lot of beating.

Cataclysm: Masteries

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

This is slightly “old” news but the last new beta build reintroduced masteries. Masteries are derived from the mastery rating on your gear (which starts appearing at around level 82 I believe.)

MMO Champion give the following example:-

A level 82 player will get 1 Mastery point for each 93 Mastery Rating he has. This mastery point will increase the mastery bonus differently depending on the class, +1 Mastery Point doesn’t necessarily means a +1% increase to the bonus. (e.g. A Beast Mastery hunter with +2 Mastery gets +4% increased pet damage)

The elemental mastery reads as follows:-

  • Grants a 20% chance for Elemental Overload to occur. Elemental Overload causes a Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, or Lava Burst spell you cast to trigger a second, similar spell on the same target at no additional cost that causes 60% of normal damage and no threat. Chance to trigger increased further by mastery rating.

The Cataclysm Compendium has been updated to incorporate the above information.

Finally, on the subject of editing old articles, the Elemental FAQ also received it’s overhaul yesterday. Feedback is welcome!

Categories: Cataclysm

Elemental Mastery – What, When and How?

August 2, 2010 5 comments

Elemental Mastery is the thirty one point talent found in the elemental tree. It’s also the tree’s only DPS cooldown. With a hefty three minute by default cooldown, how we use Elemental Mastery can be quite critical. Today, we’re looking at precisely that; the most effective use of this significant elemental talent.

What Does Elemental Mastery Do?

In it’s current live form, it’s tool tip reads as follows:-

  • When activated, your next Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell becomes an instant cast spell. In addition, you gain 15% spell haste for 15 sec. Elemental Mastery shares a cooldown with Nature’s Swiftness.

  • Instant Cast
  • Three Minute Cooldown

We can split this down into two distant effects. Firstly, is the instant cast component of Elemental Mastery. The second is the 15% increase in spell haste for the next fifteen seconds.

When considering the instant cast element, we have two options on “spending” this. Firstly, we can use it on our longest cast spell. Secondly, we can use it with Lava Burst’s guaranteed critical strike to enter a Clearcasting state via Elemental Focus.

If we look at the base cast times of our spells, we have the following:-

  • Lightning Bolt – 2.5 Seconds Cast Time
  • Chain Lightning – 2 Second Cast Time
  • Lava Burst – 2 Second Cast Time

The above detail the untalented cast times of our offensive spells. When taking into account our Lightning Mastery talent, we can shave off 0.5 seconds from each cast time:-

  • Lightning Bolt – 2 Second Cast Time
  • Chain Lightning – 1.5 Second Cast Time
  • Lava Burst – 1.5 Second Cast Time

Obviously these times do not account for individual haste but Lightning Bolt will remain the spell with the longest cast time.

The second choice is to utilise the instant cast component on our most potent offensive spell and the one that is guaranteed to trigger Clearcasting:-

  • Lightning Bolt – Base Damage of 768
  • Lava Burst – Base Damage of 1355
  • Chain Lightning – Base Damage of 1042

In addition to it’s highest base damage, Lava Burst not only scales extremely well (it has an 82.14% spell coefficient with Shamanism and a 92.14% coefficient if you’re using the Glyph of Lava) but it is also a guaranteed critical strike if used correctly (that is to say, when Flame Shock is running on the target.) This guaranteed critical strike is what allows us to enter a Clearcasting state via Elemental Focus

Ensuring our longest casting spell is instant provides the greatest benefit to us in terms of DPS. If mana is an issue and you really need Clearcasting active (particularly if your haste is not yet sufficient to drop Chain Lightning from your rotation), then use Lava Burst.

The second effect is the fifteen percent increased spell haste for fifteen seconds. Haste is the third most important stat for us (I’m counting hit rating as the first) and as such, this in itself is a sizeable increase to our DPS. As we gear up however, haste effects have to be more carefully timed to ensure we gain the maximum potential we can from them.

How Haste Effects Our Spells

Haste has several “caps” that dictate it’s value or benefit to us. The first, and the one with which we’re concerned here, is the GCD (global cooldown) cap. This is the point whereby you have sufficient haste to reduce the global cooldown of a specific spell to one second. At this stage, the global cooldown can’t be reduced any further so additional haste will stop benefiting that spell.

This GCD cap varies between spells depending on how much haste is required to reduce their individual cast time to one second. Obviously, the longer the base cast time of a spell, the more haste will be required to reduce this to one second. Chain Lightning and Lava Burst, for example, need just 50% haste to reduce their 1.5 second cast times to 1 second. Lightning Bolt on the other hand requires 100% haste. For most people, it’s easier to quantify this with actual haste values as opposed to percentages. These are:-

  • 3279 Unbuffed Haste
  • 2785 Haste with Wrath of Air and Raid Buffs (for example, Moonkin Aura)
  • 1994 Haste with Wrath of Air, Raid Buffs and Elemental Mastery
  • 1386 Haste with Wrath of Air, Raid Buffs and Heroism or Bloodlust
  • 778 Haste with Wrath of Air, Raid Buffs, Heroism or Bloodlust and Elemental Mastery

The last figure it particularly important. In a raid situation, were you to trigger both Elemental Mastery and Heroism simultaneously, you would only need 778 haste on your character panel to have hit the GCD cap for Lightning Bolt. If you have higher levels of haste than this, you would be wasting a portion of your cooldowns.

It’s critical to also consider item’s with haste effect procs. The best in slot relic for an elemental shaman is Bizuri’s Totem of Shattered Ice. It’s tool tip reads:-

  • The periodic damage from your Flame Shock spell grants 44 haste rating for 30 seconds. Stacks upto 5 times

Even during periods of high movement there is little excuse for not having a Flame Shock running on a boss. As such, this is a quite static 220 haste increase to most elemental players.

For the majority of the time, the haste levels required to hit the GCD cap for Lightning Bolt are unobtainable (remember that would be 2785 haste with your own Wrath of Air and Moonkin Aura.) When you start considering haste based cooldowns and effects however, it becomes clear that triggering them simultaneously can soon reach less beneficial levels of haste.

The conclusion? To avoid wasting a portion of your haste effects, don’t use them simultaneously as this can result in you hitting the normally unobtainable GCD cap for your Lightning Bolt. (Incidentally, this isn’t limited to Elemental Mastery and Heroism. It also applies to the troll racial and to engineers with Hyperspeed Accelerators on their gloves.)

When to Use Elemental Mastery

Based on the above, using Elemental Mastery and Heroism separately is the ideal option. This proves the most problematic on encounters were you pop Heroism immediately. You are torn between wanting Elemental Mastery on cooldown as fast as possible (so it can both be used again as fast as possible and so that you benefit from the two set tier ten bonus – more on this shortly) and not wanting to waste portions of your haste gains due to hitting the GCD cap for Lightning Bolt.

On such encounters there is a third option, stacking your haste buffs for a few seconds to apply a double hasted Flame Shock.

As of patch 3.3.3, Flame Shock was changed to allow it to benefit from haste. Haste effects how fast our Flame Shock ticks occur but not how many occur. That is to say, with higher haste Flame Shock will tick faster and thus have a shorter duration. Flame Shock is not limited by a global cooldown. Due to this, Flame Shock continues to gain benefit from haste when other spells have reached their GCD caps. The obvious downside to this is the need to refresh the shock more frequently (though rest assured the DPS gained from the hasted ticks far outweigh the necessity to refresh more often.)

The elemental tier ten four set bonus goes a distance to combating the problem. The effect reads:-

  • Your Lava Burst causes your Flame Shock effect on the target to deal at least two additional periodic damage ticks before expiring

This tool tip was, in my opinion, never particularly clear. Thanks to the theory crafting over at Elitist Jerks however, the exact mechanic behind this effect soon became clear. The effect always adds the closest number of additional ticks that can fit in a six second duration. Therefore, the more haste you have, the more ticks can occur in that 6 second interval and the more DPS you gain. Due to this not only does Flame Shock itself continue to benefit from haste but the tier ten four set bonus also scales very nicely with it.

On encounters where Heroism is triggered immediately, I will use Elemental Mastery with a few seconds remaining on Heroism’s duration. This elevates my personal haste to much higher levels than I would normally want. During this brief window, I’ll reapply Flame Shock. This is known as double hasting your Flame Shock.

While doing this does provide a DPS increase, it certainly isn’t huge. As such, you’d never want to deliberately save your Elemental Mastery for this reason. However on those few fights where Heroism is used at the start, this tactic can allow you to receive a DPS gain from the Flame Shock whilst also putting Elemental Mastery on cooldown a few seconds earlier than you would if waiting for Heroism’s duration to expire. Using Elemental Mastery as much as possible will greatly outweigh the DPS gained from double hasting your Flame Shock.

Personally, I use the Power Auras addon to numerically display exactly how many seconds are remaining on Heroism. I’ll generally pop Elemental Mastery at around four seconds remaining and then refresh the Flame Shock. Triggering Elemental Mastery with several seconds remaining on your Heroism reduces the effectiveness of the your cooldown as any additional spells you cast during this window of opportunity will be GCD capped. It can take a little practice to get entirely comfortable with the timing for this but it does allow for a small DPS increase.

There are exceptions to most rules and there are some encounters with a specific “burn” phase where saving Elemental Mastery might be beneficial.

Elemental Mastery and Two Part Tier Ten Bonus

The two piece tier ten bonus directly works to reduce that hefty cooldown on Elemental Mastery. It’s tool tip reads:-

  • Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells reduce the remaining cooldown of your Elemental Mastery talent by two seconds

While this sounds good on paper it is, sadly, a little situational. On encounters with a great deal of movement the benefit of this bonus plummets. Simply put, the more we move the less we cast. In addition, due to the priority system of the elemental rotation, Lava Burst remains our priority. It is our “filler” spells that suffer the most from movement fights and sadly, it’s these spells that work to reduce the cooldown of our Elemental Mastery.

How exactly does this two set bonus work? Every Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning spell we cast takes two seconds off the three minute (180 seconds) cooldown of Elemental Mastery.

The two set bonus is worth around 100 to 150 DPS at it’s best but as stated at the beginning, it suffers terribly on high movement fights.

Combining Additional Cooldowns and Effects

While it’s obvious that you should avoid stacking multiple haste effects, periods of high haste are the perfect time to trigger spell power based cooldowns. At it’s most basic level, haste makes us cast faster. When it comes to potion choice, the Potion of Wild Magic offers both a critical strike increase and a spell power increase. It reads as follows:-

  • Use: Increases critical rating by 200 (9.06% @ L70) and spell power by 200 for 15 seconds
  • One minute cooldown

The best way to increase the effectiveness of this potion is to use it during periods of high haste. This means we’ll be casting more of this buffed offensive spells than we would without haste effects.

For this reason, during encounters where you are triggering Heroism from the start, pre-potting with a Wild Magic Potion will offer you the best DPS increase. (Note that it’s vital that you pre-pot to ensure you trigger the cooldown for potions and allow yourself to use a Potion of Speed later in the fight.)

Elemental Mastery and Chain Lightning

Elemental Mastery’s haste increase can cause problems with the GCD cap of some spells. Chain Lightning, for example, only requires 50% haste to be GCD capped. The general rule of thumb I follow for Chain Lightning use (which you can read about in depth here) is that if Chain Lightning’s cast time is shorter than 1 second, I drop it from my rotation. Obviously this means that during Heroism, I’m primarily spamming Lightning Bolt.

Elemental Mastery doesn’t have the the same potency of haste increase offered by Heroism but depending on your personal level of haste, you may find the need to drop Chain Lightning from your rotation while the Elemental Mastery buff is up. In my case, Chain Lightning’s cast time slips to just under 1 second during the increased haste of Elemental Mastery. As such, I only incorporate Chain Lightning into my single target rotation when I have zero haste effects ticking.

Elemental Mastery in Cataclysm

Elemental Mastery has recently received a quite significant boost in a recent beta build. There, it currently reads as follows:-

  • When activated, your next Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell becomes an instant cast spell. In addition, your Fire, Frost, and Nature damage is increased by 15% and you gain 20% spell haste for 15 sec.

  • Instant Cast
  • Three Minute Cooldown

This results in a 5% increase to the spell haste it rewards (20% up from 15%) in addition to a 15% increase in damage to our fire, frost and nature spells.

In addition, the introduction of the new talent, Feedback, will replace the eventual loss of our tier 10 set bonus. Feedback reads as follows:-

  • Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells reduce the remaining cooldown on your Elemental Mastery talent by 1 sec.
  • Three Ranks Available

At it’s maximum rank, that offers a three second reduction off our Elemental Mastery cooldown (a one second increase from the tier ten two set bonus.)

Summary

The general rules for the use of Elemental Mastery are as follows:-

  • Trigger it as early in a fight as you can. This is to both have it’s cooldown running as fast as possible but also to allow any Lightning Bolts or Chain Lightning spells you cast to work at reducing that cooldown further. (Assuming you are using two piece tier ten.)
  • Avoid using it during Heroism or Bloodlust at over 778 personal haste – you’ll waste part of their effects due to the GCD cap of Lightning Bolt
  • If you use Heroism at the start of an encounter, considering double hasting your Flame Shock for an additional DPS increase
  • Equally if you are using Heroism at the start of the fight, pre-pot with a Wild Magic Potion to take advantage of the high haste
  • Never save Elemental Mastery specifically for periods of Heroism to double haste your Flame Shocks. The loss of DPS from delaying it’s use will greatly outweigh the increased DPS from the hasted Flame Shock

Categories: Elemental Mastery

New Cataclysm Build and Zing Does Beta

July 30, 2010 2 comments

There was another beta build pushed out late last night with a plethora of class changes. There were, however, only two Shaman class changes and neither relate to the elemental tree. These are as follows:-

Elemental Mastery and Nature’s Swiftness no longer sharing a cooldown doesn’t impact us as it’s impossible to take both talents.

The new changes have all been accounted for in the MMO Champion Talent Calculator which can, as always, be found here.

Goblin ground mount model images have been shown over at MMO Champion also and while I tend to avoid publishing beta images (purely because I can’t keep up with how fast they appear), these are too cute to ignore.

(Image courtesy of MMO Champion)

The Goblin ground mounts continue to make me more and more envious of the race in general. (Though on the subject of mounts, I did obtain the following a couple of days ago)

In closing, I’ve finally been fortunate enough to obtain Cataclysm beta and having a “hands on” feeling for the class changes is something I’m greatly looking forward to. Hopefully, I’ll be bringing you my thoughts next week on how the elemental spec is shaping up.

Categories: Cataclysm
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