Friday, October 31, 2014

Warlords of Draenor Beta Ending Monday

With the expansion itself coming very soon, it's perhaps no surprise that the Beta for Warlords of Draenor must inevitably come to an end. I had the privilege to play in the Beta from day one, and it's been exciting to see how things have developed and changed, particularly the garrison system, which is of course the biggest unique Draenor element.

All in all, the changes I saw on the Beta were mostly tweaks. We didn't see anything quite like the overhaul that we saw in the Jade Forest, for instance. Still, we got to see many updates to the character models (Draenei shoulder pads were on a roller coaster, I'm telling you!) and we saw the expansion's initial state unfolding nicely.

I actually think it speaks well of the expansion that they didn't have to do much rebuilding over the course of the beta. The questing is solid, and I think that there's enough flexibility (particularly with the Bonus Objective areas in each zone) that you'll be able to have some nice variations while leveling alts - particularly if you pick different buildings at your Outposts.

Still, we've come a long way from the beginnings, such as when turning in a key quest during the central Shadowmoon Valley chain would briefly shift every single player in the zone into a phase containing no NPCs.

Still, there's little reason to worry - the end of the beta means that the expansion proper is just around the corner, and so if anyone is going to miss Draenor, they'll be back soon enough.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Considerations of Future Visual Upgrades

6.0's biggest feature is probably the model revamps for the vanilla races and Draenei. Some elicit cheers, others tears, but without a doubt, this is one of the biggest visual changes the game has ever experienced. I, for one, am overjoyed by the look of my Human Paladin (though unlike most, I was actually not so bothered by the old human male model. Perhaps it's because I had the goatee facial hair, which had normal-sized eyebrows.) I'm pretty happy with the others - the only one that caused me any trouble was my Male Night Elf, who previously had a very thin face that seemed to be rounded out, but a quick stop at the Barber/Plastic Surgeon fixed that (I'm also waiting for them to fix the Undead Male's eyes where previously there were empty sockets.)

We know that the very next visual change will be an update to the Blood Elves. Both BC races were slated for an update, but Blood Elves have a relatively small presence in Draenor outside of Talador, whereas Draenei are the most central Alliance race in the expansion (no matter how many times I say or write that, it still makes me smile.)

So I expect to see Blood Elves updated as soon as 6.1. What comes next?

First off, while the Cataclysm models are far, far better than the Vanilla and BC ones, some of the facial gesture mapping that came in with the Pandaren is definitely lacking. My Worgen, much as I adore him, can't really make any facial expressions beyond "mouth open" and "mouth closed." I feel like the Goblins are a bit more facially dextrous, but it might be nice to see both of them a little more expressive. Still, unlike the Classic/BC races, I wouldn't go overboard with these revamps. Just do a little work on the faces (and I've heard that a lot of female Worgen would be interested in getting quite a bit more work,) and they should be ok.

Blizzard folks have talked about a few things. Moonkin form remains the only Druid model that hasn't changed since Vanilla (even the new Cataclysm Druid races got palette swap versions of the Night Elf version.) So it looks like these are due for an update. My personal hope is that we get greater racial distinction between the forms, much in the way that the Bear and Cat forms have nice touches that distinguish them. War paint and a mohawk and tusks for Trolls, glowing eyes and perhaps charms hanging from the antlers for Night Elves, etc.

Blizzard has also mentioned that they'd like to add some cosmetic items like quivers for hunters and librams for paladins. I'm not sure that every class has an obvious thing that's missing - for example, Warriors are pretty set (unless you'd like to give them a Blademaster-style war-banner to wear on their backs.)

Another thing that players have been clamoring for for quite a while is racial variations. Implementing Blackrock/Mag'har Orc Skins would be as easy as adding new skin color options. One could also do so with Dark Iron Dwarves (and you could even roll Wildhammer face tattoos in there as well.) Not every race is begging for this kind of variation - Draenei for example can be just about any color from dark purple to porcelain-white, and there's not really anything in lore to justify anything that's not some kind of bluish color, as the only red eredar we see are demons, and decidedly not on good terms with Velen. The Grimtotem Tauren are a similar issue - it's not unreasonable to think of implementing the Grimtotem facial tattoos, but are there any good Grimtotem (the closest we get are a group of them who get support from the Alliance to fight the Horde, but the rest of the tribe is clearly hostile to everyone.) That actually brings up probably the most popular racial-variant option, which is the High Elves. Many Alliance players have been hoping to play High Elves for a very long time indeed, but would this effectively make the Blood Elves a Pandaren-style neutral race, or would they need a whole new starting experience? Or just dump them into Northshire Abbey with the Humans?

Beyond that, however, there are greater variations in the races. We've now seen two variants on the Tauren - the Taunka and Yaungol. The Draenei have been accompanied by the Broken since BC (though don't expect to see any of them in Draenor, as the Horde rejected Warlock magic in that timeline.) Undead theoretically should be able to include all manner of creatures, from the current zombie-ish guys to skeletons, ghosts, and stuff like that. These variations might be a little tougher to implement. For instance, if you're a Taunka, do you start your adventures in Mulgore, far, far away from your home in Northrend? And does everyone just refer to you as a Tauren as if you were just another member of the Bloodhoof Tribe?

In terms of gear, I don't really think we need model revamps for gear. As much as I'd love to see my 25-man Paladin Tier 8 set updated (particularly to implement the awesome, huge belt buckle from the concept art,) it's probably best that they focus on the new gear models. There's some cool stuff coming in tier 17 (I'm particularly fond of the Rogue set,) and given that there will always be a need for new gear models, I'm happy for them to just work on that stuff.

Actually, to be frank, now that we have transmog for any gear pieces we're less enamored of, I wish that dungeon gear at least was a little more eclectic in look. I miss BC's re-colors of old raid gear. Oh well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

LFR to Have Unique Set Bonuses

In a move to separate traditional raiding from LFR, and certainly to encourage people to try out the former, Blizzard announced a while ago that Warlords' LFR setting would use different gear than the other difficulties - separated not just by color scheme and item level, but giving us totally different models and pieces. Additionally, to make sure that traditional raiders didn't feel they needed to run LFR to get important pieces of gear, they also simplified gear in LFR - making sure trinkets had either flat stats or very simple procs, and none of the kind of transformative pieces like Unerring Vision of Lei Shen or Rune of Reorigination. Likewise, LFR will not drop tier-set pieces, meaning that if you want the awesome set bonuses (and they are pretty cool,) you'll have to do the "real" raiding.

Still, gear sets are fun, and they don't want to make LFR feel totally unlike real raiding. Thus, there will be effectively "LFR tier" sets. These are not class-specific. Instead, there will simply be a set for each armor class and the roles those armor classes can perform. Presumably, like the normal Warlords tier sets, these sets will also change bonuses depending on your spec, so that you only have to collect a single set of them on your character.

I really wonder how raiding will work out in Warlords. Mists largely carried over the problem that had begun in Cataclysm. By merging the raid sizes with regard to difficulty, they effectively got rid of the 10-player normal mode that had made raiding so popular in Wrath of the Lich King. Flex mode helped, but a lot of guilds were broken in the intervening years. My personal hope is that, with "flex" as the new normal difficulty, we'll see guild raiding become more prominent again. For anyone who wasn't playing during Wrath, it was quite amazing - a huge portion of the game's players did actually run raids, long before LFR was a thing.

I definitely think LFR should remain, but I think it's all right if it becomes the super-easy version of the raid. LFR had a strange line to straddle during Mists. For most players, it was the only way that we would really be able to access Mists' raids (and without new dungeons, raids were really the sole path in PvE.) As a result, I think that they erred on the side of retaining a great deal of the raids' complexity (that said, some fights, like Elegon, became far simpler,) which is unfortunately torturous in a group with 24 strangers.

My hope for LFR is that it will be primarily a confidence-booster - a raid difficulty that lets you see the place and encourages you to try it out on a higher difficulty. If you can't manage to get a guild or a PUG to run the raids, at least you'll be able to see the fights, but I think it would be ideal for LFR to serve as a stepping stone into raiding, and not the primary challenge of the expansion itself.

Still, for those who stick to LFR, these sets will give them some incentive to collect gear there, and I think that's a good thing.

Adventures in Old-School Legendaries

The Stat Squish brought with it a new buff for running old-school raids. While I think the main intention was to account for the smaller difference between, say, level 90 gear and level 85 gear, it seems to have more than compensated, such that it's actually not too hard to solo even Cataclysm content.

I have three goals: Shadowmourne, Dragonswrath, and the Fangs of the Father. (Also the single achievement I have left for Glory of the Icecrown Raider 10-Player, "Been Waiting a Long Time For This.")

Fangs of the Father:

This was where I hit my first hurdle. I went into Dragon Soul on my Undead Rogue. While Morchok's abilities that split damage proved a little tough to deal with, I eventually powered through, killing the boss quickly enough to avoid most of these. From there, it was pretty much cake to get to Hagara, who you need to pickpocket in order to get the first quest item. (I actually had Glyph of Disguise as well, so I wound up looking like a giant Orc shaman lady for a few minutes after that.)

The only real wall I hit was that it costs 10,000 gold to decrypt the decoder ring. With a new expansion on the horizon, and the fact that my Horde characters have way less disposable money, I decided to table this for a bit.


After killing either Cho'gall, Nefarian (85,) or just the first Molten Giant in Firelands, casters can get a quest to get this legendary staff. Simply going down to the Caverns of Time, Anachronos will give you a little cutscene and then send you to collect items off the bosses in the Firelands. It's a 100% drop rate, but you need 25 off of the seven bosses in there, so it's something that will take a few weeks anyway.

Soloing Firelands on a Mage is not trivial, but with decent gear and some judicious use of cool downs (it also helps that as a Draenei, I have Gift of the Naaru) you can get most of them. I had better luck last week, clearing all but Ragnaros, but this week I got stuck on Shannox, so I've only got nine of these embers. Still, at 100 this should all be very easy. For this stage, at least, it's really just about diligence.


Being an expansion behind the other two, it's rather trivial killing things in ICC these days. Shadowmourne requires you to run the instance on 25-player, but this shouldn't be too difficult, as it doesn't scale up enough to become much of a problem. The one sticking point for a while was, ironically, the Gunship battle, but this week they fixed it so that the cannons scale with your item level. Now it's likely you'll take down the enemy ship before the opening dialogue can even begin.

I was able to get much farther in this chain than in the other two. The first step requires you to collect quest items off of Festergut and Rotface, as well as 25 Primordial Saronite (which you can buy for gold off the Legacy Justice Vendor inside the instance - it'll come to a couple thousand.) The final piece of the puzzle is Light's Vengeance, Arthas' old hammer from his Paladin days, which can be found in Frostmourne Cavern in Dragonblight. Arthas will show up there and summon a big swarm of ghouls as well as a Var'gul guy. You'll have to wade through the ghouls (which is absolutely trivial at 90) and get to where he threw the hammer. The hammer will then start destroying the ghouls with the Light, as well as killing the Var'gul. However, when you try to pick it up, the Var'gul's skeleton will arise and you'll have to kill him as well. Again, this is really simple (I did it at 80 back in the day without too much trouble on my Paladin's off spec.)

With these components, you can create Shadow's Edge, which is the axe that will eventually become Shadowmourne. Unfortunately, while it was an amazing weapon back in the day, it's not that special now, but you'll have to use it in a number of quests that follow.

The first requires you to collect fifty souls with it. I could have sworn this used to be a thousand, but I'm not complaining. To do so, you need to strike enemies in ICC with the weapon (and it has to be a melee strike or auto-attack. Howling Blast does not count.) When the enemy dies, you get the soul. Easy peasy. I managed to get this just by fighting up to the Valithria Dreamwalker fight (which is tough for a class without a healing spell - read: impossible - but you can skip it.)

With the 50 souls, you'll then set about getting the blade infused with Unholy, Blood, and Frost. You start with Unholy.

To get the Unholy Infusion, you have to fight Professor Putricide and use a new special option when transformed into an abomination. This can be a little tough for soloing, as the abomination's health does not scale up with level. What I did (after reading it as a suggestion online) is to go as Blood (healing myself with Death Strikes against the gas and ooze adds he summons) and get him to about 75% health. When his slime puddles were big enough, I cast Army of the Dead and then ran to his desk, transforming into the abomination. While he was distracted by the ghouls (they can't taunt him, but it seemed my aggro was reset when I went abomination) I simply went to the puddles and scooped up as much as I could. When you get a full bar of slime-fuel, you can do the infusion. I then let Putricide kill the abomination-shell and then defeated him the ordinary way, which was enough to get me credit for the quest.

The next step is where I've hit a bit of a dead end. This requires you to get the Blood Infusion by fighting Lana'thel and biting three other players while vampirized. This would seem to be completely impossible while soloing, so I'll have to put this off until later.

Old School Running:

There are a handful of abilities that seem to remain unsquished, but Blizzard has been implementing hot fixes a lot lately to squish them. With the between-expansion lull, it's a great time to go back and see how well you can do soloing old content. There are titles and mounts to be had, and a huge slew of transmog gear as well. I've personally finally gotten a full set of Paladin tier 8/25 and an Azure Drake mount. Anyone at level 90 should have a pretty easy time with Classic, BC, and Wrath content (Yogg-Saron might still be a bit of a challenge, given the whole Sanity mechanic,) and with a little skill and gear, much of the Cataclysm content is also relatively easy to solo (I've killed 6/7 of the bosses in Firelands on a Mage, the king of squishy classes, so it must be doable.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Passives and the Spellbook

The ability squish that came with 6.0 was pretty wide-sweeping. Some specs lost a very large number of abilities, while some managed to retain most of what they had. The goal of the squish was to cut down on rotational abilities - or to be more accurate, abilities that you would have to save a place for on your hot bars. Getting rid of things like Dark Simulacrum, for example, would not really accomplish their stated goal, because chances are you don't have that hot keyed anyway.

So this is why I'm a little baffled at the way that they have cut down on passive abilities. Previously, most passive abilities, particularly procs, would have their own entry in the spell book. Frost Death Knights had Rime, for example, which is how they would get their free Howling Blasts after an Obliterate (admittedly, it was a little confusing that the buff given by the proc was called "Freezing Fog," even if that does describe roughly what Rime is.) Retribution Paladins had Art of War, which is what caused certain attacks to reset the cool down on Exorcism.

Now, these procs are typically baked into the abilities themselves. Granted, there is some benefit to this - a player can mouse over an ability and get an idea what additional effects could result from its use - but personally, I think it makes figuring out a spec far harder to do. Having the abilities listed, and then the way those abilities interact once you've looked them over, makes a lot more sense to me. When you see those passives, you can immediately take inventory of how many effects you'll have to keep track of.

The other issue is that it makes it harder to notice when an ability changes while leveling up.

I recently started another Monk character (partially just to check out another character model, but also to play through the revamped BFD, RFK and RFD dungeons at the right level) and I have absolutely no idea when I'm going to get the Shuffle passive from Blackout Kick. Previously, at level 40 or something, Brewmaster Monks would get "Brewmaster training," which would have a number of effects, like making Tiger Claw free and Blackout Kick increase your parry and stagger amounts for a few seconds through the buff Shuffle. I know that these effects are still in place, as I've tanked the Headless Horseman on my old Monk, Gaotso. Yet I have no idea how much I will have to level up Icatia before her Kicks start making her tougher to kill.

It would be a relatively minor fix to revert all of this, but I think this is a case of Blizzard just going overboard. Passive effects were far from cluttering action bars. They weren't taking up any space in action bars. And while having a smaller spell book might seem like it would make a class simpler to understand, I think that in this case it's more akin to removing all punctuation and spaces between words.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Public Service Announcement: UBRS is Not a Mists Heroic

I've run the new UBRS at 90 several times, and I've noticed that people are wiping like crazy. Granted, just being a new dungeon means that people will have to figure the place out - the second boss (whose name I'm sure I'll remember eventually) has some tricky mechanics that force you to attack one target while making sure to interrupt a different one.

But the major reason I think people are having difficulties is that in two years of Mists of Pandaria, we've only had the original dungeons. There has not been 5-man content (outside of challenge modes) that is tuned for anyone over about 450 item level. With a large swath of players nearly 100 points higher than that - and who have been so for over a year - a lot of people are very used to zerging through dungeons even faster than they were by the end of Wrath.

So yes: you'll have to be careful and not over-pull in new dungeons. You'll have to actually pay attention to boss mechanics. You'll have to be patient and let the healer get full mana or top people off before a fight. And yes, sometimes you'll wipe.

In all honesty, the new UBRS is not really any harder than the Mists dungeons were. But it's new and it's actually tuned for the gear levels that a lot of players have reached. So just be careful, and have fun!

Pandaria XP Requirements Nerfed as Far as I Can Tell

There's no official announcement that I've seen, but it looks like the XP required to go from 85 to 90 has been significantly nerfed. I was able to take my Goblin Hunter, Blattz, from 86 to 90 in about a day - only a couple of hours played.

This shouldn't be to surprising - the pattern has been that XP requirements get nerfed each expansion to account for the new level cap. Blizzard's general rule is that getting from level 1 to whatever the current cap is should take roughly the same time regardless of what that cap is. So while in vanilla it took a good long while to get up to 60, it should take significantly less time to do so now with a level cap of 100 on the horizon (approximately 60%, though I imagine less, because the expansion-areas are designed to take a little more time per level than the old world stuff. You should be able to get to level 10 in only an hour or two, but to go from 70 to 80 is a more significant feat that would typically take at least a few days.)

The only reason that this might be seen as odd is that Mists already received an XP requirement nerf some time in the early patches - I want to say 5.1 or 5.2. I had also worried that they might retire this periodic XP nerf in favor of the character boosts. That does not seem to be the case, though I'll have to see how things are working out at lower levels to see what things are like down there (and I'm running out of pre-Outland characters on my main servers.) The only real downside to these constant XP nerfs is that at this point it's impossible to do all the quests in a zone without the enemies being utterly trivial to deal with by the end.

Anyway, the good news is that if you've got a toon to Pandaria, a little diligent questing and dungeon-running will see you leveling up very quickly, ready to either get one last shot at some of the Mists content or ready to storm Tanaan and crush that pesky Iron Horde.

Sidenote: A Murder of Crows is way cooler now! The cool down resets if a target dies while affected by it, which means that when fighting basically anything that isn't a boss, you can have it up pretty much 100% of the time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

UBRS at 90 - A Quick Look at the Preview

Upper Blackrock Spire is partially open today, until the launch of Warlords. You'll be able to fight the first three bosses of this new 5-boss dungeon. The layout of UBRS is exactly the same as it used to be, but enemies have been shifted around, and there are new bosses.

Trash before Gor'ashan:

The trash here is reminiscent of the old trash. You'll start in a room with several side-rooms with sigils in them. Killing the pack of mobs in here will extinguish the sigil, and when all the sigils are gone, you'll be able to proceed. Notable here are mobs that plant rallying banners, which will attract additional packs, and engineers, who will turn on automated turrets that need to be defeated. I believe that if you get to the turret first you can have them attack the orcs, rather than your party.

Orebender Gor'ashan:

After killing the trash in here (which is very easy,) Gor'ashan will be available to fight. There are several iron traps around the room, and Gor'ashan stands on a central platform. He'll never leave this platform. Each activated trap will reduce the damage he takes, and while the traps are active, he'll cast an AoE pulse to anyone up there with him. Periodically, he'll send a spark down to the lower level, which will go in a big square, activating some of the traps. Avoid this spark and undo the traps, then go back and whack on him some more until he's dead.

Trash before Kyrak:

You'll find Engineers and Alchemists, as well as big dragon abominations left over from when Nefarian was in charge of the Spire. The dragon kin things will cast a nasty disorient effect that will cause them to attack other things, so tanks should be wary of this and get out of the way of the cast and also face the mobs away from the group.


Kyrak is one of those weird dragon-humanoid things like the boss in Blackwing Descent. He'll have two of the dragon kin abominations with him, so kill those first. However, you'll also need to interrupt the boss, as he periodically casts a spell that causes him to fixate on a random group member. Once cast he'll have to channel the spell, so it can still be interrupted. He will also cast a self-heal buff (not sure if this can be purged off of him, but I'd guess so.) At some point, he'll gain a buff that causes him to spew poison pools on the ground. Don't stand in these.

Trash before Tharbek:

You'll have a few packs of adds before the next boss, usually taking the form of four orcs or an ogre or two. The ogres have a cone attack that can be dodged. The most dangerous of the orcs are the summoners, who can summon additional forces.

Commander Tharbek:

This, the final boss of the preview dungeon, works very similarly to the old Rend Blackhand fight. You'll jump down into his arena (Warlord Zaela even echoes Nefarian, telling him to attack the one in the dress,) and you'll get waves of adds - orcs similar to the ones you've been fighting as trash, and several small Rylaks that will fly around and bombard the party. Kill each wave of adds and eventually Tharbek will mount his own adult Rylak. Attack the Rylak and face him away from the raid, as he has a powerful fire breath. Eventually, Tharbek will dismount. Kill the Rylak and then focus on Tharbek. His most potent ability is that he will toss spinning axes that effectively bounce around the walls, slowly moving through the arena and doing a bunch of damage to anyone hit by them. These accumulate, so you'll want to be careful and quick.

The loot that drops from these encounters is iLevel 550, which should be attractive for most players. You have no guarantee of loot. Unlike typical LFR-style personal loot, you'll actually have to physically loot the boss to see if you got anything, but each player will have their own chance, and two players could get the same piece off the same kill.

Oddly there's no achievement affiliated with this. You'll simply defeat Tharbek and then be on your merry way.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hunters: Taming Draenor

Hunters are kind of a special class. They're the only ones who use Bows, Crossbows, or Guns, and they get to tame pets anywhere out there in the world - really getting to customize their own core gameplay features.

Pet collecting for Hunters has always been a pretty big appeal to the class, and with each expansion, we get new pets and new pet families to tame. Let's look at what we're getting in Draenor!


Clefthooves are actually absorbing Rhinos into their mix, so if you have a Rhino pet already, they'll share a family with the Clefthooves. There are a number of new Clefthoof models, typically with more horns and tusks (this will be a general theme for Draenor models of older animals, which is weird because shouldn't they be identical to Outland ones?)


Riverbeasts fix a longstanding problem in WoW, which is the absence of Hippopotamuses... Hippopotami? Whatever, Hippos. You'll find plenty of these guys in Draenor's rivers and lakes across most of its zones. They have a rough, almost scaly natural armor around their heads, and big, scary, massive jaws. Fun fact, hippos are the world's most aggressive animals, and are far deadlier than animals that people usually think of as being dangerous, like lions or wolves.


I feel compelled to go back to Ashenvale and tame one of those dark, cursed stags now. Stags are another big umbrella family, including typical deer, but also gazelles and Outland/Draenor's Talbuks. Come to think of it, have there been herbivore pets before?


This is technically not a new pet family, but I believe there was only ever one hydra that could be tamed, and at some point they made it untamable (but grandfathered in those who had it already.) Well, Hyrdas are going be tamable again, and there are a bunch of new Hydra models that seem far healthier than the mutants we saw in Outland. These Hyrdas are big quadrupeds with a few heads and nice dark scales.

Rylaks (Exotic):

Rylaks are somewhat-lupine beasts with two heads who can fly, and are a common flight-path option for Horde players (Alliance get Fae Dragons, which apparently the Draenei had access to for reasons I can't begin to guess at.) Despite their similarities to Chimaeras, they appear to be their own family.

New Models of Old Pets:

Many of Outland's old animal denizens are getting model updates. Wolves, Boars, Sporebats, Ravagers, Bats, Birds of Prey (including a new Toucan look,) Carrion Birds, Wasps, Raptors, Cats, Moths, and possibly Worms will be getting either new models or at least new color variations. Notably, the new Ravagers have perhaps more believable anatomies, but they don't look nearly as alien as they used to (and instead seem somewhat more like Silithids.)

Spec in Review: Balance Druids (The Essentials)

I've got to be totally honest here - my druid is one of my least-played characters. It's actually funny, because when I first started playing, the druid was a competitor for my secondary Alliance character, competing with my hunter. (When BC came out a few months later, I started playing a Draenei Shaman who actually made it to 63 or so before I found out about Wrath of the Lich King, at which point I had him hang up his totems and wait around to be reborn as a Death Knight.)

Balance is going to be very, very different from its old incarnation, and given that I'm not what you'd call an expert, I'm going to stick the the most notable and noticeable aspects of the Warlords changes.

Day and Night Cycle Now Based on Time:

Since Cataclysm, the Day/Night eclipse cycle has been the core of the Balance Druid's mechanics. Eclipse was originally just a talent that would make your Wrath crits buff Starfire and your Starfire crits buff Wrath, but Cataclysm turned it into a key rotational dynamic. That remains true, but the way it works is different.

Your Eclipse bar will now naturally cycle through day and night while you are in combat. And you will always have some level of Eclipse bonus - rather than hitting the limit and then getting the bonus as you make your way back toward the center, you'll simply get a more pronounced bonus as it cycles  further to one end or another. You'll have to cast the right spells, reacting to the change.

Moonfire/Sunfire Snapshots Eclipse:

Mainly this is just for Moonfire, which will actually spend half of its time as Sunfire, changing when the eclipse meter is one the appropriate side. While snapshotting for DoTs has mostly been removed, your Eclipse amount will determine the total damage of these DoTs, so you'll want to cast them at the terminus of your meter to maximize damage.

Moonfire and Sunfire Are Somewhat Different From One Another:

Moonfire will last longer, but Sunfire will apply its DoT to other enemies near your target, so you'll be able to cycle between more efficient single-target damage and easier AoE.

Starsurge and Starfall... Are Different:

Starsurge and Starfall have a shared two charges and a shared recharge time. Starsurge will deal Spellstorm damage and then buff your other filler spells, while Starfall will be what you use in AoE situations. I also believe that Starfall becomes Sunfall during the day half of the cycle.

Other Changes:

There's a lot going on with Balance, but those are the key ones, as far as I can tell.

Level 100 Talents:


This will make your day/night cycle twice as fast, and the affected spells will get a 20% cast-time reduction when you're in the relevant half of the cycle.

Stellar Flare:

A spell that benefits most when your Eclipse bar is at the center, dealing Spellstorm damage and then leaving a 20-second DoT.

Balance of Power:

Your Wraths will extend Sunfire by 4 second and your Starfires will extend Moonfire by 6 seconds, and both DoTs will deal 10% more damage. In practice, this should more or less make your DoTs fire-and-forget, allowing you to focus on casting your direct-damage spells, at least in single-target situations.

Breaking it Down:

Again, as a non-expert, I can't really say which of these talents will be best for which situations, but Balance of Power will certainly make the rotation easier. Euphoria will make it easier to fix things if you let a DoT fall off at an inopportune time, and of course will make you more of a rapid-fire laser-chicken. Stellar Flare is there if you've decided that with two filler spells, a nuke, and two DoTs to carefully time, you just don't have enough balls to juggle.

Moonkin Revamp in the Works...

One last thing: apparently they still want to do a revamp of the look of Moonkin form. Famously, Druid animal forms were revamped in the middle of Wrath of the Lich King, Treant form was redesigned in Cataclysm, and of course now we're getting model revamps for the vanilla races (3/4 of Druids.) Moonkin form, thus, is one of the very last player models that has not changed in appearance since vanilla. I'd love to see a more elaborate version, perhaps with racially-appropirate charms and such adorning them. Fingers crossed for some time during Warlords!

One Day, One Month - A Look at Warlords PvE Item Levels

Today (actually I'm writing this on Saturday, but when this posts) we will be on two notable precipices regarding Warlords of Draenor. Tomorrow, patch 6.0.2 goes live, with all the systems changes that will be coming with the new expansion. And one month from now, the expansion itself will be going live. Yes, the long, long, long, long, long wait for something other than Siege of Orgrimmar is finally coming to its conclusion.

I've gone into tons of detail about all the changes that are happening; some of it is probably even accurate!

But let's talk nitty-gritty: let's go into iLevels. We're going to be getting several new zones, four level-up dungeons and four level-cap dungeons, a preview-version of one of the level-cap dungeons as part of the pre-game event, and one and a half raid tiers (Highmaul being a kind of Mogu'shan Vaults situation) with four difficulties each.

Item Level is one of the major ways a player can track their progress in WoW (fun fact, you used to need an add-on to even see what a piece's iLevel was,) so I figured I'd give you an idea of what the progression is.

Notably, after the Tanaan Jungle intro, which rewards all 505 blue gear, most zones will have something of a spread of iLevel quest rewards, usually awarding better gear for quests done at a higher level, since all zones (except Tanaan) have a two-level range. Also, you'll have a chance to get upgrades, with green rewards potentially getting upgraded to rare or even epic, and blue rewards similarly having a chance to be upgraded to epic. Every upgrade will increase the item's level by ten points.

Also, to be clear, the iLevels for zones here are for the green quest rewards. Major quest chains will often have blue, rare-quality rewards that will be a higher iLevel. That said, sometimes a green from a later quest will actually obsolete a blue from a quest earlier in the same zone, though this is somewhat rare.

Finally, this does not take into account rare spawns and treasures found in these zones, which tend to have blue-quality gear that is higher than what you'd otherwise receive through quests, but will often be better-suited for a different class or spec (maybe it's just some psychological bias, but I would swear two out of three armor pieces off these "vignettes" are mail. So good for you, Hunters/Shamans.)

Without further ado - the iLevels!

Upper Blacrock Spire at 90 (available tomorrow): 550

Tanaan Jungle Intro (90): 505

Frostfire Ridge/Shadowmoon Valley (not counting a quest chain that takes you back there at 94) (90-91): 510-525

Bloodmaul Slag Mines (dungeon, min. 90): 530

Gorgrond (92-93): 522-536

Iron Docks (dungeon, min 92): 550

Talador (94-95): 545-563

Auchindoun (dungeon, min 94): 570

Spires of Arak (96-97): 568-586

Skyreach (dungeon, min 95): 600

Nagrand (98-99): 587-605

Level Cap Normal Dungeons (Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, Grimrail Depot, The Everbloom, Upper Blackrock Spire) (100): 615

Heroic Dungeons: 630


Raid Finder: 640 (note: RF loot does not share stat-spread or names with other difficulties, and there is no Raid Finder tier set.)
Normal: 655
Heroic: 670
Mythic 685

Blackrock Foundry:

Raid Finder: 650 (see above for details on RF loot.)
Normal: 665
Heroic: 680
Mythic: 695

Breaking it All Down:

Getting a decent amount of gear out of the preview UBRS will give you a nice head-start if you haven't been raiding or hitting up Ordos and the Celestials much. Even if you have, there are weapons there, which will make a really big difference. The UBRS-90 gear will last you a while, though if you get lucky with weapons in Iron Docks, you might find equivalent stuff as early as level 92.

While generally I like to do dungeons after I've completed the zones that they're in, you'll have a pretty big advantage if you run them early - though you might find them somewhat challenging. It's odd to me, actually, that you can technically get stuff out of Skyreach before you even go to the zone that it takes place in (Spires of Arak,) but that 600 gear will be a nice boost to the rest of your questing.

Most of your Mists-era gear is going to get replaced at some point during the leveling process, though gems, enchants, and set bonuses might make it worth your while to stick with lower iLevel gear despite getting theoretical upgrades. The Legendary cloaks should make it through the whole questing experience, though, especially if you have yours fully-upgraded (and if you haven't done that by tomorrow, you'll still be able to with Lesser Charms.) Garrosh Heirlooms will scale differently depending on the difficulty level, but I believe they all end up at 610 once you hit 100. There's an easy quest at level 100 to simply do Bronze level at the Proving Grounds (which is a walk in the park if you're even marginally competent) that gives a 615-level weapon. Stick around and do Silver, though, and you'll be qualified to random-queue for heroics as well.

In theory, players should be able to jump from Normal Dungeons into LFR, and from Heroic Dungeons into Normal raids. Still, if you want a bit of an edge, it's not a terrible idea to do every step to maximize your power and ensure the greatest success. I don't know how hard LFR will be tuned, but I've heard that they want it to be "tourist mode," making it very easy and really pushing anyone who actually wants a challenge to do it on Normal. Granted, that's a statement they made about a year ago, so I'm not sure if it's still the design.

Spec in Review: Demonology Warlocks

Warlocks got a huge revamp in Mists of Pandaria, so it's not all that shocking that the changes they are receiving in Warlords are somewhat less dramatic than other classes. Still, there are some notable changes, so let's get to it.

Also, much like my Frost Mage article, this will contain information that applies to other Warlocks as well.

Fel Flame/Void Ray: Gone

Yes, they're cutting down on casting-while-moving abilities, and while I think that just nerfing the damage to this one would have been sufficient, the fact remains that as a DOT-heavy class, Warlocks can afford to not be casting for a little bit. Demo in particular has options anyway, like using Touch of Chaos. Still, the lack of Void Ray does make large-pack AoE in demon from a little formless.

Pandemic Goes Sort of Universal:

Pandemic made refreshing DOTs a less precise science, allowing you to refresh it at 50% of its duration or lower without losing anything. That effect is now a universal thing for all DoTs for all classes, but you'll only be able to get a 30% longer duration.

All those tick and snapshot changes:

Way way back when the expansion was announced, Blizzard explained some changes that will finally be going live soon. To recap: DoTs will now adjust constantly to your current spell power, haste, crit, etc. On the negative side, that means that refreshing all your DoTs when you get a full stack off of Wrath of the Darkspear or Unerring Vision of Lei Shen will not be nearly as powerful anymore, but it also means that things will be a lot more forgiving, and as long as you keep those DoTs up, you'll be ok. (Demo's got more interesting stuff going on anyway.)

Carrion Swarm - Gone

Carrion Swarm was something I mainly used for the interrupt. It's hard to argue that the thing doesn't look really cool, but they wanted to cut back on the arms-race of interrupts and such. I'd love to see it come back as just a little AoE burst - perhaps something to spam while you've got Immolation Aura up.

Glyph of Demon Hunting - Gone:

Yes, the never-quite-working Demonology Warlock Tank is going away. I honestly can't say I'm shocked, given that they were never willing to fully commit to it, despite there clearly being some interesting design work there. Still, my hope is that they got rid of it because they wanted to establish Demon Hunters as a separate class. A hero class, perhaps...

Grimoire of Sacrifice becomes Grimoire of Synergy for Demonology:

It never really made much sense that the Demonology warlock would go minion-less, so Demo now gets essentially the t16 2-piece set bonus as a talent. I'm probably going to stick with supremacy, especially given a certain level 100 talent...

Kil'jaeden's Cunning becomes a cool down:

KJC now allows you to cast any spell on the move, but only temporarily, after hitting this as an active ability. Sad, but then again, ranged classes across the board are getting hit by this stuff (except for non-Marksmanship hunters.)

New Talents:

Demon Bolt:

This is a spell that costs Demonic Fury only, and is thus only usable in Metamorphosis. It deals a large amount of damage (and has a cool visual,) but has a sort of Arcane Charge-style mechanic, where it gets somewhat more powerful but significantly more expensive with each use. This debuff lasts a rather long time, actually. I still don't really know how to use this thing, but it could prove interesting.


Yes, finally Warlocks get Cataclysm, which had been a spell on the Mists of Pandaria beta. This is an AoE cool down that allows you to hit a targeted area with big damage, and then it applies Corruption to anyone in that area (Immolation if you're Destruction-spec.) Should prove powerful on groups of long-lasting adds.

Demonic Servitude:

This talent allows you to summon your Doomguard or Infernal (or if you have Grimoire of Supremacy, your Terroguard or Abyssal) as a permanent pet, rather than as a ten-minute cool down. The Doom/Terrorguard is designed more for single-target, casting ranged attacks like an Imp on double-steroids. The Infernal/Abyssal has some AoE abilities. Like your normal minions, your big guys will now have specific names and a number of additional activated abilities. Also, just saying, but the Abyssal looks ridiculously cool if you have green fire.

Speaking of Green Fire:

Just a reminder: the quests to get Green Fire aren't going anywhere - Blizzard will probably never take that away from people - but those who attained their own Codex of Xerrath passive before 6.0 will get a title: "Breaker of the Black Harvest." That's a pretty cool title, so if you haven't done it yet, you've got one day. Good luck (you'll need it.) Still, it's only the title that is going to be unattainable. The Green Fire will still be there, and that last fight will probably be a hell of a lot easier at level 100.

Garrosh Heirloom Correction

Well, good news: I got the whole thing about the Garrosh heirlooms wrong. Rather than going away, they will now be guaranteed drops, once per character per difficulty. So I suspect that there will be a whole lot of PUG raids coming up over the next month to allow people to get their heirlooms.

These heirlooms have been around since 5.4 first arrived, and they were actually the first hint that we would be getting a ten-level expansion again. When you defeat Garrosh and get an heirloom, you'll get one that is appropriate for your character's current spec (or loot spec, I would assume.) For example, I will be trying to get the two-handed axe for my Death Knight, who is primarily 2h Frost, but I think I'm going to set his loot spec to Blood, lest I wind up with a one-handed weapon instead. If I'm getting this all correct, defeating Garrosh after 6.0 hits, my first successful attempt will guarantee that I get that weapon. There is still a chance to get 90-100 heirloom weapons on subsequent victories, but after the first, it will simply choose one of them at random, meaning that I could wind up getting an agility dagger.

It looks like these guaranteed drops will be available once per difficulty, so you shouldn't worry about running Flex (which will be called Normal) first if you still want to see if you can get your hands on a Normal (which will be called Heroic) piece.

These heirloom weapons will begin at an item level equivalent to the Siege of Orgrimmar raid difficulty, plus sixteen (to compensate for the fact that other weapons could be upgraded by a void binder.) As you progress, however, the range between the different heirlooms will get narrower, until at level 100, all the heirlooms should scale to the same item level (which I think is 610, just narrowly below normal level 100 dungeon gear.)

I could be mistaken (I was last time,) but I do think that these heirlooms will become unattainable once Warlords actually comes out.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Garrison Resources and How to Get Them

In order to build your garrison's buildings, you'll need two things - Gold and Garrison Resources. It should be pretty easy to figure out how to obtain the former - basically do anything in the game - but the latter is a new currency that will serve as a limiting factor on how quickly you can build up your garrison.

So how do you get it? There are several methods.

The Garrison Cache:

Over time, you garrison will slowly accumulate resources on its own. Porter NPCs will walk over to the spot near your town hall and deposit boxes, adding to your cache. At any time, you can go gather the resources from the cache that have been accumulated. If you do this very frequently, you won't find much in it, but if you leave it alone for a couple days, you'll find up to 500 resources gathered. The cache itself will change in appearance as it gets closer to that cap, and its name will change from Garrison Cache to Hefty Garrison Cache, and then Full Garrison Cache. This is the most reliable way to gather resources, but it's purely time-based, so you'll have to be patient to get the amounts you want.

Vignette Encounters:

Rare spawns aren't exactly rare in Draenor. Instead, at least for most of them, the "rare" mob will usually be there, and be marked on the map. However, after defeating it once and claiming its loot, you'll get somewhere around 15-30 resources and the piece of loot that that mob drops. Each of these vignettes drops the same piece for all players, so you'll often wind up with some nice blue-quality vendor trash. Once you've completed a vignette, the mob will still appear to you, but it will no longer be marked on the map, no longer have a silver dragon portrait frame, and no longer give you that loot or the resources.


There are tons of quests in Draenor that will award garrison resources. Some of your first quests in FFR or SMV will give you the resources you need to build your Barracks, for instance. Garrison resources will pop up as a common quest reward throughout Draenor.

Follower Missions:

Most follower missions reward one of three things for a successful attempt - gold, bonus follower xp, and garrison resources. There are even some traits that followers can get to double the garrison resources that they bring back from missions that reward them.

The Lumber Mill:

The Lumber Mill, a Medium-sized building, is designed specifically for the acquisition of garrison resources. It essentially grants you an additional gathering profession, allowing you to cut down certain trees in Draenor to gather lumber, which you can then turn in for work orders that will produce garrison resources. As you upgrade the building, you'll be able to cut down larger trees, which will grant greater amounts of lumber, and thus allow you to process more work orders.

The Trading Post:

Another Medium-sized building, the trading post primarily allows you to spend garrison resources on all manner of professional materials. But in addition, you can place work orders, turning in some of those materials in order to attain garrison resources. The required material changes every day, but if you, for instance, don't have any need for all those herbs growing in your garden, you can sell them off at the trading post in order to get more resources to upgrade, say, your mine.

My Complicated Feelings on Flight in Draenor

By now everyone who pays attention to WoW knows that Warlords of Draenor will, at launch, not allow flying, even at the level cap. The history of flight in WoW started with Draenor's universe-A doppelgänger, Outland. In Burning Crusade, players who got to level 70 (or Druids who got to 68, those bastards) learned to ride flying mounts. Wrath of the Lich King allowed flying in Northrend at level 77, once you were ready to tackle the final questing zones. Cataclysm allowed flying from the get-go (probably because four of the five new zones were integrated into the original vanilla continents, which had just been updated to allow flying,) and then Mists returned finally to the BC model by waiting until the level cap to allow you to fly in Pandaria.

Flight has been, to put it lightly, controversial. On one hand, it's awesome. I remember after hitting 70 on my Rogue (the first character I got to 70,) I flew over to Kil'sorrow Fortress in Nagrand and landed at the top of one of the towers there, fighting my way down. It felt like a totally badass and very Rogue-like thing to do. Also, because back in BC you actually had to go to dungeons in order to run them, flight became something of a limiting factor, as you would be unable to run the three Tempest Keep dungeons if you couldn't fly up to them (and the meeting stone was down on the ground, with Warlock summons disabled on the three ships.) During Wrath, Icecrown and Storm Peaks were built around the idea of flight, creating amazing vistas and remote locations that would be inaccessible otherwise. Icecrown's major quest hubs were actually constantly-moving airships.

Flight can be used to enhance immersion and wow players.

But it can also really screw up the flow of a zone. The problem with flight is that it's really hard to make fighting your way into a fortress seem like a heroic task when anybody could easily just fly over the walls. Quests are built so that just getting where you need to go is a challenge of navigation and fending off the monsters along the way. Flight, unfortunately, can ruin this. Rather than, say, fighting your way up a tall mountain, you can just hop on your gryphon and float, care-free, to the place you have to go. Is there an enemy general at the center of a heavily-guarded camp? Well, you can just plop right down into the center of that camp and kill him and then hop back on and fly away.

There are certainly areas in Draenor that would simply not work if you could fly around them. Spires of Arak in particular is filled with hidden chests and treasures that you need to carefully jump around and walk along tightropes to access. If you could fly, it would make getting these treasures trivial. Much of that zone is also underneath dense foliage, really reinforcing the idea of a haunted forest where the Arrakoa Outcasts have turned to dark and shadowy magic to survive against their oppressors. Being able to break through that canopy is something the world designers need to have control over for the sake of maintaining the ambience.

Even in wide-open areas, though, flight can deprive you of a potential experience. Consider Uldum. Uldum has always been a flight-accessible zone. It's a really large zone, and there are vast swatches of desert without any real quest significance. Instead, they just reinforce the idea that the zone is a massive desert. Now, flying over a massive desert is its own interesting experience, so I'm not going to just totally write the zone off (the Tol'vir were dull as hell though, which is a shame,) but it might have been interesting if we had had to make our way through the vast, shifting sands, cresting a hill to discover a massive titan-made facility. Actually, it's a real shame that your introduction to the zone is through a rather silly cutscene (and holy crap are there too many cutscenes in Uldum,) as it would have been cool to ride through that massive entryway instead of skipping it so that you could get locked in a cage in the Lost City of the Tol'vir.

Still, while I think we could very well see flying re-implemented in 6.1 or whenever Tanaan gets introduced (though expect that to be flight-free until probably 7.0, if not forever,) I worry that Blizzard might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I think there are some problems that make flight worse for the game than it might otherwise be. Here are a few:

Flying is Too Safe: Flight in WoW has typically been a way to pause the game. With very few exceptions, if you can get up on a flying mount, even if you're only 40 yards up, you really don't have to care about anything attacking you. It's the fact that you're so safe that makes the old "fly in, kill named mob, fly out" strategy work. The people on the ground can't do anything about you, and once you're in the air, they're programmed to just give up and act as if you disappeared, which is why flight makes things too easy. Basically, there need to be more things up in the air that can attack you.

The Penalty for Danger is Too High: One of the first areas where flight became dangerous was in Skettis, doing the Shatari Skyguard quests (I actually think Skettis in Outland is where the Gorian Fortress is in Draenor...) You'd be sent to bomb the Arrakoa, but you'd be threatened by Monstrous Kaliri (a bunch of BC veterans just shivered a little bit,) who, if they caught you, would dismount you. If you didn't have a parachute of some sort, you were screwed, and would just die. This is the big problem - when flying, survival is just a binary yes or no, unlike almost everything in WoW, where you have some wiggle room if something starts to go wrong (that's what having more than 1HP is for.) Finding some middle ground, where things could attack you, but you'd have some recourse to fend them off, would be great.

Zones are Too Large an Area To Decide on Yes or No for Flight: Icecrown is a zone that's got tons of great stuff for flying. Obviously, the Skybreaker and Orgrim's Hammer are pretty cool - that ominous sense of grim warriors preparing for battle as the motor churns in the background. I swear, there were times in Wrath where I'd just sit below decks on the Skybreaker and chill out there. But while the zone was built around flying, there were some areas where perhaps there were missed opportunities. Doing the quests for Koltira and Thassarian, players would assault the various major gates leading in a big circle around the zone to finally open up the assault on Icecrown Citadel. Yet it never really felt like you were breaking through. The Alliance and Horde armies stopped being relevant to the assault almost immediately (and entirely because of the Horde being failed opportunists.) Theoretically you were weakening the power base of the Scourge, but the fact that you could just fly to ICC anyway (never mind that it would be about a year before you'd actually get inside) sort of robbed the assault of some of its heft.

So what I think is that you could use either quest scenarios like in Warlords to single out areas where a ground assault is what they want you to experience (a climactic event in Nagrand uses a similar tactic, preventing you from using any mount) or make it so that you need to do a quest in each zone to unlock flying. With two-level zones, as they are in Draenor, you could even make these quests require that you spend at least one level there before getting the ability to fly. I could imagine a version of Spires of Arak, for example (that zone is pretty good for talking about flying, as a major part of the story is a group of people who used to be able to fly but now cannot) where you spend a level fighting through the forests and battling your way up to some Adherent stronghold, and then destroying their anti-flight-thingie, and then having a transition where you fly to the various spires and assault the different Adherent positions.

And even if you have flight throughout a zone, you do have other ways of controlling it. For example, there are plenty of places (that minefield in Storm Peaks, for example) where the game violently dismounts flyers. And there's also, you know, the indoors. You could have people fly up to some cliffside fortress, but once they enter it, they'd have to fight their way through on foot.

Draenor is going to be a big experiment in WoW Flight, but I hope that rather than getting rid of this 8-year-old game mechanic, Blizzard instead finds a smarter way to implement it that adds to gameplay, rather than detracting from it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spec in Review: Blood DKs

Fun little trivia fact: when Wrath of the Lich King was first announced, Blood was going to be the PvE DPS spec, while Frost would be for tanking and Unholy would be the utility/PvP spec. When Wrath went live, however, they embarked on an ambitious experiment to make all three specs tank and DPS capable. By the end of Wrath, they realized that was insane (and OP) so they chose the spec that had all the self-healing as the tank. But it is funny, because I remember having a Blood DPS spec and a Frost tank spec (which I later just changed to Blood as well, because I loved Blood during Wrath,) and at the time, Blood Presence was for DPS and Frost Presence was for tanking, so I'd always have the opposite one from my spec active. Ah, memories.

What's up with Blood?

Rune Strike - Gone!

Rune Strike was notable for bypassing all dodges and parries (and blocks, I think.) However, with the expertise hard cap built into all tank specs now, that's not nearly as impressive as it once was. So instead, Blood will now use a cheaper and higher-damage Death Coil for their RP-dumping needs, which is fine. Now you'll have a nice ranged ability that bypasses armor. Cool beans.

Heart Strike - Gone!

Whoa, whoa, back up. Heart Strike is gone? What? Yes, it turns out that good ol' Heart Strike is going away. Back in Wrath, when Blood was DPS-capable, Heart Strike was what you used all your Death and Blood runes on. In fact, the fact that Blood even generates Death Runes via Death Strike is kind of a relic of that era. These days, you'll probably just be spending those on Death Strike anyway.

Instead, we'll just be using Blood Boil for both single-target and AoE.

Pestilence - Rolled into Blood Boil!

Earlier in the Beta, they rolled Blood Boil into Pestilence, but people liked the aesthetic of Blood Boil better, so they switched it around. I'll agree that Pestilence is maybe a more specifically-Death-Knight-ish thing than Blood Boil, but I agree with the move. Also, it frees up the name Pestilence for some new ability later down the line.

What this does mean, though, is that you're going to be using Blood Boil a whole hell of a lot. You still get a free one with Crimson Scourge, and it still refreshes diseases, and of course now spreads them as well. This does mean that the new Plaguebringer talent that replaced Roiling Blood (which is of course now baseline with this change,) doesn't look all that attractive to Blood, as it will be hard to do anything without keeping those diseases refreshed anyway.

Rune Tap - More Active Mitigation Options

Rune Tap is no longer a heal, but is instead a short-duration 50% damage reduction cool down with two charges. I believe the recharge time is 30s, so you can expect to use this frequently. Will of the Necropolis will now just automatically activate it at 35% health.

Multistriking for Scent of Blood:

Last time I checked, Multistrikes will now contribute, or perhaps just be the way for you to get stacks of Scent of Blood. This buff, in case you forgot about it, will stack up to 5 and increase the healing and RP-generation of your Death Strike. Multistrike is Blood's stat-attunement, but we'll have to see how powerful it is.

EDIT: Actually I'm not sure about this one. Multistrike is definitely the stat attunement, but I could be mistaken about how it interacts with Scent of Blood. Still, all tanks are getting something that will make MS attractive, so I could have been right the first time.

Where the f- is Ghoul, String? Where the F- is ghoul?

Yes, as I covered in the Frost discussion, Raise Dead (not to be confused with Raise Ally, which is still class-wide) is now Unholy only. Admittedly, Raise Dead was mostly important for Blood as a fuel for Death Pact, which no longer requires an undead minion to work, but still, it's a little sad to see that we won't be raising the dead all that much. Again, Army of the Dead remains, but the damage has been nerfed, and it's really more of a panic button for when things get out of hand. Army of the Dead is such an awesome spell, but I sort of wish it was easier to use properly. Oh well.

RP-Spenders All Proc Rune-Regen talents:

No longer do only Death Coil, Frost Strike, and the defunct Rune Strike proc Runic Empowerment, Runic Corruption, or Blood Tap. Now, if you spend RP, you have a chance to proc them, which honestly I think frees up a lot of future ability and class design.


DK level 100 talents are the same regardless of your spec, even between tanks and DPS.

Necrotic Plague: This is a disease that will replace both Frost Fever and Blood Plague, and will do damage greater than both combined, ultimately. It starts out doing relatively low damage, but with each tick, it gains a stack and spreads to an additional target. When a target afflicted with Necrotic Plague tries to attack you, you gain 2 RP, which should provide quite a lot with large packs. The disease cannot be refreshed though, but doing things that would refresh it instead add a stack, capping out at 15 I believe. Given Blood's very easy time refreshing diseases, this means that you'll likely be able to get it up to full stacks pretty quickly.

Defile: Replacing Death and Decay, Defile creates an AoE zone that ticks for damage for everyone standing within it. If there are enemies within it when it ticks, it grows in both size and damage by 2.5%. Enemies who are standing in Defile will do 10% less damage to you, which means that even on single-target fights, it can be a nice little damage-reduction cool down (though with Crimson Scourge, I expect most players will use it more or less on cool down if they can cast for free.)

Breath of Sindragosa: This is the only ability that doesn't replace an existing one. BoS has a 2-min CD, and costs 15 RP per second. It lasts until cancelled or if you run out of RP. BoS causes shadowfrost damage to enemies in a cone in front of you, and targets that are hit by it will heal you for 10% of the spell-damage they do.

Personally, I'm all about Defile, partially because no Lich King ability scared me as much as that one. And I'm angry at Necrotic Plague for being the one LK ability that is keeping me from getting my Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher. Breath of Sindragosa is a little fussy for my tastes, though the game of maximizing its duration could be an interesting challenge for some.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

6.0 Out Next Week

The pre-Warlords patch will be coming out on Oct. 14th, which is next Tuesday, and is a month minus one day before the release of Warlords of Draenor.

6.0 is bringing:

Iron Horde Invasion:

The Iron Horde is invading through the newly red Dark Portal, and has launched a surprise attack into the Blasted Lands, taking over Nethergarde Keep and Dreadmaul Hold (which might be called Okrillan Hold right now... the Horde town is what I'm getting at here.) You'll be able to participate in a battle against the Iron Horde to liberate these towns and stop the Iron Horde's advance into Azeroth. There will be a quest chain here that I believe awards an Iron Star companion pet.

Upper Blackrock Spire:

UBRS will be a level 100 dungeon when Warlords launches, but at the beginning of 6.0, it will be available to players as a level 90 5-man. No word yet on the loot available, but UBRS-90 will allow you to battle against the first three bosses.

UPDATE: UBRS level 90 will reward iLevel 550 loot, which is pretty damn good, if you ask me. It all reuses vanilla models (though some of these, mainly weapons, will also return at level 100.) Blizzard says they'll implement a minimum iLevel to be roughly for people who have a few pieces of SoO LFR gear, so if you've been playing throughout the last year, you should be fine. The 550 gear will not be upgradeable, so if you have a Flex-mode piece that is fully upgraded (or obviously any Normal or Heroic gear,) you won't find anything much better, but for those of you (us) who stuck mainly to LFR, there will be some very nice upgrades that should last you in Spires of Arak or even Nagrand.

Huge Class Changes:

The 6.0 ability squish is going to be coming next week, so if you haven't been playing in the Beta, be prepared to see your action bars a little lighter. Some will rejoice to see annoying abilities (Inquisition, anyone?) go, while others will lament the loss of iconic ones (Overpower...? Where are you?) Some specs have definitely been hit harder with the squish than others. If you play an Enhancement Shaman, for example, I think the biggest change to your bars you'll notice is that you'll use Frost Shock instead of Earth Shock. But if you're, say, a Marksmanship Hunter, you're going to notice some considerable differences.

Item Squish:

Yes, everyone's health, damage and healing are going to be dropping by an order of magnitude or two (at least everyone at 90.) This is going to feel really, really weird at first, seeing DoTs ticking for only three-digit numbers and such, but I promise you, in a few hours of play you're going to forget that it happened and simply adjust to the new numbers.

The good news is that, with the changes to level-scaling, you'll actually probably have a much easier time running old content, and you'll see those huge numbers again when you start fighting things that are an expansion behind you.

Many, Many Things Going Unattainable:

Sadly, I really don't think I'm going to get my Kor'kron War Wolf. If you haven't gotten that, or your Challenge Mode Gold armor set (or mount or title,) or your Garrosh Heirlooms, well... better work on that now. If you're a Warlock, don't panic too much - you can still get Green Fire post-6.0, but you won't be able to get the Breaker of the Black Harvest title, as that will be given out only to those who beat Kanrethad before 6.0.

Legendary Chain - Last Call:

If you haven't started the Legendary chain (and seriously, if you haven't, why not? You just need to listen to Wrathion rant for a bit,) you should do so now. You'll only have a month to get the whole thing done before the expansion launches, which I doubt will be enough time (though with A Test of Valor being taken out, that'll cut a lot of time from it.) Still, even if you don't get the cloak itself, you might be able to wrangle the Meta Gem or some other intermediate reward. Plus, it's a cool chain, and worth checking out.

For those worried about Ordos - you won't need the cloak anymore to get to him, so if you never got it, you can go hit that guy up for some awesome, always-Warforged what-will-now-be-called-heroic gear.

Justice and Valor - Gone!:

Justice and Valor points are both disappearing. You'll get 47s for every point you have, so actually it's not a bad idea to just rack up as much as you can for a nice spot of gold. Luckily, the vendors will not be going away. Instead they will just sell their stuff for gold. Heirloom Vendors - specifically just the ones who sell them for JP - will be sent on a patch-long vacation until Blizzard can implement their new heirloom system. The only things going away permanently are the Commendation Badges sold in Dalaran I believe, for Wrath-era factions.

Siege of Orgrimmar Format Update:

SoO is going to be converted to the new raid system. That means that Flex is now Normal, Normal is now Heroic, and Heroic is now Mythic. Also, it means that LFR, Normal, and Heroic (under the new name systems) will now be 10-30 flexible, and Mythic will be locked at 20 players. Gear rewards will remain the same iLevel, but will be labeled differently to reflect the changes to the difficulty categories.

All those Bag Things:

I wrote a whole article earlier about bag stuff. All that is happening next week.

Old Stats Getting Phased Out:

I actually think there are a handful of pieces from the really old content, like vanilla stuff, that will still have things like Dodge or Parry. But Hit and Expertise are totally going away, and any modern gear, gems, or enchants are going to be converted from these old stats into new, more useful ones.

And Last But Certainly Not Least - New Character Models!:

Yes, everyone who is getting a new model except for Blood Elves (wait for 6.1, I think) will be getting their new models. You will either love or hate them! But the good news is that if you're in the latter camp, there are two things you can do. One: you can simply change the settings in your Advanced tab to show the old models. Two: Barbershops will now let you change your character's face, so if that sly, clever expression now seems to look kind of oafish, you can pick a new one!

Finally, Finally!

Yes, this means Warlords is really coming. For the first time in 13 months, WoW will have a new patch with new stuff to do (I'm eager to get into the new UBRS.) This will also be a great opportunity to get through the shock of the ability squish and prepare for serious play in Draenor.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Smash Bros Wii U Out November 21st

Yes, I know! A non-WoW article! I often vacillate between whether this should be a WoW-specific blog or a more general gaming blog, but WoW is the sort of game that constantly has news popping up about it and its systems and lore are so complex that I can find a lot of things to say about it.

But Smash Bros Wii U is coming out a week after Warlords, which I think means I'm going to be a caveman for a while starting in mid-November.

Smash Bros 3DS came out already, but I've never been much of a mobile gamer (never had a Gameboy or its successors) so I was really waiting for the console version to arrive.

Smash Bros Wii U will see a whole lot of new characters (though a lot seem to be from Fire Emblem, which I've never played.) As far as I can tell, the only characters I don't believe are returning are Snake (which sucks, but I can understand there begin complicated licensing issues involved) and Ice Climbers, which is just a damn shame because why the hell not?

On the plus side, we're getting Megaman, Pac-Man, and even the freaking Duck Hunt Dog, who I don't think has actually been in any games since Duck Hunt, but is unquestionably a part of the classic Nintendo legacy. We're also getting Little Mac, the star of Punch-Out, another golden-oldie. Unfortunately, especially given the apparent absence of Snake, I'm not holding out much hope for fellow Konami alumnus Simon Belmont, from the Castlevania games, which one of my best friends has been yearning to play in Smash Bros. for years. Personally I wouldn't mind some classic Squaresoft characters to join in as well, like Frog from Chrono Trigger or Tera from Final Fantasy VI, but I don't really know what's going on with SquareEnix and Nintendo these days, especially regarding the Final Fantasy series.

Apparently there's some add-on you can get for the Wii U that allows you to use the Gamecube controller, which is pretty enticing. I'll have to weigh that against the cost of the Wii U's pro controllers. Currently I just have my tablet-controller and a couple old Wii controllers. The tablet should be ok, but it is a little on the heavy side.

While I don't know if we can ever hope to get a Pyramid of Power stage (the final boss area in Link to the Past, where you fight Ganon in his most secure stronghold in the Dark World,) but I sure hope we get an epic, awesome new Dark World Theme orchestration. There's not much on the website about stages, so I'm eager to see what they've got.

And after a week of Draenor, I'm sure it'll be nice to get some more action-oriented gaming done and then maybe take a break for a shower and some sleep some time in December.

Skyreach First Impressions

Yep, I broke my rule and ran a dungeon in Draenor before the launch. Actually, I also tried to run Bloodmaul Slag Mines, but my computer crashed before the final boss.

Skyreach is the last of the level-up dungeons in Draenor. Situated in northern Spires of Arak, Skyreach is the capital of the Adherents of Rukhmar, the elite class of Arrakoa who haven't been mutated by the blood of Sethe and are all-around jerks (they are the ones who cast others out into the blood.) They're obsessed with the sun, and with rebuilding the Apexis civilization from countless centuries earlier.

Skyreach is more or less designed for people level 98 and up, having already done quests in Spires of Arak. If you are level 98, you'll be able to do the first quest in the legendary chain here, giving you an awesome 640 epic ring that will be the foundation for the legendary ring. Unfortunately, while you can complete this first quest at 98, the ring requires level 100. Still, not bad! It means you'll be able to get a real head start on having a good ring at 100.

When you enter the dungeon, Reshad will give you a ride on the back of a Dread Raven who will take you to one of the spire platforms leading up to the central building. There's about four or five trash pulls here, though the only one I'd worry much about is the last, where there are some outcast-like Arrakoa who will enrage and do massive damage to the tank.

Ranjit, Master of the Four Winds:

I'm not sure if this is going to be more annoying for melee because the boss does these charges across the platform or for ranged because of all the movement required by players. Ranjit's major ability is that he will create wind-walls, which rotate slowly on the platform, dealing damage to anyone who stands in them. He will also occasionally do Four Winds, which will divide the platform into four segments with wind walls, which will slowly rotate around the center, requiring you to keep on your toes. This will get a little complicated thanks to the presence of the other wind walls, but as long as you're careful where you walk, you should be ok. I don't know if his charges do anything other than maybe damage anyone in the way.

After that, it's a short bit of trash to get into the central building, where you'll face Arkanath.


This is one of the big, awesome looking Apexis constructs. Whenever you're in this room, even if you're still on trash, some players will be singled out with a big laser, and they'll have to move away from their allies or risk splashing some damage onto them. Arkanath hits pretty hard, but he'll hit harder if he's allowed to get empowered by the various light beams in the room. Blocking the beam will prevent him from getting power, but it will also do some damage. If you have a solid healer and tank, you might just have the tank do this, but otherwise you might want to trade out DPS on laser duty.

Following Arkanath, you'll head out of the building and onto a platform. There are a few simple packs here, and once you clear them out, Rukhran will appear.


This guy's a big bird. Much like Rukhmar (who is a world boss,) Rukhran has a kind of fiery look to him. Rukhran mostly just melees the tank - doing a pierce armor move that stacks a debuff on the tank, but can be avoided through judicious use of active mitigation. DPS and heals will have a more complicated job. He'll periodically summon little sun-birds. These will start chasing DPS and deal a bunch of damage to them. You need to kill the birds. When they die, the birds will become ash piles. If another one dies near an existing ash pile, it will reignite it. Basically, kill the birds in different places so you don't get overwhelmed.

With Rukhran dead, you'll head upstairs and around a platform that has constant wind, trying to push you off. Obviously don't let it do so, or it's an instant-death (as far as I can tell.) Luckily, at least on normal, there's not much in the way of trash in this bit, so you shouldn't have too much trouble concentrating on your footing. You'll then head back into the central building and fight your way through some more Arrakoa and some constructs, including one giant construct right before the end boss who appears to work on a similar principle to the abominations in the new Scholomance, with many parts to kill.

High Sage Viryx:

The big bad of the Arrakoa, Viryx has three major abilities to bear in mind. DPS is going to have to avoid tunnel-visioning here. First, he'll summon adherents to pick up random players and drag them to the edge of the platform to drop them off. It's almost exactly like the Val'kyr in the Lich King fight, except that it's a semi-circle, rather than an almost-360 degrees circle. As such, you should tank Viryx as close as you can to the way you came in to give yourself plenty of time to deal with these guys. They can be snared (Chains of Ice worked on them,) though I don't know if they can be stunned. Secondly, he'll summon Apexis constructs that will channel a shield spell on him, drastically reducing his damage taken (or possibly just giving him immunity.) This spell can be interrupted, and the add can be killed, so do both. Finally, he'll summon Skyreach's giant laser to shoot down at a random party member. You'll want to kite this laser around, away from the party, as it leaves splotches of glowy danger. These splotches seem to go away eventually, but you'll want to be careful about them nonetheless.

Viryx drops the Pure Solium Band, which is the raw material that Khadgar will continue to upgrade in order to make your legendary ring. With him dead, Skyreach has been conquered.

The Zandalari and the Horde

When the Prophet Zul convinced King Rakastahn to reunite the various Troll empires in order to save Zanadalar and restore the trolls to prominence on Azeroth, the Zandalari began to approach the leaders of the various troll factions. The Gurubashi, Amani, Drakkari, and Farakki empires all accepted the offer, gaining powerful allies and pooling their resources to become a far greater threat than they had been in tens of thousands of years.

Among the people the Zandalari approached was Vol'jin. Vol'jin was not the leader of an empire. Instead, Vol'jin was the leader of a single tribe - the Darkspear. The Darkspear Trolls had been something of a pariah tribe within the Gurubashi Empire, and they were forced to flee into exile rather than getting enslaved by the other, more powerful tribes. They settled on a group of islands in the Great Sea, but they were plagued by a powerful Naga known only as the Sea Witch. They were fending off the Naga forces when Thrall's Horde arrived on the islands. Thrall had only just led the Orcs out of Lordaeron, and in the Darkspear, Thrall saw potential allies.

Ultimately, they were unable to save Vol'jin's father Sen'jin, but the Darkspear survived, and the mantle of Chieftain passed down to Vol'jin.

Vol'jin's Darkspear were a crucial part of the Horde's military forces, allowing them to persevere at Hyjal and to create the nation of Durotar. Within the Horde, the Darkspear were right at the heart of the Horde, standing as stalwart allies of the Orcs, and Vol'jin was Thrall's most trusted lieutenant and advisor. While they certainly had trouble with their adopted Echo Isles home, the combined resources of the Horde allowed them to defeat the traitor Zalazane once and for all.

And the Horde became one of the two major superpowers of Azeroth, with the Darkspear there every step along the way.

And then Garrosh. Vol'jin was passed over for Warchief because Thrall, kinda racistly, thought that only a Orc should be Warchief. Thrall's huge blunder in elevating Garrosh is a huge topic that I won't go into, but Vol'jin became an immediate rival for Hellscream, apparently predicting exactly how his tenure would go down. Vol'jin left Orgrimmar for the relative safety of the Echo Isles while Garrosh turned Orgrimmar into a police state.

It was at this time that the Zandalari came to him. Vol'jin had proven to be a capable leader, and now he had a huge problem with the Horde that the Zandalari would easily be able to exploit. Yet Vol'jin was not so easily manipulated. He knew what the old empires had been like, and as bad as Garrosh was, he wanted no part in that. Vol'jin was Horde, through and through, and regardless of who was Warchief, he had no interest in turning his back on the Horde itself.

In fact, it was Vol'jin who really led the first resistance against the Zandalari, leading adventurers to strike into the hearts of Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub. His role in countering their alliance with the Mogu was less pronounced, but that was because he had bigger fish to fry.

Garrosh had straight-up tried to have Vol'jin assassinated, and he nearly succeeded. Vol'jin organized a resistance, inviting even the Alliance to help out (much as he had done with the Zandalari earlier.) And as we all saw at the end of Siege of Orgrimmar, Vol'jin emerged from the Horde Civil War triumphant, and has now been elevated to Warchief as he should have been four years earlier.

The Darkspear, after having gone through a period of humiliation and disempowerment under Garrosh, now find themselves more powerful than they ever had been before. That said, I think it's unlikely we'll see Trolls totally running the Horde show - they won't make the same mistake Garrosh did by favoring Orcs over everyone else - but it does mean that the Darkspear, by any stretch of the imagination, are serious movers and shakers in Azeroth.

The narrative the Zandalari used to get people to join up was that the Trolls were in danger of slipping into decline - or really, had already. They offered the chance to restore themselves to the glory days of power and influence. Yet the Zandalari have faltered. The empires don't really seem like they've recovered that much, and Zandalar itself is sinking into the ocean. Their alliance with the Mogu doesn't really look like it paid off, what with the defeat of Lei Shen.

The Zandalari falter, while the trolls in the Horde are on the rise.

Trolls might have ancient societies and empires, but most of them are in somewhat disorganized tribes and collectives. The Darkspear are not the only trolls to have joined the Horde. If anything, I'd expect desperate troll tribes to be flocking to the gates of Orgrimmar, begging to be admitted. Vol'jin might just be the greatest hope for the Trollish people, but I doubt the Zandalari will be happy to just let him be.

Blizzcon 2014 and What That Means for WoW

Blizzard has posted the schedule for their upcoming Blizzcon. There's plenty of ambiguity in something as simple as a schedule, but I am very confident that we will not be seeing anything about a new World of Warcraft expansion. Warcraft has a few panels, including a Q&A, some stuff about cinematics, a few items and classes discussions, and talk about the upcoming movie. But there's not the kind of major set of panels that one would expect to come with a new expansion.

What does that mean for 7.0? Well, it's possible they'll announce it at some other event. Alternatively, if they are ready to have the Beta go live immediately after next year's Blizzcon, they could wait until then. Still, for anyone who was hoping to get a glimpse of the post-Warlords WoW before Warlords actually comes out, my confident prediction is that you'll be out of luck.

There is, however, a "What's Next" panel for Diablo 3, which I think is a strong indicator that there will be a new expansion to follow up Reaper of Souls. While I'm certainly not as big of a Diablo players as I am of WoW, I do think RoS did a lot to improve on the glaring issues that I had with the first iteration of the game - particularly by making loot drops stronger and getting rid of the awful auction house. Indeed, I have a lot of respect for Blizzard because of their decision to shut down the RMAH, as they probably cut into their short-term profits in favor of gameplay.

There is also a "What's Next" panel for Starcraft II, which I'm certain will be a place to talk about Legacy of the Void, the third, Protoss-centric part of SCII that was announced way back when the whole thing was first announced.

While Heroes of the Strom and Hearthstone will also get some attention, what can we expect to see about WoW?

Well, right after the opening ceremonies, there will be a large panel on the movie, so I think that we can probably expect to see something like a theatrical trailer, or at least some footage of the film.

It should be a pretty eventful Blizzcon, actually, but I think World of Warcraft itself will largely be on the back-burner for now, focusing more on the Warlords release. If I were Blizzard, though, I'd start dropping some cryptic hints at the next expansion. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I love cryptic hints. Oh well.


There are some big gaps in the schedule, particularly on the main stage. Still, I think that if we are to interpret that as some big piece of news, I'm still skeptical about it being a WoW announcement.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Patch of the Bag

There's a very solid chance that 6.0 is going live next week. And there's a lot of stuff going away, there's also a lot of new features that are coming that should be pretty exciting. Also, it's the first major patch in 13 months, which is a pretty serious development.

New character models, the stat squish, the huge revamps that most classes are getting - all of these are big features of 6.0, but what I'm going to talk about is bag space.

There are a whole lot of new ways that you'll be given bag space, but they'll also require some care on your part. Let's begin!

The Clean-Up Button:

Bags and your bank will now have a button you can hit to "clean-up" your bags, organizing things by item type and consolidating stacks (see below.) Before you hit the button though, I highly recommend taking a look at any bags of yours that are carefully arranged - for example, I tend to keep my Hearthstone and other often-used items like the Crystal of Insanity or my favorite tabards in my Backpack, and if I have an off-set for one of my hybrid classes, I'll usually keep that set in my second bag. If you have something arranged a specific way, you should click on the bag icon in its upper left corner and select "ignore this bag," so that the contents don't get shuffled in the clean-up. You can also assign certain bags to things like equipment or trade goods. By default, the clean-up automatically moves everything to the leftmost bag (which I don't remotely understand,) but you can change this in your interface options.


Almost everything that previously stacked to 20 now stacks to 200. That means that all of those stacks of Windwool Cloth and such can now be consolidated considerably. If you're sitting on large amounts of profession materials or other similar stackables, this will certainly free up some space.


If you're a hybrid who plays different roles, there are many cases where you'll be able to get rid of some of your gear. A word of warning, though: only gear coming from Warlords onwards will have double primary stats - if you currently have a piece of plate with Strength on it, it will not also have Intellect (unless it's some old, vanilla/BC piece.) So if you're Elemental/Enhancement, Prot/Holy, or some similar combination, you'll want to hold on to that extra gear unless you're ok with totally rebuilding your offset from scratch in Warlords. If you're a hybrid who uses the same stat for both specs (like Blood/Frost or Balance/Resto,) you'll likely be able to consolidate any armor gear, but you should also note that pre-Warlords tier sets will not switch over set bonuses depending on spec, so if you have set bonuses you want to keep, you'll need to keep the separate gear. Also, Spirit and Bonus Armor should only show up on necklaces, rings, trinkets, cloaks, and sometimes off-hand items, so chances are you'll want to keep multiple sets if those are important stats for you. Since no one will need hit anymore, Shadow, Elemental and Balance no longer get a Spirit-to-hit conversion, and thus don't need any Spirit.

Void Storage:

While we don't quite have a Diablo-style transmog system yet, Void Storage is simply being expanded, allowing you to have a whole second tab with as many slots as your first tab. So anything in your bags or bank that's purely for cosmetic purposes can be plopped in there with no worries.

Reagent Tab:

Your bank will now have a special reagent tab that is specifically designed for professional materials like ore, cloth, gems, leather, herbs, and so forth. This tab can be unlocked for something like a hundred gold, and is a bit larger than the main bank window, but as far as I can tell, it cannot be expanded. You can deposit anything that will go there with the press of a single button, and it should clear out both your bags and your bank. I believe the intention is to allow you to craft using materials found in this tab, but so far on the Beta that hasn't been the case. Still, it's a huge amount of extra space. Special profession bags might be going out of style, though, as a result.

Toy Box:

Much as Wrath of the Lich King made Mounts and Pets learnable, rather than items you'd hold in your inventory, Warlords is doing the same for "Toy" items. Toys will be marked as such, and right-clicking them will add them to an account-wide Toy collection, accessible using the same panel as mounts and pets. Toys are anything that has a purely cosmetic effect, like the Iron Boot Flask or the Golden Banana. If there's something that has some small beneficial effect, though, it will not carry over. There are also some trinkets that haven't been added to the Toy Box, though I think this is less intentional and more just that there have been a few oversights. Expect there to be more updates to this over time as they add items to the Toy Box. Again, like mounts and pets, these are account-wide, so if you have the Gnome transformation item from Operation Gnomeregan in the pre-Cata days, your Hordies will be able to use it as well (unless they break that functionality.)

Because you learn the toys, any excess copies you have will be redundant, so you might have to spend a little time on alts deleting the items. Just be sure that it says you've already learned the item before you delete it.

Quest Items:

Most quest items, especially for new quests, will not actually go into your inventory, but will instead simply exist as part of the UI. There are a few exceptions to this, and it looks like this won't apply retroactively, but it will make questing a little less painful if you find your bags stuffed.

Item Indicators:

This will mainly just facilitate cleaning your inventory space, but every item will now have a faint border indicating item quality. When you're at a vendor, any vendor trash (grey) items will have a little gold symbol in a corner. I don't know if they've implemented a "sell all vendor trash" button, which I vaguely recall them talking about, but it should be pretty easy to spot anything that's only there to be sold.

Space! Spaaaaace!

All these changes should do quite a bit to free up bag space. Mind you, you'll still probably find a way to fill it all up again, but the process will probably be a bit slower. Additionally, there's a new Tailoring bag coming in Draenor, though it looks like it will be a difficult one to produce. Still, after the toy-bloated mess that was inventory in Mists, Warlords should make all of our virtual backs feel a little less strained as we journey across Draenor.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Scourge Enduring

Wrath of the Lich King had a pretty dark ending, which I suppose makes sense given that it was a pretty dark expansion. We journeyed to Northrend, lost many friends and allies, and fought our way to the top of the Frozen Throne to finally defeat Arthas. The once Prince of Lordaeron actually defeated us, but Tirion Fordring struck out of his imprisonment in the end and shattered Frostmourne, releasing the many souls within, including that of Arthas himself. Overwhelmed by the surge of true emotion, both fear in the fury of the recently-resurrected heroes he had meant to enthrall and presumably also a sense of guilt for what he had done (not to mention that he was incapacitated by thousands of vengeful ghosts,) we struck him down. Yet that was not the end of the Lich King. Arthas was dead, yes, but the Scourge could not be destroyed. And so Bolvar, who had spent a year being tortured by the Lich King and yet never succumbing, never becoming a Death Knight or whatever Arthas intended for him, took the Crown of Domination, becoming a new Lich King - one who would serve as a Jailor of the Damned, and, hopefully keep the Scourge confined to Northrend, never to threaten Azeroth again.

But there was a lot of ambiguity to that ending. Bolvar freezes himself into the Frozen Throne, much as Arthas had been following his battle with Illidan. But we don't really know what will happen. Bolvar has advantages that Arthas did not have - his body was burned but thereby preserved by the breath of Red Dragons. Unlike Arthas, he still retained his soul. Bolvar never fell to evil the way Arthas did. Bolvar has always been heroic and righteous, protecting Stormwind while Varian was missing, raising Anduin as if he was his own son. And he proved that he had an iron will during his year-long torment.

Yet the Crown of Domination - the essential remnant of Ner'zhul and the core of the Lich King's being - now rested on his head. A year was one thing, but an eternity? Who is to say whether Bolvar could resist the Lich King's will.

Or perhaps we've misinterpreted things. The Lich King might not really be a separate entity from the bearer of the crown. Ner'zhul was the original, but his mind was consumed by the stronger will of Arthas when the young prince put the crown on his head. The Crown might simply imbue the wearer with power, rather than having a will of its own (at least once Arthas consumed Ner'zhul.) So perhaps there is nothing to worry us about Bolvar other than the relatively mundane corrupting influence of simply possessing power - something that Bolvar, if anyone, would be able to resist.

But then, why must there be a Lich King? We are told by Uther's ghost that without a Lich King, the Scourge would run rampant and consume all life. Was that not Arthas' goal anyway? How is the Scourge under the Lich King the better option?

Charitably, one could ascribe some redeeming characteristics to Arthas - that even after losing his soul and cutting out his own heart, there was still a part of him that didn't want to end the world, that didn't want all life to be overrun.

Less charitably, Arthas might have just been thinking longterm. Without new life, the Scourge is forced to simply recycle dead things that keep decaying. Arthas might have merely been environmentally conscious in a way, preserving renewable resources of the living by allowing the Alliance and Horde to survive, and even poking and prodding them to make sure there's someone to kill and raise all the time, while not pushing fully in and just killing everyone. Sustainability is a real concern for the Scourge. Look at the Forsaken. Sylvanas is worried that her people will simply die out, and eventually they won't be strong enough to keep the humans from simply rolling in and retaking Lordaeron. So she has been pushing more aggressively into human lands - partially to create a buffer zone, but also to just get more raw materials (dead-ass humans) to create more Forsaken.

A Scourge without a Lich King might just go totally rampant and kill everything on Azeroth - which is a terrible scenario for the Scourge. A Lich-King-less Scourge would be susceptible to something resembling the Tragedy of the Commons - each petty Scourgelord would want - either instinctively or intentionally - to amass as many followers as possible, and soon enough, there's no one left alive to raise.

In an odd way, this makes the Lich King kind of like a regulator - just a necromantic one rather than an economic one.

So maybe the worry is not that Bolvar will turn evil, but that he will prove ineffective in reining in the Scourge.

For the sake of argument, let's imagine that the Scourge is not so much a giant hive-mind, nor a bunch of drones whose every actions are directly controlled by the Lich King, but a group of individuals of varying intelligence and agency that all have a natural impulse to kill and raise the dead (we know that Death Knights, even the redeemed ones, have a powerful addiction to causing pain, and suffer horrible withdrawal if they don't.) They all want to kill and raise the dead, but the Lich King controls them and decides just how they go about doing that, and to whom. If it's not a hive mind, and the undead have some weird variation of free will (in that they can control their actions, but their desires are supplanted by the ones instilled in them by being part of the Scourge,) then the Lich King is more of a true political ruler, with responsibilities to his citizens.

Arthas was able to keep the Scourge fighting and thus raising the dead, and was thus quite popular as a leader. The Scourge thrived under his leadership for a long time, fending off Illidan and thus totally breaking away from the Burning Legion. Arthas kept things fairly stable, keeping them in constant combat without losing ground (with the Scourge desires, constant war is as appealing to them as constant peace is to us.) Ultimately things fell apart, perhaps because Arthas' plan to gain us as incredibly powerful lieutenants failed (and lest you think that makes him seem incompetent, I'll remind you that it was a literal miracle that the plan was foiled.)

Bolvar, on the other hand, can't possibly be popular among the Scourge. His approach has been to simply shut things down - no warring, no killing. He describes himself as a jailor, while his predecessors were Kings. We get a very brief glimpse of it in the Eastern Plaguelands, but it's clear that there are factions splitting off. A small number of Scourge begin to follow a Nerubian named Ix'lar, who claims that the Scourge will rise up under him. That... doesn't bode well. If one random Nerubian guy is able to get a following among the Scourge in defiance of Bolvar, then you can bet there will be other factions springing up.

And then there's the Cult of the Damned. Even if the Scourge were constantly under direct mind control of the Lich King (which it looks like no,) the Cult of the Damned are mortals with free will who just happen to revere the Scourge. And with a changeover in leadership, it doesn't look like the Cult of the Damned reveres Bolvar the way they did Arthas.

This paints a fairly interesting picture of our future dealings with the Scourge. The next time the Scourge becomes a major threat that needs to be dealt with, it might be the Lich King himself who comes to us for aid.

(PS: If the Knights of the Ebon Blade are looking for a purpose, I think being enforcers for the Jailor of the Damned and fighting renegade Scourge would be a totally badass one.)