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Some men are born posthumously. ~Nietzsche

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Minimum wages?

Posted by penuruloki on December 12, 2013

 

“If it weren’t for my horse…” ~Louis Black

So apparently fast food workers are trying to organize strikes to push for $15/hr wages, and this has people talking about low wage jobs and minimum wages. I don’t normally delve too deeply into those debates, but then I saw something that pretty much blew my mind, and I needed to process it and respond, for the sake of sanity if nothing else. At least I didn’t have an aneurysm.

First, lets point out the obvious. A picture should suffice: http://www.political-humor.org/this-is-a-fast-food-worker-on-15-minimum-wage.shtml

Yes, raising the minimum wage will cause those jobs to be eliminated. The fact is that wages are part of the profits that come from creating wealth (goods and services used to sustain and enrich life). The wages paid for any given job are going to be limited by the wealth created from peforming that job. If those workers are not creating wealth with (sufficiently) more value to customers than $15 for every hour spent (plus the compensation of contributing efforts), then no one will pay them $15/hr to perform that task. That task will cease to be performed by wage labor. This has always been the part that the political left fails to fully acknowledge.

I expect as much from the left. Their failure to accept reality does not surprise me. No, what blew my mind is something I read in a right-wing publication.

“As mentioned above, the evidence suggests that many long-term unemployed workers are “scarred”​—​their lengthy spell out of the workforce is making it difficult for them because firms view workers who have been unemployed for so long as risky hires. Why not reduce the risk associated with the hire by lowering the minimum wage for long-term unemployed workers? A firm may not want to take a $7.25 per-hour risk on a long-term unemployed worker, but might be willing to take a $4 risk. If we lower the minimum wage for the long-term unemployed, then we’ll need to supplement their earnings with an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit or some other government funded wage subsidy.”

Ok, lets be clear about something here. Working a job for minimum wage (at the current level) DOES NOT PROVIDE ENOUGH TO PAY A REASONABLE COST OF LIVING. Minimum wage is fine for a first job as a teenager, or as a second job if you’re saving up for something. No sane person would expect such a job to actually support someone as their primary source of income. In fact, we don’t. People stuck in those income brackets are typically subsidized by government support programs. What he is trying to promote (inexplicably from some kind of “conservative” angle), is more government subsidies, for work that already doesn’t produce as much wealth as is consumed by the worker (it would pay their bills if it did).

You would think, by his logic, that the point was to create work, that the problem to be solved is that we just don’t have enough to occupy us and that we’re in danger of having nothing to do. NO! In fact the object of any economy is to create WEALTH! We don’t need more busy work that produces less than the worker consumes, we need more good jobs that result in a net increase in wealth (and pay the worker their fair share of the profits). If “a firm may not want to take a $7.25-per-hour risk on a long-term unemployed worker,” then the problem isn’t that companies are exposed to too much risk, it’s that companies don’t see sufficient potential of increased economic output, and they have too many applicants available to fill their ranks without giving those workers a chance. The problem of “long-term unemployment” is really just a problem of regular unemployment. The supply of workers looking for jobs is too high in comparison to the number of good jobs available. With lower unemployment, the “long-term unemployed” would have a much better chance of finding a decent opportunity (as companies would have to work harder to fill their open positions).

Friedrich Hayek (idol of conservative economists) tells us that markets are a product of government (stability and accepted rules of exchange being required for any market), and so a dysfunctional labor market should signal interference from a dysfunctional government, but the problem is not the minimum wage (which is unsustainable for primary economic activity without subsidizing it by redistribution of wealth). The more likely problem is all the rules and regulations that add unnecessary costs to the process (e.g., “rents”, legal bills), and prevent producers from entering markets against entrenched competition (permitting and licensing regulations; patent law). I find it telling that the author came up with government subsidized lower minimum wage as an answer instead of lowering barriers to independent entry into the market.

Others seem to be caught in a similar thought process, though for different reasons. In fact, most discussions of the economy seem to take place from the frame of “we need more jobs.” Many leftists seem to support such an ideal from their interpretation of Marx’s theory of abstract labor. Other sources seem to treat work as a means of control; keep people busy for 8-12 hours a day so they don’t have time to complain/agitate about the problems developing in the world around them. This is all madness. The only reason to perform work is the material contribution it provides. Pumping resources and energy into work that doesn’t provide a net contribution to the surplus of wealth is a recipe for decline and collapse. Spending resources on a net consumption of wealth is the definition of leisure, not labor. The fact that the worker does not desire or enjoy the activity doesn’t make it any more beneficial to society as a whole.

At the very least, if a worker can not contribute to the surplus of wealth in a meaningful way, they can at least minimize their consumption of wealth by avoiding the extra expense that comes with commuting and other costs incurred simply to join the workforce. In a more ideal form, we should be encouraging those who can not currently contribute to society to spend their time improving their own human capital so they can contribute more in the future. There are numerous online and local learning resources (available at minimal/no extra cost) that they could use to such an end. Why on earth are we advocating subsidies for the net destruction of wealth as an ideal worth pursuing? I’m normally very sympathetic to the moral hazard that comes from living without contributing to your own welfare, but is avoiding that individual moral hazard sufficient reason to engage all of society in the equal moral hazard of endless, meaningless busy work?

The “fast food worker at ~$15/hr” in the picture linked above should represent a triumph of civilization, the efforts of proud engineers, managers, and technicians, that allows all those workers currently doing little more than flipping burgers the chance to contibute something more meaningful to society. Why do we fear it? Why would we want MORE of those jobs? Minimum wage is fine for part time work that puts a little extra into the pockets of those who get their main sustanence elsewhere, but if we’ve sunk to the point that we see the existence of a minimum wage as the obstacle that prevents us from harnessing the full power of our society, then we’ve lost our way.

I don’t believe that government intrusions into markets provide satisfactory solutions to our problems, but it’s worth noting that we’re more likely to promote the creation of wealth by raising the minimum wage than by lowering it. We do not need, and should not want, the producers of our society to be driven into jobs where they will need to be perpetually subsidized to survive. What we have now is depressing, but what some people propose is pure madness.

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Budget Battles

Posted by penuruloki on July 13, 2011

We’re about two weeks into our state government shutdown here in MN, and there’s a lot of talk flying around nationally about the debt ceiling issue. So how does it look from the ground level?

As long as Republicans hold firm, things look fine. See, they were elected by private sector working class voters to reign in government. The hardship stories dug up by the local liberal media are mostly of government workers missing their full-sized paychecks. You can likely add to them the prospective lost dues of their unions (I have no idea how dues are handled, or if unions are still collecting them somehow; I doubt it). In other words, the people suffering through the shutdown are liberal constituents.

Dayton chose to have a shutdown. The legislature was willing to pass what could be agreed upon, and was willing to use temporary measures while the rest was sorted out. Dayton was the one that insisted on an all-0r-nothing deal with no exceptions and a full shutdown. He’s trying to hold workers hostage to get the deal he wants, but his hostages are his own voters!

The workers who are struggling weren’t voting Republican before, so their anger costs Republicans nothing! Dayton is the one with votes to lose here, and he’s doing a fine job trying to alienate his supporters. The Republicans can afford to let the shutdown last as long as it has to. There’s no reason for them to give up anything to get a deal now! Avoiding a shutdown would have brought benefits, but post-shutdown, the Republicans can only lose by granting concessions.

Nationally, things are more complicated. No one wants a default, but it isn’t clear there needs to be one. There are other means of raising revenue than issuing debts (selling assets for example). Even if there is delayed repayment (the .gov would repay debt with interest when the matter does get resolved) and higher interest on new debt, are Republicans likely to be up in arms? Tea Partiers want less debt and less spending. Making it harder to borrow really doesn’t scare them. They want it to be harder for the government to borrow (hence the ceiling).  It’s the Democrats that want to preserve big government that should be scared of debt problems. Republicans have already made it clear that they will not accept higher taxes in a debt ceiling deal. Trying to force a crisis to get what they want isn’t going to work. The fact that the public is already rolling back liberal power in the face of total failure on economic issues only makes that more clear.

The bottom line on both issues is that the Democrats have a lot more to lose by pushing things to a crisis than the Republicans do. Republicans just need to stick to their positions and not let Dem tactics get them unbalanced.

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Apple Fail

Posted by penuruloki on July 9, 2010

If users are going to have to manually select the correct version of iTunes to download themselves, the least you could do is make the selection obvious, and not bury the correct link in small print half way down the page.

Update: Nevermind. Apparently Apple is another one of those vendors who’s choosy about which users they support. Attempting to use their software at all was a pointless exercise.

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alt.update 7/10

Posted by penuruloki on July 6, 2010

I plan a more serious and personal post later, but jumping back in always seems easier if you start with a lighter task. I posted nearly a year ago about the status of my alts in WoW (I’m a notorious altoholic), so it makes sense to post a brief (yeah, right) update about them.

Ahlora

My lowbie has grown up. My +hit tactics worked well until ~70, when I started dabbling with Protection spec and running dungeons in addition to questing. She hit 80 in February. I still consider her my little bundle of blind rage, even though she mostly tanks now. She’s been my tank of choice in heroics, and has even gotten a few ToC boss kills in. I’m very tempted to level her first in Cata, but I’m waiting to see how the next expansion develops before I make my decision. It seems a little late in this expansion to bother with a tanking comparison, but I might post one anyway for posterity.

Valruan

My last healing class to level, I hit 80 on Valruan just before Christmas. Like the tanking comparison, I may add an update to the Healer comparison for posterity, but it’s too late in the expansion for it to be useful information. I specced him Disc/Holy once I hit 80 (Shadow was ok for leveling, but I hate running it in dungeons). I mostly heal the occaisional heroic in disc spec. I have a hard time motivating myself to gear up yet another healer, when I 3 already (2 of them good enough to run ICC). I mostly satisfy myself that I can run him and let him sit idle.

Ugart/Ahlmarra

Ugart is no longer Ugart. I server/faction transferred him to Boulderfist so I could run with Sam and his buddies if the chance ever arises (it hasn’t yet). The big surprise was that I did end up getting to run him/her, in some guild heroics on Velen, and later pugging on Boulderfist. I’ve been running Desto spec for runs, and doing decent with it. I kept Demonology as a dual spec for soloing.

Korus

My neglected mage. Korus is the only alt from the last update that is still not 80. I recently hit 72 on him. The lack of progress is partly a lack of time, partly lack of interest in leveling through Northrend for the 10th time in 18 months, partly lack of need. The addition of the glyph to give a permanant water elemental pet to frost made leveling much smoother, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’ve come to terms with my mage. I have no idea if he’ll hit 80 by Cata. Doubt it, really.

Ahlana

New since my last update, my last serious alt (I have many more on Boulderfist and other servers that don’t see much effort or attention). Ahlana is my rogue, the last class I hadn’t played to high level. Currently, she’s at ~52, mostly from Recruit-a-Friend leveling. I like the rogue takedown strategy, and melee classes come more naturally to me than ranged; like the mage however, I don’t need her, and she’s crossing territory I’ve crossed so many times. I use her for questing quietly when I’m bored, but don’t care to make myself available to the guild for runs (I’m usually up for a run with friends, but that’s what RealID is for).

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Gear Resets and Checkpointing

Posted by penuruloki on October 30, 2009

When dealing with class balance issues, Ghostcrawler is fond of the phrase “all other things being equal,” but they never really are. That’s actually the point of progression, to move across the equality gap from those who wipe to those who kill. We all want to be in the group that kills enemies, but we don’t want everyone to be in that group or it means that the content is easy enough that we haven’t accomplished anything. That isn’t from an elitist perspective. I’m not a hardcore progression raider myself, and my guild still wipes on “easy” content. Sadly, at this point I still expect half the raid to die on Heigan during a Naxx10 run (though we won’t wipe on the fight). There  has to be some kind of reward to justify effort (basic human nature).

Some people look to gear as a reward. Some people like to experience the content. Some people just like performing a social activity with friends. There’s the thrill of (virtual) conquest, proving yourself against competitors, etc. We all have our own reasons for venturing out at all, but we won’t be out there fighting if we don’t see some kind of reward. For the reward to have value, it must be earned. For it to feel earned, there must have been a challenge involved. For there to be a challenge, there must be evidence that someone else has not attained the reward. For social rewards, the fact that people want to play with you and not others is reward enough. It doesn’t matter if your gear isn’t as good, or if you haven’t seen all the content. For progression raiders, downing content that others can’t is the reward, even if you have to partner up with the anti-social dregs of MMO society. Everyone chooses their own reward, and feel satisfied when they achieve it, even if it isn’t what they are expected to want. That’s why wanting something that not everyone else has isn’t really elitist. We all want that, but the “something” in the equation is not always the same, so the people who don’t have it, don’t necessarily miss it. We can all feel superior about something, without requiring others to feel inferior for their lack.

At the center of the storm over content tuning is always the gear debate. Gear is a reward, a trophy, a tool, and sometimes a weight around your neck. It had a status associated with it in olden times in Azeroth, because good gear was difficult to obtain, and very bad gear abounded (spirit on a warrior set? that drops in a dungeon?). Getting gear gave status. It also checkpointed your progress. If you didn’t have the gear, you simply couldn’t advance. That meant that gear wasn’t simply some one’s focus, it mattered to everyone on some level. Some people haven’t yet adapted to the changes that have happened since those days.

With the coming of TBC, Blizzard made a decision. They actually wanted people to see the content they worked so hard on. That meant it had to be accessable. Basic MMO theory requires you to checkpoint content however, so that people will have to spend time playing to get through it. Their initial offering was the badge system, with better and better offerings over time, so that if you missed out on (or couldn’t handle) the raid earlier, you get handed better gear to catch you up and get you in to see content. You still have to grind to get it, but it’s running easier content repeatedly rather than wiping until you get drops. Progression raiders have to raid the content at its hardest to open the next tier earlier than anyone else, but eventually others have a route to catch up and see it too before it’s gone. That keeps the raiders raiding to stay at the bleeding edge, and more casual players grinding to catch up when the opportunity presents itself.

They made a second change however that complicates the matter. They changed how they design encounters to make them move involved. There’s more to do, with more specialized roles within the raid. You might still be a dps, but now you’re also designated to click a cube at the proper time, or kill a certain type of add at the correct time and place. They also reduced raid sizes so there’s less room for error. As a result, raids have stopped being checkpointed checkpointed by gear, and become checkpointed by “skill.” I put that in quotes because skill isn’t a monolithic quality. There are many skills involved in any fight, and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. People with skill in some areas still struggle with certain fights, or raiding in general.

And despite gear resets and how easy it is to get gear, it doesn’t help anymore. Blizzard’s strategy to get people to see content is compromised by the content itself. Don’t believe me? Gevlon put together a crew that raided Ulduar in all blue gear. I know people in our guild that struggle in Ulduar 10 with badge gear comparable to Ulduar 25 or ToC. Think that Heigan reference above was incidental? There is no way to outgear the dance. None. You either learn it or you die, and that’s only the most obvious case. Some fights let you get by with a few people underperforming, but for the most part, if you want to down bosses, you have to learn to play. Gear resets and procurement options haven’t made raiding accessible, because they no longer can. Variations in skill affect outcomes far more than variations in gear.

Gear just doesn’t matter as much anymore. The easy of obtaining it may make those angry that view it as the reward for their efforts, but the irrelevance is also starting to irritate raiders who view their efforts as opening up the content. Not only can you get to the content without putting in the wipes anymore, the wipes and gear grind aren’t really doing all that much to help you get through the new content either. Hard modes are an invitation to face a greater challenge for better gear, but the better gear really isn’t needed anyway. That makes the effort pointless unless your personal reward is to beat challenges that no one else can. If that’s not your bag, then you may as well skip it and do the “easy” normal mode a couple times, get bored, and quit.

There’s a more insidious side yet though. Remember those who can get gear just by grinding the easy heroics? All that grinding gets them epic gear, but doesn’t offer comparable training for high end content. Gear resets help those who have developed the skills to catch up quickly after a break, or gear alts, but all that gear won’t get those who struggled with appropriate level gear through the content. The badge grind is a waste of time for those people. Worse yet, they think they should be able to handle the harder content because they have the gear for it, so they wipe endlessly against an “easy” fight because they’re out of their league no matter what their gear says. I’ve seen it happen. The gear reset is a red herring. It deludes people into chasing gear when they really need experience. Right now the game doesn’t care much what your gear looks like (within reason). If you know what you’re doing, the gear will come quickly enough. If you’re struggling, all the upgrades in the world won’t help much.

There’s been a lot of discussion about gear resets lately, but very little about the current relation of gear to progression. If we’re going to have gear resets to get people into content, gear has to matter enough to be a checkpoint, so that the reset actually matters. That’s not where we are yet. Cataclysm has the opportunity to change that (as I alluded to with the potential for boss expertise), but it requires a conscious decision by Blizzard to have gear negate skill, so that seeing content when it drops requires a very skilled group, but seeing it after a reset can be done with gear upgrades. That would mean bringing the “M&S” closer to the performance of skilled players than some may like, and exacerbate the effect of gear differences on pvp combat. I’m not necessarily advocating the changes, but if that’s not what Blizzard intends to do, then gear resets are pointless anyway.

If they do want to keep the current system, where skill trumps gear, what line should they walk? If they want to balance gearing up alts and newcomers to match their skill level with putting people into appropriate raid based on their experience, Wrath launched with almost the perfect system. The tiered badges was a good idea, but Blizzard made a slight mistake with it. Badges should drop that buy gear a tier higher than the drops themselves. For example, they could have dropper iLevel 200 gear in heroics, 213 in Naxx, 226 in Ulduar, but made Heroic badges buy 213 gear, Naxx badges buy 226 gear, etc. The net effect would allow skilled players (newcomers or alts) to catch up faster (because the badges for your current run level buys gear for a raid two levels higher), allow less skilled players to get a small edge in gearing for the raids they’re ready to run to ease them into raiding, and the system is sustainable with no true gear resets to obsolete your efforts overnight.

It’s Blizzards game, and it’s their design decision. They have options, but they will have to address the system eventually, because the current model has problems, and makes less and less sense as the game continues.

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Chill of the Throne

Posted by penuruloki on October 30, 2009

So for all the talk about avoiding another Sunwell Radiance style debuff in Wrath, Blizzard just announce that Icecrown Citidel will have one. For the most part, I’m glad it will. I spend most of my time healing, and nothing irritates me more than having bosses kill tanks in 2 hits. Nothing like looking back at the logs and seeing a tank go from 100% health to dead in 1.5 seconds. I also don’t like spamming my biggest heal all the time, even if my Paladin healers are among the best prepared to do so. Most of us understood, long before the Dev conceded the point, that the problem lies with high avoidance. Tanks are supposed to take damage, and we’re supposed to heal it. The more often the boss misses, the more damage he needs to do when he does land a hit. That’s fine with a sufficient heath buffer, but health pools haven’t scaled nearly as much as damage has in Wrath, so the buffer for the big hits is gone. So either they needed to buff tank health tremendously (and risk a pvp imbalance that some of could care less about), or they needed to nerf avoidance and have fewer, smaller hits. They chose the nerf. If that makes for more predictable, more managable damage, I’m all for it. There may be some balance issues between classes, as I’ve noticed my Paladin’s avoidance scaling better than my Druid’s (currently the Paladin leads by ~10% with slightly worse gear). The Druid should benefit from a slight armor advantage to offset this, but I’m not sure he does anymore with all the nerfs that have come down the line.

While it’s evidence of poor planning, it does foreshadow the future of tanking after Wrath in Cataclysm. A few days ago they began to speculate on the Cataclysm tanking changes over at World of Raids. Something I missed is that removing defense from gear also removes avoidance. I should have realized that sooner, since I’m in the habit of adding the ~5% miss boost my Paladin gets from defense that my Druid does not when comparing stats. Ghostcrawler has also been talking about adding expertise to bosses, so that your avoidance scales downward as you go to higher grade raids (i.e. the additional avoidance you get each tier is offset by increased boss expertise). That means that tanks will be treading water on avoidance, scrambling each tier just to get upgraded avoidance … so they can get hit just as much as before. That would let Blizzard smooth out the damage spikes though, without resorting to a last minute debuff that wipes out a good chunk all at once. It would also restore the relevance of gear to the game (but more about that in a later post).

A lot of the Mastery information discussed in the article can only be speculation at this point, but it does make sense to replace non-scaling stats (+def rating, +hit rating) with a stat that doesn’t cap and can scale with gear (Mastery). Until we actually get to see Mastery in action though, I don’t think there’s much that can be said about it.

Lastly they mentioned the block changes. Changing block from a value to a percentage is something I have mixed feelings about. They had a choice here. The current system is broken because the tanks that block have a flat damage reduction from it, while those that don’t get a scaling damage reduction. There were two ways they could go to fix this. They could either give a flat damage reduction to all tanks in some form (and they did this for Druids with Savage Defense) or they could move block to a scaling damage reduction (as it looks like they will for Cataclysm). The benefit of the former option is that they gain more control over increases in damage reduction. If the bosses in the next raid hit for 2k more per hit, you can just add 1k to the tank’s block, and count on the healer to 1k more out of their gear. The math is a lot simpler. Apparently concern over trash mobs makes too much block too powerful, and Blizzard decided to go the other way and make it all scaling. So block will become the equivalent of an occasional armor boost. Non-blocking tanks (hopefully Druids too and not just DKs), will likely get a slight armor advantage that sits midway between the hit and block amounts.

Overall, the changes for 3.3 and on into Cataclysm might be a bit demoralizing for tanks that get to watch their stats drop and lose some of their power on packs of mobs out in the world, but it’s better for the healers, and good for the game at large.

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alt.update

Posted by penuruloki on October 30, 2009

Since I posted the healer comparison, not having the priest in it has gotten to me and I’ve been on another leveling binge. It still stuns even me that with the server maximum of 10 toons, my lowest level is now 47. By level 47, my first toon (Turla) had gazed upon the stronghold of his enemy at Orgrimmar (level 25), held his first epic (level 40 – summoned by the Mithril Order trinket) and had discovered his true calling (tanking – the revelation coming while tanking Sunken Temple at 50 with Avenger’s Shield). Ahlora has, well, leveled to 47. It seems like a bit of a letdown, but there are some experiences you just can’t repeat. I’ll never again be able to walk into Feralas from Desolace for the first time again, or have my first griffin ride again. But then, every toon I’ve leveled goes through various phases, where I figure out new abilities, new rotations, or have to retire old strategies that haven’t kept up. So I thought I would post an update of my latest leveling experiences.

Ahlora

My Warrior and lowbie on Velen, at level 47. She started with the gold, heirlooms, and experience of someone with multiple 80s, but there’s always a catch. I knew from the beginning that my wild Fury warrior would struggle with the lack of +hit gear at lower levels. Missing a lot begins a bad spiral where you not only lose the damage from the miss, but you also get starved for rage and lose your special attacks as well. Warriors need to hit their enemies. I’d already made a beeline down to the 3% hit boost talent, but it wasn’t working the miracles I needed.

Miracles do happen though. It started when I put in a little time in the city working on her blacksmithing to get her some plate gear, since she can wear it now. Doing so I spotted the nice dps plate gloves, and started thinking about if it would be worth making them. That hung at the back of my mind. Then I went out to collect candy buckets.

I made an easy level doing nothing more than flying around Azeroth, mostly afk time, while I did some reading on the internet. I came across an article on warriors that was mostly on Whirlwind (which I don’t have yet but I’m familiar with in principle), but mentioned something that caught my eye, “instant slams”. Slam is an ability that I got while leveling but never use, because it has a cast time. As a seasoned paladin, I know all the bad things that happen when you cast anything with a cast time in melee combat. Having them instant (and not replacing your regular attack like Heroic Strike so you build rage better) would be very hot. So I started digging down through the talent tree while I collected candy buckets. It’s down far enough that I can’t get it yet, but it has a chance to proc on Heroic Strike, Whirlwind, and Bloodthirst. So I went looking for Bloodthirst.

I found it in the tree, within reach with a respec. It’s an instant strike (woot!) that does damage, and causes your next 3 attacks to regen 1% of your max health each. I’m a big fan of anything that gives you a little heath back. It’s way out of your core function in a dungeon most of the time, but it’s great for reducing downtime, and I’m all about reducing downtime when I’m leveling. I was pretty stoked. It cost 20 rage though, which is a lot for a low hit fury warrior. I went looking for a talent or glyph that might reduce it.

I did find a glyph, but it didn’t reduce the cost. It doubled the healing. That’s way cool. I just had to find a solution to my hit problem. About that time, I finished collecting candy, and looked in my bags. There it was, staring me in the face. Chewy Fel Taffy. Adds +5 to hit, and stacks up to 4 times. There was the hit rating I needed to make the stretch. Added to my elixer (+10), and my lowly +4 hit ring, and I was up to about a 4-5% boost. And then I remembered the gloves, which required level 40, and would therefor take a TBC enchant, like the +15 to hit enchant.

Taken all together, my new improved Bloodthirsty Fury machine went out and smoked the mobs. She went from kill to kill cutting down enemies like a knife through warm butter. I finally parked her when she ran out of rested state, after 4 levels of glorious slaughter. The candy is limited in supply, but by the time it expires or it runs out, she’ll be 49 and can equip the +24 hit trinket to make up for it. Soon enough she’ll be in Outland where she can get actual +hit gear, and gear with sockets that will happily take LK hit/expertise gems. =)

Valruan

My priest and last healer to climb the leveling ladder. I’d slowed down on questing with him, as I was starting to get the occasional alt runs with a guildie who recent transfered over a Protection Paladin of similar level. Questing as shadow isn’t bad once you get into the 40s, but healing dungeons is still more fun, and gets better gear (aside from the heirlooms of course). I did get a chance to dps a run as shadow during that time, and hated it. No shadow AoE made trash a burden, and his mana regen wasn’t keeping up well either. I did well enough on boss fights, but most of the time I felt like I couldn’t really pull my own weight, and went back to healing on runs.

After posting though, I hopped back into shadow spec and did some questing. Between dungeons and questing, he climbed through Outland, started into Northrend, and has now hit 70. In the process, he’s also gotten more of his healing toolkit, and I’m starting to get a feel for how it goes. I haven’t tried any Northrend dungeons yet, so I won’t comment on healing quiet yet, but I’m not feeling the small toolkit blues anymore. He’s also parked for the time being, having run out of rested state. When he gets some rested state back, he’ll be ready with his epic flyer and most of Northrend left in front of him (doing half of Borean Tundra took him from 68-70).

Ugart

My Warlock has been in a strange limbo most of his life where I figure out all the cool things I can do with him, then park him the shed and don’t do them. The class is pure crazy with all the stuff going on, and I probably made more changes to his play than any other toon as he leveled. I went from fear kiting the early levels, to having my minion tank my teens and twenties, to drain tanking from the thirties through the sixties (with more dots and more power the whole way). In Northrend I dual specced a demonology spec and discovered I could run him just like a hunter, except without buying ammo, and without healing him most of the time. Now he has enough talent points to have his Felguard tank two while he drain tanks a third. I partnered with a guild hunter in Zul’Drak today, and I watched her health drop slowly every time she took on a mob herself (she’s MM and her pet just can’t hold agg), while I’d dot one up for my pet and move on without looking back. With her extra dps, I’d dot one up for my pet, dot another one up, then move my pet over (since he had enough agg to hold the 1st one for the few seconds it had left to live), and move on, repeating the process. It was literally chain pulling. I didn’t bother staying for the kill, just pulled and pulled.

That said, for as fun as he is, he’s a dps class, and I never get to dps in group content anyway. Even when I do, I usually get bored once I get the rotation down. It isn’t as challenging as tanking or healing and can’t hold my attention for as long. With my Priest and Warrior resting up, I sent my heirlooms back over and worked on him anyway, but he’s just never going to be a priority.

He’s been idling at 74-75ish for a while, and now he’s climbed up to 78. 77-78 are hard levels, not content wise, but it’s the stretch where you can see the end, but it’s painfully just out of reach. Literally nine times out of ten when I hit the cap (4 times at 70, and 5 out of 6 times at 80) I hit cap the same session where I hit cap-1 level. Seeing the end of my XP bar just does something for me that gets me through no matter how long the levels were before it. I’m almost there on my Warlock, and I’ve hit it earlier than ever. As more heirloom gear is introduced, the XP boost makes zones give more and more, and I get further and further ahead of the expected level. I hit 78 in Shalozar Basin on my first couple 80s. Now I’m 78 on Ugart and not done with Zul’Drak yet. I might hit 80 in Shalozar at this rate.

I might keep questing for the enchant mats (he’s my oldest, but 3rd highest enchanter out of 4), but he’ll likely never see the inside of a heroic or raid. Sad, but for as many alts as you can level, there’s only so many you can gear up and actually use.

Korus hasn’t moved an inch. He’s a hair shy of 62, but he’s just so squishy that it’s hard to get excited about questing where you might be stuck in close quarters combat. Mages require space to operate like no other class does. He’ll level again eventually, but as a dps class, a squishy, and competing against other projects, it may be quite a while before I can find any time for him.

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Healer Comparison

Posted by penuruloki on October 10, 2009

This is the first of my class comparisons I intended to do as my personal project in WoW, and that I promised to write in my last post. My healers at the level cap all have comparable gear, and I have reasonable time healing 10 man raids and heroics on all of them. I intend to write about tanks too, but I’d like more time and better gear on my DK before I do so, so I’m starting with a comparison of my healers. This is from my personal perspective, not based on meters or spreadsheets. It is all my own opinion and I welcome comments and rebuttals from those with different viewpoints. I don’t pretend that any of it is definitive.

Long Post ahead.

Before I start talking about classes, I need to discuss a little bit about healing theory (at least from my viewpoint). Healers don’t really have spells to be compared against each other. They have different “toolkits”, or abilities that healers combine to perform a “task.” An example of a task might be tank healing or raid healing, the most common two listed (never forget that there might be more to do! My Resto Shaman managed 90% of the interrupts on one ill-fated Assembly of Iron attempt). A toolkit for tank healing might be a “small heal toolkit”, built around supplementing a steady diet of a smaller, faster heal in the spellbook, or a “large heal toolkit”, built around making heavier use of a larger, slower, more expensive heal. Raid healing is primarily focused around “AoE healing” where you apply smaller amounts of healing to many raid members at once, and “spot healing” where you apply more small to moderate amounts of healing to selected members of a raid. Direct comparisons of spells don’t really matter. It’s all about how (and how well) you accomplish the tasks assigned to you, and the quality of your toolkit to perform the task.

Paladins

I have to start with Paladins. My main is a Pally, I started healing on a Pally, and I have the most hours in on my Pallies (they are my #1 and #2 /played toons individually, nevermind combined playtime). Fact is they are clunky. They have limited healing options that amount to selecting between a small hammer and a big hammer. No AoE healing at all makes them extremely limited at raid healing. This isn’t an accident. They are specifically designed and designated to be tank healers.

Their toolkit is a mixed bag for even that. They have the most efficient small heal in the game, Flash of Light. It’s got good scaling, but starts, and stays, very small compared to other healers’ small heals. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t get much help. You can throw Sacred Shield (an absorbent shield that absorbs small amounts over a longer duration) on only 1 target at a time. Flash of Light on the target with SS places a Heal-over-Time (HoT) spell on that target that’s based on the size of the FoL (and is therefore also very small). That’s pretty much it for the small heal toolkit. It’ll cover 5 man tanking and raid fights that are less tank focused, but it just won’t cover all your tank healing needs. Fortunately, for the large heal toolkit, Blizzard pulled out the stops. Holy Light is expensive (all the big heals are), but it’s also fast, especially when you chain it. More importantly, Paladins have the best toolkit to generate the mana to keep throwing it. Divine Plea cuts healing in half while it’s active (15s) but regenerates 25% of your mana pool on a 1 min cooldown (CD). Seal of Wisdom gives a chance at a hefty chuck of mana when you hit a target (usually around the cost of a HL every time it procs!). Divine Illumination cuts your spell cost in half for a short time (nice to pair with DP above so you can spam HL to keep up without spending everything you regened). Illumination, even after the recent nerf, returns 30% of the mana spent on all heals that crit. What their small toolkit lacks in power is made up for with a powerful large heal and the regen to use it.

Raid healing is likewise a mixed bag. No AoE heal spells at all. They have an AoE effect from Glyph of Holy Light, but that requires you to cast the expensive spell, has strict range requirements, and isn’t smart about picking its targets, so no guarantee that the people who need healing get it. Spot healing is another matter. Beacon of Light has been buffed since its introduction to become a Pally’s signature spell. Simply place the Beacon on one target, and it will produce a “copy” on that target of any heal you throw on any other nearby group member. This gives you the ability to freely apply spot heals on group members without interrupting healing on the tank. It allows you to hit two tanks at once. It also copies heals from up to 60 yards away, while normal heal range is 40 yards. It doubles the raw healing of just about every heal you throw. Beacon has its limits, but it can be very powerful.

Bottom line for Pallies is that they are clunky,wielding their spells like hammers to shove massive amounts of health onto group member. It really shows in 5 man content where you have to make the clunky toolkit cover all scenarios. They work, but they work poorly sometimes and they’re not much fun. They have real power in raids though. Not once, but twice (OS+1 and Ignis) I turned a set of wipes into a kill just by switching to my Pally healer, and then just to get the range and dual target healing boost of Beacon of Light. The raw healing of Beacon + HL may be unmatched, in the healing you can apply, the speed you can apply it, and the speed with which your mana pool plunges when you do it. Pallies usually worry much more about their mana recovery afterward than they do about being able to lay down the healing. Add in all the utility and CD stuff in their spellbook and they shine in raids, especially 10 mans where you have a small core of healers that can balance each other’s weaknesses, but need to be able to produce rapidly in a crisis.

Druids

Druids are famous as HoT healers. Almost every spell they throw is/has a HoT. They are the Neocon healer. It’s all about the preemptive strike. Preempt comes from the latin phrase “to buy beforehand.” That’s exactly what druids do. If damage lands and the target doesn’t already have a HoT on them when it lands, you’re doing it wrong. A lot of the HoTs you throw end up as wasted healing. Their cost and effect is set knowing this, to encourage you to keep throwing them. They are meant to be used liberally. Throw heals around like Dick Cheney would throw around the US arsenal and you’ve got the basic premise.

Their tank healing is all about the small heal toolkit. Their small heal is Nourish, larger that FoL, and only slightly more expensive. Not only do they have a plethora of HoTs to go with Nourish (Rejuv, stacking Lifebloom, the HoT portion of Regrowth, Wild Growth), it even scales upward with the number of HoT effects on the target if you glyph it. The varied and limited duration of the HoTs makes refreshing them all a tricky business sometimes, but in 5 mans, you can stack so many HoTs you can often omit the small heal altogether, and if you’re tank healing in raids you can stay focused on the tank to keep it all going. Large heal is another story. Swiftmend lets you drop a good chunk on a target with a HoT up already (buy beforehand!) on a short CD (15s), but the spamable large heal (Healing Touch) is too slow to be worthwhile (or not a large heal at all if you glyph it for speed). Most druids keep it around coupled to the long CD Nature’s Swiftness (2m CD) as an emergency measure.

Raid Healing is more their forte though. Cheap Rejuvs on individual members, short 6s CD Wild Growth to throw a 7s HoT on 5-6 people with 1 cast, and a reasonable base healing on Nourish for spot healing make them great raid healers. Their utility comes from the ability to throw Innervate on others for mana regen (note that Pally regen is only for themselves), and the ability to Rez a fallen raid member in combat to finish the fight.

The plethora of cheap HoTs makes them good, if busy, 5 man healers and very good raid healers, especially in 25 man raids where they can really focus on the raid. They can handle tank healing, but their limit is on pure Heals-per-Second (HPS) when it hits the fan. They’re better at buffering incoming damage during a long fight than handling damage spikes in a shorter window during the fight, especially on multiple targets. You definitely stay busy on a druid, and the HoTs help maintain control over a fight, but it can be hard to recover on a fight if you’ve lost control. Regen is so good on a druid that they mostly ignore it. They generally can’t spend mana fast enough to worry about draining their pool all that quickly, and their regen covers a pretty reasonable amount.

Shamen

Compared to those two accounts, Shamen are the balanced healers. Better buffering than Paladins (for tanks and raids); better recovery than Druids. Their toolkit is well tuned to handle a variety of situations. They worry about regen like Paladins, but mostly at the gearing level, by stacking MP5 and Crit (for Water Shield). Their only major move for regen during a fight is Mana Tide Totem, restoring 25% of your mana pool, and everyone else in your party, on a 5 min CD.

A good example of their flexibility is their small heal toolkit. Earth Shield offers a buffer for a single target (basically a tank) and also boosts the healing on the small heal (Lesser Healing Wave) when glyphed. It has charges that fire off a small heal when the target is hit. There’s an internal CD on having charges go off, so it ends up being a periodic effect that needs refreshing only occasionally, like the Pally’s SS. They also get Riptide, which offers a small jolt of healing, and has a 15s HoT after it. Works for spot healing, but also provides a HoT for buffering and it works like that on every target, not just the one with ES. They also have procs built in. Any heal has a chance to proc Earthliving, which places another HoT on the target, and all Crit heals place Ancestral Fortitude on the target, reducing incoming damage by 10% for the next 15s. That’s a lot of damage buffering, mostly with little effort, and not all of it limited to a single target like Paladins. LHW itself is again larger than FoL too, but also notable more expensive. The large heal is mostly worthless like the Druid’s, attached to a CD as an emergency and ignored from there.

For raid healing, their iconic heal is Chain Heal. Hits 3-4 targets if they’re group together, giving a moderate heal to the 1st target and tapering off. This is a good recovery heal. In 1-3 casts you can easily clean up moderate damage on the whole group. They also get Healing Stream Totem. Often ignored, it pulses for 300-400 healing every two seconds on all party members. Lasts for up to 5 min. That’s right. If you’re not running around too much, you can can put a 5 min HoT on your party in a 5 man. It’s only about 1/4th what Wild Growth will give you, but it requires a refresh only if you move, something destroys the totem, or 5 mins elapses since you dropped it.

Oh yeah. You drop other buff totems for the raid. They care about that too. And Heroism, the unique shaman buff that boosts raid output (dps and healing) for 45s. I popped it for Loken in Heroic once with Windfury totem down in a group that had me, a Warrior tank, a Hunter, and 2 DKs. We dropped him in 34 seconds. Heroism outlasted the fight by 10 seconds. Add Tremor Totem to remove fears, Cleansing Totem to remove poisons and diseases from the whole (5 person) party at a time; the list goes on. Shaman have great, and unique utility.

Shaman get a bad rep as the most mediocre healer in raids. They may not top meters much in raids, but good recovery healing and flexibility make them valuable. Their biggest worry is their limited mana regen and the cost of their spells, which tends to hover in the same cost territory with no super efficient moves like FoL or Rejuv. Where I love mine most though is in 5 man heroics. On any fight, ES the tank before the fight, drop HST plus your other totems at the beginning of the fight. Riptide the tank as soon as he takes enough damage for his bar to drop (ES may eat the 1st hit on its own). If you get lucky, it’ll crit, you’ll get the 10% damage reduction, and the healing from HST, ES, Riptide, and Earthliving (if it procced) will cover all the damage from the fight. Go make yourself a sandwich. Check back before you mix your drink, in case you need to refresh ES and throw another Riptide on the tank 1st. Healing heroics on a shaman is embarrassingly easy when the group doesn’t screw up. Even when they do, you just start hitting people with Chain Heal until the fight is over. It’s dead simple.

Priest

One day I’ll finally finish leveling my Priest and be able to comment on them. Until then, feel free to leave your perspective in the comments.

Summary

Overall, all the healers work, despite occasional advantages and disadvantages. They work best in raids if you blend them, instead of stack them. That’s a good thing. Their differences show most in 5 man content where you can’t blend. You have to handle it all by yourself. They do each have their own flavor in 10 and 25 man content as well though.

Ultimately, I like all of them enough to stick with them, and I don’t plan to “retire” any of them from healing. They’re all fun. I tend to avoid 25 man raids though, and do mostly 10 man raids and heroics, so that has to affect my preferences.

I can’t argue with the results of bringing my Pally. Either I’m just too experienced with him or he just brings that much to a 10 man raid that I can’t help but keep him as my raiding main. He’s simply missed too much when there is no other Holy Pally in the raid.

For 5 mans, my 1st choice is the Shaman, because they’re just so easy. =) Nothing like facerolling a heroic quick to unwind. My druid is my 2nd choice for 5 mans, and the better option if you start to get bored. Their preemptive nature keeps you busier.

Druids probably shine better in 25 mans where there are lots of targets for WG and Rejuv, but in 10s I tend to miss the raw power of my Pally or Shaman, especially during a damage spike where I have to spam Nourish to keep up anyway and feel like a neutered Paladin. Unlike 25 man raids, 10s tend to require you to handle both tank healing and raid healing at the same time. Lucky (or bored) is the healer in a 10 man raid that has no tank assignment, so the druid’s raid healing ability can’t always show itself off as well anyway.

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Abandoned again

Posted by penuruloki on October 8, 2009

With the effort to get back into blogging, I thought I’d try to snag the latest copy of Windows Live Writer, since it worked well enough last time I tried it, right down to supporting my OS when their other free downloads didn’t.

Well sucks to be an MS customer. In moving it out of Beta, they decided to drop support of XP x64. Still support the much older XP 32 bit. Support Vista 64. But apparently they just like to stick it to us XP x64 users. Yet another reason that no matter how Windows 7 turns out, I won’t be upgrading. MS won’t get any more money from me until they start supporting all the products they’ve sold.

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MTBI and Wow

Posted by penuruloki on September 30, 2009

Pink Pig Tail Inn recently posted regarding a survey of the MBTI of wow players that I found fairly interesting. Certain types clearly dominated the population, and you could clearly see why they would be fond of the game. As the noted at PPTI, “Alexander the Great (ENTJ) raided Persia; Napoleon Bonaparte (ENTJ) raided Russia; INTJs raid Ulduar.”

What mystified them was the strong showing of INFP. They reasoned that they were essentially drawn in to be with people that they already have a relationship with, and that maintaining that relationship matters more to them than the game itself. I don’t think that’s completely fair. The IN_P portion alone would support interest in the game (of the “IN”s, only INFJ had a low result). Still, it’s an interesting question as to why anyone plays, and this one hits closer to home.

Most tests that I’ve taken (admittedly not professionally administered) rate me as INFP. One example:

INFP – “Questor”. High capacity for caring. Emotional face to the world. High sense of honor derived from internal values. 4.4% of total population.

Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

I use that example because it helpfully provides a more detailed breakdown:
Introverted (I) 73.53% Extroverted (E) 26.47%
Intuitive (N) 70% Sensing (S) 30%
Feeling (F) 51.35% Thinking (T) 48.65%
Perceiving (P) 58.33% Judging (J) 41.67%

So the ‘F’ isn’t a particularly strong result, but it does dovetail well with my recent experiences with the game. We’ll come back to MTBI, but we need to cover game news first.

I didn’t get to game much while my parents were in town, and during that time they released a patch that changed the emblem system. The details aren’t important, but the general result is that it became very easy for people geared soley from the easier raids to improve their gear up to where the more advanced raiders were at (they in turn advance a level in gearing in the new content, so they maintain their edge). Having gotten back in the past few weeks, I find myself behind the curve in gear. Before the patch, I was one of the well geared people who did runs they didn’t need to help others get gear. Now I’m one of the people that needs the runs to get the gear.

Therein lies the problem. Getting those runs is like pulling teeth. No one wants to go. I keep getting my arm twisted about going along on the hardest runs we do by people who can only get upgrades in that content, yet few will go through the old easy stuff to help me catch up. I’m left feeling a little used by those who I helped before, because most of them have not reciprocated.

An associated issue is the differing play schedules. It’s a west coast server, and many live out there. Some people are only on sporadically, or have disappeared from the game altogether. So the few friends I can count on to log in regularly at all log in at their usual times, run whatever is scheduled (usually a progression raid that everyone else wants to do) and then either they or I have to log off for the night. I’m not really getting to run with any friends at all unless I just show up for the runs they want to do. That doesn’t help the situation.

But all that comes back to the MTBI discussion above. That ‘F’ result is weak because I do tend to analyze quite a bit, but the game situation reveals why it’s a ‘F’ to begin with. I didn’t start playing the game to play with strangers, I joined to play with friends. It’s not the gear that’s the issue here. The only gear concerns I’ve ever had relate to having sufficient stats to bring success wherever I happen to be (mostly because wiping over and over is frustrating and painful). I don’t even care if it’s hard or easy content. As long as I have to gear to run it and I’m with decent people I’m happy (finding decent people is much harder than getting gear). But I’m not doing that anymore. I have to listen to people I can’t stand try and stir up interest in runs I’m not ready for or interested in. I’ve been frustrated for the last month now because the game isn’t fulfilling my ‘F’ needs any more. Frankly, I’ve been feeling neglected.

So the problem is that my friends aren’t on to play with me, right? Actually, I’ve reached a different conclusion. The problem lies with me. The lack of a better outlet has found me once again using WoW as a crutch. The people who only log in for a few hours every night and do what they want are the ones doing it right. I’ve been working a lot harder at being flexible enough to get what I want (runs with friends) and spending too many hours making myself available just to get there. Where I need to be is the point where I can also log on for just a few hours, run only what I want, with only people I like.

Getting there has been more effort, which isn’t what I intended, but I’ve definitely scaled back on my commitments in the game and I’ve toned down my friendly helpful impression a bit. The bigger issue is finding something to devote myself to outside the game to soak up my attention. Ultimately, this will hopefully be a new job. In the mean time, blogging again will be a good start. =)

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