Monday, December 8, 2014

Leveling Using a Tank Spec

After much deliberation on which toons to level to 100 and focus on for WoD I finally narrowed my options down to the four I was most interested in: two druids to cover all four specs (obviously I love druids), a rogue, and a monk.  My main druid is feral/guardian and an engineer, my favorite class, specs and profession.  My second druid is a leather worker which is handy since all my favorite toons wear leather.  My rogue is an enchanter/tailor so I can enchant, make bags, and unlock lock boxes.  Finally, my monk (previously also an engineer) has taken up alchemy to keep me stocked up with flasks for raiding, and just happens to not have a DPS spec.

At the end of the last expansion I was itching for another heirloom off of Garrosh, so I dropped my monk's DPS spec for a tanking spec so I could be guaranteed a drop by bringing a different toon, and be able to fill my normal role.  As it turns out everyone had similar ideas that last raid before the expansion and we never made it to Garrosh, but I got some gear and had fun playing a monk tank for the first time at what was then the max level.  Before that I've only tanked on a monk alt which has only made it to level 55.

So long story short when I wandered over to the dark portal to start leveling up, it slipped my mind that I had dropped my DPS spec.  I was going to hearth back and address that when it was brought to my attention that tanking damage has been changed and I probably didn't need to have a DPS spec.  A combination of curiosity and laziness compelled me to give it a shot, and I am glad I did.

Leveling using a tank spec is actually more efficient than using a DPS spec, at least in case of a monk vs a rogue, but I suspect this is also true for other classes.  I think a large contributing factor is that this is an alt swimming in rested experience, and a large advantage of being a tank is steamrolling large groups of mobs.  On my rogue I have to be much more careful about which mobs I pull and how many I can juggle at a time, but as a tank I just grab everything I can see, pummel it into the ground, and then see which quest objectives I missed.  More times than not for a gather X items or kill X mobs quest I finish it on the first try and then some.  It doesn't really tank any more time to AOE down a few more mobs, and they just add up to more experience.

So there is a caveat, leveling using a tank spec requires a change in tactics to play to your strengths.  AOEing large groups is possible which allows some multitasking completing multiple quests in the same area, but when single target DPS is required, for rare mobs for example, your DPS will be noticeably lower than a DPS spec and killing that rare will cancel out some of those time savings elsewhere.  Despite being a little slower, I've also noticed that I can take out rares and elites of a higher level as a tank; there isn't an enrage timer on them so slow and steady does indeed finish first.

I am enjoying my tank/healer dual spec and how that balances with the rest of my four toons.  I've got two tanks, two healers, two melee DPS and one ranged DPS.  There just isn't time to play every class/spec, but I'm already eying my hunter and death knight.  I'm toying with the idea of putting a little time in on the Horde side this expansion and coincidentally created a Horde hunter and death knight right at the end of Mists.  First things first, have to get geared for raid content.

Friday, November 7, 2014

This Default UI Add-On Is Pretty Cool

One side effect of cutting back my playtime is that the little administrative things that aren't as fun, like updating and maintaining add-ons, fall by the wayside.  The other boring task that I avoid best I can is keeping my inventory organized, but this is easily solved by vendoring stuff.  So when the version 6 patch dropped an ally my add-ons were hopelessly broken, instead of just eeking along through minor patches, I took the opportunity to delete my add-ons folder and take a look at the default UI which I had not looked at in literally years; it's come a long way.

My first revelation came shortly after starting a new hunter, since the best way to start anew is to start with a new character without any preconceptions or bias as to where things should be.  I started questing with the default map and quest log and it was a better, more immersive, experience than with Carbonite, that bloated add-on that had replaced half of my UI for the better part of four years.  I do miss the Googlesque map that I could zoom in and out and click and drag, but the default map is easy to navigate and my character actually pulls out a map when I am looking at it.  I have also been playing SWtoR a bit in the lull before the expansion and was pleased to notice that the map window fades while walking so it is possible to see where you are going while referencing the map.

Next I did a little experimentation with moving the unit frames around, trying to get all the information I needed in combat more centrally located.  At this point I was back on my main, a feral/guardian druid.  I tried moving my unit frames to the bottom center, eventually gave up and it was time to bring in the add-ons.  In combat I like to be aware of my health, whatever resources I need to use my abilities and a few static buff/debuff icons so that I don't have to search through rows of icons all over.  I installed IceHUD, which I had used in the past for a death knight since the rune display was very helpful; that got me my health and resource bars, as well as combo points for my druid which previously required another add-on.  Then I installed TellMeWhen since my add-on of choice, Auracle, hadn't been updated.  After watching a YouTube video on how to set it up I muddle through the UI and had everything I needed to start raiding, except raid frames.

Raid frames were my second revelation; I have been using Pitbull since I learned what an add-on was.  I had not seen the default unit frames, no less the default raid frames, for more than a few seconds updating add-ons after a patch.  I went through the raid frame configuration tab and was impressed by all sorts of things when I started raiding with them.  They show a nice glow for shields/absorbs, they show you who is getting rezzed, when someone sets up main tanks they show up in their own little group.  Best of all, I didn't have to spend hours fretting over lining everything up perfectly and not overlapping anything.

It is still a work in progress, but I have updated the Add-Ons I Use page to where I am currently at, and will continue to update that as I finalize my add-on collection once again.  Right now I am running with a mere 9 add-ons, which hasn't been true for at least 5 years; it is nice to see more of the UI as Blizzard intended.

The biggest shortcoming of the default UI is the lack of a customizable centralized informational display catered to a specific class/role/spec.  I don't want to look at half a dozen places on the edges of the screen to figure out which ability to use next, I want to keep focused on whatever I am chewing on in the center of the screen and leave spatial awareness up to my peripheral vision.  They already sort of started on this path by adding some basic power aura type graphics for procs, now they just need something like IceHUD and NeedToKnow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ok, I'm Level 90, Now What?

After hitting level 90, and looking to get geared up to raid, it became painfully obvious that grinding reputation with various factions via daily quests wasn't viable.  Reputation grids take weeks of doing dailies, as the name suggests, every day.  I for one don't have the time or ambition to log in each and every day to kill X of this, and click on Y of that.  I do see myself working toward honored with the Golden Lotus faction for my leather working patterns, but other than that I'm not sure I will ever seriously pursue dailies/reputation on any sort of a regular basis.

So after poo-pooing dailies I took a moment to ponder what my actual goal was, to acquire gear that would support raiding in as short a playtime as possible.  Obviously a spreadsheet was in order; a means to locate and exploit the lowest hanging fruit.

As an aside it is also helpful to have an accounting professor in the guild to point out the best low hanging fruit.  That being the 450 quest reward weapon from the Arena of Annihilation scenario, the epic boots from the Sha of Anger world boss quest and of course holiday rewards from Brewfest and Hallow's End.  The first two I probably wouldn't have noticed right away on my own and boy did they help.

Back to the spreadsheet I made while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  I first came up with a list of all the possible heroic drops and reputation rewards for honored or lower (revered is just too much of a commitment) and went through for each slot listing the possible upgrades.  I then took the list of upgrades and grouped them based on dungeon and faction instead of slot.

Now I needed a way to prioritize which dungeons/factions were worth hitting first.  Item level was of course the answer.  If I take the item level of the upgrade minus the item level of what I've got equipped I can easily weight which dungeons/factions have the most to offer.  The one problem with that is that item level is weighted differently for different slots.

After a quick Google search I got a rough idea of how item levels compare for different slots.  Head, chest, legs and two handed weapons are all weighted at 100% of their item level, shoulders, gloves, belts and boots are all weighted at 75% of their item level, bracers, necklaces, cloaks and rings are all weighted at 56.25% of their item level, and trinkets seem to be the topic of some debate at 68% of their item level.  Lucky I'm a feral druid and don't have to worry about one-handed weapons or off-hands which also seem to be a bit of a mystery.

So after figuring out what each dungeon/faction had to offer in terms of item level increases I had an ordered list of what I should spend my time doing in game when I got a chance.  It turned out Sholomance offered more opportunity for upgrades than anything else so of course I ran that first chance I got.  After deleting the items that were no longer upgrades the weights changed a little and I ran the next dungeon and so on ans so forth.

As it turns out I'm not gaining valor quickly enough to make faction rewards much of a possibility at all, so reputation grinding is really a non-issue.  Something to work on when I don't feel like queuing as a tank and have time to kill while waiting.  I got Klaxxi to honored pretty easily in the dungeon queue thanks to it not being gated by dailies.  As a result I qualify for a neck upgrade I can't yet afford.  By the time I can afford it I might have already gotten a better drop from a raid.  I'm comforted by the thought that dailies are completely optional and I won't need to grind for hours just to gather raid gear.

I've so far reached an item level of 455 out of the 460 I need to queue for LFR and have access to even better rewards for my time.  With any luck a few more priority selected heroics will get me there more quickly than queuing blindly for random heroics.  Eventually the valor points from random heroics and reputation rewards will be a bigger draw, but I am planning on focusing more on having fun by that point and not trying to maximize playtime at the expense of ignoring my new monk.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Of Warcraft and Wooing

Yesterday marked a first for me, the first time I got online to play with others while my girlfriend was around.  I suppose this remark warrants a little back story.  We started dating early March and as our relationship progressed I naturally spent more time with her and less time online playing what was 4-5+ month old content at that point.  Signs outs become more frequent on my part and I more or less dropped off the face of Azeroth around the time my raid group downed Deathwing for the first time.

Without getting into the details of what has quickly blossomed into a very serious love filled relationship, I will touch on a recent event which relates to the topic.  At the end of last month my girlfriend moved in with me and over the course of a couple weeks we'd rearranged furniture and integrated all our worldly possessions into what has now become our home.  It was quiet an achievement to get to a point where we could enjoy an evening of leisure rather than plan which of a dozen projects we would tackle before getting to bed and going to work the next morning.  There is still a lot to do, but our living spaces are more or less in order and both cars are in the garage for winter.

The move coincided almost perfectly with the new expansion, and for the first week I hardly even had time to think about logging in.  My girlfriend does spend a fair bit of time traveling and as a result I got a few evenings in last week to start leveling up and preparing to raid.  We've talked quite a bit about my eventually setting aside an evening each week, and she has been very supportive, but it wasn't something I was interested in until the expansion was out.  Just spending time with the woman of my dreams was, and still is, far more appealing than time spent on the computer playing Warcraft.

The difference now is that we live together and have organized our home in such a way that our office, and by extension my computer, is more centrally located, rather than tucked away in an upstairs bedroom.  This confluence of planning and circumstance is what has allowed me to partake in the guilty pleasure that is Warcraft.  I say guilty pleasure because it  is, I can't help but to feel that I've done something wrong when sitting down to play computer games while my girlfriend is doing dishes.  Before anyone agrees too readily to that statement let me mention that it is just as likely to be me doing the dishes while she is otherwise occupied.  We are quite proficient at splitting up the housework.

Despite dropping my girlfriend off at the airport before the butt crack of dawn this morning, and my desire to get 25 more bars of experience before Brewfest ends, I will still be cleaning the bathroom first thing after work in preparation for company next week.  One beautiful thing about love is that even the most menial tasks, when done for love, can be as enjoyable and as fulfilling (if not more so) than any recreational activity.

I'm still tickled that my girlfriend brought me dinner while I was running dungeons with my guildies.  The evening went remarkably well with one notable exception that I wasn't able to pay as much attention to the voice chat over mumble as I would have liked.  It probably came off as a little rude on my part.  Working Warcraft back into my routine is a work in progress and I'm sure it will become easier over time to give my guildies the attention they deserve while at the same time not feeling like I'm ignoring the one I hold dear.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Digs

After writing The Bear Flank from behind a handful of pseudonyms over the course of the past few years, I decided it was time to just be me; and me I shall be.  I've learned a lot of what a blog means to me and what I liked about what I posted and what I didn't.  I grabbed this name, Aspect of the Fox, on a whim a while back (before there was even such a thing introduced to Warcraft), but I never got around to using it as one blog was more than enough to keep my literary needs in check (I like to write, or type as it were).

So I had planned to grab all the stuff I liked from the old blog and paste it to the new, namely some reference materials and links I had posted, but it got clobbered when I deleted the old admin email I wasn't going to use anymore.  I had added a second admin before I did it of course, but apparently there is a bug somewhere in the blogger back-end foiling my plans.  I posted for help on Google's support group and maybe they can help, but in the meantime I'll plan on there being some busy work in my future reinventing the wheel so to speak.

So as for what to expect content wise, Warcraft stuff mostly.  Probably not much, if any, hunter love despite the name.  Likely some ranting about LFR.  Definitely some druid information as my feral druid remains my main character.  Basically whatever happens to be on my mind.  That and a plethora of reference information pertaining to macros and add-ons.

Stay tuned.