Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Alchemical Imbalance

Bubble bubble, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble
I have always been a big believer in the need to bring your best buffs to a raid.

WoW raiding, in my mind, is a game of inches. If you are on the edge of your raiding abilities, then you are going to defeat bosses with luck, preparation, and the best attention to stat details that you can muster. Thus, getting the rare quality gem instead of the uncommon, using enchants, and drinking your flasks make a huge amount of difference in winning a fight.

It is with this background that I come to the very reluctant conclusion that the current batch of flasks in game are totally not worth it.

I was out on my herby picking flowers to make Flasks of Flowing Water for Merinna to carry into raids. After about an hour and a half in Deepholm pulling Heartblossom out of the crevices, I looked up the recipe to see how it was going and found that I had acquired enough to make half of five flasks. Barely even one night's worth of raiding.

Look at the mats needed for all these flasks:

Flask of Flowing Water - 12 Heartblossom, 12 Azshara's Veil and 6 Volatile Life
Flask of Steelskin - 12 Cinderbloom, 12 Twilight Jasmine and 6 Volatile Life
Flask of the Draconic Mind - 12 Azshara's Veil, 12 Twilight Jasmine and 6 Volatile Life
Flask of the Winds - 12 Azshara's Veil, 12 Whiptail and 6 Volatile Life
Flask of Titanic Strength - 12 Cinderbloom, 12 Whiptail, and 6 Volatile Life

A couple of new things this expansion: There are no funky lotuses needed for flask making anymore. I think we could presume those were just replaced by the Volatile Life. But six volatile life isn't so much in the grand scheme of things. Secondly, the duration of all these flasks is only one hour, instead of the basic two hours worth of buff you got from the flasks we consumed before.

The really ugly thing is the sheer amount of herbs needed to make one lousy flask. That's 24 budding flowers for one hour of buff. In Northrend, we typically needed seven to ten herbs to produce two hours of the best buffing around.

To put this in another context, that Flask of Flowing Water costs about 300g on the AH right now. Northrend flasks, even when they were rare and stuff, came to around 50g apiece. 300g for a flask? One word for that: No.

I think the materials cost to make flasks for raiding is pretty unsustainable, especially if you raid several times a week like most players. There's a different psychology towards having to collect large numbers of herbs rather than rely on the RNG and its ability to gift you with rare lotuses.  In Northrend, and in Outland, if I found lotus, then great, I put them into my flasks and was happy. If I didn't find lotus, then I bought some from the AH and put those in my flasks. Either way was mostly just fine. In Cataclysm, the RNG has nothing to do with it anymore, and you just have to commit to farming up all 24 herbs plus volatile life for whatever lousy return the developers have decided to grant this time around.

So what's going on here?

Gosh. I'm not sure. I suspect, perhaps, that the materials cost was increased as a way to slow various flask-related achievements, like Better Leveling Through Chemistry or Mix Master.  Not that I think these needed to be slowed. Blizzard also just slashed the requirements on both of these guild achievements because they were going much too slowly.  If so, I would expect the materials needs to be slashed some time in the future.  Though honestly, I can't find any evidence that this is the plan.

What options do we have?

Speaking of Mix Master and Better Leveling Through Chemistry, attaining those guild achievements enables the cooking up of the Cauldron of Battle and the Big Cauldron of Battle. But um, Cauldrons have some pretty massive limitations: They only last 10 minutes (15 minutes if your guild has Chug-A-Lug) and they won't even buff your entire raid. (There are seven and recently-hotfixed 20 doses of buff in each).  It's going to take over 100 herbs to make a small Cauldron and over 300 herbs to make the Big Cauldron.  Is anybody else gagging on this?

How about just using Elixirs? Mostly, that's not going to happen either. There is a Ghost Elixir that I think will become Merinna's buff of choice, but there are no other elixirs for buffing primary stats, only secondary stats like haste and crit rating.

So, are we looking at another new paradigm in raiding that has been thrust upon us when we weren't paying attention? Hmm. I'm not sure. This amount of gathering for flasks is a considerable step towards more difficult than it has been in the past two expansions, but if developers wanted us to not use flasks, they just wouldn't have made any.

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