Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Speculation/Wishlist for the Story and Content of the Next Expansion

So yesterday I talked about the mechanical changes that we might expect in expansion 5. This time, I'm going to talk about the potential story, as well as content changes we might see. I realize "content" is a very vague word, but what I mean is greater specificity than simple mechanical changes. You'll understand when I get to it. I also will be throwing in things that I want to happen, regardless of whether I think they will happen.

1. Demons! Outer Space! The Burning Legion!

Blizzard could, admittedly, pull the rug out from under us and give us that Emerald Dream expansion we've been expecting forever, but given Wrathion's chain in Mists, I think it's a pretty decent bet that we're going to have our next showdown with the Burning Legion once we've finished off all our Szechuan Chicken and Mushu Pork.

Will this be the final confrontation? Probably not. Frankly, as cool as it would be to fight Sargeras, I think they're still going to hold on to that bullet.

If we wind up going to Argus, I could see Kil'jaeden being the final boss of the expansion, only this time we're going to fight him at full power and actually kill him.

Argus is not particularly well-defined, but the very fact that it was once the Draenei (then called Eredar) homeworld means that there would be potential for stuff that isn't just a demon-blasted ruin. Sure, the Legion has a tendency to destroy entire worlds, but perhaps if they want to keep a planet they might not be able to ruin everything, so you could have wild areas that are only partially corrupted.

2. Illidan's Return

Illidan is kind of a fascinating character because in Warcraft 3, he was more of an anti-hero. In Burning Crusade, he was a straight-up villain (some described him as being like a mob boss) and yet, we've seen a bit of character reconstruction since then, such as the awesome quest chain in Felwood where a fellow Demon Hunter shows how, really, Illidan was always working to protect Azeroth. It was only his willingness to tap into forbidden power that got him exiled.

This is a fantasy game, so bringing people back from the dead is not a terribly difficult thing to do. Plus, it would frankly be awesome to have a faction leader who is kind of bitter with us for killing him a few years ago.

3. With Illidan, we get Demon Hunters as a Hero Class

There are two really iconic characters from Warcraft 3 - Arthas and Illidan. Both of them are badass anti-hero/villains, and have incredibly well-realized, cool classes that aren't really represented by anything else in game (Mountain Kings and Tauren Chieftains are already Warriors, for example.)

We got Death Knights in Wrath of the Lich King, and they are probably one of the most popular classes in the game.

Now, with Monks, Blizzard decided to make them a regular class - starting at level 1, without any fancy bells and whistles (unless you count how they hold their weapons.) One could take this to mean that Blizzard had abandoned the idea of a hero class, but I think it made more sense to simply work on a class-by-class basis. Having a young and inexperienced Monk made sense. Having a Death Knight struggling to fight off Kobolds in the mines of Elwynn? Not so much.

A Demon Hunter would have a similar "minimum badass quotient," and thus ought to start at a higher level. I think 55 could be established as the standard Hero Class level, and the Demon Hunter starting experience would take place in either Felwood or the Black Temple, but in either case, the end result would be resurrecting Illidan. They should also get a similar "class home base," and potentially one of the new factions would be affiliated with them, à la Knights of the Ebon Blade.

Also, like Death Knights, we could get unique character looks, such as tattoos and possibly having all Demon Hunters blinded and wearing blindfolds.

The Demon Hunter would be a melee/tank/caster, with the melee specs dual-wielding. Effectively, they would be like Warlocks the way that Paladins are like Priests - a kind of melee representation of the same concepts, with slightly different flavor. Just as a Paladin is more about Law and Justice while Priests are about affecting the mind and spirit, Demon Hunters would be more about the primal, feral rage of demons as opposed to the Warlocks' more academic understanding of them.

4. A Return to Karazhan

Karazhan is one of the most popular raids ever - not only because it was a relatively easy raid to step into, and because it was the first 10-man raid, but also because the tone and mood of the place was excellent.

There's always been an in-universe rumor of a Lower Karazhan, that is like an upside-down version of the tower below it. A Burning Legion expansion would be a great excuse to create that area as a new raid. I'm always more in favor of "sequel" raids over revamps, so that we can still go back to the old ones for nostalgia and picking up transmog gear. The great thing is that there's an obvious entry for the new raid already - the Karazhan Crypts. (Truth be told, I've actually written out a little outline of how such a raid could work, just for fun.)

5. The Draenei will play a key role

Until the Worgen, the Draenei were always seen as the odd man out when it came to lore. While Blood Elves had a key role to play in BC and Wrath, the Draenei got to host people in BC and then haven't really done anything else.

However, if we go to Argus, I would be shocked and appalled if we didn't get a huge amount of Draenei lore. Imagine, for example, if there are still uncorrupted Eredar living on Argus, fighting a guerrilla war against the demonic occupiers? Might they be bitter toward the Draenei, who abandoned them there?

6. The Horde will struggle to pull itself back together

We shouldn't ignore that there is going to be some serious fallout from Hellscream's fall. The Horde is going to need time to readjust, not only to the change in leadership, but potentially to the fundamental change in the style of leadership. Consider how even 150 years later, there's still bitterness in the US about the outcome of the Civil War. Sure, the Horde will have to regroup and move forward together, but don't expect everyone to be happy that it was Vol'jin who won.

7. The Alliance will realize that they've come out on top and need to figure out what to do with that position.

The Alliance only really decisively won the Second War. Since then, it's either been devastated by the Scourge or seen its long-held lands slowly eroded away. Sure, we beat the Lich King. We stopped Deathwing. But the Alliance has been struggling to fight a decline.

Yet after Garrosh is deposed, the Alliance will find that, in fact, it has actually won the day. When a war ends with your side still standing and the other losing its leader, we call that a victory.

So how to move forward? Is the Alliance going to use the proven muscle to pressure the Horde in certain ways? Not only will the Alliance come out of the Siege of Orgrimmar with fewer injuries, but whoever is in charge of the Horde after that will owe the Alliance his or her position.

I think we could see a cockier, more aggressive Alliance in the future, and if there's any believable reason that tensions could, once again, rise between the factions, it would be the Alliance overstepping its rights as victors.

8. The Council of the Black Harvest could be a real thing

So far, the Black Harvest only serves as backstory for the Green Fire quest chain. Yet it stands to reason that a Demon-focused expansion would bring in a faction of Warlocks.

9. More Daily-Quest Based Factions as well as More Raid Factions

Ok, some people hate dailies, and I can understand that. Frankly, for anyone who plays a non-Dps character, they can get pretty frustrating. But there is a huge advantage to dailies, which is that they let you feel like you truly are helping that actual faction. Running Throne of the Tides with a Ramkahen tabard didn't really make me feel like I was helping the Tol'vir.

Anyway, with stuff like the farm work orders and the little bonus rep for doing your random dungeon/scenario, I think we can expect most factions to work like this.

The Shado-Pan Assault works pretty effectively as a source of Valor gear. Blizzard can make sure that the older factions are still relevant to those who are still gearing up, because they won't be able to run ToT until they're ready to start earning 522 gear.

So here's my partial list of new factions:

Velen's Army of the Light
Illidan's Order of the Betrayer
The Council of the Black Harvest
The Argus Resistance

10. Wrathion will play a part, and we'll see a similar Legendary chain to Mists'

Wrathion's been gearing up (and gearing us up) for a fight with the Legion. I can't imagine he's going to sit on the sidelines.

Now, I doubt that he'll be the Legendary guy again, if only because he's already been the central figure in two Legendary chains.

I expect that we'll see a similar, expansion-spanning chain like the one in Mists, rather than those that are specific to certain classes and roles.

11. More class quests

Even though very few have completed it (damn Chaos Bolts!) the Warlock Green Fire chain was a triumph. While not every class has a thing like Green fire they've been clamoring for for years, I think we're likely to see some new class quests coming in the next expansion.

I don't think every class will get one, though. Part of what made the Green Fire quest so cool was its specificity. That was a quest for Warlocks. Period. The consequence here is that they can't devote all the resources to make a unique quest for every class every expansion.

The uniqueness of it is what makes it so cool, so I'd rather see one or two classes get an epic quest like this each expansion than see everyone get a slightly modified version of the same "go into Sunken Temple and do this thing" quest.

Speculations on the Mechanics and Gameplay of the Next Expansion

If you're a regular reader of mine, you know that I tend to focus on the story and the feel of the game rather than the nitty-gritty of the mechanics (except, perhaps, my ongoing crusade against Vengeance.) I'm a story-driven guy, generally speaking, and to me, the whole point of an RPG is to get invested in the lore, as it makes every fight that much more exciting.

But to give things a little twist, I thought I'd talk about what we're likely to see in the next expansion in terms of structure and gameplay.

1. Blizzard is going to have to decide how to fit dungeons and scenarios together.

Scenarios have the great appeal of not requiring any healers or tanks, but dungeons are the meat and potatoes of WoW. New tanks and healers need 5-man dungeons to learn how to do what they do before they head into raids.

Ghostcrawler has actually said he wishes they had put more 5-man dungeons into later Mists, so I expect that next time around, we're going to be seeing those coming either with each raid tier or on the in-between patches.

Heroic scenarios could become something like Challenge Modes - tough, small-group content that is aimed more at the hardcore players, while dungeons could make up the main PvE alternative to raiding. Either that, or the other way around.

2. We're going to continue to see "story" in-between patches.

Even though theoretically it brought very little to the game, 5.1 was very well received. Because of the great speed with which it arrived, no one felt cheated out of a raid tier. Instead, we all simply got to enjoy additional story development and a daily quest grind that was far more enjoyable and rewarded better gear. Obviously, 5.3 has yet to come out, but given that it seems to be adding outdoor stuff as well as some new story-based scenarios, and Throne of Thunder is still relatively new (though shockingly I'm pretty close to being fully LFR-ToT-geared on my main) I doubt people are going to complain about it much (except that the Alliance is once again being marginalized.)

Blizzard is very happy with the pacing of Mists so far, and the story patches allow them to put out content faster while still taking the time to perfect their grand raids (seriously, I know some people will complain about anything they're currently doing, but look at Throne of Thunder and tell me that's not an awesome raid.)

3. We might get something resembling player housing.

You want to know a secret? We already have player housing. It's called Sunsong Ranch. Sure, we can't really "customize" it so much as we can upgrade it by befriending various members of the Tillers, but it's not only a place all to ourselves, but also a functional area that makes gathering resources for professions far easier. Now if only I had more stuff to make with engineering...

The only step I think you need to take with player housing is some sort of "trophy" system, where things symbolizing your greatest achievements get to sit there and look pretty. An idea that my friend had that I would love is if your alts could chill out there as NPCs when you're not playing them. I'd love to see Oterro and Ardten sharing a drink - or really, I'd like it if any of my toons could actually interact with each other without using mail. Actually, this would be a great thing for alt inventory management, if you could dig around in an alt's bags and move things back and forth (other than soulbound stuff, of course.)

4. There could be some sort of re-think regarding raid difficulties.

LFR is clearly working well to get people to see the raids, and even though getting a bag of gold (which is pretty worthless now given how inflationary the massive number of gold sources have been) instead of precious loot is pretty frustrating, the new loot system is a massive improvement over the old Need+ system, where guild groups would all need on a piece to give to one of their friends, or someone would need a piece they already had and then hold it ransom for something else they might want.

Anyway, the thing I don't know is how many people, proportionally, are completing normal-mode raiding. The way I see it is that Normal modes should be for just about everyone who's in a guild. Sure, it's a challenge and you shouldn't be able to knock out the whole tier in a single night, but it should be accessible. Not having the numbers in front of me, I can't really say whether Mists' raiding scene is working out well on normal-mode, but from my limited, subjective perspective, it seems a little too tightly tuned.

5. Another shot at Path of the Titans

We never really knew what the hell Path of the Titans was going to actually look like or how it was going to work. The only thing that we knew was it was somehow going to be a way to increase player power in a manner that did not involve leveling or gear (of course, leveling always becomes irrelevant once you hit the cap.)

It's an idea that Blizzard representatives have always talked about as something they want to revisit, but I don't know why it wasn't working or how it could work.

6. A slight talent reshuffling.

Overall I think the new talent system is working well. Sure, there are some "right" choices (don't know if anyone takes Light's Prism. Is that a Holy thing?) but a decent number of them really do feel like personal style choices.

Still, with a level cap rising to either 95 or 100 (if we're facing down the Burning Legion, I could see them doing another 10-level expansion so that we do that at 100) it means that they'll need to switch things up a bit if they want us to choose another talent at the new level cap.

We can also expect, of course, the usual rebalancing, adding and cutting of stuff.

7. Some sort of "new toon incentive."

Every expansion has given us a reason to roll up a new character. BC gave us two new races (each capable of being the class that was previously limited to the other faction,) Wrath gave us the first new class (and as a Hero class, you got a serious head start on leveling, not to mention a million other "cool-factor" things like the voice or the glowing blue eyes.) Cataclysm not only gave us new races, but also a ton of new race-class combinations, plus a totally-redone 1-58 questing experience that encouraged creating a whole fleet of alts to explore them. Mists then brought us a new race (the first race available to both sides) and a whole new class.

So there's a precedent. I said before that they might avoid doing a new race in order to focus on new models for the Vanilla and BC races, but given that we just got three new races in the past two expansions, I think the art team could afford to take their time on these.

I'd love a new class, of course (cough, Demon Hunter as a Hero class, cough, mine would be a Worgen, cough) though I could imagine them being afraid of throwing yet another class into the mix, especially this soon after the Monk. Then again, they seem to have been far more successful in balancing Monks with the established classes than they were when Death Knights were first introduced.

So far, those have really been the only ways to incentivize a new character. The class really defines how the character plays.

One possibility could be adding a 4th spec to each class (except Druids,) though this would probably do more to encourage people to simply switch specs on existing characters.

One of the problems of the "new toon incentive" is that there's an ever-growing barrier to getting that new character up to speed. Sure, they can cut the required XP per level (at some point, you'll be heading off to Outland after finishing Westfall) but there's also Professions to think of, and all the other little things you have to do with your character.

8. Probably not any more primary professions.

As cool as woodworking would be, I don't really see any more primary professions getting thrown into the mix. Hell, this time around we didn't even get a secondary profession, though Pet Battles sort of filled that slot of non-central gameplay.

I could imagine us getting access to a third profession though. Blizzard seems to not like people to feel they need to roll alts just to cover their professional bases (and also doesn't like that that kills the server economy system.)

I do think that they will come up with something to fill that gap, though, like they did with Pet Battles.

9. More solo scenarios.

Scenarios are a perhaps more elegant solution than phasing to have huge moments play out without worrying about affecting the whole world. Sure, in some places phasing worked tremendously (if, for some insane reason, you haven't ever rolled a Death Knight, play through that starting area at least. Best use of phasing ever,) but for things like the lost lamented Battle of Undercity, a Scenario is a far more ideal format.

When Wrath had just come out, doing the Battle of Undercity was a fantastic, epic adventure, where you and a huge number of fellow players charged through the place, tearing up the traitorous Varimathras' forces. The problem was that on characters who got to the party late, some of the "boss" fights there would take ages. On the Alliance side of things, you, Varian and Jaina attacked through the Sewer entrance (the old favorite from the days of city-wide raids.) After descending the sewer, you'd face off against a giant burrower worm. The worm would pick a player at random and swallow them, preventing any action for something like 30 seconds. You didn't die, because Jaina's healing buff would keep you up, but it did mean you couldn't do much. After the worm spit you out, it would choose another player and swallow them. The problem was that when you were the only player doing the battle, it would always choose you, so you'd have to rely on that one DoT you stuck on the thing and the damage done by friendly NPCs to kill it.

It was balanced around having a lot of players, as it would when most people took their mains through, but for latecomers, it was horrendous.

The other reason why something like this would have been great as a scenario is that you wouldn't have to get rid of it if you did some kind of alteration to the zone itself. Sure, Undercity looks pretty much identical to how it did back then, but in fact a lot of gaps have been sealed up, and the overall structure of the zone is very different. While Scenarios do take locations from the open world, they are truly instanced versions of them, and so if the Battle had been a scenario, it would probably still be playable now.

10. A revamp of the Charm system.

Love them or hate them, the Charm system in Mists has had a big impact on the game. Not only does it change how likely you are to get loot you want, but it also allows fighting the same raid boss multiple times in a week to still be potentially profitable.

However, a quick glance reveals that the Charms have the same problem that Emblems did in Wrath. Every tier has a new type of Charm, and pretty soon we're going to have a million lines on our currency page.

The solution is easy - just do what they did with Emblems/Badges in Cataclysm - make an "old Charm" and "new Charm" version of each. Sure, they've kind of abandoned Justice Points in Mists (though this does mean that picking up old JP rewards for transmog purposes is far easier) but I think they're going to have to simplify this system before we find ourselves juggling Elder Charms of Good Fortune, Mogu Runes of Fate, Siegey Charms of Sieging Orgrimmar, or whatever comes next.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Lessons of Ghostcrawler

He gets a lot of hate, but I love Ghostcrawler. It's a tough thing to be the lead systems designer of a game that people play with such passion as WoW. Any time I find myself upset with something he or his team have changed, I remember that before them, the guys in charge didn't even want every spec to be playable. Ret Paladins? Balance Druids? The actual, real philosophy of the designers in the days before GC was that people should just learn to shut up and re-roll a Rogue if they wanted to be melee dps. (Disclaimer: ok, it wasn't quite like that during BC, but still pretty darned close.)

Anyway, the guy (and his team - we should emphasize that he's in charge, but not the only one there) has done great things for the game, but not everything has been perfect and flawless. (Cough, Vengeance, cough.)

Anyway, it was nice to see Ghostcrawler do a little post-mortem (mid-mortem?) analysis of what they should have done differently in Mists.

The first point, about the Golden Lotus gating, was a fairly simple one. Golden Lotus was probably the longest daily grind (KTO/SO might be the same) but was required in order to even start on August Celestials or Shado-Pan. I totally understand the logic behind gating - make sure that people don't feel they have to grind every faction at once. I wonder, however, if GL had been as it was first described - or, more accurately, as I understood it when it was first described - where a different part of the Vale would be under attack each day and we'd get a standard 5-6 dailies in that area and that would be it per day, if the gating would have been less painful.

Still, the real point was that double-gating (needing to get rep to get rep to get what you want) is kind of a pain in the ass. And it doesn't make things feel "optional."

The second point is the number of difficulty options, and how those options are too few.

My thoughts on this might be skewed by the disintegration of the raiding contingent within my guild, but the common criticism of raiding in Mists is that Normal Mode is too hard. Frankly, I have nothing against Heroic raiding being just as ball-crushingly difficult as Sunwell Plateau or Naxxramas-40. If you want to go in for that, that's you thing. But it seems to me that if you're a normal-mode raider, there's no better model for difficulty than Icecrown Citadel in terms of difficulty. The place wasn't easy, exactly, (Naxxramas 10/25 would probably fit that description,) but a dedicated group would eventually clear the place, or at least be able to progress through about half of it.

Right now, the Normal-Mode raids seems to have such high damage and dps requirements that fairly few people are completing it.

The super-easy solution I see is that the LFR difficulty should become an option for those who are not using LFR. Sure, you'd have to scale some of those fights down to 10-man-size, but it would mean that those who hate LFR but don't have a raiding team that can handle normal modes would be able to run that place in a guild group. The gear would be the same as LFR, but you could run it like an actual raid, with your guild's loot system and the joy of not having a bunch of douches who want to kick the tank every time anything whatsoever goes wrong.

Likewise, with "heroic dungeon" coming to simply mean "level cap dungeon," we've effectively lost a difficulty of 5-man content. Challenge Modes don't give anything new, loot-wise. But we'll address that later.

The third comment talks about "direction." I actually don't think this was such a failure. It's pretty clear that when you hit the level cap you can start running heroics or dailies, and the clear direction is to gear up there and then get into LFR (or real raids.)

However, the side comment there is that Ghostcrawler admits he wishes that they could add more 5-man dungeons.

I couldn't agree more.

It's not that I dislike LFR. Frankly, it's awesome to be able to take alts into raids who would never be able to come in a guild group, and to see raid content that my guild might never get up to. But I also think that sometimes, a 5-man is just more fun. Tanking a 5-man makes you feel far more in control of a situation, and every person there knows that they are providing a serious contribution to what's going on.

There are only two strikes against 5-mans as continuous content. One is that it's difficult to produce, and takes resources away from raid design. That's totally fair, but at the same time, Blizzard is always talking about how they're expanding their team. My hope is that they can divide the PvE instance team (or whatever it's called) into dungeons and raids, so that there's always raid content being developed and always 5-man content being developed. Sure, you'd need someone to coordinate the two (for one thing, you don't want two fights that are pretty much the same) but if you throw more bodies into the mix, which they say they are doing, there's no reason I can think of that we can't just get big, ToT-sized raids on top of new 5-man content. (Hell, the best content in 4.3, other than the artwork on Vagaries of Time and the Time Lord mage tier set was End Time and Well of Eternity.)

The other strike against 5-mans is the trickiness of gearing. In 3.2, 3.3, and 4.3, the new dungeons brought gear that was equivalent to the previous raiding tier. Blizzard was upset that this allowed people to skip the raids. Here's my counterpoint: With LFR, anyone who wants to see the raids will see them. Sure, you might only run through a thing once, but it's always there for you to check it out.

Blizzard wants us to have options, so give us options. You can either run the new 5-man dungeons in order to gear up for the new LFR raid, or you can run the previous tier of LFR.

So, using a hypothetical alternate-universe Mists, 5.2 would have brought in a couple dungeons with 483 iLevel gear - so that you can either run Heart of Fear/Terrace of Endless Spring in order to gear up for Throne of Thunder, or you can run the new dungeons. When 5.4 comes out, you'd get new dungeons with iLevel 502 gear, allowing you to either run ToT or the new dungeons.

You could maintain the requirement of beating each raid segment to get to the next one if you really want to make sure that anyone who steps into Siege of Orgrimmar has at least seen what the older raids look like.

Hell, you could even revitalize Justice Points by letting you purchase items corresponding to the dungeon-level loot. Not quite Shado-Pan Assault-quality gear, but enough to protect against lousy loot drops in those dungeons.

Personally, even if there were 5-man dungeons to gear up, I'd still hit up Raid Finder regularly - to get tier sets, and to have the fun of taking down those massive bosses.

This is getting to be a fairly long and out-of-control article, but let me leave with this one final thought:

One of the biggest problems in Mists is that the gating makes life hard on alts. Grand Commendations were a great help (especially since new alts will get to Honored with SP and Revered with Klaxxi just by questing in the high 80s) but I think the biggest problem is the way that Blizzard thinks players use alts. The philosophy seems to be that they think people only run alts because they've run out of things to do on their mains.

For us, the altoholics, this is far from the truth. We roll alts because we want to see things from a different perspective. For example, I adore the Worgen. They are my favorite race (though Draenei take a close second,) but Paladins can't be Worgen, and even if they could, I'm too invested in my character to get a race change (though since Worgen are technically also humans, I might bend that rule. It would just be weird for a guy born in Stormwind to have a Gilnean accent.)

This is a role-playing game, and even if I don't hold in-world events or even talk to fellow players in-character, I still feel a great sense of connection with the world by seeing it through different eyes. A fun-loving alcoholic Panda-man doesn't feel the same furious rage at the Horde that a 25,000-year-old undead alien whose daughter was murdered by Orcs does.

And even beyond the roleplaying aspect, there's the mechanical aspect. I love tanking. But I also like to do melee dps. I also like to do ranged dps. I like to play classes that have fast-paced, proc-based rotations, but I also like to play classes with a lot of little things that you have to keep track of and maintain (ok, less so. But I do like Demonology Warlocks.)

Anyway, there might be some people who roll alts because they're bored, but I imagine the vast majority of people just want a chance to see other facets of the game. Don't punish those people.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pinnacle of Storms For Real This Time

Yesterday I was able to do the full Pinnacle of Storms (and was crazy lucky with loot - tier shoulders and helmet as well as the shield off Lei Shen!) and not only was I able to see the first two bosses but I also got a much better handle on the Lei Shen fight (which is still nutbags.)

Trash before Iron Quon:

The trash leading up to Iron Quon is pretty simple - mostly pack of things that just need to be AoE'd down. There are two elite quilen trainers that I imagine require some degree of strategy on normal, but you can pull them and kill them easily enough. Each of these guys has a huge group of untrained quillen that will have similar abilities to their trainers, but are more of an AoE burn fest.

Iron Quon:

This guy seems a lot more complicated than he is, and is actually possibly the simplest fight in the raid (save Jin'rokh, perhaps.) Iron Quon (or maybe just Qon?) rides on a different quillen mount for the first three phases. Essentially, for each of these, there is a tank swap mechanic and a similar ability for each of these phases where he throws his spear, creating lines of damaging fire/frost/electricity. Each of these lines has different effects, but the basic premise is that you should not stand in them.

The first phase, I don't remember exactly what the special ability is, but in the second phase, you need to take the boss out of the big windstorm in the center of the arena, dodging whirlwinds that will stun you. In the third phase, he will occasionally shield two of his sides - left, right, back and front, requiring you to reposition yourself to hit him where he's vulnerable (he does not turn during this time, so tanks can do so too.)

Once his three mounts are dead, you fight him, bringing back the various spear abilities and the whirlwinds, and possibly some other abilities. Frankly, I didn't pay huge attention to it, as few of these are all that threatening.

Trash before Twin Mogu:

The trash before the twin mogu is pretty simple, involving just a couple of somewhat tough elite mogu mobs. You may be able to use some of the celestial powers here, but as a tank, I could not really tell you much about them.

Twin Mogu:

This fight was actually not too hard, but involves a fair amount of raid damage. In phase one, you'll be fighting Lu'en, the who represents the night. The tank-swap mechanic here is fairly unusual, in that an add gets summoned, fixated on the current tank. Only that tank can damage it, and any healing on them will do bad things, so the other tank needs to take the boss while tank one kills off his or her add.

During the night phase, Su'en (I could totally have the name wrong, but it starts with an S) will blast people with fire damage and zip around leaving fire on the ground. When Lu'en (again, not sure on the name, but think "lunar" as in the moon, as in night) gets down to a certain percentage, she'll switch out, and Su'en becomes the active boss. The tank swap here is simpler - a standard stacking dot. Lu'en will similarly jump in to toss abilities at the raid, mainly by throwing comets, which stick in the ground and possibly radiate frost damage. Tanking Su'en near the comet will melt it, so do that.

Eventually, both bosses will come out. Have one tank on each, and I think it's generally easier to kill Su'en first, as her raid damage is much higher. Once one is dead, kill the other, and Bob's your uncle.

The one really weird mechanic in this fight that I never got to use is calling the celestials. For a limited number of times, you can have one raid member enter some kind of other phase, where there will be a bunch of stars floating in the room. By making a certain pattern in those stars, you will call on one of the four celestials. I know Xuen slows down time (presumably slowing down the bosses' attacks) and that Chi-ji summons a flock of cranes that damage anything hostile that's in the room. I don't really know when to use each ability, but I think they can make a big difference.

Trash before Lei Shen:

The trash here is two pulls of a Mogu sorcerer and a Mogu warrior. I did not tank the sorcerer, but it seems the warrior has the far more dangerous abilities. His shield will cause any strike against him to cause damage to anyone near the person who attacked (plus that person) and he also slams the ground in front of him, also doing a lot of damage.

Lei Shen:

I won't go through all of this, because I've already done it and it's insanely complicated. The main thing I wanted to add was what the four pillars do.

The eastern pillar will cast chain lightning on the raid, growing in intensity with each new target, so spread out. The other reason to spread out? Every time the lightning jumps after the first target, a new add will spawn, which needs to be tanked and killed. Save a raid! Spread the hell out! This, like the western pillar, is an easily avoidably complication, and a good candidate for the first pillar to get destroyed.

The southern pillar (and I could have this confused with the north) causes Static Discharge. A random player will be singled out for massive nature damage after a set amount of time. However, this damage is split between anyone within 8 yards, so stack up on the target and share the love.

The western pillar will do Bouncing Bolts. Little swirls will appear where the bolt is going to land. Intercepting it will cause some damage to you, but if you do not intercept it, an add (much tougher than the ones from the eastern pillar) will spawn, and the bolt will continue bouncing. The only reason you might keep this pillar up instead of the eastern one is that it's actually a little easier to catch the bolts than to spread out, at least in 25-man (on 10 man, the reverse could be true.)

The northern pillar causes overload. Like Static Discharge, this singles out a random person for Overcharge, who will grow in size. After a few seconds, they'll erupt, causing a ring of electricity to emanate from them, stunning and damaging anyone it hits. The good news is that the target and anyone stacked on them will not get hit by the ring. On its own, this is not too difficult to deal with, but during the transition phases, when multiple people are targeted, the ring can overlap between the quadrants of the fight. So if you get overcharged, run to the corner.

There - more freaking Lei Shen.

The guy's nutbags, I tell you. Nutbags!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fourth Spec - An Intriguing Possibility

While Cataclysm dramatically changed the way that the talent system worked, it was Mists of Pandaria that truly took a wrecking ball and built up something new. If you're a very new player, you might not know how the old system worked. Talents were very different. There were far more of them (most of them passive effects,) many had multiple ranks, for you to invest multiple points into them, and all talents were considered part of a particular talent tree. Essentially, you had three big trees (corresponding to each spec.) Every level (or in Cataclysm, every other level) you would get a new talent point to invest in the various talents in the tree. The more points you put into a particular tree, the more talents would become available there, so in order to get the spec-defining talents, one had to invest the majority of their points into the corresponding tree.

Back then, Druids had only three specs: Balance, Feral, and Restoration. Both tanks and melee dps would go into Feral. The only thing that differentiated the two was on which talents within the Feral tree one spent their points. For instance, a Bear druid would invest in talents that granted dodge and armor, while a Cat druid would invest in things that increased damage done.

With the Mists redesign, it would be impossible to have Feral druids distinguish themselves as tanks or dps. So rather than simply making Feral Druids equally capable tanks and melee dps, they simply put together a new spec, recreating the Feral Tank spec and renaming it Guardian.

However, this fourth spec for Druids has been the inspiration for much speculation and wishful thinking. Why could the other classes not have a fourth spec?

Introducing new specs to existing classes would be an interesting challenge. On one hand, creating a new class from scratch requires a great deal of iteration and development - not only to figure out the basic mechanics and then to differentiate three specs from that basic design, but also to figure out the lore and aesthetic of the class. By sticking to existing classes, you would still be able to keep them looking like the classes you already made, but just find a different way for them to embody that look.

On the other hand, giving a new spec to all the existing classes (save Druids, probably, who got there first and frankly don't really have much of a new place to go - they have all the bases covered) would mean far more new specs than the three that would come with a new class. Additionally, while there are some classes just begging for a new spec (Death Knights could get a ranged caster spec) others might need some serious thought (Monks, for example.)

Still, if Blizzard could pull this off, it would be quite cool, and possibly shake things up in a really fun way. So without further ado, let's speculate! (Wait, one more ado. I'm going to limit myself to a single new spec per class, just to keep this from becoming a George R. R. Martin-sized saga. I'm sure there are some ideas that would be good - such as Rogue Tanks - that I won't be able to touch on.)


Exorcist - a Holy Damage caster spec, Exorcists would be more about direct damage than Shadow, but might have a mirror-image version of Shadow's Orbs. There are a bunch of abilities that are only really used by healers with Atonement that could easily be repurposed as the central nukes of the Exorcist spec, like Smite and Holy Fire.


Battlemage - an intellect-based melee spec, Battlemages would have a passive armor buff and would still mostly be casting spells, but they would be instant-cast and they would have a SP to AP conversion passive, similar to what Mistweavers have, I believe.


Demon Hunter - I know, I know, I'd rather have a fully-fledged Demon Hunter class, but barring that, a Demon Hunter spec could take the idea of Dark Apotheosis and run with it, making it a fully-functional tank spec. Demon Hunter could gain useful bonuses from their pets similarly to how a Brewmaster has the Ox statue. Void Walkers could grant protective abilities or Imps might help round up adds.


Don't need one, they already have Guardians.


Shadow Hunter - I know, lots of "something Hunters," but bear with me. Shadow Hunters would use ranged weapons, but still function similarly to melee rogues, using various CP-builders and finishing moves. The distinction would be a greater use of Shadow abilities, perhaps using their distance to dip in and out of Stealth easily (though that does kind of tread on Subtlety's turf.)


Lorewalker - some kind of ranged caster spec. The aesthetic here is actually the easy part, as you could use the Red Crane as your main motif. Lorewalkers would have a fast-paced rotation.


Warden - Wardens would gain many melee abilities, attacking with their polearm or staff.


Primal - a tanking spec, using a lot of pre-existing abilities that Shamans already have, like Rockbiter weapon, and using shields (not sure how we'd deal with the fact that tanking shields have strength on them.)


Commander - a spec that involved humanoid pets or something... I don't really know. One could do a ranged warrior spec, but most of the bases are covered here already.


Authority - a ranged spec using intellect plate. Much of the groundwork has been laid in Holy's damage abilities.

Death Knight

Necromancy - I realize that Death Knights' aesthetic is totally built around their three spec, and that Unholy is already the pet-centric spec, but you could have a ranged caster spec (again, using that pesky spellpower plate) that focuses on summoning multiple types of undead - perhaps sharing Unholy's permanent ghoul, but mixing in skeletal warriors that would be temporary and perhaps bringing forth a bunch of banshees as well - essentially, it would be the spec that has constantly got an army of the undead around them.

This could be a nice complement to new character models if that's what we get in the next expansion. As I've never designed a video game before, I can't really say how difficult it would be to implement a fourth spec across the board. Nonetheless, it could be great fun.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lei Shen, the Thunder King

Well, this would usually be when I'd write about the new wing of the current raid and go over the trash pulls and bosses. However, since I was thrown into a group already in the middle of the last trash pack before Lei Shen, I guess my subject will be more focused.

That's probably all right, though, because this fight is absolutely nutbags. We finished it on our 5th attempt, which a helpful and more experienced mage said was actually quite good. It didn't help that my Recount was screwing things up tremendously.

Because there were so many things going on in this fight all at once, I'm sure some of my details will be wrong here. If you've read these raid reports, this is more of an embedded journalist-style than a real raid guide. If you want one of those, I highly recommend Icy Veins, which is an all-around great resource for bosses, gearing, talents, stat-weights, and rotations.

Anyway, though it was a little anti-climactic to show up right at Lei Shen, I have to commend Blizzard for doing a decent job building up this new villain. We know a lot about him, and I felt pretty motivated to fight him. Serving as the middle-boss of the expansion can make the stakes seem a little less heightened - we're no longer awed by this new land, and this isn't really the fight we've been building up to all along.

Though actually, in a way it is. In many ways, Lei Shen is the boss of Pandaria. If this were a more typical expansion, Lei Shen would be the final boss, but the upcoming Horde Revolution is going to throw a monkey-wrench into that.

Ok, so the fight:

You fight Lei Shen on a giant square-shaped platform, with the corners pointing in each of the cardinal directions. Lei Shen is basically a giant ball of electricity, and he uses this to power the four towers at each corner. Each tower has a different ability, some of which spawn adds and some of which do other things, but honestly I was concentrating too much on moving him around and not getting killed to really think much about those.

As he stands near the towers, they gain energy slowly. If one gains full power, it levels up, making its ability cause more damage. As a result, you're going to have to drag him from tower to tower. When he's not near a tower (look for the expanded parts of the corner as a guide to how close he needs to be) he'll deal raid-wide AoE. It's not huge, but it'll kill your raid if you don't get him to a tower.

Pick whichever tower whose abilities you do not want to deal with and let the energy get to 85-90%. After that, move him to the next tower, and don't let any other towers get more than what the first got.

During this phase, tanks will need to swap on Decapitate, and the one targeted by it should run away and pick up adds while the other taunts. The farther they are from Lei Shen when it goes off, the less damage they'll take.

When you get him to 67% or so, he will go to the center of the room, where he becomes invulnerable. You then want to spread out the raid to the various corners of the platform. You'll want to absorb bouncing bolts, or whatever they're called, which will create a swirly thing on the ground for you to see where they're coming. If you don't, these will generate an add, which will need to be tanked and killed.

Also during this phase, random people will get Overcharged, growing huge. This person should try to be in the far corner and everyone in their quarter of the platform should group up on them. When Overcharge goes off, a ring of lightning will shoot out from them, stunning anyone it hits, but leaving a little grace area for those who are stacked on the person. If you stand in the corner, this ring will expire before it gets to the other quadrants, so do that.

When the transition phase ends, Lei Shen will shatter the tower with the current highest energy, making that quadrant flooded with electricity. Don't go in there anymore.

The second phase is very similar to the first, but instead of Decapitate, there is an ability called Fusion Slash, which is a more standard tank-swap mechanic, but also has a knock back. So don't stand right on the edge (in LFR at least, it doesn't send you all that far, but you do want to give yourself a little space.) The other major thing is that one of his abilities spawns Ball Lightning, which are little adds that I do not think need to be tanked and should just be AoE'd down. Also, he will do Lightning Whip, which will leave some AoE on the ground... I think.

Anyway, at 33%, he'll do another transition phase, which works pretty much the same, I think, only you have one fewer quadrant to cover.

In the final phase, we either ignored the tower mechanic or it gets shut down, so we just dealt with the AoE instead, and just burned him. As far as I could tell, his abilities are the same as they are in phase two - so you still have adds to burn and you still need to tank-swap, but at this point it's really just a hard burn.

Now, look at that explanation. That is an already admittedly abbreviated version of the fight. I didn't even go into what the towers do (one or two of them spawn adds, I know that!) Anyway, this is a bit of a step up from the other fights on LFR, and probably the most complicated boss since LFR's inception (Madness of Deathwing had a lot of phases, but all but the last were pretty much the same one.)

People will learn this fight. I actually don't think the damage is even that much, but mechanically it's insane. Expect it to take a while for everyone to get the fight down. This is really an execution fight instead of a gear-check.

Later, I'll try to touch on the other Pinnacle of Storms bosses.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blood and Vengeance for the Alliance

Well, looks like WoWInsider has put together a fairly comprehensive indictment of the treatment of Alliance lore in WoW, and it makes for a pretty compelling argument even if I think there are other conclusions to draw on how to revitalize the faction's story.

I'm not going to go into Horde lore here, because I actually think they're doing a great job with it at the moment. It's not that the Horde should lose what it's getting, it's that the Alliance should be getting equally compelling stuff to deal with.

The first problem that I think the article identifies is that all of Alliance lore rests squarely on the shoulders of Varian. Varian's a decent character, but even Hamlet needed supporting parts to be a compelling story. It's not simply a matter of how the other races are not given enough exposure (though that is totally true,) but everything seems to relate back to Varian. Now, Jaina's response to the operation in Darnassus was a nice little curveball, but we never really got to see how this would screw up talks with the Blood Elves. Varian's overtures to Silvermoon were only mentioned after the fact.

The most frustrating thing, I think, is that there are actually quite a few really great potential stories there within the Alliance, but after one expansion that involved pretty much only working with neutral factions (the biggest being led by a former Horde Warchief) and another that was supposed to be about how both sides have recklessly brought destruction to a basically innocent land, but has really turned out to be about how the Horde brought that destruction and the Alliance is simply doing what anyone would do, it seems as if the Alliance is a background player in the Horde's story.

The article suggested that what the Alliance needs is to be able to act proactively. The last time the Alliance did anything particularly exciting was the invasion of Undercity. Sure, back when Wrath first came out, we had been playing a game where the Horde was basically good guys, and Thrall was perhaps the most admirable person in the world. To see Varian get so pissed off that he decides to carve his way through the Undercity, and then declares his intention to destroy the Horde entirely gave a lot of us pause. It seemed that we had, all of a sudden, a warmonger for a leader.

In retrospect, Varian was probably right in his intentions. When Sylvanas retook her city, we gave her the benefit of the doubt, accepting that the plague research had been meant as a weapon against the Scourge, and that Varimathras' coup was meant to make the Forsaken out to be just as evil as people suspected. Yet in Cataclysm, we discovered that, actually, the Undercity should have been burned to the ground, and that the Horde would be turned against the Alliance in earnest soon after.

The invasion of Orgrimmar should be the Alliance finally rising to the challenge, to prove that they are strong enough to take on the Horde. The Alliance needs to push back, to really rain destruction down on the Horde. There have been more than enough Pearl Harbor moments: the Wrath Gate, Southshore, Gilneas, Theramore. Yet the giant that is the Alliance remains asleep.

So here's what we need first:

A major offensive against the Horde, without any sort of cooperation or intention to leave their takings in Horde hands. I'm ok with SI:7 propping up Vol'jin, but when we hit the city, I want to see the Alliance betraying Vol'jin's trust somehow, showing that they aren't there to bring stability to the Horde. They are here for blood.

But Orgrimmar is going to be a joint victory, no matter how it plays out. This is required mechanically, and because Horde players should not be denied a victory (as I said before, the Horde lore is on the right track - we just need to bring the Alliance up to their level.)

No, Kalimdor is still going to be the territory of the Horde for the most part. But the place where the Horde is vulnerable most is not at the heart of their territory - it's Lordaeron.

Among the many missed opportunities for the Alliance to feel awesome was the way in which the Worgen storyline dried up. The Forsaken kicked the hornet's nest, but the hornets mostly just flew away.

I want to see an entire fleet of Alliance ships sail up Baradin Bay and land in the Hillsbrad Foothills and Gilneas. I want to see Sylvanas' empire crumble around her. Up until now, her trump card has been the possession of Val'kyr, stolen from the Scourge to serve her and raise the dead. Without the Val'kyr, she could never have taken Silverpine, and her battle for Andorhol would have been a total quagmire, if not an outright loss.

I want to see an army of wolf-men tear their way across the continent of Lordaeron, burning the Forsaken infrastructure the ground, and I want to charge through there and slaughter Sylvanas' Val'kyr. The Blood Elves may or may not enter the fray, but it strikes me that they would be ill-advised to do so.

And this would lead to the second thing we need:

The Alliance needs to have and deal with an identity crisis.

So I realize I'm focusing on the Worgen a lot here, but there's a reason why: the Worgen are an enormous ball of unrealized potential. This was supposed to be the race that could darken the Alliance, to bring a degree of moral ambiguity to what they were doing.

The Worgen are obviously the most motivated to defeat the Forsaken, particularly in reclaiming their country. But even if their feral nature is actually born out of a benevolent Ancient, the fact is that they are bloodthirsty and vicious. Even those that are good at heart must fight those strong instincts. The Forsaken have pretty much spent all the sympathy we might have had for them, and frankly I'm not sure if it would even feel that bad to see the Sepulcher or Brill put to the torch. If the Blood Elves did join the fight, though, that would give some potential to see the Alliance begin to question what they had done.

Graymane, remember, advocated the eradication of the Orcs following the Second War. He's a very sad and regretful person after losing his country and his son, but that could easily translate into a merciless bloodthirstiness. To Graymane, as well as some of the human or other forces assaulting Lordaeron, there may be no limit to what they could do against the Forsaken. Yet to an Alliance that values restraint (to an absurd degree) it might be very troubling to see their own people implementing a scorched-Earth policy.

Does Sylvanas have to die for this victory to feel sufficient? No. In fact, the campaign should be filled with problems, because...

The Alliance needs inner conflict.

The reason that it seems the Dwarves, Gnomes, Worgen, Night Elves, and Draenei have no personality right now is because they don't get to voice their opinions. Varian speaks for the Alliance, and the only time there was any conflict whatsoever between its members was because Varian didn't let Jaina know about his overtures to Silvermoon until it was too late. Now it seems that the one leader who could have caused trouble, namely Moira, is now towing the Alliance line.

That's bullshit, people!

I want arguments, I want fighting. We don't necessarily need two racial leaders who are actively trying to kill each other, but... wait, no, that would be awesome!

Though I don't want to bring power-level into this too much, part of the reason the Alliance feels weak is that the Horde, which is tearing itself apart, is still evenly matched for a perfectly unified Alliance. That makes Alliance players feel like chumps.

I want Velen threatening to leave the planet if they don't drop things to fight the Burning Legion. I want Tyrande to try to take over as the most powerful leader of the Alliance, believing herself far more wise and experienced than these short-lived humans. If we want Moira to try to redeem her Dark Iron brethren, then I want some other Dwarf to try to kill her (I'm thinking the Wildhammers. I don't think Muradin wants to murder his niece.) Gnomes! Gnomes should have something to do! And I think Genn Graymane should be making a list of how many hundreds of barrels of flaming oil he wants to use to burn the Undercity to the ground.

The Simple and Easy Way to Make a Course Correction:

It may seem daunting to try to create all this conflict from a point when the Alliance is blandly singing kumbaya together, but there's an easy solution. We just need to see the various leaders (or, what would be more exciting, new, rising voices in the populations) reflect the problems that we players are seeing. Players are pissed off that all we're doing is helping Vol'jin fight Garrosh? Have someone-in game say that. The thing is, we don't want Varian as a perfect leader guy. The whole "trials of the High King" narrative that we never really got anyway was invented as a way to make Varian the undisputed leader of the Alliance. I think Chris Metzen even said that the other leaders would "bow down" to him after he proved how badass he was.

Don't do that.

What's a more interesting story? A guy leads his people successfully and everyone gets along? Or a guy desperately struggles to keep a bunch of discontented people who have suffered a long and traumatic war unified while he faces accusations of weakness from ambitious rivals?

Hint: it's the second one.

Lastly, there's the problem of people wanting revenge. For a long time now, Alliance players have been strung along, suffering incident after incident, each of which seemed like the dark nadir out of which we would climb to take brutal retribution (there's even a spec of the class that was originally alliance-only called that!) on the people who wronged us. Yet we never get to. Helping Vol'jin take over isn't going to cut it. We need to strike at the Horde and leave them devastated. None of this equivocating or having "a little patience" (a scenario whose mechanics I enjoy, but whose message is kind of indicative of all these problems in the story.) I don't care if Prince Anduin is horrified by what we're doing. In fact, I hope he is.

Because if we can make such an earnest, genuinely good guy horrified by what his own people are doing, that's DRAMA.

And drama is all we want.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Legacy of the Titans and the City of Uldaman

WoW Insider has been talking a bit about Uldaman recently, and I think there's a lot of merit to further exploration of the site. Uldaman was the first area in World of Warcraft where we got to explore the Titans. However, the state of Uldaman, or at least the parts of Uldaman that we have seen so far, are mostly ruined and crumbling. Clearly, there was once a very impressive complex there, but it has been buried beneath the earth, swallowed up by the sands of time.

Since we explored Uldaman's depths, we've seen far more in the way of Titan installations. Ulduar, for example, is a massive complex that, despite the outbreak of Yogg-Saron's corruption, was the first example we saw of Titan technology fully functional. In fact, the Titan facilities in Northrend seemed to span the continent, from Sholazar Basin to Wyrmrest Temple, and if you also take into consideration the ancient Vrykul settlements that may well have pre-dated the Curse of Flesh, or the Iron Dwarf buildings going down the eastern coast, or even the Blue Dragonflight headquarters in the Coldarra, we were exposed to a huge amount of Titan things in Northrend.

And it didn't end there either: Cataclysm took us not only to the four Elemental Planes (which were created by the Titans to serves as prisons/suitable habitats for the Elementals) but also to Uldum, whose primary purpose appeared to be to house the re-origination device.

And now, even in a distant land that at first seemed wholly unconnected to the rest of Azeroth, we have now discovered that the Titans left their mark here as well, creating the Mogu and filling the continent with facilities like Mogu'shan Vaults.

We have gained a generally better sense of what the Titans' game plan was, even if we don't know what their ultimate goal was. As Mogu'shan Vaults seemed to be where the Titans created the Mogu, and Ulduar's Forge of Wills was capable of pumping out Iron Vrykul, Earthen, and Mechagnomes, it would seem possible that Uldaman could have held another production facility, creating the Earthen that would later transform into the Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron dwarves. Yet neither Ulduar nor Pandaria's Titan facility had people-production as its main purpose. Ulduar served as both the prison for Yogg-Saron and the seat on which the Prime Designate watched over the planet. Uldum was the home of the re-origination device, which the Tol'vir were created to protect. Pandaria's Facility (whose "Uld" name has not been revealed) was likely pulling double duty as a prison for Y'shaarj and some kind of experimentation facility with the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.

So while it's fine that Uldaman is the birthplace of the playable dwarves (and likely gnomes) it stands to reason that there ought to be some other purpose behind the place.

The one thing we do see happen in or around Uldaman that we haven't seen anywhere else is the purification of Wrathion's egg. Out in the Badlands, a Red Dragon, aided by an adventurer, steals a black dragon egg and brings it to a Gnome scientist. After exposing the egg as well as several other black dragon samples to a strange Titan device, the egg is purified - totally cleansed of the Old God Corruption. This is how Wrathion came to be.

The story goes that the Titans could not destroy the Old Gods without destroying Azeroth itself. For years, we did not know exactly why, but when we traveled to Pandaria, the answer became clear - when Y'shaarj was killed, the problem became more insidious, as his essence seeped into everything, called forward whenever someone merely had a negative emotion. If the continent-spanning threat of the Sha is the result of one Old God's death, what might occur if all of them were to be destroyed? At least a living Old God can theoretically be contained.

The Titans imprisoned the Old Gods eons ago. But would the Titans have simply given up? Would they simply lock the doors and hope that the Old Gods never figured out how to get out?

No. They would have started a massive campaign to research some way to extract the Old Gods. To purify Azeroth without having to destroy it. And the place where that research was conducted? Uldaman.

Uldaman may have been the most important facility on Azeroth - the one that held the strongest hope for a lasting victory agains the eldritch beings that poisoned the land. Within the space of a few seconds, the Eye of the Watchers was able to purify a black dragon - whose entire line had been corrupted for ten thousand years. Perhaps Wrathion is just the first example of what Uldaman means for Azeroth.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Darkspear Revolution and the Quasi-Dailies plus Questions about 5.4

5.3 is still in its evolutionary stages, probably about halfway or maybe even earlier in its turn at the PTR. The point is, there could be a serious thing we're missing or something else that will be a huge part of the patch, but for the most part, it looks like the centerpiece is the struggle against the Kor'kron throughout Durotar and Northern Barrens. Presumably Horde players will still be able to make use of Orgrimmar, but it's clear that it's not a safe place to be, especially for the Trolls, whose Valley of Spirits has been pretty much shut down. Darkspear dissidents are getting gunned down in the streets and there's an open conflict between Darkspear and Kor'kron forces between Razor Hill and Sen'jin Village.

The Alliance is also there in force, sending a large SI:7 Operations contingent to undermine Garrosh's forces, and the Alliance has even begrudgingly made a deal with Vol'jin to cooperate so that at the end of the day, both of them can remain standing.

So you'll be able to go around killing Kor'kron forces and escorting caravans across the territory to gain resources that can be traded in for gear and vanity rewards. There will probably be plenty to do, but one thing that has yet to be mentioned is daily quests.

Mists has of course been all about the daily-quest-fueled reputation factions. While it's been the number-one complaint of many, it's also given each faction a fairly distinct personality. Earning rep with a faction does truly feel like you're doing it for them, and while it's not so great for tanks and healers, I actually don't mind questing as a thing.

Will there be factions associated with this campaign? Or daily quests?

Here's the thing: The Isle of Thunder has plenty of daily quests, but also a fair number of non-daily stuff, such as the many rare spawns that function as impromptu raid bosses and the summonable 5-man bosses.

Those are fine, but honestly, I actually haven't really done any of the summoned bosses. The rares are good, but you don't really get a story out of these random enemies to hunt down and kill.

I honestly don't know how the attack on the Kor'kron is going to play out, and how popular it will be. Without a robust system of objectives and rewards, it might get old very quickly. Compare that with the Isle of Thunder, where even though I'm exalted with the Kirin Tor Offensive, I still do a round of dailies if a new phase opens up, just to check out the new area (I think my server has probably opened up the last phase in the past few hours, actually.)

So 5.3 is obviously about what Pandaria has done to the Alliance and Horde (well, really more the Horde. Not a ton of Alliance stuff going on that I can see, though once we find out more about Blood in the Snow that might change,) as a prelude to 5.4's Siege of Orgrimmar.

A few things occurred to me about that final patch (presumed final patch.) One is: where is the instance portal? They've been able to pull some strange things with where an instance actually is before - remember that Dragon Soul, which is set in then-present-day Northrend mostly, has its entrance in the Caverns of Time?

It would be pretty weird to have the portal right in Orgrimmar, and would of course also make it super-convenient for the Horde while making it very inconvenient for the Alliance. But then if you gave the Alliance a way to get the portal easily, wouldn't that just make it too easy for Alliance players to get to and raid Orgrimmar without warning?

Admittedly, I haven't seen city-wide raids since Wrath of the Lich King.

The other thing I wonder about is World Bosses. Mists of Pandaria brought back World Bosses in a big way, using the easier bosses to create effectively non-instanced versions of the Vault of Archavon/Baradin Hold pick-up raids, and the more challenging bosses to echo the older Vanilla and BC-era bosses (though Galleon at least seems relatively easy, for all the hype. I have yet to try Oondasta.)

So two questions: who would the World Bosses be and where would they go? Having a World Boss hanging around Durotar would be a little crazy, though I suppose if people are phased with the Kor'kron Assault you could hide it from lowbies. Then again, if a high-level player wanted to help their low-level friend, how would they switch phases?

For that matter, would this battle in Durotar and the Barrens be something that was available for a limited time only?

Then again, while 5.4 is certainly bringing the Orgrimmar raid, perhaps there will be other outdoor areas that appear. With the Thunder King's fall, the focus seems to be shifting away from Pandaria itself, but could there be parts of the land we have yet to explore?

Or maybe we'll finally see Kul Tiras?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Halls of Flesh-Shaping from a DPS perspective

So it turns out we have another week before we face down Lei Shen and the whole of LFR Throne of Thunder effectively goes on farm (not really a term that has much meaning when it comes to LFR, of course.) After neglecting my Death Knight as I level up a Worgen Rogue (and try to level his leatherworking after-the-fact, which is a HUGE pain that I'll probably write an entire article about) so that I can have a rogue Alliance-side to benefit from all the guild perks and my alt network (my poor Hordies, I never see you guys anymore) and also because Worgen are awesome.

Anyway, I took Oterro through the Halls both last night and today after the server reset, so I've got a decent amount of recollection about the segment. I still don't have Son of Animus, but damn it, I'm going to have it some day!

Durumu the Forgotten:

The only real difference dps'ing this than tanking it is that you need to go kill the Fog Beasts that get illuminated by the light. I'm still not quite sure why I was told to tank in the yellow beam, but basically, if you get a beam pointed at you, you want to run around the boss as quickly as possible to illuminate your beam's respective add. Then you kill it. If you're not selected for a beam, just kill the adds when they get illuminated.

Thankfully, they've made the maze a little clearer to see in a recent small patch. The key to the maze segment is not to get too tunnel-visiony on your DPS rotation. You can still put some damage on the boss, but don't expect to be pulling off anything serious.

Primoridus: The key here, I think, is to make sure you know what kind of ooze residue you're stepping in before you do so, so as not to get the debuffs from the purple ooze. There's a lot of raid damage here, so survival abilities are a great idea. And don't even think about attacking the boss unless you're fully mutated, except maybe when the boss is first pulled and there aren't any oozes to attack.

Dark Animus: This, I expect, is going to keep wiping people for a while, like Garalon. The key to the fight seems to be to do things gradually. I've seen two very effective strategies here.

One is that you have one tank just babysit every little Anima Golem and have the other tank pull one or two of them off at a time, to a big stack where all the dps and healers are standing. As the Large golems start activating, this broke down a bit for us, but it also meant that we got one of those at a time. These Large golems are the most dangerous, and should be focused down as quickly as you can.

The other strategy was to have us start on one side of the room, effectively dealing with the chaos of AoE and Crimson Wakes, but only half of them at a time.

In both cases, remember that there's not enough Anima to fully power Dark Animus, so basically you want to kill every add. If you can get every Large Anima Golem down, you should be in pretty good shape, and if you get both Massive Anima Golems down, it's very unlikely that you will wipe, unless you've got like three people left or the tanks don't know how to get out a ring or do a taunt-swap.


Durumu is actually probably going to be a one-shot boss after a few weeks of people getting to know the fight. The Disintegration Beam phase will cause a lot of panic, but when you find out how to survive it, the rest of the fight is trivial. Primordius does have a lot of raid damage, but as people gear up and kill him quicker, and are also better about getting their oozes, this should be a piece of cake. Dark Animus, well, you're probably going to have people shouting at each other and arguing strategy for a long time yet.

This time for real, Lei Shen, you and me, buddy, next week.

The Kingdoms of Humanity

Not all that long ago, and practically the blink of an eye to some of the longer-lived races of Azeroth, Humanity was not a single, unified force that made up the backbone of an inter-racial Alliance. Before the Orcs ransacked Stormwind at the end of the First War, there were several human nations, each with their own rulers, armies, and territories. In the face of outside aggression, humanity could band together, such as to fight off the Amani Trolls, and it was in the Troll Wars that humans made their first friendly contact with the High Elves of Quel'thalas, providing military support in exchange for training in the Arcane.

Altogether, humanity comprised seven kingdoms: Lordaeron, Stromgarde, Alterac, Gilneas, Dalaran, Kul Tiras, and Stormwind far in the south. Yet in the wake of the three great wars and the period that followed, many of these nations have crumbled. But are they due for a comeback? Let's look at each of them.

Stormwind is obviously in the best position of all the human kingdoms, rebuilt following the Second War to become the beating heart of the Alliance. Despite problems with the Defias and invading Blackrock Orcs, Stormwind manages to control a fairly large territory, even before you factor in its role as the Alliance's main capital. We're not worried about Stormwind.

Dalaran was always a little strange compared to the other kingdoms, as it was not a monarchy, and really served as a kind of huge and powerful university. Dalaran embraced the Horde in the fight against the Lich King, and despite a few squabbles, even following the Wrathgate Incident it served well as a neutral operation. With Jaina's ascension to leadership of the Kirin Tor, and the revelation that some members of the Sunreavers were using Dalaran's resources to aid Garrosh's Horde, Jaina ended Dalaran's neutrality. The Horde had been in Dalaran at the Kirin Tor's invitation, and that invitation had expired. So that's a second human kingdom we can put together with Stormwind, strengthening human solidarity.

Gilneas was long thought a lost cause. Following the Second War, Genn Graymane was outraged that the Orcs were allowed to remain in Azeroth, and withdrew from the Alliance and indeed the entire world, building the Graymane Wall to isolate the nation from the disastrous chaos that might ensue in future years. Yet, as the Scourge threatened to overtake the continent, Archmage Arugal, a Gilnean mage in Dalaran who wanted to help protect his homeland, ultimately unleashed the Worgen curse, which ran rampant through Gilneas. With the Wall shattered by the Cataclysm and the Forsaken invading, ultimately Gilneas was forced to accept the help of the Alliance. The thing about Gilneas is that much of the country is arguably not human anymore, yet Gilnean humans and worgen live side by side. The Gilnean return to the Alliance fold may have been fostered by the Night Elves, and it may have only come thanks to an enormous crisis, but Gilneas has rejoined humanity, even as its peoples bodies have transformed into something else. Three kingdoms, then.

Stromgarde is actually the oldest of the human kingdoms, as Arathor was the first of humanity's nations. Yet Stromgarde is a ruin for the most part. The capital is overrun with remnants of the Old Horde, except for a single district. Much of the land has been taken back by the wild. It probably does not help that Stromgarde sits right on the front between Alliance forces and the advances of the Forsaken. It's not that there aren't still some people in Stromgarde to contribute to humanity's protection, but they're not really in a position to do much.

Alterac was utterly devastated by the Second War, after the Perenolde dynasty tried to ally with the Horde to be spared their wrath. As if that wasn't enough, the replacement that the Alliance installed after the Perenoldes were defeated was Daval Prestor, who we might also remember as a certain enormous flying volcano named Deathwing the Destroyer. Alterac is a complete ruin now, and the only remnant of its people is the Syndicate, which is little more than a gang of thieves, and not remotely interested in an alliance with, well, anyone.

Kul Tiras would probably be fine with helping the rest of humanity if they could get to them. We actually know next to nothing about what has happened to Kul Tiras, but we do know that there could be one major point of contention. Jaina Proudmoore's father was the leader of the nation, but he died when Jaina allowed Rexxar and his companions to fend off an attack from Theramore. Jaina had hoped that by engaging with the Horde and preventing a fullscale invasion of the newly-established nation of Durotar, a lasting peace between the Alliance and Horde might be preserved. Of course, the crater that is what remains of Theramore proves that this did not work out. It's likely that Kul Tiras would be happy to help fight off the Horde, but we don't really know where they've gotten off to, so we'll put this in the "maybe" category.

And then there's Lordaeron. When the Lich King lost his grasp over the Forsaken, there may have been some hope among the undead of Lordaeron that they might be able to rejoin their brethren, to fight for the Light and righteousness once again. Yet many of the Forsaken had spent too long as Scourge. They felt a bitterness toward the living and a seething lust for revenge against the Lich King. It did not exactly help that the living humans they came across reacted with horror and revulsion, nor did it help that Sylvanas had a very different vision for her people - one that embraced undeath. While members of the Forsaken can be good and heroic, the overall structure and path that Sylvanas has laid out for them makes peace with humanity a near-impossibility. Factor in the Wrathgate, the massacre of Hillsbrad, and the unprovoked and brutal assault on Gilneas, and we can safely say that the Forsaken are not going to be rejoining humanity any time soon.

So that's three that are solidly part of the Alliance, one that would be if it had the strength to do anything other than grab on and hope they don't die out, one that probably would help if they weren't an entire nation lost at sea, one that was really just utterly destroyed, and another that was destroyed, but came back as humanity's enemy.

I actually think there's a lot of untapped potential in the story of humanity's many nations. With the Dwarves uniting the three great clans, it strikes me that it would be fascinating to see humanity try to pull itself back together.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Horde's Destiny and the Orc Question

The Horde was created by the Orcs. It was created on Outland, where the only other playable race that existed was the Draenei. The Horde was made up entirely of Orcs until the Second War, when they made alliances with the Amani Trolls, the Ogres, and a handful of Goblins.

The Darkspear, then, are actually somewhat recent members of the Horde, even if the link between the original Horde and the current one is somewhat tenuous. However, if there is a through-line, connecting Old Horde with New, it is the Orcish people. Before the Horde, they had no unified structure to bring them together as a nation.

Thrall's time as Warchief saw the Horde transform utterly, both in that he reined in the Old Horde's lust for conquest and that he expanded it to include new allies - the Darkspear, the Tauren, the Forsaken, the Blood Elves, and the Goblins. The Horde was now a strong alliance between people, whose vision was to carve out a safe home for all of its citizens.

Yet when Thrall stepped down in the face of the Cataclysm, the person he appointed to rule in his stead was a catastrophic choice. Thrall likely saw the Cataclysm as a threat not only to the structure of the world, but also the safety of his people. He wanted a wartime leader who would be able to fend off the Twilight's Hammer, the Naga, and any other threats who might take advantage of the chaos. Little did Thrall realize that it was Garrosh who would seize an opportunity in the Shattering, rallying his people in a renewed war against the Alliance.

The irony is that not only did Garrosh embody the sort of opportunism that Thrall chose him to defend against, but he's not even a particularly effective military commander. Garrosh has pushed into Ashenvale, yes, but that seems to be the extent of his successes. While the Bilgewater Cartel has secured a great deal of Azshara, it is really Sylvanas who has been able to expand her territory, and Sylvanas has proven time and again to have only a theoretical loyalty to the Horde. In fact, it was under Garrosh that the Horde finds themselves scrambling to hold on to the Souther Barrens, the very heart of Horde territory.

Garrosh is a good fighter, and should be leading his men on the front lines while someone more wise and intelligent calls the shots back home. He would have preferred it that way, and the whole of Azeroth would be better off if that were the case.

But as it stands, the Horde is about to fall into civil war, and Garrosh's downfall is imminent. The leader of the rebellion is Vol'jin, who Thrall probably should have chosen as Warchief in the first place. The only reason he did not? Vol'jin is not an Orc.

Despite what even Blizzard representatives like to say, Warcraft is not all about Orcs vs. Humans. Sure, those two races are huge factors in the way of the world, but while Garrosh makes plenty of enemies abroad, the enemies he makes at home are angry with him because of the fact that he forgets what the Horde has become. It is not simply a nation of Orcs - it is a coalition between the Orcs and several other races, each with their own needs and desires.

The comeuppance for this hubris will likely lead to a new leadership for the Horde. Whether we see Vol'jin just straight-up become Warchief, or if the Horde reinvents itself, creating some kind of governing council comprised of various racial leaders (Lor'themar and Baine seem like good candidates, though it might be best to just have eace race send a representative.) The Horde might be a lot better to live in if every people gets their say, and never again will we see one race dominate the others.

But what does that leave for the Orcs?

Clearly not every Orc is a fan of Garrosh. We know that Saurfang, Eitrigg, and of course Thrall are not happy about the way Garrosh is running things. Yet the Orcs are divided. Here is a leader who is telling them that they are the strongest and most deserving people in the world. It's an attractive philosophy if you don't think about your non-Orc neighbors too much.

When Garrosh is gone, what happens to the Orcs? Should they be punished for what Garrosh did? Do the Orcs not get a seat on this War Council?

Can the Horde still be the Horde without Orcs?

Even if they are afforded some degree of power within the Post-Revolutionary Horde, who will speak for them? Thrall is still beloved by some, but part of the Garrosh take-over saw an abandonment of Thrall's ways, and some have even denounced him in favor of Garrosh's leadership style. And that's not to speak of the other problem, which is that to an extent, the Garrosh Regime is Thrall's fault. He was the one who invested the Horde's future with this ruthless dictator. Has Thrall lost the right to lead his people by inflicting Garrosh Hellscream on them?

Who does that leave? Saurfang is old, and probably not the strong man he once was. Like Garrosh, he's always been a soldier, albeit one with the wisdom of age. Eitrigg is also older, and probably wise, but he's never been a leader. It would be nice if Thrall had groomed a successor, but of course, that was Garrosh, wasn't it? And we saw how well he did there.

The Orcs probably lost the right to be sole leaders of the Horde - that's almost a guarantee. But surely the Orcs should be able to lead themselves? The question that demands an answer is "who?"

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Immunities, the Old Gods, the Burning Legion, and Queen Azshara

Cataclysm may not have been a very popular expansion, and the extreme linearity of questing in most of the top level zones engendered some ill will (though in the low-level zones it was a bit of a godsend.) Still, looking back on it, and having a big endgame like Mists, there were some interesting ideas introduced in Cataclysm.

I've often talked about the strange interaction between the Old Gods and the Burning Legions - two forces that theoretically have the same goal (destroying Azeroth) but nevertheless seem utterly opposed to one another.

To summarize, if I can make this brief: Nether energy, which you could consider the defining trait of all things demonic, seems to provide some sort of immunity to the effects of the Old Gods' corruption, even if Nether energy twisted into Fel energy (the most common form of it among Demons) is a corruption itself.

There is a distinction - the Warlock Green Fire chain shows us this, showing how Illidan's demonic servants did not have the Fel green look to them because they were fed by a different source of Nether energy.

More to the point: the Old Gods never seem to be able to corrupt demons, or the product of demons, such as the Scourge (though as I said in a recent post, there might actually be something paradoxically Titanic going on with the Scourge.) Still, the Scourge is able to exist surrounded by the congealed blood of an Old God and don't seem the worse for wear (well... not that they had a lot more to wear out.) The only people we do see going crazy from Saronite in Icecrown are the Argent Dawn prisoners in the Saronite Mine in Ymirheim. The Lich-King-empowered Vrykul, or Ymirjar, and the Val'kyr there are totally fine, even though I'm sure Darkspeaker R'khem (the only friendly faceless one we're likely to see) is standing right there.

We tend to think of anyone interacting with the Old Gods as going totally insane, like Twilight's Hammer or the various people we've seen succumb to madness (Deathwing, for instance.) The various Aqir races don't seem totally insane, and were actually able to build up empires in service to the Old Gods, but if we accept that they were created by the Old Gods in the first place (and to be fair, that is up for debate,) we might be able to accept that the Old Gods built in a little insanity-protection so that the Qiraji, Mantid, and Nerubians would be able to serve them better (though I'm still a little unclear on the Nerubians. They send us to kill Herald Volazj in Ahn-Kahet, but wouldn't they be on his side, as long as they weren't scourgified? And if they were scourge, wouldn't they not want us to kill Elder Nadox or whatever his name is?)

But there is an entire race that was corrupted by the Old Gods, transformed from their old forms into new, monstrous ones: the Naga. They don't seem to be insane - they're just evil. Now sure, they could be more subtly insane, like the members of the Black Dragonflight, who were able to pursue their goals methodically and intelligently even though they were nuts, but I wonder if there's a different explanation.

The Naga have always felt slightly separate from the Old Gods, with their own goals and their own motivations (mainly, letting Queen Azshara retake her position as the ruler of all Azeroth.) Perhaps there is a reason for this:

Before she became a Naga, Azshara was the one who allowed the Burning Legion to invade Azeroth during the War of the Ancients. Azshara had already been a gifted sorceress, and she offered to become Sargeras' bride when he arrived on Azeroth. We can assume, then, that there was a whole boatload of fel magic going through Azshara and her forces. In fact, an entire race of demons was created from Night Elves - the Satyrs.

Azshara and the Naga represent something unprecedented in Azeroth - the fusion of Fel power with Old God corruption. Azshara has an alliance with the Old Gods, but the remaining fel energy in her people provides them independence.

The Naga have never really be center-stage villains in World of Warcraft, but they are certainly a formidable foe. In Vashj'ir, we discover that Azshara has a MASSIVE army at her disposal, and one that is supplemented by her faceless allies.

Not only that, but our attempt to rescue Neptulon from her forces in the Throne of the Tides was ultimately a failure (Vashj'ir was a dark zone,) so now she could be potentially adding the power of an Elemental Lord to her arsenal.

I know that the Burning Legion itself is a serious threat that we're definitely going to have to deal with sooner or later, but with the Scourge held back by the Jailor of the Damned, Garrosh's disastrous war about to end, and Deathwing blasted to smithereens, Azshara is sitting very comfortably at the top of the list of biggest dangers on Azeroth.

We might want to deal with that.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Halls of Flesh-Shaping

The Halls of Flesh-Shaping is the weirdest section of Throne of Thunder, but it's the one that I think has the most old-school dungeon feel to it. Here there be monsters.

There is a very small amount of trash to kill before fighting Durumu the Forgotten, but killing the last one will bring the boss to the room you're in, so beware. Large Fog Beasts will jump onto the central platform, knocking you back when they land (my co-tank, who in most ways was far more on top of things than I was, and friendly to boot, nevertheless got blown away by these twice.) Killing one will cause an invisible, smaller Fog Beast to appear.

Durumu the Forgotten:

This one here is a raid-killer, but is not terribly difficult once you get the rhythm of it (granted, as a tank, your job is fairly simple, so I might not be doing justice to the other responsibilities of the raid here.) There are two major phases one has to deal with.

The light-cone phase has Durumu shining a red, yellow, and blue cone toward a certain player. You need to use this light to illuminate various adds that are dealing damage to the raid. The longer you stay in a beam of light, the more damage it will deal to you, but this ramps up very slowly (still, it does not go away until the end of the fight.) For reasons I haven't quite figured out, the tank is supposed to stand in the yellow beam.) Tanks swap a debuff while the dps has to focus on killing those adds when they've been found. Killing the adds (which do not have to be tanked) will, I believe, cause the light cones to turn off, saving you from some damage.

Meanwhile, random people will be targeted with "Lingering Gaze," which drops a little purple slime pool that you should not stand in. These persist through the encounter.

The other major phase is his Deconstruction Beam (or is it Decimation...?) Here, most of the floor will become covered with Eye Sores, which deal heavy arcane damage. The key is that you've got to group up on the one safe spot and move around him as he rotates his beam - if you don't the beam will insta-kill you. There seems to be a kind of underlying maze of safe places to stand, so you've got to be paying attention. Eye Sores and the beam will likely be what kills half your raid immediately.

These two phases alternate, and otherwise it's a straight burn.

Trash before Primoridius:

The trash here is pretty simple - you just need to kill the various oozes scooting around. I believe they coalesce into more dangerous slimes, but honestly it was all happening so fast that I don't think there was much to look out for. I do believe the oozes will keep coming, though, so it's a gauntlet that you should try to run through.


The main mechanic here is that those various oozes will all be heading toward the boss. If they reach him, his evolution meter will go up. Every time it fills, he gains a new ability. People will not be able to do full damage to Primoridius at first. By killing oozes, however, they will gain various buffs, eventually becoming "fully evolved," and transforming into a Saurok. Now they should start attacking the boss, as they now deal full damage to him. Killing more oozes while already fully evolved will actually turn those old buffs into debuffs.

The tanks need to kite Primoridus slowly so as not to leave him in giant puddles of ooze residue, or his meter will begin to fill. There is also a tank-swap debuff, but the good news is that that debuff also causes you to deal a bunch of damage to the oozes every time you hit them with an attack. Therefore, the currently-inactive tank should be going around, spamming aoe on the oozes to keep them from reaching the boss.

This is one of those fights that's got a lot of crazy mechanics but is relatively simple in practice. Dps should just remember to kill ooze until they're evolved, then switch to the boss until the buff runs out.

Trash before Dark Animus:

The trash here is just two pulls of Mogu. The first is a pair of warriors who will periodically stun everyone in front of them, so tanks should face them away from the raid. The next group is apparently somewhat complicated on normal, but on LFR it's an AOE Zerg.

Dark Animus:

The main challenge of this fight on normal is that you can't kill all the adds, because doing so would put all the Anima into the boss, and he would use his "wipe the raid" ability. However, since there's not enough Anima in the room to fully power the Dark Animus on LFR, the fight becomes very simple once all the adds are down.

At first, all the Anima Golems will activate. AoE these down, and then the Large Anima Golems will activate. There are 12 of these, if I was counting correctly. The main thing to worry about with them is that they cause various players to deal tons of damage to anyone near them, possibly leaving a trail of bad stuff (the ability is Crimson Wake.) After enough of these guys go down, the two Massive Anima Golems activate. These guys continuously debuff the tanks, but I think it's less of a tank-swap mechanic than simple something to make you kill them fast enough.

After all the Large Golems are down, and maybe along with one of the Massive ones, the enormous Dark Animus will get up. If you've downed all the adds, you'll pretty much have the fight already. The only real mechanic I knew I had to look out for was Anima Ring, where the currently-targeted tank will get a ring of anima globules that tighten around them. The tank should run out of this so as to only get hit by one of the globs, while the other tank picks the boss up. Getting hit by one of these will increase the damage you take by 50% each.

I can't speak to any other mechanics here, honestly, but I get the impression that, at least in LFR, Dark Animus is a frontloaded fight that becomes a near-guaranteed win once the adds are down.


3/4 of Throne of Thunder is now on LFR. Once again, I'm impressed by the creative fight mechanics of these bosses. With only the last wing left to go, I'm already very happy with what I've seen so far. Hopefully some day I'll be able to whip my guild into shape and take a few cracks at this on Normal.

Overall, so far, the second wing seems to be the easiest one to figure out and down bosses with consistent ease. This one is going to take some learning, but mechanically it's more about just figuring out what the right thing to do is, rather than fights like Horridon, where tunnel vision will be what kills you in the long run.

I'll try to run this on Oterro later this week to get a DPS perspective on the fights. Next week we go to the top and finally face down Lei Shen.