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.