Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

funny pictures-Trick or Treat!   I iz a lol-bulb.
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You’ve seen them, all decked out in the latest tier gear whispering you for an invite into a PUG raid. Their numbers look good. They tell you how they’re the shiznits. And then you enter the raid...

The problem with the new heroic point system is that you get players who easily can gear up without the effort required to become proficient in one’s class. Yeah, big problem there. The disparity isn’t limited to inept Death Knights, though Lord knows there’s a fair share of them who couldn’t follow direction if you put up a light bulb that said, “DO NOT STAND IN THE FIRE!” This problem goes for such classes as a mage. And now with fire’s AOE insanity, this will prove the patience of every tank and healer out there come 85 end-game content. With all the CC that’s coming, this will require a lot of coordination by all players to ensure DPS actually waits for the tank to get enough threat and to focus fire on single targets, as well as maintain CC’s. To help all you healers and tanks out there, let me give you some hints on what to look out for when choosing a mage for a raid:

1) Do they have any end-game content trinkets, rings, and/or gear obtained ONLY through actual *10-man raiding;
2) The moment the tank pulls a mob, does the mage immediately unleash or pause the 5 to 10 seconds it takes for the tank to get enough threat; and
3) Make sure they know in advance they will be CC’ing and be sure to mark CC’s with a distinct Lucky Charm.

DPS classes are going to get a wakeup call, much like most of us did during Burning Crusade where mobs hit hard and actually require coordination by the team (i.e., CC’s, focus fire, health and mana bar awareness, etc.). That is a good thing. Players have become too complacent in their gameplay, frustrating or, worse, boring tanks and unnecessarily stressing healers out. Frankly, I think end-game Cataclysm will whittle down the incompetent players and bring back the efficacy in gameplay experience.

*Note: 10-man raiding is actually harder than 25-man, because a person can’t hide their incompetence. Though many argue that 25-man is harder, in truth its actually just more gimmicks and additional movement. In 10-man raids every player counts. If you screw up, it affects the whole team. So, there’s more pressure to perform than in 25-man where a single mistake won’t wipe a raid.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Kingdom for a Tank

Last weekend was Call to Arms:  Alterac Valley, so I figured there was no time like the present to give that BG a whirl on Quintalan.  Forty players on a side meant that any screwups on my part would be minimized, so why not?

The first couple of runs on Friday night went pretty well.  We split 50/50 with the Alliance, while I learned a bit about staying with the pack.  Oh, and that Stormpike takes quite a licking to bring down.

Saturday night, I got on after having company over.  It was a bit late, so I figured that I'd play until the Horde got a victory.  Not a very high bar to jump over, so I figured I'd be in bed pretty soon.

The first indication that it wasn't going to be my night was that I ported into the middle of a run, and couldn't get more than maybe 10 seconds into the battleground before getting killed by a Lock and a DK that were corpse camping at the Horde's home graveyard.  Needless to say, that game ended about 2 minutes after I ported in with an Alliance victory.

So I queued again.

And again.

And again.

Surely, I thought, I have to get lucky sometime.

Not necessarily.  There was the run where a tank and a healer had a very public feud over who was to blame for the successive wipings on Stormpike.  In the meantime, the Alliance ran everyone up to Drek and killed him, which caused the tank to go spastic.

Then there was the run where a bunch of us --about 15 or so-- made it to Drek, and we all stood around looking at each other.  "You mean there's not a single tank here?" a Rogue asked.  "You have got to be @#$#-ing me.  We need a tank up here for the boss."  We waited for something like five minutes, and still no tank appeared.  "We need a tank up here!"  "WTB tank!"  Another five minutes, and the Alliance won.

I complained to Soul, who was running a few BGs of his own.  "Aren't BG's fun?" he replied.

I grumbled something and queued up again.  "How are we doing tonight?" someone asked.

"Lousy," came the reply.  "Haven't won yet tonight."

"Pfft.  This is easy.  You make sure you cut off their arms, and the rest falls into place."

While I didn't share his enthusiasm, I hoped there would be a semblance of strategy.  Lo and behold, this time there was.  Three of us took out one tower, another small group took out a second, and we defended our base.  Once the towers were down, it became a war of attrition.  No rush the boss strategy, no fast kill needed.  And it worked.


Friday, October 22, 2010

A Few Musings on Cataclysm

I've been watching the blogs the past couple of weeks, and several thoughts have occurred to me about Cataclysm.

A lot of speculation --and the underlying assumption-- is that Deathwing will be the killable end boss in Cataclysm.  End boss?  Likely.  Killable?  I'm not so sure.

In Wrath, we got the chance to destroy one of the Dragon Aspects, Malygos.  He wasn't even the end boss in the expansion, just the end of one of the story chains in Wrath.  From this, we can go in two directions:  either Deathwing is more powerful than Malygos ever was, or Malygos isn't truly dead.  (A third possibility is that Malygos got nerfed by Blizz in a patch release and we caught him on a good day, but you never know.)

If Deathwing is truly more powerful than Malygos --and by extension, the other Dragon Aspects-- then there's very little stopping him from killing Ysera and Alexstrasza.  Also, if he is truly powerful enough to break the world, perhaps the best we can hope for is to beat him back and shut him out of Azeroth once more. 

Now, if Deathwing is equivalent in power to Malygos, and his retreat from the other (pissed off) Dragon Aspects in the Second War implies as much, then the downing of Malygos (even with the Life Binder's aid) might not have been the end of him.  It won't be the first time that someone once thought dead makes a reappearance in a Fantasy environment.  ("What, Sauron is back again?  Just how many lives does this guy have, anyway?")

Another possibility is that Deathwing isn't the true last end boss in Cataclysm, but someone --or something-- else.  Possibilities abound:  another Old God or two, Azshara, Elemental Lords, or maybe even Sargeras.


I keep bringing this up, because I think it's going to be a very important theme for the Horde in Cataclysm:  the Cataclysm itself won't do as much to the Horde as the fight with the Alliance will.

From what I've seen so far, the Horde region that is hit the hardest will be The Barrens.  Sure, Cataclysm splits the region in half, but the greatest impact is on the Alliance's push into Southern Barrens and the hasty construction of barriers at the entrance to Mulgore.  Shenanigans with the Grimtotems will impact the Horde/Alliance war and will change the face of the Horde forever.  Ashenvale is going to change significantly as well, given all of those Horde victories in Warsong Gulch.  And that's not counting the Forsaken turning their attention to the Greymane Wall.


Speaking of Forsaken, whom do they turn their ire to?  Arthas is dead, and the Scourge will be (theoretically) more contained than before.  (Gee, I have no idea why...  The Lich King is dead, isn't he?  At least that's what the official stories say....)  So, who gets the brunt of the Undead's vengeance?  Or, will this lack of a major enemy be a major theme in the Forsaken story?


Although technically they are part of Outland, what about the Draenei and Blood Elf starting areas?  Will there be changes in Eversong and the Ghostlands given the current state of the Scourge lore?  How will the Draenei start off in an "unbroken" world that doesn't acknowledge that they were around for the Cataclysm?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cinematics for the Alliance

When I first watched the WoW Cataclysm cinematic, my first thought was "Okay, that's technically well done."  My next thought was "Outside of the brief glimpse of Freewind Post and Grom'gol, I'd say that the Horde comes out of this better than the Alliance does."

The last thing I thought of probably dates me, but did anyone else notice that when Deathwing said "Pain! Agony!" he sounded remarkably like Bugs Bunny?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Favorite thing to do (while bored)

Step 1 - Get shoe shine
Step 2 - go stand on statue out side of south bank and kill squirrel
Step 3 - Stand over squirrel's dead body
Step 4 - Watch how many people try to stop and loot the squirrel

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

OMG Warrior tanking...

... is pretty much the same as it was, with the addition of a few new abilities in the mix like victory rush and rend. 

Like Q in the post below, I also got DTK as first dungeon I did.  The first pull was a little shaky getting the mobs on me because I had some trouble generating rage right off the bat, but a quick shout fixed that.  The second pull was a little hairy as well because the DPS in the group got all antsy in their pantys and starting dpsing stuff before I could even get a thunderclap + shockwave off.  After that though, it was back to normal speed and we were done in there with no wipes or deaths in about 15 minutes.  There was, however, one noticible difference - I did the most damage done.  Muaahahahaha!  Watching vengeance scale is amazingly fun.  My attack power just goes up and up and up and up...

I'm definately noticing how aggro is going to be a little shaky.  I look forward to the cries of the dead dps.  They haven't quite learned how to assist the tank - but the current dungeons and design don't FORCE them too.... yet.

So much to learn and wrap my head around with all the changes.... so many new glyphs and a few new skills.  The new all plate armor bonus is sweet, as well as the mastery bonuses.  I'm up to 50k unbuffed HP, which makes me wonder if I should think about swapping out my one stam trinket for armor or avoidance.

I also noticed that dwaves get a +archaelogy bonus.  Which is OK, I guess.  It's still not enough to make me not want to race change to a worgen as soon as I can.  I mean, come on... a warrior with charge, intercept, intervene, heroic leap, AND a racial sprint - as well as a resto shaman arena partner who can now cleanse mage polymorphs and ice novas!?  Mmmmmmm.....  dead mages.

All in all, wonderful changes and it's fun to learn your class again.  And to all of the nay sayers out there... shut it.  We don't have the right gear (+mastery points) yet to make your spec shine.  It's all new and different and you don't like it.  I get it.  But shut up and give it a go and see if you like it.

Oh, and the new downloader is rather spiffy!  I loaded up while it was still downloading with out much issue and off I went.

Oh, and one last thing... I purchased my 310% flying speed last night which lets me give up on Yogg +1.

And there's finally someting NEW in the game again!

 *cue up Choir*

Getting to Know You All Over Again

Well, I got Quintalan set up talentwise, reestablished my glyphs, checked my gear, and tried out Drak'Tharon with three other guildies.  In a taste of lowbie runs, there were three Pallys --one of which was the guy not from our guild as the healer-- and two as Ret.  We also had a Druid as tank, and a Lock rounding out the DPS.

What did we learn?  Oh, joy.

We had an incredibly slow run through Drak, all of us critiquing our stuff.

"XXX Druid ability has a CD now.  Do not like."

"WTH happened to Art of War?"

"Flash of Light and Holy Light flip-flopped.  Have to rework our buttons."

"I feel completely naked; I have no idea how I'm doing."

"Oh oh.  This tanking ability is broken."

"I'm just seeing 300, 400, 500, then 9000 damage at a time.  This just feels wrong."

Nobody died, which was a bonus, but it wasn't, well, thrilling.  Holy Power is definitely the key to making some decent damage, but it's very clumsy right now.  The cooldowns are s-l-o-w, and I felt like I was a fresh 80 doing miniscule damage.  Art of War seems to take forever to proc now, and when it finally does it always seems to be on the last hit of a mob.  Big whoop.

I know what I'm going to be doing the next couple of days:  reading.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hmmmm.... About that patch

Note to self:  The patch is big.

My background downloader had taken care of the 4+ GB over the past few weeks, but I was surprised that after that installation, another window started up for first a 50MB and then another 1.4 GB download.  I've no idea if there's a fourth download behind this one, but hold onto your hats.

EtA:  No, there wasn't another gig lurking behind that fifth one, so we're good to go.  The "you can play now" sound pinged halfway through the last 1.4 GB download, but since the servers were down, it was a moot point.

All in all, lots of "Deathwing this" and "Deathwing that" files were unpacked along with the plethora of assorted other data.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hot, hot...muy caliente

Mages are going through some pretty significant changes, though some argue rotations aren't that much different. I say, "Ha!"

Although Fire mages, which is proving to be by far the most exciting tree in the class in Cataclysm, has a much more dynamtic approach to fighting than it has before. With such spells as Improved Scourch and Improved Flamestrike, mages will be burning everything in sight while on the move. Not many classes can boast cast-as-you-go flexibility, but Fire Mages not only get a full array of spells that allow movement, it does insane AoE DPS. Proof below:

Cataclysm Beta - Fire AoE Madness + Flame Orb!

I've read that the new Fire Orb isn't living up to expectations, but the other changes have demonstrated amazing results (see Elitist Jerk's spoiler at the bottom of the first post here for Spell Coefficients). However, there are issues to take into consideration especially when running with a group:

1) CC involved pulls break when AoEs are used.
2) Hot streak doesn't proc as often as it does now.
3) Mana efficiency is a major issue currently in the patch (which isn't expected to change much when it goes live).
4) Fire has too much emphasis on DoTs and AoE.

The debate is pretty hot and heavy at Elitist Jerks, bringing up burning issues such as boss encounters in raids where single target DPS is lacking in Fire, the lack of Fire Streak procs, and issues with Combustion. Arcane may prove to be the winner for single target, but given its complex rotation we could see more go Frost on the duel spec. Indeed, Frost is taking an interesting turn boasting higher coefficients than fire on EJ's number-crunching charts. So it might be one of those things where a mage goes back and forth, which isn't much different now for heroic modes in ICC, but something to consider based on playstyle, group composition and boss strategies.

I can tell you this, I'll be at the dummies for a while to determine the best build and rotation until I determine the best of both to maximize my DPS. I'm certainly no min-maxer, but like any other girl I'm all about whats muy caliente.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Death from the Skies

I've been trying to split my time between Tomakan and Nevelanthana, slipping in some face time on Q and other toons.  Tom, as another Paladin, is familiar ground, although the queues for DPS or healing are equally long enough right now that there's no real reason for me to keep healing with him for the time being.  The only way for me to get to an instant queue is to start tanking, and that's just not me.

Now Neve, she's been a refreshing change of pace.  What I discovered with Mages is that I really like being able to find a corner, just out of silence or knockdown range, and just go to town.  As I described it to someone the other day, "it's a lot of fun to be raining frozen death from the skies."  The upside is that you don't get impacted by debuffs that the melee DPS do, and you're able to use AOEs to maximum effect.  The downside is that you're the one that gets the aggro if a mob comes up from behind the group, or worse, if the tank gets incapacitated.

Yes, I know about watching threat.  Mixing it up as a Ret Spec Pally has taught me plenty about watching Ye Olde Threat Meter.  Repeat after me:  Omen is my friend.  In fact, I probably watch that as much as I watch Healbot when Tomakan is on Holy Spec.

There's one little thing about being a squishy Mage that's a bit disconcerting, and that's when you get aggro unexpectedly.

The scene:  Zul'Farak.

I'd had a really lousy work week, so I took a late lunch on Friday to get a run in on Neve.  I ported in to Z'F, noted that we had only ranged DPS for a change --two mages and a lock-- we started up the first passage.  This wasn't Neve's first run in Z'F, so I knew about zapping totems in between casting Blizzard.  The first few pulls were shaky, with the Warrior tank needing a few extra seconds to get a good lock on the mob, so I paced my casting to match him.  We made it through the first several mobs and two of the bosses --the zombie creator and the basilisk tender-- when things started to go bad.

The trash pull was pretty typical, and I was in the middle of casting Blizzard.  Threat was under control --somewhere in the low 40s-- when all of a sudden I noticed the mob running at me.

"What the--"

Just as the first blows landed, the threat skyrocketed and only then did WoW announce that I had aggro.

Bubbling and using Frost Nova to keep the mob in place for the tank, I was cursing up a blue streak.  "Are any of you also experiencing lag issues?" I asked.

"Nope."  "Not me."  "Our server was laggy an hour or two ago."

"I've got some," I replied.  "The threat meter didn't show anything until they'd already started hitting me."

"I'll make sure to keep you bubbled," the Priest said.

The next trash pull had the same result, and at least I got a good workout doing the "run to the tank, squishy mage!" routine.   

Okay, I thought, I'll just wait until about 10 seconds into the fight so that I'm certain the tank has a good lock on the threat.

I was standing in the back, the AOE highlighted on the ground and waiting to drop, when it happened for the third time.  Dammit, I didn't even DO anything!

This time, the tank had gotten Hexed.

Then the healer also became a cute little frog, hopping around the desert sand.

The other mage and the lock were more than happy to let me keep aggro as they both scattered, leaving me to bubble and then Ice Block for ten agonizing seconds.

Well, I thought, I survived that.  What's next?

As I've said before:  don't tempt the WoW gods. (You'd think I would have learned that by now.)

Once the tank reacquired threat, another trash mob came wandering into range and aggroed on the lock.  The tank tried to peel their threat away, but he was Hexed again.  This time, the blow was fatal.  We all had a good laugh about it on the run back, and I really really dialed it down for the rest of the run.  You've seen the Mage using Frostbolts + a wand in substantial portions of a 5-man?  That was me in Z'F that afternoon.

Moral of the story:

Squishy + Lots of AoE + Too much trash + Aggro (whether by hook or crook) = Baaad News

And that is something that the melee DPS Pally doesn't have to worry about.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Release Date Finalized

Cataclysm will drop on Pearl Harbor Day --December 7th-- this year.

Let the countdown commence!!

EtA:  Thanks for this goes to a fellow guildie, who found it and posted it first on her own blog.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lag spike

As this expansion wanes down, I'm finding myself more and more in the position of raid leader.  This is not something I've got much experience doing, nor am I particularly comfortable doing so.  That being said, however, I've been curious about how to approach performance related topics during raids.  And even more importantly, when should a raid leader overlook a mistake?

Now, if I remember back to previous guilds I have been a raider in, I've got a wide variety of leadership at both ends of the spectrum.  I've had a former Marine who's now a highway patrolman, and a female college student who just wanted to have fun in game.

The former Marine, as you can imagine, was a gigantic, complete, and utter dick at times.  Ok, well most of the time.  He was hard-core.  He was a former raider in everquest, and we all know from the glory stories every everquest player has how much this entitles him as a badass.  His approach to when a member of the raid messed up was to halt the raid, and wait for the guilty to fess up and apologize - sometimes 15 minutes would pass.  He'd be nerd raging into vent, and once somebody spoke up, he shifted back to being a less-vocal dickhead.

He could give this guy a run for his money...
(Warning - offensive language and mildly offensive crudely done animations)

I think most rational people would not put up with that leadership style for very long, however.

This one the other hand seems much more friendly.  The raid leaders pick a cartoon voice to imitate, and this video features Mickey, Goofy, and one of the South Park kids.  It gets the job done and guild members get a good laugh out of it.
(Warning - also contains some offensive language)

So I'm trying to find a balance between the two, and figure out what, when, and how to approach things like members standing in a fire or hitting killing spree right before a mechanic that requires you to move and subsequently kills you.

This type of problem wouldn't exist, however, if players took more responsibility on themselves to learn fights and positioning.  If a mistake was made, call yourself out on it, apologize, learn from it and move on.  What ever you do, don't blame lag or some odd non-existent bug that got you killed when your character is clearly not lagging - you just messed up.  And it's OK to admit it - faking reasons why the situation was beyond your control to avoid the clearly avoidable encounter mechanic just makes your fellow guild members lose respect for you.

That being said, I'd like to hear a few grand stories of how you've wiped an entire raid.  Here's one of mine:

I'm on my way on my vanilla raiding character (rogue) to my second ever time in ZG, and I get to see new bosses I've never seen before.  I was so excited.  I zoned in, asked where the group was and they had just killed the tiger boss and were handing out loot.  I had no clue where the tiger boss was.  I just mounted up and followed the path of destruction and eventually found them right as they were coming down the ramp out of the tiger area.  I realized as rode up, however, I somehow got aggro on a pack the group must not have killed, because I had a nice little train of mobs following me... So I vanished to hopefully lose aggro.  Nope- they went straight for Mr. former Marine.  As you can imagine this set him off with the quickness - it was rather funny though.  "Who the F was that!? I know it was a rogue!  I SAW YOU VANISH!"