Archive for WoW

Learning a class anew

Posted in Guides, PvP, Raids and Instances, Theory with tags , , on August 8, 2012 by Natarumah

When a new expansion is introduced, you will always see people switching their main characters. Either they got tired of their old class, they want to try out a new role, or they believe that that shiny new alt they rolled is going to be a better fit for them. With Mists, you can also add the reason: “help, my class has been completely overhauled”. You will find that there’s a lot of catching up to do, and you don’t really want to wait until the next raiding season to practice all those cooldowns, rotations and gimmicks.

So here’s what you can do: find equivalent practice.

Equivalent practice

In the basics, it’s looking for a training experience equivalent to whatever you are practicing for, except easily repeatable and sometimes secluded for better number crunching. It’s like stepping into a simulator to train your muscle memory for the operations needed to drive a car before setting foot into a real vehicle. You already get the kinks out before stuff gets real.

Training Rotations

The first step in learning your rotations is to map them out: find a good blog, elitist jerks or a skilled friend and find out what buttons you push and in what order. A simple way of doing this is to make a sort of flow chart on a piece of paper, where you put the abilities you cast into boxes and connect them based on 1) what needs to be up in what order of priority and 2) what needs casting based on a prerequisite (such as SW:Deathx2 below 25% health).

You then map out your button bar so that it reflects this chart; in other words, the most important and often used abilities go at the start of the bar, in easy reach. I like to keep Fade and Shield at the back side of the bar, still within quick click range, in case things go wrong. This is a good place for DPS cooldowns as well, such as Archangel and Shadowfiend. Then comes the next step: practicing at a training dummy.

Training Dummies, while awful for finding out what your DPS would be in a raid or the like, are really amiable targets for repeated and continuous spamming. So basically grind out your basic rotations for half an hour or so, trying to get the best grip on it you can. Because there are no mechanics to worry about, you can easily focus on your buttons and bar to work on a good sequence and timing.

Many people would now consider the next step to go into a dungeon – however for reasons I will mention this is usually a bad place to practice these things. Instead, join up for an LFR run. Since with moderate skill you can already do really well there, and mechanics (while present) are not really dangerous, you can afford to spend more time working on your casting sequences. I imagine that this will be no different in Mists of Pandaria, although it does mean you will need to already have reasonable gear for your toon.

Training burst damage and spatial awareness

For these things, the random dungeon finder is awesome (or even better: queueing up with friends). Assuming you know the basic rotations well enough now, this is the place to learn how to apply burst damage and train spatial awareness. Since people in dungeons are often overgearing the place once the raid seasons started, you will have less chance to practice sustained DPS. The more damage the other people are doing in your group, the less time the mob has to live – and the less time you have to practice.

There’s also the matter that low DPS and attempting to learn a rotation while in a random dungeon (especially heroic) is going to make people really edgy. Most people there just want to rush through for gear and Valor points, and they aren’t really waiting for someone who’s still learning the ropes. However, the fact that the heroics/dungeons have proper encounter mechanics to follow means that you will get practice in spatial awareness and performing your role while paying attention to your surroundings.

Survival and creativity training

To be fair, nothing beats learning to survive and creative use of your skills as does PvP. Random battlegrounds are a good start, and you can easily jump right in with a starter kit made by a crafting profession. In the beginning you will die a lot, but as you become more savvy and get better gear you will live longer and be a more threatening target. This is great to learn what possible means of survival you have when playing that class.

Second, since you fight against Human opponents, you need better and more surprising tactics to fool them. This means you will learn by instinct what abilities (and combinations) will work to lock an opponent down or leave them behind while you escape. All skills which will be valuable while raiding.

Class and spec-specific tricks

These are perhaps the only things that can only be learned by using them in arenas, rated battlegrounds or raids. These are either class-specific tricks (Prot warrior charge/intercept, hunter kiting/jump shot, Priestly Hymn of Hope + Shadowfiend) or role-specific (corner pulls, heal stacking, multidotting) and you are going to have to learn them the hard way, by experience. Often it’s these tricks that make the difference between a good DPS and an amazing DPS, and you will learn a lot instinctively and with experience.

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to train yourself in your class before the raids start – and with Mists of Pandaria bringing in a breath of fresh air for a lot of classes, even experienced players might benefit from a few simple tips on how to (re)learn critical skills for raiding and PvP. If you identify yours now, you can be up and running while your fellows – I mean competition – are still learning to walk again.

Expanding our Minds

Posted in Fun, News with tags , , , , on March 22, 2012 by Natarumah

Well, pun intended of course. With the release of the NDA and the cataclysmic flood of information on what we (might/will/could) see in Mists of Pandaria you will see blogs all over the blogosphere light up as people try to make sense of it all. Some predict the end of the game because of “Casuals” while others see it as the new hope in gaming. I for one do welcome a lot of the preview material, if only because it makes the game more cohesive and enjoyable.

Pandaren

Well, the debate is reasonably settled on the Pandaren Female form, but the nice thing here is that Blizzard did not decide to go for the Black Panda – Red Panda disconnect. Rather, both will be part of the customization options for the race. This means that rather than picking “sides”, Blizzard decided to allow both the Black and Red Panda concepts to co-exist. I applaud this, since now basically everyone gets what they want.

And besides, how many black-and-white Panda combos can you make, anyway?

Things to do in Azeroth before we die

Thanks to the addition of the 11th Character Slot (Oh yeah!) I would be able to make a Panda of my own (Monk of course) and play it as a fat epicurean. With the sneak peeks on pet battles, exploration, improvements to archaeology and cooking specializations it means we will have plenty to do that isn’t dungeons or raids. And it was about time.

Archaeology improvements include the addition of mob spawns in dig sites which drop goodies, including a convenient teleportation option to the next dig site. This cuts down on the immense travel time involved, and also means that your level starts making a difference while braving through dark jungles into abandoned temples and explorer’s tents.

The various cooking specializations will each benefit a primary stat – other than offering a bit of diversity, it also makes having cooking on multiple characters worthwhile, and dovetails nicely with the Pandaren’s reputation as epicureans. My fun and fat friend in slot 11 is going to be a lot of fun!

AoE Looting

Shamelessly mentioned as an upgrade for the game after it has been included in RIFT and Star Wars. After all, looting individual creatures is quite a waste of time for some of us mass-murderers (Paladin Tanks, I look at thee!). Sure it’s a nice-to-have and not a necessity, but it will certainly make life a lot easier.

Graphics Upgrade

Yes, upgraded character models are on the table, but probably won’t be finished in time (other than what is needed to make Monks). This might be sad news, but it shows that upgrading old content to more modern standards is definitely in the pipeline. I hope this also includes eventually a pixel-upgrade on some of the old sets, especially now that they are being used for Transmogrification. Some pieces can’t match each other simply because their quality diverges between 8-bit pixel style to rendered goodness.

What I was especially impressed with were the videos released with the new models, such as the Sha and the Celestial dragon. I have to say that the quality (while somewhat cartoonish) is very good and I am looking forward to seeing it live. Many people decry the cartoony style of WoW, but so far most games haven’t stood up to the test of time quite that well, and the same goes for WoW’s movement style. For some reason to me it seems a lot more fluid, and this will help a lot once the Monk comes into play.

The Beta and Annual Pass

One of the main topics now is the Beta – everyone wants to see the new graphics, class, game and direction. Many of those bought an annual pass in the hopes of just that, and now that the first invites are sent to people who opted in, they fell entitled to join as well. Of course, the devil is in the fine print. Yes, you will be in the Beta, but Blizzard decides when. This will most likely be in the large Open-Beta push towards the end a month maybe two before release, where only the last bugs need ironing out.

I understand some people feel “meh” about this, but also realize that this was already quite clear before. Yes, it’s a bit misleading, but certainly not a breach of contract or anything else that is cried about on forums. You can still get an invite (if lucky) through the opt-in before the grand public opening, so be sure to have those boxes ticked in your battle.net account!

Conclusion

This expansion will be in part about Pandaria and part about the titanic struggle of Horde versus Alliance. Exploration and hobbies become as important as raiding. All in all I think Mists of Pandaria will be an expansion where we slow down from our daily lives, rather than stay in our modern-24h-per-day speed. Raiding will be big, as ever, as will be PvP.

But the focus will be more on it being a game, and on enjoying ourselves. So that those who call themselves truly casual, or those who are not but relaxing on an alt, can have as rich a gaming life in WoW as anyone else. And I applaud a little R&R before we save the galaxy again…

Stay tuned as I take a fine-tooth comb through the changes and announcements, and see how we as Shades can gain a benefit!

The legacy of Blizzcon 2011

Posted in Fun, News, PvP, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by Natarumah

Alright, it’s official: the new expansion’s going to be Mists of Pandaria, as reported by Boubouille at MMO-Champion. So far, there’s a few things to be excited about: Panadaren race which will choose to be Alliance or Horde, depending on your choices after building the character/finishing the starter zone. And a Monk class, which will probably be the new plate-less and shield-less Paladin. Right.

Some of the other things that can work out really well:

  • Level Cap Increased to 90: Learn potent new spells and abilities while exploring uncharted zones and taking on challenging new content.
  • New Zones: Explore the lush Jade Forest, treacherous Kun-Lai Summit, and other exotic areas of Pandaria designed for high-level characters, and uncover the mystery of the Wandering Isle.
  • Scenarios: Join up with some friends to achieve a common goal, such as mounting a defense against invading monsters, in a flexible new type of PvE challenge.
  • Dungeon “Challenge” Modes: Master the ultimate 5-player time trial and earn prestige rewards in a new dungeon mode that will put your resolve and coordination to the test.
  • Pet Battles: Challenge other players’ companion pets with your own collection in a new tactical mini-game, and find out who’s king or queen of the pint-sized battlefield.
  • New Talent System: Customize your character to suit your play style with the newly overhauled and improved talent system.

I heartily recommend you to watch the trailer, honestly. It softens the blow when I start talking about the new talent system.

And check out the details on the Minipet battles – they are awesome. On one hand, it’s just Pokemon, really. But it’s fun because it’s using all those Minipets we already had anyway. So expect to have your Tortledy-…err I mean Toothy, come out of its bucket for a scrap.

  • You will be able to collect, level, and battle with companion pets.
  • It will be accessible to all players.
  • Works with almost every pet
  • Pet Customization, you will be able to name your pet, give them visual abilities, etc …
  • There will be “Wild pets”, you can find them in the world and engage in battle with them. You will then be able to get that pet and add it to your Pet Journal.
  • Pets have random stats, some of them will be very good at tanking, some will have a CC ability, etc …
  • Some pets will only be found during a specific season, while it’s raining, or during the day or the night. Some of them will only spawn in the spring, when it’s raining, in elwynn forest at night!
  • Most pets will become tradable, even after it’s leveled, etc …
  • Pets will be account wide
  • Your pet journal will display info on all your pets, including stats, skills, and also drop locations and lore info for the pets you don’t have yet!
  • Winning battles earns you experience, and levels your pets.
  • You will learn new abilities. Every pet can use 3 abilities in a battle at one time.
  • Every time you level you will also increase the stats of your pet.
  • You will level multiple pets to build your team.
  • You have 3 battle slots, one for each pet in your team.

So yeah, Pokemon. Totally.

Talent System

The talent system will be overhauled completely – again. Last time it was heavily simplified, and a base set of abilities have been tied into your choice of primary tree. This will now follow evolution to its eventual end: every 15 levels you will get to pick a single talent from among three choices. Generally, one of these will be Utility/Healing/DPS/PvP, depending on the available specs for the class.

We’re screwed. Two of our trees are healers.
Druids and Paladins and triple-screwed. They have a lot of options, but still only three boxes to put them in.

Check the ideas they have for the priest, in the picture below:

The key here is also that these seem to be toggle-based, meaning that outside of combat and for some fee/reagent you will be able to choose a new set of (6) talents, and then click Learn to finalize it. No more talent point ranks, no more complicated respeccs. Most likely dual-spec will still be available, so that you could have more than one primary talent set to choose from.

It’s quite likely, considering the design philosophy they extolled here and the main Pandaria FAQ that we will not be able to heal much at all, even out of Shadow Form. It feels a bit like more and more of the regular class abilities (especially if one spec is hinges on them) are confined to talent tree abilities. On the other hand, it would make little sense for a healer to not be able to quest or PvP.

Warning concerning Shadowform

I certainly hope it’s not going to happen, but – in the pictures, references are made between Caster Form and Shadow Form. I hope with all my heart this is not an early reference to making Shadowform a cooldown (like Tree of Life) rather than a stance. It would be pretty bad, for the community as well. When Tree of Life became a cooldown, the resto druid community practically collapsed. A dozen bloggers vanished without a trace (I kid you not) and more restos simply respecced because they hated the Macho Tree. They didn’t return until the glyph was introduced that returned its original form.

But it would be a bad thing for us too – not purple means not a Shadowpriest. That’s it.

Recap of the philosophy

Talents 2.0

  • Major change to class talent trees, and this is a new phase of development for the talent system.
  • The goal is to have you sit to another next to another combat rogue, and this combat rogue will actually have different talents than you do!
  • Character customization was the original point of talents in the first place but overtime cookie cutter builds dominated the scene.

New Model

  • Class Abilities are available to all specs in the class. All warriors learn heroic strike for example.
  • Spec Abilities are available to certain specs. Only Arms warriors learn Slam. Retribution and Protection paladin get Hammer of the Righteous, etc …
  • Talents are optional skills/bonuses available to all specs. Any warrior can choose Throwdown, and you will have to pick between 3 different crowd control abilities on this level of talent.
  • Level 15 – You pick your first talent. For example, warriors have to pick between Juggernaut / Double Time / Warbringer and players will have to pick which mobility ability they want to pick depending on their playstyle.

Talent Philosophy

  • Access to stuff you never could before. If you were a subtlety rogue you knew you weren’t going to get something like Killing Spree. And because talents are going to be all in the same tree, you’re going to be able to combine them in a way that you never could before. For example, any rogue can have Shadowstep!
  • Several new, overpowered (feeling) talents will be added to the game.
  • If you don’t see a beloved talent in your new talents list, don’t worry, it’s probably something we gave your spec as a baseline. For example all Holy priests now have Circle of Healing.
  • No mandatory talents anymore.
  • Every choice should be hard but fun!

Talent Preview

  • Design will iterate a lot on individual talents
  • Don’t obsess about the numbers

Initial feel on the talent changes

The first five seconds of me reading these changes made be go “nononono” considering I could see a new leveling player being sharply regimented into a “Choose spec at 10, get reward at 25+” sort of game. Having rewards spread out too much will make leveling even more of a grind. But it looks like they are planning to take some spec-iconic abilities and add them to the class abilities while leveling. For example, I could see for us that Shadowy Apparitions (not in the trees now) becomes available at around level 55 or so.

Tier 1 – Psyfiend for PvE, Psychic Scream for PvP. The tendrils are nice, and could be used in specific add-based fights, but otherwise are not that special.
Tier 2 – Phantasm for PvP and any fight with roots – else Body and Soul to shield yourself for movement. Don’t take Path of the Devout since Levitate is broken on damage and thus no good in any environment with damage.
Tier 3 – From Darkness comes Light (Surge of Darkness) will provide more DPS in all likelihood – Dark Archangel looks good as well but without a mana regen component, it’s basically a 15% damage buff that is up every 90 seconds. RNG is more involved in the former than the latter.
Tier 4 – Final Prayer on average, for when your healer is asleep
Tier 5 – Power Infusion – Twist of Faith is only good for boss battles with insane time at 25% or lower (Ragnaros) which is also a burn phase.
Tier 6 -Vampiric Dominance – with Void Shift for specific fights

So while it seems “hard” to make a cookie cutter build, it’s not hard to make a baseline. Going Psy/Pha/FDcL/FP/PI/VD will give you enough utility in most fights and you can always swap for specific fights. However, just like with glyphs today, it will probably not happen much.

Pros:

  • Clean talent trees, easier to balance
  • True hybridization
  • Utility and Survival is a personal choice, basic DPS should be baseline
  • Easier to swap and switch

Cons:

  • Less choice, and most often the logical choice is obvious
  • Slower progression might discourage newer players
  • Pidgeon-holing and alienating older players (again).
  • Healers get to our goodies – and we don’t want theirs.

Will Smite priests survive? Will Shadowpriests actually have any benefit from these changes? To me it just sounds like we’re on the short end of the stick since Disc/Holy will have a use for all our talents – even in PvE. We don’t have any use for their talents. I mean, Vow of Unity is a poor man’s Divine Sacrifice (Paladin). Why take it? A healer might, but why would a DPS other than because the specific fight dynamics demand it?

This also means you will have a hard time explaining an average simple-minded puggy that he needs that talent, or you won’t win the fight. He’ll go “meh, I am DPS – I take the DPS talent”. And there you go, stranded until you can make it clear.

Firelands forays, where we learn to stay in the kitchen

Posted in Guides, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest with tags , , , on July 12, 2011 by Natarumah

Now that we’ve had some time to check out the bosses in Firelands beyond the startegy guides, I think it’s about time to compile some of the new boss’ strategies and try to find some tips and tricks we can use to our advantage. In general, Firelands fights are reasonably ranged-friendly, but there are a few things that are going to irk us unless we learn to work around it.

Beth’tilac

This big spider scurries up on her web the moment she’s attacked. Spinners will be dangling from the web, tossing fireballs at the raid, and Beth’tilac sprays acid on the raid. Taunting a spider gets it down, as does dealing a lot of damage. This reduces raid damage and leaves a bright red line leading up into the web.

One tank and a healer go up, as do (in the normal strategy) the melee DPS. Tanking her stops Beth’tilac from spraying her AoE. She has an energy bar, which depletes over time. Once empty, she starts casting a giant AoE. During this time, everyone on top of the web needs to go down to the ground level via the hole in the middle of the web. This repeats itself three times, then she comes down for phase 2.

Meanwhile, on the ground Drones will spawn, which need to be tanked facing away from the raid. Strong single-target ranged classes (Arcane Mages, Boomkins, and ourselves after the last patch) nuke down the Drone. Little Spiderlings will come streaming towards the Drone from a few positions at the edge of the field. These need to be slowed and killed before they reach the Drone – this will heal it up. Fire Mages, Frost Mages (for control) and Hunters do wonders here.

If a Drone is not killed in time, it will go up the web and start mooching energy of big momma Beth’tilac. This will drain her energy bar quicker, meaning less time until the next Smoldering Devastation.

Once phase 2 begins, she starts turning the tank into an AoE bomb (stay 10 yards away) and everyone else clumps up on her tail. This is a nuke phase with ever-increasing damage until she’s dead. If you did your job well, no Spiderlings reached her as she came down, and the damage dealt by the melee is helping. If she ate a Spiderling, she’s generally healed to full again. Burn or wipe.

We as Shadowpriests have a strong AoE (Mind Sear) but it’s reasonably unwieldy on this fight. Your best bet is to channel it off a Mage (preferably Fire) who stays close to the Spiderlings. Just be careful not to get too close, or they jump on you and poison you. You need 3-4 people on each group of Spiderlings, or else it’s a tough duty.

Personally I prefer to stay on the Drones or go up the web and hurt Beth’tilac, but when you need a lot of AoE there’s not much choice.

Shannox

If you kill enough trash, this nice Salamander will spawn. He’s a Hunter-type, with traps and two dogs: Riplimb and Rageface. He tosses down Freezing Traps and Immolation Traps. The trick to this fight is to nuke down Rageface while Riplimb is tanked. Neither the boss nor the adds can be taunted, so careful!

Rageface occasionally jumps at a person and does Face Rage, which is a lot of damage on that target. To break it, he needs to take a 30K (10man) or 45K (25man) single-target hit. He then attacks the target that dealt him this damage (stand and take it, it’s easily healed through).

Shannox will toss a spear now and then, creating a zone with little fiery geysers – don’t touch them. This works like the Drakonids in BoT after Theralion and Valiona – small fiery jets which erupt after a few seconds. Stay out of the traps, or move away from them if they come on you. Ice Traps will freeze you until the DPS releases you by breaking it. Immolation Traps hurt like hell.

After Shannox’ spear has been tossed, Riplimb will rush op to it to fetch it back for him. Using traps or kiting the boss, the tanks will extend the time it takes to deliver the spear to the fullest. With the spear, Shannox applies a debuff – and Riplimb does the same for his tank. The longer it takes to get the spear back, and Riplimb is occupied, the less damage on the tank and a good chance the stacks drop off.

Once Rageface is dead, bring Shannox to 35% and Riplimb to 5% – kill Riplimb and then Shannox enrages – gather up and kill him, this is a DPS race. Every dog that is killed gives him a 30% damage boost, so while killing Rageface is an acceptable tradeoff, killing Riplimb will necessitate a quick transition.

He’s otherwise very easy, and you can keep DoTs on all targets most of the time. Ironically, our DPS is the highest when our raid members fail and get caught in traps, where we have many DoTs running as you are nuking dogs, Shannox and the crystals.

If you are the target of Face Rage, simply Disperse and wait it out – your health bar will hardly move.

Rhyolith

Rhyolith is a big stone giant which has two phases – one where you can only DPS his legs, and the second where he goes “flame-on” on your raid and you DPS him down. In his first phase he is untankable – instead, you can guide him by DPS’ing the leg where you want him to go. So to make him go left, DPS the left leg. You want a bit of DPS on both legs to prevent him from resetting his direction swing (usually I get put on DoTting both legs) but the bulk on where you want him to move.

Have one dedicated person who calls which leg to DPS on. Practice it, we are good for this role since we have good overview of the fight and little facing requirements.

He will spawn volcanoes, and Stomp AoE which gives us stacks – the stacks increase Fire damage taken. Active volcanoes will spawn fiery lines (stay out), Shards of Rhyolith (small adds, gather and nuke) and Fragment of Rhyolith (large burning adds which AoE – stay away from those, tank it away from the raid and single-target nuke).

Rhyolith takes little damage – he has 80 stacks of Obsidian Armor. If he walks over a volcano, 10 stacks are removed and he is debuffed. This is the key to reaching phase 2 – make sure to walk him over volcanoes while controlling raid damage. This part is mostly survival for us. In a typical fight I try to stay in healer’s AoE, keep DoTs on both legs, while nuking adds. This ensures control over the legs, a steady stream of damage on the boss, and a speedy killing of the adds.

Especially the little adds need to die quickly – after 30 seconds, any living ones will rush raid members and deal them damage based on their current health. Added to the stacking debuff increasing Fire damage, this really puts the hurting on your raid.

Once he reaches phase 2 (at 25% health) he will shed his stony shell and become a molten giant of magma. This is where you want the raid to stack up for healing and nuke him down. He can now be tanked, and tanks and healers chain cooldowns to keep the tanks and the raid up. Save all offensive cooldowns for this phase.

Baleroc

This fight is mostly a healer-check, where they have to manage a complicated rotation to get the proper healing buffs up before healing the tank. For us as DPS, there’s mostly the “Crystal Tanking” to worry about. What happens is that crystals will spawn – one in 10man, two in 25man difficulty. When you stand close to it, it will give you a DoT that stacks. When you leave the area of the crystal, you take a debuff increasing magical damage taken by a lot.

Key is to rotate people to and from the crystals. What we did was put people in groups of three, and assign each group the first, second and third crystal (in 25man). In each group, one person is the first to soak, leaving when he has 8-10 stacks. The second person then steps in close, and takes 8-10 before the third one steps in. In this case, a handy trick is for each soaker group to stay close together, and each person to have the person before them in line on focus. That way you can see where they are as a dot on the minimap.

Other than that, this fight is very easy and – I dare say – very boring.

Alysrazor

And then this helter-skelter. The basic premise is rather fun for everyone. Druids spawn, which have to be interrupted and killed. If they are allowed to cast Fieroblast, they will stack a Haste buff on themselves, which will wipe your raid if allowed to stack too high.

Meanwhile, tanks pick up hatchlings, which imprint on the nearest target when they hatch. The tank gets a huge damage boost, which will put them firmly #1 and #2 on the DPS charts. The hatchlings start sated, but soon become Hungry. When they reach Tantrum phase, they deal a LOT of damage. To counter this, the tank has to drag the hatchling to the worms that spawn randomly, and have them eat a worm just as the hatchling starts a tantrum.

For us DPS – the worms have a fire breath and can’t be affected by anything. Avoid.

Alysrazor drops feathers on the ground when she’s first summoned, and on every pass. Make sure to get at least 1 feather before phase 2, because it allows you to move while casting. With three feathers, you can fly – usually Melee follows Alysrazor into the air. Flying through burning hoops in the air extends your flight ability and gives a stacking Haste/Crit buff. Personal experience is that I practically doubled my DPS if I were allowed to fly up.

When Phase 2 starts, Alysrazor centers downstairs and becomes a torrent of flame. Everyone should get to the ground and avoid the fiery tornadoes. Easiest way to do that is to run after a tornado, and when another tornado passes, follow that one. Repeat until the end of the phase – you won’t get hit if you do this properly. There are fiery gates here as well that grant the same damage buff. Once you are comfortable surviving, aim for 2-3 stacks at least.

Phase 3 Alysrazor has run out of energy and lies at the center. This is a full burn-phase, where the two druids’ channel has to be interrupted. She then ignites, and you have a short window to DPS her before she goes into the sky again. Then phase 1 repeats. After the third burn phase, she can no longer ignite and will stay down. The raid then has to DPS her down before the wipe happens. Aim for 20% off the boss’ health at every flight phase, and another 20% from the people flying after her. This leaves about 20% to DPS down in the burn phase.

The lowdown on the loot

Promise you won’t cry. Okay.The loot in Firelands varies greatly by quality. Not every boss drops a good item, but as Intellect is a priority stat, you might want to go for subpar items (Crit-Spirit, Crit-Mastery, Spirit-Mastery) if you are just gearing up.

Of proper note, however, is the Smoldering Censer of Purity. Not getting the legendary from your guild? This baby will comfort you to sleep at night. This lovely, lovely item has a chance of also dropping from every other boss, except Ragnaros. Squee!

Beth’tilac drops Robes of Smoldering Devastation, which are really nice but not worth breaking up your 4piece over. And since in the T12 the legs are the weakest piece, you will be aiming for the T12 robe.

Rhyolith drops the Flickering Cowl, which has a random enchantment and can possibly be good – but again, you don’t want to break the 4-piece for it and you want the T12 head later on.

Shannox drops BoE boots, the Coalwalker Sandals. These are very good boots, and will be a great complement to the “free” cloak, belt and bracer you get from the rep vendor. The Goblet of Anger is also a very good off-hand and will help free up a lot of Hit you’ve been reforging onto your gear.

So of these bosses, only Shannox drops gear of note, and expect to share a lot of it with the healers and the other ranged DPS. We won’t be drooling until Baleroc and his Necromantic Focus, Staghelm’s Flowform Choker and Wristwraps of Imminent Doom (once you are comfortably hit-capped). Ragnaros drops Majordomo’s chain of Office and Ko’gun, Hammer of the Firelord.

As you can see, we have plenty of gear to go for, but nothing in the terms of choices. Four-piece T12 is set on head, shoulders, chest and hands. We get a good belt, cloak and bracer from the rep vendor. This leaves primarily the weapon and trinket slots that are in need of upgrades.

The Big BG Fix

Posted in PvP, Shadowpriest with tags , , on February 19, 2010 by Natarumah

WordPress is being a bit…off the last few days, and the control panel looks like a series of blank pages – so excuse me if my posts look a bit ragged or unfinished until they can get it fixed. I heard they had major downtime this week.

Blizzard revealed that they want to do for PvP what they also did for the Heroics: After the Dungeon Finder, say hi to the BG finder! Below is the post that announced it:

We have several changes planned for Battlegrounds in the next minor content patch and would like to share them with you now. This patch will be available for public testing and we encourage you to participate, queue up and provide some feedback on these changes.

* Firstly, say goodbye to Battleground Marks of Honor. We feel this currency system is a bit outdated and are getting rid of it. Any items which require these marks as currency will have their costs adjusted appropriately to remove this requirement. The quest NPCs will still be available to award players Honor for turning in leftover marks, but this is only to help players clear this expired currency.

* Next, the Battleground holiday weekend will now be denoted as “Call to Arms” in the Battleground tab and Calendar. If you prefer a specific Battleground over all others, look for those words next to its name to determine whether or not you’ll receive bonus Honor. The bonus awards for Call to Arms Battlegrounds have been adjusted.

o Winning a Call to Arms Battleground for the first time in a day will award players with 30 Honorable Kills worth of additional Honor currency.
o Additional Call to Arms Battleground victories after the first win for a player that day will award them with 15 Honorable Kills worth of additional Honor currency.
o Losing a Call to Arms Battleground will award players with 5 Honorable Kills worth of additional Honor currency.

* To bring the rate at which players obtain PvP rewards with Honor more in-line with the rate at which players obtain PvE rewards via the Dungeon Finder, we’ll also be increasing the amount of Honor awarded for an Honorable Kill by 100%. In light of this, the amount of experience provided from an Honorable Kill, and the amount of Honor awarded for completing the Wintergrasp weekly quests, have been reduced by 50%.

It’s important to note one thing about these 50% decreases. All Honor awarded for completing objectives in Battlegrounds and Wintergrasp is actually based on an Honorable Kill conversion rate. So if you destroy a tower in Alterac Valley for example, the Honor you’re awarded is actually based on a flat number of Honorable Kills. Since Honorable Kills will now award 100% more Honor, completing such objectives will also award more Honor. This is why experience gains based on completing Battleground objectives and Honor awarded from the Wintergrasp quests are being decreased by 50%.

* Now that we hopefully have your attention, we’re pleased to announce the implementation of the Random Battleground system! This system will work virtually the same as the Random Dungeon option in the Dungeon Finder. Players can queue with a group of up to five players for a Random Battleground in the Battleground tab. As with the Random Dungeon option, the Battleground chosen will not be revealed until players zone into the Battleground for which they are selected. The bonus rewards for this system are identical to the updated Call to Arms bonuses.
o Winning a Battleground using the Random Battleground option for the first time in a day will award players with 30 Honorable Kills worth of additional Honor currency.
o Winning additional Battlegrounds using the Random Battleground option after the first random win will award players with 15 Honorable Kills worth of additional Honor currency.
o Losing a Battleground using the Random Battleground option will award players with 5 Honorable Kills worth of additional Honor currency.
o When using the Random Battleground option, players will not receive additional rewards if the Battleground chosen is under the effects of the Call to Arms bonuses. In other words, the bonuses do not stack. In addition, if a player has been rewarded 30 Honorable Kills worth of bonus Honor currency from either the Random Battleground system, or the Call to Arms Battleground, he or she will be rewarded 15 Honorable Kills worth of bonus Honor currency that day for each additional victory. This applies whether the Random Battleground system is used, or the Call to Arms Battleground is chosen specifically, as a player cannot be rewarded the full amount of bonus Honor more than once per day.

All of these features and changes will be available in the next minor patch which should be hitting the public test realms in the near future. Please help us out by testing this system and providing your feedback so we can make some fine-tuning adjustments before the patch’s release.

What this means for us?

Well, PvP already had its own “queue and do something else” system, so it is mostly for the rewards. That being, lots of bonus honor. And with the removal of the BG marks, this means that a lot of the things we had to painstakingly grind for (marks for mounts, tabards, all the fun little things) will now become available for a converted amount of Honor instead.

This is good news, because it means that getting upgraded kit to particpate in entry-level PvP is easier, and that completionists who want their mounts can now do so without spending days in Warsong Gulch (often losing it, say hi to a single mark…again).

It being random also means that people will go all over the place, and there is less chance of finding the same crushing combo of opponents every BG you enter, or having as many AFKers as before.

Why I think so? Because a lot of the AFK farmers are using bots and macroes to get through their BG seeming to be not AFK – and they will get some strange results if the BG changes the whole time. They will probably stick to queueing for fixed BGs, meaning they will be separated from the others.

Either way, I think this is a good change – and will help us get the high-stamina kit we need for some specific encounters (Council, Heroic Twin Val’Kyr) where we are often asked to be as indestructible as we sometimes seem to be.

Nevermelting shards of doom I say!

Posted in News, Raids and Instances, Shadowpriest, Theory, Theorycraft with tags , , on December 1, 2009 by Natarumah

Just a short post as an intermezzo about an interesting trinket mentioned at MMO-Champion: Nevermelting Ice Crystals. The reason for this is because of the current wording on the tooltip.

“Equip: Increases spell power by 111.
Use: Increases your critical strike rating by 920 for 20 sec. Every time one of your non-periodic spells deals a critical strike, the bonus is reduced by 184 critical strike rating. (3 Min Cooldown)”

What this would suggest, if you take the wording literally, is that this ability gives you 920 critical strike rating (about 30%) for 20 seconds, reducing it by 184 but not for our VT, SW:P and DP tick crits. There were more abilities that are worded this way, such as the Mage’s Combustion ability.

Why is this important?

Say that you macro this trinket in with your  Devouring Plague and that by doing so you get a 50% crit (a little low but it is to illustrate a point). The result will be the following:

Cast VE while tank gets aggro and you run into position
Vampiric TouchMind Blast
Mind Flay (To get 5 stacks of Shadow weaving)
Shadow Word: Pain
Devouring Plague (Trinket activates)

What happens now is that the trinket activates, and for the next 20 seconds you get that lovely 30% crit bonus on VT, SW:P and DP. Since in that time you will cast maybe 2 MB, 4 MF and a SW:D (more with haste, of course) you will see your crit go down, but the largest part of that crit bonus keeps applying to your DoTs for most of the time.

This is what we call a double-edged sword: Either the trinket will allow us to roll a massive string of crits (expending itself in the process) or we will crit not or only a little, during which time the crit bonus will continue to apply to our DoTs. And no matter what, our DoTs critting will not impact the trinket’s bonus. Win-win!

Conclusion

Seriously though, that will require a lot of theorycrafting. But with a 3-minute cooldown, tying it into your Devouring Plague will keep it up as much as possible. Don’t tie it to (for instance) SW:P, because the longer you keep it rolling, the less chance the trinket will be activated again, which means you are being penalized for being a good player.

I will have to see exactly how much use it is, and how the theorycrafting works, but I think I may finally have found a replacement for the Sundial of the Exiled, since the Illustration of the Dragon Soul never drops for me. With a base 34% crit chance today, I would get 64%+ crit when this trinket whirrs up. Let alone…after raid buffs!

Pssst. Mister Arcane Mage, need a target for your Focus Magic? [links trinket]

P.S. You may wonder why I would go through an entire start-up line of spells before activating the trinket with a DP at the end (traditional lineups would also put up the DP sooner). First off, you need 5 stacks of Shadow Weaving to make SW:P do its work properly, and Mind Flay, Mind Blast and a Shadow:Word Death are quick ways of doing it. However, if the trinket is active before then, this is likely to eat up a large portion of the crit bonus, which I want to save for the DoTs.

Also, you will pull aggro this way if you pop it so early in the pull. Your tanks will have your hides.

P.P.S How long do you want to wager we can use it before it will be nerfed? If it even comes off the PTR this way?

Astral Walker and nearly alone in the darkness

Posted in News, Raids and Instances with tags , , on December 1, 2009 by Natarumah

Yesterday was a torrent of activity, focus and determination as Unity managed to defeat Algalon during its one-hour stay on pittoresque Azeroth. It was the first time I was the soaker, meaning that during the Big Bang I stay outside, disperse 2 seconds before Big Bang finishes casting, and stay alive until the tank picks everything up again.

The feeling of doing this is immensely rewarding; people might die left and right, but you just stand there like a Teflon Bishop, DPSing even as others scramble for the portals. As Algalon prepares an attack normally survivable only by Iceblocking mages and cooldown-burning tanks, you smirk. In comes this huge blast, as you disperse into shadows. “Did a fly just fart?” Before Algalon can retaliate, mean people with plate armor grabs his attention as you continue your shadowy assault.

This fight is awesome.

And, to top it all off I won the quest item to hand in the Reply Code Alpha in Dalaran (rewarding, and as much as I wanted to do it just once because it’s a cool thing to do, the ring from the quest will be a more than welcome addition to my arsenal) and urged on my guildies to come and watch.

But before handing it in, the rest of the evening would be spent on Yogg-Saron+1 attempts, leaving 3 watchers at the ringside, slugging it out with the Old God with only Thorim to finish off the Immortal Guardians. We took a few hours on that, but eventually managed to down him too.

That means two Unity-firsts in an evening, and also means 25 more people with the snazzy “Astral Walker” title. General elation ensued, and the feeling that Ulduar is now truly and well settled. We will run the hardmodes and Algalon for some time more (we still want our Protodrakes for Glory of the Ulduar raider, and not everyone got through all the hardmodes yet) to get more people a look at these awesome fights.

With the Trial of the Grand Crusader within grasp (only need Anub’Arak) it is almost feeling like the close of the last chapter of “The Two Towers”. I still have vague memories of the first book (Naxxramas, Sartharion) and my mind is still wrapped around the rhythm of this book (Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader), but my thoughts are already straying towards the last book. Here it all comes to a close – Icecrown Citadel.

Before the Cataclysm hits, I will be devouring every page, riveted until the end.

P.s. Checking our realm list, it seems we have the realm’s 2nd kill on both, just behind Damnation, which is the realm’s #1 raiding guild. *glows internally*

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