Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Increased LFR Droprates and Future Tiers

This week has been a sort of "alt week" for me. I have not yet touched Jarsus or Oterro (who now qualifies as a kind of Vice Main,) but I've spent a bunch of time running the mage, warlock, warrior and even the Horde rogue through LFR.

Today, the combination of Elder Charms gotten from the Treasures of the Thunder King scenario and the increased drop rates means that if you do a bonus roll on every boss (or at least every boss off of whom you want something that didn't drop immediately,) you can walk away with a ridiculous amount of gear. Sure, sometimes you won't get the piece you were most interested in (I dreamed of two Spiritsevers from Lei Shi on Darsino, but I got none) but your item level can rise meteorically. All four of those characters walked away with 2-piece tier set bonuses, and two of them got a third. Darsino, the Rogue, is now even qualified for ToT (though that's from his inventory, including the Fist Weapon off Shek'zeer, which was odd because I've been running him as Assassination, and would not think that weapon ought to drop for me in that case.)

Catching up is not instantaneous, but if I were to focus on any one of these characters for a little bit, I'm sure I'd have them going into ToT next week (well, Darsino could do it now.)

Now, to be fair, I played a lot this week, but I think that the increased LFR drop rates are pretty much the catch-up mechanic we all needed.

Typically, each expansion has three tiers of raiding, though in some cases there have been either a whole other tier, or a half-tier, like AQ40 or Sunwell Plateau (actually, for the life of me I can't understand why AQ wasn't just called tier 3 and the original Naxxramas wasn't tier 4, but anyway...) So far, we only know that they've bumped the droprate here up by a hefty amount.

What I would propose is that the droprate adjustment become progressive.

I have no idea what the actual numbers are, but from my experience, I can give a very rough estimate that you've got about a 20% chance to get a piece of gear in current raid content. While on average this would mean you should be getting a piece every five bosses you down, you have to remember that probabilities can screw you. Also, remember that the people most likely to complain about it are the people who are getting screwed. For every person denouncing Ghostcrawler because they haven't gotten the bow they want yet, there's someone else who lucked out and got it on the first kill.

I would guess, then, that the current state of tier 14 on LFR gives a 40-50% chance at loot (before using a Charm.) That's not bad at all, but late in the expansion, when everyone's raiding Orgrimmar, it'll be frustrating to be the guy trying to run Heart of Fear and just not getting that one piece they need out of MSV on his two runs a week.

So what I would suggest is a progressive build-up. At launch, we had the low chance, maybe 10%. Then, in 5.1, I would have brought the chance up a little bit, maybe to 25%. In 5.1, it was still current content, but you've probably been running it for a while and the bad luck is pretty annoying. 5.2 hits, and we have a new raid tier, and we put it basically where it is now - with a little luck, you can mostly fill out your kit in a single string of runs.

So where does it go from there?

5.3 comes, and we can bring it up another 15% for both tiers, so tier 14 is now at a 55% drop rate and ToT is up to 25%. Now, getting geared up through tier 14 shouldn't be very hard at all, allowing you to catch up and get into ToT before everyone stops running it.

When 5.4 hits, we can bring tier 14 up to 70%, where in all likelihood you'll only need to run through the raids once to get what you need out of them, and then you can move on to ToT. Here, you'll probably need to spend a little more time, but it will give you time to prove you're ready to head into Orgrimmar.

One of the objections that Blizzard had to the late-expansion heroics of Wrath and Cataclysm was that it allowed you to skip content. However, by requiring you complete each raid segment in order before you can queue for the next one in LFR, you force people to at least see the fights.

There is a danger, which is that if everyone gets everything they want out of a raid on the first go, they might not want to come back for it. That's a valid concern, and actually one of the main reasons to tolerate non-guaranteed loot in the first place. I think that we can rest relatively assured that people will keep running old content, though, either on alts or for the big chunks of VP (it might not hurt, actually, to make a raid segment give more VP - like 140 or something.)

I don't think the choice to avoid new heroics was because Blizzard doesn't like catch-up mechanics, but I think that they want you to catch up by doing what your main was doing, only quicker. These increased drop rates seem like the best way to accomplish that, if you ask me.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Some Serious Stuff Going Down in 5.3

Obviously, things have got to escalate, and the place they're going is not going to mean anything good for the Horde (at least in the sort term.)

As I suspected, there is some outdoor content that is coming with 5.3, but much of it is happening in Kalimdor, and not Pandaria.

The Darkspear Rebellion is officially beginning, and the schism within the Horde is going to be made official. Kor'kron forces have taken over the Valley of Spirits and Razor Hill, and players (not sure if it's just Horde players or Alliance as well) will be able to raid Kor'kron caravans and kill elites (similar to the Zandalari guys that came with this patch) in Durotar and Northern Barrens.

On Pandaria, the Horde has launched a massive excavation in the area with the big pool of water northwest of the Shrine of Seven Stars. For this, Taran Zhu has officially given the Horde an eviction notice - the only reason the Shado-Pan are not immediately purging the Shrine of Two Moons is because of the good that people like Sunwalker Dezco have managed to do for the Pandaren, like fighting the Sha and the Mogu. Regardless, though, the Horde is no longer welcome.

I'm not exactly clear on the details of how the Kor'kron-occupied areas will work, but the elites at least will be hostile to those who have joined the Darkspear Rebellion. I assume that all Horde players will join this simply by starting those quests.

Still not a lot on the Alliance side of things. I imagine there could be a faction or some such thing that is aiding the Rebellion, or at least leading raids on Horde territory.

We all knew that things were going to start getting pretty serious in the Old World, and it looks like 5.3 is bringing that in full.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Darkspear Rebellion, the Queen Regent, and the most dangerous Warchief ever From 5.3

First off, there's some story-spoiler stuff in here, so beware.

5.3 is bringing new scenarios and some sort of new progression in the plot, though we don't exactly know what form it will take. We do know that Vol'jin is leading an open rebellion against Garrosh. Thrall is going to attempt to rally the Orcs who are not under Garrosh's thumb, but at great risk to himself. Baine's also behind Vol'jin, but is holding back until he can get his people out of Orgrimmar. Lor'themar's obviously still busy with the Thunder King while Sylvanas is probably jus sitting on the sidelines to avoid putting her own forces at risk.

But that's not all: Vol'jin is coordinating with Alliance forces. While the Alliance Navy attacks by sea, he and his people will assault from the ground. Finally, the two sides are united in their shared hatred for Garrosh. Will this bring about a lasting coalition, or is this just going to be another temporary team-up?

We also find out that Shaohao did not, actually, succeed in defeating every Sha. The Sha of Pride stayed with him, and it was Pride that created the Mists of Pandaria. It also seems that Y'shaarj is not quite as dead as we had thought. Did we manage to resurrect him by defeating all seven Sha (well, will we defeat all seven?)

We also get a bit for, of all people, Moira to do. So far, the lore of the reunification of the dwarves is a plot that hasn't really been talked about. It doesn't help that Searing Gorge and Blackrock Depths still look pretty much the same as they did, but my understanding is that, canonically, even though there are certainly some treacherous members, the Dark Irons are just as much a part of the Alliance as the Wildhammers. This was, of course, reflected with the addition of Mages and Warlocks to the Dwarf options in Cataclysm, but it bears a look.

Moira has always been the most potentially thorny problem within Alliance leadership. As the "good guy" faction (a definition I've always resented, as I think it's more fun when we've got shades of grey) the Alliance tends to get along a little better, but Moira's been kind of unpredictable ever since we "liberated" her from her loving husband in Blackrock Depths (they've already come a long way from her being a joke in a Princess Leia outfit.)

Yet the story of Mists of Pandaria is very much about the Alliance pulling together while the Horde is pulled apart, and yet we've really mostly seen those effects on the Horde. The one major plot development on the Alliance side has been Jaina's abandoning of her dearly-held neutrality. We've seen Varian prove himself to be a better strategist than Tyrande, earning her respect, but not much else.

I don't know what the Moira scenario will be exactly, other than that we're fighting the Zandalari on Shimmer Ridge, of all places. I do like that Varian is entrusting Moira with a mission of some significance, and that he refers to her as "Queen Regent," which seems like a step up from being simply the Dark Iron representative to the Council of Three Hammers (what this means for Kurdran - or is it Faldred - and Muradin is unknown.)

Anyway, I doubt we're going to see too much in the way of the Alliance dealing with a fracture, because they're about to prove their might as a united front when Orgrimmar is invaded.

Of course, the greater narrative, and the one that is the most epic in scope and important in the long run is that the Horde (well, the Free Horde, under Vol'jin) and the Alliance are ganging up together again for the first time since Burning Crusade. Yet unlike previous times, the Burning Legion isn't actively invading Azeroth. We don't know exactly what Garrosh's ultimate plans are, but I imagine they're not quite as over-the-top as destroying the world entirely. Yet both sides realize that this war needs to end, and soon. The Alliance never wanted the war (with some small exceptions) but was forced to fight it to survive. The Horde didn't really want the war either, except that Garrosh became ideologically obsessed with Horde superiority and the right of conquest. Clearly things have come a long way since Blackhand, as the Horde now recognizes a tyrannical Warchief as a threat that is just as serious as the Burning Legion.

Obviously we've got a showdown with the Legion coming, and probably soon (I'm not going to call it definitively but I think it's a strong possibility for the next expansion,) but I think the dynamics of a return to uneasy peace could be great fuel for more story. I don't know if Moira's problems are going to become more apparent or get swept under the rug, and I don't know if the question of Gilneas is going to get answered (if the Horde won Alterac Valley canonically, then can the Worgen win their homeland back, please?) We don't quite know why Sylvanas is acting so crazy lately (other than an existential crisis after Arthas' death) but there is a Death Knight who is getting tortured and brainwashed and probably needs our help.

The aftermath of Garrosh is going to be a big deal, and the Horde will need to rebuild. Meanwhile, without a strong and menacing Horde, can the Alliance transition back to a (relative) state of peace? Might we see those people who were willing to back Varian now start standing up for their own interests?

And the Exodar. Ah, the Exodar. You know that it's good to fly again? The Draenei could leave right now if they wanted. That's kind of a big deal. The question is, are they ready to take the fight to the Legion once and for all? And who are they bringing with them?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


One of the funnier things to pop up on the 5.3 patch notes is the potential existence of a triple spec option, that would presumably work the way that Dual-Spec works now.

The implications of such an addition would, obviously, not be quite as profound as the introduction of dual-specs with 3.1 was, but they would still be quite interesting.

All classes other than the Druid have three specs, and Druids only got a fourth spec after the talent tree redesign made it impossible to make a distinction between Feral DPS and Feral Tanks. For those of you who might be very, very new players, one's specialization was once entirely based on the placement of points, originally gained every level starting at 10, into a "tree." Each class had three trees, and the way that it would work is that you would have access to 2-4 potential talents at first, but each 5 points you assigned to a particular tree (such as "Demonology" for Warlocks) would then unlock the next tier of talents. You were then free to either spend those points in the new tier of talents or continue filling out the first tier - either way, every 5 points into a tree would unlock the next tier down the tree.

It was in this way that two, say, Arms Warriors could wind up with a different load-out of abilities. One might pick up talents that improved survival and the ability to get out of crowd control while another might focus entirely on every last damage-boosting talent. This distinction was particularly important for Feral Druids and, during Wrath of the Lich King, all Death Knights, as one's choice of talents in the old system was what made a Feral or DK a tank or dps.

The point I'm getting to (slowly) is that there was a time when, for instance, Oterro had two Blood specs. This was in the early days of dual-specs (when it cost a thousand gold, up from, what? Ten silver?) but that doesn't really matter. The point was that back then, some Death Knights went for the increased Parry chance and the talents that let you use your Rune Tap more often - also Rune Tap, while others went for lots of Critical Strike and Dancing Rune Weapon, which was a dps cooldown back then.

Back then, the choice of one's spec was a gradual thing. It only evolved slowly, and anyone under level 30 or so really was pretty much just a "slightly tankier Paladin" or a "slightly burnier Mage."

Under today's system, even though it still takes a while to get all the necessary abilities and passives to truly feel like one's spec, the decision has no granularity. A Marksmanship Hunter is a Marksmanship Hunter. And with talents now divorced from specific specs and also very easy to switch out on a whim, there's really nothing separating two Elemental Shamans from one another other than gear and the skill to play the class well.

The introduction of the tri-spec is weird for this reason: A Paladin will be all Paladins. A Monk will be all Monks. Dual-spec was, I think, mostly introduced to allow tanks and healers to have a dps spec to make soloing less of a pain in the ass (and having leveled a tankadin from 1 (well, 10) to 80 without ever going Ret in that time, I can tell you it was not a picnic (it's probably not as bad now, especially with Dungeon Finder.)

Still, there is a certain degree of flavor to having chosen a spec. Even having two specs allows you to define your character by what they are not (my Warlock might consort with demons and blow things up a lot, but he's not going to start plaguing people!)

In the end, it's not the end of the world, but it does mean I imagine we'll be seeing far fewer people rolling alts of the same class. In Cataclysm, with the new races and the new race/class combos, my list of alts exploded, often to explore specs I'd never tried (my Goblin is a Survival Hunter. It's weird.)

Now, all of this said:

It's possible Blizzard is just messing with us. Just as there were sound files in the 5.1 PTR that had Jaina talking about how awful it was that Garrosh had killed Anduin, Blizz could be trolling us (though who knows? Maybe that's originally how the plot would have ended. You know, because the Alliance doesn't have a really solid reason to hate Garrosh yet...)

Am I looking forward to tri-specs? Meh, I might futz around with Holy just to see if you can do decent dps as a Shockadin (I'm guessing no) but I really won't be devastated if it's not actually happening. Don't get me wrong, I'm an enormous fan of dual-specs (even for pure dps classes) but I think we're already good on the "multiple specs" front. Besides, with the gold that's pouring in these days, it's not like changing specs is all that difficult these days. Visit your class trainers. They miss you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

...And Sometimes You Eat the Bear

I've probably just mangled the above half-expression (for one thing, I think that part's supposed to come first,) but in my quest for Green Fire, and the quest to acquire sufficient gear to stand a chance at it, I took Morcanis through the entirety of "upper tier 14" today, getting a whopping four pieces of gear, including tier shoulders and helmet (I actually disconnected during Sha of Fear, but was able to restart my computer and log in post-kill to both the token and a second one for my bonus roll - guess I can start gearing up his off-spec... oh wait.)

Anyway, we all usually think of the endless weeks of zero gear, over and over, but sometimes you get one of these days where your average gear level jumps half a tier. I remember the one time I took Tarbhad into ICC (this was back before LFR, but everyone was well geared in Wrath, and PuGs of ICC could actually get decently far) and walked away with about five pieces of gear, including a fist weapon.

I'm enjoying Demonology these days (always was my favorite warlock spec) but it is a little odd to go from mostly melee classes that are all about the big next strike to a class that is mostly concerned with making sure their DoTs are ticking for as much as possible. Sure, they've made it less of a pain than it used to, but Demon Form is often less about blowing targets away with gigantic spell blasts than it is about keeping Doom on the target and refreshing that Corruption you cast several minutes ago while Dark Soul was up.

One of the oddities of Demo is that in AoE situations, things are a lot simpler in your normal form than in Demon form. Multi-dotting is generally what you want to do in smaller groups, like your typical dungeon trash pull, and then you can use Void Ray in Demon form to keep those ticking, but in gigantic packs, it's basically Hellfire and your Wrathguard (or Felguard, I guess) and Felstorm. But when you use Metamorphosis, the Hellfire equivalent becomes a passive that you only need to refresh (and usually don't have enough Fury to keep going too long) but since on such large packs, applying Corruption on all those targets is not really practical, there's kind of a question of what to do. I'm sure Icy Veins has the answer, but what I've pretty much been doing is Immolation Aura, Carrion Swarm (glyphed so the tank doesn't want to kill me) and Void Ray, DoTs be damned.

I've also taken to simply hitting Hand of Gul'dan twice in a row, or with just a single Shadowbolt/Soul Fire between them. While I'm sure it's ideal to hit it right as Shadowflame is about to drop off the target, there's a little delay before the meteor hits and Shadowflame is so quick that you'll probably get more damage out of it this way as there's less risk you'll just do two single stacks of the DoT in a row. It's amazing how much of your damage comes from Shadowflame, though where it really shines is of course in AoE situations.

In terms of gearing, I haven't quite started a constant AskMrRobot check with every new piece of gear, but my general impression is that Mastery must be good for Demo because it literally just increases the damage we do, and that bonus is multiplied by three in Demon form (currently about 60% for me.)

The Warlock revamp seems to really have done the trick. I see far more locks out there than I did during Cataclysm. Frankly, the alternate resources and new gameplay mechanics make it feel a lot more like one of the newer classes than one of the old. Paladins obviously got a big revamp in Cataclysm, which I think made them a lot more engaging (as much as I hate Inquisition-type effects.) I think something like this for a class that is falling behind would not be a bad policy for Blizzard. Rogues obviously seem to be the ones most desperately in need of such a revamp.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Quality of Life from the 5.3 Notes

Two nice things coming in 5.3 should make life a little less painful.

The first is fairly simple, and something that we sort of should have gotten from the get-go. For LFR and Quests, we can now pick the spec we want to receive loot for. That means that if, say, you've got a really kick-ass dps set, but you want to gear up your healing capabilities, you can now select that role as your loot spec and then continue running as dps, contributing your nice facemelting numbers instead of trying to heal in that collection of questing greens and dungeon blues that probably aren't really appropriate for Throne of Thunder.

This should, I think, make switching roles mid-expansion a lot easier, and also make gearing up an off-spec a simpler matter. Granted, what I've taken to doing is just running as Retribution through those raid segments where I already have all the Protection gear I need (and of course tier tokens are spec-agnostic) and I've had decent luck so far (still haven't gotten a single Ret weapon drop though. I'm using the Klaxxi sword that they said was really there primarily for transmog purposes. Ironically I have it transmogged to Ironsoul, a 2h mace from Ulduar.)

This is very much a quality of life change. The other change is more dramatic: Bonus rolls will get progressively more likely to award loot the more often you lose the roll (remember when gold was something we actually wanted?) We don't know how quickly this will stack up, but it strikes me that getting geared through LFR slightly quicker is not exactly a terrible thing. Plus, there's always that one piece you desperately want, so people may, in fact, be less likely to use their bonus rolls on other bosses for fear of consuming the bad-luck-streak prevention thing.

Before people try to go around complaining that this somehow makes things easier... well, yes, it does make things easier. But LFR is supposed to be easy! Normal modes are challenging enough and then there are heroics on top of that. If you're unsatisfied with the game's difficulty, then join a guild that does heroic raids. I'm certain that there's a sufficient challenge you simply have not explored. And if the noobs and the scrubs get geared up a little faster, just deal with it. You can still vastly out-dps a bad player by simply being good at your class and knowing an encounter (and if you're really a good player, you'll also know that on certain fights, the people who are highest on dps are the ones who are doing it wrong. *cough* Horridon, *cough.*)

I still want to know more about what kind of new zones or areas we'll be seeing. So far the main event of the patch seems to be these scenarios, and unless these are some amazing scenarios (I certainly hope they are) I feel like there needs to be some central focus.

There's not much yet, but what I like what I see.

Forgotten Depths from a DPS Perspective

Last night I ran Forgotten Depths on Oterro, to see how the other half lives, I suppose (well, and get Valor with an infinitesimal chance at gear) and got a little more insight into the fights from a dps perspective.

Tortos: One thing I noticed is that when the tank was holding the bats in the center of the room, the kicked turtles would also debuff them to take extra damage. You will have moments of free time to put the burn on Tortos, but expect most of your damage to him to be of the cleave variety. Fairly simple fight.

Megaera: This is crazily simple to dps. Simply take down the head that your raid has chosen (in LFR at least, the go-to strategy seems to be alternating between Venom and Flame while ignoring frost.) Stack up for heals during Rampage (as melee, you'll be stacked already) and don't leave fire patches in the middle of the group. Also, using personal survival cooldowns during Rampage is a great idea (I got tons of Runic Power from Anti-Magic Shell.)

Ji-Kun: Ah yes, this is where things start to make a lot more sense if you're dpsing, or rather. Actually, most of the dps are going to be simply burning the boss the whole time. Using a survival cooldown on Quills is a good idea, but note that it's physical damage and not magic, which means stuff like Cloak of Shadows or AMS will not help you out.

The real interesting thing for dps is for the three people assigned to take down the hatchlings. If you're on nest duty, you actually won't dps the boss at all during the fight. You begin on the low nest to the right of where you first arrive on the platform (there's another kind of protrusion there.) Killing the hatchlings will give you little feathers which allow you to fly for ten seconds with an extra action bar. Once your nest is cleared out, another will be illuminated with red light, so you should fly there. After three lower nests are dealt with, you'll now have to go to the upper nests, which requires a brief rest on the main platform to climb all that way. Eventually you'll start seeing mature eggs, which hatch fledglings. These will fly off just as soon as they hatch, so you want to burn them very quick, otherwise they'll get away and continue to harm the raid for the fight. You might not catch all of them, but focusing them down is probably a good idea.

Anyway, Forgotten Depths is, I think, mostly a more enjoyable segment than Last Stand of the Zandalari. Not that I don't like Last Stand, but the fights here are a little easier to manage without being "simpler" exactly. Also, Ji-Kun and the sewer area leading up to her is amazing. Watch out for snails!

Friday, March 22, 2013

5.3 Coming to the PTR

Man, they are not kidding about getting the content out at a high rate. With only half of Throne of Thunder available in LFR, Blizzard has already announced the first PTR version of 5.3, which will be the second inter-raid patch, akin to 5.1's Landfall.

So far, the new features they have announced are four new scenarios, a new arena, a new battleground, the return of item upgrades (for a whole lot cheaper, which is nice,) and heroic-difficulty scenarios with better rewards (so... scenarios are the new dungeons?)

This is literally the first we've heard about 5.3, and I expect there are other aspects of the patch that have not yet been talked about. We know that 5.3 is supposed to show us how the Pandaren Campaign has affected the Alliance and Horde, so I expect to see new daily factions with a story to work through. While the quests themselves in the Isle of Thunder are not really breaking totally new ground, the island and it's many nooks and crannies are providing some interesting novelties.

Anyway, so far the most interesting stuff we've got are the various descriptions for the Scenarios. There is a battle on the high seas, which I expect will be basically a battle on the high seas (something I've always wanted to see in WoW.) There is one that I would guess is Alliance-specific, where you and Moira Bronzebeard have to stop a Zandalari agent who is rallying the Frostmane Trolls in Dun Morogh (pretty awesome to see Moira get something to do) and another is presumably Horde-specific, where you are attempting to track down a missing person in Durotar (Vol'jin? Thrall? ...Gallywix?) Finally, there is another scenario which I thought at first might be Horde-specific, but might not be - in which you look into the excavations of a Goblin mining team that dug too deep somewhere in Pandaria. Eldritch goodies relating to Y'shaarj?

Blizzard has said that the narrative of this last stretch of Mists is seeing how the Horde begins to crumble while the Alliance pulls itself together. While the "main event" of the Horde underground rising up against Garrosh and the Kor'kron may be saved for 5.4, I expect we'll see at least the initial stages here. Meanwhile, the Alliance needs to get something to do. In truth, the Alliance does not seem to be damaged quite as much as the Horde by the Pandaria campaign. Sure, Jaina's a little more gung-ho, and the purge of Dalaran was a little shocking, but compared to the straight-up massacres the Horde has been behind, I was kind of expecting to see a little more darkness out of the Alliance (I'm a bit like Charlie Brown and the football that way.)

One of the things that they've never really gotten around to doing (other than through a battleground that's a clone of an older battleground) is letting the Alliance try to take back Gilneas. The irony is that actually, after the Horde quests in Silverpine, the Alliance is officially holding it, but it's nothing a Worgen player would see. I'd love to see a daily faction for the Alliance called the Gilneas Liberation Front. Would it fit here? Not sure, but it would provide the Alliance a way of feeling empowered without having daily quests that send us to raid Orgrimmar.

These patch notes seem really incomplete and without focus, which is why I fully expect that a real announcement (probably not too long from now) is going to show us what 5.3's main event is.

Jeez, at this rate, is the next expansion going to come out this winter?

No. No it won't. (Prove me wrong, Blizz.)

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

So, the big PAX East announcement from Blizzard has arrived, and it appears that they are coming out with a side-project based on the Warcraft universe that is a collectable card game. Much like the older members of Blizzard, I was an avid player of Magic the Gathering both when I was in elementary school and the game was still new (I came in around Fallen Empires, and played through Tempest) and later on in college through Magic Online (which I had to use a PC Emulator for) during the Kamigawa, Ravnica, and a bit of the Time Spiral blocks. (Ravnica has got to be the best block they ever did. Wonder how Return to Ravnica is.)

Anyway, even though there is already a CCG for Warcraft, Hearthstone appears to be a fully-digital version. It's free to play, operating by having people buy card packs to build their decks. It actually appears that you can earn more cards simply by playing the game.

One could argue that as a "free to play" game with "microtransactions," Blizzard is dipping their toes into a business model that we all kind of dread WoW would wind up with. On the other hand, an online CCG kind of makes the most sense as a FTP set-up.

I only ever really played Magic as my CCG, so I don't know much about other styles. However, given Blizzard's talent for polish and balance, I think this could prove to be a fun little diversion (though of course there will be some people who get super hardcore about it.)

The emphasis on this game seems to be for casual fun, as embodied by a drunken dwarf who seems to be the game's mascot. I'm sure it will find a place on my dock and see play when I don't feel like logging in to the real WoW.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Drunken Master: Leveling Up my Monk Tank

Mists hasn't been really alt-friendly, though one could argue that the only real reason for this is that gearing up is a more complicated process, and that there is more to do on one's main. I imagine that once I've completed a Test of Valor (the 5.1-phase part of the Legendary chain) on Oterro and Jarsus, I might put more effort into gearing alts.

As soon as they announced the Monk as a class, I knew I was going to have to try Brewmaster. Sure, I'm not tanking on as many toons as I used to (partially just because Oterro's switched, and he was the toon on which I tanked the second-most,) but while Windwalkers have some interesting fluidity to the way they work, I figured it would be interesting to try the tank class that had active mitigation built in from the get-go.

Also, you tank by getting your enemies drunk.

Gaotso (named for the two most common variation of that General's chicken dish's name) is now level 86, and I've tanked Temple of the Jade Serpent, as well as a ton of earlier dungeons. Tanking on a Monk is an interesting affair, though having gotten used to AM-tanking, it's not terribly difficult to pick up.

There are two kind of "maintenance" things you have to keep an eye on - putting up Guard on cooldown (and powering it via your wonderfully free Tiger Strikes, which thankfully only need a single stack now) and maintaining Shuffle, which increases Stagger amount and Parry chance by 10%. Unlike, say, Shield of the Righteous, you can keep Shuffle up pretty much all the time, but I recommend an animated Weak Aura to make sure you're maintaining it (I don't know if Blizzard is adding auras just for add-ons to use, but the ones I've got running on Gaotso are really looking good.)

With both of those going, you'll probably have survival covered, though some of your cooldowns can be blown more frequently than you might typically use them on another tank. Elusive Brew, in particular, seems to be something you should use whenever you see any slight increase in incoming damage, because you build charges pretty quickly. Purifying Brew is pretty nice as well, but at least for now, it's rare that I'm taking enough damage to make it worth the Chi. I'm sure that as mastery goes up and I put Gaotso into more challenging content, this ability is going to see far more use.

For threat, Keg Smash is your best friend, doing massive damage to both single and AoE targets, applying Weakened Blows, Dizzying Haze, and generating two Chi. It's got a cooldown, though. In single-target situations, Jab and Expel Harm will do enough, but in AoE, you can either toss barrels via Dizzying Haze, or if you're in range, I recommend a Spinning Crane Kick, which will also generate Chi and does actual damage, which I believe is better for threat than Dizzying Haze's damage-less threat.

Blackout Kicks will be your main expenditure of Chi, and cause Shuffle. If you desperately need some extra threat, Breath of Fire is an option, but I almost never use it.

Meanwhile, as you get crits, you'll create little healing spheres that only you can take. These actually heal for a good chunk of health, so moving around to pick those up is not a bad idea. The Ox statue itself is mainly there to help protect your group, though I wonder if in a raid situation the Ox casts Guard on your co-tanks. It can also be used to pick up adds, but so far I've yet to have the need or the target-clicking time to do so.

Mastery seems like the clear winner for stats here, even though without Purifying Brew it doesn't actually reduce the amount of damage you take at all. Actually, I imagine that mastery is probably the best stat for every tank, but I can't say that with great authority.

The Forgotten Depths

Today the second wing of Throne of Thunder opened up on LFR, and I have to say I'm liking it a lot.

One could call the Forgotten Depths the "beast wing" of the raid. This isn't an area fortified by trolls or mogu. It very much feels like a ruined part of the castle that you're sneaking your way through.

Difficulty-wise, I definitely noticed that demands on the tanks are much simpler, which was honestly a nice break after the craziness of the Last Stand of the Zandalari.

Initial Trash:

The trash leading up to the first boss is actually very simple, yet due to our ignorance, we did manage to wipe on them. Basically, you start in a cave, where there's a measly three pulls of bats, all of whom are in Tortos' room. The bigger bats will periodically silence anyone nearby, so tanks should hold them away from healers.


Tortos is an enormous turtle/tortoise who has become so encrusted with minerals that he actually blocks the path forward. Tortos doesn't move during the encounter, but has one of those mechanics that forces you to have a tank on him lest he does raidwide aoe. The main tank needs to get their active mitigation up every time Tortos bites, because this hits very hard.

The off-tank spends the fight gathering bat adds that don't have a huge amount of health, but can be a threat to healers.

Anyway, the main mechanic here is that periodically he'll summon three spinning turtles that do damage to anyone they spin into. DPSing these guys down to 10% will turn them inert, and you'll be able to perform a special action that kicks the turtle in the direction across from where you're standing in relation to them. This will both interrupt the enemies it hits and also increase the damage they take.

Tortos has a raidwide AoE (whose name I can't quite recall) that needs to be interrupted in this manner.

The other mechanics are that over the course of the fight, more and more stalactites fall from the ceiling, and you need to dodge them. Tortos will also occasionally stun the raid (not sure if this is the thing you need to interrupt or something different,) which of course makes dodging stalactites harder.

This is not a terribly complex fight, but it's in a relatively small room, so it can feel a bit crowded. On the other hand, the small room does make it easier for the off-tank to pick up adds. DPS should prioritize little turtles, then bats, and then Tortos himself.

Trash before Megaera:

After defeating Tortos, you need to make your way through a giant cavern filled with various fungal elementals and bog beasts, as well as shale spiders and those ring-based tunnelers. This can be a huge slog, but I'm sure we'll find efficient paths as we get familiar with the area.

Anyway, what you need to do is find the various Bell Guardians - ghostly Mogu who guard bells that you need to hit and destroy. Once all the bells are gone,  you'll be able to fight Megaera, who is at the far end of the cavern.


Ironic that in a China-themed expansion we get a classic Greek monster, but this fight is cool enough that it's fine.

Megaera has three kinds of heads, each of which pop up at set slots along the shore of an underground lake (Fire, Frost, and Venom from left to right.) At any given time, two heads are active while others remain at the back of the cave, damaging from afar.

In LFR at least, tanks can simply take one head each cycle and let the debuff stack up (it shouldn't get higher than 3.) These debuffs are dealt in an AoE cone, so tanks should face their bosses away from each other.

Meanwhile, dps is going to work on a single head at a given time. Once a head is killed, the other heals to full and Megaera takes about a seventh of her health in damage. After this happens, two of the same kind of head grow back, but for now they stay at the back of the cave.

After the new head comes in, Megaera does a raidwide AoE that people should stack up for and use raid cooldowns to deal with. When this AoE is finished, you return to the normal phase.

My raid kept the Frost head alive, as supposedly the Frost abilities in the back of the cave are hardest to deal with. Meanwhile, while I swapped between Frost and Fire each phase, my co-tank swapped between Venom and Frost, which seemed to work out once we knew where they were popping up and which way to face them.

The heads at the back of the cave will shoot various abilities at random raid members. The Frost and Fire abilities will leave patches that cancel each other out, but presumably this is not something one needs to use on LFR, as we never killed a Frost head.

Once seven heads have been killed, Megaera dies.

Trash before Ji-Kun:

Now we get into what appears to be the palace's sewer system. This is a really cool area where you climb the drainage system up to Ji-kun's nest. Along the way, some of the trash is a little tough to deal with. Little packs of flies will summon worms that burrow to become immune to damage (not sure if you just have to wait them out or what.) Spiders will also descend from the ceiling and create patches of deadly gas (unless that's the flies.) But by far the most dangerous things here are the Gastropods - giant snails that will auto-kill anyone within melee range. Obviously, this means that ranged dps needs to kite these things and burn them very quickly. When you reach the top of the massive climb, you'll be able to jump far across to the central platform in an enormous, cylindrical room, where Ji-Kun's eggs are. Breaking the eggs will summon the boss.


I should note that as a tank, I am very ill-equipped to describe this fight, as the tanks really simply stand there and swap the boss.

However, my understanding of how the rest of the fight works is this: a small group of dps and a healer need to jump down to the lower platforms, where some of Ji-Kun's eggs sit. Killing the eggs will prevent hatchlings from appearing, though if they do hatch, you can kill them as well. At some point after killing one of these things, you can grab the feathers they drop and thus gain the ability to fly. You can now get back up to the main platform, and you can also fly up to the higher nests.

I wish I could say more about the mechanics here, but there's something to do with getting in the way of the food Ji-Kun gives to her chicks, taking some damage but also getting a buff. Also, if you don't deal with the adds, things will escalate and get pretty crazy, with hatchlings and such creating their own adds or something.

It seems very complex, but a tank basically just needs to deal with the boss and not get blown off the platform.

In Conclusion:

Throne of Thunder continues to seem pretty darned epic, and some of the environments in this segment are really awe-inspiring (particularly Ji-Kun's area.) I've generally been a fan of Mists' raids so far, but if tier 14 was a set of solid, if not superlative instances, Throne of Thunder really does seem like it might be one of those raids we look back on with great nostalgia and hold up as an example of how to do a raid in World of Warcraft.

We've now seen half of it on LFR. Here's hoping parts 3 and 4 keep up in quality! (Super excited about the next segment, as both Durumu and Dark Animus, at least by their models, look incredible.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Galakrond, the Scourge, and the Titans

There's a strange irony in Warcraft. Some of the most influential players in the cosmos are the Old Gods - beings inspired by HP Lovecraft that are continent-sized monsters with incredible psychic powers and that seem to exist in a strange state that is neither life nor death.

One of the catchphrases of the Faceless creations of the Old Gods is "they do not live, they do not die. They are outside the cycle."

Yet as mysterious as these beings are, we actually interact with them fairly directly relatively often. We've fought both C'Thun and Yogg-Saron, and even if we were only fighting their heads - one projection on a much larger body, we do seem to have faced them down and beaten them in one way or another. These malevolent creatures, who even drove Neltharion to madness, are actually not the most difficult adversary to subdue indeed, it was Deathwing, once a repository of Titanic power, who seemed to have a much larger impact on the world than any of the Old Gods accomplished on their own.

If you want awe-inspiring mystery, look to the "good" guys, the Titans. We've heard tons and tons about them, and we've seen evidence of their works from Storm Peaks to Uldum to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, but we still haven't seen one and we've never been able to talk to them about just what they mean to do with us.

I always thought it was interesting that an Orc shaman who had been transformed by the Fel magics of an Eredar demon would become so affiliated with ice and undeath. The Lich King is a strange creature, and despite the well-known origins of the Scourge, there are a few things that don't really add up. Was the Lich King truly Ner'zhul, and then Arthas? (And then Bolvar?) Why did the Lich King suddenly gain powers over the dead, unlike, say, simply summoning a ton of demons to Northrend or calling down fel fire from the sky?

I've often put forth that somehow, the Lich King drew on a separate source of power, fusing the demonic fel magic with, perhaps, the power of Yogg-Saron to become a wholly new entity. The Lich King may have been defeated, but the Scourge remains, and even though the army of the damned is a relatively recent thing on Azeroth, it's already become so ingrained that it can no longer be destroyed - only controlled and leashed by the Jailor of the Damned (which is a hell of a thing to put on a resume, Bolvar.) Much as the Titans felt they couldn't kill the Old Gods (stuff like the Sha being the result,) we are warned after killing Arthas that there still has to be someone to take on the Crown of Domination, lest the Scourge become even worse that it otherwise would be.

There's something odd about Northrend that seems to make the dead come back to life.

The Scourge, at this point in-game, is only a little over a decade old, yet thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago, when the War of the Ancients was still in the distant future, there was Galakrond.

We only heard a bit about Galakrond in Wrath - we knew he was the father of all dragons, and that the aspects were somehow derived or descended from him. He was also the biggest dragon or proto-dragon to exist.

We knew that the Scourge was trying to raise him, but I imagine most people simply wrote that off as the fact that the Scourge would obviously want the largest Frostwyrm they could get their hands on.

But in the recent series, Dawn of the Aspects (which I should note here that I have not actually read,) we learn some interesting things. Kalecgos has found a mysterious artifact from Northrend that allows him to see far into the past through the eyes of Malygos. The events Kalec witnesses are from before the aspects were aspects, and Malygos was still a proto-dragon.

Galakrond was not the benevolent father figure to the original dragons - he was an immense beast, eating his fellow dragonkin and, far more horrifically, his victims were coming back from the dead.

Why would the Titans select such a monster on which to base their key protectors?

Let's talk about another thing: the Curse of Flesh.

We're first introduced to the concept of the Curse of Flesh in Borean Tundra, where the gnomes get the first evidence that they were descended from essentially Titan-build robots. This curse explains what happened to make the Earthen turn into the Dwarves, likewise the early origins of the humans, tol'vir, and even the mogu.

Yet there's someone else who talks about the Curse of Flesh - Lady Deathwhisper in Icecrown Citadel. The Lady offers to free her subjects from the curse by turning them into the undead. No longer bound by mortality, the Scourge is allowed to function as a single-minded machine. Kind of like the creations of the Titans...

Meanwhile, we see the Mogu have been pretty successful at re-activating Titan technology, like the construct machine in Mogu'shan Vaults. The line between living and artificial Mogu is a very blurred one, and the Mogu are also masters of trading out bodies and spirits - living forever through a kind of spirit-transfer that, when you think about it, is actually pretty much just necromancy.

The Titans are strange beings with unknowable minds. We've projected benevolent psychologies onto them, but we have very little evidence to support what we think their motives are. The Titans create order, almost like machines. What if they are, in some way, machine-like themselves? They may see organic life as simply a chemical and mechanical process. But think about this: what if that catchphrase from before isn't talking about the Old Gods, and it isn't talking about the Scourge?

What if it's the Titans? They do not live, they do not die - they are immortal and ageless, but exist on a level so far removed from what we think of as life that, perhaps, they do not comprehend it in the way that we do. They are outside the cycle. What cycle? The cycle of life and death? Of corruption and redemption? Of creation and destruction?

Whatever cycle we're talking about, clearly the Titans saw something in Galakrond that they wished to recreate. Perhaps it was not Yogg-Saron's power that caused Ner'zhul to become something utterly different than what the Burning Legion represented, but rather it was Titanic power that gave him the ability to reshape and recreate life.

Perhaps the Titans are the ultimate necromancers?

More Speculation on Expansion Five!

Ok, so I know that we're a mere two weeks through 5.2, and there's still a whole raid tier (and a whole story-patch) coming that will still be Mists-era, but it's always fun to open things up to speculation.

I tend to be a bit conservative when it comes to making predictions about future content (it helps the big surprises shock me more!) but what we've seen in Mists has upset the pattern.

As expansions go, first we got two new races, then a new class, then another two races, and then Mists did a very odd thing and introduced a new class and a single new race (the unfortunate consequence here is that the vast majority of monks are pandaren and the vast majority of pandaren are monks.)

So we can't really hold to the pattern anymore. Here's a handful of predictions:

Prediction One:
There will be no new race, but instead, we're going to get the new models for the older races.

This is one of those things that Blizzard's been talking about for a long time, and when you put a human next to a worgen, goblin, or pandaren, they do look kind of awful. Now, there are different ways they might go about this: the problem is that people like me have been playing for a very long time, and we have a connection to our characters. The old models are based on an earlier generation of gaming (technically they're two console-generations behind at this point,) and what flew in 2004 is looking very blocky and unimpressive in 2013.

Yet these are our characters, and we still want them to be recognizably ours. I still want Jarsus to have his hippie braids and tired bags under his eyes (wow, now that I describe him that way, it makes him seem like a stoner. He's not meant to be.) So clearly the new facial options have to correspond with the old ones. Still, with greater fidelity, we might decide one look isn't really what we remembered it being, so I think character re-designs should be an option, at least as a one-time thing (and as a paid service after that.)

Then there are animations and wireframes. Personally, I like the way armor sits on a human male, and draenei males have an awesomely intimidating look to them, except when they're running. Ironically, as one of the two races who can't be rogues, draenei have one of the coolest stealth-crouches.

Yet not all animations are great. The way our characters move are probably more iconic to us than the looks of their faces. If Jarsus doesn't do the John Travolta Saturday Night Fever dance when I type /dance, I'll be very sad.

Likewise, they're going to have to keep the old voice acting. Sure, some of it's kind of ridiculous, but nothing would break the sense of continuity more than having them sound different. Even if they could round up the same voice actors, it would be very strange.

But new models - bring them on. And then maybe some helmet models that let us see their faces - though transmog can always solve that.

Prediction Two:
A new class is unlikely.

As much as I'd love to play a Demon Hunter (though I still think I'd prefer DKs as the badass antihero class) I don't think we should expect to see a new class this coming expansion. Monks have been better-balanced than DKs were during Wrath, but I imagine that new classes mean a COLOSSAL amount of effort on the design side of things, especially when you consider how much redesigning is needed for the old classes each expansion cycle.

This is the thing I'd most like to be wrong about.

Prediction Three:
We're going to deal with a very big threat, and we might have another ten-level expansion.

Expansion five, assuming it holds to the usual pattern, will come out in 2014 - the tenth anniversary of World of Warcraft. Consider that and the fact that we're within spitting distance of level 100, and throw in the fact that the Alliance and Horde are going to have a reckoning at the end of this expansion, and you've set the stage for a super-epic.

If we have our big confrontation with Sargeras, it will be a risky endeavor, and could be seen as a shark-jumping moment for the game. Sure, there's still the Old Gods, and Blizzard could do plenty of things to bring in new villains, but if we take down the S-man, questions will be raised as to what the hell we can't do. It's weird enough now after beating the Lich King and Deathwing (never occurred to me that they had rhyming names) that people still ask us to do their chores, but after killing Sargeras? "No, lady who wants me to kill five goats for your stew - I saved the universe. Do it yourself."

Granted, Kil'jaeden was left conveniently alive at the end of Burning Crusade, and I imagine he's super-pissed at us and wants a rematch. A Legion expansion could have us finally take down KJ for real, and potentially give us awesome draenei lore along the way. Still, not to say that Blizzard ever really "aims low" for an expansion (Mists has proven far more epic than "that place with the panda-people") but I think that for their tenth anniversary expansion, we should expect something really big.

Prediction Four:
Something I haven't come up with yet that's super-epic-awesome.

I'm not saying that I lack for imagination, but when it comes to predictions, I like to get things right. As I said, this tends to make me a bit more conservative in my brand of meteorology, but one thing I can definitely put my money on is that there's going to be something crazy that I haven't yet listed.

What could it be? Some kind of new feature? A reworking of the core structure of the game?

I'm very curious to see what happens to the Alliance/Horde war after Garrosh gets deposed. It's not like the two sides were best buddies before he became Warchief, but I can't see the war continuing as it is. The question, then, becomes how that will be reflected mechanically. Granted, the only "mechanical" difference since the war started is that we don't get neutral capital cities anymore (the Shrines barely count as cities anyway,) so there might not be much to change.

We could also see something akin to Path of the Titans - the strange and ill-defined thing that they talked about in the run-up to Cataclysm. I still don't quite know what the hell it was supposed to be or do, but if we explain it as a bit of character-development for your toons and a way to specialize in ways that didn't tie into the normal means of progression, that would be cool.

Likewise, it would be interesting to add more depth to the classes and their mechanics, though I don't really know what that would entail. If a druid were to become an archdruid, what would that mean?

We're still several months from Blizzcon, but if there's one thing I'm totally confident about, it's that we are going to see the next expansion announced.

I only hope that we get a bit more info than they did with Mists - where we got just the title, the new race and the new class and that was it until a media blitz months later. Blizzcon should be big, and with Heart of the Swarm already out, I think WoW is going to be center-stage (ok, we'll probably also hear about a Diablo 3 expansion.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Foreshadowing and Expansion Five

Blizzard's PR Blitz has been going on for a good while now. They're clearly proud of 5.2 (as they should be) and trying to drum up excitement (and probably entice lapsed players.) The thing that struck me was a recent interview with Ghostcrawler on, particularly the discussion of WoW's future.

For much of WoW's lifetime, new content was not planned very far in advance, but today, it appears that they've got the whole expansion cycle and indeed the next expansion is in the works. So far, we've seen content in Mists come at a pretty healthy pace. 5.1 came pretty shortly after the expansion dropped, and I, for one, had just gotten pretty satisfactorily geared up in raid finder by the time 5.2 hit, allowing my two top toons to head in there and start smashing some Troll and Mogu heads.

Anyway, GC talks about the way that they're able to hint at the next expansion because it was planned out so early. Not only are we getting a single, cohesive story in Mists (even as recent as Cataclysm, there were some things that seemed to have been pulled out of thin air, like the Zandalari turning out to be evil or the de-powering of the Aspects after Deathwing's demise) but we're also getting some serious lore reveals that could mean big things for the next expansion.

So here's the thing: I've been talking about the Burning Legion a lot in my speculations. We haven't heard much about them since BC, other than the now-defunct Battle of Undercity quest and a couple of sort of sad Terrorfiends up in Hyjal, being pushed out by Twilight's Hammer.

And we haven't heard much about them in Mists. What we have heard about a bit is the Titans. The Mogu are Titan constructs, much like the ancestors of the humans, dwarfs, gnomes, and tol'vir (hey, remember the Tol'vir? No?) There's still a great deal of mystery as to what, exactly, Pandaria and the Vale of Eternal Blossoms are, but it's clear that the Titans had a great stake in the place. The Mogu also demonstrate how Titan agents can go bad even without being corrupted (well, ok, there was the Curse of Flesh, but that afflicted everyone else and most of those guys turned out decently, with some exceptions, of course.)

BC was a kinda-sorta Legion-themed expansion. Ironically, the name of the expansion better fit what turned out to be a sort of bonus-raid at the end of the expansion, even though Illidan was supposed to be the big bad.

One thing that Blizzard has said in the past is that, no, we have not yet met a true Titan. Figures like Thorim or Hodir (or Ammunae or Isiset, or finally, Ra-Den) are certainly powerful, but they are only constructs - presumably beings like the mortal Titanic races were once, but the Watchers seem to have escaped the Curse of Flesh for some reason.

The Titans are a pretty interesting group of movers and shakers in the Warcraft universe. They're theoretically good guys, attempting to bring order to the cosmos, but they are beset by two very powerful foes - the Old Gods and the Burning Legion.

We've been dealing with Old Gods and Old-God-affiliates a whole lot lately, what with C'thun and Yogg-Saron, Deathwing's madness, and the Sha. Unless the Old Gods were instrumental in causing Sargeras to turn (and please, let's not make that the case - Sargeras shouldn't just be Deathwing on a larger scale) we can probably afford to leave them off for a bit.

One of the tidbits from the Warlock Green Fire chain that I find fascinating is the fact that Doomguards were originally kind of "bad magic detectors" for the Titans, who were attuned or designed to seek out sacrificial magics so that the Titans could put a stop to it. This would seem to suggest that, in a lot of cases, the Titans themselves may have not just locked away, but actually created the demons who now form the Burning Legion. The Legion may be less of a universe-spanning prison revolt and more of a radical splinter group from the Titan hierarchy.

Burning Crusade was during an era when Blizzard was not quite as adept at presenting the story of the game through the gameplay. We actually didn't get much about the inner workings of the Legion, as the focus was more on the Illidari's desperate bid to hold onto Outland.

So it would be cool to have a Legion expansion that delves farther into the depths of the Legion's history and how the whole thing works. And if most of these demons are, in fact, former Titan constructs, it would be fascinating to see what they were before, and what has changed.

And of course, this would open up some new opportunities to get at the real motivations of the Titans. We think of them as benevolent figures, creating worlds where life can thrive, but these are the guys who created the Mogu, and left our world with a giant self-destruct mechanism. They might be well-intentioned, but there's a kind of Lovecraftian creepiness to the way that they seem to see us mere mortals as insignificant - that our individuality and free will is a strange malfunction in what is meant to be an automated system.

What is Azeroth for? Why did the Titans come here at all? What was here before?

Why is there a little girl in Blade's Edge Mountains who claims to be from "Eng-land?"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Class Specific Content

I'm taking a break from working on the Green Fire chain (to both gear up a little more and maybe see a therapist after the Kanathred fight) but it got me thinking: This chain (most of which is part of the scenario) is pretty darn epic. The scenario itself is quite different from what we've been trained to think of scenarios being, in that it's less of a quick mini-dungeon and more like an epic one-man raid (taking place in one of WoW's greatest raid instances, too.)

The other thing that's pretty exciting (and super challenging) is that, because it's designed for a specific class, they can force you to use your whole Warlock toolbox without worrying that some Hunter isn't going to be able to do the same.

This is the strength of class-specific content: you can create challenges specially tailored to those who will be doing it.

I never got to do the Rogue legendary chain (Dragon Soul is not yet soloable, but once it is, you can bet I'll be doing that) but I understand that there were some nice Rogue-specific challenges there as well. This is good stuff, but understandably hard to do as there are now eleven classes (and if Santa Claus listens to me, hopefully soon twelve! C'mon, Demon Hunters!)

The other thing is that the Green Fire chain has a great cosmetic reward that is something people have been asking for for ages. Most other classes don't really have such an iconic thing to seek out, so the reward for such content is an unknown.

But just for the hell of it, let's try to imagine what kind of content and potential rewards one could get for various classes:

Death Knight:

DKs already have a ton of cool stuff - glowing blue eyes, class-specific and free weapon enchants, deep, echoing voices and the potential for creepy, half-decomposed skin options. The one option I could think of for DKs as a reward would be to have an epic chain in which they craft their own runeblade, which would then become a transmogrifiable weapon. Another option would be to let their eye color change depending on spec (again, my Frost DK, who is a Draenei, would once again not really benefit, though when he's in his Blood spec, that would be pretty badass/terrifying.)

In terms of stories and content, I think this would be a good opportunity to rescue Koltira from Sylvanas' dungeons, acting as a representative of the Ebon Blade, which is none too pleased about one of their knights getting brainwashed. One could also deal with the shards of Frostmourne, or possibly delve into the history of the pre-Scourge Death Knights of the Old Horde.


Well, we already have new druid animal forms (as of Cataclysm... or was it 3.3?) We also have armored animal forms through talents... I suppose one option would to gain Malfurion-like permanent animal attributes. This guy has antlers and wings even in his Night Elf form... Not sure here.

Druids have had plenty of exposure over the last few expansions, but I think these class-specific things should always try to go to the very core of the class' identity. So presumably, the Druid chain would have to take you into the Emerald Dream and possibly expose the corruption of the Nightmare and N'zoth. Actually, this would be a great opportunity to have our first confrontation with N'Zoth. I'd like to see one of the Old Gods display a little more personality before we go into their lair and chop some tentacles.


Hunters are one of the classes that suffers a little from being too general a class. While DKs or Druids have a lot of very specific lore, Hunters are just anyone who gets really good with a gun or bow and likes to hang out with animals. Rewards for a Hunter would probably be something like a unique pet, but there are already a bunch of "challenge pets" out there. Another option is that a hunter could track down a mythical beast, perhaps learning more about the history of the world in this way. Actually, if I could get an awesome reward, it would be the ability to tame Dragonkin.


Mages are pretty cool, and recent events in Dalaran have some serious implications for the class, but like Hunters, Mages are not a terribly centralized class, nor is there much I can think of for cosmetic rewards. On one hand, I'd say you could deal with the aftermath of Malygos' death, but... oh yeah, we did that one. In many ways, the Dragonwrath chain was really best suited for Mages.


Monks have not yet really been able to develop their lore beyond "this is what all Pandaren basically are." Ok, in fairness, there is a lot of Monk lore, but we're pretty much playing through it this entire expansion. The only reward I could think of is the option to have your monk constantly carrying a barrel of brew on their back.


Almost as long as people have been asking for Green Fire, people have been asking for visible Librams. We don't even use Librams anymore, but Paladins are all about books and hammers (see the Draenei guy in the BC cinematic.) Also, because Paladins don't dual-wield, our right hip is always free of hanging weapons, so there's a place to put it, too. Another, crazier option, would be to get glowing golden eyes, but we can hold off on that for now...

On one hand, Paladins have tons of lore, but it's not exactly focused. The class came about originally to fight off the Horde's Warlocks, but they've also been aligned against the Burning Legion and the Scourge. The Scourge tends to be the most iconic Paladin villain, but I feel like the post-Arthas Scourge is really more a matter for Death Knights to settle than Paladins. Not sure about this one.


Priests have some of the same problem as Hunters, in that there's not a specific way all Priests come to their calling in WoW. I don't know what Priests would want for a cosmetic reward. So... um.


Well, we just had a pretty epic Legendary Rogue-only chain, and it had you assassinating the entirety the Black Dragonflight (save Wrathion and anyone who was in Outland,) with plenty of intrigue and sneaking around, so I think Rogues are probably going to need to sit on the bench for a bit.


There was a lot of Shaman stuff in the previous expansion, and arguably the Thrall chain in 4.2 was very Shaman-appropriate. There also aren't a ton of cosmetic rewards I can currently think of for them, though I always thought Shamans should get a ghost-wolf mount, or the ability to turn into some kind of ghost-raven.


You just got yours! Sit down.


Ah yes, if you thought Hunters, Mages and Priests lacked for specificity in lore, this is the once class that every single race can be (even Blood Elves now!) and the class' lore is just: "this is a person who hits things and gets angry." Granted, some kind of gladiatorial event would be pretty Warrior-specific, but I also really don't know what cosmetic reward these guys would get (that hasn't been covered by glyphs.)

I would love to see lots of class-specific content, and I hope we continue to see the stuff at the quality of the Green Fire chain, but I can totally sympathize with reluctant designers who fear it would be a ton of work for a fraction of the player-base.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Green Fire Part Two!

No, it's still not finished, but I'm very near the end (of course, given that the final stretch - or really the bulk of the chain - is a scenario, you'll have to repeat most of it if you step away to try later.)

The one major thing I've discovered is that Destruction has a huge advantage here, with the immense self-healing of Ember Tap and the lack of a need to Life Tap for mana.

After defeating the Essence of Order (aided greatly by the use of Ember Tap and Harvest Life) you will have to fight your way out of the room. Akama will ask you to help him rescue some people down in the basement, but your Imp shows up and has another idea - let's loot the place!

You can then gather a ton of stuff in the Den of Mortal Delights on your way to the top of the temple. You'll get a decent chunk of gold here, though it'll be hell on bag space.

After fighting your way through, you can go to the top of the temple, where you place the gem from the Essence of Order into Kanrethed's (got the name right this time) soul well. This summons him and begins what I have to imagine is the final boss fight of the scenario.

And this is where I have hit a wall for now.

The major feature of this fight is that he summons a Pit Lord, which you need to enslave in order to beat him. The guy uses a ton of different techniques and abilities, all of which are tough to deal with.

I'll give you more info when I beat it, but believe me, this is not an encounter to take lightly. It'd be nice if one could save one's progress here, but I think I've "solved" the Essence of Order fight.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Green Fire Part One!

Well, after camping out on the Isle of Thunder, my warlock Morcanis got his Tome of the Lost Legion, the item that begins the epic Green Fire warlock quest chain.

There are actually some big lore reveals and also some interesting nitty-gritty about the way that demons and fel power work, so if you're super spoiler-conscious, read no further. If you don't play a warlock, though, you won't get this elsewhere in-game, so you should take a look.

To begin with, you get the Tome and unlock it with a Healthstone (presumably this soulbinds it - if you've already done it or for some bizarre reason don't want to do the quest, you can sell it on the AH, but only Locks will see it drop.) You then need to summon your various demons and chat with them about just what the deal is with this book that you cannot read. Most of them don't have a clue, until one of them will tell you that it's written in a tongue the pre-dates the Legion.

As you might know, most demons were once completely other sorts of beings before Sargeras formed the Burning Legion. As far as we know, the Nathrezim (dreadlords) were the only confirmed demons pre-Sargeras' fall.

You go to your faction capital (I assume only SW or Org) and talk to the local head Warlock, who tells you to read "Legacy of the Masters" part 1. This thing has been there since 5.0 hit, and is a book that tells of the forming of the Circle of the Black Harvest, a group of Warlocks who decided that, in the face of a post-Cataclysm Azeroth, they needed to delve deeper into the secrets of their craft to continue doing their important and dark work. Incidentally, if we have a Legion-themed expansion (possibly the next one?) this would be a great faction to add.

To avoid just murdering each other (Warlocks, what can you do?) the group pairs them up, using the buddy system to make sure that they don't betray each other. Essentially, if you come back alone, they kill you and banish your soul to the Twisting Nether eternally, yadda yadda yadda.

So two such Warlocks head to Outland: Jubeka... something and Kanathred Ebonlocke. The Warlock trainer gives you Jubeka's journal, which actually gives you some insight into some of the new talents and abilities, such as how she discovered how to summon the new, powerful demons, or how to summon two at once, etc. You use hints in the journal to find various locations in Outland where there are soul shards to find. Doing so will reveal little cutscenes between the two Warlocks. In Netherstorm, we find that for some reason, even after the Legion and Illidan are gone from Outland, the Observers stay (and that summoning one is tough because they tend to just fly through space all the time, meaning they're hard to pinpoint.) In Blade's Edge, Kanathred's Doomguard reveals that his people were originally employed by the Titans to seek out people using sacrificial magic. Essentially, they're like drug-sniffing dogs that became druggies when they were let off the leash by Sargeras. Finally, in Shadowmoon Valley, Kanathred tells Jubeka to kill him should the power he's seeking overwhelm him.

With that, you can now head into the Black Temple to continue your pursuit.

Now, here I should point out that my Warlock is not particularly well geared. He's not even ready for LFR (though I'm now two points away.) There are boss fights in here that probably require a bit more power, so part two of this could take a little time.

You first need to get through the grand courtyard (no sewers for you!) and sneak past the various Ashtongue guards. Luckily, your Succubus/Shivarra have a handy crowd control ability that will let you waltz past them. The workers here will call out for help, but as long as you stay outside the red circle of a guard who's not CC'd, you'll be fine. Otherwise, you simply get stopped and sent back to the beginning.

After you get inside and attempt to take the Warlocks' scroll, Akama will come over and sap you, confronting you. If you talk to him, though, he'll realize you're not there to pillage the place (and may in fact recognize you from earlier - still need to do BT on Morcanis. Probably should before I complete this.) He gets the Ashtongue to give you free reign of the Temple and then leads you to the Reliquary of Souls.

To get there, you need to navigate a maze that's made of invisible traps. To get through, first unsummon your demon (and if you're Demonology, either switch specs or use the Imp Swarm glyph so you don't get a bunch of Wild Imps setting the traps off) and use your trusty old Eye of Kilrogg to scout the path before you walk it. I recommend taking it slow and taking out the ghosts you see there. Make sure to make a little room on your left for the Eye when you summon it, because it will also set off the traps.

Once you make it past the maze, you get another scene. It turns out that the Reliquary was how Illidan got so many demons to work for him. The place is a font of Arcane power that rivals the Sunwell. In another little cutscene, Kanathred explains that Illidan's demonic minions did not have the Fel green taint of the Burning Legion because this was his source of power.

After the scene, the Essence of Order appears and you must fight it. And this is where I've been unable to succeed so far.

The fight has three major aspects to it: The Essence will send waves of blue fire at you that stay on the ground for a while. They're easy enough to side-step, but you can get cornered. He will also do Hellfire, which deals a ton of damage and should be interrupted with a Felhunter/Observer. Finally, he'll summon a bunch of spirits to attack you that you need to AoE down quickly.

Last time I attempted this, I was iLevel 452. I'm now 458, but it's clearly a challenge. Self-healing is paramount here.

So far I'm loving this chain. I look forward to more of this kind of stuff in the future. But what class should get it next?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Last Stand of the Zandalari

The first wing of Throne of Thunder has unlocked for LFR, and so the first thing I did upon logging on today was to run it.

The first wing, as you might gather from the name, is all about Trolls. All three bosses are troll-based, and it's here that we see the Zandalari represent.

The trash (which we found rather tough on Normal, though the guild is way undergeared) before Jin'rokh is not too bad, though my co-tank was a little overeager, making it next to impossible to pick up anyone off him until he died, even with taunts. Did I mention how much Vengeance needs to be redesigned?

Jin'rokh the Breaker:
In case you're wondering, yes, this is the old Dire Troll guy from Yojamba Isle. I'd always held out hope that the Zandalari we had been friends with back in the day were actually still good guys, but it would seem that is not the case.

Jin'rokh is a simple fight, but not Patchwerk-simple. Essentially the whole thing is based on water and electricity. There are four statues that will get shattered over the course of the fight, and they'll create a big pool of water. Standing in this water gives you a boost to damage and healing, but it also makes you take more from his lightning attacks. Tanks will have to switch when the other gets Static Wound, because with the debuff they deal damage to the raid every time they take a hit. The damage decreases over time, but you'll still want to do some swapping. When he tosses one tank at a statue, he'll go to number two on his threat list, causing a kind of automatic tank swap.

He will also send balls of lightning at random raid members. Those who are targeted should run away from the raid, and seriously avoid doing two things: dropping an orb on the spot where another orb detonated, or bringing it into the water. Either of these things will do massive raid-wide damage.

Finally, the conductive pools of water eventually get electrified when he casts a Lightning Storm, so move out of them when that happens.

Trash before Horridon:

The trash here is actually one of the hardest parts of the wing, at least if you don't do it carefully. There are several bridges covered with gusting winds that will threaten to push you off and make casting spells nearly impossible. Do defeat the Mogu spirits floating above the bridge, simply pull them back to an area without wind. There is a Voodoo Golem about halfway through that does nasty tank damage (he sunders, so you probably are supposed to tank-swap, but given my co-tank...) Meanwhile, troll spirits hover above providing big spots of death that you should avoid.


Horridon himself is a giant Direhorn (triceratops) and is not terribly tricky. One tank grabs the dino while the other goes to the first of four open doors where Farraki, Gurubashi, Drakkari, and Amani trolls pour in. DPS and the second tank take on the first tribe of trolls until a Zandalari Dinomancer shows up. When he's down, anyone can click on the orb he drops to make Horridon crash into the currently open gate, stunning him and stopping the flow of that tribe of trolls.

The tanks now switch jobs to allow Horridon's debuff to fall off, and you alternate between the two until all four tribal gates are destroyed.

After that, War-God Jalak jumps down. The free tank picks him up and dps burns him down, and then it becomes a burn phase on Horridon until he's dead.

The one trick for Horridon is that he will do something called Double Swipe, where he swings his head and tail. There's a generous cast time on this, so everyone, including the tank, should run out of the way. Occasionally he'll charge a random raid member, and he always does Double Swipe after one of these.

Trash before Zandalari Council

The trash here isn't so bad. Essentially Gara'jal (from MSV) raises the dead trolls you kill so you have to fight them again.

Zandalari Council

There are four members of the Council - one of each of the major Troll tribes. I don't recall their names, but their tribes are pretty obvious, so I'll just go with those.

The Amani guy cannot be tanked, and just charges around hurting people. The Farraki guy will summon sand elementals that turn into sand puddles when they die, which will snare and eventually entrap you if you don't get out in time. The Gurubashi priestess summons spirit adds and might do some healing, but is fairly light on damage. Finally, the Drakkari guy needs to be traded between tanks as he puts on a debuff that eventually stuns the tank.

One tank picks up the Gurubashi while the other picks up the Farraki and they trade duty on the Drakkari.

Meanwhile, Gara'jal will possess one of the members at a time, empowering their abilities. DPS wants to focus on this one, because they will build power as long as they're possessed. To de-possess a member, you need to do 25% of their health in damage.

Unlike some council fights, these do not have a shared health pool, nor do they heal when another one dies, so cleaves and multi-dotting is a good idea here. Overall, it's a chaotic fight, but not terribly difficult.

Overall Impressions:

I'm really liking the place. Obviously, we've only just scratched the surface here, but especially once people get better used to the fights and geared up a little stronger, I expect this to be a lot of fun to run many a time.

Oh! And I got the Sand Elemental pet off the Council fight. It's really cool.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Violet Rise... and Sunreaver Something-something

Well, after a full week of 5.2, my server has completed stage one. Thus, with a little solo-scenario-ing, we now have our permanent base set up on the island.

The use of Scenarios to do those "big moments" in a server-wide progression is, I think, inspired. One of the problems with a game like this is the fear of missing out. In Skyrim, for example, you don't have to worry about missing out on the big Alduin raid, because it's a solo endeavor that waits for you. I remember doing the Isle of Quel'danas way back in the day, and it was pretty cool to see parts of the island open up as we progressed. If there was a big event to mark that, I surely missed it.

I have not done the Horde version yet (though I suspect Area 52 finished Stage One a while ago) but the Alliance scenario has you and Vareesa Windrunner prepare to mount a huge assault on the troll stronghold of Shao'ola or whatever it's called. When most of your squad inevitably gets blown out of the sky, you and Vareesa 2-man the trolls, rampaging through the place and climaxing in a fight against a priest guy with an enchanted tiki mask and a mechanic reminiscent of the first stage of Jin'do the Godbreaker in Zul'Gurub 85.

With the fortress unlocked, a new round of dailies opens. It's not a huge amount, pretty much just stuff in the Diremoor area, but you can also choose to do the PvP dailies now, which send you against the Sunreavers (or vice versa - I try not to be faction-biased, but I've grown more and more Alliance-aligned over the years.) I suspect we'll still have our three other hubs, but this means that rep is going to be coming at us at fire-hose levels. Jarsus and Oterro are already revered, and with more dailies per day, plus the Grand Commendation, I suspect getting a new toon exalted here will be pretty quick (especially as more stages unlock.)

Tomorrow the first wing of Throne of Thunder unlocks on LFR, so my focus will be reading up on those fights.

I've got to say, this patch is looking to be one of the better ones in a very long time. The gating does not feel as restrictive as it was at the Molten Front, and the solo scenarios could mean wonderful, fantastic things for the future (remember me talking about solo dungeon content in the past?)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shiny New Unannounced Feature

There seems to be a developing tradition among final patches in expansions. 3.3 brought us the Dungeon Finder, 4.3 brought us the Raid Finder, and it looks like 5.4 (or 5.5 or whatever winds up being Mists' last one) is going to bring us... something.

But we do actually have a bit of information, in that hints have been dropped. The thing is, WoW is by far the biggest and also one of the longest-lived MMOs out there (I believe Everquest is still up, which is where a lot of the older veterans of my guild started out.) The point is, there's a ton of content. Altogether, excluding those that have been shut down (and counting revamped ones as a single raid) there are twenty-nine raids in the game, with at least one more coming during Mists. And if you think that's something, consider that there are seventy-two 5-man dungeons.

When Burning Crusade was first released, I was a wee newbie, with hardly a character above level 30, walking around in "of the wolf" gear. I had heard about these new things called "heroic dungeons," which were lower-level dungeons re-tuned for level 70 (the max level at the time. Keep up, people.) What I thought was that this would apply to all the dungeons, but instead it only applied to BC-era ones, which in retrospect was fairly reasonable.

The new feature they're teasing us with is supposed to open up a lot of old content for players who are already at the cutting edge (or really just current.) Obviously, there are a numerous ways this could be applied, but here's a concept:

We know that Blizzard can futz with our iLevels, lowering them for challenge modes or even just testing on the PTR. We also know that they can futz with the iLevels of individual pieces of gear, thanks to the since-removed upgrade Ethereals.

So here's a radical idea: what if they could simply scale a dungeon and all of its rewards up to the max level?

Let's propose a fourth difficulty level for dungeons (or a third for raids,) a kind of "throwback heroic" difficulty. What this would mean is that the dungeon scales up to your level, and all the loot that drops off the bosses becomes the iLevel of whatever heroic dungeons ought to be dropping during the current expansion (so 463 today.)

This would vastly expand the options for people who might be tired of running the same nine dungeons over and over (though I have yet to get tired of the new Scholomance - love that place.) It also means you could pick up things like that trinket from ICC25 that turned you into a Vrykul and have it actually work well at level 90.

Even without the upgrading of loot off those instances, the ability to power yourself down and see the place as it was meant to be seen would be fantastic. It's pretty seriously hard to get ten level 70 people together to hit up Karazhan, and in fact, given the way talents, abilities, and mastery has shifted around, many people would not have a complete toolkit to be serious raiders at that level anymore. With a system like this, you could toss down your Hammer of Light to round up those dancing ghosts outside of Moroes' chamber.

One of the traditions my guild has is the old-school run. Back when we were a regular raiding guild (the glory days of ICC - a main run and an alt run each week) we did old-school runs every week, hitting up an old raid from the BC or Classic era just to see the place. It was great, because otherwise I'd have not been able to see those places until 5.1 lifted the requirement to be in a raid group in order to enter one. It also meant those bosses with mechanics that just plain needed multiple people would go down just as easy.

If the new feature is anything like what I described, it will make for an even better version of the old-school raid, in that you'll actually be able to experience the boss mechanics, rather than killing things in a matter of seconds.

Of course, the new feature could be totally different, so who knows?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

First Impressions of the Isle of Thunder

Well, 5.2 has now dropped. We still don't have Throne of Thunder via LFR yet, so the main event is yet to come (except for those who are actually ready to run a new raid on normal the first week of a patch.)

First of all, the island itself: I adore the place. It has that great spooky Gilneas/Darkmoon Isle vibe that Blizzard is really good at pulling off. Likewise, the new Zandalari troll models and overall style is fantastic - we've seen the various Troll Tribe stuff, but until now they've mainly looked somewhat ruined or worn down - the Zandalari have brought what the real troll empires ought to look like to the island.

The load of daily quests is somewhat large, but unlike Golden Lotus, you can switch up the order in which you complete them. Getting around the island, or really getting onto the island is a bit of a challenge because you have to go through the Troll area to do so, but you have quests there every day, so you'll be going there anyway. Once Stage 1 ends, we'll have hubs more conveniently placed, so while it's kind of cool hanging out on Jaina's ship, it'll be cooler to have a Kirin Tor base.

I've been able to run the Trove of the Thunder King twice now, once on Jarsus and once on Oterro. It's clear that at least for your first couple trips, you won't be able to get a ton out of it, but rewards I have come across include tons of Elder Charms (as we move out of the 5.0 raids, these are getting other uses) and a number of things to boost rep gains and valor points.

Right now my focus is on Jarsus (who finally got a 10th - and 11th - sigil of power in MSV, so hopefully he'll eventually get back on track with the Legendary chain. Still no Sha-touched weapon though.)

I'll be very curious to see the other parts of the island, but it will still be a couple more days to get the Kirin Tor (and Sunreaver) town, after which stage 3 I believe will open up the upper levels.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life Still in those 5.0 LFR Raids + a little ranting about Subtlety Rogues

I finally got my Undead Rogue, Darsino, up to LFR-levels, through a combination of finally realizing that I could replace those crappy boots of his simply by running the Sha of Anger once, dolling out over three and a half thousand gold for a new dagger, and getting really lucky on the aforementioned Sha and getting the normal-mode tier 14 gloves (I actually got the PvP gloves as the first drop, but decided to chance one of my three precious Charms.) So actually he's leapfrogged Ardten to become my #3 toon, but much as Jarsus and Oterro have been kind of jockeying this expansion, I expect Ardten and Darsino will do so as well (poor Tarbhad hasn't even run a heroic yet.)

Anyway, while the big news is that come tomorrow morning, 5.2 will be dropping, the LFR version of the raid will only open its first wing a week later. I'm as anxious as everyone to start downing some Mogu (or as the case may be, Trolls) right as the patch is released, but it looks like we're going to have a week to kill before we can start to scratch the surface of the raid (unless you have an actual raiding guild, which sadly mine does not seem to be these days - I partially blame myself, as I am a guild officer.)

This is actually good news for a guy who just barely got two toons geared for MSV, and needs to get them running to gear up. Hopefully we won't see a ridiculous jump in LFR queue times for the older raids, but if Blizz really wants alts and latecomers to gear up through LFR, they'd better have a plan if no one runs them anymore.

The rest of this post is me-stuff, if you're not interested in that.

It feels good to finally have Darsino on the road to better gear. He hit revered with Dominance Offensive today and he's done the first branch of MSV (no dagger yet from the first boss.) I'm committed to keeping Darsino specced as Sub this expansion, because it is my dream to see Sub work well, and I can't really see how well it works if I reforge and enchant for Assassination. I really do think Blizzard needs to examine the Rogue in a serious way. They've said they don't think it needs a Warlock-level revamp, but I disagree. This class is dying out, and if we ever get Demon Hunters (and yes, I do hope we do some day) they're going to be seriously endangered.

The things I'm noticing while playing on the rogue is that there's a lot of times when I think I can do something, but I can't yet. You might have enough energy for something, but then you won't have enough combo points, or sometimes it's the other way around. This would not be such a bad thing if finishing moves were simpler.

For example, on Oterro (and I realize that Frost DKs are not a terribly difficult spec to play) the biggest decision I have to make constantly is whether to hit Obliterate or Frost Strike when I have Killing Machine up. Sometimes, the runes for an Obliterate are right about to come up, and in that case I wait. But if my runes are all down, and I'm sitting on some runic power, I'll waste the proc on my Frost Strike to keep the momentum going, hopefully getting a Runic Empowerment proc, which will of course then feed me more runes and thus more Runic Power, etc.

On Darsino, first of all, I have a couple things to establish at the beginning - I need to Ambush out of Stealth for the Expose Weakness debuff, then I need to get Slice and Dice running for the Energy it provides Subtlety, then I need to get Rupture up for Sanguinary Vein, and then I need to squeeze in as many Eviscerates as I can before I need to refresh again. The durations of Rupture and Slice and Dice are such that they often fall off at the same time, so maybe I need to refresh them earlier or something. I don't know.

But we're not finished. Subtlety is also all about using Shadow Dance and Vanish to get more Ambushes in there (for the Expose Weakness, not to mention the damage from Ambush) and also get Shadow Power, which increases damage done while in Stealth and for a few seconds after breaking it.

OH, and don't let me forget - you have to be behind the target at all times because Backstab is your main CP generator. (But you also have to weave Hemorrhage in there even if you are behind them to keep that extra bleed ticking.)

Believe it or not, this is a simpler version than what we had in Cataclysm, where you had to maintain Recuperate as well, but while a little bit of juggling is ok, I think they have got to cut Subtlety some slack somewhere.

Barring some radical redesign (and frankly, it might not be a bad idea,) there are a couple things that could be done to make the spec less absurdly difficult to play well:

1. Do something about Backstab - I know Rogues Do It From Behind, but this positioning thing leaves you at the mercy of your tank and fight mechanics. Any time the boss spins around to cast a spell on a random person, your rotation (which as we just showed, is pretty damned complex) is interrupted. The most obvious but also most radical shift would be to rename it "Stab" and hopefully give it some mechanical difference to Sinister Strike so we don't have to use Sinister Strike. (Combat Rogues - go play a Warrior, amirite?) Dagger requirement! There we go.

2. Simplify Finishers - Assassination get to refresh their Slice and Dice to full with each Envenom. We should get a way to refresh either that or Rupture easily. I'd say every Eviscerate refreshes Rupture to its 5-point duration, plus a redesign that has Rupture's various combo-point levels only affect duration and not damage. With only Slice and Dice and Eviscerates, there's a lot more freedom to focus on the more interesting aspects of the spec.

3. Do something about Shadow Power - Vanish ought to be an escape or deception mechanism. You disappear, and then you can either flee, enjoy the drop in threat (not so much of an issue these days) or get a quick on-demand use of your openers while your enemies can't see you. It feels wrong to be blowing Vanish on cooldown in a boss fight, so I'd prefer they have something else proc Shadow Power, or perhaps allowing Shadow Dance to trigger it as well (though this starts to make Expose Weakness redundant. Is that such a bad thing?)

Now, I realize most of these things would make the spec more powerful, but all that would need is just a simple numbers nerfing.

I doubt Blizzard would implement all of these, even though I think the spec deserves all three, but I do hope that come the next expansion, when they see how low Rogue numbers have dropped, they'll really give the class a re-tooling like they did with Warlocks. Rogues used to be the most badass class in the game, and the underlying flavor of them remains pretty stone cold. Throw in a bit of decent Rogue lore (if that World of Cold Warcraft situation comes about, there'd be tons of potential for spy stuff) and most important: make the class easier to play.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that my Death Knight is absolutely destroying, and he's a lot of fun to play.