Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Wound (Spoilers)

So there's a 7.3.2 PTR build up. We're going to be talking post-Antorus spoilers here. So let's... um... let's put up that spoiler warning.

SPOILERS AHOY!

Ok? Good? We all ready for the spoiler ride? Ok.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

On Redemption and Freedom

Something really interesting happens in the Argus quests available today. If you haven't done them, I'd recommend you do, because there's something new at play here.

It involves the Light and freedom, but not in the way you'd expect.

Spoilers to follow.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Major Artifact Traits and a World Beyond Legion

We've seen class revamps in the past, but Legion seemed to really went back to the drawing board on a number of specs, introducing new resource systems (and removing some old ones - RIP Demonic Fury) as well as creating a whole lot of new ideas and features through artifact traits.

Each artifact has one activated trait - most get it as the artifact's first trait, while some require you to invest a lot of artifact power (though at this point, and especially after Tuesday, it should be trivial to get to that level of power.)

The traits are variable in coolness and effectiveness, so I figured I'd talk about them here and look at which ones really feel like they ought to become baseline parts of the specs.

I'm not going to go into all the passive traits, except in places where I think they're notable.

We'll look at both how impactful and important they feel to the spec and also how cool they are.

Also, I'm going to stick mainly to specs I'm more familiar with, as I can't comment a lot on how much, say, the Feral Druid's artifact ability affects them.

Death Knights:

Blood: Consumption:

Consumption is odd, in that it is a potentially massive strike/heal that scales very well with the targets it hits, but given that Blood is all about big bursts of self-healing through Death Strike, the feeling of putting your health back up to full fades pretty quickly when you're being swarmed by lots of little dudes. Still, very on brand and has a satisfying animation. Maybe could be reworked to gain lots of Bone Shield charges (something that's tough to maintain when dealing with groups.)

Frost: Sindragosa's Fury:

My only issue here is that I don't think every Frostwyrm-themed ability needs to be named after Sindragosa. This has A+ cool factor, though I'd be willing to see damage go down (or maybe have it deal less to secondary targets) to get this on a 3-minute cooldown. Of course, if there's a built-in cooldown reduction like the artifact gives us, that might be fine. Frost needs a little more undeath in its arsenal, and theming that around Frostwyrms makes a ton of sense.

Unholy: Apocalypse:

This is maybe my favorite artifact ability. Army of the Dead is such an awesome cooldown, but having it only come every ten minutes means you don't get to see it very often. I think they could keep this exactly as it is and I'd be happy with it. Just make it baseline to the spec. (Also, I should mention that the Shambling Horror passive trait should absolutely be at least a talent. Shambling, exploding zombies is exactly what Unholy should be all about.)

Demon Hunters:

Havoc: Fury of the Illidari:

To be honest, this doesn't feel particularly on-theme or all that cool. I think having another baseline 1-minute cooldown ability would be good, but while I appreciate the damage (especially in AoE situations) I think we could stand to lose this in the next expansion without feeling all that bad.

Vengeance: Soul Carver:

This is actually a really good ability that also kind of serves as a bandaid for one of the flaws in the spec: Soul Fragments don't come off very consistently, and as such your Soul Cleave can have wild variation in the degree to which it heals you. Still, if you want to keep the unpredictability but use this to smooth things over when you need it, I say it's a keeper.

Druids:

Balance: New Moon/Half Moon/Full Moon:

While tied pretty strongly to the artifact itself (though not so much that it wouldn't make sense baseline,) the Moon Cycle spells are both super-cool (especially Full Moon) and also really help smooth out the rotation, allowing you to more or less only fire off empowered Solar Wraths and Lunar Strikes. I'd say keep it!

Hunters:

Beast Mastery: Titan's Thunder:

This is really strongly tied to the artifact, and while I personally love having my Dwarf Hunter wielding a titan-themed weapon, it's not terribly on-brand. We could stand to lose it.

Survival: Fury of the Eagle:

I'll confess I haven't played Survival for a while, but the way that this preserves Mongoose Bite stacks and lets you AoE-ize them is a pretty good piece for the kit. Of course, if Survival undergoes any major re-working (given that it's basically a new spec this expansion, I think it's worth doing) we might not really know how it would fit into a new rotation.

Mage:

Arcane: Mark of Aluneth:

While fine as a spell, it's not really all that necessary to the rotation. Giving Arcane some ranged AoE is not a bad idea, but it doesn't have to be this.

Fire: Phoenix Flames:

Getting more on-demand instant-cast crits is not a terrible thing for Fire to have. Is it strictly necessary? No, but I wouldn't mind seeing it stay.

Frost: Ebonbolt:

Giving us a guaranteed way to gain Brain Freeze is fun, though given that your Water Elemental and Frozen Orb can give you guaranteed Fingers of Frost, I don't think this is ultimately necessary. Still, fun to have something that hits hard (though we have Glacial Spike for that.)

Monk:

Brewmaster: Exploding Keg:

Cool factor is very high here. Honestly it works a bit like the old Dizzying Haze (I still remember in the Beta era when it was "Drunken Haze") I think Brewmasters need better ranged-pulling abilities (though I get that Keg Smash has a longer range than it used to,) not that that is what this is here for. Worth keeping, not devastating if we can't.

Paladin:

Retribution: Wake of Ashes:

In terms of cool factor, we're very high here. And having a way to quickly get up to 5 Holy Power is incredibly nice. Is it tied pretty directly to Ashbringer? Yes. Still, would not mind seeing it stick around. (I realize that the 5 Holy Power is actually from a separate passive, but the two elements of the ability are pretty strongly linked in my mind.)

Protection: Eye of Tyr:

As a short cooldown and little burst of AoE damage, it's nice to have. I don't think it's crucial to making the spec work, though.

Priest:

Shadow: Void Torrent:

Having a way to pause the loss of Insanity, especially at high stacks, is very nice to have. I think this would be a perfectly good baseline ability or talent.

Rogue:

Outlaw: Curse of the Dreadblades:

Obviously very artifact-linked, but given the RNG in getting an appropriate Roll the Bones result (incidentally, the 7.2 new passive that gives you a guaranteed two wins on your next Roll the Bones when you use Adrenaline Rush should absolutely become baseline) having a way to cycle through finishers quickly is really good. I love the change from Combat to Outlaw, and I'm totally on board so to speak with a ghost-pirate theme (my Rogues are Undead and Worgen, so spookiness is highly prized for both.)

Subtlety: Goremaw's Bite:

Again, very artifact-linked. I think that it's definitely not a bad idea to make it easier to get some combo points and energy regen, though that could be shuffled into other abilities like Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance.

Shaman:

Enhancement: Doom Winds:

Early on in the expansion, getting Maelstrom was a bit of a problem, and this helped with it. Still, it's not a terribly impactful ability and I'm not sure I'd miss it if it went.

Warlock:

Demonology: Thal'kiel's Consumption:

Obviously very strongly tied to the artifact. Man, I'm going to miss that skull when I move on to other weapons. It's nice to get a big burst of damage and incentivizes getting out as many demons at a time as you can, but I think the spec survives just fine without this.

Warrior:

Arms: Warbreaker:

While the shadowy appearance of this is very strongly tied to the artifact, the idea of applying Colossus Smash to multiple targets is a very obvious thing for Arms Warriors to be able to do. Keep it! (Maybe just changing the color of the spikes to a more earthy brown or grey.)

If you haven't seen your spec here, it's only because I haven't played it enough to really feel like I have something to say about it. Yes, I'm an altoholic (see the name of the blog) but even I have my limits.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shadows of Argus Drops Tuesday

This news is a day late - I was flying back to LA yesterday - but Blizzard has announced that patch 7.3, Shadows of Argus, will arrive on the 29th, which is this coming Tuesday.

Players will be able to travel to Argus and begin the quests there to take the fight to the Legion's homeworld.

As of yet, the major features include:

New quests and zones:

We'll be heading to Argus, which is a kind of mega-zone like Vashj'ir, with three distinct sections: Krokun, Mac'Aree, and the Antoran Wastes. My understanding is that these zones will unlock gradually, so we'll start in Krokun, and then go to Mac'aree, with the 5-player dungeon Seat of the Triumvirate, and then finally come to Anotran Wastes, which is where Legion's final raid, Antorus, the Burning Throne, is. These zones have world quests in them, which are unlocked once any character on the account has done the quests there.

Artifact Knowledge changes:

Everyone who logs on after the patch will be at AK level 41 (so one up from where fully-researched people are now.) Rather than having to spend resources on artifact knowledge, all players will automatically gain artifact knowledge over time. I don't know if this is based on when you logged in or, far more likely, just a global increase for all players over time. This should make filling out alternative artifacts very easy, as individual items will be granting absurdly high amounts of AP.

Netherlight Crucible:

Rather than giving us new artifact traits, we'll gain access to the Netherlight Crucible. Here, we can spend artifact power to buff relics. I haven't played much with this in the PTR, but I believe it's largely based on your artifact level, meaning that you won't be penalized for switching relics (I could be wrong.)

Invasion Rifts:

On Argus, we'll be able to find portals to other worlds they're trying to destroy, and we can go rescue those worlds. These will be relatively quick pick-up group content, with normal rifts working for five players while greater rifts will be for raids and contain 7.3's many "world" bosses (that drop 930 gear, equivalent to Normal mode Antorus.)

New Dungeon, Seat of the Triumvirate:

A new 5-player dungeon, Seat of the Triumvirate, will have us fighting through the ancient palace where Velen, Kil'jaeden, and Archimonde once ruled the pre-corrupted Eredar people. The dungeon will be heavy on Void beings, including a group of Ethereals who are dedicated to the Shadow.

New Raid, Antorus, The Burning Throne:

The final raid of Legion (barring some Ruby Sanctum-style instance,) Antorus will have the tier 21 sets and see us confronting the Legion at its heart. Some very big names are going to be in here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No Expansion Reveal at Gamescom: Must Be Coming at Blizzcon

Legion was unusual in that it was announced not at Blizzard's own convention, but at Gamescom, Germany's massive gaming convention that comes a bit earlier in the year.

One thing to remember, though, is that Blizzard needed to get info about Legion out there soon. Warlords of Draenor only had one major content patch (no, 6.1 does not count.) By this point two years ago, Warlords was basically finished with content updates. That meant that players were staring into a very long period without any new stuff to look forward to. Legion, on the other hand, has a huge patch still coming, and the staggered release of raids means that even if we're on Argus before October, we're probably still a ways out from taking the fight to Antorus, the Burning Throne.

However, at this year's Blizzcon we are almost certain to hear about the next expansion.

This time around, the playerbase is highly confident about the basic premise of the expansion: the argument that it will focus on the Old Gods (probably N'zoth, the only living one not seen in-game) is highly convincing. Since Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard has tried to tie the end of each expansion into the themes of the next. In Mists, the transition from Pandaria's Chinese-themed aesthetic to the grungy industrial feel of Garrosh's so-called True Horde along with the introduction of Kairozdormu at the Timeless Isle opened the path for the creation of the Iron Horde on the alternate Draenor. Warlords of Draenor ended with Gul'dan successfully corrupting the Iron Horde with Fel magic and demons, setting the stage for the current invasion by the Burning Legion.

There are a few elements that players have noticed in Legion that seem to strongly imply the imminent relevance of N'zoth:

Comments at the end of the Emerald Nightmare raid by the Shadow Priest dagger Xal'atath suggest that by slaying Xavius and thus ending the Nightmare, we've actually managed to wake N'zoth up.

Similarly, Ilgynoth, a boss within the Nightmare raid, says cryptic things, including, on death, that he "journeys to Ny'alotha" - Ny'alotha being the sunken horror-city N'zoth resides in (it's presumably the Warcraft equivalent of Rl'yeh.)

The Naga, who are allied with the Old Gods and probably specifically N'zoth (who seems to have been the most active one in Cataclysm,) have a strong presence in Legion, but it seems that their loyalties are not to Sargeras, even as they show up in the Tomb of Sargeras raid (they're only there for the Tidestone.)

We've learned recently that the purpose of the Burning Crusade was to "save" the universe from the Void, and that the Old Gods are the Void's method of corrupting the universe. Without the Legion, wouldn't the Old Gods be emboldened?

Jaina Proudmoore has gone missing, being neither in Stormwind nor Dalaran. Perhaps she has gone back to Kul Tiras, the naval kingdom who would probably be important in a fight against the amphibious Naga and the God of the Depths.

In Highmountain we are reminded of the Old Gods' (and probably mostly N'zoth's) corruption of the Black Dragonflight. It's never mentioned, but given that Dargrul lived right where Neltharion did when he became corrupted by the Old Gods, I wouldn't be shocked to find that they had a hand in turning the Drogbar so murderously aggressive.

This one's tenuous, but why is that Helya, a Val'kyr who rebelled against Odyn, developed tentacles? Was N'zoth involved in crafting Helheim?

Now we get into spoilers:

In 7.3, we discover that Ethereals devoted to the Void have arrived in Mac'aree and are spreading it through the city. This seems totally separate from the Legion. What we do get from this is that an uncorrupted ethereal known as Locus Walker has been teaching Alleria Windrunner how to use the void. Perhaps that means that we'll have a Windrunner sister who knows enough about the Void to help us take down an Old God. Or maybe she'll be corrupted and we'll have to fight her (I'm hoping for the former.)

Furthermore, in a datamining leak-ish thing, textures for armor and objects related to Kul Tiras were discovered in a recent PTR. The armor has a robe-motif, which seems appropriate for a sailing-based civilization. The objects show maps of an island we've never seen before, which could be Kul Tiras. The resurgent significance of Kul Tiras could also help explain why it moved during the Cataclysm: if it's deeply tied to N'zoth (perhaps even the location of Ny'alotha) it makes sense that the Old God would use the destruction wrought by Deathwing to reposition itself.

Anyway, all this speculation will have to keep boiling until Blizzcon in November. For now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves and enjoy the fact that we have a planet to go counter-invade, probably pretty soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Argus: Retcon or Fills in Big Plot Hole?

In 7.3, which is likely due to arrive in the next couple weeks, we're going to be traveling to the planet Argus. This was the home of the Eredar people 25,000 years ago. When the Dark Titan Sargeras had barely survived his war against the Pantheon, he came to the Eredar to make them the officers in his Burning Legion, bringing order to the inherent chaotic nature of demons. Those Eredar who refused to succumb to demonic corruption and transformation were forced to flee, led by one of the three Triumvirs who ruled the planet, Velen. These exiles took the name Draenei. And now, after twenty five millennia, the Draenei are finally going home.

But as important as the Draenei and the Eredar are to this post, they're not the focus. Kil'jaeden and Archimonde didn't just sacrifice their own... for lack of a better term, humanity (we'll say that refers to humanoids rather than humans.) Sargeras wanted the Eredar, sure, but he wanted something else there that we're only just finding out about now.

Spoilers to follow:


Monday, August 21, 2017

Kel'thuzad Coming to Heroes of the Storm

The next big event in Heroes of the Storm is called The Call of Kel'thuzad.

One of the things that's funny about the Lich King from the Warcraft universe is that he's not exactly a Lich. You could argue that because Ner'zhul's soul is bound to the armor that gave the original Lich King form (that Arthas wore. Bolvar's just wearing the crown) he was kind of pure phylactery to begin with, but the Scourge is host to a fair number of Liches, and Kel'thuzad was probably the first.

KT as I like to call him was the leader of the Cult of the Damned, initially a living necromancer who encountered the original Lich King and swore himself to his service. Kel'thuzad used his cultists to spread the plague of undeath around Lordaeron until he was confronted and slain by Arthas and Jaina. However, when Arthas was turned by the cursed runeblade Frostmourne, the ghost of Kel'thuzad approached him, calling on the Scourge's first Death Knight to take his remains (in the urn that had held Arthas' father's ashes) up to the Sunwell where they could use its energies to raise him as a Lich. That's right: the invasion of Quel'thalas, which killed 90% of the High Elves, was all just to raise this one Lich.

World of Warcraft players encountered Kel'thuzad twice in his floating necropolis of Naxxramas. After giving his captured phylactery to a secretly traitorous priest, he returned in Wrath of the Lich King along with the revamped raid. When we slew him there, he seemed permanently dead, though we never did get his phylactery, so there's a possibility that Kel'thuzad is still lurking in the shadows of Azeroth, waiting to make his next move.

In Heroes of the Storm, it looks like Kel'thuzad will be a control-heavy assassin.

Here are his abilities:

Q: Death and Decay: Launches an orb that explodes at a targeted location, dealing damage and then continuing to damage enemies in the area for the next 2 seconds.

W: Frost Nova: After one second, the targeted area explodes in a burst of ice, damaging and slowing targets within by 25%. Targets at the center will be frozen.

E: Chains of Kel'thuzad: Throws a chain that, if it hits a target, will deal damage to them. For 4 seconds afterward, Chains can be re-cast on other targets, and if multiple targets are chained, they will be pulled together and stunned for .5 seconds.

Trait: Master of the Cold Dark: Gain 1 Blight each time you root an enemy hero. At 15 Blight, the cooldown on all basic abilities is reduced by 2 seconds. At 30, gain 75% spellpower.

R1: Frozen Blast: Launches a blast of frost at the target, rooting and damaging them and anyone nearby.

R2: Shadow Fissure: Creates a fissure anywhere on the battlefield that erupts after 1.5 seconds, dealing damage to heroes standing within it.

Coming along with KT will be a number of Scourge or other similarly themed skins. Jaina gets a dreadlord skin (there's a common theory that Jaina is actually a Dreadlord in disguise or possessed that this seems to be winking at.) Sonya seems to get a Death Knight skin (actually looks like DK tier 8) and Zagara looks like she's getting a crypt lord appearance.

Interesting that both Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm are having Scourge-themed events.