Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Release Candidate Build on Beta, 6.0 Coming Soon, Probably

We, of course, know when Warlords of Draenor will officially launch. In fact, today, as the last day of September, we are roughly a month and a half away. Perhaps that feels like a pretty long time (it's funny to think that Hallow's End is going to happen before the launch) but it's exciting to know that the wait will not be all that much longer. Having played through the Beta since it started, I'll admit that it's less of an excitement for actually seeing content (though I have been restricting myself from running dungeons and raids, so there's some big stuff I have saved for myself) and more of an excitement for stuff I do in Draenor actually counting.

The new build for Warlords is a release candidate. This means that pretty much all the content is in there (for some reason I haven't been seeing the weekly story quests pop up at my garrison, but I figure I'll be more diligent about looking on live.) Garrisons have been implemented, and they've tweaked the design of some of the buildings and the way some of the systems work. The new character models that will be coming in 6.0 are all there (sorry Blood Elves. Soon, guys, soon!) The dungeons are there. The zones are there (Tanaan remains inaccessible after the intro, since I think we'll only be seeing that in a later patch, and possibly the final patch. And... I really hope they put Farahlon in there in some patch, but I'm not going to hold my breath.)

Release candidates don't mean that they're coming immediately. This just means that it's literally the first build that they'd even consider putting up live, and Blizzard's focus on polish means that there's still going to be some iteration there. However, while some fine-tuning of class abilities and such will continue, and some bug fixes will happen, the expansion is more or less looking like how it will look when it comes out on November 13th.

They're also currently testing 6.0 on the PTR, which has all of the system changes, but leaves out Draenor itself. While the release date for the expansion itself is locked down at November 13th, 6.0 is going to have to come out at least a week before that, and probably more like a couple weeks. I assume that the 6.0 build on the PTR is also flagged as release (as I imagine they're pushing similar builds.) So we could be seeing 6.0 coming very soon to the live servers. Certainly not this week, but I'd expect that some time in early or mid October (so I'd guess in the next three weeks) we should be getting 6.0, and with it, Warlords' launch event.

Yes, a bunch of things are going away (the only thing, well, other than challenge mode armor, but I'm resigned to the fact that I won't get that, that I'll be upset about not getting is the Kor'kron War Wolf, but there are other Wolf mounts available to Alliance in Warlords, so I won't be too upset if I can't PUG a normal-mode Garrosh defeat.) But we'll also get a nice little event. It doesn't look like the Warlords launch will be anywhere on the scale of the Wrath or Cataclysm launches, but there will be some stuff to do in Blasted Lands (and hopefully some kind of Feat of Strength and cosmetic reward to go with it, though I haven't seen anything about that.) There will also be a level 90 version of Upper Blackrock Spire, which will be level 100 in Warlords. I believe that this one will be truncated, having us fight only two or three of the bosses but not getting all the way to Warlord Zaela (Zaela, I thought you were cool! I thought you were cool.)

And anyone who hasn't been able to play in the beta will now get to agonize over the new character models. Some are way more dramatic than others, but all of the model revamps have made the faces far more expressive. The other thing that's great is that a lot of the animations feel more fluid. My Draenei's run is less of a kangaroo-hop now and my Human can actually swing his arms properly and lean into his run. There will be, I'm sure, some uproar about certain models not looking the way that people remembered them, but I think that should die down after a bit. Ultimately, we'll get used to them and WoW will just be a better-looking game.

The ability squish is going to cause the most uproar. Somehow, some people seem to like the new Arms, but I'm definitely going to have to change specs on my Warrior. That said, I think that's the only character I'll have to do so on. We'll see how things turn out. In the long run, the contours will shift a bit, but we'll adjust. If certain specs were really as "ruined" as their players thought they had been, there will be changes. Hell, "there will be changes" is probably the biggest constant in WoW's history.

And the next big change is about to come.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The End of Mists of Pandaria

I seriously jumped the gun when, like a year ago (or more) I started writing about the end of Mists. I don't know, I guess I was eager to sum things up, even though I think Siege of Orgrimmar had not yet come out. I don't really intend to sum up the expansion, but instead talk about its end.

The end of an expansion is kind of a nebulous thing. Arguably, one expansion "ends" on midnight when the next expansion is launched. You could also argue that it ends when the next X.0 patch comes out, with that patch functioning something like a prologue, introduction, or just blank space between expansions. Of course, most of the content from past expansions still exists - you can still run Heroic Sethekk Halls if you want - but sometimes that content is lost.

The Kor'kron War Wolf, the Garrosh heirlooms, and the gorgeous Challenge Mode armor sets, title, and mounts are going to be unattainable. On the plus side, the requirement for Cloud Serpent Riding as a separate skill is going away. Those who are on the legendary chain still have until the actual launch of Warlords to get their cloaks, but if you haven't started it, you're SOL. Actually, that means that Wrathion's presence in Pandaria will really be only for those who played during Mists.

Lore-wise we're going to see a lot of big changes in the Horde's territories. The Kor'kron (who used to be cool before Garrosh had to ruin them) have been dissolved, and Orgrimmar's martial law lockdown that has persisted since 5.3 I believe, is at an end. Orgrimmar's guards are now pointedly multicultural, with Goblin Bruisers, Tauren Braves, Troll Shadow-Hunters, and good old fashioned regular army Grunts sharing the responsibilities of keeping the streets safe. Likewise, and less reassuringly, the Kor'kron have finally been removed from the Undercity after six years, and the Abominations are back. While it warms my dead, still heart to see those horrifying monstrosities offering friendly directions and advise to visitors, it also signals that Sylvanas is not going to be under as strict control as she was under Garrosh, which... might be a problem (though to be fair, it was Garrosh who ordered her to invade Gilneas... but I don't really think he's the one responsible for her malicious tactics.)

Pandaria heals. It has been through a really bad trauma, and the destruction in the Vale was pretty awful, but it's looking like the effect was temporary. With the Heart of Y'shaarj utterly drained of any power it once had, the Sha are presumably totally extinct now, and the Vale is in the process of healing. Yes, the last couple years sucked for the people of Pandaria, but in the long run, they're probably better off.

The open warfare that persisted between Alliance and Horde starting in Wrath and ramping up to full-scale war in Cataclysm is officially over. While I'm sure that, for gameplay reasons if not for lore, there will never be true peace between the two sides (Ashran is an example of that, though I really file it under "purely for gameplay - consider it non-canon lore-wise,) it does seem that we can finally declare this particular war over (to those who complain about not having enough War in Warcraft, I present to you the Burning Legion, the Old Gods, the Iron Horde, and the countless other threats that we've got plenty of war left to fight with.) Admittedly in Draenor, the Frostwolves and Draenei don't have that same history of conflict to really see each other as anything other than a valuable ally in the fight against the Iron Horde, but I think the Alliance and Horde proper will also pretty much bury the hatchet for now and focus on the bigger threat, much as they did in the early days of WoW.

It's a little too bad that nothing of the trial of Garrosh was represented in-game. There are a lot of new threads opened up by the trial and by Garrosh's escape. For now, we can really put Pandaria aside and let the people there recover and rebuild.

In a sense, it's actually quite smart to set the next expansion in a different world. Vol'jin and Varian and a whole lot of Azeroth has been in the spotlight for a while, and now they can get about the important, but perhaps less suggestive of a WoW expansion process of regrouping and rebuilding.

Of course, we suicidally brave adventurers wouldn't be content to stand around organizing food drives for displaced Orgrimmar citizens or surveying the ruins of Theramore in order to start rebuilding (please, Blizzard, let the Alliance do something with that crater.) Nope, there's no rest for the heroes of Azeroth. Not when there are new pants to be found!

Draenei, Orcs, and Legion

When our universe (well, the main Warcraft universe) gave rise to the Horde, the Orcs turned on the Draenei, a group of people who had been their neighbors for centuries. The Orcs and Draenei had never been allies, exactly. But the Draenei, being who they were, had never acted aggressively against the Orcs, which was pretty much unprecedented in Draenic history. Just as a note here: I'm going into this assuming that the history of Draenor is very similar between the two universes, and only differs where it is explicitly stated.

What were the Orcs to make of the Draenei? The strange, blue, hoofed people were phenomenally advanced - their technology and architecture made the Ogres and the Arrakoa look primitive. The arrival of the Draenei coincided with some huge events in Orcish culture. Their ship, the Genedar, which had taken them to countless worlds, always one step ahead of the Burning Legion, crashed in Nagrand and its wreckage became Oshu'gun - a place of great spiritual importance due to the way that the spirits of the dead seemed drawn to it. Shadowmoon Valley was host to a strange power called the Dark Star, which the local Shadowmoon Clan considered evil, though the Draenei knew that it was in fact the Naaru K'ara, who had been injured sometime during their flight to Draenor and was ejected from the Genedar in a moment of panic, which likely caused the crash in the first place.

It's never explicitly stated, but for all we know, Shadowmoon Valley is cloaked in eternal nighttime because of K'ara. Still, though K'ara became very dangerous in her injured form, she remained dormant where she fell, and the Draenei built the Temple of Karabor there, presumably in her honor (I assume Karabor derives its name from the Naaru's name.)

The Orcs were neighbors - but they weren't exactly friendly or non-friendly. Some Orcs were closer to the Draenei than others, for example, Rulkan, the wife of Ner'zhul, counted Velen as a personal friend, albeit one she didn't see often. Ultimately, the Draenei remained aloof from the Orcs, and it was this aloofness that led to the horrors of the Old Horde.

The Draenei made one fundamental mistake in our universe - they didn't warn the Orcs about the Burning Legion. To say that this puts the blame of the genocide and the destruction of Draenor entirely on the Draenei's shoulders would be, frankly, absurd. But it was definitely a major error in judgement.

Quick recap: In our universe, Rulkan died some time before the rise of the Horde. Kil'jaeden, who had found the Draenei but had not yet tipped his hand about that fact, appeared to Ner'zhul in the guise of Rulkan's ghost, warning him that the Draenei were going to wage a genocidal war against the Orcs. Ner'zhul, who was respected by the other clan leaders because of his spiritual authority, rallied around him and provided the opportunity for Gul'dan, his closest student and Kil'jaeden's willing undercover agent, to organize the Horde into the demonic army that it became.

Perhaps if the Draenei had warned Ner'zhul about the demons, he might have been more skeptical toward this apparition. On the other hand, it's possible that it wouldn't have mattered, and that Kil'jaeden would have either been able to trick Ner'zhul anyway, or he would just have found another way to manipulate the Orcs.

Still, we don't know a lot about the history of the Draenei between Argus and Draenor. We know they traveled to many worlds, but we still don't really know what those worlds were like. Did they have people on them? And if so, what happened after the Legion found the Draenei? The case of Draenor is pretty horrific - given that the Draenei inadvertently led the Legion to Draenor - but it also seems relatively unique. We can guess that a lot of the time spent in transit was really just the Draenei living on the Genedar (possibly with some kind of stasis system, though I also subscribe to the idea that Draenei just have incredibly long lifespans.) Clearly Draenor was a special place, as they called it "Exiles' Refuge," and settled down there instead of just trying to repair the Genedar.

One could imagine that somewhere along the way, they had come to some other world, but telling the people there about the demons chasing them had either gotten them effectively kicked off the planet, or perhaps had led some among those people to look into this whole warlock magic thing and then turn on them. It's all pure speculation, and while it wouldn't technically be a retcon, it might be seen as a cheat to suddenly throw in this story to justify the Draenei's silence on the whole Legion thing.

Actually, do we know that the Draenei never told the Orcs about the demons? Has that been said?

The Orcs became the Horde because they feared the Draenei would kill them. But given that they had evolved on Draenor, this wasn't exactly something new. Still, could there have been a sense of betrayal? The Draenei had seemed so friendly, and now they were a threat? Or perhaps there had been jealousy. In a mere three hundred years, the Draenei had built gorgeous cities and temples throughout Shadowmoon Valley, Talador, Nagrand and Farahlon. The Draenei had so much wealth and power, all tantalizingly within reach. It's not hard to imagine that there was some resentment there as well.

And Orcs being how they are - the Blood Craze seems to be inherent to their physiology, as opposed to a purely demonic thing (maybe demon blood essentially keeps it on at all times and kicks it into overdrive?) - once the gears of war started turning it was impossible to stop them. Even when Ner'zhul realized he had been deceived, it was too late - the Orcs en masse had gone into a blood craze, and it wouldn't stop until Draenei civilization was in ruins.

But it's a little odd, because the Iron Horde really shouldn't have that much of a desire to attack the Draenei. In Draenor-B, Ner'zhul was never contacted by Kil'jaeden, because Rulkan's still alive. Indeed, the Horde itself looks almost like it isn't even going to come together. Gul'dan is doing his best to rally people, but while he's a powerful warlock, most people don't really like or trust him (with good reason.) He has none of the authority that allowed Ner'zhul to bring together our Horde.

The reason the Iron Horde comes together is not Gul'dan or Ner'zhul or Kil'jaeden (lots of apostrophes in Warcraft names, have you noticed that?) It's Garrosh, and Garrosh barely cares about the Draenei at all. The Draenei are a small secondary threat. Garrosh convinces his alt-universe sorta-dad to form the Iron Horde specifically to take on us - the Alliance and Horde of Azeroth. He portrays the Alliance as slavers who would keep the Orcs in chains and he portrays the Horde as a bunch of Fel-tainted beast to be put down.

The Draenei are seen as a threat only in that they are the only group of people on Draenor that might have any chance in a fight against the Iron Horde. The Ogres quickly agree to an alliance to save their own skins, the Blackrock Orcs manage to harness the barely-sapient Gronn, and the few other humanoid races are either too few, like the Saberon, or too caught up in their own internal conflicts, like the Arrakoa, to be a real threat.

But again, once the Horde war machine - Iron or otherwise - gets going, it's hard to keep the conflict focused. Grommash's top priority once we shut down the Dark Portal is to lock down Draenor. His "join or die" approach to diplomacy creates enemies, and the Draenei are probably the biggest one outside the Alliance/Horde.

At any rate, if the Draenei share some small portion of the blame for the demonic corruption of the Old Horde, they certainly hold none of it in the creation of the Iron Horde (well, except in a really convoluted way, given that without our universe's Horde, there would be no Iron Horde.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Spec in Review: Enhancement Shamans

Phew boy, getting through these pretty quick.

While some would certainly disagree, Enhancement was kind of crying out for a button bloat purge. But it didn't get it (well, almost didn't.) That's right, Enhancement has pretty much every ability it used to have (I think Chain Heal might have been the only one to be cut.) Some abilities and talents have changed, though, so let's get into it:

First Things First: Haste

Enhancement was one of the few specs that really got only passive benefits from Haste. Since all your abilities have cool downs other than Lightning Bolt (and you'll be waiting for Maelstrom Weapon procs to use that,) Haste really just increased attack power.

Not anymore! Enhancement now effectively gets its own version of Sanctity of Battle, which means your Stormstrikes, Lava Lashes, Fire Novas, and Shocks can be cast more frequently as you acquire Haste. This actually feels great and speeds up the rotation.

FROST SHOCK takes over:

Earth Shock is now Elemental-only, so Enhancement will now use Frost Shock. I could be wrong, but I think the damage has been buffed to compensate.

Imbues Go Passive:

In what might be the most controversial move, Enhancement's Windfury and Flametongue imbues have gone passive. Windfury now uses the term Multistrike to describe what it does, but it's pretty much what it always was. Your main hand has a chance to proc Windfury and your offhand can do fire damage. While the effect remains, the visual is gone, which is what I think many will cry foul about. Still, give us a Minor Glyph to get it back and all will be forgiven.

Oh, and Rockbiter's gone, but did anyone ever use that?

Unleash Elements is Different:

Unleash Elements works slightly differently now, and doesn't actually have any damage effect on its own. There's a perk that comes in leveling that will make it increase your run speed for a brief burst, but it will still do things like increase your next fire spell's damage (so use it on Flame Shock) and I think grants Multistrike. One nice thing is that the fire spell buff lasts a lot longer, so you should feel safe hitting UE on cool down without worrying about lining it up when you're ready to refresh Flame Shock.

Echo of the Elements Redesigned:

Granted this is a talent, but the way it has changed is interesting. Instead of just being effectively a potential Multistrike proc, now when Echo of the Elements procs it will simply cause your next Stormstrike or Lava Lash to immediately reset its cool down.


Elemental Fusion makes your Lava Lash (or Burst if you're Elemental) increase the damage of your next Shock by 40%, stacking twice. This should let you get in some really big Flame Shocks if you time it right, but honestly I think this one's a bit on the dull side.

Storm Elemental Totem is something I've been waiting for ever since Mages got their Water Elementals. Storm Elemental Totem will let you summon an Air Elemental who will attack foes and also heal you and allies for a percentage of the damage dealt. Like Earth and Fire, it has a 5-min CD and is put on a 1-min CD if you cast one of the other elemental totems, but this will be a pretty cool thing to follow up the Fire Elemental with or to use if you need a little extra healing. And the elemental has a Primal Elementalist variation as well.

Liquid Magma is lets you cause your Fire Totem to spew forth magma at random targets within 40 yards, with each glob of magma (isn't it lava if it's not underground?) dealing splash damage to anyone near the one it hits. This could potentially be really strong in tightly-packed AoE swarms.

Spec in Review - Paladin Protection

Ok, I'm just going to get this one out of the way since I just did Frost DKs. Tankadins, like Frost DKs, have seen somewhat more subtle changes to their gameplay than a lot of other specs (ooh boy, I haven't really looked into Blood yet, but there are some weird changes there.) Paladins will still work largely the same way, but let's look into the details:

A Reason for Crit and Multistrike:

Making DPS stats matter for tanks after they've gotten rid of Dodge and Parry has required a little mechanical gymnastics. Crit they went simple on - Criticial Strike Rating is now just also Parry Rating. More crit, more parries. So I guess avoidance stats haven't disappeared entirely. This applies to all tanks (except Druids, but I think they get other benefits from it.) Multistrike is somewhat weirder and more unique for Paladins. Essentially, you have a chance equal to your Multistrike to cause any heals that land on you to have an additional 30% heal effect. This includes Multis (I'm making it a thing!) themselves, though this effect is not officially a Multi itself, so you can't get an indeterminately long loop of heals. It does apply to your own self-heals, so if your Seal of Insight or Word of Glory Multis, you can effectively Multi off of your own Multi (I feel like there should be a GIF of Xzibit here, but I'll spare you guys.)

Holy Wrath - Bigger but Less Frequent

The damage on Holy Wrath is now higher, but the cool down has been increased. Holy Wrath is typically the last of your filler abilities you tend to use anyway (unless you need the stun or some snap-threat on a new pack of adds) so this shouldn't be the end of the world.

Convenience When Switching Specs

Just a very nice little thing here: When switching to protection spec, you'll automatically have Righteous Fury toggled on and you'll have Seal of Truth activated... which is funny, because I thought we were supposed to be using Insight? There was some talk about making the "heal on melee" thing just a Prot passive and divorcing it from Insight, but I think they took that back. Insight has a cool new animation when you select it.

Bonus Armor and Haste:

All tanks will be expected to find Bonus Armor wherever they can - though it will only show up on necklaces, rings, trinkets, cloaks, and shields. Bonus Armor will add flat amounts of attack power, while Mastery will increase attack power by a percentage, to let them fairly compete with the other stats, which are now both offensive and defensive. Our attunement is Haste, which shouldn't surprise you if you've been playing a Protadin in Mists.


Empowering Seals:

Like with Ret, this is the Seal-twisting Talent. I don't know what masochist would choose this, but there it is. Prot will probably want to maintain all three, but particularly Insight, as it gives you a "heal for a percentage of your health every few seconds" buff.


Again, like Ret, Seraphim costs all five Holy Power, and is essentially a short-term cool down that buffs all of your secondary stats while it's up. If you're good at timing around big boss abilities, this could be quite powerful, but certainly tricky to pull off effectively.

Holy Shield:

Yes, it's the glorious return of the ability that used to be at the core of Paladin tanking. Of course, it's actually quite different than its original incarnation or the abomination it became in Cataclysm. Holy Shield is now a passive that increases your block chance (the percentage keeps changing as they do tuning passes, but it's in the 15-20% area) and also allows you to block spells, which is pretty darn cool. It also causes your blocks to deal Holy damage to the attacker, which is really the thing I miss most about the old ability.

To take a brief walk down memory lane, back in the BC era (and spilling out a bit into Wrath,) the different tank classes had niches. Warriors were built from the ground up to be good at dealing with single, big powerful bosses, while Druids with their shapeshifting (and in BC you could play Feral as both Tank and DPS with the same talent choices) were great as off-tanks. The Paladin niche, however, was AoE tanking. They could take on giant swarms of enemies thanks to Consecration and Holy Shield. The reflective damage meant that once they had been lured in with Consecration, they'd stick to you like glue. In Cataclysm they basically cut all reflective damage from tanks because it was "too passive." Now, however, with tanks worrying more about keeping themselves alive than making sure they maximize threat, it makes sense to let us Paladins become the masters of the Holy Pain Zone once again.

You know, if that's the talent you choose.

Spec in Review: DK Frost

I actually began this article intending to touch on several specs that hadn't changed that much, but after writing five paragraphs on Frost DKs, I figured that maybe there was enough to justify an entire article. This is, after all, the spec of one of my co-mains, so I tend to be a little better-versed in its intricacies (though now that I've said that, I'm sure someone will scoff at me for saying something wrong.)

Frost Strike - More Power for More Runic Power, but a Discount for Buying in Bulk

Frost Strike now costs a bit more but hits twice as hard. The central mechanic for Frost is managing your Killing Machine procs and trying to spend them on your variation's more powerful strike (Frost Strike for Dual-wielders and Obliterate for 2H.) As players got more Haste, the KM procs would come so quickly and resources would regenerate so fast that it got to a point where A. it became a loss to actually wait for your preferred ability to come up and B. Haste itself was almost totally de-valued as a stat once you hit the later tiers, because a little on one or two pieces would go a long way.

The greater expense of Frost Strike could encourage dual-wielders to use Obliterate more, and there is a perk that causes the free Howling Blast you get from Obliterate (what used to be the "Rime" passive) to deal more damage, so I think Dual-Wielders are going to be pushed away from Howling Blast/Frost Strike spam. This change will, yes, slow the rotation down a little, but we can easily compensate for that with Haste, especially as we have that as our Stat-Attunement.

Diseases Made Easier

With Blood Boil and Pestilence merged, Roiling Blood has been replaced with Plaguebringer (not that Frost would ever take Roiling Blood, as you'd always be better off spending your Death Runes on Howling Blast instead of Blood Boil.) Plaguebringer causes your Frost Strikes (or Death Coils, which we sadly no longer have) to refresh your diseases (or add a stack to Necrotic Plague, since that one can't be refreshed.) This really lets you just apply diseases and forget about them.

(To Be Read as Michael from Lost): "They took my ghoul!"

Raise Dead is now Unholy-only. Now, I get this and the reasoning behind it, as they're trying to cut back on stacked cool downs that you'd just macro anyway. But damn it, we're DEATH Knights. The only real necromancy Frost gets to do now is Army of the Dead, which had its damage slashed so that it serves more as an emergency panic button and less of a once-a-raid-boss damage cool down. If they must take the ghoul, I hope that they'll figure out a way to get some of that undead theme back into Frost. Maybe let us proc ghostly spirits to attack our enemies that are somehow not a Shadow Priest's Apparitions...

Diseases Made Less Interesting

This is true for all DKs, but diseases no longer affect the damage of our biggest strikes. They are now purely DOTs, but they've been tuned to deal more damage now, so you'll still be incentivized to keep them up (which should be very easy with Plaguebringer and the Blood Boil/Pestilence change.)

Weapon Runes: Uh... nothing to see here, move along.

Sadly one thing that did not change is that we're still stuck with Rune of the Fallen Crusader. FC is the go-to rune for 2H and Unholy, as well as going on the off-hand for DW. I really wish they'd just get rid of Fallen Crusader so that each spec could have its own, more interesting runes. There seemed to be some intention to have Frost use Razorice and Cinderglacier, but they backed off from that, first by completely getting rid of Cinderglacier and then by adding a Fallen Crusader portion to the perk that buffed Razorice. I think we might just be stuck with Fallen Crusader. Oh well, the self-heal is nice.

Slight Tweak to Rune Regeneration:

Regeneration talents (Runic Empowerment, Runic Corruption, and Blood Tap) now trigger from any expenditure of Runes, instead of only Frost Strike/Death Coil (and sadly, we now have only Frost Strike, which replaces DC for Frost.)

Level 100 Talents:

Necrotic Plague:

Necrotic Plague is one of two new talents that were used in the Lich King fight at the end of Wrath. NP will replace both Frost Fever and Blood Plague, doing more damage than both of them combined, but it works in a weird way. NP will start dealing not very much damage at all, but every tick it will gain another stack and spread to a new target if there is one. Reapplications will add a new stack (up to a max of 15) as well, but they will not extend the duration. That means that you'll have to be ready to reapply the disease as soon as it falls out to maximize damage. It will also cause affected targets to grant you Runic Power if they strike you.


By the Light, just hearing that name is giving me Lich King flashbacks. Defile is another replacement ability, taking the place of Death and Decay but granting you one of the most infamous raid boss abilities in WoW history. Like Death and Decay, Defile begins as a simple ground-based AoE, but every time it deals damage, it will grow both in size and power. There's almost certainly a cap on this for players, but in a big group it will probably do a lot of damage (it's also Shadowfrost damage, so both DPS specs can benefit equally from their masteries.) Enemies standing in Defile will deal less damage to the DK.

Breath of Sindragosa:

While it's the most unique ability at level 100, I have to be honest and say I'm not such a huge fan of it. Breath of Sindragosa has a two-minute cool down and causes you to deal Shadowfrost damage in a cone in front of you, draining Runic Power as you do so. Given the changes to rune regeneration mechanics, I think the idea is that you want to spend Runes as quickly as possible to keep it going. You also get... healed... for some of the damage it does? Yes, that sounds right.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who's Not Going to Be in Draenor?

WoW's first expansion took us to Outland, the shattered and broken remnants of our universe's Draenor. Unlike the world we're visiting in Warlords, Outland literally is the place where all that Warcraft history took place. If you play a Draenei character, then you lived on the world that became Outland, and you were a witness to the genocidal slaughter of your people at the birth of the Horde. If you play an Orc, you might remember Outland as the place of your youth, though there's also a very decent chance that your character was born on Azeroth, much like Thrall, and Outland is just effectively the "Old Country" your parents or grandparents talk about.

We visited Outland and found a world that had been twisted and ruined by both Warlock magic and a less malevolent, but far more destructive collapse into the Twisting Nether. Draenor began its transition into Outland with the birth of the Horde. Warlock magic utterly ruined the once-beautiful Shadowmoon Valley when Gul'dan (who one might forget was once a shaman) severed the elemental bonds to both his people and the world, flooding the area with Fel energy (which is why Outland's SMV is all blackened earth and bright green lava.) The real coup de grace on Draenor, however, was when Ner'zhul panicked and opened up several portals to other worlds - ones we still haven't been able to identify. Some of these portals still exist, and can be found in Nagrand and Zangarmarsh, but this is really what ruined the planet. Today, Outland is really just the Orcs' native continent floating in the Twisting Nether, preserved only because of the strange arcane energy that flows all around it.

We met a lot of people in Outland, but one has to remember that Outland was connected to Azeroth for over thirty years when we first arrived there. The Draenor we're going to has only had any contact with our universe for a year at most, and until Garrosh showed up there, no one on Draenor had ever heard of Azeroth. Other than Garrosh's small band of cohorts, we're really the first Azerothians to show up. As you step through the Dark Portal, if you're not an Orc or a Draenei, you will be among the first of your race to ever set foot on that world. (Come to think of it, though, I think Garrosh had a some Goblins and a Blood Elf along with him as well, not to mention a Bronze Dragon.) It's a land that you know, at least to some extent, but to everyone that meets you there, you are an utter stranger, and in many cases a bizarre-looking alien.

Many of Outland's denizens were similarly alien when they first arrived. So who is not going to make the cut?

Illidan Stormrage:

Illidan took over Outland during the aftermath of the Third War. After having consumed the energy of the Skull of Gul'dan, he became a half-demon, and was thus banished by his brother Malfurion, despite having used that power to help secure victory during the Third War. Illidan was chased my Maiev Shadowsong, who intended to bring him back to the prison that had been his home since the War of the Ancients ten thousand years earlier. Illidan instead managed to capture her on Outland and hold her as his prisoner instead. He then gathered some allies and defeated Magtheridon, a Pit Lord who served effectively as the Burning Legion's regional governor there. Taking the Black Temple from Magtheridon, Illidan declared himself the ruler of Outland.

But given that Warlords sort of takes place before the First War, we can assume that on the alternate-Azeroth out there, Illidan is probably still in his prison, or is at least still on Azeroth at any rate.


The Naga led by Lady Vashj were one of Illidan's primary allies while he took Outland. Their whole water-pumping operation in Zangarmarsh didn't start until well after they arrived there, and so you won't see any Naga on Draenor, or even any dry land in what is still the Zangar Sea.

Blood Elves:

Other than the ones from our universe who come with us, like Lady Liadrin, you're not going to see any Blood Elves who aren't part of our Horde in Draenor. Much like Lady Vashj, Kael'thas took his people to Outland as part of his coalition with Illidan, and so presumably Kael'thas is still a much happier and less crazy prince back in alternate-Quel'thalas (I think his father is still alive, too.)

Broken/Lost Ones:

While Akama - the third of Illidan's major lieutenants, and the one that betrayed him - is certainly on Draenor, there is no subset of Draenei who were mutated into Broken or Lost Ones. As a quick recap, the Warlocks of the Old Horde used some horrible red mist in their attack on Shattrath City. Those Draenei who survived the assault, but were still in the city when that attack was launched (presumably Maraad had gotten out of there beforehand,) were dosed with this magical chemical weapon. Those hit hardest were turned into crazy, horrible creatures called Lost Ones (mostly found in Zangarmarsh and the Swamp of Sorrows,) but those who were less affected became the Broken. The Broken were still horribly changed, though, and they lost their direct connection to the Light that is so central to Draenei identity. Many turned, desperately, to darkness, but some attempted to move on, such as Nobundo, who was able to develop a Draenei version of Shamanism, which Velen encouraged him to teach to others.

Again, though, since the Iron Horde rejected Warlock magic, the Broken never came to be. While Gul'dan and the Shadow Council certainly could create some similar weapon, it's unlikely they'll have the same opportunity to use it on such a large population.


The Ethereals were once the native people of a world called K'aresh. K'aresh was also targeted by the Burning Legion, and was taken over by a Void Lord named Dimensius. When K'aresh was destroyed, its people were heavily dosed with arcane radiation, turning them from physical beings into Ethereals. In the aftermath, they traveled through the Twisting Nether and found themselves on Outland, which was slightly less destroyed than their native world. Given that Draenor has never gone through that, and is presumably still an ordinary planet orbiting some star in the Great Dark Beyond (aka normal Space,) whatever happens to K'aresh is unlikely to affect Draenor. Thus no Ethereals.


This one's actually a bit surprising, as the Sporelings are a native species to Outland. However, there are a few possibilities as to why we haven't seen them there. One is that there's still an ocean. Zangarmarsh in Draenor is actually the Zangar Sea (and not a zone in and of itself.) All throughout the ocean, the mushrooms that are so familiar to Zangarmarsh are just peaking up through the ocean depths. There are areas in most of Draenor's zones where the mushrooms are poking up, but they're still just barely coming up from out of the ocean.

There are a couple possibilities. The Sporelings might simply be down in the ocean. The other is that the Sporelings might be some kind of mutation of the Podlings. Unlike the Sporelings, the Podlings are vicious little plant-creatures who lull people into thinking they're friendly because, well, they're kind of adorable, but then brutally kill the unwary with a barrage of darts. There is one rare ("vignette") guy in Shadowmoon Valley who seems to be a Podling Prophet, and is projecting an image of a Sporeling to the other Podlings watching him, but it's unclear what that means.

Black/Netherwing Dragons:

During the Second War, Deathwing traveled to our Draenor and hid several Black Dragon eggs there. When Draenor became Outland, the eggs were irradiated with raw Arcane or Fel Energy, and the result was the Netherwing Dragonflight, who, despite their lineage, seemed to have the Old God corruption purged from them. Before that, however, the dragons made an enemy in Gruul, the oldest remaining Gronn, who became famous for killing them, which is why parts of Blade's Edge Mountains are littered with dead dragons. (Their presence is also why the Wyrmcult is there as well.)

Surprisingly, though, there are Fae Dragons. The Draenei use the Fae Drakes as their primary air-transportation. I'm not sure what the lore behind this is, given that I always assumed the Fae Drakes were associated more with Night Elves and, you know, Azeroth.

Alliance Expedition:

There's actually a fair presence of the Alliance expedition in Outland. Honor Hold, Alleria Stronghold, and the ruined Kirin'Var Village were all built there in the aftermath of the Second War. But of course, no one from Azeroth but Garrosh's small crew has been to this Draenor, so none of that.

A Younger Draenor:

The biggest influx of new people to this Draenor is us. Tons of different races with their own strange natures will be arriving in this savage world. I don't really know if we can expect to see any of the aforementioned iconic Outland denizens, but the good news is that there are things we had died out and disappeared in Outland that are still alive and well in Draenor. It's the same world, but it's also a very different world.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sp... no, Class in Review: Hunters

Hunters were essentially the poster boys and girls for button bloat in Mists of Pandaria. It was pretty insane how many different abilities they had to juggle and just plain fit on their action bars. So Blizzard has taken a pretty big bulldozer to a lot of hunter abilities, and the streets run red with the blood of a few sacred cows.

Hunter's Mark - Gone!

Hunter's Mark was arguably the most iconic Hunter ability, but it was also, well, a bit superfluous. The main thing it did was increase ranged attack power against the target, but given that there's only one class that deals significant amounts of ranged physical damage, and that class is the one that will (often automatically) be putting the Mark up, well... it was probably first in line at the butcher's block.

Admittedly, there was some more significant tactical gameplay to it. The Hunter's Mark allowed you to single out your target on the mini-map (though that function is now available to everyone) and it also prevented stealth and invisibility. Still, much as it saddens me to see the big red arrow go (much as it saddened me when they changed the arrow in I believe Wrath,) I think this is probably for the best.

Serpent Sting - Survival Only and Passive!

Serpent Sting has been a key part of Hunter gameplay since vanilla, but in recent years it's been almost a passive. Survival and Beast Mastery maintain it indefinitely with Cobra Shot, while Marksmanship does so with Chimera Shot.

In Warlords, Survival Hunters will apply the dot with Arcane Shot and Multi Shot, while the other specs will simply rely on their other sources of damage.

Aspects - Different!

Aspect of the Hawk was basically always active on Hunters except for very specific situations. This is especially true after Mists made Cobra/Steady Shot usable while moving and nixed Aspect of the Fox.

Aspects are now going to be buffs with either durations and cool downs or simple toggle functionality. Hawk is gone, rolled into normal damage (Aspect of the Iron Hawk is now simply Iron Hawk, and is always active if you pick that talent,) while Cheetah and Pack are still there (I could be wrong but I think there's some fix to make Pack less trollish) and Fox is back as a raid wide cool down that allows casting on the move for your buddies.

Traps - Mostly Still There

Ice Trap, Freezing Trap and Explosive Trap are still around, though Snake Trap seems to be gone (or is that already the case?) And you can still launch them (I suspect most Hunters just hit the "Trap Launcher" toggle once and never un-click it.)

Spec Distinctions


Marks has been pared down significantly. Effectively, you have four rotational abilities - Chimera Shot is still your "hit on cool down" shot, and Steady Shot is still your main Focus regenerator. Aimed Shot is now your main non-Chimera Focus dump shot, as you no longer have Arcane Shot. Finally, you'll be using your level 90 talent (everyone seems to like Glaive Toss, though I sort of prefer the aesthetic and concept of Barrage.) AoE is pretty much the same, with Bombardment allowing for cheaper Multishots.

The huge change for Marksmanship is their new mastery, which is called Sniper Training (which Wrath-era hunters might recall as a Survival talent.)

Sniper Training activates after standing still for a few seconds, and it increases your crit damage, your attack power, and the range of your shots by an amount proportional to your Mastery. This will continue to persist for a few seconds after you move, but the idea is that they want you to find places to stand still for a moment. The range bonus will help with that, of course, and could play an interesting role especially as mastery gets higher. Still, it does mean that if you're the type of Hunter who loves the class because you get to jump around and pew-pew without any penalty, Marks might not be the spec for you.

Rapid Fire is also now Marksmanship only.


Other than the class-wide changes, Survival still works mostly the same way. You'll use keep Black Arrow on your target most of the time, recover Focus with Cobra Shot, and hit Explosive Shot on cool down or Arcane Shot while you wait for it to come off cool down or for Lock and Load to trigger. You no longer really have to manage Serpent Sting since it is now passive. I'll admit I'm not super-well-versed in Survival, but I believe you'll still (you do in Mists, right) toss in an Explosive Trap as part of your AoE rotation, while using Multishot to apply Serpent Sting to your targets.

As far as I can tell, Survival does not have any real damage cool down. There was some talk of a Bear Trap that would cause bleeding damage that could only be used every three minutes or something, but I think that might have been cut.

Survival also really likes the new Multistrike stat, and your multis (new abbreviation? Can we make that a thing, like crits?) will do extra damage.

Beast Mastery:

Much like Survival, Beast Mastery still looks pretty much the same. You'll use Kill Command, Cobra Shot, Arcane Shot, and Focus Fire the same way you do now. Beastial Wrath is now really your only cool down. Multishot still causes Beast Cleave, so your pet will still be a big source of damage.

Level 100 Talents:

The first talent for all level 100s is Exotic Munitions, which functions a lot like a Rogue's poison. You can use Poisoned Ammo, which applies a DoT, Incendiary Ammo, which explodes for splash damage, or Ice Ammo, which slows targets. You can switch these out pretty quickly and the buff lasts an hour.

The second talent is Focusing Shot. This replaces Cobra/Steady Shot with a shot that takes three seconds to cast, and cannot be shot while moving, but does a bunch of damage and restores a whopping 50 Focus. Many I'm sure will chafe at the idea of having to stand in one place for three whole seconds, but this could prove quite powerful (especially for Marksmanship, who are already incentivized to stand still.)

The final talent has two variations. For Marksmanship and Survival, you get Lone Wolf. This increases your single-target damage while you don't have a pet out and also allows you to provide one of the buffs that a pet normally would. Beast Mastery obviously wouldn't make sense with that talent, so instead you get Adaptation. This raises the Combat Experience passive on your pet by 85% (so a net 35% damage buff) and also effectively lets your pet be all three pet specs at once, with all the abilities of Ferocity, Tenacity, and Cunning.

I'm curious to see how the talents wind up balancing, but I think they're all reasonably interesting. I still feel a little like the level 90 talents feel a bit formless. I guess they all have a kind of Cleave/AoE niche, but I think if they really want to be that, they shouldn't be balanced to be part of the single-target rotation. Still, at least you'll actually be able to fit them onto your action bars now.

Lords of War Part Five – Maraad

Well, color me curve-balled (and blue.) The final Lords of War entry concerns not some leader of the Old Horde whose alternate-universe doppelgänger will be causing us trouble, but instead shows us the darkest moment from Vindicator Maraad's past.

Maraad is a pretty interesting character - it's good to see a Paladin character, especially a Draenei one, who struggles with morality. The last time we really saw that was in Warcraft III, with Arthas' descent into evil (he has a bunch of mercenaries murdered to cover his own tracks before he loses his soul to Frostmourne.) Maraad is certainly not an evil person, but we see in this short how his thirst for vengeance (while totally understandable) overcame his purpose as a paladin.

Anyway, it's also nice to see more Draenei stuff. Warlords of Draenor has been marketed as being Orcs, Orcs, and more Orcs, and in fairness, that's a pretty good summation of the expansion's main threat. Yet the biggest saving grace of the expansion is that we are getting a really solid look at the Draenei. I can't really think of a previous expansion in which the major Alliance presence in the game was not humans (while it petered out sadly early in Dragonblight, half the Horde stuff in Wrath's first couple levels was Forsaken-themed,) and the fact that it's the Draenei, who have always kind of struggled for the spotlight, is really cool. (Some day, Gnomes. Some day.)

I had previously thought we might see Gul'dan or Ner'zhul, but I've seen it pointed out that these two, as well as Blackhand, would have wildly different stories than the ones Maraad would have known. Blackhand, after all, was the Horde's first Warchief, and Ner'zhul's major motivation for forming the Horde had no relevance in Warlords, since it's not him who actually brings the Horde together in that universe. Gul'dan, you could potentially tell some backstory for, but I think Blizzard may want to keep his past mysterious - leaving it just that he used to be Ner'zhul's most gifted student, but jumped at the opportunity to ally with the Burning Legion because he's a sociopathic monster with nothing but ambition.

I believe this is the final entry in the series, but much like the Shaohao series for Mists, I think it was gorgeously done. I only wish we had a lorewalker, Seat of Knowledge equivalent in Draenor for more lore-stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting Quite the Following

Haha, no, not this blog. No, what I'm going to talk about now is Followers. As you know, one of the big conceptual premises of Warlords of Draenor is that you are finally getting the respect you deserve. It was you, after all, who delved into the Black Temple, defended Sunwell Plateau, locked down Ulduar, breached Icecrown Citadel, toppled the Bastion of Twilight, knocked Deathwing out of the sky, and placed Garrosh Hellscream under arrest. As Commander of the Alliance/Horde Forces in Draenor, you get your own base of operations in either Lunarfall or Frostwall, and you get to determine what kind of facilities are built at that stronghold. But beyond that, you also have a bunch of other up-and-coming adventurers who look to you for leadership. Over the course of the expansion, you'll collect a number of Followers - NPCs who obey your commands as you send them out in to Draenor. You can't be everywhere at once, after all, and the Followers will help contribute to your position on this strange world.

Followers can be attained in myriad ways, but when you first create your Garrison, you'll get a few quests that very quickly get you your first three. As soon as you construct your first building - the Barracks - you'll get a quest to go find one of the fellow soldiers who came in with you through the Dark Portal - Qiana Moonshadow, a Feral Druid, for Alliance, and Olin Umberhide, an Arms Warrior, for the Horde. As soon as you get this first Follower, you'll have a quest to send them on your first Follower mission, and this will get you the contract for your second Follower (these I don't remember off-hand.) Shortly thereafter (I think at level 91, which comes pretty quickly,) you'll be sent to Stormshield/Warspear to inspire the troops there. After some quick "tour the town" quests, you'll be introduced to Delvar Ironfist, a Blood Death Knigth (Alliance) or Vivianne, a Fire Mage (Horde,) who will join your troops.

As you quest through Draenor, many of the major quest chains will reward you with a follower. Just like gear from quest rewards, you'll have a chance to get higher-quality followers simply by luck. Most are "green" quality, but some can be blue or even purple quality. However, if your luck is awful or if there's a particular character who you like, but winds up only green-quality, don't despair. Once the follower hits level 100, any further experience they gain will contribute to leveling them to a higher quality. It should be noted that some characters will be guaranteed to be Rare or Epic quality when you get them.

What does the quality mean? Well, followers will have traits and abilities. Normal, green-quality followers will have a total of two, while Rares have three and Epics have four. These abilities and traits will come into play with follower missions.

Over time, your personnel officer at your garrison will acquire various missions for your followers. Usually you'll get missions that are appropriate to the level of followers you have. You can send followers on these missions both to level them up and to get rewards. In order to claim the rewards for a mission, your followers must be successful, and that means picking the right followers for the right missions.

Typically, each mission will have a group of enemies that need to be defeated. These enemies will have their own special "Threats," such as Minion Swarms or Wild Aggression. The followers then will have abilities that can counter these threats. For example, if you have a Rogue follower, they might have Fan of Knives, which will counter the threat of Minion Swarms. Choosing followers that have the right abilities to counter the threats of a mission will significantly increase your chance at success. Essentially, if all the threats are countered by level-appropriate followers, you'll most likely have a 100% success chance.

But you won't always have every single piece of the puzzle. Some of your followers may be too low-level, or you might just not have anyone with the right kind of ability. That's where you'll want to take traits into account.

Traits don't let you completely negate threats, but they can boost your success chance. Many followers will, for example, increase your success chance if you have a member of a certain race in that party (not counting the follower itself.) For instance, a follower with "Humanist" will increase the chance at success if he or she is paired with a human on the mission. Other traits can increase your success based on the terrain, the kind of enemies they are being sent to fight, or the length of the mission.

Some traits don't actually affect the success rate of the mission, but they can affect other things. For instance, "Epic Mount" will cut the travel time for the mission in half, which just means you won't have to wait as long for them to finish (and given that there are some missions that last for several hours, that can be quite nice.)

Additionally, some followers have professions. If you have a level two or higher building that corresponds to their profession, you can assign them to the building to increase the yield of that building's Work Orders. This is affected by character level though, so I'd recommend holding off on that until you get them to level 100, as working followers can't go on missions. They will also grant additional benefits - for example, a follower in your Forge (the Blacksmithing building) will give you a 4-hour buff that prevents wear-and-tear durability damage on your gear and another one that causes your attacks to sometimes summon a big fire elemental to protect you out in Draenor.

Once a follower hits level 100, you will have to increase their power in a different way - gear. If you have the Dwarven Bunker/War Mill, you can place work orders that will produce upgrade tokens to increase the iLevel of followers' weapons and armor. You'll also get these from follower missions on occasion as well (and I could be wrong, but possibly also from the Scrap Yard, which is one of the two Small buildings that doesn't correspond to a standard profession.)

Follower missions can reward many different things. Often it will be bonus follower XP, but you can also get pieces of gear, gold, Seals of Tempered Fate (the latest bonus roll coin,) and even XP for your own character (though this will of course be of limited use at level 100.)

Followers will also aid you during Garrison invasions, which is admittedly one aspect of the expansion that hasn't been quite as fleshed out yet on the Beta. Also, if you have a level 2 Barracks, you'll be able to assign followers with the Bodyguard trait to come with you on your adventures in Draenor - I believe anywhere except instances.

The system is pretty fun, and one thing that's very exciting is that a lot of big names are potential followers. You can recruit Lantressor of the Blade, Admiral Taylor, the Image of Archmage Vargoth (yep, he's still stuck in that tower in Netherstorm) and freaking Leeroy Jenkins.

For anyone who loves completing collections, this should keep you quite busy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Titan Canceled

Well, it's official. Project Titan, which was slated to be a new Blizzard MMO set in a totally new IP, has been canceled. Last year, Blizzard a lot of the Titan staff onto World of Warcraft, which is why they believe Warlords has taken so long to come out and also why they think future expansions will take less time. The idea was that they were going back to the drawing board with Titan, but in the end, Blizzard decided to pull the plug.

I'd started hearing about Titan as early as during Wrath of the Lich King, though I think they started work on it before even that. Apparently one of my former guild mates actually did some concept art for the project, but he was of course sworn to secrecy about it.

We don't actually know much about what Titan was meant to be. It was apparently going to be a new MMO, but in the years since the project started, I'm sure Blizzard noticed that the WoW model of MMOs was really only still working for WoW. So many games have come and gone since then, all supposed "WoW-killers," but they all kind of died out. WoW itself has diminished somewhat, but it's still bigger than any other subscription-based MMO has ever been.

What little details we've gotten from Blizzard seem to suggest that Titan just wasn't working out. They claim that they were trying so hard to get it to work right that they lost sight of the big picture and were caught "down in the weeds."

Honestly, I have a huge amount of respect for Blizzard in recognizing that when a project isn't working, it isn't working. The fact that they're willing to scrap an idea six or seven years in the making in the interest of quality is, well, pretty laudable.

Still, I hope that they can at least salvage the IP. Blizzard comes up with some interesting universes, and I wonder what they came up with for this one.

What this does mean is that all the MMO love they have is going to be poured into WoW. Chris Metzen stated that if it was up to him, they would support the game "forever," which doesn't sound like such a bad idea given that after ten years the game still has seven million subscribers.

Some of Blizzard's newer, smaller projects, have taken off like crazy. Hearthstone has a whopping 20 million players, which is kind of mind-blowing. Heroes of the Storm will admittedly be dipping its toes in a genre that already has some big name competitors, but it's also the kind of game that they as a company are pretty well-suited to build.

What does this mean for WoW? Well, I think we've already seen the biggest consequence, which is that they've been able to move a lot of people onto the project. I recognize that just throwing more people at a project isn't necessarily going to make it any easier to produce, but they seem to feel it will result in faster content, so... you know, if it happens I'll be happy to see it.

Thank the Ancestors the Orcs Aren't In Charge of the Horde Anymore

The Horde as we know it is a totally different beast than the Horde that existed during the First and Second Wars. Arguably, that Horde - the Horde of Blackhand and Orgrim Doomhammer (and Gul'dan - don't forget him) was dissolved after the Second War. There were remnants - and still are, at Blackrock Mountain - but that Horde ceased to be when the Orcs were defeated. The humans chose to imprison the Orcs rather than commit genocide. It was a decision done with the best intentions, but the inevitable mistreatment of the Orcs - not to mention the shame and thirst for vengeance that came from as simple a source as just being defeated - is what allowed tempers to flare again and what torpedoed the temporary cooperation during the Third War.

The thing is, Thrall may have technically succeeded Doomhammer directly as Warchief, but at that point, the Horde Doomhammer was putting together was already something different. It was free of the demon blood haze, and already it was a Horde that was trying to regain some of its shamanistic roots.

Thrall's tenure as Warchief was marred by a few awful decisions - chief amongst them being his selection of a successor - but no matter what happened in the aftermath of his reign, it's hard to argue he didn't do great things for the Horde. He diversified it - bringing in the Darkspear, the Tauren and... ok, the Forsaken was a more iffy addition, but they brought in the Blood Elves, so ultimately it was a positive move. He even brought in the Goblins after his time as Warchief (though his decision to recognize Gallywix as their leader was another one of his awful decisions.) The point is: whatever flaws he might have (and I think 99% of them are how he has related to Garrosh,) he was... a good Warchief.

Actually, the best.

The Horde is no longer some interloping, occupying force in Azeroth. It has deep roots in Azeroth's people. While the Alliance might have been well within their rights to slay any Orcs (or Ogres) who didn't march right back through the Dark Portal after the Second War, at this point, you couldn't just destroy the people of the Horde, because most of them have just as much of a claim to Azeroth as their home as the races of the Alliance. Technically, it's an even split (though the Orcs are a much bigger presence in the Horde than the Draenei are in the Alliance. And the Forsaken are... complicated at best.)

Thrall's Horde just isn't the same one that came in through the Dark Portal. And that's fantastic, because that Horde was, indisputably, evil. Even if you take out the demon blood and replace it with modern technology, it's still evil. It's bloodthirsty and violent and has no place for peaceful coexistence.

Setting aside the Forsaken, there's really no racial group in the Horde other than the Orcs who really wants to be that. The Darkspear suffered under that kind of stuff when they were a pariah tribe among the Gurubashi, and they don't want any part of it. The Blood Elves lost their most cruel and vicious members when Kael'thas allied with the Burning Legion. The Tauren would be perfectly happy in a world that didn't involve war, even though they're able to fight when it's needed. The Goblins can find a way to make a profit in peace as well as in war, so they're kind of indifferent.

Thrall chose Garrosh to be Warchief because he thought the Horde needed some old-school leadership, but this was a mistake, because at most, it was only the Orcs who wanted that. And even among the Orcs, there were many who were heel-clickingly happy to finally return to the reverent, shamanistic ways they once knew - or better yet, they foresaw a new era for their people, in which they could live in safety in big walled cities rather than fearing that every snapping twig in the wilderness was something trying to kill them.

The fact is that while the Alliance is more explicitly a different entity than its forebear from the Second War, the Horde is even more changed, and it's a wonderful thing that it has.

With Vol'jin as Warchief, the transformation is, if not complete, then getting there. It sends a loud message to the Horde - where once the other races were essentially subjugated to the will of the Orcs - a policy that Thrall only implied while Garrosh made explicit - now there's a beacon of true equality. Granted, just because the leader of a government is a member of a historically oppressed minority doesn't mean that that oppression disappears overnight... obviously no real-world examples here... but it's a good message to send, and marks a milestone of progress.

The Horde that exists in WoW - the one that we've been fighting for since vanilla (well, even as early as WCIII,) is an Azerothian institution. It is not the engine of endless warfare that Garrosh tried to turn it into, and it's not really about Orcs anymore. The Orcs have a special position within it, yes, but it is the position of a founder, and not the sole ruling caste.

It does mean, actually, that most of the Horde should feel no ambiguity in fighting the Iron Horde. The Iron Horde is the alternate-universe of a Horde that no longer exists. My Undead Rogue has no nostalgic love for Kargath Bladefist or Grommash Hellscream. He hates them for sacking his home city and nearly destroying his adopted home of Lordaeron (my Rogue was born in Stormwind, in my headcanon) My Blood Elf Priest feels much the same about these guys. Really, only Orcs are going to  have any chance at feeling some guilt in going up against these guys, but they're just one of the many Horde races - most of which at this point probably are ready to see the Orcs taken down a peg.

I know that Blizzard often says Warcraft is, at its core, about Orcs and Humans, but, invoking a "death of the author" argument, I disagree. I think that the Orcs v Humans story is played out, and it's a much more interesting narrative when we get away from that conflict. (Also, if that were the case, we'd have a lot more human-centric stories.) While following up the Siege of Orgrimmar with a Horde-centric expansion was not exactly a reassuring development, long-term I think that Vol'jin's ascension to Warchief was a concession to that fact. The Horde isn't just Orcs anymore, and really, the Horde that exists today never was. Moving forward, I hope we can see that reflected in-game.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spec in Review - Fury Warriors

Fury is a spec that I've flirted with from time to time, but in the Catalcysm/Mists era (and actually also in the Wrath era, though my sole warrior at the time eventually transitioned to being a full-time tank,) I was pretty staunchly an Arms guy. I hadn't really paid it much thought until Wrath introduced Titan's Grip, which of course iconically allows Fury to dual-wield two-handed weapons. Later Cataclysm introduced Single-Minded Fury for those who, for some bizarre reason, would want to stick to single-handed weapons.

Fury has gone through some evolution, and indeed some of the biggest changes to the spec on the Warlords Beta came through only recently.

In my last spec review, I really focused on what had changed, but this time I'm going to just sort of talk about what Fury's all about now.

The number of abilities to juggle for Fury is relatively small, but there's a lot of interactivity between them.

Essentially, Bloodthirst is your main Rage generator and your main means of becoming Enraged (in fact, it might be the only way - not sure about changes to Berserker Rage.) Bloodthirst has a 30% increased chance to crit, and when it does, it enrages you.

Wild Strike is your main Rage spender, costing 40 Rage and dealing rather high damage. Your Bloodthirst has a chance to proc Blood Surge, which makes your next two Wild Strikes free. I could be mistaken, but I also get the impression that Wild Strike triggers a shorter global cool down.

Raging Blow functions both as a major proc ability and also a kind of cleave ability. Whenever you become enraged, you activate Raging Blow, which costs only ten Rage, but can't be used unless you get this proc, but given the increased chance for Blood Thirst to crit, and the fact that you're going to be stacking a bunch of crit anyway, this happens pretty frequently. The Raging Blow proc stacks up to two times. This ability I believe hits harder than Wild Strike when you take into account the fact that it hits with both weapons.

Whirlwind is your primary AoE ability. I'm not sure how many enemies you'll need to be fighting to make it a full substitute for Wild Strike, but you might want to toss it in there for an extra effect, which is that it causes your Raging Blow to hit a second target, stacking up twice for a total of three targets (and once you get the requisite Draenor perk, the extra targets are doubled, so you can hit a total of five.)

The rest is pretty familiar if you've played a Warrior. Execute, Victory Rush, and Charge are all still there. The most notable absence however is Heroic Strike - the idea here is that Wild Strike will be your main Rage-spender.

Most recently, Colossus Smash was made Arms-only, which does change the gameplay quite a bit. Fury, at least in Mists, was built around building up as many procs and resources as you could, and then spending it within the CS-window. With CS no longer a part of the Fury rotation, you'll want to react a lot quicker to your procs and spend them as quickly as you can.

Notable talents  in the Warrior's "rotational changes" tier (which I think is either level 30 or 45) are the option to have Wild Strike cost 15 less Rage - meaning you'll be hitting it far more often, or to remove the cool down on Bloodthirst, which means you'll never not have something to hit. The last is available to all specs, which is Sudden Death, giving you a proc that allows the use of Execute on targets over 20% health or getting to do it for free when they're below that.

In many ways, I feel that Blizzard has kind of traded out the gameplay concepts for Fury and Arms with one another. Arms is now the spec that takes time to carefully build up resources for a burst of damage while Fury is much more dynamic and fast-paced as you respond to procs. Some veterans will no doubt be very unhappy with where Fury is now, much as I have been with Arms. But coming to the spec as a relative stranger, it... kind of works.

Mind you, I still think the version of Arms on live is better.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where's Wrathion?

Ok, that was meant as a Where's Waldo (Where's Wally for any UK readers) reference. Alternately, you could have "Where in... the... Draenor is Wrathion... San Diego?"

Point being: what's Wrathion up to?

Well, I just found something interesting on the Beta, but in order to really talk about any of this, we need to go into serious spoiler mode. So... Spoiler Mode, activate!

Friday, September 19, 2014


Blizzard has unleashed all the pre-rendered cinematics for 6.0 on their website. I caution anyone who is sensitive to spoilers that these videos contain some of the absolute biggest plot developments in the leveling process, and so I suggest caution and resistance. It contains cutscenes for the beginning and end of the Tanaan Jungle experience, as well as key moments for questing in Frostfire Ridge, Shadowmoon Valley, Talador, and Nagrand, all of which are... well, big moments, though that's all I'll say.

The only ones I wouldn't really consider spoileriffic at all are the Garrison cinematics. Each time you upgrade your garrison, you get a nice little endorsement from important people from your faction.

I really want to delve into all of this, but I'd basically just be summarizing them, with full spoilers. So if you don't mind the spoilers or you've already done the associate quests on the Beta, go check them out.

I'll say this: the cinematic team is doing great work. It's also pretty exciting that the new character models are pretty much what we're seeing in the cinematic. In WoW's first cinematic of this sort, Bolvar did look basically like human males did in-game, which is to say... a little dated. But then it was jarring to see Arthas and Tirion with far more up-to-date looking faces at the end of ICC. Now, however, our characters really do look that good.

Tier Pieces, Item Enhancements, Item Variety and Spec Flexibility

One of the really fun things they just added to the Beta is the ability to purchase, merely for gold (for testing purposes,) the entire heroic (note - Mists' normal) tier set. You can now get all that super-epic gear (a lot of which has really cool set bonuses - way more interesting than they usually do for the first tier of an expansion) to outfit your pre-made 100s in (though not weapons.)

As you're probably aware, gear is far more spec-flexible in this expansion. Every new Plate armor piece now has both Strength and Intellect on it, likewise Leather and Mail all has both Agility and Intellect. Your character will now simply ignore the stat they don't use depending on spec and class, so if you go Ret/Holy, you'll see the Strength when you're in Retribution spec, but you'll see the Intellect instead when you're in Holy spec.

The thing that's really awesome, however, is that this logic now extends to set bonuses as well. When you get your Shaman tier 17 helmet, you just have that appropriate helmet now, regardless of spec. If you change from Elemental to Enhancement, not only will you simply use the helmet's agility, but you'll also see the set bonuses change to something more Enhancement appropriate.

Taking a step further, the other cool thing is that set bonuses are far more diverse now. While it's been mostly true for the later Mists tier sets, now every spec, even if it's the same role as another spec, has a different bonus. Even for Hunters and Rogues!

The other thing that could be considered exciting (though I'm sure there will be some grumbles about it as well) is how enhancing one's items has been pared down. Now, I could be missing something here (as I'm basing this mostly on the Savage Flaskataur - a giant Tauren in a suit who is a regular of the Beta tests and gives away free enchants, flasks, and the like) but it looks like there are far fewer items that can be enchanted this time around. Necklaces, Cloaks, Rings, and Weapons are basically all you can enchant in Warlords. You'll note that these are also the pieces you're most likely to switch out if you change specs, so it actually allows you to realign your stats with greater ease, while leaving your actual armor pieces alone.

Gem sockets are going to be a random bonus, along with tertiary stats like Leech, Speed, or the one that makes it not take durability damage, as well as "Warforged" items that get a higher iLevel. Gems will, like enchants, be only secondary stats. Likewise, it looks like colored gem sockets (and colored gems) are going away, so you'll pretty much want to just get your favorite stat and fill every socket with the appropriate gem.

Now gem sockets do appear on armor, so if you're really heavily into min-maxing, you might want to either carry around a ton of spare gems or keep two versions of that armor piece, but if you're anything like me, you're probably willing to let one of your specs have slightly better-optimized gear if it means not having to carry around a bunch of other junk.

Finally: loot has finally been added to the dungeon journal for the dungeons (the raid loot has been there for a while.) What's very interesting indeed is that bosses have absolutely enormous loot tables, but typically it's that there are several variations on the same basic types of loot. For example, one boss will have a huge number of chest pieces - of all armor types. And I don't mean just one of each armor type. I mean almost every conceivable combination of secondary stats.

My sense of the idea here is that any time you down the boss, you'll have a very high likelihood of getting a piece you can use. But you're still incentivized to go back, because chances are, it's not the absolute ideal version of that piece. Supposing for the sake of argument that stats remain equally valuable as they are now, a Prot Paladin might get a Multistrike/Crit helmet, which is fine, but not great, and then get a Haste/Versatility one... ok, better, but finally might get a Haste/Mastery helmet.

If this sounds like a pain, though, remember that in most cases, you'll be able to throw that helmet on your head immediately. Without reforges, meta gems, and most pieces not needing enchantments, switching out gear is going to be a lot less painful.

What's potentially exciting about this is that if they really do raise the chance to get gear, it will let you become at least decently geared much quicker - the most important stuff, like your primary stats, will be based totally on iLevel, so as long as you're getting something, your capabilities will go up. But this encourages players to seek out side grades and keep running those dungeons after they've gotten their gear from them.

Lords of War Part Four – Kilrogg

Well, the fourth of five Lords of War shorts is up, and we're through the four subjects we knew would be part of it (my guess for the fifth is Gul'dan, but we'll see next week.)

Here we get the story of Kilrogg Deadeye, who we actually don't really see much in 6.0. Kilrogg's territory is Tanaan Jungle, and as such we get to see him for a brief moment in the Dark Portal assault, but his appearances after that are limited to the weekly story quests (which I think must not be fully implemented on the Beta, as I've only really been able to do two of them.)

Anyway, not a huge amount of new information here, but I don't know why, but Kilrogg seems compelling to me. I'm really eager to take a look at his clan's bloody mysticism and how they fit in the Iron Horde.

Also, the video seems to imply that the Arrakoa have a presences in Tanaan (which I suppose isn't unthinkable, given that they have a presence in Hellfire Penninsula, though I assumed that that was only after refugees fled the Spires of Arak that had crumbled off into the Twisting Nether.) But that's cool, because the Arrakoa are really cool, and hopefully we'll have some dealings with them in Tanaan when we get there.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Spec in Review: Mage Frost (with Good Info For All Mages)

So I'll first come out and say I haven't actually leveled from 90 to 100 in this spec yet - I've only done that with a Ret Paladin and Frost DK (2H variety.) But I have played around a lot with my favorite Mage spec, and I'll try to get all the pertinent details. I would have done Frost DKs, but frankly, they play more or less as they did in Mists.

Ice Lance - a stronger movement filler

With Fire Blast gone, Ice Lance has become the new instant spell to cast while on the move (if you don't have a Brain Freeze proc.) Its damage has been doubled, but its bonus against frozen enemies has dropped from quadruple damage to merely double damage. Which means it will do the same damage it does now (relatively speaking, given the item squish) when used in its typical stationary rotational way.

Water Jet - Making the Elemental more interesting

One Draenor Perk we'll be getting will teach the Water Elemental a new trick. This is an ability called Water Jet, which as a cool down, and is a channeled spell that does a bit of Frost damage to the target, but any Frostbolt cast at the target will automatically get you a Fingers of Frost charge. You can set this ability to auto-cast, but I suspect it might be better to simply have it hot keyed (and with the ability squish, you'll have room to do so) and to use it strategically. In my experience, it seems to always come off cool down right when I've already got several procs. The channel only lasts a couple seconds, so you'll need to be quick to get the maximum benefit of it. Still, it's a nice bit of on-demand FoF procs for any dry spells.

Blizzard and Frozen Orb - Synergized!

Blizzard, once the iconic AoE spell of all AoE spells, has kind of fallen by the wayside, particularly since these days it seems that Arcane Explosion is the go-to AoE for all three specs. Well not anymore, because Arcane Explosion, Blizzard, and Flamestrike are now all spec-specific! (Which... I'm actually fine with.) The more interesting thing is that one of the Draenor perks you'll get will cause every time Blizzard hits a target to reduce the cool down on Frozen Orb by a second. The idea, I think, is that we'll be expected to use Frozen Orb often for AoE, and to fill the gaps with Blizzard (and probably some Glyph of Splitting Ice-enhanced Ice Lances.)

Mana Regen Tier - Practically Gone:

The only super annoying thing in Mists of Pandaria for Mages was the mana-regen talent tier. At level 90, you suddenly had to use some maintenancey thing to perform decently. Incanter's Ward had to be kept fairly weak to make the others viable, so you'd either have to set up Runes of Power or throw in an Evocation every minute for Invocation.

The level 90 tier has been drastically changed. The sole survivor is Rune of Power (actually my least favorite of these,) but the mana regen aspect of it has been removed, so it's purely a damage buff, meaning that it shouldn't be mandatory for Arcane anymore. Joining it at that level are two new talents. Incanter's Energy is a kind of interesting, though potentially weird and tricky talent. Essentially you'll have an ebb and flow of power, increasing your damage by up to 30%, but with the bonus dropping down to 0%, while most of the time it'll be at 15%. I suspect the idea will be to save your big procs (in the case of Frost, Fingers of Frost and Brain Freeze) for when you hit that peak. Finally, Mirror Image becomes a talent. Now, it's perhaps a little upsetting to see this ability - one we've had since BC, as I recall - become a talent that locks us out of other stuff, but the good news is that it now becomes a real damage cool down, where previously the damage it dealt was sort of nominal. I think it down deals something like 1000% more damage.

The Mage Bombs - Consolidated:

Bad luck if you liked a cross-elemental mage bomb, but good luck if you didn't really like dealing with DOTs all that much as a Mage, and would much rather leave that to the Warlocks thank you very much. The "Mage Bomb" is just a single talent, and changes depending on spec. Frost Bomb has been reworked, though. Now it's a somewhat passive debuff that you place on an enemy, but every time you hit it with Ice Lance (which as you'll recall, now does more damage against non-frozen targets than it used to) the target will explode with lots of Frost Damage.

There are now two other AoE oriented talents. Unstable Magic is the simplest, auto-pilot talent. It causes your Frostbolts (also Fireballs and Arcane Blasts) to occasionally explode, hitting other nearby targets for 50% damage. The other talent affects Frost Nova, turning it into more of an offensive ability. Each spec gets an elemental-themed version that works in a different way, but Frost gets Ice Nova, which basically does more damage and is targeted against an enemy, and is not a self-oriented AoE. It also has two charges.

Talents at the Cap

The three level 100 talents at the cap are all quite different. The first allows Mages to extend the duration of their major cool downs. With Thermal Void (the frost variation,) you'll be able to extend Icy Veins by two seconds with every Ice Lance. Probably not enough to have you just spam Ice Lance forever, but with some luck, you'll probably get a bit more out of the cool down.

Prismatic Crystal is the really weird one of the bunch. Casting it on an enemy will summon a Prismatic Crystal at their feet and have you target it. Only you can target your crystal, but all damage you do to it will explode for 30% extra damage, split evenly between the targets you hit. On a single target fight, this will be a pretty straightforward 30% damage bonus (assuming the boss doesn't move) for the duration of the crystal, but on AoE fights, I wonder if it's worth it. Definitely something to play with, though.

The third talent of the tier is your "big round thing" talent. Frost gets Comet Swarm, which is an awesomely satisfying ability. It's an instant-cast spell on a 30 second cool down that summons seven comets to land on your target, dealing a bunch of damage split between any enemy within 4 yards. There's admittedly not a lot of interactivity on this one, but it just means that every 30 seconds you get to summon icy death from space against your enemies, which is pretty awesome.


Frost is one of the handful of specs to get the attunement for the new stat, Multistrike. While we're seeing a few new stats like Versatility and Bonus Armor, Multistrike is really being worked out to be on par with Crit, Haste, and Mastery, and Frost will theoretically favor this one. Given how many instant-cast spells we have, it's actually probably an improvement over our current favored stat of Haste.

Stay Frosty:

I don't know what the latest numbers pass is on this - tuning is always a tricky thing, and it can change wildly over the course of an expansion. But gameplay-wise, I think Frost Mages are looking great. We seem to have gained some cool toys while retaining all our favorite ones (except Alter Time, which I liked, even if I think I'm alone in that.) And the things we've gotten rid of are generally well-rid. Being able to opt out of Mage Bombs and Mana Regeneration talents is a big plus for me. And hey, the center-stage hero of the expansion (other than you, which they really do hammer home, plot-wise) is Khadgar, who, despite the shameful loss of his wizard beard, is awesome (and I don't know who the voice actor is, but I love how everything he says has a kind of unfazed, good humor to it, especially as WoW is a game where just about everyone tends to sound angry and growly.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Proving Grounds - Damage to Silver!

As I talked about in the tanking version of this article, Proving Grounds will play a somewhat bigger role in Warlords of Draenor. In order to queue for random heroic dungeons, you'll need to first qualify by completing the Silver Medal in your given role. This will give you an achievement that is account-wide, but does not carry over from Mists - so you'll have to do it again if you did it during Mists.

One thing that I hadn't mentioned (it may not have been on the Beta yet) is that when you hit level 100, you'll be sent on a quest to complete the Bronze medal proving grounds in any role in order to get a shiny new iLevel 610 weapon. This should function very similarly to the Arena of Annihilation weapon as a good "grats, you hit 100, have a halfway decent weapon!" I'm sure both normal and heroic dungeons at 100 will award higher-quality pieces, but this will definitely start you on your way.

So, damage:

Damage, known to most as DPS, is the role that every class can play, and it's also generally the easiest role, as it's far more forgiving. One of the reasons for this is that you'll almost never be the only DPS in your group, and so the load is shared by the largest number of people.

This is, to be frank, why some DPS players may have coasted by, not realizing how, well, bad they are.

Having bad DPS is something you can compensate for. In 5-person dungeons, bosses don't have enrage timers, so as long as the healer doesn't run out of mana, you can have really poor DPS and still succeed. So while I think most players are smart enough to get a sense of whether they're good at their role or not, this could prove a rude awakening for some players. Then again, if you are comfortable and familiar with a spec, you shouldn't have any trouble getting Silver. On my Beta-built level 100 Frost DK, I beat every wave with about half of my allotted time to spare.

So what will you face when you do the Damage Proving Grounds? Once again, the feature is set in the Temple of the White Tiger (much like Arena of Annihilation, come to think of it) and you'll be dealing with illusions based on Pandaria creatures.

Unlike for tanks and healers, there's no helpful NPCs here, and the enemies simply don't attack you, except for one targeted ability you'll have to deal with.

Saurok: Saurok in this are very simple. They simply stand still and let you attack.

Virmen: Likewise, Virmen simply stand and allow you to attack, but they come in large groups, so you'll want to use AoE abilities to take them down.

Mogu: The Mogu will generate a shield that protects them from all attacks from the front. You'll need to get behind them before you attack them. After a few seconds, they'll re-cast the shield while facing a different direction. so if you haven't killed them by then, you'll have to move.

Jinyu: The Jinyu are healers, and will begin to cast a heal when any of the illusions (including itself) are low on health. Take these guys out first, and interrupt them if you can. I don't know if there's a difference in how they work for classes that don't have interrupts (though I suppose that's only a small few these days.)

Mantid: The Mantid are the trickiest illusions, but also useful in a way. They will create a glob of amber that will chase after you. You'll want to kite the amber in such a way that it hits an illusion rather than you, as anyone near it when it goes off will take a bunch of damage and be stunned for several seconds, including the Mantid who cast it.

Putting it All Together:

The challenge teaches you some of the principles of good DPS - you'll want to remain focused when dealing with problematic enemies, but things like the amber glob will also test your situational awareness. None of the challenges are all that horrible, but it will require a decent, solid floor of competence that is sometimes lacking in random groups.

Whether people think to apply the lessons taught here in dungeons is a whole other story.

Should Gladiator's Resolve Just Be a Fourth Warrior Spec?

Gladiator's Resolve is probably the most impactful talent of any class or spec in the game. As a quick explanation - the talent is available only to Protection Warriors at level 100. It has one very minor aspect - increasing Block chance, I think, while in Defensive Stance, but the far bigger thing is that it transforms Battle Stance into Gladiator Stance.

Gladiator Stance transforms some of the Protection abilities, reorienting them toward damage-dealing and away from tanking. The stated intention of this talent is to allow Prot Warriors to DPS, and to do so competitively.

Gladiator's Resolve allows Warrior Prot to be both a tank and DPS spec, and indeed, tank players may in fact choose the talent for the simplicity of the block bonus. Blizzard is attempting to avoid the pitfalls of the old Feral Druid spec, which used to encompass both what we would call Feral today and also Guardian druids, by disabling the ability to change stances while in combat. You can't go into a fight as DPS and then switch to Defensive Stance if the tank drops.

Still, there are a few oddities that result from this talent.

The first is that tank gear becomes DPS gear for one lucky spec. Admittedly, there's far less "tank" gear than there used to be, with the removal of dodge and parry ratings. Still, rings, trinkets, cloaks, and necklaces (and shields) can have the Bonus Armor stat, which is generally slated to be the ideal stat for all tanks (encouraging tanks to have a full set of tank accessories.) In order to keep Bonus Armor and Mastery competitive with the other secondary stats, which of course also have an offensive benefit, both of those stats will increase your Attack Power, with Bonus Armor adding the AP as a flat amount and Mastery increasing it by a percentage. While I don't know how well this offensive benefit will be, it seems perfectly possible that Gladiator Warriors will look for, or at least take, Bonus Armor pieces that theoretically should be just for tanks.

Another oddity is that much of the ability set that Gladiators have is clearly built around getting hit. They do a decent job of compensating for this - Shield Block becomes Shield Charge, for example. But the quasi-spec feels somewhat jury-rigged.

Possibly the most frustrating oddity of the talent is that it doesn't come until level 100. If you're really just interested in DPSing, this means you won't have the benefit of leveling up as a Gladiator Warrior. Essentially all Gladiators are going to have to learn the new rhythms of their spec at 100. Veteran tanks might have an easier time of it, but tanking is of course quite different than DPSing. Certainly it's easier to transition from tanking to DPSing, but it's still quite odd.

Now, to be clear, I applaud Blizzard's efforts here. I think it's fantastic that after ten years we're finally going to get a sword-and-board DPS style. Really at this point the only DPS spec that can use a shield is Elemental, where the shield really just functions as a glorified off-hand frill.

Also, as someone who is sad to see Arms collapse into horrifyingly simplistic gameplay, it's nice to know there's another option if Fury doesn't really fit my style.

However, as we see this evolve, I suspect it may come to a point where Gladiators need to have their own, fourth spec. The only precedent for this is of course the Druid, and in that case, Feral was effectively two specs already, and had been since vanilla. Yet if Blizzard is serious about Gladiators being a real DPS spec, and not a novelty like Dark Apotheosis (which I believe was removed in Warlords, hopefully signaling that they don't want Warlocks stepping on the toes of a future Demon Hunter class!) they might have to bite the bullet and give Warriors a fourth spec.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seals of Tempered Fate - The New Bonus Loot Coin

In Warlords of Draenor, we're going to have a new generation of the bonus roll for raid content that was introduced in Mists of Pandaria. In Mists, the way that the system worked was that you would gather Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, and then spend a large number of them (it was 90 at first, but then lowered to 50) at your faction's shrine in order to get three of the latest bonus roll currency as part of a weekly quest. Lesser Charms were originally only available from daily quests (again, dailies were definitely mandatory for pretty much everyone in the early patches) but beginning in 5.3, in certain areas and then later all of Pandaria, level 90 and higher mobs would drop lesser charms.

Each tier of content in Mists had its own type of coin - Elder Charms of Good Fortune for tier 14, Mogu Runes of Fate for tier 15, and then Warforged Seals for tier 16. As each new tier was introduced, we got new methods of acquiring antiquated coins, and these were no longer limited to three a week. Elder Charms can still be acquired in chests and off of rare enemies on the Isle of Thunder (and particularly through the Treasure Halls of Lei Shen solo scenario.) Mogu Runes of Fate can then be bought with Timeless Coins from the Timeless Isle.

In Warlords, tier 17 at least will use Seals of Tempered Fate, but the manner in which you acquire them is refreshingly diverse.

There are NPCs in the Ashran capitals that will give you weekly quests to get your seals. There are four options available - you can get them with Honor, Gold, Garrison Resources, or Apexis Shards. Honor and Gold are gotten in the old fashioned manner. Garrison resources are sometimes awarded by quests and rare "vignette" mobs, but you can also generate some through the Trading Post or Lumber Mill buildings, and your garrison will naturally generate resources that can be claimed at your garrison's stockpile, near your command building (town hall/great hall.) Apexis Shards are a new currency that are somewhat comparable to Justice Points (which are sadly disappearing.) However, you acquire Apexis Shards by killing enemies in the various "assault" areas that a daily quest in your garrison will direct you toward once you hit 100. The quests will reward typically 800 a day, while enemies will only sometimes drop one shard, so mostly you'll be getting 800 and change a day if you do those quests.

Now, reading this you might find yourself worrying: What if you hate questing and PvP and just want to run dungeons and dungeons alone? Without a source of Honor and Apexis Shards, wouldn't you be screwed out of that last seal?

Well, no. First of all, each of these quests can be repeated up to three times a week, but each repeat in the week will raise the cost. So if you have tons of gold to spare, you can buy all three of your seals in gold, but the cost will be quite high. They are encouraging you to diversify your play style, but it's not a strict requirement.

Having the Dwarven Bunker/War Mill in your garrison (at level three, I believe, which will require some hard work) will allow you to get one of those three weekly Seals for free, which is a pretty big incentive (though other buildings have pretty awesome stuff as well.)

Also, occasionally you'll get follower missions that will reward a Seal of Tempered Fate. I don't know if this actually counts against your weekly three, but as I interpret it, I believe it means that if you're lucky enough to get this mission (and have followers capable of completing it) you might occasionally get an extra Seal.