You found a warlock blog!

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One that’s written by Poneria, aka Megan O’Neill. Grats?

You can’t kill me for loot, though — I’m friendly. Plus, the warlock columnist curse already tried and failed…twice.

I’ve got the usual About Me page, and you can read my resume of things I’ve written since I started blogging at Fel Concentration. Or you can skip straight to the blog below to read some more current(-ish?) writing.

If you’re looking for a general introductory warlock guide, I wrote Wowhead’s Warlock DPS Guide, which is updated for patch 6.0.3.

You found a warlock blog!

On Theorycrafting

Haileaus is a rogue (with far too many vowels almost in a row in his name) and he “barely considers [himself] a theorycrafter.” Well, that’s fine, Haileaus, because I also barely consider myself a theorycrafter. I’m much more a wordcrafter when it comes to theorycrafting, as in I can read theorycrafting (…mostly?) and convert it to plainer English with some of the unmentioned context for the wider playbase.

Haileaus wrote a post on theorycrafting’s role in World of Warcraft, challenging readers to “legitimately question the role theorycrafting plays in the game.” I don’t quite grok what he means by legitimately question — I’m not sure if he’s arguing for theorycraft to disappear or whether he’s telling us to save this valuable resource that might fade away. But it doesn’t really matter, because I have thoughts on the subject anyway.

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Indalamar versus the masses

Hey, this scenario Haileaus describes about early warrior theorycrafting impacts sounds a lot like that Warlock problem in Cataclysm. Y’know, the one documented by Cynwise’s Decline and Fall. I’m not just saying this because I used to put Cynwise on a pedestal. It’s more, Cynwise was the first in a long time (not necessarily the first ever) to publicly point out a disparity between the doing-well higher end and the life-sucks lower end player worlds of the class.

That “everything that has happened will happen again” isn’t just a Battlestar Galactica or Gul’dan & Khadgar thing.

This is part of my love-hate with SimulationCraft stack charts that get published and cited by players. It’s not necessarily the SimulationCraft is wrong, but more that players are just citing without thinking about the context that goes into and comes out of the SimulationCraft numbers. Is it Mythic gear? Is it requiring the legendary? Is it just Patchwerk? Does the fight change when you add more targets? What about movement? What talents is it using? Is this module even correct?

Cynwise was reluctant to publish his Class Distribution graphs because graphs can mislead a great deal if you don’t label things correctly or don’t even know what the graph is displaying. But graphs, like stacked SimulationCraft charts, are easier for players to visually pick up what’s going on rather than reading an academic-paper-length blog post or a ginormous forum thread.

You’d think as a guidewriter I’d be advocating that putting together the visual-verbal picture of a topic is important. It is, but sorry, that part is mostly window dressing. Organizing the information so the reader can comprehend all the included details without being overwhelmed, confused, or bored is the hard part. When constructing a post or guide on something that hasn’t even been figured out yet? Asking the right questions is the hard first step, and the subsequent hard steps involve documenting all the circumstances of both question and answer. This usually involves forgetting relevant things or outright ignoring relevant things because you didn’t quite realize yet just how relevant they were, and you have to go back to knowledge you’ve already explored, armed with yet more questions to answer.

And there you go. That’s the definition of theorycrafting.

Perhaps it’s my generation of culture & education, or perhaps it’s this era of gaming, but we’re rather stuck in the whole mindset of filling out to-do lists. Whether it’s dailies, achievements, or balancing class performance, people are far more content to just do the required things or to just answer (correctly) the required questions, and that’s the end of thinking. We’re very much focused on just getting the objective over with so we can covet the reward, rather than finding the reward in the pursuit of the objective.

So what happens is I find myself in a playerbase that far prefers answering questions as quickly as possible (rather than as thoroughly and accurately as possible) and doesn’t like having to come up with all the questions. When the old theorycrafters decide it’s time for them to move on from the game, there’s few or no one there who wants to step up and ask the questions.

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Elitist Jerks

“Modern theorycrafting started in Wrath of the Lich King when raiding and the math that accompanied it were opened up to more casual audiences.” — Haileaus, “The Fall of the Giants: Theorycrafting’s Just Demise?

This is the line where I both agree and vehemently disagree with parts of the statement. As a forum, Elitist Jerks (EJ) by its nature opened up theorycrafting to discussion from around the playerbase, rather than keeping it to individual minds’ like Indalamar’s. And while anyone could sign up for an account and technically anyone could post, the social rules of EJ heavily promoted a garden walled with spikes. I myself lurked there for all my years, too afraid to post any questions I might have about theorycrafting. I was afraid that my inability to pick the correct search term to weed out what I wanted from the 100+ page forum thread would land me in the Banhammer forum section where EJ mods liked to mock those who received too many infractions for asking stupid questions.

My dad was a physics teacher. He always used to say “There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.” As I’ve watched theorycrafting over the years and have recently dipped my toes in, I find this is more the case than EJ’s banhammer-happy world.

Another Cynwise piece keeps haunting me: On Snow Crash, Virtual Avatars, and Warcraft’s Social Network Appeal. Cross-realm has happened all over the place, both in instances like LFR and LFD and in the open world through CRZ. The ignore function has expanded and encompassed at least part of account-wide. Cross-server item mailing has happened for your alts, but you can also transcend servers in a way Cynwise didn’t mention — through account collections like the pet journal, mount collection, or heirlooms tab. Integration with other social media — Twitter! S.E.L.F.I.E.s! — happened.

I keep thinking of this Snow Crash post because of guilds — because of the guild BoE versus Personal Loot problem, because of the ever-growing drought of guild recruitment, because of guilds finally becoming cross-server (to the extent of guilds on merged servers) which was a proposal of Cynwise’s. (His other was being in multiple guilds, much like Guild Wars 2 already has.) Cynwise stated that guilds were the last obstacle for the WoW social network … and they’re slowly dying. (P.S., He wrote all this…3 years ago. Hold the phone.)

What does this have to do with theorycrafting?

The internet’s evolution and WoW’s social network evolution both involved heavy technological limits, namely how to connect servers to other servers without making any of the involved servers explode in computronic confusion. I said: EJ heavily promoted a garden walled with spikes. It wasn’t technologically hard to join the Elitist Jerks forum — all you had to do was sign up for the forum account, maybe verify your email, have a working internet connection and browser, and maybe have a good enough understanding of the English language.

But, as Haileaus mentioned, the expectation bar of the playerbase were growing higher, and theorycrafters were not immune to such hubris. While I guarantee most of those actually doing the number-crunching grunt work were probably some of the nicest and more encouraging people you’d ever meet, there was always that air of Banhammer lurking around anyone who dared to take their first wrong step inside the EJ forums. Many like myself who wanted to become theorycrafters didn’t because we had too much trepidation about being accepted socially within in the forum despite our lack of hard class knowledge.

Elitist Jerks opened up theorycrafting to the masses, but I wouldn’t say it was for casual audiences. It was clearly meant for the hardcore only. The only problem was that everyone wants to be accepted, and to be accepted meant you had to have the “hardcore” attitude — or, at least what we general players thought was supposed to be hardcore.

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Organizing information to be read

On the one hand, Elitist Jerks was very organized. One thread for one spec. Done.

On the other hand, who the fuck wants to dig through a 90+, 100+ forum thread to see if your question has already been answered?

Using the search bar doesn’t quite help — you have to already know how to search keywords decently, and it’s very easy to follow from there that if you’re good at coming up with search keywords, you’re probably also good at coming up with questions, and so you’re probably already doing the theorycrafting yourself anyhow. The keyword search bar is not a newbie-friendly tool.

And this is even before we get into how theorycrafters like to talk in acronyms rather than in spell names. So the thread might actually be talking about Drain Soul but you’d never know from searching “Drain Soul” because every mention of it is as “DrS.”

You’d think that I would have learned the no-acronyms lesson at WoW Insider as I wrote for Blood Pact, the warlock column. The rule there (as is at Blizzard Watch) was to spell everything out. You can include acronyms as a teaching thing, but you have to say the whole spell name first. It was Grimoire of Sacrifice (GoSac) first, not GoSac ad nauseum with no explanation. I thought, Mists of Pandaria is the Warlock revamp, surely we’d get all our acronyms straight by now. While yes, those of us playing from the beginning knew what GoSac meant, I forgot about the newer players, the untouched alts, those who don’t want to dig through a year’s worth of blog posts just to figure out what exactly the fuck GoSac stands for. To me, it was obvious — there’s really only one thing in the Warlock arsenal that can possibly be called GoSac.

But then, that’s the point — I know all about the entire Warlock arsenal, but new players don’t.

After two years of writing the Warlock column, I finally learned the lesson, as I was then writing episode summaries for Final Boss TV. I would take live transcription-like notes during the live show, and then later turn those notes around into something involving actual English sentences. It took me until the enhancement shaman episode to figure it out, because Bay, the host of Final Boss TV, plays an enhancement shaman.

See, Bay is actually good at interviewing — he draws up the questions beforehand, the questions have a logical order, he pointedly asks a specific guest a question and then rotates around so everyone gets a word in, and he knows how to explore a question on the fly or otherwise separate out the really arcane parts of the question so the guest actually answers something both intelligible and interesting to the audience. Final Boss at the time was interviewing top raiders of each class and spec, with the purpose of exploring things about that spec at the top levels of raiding, hoping that those lessons would trickle down. So it was naturally a slice of media that was top players with knowledge talking down to lesser players who didn’t have this knowledge.

(Gee, that sounds a lot like guidewriting to me.)

In previous episodes, if the guests used an acronym term, Bay would be like me, kind of going “what is that (again)?” So the guests would be almost forced to talk about spells by name so that Bay (& by proxy, the viewers) could understand what they were going on about. But in the enhancement episode, Bay knew what they were talking about, so he didn’t need to prod for what an acronym meant. I was suddenly having to keep up with a fast-talking spec that likes to make a lot of its acronyms out of 2-letter combinations of U, E, L, B, and S.

I quickly became so confused. I lost my place in quite a few areas. And that’s when it hit me that those unfamiliar with the class/spec glossary must be so goddamned confused whenever they try to read either a written spec guide or any theorycrafting lying around, simply because it’s so riddled with specific acronyms., Or you get to put the burden on the guidewriter who needs to keep a running glossary going so you can tab back and forth, post to post, to understand what the wordy post means.

C’mon, now, you’re making the reader work way too hard because you want to be a lazy guidewriter.

As a human being, though, I didn’t want to be caught causing harm to others even if it was the slightest wrong such as writing a rather unreadable guide. I had that excuse ready — it was for wordspace!

…No. It turns out that it can’t be for wordspace. It might start because the various spells are being used in math, so you use the acronym like a coding variable. It might start because you don’t have enough time to type out Grimoire of Sacrifice but GoSac lets you get back faster to killing things in-game. It might be because you can’t fit Grimoire of Sacrifice advice on Twitter but you can fit GoSac advice.

But it’s not a wordspace thing. I took a very spell-heavy Blood Pact column and performed a simple experiment. I counted the words in the column when all spell acronynms were used and when all spell names were used. The difference was about 100 words (in an already 1500-ish word article), which is pretty negligible in wordspace. Most short news items are at least 150-200 words, if not 250-300. I saved more room by learning to write more concisely and with more clarity than I did by converting a spell name into its acronym.

So word of advice to aspiring guidewriters: know what the acronyms are so you can read the relevant theorycrafting math, but don’t use them profusely in your guides. I mention them to teach others what the acronym is — let’s talk about Grimoire of Sacrifice (GoSac) today! — but I use the full or partial spell name. “Army of the Dead” or “Army” is fine, but “AotD” and I’m spending more time like “wha–oh yeah, that thing” instead of concentrating on where the sentence is actually leading me.

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Theorycrafting is an apprenticeship

A thing Elitist Jerks tried to have was a theorycrafting concepts wiki it called the Think Tank. When I learned about it in Wrath of the Lich King it was already outdated as it had been written in sometime Burning Crusade and EJ killed it off from inactivity as Wrath came to a close.

That saddened me. Here was the potential for all this knowledge that I could absorb on my own without having to bother the gods on their high heavenly pedestals of theorycrafting know-how. And it was simply wiped out due to lack of upkeep. Add in the toxic cloud hanging over me that stupid questions were not accepted in the EJ forum space (even if I was trying to learn!). Learning to theorycraft came down to either being born knowing all the class knowledge or silently trying to reinvent the theorycrafting wheel myself because those who knew things can’t be bothered with my stupid questions.

I realize now that this is a lot of assuming that theorycrafters are hateful people who don’t want my unclean lesser player hands grabbing for knowledge, and that really, theorycrafters are just normal people with real 40-hour-week jobs like me who just do this for shits & giggles and why, yes, of course, if you want to see my spreadsheet of gear, here you go, have fun with it & tell me about what you do with it, please. But it took me a few years of guidewriting and later mingling online with theorycrafters who eventually became their own class guidewriters to realize the normalcy of people.

But when you have old theorycrafters hanging up the hat, there’s a problem with new theorycrafters coming in: there’s no theorycrafting textbook. I can’t go to the virtual library and find a consolidated source that tells me what the formula for a spell’s damage is. Instead, I’m left with Google searching, sometimes forum searching, and sometimes those websites aren’t around anymore because the domain expired or the site was taken down or Youtube won’t let me see that video because I live in the wrong country. Or, even worse, the information that I do find is outdated but I don’t realize it because I don’t know what patch it is or when it changed (or when it changed back! or when it changed back again!). Even when theorycrafting is written down, it ends up much like the Think Tank did — it stagnates out of uninterest in keeping it updated. There is no Introduction to Theorycrafting for Questing Alts, 8th Edition lying around for newbies like me to pick up and begin theorycrafting.

Theorycrafting is very much an apprenticeship where you have to have already joined the theorycrafting community in your class and spec and tagged along in its contributions. It’s like memorizing the periodic table — you could sit there and flat-out memorize each element and its properties, or you can go the easier and longer route of just using all of it over and over again until you’ve straight learned what the properties are. And while that’s fair to the people who are currently theorycrafting — I mean, how do you think they learned it? — it’s a big leap from passively reading class guides that lay out absolutely everything you need to know to play from gear to spells, to having to do the work of asking questions yourself and designing experiments to test your assumptions.

Now, one solution is to create a textbook and keep it updated. But that’s failed in the past, and since we’ve already explored the cycles of human behavior, I doubt it’s going to win out just this one time.

So the solution I’m thinking of is we must teach others how to learn theorycrafting on their own. I think this is the stronger solution, too; it teaches a man to fish, rather than just giving him one day after day. Now, I’m sure you can debate about the definition of “teaching,” whether that means refusing to do so because shouldn’t people already know how to do the Scientific Method since what grade 5???, or whether that means you simply tell them what to do and eventually they’ll get it, or whether that means simply providing them with the environment in which they can learn (yeah, that’s an Einstein quote).

I’m personally a bit for the last one, for a couple reasons.

For one, it doesn’t change the theorycrafting environment as it is now. You just join up, usually through an IRC of your desired class or coding project, and you …contribute. What does contribute mean? Well, people doing the coding or doing the guidework are probably asking questions — hey, it’s part of the job. You can help answer the questions, though, by simply going on the PTR, testing things out, and reporting back. If you don’t know how to test a thing, that’s a good question to ask! Haileaus links a rogue class mechanics thread for patch 6.2, which has been out for a couple weeks now but still has some things that aren’t marked off. Just ask “what can I do to help?” and I’m sure the current theorycrafters can find you something to do.

For two, going the providing a learning environment route helps counter what I feel was EJ’s biggest turnoff: the hostile starting atmosphere and the idea that players should know everything simply because a guide exists for it. Hey, Schroedinger: does an unread guide contain useful information? You don’t really know until you read it, and if you can’t read it because it’s too difficult to keep up with because of acronyms or jumps in logic or math that you missed before, then, well, it might be correct, but it’s not actually useful to the reader since they can’t take it and apply it to things they do.

But while a truly open theorycrafting community would be nice to learn in, with the breaking of walled gardens comes the broader pool of players, some of whom aren’t nice about mistakes, or really, they aren’t nice about anything at all. You get the crap you have to wade through in popular forums of people who want to get the credit of contributing without doing the work. There’s useless information; there’s conflicting information; there’s information with missing, mislead, or even made-up pieces.

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Environment of examples

Wanting to contribute to theorycrafting really got going for me when Theck posted his Theorycrafting 101 posts on the blog Sacred Duty. Although the post example was something simple like figuring out how much primary stat I’d have, the post itself illustrated the question, test, and answer cyclical process that theorycrafters go through in testing things. I found it really awesome how Theck walked us right into a wrong answer so he could show us how to check that answer and eventually reason out the right way to go about things.

Being able to look at myself and my mistakes and instead of getting mad, just realizing that not only mistakes happen, but you can work through them? That was a learning environment I could dig.

But this all rather comes down to the idea that theorycrafting is an apprenticeship — you have to do it to learn it. Theorycrafting communities could keep some semblance of a walled garden with specific users contributing specific things in a specific manner, if only there was some form of passive content that beginner users could consume to catch up on.

So my theory goes that we need to teach people how to ask questions again. How to figure out what’s important to ask, how to form goals with testing, how realize specific or general biases that could tip the results in a certain favor.

I see often that in order to dispute some theorycrafting conclusion, well, you need evidence. And yet, it’s really hard to find the theorycrafting evidence that started the conclusion, unless you already know where it exists. The theorycrafting community — to me, anyway — has a bit of a closed loop going, where I understand that they have better things to do than to answer questions that have already been answered elsewhere, but then don’t be so confused as to why new people won’t step up when old people leave. Y’know? Why can’t we just look at the information that is already available to the theorycrafters? Well, it’s that old search bar problem again — it’s a bit of a catch-22 in that getting at the information as a newer player requires the same critical thinking skills that got the information there in the first place.

As a guidewriter and blogger, I feel all I can do to help the situation is to maybe help contribute myself in some of the IRC chats, and to liveblog some of my theorycrafting attempts, which includes writing down all my mistakes and showing how I backtracked through to get to a conclusion. But I’m afraid to post these things because, as I said before, the playerbase is extremely toxic right now when it comes to information that is clearly in their eyes bloody wrong or missing the slightest detail. I suppose I should just muster some confidence in my writing skills and hope that journaling my steps into testing game concepts will help guide other players on their paths to learning theorycrafting.

Theorycrafting contributes massively to the World of Warcraft, and you should thank theorycrafters for their work and help contribute so they can continue doing it in the near future. But players — both theorycrafters and not — should also think about the far future where the current theorycrafters aren’t here anymore (because life happens). Should theorycrafting leave our game world with them? Or would you prefer the torch be passed on to the next generation, to burn just as brightly if not more?

On Theorycrafting

A demo warlock Warcraft Logs parse-reading

Get it? It’s a demonology warlock raid parse comparison but also an example warlock comparison using Warcraft Logs? It’s a demo warlock raid parse comparison!

Puns aside, I see Warcraft Logs introductions, and they usually show how to upload a log and then “hey, it makes pretty graphs and is a pretty powerful tool,” and then never goes any further. Perhaps it shows off the tools — look, you can make pins! and here are all the things you can do with pins! — but the guides I’ve seen that aren’t actual walkthroughs of a raid parse specifically meant to improve a specific person often just stop with the abilities of Warcraft Logs rather than what you should do with them.

Handing someone a full toolbox doesn’t automatically make them a skilled carpenter. The information sitting in the powerful & useful tool that is Warcraft Logs is still overwhelming to the casual raid parse reader, because they don’t know what to do with all of it.

However, I haven’t quite figured out how to generally write or make a guide that explains why to use a pin or a graph or a table or the replay to judge J Random General DPS Concept. Why? — It’s very specific per spec and per fight, even per attempt depending on what you’re doing, and even per question depending on what you want from it all. Trying to anticipate all the questions is just overwhelming by itself and hardly solves any of the overwhelming feeling.

The only part I’ve been able to figure out is that reading a parse is not so much about bringing a checklist of frequent problems to see if any apply to you. Reading a raid parse efficiently is more about bringing your knowledge about your spec, your class, and the specific encounter to the raid parse and critically applying that knowledge to the various results you have in the graph/table/chart/replay.

You have to already have questions or possible reasons why you didn’t do so great when you come to the parse, and the parse will help you answer those. The parse doesn’t magically conjure answers for you — you have to already be looking for them.

To start figuring out how to write a guide for reading a raid parse in order to better yourself, I recorded my own, where I compare myself as a demonology warlock to another demonology warlock who did better DPS on this one fight than I did.

First off — I’m sorry, I didn’t realize the resolution was that terrible until it was already uploaded & processed on Youtube. Which took multiple hours (because, well, it’s an hour-long video itself). And I didn’t feel like redoing it. Sorry. It’s probably actually because I recorded it at some low setting. It’s clearest to read in the smallest player, but I think it’s fine, since it’s mostly the graph shapes/animations that I’m focusing on, not the text.

My video is actually uncut as well as unscripted. I figure this is better so you can see me meander through all the different tabs, discovering new information and arriving at new conclusions organically rather than me telling you what to look for. I use myself as the worse warlock, so I’m only embarrassing myself in particular, not anyone else. And it’s also part of my after-raid homework to log-dive my own logs like this.

I was very, very tired when I recorded it — insomnia is never fun, and you’ll hear me yawn a couple times — so I actually make quite a few obvious knowledge mistakes. I usually catch myself, but there are others that are there that I now facepalm myself at. Sorry! When I’m writing articles, I am actually awake and actually remember things like Grimoire of Service is 2-minutes not 1-minute, and realize that the guy has higher DPS overall instead of just having a higher opener. The intent of the video is less to show off how bad I am at demonology and more that, hey, look, I’m imperfect at this spec and even I can get some ways I can improve out of a raid parse. (It’s also easier to show the differences between a not-great warlock and a good warlock than it is between a good warlock .and a slightly-worse warlock!)

This is not meant as a be-all end-all to Warcraft Logs guides. It doesn’t even cover everything there is to use — I don’t look at how tanks or healers could use the parse information, because, well, I’m not playing one right now. I’ve done a tank or healer parse comparison as part of being a veteran raider rank in my guild, in order to pinpoint why or how a guildmate needs to improve, but I don’t normally play a tank or healer, so I won’t pretend to know 100% how to read those parses. I can certainly open up a 101 guide to a guildmate’s class & spec & figure out the really obvious ways they are screwing up, but let me be clear, the only class I can possibly be an expert in is warlock, and even that I’m, well I’m good, but I’m not perfect.

This is meant as something to help get you started at reading a Warcraft Logs parse, especially if you play a warlock (or maybe even a DPS in general). So hopefully it helps you logdive on to figure out why you may or may not be doing things incorrectly and how you could do better.

A demo warlock Warcraft Logs parse-reading

Lessons from writing the warlock column

CFN-style (first draft) because why not.

So the long story short is Alternative Chat suggested Blizzard Watch do some “how to play your class/spec” class columns and I said “yeah ok but you’d do better to go to the Wowhead guides for that info than looking in a class column.”

I figured I was OK saying this as I’ve written several versions of a class guide. I’ve done it in a class column, I’ve done the Wowhead bullet-y style one, and I’ve done the official strategy guide one. I’ve learned since then that Wowhead/Icy Veins, or the longform bullet-y or entirely in-depth guide, is the way to go for most people.

Alt Chat’s argument for class columns was because they felt different. I’m assuming she speaks to the spirit of the class column, because the column writers typically play that class and their enthusiasm shows through their writing.

Yes…and no. Writing a class column is not so simple as stuffing information into 1500 correct words. And learning how to love your class of choice isn’t just about how to mechanically play it.

Class guides are massive

So back up the Twitter feed, I was talking with @Sveltekumquat about saving all your writing ideas and I linked a screenshot of my warlocks binder of Scrivener. Scrivener is the writing software I primarily use because I love it because it caters to my organizational needs without being a complete pain in the ass to maintain. So @Tikari joins in about how I have “inspiration from Arielle” in my trash, which has been there since I got to write the Wowhead boost 90 warlock guide (which became the 100 warlock guide when Warlords of Draenor launched).

So one of the rules guidelines about getting better at writing is to read everything. Read for pleasure, read for interest, read for being informed, but also read to see what both crap writing and brilliant writing look like.

So, I wanna write guides? I read guides. I read all the class guides, whether or not I have a toon capable of raiding or PvPing or whatever. When we came back to redo level 100 Wowhead guides, I had read all of the other class guides & their comments, because I wanted to see what information they included, how they organized the info, did they use full prose or did they stick to sentence fragments, did they use info for the average player or is this straight from BiS sims, what is this. I read Wowhead guides, I read non-Wowhead guides that were on Wowhead, I read Icy Veins, I read Icy Veins forum guides, I read blog guides. I read pet battle guides, I read SC2 guides, I read LoL guides, I read GW2 guides, I read textbooks, I read WikiHow guides, …

I won’t say I’ve read every guide there ever was, but I read guides so I can write guides. I am also the daughter of teachers (who are themselves the children of teachers) so I just have in my DNA I guess to explain things to people in such a way that said things are no longer intimidating and look actually possible if not enjoyable to do.

“Inspiration from Arielle” is a notes-y kind of text file where I have comments on Arielle’s TiB bear forum guide. Why? Because it’s one of my favorite guides when I look for elements of guide writing that I like. It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s compact as far as not rambling around like I tend to do, it’s informative, it’s in-depth, it’s…maaaaaaaaaan, I love this guide.

So from reading all this stuff, especially when I read different guides of the same stupid topic, I learn that there’s a lot of ways to organize things differently. One way isn’t correct all the time, and when it comes to online stuff at least, it generally depends on the format the guide comes in rather than what the guide is on.

When I first got to write the Wowhead warlock guide, it was the first time I’d write a whole class guide. I mean, I’d attempted to write parts of a guide on my own blog, but I never got around to finishing anything, so this was my first complete class guide.

I felt incredibly overwhelmed for a lot of the time I tried to write that guide. I felt like I wasn’t going to do a good job, that I was missing something, that I wasn’t going BiS enough, that I was going TOO BiS, that I wasn’t organizing it correctly, how can like Arielle & Theck & others do these things, the fuck, I’m so terrible. All those things down the rabbit hole. It wasn’t until I was doing the theorycrafting homework with Theck’s Theorycrafting 101 that I realized part of my feeling overwhelmed problem.

Most of the guides that I really admire for guide construction come from hybrid class writers. Which makes a little bit of a difference because they are usually covering a single spec whereas I was trying to cover three.

That’s one of the things that many hybrid mains miss about pure DPS classes, I feel. Pure DPS can’t really be competitive as just one spec. You have to learn all three, or at least two, and you need to be able to do both/all competently if not very well. There’s overlap because it’s the same class and therefore we get the united class feeling — though, less so for warlocks. The core abilities or cooldowns of a rogue may share across specs, but since warlocks have that weird thing of three completely separate resource systems, we actually have zero overlap except for Corruption (aff & demo) and pets.

But pure DPS are weird — we have different specs, but the same role. So you need to explain three different ways of executing the same role. Most people think this is “well, you press 222222222 and stuff dies and then you WIN how hard can it be?” Or the “well EVERYONE plays DPS, how hard can it be?”

OK, baseline DPS is not that hard. But good DPS, excellent DPS, DPS that inspires? That’s a little bit more ambiguous.

The three different ways is a lot easier to lay out & explain than the overarching concept of “here’s how to generally go about DPSing so you can figure out what spec works better when.” Tanks and healers get the hard-to-explain “meters are kinda crap for judging us” that’s pretty obvious, and generally pride themselves on having to know an encounter to get their job done rather than just pushing buttons in a specific order. DPS get the “I have to figure out which of my specs is better for this particular situation so I can figure out which of the three rotations I should be doing.”

So I’m trying to write a unified guide of three totally different specs, but put it in the space where one-spec guides go. Holy unrealistic expectations, Batman.

My Wowhead guide is about 3,000 words, give or take. Bullet/sentence fragment style, intended audience is fresh L100 alts.

My official Draenor Strategy Guide section was just under 10,000 words. Prose style with spell tables, intended audience is newbie players.

Arielle’s guide is about 6,000 words, prose/bullet style, I’m guessing intended for raiding bears, whether new or old.

Class columns are 1000 words minimum (to be justified by what you get paid for them) to 1500 words max.

Why 1500 words? Blizzard Watch Editor-in-Chief (& co-owner) Alex Ziebart actually explains this on the Blizzard Watch podcast Episode #1. Too long; didn’t listen? — It’s a general reading attention span thing. If you for some reason think this is a horseshit explanation for us to continue doing an old constraint, you can go look at what Medium’s been doing to analyze how posts get completely read & what makes a most viewed post.

YES the caveat is that this isn’t a direct correlation with the quality of the post, just how many views you get. But that’s not how business with ads works. You can’t take the writing out of the business of writing and judge it purely on the romanticized Great Writing vacuum. Paid writing is very much about the volume of people consuming your work as well as how good/useful your work actually is.

Which means this rant is probably going nowhere because it’s so goddamn long. Oh well.

Anyway.

The point I’m making is that BW class columns are hella limited spaces for full class guides, especially when read by players who are used to multipost forum guides or sites like Icy Veins. It took me 4 articles on WI (here’s one) to do a whole class guide — one post for each of the 3 specs & then 1 general “which spec do I play when” type. You’re asking a lot of the class columnist when you ask this and, let’s face it, you’re probably going to be disappointed anyway because it’s going to be short/brief/not the glorious in-depth solves-all-your-problems thing you were hoping it was going to be.

Series are dailies not weeklies

I like series of things. I like convoluted plot lines in TV shows and books so I can watch and read them over and over again to get new information each time. I like epic book series that have a million different things going on with a hundred different characters and have family trees and shit in the appendices in the back. I love complex media that take multiple times to absorb.

But I learned while writing Blood Pact that series only really work when they’re consumed in a timespace relative to the wordspace they take up.

For example, I expect A Song of Ice and Fire or the entire Lord of the Rings mythology of books to take several months to finish. It’s thousands of pages, it’s going to take a while, so I’m OK with that timespace because the wordspace is also relatively huge.

4 columns = 6000 words. That’s like, what?, come back here, Medium, ok here it is, average reading rate of an adult is 275 words per minute. So 6000 words is roughly 21 minutes of reading.

Except, it’s a weekly column, so it takes you about 43,200 minutes (30 days * 24 hours * 60 minutes) to finish those 21 minutes.

Don’t do that.

Because blogging posts end up being relatively short (to keep up with the short online attention span of reading articles), you have to have quicker posts in order to keep a series connected. Which is why you have news every hour or 1-2 class columns per day. It keeps you from going “hey, when’s the next part?” too much. We want a little bit of that so you’ll come when the next part releases, but too much and people get bored or angry or both.

I remember Alex emailing us once, because the class columnists were all doing one little series or another within their columns, and he was like “stop, it’s not really worth it.” And I remember, I was silently like “yeah but I’LL get it to work because MY EGO KNOWS BEST” and then …

It doesn’t work.

Don’t do a series within a weekly column, unless it’s a series of 2. A class how-to guide one per spec is about the only series that works and even that one means only 1/3 of the class is listening at any given time. (“Oh, this week is on destro, I don’t play destro, I don’t care *skip*.”)

You CAN, however, possibly do a once-in-a-bit series within a class column. There’s patch notes, for example, that occur every few months. Loot lists happen every few months. Which spec is currently performing best/worst. Of course, they coincide with content releases, so it’s not a planned series. But you can do these sort of occasional yet categorical column posts that everyone knows is coming and they won’t be mad when you deliver one of those that week.

So you can have a series of one-offs that you do every 4 columns or whatever. But you can’t do a part 1 of X posts series within a column.

Will I ever do warlock soloing guides for the old raids in Blood Pact? Yes, but not in a row. (I’m thinking maybe monthly, since it’ll take me 2-3 weeks to do each spec on my main or an alt — look, I have 2 warlocks, but one is geared and one is quest greens.)

Will I go over how to play a warlock in specific fights? Maybe, but not in a row, and really, I’d probably just do one column of here’s warlock tips on LFR for alts because by the time I figure out all the regular raiding tricks on my main, you probably have, too.

Will I do spec guides? Yeah, if it turns out we’re all doing [Spec] 101 articles across all the class columns and it’s a THING we’re doing. Definitely if it’s a special longer article that’s allowed, because, of course, no more AOL means more freedom. But that’s ultimately up to the editors. I’ll keep assuming 1500 is my max.

But that’s kind of what the column is for anyway — how to play? — so I’d rather go to my new model of taking a specific bite of a rotation or strategy and analyzing it further. I can build up over time what is essentially a wiki of how to warlock in general so my content both lasts & is useful.

The thing about the Wowhead guide is I have to update it every time we get a new raid tier or significant patch note change. While you can go back and edit blog posts, typically you don’t go back & change months-old posts. (They’re also rather useful left as is, because then you can see where the class went over time. Blog posts make their own historical record, it’s great.)

How to play a class is not the same as how to love a class

Alternative Chat spoke to the feeling of the columns. This is what everyone’s generally been saying since Blizzard Watch resurrected from the ashes of WoW Insider. That BW/WI was always different from MMO-C or Wowhead or Icy Veins or even from regular blogs, because it was a concentrated spot of soul even when delivering the hourly news.

That’s not wrong. In fact, I agree, and further, I want to continue that.

But that’s not the same conversation as choosing the right words to meet a wordcount.

Telling me to write a class guide in a column because the soul of the class columns is what brings people is like saying my skill at playing demonology in a raid scales with how awesome my transmogrification is. You can be awesome at playing demo and you can have an awesome transmog, but one does not necessitate the other.

Really, any monkey who can run Simulation Craft, or look at spell tooltips, or spend 15 minutes on a training dummy, or run things on the PTR, or …any monkey can tell you how to play a class.

Well, not every monkey can do the science/coding/math behind the class mechanics, just to be clear that I’m not dissing theorycrafting here. That stuff is complex when it comes to figuring out exactly which questions to ask & I /salute to those who do it.

But any monkey can go read the conclusions by theorycrafters and dress it up in a guide.

Not every monkey can inspire you or otherwise get you to love a class. That’s the part that comes from the heart, and that’s the part that has to happen over every article in a class column.

You can do it with one-offs — I did soul a lot of the time by doing my narratives. The Kanrethad one comes to mind. And I still catch flack for it; my narrative stuff always had one or two comments about how it felt like it was some personal diary or blog rather than something “worth” being in the column.

One of the things I experimented with was the narrative loot list. Sure, you can argue I’m not doing much — I’m basically finding all the Wowhead links for whatever’s in the Dungeon Journal loot list. I’m hardly even telling you which piece to pick up. Strictly content speaking, it’s a bit of a fluff piece that takes some tedious work to put together.

But the way I do it — that’s what people like about it. I crack puns with the loot, I diss mages with the loot models, I frame the specs against each other with whether a piece is crappy or not based on the stats. I sometimes use the loot in a brief mention of the boss’s strategy, like making the obvious joke on running away from something while linking some leg slot piece.

There’s a mini poem in my BRF one. Just you wait.

Why did I even try to do a prose-y loot list? Why not contribute some actual info about best-in-slot pieces? Because I got bored reading bulleted loot lists. I got bored writing them — it’s just copypasta central that puts me to sleep. I still have to copy loot links with my narratives, but it’s more fun to figure out which words I’m going to link instead of just the same, old, boring loot name.

I also wanted to experiment with writing in short bursts without losing much meaning. As you can probably tell by now, I am bad at writing briefly. Having to do an entire raid instance in one post means each boss only gets about maximum 75 words each to cover all of its loot.

14 bosses in Throne of Thunder + 2 world bosses: 1200 words. Actual post: 1243 words.

16 bosses in Siege of Orgrimmar: 1200 words. Actual post: 1110 words. (shorter?!!! Fuck yes!)

But the secret that everyone simultaneously knows and doesn’t know about writing is that when you have fun writing, the reader has fun reading. When it’s a chore, it shows, when it’s fun, it shows. I had the most fun when I was doing ludicrous things like “so, I need to write a boss strat for Kanrethad. But this fight is SO AWESOME how can I show this CAN I ROLEPLAY THIS why not.”

Do you like reading a pamphlet about a place or do you like going on a museum tour? I far prefer the museum tours with enthusiastic tour guides and I bet you do, too, so I’m not going to write about the most efficient way to solo Karazhan in the fastest time possible, I’m going to tell you to do silly non-technical things like look at the ceiling while clearing Opera trash in whichever spec you like playing.

(Seriously, look at the Opera house ceiling. It’s the best.)

I love my warlock when it’s the best class. I love my warlock when it’s the worst class. If you’re just here for the shinies and the numbers, that’s fine, whatever floats your boat, but my hope is that you continue reading Blood Pact for the fun and flavor and because I make a good read, not because I make some bookmarkable rotation lists once or twice an expansion.

 

Lessons from writing the warlock column

Draenor warlock guides from me

wodstratguide-credits

In March 2014, when the class columns ended at WoW Insider, I joked that it was my fault. I’d beaten the Warlock Columnist Curse twice over, and it was so mad it lost that it had to take all the class columns with it.

Dear Warlock Columnist Curse:

Look at all those WI alums. Long live class columns!

— Poneria

P.S. Magdalena & Chaithi are also awesome people anyway.

I had to double-check the email when it came in the summer from BradyGames — it couldn’t possibly be true that I’d be invited to contribute to a real, official, printed-on-paper book, right? But it was true — Anne had put my name into the pot and I got to work with her again! (Ken Schmidt is another other editor/writer on the project.)

It’s surreal for me to see my writing in the same context as the smell of a newly printed book, but there it is. That’s my writing there, all over the Warlock section. That’s mine. What? Wow, that still repeatedly blows my mind.

I’m keeping my copies for personal reasons, but a couple of the other section authors are holding giveaways for one of their copies:

  • US entries: Chase Hasbrouk aka Alaron @ The Fluid Druid
  • AUS/NZ entries: Matt Sampson aka Binkenstein @ TotemSpot
  • Sorry, EU! None that I know of

I think maybe Bink’s giveaway is over (it was limited to the end of BlizzCon), but Alaron’s is still going on for another day.

If you’re reading me here, you probably already know all of the information in the Warlock section. It’s a newbie’s guide — veteran players will know where to find more advanced DPS tricks online — but I’m still super proud of the work I did from July to the beginning of October.

Right after I sent in my final drafts, Wowhead approached me to update the warlock class DPS guide, so I did that, too. It’s got some typos in it as I still haven’t figured out how they copy my text into the tooltip generator, but I’m still working against burnout to clean some of it up.

Burnout? What burnout?

I’ve been guide-writing in some form or another since July, or 4 months straight. Moreover, other IRL aspects of my life have started demanding more. While I’d love to put out quality like WoW Insider or Wowhead can do, I simply don’t have as much time to spend on it as I once did. I got a promotion in my “day job,” so I basically did IRL work, came home, did guide work, slept, repeat. I didn’t have much recharge time for just me aside from mindless D3 slaughtering.

I’ve been quite burnt out on writing guides for the past couple of weeks, especially when it comes to a really broad audience — optimizing gear lists, for example. While I have organized a few gear list notes for myself, I haven’t gotten around to doing the typical column Ultimate Bookmarkable Gear List guide stuff because getting it all “correct” is super stressful for me. There is also a wide variety to gear in Draenor, at least to start with, and while that’s fun for the player playing through the game, it makes guide-writing that much more stressful, because it’s more to organize.

But that doesn’t mean I’m stopping guide-writing. I’m just taking a break, is all. I’ve earned one.

Knowing myself, I will probably have lists worked out as I level in Draenor — I’ve started my raid loot lists, already. I also figure that the people who would use a gear list right out of the starting gate have probably already found their roadmaps and therefore don’t need my guides anyway. So I’m not worried about it.

But if you’re going to take your time leveling and you like my writing, feel free to read what I have to list, whenever it is that I share it.

Draenor warlock guides from me

Welcome to 6.0 – Warlock Guides

You might know that I provided the information in Wowhead’s warlock class guide when the boosted 90 feature came out in March. Wowhead came back to me to update the guide for level 100 with some tips for the pre-expac patch.

It’s mostly the same tips, except we obviously don’t have the level 100 talents or some of the balance from Draenor Perks.  The core mechanics are still the same whether you’re level 90 or level 100.

While I’d been writing my own guide (that we’ll see…llllllaaaaterrrrr…) concurrently, the warlock community’s opinions on various things (Which L100 talent? What stat priority? Etc.) recently started to solidify, so I did my best to double-check my advice for the Wowhead guide. It’s possible I still have some slightly incorrect top-end things, as I had to write & commit-to-submit* some things before the other warlock guides were published.

*By “commit-to-submit” I mean I may not have submitted the whole piece yet, but there’s a point where you have to call a section “finished” even though it’s not quite done yet because you don’t have time to both finish it AND completely write another section.

So here it is!

But Pon, you got things WRONG! OK, so tell me nicely & I’ll correct them. If you tell me nastily, I’ll probably still verify & correct them, but you’re still an asshole.

It’s always cool to know where other resources are if you don’t like my windy, wordy ways. The warlock theorycrafting community appears to be split more or less across either the Icy Veins or MMO-Champion forums. The EJ warlock forums have been pretty dead since 5.2. I’m still looking around to see what places pop back into activity with the new expansion.

  • Gahhdo is the main SimC warlock dev (that I know of) and Icy Veins’ Zagam did the Icy Veins guides that have updated for 6.0.2 (aff/demo/destro)
  • Lockybalboa/Zagam/Liquidsteel did stickied affliction/demonology/destruction guides (respectively) on the IV Warlock forums
  • On MMO-C Warlock forums, we have Cabana with the affliction guide and Woz aka @NotsWarlock with the demonology guide. Brusalk is usually the destro go-to on MMO-C forums, but there isn’t a destro stickied guide as of writing.
  • My guide on Wowhead is all three specs in one, but is a more general & condensed version than the above detailed spec guides.

Do you want a transition guide?

What’s Next?

I plan on doing guides for each spec on the level 100 Silver Proving Grounds gating mechanic for random heroic dungeons. I want to do the PGs as faithfully to a new player who just hit level 100 as I can, so I haven’t been doing them as much on beta as I’d like to partially because of the premade PvP gear that the beta experience was assuming you had.

I also had problems finding blocks of time when the servers were also up to do it. But I digress.

I’m of the opinion that just because I am a pure DPS class doesn’t mean that the Proving Grounds can stop at one spec for completion. It’s one thing to spec to complete the hardest of the hard content (e.g. Mythic raid content), but to spec just to complete a simple gating mechanic seems stupid. So while I’ll probably blow through with destro (it’s easiest), I want to do PG guides for all the warlock specs, possibly up to Endless.

“But, Pon” — you say — “Silver is pretty easy! You don’t need a guide!”

True, if you’re the type of player who knows how to find a guide online outside of the game, you probably already have enough smarts in your head to figure out Silver waves without needing a guide.

I’ve never been great at doing bleeding-edge kind of guides where you learn the best of the best way to do things, so I’m going back to what I’m good at and what I enjoy — doing guides for newer warlocks who are stepping up in skill. I plan on doing PG guides per spec that show off what this wave level shows you about your toolkit as a [spec] warlock. For example, Endless as destruction really teaches you about Havoc use.

Another thing I want to do is going back through all the retro raids — again, as each spec with an eye for non-warlocks learning on an alt. This seems like a massive project, and I don’t really have a timeline for it. It’s a thing on the bucket list more than it’s a thing on the project list. One difference is that I plan to take not only my main (fer mounts, duh!) but my quest-greens/boost-90 warlock through to see what you can do with a fresh alt versus the completely decked-out main.

Finally, a lot of vocal followers liked my prose-style gear lists, so I figure I will do those again for fun. I’ll start with heroic dungeon loot & maybe crafted pieces, and then move on to raids/world bosses.

Welcome to 6.0 – Warlock Guides

Warlords of Draenor Beta: Healthstones

Self-healing is a weird and intricate balance for warlocks because we tend to use our health as a semi-resource bar often enough for healing to matter. There’s the obvious Life Tap that we’ve had for many years, but more recently, Mists of Pandaria brought abilities that cost health, like Unbound Will or Burning Rush.

I feel like this is a subject that the devs still don’t know how to balance correctly yet. The changes tend to swing from not enough to far too much/overpowered, as we know well enough with Drain Life’s evolution, or even with how Harvest Life evolved in MoP beta. We had the Life Tap fiasco in MoP beta where our self-healing was so nerfed so far such that we couldn’t recover from Life Tap, so we eventually either went OOM or dead. So we warlocks have this weird balance where we need enough self-healing to make up for the health-costing abilities, but not so much self-healing that we can basically ignore boss mechanics when we feel like it or an otherwise lack of outside healing.

The major change for Healthstones is that it’s going to be a 1-use per fight (down from 3-5 use) and that it’s tied to the same CD as a healing potion (in Warlords, Healing Tonic). Additionally, the amount a Healthstone heals for also got nerfed.

Better-Good Design

When the newest build came out, Zinnin () asked Celestalon if Healthstones needed to be nerfed further, because they were already below the potion’s heal. Celestalon replied that the Tonic-Healthstone relationship was supposed to be more like the 300-275 stat food relationship, where one is technically better but the other isn’t absolutely terrible.

The difference between 275 & 300 stat foods is 25 stat,. If you represent this in a ratio, 300:275, then we get 1.09:1. It was further of a minor difference because in Mists, 25 Intellect (e.g.) was almost nothing of a boost compared to what you’d get from a gem or an enchant.

Let’s see how healthstones & tonics compare.

Healthstones: Build 18738

I got to thinking about the influence of Versatility and Blood Pact’s healing increase component, so I asked around on Twitter for a body to eat a handful of cookies for me and Dayani (@healiocentric /Healiocentric blog ) volunteered. After doing some gear switches to play with Versatility a bit, with both of us eating cookies and sharing numbers in party chat, we figured out that the tooltip takes into account the Versatility the user has, but not the Blood Pact passive. The total heal takes into account both.

I’ve unfortunately lost all the exact numbers because I didn’t record our party chat until half of it was cut off by the chat log’s limit. But the important thing is that I can replicate them!

The flat Healthstone heal is 15%.  My maximum health will always be 289,740. (Unless I exchange some gear or drink a stamina flask, but warlocks always have the 10% raid buff due to the Blood Pact passive.)

Then you take into account your Versatility. On my premade orc in 660 PvP gear, I have 1.63% Versatility. 15*1.0163 = 15.2445%. The tooltip still says 15%.

Then we need to factor in how I’m a warlock who is at least level 80, which means I have the Blood Pact passive. Blood Pact is a complex passive in Warlords that has 3 parts, but the important part here is that line about “increases all healing you receive by 10%.”

So we take our 15.2445 and multiply it by 1.10, which gives us 16.76895% of max health, which is 48,586.35573 health. When I take a health dip (by using the equipment sets feature to go full nude then fully geared again in one click), then use a healthstone, I receive a heal for 48587. It’s off by 1, so I know from Theck’s lessons that there’s some rounding going on in there. But I don’t care enough about 1 health point to go find out where.

When I put raid buffs on with a cauldron in Shattrath, my theory holds.

Base heal (15%) * Versatility (1.0463) * Blood Pact healing passive (1.10) = 17.2% heal. I should get something around a 50020 heal and I got 50021.

Dayani’s cookie-eating corresponded — on a shaman, her Versatility affected her cookie heal. (Also A’dal’s pesky Shatt buff affected it!)

Healing Tonics 

At level 95, I’m still in my raid gear when I got copied over, which gives me a max health of 148,980 and some Versatility of 1.22% (because I’m human, so I get free Versatility). I also unglyphed Healthstone and didn’t have Grimoire of Sacrifice buffed when I logged in. I was buffed with Dark Intent, but that’s spellpower and multistrike, so who cares.

My crafted Healing Tonic says it restores 56,681 health. When I actually drank the Healing Tonic, it healed me for 62350.

That’s accurate, because 56681*1.10 (to account for Blood Pact) = 62349.1.

The tooltip for the Healing Point takes into account Versatility, as it turns out. The Wowhead tooltip scaled down to level 95 for Healing Tonic is 56000. 56000*1.0122 = 56683, which is close enough for government work. Same thing when you apply it to the level 100 version — 68000 — though the Versatility % tooltip must do some rounding. Eventually you do it the long way through rating and Dayani is amazing again with math and figuring out the rounding spot, and you get basically the correct answer where the 68000 Tonic heals a warlock for 68000*1.0163 = 69109 on the tooltip, but effectively 76019 when we include Blood Pact.

Comparison: Tonics & Stones

So here’s the deal. Give or take some rounding errors, Healthstones work like this:

% max health heal =15% max health * (1+Vers) * Blood Pact

And Tonics work like this:

# heal = 68000 * (1+Vers) * Blood Pact

Assuming a warlock standing around, you get Blood Pact; if you’re some other class or situation, you can get some other healing done/taken effect going on (like A’dal’s Swiggity Swattrath Buff).

It comes down to whether a 68k heal is better than 15% max health. If 68k was 15% of your maximum health, you’d have 453,333.3333 repeating health. So maybe when we get to the end of the expansion and you’re sitting at 453,334 health, your Healthstone will finally match Healing Tonic.

Right now, in 660 PvP gear, we have 289,740 max health (15% = 43461). Even if I use Shadow Bulwark off a voidwalker sacrifice, I can only get up to 376,662 health (15% = 56499.3).

68k right now is about 23.5% max health. That’s almost 1.5 times a Healthstone’s heal. That’s not a better-good competition, that’s a good-crap competition.

At 1.09, Healthstone heals 62385 health, or 21.5% max health.

At 1.10, Healthstone heals 61818 health, or 21% max.

At 1.15, Healthstone heals 59130 health, or 20% max.

At 1.20, Healthstone heals 56667 health, or 19.5% max.

At 1.25, Healthstone heals 54400 health, or 18.8% max.

If I take a look at the Shadow Bulwark situation, where I increased my maximum health without touching my Versatility, where I increased my healthstone’s heal without increasing the tonic’s heal — the tonic is still better, 68000 to 56499 being 1.20 ratio. You’re only going to get to a stamina-only increase like that through a temporary raid CD. Stamina flasks don’t even begin to compare to that (30% max health is in the realm of 85k; a stamina flask is 18k health).

I don’t feel like or think that’s balanced. 15% is way too low.

If 68k is the accepted base heal for a potion, the Healthstone should be brought back up to a 20% max health heal, to at least give a little choice. To go to the 1.09 ratio of the stat foods, Healthstone would have to be buffed from live realms to 21.5% max health.

Otherwise, if we’re tuning to Healthstone’s 15%, the Tonic needs to be nerfed to something like 48k to get to a ratio of 1.09. The compromise 1.20 ratio would be a 52k heal.

TL;DR

Buff Healthstones and/or nerf Healing Tonics.

Edit: Already Changed

I @’d my post to Celestalon, and he replied that Healthstone has already been changed in the next build to be a flat base heal of 50k instead of based on max health percent. So now both warlock formulas for Tonics and ‘Stones are: # heal = [68000 (Tonic) / 50000 (Healthstone)] * (1+Versatility) * Blood Pact.

I’d reasoned out a 1.20:1 ratio as fair, which left me at thinking buffing Healthstone to heal 52k. Not too shabby for speculation!

Warlords of Draenor Beta: Healthstones

TC101: Multistrike & Versatility

I’ll revisit how to calculate Intellect when I get around to analyzing Spellpower, but for now, I can do more of the simple things like rating conversions.

Multistrike and Versatility are the easiest of the five secondaries to discuss because they have a rather uncomplicated and passive effect on our damage done. Critical strike chance, haste, and mastery all have particular spec implications of what they do for damage, even if you don’t consider the specialization attunements.

Multistrike

Multistrike is pretty simple to figure out.

The full 660 PvP premade gear on the PvP level 100 character has 590 Multistrike rating in total. By removing pieces of gear and comparing the percents, I figured the appropriate rating conversion.

  • 590 = 8.94% –> 590/8.94 = 65.9955 rating
  • 513 = 7.77% –> 513/7.77 = 66.02 rating
  • 411 = 6.23% –> 411/6.23 = 65.97 rating

I guessed that the actual rating conversion is 66 rating = 1.00% Multistrike, that the percentage was determined by gear_total/conversion, and that the final percentage was rounded.

  • 590/66 = 8.939393…rounds to 8.94%
  • 513/66 = 7.77272727…rounds to 7.77%
  • 411/66 = 6.2272727…rounds to 6.23%

And I think I’m right.

When it comes to enhancements, there are static enchants, a weapon enchant proc, a food buff, a flask, and a raid buff. These all appear to be additive by rating or flat percentage.

Remember, my base gear had 590 = 8.94% Multistrike.

ms-enchant

Enchant Cloak – Breath of Multistrike

  • +200 MS
  • 590 + 200 = 790
  • 790/66 = 11.969696…

I had actually forgotten to test the static enchants, so that screenshot is on my undead warlock. The rest I was testing on the blood elf warlock. Racial pick doesn’t matter for Multistrike, anyway.

ms-flask

Draenor Multi-Strike Flask

  • Blizzard hasn’t copyedited how it wants to spell Multistrike, I guess.
  • +400 MS
  • 590 + 400 = 990
  • 990/66 = 15

ms-food

Food – Rylak Crepes

  • +125 MS
  • 590 + 125 = 715
  • 715/66 = 10.8333333…

ms-flask+food

Flask + Food

  • + 400 + 125 MS
  • 590 + 400 + 125 = 1115
  • 1115/66 = 16.89393939…

ms-flask+food+buff

Flask + Food + Buff

The buff is just a flat percent addition on top of whatever rating total you have.

  • 1115 rating + 5%
  • 1115/66 = 16.89393939…
  • 16.89% + 5% = 21.89%

ms-proc-buffed

Weapon enchant proc — Mark of the Frostwolf

Temporary enchants also just add rating. The weapon enchant proc gives 500 Multistrike for 6 seconds.

  • Started with flask, food, buff = total 21.89%, 1115 rating
  • 1115 + 500 = 1615
  • 1615/66 = 24.469
  • 24.47% + 5% = 29.47%

So, in summary, Multistrike chance = round(total_rating/66 + raid_buff_percent), where total_rating includes gear, enchants, flask, and food.

Versatility

Versatility has two effects to it: damage or healing done and damage taken. I started referring to these as DD/DT, so I’ll often write “V” numbers as x% / y%. The DT number is always half the DD number. Thus, depending on what you want out of Versatility, you can find it by:

  • %DD = round(total_rating/130)
  • %DT = round(total_rating/260)

If you add anything to the DD percentage, you can only add half to the DT percentage to get the correct number. It’s easier to make that mistake of blindly applying a whole percentage (like the raid buff) to the DT number, so I think it’s better to think of them as two different rating conversions, depending on which one you’re aiming for. This way, the raid buff adds 390 rating, instead of trying to remember to halve the percent.

Versatility is also a good (current) example of when tooltips are lying out their textual asses.

If you equip or unequip gear, the rating number changes as it should. If you enchant gear, the number changes.

But if you eat, flask, buff up, or switch to a human (with the racial affecting Versatility) the rating doesn’t move, despite showing an increase in percentages. So when I write “212” (#), I mean that the tooltip currently says it’s 212 rating, but I know it’s actually the (#) rating applying.

Base Versatility

If you take off all your gear on a non-human, you get 0 rating with 0% DD or DT. On a human, you get +100 Versatility rating as a passive racial, but the tooltip will say 0 rating. To find the conversion, we consulted some numbers.

  • Dwarf 660 premade: 212 = 1.63%/0.82%
    • 212/1.63 = 130.0613
  • Human 660 premade: “212” (312) = 2.40% / 1.20%
    • 312/2.40 = 130
  • Human premade, naked: “0” (100) = 0.77% / 0.38%
    • 100/0.77 = 129.870

I estimated that the rating was 130, so the DT rating would be 260. The percentages are obviously rounded at the end.

  • 212/130 = 1.6307
  • 212/260 = 0.8153
  • 312/130 = 2.4
  • 312/260 = 1.2
  • 100/130 = 0.7692
  • 100/260 = 0.3846

Gear changes

This is my undead warlock with the premade gear, but with some changes. She has Crit/Versatility boots on (+102 V) instead of Crit/Mastery boots, and I’ve enchanted her cloak with 200 Versatility.

vers-gear

  • 212 starting V + 102 (boots) + 200 (static enchant) = 514 rating
  • 514/130 = 3.95384% DD
  • 514/260 = 1.97692% DT

Flask + Food + Buffs — Additive

Same thing with flask and food that happens with gear, except the rating tooltip is bugged. The flask adds 400 rating while the food adds 125 rating.

The raid buff adds 3% Versatility, which adds 3% to the DD and 1.5% to the DT. Rating-wise, it’s as if you had added 390 rating.

  • +food = “212” (337) = 2.59% / 1.30%
  • +flask = “212” (612) = 4.71% / 2.35%
  • +buff = “212” (602) = 4.63% / 2.32%

Let’s do math:

  • 337/130 = 2.5923
  • 337/260 = 1.2961
  • 612/130 = 4.70769
  • 612/260 = 2.35384
  • 602/130 = 4.6307
  • 602/260 = 2.3153

Fully Buffed Human

If we get a fully buffed human, I expect:

  • 212 (premade gear) + 100 (human racial) + 125 (food) + 400 (flask) + 390 (raid buff) = 1227 rating
  • 1227/130 = 9.4384
  • 1227/260 = 4.7192

And what do we get? Remember, it’s “212” rating.

vers-buffed-human

Woot!

TC101: Multistrike & Versatility

TC101 Homework: Character Sheet Stat Calculations

We all see the finished guides and models from theorycrafters, but despite theorycrafters and guidewriters alike swearing they’re not actually gods who get everything right on the first try, we don’t really see the trial-and-error experiments or calculations behind theorycrafting.

I’ve done plenty of following along with theorycrafting over the years, but I’ve not actually tried to derive the equations myself until now.  Theck’s done some teaching; I figure now it’s time to show off some learning. This post will probably be full of mistakes, but that’s OK, because learning. I hope someone out there enjoys this sample of my theorycrafting “homework.”

  1. I do write out on my notes to myself like “let’s do X” “OK that didn’t work, why” “here’s why” when doing math/science things because I got used to doing that when explaining math to myself in school. Y’know, the whole “let X equal 5, let Y equal 6, *do funky equations*” stuff. So it’s not just my guidewriting slipping in — I really do write to myself like that!
  2. If I slip between singular and plural, that’s my bad — Theck’s using the first person plural because he’s walking us through it, and I was reading along with Theck while doing these calculations, but I typically write in first person singular, so um, yeah, confusion.

Determining Base Intellect

Pulling the base stats for warlocks, we get this:

Warlock
Strength 551
Agility 985
Intellect 1042
Stamina 890
Spirit 1155

And pulling the racial modifiers for warlock-able races, we get this:

Human Dwarf Gnome Worgen
Strength 0 5 -5 3
Agility 0 -4 2 2
Intellect 0 -1 3 -4
Stamina 0 1 0 0
Spirit 0 -1 0 -1

My blog theme can cut off the table, so I split it into Alliance (above) and Horde (below).

Orc Undead Troll Blood Elf Goblin
Strength 3 -1 1 -3 -3
Agility -3 -2 2 2 2
Intellect -3 -2 -4 3 3
Stamina 1 0 0 0 0
Spirit 2 5 1 -2 -2

While I have created a level 100 premade of every warlock race on the PvP beta server, I decided I’d go with troll. I normally play a human, but troll is the race that SimulationCraft uses (particularly the affliction warlock model).

Variables: (Sorry, I’m not a LaTeX wizard like Theck is)

  • B = class_base + race_base = 1042 + (-4) = 1038
  • G = 2378

Formulas:

  • CS_Base = B = 1038
  • CS_Bonus = G = 2378
  • CS_Total = B + G = 3416

Basic math, woot! We can do this!

base-int

…1089 + 2496 = 3585.

Um.

…OK.

I double-checked to make sure I was in no-selected spec. I switched to my human premade, and same thing — the numbers didn’t match.

The First Difference Between Warlocks and Paladins

Paladins can wear any of the 4 armor class items, even though they eventually prefer wearing plate. Warlocks, on the other hand, can only ever wear cloth. Paladins, like other higher armor class wearers, get a passive at level 50 that gives them 5% extra preferred primary stat if they stick to wearing all plate. Warlocks do not need this incentive to pick a particular type of gear, but to balance everything, we get a “congrats, you can only wear one thing!” 5% primary stat bonus at 50.

Another difference I noticed is that the theorycrafters I look to for learning theorycrafting — Theck, Arielle, Hamlet, etc. — are all players of hybrid classes. Theck’s first screenshot in the 101: Character Stats post where he’s determining the base stats clearly has his plate gear on — he just hasn’t chosen a specialization yet. The preferred primary stat for paladins can depend on spec — protection prefers Stamina, retribution prefers Strength, and holy prefers Intellect. So the passive doesn’t activate for paladins until you choose a spec.

Our problem above with the character sheet and Theck’s very first calculations example is that all warlocks like Intellect. That’s just how it is when you’re a pure DPS caster class. And the game knows this — that we only wear cloth and we only like Intellect. So it doesn’t need to take those considerations out when we’re not in a particular spec.

So let’s skip ahead to when Theck calculates that passive for paladins and see if it matches my numbers for warlock.

The Armor Skill Formerly Known as Nethermancy

Theck’s picking retribution; I’m picking affliction.

If I was right — that the base intellect really was supposed to be 1038 + 2378 from gear = 3416 total, what happens if we repeat Theck’s first error and just multiply by 1.05?

  • 3416 x 1.05 = 3586.8

The character sheet had displayed 3585 — which is close, much like Theck’s simple error is. So I’m probably right — the cloth armor bonus is already factored in for warlocks where it’s not for paladins. Let’s continue with the calculation.

  • CS_Base = floor( B x 1.05 ) = floor( 1038 x 1.05 ) = floor(1089.9) = 1089
  • CS_Bonus = floor( G x 1.05) = floor( 2378 x 1.05 ) = floor(2496.9) = 2496
  • CS_Total = CS_Base + CS_Bonus = 1089 + 2496 = 3585

Yay! The numbers match!

So, before we go to the next step, let’s reiterate all our variables:

  • AC_multiplier = 1.05
  • B = class_base + race_base = 1042 + (-4) = 1038
  • G = gear_stat = 2378

And all our formulas:

  • CS_Base = floor( B x match )
  • CS_Bonus = floor( G x match )
  • CS_Total = CS_Base + CS_Bonus

Buffed: 5% Intellect

I’m not a paladin, so I can’t buff myself with Kings, but I can stand in Shattrath with the beta cauldrons. I clicked a beta cauldron to get the raid buffs and clicked off everything except the 5% Strength, Agility, Intellect stats buff.

stats-buff-int

Like Theck’s ret paladin, the base for my affliction warlock hasn’t changed: it’s 1089.

If I apply the Kings buff like Theck has, where I multiply my total unbuffed Intellect by 1.05, I actually get a different comparative number than Theck does.

  • Theck multiplied his unbuffed 4023 Strength by 1.05 and got 4224.2, which would be correct according to his character sheet if he floored that.
  • I multiply 3585 Intellect by 1.05 to get 3764.25 — which still wouldn’t be the 3765 Intellect on my character sheet if I floored it!

OK. Well. Skipping ahead worked last time.

Theck’s all like “so the formula for the bonus is”:

  • CS_Bonus = G x match x multiplier + B x match x (multiplier – 1)

And I’m like, whoa whoa whoa, hold up, where’d you get that, Theck. So let’s try it out.

We got closest to the answer when multiplying the total unbuffed stat by 1.05. (We’re going to write this a little backwards so we can match Theck’s formula visually.)

  • CS_Total = multiplier x ([ G x match ] + [ B x match ])

Expand it out:

  • CS_Total = multiplier x G x match + multiplier x B x match

The problem is that it’s attributing all of that to the stat bonus, CS_Bonus. CS_Bonus = CS_Total – CS_Base. So subtract a CS_Base equivalent from each side.

  • CS_Total – CS_Base = multiplier x G x match + multiplier x B x match – B x match

We can clean this up a bit.

  • CS_Bonus = multiplier x G x match + (multiplier – 1) x B x match

Which looks like Theck’s. Cool beans. Math!

  • CS_Bonus = multiplier x G x match + (multiplier – 1) x B x match
  • CS_Bonus = 1.05 x 2378 x 1.05 + (1.05 – 1) x 1038  x 1.05
  • CS_Bonus = 2676.24
  • Character Sheet bonus = 2676

Theck got a one-off; we got what we’d get if we floored it.

We’ll still do it Theck’s way for the sake of learning.

  • G = 2378
  • B = 1038
  • match = 1.05
  • multiplier = 1.05

And, with the help of some spreadsheets to make the calculations easier, we get for the first batch of flooring:

  • F1 = 2675.295
  • F2 = 2675.495
  • F3 = 2676.195
  • F4 = 2675.745

We actually get F3 for our answer — which doesn’t match Theck’s ret spec strength problem, but it matches his prot spec stamina problem. We find out that none of these formulas work. So it’s not our math that’s the problem. Reading on, Theck has walked us through an entirely incorrect hypothesis for the purpose of learning. Yay learning!

Hypothesis, Take Two

So, we’re at “A Change of Approach” in Theck’s post, and I don’t feel like retyping out that set of six formulas in nonLaTeX text. So go look.

Let’s bring up the picture of our total intellect with a stats buff on to refresh the numbers.

stats-buff-int

Our variables: B = 1038, G = 2378, match = 1.05, multiplier = 1.05.

  • T1 = 3765.195
  • T2 = 3765.395
  • T3 = 3765.195
  • T4 = 3765.745
  • T5 = 3764.25
  • T6 = 3765.00

In contrast to Theck, the warlock numbers can only rule out 1 formula — T5, which hilariously enough is the SimC formula for MoP, according to Theck. Theck’s retribution paladin strength problem rules out T2, T3, T4, and T6, so he decides to test T1 & T5.

To entertain Theck’s thought process, I looked at how he demonstrates that T5 can be off by 1 in Warlords stats. Our B times the match — 1038 x 1.05 — gives us 1089.9, which is similar to Theck’s made-up example of 919 x 1.05 = 964.95. Both numbers are super close to the next integer, which gives the one-off difference between flooring and not flooring.

Our T1 = 3765.195 and our T5 is one-off at 3764.25, so we already know that the more correct formula is T1:

  • CS_Total = multiplier * ( floor( G *match) + B*match )

Theck cleans up the formulas:

  • C = floor(G*match) + B*match
  • CS_Base = floor(B*match)
  • CS_Total = floor(C*multiplier)
  • CS_Bonus = CS_Total – CS_Base

A Case of Stamina

Just out of curiosity, though, how would a warlock test the T formulas if she didn’t have Theck’s post? Remember, we only ruled out 1 of the 6 formulas with the warlock numbers. You can’t just sit there and guess with that.

I figured I’d go back to stamina, like Theck did.

Let’s start at the beginning. Remember that we’re trolls.

  • B = 890 + o = 890
  • G = 3250

stam-warlock

Theck still uses match = 1.05, because Stamina is what protection paladins get for their armor class match (retribution gets Strength). So he can use the same number for Stamina because it’s the same passive, just different spec & stats.

Warlocks can only get Intellect and thus can’t get a Stamina bonus through armor class, so our match can’t be 1.05. But we clearly have a modifier of some kind going on in our base stamina, because 979 definitely isn’t 890.

I hypothesize that it’s our Blood Pact passive. Let’s look at the tooltip (here’s the Wowhead double-check):

bpact

The 10% that goes with nearby party and raid members is the raid buff equivalent that warlocks bring. In Mists of Pandaria, our Dark Intent buff provides this along with the 10% spellpower buff, but in Warlords, Dark Intent is providing 10% spellpower with 5% Multistrike. Our old DI’s stamina portion is being rolled into our Blood Pact passive, which acts like an aura (like when a shaman provides mastery just by being a shaman). The other portion is our old Fel Armor passive.

This could go one of two ways. The base stamina could be counting both the Fel Armor portion and the raid buff portion together, since we will always have both parts simply for being warlocks. Or, the base stamina could just be counting the Fel Armor portion, and the raid buff is treated like a total stat modifier, much like the Kings/Mark of the Wild stats buff was treated.

Since I’ve already spent time on beta looking at warlock buffs, I have a strong feeling that it’s the latter case. If you click a beta cauldron in Shattrath, your scrolling combat text says “<Blood Pact> fades, <Stamina Buff>.” Similarly, if you click off the Stamina buff you get from the cauldron, you get text that says ” <Stamina Buff> fades, <Blood Pact>.” My stamina also does not change in either total, base, or bonus when I do these clicking on/off shenanigans. The buffs clearly share with & overwrite each other instead of stacking.

So let’s try this.

  • B = 890
  • G = 3250
  • Fel_Armor = 1.10
  • multiplier = 1.10

CS_Base = floor(B * Fel_Armor) = floor(890 * 1.10) = floor(979.00).  And what was our base tooltip again?

stam-warlock

Woot!

OK, time to test the multiplier effect. I don’t know if we have a high enough multiplier to prove the T functions like Theck did with the protection paladin, but we can try.

  • T1 = 5009.4
  • T2 = 5008.9
  • T3 = 5009.4
  • T4 = 5008.5
  • T5 = 5009.4
  • T6 = 5008

Ooof, not quite. For Stamina, T1, T3, and T5 could work. (They’re also all the same answer!) We already know that T5 doesn’t, since our Intellect didn’t work well with T5. So we’re down to T1 and T3.

The difference is whether you floor the G*match or whether you floor the B*match.

  • G*match = 3250*1.10 = 3575
  • B*match = 890*1.10 = 979

I think it has to do with how it’s a bit harder for me to get a non-integer number with the 1.10 multipliers. Both my B & G numbers are divisible by 10, so when you multiply them by 1.10, you’re going to get an integer again. So there’s no difference between flooring it or not flooring it.

We can’t change the B number, since it’s based on race and class, but we can change the G number, which is based on gear. I unequipped my helm (+331 stamina), which leaves me with 2919 stamina from gear.

  • B*match = 890*1.10 = 979
  • G*match = 2919*1.10 = 3210.9

This should be a good number to test, because it’s so close to the next integer that flooring G*match should make a difference versus not flooring.

  • T1 = 4607.9
  • T3 = 4608.69

Aaaand it does make a difference of, ding ding ding, one. Let’s check with the in-game tooltip when I have my helm removed:

stam-nohelm

Woot! T1 is confirmed to be the correct formula for warlocks, backing up Theck’s theory.

Until Next Time

While Theck goes on to deal with racial bonuses, food, and flasks, I think I’ll stop this “homework” post for now.

Besides, all of the racial cases he’s testing — tauren’s Endurance, draenei’s Heroic Presence, and pandaren’s Epicurean — are not applicable to warlocks because warlocks can’t be any of those races. I feel good enough reading through Theck’s post to broaden my knowledge of it, but I don’t think many (if any) of the warlock races have flat permanent bonuses like that until we get into secondary stats.

I suppose that’s my next “homework” — finding all the base values for all the warlock races as well as the warlock specs and branching out into theorycrafting the secondary stats. Then I can get into flasks and food, since most of the flasks and food in Warlords involve the secondaries, not Intellect.

I enjoyed my “homework,” so I hope you did, too, and maybe I’ll see you next time with more shemathigans.

TC101 Homework: Character Sheet Stat Calculations