June 5, 2009

Two Bosses Enter: Anomalus vs. Tribunal of Ages

Two Bosses Enter ... but only One Boss Leaves, in WoW Insider's series of fantasy death matches. This season's bosses come from the five-man instances of Wrath of the Lich King.

This week's Two Bosses Enter is less boss-versus-boss than it is boss-versus-event: The Nexus' Anomalus versus the Tribunal of Ages encounter in the Halls of Stone. The Tribunal of Ages event tasks adventurers with protecting Dwarven explorer Brann Bronzebeard from waves of mobs as part of the Halls of Stone quest -- a boss-level encounter in terms of difficulty and loot, if not in actual boss-versus-boss combat. It'll be Anomalus' Chaotic Rifts and Crazed Mana-Wraiths against the Tribunal of Ages' Kaddrak, Abedneum and Marnak plus the cadre of Dark Rune Protectors, Dark Rune Stormcallers and the Iron Golem Custodian.

The ground rules:

For the sake of this deathmatch, we'll have to get a little (ok, a lot) creative with Anomalus' presence here in the Tribunal. In this scenario, we'll retain the basic mechanic of the Tribunal of Ages encounter. Brann Bronzebeard's survival still determines the success or failure of the mission. Anomalus is therefore challenged with holding the Tribunal at bay long enough for Bronzebeard to complete his task.
This match takes place inside the Tribunal of Ages in the Halls of Stone.
If you assume that Anomalus is "too dumb to move," we'll have a very boring match indeed. Be open to other possibilities.

Assume that foes share similar levels, health pools and a comparative overall damage output.
Don't get caught up in game mechanics and what actual players might do in each encounter.
Style and scale are your main considerations.

Chaos beckons ... Reality unwoven ... Indestructible ... Of course ... Expiration is necessary...

Anomalus is an Arcane elemental inside the Nexus, created when the high amounts of magical energy streaming through the Nexus created the Rift. He used to guard the Nexus and Keristrasza's prison. Now, however, Anomalus seems to have gone out of control and his Chaos Rifts and lesser Arcane elementals are attacking the Blue Dragonflight.

At three points during battle, Anomalus creates a Chaotic Rift and uses Rift Shield to make himself immune to all damage. The Chaotic Rifts themselves can cast spells, as can the Crazed Mana-Wraiths that can be summoned from within them.

Arcane Attraction
Create Rift
Charge Rifts
Rift Shield

Chaotic Rift

Chaotic Energy Burst
Charged Chaotic Energy Burst

Crazed Mana-Wraith

Arcane Missiles

Read more about fighting Anomalus and review comments from players who've fought him.

The Tribunal of Ages
Abedneum: Warning! Life form pattern not recognized. Archival processing terminated. Continued interference will result in targeted response.
Kaddrak: Security breach in progress. Analysis of historical archives transferred to lower priority queue. Countermeasures engaged.
Marnak: Threat index threshold exceeded. Celestial archive aborted. Security level heightened.
Abedneum: Critical threat index. Void analysis diverted. Initiating sanitization protocol.

During the Tribunal of Ages encounter, adventurers must protect Dwarven explorer Brann Bronzebeard long enough that he can access a database to retrieve information required to complete the Halls of Stone quest. Hindering Brann and his helpers are the three stone faces of the Tribunal, Kaddrak, Abedneum and Marnak, plus wave after wave of foes including Dark Rune Protectors, Dark Rune Stormcallers and an Iron Golem Custodian.


Glare of the Tribunal


Dark Matter


Searing Gaze

Dark Rune Protector


Dark Rune Stormcaller

Lightning Bolt
Shadow Word: Pain

Iron Golem Custodian

Crush Armor
Ground Smash

Read a description of the Tribunal of Ages event and review comments from players who've completed the related achievement.

The smackdown
For the sake of this deathmatch, we'll have to get creative with the details surrounding the Halls of Stone quest and the reason for Anomalus' presence. We'll retain the basic mechanic of the Tribunal of Ages encounter. Brann Bronzebeard's survival will determine the success or failure of the mission. Anomalus, then, will be challenged with holding Bronzebeard's foes at bay long enough for him to complete his task.

This match takes place inside the Tribunal of Ages in the Halls of Stone.

As usual, you should assume that overall, the foes share similar levels, health pools and a comparative overall damage output.

This matchup should offer plenty of variables to consider. What do you think would happen? Can you come up with a convincing scenario that will sway other readers to vote for your victor of choice? Show us your stuff in the comments.

Beware of Blood Elves selling mounts

A friend of mine recently got hit by a pretty devious phishing scam targeting wealthy (in-game) players looking to make legitimate purchases. My friend, we'll call him Cobra, was in a major city when an offer in the Trade Channel caught his eye. A player, we'll call him Bubbles, was offering a Spectral WoW Tiger Mount for 5000 gold. Since this mount is only available as a code on a rare loot card, Cobra contacted Bubbles to inquire. Purchasing codes for in-game items with in-game cash is perfectly legitimate, according to Blizzard, so Cobra did not worry about going against the TOS with this transaction.

Bubbles, a level 78 Blood Elf Mage, seemed legitimate. For one thing, he was not a throwaway low level character. Also, he didn't want to take the cash then, but just see it in a trade window to make sure Cobra was in possession of it. So Cobra gave Bubbles his email address only and waited for the email that included the code and a link to where to input the information.

Cobra was in-game on one computer and clicked on the link on a separate computer. The link went to a page that looked exactly like the non-Battle.Net account page. He logged in and it took him to a page that looked exactly like the official Blizzard code entry page that he had used when he entered his Polar Bear mount code from last year's BlizzCon. After three tries of trying to register the code he had received, he noticed that his other computer had disconnected from WoW.

When he tried to login again, he was told that his account was now associated with a Battle.Net account and that his username and password were no longer valid. It just so happens that all of this was done during a break at work, and Cobra works with his guild leader, who we will call TSU. Cobra walked over to TSU's desk and asked him to logon and see if he was logged in. Sure enough, he was. So TSU immediately demoted Cobra's character.

Unfortunately, TSU did not get a screenshot, but here is what happened next.

Hacker: What did you do that for?!?
TSU: You're a hacker.
Hacker: How do you know?
TSU: Because the real player is looking over my shoulder.
Hacker: O HAI!

Cobra was able to get in touch with Blizzard support and get his account back within 20 to 30 minutes after it was compromised. About 10K gold from various characters and all of his gems were gone. Also, some of his other items were on the Auction House. His gear was still intact and he was able to raid that same evening, so the damage was far less than others who have been hacked.

But wait! There's more! As I write this, Cobra's account got hacked again. Not only did the phishing site take his old account info, it downloaded a keylogger to steal the new account info. They logged into his character and started the scam all over again by spamming Trade Channel with the same Spectral Tiger Mount offer.

Using a server-known, high-level character (hacked from a previous transaction) for the initial communication and asking to only see the cash is an excellent way to both look legitimate and only get targets who have enough money to be worth further effort. Trusting a link in an email rather than going to the site directly was Cobra's biggest mistake and ultimately how his account was compromised. Having an Authenticator would have helped in this situation, but this kind of scam circumvents most other basic account security measures.

In general, if you want to conduct account related business (for any account, not just WoW), get to the website yourself and use trusted links only. And, please, don't buy gold. If these hackers didn't have a market to sell their ill-gotten goods, then they wouldn't waste their time devising these scams in the first place.

Be careful out there!

WoW Warriors: WoW Patch 3.1.3 and Ulduar Tips

This week has been a heady one for me: I got my four piece Conqueror's Siegebreaker Battlegear on patch day, which was pretty sweet, and then in our second night of raiding this week we finally killed the big brain slug squid monster himself. Combine that with wow patch 3.1.3 dropping (which meant we had fun times like an announced server shutdown just as we were about to pull Thorim, leading to the fastest Thorim kill I've ever been on) and all in all, it's been quite a week. Heck, I even got to go prot and get some prot goodies like pants and a belt.

It was a small patch all in all, so I wasn't expecting huge improvement and I didn't see it. I saw a marginal DPS increase as fury (2 to 300 DPS unbuffed, not too much more fully buffed) and I made sure to compare notes with the arms warrior in our raids, and his DPS was very close to my own. We're still below the other hybrids, but not by as great a margin, so that's nice at least. As for the PvP change to Juggernaut, well, it's painful. Before respeccing prot for my secondary spec for good this week I went out on a Wintergrasp jaunt, and I'll probably never do that again.At least with Heroic Fury I can make a choice about how long I will allow someone to kite me to death. To be fair the Juggernaut change isn't really all that bad, but over the years I've played warriors I've moved from prefering arms as my DPS/PvP spec to being a fury warrior so I'm easier to discourage from arms than I used to be.

The title of today's post mentions patch 3.1.3 Ulduar tips. Since I've started doing some tanking in there when we're short (we lost a few tanks to RL issues) I've gotten to experience some of the fights from the perspective of the guy trying to stay alive and hold aggro. Strangely, I still find tanking to be the most serenely chaotic aspect of playing a warrior and one that's the most enjoyable to keep up with. I'll cover tanking and DPS warrior tips (I'm stealing from Chase here, I admit it, but I realized I hadn't talked about these fights that much.) Today we'll cover the bosses of the Siege of Ulduar.

Obviously I have nothing to say about tanking or DPSing Flame Leviathan. I took a demolisher this week, it was fun, I didn't really think very hard about it. We did a two towers hardmode this weekend on our usual ten man, but I don't know when we'll be trying that on 25 (some of the 25 man hardmode kills seem harder than 10 just due to the complexity of getting 25 people in synch, which is nice, since 25 man hardmodes generally give better loot than 10 man they should be harder) - at any rate, it doesn't matter what your normal role is here, you run away when he targets you and DPS him when he targets someone else, launch casters at him, it's the same for any class.

Ignis the Furnace Master is a pain to DPS, frankly. I hate fights with so much kiting. I find Flame Jets to be more annoying than really painful (although that's due to our good healers I'm sure) and Scorch is pretty easy to avoid as long as you stay behind him, which is where you're supposed to be as DPS anyway. If you have a Shield macro ready (perhaps for spell reflecting in PvP) get ready to use it if you go into the Slag Pot. You can Shield Wall in there and make your healers lives less hectic. As a tank, I find Ignis himself to be boring, since aside from dragging his giant butt around the room to get him fairly close to the water when he scorches (to make it easier for the tank or tanks kiting the adds to get them brittle.

I actually find add tanking on the iron constructs to be more fun and challenging than tanking Ignis himself. This is one of the few fights where Shockwave really feels powerful to me: the ability to cone stun two or three molten iron constructs is worth the price of admission, and it's pretty easy as a warrior tank to pick up new constructs, between being able to throw your weapon, charge to them, or taunt them over. It's a very mobile fight for the add tank, always having to find new adds, drag them through the scorch effect on the ground, then get them to the water so that a ranged can blow them up and remove the stacking Strength of the Creator buff from Ignis. Since that buff is pretty much the tank killer on Ignis, keeping it low is the priority. I've never had to tank more than three of the contructs at once (we have enough tanks that we can keep a tank covering each side of the room) but with Shield Block and a decent block value set (see, a use for Block, if not a particularly glamorous one) you can mitigate a fair amount of the non-fire damage from even three hasted adds and get them into the water. Warrior tanks can do either job in the Ignis fight, but I'd say, if you're asked, you'll have more fun tanking the adds.

Razorscale is an interesting fight for a warrior, tank or DPS. If you're a tank, you'll probably start out tanking adds as they spawn from the borers to left and right of the platform. The main difficulty here is picking them up while avoiding the patches of Devouring Flame that Razorscale drops on the ground. Warrior tanks are a pretty good choice to tank either the Dark Rune Watchers (thanks to our interrupts and spell reflect) and the Dark Rune Sentinels, since we can disarm them and give melee a break from doing it. DPS warriors are probably the better choice to disarm over rogues as well, since the Sentinels hit for 8k or so on plate armor. (Granted, rogues can Feint here and take 50% less AoE, but still.)

Warriors are not a good choice for harpoon duty, as they'd have to run out of melee to do it. Let a hunter or mage or other ranged handle that.

During phase 2, especially once Razorscale is grounded for good, tanks take a solid amount of damage here. In my experience we usually taunt Razorscale between two or more tanks (we usually have at least three in the raid, so we use all three) every time a tank has two stacks of Fuse Armor on him or her. It's very reminiscent of Al'ar tanking if you ran Tempest Keep at all. You have to try and move Razorscale out of the Devouring Flame (definitely use Warbringer to charge back into range if you get buffeted out) and keep taunting her between tanks so as to not have Fuse Armor stack to five and stun a tank.

DPS warriors have to conserve their cooldowns and not blow them on trash. The time to use every trick in the book is when Razorscale is dragged down by the harpoons. Ideally you want to burn Razorscale down to 50% in two harpoon phases or less. (It usually takes us two, I have no doubt there are guilds who can burn her to 50% in one phase) - pop Death Wish, Recklessness, Shattering Throw for arms warriors (fury can do it too, but it requires switching stances so it's a big personal loss of DPS time), potions of speed, whatever you can do to put the most DPS possible on Razorscale. If you don't have a rogue to expose you should be sundering (unless you have a warrior tank who will be using Devastate, then you can just ignore that) - your priority once Razorscale drops is to pour DPS into her, you can safely ignore adds (they will most likely be offtanked) for the entirety of a ground phase. Once she's grounded for good, just avoid Devouring Flames as much as you can and follow her around smashing at her hindquarters while the tanks move her around and juggle taunt.

XT - 002 Deconstructor is a DPS race with some complications. First off, there's the Searing Light and Gravity Bomb debuffs. These really don't matter all that much if you're tanking XT himself, since it's not like you as a tank could move away from the boss even if you got them. (I've not seen a tank take either debuff while tanking XT, but I'm not willing to say it doesn't happen, I can't be at every raid simultaneously.) As DPS, the light debuff is farily easy to deal with for warriors: you group the melee at one of his feet and if you get Searing Light, you move over to the other foot by yourself and minimize the damage you deal to others. For Gravity Bomb, my raid tends to keep the right and left sides of XT -002 as clear as possible, and if melee gets a Gravity Bomb, they just light out to whatever clear side is closer. You need to run as soon as you notice you have the debuff, don't stand there trying to get off one last Bladestorm or what have you. There's not much you can do about Tympanic Tantrum except hope your healers have lots of mana - I tend to use Shield Wall or Last Stand when I hear a Tantrum announced as a tank.

You also may end up tanking pummelers. Try and keep them away from the boombots if possible, but if you can arrange it to shockwave the scrapbots as you pick up the pummelers it's not a bad idea. A reasonably well geared warrior tank can hold three or four pummelers without too much difficulty. Some raids have ranged DPS focus the pummelers down while others simply have one or two tanks offtank them for the duration of the fight and focus all DPS on XT, it really depends on your raid makeup.

The add phase is where the real action is for warriors. First off, the Heart of the Deconstructor drops and that's where most of your focus will be as a melee DPS. You do double damage to the heart and whatever damage you do to it is transferred to XT himself, so this phase is a pretty important one for getting through the fight as quickly as possible. However, if you're not doing a hard mode kill, don't kill the heart. Or to put it another way, if you kill the heart you are about to try hard mode whether you want to or not. This is an especially bad thing to do on your third add phase when he's almost dead and the raid is out of mana, by the way. Not that I know anything about how that is from personal experience.

After the heart goes back up, if there are any scrapbots that the mages, warlocks and other ranged didn't catch that are threatening to reach XT, go kill them. Then get back on XT and make sure not to forget to watch for Searing Light and Gravity Bomb. Rinse and repeat for each phase shift: DPS XT, watch for debuffs and adjust as necessary, switch to the heart and burn it down making sure not to kill it unless you intend to do hard modes, clean up the adds and go back to XT. There's nothing terribly special here for warriors to do: both arms and fury warriors should make use of their mobility to help clean up adds (juggernaut/heroic fury is very helpful here) while prot warriors picking up pummelers should make use of Heroic Throw and Warbringer.

That's the Siege covered. Next week, we'll be handling the bosses of the Antechamber of Ulduar.

June 3, 2009

Rogue tips for raiding Ulduar, part 3

As a break in the boss-by-boss breakdown of Ulduar fights, I wanted to go over a few general raiding tips for Rogues. Some of them may be very old ideas that you've been using since level 60, while a few others are new tricks that we've learned in WotLK. Hopefully you'll be able to glean a few good bits of information to take with you the next time you zone into any raid. There's nothing more important than properly preparing for a new fight, but knowing the general tactics for any encounter will make understanding new fights much easier.

First, however, I would like to comment on the new Overkill. Its new form is a significant buff when looking at total energy generated, and also for PvE Mutilate Rogues. However, it is a nerf to our 6-second burst window during a Cheap Shot -> Kidney Shot combo. I feel this will end up being a net buff for Rogues, as relying solely on the first 6 seconds of a fight in PvP has become far to gimmicky for us to rely on.

I'll never forget the day that Feint first found its way to my hotbar. I was duo'ing Razorfen Kraul with another Rogue, trying to kill the pig boss (Agathelos the Raging) for his infamous Swinetusk Shank. After stealthing through most of the instance, we finally reached the boss. With creative use of Sap and Blind, we were able to conquer the guards outside his gate. That was the first time I actually used Sap!

After we engaged this gigantic boar, I picked up threat. I obviously used Evasion to reduce my incoming damage, but I had blown Vanish on the mobs outside and was unable to use it to wipe my threat once Evasion had ended. The boss was pounding me, I was sure to die in a few more hits. My friend began yelling furiously in party chat: "USE FEINT USE FEINT USE FEINT!!!!!"

I found it in my action bar just quick enough to press it before I died, and the boss turned to assault the other Rogue. I had exactly 1 HP left after the boar's rampage on me, and was lucky to have survived. So my partner used his Evasion, and the boss died. The Shank even dropped for me!

Feint has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Completely removed from every Rogue's hot bar in TBC, it's finally found its way back to our precious key bindings. By reducing all AoE damage by 50%, Feint is now both useful in PvP (think Bladestorm) and PvE. I've mentioned using it in a few of the specific encounters in Ulduar, but remember that taking less damage can be valuable on nearly any fight with AoE damage. This is especially true for hard modes, where you are often short on healing classes.

Feel free to think outside the box as well. There is so much raid / AoE damage in Ulduar that you can use Feint to some benefit on nearly every fight. Just make sure to remember that you must be in melee range of something in order to activate it, and that moving out of the AoE and taking no damage is often better than staying in and taking 50% damage. Don't use it as an excuse to play sloppy, but rather a buffer to ensure your mistakes don't kill you.

General Vezax, along with a few other mobs and bosses in WotLK raids, has some very important spells that he casts that must be interrupted. Most often this task will be assigned to a team of interrupters, with Rogues being the primary candidates. I would suggest using the mod Deadened to both highlight the spells you will need to interrupt, as well as reporting your interrupts to a particular channel. This will greatly reduce the amount of communication needed between you and the other interrupters in your rotation.

On fights where you will be doing a lot of interrupting, it may make sense for both your DPS and simple logistics for you to use a pair of the PvP gloves. These essentially yield 10 energy every time you have to Kick (and you HAVE to Kick) and so they can provide a ton of value in a long raid encounter. Don't forget that they also allow you to be more reactive with your Kicks, as you are now only waiting 1.5 seconds for the energy to kick (if empty) instead of 2.5 seconds. Just don't log out in them, or else face the wrath of Armory trolls everywhere!

Trade Tricks:
I mentioned this in my key binding article, but I think it bears repeating. Tricks of the Trade is great for generating threat for the tanks, but if you're in a situation where the tank is safely ahead in threat, feel free to use TotT on your highest DPS class (that's not near stealing threat!). You can significantly improve your raid's DPS by assisting your fellow DPS classes in this way. Just be sure to ask for other Rogues to throw their Tricks back to you. It's not typically worth Glyphing for improved TotT, but even the normal version is a valuable additional to your arsenal.

The boss' back is huge:
I have seen quite a few melee classes die to silly things like a spot of fire on Razorscale or a gas cloud on Grobbulus. Their normal excuse is that they need to be behind the boss to maximize their damage. While this is true, remember that you can be ANYWHERE behind a boss, which leaves you with a fairly big arc to work with when attacking. Even though it looks like you're attacking the mob's hip, as long as you are in the 180° arc of his back, you will still benefit from the reduced dodge/block/parry chance of the boss from this position. This is especially important on fights like Mimiron, where knowing exactly where you can stand, in relation to the boss, is half of the fight.

The second half of positioning is to stay as far away from the boss at all times as possible. You want to ideally be just on the outside edge of where he's attackable from. This gives you an advantage in running away from AoE damage or effects, and also gives you a clearer image of the fight. If you are hugging the boss' ankles, you are obstructing your view and exposing yourself to unnecessary problems. This is especially important on Phase 2 and Phase 4 Mimiron, where if you are too close to the center of the boss, you can be instantly killed by his laser attack. For more info on positioning, I would recommend checking out TKoE's article on the topic (PvP focused).

Next week, you will be able to put all of these tips into action, as we talk about the final two bosses between you and the glory of conquering Ulduar! General Vezax and Yogg-Saron are basically Loatheb and C'Thun (with applicable twists), and I will go into the grainy details of how to defeat these two remnants from the days when the Old Gods walked Azeroth.

WoW, Casually: Rating the classes for casuals

In my experience, the best class to play as a casual player is one that is easily soloable, with little downtime, but also able to find groups quickly when necessary, particularly at max level. Following is how I rate each class according to those criteria.

Rogue: Sneaking past mobs you don't want to mess with and stunning your enemies so they can't fight back make the Rogue a fun character to solo. They are extremely gear dependent, however, and self-healing is limited to profession-related skills. While rogues make a fight go quickly, there are many of them and you'll have a hard time finding groups while leveling and in the endgame. (Edited to add note: Many readers have pointed out that there aren't as many rogues as there used to be. Perhaps there are more leveling on PvP servers. Ganking me. Like just now. Regardless, there are many DPS classes vying for group spots and rogues still have a harder time finding groups than all tanks, healers and DPS classes who can also heal as necessary.)

Warlock: Warlocks are extremely easy to solo. They have pets, they have self-heals and they have nasty damage. Their spells make downtime pretty non-existent and they can often solo group quests. A skilled Warlock can find groups at max level, but they are not in high demand at this time.

Warrior: Warriors have become much more fun to solo, but are still hampered by a lack of class specific self-heals and therefore require some downtime. If you do make it to the endgame, however, you will find that tanks are in high demand and that a skilled DPS Warrior can also get work.

Shaman: Leveling a Shaman is not difficult. You can blast, melee and heal. If you want to hang out with the big boys in the endgame, however, expect to keep one of your specs Resto, because non-healing Shamans just aren't in very high demand.

Priest: It takes a while to pick up speed when leveling a Priest without a lot of grouping. Shadow Priest soloing is the fastest and gets much easier when you get Shadowform. If you take one to the endgame, you'll be the belle of the ball. They'll want you for your heals and Shadow Priests can even get spots in raids these days.

Mage: Mages are definitely soloable and are very fun to play, but they tend to have a lot of down time for healing and mana regeneration. With no non-profession-related self-heals and nothing but comfy clothes to wear, you really need to be on your toes with your spells and abilities to battle alone. To partially make up for your downtime, your travel time is greatly reduced by the ability to teleport to major cities any time you like (as soon as you're high enough in level, of course). In groups, Mages are in demand for their DPS and crowd control. Don't discount the utility spells as well. The buffs, food and drink and making convenient portals at the end are all highly valued by groupies.

Druid: I've been playing a Druid since open beta. I love the class and have Night Elf droods abandoned across multiple servers -- once I went Horde, I never rarely go back. Druids are great for soloing as either Balance or Feral spec and are usually welcome in any group while leveling. Because of their multiple forms, Druids rarely get boring and make traveling speedy even at low levels. Druids are also extremely versatile at max level. Groups will want you as a healer, tank or DPS. The only drawback to playing a Druid is that they are not easy to just pick up and play (unlike DKs and Pallies). You really need to learn the nuances of all of your options and it can be hard to go back to after a long absence from the game or playing another class. Many don't consider this a negative thing about the class, however, and enjoy the extra brainpower involved in playing.

Death Knight: Death Knights are cake to solo. Not only do they start at level 55, but they are practically indestructible and mow through mobs speedily. They pair up nicely with any other class for those lucky enough to have a quest buddy. DKs also rock the endgame. They make great tanks and are awesome melee DPS. Their main drawback is that they are a dime a dozen. Once you make it to max level, you'll find many others like you competing for instance and raid spots both in your guild and in PuGs. I highly recommend a DK to every casual player as an alt, but you may find getting groups too time consuming for your busy schedule.

Hunter: The Hunter is one of two classes that I have never played past level 11. It's just not my bag. They are, however, arguably the easiest class to solo. The fact that they have no non-profession-related healing abilities is countered by the fact that their pets take most of the damage and the mobs drop quickly due to massive DPS. Hunters are so easy to solo that they tend to be the class of choice for gold-farmers (do they exist anymore or do they just hack and steal now?) as well as children and players new to MMOs. Because their damage dealing skills are so powerful, they are definitely wanted in the endgame. But you have to have the spec, gear and skills to be able to function in groups and raids and 80 levels of soloing isn't going to get you these. Expect to have to work hard on your gear and grouping skills before being invited to the good PvE group activities.

Paladin: Before Blizzard "fixed" Retribution, leveling a Paladin was easy, but kinda boring and with a lot of downtime for mana regeneration. Now that Ret Pallies are OP (which I think is pretty much an uncontroversial statement), leveling is a breeze and a ton of fun. With barely any downtime and usually multiple mobs at once, I tear through content on my formerly boring, previously mana-challenged paladin. Also, when I have to make sudden AFKs due to my main job of taking care of The Spawn, I rarely come back to a dead Blood Elf. (Though I run the risk of being run off cliffs ever since I taught her how to run around in game. "Oops!", she says.) And once you get to the endgame, the world is your oyster. You'll be wanted as either a tank or a healer by everyone and be favored for (though not guaranteed) DPS spots as Retribution.

When making your decision as to what class to play, think about what role you want to fill when you are ready to participate in the harder group activities. Regardless of how you like to play, you are more likely to get into PuGs and scheduled raids if you are speced in a group-friendly way. So if you are unwilling to play certain roles, choose a class accordingly. Are you against both healing and tanking? Then pick a Hunter or other class that is completely unable to do either. Are you willing to tank, but find playing the whack-a-mole heal game a chore? Then choose a Warrior or Death Knight. But if you are happy to be flexible until you are able to get into a group that allows you to play your favorite spec, then a Paladin or Druid is for you. Taking either class to the endgame will allow you more opportunities and faster grouping than any of the other classes. And for the first few encounters, you will probably want to try healing. Groups are much more likely to be lenient on your mistakes (which you will definitely make) and poor gear if you are a healer, more than any other group role.

When it comes right down to it, no one can tell you what your favorite classes are to play. So if you pick a class that is tougher to level, but you enjoy it more then you have made the right decision. If you are torn like me, however, the above guidelines should help. What did I decide? Well, like I said, I'm a proud altaholic, so I picked two. My Pally is working her way through Outland and my Druid is thoroughly enjoying the quests in Northrend. My guild leader has promised me a healing spot in the second string 10 man raids once I hit 80. Of course, the fact that I'm married to him may have biased his decision a bit. But the healing gap helped too. Anyway, I'm off to play with a rejuvenated sense of purpose after my (kinda) decision. May you have as much fun as I'm having.

WoW Night Elf cat forms coming tomorrow

We've already seen the graphics for three out of the four new feral forms we know are coming for druids in patch 3.2: Tauren bear and cat forms, and Night Elf bear forms. This only leaves Night Elf cat forms left to be seen. (They might be redesigning moonkin and tree forms too; they're being cagey about that when people ask. My guess would be no.)

I've been anxiously refreshing pages all day to see if the Night Elf cat forms would come. In vain, apparently, as Zarhym has just posted to let us know that the forms in question will be unveiled tomorrow "later in the day," which probably means mid-afternoon (PST) sometime. In the mean time, we've got the other three sets of forms in the gallery below. What would your ideal Night Elf cat look like?