Sunday, November 23, 2014

Diaries of a Ganker, Part VII - Gearing Up For WoW

So I'm back in WoW, much to my surprise, and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. The game is like a comfortable pair of slippers, easy to slide back into it and gentle on the soles of the feet. There have been some issues with massive log-in queues, but they seem to have been fixed as of last Saturday. It's very comforting to see some old faces, and to exchange in good-natured banter with team mates, guild mates and the like. My gaming circle has transferred en-masse to the PvP Oceanic server of Gundrak. We left our old guild behind, which was an occasion for a little bit of remorse, given that we have been there since vanilla. Cross-realm grouping allows for us to stay in touch and play with people we left behind however, so it's not goodbye for good.

Tientzo in Shadowmoon Valley.

Season 16 kicks off on December 2nd, and as a PvPer pretty much everything I am doing is geared towards getting ready for the 10-15 week grind for full Conquest gear. It takes about 27,000 points to get full Conquest, which equates to 15 weeks for someone at 1800 cap (1700 in WoD), just over 12 weeks for someone at 2200, and even less for players with higher caps. My approach to this season will be the same as it has usually been for previous seasons - accumulate gear by hitting Conquest caps on a weekly basis via Arenas and Rated BGs, and then push for rating at the end of the season. First things first, however - we all have to first hit the level cap, and that requires questing. Ugh. TESO has inculcated a deep and abiding distaste of questing for me, and I had to say that I wasn't looking forward to grinding to 100 in WoW. I have been pleasantly surprised however - maybe it's just nostalgia, but I am having fun levelling in WoD. Can I just say that levelling in a PvP server is a frenetic free for all in contested zones? The Horde outnumber the Alliance two to one on Gundrak. To make matters worse, the Horde outnumber the Alliance more than two to one on Jubei'Thos, and since these two realms are linked, it has created an overall population imbalance of more than four to one in favour of the Horde. Not that it matters - I actually like being outnumbered, even if it means that I will spend a lot of time corpse running. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I spent a great deal of time being a ganker on Illidan, where the Horde outnumbered the Alliance a ridiculous 35-1. It's a little different on Gundrak, given that I chosen to main my monk this season. No stealth, Vanishes or Shadowmelds this time around - instead I have to be aware of my environment, group up when necessary, use the monk's amazing mobility to get out of trouble, or be flexible about where I can level if things get too hot in a given zone. I never read quest text in the best of times, but OMG turning in becomes Mission Impossible unto itself if there are Horde about. Killing quest mobs sometimes becomes a frantic case of darting in, getting the mob down ASAP, and then getting the hell out of there. It certainly keeps me on my toes, and I'm quite happy to relinquish a degree of control over my levelling experience to have this sense of constant danger around me. Sometimes there are periods of uneasy peace, where a bunch of Horde and Alliance stand nervously around a quest giver, but all it takes is one hawk on either side to start attacking, and the whole thing devolves into a massive brawl. There are more unspoken truces in one on one encounters - players circle around each other warily and go on about their business - but as soon as numbers begin to pile up in any given location, the odds of a peaceful resolution drop dramatically. You can inadvertently hit someone with an AoE spell while hitting mobs (I've done it a few times with Chi Wave), and this can constitute the provocation which sets off the ensuing bloodbath. "You dare poke me with your Chi Wave? I'll eat your heart, Alliance scum!"

The real meat of the season occurs when our team start actually pushing for rating. Everything else is just practice. Traditionally pushing for rating comes in two flavours. You can either push at the beginning of the season, and sit on your rating for the remainder. The pro teams do it this way, and there are some advantages associated with this. By pushing hard to a high rating you increase your Conquest caps, so much so that you can be 1-4 pieces of gear ahead of the opposition who only play to the regular cap. By the end of the gearing period everyone will be wearing the same gear, so the rationale behind this approach is to go hard early, get high caps and therefore get a gearing advantage, and then exploit this advantage to get higher ratings on the ladder before everyone else catches up to your level of gear. If you're going to go down this route you have to make sure that you start the season with full Honor gear before the Rated season begins. Some people are lazy about their Honor grind pre-season, and you may start with a gearing advantage if your opposition didn't bother grinding. I've attained the best ratings I've ever had by this method (1900+), going hard in the very first week of the season with a team of like-minded individuals with only Honor gear and one piece of Conquest. The gear differential may be miniscule, but in tight situations these disparities might be all that stands between the way of a guaranteed kill or a recovery by the enemy team.

The second way is the way I have usually done it, which is basically use the gearing period to practice and learn your class and spec before finally pushing for rating at the end of the season, once all your team mates are decked out in full Conquest. The teams I have played in usually reserve the last 4-6 weeks of a season to push rating, and it is a better fit for the people I play with, given that we all have varying demands on our time and schedules. I've been out of the game for eight months, I'm playing WoW PvP with a Razer Naga for the first time, and there have been massive changes to the meta. All of these factors require a learning period which I would prefer to spread out over 2-3 months rather than compressing into a two week period before Season 16 begins. Given what I know of the changes to the PvP meta it would seem that melee will be the king of this expansion. No more disarms, the pruning of instant cast heals, and less CC equals more uptime for melee to stay in the face of their target. MoP was unquestionably dominated by spell casters, with locks, mages, shadow priests, druids and shamans making up the bulk of high end tournament play. WoD looks like it might be the era of melee. Fitting, too, given the theme of the expansion. I was going to roll shadow priest this time around - I used my free 90 boost to level one - but when I looked at his defensive CDs I thought to myself, "How in the name of the Light am I going to get melee off of myself?" No more Psychic Fiend. Psychic Scream and Void Tendrils share the same tier talent, and given that most melee I know have at least two escapes from Fear (all have trinket plus DK's Desecrated Ground, ret pally's bubble, Warrior's Berserk, and a Windwalker's Nimble Brew) without taking into account defensive dispels from their healer, it looks like it's going to be a long season for priests. Can anyone say Choo Choo Train? These guys are going to be trained into the ground by melee teams, and their survival is going to be heavily dependent on the quality of the peels and heals from their team mates. This is the case for every class - this is why Arena and Rated BGs are a team e-sport - but there is a threshold where the advantages your class offers is offset by the disadvantages, and it looks like shadow priests might have crossed it. They'll still be great in Rated BGs, because offensive dispels, off heals and multiple target DoT pressure is still valuable in this setting. Arenas might be a different story, but who knows, my knowledge of the new meta is in its preliminary stages at the moment.

So rather than going priest, I'm going to main a monk, either as a healer or a melee dps. I will decide once Rykester, Ratsac and Lelle decide what specs they will roll - I don't have to decide until I ding 100, and the Honor grind begins. Even then the choice is not irrevocable, not until the purchase of my first Conquest piece. This initial purchase determines my spec for the season. For now I am questing as a Windwalker, and learning how to play him with a Razer Naga. As retarded as it sounds, I have only played Arenas and Rated BG's as a keyboard turner, and the difference is night and day - I hope that this transition to mouse based control will be the catalyst that will put me over 2k in the coming seasons. Fortunately I've become more proficient with the Naga, which I bought in March just when I was quitting WoW. I used it in TESO and AA, and my hand has finally adapted and learned the position of the keys, even the keys located in the most difficult hand contorting positions. In a way it was good for me to take a break from WoW. It erased my memories of my previous keybinds, and allowed me to remap them onto a control method which I had finally become comfortable with. One day I will level my rogue, and I will compare my footage as a keyboard turning rogue with that of me playing with a mouse.

I'm using questing as a way of practicing, assigning keybinds to mouse button, and learning their location via repetitive use. I aggro two mobs at a time, Paralyse one, and then practice unloading burst on the other. I'm trying to winkle out what my burst combo is, and am disciplining myself to pool my resources. PvE is different to PvP in that PvE requires you to dump resources before you cap, because sitting at full means a net DPS loss. In PvP you are required to sit on fully pooled resources a lot of time to ensure that when your team mate says go, you can put the pedal to the metal and unload coordinated burst on your kill target. The discipline part comes in when you are not bursting, and just putting out light pressure - it's hard not to dump all your resources into your current target, and then suddenly find that when it's time to swap you have your trinket and CD buffs but no resources to apply maximum pressure. In my monk's case, I need to have all my Tigereye Brew stacked and ready to go, as well as having a full pool of Chi. My preliminary burst combo is hitting trinket + brew, starting with a Rising Sun kick (the monk's hardest hitting ability with a healing debuff), then spamming Blackout Kick. I also need to practice kiting, which is something that monks excel at. If I can kite well I will have the option of two jobs in Rated BG play - one as melee DPS, and another as a FC (flag carrier). Not to mention heals if I roll Mistweaver. A lot of this is really simple in theory - the trick is to make these moves instinctive, fluid, and automatic through thousands of repetitions in a vast array of situations. This means duelling constantly against every possible class and spec, practicing in random BGs and Arena skirmishes, and finally playing lots and lots of Rated games.

Tientzo solos an elite in Gorgrond...by kiting him to the NPC guards. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

I never thought I would say it, but it's really good to be back. Moreover, it's good to be back with people who I enjoy playing the game with. None of this really matters - the grind, the gear, the ladder, even the rating itself - I proved that to myself when I walked away from the game. You don't miss it when you're gone. It's just something to give you focus while playing, and it is a worthy end in of itself, because it requires discipline, skill and team work to achieve. Nonetheless, ladder achievements all pale into comparison with the company you keep, and the comrades, friends and family you play with. Nothing beats the feeling of achieving goals with people you like, and hopefully there will be plenty of shared laughs, groans of agony, cheers of victory, agonizing defeats, and ridiculous out-of-your ass plays in the coming season. I'm sure there will be dummy spits and moments of self-doubt, too, in which I question my ability to play the game, but we've been playing together for literally thousands of games in both formats, and if we're still playing together after all the arguments, frustrations, and setbacks we've had then nothing in the future is going to stop us.

Bring on the new season, and let the games begin.

3 comments:

  1. Holy crap. If you were a good arena player as a keyboard turner you're going to be nasty now you have the naga. Hot tip: I bind my most used abilities to the mouse scroll wheel. Forward was sinister strike IIRC, back was something else, and then you can click it. You can layer other abilities on the wheel by adding buttons such as shift.

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  2. You have more wiggle room as ranged (less drastic changes in direction) or as heals (you can throw heals over your shoulder) when keyboard turning, which is what I have traditionally done, but as a melee you're pretty much gimped if you're a keyboard turner. It's definitely not optimal for any role, and after about five years of being ridiculed by my team mates I finally caved in March this year and bought one. Then I subsequently quit WoW to play TESO.

    Thanks for the tip! I'm still running out of space for my key binds, it's crazy. So many buttons to use.

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  3. Ha, i remember commenting on this back in january. Looking forward to seeing if it makes a difference to your rating this season ^^

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