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.