Thursday, October 30, 2008

Protection Paladin Solo Build (3.0.2)

With my druid now happily whizzing around in his newly acquired flight form I decided to take a closer look at my paladin again who had been sitting around pretty much unused since patch 3.0.2.

I've never been a great fan of retribution and decided that I wouldn't go with the current Flavor of the month build for retribution paladins. Instead I took a quick look at holy, determined that my previous shockadin build was not going to work anymore (at least not without some work) and instead focussed my attention on protection.

The problem with paladin protection has always been that the protection tree was very bloated and would quickly soak up all your talent points. That combined with the fact that outside of an AOE setting protection paladin damage was horrible meant that protection paladins needed either the support of a decent DPS class or one hell of a good book to read while they're killing.

The bloat unfortunately is still there and protection will still eat all your talent points. However the damage component for protection paladins has been greatly improved even at lvl 70.

Since I do a lot of solo-ing and especially enjoy solo-ing /duo-ing instances it's very important for me to find builds that combine survivability the ability to at least do enough damage to kill things every now and then.

Here is what I am running with at the moment at level 70:

Paladin Solo Build

Before I dive into the explanation of my talent choices let me make a quick note of the fact that the gear I am using is for the greater part still spell damage based. Even though point per point strength is now a very valuable stat I currently am trying to maintain a decent level of spell damage so that I can throw out the occasional high-powered heal.

In the end for protection paladins it's very important to know that strength will both add to your dps as well as your damage mitigation as of patch 3.0.2. So while a spell damage weapon is still a good choice we're definitely looking at a shift away from spell damage in favor of strength.

On to the build:


On the first tier we have the choice between blessing of kings and divine strength. And while Blessing of kings is still a superb buff we will be suffering from point shortage further down the line so we skip kings here. With strength being as important as it is divine strength is just too good to pass up so we dump our 5/5 points in here and head off to the next tier.


Anticipation is all about dodge... and dodging is good stuff if you want to stay alive. As a protection paladin I'd much prefer block over dodge since blocking returns damage to the target but a chance at 100% damage mitigation is still very significant.

Stoicism is picked over guardian's favor and can probably be considered an odd choice by many specialist raiders. Still the ability to reduce stun duration by as much as 30% is godsent for me. With stuns ranging from 5-10seconds in pvp you can shave off 2 or 3 seconds which essentially comes down to 2 gcd's worth of damage that you're not taking while stunned. In cases where you're aoe tanking stunning mobs this ability will also ensure that you don't end up completely stunlocked.
30% Dispell resistance on top of that is gravy.


Here we find our old faithful improved righteous fury. A 6% damage reduction for all incoming damage is very much similar to having 6% more health. In a health pool of 15K HP or more which is not uncommon for tanks that means an extra 1000 hit points which is not a bad thing at all.

Toughness gets a nice 4 out of 5 points because I need the extra point further down the line. A decent armor increase from items isn't really a requirement but coupled with the reduction duration on snares makes for a fairly solid talent. I wouldn't call it mandatory but it's a good pick on the way to


Divine guardian is a nifty little talent. But since my groups are few and far between there's really no need to spec specifically for the purpose of the group.

Improved devotion Aura is an interesting choice. Not so much because of the armor increase (which is still fairly poor) but mostly because you can scrape together a 6% stronger heal this way.

Despite the newfound beauty of devotion aura I opted for 3 points in improved hammer of justice. Since hoj now also causes spell interrupt it's very handy to have hoj available every 30 seconds both in solo play and pvp. A stunned mob isn't hitting you, a stunned player isn't hitting anything except his keyboard.


Here we find the mandatory blessing of sanctuary. Not only does this talent reduce damage by yet another 3% but more importantly it also restores your mana if you're blocking, dodging and parrying which is exactly what the protection paladin is about.

Reckoning has always been a debatable skill. What I can tell you for certain is that looking at uptime graphs 3/5 reckoning is just about as good as 5/5 reckoning. I opted for 3 points here. It's a passive skill so it translates into the occasional RNG based DPS increase but without having to waste a GCD on it. All in all the usefulness of this talent is debatable but more weapon swings translate into more seal procs which is never bad.


Sacred duty and one handed weapon specialization are excellent talents and deserve all the points they can get. What is often forgotten here is that one handed weapon specialization increases ALL damage and not just the damage of the weapon you're holding. So that means even your consecrate ability benefits from one handed specialization.


There is no protection paladin without holy shield. Its your default spell and should be up... always. Holy shield returns damage and prevents you from getting it. What could possibly be better?

Ardent defender is another skill that has often been debated. Some people say it only mitigates 1-3% of incoming damage which may be very much true. But unless you always find yourself in situations where you health is always above 35% ardent defender is mitigating damage that could otherwise potentially kill you.
Being able to take 35% more damage before you kick the bucket is superb in solo PVE..


You can't go wrong with more expertise especially if you have reckoning (you don't want to be parried too much after all) and more stamina and crit chance is a beautiful thing.

Redoubt is an interesting talent but very much random. Sometimes it will proc constantly during a battle and sometimes you wonder if you specced out of it the other day because it simply never procs. The 30% increased block value (which means more damage absorbed by your shield when you block) makes the talent worth the time since blocking is still what you do the most.


Is full of talenty goodness. With avenger's shield being our primary pulling tool and now quite useful even in mid combat due to being instant cast there's no doubt about picking this talent.

Touched by the light does a conversion of stamina to spell damage meaning you can drop a boatload of spell damage (if you have much of it) and stack stamina instead and still get decent return on your spells.

Last but not least guarded by the light takes off another 6% damage off of spells which is one of the paladin's biggest weaknesses. Reducing the mana cost of abilities that are used constantly is always a good idea even though shield of the righteousness (shouldn't that be shield of the righteous?) is not yet available to us. You'll be casting holy shield about every 10 seconds, you might as well make it cheaper.


Here we're skipping the Shield of the templar talent even though it is an excellent talent. This talent will become invaluable if not mandatory once you pick up shield of the righteous but before that it only really benefits your holy shield talent. If you have points to spare at this point this is the talent to drop them in. For now I skip it even though 30% more damage out of my holy shield would be useful.

Judgement of the just is a bit of a toss-up for me. I can't really tell if it's working but 20% slower attack speed from a mob looks really good on paper especially if it also sticks on bosses. Then again slower attacks also means less blocks and less mana returned via blessing of sanctuary. If in doubt shift these points from here to shield of the templar... something I am considering at the moment.


Hammer of the righteous is great stuff especially when AoE tanking. Even against single targets the hammer makes for a nice talent simply because it converts weapon damage to holy damage which is essentially unresistable.

From the retribution tree we furthermore pick up deflection for more parries and improved judgements with 1 point so that the judgements fit a little better in our tanking rotations. Improved judgement comes highly recommended since it can be a real pain in the rear end when your rotation doesn't go smoothly. 2 points would be preferred for more breathing room but 1 point is the bare minimum to keep judgements a solid part of your rotation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Zombies don't whine

As you probably have noticed the zombie plague has gotten a little out of hand. With Ogrimmar practically turned into a desolate wasteland and shatt stacked to the brim with zombies the less creative amongst us have started to cry foul.

All of a sudden their daily trips to the AH and bank in their precious capitol cities are reduced to a jump and dodge event where you need to weave left and right to avoid zombies and hope your target NPC is still alive.

The complaints are myriad and people have even been writing angry tickets to the GameMasters in the hope to effectuate an immediate end to this zombie plague.

In fact the complaints are so vehement that if the collective wow population of US servers had complained in a similar fashion about the war in Irak there probably would be no war and they'd still be able to afford their house payments.

But lets not abuse the situation and draw a paralell to some obscure real life zombie invasion and instead lets focus on how we can survive these trying times.

1. Avoid capitol cities or places with fast NPC spawn-rates / large quantities of NPCs. Zombies have a limited life-span. They lose health if they don't fight. The smaller the place and the fewer the NPC's are the shorter a zombie attack will be. Remember: there are banks in places like ratchet, winterspring and gadgedzan too and surely one of them is zombie free.
2. (non player) Zombies have poor pathing and are slow, they're terrible at using elevators so any place with limited access via elevators is a good place to hide. Undercity for this reason (at least on my server) seems to be dealing with the zombies a lot better than Ogr.
3. /join WorldDefense . The attack messages will tell you where you can expect potential zombie problems. WorldDefense is your ear to the world and can keep you from being dropped off in the middle of a zombie horde. Join it, hear it, love it.
4. For BG fanatics try and remember the original locations of the BattleMasters. There is a battle master for each BG in remote locations such as Hammerfall etc. Use those battlemasters because the ones in the capitol cities are surely dead.
5. When grouping, bring a pally. They can cleanse the zombie infection even though it may take a try or 10.
6. Re-locate your hearth. I know we all love shatt as our main hearth place but zombies like shatt too. Set your hearth to a remote town such as stonard for a while. That way you can always safely hearth back and get more or less access to the world.
7. Open with a snare. If you do have zombies closing in fast remember your snare spells. Zombies are slow, making them even slower will give you plenty of time to path around them even if the zombie greatly outlevels you. Tailoring nets can also help this.
8. Defend the argent healers. If there's zombies nearby stick to your closest argent healer like glue and try and draw the zombie aggro. As long as you don't die right there and then the healer can use you as a 'tank' and fry the wretches. The healer can incidentally also cure your infection.
9. Last but not least. If you do get zombified take off all your gear to avoid durability damage. If you want to put an end to your misery right there and then find an open spot and self-destruct via the built in explosion button.

The event definitely changes how you play the game. It can be both fun and highly annoying depending on what side of the fence you frequent but from a meta-game perspective the event fits nicely with lore and the upcoming wrath expasion.

All in all I'd call this event a success. I've had tremendous fun dodging zombies in Ogr so far by creative blinking, slow falling or stealthing as well as using a brute force approach with my paladin and it's a nice distraction whilst we wait for wrath.

If nothing else enjoy the rare opportunity to be able to talk to an ally. Zombie is a universal language after all and zombies don't seem to whine nearly as much as the living.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hallowed Cheat?

So I went through my series of dailies for the hallows end event on all my characters when I noticed a rather obscure 'oversight' that I can't describe any other way than as a mistake in the game mechanics.

Of course we won't mind exploiting something as innocent as this little problem here so let me tell you how it's done:

The second someone starts the fires quest that summons the headless horseman to brill or razor hill you can pick up the quest 'stop the fires' from the questgiver.

Rather than participating in the event, log in all of your characters while the fires are burning and pick up the stop the fires quest from the questgiver on all the characters you can possibly muster. Of course it's handy to stack them all in brill or razor hill the day before.

Once you've got your 'stop the fires' quest on all your characters pick any one of the characters that have the quest and start helping with the fires.

Once you complete the event and the headless horseman is killed he will leave his head behind as usual and you will get the 'completed' message for your stop the fires quest on the char that's currently logged in.

While the pumpkin head is laying on the ground log in all your characters that previously picked up the quest and miraculously you will get a 'completed' message for the stop the fires quest on those characters aswell.

With a little bit of timing I was able to do the 'stop the fires' event on one character and get a 'complete' for 3 other characters without having to put out any extra fires (the rest of my characters were running around doing silly things so I didn't get them there in time).

So to summarize:

1. Start the 'let the fires come' event or wait till someone starts it
2. Log in with all your characters and pick up the 'stop the fires' quest while the fires are burning
3. Once your characters all have the quest help out with the fires and finish the event
4. Kill the horseman or wait for him to be killed
5. While the horseman's head is laying in town log in with all your characters that have the 'stop the fires' quest to automatically get a complete for them too
6. Profit!

You'll have to be pretty fast about it, as I sad in my previous article the head only stays around for 5-10 minutes so you'll have to log in all your chars in this timespan.
You'll want to park most of your characters in the inn at brill or razor hill when you do this. If your machine or internet connection is on the slower side then make sure you disable all your addons which will ensure the fastest possible load times in wow.

Either way a nice trick to skip the putting out the fires event on most of your characters without losing out on the quest reward.

I fully intend to report this 'oversight' to a game master next time I log in but I don't expect them to change it anytime soon.

Incidentally I also noticed that squashlings and hallowed helms now can drop from trick or treat bags that you get from innkeepers meaning the 'the hallowed' title will not be such an impossible task after all.

I also found a blue post somewhere on the public forums (I really should save those links) that the achievement for collecting masks will be scrapped from the meta achievment which means you can actually grab the achievement title with a little bit of effort this year and you don't have to collect 20 unique masks for it. The meta achievment will be changed come wrath or patch 3.0.3 whichever comes first which means if you have all achievements for hallow's end except the mask task you will still get your spiffy title.

All in all I am starting to really like this holiday ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Can someone cry NERF WARLOCKS please?

Courtasy of someone or the other whose blog I raided in a late midnight haze who will have to accept my apologies for not being able to remember his/her name or blog/website adres (contact me if you want to be credited with the image or if it needs removed). Yet another warlock nerf.

The more I play my warlock the less fun I am having with it. You know things are really bad when even other classes are no longer crying: NERF THE WARLOCK

I am not really sure I enjoy being pitied on the public forums:
Warlock Pity

In fact I'd rather be completely underpowered and still have people cry nerf. At least that's something... that's class... that's the fear of times long past carried on to the next generation. That's what a warlock should instill... fear or at least a bit of respect.

Maybe we've been normalized... but when my hybrid moonkin brings more to the table in terms of utility and DPS and even my paladin tank has better pvp viability than my lock you really start to wonder what happened to this 'pure dps' class.

Sure sure a warlock is still a relatively powerful thing in PVE and PVP but there's one caveat: The warlock needs to be left alone. The second it gets any attention it's a dead warlock. It's not like noobcoil, fear or howl of error makes for a solid defense.

Is it QQ? Do I need to learn to play my warlock? Perhaps, but after playing my paladin, druid and even hunter my warlock feels a little 'meh' and I am not the only one who feels this way.

I haven't given up on him just yet. There's other specs to try and there's hope that things will look up with another 10 talent points. But for now I slap on my 'inspected by earl Z. Mode' t-shirt dive into the nearest hole in a BG and hope no one sees me because I truly am an easy HK.

Someone cry nerf warlocks... please... I miss it. It's ok if you lie... I'll understand.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hallowed XP

With hallow's end in full swing I had time to take a look at the various things you can do during the festival and in an effort to maximize my xp gain for my lower level characters I parked everyone in Brill (Tirisfall glades).

Brill? That's right... Brill. The primary reason for parking all my characters in Brill is that the headless horseman regularly swings by and sets the place on fire. The reason I picked Brill over Razor Hill (where the horseman also roams) is that Brill is generally a bit more populated (on my server) and the fires that the headless horseman throws around can quickly be limited to just one building (meaning everyone piles on the same target).

But I am getting a little ahead of myself here... the point of participating in the hallow's end festivities with all my characters are based around the easy XP of 2 daily quests that both take place in Brill (or Razor Hill if you are so inclined).

The two dailies are as follows: summon the headless horseman and help put out the fires by tossing water buckets at them. If you put out all the fires the quest is completed and the headless horseman will spawn. If you then kill the headless horseman (apparantly by caughing in his general direction) he'll leave his head behind which is a simple clickable object that gives you another quest that you can turn in right there.

That's basically 2 quests for the price of one each netting about 0.75 of a bubble in terms of XP (scaling based on your level) and a nice set of hallow's end candy, a broom, maybe some toothpicks, a mask or whatever other stuff you can possibly imagine dropping for hallow's end.

Notable here is that the horseman's head will stay behind for a while (seems to be about 5-10 minutes) after which the horseman can be called again.
This means you'll actually have to stand around and wait for the pumpkin head to despawn so you can complete both quests on each character. If you're greedy you can also skip the putting out the fires part and simply get the second one by clicking on the left behind head (that's where the gifts are).

Fighting the fires isn't difficult but it has to be said that it's a group effort. You'll need at least 3 people to get the fires under control and beat the hidden event timer but more people definitely make it easier.
That said you can simply click on the water barrel in the middle of town which gives you a bucket of water. Clicking on the bucket of water gives you the typical AoE targeting indicator and you should then toss your bucket at the fire. The bigger fires spread fire further around so it's definitely worth it to aim your buckets at the biggest chunk of fire you can find.

About 1 in 20 people have figured out that you can toss the bucket to someone who doesn't have one meaning you can create chains of tossing buckets from person to person and get the fire under control a lot faster that way. People however don't read tooltips and only posses a modicum of cooperative spirit so don't expect this to happen much.

If you have travel form or a fast broom or something that'll make you run faster, use it since it will greatly reduce the time needed to get those darned fires under control.

At 1.5 bubbles for the 2 quests and hallow's end going on till the 2nd you can hope for about a level's worth of XP for the entire holiday for each character.

Combine this with the other quests (like raiding the candy bucket at the inn in each town) and you're looking at an easy 2 levels worth of XP at pretty much any character level since the XP rewards for the quests scale depending on your current level.

As a side note: the achievements can be tracked via the achievement window and can be very helpful in determining what candy buckets you raided already.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The world is shrinking!

PUG the world seems to be the prevailing motto of most people before the wrath expansion. With the 3.0.2 nerfing instances into oblivion even the most hardcore huntard accompanied by a bunch of ebayers can succesfully beat pretty much any of the current instances.

And it shows. Pugs on sunwell, people running onyxia and molten core, steamrolling Kara,ZA and even BT. Things that previously took a well prepared raiding guild days are now shredded to bits in mere hours. All records for speed-runs have not only been broken but left in the dust. You can literally participate in raids just for the sake of taking a good look at the instance scenery rather than doing anything at all.

Instance bosses have been hit so hard with the nerf bat that half the healers in a raid have taken up DPS-ing to prevent them from dying of boredom.

The coming of the 3.0.2 patch has turned instances that would previously put a frown on even the most experienced raiders into a complete and utter joke.

All this in the guise of 'allowing' casuals to see the higher level instances before wrath hits without caring one shred that come level 80 with level 80 gear the outland instances will be so ridiculously easy that simply no one will ever set foot in them again (other than me and my fellow solo-artists of course).

So instead of actually 'adding' new content with an expansion blizzard has succesfully 'replaced' old content with new content. With practically no reason to run azeroth or even outland instances come wrath and outland instances being too easy to be much of a proving ground for up-and coming raiders we're literally looking at outland becoming just another desolate wasteland.

If northrend didn't have approximately the same amount of zones as outland I'd say our world just shrunk.

In all this I am not necessarily complaining. I have always preferred to solo/duo or otherwise ironman instances so the changes will allow me to continue doing so well after Wrath has been released.

But from a game design perspective I am abhorred. Invalidating content like this by strapping a superior ladder to it is one thing, breaking down the ladder below it so it becomes easier to climb is another thing entirely.

Why would you decrease the difficulty of content when you're facing an increase of strength of your players in the near future?

An expansion should do what it says: Expand. Expand your possibilities, expand the places you can go, expand the experiences you can have. Not invalidate old content and force people onto a new ladder which further down the line would be replaced by another ladder.

In my opinion the world in general seems to be shrinking to what the latest and greatest expansion has to offer.

I am just happy I was never here for the gear. I can't even fathom what people must be feeling after they have spent the better part of the year getting the gear they have only to see people achieve the same thing in just a few nights of farming post 3.0.2.

Funny how that goes... you wake up one glorious morning and find the world shrinking under your feet.

The End of spell pushback reduction talents?

Having spent most of the weekend setting up new characters and running my druid through outland as well as trying myself in the occasional bout of PVP I was able to take a closer look at the new spell pushback system.

What we see now is that only the first 2 hits will push your spells back meaning that even if you get beaten on heavily by melee you can still squeeze out a spell with long casting time.

Where previously it was completely unthinkable to try and cast something like starfire, seed of corruption, pyroblast or similar spells with long casting times it is now very much feasible to use these even when being beat on.

In fact the change is so dramatic that in some cases spells with a longer cast time and therefore a stronger effect (be it more damage or more healing) have become my preferred spell when being beaten on.

Before the spell pushback changes it was wise to stop casting a spell with long cast times because dual wielding melee or anyone with any significant attack speed (hell even hunter pets) would keep pushing back your spell so much that you would most likely never get it to cast without being pummeled into the ground first.

Now such a limitation no longer exists since your spell will practically always fire...

But what does this mean for PVE and PVP?

My first knee-jerk reaction was to simply go and respec and toss all the push-back talents overboard. Previously critical to your survival in both solo PVE as well as PVP the new pushback system allows you to re-allocate these talent points to somewhere else if you're willing to put up with the minor inconvenience of 2 'little' pushbacks for each cast.

Running without pushback resistance did little or nothing to change my PVE experience. The pushback I experienced especially on spells like seed of corruption or starfire was so insignificant in solo PVE that I can see absolutely no reason to keep push-back resistance if you're main attacks revolve around cast-time spells.

Channeled spells will lose up to 50% of their cast time without pushback resistance but even here the question begs to be asked if 50% of a channeled spellcast isn't enough to get the job done.

That said we're looking at a situation where the need for pushback reduction has been virtually eliminated in a (solo) PVE setting unless your channeled spells are your main form of attack.

Interestingly enough the spell pushback changes also had their effect on PVP. Where I previously never dreamed of casting anything with a longer cast time than 1.5 seconds especially not when being beat on I now find myself winding up a stronger spell (especially healing ones) while being pressured by melee. Spell pushback is only a minor factor here because the spell tends to fire quick enough even with spell pushback.

Still in PVP pushback isn't the biggest issue. The real worry here is interrupts that lock out your entire school and there's nothing worse than getting your school locked out while being beaten on.

As a result in PVP we still prefer to cast spells with short cast times or instant cast to avoid the dreaded school lockout meaning we get less use out of pushback resistance now than we did before the patch.

With only limited need for spell-pushback in PVE and PVP both the question whether or not investing +- 5 talent points in pushback resistance becomes a lot more prominent.

Where previously you couldn't survive without it (imagine a warlock drain tanking without pushback resistance before the patch) we can now get by with practically no investment in spell-pushback and still retain 50% of our channeled spell whilst only incurring minor pushbacks on cast-time spells.

Beyond specialist application such as PVP healers, are we looking at the end of pushback reduction talents?

With the new talent trees and so many talents worth investing points into there's no doubt that there are solid alternatives to spending points into things other than spell-pushback. If you're looking at not being inconvienced by spell-pushback vs 5% more crit/damage/healing or whatever else useful you may find my choice falls squarely in the power upgrades.

Is spell pushback resistance still important in the new World of Warcraft as of 3.0.2 or are we looking at a relic of soon to be forgotten times?

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Druids - first glance

I had a few hours to contend with my Druid yesterday and decided to equip him with a similar spec I had before the patch.

Going heavy into balance up to moonkin form and then dipping into resto to get the nature's swiftness talent left me without the ability to try new spells but gave me a setup that is very similar if not close to identical to what I had before the patch.

The advantage of this was that I was able to 'feel' the difference between my old moonkin and my new moonkin without being biased by things like starfall or the new talents of upper tiers.

Here's a list of somewhat random observations while playing my moonkin at lvl 63 in Zangar.

1. Mana regeneration is hardly an issue anymore. Where I previously had to sit and drink and rely heavily on innervates after a few pulls I am now happily coasting along from mob to mob without too much downtime.

2. XP gain in Outland has indeed increased. From what I see I gain a fraction more XP but the XP requirements per level have been adjusted downwards quite a bit. A normal session of a few hours on an outland character usually netted me 5-10 bubbles at most to my next level. Now I am looking at approximately 15 bubbles for the same time investment. So while I don't have the actual figures here I'd say we're looking at about 30-50% less time needed to hit the next level.

3. Spell damage appears to be about similar to what I had before but the moonkin seems a lot more crit-happy than it was resulting in a lot more ability procs and indicating that stacking some more crit on a moonkin could be worth the investment.

4. Clearcasting from the new passive omen of clarity procs very consistently on about every 3rd spell I cast. I also experienced a clearcasting proc over abilities that I cast on myself (mark of the wild, thorns etc.) which I am fairly sure is not intended. I will further test this to see.

5. Roots indeed work indoors now taking away a lot of my hesitation to wander into caves and dungeons as a balance druid. While it looks a little weird to see giant roots shooting out of a solid stone floor it definitely help to have the ability around indoors.

6. Driving myself OOM on a few occasions on purpose to see how I would regenerate did indicate a somewhat different approach. Previously I had to throw up omen of clarity and go whack something in the face to get more mana, now the mana regeneration is quick enough to allow for a root->swarm rotation resulting in less risk. Clubbing things still helps but only results in clearcasting procs, which are nice but not necessarily a reason to want to go toe-to-toe with enemies.

Overall the Moonkin / resto druid combination now feels a lot more like a caster that is trying to avoid melee where previously I would regularly 'bird-tank' things in order to regenerate mana or while dealing with OOMness.

While I was not able to try out most of the new spells abilities in higher tiers I can definitely say that the moonkin 'fun-factor' has increased significantly but primarily on the merit of better mana regeneration and more crits.

Still so far the balance tree looks very interesting and there's a lot of talents in there that will make it difficult to choose between when you run out of points to distribute.

As long as I don't run into significant issues with my druid further up in the talent tree I'd have to say that the work blizzard did in the balance tree is very satisfying thusfar.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The death of a 1000 addons

Well I had hoped I would be able to download the patch, hop on my warlock, respec and have something useful to report for a 70 warlock build but unfortunately I am going to have to delay these plans for a day or more just to get everything back on track.

The untimely death of a 1000 addons post-patch was to be expected but what I hadn't anticipated was the fact that some of the addons I regularly use have been discontinued post 3.0.2 which is a bit of a bummer.

So next to the fairly frequent server disconnects I had to contend with setting up multiple new addons, redo all my keybindings and respec my warlock.

Spending most of the day on it I can tell you this:

Xperl (unit frames), Auctioneer (AH stuff), Quartz (castbar), Bartender (action bars), questhelper (quests) all seem to work (although I had some weird glitches related to an auctioneer component). There's also a built in threat meter in wow that I managed to activate via the options menu and it seems to work ok. I'll have to see how it works in groups (my guildies were too busy running around dual wielding two handers and the like). The only thing missing from this setup is probably some form of boss mod.

For a warlock build I can quite confidently say that you can feel free to dump all your points into the affliction and not regret it. Demonology looks horrible even with the metamorphosis talent and destruction will need some research before I can say anything about it. In the meantime affliction is probably a safe route to go for anyone looking to PVE/BG or raid. I didn't get around to PVP but my expectations are that locks will not perform as well in PVP as they did previously... which I suppose was to be expected.

It'll take me a few days to get my characters back on track addon-wise after which the earnest testing can begin to see who the great winners and losers are for this patch.

In the meantime don't forget that the XP needed and XP gained from 60-70 has been adjusted so it should be a lot easier now to get those 10 levels out of the way on any characters that may still need it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Character Customization?

Next to a few arbitrary sources even wowinsider has recently reported that there is some coding in our beloved wow that would suggest blizzard is interested in a form of 'paid' customization to allow people to somehow customize their characters for a price.

And frankly I am having mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand I don't really have any significant problems with it, if you want to dish out 5 bucks to get a an aura that envelops you in blue smoke while you walk or if you want to dish out whatever amount it will be to leave glowing footsteps behind then more power to you (I might even go for something like that).
The fun will probably end when you cross the line from something that is cosmetic to something that actually has an impact in the game i.e. that blue aura also giving +100 spell power.
After all, what happens if you can buy something that is better than what's normally available in game? Or worse: What if you can buy something that gives some kind of +attributes that doesn't take up an item slot? Or if for a measly 5 bucks you could buy a level or maybe a chunk of honor?

Would it change the face of high-end raiding to exclude people that haven't paid up to get their spiffy enhancements via the pay to customize scheme?
Would refusal to 'buy' stuff from the blizzard store result in you falling further and further behind in gear/effectiveness and thus cost you your raid/arena slot?

I would much prefer customization options of a cosmetic nature. A way to re-color ugly armor, to add a nice glow to your boots, get a nifty aura, a pet or a mount even maybe but nothing that will really make a difference when you're in an instance.

Even the ability to transfer stats off of one item to another would be a welcome addition so that everyone sooner or later can look the way they want. Essentially that would mean you could transfer the stats from your headpiece to a random other headpiece of your choice destroying your original headpiece in the proces.

So is blizzard well on it's way to becoming it's own gold-seller / power levelling service with additional perks and none of the legal issues for those customers that are willing to dish it out?

Will the end of Wrath be heralded not by the arrival of a new expansion or a new game but by a blizzard sponsored 'recruit a friend and gift them a lvl 80 dk free'?

How likely or unlikely is that? The most recent recruit a friend that has spawned more multi-boxers than anything else is a good sign of how these schemes can impact a game without changing the net effect for blizzard. Blizzard wanted to sell more accounts via recruit a friend and they succeeded...

Essentially blizzard sold us the ability to get more xp in a shorter time and the ability to grant levels to other characters for the price of an account or two. How far is that away from just plainly selling us gold / levels or items alike?

What is annoying here is not so much that people would have the ability to buy things they wanted, even the potential impact on the economy is only lingering in the back of my head (rampant inflation) but that there's absolutely no way to recognize people that purchase vs people that have played for their rewards.

The nightmare scenario would be to walk into a 5-man pug. Look at their gear, reasonably expect to succeed and then completely and utterly fail because the hunter doesn't know how to chain trap, the mage draws aggro on every pull, the level 80 fully epiced out shaman 'forgot' to do his totem quests and the pally healer only uses holy shock to heal because he likes instants and still uses his spellbook to cast spells from.

Be that as it may you have to be careful with features like this. While I am sure blizzard will make a nice chunk of cash off of it (and rightfully so) I do have my reservations when it comes to changes that can potentially impact how the game is played and how people act in it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A part of me just died a little

With the patch currently being rolled out we'll get to enjoy our new WotLK talents. And I definitely am looking forward to the experience even though the warlock changes are overwhelmingly underwhelming from what I have seen so far.

Still, part of me just died a little after seeing this: Warlock Tier 7

That should simply not be allowed.

After the insanely sexy T6/vengeful and the cool looking merciless gear we now get something that looks like it has been assembled from random pieces of garbage pulled out of the sewers in undercity.

This has to be virtual evidence of some sort that no one at blizzard actually plays a warlock... at least no one with 20/20 vision.

It's things like these that worry me the most. Class balance is all good and well, whether warlocks are OP or not is mostly just dependant on who you ask and how warlocks will scale in wotlk remains to be seen but does any of that really matter when you look like driftwood?

What does it say about the future of the warlock class when even the gear designer/artist can't be bothered to a) finish a gear set or b) think or something at least slightly warlocky looking.

*shakes head* I am not wearing it... maybe parts of it... if I can cover it somehow.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I can haz tabard?

With WotlK now less than a month away people are literally strapped to the edge of their seats waiting for the launch. AH market prices are all over the place and within an instant you can make or lose a fortune. Instance running in general is on the collapse and there's a massive amount of pre-wotlk guilds popping up.

A day doesn't go by that I don't see a handful of new guild names flying by in trade (apparantly they need to put signs up for people to find the guild recruitment channel) and each and every one of them is advertising with:

1. We have a guild bank
2. We have a tabard

Say what now? Tell me of this mystical invention called 'tabard' and what is this 'guild bank' you speak of?

No I mean really, why on earth would you advertise with that? Tell me something about your guild, give me a website, show me your goals or for medivh's sake at least have a funny recruitment blurb.

Are there any guilds out there that do _not_ have a guild bank / tabard? Why sure there are... let me rephrase: Are there any guilds out there where having a guild bank / tabard actually matters toward's the guild's goals? And if they do then why would you not advertise that goal instead of having a guild bank / tabard?

The guild bank and the tabard are nice perks but they do not a guild make. Everyone with 9 signatures and a small pouch of gold can have a guild bank and a tabard and yet neither one of those will tell me what kind of guild is recruiting (although a pink tabard with a blue bunny may be a bit of a give away).

Do people really join guilds because they have a cool tabard? And skipping a step ahead: would you really recruit someone if their reason to join is your guild's tabard? (I'd be scared, very very scared).

Maybe I am just ranting (I am pretty sure I am actually) but I don't see how spamming trade with: guild x is recruiting we have a tabard and gbank /w for invite
is a sound or even remotely effective recruiting strategy.

Do people really use this as a serious recruitment blurb?

How to like a new class

When I first rolled my mage I absolutely hated him.

Low survivability, high mana dependency coupled with the ability to do no damage over an extended period of time... That's what my mage felt like for the first 30 levels of his existence.

Maybe it was because my main is a warlock or maybe it was just the utter lack of buttons that do something at low levels or perhaps it was the fact that the fireball looks about as impressive as throwing a match at somebody (I mean really, a fireball should at least look like a fireball [i.e. pyroblast]).

I hated him so much that he spent a large part of his existence in the barrens (crossroads) staring at the wall of an inn contemplating the frozen misery he was in.

So there we had it, with my warlock, paladin, druid and hunter either at 70 or well on the way there I was left with a bunch of misfits that I had trouble picking up. I was still on the road to the elusive 9x70 (or 10x80 soon I suppose) but the relative low levels of the remaining characters and little to no affinity with the playstyle for each of them made it hard if not occasionally impossible to just continue the level grind for them.

So how to fix the age old problem of picking up a class you don't enjoy?

With my goal firmly set on 10x80 in the distant future I had to find means and ways to pick up characters that I didn't like. More importantly I had to pick them up in a way that would result in me liking them more over time and not deepening my dislike.

As a result I had to ask 4 vital questions for each of my disenfranchised characters:

1. What do I want for this character?
2. Is my spec suitable for what I want?
3. Are my professions fitting / fun with this character?
4. Will I be alone or in a group (and so of what size)?

What do I want for this character?

The first question seems obvious but in reality it isn't. With 60 talent points to distribute you can dive into a single tree fully, 2 trees or even take chunks out of each tree to complement your playstyle. Even the choice between DPS / Tank / Healer isn't always as clear-cut as one would like.

What you want for your character also can vary for a level 70 build vs a 'rest of the game' build so you need to have a somewhat clear idea what your character should look like up till 70 and after that.

The reason for this is simply that without clear goals you're just levelling for the sake of levelling. You're not working towards a specific talent, you're not working towards some specific gear setup, you're just levelling for levelling's sake in the hope that the character will become more interesting at 70. In other words there is nothing on the way to keep you going. If on the other hand you have a clear goal of making a fire mage you can actually have a set of side-quests and mini-quests in creating appropriate equipment, doing relevant quests and making sure that the character will be the best damn fire mage there can be.

Set yourself goals, appropriate or inappropriate ones. A character without goals is hard to enjoy if you don't have affinity with the playstyle.

Is my spec suitable for what I want?

Let's face it. Most of us start out with a more or less pre-defined cookie cutter spec. If you however have goals in mind for the character you're playing it's worth the time and effort to see if a re-spec is a good idea or not. Cookie cutter specs are by definition optimal specs for certain goals and more often than not these cookie cutter specs are based on a level 70 character in a specific role.
Well you're neither while you're levelling. You're not level 70, you're not optimally geared and you don't have a role other than perhaps survival / killing speed.

Based on your goals pick talents. If you want to see the large fluttery numbers pick out the crit and damage enhancing talents and find the tree that does the most for you at your current level. You can build on that or respec at a later date.

Don't let yourself be fooled by cookie cutter specs. Instead play the game, look at what is missing or what could be different and pick talents accordingly.

Low survivability? Do we have talents for that? If so, try them out. I had all but given up on my frost-mage until I re-specced him fire to see how that would work and it made all the difference.

Are my professions fitting / fun with this character?

No matter what people may say: Professions matter.
They have an impact on your gameplay. If you're a miner you'll want to hit all those mining nodes that are stuck to various mountains. You'll also have to get there somehow since they're usually surrounded by a decent amount of monsters.
In fact if you want your gathering skill to progress at the same level as your character you will have to go hit those resource nodes or powerlevel it at 70.
It's a wise choice to equip your character with professions that you enjoy. Sure mining will make you a lot of money but is the character you're looking at a good choice to be a miner? Maybe you have mining on some other character and you don't really need it.
Yes you can always powerlevel a profession when you hit 70 but what do you want to do with professions in the meantime?
Professions are an excellent way to enhance your gameplay or to make it more tedious depending on the character you're on. I for one have never had more fun with professions than when I was working on levelling my pally with engineering and never had a worse time than powerlevelling a gathering profession at 70.

Will I be alone or in a group (and so of what size)?

Group size matters. Whether you have a single hunting buddy or are constantly in instances with 5 or more people it matters. Spec accordingly, pick up gear accordingly. If you're a loner by nature like me you'll need the survival talents and gear. If you have a permanent tank hunting budy then you won't need them.
Those are all simple choices based on group size.
Vice versa, if you don't have a hunting buddy, get one. They're an invaluable asset in a lot of situations. Sure you have to share xp / loot but you also mitigate risk. you die less, you can take on more difficult targets and you have far more control over a situation than you could possible have alone. A good hunting buddy will also be able to get you through those times where it simply feels like an utter grind.
You haven't had fun till you strap an aoe specced mage to an aoe pally tank.

In my opinion no class is essentially unlikeable. Every class can more or less mimic the playstyle of another if you're willing to change the environment. Change spec, group setup, gear or even zone and see how it works for you.

Don't expect a mage to be a warlock or a warrior to be a rogue however. You will have to unlearn certain habits you picked up on your main if you want to have fun with a new character...
I miss my diablo mana shield much like my ultima online spell reflection or my Final fantasy master materia but in order to pick up something new, we have to let go of those habits that tie us to the old.

You can't force yourself to like something no matter how much you try, so change the conditions. Change the conditions until you find something that makes you smile, only then will you truly appreciate your new class.

And after all is said and done I now rather like my mage. Sure, his fireball still looks rather pathetic and he has to sit down every few mobs to drink a few gallons of spring water but I now know what I want for him and he no longer feels like I am just levelling him to say I did.