Saturday, December 20, 2014

Diaries of a Ganker, Part VIII - Embracing the Grind

So December 2nd has come and gone, and S16 has commenced in earnest. Season 16 has been renamed Warlords Season 1, as befitting an expansion whose underlying theme seems to be the reboot of the WoW franchise. I still can't quite believe I am back, doing exactly the same thing I have been doing in WoW since the days of the Burning Crusade. I must be mentally defective or something - isn't that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing every time and expecting a different result?


My first level 100 - Tientzo the Mistweaver.

I have just finished levelling my 3rd character - my paladin - and have a mistweaver monk and a feral druid already at cap and wearing full Honor gear. The information I posted in my last post RE acquiring the Conquest cap is out of date and incorrect, which should teach me to research my facts before posting them publicly. Apologies if I misled anyone. The Conquest cap, previously 2200, has been dramatically slashed to 1700. 1500 is the soft cap for Arenas and Rateds, with an additional 200 points available from Ashran quests. Given that my servers (Gundrak/Jubei'Thos) are outnumbered over 4 to 1 this makes it very difficult to get the cap if acquiring points are dependent on victories in Ashran, but we shall see. I haven't delved deep enough into Ashran to learn the ins and outs of the questing mechanics there, but at first glance it appears that this clumsy attempt to incentivise world PvP penalises players who belong to less populated factions. The smaller weekly cap extends the gearing season to about 16-18 weeks, as opposed to the 12-15 week duration which characterised earlier seasons, although as per previous seasons, you can increase your weekly cap by increasing your ratings. I've also noticed that the Blizzard catch-up mechanism is still in effect, in which toons have their cap increased by a 1000 for every week they miss. This means that you only lose 700 points of potential Conquest for every missed week, although you will still have to play your games to get the points.

The good news is that Blizzard has largely done away with the gearing grind. You can literally gear up your toon in one to three nights, as each win in a random BG will award you a tithe of Honor and a strongbox, which more likely than not will contain a piece of blue Honor gear. A friend of mine also mentioned that having the Gladiator's Sanctum in your garrison will allow you to gear up in a few hours - work orders placed in this building apparently generate blue level PvP gear. Blue level PvP gear comes in three flavours - Aspirant, Combatant, and Warforged Combatant, and there are incremental differences between the three, but they can all be won through lockboxes dropped in random BGs. All of them are still superseded by purple Conquest gear. It is no longer mandatory to win a Rated BG to cap Conquest, although the substitute, a requirement to do win battles in Ashran, is unsatisfactory because outnumbered factions are largely at a disadvantage. On the plus side, Blizzard has given the players the freedom to cap any way they want - it is possible to cap through Skirmishes (random Arenas with no rating), Arenas, random BGs, Rated BGs, Ashran quests, even through work orders from level 3 Gladiator's Sanctum buildings in the player's garrison. As a way to incentivize Rated BG participation (aside from rating pushes), the player's first three wins each week will give the player a chance to roll for a piece of purple Conquest gear. The rolls can be modified via the use of Seals of Tempered Fate, which gives PvPers an incentive to farm what once were items only important for PvE.

My second WoD 100 - my Worgen druid transforms into his true self under the light of Draenor's twin moons.

The further I go into this expansion the more the gearing landscape becomes clearer. In subsequent seasons a possible gearing strategy for super fast PvP gear acquisition begins to present itself, which would allow an early season push based on farming Seals, winning three Rated BGs each week, PvPing/questing in Ashran and pushing Arena rating as high as you can as early as you can. This would give the player an early season gear advantage which they could try to leverage into higher ratings at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately given the state of my server in Ashran this strategy is not viable, but other players whose faction dominate Ashran could conceivably do this now and in future seasons. As for me any rating push I undertake will have to be done at the end of the season, when everyone will be wearing the same gear. I'd already committed to this approach prior, so it really doesn't change anything for me. At the end of the day any gearing strategy is secondary to simply becoming a better player via practice, meta acquisition and developing team synergy.

My first forays back into the Arena scene were not pretty - I felt like I was moving and reacting in slow motion while my opponents were zipping around in fast forward around me. I started my Arena season with my mistweaver monk, having decided during the levelling process to switch him from DPS to heals, and to use my feral (and later my ret paladin) whenever I felt inclined to DPS. The very first game I played I ran into a melee cleave composed of a warrior and a ret paladin, and it ended quickly with my poor panda sprawled out comatose on the ground. The next five, ten, twenty games went on in a similar vein, with my face getting pounded into the dirt, but little by little I am learning my keys, and learning how to react in specific situations. I made the dumb mistake of putting my sprint keybind for my druid on the same button as my monk teleport, which invariably led to me push teleport whenever I actually just wanted to roll forward. I also found out to my chagrin that the mistweaver is the weakest PvP healer in this expansion, at least according to the learned contributors on Arena Junkies and Skill Capped. No matter - it's not like I'm ever going to be a top tier player. I just want to improve my personal best, and get over 2k if possible.

All the characters I have levelled so far in WoD don't feel unduly different to when I played them in MoP. The removal of Disarms across the board impacted monks most of all. Previously universally hated by all melee in MoP because of Disarm and Ring of Peace, monks have become a juicy target for any psychotic, axe-wielding close combat class. The loss of Dematerialise also compounded the woes of the monk class, because this ability used to give monks a 2 second damage immunity whenever they got stunned every 10 seconds. In MoP melee were leery of stunning monks, because those 2 seconds represented the loss of a valuable 2 seconds of burst. Now we just eat stun after stun after stun. In fact, in a lot of games I basically end up counting stuns while I sit in them, just so I know when diminishing returns immunity will kick in, and I can have some space to cast or move or do something apart from being a big fat target dummy. It's not all bad, however. To compensate monks for their losses, Blizzard gave monks instant teleports on a 25 second CD, and a lot of a monk's survival nowadays relies on exploiting this ability to the utmost. This means intelligent placement, and calculated kiting designed to pull opponents away from your portal in order to give yourself the maximum amount of time possible to top yourself or your team mates back up. It's great against lower teams, but higher rated players are aware of this trick and sometimes even split when I am low to give me no respite. Another addition to the monk arsenal is the shorter CD on Life Cocoon (55 seconds). This is pretty amazing, because if used intelligently you can keep this ability in tandem with the enemies' burst. All in all, I think our losses have been made up by our gains. It just means that monks have to play differently to survive and be effective.

Ferals and ret paladins are much easier to play now given Blizzard's commitment to simplify play and reduce button bloat. Let's face it, ret pallies were never the most complex class to play rotation wise, and their current incarnation might make them the simplest class in the game to play. Ferals went from being one of the more complex melee classes (slightly below rogues in difficulty) to being one of the easiest, just being edged out by ret pallies in terms of simplicity. The only real difference between them in my opinion is that kitties sometimes have to juggle Savage Roar when it falls off (even it then, it is auto-applied when opening from stealth, so it's not difficult at all), and time Tiger's Fury to optimise its use in conjunction with either Ferocious Bite or Rip. Ret pallies don't have to worry about Inquisition anymore, so for them the game is just basically whack a mole - hit whatever button comes off CD first, and people will die.

My latest 100 - Theodorius returns to WoD as a balding, avenging and hard hitting ret paladin. For Sigmar! Erm, I mean, for the Light!

The trend towards simplicity doesn't unduly bother me, and is in fact a welcome development, because anything that makes the game easier makes it easier for me to play better. On the face of it MOBAs are exceedingly simple games to play - each character has perhaps 1/4th of the buttons that a WoW avatar has, if that, and yet games can become highly tactical affairs because of the teamwork required and the overarching meta. The same applies for WoW, even for the simpler, sleeker WoD version of PvP. Not everyone feels the same way about this, of course - the forums on Arena Junkies and Skill Capped abound with people complaining about the removal of the skill cap for their favourite classes. For me, however, this is a good thing, as advancing age slows down my reflexes and reaction time. I can always study the meta, and my team work and communication is quite good (I think?). Twitch, however, deteriorates with age, and anything which mitigates against this is good for me. At this point in time WoW requires you to push a button roughly every 1.5 seconds, with a few buttons interspersed here and there off the GCD. If concert pianists and similar musicians can continue their excellence into their advancing years then there is no reason why we can't enjoy playing competitive games into middle age and beyond. We just have to compensate for deteriorating reaction time with comprehensive meta knowledge, practice and team synergy.

4 comments:

  1. Good summary of the current conquest grind. I was wondering do you know at what rate your weekly cap increases compared to your rating? I'm currently hovering between 1500 and 1600 and havent noticed anything. Is it more evident at 2k or 2.4k?

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    1. I'm the wrong person to ask, I'm afraid - none of my toons have crested 1500 in any of the formats as of yet so my cap is still fixed at the default.

      There's a calculator on Arenamate.net, but the calculations seem off to me. According to their calculator, to increase your cap to 2000 per week requires an Arena rating of 1637, or an RBG rating of 1500. Don't know if that cap is inclusive of the Ashran part, or is separate from it.

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  2. Been re-reading (and enjoying) your Diaries of a Ganker series. Any plan to do your 1-100 on Illidan project as alliance this year? I'd quite enjoy reading about ganks through the levels. You could also put up some screenies of particularly fun ganks, team ganks or your worst enemies.

    I used to love the mini-world pvp events my first leveling guild would organise in Ashevale and Stonetalon mountains. Fun would be over when a max level hordie arrived but sometimes we did have some quite awesome battles as a bunch of level 25s alliance versus horde

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    1. I'm really glad you are enjoying the blog. The 1-100 grind on Illidan is not on the cards in the near future - the ideal time for me would be once the season grind for Conquest gear is over, and I will have lots of free time for alternative projects.

      I loved PvPing when I was a lowbie too, but I fear that the boat has really sailed on that one, given the advanced age of WoW's player base. It really takes a lot of luck for lowbies to encounter enemy lowbies at about the same level in WoW nowadays - most of the time it's a 100 just casually ganking a helpless toon as they fly through the zone.

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