Archive for March, 2010

Frostshock and You

I was looking on the Auction House on my bank character the other day, when I happened across something I’ve not seen for a good, long time. Someone had obviously been farming Dire Maul, because there were a few books for sale on the auction house, and among the pile was one for shamans called Frost Shock and You.

In the days when Dire Maul was popular (that’s going back a while), the place turned up a whole raft of these manuscripts. This specific item would have been horde-centric, because back then, only the horde had shamans.

So, I bought the book for a few gold off the auction house, and tomorrow, I’m going to run Stormshaper through Dire Maul to see if I can 1) actually find the fortitude to do the whole instance which will lead to some pretty nice achievements, 2) she will get her hands on the Crescent Key and 3) complete this quest. The reward for this quest is a trinket with the rather grand name of Royal Seal of Eldre’Thalas.

Back in the days of vanilla World of Warcraft, before the Dark Portal was opened, and the Draenei crash landed off the coast of Kalimdor, this trinket was hunted down for shamans who were going off to battle level 60 Onyxia. Those days are, of course, long since gone, but I am going to see if I can get it for completeness sake. Part of me is a bit sad that I’d forgotten this item was available in Dire Maul. I would have liked to have attempted to get it when Stormshaper could have used it, but no-one runs Dire Maul these days, and the sad truth is that she would have been in for a dreadfully long wait in order to find a group to run the instance continually in the hope that it dropped.

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Of The Nightfall….

As you probably know, Stormshaper was rolled with the intention of me going back to the start and enjoying the game over again. I had got bored with endgame raiding and the tedium of farming materials for fish feasts, analysing peformance logs, looking at gems and enchants and raid composition so that I could eek out the smallest DPS gain and get further into the Icecrown Citadel grind.

Very quickly, she went through the levels, out to Outlands, then on to Northrend. She hit 80, she farmed heroics, and now, she has done all that, and the 10 man raid content is open to her.

One of the most interesting, and still difficult challenges in 10 man raiding is the Obsidian Sanctum encounter with Sartharion, where you leave the three other drakes alive.

Okay, when I say difficult challenges, I know that leading edge raid teams did this stuff over a year ago in gear far inferior to the gear that drops now. Stormshaper is head to foot in tier 9 and people did this in tier 6 and 7. To those players, I say “Well done”. But this isn’t a leading edge player’s blog. I’m not IMBA in any way, shape or form, I just play the game for enjoyment. So for me, and the many other players who aren’t leading edge, don’t have state of the art systems, spend hours optimizing and tuning their PC and internet connection and can’t donate huge swathes of their time to hone their skills, OS10 with 3 drakes active is still a tricky thing to go for.

Well, last week, we went in there and we came close several times. But we just fell short. 300K short, 100K short, 90K short. Each time improving, each time getting closer. We knew that we’d do it this week, it was just a question of keeping our heads and focussing on the job.

In the week since Stormshaper first set foot in Obsidian Sanctum she’s improved her weapons and now has a Nighttime equipped in each hand. She also opened up the Sons of Hodir daily quests and has the entry level shoulder enchant, The Lesser Inscription of the Axe in place.

All these small changes have combined to give a significant boost to her base DPS. I’ve also been using Rawr to test her gemming requirements so some subtle re-gemming has taken place, which again, will improve her DPS. Reading that last sentence back, you can see that I’m falling into the same trap that I fell into with the Hunter and the Death Knight and the Warlock before her, but for some reason, whether its the class, or the play style, or the guild I’m in, I’m finding all these things to be less of a chore with Stormshaper.

Anyway, away from the theorycraft, tonight we went into OS10 and were determined to complete the challenge.

Our raid was made up of one warrior tank, one discipline priest healer and 8 DPS. Stormshaper the enhancement shaman, a hunter, four death knights, a warlock, and a paladin.

First run – wipe with 300K health left on the boss.
Second run – wipe with 110K health left on the boss.
Third run – wipe with 600K health left on the boss. The flame walls came and caused havoc and we died very, very quickly.

And so it continued. Close, closer, closer, but still not there. Until the 7th run of the evening, and then……SUCCESS! Lucky seven, and what an epic success it was.

Tenebron had been causing havoc when he flew down to assist Sartharion. He would zoom in and take out the healer pretty much instantly. With no healer and two bosses, the raid would collapse very quickly. To overcome this, one of the Death Knights decided that he would stand close enough to the healer when Tenebron came down, he would taunt it away from the healer as far as the tank, who would in turn Tenebron off the death knight and onto him. In effect this chain taunt would end with the tank having two bosses on him for a few seconds.

With the rest of the raid concentrating on Sartharion and never moving off him, the hope was that our DPS output would be enough to bring him down before Tenebron could kill our tank. On previous two attempts using this strategy, we came close, then it worked. Like clockwork. It was a strategy that was brilliantly executed by the death knight “bait” and our warrior tank.

My job was to bring Heroism, totems, spirit wolves and the flame elemental. Heroism went about 15 seconds into the fight, knowing that its 30 second buff would take us to approximately 45 seconds. All three drakes come down about 1 minute 30 seconds into the fight, so by 45 seconds we should have made a significant dent in Sartharion’s health as Tenebron, the first of the drakes arrives.

Stormshaper lasted until the boss had about 60K on him. Some other DPS fell by the wayside around this time too. A mix of the flame walls, and the flame elementals that spawn from that took care of them. But Sartharion’s health kept falling. 60K, 50K, 40K…..20K the healer died…..10K, 9K, 8K the tank fell…….come on, please, come on, a Paladin, swinging away, strikes the boss once, twice, the paladin falls, Sartharion falls first! Achievements filled the screen as the realisation hit home. We had achieved our “Of The Nightfall” titles.

It was marvellous.

Oh, and the reins of the black drake fell too.

As Stormshaper is an alt, I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to roll on the reins, so it was left to the mount collectors in the raid to roll for it, and poetically, the Paladin who’s last swing dealt the killing blow to Sartharion the boss won the roll and got the dragon. All in all, it was a great way to end a brilliant and very successful raid.

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cheer

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Shamanistic Rage Power Aura

Looking through the WowWebStats logs, I could see a flaw in my play style, which was inhibiting Stormshaper’s mana regeneration. Shamans have a talent called ‘Shamanistic Rage’, and when its used, it reduces all damage taken by the shaman by 30%, and, importantly, it gives successful melee attacks a chance to regenerate mana equal to 15% of the shaman’s attack power. The spell lasts for 15 seconds, so that’s 15 seconds of substantial mana regeneration that I’ve been missing out for a good long while.

Ideally, Shamanistic Rage should be up, and kept up for pretty much the entire duration of any fight, and according to WowWebStats, this wasn’t happening because I was only triggering the talent once Stormshaper’s mana dropped to 20%.

To overcome this problem, I’ve written a Power Auras Classic aura which will trigger using the spell cooldown and put a line of text across my character saying “SHAMANISTIC RAGE READY!” any time the talent is available. The logic being as soon as the message appears, I hit my Shamanistic Rage keybind and the job is done.

The aura will only show if I am in combat, as there’s no point in having it showing when I’m out of combat as it would display pretty much all the time.

The Export for this Power Auras Classic string is here:

Version:st3.0.0E; gcd:bofalse; b:nu1; anim1:nu2; g:nu1; optunitn:bofalse; ignoremaj:botrue; stacksLower:nu0; target:bofalse; icon:stInterface\Icons\Spell_Nature_ShamanRage; size:nu0.75; torsion:nu1; r:nu1; y:nu-30; x:nu0; customname:st; groupany:botrue; isAlive:botrue; timerduration:nu0; unitn:st; bufftype:nu15; stacks:nu0; focus:bofalse; raid:bofalse; texture:nu29; alpha:nu0.75; aurastext:stShamanistic Rage Ready Now!; symetrie:nu0; owntex:bofalse; isResting:bofalse; duration:nu0; mine:bofalse; multiids:st; inVehicle:bofalse; speed:nu1; anim2:nu0; spec2:botrue; stacksOperator:st>=; realaura:nu1; InactiveDueToState:botrue; threshold:nu50; exact:bofalse; textaura:botrue; sound:nu0; wowtex:bofalse; groupOrSelf:bofalse; customsound:st; combat:botrue; id:nu13; inParty:nu0; HideRequest:bofalse; Active:bofalse; aurastextfont:nu1; buffname:stShamanistic Rage; inRaid:nu0; tooltipCheck:st; customtex:bofalse; stance:nu10; isSecondary:bofalse; thresholdinvert:bofalse; spec1:botrue; Debug:bofalse; beginSpin:bofalse; Showing:bofalse; UseOldAnimations:bofalse; begin:nu3; off:bofalse; party:bofalse; texmode:nu1; inverse:bofalse; ismounted:bofalse; targetfriend:bofalse; randomcolor:bofalse; finish:nu3; timer.InvertAuraBelow:nu0; timer.dual:botrue; timer.HideLeadingZeros:botrue; timer.h:nu1; timer.ShowOnAuraHide:botrue; timer.UpdatePing:botrue; timer.Texture:stDefault; timer.enabled:botrue; timer.Showing:bofalse; timer.y:nu0; timer.x:nu0; timer.HideRequest:botrue; timer.Transparent:botrue; timer.a:nu1; timer.CustomDuration:nu0; timer.id:nu13; timer.cents:botrue

The string can also be found on the Power Auras Wiki as well.

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Soloing Chillmaw

Sometimes, it can be hard to find a group for the Threat From Above quest in Icecrown, where you take on and hopefully defeat Chillmaw, the giant Frostwyrm that circles endlessly. Two days ago, Stormshaper found herself in that position. There were no takers to join up to defeat Chillmaw. Only one thing for it, drop the totems, use Feral Spirit and the Fire Elemental and see what happens.

What happened was truly immense.

I know that the shaman class is able to perform incredible burst damage, but this was amazing. Chillmaw and the three cultists who ride it around were dispatched, literally in seconds.

When you use your spirit wolves using Feral Spirit, they immediately spawn and attack your target. They last for 30 seconds, and in that time, they gain 30% of your attack power as a buff, and also heal the shaman (and themselves) for 150% of the damage done. This means that any damage caused by Chillmaw or her cultist riders was pretty much negated.

With the Fire Elemental blasting out fire nova and fire blast at the opposition, Shamanistic Rage popped early on in the encounter, when it was all over, and it was all over very, very quickly, all that remained were Stormshaper, her totems and the elemental. Everything else was destroyed.

I’ve tried this same quest on my hunter and my death knight, and neither of them have been able to do this solo. On the hunter, I have a Beast Mastery ‘tank’ spec, where the hunter, when fully geared has over 35K health from armour and buffs. His pet is a turtle, the best tanking pet in the game, but I’ve found that I can’t get the pet to last through the damage caused by Chillmaw despite healing from my hunter. Once the pet goes down, that’s at least 40% of my hunter’s DPS finished and inevitably a ‘Feign Death’ is called for.

On the death knight – I’ve tried this battle as blood spec, unholy and even frost tank spec. Each time, the death knight can get Chillmaw down, but won’t have enough survivability to last through the cultists. It’s been close a couple of times, but Stormshaper walks away with full health and mana. It really is no contest at all.

Stormshaper has a few group quests left in Icecrown, the rider quests that are given as part of the Ebon Blade storyline. I might take her and test her ability on these quests, as each in turn is quite a tricky fight. I’m interested to see how she performs in these tussles.

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Using the Combat Log to Improve Your DPS

The last few days, Stormshaper has been taking part in 10 man content. There hasn’t been a lot of success in terms of drops – in fact, not a single piece of gear has dropped that she can use. No matter, this is all good practice for improving her DPS.

As well as in-game items, such as enchants and gems, another way to increase your DPS is by studying the content of your combat log. There are a few ways to do this, and one particularly easy way is using an on-line service, such as World of Logs, or, my preference, WowWebStats.

How these online services work is, they allow you to upload your combat log, or a portion of it which pertains to the time you spent raiding, and it breaks down every event in the combat log, and presents it to you in an easy to read format, showing any number of things that you might be interested in.

I’ve been using WoWWebStats for a few years now, it’s fast, its easy to read their output, its a decent method of improving your overall performance.

I’m going to write a couple of posts on how to use WowWebStats, and what you should be looking for, as an enhancement shaman taking part in a 5, 10, 25 or 40 man raid.

WoW Web Stats

Okay, if you don’t have an account with them, you should make one. There’s a link to the account creation area on their main page. There’s no catch to this, you receive no spam from them at all, its just to allow you to logon to their service, save raid reports, and a myriad of other things. You can find out more about the services available though WowWebStats here When you’ve created an account and verified it, you’re away.

The next thing you need to do is download their Java client. The Java client will present you with a dialog for you to select your combat log.

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Once selected, you can give it a comment, such as “10 man Trial of the Crusader” or whatever, something meaningful for you. Once you’ve done that, simply click “Host Report” and the Java client will start its parse of your combat log, upload it to the WowWebStats website where you can then review any number of reports about the content.

Here is an overview of our 10 man raid that took out XT-002 Deconstructor in Ulduar as part of the weekly raid quest available in Dalaran.

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As you can see, the fight lasted for a total of 2 minutes and 39 seconds, and Stormshaper was present for 95% of the fight. (This means it took her a few seconds to run across and get in the correct position for her to start whaling away at the XT-002 Deconstructor and his exposed heart. In the time she was active, she caused 941854 damage to XT-002 Deconstructor, amounting to 16% of the overall damage.

That’s a fairly easy to follow report, and it shows you some key components such as overall damage, your percentage of the raid damage, your overall DPS (6,586 DPS for Stormshaper – go go raid buffs!).

You can drill down into the report to get some in-depth information about how your damage was done, i.e. what attacks you used, and how much damage they did. To view this report simply click the name of the player in the raid you want to view (yes, the report contains all the information for every player in the raid, not just you), and you will see the more detailed screen.

If anyone bothers to click my name, you’ll see that I have a tremor totem down, for no good reason other than we went to Ulduar after doing Faction Champions in Trial of the Crusader and I never changed my totem set up back to how it should be. *BLUSH*

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Okay, so, we know looking at that, that Stormshaper’s DPS could have been improved by her using a Strength of Earth totem rather than a tremor totem. She could also get an improvement if and when she completes the achingly long quest chain to unlock the incredibly boring Sons of Hodir dailies to get her shoulder enchants. That’s a given. However, she was doing over 6K DPS without those two items.

So, what else contributed significantly to her DPS? Her swings caused 267,700 damage, or 29%. More tellingly 9% of her swings missed the target which would account for approximately 24,000 damage. A significant amount. So, looking at that tells me that Stormshaper’s hit rating needs a slight adjustment. Windfury and Lightning Bolt attacks were her next highest attacks, rattling up 13% and 11% damage.

Another thing the report tells you is the damage done by your pets. So you can see Spirit Wolves accounted for 68,289 of Stormshaper’s total damage. Her Fire Elemental accounted for 110,345 damage. Substantial by any means.

This is a high level overview of the information offered by combat log parsers. In the next post I’ll delve into other issues, such as how long were totems up for. In a fight like XT-002 Deconstructor, the totem times will be pretty near to Stormshaper’s total time in the fight. On a fight that requires a bit of movement, like Krick and Ick in Pit of Saron, these timings will be less, as you have to evade the poison and the explosive charges rather than standing there smashing away at the boss. So we’ll see what can be learned from static versus mobile fights as an enhancement Shaman.

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When Small Things Matter

With Stormshaper becoming less dependent on 5 man heroics for her gear, she is slowly and unwillingly (on my part) moving toward end-game raiding. Inevitably when you hit the end-game raiding field small things start to matter.

Once, not such a long time ago, I was in a casual raiding guild with my hunter, and it was a lot of fun. We went to Naxxramas. We went to Ulduar. We wiped often, but it was fun because no-one went crazy if/when a wipe occurred. It was relaxed, and you’d logon and there were friendly people ready to talk and chat and it was everything a guild should be.

Then, one day, it wasn’t fun any more. The focus of the guild changed, literally overnight. We had two raid teams and team 1 was seen as the “progression” team. We left Ulduar (still not completed) and we went to Trial of the Crusader and we did that fro start to finish on our second attempt. This was the point when the whole ethos of the guild changed. All of a sudden, our guild master saw us not as a social guild with reasonably skilled, mature players, but a bleeding edge raiding guild.

Squeezing every last piece of DPS from your character became all consuming. Talent trees were analysed, combat logs were poured over. Inevitably you’d see comments like “If I remove a point from talent ‘x’ and put the point in talent ‘y’ and then you move the Draenei into group 1, I’ll gain z% DPS”. In my raid team, we had a Draenei mage who was told to buy a racial change to gnome, because the racial intellect buff from gnomes will offer a DPS increase.

So, here I am, three months later and Stormshaper is in good form and ready for 10 man/end game raiding. Of course, being a shaman, she won’t need to go through a racial change for a DPS increase. Not that I would do that anyway. But there are things I need to do to make sure that her performance meets the minimum required for 10 man raiding.

We know that there are gear improvements available to her. Yesterday’s post shows what she needs and where she can improve on that score. The next thing to look at is my raid UI and what I want and need from it so that it can help me with Stormshaper’s performance.

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Completing the Jigsaw

With Stormshaper equipped extensively in Tier 9 DPS gear it is becoming increasingly difficult for her to get gear from the 5 man heroic dungeons. To this end, I’ve been using Rawr and Wowhead’s Item Comparison tool to try and plan out what items Stormshaper can get from 5 man heroic dungeons and/or emblems (note not Emblems of Frost) from those instances.

The table below shows the best items that are still available to her.

Neck Ancient Pendant of Arathor from Heroic Trial of the Crusader.
Back Hammerhead Sharkskin Cloak which is purchasable with 25 Emblems of Conquest.
Wrists Essence of Suffering from heroic Forge of Souls.
Feet Treads of Dismal Fortune. (These are leather rather than mail, but they give outstanding DPS for Stormshaper). She can also equip Spiked Toestompers, but with Armour Penetration, these are geared more specifically for a hunter.
Finger Band of Stained Souls. There are Ashen Verdict rings available if I want to grind out that reputation killling endless trash mobs in Icecrown Citadel, or there are Kirin Tor rings available if I want to spend thousands of gold. Seeing as I want to do neither of these tasks, the Band of Stained Souls is the best option.
Finger Dexterous Brightstone Ring purchasable with 35 Emblems of Triumph.
Trinket Needle Encrusted Scorpion from Heroic Forge of Souls.
Weapon Black Icicle or another Nighttime

The Needle Encrusted Scorpion entry is a mystifying entry in the trinket table as it’s aimed more towards armed warriors, druids and marksman hunters who really benefit from the armour penetration buff. Enhancement shamans don’t get any benefit from armour penetration so there’s no real reason for Rawr to rate it so highly. I’m going to run a few simulations with it using Enhsim to see what it gives to the baseline DPS predicted by the simulator.

However it goes without saying that if you are fortunate enough to win the trinket, the critical strike buff it gives you isn’t going to do your performance any harm.

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