Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Slow Down! The Current State of Brewmasters

Hello friends. There's been a lot of talk about Brewmasters and viability over the last week or so and I wanted to take the time to write down my thoughts on balance and where we are as part of our raid teams and where we are compared to other tanks.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Legion Brewmaster FAQ: All (some) of Your Questions Answered!

Hello friends! In light of Legion coming just around the corner, and with the ever increasing number of people asking questions, I thought it'd be cool to make a FAQ list for anyone interested in playing a Brewmaster once August 30th hits! Without further ado, let's get into it!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Some Happenings have been Brewing

Seeing as I haven't made a blog post on Brewmasters in a while, despite the notable happenings, I figure this is about as good a time as any to go in and talk about some of the stuff that's changed over the last couple builds. Firstly, there's the most recent changes where some of our damage was nerfed a touch... but that's not too big a deal in my mind. Keg Smash was hitting like a truck full of cement and it already had a very low cooldown. We'll be fine, I feel. But onto the other big thing that happened...



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Brewmaster Feedback - Artifact Traits

Good evening (or afternoon / morning if you happen to read this after I post it) friends! Today I'm going to be going deep into my thoughts on our artifact's traits. I want to preface this and say that this is NOT going to really be something about balance, and more so about mechanics, play feel, and the degree to which I am excited to get each trait. Do note that the order I put down here is completely arbitrary and in no way is representative of the path that I would recommend to go in order to get the most out of Fu Zan in as little artifact power as possible. So without further ado, let's get started!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Brewmaster Feedback: Talents

Hello friends! As promised, today I'm going to talk about talents. There's a lot here, so get strapped in. This is going to be a doozy.

Talents are in an alright place, I feel. Most of them I'm fairly happy with. I've had a chance to play with pretty much all the talents, so I'm pretty confident in my findings. I'm using this post as a combination of answering the question of "What talents should I pick?" as well as providing feedback on the various talents and talent tiers for any Blizzard devs who are sneaking a peek. This'll be a big post, so I'm going to have a table of contents to make it a bit easier to navigate.

Table of Contents

Level 15
Level 30
Level 45
Level 60
Level 75
Level 90
Level 100

Level 15

The healing tier and the movement tier have switched places this expansion. The Level 15 talent row has the return of Chi Burst and Chi Wave, with the new Eye of the Tiger, a passive talent which deals damage over time to an enemy and heals you over time when you hit them with Tiger Palm. Overall, it's a relatively weak but constant stream of healing, so it'd be a decent enough talent for newer players who are just starting out. Probably best for world content. As would Chi Wave, as it still has the problem of being atrocious for reliable self-healing in a group environment, as its liable to go and heal someone else rather than you. I've never really liked Chi Wave for group content because of this, though it would still be good to pick up for solo content. Overall I'm confident in Chi Burst being the go-to for group content.

Also its animation is freaking gorgeous, so yeah. Sold.

Level 30

As mentioned, Level 30 now provides us our movement options. Only this time, we've seen something rather interesting. Momentum has now merged with Chi Torpedo (though Chi Torpedo has dropped its damage/healing). More or less the decision remains the same. Chi Torpedo is great for endurance-running where you have to move fast and far for a long time, with Tiger's Lust being the go-to for more snap movement speed as well as group utility. If you don't feel like you can manage Tiger's Lust, Celerity is there as an easier to manage snap-movement talent.

Level 45

This tier's brand new. I like to think of Level 45 as the active mitigation tier, where you can choose how you wish to boost your regularly used defensive abilities. Light Brewing reduces the cooldown of Ironskin and Purifying Brew as well as granting a fourth charge. Black Ox Brew fully recharges our energy and brew charges. Gift of the Mists is a bit complicated. Here's the formula:

  • TalentedOrbChance = BaseOrbChance * (1 + 0.6 * (1 - (HealthBeforeDamage - DamageTakenBeforeAbosorbsOrStagger) / MaxHealth))

To bring some context to that, Gift of the Ox orbs now spawn when you take 100% of your max health in damage. What Gift of the Mists does is makes it so that any numbers going to that total will get a multiplier depending on what your health is at after the hit. Essentially, it means more Gift of the Ox orbs that you can scoop up physically or via Expel Harm.

So this is a bit complicated. My general testing (and player surveying) finds that Light Brewing is really your go-to for dealing with harder content. Your self healing becomes a bit less trustworthy at a certain point, so you need to talent into Light Brewing or Black Ox Brew to get more actual damage mitigation and burst reduction in the form of your brews. Gift of the Mists might see use in encounters which may require a bit more independence from tanks, where healers aren't able to babysit them, but that's a very hypothetical and in my opinion unlikely occurrence. Black Ox Brew is a strong contender if you're in a situation where you need to predictably use more brews in a short period of time than you are allotted. With everything Brewmasters need to manage in regards to brews, using Black Ox Brew for throughput is extremely difficult. If you're up for that challenge, the rewards are very promising however.

Level 60

The level 60 talents are still about add control. But we get someone new! Dave, our statue, is now a talent alongside Ring of Peace and Leg Sweep. Out of all the talent tiers that I surveyed for, this is the one with the biggest discrepancy of choice. The survey asked players which talents they used (multiple answers were allowed). A dominating 92.6% of those surveyed said they chose Leg Sweep. 40.7% of those surveyed said they use Dave, the Black Ox Statue. Only 3.7% of players surveyed used Ring of Peace.

Ring of Peace has had a slight change in design with Legion. Instead of incapacitating enemies around the target of the spell and incapacitating enemies who cast a spell while in the ring, it now throws enemies out of the ring if they use a harmful spell or ability. The problem I have with this talent is that its design has clearly been changed to a tool that is intended to assist in peeling enemies off of the squishier members of your party, yet it isn't effective at that role.

It firstly feels as though it should have been an Honor Talent, as enemy players are far more likely to proc its effects than NPC's, for whom auto-attacking is much more frequent and relatively more dangerous to your squishies. So already, it's arguably a nerf compared to its previous incarnation, and it's competing with two of the most valued Brewmaster CC abilities that they possess. Secondly, while it has superior range to your Keg Smash, because it generates zero threat it doesn't even really peel enemies off the ally for that long and so you're better off crossing the distance with your very high Brewmaster mobility via Roll or any of the other ways we have to move rather quickly to just Keg Smash and taunt the enemies off your ally. Furthermore, it actually makes doing that harder as if there's multiple enemies engaged on an opponent (and the knockback is actually procced), it kicks them away from the center of the ring, and thus means there's a serious potential for your Keg Smash to not actually immediately land on all the enemies harassing your friend. Using Ring of Peace has an actual potential to impede your capacity to peel off of allies. I suppose you could also use it on yourself as a means of getting an enemy away from you so you could rest a bit, but you also have Roll which does similar and doesn't take up a talent slot and is less likely to make melee freak out and reposition as heavily. Honestly, I was never really much a fan of it anyway compared to the other options in previous expansions. I'm a bit sad that it's continuing that pattern in Legion.

Were I to pick a winner for this tier, it would be Leg Sweep. Dave will have his day in raid encounters with adds I'm sure, but in dungeons and world content the utility and power of Leg Sweep is too much for Dave to see much use.

Level 75

Level 75 is still the tier of defensive cooldowns and not much has changed aside from numbers. Well, except for Healing Elixirs becoming an actual cooldown and REALLY awesome. It's now got 2 charges with a 30 second recharge time and heals for 15% of your health, same as before. If you have a charge available and hit 35% health, it's automatically cast. It's served me exceptionally well in world content and dungeons thus far. Enough that as mentioned in the last post, I feel like it almost deserves to be a baseline ability.It fills this hole that we have so well and its been so useful that I'm a little worried getting into harder content we'll miss having it, despite having a stronger cooldown for bigger bursts than it can handle. I think the change has definitely boosted this tier's decision factor and while it's still largely the same (Dampen Harm for physical burst damage, Diffuse Magic for magic burst), Healing Elixirs takes the cake in solo content and so far up to Normal dungeons.

Level 90

I actually really like the level 90 talents. Each either has a notable effect on our priority or is very iconic of our class fantasy. Rushing Jade Wind is now free to cast, though with a cooldown. The cooldown is actually reduced via haste, which is cool. Xuen is no more. Instead, we have his buddy Niuzao, who is more or less functionally the same. Lastly, we have the new Special Delivery, which has a 30% chance to fling a keg into the air, dealing 900% attack power damage as AoE on a nearby enemy whenever you use Ironskin or Purifying Brew. While last I checked this was bugged and wasn't dealing damage, it's actually a really cool ability and no longer seems to suffer from "Starfall Syndrome" like it did back in the Alpha. Basically, the way I feel this tier goes is RJW is an amazing talent if you want a filler for the priority, which has slowed down compared to Live. Niuzao is still an excellent choice for when you need more burst damage, and SD is a good passive option for those who don't want to further complicate the priority, or for those who may feel that they have too much haste for RJW to be used regularly enough, since I would say that SD scales with haste much more smoothly than RJW does, as it doesn't need to compete with more important GCD's.

Level 100

I think this tier is my biggest concern. It just seems such an anti-climactic row. In just the previous tier, you have RJW, a twister on a short cooldown that can be used as a filler, changing gameplay, Niuzao, our patron Celestial, and Special Delivery, which while it doesn't change gameplay is a cool display of beer-based AoE damage, a staple of the spec's fantasy. In the 100 tier, you have Elusive Dance, which grants 5, 10, or 15% dodge depending on whether you purify at low, medium, or high stagger (which stacks). There is Fortified Mind, which reduces the cooldown of our Fortifying Brew as if it was ISB or PB, and then High Tolerance which increases our stagger by 5%. Elusive Dance as far as fantasy goes is cool, but it's really passive and it doesn't make any real emergent gameplay. Neither does Fortified mind (the Fort Brew talent) or HT. All three are passive defensive bonuses in some respect. The tier as a whole feels very tame and at least to me reminds me more of the old glyph system rather than talents.

The diversity of choice also feels rather poor for that tier as well. Stacking dodge on purifies is nice but you aren't going to get a significant amount unless you're purifying a lot of damage in a short time and if you're purifying a lot of damage, you're taking a lot of damage. That dodge I feel like wouldn't do very much because A) it comes in after the spike and thus can only help with maybe preventing another if the spike was melee damage and B) it's RNG so even if you get 30% dodge (which is very high for this talent), that's still a 55% chance (barring additional dodge aside from 15% base) that dodge isn't going to help you out. As tanks, our job is to be as consistent as possible when dealing with burst damage and thus dodge is not our friend. For this particular case, I could only see this talent being useful if there are regular points in an encounter where you get bursted down from bug bites... points where dodge's RNG can be smoothed out via many occurrences. Even if numerically it would provide better damage reduction, most tanks will pick one of the other two talents simply because they provide more consistency, which is what really saves our butts. Fortified Mind however is another iffy talent which relies very heavily on an encounter-to-encounter basis. Namely, because it in practice will roughly halve the CD of Fort Brew, it's only useful on an encounter where you'd need Fort Brew more than once every 5 minutes after exhausting Zen Meditation and Dampen Harm / Diffuse Magic. Which might happen, to be fair. Still, it's another one that on paper seems very niche. Which leaves the 5% stagger.

Honestly I wish something broke this tier up a bit. On the monk discord earlier, I had a brain fart and mixed up Special Delivery with Fortified Mind, thinking the former was on the 100 tier. Thinking about it for a bit, I wish it was. It would make that tier much more interesting in its choices, giving players the chance to trade defense for damage if they so choose. I realize that's something Blizzard has said they don't really want to do much this expansion, but I honestly think say, switching Elusive Dance or Fortified Mind for Special Delivery would be a very interesting two talent tiers. You could get defense in both, you could get damage in both, but it really makes those tiers very custom to the player and their desired playstyle, driving them further away from the "pick based on encounter" feel that they somewhat have (with the 100 tier having a stronger feel of this).

That's all for talents. Thanks for reading! Hopefully the next blog post will be about Heroic dungeons and my thoughts on Brewmasters there, as well as tanking World Bosses. If you want to discuss this post, feel free to jump onto ChiBurst!

See you next time,
~ The Brewing Scribe

Brewmaster Feedback: Normal Dungeons

Hello friends! So I've done some more dungeons and I'm fairly happy with the results. I've also had the chance to really experiment with the different talents and I'm pretty confident in my thoughts on them as well. Without further adu, let's dive right in!

Right now my Brewmaster is sitting at ilvl 803. She's getting there for Heroics but I'm still confined to Normals right now. That being said, Normals feel pretty good. While leveling, I got comments saying I was one of the easiest tanks to heal and I was very confident in my tanking. Once I hit 100, I noticed my stagger was hitting extremes much more often (averaging about 3-6 times per dungeon rather than 1 or so) and I felt notably squishier. I'm still currently in a leveling / world content build so I'm going to experiment with Light Brewing instead of Gift of the Mists to see if additional charges of brews would solve that. Fairly confident it should. The general consensus right now is that the brew talents of that tier will largely be what you'd want in higher difficulty content.

I'm a bit worried that because of this and the likely need to switch out Healing Elixirs for a proper damage reduction CD come hard content that we won't have nearly as effective self-healing as we might need, but I want to make the point that such is just a worry rather than anything amazingly grounded. I've noticed that self-healing from Healing Elixirs has saved my butt during Normals enough that it almost feels like it should be baseline. It fills this wonderful niche that is a short-CD defensive ability that Brewmasters rather lack. We've got the moment-to-moment stuff with ISB and PB which feels great. We've got long-CD's in Fortifying Brew and Zen Meditation.

I'd say we'd have a mid-CD in Explosive Keg but I've honestly not really felt the defense from it. Just having one auto-attack miss doesn't really feel very noticeable. I more or less just use it on cooldown for general damage reduction rather than anything more purposeful because of that. And To get off track a little bit, I think the reason why is because it has a high rate of mitigation over an extremely short period of time. While technically it's only a 20% nerf in terms of damage reduced from the original version (15% damage reduction over 8 seconds) it's lack of a real duration means that it doesn't really help enable healers to catch up with your damage intake as significantly. It's basically a 1.5 second gap from auto-attacks and then you go back to full damage taken sans other CD's and that just doesn't feel that strong or significant. But anyway, we're missing a mid-to-short CD that'd be able to regularly help out, but not be something we totally rely on for most incoming damage. I'm going to be trying some different stuff over the next couple days as I continue to gear for Heroics, and we'll see if I really do feel like I'm missing something without Healing Elixirs.

Getting back to it though, dungeons have been pretty fun and while the spike in difficulty at 110 was a little jaunting, I really can't say I've been struggling because of it. Brewmaster still feels engaging and entertaining and I feel like I'm on top of the things which it throws at me most of the time. There's these giant crystal elementals in Neltharion's Lair which truck me but they're one of the few things I've found. It's quite possible I just don't know how to counter them, though I didn't see anything that made a counter known. In any case though it's been pretty enjoyable. I'm looking forward to a couple more experiments and some Heroics, once I get enough gear.

This is a bit of a short post, but that's because I've got a LOT written up for Talents, which is coming tomorrow! Thanks for reading! I want to try something a bit different for comments and discussions. There's still my Twitter, but I've made a thread on ChiBurst to discuss this and tomorrow's topics. Hope to see you there, ChiBurst is an awesome site that we're trying to get a bit more love and attention.

So long for now, see you tomorrow.
~ The Brewing Scribe

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It Begins! The Brewmaster Feedback Marathon!

Hello friends! I've finally gotten access to Legion's beta which means I've finally been able to start testing the Brewmaster! What I am hoping to do is have several posts of feedback targeted at specific aspects of play. The list i have thus far (in no particular order) is as follows:

  • Game Feell
  • Leveling / solo content
  • Talents / Abilities
  • Normal Dungeons
  • Heroic Dungeons
  • Mythic+ Dungeons
  • Raids (if Blizzard continues testing and I am lucky).

Before I begin I want to again plug my Beta Brewmaster Talents Survey. If you've played Brewmaster on the Beta, please do me a huge favor and fill it out. I'm collecting data to try and see what players pick and more importantly, why, to potentially get some more context on talent choices. I'm hoping to use that data for my Talents post

Today I wanted to talk about play feel and how Brewmaster holds up in solo content. To get right into it, when I say "play feel", what do I mean by that? It is essentially a slight alliteration to game feel, a concept of game design which is one of the most vague things you have to think about. In essence, it's basically about whether the game feels fun and engaging to play. So to talk about play feel is essentially answering the question of "Do Brewmasters feel good to play?"

And overall I think they do. I haven't used RJW all that much, but even so I definitely overestimated the downtime you have as a Brewmaster. The spec still feels fairly fast and you still need to manage multiple things in your core priority/rotation (In this case, active mitigation, energy spenders and cooldowns, rather than active mitigation, energy spenders and chi spenders). The animations are very nice and I've found myself just watching my character move as I use my abilities. Flaming Keg, as far as feel goes, is awesome. You throw it down and it just EXPLODES in a crescendo of beer and fire. If tuned correctly, that's going to be an awesome button to press.

My active mitigation, as far as how I use it, feels fairly good too. What I've largely been doing is using ISB when I feel like I need the extra defense (similar to how I use Guard in live), and then using purifies if that stagger DoT is getting a bit excessive. I feel more attentive towards stagger than on live, which i think is a good thing. Expel Harm makes Gift of the Ox feel much nicer and I really appreciate its return. Overall, though the spec has changed fairly substantially, I personally still enjoy it. So far, I haven't felt like I needed something else than what my kit has to offer in order to deal with incoming damage... but I do want to stress that I've pretty much only done world content. I could very well be in need of something greater when I get into challenging content.

Speaking of, world content on the Legion Brewmaster is fairly smooth. Damage dealt feels good and while you won't sit at 100% health all the time you shouldn't really feel like you're in danger provided you are using self-healing talents, which I personally think are mandatory for solo content. There are people who are saying that they can't play at all without Obstinate Determination, but once I got used to everything (which took a couple hours, be fair) I was doing perfectly fine without it. Even in the dungeons I've done, it hasn't been necessary.

Overall there's not much in the way of feedback that I think I can truly give as far as the above is concerned. The spec is enjoyable to play and level, at least to me. It's got a good feel and a vibrancy to it that is very encouraging. I'm still leveling right now but I can't wait till I hit 110 so I can do even more advanced testing. If Brewmaster maintains its feel into harder difficulty content, I will be very happy with how the spec will play come launch.

Thanks again for reading friends! As usual, feel free to talk to me here or on twitter if you want to discuss Brewmaster stuff or just anything really. Like I said above, this is going to be a bit of a marathon so expect quite a few updates over the next week or two.

~ The Brewing Scribe

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Secret Ingredient to Brew Charge Talents Analysis

As of last Wednesday's patch, we got two big things: Healing Elixirs became a charge-based heal that auto-casts at low health, and Secret Ingredients got its proc rate buffed from 30% to 50%. I've heard that Healing Elixirs has become a decent niche talent now for fights where the other two cooldowns on that row but I'll leave specifics on that to the testers proper. Today I did a good chunk of work on comparing Secret Ingredients to the other talents on its row, as well as picking no talent whatsoever as previous looks showed that with artifact perks it was actually a net loss before now. This was of course before all the brew cooldown changes as well as haste CDR being added, so with the latest change I thought it would be a good time to revisit it! Shoutout to Xiaojin for getting me the SI data for this analysis.

Once again, the amount of data I have here is a LOT so I won't be showing many pictures. You can again find the raw data on my spreadsheet. Quick reference for format: All the numbers are assuming a combat period of 10 minutes with scripted / "perfect" use of abilities and averaged proc chances. Green highlights are when each specific talent option (LB, BoB, no talent) will always be better, teal highlights show when another option is only temporarily better. Things to keep in mind are that this is not meant to be a measurement of specifically when SI becomes less valuable than other options, merely to find whether it does, the general ballpark, and trends across all brew gen talents. As well, the numbers shown are theorycrafted, which means you should take them with a grain of salt. Things won't line up perfectly like this in game. That is especially true of BoB and it's effectiveness, as right now its numbers assume you waste 10% of the energy regenerated and can use all charges. This is very optimistic.

To get right into it, I actually have a graph for you guys this time!

So to talk about this graph for a sec, this shows the rough number of charges gained as you get more haste, your tier 19 4-set, and ranks in Face Palm. Each high point in the slopes represents when you have three ranks in FP and your 4set, with the new low being when you increase your haste by 5 but drop those perks.

Now obviously, Black Ox Brew is killing it right now, as it should. It's an active ability which requires very good timing on the part of the player to maximize its effectiveness. Light Brewing, king before the nerf to the base brew cooldown, is still fairly solid and only becomes ever so more competitive the more haste we have. The last two are where it gets tricky for brew generation. Secret Ingredients is actually very marginally worthwhile compared to no talent at all, but only until you get both your 4-set and 3 ranks in Face Palm, where no talent ever so slightly takes the lead. Again I do want to stress that this is theorycrafted data, which does make specifics like that imperfect and not wholly absolute. Being said, the general patterns and trends should translate into the game. So let's dive into the data and see what's going on here.

For starters, the biggest thing to notice is that you're getting a decent chunk more Keg Smashes. The problem there is that they are at the cost of Tiger Palms. Because both share the resources of energy and GCD's, you only get so many and more of one comes at the cost of the other. What's happening though is that the extra Keg Smashes are pretty significant (about 50% more at base haste), these come at a very significant cost of Tiger Palms. And because there's less Tiger Palms, the talent is inherently throttling itself when the other options don't have such mechanics. Looking at the differences between the 30% proc rate (which is also on the sheet) and the 50% proc rate, we're seeing a good number more Keg Smashes with the new iteration but again, much fewer Tiger Palms.

Ultimately, the 20% increase on the proc rate only results in 1 or so more charges gained across a 10 minute fight with no interruptions and as perfect a cooldown usage as possible. More or less, in regards to brew charge generation, it's negligible. Being said, that's a lot more damage opportunity, but as shown in the graph, at a fairly steep cost to defensive power. At three ranks of Potent Kick (+1.5 seconds total on ISB uptime), if you want to just be able to maintain ISB fully (which I don't think Blizzard is intending), you need 80 brew charges. BoB can do this at 0 haste and no ranks in FP / 4-set. LB can begin to do this at 10% haste, 3 ranks of FP, and 4-set (though it dips down afterwards). SI can do it at 25% haste, 0 ranks in FP, and with the 4-set (again dipping down afterwards). Those are some pretty far apart numbers.

Realistically, the issues with SI at least from a defensive standpoint really stem from the opportunity cost that KS shares with TP, very specifically because in the current iteration of the spec, TP is very important to maintain because the brew charge artifact perk, and set bonus really only focus on buffing TP. As shown on the graph, these things make SI relatively less valuable compared to even baseline and really the talent just throttles itself because of said opportunity cost. The more KS' you use, the fewer TP's, which means fewer procs. It ultimately seems to balance out the brew generation regardless of proc rate.

But the ultimate question I think is whether or not Blizzard intends for this talent to be the way hardcore raiders can get back that desired trade-off of defense for damage. If it does, it seems like it's a good way to do it, though I think it could use buffs in other ways than proc rate, like perhaps reducing the energy cost of KS when procced. If not wholly intentional, then I think a rework is in order. This was on the wishlist of my friend LeBlue, but maybe have it so that you get a second charge of KS that only activates when SI procs so that you don't just have weird RNG with the cooldown resetting a couple seconds before it's up, which wastes it. This is an issue that I see becoming ever more prevalent the higher haste you get, which could explain why the ratio of KS' compared to other talent options is reduced the more haste you get on the table. This way, you can hold onto the second charge and use it while the original CD can tick away as normal. Perhaps a combination of both options would work.

Another big issue is actually the t19 4-set and to a lesser extent, the Face Palm artifact trait. The 4-set is a temporary issue but both exacerbate the problems that SI has. Another potential facet of the solution is to change how these work... give them the same effect of better brew charge generation, but in different places. Maybe on Keg Smash. Another possible avenue is changing either KS' or TP's energy cost so that they are the same baseline, rather than just on proc. Either way reduces the opportunity cost. I think the biggest thing with SI is that there's not really one thing that will likely significantly change it, if it needs changing at all in the eyes of the devs. Any meaningful changes to the power of this talent would need to be directed at manipulating or breaking the opportunity cost and negative feedback loop the talent maintains.

So right now I think the data supports discounting SI as a serious defensive talent option and pretty much relegates it to being used purely for damage if you are 100% confident in your survivability. Ultimately I don't know what the devs want from this talent, it's just my hope to give as much info to everyone in the community as possible. This might be intended, it might not. My job is mainly just to parse info, I can only speculate on design intentions. We can only just wait and see how Blizzard decides to go forward and while I understand sometimes that's a difficult thing to ask, it's the reality we have.

Thanks for reading guys, hope this has been enlightening. As usual, feel free to throw me a message on twitter if you're interested in chatting further!

~ The Brewing Scribe

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Staggering Revelation: A look into Purifying Brew Post-Nerf

So it took me a bit but I've finally been able to create a proper model for stagger for build 21414. I'm just going to get straight into it. There's not really going to be any pretty pictures this time around but if you're interested in the raw data you can find it here, on my theorycrafting spreadsheet. For the sake of clarity, the model starts at 0 seconds in a fight and models for attacks every 1.5 seconds, which are assumed to hit. It then compares how much damage you would take in the next 6 seconds if you either purified and dropped ISB, or maintained ISB at that point in time. A green highlight means that purifying is guaranteed to be better from that point forward and an aqua highlight means that purifying is better at that point but it dips down at a later point.

The primary goal of this comparison was largely to determine what significance, if any, these changes have on our core gameplay: managing purifying and maintaining Ironskin Brew uptime. The findings were pretty conclusive: while there is a difference and it takes longer for purifying to become the right choice if you need to give up your ISB buff, it is only a matter of about 1.5-3 or so seconds, or the equivalent of one or two boss attacks using this model. So as far as the rough math goes, purifying is still useful and our core gameplay remains more or less intact. In reality it will take longer because you're going to be doding attacks more often but ultimately there is a point where you do benefit more from purifying.

The biggest difference is that purifying now reduces about half as much damage as before as far as how much I've modeled is concerned... which isn't unexpected. There's some worrying consequences though for intuitive use of the mechanic. Around every point on the table where purifying is better, there's about a space of two or so seconds where the numbers are virtually indistinguishable between using PB and using ISB. Personally speaking, I was taught that if a game required external assistance for a player to appropriately learn a mechanic, then the design is not doing its job properly. While this phenomenon occurs for PB when it purifies 100% of the stagger pool, its much less dramatic. The time it takes to see a significant difference in the damage taken when purifying in comparison to maintaining ISB is much lower than when PB reduces the stagger pool by 50%. This  has further consequences in that players will take longer to feel out when it's better to purify, which means they will take more damage as they hold off on purifying, making the nerf even greater in magnitude than just a 50% reduction.

There is actually another worry here that in the long-term of a fight, it's an even greater nerf. Because you can't totally remove the stagger pool via gameplay, over time it will continue to increase. This means that while you can purify at any point, by the end of a fight, you WILL be taking more damage per second than at the start. This amount could possibly be not a whole lot, or it could be more depending on how much purifying is practically necessary. This has a lot of consequences for gameplay and design. If you are constantly tanking (or at the very least tanking so often that you do not have 10 seconds where you don't take damage), you are ultimately liable to just take more damage unless you are fairly liberal with your purifying and even then it just delays and suppresses this problem, rather than fixing it entirely.

I see this having a notable chance of messing with balance in the new Mythic+ dungeons which are supposed to more or less be the new Challenge Modes. You're on the clock and if you spend 10 seconds waiting for stagger to tick off every couple of packs, that's a lot of extra time that you've wasted. Or if you only wait before bosses, you're potentially liable to be chunked on trash and that's not good either. On top of that, there's some affixes that could be very bad for Brewmasters, like the constant damage of Decay. You're just piling up constant damage and even if Decay isn't affected by Stagger, that's just even more of a constant mana drain for healers. In combination I think it's fair to worry about the viability of Brewmasters in this environment when you're talking about the higher difficulties.

This is also a potential problem for hardcore progression. While I'm not going to say that the game should be balanced around a very small minority of players (sorry guys), the worry that a Brewmaster would be taking more damage at the end of a fight than at the start, compounded with the ends of fights largely being tougher on everyone really makes Brewmasters seem like a bad class to bring. That is, I think, a very strong worry.

The change to purifying I think reinforces a fairly valid concern about Brewmasters and that is that we actually have very little control over how much damage we take. Our emergency heal is pseudo-randomly procced and requires us to move around which is potentially not a valid option depending on the encounter or the point in time in an encounter. Our cooldowns are very long and realistically not useful in moment-to-moment situations if you are on an encounter with sufficiently deadly mechanics that you need to save these cooldowns for. We have no passive mitigation so damage taken is roughly equivalent to a DPS without purifying, and now purifying can't even fully get rid of the amount of stagger we have which according to feedback that I've seen does not feel good. I realize that this is in part necessary because of the paradigm change from Warlords to Legion. Tanks as a whole are supposed to rely more on healers. That being said, I thing being able to purify some damage is important for that as well. We're giant mana sponges without it. I'm just a humble theorycrafter and budding designer. I'm not a Warcraft dev, I don't have the specific experience of being a class designer on World of Warcraft. Perhaps I'm just over-sensitive to the potential of this change. That being said, I still do think that changes to what we have wouldn't be a bad idea. There are other avenues that could be explored to balance Brewmasters.

Ultimately if the big reason Purifying Brew was nerfed is because Brewmaster's capacity to reduce the amount of damage taken is too high with it (which I don't know if this is the reason, I'd honestly really like a clarification on this still), then you have to ask how to try and rectify that while bringing purifying back up to 100% of the stagger pool.

You could reduce the amount of stagger Brewmasters have, but that has a lot of worry about taking way too much burst damage for the tools we have to mitigate it and that's already a concern of players (which admittedly isn't a foolproof metric for balance). You could reduce their self healing, but there's frankly not that much there in the first place. Reducing health doesn't reduce the amount of damage you mitigate and would make it easier for Brewmasters to be burst down. You can't really reduce the amount of passive mitigation they have seeing as they have zero from being a Brewmaster.

I think that strategic buffs and nerfs would be appropriate. Perhaps have less stagger from ISB but at the same time, give some passive defense and/or some more self healing. Just doing something like this would be much easier to test across various encounters and content to see whether or not it's good balancing and I think ultimately it would be the best for everyone. I don't see messing with purifying brew as an easy method of balancing the spec. There's just so much going on under the hood and it's exceptionally difficult to realistically model the consequences of that without scripting.

To wrap it up, I think the changes to Purifying Brew are... complicated. I think there's a lot of potential "down the road" consequences for it, especially in various content where downtime is not really available. Being said, the model I made really didn't have that significant of a difference for at least gameplay, so that at least is largely okay in the sense of actually needing to purify at all. Still, the model's worrisome because there's a larger period of time where as a player it's harder to tell when purifying is useful, so there's a double-dipping of increased damage taken. Overall I would like to see some changes and I can only hope that Blizzard appreciates this post if anyone from the class team comes across it. I'd like to say that I've been fairly reasonable and objective in this feedback rather than alarmist, but ultimately that's for Blizzard to judge.

Thanks for reading guys. Sadly, I don't have alpha myself so if people would be interested in trying out the stuff I mentioned here and seeing if it's worrisome, that would be appreciated. Any more specific data we can throw Blizzard's way the better.

~The Brewing Scribe

Friday, April 1, 2016

Brewmasters Are In: How to Get Back Into Giving Feedback!

It's time to celebrate, friends! We're finally able to start playtesting Brewmasters! There were a couple changes that we've found out with the latest patch but I wanted to take the time to talk about providing feedback in as effective a way as possible. But first, a quick summary of the changes.

Firstly, we got Detox back! So that's cool! Secondly, additional uses of ISB extends the shuffle buff's duration, which is pretty great. Thirdly, ISB and PB's cooldown is now affected by haste CDR. We're expecting to see their base CD rise up pretty high (at least 3 seconnds or so) but that's fine. Right now it's a bit silly. All that being said, onto the main topic!

Learning game design has been an amazing experience in really understanding and appreciating feedback for games. A good part of our first class is actually about learning how to give and receive feedback because it's so absolutely vital to the success of games. I wanted to take some time and go through all the things that in my opinion will enable the best, clearest feedback possible so that as a community we can communicate our worries and concerns with Blizzard with as little white noise as possible. To that end, I made a little list of things that I think we should all keep in mind when providing feedback.

1) Avoid buzzwords

People really love to use words like "clunky" or "janky" when describing gameplay they don't like. The problem with these words is that they are actually really bad at getting at the issue with the gameplay and communicating the problem. What makes it feel clunky? What's the specific problem? If a rotation feels clunky, is it because there's not enough resources? too many resources? There's not an inherent feel of flow in the gameplay? Why? Cooldowns don't match up with other cooldowns / resources? Too long of cooldowns? Too short of cooldowns? Too many cooldowns? Too few cooldowns? Answering those questions for yourself and then communicating feedback based on those answers means that Blizzard gets a clearer idea of what could be improved, rather than just getting a general feel of dislike. This actually goes into point number 2, which is:

2) Communicate what you don't like and why, not how you feel about it.

Being able to say what aspects of gameplay don't feel good and why that is provides much more meaningful information for Blizzard than the mere dislike of those things. Saying you don't like how our self-healing is doesn't really give Blizzard anything to go off of. That could mean a lot of things from the potency of heals to how easy it is to heal to how frequently you heal to how you heal. This is somewhat like number 1, but the core of it is to communicate what the problem is rather than tiptoeing around it by describing how you feel about it. Being direct by thinking about and communicating what you specifically don't like and being able to back that up with reasoning rather than just saying you don't like it will be beneficial for the spec by the end of testing.

3) Focus more on fun, not balance

Right now we're still in alpha which means Blizzard isn't yet done with implementing core content. They are still very much in an iterative phase. So right now, I'd say it's generally better to focus more on whether the spec feels engaging and fun to play than balance. You can make a point of balance, don't get me wrong, but that is mainly what beta is for, when everything's more or less penciled in. We have plenty of time to worry about balancing, since that can happen even after beta... but we do have a more limited timeframe to provide feedback concerning how the spec functions at its core mechanics.

That being said I would argue that mechanical balance (for example, our level 45 talent tier) is also important. Most of what I say here is primarily directed towards feedback on our rotation and our play. Providing feedback on the mechanics laid out in our talents and our artifact traits is perfectly valid. I'm mainly talking about fine-tuning of things like overall damage and defensive power. Like I said though, that's still important stuff, but at least for me, any feedback that I'm going to be giving for a while is probably going to be more related to either mechanics or overall feel of play.

4) Think about the spec now, and not what it was.

I realize this is probably one of the hardest things to do as a tester. Especially for Brewmasters who have had more or less a really fun spec for the last four years. And I realize that this is actually even harder because of something called anchoring bias, where we inadvertently place a greater importance on initial information (in this case, the old version of the spec) when making decisions. However, whether we like it or not, Blizzard has decided to change how the spec works. Feedback in the line of "I like the old version better" is probably just going to be met with "Well... we're changing it... so I mean... I don't think we can really do much about that, sorry." At this point it's a bit cynical to say it but saying that the old spec is better as one's feedback is kind of a waste of energy and a waste of bandwidth for feedback that could be improving what is here now.

Ultimately, if we're going to get something resembling what is currently on the alpha in Legion proper, our priority should be looking at the spec for what it is - not what it was - and ensuring that this is the best it can be. That should be our goal. This isn't to say that the old one is worse and the new one is better, that is purely opinion and I am not touching that, but we should all try and focus on making what is there now the best it can be.It doesn't mean you are wrong to feel the way you do nor that your opinion isn't valuable. It doesn't mean that you can't provide feedback using the old model in some ways but with a focus on improving whats there in the build. But the goal shouldn't be to have feedback that is more or less saying that the old version of the spec was better and that they should just revert it. I sincerely doubt that it would happen. That's just the ugly truth of it.

I realize that's a hard thing to ask of a lot of you guys because you really do love the current Brewmaster. I do too. But it is what it is, and we just gotta roll with the punches (pun intended). As a designer you have to learn this really quick and I think the same lesson applies for testers as well.

Hopefully this has been useful for some of you guys! I'm sure some of this is just reiteration but I don't see much harm in reinforcing good attitudes towards providing feedback. The better we communicate with Blizzard, the easier they will understand what our concerns are and what could be improved, thus speeding up the iterative process and making it much more likely that the final product will be of a higher caliber.

Thanks for reading and like always, if you ever want to chat I'm on Twitter or you can reach me in the comments section below!

See ya next time,

~ The Brewing Scribe

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Random Update: My Blog, not the Alpha.

Hey guys! First things first, I want to again thank Chaithi for inviting me onto Monk Meditation last night. I had a wonderful time. I'm actually writing this post in part because of that podcast, as I had forgotten to mention something during the Brewmaster alpha news bit. There's also been some interesting changes to brew generation that I will be talking about in a little bit. So without further ado, let's dive right in!

So the latest update to the alpha gave us very little in the way of new stuff to think about and tear into. Relatively. Gift of the Ox now scales with attack power rather than health, Obstinate Determination - which in the previous update was changed so GotO overhealing provided a shield - now guarantees a GotO orb spawn when you drop below 35% health. We also got a new passive, Celestial Fortune, which provides a percent chance equal to our crit to duplicate any heal on you.

To basically reiterate what I said on the podcast, the GotO change is... honestly kinda expected. Overhealing on GotO is VERY easily cheesable so changing it to where GotO is more reliable at spawning when you need it to is a healthy change design-wise. Changing to AP vs health isn't really that big a deal, it just means it scales a bit differently. I still think that GotO as our only emergency ability apart from hard CD's is a bit questionable for players who don't really get the ISB and PB balance and upkeep, as there's more steps needed to save your bacon (noticing health is low and pressing a button (guard) vs noticing health is low, looking around for your orb, and moving over to it). But a lot of that is very much tied into the damage intake model and whether punishing poor play like that is a good idea for a specific difficulty of content, all of which is something that could honestly fill a post on its own. The big thing I want to talk about is what I didn't actually bring up too much on the podcast, and that is Celestial Fortune.

The Brewmaster community at large has really taken to pointing out the similarity of Celestial Fortune to Shining Protector for paladins, only that one is based off of multistrike and not critical hit chance. A lot of people point to how this passive is just complete trash for Prot Pallies and how multistrike is their worst stat. That being said there's a couple key differences between the two.

Firstly, the amount of base crit we have is much higher than base multistike (I believe it's 20% vs 5%) so already we're going to see more use out of this at baseline. Secondly, the potential throughput is also much higher. Shining Protector, when procced, provides 30% additional healing from whatever heal triggered it, including multistrike heals. Celestial Fortune on the other hand effectively provides a secondary stacking source of crit. If a heal crits on you and procs Celestial Fortune, that should effectively mean that crit has crit. Thirdly, the nature of damage intake is going to be very different. Protection Paladins have to deal with a lot of burst damage right now, which makes their passive less appealing because they need to focus more into stats which actually provide solid burst reduction. In Legion, Brewmasters have ludicrous amounts of stagger which means that we should be very smooth on damage intake, but because we lack baseline damage reduction, we'll be taking a lot more straight damage across a fight. This is actually a perfect environment for this kind of passive as over a fight, it makes healing much more efficient... and we're already leaning a bit more towards being friendly for mana-efficient healing. This just makes that even nicer.

The other thing I wanted to talk about was something Hinalover brought to my attention this morning. Namely that we did actually get some haste CDR! But only for Keg Smash. So I decided to model out how that'd look in my usual way (+10% haste rating and seeing the difference of charges generated across 10 minutes) and found some very interesting data as well as some worrying data.

So this is the table from my last post's discussion on haste scaling with our brew generation. Below is the table now, factoring in Keg Smash's CDR.

At first glance, it seems pretty good doesn't it. The baseline amount that haste provides across 10 minutes has roughly doubled. The trouble comes from its scaling. The things that bump up our charge generation all focus on Tiger Palm as the medium for the change. Because while Keg Smash is primarily operating off of its cooldown, it still shares a resource with Tiger Palm. More KS casts inherently means less TP casts as well. This is actually the core problem of Secret Ingredients... because Face Palm and our 4-set both make Tiger Palm more lucrative, KS has an increasingly high opportunity cost. Specifically for this scenario, it appears as though this change starts to trend negative once you get your 4-set and have 4+ ranks in FP.

That's a complicated scenario because on one hand, despite this change actually causing an overall negative in brew generation over time, if you look at the one GCD, Keg Smash still provides more brew recharge than one Tiger Palm. But that does go away fairly quickly the more seconds you look at. Another factor is that this again only negatively affects you when you have 4+ ranks in FP and also have the 4-set. It's unlikely that people will be using relics to boost their FP rank because of other more lucrative choices out there. A lot of the problems with the change are that at first glance, you think it's positive. "Less CD on our Keg Smash, our biggest brew generator? Sign me up!" But the truth is really hidden under the inner workings of the mechanics and the relationships therein. That lends itself to the design of the spec causing miscommunication between the designers and the players.

But this ultimately brings up design philosophy and from my personal experience with design and my own philosophies, I'd rather design something so that even if it's not an optimal choice, it's not actively punishing you if you do it. Even if the scenario where this happens is pretty rare, I would prefer to take steps to not let it happen at all if I can't help it. I'm not comfortable assuming that players will just get it, especially when I have experience with Brewmasters in particular who have had trap abilities, trap talents, which have confused a lot of people in regards to why they aren't doing well.

So what is to be done about it? There's a couple things that I think Blizzard could do. For one, either have one or both of FP / 4set affect Keg Smash in some way so the biggest factors to brew generation increases scale with it as well, For another, just have haste provide CDR to the brew charges. I could see them bump up the base CD's of them by a little bit just to be on the safe side for scaling, but even adding a couple seconds on should still result in an overall positive change, especially because haste would become very lucrative in that case. Another idea would be to actually reduce the energy cost of Keg Smash to 25, same as Tiger Palm. The question with that one though is whether there'd be some scaling issues across energy regen, because higher energy regen does favor TP. At the same time, the core issue of the present is that Keg Smash just becomes less efficient in terms of CDR per energy as you get more TP perks, so having it be the same cost as TP would get rid of that. I think further modeling on that idea would be necessary.

In any case, thanks for reading everybody! Feel free to comment below or hit me up on twitter if you want to further discuss the topics above. See ya next time!

~ The Brewing Scribe

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Hasty Addendum: Factoring in Artifacts and 4-Set

Okay so... remember when I said that the numbers I posted on the previous blog post were a lowball estimation?

Yeah, I decided to get in some more work on the spreadsheet and they were indeed a fairly lowball estimation.

My process here is basically to multiply the number of tiger palms by 1 or 2 (depending on whether or not the 4-set is marked as active) plus the percentage chance to proc an extra second of cooldown reduction via Face Palm (1 times (% chance) = % chance)). And that kinda really started to escalate pretty wildly. See the nice tables below! Like the original thought experiment, these show how many more charges you would get with 10% haste than with zero haste across 10 minutes, but now factoring in Face Palm and the 4-set bonus alongside that additional 10% haste. So in other words, the benefits of getting all those traits alongside the haste increase.

So already, we're seeing a VAST improvement here, even still at 10% haste. These values are not accounting for haste also providing straight CDR on our brew charges. With just the 4-set, we're already higher than just haste CDR. So let's see how this works out with haste CDR:

So that's actually a lot. Because I used my spreadsheet to get these numbers, I was also able to see the total number of charges you are able to use across that 10 minute fight with these variables. For Light Brewing, with 3 ranks in Face Palm, the 4-set, and haste providing CDR, you would generate 158.36 charges with perfect play.

So remember when I said that 100 charges meant 100% uptime on ISB? This means that you'd have 58 purifies across 10 minutes... which is actually not that bad, at once every 10.3 seconds. Assuming you aren't tank swapping, that is. Still, that's insane, and because everything likes to compound on itself as you get more haste, that's going to rise if you get even more haste. it might become a bit... insane. The only problem is that this is a very extreme scenario which while it shows just how powerful our artifact traits and 4 set are alongside haste, doesn't show us a good representation of how haste works when those perks are a constant, while changing how much haste there is.

Those are both the tables for haste with CDR scaling and without, and we're seeing a much more consistent (and reasonable) picture here. To give some perspective, without haste CDR, but with 3 ranks in Face Palm and the 4-set, Light Brewing provides a max of 144.30 charges across 10 minutes (or full ISB coverage + 44 purifies). Compared to with haste CDR and the same parameters, Light Brewing provides the aforementioned 158.36 charges (full ISB coverage + 58 purifies). So adding haste scaling will, for most higher end Brewmasters, provide a max of 14 additional charges over a 10 minute fight, which reduces the average number of purifies from once every 13.6 seconds to once every 10.3 seconds. So it's a pretty significant benefit, though not insanely so.

But let's also think about scaling beyond 10% haste. If we still maintain that haste will provide CDR, going from 10% haste to 20% haste is another additional 21.87 charges with LB, 3 FP, and 4-set, bringing you to a total of 180.2 charges over 10 minutes... which is a bit insane.

Doing so without haste providing CDR but otherwise with the same parameters will only provide an additional 6.53 charges, getting up to 150.83 generated in total, which sounds far more manageable. Of course, to get to 20% haste, that's in live about 1800 haste rating, which is a good deal.

It's hard to decide what would work best... haste providing CDR means that it's MUCH more effective per additional charge gained, making it more lucrative, but it could make the spec super difficult to play (again, this is a VERY hard thing to truly predict without actually playing the spec) or actually overpowered, with the silly amount of charges that are possible for you to generate. On the other hand, without haste providing CDR, with 4 set and 3 FP, you'd still need about 1300 haste rating (at 100) with LB in order to get an additional charge per minute (9/2.45 = 3.673 TP's, 3.673*25 = 91.83 energy, 91.83/60 = 1.53 Er/S, 1.53 *900 = 1377.55 haste rating), which would make haste extremely inefficient. It really does need that scaling to be effective.

If I had to pick either or... I'd go with haste scaling. It might be chaotic, but at least haste would finally see a good use.

Also, as a request by LeBlue: "NEED BREWMASTERS GIF NAOW THX"

See ya next time!


Don't be Hasty: A look at Haste and Brew Generation in Legion (Thus Far)

Hey everybody! So as some of you guys know, I've been working on updating my old Brewmaster Calculations spreadsheet for Legion, which has inevitably gotten me to model out how brew generation works with the different easy to model talents (based on LeBlue's napkin math). So today, I figured it would be cool to go into a bit more detail about them and talk a bit about how the model currently works as far as the current version works in the tooltips in Alpha.

So as of right now, over a 10 minute fight at base regen if you include charges that you have at the start and your starting energy, if you play 100% perfectly you should be able to get 76.31 charges without a talent, 118.04 charges with Light Brewing, and 108.89 charges with Black Ox Brew. I'm not going to talk about Secret Ingredients in terms of this direct comparison because according to the latest script work of the lovely Xiaojin, it's even worse than no talent for brew generation. We'll be talking about this later. Keep in mind though that those numbers I just threw out there were ignoring the artifact bonuses and 4 set. I still need to factor those into the spreadsheet, but they suffice for now. One other little note is that over a 10 minute fight, you need 100 charges to permanently maintain ISB. So just bear that in mind.

Back at the beginning of the Alpha when all we had was essentially the class previews to go off of, it was speculated that haste would finally become a useful stat for us. There's been some relatively recent arguments that such is still the case. Well, part of why I thought this was a good time to talk about haste was that this... really isn't that accurate.

With an additional 1 energy per second... you get a grand total of 1.71 additional charges over a 10 minute fight with no talent and BoB. 2.67 with LB. Which is to say, any real significant improvement from haste would require thousands of haste rating. Keep in mind again that this isn't considering artifact traits... but still, that's very low, across 10 minutes.

This then begs the question "Well hey, so this is bad. Does it matter at all though?" and I would say yeah, it kinda does. Blizzard has put haste onto our artifact, so I would have to assume that this means they want haste to be useful for us. There's some natural scaling, it's just that because lots of haste is required for a small amount of energy regen, a good chunk of energy is required for one tiger palm, and several tiger palms are needed for one brew charge, the efficiency of haste to brew charges is severely diminished. But, let's do a quick experiment to see how changing the cooldown of the brews would improve haste's usefulness!

Just to keep things simple we're going to go with 10% haste, ignoring artifact and 4 piece, since that's the same thing as 11 er/s, our previous benchmark for haste benefit.

So using the formula CD = BaseCD/(1+(haste%/100)), we get X1 = 14/1.1 and X2 = 9/1.1 for no talent / BoB and LB respectively. X1 becomes 12.73 and X2 is 8.18.

To not bore you with the math, my spreadsheet essentially calculated that at 10% haste affecting cooldowns, sans any modifiers other than the talents, you get 9.22 additional stacks over 10 minutes with no talent, 14.34 with LB, and 9.47 with BoB. So yeah, having these CD's scale with haste actually really dramatically improves its usefulness.With current ratings values at 100, you still need a couple hundred in order to get a single additional charge per minute, but it's far better than the couple thousand it is without. Furthermore, you have to bear in mind that anything that improves the charge efficiency of tiger palm will also significantly buff haste's value to Brewmasters. So in reality, what is here is in fact a low estimate.

Edit: So I actually did do some math and modeling on this, find it here!

That's actually super great, overall, with some caveats. For one thing, and this is a bit of a potential worry that might not actually be one at all, valuing haste greatly might mean that the spec feels more frantic. Because we no longer have a filler ability, we can't just use that less in favor of more energy-spending abilities. A lot of our core abilities are now on short cooldowns, which means we need to be aware of those while still balancing energy. I do want to stress though that this is a potential worry that requires actually playing with the spec at varying haste levels to determine its reasonability.

The other problem (which segues into the next part of this post) is that prior to the recent patch which further reduced the CD on our brew charges, BoB was the superior choice for brew generation. Which made sense because it was an activatable ability. Mastering that, a more challenging ability, should give the player a higher payoff. As of the latest alpha build, that is no longer the case. The passive LB actually provides superior charge generation. Adding haste scaling widens that gap, as BoB barely scales at all, while LB's effectiveness is compounded by it.

This, combined with the results of Xiaojin's work for SI, makes me feel that the entire tier of talents needs to be reworked, even ignoring the exacerbation that haste scaling for CD's would provide. Balancing is all kinds of crazy... completely understandably, mind you. Blizzard was pretty clearly trying to get the base Brewmaster to look good before tackling talents, and if you don't change talents while you change core mechanics, you're inevitably going to get some unintended balancing snafus. But ultimately you have two passives... one which is extremely effective and one that is worse for brew generation than no talent at all, and one active that is good... but is too much work for relatively little payoff.

So what could be done about it? Well again I posit that haste affect the cooldown of our brews just so that there is actually a use for haste for once, but change SI so that instead of refreshing the CD on Keg Smash, you cause the next one to be free and proc extra brew. This means it doubly scales with haste, just as LB would. Maybe give KS a bit more damage, with a bit less CDR, so that SI becomes a stronger choice for higher damage. Secondly, keep LB more or less the way it is, perhaps ease up a little bit on the CDR, to keep it competitive but still the go-to for just raw brew throughput. Lastly, redesign BoB so that it maintains a higher skill-usage, but perhaps for a more specialized situation. Maybe have it so that for some number of seconds, PB doesn't use up brew charges. Give it a decent CD and it becomes a higher skill-use ability to help deal with larger hits. Or have it so that it instantly regenerates all charges, but then for 20 or so seconds after, PB doesn't have a charge cap, so it scales with haste a bit more. In either case, the changes suggested would give that tier three good choices depending on your situation: one for high brew throughput across a fight, one for extra damage, and one for better management of burst. Each has some tuning knobs so that you can ensure that they are fairly even, providing some defense but having their own advantages.

Thank you guys once again for reading! I'd like to once again point out that this is all discussion based on the current alpha build for Legion and thus could all easily become obsolete within the next couple weeks or months! As always, if you want to discuss anything you read here, feel free to post a comment below or tweet at me. Until next time!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fu Zan Wanders into my Heart: An analysis of Brewmaster Artifact Traits

While the proper activation of Brewmasters on the alpha has eluded us once again (with a slight hiccough yesterday when people could spec as one for all of an afternoon), we've finally gotten something really juicy to tear apart apart. And that, friends, is Fu Zan's artifact traits! Oh man, so when I first saw these, I just thought "Oh god this is great" and for those of you who haven't seen them at all, here they are in a short summation. I'll be going into detail about each trait down below, so stick with me!
  • Adjunct Advantage - Increases the damage of Breath of Fire by 5-15%.
  • Brew-Stache - When you consume a Brew, you gain 25% dodge for 2.5 sec.
  • Dark Side of the Moon - Take 5-15% less damage from the next attack after your Blackout Strike.
  • Dragonfire Brew - Casting Breath of Fire surrounds you with flame for until cancelled, dealing 1 Fire damage over 0 and reducing the cooldown of your brews by 1 sec when an enemy is hit.
  • Even Handed - Paralysis can now be cast on two targets.
  • Fortification - When you activate Fortifying Brew, Elusive Brawler stacks are not consumed by dodges for the next 21 seconds.
  • Gifted Student - Increases the healing granted by Gift of the Ox orbs by 5-15%.
  • Healthy Appetite - Increases maximum health by 5-15%.
  • Obsidian Fists - Increases the critical strike chance of Blackout Strike by 5-15%.
  • Overflow - Any time a Gift of the Ox is generated, it has a chance to be a Greater Gift of the Ox that heals for twice as much.
  • Pawsed - Tiger Palm has a 5-15% chance to reduce the cooldown of your Brews by one sec.
  • Potent Kick - Increases the duration of Ironskin Brew by 0.5-1.5 sec.
  • Smashed - Increases the range of Keg Smash by 5-15 yards.
  • Staggering Around - Increases the Stagger granted by Fortifying Brew by 2-6%.
  • Swift as a Coursing River - Drinking a Brew increases your movement speed by 10% for 10 sec. This effect stacks up to five times.
  • Wanderer's Special - Drink deep from Fu Zan's special Brew, granting you the power of flaming breath, fortitude, or elusiveness.

Couple more things to note before I deep-dive into all the new info: For those of you wondering why those numbers I just quoted are a lot less than the datamined ranges, it's because you can bump up trait ranks via relics, so basically to know the true cap, double the numbers shown here for the minor traits. As well, obviously this is all only relevant with the current date's build (February 18th's). Tuning changes WILL occur, so the numbers posted above and below are subject to change.

Adjunct Advantage is a minor trait which gives up to 15% additional damage on Breath of Fire. Honestly there's not much to say here other than I feel it's nice that BoF gets a bit of love. Not only is it becoming more useful (as in... actually usable) in Legion, it's getting some nice buffs from our artifact. Could this be something more interesting? Sure. But I don't think it needs to. Breath of Fire should feel cool to use, and this is definitely going to help that. Very solid, in my opinion.

Brew-Stache, apart from having one of the best artifact trait names in the alpha thus far, is a major trait which grants 25% dodge for 2.5 seconds when you consume a Brew. So this is complicated. I know a lot of you guys are thinking "Oh man, more dodge?" and that there is a very real worry of RNG for the spec. Being said, this synergizes super well with stagger and our mastery. The more we dodge, the far less DTPS we take because of stagger. Plus, napkin math has shown that you'll average around 5ish seconds (at 0 haste) between CD's of your brews, so this could very well have an approximate 50% uptime. That's pretty decent.

It's basically a passive Elusive Brew, for all intents and purposes. Which is neato.

Dark Side of the Moon is not only a reference to Mulan, but also one of the most freaking amazing minor traits we have. Like, holy butts guys this thing is banaynays. 15% reduced damage for the next attack after BoS at max ranks, sans relics. With relics, that's bumped up to a potential 30%. Keep in mind, that's BEFORE stagger. Against a single target boss and standard swing time, that's basically saying that if you can use BoS on cooldown, every other attack deals 5-30% less damage. That's HUGE. We better hope a relic for this thing drops, because it's going to basically be required. 

Dragonfire Brew is another of our major traits which basically gives us an immolation aura that makes Breath of Fire an actually defensive tool. So there's a couple things that I'm not sure about. Is this an ability which deals damage to you? The language of it being an ability that lasts until canceled seems to infer so. Another thing, does DFB reduce the CD of our brews by 1 second per enemy hit, or is it just checking to see of an enemy is hit and then reduces the CD? The tooltip here is a bit too vague for me to tell in any case. But let's have a discussion about it anyway!

Assuming it deals damage to you, that makes this ability very niche. I don't think tanks are going to appreciate taking damage (unless it's not really that significant, in which case, why have it there?) for using Breath of Fire. My first instinct as a tank is to use this only when I'm not worried about incoming damage. So using this in a high-stress environment seems counter-intuitive. Considering how decently quick we can theoretically use brews, assuming that it reduces brew CD's by 1 sec per enemy hit, this would basically allow us to spam purify while still keeping up ISB. Which means it MIGHT be a net benefit in certain large mob packs, but I think that feeling out when this is a benefit has a very real danger of being super hard to tell without addon help. If this is how it is intended to function, I see this trait as a high skillcap modification to BoF and having a very real potential of being a trap trait, just like how BoF was a trap ability in previous expansions. Ultimately I can't really say anything more definitively till I find a chance to playtest the Brewmaster once it goes live, but these are my concerns with DFB.

I like the idea of BoF being a more useful ability for defense in AoE though. Perhaps it could change to a limited duration which refreshes on a BoF cast that requires 3+ enemies to reduce the CD of our brews. Either once per tick, or once per enemy per tick. Making this an ability that you don't need a spreadsheet for in order to figure out when it's useful would go a long way in making it more enticing a choice.

Even Handed is a minor trait which allows you to cast Paralysis on up to two targets. This is a neat little ability that has a lot of potential uses... from "OH SHIT" situations to CCing prior to pulling trash. That being said, there's one concern that was brought up on the Peak of Serenity discord by Ora, which was that there is no mention of a charge system or removing Paralysis' CD. So as some of you guys know, I'm studying to become a game designer. That makes me feel a bit conflicted here. On one hand as a player, I'm a bit miffed that (and this was also brought up by Ora) you can't use this very efficiently for setting up CC during challenge modes. Needing to wait that 15 seconds in order to throw this on another mob is not a good thing when you've got a bunch of packs to deal with over the course of the dungeon and you're already on the clock.

On the other hand as a designer, I'm thinking perhaps that's intentional. Too much CC in the game makes those pulls very easy to handle and by keeping the CD on Paralysis, perhaps Blizzard is attempting to make it into an ability that allows you to a bit more efficiently handle anything that breaks CC a bit early or perhaps a roaming mob that's coming a bit too close to the pack you're already dealing with. This is again something that needs to really be played with in order to feel whether or not it's a useful trait (and asking Blizzard why they designed it this way wouldn't hurt either I think), but there's something neat here.

Fortification is a beast of a major trait, effectively making our mastery utterly overpowered for 21 seconds. So essentially, Fortification removes the limiting factor of our mastery by allowing us to retain the increased dodge chance it provides. At 21 seconds duration, that gives it a very real possibility of giving us 100% dodge. Especially if you're pro or lucky and can time your Fort Brew just when you're at a good number of stacks. To bring us a bit back down to earth, because of the nature of how our mastery works, it isn't really all that likely we'll regularly hit 100% dodge with this. The more dodge we have, the less chance we have to get another stack. So while this allows us to maintain a very high dodge chance for a considerable amount of time, it isn't likely going to make us literally immune to dodge-able hits.

That being said, combined with Staggering Around (more on that later), ISB, and our tier 19 2 piece (+10% stagger on ISB), that means FB gives us 20% stagger (getting us up to 86-92%, depending on whether you have a relic for SA (which means 43-46% of magic damage is staggered), 20% reduced damage, and 20% increased health. All of that combined means that Fortifying Brew could very well be the single most powerful tanking cooldown in the game. This just miiiiiiight make the talent which reduces its CD like the rest of our Brews a bit more lucrative.

Gifted Student is a contentious minor trait if only because it deals with the ever-disliked Gift of the Ox. This bumps up the healing of each GotO orb by up to 15% (30% with relics). So here's the question. GotO as it works in Legion will heal us for 25% of our max HP. So the question here is whether or not GS is an additive or multiplicative modifier to GotO. If it's additive, that means a GotO orb will heal (at max) for 40-55% of our max health... which is pretty huge. That's got a very real chance of overhealing, or just being utterly ridiculously effective.

So then it's more likely it's multiplicative. Which means that GotO would heal for 28.75% to 32.5% of our max health... which is kinda nice but it's not really that significant. This seems like it's trying to be a quality of life trait... which is fine, but the tuning might need to be messed with, depending.

Healthy Appetite is another quality of life minor trait, giving us up to 15% maximum health (30% with relics). Honestly there's not too much more to discuss with this trait. It's pretty cut and dry. I could potentially maybe see a use for relic-boosting this for high magic fights, but otherwise it's just a nice thing to make us a bit stronger.

That being said... Blizzard, if you are miraculously gracing this blog with your presence, please do not change the icon for this. It's perfect.

I'm serious. There is nothing that could improve on this icon. Except maybe more cheese.

Obsidian Fists is yet another quality of life trait, which  increases the crit strike chance of Blackout Strike by up to 15% (30% with relics). Relic-boosting would be useful for when you want some extra damage, but otherwise, again, just a nice quality of life trait. NEXT!

Overflow is a minor trait which essentially means GotO can crit, though not subject to your actual crit chance. I think this and Gifted Student are Blizzard's attempt at cementing GotO's use as a big heal that you can save for later. the benefit of having the orbs on the ground means that you know which ones will "crit" and which ones wont. Provided they spawn appropriately, that means you can selectively move into the "crit" orb when you've just taken a big hit and heal for a large chunk of health. 

Of course, there's a lot of problems with that which make it more complicated than I just laid out. For one thing, where they spawn is random, so you might get the "crit" one in the same pile of regular ones that you had saved up. And even that pile isn't really guaranteed. For another, there's the classical issue of requiring the Brewmaster to move and pick up the orbs, which makes GotO far less useful as an emergency heal than something you can just auto-cast on yourself. It's the difference between your reaction time and your reaction time plus moving through the physical space in the game. both are also affected by latency, the latter more so. There's issues with how GotO functions and the community I think has fairly reasonably discussed its negatives. Personally, I'm alriiight with it? It depends on how important GotO will really be to survivability. If it's supposed to be a significant mechanic, having something similar to how Vengeance demon hunters handle their equivalent would go a long way to improving the ability.

With a punny name, Pawsed gives Tiger palm a chance of up to 15% (30 with relics) to reduce the cooldown of our brews by one second... according to the tooltip. Which has some wording issues. TP already reduces the remaining CD of our brews by 1 second. So does this give it a chance to reduce the CD's by 2? Does it literally lower the CD of the next Brew charge by 1 second (i.e. bringing it down to 15 sec from 16)? I'm not sure. I think either way this is a pretty nice trait. it's a lot like Secret Ingredients except without all the extra pain that reducing the CD of Keg Smash without changing its energy cost does to our priority and energy management.

So this is again a trait that's definitely going to warrant some relics. Potent Kick increases the duration of Ironskin Brew by up to 1.5 seconds (3 with relics). Bumping up ISB's duration to 9 seconds means that you'll EASILY be able to maintain it at 100% uptime. That throws any other charges towards using PB.

So in a way, this kinda helps to solve the issue that some of us in the Brewmaster theorycrafting circle have worried about with PB. Because its cooldown is shared with ISB, there's a very high opportunity cost that goes along with it. If ISB is a very limited resource, then using PB must be more effective than an ISB... which means that PB has to reduce the amount of damage you take more so than ISB, which is very hard to do. I recently made a spreadsheet documenting the general math involved in this if anyone reading wants to check it out. I'm still in the process of iterating on it and refining it, but the core of it is there. But if ISB isn't as scarce, that means you can purify without worrying about the opportunity cost... because there is less of one. As long as you don't purify too much in a short space of time, that is. Ultimately, having an easier time with maintaining our active mitigation is a good thing and Potent Kick does a great job of that.

Smashed is a very interesting trait with some kinda sneaky repercussions with it. It increases the range of our Keg Smash by up to 15 yards (30 with relics), bringing it up to a 30-45 yard range. This is great for us because it means we kinda don't need Dizzying Haze anymore (even though that ability was super fun and I loved it to hell and back)! Keg Smash being effectively a ranged ability gives us something that Brewmasters really didn't have compared to other Legion tanks, and that is a ranged aggro tool. So yeah this trait's pretty damn cool. Combined with Swift as a Coursing River (again, more on that later), I'm confident this resolidifes Brewmasters as the premiere kiting tank in Legion.

Now, the sneaky repercussions part of this comes into play if you ever want to PvP as a Brewamaster. At Honor rank 28 you can get the PvP talent Double Barrel, which increases the damage of KS by 50% and has it stun all targets hit by it for 3 seconds. If you max out this trait with relics, that means you now have a 45 yard range Keg Smash that deals 50% additional damage and is an AoE stun.

Let that sink in for a moment. KS becomes a 45 yard range nuke with an AoE stun.

So yeah Keg Smash becomes an utter monster in PvP. That's not even factoring in SaaCR and the natural 50% slow on KS. You can kite people for days with it. Not only that, but you're effectively able to battle spellcasters at their effective ranges with it. The name Keg Smash will be etched into the hearts of battleground players as something equated with either unparalleled dread or the biggest wellspring of salt in the game.

So expect some iteration. Probably on that PvP talent. The issue I don't think is Smashed. It's really important for kiting. The problem is that you can boost KS into a nuke-stun murder machine in PvP.

As mentioned earlier, Staggering Around is a minor trait which gives Fortifying Brew more stagger. Up to 6% (12% with relics) to be precise. I won't really reiterate too much on this one. it's a pretty nice trait to give Fortifying Brew a bit more oomph. That's a cool thing to have.

Swift as a Coursing River is pretty much a godsend for all of you guys who were worried about Brewmaster kiting and mobility. SaaCR is a minor trait which gives us 10% increased movement speed for 10 seconds whenever we drink a brew, stacking up to 5 times. A decent Brewmaster should be able to maintain this buff throughout an encounter. Again, because I touched upon this earlier in the post, I'm not going to dwell on it too much. But suffice it to say, I like this Mulan reference. This is gunna make us super mobile and I love it.

And here we at last come to the Wanderer's Special. Ironic, because it's the first trait you pick up for Fu Zan. So this is a bit of a mystery. This is our activatable trait, which gives us either flaming breath, fortitude, or elusiveness. With a 75 second CD, this is gunna be used decently often.

But the big question here is... what the heck do those things mean? Each perk has one of three effects: 50% dodge for 6 seconds, 15% increased health for 6 seconds, or a free Breath of Fire. So there's a couple things that a re a bit iffy here. For one, the fact that this has a 33% chance (assuming each has an equal chance to proc) to not actually benefit you defensively makes this a very awkward cooldown for a tank. Doubly so if the mechanic you're trying to deal with can't be avoided, which means this ability only has a 33% chance to benefit you.

RNG is a very complicated subject in tank class design. On one hand, RNG definitely has a place. It's important to being able to ensure the spec feels different and that it's not just purely a numbers game. RNG is also useful to ensure that certain things are less overpowered as well as diversify mechanics. Dodge without RNG is basically just 100% DR, for instance. RNG allows differentiation, which is a good thing for variety's sake. RNG is a design tool that has been in game development for decades. And the reason it has is because it IS a good tool to use.

At the same time though, any tool is only good if used properly. RNG is horrendous when you want something that plays consistently. Things like emergency CD's that rely on RNG are really bad because there's a chance that the ability you popped just... won't work. It's a big problem the community has with Elusive Brew being the only real "active mitigation" ability for Mannoroth. Sure you can survive, but you require other abilities on top of it. RNG screwing you over as a tank is one of the worst feelings in the game, because you have absolutely no control over luck. it's why I think the Legion mastery is so neat, because it tries to auto-correct for bad RNG.

So this ability, which has a varied chance of being useful, is something that I think is worth noting for possible reworking. Obviously, it's too early to definitively say "yeah this needs to change." The varied benefits of the ability are also pretty different in regards to how useful they feel, I think. 50% dodge for 6 seconds is pretty darn good, if you think about how much dodge we can already get. 15% increased health for 6 seconds... is okay? I don't think Brewmastesrs have ever really explicitly gone for health, when we're not really interested in that variety of effective health. We're definitely more about stagger. And then a free Breath of Fire... which honestly is kinda lame, in my opinion. A 33% chance for a free BoF, an ability with a 3 second CD, on a 75 second CD is pretty disappointing. Especially if again, you want to use this more intelligently as an ability that helps you out a bit when you're dealing with some mechanic, or if you want to use this as a minor "oh shit!" button. A 33% chance to just... give you an extra puff of fire just won't feel good, I worry.

A lot of what I just said really does come down to design intent for the ability. Is this something that is intended to be used as a defensive cooldown, or is it something that's just for general use? Will it be necessary as a defensive cooldown? Are tanks going to be incentivized to use this as a defensive ability? Will they try and use it as such regardless of design intent? These are all questions that need to be answered in order to determine whether or not a rework is necessary and I don't have any of them right now.

So all in all, I think that at least mechanically, I'm overall fairly happy with our artifact traits. There's some stuff that needs clarification, some stuff that might need a rework depending on how they function and how they test, but the majority of it is solid. Tuning will be necessary, of course. but I like the direction that Blizzard has gone with our traits and I'm looking forward to trying them all out once I find a way to get into the alpha!

Once again, feel free to respond to me in the comments below or at my twitter. Thanks for reading, friends!