Monday, September 30, 2013

Timetable for Expansion 5

As I've said before, the current situation is unprecedented in WoW history (except possibly during Vanilla,) which is that we've got our final raid patch before we've heard a peep out of Blizzard about the content of the subsequent expansion, except for the inference we can make that it will probably bring us to level 100, given that I doubt the Hellscream heirloom weapons are meant to last us two expansions.

While I cannot quite remember how long the gap between 2.4 and 3.0 was (I think it was only a few months, as I recall Sunwell coming out in early 2008,) the time between 3.3 and 4.0 and the time between 4.3 and 5.0 both took a very long time (I could be mistaken, but I believe 3.3 was the longest-running patch, and may have been over a year, though we did get the Ruby Sanctum during that time.)

So, with 5.4 out on September 10th (for my future records!) and Blizzcon essentially two months after that, on November 8th and 9th, one wonders how long 5.4 will last.

Blizzard has stated time and again that they want to speed up the content cycle this time around, and while they've certainly brought patches faster and more furiously, only every other one has brought a new raid. Now, I'm definitely not saying that raids are the only content of worth in WoW. Not only did the "in-between" patches bring a lot of balance and tweaking, but the 5.1 daily hubs were also the most popular ones in the expansion (doubly impressive, given how sick and tired people were of daily quests after 5.0.)

And yet, the raids of Mists of Pandaria actually came out at roughly the same pace they have in previous expansions. We had the usual fall launch, the second tier coming out in the summer, and the third tier coming out the following fall. This pretty closely adheres to the schedule of Cataclysm.

So the question is: can we expect them to be any faster in coming out with the next expansion? I'm certainly not sick of Siege of Orgrimmar yet - only eight of the fourteen bosses are even out on LFR, and I'm hoping that I can get my guild running the flex mode so we can make something like progress.

And I'm all for letting the final patch of an expansion drag out for a bit. This is the time when you get to get your alts geared up, and when you get to go back to the old raids and farm achievements, or take the time doing the silly things.

But do we want to spend a year sieging Orgrimmar? Maybe not.

Of course, the funny thing is that there's nothing really to get excited about yet. We don't know if we're going to be fighting the Burning Legion or the Old Gods or the Great Gazoo, and we don't know if we're getting playable Murlocs, a Tinker class, or just some fancy-looking new character models (I'd guess the latter.)

The thing is, these expansions have to go through months of Alpha testing, and then Beta testing. Historically, Blizzard has generally done an internal Alpha, then a Friends and Family Alpha (which is when most of the first exciting leaks show up, as some of those friends or family members seem to talk to MMO-Champion) and then the closed Beta, where the lucky few get to see the new expansion at its ugliest and most broken (I'm really mixed on doing the Beta, as it kind of spoils the sense of discovery when you first arrive in the new zones at launch. I primarily enjoyed leveling up Icatia, a female human Monk. I think I got her up through Badlands before the beta ended. Oh man, did they make Tiger Palm less annoying.)

But all this testing time means that it will take that much longer to launch the expansion.

We might just have to resign ourselves to the understanding that WoW expansions will generally come out roughly every two years, which means we'll be spending another year in Pandaria. It's not the end of the world, but it does kind of contradict Blizzard's faster content goals.

Alternatively, here's the surprise I'd like to hear at Blizzcon: announce that the Beta is starting like a week, or maybe a month after the announcement.

I don't think we'll have a release date at Blizzcon, as they really do want to test the thing out on the masses to find any nasty bugs. But if they could start the Beta before the end of 2013, they would be set up for a far earlier launch, as early as late spring/early summer.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

In the Infinite Days of Future Past

When can you be sure that you have defeated an enemy that can travel through time?

Their motivations remain mysterious, and even after we killed their leader, the Infinite Dragonflight still has the potential to be the greatest threat that Azeroth has ever faced. All of our past victories, all hope for the future, remain in danger of falling under the Infinites' grasp.

Our greatest victory against the Infinite Dragonflight occurred in a future that no longer exists. Deathwing was defeated before he could bring about the Hour of Twilight, and so there was never any End Time in which we could fight and defeat Murozond.

What is it that the Infinites desire?

Nozdormu is a noble mind, who adheres to his mission, and yet he is also well aware that he will one day become Murozond, and set about undoing all the work he has dedicated his life to.

The Infinites threaten to play havoc with the timeline. And yet, their goals have often seemed well-intentioned. They seek to stop the opening of the Dark Portal and spare Azeroth the chaos wrought by a demon-blood-fueled Horde. They seek to stop Arthas before he can travel to Northrend and become one with the Scourge.

One might argue that they seek to avoid catastrophe. Without Arthas, the Scourge may never have invaded Dalaran, and the Third War may have been stopped in its tracks. Without the opening of the Dark Portal, the First and Second Wars would have never come about.

But the question then lies in what may have happened otherwise. Without the Orcs, the Third War may have been lost, and without Arthas, the Burning Legion may have kept total control of the Scourge, presenting a relentless united front that may have consumed Azeroth.

Murozond locked the timeways to us, requiring us to go into the End Time and defeat him so that we could recover the one weapon that might destroy Deathwing. Yet Murozond again claims to have almost noble intentions. He mocks his past self for calling this vision of the world the "End Time," when in his mind it is a far preferably alternative to what else he has seen.

A desolate waste, devoid of life, seems like a bleak "preferable alternative." Just what is it that Murozond has seen?

We have been fighting the Infinites since the Burning Crusade, and yet the Bronze Dragons of our present are still very much on the side of good. Could we have possibly defeated them before the flight even formed? This is Time Travel, so I won't rule it out, but given our experiences on the Timeless Isle and the visions we're seeing of the future, I am made very uneasy.

If you've been doing the weekly Epoch Stone quests, you've mostly seen Thrall and Saurfang fighting their way into Orgrimmar. The third vision shows the leaders of the Alliance and Horde standing over a defeated Garrosh, but high above them, Kairoz, the bronze dragon who sent you on this mission in the first place, is also watching. Kairoz is surprised to hear this. Why is he there?

An optimist may believe that Murozond's defeat in the End Time, and the de-powering of the Aspects following Deathwing's demise, would mean that the Infinites would never come to pass. And yet, could it not be that very optimism that brings them into being?

The Infinites, in may of our interactions, seem to be wanting to save the world. Nozdormu was shown how he would die to instill the humility required of a guardian of time. But after seeing everything change at the dawn of the Age of Mortals, Nozdormu may have had a most dangerous notion - that fate, both is own and that of Azeroth, could be changed.

That deadly seed could grow to rip asunder the flow of causality. Far from being done with the Infinite Dragonflight, or whoever else they may draw into their service, I fear that this threat has only just begun.

The Mists of Pandaria Postmortem: the Pandaren and the Wandering Isle.

With an expansion that centered around Pandaria and the Pandaren people, it would be pretty ridiculous to give them to one faction and not the other. Supposedly, in the initial design stages of Burning Crusade, the Alliance would have gotten the Pandaren instead of the Draenei. For whatever reason, that fell through (and as huge fan of the Draenei, I'm glad it did.)

One of the old design theories Blizzard had long held to was that of the "silhouette." One was supposed to be able to determine both the power level and faction of a character by their basic look. Transmogrification obviously changed that in terms of power level, but with WoW's first (and possibly only) neutral race, they completely abandoned this notion.

So, Pandaren actually get to level 12 or 13, completing all the quests on the Wandering Isle, before they are able to even pick a side.

The Wandering Isle is a fairly cool-looking zone, especially toward the end of its quests when you get to speak with the great turtle him(or her?)self. The Alliance and Horde do not play a major role in the quests there until very near the end, but you do get to see something of the two competing philosophies: Tushui and Huojin. At this point, they are merely different ways of looking at the world, but they will become the defining factors in one's future allegiance.

The Wandering Isle gives you a sneak preview at Pandaria, showing you Virmen, Hozen, and (as-yet-unidentified) Saurok. Likewise, you get to know the various elemental spirits as seen by the Pandaren, who seem a lot more affable than the ones you tend to encounter elsewhere in Azeroth.

With your decision made at the end of the chain, you have your meeting with either Garrosh or Varian, and from there your story is basically over.

While we might be seeing a little more of them in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, for the most part the Pandaren of the Wandering Isle kind of fade into the background to make room for the mainland Pandaren (the exception being Chen Stormstout and his niece Lili.)

In terms of animation and model, the Pandaren are definitely recognizable as being far better-looking than the vanilla or BC races. While I can't quite tell if they're any fancier than the Cataclysm races, it's clear that the Worgen, Goblins and Pandaren all show why we need new character models for the older races.

Pandaren have a decent selection of classes, but the inevitable consequence of releasing an expansion with both a new race and a new class is that the vast majority of them will be Monks. This is even worse than in BC, when it seemed all Blood Elves were Paladins and all Draenei were Shamans. Over time, of course, this has become less of an issue, and I expect that one or two expansions from now, we'll see a large variety of non-Pandaren Monks and non-Monk Pandaren.

With this new precedent of a neutral race, it does open up Blizzard's options to introduce single races in future expansions. On the other hand, this could be a slippery slope into homogenizing the factions. While I think it made perfect sense for the Pandaren, I would hope and expect Blizzard to continue releasing races in pairs.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Where on Azeroth Have We Not Yet Been?

Azeroth's a big world, but we've been making our way through the place pretty thoroughly. After all, most of the previously-established world from the RTS games was implemented in Vanilla, and in Cataclysm, many of the previously-unexplored part of said world were added, namely Hyjal, Uldum, Grim Batol, and the Elemental Planes.

Burning Crusade added Outland (which is technically not part of Azeroth, but did exist in the previous games) and Wrath of the Lich King added Northrend. Mists of Pandaria had to make up an entirely new continent, and so clearly Blizzard can keep adding areas as long as there's money to support the development (and even with subscription losses, there's plenty of that) and ideas to try.

So let's talk about the areas we've established.


Warcraft is a multi-world setting. The Orcs and Ogres come from Draenor (which is now the broken-up "Outland," and we know of many other worlds.

Outland/Draenor: Ultimately, we've been here. While it's perfectly possible that we could find other bits of it, I think we've definitely had our "Outland Expansion." The only area established in the RTS games that we never saw was Deathwing's lair, but given that Deathwing got disintegrated, and his story is pretty solidly over, I doubt that would be enough of a draw to bring us back. On the other hand, Outland is literally stuck in the Twisting Nether, meaning that it has a strong connection to the demons and the Burning Legion. Hold on, does that mean that if we kill demons there, they truly die?

Argus: The homeland of the Eredar, this seems like an obvious place for us to mess it up with the Burning Legion. Not only is it probably a Legion stronghold (assuming they didn't just torch it on the way out,) but it's the planet that the Draenei have literally spent twenty-five thousand years trying to return to. No one likes the Legion, and frankly, I think the Orcs kind of owe them help in taking it back (though most Orcs seem to be in utter denial about their role in massacring the Draenei.)

Xoroth: While we know tiny details about Argus, the only thing we know about Xoroth is that it's the world that Dreadsteeds are from. Demonic horses seem pretty cool, but it's not a lot to go on. However, if Xoroth is actually the homeland of the Dreadlords, or Nathrezim, that would make it a lot more important. The Dreadlords, after all, are some of the original members of the Legion, the ones whose actions drove Sargeras to his fall, and seem to have been demons before Sargeras got to them. We've interacted with a number of Dreadlords over the years, and while they haven't seemed to be quite as powerful as the Manari Eredar, they're certainly nothing to sneeze at. Not only that, but consider that Dreadlords seem to be nigh-unkillable. Even Mal'ganis, who was killed with Frostmourne, and so you would think that his soul would be trapped within the blade (though that's a moot point now) would mean he was utterly defeated, but hey, he's still out there.

K'aresh: The home of the Ethereals, we know that this planet was taken by the Voidwalkers, forcing the Ethereals to flee (not unlike the Draenei, actually.) We don't know a whole lot about the Ethereals, even though they are now chilling out in our capital cities, but I wonder if they have the same desire to return home that the Draenei have.

Wherever the Hell Turalyon and Alleria Went: We know that these two jumped through a random portal after Draenor started to break apart, but we don't actually know which planet they arrived on. Given that they're said many times that they want to bring these guys back, we might follow them where they're going.

Places on Azeroth:

Ok, so we've got the whole of Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Northrend and Pandaria. We've been to the Maelstrom, and we've seen the elemental planes. What does that leave?

The Tomb of Sargeras: Oh yeah, this is a big one. Hidden somewhere on the islands in the oceans near the Maelstrom, the Tomb of Sargeras holds the remains of the Dark Titan's avatar that fought Aegwynn. This seems to be one of the most dangerous repositories of demonic power in the world, such that even Gul'dan, arguably the most powerful mortal Warlock ever, was torn apart by its denizens. Gul'dan skull was taken from there (and tossed around like a hot potato, it seems, until it wound up with Illidan,) but surely there's a lot of dangerous and valuable stuff to be taken there. Perhaps it's not enough for an expansion, but I'd love to go in here as a raid.

The Emerald Dream: We've actually had the occasional trip into the Dream in various quests, but we haven't really explored it in full. Blizzard has struggled with how to implement this in game, and whether they should. As an expansion, you could imagine fleshing the place out, but you might have trouble coming up with areas that aren't just wilderness, yet a raid seems like it wouldn't quite be enough to do it justice.

Kul Tiras: Jaina's homeland was supposedly shifted out into the ocean after the Cataclysm, and we still have yet to see what has happened to it. Theoretically, Kul Tiras could actually be another thriving human nation, but we really don't know what has happened to them. And given that Jaina kinda-sorta let her dad die to save the people who would later nuke Theramore in thanks, she might have some awkwardness to deal with when she comes home.

Zandalar: The Zandalari have been causing us trouble for the past few years, after they had seemed so friendly for so long. There's actually a lot that could be done with Zandalar, for example, showing why the Zandalari turned on us. We know that the Island is slowly sinking and dealing with horrific flooding, and that while King Rakhastan remains on the throne, it is this strange prophet, Zul, who has captured the hearts of the Zandalari people. Who the hell is Zul? What the hell is Zul?

All of this is stuff that we've heard about in the past. I'm sure we'll get new areas like Pandaria, that are more or less entirely invented for their given expansions, but there are still plenty of pre-established locations to check out.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gates of Retribution - DPS Perspective

First off, a little rant: People are absurdly wipe-averse these days. These are new bosses that most of us have never seen before. Read up ahead of time (and while these reviews will give you the basic gist of the fights, I recommend looking at Icy Veins for a more in-depth review.) My group in this wing this morning was reduced to less than ten players on multiple occasions. Please, don't queue unless you intend to clear the wing. You will have wipes. These are new fights. People are still learning them. Get over it.


Moving on:


Really the only major thing I have to say about Galakras is that you only need about five or six dps to go up with a tank and maybe one healer for the tower team. The rest of you should stick to the road.

Tower teams should also wait for the demolishers to be destroyed before you try to take the towers.

On the ground, you'll want to prioritize killing healing totems, war banners, and any Bonecrackers that fixate on an NPC (though they still did not seem to be doing that much damage.)

When Galakras comes down, be sure to stack up to share the love on the fireballs, and if you're low on health (or you're targeted) back up a little to let your allies take the brunt of it. If you're at full health though, step up and take the heat for your teammates.

Iron Juggernaut:

Really the only thing I'll tell dps to do here is to make sure you aren't in front of the boss and also don't run the laser through the oil. If you're at full health, feel free to take the crawler mines for the team, but on LFR the damage is not as terrible if you don't manage to detonate them ahead of time.

Trash Before Dark Shaman:

This is where you actually get to truly raid Orgrimmar itself. First, for Alliance, Tyrande will show up with her elite huntresses and clear out the Kor'kron Grunts immediately at the gate. After defeating a Blind Blademaster, you'll emerge into the Valley of Strength. This place you're going to have to clear out, which will take a good long while. You actually wind up killing some of the innocuous shopkeepers and such, as well as a hell of a lot of Kor'kron folk. In the Bank, there is a named NPC who will Bribe people, effectively mind-controlling them, so you'll want to focus him down to break the MC. He'll drop a key that will allow you to release some Theramore prisoners (I assume this is different on Horde,) which includes a shaman who will put up a resistance totem.

Once you've cleared out the area, you can fight the Dark Shaman.

Kor'kron Dark Shaman:

The two shaman are in Grommash Hold, but after the first pull, they will subsequently spawn in front of the hold, Earthbreaker Haromm and Wavebinder Kardris. Fun Fact: these guys used to be friendly Shaman trainer NPCs, located in Stonard and Orgrimmar respectively.

The two shaman share a health pool, so you can focus down one of them, though of course multi-dotting and cleave effects will work to speed up their demise, though given the stuff they spawn, you may want to keep them separated.

When the fight begins, the two will be riding their war wolves. These guys have very little health and should just be killed immediately.

When we did this, I switched to tank-spec to make things easier, because Haromm has a tank-swap debuff. Normally, you would need the tanks to swap bosses, but this way, you take a little hit to your dps and can simply have on tank handle Kardris while the other two juggle Haromm.

Every 25%, these guys will gain new abilities. Much of the fight involves them putting nasty things on the ground, so you should try to slowly move them around in a circle around the valley, depositing poison clouds and dark cyclones and all that bad stuff methodically.

Adds will spawn from one of Kardris' abilities (I believe it's her Water-based ability) that should be AoE'd down quickly, as they deal damage to anyone nearby.

Likewise, Ashen Walls will need to be navigated around as they do a ton of damage.

At 25%, the two cast Bloodlust, increasing their haste and damage by 25%, so this is probably a good time to do likewise.

Trash before General Nazgrim:

With the Valley of Strength cleared out, you can make your way down the Drag, fighting a couple of Blind Blademasters again. As you round the corner, though, High Overlord Runthak (Saurfang's successor) will launch a bombardment from demolishers at you. You'll want to rush him and kill the demolishers before dealing with the High Overlord. After doing so, you'll be able to free Gamon, who will help you with the next set of trash as well as General Nazgrim, though if he dies, he does not come back.

The rest of the trash is a series of groups of the types of adds that spawn during the boss fight. Be especially careful to separate out the Shamans, as they will heal each other. Also, be wary of the Ironblades, as their collective AoE is a really quite dangerous.

General Nazgrim:

We actually figured out what I'm sure will be the typical strategy for this fight, and it works wonderfully.

Ranged DPS should focus on adds. At all times. Seriously, always on adds. If, somehow, you get them all down, you can toss a DoT or two on the boss, but your top priority is always adds.

Melee should be on the boss whenever he is not in Defensive Stance. You can think of Nazgrim as sliding back and forth along a scale. In the middle is Battle Stance, and on either side is Berserker and Defensive. So, he'll go Battle, Berserker, Battle, Defensive, Battle, Berserker, Battle, Defensive, etc. Melee should stop attacking him during Defensive Stance and instead go and help the ranged dps with the adds.

Otherwise, add priority is, I believe, Healing Totems, War Banners (which melee can get, as he tends to put them down next to himself,) Shamans, and then whatever else is up. Melee should try to avoid Ironblades, as their AoE is dangerous, and if an Assassin fixates on you, turn to face them so they can't stab you in the back.

You should also be absolutely sure to keep the shamans as far away from Nazgrim as you can, because their totems will heal him anyone for 10% a tick.

To the Underhold!

With Nazgrim dead, you are done with the Gates of Retribution. Right now it's a holy hell of a pain in the ass to get through, because people who are used to running Throne of Thunder for the twentieth time get upset when they don't down a boss on the first try, but just like the first wing, this is all just about execution.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Heroes of the Storm

Well thanks, internet, now "Riders on the Storm" is playing in my head. Actually, that's not such a terrible thing. Whatever.

Anyway, back to the rumor mill, supposedly Blizzard has trademarked "Heroes of the Storm" as the name of a new computer game in New Zealand. Might this be the name of the next expansion? Or is it as empty as "The Dark Below," which we've mostly decided was a hoax.

So, as with TDB, the usual caveats should apply. First off, we don't know for certain that this is for real. The Dark Below looked pretty legit until Corgis Unleashed was similarly trademarked.

But for the sake of argument, let's assume this one is legit. It still doesn't mean it's a World of Warcraft expansion. Granted, with Reaper of Souls confirmed as the expansion to Diablo III, and the foreknowledge of Legacy of the Void as Starcraft II's next expansion, it seems unlikely that this could be for either of those properties. On the other hand, it could be for Hearthstone, but given that Hearthstone isn't even out of its closed beta, I doubt that.

So, Heroes of the Storm. Does that sound like a WoW expansion? In the past, the expansions have always been named after bad things. The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, and even Mists of Pandaria (though the fact that the mists were actually the work of the Sha of Pride was kind of a shocking plot-twist.)

"Heroes" seems to imply good guys, and it's not like there's a rule saying the title of an expansion has to be whatever bad thing we're facing.

"Storm" could refer to any number of things. In fact, Warcraft lore is full of storms. You have the Stormrage brothers, you have Stormwind City (doesn't it seem like Stormwind should constantly be drenched in rain?) You have Orcish Shamans who are super into "Storm Earth and Fire," even though that's a Monk ability. The old Orcs are all about their Altars of Storm. There's the Maelstrom... just kidding! That's "strom," rather than "storm."

Honestly, this is such a broad name (not unlike the Dark Below) that it could mean any number of things. Frankly, I think that such a name would point more toward the fabled "South Seas expansion," even though there are tons of hints in Mists that we're fighting the Legion again, and there's also the fact that Pandaria is kind of already in the South Seas.

Yet who knows? It could be referring to all kinds of other things. The Titans tend to be pretty lightning-oriented, so we could even see this as a Titan-themed expansion.

Ultimately, though, I've become a bit more skeptical. While Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria were named long before their official announcements at Blizzcon, given that we have two fairly legitimate-sounding expansion names tossed out there, it makes both seem less likely.

Blizzcon starts on November 8th, and I'm sure the announcement will be at the very start of the event, which means we have less than a month and a half until we find out. I'll be very curious to see if any of these were actually the real deal. (It's Corgis man. Totally Corgis.)

UPDATE: Looks like the game is meant to be played on tablets and smartphones, so I'm confident saying that even if it is legit, it's not going to be the new WoW expansion.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Gates of Retribution - Tank Perspective... minus the Dark Shaman

Sadly, after defeating the Iron Juggernaut, my client crashed (I was trying to access Atlasloot to see if there was anything worth rolling for, and I think my poor, 4-year old computer just had a brain fart.) Anyway, while DC'd and rebooting my computer, I got kicked, so while I was able to get a new group afterward, they were already on General Nazgrim with two stacks of determination. Sadly, therefore, I can't really comment much on the Dark Shaman, and I didn't even get to do much storming of Orgrimmar proper (though I did see that Garrosh had all the warlock trainers executed. What a dick!)

Once again, this is told from a Protection Paladin's perspective. Later this week I hope to get that of a Frost DK, and hopefully I'll actually be able to talk about the Dark Shaman.

Trash Before Galakras:

This is actually pretty simple, and on LFR, you'll be able to pretty much zerg your way through as you clear the cannons, allowing Vereesa, Varian and Jaina to show up and help you. (On Horde I believe Lor'themar, Sylvanas, and... someone else will aid you.)

You'll need to make your way down the beach, killing trash and then detonating all the cannons. When all eight (I think) are gone, you'll be able to engage the boss. The Bonecrackers, Banner holders, and Tidal Shamans here also show up during the boss fight, so it's a nice little preview.


This is going to be tough, because in LFR you always have some jerk who starts the fight early.

You'll want to dedicate one tank, one or two healers, and about six or seven dps to be on the "tower team." The rest of the raid needs to be down in the road, intercepting adds as they come. The major NPCs will help damage the enemies, but you also need to keep them alive or the fight resets.

When the fight starts, Zaela will send waves of enemies against you. The key here is to kill war banners and healing totems, and also to focus down any bonecrackers who fixate on one of the three main NPCs. Jaina will call down a blizzard to damage enemies inside, which I recommend you take advantage of.

After a certain amount of time, your Gnomish demolitionists will break open the doors to the towers. Now, I was probably doing this wrong, so I think you want to wait before you enter them. Instead, you first need to kill a Demolisher that will attack the tower, stunning everyone inside and doing lots of damage. With the Demolisher dead, your tower team should go up into the South tower (it's the one that opens first.)

Only two adds need to be tanked in the tower, a Grunt at the bottom, and a mini-boss at the top. This mini-boss has an arcing smash that you need to get out of the way of, or it will damage you and knock you back. When all the adds are dead, you'll gain control of the tower. I believe you should leave behind a dps player to man the gun.

When the Northern tower opens up, you repeat the process. The miniboss here has different mechanics, but honestly she died so quickly that I didn't have a chance to work them out.

With both towers under your control, put another person in control of the northern gun and then have both fire at the same time. This will dismount Zaela (killing her, I guess) and bringing Galakras down.

From here, it's pretty simple. Mop up any remaining adds and face the boss away from the raid. Have melee stack behind it and dps/heals stack a little farther back. By stacking, you make it far more likely that the fireballs Galakras shoots will get dissipated several times before they land.

Other than a simple tank swap, this phase is very simple, and when it is complete, you'll be done with the fight.

Iron Juggernaut:

There does not seem to be any trash between Galakras and the Iron Juggernaut.

Juggernaut is actually a pretty simple fight, but its sheer power is what will make this hard.

There are many bad things in the ground and bad things to run away from, but ultimately, it boils down to two simple phases:

Assault Mode will require tanks to switch off. Make sure that the tanks do not stand together, as the tank debuff has a cone-area effect. Meanwhile, there will be oil patches on the ground and lasers that chase random players. Don't drag the laser into the oil or it will ignite. There will also be some shockwaves traveling through the ground that you should avoid.

Finally, crawler mines will run out and plant themselves in the ground. If you have decent health, you should right-click these to mount them, taking a big blast of damage but protecting the raid from their detonation. Theoretically, the inactive tank should do this, but on LFR the damage is low enough that you can have anyone with a decent amount of remaining health handle it.

When the Juggernaut goes into Siege Mode, it will no longer need to be tanked, but instead it will do an earthquake-like damage pulse constantly. It will also send out static pulses, which will knock everyone far away. Try to put a fence or other object behind you so you don't get thrown too far. Crawler mines will continue to come out during this phase.

It's not a terrible difficult fight in terms of mechanics, but there is a lot of damage that goes around.

Dark Shaman:

File missing? To be filled in later.

General Nazgrim:

This is one of those fights that should be very easy once people learn how to actually do it. As it stands now, however, it's a pain.

The central mechanic here is Rage. Nazgrim will gain rage by attacking, but also through other means.

He also cycles through stances. Battle Stance is his standard one, where he will gain Rage at a modest rate. In Berserker Stance, I believe he gains more rage, but he also takes more damage. In Defensive Stance, he gains rage from attacks against him.

What this boils down to is: DON'T ATTACK HIM WHILE HE'S IN DEFENSIVE STANCE. The one exception here is the current tank, who will need to attack to keep up active mitigation.

Nazgrim will use a rage-based ability at regular intervals. The lower the rage he has to spend, the less dangerous his ability will be. I believe the cheapest is Heroic Thunderclap, where he'll leap at a random raid member and do some mild AoE. At over 25 rage, he'll put up a War Banner, which increases his and his adds' damage. At over 50 rage, he'll do War Song, which I believe causes his adds' attacks to grant him rage (it's possible I've mixed up War Song and War Banner.) And at 75+, he'll throw a Ravager, which will go toward a random player and just spin there until the fight is over.

Periodically, Nazgrim will summon adds (I believe one add for every 25% of his health you take off.) War Shamans summon healing totems that must be burned down quickly. Arcweavers do ranged damage to random people. Assassins will try to backstab their current target, if the target is facing away from them. They'll also fixate on random raid members, so if you're fixated, make sure you're facing the assassin. Finally, Ironblades will do Ironstorm, which is basically Bladestorm.

The trick to this fight is knowing when to dps what. Generally, you want to kill adds whenever they're up. You also definitely want to avoid attacking Nazgrim while he's in defensive stance.

Meanwhile, Nazgrim also uses a Sunder Armor tank debuff, so tanks will need to run back and forth from the boss to the adds to switch. War Shamans and Arcweavers don't really need to be tanked, and Assassins will quickly fixate, so tanks should worry mainly about Ironblades.

There's a lot of damage tossed around here, especially if people are being careless and DPSing him while in Defenisve Stance. But with great care, or a whole bunch of determination stacks, you'll have him down and be ready to go into the Underhold.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Mists of Pandaria Post-Mortem: Introduction

With 5.4 upon us, it appears that Mists of Pandaria has essentially been completed. WoW is a strange beast in that we don't truly get the expansion in its entirety until about a year after it is released.

In this fourth expansion to World of Warcraft, we've seen a total overhaul of the talent system. We've seen a single new race introduced - the first race that is available to both the Alliance and Horde. We've had the second new class introduced as well, this time as a non-hero class that can level up from 1.

We've had a new continent added to Azeroth, with six new dungeons, five new raids, three new battlegrounds.

We've seen Scenarios introduced, and later Heroic Scenarios.

We've seen a whole lot of daily quests, along with a concerted effort to get people out into the world instead of just sitting around in the cities.

We've seen an expansion-long Legendary quest chain that is available to everyone.

We've seen what an expansion looks like with the Raid Finder available from the start, and we've seen a new raid mode, Flex raiding, introduced. With these, we've seen a new loot system for PUGs that extracts loot drama.

We've been introduced to a whole new land with its own cultures, while at the same time seeing our own strengths and weaknesses reflected in them. We've had an upheaval within the Horde, and some serious gains made by the Alliance. We have deposed a Warchief.

Over the next few weeks, I'll put little parts of the Mists of Pandaria post-mortem up, talking about particular aspects of the expansion: where it succeeded, where it failed, and where it surprised.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gearing Alts in 5.4

As I said before, the Timeless Isle is a fantastic resource to gear up your undergeared alts. Arguably, it's too good, as you can put a fresh 90 in full 496 gear (other than the weapon and one of the two trinkets) without even going to the island on that toon.

But beyond that, there are many other options for gearing.

First of all, Justice Points will now purchase all 5.0, 5.1, and Kirin Tor Offensive/Sunreaver Onslaught gear, and none of these require any reputation anymore. While the Timeless pieces will likely be better than what you can get from the 5.0 factions (which give 489 gear,) Justice Points are so easily attained these days (I believe 100 JP per dungeon boss before you factor in guild bonuses) that it's not such a bad idea to buy those pieces anyway to make soloing or dungeon-running easier.

Additionally, the Shado-Pan Assault gear, while it still costs Valor Points, has been reduced in price, such that it will take fewer dungeons/scenarios/raid wings/daily quests to get what you need out of there. That 522 gear will boost your iLevel very significantly. Additionally, all gear from SPA now requires only neutral or friendly reputation (with the exception of the shoulder pieces, which still require exalted but cost gold instead of VP.) After a single Raid Finder wing, you will be at friendly with the faction, so you will have access to this quite easily.

Stepping away from JP/VP rewards, the droprates on useful gear in LFR from both the tier 14 raids and Throne of Thunder have both been increased. The tier 14 drops had already had their rates increased in 5.2, and now will be dropping with very high frequency. While your Timeless pieces and JP rewards will probably be better than this stuff, it does mean that weapons or tier pieces will be easier to attain. While Throne of Thunder's rates are not quite as high, you should be seeing drops more frequently than you did in the past.

You are still not guaranteed to get the particular drop you want, so you might spend your bonus roll trying to get that cool staff but wind up with a dinky necklace instead, but overall you're in better shape.

Now, regarding bonus rolls:

Elder Charms of Good Fortune remain attainable on the Isle of Thunder, particularly in the Treasure Troves of the Thunder King solo scenario. I wouldn't waste too much time on this, as you can probably qualify for ToT with a blue weapon.

Mogu Runes of Fate are now acquired on the Timeless Isle for the cost of 1,000 Timeless Coins. Before you complain that that's a lot, don't. A quick circuit around the island will probably get you far more than that.

You may hit some bad luck in ToT, but overall, it's easier than ever to gear up alts. The more alts you have, the more circuits around the Timeless Isle you can make. At this point, I have more Timeless pieces than I know what to do with.

With the storm of Timeless armor pieces and the reduced cost of SPA gear, and with a little determination on your part, you'll be geared enough to run Siege of Orgrimmar in no time.

Races and Classes and their Restrictions

Two anecdotes:

When Worgen were announced as a new playable race, I decided that this was the only race I might change my main to. My other favorite playable race, the Draenei, already held a position as one of my most played classes in the Death Knight. However, Worgen did not receive Paladins as a class available to them (though there's no really good reason why not: Gilneas was part of the Alliance in the time of Uther and Turalyon et. al.) So I've stuck with my human. I've always felt a little odd about having a human main, as that the "boring" option, but when I got started, there were only two racial choices for Paladins, and damn if that human mage in the original WoW cinematic didn't look badass, blasting Infernal after Infernal off that tower.

In addition to its two new races, Cataclysm added a whole bunch of new race/class combinations. If you're one of the few people who began playing after Wrath of the Lich King, you may not realize that many of your class options used to be more restricted. For example, Humans could not be Hunters, Orcs could not be Mages, and there were only two races who could be Druids: Night Elves and Tauren. A total of thirteen new race/class combos were introduced, and that's before you consider the two new races that were added (and of course Mists of Pandaria gave us a new race and a new class.)

At this point, most races can be most of the classes. In Vanilla, Tauren and Gnomes could each only be four of the nine classes. However, some restrictions remain. You still can't have a Draenei Warlock, or an Orc Paladin.

But what if you could? What if they opened up the floodgates and just let you choose any combination of race and class? Pandaren Druids, Human Shamans, Worgen Monks (they have by far the sharpest claws of any race, ought they not to fight bare-handed?)

In fact, given the marginalization of the need for class trainers, now that we learn our abilities automatically, you could even get away without putting in any new NPCs.

There are two major hurdles:

First is art. Even before we get into having to make a new Paladin mount for every other race (Undead could just use the Blood Elf one, or even the Human/Dwarf one,) there's also Druid forms to consider, which are each fairly complex and need to look very good. While it would be cool to see what everyone's Shaman totems would look like (Undead could have gravestones!) This would be a major sink into the art department's time.

The other is lore. And this comes in two parts:

Part one is that there's just some logistical issues. Worgen, for instance, begin very clearly before the events of Mists of Pandaria. Having Monks in walled-off Gilneas stretches belief a bit, even if they did manage to make Druids work. Flipping that around though, you have Death Knights. Now, Goblins were not much of a problem as there have been tons of Goblins around since WCII, but Worgen required a bit of a stretch, and Pandaren would need even more of one (though I suppose you could be a fellow traveler like Chen. You'd also probably need to pick a faction from the get-go.)

But beyond logistics, there's also logic. Admittedly, you might just say that with all the interacting that's been going on between the various races, there's been some cultural diffusion. A Night Elf might decide becoming a champion of the light sounds pretty groovy, or a Tauren realizes that demonic power is actually pretty damn effective. Or a Gnome decides that he loves animals/shooting animals.

But Undead Paladins? Ok, bad example because that would be super-badass - someone who has such strong convictions that they are willing to be a champion for a power that literally burns away at them every time they do anything? But Undead Druids? Can the Undead really become masters of life-magic? That seems a little counter-intuitive.

Still, none of these arguments rule the possibility out entirely. The only real worry I would have on the player end is that it might begin to make the races feel all the same. Restrictions, after all, can provide identity. In fact, if you look at Humans and Undead, the Undead can be any class the Humans can, except Paladins. This is a pretty simple way of showing the difference between them. The fact that Blood Elves cannot be Druids gives you an idea of the big cultural rift that exists between the two races.

In the end, would I like my Worgen Paladin to exist? Absolutely. And perhaps there will come a time when they decide that people should be able to create the character they want and not have to worry about fitting into Blizzard's lore restrictions. But I also think there's a good chance that, not counting other races and other classes that come out, we're going to keep the same options we have today.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Do the Squish! The Item Squish!

While we know very little about the next expansion, we do know two things: the level cap will be 100, and we're going to get the long-awaited item squish.

What is the Item Squish?

Effectively, health, damage, and healing of all things in the game are going to be reduced. Right now, you might be doing 100k damage per second against a boss with 350m health, but after the squish, you might instead be doing 1k damage per second against a boss with 3.5m health. When fighting level-appropriate enemies, there should be no noticeable change in difficulty. You will only notice that all the numbers are smaller.

Why do this?

Right now, the numbers you see on screen are pretty huge. It's very rare at level 90 to have an attack that hits for less than 10,000 damage. Now, those numbers are pretty fun and exciting, but there's a problem. Every time you hit for 12,873 damage, the server needs to calculate a five-digit number. It has actually gotten to a point where you take the number of calculations that need to be performed (think about just how many numbers you see on screen that are from you, and then factor in the other 24 people in your raid, and then the boss, and then all the adds, and how they are affecting everyone else in the room) multiplied by the time computing time it takes to calculate a big number, and it actually gets to a point where it's causing serious lag.

We're also getting to a point where tanks will soon have a million health if something isn't done. That's just crazy.

Now hold on, is this going to make things more difficult?

The good news: if you are at the level cap, you won't see a difference regardless of the content you want to do. Siege of Orgrimmar and Molten Core will be just as easy or hard for a level 90 toon as they are now. Blizzard has assured us that one of the requirements they've set for themselves is that they keep soloing old content possible.

However, while level 90s will have a big boost in power to let them overcome old content, the power disparity between older level caps, or just older levels, will get condensed. Thus, if you have a toon at level 80 who likes to try to solo Karazhan, you're going to have a harder time. You should be just as able to run Halls of Lightning (in a group, as it is intended) as you are now, but you might not vastly overpower older content than you used to be able to. However, the remedy for this is simple: just get to 90 (or 100, in the next expansion,) and you will be able to solo Karazhan with ease.

I don't know about most of you guys, but I don't really tend to worry too much about old content while I'm leveling up, especially raids. Sure, I used the darkhounds in the servant quarter of Karazhan to help level my rogue's leatherworking, and that would definitely be harder after this, but in the long run, it's not the end of the world.

How will it be implemented?

I'm not much of a mathematician, but as I understand it, they will be applying some complex algorithms to make sure that level-appropriate characters can still do their content, and that max-level characters have the same difficulty (or lack thereof) in soloing old content. Given that they'll want level 60, 70, 80, and 85 (and probably 90) to use as focal points for this, I imagine there's some hairy math involved (and they might even use every level as a focus on which to base this. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. I said I wasn't a mathematician.)

What weird consequences will come of this?

Ideally, very few. The only one I can think of that I expect will be an issue (though not such a bad one) is that your gear will probably last longer. If you get a cool blue weapon in a dungeon while leveling up, it will probably remain a good weapon for longer than it currently does, as the difference in damage/healing/health from level to level will be smaller.

We're also just going to have to get over the weird factor of seeing our DPS take a nose dive. At the moment, really good DPS in LFR is around 130k (and soon to climb much higher, given that SoO is opening up.) Post squish, I expect that to drop by a factor of ten at least. We're going to be doing less DPS than we were at the end of Cataclysm, or even Wrath (I don't know exactly what factor they'll be reducing it by.) It may be disconcerting, but it's important to remember that, since enemy health is going down by the same proportion, we're not actually losing any power.

Finally, we will no longer be able to call one million health "one Ragnaros," as I expect that his Molten Core incarnation will have far less. On the other hand, perhaps Firelands Ragnaros will have a million.

Alliance and Horde: Peace at Last?

The Siege of Orgrimmar and the arrest of Garrosh Hellscream is one of the most profoundly important moments in the history of Alliance/Horde relations. For the first time, a non-Orc Warchief has been named. The two sides have banded together before, but never before have they done so in order to unseat one side's legitimate ruler. It also marks the end of the most wide-scoped war between Alliance and Horde the world has ever seen.

So where do we stand?

Garrosh is heading to Pandaria to stand trial for his crimes. While the Pandaren have plenty of reason to be pissed off at him, I do not think that he will be executed (the Pandaren don't seem like the type to use capital punishment.)

After playing defense for years, the Alliance can now claim a major, decisive victory against the Horde. It doesn't get much more decisive than storming your opponent's capital and taking down their leader. The Alliance has had significant losses in the past, most notably Theramore, but they have still kept most of their home territories safe from Horde aggression. After this battle, the Horde is in no position to take another inch of territory (save perhaps the Forsaken) while the Alliance has managed to secure a victory with very few losses. Throw Dalaran into the mix there and you can see that the Alliance has come out of this far ahead of the Horde.

But the Alliance does not envision global conquest the way that Garrosh had. Sick of war, and wary of the costs that might be involved in a total conquest of the Horde, the Alliance is essentially quitting while they're ahead, and giving the Horde a chance to rebuild, hopefully growing into a less aggressive neighbor.

Ideally, here's how things would go: the Alliance aids in the rebuilding of the Horde, establishing a respectful relationship between themselves and the Horde's new leadership. The Alliance takes advantage of the time of peace to shore up their own defenses, becoming impenetrable in case the Horde decides to become aggressive again. Varian gave Vol'jin a hell of a threat, and he needs to make good on that should the scenario present itself.

Meanwhile, the Horde needs to seriously re-think their position in the world. Garrosh wanted to see the Horde flag running over every inch of the globe, but that's clearly not going to happen. The Horde does have a niche if they are willing to fit into it, which is to maintain their current lands and make that a home for their people. Yes, the Horde territory was poor in resources, but if they are willing to acquire things through means other than conquest, they could easily remedy this. A rapprochement with the Night Elves, for instance, could potentially satisfy their need for lumber and food. (Let the Tauren do the talking.)

Other than the obvious dangers (Old Gods, Burning Legion, whatever else they throw at us,) there are several that could come from within that might derail these efforts.

On the Horde side, the main one would be wounded pride. After all, the most elite of the Horde's forces just suffered a crushing defeat. The Orcs in particular are going to have to get used to a diminished role within the organization they founded. The Forsaken remain a problem, as Garrosh's defeat is more likely to encourage her to be more aggressive, rather than restrain her. Finally, the Horde must answer for crimes that were not solely of Hellscream's doing. Sure, Vol'jin, Baine, and Thrall are a hell of a lot better than Garrosh, but they all played a part in some of his war crimes.

However, I think the biggest threat to peace now is more likely to be on the Alliance side. Unlike the Horde, the Alliance saw nothing bittersweet about victory in Orgrimmar. This is a pure win. Their perennial enemy is on its knees, the incursions on their land are sure to stop, if only for a time. The Alliance has proven that it is mighty indeed.

But some will not be satisfied. Some would like to see Orgrimmar razed. Gilneas remains plagued, Theramore remains a hole in the ground, and throughout the world, lands that once belonged to the Alliance races are now held by the Horde. And right now, with the Horde rebuilding its capital and its people exhausted by a difficult civil war, is the perfect time to strike.

There are some who will remember how keeping the Orcs alive after the Second War only led to betrayal, and allowing them to establish Durotar only allowed them to rise up as a threat once again.

Varian may want to dial things down and allow for a time of healing, but unlike the Horde, the other leaders of the Alliance are not necessarily beholden to the High King. Jaina Proudmoore proved that, and she of all people, who had shown seemingly infinite patience with the Horde, finally had enough following the Divine Bell incident (which was really just the last tiny straw after Theramore had put her up to the line.)

If the Alliance wants peace, they need to show a combination of strength and restraint. The threat that they could obliterate the Horde at a moment's notice must remain to keep the peace, but if smaller factions begin breaking that peace bit by bit, it will erode the peace and send us all back down the road to war.

It is, at best, an uneasy peace. But given what is out there, I think both sides would be well-served by trying to make it last.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vale of Eternal Sorrows - DPS Perspective

For this second look at the first wing of Siege of Orgrimmar, I'll be mostly just providing extra details on top of what I had said in the tank section. This is all from the perspective of a 2H Frost Death Knight, but while it's possible that there are some differences for ranged players, I imagine that the experience is largely the same.


This fight is pretty much the same as from a tank's perspective. Be sure not to stand anywhere near the tank, though, as his major tank-debuff ability will likely 1-shot you.

Be sure to kill as many of the corrupted droplets as you can on each split phase. On Swirl, melee should close in on the boss while ranged should run away.

Corrupted Protectors:

Really I just have a better idea of who spawns what adds. You should rotate between Rook, then He, then Sun, switching to adds when one of them goes into desperate measures. Always prioritize adds, and when you get all of them below 33%, try to use lots of cleaves or incidental AoE, but always try to focus on whoever has the most health (and be sure to switch if yours starts to go down quicker than the others.)

Trash Before Norushen:

Just a little note here: the mini boss, Zeal, will actually lose abilities if you kill Vanity and Arrogance, two smaller mini-bosses that are in the Big Blossom Quarry. You don't necessarily have to do both, or either of these, but it will make things a little easier.


This fight can be a huge pain, because he never seems to choose the right players to send into the test realm to get cleansed. The good news is that the adds will take 100% damage regardless of your corruption level, and I believe that all of that damage gets put on the Amalgam of Corruption. So definitely always be killing adds if they are up. Also, there are many things that can kill you suddenly here, especially the cutter beam, so prioritize survival.

Sha of Pride:

This is one of those fights that will get easier as people have better gear, as it's definitely a DPS-intensive fight.

As DPS, always switch to the reflections and AoE them down ASAP. If your Pride is low, you can stand near them when they die, but if you have high Pride, step away and let someone else get the boost.

There is actually only one prison on the dps side, but don't be a dick - help them out.

If you get Gift of the Titans, be sure to stack up to give the buff - you need the DPS. When Swelling Pride goes off, scatter quickly.

Finally, the Manifestation of Corruption will pop up directly behind the boss in a little alcove. Turn around and kill him when he spawns. He should go down quickly, but you should still try to interrupt the spell he casts.

Save Hero/BL/Time Warp for when he goes "Unleashed."

Incidentally, if you do hit 100% pride, all is not lost. You will actually deal more damage to him. However, unless you can get him to Unleashed, or kill him, before he casts Swelling Pride again, this will be a very bad thing. Don't aim to get that much pride.

And there you have it. The latter two bosses here are definitely harder than the first two, but I'm confident that as people gear up and get more familiar with the fights, this wing will go down pretty easy.

Next week, we'll take a look at the Gates of Orgrimmar, with our buddies Galakras, the Iron Juggernaut, the Dark Shaman, and poor old General Nazgrim.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vale of Eternal Sorrows - Tank Perspective

With the second week of 5.4, the first wing of Siege of Orgrimmar has been opened up on the Raid Finder. You'll be able to get iLevel 528 loot here, which means that if you've got normal or SPA gear that's been fully upgraded, you'll need to do some upgrades for these to be... upgrades.

Despite the name of the raid, this entire wing takes place in Pandaria. One could, in fact, argue that the wing's final boss, the Sha of Pride, is actually the final boss of Pandaria.

Initial Trash:

You will begin in the Titan facilities underneath the Pools of Power, where Garrosh dumped the Heart of Y'shaarj and destroyed the Vale. There are a few packs of corrupted Jinyu to fight here, but you can actually avoid some of them. The most important thing to do is kill the big elemental trash, which are what maintain a constant flow of corrupted droplets that will attack you on their way to the boss' chamber. When all three big elementals are dead, you're free to fight the boss.


Immerseus is pretty easy, especially if you have solid dps. You'll notice that the big guy actually has a pitiful amount of health (less than a single Spirit King from MSV.) You'll also notice that he has a purple energy bar. This bar is a better indicator of your progress.

While you fight him there will be a powerful tank-swap ability that deals massive shadow damage in a cone, so dps and healers should try not to stand near the tanks, nor should the tanks stand near each other. Taunt this at one stack, even if you still have the debuff, as he does not do it very often.

Immerseus wil spawn little Sha-corruption pools very frequently, so you'll need to keep on the move and try to deposit these in an orderly manner.

Finally, he will occasionally do something called Swirl, where he'll send a tidal wave of water in a big circle around the room. Moving in or out will allow you to dodge this.

When he gets to zero health, he will split, sending tons of those droplets from before to the outer edge of the room. DPS must kill the black, corrupted ones, while healers should heal the blue, friendly ones. Doing either will give you an appropriate buff to your damage or healing, respectively. The droplets will slowly make their way to the center and eventually converge, bringing the boss back.

However, for every droplet killed/healed, his power bar will go down a point, and his remaining health will likewise become smaller. Thus, this fight actually gets easier as it goes along, as you'll be able to get him to the split phase faster and faster.

Protectors of the Vale:

You will immediately then be able to fight the corrupted protectors, He Softfoot, Rook Stonetoe, and Sun Tenderheart.

The three bosses need to die within ten seconds of each other, and at 2/3 and 1/3 health, they will disappear and summon adds that need to be killed. I won't go into every add's abilities because frankly I can't remember all of them.

This is a fairly chaotic fight, but in practice it's not terrible. One tank will take He and another takes Rook.

I tanked Rook this time. The main thing to worry about for him is that he does a Fists-of-Fury-like ability that will stun you and damage you. For a tank, this is pretty mild damage, but you want to face him away from the raid to keep him from doing so to the dps and heals. Rook's adds will put void zones on the ground, so you'll have to move them around.

He Softfoot will Gouge his target, but if you turn away before he completes the attack, he will not be able to stun you, otherwise he'll fixate on a random raid member until you can taunt him back.

Sun Tenderheart... I actually have no idea what she does.

At some point, either He or Sun's adds will cast a spell that causes the entire area to do big damage, but there will be a safe zone that reduces that damage in the center.

DPS will need to focus all the adds down, and try to keep the damage even on all the bosses. When they are all around ten percent, I recommend grouping them up (while still facing Rook away) and using as many cleave-like abilities as you can to get them down evenly. Be sure to switch targets if one of them has more health.

Trash Before Norushen:

With the protectors forcibly retired, you can move on through the vale, toward the chamber where Norushen had been looking over the Heart of Y'shaarj. There will be many Sha adds and patrols, so pull carefully. Finally, there will be a mini-boss that looks like a major Sha. Face this away from the raid and be sure to dodge out of his massive, cast attack, because it will 1-shot you even with an active mitigation ability up.

Norushen/Amalgam of Corruption:

Norushen actually just makes you do this fight before he'll let you into the next chamber. On LFR, he basically just watches.

Everyone has a corruption bar that will fill up if they are hit by certain attacks. On LFR, Norushen will send random people (though it seems never tanks) into a "test realm" where they must either defeat certain adds or heal friendly NPCs. Doing so will reset your corruption to zero, allowing you to do full damage to the Amalgam.

The Amalgam of Corruption has a standard tank-swap debuff. Theoretically, the tanks will sometimes be sent in to cleanse their corruption, but in three attempts (with a victory at the third) we were never sent in.

When adds are killed in the test realms, they will appear in the real world. While the smaller adds can just be burned down, the non-active tank should pick up any Manifestations of Corruption, as these can do some nasty damage. Luckily, they will die pretty quickly, but unluckily, they often spawn at opposite ends of the room.

There also seem to be some purple orbs that you can jump on to dispel, at the cost of some serious damage and corruption. However, leaving them up is bad, as I believe they pulse damage.

Finally, there is a cutter beam that rotates around that does massive damage. Avoid that if you can.

Trash Before Sha of Pride:

When you enter the chamber, you find that Taran Zhu is not so dead after all. He and Lorewalker Cho reflect on how it was maybe not such a good idea to let outsiders into the Vale while Norushen tells you to kill the Sha of Pride.

The trash before the final Sha is pretty simple. It's just a big mess of little Sha-lings that fill the room. It's a big AoE zerg, though you should pace yourself to avoid getting overwhelmed, as I believe they explode when they die.

Sha of Pride:

This is one of those fights that seems painfully simple from a tank perspective, but is clearly not, because it took us four attempts.

During the fight, you'll have a Pride meter. Pride will go up as you get hit with various abilities, and it will only reset once, when you get him to 30% health.

The Sha of Pride has a grey resource bar that slowly fills over time. When it hits full, he will cast Swelling Pride, which causes everyone to gain a little pride and also do an effect based on your pride level.

At 0-24%, it does nothing special. At 25-49%, you'll spawn a little swirl of purple that people have to avoid before it explodes. At 50-74%, you'll spawn a voidzone near you that you must stand in to dispel or it will do damage to all your buddies (yours will be marked with a green arrow.) Honestly, I don't know what happens at 75-99%, but at 100% you'll be permanently mind-controlled, giving this a pretty nasty "soft" enrage timer.

Various raid members will get a buff called Will of the Titans. When these players stack together, they create an AoE buff called Power of the Titans, which will give everyone a lot oomph to get the Sha down before everyone gets too prideful.

However, due to Swelling Pride, you'll want to spread out periodically. DPS basically needs to get into a rhythm of stacking up and then spreading out, and then re-stacking quickly.

Periodically, the Sha will create Reflections of various raid members. These guys look like little Sha-lings, and any damage they take is dealt to the person of whom they are a reflection. So try to kill them gradually, so as not to kill your friends.

Likewise, the Sha will cast Imprison on three (in LFR) players. This will send those players to three of the four circular prisons. Little panels will light up orange around the prisons. A player needs to stand on the two lit panels per prison to free the person or they will die.

The Sha will also summon Manifestations of Corruption, but I don't know what these do, so...

At 30%, the Sha will become Unleashed, resetting everyone's Pride but also giving him a boost to damage. This is when you want to pull out all the stops and hit Hero/Bloodlust/Time Warp.


With the Sha of Pride defeated, Jaina and Lor'themar run in, discovering Gorehowl where the Sha of Pride had been (odd then that Garrosh wields it in his fight...) They exchange some angry words and then prepare for the assault on Orgrimmar.

Later this week, I'll look at the wing from a DPS perspective. I expect the latter two bosses to be particularly different in those cases.

Ding-Dong the RMAH is Dead!

Often cited as the single most disruptive feature to Diablo III, the auction house, both the gold one and the real-money version, will officially be shutting down, to be replaced with the console version of the loot system, which gives more appropriate loot to those characters who find it, but with far less trash in between.

As I've often said, the Auction House in Diablo highlighted several problems with both the concept of microtransactions and also the notion of buying power in games.

On the Real-Money side of things, the real money auction house, or RMAH, was a manner in which real dollars could be turned into power. The problems here should be obvious, but the primary one is simply the way that this dilutes the fun of the game. If a cool weapon is available instantly, it cheapens the hard work of slaying monsters or gathering crafting ingredients. It also means that those with more disposable income are actually at an advantage in game. Guys, one of the reasons we play games (not the only one, but one of them) is to escape that kind of world. You might be making 20k a year and living in a tiny apartment, but in a video game, you can stand atop your hoard of treasures.

But more fundamentally, getting a huge boost in power for no true effort in-game feels cheap. It's like cheat codes. Sure, it was a lot of fun the first time around getting invincibility, infinite ammo, and all one-hit kills, but the whole point of a game like this is to see your power grow, allowing you to blast away enemies that were once a real danger to you because of your own tenacity and skill.

In the dawning free-to-play/pay-to-win era, I think video games are in grave danger of having their fun sucked out in the name of profit-maximization. I heartily applaud Blizzard for taking a step back and really focusing on making the game more fun.

While the RMAH was theoretically designed as a way for players to sell items to one another, I have to imagine that Blizzard either took a cut or generated some items to be sold there as well (or both.) So taking down the RMAH will actually hurt Blizzard a bit financially, but that just makes me respect them more.

I wish that all game-makers were primarily concerned about creating a fun and engrossing experience first, and maximizing revenue after that. I realize that these are businesses, and a business must make a profit. But Blizzard has earned a great deal of good will over the years by focusing on constant tweaking and iteration to make their games as enjoyable as they can. A move like this, that improves the fun of the game at Blizzard's expense, is a laudable move that cements my respect for them as a company.

Conceiving a New Class from the Ground Up

I was working on an article that would list the various potential future classes as established in lore (Demon Hunter, Tinker, etc.) but I actually think it would be better to talk about what we would want to see in a new class. The finer points, like lore and whether it would be a hero class, could come later, but let's talk about the really nitty-gritty.

Chain Mail:

Of the original nine classes, there were two classes for every armor level, with the exception of cloth, which had Mages, Priests, and Warlocks. Loot distribution is kind of an important thing for the game, and so a balance of armor types, weapon types, and primary stats should be maintained. The two added classes have helped spread the weight around, so that there are now three classes that use Leather and Plate armor.

Logically, that means that the next class should by all rights be a Mail-wearing class. At that point, all armor levels will support three classes a piece.

Group Role:

I doubt that Blizzard really wants to push any more pure-dps classes out there, especially given the fact that a new class will typically be very popular especially in its early levels, and you want these people to be able to do group content. The Death Knight could tank, and Monks could both tank and heal, meaning that in the rush to get everyone's Monk leveled up, you could do dungeons with a group of five Monks and be fine (we actually did a bit of that with Death Knights back in the pre-LFD days, which was pretty insane but fun.)

There were originally three tank classes compared to four healers (and let's not get in to how poorly-supported Bears or Prot Paladins were in Vanilla.) DKs balanced the tanks with the healers and Monks maintained that balance by filling the same niche as Paladins: Tank/Melee/Healer. I don't know that the new class would have to be all three roles (after all, Priests have two healing specs, so technically the healers still outnumber the tanks) but I have to imagine any future class is going to be a hybrid.

But the other thing to take into consideration is that they have never added any ranged dps specs with these new classes. Granted, when Vanilla shipped, there were twelve ranged specs compared to seven melee dps specs, so in fact there are still more ranged specs. (Currently ten melee specs to the same twelve ranged.) Still, it might be fun to see if there's a new way to do a ranged spec. To wit:

Weapon Choice:

I doubt we'd see a pure-ranged new class, but if we're already using mail armor (with agility as its main physical stat) one could imagine a ranged spec using ranged weapons. Currently, with the elimination of the "ranged slot," Hunters are the only class to use Bows, Crossbows, or Guns. One class has three different weapon types all to itself. While they don't poach anyone else's weapons anymore, it might be nice to find a different way to use them.

Otherwise, all weapons are used by multiple classes, with the exception of agility daggers, which are only used by Rogues (and those only by two specs.) If a new class could use both ranged weapons and agility daggers, well... that would be quite the thing.

Magic Types:

This gets more into lore, and in a post-resistance era, it's largely irrelevant, but lore-balancing is also fairly important. We can't have everyone be holy bastions of light or the game gets boring. The types of magic are often good ways to sort things out.

Currently, we have the following combinations:

Priest: Holy/Shadow (technically there's a tiny bit of Shadowfrost, but I'm not going to count that.)
Mage: Arcane/Fire/Frost
Warlock: Fire/Shadow
Druid: Nature/Arcane
Monk: Nature (and a tiny bit of Fire)
Rogue: Nature (plus a tiny bit of Shadow, but not really enough to count as a central damage source.)
Hunter: Nature (and scatterings of other forms, mostly Arcane and Fire)
Shaman: Nature/Fire/Frost
Warrior: Practically pure physical, except a tiny bit of Nature
Paladin: Holy
Death Knight: Frost/Shadow

So, breaking it down by magic types, that's:

Arcane: 3
Fire: 4
Frost: 3
Shadow: 3
Nature: 5
Holy: 2

So it strikes me that some mix of Arcane, Shadow, Holy, and Frost would be best.

Primary Stats:

Given that we're mostly locked into Mail armor, we would want this class to use either Intellect or Agility. A healer would clearly use Intellect, but if we wanted to use ranged weapons like a hunter, one would be fairly locked in to using agility. On the other hand, you could have a ranged DPS spec that uses agility while a healer could use intellect. Meanwhile, a tank or melee spec could use agility with either daggers or other agility melee weapons.


From there, it would be up the designers and the creative team to come up with a class that fit the description. The Magic Type would be the most flexible, and could in fact just serve the choice of class, but the other things would be important to consider to make sure that the new class would fit in well to the rest of the game.

World of Warcraft: The New Class:

While I think that we have a pretty decent number of options at the moment, it's always fun and exciting to get a new class to play with. While I haven't focused on my Monk nearly as much as my Death Knight (who I am 50/50 on making my new main next expansion) I still have a lot of fun learning a new system and finding a way to be awesome at it. Can WoW support an indefinite number of classes? Possibly not, but I'd still love for them to keep making them as long as they can.

Holding Out for a Hero:

And while we're on the subject, I think that the introduction of the Death Knight was ultimately far more exciting than that of the Monk. Sure, they wanted the Monk to be available to any new players, and I get that, but the Death Knight starting experience, while it has aged a little since 2008, is still the most engrossing way to begin a new character the game has ever come out with. The cosmetic differences are also huge parts of the appeal to the Death Knight, and I think that while the Cataclysm revamp has made leveling in the Old World a lot more fun than it used to be, I think we could afford to give the next class a little boost.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Does it Mean to Support Alts?

The Timeless Isle is perhaps the most alt-friendly piece of content Blizzard has ever come out with, save perhaps the heirloom items. You can gear up an alt to the point where they can step into the Siege of Orgrimmar raid next week on LFR without having done a single thing since hitting 90 (other that right-clicking their timeless pieces and maybe getting some gems and enchants, one hopes.) Actually, that's not true. There are no timeless weapons. But seriously, this will make things way easier on them.

One of the constant refrains we've heard from Blizzard in response to the complaints about how Mists was not Alt-Friendly was that they figured the whole point of playing an alt was to play it, and part of playing was gearing up.

So first, let's talk about why Mists was perhaps not terribly alt-friendly.

The primary culprit here is the requirement of a reputation level with certain factions before purchasing Valor rewards. In the past, reputation gear and valor gear were separate things, so if you wanted to eschew reputations, you needed only to run a bunch of dungeons.

Not only was there this sort of gating, but they also made reputations far harder to earn by putting them behind daily quest grinds. Now, as an alternative to the VP grind, I would be ok with this, but I think we first need to talk about what an alt is:

An alt is a secondary character - one who is not your first into a new dungeon or the first to be leveled up in the early days of an expansion. I don't know how other people do it, but I tend to spend one or two days working on an alt before returning to my main. I'm happy to spend a weekend running dungeon after dungeon to get them some new gear, but it's not a sustained thing.

The problem with the daily quests was that one could not do it in short bursts. You could only make significant progress if you played in sustained, long periods of time.

I actually don't mind the idea that reputation should only be gained by doing stuff significant to the given faction, but by gating time-wise through daily quests (or a single dungeon championing per day, or a single work order on the farm, which is already gated by reputation,) that's how you make things hard on alts.

If VP rewards were de-coupled from reputation rewards, or if there was a rep that was associated with the actions that actually gain you VP, and that was where the VP-cost items came from, then I'd be ok with it.

The other major culprit is LFR. Now, LFR on its own is great. In fact, it's perfect for people with alts. I am the main tank for my guild, so 99% of the time I run with them, I'm bringing my Protection Paladin. Yet if I want to play my Warlock or my Rogue, or whatever, LFR lets me go in there.

However, raiding is a huge time commitment. If you're running the raids on your main, chances are you're spending several hours there per week, whether on LFR or with your guild. Given the twenty-minute-if-you're-lucky queue times and the fact that a wing can take several hours, it's easy to feel burnt out on a raid.

In the past, dungeons were a great way to play your alts. I took tons of toons through the Frozen Halls or Hour of Twilight dungeons. Committing only 40 minutes or so is a far smaller burden when you just feel like being a Mage for a bit.

Mists has been very thin on 5-mans (something that they at least claim they're going to correct. I'd love to see a return to the number of dungeons we had in BC and Wrath.) The complete focus on raiding as the sole manner in which all toons are meant to progress is what I would call the biggest issue.

Regarding arguments that making lots of dungeons would mean fewer raids, I just don't buy it. BC and Wrath had lots of huge raids and plenty of cool dungeons, and we did not suffer for it. And the team is supposed to be even bigger now. So I don't know where those arguments are coming from. BC has 15 dungeons to Mists' 9, and yet we got Karazhan, Gruul's Lair, Magtheridon's Lair, Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Cavern, Battle for Mount Hyjal, Black Temple, and Sunwell Plateau.

I'm happy that the Timeless Isle is giving people a big opportunity to gear up alts, but ultimately, I don't really think this free gear is what anyone has in mind for encouraging alts. I agree that alts should be played to gear up. The only thing that we need is better opportunities to do so.

So, in conclusion, here are my steps to better alt-friendliness:

1. Double the new dungeons in the expansion (some of these can be in later patches, with perhaps previous-tier LFR-quality gear.)

2. Make separate rep-based gear and VP gear (I know in 5.4 there is no new VP gear, but I think the point of VP gear is to protect against bad luck streaks, so I'd like them to bring it back.) The VP gear can be gated behind a reputation, as long as there are many ways to get said rep, including dungeon-running. If, say, in X.2 you come out with a new raid and two dungeons, you should have the raid and the dungeons both award the new VP rep.

3. Keep up the good work on outdoor content and Scenarios. Personally, I'm not a big fan of scenarios, but alternatives are always good. The Isle of Thunder was the best daily quest hub yet, and the Timeless Isle is an exciting experiment in free-form outdoor content. I don't want you to get rid of this, only add it on top of the stuff we've already had in previous expansions.

I'm sure there are other ideas that might pop up, but hopefully Blizzard will pursue some if not all of these avenues. Don't get me wrong, Mists has had fantastic content, but I think that opening up new avenues to empower your character and your alts will make the game a lot more fun.

Legendary Post-Mortem

While few have probably completed the very last part of the Legendary chain, which requires the defeat of Garrosh Hellscream, at this point you'll be seeing a whole lot of shining Celestial symbols behind peoples' backs, signaling that they have, indeed, completed the massive chain.

I only focused on the chain with two characters, Jarsus the Prot Paladin and Oterro the Frost Death Knight. While I had a considerably harder time getting the four Celestials on Oterro (I guess by day two they were old news?) I did eventually get both of the strength cloaks - one for tanking, one for dps.

So what do we think of this chain?

On one hand, I am very happy that the chain has been made accessible to all. If you're willing to put in the effort, you can get it. LFR has changed the face of raiding in WoW, and I'm happy that everyone gets to experience this.

The fact that this chain spans the entirety of the expansion's content is sort of a mixed blessing. I do really like that what makes this a legendary quest chain is that it truly takes you through everything. I would call it epic, but that would seem to be a downgrade. The only problem, however, is that if you're late to the game, or switch mains in the middle of the expansion, you'll probably never catch up. Even though LFR means you can go into older raids and still stand a chance of getting, say, that Crystallized Sha stuff from the Sha of Fear, some of the trials - particularly those involving the World Bosses, are going to be really, really hard later on. Getting a group for Nalak in 5.3 took me days. Imagine what it'll be like now?

We have been forced to reimagine what a legendary could be. Previously, it has always been a weapon, but now we have special gems for specific weapons, new meta-gems, and cloaks. The gems were ok (the meta-gems were far more interesting) but it's really only the cloaks that have the game-changing power that you associate with a legendary. Could they have done weapons instead? Well, that might have brought about two different problems.

One is that you'd have to itemize a ton of different weapons. In this day and age, for example, nearly every tank spec uses different kinds of weapons (still uncomfortable with haste for Prot Paladins.) The other problem is that weapons really are game-changers. Dragonwrath, for example, would boost dps by such a huge amount that raids started structuring their groups around maximizing the number of those staffs they could put in. Granted, a legendary for all classes might allow you to simply choose those who were diligent, but Blizzard probably doesn't want quite so much of a variation in power.

Some complained about the quest-chain, specifically the parts that did not involve raiding. Now, I'm not a PvPer, and I can sympathize with people who didn't want to have to do any battlegrounds to get through the 5.1 segment. However, I see this sort of chain as a way to push you to experience all the new content in the expansion. A little PvP may be embarrassing, but it's not the end of the world. You have a roughly 50% chance to win each time, so just keep trying and you'll get it eventually (for some reason Alliance had an easier time winning Silvershard Mines when I did it.)

The only real complaint I had was that in the Lightning Forge scenario, they made it doable by healers and dps, but you really couldn't do that as a tank. There was always a tank NPC that would taunt off you, so you couldn't generate the damage to get through the encounter. Thankfully, in the Celestial challenges there was an option for tanks (which I actually found far easier than the melee dps one,) but I would hope Blizzard will make sure that all three roles are given a manner in which to complete their tasks.

So, what do I think about this as a model for new legendary chains?

Honestly, while I thought it was very well done, I think I'd like to see these chains shrunk down to a single raid tier again. The catch-up required for a new player at this point is practically insurmountable (ask me again after 5.4 has been out for a long time.) It might also be fun to have some orange weapons again (though I do recognize the pitfalls.)

However, I am totally happy to see quest-chains that span entire expansions. I'd love to see something like this that perhaps involves a little less raid-grinding, and is more just a way to keep us engaged in the ongoing story of the expansion. Wrathion forced us to keep a close eye on the events of each patch (well, maybe not so much in 5.3) and I think that's a great way to make sure people are exploring the new content.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Locations in the Next Expansion

Typically, the main point of speculation in any expansion has been who the villain will be. There's a good reason for this, given that the villain often defines the rest of the expansion. Perhaps never was this more the case than the Lich King, who brought with him the clear and obvious move to Northrend and the introduction of WoW's first new class to be introduced after Vanilla: the Death Knight.

However, one of the problems with WoW is that the planet Azeroth is fairly well-defined. We began with the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, with an understanding that Northrend was up... north, and that Outland was accessible via the Dark Portal.

The past two expansions have dealt with that in different ways. Deathwing was always a prime possibility for a villain who could carry an entire expansion, but unlike Arthas and Illidan, he didn't have an entire continent that seemed to be his domain. For that reason, Cataclysm focused on "the Old World," essentially bringing the conflict to us.

Mists of Pandaria started without a clear villain, though we did know that Garrosh would eventually claim that role. However, in Mists, Blizzard kind of worked backward, first establishing the new playable race (and class) and then establishing their homeland. The Pandaren were always in this strange limbo between being canon and apocryphal, but the background that they had played with actually wound up making it into the game proper, from their love of beer to the badass Shado-Pan.

So what locations remain unexplored? Certainly, some might simply be invented, but let's take a look at places we could find ourselves in the future.

Other Parts of Outland:

Outland was shattered into pieces when Ner'zhul opened all those portals. It certainly stands to reason that there could be as-yet unexplored parts of the world. Yet what might we find there? Frankly, we only got a little of what Draenor was like pre-Burning Legion, and most of the important locations, such as Hellfire Citadel and the Black Temple have already been explored. The only missing location we had heard about beforehand was the island where Deathwing had Adamantite plates installed (before upgrading to Elementium as seen in the Cataclysm cinematic.)


We've only heard whispers of this place, like from the Puzzle-Box of Yogg-Saron. Here's the thing, of the four Old Gods we've been able to name, two have been defeated by Azeroth's champions, one was killed by the Mogu ages ago, and the other remains at large. Where is N'zoth? What might Ny'alotha look like? I can imagine it being a strange and unsettling ruin of a city, perhaps deep under the ocean, ready to rise.

The Emerald Dream:

Man, this is the classic "why haven't we done this yet" place. On one hand, we've heard about it for years and know that there's a threat there in the Nightmare (which is either connected to Xavius, N'zoth, or both.) On the other hand, the Dream seems to be, by definition, just wilderness. It might be hard to make an entire expansion based on a place with no people.


The Alliance has three major groups of exiles among its ranks. The Gnomes have re-taken parts of their city, but thankfully they have close friends and allies less than a mile away in Ironforge, so they're in decent shape. The Worgen (and human Gilneans) lost their country when it was ravaged by the Cataclysm and plagued by the Forsaken, but they are chomping at the bit to take it back. But then there are the Draenei, whose name literally means "exiled ones." The Draenei have been fleeing the Burning Legion for 25,000 years old - and they are long-lived enough to have remembered all those millennia on the run. The Draenei culture, which has existed probably longer than almost every other culture in Azeroth's history (the Trolls might have them beat) is built around the defeat of the Burning Legion and the liberation of Argus. We even know the name of their capital city, Mac'aree.

The Old World:

Oh yes, did you think I would leave this out? Now granted, I doubt we're going to see another expansion that does not introduce a new continent - Cataclysm was enough. Yet we do seem to keep coming back. Hell, the current expansion is about a pristine, exotic new land, but the end has us charging into one of the player factions' biggest cities.

There's still some unfinished business in the Old World. I think we can expect to deal with some of that in the future, even if it does not strictly have us questing in new zones through the old continents. I think we can expect to keep seeing scenarios and events that will take us back to these old locales.

Or at least we had better. I want to liberate Gilneas, dammit!

What the New Warchief Means for both Alliance and Horde

Ok, spoilers here. If you're waiting to progress through the whole raid to see how Garrosh's successor is chosen, then look away.


I'm just going to say it here.

Tell you what, I'll make a cut

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Alts are Back in Town (ow-ow-ow-own!)

Praise to the Timeless Isle!

Despite being a fun expansion with plenty to do, there is one big criticism that has been levied against Mists of Pandaria: that it is not friendly to alts.

Old strategies for keeping alts geared up have fallen by the wayside. With reputation-gated valor gear (that required doing dailies as opposed to simply championing in dungeons,) the irrelevance of Justice Points after one's initial blue gear, and a lack of late-expansion dungeons with better rewards, you really had to work pretty damn hard to get a second character geared up.

Now, there have been some nice changes, like Commendations and a limited return to faction championing, but the fact was that you really had to go through most of the same process before you could gear up.

5.4 has brought about some huge alternatives. First, and more simply, all the old 5.0 and 5.1 valor gear is now justice gear, allowing you to buy 489 and 496 epics, covering every slot. And that's not to mention the fact that these are all now unshackled from reputation, meaning you can start running dungeons at 90 and be able to gear up with these options available to you.

Likewise, Shado-Pan Assault gear, while still only available for VP, is now cheaper and requires at most friendly (with the exception of the exalted shoulders, which still cost gold.) That means that with some diligent dungeon running, you can get a fair amount of 522-level gear with only a single wing of ToT completed.

But all of that is small potatoes next to the Timeless Isle. Take your main to the Isle and before you know it you'll be swimming in Timeless armor pieces. These can be sent to alts and then used to convert into a spec-appropriate piece of gear. You might have an alt who literally just hit 90, but with a little time and a little luck, you can send them a whole ton of gear, getting them most of the way to queueing for Siege of Orgrimmar when it goes on LFR next week.

The only downside of this gear is that, like the Latent Kor'kron pieces, they have randomized stats, so you might wind up with a bunch of crit for your Elemental Shaman or a bunch of haste on your Arms Warrior. Still, it's iLevel 496, which is what you need to hit the Siege next week.

And you will get a ton of this stuff. Seriously, if you look for the little moss-covered chests that litter the Isle, you're going to be drowning in it. My plate guys were all fairly well geared, so at this point I have a ton of Timeless Bracers I don't even know what to do with.

The point here is that with a little time on the Isle, you'll be able to raise the iLevels of several alts by huge bounds.

Now, I still hope that in the next expansion they'll plan to keep releasing dungeons as the patches come out, because that's a lot easier to jump into than LFR, but over all, this is going to make the rest of Mists a whole lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Aftermath of the Siege Revealed:

Well folks, Garrosh Hellscream has been defeated, and the two ending cinematics are now available for public consumption. Both depict the same events, but from different perspectives.

Alliance Version:

Horde Version:

To sum up:

Garrosh is not dead. Instead, defeated, he is now being sent to Pandaria to stand trial for his crimes. I think this is fantastic. We've always had supernatural villains, but it seems fitting that Garrosh, who indeed has a soul, even if he's done his best to tarnish it, should be given a proper trial and should wind up behind bars. Who knows? At some point we might even have cause to free him if he reforms. Garrosh should have always been a soldier on the front lines. Perhaps some day that will be his destiny, where he can regain his honor to atone for his sins. Not a lot of people get second chances in Azeroth. I applaud this move.

Taran Zhu, who has always been the closest thing to a leader that the anarcho-utopian Pandaren have, gets to drag Garrosh off in chains. The Pandaren are actually in a unique position, as a group that is truly neutral between the two factions, and can be trusted to hold on to a former Warchief.

But that's just part of it. Garrosh doesn't even say anything in this ending. No, what is now important is the future of the Alliance and Horde relations.

On the Alliance side of things, there's a difficult internal conflict. Varian has the Horde on its heals. Its entire leadership (even Gallywix!) is grouped together in a room with elite Alliance forces. If he wanted to, he could claim Orgrimmar for the Alliance and, as Jaina suggests, utterly dismantle the Horde.

But Varian is sick of war, and in this Siege, he's fought alongside the Horde rebellion. He's not going to be their best friends, and he lets them know in plain language that if anything resembling Garrosh happens again, the Horde is toast, but for now, he wants peace.

Wars have to end some day, and in fact it's a lot easier to end them when there's someone who can answer for the other side.

But who answers for the Horde? Thrall led the Horde during its best years, carving out a home in Kalimdor and bringing in more allies than they could have ever expected. Yet it was not Thrall who led the Horde in opposition to its tyrant. Thrall makes up for the mistake he made before the Cataclysm and does what he should have done in the first place, making Vol'jin the new Warchief of the Horde.

The dynamic has changed tremendously. The Horde is now going to have to rebuild while the Alliance can stand proud and strong. Indeed, Varian explains that while he is hesitant to mount a massive campaign to take back Azshara or invade Thunder Bluff and the Echo Isles after such a long and costly war, he is now setting his sights on re-establishing a presence at Theramore, re-taking Gilneas, and containing Sylvanas.

Vol'jin may have just become the new Warchief of the Horde, but if there's one thing that this ending cinematic establishes on both sides, it's that Varian Wrynn, King of Stromwind and High King of the Alliance, is now the most powerful person in Azeroth.

We'll have to see what happens in the next expansion to truly know what this new world will look like, but the stage has been set for a real resurgence for the Alliance.