The viability of partial tri-speccing artifacts

I also could have explored the more pure-DPS appropriate situation of a raiding tier split between all three specs, MS/OS/OS, where you have one mainspec and two offspecs of different trailing ranks, but I didn’t think of it at the time, and I will may update later when I want to do that amount of work.

— Me, Multispeccing Artifacts, 12 July 2016

I’m glad I decided to double-check myself.

Thinking about tri-spec practically

In my previous post, I concluded that while dual-speccing is definitely viable compared to investing in a single main artifact, tri-speccing and quad-speccing may not be as viable, depending on player preference of grinding Artifact Power (AP) and mechanical game offerings of such amounts of AP. I wasn’t wrong per se, but in that post I was also describing a singular and very general case of tri-speccing. To be specific, I was describing the “worst case” scenario of tri-speccing, where you effectively kept all three specs equal in artifact trait ranks — in other words, where every spec was your mainspec (MS/MS/MS).

Practical tri-speccing doesn’t often happen that way. The offspec (OS) is usually inferior to the mainspec, and the third spec is inferior still to the offspec. Furthermore, the third spec isn’t always a constant presence; you might be happy with two specs for some time, and then a change or pro/regression in activity causes you to add that third spec.

Again, as a pure DPS myself (Warlock), the viability of tri-spec in Legion is a significant concept that I personally want to explore. Moreover, tri-spec is probably the broadest application of Legion’s new freedom of speccing feature. (Quad-speccing is Druid-only and dual-speccing isn’t new for us, despite being the only option for Demon Hunters.) It also applies to other cases outside a pure DPS — e.g.:

  • the third tank who normally maintains a double DPS spec setup (Warriors/Death Knights)
  • the swing healer (Elemental/Restoration Shaman) who PvPs in their third spec (Enhancement)
  • a mainspec PvWhatever endgamer (Balance Druid) who does the other PvContent endgame in their second spec (Restoration) and does retro/solo content for transmog in yet a third spec (Guardian)
  • …etc.

I had concluded that the viability of any multispeccing at all decreases significantly once you finish the main artifact tree of any given spec and hit the hidden traits; thus, I’m going to focus my results and conclusions here on the main artifact tree (34 traits). The data in my spreadsheet goes up to the full 54 traits (34 + 20 hidden) if possible, so you can check that out if you want more.


The work for this post builds off the work I did in my previous post, Multispeccing Artifacts. You can go read it if you like, but hopefully I’ve written this one such that you won’t have to (but maybe you’ll want to!). This post in particular explores the details of Artifact Power expenditure when tri-speccing, while the previous post deals with the impacts of Artifact Knowledge as well as more general cases for dual-speccing, tri-speccing, and quad-speccing compared together.

I have a new spreadsheet particularly for tri-spec analysis. It cribs a little bit of data from my previous spreadsheet, which was itself based off & adapted from spreadsheets from Kerriodos of <Temerity> US-Windrunner and from Kib#2498 on Discord.

I found a small typo in Kerri’s sheet, where rank 46 was said to cost 5115000 AP, but was actually 3115000 AP. I corrected this in my latest spreadsheet (for this post), but it doesn’t have much effect on my conclusions (the effect it has is that equivalent ranks past trait 45 may be adjusted down by 1 rank).


Thanks to Ranor for proofreading/reviewing this post for words problems, and generally being a sounding board for whether my math & explanations were clear enough for a layperson.

Thanks to Binkenstein for mentioning difference graphs to me so I would quit trying to show off a bunch of overlapping scatter point-lines on a zoomed graph.

Thanks to various people who told me about where they were discussing my previous post. Like Arielle, who mentioned it on TankCast, so I thought of third tanks with third specs. Or like Dravvie, who said there was an awesome discussion-argument on her guild forums over who could really put in the effort to tri-spec, so I thought about, really, what would the effort look like if I did partial tri-speccing? Could I beat my original conclusion?

defining tri-speccing

The first step to analysing tri-speccing in detail is to define it in detail. While I don’t intend to analyse all 7140 combinations with repetition of 34 traits in three different artifact specs ( (34+3-1)!/(3!*(34-1)!) = 7140), I can look at some reasonable and representative cases of tri-speccing.

I’m defining all of my setups as tri-spec setups, as they can help us compare impacts of AP spending from both the OS and the 3rd. My terminology starts to solidify now, in order to keep the various sets clear and distinct from each other.

  • MS — MainSpec, usually defined as the spec with the most/leading number of traits purchased in its artifact
  • OS — OffSpec, usually defined as the spec with the second most number of traits purchased in its artifact
  • 3rd — third spec, usually defined as the spec with the third most/least number of traits purchased in its artifact
  • MS/OS/3rd — The slashes when talking spec setups separate spec terminology. I usually refer to them in this order, so the “3rd” spec is the spec after the second slash.
  • MS-3, MS-6, etc. — I represent constantly trailing specs in terms of how far behind the mainspec they are, so they can change as the mainspec is progressed
  • 0, 13, 16, 26, etc. — I use plain numbers to represent a static number of traits in a spec, usually the third spec. The static nonzero numbers are pulled from my previous post where I looked at the general rank point where AP is cheap (13) or where Warlock specs gain approximately 2 & 3 gold traits (16 & 26, respectively).

Difference graphs


Click the picture for a bigger picture.

I started with my original graph, without the quad-spec and with the axes trimmed. Both the x- and y-axis only go to 35, because I’m focusing on the main artifact tree progression. I thought about zooming the graph by moving the axis lines more, but even then, the points would still be so close together. I was going to add four more cases of tri-speccing, which would overlap each other a lot. I needed a better graph.

Enter the difference graph. We’re going to take the points of each multispec setup and subtract the points of the 1x Artifact line, and then graph the results. The general shapes of the lines remain the same; think of it like rotating the graph clockwise about 45 degrees. That 1x Artifact y=x line becomes y=0, and the other multispeccing setups become lines with areas on top of it. I left in the full trait progression on this graph, just to emphasize the jump in AP for the multispeccing spent after trait 30 in your mainspec.


Click the picture for a bigger picture. Lines:

  • Green (top) — 3x Equals, or MS/MS/MS
  • Blue (middle) — 2x Equals, or MS/MS/0
  • Red (bottom) — Dual-spec trailing, or MS/(MS-3)/0
  • Black (y=0) — 1x Artifact, or MS/0/0

Now that rank 13-14 breakpoint is really obvious, since all the graphs suddenly dip down to a 1-2 rank difference at trait 13. Also, it’s obvious that each setup starts to take off significantly after 32 or so, which is when you’re about to finish a mainspec and start investing in hidden traits.

The impact of partial offspeccing

We’re adding that third spec, so it’ll be above a two-spec, but it’s not a full tri-spec, so it’ll be less than that tri-spec. Thus, a partial tri-spec would graph between the dual-spec equals and the tri-spec equals. Right?

Wrong! In fact, the only place where the trailing tri-spec crosses into the area between the equals dual-spec and equals tri-spec is way the hell up at trait 40+. Otherwise, it’s actually less than the equals dual-spec for most of the time.


Click the picture for a bigger picture.

  • Lighter colors = equals multispeccing
  • Darker = partial multispeccing
  • Yellow = Dual-spec
  • Blue = Tri-spec

My second hypothesis is correct — that the partial tri-spec lies between the full dual-spec and the partial dual-spec — and it should have been obvious. I built the partial tri-spec setup based off the partial dual-spec setup. The first spec is MS, the second spec is MS-3, and the third spec is 0 (partial dual-spec) or MS-6 (partial tri-spec). The lowest the partial tri-spec could be is MS/MS-3/0, which is my definition of a partial dual-spec. The equals dual-spec being an upper bound should also have been obvious due to the way the AP ranks significantly increase in value as you up. Rank 32 by itself is bigger than all of 1-26, for example.

Thus, partial offspeccing can give you a substantial artifact progression increase in a second or third spec at the cost of an increase of 1-3 traits for a single mainspec.

Stopping places versus dumping

Is it better to partially tri-spec up to a point and stop? Possibly — again, this depends on your preference of degree of competence in whatever number of specs you are spending in.


Click the picture for a bigger picture.

  • Blue = partial trailing in both dual-spec & tri-spec varieties
  • Yellow = Third spec stops at a given point, becoming trailing dual-spec thereafter.

“3rd Easy” (trait 13 in third spec) and “3rd 2xGold” (trait 16 in third spec) have about the same effect, while trailing tri-spec and “3rd 3xGold” (trait 26 in third spec) are close together. I’d likely draw the conclusion that if you were going to try to have three well-progressed specs, you’d probably want to partial tri-spec the whole way up to 33 in your main spec (so that’s 27 in your third spec). If you want to stay more equivalent to a partial dual-spec later in your mainspec’s artifact progression, you’ll have to be OK with a half-filled third spec.

If you look at dumping 1-X AP into a third spec all at once, it might be easier to look at how much of the next rank that amount of AP would cost you.

Rank where a 1-X AP dump
is approximately worth a percentage of the rank’s AP cost
Percent of the
next rank
1-13 1-16 1-20 1-26
100% 13 16 20 26
50% 14 18 22 28
25-30% 15 20 25 31
10% 18 24 29 35
5% 20 26 31 37
1% 26 32 37 52

Essentially, it’s really easy to dump 1-13 into a third or fourth spec, even when you’re in the middle of your mainspec progression. You could reach for a second gold trait with a 1-16 or 1-20 dump while in your mid-to-late-20s of a mainspec. However, doing a 1-X dump over 25 or so gets harder to visually convince yourself that you’re not wasting your mainspec’s next rank of AP in this other spec, until you’re already in ranks where you ought to be devoted to a mainspec because you’re in the hidden traits.

It’s obvious that it’s not recommended to dump 1-X AP into a second, third, of fourth spec until you’ve passed at least X ranks on your mainspec.

If you are going along dual-speccing just fine, but for some reason need that third spec fairly well progressed (e.g., Main Tank quits game & third tank now gets sudden promotion), then it’ll be worth a significant amount of AP to get that trade-off.


Partial tri-speccing is viable when compared to fully equal dual-speccing, and only slightly more expensive (approximately +1 equivalent single artifact rank) than partial dual-speccing.

When it comes to filling the third spec, players have a few options. Keeping a constant third spec running, even if inferior to the other two specs, is recommended if the player wishes to have three well-progressed artifacts. Dumping many ranks of Artifact Power is not recommended for keeping a secondary, tertiary, or quaternary spec well-progressed, unless in a case of sudden need.

Dumping Artifact Power into a third spec up to approximately half tree progression (17) is doable while midway progressing in a mainspec artifact without a strongly negative, wasteful feeling, whether through numerical analysis or through the visual experience bar in-game. Dumping large amounts of Artifact Power gets less convenient and requires player- and situation-specific decisions on the trade-off of one more rank in the mainspec versus what a well-progressed second, third, or fourth spec would bring to the player and to the content being attempted.

The viability of partial tri-speccing artifacts

Multispeccing Artifacts

I play a Warlock, which is a pure DPS class, which means I play a class with all three specs for the (specifically caster) DPS role. As a pure DPS in the raiding scene, I’m expected to play all three of my specs to a decent standard, even if I prefer one of them as my mainspec. Since Wrath of the Lich King (patches 3.X), we’ve been used to a dual spec, which means I’ve been quite used to playing at least two of my three specs in raid settings, without any game mechanic barrier to switching between the two (other than being out of combat), and reaching the third by adding another Warlock to my character slots or by switching that second spec around often.

In Legion, we can swap specs freely out of combat such that dual-spec is opening up to tri-spec for us, but our standard of competency within spec-swapping will still be limited by a new factor: artifact weapons. Artifact weapons have a main tree of 34 traits and then a 20-stack trait that increases all damage done after the main tree is finished. The catch is that each artifact is leveled independently of the other specs, all of them using a resource called Artifact Power, which the player gains as a character to spend on one spec or another. So while my main spec might have a fully powered artifact weapon, my other two specs will be incomplete in varying degrees of lagging behind.

So my question going into Legion is: how well can I dual-spec and possibly tri-spec? Given what we know about artifacts, Artifact Power (AP), and the catch-up mechanic for Artifact Power, Artifact Knowledge (AK), I decided to try to find out.


I initially copied and modified a spreadsheet by Kerriodos of <Temerity> US-Windrunner that had some early AK levels and all of the total AP levels.

I then found & was linked a spreadsheet going around about the maximum AP levels as well as some extrapolation using targeted daily values of AP grinds to see, with AK progression in mind, how long it would take to reach a certain trait rank. The sheet has Discord name Kib#2498 as the owner.




  • AK — Artifact Knowledge
  • AK# — Artifact Knowledge rank #
  • AP — Artifact Power
  • MS — MainSpec
  • OS — OffSpec
  • WQ — World Quest

Multispec or multispeccing: I’m defining “multispeccing” as keeping two or more artifact weapons up to a determined trait rank (equals) or set of trait ranks (MS/OS) such that I could play both/all chosen multispecs to a reasonably competitive degree.

“Reasonably competitive degree” is intentionally vague because I want to leave it open to further determination of AP ranks involved as determined by the writer as to how hardcore or casual a mindset is involved. “Reasonably competitive degree” therefore means whatever you have to do to keep that spec to the standards you want to uphold in whatever content you’re playing.

My particular version of “reasonably competitive degree” doesn’t mean that I’ve kept them to their fullest or best degree, just that I’ve hit the point where I’m accomplishing the DPS to pull my weight on a boss fight. It means I can be in a group to do that fight, not that I will necessarily pwn it or be the best class/spec at it. This is usually measured by my mainspec’s advancement, such that my offspec is within 2-3 traits of my mainspec.

AP trait or rank: I use these interchangeably almost but with a subtle difference.

When I talk ranks, I’m usually talking about the experience bar aspect of it, so I’m referring to that amount of AP you need to get the next trait, or being in the middle of completing that rank/trait.

When I talk traits, I’m usually talking about the progression line to a gold trait, or the act of completing a rank’s worth of AP by picking a specific trait.

This is made even more confusing because I might say “I’m at trait 13” meaning that I’ve gotten/spent 13 traits and I’m actually “in”/progressing on rank 14.

Total AP spent while multispeccing

It’s quite obvious that the more weapons you try to keep current, the more work on gaining AP you’re going to have to do. The first question I set off to explore was to see how much more effort was involved — would I have to go balls-to-the-wall hardcore grinding AP to multispec at all or would I be able to be fairly casual about things while still keeping specs reasonable up to date?

The common argument against multispeccing artifacts is that whatever you spent in your offspec is wasted AP that you didn’t spend in your mainspec. So I decided to look at how much keeping two/three/four specs equal or slightly apart would compare to the rank you would have if you had spent all that AP in one artifact weapon. If all AP ranks were equal in amount of AP per rank, then logic holds that it’ll take you two, three, four times the AP gain to keep as many specs up. However, AP ranks increase in value as they go up, so the amount of AP you need for rank 2 is more than you needed for rank 1, etc., such that spending X amount of AP across two specs doesn’t necessarily translate to the combined total of ranks in one spec.

I did 1x artifact for a base comparison, 2x equal ranks (dual-spec or Demon Hunter all-specs case), 3x equal ranks (pure DPS all-specs case), 4x equal ranks (Druid all-specs case), and a dual-spec MS/OS case where the OS constantly trails the MS by 3 ranks. I totaled up all the AP spent in both/all specs at a given rank of the mainspec and using the 1x artifact guide, I found approximately where the equivalent 1x artifact spending rank would be, including partial progress into a rank.

And then I graphed it.

  • In the spreadsheet for a way bigger & interactive picture, it’s the Equiv AP in artifacts tab.
  • The horizontal axis (X) is the number of traits spent in the mainspec, whether it is leading or equal to the rank of the other spec(s).
  • The vertical axis (Y) is the equivalent rank progress you would have if you had put into one artifact all the AP spread across your multiple spec artifacts.
  • You’d look up the rank X of your two equal artifacts, looking along the red dotted line to find the Y equivalent rank progress.
  • Colored lines:
    • blue = 1x artifact
    • red = 2x equals
    • yellow = 3x equals
    • green = 4x equals
    • purple = MS/OS

Some error analysis & where I might do it differently

The graphs only go up to a maxed out artifact (54 traits = 34 main tree + 20 hidden/flat increase traits) on the vertical axis, because I don’t know how I should compare after that. Perhaps I should have done a percent of the last rank (54th) or perhaps, when I have more time to make sure I’ve done it properly, I can see how far into a second one-go artifact you would have done.

Either way, I decided to show how far each of my multispeccing samples would go within the bounds of one 54-traits artifact, since the argument against multispeccing is usually concerned with the detriment to the mainspec artifact, not caring so much about when the other specs will also be complete.

I also could have explored the more pure-DPS appropriate situation of a raiding tier split between all three specs, MS/OS/OS, where you have one mainspec and two offspecs of different trailing ranks, but I didn’t think of it at the time, and I will may update later when I want to do that amount of work. Besides, raid tiers are most commonly split between two specs of the same pure DPS class, although this is possibly due to our dual-spec history influencing raidwide encounter design. For example, in Hellfire Citadel’s 13 fights, Warlocks are swapping between Affliction and Destruction on most fights, with only one fight (Kormrok) being notable for a strong Demonology showing.


Again, the bigger sheet version is here if you want interaction with specific values, but the picture is enough to get my main point across.

The blue line (1x Artifact) is straight y=x, because as the base identity spec setup here, the x-axis and y-axis are measuring the same thing. Our previous simple logic is also apparent here, that keeping up fewer traits at a time spends less AP, such that keeping the MS/OS going at a 3-trait difference will be less AP than keeping two specs equal. However, spending the least AP is not my question — I knew going in that it would take more AP to keep 2+ specs going at once — I’m asking how far behind is multispeccing compared to filling one artifact.

Looking at the graph you notice two spots where the lines either converge at a plateau or branch off into much more AP than usual. I’m going to discuss the graph backwards, starting with the end of the graph, because the beginning of the graph is more fun and rolls better into the discussion of how I explored AK’s effects.

Hidden trait break-off

The spot where all the lines start to break off from each other late in the graph is where the AP rank curve for one artifact really ramps up in the millions of AP — right where you’ve finished the main tree of 34 traits and where you begin the hidden/flat increase traits.

I looked at how many hidden traits you would have had in the 1x Artifact scenario given the AP you spent in the multispeccing samples around the main tree completion mark (rank 34), and then using the Warlock hidden trait increase amounts, I estimated how much percent damage increase you would be missing from the mainspec had you put everything into one artifact.

Percent damage increase missing from mainspec
due to multispeccing hidden traits
Rank 2x Equals 3x Equals 4x Equals 1xMS/1xOS
32 0 6 6 0
33 5 6 7 0
34 6 7 8 5
35 7 8 9 6
36 8 9 10 6
37 8 10 12 7
38 9 11 13 8
39 10 12 14 9
40 10 13 10

The important catch here is how much that first hidden trait at rank 35 gives you in flat damage increase, which in the case of Warlocks is 5%, with rank 36 at 6% damage increase, and the rest of the ranks proceeding at probably a 0.5% increase that gets rounded in a tooltip after that (37 = 6%, 38 = 7%, 39 = 7%, etc.). Since even missing the first hidden trait into a mainspec is enough of a missed increase, once you get past rank 30-31 in any spec, you need to decide which is your mainspec and stick to it.

Even if we started with a multispeccing optimistic 1% instead of 5%, theorycrafters would argue that missing out on even 3 hidden traits (~2-3% damage increase) would border on too much to sacrifice for a mainspec. But with the 5% first trait, it’s already out of the question to spend into any hidden traits outside of your mainspec, even if you play a little more casually than the world-first raider.

That middle part of all-straight(-ish) lines

So, if you can’t multispec into hidden traits, do you need to stop earlier, or can you multispec up until that point?

The bulk of your main tree trait acquisition (ranks 14-34) has a mostly straight line for all of the multispeccing samples I graphed out, which means you’re at a relatively constant rank difference from one artifact’s worth when multispeccing. This rank difference does widen near the end of the main tree (ranks 33-34), which is the point we already determined from the hidden trait line discussion when we need to pick a mainspec.

My conclusion is that you can multispec up to finishing your main tree, depending on two factors: a) the effort you want to put into the grind, and b) your definition of “reasonably competitive degree” of performance based off your specific artifacts’ impacts on your specs.

You can continue dual-speccing like we have been doing without too much rank difference between your given specs, but to keep up tri-spec and quad-spec, you’ll definitely need to put more time into the game. Tri-speccing and quad-speccing result in about double to triple the 1-artifact rank dip that even the heaviest dual-spec setup has (2x Equals), and this bigger extra AP effort may be further restricted by daily AP limitations like world quests.

The short version:

Rank difference range between multispeccing & 1x artifact spending
Rank 2x Equals 3x Equals 4x Equals 1xMS/1xOS
14-34 1-2 2-5 3-7 0-1

The long version:

Rank difference between multispeccing & 1x artifact spending
Rank 2x Equals 3x Equals 4x Equals 1xMS/1xOS
14 1.40 2.46 3.30 0.52
15 1.76 3.00 3.93 0.49
16 2.02 3.32 4.32 0.45
17 2.17 3.57 4.61 0.72
18 2.30 3.76 4.84 0.92
19 2.40 3.93 5.03 1.07
20 2.47 4.04 5.15 1.16
21 2.54 4.13 5.22 1.24
22 2.61 4.17 5.25 1.31
23 2.64 4.18 5.25 1.37
24 2.63 4.21 5.22 1.40
25 2.59 4.12 5.18 1.40
26 2.57 4.09 5.15 1.39
27 2.55 4.09 5.12 1.37
28 2.54 4.06 5.11 1.36
29 2.53 4.04 5.09 1.34
30 2.52 4.04 5.10 1.33
31 2.51 4.03 5.23 1.33
32 2.51 4.15 5.62 1.32
33 2.57 4.54 6.34 1.31
34 2.83 5.24 7.39 1.35

Leveling-AK plateau

If you look at the AP ranks in one artifact, you don’t even need this multispec graph to notice a bump in AP gain early on. You will spend more AP to get trait 14 (6840 AP) than you spent for all of traits 1-13 combined (6500 total AP). Similarly, there’s a bump and then plateau in this range of ranks for all multispeccing samples.

Equivalent Trait Rank per spent AP
MS Rank 2x Equals 3x Equals 4x Equals 1xMS/1xOS
6 9.72 12.05 13.13 7.67
7 10.90 13.05 13.38 9.16
8 11.94 13.24 13.64 10.40
9 13.00 13.48 13.95 11.54
10 13.18 13.75 14.24 12.65
11 13.40 14.06 14.58 13.12
12 13.66 14.36 14.98 13.33
13 13.95 14.70 15.34 13.57
14 15.40 16.46 17.30 14.52

Even when I go as far as keep four specs at the same rank, everything seems to catch up in AP spent at around rank 13-14 and then breaks back out to a steady but higher climb again at rank 14-15. This plateau was weird but didn’t make much sense until I got to my analysis of how AK affects AP gain.

Impact of Artifact Knowledge for offspecs

For alts, Artifact Knowledge may or may not be of some help. I’m not sure what the AK research rate is, since my older Warlock has a longer research time than my newer Druid does. However, my Warlock’s AK research time just went up from 2 days to 3 days to 4 days, so it’s possible that the research rate is fluid depending on how much AK you have researched, which at this point (12 July 2016) is only up to AK 12 or 13, only a month since the AK system debuted in mid-June in its currently tuned pace.

But I’m talking here about offspecs, which can benefit from AK being researched while smaller AP spending occurs in the mainspec.

AK affects the AP gain from an AP item; AK doesn’t affect the total AP you have to gain to get the next trait. So my analysis of total AP spent across multispecs is still relevant regardless of what AK I may or may not have at the time, because we’re spending that amount of AP regardless of AK ranks.

My questions always come back to “but why does it matter,” and for AK, it’s to make the grind feel like less of a grind. The most visceral impact I thought comes from watching your trait rank fill up with AP on your experience bar that sits across your action bars on the default UI. Most players express how far they are into or away from a level in terms of of the little 5% bars that split up the big experience bar. Getting one bar of AP is visually visceral to the player, so I set off to see how much AP per trait you’d need to get 1 bar (5%).

Kib’s sheet tackles looking at AK and AP together in a progression picture, looking at how long it would take to reach certain traits, given AK and AP available in daily forms like world quests and dungeons. I wanted an example, not a complete prediction, so I chose the daily first heroic dungeon of the day AP reward, which is 400 AP at its base.


Click the image for a bigger picture; click here for the spreadsheet tab.

The lightest grey text on the bottom left of the table is where the amount of AP gained from doing a daily heroic was deemed too small to be very noticeable on the AP rank experience bar (0.25 of a bar is the lowest I figured one would care).

The light (but not lightest) grey text on the upper right corner of the table is where the amount of AP gained from doing a daily heroic is worth entire AP ranks, essentially where you are collecting 20 * 5% bars (100%) or more of AP.

The highlighted grey cells are where the amount of AP gained from doing a daily heroic is between 0.75 and 1.25 of a bar, since a quarter of a bar was my lowest “visual” amount I would go.

The 1-bar or 5% amounts are colored just so I could see the magnitudes more easily when I was originally thinking through this.

  • Orange is ranks 1-13 where 5% < 100 AP.
  • Yellow is ranks 14-21 where 5% < 2,000 AP.
  • Green is ranks 22-29 where 5% < 20,000 AP.
  • Blue is ranks 30-32 where 5% < 40,000 AP.
  • Purple is ranks 33 & 34 where 5% < 80,000 AP.
  • 35+ ranks are left white because they are hidden traits, where I expect the AP gain to be ridiculously grindy anyway.

Curiously, AK0 starts with your daily heroic giving you just over 1 bar of AP at rank 14  — which is right where the AP levels off in the multispeccing spending graph — almost like you’re supposed to be 110 and starting AK at that point. The AK ranks then proceed down the trait ranks, keeping each new trait in line with each new rank of AK granting a daily heroic as approximately 1 bar. AK24 and AK25 finish up right at the main tree completion by granting 1 bar of AP around ranks 35-36, where you start your hidden traits.

What about trait progression?

While AP numbers are important for completion of traits, many players would argue that some specific traits are more important to a spec than others, so the question of being competent or not depends less on when do you get all of your traits and more on when do you get the ones that impact you the most.

At the moment, SimulationCraft isn’t complete with Warlock default profiles and numbers tuning is still occurring in beta builds, and will probably still occur until at least the Mythic race gets underway, so I’m not confident in picking out particular Warlock traits as definitely more important than others (I can guess fairly well, but I’m a guidewriter mainspec, theorycrafter offspec).

Gold traits are visually distinctive as milemarkers for progress in the artifact tree completion, but looking at even the three Warlock specs, it’s obvious that not everyone gets to a gold trait at the same trait rank every time. Even within a spec, it depends on the path you’ve taken to get to a gold trait.

I set out to look at what ranks each Warlock spec might arrive at a gold trait and finish their artifacts. I decided to try priorities of getting all three gold traits as fast as possible as well as trying to pick the bigger PvE endgame impact trait when I had a choice of path to take. Although those who like to make snap judgments won’t read this line, these artifact paths are by no means final or best-in-slot progressions; they are simply examples to explore AP progression with.


Click the picture for a bigger picture; click here for the spreadsheet tab. Purple shaded cells are the artifact active abilities followed by the freebie 1st rank. Yellow shaded cells are the gold traits.

Affliction and Demonology proceed along their shortest paths at about the same pace, only being one rank off by the last gold trait. Destruction can get two gold traits more quickly but then has to make up that length in getting the final gold trait.

Affliction’s progress varies most on which of a handful of choice traits the player picks. Notably, two interesting traits Compounding Horror and Fatal Echoes are not gold traits, but are out of the way or in between nonessential traits. Thus, Affliction can be delayed in getting gold traits if they try to pick these two unique traits up or they will have to wait to pick these two up to get to all the gold traits first.

Demonology’s artifact tree shape is not only symmetrical but also circular, so its length of progression is rather fixed no matter which way the player decides, so long as the player is going for gold traits over regular traits.

Destruction has its two shortest paths to gold traits also directly next to the freebie 1st rank and the active artifact ability, so it will likely go for those traits first. The gold trait Dimensional Ripper is at the bottom of the staff shape, and has the longest gold trait length (11) from the freebie rank of any of the Warlock specs, so it will take longer to get that gold trait whether it goes first or not.

So how does my gold trait progression fit into the AP and AK pictures? Even if it’s not temporally possible to have researched AK X by AP rank Y gained by the player, let’s look at where we might be if we were able to keep that daily heroic = 1 bar AP pace going while spending in a mainspec only.

  • Rank 8-9 / sub-110: I’ll get my first gold trait, which is probably going to be during leveling close to 110 (if not, just after hitting 110 and doing world quests), depending on how leveling sources of AP go.
  • Rank 13-14 / AK0: When the AP curve starts to get rough and I need to research AK, I’ll be about halfway to my second gold trait.
  • Rank 15-16 / AK1-2: I have my second gold trait, and I’m probably at AK1 or AK2 if I’m keeping up with my daily heroic 1-bar pace.
  • Ranks 23-26 / AK10-13: I’m approaching or grabbing my third and final gold trait. AK10 to AK13 is where I’ll be if I keep the daily heroic to the 1-bar pace.
  • Rank 34 / AK22-23: I’ve finished my main artifact tree and have picked a spec to begin spending hidden traits in. I’m almost done with AK research to the current known cap, if I can keep the research going at the daily heroic 1-bar pace.
  • Rank 35+ / AK25+: At this point, it’s a grind no matter how you slice it, so I don’t see the point of bitching about it.

If I’m catching up an offspec quickly after having finished out a mainspec, what ranks of AK help me quickly gain specific rank levels?

  • AK# = covers Rank A-B in a daily heroic
  • AK5 = Ranks 1-13 (1.5 Gold+): AK5 means that your daily heroic provides enough AP to cover ranks 1-13 in one go.
  • AK15 = Ranks 1-16 (2 Gold+): It takes AK13 to cover that one additional rank above 13; go to AK 15 if you want to be sure of grabbing 2 gold traits in one daily heroic AP reward.
  • AK20 = Ranks 1-20 (2.5 Gold+): I found it nifty that AK20 means the daily heroic  AP reward covers 20 ranks in one go.
  • AK25 = Ranks 1-24 (3 Gold fastest): You don’t quite get a full rank 25 from AK25 doing a daily heroic, but considering you’ll be doing other things alongside that, you can easily get to 25 or 26 within a couple days, thus definitely nabbing your third gold trait.
  • So far, AK doesn’t reach such that 1x daily heroic would net you your entire artifact tree. However, that’s probably a good thing.

Are these relations realistic to what’s happening on beta? I’m not confident that my artifact weapons have been good examples of multispeccing, as I’ve been darting back and forth between specs all beta long in an effort to cover all the Warlock things.

I asked Ranor as a mainspec Mistweaver (MW) researching from day 1 of AK, who recently caught up his offspec Windwalker (WW) weapon, how his artifact traits and AK was going. At AK 12, Ranor’s MW weapon was at rank 23, and he was able to get 1-14 very easily with his AK 12, only having to work a little bit through world quests and some dungeon runs to get his WW weapon up to rank 16. So this seems actually reasonable compared to how beta is shaping up in terms of Artifact Knowledge pacing when it comes to both mainspec progression and speedy offspec catch-up.

More than half your artifact progression in one activity?! Isn’t this being a bit TOO hyperbolic about a lot of reward for not much effort? Yes, you could get almost 25 ranks of AP within a daily heroic provided you had AK25. However, to get AK 25, even if research for every rank of AK were down to 1 day, you’d have to spend nearly a month of daily research logins to get to AK25 to begin with. You might as well be playing the rest of the game including other AP sources at that point. Furthermore, if AK research is slower like 4-5 days, it’s going to take something like 3 months to max out your AK.

What’s probably more relevant to players is how much AK helps you once you’re in the thick of AP ranks (the 20s ranks), rather than looking at the pure catch-up of a 1-X gain. You can look at the full spreadsheet for details, but in summary, higher AK in higher ranks of AP keeps the grind interesting without being totally effort-negated by insane all-in-one gains. At AK10-20, in the 20s ranks of AP, you’re getting AP in terms of multiple 5% bars (juuuuuust riiiiight!) rather than in terms of slivers of bars (too grindy!) or in terms of entire ranks (too fast!).


Can you multispec in Legion? Yes, to an extent. The extent continues to depend on what each player considers to be reasonably competitive in whatever endgame content they are attempting.

All-speccing is viable through the first gold traits of all specs. Dual-speccing is definitely viable through the main artifact tree progressions; tri-speccing and quad-speccing are not recommended due to extra effort involved, but can probably be done if really wanted. Ultimately, players will want to choose a single mainspec when they reach hidden traits in any spec, for these require so much Artifact Power that multispeccing hidden traits requires vastly more effort than most players would be willing to put forth.

Offspec gains can be sped up and completed in a single daily heroic reward at speeds relative to how much Artifact Knowledge one has. Low AK (AK5) results in 1 gold trait catch-up, medium AK (AK15) results in 2 gold traits catch-up, and current max AK (AK25) results in almost if not 3 gold traits catch-up; however, not even max AK will finish the entire main artifact tree in one daily heroic. Of course, players will be gaining other sources of AP and will not need drastic levels of AP generated in one go, but the point is that a lot of investment into AK research is needed for even hyperbolic gains of AP. AK is currently tuned such that it keeps a long grind viscerally interesting via the visual experience bar where Artifact Points are represented in each trait rank amount.

Multispeccing Artifacts

The elements of questing (combat), from a DPS trying to quest as a healer


I guess I’m a masochist, for I like making my own challenges within the game with custom limitations. I’ve leveled a Shockadin (Holy Paladin DPS build) and regularly played her as a Shockadin when questing. After one of my guild masters complained about questing as a Holy Priest, I leveled a Priest as Holy from 1-100 using nothing but questing. I get flight as late as I can because, well, I like the scenery from down below, and also as a person suffering from depression, there are psychological mountains in my way every day, so it’s relevant and important to me to be working my way around and conquering those rather than rendering them nonexistential. (That is, I don’t want to pretend to be a me without depression, but I want to pretend to be a me still with depression who is stronger than depression.) I also like soaring above at max level, but at max level only, when going anywhere is truly possible.

When it became apparent that in Legion healers were going to have mini DPS toolkits in order to be able to level by questing (but also to do world quests, presumably), I thought that was the perfect thing for me to test. Leveling via quests is my jam, even if it’s a little nonoptimal.

Of course, I’m a bit of a different perspective than a player of healers is. My background involves years of having been a pure DPS class that can often solo things well. I also think how I’m a multidotting spec/class is relevant, because I have a tendency to pull multiple mobs at a time and chain-pull around a quest area, because I can handle multiple mobs at a time. I get to have a bit of a flow when navigating a quest area, rather than having to pull one mob at a time to take forever to kill. Despite my ability to get through a quest area faster than a healer, because I’m focused less on trying to kill this one mob, I have more mental time as it were to look up and around, to focus on what’s in the environment, where I can go, what I can do, etc.

Questing as either a DPS or a healer quickly becomes about efficiency, about killing what you need as fast as possible, eliminating as much downtime as you can. Healers and DPS tend to do this differently depending on player, with some picking the most efficient path to gather all the mobs at once or in succession with packs, whereas others will pick off the loner mobs on the edges of the questing area. This is due to trying to avoid many different types of downtime going on — some types that DPS have advantage over healers for, some where we’re all in the same boat. Continue reading “The elements of questing (combat), from a DPS trying to quest as a healer”

The elements of questing (combat), from a DPS trying to quest as a healer

Caster/Ranged comparisons


Warlocks have never been a typically primary class when it comes to World of Warcraft, as they’re usually said to have derived from some other core Warcraft class. We’re either corrupted Shaman or corrupted Mages, for the most part, or we’re corrupted Hunters with our pets. We pull demons from the Void and deal Shadow magic, but we’re more of a chaotic fel kind of shadow, not Old Gods kind like Shadow Priests. On the gameplay mechanical side of things, we also have had a lot of spec-to-spec comparisons. Affliction is like Shadow Priests (shadow + DoTs + channels) or Moonkin (DoTs), Demonology is like Beast Mastery Hunters (special pets + pet damage focus), Destruction is like Fire Mage (fantasy) or Arcane Mage (buttons), Grimoire of Sacrifice is like Lone Wolf play, etc.

Although it’s impossible to avoid any comparison whatsoever, I think it’s interesting that all three Warlock specs can be directly compared to different class specs in similarity of gameplay mechanics. I also think that looking at how other specs do their damage is a positive aspect of learning theorycrafting, as you get to know other theorycrafters and guide writers and you get to learn about other complex mechanics in the game. All of this gives you a better footing and understanding when it comes to providing feedback and possible brainstormed solutions when testing new game features, especially when you talk about grouped endgame content which often involves cross-class thinking.


So one of the things I’m doing is testing not only all three Warlock specs, but also all of the other caster specs, including the two ranged Hunter specs. I’m not testing these specs in-depth like a mainspec player or theorycrafter might be, but I’m approaching them from a broad and general perspective like a newbie or a long lost alt. It started as a project to learn about the Warlock-comparable specs — Shadow Priest, Beast Mastery Hunter, and Fire Mage — and then once I found that Shadow Priest is more like current/old Demonology than it is Affliction anymore, I opened it up to Arcane, Frost, Marksmanship, Balance, and Elemental to see if any of them remotely compare to Affliction’s new playstyle.

For the most part, these will be my own first impressions and thinking through of mechanics. When I reference mainspec player commentary and feedback, I’ll note it. Builds change things more quickly than I can level and swap toons, so some of my feedback may be quickly outdated. I’ve already mentioned that I’m not really an expert in these non-Warlock classes as I don’t play them regularly enough, even as alts (my main alt is a Guardian Druid!). I also am not as motivated by my personal opinion of how I want a spec to be as I am with Warlocks, so I feel that I can’t truly speak on “how well” Fire Mage (etc.) is doing, I can only just tell you the parts I find fun or not fun.


Because of the how the alpha realms currently restrict play, I have to do some rerolling in order to play all of the specs I want to see. The max-level PvP realm includes spec switching with all specs’ full artifacts in bags, but it won’t let you go out into the Broken Isles for questing and it won’t let you queue for dungeons. Since my primary focus is PvE content, this is rather useless for me, unless I just want to hit a training dummy with a fully artifact’d out character. The leveling realm has templates only for level 100 characters that have yet to choose and acquire artifacts, so rerolling implies starting all over. There is currently as of writing no way to acquire another spec’s artifact in your class, so if you want another spec, you need another character. There are eleven character slots on the leveling realm right now, and six are given to Warlocks for me (one for each spec 100-110, and then one for each spec to look at 1-100 leveling). That leaves me with five spots for caster/ranged testing. I’ve arranged it like so:

  • Ponsanity (Shadow Priest)
  • Ponboom (Balance Druid)
  • Ponele (Elemental Shaman)
  • Ponter/Ponmarks (Beast Mastery/Marksmanship Hunters)
  • Ponblast/Poncinder/Poncicle (Arcane/Fire/Frost Mages)

I’ve tried to alternate races and factions for a few reasons: one, I don’t get bored of same factional storylines or casting animations; two, I have a diverse screenshot arsenal; three, I can tell them apart easily!


I’ve always been curious and often on live realms I have at least one of every ranged class to max level just to try them, even if I don’t regularly play them. But I’ve always kept my opinions to myself and never really tried to write them down thoroughly.  So this is a bit of an experiment, but I really need to stop being so terrible on myself and try more things out.

As I just finished looking a little at Beast Mastery and Shadow for my latest Blood Pact column at Blizzard Watch, I’m going to set those aside for now (even though I have more thoughts on each that what’s in the column). I’m currently working my way through Balance, albeit with the camera shapeshifting bug, and I’ve rerolled the Fire Mage into a Frost Mage, which was recently released for testing. I’ll probably try writing those thoughts down first.

Caster/Ranged comparisons

How Poneria is looking at Legion

I haven’t been posting here. I can blame some of that on writing Warlock things at Blizzard Watch, but most of it is that I don’t like publishing unfinished posts, especially since Blizzard Watch has gotten me used to having to put images in to break up text, and I often don’t have amazing images lying around to use for random posts here. (I’m also writing on my tablet right now, and the tablet app for WordPress is …not well designed for actually writing & formatting start to finish. >:| *grump*)

I also feel bad about trying to get my feet wet with theorycrafting and then posting of my adventures with testing Legion alpha. I feel this pressure to post only polished theorycrafting, and it never happens largely because I start to research my stance and opposing stances and then halfway through it, I realize I actually know fuckall, and then I get super anxious and embarrassed that I’ve attempted to post anything at all (it must be stupid! I don’t know anything!), and …I end up not posting anything aside from rambling on Twitter.

But the lack of activity on the blog post front doesn’t mean I have a lack of stuff to do with Legion alpha testing.
Continue reading “How Poneria is looking at Legion”

How Poneria is looking at Legion

2016 Blogging Resolutions

I laughed at my “2015 in blogging” WordPress email. I published only five posts in 2015. WordPress thinks I wrote six posts, but one was just a bunch of picture references for Vidyala who did a badge picture for me (even though I wasn’t going to BlizzCon). So that one doesn’t count. The most-viewed day was back on January 6th, involving a post that was written back in August of 2014.

One post in 2015 was fluff, partially because I missed posting random stuff like that. One post was on how to read a raid parse for a particular spec, which was really more a thing of me going, look, I’m not perfect, but reading a raid parse isn’t hard, and this is perhaps how you can do it with some concrete examples.

The other three posts were my thoughts on how to write or otherwise learn & explain things without needing to require a degree or several hours in the subject. This doesn’t surprise me, because this is my thing that I do all the time. Thinking on how to organize, arrange, & present stuff such that stuff makes more sense than it did before.

Five posts in the entire stupid year. What the fuck was I even doing.

I was writing 55 things for Blizzard Watch, is what the fuck. I get paid for those things and not paid for anything over here. Over here, I have diddly-squat for visitors and over there I have more reach. So. That’s obvious. I don’t think I can share my exact stats from over at Blizzard Watch, but I wrote 21 Warlock columns, 29 things on D3 (mostly columns), and five WoW-related short posts.

A grand total of 60 posts isn’t anything to get excited about — I didn’t write novels or anything. But most of those columns take a week or two of research or other work to put together, so I have more than a year’s worth of work done in a year. I don’t feel so bad now about my writing that’s out there on the Internet medium.

It’s A new year, & we know what that means.

I think too much. I scribble a lot, by which I mean I don’t do the complete sentences thing, and I have a few too many grand ideas being rolled around in a Field Notes notebook than any grand ideas that I’ve actually executed (…zero?). I don’t like showing my failures to people, and although that’s a natural feeling, it’s constricting me. I feel like if I’m working on a thing for shits and giggles rather than a Grand Purpose like publishing for others to use, then it’s less important somehow and I should stop working on it. Following that rule led everything to feel like work and nothing like a game. Warlords as an expansion didn’t really help, and it feels like I’ve had to relearn again how to relax and how to tinker without judging myself for not tinkering perfectly the first time.

I’ve also turned a little corner, I think. Fel Concentration started as a Warlock blog, and I unfortunately feel like it has to remain a Warlock blog. But then I see Jasyla’s Cannot be Tamed, which started as a WoW blog, and I started reading her when she was a Resto Druid, but then her blog became a much-more-than-WoW blog. She may have ventured off into the video medium, and I might stick to my strengths in wordy posts, but she gave me a little more confidence in turning this blog into a Warlock-and-then-some blog.

I’ve never been good at tagging intelligently — look, I’m too impatient, and also there is no mass-tagging system in the freebie WordPress underhood that evolves well with different topics bending into other topics over time. I will try to tag things that aren’t about WoW or Warlocks or whatever if you don’t want to read that stuff (or, I guess, tags are also useful if you particularly want to read that stuff).

2016 likely topics

Warlocks. Duh. I’m in Legion alpha, and hope to continue walking into crash errors and testing various Warlock things. In the thought of being more open with my incomplete feedback and tinkerings, I’m keeping a sometimes spoilerific bugs/feedback log for when I test things in Legion alpha/beta. I also want to test things like Fishing, particularly since it’s not known if El’s Anglin will come back at all.

I’m interested in theorycrafting. I always was, but I’m more interested now in producing the meat of it, rather than just organizing blog guides on work that was already done on the EJ forums or whatever. Scary as it might be, I plan to reach out a little more to existing theorycrafters to ask them stupid questions like how increased critical strike damage influences an average of combined hits and crits given a critical strike chance. Even scarier of an idea is posting some of my progress on looking at how Warlock spells work, particularly looking at Legion, and trying to figure out the best way to document all this so others can follow and learn theorycrafting, too.

Some grand ideas involving Warlocks are raid parse reading guides and soloing tours/guides. What I want to accomplish with them involves a lot of work that is just for shits and giggles in the end, and I don’t know how exactly I will convince myself to stop whining & just do them. Another grand idea involved the Warlock heroes or role models in World of Warcraft, or perhaps more accurately, the lack thereof. But I am not the most confident in my grasp on lore, so that one is also just rolling around in notebook scribbles for now.

I’m interested in writing. Duh. The organization of information and formats and language and all sorts of sub-topics. The storytelling and characterisation in games and other media is also interesting, but I’m mostly interested in the nonfiction and often freelance side of things rather than the fiction story-writing side of things. In terms of gaming, this mostly comes in the form of how to write guides.

I’m interested in perhaps spreading my guides over both the Warlock column at Blizzard Watch and here. Maybe some of putting the grunt work over here and the summary over there or something. Perhaps a spread to put the details over here, where I have less restriction in tone and word limit, and the TL;DR over there, where I likely have more visitor reach that just wants the TL;DR not the full behind-the-scenes theorycrafting text wall. I don’t really know yet what I’ll do, but I’m always up for experimenting with my column writing (within editorial bounds, of course).

Actual goal-making

I don’t think that I can write a blog post every day. Sure, I write every day, but I sure as hell don’t publish every day. Who wants to read that shit?

I am not a fan of [verb] every [period] goals. They assume some sort of constant ability, I feel, and that is just not how my life works. Anxiety likes to creep up on me at the worst times, and while, yes, I can get myself through it, having a [verb] every [period] goal deadline hanging over me while I’m trying to destress is just not helpful at all. It also tends to become a thing I hate to do, when I’m forced into doing it just for the sake of doing it.

My goal is to lessen my fear that anything I’m doing that’s currently in-progress is not worthy to share or even continue. I often think best when I let myself roll with it, and when I’m writing, I do just that. So I want to write more here as an excuse to get more comfortable with myself again, as I’m coming out of one of the darker periods of my mental health.

I do like the goal framing of do [number] things this year. Read ten books this year. Cool. That’s a finite goal to work toward, but I can do it on my own time, navigating around bad days and good days. It’s a bit of the argument about the increased valor points for doing a random heroic dungeon every day versus the points for the first seven or so. In the every-day model, I have to do that EVERY DAY, which I get from the business standpoint of Blizzard, but personally, I think that’s a crap system. Eventually it just becomes another thing I “have” to do, and when I don’t want to do it or can’t do it, then I feel negative about myself. Look, I have depression, I am already really good at feeling negative about myself, so lets not add routines where I increase that negativity. Being able to do some things at my own pace is important to me.

I don’t really know what a reasonable number of blog posts for 2016 is. I don’t want to overchallenge myself. I don’t want to post random shit just to keep a counter happy. I almost feel like doing a Patreon-style or achievement-style goal-making where I start low but then get to reward myself if I make it to certain tiers.

So, let’s start at ten posts. I didn’t do that last year — in fact, that would double last year’s post-making count. Usually the first achievement is free, so maybe I’ll just let myself cheer really loudly when I hit this one. (I think a reward like getting myself a BattleNet store pet is too much for just ten posts.)

So uh…nine posts to go, right? Yes.

2016 Blogging Resolutions

Items that are special to me

Every since the wardrobe was announced as a transmogrification feature for Legion, I’ve thought of going through me void storage and banks to see what I would keep and what would eventually get vendored or disenchanted because I just wanted it for its looks.

Then @roxiqt was wondering about special gear items on Twitter, and I’d already answered two things, and wanted to answer more, so here we go. It’s more or less in WoW item history order.


It’s not a gear item, but I got my Warlock-mount Dreadsteed the old way, through the long questline with all the items. TSR helped me out with most of the items at the time, and even did the paladin Charger questline at the same time, so I got to see both questlines before they went away.

I’m a little sad that Gorzeeki Wildeyes isn’t a Warlock class hall NPC for this reason.

Onyxia Scale Cloak

Back on Eonar, I remember that my first guild, <The Scarlet Robes> took me to Ony and then made me an Onyxia Scale Cloak when I hit max level (at the time, 70), even though Onyxia wasn’t really current content anymore. Later, when Onyxia was updated to 10-/25-man in Wrath of the Lich King, we did our first new Ony raid with our original cloaks on.


I got it in an end-of-expansion-so-who-cares run of Sunwell with TSR. It’s a 1H Sword, thus equippable by Warlocks, so I can use it in transmog if I want to. This is mostly the reason I’m annoyed when I can’t get a sword with nice secondary stats in current content (so I can transmog it) and also why I’m mad that for whatever reason, Blizzard won’t let Warlocks transmog between daggers and 1H swords (and wands, but wands are class-specific, so maybe that’s why wands don’t work).

My Felguard’s second cosmetic weapon option is usually Apolyon, because it looks closest to Muramasa while being wieldable through the minor glyph by my Felguard.


This cloak was the first “raid-ready” item I made for myself, and it’s also one of the cloaks I actually like wearing as a transmog because of its design.

Abyssal Bag

This soul shard bag was first thing that was not wearable that I saved up cooldowns to make for myself. I was rather upset when it got converted from 32 slots to 22 slots in Cataclysm when soul shards as items went away.

Mastercraft Kalu’ak Fishing Pole

I love to fish. I even wrote about it sometimes when my guild really hated to do it. I still fish with this specific fishing pole, because I worked to get the reputation to get this pole, and I’ve done most of my for-the-hell-of-it fishing with it.

“of the Nightfall” + the Twilight Drake

Again, not an actual gear item, but “of the Nightfall” was the first title I really ever chased, because as an Affliction Warlock I thought it fit perfectly. The drake was the first raid-drop mount I really wanted, simply because it was blue and more or less guaranteed. I would later go on to want really badly the Azure drake (from Malygos), which I eventually got expansions later.

Quel’delar, Lens of the Mind

I got Quel’delar with TSR by joining a guild group that was trying to farm the sword. I just joined to help, but they let me roll, and I surprisingly won the roll! As I’d joined WoW just as Sunwell came out, I never really got to see the Burning Crusade instances except in really fast-paced retro raid runs where I was easily lost. Getting to do Quel’delar meant I could go at my own pace and opened me up to more retro soloing options (other than dungeons, which I’d been doing to learn how to tank).

Gunship Captain’s Mittens

I got these from Gunship, obviously, but they’re special because of what happened after I got the item.

I’d just transferred to Elune after my Eonar guild split, I was in this new guild, I’d never really progression-raided before, my computer was shitty on the graphics, … I was basically a little newbie to serious raiding and had no friends on Elune outside Lissanna (of Restokin), who had recruited me there through blogging/Twitter. A shadow priest in the guild offered to enchant my gloves right there, and then challenged me to a DPS race on the next boss, Saurfang.

I didn’t beat him, of course, but the race was thrilling and it felt really good to see someone have confidence in me and push me to my better limits in a fun way when I was previously afraid or too unsure of them myself.


This was the dagger from Magmaw that evaded me for almost the entire tier. I swear I was the last one in my current guild (<Undying Resolution> on Elune) to get it at the time. It always dropped when I wasn’t there or when I didn’t have the loot system priority for it, and never when I would have guaranteed gotten it.

Nevertheless, I did pretty good damage without it, so it helped prove to myself that I’m good regardless of important gear or even crappy class balance.

Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest

I got to be my guild’s only Dragonwrath in Firelands. So I got to do a legendary when it was current and that was awesome. I wrote about the journey that lasted the entire tier, here.

I use Dragonwrath a lot in Timewalking, and I’ve carried it around in my bags ever since Firelands because who doesn’t want to occasionally mount up as a pretty blue dragon?

Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps

So in Dragon Soul, UR had ridiculous luck in looting Gurthalak from Madness of Deathwing. By “ridiculous” I mean, we started as a joke handing one out to every Hunter we had (it’s “Hunter loot,” right?), but then we kept getting more, so we ended up just handing out Gurths to random raiders, including healers, just because. To top it all off, we couldn’t get a Warrior — the class that had Gurth as its BiS — to stick with us at all; every app fell through in some way or another. And, to make matters funnier, every time a Warrior was in raid with us when we killed Madness, Gurth refused to drop.

So I have Gurthalak, and you see it mostly when my Felguard is out.

Items that are special to me

On writing about Diablo 3

With BlizzCon at the end of this week, everyone’s been preparing for that explosion of information. There’s the one lonely Diablo 3 panel at BlizzCon, otherwise nothing going on in Diablo 3 news aside from community-created content. When I gently announced on Twitter that my Diablo 3 column was on pause for Blizzard Watch, some comments said “sorry that game has a lull.” That’s not quite correct. There’s still plenty of reason and want for me to log into Diablo 3. It’s more, every other Blizzard game is producing a lot of content for BlizzCon to spring off of.

  • World of Warcraft is looking out for Legion beta announcements as well as the annual BlizzCon PvP tournaments in the eSports arena of content.
  • Hearthstone has its tournaments for eSports and also the monthly cardbacks and Tavern Brawls to keep content going.
  • Heroes of the Storm is always adding new heroes and getting its eSports groove going strong at BlizzCon.
  • Overwatch closed beta just started, so everyone’s getting into those streams and eventual guide setups.
  • Even StarCraft 2 is ramping back up again with some renewed life due to the Legacy of the Void expansion coming up.

Meanwhile, Diablo 3 is in the middle of Season 4. It’s not dead, but it’s just not screaming, yelling, and jumping as enthusiastically as the other games are right now. Comparing Diablo 3 to the other Blizzard games at the moment feels a lot like looking back on Season 3 from the view of Season 4 — it’s not so much that there’s a lull in Diablo 3 right now, but it’s that every other game is so ridiculous that they overshadow any Diablo 3 non-newsy content.


knowledge bases are important

It’s a bit of a problem for me that I’m not a longtime Diablo 3 guidewriter or even dedicated player. I don’t have an established knowledge base to fall back on when writing on Diablo 3. Writing the two columns, Warlock and D3, has highlighted this important detail to me.

I’m a longtime Warlock on the order of nearly a decade and have been playing current end-game PvE content for almost all of it. If I don’t have the time to research a topic, I can floof around in my rough draft with a general idea of what I want, write the article, and then double-check using the known chunk of sources, research, and other guides I’ve gathered over the years. I have fully written spec guides I can alter and tailor to patch notes, and I have prepared Wowhead links or spell IDs for every spell in all three specs’ rotations. Writing on Warlocks is a matter of taking the templates I’ve constructed over the years and filling in the blanks. I’ve been around long enough to see the trends of content, the nerf/buff cycle specific to Warlocks, so even when it comes to on-the-fly analysis, I’ve developed a knack of predicting (sometimes) what Blizzard will do in the future. I’ve even been here for the Mists of Pandaria Warlock class revamp, so when the Legion Demonology Warlock revamp happens, I’m prepared for the questions I want to ask in that beta and for the article topics I’ll be writing in preparation for a new expansion launch.

In Diablo 3, I picked up the game not because I was a previous fan of the game’s franchise but because it came as a bonus item to a WoW promotion, and I’ve causally played it since Diablo 3 released in 2012. I log on when I feel like it, and sometimes wouldn’t log in for months. I haven’t been thinking critically about the game for years, and I don’t have quite the organized link library for research and double-checking that I do for Warlocks in WoW.

When I started writing a Diablo 3 column at Blizzard Watch, I got more serious about the game, and started playing it almost daily, including recently moving into a more active clan. It’s also quite different from writing the Warlock column, because, well, I write a single-class column for WoW. Yes, covering Warlocks still feels like more content to cover than some of the other class writers who only cover one spec of their chosen class (so that they write one column per month where I write two). But that’s at least just 3 specs, since most WoW specs play “one” way with minor variations. Even if you give each Diablo 3 class five builds, that’s 30 different builds! If I wrote one build in-depth in a single column, it’d take me about 7-8 months just to hit everything once. Covering all the D3 builds perhaps doesn’t go as deep as covering all the possible WoW specs, since the D3 class remains the same for every 5-6 builds, but you’re still covering distinct sets of gear and each 1-3 piece variation on each build. Where WoW guide-writing might require a lot of depth knowledge in a particular class’s spec in a particular piece of end-game content, D3 guide-writing requires a lot of lateral/breadth knowledge of an entire class’s set of builds, available legendary gear, gear gathering methods, and what of each goes together with the others.

The column was also on a weekly (4/mo) basis, not like the Warlock column’s biweekly (2/mo), so that was half the research time for content I didn’t have the established research and knowledge for. It got to the point of doing the research a month in advance. Meanwhile, the Warlock column was sometimes written on deadline morning, because of the dearth of information in the WoW-sphere. I was working twice as hard or more on my Diablo 3 column, and yet I was pulling in half the results as my Warlock column. I’m not angry or even surprised I was asked to drop the D3 column; I’m more surprised I was allowed to go on as long as I did.

And perhaps it is not my writing at all. Maybe all of Diablo 3 just doesn’t fit in a weekly column. Maybe it fits better in the Reddit-style collection of one-time posts that last a whole Season or more at a time. Even then, I still want to improve my writing in Diablo 3 topics specifically, and I can only do that by trying new topic attacks and writing more.


“What,” “So what,” and “Now what”

This past week, ESPN shut down the Grantland blogs. We had a few Blizzard Watch jokes, as we were also unceremoniously shut down by our parent company back when we were that other blog. Although we rose entirely from the ashes to start our site back up again, it looks like editors and mainstays at Grantland have moved on together to other projects.

Various links of opinions on Grantland were sailing through my Twitter feed, but here’s one that caught my thoughts for a while. Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post reflected on Grantland’s impact on journalism. Although Cillizza gives credit to Erik Rydholm for the “what,” “so what,” and “now what” buckets of journalism writing, it’s the first time I’ve really heard of the concept. Cillizza explains that Grantland focused on the “so what” and “now what,” leaving the “what” to “the roughly billion other people and sites trying to break news one millisecond before everyone else.” If I could slam a favorite star on a sentence, there it is.

I’m not very much interested in having the latest gear guide or rotation guide out. I’m not very interested in the laundry list of best in slot legendaries you need for the top Greater Rift 55+ build of the most popular class this Season. I’m not even interested in leaderboards myself when playing Diablo 3, or in achieving world-first or US-first Mythic titles in WoW. Datamining and theorycrafters in Mythic-cleared guilds or streamers who professionally have all day to figure class builds out ahead of the patch while it’s on the PTR will beat me every time to most “what” things in both games.

I’ve learned that I need a long-ass time in a subject before I can reliably do the “now what” kind of prediction writing. I can do a “now what” in the sense of what’s the next step after a topic, but I’m still largely hit or miss on telling the future. Thus, I focus myself in the “so what” bucket. I also learn that way — things don’t stick in my brain as understanding until I learn how they interact with the other things and how they impact other things’ results. “So what” is very important to me.

However, “so what” requires critical thinking on a subject, and unfortunately I don’t have the practice (yet) built up in Diablo 3 to create truly insightful writing. I can get the “duh” impacts down, but I’m not quite to the level of originating thoughts on taking big nerfs to crowd control and applying those effects to overall class popularity in a Season.


So now what

One of my own writing philosophies that’s evolved over the years is that I have the most fun writing the guides I’d want to read. This usually involves the topics that are most relevant to me in whatever gaming sphere I’m current playing, so duh, yes, I’d enjoy researching that. But I also like putting puzzles together, and writing on a thing I already don’t know about guarantees that I get to do a puzzle (and possibly get paid for it).

A thing I wanted to do was to have Diablo 3 class guide references. By reference, I mean not the actual guides themselves. I’ve already established that I don’t have the knowledge base to write a Diablo 3 guide myself. However, I’m a casual player looking to get better. I’m also a Witch Doctor main who is fine with rolling an alt of the Season to try new things out.

I wanted to build a class reference of the current class builds, highlighting how they fit into the current meta and how each fits into ease or difficulty of playing and building the final sets. I’ve found that theorycrafting is often a top-down look at things. There’s the BiS and you should strive to reach that because, well, it’s the best. There’s plenty of boss videos out there for WoW, but no one talks about the trash (unless it’s completely horrendous and complicated). Same with Diablo 3 — plenty of guides are out there for the leaderboard-high Greater Rift builds, but there’s not much prominent talk about how to get there.

I wanted to build a class reference that looks bottom-up, and perhaps one that looks at more casual reasons to play. For example, I don’t particularly play melee classes in Diablo 3, because often their past builds were very click-heavy, and my hand would cramp up after a short time playing a melee class. Meanwhile, my DoT-style Witch Doctor let me hit different buttons in rotating orders, allowing me to play for days at a time, if I wanted. Is there a guide out there for class builds that are easy on the hands? I haven’t found one yet. Is there a guide out there for adapting class builds to be easier on the hands than they currently are? I don’t know. I’d like to try to fill in some of those niche gaps for casual players.

I also am curious about being midway through learning or building a build. What pieces are essential to a build or skillset working? Which just make the build more fun? Can you play a top end build’s skillset with just a few pieces, or do you need almost the full set before you can dive into the playstyle? Which sets are more expensive in Blood Shards or Death’s Breath to gather? Which playstyles are easier to start from as a class beginner?


Tagged with Diablo 3

I have a lot of questions for Diablo 3 play and I need some practice. Thus, I’ll be writing more Diablo 3 things over here, to practice. I might still write Warlock things — we’ll see what fits in Blood Pact over at Blizzard Watch and how much Warlock-specific Legion information we get at BlizzCon (as well as when beta starts up).

All my Diablo 3 posts here will be tagged as “diablo 3” in case you wish to mute them.

On writing about Diablo 3

On Theorycrafting

UPDATE: Haileaus tweeted on 30 November 2015 that they would prefer to use they/their/them pronouns instead of he/him. They also wrote an explanatory blog post. You’d edit a misnamed or mis-titled person in a news article, so I feel I should change all the pronouns in this article to reflect their wishes. Let me know if I missed any.

Haileaus is a rogue (with far too many vowels almost in a row in their name) and they “barely consider [themselves] 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 they mean by legitimately question — I’m not sure if they’re arguing for theorycraft to disappear or whether they’re 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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