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So. The Vaykor Hek.

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Modelled here by Booben, all praise him ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Vay Hek has been a thing for… a bit more than a week now, I think? I’m a huge fan of original-flavour Hek, so this one has been on my list for, oh, a little over a week. Now.

This is a syndicate version of a weapon that already had a syndicate mod. A really good syndicate mod. A syndicate mod that made Hek the only practical shottie before the recent shotgun rework, and which elevated it to the king and eternal overlord spot on a lot of people’s rosters once the buff had been accomplished. And a mod that’s getting a lot of flak for apparently instigating a crisis of faith in the multishot system.

Pictured: subjugation

Pictured: subjugation

See, multishot basically doubles your damage. Your total damage. Most mods only operate on the base damage*, or the damage modified by said base damage mods**. Multishot magics new bullets into existence, and each new round has the full plethora of mods applied. The mods are expensive points-wise, but once you have one or two pure damage mods applied, multishot is easily the biggest point-for-point damage increase in the game.

Vaykor Hek, naturally, can’t use its non-syndicate sibling’s syndicate mod. This lead to calls of uselessness, which has coincided with the dev team taking a good hard look at multishot’s mechanics. Which is generally accepted as “we’re gonna nerf this so hard you’ll never see 60 minutes in T4S again“.

Despite the reaction, the Vaykor isn’t without its selling points. For one thing, it’s the first shotgun in a very long time with a semi-decent crit chance, which means it gives one the opportunity to haul out the previously useless Primed Ravage, if you’re into ranking expensive mods that are only useful on a single weapon. This doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but critical hits actually have a similar total-damage-increase effect to multishot, making them less reliable but equally – or even more – devastating on a weapon that can effectively build for crit. This means that while the Vaykor may not hit as hard on every shot, on average it’ll match its little cousin, and its crits will hit much, much harder.

Vaykor also gets the syndicate radial blast effect without giving up a mod slot. Okay, so calling a straight 200% damage increase for a mere 7 points giving up a slot is a little of a stretch, but that also means you have space to slot more goodies, and you’ll have the syndicate proc from the start while levelling. For someone like me who likes making bars go up, that’s a fair deal. Not that you’ll need to spend as much time on Forma as with the standard Hek, since Vaykor comes with a bushel of free polarities. That’s three forma you won’t have to spend. Okay, two if you’re not as big a fan of the D as DE obviously are. Hur hur.

The Vaykor also has a faster fire rate and twice the ammo capacity. You want the old, pre-broken-reload Strun Wraith back? Yeah, V.Hek has basically the same feel, but with crit instead of status and damage instead of lightning reload. It even seems to have more of a chokk feel to its sound than the almighty thoom of the original.

Now, that’s a pretty big list. You might expect people to look at it and be somewhat impressed. If so, then you’d never have encountered the Warframe fanbase.

Immediate reaction to New Hek’s release was… yeah. Effectively a riot. Insistence that it did less damage, that it was a missed opportunity, that it required the expensive Primed Ravage. Even when theorycrafters proved that its sustained damage beat the Hek, the burst offered by Scattered Justice offered a fallback position for those determined to hold on to their outrage.

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This original-flavour Hek has 5 forma on it, and is now obsolete

This has had one pleasant side-effect: Vaykor Hek is dirt cheap compared to the other syndicate primaries. Whether because of the forum explosion or the fact that a lot of folks side with Steel Meridian as the obvious Good Guys™, you can pick up a V.Hek in trade for a third of the price of the Sancti Tigris at the moment. And that’s a great thing, because this gun kicks ass.

An 8-round magazine gives you the ability to take on great heaping crowds of enemies, and Warframe is all about the seething mobs. The handling difference is evolutionary. This is a Hek that you can be a little reckless with, because the follow-up is that little bit faster and you’ve got the ammo to spare. Yet it’s still capable of one-shotting anything on the map and most things in the Void.

Some folks are worried that spending time and forma on anything right now is going to be a waste, that the impending Doom of Multishot means they’re going to be left with a useless lump of pig iron. I say: Forma this. Rank it. Enjoy it, and savour the delicious fluids spilled forth by your enemies.

This gun is worth it, even here at the end of the world.

 

  • * Serration, Point Blank, Hornet Strike, Pressure Point – those mods that the wiki insists you put on before anything else. This is for a reason.
  • ** Elemental mods, I/P/S mods – basically anything that says +damage but isn’t in the above list.
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Been quietly levelling my shammy, and she hit 90 late last week. Thought process:

  • Guild needs a healer.
  • They kinda count on me to heal, my preference for melee DPS aside.
  • Disc is a train wreck at the moment. That rules out my healing main from Cata.
  • Holy never felt like an archetypal healer… more a prototype healer. Identity issues.
  • Druid healing is not fun. Besides, LW makes me miserable.
  • We already have a pally healer.
  • Shammy’s putting up decent numbers, has a lot of flexibility, and has an interesting toolbox.
  • If I level as Ele then I can use the same gear for healing.

Ele was a competent levelling spec, more than powerful enough with the quest rewards. It handles well for endgame dailies*, and the new functionality where your mana is no longer drained to 0 when switching specs means switching to Resto at the start of a dungeon is no longer an exercise in frustration as the tank refuses to wait the 20-odd seconds for you to drink it back**.

Shammy’s pretty good in dungeons – a balanced mix of cooldowns, HoTs, maintenance and burst healing, with a slight weakness for heavy tank damage, because once those two charges of the Tidal Waves*** buff are down Greater Healing Wave feels like it takes forever to land.

Up until now I’ve been polite.

Blizzard claims that once you hit 90 you shouldn’t need VP/JP gear to get into LFR. Great theory… except that it took me four fucking days to get the gear to get in. That’s not four nights… it’s four days at home all day, nothing but WoW, chain-running HCs. And even then I needed JP gear to replace two slots, and additionally got a crafted staff, a crafted trinket and Sha boots. Number of actual genuine upgrades received from HCs in four fucking days? Six. Six fucking items. Seven if you count a Wicked Witch’s Seal from the Horseman, which I don’t, since none of my other characters will get it. That mish-mash was good enough to finally get me into LFR at 10pm last night, combined with an agi helm that brought my ilvl up to ‘barely good enough’.

This is why people cheat the goddamn ilvl requirements. This is why Blizzard has already had to nerf the ilvl of PvP gear. And now, with PvP gear being easier to grind than valour – and not behind asinine rep grinds – they’ve gone and hotfixed the conquest cap.

There is no reward in playing like this.

The 50% valour of the ancients buff is a joke. It takes so long to cap valour, even on a character that has a literal 2 minute queue time, that by the time I’ve run enough instances to cap I have absolutely no interest in doing so on another character. The fact that we’re back to a daily run bonus for dungeons is ridiculous, and directly contradict the aforementioned valour of the ancients. The time investments required for dailies are way out of whack with the actual rewards for doing them.

Worse, without being able to think in terms of “okay, even if we aren’t doing well this week I’ll still be able to get something with valour“, our guild’s raiders are uncertain. Demoralised. We’re not the best that there is, and we need that little bit of a safety net. What we’re getting instead is a massive screw-you, with a side order of you aren’t good enough for our content if you can’t do it our way.

It isn’t fun to grind away at a goal and make no meaningful progress. It’s frustrating to spend an hour doing dailies for a faction, check back and then see that there’s still weeks left before you hit revered.

Worst of all, for someone like me, is knowing you’ll have to do this on every goddamned character.

No, I’m not inspired by the thought that, after spending weeks to get rep with these disparate factions, I’m going to have to waste half that amount of time per character on each of my alts just to get the patterns they need for crafting and access to some filler gear. Doubling rep on alts is not good enough.

What would I have done? First, made the rep gains from Golden Lotus meaningful, because 100 rep per quest just makes it explicit that they’re a goddamn gate on the factions that I’m actually interested in raising. Secondly, make the damn tabards give rep in dungeons, with the caveat that they can only be bought at Revered, bind to account, and don’t require any particular rep level to wear. The argument that “what character you’re on should matter” only holds water when you haven’t already made stupid grindy achievements and rewards accountwide in the first place, and that’s exactly what reputations are right now. Not to mention that they’re gating basic shit like valour gear. I can understand gating rewards that cost gold, but valour? That’s effectively a) gating us twice on cost and b) denying us the fruits of our fucking labour.

The Tillers are pretty much universally beloved, despite being completely useless for gear and effectively being a daily grind. Why? I have a couple of points in mind:

  • They’re useless for gear, but they’re also not locking any gear away from us. They don’t feel like failing to do them is a punishment, which the gear factions eminently do.
  • Progress is visible. Not only on the farming front; their quests give the sort of rep we’ve come to expect from doing quests or dailies.
  • They have content that isn’t dailies.

Those last two points also apply to the Klaxxi, by the way.

What am I going to do? There are a couple of choices, and all of them suck:

  • Switch to PvP. This was what I was on the verge of doing, and then someone had to go and fuck with Conquest again; not to mention that because of the aforementioned grindy as fuck PvE experience, PvP gearing has been and likely will still be hit with nerfs, because OMG raiders should gear from raids.
  • Keep calm and carry on. I admit that I expected to be a lot angrier than I was when I sat down to write this, but then realised that it’s because I’m depressed. I’m demoralised, frustrated and overall not looking forward to logging in any more. Something’s got to change or I’ll just end up quitting permanently.
  • Level alts. This is probably the best of a bad crop, but the amount of time it takes to level a character in Pandaria combined with the looming timesinks waiting at the cap just make this option feel completely meaningless.
  • Quit until the next tier comes out. This probably means 6 months or so of not playing WoW at all. Voting with my wallet is what I’m currently leaning toward. It feels like amateur dramatics, though, and knowing Blizzard in all of their boneheaded glory they’ll probably do something equally stupid to gate the next tier, so it’d end up effectively being a soft version of a permanent quit. That might actually be the only way I’ll quit, though… I’ve enjoyed the game as long as I’ve played it, and even through melee-hating t11, firetastic t12 and the tedious t13 I’ve never considered quitting.

Expected rage and got whine. Huh. Maybe it’ll be better after we get a few raid bosses down, I don’t know. There aren’t even any MV runs on the calendar for this week, though.

* Chain lightning all the things!

** ‘Course, none of this applies if your tank decides to pull right off the bat before you get a chance to even switch…

*** Possibly not the actual name, I just remember it as “that Riptide/Chain Heal buff”

Not too long ago, I ventured an opinion piece about bear levelling, cunningly disguised as a walkthrough of sorts. So, we continue.

Where were you my whole life?

The biggest reason for this post is Maul. I remember stupidly recommending hitting this thing any time clearcasting was up. It’s ridiculous how badly this ability saps your rage. Once you get Lacerate at lvl 66, hit Maul only if you want a free off-GCD at low rage. The feral design team is nothing if not consistent in their insistence on inconveniently placing major rotational abilities.

Not to be confused with Slowpoke

Another big one is Thrash, which somehow shows up at lvl 81, about 50 levels late. Better than never, but worse than actually having a functional AoE rotation for 90% of the game. Oh well.

Bear was the last of the four tanks I’ve played, and honestly I wouldn’t bother if the toon didn’t have two professions that I can’t really afford to level again. It’s clumsy, poorly planned, and levelling as a bear has left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t even want to touch mine at max where it’s more or less squared away.

Basically, if you want to play a bear, get a Scroll of Resurrection. That way you might actually still want to when you hit the cap.

Tanks: center of the universe?

Specifically, the last 2%.

Our raid last night went okay, but. We’ve hit a wall on Madness. Our last few pulls of the evening we were consistently hitting p2, getting to 2-3% and then just… dying like flies as the shrapnel and second set of adds hit.

2%, ffs.

We’re a casual guild… most of our DPS is in the 40k range and we’re 2-healing this mess. Have to, since we weren’t even getting close with three. I don’t think anyone other than the healers and one of the DPS uses pots. Pretty sure at least one of the DPS doesn’t even use food. We don’t have Time Warp for the last phase because without it we don’t get the last Corruption down before Bolt hits.

So. Here’s the plan.

I have two alchemists, one of whom is a potion master. The pot master is going to churn out a couple of stacks of volcanic, tol’vir and golemblood pots. Those are going into the guild bank and I’m going to ask the RL to hand them out before the fight next time, with instructions to use them on the last Corruption instead of TW. If that doesn’t work then we can try using them for the burn phase on DW himself.

I also have a bunch of fishermen, chefs and assorted characters who do the cooking dailies. Unfortunately, my raiding main isn’t maxed in cooking yet.

That needs to change.

I’m going to spend some time farming mats for feasts. We get around 10 pulls on DW per prog night. Wouldn’t be hard to manage 20 feasts or so a week.

This advice is actually sort of cribbed from a post by Arioch – it’s not something we do in general. Casual, natch. This week is our last chance for a kill before the nerf. Now, usually this wouldn’t make a difference to me… but I’m worried about our raid team’s morale. I touched on this when I mentioned our legendary progress. We need some sort of a boost, and soon. We need a kill.

When we were doing FL, we didn’t make Rag before the first set of nerfs. We pushed, and made great progress,  and only made it at the next lockout. I don’t want to see that happen again. So, casual or not, I’m going to do everything I can and hope that our group isn’t just going to cruise through waiting for the nerfs. We got this.

I remember the first instance I tanked with my original paladin. It was normal difficulty Stonecore. Some introduction, huh?

Thing is, that instance was *hard*. I’d geared up in the lvl 80 blacksmithing stuff, was lvl 83, and had even enchanted my stuff… and it was a slog. I forgot my cooldowns, couldn’t position mobs properly, didn’t have an off-GCD interrupt but that wouldn’t have mattered since my skills were getting muddled, etc. Every sin I complain about tanks committing, I committed there and then. A couple of months later that pally was tanking BWD and BoT like a machine, and everything was smooth as silk. The paladin tank has a very simple rhythm, and once you have that heartbeat it just flows.

Last night I took my lvl 81 dk into her first cata instances. Now, I’ve been tanking instances with her since Ramparts, so at least the toolbox is familiar. This was really the first chance that I had to compare with my experiences on the paladin in dungeons that I’ve done on both, though. Did two runs in BRC and one in TotT.

For a start, the dk is not smooth. There’s no real rotation. It really does play like a dps character. I’m reminded of my Arms warrior rather than my pally. Resource management on a prot pally is a matter of hitting Judgement on cd and SotR/WoG on 3 holy power, and occasionally using DI for Inq prepull. The dk has a multiple resource system that can be in many states, has debuffs to maintain, and has manual methods of regaining resources when required. That said, the dk prio seems to work pretty well as a self-reinforcing resource loop. If you manage the prio right – I did fumble a couple of times last night after getting flustered by badly-done pulls.

Pally self-healing is handy, but not really attractive at the moment compared to the threat and damage that SotR brings. With the dk, on the other hand, I’ve managed to self-heal through packs in BRC when the healer inexplicably left* or fell over dead**. It feels really strong right now.

The dk toolbox is good. Like, really good. I’m used to Avenger’s Shield for a pull, but I have to say it has nothing on a death and decay > deathgrip > strangulate opener. Okay, it really helps that I can ask my fiancee to DG in loose casters as well, but there really is no positioning tool like DG in the paladin arsenal. Even if I can’t get things in heartstrike range, blood boil picks up closer ranged mobs like nobody’s business. Dks excel at picking up ALL THE THINGS.

As far as cooldowns go… I’m not as good at using them as I should be. That’s going to hurt me later, I know. Working on it. Dks do have a cd for every occasion, and while right now I can get by with the occasional vampiric blood and a blood tap or two on low health, I somehow doubt that’s going to cut it in heroics. At least I’m getting better at maintaining my bone shield uptime.

The dks tools are precise. If I place a DnD, it’s going to be exactly where the sigil showed. If I deathgrip, it’s bringing that mob right here right now. Even BB gives a much better indication of its range than HotR. The only real exception is heartstrike, which has a tendency to cleave unexpected mobs. That said, with dk positioning capabilities, it shouldn’t really be a problem.

As for coolness factor… the pally has a holographic angel or something that shows up and makes him tougher for a bit. The dk summons a ghoul straight out of its grave, which then goes to town on my target. Or summons a mass of ghouls to eat the faces of everything in the general area. Hilarious on the final boss of BRC. The pally farts out a puff of glowing smoke that sits around him and generally isn’t even worth the mana cost. The dk summons a baleful runic circle right under the mobs’ asses, and threat ensues.

The only slight sore point is that applying diseases to a trash pack takes 3 GCDs, and dps don’t seem inclined to wait that long before opening with their AoE, so I generally have to wait until I have a couple of BB/HS off before I can actually apply them. This makes me kind of squishy in the opening part of a pull. Outbreak isn’t up nearly often enough to be useful.

All in all, the dk seems like a much more active tank than the pally. While the pally is indeed very smooth, almost soothing in its tempo, the dk is a frenetic bundle of pain and misery brought to a point against its enemies. Looking forward to how it’ll shape up. Oddly, the groups we’ve seen in dungeons so far have mostly been much more friendly and polite than those in heroics or LFR lately, with the exception of a mage who insisted on pulling ahead of me and promptly earned himself a votekick. I’m enjoying this.

 

 probably because we wanted to do Corla – my first BRD run resulted in no-one taking the second strand and a zealot evolving, but we managed anyway. That said, I can imagine why it’s not popular with healers.

** a lvl 80 healer that managed to get 1-shot by meteors, died of the pulse on Karsh (my fault really) and any other time there was randomly-targetted damage…

Aaaand my laptop’s attempting to incinerate itself again. I swear.

It’s at this point that I wish I was more of a hardware geek. As a coder I can sculpt magnificent edifices of intricate functionality in software… but hardware kinda leaves me cold.

Time to go browse hardware sites and see what I can put together for a desktop machine. Possibly offering a small prayer to whatever machine-spirits may be passing that the components actually work together properly…

On friday evening I shook down out my machine with a run through a raid finder instance. It was fairly interesting. The character that I chose was Infaris, ret paladin. This would be my first 25-man raid apart from the occasional 25-man run through BH.

RF is… pretty easy. We got all four bosses down, and most of the time mechanics weren’t much of a concern. The exception was Yor’sahj the Unsleeping, whose oozes require a little more co-ordination than pugs can seemingly muster.

Overall it feels very much like a 5-man dungeon, except with people constantly leaving and new ones coming in. So actually, a lot like a ZA run. Thing is, though, there are a lot fewer recriminations anad tempers flaring. Yes, a lot of people managed to accidentally pull one of the faceless bosses – repeatedly – his aggro radius is absolutely ENORMOUS – but even then the guys who weren’t impressed just dropped group and the ones left mostly laughed about it.

Infaris won some legplates, we had some fun, and it was all over in about the length of time that it took to run ZG HC on release. Normal difficulty, however, was… different.

I can’t comment on the first boss, as I was only a standby for the regular raid. I was called in to replace a healer with lat issues just after they downed the first. We went for Zon’ozz first and, well… firstly, the trash. We charged merrily in… and were receiving 80-110k hits randomly spread around the raid, with floor slime adding ticks for what appeared to be around 40k.

That doesn’t happen in raid finder, if you’re wondering.

We toasted the eye before the claw on the first couple of pulls, and it took us until the last pack to take the claw first. That works much better. I highly recommend it. Having wiped three or four times on the trash, we figured the boss would be the easy part.

Yeah, amazing what you’ll tell yourself, huh?

We didn’t have a very good understanding of the ball mechanic, so at first we ended up with the entire raid taking hits from the boss’ frontal attack. On our next try when the tank turned him, the ball merrily floated straight into a wall and caused Very Bad Things™ to happen to us. Tentacles were involved. I can only hope the masses of ominous dark fluid were some sort of eldritch lube. Fortunately it was all over very quickly. Unfortunately the tank had experienced a critical existence failure in the meantime, and the rest of the raid followed merrily after.

Did I mention the fly-in bug? Because one of our tanks had some sort of bug where every time he tried to fly in, we’d have a 5-10 minute downtime while he dc’d, reconnected and then fell on top of the boss instead of floating in, resulting in someone having to brave the aggro range in order to rez him. Good times.

Anyway, back at the fort, we finally got the ball bouncing. Took 4 healers pulling an average of 18k hps to keep up with the damage, but we got the hang of it. At which point we discovered something else… Zon’ozz can build those fury stacks mighty fast indeed. By the time we had 8 bounces, we were looking at 70k melee hits every second or so. Badly timed bounce at that point ends everything. Worse yet, on the second and subsequent phases, the boss would sometimes build up around 4 stacks of fury before even starting the ball rolling. Not sure if that’s a bug or a feature, but either way the semi-random nature* meant that we basically called the number of bounces by ear, more to get the buff off the boss than anything else.

After downing Zon’ozz in the end, we took a look at Yor’sahj. His trash was much less loopy, and as expected he was much easier with a guild group. We wiped once to a yellow/green/red combo – almost made it but then ran out of healing cds – and then got that same combo as our first of the retry, staggered cds properly and got him down. That puts us at 3/8 guild and me at 2/8 personal. Little Bitter is lagging behind as usual.

All in all a couple of interesting fights, and I think that the group we had would have gone much further but for the delays we had – yeah, the octo-bros held us up, but that’s small time. This stands to be a pretty fun tier.

My impression of Raid Finder is that it’s about as far from Normal as release 5-mans are from Ragnaros. Its use for training purposes is more than a little dubious. Yes, RF allowed some of us to see the encounters beforehand… but it also mostly turned those same encounters into tank ‘n spanks, and didn’t really allow us to develop any of the co-ordination that comes from a solid guild run.

We were using KSK for the first time as well. I didn’t manage to get anything – the only item I wanted was bid by a priest higher than me – but it’s kind of comforting that I don’t have to rely on my awful, awful rolls as in Firelands. I basically got geared by default after everyone else was already sorted.

 

* Things to look into… was this caused by avoidance? Oh gods, do we need a bear to tank this?