Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thermodynamics, Entropy, Time, and Why Respectable Mages Use Frost Spells

This is going to get seriously nerdy. Like, not fantasy nerdy but science nerdy. You have been warned.

One of the fundamental laws of the real universe is that as time moves forward, the entropy of a system (such as the universe) will increase.

What exactly do we mean by entropy?

First off - a caveat. I have a major in dramatic writing, not physics, and this is based on my sort of general curiosity and having read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. So if I get some details wrong here, well... I might get details slightly wrong.

Entropy is a way of measuring disorder. An ordered thing has a relatively small number of states it can be in, but as disorder grows, the number of potential states increases. Think of a chess game - as the game begins, there are only 20 moves you can make on the first turn (each of your pawns up one step or two, or your Knights going up and to the right or up and to the left.) But as the moves go on, the number of possible games becomes absurdly huge to the point where having a computer "solve" chess by calculating every possible game still rests outside our technical capabilities.

It turns out that the universe works a lot like that too. Energy in disorder - meaning that it's not all moving in one direction but causing particles to bounce around like your late-game chess pieces - is what we call heat. Something that is hot is actually something in which there's a bunch of energy, but rather than moving the thing in one direction, all its parts are going in different directions, bouncing into each other.

People have proven mathematically that entropy will always increase over time. When you run an air conditioner, for example, you cool your room by actually making the outside a little hotter - we think of this as ok because the relative volume of your room is so small that the increase to the outdoor air temperature is pretty small. But the net effect of running an air conditioner is that electrical energy is converted into heat energy, and the universe gets a little hotter.

This is so fundamental an aspect of reality that some physicists have hypothesized that it isn't so much that entropy increases over time as much as it is that time is simply our human perception of an increase of entropy.

Let that sink in for a moment.

So what the hell does this have to do with a video game about wizards and monsters?

Well, the Warcraft universe has six primal forces that each have an opposite number, and each of these has an affiliated type of magic. You have Life and Death, Light and Shadow, and finally Order and Chaos.

The magic of Chaos is Fel magic - used by Demons and Warlocks (and of course Demon Hunters.) It is most commonly manifested in the form of green fire.

The magic of Order is Arcane.

If Chaos and Entropy are almost synonymous, that would make Order a kind of opposite to chaos.

As far as we know, our universe doesn't have an Arcane force that counters the progression of entropy, which is why physicists think that in a very, very long time (we're talking a number of years that I don't even know how to spell out without using scientific notation) eventually all the potential energy in the universe will have done what it had the potential to do, and the only thing that will remain will be a perfectly even, dull heat - called the Heat Death of the Universe.

But with this Arcane force, there could be a counter-balance, allowing the universe to be preserved.

If using or generating chaos causes heat - which it does in our universe and certainly seems to in the Warcraft universe as well - then shouldn't Arcane cause coldness?

Indeed, the fact that mages can manipulate time and generate coldness through Arcane magic might actually just be two sides of the same coin.

But what about Fire mages?

Well, even though our universe tends toward heat, we can still cool down individual portions of it at the expense of heating up other portions. It would stand to reason that using Arcane magic to heat something up could be done, at the expense of cooling other parts of the universe.

But we have to imagine that, like the way the air conditioner actually winds up generating more heat than it cools, a Fire Mage would be cooling things down more than they're heating things up.

An air conditioner in reverse is actually a highly efficient heater called a heat-pump. A Frost Mage is basically using the "waste" product of his or her magic as the product - allowing the Arcane to do its work, cooling things, and using that cold to attack his or her foes.

Thus, a Frost Mage has a minimal environmental impact, while a Fire Mage will put more of a drain on the universe's heat. And it might be for that reason that Frost is considered the more classic and respectable type of arcane magic, while Fire is considered reckless.

As to Arcane Mages... Get back to me on that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Darkbough - How Not to Screw Up

Given the name of the blog, it shouldn't surprise you that I have now run Darkbough, Emerald Nightmare's first LFR wing, on four characters (minus one Nythendra on my Demon Hunter.) I've done two from a tank perspective (Paladin, DK) and two from a melee dps perspective (Demon Hunter, Shaman - though the DH is way behind on his Havoc artifact.)

Overall these fights are really not too bad on LFR. There is a degree of personal responsibility that sometimes makes LFR fights painful, but the tuning is such that it's not all that punishing if people screw up.

1. Drop them puddles elsewhere!

Funnily enough, all three of the Darkbough boss fights involve people being targeted with an ability that causes them to spawn a "void zone" after a couple seconds. You can save your raid a real hassle (especially melee) if you place these intelligently.

On Nythendra, you want to try to put your Rot puddles all near each other - essentially within the same "pizza slice" with the boss at its center. At the very least, try not to place it behind a big group of people, as when it gets sucked in, they'll all have to move. Melee can actually sometimes play a funny trick where you just drop it directly under the boss, but there's not a ton of room for that.

On Il'gynoth and Elerethe Renferal, you just want to take whatever puddle/tornado you're going to spawn and put it at the edge of the area you're currently occupying.

2. Nythendra - Don't stand in her breath or near insects!

The breath is pretty obvious, but the insects are a little tricker as they are actually always there - they just get larger and start radiating green stink - all while you're looking for green rot puddles. These insects deal a bunch of damage, so you really need to watch out for them.

3. Il'gynoth - Run your oozes to the eye and get the hell out of the tree before he finishes casting!

You can't proceed on Il'gynoth until the eye is destroyed, and that means that whoever gets fixated by the oozes has got to drag them to the big eye. Also, don't kill those things until they're there. Also, players will learn very quickly that if they stay inside the tree until Il'gynoth finishes casting his spell, you'll die super-quick. As in: instantly.

4. Elerethe - Don't ever let her walk on the webs!

On my Shaman we had a troll (actually a Blood Elf - different meaning) who kept taunting the boss and taking her to one of the web bridges. This apparently enrages her - giving her a "you ran out of time" hard enrage while she's there. The only time anyone should be on a bridge is when she's in Roc form and has just moved to another platform.

If you follow these simple steps, you won't embarrass yourself and will probably see that loot (or more likely gold - on four characters I literally got only one piece of gear, and that was a bonus roll) all the quicker.


In the trash after Nythendra, don't walk through the shadowy clouds. They spawn additional trash, and why not just move past it? Good luck making sure no one in a 25-player LFR group does this.

Emerald Nightmare - Darkbough First Impressions

The first wing of the Emerald Nightmare LFR is up, and I have now experienced the first three bosses.

Two notes:

While these are the first three on LFR, it seems apparent that on Normal or above, you will be able to do bosses 2-5 in any order. I believe that Nythendra, Cenarius, and Xavius are all locked at positions 1, 6, and 7 in all modes, but the other bosses should be available to do in any order on non-LFR runs.

The other note is that I was unable to loot the quest item for the "In Nightmares" quest. While I had suspected that this might have a Normal-and-above difficulty requirement, I'm not certain, as the quest makes no indication of this and also the various bosses did have quest objectives in their tooltip. I'm waiting for a clarification from Blizzard.

So let's get started!


The first boss can be fought very soon - there are a few bits of trash before her, namely globs of corruption that will do some knockbacks, aoe, and spawn dangerous insects that pulse damage. We had a rogue pull nearly all of them, which resulted in a near wipe (way to start off LFR well this expansion, player.)

Nythendra is actually fairly simple. She will periodically put "Rot" on random players, who, after a short duration, will spawn a pool of rot where they're standing. You want to keep these clear of the melee, but also remember where you put them.

Tanks get a super-charged version of this called Volatile Rot. The current tank will get this debuff, and they'll need to run away while the other tank taunts. They will then spawn a pool of grossness, but if they're within something like 30 yards of anyone else... something bad will happen (it might spawn rot under them as well.) Basically, treat it like artillery from the Iron Reaver in HFC.

She'll also do a breath attack, but she remains pointed in the same direction while she does it. So tanks should face her away from the raid and then dodge the breath when it goes off.

I think simply based on time Nythendra will go into phase two. She'll stop attacking and instead start to draw the pools of rot back to her - meaning that everyone will need to dodge the rot as it comes back toward them.

During this phase she'll also spawn large bugs that will radiate heavy damage, so you'll need to dodge the moving pools and the stationary bugs (the bugs are really more of a spell effect - they can't attack or be attacked.)

Once all the rots are reabsorbed, she'll revert to phase 1.

Il'gynoth, Heart of Corruption:

In the Nightmare version of Un'goro Crater, Il'gynoth is the closest we've gotten to an Old God fight since Yogg-Saron.

As a tank this fight is kind of strange, as there are periods where there's nothing to tank.

At the pull, there will be a big eye in the hollow of the tree which holds the heart. This can't be killed conventionally. There will also be two Destructor Tentacles that need to be tanked.

Over the course of the fight, players will have oozes fixate on them. In LFR at least, you simply drag these oozes to the eye and kill them there, as when they die, they'll damage the eye.

You will also get other tentacles that have eyes and will Mind Flay random players, but this can be interrupted and should be.

Additionally, large mist-giant adds will spawn as well. These need to be tanked and have a debuff they put on the tank that demands a tank-swap.

Once the eye is killed using the oozes, everyone should pile in (maybe kill any adds that are up) to the tree and start attacking the heart. During this phase, random players will be given a debuff that causes them to damage players around them after a few seconds, so simply run to the edge of the room until the debuff expires.

The Heart will slowly cast "Nightmare Reconstitution" during this phase, and if you ever fought Yogg-Saron, this works the same way as the thing the brain is casting after you have entered it. Once the cast is complete, everyone still inside the tree will be insta-killed and the eye will come back. So watch that cast bar and when there's about ten seconds left (about when the bar passes the "n" at the end on "Reconstitution") you want to get the hell out of there.

Then things revert to phase 1. I don't remember if it happens more frequently than this, but certainly after each heart phase, you'll get two new Destructor Tentacles (not in their previous locations) that should be tanked.

Elerethe Renferal:

Bad stuff on the ground seems to be a theme in this raid.

Elerethe goes through two phases. She begins in spider form. During this phase she'll poison random players and cause them to drop poison on the ground. She'll also periodically summon spiderlings as well as go up into her web and then drop down, damaging people within the circle that shows where she's going to land.

When the spiderlings spawn, have one tank pick them up while the other holds onto the boss. The spiderlings will debuff the add-tank, meaning that the next time they spawn, you'll want the previous add-tank to pick up the boss while the other tank goes and picks up adds.

After a certain amount of time, Elerethe will switch to Roc form.

She will do a nasty attack called Raking Talons that debuffs the tanks, requiring a taunt-swap (which should happen immediately after she does it.)

She will also summon purple tornados that stun you and do massive damage. After a bit, she will take to the skies, pushing players back but also leaving behind wings. These will let you jump very high and far. She will fly to one of the other bluffs, usually leaving tornadoes on one of the web-bridges between them, meaning you'll have to navigate around them to get to her.

With Elerethe down, you'll be done with wing one of the instance.

In terms of difficulty tuning, it does not seem too bad. We had one wipe on Il'gynoth and one on Elerethe, but this was literally the first time that most of our raid had seen these fights (myself included.) As familiarity (and gear) grows, I doubt these will be terribly difficult.

Ok, What the Hell is Elune?

In the Warcraft universe, there are some clear categories of beings, even aligned with various primal forces.

In fact, there's even a chart in Chronicle that explains it:

Demons are the embodiment of chaos and use Fel magic.

Undead (with the Lich King probably as the ultimate manifestation) are the embodiment of death and use Necromancy.

The Void Lords (and to a lesser extent the Old Gods) are the embodiment of Shadow/Void and use... Shadow/Void magic.

Titans are the embodiment of order and use Arcane magic.

The Wild Gods (Ancients, Loas, and Celestials) are the embodiment of Life and use Nature magic.

And the Naaru are the embodiment of the Light and use Holy Magic.

But the Night Elves worship a Goddess named Elune who doesn't fit into any of these categories.

In Legion, we've been getting closer glimpses as to Elune's nature than ever before, and they are not exactly clearing things up.

First off, the five artifacts we want to use to lock up the portal in the Tomb of Sargeras are all named after Titans - the Tidestone of Golganneth, the Hammer of Khaz'goroth, the Aegis of Aggramar, the... Eyes(?) of Aman'thul (it's the one in the Nighthold raid, so we haven't seen it yet.) And then there's the Tears of Elune.

So is Elune a titan?

Well, she was not part of the Pantheon, as far as we know. The Pantheon were the above listed as well as Eonar, Norgannon, and of course Sargeras.

Is it possible we've been working with an incomplete list?

Unlike the other non-Sargeras titans, Elune has made her presence known (you know, since she's still alive,) most recently purifying the Tears of Elune and rescuing Ysera's spirit from the Nightmare (um... spoilers. But it's almost been a month.)

Could Elune be a Titan who was not part of the Pantheon?

Let's come back to that.

The other thing we find out kind of off-the-cuff from Xe'ra is that Elune created the Naaru, or at least the first Naaru. Given the longstanding speculation that Elune was a Naaru, this kind of fits with that even as it disproves it.

Now, there's nothing preventing a Titan from being involved in the Holy Light. Tyr and Odyn both clearly go in for the whole Holy thing (even though Odyn's kind of terrifying - he's a little too into that whole "glorious combat" thing.) But Xe'ra claims that Elune created them at the very beginning of the cosmos.

The Titans are for all intents and purposes gods, but they did not arise at the beginning of time - they awakened gradually over many eons, each starting off like the World-Soul that resides within Azeroth.

We're told that Aman'thul was the first of them to awaken, but perhaps that only means he was the first of the Pantheon, not the first Titan over all.

Elune is associated or even equated with the moon - actually, we should specify the big white moon, as Azeroth has two of them (and there's almost no lore associated with it, unless that's what Worgen are referring to when they say "May the light of the New Moon guide you," because if they mean New Moon like we do on Earth, that's basically saying "May that light that doesn't exist guide you.")

Given that Titans are born of heavenly bodies, could it be that Elune literally is that moon? Perhaps she is a kind of minor Titan - not a planet, but a moon.

Or, there's my tin-foil hat theory.

Elune is sometimes referred to as Mother Moon. Makes sense - Night Elf society is at least partially matriarchal, and so it could be just a metaphor.

But let's suppose instead that Elune is not just really a Titan, but a fully-fledged one, and even one that pre-dated Aman'thul.

And the kicker: Azeroth is her daughter.

Azeroth has the potential to be the most powerful Titan ever to exist - that's what makes the stakes so high (as if the mere fate of the world that all our characters lived on wasn't enough.) It's why the Old Gods are so determined to corrupt her and also, probably, why Sargeras is so intent on destroying her (as he previously was the most powerful Titan, something he proved by killing the rest of the Pantheon.)

Why is it that she is so special?

Well, what if Elune gave up most of her power - poured it into this other heavenly body - in the interest of creating a child that was greater than she was. The Titans don't, as far as we know, reproduce in any conventional way. But maybe Elune was pioneering this idea.

Her own power diminished as a result, and thus when she had finished, she was reduced in size and power to this lunar entity, rather than a full planet.

This explains why Elune is in this separate category from the other Titans, as well as explaining why Azeroth is so special.

Are the Old Gods Running the Show?

Over WoW's years, we've had the focus bounce between the Old Gods and the Burning Legion as the main villains. Most of the time it has actually focused on the Old Gods - the Legion needs to invade for us to see much of them while the Old Gods have been here for a very long time.

Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria made Old Gods fairly central to their stories, even though we did not face one directly (though one could argue that in facing the Sha and the Heart of Y'Shaarj sort of counted as facing him.)

With Warlords of Draenor, thing swung back toward a focus on the Legion, and shockingly, Legion is entirely focused on the Burning Legion.

And yet...

The first raid, which came out last Tuesday (and opens up for LFR today,) is the Emerald Nightmare, which as I've said before, is actually the creation of the Old Gods, despite Xavius being its master and apparently cooperating with the Burning Legion.

Now, this could simply be the fact that Azeroth's history is filled with Old God influence, but there's actually a lot of their presence within the Broken Isles. Let's break it down:

Obviously we have the Nightmare, which was created by Yogg-Saron after his corruption was allowed to enter it via the failed World Tree Vordrassil in Grizzly Hills, and now its corruption saturates the northern part of Val'sharah and the world tree Shaladrassil.

Side note: The Nightborne call themselves the "Shal'dorei." In the various elvish languages, each elvish group tends to use this kind of nomenclature. The odd thing here is that the Night Elves are referred to as "Kal'dorei," meaning "children of night." The high elves (and possibly also the Highborne, as the former are the descendants of the latter) use "Quel'dorei," which I'd assume means "the high children" or just, you know, "highborne." The Blood Elves (who are of course just High Elves, though you could argue that the feeding upon fel magic might have changed them enough to be considered a different race) are called the "Sin'dorei," which I'd assume means "children of blood."

So what, then, does the prefix "Shal" in "Shal'dorei" mean? Perhaps it means darkness? It can't mean Night, because that's Kal. If it means darkness or shadow, it could be connected to the Pandaren word Sha, which of course refers to the manifestations of Old God corruption, aka, shadow/void corruption. All pretty ironic given that "Sha" means "Light" for the Draenei (hence Shattrath City.)

In Azsuna, we deal with the Naga. Azshara was, of course, aligned with the Legion during the War of the Ancients, but shortly thereafter, she teamed up with the Old Gods, who transformed her people into Naga (funny how you rarely get to see any Naga who talk about or acknowledge their history as Night Elves.) Given that it has been ten thousand years since she worked with the Legion, do we really assume that she is now?

Stormheim is the zone where the connection is hardest to make. Helya certainly has tentacles, but her history is really pretty exclusively tied to the Titans. She was the first Val'kyr and used to perform the role that Eyir does, except that she resented it and rebelled, creating Helheim and cursing vrykul to become Kvaldir to serve her instead of being judged and potentially uplifted by Odyn. The way her story is described in Chronicle, this rebellion does not seem to be the product of some Old God corruption, but merely Odyn actually being a real dick and forcing her into this transformation against her will. Still, one could very well ask how a Val'kyr was transformed into the creature she is now, and that might be the work of team purple.

I mentioned earlier that I have my suspicions about the Nightwell and its source. Most of the horrid behavior of the leadership in Suramar can probably just be chalked up to the demonic occupation (so Elisande's regime is Vichy Suramar. Does that make Thalyssra Charles de Gaulle?) Still, those Il'gynoth whispers about finding "him" by drowning yourself in a circle of stars... it's thin, but I don't think it's nothing.

But then there's also Highmountain. I just did the zone on my Warrior (at some point I really need to go do all the side quest chains there - it seems as if there are far more of them there than other zones.) Obviously, this was the home of Neltharion, who got too many whispers from the Old Gods and went crazy, becoming Deathwing. This was all after their imprisonment, so there's not really any reason to think that their influence within the mountain has diminished.

Consider Dargrul - in the face of the Legion invasion, Dargrul rebels against his former allies when they consider lending the Hammer of Khaz'goroth in aid to us outsiders. He then proceeds to become an incredible dick - destroying multiple villages and sending his people to attack almost everywhere. He becomes totally obsessed with wielding the hammer.

Is he just another muscle-headed leader who is obsessed with strength? He could be, but this is also a guy who has been living within Neltharion's lair. Is it possible that instead, he heard some very convincing whispers himself that told him to take the hammer?

Ultimately, though, you have to wonder what the endgame is in all of this - what influence have the Old Gods had on these events and what to they stand to gain?

The latter I think is not terribly hard to interpret from Il'gynoth's whispers. "Five keys to open our path. Five torches to light our way." This heavily implies that the five pillars of creation we're collecting could inadvertently release the Old Gods from their prisons. It's one of those dangers that has always been a possibility in lore of Warcraft.

We are desperate to close the portal at the Tomb of Sargeras, and using these Titan relics to do so seems like a good idea. In fact, it may even work, but with some unintended consequences.

So the Old Gods want us to get the Pillars of Creation so that we will accidentally release them in our efforts to stop the Burning Legion.

That's all well and good, but how the hell could they put us in this position in the first place?

Put on your tin-foil hat, because the pieces are there, if you're willing to connect them with red yarn.

Why is the Legion invading now? Because of Gul'dan. Our own Gul'dan was killed decades ago, but with this new one, they've been able to use him to open the portal at the Tomb of Sargeras.

Ok, so how did we get this new Gul'dan?

We would not have had any duplicate persons if it had not been for the fact that Garrosh Hellscream and Kairozdormu traveled to an alternate universe. Garrosh has the will, Kairoz has the know-how.

But how would they convince these two to do it?

For Garrosh, we defeated him in Orgrimmar while we was literally covered in Old God blood (which apparently has eyeballs in it because gross.) Now, Y'shaarj has been dead for eons, but that hasn't stopped the Sha from existing or the Heart of Y'shaarj from whispering to us during that fight (though I don't remember there being anything cryptic there.) Perhaps the Heart had enough residual sentience and intelligence to point Garrosh in the direction of Draenor B.

With Kairoz, we take another step back. All the dragonflights were severely depowered - essentially becoming mere mortals - in the wake of Deathwing's demise. The Aspects had to channel their full power together to ensure that Deathwing was obliterated. With the Bronze dragons no longer capable of clearly seeing through time, Kairoz became obsessed with regaining that power, and, well, power in general.

On top of that, Magni Bronzebeard performed the ritual to commune with Azeroth as a response to Deathwing's Shattering. He spent several years as inanimate stone, but when he emerged after the Legion invaded, he claimed that he had been speaking with the Titan Azeroth, and it was Magni who told us to seek out the Pillars of Creation. But how do we know that Magni was right about who was talking to him? Generally, you hear voices from the depths of Azeroth, the thing you're communing with is not exactly looking out for your best interests.

So Deathwing, corrupted by the Old Gods into doing their will, pushes Magni and Kairoz into position. The Heart of Y'Shaarj pushes Garrosh to alternate Draenor, giving the Burning Legion access to a second Gul'dan whom they can use.

The Old Gods gave the Legion an opportunity to invade, thus ensuring that the people of Azeroth would be forced to use the Pillars of Creation to stop them, and unwittingly, these heroes wind up releasing the Old Gods.

Guess we'll have to wait and see!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Another Il'gynoth Whisper - and It's a Doozy

"At the hour of her third death, she will usher in our coming."

So yeah, that's a big one.

The immediate person to jump to in this is Sylvanas Windrunner. This is a woman who has died multiple times and she's also currently Warchief of the Horde, not to mention that she has demonstrated, even after being made Warchief, a certain disregard for conventional morality (see Stormheim)

(Actually, there's a whole article to be written about how I wish Stormheim had been more different between Alliance and Horde than it actually wound up being, but we'll table that for now.)

Sylvanas ushering in - not necessarily intentionally - some great evil is not terribly hard to imagine happening.

But here's the thing. Sylvanas has already died three times.

The first time is the obvious one - when Arthas was invading Quel'thalas shortly after being turned by the Scourge, Sylvanas was Ranger-General (her older sister Alleria had disappeared into Outland and beyond at that point.) As the leader of the defenses, she was personally killed by Arthas and then personally raised as a Banshee (and she actually wound up possessing her own corpse, which... kind of amounts to being back in her body?)

Lots of stuff happened between then and her second death. In one of the Cataclysm-era Leader short stories, Sylvanas climbs to the top of the Frozen Throne to make sure Arthas is really gone. The good news is that he is, but the bad news is that there's a new Lich King sitting on the throne. In a fit of despair, she throws herself off the tower. She finds herself adrift in a cold dark place (and I think even might see Arthas' soul adrift there as well) but she is pulled back by the Val'kyr, who quit the Scourge to serve her.

The third death is in-game. If you finish the quests in Silverpine Forest as a Horde character, right after Crowley agrees to pull back to the Greymane Wall, the turncoat Lord Godfrey turns his coat again and shoots Sylvanas in the back of the head. Three of Sylvanas' seven Val'kyr sacrifice themselves to bring her back once more.

So unless the short story was invalidated, Sylvanas has already had three deaths.

So who has had two?

I honestly can't think of any, unless we're talking metaphorical deaths. Jaina is often presented in the fan community as a potential future villain (though I've held the stance that while I don't agree with what Jaina has been doing, there's nothing about her behavior to suggest that this is anything but pretty justified anger and mistrust motivating her.)

You might consider the destruction of Theramore as a kind of death for Jaina. Is there another one? There are certainly betrayals and traumas, but I don't know if anything else she has experienced would really be intense enough to call it a death, even in a metaphorical context.

As always, there's also the tin-foil hat idea of the Titan Azeroth being the one that they're referring to.

Here you could maybe think that the removal of Y'shaarj, which tore open the Well of Eternity, was something like a death.

And then the destruction of that well (which... wait, if it was a gaping wound and it was destroyed, then... oh crap) could mean that the Sundering was something like a second death for her.

Now the Old Gods aren't exactly trying to kill Azeroth. Their purpose is to corrupt her.

But the total corruption of Azeroth would certainly qualify as a metaphorical death. And indeed, the whole point of corrupting a Titan is to help the Old Gods open the way for the Void Lords to take over the universe, so...

You know, it was a tin-foil hat theory, but I actually think it's the theory that fits best.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Urban Questing in Suramar

A few years ago, I remember talking with a friend about how it would be cool if there were a zone in World of Warcraft that was just a big city. Technically speaking, you could make the argument for Zul'drak in Northrend being a city - the entire place is built up with paved (albeit crumbling) roads and its major geographical features are buildings.

But you could also make the argument that this wasn't quite the urban environment that qualifies something truly as a city.

Around Cataclysm, Blizzard sort of stopped doing cities. Actually, just after the launch of Cataclysm.

It was the first expansion in which there was no new capital city for us to go to. Stormwind and Orgrimmar (particularly Orgrimmar) got a lot of remodeling. We did see two other urban settings, though, both involving the then-new playable races.

Worgen players begin their adventure as humans in Gilneas City while the Worgen attack. Gilneas City is, actually, one of my favorite settings they've ever created in-game, and you actually wind up going through there twice - once as the 1-5 "kiddie pool" leveling sub-zone and again toward the end of the Gilneas quests. Rogues doing the Fangs of the Father chain would also go there to eliminate one of Wrathion's blacklist.

Goblins also started in a city, or at least an urban environment on the northern coast of Kezan. Personally I'm holding out hope that some future South Seas expansion (one of the handful of perennial expansion concepts) has us return to Kezan. But we do get to see what a place built entirely by Goblins looks like, and of course it's a cartoonishly chaotic mix of unchecked capitalism and pyromania.

But we don't spend much time there, and of course we cannot return (I hope only yet.)

The Battle for Gilneas Battleground, even, was originally planned to be a street-battle in the city (granted, probably an altered map,) but Blizzard decided that they couldn't balance things with all the line of sight issues, probably giving a massive advantage to melee classes.

So as someone who has hoped for a truly urban zone, I've been fascinated by Suramar.

Granted, Suramar City is actually just one part of the zone - there is plenty of space in the zone that is your typical open-air landscape. But Suramar City is dense - the streets of Suramar really do feel urban, with tons of people everywhere and a strong sense that there is actually a significant population.

I wouldn't be surprised if the number of NPCs in Suramar is much higher than those in, say, Stormwind. Though of course it is not the size of a real-world city (which would probably take up the entirety of the Broken Isles) being down on the street-level makes the city feel vast.

Not only that, but they also set the place up so that you are incentivized to go through the city carefully. You can disguise yourself to pass by most of the guards unnoticed, with only the occasional sharp-eyed guard or demonic emissary who can force you to drop your disguise. Running through the city undisguised will result in about a million guards descending upon you, and while granted, that's just good sport for my Death Knight, the greater convenience of using your disguise helps to reinforce the feeling of being a member of an underground resistance.

That's actually something we don't get often in World of Warcraft. There's rarely this sense of an evil empire we have to fight off. Generally speaking, we have safe places like Stormwind and Orgrimmar, or Dalaran, where the establishment might have its moral ambiguities (well, if you're Horde) but where you get the sense that common folk can feel safe. The threats we deal with tend to be the ones infiltrating and operating in secret. How many times have the guards in Stormwind Keep turned out to be evil monsters in disguise? (I count three.) But the point is that they're the ones that are in disguise.

Elisande's reach really doesn't seem to extend much beyond Suramar, but within that city, her tyranny (and of course the tyranny of the ones who have coerced her) feels heavy and oppressive, which makes it that much more satisfying to oppose it.

I'm very impressed with Legion so far - it is on track to surpass even Wrath of the Lich King as the game's best expansion - and one of the main reasons for this is the way that Blizzard is demonstrating how they can do things in this game that they've never done before, even twelve years on.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Another Cool Detail: Demonology Warlocks, Thal'kiel and Your Felguard

Demonology gets perhaps the weirdest - no, definitely the weirdest - artifact weapon. While the Skull of the Man'ari is classified as an off-hand item (it comes with a dagger, but to show you which is the important part, the skull's the one with the spellpower on it.

Something that most people have heard about is how Thal'kiel (the Man'ari Eredar whose skull it is/was) occassionally comments on things around you. He seems to have commentary on one boss per dungeon, and also sometimes just cries out stuff in battle like "fight you pathetic imps!" This isn't unique to the Skull - apparently Aluneth (Arcane Mages,) T'uure (Holy Priests,) and Xal'atath (Shadow Priests,) all being sentient weapons or sentient beings bound to weapons, will sometimes comment on your situation (though I haven't gotten any of those classes/specs up - I'll eventually see the Shadow Priest's stuff.)

But it turns out that Demonology goes a step further. While questing in the Broken Isles, your Felguard (assuming you have him out, which you should, as he does fine tanking for you while soloing thanks to Threatening Presence) will also sometimes comment on your situation - complaining about wandering around some forest (Val'sharah) or how the Vrykul are not such great warriors as they claim to be (Stormheim.) Thal'kiel will then respond to these comments.

This kind of blew me away, because my warlock has been hanging out with Felguard Zurilshoken since Wrath of the Lich King (ok, with the Wrathguard Khil-Barash for a while too,) and all of a sudden my chief minion has something to say other than the typical canned emotes.

Guys, Legion is awesome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Il'gynoth and More Cryptic Old God Whispers!

I've frequently wondered how exactly the Emerald Nightmare fits in with the Burning Legion's invasion. Xavius is a demon, technically (much as the Man'ari is the form Eredar - who presumably would otherwise be just like the Draenei - take upon becoming demons, it seems that Night Elves who undergo this transformation become Satyrs,) and given that there's a massive doomguard assaulting the Temple of Elune in Val'sharah along with the forces of the Nightmare, it would seem that the Nightmare is part of the Legion's general invasion force.

And yet.

First off, the Legion very clearly leaves the worlds they touch looking the same - the earth charred black, flowing with Fel-green lava and generally broken and adrift in space or the Twisting Nether.

The Nightmare looks very different than that. And the Nightmare is not a creation of the Burning Legion. It is a creation of the Old Gods, whom the Burning Legion was technically created to oppose (along with any bleeding-heart Titans who weren't getting on board the "destroy the universe to save it from the Void" train.)

Xavius may indeed have his loyalties with the Legion, but while he has dominion over the Nightmare, he is not the Nightmare itself.

I have not run Emerald Nightmare yet - I'm likely going to do the first wing of LFR next week and write all about it here - but I have followed some forum posts (such as this one on the WoW forums) about the whispers that Il'gynoth speaks during the fight against him.

In case you haven't been looking into the raid, Il'gynoth is the most Lovecraftian boss creature in the raid, an amorphous blob with lots of eyes and tentacles, and is referred to as a pure manifestation of the Nightmare.

As we often get in Old God-related stuff, Il'gynoth whispers to you, and thanks to DK Cirno on the forum, we have a few of its quotes. I don't know if this is all of them or just some, but damn are they food for thought:

(EDIT: Of course there's the big caveat that an Old God-affiliated monstrosity might be trying to lure us into false conclusions. But for the purpose of this post, let's assume that Il'gynoth is at best manipulating us with truths, rather than lies.)

"To find him, drown yourself in a circle of stars."

So of course we have no idea who "he" is. This could be N'zoth, the last Old God whom we have been unable to locate. As to a circle of stars? That's a good question.

One thing I've been wondering about, lorewise, is what the hell the Nightwell is. The Well of Eternity was the blood of the Titan Azeroth (we get this from a presumably omniscient source in Chronicle,) and the Sunwell and the quasi-Well that feeds Nordrassil on Mount Hyjal were both created using vials of water from the original Well.

So what is the Nightwell? It had to exist before the War of the Ancients, as Suramar City was totally cut off from the rest of the world after that point. It is a font of Arcane energy, which sure sounds like it could be tapping into the lifeblood of Azeroth. Perhaps some very ancient Night Elves figured out what the Well was and decided to make another incision?

It's tenuous, certainly, but what if the circle of stars is Suramar City? What if the Nightwell is tapping into something else entirely? Could the Nightwell be feeding on N'zoth?

Or more likely, we don't yet know what this Circle of Stars refers to.

"The boy-king serves at the master's table. Three lies he will offer you."

The most obvious boy-king would be Anduin Wrynn, who is king (again, but for real this time) with Varian's death. And being thrust into this position while Azeroth is in her greatest crisis certainly sounds like he's being put at the big-boys' table. But what about these lies? What would Anduin lie to us about?

Or is it Anduin?

It could also apply to Wrathion, who is now "king" of the Black Dragonflight. Granted, there's only one other black dragon on Azeroth than him and the two are probably not aware of one another (and also probably not aware that the other is uncorrupted.) But Wrathion sure doesn't hesitate to lie to us.

"Her heart is a crater, and we have filled it."

Ok, here's something worrying. We don't know who this refers to, but I can think of two possibilities.

One: Jaina. The city she poured her heart and soul into was reduced to a crater in the middle of the war between the Alliance and Horde. Ever since Theramore's destruction, things have been pretty terrible for Jaina Proudmoore. But we've also watched as someone who used to strongly advocate for peace with the Horde has become one of if not the strongest advocates of destroying it.

Now, there's plenty here that I think could be explained in mundane terms. The very fact that she was such a proponent of peace could be why she has turned so much against it - if even as this advocate of cooperation, she could still be attacked and have her city - a city whose gates she opened to the Horde at the cost of her own father in order to further the cause of peace - destroyed, then surely there was no more reason to ever trust the Horde again.

But if this quote refers to her, then we've got a bigger problem - Jaina's hatred of the Horde may not be simply a result of trauma and frustration. It may be the result of the meddling of the Old Gods.

But the far worse possibility is Azeroth.

When Y'shaarj was torn out of the crust of the planet, it left a gaping wound, bleeding profusely. This was the Well of Eternity. Given how much this worried the other Titans - that they chose to leave the other Old Gods alive rather than extract them as well - it could be that the Titan Azeroth's heart was where this crater was made.

And the Old Gods' purpose in being is to corrupt the Titan Azeroth, meaning that if this is true, and referring to her, then we're in serious trouble. Hell, the Legion might actually be justified in this invasion (though it's unlikely they know her status any better than we do.)

"The Lord of Ravens will turn the key."

Ok, lord of ravens? Well, there's Ravencrest, of course, but he's dead (though he's a ghost and has interacted with us, even aiding us once we demonstrate that he's been tricked by demons.) The other possibility is Medivh, of course, who is kind of associated with Ravens as well.

In fact, we know that there will be a boss in Karazhan called Shade of Medivh - is that his future role?

And of course there's Odyn as well, the Titan Keeper who has a pair of immortal ravens as his companions (like his Norse-mythology antecedent.)

(EDIT: There is, of course, also Khadgar, who has taken Atiesh as his own staff and even comments on how he likes using the staff's Raven form to travel around. Given that he's more or less coordinating the expedition to the Broken Isles and is also kind of known for his ability to close portals - see Warcraft II - he might be involved in this key-turning situation.)

But also, what key? We'll come back to this.

"The King of Diamonds has been made a pawn."

Ok, first off, that's mixing card and chess metaphors... but oh crap. The King of Diamonds is almost certainly Magni - he's a king, and he's now made of diamonds.

But being made a pawn means he is being manipulated. Magni has become the speaker for the Titan Azeroth. But historically, people getting telepathic communications from voices deep within the earth have not always turned out well.

What if Magni's mistaken? What if it's not Azeroth, but the Old Gods who have been speaking to him? Or, if the "heart is a crater" quote is referring to Azeroth, perhaps he is, indeed, hearing from Azeroth, but Azeroth no longer has our best interests at heart.

(EDIT: Of course, given Il'gynoth's presumed antipathy toward Titans, there could be a more innocent reading of this - that Magni, once king of his people, is now in the role of a servant to a greater power, namely Azeroth.)

"Five keys to open our way. Five torches to light our path."

Right, so here's something worrying. There are five pillars of creation that we're collecting on the Broken Isles. I imagine most people who have hit 110 have four of the five - the fifth being in Suramar and probably requiring you to finish all the major quests there (I need about 3000 reputation to get the next quests.)

We've been told that these five pillars of creation are the key to closing the portal at the Tomb of Sargeras.

And they might do that. But what exactly were they used for in the first place?

What if these were the artifacts used to imprison the Old Gods? And what if by using them to defeat the Legion, we wind up releasing the Old Gods?

"Flesh is his gift. He is your true creator."

Well, the Curse of Flesh is kind of an odd thing - on one hand, it was created by Yogg-Saron (implemented by Loken once Yogg-Saron had him under his control) in order to corrupt and ruin the Titans' creations. But it also allowed the races of Azeroth to have free will and evolve in directions the Titans had not anticipated.

Honestly, this one is less worrying than simply a kind of propagandistic opinion. The mortal races of Azeroth are, in a sense, an unwitting collaboration between the Titans and the Old Gods.


To put this all together:

My guess is that this is referring to events that will occur toward the end of Legion - we will be victorious in some way (after all, the game has got to survive) but much as we freed Gul'dan at the beginning of Warlords and are now paying the price for that, I imagine that our plan with the Pillars of Creation is going to have some serious negative repercussions.

I don't know if Blizzard would want to follow up Legion with a full-on Old God expansion out of fear of burning out all the biggest threats in the Warcraft cosmos, but I do think that somewhere down the road, our use of the Pillars of Creation may indeed see us unleashing the Old Gods.

So I'm making this prediction here: I'm not saying it'll be the next expansion or even that the name will be right, but I'm predicting that some day, we'll get World of Warcraft: Rise of the Black Empire.

Check again in a year or more to see if I'm right (but not necessarily wrong!)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

LFR in the Age of World Quests

The Emerald Nightmare raid is opening up this coming Tuesday, and a week later, the first LFR wing will open up as well.

LFR has been a pretty major part of WoW for about five years now - it was introduced in 4.3, the Dragon Soul raid patch (that also brought us the Hour of Twilight dungeons, which are some of my favorites.) While I was able to at least fight the Lich King prior to the launch of Cataclysm (we very easily took him down when we were at an average of level 83 or so the weekend after Cata launched) the general sense of raiding was that if you weren't in a serious raiding guild, you just didn't get to see endgame bosses. Even if you were in a casual raiding guild, you might finish the first tier and see the first boss or two of each new raid, but you'd probably not ever see the expansion's final boss.

So LFR's main purpose was to basically just let you see the conclusion of the expansion's story.

In Mists of Pandaria, LFR was tuned to be a bit harder - honestly, it was more on par with Wrath's 10-player normal mode, making it pretty difficult to coordinate in a group of random strangers. Warlords dialed down the difficulty but also tried to disincentivize people who could raid on normal from doing it by making separate (frankly, uglier) gear models and far less interesting trinkets - making sure that no one would feel forced to run it each week to fill our a tier set or get some very powerful trinket.

In Legion, with Mythic dungeons available from the start and world quests scaling their rewards up pretty rapidly (my Rogue, who has only just run his first heroic, now has an 845 cloak thanks to a lucky Titanforged world quest reward,) the gear rewards from Emerald Nightmare's LFR are surprisingly underwhelming at 835.

Now granted, Warforged/Titanforged upgrades seem far more common in this expansion than we've seen in the past. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if bringing in my main (who is currently at 845 item level) will mean it's highly likely the gear he'll get in there will be upgraded as well.

Personally, I'm eager to run Emerald Nightmare's LFR for two major reasons.

The first is that the raid just looks really cool - I love the aesthetic they've come up with for the Nightmare and have basically stolen it (description-wise) for the Shadowfel equivalent of my D&D campaign setting.

I also, of course, want to pick up the gear for transmog purposes.

But given that I basically already outgear it (and it's not unthinkable that I'll outgear Nighthold LFR by the time it comes out,) I wonder if there's going to be anything keeping me running it.

Because one thing we don't have this time around is a long legendary quest chain. Granted, we'll have to see what the "balance of power" chain is like once the raid opens, but I'm not even sure we'll be able to complete that chain on LFR setting (given that the previous quests require Mythic dungeons.)

So there won't be any major grind to incentivize making sure you down every boss in the raid every week.

That's a good thing, mind you.

But I do wonder what the LFR environment will be like in this expansion.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Havi's Ravens Don't Like Night Elves - The Subtlest Detail I've Noticed in Legion

Legion has got more subtle little treats for people paying attention than any previous expansion. There are things like all the special emotes and even actions that you can find with different artifact weapons as well as tons of hidden treasures and other such things.

But this is the subtlest.

On my Night Elf Demon Hunter, I noticed that when I was in Valdisdall, the little Valarjar settlement where the quartermaster is, Havi's ravens Huginn and Muninn (straight out of Norse mythology) would emote that they don't seem to like me for some reason. I assumed this was the case with all characters and I'd only noticed it on him.

But then I was doing the Rogue class campaign on my Undead Rogue and came across a readable item found on the Nagalfar (the ship in Maw of Souls.) It tells a story of how Ravencrest tricked those two ravens into giving him a magical artifact. The two birds are consumed with a total hatred for Ravencrest and his entire people, aka the Night Elves.

If I didn't play a Rogue or a Night Elf, I would never have noticed this.

The Progression of Legion

I think the most encouraging thing I've heard out of Blizzard about Legion is that they are no longer shooting for an expansion every year. They tried that for basically a decade and it did not work - only leaving us with very long content gaps as we waited for the next expansion.

Knowing, then, that they are expecting Legion to last two years (or possibly more, but I'm going to assume it'll be two years,) what might that mean for the content added to the expansion?

We know we're getting the Karazhan dungeon, which will by Mythic-only, but thankfully Mythic dungeons are actually not that difficult to get into.

In addition to the Trial of Valor raid, which will presumably resolve the story of Stormheim and see Helya killed (it'd be insane if she escaped a second time,) we're also going to be getting more Suramar story content in 7.1 as a lead-up to the Nighthold raid.

Once the Nighthold is finished, though, where do we go from there?

Clearly, there's the Broken Shore and the Tomb of Sargeras. While we haven't done much there (though I realize that it can be explored right now - I just haven't been there yet,) this area is central to the Legion invasion.

The question then, is whether closing the portal will be the ultimate goal of the expansion or if that will be an intermediary step.

Additionally, we know that Illidan is going to be resurrected in some way involving Light's Heart. What his ultimate purpose in all of this is remains to be seen - we seem convinced that he's needed to defeat the Legion while Gul'dan claims that he is what will grant the Legion its ultimate victory. My tin-foil hat theory is that both plans involve Illidan serving as a vessel for Sargeras - the Legion wants to use him as a new, more powerful avatar, while the Army of the Light's idea is that if Sargeras could be trapped within Illidan and Illidan were somehow banished or killed, it would remove Sargeras from the board as well.

The stories on the Broken Isles will mostly be resolved after the three raids. The Underking was dealt with in a dungeon, the Emerald Nightmare, or at least Xavius, will be defeated in the Nightmare raid, Suramar will presumably be liberated with the defeat of Elisande and Gul'dan. Helya will no longer be a threat after the Trial of Valor.

We did thwart Azshara's plans to use the Tidestone of Golganneth to create the Wrath of Azshara (note that it was at about 10% health when we engaged it in the dungeon,) though she is obviously still around and still a threat. It is not unthinkable that we go off to the fight the Naga, but I'm still mostly convinced that Azshara will either headline her own expansion or be a major villain in a N'zoth-themed one.

If the Tomb of Sargeras is not the final raid of the expansion, it's possible we could head off to another world - while I think Argus could be its own expansion, we do have strong hints that we'll be going there eventually. After the Exodar quests after finding Light's Heart, if you start using the Dalaran teleporter but then interrupt yourself, you'll see Velen's Chosen (apparently an elite guard of paladins who already have their tier 19 sets) arrive and Velen calls for Romuul (who's apparently alive in this timeline) to finish repairing the Exodar so that they can finally go home.

If Argus is not a future expansion in and of itself (and oh man, if it is they'd have to make Mac'aree even more amazing and impressive than Suramar) I could imagine us going there and having our final raid against the very heart of the Burning Legion.

Obviously, with things like Karazhan, we could be seeing other, older parts of the world given new content. The invasion pre-launch event did a good job of making this fight feel global, but it might be good to keep emphasizing that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Return to Karazhan Boss List

With 7.1 going on the PTR soon, and the data already being uploaded, we can get a sense of the Return to Karazhan dungeon.

Remember that all of this is just preliminary, and it's only about to start testing, and there could very well be missing pieces.

It appears that Karazhan will have a short attunement chain (presumably not as long as that for Arcway and Court of Stars) in Deadwind Pass.

So, the bosses (note, these could very well be out of order, especially if old bosses are in their usual places.):

Maiden of Virtue

Opera Hall:

Wikket (a Hozen-themed take on "Wicked?")

Westfall Story (West Side Story)

Beautiful Beast (a take on Beauty and the Beast, presumably the Disney version.)

Attumen the Huntsman


The Curator

Shade of Medivh

Mana Devourer

Viz'aduum the Watcher

So, counting the opera hall fights as one, that looks like eight bosses, which either means they've scaled it down or there's one that isn't in the data yet.

I don't know about you, but I'm super excited to see this new take on one of the classics (and with no worries, as the old Karazhan will be untouched.)

Artifact Knowledge and You

If you're like me, and you've got a mainspec you want to focus on but also have off-specs you'd like to work on as well, or hell, if you've gotten most of the traits in your main artifact but to get the next one you're going to need approximately three billion artifact points to get the next trait, we should talk about artifact knowledge.

Perhaps the first thing you should do when you hit 110, before going to Suramar or doing that quest in the trade district of Dalaran, is to go to your order hall and find the archivist or whatever they're called for you and start up your artifact knowledge work orders.

Over the course of several days, you'll eventually get a tome or some such thing of artifact knowledge. You can have two work orders queued up, and I recommend doing so as a top priority.

These work orders are scheduled a little funny - I believe that if you're behind the curve, as it were, they take less time. I'm hoping that this applies months from now, so that a newly-110 characters some time in the spring will be able to get several work orders done pretty quickly.

So what do these tomes do? Using the product produced by these work orders will increase your artifact knowledge. I believe there are twenty levels, so the first order you complete will put you at 1.

Each level of artifact knowledge increases the amount of artifact power each new artifact power item you get will bestow. There's no reason to stockpile the ones that you have already - they'll always be the value they have on the tooltip. But any new ones you get (with some rare exceptions) will be boosted.

The progression bonus here is not exactly exponential, but it is certainly not a linear curve either. According to WoWhead, there are 25 levels of artifact knowledge, and the bonus you receive is this:

1: 25%
2: 50%
3: 90%
4: 140%
5: 200%
6: 275%
7: 375%
8: 500%
9: 650%
10: 850%
11: 1,100%
12: 1,400%
13: 1,775%
14: 2,250%
15: 2,850%
16: 3,600%
17: 4,550%
18: 5,700%
19: 7,200%
20: 9,000%
21: 11,300%
22: 14,200%
23: 17,800%
24: 22,300%
25: 24,900%

Meaning that after getting to artifact knowledge level 25 (which will probably take about six months, perhaps a little less, as I don't think each round of research is quite a week) you will be getting 250 times as much artifact knowledge as you would normally.

So, for example, the coins you get for quests in Suramar would go from giving you 100 to 25,000 artifact power a pop. Meaning that if I wait until then (and I just might) to invest anything whatsoever into the Silver Hand, a single artifact power item could probably let me fill in almost half the traits.

Additionally, artifact knowledge comes with lore. You'll find a book in your class hall that contains pages of lore about the artifacts you've discovered. At levels 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, and 23, you'll get another page about each of your artifacts.

Given that artifact knowledge applies to the AP items you get (and even if it didn't) your artifact knowledge applies to all three (or four, or both, if you're a Druid or Demon Hunter, respectively) artifacts. One of the main reasons for this is that they want it to be a strong catch-up mechanism for off-specs. You might really need that 250x bonus to get the last trait on your main artifact, but it also means that getting through the first two-thirds of them on another weapon should be very easy to do.

I'm hoping that this becomes quicker to research as the expansion goes on, but we shall see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Legion: Off to a Strong Start

Legion, WoW's sixth expansion, has the potential to be the best expansion yet.

I realize that saying this is kind of tempting fate, but let's look at the math:

We have a new hero class - the last time we had a new hero class we got Wrath of the Lich King, which is regarded by many (not all, of course) as WoW's best expansion. I certainly thought it was the best, but that's a mix of my really liking the Scourge as villains, the Death Knight as a class, and the fact that I had a guild that was super-active at that time, running multiple ICC raids per week.

Having a hero class alone wouldn't be enough to make the expansion good, but with the Demon Hunter we've had a boiling down of classes to their essences - again, not everyone will agree, but while talking with some guild members the other day, we were all surprised at how everyone seemed to be enjoying how their classes were playing. I had some reservations about Protection Paladins, but now that I've gotten used to it (and learned to love Blessed Hammer) I'm on board.

The expansion's content is challenging but also doesn't have difficulty spikes. It's not terribly hard to get geared up for heroic dungeons thanks to World quests and then it's not terribly difficult to go from heroic dungeons to mythic dungeons. And mythics really feel like a similar step up from heroics as heroics felt from normal modes. The hardcore might be disappointed in how easy mythic dungeons are, but we have yet to see how mythic+ winds up working out.

Leveling up is not all that time-consuming either, and thanks to the level-scaling, you can avoid certain areas if you can't stand them. There are also a huge number of relatively hidden side quest-chains that you'll be able to discover as you explore.

World Quests take advantage of the level-scaling to make daily-quest-like content that takes you all over the continent. While a lot of these are basically repeats of quests or bonus objectives you did while leveling up, the variety of rewards and, well, the variety of objectives and setting make them a step up - and for the most part they feel very "do as many as you want," and not like some forced obligation (though your class campaign will force you to do some.)

I'm of two minds about profession quests - on one hand, it's way more exciting to learn a recipe by doing some related task and it's very nice that my Demon Hunter doesn't have to go through all the old content to work up his leatherworking skills. But I got a bad first impression thanks to some engineering quests that were hard to complete - either because you could only do one literally in the middle of a boss fight (though I think they may have fixed that one) or another because it sent you into Court of Stars, which requires weeks of work to unlock.

Storywise, the stakes are high, and they've done a very good job giving everyone a sense of what we're doing here. The class campaigns in particular let you do something that feels appropriate to your particular character. Weirdly enough, my Death Knight's class campaign involved raising the dead to fight the Legion. My Demon Hunter finished his today, and oddly enough it involved invading a demonic world.

The real question is how well they can sustain the expansion. Warlords of Draenor felt pretty good while we were leveling up, and there were some strong dungeons at launch, but then we got nada for about a year.

The fact that 7.1's Return to Karazhan was announced before Legion even officially launched bodes well - getting a new dungeon (and having done a few Mythic dungeons the mythic-only tag on Karazhan is less scary to me now) as well as a new raid (oddly before the Nighthold comes out... so does that make Nighthold a 7.1 raid?) and more stuff in Suramar (which has been a great questing experience, though I'm a little daunted to start doing it on alts) is all welcome stuff.

The way Blizzard talks about the expansion, it would seem they have a Mists of Pandaria-style progression plan, which would be really great, assuming they can pace it a little better (hold things back a bit so that you don't get 14 months of nothing new while we wait for the next expansion.)

Blizzard's old goal of releasing faster expansions led to thinner and thinner expansions. Now that they have abandoned that goal, I'm really curious to see what they do when they know an expansion is going to be out for at least two years.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Court of Stars and The Arcway

So Mythic Dungeons are actually not all that difficult - they're beefed-up heroics, but they don't really expect that much more power from you, and mechanically they're the same.

However, there are two dungeons that are available as Mythic-only, and require you to do a lot of quests for the Nightfallen in Suramar - you need to be two-thirds of the way through Honored to get the pre-quests, and then you need to do a series of group quests (that I did solo because I did not realize they were group quests at the time - it was not easy.)

Frankly I think this attunement is a little extreme - it's not terrible on my main, but having to do this on any character who wants to go in there? (And given that there's an engineering quest that sends you there, I really have to assume that that quest was designed when there was going to be a normal/heroic mode of these dungeons and that there was no attunement.)

Both dungeons are unconventional, but in different ways.

I did Court of Stars first, so I'll start there.

There are only three bosses. The first boss is relatively conventional - you clear trash up to him and then pull him. However, there are some beacons that guardsmen can use to call adds, but you can deactivate these. Additionally, if you have an alchemist in your group, you can poison the potion that he drinks in the last portion of the fight - thus instantly killing him instead of dealing with an enrage phase.

The second part of the dungeon requires you to pick off demonic guards to draw off one of the three adds the boss has - picking these guards off and then the adds will make the actual boss fight significantly easier. Throughout this phase there are many things that people with particular professions can do to buff the party - though it was clearly bugged, as I was unable to interact with any of the little mechanical cleaning robots but I was able to activate some soothing spores from a plant with my nonexistent herbalism skills.

After the second boss is down, your contact will give you an improved disguise and you can enter a party. There you can talk to guests who will talk about rumors about Elisande's spy there. In fact, as a Protection Paladin, Truthguard will actually light up when you're near the spy, but we solved the logic puzzle before I could use that method. Following the spy after accusing him/her will reveal that it's actually a dreadlord. Kill it and you'll get access to the room with the final boss.

Arcway is in many ways a more conventional dungeon, but the main trick is that different doors will be locked each time you run it.

You'll want to make your way through the dungeon until you've killed all the bosses except the final one. You'll then make your way to the center and fight the final boss. At 50%, he'll teleport the party to the room of a random other boss, and you'll have two minutes to get back to him or he'll insta-kill you.

Along the way, there will be arcane elementals that will stun party members - you want to kill them quick and then keep moving.

In a way I can see why these were made Mythic-only - doing this in a truly random LFG group might be a real pain. But the attunement, for me at least, means that asking members of my guild to run it will probably mean waiting a long time.

I am really eager to hear details about the Return to Karazhan dungeon. That's something I'm hoping to run frequently with the guild.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fel and Void

What we learned in Chronicle and what is now being gradually peppered in in-game is that the purpose of the Burning Legion - the whole reason Sargeras decided to burn away the universe - is that he fears the corruption of the Void.

Azeroth is the most important planet in the Warcraft universe because it is essentially the egg out of which the greatest Titan who has ever existed will one day emerge. Azeroth is not an it, it is a she (meaning the Tauren religion is totally right! Granted, all the good-guy religions in Warcraft are mostly right - we know that Elune is truly a goddess, though what exactly that means in a cosmos of Titans and Void Lords remains elusive.)

Sargeras fought demons originally - creatures tied to Fel magic, which is the embodiment of chaos, as opposed to the Titans' preferred magic style, arcane, which is an embodiment of order. In fact, there's a quest for scribes where a demon hunter explains that the tattoos they use are arcane magic that is meant to help them keep control of the chaotic fel magic within them. (I've got a whole nerdy theory about why "respectable" mages use frost magic that deals with thermodynamics, but that's a post for another time.)

Yet when Sargeras pursued the Nathrezim, he found that they were practicing a whole different kind of magic - shadow magic, the magic of the void. The Nathrezim had gone to serve entities on a planet where a Titanic world-soul was being fully corrupted by the void. The entities doing the corrupting? Old Gods.

Yes, the Old Gods are actually a kind of biological weapon created by even greater forces of evil called the Void Lords. The Void Lords are apparently so completely alien that they can't really manifest within our reality, and so they created the Old Gods to go where they could not.

Sargeras wound up cleaving the corrupted planet and the embryonic Titan in two, angering the rest of the Pantheon. Sargeras quit their company over this issue.

Later, the Titans discovered Azeroth, and to their horror, they found that it, too, had been infected with Old Gods - four, to be precise, which you'll recognize as Y'Shaarj, N'zoth, Yogg-Saron, and C'thun.

The Titans created stone and metallic giants to wage a war against the Old Gods and their Black Empire. In the midst of it, Aman'thul, the oldest of the Pantheon, physically plucked Y'shaarj out of the planet, tearing a deep wound in Azeroth that proved that it would be too dangerous to simply kill the other Old Gods and also left this gaping wound as the Well of Eternity, which would lead to the transformation of Yaungol into the Tauren and Trolls into the Night Elves.

Yet the Titans succeeded in containing the threat, keeping Azeroth's soul safe from the Old Gods by imprisoning them.

When the Aggramar sought out Sargeras to tell him that there was another path, and that this Titan that would be greater than any of them would now be safe from the corruption, Sargeras responded by murdering his friend.

Sargeras returned to Mardum, where his demonic captives had been kept, and offered them a choice - serve him or die permanently. The demons naturally agreed to serve. Sargeras shattered Mardum, releasing the demons and thus infusing himself with fel magic. He waged a war against the Pantheon with this new Burning Legion and slew them all.

So Sargeras killed his own people - his fellow gods, essentially - and has waged a many-thousand-year-long campaign to destroy the universe - to purge the universe of anything that could be corrupted by the Old Gods.

It's clearly evil, but there's a demented logic behind it.

But given what we've seen of the Burning Legion, it raises some interesting questions.

The first one is: why all the cruelty? Why does the Legion corrupt people and revel in betrayals and madness? If its purpose is simply to wipe out the universe, why doesn't it manifest as a constant barrage of hellfire on any world they touch?

I suppose one explanation for this is that while Sargeras might simply be callous (or even regretfully) purging world after world, the soldiers he has enlisted do not have his noble-if-warped intentions. He didn't create his own Titanic constructs in order to purge the universe. He recruited infernal beings who he had spent countless aeons fighting against. We know that Sargeras' two top lieutenants were once mortal eredar, and it's very possible that every demonic race was at one time a mortal one, and that they have simply been corrupted so much by fel magic that they cease to be humanoid.

But the other question is this: why is the Burning Legion using all this shadow magic?

Xavius proclaims in the Guardian Druid artifact quest that he has been empowered by the Old Gods. Yet he's a demon, working in tandem with the Burning Legion (there's a doomguard leading the assault on the Temple of Elune in Val'sharah, backed up entirely by Nightmare creatures.) The Nightmare is, fundamentally, the product of Old God corruption (specifically Yogg-Saron's corruption of Vordrassil in Grizzly Hills.)

Isn't something like the Nightmare exactly what the Burning Legion was created to purge from the universe?

And we see the Legion using tons of shadow magic. We see them using Void Walkers, which are not, technically speaking, demons at all - as we saw in Shadowmoon Valley, they're more accurately aberrations, as they are linked the void like the Old Gods (in fact, probably more purely.)

Again, we have a couple explanations:

The first is similar to my explanation of the cruelty of the Legion - Sargeras might be in charge, but his soldiers do not share all of his views. The demons are happy to cause destruction wherever they go, and they're not too picky about what kind of magic they use. The Natherzim, after all, were happy to serve the Old Gods when Sargeras first found them.

Another is that we, after all, use magical powers we consider "evil." We employ Shadow Priests, Warlocks, Demon Hunters, and Death Knights, yet just because a Shadow Priest sprouts tentacles if they've been in Void Form long enough doesn't mean that they're serving the Old Gods - in fact, they're often fighting against them. A player Demon Hunter is 100% opposed to the Burning Legion despite using similar magic. Thus, the Legion might simply be using shadow magic as a means to an end that involves defeating the beings most closely associated with said kind of magic.

But the third explanation I can think of probably makes the most sense. Sargeras might claim that his Burning Legion is meant to keep the Void Lords from corrupting the universe with some Dark Titan, but in fact, Sargeras is merely jealous. Aggramar brought him news of a future Titan that would be greater than any existing Titan - greater than Sargeras himself.

So maybe this dark task is just BS. Sargeras doesn't want to euthanize the universe to prevent its corruption. He just doesn't want to be less than some greater entity. And so he doesn't care what happens to Azeroth as long as it dies. And any code of ethics or principles get thrown out the window - Sargeras just hates Azeroth for being better than him.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Legion Dungeon Review (Non-Mythic-Only)

So while there are currently ten dungeons in-game, two of them are gated behind the quest chain in Suramar. I have no idea how much longer it will take to get into them, but we've got eight dungeons ranging in quality to talk about, so let's get to it.

First off, my general impression is that the dungeons in Legion are pretty fantastic. They're not terribly difficult - maybe a boss here or there that presents a significant challenge - but overall, on normal mode and somewhat on heroic they're at a pretty good newcomer-friendly quality. I have yet to run any on Mythic, but I get the impression that that is where things will get seriously tough.

We'll start with the four dungeons available at any level in the Broken Isles:

Eye of Azshara:

Honestly, this is my least favorite of the dungeons (possibly second least) because the main challenge of the dungeon is pulling as little trash as you need to. It's the sort of dungeon that can go quickly if people know what they're doing but if you have one guy who doesn't look where he's going you'll be spending a whole lot more time in there. Also, those seagulls, who aren't even hostile but have a tendency to fly into your AoE, are the worst.

Darkheart Thicket:

I absolutely love the aesthetic they've come up with for the Nightmare, and this is a heavily-Nightmare-influenced area. There is perhaps more trash than necessary, and again you're incentivized to skip packs, but overall I find this dungeon a lot more enjoyable. It has an optional boss, which tend to frustrate me (anything that you can do in the LFG function should probably not have optional bosses - on my real-life friend's first run of DHT, the tank skipped the dragon boss. Less than 24 hours into the new expansion. Some people are the worst.) Anyway, the area around said dragon boss is similarly frustrating if you have people who don't seem to understand about not running over dragon eggs, but the dungeon overall gets a thumbs up from me.

Neltharion's Lair:

I really appreciate that they do a very different sort of cave dungeon here. Again, there's a theme here of having skippable trash that you'll often wind up pulling accidentally (with more to come!) They manage to make this cave area feel fairly lived-in, and there are some cool fight mechanics, though some of the trash (actually the very first group with the tiny non-elites that drop poison on the ground when they die) is annoying.

Halls of Valor:

Visually stunning, Halls of Valor has a pretty epic feel to it. Though once again, we have two big areas (the fields of the eternal hunt and the central mead-hall area) where you're incentivized to avoid as much trash as you can (you can get to Fenryr's first phase with only one trash pull if you're careful.) There are two fights in the exact same place, but they use the space in different ways, which makes that ok, I think.

Moving on, we have the dungeon that unlocks in the middle of leveling up, Assault on Violet Hold.

Assault on Violet Hold:

This might be my least favorite dungeon (if it's not Eye of Azshara.) I get that by bringing back Dalaran they had to do the Violet Hold again, but I wish that they had figured out some other structure for it - maybe we'd descend deeper into the dungeons. In practice it's really just the same dungeon but with demons instead of Blue Dragons and of course new bosses.

Three of the dungeons open up at level 110.

Black Rook Hold:

Ok, now we're talking. This is one of if not my favorite Legion dungeon. It totally feels like a spooky haunted castle - even though there aren't any vampires, it has a very Dracula look to it. You begin way at the bottom in the crypts and slowly make your way up to the tallest tower. It might be a little trash-heavy, but with this and the Karazhan dungeon opening up in 7.1, I'm really getting my fix for "haunted house" dungeons (though it's a shame there was no animated armor for us to fight.)

Vault of the Wardens:

This place really feels vast. You'll actually recognize a lot of it from the Demon Hunter starting experience, including two of the bosses. The last section can be a bit frustrating, as the tank constantly gets stunned and knocked back, and Cordana Felsong is probably the most challenging of the 5-player dungeon bosses that I've faced so far.

Maw of Souls:

This one competes with Black Rook Hold for my favorite dungeon. It begins with us climbing some cliffs in Stormheim, eventually facing off against King Ymiron (who you should remember from Utgarde Pinnacle,) who seems to be feeding off the souls of the dead to give himself new life. After that point, Harbaron comes on the Nagalfar to take us to Helheim. From there, you fight your way out of the ship's brig and onto the deck, where the ship is tossing about on the waves. While I might have preferred that we see more of the sea - you really need to adjust you camera angle to see how much we're tossing about - I also know that there were complaints about the train in Grimrail Depot and people suffering motion sickness, so... oh well. Anyway, the final boss is an incredibly cool fight against Helya, who tears off the front of the ship in the middle of it.

So there we go.

I don't know how far into the Suramar quests you need to get to do Court of Stars and the Arcway (which makes it super, super annoying that engineers have to go into one of them in order to learn the max-level goggle schematics - a bit of a pattern for engineering quests being unreasonable) but I'm sure that once I have them unlocked and I actually get to run them I'll have impressions as well.

And then Karazhan, of course.

Artifacts and the Death of Dual-Spec?

So I solo'd my Paladin as Retribution until 110, giving my choicest relic quest rewards to Truthguard while I kind of split my artifact power between it and Ashbringer. Then I hit 110, started doing Suramar, and decided to just be Protection all the time.

The good news is that this isn't such a bad idea - mobs weren't dying exceptionally fast when I was playing as Retribution (except when I got the rare Ashbringer hidden proc that insta-kills non-elite demons and undead and leaves a pile of ash) and when I switched to the tank spec, it wasn't like they were taking forever to die either (Shield of the Righteous hits like a truck.)

So after a brief period as Unholy on my Death Knight, I went Blood. After one zone of Havoc on my Demon Hunter, I went Vengeance.

We're still super-early in the expansion, which is why I don't know that I'd worry too much about this yet, but it really seems like you have to pick a spec and stick with it. This applies even to pure-DPS classes - there's a lot of investment I'll be putting into the Subtlety artifact on my Rogue and as cool as Outlaw looks now, at least for now I'm really going to have to either hope that artifact power gains increase exponentially or I'll have to bring up my other Rogue (though he's going to have to wait for about eight other characters to hit 110 first.)

Clearly they have anticipated that being stuck to a non-DPS spec if you want to perform a non-dps role means you'll need to have some decent power in order to solo. I assume healers similarly get powered-up when it comes to damage capabilities. As a tank I can pull very large numbers of enemies and survive (granted I'm playing three tank classes with self-healing built into their tanking strategy.)

What I worry about, though, is our future raiding prospects - in my guild there are only a couple of healing-capable characters at the level cap. Now that's clearly something that's going to improve with time, but I know that I'm Protection, and my real-life friend who plays is a Balance Druid. He's occasionally willing to heal, but how easy is it going to be to "occasionally" heal when your artifact has little to none of the traits you need?

I suppose the issue is how tuned the encounters are around artifact power. How much of an investment to they expect for you to have put into it? Clearly we're not going to be able to fill out our artifacts for a while (I'm just one intermediary trait away from getting my second major trait on Truthguard) so how is that going to balance out?

I'm also really eager to know more about artifact knowledge. It seems like it will help catch up (or really just help us fill things out at all,) but is the value of each level going to go up (right now it's a 25% bonus, but in a week or two will it go up to 50%?) or is it just going to take less and less time to research each level?

I'm a committed tank - I've been mainspec Protection since I figured out you should put your talent points in a single tree (so a couple months into playing) - but I do really want to be able to go out and use the Ashbringer some of the time.

We're just eight days into the expansion, though. I'll be keeping a close eye on this issue.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Class Campaign (Paladin)

So I completed the Paladin Class campaign, earning my third relic slot on my artifact weapons as well as the first color of the "souped up" version of each appearance. My Truthguard is even bigger and glowier, and my Ashbringer looks really huge (though I really don't use it much, as the artifact system makes it tough to really maintain two specs - hopefully something that will improve as the expansion goes on.)

The class campaign is pretty good, though obviously if it's something you can complete in the first week of the expansion, I sure hope there's more coming. I get that designing quests and such for twelve different classes is always going to be very time-consuming, but I hope this isn't the end of real class-specific content.

Before I go into plot details, let's talk rewards. Obviously you get your upgraded artifact appearance (the first color variant - the others are unlocked through other means.) You also get a third relic slot, and this aspect I think makes completing the campaign a real must-do for any serious character (though it's hardly a real burden - you'll just need to do a few quests and champion missions.)

One unexpected but highly welcome reward is that for completing the campaign, you get the title that people have been addressing you with as an actual in-game title. So far I know that Paladins get Highlord, and I think we have Deathlord for DKs, potentially Slayer for Demon Hunters, Conjurer for Mages, Archdruid for Druids, probably Farseer for Shamans, Shadow for Rogues, I believe Cardinal for Priests, and the rest I'm not so sure about. Grandmaster for Monks - there's another.

You also get a massive chunk of order resources and a big boost to artifact power.

At this point I've also gotten my first rank of Artifact Knowledge, which currently increases the rate at which one gets artifact power by 25%. You also get a book of lore on your artifact weapons, and apparently as this gains more ranks, you gain more lore in addition to the mechanical advantage.

My understanding is that as the expansion goes on, they'll either make artifact knowledge quicker to research or each rank will provide a bigger bonus (or both.)

Ok, onto the specifics:

Spoilers ahead:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Suramar - WoW's First Real Max Level Zone

Way back when Mists of Pandaria was announced, they talked about how there was going to be a zone in the center of the continent that you would do things in at the max level. This was, of course, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and while technically this description was true (though we went there at level 87,) the result was kind of disappointing. There were a bunch of daily quests, and dailies don't do a great job of telling a story - they're repetitive and inherently have to be a kind of gradual progress kind of campaign. There were one-shot quests at various reputation levels (a lot of this content got removed in 5.4) that did tell a bit of a story, but it was largely your standard "bad guy wants an artifact, you try to prevent him from getting it" thing.

Suramar, on the other hand, is unlike anything we've seen in WoW before.

First off, it's a real zone. It's not just a hub for daily quests. There's a plot and everything.

But it's also a plot that's very different from what we've seen before.

You'll get the quest to go to Suramar when you hit level 110. Almost every quest rewards artifact power, presumably so that there's something useful for anyone regardless of their gear level.

The story goes that Suramar was once the "jewel of the Night Elf empire." When the War of the Ancients came about, the mages in Suramar decided to create an utterly impenetrable arcane barrier to protect the city, regardless of what happened to the rest of Azeroth. Not only did this make communication impossible, but it also blocked out the sun and the moon - putting the entire city into an eternal night.

To survive, the elves used the powerful Nightwell - a font of magical energy that sounds a lot like the Sunwell or of course the Well of Eternity, though we don't know exactly what the origin of this one is yet. They lived off of pure arcane magic, sustaining their lives but also transforming them into a new subrace of elf - the "Shal'dorei" or "Nightborne."

For ten thousand years they got along all right. But as the Burning Legion invaded (this invasion,) they managed to send a message through the barrier - "give us the nightwell or die." The leadership of the city ultimately capitulated, and the people who rebelled were killed or exiled - and away from the power of the Nightwell, they began to wither into Nightfalen. Starved of mana, they would be doomed to eventually devolve into the "Withered."

It's a familiar story - the Blood Elves, having lost the Sunwell, turned to Fel magic to sustain themselves (this is why Blood Elf characters have green eyes as opposed to blue, which High Elves do.) But the Blood Elves did not literally live off of arcane magic for ten thousand years - Eversong Woods has plenty of normal fruit and such.

Anyway, you essentially have to help the Nightfalen organize a resistance movement, recruiting allies.

Early on, you gain the ability to don a Nightborne disguise, allowing you to enter the city of Suramar and avoid trouble as long as you're careful.

Suramar City is a vast urban area - it's certainly as large if not larger than the existing capital cities, and it really feels like a city that could support a significant population. It's a city where the guards are keeping people in line and collaborating with their demonic conquerors while the common people are too terrified to rebel because of what it would mean for them to be exiled.

There's intrigue, and there's great cloak-and-dagger moments - at one point a big elite Doomguard that could see through my disguise cornered me on a bridge and I snuck off onto a ledge over a canal to hide. Suramar is full of these moments.

On top of that, there's a huge number of quests. I seriously think there could be more quests in Suramar than the rest of the Broken Isles. There are of course World Quests as well, but a huge amount of content here is non-repeated, real story stuff.

And beyond the city there's tons of stuff as well. There's a vast underground ruin called Falonaar where there's a world quest every three days to lead a group of Withered (long story) and loot as much as you can while dealing with evil crazy spider-demon-elf things. These environments are seriously enormous.

And in 7.1 we'll be getting even more Suramar content. I'm totally on board for that, though I wouldn't mind seeing new campaign stuff added to the other zones as well. While we are getting another raid between the Emerald Nightmare and the Nighthold called the Trial of Valor, I still don't know what our "middle tier" is going to be (assuming that it's not Tomb of Sargeras and we don't know what the third tier will be.)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

7.1 Details Revealed

7.1 will be Legion's first major content patch, and will be called Return to Karazhan.

There are three core features:

The 5-player Karazhan dungeon is obviously the headlining feature. From the video preview, it's clear that this will be a mix of new and old - there are familiar environments but also totally new ones. Boss-wise, we saw Maiden of Virtue, the Opera (though with new plays this time,) and Medivh (who I'd guess is the final boss, but we'll see.)

While it's probably going to be familiar at first, once you get a bit farther in things go totally insane - you'll find some kind of vortex that teleports you to the upside-down Karazhan - yes, that's confirmed finally. There you'll fight your way around the upside-down world and into what might be the Twisting Nether or some other weird arcane space. There seems to be a chessboard fight (though one that you actually fight in) on a board that is breaking apart in this weird space.

Karazhan is tuned to be harder than Mythic dungeons, so they're going to be generous with the gear quality.

As a reminder - this will not be replacing the old raid - it's a new instance with its own entry, though lore-wise some of the same locations will feature.

The other big instance is the Trial of Valor, which is a 3-boss raid in Stormheim. You begin in the Halls of Valor, fighting Odyn again (to knock him down a bit more) and then when you have proven yourself to him, he sends you into Helheim. You fight Guar, the three-headed dog you see while questing, and then fight Helya again (though this time presumably to the death.) Apparently there will be some lore stuff about Illidan here. This is, I believe, meant to come out before Nighthold but after Emerald Nightmare (and I'd assume it'll be a single Raid Finder wing.)

Finally, new weekly campaign quests will be added to Suramar to continue the story of the Nightfalen's resistance against Elisande. Given the huge amount of quest content in Suramar (seriously, I think there are more quests there than the rest of the Broken Isles zones combined) it's clear that they're really taking this story seriously. I've been enjoying the quests, so no complaints here.

Well, five days in Legion is pretty amazing. And if they can keep up content like this at a good pace I think we're all in for a fantastic expansion.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Where to Begin?

Well, I'm enjoying the expansion.

In a relatively marathon period of play, I've gotten my main character (the Paladin) to 110. I've almost exclusively played on him, though I did just get Apocalypse for my Death Knight - I'm trying to decide whether to just get the artifacts on several of my characters now or wait until I'm actually intending to level them up.

The Broken Isles are pretty gorgeous - every zone is beautiful in its own way. I also greatly, greatly appreciate that there is a max-level zone - not a zone of pure daily quests (and in fact, daily quests are mostly replaced with World Quests - we'll see if they're better.)

The route I took my paladin through was partially determined by profession quests, so I went Stormheim, Azsuna, Val'sharah, and then Highmountain, and now I've started Suramar (though it looks like it's either going to be a huge number of quests there or that many of the chapters are going to be very short.)

Stormheim feels very much like Howling Fjord's sequel - it's a crag-filled area that heavily involves the Vrykul, but also ties things more directly to the Titans.

Highmountain is fantastic if you like Tauren. There's a lot about the history of the Highmountain Tauren as well as some very interesting tidbits about the Black Dragonflight (it was in Highmountain that Deathwing had his lair - including when he was Neltharion.)

Val'sharah is, in a way, the ultimate Druid zone. It's a beautiful forest very much in the "cultivated by druids" style, but the corruption of the Nightmare is spreading through it (and the aesthetic they've created for the Nightmare is super cool.)

Azsuna is somewhat less easily defined - I guess the main thing you'd focus on are ruins - the land here was shattered and the main focus of the zone is a kingdom of magically-bound ghosts and the Naga invading.

Finally, Suramar (a zone I have not yet completed, quest-wise) is a land utterly suffused with magic. There are vast subterranean structures outside the city, and then there's the city itself, which you'll approach less as an invading marauder and more like a spy infiltrating it. In fact, this might be the most Rogue-appropriate zone they've ever made.

The Legion certainly has a presence in each zone, but it's not all charred-black earth and green fire. There's a decent variety to the way that the Legion is working its mojo on each of these areas. They've wisely allowed the Legion to be a major presence without everything feeling the same at all times.

Now, regarding class quests:

I've hit a sort of speed bump in my class campaign - I need to send my champions on missions to pick up five quest items, with each quest taking about a day. Thankfully there are enough of these missions for me to send two squads at once, so tomorrow I'll hopefully be able to send out two more and finish it up.

There are definitely some enormous lore reveals happening in these campaign quests (the ones that all classes get, at least.)

Profession quests are... well, it's good that professions are getting some attention, but there are some speedbumps. For example, I need to make a thing in engineering that requires a Hearty Feast - something that I doubt anyone can cook up yet.

I've also done eight of the dungeons - all but the Suramar ones. It's incredibly late, though, so I'll just say that generally they're really good. I particularly liked Blackrook Hold, which totally gives you that "Dracula's Castle" vibe.

More specific updates will come later.