Monday, September 24, 2007

How Much Spirit Would it Take?

I've been a pretty busy little mage as of late, hence the lack of time for my blog here, so I thought I'd get things rolling with something from awhile back (from something I posted in the Avalon guild forums) that never made it into my space here.

Namely, I was interested in the current state of spirit, it's usefulness to a mage and how it has scaled under the common circumstances of 25-man raiding of today. Mages are known for their lengthy and obsessive theorycrafting over dps, but I feel that they do so to the detriment of taking near as much time to consider and understand mana regen as well.

An average mage of today has around 200 spirit (which may or may not be even a noticable improvement over what we had at level 60), even though everything else has scaled upwards (in some cases rather dramatically) since then. This is not the fault of mages however, as much as it is itemization decisions Blizzard has made that have punished mages.

In the interest of trying to finger at what point spirit-based in combat mana regen will allow a mage (like myself) to be self-sufficient independently of shadow priest support, I posed the question. Initial estimation pointed towards 1700 spirit being the point at which I could simply cast fireball over and over without going out of mana. In fact, without my mana bar moving much at all...

Someone else theorized, allowing the mage to actually finish at 0 mana at the 10 minute mark (effectively making them perfectly tuned for maximum sustained dps over the length of an SSC-level fight, provided all bosses in SSC were Golemagg ~ haha) brings that figure down to roughly 1100 spirit ~ still not allowing for the use of Mana Pots, which I suspect would bring that down to about 700-800 spirit, but that's just a ballpark guess. And again, this would be for a fully sustained fight, with no interrupts, which no longer exist.

Still unrealistic, I know, but it provides a workable upper end for figuring out where the potency/quantity of spirit for a mage needs to be.

Next I was interested in finding out just how long my present mana pool can last... I could have just done a Dr. Boom test and found out in 5 minutes, but it seemed important to factor in full raid buffs, since no one really cares how long you can last unbuffed.

Factoring in:*219 unbuffed spirit (my current *at the time of the calculation)
*Mage Armor
*Divine Spirit
*Arcane Intellect
*Blessing of Kings
*Blessing of Wisdom
*Well Fed +20 spirit
*Evocation with Staff of Divine Spirit and Flawless Wand of Spirit swapped in
*Elixir of Draenic Wisdom
*Super Mana Potions
*Mana Emerald, Ruby, Citrine, Jade (didn't last long enough to use the Jade though)

During hard 100% sustained nuking (scorch+fireball), breaking only to use Evocation and allowing for some latency, the point at which I ran out of means to replenish mana (ie. all cooldowns were down) and went effectively OOM was 5 minutes 48 seconds.

Ick, I know. I was about a minute shy of my mana pot cooldown coming up. It's also not a realistic boss scenario either.

My mana returns over this time, from various sources:

Mage Armor: 4623 mana
Blessing of Wisdom: 2747 mana
Clearcasting: 4800 mana (not spent at all, subject to considerable variance over such a short period of time)
Master of Elements: 4611 mana (subject to considerable variance over such a short period of time)
Mana Potions: 7200 mana (subject to a small amount of variance)
Mana Gems: 3200 mana (subject to very little variance)
Evocation: 7035 mana

Unfortunately, the only two ways to effectively improve any of these figures (most of them simply don't get better, short of casting lower dps, but more mana efficient spells a la Scorch) is via spell crit or spirit. Now as much as I'd like to say, double my spell crit, I'm not really sure that's going to happen. All it would have taken is a small boost in one area to get me over that hump to the next mana pot cooldown, and I would last upwards of 2 minutes longer.

So we have the current reality, somewhere in the ballpark of 200ish spirit and the magical wonderland where we have 700-800 spirit and all problems are solved. There has to be a better, more ideal place in the middle somewhere ~ perhaps even solved by Blizzard doubling either the amount or effectiveness of spirit. Even though I scoffed at the idea of that being enough earlier, it might not be that bad...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

On mages and shadow priests

Wanted to hang on to this thought:

There is definitely a ceiling to the amount most classes can benefit from a shadow priests' mana regen, since a strong shadow priest can literally return mana as fast or faster than some classes need to spend it. In that case, all a shadow priest is really doing is making life easier and saving them a few coins in mana pots, etc.

Mage is really the only class to my knowledge capable of ratcheting up their mana expenditure in exchange for performance at a level that can easily exceed a strong shadow priest's mana return. Since that is the case (to such a remarkable level), it doesn't seem as though it even matters if shadow priests get nerfed or mage mana regen gets buffed, there will always be a direct and noticeable correlation between what a shadow priest does and a marked improvement of mage performance. Needless to say, as long as Arcane Blast exists, shadow priests will not be out of a job in the raid environment any time very soon (even if bringing a shadow priest means taking one less mage), since a shadow priest might have to return upwards of 10K mana each minute in order to reach the maximum rate at which a mage can dump it.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

In a Name

I know that sometimes I post ZOMG game design or whatever, but essentially I think of this blog as mostly a respository for random thoughts and insights that I am able to assume that no one really cares too heavily about. It's vanity, essentially. As well as a space to not really bother anyone. I honestly am not particularly concerned if it is ever heavily read or not. Just random thoughts projected out into teh internets. I'm sure at some point I'll start talking about my cat.

Since afterall, that's what the internet is truly for. A place for random people to talk about their cats.

I'm not really sure where I came up with the name Ambril. All I know, is that I did in fact dream it up myself sometime, long ago. I suppose I thought of it as a logical hybrid of the names Amber and April, two names I've always sort of liked.

With the appearance of internet search engines came the realization (unsurprisingly) that the name actually existed, in the form of a character on Dr. Who. Huh. I've never particularly been a big fan of hard sci-fi at all and particularly not weird British ones on PBS, so that came as news to me.

Looks like it is also now the name of some sort of pharmaceutical as well. Sheesh. I'm not sure if it's a "good" drug or not. Probably just something for old people.

Not that I have anything against old people. Old people are fine. L2P.

I can only take the satisfaction that somehow (and I'm not even remotely sure how), I've managed to totally trump those other two Ambrils on a Google search.

In your face! hehe

This only leaves the mystery of who this Kash Ambril fellow is. Or Bambam Ambril, for that matter. Oh well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Addendum to the Previous

I do understand that on the 2.1 PTR, Blizzard toyed around with a re-allocation of the stat budgetting for epic tailored gear. A "nerf". It really wasn't a nerf, simply a rebalancing of what the items were (a lightening of the +damage components in favor of other nifty stats such as... more than zero stamina), but not surprisingly, many tailors were outraged about the proposed changes. I can see their point, to a degree, but I can also see the point of Blizzard wishing to make the change (as explained below). Personally, I think the "nerfed" versions were essentially what they should have been in the first place. But it was too late and Blizzard was damned if they do and damned if they don't. Oh well.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How I Hate to Love my Spellfire

Every so often (as in, a couple times a day) on the Mage forums you will find a post like this one. "Should I get Spellfire?" The answer to this is invariably a universal "Yes". One which I would be inclined to echo, unless the player were principally a PVPer. It doesn't mean that I am without reservation regarding the tailored set, however.

The Spellfire set (as well as the Frozen Shadowweave set) follow a principle laid out by the epic tailoring robes at level 60 ~ Robe of the Archmage and Robe of the Void, respectively. These items were lean on stats but the best thing going in respects to spell damage enhancement on a chest piece at early end game. Not many people ever crafted and wore them (I only ever recalled like, 3 mages including myself on Aerie Peak who wore RotAm), but those who knew well enough to actually make and wear them invariably had a leg up on heading into ZG or MC and pumping out some of the best damage in the raid (if not *the* best). Similarly, my first epic raid chest upgrades were banked because my crafted robes were "better".

Robe of the Archmage (mage)
+12 Intellect
+40 Spell Damage
+14 Spell Critical Strike Rating
Use: Restores 375 to 625 mana.

Robe of the Void (warlock)
+14 Stamina
+46 Spell Damage
Use: Heals your pet for 450 to 750 health.

When I first noted the epic tailoring patterns in the Burning Crusade, I immediately knew that it was what I would work towards. Afterall, I've always been a tailor (both on my mage and my warlock). I've always gone for the crafted epics. I picked up Spellfire specialization even though I was (and always had been) a deep frost mage, mostly because I felt about ready to give fire a shot, considering I'd no longer be fighting dragons and fire elementals almost exclusively.

An interesting thing happened as I hit 70 and my tailoring reached 375 though... I couldn't do it. I drug my feet respeccing for fire, not only because frost spec is a psychological safety blanket to frost mages as well as because...

It (effectively) has no stamina.
It has no spirit.
It has very little intellect.
It is a 3-piece set of all of the above.

The tradeoff of pure performance itemization has always been that you equip them in moderation. But here, they are a set, with a set bonus. The complimentary Spellstrike set is more of the same. Quite simply, I thought it was too much, too lopsided. I felt it was an unwise itemization choice to wear too many pieces like that. I also felt the old vest version of the chest piece was ugly, and as much as I hate to admit it, I don't like wearing ugly pieces. So I sold the Spellcloth I'd saved up on the AH and dropped tailoring for alchemy.

The kicker came later as I was in Karazhan and came to a realization that I felt that mage dps potential simply wasn't what it once was... I wasn't happy with the damage output I was capable of relative to what I expected of myself. I eventually bit the bullet once again and dropped herbalism in order to level tailoring to 375 all over again. Long story short, here I am... deep into the Tier 5 raid instances, working on Lady Vashj and my health and mana pools are lower than they were when I entered Karazhan in 5-man blues. My spirit is about on par with what it was at level 60. The damage is (finally) there, but just about everything else is a little lacking.

The Repercussions of Spellfire

It can probably be said without reservation that Spellfire is a highly questionable itemization choice for a player ~ even though, as I stated above, I will always tell another mage "Yes" if they ask about whether or not they should craft them. Truth of the matter is, we're sort of stuck with it. In some corners, it is considered a requirement for a mage, which only further proves how much of a misstep it was in its conceptualization.

The mage community today has many concerns about the state of mage performance even beyond the state of mage dps. Namely, they have concerns about survivability and mana efficiency. It can be stated pretty well that these problems likely have less to do with ineffective mechanics and more to do with the fact that everyone is running around with gimped stats due to the nature of epic tailoring.

Not only is Spellfire a poor itemization choice, it is a poor choice that is reinforced by other mages and raiding guilds that encourage all mages to make this questionable itemization choice. Why would people pressure players into bad gear choices? Because the current mechanics for mage dps do not support properly budgeted gear. Quite simply, you need this stuff in order to obtain relevant performance. With Spellfire, a mage posts the damage you would expect. For many mages, you need it simply to do your job. At least until your gear becomes relatively advanced. People who chide mages concerns by stating "get some stam gear" or "just get some spirit" aren't entirely grasping the itemization dilemma of the class relative to performance. If mage dps potential were just a little better than it currently is, mages would have more breathing room to make wise itemization choices.

In that thread, one mage states that mages are not being forced to be tailors. I have to call this into question, however ~ citing the initial tuning of Level 70 raid instances where Blizzard so much as stated that they felt obligated to assume that raids would be flasked and buffed to the absolute max. They felt they had to do this because players *could* do it. If they didn't, players would trivialize the content by simply bringing more buffs.

Since the precedent is there, it stands to reason that along those same lines of thinking, mage damage has been tuned to account for the idea that many mages would be wearing Spellfire. Interesting that they will not similarly retune other aspects of mage performance around Spellfire, such as mana regen ~ but ultimately, doing so is a bad idea anyway. No class mechanic should ever be tuned according to specific pieces of gear they might obtain. If mage damage output has been retuned (or other classes buffed) relative to Spellfire, then that is a mistake that may not play out today, but will play out down the road, since gear-based performance imbalances come and go as the gear does. Class mechanics do not.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Elixir of Major Firepower Now Less Expensive

In a notable addendum to this post:

I noticed a couple weeks back that the cost for Elixir of Major Firepower has, in fact, been reduced! Much rejoicing ensued. Relative to the cost in mats for Major Frost Power, the Firepower equivalent now also costs 2 motes of fire, rather than the original 3 motes per elixir.

Yay! I never saw any documentation of this change, but hey, I'm not complaining. :D