Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Wound (Spoilers)

So there's a 7.3.2 PTR build up. We're going to be talking post-Antorus spoilers here. So let's... um... let's put up that spoiler warning.

SPOILERS AHOY!

Ok? Good? We all ready for the spoiler ride? Ok.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

On Redemption and Freedom

Something really interesting happens in the Argus quests available today. If you haven't done them, I'd recommend you do, because there's something new at play here.

It involves the Light and freedom, but not in the way you'd expect.

Spoilers to follow.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Major Artifact Traits and a World Beyond Legion

We've seen class revamps in the past, but Legion seemed to really went back to the drawing board on a number of specs, introducing new resource systems (and removing some old ones - RIP Demonic Fury) as well as creating a whole lot of new ideas and features through artifact traits.

Each artifact has one activated trait - most get it as the artifact's first trait, while some require you to invest a lot of artifact power (though at this point, and especially after Tuesday, it should be trivial to get to that level of power.)

The traits are variable in coolness and effectiveness, so I figured I'd talk about them here and look at which ones really feel like they ought to become baseline parts of the specs.

I'm not going to go into all the passive traits, except in places where I think they're notable.

We'll look at both how impactful and important they feel to the spec and also how cool they are.

Also, I'm going to stick mainly to specs I'm more familiar with, as I can't comment a lot on how much, say, the Feral Druid's artifact ability affects them.

Death Knights:

Blood: Consumption:

Consumption is odd, in that it is a potentially massive strike/heal that scales very well with the targets it hits, but given that Blood is all about big bursts of self-healing through Death Strike, the feeling of putting your health back up to full fades pretty quickly when you're being swarmed by lots of little dudes. Still, very on brand and has a satisfying animation. Maybe could be reworked to gain lots of Bone Shield charges (something that's tough to maintain when dealing with groups.)

Frost: Sindragosa's Fury:

My only issue here is that I don't think every Frostwyrm-themed ability needs to be named after Sindragosa. This has A+ cool factor, though I'd be willing to see damage go down (or maybe have it deal less to secondary targets) to get this on a 3-minute cooldown. Of course, if there's a built-in cooldown reduction like the artifact gives us, that might be fine. Frost needs a little more undeath in its arsenal, and theming that around Frostwyrms makes a ton of sense.

Unholy: Apocalypse:

This is maybe my favorite artifact ability. Army of the Dead is such an awesome cooldown, but having it only come every ten minutes means you don't get to see it very often. I think they could keep this exactly as it is and I'd be happy with it. Just make it baseline to the spec. (Also, I should mention that the Shambling Horror passive trait should absolutely be at least a talent. Shambling, exploding zombies is exactly what Unholy should be all about.)

Demon Hunters:

Havoc: Fury of the Illidari:

To be honest, this doesn't feel particularly on-theme or all that cool. I think having another baseline 1-minute cooldown ability would be good, but while I appreciate the damage (especially in AoE situations) I think we could stand to lose this in the next expansion without feeling all that bad.

Vengeance: Soul Carver:

This is actually a really good ability that also kind of serves as a bandaid for one of the flaws in the spec: Soul Fragments don't come off very consistently, and as such your Soul Cleave can have wild variation in the degree to which it heals you. Still, if you want to keep the unpredictability but use this to smooth things over when you need it, I say it's a keeper.

Druids:

Balance: New Moon/Half Moon/Full Moon:

While tied pretty strongly to the artifact itself (though not so much that it wouldn't make sense baseline,) the Moon Cycle spells are both super-cool (especially Full Moon) and also really help smooth out the rotation, allowing you to more or less only fire off empowered Solar Wraths and Lunar Strikes. I'd say keep it!

Hunters:

Beast Mastery: Titan's Thunder:

This is really strongly tied to the artifact, and while I personally love having my Dwarf Hunter wielding a titan-themed weapon, it's not terribly on-brand. We could stand to lose it.

Survival: Fury of the Eagle:

I'll confess I haven't played Survival for a while, but the way that this preserves Mongoose Bite stacks and lets you AoE-ize them is a pretty good piece for the kit. Of course, if Survival undergoes any major re-working (given that it's basically a new spec this expansion, I think it's worth doing) we might not really know how it would fit into a new rotation.

Mage:

Arcane: Mark of Aluneth:

While fine as a spell, it's not really all that necessary to the rotation. Giving Arcane some ranged AoE is not a bad idea, but it doesn't have to be this.

Fire: Phoenix Flames:

Getting more on-demand instant-cast crits is not a terrible thing for Fire to have. Is it strictly necessary? No, but I wouldn't mind seeing it stay.

Frost: Ebonbolt:

Giving us a guaranteed way to gain Brain Freeze is fun, though given that your Water Elemental and Frozen Orb can give you guaranteed Fingers of Frost, I don't think this is ultimately necessary. Still, fun to have something that hits hard (though we have Glacial Spike for that.)

Monk:

Brewmaster: Exploding Keg:

Cool factor is very high here. Honestly it works a bit like the old Dizzying Haze (I still remember in the Beta era when it was "Drunken Haze") I think Brewmasters need better ranged-pulling abilities (though I get that Keg Smash has a longer range than it used to,) not that that is what this is here for. Worth keeping, not devastating if we can't.

Paladin:

Retribution: Wake of Ashes:

In terms of cool factor, we're very high here. And having a way to quickly get up to 5 Holy Power is incredibly nice. Is it tied pretty directly to Ashbringer? Yes. Still, would not mind seeing it stick around. (I realize that the 5 Holy Power is actually from a separate passive, but the two elements of the ability are pretty strongly linked in my mind.)

Protection: Eye of Tyr:

As a short cooldown and little burst of AoE damage, it's nice to have. I don't think it's crucial to making the spec work, though.

Priest:

Shadow: Void Torrent:

Having a way to pause the loss of Insanity, especially at high stacks, is very nice to have. I think this would be a perfectly good baseline ability or talent.

Rogue:

Outlaw: Curse of the Dreadblades:

Obviously very artifact-linked, but given the RNG in getting an appropriate Roll the Bones result (incidentally, the 7.2 new passive that gives you a guaranteed two wins on your next Roll the Bones when you use Adrenaline Rush should absolutely become baseline) having a way to cycle through finishers quickly is really good. I love the change from Combat to Outlaw, and I'm totally on board so to speak with a ghost-pirate theme (my Rogues are Undead and Worgen, so spookiness is highly prized for both.)

Subtlety: Goremaw's Bite:

Again, very artifact-linked. I think that it's definitely not a bad idea to make it easier to get some combo points and energy regen, though that could be shuffled into other abilities like Symbols of Death and Shadow Dance.

Shaman:

Enhancement: Doom Winds:

Early on in the expansion, getting Maelstrom was a bit of a problem, and this helped with it. Still, it's not a terribly impactful ability and I'm not sure I'd miss it if it went.

Warlock:

Demonology: Thal'kiel's Consumption:

Obviously very strongly tied to the artifact. Man, I'm going to miss that skull when I move on to other weapons. It's nice to get a big burst of damage and incentivizes getting out as many demons at a time as you can, but I think the spec survives just fine without this.

Warrior:

Arms: Warbreaker:

While the shadowy appearance of this is very strongly tied to the artifact, the idea of applying Colossus Smash to multiple targets is a very obvious thing for Arms Warriors to be able to do. Keep it! (Maybe just changing the color of the spikes to a more earthy brown or grey.)

If you haven't seen your spec here, it's only because I haven't played it enough to really feel like I have something to say about it. Yes, I'm an altoholic (see the name of the blog) but even I have my limits.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shadows of Argus Drops Tuesday

This news is a day late - I was flying back to LA yesterday - but Blizzard has announced that patch 7.3, Shadows of Argus, will arrive on the 29th, which is this coming Tuesday.

Players will be able to travel to Argus and begin the quests there to take the fight to the Legion's homeworld.

As of yet, the major features include:

New quests and zones:

We'll be heading to Argus, which is a kind of mega-zone like Vashj'ir, with three distinct sections: Krokun, Mac'Aree, and the Antoran Wastes. My understanding is that these zones will unlock gradually, so we'll start in Krokun, and then go to Mac'aree, with the 5-player dungeon Seat of the Triumvirate, and then finally come to Anotran Wastes, which is where Legion's final raid, Antorus, the Burning Throne, is. These zones have world quests in them, which are unlocked once any character on the account has done the quests there.

Artifact Knowledge changes:

Everyone who logs on after the patch will be at AK level 41 (so one up from where fully-researched people are now.) Rather than having to spend resources on artifact knowledge, all players will automatically gain artifact knowledge over time. I don't know if this is based on when you logged in or, far more likely, just a global increase for all players over time. This should make filling out alternative artifacts very easy, as individual items will be granting absurdly high amounts of AP.

Netherlight Crucible:

Rather than giving us new artifact traits, we'll gain access to the Netherlight Crucible. Here, we can spend artifact power to buff relics. I haven't played much with this in the PTR, but I believe it's largely based on your artifact level, meaning that you won't be penalized for switching relics (I could be wrong.)

Invasion Rifts:

On Argus, we'll be able to find portals to other worlds they're trying to destroy, and we can go rescue those worlds. These will be relatively quick pick-up group content, with normal rifts working for five players while greater rifts will be for raids and contain 7.3's many "world" bosses (that drop 930 gear, equivalent to Normal mode Antorus.)

New Dungeon, Seat of the Triumvirate:

A new 5-player dungeon, Seat of the Triumvirate, will have us fighting through the ancient palace where Velen, Kil'jaeden, and Archimonde once ruled the pre-corrupted Eredar people. The dungeon will be heavy on Void beings, including a group of Ethereals who are dedicated to the Shadow.

New Raid, Antorus, The Burning Throne:

The final raid of Legion (barring some Ruby Sanctum-style instance,) Antorus will have the tier 21 sets and see us confronting the Legion at its heart. Some very big names are going to be in here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No Expansion Reveal at Gamescom: Must Be Coming at Blizzcon

Legion was unusual in that it was announced not at Blizzard's own convention, but at Gamescom, Germany's massive gaming convention that comes a bit earlier in the year.

One thing to remember, though, is that Blizzard needed to get info about Legion out there soon. Warlords of Draenor only had one major content patch (no, 6.1 does not count.) By this point two years ago, Warlords was basically finished with content updates. That meant that players were staring into a very long period without any new stuff to look forward to. Legion, on the other hand, has a huge patch still coming, and the staggered release of raids means that even if we're on Argus before October, we're probably still a ways out from taking the fight to Antorus, the Burning Throne.

However, at this year's Blizzcon we are almost certain to hear about the next expansion.

This time around, the playerbase is highly confident about the basic premise of the expansion: the argument that it will focus on the Old Gods (probably N'zoth, the only living one not seen in-game) is highly convincing. Since Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard has tried to tie the end of each expansion into the themes of the next. In Mists, the transition from Pandaria's Chinese-themed aesthetic to the grungy industrial feel of Garrosh's so-called True Horde along with the introduction of Kairozdormu at the Timeless Isle opened the path for the creation of the Iron Horde on the alternate Draenor. Warlords of Draenor ended with Gul'dan successfully corrupting the Iron Horde with Fel magic and demons, setting the stage for the current invasion by the Burning Legion.

There are a few elements that players have noticed in Legion that seem to strongly imply the imminent relevance of N'zoth:

Comments at the end of the Emerald Nightmare raid by the Shadow Priest dagger Xal'atath suggest that by slaying Xavius and thus ending the Nightmare, we've actually managed to wake N'zoth up.

Similarly, Ilgynoth, a boss within the Nightmare raid, says cryptic things, including, on death, that he "journeys to Ny'alotha" - Ny'alotha being the sunken horror-city N'zoth resides in (it's presumably the Warcraft equivalent of Rl'yeh.)

The Naga, who are allied with the Old Gods and probably specifically N'zoth (who seems to have been the most active one in Cataclysm,) have a strong presence in Legion, but it seems that their loyalties are not to Sargeras, even as they show up in the Tomb of Sargeras raid (they're only there for the Tidestone.)

We've learned recently that the purpose of the Burning Crusade was to "save" the universe from the Void, and that the Old Gods are the Void's method of corrupting the universe. Without the Legion, wouldn't the Old Gods be emboldened?

Jaina Proudmoore has gone missing, being neither in Stormwind nor Dalaran. Perhaps she has gone back to Kul Tiras, the naval kingdom who would probably be important in a fight against the amphibious Naga and the God of the Depths.

In Highmountain we are reminded of the Old Gods' (and probably mostly N'zoth's) corruption of the Black Dragonflight. It's never mentioned, but given that Dargrul lived right where Neltharion did when he became corrupted by the Old Gods, I wouldn't be shocked to find that they had a hand in turning the Drogbar so murderously aggressive.

This one's tenuous, but why is that Helya, a Val'kyr who rebelled against Odyn, developed tentacles? Was N'zoth involved in crafting Helheim?

Now we get into spoilers:

In 7.3, we discover that Ethereals devoted to the Void have arrived in Mac'aree and are spreading it through the city. This seems totally separate from the Legion. What we do get from this is that an uncorrupted ethereal known as Locus Walker has been teaching Alleria Windrunner how to use the void. Perhaps that means that we'll have a Windrunner sister who knows enough about the Void to help us take down an Old God. Or maybe she'll be corrupted and we'll have to fight her (I'm hoping for the former.)

Furthermore, in a datamining leak-ish thing, textures for armor and objects related to Kul Tiras were discovered in a recent PTR. The armor has a robe-motif, which seems appropriate for a sailing-based civilization. The objects show maps of an island we've never seen before, which could be Kul Tiras. The resurgent significance of Kul Tiras could also help explain why it moved during the Cataclysm: if it's deeply tied to N'zoth (perhaps even the location of Ny'alotha) it makes sense that the Old God would use the destruction wrought by Deathwing to reposition itself.

Anyway, all this speculation will have to keep boiling until Blizzcon in November. For now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves and enjoy the fact that we have a planet to go counter-invade, probably pretty soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Argus: Retcon or Fills in Big Plot Hole?

In 7.3, which is likely due to arrive in the next couple weeks, we're going to be traveling to the planet Argus. This was the home of the Eredar people 25,000 years ago. When the Dark Titan Sargeras had barely survived his war against the Pantheon, he came to the Eredar to make them the officers in his Burning Legion, bringing order to the inherent chaotic nature of demons. Those Eredar who refused to succumb to demonic corruption and transformation were forced to flee, led by one of the three Triumvirs who ruled the planet, Velen. These exiles took the name Draenei. And now, after twenty five millennia, the Draenei are finally going home.

But as important as the Draenei and the Eredar are to this post, they're not the focus. Kil'jaeden and Archimonde didn't just sacrifice their own... for lack of a better term, humanity (we'll say that refers to humanoids rather than humans.) Sargeras wanted the Eredar, sure, but he wanted something else there that we're only just finding out about now.

Spoilers to follow:


Monday, August 21, 2017

Kel'thuzad Coming to Heroes of the Storm

The next big event in Heroes of the Storm is called The Call of Kel'thuzad.

One of the things that's funny about the Lich King from the Warcraft universe is that he's not exactly a Lich. You could argue that because Ner'zhul's soul is bound to the armor that gave the original Lich King form (that Arthas wore. Bolvar's just wearing the crown) he was kind of pure phylactery to begin with, but the Scourge is host to a fair number of Liches, and Kel'thuzad was probably the first.

KT as I like to call him was the leader of the Cult of the Damned, initially a living necromancer who encountered the original Lich King and swore himself to his service. Kel'thuzad used his cultists to spread the plague of undeath around Lordaeron until he was confronted and slain by Arthas and Jaina. However, when Arthas was turned by the cursed runeblade Frostmourne, the ghost of Kel'thuzad approached him, calling on the Scourge's first Death Knight to take his remains (in the urn that had held Arthas' father's ashes) up to the Sunwell where they could use its energies to raise him as a Lich. That's right: the invasion of Quel'thalas, which killed 90% of the High Elves, was all just to raise this one Lich.

World of Warcraft players encountered Kel'thuzad twice in his floating necropolis of Naxxramas. After giving his captured phylactery to a secretly traitorous priest, he returned in Wrath of the Lich King along with the revamped raid. When we slew him there, he seemed permanently dead, though we never did get his phylactery, so there's a possibility that Kel'thuzad is still lurking in the shadows of Azeroth, waiting to make his next move.

In Heroes of the Storm, it looks like Kel'thuzad will be a control-heavy assassin.

Here are his abilities:

Q: Death and Decay: Launches an orb that explodes at a targeted location, dealing damage and then continuing to damage enemies in the area for the next 2 seconds.

W: Frost Nova: After one second, the targeted area explodes in a burst of ice, damaging and slowing targets within by 25%. Targets at the center will be frozen.

E: Chains of Kel'thuzad: Throws a chain that, if it hits a target, will deal damage to them. For 4 seconds afterward, Chains can be re-cast on other targets, and if multiple targets are chained, they will be pulled together and stunned for .5 seconds.

Trait: Master of the Cold Dark: Gain 1 Blight each time you root an enemy hero. At 15 Blight, the cooldown on all basic abilities is reduced by 2 seconds. At 30, gain 75% spellpower.

R1: Frozen Blast: Launches a blast of frost at the target, rooting and damaging them and anyone nearby.

R2: Shadow Fissure: Creates a fissure anywhere on the battlefield that erupts after 1.5 seconds, dealing damage to heroes standing within it.

Coming along with KT will be a number of Scourge or other similarly themed skins. Jaina gets a dreadlord skin (there's a common theory that Jaina is actually a Dreadlord in disguise or possessed that this seems to be winking at.) Sonya seems to get a Death Knight skin (actually looks like DK tier 8) and Zagara looks like she's getting a crypt lord appearance.

Interesting that both Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm are having Scourge-themed events.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Deaths of Chromie and A Real Time-Travel Expansion

Warlords of Draenor was a time-travel expansion. Except that it was not really a time-travel expansion.

Growing up, two of my favorite movies were Back to the Future and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. While I remember Back to the Future better (I probably watched it more,) I loved the idea of time-hopping the way that Bill and Ted did it.

In case you haven't seen the movie, it's about a pair of slacker Gen-X high school students (played by Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves) who are destined to be leaders of a utopian society in the future, but only if they pass their current history class, and so one of the representatives of this future society sends them a time machine to help them with their class project. (In case you couldn't tell from the title, this is a comedy.)

Anyway, time travel stories introduce the possibility of shenanigans of a complex sort. At two points in Bill and Ted, the pair run into themselves (it's the same meeting, actually, but seen from the perspective of the younger and older pairs.) And of course in Back to the Future, Marty creates a stable time loop by playing Johnny B. Goode in front of Chuck Barry's cousin, who holds out a phone for the originator of that song to hear it.

Right, so back to WoW.

Warlords of Draenor went far out of its way to avoid time-travel tropes. While we were going back to a Draenor that was 35 years in the past (wait, does that mean Thrall is only 35 at this point? If he was born right around the beginning of the First War?) the game made it clear that this was not the same Draenor, and that we were going to only one time-location. Essentially, other than having a lot of characters with familiar names, Warlords made it clear that Draenor and Outland may as well have been totally separate places.

But we've seen time-travel done in fun ways before. And in Legion, we got perhaps the most enjoyable instance of it in the Deaths of Chromie scenario.

In the scenario, after you defeat the four threats in the non-Bronze dragonshrines, you get portals that lead to other moments in Chromie's life - conveniently overlapping with existing content, of course, but still taking you into various parts of the past, from the recent like the Alliance/Horde conflict over Andorhal and Ragnaros' campaign to take over Hyjal, to more distant, the Culling of Stratholme, to far distant, the War of the Ancients.

The stakes here are, at least on the surface level, somewhat low. This is the life of Chromie that is at risk, not the world (though depending on what role she has to play, that could wind up being a big deal.) But it would not be hard to imagine a version of this that becomes an expansion-worthy concept.

In Legion, the zones of the Broken Isles were tied together by the idea that each held one of the Pillars of Creation, and so while each zone had its own independent plot (albeit some sort of Legion presence in each) they were unified in a way to make them work together toward the expansion's primary goal of stopping the Legion.

Imagine, then, a continent-sized area accessible through the Caverns of Time. The area would branch off into different places during different eras. A unifying villain, such as the Infinite Dragonflight, might have gone to each of these areas and disrupted history as it was meant to go, and before we can attack them at their source, we first have to rescue the timeline as it was meant to happen in each zone.

With a full expansion, Blizzard would have the resources to really do justice to certain historical settings. And unlike the Deaths of Chromie, they could do things we haven't seen before. Obviously, one could do something like the Second War, but you could also go less obvious places like exploring the past of the Tauren or the War of the Three Hammers. I'd also think it would be awesome to see something like a future Orgrimmar filled with modern-looking skyscrapers (you know, but with spikes.)

And of course, not everything has to conform to history as we know it because the whole point is that the timeline has been changed. Maybe there's a powerful Tauren Empire in Kalimdor that seems pretty good, but needs to be toppled for the sake of the timeline - introducing the moral complexity of preserving the "true" timeline.

And of course the fact that the Bronze Dragons eventually become the Infinite Dragons sets up some really interesting character moments. In fact, what if that "Infinite" corruption extends to other types of being. Perhaps we would encounter Infinite versions of ourselves and we need to find a way to prevent this corruption from occurring.

I think that after Warlords, Blizzard might be a bit gunshy about doing another expansion with time-travel as a major theme. And to be sure, the genre is a difficult one to write. But I also feel that, as a fan of time-travel stories, I felt seriously let down by Warlords of Draenor. The Deaths of Chromie is probably just an exercise in evergreen, repeatable content, but I think it could serve as a kind of proof of concept for a future expansion that would make me very excited.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Death Knights in Hearthstone: Control is King!

When Hearthstone was first released, one question I and I imagine a lot of others had was how classes that were added later to World of Warcraft: namely the Death Knight, Monk, and Demon Hunter (and potentially future classes in later expansions) would fit into the structure of the game.

Because the classes function much like the colors in Magic: The Gathering (though everyone is forced to play monocolored decks,) adding a new class would put them at an immediate disadvantage, as existing classes would have a whole library of cards to choose from while the hypothetical Death Knight would only have some starting in that expansion. Plus, it would mean accommodating a new class in all future expansions (and kind of committing to other classes in the future, which is an exponential problem.)

So the solution with Knights of the Frozen Throne is that we see Death Knight versions of each of the classic heroes. You can get a legendary card that replaces your hero, granting 5 armor off the bat along with some relatively powerful battlecry-like effect, and then changing your hero power into something more powerful that also fits with the theme of being a Death Knight.

There are also a number of Death Knight spells, though these are only generated by other cards, such as the Lich King (who actually seems to always die the turn after I play him - I cashed in a huge amount of dust to make a gold Lich King because Arthas is just so damn cool.)

Anyway, through luck and... er... dropping some cash on the pre-order... I've managed to get five of the nine Death Knight cards (you get one for free playing the "prologue" of the Adventure that comes with the expansion - they're doing things differently this time.

So far I have Thrall, Valeera, Gul'dan, Uther, and just today, Jaina.

Because many of these guys cost 9 or 10 mana, decks need to be built to last that long. I've found that healing and taunt minions are pretty useful here, and the new Lifesteal keyword (which already existed in non-keyword form) are very important tools to keep you around long enough to drop your DK.

(Oh, and yes, even if you start with an alternate hero, you get the DK version of the original. There's no DK Khadgar.)

Thrall's DK is built all around the Shaman "evolve" mechanic. He's pretty cheap for a DK at only 5 Mana, and when he comes onto the board he'll transform all existing minions into random ones that cost two more. His hero power then does the same thing to an individual minion, only raising it by one mana cost. I'd say building a deck with a bunch minion-generating spells and minions would be good for filling up your board, though it's tricky to keep a lot of minions alive in a control-heavy expansion.

Valeera is interesting. At 9 mana, the battlecry effect causes you to gain stealth next turn, which will give you a breather if you're low on health. The hero ability is then a passive that gives you a special card each turn that will take on the form of whatever you just played. Obviously this plays well into the Rogue's combo abilities, so card-draw and cheap cards are going to help a bunch here.

Gul'dan is the most expensive one I have, costing 10 mana and summoning every demon you controlled that died that game. The hero power becomes a targeted attack that deals 3 damage and has lifesteal, so if you've been spending a lot of health on Life Tap and demons that damage you, this will help you dig out of that hole. Obviously, it's also helpful to summon these guys directly and not have punitive battlecries hurt you again. I don't quite have the perfect strategy here (or anywhere, of course,) but I think you want to focus a bit on beefier demons in order to maximize the battlecry.

Uther has some interesting effects. It costs 9 mana and gives you a 5/3 weapon with Lifesteal, meaning that with the armor, you effectively get 20 more health, with 10 in the first turn. Your hero power gives you the ability to summon one of the Four Horsemen, which are 2/2. While having 2/2s on demand each turn is not terrible by itself, the thing that will keep your opponent scared is that if you get all four horsemen (the new ones, so if you haven't done the 7.0 DK campaign in Legion, uh... spoilers) you automatically win the game. Paladins have a lot of good control options, and stacking up taunt/lifesteal minions will help keep you in the game while also providing cover if you want to try to get all of the horsemen (though I've never had more than 2 up.)

Jaina actually plays into one of the big themes of the Un'goro expansion, which is elementals. At 9 mana, you summon a Water Elemental. But in addition to this guy, all your elementals - new and old, water and otherwise - now have Lifesteal. Your hero power still deals 1 damage to any target, but now, if you kill a minion with it, you summon a Water Elemental (which again, has Lifesteal.) Having so much Lifesteal makes the Mage suddenly feel far more resilient than it usually is, and so I highly recommend using lots of elementals from Un'goro - taking advantage of existing strategies that become that much more dangerous when you become far harder to kill.

I'm hoping that I'll eventually get Rexxar, Garrosh, Anduin, and Malfurion, but I burned a lot of dust on The Lich King, Uther of the Ebon Blade, and a couple other epics for my Paladin deck, so I'll have to work on it or keep my fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

First Two Attempts at Artifact Challenge

Well, I got impatient and attempted the Protection Paladin artifact challenge (after getting the last of the hidden appearance color schemes and Prestige 1 (though still 50 ranks away from the first of the PvP appearances, which... meh.)

First off, this is oddly hard to find on Google, so let me just say: You get one free challenge (for any spec) and then any subsequent attempts at an artifact challenge (even for other specs) costs 100 Nethershards. Not a horrible price, though if you keep wiping it'll add up.

I went in with an item level of 906 (equipped) and the four-piece tier 20 bonus. I used Prydaz (or whatever that legendary neck that gives you the shield is called) and Sephuz' Secret (on the recommendation of a guide.)

This challenge is tough. I was hoping that, given that it lacked the class-specific requirements of the Warlock green fire quest, it might be easier to kind of brute-force through it. That might still be the case, but I don't have the brute force to do it yet (the WoWhead guide recommended 915 as an item level.)

I think I'm probably going to wait until I have some Antorus gear (LFR at least, though presumably a couple pieces from World Bosses and such) before really trying again. I hope that the Mage Tower will be up with decent regularity in order to do this.

I honestly feel a little ticked at Blizzard for making so many of the artifact appearances hard to get. One of my fears with this system was that there would be little variety in appearance between players. Hidden Appearances can be relatively easy to get, but that depends heavily on the class (Beast Mastery literally just needs to purchase it, and some similarly just need to grind certain reputations, while some like Retribution Paladins, have to endure hours upon hours of extremely low droprates multiple times.)

I had also hoped that we'd get more appearances as the expansion went on, but the only "new" appearances, the challenge ones, were there in the Beta files.

The handling of artifact appearances (and mostly just the appearances, though I'm certainly not complaining about artifact knowledge becoming something automatically acquired over time in 7.3) has frustrated me a bit in an expansion that overall, I like a whole lot (it's hard to gauge if the expansion itself actually surpasses Wrath of the Lich King in my mind, as Legion has the benefit of several more years of WoW's evolution and my own personal experiences with Wrath were so good - having a guild that really raided a lot - something that we've been a bit better about this expansion, but my frequent absence this year has hampered that a little, as I'm the main tank.)

Anyway, when (when, dammit!) I beat the artifact challenge, I'll put more details about it in post form, but for now I've gotten the first major bad guy down to like 20% and haven't even faced Kruul yet.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Death of Kil'jaeden and The Endgame Begins

With Kil'jaeden available now on LFR, Blizzard has pulled the trigger and made the aftermath of the Tomb of Sargeras raid visible to everyone. Given that I've never been in a guild that downed raid end-bosses in a timely manner, I literally walked through Dalaran with my camera pointed down so that I wouldn't see the effect until I had finished the raid. It's not canon until I've done it! (For me, at least.)

Let's talk about the fight:

Kil'jaeden has a tank-swap mechanic, but it functions a little oddly. He gains a buff that causes his attacks to put a stacking debuff on the tank. It seemed to work fine to just let the other tank get up to five stacks, at which point the buff wears off but the tank is taking lots of extra damage. That's when you taunt. The trick, though, is that this debuff will hit anyone in front of the boss, so you'll want to get behind him when you're not tanking.

One of the real killers if not dealt with is Armageddon, where KJ will launch bursts of fire at the ground. This is something players will have to soak or the raid gets a long-lasting stack of raidwide damage. There are many little bursts that all need to be soaked (though on LFR there's no special tank one.)

There are transition phases where KJ flies to a corner of his ship and several raid members get debuffs. I believe the idea is to find the gaps between the circles of death they create, but this seemed like one of those abilities that was weakened enough in LFR to be more of a nuisance than a threat.

He'll also start creating rifts at the corners of his platform, which will try to suck you in but then eventually explode and knock you back - potentially off the ship. So you want to keep yourself right up next to the rift without getting sucked in.

The most interesting phase is when Kil'jaeden disappears and summons darkness that isolates you while shadow-entities teleport around the ship. At this point, you want to search until you can find Illidan, who lends everyone a spectral-sight-like ability, allowing you to find and kill the shadow creatures. This buff only lasts 20 seconds and does damage to you, but is needed to damage the monsters, so try to find Illidan quickly and then return to him to get the buff back when you need it.

Additionally, during the normal phases, certain players get big... for reasons that were not super clear to me as a tank. I think they either generate evil replicas of themselves or they need to be crowd-controlled, but I'll have to look more into that mechanic.

When Kil'jaeden is finally defeated, the cutscene pushes the story forward pretty dramatically.

Kil'jaeden bitterly tells your raid (plus Illidan, Khadgar, and Velen) that you're all going to crash and die on Argus, taking you with him. But Illidan still has his Sargerite Keystone and uses it to tear open a massive portal to Azeroth. Khadgar begins casting a mass teleportation spell while Velen goes to hear Kil'jaeden's last confession - that he had always envied Velen, and that he never believed Sargeras could be stopped, but that perhaps Velen would prove him wrong. Velen touches Kil'jaeden's forehead - perhaps even a gesture of forgiveness, or at the least an acknowledgement of their onetime friendship - and Kil'jaeden closes his eyes as the fel magic within him detonates, blowing up him and his ship as we teleport away.

But that's not the end. Velen and Khadgar look on in horror at the sky above Azsuna: Illidan did not just bring them home to Azeroth. He brought the entire planet of Argus with him. Argus now hangs in the sky above Azeroth, the home bases of both sides of this war now within striking distance of one another. Illidan is not willing to let this war end in a simple stalemate, like all previous conflicts with the Legion have done. Sometimes the hand of fate must be forced.

And now, all players, no matter where they are in Azeroth (I've checked Stormwind and Pandaria) will see Argus floating in the sky to the Southwest. Dalaran (the Legion version) now has Exodar representatives ministering to the panicked public while "Validated Doomsayers" hand out pamphlets about how they were right all this time.

The stage is set for 7.3. This war is coming to a head, whether we are prepared or not.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Who Wants Chromie Dead?

The Deaths of Chromie scenario is a repeatable activity that is meant to be "evergreen" content - it scales you to a particular level and item level (112, 1000, respectively) in which you contact Chromie - everyone's favorite Bronze Dragon who typically takes the form of a female gnome - and find out that someone is trying to kill her. Or rather, a whole bunch of people are trying to kill her. At the wrong time.

See, Bronze Dragons have a weird relationship with mortality. At least until the Hour of Twilight was averted, they had the ability to see through time as a kind of solid object - past, present, and future all existing simultaneously within the timeways. Nozdormu was given a vision of his own death when he first received his power (though the initial story - that it was given directly to him by Aman'thul - doesn't really check out anymore.) Chromie states plainly that she knows how she is supposed to die and when, and that this attack is coming too soon.

So who are the culprits? Well, much of the scenario takes place in the near future - presumably a year or two from now after the Legion is defeated and we hit level 112. Chromie, hanging out at Wyrmrest Temple (which must have been repaired after Deathwing's attack) is simultaneously struck by lethal bolts of magic from the Azure, Emerald, Obsidian, and Ruby dragonshrines - interestingly not the Bronze one.

There is a Satyr at the Emerald Shrine, a Void Lord at the Azure shrine, a Lich at the Ruby Shrine, and a Dreadlord at the Obsidian shrine. Generally, these aren't the types you typically see working together. Satyrs are demons, like Dreadlords, of course, but are more affiliated with the Nightmare - which we thought we had ended after killing Xavius. Void Lords also link to Satyrs through the Nightmare, but first they have to go through the Old Gods - they're a step removed from being directly tied to the Nightmare. On the other hand, if this takes place after we defeat the Legion, it might be that the Nathrezim, for the first time in thousands of years, are free agents once again, and might have taken up their old affiliation with the Old Gods and the Void. Meanwhile, the Lich looks very Scourge-like, especially as he has a death knight, a banshee, and an abomination as minions. But we don't really know what the Scourge is going to look like in the future (so far, the Death Knight quests in Legion have hinted that Bolvar is only somewhat better than Arthas, now that he's Lich King.)

But even halting those attacks reveals that there are another four planned in other time periods. Alliance and Horde forces are both seeking to kill Chromie in Andorhal. Demons are coming after her at the Well of Eternity during the War of the Ancients. The pre-Arthas Scourge is attempting to kill her in Stratholme during the culling. And fire elementals are attempting to kill her on Mount Hyjal shortly after the Cataclysm.

This is an absurdly well-coordinated, cross-temporal attack that utilizes agents who would be highly unlikely to work together without someone pulling the strings.

So who the hell is doing so, and why?

There is a note that we find in one of the Time-Lost Keepsake Boxes - these hold items that can allow you to quickly prevent the non-Dragonblight assassination attempts. The language sounds unhinged, but is most likely written by the person who has gone to all this trouble to have Chromie killed.

Whoever is in charge of this assassination attempt has some clear characteristics: First, this is a master Chronomancer. This is an operation that goes across five different time periods, and any one attempt would leave Chromie dead. That, of course, means having access to the magic needed to coordinate such an effort, which your average mage does not possess.

Not only that, but the killer is able to block Chromie's own power to arrive with more than fifteen minutes to prevent the attack. I imagine that blocking a Bronze Dragon from time-traveling means you have to be a real expert in the field.

We also know that they must really, really want Chromie dead. And there must be a solid reason for that. Chromie has pissed off plenty of bad guys by helping good guys, but given how distinct the various threats against her are, I am inclined to think that none of the represented forces are actually the one behind it.

So who is?

Given all of this, it seems like the most obvious culprit would be the Infinite Dragonflight. They never show their faces in the scenario, but given that they are corrupted Bronzes who have all the same powers, but want to shatter the timeways rather than maintain them, it would make sense that they have the means and the motive. And as a time traveler, you always have opportunity.

Going a step farther into weird territory: how does a Bronze dragon become an Infinite dragon? We see this process only once, in the Culling of Stratholme dungeon, where we see a Bronze dragonspawn (not technically a dragon) getting turned by Infinites into one of their own. But I had this bizarre theory: what if the way one becomes Infinite is by killing your own past self. You thus become a walking paradox, and perhaps in the Warcraft universe, this results not in a universe-shattering paradox, but in you having that kind of photo-negative look the Infinite dragons have and probably going apocalyptically insane. In which case, could this be Chromie herself behind the attack?

Alternatively, what if it's the Bronzes? Chromie has always been a good guy, but we know that all the Infinite Dragons were once benevolent Bronzes. Is Chromie safe from this doom, or is she destined to become one of the most dangerous Infinite Dragons in the new flight. Remember, while we've seen the Infinite flight, as far as we know, it hasn't actually formed yet at our point in history. Kairoz seemed likely to be the first, but Garrosh killed him before he did anything like transforming into an Infinite Dragon. What if that role is now Chromie's, and it's the Bronze dragons - perhaps even Chromie herself, though this time in a more noble and self-sacrificing way - who want her dead.

Which brings us to the weirdest possibility:

What if it's us?

We're not Bronze dragons, or any dragons, but we've become nearly unparalleled heroes of legend, and have enough experience (and potentially will have had enough experience) that we might be able to coordinate these strikes. After all, Chromie was in all of those places, but so were we.

What are our motivations? Well, perhaps we go evil, or perhaps we are trying to prevent a greater evil. Given the power our characters have achieved at this point, it doesn't seem that hard to imagine that we're capable of pulling something like this off.

I've always wanted to have a time-travel expansion - one very, very different from Warlords of Draenor, which took all the fun stuff out of a time-travel plot. In fact, if we could get an expansion that worked like this scenario, but with new locations and periods that we hadn't seen before, I'd be a very happy player.

I don't know how much to read into the lore of the scenario - for all I know, it's really just an excuse for Blizzard to try a different kind of mini-game for WoW.

But the details sprinkled in there are tantalizing. I know that there's basically a 99% chance that the next expansion is going to be a nautical one with Naga and N'zoth probably central. But if the Deaths of Chromie is a sign of things to come and not just a one-off with an anticlimactic ending, I'm very excited.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

So What is Going on With Jaina?

With yesterday's reveal of the "key art" for World of Warcraft being a picture of Jaina Proudmoore, the speculation engine (I suppose that's a similar device to the rumor mill?) has been kicked up into a new gear. I think there are a ton of implications for what this means and enough logical links that we could very well be looking at a N'zoth-based expansion even though Jaina has never been strongly linked to Old Gods or anything like that.

The question for now is what is going on with Jaina Proudmoore.

I'll say off the bat that I think the theories that Jaina is somehow "evil" now because of her distrust of the Horde are way off-base. Compared with other major figures in the Alliance/Horde conflict, Jaina's antipathy toward the Horde is probably better justified than anyone's. Jaina put herself out there, extending the hand of friendship to the Horde and even sacrificed her own father (who was much more of a Genn Greymane type when it came to the Horde) in order to secure a lasting peace. The destruction of Theramore may have looked to some like a logical military operation for the Horde to pursue, but given Jaina's efforts toward peace, Theramore certainly deserved better than that.

Given her experiences, there's no reason for her to trust the Horde again. She had already had the ideal situation, with a close friendship with Thrall and real assurances that there would be no serious conflict. Yet Thrall put Garrosh in charge, and all that went out the window. Vol'jin as Warchief could have been a chance for a real lasting peace, as he was more of the Thrall school of Warchiefdom, but with Sylvanas in charge now, those hopes are dashed.

So even though we players obviously know that Horde players are just other people at their computers, and we can see many heroic and sympathetic people among the Horde, Jaina would be a fool to ever turn her back on team red again.

But we have never gotten any indication that Jaina is truly malicious. She has never threatened to attack the Alliance over their willingness to work with the Horde. She has just said "I'm never doing this again, so have fun being betrayed by them. I'm going to go do my own thing." Garrosh, by contrast, began to treat his own people as enemies if they weren't blindly, suicidally loyal to his whims.

As Khadgar's agenda came to dominate in Dalaran (through a narrow vote, if you recall,) Jaina left the city and went to Stormwind. But when Anduin decided that fighting the Legion was more important than taking revenge on the Horde (who had abandoned, not attacked the Alliance - there's an important distinction there) she left.

With the Alliance and Dalaran as her two main hubs of activity, the only other logical place for her to go was Kul Tiras.

So let's talk Kul Tiras.

Kul Tiras was one of the original seven human kingdoms, based on an island that at least used to be near Tol Barad and Gilneas. It had the most powerful navy of the human kingdoms, and provided the main naval force in the fight against the Horde in the Second War.

The Proudmoore family is royalty in Kul Tiras, with the monarch taking the title of Grand Admiral. Jaina's father Daelin was Grand Admiral during the Second War, and her pursued Thrall's Horde to Kalimdor, but was slain by Rexxar at Theramore in the early days of Durotar's founding. Jaina had an older brother, Derek, but he was slain in the Second War. There is an apocryphal other brother named Tandred, who was in the RPG sourcebooks, but is not strictly canon.

If Jaina is the only surviving Proudmoore (no word on her mother. Hey Blizzard, how about letting some characters have moms?) that would mean she would have a claim to the kingdom. However, there's nothing to indicate that she's even been back there since the Third War, so that leaves a big question as to who has actually been running the place in her absence.

With the addition of Tol Barad in Cataclysm, a lot of people asked about where Kul Tiras was, and Blizzard kind of avoided the question by suggesting that the island had been moved by "something about tectonic shifts." If the island were canonically moved a significant distance, one would assume that it had also suffered an environmental catastrophe. Thus, the place could still be in crisis mode recovering from a shattering earthquake like nothing ever seen since the Sundering.

It's also possible that, like the rest of the world is implied to be doing, they've been fending off demons of the Burning Legion. I suspect that this would be downplayed in a future expansion, as they probably want to give us a break from demons after this expansion. Jaina might have gone back there for the rather understandable reason that she wants to save her homeland from demonic destruction.

Given all the hints at Old Gods being a major threat in the next expansion, there's a worry I have that Jaina might find herself manipulated or corrupted by someone like N'zoth. I personally hope she doesn't become a villain, but it would not be unprecedented in WoW. That said, I suspect that she is more likely to play the Tirion/Thrall/Khadgar role in the upcoming expansion, as the hero we kind of rally around as we deal with whatever threat is coming (my money is on Azshara, N'Zoth, or a combination thereof.)

But that scenario would require her to warm up a little at least to Horde players, and that means we're going to have to see some character development.

Blizzcon is still a few months away, starting on November 3rd. Gamescom, where they announced Legion in 2015, however, will be this month, going from August 22nd to the 26th. We'll be sure to get more details at least at Blizzcon, but possibly earlier at Gamescom.

Friday, August 4, 2017

WoW's "Key Art" at Blizzcon '17 is Jaina Proudmoore

Well, here's more evidence for Kul Tiras as a major setting for expansion seven. According to WoWHead, the key art for World of Warcraft (the sort of "banner" that goes with each of Blizzard's major franchises) will be a picture of Jaina Proudmoore.


Jaina, while usually associated with Dalaran and the city of Theramore that she founded, is actually royalty from the island nation of Kul Tiras. Given her absence in Legion, where she left both Stormwind and Dalaran behind, it seems like the only logical place for her to go would have been Kul Tiras.

Thus, if she's playing a big role in the next expansion, we can be pretty confident (as if we weren't after the texture leak) that we're heading to Kul Tiras.

Beyond that, though, nothing is confirmed. But one can infer a lot. Jaina is of course one of the most powerful mages on Azeroth, and her homeland is a naval power, which would both link the expansion to fighting the Naga, as they are an aquatic threat and Azshara is the most powerful mage on Azeroth.

Nothing's confirmed, but the evidence continues to rack up.

Argus and the Patch-xpansion

Let's get some speculation out of the way: The next expansion seems strongly implied to be some combination of N'zoth and Azshara as main threats. N'zoth is likely the more powerful of the two, but Azshara has the potential to be a more interesting villain, given that we already have a sense of her personality.

Personally, I think what I would prefer is to have an Azshara-centric expansion based on a tropical island-hopping adventure that has us see Kul Tiras, Kezan (in full,) Zandalar, and other important "island" locations we haven't seen yet. Then, at some later point (not immediately after) I'd like to have a sort of "Underdark" expansion in which we delve into the depths of the earth, encountering weird cultures with Nerubians and maybe even a group of N'raqi (aka Faceless Ones) who have something of an actual civilization (albeit an evil one) as well as tons of buried titan facilities that would allow us to discover new lore about the evolution of the Titanforged races on Azeroth, and then leading to a confrontation in the end with a final boss as an Old God, presumably N'zoth (as it's the only living one we haven't fought yet.)

But while these could work fine as separate expansions, I suspect that Blizzard will lean toward making them one.

The main reason I suspect this is that Legion has been several expansions in one. For years we speculated that there could be an Emerald Dream expansion, but this plot was resolved in the first raid of Legion (I love the aesthetic they came up with for the Nightmare and am sad that we'll probably not see much more of it.) The Tomb of Sargeras and "Deathwing's Lair" were also locations we had speculated about for a South Seas expansion. I had even imagined prior to Warlords of Draenor that we could have an expansion with a resurrected Gul'dan as the main villain with the ultimate raid being the Tomb of Sargeras. Not quite in that order, but not far off the mark.

And then there's Argus. An Argus expansion had always seemed like the place to go to finally defeat the Burning Legion, and now that's basically what we're going to do. The thing is that it won't be its own expansion, but rather the final patch of an existing one.

The interesting thing about Argus, though, is that it's almost like a mini-expansion. We're getting three zones with a decent number of quests each - not quite a full zone's worth of quests by Legion's standards, but there's definitely a sense of progression through the world, and while Krokun (the first area) and Antoran Wastes (the one with the raid) are maybe pretty similar, the middle zone Mac'aree feels totally different (and gives you the best sense of pre-Sargeras Eredar civilzation.)

As someone who loves the Draenei (and plays two Draenei characters a lot) I might have wanted more time to explore Argus and for Blizzard to take more of an opportunity to build up that lore. But they decided that, given how thoroughly corrupted the world was, a whole expansion would get monotonous (a similar argument was made for an Emerald Dream expansion.) I suppose I can understand that argument, though I think you can be creative and come up with different flavors of corruption.

But the fact is that Legion will be both the Emerald Nightmare expansion and the Argus expansion.

There are benefits to this approach: one of Warlords' biggest problems was the idea of stakes - the Iron Horde was a physical, military threat that was a menace, sure, but it was never really clear (and didn't make logical story sense) that they were actually more powerful than either the Alliance or the main Horde, much less the two working together. Now, by the time Gul'dan had corrupted the Iron Horde, we were dealing with the Burning Legion, so it felt like a bigger deal. But in Legion, we've had real headliner villains to deal with in every raid. Xavius, Gul'dan, and Kil'jaeden are all serious bad guys. And Helya, while a new character, managed to make a pretty good impression in the short amount of time she had. Blizzard has managed to craft a story where it doesn't seem like a waste of time to be fighting what we're fighting in this expansion, and even if Xavius and the Nightmare aren't directly linked to the Legion (though that Doomguard is aiding the Nightmare's assault on the Temple of the Moon, so I don't totally understand) one gets the sense that this is another world-imperiling threat that really needs to be taken care of ASAP.

That being said, I do think we will need to have lower-stakes expansions in the future. Partially that's just because short of a Void Titan, there's not really much higher stakes you can get than a full-fledged invasion of the Burning Legion. But with all the ideas they've burned through in Legion, it also means they're going to have to get really creative in WoW expansions to come.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Does the Frost Death Knight Need More Death?

Those who played Death Knights during Wrath of the Lich King might remember a lot of spells that used to be available to every DK that really emphasized the necromantic nature of the class. Some were talents, like Corpse Explosion (which was accessible to all three specs as it was only one tier two or so of the Unholy tree) or Raise Dead, which was a cooldown available to all specs but would yield a permanent ghoul for Unholy.

In Warlords, Raise Dead, arguably the most obvious necromancy spell for a Death Knight to use, was made Unholy-only.

Unholy really emphasizes the notion of the Death Knight as a platform for necromantic power, summoning all manner of undead minions or empowering your existing ones.

Blood's interaction with the death-flavor of the class is less about raising the dead and more about consuming life force from your opponents, with a strong vampiric motif (one gets the impression that, if WoW had more graphic violence, Blood Death Knights would look like a character out of Bloodborne after a battle - totally drenched in blood.)

Frost lacks a lot of this flavor, though. If you were to imagine a Battlemage character - a heavily armored wizard-like character who fought with a mix of physical melee attacks and spells - you could use just about every Frost DK ability without changing it. Obliterate? Simple melee strike that would be just as appropriate a name for a Warrior ability. Frost Strike? Very little flavor to that. Howling Blast? Ok, the Howling does give it a bit of a spooky vibe, but the idea of weaponizing cold wind does not seem that far out of the wheelhouse of Frost Mages or Windwalker Monks. Remorseless Winter? Ditto (well, less for WW Monks, but certainly works for Frost Mages.)

Only two elements in the Frost rotation really feel truly Death Knight-flavored: Frost Fever, applied by Howling Blast, and the artifact trait Sindragosa's Fury (oddly listed as simply "Frost Breath" in damage logs.)

Now, even though I think they could have easily just gone with "Frostwyrm's Fury" or something - it doesn't have to be Sindragosa every time - I think this ability does a great job of melding the Frost DK's focuses on necromancy and elemental coldness.

But I think the former of those focuses really gets short shrift. So where do we go?

Well, let's think about the undead. Undead come in many varieties. Zombies are probably one of the most ubiquitous types in genre fiction, but the idea of rotting, shuffling corpses is very well handled by Unholy. Another type is skeletons - essentially fleshless zombies. Frankly, I've always been more into the idea of skeletal armies as my undead threat of choice ever since seeing the old Jason and the Argonauts as a kid (look that up if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Now, Blood clearly gets a lot out of another popular form of undead, namely the vampire, but they also have something of a skeletal sub-theme as well, with Bone Armor granted by Marrowrend a pretty huge part of the rotation, as well as the talent Bone Storm (or should I say BBOOOOONNNNNNEEEEEESSSSSTTTTTOOOOOORRRRRRMMMMM!)

I think Blood uses it little enough to maybe let Frost borrow some of the skeleton theme, but there's another obvious form of undead: ghosts.

Frost is obviously about the cold of death, the chill of the grave. And ghosts are often associated with the cold.

So I could easily imagine Frost taking on a more ghostly theme. I don't know exactly how this could be implemented - perhaps future talents could replace existing abilities. Changing Howling Blast so that you send out a wave of screaming ghosts? Maybe Remorseless Winter changes into something that haunts nearby enemies with some sort of effect in addition to Frost Fever?

I also think someone ought to be able to become a Lich.

Now, Unholy might feel they ought to be the ones turning into Liches, but our one example of a friendly Lich, Amal'thazad, is not only the Frost instructor but also a Frost champion. I've often found Pillar of Frost to be a somewhat underwhelming (flavor-wise, and kind of mechanic-wise, though I do really like the immunity to knockbacks) ability. What if that were replaced (either baseline or as a talent) with the ability to become a Lich? You could either get new abilities or have certain ones enhanced, a bit like Metamorphosis for Demon Hunters or Ascendence for Shamans.

Without access to Death and Decay or Raise Dead, Frost Death Knights really are missing something from their flavor toolkit, but I think it wouldn't take too much to up the spooky quality to the spec.

Also, when we move on to the next expansion I really really hope that we get to use two-handed weapons again. I'm still pissed I didn't get to reforge Frostmourne in its original form.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Fate of the Titans

Back in 2014 I speculated that the reason we had not heard from the Titans on Azeroth (save for the bad one) was that they might actually all be dead. As it turned out, when Chronicle was released and later when Legion came out, I turned out to be right. The first act the newly-formed Burning Legion committed was deicide. What was left of the Titans was, according to Chronicle, sent to the Keepers - the highest-ranking Titanforged - but most of them were unable to understand what this influx of power meant.

In 7.3, this story becomes more complicated. Let's save it for a spoiler-break.


Monday, July 31, 2017

The Continuing Hunt for Hidden Artifact Appearances

Artifact appearances are not that easy to unlock. The initial ones and then the "heroic" versions you get for finishing your class campaign are obtainable by practically anyone, but unlocking others requires either some dedicated non-LFR raiding, extensive PvP, or completing very difficult artifact challenges (to be fair, I haven't actually attempted any of the challenges yet, as I'm told that the one I most want, the Protection Paladin one, which is also for my main character, has a recommended item level of 915, which I'm 9 points short of.)

However, each artifact has a hidden appearance, and this can sometimes be the easiest to acquire. That being said, it's also sometimes infuriatingly difficult.

One of the major reasons for this is that almost every hidden appearance involves getting an item or items with an extremely low droprate.

Only two that I know of can be acquired with no real preparation or really luck. Beast Mastery Hunters simply buy it from a vendor, while Havoc Demon Hunters must fight a somewhat challenging enemy over Felsoul Hold in Suramar. Technically, Demon Hunters are supposed to acquire an item that has a low droprate within the Hold to give to an NPC who will fling you up to the flying enemy, but you can actually jump down from Obsidian Overlook in Highmountain and glide into the felbat's pocket of air.

A number require reputation, or a reputation in conjunction with a drop.

And some are either just a rare drop or an entire quasi-quest series that are all about rare drops.

The Corrupted Ashbringer look is the one I've done that was the most infuriating, requiring a number of rare drops (some but not all of which could be acquired on the Auction House) and then waiting for an extremely rare enemy to pop up in Western Plaguelands, and then having to fish potentially a thousand times out of the Throndoril River between WPL and EPL.

At the moment, I have the following hidden appearances acquired. Note that if you unlock alternate colors for one hidden appearance you actually get them for your other specs as well, meaning that only the "base" color truly requires you to get that hidden appearance item. I'm only listing the ones for which I have the base color.

Paladin: Protection, Retribution
Death Knight: Blood, Frost, Unholy
Warrior: Arms
Hunter: Beast Mastery
Shaman: Enhancement
Demon Hunter: Havoc
Rogue: Subtlety (just got this the other day.)
Druid: Restoration (likewise)
Monk: Brewmaster
Mage: Frost

As of yet, I don't have any for Priests or Warlocks, though for Warlocks I'm 2/6 skulls found for the Demonology appearance and I have the initial quest item for the Affliction item (obtained while farming Eredar skulls.)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Archdruid "Mount" and Reflections on the Broken Shore

All right! That's all of them.

Druids don't get a mount, exactly, but instead get an altered Flight Form, which is a sort of horned owl. If you like the old form better (and I might, to be honest) you can talk to an NPC near the Shrine of Aviana in the Dreamgrove to swap back. It appears that the color scheme of this is based on race, not class, as my Night Elf shifted from Balance to Feral and had the same color. I also imagine that it won't apply to low-level alts as it's not really a mount in your collection like the other ones are.

The quest chain involves attempting to defend her Shrine on Mount Hyjal and then going to Azsuna with Thisalee Crow in order to recover the idol a Dreadlord steals.

Like the 7.0 class campaigns, the mount quests are a bit of a mixed bag. Some, like the Death Knight one, feel totally in-tune with the class identity and are really a lot of fun, while others feel a bit generic (the Priest quests for example could have been for any class.) They also vary widely in difficulty. The Shaman one is extremely quick and easy whereas the Rogue one is genuinely difficult in a way that will never get easier, as it'll always require you to (eventually) have to sneak into the enemy faction's most popular auction house.

Some classes have mounts that change based on your spec, while other classes get a baseline mount and then alternate color schemes that can be purchased with order resources only once you unlock Concordance of the Legionfall on the spec's artifact (so far I've unlocked the Protection and Retribution Paladin mounts and the Subtlety Rogue one.) And some classes simply get one mount that always looks the same and that's it.

Of course, getting all these mounts means I also had to do the Legionfall campaign twelve times. I have to say that compared with the Suramar quests or what I've seen of what we're getting in 7.3, the Legionfall "campaign" really feels a lot more like the kind of guided-tour quests that we got on the Timeless Isle - not really any plot, but rather a series of quests to introduce you to the features of a zone with several different weird little systems going on.

I'm hesitant to say that the Broken Shore lacked plot - after all, the expansion's introduction took place there, and that was maybe the most exciting way they've ever launched an expansion. Alliance players also get a nice character moment through quests surrounding Anduin and his grief over his father (made more poignant to me due to my going through a similar situation.)

Still, the Broken Shore felt light on revelations, and the campaign felt a little more chore-like than a grand adventure to quest through. Also, they really should have had us kill the rare elites before having us do the Sentinax quest, as those guys consistently drop beacons.

I haven't even attempted any of the artifact challenges yet (I'm sort of waiting to overgear them) but I hope that after people head to Argus that the building rotation doesn't slow too much.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

What to Keep From Legion

"Best" expansions are obviously a matter of opinion. There are some people I'm sure who absolutely adored Warlords of Draenor. But the general consensus in the past has been that Wrath of the Lich King, or for some people, Burning Crusade, was WoW's best expansion. I lean more toward Wrath, given its introduction of the Death Knight, the iconic Scourge antagonist (not to mention the glory that was Ulduar) and the general way in which raiding was accessible to casual guilds so that normal players could really experience endgame content.

Legion is the first expansion since Wrath that rivals it, and could take its place.

Legion brought a ton of cool new features with it, and has generally been pretty exciting for long-term players, introducing a ton of elements that we've been waiting to see for a long time. I think (normal +) raiding is more accessible that it has been since Wrath, and generally there's just a lot of stuff to do.

Obviously not all features that came with Legion can come with us. And some, like Demon Hunters as a playable class, are a feature that will obviously continue to be a part of the game for the rest of its lifespan.

But let's take the less obvious stuff that I'd like to see in future expansions.

Level Scaling:

Now, first, a caveat: one of the downsides of level scaling is that leveling zones don't have a real story flow. In Draenor, Alliance players at least got to see Y'rel go from a prisoner forced to work in mines for the Shadowmoon clan to rising as the Draenei's greatest hero and eventually becoming an Exarch. When zones can be done in any order, there's not really room for continuity between them.

That beings said: having the entire Broken Isles available for top-level content has really made open-world questing at the level cap a far more interesting and diverse experience. I think that if Blizzard wanted to have each new "continent" scale up to its expansion's level cap, I'd be fine with it.

On the other hand:

Top-Level Quest Zones:

Historically, when a zone was meant for players of at the level cap, it tended to have very little in the way of story. Now, Broken Shore kind of falls into that pattern. But Suramar and what I've seen on the PTR for the three Argus zones is much more what I've been wanting ever since they started talking about Vale of Eternal Blossoms when Mists was announced.

The joy of questing is about playing through an interesting story, and Suramar's Dusk Lily resistance was a fantastic story. Having a questing zone where you can make use of your raid gear to show off just how much of a badass you've become is a lot of fun, and something I hope they do more of this kind of thing.

Class Order Content:

I'm a little worried to see that there's nothing as of yet in the 7.3 PTR about class-specific content. While designing 12 different experiences can sometimes dilute the creative resources (and certainly some class campaigns were a lot more interesting than others) I think that keeping class orders and their order halls relevant would be a really fantastic thing for the game.

So often one can feel a little out of place - my Undead Rogue sometimes feels strange in the spikes and animal hides of the Horde's typically Orcish environments, but the Hall of Shadows is much more his kind of place (especially the treasure room.) Order halls are a great way to remind you of your class identity and feel at home, and quests surrounding those orders is a great way to reinforce the idea of your class.

Mainhand/Offhand coming as one:

This is really a consequence of the artifact system, but not having to worry about getting a sword to go with my shield is a real relief. I could imagine future weapons coming in sets. This one's minor.

Many Artifact Traits:

I know artifacts are a Legion-only feature, but a lot of the traits introduced with them would be great additions to the baseline specs or as talents.

World Quests:

World quests are a really far superior version of Daily Quests. Not having to pick them up at a hub and only having to do four of a larger number to get your "big reward" of the day makes it feel a lot less like a chore. Plus, having voice-acted introductions instead of quest text is a good way to get you into the questing quickly.

Legion has brought a bunch of cool new features, and while some are destined to wind up left behind on the Broken Isles, I think that many have earned their places in future WoW content to come.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Battlelord, Huntmaster, Grandmaster, and High Priest Mount Quests

Oh right, I was doing a quick rundown of these quests.

With only the Druid to go (waiting on world quests now) I have, over the past few weeks, gotten the mounts for Warriors, Hunters, Monks, and Priests. Let's take a look!

Battlelord:

This is one of the simpler ones, though like the Mage, it involves a couple of somewhat tricky combat encounters. You need to make ample use of mobility and survival abilities (and interrupts!) to make it through yet another trial that Odyn is putting you through (seriously Odyn, you're like an emotionally distant father for whom nothing is ever good enough.)

The mount itself is a much more up-to-date Proto-drake model that changes colors based on your spec. Arms gets red, Fury black, and Protection purple (not sure why they chose those. I'd think Red was the obvious fury color, and given that Arms has a partially Old-God-corrupted sword and Protection has a shield made from a scale of Deathwings, it seems really obvious that they should get purple and black, respectively. But oh well.)

Huntmaster:

This actually involves Odyn as well, and sends you to the Fields of the Eternal Hunt, where you track down various beasts of legend (using your Beast hunter tracking you can easily find tracks or leavings of various kinds.) Ultimately in culminates in the discovery of the ancient Wolfhawk spirit, and you get a mount of that kind.

The Wolfhawk mount comes in various colors that, like the Paladin mounts, require you to fill out the upgraded artifact tree to get. However, Beastmasters don't get a recolor but instead get the ability to tame a wolfhawk pet (I'm not sure yet where to find these guys, but I'm a ways from finishing the artifact.)

Grandmaster:

Monks get a relatively lengthy quest chain taking you through a fair amount of Kun Lai Summit at the behest of Master Bu as you attempt to track down Ban-Lu, a son of Xuen's who has served many Grandmasters through the past.

Ban-Lu does not change appearance and there are not variants on that appearance, but the baseline's very pretty. Additionally, Ban-Lu will speak with you occasionally as you ride him, which is kind of fun.

High Priest:

Brann and Magni contact you when you start the mount quest, taking you to a long-lost Titan vault that contains the last three remnants of the Seekers, a kind of Owl/Gryphon hybrid that apparently once served the Titans. As often happens, you presence activates some sort of defense protocol, and so you have to fight off waves of Titanforged (Watchers, Golems, and Earthen) before you take the Seekers into your custody.

There's one seeker for each spec, with the "void-corrupted" one going to Shadow Priests. Like the Warrior, Death Knight, Shaman, and Mage mounts, this changes automatically based on spec.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Unexpected on Argus

Much of the experience of coming to Argus is what you'd expect: this planet has served as the capital world of the Burning Legion for 25,000 years. That means a lot of it is fel-blasted and swarming with demons. Many of those demons are the eredar - it's their homeworld, after all. And given that the Legion's creator/leader/god is a Titan, there is actually a slow-build to a reveal of Titan influence. I don't yet know how much the Titans' stuff (like what we saw in Northrend) is visible on Argus, but even though he's evil, Sargeras is undeniably a Titan, and thus brings with him the crazy magi-tek trappings.

But there are other elements at play that I think bear talking about. Are these hints of what is to come? Potentially. The Warcraft cosmos will need to move onto other subjects with the Legion taken care of, and I think we're seeing some of that now.

Spoilers to follow.


Monday, July 24, 2017

The Potential Horror of a N'Zoth Expansion

We're in the middle of Legion - the second raid tier is open, with half the LFR wings available, and a third coming on Tuesday. This is the biggest expansion in terms of lore and stakes that we've had (though the stakes are generally pretty high.) Given that the expansion has built up to the ultimate confrontation with the Burning Legion, with the spoilers coming out of the PTR's version of Antorus, the final raid of the expansion, suggesting a truly significant dynamic shift will occur within the Warcraft cosmos.

I don't know what will come in the expansion after next, but I have a strong feeling that we're going to be dealing with N'zoth, the last remaining undefeated Old God in Azeroth's surface.

First off, the game has not definitively said that C'thun or Yogg-Saron are not simply dead. There are hints that their presences linger, such as C'thun's ability to mutate Cho'gall in Cataclysm and the appearance of Faceless creatures in Ulduar during the Legion launch quests.

But N'zoth is certainly still around.

Datamining has suggested that Kul Tiras might be a future zone in expansion seven, or even possibly a continent (though while I think Blizzard is wary of having a true archipelago lest zones feel totally disconnected like in Cataclysm - which explains why the Broken Isles is really more like the Broken Isle - I still think it makes more sense for an expansion containing Kul Tiras to have other famous islands in the South Seas.) We can extrapolate a lot of potential elements to an expansion that would contain Kul Tiras: It's likely that Azshara and her Naga will play a significant role, given their dominance of Azeroth's oceans (also, the Naga presence in Tomb of Sargeras and Azsuna seems like a good reminder of their threat to prepare us for a more heavily Naga-themed expansion.) Now, Azshara is linked to two major evil factions. The first is the Burning Legion, but we will obviously have dealt with that and will be sick to death of fel green stuff. The other major evil faction she associates with is that of the Old Gods, and particularly N'zoth.

N'zoth is the most aquatically-themed Old God, and its appearance in Hearthstone suggests that it's the basis for the look of Kraken. We also know that N'zoth had been kind of the custodian of the Emerald Nightmare (even though Yogg-Saron was its creator - given N'zoth's predilection for fighting Yogg-Saron and C'thun, I wouldn't be surprised if N'zoth usurped the Nightmare from Yogg-Saron.) If we ended the Nightmare by slaying Xavius, that could mean that N'zoth, who had been occupied with "dreaming" up the Nightmare, might now have awoken (I also think that the Pillars of Creation probably did something to unlock the prisons of the Old Gods, but that's like a couple other articles I've already written.)

We also, (SPOILERS,) see a group of Ethereals practicing void magic on Argus - sort of a shocking thing, given that Argus is the Legion's headquarters and they're theoretically all anti-Void. I don't know what we'll discover about the Void in 7.3, but this seems like a very standard "set it up to pay it off" kind of thing in a late expansion patch.

Now, while void magic of Ner'zhul's and these ethereals' style looks very different than Old God stuff, the truth is that the Old Gods were created by beings in the Void, and that they're really one and the same.

An Old God-centric expansion would have to deal with void magic, and the link between the gross, tentacles-and-goo feel of Old Gods with the cold and cosmic Void could be explored in an expansion that focused on them.

Personally, what I would love to see is at least one zone that leans heavily into Lovecraftian horror.

Blizzard is actually quite good at making gothic settings. Gilneas, Tirisfal, and most recently Black Rook Hold have all demonstrated a great sense of the macabre (I also love the aesthetic of Helheim, though that's not exactly gothic, but certainly spooky.)

Lovecraft built on the foundation of Poe-style gothic horror, but added super-creepy aliens (and if you're not familiar, no, not little green men, but more writhing masses of tentacles and stuff like that.) The Old Gods are obvious homages to Lovecraft, but while Blizzard has gotten the weird, ancient and hidden civilization feel and certainly the creepy tentacle stuff, they've only rarely ever linked the Old Gods with the kind of madness it instills in populations. I would love to have us arrive in Kul Tiras and discover that there's some kind of creepy oligarchy that has developed in the absence of Jaina or any other Proudmoores that have the island on lockdown, and that there's a scared populace who are being dominated by a terrible cult (those same oligarchs.) The zone could then have you investigating this oppressive oligarchy and discover that they've actually sworn themselves to N'zoth, and he is slowly transforming them into aquatic beings - not unlike how he did this to the Night Elves to create the Naga or how Dagon turned the population of Innsmouth into weird hybrid fish-people in Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

World of Warcraft is generally a pretty bright and cartoony game, but I think that this makes the moments of creepiness hit that much harder. Diablo is kind of wall-to-wall gross monsters, and thus they don't really have much of an impact. But given that I imagine a South Seas expansion (if indeed that is what we are getting) will mostly be familiar Naga, maybe Zandalari Trolls, and other less horrifying stuff, it wouldn't be such a bad thing to have one zone really delve into just how horrific the Old Gods and the Void truly are.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Questions About Weapons After Legion

Artifact weapons are one of the key features of Legion. So much of character power has been focused on improving artifact weapons. The artifact trait trees are similar to the old talent trees in that there are a lot of flat bonuses to various abilities, and that allows relics to be more interesting than a simple item level upgrade.

Leaving artifacts behind at the end of Legion is going to be very strange.

I don't know the exact calculation, and I'm sure it varies based on the strength of various bonuses, but I would bet that if we were suddenly to use ordinary weapons at the same item level of our current artifacts, the result would be a very significant drop in damage output, healing, or survivability. There are the obvious 20ish% bonuses to every major ability, but also rotation-smoothing abilities and passives (I remember my friend who plays a Balance Druid was considering changing specs after eight years until he got the Scythe of Elune and thus access to the New Moon/Half Moon/Full Moon spells.)

In a game where everything needs to be balanced and scale, Blizzard is forced to sort of break things in order for the cool solutions they've come up with to have problems to solve. But this also means that following Legion, they'll either need to fully integrate the artifact traits (with a bit of culling and adjusting of course) or they'll need to seriously rebuild a lot of abilities to compensate for the lack of these traits.

A number of active traits could easily be reimagined as talents. For instance, Frost Death Knights' Sindragosa's Fury is a seriously iconic ability (borrowed from Arthas in Heroes of the Storm) that I could very easily see becoming a high-level talent, and that could probably go for a lot of these artifact abilities (and a number of them are either lore-specific enough or less centrally related to the spec that losing them wouldn't be such a problem.) Some, like Unholy's Apocalypse ability, or the Balance Druid's moon cycle, seem like they ought to become baseline for the spec.

This isn't even touching on passives, which could similarly be baseline or talents.

Another thing to consider about weapons is weapon sets. If you have a shield, off-hand item, or off-hand weapon, in Legion the set comes together as a single item that simply fills in both slots on your character panel. Now, everyone has the pain/pleasure of mismatches thanks to relics, but relics are perfectly cumulative. In the past, an Enhancement Shaman would generally want to put the better weapon in the main hand, but this meant Lava Lash could lag behind based on disparity between weapons.

Personally I wouldn't mind seeing weapon sets come in pairs in the future - if I get a good shield, it comes with a good axe/sword/mace. You would obviously preserve them as separate items for transmog purposes, but it could simplify loot tables and make it less penalizing for dual-wielders to gear up.

The last big question is about Warglaives. With Demon Hunters they introduced a whole new weapon type that is only accessible to that class. In an expansion where Demon Hunters' weapon progression is pretty strict (you basically get three sets of weapons not counting your off-spec artifact,) that's pretty easy. But are raid bosses going to be dropping Warglaives in the next expansion? And is it ok that that's a weapon only one class can use?

Now, to be fair, bosses already (well, not this expansion, but in prior ones) drop bows, guns, and crossbows, which as of Mists of Pandaria can only really be used by Hunters. So perhaps Warglaives will be in a similar spot. The only difference is that Demon Hunters can technically just use Swords and Axes, meaning that while Hunters are forced to use those class-exclusive weapons, having Warglaives in the future would simply mean that Demon Hunters get additional options that other classes don't.

In Warlords, at least in Hellfire Citadel, Blizzard was playing with the idea of having a lot of these weapons and items be sort of spec-agnostic, complementing the changes they made to armor. For instance, shields all had both Strength and Intellect on them so that they could be used by tanks as well as casters. Artifact weapons don't need to worry about that, but I wonder if we'll see an expansion of this idea in expansion seven.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Set Investigation with Diablo 3's Necromancer

Diablo 3 works a bit like a snowball: you start off having to really watch yourself when you encounter an elite enemy, and your abilities are a mix of what seems cool at the time. However, once you get to level 70 and hope and pray to Rathma (or whomever) for set pieces, and those prayers start getting answered, things get kicked into high gear.

At this point, I have full sets of Trag'oul and Inarius armor for my Necromancer, and I'm close to complete on the Rathma set, and the Plaguebringer set I actually have six pieces, but need to farm Death's Breath in order to transform pieces until I get all six individual parts.

While I'd like to get a Rathma-based set going, I haven't quite figured out the survival game for that playstyle (using Icy Veins as my guide - I don't like that their build doesn't use Army of the Dead, which, unless I'm missing some Legendary that causes it to go off automatically, seems like you wouldn't want to bother with a six-piece bonus.)

The easiest one I've been able to work with is an Inarius build that uses Corpse Lance and of course, based on the set, Bone Armor. The Inarius set greatly increases the damage done by Bone Armor's activation, and also ups the defensive bonus from the set as well. At 6 pieces, it causes the bones to whirl around you, dealing a fair amount of damage to anyone nearby and I think just generally buffing your damage.

The build is very bursty - using Land of the Dead to fuel Corpse Lance and of course waiting for Bone Armor's cooldown, you'll utterly annihilate rares and elites if you can burn your cooldowns, but until then you're just going to be running through with your swirling bones and Grim Scythe-ing enemies. This is a close-quarters build.

Trag'oul also uses Corpse Lance, but this is a build that has absurd damage potential and can very easily kill you even if you aren't getting hit, as it's all about your life-spending abilities. Still, if played with finesse, it has a ton of potential, but the funny thing is that you will definitely be using Blood Rush all the time to give you a corpse to start the process going.

While leveling up I used lots of minions and Corpse Explosion as a major source of damage, and I'd like to find a build that incorporates those elements, but for now I'm very much still farming non-set pieces.

Friday, July 14, 2017

7.3 Nerfs Coming to Breath of Sindragosa Build, Buffs to Frost to Compensate

I have a complicated relationship with Frost Death Knights. I started playing Blood DPS when that was a thing, but when Blood became a dedicated tank spec and the other two specs became dedicated DPS, I went two-handed Frost. I still main-specced as a tank in Cataclysm, but through Mists, Warlords, and Legion, I've been primarily Frost.

Now, I really prefered two-handed frost, with its massive Obliterates. So when they made it dual-wield only, I actually started Legion as Unholy, then went Blood, but then went back to Frost. The thing is, my favorite color is blue. I know that seems really minor, but I've gotten so used to my Draenei (blue skin) wearing blue-tinged dark armor, wielding a weapon with a blue glow, and having all my attacks cause bursts of blue death, that it's really hard to get back to thinking of Death Knights as having another dominant color palate.

And given that look and feel are basically the main appeal to video games for me, that's a big deal.

It is a difficult trade-off, wielding two dinky swords versus wielding a much more impressive runeblade. Basically the only real saving grace of the Blades of the Fallen Prince as an artifact weapon is that they literally used to be Frostmourne. Given the option to actually wield, somehow, Frostmourne itself in its intact form (and seeing variants on it the way that the other artifact weapons have,) I'd really prefer it, but I'll have to content myself with the swords made from it. Sadly, Blizzard feels that at least one DK spec should be a dual-wielding one, and with Blood as the tank spec and Unholy already having the whole "summoning undead" schtick, it's not terribly surprising that Frost got stuck with it. I only hope that in a post-artifact world, we can go back to using two-handed weapons (and maybe if we all beseech the Lich King like good little Knights we'll someday get a Frostmourne transmog piece. A DK can dream, can't he?)

Anyway, in the last few patches, the love-it-or-hate-it Breath of Sindragosa talent has been dominant - basically if you want competitive DPS as a Frost DK, you have to pick it and all the talents that allow you to sustain it as long as possible.

Thus Frost winds up being a kind of two-phase spec. You have the Breath phase where you desperately need to generate as much runic power as you can and get seriously penalized if you screw up or if you need to stop whacking the boss for a couple seconds, and the waiting phase where you just do the baseline Frost rotation while you wait for Breath to come off cooldown.

I'll be honest and say I've started to get used to this build, but the panicked resource generation required from the build isn't always what I want, especially given that I feel Frost, flavor-wise, should be more about being slow and steady (the "fight" against Arthas in Halls of Reflection is a great example of what I think a Frost Death Knight should feel like.) In fact, I could imagine a whole redesign of the spec that would have you build up Runic Power and unleash it in a massive single swing, but the point is that I don't know that Breath of Sindragosa fulfills my particular image of the spec's fantasy.

The changes they're making are fairly extensive - I believe the Hungering Rune Weapon talent is getting a bit of a redesign, and many talents are swapping around. The goal is not to nerf Frost in general (as far as I know they're not really exceptional these days) but to allow for greater build diversity, which is something I'm right on board with.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Fall of the Legion and Demonic Anarchy

When the Undead Scourge was defeated nearly definitively at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, this did not mean the end to the threat of the undead. Not only did the Scourge remain an entity, albeit one more or less under control of a Lich King who so far does not seem interested in global domination (though the tactics he uses and encourages within the Knights of the Ebon Blade are questionable at best,) but ghosts and other necromantic horrors have always existed outside of the specific domain of the Scourge. Both the Legion and the servants of the Void have employed necromancy in the past.

While the Scourge was perhaps the most iconic and intimidating terrestrial threat (ok, Old Gods probably take precedence, though I think the Scourge's actions in Icecrown suggest that they had a certain immunity to the power of the Old Gods and thus might have given them a run for their money,) the Legion has, historically, been the greatest cosmic threat (though again, the Void that spawned the Old Gods is likely the greater danger.)

However, under Sargeras, the Legion seemed in a position to really dominate every demon in the cosmos. Demons existed before the Legion, but vast numbers of new ranks were added - we know at the very least that the Man'ari Eredar and the Satyrs were originally members of mortal races (playable ones, in fact) and we could probably assume that a lot of existing demonic races were similarly corrupted specifically by the Burning Legion.

So while we don't seem to be fighting Sargeras directly in Legion (I think he doesn't have a corporeal body to fight,) the datamined dialogue does suggest that the leadership of the Legion will truly be eliminated in one way or another. Kil'jaeden is, I believe, permanently dead at the end of the Tomb of Sargeras raid, and it's possible that Archimonde truly died at the end of Hellfire Citadel (that's tricky, as only mythic kills him within the Twisting Nether, and the cutscene implies that he's back on Draenor when he dies.)

With Sargeras and his two Eredar lieutenants gone, it really does not seem like anyone is in a good position to take up leadership of the Legion. And here's the thing: many of the demons of the Legion were only doing Sargeras' will under threat. I imagine the Eredar and the other "newer" demonic races were devoted to him in a religious way, and would seek to carry on with his Burning Crusade, but beings like the Nathrezim are unlikely to hold any true loyalty to him.

When Sargeras first discovered the Nathrezim, they were serving the Old Gods on a different planet. Given that they are so gifted in duplicity, it would not shock me in the least to discover that the Nathrezim were in fact playing all sides all along. And in the wake of Sargeras' fall, they may eagerly go back to serving the Void.

While Sargeras aligned his demonic forces in opposition to the Void (by way of all of creation,) there's nothing inherently anti-Void in demons.

So basically, after Legion, don't expect demons as a creature type to vanish all together (though they'll certainly take a backseat to things like Aberrations if we're doing Old God stuff next.)

Argus Further Impressions: Mac'Aree

Yes, I know we have a new raid finder wing, but I can't help but feel a bit focused on the upcoming patch.

Since Burning Crusade I believe introduced the world of Argus as a concept (I can't remember if those Argus Wake guys in Alterac Mountains existed already) we've more or less known only one geographical feature of the world from which the Eredar who would come to be known as the Draenei fled, and that was the capital city of Mac'aree.

Your adventures on Argus will begin in what is called at least for now "Argus Wastes," and this area will feel pretty familiar given the Legion's MO. There is some interesting new wildlife, and I think they get the feeling of a desolate, ruined, but at least somewhat still intact world in this area. Unlike, for example, Niskara, not everything is burned black with green flame, but it is still a place where there's almost no non-demonic life there.

After completing the first leg of the Argus quest chain, you'll eventually travel to Mac'aree. You can see the capital floating above the Argus Wastes in the skybox (cleverly, they tend to point you in the direction of Azeroth as you adventure across its new twin world, and you also see Mac'aree in the skybox.) Traveling to the capital, you'll be able to access a fragment of the city, the rest of which is drawn into the skybox behind, to really give you a sense of how enormous this place was.

And Mac'aree is broken, but not utterly ruined. And it certainly does not have the stereotypical Legion look. Mac'aree calls to mind much more the Warlords iteration of Shattrath, with the Draenei (well, Eredar) style of spire-like buildings. (In fact, I think they took assets created for Warlords and adjusted them only a bit to build up Mac'aree.) Far from Black and Green, Mac'aree is awash in golden grass with spots of purple vegetation and buildings of yellow, grey, and some blue. The impression this suggests is one of the city as the seat of a society that was once near-utopian. At least in the first few quests, the NPCs are largely ghost-like echoes of the ancient Eredar. You'll even go to the academy where Archimonde (and his teacher Thal'kiel) once studied and researched.

I really have to say that if you have any kind of roleplaying sensibilities and you play a Draenei character, Mac'aree perhaps even more than the Argus Wastes will feel like coming home.