Saturday, July 30, 2016

Scaling Zones and the Future of 1-110 and Beyond

One of the features I'm really excited about in Legion is that we'll be able to choose the order of zones we level up in from 100-110. While I previously though that Suramar would be a level 108-110 zone, it appears that you won't even start questing there until hitting the level cap - and if it's really a questing zone with a full story that just expects you to be at that cap, I'm also pretty happy about that (the last time we had real outdoor solo questing designed for people at the level cap was probably Cataclysm.)

But this zone scaling feature could be a huge deal. For one thing, assuming it works (and I'd guess that was what that whole Beta test was for,) it should spread players out across the continent in the early parts of the expansion. With people heading off in different directions for their artifact quests, their class hall quests, and then choosing their own paths to level, I think we're going to see the exact opposite of the bottlenecking effect that the Tanaan Jungle intro had on Warlords of Draenor (that said, you can still expect DDOS attacks from trolls and a massive number of players logging in, so don't be shocked if it's still messy the first night. At least we'll already have our Demon Hunters!)

Let's take a look at the bigger picture though: assuming this feature works well, we're likely to see it in expansions going forward. The question, then, is if it could be applied retroactively.

Those of us who have been playing for a long time (ten years this fall for me) don't really need to level up new characters. Even if you aren't as big of an altoholic as I am (name of the blog,) if you're a WoW veteran, you've probably leveled up the classes you're actually interested in playing by now, and at worst, they're sitting at 85 or something, with only a few expansions' worth of questing needed to get caught up.

Add on to that the fact that Blizzard is giving us a level boost with each expansion and you get the distinct impression that Blizzard doesn't really want to worry too much about the older parts of the game. I highly doubt we'll ever see another Cataclysm-style revamp of the old world because, well, now they just let us skip it. And with Warlords and Legion, you'll be able to get a character to 90 and two to 100 without doing all that much in game (one of your two 100s will be a Demon Hunter.) So the big caveat here is that Blizzard's current strategy is more about sweeping the level 1-100 game under the rug rather than making it easier to quest through it.

But if there is a shift in philosophy (plenty of players want more than three characters,) this zone-scaling could really make leveling up a whole new experience.

Being able to go from Ashenvale directly to Felwood makes perfect sense geographically, and with this technology, you could do that easily. It would also allow you to differentiate zones that are currently the same level range. Let's say you want to do Valley of the Four Winds and follow it with Krasarang Wilds. Today, that would mean doing a bunch of quests that were falling behind on their rewards and getting a bunch of gear that is no better than what you've already got, but with a zone-scaling system, you could get through a big chunk of your high 80s that way.

Or, you could use this scaling system to change when you go to the various expansions' areas. Granted, this would screw up your timeline even more than doing zones in any order (though that would also happen with simple zone-to-zone choices,) but maybe when you hit level 58 - or hell, 40 - you decide you'd like to go to Pandaria, then bounce back to Northrend, take a brief visit to Outland, and then go to Draenor before dealing with Twilight's Hammer in the Cataclysm zones.

Given that the constant shrinking of XP requirements to level with each expansion, these days you often get a third of the way through a zone and start to feel that you're out leveling it. I think even when Cataclysm had just come out I couldn't get through Darkshore without some of the quests in my log going full grey.

Zone scaling would allow you to spend as much time as you want in any given zone and pursue the story. You might hit level 40 before you get out of Ashenvale, but that's fine if you're just a Night Elf who is very passionate about defending your home territory.

I do think some restrictions would be important. It's already weird enough for me that you can do Eastern Plaguelands before Badlands now (for those who started playing post-cataclysm, Badlands used to open up around level 35 whereas Eastern Plaguelands was an endgame zone that you didn't want to go to until about 55 and would have quests there well after you hit the original level cap of 60.) It would be pretty absurd for you to fight against the entire Dark Horde in Burning Steppes and then start worrying about Murlocs in Elwynn Forest.

It might even be important to restrict expansions to the level ranges they originally had - you'll spend your 60s in Outland, for example, even if you get to do Nagrand before you do Zangarmarsh.

Cool as this sounds, I suspect that the level-scaling tech is probably more likely to be used for future expansions. Most of us players don't really know what it's like, though I'm given to understand that most people who have played in the Beta say they sort of forget that it's a feature, which I think is a ringing endorsement.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Next New Toon Incentive

As soon as Death Knights were announced for Wrath of the Lich King in 2007, speculation began on when we would get Demon Hunters as a playable class. Before Death Knights, we had gone three years (and would go a fourth) with only the original nine classes in World of Warcraft. Death Knights opened the way for new classes in WoW, but historically, they've only come every other expansion, meaning that even though there was only one class to come between Death Knights and Demon Hunters, the time difference is a whole eight years.

But of course, Monks were also a pretty worthy addition to the game, and while I don't think they've ever met the popularity of the DK or the other vanilla classes, there are certainly plenty of people who main as Monks.

Almost every expansion has created what I call the "New Toon Incentive:" a reason to create a new character. I've been playing most of the characters who I spend the most time on since vanilla - my Paladin, Hunter, Druid, Warlock, Shaman, and Rogue - the ones who are the "class captains" amongst my alts, are all characters I created in the fall of 2006 before even Burning Crusade came out.

Historically, we've gotten new races and new classes in order to get people to try something new. Back in the days before a paid race change, if you wanted to create a Blood Elf as your new main, you had to play that character from level 1 (or 55 if it was a Death Knight.) And of course, there have never been paid class changes (and probably never will be,) so at least during Mists, you really had to level up your Monk from the start.

The character boost in Warlords of Draenor was almost an anti-new character system - it took a brand new character and caught it up to the point where it wasn't at a serious disadvantage at the start of the new expansion, but it did encourage some (those who didn't already have every class at 90 - I still haven't used my Warlords boost) to try something new.

The fact that Demon Hunters automatically get to level 100 after their starting experience also sort of negates their "newness" as characters, but given that it's a brand new class with its own mechanics, and that if they didn't it would be the default move to simply use one's Legion boost on one's Demon Hunter, I can forgive that.

We are of course in an era with Timewalking Dungeons, and I hope one day we'll get Timewalking Raids as well (probably make that a pre-made group kind of activity,) so even though Demon Hunters will be skipping twelve years of WoW content, they'll be able to go back and experience some of it at the appropriate power level.

Anyway, a question emerges, which is what the next New Toon Incentive (NTI) will be.

Warlords of Draenor did not bring a new race or a new class, but that was I think largely because Mists of Pandaria brought both. I've argued many times that a new race is far easier to introduce into the game, though their story might take a back seat.

I actually think Warlords would have been a fantastic opportunity to introduce playable Ogres for the Horde and Arrakoa for the Alliance. Given how recently we've been to Draenor and honestly how much Blizzard seems ready to move on from the problems of the expansion, I don't really expect to see much focus on Outland or Draenor any time soon, which definitely affects Arrakoa, though Ogres have enough of a presence on Azeroth that I don't think we need to go back there to bring them on board.

I think Naga could make for a really interesting playable race, but there are definitely some questions about their anatomy - like how pants or boots would work on a Naga character, or how they would ride on mounts. One could imagine a sort of "devolved" Naga that retains more of its Night Elf anatomy - still being serpentine, but retaining legs. Still, if they're planning that, planting the seeds for it in Azsuna during Legion would be the smart time to do so (though I do know there are some massive Naga hulks that seem to have more crocodilian legs than serpentine tails.) The racial abilities write themselves - like Undead, they'd have underwater breathing, but they'd also get a speed boost while swimming.

One would also have to deal with whether they are fully corrupted by the Old Gods like the Black Dragonflight (before Wrathion's purge, after which the question is "what Black Dragonflight?") or if they were simply transformed by them like with the Curse of Flesh. Blizzard could easily retcon this, as the history is pretty vague to begin with.

You could also really expand on the lore of Murlocs, Troggs, Gnolls, Kobolds, or other stock hostile creatures to give them enough of a culture to play them, but that might be a little too silly.

Ethereals are another popular choice for playable race, and I actually think you could do fun things with using their bandages as a substitute for skin and facial features.

Of course, there is still the option to add new classes to the game. Here I think you have to be really careful. Death Knights and Monks were able to carve out some pretty distinct niches when they were introduced, but Demon Hunters absolutely stepped on the toes of Warlocks, requiring a serious redesign of the Demonology specialization (even though I loved the old Demo, I actually really like the new one too, so I'm not too upset - I just wish I had some ability affected by my Codex of Xerrath.) I will always be happy to see a new class, but it's going to be tricky to find a new archetype.

One archetype that is often put forth is the Tinker - a class that uses devices and technology to fight and potentially heal or tank.

The good news is that this archetype could fit pretty well in a Mail armor slot - having jangly metal armor sounds perfect for a Tinker. It would also be very different than any existing class, though it would definitely step a bit on the toes of the Engineering Profession. Is that the end of the world? I don't know.

Beyond the Tinker, I can't really think of much else. A Barbarian would be too similar to a Warrior. A Necromancer would be the blend of a Death Knight and a Warlock (actually, it would make total sense for Necromancer to be a Warlock spec that works almost exactly like Demonology does now, only summoning undead instead of demons.) D&D has Sorcerers as a distinct class from a Wizard, but both are pretty darn close to the Mage archetype.

Thankfully, Blizzard has four years before anyone expects a new class to come out, and at this point I don't think anyone would blame them too much for choosing not to add more to the ranks. I was holding out for a very long time for Demon Hunters, and now that we've got them, I'm pretty satisfied with the class selection in WoW. (Though I'd be really into a Tinker class.)

There's also the age-old idea of adding new specs. That being said, with the new changes to how changing specs works, that would hardly encourage anyone to create a new character. Ranged specs for Rogues, Demon Hunters, Paladins, Warriors, or Death Knights would all fit fine with their class concepts, and there are also some crazy ideas about making a melee Mage or even a tanking Warlock (though again, Vengeance kind of fits that concept already.)

New specs for existing classes (Druids would probably be exempt as they already have 4) could be cool, but they might wind up being even more work and trickier to balance than adding a whole new class.

New race/class combinations aren't a huge incentive for new characters - especially in the days of paid race changes, but they are very safe for game mechanics. Cataclysm saw a ton of these, and we got one new one in Legion with the addition of Gnome Hunters. A lot of us are hoping that in the future there will be other options for Demon Hunters (I still want a Worgen Demon Hunter.) Granted, things are so much more open now than they were before Cataclysm that if we go much farther, it might just come to a point where every race can be every class. Sure, your Draenei Warlock would be utterly terrifying, but would it make sense in the lore?

Beyond those options, I think some really serious changes would have to happen to encourage people to create new characters. We don't know what the expansions after Legion will be, and while I'm always down to speculate (Old Gods/Warcraft-Equivalent-of-the-Underdark???? High Seas Adventure Fighting the Naga????) I'm also pretty happy to take my Demon Hunter in the fight against the Burning Legion.

Demon Hunters and Demon Invasions Live August 9th

I'm currently updating my Blizzard launcher on my 7-year-old laptop because it turns out Demon Hunters are going to be live two days before I get back from a trip home, and if I can, I'll get my super-creaky old computer in a place where I can roll up my Demon Hunter and play through the starting experience at least (I don't even have a mouse here, but I've been meaning to get a new one as the old one is ten years old and the rubber on it is largely worn away.)

Anyway, on August 9th the Burning Legion invasions will begin. The Broken Shore event, with its follow-up quests, will presumably also unlock at the same time. And players who have pre-purchased Legion will be able to create their Demon Hunter characters.

Demon Hunters will not be able to do the Broken Shore event, given that it's the aftermath of that event that sort of brings the Illidari back into the fold. However, as we fight across Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad, Tanaris, Northern Barrens, and Azshara, we'll have some horned, tattooed, eye-gouged elves fighting alongside us.

Demon Hunters will probably not be as powerful at level 100 as other classes, as they'll unlock most of their talents on the path to 110, while established classes will have all their talents already available to them. Still, given their special strength against demons, they shouldn't be at too much of a disadvantage when dealing with these invasions.

I am pretty darn excited - this is less than two weeks away.

New Hearthstone Adventure Announced: One Night in Karazhan

...makes a hard man humble?

Yes, there's a new Hearthstone Adventure on its way, and we all wish Exodar was a disco, it looks like Karazhan is getting the funky makeover for this adventure. Seriously, watch the trailer. Hearthstone's trailers have been amazing, and this one is just so delightfully silly (disco makes anything sillier) that I challenge you not to watch it with a massive grin on your face.

Karazhan remains one of WoW's two most popular raids ever (expect an Ulduar-themed adventure or at least a titan-themed expansion in Hearthstone's future) largely for its amazing atmosphere (not to mention the fact that it was the first really "accessible" raid in the game.)

So far we've seen the first boss fight, the Silverware Golem, who summons plates as its hero power and then summons other silverware to buff said plates.

Karazhan is a location that we're going to be at least briefly revisiting in WoW (there's a pre-expansion quest coming any day now and some of the artifact acquisition quests involve going there) and is of course a pretty important spot to the history of the game's world. So seeing Medivh cut loose and throw a crazy disco party there is a pretty great subversion of the location's importance.

Hearthstone of course tends to take a sillier look at the Warcraft setting that WoW does (not that WoW isn't silly) and so I am fully behind this discofication of the Guardian's Tower.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Subtlety Impressions in 7.0

Much as I've been doing for tanks, I took my Rogue who has gloriously returned to Subtlety - the spec that made him my first character to hit level 70 when that was the cap - through a few Timewalker Dungeons, appropriately enough, the Burning Crusade timewalker dungeons.

While I had some frustrating Shattered Halls runs and not one but two experiences - today - of jumping into Black Morass with a shield down to less than 50% and four portals open and no apparent way to reset the instance after Medivh was killed, I did manage to finish 5 dungeons and get the quest done, inevitably getting a piece of gear that wasn't as good as what I already had, despite the fact that this character hasn't even run Hellfire Citadel in any capacity.

There's one big note that I discovered after writing my little Subtlety primer earlier in the month, which is that Shuriken Storm - our new Subtlety version of Fan of Knives (Assassination keeps the old ability but I think it has a new graphic and specifically talks about poison) - actually does three times its normal damage when you're stealthed or in Shadow Dance.

Especially since I've been playing Assassination for the last three expansions or so, I've been used to thinking of Fan of Knives as something only to be used in really large groups, and just Mutilate-Multidotting any time you've got fewer than like six enemies.

Subtlety uses Shuriken Storm like Elemental uses Chain Lightning. Any time you've got an additional target, you use this.

Now, the damage is not actually very competitive with Backstab (I use Gloomblade because I want to be able to solo and quest without any penalties, though that's arguably less of a big deal due to what I'm about to get at,) but Backstab is a relatively small portion of your damage. It's really about building up combo points, and Shuriken Storm, which gives you a CP for every single target hit, will be far more effective at doing that.

So my strategy has been to Shuriken Storm and then put Nightblade on every target in a trash pack. If the pack manages to still be alive by the time that I've put Nightblade up on everyone and it isn't about to fall off the first guy I hit, I'll start working in some Eviscerates, but generally the trash packs were dying before that became an issue.

Nightblade is... Here's the thing about Nightblade. Assassination got all of the Bleeds and Poisons that Rogues had previously had, becoming the real DoT-spec for the class. But in place of Rupture, Subtlety has gotten Nightblade, which for all intents and purposes is basically just the same thing. Sure, it's got a shorter duration, does Shadow damage instead of physical (though Rupture's a bleed, which ignores armor as well) and there's the slowing component, but ultimately it's just a DoT that you need to maintain while you try to generate CPs faster to get off more Eviscerates.

Clearly Sub needs more than one finishing move, and I don't want them to touch Shadow Dance, as I like it fine the way it is now as a semi-cooldown/semi-rotational ability. I just wonder if Nightblade is the most interesting or even flavorful thing to use. I mean, I don't even really know what it means to "Nightblade" someone. It uses the same animation as Rupture, so it's like we're tearing into them, only in a more spiritual sense?

If anything, Nightblade seems like it would be more of a self-buff akin to Slice and Dice - you could imagine that it turns all your attacks into Shadow damage, which would of course be a buff to their damage in most situations.

Granted, that also steps on the toes of Sub's big damage cooldown, Shadow Blades (which is mostly fine as it is) and also would leave their AoE rotation needing something more. I'd love to see a return of some kind of Crimson Tempest-style ability - just a straight-up AoE finisher. You'd re-tool it to feel more Subtlety-like, but you'd need something for the AoE.

Talent-wise I'm breaking with Icy-Veins' recommendations (which is always an option, especially if you're not doing serious raiding) because I think that build is more specifically for long-term raid boss fights - something I don't expect I'll do a lot of until a month or so into Legion (whenever the first LFR wing comes out.) Tier 1 I went with Gloomblade, mainly for soloing (though given that Backstab's portion of your damage is pretty low and that you can now still use it when the target is facing you, just at a damage penalty, this might not be so important anymore.)

Tier 2 I went with Shadow Focus. I tried Subterfuge, but even though my Shadow Dances were lasting longer, I didn't have the energy to get off all the Shadowstrikes I could fit in that window, and so I just did more damage in a shorter period of time with Shadow Focus (which, you know, means more damage per second) so I went back to that. I imagine that if you have really good gear (my guy is somewhere in the mid 690s) with lots of haste this might work better for you, but I just really like Shadow Focus.

Tier 3 I use Anticipation, largely so that I can spam Shadowstrike within Shadow Dance (with the Premeditation talent later on) and not waste too many CPs. I suppose if I didn't have Premeditation I might go for Vigor, but the other options are Enveloping Shadows (which I'd be fine with if it replaced Nightblade, but I don't want to go back to the "balance finishers" design for Subtlety) and Alacrity, which is such a slow build that in anything other than a raid boss, you're going to build it up only for it to fall off once you've gotten it.

Master of Shadows I love (level 100 tier) because it gives you Energy right when you need it.

For the "survival tier" at level 60 I went with Soothing Darkness, because much like Second Wind for Arms, this a really potent out-in-the-world heal. When you're moving from enemy to enemy while soloing, you're generally doing it while stealthed. Thus the damage you take during each fight will get healed back easily and allow you to save your Crimson Vial for emergencies.

One talent that can get you into trouble is Strike from the Shadows (75 tier,) which makes your Shadowstrikes stun the target for two seconds. This is incredible when soloing and also can be very useful in groups, but it also can make you seriously anger your tank if you screw up their pulls (like if your Paladin tank silences a caster enemy with Avenger's Shield to force them to run to him only for you to stun the guy and allow the silence effect to fall off,) so if you go with this talent, make sure that you target enemies that are already near the tank or at least go after melee adds (and toss in a nice Tricks of the Trade to help your tank out while you're at it.) Still, this talent can also really do wonders for the survivability of you and your group.

Between Shadowstrike and Shadowstep, you'll be able to zip around the battlefield with ease. I really love the way it feels - giving you a real Nightcrawler sort of superpower. It also means you can be kind of lazy about positioning because if you ever get out of position, your next Shadowstrike will put you in the right place. Just be careful around any enemy that has a tail-swipe. You might not want to use this bonus in a case like that.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Gul'dan Harbingers Short and Anduin Comic

Blizzard has been working in a lot of different media to promote their expansions, and with Harbingers they continue the animation style that they began with the Trials of Shaohao and later with the Lords of War shorts.

The first episode of Harbingers arguably could have been a Lords of War episode, but it's told from Gul'dan's perspective. We don't really learn a great deal about the specifics of his backstory - in fact, Gul'dan explicitly says that no one alive except for him remembers the name of the village in which he was born, and then he goes on to tell us why.

I suppose this is all spoilery, especially when I get to the Anduin comic, so let's do a cut here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tank Impressions: Guardian and Brewmaster

Once again, I took a couple of my toons through some Timewalker dungeons. I only ran one a piece on these guys, but that gave me enough to have a general impression.

Let's start with Brewmasters, as I've spent a lot more time (or at least more time recently) tanking as a Monk.



Brewmaster's focus is SIGNIFICANTLY shifted. While you'll still be dodging a lot thanks to the new mastery, they've really focused things on the Stagger Mechanic.

Ironskin and Purifying Brew are generally available without too much trouble - you sink your Energy into Keg Smash (which still does more than half of your damage) and Tiger Palm, both of which speed up the recharge rate on your brews.

The main challenge is that they share charges, so while you might want to maintain Ironskin Brew at all times, that will make it harder to have Purifying Brew up for those emergency moments.

Especially with Ironskin, you're going to have higher amounts of stagger than you used to have, so you really do need to make a choice between these guys.

Gift of the Ox, which is now what allows you to use Expel Harm, seems to happen way less frequently, so self-healing is down. The loss of Guard, though, is really the huge nerf - that thing was absurd.

The only really annoying thing about the Brew mechanic is that between pulls, you might be low on Brews and have to decide whether to stop to let them recharge or start the next pull with low booze supplies.

Still, remember that all tanks got their survivability nerfed, so it's not just you.

Threat and Damage:

The pull is going to be tricky. You no longer have Dizzying Haze, so you'll either need to Roll in and Keg Smash or use Crackling Jade Lightning to grab one guy's attention and then try to pick up the other guys.

Breath of Fire is now much easier to slip into the rotation, and you've got Blackout Strike as a filler when you don't have enough Energy for Tiger Palm (or want to save it for Keg Smash.) I did have a Prot Warrior pretending to be DPS in my group, so I suspect that my threat was fine even if he kept peeling adds off me.

You're going to be relying a lot on Keg Smash for your AoE threat. You can talent into Rushing Jade Wind (it might have a slightly different name now) and other talents like Invoke Nizou, the Black Ox or Black Ox Statue will help, but none of this is baseline. You really just have Keg Smash and Breath of Fire.


Monks are still quite mobile, with Roll and Tiger's Lust if you have that talented. This hasn't changed too much.

Ok, now let's move on to Druids.


First a caveat. While my Paladin and Monk have been mainspecced tanks and my Death Knight has tanked on and off (including some LFR HFC,) my Druid is one of my least-played classes, and the last time I did any serious tanking on the Druid was probably in Icecrown Citadel. So bear with me here (that was honestly not meant to be a pun.)


This felt actually about on par with the Paladin. It got a lot better when I realized I had swapped the positions of my Maul and Swipe buttons (they're similar icons, ok?) so that I wasn't spending my Rage on Maul when I was trying to pick up adds.

Ironfur is probably going to be your main Rage-spender, especially because multiple applications stack (though it's Ignite-style, so the first stack will expire as normal instead of getting extended, because that would get absurd.) You will occasionally need to use Frenzied Regeneration to heal up when you get low, but I never felt like was totally out of charges on that ability, and at 10 Rage, I didn't ever feel I couldn't afford to cast it.

Damage and Threat:

Given that Thrash is a Rage-builder and is used in single-target as well as AoE tanking, threat's not terribly hard to come by. Between Thrash and Swipe, you're going to have an easy time getting groups of adds to pay attention to you.

One odd thing is that you now use Moonfire. I think you're going to want to DoT up at least your main target but also probably every target with it, though obviously you want to use the Rage-generating Mangle and Thrash on cooldown over Moonfire. The great thing about Moonfire though is that it's a good pulling ability and can quickly be applied to multiple targets.


You can talent in some mobility - Wild Charge works really well - but baseline you pretty much just have Stampeding Roar, which is more of a raid cooldown.

Blood Death Knight 7.0 First Impressions

I've now taken my DK into a couple of dungeons - one Heroic Bloodmaul Slag Mines (which gear trivialized) and one Timewalker Slave Pens.


Having Death Strike as our RP-spender really frees up Runes to do other things in the rotation. It's a change that, now that it's there, really does wonders for the rest of the rotation.

The real back-and-forth trade for Blood is going to be Marrowrend or Heart Strike. Marrowrend stacks up Bone Shield charges, which of course really improves your survivability, reducing damage taken by 20% and increasing haste by 10% while you have any charges (and with with the Ossuray talent, reducing the cost of Death Strike.)

Heart Strike, on the other hand, does way more damage-per-Rune and also generates 5 extra Runic Power. So two Heart Strikes costs the same number of Runes as a Marrowrend and generates 10 more Runic Power, which of course means more Death Strikes.

My general sense is that Marrowrend is better on single targets like bosses, because you're going to have fewer swings at you, and thus the Bone Shield buff will stay on longer. Trying to keep up Bone Shield when there's a large group of enemies - or even just four or five like a typical trash pack - is going to be very tough. So my impression (and remember, I'm not a real theorycrafter) is that you should stick to Heart Strike for the extra RP. Given that Death and Decay's cooldown gets reset and it becomes free thanks to Crimson Scourge pretty often, you'll also be doing a ton of damage with Heartstrike to these large groups, as D&D adds three targets to Heart Strike.

Damage and Threat:

You will have some downtime if you don't have tons of Haste. Blood no longer has any sort of Runic Power or Runic Corruption sort of passive, so when you spend your runes, you just have to wait (though Blood Tap is now a talent, which works a little differently but allows you to gain runes back on demand.)

Blood Boil is a fantastic group-pulling tool. You might use it rotationally as well, but I've been saving it for snap-threat. It applies Blood Plague, which heals you and of course deals a fair amount of damage over time. Thankfully your Crimson Scourge proc seems to happen pretty frequenly, and Gorefiend's Grasp is now baseline for the spec, letting you gather up groups with ease.

One ability I haven't quite figured out yet is Death's Caress, which is kind of an Icy Touch for Blood Plague. It does way less damage than Blood Boil and, unlike BB, which is free apart from its recharge, this costs a Rune. I do use it for pulling, but I suspect I shouldn't. I definitely think Blood Boil is better for refreshing the disease in the middle of longer fights. So... who knows?


While you do want to keep enemies in your Death and Decay, it's not as core to the rotation as, say, Consecration for Paladins is. Blood Boil should keep your enemies interested in you, and if you need to get somewhere far away fast, you have Wraith Walk, which gives you three seconds of 70% increased movement speed, though if you do anything during the Walk it will end.

Overall I think Blood is in a good place. With the paradigm of tanking shifting more into the "you will hover somewhere in the middle of your health pool" zone, Blood's self-healing really shines.

Protection Paladin 7.0 Tanking: First Impressions

So I ran my five Timewalkers over yesterday and today, mainly as a way to get a sense of the new Protection and of course, as always, a desire to get that damned Infinite Timereaver mount, which MUST BE MINE. (If you've read this blog a lot you'll know I'm kind of obsessed with the Infinite Dragonflight.)


We are definitely squishier than we used to be. Partially this is because Light of the Protector is designed to be more rotational than Word of Glory was. WoG was more about saving it at five stacks of Bastion of Glory to more or less be able to Lay on Hands every fifteen seconds or so. Light of the Protector doesn't get any stacking buffs and is, by the nature of its design, a weaker heal.

I think we're designed to not be at full health very often, and Light of the Protector gets more powerful the lower on health you are. It's still not terribly strong when you're low - I believe it might be affected by some stats, because on the PTR mine said it healed for 34% and on live it's 33% of the missing health (I have Consecrated Hammer, so it's always got the bonus healing on it.)

Shield of the Righteous is also definitely not going to be up as often. The one or two second speed-up on its recharge from Judgment does add up, to be sure, but the fact is that you're not going to be able to keep it up as much of the time as you did before, which means sometimes you're just going to have to hope you block things. Once we get back into questing greens it's going to be even worse, but as we get more haste things should improve again. You still want to use it rotationally (don't let the 3 charges cap) but you can hover comfortably with one or two charges to make sure you have something for when there's a big attack.

Ardent Defender I think is playing a similar role that Divine Protection used to play, and you should probably use it liberally, as it has a pretty short cooldown.

But for the most part, you're going to need to rely on good healing. The last dungeon I tanked was Shattered Halls with a Druid healer who cast Regrowth and only Regrowth. You have lots of tools at your disposal, but you aren't going to be able to totally compensate for an incompetent healer. Thankfully I have the heirloom trinket from Mythic Dungeons that gives an enormous absorption shield on a pretty short cooldown, but even with that I managed to die on Kargath once.

Threat and Damage:

The good news is that threat and damage has not been nerfed, and if anything, it has been buffed. You don't have Holy Wrath or Hammer of Wrath anymore (though Hammer of Wrath was never really that necessary for Prot - generally when an enemy was that low you didn't need to work hard for threat anymore.)

One major thing I will say is that if you don't have Consecrated Hammer, you're going to have to fight a bit more for threat. Without that, Consecration is your only real AoE move, and Hammer of the Righteous does not AoE unless you're standing in it. That's usually fine, but if you just threw down your Consecrate and then a party member pulls some other group of adds through a path that does not run through it, you're going to have to hope that Avenger's Shield is off cooldown and there are three or fewer adds to pick up.

With the talent, you just run up to them and Hammer of the Righteous (if you picked Blessed Hammer, that'll work too.)

One of the really odd changes is that Hammer of the Righteous (which takes the place of Crusader Strike as well) has gone from being a high-priority "always on cooldown" ability to one that actually takes the back seat to what used to be "fillers." Consecration is hugely important, though somewhat less so if you take Consecrated Hammer, as without the talent it buffs Shield of the Righteous, Light of the Protector, and gives Hammer of the Righteous its AoE damage. Judgment is also hugely important because it speeds up the cooldown of Shield of the Righteous. Avenger's Shield maybe takes a back seat to those guys for survivability, but it's a huge amount of threat.

You also now have Avenging Wrath again, which can be a big boost to damage but also, of course, one for healing. That means a buff to your Light of the Protector, which could sure use it.


With Glyph of the Consecrator gone, your mobility while tanking has gone poof. That said, you do have Divine Steed now, which is on a one-minute cooldown and increases your speed by 100% for something like three seconds. It does let you briefly fight from the back of your Charger (or whatever your racial Paladin mount is,) which is cool, but mostly is just a way to get quickly to where you need to go. Still, Consecration is going to stay where it is. It's a decent radius, but it does mean you'll have to be careful with your positioning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pre Patch Live

7.0 is on live servers now. We're down the rabbit hole, people!

So far, the pre-patch event has not really kicked into gear. Doomsayers can be found across Stormwind and Orgrimmar, but the Broken Shore quest and certainly the demonic invasions have not yet begun. Demon Hunters are, likewise, not yet available, but the twelfth character slot is, so if you want to reserve a name for your Demon Hunter (and maybe try out some Night Elf/Blood Elf models to get a general sense of how you want your DH to look,) now is the time to do it.

I've got two names on reserve on my main Alliance and Horde servers. My Night Elf will be named Veranos, and my Blood Elf (who I have to imagine will be waiting for quite a while to get picked up) will be Calsaran. I didn't have any V- or C-names, and I'm fairly happy with these ones.

With the pre-expansion event slowly ramping up, what should you do now?

Mainly I'd go through your characters and set up your action bars and pick out talents. There's also a Burning Crusade Timewalking event now, which should be a good opportunity for you to re-learn your specs. (Major impression for Protection Paladins - we're a hell of a lot squishier, but I think that's all tanks now... hopefully. Major impression for Subtlety Rogues - this is the spec I have wanted my Rogue to be since vanilla.)

Another major thing is to activate appearances. If you have BoE gear, equip it to unlock the appearance. Note that it still has to be appropriate to your class (in the absolute barest sense - I was able to get the look of an agility staff on my Warlock,) so if you have some leather shoulders on a mail character, send those to your Rogue, Monk, or Druid.

NOTE: if a piece of gear is not for your class, it will not tell you whether you have unlocked its appearance yet, so be sure to shuffle those things around your alts.

Once that's done, sell off gear you're never going to equip again. You'll make lots of gold.

Also, if you have the materials or can afford to buy them, get an Enchanter to make you Tomes of Illusion to unlock weapon enchant appearances. Most of the recipes for these are available from the Enchanting trainers. The Draenor one is purchaseable for a Secret of Draenor Enchanting. There are also two hidden recipes. Tome of Illusions: Secrets of the Shado-Pan is available from the Shado-Pan quartermaster in Townlong Steppes if you're revered with them, and Tome of Illusions: Might of the Elemental Lords is apparently received as a reward for a questline given to you by Therazane at revered (at this time, I've only tried talking to her on the PTR, and she did not have the quest, but I haven't tried this out on the live servers.) Again, this quest rewards the Enchanting recipe, not the item itself.

If you have lower-level alts, be sure to log onto them. If you started playing before Cataclysm, you've probably got a ton of quest reward appearances you never unlocked, so be sure to log onto characters that quested up through the Cataclysm 1-58 experience.

A ton of items have become Toys, so be sure to go through your inventory and learn those or get rid of duplicates.

And finally, remember that every single time a new expansion comes out, people claim their class was ruined by the changes. I've been to this rodeo six times. You'll get used to the new rotations. You might decide you like one class better now than another you had previously preferred. But you'll get used to it.

Also, remember that if your rotation feels too simplistic, artifact weapons in Legion will further complicate things, and they all come with an activated ability that will be a major part of your rotation.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Elementary, my Dear... Shamans... Ok, These Titles are Getting to be a Stretch... in 7.0


7.0 should be live in roughly thirteen hours (though probably later, as these big patches often see servers slow to come back up,) so you'll be able to explore the big changes to all the specs without downloading the PTR build soon enough. Still, I figured we could get one more of these overviews out there in the meantime.

Elemental Shamans might not be getting as much of a radical redesign as Enhancement, but there's definitely some new stuff to go over. You'll still be a ranged caster who tosses lightning and lava at your foes, but you'll do so with new resources.

Ultimately, despite this new resource making things seem pretty different on the surface, the spec actually plays pretty similarly. You'll maintain Flame Shock while you cast Lava Burst on cooldown (and instantly when you get Lava Surge) and fill in with Lightning Bolt, and then let loose big bursts of damage with Earth Shock.

But you have a new primary resource to govern this. Like Balance Druids, Enhancement Shamans, and Shadow Priests, you'll still have mana to spend on things like utility and healing spells, but your damage spells are all going to focus on Maelstrom.

Maelstrom Generators:

You can have up to 100 Maelstrom as Elemental, and you'll generate this through your two big nuke spells, Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst. Lightning Bolt grants you 8 and Lava Burst gives you 12. Chain Lightning, which you'll sub in for Lightning Bolt when you have multiple targets, gives you 4 per target hit, hitting a max of five targets.

Notably, Chain Lightning now does exactly the same amount of damage as Lightning Bolt, and has the same cast time, and every target it hits takes the full damage of the spell, so the only reason you'll ever use Lightning Bolt is if you have just one target to hit, as in that case it will grant more Maelstrom generation. As soon as there's a second target, it becomes better to use Chain Lightning.


Shocks are now Elemental only, and they are the main way that you consume Maelstrom as an Elemental Shaman. Shocks consume variable amounts of Maelstrom, having a bigger effect the more you spend.

Flame Shock consumes 0-20 Maelstrom, doing light fire damage to the target and then significantly more over the course of 15 seconds. Spending Maelstrom on this will extend its duration, with the full 20 giving doubling the duration to 30 seconds.

Flame Shock's ticks still have a chance to reset the cooldown on Lava Burst and make your next one instant-cast, so it might be worth it to cast this at the very beginning of the fight and then refresh it to its longer duration once you've got some Maelstrom to work with.

Earth Shock consumes 10-100 Maelstrom (100 being all of it) to deal nature damage to the target, obviously doing quite a bit if you consume it all.

Frost Shock is mostly a utility/PvP ability, consuming 0-20 Maelstrom, dealing light frost damage and slowing the target for 5 seconds. At 20 Maelstrom, the damage and duration is doubled.

Earthquake... Totem:

Earthquake is now Earthquake Totem, and is the only non-talented Totem ability you have. Earthquake Totem works very much like the old Earthquake spell. It costs 50 Maelstrom and deals physical damage to enemies within 8 yards of it (totems are now generally placed at a targeted area) and sometimes knocks them down. It lasts 10 seconds.

Overload is Back:

With the removal of Multistrike, Elemental is getting Elemental Overload back as its mastery, with Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Lava Burst, and the talented Elemental Blast all having a chance based on the stat to fire off a second spell for 75% damage and Maelstrom generation.


Elemental is now the only Shaman spec that gets to summon elementals, with Earth Elemental available on a 2-minute cooldown and Fire Elemental (which can be changed to Storm Elemental via a talent) on a 5-minute cooldown. Fire Elemental will be your main damage cooldown.

A Familiar Spec:

So ultimately, Elemental winds up playing fairly similarly, even with the new resource system. If you do wind up with absurd amounts of Maelstrom for some reason or another, you'll be able to hit Earth Shock more frequently, and of course more Maelstrom generation means more Earth Shocks not just for the obvious reason, but also because it will be easier to maintain Flame Shock for longer durations, allowing you to spend the resources you get in between having to refresh it on Earth Shock more frequently.

One talent that's pretty interesting for the nostalgic is Totemic Mastery. This will place four totems at your feet for two minutes - one of each element (which is not really a mechanical thing anymore.) Resonance Totem gives you 1 Maelstrom per second. Storm Totem increases your Elemental Overload chance by 10%. Ember Totem increases your Flame Shock's DoT component by 10%, and Tailwind Totem increases your haste by 2%. This has no cooldown, so if you miss keeping up your totem buffs, this one's for you.

Balancing the Stars in 7.0

Ah the Eclipse Bar. Introduced in Cataclysm to make a visual representation of a set of buffs gained in earlier expansions, the Eclipse Bar saw its nadir in Warlords, when the druid had essentially no impact on its movement. Hey, do you hate the Eclipse Bar? Well, I've got good news for you:

Eclipse Bar Gone!:

Yes, we're talking about Balance Druids. And while there's still a very clear sun/moon theme to your abilities, the Eclipse Bar as a mechanic is gone. Rejoice!

Astral Power:

Much like DPS Shamans and Shadow Priests, Balance Druids are getting a new primary resource. They'll still have mana, but it will be represented as a smaller bar below the main one (similar to how it is when they're in Bear or Cat form.) The main bar is Astral Power.

Astral Power is represented by a kind of lavender bar (lighter than Insanity for Shadow) that goes up to 100. Casting certain spells will build it up while others will spend it.

Sun, Moon, and Stars:

Balance still has a kind of celestial theme. You have two main DoTs to maintain, as well as two filler nukes, all four of which generate Astral Power.

Solar Wrath is basically your old Wrath, but really emphasizing the solar nature of it. This is a quick spell that does nature damage to the target and generates 6 Astral Power - it's likely to be your major single-target nuke.

Lunar Strike has a longer cast time and does a bunch of Arcane damage to the target, then splashes nearby enemies for a smaller amount. This generates 10 Astral Power, and is probably going to be your main cleave filler.

However, while Solar Wrath and Lunar Strike play different roles regarding number of enemies, you'll be using both pretty frequently thanks to Starsurge. Starsurge costs 40 Astral Power, is instant, and does a good chunk of Astral damage to the target (I assume this is a mix of Arcane and Nature - they're really playing fast and loose with magic damage types this time around.) In addition, this will give you Lunar and Solar Empowerments, which increase the damage of your next Lunar Strike and your next Solar Wrath, increasing more with Mastery. You can accumulate 3 of each Empowerment (each Solar Wrath or Lunar Strike will only consume and be affected by one stack of the Empowerments.)

Sunfire is one of your two DoTs, dealing a bit of Nature damage to the target and then putting a more substantial DoT for 18 seconds on the target and any other enemy within 5 yards. This generates 3 Astral Power on cast.

Moonfire is similar, hitting for the same initial amount of damage, only as Arcane, and then putting a 22-second DoT on the target (but not affecting anything else.) This can be used in Bear form, which is cool but not terribly relevant for a Balance Druid. It also generates 3 Astral Power on cast.

Starfall is your big AoE spell. It costs 60 Astral Power and you cast it on an area where it deals Astral damage over 8 seconds. It also debuffs each target with Stellar Empowerment, increasing the damage they take from Sunfire and Moonfire, again affected by Mastery.

The Starlight's Gleaming:

In terms of single-target rotation, I think that you'll basically maintain your DoTs and then generally hit Starsurge whenever you have the AP and then consume your Empowerment buffs. If you don't have any Empowerments and you don't have enough Astral Power to cast Starsurge, you'll probably want to use Solar Wrath on single target situations and Lunar Strike against groups.

For larger AoE situations, you'll want to multi-DoT (Sunfire will automatically apply to several targets, which makes this easier) and then cast Starfall when you have the AP. You might need to toss a Lunar Strike or two in there to generate AP to get Starfall up again after it has expired, but you'll focus a bit more on the DoTs.

Celestial Alignment:

Your big damage cooldown is Celestial Alignment, which has a 3-minute cooldown. It increases your damage by 30% and the Astral Power generation of Solar Wrath and Lunar Strike by 50% for 15 seconds.


Balance Druids also retain Innervate, which also has a 3-minute cooldown and allows a healer to cast spells without spending any mana for 10 seconds. Certainly good for any time in a fight when there's a lot of raid damage, and that healer will love you for it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Looking Back at Warlords of Draenor

The "end" of an expansion is always sort of open to interpretation. You could argue that it's the expansion's final content patch, which in this case was 6.2.3, which added Cataclysm timewalking dungeons and the Infinite dragon mount (that I MUST have.) But of course, people need to play through that content, and that takes a while.

There's no clear time when players begin to step away from the game, satisfied with what they've accomplished or bored with what's there, willing to wait until something new comes around. All of that is up to the player.

So it might be easiest to say that the definitive time when an expansion ends is when the next expansion begins. I'm going to go a little earlier than that and argue that it's the next expansion's pre-patch that signals the beginning of a short (in this case about a month and a half) interregnum between expansions. You're no long concerned with the content of the old one (except perhaps as testing grounds for the patch's changes) and most of your efforts in-game will be to enjoy the pre-expansion event and prepare yourself for what's coming next.

Given that 7.0 begins on Tuesday, by this metric, Warlords of Draenor is ending in two days. This expansion has been... divisive, certainly. It has seen a sharp decline in subscriber numbers, which even led Blizzard to stop announcing them (to be fair, they had been the only subscription-based MMO to do so, but on the other hand, they had largely used it for bragging rights back when the game had 10-12 million active subscribers.)

Before we get into specifics, Warlords' biggest problem, objectively, was that there was not enough to it. There was only one major content patch, which added a zone that most of has had originally assumed was going to be in-game from the start. There were fewer dungeons than any previous expansion and none added after the launch. There were only two raid tiers (though to be fair, there were still more raid encounters than Cataclysm had,) which meant the story of the expansion felt tied up far too quickly. And despite this lack of content, we aren't getting the following expansion significantly faster than we would have in a typical release cycle.

But not everything was bad. Let's look at the expansion's various aspects.


Unfortunately, story is a place I'm going to have to knock the expansion. This is, by far, by an enormous margin, the most convoluted story that any World of Warcraft expansion has ever had, which is kind of saying something. Blizzard's motivation was to have us fight the major figures of the Old Horde, but they didn't want to simply have Garrosh go around resurrecting them, because that would raise questions of whether they were undead and if this was a kind of Horde/Scourge thing. So instead we:

Go back in time.

To another planet.

In an alternate universe.

We are removed from our familiar Azeroth three ways, and it really makes the stakes of the expansion unclear. For example, Alliance players watch as the Prophet Velen sacrifices himself to purify a Naaru. But this isn't our Velen. Our Velen is perfectly fine, chilling in the Exodar back home. One really has to wonder: once the Iron Horde was sealed away from us, what more reason did we have to stay? And how many other universes are watching the Horde massacre the Draenei?

Setting these things aside, there's also the anticlimax that is the Iron Horde. We defeated all but two of the eponymous Warlords within the first content patch, and Grom Hellscream, the headliner and Warchief of the Iron Horde is never even fightable.

In fact, what we see instead is that Grom's failure to defeat us causes the other Orcs to embrace Gul'dan's demon blood platform and he takes over, more or less turning the Iron Horde into the same old thing. Grom never has to answer for what he did, and in fact at the end of the expansion, he seems to take leadership over the Orcs again without any consequences - sure, he realizes we're the good guys and won't be attacking us again, but it's not like the Iron Horde was just purely honorable soldiers fighting a war by mistake - they were still a genocidal imperialist organization that used horrifying magic and sacrificed people to keep the Dark Portal open.

I will say that it was great to see the Draenei play a big role in the game for once - arguably being the most relevant Alliance race in the expansion - but the fact that it was a different group of Draenei who had not experienced any of the things our Draenei had kind of undercut this.


While the overall story was a convoluted mess, the good news is that the questing was very well done. The pacing was great, making sure you didn't feel stuck in one area or another. They also managed to break some of the linear quest-structure that we've been seeing since Cataclysm by often giving you different questlines to pick from, all of which would eventually come around to some climactic event at the end of the zone.

Leveling up was a lot of fun and offered some variety. One great thing was that the Alliance and Horde started in different zones (after the brief Tanaan Jungle intro,) with entirely different quest lines.

World Design:

They did a remarkable job of making Draenor pretty gorgeous, and while they clearly took some liberties translating Outland back to its non-destroyed self, it was still fun to look and see how the various parts of the world corresponded to their other selves. Shadowmoon Valley in particular was an amazing place to see - possibly World of Warcraft's most beautiful zone, which makes the tragedy of Outland's fel-blasted black-and-green landscape all the more potent.

My only major complaint is: where the hell was Farahlon? Of all the zones in Draenor, this was the one I most wanted to see. It's the only Outland zone (Netherstorm, in case you were wondering) whose original name we already knew. Bah!


Oh boy.

Players have been clamoring for Player Housing for many years. Blizzard announced Garrisons as WoW's equivalent of player housing. It was not.

Really, Lunarfall and Frostwall were just customizable cities. But they provided too much for the player - particularly the mine and the herb garden. The availability of things like herbs and ore then allowed them to complicate professions by making Tailors suddenly care about herbs or Leatherworkers suddenly care about metal. And with materials so easily available, everything became gated behind daily cooldowns.

Essentially, garrisons created a bunch of solutions that Blizzard suddenly needed to create problems for.

On top of that, there was almost no cosmetic customization for the garrisons. Alliance ones all had a clear white-stone Stormwind look while Horde ones all had red-and-spikes of the Orc look. The very thing that players had wanted - something that they could customize to feel like their own space - was instead a small, isolated plot where they'd never see other players.

On top of that, follower missions gave better gear than LFR. How is that better than the old Valor Point system?

If Blizzard ever does player housing again, they need to think of it the way that they do Toys, Pets, Mounts, or now Appearances - make it something where you can collect things for your house, including house styles, and don't force it to play a major gameplay role.

Moving on.

Dungeons and Raids:

The short answer is that they were great, there just weren't enough of them.

Blizzard actually did some really great work with the dungeons. Grimrail Depot remains one of the most exciting dungeons they've ever done, and others, like Shadowmoon Burial Ground and Auchindoun, had a fantastic sense of atmosphere.

But not only did the removal of Valor (later reinstated, but only for item upgrades, so kind of missing the point) make this content irrelevant very shortly, there were also just so few dungeons. There has been a downward trajectory in dungeon content for a long time (thankfully reversing in Legion) and having only eight for two years is pretty sad.

The raids were also good, though aesthetics could have been a bit better. Blackrock Foundry, for example, looked very similar to the second half of Siege of Orgrimmar, and Hellfire Citadel was kind of a fel-touched version of the same.

The fights were actually quite good, with lots of cool new ideas like fighting two guys on a set of conveyor belts or dealing with a rapidly-growing forest of mushrooms. Personally, my favorite fight was actually the very first - fighting Kargath Bladefist within a gladiatorial arena and getting flung up into the stands to fight the audience. We were missing a raid tier, but the quality of the fights we did get was fine.


Ok, not a PvPer. As a PvEer I really liked Ashran, but I'm given to understand that the people who actually like to fight other players felt it was too sprawled out and focused on other objectives. With no new battlegrounds, Ashran had a lot riding on it, and I don't know how well it did. Standing off to the side, I like that it's a PvP zone that isn't just a battleground on a timer like Wintergrasp and Tol Barad, but I can't really comment further.


Surprisingly, this is not all negative! But it's mostly negative. Like I said in the thing about garrisons, the easy availability of ore and herbs (but oddly not leather) led Blizzard to add some weird ingredients to professions that had always gotten along without such things. Being unable to craft Hexweave Cloth on my own until hitting level 96 really felt crappy.

And far worse was the fact that every single profession was limited to producing a certain amount of stuff a day. It got to a point where there simply was no reason to collect more materials, because you'd never be able to make more stuff.

The one good thing is that they managed to make the pieces you made early on the expansion retain relevance. My Paladin is still wearing the goggles he made way back in late 2014, and it's not because he's had bad luck with gear. Being able to keep upgrading those items means that your profession remains relevant over the course of an expansion, which is pretty great. Granted, requiring a specific garrison building to get the universal upgrade material (Savage Blood) is not great.

Lasting Impact:

What are bringing from Draenor? Well, we did see a pretty serious "ability cull" between Mists and Warlords, though we're seeing a far more thorough one in Legion. We also got the stat squish, and to Blizzard's credit, I think it's very easy to forget that that even happened (I remember that my DK was doing 300k dps pretty consistently at the end of Mists.)

We also got new character models, which I really think were almost universally successful. I'm still not totally sold on the new Male Night Elf, whose faces seem a little rounder than they used to be. Also, my Draenei's tentacle-goatee is thicker and straighter than it once was. But generally, it's great, and I hope they one day find the time to update the Goblin and Worgen models with that new face-rigging tech.

Personally, my hope for Warlords' biggest longterm impact is that Blizzard never again tries this "short expansion cycle" concept. Not only did it clearly fail (we still wound up with about a solid year between the last raid and the next expansion) but it also felt like a kind of money-grabbing tactic to get the burst of fifty bucks from us more frequently. It's much better to let an expansion age and mature, to build up to that finale and make it feel like the time we've spent in the new area had relevance.

Thankfully, it sounds like they're taking these ideas to heart in Legion. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure there will be plenty to complain about in two years when Legion is wrapping up, but I hope that the problems are new ones and not anything like the ones we've had in Warlords.

Specs From Level One

Specializations are far more distinguished than they have ever been before in 7.0, and that means that spending the first ten levels without a spec, simply using the "generic" class abilities that all specs use (or replace with something) doesn't really work anymore. For example, there's no more Frostfire Bolt, so Mages really have to have either Arcane Blast, Frostbolt, or Fireball to start off with at level 1.

Reaching level 10 lets you switch specs, and from that point on, you'll have all three (or four if you're a druid, or two if you're a Demon Hunter, though they'll never be lower than level 98) specs available to you any time you're outside of combat.

So what specs do the various classes start with? Generally I think the theme is which spec is closest to the heart of what the class is. With the exception of the Priest, they're all DPS specs, which makes a lot of sense given that you're not going to be doing any group content before level 10. They generally go with a mix of iconic, simple, and flavor.

Rogue: Assassination

Assassination and Subtlety would both be decent contenders here, but I think that because Assassination's mechanics are simpler (and since you can't get Gloomblade until level 15, you don't have to deal with backstab) and also draw the most from the classic rogue toolkit. And since most Rogues use daggers, it's got to be a dagger spec.

Warlock: Affliction

While Warlocks have moved away from all specs maintaining a million DoTs, Affliction retains that gameplay. It's also pretty simple - the spec is entirely built around maintaining these DoTs. Once again, Affliction has the most old-school abilities.

Warrior: Arms

Arms doesn't have the unique Titan's Grip aspects of Fury nor the tanking role of Protection. It's really the most classic "I'm a soldier who hits things with my big weapon" spec in the game, and is easy to wrap your head around.

Paladin: Retribution

Retribution is the Paladin's only DPS spec, and arguably fits with the icon of the Warcraft Paladin - wielding a big ol' warhammer - than the other two specs (I know some Holy Paladins are complaining that the Silver Hand looks like a two-hander, but that just makes them look more like Uther and his guys, which I think is a positive boon.)

Hunter: Beast Mastery

I might have expected Marksmanship, but especially since Marks was conceived in Legion as being always petless - something they thankfully walked back and made a talent - it makes sense that Beast Mastery would be the default choice, as it retains the ranged role and the pets of the classic Hunter archetype. It's also simpler to play than Marksmanship.

Priest: Discipline

This is the only non-DPS spec that you start with at level 1, but that makes sense for a couple of reasons. First off, Priests are the only class with multiple healing specs. Shadow is the minority when it comes to roles. Additionally, Discipline in Legion really blends Shadow and Light to be the "Grey" spec, on top of also blending healing and damage - the latter meaning that the spec should do fine soloing, especially in those early levels. I wouldn't be surprised if you don't even get a heal until after level 10. If they started off Shadow, it would make Priests in general look like a "bad guy class," which healing priests, especially Holy ones, really shouldn't.

Shaman: Elemental

This one's not too much of a shock. Elemental is the caster DPS spec, which makes it similar to Restoration (caster, ranged) and similar to Enhancement (DPS.) Lightning Bolt, probably the most iconic Shaman spell, is central to its rotation, so there you have it.

Mage: Frost

Arguably Arcane is the most flavorfully "Mage" spec, but Frost has always been a very solid choice for soloing, thanks to the slowing effect of Frostbolt. Frankly, all three specs are pretty even on the "iconic" scale, but for ease of play for new players, Frost is probably the best option.

Monk: Windwalker

Technically I'd say Brewmaster is the most iconic Monk spec, given that it's based largely on Chen's Brewmaster hero in Warcraft III. But with Windwalker as the only Monk DPS spec, this was probably the right way to go.

Druid: Feral

Druids are a crazy class, and with four specs, there's no majority on the "ranged caster" and "melee physical" question. But if you were to describe the most notable thing about Druids to someone who had never played the game, you'd probably start with the shapeshifting, and since Balance's shapeshift form is more of a bonus that can come later, Feral seems the obvious choice.

Death Knight: Unholy

Death Knights are pretty famous for raising the dead, which already puts Unholy in a good position. Then you factor in the fact that it's the DPS spec that uses a two-handed weapon, which is the loadout of 2/3 of the DK specs, and the fact that, well, it's a DPS spec, and it's again pretty clear that this makes the most sense. If two-handed Frost were still a thing, it might have had a chance (it is the simpler of the two specs,) but Unholy really nails the iconic factor.

(Fun fact, DKs are the only available class that begins in a rested area, thus not forcing me to wait 20 seconds to log out!)

Demon Hunters: Havoc

Obviously I haven't tried this out myself, but I know that Demon Hunters start off as Havoc thanks to various YouTube videos. It also makes perfect sense - Demon Hunters only have one tank and one DPS spec, so there you have it.

I haven't played any of these guys except the Rogue past level 10 (and he just hit 11,) so I don't know what they've done to adjust when you get your various abilities.

It's a tough balance to strike, making sure that low-level players feel like they have enough stuff going on that they're having fun while also ensuring that leveling up in the higher levels feels like something more than just "oh, and now all my numbers have gone up slightly." This is a problem that will get tougher and tougher as the level cap rises, though I'm hoping that if Legion's zone-scaling works, they can really accelerate the rate at which one levels up without making people feel like they out-level a zone after two quests.

Especially with character boosts, I imagine that there are far fewer players starting brand-new level 1 characters these days. But I'm glad that Blizzard is at least considering how to accommodate those people in a very different world than the one we started in.

To do a brief little flashback, when I started playing back in late vanilla, all classes had their abilities divided between three tabs in the spellbook, corresponding to spec. Some of these didn't make a huge amount of sense, like Consecration, a damaging ability, being on the "Holy" page of the Paladin spellbook.

But at level 1 you would always start with three abilities - one from each spec-page. If I recall correctly, Paladins started with Devotion Aura (Protection,) Seal of Righteousness (Holy, and it used to last 30 seconds, add holy damage to your attacks, and get consumed by Judgment to deal a burst of holy damage to the target - Seal & Judge was almost the entirety of Paladin gameplay back then) and Judgment (Retribution.) I think Mages started with Fireball, Frost Armor, and Arcane Missiles. Anyway, we've come a long way since then.

Blizzard seems to want to give you something cohesive right off the bat with this new system, even if it means that brand-new players might feel pushed toward one spec over the others because of what's familiar. On the other hand, especially with the gearing changes, it'll be a lot easier for them to switch specs once they get used to the game in general.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's Official: 7.0 Lands July 19th

So yeah, 7.0 arrives on July 19th, which is this upcoming Tuesday.

Let's do a quick recap of what to expect:

Class and Spec Changes:

I feel like I say this with every expansion, but most classes and specs are seeing some very big mechanical changes. Survival Hunters are going to become a melee specs. Combat Rogues will now be Outlaw Rogues with a clearer Pirate theme. Many DPS specs are getting new, non-mana primary resources: Shadow Priests will get Insanity, Balance Druids will get Astral Power, and Enhancement and Elemental Shamans are getting Maelstrom. Protection Paladins and Holy Paladins will no longer use Holy Power while Mistweaver Monks and Brewmaster Monks will no longer use Chi. Death Knight Runes are all just Runes - no more Blood, Frost, or Unholy Runes. Hunter Focus now regenerates faster on its own, and all three specs have gotten big changes to their rotations. Discipline Priests now focus far more on the Atonement damage-to-heal style, but they will need to actively ensure that their allies have the Atonement buff for them to receive this healing.

Really, only a handful of specs are coming out of this without significant changes. Expect to spend a bit of time putting things back together.

Everyone's Tri-Specced (Except Druids and Demon Hunters, for Obvious Reasons:)

Class Trainers have become a fully vestigial part of the game. You can now change specs at any time you're outside of combat, and it will simply treat all three (or two for Demon Hunters and four for Druids) of your specs as you would treat dual-specs, with saved action bar layouts and talent choices.

Somewhat More Commitment to Talents:

Talents can now only be changed while in a "rested" area like a friendly city or an inn. So you'll need to choose a good loadout of talents for the content you're intending to play, and you won't be able to swap them out between every fight (unless you want to really tick off your fellow party/raid members as they wait for you to hearth and summon you back.)

New Transmog System and Appearances Collection:

You will now permanently collect the appearances of any gear that is soulbound to you, as long as it's appropriate to your class (Warriors can't collect cloth appearances, Priests can't collect gun appearances, etc.) You'll also automatically get the appearances of every quest reward from every quest you've ever done.

You can also get Weapon Enchant Illusions, which come from multiple sources - some as boss drops, some from reputation vendors, and many come from items that Enchanters can create called Tomes of Illusion. These illusions will be counted among your Appearance collection and can be applied to weapons by a transmogrifier NPC.

You can now choose to hide helmets, cloaks, and shoulder armor using the transmog NPC.

You can put together and save transmog outfits with the transmog NPC, allowing you to easily switch between sets you like.

You can also now choose to transmog your gear a certain way only for a specific spec, so your Rogue can have a shadowy assassin look for her Subtlety spec while going for a more flamboyant pirate look when she switches to Outlaw.

Stat Changes:

Spirit, Bonus Armor, and Multistrike are gone and will be converted to other stats when the patch goes through. Likewise, in the future, Rings and Necklaces will no longer have Strength, Agility, or Intellect on them, while Cloaks will have all three. Thus, going forward the only piece of gear you're going to have to swap out when you switch specs will be your weapon (especially when Legion itself goes live and we all have spec-specific artifact weapons. For now, if you want to switch from Fury to Arms you can just unequip your off-hand weapon.)

Broken Shore Event:

Likely the first major thing to be live, the Broken Shore event is a quest chain that has you assaulting the Broken Shore, which is where the Tomb of Sargeras and the main base of Legion operations in Azeroth are. Following this event is a questline that sets up some of the future story of Legion and awards some 695 gear, including a weapon.

Doomsayers and Dreadlords in the Capitals:

You'll find doomsday cultists distributing literature in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, and occasionally random players will be affected by Dark Whispers. This causes them to briefly side with the Legion. You can opt out of this by right-clicking the buff, but if you don't, you can use various sneaky abilities to subvert your allies and convert them. If you find yourself caught, you can then transform into a massive Dreadlord, which gives you new abilities to use against the pathetic mortals that stand against you.

Legion Invasions - Sometime Later:

Some time after the patch has been released, demonic invasions will begin to hit Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad Foothills, Tanaris, Northern Barrens, and Azshara. These are massive events where a huge contingent of demons will assault the biggest population center (in Dun Morogh they go for Kharanos and in Azshara they assault the northern gate of Orgrimmar.) These invasions go in four stages, with stage three seeing demons flood the entire zone. Completing these invasions gives you a currency called Nethershards, which can be traded to Illidari vendors for gear and a battle pet, and you'll also get loot boxes with item level 700 armor and a chance to get a 700 weapon or an item to increase the item level of one such weapon, up to a max of 725 (the upgrade item can also be purchased from the Illidari.)

Demon Hunters - Sometime Later, Probably August 17th:

Players who have pre-purchased Legion will be able to create their Demon Hunter characters at some point later in the patch. Blizzard has said that they will be available August 17th at the latest, which is about two weeks before the expansion launches.

Demon Hunters are WoW's second Hero Class. They are a melee class that can Tank or DPS. Demon Hunters dual-wield their own special weapon-type called Warglaives. They use fel magic to become partially demonic themselves in order to fight against the demons of the Burning Legion. Only Blood Elves and Night Elves can become Demon Hunters, but they get some unique character customization options, including tattoos, horns, blindfolds, and potentially scales. Demon Hunters have their own voice-over emotes as well.

Demon Hunters begin at level 98 in their own class starting experience. When they finish their opening quest chain they should be level 100, and thus ready to head to the Broken Isles along with the other heroes of Azeroth.

And Then Legion:

Legion launches on August 30th. I think that we're all chomping at the bit to get out of our garrisons and return to Azeroth. This is how all that begins.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mark Your Targets: Marksmanship in 7.0

Marksmanship Hunter, much like Beast Mastery, might have their changes overshadowed by Survival's radical redesign. Marks is still a ranged spec that deals mostly physical damage, and by default, they still have a pet (though they are uniquely the spec with "Lone Wolf" as a talent.) So superficially, the spec looks similar to what we've had before.

However, in fact, the spec has received some pretty big changes. Let's go over them!


Focus for all Hunters has been changed to regenerate faster. I believe that at this point it's functionally identical to Energy, but it's still a brown/orange bar for Hunters.

Arcane Shot and Multi-Shot now generate Focus, rather than costing it. Arcane gives you 5 Focus while Multi gives you 2 per target hit. Neither has a cooldown, which of course makes these clear filler abilities any time you can't do your other stuff.

Set Ups to Set Ups:

So here's where things get interesting and arguably weird:

Your auto shots have a chance to make your next Arcane or Multi-Shot put Hunter's Mark on anything they hit.

Having a Hunter's Mark then activates Marked Shot, which costs 30 Focus and hits any targets with Hunter's Mark within range for some physical damage but then puts a debuff called Vulnerable on them.

Vulnerable lasts 30 seconds and increases the damage taken by Marked Shot and Aimed Shot by 25%, stacking up to 3 times (and refreshing when gaining a new stack.)

So that's a proc that tells you to hit one of two abilities (depending on the number of targets,) which activates another ability that buffs itself and another ability.

Are you following?

Aimed Shot:

Your biggest-hitting ability, especially when there are three stacks of vulnerable on the target, is Aimed Shot, which costs 50 Focus and has a 2.5-second cast time (of course, faster with haste.) You can't cast Aimed Shot while moving, so you will have to occasionally stand still.


Your new major cooldown is Trueshot, which has a 3-minute cooldown and lasts 15 seconds. It increases your Haste by 40% and causes every Arcane Shot or Multi-Shot to apply Hunter's Mark.

Sniper Training:

Your new mastery increases the range on all of your ranged abilities and also increases the damage of your Focus-spenders (so Aimed and Marked Shots) by a fairly large amount.

Of course, you can add abilities to the rotation via talents, but the core to the gameplay is going to be applying Hunter's Mark and then using Marked Shot to keep up the Vulnerable debuff on your targets. It is a very reactive spec, but grants you a great deal more focus on the ranged physical attacks of the spec.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

PTR Goes to Release Build

Well, given that the PvP season ends this coming Tuesday, the common wisdom has been that we're going to see 7.0 drop next week as well. Seemingly confirming this, a new patch has arrived on the PTR labeled as "Release," meaning it's a build they feel confident enough to release live - it doesn't mean they won't make changes, but it means that they're basically good to go.

So what should you do in the meantime?

Update Addons:

Patches, especially big ones, tend to break addons. So update the ones you can. Some addon-makers might not be totally keeping up with things, in which case some of your addons might not work for a couple weeks. But update the ones you can.

Sell Garrison Follower Armor Items:

Let's face it, you're not going to be managing your Garrison Followers all that much after we've left Draenor behind. You probably don't need to keep all those armor and weapon upgrades.

Well sell them off now! You can get a pretty large amount of gold for them at a vendor now, but in 7.0, they'll be worth only a few copper a piece. Sell now!

Dump Other Stuff You're Not Going to Use:

Got a bag full of ship equipment? Get rid of that crap. You're not going to be using it. Got reputation items for Draenor factions? Just use them now.

Oh, But Hold On To Your Gear:

Hold on to every little bit of soulbound gear that your character would realistically use (if it's cloth and you're a warrior, feel free to vendor/de that stuff.

The new transmog system will save the appearances of all the gear in your inventory, bank, and void storage, after which you'll be able to toss it all out (though I know I'm going to be holding on to some pieces for pure nostalgia.) But it won't save that gear until the patch actually hits, so hold the hell onto it for just a few more days!

Use Up Baleful Gear:

Nothing's really happening to the Baleful stuff as far as I know, but the Demonic Invasions are going to be rewarding better stuff. However, the demons in said invasions (particularly the "no really, this is a raid boss" demonic generals) hit hard enough that they seem to expect you to be wearing something a little better than your Nagrand leveling greens (that said, you'll get credit even if you just sit in the zone, so don't worry if you find yourself spending several minutes as a ghost over the course of the invasions - you still get your loot boxes and Nethershards.)

Good Luck on that Legendary Ring...

You will no longer be able to start the Legendary Ring quest chain, but if you're on the second stage (the Highmaul one, I think,) you will be able to continue for the next couple weeks, until the expansion itself lands.

Starting it now will not give you enough time to complete the whole thing, I'd guess, but if you're on the last stage, I'd start making sure I was running all of HFC every week to maximize my chances of getting the thing done.

Run as Many Gold-Gathering Follower Missions as You Can:

Garrison gold is getting nerfed hard so that people won't feel compelled to return to their garrisons. So get that last burst of gold while you can!

Bid a Tearful Farewell to Abilities You'll Miss:

Every spec is getting pared down, and while I think that in almost every case it's a good move for the game's design, I'll certainly miss some of them. So farewell, Holy Wrath. Goodbye, Dizzying Haze. So long Plague Strike (actually, I never really liked that guy.) See you in another life, Magma Totem. Via con Dios, Dispatch. Safe travels, Hurricane. Keep fighting the good fight, Exorcism and Hammer of Wrath. And a special moment of silence now for Gladiator's Resolve. Maybe some day we'll have a dedicated sword-and-board melee spec, but you were never long for this world.

But the overall design of the 6.0 Arms Warrior? You go back to hell where you came from!

Moose! Moose!

I still have not gotten a Grove Warden mount. I hate pugging raids, which I often experience as "all the toxicity of LFR, but you never down any bosses!" The good news is that even if you don't get it this week, you'll be able to keep getting it through August until Legion itself drops. There is another magic-looking moose mount for Glory of the Legion Raider, but it's A: Nightmare corrupted (read: black, white, and red, like a White Stripes album) and B: doesn't have the cool glowing eyes or antler runes or fancy barding.

But fret not if this week doesn't work for you - you still have over a month to get this guy.

The Fast and the Furious in 7.0

Fury Warriors always had a similar thing to Frost Death Knights, having two "sub-specs." But in 7.0, Fury will fully embrace Titan's Grip to become all about dual-wielding two-handed weapons. To be fair, Fury's rotation was not nearly as altered by its choice of weapons as Frost, and going single-minded fury always felt more like you were trying to be contrarian than anything else. Fury gets to do something no other spec in the game does, so why resist it?

2 Fast 2 Furious:

Fury retains its Enrage mechanic, which it kept for itself in Warlords after it had previously been something all Warriors used. But Enrage now functions slightly differently. Getting Enraged increases your attack speed by 100%, but it also increases the damage you take by 30%.

Your Mastery still increases the damage you do while Enraged, but the attack speed focus will help you generate significantly more Rage while you are in your Enraged state.

Enrage lasts only 4 seconds.

Spending Rage:

You actually only spend Rage on a couple of abilities.

The primary one is a new ability called Rampage. This costs a whopping 85 Rage, causing you to make 5 strikes in quick succession, dealing a large amount of damage and then automatically enraging you.

Whirlwind is still your AoE Rage-burner, and causes your next Bloodthirst or Rampage to hit 4 additional targets for 50% of their single-target damage.

Finally, there's Execute, which which costs 25 Rage and deals a bunch of damage to targets below 20% health (unlike Arms, there's no "burn more Rage if you have it" component here.)

Generating Rage:

Bloodthirst is still the ability you'll hit on cooldown (4.5 seconds reduced by Haste, I believe) that generates 10 Rage, heals you for 4% of your max health, and Enrages you when it crits.

Raging Blow is now free, and instead generates 5 Rage when it hits, but can only be used when you're enraged.

Finally, Furious Slash doesn't generate Rage, but it costs nothing and has no cooldown, doing light damage and then increasing the critical strike chance of Bloodthirst by 15%, stacking up to 6 times (so 90%, which should be a guaranteed critical strike when you factor in base crit and whatever you have on gear,) but this buff is consumed when Bloodthirst does crit.

And the Rest:

You still have Charge, Heroic Leap, and plenty of utility stuff. You do not, however, have Victory Rush anymore, and in fact you'll mostly be healing via Bloodthirst.

Battle Cry is a new 1-minute cooldown for both Fury and Arms (might also be for Protection) that gives you 100% crit for 5 seconds - which should be extra useful for Fury, given that it means guaranteed Enrages.

Bladestorm is also baseline for Fury and Arms, as a cooldown you'll want to use in AoE situations.

My general understanding is that you're intended to use Rampage to spend your Rage, and then build it back up quickly with Raging Blow and the increased Rage generated by auto attacks during the Enrage, which will then put you near where you need to be to cast Rampage again. You actually get a spell alert when you have enough Rage to cast Rampage. You'll want to hit Bloodthirst on cooldown and fill in with Furious Slash whenever you can't do anything else.

I do wonder a bit about whether it's better to cast Rampage during an enrage if you can, given that it does so much damage - probably more than Raging Blow. But if it's not up, I'd guess RB is what you want to use while Enraged.

I will say that without Vicotry Rush or some of the great Arms survival talents (like Second Wind,) Fury definitely seems less capable of solo questing than Arms, though you can of course supplement yourself with food and bandages. In group situations, though, it'll totally be a matter of preference. If you want to be a blur of slashing swords, Fury definitely lets you do that. So cry havoc and let slip the hogs of war.

What was that? "Dogs" of War? Well I say hogs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Legion: How Did We Get Here?

The invasion of the Burning Legion that is the centerpiece of WoW's upcoming expansion is the result of a long chain of events, and in a way, was born out of the best intentions. Let's trace that history.

Deathwing's Last Son:

When Deathwing emerged from Deepholme, he unleashed devastation across the planet. He allied with Twilight's Hammer and sought to destroy the world - either to free or escape the Old Gods (the latter being my fan theory.)

Deathwing was becoming something quite unlike a dragon, and by the time we destroyed him, he had broken apart into some kind of elemental aberration. His brood, the Black Dragonflight, played a somewhat smaller role in the expansion than his new invention, the Twilight Dragonflight. But the old Black Dragonflight was still a presence, particularly in the central Eastern Kingdoms.

It was in the Badlands that we came across a goblin woman named Rhea, who eventually revealed to us that she was Rheastrasza, a Red Dragon who had journeyed there to try to see if there was a way to redeem the Black Dragonflight and free them of the Old God corruption that had spread through them from Deathwing downward.

In the course of your quests there, you manage to use Titan technology to synthesize a Black Dragon egg, using the remains of dead whelps and some corrupted eggs. Rhea sacrifices herself to make Deathwing think the egg has been destroyed, but in fact she has an ally hide it away with her flight.

There's a gap in the story here for most characters, but Rogues have a chance to get the next chapter of the story.

Intercepting a communiqué for Twilight's Hammer, you find out that the egg was taken to Twilight Highlands, and that forces are coming to steal the egg. You arrive too late, finding that the egg has already been taken. You track the egg to Ravenholdt - a familiar location to Rogues from before Cataclysm.

After sneaking into the manor house, you discover that not only has the egg hatched, but that it was the dragon whelp inside who orchestrated his own extraction. Wrathion has more or less taken over Ravenholdt for himself, and while he shares a cause with the Red Dragons, he has no interest in being their slave. Wrathion asks you to work for him instead.

His goal is the complete extermination of his own family, himself obviously excluded. He is indeed free of the corruption of the Old Gods, but he is pragmatically deadly, and employs you in the elimination of the very few remaining Black Dragons in the world. When all is said and done, he has succeeded, and while Baron Sablemane remains an open question, Wrathion at the very least clears Azeroth of his kin.

Visions of Destruction:

Wrathion is only a couple years old when the Alliance/Horde war tumbles over the land of Pandaria. The conflict has exploded into a fully-fledged war, and it appears it won't end without one conquering the other.

Wrathion travels to Pandaria and enlists heroes of all stripes (not just Rogues) to try to push the war to a swift conclusion. He has had a vision, he presumes from the Titan technology that birthed him, of the Burning Legion's invasion. Wrathion wants the war ended swiftly and decisively, and for a new united front across Azeroth to prepare for the arrival of this invasion.

Initially, Wrathion favors the Horde, given Garrosh's aggressive policies and clear will to conquer. But as it becomes clear that Garrosh is dividing his own faction, and could never bring Azeroth's people together in any cohesive whole, Wrathion switches to favoring the Alliance.

But when Varian allows Vol'jin to ascend as Warchief and the two factions agree to a peace treaty, Wrathion is enraged. He is convinced that only a total absorption of the Horde into the Alliance would be enough to face off against the Legion.

Rash Decisions:

Here's where things start to get a little tin-foil-hatty. Garrosh is placed under arrest, awaiting his punishment in Pandaria (which I believe was execution, though I could be wrong. Pandaren don't seem like the types to be into capital punishment.)

Meanwhile, the Bronze dragon Kairoz has been studying the strange effects of the Timeless Isle. Following the Cataclysm, the with all the dragonflights effectively de-powered into mere mortals, the Bronze flight's insight into the flow of time has been lost, and Kairoz is trying to get it back.

So Wrathion, still pissed at Varian, gathers some allies to break Garrosh out of jail. He gets Zaela and other Hellscream loyalists to assist, as well as Kairoz, and then several Infinite Dragons. Yes, the Infinite Dragonflight was part of Garrosh's escape.

Kairoz brings Garrosh and the others to an alternate timeline of Draenor - one that is 35 years in the past, and is slightly different in a few subtle ways. Wrathion comes with them, but he becomes separated at some point. The Infinite Dragons are nowhere to be seen.

That is, unless you count Kairoz. In truth, he never displays the Infinite corruption we've seen in other dragons, but this seems like a very likely first step along the way to the corruption of the Bronze Flight - something we already know about because the Infinites have been traveling back to our past to try to change the timeline.

The goal here is to have Garrosh create a new Horde that will conquer Azeroth. Wrathion wants it to do so in order to provide a strong war machine to fight off the Legion. Kairoz wants it so that he can have a potentially infinite army under his control, hopping from universe to universe and replicating his forces.

Garrosh just wants revenge. And once Kairoz makes it clear that this would only be an Orc-led Horde officially, but not in practice, Garrosh murders him.

Garrosh meets with the alternate-universe doppelgänger of his father and appears as a prophet, showing him a very distorted vision of the Horde's history - focusing a lot on the drinking of demon blood and then the internment camps - much less Thrall's successful bid of independence or Garrosh's own making a muck of it.

The Iron Horde is created, and Gul'dan is imprisoned - but not killed. Not content to simply have his ideal all-Orc Horde, Garrosh wants to return to Azeroth and take revenge. This, of course, bring the attention of the Alliance and the Horde proper, who very swiftly dismantle the Iron Horde. With Garrosh and most of the Iron Horde's leadership dead, and Gul'dan released during the initial fighting, the remaining leadership of the Iron Horde deposes Grom and instead turns to Gul'dan - ironically creating the exact "failed Horde" Garrosh had come to prevent.

This new Gul'dan slips through our grasp in the attempt to take down the Fel Iron Horde, and he eventually travels to our Azeroth, with thirty years of history and knowledge of his own doppelganget's mistakes.

It's here that the details become fuzzy, and I'm sure we'll have to wait until Legion to really find out what's going on. But Gul'dan finds the body of Illidan Stormrage, recovered from Outland several years ago and sealed within a crystal prison in the Broken Isles.

Somehow, Gul'dan is able to use Illidan to open a massive portal at the Tomb of Sargeras that allows the Legion to invade our world.


This is a story of compounded irony. Wrathion seeks to save the world from the Burning Legion, and through his actions, he creates the opportunity for them to strike. Garrosh seeks to create a pure Horde, free of the history of demonic corruption, only to have the Iron Horde fall to the demons and leave Azeroth threatened by an even greater Legion invasion than the Third War.

But if you really want to trace it all the way back, we can blame ourselves. We were the ones who messed with a bunch of Black Dragon organic matter in an attempt to create something that hadn't existed in ten thousand years. You can hardly say it was intentional, but we played our own part in bringing this whole mess to pass.

So I guess it's our job to clean it up.