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.