Friday, November 20, 2009

Shadowmourne Released

Blizzard has finally released some concrete information about this new legendary weapon, known so far as Shadowmourne. The first thing that became available was small preview of the item's lore and hints of how the weapon would actually be crafted, itself alone a fair epic in nature. We were giving three of these clues, and although not very specific, it hints to the line of questing that goes into a legendary weapon.

"... Shadowmourne must be hewn from piles of impure Saronite; the hardened blood of the Old God, Yogg-Saron treated only by master metal-shapers."

There are several clues here, one which is the obvious that whatever "impure saronite" is, it must be taken to Ulduar and somehow interact with the last boss, Yogg-Saron. Much the same way that Val'anyr had to be thrown into Yogg's mouth before slaying him. Perhaps saronite is imbued with Yogg's blood or yogg's blood is just another component. The words "master metal-shapers" might just be a NPC smith in Dalaran, but could also mean that you will need a fellow guild member to forge the components together, either a grand master miner or blacksmith.

With the weapon itself forged, we have this:

"... it is vital that Shadowmourne be drenched in the souls of the most potent servants of the Scourge"

To me this seems very self-explanatory; just go ahead, armed with the weapon, behead enemies in the Icecrown Citadel raid instance. The fact that it mentions "most potent servants" suggests that you have to slay an X amount of raid bosses. How many or what the exact process is, I cannot say.

"... Shadowmourne is to be adorned with fragments of the Frozen Throne."

Again, as the last step, very self-revealing prerequisite, in which you must face Arthas at the last chamber of the instance, and defeat him - multiple times, since "fragments" is in plural. And then, finally in the end, from all the trouble, you will eventually be able to receive Shadowmourne as a just reward. As a level 284 item, it will most likely last you a very long time. Way into the next expansion.

Sounds definitely worth the trouble to me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Priest Transformed

It has been a long time coming, but finally my priest has arrived in Northrend. The relief is tangible after a long haul in vanilla and Outland. The last was not as bad, but still frustrating enough. I have said it before and I will say it again, the best feature about Cataclysm, World of Warcraft's next upcoming expansion, is the fact that much of the vanilla world will be remade entirely. Personally, I cannot think what really is worse about playing this game, than leveling alts through useless content.

Sure you get quest rewards, you can do dungeons, you gain professions and all that, but in the end, 95% of it is pointless and you can do without. Just spam quests as fast as you can and break through it into greener pastures. Only in Northrend, does it finally start making sense, as the gear and rewards you get begin to not only look good, but also provide a useful function.

Anyway, enough about ranting. Achn has made it to Northrend and the fun has really started. You may have also noticed that he has gone through a serious transformation; not only his name but exterior has been altered. Achn is no more, and instead before us, is Barunn, son of Ironforge. I made the decision for the race change primarily because I wanted the dwarf casting animations, which are way cooler than that of a human. Made me sad to see Achn disappear, but I am still happy with the end result.

So much has changed, but for the better I think. Me and Ylinya, whom have since the beginning, leveled together, have already started our first dungeons, Utgarde Keep and Nexus. So far, everything has gone swell and we are on our way to max level. For me, Northrend has again provided with a play challenge, much like when doing Outland dungeons did. I have reached such spells as Prayer of Mending and Penance, both high end and only now, finally getting to use them, does the class seem to truly come together.

It is a fun experience to go through and I imagine, once heroics become involved, the game will again change to a certain extend. We will see, just how much, one we get that there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tribute to Insanity

It was a rather happy and proud moment for us all that evening, when the achievement finally glowed on all our screens; the Tribute to Insanity. It took us a bit by surprise, as none of us were really aiming for it, at first. On the contrary, I was pessimistic about our run when I foolishly died tanking Gormok in the beginning, however, it turned out to be the best run we have had.

That makes it the third 10-man group, within the Pro Finlandia guild that has reached the achievement and none of us can but feel proud because of it. It was nice timing as well, since patch 3.3 is arriving shortly and seems like a good way to end one chapter, and start a new one.

Thanks for the photoshop-enchanced image goes to Heidi, my partner and love, a.k.a Atheqa.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Emblem Gear

I almost did not think it would come out before the official release date, but finally, PTR has been updated and the new Emblem of Frost Quartermaster has some exciting new gear for us to ogle. I am uncertain of the exact prices, as the items are not actually for sale yet. No prices exist but we probably guess at the proper amounts. More interesting are the items themselves.

The four new trinkets include Corroded Skeleton Key, Purified Lunar Dust, and Maghia's Misguided Quill. The melee and ranged dps trinket has not yet, at the time of this writing, been added to wowhead, I am afraid. However, rest assured, it looks as appetizing as the three previous. Personally, I cannot wait to get me one of the stamina trinkets.

For death knights, the two new sigils are Sigil of the Hanged Man and Sigil of the Bone Gryphon. Personally, I am more interested of the second choice, as raiding in top guilds guarantees that I need to buff my threat generation as much as possible, especially in preparation to the dropped avoidance, thanks to chill of the throne debuff.

In terms of cloaks, we have such nice pieces like Volde's Cloak of the Night Sky, Drape of the Violet Tower, and Sentinel's Winter Cloak to name a few. The first choice is obviously ideal for mages and caster dps classes. The second cloak, I can already see it on my discipline priest. There are total five cloaks, so if you felt left out by the choices, don't - there is most certainly something for everyone.

Other items, which are definitely too numerous to be listed in this humble article, include chest, hands, and waist pieces. The only let down was the disregard for a non-block wielder tank chest, but I am certain I will be able to compensate with tier10 set piece.

Speaking of which, I still could not locate the tier vendor the new set. They were not included among the Emblem vendor inventory, although it could very well be they just have not been added yet. As a good feature, the same vendor also turns emblems of triumph to emblems of frost and sells a new buzz item, Primordial Saronite. We do not yet know what this is for, however, a good guess suggests it will be a key ingredient in the Icecrown Citadel craft designs.

As a last change I noticed, are a series of new items in the Emblem of Triumph vendor, which has the been supplemented with reputation badges for all major northrend factions, each providing 520 reputation for their respected factions, and each costing a single emblem of triumph. This should make it a whole lot easier to grind the expansion factions for the various enchants, mounts and patterns.

Into the Shadow

Patch 3.3 is approaching fast and the latest changes to the changes are beings scrutinized even more carefully. Personally, I have two character that I am mainly interested and since the death knight, for once, is not getting any major character changes, I can focus some attention on my priest.

Not many changes are involved to the healing specs and for good reason as well. They simply do not require tweaking. Healing priests are, for the moment, in a sweet niche where they are a joy to play and not in a bad habit to outshine their peers. However, shadow priests are getting a lot of buffs on this one. I do not personally play much on shadow, except when leveling but for me, the changes are quite welcome.

First of all, Vampiric Embrace is turned into the spell that it should always have been; a personal buff on the priest instead of a debuff on the monster that it is now. I cannot image what was going through a designer's mind when that spell was first conceived, but for me I always felt like wasting copious amounts of mana, having to apply it on every mob between pulls.

Now, with this change, shadow priests can join warlocks in large mob pulls, with dots and healing mechanics to compensate, speeding up our game considerably. Sure, we could pull lots of mobs before, but you had to first apply Vampiric Embrace on one of them and then actually avoid killing it, in order to gain healing from the damage you make. To make it further annoying, you had to apply it again on the next pull, spending awful amount of for nothing.

Next up, the Improved Devouring Plague spell will gain an increase of damage, to 10/20/30% per rank, instead of the old 5/10/15%. Not having raided as a shadow priest, I am unsure if this is actually necessary but if the Blizzard wants to throw a damage buff my way, heck I am not going to complain.

Also, Mind Flay is having its range increased, up to 30 yards. Wooah!

Changes to Shadowform are close to my heart in particular, as a priest who is still, in fact, leveling. Not only Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain, and Vampiric Touch benefiting from haste, mana cost for changing forms is dropping from 32% to 13% of base mana. Along with Vampiric Embrace, casting a quick heal on myself during a big trash pull has to be the single-main reason why I oom quickly.

So to sum up these changes; I do not see any major, big changes to the priest play style or damage output. A small nudge to our damage yes, but mainly I see these as welcome changes that will streamline our game a lot. They will lower down time and the class simply just more efficient, as it should be, if go about and compare to e.g. warlocks, our closest compatriots as dotters.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chill of the Throne

When the news about this debuff came out, there was a visible shock among the tank community. What it essentially means is that when you enter the final raid instance, Icecrown Citadel, the dungeon will apply a constant debuff on everyone in the raid - lowering all dodge by 20%. While I am a stamina tank, all the way through (meaning I care a lot more about my total health than about my avoidance) it did make me stop on my tracks as well.

While going for mitigation, such as armor and health, is and has been more effective a long time now, tanks still need to rely on avoidance for much of their survivability. Now imagine that as a tank, your avoidance suddenly drops from 50% to 30%. That is pretty huge and makes you wonder what Blizzard is thinking.

However, once you reflect a bit, you begin to see the wisdom in it. The rattle among many tanks is still going but personally, I am not worried too much over it. The issue mainly stems from the cascading arms race, between tanks and raid bosses. Our gear, both health and avoidance have been steadily climbing, which forces Blizzard to create encounters that hit for more and more damage.

I am certain that many tanks will agree with my own frustration of tanking bosses where you are basically, constantly on the verge of dying. The rotation of two hits and a heal makes your health look like a yo-yo in desperate need of decaf. One slip, or just bad luck, gibs the tank, usually sending what's left of him rolling down hill - in seven pieces.

Now in Icecrown Citadel, Blizzard is attempting to rectify the problem by lowering our avoidance, so they can design more interesting encounters. I am all for this change and it is reassuring to know that this is also the way they will go with Cataclysm; encounters that have more interesting mechanics that affect way more whether you die or not, rather than just raw damage output.

This is not to say Icecrown Citadel will be easy. I imagine it will be the hardest of them all, for obvious reasons. The bosses still swing at the same rate, but will hit a lot more often, with less damage per hit.

However, I am greatly concerned by the fact that lowering avoidance will have a secondary effect on death knights; we rely on avoidance to give us rune strikes. This is our single-greatest threat generating ability. This is why, once we lose aggro, it is hard to get it back because when the boss is no longer swinging at us, we get no rune strikes, and also why we do not have snap aggro.

Reading the latest patch notes for 3.3 might see a fix for this issue, promising a 17% threat increase to rune strikes, to compensate. But still, I worry. Does 17% more threat compensate for the loss of 20% in avoidance? I hope so but will wait for the patch to go live before I count my eggs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Busting Leveling Myths

Indeed one of my favorite TV shows and day-off activities, is debunking persisting myths about subjects that interest me. As it is, for me, World of Warcraft is a paradise for old preconceptions that may or may have been true at one time or another. Not surprisingly, once put into circulation, they almost never die. Even after long periods of time, you can guarantee someone, somewhere is still convinced they are true.

This time, I am focusing on leveling guides. Zygor anyone? I was actually an avid user of Zygor for a long time. I thought there was nothing as good in the world, at the time, than Zygor that helped me level easily and quickly through the dry content. However, recently, after not using it for some time have come to question my old logic.

Is using a leveling guide, even as advanced as Zygor really necessary? I do not believe it is. One of the selling points of these products is that they promise it is possible to level at incredible speeds. I believe someone level from 1 to 80 in no more than a week. This may or may not be true, I am not even convinced it is, since there is very little convincing evidence to examine, but even if you work under the hypothesis that it is, so what?

The requirements for leveling at that speed are mind boggling and certainly, the part of a leveling guide plays very little in that role. More than likely, what you really is two or more characters, armed from tip to toe with heirlooms, dual-boxing with recruite-a-friend bonus, and nonstop playing from day to day.

However, this is outside the capability of most average gamers, which the World of Warcraft population is mainly made of. It is true, leveling guides have streamlined the quests that are best for leveling, and the order in which to accomplish them. However, recently leveling various classes, as well previous experience, tells me that this streamlining provides only a marginal benefit.

This is simply because your time is mainly consumed by the quest mechanics themselves - namely by those quests that require you to kill X-type mobs for Y times Z drops. Sometimes these are easy, but often times the drop rates are so low, or luck not your side, that you end up killing dozens for just a few of the items.

Believe it or not, this is the single reason that questing takes a long time. The rest of the factors are controllable with some practical reasoning. The only real tool, I believe everyone needs, is just Questhelper or a similar helper addon that provides the direction and location of the quest objectives. My own favorite is Carbonite, especially now that it is free. While Zygor provides this function, it is not enough to justify paying for it in my books.

Here are some of simple guidelines that I follow when leveling. They are easy to remember and represent just simple commonsense.

  1. Get yourself a quest helper addon.
  2. Arm yourself with as many heirlooms as you can. Not only do they provide total 20% XP bonus, but also act as blues of your level, raising your performance.
  3. Always start by locating a zone of your level, preferably one where your level is at the bottom of its level bracket.
  4. Locate a major quest hub within that zone, pick all the quests you can get, filter out group and dungeon quests, check your quest helper and mentally picture a route across the map that you can take which lets you complete them all.
  5. Make your route, return to the hub, return all the quests, and just rinse and repeat.
  6. Keep in mind that in vanilla WoW, there are two zones for every level. Some zones even have overlapping level brackets, so you can quest in several zones to avoid the quests that would be particularly difficult for your current level.
  7. An occasional dungeon is not a bad idea. Gives you an opportunity to gather better gear, other than what the AH has to offer, and also lets you complete a rare dungeon quest
Finally, do not forget the fact that we are not all born equal. It is wrong, yet a reality in World of Warcraft. Some classes level more easily and quicker than others. A case of study can be found in my warlock and mage characters. I am currently in process of doing the same quests on my warlock that, not too long ago, I completed on my mage.

However, playing my warlock is just so much more easier. I can kill more mobs, with less effort and less downtime, than I could ever with my mage. Hunter and shadow priests fall under this same sentiment. Death knights, particularly if specced DPS in the blood tree, are also a joy to play because of the amount of self-healing and no need to drink for mana.

Does not sound complicated does it? That is because it isn't and yet, still just as effective as using a leveling guide. If anything, for me, it seems leveling guides just remove the necessity of thinking for yourself. Helps people, without skill, level more without actually acquiring the skill and knowledge they later need at top levels.

I am not saying everyone has to be an elite player at max level. But a lot of people overlook the fact that leveling provides valuable practice for beginners to learn the mechanics of the game. Even such simple things as flight points, boat routes, and portals are not obvious to some. Even worse, automated game play produces people who think too much for granted. Like people who sit in Stormwind and spam the trade channel for stockade boosts because they are too lazy to do a few quests that would provide the same effect, in the same amount of time they wasted in futile complaint.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cataclysm

I have deliberately been holding back on writing too much about this particular title, with the reason being I hate hype and it does not feel all that relevant at the moment. However, after some exhaustive deliberation, figured was time to put some of my thoughts more firmly down. All and all, like everyone, I am very excited about this expansion.

However, my main excitement is because the expansion has the mandate to fix some of the big issues that World of Warcraft currently has. Of course we have all sorts of cool updates coming, like new races, professions, level cap, etc. but still for me, the other changes, specifically to older content, are more important.

First and foremost, Azeroth, the old zones of vanilla WoW are getting a thorough make over. Why is this such good news? Because the old content is hopelessly out of date. There is no saving it and is one of the most painful things to play through. Sadly, it still represents of 48% of the game's content. Not to mention, simply the content that we spend most of our time leveling through.

Dungeons design, quest organization, gear drops are all things that continue to plague this part of the content, making it unappealing and dry. So much has changed and Blizzard's design team itself has grown since those times that makes looking at Northrend and vanilla like day and night. But no more. We are getting two new races, starting to zones, new zones, and the old areas are updated. Awesome, is what I say.

Second most wanted on my list is a revamp of the character stats, a subject that keeps hindering the game a lot. Simply put, it is just too complicated. Aside from hardcore players, most do not know, or even want to spend hours calculating. Yes, looking at new gear, checking and planning how to get the best results has its appeal and is part of the fun but also distracts you from the game itself.

Especially, when you have to judge items on the fly, with less time to make up your mind than you would reserve for peeing. This is immanent on a lot of raid loot, where e.g. a weapon might drop, that has a lot less attack power than your current weapon, but than again it has useful stats like expertise and armor penetration on it, so is it actually better or not?

This is all going to get streamlined in Cataclysm and I for one, will be happy to see them go.

Spell Power: Will be removed and instead, intellect will provide both mana and SP at the same time. Just makes you wonder why the game did not work this way to begin with.

MP5: Will also be removed and replaced by spirit. To compensate, healers will also gain a meditation-like ability to help them regain mana more efficiently.

Armor Penetration: Aye, this one is on the boot-list and I am happy to see it go. Looking at the ArP history, it either never worked, was over-powered, or just downright confusing. Rest in peace.

Defense: Is going to be replaced by talents that provide tanks with the uncrittable status. It, essentially, is not a confusing stat, up until you begin to wonder how much benefit you are truly getting from stacking more than the necessary cap limit. All around better though, will make gearing for tanking a lot easier.

Attack Power: The same way as SP, this is going to be removed and replaced by agility and strength, for leather/mail and plate wearers respectively.

In general, more weight is shifting to emphasize the importance of the basic stats, like intellect, strength, etc. While currently, the two different groups of stats are locked in a struggle for dominance. It will be clearer and simpler in my opinion. A much desired change.

There are a myriad of changes to the game in cataclysm. Too many to be listed here. For more information, I would starts with the official site, and work your way through wow.com and the mmo-champion.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Preparing for PvP

This morning I finally wrote and posted my humble review on PvP Leveling in World of Warcraft; a very viable and interesting way to level a character. I have personally had a lot of fun tackling horde, stealing flags, and laying waste blizzard and fireball. However, I believe my success so far has been largely thanks to the preparation I did before hand, or during my pvp career.

Here are some very simple steps I suggest everyone considers for themselves, when making the decision to level using battlegrounds.

Heirlooms
I cannot stress it enough, how important these are for you. When you level mostly using battlegrounds, you will be short on both gold and gear from instances. Sure, you can run a few instances on the side, but it will not make up for the difference much. Heirlooms act as blues of their equivalent level and improve the same time your level increases, so they will always be up to date.

There are enough heirlooms available to give any class you choose, a weapon, two trinkets, and two pieces of armor. In order of priority, the items go armor, weapon, and trinkets. The armor is first because each gives a 10% increase to all experience gained from quests and the killing of a target or monster that yields honor. In case you are wondering, they stack.

In patch 3.3, we hear from wow.com that there might be new heirlooms available, for data mining has shown that there is an item or spell that provides a 5% experience increase; A little extra XP bonus.

The weapon is important, for obvious reasons, as they are often the most important and sought after items that relate to your dps. Some classes can choose from different weapons even, as is the case of the rogue, depending if you are going for combat or assassination specs.

In my case, I chose the following for my mage;

Notice the fact that three of the listed items are pvp in nature. They are available, not from the Dalaran heirloom vendor, but from within the Wintergrasp fortress, for pvp badges. The rest of the slots for my gear, I mostly buy from the AH or get a high level to quickly run me through a low level instance.

If there is one item I suggest everyone buys, it is the last, pvp trinket that frees you from movement impairing effects. It is an absolute must have for every pvp player and will save you from a whole bunch of grief, since playing pvp is half struggle for control and it is achieved through stuns, roots, etc.

Professions
Every player should level his or her First-Aid skill, as high as their current level allows. It is true, you can buy bandages but for me, it is essential that I can create them myself. There is never a shortage of cloth at the AH, and if you level like most do, with quests on the side of BGs, you will also gather some yourself.

As items, bandages are a lifesaver in any battleground match, particularly when short on healers (and you always will be); head to head matches often leave, even if you survive, starving for health, and though you are still standing, the next opponent only needs one arrow or spell, or stinking breath, to put you down.

There are a variety of professions that can be useful to you, particularly crafting professions that allow you to easily put together the best craftable items, to supplement your heirloom gear. However, I decided to choose herbalism and alchemy.

Healing and mana potions, the first more than the second, are crucial for me. The two professions allow me to both gather and prepare my own potions, as well as gain Lifeblood. It has saved me more than once when out running the horde, their flag in hand.

Class Capabilities
It is very important to learn and understand the capabilities of your class. Particularly how they play in pvp, since when going head to head with other players, the game changes drastically. Few, if any of the skills you had in pve, will apply on battlegrounds. Some abilities are only useful in pvp situations learning what your class can do is the only way to shine.

Also do not let anyone gouge you into picking some select, so called "best" classes. Personally, I enjoy playing less obvious choices and it bores me to tears when I check the match roster and realize five from ten in the enemy team are rogues or hunters. Particularly on certain levels, like the 10-19 branch is infested with players of those classes, since they are the obvious, strongest contestants.

For my mage, I was told to be a poor choice for battlegrounds and that I will be ganked by rogues and warriors of lower level than I am. However, so far, I find rogues less imbalanced and more just annoying, who are incapable of anything else except stealth, backstab, and try kill you before the stun wears off.

If it doesn't, or if I can reveal the rogue with an aoe, the rogue better pray for quick reinforcements before he becomes a jar on my mantle piece.

The Battlegrounds
Just like knowing your class, knowing the terrain and purpose of the battlegrounds you play is equally important. It is not a rare sight, to see people wonder aimlessly on arathi basin, not fully understanding how the battleground works, or know the best ways to infiltrate the enemy base in warsong gulch.

Game Mates
Finding people to play battlegrounds with can cut a lot of frustrations from the road ahead. Pugs by nature are chaotic and usually only go with the one tactics; which is to say, they don't have any. Basically, just zerg the enemies, while trying to accomplish the battleground objectives. After you take part in a match, with clear strategies and roles, you realize how much of success depends on people who are willing to communicate and evolve strategies.

And even if you cannot find any pvp guilds to join, just grouping with a friend or two takes you a long way.

Friday, October 23, 2009

PvP Leveling

Everybody knows me as not the best friend of PvP, nor the best skilled in its arts even. However, since battlegrounds now award its participants with experience, since patch 3.2, I simultaneously the subject merited investigation. Naturally, in my typical nature I was not going to with any easy class, e.g. hunters and rogues, like say 90% of the pvp populations. Instead I finally adopted a mage character.

True to my assumption, mages are rare, at least on most low level battlegrounds, which makes playing them all the more interesting. Particularly facing less experienced players, who are used to ganking other rogues and shamans, a mage produces a lot of pleasure when you can kite a pack of hordies around in a circle, literally forever.

Many people think mages are far from the best class for battlegrounds and it is true that the class is far from being dominant, the same way that hunters and rogues are. But where we lack the raw power of a hunter, mages make up in finesse and control, and that is where the class truly shines; sheep, frost nova, frostbolt, to name a few are some of the mage's best tools.

So what is the verdict; is fighting on battlegrounds a viable leveling method? I believe it is. As a show case, I give my gnome mage, now a level 29 fire and frost hybrid. The moment I hit level 10, I started pvping and refused questing in all forms until two days and 24 levels laters. For a leveling pace, that is not bad at all.

The experience is gained, as per quote from Blizzard "for completing objectives and actions that yield honor (honorable kills not included)." This makes it all very straight forward. Think capturing flags on Warsong Gulch, conquering contested points of resources on Arathi Basin, and so on. So, of course, the side that wins, gains the most experience as well.

However, there is a catch to leveling on battlegrounds, which is true to all team efforts; you can only do as good as your team as a whole. So whether you like it or not, your success is in the hands of your teammates. In fact, now since twinks have been pushed to their separate battlegrounds, away from us casual folk, the encounters consist of a wide variety of people, of all levels and experience.

Also, if you do as I did, leveled using only battlegrounds, be prepared for heavy-handed ganking on the lower tiers of your level bracket. The horde, and without a doubt the alliance as well, enjoy nothing more than jumping on a level 11 or 14 just for the fun of it. They will, in fact go through lengthy trouble to kill you.

Personally, I spent over five minutes, running across the field of Warsong Gulch twice, from my base, to their base, away from the base, zig zagging tree trunks and stomps, while three horde players chased on my heels. Quite ridiculous actually, which was made only more hilarious when I lead them straight into an armada of blood-thirsty allies.

But still, if surrounded by reasonably skilled players, not outnumbered or -geared by higher level players, leveling with battlegrounds can be efficient and a whole lot of fun. However, if this has peaked your interest, I suggest you come prepared. There is much you can personally do, to optimize your game play. After all, the same rules apply to battlegrounds, as apply to raiding; you are not alone, you are part of a team, and if you stink, the rest of your comrades will also pay for it.

Since this post will already be quite long, I will leave some of the means I used to prepare, for my next blog post. So stay tuned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Managing the Priest

I have been writing a whole ton of posts, recently about death knights and tanking, so I decided to take a trip down a different road this morning. Most of you have probably noticed that my priest has been leveling up some and he has indeed been the focus of most of my gaming for the past week. The reason was simple, I had just finished the Tribute to Skill achievement and consciously decided to take a break for something totally different.

And what could be more different than playing a healer? A total opposite to what I usually play, however something I have always, as a tank, felt close to; a bond if you will, between those whom I keep safe and whom struggle and do their very best to not let me be squashed. Aye, never an easy task, but we make due ;)

Achn is actually a character that I have, since inception, been leveling with a partner, my real life partner in fact. Anyone who has not tried it, have my recommendation, for it is a match made in heaven. Her human paladin tanks for me, while I heal and dps for her. I started out all out in holy spec, for I wanted to get to know the class from a healer's point of view. But now, after we have crossed the level 60 threshold, I have moved to two specs; shadow and disc.

I use the shadow spec for our quest marathons, for it is a minor inconvenience for me to occasionally heal her, while doing extra dps to get the mobs down quicker. When going to instances, like the Hellfire Citadel dungeons that we have recently been nearly farming for gear (I know, it is not sexy to care about gear when leveling, but bite me), I will of course go disc.

Why the change from holy to disc? My own personal choice tbh, but I did not very much enjoy the constant threat of ooming as holy. Also, after simply trying disc, with my mana problem removed, I fell in love just the style in which we heal. However, juggling these specs and getting some real healing experience as a level 59 in Hellfire Ramparts, I began to question some of the addons I was using, or rather, the lack of proper ones.

First of all, a proper cast bar. There is no question about it and the only viable option I managed to find was Quartz. There is almost no contest; Quartz is highly configurable and has the most efficient features.

The second a must have addon is ForteXorcist. This is a massive addon, centering around the idea of micro managing all the small whistles that most classes have. These include shards and healthstones for warlocks, cooldowns, spell timers, messages, and so on. The list is almost endless and configuring this mammoth can easily seem daunting. However, it is a lot less complicated than it seems and it truly is invaluable.

The main feature I use for my priest, is the spell timers. I could not possibly live without them, especially in shadow spec, which relies on the exact management of dots on the target to produce quality dps. Xorcist shows me all the spells I have cast on the target, in easy to read rundown bars, with timers.

For my discipline spec, I use the spell timers to keep an eye on my Power Word: Shield and Weakened Soul debuff. Before you say that I can also manage the same by watching the debuff frame, yes, I know and that is what I did before. However, at least in my minimalist UI, the frame is tiny and watching the debuff tick around clock-wise is not very optimal.

Third, but not least, is a reliable way to track your Prayer of Mending. This is actually something I have yet to test, for I will not be able to learn the spell itself until level 68. However, it is something to think and prepare for. One options that I have heard a lot of good about is PoM Tracker; I love the simplicity and that it will be yet one more feature on my screen that will not take a lot of space. Also, what I read is that is a lot more reliable than many of its competitors. For one, it does not get confused by multiple prayers.

That is all for the moment. I would consider the three above mentioned addons crucial to any priest and high recommend you have a look at them, if you have not yet done so.

Good luck and enjoy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Into the Abyss

The first time when I entered and played through this instance, it was not only normal difficulty but also had many of the mechanics hardly in use. This was true particularly with the boss fights, which lead me personally without a sense of satisfaction. The instance is well designed, atmospheric and just beautiful to look at. The same is true for the Forge of Souls.

However, I a much better sense of the mechanics this time around and I even had the sense to grab a couple of screenshots. The nice thing about it is that, unlike so many other instances, Pit of Saron is not linear. You can go about killing the first two bosses whichever you want first, as well as free 20 slaves from wherever pleases you.

At the moment there are more slaves in the pit than you need to be able to save, so you are free to take your pick about your route and targets. The first boss, Forgemaster Garfrost is simple enough. As his health drops, he will stun you party and jump between his forges where he takes out a new weapon every time.

The only tricky bit of the fight are the adds around Garfrost's forge. Neither the boss or the adds can be pulled separately, so you have to quickly burn the adds down so you are not overwhelmed. Other than that the fight is still extremely simple; just tank and spank him.

Next up is the leper gnome on his private hunchback minion; Krick and Ick. I was happily surprised, particularly by this encounter because the first time around it was almost like fighting trash. Krick will drop poison buddles much like Grobbulus and needs to be kited. And by kiting I really mean it because the little twat is obsessed by his buddles.

He will also occasionally chase on your party members, when he uses an ability called Pursuit. I am unsure what else they can do at that point, except just run like the wind. It was not an issue for us, for we were insanely over geared for the encounter, but I can see it particularly nasty for low-gear level 80s.

Additionally, he will occasionally go through cycles of using poison nova and small arcane bombs around his immediately surrounding. He does not need to be tank during the bombs so both the tank and melee can, and should, freely circle around him and avoid the purple domes. The poison nova is a fairly high damage, so like during overloads on both the Iron Council and Mimiron, the party should get out of range.

The next part is definitely my favorite, as you must run through a gauntlet of undead, including a tunnel that is currently collapsing. Remember Hodir and the falling ice? Same deal, except you will tank trash and must keep moving at all times. Any tank who loves mobility and AOE tanking, this is the place for you.

The last boss has not changed much since my last visit. Tank him approx. where he lands but mindful of the frostbolts that his mount drops on your party. They fall fairly randomly and easily freeze you where you are standing. The good news is that the person who gets hit is marked by a hunter's mark, so you always know who it is.

Other abilities that he has include Forceful Smash and Overlord's Brand. The first is just a very strong hit that your tank has to soak. It hits for about 15k on heroic, so your party healer can keep the tank topped up, it should be a small problem but can be an issue if the healer gets frozen for instance.

If healing is scarce, the tank can always use a cooldown to help out. The brand is more annoying, as when it hits a dps player, all the damage produced by that person is diverted to the tank. If the target is a healer, all healing is directed to the Tyrannus.

All and all, the instance is only getting better as the PTR goes on and I think we can see the entirety come together as a very nice and coherent dungeon. If you are interested to see some video feed of the dungeon, I came across a good quality look at youtube.


Enjoy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Death Knight Tier 10 Review

Odds are I was the only person in the world who was clinging to the hope that we would not have to joggle yet another set of tier gear. Small hope I agree, but I believe justified because as a progression raider most of your game actually revolves around those blasted pieces and not sooner than you actually have managed to gather a set, you are already shopping for a new one next week.

But enough ranting and lets have a look what nice things we are getting this week.

The new death knight art actually looks very nice this time around. Tier 9 was fine but seemed a bit too contained, too neat and polished for someone who is essentially a warrior with a permanent bad temper. The new look is a return to tier 8; death motifs and rustic. Definitely a nice job by the designer.

The tier bonuses look slightly more dubious. Since I a tank night and day, I always look at those set bonuses first and I am getting mixed feelings this time:

2P Bonus: Increases the damage done by your Death and Decay ability by 20%.
4P Bonus: When you activate Blood Tap, you gain 12% damage reduction from all attacks for 10 seconds.

As always, the first set bonus is a threat amplifier but I am worried that the target this time is Death And Decay. True, it is my default opener to any fight, so a good choice, but the problem is integrating it neatly into your rotation. You will of course try to recast it during an encounter but odds are you will not be able to, at least not as often as you would prefer because it actually takes three different runes to use and getting all three refreshed at the same time is not an easy feat.

Also for highly mobile bosses e.g. Hodir, Ignis, and Dreadscale it is particularly difficult because you are then stuck tanking the boss within the confines of the spell.

The second set bonus does make me raise my eyebrows equally. Is this meant as an extra tank cooldown? Seems improbable because blood tap already plays a pivotal role as part of my normal rotation to get extra hits out on the boss. To be forced to save it as a damage mitigator seems out of this world to me.

I am thinking it might provide a nice respite to heavy damage during a fight though. Remember damage of Ulduar hard modes or ToTGC bosses like Gormak and Anub'arak? Using blood tap like I do, whenever possible to make use of a death rune will provide some amount of mitigation just randomly during a fight, and if available, as an emergency cooldown but there is a downside also; random damage mitigation means spiky damage and we all know how healers hate spiky damage.

Sure, you can use Ora2 to announce cooldowns and that way healers can know when you're using it but to me spells hard times for healers though.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shadowmourne

I consider myself fairly up to date on what goes on in the World of Warcraft workshop and was, among, without a doubt, millions who were reading the news from last Blizzcon, as they were flooding the internet. Yet I still completely missed news of this new legendary weapon. For me, it came completely out of the blue as I stumbled upon it by just sheer accident.

So what is this sword exactly? Information is very scarce at the moment. No stats have been released yet but we do know that it is a two-hander axe, aimed at melee classes. This means primarily warriors, paladins, and death knights (both dps and tanks). While it could possibly be wielded by other classes, Ghostcrawler has iterated (source) that the stats will favor the above classes.

It will be available in the Icecrown Citadel, the same way that Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings was available from Ulduar. Myself, I wonder about the name of the weapon. It sustains a striking resemblance to the Lich King's signature weapon, Frostmourne. I hope there is some rational lore attached to the name, for otherwise it is an uncomfortable recycling of ideas. By all means, I am thrilled that there is a legendary melee weapon coming out, as the last one was clearly a caster weapon, but will feel like a slight cheat if it is just a makeshift version of the real thing.

Some people point out strongly that the legendary weapon from Icecrown Citadel should have been Frostmourne itself, but I strongly disagree, as do most who care at least a tiny bit about the game's lore aspects. To allow it to be fallen into player hands would mean that it would have to be defined into logical parameters would only demean and weaken it, reducing it to "just another legendary" since it obviously could not corrupt the player character the same way it was responsible for creating the most iconic villain in the game.

No, no, no I say. Frostmourne is unique because it is undefined and its powers a mystery to us. It belongs in the possession of the Lich King, where it maintains its power and provides us with an unforgettable gaming experience.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sigils

Since this is a subject I have personally struggled a lot; which is the best sigil for each spec, I decided to put it up here. Sigils are essentially to death knight what totems and librams are to shamans and paladins, and it is not always so straight forward to pick the right one. Each tier set has been, so far, accompanied by a couple of new sigils and the variation of their abilities makes them difficult to interpret.

Like so many things, these are issues that some of us gladly leave to those with math degrees and generally too much time on their hands, to calculate proc rates, rotations, and overall output. The only good news is that both dps and tanks generally use the same sigils. This is due to the fact that death knights generate aggro through dps output. So basically what you have is a bunch of threat amplifiers, like Death and Decay and Frost Presence, and then the rest is up to your dps.

Frost has it the easiest, alas the best sigil for them is still the Sigil of Awareness. This can be bought cheap with emblems of conquest from your local Dalaran vendor. Since the patch 3.2.2, both blood and unholy now use the Sigil of Virulence, which basically acts like a miniature version of the Darkmoon Card: Greatness, procing your strength by 200 with a very high up time (estimated 80%).

The downside is that the Sigil of Virulence costs 25 emblems of triumph, so it can take many daily heroic quests for you to get it. However, Sigil of Vengeful Heart is still a very good spaceholder until you get virulence. It is sold by the conquest vendor as well, for 19 emblems, and of course it also has a chance to drop from 25-man XT-002 Deconstructor.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tribute to Skill

There are moments when you are allowed to feel good about yourself and this is definitely one of mine; having completed the Tribute to Skill achievement on 10-man totgc instance this evening, with an awesome crew. It was particularly satisfying after having endlessly farmed both 10- and 25-man normal modes with little to no challenge of feeling of accomplishment.

Grand crusader however, was quite a struggle. The encounters we found the hardest were the Faction Champions and Anub'arak. The first severely more than the last, where the champions just simply kept wiping the floor with us. Anub'arak proved mainly a performance challenge, as it has a lot more in-built difficulty than the normal modes.

Firstly, you only have six grounds of frost to use, the burrowers now cast Shadow Strike that needs to be interrupted, and the damage is a lot more severe. The two primary obstacles are performing successful interrupts and keeping them from burrowing. We used a shaman, though a rogue would probably be a lot more optimal, with a focus kick macro as the adds and boss are tanked side by side.

It also comes to a bit of luck, when Anub'arak himself burrows, the OT will most likely still have two adds on his hands. Because the proximity to the boss, the spikes will probably hit the ice he is standing, breaking it, possibly even killing the OT if he is not maxed out. The OT must vacate the patch of ice before the spikes hit it and kite the adds to a new one without letting them burrow themselves. Since this ability is on a timer, it is has a lot to do with luck.

However, if you can master these two aspects, the fight should go through fairly easily. The only crunch is when phase 3 starts and the OT is not only taking the constant aoe damage from the boss but also melee hits from the adds.

But the fight is well worth it, even if you have to struggle. I had the luck of getting Lothar's Edge, hitch hiking my stats up a notch once more. So for now, I could not be happier but am already looking for the next peak to climb.

Return of the PTR

If you are anything like me, you have been following the 3.3 patch news with great anticipation and interest, as they have began to flood through from wow.com and mmo-champion - people hard at work data mining and exploring what is currently available in the test realms.

So far, the most interesting news have come from both Blizzard themselves, in the form a Frozen Halls info page, and mmo-champion data miners, whom have been able to discover some very interesting updates. The first and foremost of course, is the Icecrown Citadel. Anyone who has flown around it a few times realized a long time ago that it will be very expansive. The structure alone is impressive and massive.

So far we know that the citadel with not only host the new raid, with the Lich King as the final boss, but will also contain a new dungeon, with both normal and heroic version, and a total of three different wings; in order the Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection. You must complete them in sequence to gain access to the last one and contain a lot of interesting new aspects.

So naturally when I saw people on general channel, looking for likeminded adventurers and explorers I just had to jump at the chance. We entered the Pit of Saron, whether or not because they had already done the first wing or if it was the only one currently enabled, I cannot say. But the first time stepping inside the citadel was very exciting. Essentially, we have two objectives; free as many slaves as possible and also kill the bosses.

The second boss Ick, which after falling to us gave up a startling revelation, Frostmourne currently resides alone, in the Halls of Reflection. Whether it will be just an event or possible a boss encounter, remains to be seen but opens the possibility that the way to defeat the Lich King is by taking away his most dangerous weapon.

Like all dungeons, normal and heroic alike, tanking the instance was heavy on the aoe side. You can switch to blood on bosses if you prefer but all and all, was a very standard issue tankwise. The bosses themselves do a lot of burst damage and had very little actual technicalities to overcome. Tyrannus at the very end had some twists to provide, but seems we encounter either a bug or another disabled feature, because once we quickly downed him, the first was suddenly over.

Why is this odd? Because Tyrannus first presents himself on the back of a frostwyrm and on such an occasion, you would expect to fight both the two-legged and four-legged counterparts. Our encounter however started with Tyrannus coming down and ended when he fell.

We had no luck investigating any possible loot because nothing was dropped, but odds are high this will change quickly, once the loot tables are finished and enabled. Mmo-champions did report an interesting set of new daily quests though, or rather, weekly quests. I managed to confirm them with the usual daily quest giver. Exactly like the old Wintergrasp quests, these can be completed only once a week, but instead provide x10 Emblems of Frost.

Also, instead of heroics, the quests are completed in raid instances. These range from Naxxramas to Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader. Basically just like the previous heroic dailies, you have to kill a boss to complete the quest. I could not locate a vendor that currently accepts the new emblems but I am prepared to speculate they have to do with new gear. A new set of tier gear?

Personally, I am voting against a new tier set. It takes our all the fun out of, the otherwise exciting gear, when you have to struggle to change it every damn patch. But time will tell. For now, will continue to follow the blogsphere and explore the PTR. Will keep my readers informed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to win PvP

I did not link this video originally when I first saw it but now, looking back, I just have to. It is the most accurate and hilarious representation PvP in World of Warcraft I have ever seen. Definitely worth watching. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good Will

During my every morning routine visit to wow.com, something oddly unconventional caught my eye; Doing something nice for other players. Makes you think back and just how rare this sort of thing is in the modern World of Warcraft. Aye, it is not as bad as it first seems, but the simple truth is that large portion of players find it stimulating to jerk off at other people, safe behind the impenetrable shield of anonymity.

What is worse, it is everywhere; both general and trade channels, battlegrounds, raids, guilds, and even random people you meet outside an instance. The recent moments, for me personally was when I was waiting for a friend of mine to come out Caverns of Time, standing outside the instance where a friendly level 80 warlock threw "noob" at me for being below level 60.

Any of my readers happen to be working on a doctorate for psychology? I am pretty sure this sort of gratification disorder, the need to jump on other people for no good reason, other than that their moms held them too tight or not tight enough would just fascinate you shrink types.

But of course, after some reflection, we can gladly conclude that while their numbers are high, they do not make up the whole of the gamer population. There are lots of friendly and decent people around. True, I have to say that although I hold myself to this group, I do not practice the kind of open charity as the person described in the news post.

The reason for that is that while those of us, who enjoy helping others, do not do it very often or to total strangers only out of the goodness in our hearts, is that most newbies are not nearly as grateful for the help you offer. Several exemplary cases come to mind, one being that after you do help out, maybe pull extra mats from your bank and make some toys for someone, they tend to get too used to it.

The end result is that they continue to whisper you for more help; can you help me with this quest, where can I find A or C, and if you can loan them some more gold for a new piece of armor. That is just not right and incredibly infuriating. Another winning case is when you polite tell someone you cannot take them to your pug because of their shabby gear.

Aye, it does suck to be turned down but all willingness to give you tips and hints where to get better upgrades wash away when you start throwing "fuck you" and "shit yourself" at me for trying to help you. We have all been there, in that position. The difference is, we worked hard and got out of it, without the need for drama.

Some part of the problem itself, I believe is inherent in the game itself and what it represents. A common problem with kids these days is that they spend so much time online and in the virtual world that they totally lack social skills. They do not know how to communicate with the common bloke and the game itself promotes an environment where they do not even have to.

This is the big reason why I refuse to give into using much of the WoW slang that exists in the game, because it was invented by socially awkward 14 year olds. I choose to hold on to my persona and will not sink into the pit hole of lame idiots who hardly know how to spell xenophobe.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Onyxia is Back!

Like so many other things that are reinvented, Onyxia seems to divide the World of Warcraft demography. As always, the most vocal side are the ones not happy with Onyxia's reincarnation, finding a long list of faults in her new forms but personally I am delighted from the update.

The very first reason to like her is the fact that a huge portion of us never got to fight her in vanilla WoW and have only seen her, mainly lying on her back after being zerged by a bunch of level 80s. I, myself took her down with just the three of us, and even from our tiny group two of us were tanks. To make it further ridiculous, the paladin tank also functioned as our healer, who is the same paladin who I know 1-manned her.

This is the case with all old raids and for my life cannot see what the point would be to not redesign them, so they can provide a logical function in the game - instead of just being the occasional punching bag for nostalgic old timers.

The second reason is that now Onyxia is a lot more approachable, instead of feeling like teeth being pulled. Naturally, for some this is a bad thing. Of course, I bet it was a blast to spend over 40 minutes fighting one raid boss. With luck, someone screwed you over because of their teenage angst and you would be starting all over again.

Third but not last, with Naxxramas, Sartharion, and Malygos becoming obsolete we desperately needed a new raid into the game. Granted, it is only one boss but it is better than nothing while we wait for the release of Icecrown. Of course, I do not mean that in condescending, but rather pointing out the fact that those of us who have completed Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader only provides so much entertainment.

So what is Onyxia like these days. After research (and listening to old timers whining), I do not see how the fight is so much different; you go through three distinct phases and a lot of moving around is required to get through them.

Phase 1 is a simple spank phase. Your main tank should tank her against the back of the cave, so the push back does not blow him away and everyone else should stay around or behind Onyxia, to avoid the frontal cleave that can easily turn a clothie into some shredded wallpaper.

Phase 2 begins when she walks back across the cave and takes off into the air. As in the vanilla version, everyone should group up in the middle of the cave, where the floor declines into. Whelps will fly from both sides and your (preferably an aoe capable) tank grabs them while dps aoes them down.

There is an elite type of add that also comes from the entrance, which must be tanked and killed as quick as possible, for they hit rather hard and will overwhelm the tanks if not taken care of. Most notably have your cloth wearers dispel the Ignite Weapon as quickly as possible, for it adds 25k extra damage to their attacks for five seconds.

This phase ends when the ranged dps succeed in bringing Onyxia to 40%, after which your main tank must quickly grab aggro and place himself against a wall, or she makes wind chimes of your raid.


From there the fight continues much like phase 1, except for an occasional inconsequential whelp, fear, and fire cracking from the floor. If you get her this far, you should be able to nail her, as long as you healers do not run out of mana.

All and all, a very enjoyable raid in my opinion.

UI Makeover

Inspired by my fellow World of Warcraft players, I decided to take on it once more and redo my UI. I was mainly intrigued by the popular addon Kgpanels and I wanted to make look really unique - something I had never had before. I must say I am quite pleased with the look. It still has same sense of minilism that I enjoy but also looks really nice.


I had already previously moved from Pitbull 3 to Pitbull 4, after I got fed up with the clunky configuration and just outright anarchy that resides inside the addon. The new pitbull has succeeded in streamlining the layout much more with a lot less chaos than its earlier incarnation.

Aside from Kgpanels, I also added SLDataText to replace the uncomfortable Fubar texts, as well as to compensate for the lack of a microbar, so I can always see my latency, memory usage, and frame rate. The last newcomer is caelNamePlates for prettier nameplates, however I am not complete satisfied with it. The plates tend to crowd and blow the view.

Esthetically, I have separated the public channels into their own chat window on the right. The minimap addon is still the same, Sexymap, however I did consequently change to a more prudent skin.


For a view of my older UI, feel free to read up on Rhin's User Interface. Promise though, it like a monkey's ass compared to this one.

For future features, I will most likely experiment for a proper castbar addon, such as maybe Quartz and Aloft for a better nameplates.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nerd Rage

I am sure that anyone who has been playing World of Warcraft for more than a week is no stranger to this phenomenan. In a way, the game is a perfect analog for rl sports, where cheering for your team and defending the ethnic correctness is defended to the last one and it is not just in-game. It spreads like wildfire, infecting discussion boards, news groups and just everyday talk between buddies.

Sometimes I wonder if it is the only aspect of the game that some people know how to do. The examples sure are more numerous than one could list, e.g. horde vs alliance. Aye, seems rediculous at first but people tend to take it very seriously and the hatred for anyone not of your faction is thick enough to cut with a butterknife. Same goes between guilds, especially if you are unlucky to be in one that aroused the ire of the community, you might not even be accepted to PuGs because of it.

One of my all time favorites is asking or just talking on trade or the general channel. The trigger can be almost anything really, like asking if someone wants to take part in your group quest or just asking directions where a specific quest is completed. Perfectly understandable isn't it? After all, though it reads "Suggested for groups [5]" doesn't really mean it is meant for groups. It is perfectly soloable in the uber gear that we are all privied to.

Other good examples include pvp, which is an instant combustion for the losing team, certain classes, of death knights are a prime example (after all, was our fault that we were so overpowered back in the day when earth was still flat), poor gear, mistakes on instances and raids, or just happening upon the same bond that someone else is already fishing in.

I understand many play the game with great passion. Personally, I am very much the same. I love playing it and I try to do so every day, but it does not make me hate the world and certainly cannot find it in myself to degrade and ruin someone else's gaming experience just because I am prone to psychotic episodes. In my mind, people like this have no place in the game and personally hope Blizzard would implement more strict tolerance for it.

It is still a game, one have volunteered to subscribe to, and the joy of playing is the only valid reason to continue playing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crusader's Evaluation

3.2 has been out for a good long while now and we are soon to be taken into 3.2.2, along with the newly realized Onyxia's lair. However, it took some good while to get all of the new encounters released so I have been saving some of my thoughts until now.

Personally, it is one of my favorite raid instances in the game, as of this time. Ulduar was not bad but it could never really rise to point where I was excited about it, at least the same way I was about Naxxramas and now Trial of the Crusader. Oddly, it is the very nature of the instance that I like so much, which is, it has minimum of the fuss that most raids have. Of course, I am talking about trash.

Ulduar was particularly painful at times because trash itself often had to merit their own tactics. There were a large variety of them and while the challenge was welcome, after it became a routine, the tactics became tiresome and not at all satisfying. On the contrary, whole group would sigh when being held from reaching Vezax, Auriaya, or Mimiron because you had to stop to mark mobs and focus on taking them down with the care often only associated with the bosses themselves.

When it comes to TotC, I was never one to hold back my skepticism about the four tier difficulties; 10-man, 10-man hc, 25-man, and 25-man hc. Seemed overly complex to me but then again, it seems to work very well for this instance. Once your group gets the hang of it, if decently geared, it should have no trouble clearing the normal modes. The instance itself has no trash so this can even done as a side note, if your guild still wants to focus on clearing some of Ulduar's hard modes.

Also, because the five encounters can each be cleared under a decent time, you can even do two in one day, which not only helps gearing up but also collecting of emblems, a large quantity which you will in fact need to get a full tier 9 set. The encounters themselves are successful in my opinion, as so far, I have not once been bored by them. They have a nice balance that you have to pay attention but not overwhelming to a point where you need to have a degree in high WoW science to complete them.

Northrend Beasts is a three phase fight where you fight three completely different encounters in quick succession, each with their various strategies. It is also a fight that seems to set the tone for the whole instance, which is good coordination within your group. The fight is not difficult if you are coming properly geared from Ulduar, but every does have their job to do and if they are not carried out, the fight will inevitably turn against you.

Lord Jaraxxus is one of those fights that is extremely simple for the MT and just won't leave the OT alone. Once against it has various aspects, like add tanking, random flames to mind, and abilities interrupt, so the whole group has to coordinate to get through the fight successfully. A well aoe capable tank is preferred for the role of an OT, since you will be dealing with several adds, all which the dps needs to burn down.

Faction Champions is one I have never before seen in the game, which is a pvp encounter. It follows most of the rules for pvp and is unlike you will find anywhere in Northrend. For tanks, you will not actually tank anything. Rather your duty is to keep one of the major dps on you as much as possible. For a death knight, this provides numerous tools in the form of Chain of Ice, Dark Command, and Death Grip. You cannot get real aggro, so be prepared to use the following powers the second they come out of cooldown.

For DPS and healers, it offers all the pvp elements; use abilities to snare others enemies and burst damage down one target at a time. Healers need to run and heal almost constantly as the enemy dps will try to go for them nearly constantly, se be prepared. The fight does not actually require pvp gear, which equal resilience, but a pvp trinket would not hurt if you find yourself constantly as a target of CC abilities.

The Twin Val'kyrs are one of those mind games, which essentially means the whole fight is one big prank. The whole fight revolves around the idea that you have to have the opposite colour aura to the color of the boss you are fighting. Joggling and changing to the right aura plays a crucial role in realizing just when to change aura and when to go for which boss. It takes time to get used to but is essentially a very simple fight.

The last fight is against Anub'arak, a boss everyone should find familiar from Naxxramas. Basically, it is both a challenge for both tanks and healers. The OT who deals with the tanks will be taking a lot of damage, especially on 25-man where cooldowns are necessary to survive the debuff stacks applies by the adds. The boss also does a load of constant raid wide damage so healers need their best game to get through it.

All and all, both the encounters and loot has something for everyone and is every bit worth battling through and farming for the best tier gear. As an added bonus, the trophy emblems that are needed to cash anything but the easiest set of gear are universal for everyone. So there are five trophies per run to be shared by everyone, instead of getting annoyed when a murphy's law designates that only half the raid gets the badges they need and the rest spend the evening grinding their teeth.

All and all, a very enjoyable raid for myself.

Death Knights in 3.2.2

I am the first to admit that I have not been keeping up with all the 3.2.2 PTR changes, until today, when I finally decided to see what is expected for the next patch. In fact, for the first time I had high hopes because so far death knights have not had a very graceful patch history and the rumor around the block was that we are getting actual buffs.

If you are doing the same, I suggest you do not trust (at least not at the time of writing this) what it says on the official World of Warcraft PTR patchnotes. They do not yet include the changes PTR testers are experiencing on the servers. Naturally, there were a lot of various changes but here I am limiting to are relevent to death knight tanking, since that is my real forte.
  • Heart Strike now has a its total damage increased by 10% for each of your diseases on the target to the primary target, and half that to the secondary target.
  • Vampiric Blood now lasts 10 seconds (down from 20 seconds).
  • Frost Presence now reduces damage taken by 8% (up from 5%).
  • Threat of Thassarian now also affects Rune Strike.
  • Unbreakable Armor now increases your armor by 25% and increases your Strength by 10% for 20 seconds.
Reading the above makes me personally happy for all those death knights out there, who like me, are tired of being nerfed and beaten to perform less and less. But, as always, I find something in these notes that I cannot quite understand and we will get to that soon.

But first, lets talk about the goods news. The two most exciting news for me, personally, are the buffs for Frost Presence and Unbreakable Armor. The first of course, is self-explanatory because as a class without block, death knights are extremely squishy compared to warriors or paladins. More mitigation will take us a long way.

The second is that Unbreakable Armor finally becomes a useful cooldown. Up until now, it has provided with a fixed damage mitigation, based on your armor: 5 * Ar *0,01. After the patch, it should get a major buff and become 25% increase to your total armor. Lets examine what this means for a typical DK tank with a healthy 25k armor.

In the current game, this will provide a 1250 points of mitigation from every hit that you take. Come 40k hits from General Vezax and it doesn't take a genius to figure using this talent is useless. True, it gives a strength bonus so it is good for threat but that is hardly a selling point. Now after the patch it will instead provide a nice 6250 armor increase. For anyone wondering how much this mitigates, on a level 83 raid boss it is an extra 27.3% of mitigation.

This makes frost death knights viable for a lot things, which includes tanking encounters where your life expectancy is depended on your cooldowns, the examples which are quite numerous, like Iron Council hard mode, General Vezax, or even tanking the adds on Anub'arak (that's in Trial of the Crusader ofc).

Alright, moving on.

The Threat of Thassarian is an obvious one, it never made sense why that talent would not include Rune Strike, considering the Blizzard ever had the intention of making two-weapon tanking viable for us again. No Rune Strike, no tanking. As simple as that.

Now for the nerfs. The first does not really hit me that hard personally, for I rarily find myself in a situation where I try to aoe tank anything in blood spec. True, when tanking the adds in Anub'arak (still in Trial of the Crusader) blood spec's cooldowns and self-healing are crucial, so the ability to hit for nice threat on both adds with the same strike has its benefits. But we will coup.

The nerf to Vampiric Blood definitely annoys me. Much less for fights where you only temporarily need a cooldown like surviving a surge of darkness on General Vezax but you will feel it for fights where the longer you can prolong your cooldowns, the longer you live. When in 25-man of Anub'arak (yeah I'm using this alot aren't I?) and when your debuff begin to stack 15+ the hits are coming down too hard to survive without cooldowns. If dps takes too long to bring them down, you die.

Naturally, both the Glyph of Unbreakable Armor and Glyph of Vampiric Blood have been updated to fit the new upgrades. For Vampiric Blood, I would say that even if you have not glyphed it up until now, it becomes almost mandatory after 3.2.2. For Unbreakable Armor, the increase of armor goes up an extra 20% so if you plan to take full advantage of this new cooldown, the glyph will be necessary.