Thursday, September 25, 2008

WotLK Warlock changes lackluster

With my main being a warlock I've been keeping a finger on the pulse of the warlock community, the changes to come to wotlk and I've even been keeping an eye on the warlock beta forums even though I usually avoid wow forums like the plague.

And while some of the changes to the warlock seem interesting for PVE affliction overall the changes are extremely underwhelming. Whilst most classes get significant new talents that will change the course of the game for them (for better or for worse) the new warlock talents are 'more of the same' at best and 'bloody boring' at worst.

The overall opinion of fellow warlocks on the warlock boards is one of general dismay. The feeling of not getting any talents worth their salt and very few changes to the overall gameplay leaves most of them wondering if they shouldn't just re-roll to a deathknight which seems to be the new warlock archetype.

The primary problems in PVP of a warlock have not been adressed in that they will remain easy HK's for melee and while Metamorphosis looks interesting on paper at a 5 minute cooldown and a 45s duration warlocks will literally have nothing 90% of the time to peel melee off themselves.
With the overall power curve increasing and more classes being equipped with anti-fear/anti dot capacity the warlock will once again find themselves pidgeonholed into one or two cookie cutter specs for PVP and will find themselves at a great disadvantage to classes that were previously easy targets.

To top things off the beta forums of the warlock community seem completely devoid of developers. Whilst some forums are literally brimming with developer posts the warlocks have been left in the dust leaving even the most well-phrased intelligent posts untouched.

For some obscure reason the demonology tree is now filled with crit increasing abilities that have absolutely 0 effect in pvp and do not change the average warlock DPS in the slightest and the complaints for both demonology and destruction are myriad (even when you just ignore the QQ ones).

All in all the only real improvements are in the affliction tree, an area that was never seen as a problem by the warlock community as a whole. We will retain our ability to solo pve and be decent in pve in general as affliction but woe to the warlock who would like to see the inside of the arena or a bg as anything more than an easy kill.

With the news being at chaos bolt, haunt and metamorphosis I am afraid the novelty for playing a warlock in Northrend will wear off fairly quick.

It's sad to see such a grand class lose so much of it's uniqueness without gaining anything significant in return.

I'd like to think that this is not QQ although it does sound like it a lot. It is most definitely the current state of affairs as gouged by the warlock communities all over the web...

Since I am affliction and am solo PVE oriented the changes for me are looking good and I will remain faithful to the class towards the bitter end but I will think twice before I enter my lock into an arena come wrath unless I feel like being sat on or feel like humping terrain obstructions.

I am not one to accuse a class of being overpowered of underpowerd, because I really don't care that much. I want a class to be fun, exciting and unique and it seems that the warlock is losing a lot of it's uniqueness come wrath and will not be nearly as exciting as many of the other classes I play.

Maybe the death knight is the new warlock, maybe the warlock will turn out better than the math and the current talents suggest, but to me it's not about power, I really don't feel like I should be able to 'pwn' everything I come across. But an expansion is supposed to be new and exciting and the warlock changes do not reflect this in the slightest. It'll be the same old warlock in a brave new world.

(On the plus side if all the warlocks re-roll I'll be the only warlock at 80 come wrath which is an interesting prospect hehe)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back to Noob

After all this deliberation on various blogs about wotlk talents, spells, skills, instances and whatnot there's one thing that stands out in my mind.

Even though the math is going to be pretty much done on everything the second the expansion hits it will once again revert everyone to the status of noob.

You won't know if shockadin is a useful spec, you won't know what stats to expect or to use and you won't be able to oversee all the changes made to your particular class without playing with it extensively.

Essentially it's 'back to noob' for everyone... and this tickles me to bits. Everyone will be on my level again, the playing field will be equalized and past wisdoms from Kara to sunwell raiding will mean absolutely nothing.

The wise will be quiet and contemplating their new existence. The foolish will cling to their old system of beliefs as if it were still the absolute truth.

I am looking forward to see the impact of everyone being reverted back to noob status. No amount of theorycrafting will prepare you for what's to come, you might be the one to find the spec / tactic to rule them all for a brief time.

The veteran will be a noob once more and all past experiences will be relegated into the realm of achievments.

As a true noob... nothing tickles me more.

HowTo: Ram Racing

Ram racing is a fun little event that you can do every day during the brewfest. The first thing to know is that if you already did your ram race training (maintain 8 seconds of each of the different speeds) is that the quest giver does not have a nice purdy exclamation mark over his head for the daily quest.

You can still start the ram race every day by talking to the ram racing instructor (next to the tent outside of Ogr).

You cannot however abandon the 'quest' and restart it. Once you start racing and you mess up somehow (a random disconnect or whatnot) you're stuck waiting till the next day to try again.

The ram race itself is fairly straight forward, you do not race against other people but you race against time. When you start the event you get 4 minutes of race time and you have to run down the road, pick up a beer keg (the npc will throw it at you) and race back to your starting point.

For every turn-in you get 2 brewfest tokens and some extra time on your clock.

Before you start the ram race make sure you have the reigns hotkeyed and you noted the location of barrels full of apples (are they apples? They're red looking anyway). There should be 3 barrels on the road to the NPC that tosses you the keg.

In the Ogr ram race the first barrel is behind the tent you start in (in the little fenced in area) the second is about halfway the track and the last is behind the NPC tossing the kegs.

Now nab the quest and head straight for the 2nd barrel (not the one behind the tent but the one further down the road). Mash your reigns hotkey to get you up to full speed and keep mashing it once in a while to maintain full speed.

If you hit all the barrels on the way you will never have to slow down but be warned: You have to actually trigger the barrel effect (sometimes it doesn't when you are too far away or there's too many people around the same barrel).

What the barrel does is simply keeping your ram from getting tired. You get a little exhausion indicator in your buff bar, when it hits 100 your ram is exhausted and will slow down significantly. Don't let it get to a 100, make sure you hit a barrel before it does or you will lose valuable time.

After the 2nd barrel race towards the NPC that tosses you a keg. You only have to get semi-close to him for him to toss a keg at you and you don't have to do anything special so adjust your trajectory slightly to hit the last barrel on the track and turn around.

Head back via the 2nd barrel toward the tent. I usually do a semi-circle around the tent so I can hit the barrel behind the tent, when you do that you usually complete your delivery and get your 2 brewfest tokens.

Don't stop racing until your ram unsummons and remember you get a little more time each time you turn in a keg.

The quest does not give XP and only rewards brewfest tokens which can be turned in at the token redeemer in the brewfest camp (incidentally the wolpertinger pet can be bought for a mere 45s from that vendor without using any brewfest tokens).

For some added fun start the quest at the same time with a few friends and see who has the most tokens at the end of the race... I recommend betting hefty sums of gold on the outcome to really get that adrenaline rush going.

Either way, enjoy the beer and don't race rams while you're drunk.

Oh and if you want to make your life really easy you could probably make it a guild thing, post a lock on each side of the course and just have yourself summoned back and forth... but that's just the lock inside me kicking up dust.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What does Drama look like from a distance?

Sometimes you can see drama coming from a distance, that nagging foreboding feeling that whatever is going to happen next is not going to be good.

I was quite merrily levelling away on my hunter in Un'Goro crater when my peaceful application of arrows to various targets was rudely interrupted by one of my guild members whispering me with a newsflash:
The first guild I had ever joined was about to re-form on my beloved server for the expansion.

... flashback to a few months ago:

I had recently quit the guild over some inconsistencies in leadership and the general attitude of 'if you don't like it you can get the hell out' and shortly after the guild imploded over losing a healer and their MT (once again attributable to poor leadership at it's finest).

The guild leader had transferred off-server taking most of her characters and a few select allies (like her husband and a few friends) with her and for a brief period I thought all would be well with the world.
I would not have to deal with the aggrivation of a guild that was populate with people that harbored some form of fake induced resentment towards me and I would simply not be haunded by the memory of my poor guild choice by having to stare at my old guild tag whenever I went to Ogr.

Peachy... ...
yet there it was... sitting in my chat window like some kind of curse trying to strangle me.

They're back.... and not only were they back they were trying to snag my beloved guild members away from me by savagely recruiting people they knew that had long since moved on to other guilds.

It's one thing to co-exist peacefully and recruit people for your guild via guild recruitment or even (Medivh forbid) over trade but trying to scoop away other guild's members by whispering them directly is a little off the wall.

I wonder how bad it must've been on their new server for them to come back to ours... I wonder if they learned anything in the meantime or if it's just another iteration of a guild that is doomed to fail before it starts...
I wonder what kind of start you can make to a guild by stealing most of your members from other guilds. How can that possibly be good for your PR? Especially if you have a guild whose PR mainly consists of: if you don't like it you can get the hell out.

I am not sure what drama looks like from a distance but it sure looks like it's wearing my former guild tag.

Friday, September 19, 2008

*giggle* *snort* SL/SL/SL/SL warlock

I was playing around with the wotlk talent calculator for warlocks last night and nearly doubled over laughing when I fould the absolute epitomy of warlock irony.

All classes including warlocks have been complaining about the SL/SL spec which revolves around returning damage via siphon life and pushing off damage onto your demon with soul link.

Warlocks hate it because it's practically the only viable pvp spec and everyone else hates it because... euhm... there was a reason... oh yeah: Warlocks are OP.

So with a big evil grin on my face I now present to you SL/SL/SL/SL the SL spec to dominate them all:

Super SL

The traditional soul link / siphon life is now accompanied with the destruction's soul leech / improved soul leech tacking another 2 SL's to the already SL heavy SL/SL spec.

With both nightfall and backlash you will be outputting a significant amount of shadow bolts which will happily return a chunk of life / mana to you for practically free. Ruin and devastate further help into some crit happiness meaning more mana / health returned from your instant shadowbolt procs.

I really just wanted to see if I could hit all the talents that were abbreviated as SL and can happily report you can get all the SL you could possibly want. Ironically with some points shifted here and there (especially in the destruction tree) this actually looks like a viable build. Keeping up corruption at all times for the nightfall procs and doing the damage with various destruction talents should make for a nice health return and damage mitigation via the combined SLs.

I've not done any of the math behind this build so take it with a grain of salt but
in the meantime rejoice! for the so-called OP SL/SL lock is now double as SL as it was before *sniggers*

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Preparing for WotLK

With the Wrath of the Lich King expansion only 2 months away from release I am lifting my self-imposed NDA on WotLK information. The talents are solidifying, 3.0.2 is on the PTR and the pre-wotlk content patch can't be far away either. So now is the time to take up that wayward shared topic from BlogAzeroth and see what we need to do to prepare for Wrath.

... but what to take? What to stockpile? What is still worth anything come wrath?

A few quick checks on various sites and item databases and we can already see this:

1. Inscription will be available. A new profession pretty much reliant on herbalism meaning that the prices of plants of any shape and form will rise and stay on the rise for quite a while.
2. WotLK will reset the Arena points as soon as you level past 70 meaning farming arena is purely for the purpose of getting levelling gear atm.
3. Honor/Marks will not reset and could be farmed.
4. According to various WotLK crafting recipes primals are still alive and kicking but all the other tradeskills will get a new tier of resources (i.e new cloths, leathers, plants, etc.). Primal prices will be somewhat unpredictable for a while.
5. Speed enhancing items such as the carrot on the stick will no longer work and you won't be able to pick up flight again until lvl 77 with cold weather flying. Speed enhancers from talents stay the same (i.e. still functional).
6. Talents have changed massively, stat distribution on items likewise. Spirit and strength are becoming more interesting stats for casters / melee respectively and a lot of stats have been rolled into one (+healing +spell damage go to spellpower etc.).
7. Death Knights will be introduced and start at lvl 55. This means there will be a greater demand for various tradeskill materials (DK's powerlevelling professions) and an unhealthy demand for level 55+ quality items.

So what does all this mean?

Looking at the various crafting skills we see that very little will change. Demand for resources with the notable exception of herbs will stay more or less steady but there will be a slight decline of available Outland resources as people level past outland (followed by a bit of a price hike). The only reasonable thing to stockpile here is herbs and maybe maintaining a small stockpile of other materials for people that are powerlevelling their Death Knights.

Current enchanting materials as well as high end products such as shadowcloth, mooncloth etc. should probably be ditched as quickly as possible as they will incur a heavy price drop. In the off-chance that things like the new cloths will take older cloths you can always go back and farm the materials a lot easier at lvl 80 than it was at lvl 70. Standard material prices with the exception of enchanting materials (cloths, ores, leathers) will stay in steady demand as is now with the market probably fluctuating for a while on the outland mats.

Recipes with the possible exception of engineering recipes (which are always quite popular) should also be sold soon, odds are they all will be replaced by the time you hit lvl 77. The recipes won't be considered rare until well into the expansion after which they may become worth something again. In the meantime expect at least a 50% price drop.

Gear-wise it's probably wise to hold on to a levelling set and whatever vanity items you may have. The rest will unfortunately become rather worthless, hold on to them to see if they become good in wotlk but be prepared to vendor or DE them.

Stockpiling gold is pointless, while it's worth having a chunk of it around when wotlk hits it is more than reasonable to assume that questing at level 80 will produce significantly more gold than you could do now via dailies.

Last but not least it will probably be handy to keep a small supply of what are currently crucial materials for specific enchants. WotLK will have new enchants yes but it will also take a little bit before these enchants become publicly available.

All in all there could be some motivation to farm some honor but there seems to be no specific need to stockpile anything other than herbs, patience and low expectations.

I for one will clear-cut my bank, make space for the future and focus on levelling alts so I can have something to do other than a death knight.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Duo Ramps Normal - possible

After an almost traditional bout of levelling alts we decided it would be interesting to see how far we would get with 2 players in Ramparts normal instead of the traditional 5.

As a result my warlock and our happy go-lucky priest threw ourselves into the fray expecting little other than a massive fail (we're optimists).

Since we were without reliable CC we were dependant on my voidwalker to do a spot of off-tanking, with most of the tanking load going to my affliction warlock who was merrily drain-tanking away most of the instance.

Our heal-specced priest (incidentally also the guild's only useful rogue) was tasked with keeping the crazy warlock and his blue bubble alive.

We were surprised, nay... amazed at how easy we cleared right up to the first boss. The hounds that plague the instance easily went down under a heavy load of dots, the more melee intense mobs were fairy straight forward to tank and the casters practically had no impact due to a combination of shadow protection spells that both the priest and the warlock can sport (shadow ward is good stuff).

Even the occasional double pull resulting in having about 5-10 lvl 60 elites beating on us didn't really put heavy strain on us. Healing went well and watching our priest's mana bar indicated that even the strain on the mana was way lower than could be expected.
With all the space behind us cleared it was easy enough to pull mobs way back and then just use the combined fearing powers of the priest and the warlock to keep the mobs scattered long enough for the dots to do their work. Two full dot rotations (excluding UA) was seemingly enough to tackle even the hardiest mobs.

The first boss turned out to be as much of a pushover as most of the trash before it. The priests were quickly loaded up with available dots while the voidwalker tanked the boss quite effectively.

I can't remember what the loot was (we consistently DE'd everything to keep things moving) but the first boss hit the dirt in no time.

Moving on even the dreaded 4 pack casters + 1 melee, that had caused me so many wipes back when I was a wee lvl 60 warlock, standing at the top of a circular stairway (is it a stairway? more of a ramp really) proved to be an easy pull. With lots of space behind us and a fair bit of LOS pulling most of the caster mobs died from the dots before being able to do any damage.

We cleared easily up to the dragon boss and once again went with the voidwalker tanking tactic and slowly ramping up the dots. It took less than a minute for the dragon to come and the actual boss to die which left me tanking the dragon (the void couldn't hold aggro anymore).

The only real thing of note was that the fire attacks of the dragon itself did do a decent amount of damage so it would've been nice to have an imp out for the fire shield.

Still, the dragon boss went down eventually (a few minutes) with about 1k mana to spare on the priest side (I don't think a mana pot was used) and a full stack of health on the warlock side.

We decided to skip the rest of the instance because it was getting late and because we suspected that mana draining felhounds on the other boss would've probably been a bigger challenge since dots don't kill all that fast.

In the end I'd say duo-ing ramps normal is very much possible with two players in part merciless gear and part karazhan and lower gear (including a few blues and greens) without too much trouble.

Hopefully we'll get to redo the run and try on the felhound boss but something inside me tells me we had better swap out the warlock for a non-mana user (or maybe a pally tank).

Still in a way this is good motivation to try on some other stuff, I am not grasping for the heroics right away but I'd be very happy with doing partial clears of some other normal instances in outland.

If you're bored and looking for something entertaining to do then give it a shot, it's a lot of fun and you can really go all-out (which is great fun on a warlock).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Harvest festival - where's the party?

As you can probably see by my blogging past I haven't been playing wow for much longer than a year so I was quite tickled to see the news item about the harvest festival when I fired up WoW.

So I immediately cleared my non-existing raid schedule, told my guildies to hold on to their hats whilst I dive into the adventure of my first ever harvest festival quest.

The first few steps were promising:

Free food - check
Free drink - check
Funny fireworks - check (ground spinners are fun stuff for about 10 minutes)
quest - check

So off I go to Ashenvale to honor our fallen hero, the mighty former chieftain of the warsong clan who had drank Mannoroth the Demon's blood falling to the taint of corruption.

What in the blazes this could possibly have to do with celebrating the harvest and the end of summer is beyond me but I gave it a pass hoping that the quest would bring something interesting.

lore - semi-check

I should've known right there that things were looking dire but I merrily rode into ashenvale, to the monument dedicated to grom, popped my quest item and got a complete.

So far so good I thought while I jumped on the flyer back to Ogr.

Quest turn in time resulted in a gold or 7 at level 70 and 500 horde reputation... and a book (about 10k xp at lvl 60, less at lower levels but a bit more than a bubble's worth for each of your characters).
No spiffy cutscene of hellscream thanking me for the tribute, no cool items, not even a temporary buff. Supposedly I'll get mailed something in the near future but in the meantime I am just looking at a book that has the approximate resale value of a frozen mudsnapper (I can't even equip it and beat people with it).

What went wrong here? Why would you announce something and call it a festival if there's literally bloody nothing to do beyond the initial quest? No spiffy torch tossing, no dancing around the pole, no whacking some obscure boss for an even more obscure item.... There seems to not be a single repeatable thing in this whole festival.

So Harvest festival was over as quickly as it started. I did the quest on most of my characters just for the sake of some easy xp and rep and went back to my normal routine.

I would've expected at least something repeatable... or a food fight... some cooking quests maybe or at least something to do at the festival place other than tossing fireworks at the people duelling outside of ogrimmar.

Presumably you shouldn't look a gift-horse in the mouth... but when it falls over dead the second you actually get it you do start to wonder a little if you should have.

So whilst I have been more than pleased with pretty much every festival I've see so far this one seems to be lacking a lot in it's implementation and blizzard gets a big 'fail' from me for that one.

Maybe I missed something... anyone know where the party is?

Friday, September 5, 2008

level 60 to 70 confirmed to become faster

With the new content patch looming on the horizon even before WotLK is released it was also reasonable to assume that levelling from 60 to 70 would become a little faster (i.e. require less xp to complete).

Big blue has confirmed this on the forums recently so it is fact that come patch 3.0 we will be looking at a somewhat increased levelling speed.

Do with this information what you will but I for one will give my druid whose happily stuck in the 60s a little break and focus on getting up some lower level characters.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tag-Boosting - The fastest way to level

Once you've brought your second or third character to level 70 levelling a new character turns from an adventure into somewhat of a tedious grind.

And even if you do like the endless grind, the quest story lines that you were quite possibly following with your first character and maybe your second are starting to look a little bit old and dull.
You probably also tried different zones that you haven't tried before but even those quests are looking awfully familiar after the 3rd time round.

So now you can either dig in and pray you don't go completely insane before you hit 70 or you can ask yourself the question:

how the hell do I get to 70 faster?

Opinions may vary on this one. Some say get people to boost you in instances. Others say go quest alone, a few AoE specialists swear by grinding certain groups of mobs in certain locations and other still say you should group up and have the high level character carve you a path through your quest mobs.

I say regardless of what people say take a step back and look at the mechanic of XP gain:

1. Questing/grinding ungrouped gives the most xp per kill
2. When you group you split the xp over the amount of group members that are present (the split is more even when you are all of about the same level)
3. If you group with a high level character xp suffers from diminishing returns meaning that you get far less xp
4. If someone outside your group helps kill your mobs xp also suffers from diminishing returns if the other player is of significantly higher level than the mobs you're killing (5+)

Just looking at these facts we can draw the following 2 conclusions:
1. Not grouping is better than grouping
2. Partnering up with someone in your level range (+10 levels max) yields more xp than someone whose significantly higher than you.

Time to introduce my druid. He just recently hit level 60 and is questing away in Hellfire peninsula. The level 63 mobs aren't a significant challenge but they do take quite some time to eliminate.
He calls in a friend's help to speed things up. The friendly rogue is level 70 and is capable of chewing through level 63's as if they're cardboard.

Because however the mobs are gray to the level 70 the xp gets cut by more than half giving my poor little druid very little xp. This is still better than doing it alone because you amass quest items quickly but it doesn't really make a significant difference.

So now we move my level 60 druid and my 70 rogue friend to terokkar. The mobs here are higher level and pretty much orange to my druid and green to my rogue friend.

We now notice a significant difference in the XP distribution when being partied. My druid gets a nice chunk of xp but this is still diminished by the rogue friend in my party. It's better, because you can't kill high level mobs as effectively alone but it's still not significantly faster than just questing/grinding in hellfire.

But the 2 conclusions we drew previously are still valid. The rogue and the druid are fairly close in levels (10 is about the maximum we're shooting for) so now we need to take the next step and break the group relationship.

So we ungroup. The druid attacks a mob and the higher level rogue shreds it to pieces after the mob has been tagged.

Since we are no longer grouped we don't get diminishing returns from our partner and since the partner is fighting green mobs there are no significant diminishing returns based on outlevelling the mob.

So now the druid gets 'full' mob xp and benefits fully from the increased killing speed of the higher level buddy. You can substitute multiple buddies if you like to speed up the process even further.

To give an example: At level 60 in terokkar forest the above mob-tagging tactic gives you approximately 1200xp per kill and your killing speed is that of a level 70 tearing through low level mobs. This translates to about a level per hour but scales quite well if you can get more buddies or buddies that can aoe kill mobs by the truckload (or introduce rested xp etc.).

To summarize:

1. Get a friend or multiple friends that are no more than 10 levels above you.
2. Find an area where the mobs con green to your higher level buddy(s) and orange / reddish to you (mobs must NOT con gray to your higher level friend(s)).
3. Do not group (do not stay in the same party)
4. Attack a mob once (1 shot is enough to tag it)
5. Let your higher level buddy(s) kill off the mob
6. Loot
7. Rinse and repeat steps 4 - 6

This works better with some class combinations than others for obvious reasons but is still a good 2x faster (at the minimum) than regular questing/grinding. Combine this tactic with available quests in the area (those may be hard to find due to your relative low level though) and rested xp and even on a bad day you'll be levelling at a greatly enhanced speed.

Voila, Powerlevelling made easy.