Feb 20, 2008

Alts, Alts Everywhere

Over the last week or so, we've been experimenting with a couple of Horde alts. I've been playing a Tauren shaman and my husband has been running around as a belf hunter. This is my 2nd attempt on shaman, and leveling her up in belf land isn't doing me any favors. While Druids seem to get a trainer in Silvermoon for no apparent reason, I still have to trudge back to Orgimmar and run clear to Thrall before anyone will teach me to throw down flaming sticks. This means I train in bursts, with the last one covering 8 levels worth of abilities.

Right now the biggest issue with leveling a Shaman is that the totems are pretty pointless. I have all these cool, shammy-only things and they're just a waste of mana to cast. I just cast lightning bolts and a fire dmg/dot thing and call it a day. The fun part is playing with my husband, and not really the class/char.

I also find myself kind of feeling bad for Cat, his no named orange furry pet. He's kind of an after thought with me around, although he's getting in on the action more since we set up the pet attack/hunter's mark macro. On the bright side, we basically mow everything down, even the uber level stuff we've accidentally run into. And since I learned to rez, we haven't needed it. ;)

Last night we were talking about the balance between warriors, feral druids, and prot pallies. The end result was I think my husband wants to level up a pally for the expansion in the off-chance they become the uberest tanking class (if they're not already). Obviously this would be a belf pally. So we've been talking about ditching our latest lvl 16 alts and rerolling different classes. He would do a paladin and I would probably create a belf hunter.

The more I play my draenei hunter, the more I wish she was Horde. The Alliance seem nice enough but I think I really prefer Horde. The flow of the areas is familiar and easy to follow. Every FP has an inn for the most part. And the majority of my frends play that faction.

So after thinking about it for a bit, I think I'd like to trade in my shammy for another hunter. But this time I'm gonna make us some real bags, kk? The 4-slotters are killing me!


Jim said...

I'm also in favor of making the switch. I've found the Hunter to be very fun to play. It's strangely satisfying just shooting things with my bow. I totally get why you and Mel like hunters so much. But I know that I'm a tank at heart, and I could never envision a scenario in which I'd switch my main to a Hunter or any other DPS class. The most fun thing about leveling these alts will be playing with you, and also hopefully playing with our RL friends Chris and Mel who've made Horde alts on our server. That being said, leveling any class would be fun, so I'd prefer to level a class that at least has a 1% chance of being my main someday.

Let me expand further on my current thinking about the tanking classes. I'm a Prot Warrior, mainly because for a very long time Prot Warriors were the best (and perhaps only) choice for 25-man main tanking. I view myself as a Main Tank at heart, not necesarily a Warrior at heart. If one of the other tanking classes (Feral Druid, Prot Paladin, Deathknight) ever became the obvious best 25-man main tank class, then I'd want to switch to it. With that in mind, it would be handy to have a level 70 paladin available when WotLK rolls out. I already have a 60 Druid. That way we can play the beta (since we have Blizzcon beta keys), survey the tanking landscape, and pick the best tanking class to level.

I *think* Blizzard's current design philosophy is to make all tank classes equal in capability, but different in play mechanics. I also expect them to tune encounters so that each of the tank classes has fights where they have an advantage. With that in mind, I think our guild should try to have one of each kind of tank for WotLK raid content. Currently, we use 2 prot warriors and 2 feral druids. I think we should use the expansion as an opportunity to change one of those prot warriors to a prot paladin. Deathknights will be added to the mix as well, but we don't know yet how effective they will be as main tanks. I expect that they will make excellent off-tanks like feral druids, and have high dps when not tanking, but that's really speculation at this point.

Clearly both Prot Paladins and Feral Druids are both better 5-man heroic tanks than Prot Warriors, due to mult-target tanking ability. The specialty of Prot Warriors has been 25-man boss tanking in the past, thus why I play them. That may be changing however. Feral Druids are currently limited on how many encounters they can effectively main tank by the Crushing Blow mechanic (they can't shield block to remove crushes). If Blizzard changes that mechanic (which they've said they are looking at), then the balance of power shifts to Feral Druids. Prot Paladins were viable initially in TBC, but were limited by lower stamina and thus lower survivabily compared to Prot Warriors. Recent patches have rectified this situation however, and Prot Paladins now seem to have similar 25-man raid boss mitigation, stamina, and survivability to warriors. They also seem to have similar single-target threat and obviously much better multi-target threat.

One of the last mechanics that mandated the use of Prot Warriors was the boss fear mechanic. In recent TBC patches, Blizzard has made it so that bosses stay on the tank even while they are feared. They've also made Fear Wear available to both factions. Combine that with Tremor Totem, and now Prot Paladins and Feral Druids can tank fear bosses just fine with only a slight disadvantage to warriors. The shield block mechanic remains key in setting warriors apart from feral druids (Illidan Shear, Crushing Blows in general), but Prot Paladins have Shield Block also, and can even do it better since they get more charges than Warriors.

Suffice it to say that I am watching Prot Paladins *very* closely, and constantly evalauting them versus Prot Warriors. The problem is that I don't have a Prot Paladin my my guild, so I have to just watch other guilds from afar and read Prot Tankadin forums and blogs for insight.

I also recognize that Blizzard my re-balance everything when WotLK comes out. If warriors were to get buffed relative to the other tanking classes, then obviously I'd want to remain a Warrior. The tanking balance of power when WotLK comes out is very much a mystery, and I want to keep my options open.

Christopher said...

@Valyre: Having played several shamen myself, understand that I feel your pain. Totemic silliness, as I like to call it, is very much a love it/hate it affair. I've yet to meet anyone who was lukewarm on the aspect of totem management.

The key problem behind this, I believe, is largely rooted in a misconception behind the totems' utility. Fights, for me, used to look like this:
-Pick one target (because shamen have issues with gangs)
-Pick a fight location, usually close to the mob, but not close enough to draw aggro from nearby nasties
-Drop totems
-Rebuff if necessary
-Drink to replenish spent mana because you're now at 20%
-Replace that fire totem that never stays down long enough
-Uh oh, mob's run off, find another single mob close by
-Throw a lightning bolt at said mob...
-But lose it to some rogue that just came out of stealth

Nowadays, I'm much more casual with my totem management. Until I get Totemic Recall, I don't see much point in throwing down totems unless they're immediately useful to me during the fight. In a raid, this would be inexcusable, but out in PvE-land, I find this to be more than acceptable. Under most circumstances, I won't drop any totems, because the mana is better spent elsewhere. And she's twinked to the nines, which helps. =P

Regarding trudging back to Orgrimmar, that's pretty much a dealbreaker in my book. My hesitations with my druid were put to rest when 1) I got Teleport: Moonglade and 2) I discovered, much to my surprise, that Silvermoon has a small patch of grassy field on which a druid trainer grazes! While being a headscratcher, my relief was enough to warrant continuing the class. Without a shaman trainer anywhere near the Eastern Continent, you're severely limited in your options. Sure, you could bind to Orgrimmar or even Shattrath, but who wants that hassle?

The objective of the game -- and by comparison every game, really -- is to have fun. If you derive your fun from playing with Jim and not from your class, you're only getting half as much fun as you theoretically could. Whichever class you choose, I'm sure our little four-man team should be able to utterly demolish just about everything, even the 5-man content. If you rolled a hunter and he rolled a paladin, I could go Feral/Resto and we should be set. DPS and tanking when we need it, healing when we don't.

4-slotters are an insult to your intelligence. I know a priest on your server who makes big bags, shall I send her your way? =)

@Jim: I'll see your wall o' text and raise you two walls o' text! Good analysis on tanking, have you considered a lucrative future in blogging? =D

I think we're in the same boat, mostly. I look across all of my characters, and with a few exceptions, they're all basically shadows of my Holy paladin. Most of them are healers and support. Even with our dual priest combo, Mel ends up priest-tanking and doing the damage while I keep her alive and bubbled. (Side note: this is an excellent way to learn aggro management.) Notable exceptions would be my mage (Frost), my shaman (Enhancement), and my fledgling druid (Feral). None of which, I might humbly note, I do nearly as well as I heal.

"My name is Chris, and I'm a healaholic."

One of my good friends in-game is a Protection paladin, and let me tell you, it's something else. Since my guild does mostly PvE content to the tune of 5-mans and weekend dabbling in Karazhan, he's my go-to when I need a tank for an instance run. They're lacking in stamina and mana efficiency is always an issue, but I've seen him hold a dozen mobs at once -- one of which Mel needed to pull off for a trap, but simply couldn't overcome his threat. As a healer, I notice he takes damage differently from druids and warriors, but it hardly approaches anything resembling unreasonable. Additionally, getting healed replenishes mana -- think of this as a sort of rage mechanism. The more damage the paladin dishes out, the more mobs he can hold, and the more damage he takes, increasing healing needed and mana/rage regeneration. Key differences being that a paladin starts with a full "rage" bar, and once it's spent it takes either spirit (which most sane paladins have little to none of) or more healing to replenish.

As an interesting aside, I've learned that our MT for Karazhan seems to be coming down with a nasty case of raider burnout. This, I'm thinking, will be a good opportunity for my friend to bring his paladin as a tank. That means I sacrifice my off-healer, but he's mentioned to me that he's getting tired of healing Karazhan, so a little change may be in his best interest. I'm willing to lose a superbly well-geared healer, I'd just have to find another one, especially if it's in the best interest of the group.

At the risk of being tired and cliché, do you know if Nihilum uses any Protection paladins for raiding? I know you guys use a Retribution paladin for DPS, which is highly unconventional, perhaps you could make a Protection work? What has your research yielded? I'm interested to see what you've gathered.

Jim said...

I'll be leveling the paladin as Retribution most likely, at least until level 40 or so. For any low-level group activies, you can tank and I can heal if you like. I would think a skilled player could heal a low level instance with any spec.

I did a bit more research on the current state of Protection Paladins. In 25-man raid main tanking, they are perfectly viable and Prot Pallies have successfully main tanked everything in the game, except perhaps Reliquary of Souls phase 2. That being said, it seems that Prot Warriors may in fact still have an advantage in 25-man raid boss main tanking. Apparently Prot Warriors take anywhere from 2% to 5% less damage, and also it seems Prot Warriors slightly surpass Prot Pallies in sustained single-target threat generation at deep end-game (T6). Therefore, it appears that 25-man raid boss main tanking remains the niche where Prot Warriors have the advantage. And that's the part of the game that's most releveant to me personally.

To answer your question, Nihilum does not use a Prot Paladin. It seems to me it's nearly equally viable to run with 2 Prot Warriors plus some Feral Druids, or 1 Prot Warrior and 1 Prot Pally and some Feral Druids. Each set-up has advantages and disadvantages. From a theoretical stand-point, I like the idea of 1 Prot Warrior and 1 Prot Pally. But when you break it down by encounter, there are quite a few where a 2nd Prot Warrior has a slight advantage, due to things like Shield Bash for Spell Interrupts. But again, a Prot Pally can tank all of it nearly as well. The main advantage of Prot Pallies seems to be clearing large trash packs, and also those bosses with large amounts of adds like Morogrim Tidewalker, and also the other things they bring to the table like an extra raid-wide blessing.

I still think I'd like to see my guild go to a better mix of tanks long-term (i.e. next expansion), but it's less advantageous that I thought. And that's especially true for us, since our Ret Pally has an excellent set of tank gear (we give it to him DKP-free as an off-set), and we use him to AoE tank where it's needed. It seems to me it may be best to use either a Ret Pally or a Prot Pally but not both. Some guilds use both and it works fine too.

P.S. - I think more and more guilds are starting to use Ret Pallies. They are really pretty good now. If you have either a Ret or Prot Pally, then every Pally including Holy ones can put a judgement on the boss and the ret or prot keeps it refreshed for the whole fight. That equals quite a bit of mana return and healing for the judgements typically used in this manner. Also, the Ret Pally can buff the Crit chance of the entire raid by 3%. I think it's due to Improved Seal of the Crusader? I can't access the talent calculator from here to confirm, but if that is the talent then some Prot Pallies also will have it. Again, this illustrates that having one or the either brings alot of utility.