Sunday, November 21, 2010

The New Azeroth

I have not had nearly as much time to play at the PTR as I would have liked. Because of that, since originally having a sneak peek at the Cataclysm Event I specifically avoided playing the different builds that came along with the patches. Now however, I could not help myself from updating and logging into the 4.0.3a PTR version, just to look at the new login screen and simply gaze upon the new Stormwind City. Since then, what was only suppose to be a small look turned into a couple of days long testing phase, to see how the game experience has changed for the first 20 levels.

To make sure the change felt real and as close to a new Warcraft player as possible, I chose a class that has so far been completely alien, the rogue and made sure I did not cheat with gold or heirlooms. Darksun, my test character, is a human just simply because Elwynn Forest and Westfall are still my favorite zones in the game, even counting in Outland and Northrend from the previous expansions, and because (with the race/class combo changes) a lot of people will be rolling into this area. The fact that eight out of ten fellow test players I ran across were human hunters only supports this paradigm.

Game mechanic wise, nothing has really changed since the 4.0.1 patch, so I will not delve into those. However, the first thing jumps at you is the new intro and the huge changes made to the immediate environment. Stormwind has been damage, one whole district annihilated, the city’s castle has change completely, buildings like the bank and auction house have been upgraded to the new millennium. Even the street pavement has been updated and the first time you see it, you simply want to stop, walk around and look at the new city. It is absolutely gorgeous.

The city also isn’t the only thing that has changed drastically. While Elwynn Forest itself has not changed much, the first you walk into Goldshire a big, welcome update catches your attention; new flight point. Not just in Goldshire, they also added on in the Logging Camp to the east and the idea carriers onto neighboring zones as well; both Redridge Mountain and Westfall have several new FPs, making it a lot more convenient to get from end to end without spending ten minutes just running. Particularly before you get ground mounts, the time saved is just invaluable.

Westfall, as a location and zone, has undergone bigger changes than Elwynn Forest and although still feels like it used to, the difference is tangible. Questing all around has been updated and is more logical and convenient, often introducing the player to the zone piece by piece. Phasing plays a big role in Redridge Mountain where the quests will literally more you from quest hub to another, across the area. Since I do not wish to spoil it for many of you, I will not give out too many details but I will say, by the time I reached level 20, I was simply awed. Questing has become fun again and Blizzard has really put an incredible amount of work into this. You can feel and see the changes all around the zones. Old quests with quests items with ridiculous low drop rates or long traveling requirements are gone. It also no longer possible to just pass into a quest hub, pick a dozen quests before spending hours traveling the zone from end to end and completing them all. The quests are much more interesting, more engaging and phasing brings makes more quests available as you complete the old ones, without all long period in between.

So, if you have doubts about Blizzard’s commitment to redoing Azeroth, you can lay them to rest. If rest of the world is as successful as these three new zones I have now played, then I cannot wait for the patch to hit and let me at it. It will be glorious.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Conquering PvP Realms

mortal_combat Good morning readers. Instead of sitting down with a cup of coffee and start up my WoW, decided to instead fire up my Live Writer and dedicate some thoughts down on a subject I came upon rather by accident. Credit goes to Tatiiana, a dear friend of mine who plays a mage of the same name on the Tarren Mill EU realm. The reason why this is significant is because I play on Neptulon EU, which places us both in pvp Realms. For those who do not know, this means that in pvp realms your pvp will flag on automatically in certain areas which makes world pvp so much more common and indeed, it is one of the reasons many choose to play on these servers.

However, in this article I decided I would delve into the misconceptions of playing on pvp servers because like myself actually, prior to moving here with my guild, many players who reservations, quite needlessly about the day-to-day routines on pvp realms and thus, in my opinion, miss out on a lot.

The main thing that a lot of people miss the quality of players, which is by average higher on pvp realms if you compare to pve realms. No, this does not mean that players on pve realms are not good or even better than many who play pvp realms. That is not what I am saying, but the fact is that people who get caught in pvp develop a certain level of awareness and skill that pure-pve’ers do not. Pvp encourages reaction, speed, and awareness. While it is perfectly possible to obtain this by just playing pve, it comes much more naturally to pvp players. This was our guild’s, The Increment, main reason for moving to Neptulon because we wanted to harvest on that potential of players, which we have.

Now, the main misconception people have about pvp realms is that people pvp all the time. That you, in fact, cannot go 100 yards from Ironforge without running into people pvp’ing and therefore, e.g. leveling a character is an utter nightmare to go through. This is an utter and complete load of bullocks.

First of all, your pvp will flag on only in contested areas. This means that major cities, starting zones and the immediate zone next to those are safe. This includes Elwynn Forest, Westfall, Dun Morogh, Loch Modan, etc. Areas where you should watch out are Southshore, Stranglethorn Vale, naturally all of Outland and so forth. But even in contested areas you will run into minimum trouble. I have personally tested this when I revitalized my warrior and leveled him from level 13 to 80, during which I got attacked total of two times. Most people you run across will want nothing to do with you. A good case of example happened just two days ago when I was exploring on my warrior and crossing the border of Southshore and Silverpine Forest. Just I went over the border, a level 80 blood elf mage rode past me. We both stopped about 60 yards of each other, most likely eyeing each other, checking what the gear looked like, the mount, titles, etc. Anything that would tell us if this was a fight we wanted to get into.

After only few short seconds, we both continued on our separate ways, figuring “no, screw it” and that’s how it usually goes. MAD
“Mutually Assured Destruction” is a powerful incentive and you never truly know how good someone is until you try. Many times the attacker actually gets killed himself, as happened between my death knight and a hunter when I was mining, couple of weeks ago. He landed and started shooting on the fly. However, I managed to beat him. Same case scenario when both me and a tauren shaman were farming the same rep in Outland; he actually attacked me while I was killing an elite mob and still I killed him and mind you, this was a guy in some pretty cool gear and with obvious skill. With that bare in mind that I am actually a total scrub in pvp and ofc these events were all very far in between.

Most of the time I got to run around, farm rep, doing dailies and gathering mats in total peace. Now, I am not saying that you will never get attacked, as shown by the examples above, but what I am saying is that it is a lot more rare than you think. I shall take a screenshot for you guys, the next time I go do my fishing daily in Sholazar Basin because almost every time I do, I complete it right next to horde players.

Naturally, you will die occasionally, it’s unavoidable but part of that just needs to be accepted as part of the realm and in fact, looked as part of the fun. One of the consistent world pvp events that I have seen happened in front of Icecrown Citadel entrance, where every raid night, we gather in mass to block the door and kill any horde who try to get in. It’s hilarious and naturally, they will occasionally do the same to us but none of it is done with menace or to be nasty. It’s all good fun; we kill few of them, they kill a few of us and always manage to laugh about it on vent.

So what am I actually trying to say here? That pvp realms are not evil, nor as chaotic and malevolent as many make them appear. Most of the time, you wouldn’t even notice the difference to a pve realm. There are indeed many benefits to playing on pvp servers and having experienced it myself, I definitely encourage everyone to give it a go.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Journey Continues

Fellow greetings again Internet. I know I have not been very active on this blog and I do apologize for the inconvenience. As it currently stands, I have taken up the duty of keeping up with writing raid tactics and our Guild’s insider blog on, which sadly eats most of the time I have for writing blogs. However, I currently find myself sitting in Dalaran and having plenty of time to spare before our next raid so I decided to start up my Writer and and put some words down.


First, for those who are interested you can check our Increment Insider blog at our tankspot. For those who insisted on screenies of our progression should find plenty in there. Progression-wise we are currently holding at 9/12 in ICC25 HMs. A fact we are very proud of and have had several experimental goes at three different HMs; Professor Putricide, Sindragosa, and Halion just to see which we would like to commit our time to.


A lot of news filter in about Cataclysm almost every day. Many times I’ve gazed upon them and thought to myself “that deserves a mention in my blog” but there are so many that it is impossible to keep up and in the end, this blog isn’t really about publishing latest news. Just what seems important to me. On that note, details about the new Tier 11 gear sets have been released, with a couple of screenshots.

The part that strikes me about these sets is the fact that tanks might again care about the Tier bonuses, which we clearly did not need to do towards the end of Wrath. Sure, they were a nice addition but was somewhat mellowed by the fact that Blizzard decided to add much more sexier gear pieces to both the frost vendor and drops from ICC. Looking at the Tier 11 bonuses I feel a certain excitement as a tank, a feeling that these might almost be a must-have thing.

Warrior’s Earthen Battleplate:

2pc - Increases the damage done by your Shield Slam ability by 5%.

4pc - Increases the duration of your Shield Wall ability by 50%.

Death Knight’s Magma Plated Battle Armor:

2pc - Increases the damage done by your Death Strike ability by 5%.

4pc - Increases the duration of your Icebound Fortitude ability by 50%.

I do wish Blizzard would get out of their habit of adding a threat boost to our tanking sets and more complicated elements, like added health regenerated by our Death Strike. The whole concept of threat has a very controversial feel for me. I wouldn’t want to make it trivial but nor do I want to generally worry about it. Some tanks have whispered about the return to TBC’s type aggro where tanks where holding aggro was the single-most hardest thing to do in the game.

That’s ridiculous in my opinion and I’m glad to report Blizzard has officially agreed with me on numerous occasions. Tanks should have all the tools they need for holding aggro, if they use all their respected abilities properly. If you’re only spamming one button through the entire encounter you deserve to lose aggro but otherwise, for players who know what they are doing, it shouldn’t be an issue and not warrant threat bonuses in Tier sets. To me the pleasure of tanking is in pulling, positioning, taking the hit and surviving it so rest of the raid can do their jobs.

Likewise, for me  Tier sets represent an addition to your abilities, not their completion. Seeing that Shield Wall’s duration goes up by 50% is awesome and means I can survive for much longer. Seeing a threat modifier in the sets just means threat would be partially gimped prior to getting the set. That type of sets also inevitably lead situation during the next upgrade process, when you will not have that ability, thus making your performance rather poor until you get the two new pieces, or worse the next set will not have it at all and you run on half power for the rest of the patch.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Deeper into the Citadel

I must say, after we got our 25-man lich king kill, feels like the game has started anew for us, as if the many encounters and corridors that grew old and boring have suddenly come to life with the advent of hard modes. Now every fight feels like an experience and the thrill of combat has returned. Before that, you pulled, you tabbed some buttons and it was over.

Anyone who enjoys challenges and does not wish to settle for mediocre, for easy kills and epics, should endeavor to experience these fights on hard mode because they really do come more alive once the margin for error requirements of performance go up. Our start was somewhat slow, almost as if we were feeling the strength of the ice with a stick and slowly explored and tried the various fights in Icecrown Citadel.

Now the exploration period is over and we’ve cracked up the gear. Eight out of twelve bosses have falled on hard mode, consisting of most of the lesser bosses. Of the wing bosses, Saurfang and Blood Queen Lanathel have been vanquished, leaving only Sindragosa and Professor Putricide. Only Lady Deathwhisper remains of the lesser bosses. She will be the next target, once the lockdown resets.

The past two weeks have been particularly good for us, as we’ve done a lot of good progress and improved our team in quite many ways. We’ve lost a few players to various circumstances, which is always sad, but we have still been able to move forward. If anything, our progress has surprised us and I have actually missed capturing several of our encounters because I did not suspects us to be successful the first time around.

I do have one new movie to offer though, which is the Deathbringer Saurfang kill. It was a kill we had to work for; getting him down to 10% or even less half a dozen times, but when he finally went down, the success is sweet.

Deathbringer Saurfang 25HM

Enjoy and stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ruby Sanctum Explored

Deathwing_head Time to breath a little bit of more life into this blog and no better time than, when you have a lot of thoughts to comment with. I will begin with this look into the finished product that is the Ruby Sanctum, last raid instance to be published in this expansion. I wrote a lot about before during the PTR so I will not bother going through all of that again.

Rather, I decided to provide a look through a new medium that I am exploring, which is video capture. With the LK down on 25-man, we are feeling good about our guild. Makes you comfortable that as a group, you have helped the guild build back up from the deep gutter that we were in, only couple of months ago. With that knowledge giving us a big boost of confidence, we are coming up with a few new projects and my favorite pet is the video capture of our encounters.

It has already started and through a lot of trial and error I have released two video captures. They are both from Ruby Sanctum, as it provided a perfect testing ground for a new editor. The two videos are our first 10-man and 25-man kills. No heroic tries yet, but chances are we will be going for those in the near future. Depends how we divide our raiding time between the ICC hard modes and the Ruby Sanctum.

Personally, I did not find the normal modes that difficult. Naturally, he hits a lot harder on 25-man difficulty and the challenge is primarily on surviving, especially in the Twilight realm where everyone is moving and healers have a lot to deal with. But any decent group will not have a lot trouble with this encounter. As of fact, most of us in the group agreed that the trash mobs in Ruby Sanctum are a lot more annoying than the bosses themselves.

Anyway, here are the links to my two vids, first the 10-man Halion and then the 25-man version. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

25-man Lich King

The atmosphere is almost tangible, when finally all the hard work and effort pays off, as the encounter is defeated and the Lich King falls to the ground. It validates all the decisions and paths that we have taken as a guild, letting us know that we did it right. The right people were at the right place and at the right time.


Now it is time to look for future the horizon, raise the par even more and begin tackling the hard modes of Icecrown Citadel, while at the same time bring in those who couldn't fit into last night's kill, so we can all enjoy it.

Heroes of the Alliance, I salute you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ruby Sanctum PTR

shadow_dragon I was highly disappointed when I could not personally attend the latest PTR testing phase for the Ruby Sanctum. Was positively thrilled about having an early go and look at the new instance, below Wyrmrest Temple but due to whatever technical complications, I just could not get my character copied. But, at least now I can sit down and watch some of the first videos as they come out of the pipeline and what the encounters are all about.

In truth, I can only find vids about Halion, the Twilight Destroyer but much like Sartharion in the Obsidian Sanctum, Halion is the primary star of this instance. The minibosses, well… they aren’t all that important. From what I heard, quite a few guilds managed to kill Halion during the PTR testing, which is not at all surprising but keeping in mind that things can still change, including the encounter’s difficulty, as well as the fact that this was normal mode, we should still expect a challenge once the patch is released. If nothing else, the heroic version of the fight should prove interesting.

I will go over what I can about the encounter, or at least, what I think I have been able to learn from it. Please keep in mind that everything you read here is both subject to change and is all primarily speculation, a theoretical exercise summary of the things that I was able to find from various sources.

The fight itself occurs in a circular, confined area, that at least to me seems smaller on the video than what we had for Sartharion, so maximizing the space is important. It seems the best place to tank Halion, is actually at the edge of the area, turned slightly sideways so the frontal cleave and tail swipes aren’t a problem. This frees rest of the area for the raid to maneuver in and there are two things to mainly watch out for.

First is the Meteor Strike. It will target a random player with an effect that looks a lot (or exactly like) the warlock’s Hellfire spell. When that shows up, the target and everyone around him needs to move away before a large ball of fire explodes on top of it. This deals a fixed set of damage and spawns Living Inferno, which in turn is almost exactly like coldflame on the Lord Marrowgar encounter. On the vid, I actually witnessed the Meteor Strike even hit the MT, but either it did not seem to bother him much. Either the damage was trivial, or he popped a CD, or the healers were just awesome. We’ll have to see which one it is.

Second, and this is one that I am not certain what to call it, since the data mining at has actually come up with quite a few spells, is the Soul Consumption. What it seems to do is deal periodic shadow damage, until it either fades or is dispelled. As it ticks, it will stack a debuff called Mark of Consumption, which will explode and create a patch of flame on the floor, depending on how many stacks the target had. So I am guessing that dispelling it as soon as possible is important. Just need to make sure the target vacates to a more remote corner of the area before it is dispelled or you will probably wipe the raid when the patch of flame erupts in middle of your raid.

Those are the two abilities that you need to control and I have a feeling that this is not an encounter that relies on high dps, but rather the control of the various elements. From a tank’s point of view, I an offer very little because until you actually tank it (like I had hoped to do) it is difficult to garner information from the fight. It does seem there is a few points of very high damage, mainly from the boss’s breath weapon. Again, data mining has produced a couple of alternatives, the damage ranging between 26k and 50k, during rather short intervals.

Once you have the phase 1 under control, you will need to deal with phases 2 and 3. The second phase, which starts at 75% and Halion enters the Twilight Realm and the raid needs to follow in through two portals. This is where it gets interesting, because you will get an emote warning “The orbiting spheres pulse with dark energy!” When that happens, you see two orbs at the opposite ends of the boss, one front and one at the tail connect with a purple line. I have no details of its effects, but the raid obviously avoids cross it and the tank actually rotates the boss, with the raid constantly moving and staying on the one half of the area.

That goes on until 50% and phase 3 begins, at point which you need to split your raid in two. On the vid, the raid split between melee staying in the Twilight Realm and the ranged dps moving to the physical realm. For this, you need obviously a second tank, and on each side you need to continue to deal with the fight’s mechanics; meteors and fire on the physical world and the orbs in the Twilight Realm. During this, you can see a new UI element, on the top of your screen showing Halion’s corporeality which adjusts, depending which side does more damage and you may need to communicate to keep it in control because the more corporeal he is, the more damage he will take from the physical realm but also deal significant more damage on the physical world (functioning visa versa if there is more damage done in the physical world).

According to the extra damage on the tank can go as high as 200% which can probably begin to one shot the tank. If not on normal mode, it certainly will on heroic mode. So if you can deal with the corporeality, which shouldn’t be hard tbh, the fight is essentially yours and you can go home victorious.

As usual, (what would we do without those guys?) has come through for us and posted a complete loot table on their site. Some very nice pieces in there. Certainly worth taking a look. Naturally, there will be emblems of frost rewarded for the fight; 3 on 25-man and I assume, 1-2 on 10-man.

That’s all I have really. In the mean while, feel free to drop me a line, comment and add, or correct me, if something caught your eye. Like I said, a lot of this is speculation since I wasn’t actually there. Hope you enjoyed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Disciplined Damage

female_priest I recently rekindled my interest in my healer, including both raid and PvP environment. Concerning raids, it is really not a big problem. Specs and tactics are well laid out over the internet and never found it difficult to do the research it needed. In most cases, I am easily out healing most other healers with lesser gear. However, when it comes to PvP things get a lot more difficult; specs are highly adapted to play styles and even spell selections and priorities seem to shift greatly between players. Navigating this maze can be a bit daunting sometimes, so figured I’d upload some of the things that I’ve personally found.

There are really two ways to play a discipline priest on the arena, and PvP in general, and that’s defensively and offensively. If you only stick to battlegrounds, you might want to go defensive because you can count on your group doing the necessary damage but on arenas, at least when approaching the higher ratings, you need to shift more and more to the offensive and the common tactic is to hit the opposing team hard in the very beginning of the fight.

The way that discipline priests deal damage is essentially two folded; either via shadow spells, such as dots and Mind Blast, or through holy spells, such as Holy Fire and Smite. The camp is divided between these two schools and both have strong arguments towards them, so lets go through them.

Firstly, dealing damage through shadow spells means your primary burst spell is Mind Blast which is accompanied by Devouring Plague and Shadow Word: Pain. It is a good combination but I find it inefficient due to how slow it is. Mind Blast has an 8 second CD and the DoTs tick really slow. But then again, it has the benefit of not requiring a lot of work on your part. You can just drop out of LoS, hit the target with DoTs and a quick blast, before disappearing again, and after that you can completely focus on healing again.

If you forego this method, you can try doing holy damage, but this specifically requires that you spec for it, while you can still use shadow spells with a defensive spec. Then again, there is no resistance against holy damage and the combination of HF + Smite + Smite does a lot of damage, very quickly. The only weakness it has is the fact that if you get counterspelled while casting, it will effectively lockout your holy spells, including all your heals for 8 seconds. Needless to say that can be very dangerous.

For a spec, I suggest you take a look at the one below. It often tends to draw a lot of negative feedback from disbelieving priests who do not understand its potential, but I have seen quite a few priests swear by it and do very well. Again, it also comes down to your personal flavor.


The most important talents for this spec are Divine Fury and Searing Light, and do not forget the Glyph of Smite. They all add to the damage of your smite attack, which can be 6-7k on a successful crit, depending on your gear. An argument could be made that speccing so high on damage takes attention away from defensive abilities and indeed, they are valid. Tbh, I cannot see the whole spec working unless you are sitting on some pretty good gear, which makes it possible to rely on it to supply the necessary protection.

You could make a case for taking the three talent points from Rapture and putting them elsewhere, like Grace, Improved Renew, or Spell Warding. However, having Rapture doesn’t just increase your own mana efficiency, but helps your partner pump out more damage. If you insist on letting it go, I would recommend either of the two last choices. There seems to be too much target switching to effectively use Grace. Improved Renew helps both you and your partner, and again, if your gear allows it, it might be better to forego the extra mitigation from Spell Warding.

No matter which route you take, remember that, as a healer your damage will never be awesome. It is simply a little bit of extra to help your partner out. Also, the specifics of your spec, like whether or not use Rapture, etc. largely depends on your team mate(s) and your personal play style. Find what works best for you and go with it. Be open to suggestions, but let no one tell you what to do, because at the end of the day, discipline is a highly versatile class.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Inspiring Loyalty

It has been a while since I have written, I apologize for this. It has been rather hektic on both World of Warcraft and personal front. As a tide of big news, The Increment decided and followed up on changing realms, due to the lack of quality new recruits to strengthen our ranks, to allow us to press deeper into the ICC hard modes. We are now residing on Neptulon, much to my disappointment since it is a PvP server and all who knows me, I am not big on those. However, it has been a week now and live has continued fairly normally, though a time of mourning for many of us because we also consequently lost several old members of the guild of which, some, have been in the guild for a very long time.

The reason I picked this curious title for my next article was because during this change, decided to try my alt in a Neptulonian PvP guild, just to see how it is like and maybe get some quality PvP. It took me one whole day to find I did not like the guild and left – sent on my way by the GM’s grand statements about loyalty among members.

Loyalty, as in, honor and dedication to someone? Loyalty is inspired by respect, and respect in turn, must be earned. If it was taken for granted, you never really had it. So what is it within us that inspires respect and loyalty to a guild? Depends on the person, what each individual plays for but I’m pretty certain most people who actually play World of Warcraft value simple and common themes like dignity, honor, decency, humor, good manners and mature behavior. To judge a guild, you need to judge its character, which is made up from the personas who inhabit it.

This is where the danger lies; it is a common misconception for guild masters that people whom they invite, need to show and up hold standards, including loyalty and self-sacrificial ideals to be accepted as members of the community. However, in many minds, this only goes one way and often leads to conflicts when new members find they do not enjoy themselves. Most of the time, these can be settled amicably, in civilized manner but with millions of subscribers, you can count on finding few rotten apples in there. I personally experienced this not too long, when I specifically applied and even transferred realms to join a guild I perceived to be a good one. After a couple of months though, I quit, firmly but still politely informing them that it was not the kind of guild I was looking for and since, as long as I stayed on that server, met with a lot of hostility, even if I as much as passed them on the streets of Dalaran.

That is not the hallmark of a guild that inspires my loyalty and respect. A guild that expects us to sacrifice our evenings, join and give our full support, needs to return the favor. It is never a privilege to be a part of the community, as long as the relationship is only exploitive. For this reason, there are very few guilds, truly, who thrive whether they are big or small for running such a group is a challenge that requires a lot of talent from its leaders.

Any fool can put together a guild and invite anything from a dozen to several hundred players. It takes an exceptional individual to successfully make that guild thrive.

Some have been curious as to why, after only having been in this guild, The Increment, respectively for only such a short period of time, was I willing to spend the trouble and currency to change servers. The answer is simple: they have inspired my loyalty.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sindragosa Down

This has truly been a good week, progression wise. First we get the Lich King down on 10-man and now the path has been cleared in 25-man, all the way to the top of the Icecrown Citadel. The only thing between us and the completion of the whole normal modes content is the Lich King himself.


The battle is set and we will reign victorious!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Glance at Heroic Modes

So the Lich King is dead and understandably, come next lockdown and we were all eager to sink our teeth into the heroic modes of Icecrown Citadel. But even with a lot of research on the previous days, I do not think any of us were quite prepared for them. After all, we knew they would be harder, but would they really be that much harder? In a word, yes, the heroic modes are an incredibly refreshing experience after the easy normal modes and we were really taken back just by the Lord Marrowgar encounter. I am going to go through the first wing of bosses, just reviewing some of our experiences and the changes to the bosses.

Lord Marrowgar

In a twisted way, for me, this is actually the hardest of the first four encounters. In simplest terms, the damage that the raid takes has gone up and is by no means trivial anymore. Both the bonestorm and fires are big killers, and the fight is actually all about avoiding as much as possible of it. Just on a plate tank, we recorded over 10k ticks from the whirlwind and our resto shaman reported that he can at best take 2-3 ticks of it before quickly dying.

We eventually went with a 1 tank, 4 healers, and 5 dps setup. One tank should be quite capable of tanking Marrowgar alone, and in fact, it simplifies the tank’s job when he avoids the fires. When bonestorms were imminent (5 seconds or so) the raid would quickly spread, healers divided between the two sides. This is so that when Marrowgar charges someone, he will only hit max 1-2 people, who quickly move out of the way. If you have good ranged dps, they will absolutely shine on this fight, because they are able to break spikes even from middle of fire.

Lady Deathwhisper

After Lord Marrowgar, we were suddenly taken back at just how much simpler Deathwhisper is. Essentially, the big change is during the last phase. The only change to the first phase seems to be a bigger mana pool and she will CC a random person, like on 25-man normal mode. It might have been just me, but also seemed that there were also a lot more martyrs among the adds. In several cases, we had easily three risen martyrs to deal with and dps really need to watch for them.

The second phase, unlike normal mode is tanked by the stairs, at the entrance because Deathwhisper continues to periodically summon one add. She will also summon one vile spirit, which must be avoided at all cost because it explodes with an 20 yard AoE and hits really hard. It always goes for a specific person, so that person should kite it around for a few seconds.

For tanks, Deathwhisper is more of a challenge because she is immune to taunts. We sort of went heads first into it and had no defining tactics for it. Because our stacks grew so high, the person tanking the boss, would also have to tank the add and once the stacks fell off, the second tank had to get tricks in order to catch up quickly. We got her down, but I am thinking there must be an easier way to control the stacks and get a much more cleaner kill.

The Gunship Battle

Out of all the encounters, this one really is a joke. There is a little bit more damage from missiles and axes, but in general, you will hardly notice that it is on heroic mode. Like always we sent two hardcore melee dps over to the other ship, along with a tank and the mage, even with a bigger health pool, went down like a rock. The only hiccup we had was apparently an axe thrower, who for some strange, unforeseeable reason, enraged and started hitting really hard, causing our resto shaman to die total of three times, giving us a whole lot of hilarity once we finally docked.

Deathbringer Saurfang

We actually did not get many good tries on this boss because we were running out of time at this point, causing us to miss the kill but I am fairly confident we unlocked the necessary mechanic to get him down as soon as we get our next attempts. The trick with Saurfang is controlling the adds. There is a lot more damage during the encounter, but it is still doable with just two healers. Make sure you have one holy paladin and one raid healer; priest, druid, or shaman, all are good choices. The healers need to pay good attention to the marks of the fallen, for there will be more of them (thanks to Saurfang’s bigger health pool) and none of the targets are allowed to die, or the boss will heal 20%.

But with competent players, the real challenge of the fight lies with the beasts. When they spawn, they move wicked fast and basically one-shot any nontank. You need to device a strategy to keep them in control, which is why you need really good ranged dps to kill them out. Melee dps can help out, but only if they do not pull aggro on them and the beast is not rooted. A rooted beast hits anything within melee range, which is usually an eager melee dps.

Death knights are ideal for using chain of ice and I found the best tactic is to actually spam roots on one beast, while the second is slowed and zerged down by the combined ranged dps. Once the first one dies, they finish the second one off and the ideally, neither of the two beasts never get far from the boss to begin with.

All and all, we had a lot of fun doing these heroic modes and if you’re any like us, finding the normal modes boring, you should enjoy the heroics a lot more also. The changes aren’t truly severe, but there are more actual mechanics to overcome and the margin for poor performance has been almost completely removed. If you are focused, the encounters should not be overwhelming but wipe fest starts the minute you lose your concentration.

Good luck everyone.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fall of the Lich King

I was suppose to report our latest Sindragosa kill last night, but held off the news in the event that our Lich Kings would be successful before the next reset. To all of our great delight, the Lord of the Scourge finally fell, after many attempts and tactical refinements, and when he hit the much anticipated 10% the joy was tangible in our local vent channel.


To a great misfortune, our paladin tank had to endure bad connections throughout the night, which eventually cost him his lich king kill, with achievements and loot when he dropped offline right at the very last moments and did not resurface until we were all staring at the loot boxes. Hopefully the GMs can fix this for us, giving him the credit he deserves along with the rest of us.

Loot included nice pieces, such as Windrunner’s Heartseeker and Troggbane, Axe of the Frostborne King, both eagerly received. Now we can finally get to work on the heroic modes and I dare say, next week’s lockdown will be very exciting.

Thanks for all nine who were with us. Nice work.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blood Tanking in Cataclysm

deathwing My apologies for the long absence everyone. The inevitability of changing apartments was ahead and that always causes downtime on conserved time online. It could not have fallen on a worse spot though, with class reviews being published and I’m now playing catch up on reading on all the changes and trying to make sense of them. For death knights, my favorite class, the changes are significant and I have a feeling we still have not fully able to grasp just how much the class is changing. For the most part is all seems for the better, at least on paper, but until I get down to actually testing it I will hold all hope of improvement. Yes, might sound pessimistic but as the good saying goes “a good idea is worth 10$ but a good execution is worth 10 million $.”

So, lets continue on where we left off last time: blood tanking.

The tanking tree for death knights seems to have been locked down, which is the blood tree. Naturally, this has stirred up a lot of uproar from all sides. Some are upset that their favorite dps tree is going (since apparently they are incapable of respeccing) and others are upset that the unique quality of triage trees is leaving the class.

Personally, I’m pleased that we are finally getting a dedicated tanking tree. For one, all good and meaningful tanking talents are now piled into one tree and Blizzard can actually not perfect DK tanking, instead of trying to make it possible for every john to tank in whichever spec they want, despite the fact that the viable specs will be set around 1-2 trees anyway.

However, while I have nothing against blood tanking, I was perhaps voting for frost. Why? Because blood tanking is revolving too much around the idea of self-healing and it is a major problem with death knight tanking. A lot of people hold that, even in the current game, the fact that blood tanks self-heal, makes them the most survivable tank. However, if you think about it, the harder bosses hit, the less it matters. If a boss can kill a tank with 2-3 hits, the fact that you can heal yourself something like 5k somewhere in between doesn’t really mean squat. Instead, mitigation works directly in your favor and that’s exactly what frost tanking is based around.

Now, this might all change. They say in Cataclysm damage will be a lot like in ICC, with enemies that hit for less but we have less avoidance. I am not truly convinced of this though. Anyone who has tanked Festergut, Sindragosa, or the LK know that these guys hit like a pack of tonka trucks. So if Cataclysm is anything like ICC, we should be prepared for the diminished benefit of self-healing. However, like I said, I am holding out on making my mind because we are also getting Healing Absorption:

“When you heal yourself, you'll receive an additional effect that absorbs incoming damage.”

So, perhaps with extra mitigation, self-healing actually becomes more viable.

One ability that confuses me, is the new level 81, Outbreak:

“Outbreak infects the target with both Frost Fever and Blood Plague at no rune cost. This ability allows death knights to apply diseases quickly when they are switching targets or when their diseases have been dispelled.”

While on the surface this seems like a great idea, it leaves Plague Strike and Icy Touch in a difficult position. For further confusion, Blizzard has announced that they are not looking to make Outbreak a de facto replacement for these two abilities. So, now we need three abilities to apply/refresh diseases? In a world, with the new runic system that actually slows DK attacks down, this feels really strange.

Maybe if we separate Outbreak for dps players only, then it makes more sense, but still, something is really wrong with the picture. If you want to introduce the idea that applying diseases is a concern for just one ability, then it’s fine, but perhaps rather remove one disease from the class entirely then? The more I think about it, the more appealing this actually sounds. Consider it, already, if you want to do any meaningful AoE threat, you must spec frost and use a single disease rotation anyway. The only time you use two diseases is when tanking bosses and even then, Blood Plague feels like a third wheel.

I agree, taking one disease out from the class feels like stripping it of something unique, so far, this is what logic suggests. My guess is, if we end up with three abilities in Cataclysm, depending what abilities generate the most threat, we will go down one of two roads; we dump IT and PS, to simply just use Outbreak, or we dump Outbreak as a bad experiment and continue on with IT and PS.

One ability which the reviews have revealed, is Vengeance:

“This new mechanic is designed to ensure that tank damage output (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will grant a stacking Attack Power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's unbuffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have an Attack Power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Blood tree; these values will be smaller at lower levels.”

This, I think we all agree is universally good news. Tank threat has suffered its share of hardships, growing worse whenever we move towards the end of the expansion. If you are not familiar with this phenomenon, it is mainly due to the fact that tank damage, and there for threat, has no scaled as well as the damage of dps players. Since threat is still primarily damage x threat multipliers, it means tanks do about the same threat as we did in the beginning of the expansion, while the threat of the dps players goes up.

If you have not yet read up on it, mmo-champions have a nice review compilation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blood Tanking

female_dk After weeks of waiting, Ghostcrawler has finally dropped the bomb on death knight tanks and how we will fundamentally change in Cataclysm; we will all be converted into the Blood tree. Yes, you heard me right, we are finally getting a dedicated tanking tree, in the same spirit as paladins and warriors have the Protection tree. A lot of people did not believe such a thing could happen and even personally, I was skeptical, though I hoped, and seems Blizzard has prove us all wrong, for better or for worse. Ghostcrawler will be posting more news on the death knight changes, tomorrow on 8th of April which is when we will be getting more details but we can still collect our thoughts on this change.

After all, this is probably the biggest change to the class that we will see. The actual details of how the class will work are interesting, but just this knowledge, of one, the dedicated tree, changes everything for us and it is not difficult to begin seeing the consequences up ahead.

Was this a surprise? Not really. If you look at the history behind DK tanking in WotLK, there has always been one, the best tanking tree and it has usually always been Blood. Sure, all three trees are viable but Blood has always been the best, thanks to self-healing abilities that it provides and that really is the bottom line when tanking big and hard hitting encounters. It is difficult to describe just how valuable that is sometimes.

Originally, when the class was released, death knights were balanced as having larger health pools and the ability to regenerate it with their special abilities. Much like druid tanks, we needed it because we did not carry shields for extra mitigation. This is something I hope Blizzard can bring back to us, not how we were overpowered back then, but a level of equilibrium between the classes. Today DKs are squishy and it takes a lot of experience and skill to play the class because we rely heavily on our cooldowns to provide what other classes get for granted. Relying solely on death strikes to equal it out is a bad idea, at least in the current game because the fact that you can regenerate %5 (or ever 10%) of your hit points AFTER a boss takes away 80% of them with one hit, is not helpful. But perhaps this is an element that will balance out better in Cataclysm, where we are being told health loss is not quite such unforgiving. Death strike becomes only truly useful in a setting where attacks nibble your health down at a slower rate, where there is more chances to resist the loss and the road from 100 to zero takes longer.

Another big question becomes, how will they now balance the tanking elements from all three trees into one. In its current configuration, the Blood tree has a big drawback, which is AoE. Even a deep frost spec requires a special glyph to speed it up to the level that warriors and paladins run it. Compared to them, in standard AoE setting, we are crawling because we need to setup diseases before we can actually create viable threat. With a total revamp of the trees, this can of course be solved rather easily and my guess is we will perhaps get a glimpse of the mechanic that they are working on. However, regardless of how it is fixed, the point is, it needs to be fixed.

What about dual-wielding? Again, we will see tomorrow but I think we can safely assume DW is an element that will continue to stay in the frost tree. It could become a viable tanking spec, if the necessary talents are somewhere very low in the frost tree and Ghostcrawler did not provide any hints as to the state of this possibility. We shall see what information they decide to provide us tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


female_priest I found myself in a strange situation this morning, when, for some weird reason, some guild mates of mine began to speak condescendingly about discipline priests. The thought of the day was that we (I say “we” because discipline is a favorite, chosen spec for my priest healer) are not very viable for Icecrown Citadel because our heals are weaker compared to others. Is this truly the mentality among current gamers?

Perhaps this is just something born from ignorance and only a phenomenon in my current guild. I do hope, but in case it isn’t, I thought it would do well to iterate more closely on the benefits on having a discipline priest in your raid.

As a whole, discipline priests operate somewhere between tank and raid healers, as our abilities lend a helping hand to both of them. The first and obvious benefit is the proper use of PW:S. One discipline priest can easily sustain shields on a 10-man raiding team, starting with priority on tanks and then rest of the raid. It does not look sexy on recount but when it comes down to it, those shields mitigate a lot of damage. For two tanks, the priest can also sustain three stacks of Grace, each, which vastly improves the amount of heals the paladins can put on them. With bosses like Festergut, a single tank holding two of the Blood Princes, or 3rd phase of Professor Putricide, this can easily be a lifesaver. The stacks are easily applied with a single Penance per tank, and quickly reapplied with a single Flash Heal.

Speaking of which is the number one healing spell for our spec and is equally useful to helping out the paladin, when the tanks are taking big hits, or the raid healers when the whole takes chucks of damage. To this we can add Renew and Prayer of Mending that can be maintained to help out whenever possible and off cooldown. To add to all this, our spells also produce useful buffs like Renewed Hope and Divine Aegis.

Also what other healers lack, are useful cooldowns that can be applied to both the raid and thanks. First is Power Infusion, which is just as useful for yourself, or another healer, in case of an emergency or can be used for warlocks or mages when entering burn phases. Basically it acts like a 1-man Heroism. Last, but certainly not least, is Pain Suppression; an extra tank cooldown to save them when big hits keep landing and everything else fails.

When it comes to mana management, we rarily have issues. Like paladins, we have large mana pools and good measures in place to replenish it. In a 6 minute fight, I have squeeze off two Shadowfiends, if properly timed and in case I still risk running low, I can use Hymn of Hope.

So, what do you think? Does all of this sound completely useless? I think the lack of respect for discipline priests stems more from simply lack of understanding. We are, almost without exception, at the bottom of the statistics and a poor experience with a bad discipline healer can easily put you off. It is one of those specs that is more difficult to master – the same way that death knights and warriors are harder to play than paladins tanks.

I should maybe spend more time on my priest, considering this and just letting my guild mates see the benefits of my spec in action.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Warlock PvP Overview

warlock Aye, was about time I sat down to write something again. It has been somewhat crazy at this end for a couple of weeks now. Had to replace my Nvidia graphics card when the old one decided to step out, neatly right when I was about to take the factory in Isle of Conquest. This, in fact, gave me the idea for today’s entry; it has been a working process to gear my warlock for pvp and now that I am there, it’s a good idea to gather my thoughts so far.

Currently, Tië is a destruction warlock in full PvP gear, sitting with ~1k resilience, 2655 SP, and 24.7% Crit. Fairly nice numbers, considering that my gear is fairly basic. At the moment, no wrathful pieces, only a full furious set and relentless off-pieces. Still do not have any PvP weapons, but once I tackle arena, should reach 1800 rating for a Wrathful Gladiator’s Battle Staff.

I fine on battlegrounds, usually ending up running a few with some other guildies. As a class, warlocks are pretty awesome when it come to PvP. We have two working specs on that field, destro and affliction, both which are deadly when properly played. I chose destruction for the burst damage that it provides, essentially letting me blow stuff up with only three spells. The big downside for being a warlock is that everyone, especially warriors and death knights will look you up wherever you go. Warriors in particular are devastating if they can nail you in their bladestorm. The ability is getting a slight nerf, but nothing that would really affect us, so if you’re playing as well, remember to always make an escape route –> Demonic Circle: Teleport.

In some cases of course, we have the luxury of going completely unnoticed, which makes things really festive for us. Quite a few times, seems people have gone through trouble to ignore me, letting me basically just sit down and nuke the crap out of everything that exhales.

If you are building a warlock for PvP, make sure you understand the stat distribution between the specs. In general, they both need SP but destruction prefers high Crit and Affliction benefits more from Haste. As a destruction lock you will generally setup for bursts with Curse of Elements, plus Immolate and Conflagrate. From there, spam Chaos Bolt and Incinerate. One of the tricks is actually getting to the burst and for that, we have a nice array of CCs; Shadowfury, Howl of Terror, Fear, and Death Coil. Even with a druid healer, if properly executed, you can keep him in CC while you setup and finally blow him up with a burst. Alternatively, if running with a mate, you can just focus on CC’ing while your mate goes medieval on him.

The choice of minion varies between warlocks but generally they come down to two choices; the succubi or fel hunter. Some use the void because the sacrifice gives such great protection, but other than that, he’s pretty useless. Succubi has seduce and fel hunter can devour magic and silence. I find the hunter more useful, because your opponents will so often be spell casters and seduce gets broken easily by a clueless team member.

All and all, I enjoy playing warlock on PvP. Like the mage, we combine damage with a lot of control, making the part we play very crucial. Getting started is still the Achilles heel of the whole PvP side of the game. To be successful in battlegrounds, you need a lot of the corresponding gear and getting it is a slow process. Though once you get there, it is rewarding. Patch 3.3.3 is also going to provide us with a small relief to the endless honor grinding and there are even more useful updates down the pipeline. So if ever, seems now it is worth the effort to get into it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Icecrown Citadel Hotfixes

icecrown_art This is a bit of a misnomer, they are not really fixes, as in fixing bugs, but rather diminishing the difficulty of some boss fights. Anyone who reads or has already seen this. For me, I am still digesting and wondering what is going on. We already received a buff to the instance on all three fronts; more health, more damage, and more healing. Now, we are receiving nerfs that are about to completely trivialize the encounters, or at least some of them.

Lets examine the Lord Marrowgar encounter for instance; I was rather pleased when there were aspects to the fight that involved more on my part, than just standing in one spot and going round and around my tanking rotation. For one, I had to continuously dodge the cold flames. Second, I have to work together with my fellow tank, always sync our movements when dodging the flames. Thirdly, was my responsibility to taunt the boss after each bladestorm.

Except, now the bladestorm no longer resets aggro, which means I can just stand still during the storm and resume randomly smashing buttons when he returns to me. I understand that there are many fights in the instances that represent a significant challenge to players, but this is not one of them. I have seen tanks fail at aggroing the boss after a bladestorm and each time, I would wonder where they learned to play.

It is the easiest thing in the world, just dodge the coldflames and be within taunting range of the boss when the storm fades, and watch the DBM timer. Since taunts are effective for three seconds, you need only wait until there is less than three seconds on the timer and hit taunt. I promise, if you are not a horrible tank, you will have no problems resuming and building aggro on the boss, thanks to that taunt and neither a healer or any dps are in danger of being killed.

Another nerf to make tanking almost trivial is on Rotface, where as part of the excitement was that Mutated Infections arrive faster and faster as the fight progresses, making finishing the fight a fun challenge. Now, that speed no longer exists, at least not to an extent and running around the room with a goo behind you, seems no longer very exciting.

There are not a whole many tanking challenges in this instance, if you really begin counting them. Mostly it is about switching aggroes via taunt at certain stacks, which is conveniently eased by the use of DBM. Encounters like Rotface make tanking a joy, when you really have to do something and focus on execution. I was delighted the first time I did Rotface, as the mechanic was something new and fun for me.

At least I can hope Blizzard can refrain from nerfing Icecrown Citadel any further. Just ignore the moans about difficult it is. People who complain about it, obviously do not know how to appreciate it properly. They just want to run in, faceroll a bunch of stuff and come out bragging they killed the Lich King.

For full source of the changes, read the blue.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stats in Cataclysm

blackwing_front Without a doubt, most of you have already seen and read about the updated information about, how stats are going to work in Cataclysm. Of course, we should keep in mind that we have yet to see but a small portion, or a much bigger picture. Because of that, I would suggest caution from assuming too much. An overhaul of stats like this, in the entire game, is going to have an enormous impact on every aspect of the game. Even leveling up will be affected, as Blizzard has already released that they will be altering most, if not all items in the game; from random drops, to dungeon loot, and quest rewards.

All and all, I am still excited though. It cannot hardly be any worse than it already is, when you are leveling a character. If anything, new stats will only make it more interesting, when going to dungeons and completing quests will again have an impact on your character, beyond just awarding experience. Most of the time, these days I just buy greens from the AH whenever I level up. Efficient but incredibly boring and unrewarding.

Concerning end game play, we are finally getting rid of the biggest baggage that seriously character have; gearing up tanks. I remember when I was subjected to the harsh reality of trying to reach my def cap on Durithim, desperately scratching together enchantments and whatever small pieces of gear I could find, to reach the magical 540 number.

In cataclysm, we no longer have this issue, and we will not have to burden our talents points with it either.

“Defense is being removed from the game entirely. Tanking classes should expect to become uncrittable versus creatures just by shifting into Defensive Stance, Frost Presence, Bear Form, or by using Righteous Fury.”

Makes perfect sense, and is in its way, a genius solution. We already associate certain stances with tanking, which you must have on, continuously or you will fail before you even manage to really start.

So what can we expect for tanking stats on plate in Cataclysm? Funny enough, the exact same stats that we have come expect; Str, Sta, hit rating, expertise, and avoidance stats. With the one big difference, defense is gone. Makes you wonder how things are going to actually change? I am certain it will, but as always, trade speculations are over blowing it with unjustified foresight. The main big one is the fear that the game is turning to become easier. I very much doubt it. It will become clearer and simpler to manage, but I highly doubt all challenge will be stripped from it because of a few stats.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

PvP Standards

mortal_combat Alrighty, a fresh cup of coffee and some thoughts to conclude and record. I chose the title because, to me, it seems the stardards in PvP have dropped and in fact been low for a long time now. Blizzard themselves have emitted that their design in WotLK to boost the game play in PvE, where as the roles were reversed in TBC; PvP was dominant, with easy loot to gain, and PvE suffered.

So what do I mean by, low standards. Anyone who runs PvP has had issued with this, increasingly so. Now, I am not talking about arena here. Arena does not really suffer from this because there is very little RNG factor in it; you get to choose those you play with, make sure they know what they are doing, have decent gear, etc. But battlegrounds are another story entirely.

I was thrilled when I read the news about the next minor patch, where Blizzard released that they will be adding a random battleground finder. Think of all the applications it could have? It could match you even teams; no more 6v10 WSG or 10v15 AB. It could also make sure there were healers on both teams and that everyone had at least minimal PvP gear. Could even go as far as create brackets in gear, matching those who just run PvP for fun without the gear, those who have started to gear up but are not quite there yet, etc.

But as it seems, Blizzard has dismissed all of these. So far my PTR testing has yielded no such benefits and the teams tend to still run rampart. Truly, the only benefit so  far seems to be extra honor and the fact that we can now queue for all the battlegrounds at the same time. Actually, the one thing that the random finder is going to do is hinder premades, because you can only queue five players for a random match at the time.

It is fine to queue in for a battleground here and there, with or without gear, and just have fun but the painful lesson of that is that you will just be excess baggage. Any properly geared PvPer will walk right over you and rest of your team will essentially be outnumbered. The equation only gets more complicated by the fact that many people are not even motivated to get PvP gear because it is so ridiculously difficult.

You can get the tier equivalent set from emblem vendors yes, but the costs are usually double what they are for the same level PvE set and that set will not actually take you very far. It only makes up for about 1/3 of the gear you need, which needs to be farmed by doing battlegrounds. From these pieces, an average item costs about 30k honor and atm, a successful match will give you between 1k-1.5k honor, which equals to 30-20 matches per piece, and only assuming you win every single match, which you won’t.

I am pleased that Blizzard is taking an effort to raise the honor rewards gained from battlegrounds, but the biggest problem still remains, which is that it takes way longer and is way more painful to even put your gear together for PvP, while you can start on heroics in instant green/blue gear. And once you actually have your gear, it is often an unpleasant experience, resembling more a wipe fest for the opposing team than anything else, because in the end, it is not about how good or geared one person is, but how good or geared the entire team is, plus the team setup issues (like having zero healers).

So do I think this can be revived? Absolutely, and Blizzard is continually taking action to up PvP, at this very moment. However, it is happening in Blizzard’s annoyingly slow pace. While I appreciate the random finder, easier honor farming, the coming rated battlegrounds in Cataclysm, and so forth, I would like to see them address the issue of team balance because that is where most of the matches are currently being lost. Yes, PvP is essentially incalculable, but we can still do certain things to at least give the teams some proper setups. Firstly, include role checks, include team number balancing (to make sure teams are at least close to even), and gear checks.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Battlegrounds Refreshed

There are only two primary aspects to the coming 3.3.3 patch; class upgrades and battleground changes. Specifically, the patch notes are promising a very exciting change to how honor is rewarded. The first one, my favorite, is the fact that you will be earning a lot more honor in battlegrounds, from here on out, or at least, moderately more than you did before. If you are on the winning side, you have a chance to earn oodles of it and even if you lose, you can earn as much, by average, the winner currently earns, as you can see from the screenshot below.

Eye of the Storm Statistics

This is really awesome and I do not use the word lightly. Currently, it is a complete pain to gear up a character for PvP. It is almost as if, while concentrating to give us new emblems, tiers and raids, Blizzard slightly forgot about this aspect of the game. It is easy enough to farm heroics and get a very good PvP armor set, but sadly that is not even half the picture. You are still missing chucks of gear and from there on, you are stuck gaining honor to buy pieces that can cost between 30k-60k honor.

Doing the math, on the winning team you will currently earn around 1k-1.5k honor, and that is only if your team does well. However, if your team loses, you are probably on around 500-700. To make things further frustrating, your success depends heavily on the rest of your team. Even if you are a glorified PvP guru, if your team does poorly, so do you.

To also help along with the process of doing battlegrounds, Blizzard is giving us the random battleground finder, which works almost identically to the random dungeon finder. Doing random battlegrounds just earns you extra honor, instead of emblems. Speaking of which, Blizzard has also promised to remove battleground marks of honor from game. Although, this has not yet been implemented on the PTR servers. At least as of yesterday, I was still given my marks of honor and the PvP vendors do not seem to have had their inventories changed yet.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

3.3.3 for Death Knights

Seems perhaps the dawn is finally rising for us death knight tanks, for Blizzard is blessing us with some more buffs on this patch. Concerning our class, the changes, which seem rather significant, are almost entirely tank related – a much welcome change for we have been under the wind for a long time.

The first and biggest joy for me personally, is the change to Icy Touch: This ability now causes a very high amount of threat while the death knight is in Frost Presence.

Why, you ask, am I so glad about this? Because as a DK tank, it is mandatory to spend the first 3 seconds of the fight assigning diseases on your target. This slows your initial aggro considerably because in 3 seconds, your dps can fire out minimum two spells. With this change, the first spell we land, already starts the process. Also makes grabbing stray mobs up a bit easier, if your taunt and death grip are on cooldown.

Some other highlights…

Will of the Necropolis: There is no longer a cooldown on the frequency at which this talent can be activated. In addition, this ability can now also be triggered by damage which deals less than 5% of your health.

Improved Icy Talons: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc. The self haste buff remains unchanged.

Nerves of Cold Steel: Now increases off-hand damage by 8/16/25%, up from 5/10/15%.

Unbreakable Armor: The amount of strength granted is now 20%, up from 10%.

It is hard to not get excited about these changes. It also really pleases me that Frost spec is getting some attention, because it is still my favorite spec, and dual-wielding is becoming more and more incentive with upped threat and a better cooldown.

Ofc, these changes are not permanent and might change or get updated at anytime. Suggest everyone keeps an eye on the patch notes. The PTR is naturally up so you can go test it out yourself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It is common knowledge that death knights are more squishy by nature than our warrior and paladin counterparts. The trick is, how to counter-balance it; which we can do to a length, through game mechanics but it is always going to hurt us and I figured it would serve well to right down something on the subject, to all those of us who, at times, struggle to live up to our peers.

Some of us remember the happy days, before the huge load of death knight nerfs that literally killed our health. I am not saying many of those nerfs were not warranted, but I said it then, and stand by my argument that there were too many cutbacks. From the start of the Wrath, death knights lacked shields, therefore the developers gave us higher health to balance it.

Now, we are on par with warriors and paladins, overpowered as they are, can even go beyond us when properly specced. So what can we do about it?

At this point I will ensure that you have a proper specc and at least moderate gear, concerning the level of content you are playing, and skip those parts. If you think you lack in these areas, have a look at Ensidia’s death knight tanking guide for 3.3. I had a look and it is really good and thorough.

I would bring attention to one piece of gear though, which is your sigil. It is very important that you use the right one. Right now, my personal choice is the sigil of insolence. I went by a dps sigil during ToC, for threat purposes, but now in ICC, insolence is the best.

Another piece that should belong in your inventory are potions; specifically Indestructible Potions. On my server they are very cheap and you should carry a truckload of them. In ICC in particular, even on trash because everything in that place hits rather hard. Pop one right before you enter combat to start the cooldown, and if the fight (doubtful with trash) lasts longer than that, pop another after it expires. Same goes for bosses and generally you will need to use two for every boss kill.

Next are your cooldowns, particularly as Frost or Unholy, you have the choice of Unbreakable Armor and Bone Shield, both which also help your initial aggro. I have personally noticed that before the first hit lands on the tank, healers can primarily only wait. So by reducing the damage that the first big hits deal, you are prolonging your life-expectancy.

Next comes Antimagic Shell, one of the cooldowns you are using near constantly in ICC and it never hurts to use it elsewhere either. The good thing is that when to use it, is also easily predictable because it usually involves casting, effects landing from the sky, or breath weapons. Magic damage is simply everywhere, and not only does it heavily mitigate the damage, it provides you with oodles of runic power.

Last I’ll bring attention to avoidance. While it is true that effective health outranks avoidance, little bit of extra cannot hurt, from wherever you can get it. I am still using the Heart of Iron trinket, thanks to the avoidance boost. You can also gem for dodge/stamina in gear, if the socket bonus supports it. A general rule is that if the socket bonus provides +9 stamina, you can go for it. Anything less is a waste.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Reliving the 60s

The love is in the air festival has crossed over its peek and is now slowly declining, as fewer and fewer people keep hunting achievements. As a personal observation, this time around, the world event was much easier, even compared to the few previous ones this year, like brewfest. Compared to the same festival last year, there is almost no relation.


Last year’s love fool festival was about random chance and mindless grind to roll together all the achievements – one of the big reasons I did not attend it much. It is one thing to make a task challenging, but when it takes dumb luck instead of skill, just puts me off immediately.

What was your experience from this year? I found it relaxing and something that was pleasant to go along with, on the side while still attending all other daily activities. Although, I would perhaps ask Blizzard to re-visualize their concept of what is a “lovely dress.” I bought the box of clothing for both male and female chars and when I dared to preview them on my banker, almost had my eyes jump out of their sockets and run away screaming.

So what is next? Naturally the Lunar Festival, starting tomorrow, 13th of February. Unlike the many festivals that have come before, this will be mainly a grind run; to acquire all the ancestor coins, sprinkled literally every corner of the known world. But at least it will give an excuse to get the Explorer title, to those who have not yet done so.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Toravon the Icewatcher

Battle for Wintergrasp sure did not lack excitement this evening, when literally half the realm descended onto the snowy plains and attacked the horde fortification. Lag was so bad that no one could possibly even think of any proper strategies or tactics. Got our 2 2nd lieutenant ranks before we had even finished taking all the quests.

The lieu of sieges machines that left the first workshop was just staggering and breaking the walls was just simply about driving up the hill and bashing on the fortress. Targeting, much less actually killing anything was a gamble of cards due to the sick lag, with the game mostly just yelling that your target was not in LOS or range, although to your eyes, seemed like the blood elf paladin-kind-of-thing was still standing calmly in front of you.

Getting a VoA group afterwards took exactly two microseconds and the general consensus was to immediately go for Toravon, the new boss of the instance. The mechanics themselves are extremely simple, but at least during my 25-man group, seemed like the dps could not focus on the simple matter of killing the adds quick enough.

As a tank, your job is extremely simple; stand on top of the other tank and you switch between three stacks of Frostbite debuff. This is essentially just a debuff from the boss’s Frozen Mallet strike that deals periodic frost damage. The latest DBM has already been updated for the fight and each time a stack is applied to a tank, the addon notifies you of it. Occasionally, since the debuff is a Chance-on-hit ability for the boss, the stacks appear irregularly; they may come quickly or slow, but just make sure that your old stacks have faded, before you taunt or you will most certainly die. If you notice that you are building stacks and your partner cannot taunt yet, blow a useful cooldown.

The boss also has a soft enrage timer, in the form of another stacking debuff, Whiteout that is cast over the entire raid every 45 seconds. Each stack increases all frost damage taken by 25%. Eventually, becomes impossible to heal through.

The real tick of the encounter is dealing with the Frozen Orbs that the boss summons every 30 seconds. There are always three at a time and each deals periodic frost damage to everyone within 8 yard radius. It is imperative that all DPS switch to quickly kill the orbs, though might be enough if you just have all your ranged switch. Again, latest DBM has a timer that shows when the orbs are about to spawn.

The only other mechanic is Freezing Ground that freezes and roots the target and those close to him on the floor. This needs to be dispelled away and a sharp disc priest is very good for this job.

The fight is really about controlling the orbs and the debuff on the tanks. If your group can master both tasks, you will likely not have a problem with the encounter.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Falric and Marwyn

icecrown_art The Halls of Reflection is are probably considered, by the World of Warcraft community as a whole, the most difficult and annoying heroic instance in the game. Frozen Throne has two other instances, but neither is really as frustrating as this one. The reason is because Halls of Reflection really stretches both the tank’s and healer’s skill, under a lot of pressure. Much like the original Oculus, back in the day, it is very hard to get through.

I have recently gone back and farmed myself some black icicle weapons for my dual-wield spec and watching some of my friends try get through it last night, decided I would put together this small overview and tips how I usually tank it.

Specifically, the first two bosses, Falric and Marwyn, in on themselves, are easy. The problem is the eight waves of mobs that spawn in between the boss fights; four waves before Falric and another four before Marwyn, each wave getting consecutively harder to get through.

In essence, the tactic is simple; there are two smaller chambers to the left and right from the entrance. It is, by far, easiest to control the mobs by bottling them at the small and narrow entrance. For us, as DKs, this is easy by laying a Death and Decay just few seconds before the next wave becomes active. Rest of the group should hide behind the small corners in the room, to prevent the mobs from targeting them first. Of course, they inevitably will but that is what the DnD is for. It will take the small initial aggro for you, while you group all the mobs and hit them with some real AoE.

I always tank this in my frost spec, because you really need to take everything out of your AoE in this encounter, and frost has the best AoE abilities from the three DK tanking specs. Each of the mobs have their special abilities, but only few are worth the mention.

Healers and casters, should, once the fight starts, back to the far wall of the chamber, to avoid silences and stuns (which can easily be a leading cause of tank death). There are two ranged type mobs, the dwarf rifleman and the human mage. As a tank, after laying down my DnD, I always back up a few steps, once the ranged type is within death grip range of the doorway, pull them in and rest goes smoothly.

Issues rise when eager dps starts on the mobs before I have a chance to pull the ranged in, because before that, there is no point wasting aoe spells on them. Another annoyance is when you have two ranged types, both the mage and rifleman. Usually then one gets left outside the chamber and a top dps dealer should run out and waste it as quick as possible. There just is no way to build aggro on it while you are dealing with rest of the group.

As for the rest, you want to focus the night elf priest first, if he is present. He can heal himself and his buddies. Next, I always go for the mercenary rogue, because he shadow steps and shanks people almost randomly. His poison ticks hit very hard, even on the tank, so kill him quickly. After that, it’s all the same and by that time, with only 2-3 mobs left, you healer should be getting some slack.

The bosses themselves are fairly simple. Falric is a healer test because he does a lot of aoe damage and can chain fear you. Much of the damage actually get received while everyone is feared, so as a healer, you need to top everyone up between fears. Usually the healer performance drops towards the end, so any extra dps is welcome to bring Falric down fast.

Marwyn is barely a breather compared to everything before him. He creates evil purple circles on the floor, usually under random players but other than that, he is a puppy. His Obliterate ability hits pretty hard and he can make his targets take more shadow damage and lower their maximum health but to be honest, I never had an issue healing through him, even with substandard equipment.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Loot System: DKP

Got around to check the latest weekly mormot from Lore this morning and figured I would bring this up myself. Unlike him though, this is not an overview of various system, rather I felt would be beneficial to explain how DKP works in Pro Finlandia; the guild that my main character is a part of.

So far, it is a rather unique from what I have seen and it works great. Like one of the variations that Lore mentioned, in this DKP system everything has a set price; tier pieces cost 65 dkp, 2H-weapons 65 dkp, epic mounts 100 dkp, etc. Everything is properly prized.

In turn, dkp is gained with small tidbits; 1 dkp on time bonus, hour bonus 1 dkp, etc. It might not sound like a lot, but the gist of the system is that you can bid on an item, even if you have no dkp. Let me explain – if you have 30 dkp and you bid on a tier piece. That will make your total dkp –35 = 30 – 65. So, you can actually have less than zero dkp. This means that you can always bid, but ofc, the lower your dkp goes, the less likely you will win the bid.

At first glance it seems ridiculous, but actually works beautifully. After all, in the end, it does not matter if you have below zero dkp. The system stays in balance because as usual, the more you spend, the lower you go. It prevents spite bidding and usually prevents anyone from gaining so many dkp that they can bid whatever they want.

This last feature is ensured at the beginning of each new tier patch, when all dkp is nulled and we all start over, so that in between tier patches, no one can gather up ridiculous amounts of dkp. It is fast also very fast because there is no bidding circus; anyone who wants an item just types “bid” and the loot master checks who has the most dkp.

Of course, all guilds have different needs, but this works for us and in my opinion, is really great.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Run! Forest! Run!

I had my first come back to my death knight character last night, after a long break doing other things, and there is no place like Icecrown Citadel to have you wake up call. My first Rotface (tankspot vid) encounter was a fun experience, particularly since our MT was a warrior, thus falling on me to kite the oozes.

Usually when you’re the less experienced in the bunch, you tend to be given the safe assignments, but mine was pleasantly enjoyable.

For those of you who do not know the encounter, essentially the idea is that while the MT tanks the boss in the middle of the room, the OT stays on the room’s edges. The reason for this is that periodically the boss will drop Mutated Infection on a random person. When it is removed, it drops a small ooze, which cannot be tanked or taunted.

The idea is to get two removed at the same spot, so that in close proximity, they unite into one big ooze. This ooze is tauntable, which is the OT’s job. It will one shot you dead if it catches you, so you need to move and keep kiting it around the room. More small oozes will drop and they must be dragged in front of the big ooze, so it will swallow them and eventually, after five small ones, explode.

It required a few takes, but eventually, we got it and was just, simply a whole lot of fun.


The challenge is basically just the fact that a) quarter of the room is constantly flooded with slime that slows you down and b) towards the end of the fight, smaller oozes will show up at an accelerated rate. We had an extra big ooze on the floor total of three times. It can be bad, since the OT needs to then out run them both, but if you can get them to collide, one of them will instantly explode, since they still act like smaller oozes.

Welcome back to Azeroth Durithim :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rawr for Warlocks

rawr_logo I originally, truly began to use this program when I leveled my warlock. However, it has since then dropped very low on my list of priorities. If you are not aware of, this is a program that lets you optimize your characters, by changing gear, talents, etc. to produce something that is more highly tuned, without constantly respeccing and time consuming experimenting in-game.

However, as nice as this sounds, the program has been having a lot of let-downs lately. When I first brought my results up on some forums, I was informed that Rawr is actually broken, at least for warlocks and you should not trust the dps optimizer as far as our class is concerned.

Ohh well, I can still use it to swap gear, change specs, and experiment with various buffs on. But recently, even this has started to get wrinkled. The problem is, Rawr does not recognize nearly all of the useful trinkets and items that I want to equip. Just take the first set of T10 gear. None of it appears in Rawr’s item list. It is also such things as Circle of Ossus and Purified Lunar Dust.

This starts to put a bent in the program that is really has to ignore and I find myself back to using spreadsheets and excel tables to keep track of the gear I want to get. I suppose the good news is that Rawr’s bug tracker has been made aware of these, but remains to be seen, just how soon it will be fixed.

In the mean time, I recommend caution to anyone using the program, it might not always be telling you the truth, so don’t forget to double check your results the old fashion way.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Running Affliction

warlock Without a doubt, this has to be my favorite warlock spec. I used it both for leveling my warlock and gearing as I ran heroics. Naturally, since I love it so much, I cannot bare to part from it as the raids have started. Do not ask or tell me whether it is the best spec – it is not the worst and the rest depends so much on what encounter(s) you are running. The debate between affliction and destruction is ongoing and so far, I have not seen a conclusion to it. Especially since it has to be restarted every time there is a patch.

But since the spec has worked so well for me, I figured I would share it with the community.

Leveling Affliction

Leveling affliction is fairly straight forward. You need not worry much about gear, but the benefits of the warlock class are slow to manifest. This is why most people do not spec for affliction at low levels and truth be told, you will depend on your demon a lot during the first stretches of your career. The voidwalker is your most priced asset until level 30, when you can finally re-spec and get on with affliction. At around level 40 you should change to felhunter and you will notice why; your minion simply cannot hold on to threat anymore and the demon dog does a lot more damage than the dark bubbleman.

As you level, make sure you understand only one concept about gear; spell power is priceless. It is the only thing you should concern yourself with, all the way up to level 80. Your goal is to get 100 spell power by level 32. This doubles every 15 levels or so. That means, you should aim for 200 spell power by 45, 400 by 60, and 800 at 75.

This might sound a lot but is actually extremely easy to accomplish with nothing else except quest items. The only time I ventured into dungeons, was at level 60, to Hellfire Citadel. The trick is to always try do group and dungeon quests, if you find you are lacking spell power. The blue items are invaluable and once you reach those limits, you will steamroll the quests.

Other than that, playing Affliction is very simple. Let your dots and pet do the work for you, replenishing your mana and health as needed with dark pact, life tap, drain life / soul. You will find that you can easily run from mob to mob, having anything between 2-5 on you at any given time. You should carry food and water with you, but you have almost never a need to use them. Let me put it this way; each time a new type of water came available, I would buy a stack of 20 of it and usually have over 10 left before I reach a new type again. Instead, mana and health potions can be extremely valuable, in cases on emergency when you accidentally pull too much.

End Gaming

I would actually divide this into two more categories, heroics and raiding. You are at your weekest, in heroics because gear has advanced to a point where your group will simply plow throw both mobs and the bosses. Why is this a bad thing? Because affliction needs a more lengthy fight to bring its dps to up. Dropping Loken in 51 seconds does not give your dots a lot of time to do their job.

Make sure you always have your spellstone, fel armor, and life tap on. If the fight has a lot of aoe damage going on, refresh your life tap with dark pact instead but keep these buffs up, or your dps will be second grade, no matter what you do.

On weaker mobs (meaning anything outside the Frozen Throne) I end up spamming seed of corruption and shadow bolt. If the group is 4+, I hit a couple of them with the seed and finish with rain of fire.

For boss encounters, affliction is maybe the easiest spec. As always, do not think about rotation, think about priorities, which is to keep your dots up and fill in with shadow bolt when you have nothing else to do.

Start with Haunt, before moving to CoE and Corruption. After that, cast UA and then a quick Shadow Bolt. From there on, your main concerns are to refresh you haunt and UA, whenever they are about to expire. The main skill is to not clip your dots and only refresh them at the very last moment when they are about to end. This requires you to constantly monitor the dots and the best tool for that is an addon. I personally like ForteXorcist, which is a good tool regardless, regarding your warlock.

Other tricks are how to move and switch targets, like in the Emalon fight, without losing your dots on the boss, or stop to aoe adds on XT-002, again without losing dps on the boss. However regardless, it is always about maintaining your dots. Shadow bolts make up a lot of your dps in between, but if you dots fall off, even for a few moments, it usually shows in in the statistics later on. So some practice is required.

So far, the best spec I have found is the 56/0/15.

For more leveling details, suggest you have a look at this leveling guide. It will outline most of what I said and quite a bit more as well.