Monday, August 29, 2016

Seven Hours Until Legion - What to do Last Minute

Legion, which looks like it could be the best expansion since Wrath of the Lich King (or even surpass it) is going live in the United States in a mere seven hours (it might be just one hour in Europe.) This is mostly a cause for celebration - we get to go get our artifact weapons and start fighting in the Broken Isles (assuming that DDOS attacks - which I guarantee you are going to happen - and the overall lag of having everyone in Dalaran at the same time - though thankfully only briefly - aren't going to make the game unplayable.)

But there are some things that are going away. These are:

The Demonic Invasions:

If you've decided to level up new alts as fast as possible, the demon invasions have been an amazing opportunity for that - even at high levels you can get about a level per invasion (and at lower levels you can get several.

If you really want to get some alt up to 100 for Legion and not burn your character boost on him or her, you'll want to do these invasions non-stop until the expansion launches.

Additionally, I'd assume we're going to lose the Illidari camps in the various zones (not sure about the ones in Stormwind and Orgrimmar,) so if you have Nethershards, make sure to get your Fel Bat Pup and any Crystallized Fel you can to upgrade your weapons (though this latter part is almost totally moot, as you'll be getting your artifact weapon before doing anything else in the expansion.) If you haven't gotten gear in all armor slots for all armor types (and don't forget the cloak!) now's a good time to spend your shards on those cosmetic items - note that if you have gotten all the pieces of a given armor type, you won't need these cosmetic sets.


The Grove Warden, like the wolf mount from Siege of Orgrimmar, is going away after the next expansion launches. The Grove Warden is a very cool mount, and while there are other moose mounts coming in Legion, they don't have all the bells and whistles that the Grove Warden has.

At this point, you'll probably need to drop a substantial chunk of gold to get a run unless you're very lucky. Beat Archimonde in Hellfire Citadel on either Heroic or Mythic and you'll get the item that begins the quest (just to be safe I'd try to complete the quest tonight as well.)

Guaranteed Felsteel Annihilator:

This is also the last time to get a guaranteed drop of the Felsteel Annihilator mount from Mythic Archimonde. This mount is not going to go away, but it will not be a guaranteed drop.

And that's about it!

The Broken Shore event will remain as the introductory quest for the expansion, though once Legion has launched, if you've done the event on one character you'll be able to skip it on others. You can apparently start these quests at 98, meaning that I'd assume after the Broken Shore, Ulduar, and Karazhan, you'll probably hit level 100. So no rush on this!

Expect a huge rush when the expansion launches, and tons of lag in Dalaran both over Deadwind Pass and the Broken Isles. Thankfully, you won't be staying there long, as players will split up by twelve and then thirty-six as we all go to pursue our artifacts, though you can expect DPS artifacts to be more "crowded" quest areas. Thankfully, the climax of each artifact quest is a solo-scenario, so you unless there's a problem with instance servers (and there might be) you shouldn't have to worry too much.

Oh, and get rid of any garrison items you don't want to have taking up your inventory. We're leaving those places behind. Also not a bad idea to clear out gear from your bank and bags - with the new transmog system, you'll make a ton of room from things that are now saved to your appearance tab.

Legion: One Day Out - The Burning Legion

Many players of World of Warcraft even in its early days were mainly familiar with the events of Warcraft III - Illidan and Arthas were far more recognizable characters than say, Blackhand or even Gul'dan for these people. When Wrath of the Lich King came out, some asked where the game could possibly go from there. Of course, those who either had played more or simply delved deeper into the lore (myself being the latter - WoW is the first Warcraft game I ever played) could rattle off a few - Deathwing, for one (and of course he came immediately after the Lich King.) But the obvious "ultimate bad guys" were the Burning Legion.

The expansion coming out tomorrow (two days from now as I write this) is simply called "Legion." Unlike the Burning Crusade, whose title did imply an ultimate confrontation with the Legion but in reality was split between the Legion as a greater outside threat and Illidan's forces as the true headliners, Legion the expansion really does seem to be putting the Burning Legion front and center.

In Wrath and Cataclysm, the survival of the world was truly at stake (actually, you could argue the end of BC in Sunwell Plateau it was as dire as it is now - though I'd assume that a failure in SWP would have meant what succeeded already at the Tomb of Sargeras - that that raid was our successful nipping the invasion in the bud.) But after Wrath threatened to turn everyone in Azeroth into the undead and Cataclysm threatened to turn the surface of the world into a burned-out husk, we needed to de-escalate lest the high stakes get away from us entirely.

So in Mists of Pandaria, the focus was turned around on us - our conflict, Alliance/Horde, is what caused the resurgence of the Sha in Pandaria (though I'd argue we just revealed a problem that was already there,) but the threat was not of some global extinction, but rather the conquest of a brutal dictator. Had we failed to stop Garrosh, some small elite (mostly Orcs) might have actually prospered - though those people would be complicit in what is actually a textbook example of fascism. Still, life would have continued on Azeroth, and Garrosh's tyranny might have ended in some other manner later on.

The threat in Warlords of Draenor, at least to begin with, was similar - rather than Garrosh as our dictator, Grommash would have been. But the Iron Horde only briefly made it into Azeroth. Much of our efforts after the first moments of the expansion were to ensure the Iron Horde could not ever recover from its defeat in Tanaan and to protect the innocent people of Draenor as long as we were there.

That said, our success against the Iron Horde really brought about the larger problem we have now - in literally the third quest of the expansion, we free Gul'dan, and that single action is why we're now facing the biggest threat that we ever have in World of Warcraft.

If the "stakes dial" was turned down a few notches in the past two expansions, it has now been turned all the way up.

And at this point, the people asking "where do we go from here?" have a pretty reasonable time to start piping up again.

The first question to ask is what will happen as the expansion develops. At this point we know that we'll be defeating Xavius and Gul'dan in their respective raids. But while Xavius has a great deal of control over the Nightmare, he is not its original source. We also don't know if Gul'dan will die in the Nighthold (though after what he did to Varian, I'd really like to make that happen.)

From there, though, there's the question of just how far up the Legion leadership chain we climb. We don't even know if Sargeras is truly running things at this point - last we checked, he's been missing since Medivh's head was cut off. That being said, it was probably his voice we heard in the Battle of Undercity quest (really wish they could bring that back as a solo scenario,) so perhaps he is still calling the shots.

Could we kill Sargeras? Right now, it looks like most of the quests are focused on closing the portal at the Tomb of Sargeras - which I'm reasonably confident will be the final raid of the expansion. Given that the Tomb is where Sargeras' Avatar was buried, it might be that we fight that as the final boss instead of the planet-sized Titan himself.

This would mean that we had stopped the invasion, but it would still leave the Legion out there. Granted, that would allow for a future expansion that takes us to Argus (the Draenei/Eredar homeland,) which is something that players have speculated about for a long time, but it would mean that our victory in this expansion would be at best another holding action.

Another question to ask is what exactly Gul'dan wants to do with Illidan's body. In the Demon Hunter starting experience, Gul'dan claims that Illidan is the key to the Legion's victory - which is funny because the Illidari at least are convinced (and I believe according to the Illidan novel, the Naaru are as well) that he's the key to destroying the Legion.

Illidan's role in the expansion is anyone's guess. We do sort of want to see him redeemed, or at least given credit for not being a full-on villain like Arthas or Deathwing. One tinfoil hat theory that I just want to put down for the record is that Illidan could be the final boss of the expansion - not because he's gone evil, but because he has taken in the spirit of Sargeras, and he wants us to kill him to seal them both away (basically like the Loramus Thalipedes quest in Blasted Lands, but on a much larger scale.)

Yet another question is this: just how loyal are the demons to the Legion? Remember that the original Legion (before the Eredar and other races were transformed into demons) were all coerced into joining - Sargeras had discovered how to permanently kill demons, and threatened to do so to anyone who didn't join.

It appears there are some quests in Legion that actually suggest that there are elements within the Legion who would be willing or even eager to desert Sargeras. Some demons might even start looking to powers that are on the good side of the spectrum.

A post-Legion world would be pretty interesting - Blizzard would be free to invent all sorts of new factions of varying antagonism. Demons are beings of chaos, but perhaps that might mean that in the future we have mercenary-like demons who are willing to aid us (or pay us for aid) in their affairs. It would make a Warlock's life a lot more complicated, that's for sure!

In terms of "where we go from here," the obvious answer is the Old Gods. We have "killed" two of them, but only one is actually, truly dead (and that one died before pretty much any of the playable races existed.) C'thun and Yogg-Saron are clearly just regrowing and regrouping, and we haven't even laid a finger on N'zoth yet.

But as we learned in Chronicle, the Old Gods are themselves servants to a higher power - the Void Lords. We don't know exactly how these relate to, say, Void Gods formed from darkened Naaru, but we do know that the Void (and Shadow magic) are something clearly distinct from the chaotic Fel magic that the Burning Legion favors.

Post-Legion, an Old God-themed expansion seems like an obvious choice, though they might want to again lower the stakes somewhat so that there's time to reset the "stakes dial" after Legion turns it up to eleven.

It might be like a broken record at this point, but a South Seas expansion in which Azshara is the main villain is another one of those obvious things for Blizzard to do. A bit like Xavius, Azshara straddles the line between being associated with the Legion and the Old Gods, but while Xavius is clearly on team green, Azshara's loyalties (if they are to anyone other than herself) seem more to be on team purple.

The question is whether the South Seas expansion would be the one in which we face off with N'zoth, or if that would get its own. It is odd, actually, that neither Old God boss in WoW was its expansion's final boss. C'thun has sort of become the final boss of vanilla (yes, not an expansion, but you know what I mean) but only because the original Naxxramas was removed. Given how incredibly powerful these things are, it seems that N'zoth at least should be able to get his own expansion.

Personally, I think there's a lot of potential for an underground-set expansion. Everyone was a little disappointed when Azjol-Nerub was reduced from a whole zone to a pair of dungeons. But if you made an entire expansion of Underdark-style stuff, you could probably invent plenty of stuff to fill up the "continent" in which it was set.

So after Legion, I can pretty clearly imagine at least three expansions - South Seas with Azshara as the main villain, "Underground" with a theme of N'zoth and his minions (with some Scourge-affiliated Nerubians as well!) and Argus, with Kil'jaeden and possibly Archimonde (assuming he didn't perma-die in Mythic Hellfire Citadel.)

Granted, both Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor sort of came out of the blue. Blizzard obviously can just come up with new lore as they need to. If Legion winds up being as good as it looks like it will be, WoW can probably afford to have new expansions for years to come, so unless they do something insane and simply decide to end the game at some point, I think we can confidently expect to see ideas like these or something similar.

And of course, I want an Infinite Dragonflight expansion, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

So as this posts, it will be fourteen hours until Legion officially launches in the United States. I'm still currently trying to decide on whether to get the Ashbringer or Truthguard first, and the zones that I go to will, as I stated earlier, be determined by the roll of a die.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Legion: Two Days Out - Professions

The thing that convinced me to play World of Warcraft nearly ten years ago was pretty odd.

My college roommate was playing on his Orc Warlock - only about level 7, he was wandering around Durotar looking to gather linen cloth so that he could work on his tailoring. Strangely, I was inspired by the idea of having some righteous battle-mage (a character class I could swear does exist, but I don't know in what game) who makes his own armor. With a Paladin being the closest thing to a battle-mage I could find, I rolled up my first character and made him a blacksmith (a year or so later, having never caught up on blacksmithing after getting to Outland, Blizzard introduced both engineering goggles and the Flying Machine/Turbo-Charged Flying Machine mount, so I switched to engineering and have been happy with that decision.)

The thing is, professions have not really evolved in the way that other game systems have. They're still a huge grind and the end benefit is sort of underwhelming - it's rare that you can make a piece of crafted gear that rivals what you get out of raids or dungeons.

But even when you get really good rewards (and actually, while the reliance on daily cooldowns in Warlords was utterly obnoxious - essentially creating a problem so that the garrison buildings could solve it - I did appreciate that you could continually upgrade a piece of gear to the point where my paladin is still wearing the goggles he made back in 2014,) the process of making things is not terribly interesting - you just grab the recipes from a trainer (or a vendor in Warlords) and gather materials and make it.

In Legion, things will look a little different.

For one thing, your profession skill matters less - while Warlords allowed you to gather materials at a very slow rate regardless of your skill level, it appears that in Legion you'll be able to collect full pieces of material regardless of level - no more "ore fragments." You will still become more efficient the higher your level, but I'm hoping that you won't be super-penalized if you're starting a new profession (such as if you are a Demon Hunter.)

Learning a recipe will also not be the end of your work on a piece - you'll be able to gain higher ranks in each recipe (including gathering materials) that will increase your efficiency - gathering will yield more materials while crafting will require fewer.

Each profession will have its own quests as well - there will be quests you unlock as you level up, giving you tasks to complete in order to learn new techniques and recipes, and at 110, there will be world quests that depend on your profession. There is even a dungeon, the Court of Stars, where your profession might give you the opportunity to do something unique, granting your party a buff or helping to take out an enemy.

This will certainly complicate professions and probably make it harder to be a total completionist, but on the other hand, it is introducing more gameplay into the profession aspect of the game - probably not so bad of an idea.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Legion: Three Days Out - Dungeons

Dungeons were once the bread-and-butter of World of Warcraft. In Burning Crusade, I did only two raids of Karazhan (we didn't get past the Curator) - the majority of what I did was run 5-player dungeons at max level. In Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, dungeons allowed you to acquire fantastic gear if you were willing to run them frequently - you could even get a full raiding tier set in the latter half of Wrath of the Lich King, along with other high-quality pieces.

It was Wrath that I think of as the golden age of dungeons - not only was it rewarding to run all dungeons, but it actually made raiding more accessible - you could walk into Icecrown Citadel without too much concern about making sure you had every last piece of gear out of Trial of the Crusader.

In recent expansions, we've seen dungeons really fall from prominence. In Mists of Pandaria, once you had decent enough gear to run LFR, there was essentially no reason to step into those dungeons anymore, and we didn't see any new dungeons added over the course of the expansion after having tied with Cataclysm for the fewest launch dungeons at 9 (Cataclysm redeemed itself by adding a total of five additional dungeons, though the implementation left something to be desired.)

Warlords then outdid Mists, launching with only eight dungeons and also not adding any new ones after launch. To be fair, Warlords did add a Mythic mode to the existing dungeons that provided serious gear (I have a polearm for my Retribution spec that got super-warforged to 725, which I think makes it equivalent to a Mythic Hellfire Citadel weapon.) Still, once again dungeon-running felt mostly like a side-attraction to LFR and raiding in general.

Legion looks to correct this.

It's obviously way too early to see how well it goes, but here are the new ways that Blizzard is approaching dungeons in Legion:

First off, they're launching with ten dungeons, which is a step in the right direction. I think they're playing around with level scaling to see how many of these will be "level up" dungeons and how many will be just at max level. Judging purely from item level rewards, it looks like most of them will scale to your level, with the exception of the Suramar dungeons, The Arcway and Court of Stars.

Second, they have already announced at least one post-launch dungeon, which is Karazhan. We don't know if this is going to be a simple revamp where the area is mostly the same and the mechanics are updated or if it will be an entirely new instance with its own layout and characters (though Moroes is probably going to be there, based on the trailer.) We do know, however, that it will have nine bosses and that the old raid is not going anywhere (hopefully meaning an end to destructive revamps - hey, how about giving us the old versions of Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, Scarlet Monastery, Scholomance, and Upper Blackrock Spire... and Naxxramas, Zul Gurub, Zul Aman, and Onyxia's Lair back in addition to their updated versions?)

I'm not exactly sure what role Heroic dungeons will play in Legion, since Mythic dungeons will be available at launch (actually there might be a week delay.) But I suspect that they'll be there to help people gear up for LFR. Heroics will still be dungeon-finder-able, while Mythic will still require you to form your own group and also have a week-long lockout.

But they're also adding the Mythic Plus system. Mythic Plus dungeons will potentially scale up indefinitely, presenting greater challenges and greater rewards. This system is envisioned as a way to allow players to make dungeons, rather than raids, their main progression path, using keystones that enhance a dungeon to make it harder but also grant better rewards, including ever-higher-powered keystones.

My one concern is that making Mythic-only dungeons - such as the Arcway, Court of Stars, and when 7.1 comes out, Karazhan - means that players who cannot raid in the traditional sense for whatever reason are going to find it equally hard and frustrating to run these dungeons. In essence, Mythic Dungeons seem to be envisioned as 5-player raids - they mentioned that the Karazhan one is so long that you might decide to break it up over the course of two nights.

I'd hope that as they introduce new patches with other new dungeons, that we'll see some smaller dungeons that can be run at a normal and heroic level. Thankfully, Mythic Plus is going to mean that the dungeons will remain relevant throughout the expansion, so making something new for new players and alts as well as seasoned veterans just makes sense.

As a co-guild leader (our guild is pretty democratic) I can tell you it'll be a hell of a lot easier gathering five players together than ten, and I hope we'll be able to expand our schedule beyond a single raid night per week, potentially creating "dungeon night" as well.

Legion: Four Days Out - Class Matters

A Paladin and a Warlock are almost entirely opposite callings. One straps on heavy plate armor and and metes out justice in the name of the divine.  The other bends and breaks their enemies in the name of power for themselves. While there are good warlocks and evil paladins, generally their alignments tend to go the other way.

But in World of Warcraft, both will largely wind up doing the same stuff - slaying monsters, defending the innocent, and killing raid bosses for pants.

Choosing a class is the only totally irreversible thing you can do when you start a character. Changing your race, name, faction, or gender requires real money, and the rest of your cosmetic options are changeable in an in-game barber shop (except skin color for some reason.)

But the class you choose really defines the way the game plays - the earlier example of a Warlock versus a Paladin is a pretty good one - compare a Protection Paladin with a Demonology Warlock, for example.

Still, while the gameplay is very different depending on your class, the story often isn't. We once had a fair number of class quests when WoW first came out, but almost all of these were lost in the Cataclysm revamp (oddly including the Druid swift flight form quest, which I never got to do, even though it was largely in Outland, if I understand correctly.)

We have had some class content - though I'm not counting the quests at level 20 and 50 because everyone gets those and they're somewhat interchangeable. In Cataclysm we had the Legendary chain for the Fangs of the Father. It just so happened that it was a pair of daggers that would only benefit Rogues (though with the Feral Druid artifact weapon being a pair of daggers, I bet they wish they could get their hands on them.) This was a rather standard legendary weapon chain, but the quests between the raid grinding were specially tailored to both rogue skills and rogue flavor.

An even better example was the Green Fire quest chain during Mists of Pandaria. This not only introduced the Circle of the Black Harvest (which will be the Warlock class order) but also gave a highly enjoyable and very demanding challenge - beating Kanrethad Ebonlocke at the summit of the Black Temple required total mastery of many Warlock spells.

In Warlords of Draenor we didn't get any class content, but thankfully, Legion will be putting a very strong focus back on classes.

The first thing you'll do in Legion is get your first artifact weapon - a weapon specifically designed for your spec. The quest chain will introduce your class order as well, and bring you to a special order hall that will be accessible only by members of your class.

Each order hall comes with a set of armor you can earn and also some unique features (like a light-puzzle game for Shamans.) Additionally, there will be a campaign quest series for each class, giving you periodic tasks that are suited to your own class.

While much of the questing in the Broken Isles is sure to be the same for all players, having this class-restricted content sprinkled throughout will really make the experience feel more immersive. Not only that, but it should make leveling up your alts feel more exciting - as it won't just be the same quests all over again.

This focus is one of the big reasons I'm excited about this expansion, and while I know it'll be a major theme this time around and that artifact weapons at the very least are not going to go any farther with us after Legion, I hope that (assuming this stuff is successful,) they'll continue to make class content relevant in the expansions to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Legion: Five Days Out - World Scaling

One of the most exciting features of Legion, especially for altoholics and people who like to play starting midnight on launch night (both describe me,) is that the Broken Isles' four level-up zones are playable in any order. There will be no single set path through the continent, and zones will dynamically scale with you so that you're always in an area that is an appropriate challenge.

One implication is that this is going to mean far less bottlenecking - players won't pile into a single zone as the expansion launches like Hellfire Peninsula or the Jade Forest, instead they'll be spread across these different zones (after spending up to an hour doing their first artifact quest - a long enough time to stagger players a bit.)

Some parts of each zone, and all of Suramar, will be locked at level 110, meaning there will be dangerous parts of each zone that you'll want to avoid while you're leveling up. But once you hit 110, the entirety of each zone will be scaled to players of max level, meaning that Blizzard will then be able to put World Quests anywhere on the Broken Isles and still have it present a modest challenge.

The scaling system is on display in the demonic invasions that have been going on for the past few weeks. If you're level 15, the demons are roughly at your level (tougher ones being two levels higher.) They do damage you'd expect from a level 15 enemy, and a level 15 character can take them down as if they were the same level. Yet the very same demon, to a level 100 character, will appear to be level 100, and rather than hitting for 600 damage, it might strike you for 60,000 damage.

What this means is that if you have a friend who is leveling up slower or faster than you, you can still quest together or run dungeons together (the level-up dungeons will also have this tech) and each will feel as if the content is at a level that's appropriate to him or herself.

One could reasonably ask "why have levels at all, then?" Well, new profession quests will unlock as you go along, and they still want you to have to quest through the Broken Isles before you get to the new level cap. For one thing, they need to make Warlords gear obsolete and let secondary stats diminish so that we don't wind up with players having 100% crit and 200% versatility.

Perhaps this does make the distinction between level 102 and level 108 somewhat less meaningful - in a sense, you can almost think of the Broken Isles as a single area in which to level up once - from 100 to 110. Still, other games, like Skyrim, have had this kind of level scaling and I don't think anyone complained about that (ok, I'm sure someone did, because someone will always complain about anything.)

What I don't know is whether there's a level requirement for starting a new zone. After acquiring your artifact, you'll pick a zone to start off in. Given the way that this scaling works, there's no reason you couldn't take a break from Azsuna, head over to Stormheim, and then come back and finish Azsuna later, but I don't know if there's any sort of gating on when you get your starting breadcrumb quest.

Personally, my plan is to use a d4 (for those who don't play tabletop RPGs, a d4 is a 4-sided die) to determine which zones I go to on each character so that I don't develop a predictable pattern. I'm honestly pretty excited about all of the zones, so while my main, the paladin, is eager to go do Titan-associated things in Stormheim, I figure that can come whenever the dice tell me it should.

I do wonder if this sort of tech could be applied to older content. On one hand, that could be really great for making low-level zones that these days you outlevel before you're a quarter of the way through them more relevant, but the Broken Isles also have their stories built on the assumption that you're doing them in different orders. It would be weird to go do Talador and see Maraad die, only for you to go fight alongside him in Shadowmoon Valley.

Still, assuming it's a popular feature, I think we could see this as the future of WoW.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Legion Six Days Out: Demonic Invasions Pre-Launch Event

I've never taken in a group of alts that are so astonishingly well-geared into an expansion before. I have characters of every class who have most of their slots with item level 700 or better gear in them. My Shadow Priest - my freaking Shadow Priest (if you don't read this blog much, this is my least-played character who typically hits the level cap and then chills for the rest of the expansion) is rocking a weapon that's comparable to the best the final mythic raid of the current expansion (meaning Warlords) has to offer.

Basically my Druid, Hunter, Priest, and Monk are missing like one piece of gear from the invasions.

Am I getting a little sick of them? Sure. The invasions are not all that different from zone to zone (though Westfall does have a Fel-corrupted Foe Reaper that spawns near Moonbrook in the third part of phase three,) but between the fact that it's one massive co-op love fest between every player who shows up and the fact that it really drives home the threat that the Legion presents (the fact that these same demons keep coming back is not just a gameplay thing - it's canon) and also the fact that low-level characters can participate (and level up absurdly fast - I took my Gnome Priest I created only to see the new Gnome starting area when Cataclysm came out on like two invasions and he went from level 8 to level 27 - and he has never left Dun Morogh.)

The demon invasions are clearly one of the biggest parts of the pre-launch event, but you can't ignore some of the other aspects.

The early release of Demon Hunters and the whole Broken Shore event make this pre-launch a kind of "soft opening" for Legion. It has given players a few weeks to try out the new class and decide if and at what priority they want to play it (I'm thinking either 3rd or 4th character I take to the Broken Isles - 1 is obviously my Paladin, then probably my Death Knight, then it's between my Rogue and my Demon Hunter, depending on whether doing three Alliance characters in a row will seem too much, or if the class-oriented nature of the expansion will make that less of an issue.)

The Broken Shore event and the subsequent quests are also, as I understand it, the quests that will be available to player after they hit level 100 once the expansion is up and running. You will be able to skip these quests on alts (I think you have to do it once on your first character) and come back to do them later if you talk to some NPC, but basically if you've been keeping up with the quests, you'll be able to hit the Broken Isles once the expansion goes live this coming Tuesday.

In all honesty, these pre-quests have actually gotten less impressive each week - we have the hugely important Broken Shore battle two weeks ago, then some traipsing around Ulduar and Karazhan with Khadgar last week, and today we shoot at some balls of energy in Dalaran. This might feel less anticlimactic when you get to do all of these in a row, but if you've been playing a lot during this pre-launch, this week doesn't offer a huge amount (unless you really want to run a crapton of invasions.)

And of course there are also the Dreadlords in the capital cities. I'm not usually one for forced PvP, but especially given how most players are out of the cities fighting invasions, the Dark Whispers thing this time around is just disruptive enough to be entertaining. And of course there are the non-player Dreadlords who drop a toy, which is always fun.

Really, though, if there's one thing to praise the most about this pre-launch event, it's that the stakes of this expansion have been made very clear. The Legion is trying to destroy us and our homes, and both factions have lost their leaders (granted, Varian's death felt more earned than Vol'jin's, but I'm pretty excited/terrified to see what a Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner is like.)

One of the big problems with Warlords of Draenor was that the Iron Horde never really felt like much of a threat. It was basically "The Horde, but it's only Orcs now, and they have contemporary technology!" to which we could respond "oh, ok. So do we. And we have more than just Orcs." The pre-launch event being stuck only in Blasted Lands meant that the Iron Horde had clearly only been able to take a tiny amount of territory thanks to a completely out-of-the-blue surprise attack - and we pushed them back with basically no difficulty.

The Legion though? Our first big battle against them ended in a devastating and humiliating loss. And now the heartlands of the Alliance and the Horde are under constant siege. This is a huge crisis, and one that demands the attention of the heroes we are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Legion: Seven Days Out - The Emerald Nightmare

Way back in 2005, before I even started playing the game, there were rumors that the first expansion for the instant-classic game would be a trip into the Emerald Dream. The Dream as a concept was briefly touched on in Warcraft III with the introduction of the Night Elves, but the nature of the Dream and the existence of the Nightmare did not come about until World of Warcraft (the same can be said about the Old Gods - who are hinted at but never named in Warcraft III's Frozen Throne expansion.)

So for essentially twelve years (if we count 2004, when WoW launched,) people have been confidently expecting that the next expansion would be the Emerald Dream (ok, for the past two people have been convinced that it would be "The Dark Below," which wound up being a Destiny expansion.)

One of the problems Blizzard has had, though, is that the Emerald Dream is meant to be a version of Azeroth in which there are no humanoids or any of their works or effects. That means a massive continent of Proto-Kalimdor, but also means that there's basically nothing interesting there.

Still, the idea of the Nightmare - a corruption spreading through the Emerald Dream - has been a rather important plot point within the game for a while. The Emerald Nightmare gave us the Dragons of Nightmare world bosses (who disappeared some time before Cataclysm, and not with it, if I recall) and also seemingly had some connection to the Sunken Temple dungeon (which used to be a lot larger.) Eranikus, the final boss of Sunken Temple, was strongly connected to the Nightmare, and there seems to be some implication that Hakkar the Soulflayer, an evil Loa worshipped by the Gurubashi Trolls (and we now know that Loa are the same as Night Elf Ancients and Pandaren Celestials, who are all now grouped under the blanket term "Wild Gods,") is tied to the Nightmare as well.

Warcraft Chronicle also explicitly told us how the Nightmare came to be - druids attempted to create a new World Tree in Grizzly Hills called Vordrassil, which we now know as the Grizzlemaw. It was planted too close to the prison of Yogg-Saron, and the Old God's essence was able to seep into the Dream this way and manifest as the Nightmare.

Making the Emerald Nightmare a raid rather than an expansion-supporting continent has thus allowed them to get away with a large area that doesn't really have "buildings" per se - in fact, what we're seeing is a kind of raid I dreamed up many years ago - a kind of shadowy realm of monstrous beasts.

It's exciting that the Nightmare is finally getting a definitive aesthetic as well - you'll see lots of black and red with perhaps some purple. The Nightmare's connection to the Old Gods is also apparent, such as Ilgynoth, which has very C'thun-like eyes, and also many of the creatures we fight within it resemble the Sha. Yet while it is clearly connected to the Old Gods, the Nightmare looks very distinct - and it will also be a clear visual break from the black-and-green look of the Burning Legion.

We're also seeing the Nightmare Dragons given entirely new models - they're still obviously dragons, but they're very different from the ones we've encountered in the past. (Even if the Dragons of Nightmare, who we fight as a group-boss, are literally dragons we've encountered in the past.)

I'm expecting to find more clarification as we quest through Val'sharah, but I'm beginning to get the impression that while Xavius is deeply tied to the Nightmare and has been empowered by it, it is ultimately a force he intends to use to help the Burning Legion. I'm curious what the Old Gods think of that - the Legion's mission is their destruction, but perhaps the Old Gods revel in any chaos, even that which destroys themselves, and thus are happy to see any spread of their corruption for whatever purpose.

I am somewhat concerned about burning through the Nightmare in a single raid - I hope that it will continue to play a part in WoW to come, but I suspect that we'll never see it quite as front-and-center. Druids will be getting Nightmare-themed weapon appearances for PvP, but I do sort of lament the fact that there won't be Nightmare-themed weapon drops for all classes. (And armor, for that matter.) Perhaps we'll see in time.

Anyway, as I write this it's still Monday, but when this posts Legion should be only one week away. I know I'm very excited to go to the Broken Isles. In fact, for the first time since Cataclysm I'm going into an expansion with no experience in the Beta, and thus it will really be a whole new world for me to explore. I've devised a simple method to randomize the order in which I do the zones (a simple D&D trick called a d4, with the level up zones being numbered west to east.) I'm honestly pretty excited about all of them, but I'm very eager to see how much of Val'sharah is corrupted by the Nightmare.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Legion: Eight Days Out - Artifact Weapons

One of the key features of the Legion expansion is going to be the use of Artifact Weapons. The first major quest chain you get will be to get an artifact weapon (or set of weapons,) and you will continue using that weapon throughout the entire expansion.

Each specialization has its own artifact, and each artifact has its own story and background. Some of these will be familiar: for example, Retribution Paladins get the Ashbringer and Balance Druids get the Scythe of Elune. As many famous weapons as there are in Warcraft lore, there aren't really 36 famous weapons that would work for every single spec in the game, so many of these weapons are new inventions. That being said, each still comes with a backstory, and many of them have relationships with important figures of the past. The Shadow Priest artifact, for example, is a dagger and an off-hand book. The dagger is literally the claw from an Old God's (I believe N'zoth's) tentacle and was used as a ritual blade back in the era of the Black Empire - before the Pantheon came to Azeroth. Protection Warriors get a shield made from one of Deathwing's scales.

Artifacts will grow in power in two ways.

We'll start with the more complicated way.

Doing more or less anything in game (so questing, running dungeons, doing PvP, or even finding treasures or interested NPCs) will grant you artifact power. You can think of this a little like experience for your artifact weapon.

Each weapon has traits that can be unlocked at the cost of artifact power, with each subsequent trait costing more. Each weapon has one inherent ability (this "trait" is really just a starting point for working on the artifact trait "tree,) and completing the acquisition quest will give you the artifact power to get the first minor trait. Minor traits are either a single rank or have three ranks, and in order to progress beyond one of these three-rank traits in the tree, you'll have to unlock all three ranks.

Most minor traits do simple things, like boosting the damage of Crusader Strike by 5/10/15%. Some do somewhat more complex things, but minor traits generally give you a simple percentage boost on one of your abilities.

In addition to your inherent ability, each artifact also has three major traits, which have more profound effects, such as a Balance Druid trait that gives your Starsurge a chance to summon Goldrinn to attack your foe. These major traits will be farther out along the trait tree, and are all a single rank.

Finally, if you've filled out all of your traits, you'll be able to invest any excess artifact power you acquire into a 50-rank trait that gives you some flat bonus like increased damage (at a very gradual rate.)

My understanding is that artifact power is only acquired for the weapon you're currently using, though I'm hoping that's not the case (as I'd like to quest as Retribution but dedicate my artifact power to boosting my Protection artifact.)

While these traits are certainly going to add up to a significant increase in power, there's another very important aspect to upgrading your artifact: Relics.

Each artifact weapon starts at item level 750 (I believe the max item level for weapons out of Mythic Hellfire Citadel is 725, which is also the max upgrade for invasion weapons, so they clearly want everyone to ditch their old stuff.) But obviously, over the course of the expansion we'll want our weapons to keep up with our gear. Thus: Relics.

Each artifact weapon has three relic slots - two that are available from level 100, and one that unlocks at level 110. Relics come in several varieties - there are Life, Holy, Storm, Frost, Iron, Blood, Fel, Shadow, Fire, and Arcane. Each artifact will have a mix of relic slots - for example, Ashbringer has two Holy slots and one Fire slot. The Doomhammer has one Fire, one Iron, and one Storm relic slot.

Relics will increase the item level of your artifact, such that when you get a full set of relics from, say, the Emerald Nightmare, your weapon should be equivalent to the other pieces of gear from that raid.

Relics will also increase the ranks of one of your minor traits. For example, if you have the Sunflare Coal plugged into your Doomhammer, not only will it raise the item level of the weapon by 51 points, but it will give you a fourth rank of "Forged in Lava." Normally, at three ranks Forged in Lava makes your Lava Lash 10% stronger, but this fourth rank will increase that bonus to 13%.

My general understanding is that these trait increases are mainly to use when you need to break a tie between two equivalent relics. For example, taking Exothermic Core instead of that Sunflare Coal will still increase the Doomhammer's item level by the same amount, but instead of boosting Lava Lash you'll increase the bonus to Maelstrom generation of your Rockbiter ability.

Relics will essentially be the weapon drops of the expansion, but I also believe that once socketed, replacing them will destroy them. So if you get some nice Holy Relic that you put into your Truthguard (Protection Paladin artifact shield,) you won't be able to swap it into your Ashbringer when you get something better.

Cosmetically, artifact weapons will each have several variations. At Legion's launch there will be four models (and a fifth hidden one,) and each variant model (including the original) will have four color variations. Unlocking each model and color will require various tasks, and it is highly likely that over the course of the expansion, we're going to see new models introduced.

If you can't stand your artifact's look no matter how many appearances you unlock, you will still be able to transmog over it. However, it will still be limited by weapon type. Fire Mages, for example, get a one-handed sword and an off-hand item, so if you like some staff model on your fire mage, you're a bit out of luck.

That said, there are some appearances that seem to change the weapon type - such as a variation on the Beast Mastery gun that turns it into a bow - so perhaps Blizzard will find a way to loosen transmog restrictions.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Legion: Nine Days Out - Demon Hunters

Legion is only a little over a week away, but one of its biggest features - the Demon Hunter hero class - is already available to play. I know that I've been taking my DH around on several demon invasions, I've tanked a few dungeons on him (and DPS'd one,) and I've been taking him through old dungeons and raids as I hunt for transmog pieces (I've actually been able to solo the first two bosses of Throne of Thunder as Vengeance, the first one on 25-player mode.)

We don't really have the entire Demon Hunter arsenal yet - while other classes have their full complement of talents and will only have to worry about their artifact weapons when it comes to progressing through the Broken Isles, Demon Hunters are going to keep unlocking new talents every two levels until level 110. This does mean that they are at a slight disadvantage for now, but it's not a terribly large one. Still, it will be interesting to see how talent builds turn out once we have access to the whole range. Personally I'm really enjoying my Momentum/Prepared "build," though the cooldown on Fel Rush becomes more of an issue when doing heroics and things are dying very quickly.

The Demon Hunter starting experience is quite good - I need to go back and do it on a different character now that I have access to my far newer and more powerful desktop computer, so that I can really search Mardum for all the hidden treasures. It's also pretty cool to get an early look at the Vault of the Wardens dungeon, which is pretty huge.

In some ways, the level of uniqueness that Demon Hunters get makes me almost wish that they had been able to do similar things for Death Knights - like totally new voice acting and additional character customization features. That said, if they had done all that unique model stuff beyond simple additional face and skins, we probably would have been far more limited in race choices for Death Knights - I could imagine them limiting it to Humans, Dwarfs, Undead, and Blood Elves, which would have left my Draenei out in the cold as it were.

Of course, Demon Hunters are only so unique because of the lessons Blizzard learned making the Death Knight and the Monk.

Gameplay-wise, Demon Hunter do seem to embody the new design philosophy - a very simple core rotation, but with lots of things you can add into it with talents. Havoc, for example, before you take talents into account, is basically Demon Bite and Chaos Strike, with Eye Beam on a fairly long cooldown (theorycrafting even suggests that on single targets, Eye Beam isn't even worth it, though I think Blizzard will either buff that or nerf Chaos Strike a bit to make it more attractive.) But with talents you can make Vengeful Retreat, Fel Rush, Throw Glaive, Blade Dance for single targets, and even Chaos Nova a significant part of your rotation.

On the other hand, Vengeance is not so simple - you have a pretty complex set of utility cooldowns and things like Sigil of Flame and Fiery Brand that you've got to work in in the right way. I'm given to understand that they've been a little weak on the beta, but I'd bet this is just a tuning thing (and of course, a lack of experience for those playing the class.)

Demon Hunters have had a strong debut, and there's an interesting story behind them. I'm eager to see the emergence of interesting Demon Hunter characters - there's no obvious Thassarian/Koltira pairing yet.

I'm also eager to see the look of the demon hunter evolve over time - getting our artifacts with all their different appearances will be a big step forward (right now there are only three warglaive models one has access to for transmog) but I'm also really curious to see how the tier sets evolve.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Legion: Ten Days Out

We're on the cusp of World of Warcraft's sixth expansion. In many ways, this expansion feels like something that the entire game has been building toward. Tons of things that players have been wanting to see for over a decade are finally coming around:

We've finally gotten Demon Hunters as a playable class.

We're finally going into the Emerald Nightmare.

We're finally getting to wield a non-corrupted version of the Ashbringer (though this does imply that people who got it in Vanilla Naxx are officially non-canon, which to be fair we've known about since Wrath.)

We're finally going to see the Tomb of Sargeras (I'm assuming it will be a raid, possibly the final one.)

We're finally going to have an expansion in which the Burning Legion is center-stage as the main villain. Now, Burning Crusade came close, but much of our activity was split between the Legion and the Illidari (sometimes handled really poorly, like the fact that there was no clear point where Blood Elf characters realized that Kael'thas had gone evil.)

We're also seeing a return to focus on things that players have wanted Blizzard to work on, like bringing class quests back (in a big way - I don't think any of us expected class orders or artifact weapons.) Blizzard is also pushing a return to relevance of 5-player dungeons, something that they've failed to do for two expansions (well, ok, Mythic dungeons in Warlords offered good gear - my main is decked out largely in Mythic Dungeon gear - but they didn't really add anything new to the Mythic versions and we were stuck with only eight dungeons the whole expansion.)

And not only that, but we have an honest-to-Light pre-launch event. Yes, we technically had one for both Warlords and Mists, but the latter was literally just one scenario (and not even a very good one) and the former was limited almost entirely to a single zone and one short quest chain and a truncated version of one of the dungeons.

In fact, Legion's pre-launch event is in some ways a sort of soft launch of the expansion. Everything except for the invasions and the dreadlords in the capital cities is, I believe, slated to remain in-game as part of the pre-Broken Isles quest chain for players who hit 100 later or just have not been playing for the past weeks. But for most players, this will really be a fairly complex and entertaining pre-launch event.

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this expansion. I'm sure that we'll find ways to complain (we always do!) but I've got a good feeling about it.

Xavius and the Nightmare

The Emerald Nightmare has been one of those persistent concepts that WoW has touched on, but we've never really done much within it. There is one quest - part of a chain in Icecrown - where one travels to the Moonglade and steps into the Nightmare, and if I recall correctly, the nightmare is also present within the prison on Mount Hyjal where we evacuate Fandral Staghelm and unwittingly put him in the hands of one of Ragnaros' pawns.

For a long time we suspected the Old Gods might have something to do with the Nightmare, but for some reason the first Satyr Xavius is also associated with it.

World of Warcraft Chronicle cleared up a lot of things, but we are left with a seeming contradiction here.

We now know the root cause of the Emerald Nightmare, and while I didn't intend it, that was kind of a pun. The Night Elves tried to create multiple world trees - there's one in Val'sharah, one in Grizzly Hills, the enormous Teldrassil, and one, obviously, on Mount Hyjal. The latter of these, Nordrassil, served its function, nourished by the waters of the Well of Eternity (in fact it was planted there to sort of regulate the mini-well Illidan created after the Sundering.

Vordrassil, created in Grizzly Hills in Northrend, was planted too close to the prison of Yogg-Saron, and while the Old God was mostly contained within its prison of Ulduar, some of its tendrils were able to reach the roots of Vordrassil and allow corruption to seep into the Emerald Dream, creating the Nightmare as we now know it.

It's not clear if the other Old Gods were able to contribute to the Nightmare. For a long time there seem to have been hints that it was N'Zoth who was behind the dream - or that N'Zoth may actually live at the center of the Nightmare.

These theories seem to be falling apart, though. N'Zoth is probably somewhere beneath the ocean, probably near Vashj'ir (the enormous tentacles corrupting L'ghorek there might actually be N'Zoth's.) Obviously, the Old Gods are so enormous that they span the better part of continents. My theory is that all the twitching bug-structures in Tanaris, Un'goro, Feralas, and of course Silithus are actually parts of C'thun, and clearly anywhere you can find Saronite deposits, Yogg-Saron's anatomy must be somewhere nearby.

Still, Chronicle explicitly stated that the Nightmare is due to the corruption of the Old Gods seeping into the Dream, which is not terribly surprising. Given what we're seeing of the models and creatures within the Emerald Nightmare raid, they're definitely reinforcing this idea. Just in case Ilgynoth didn't look enough like something out of an HP Lovecraft story, there are also faceless ones (also known, according to Chronicle, as N'raqi,) that serve as adds during the fight.

But here's the thing:

Chronicle also tells us that the entire reason Sargeras started the Burning Legion was to destroy the Old Gods and any world that they might corrupt - in other words, all of them. Sargeras is unquestionably evil - for one thing, you'd imagine that the demons would be less sadistic if Sargeras really just wanted to euthanize the universe - but he justifies his actions because it would mean the defeat of the Old Gods and their creators, the Void Lords (beings we haven't even come close to encountering.)

So why is Xavius, a demon, affiliated with the Nightmare? Why does the Legion seem allied with the Nightmare? Or are they?

Here's the thing: The Legion doesn't exactly act in a manner that is true to its mission statement.

According to the official story, the Legion should simply use fel magic - that's fel, not shadow - to burn away every world in the universe. Just send a constant bombardment of Infernals and Abyssals and burn the planet to a crisp, then move on to the next world.

But that's the official story for Sargeras. And while he's evil and suffused with fel magic, Sargeras is not exactly a demon. He's a titan. The demons want things to burn, sure, but that's not the only thing they want.

The whole reason Sargeras turned on the universe is that he found a planet with a proto-Titan World Soul that was in the process of being corrupted by its own local set of Old Gods. What drew him there? Dreadlords, aka Nathrezim.

Nathrezim who were working for the Old Gods.

Demons don't inherently have anything against the Old Gods. They're only fighting them (and not really in a direct way) because Sargeras commanded them to - do it or die permanently. But demons are beings of chaos, and they don't really care what happens as long as they get to bring about mayhem and destruction.

The Legion has plenty of void and shadow magic going on within it - something that Sargeras would be unlikely to condone. Historically we've seen plenty of voidwalkers within their ranks (and we've been able to summon them as Warlocks since vanilla) despite the fact that they're technically not even demons (except for gameplay purposes.) How come?

Well, perhaps the Nathrezim never stopped serving the Old Gods.

Sargeras secured the allegiance of the original members of the Burning Legion through threat and coercion. He essentially said "the whole universe has got to go, but if you serve me you'll be last to die." That's plenty to motivate you to play along, but it also heavily incentivizes you to fail. The Nathrezim would probably prefer to keep on living, but with a freaking Titan breathing down their necks, they're going to appear to cooperate.

But the Old Gods and the Void Lords offer them something else - a universe of unending darkness. That's something that might be more appealing to pretty dark creatures. And indeed, seeing a Dark Titan Azeroth arise and tear Sargeras apart would probably be really, really cathartic.

The Legion has been historically presented as a uniform entity that is unending and wholly dedicated to its task. But perhaps, as we fight against them in this upcoming expansion, we'll find that there are wheels within wheels here, and the defeat or destruction of Sargeras would mean the beginning of entirely new conflict.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Emerald Nightmare to Open Three Weeks After Launch

Blizzard is continuing their philosophy of having the expansion's first raid launch a few weeks after the expansion begins - they want people to be able to take their time leveling up, running heroics and world quests and the like. Just as Highmaul didn't come out until three weeks after Warlords launched, so too will the Emerald Nightmare take a little while before it opens up.

And kind of appropriately, it will launch on September 21st, the first day of Autumn (or sometimes it's the 22nd, but I think that's only leap years.)

Blizzard has said that they want to pace things better this time around. There was a reasonable gap between Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry, but I believe they're going to be pushing it to be a little longer this time so that they don't get ahead of themselves.

We also know that 7.1 is going to be bringing a small raid to Stormheim (whose name is likely TBD,) and this might actually launch before the official centerpiece of tier 19, the Nighthold, launches.

So I definitely would not expect to see the Nighthold come out until next year, possibly even in the spring. But we'll have seven bosses of Emerald Nightmare to tide us over, and with the strong implication that Legion will have at least three raid tiers, I think that that pacing is fine.

If we get Emerald Nightmare in September, go let's say four months before Nighthold (with the Stormheim raid dropping somewhere in the middle there,) that would mean a January release for Nighthold. Then, as it's a bigger raid, give it five or six months, meaning that tier 20 would fall somewhere in May or June (ideally.)

Obviously we won't really know how it all turns out until it happens, but I'm hoping that with a commitment to actually sticking with Legion and filling it out as an expansion, we might see plenty of smallish raids like Emerald Nightmare to bridge the gaps between the bigger "tier" raids.

With Legion conceived as a longer expansion, I really want to know how many raid tiers we'll see. The average has always been three - with Wrath's 4 and Warlords' 2 balancing each other out. But I could imagine Blizzard expanding the... expansion by adding more of these Highmaul/Emerald Nightmare/Mogu'shan Vaults-style "half-tier" raids, keeping item levels from getting utterly out of hand (though in all honesty I kind of enjoyed that by the end of Wrath my characters had stuff like over 50% crit chance.)

I'm feeling pretty optimistic about Legion in a way I definitely did not feel about Warlords. Here's hoping I'm right! (It is an even-numbered expansion, which bodes well.)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Hope for Pacing in Legion

The announcement of patch 7.1 before Legion has even launched is a cause for much excitement. Not only is the centerpiece of the patch a return to one of WoW's most beloved instances (in a way that does not get rid of the old version of said instance,) but it also implies that Blizzard has planed out this expansion to have pacing similar to what we saw in Mists of Pandaria, where there was always something to look forward to (well, until Siege of Orgrimmar went on for fourteen months.)

Warlords of Draenor's biggest failing, in my opinion (and I think most peoples') was that there was so little to it. Given that 6.1 was a nonentity, the expansion really only had one major content patch in 6.2's Fury of Hellfire. 6.2 added a decent amount of content (though the naval missions left much to be desired) but as the sole content patch after Warlords' launch, it was pretty damn disappointing. One of the apparent causes of that was that Warlords was intended to last only a year. Blizzard had been talking for a long time about getting expansions out at a faster pace, but thankfully Warlords taught them that A: even if they try to do that, they won't be able to and B: a "faster expansion" means about half as much content, at which point your sort of wonder what the point of releasing the expansions faster is (other than the price of the expansion itself - but WoW has always made way more of its money through subscriptions, and so it behooves them more to make sure people want to stay subscribed consistently rather than shelling out frequently for expansions - and players certainly would prefer it that way as well.)

Now, does that mean we won't have a content drought after Legion's final raid arrives? That's what they claim, but I've also been to this rodeo many times and I remember that even Wrath went for roughly nine or ten months with nothing new (except the Ruby Sanctum.) At some point, the WoW team needs to switch from patch development to the next expansion, and that's always going to take more time to complete.

That said, you could imagine an alternate history where Mists of Pandaria spread its patches out a little farther. If they had taken one extra month between patches (and they were pretty fast-paced, so I don't think it would have harmed them too much to do so,) the Siege of Orgrimmar span would have been reduced by four months - still a bit long at ten months, but clearly not as bad.

Blizzard has stated that they intend Legion to be a longer expansion than previous ones - a complete reversal of the disastrous "faster expansions" strategy. Whether that means it's intended to go on for two years, like all expansions have wound up being in practice, or if they want to have it last even longer is anyone's guess.

Personally, my hope is that we're going to see more than three raid tiers. The only expansion to ever do this was Wrath (and to be fair, tier 9 was kind of a mini-tier.) They've also made it clear that they will be adding more dungeon content as the expansion goes on - Karazhan's new version will be the first post-expansion-launch dungeon since the end of Cataclysm.

There are also plenty of reasons we might want to stick around in this expansion - the class order halls and artifact weapons both seem very expandable. I have to imagine there will be a lot of new artifact appearances as the patches roll out. Plus, given that we're fighting arguably the most important villain in the Warcraft universe, it ought to feel epic, and doing a slow build really helps with that.

So even if I'm eager to get some hypothetical Old God underground expansion (I've been DMing my first D&D game and I'm really eager to get the players back into my setting's equivalent of the Underdark,) I think it could be great for the game to have a massive expansion with tons of patches spreading out over a long period of time. Hopefully that's what Legion will be (and with Demon Hunters in the game now, I'm less eager to rush to the next expansion for a new race or class.)

Speculation on the Return to Karazhan

Karazhan contends for the top spot of "most beloved raid" in all of World of Warcraft with Ulduar. It's also a pretty special place for me, as it's the very first raid I ever tanked (we only got about halfway through on two separate runs and I didn't get a single gear drop, but it's still my first experience of raid tanking.)

It's also a really fantastically atmospheric location. I've often dreamed up "haunted house" style raids, but really, Karazhan already is that.

So it's pretty exciting to see that we will absolutely be heading back there in Legion's first (hopefully of many) content patch.

Here's what we know:

Karazhan as it exists today will be sticking around. Unlike previous revamps, this one is not going to displace the old dungeon (the same will be true, I believe, of the old Violet Hold in Northrend's Dalaran, though that was certainly not as beloved an instance.) This fact alone puts me essentially 100% behind the revamp - nothing should be lost in the process, and we'll be able to go to Karazhan 70 to farm the Fiery Warhorse and all the other stuff there.

We also know that this dungeon will have a massive nine bosses. If you don't count the servant quarter mini bosses, the Chess Event, or Nightbane, that's the same as the bosses in the original raid (the only reason not to count Nightbane is that you had to complete a separate quest chain after beating Malchezaar in order to summon him, making him a kind of proto-Algalon-style boss.)

Additionally, we know that the patch is going to add other things, including a small raid in Stormheim (presumably this will be a 1-3 boss instance in the vein of Throne of the Four Winds.)

Here's what we don't know:

It's possible that this will be a simple revamp like Zul'Aman. Other than cosmetically changing Zul'jin into some other troll, the Zul'Aman dungeon was essentially the same as the raid had been, but with a few mechanics switched out to allow for things like having only one tank.

At bare minimum, I could imagine Blizzard doing something like this as a way to ensure that we're getting new (or "new") content at a steady rate.

However, what I'm hoping for is more of a "sequel dungeon," the way that Blackwing Descent was a totally new raid that borrowed heavily on the theme of Blackwing Lair, or similarly how the Firelands was a kind of sequel to Molten Core. That doesn't mean that we have to have the same final boss (though Malchezaar coming back would certainly fit into this idea of demons being unkillable - though by the time we got to the top of the tower, was the Netherspace not part of the Twisting Nether enough to permanently kill him?)

We know that some classes and specs are going to enter a new area underneath Karazhan to get their artifacts, so I would hope that instead of simply going through the same area we've already seen, we get a totally new part of the tower, with brand new bosses.

The 7.1 PTR is going to go up very soon after Legion proper launches, so if Blizzard doesn't explicitly answer questions before then, we'll start being able to find them out for ourselves.

Still, even in the worst-case scenario, where we just wind up running the old raid in a dungeon form, I'll be eager to do so.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Patch 7.1: Return to Karazhan

Legion doesn't even come out for thirteen days, but Blizzard is doing the smart thing (the Mists of Pandaria thing) and planning ahead. And so we know what the first major patch of the expansion will be.

And guys, I'm excited.

Return to Karazhan will introduce a new 5-player dungeon with nine - yes, nine - bosses. The old Karazhan is not going anywhere, though, so don't worry if you have things to farm there or, just, you know, like to hang out there.

With the new Mythic+ system, new dungeons don't need to have inherently better gear than old ones, so this should be added to the random rotation (though I might recommend Blizzard splits it in two, as nine bosses is quite a lot - it'd be the largest dungeon since Vanilla.)

But that's not all!

7.1 will be introducing a new raid in Stormheim that fits in between the Emerald Nightmare and Nighthold - it appears this raid will be a small one.

We'll also be getting some additional outdoor content in Suramar during the patch to develop the Nightborne story.

This planning ahead strategy is very promising. You'll recall that Mists of Pandaria had really great patch pacing (until Siege of Orgrimmar lasted forever,) and I think Blizzard is trying to do the same for Legion.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Artifacts Confirmed as Legion-Only

Artifact weapons are going to be a major feature in Legion. While I'm pretty excited about them, I also realize some of the inherent problems. Consider, for example, if you're a Fire Mage who really likes some Firelands staff model and always uses it for transmog. That person is either going to be out of luck when it comes to using a staff for probably the next two years (or even longer, if they make good on Legion being an extra-long expansion.)

Artifacts are going to be a pretty different way for the game to work, and while I'm really happy that I never have to worry about having a shield that's crappier than my sword or vice versa, as both will be boosted by the same relics, I'm also sure that we'll be ready to strap on new weapons when we move on from the Broken Isles.

That said, it'll be really weird to replace the Ashbringer or the Doomhammer with some quest green.

Personally, I hope that every appearance for your artifact weapon gets unlocked in the appearances tab - historically they've restricted legendaries from being used for transmog, but A: artifacts aren't legendaries and B: they're starting to get flexible on that, with the Mists of Pandaria Legendary cloaks now available for transmog.

In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if in 8.0 we start to see all legendary weapons now valid for transmog, but we're nowhere near that.

The other consequence of dumping artifacts after Legion is that a lot of the balance of the game is built around artifact weapons - my Enhancement Shaman, for example, takes forever to build up Maelstrom right now, but when he picks up the Doomhammer, he'll have the one-minute cooldown Doom Winds, which will help to generate a ton of Maelstrom on-demand.

Obviously every expansion comes with serious balance changes, and there's no reason to think that Blizzard wouldn't be able to balance 8.0 with the absence of artifacts.

I do wonder, though, how quickly we'll be rid of them, unless the game forces us to ditch them in some artificial way. The many artifact traits give some serious boosts to our damage. Someone who levels up through the Broken Isles after Legion ends will probably not have the most super-powered artifact - they'll probably not have all the traits filled out and will be using green or blue-quality relics, and so they'll probably be able to ditch the thing if they get a big item level boost on whatever the first quest in 8.0 is.

But for people who play through the Legion expansion and have fully-filled out artifact traits and epic relics from the final raid, I think Blizzard is going to need to seriously ramp up the item levels of the rewards in the next expansion to get people to let go of these things before they start raiding that expansion's first tier.

But all of this is a ways off, so for now let's just be excited about picking up our own artifacts in two weeks.

A Spec Less Traveled

The very first time I specced my Death Knight, I went Unholy. It did not last.

Back in Wrath, all three DK specs could both tank and DPS - you'd have to use a different talent layout, of course, which led me to spec my DK as Blood/Blood for much of the expansion after the introduction of dual-specs.

I loved playing Blood DPS, though in Wrath I went a little tank-crazy and actually played all four of the then-available tanking classes as tanks.

Still, Blood really fit the fantasy of the Death Knight as I conceived it - a big, imposing runeweapon slashing at foes and following up with bursts of shadow damage.

When Blood was made exclusively a tanking spec, I still stuck with it because my Death Knight was still a mainspec tank. But for soloing I went with Frost, largely because Frost was built around these massive Obliterate crits.

The thing is, while I wasn't drawn to the pet management of Unholy or the awkward focus on disease spreading, I did enjoy the fact that Blood and Frost still did raise ghouls to fight for them - it's just that they were fire-and-forget guardians that the spec wasn't really built around.

Now, however, a lot of the things that made me mainspec Frost for the past two expansions have gone away. You can't use a two-handed weapon. You don't have any dead-raising abilities (except for your battle rez.) Obliterate does still crit big, but you're never going to see those massive numbers anymore because it's divided between your two weapons.

Meanwhile, Unholy has lost a lot of the things I didn't like so much. Dark Transformation has been simplified into an easily-managed 1-minute cooldown (that's a bit more impressive-looking than Pillar of Frost.) And disease spreading is way simpler with the redesigned Outbreak.

Instead of managing diseases like some kind of melee affliction warlock (ok, it was never that bad,) instead you now get the Festering Wound mechanic, which is pretty unlike anything I've seen other specs deal with.

And you can replace your ghoul with an abomination, which is pretty awesome (though holy crap do they need to update the abomination models - not redesign, just a warlock-demon-style update.)

The fact that Frost gets swords made from the shards of Frostmourne is making me seriously question this decision, but I think that ultimately, Unholy might fit me better these days (unless I wind up going back to Blood.)

Alarak, Zarya, and New Map, Skins and Mounts Coming to Heroes of the Storm

I've been very focused on the pre-Legion events in World of Warcraft, but this bit of news hit me via YouTube.

There is an upcoming event in Heroes of the Storm called "Machines of War." Much like the Eternal Conflict event focused on Diablo, this one will focus on Starcraft, including two new Starcraft-themed maps called Braxis Holdout and Warhead Junciton.

Braxis Holdout will have your team capturing beacons to fill your side's holding cells with Zerg. Once either holding cell is full, the zerg are unleashed to attack the other side, preferring hero targets.

Warhead Junction will have nukes spawn that you can pick up and launch at your opponents' fortifications, though if you die before you send it off, your enemies can take the nuke and use it against you.

Heroes is getting two new heroes, Alarak from Starcraft and Zarya from Overwatch.

Alarak is an Assassin. He's melee, but has lots of ranged abilities to pull his targets to him.

The thing that has me most excited about Alarak is that his first alternate skin is "Herald of N'zoth," turning him into a N'raqi from the Warcraft universe (basically their equivalent of Mindflayers/Ilithids, and more commonly referred to as Faceless Ones.)

Zarya is a ranged warrior, with lots of shielding abilities as well as the ability to trap enemies and bombard them with grenades.

There are also new skins for Rexxar ("Raider Rexxar," a sort of Terran armor look,) Kerrigan ("Queen of Ghosts," which gives her more of a Terran tech look,) and the Butcher ("Butcherlisk," making him look like an Ultralisk.) There's also a ghost-themed motorcycle.

Anyway, I've been saying for a long time that we needed some sci-fi themed Heroes maps, so I'm pretty happy about this upcoming event.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Anduin Wrynn and the Fate of the Alliance

I'm trying not to be too spoileriffic in the titles, but very soon the new status quo is just going to have to be common knowledge. I figure we can hold off on this stuff until launch day, but not much longer than that.

So there you go: spoiler alert.

The Case for Windrunner '16

There's huge upheaval after the battle at the Broken Shore within both factions. The event has been out for a week now, and we've had a full weekend. At some point we're going to have to declare all this stuff no longer spoilers, but simply the state of the game. But in case you didn't get to play this past weekend or week, I'm going to give it one more spoiler cut just in case.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Re-Legitimization of LFR

One thing that I'm actually very excited about in Legion is a change, or rather a reversion of a Warlords change, to the gear obtained in LFR.

If you'll recall, from Dragon Soul through Siege of Orgrimmar, the gear in LFR raiding was the same as that in other difficulties, but with a lower item level and a different color scheme (just as normal, heroic, and mythic difficulties have different color schemes - though mythic also gets "enhanced" model designs.)

In Warlords, Blizzard decided that in order to get people to run higher difficulties through the raid finder and also prevent "serious" raiders from running LFR to complete set bonuses or pick up trinkets with powerful procs, they'd simplify the gear out of LFR and also give said gear much less interesting models.

In fact, I'd say that the LFR models in Warlords of Draenor were really barely fit to be used for green quest rewards (the exception being the HFC cloth set, which actually looked pretty cool on a Warlock.)

Here's the thing, though - LFR isn't perfect, but it's a difficulty that is actually designed for PUGs. Doing pick-up groups on higher difficulties is, in my experience, exponentially more of a pain in the ass than LFR. In LFR, yes, you'll sometimes get some really bad players. But they can't really bring a raid down on their own. And you don't have an all-powerful group leader whose whims you have to follow.

I like raiding with my guild because it's filled with friendly people, even if we don't get much progress at all done in raiding anymore (we got a few bosses in Highmaul and one or two in Blackrock Foundry.) But when it comes to really growing my character's power, I stick with LFR, generally.

Now in Legion, with World Quests and new dungeons getting added to go with Mythic+, it might be less of a pain to seek alternate gearing strategies. But I'm also very happy that LFR gear is not going to look like total crap - I'll be able to gear up my Demon Hunter in gear that actually looks demon-hunter-y (ok, bad example, as he's got some really class-appropriate transmog looks from his class starting experience.) I'm confident that I'll be able to pick up the Paladin tier set that looks like Lightbringer and Judgment had a baby.

The question then will be whether difficulty goes back up as well. One might not remember it, but in Mists of Pandaria LFR was actually pretty challenging - getting Garrosh or Lei Shen down required more coordination than Blackhand or Archimonde, as Mists' LFR was less forgiving.

Personally, I think that the presence of hard difficulties like Heroic and Mythic means that there's nothing wrong with making LFR easy. But we'll see how it turns out this time.

Anyway, as someone with a lot of alts (see the name of the blog,) and who doesn't even get to do all that much regular raiding on his main, I'm really glad that they're no longer going to be punishing people who can only realistically do LFR.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Legion Invasions and You, Live Edition

Well, with the release of Demon Hunters and the Broken Shore event on tuesday, we also got the release of demonic invasions of six familiar zones in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms.

While most people will probably be doing these invasions at level 100, you can actually start them as early as level 10. Completing invasions at a lower level will give you a nice chunk of XP, so if you have any alts who are stuck in some level range that you're not really enjoying (or you just want to get them leveled up quickly and you've either used your 100 boost or they're close enough that you don't want to waste it) you can take them to these zones while they're under invasion.

Invasions persist for four hours in two zones on the map (I believe that as the weeks progress we'll see them in more zones, until the week before the launch, when all six zones will be under constant invasion.)

Upon entering a zone that is under invasion, you'll be put in a scenario that (hopefully) is near the beginning of it, in Stage 1. So don't worry about others completing the invasion before you get there - as long as you show up within the 4-hour window, you'll get to do it (and once that window ends, two other zones will be invaded.)

Invasion zones are Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad Foothills, Azshara, Northern Barrens, and Tanaris.

Within the scenario, it doesn't matter if you're Alliance or Horde - your Tauren won't be slaughtered for trespassing in Kharanos and your Draenei won't be beaten to death by the guards in Crossroads. They're happy to get any help they can find. However, once the invasion is finished, you should try to get out of there relatively soon, as you'll soon exit the scenario and find that the other faction isn't all that grateful after all.

There are four stages to each invasion. Stage one doesn't reward anything - you simply kill demons as they show up in town (for Azshara the "town" is just the area outside the northern gates of Orgrimmar.)

Stage two has two or three big demonic lieutenants show up (you'll also get a few of the lesser demons popping up - they'll keep coming until the final boss shows up in stage four.) After they are killed, a commander arrives, acting as a kind of mini boss. Killing this one ends the stage and also rewards a lesser Legion cache.

The Lesser Legion Cache is guaranteed to come with 5 Nethershards - a currency that you can spend at Illidari vendors in each of these zones or in Stormwind/Orgrimmar if you've done the Broken Shore/Demon Hunter starting experience on that character, as well as one piece of armor of your armor type. At level 100, this armor is item level 700, so for most alts, this will be a pretty serious upgrade.

Caches have a relatively small chance to also give you a spec-appropriate item level 700 weapon or a Coalesced Fel. This latter item can be applied to one of these invasion weapons, raising its item level by 5 points, to a maximum of 725.

Stage three is the big one - Fel structures and demons will spawn all over the zone, and you'll have to go defeat them. Demons come in myriad varieties. There are minor, non-elites that can be found all over the place. There are also some elites that you'll want to be pretty well geared to take on solo. There are also full-on bosses, indicated by skulls on the map. Killing bosses will give you a few Nethershards - I've gotten anywhere from 1 to 15 from a single boss.

There are three kinds of structures that show up as well. Small outposts are typically surrounded by about ten demons and have a single Fel crystal inside that you can destroy to cause the building to explode (you'll be thrown clear with no damage from the explosion.)

Barracks are larger versions of the outposts. These have three Fel crystals surrounding them, keeping the door shut. Each is protected by a caster who should be killed before you break the crystal. These crystals will fight back, so you want to take them out quickly. When all three crystals are destroyed, the door will open and you'll be able to fight the barracks' elite boss and two adds. Killing the boss will destroy the barracks, giving you a couple Nethershards and again, throwing you clear.

Portals are the largest structures, and each will have multiple elite demons surrounding them as well as a boss-level demon (not independently indicated on the map, but still dropping Nethershards.) Portals have two powering fel crystals that are protected like the ones for the barracks. Shatter them and the portal will be destroyed.

During stage three you can often find helpful NPCs that you can rescue, often inspiring them to join you. You can also find siege vehicles to help attack the demons.

You'll see new buildings and demons pop up farther out after the first 30% or so of the progress meter in stage three. When the stage ends, everyone gets 10 Nethershards and you should start heading back to the main town (for Dun Morogh, we're counting Kharanos as the main town, as opposed to Ironforge.)

Stage four is a fight against the demons' boss. Like stage two, the actual boss demon is randomized, and some are definitely easier than others. Thankfully, the graveyard nearest the town (or the nearest friendly one - such as Southshore for Alliance players in Hillsbrad, which is where they'll spawn if they die in Tarren Mill) has a battleground-style auto-rez system, so you'll get full health and won't have to deal with the progressive death timer if you die a lot to the bosses.

Slaying the boss of the invasion will end the event and reward you with a Greater Legion Cache. The only real difference between this and the Lesser variety is that you'll get more Nethershards (I think 15.) If you have a greater chance at getting weapons or Colaesced Fel from these, I don't really know, and it doesn't seem to be the case.

With the invasion over, you'll be ready to spend those hard-earned Nethershards. There are Illidari camps in each of the invasion zones, and if you've done the Broken Shore event or you're a Demon Hunter, there will also be camps in Stormwind and Orgrimmar. The captive Wormtongue (a new type of demon) will act as a vendor.

You can buy a number of things here:

Fel Bat Pup pet: 150
Coalesced Fel: 150
Armor set Transmog Appearances: 200 - if you've had bad luck getting some piece of armor, like you keep getting mail shoulders but never the helmet, or you're just running these invasions on one character but still want the looks for future transmog, this will give you the full set of appearances, but not the gear itself.
Cloaks, Rings, Necklaces, and Trinkets: 50 - You'll see two options for rings and necklaces, which now use the Legion-era stat allotment, meaning stamina and two secondary stats, but no primary throughput stats (but lots of the secondary stats to make them worth your while.) The cloak likewise has Strength, Agility, and Intellect, making it similarly universal. There is then a Strength, Agility, and Intellect trinket
Blade of the Fallen: 200 - The only invasion weapon that can be purchased with Nethershards, this is Warglaive that is Bind on Account so that you can give it to your Demon Hunter if you're getting a physical copy of the expansion or for some other reason can't create your Demon Hunter character yet.

The quest chain that follows the aftermath of the Broken Shore will direct you to start fighting off these invasions, but while the event is active you'll be able to participate regardless of whether you've done that quest or not.

Vengeance Actual Tanking Impressions

While I'm gravitating a bit more toward making Havoc my main spec (again, we'll see about queue times,) I did take my Demon Hunter into a heroic, specifically Shadowmoon Burial Grounds.

Now, of course, given that Demon Hunters come out of their starting experience with 680 gear and with all the invasions I've managed to get up to over 700, one is already vastly overpowered for a dungeon that only even rewards 630 gear.

So surviving wasn't really much of a challenge.

The main thing that I noticed is that you're really going to be using Soul Cleave to burn off Pain, often if not most of the time absorbing less than the max 5 Lesser Soul Fragments. Demon Spikes should be your higher priority for active mitigation (unless your health has dropped low) but its cooldown is going to make it hard to use frequently enough to avoid capping Pain.

In terms of threat, I found that Infernal Strike was a fantastic way to pull - just hop in, pop Immolation Aura, and maybe a Sigil of Flame, and you're going to have your enemies' rapt attention.

You can use Throw Glaive (there's got to be a better name for this. Glaive Toss would have been better) for snap threat if you have something coming after a party member, and if you keep a charge of Infernal Strike at the ready, you can go rescue your healer pretty easily.

Nothing was damaging me enough to really warrant blowing major cooldowns, so no Metamorphosis. I'm still trying to figure out how frequently to use Fiery Brand, but I think with a 1-minute CD it's a "use liberally" kind of defensive ability. And the fire damage is not insignificant.

Overall, I think Vengeance has a ton of great threat tools, so until you're raiding and have to deal with other tanks, you're going to be pretty much set when it comes to that. Your significant self-healing will also make you slightly less reliant on your healer (something I really miss on my Paladin) but I don't think it's quite at Death Knight levels. But I definitely think that mobility is going to be a real strong suit for Demon Hunter tanks.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Broken Shore - Horde Perspective

So obviously the two factions were going to have different experiences hitting the Broken Shore. This is one of the most significant events to happen in World of Warcraft, with very important consequences moving forward. It's also spoileriffic as hell, so let's do a cut.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hunting Demons Across Azeroth

I've decided to go do each of the demonic invasion areas on my Demon Hunter first - a lot of my characters can use the gear, but I figure getting some practice on him isn't such a terrible notion, and also the idea that he'd be leading the charge in the fight against the Legion is pretty in-character (though my Death Knight, who has been fighting the Legion for 25,000 years, not to mention my Paladin, who kind of puts "fights evil" in his the "special skills" part of his resume - and is my main - are going to be hitting these up a lot as well.)

The invasions are not coming in as frequently as they will when we get closer to the expansion's proper launch (though I love that events like the Broken Shore and the unlocking of Demon Hunters have given Legion a kind of soft-opening. I approve, Blizzard!) But so far Illidari Veranos has defended Westfall, Dun Morogh, Hillsbrad, and Azshara. I've parked him in Northern Barrens to await the next invasion (it's also pretty centrally located for the other two invasion zones in Kalimdor.)

I managed to get a little too close to Crossroads when visiting the Illidari camp and got flagged for PvP (I like to think that he's still figuring out which races are Alliance and which are Horde - he'd gone to Outland before the Night Elves officially joined the Alliance.)

There's a new item that can be purchased for Nethershards that wasn't on the PTR, which is a new item level 700 Warglaive (I want to say it's called Blade of the Fallen.) Unfortunately, this is practically just the same model as the glaives you start off with, only without the glowy green effect. You do lose those glaives after Maiev captures you, but you retain the appearance for Transmog, and I've actually got those now (I like the big curved look more than the serrated thin ones you Maiev gives you when she frees you from your prison.)

This glaive is higher item level than the ones you finish the starting experience with, but the quest rewards (actually, cutscene rewards) also have a set bonus that increases your attack power when fighting demons by 500, so the 10 item levels might not actually be enough to compensate, given that from now until you get your artifacts, you're probably just going to be fighting demons, demons, and more demons.

I went with the Fel Bat pet first, but I imagine I'll put together a fairly complete equipment set. I've already gotten almost all of the leather armor pieces from the invasions (plus an axe that has the same item level and also lack of set bonus as the purchasable glaive.) Right now my Demon Hunter is wearing chest armor that covers up his sweet tatts, which probably means I'll need to go transmog that away.

It does look like there's another glaive model that can be unlocked for transmog once the expansion starts and we can get our actual class hall, but I think their focus has been more on artifact variations. I just hope that when the next expansion comes out we keep getting new warglaives, because I really feel like having a Demon Hunter use axes or swords (other than Wargliaves of Azzinoth of course) would just be wrong.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Vengeance Soloing Impressions

So given that my laptop has a framerate of like, 3, I'm holding off on running any dungeons on my Demon Hunter until I get back from this trip tomorrow. Still, after trying out Vengeance during a demonic invasion, I'm actually feeling a bit more confident on taking the Demon Hunter for a run in the driver's seat.

We're at a weird place where half of all tank classes now wear Leather instead of Plate (and still no Mail classes, which is kind of odd.) Obviously Vengeance gives certain bonuses to armor and straight damage reduction to ensure that you can take hits like other tanks.

You have two major active mitigation abilities. The first is the more straightforward one - Demon Spikes. This has two charges on a reasonably short recharge and costs some of the Vengeance resource, Pain (which is generated by some abilities and I believe also by taking damage, making it similar to Rage, but not exactly.) Demon Spikes increases your parry chance and reduces damage you take.

The other defensive ability is Soul Cleaver, which hits targets in front of you in a cone and sucks in the various Lesser Soul Fragments you've generated (see below) to heal you. This one costs 30 to 60 Pain (Demon Hunters are really into randomness,) and of course needs to be "recharged" by getting those Lesser Soul Fragments out there, meaning you'll be using this less frequently.

Your main filler is Shear (an iconic Illidan ability that they obviously had to give to the class.) Shear will deal physical damage and then have a chance to shear off a lesser soul fragment from your enemy, dropping it nearby (like a more frequent Gift of the Ox for Monks.)

For AoE, you have a couple solid options.

Immolation Aura can't be kept up all the time, but it bursts for fire damage around you and then continues to pulse damage for a few seconds, generating Pain as well. Probably to be used on cool down.

Throw Glaive has no cool down or cost, and hits multiple targets, bouncing between them like Avenger's Shield for Paladins (so aim it for enemies on the side of a pack.)

Sigil of Flame is one of several Sigil spells that you place on the ground and let it go off after a couple seconds. This one just damages the targets, so it should probably be used on cool down.

Infernal Strike is similar to Heroic Leap, allowing you to hop a fair distance and deal fire damage to enemies where you land. It has two charges and should be great for dungeon groups if you don't need to pull them back (Throw Glaive and possibly Sigil of Silence would be what you'd want for that, I think.)

In terms of Defensive Cooldowns, you have Empower Wards - a 20-second CD that reduces magic damage taken. You also have Fiery Brand, which deals fire damage over time to the target and also reduces the damage they do to you for a few seconds (probably something you'll use rotationally, actually.)

And then of course, there's Metamorphosis, in which you transform into a big honking demon, increasing current and max health and generating Pain over time.

At the pull, you'll probably use either Throw Glaive to pull targets to you or throw down a Sigil of Flame and then Infernal Strike into the pack (at a distance, you can use Sigil of Silence to to make sure that casters come at you.)

Rotationally, you'll be using Shear to build up Pain and then periodically working in Demon Spikes, trying to keep them up as much as possible (and saving one charge in case there's an active-mitigation-specific ability you're watching out for.) You'll then use Soul Cleave if you've got Pain to spend but no Demon Spikes charges or if you need a quick heal.

You'll probably want to use Immolation Aura on cool down, though I don't think you'll need Throw Glaive after the pull, as IA and Soul Cleave should probably take care of your multi-target threat (also Sigil of Flame.) Shear should really be your filler ability.

I'll have a better sense of how tough the Vengeance spec is once I can play on my desktop, but at least when fighting demons in Westfall, I really didn't see my health falling very much except on the final boss, when lag made it impossible to get out of various fires.

Broken Shore: Alliance Side (Live, so I Know What Happens in the Cutscenes!)


This is a really big event that kicks of the expansion and sets the dire tone for what follows. Ultimately, the last two expansions were sort of lower-stakes than the previous ones - failure would mean conquest, not annihilation. This time, though, things are the highest stakes we've ever had, and big things happen to establish that fact.

Spoilers Ahead: