Posts Tagged ‘pugs’

Sundering Along: finding your way through BRD


How to find your way around BRD:  a visual guide / howto / map.

In case you’re confused by how to find your way around in BRD, I’ve compiled a flowchart to help guide the way.   It shows routes, how to get the key, and bosses along the way.  I like the chart on wowwiki, but I’m a more pictures-visual person.

In case you wanted more information, the pdf version – Giant BRD flowchart – has links to bosses/quests, and better resolution, unlike the jpeg below.

Yellow arrows are optional bosses.

Blue, the path to get a key.

Green, the path with a key.

Pink, once you’ve opened the lock.

I’ll make two notes that I couldn’t fit in the chart – (1)  once you have the key, its smart to open the gates, so that new members can continue, without following a strange path to find you.   (2)  If you’re tanking, or sure that you have a good tank, and want the key – on zoning in:  go straight, do an immediate u-turn, and then go up the Dark Iron highway.  That’ll lead to Incendius, and you can do the key route in reverse.  The hazard of this route is that the highway and upper arena will have large groups of adds to be tanked.  That can wreck some tanks.

Let me know if I missed anything / if it can be improved upon!

*Disclaimer:  I left the lava “shortcut” off intentionally.  Because its just cruel to tempt lvl 50-somethings with a speedy run, when it’ll just lead to certain doom.


Sundering Along: The Next Generation


After 5 years of playing Horde side, I made a gnome warrior.

My friends and I turned to the dark side are checking out how the the other half lives.  Personally, I’m curious to discover why Varian Wyrn isn’t a raidboss we get to kill for loot and put his head on a stick.  (Slaughtering him for a bear isn’t enough.  I want a trinket called “Varian’s Ego” with a tooltip:  “Suffocates the room with self-righteous fury.  Chance to make party members kill you out of sheer annoyance.”  It could be a two-boss raid.  I nominate Garrosh.)

Despite my newfound love of reading quest text – its new! – I hopped back into LFD, because I needed a tanking high.  I’m leveling with a sword, a board, and in prot spec.  Some things, I suppose, never change.

Bad call.

I encountered what is hands-down the worst healer I’ve ever seen in 5 years of playing WoW.

Perhaps you think I kid?

I do not.

I zone in, and do the usual healer check to guess the pace I should pull the instance.  He’s in gear with no bonus int or spellpower.  Cool.  Probably a good idea to take it safe, since I’m new to Alliance-side myself and untwinked.  With no other casters, running SFK is a great opportunity to gear up a healer.

Uhoh, Righteous Fury is up.  Not a big deal – I usually produce enough threat that it doesn’t really matter – just something to mention to save future tanks some headache.  The silent refusal to take off Righteous Fury is a little strange… but no harm, no foul.

Time to pull.

Bam, the Worgen is taunted off me.  Hand of Reckoning, how I despise you.  “Mind not taunting them off me? Reckoning does damage, but is a taunt.”  Ugh.  No response, more taunting.  Even still, I guess, I can taunt it back.  So, irksome, but livable.  No need to prod more, it’d just drive everyone crazy.

This brings me to the bad part.

The rogue (as rogues often do) was bouncing forward and had pulled something new.  Charge, thunderstomp, they’re mine… but oh crud I’m almost dead.  Yay lifebloom + potion + cooldowns.

We live.  I exhale, and eat some food.

Next pull, the rogue lets me get first.  The rogue being mostly dead, I figure this is a subtle healer trick to keep the dps tame.

I was wrong.

The healer didn’t heal me.  To the point that the rest of the group kept asking him to heal.  Reminding him to heal.  Begging him to heal.  To add insult to ignoring my injuries:  he even judged wisdom.  Sure, I had a full stock of bandages, a nice stack of healing potions, and a lifebloom cooldown.  I’m also an obsessive cook, which was great once everything was dead…

But that doesn’t mean I’m a healer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when healers contribute some damage.  Speeds things along, keeps the game interesting, I get it.  But… we still need a healer.  Please.  Like, when I have 100 hp, and the curse does around 200 damage a tick.  Now is a great time to heal.  Not to taunt another pull.

Oh yes he did.

Thank goodness for whoever bandaged me while the ghost-wolves descended upon us and I desperately ate the last of my food.

Alas, the healer never said a thing.  (How do you ignore someone that never speaks?  I never ignore people, so this is new territory for me.)

Sundering Along: Alas, Azeroth, I hardly Knew Thee


So long Azeroth, and thanks for all the fish.

After 112 runs (and 14 deaths… one of which was intentional, oh BRD key), I’m level 60.

I will now ominously hover over Hellfire in victory.  (Adorable undead laugh here.)

If there is anything I can say about leveling via instancing, it is that the levels go by absurdly fast.

The early 40s were a blur.  Each Mara Purple was a 10-15 minute exercise in learning how to avoid being gouged.  (As a warrior, use Shield Block at the start of the satyr pulls.  Try to get a revenge off on a satyr, if they’re both up when SB wears off.  Alternating that and Concussion Blow gives the best chance to avoid a dps-killing gouge.)

The late 40s were over in the blink of an eye.  I barely had the time to finish the quest to summon Hakkar in ST.  (Highly recommended – the fight is a fun addition.  There aren’t many event-fights in WoW anymore, and this is a cool bit of variety.)  Alas, I saw none of the cool drops from the 40s.  No Sang’thraze.  No Jang’thraze.  And so no nifty sword of swirling skull-doom.  No dragon sword.  No strange dagger of limited use.

The 50s, I’ve loved.  I immediately took my engineering to 375, for the helm and trinket.  (Nothing else comes close for tanking.)  Added bonus:  I’m now miniature.

Blackrock Depths is a wonderful instance.  It has enough variety (and enough options for bosses) that I never quite got bored with it.  My second group (at level 51) was able to clear not only Prison, but continue on to clear the entire instance.  Most fun I’ve had in the spire for ages.

And the quests.  Oh the quests.  I’d forgotten how many fun quest chains there are for BRD.  There is nothing quite like rescuing the princess, only to be told that by doing so, you’ve ensured that the dwarves will be reunited under a (probably) evil and crazed ruler.  Or at least the mom is likely nutters.  (Sidenote:  possible Cata fight?)

If you’re planning on doing the the BRD quest chains, grab them once its possible that BRD-Prison can be the random – they each involve multiple trips, and often killing NPCs that are off the beaten path.

My next goal – Scholomance has two quests I adore:  The Lich, Ras Frostwhisper and Dawn’s Gambit.  I highly recommend both chains, even if they send you across the globe.  But have impressive visuals, and the response of players who didn’t even know what you were doing is possible – nothing short of golden.   Oh, and I’d love a classic Onyxia key.  (Warlord’s Command is done, contemplating getting Seal of Ascension to tempt groups into UBRS…)

Apparently, LFD has other plans, and I’m to do Ramparts immediately upon hitting 61 (where I now am, after turning in quests).  Ok, I can live with that.

I have to confess, though… I’m sad to leave the Old World behind.

There are so many instances I never got the chance to explore (DM, Scholo, Strat, UBRS…).  There are too many instance-based quest chains I’m leaving undone (Tier 0.5, how awesome you would be… or even Tier 0).  It is a real shame that almost all of the level 60 content is completely ignored, whether leveling via dungeons or via questing.

Maybe next time, I suppose.

Next up (for real):  time to hit 62, for a better Engineering helm, and a completely ridiculous shield from Sporeggar – Honored (I have an old stockpile of rep items for them, apparently).

WoW Mythbusters: Gearing for Heroics


Come patch 3.3.3, it will be possible to vote kick players immediately – from the start of the instance.

So, you zone in, and see that the mage has a gearscore of 2k… do you boot the player?  Does their bad gear mean a longer run?   Does kicking actually benefit you? It you think vote kicking the undergeared dps means a shorter run, two things must be true.  First, it must be the case that higher gearscores are generally associated with higher damage output.  Second, it must be true that more geared groups will clear heroics more quickly.

The results:  the effect is tiny

  • TL;DR: Better-geared dps certainly do more damage, but the effect on the speed of the run is fairly small. A 1000-pt increase in gearscore results in a 50-second shorter instance.

Part 1:  Gear and DPS.

As before, I’m using data on approximately 100 runs through LFD, where I collected information on the performance of players.  For this section, I’ve excluded my own characters from the analysis.

In order to make the numbers comparable, I’ve re-computed DPS to be

DPS = total damage done / time in combat of the highest dps in the run

This penalizes players who are afk or late to enter fights, which happens surprisingly often in these runs.  (These players are doing less damage, slowing down the run – and if that is more likely for players with a given gearscore, its important to penalize appropriately).

Below, I’ve plotted the relationship between the adjusted DPS of players and their gearscore.  The points are coded by the class of the player.

Surprise to nobody:  better gear means more damage done.  Regardless of class or instance run, an additional point of gearscore is associated with a 1 dps increase, for the average player.

But does the link still hold between gear and the time to finish an instance?

Part 2:  Gear and time to finish

At a basic level, if more geared DPS means a faster run, then the higher the total gearscore of the DPS, the shorter the run should be (on average).

Below, as a first cut at the data, I’ve plotted the relationship between the time to finish the run (in seconds) and the total gearscore of the DPS.*

The relationship might be there, but it isn’t strong.  However – instances vary in how long they take to complete (in particular, because of the intro scene, Culling of Stratholme takes much longer than the other instances).  So I need to control for those effects.  In addition, because the gear of the tank has an effect, I’ll need to account for that too.

Below is a partial regression plot of the time to complete a run on the total gearscore of the group.  (A partial regression plot is like a scatterplot, but the plot is controlling for the effects of the instance run and the gear of the tank.)
Accounting for the instance being run and the gear of the tank, higher gearscores are associated with shorter heroics.  Raising the total gearscore of the dps by 1000 shortens the instance by around 50 seconds (I’ll try to find a way to add the results of the regression to wordpress… in what follows I’m interpreting those results).

In other words, replacing the 2k gearscore mage with a 4.5k gearscore mage (the average for DPS in the sample) would shorten the instance by just over 2 minutes.

But what about the tank?  The tank’s effect on the speed of the group is roughly sixfold the effect of the dps.  On average, a 1000-pt increase in the gear of the tank results in a 5-minute reduction in the time of the instance.

(I should note:  the gear of the healer has virtually no effect on the speed of the instance.)

Part 3:  So what does this mean?

I want to be clear – I’m not endorsing kicking anyone from heroics based on gear.  The difference between “omg, this guy is in all greens and heirlooms” and a 264-decked ICC’r… is about 3 minutes off the run.

Three.  Little.  Minutes.

So what you need to ask yourself – is `saving’ at most 3 minutes really worth being a jerk, and raining on someone else’s day?

Consider this my little plea to relax while playing the game, and just enjoy the run.

[Confirmed – But don’t be a jerk]

Related note:  stop dropping Oculus.  Its 2 minutes shorter than even AN.

*For the attentive, yes, I was in a 50-minute PoS run.  I died both digitally and inside.

WoW Mythbusters: LFD Gear Matching


A second rumor I’ve heard about the LFD system is that it does match-making based on the gear of players.  Under-geared players will tend to be matched with well-geared players, and vice-versa.  The dungeon finder will therefore create groups that should be able to clear, even for fresh 80s.

TL;DR:  This appears to be true – LFD involves a matchmaking system that places less-geared players into well-geared groups.

Second Approach: Group Gear Levels

Suppose, for a moment, that the set of players I’ve grouped with is representative of the population of WoW players. (Yet, somehow, nobody got booted from these runs / acted like a jerk / was a complete and total idiot… so given whats been blogged about, this might be a heroic assumption.)

If the que was going to randomly assign groups, it’d pick 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 dps out of the assortment of players I’ve been matched with.    On this random assignment theory, LFD would produce groups that were both under and overgeared – which I’m going to approximate by looking at average gear scores for each group.

LFD, if it is matching groups based on gear, should distort this distribution. I’m guessing that Blizzard is mostly concerned with avoiding “wipefest” groups – and so ensures that freshly-leveled 80s aren’t placed together into heroics.  I’d expect this would yield under-dispersion: fewer groups with worse gear.  (This would also alter the distribution of average and higher-geared groups, but the effects are more ambiguous).

I’ve simulated the distribution of average gearscores given the players I’ve observed over ~100 runs, and compared it to the actual data.  The plot on the right graphs the average gearscore each group I’ve encountered in LFD, by type of instance.  The plot on the left shows the estimated average gearscore of each group, had groups been randomly generated.

The LFD system is preventing under-geared groups from forming:  my model random group generator produces some groups with abysmal gearscores.   Some groups would have an average gearscore of under 3k.   I never observed any groups with this level of gear, even on my worst-geared characters.  (Note:  its still entirely possible to clear heroics with this gear – just not at the pace generally expected nowadays.)

By preventing under-geared groups from forming, LFD produces fewer all-star groups than would be expected.  The average average group score (ha – confusing or what?) is slightly lower for LFD than expected.  To see this – look at the peaks of each distribution.  For the random groups – on the left – there are many more groups around the 5k average.  The LFD peak is slightly lower – around 4.8k.  LFD is also producing more groups with 4-4.5k averages than the random generator model.  Why?  Because its raising up the otherwise-undergeared groups to this level.

These effects occur regardless of heroic ‘type’.  (Some players que specifically into ICC-5 and ToC-5, for upgrades via drops, so these instances should have distorted distributions – but the effect occurs, regardless of heroic type.)

What does this mean?  Its unlikely that LFD is producing groups randomly.  Instead, its newbie-friendly, ensuring that the worst geared players are matched with players with better gear.


PS:  Admittedly, this would be easier to do with data on the overall distribution of gearscores, the distribution of tanks, etc.  But please stop me before I write a webcrawler.

WoW Mythbusters: LFD Que times


Since the release of the LFD system, I’ve heard a number of rumors about how it operates.  But thats no fun.  I want data.

I’ve read speculation that the que times of dps players are based on gear level. The theory goes that Blizzard wants to mix groups, so that some players in the run have amazing gear, to help gear up other players. This implies that better-geared characters have shorter que times.


  • Que times can be significantly shorter for the best geared players.

First Approach – Que Times

I’ve been attempting to check this by throwing all of my characters into the que as dps, and tracking how long the que takes to pop. (So there have been 3 fewer tanks on my Battlegroup’s que – sorry y’all, its in the name of science!)

The data come from just under 100 runs through LFD – thank goodness I like pugging and do well without sleep.  I’ll note – I did many more trips through LFD… but didn’t always collect all the data I needed. Apparently, clicking / jotting down a number is slightly beyond my ability as a player of WoW. (And now my GM knows why we wipe in ICC… )

Since que times vary in length, depending on time of day, I’ve calculated ‘que time’ in 2 different ways. The first measures the difference in time between the estimate offered and the actual que time. Positive numbers indicate longer ques, negative numbers indicate shorter ques.

I’m also doing this as a percentage of overall que time.

Gearscore Seconds Between Estimated and Actual Que Percentage Difference
3886 67.4 11%
4280 -8.6 0%
4339 96 12%
4408 60 9%
5149 9 1%
5493+ -380.8* -64%*

I find this to be particularly cool:  when I que on my main (nicely geared) as the first run of the day, I have a much shorter que time – the dps que is less than half the time estimated (an average of six minutes shorter than the estimated que).   Curiously, I don’t observe this when my first que is on worse-geared dps characters, or (sometimes) when I que on my main after running several other heroics.  As yet, I’m unsure why.


* [Warning:  statistics follows] This difference is statistically significant at the 0.05 level.  None of the other differences are statistically significant.

Whatever system Blizzard uses to generate groups, it does not appear to generate significant differences in the que times of players. This doesn’t mean that matching does not occur – I’d need data on the population of players in the que to look at that (time to mine the armory?) – it is entirely possible to match players without dramatically altering que times.

Why the myth? I’ve noticed that when I que on my main (nicely geared) as the first run of the day, I have a much shorter que time *****. Curiously, I don’t observe this when my first que is on worse-geared dps characters. As yet, I’m unsure why.


Second Approach: Group Gear Levels

Suppose, for a moment, that the set of players I’ve grouped with is representative of the population of WoW players. (Yet, somehow, nobody got booted from these runes / acted like a jerk / was a complete and total idiot… so given whats been blogged about, this might be a heroic assumption.)**

If the que was going to randomly assign groups, it’d pick 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 dps out of the assortment of players I’ve been matched with. [Its slightly more complicated, because many of those dps are my characters… but I’ll omit that difficulty for the purpose of this explanation – its manageable, just takes a bit o math.]

On this random assignment theory, LFD would produce groups that were both under and overgeared – which I’m going to approximate by looking at average gear scores. Doing this would produce a roughly normal distribution of average group gearscore, with some quite low and others quite high.

LFD, if it is matching groups based on gear, should distort this distribution. I’d guess this would yield under-dispersion: fewer groups with worse gear, and therefore a corresponding reduction in overgeared groups. But – there are a number of other techniques to match players – so this is just one check.

I’ve simulated the distribution of average gearscores given the data I’ve observed over 50 runs, and compared it to the actual data.

[Graph of simulated data] vs [Graph of observed data]


Admittedly, this would be easier to do with data on the overall distribution of gearscores (please stop me before I write a webcrawler).

Third Approach: Are T9 raiders the saviors of LFD?

A final – and admittedly the strangest – theory I’d read about LFD is that que times are shorter now, because ICC raiders are seeking Emblems of Frost from the daily dungeon. Once these players have enough badges from ICC itself, they’ll stop queing, leaving to longer ques overall.

1) More players in LFD should yield shorter que times, but the effect will be quite small. I’m trying to model que times as a function of the population of players in LFD, but the results are just too sensitive to the assumptions I make. (I’ll post this once it seems more reliable / I have insight into simplifying the problem.) In brief – the loss of ICC raiders will matter, but the effect won’t be large unless their numbers are larger than I think is plausible.

2) ICC raiders will matter – considerably – if they’re more likely to be tanks, since tanks drive the LFD system. So I looked up whether the tanks I’d grouped with have downed Saurfang in ICC (either 10 or 25).

% tanks, % dps, % healers

I sincerely apologize for the lack of explosions in this episode. I’ll try to fix that, as soon as I get an engineer to 450.

*** Oh wait… nope, I remember a few jerks now that I think about it. Thank goodness I have a terrible memory, probably keeps me happier.

Sundering to Eighty


In the process of collecting data on the performance of characters in lvl 80 heroics, I’ve discovered something truly absurd:  I genuinely love tanking pugs.  More than raiding, more than getting insane gear for my cat druid (ok, Deathbringer’s Will is ridiculous.  proc + flightform = beautiful visual)…  I just love tanking pugs.

So I decided to level a warrior (the tank class I’m missing) to 80, using LFD, playing as a tank.

Like the title says, I’m a spaz.

But its ridiculously fun.

  1. I can tune the difficulty of the instance to match the group / my mood.  With a weaker healer and dps, I can opt to pull one group, and focus on bringing each pull down cleanly.   Perfect for when my attention is mostly elsewhere.  Or, if the healer is up for it – I can grab everything in SM Library up to Houndmaster Loksey in 2 pulls, or let the runners in Cathedral pull the main room for us in a neverending deathfest.  Even though I’m twinked, these are great learning experiences for managing cooldowns and keeping aggro on 20+ creatures at once.
  2. I’m truly the leader.   In most cases, the group is completely dependent on the tank’s sense of direction.   Some of these instances (hello Wailing Caverns) are absurdly non-linear.  BRD has its own flowchart. In my first Uldaman, someone needed Grimlok, and I had to draw on 4-year-old memories to find him.    Fortunately, I’m fond enough of the instance that the memories were still there… but there is something quite thrilling about being in charge.  Just hope I remember all the turns in ST.
  3. Twinking is for pve.   The bonus bags, heirlooms, and better enchants are game-changers for lower-level instancing.  At the moment, I’m rocking 2.5k hp at 38 – more than my rogue had at 60 (but less than my twinked 28 bear druid).  I do absurd amounts of damage.  Out of the 51 runs I’ve done, only one dps – a mage – has outdone me in overall damage done.   I also seem to be virtually-indestructible.   I can handle pulls without a healer.

“Virtually” isn’t quite right.  I’ve died 5 times.  3 of these deaths were in Gnomer – in each case, someone pulled a terrifyingly large wall of mobs – like, Genghis Khan would be impressed by the force amassed against us.   This happened either by not dismissing a pet on the jump down to Fallout (trog zerg > me), or twice on the way to Thermaplug (robot zerg > me).  These reduce me to laughter, so I’m pretty happy with it…  the other two were from a healer that disconnected on a giant pull of insanity, and another from a healer that didn’t realize I had a ticking  disease, no hp, and had run out of food.

So nobody’s perfect – thats what my no-death character is for.

I’ve definitely seen a fair bit of crazy from lower-level players.  Ret paladins seem to be particularly fond of taunting to do damage.  I had a strange warlock who insisted on pulling for me.  A rogue that randomly jumped into groups… not groups I was near, not groups on the path, just pulls nowhere by us.  He’d die, we’d finish the pull, res – and then start the cycle again.

Again, still on the funny end of the spectrum.  Hopefully I can keep the good grouping luck going.

I’m really excited by this + the next band of instances.  SM Cath and Uldaman have always been among my favorite instances.  I think I screenshot Archaedas every time I’m there.  ZF was always a fond source of memories.  I’m slightly apprehensive of Mara – but I’ve never tried it twinked, so it could be a completely different – and much more fun – instance.

Oh!  And – thank you google reader – I’m really psyched to see that Pugging Pally is leveling via healing dungeons.  Its really interesting to read from another point of view – and I’m glad that SM Graveyard syndrome is a shared experience.  The only thing that kept me going was the hope of a rare spawn, just for the novelty… and even then, I only saw Ironspine.

Measuring DPS performance


For one of my WoW data projects, I’ve been putting a bit of thought into how to measure the quality of DPS in a pug.   I’ve been doing this for a while – but realized that my measure misses a key component.  I want a measure that weights overall damage done, but penalizes for pulling aggro from the tank.  (Yup, I left off that last part.  Thats what I get for being a tank…)  My goal is to examine a few myths / thoughts about the new LFD system.

Because I’m the laziest stats guy you’ll ever meet, I’m trying to automate the entire process.

To take screenshots automatically, to measure DPS / gearscore / time in que, I’m using a screenshotting mod.

I’m using recount and gearscore to record the damage-done and gear levels of the group (recorded via the screenshotter above).

What I need is a mod that lets me record the percentage of time that a DPS had aggro…  I don’t think I can do this with Omen… unless I can take screenshots at given intervals, and estimate from that?

If someone stops by and knows the answer, you’d totally make my day.  I’d really love something that shows the percentage of time a given DPS took aggro, and stores that information throughout the run.