July 18, 2009

WoW Mage should do before lvl80

Contrary to popular belief, Mages do not simply spring to life at level 80. Just like other, lesser classes, we too must begin at the lowly level of one. Even Mages must put their robes on one leg at a time, place one frail foot in front of the other, and trudge across Kalimdor, the Eastern Kingdoms, Outland, and finally Northrend until our experience bars progress from the left side of the screen to the right side a total of 79 times.

Once upon a time, this process took awhile. An average trip to level 60 used to require the following:

Approximately 192 trips from the north end of The Barrens to the south end...on foot, uphill both ways, fending off Mankrik's wife and Chuck Norris with a stick.
Actually setting foot in Desolace. Getting dismounted several hundred thousand times in Dustwallow Marsh because you'd strayed across three inches of water. Having to wait several hours to turn in every quest in Hillsbrad Foothills, because the questgivers in Tarren Mill and Southshore are always dead. Getting eaten by a giant and improbably stealthy Devilsaur in Un'Goro Crater at least a million times, and always as far from the nearest graveyard as possible. This is all fact. Sadly (or totally not, depending on how sado-masochistic you are), leveling is no longer nearly as grueling and refining an experience as it once was. It's entirely possible to skip a whole lot of the early-game content these days, and come patch 3.2, PvP experience will allow us to skip all of it on our way to level 80. Still, there are some things I feel we're missing out on as we cruise through the old-world content these days. Follow me beyond the jump for a list of five things every Mage should do on their way to level 80.

This isn't a list of things you have to do while leveling your Mage. In fact, there simply isn't much left in the game these days that you have to do. Leveling is such a quick, streamlined process now (and only getting more streamlined in the upcoming patch), that you can really pick and choose which quests you'll do and which you won't, which zones you'll visit and which you'll never even bother to pick up the flight paths for, and which instances you might actually try to get a group for and which you'll just have a high-level guildie run you through. Gear is out-leveled so quickly that there aren't many pieces left that you need to go out of your way to get.

No, this is simply a collection of uniquely valuable experiences, and/or loot that will actually last you a few levels, I feel every Mage should partake in on their way up the level ladder. You'll make it to 80 just fine if you skip them, but they'll make the experience that much more enjoyable if you don't. In fact, even if your Mage is far beyond these things, a few of them are worth a trip back to visit the old content.

Also, none of these are absolutely mandatory (except maybe for #4). They're just ideas. In the end, level your Mage how you want. But if you do these things, I promise you one thing: You'll be more magely. What does that mean, exactly? I don't know!

1. Complete Mage-only quests

Remember these? Part of Blizzard's early design philosophy with WoW involved several quests unique to each class that provided rewards specifically valuable to that particular class. They added a bit of flavor to the proceedings, and made each class feel that much more special and different. These sort of vanished with the advent of the Burning Crusade, and I miss them.

The first of these comes into play at level 10 and provides you with your choice of what will likely be your first green-quality staff or off-hand frill item, with another following at level 15 that grants you a nice green-quality robe. There's a chance, especially if you have a high-level main bankrolling your Mage, that you'll already have better gear than these quests provide by the time they become available, but the quests are worthwhile simply from a lore perspective in any event. Doing them just makes you feel like a Mage, and I can't think of many things more valuable than that.

The level 10 quests for Alliance Mages can be found here and here, their Horde counterparts here and here, and the level 15 mini-chains end here, here and here.

More Mage-only quests come along as you go, but most require trips into instances that may or may not be worth the effort to get groups for. I did them back in the day, when you could actually find other people who wanted to visit Uldaman, and they were a pain even then. If you're willing to invest the time and possible frustration, I'd encourage doing them, but if not, I suspect you'll still find your way to 80 anyway.

I'd at least recommend doing the chain that leads you to Sunken Temple to kill Morphazz. The trinket you can choose as a reward will serve you well into Burning Crusade's content, and is worth picking up if you're a Fire Mage, even with the hassle that is Sunken Temple taken into account. If you aren't a Fire Mage, the dagger is at least unique, and the neck item is decent also, though far more quickly replaced than the trinket.

2. Take Tailoring

This is more a mater of personal preference than anything. Take whatever professions you want to take. But unless you have a high-level character funding your newbie Mage, leveling one can be so much easier with Tailoring. Here's why:

Gear you can use. Most of everything you can make with Tailoring can be used by a Mage, and if you level it on pace with your experience level, you can generally upgrade your gear largely through your own sewing prowess, which is always a good feeling. Bags. It's difficult to describe how much simpler the leveling process is with bag-space than it is without. Being able to make your own instead of having to brave the auction house or pray for drops is a wonderful thing. Excellent at end-game. Two words for you: Lightweave Embroidery. That alone makes this one of the prime raiding professions at end-game for Mages, and you'll already have it leveled up when you get there. Extra professions slot. Since there's no gathering profession associated with Tailoring, you can fill that leftover slot with any other tradeskill you fancy. 3. Get into groups for instances

I know it's a pain now. Nobody's looking for groups for the low instances anymore. In fact, it's entirely possible that you'll have to wait to get into Outland to group with all-Death Knight parties or something to even find a group. It's a crying shame, but people just don't seem to want to bother with places like Shadowfang Keep or Scarlet Monastery anymore. But look at some of the loot you can get in those two instances alone:

Robes of Arugal
Belt of Arugal
Eerie Stable Lantern
Feline Mantle

Blighted Leggings
Bloodmage Mantle
Hypnotic Blade
Illusionary Rod
Mantle of Doan
Orb of the Forgotten Seer
Whitemane's Chapeau
Triune Amulet

Plus, by going in as a group, no matter the hassle in getting that group together, you will get much-needed experience. I'm not just talking about the experience that comes in the form of actual points, but the experience that comes by doing a thing. Which brings me to the next thing every Mage needs to do...

4. Learn how to Mage

You can really only do this in similarly leveled groups. With the general speed of leveling, the watering down of previously elite group quests, and the difficulty in finding low-level instance groups of late, the opportunities for traditional grouping while leveling have become increasingly rare. Many Mages are making it all the way to level 80 in a largely solo fashion, meaning that it's entirely possible for us to make it to endgame without ever learning the most essential roles of our class. Three basic lessons we need to learn during the leveling process and before trying to step into the end-game content:

How to sheep. Though this isn't as imperative as it once was, it's still important. Mages need to learn how to set a mob as their focus, then keep that mob CCed while still DPSing the group's main target. How to manage threat. When you're solo, you're focused on nuking your enemies down as fast as possible, but this mentality can and will get you and your group killed in an instance. Get a threat-meter mod like Omen and learn to throttle back on your DPS a bit before you yank mobs from the tank. How to DPS. Fireball>Fire Blast>Arcane Explosion may be how you kill mobs while questing, but it isn't an effective spell rotation. Learn an effective rotation for your spec and level, and refine it as you advance. By the time you hit level 80, you'll have a better handle on how to pump out consistent, mana-efficient DPS on a ranged target, and this knowledge is essential as you set foot in your first raiding encounters. 5. Get Polymorph: Pig

This is another Mage-only quest, and one that's especially easy to miss these days. By the time it becomes available at level 60, most of us will be halfway through Hellfire Peninsula, and we may have skipped the zone it's found in (Ashzara) altogether. If this is the case, make the trip back to Azeroth at least long enough to pick up this variation on our signature spell. Track down Archmage Xylem way up in his tower in the mountains and start the relatively simple chain that leads to this spell. Again, this is more for flavor than anything else, but I'd recommend it, if only so that you can have a little variation in your sheeping.

Some other random tips that aren't Mage-specific enough to be part of the list:

The Blood Elf/Draenei starting areas are better organized, prettier, and offer better loot than any other level 1-20ish zones in the game. Dustwallow Marsh is awesome now; make it your stop in the 35-40 range instead of boring old Stranglethorne Vale. But for heaven's sake don't try to fight Overlord Mok'Morrok when the quest to do so becomes available to you. He will kill you. It will be violent and quick. The rewards are kind of crappy anyway. Have a high level friend help you, or get a group when you get to a higher level. I will never understand why they made this quest so much more difficult than the quests that led up to it. It's plain stupid. The Inscription-made Darkmoon decks are great sources of cheap gear and experience when you hit their appropriate levels. Pick them up at the auction house (usually on the cheap) or make friends with somebody who's leveling Inscription (or level it yourself, if that tickles your fancy) and steal the cards from them. No single chains are more valuable while leveling in terms of loot, experience, gold, and potions than the Ring of Blood quests in Nagrand at level 65 and the Amphitheater of Anguish at level 75 in Zul'Drak. There are almost always people looking for these in their respective zones, so when you hit the appropriate levels for them, go forth and group up. What else would you recommend, fellow Mages? I'm sure there a whole boatload of ideas out there that I'm not even thinking of or don't even know about. Share your wisdom!

Mining the armory for Hunter pet statistics

With Hunter pet information recently added to the armory, Data Miner Zardoz has wasted no time getting his hands on the raw Hunter pet data and breaking it down. The data is only for level 80 Hunters, and only 10,000 of those at that, but it still gives a very interesting snapshot of what's going with the Hunter's best friends.

It might not be too big a surprise that Cats are far and away the most popular pet at a count of around 9500, nearly doubling again the amount of Wolves, who come in just under 5000, which are in turn used in numbers over twice as much as the next popular choice, Gorillas, who are just above 2800 in number. Now mind you, this information does take into account pets that are in the stables as well, and there's certainly the possibility that a lot of them have just stayed in the stables for a long time.

Still, it's sort of crazy to see a handful of pets blow away all comers. If Cats and Wolves seem to insurmountably blow them all away, is it is a sign of overpoweredness, or just a sign that no matter what new skins and pet families you implement, people will always return to their old favorites? Or does it just mean that a bunch of old Hunters used Cats and Wolves back when they were one of a handful of pets available and just stuck them in a stable for old times sake rather than abandon them? One also wonders how Scorpids and Ravagers got so unpopular so fast. They used to dominate in Burning Crusade. Are we so fickle as Hunters that we just wanted to abandon their ugly faces as soon as we didn't need them?

Then there's the other question: Do the poor pet types at the bottom of the barrel deserve buffs, or are they a lost cause? Does Blizzard even care much about pet "skin" balancing, or do they just assume that no-one loves those ugly Sporebats? We do know they care about pet appearance to some degree, though, thanks to the Worgen debacle and the older slime debacle and the even older Ghost Wolf debacle.

Speaking of Slimes (and Hydras), Zardoz's data on the percentage of pets also includes a listing of what specific pet mobs are the most tamed for each family. For Crocolisks, it looks like far and away it's the now hot fixed to be untameable Hydra and Slime from the quest A Cleansing Song. Again, a lot of these "Crocolisks" are probably hidden away in stables now, but it at least suggests that people like awesome pet looks. You can see this in action with Boars as well, with the Rotting Ama'gar holding a commanding lead over all other comers, and even with the very popular wolves, where the demonic-looking Vargul Blighthound leads the pack.

Of course, other pet types, such as Hyenas and Cats, you'll actually find that the most popular pet mobs are the most high leveled ones. You'd think this would be less of a problem in the modern WoW game, since your pets automatically level to within 5 levels of you anyway when you first tame them, but it seems like people still like to take every slight advantage they can get.

One more interesting thing Zardoz points out is that just under half the pets in his sample have no spent talent points. Now, again, it could be these are just old pets in the stable that haven't been pulled out and talented ever, but there's also that whole weird thing where pets seem to lose their talents when their Hunter switches specs and all that gets a bit annoying. Maybe this kind of statistic will convince Blizzard they need to check into hammering out that pet spec switching stuff, though.

It's probably not completely safe to say too much about this data. It's pretty raw, and doesn't cover frequency of use or style of play for each pet, so we don't want to jump to conclusions too quickly, but at the least it should be fun to check it out and see how popular (or unique) your favorite pet really is.

WoW Worgen or a Goblin?

So it might just be some fanciful speculation, the product of rampant imaginings after digging through some game files. It could mean something, it could mean nothing. But yesterday's bombshell discovery of Halloween masks, traditionally reserved for playable races, threw a whole bunch of us into a tizzy. Goblins as playable races? That wouldn't be too surprising considering they've had models in the game that could wear player armor, anyway. But Worgen? I mean, wow.

It's not that far-fetched, either. The Undermine, the home of the Goblins, is situated near the Maelstrom. Remember how Blizzard trademarked Cataclysm, which in Azerothian terms actually refers to the events around the Maelstrom? That means we just might see The Undermine in the next expansion. So Goblins aren't such a wild idea.

But what about the Worgen?

Well, remember how the human nation of Gilneas holed up behind the Greymane Wall? Who knows what's been happening behind that wall? And why are there so many werewolves hanging around there? Pretty curious. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough, though, considering Blizzard's been teasing us about it. These masks just might be more of the same.

Here's the deal, though... if Worgen and Goblins do become the next playable races, will you play them?

Would you play WoW Goblin or Worgen?

It's not clear which side either race will be on, but some of you guys made great points yesterday - the Horde need a 'short' race. Goblins also man Horde zeppelins and run the Engineering shop in Orgrimmar. So playable Goblins could be Horde. On the flip side, Gilneas was a human town, so if it turns out to be a werewolf settlement, they just might ally themselves with the Alliance. Does this mean you'd pay for a faction change just to play a Worgen in World of Warcraft? What are your thoughts on this wild speculation?

WoW 3.2 PTR Patch Notes - Build 10116

3.2 Patch Notes - Build 10116
The 3.2 PTR patch notes have been updated again. Below is a list of what's new / changed.

Ring of Valor
The flame wall has been removed.
Against the Odds: This achievement has been removed and converted to a Feat of Strength.
Raids and Dungeons
An Immortal Guardian targeted for Empowering Shadows in the Yogg-Saron encounter will now become a 'Marked Immortal Guardian' while targeted.
Crusher Tentacles in the Yogg-Saron encounter spawn a little slower in 25-player mode allowing a bit more time for players to clear out the Illusion room.
Empowering Shadows in the Yogg-Saron encounter now targets a maximum of three Immortal Guardians in 25-player mode.
Yogg-Saron's health has been reduced by 20% in the final stage of his 25-player mode.
Items: General
Items with Triggered Effects: These items generally have cooldowns on how often they can be triggered. Those cooldowns are now triggered each time the item is equipped (example: A trinket has a 45-second cooldown on an effect triggered by player attacks; when a player equips that item, the effect will be unable to be triggered for the first 45 seconds it is worn).
Crusader Aura: This ability now also grants its flying speed increase to a druid’s Flight Form and Swift Flight Form.
A customizable totem bar will now be available for shamans allowing the storing of 4 different totems. These totems can be placed on the ground at once in one global cooldown for the combined mana cost of all 4 totems. The naming scheme of the spells to summon the different totem sets has been changed to make it less confusing for players:
Call of Fire (Totem Bar 1, the first one gained at level 30) is now named Call of the Elements.
Call of Water (Totem Bar 2) is now named Call of the Ancestors.
Call of Fire (Totem Bar 3) is now named Call of the Spirits.
Call of Earth (the spell to recall all summoned totems) is now named Totemic Recall.
Improved Shadow Bolt: Redesigned slightly. Instead of a 100% chance to apply a 1/2/3/4/5% critical strike increase on the target, it now has a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to apply a 5% critical strike increase.
Devastate: Weapon damage increased to 60% and bonus per Sunder Armor on the target increased by 20%.
Bug Fixes (Some of these may not be new; posting entire list because there are a LOT of new things)

Death Knights
Anti-Magic Shell: The tooltip for this ability will now reflect modifications from the Magic Suppression talent.
Blood-Caked Blade: The damage from this talent is no longer normalized to weapon speed.
Chilblains: Icy Clutch can no longer miss when Frost Fever hits, however, when Frost Fever is dispelled Icy Clutch will also be dispelled.
Dancing Rune Weapon: The rune weapon will no longer cast Corpse Explosion.
Desecration: No longer causes unnecessary combat logging.
Horn of Winter: Learning rank 2 of this ability caused players to unlearn rank 1, such that it no longer appears in their spellbook. It is now possible to relearn that rank, and death knights will no longer “forget” rank 1 when they learn rank 2.
Lichborne: The buff from this ability can now be cancelled.
Raise Ally: Using the Gnaw ability while under the effects of this spell will now initiate auto-attack. In addition, the damage done has been changed from a flat value to a percentage of weapon damage.
Raise Dead: This spell will no longer give two errors when the casting player lacks the reagent to cast it.
Rune of Razorice: Each death knight can now have his or her own copy of this debuff on the target.
Rune of Spellbreaking: Tooltip now indicates the effect from this enchantment does not stack with other effects which reduce the duration of Silence effects (including not stacking with a second copy of this enchantment). In addition, now reduces damage from Holy spells.
Rune of Spellshattering: Now reduces damage from Holy spells.
Summon Gargoyle: Corrected the inaccurate tooltip which claimed a Gargoyle could last up to 40 seconds, when in fact 30 seconds has always been the maximum.
Rune of Razorice: Corrected a bug where this applied to frost damage done by others.
Bash: Tooltip now specifies that the Interrupt effect only occurs on non-player targets.
Bear Form, Cat Form, and Dire Bear Form: Mana energizes that occur while in these forms will now appear in the combat log and floating combat text.
Cyclone: Victims of Cyclone can no longer receive healing from health drain effects such as Devouring Plague while they are affected by Cyclone.
Dash: Druids who have not learned Track Humanoids will now retain the benefit of Dash while shifting out of and back into Cat Form.
Druids should no longer be removed from a form after using any engineered bombs.
Maim: Tooltip now specifies that the Interrupt effect only occurs on non-player targets.
Natural Perfection: Now properly triggered by periodic critical strikes.
Nature's Grasp: This talent will no longer be triggered spuriously by some ranged abilities such as Heroic Throw.
All ranks of Sonic Blast now properly have an 80 Focus cost.
Black Arrow Ranks 5 and 6 training costs have been lowered significantly.
Furious Howl: Ranks 1-5 will no longer give slightly more attack power than is listed in their tooltips.
Lock and Load: The tooltip for this talent has been updated to indicate that it also works with Explosive Trap.
Roar of Sacrifice: Damage transferred to pet is now considered Nature damage.
The tooltip for Improved Tracking has been slightly re-written to indicate that it only works on the hunter, and works on melee damage as well.
T.N.T. (Rank 3): Now indicates that the talent works with Black Arrow.
Arcane Instability: Tooltip reworded to clarify design intent.
Burning Determination: Some Silence and Interrupt effects that did not trigger this talent will now trigger it properly, including Bash, Hammer of Justice, Shield of the Templar, Garrote and Gag Order.
Combustion: Fire spell misses will no longer trigger this talent.
Conjure Refreshment: Rank 1 food will no longer overwrite the drink buff from rank 2 food.
Fireball: Periodic damage from this spell can no longer trigger Combustion.
Living Bomb: Periodic critical strikes from this ability can now trigger Ignite and Hot Streak.
Mirror Image: The mirror images will no longer complete casts of Frostbolt on targets which are Polymorphed at the time their Frostbolt channel finishes.
Molten Armor: Critical strikes from the effect on this armor will no longer trigger Ignite.
Auras: Any paladin aura active at the time of the paladin’s death now automatically reactivates when the paladin returns to life.
Beacon of Light: Multiple paladins can now have this buff active on the same target. In addition, the beacon target will no longer lose the buff while under the effects of Cyclone or Banish.
Blessing of Sanctuary: This talent and Vigilance will now both be able to be cast on the same target without sometimes overwriting each other.
Exorcism: Now properly has a 100% chance to be a critical strike when cast on death knights using Lichborne.
Eye for an Eye: Now properly triggered by periodic critical strikes. In addition, the tooltip incorrectly stated that 20% damage is reflected, when it is actually 10%. Tooltip fixed.
Hammer of Justice: Tooltip now specifies that the Interrupt effect only occurs on non-player targets.
Hand of Sacrifice: Casting this spell on a target with Divine Sacrifice active will now generate an error message instead of wasting the cooldown.
Heart of the Crusader: The effect from this talent will no longer be removed if a paladin without this talent overwrites the judgement placed by a paladin who does have the talent.
Holy Shield: It is no longer possible to have two ranks of this ability active at the same time.
Judgements: All paladin judgements are now properly considered as melee attacks that cannot be dodged, blocked or parried. Previously Seal of Light, Seal of Wisdom, Seal of Justice and Seal of Righteousness would cause the judgement to be considered a ranged attack.
Judgement of the Just: The effect from this talent will no longer be removed if a paladin without this talent overwrites the judgement placed by a paladin who does have the talent.
Judgement of Vengeance: Inaccurate combat log tooltip corrected.
Judgement of Corruption: Inaccurate combat log tooltip corrected.
Pursuit of Justice: This talent will no longer sometimes be deactivated when leaving a battleground.
Sacred Shield: This buff will no longer have any effect if the target is another player engaged in a duel. In addition, the heal from this buff will no longer cause the paladin to stand, and it is no longer possible for two paladins to both have the spell active on one target.
Blessed Resilience: Now properly triggered by periodic critical strikes.
Divine Aegis: This talent will now work properly if the priest moves out of range of his or her target as the effect is resolving.
Divine Hymn: This spell now works correctly with the trinket Illustration of the Dragon Soul. Mana Burn: Fixed a bug where Mana Burn did not cause fear effects to break when the fear victim had an absorb shield on.
Mass Dispel: This spell now triggers some types of trinkets it did not trigger before (such as Flow of Knowledge).
Mind Flay: This spell will now work correctly with [target=focus] macros.
Pain Suppression: No longer can be cast while under the effects of Incapacitate or Cyclone.
Honor Among Thieves: Periodic critical strikes now grant combo points for rogues with this talent.
Killing Spree: Error message when no targets are in range has been changed to “Out of Range”.
Master of Subtlety: Being under the effects of Cyclone when the buff from this talent is about to expire will no longer make it last indefinitely.
Overkill: Being under the effects of Cyclone when the buff from this talent is about to expire will no longer make it last indefinitely.
Shiv: Deadly Poison will now apply properly when Shiv is the attack used to break a Gouge.
Tricks of the Trade: Using this ability on a target affected by Cyclone or Banish will no longer place the ability on permanent cooldown and will instead give an error message.
Turn the Tables: Rank 2 of this talent will now work properly with raid members, and not just party members.
Elemental Devastation: Tooltip revised to indicate it does not work with critical strikes from periodic damage.
Elemental Focus: Tooltip revised to indicate it does not work with critical strikes from periodic damage.
Elemental Oath: Tooltip revised to indicate it does not work with critical strikes from periodic damage.
Flametongue Weapon: Fixed tooltip error.
Frostbrand Weapon: Fixed a bug where rank 9 was not scaling properly with a shaman’s spell power.
Demonic Circle: The visual for this spell should now despawn when the warlock dies or when the warlock otherwise loses the aura that allows transport to the circle.
Immolate and Unstable Affliction: All ranks of these two spells will now overwrite each other.
Improved Imp: Each time an Imp is summoned it will recast Blood Pact (if autocast is on), forcing it to benefit from this talent, even if the Imp was not summoned at the time the talent was learned.
Berserker Rage: Tooltip clarified to indicate this ability breaks existing Fear, Sap, and Incapacitate effects.
Bladestorm: Now properly removes the Snare effect of Desecration in all cases.
Blood Craze: Now properly triggered by periodic critical strikes.
Execute: Focused Rage and the Dreadnaught Battlegear set bonus will now properly reduce the cost of Execute.
Slam: The combat log tooltip will no longer list which rank of Slam was used. Previously it incorrectly listed rank 8 for all ranks of Slam.
Vigilance: This talent and Blessing of Sanctuary will now both be able to be cast on the same target without sometimes overwriting each other.
Adamantite Scope: Attaching this scope to an item will now cause it to become soulbound as intended.
Badge of the Swarmguard: Will no longer cause a weapon swing animation when it triggers.
Cenarion Set: No longer reduces the (nonexistent) cooldown on Hurricane. Instead, the set bonus increases the damage done by Hurricane by 15%.
Commendation of Bravery: No longer useable when player is already at the maximum honor allowed.
Deadly Gladiator’s Dreadplate: The set bonus will now trigger properly from Crippling Poison.
Death Knight PvP Glove Bonus: The runic power gain no longer appears in the combat log.
Death Knight Tier-7 Set: Fingers of the Damned now has a detailed combat log tooltip.
Frostweave Net: Using this item no longer causes the user to break shapeshifts.
Glyph of Beacon of Light: This glyph will no longer grant its duration increase twice when Beacon of Light is cast on self.
Glyph of Corpse Explosion: This glyph will no longer cause the model on target dummies to change.
Glyph of Death Strike: Tooltip typo corrected.
Glyph of Disease: Blood Plague will now last its correct full duration when refreshed by this glyph.
Glyph of Freezing Trap: The effect from this glyph will now log properly.
Glyph of Healing Wave: The heal from this glyph will no longer benefit twice from the Purification talent.
Glyph of Overpower: Fixed a bug where sometimes parries would not trigger the glyph. In addition, this glyph will now only make Overpower available for 6 seconds after a parry, instead of indefinitely.
Glyph of Power World: Shield: The heal from this glyph can now cause Divine Aegis.
Glyph of Shadow: This glyph can now be triggered by critical strikes from periodic damage.
Glyph of Shocking: Fixed tooltip error on Macintosh game client.
Glyph of Shadowflame: The effect from this glyph will now work properly when multiple Warlocks use Shadowflame on the target.
Gnomish Mind Control Cap: Paladins who break the harmful effect from this item by using Divine Shield will now properly gain the Forbearance debuff.
Goblin Dragon Gun: This item will no longer spam the combat log with cast messages.
Heavy Netherweave Net: Using this item no longer causes the user to break shapeshifts.
Major Arcane Protection Potion: Vendor price lowered to match other similar potions.
Nightsong Battlegear: The 2-piece set bonus will no longer sometimes be triggered by other periodic damage other than those listed in the tooltip.
Pandora’s Plea: Corrected a tooltip issue.
Randomly generated uncommon (green) and rare (blue) quality items in Wrath of the Lich King had stat values that were lower than intended. All Wrath of the Lich King uncommon and rare items with random suffixes (“of the Bear”) have had their stat values increased significantly.
Reins of the Icemaw Matriarch: This vehicle will now leave bear footprints instead of barefoot footprints.
Reticulated Armor Webbing: Tooltip corrected to no longer claim that this item only works on plate items.
Saronite Bomb: This item will no longer cause threat against nearby targets just outside the targeting circle.
Scrolls: Scrolls which grant agility, intellect, spirit, strength, or stamina will now report an error message and no longer consume and waste the scroll when the target has a more powerful buff to that stat.
Sif’s Remembrance: Sound and animation added to trinket effect.
Sigil of Arthritic Binding: The bonus damage from this relic is now added after diseases have increased damage by a percentage, instead of after.
Trinkets: Various trinkets which did not work properly with channeled area-of-effect spells will now work with those spells. This includes (but is not limited to) Illustration of the Dragon Soul, Darkmoon Card: Greatness, and Egg of Mortal Essence.
Warrior PvP Glove Bonus: Tooltip reworded slightly.
Wintergrasp Commendation: No longer useable when player is already at the maximum honor allowed.
Enchant Weapon – Black Magic: This enchantment can now be triggered by some spells it did not previously work with, including Curse of Agony, Blizzard, and Typhoon.
Guardian Gloves: Now correctly marked as uncommon quality.
Hallow's End: Putting out fires for this event will no longer trigger effects from items, talents, and set bonuses.
Noblegarden: Loot windows will no longer periodically close while the looting player is transformed into a rabbit.

July 17, 2009

New WoW PTR raid testing schedule

The patch 3.2 PTR went down for maintenance today, but it's scheduled to be coming back up soon (if it isn't already). The 5-man dungeon will be available for testing "shortly after the PTR coming up." The main event for this PTR testing period, the Crusader's Coliseum raid, will have three bosses available for testing in each region (North America and Europe), on the following schedule:

North America:
Lord Jaraxxus (Normal only): tonight, starting at 7 PM EDT. Northrend Beasts (Normal and Heroic): Friday, July 17, starting at 7 PM EDT. Faction Champions (Normal and Heroic): same as above, Friday, July 17, starting at 7 PM EDT. Europe (all fights available on Normal and Heroic):
Val'kyr: Friday, July 17, starting at 19:00 CEST. Lord Jaraxxus: same as above, Friday, July 17, starting at 19:00 CEST. Anub'arak: Saturday, July 18, starting at 19:00 CEST. Tank and DPS Patchwerks will also be back again. Daelo notes that much of the loot does not have its final art yet, and that most of the achievements should now be implemented.

Wow leveling will always be important

Times they are a changin', and as Patch 3.2 hits the PTR with a new wealth of mechanics aimed at making the journey to 80 that much easier, why not take a moment to look back at how Azeroth has changed?

Leveling used to take a long time, and one of the first things a friend told me was that "the game started at 60." While the level cap might have changed, it's something I heartily agree with.Those of you who joined the game around the time of the latest expansion or even before might hear others speaking with misty-eyes of the olden days of Classic WoW when it took an age to get from Darnassus to Stormwind.

While WoW might have a much lower learning curve than, say, EVE Online, it does still have one. But WoW is known as a bit of a grind fest and the ever growing level cap, which currently stands at 80 but will no doubt go higher with the next expansion, can be pretty daunting.

Wow leveling Especially for a new player.

Blizzard has moved from making the endgame only accessible to the most high-level raiders to the exact opposite, making it accessible to nearly everyone. This mean even my mid-sized guild can nip into Ulduar and down the first couple of bosses with only a little fuss and a fair amount of effort. Yet the changes are not just limited to the endgame.

These accessibility changes now encompass the whole of Azeroth; from transportation to the amount of XP needed to level, continually lowering that learning curve to enable players to hit the endgame sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Recruit A Friend, your alts can join in the fun as well while your main gets kudos (and a groovy mount) for introducing a newbie to the wonders of Azeroth. With this comes the ability to grant a few levels. This begs the quesiton, why not just add an insta-level button? It would be nice wouldn't it? To just be able to stand in a city and ding dozens of times a la that video where a friend got their recruiter's alt to 60 in about twenty minutes.

However, it would also defeat the entire point of playing the game. As your toon moves through levels and you learn how to play your class, this is integral to learning the game whether it's your first toon or your fiftieth. After all how many people roll two of the same class?

On the PTR, mounts can be learned at a new-time low level of 20, a massive drop from the original 40 levels back in my day. There is, of course, a method to this madness. No more gauntlet-running through STV and being ganked by mean Alliance/Horde players who have nothing better to do that one-shot a much lower level player and dance on their corpse. This is basically the gist behind the whole idea; rather than speed up the leveling process by improving the XP gain or lowering the amount needed to ding (at least this time around), Blizzard has decided to literally speed up leveling by allowing you to get your mount another ten levels early.

All these changes point to Blizzard being smart. It's important to them that players learn their class, which is something you just can't do by going directly to level 80. Yes, you can learn how the world works and how to make money or train professions but you cannot just waltz in and play a capped-out character. Believe me, I tried. During the Wrath beta I got myself a Mage and headed to Northrend. As I quickly found out the class was completely alien to me, the talents meant nothing and to put it bluntly, I sucked.

Of course, at a more financial level, the other reason for leveling is in order to keep those subscriptions rolling in. It might only cost $14.99/12.99€/£8.99 a month to play, but multiply that by nearly 12 million players and that's an awful lot of money. Now factor in the number of years since WoW hit the market and you have some seriously large numbers. Added to this, once players have hit the level cap, this is where the 'mini-expansion' style patches come in. But here is where some players will still want something new and different during the lull between expansions or new patches and will reroll a second toon. Perhaps your guild needs more tanks or healers so you go back to the start and begin the leveling process again, learning a new class but benefiting from prior knowledge of quest hands in and money or XP-granting heirlooms from your main.

While I personally dislike leveling intently, it's only since hitting 80 (which I admit was a heck of a lot easier than 60-70) that I've come to appreciate the true wisdom behind this strange game mechanic and my friend's wise words.

It's not about torturing players, it's about teaching them how to play the game.

Leveling will prepare them for the raids to come, for 80 and the call of Naxx, the Eye of Eternity, Ulduar and inevitable Icecrown itself as well. Indeed in recent lore leveling could even be said to prepare us mentally and physically for our character to face the greatest challenge for any Azerothian adventurer thus far: the fall of the Lich King himself. This is why it will always remain a vital part of why we play WoW in the first place.

WoW Patch 3.2 brings two more heirloom weapons

We were all aflutter over the news of the new Heirloom chest pieces that give you an extra 10% XP, but we somehow forgot to mention the two new heirloom weapons. The Venerable Mass of McGowan and the Repurposed Lava Dredger are the two new heirloom weapons we'll be getting in patch 3.2, and sticking with the theme of the other heirlooms thus far, you'll recognize them instantly if you're an old school player.

These two items are probably aimed at filling gaps in Heirloom itemization that left people like Enhancement Shaman and Feral Druids without a swank weapon to level up with. Naturally, other classes can use these if they want, but those two class/spec combinations really had no good options to work with.

I'm particularly pleased to see the Mass of McGowan being brought back. I don't know if it was the same on all servers, but on my particular server, that thing was largely believed to be a myth for the longest time. You see, the Mass only drops off of mobs that are level 60 or higher. Before they finished implementing Silithus, there were no non-elite level 60 mobs out in the world that you would just kill at random throughout your day. The only place you could find this thing was usually in raids. I'm sure my server had plenty more of them, but the only one I was actively aware of was one being used by the main tank of a Horde raiding guild. It had more mystique surrounding it than most of today's epics.

They just don't make blues like that these days. Le sigh!

Blizzard music to be featured at Gamer MusiCON '09

If you're looking for a way to relax this weekend, why don't you hie off to Houston and get tickets to the Gamer MusiCON '09, an all-day event celebrating music from the video game industry. If you're familiar with the Video Games Live, the whole event has expanded somewhat with the help of Blizzard Entertainment and will now have a full hour-and-a-half Blizzard Live! to go along with the traditional Video Games Live! concert.

Blizzard Live! will feature music, both old and some never performed ones, from Blizzard's different game worlds - Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft - paired with exclusive game footage and synchronized lighting. The Video Games Live! segment features music from other popular games like Chrono Trigger or Mega Man.

Of course, just like any great geek and gamer event, Gamer MusiCON will feature a lot of fun in between, such as costume contests, Guitar Hero faceoffs, a Q&A with Blizzard's composers, autograph signings, and lots of swag. The event, conducted by Jack Wall and hosted by Tommy Talarico, comes to life with the help of the Houston Symphony. It will be held at the Jones Hall in downtown Houston. You'd better get your tickets today! Oh, and don't forget to bring a date.

July 16, 2009

Capitalizing on WoW Patch 3.2

New patches always bring unique and often limited-time-only opportunities to cash in. To take advantage of them you have to be aware, come prepared, and be willing to invest in anything from materials to spending some quality time with the Auction House.

So what can you get out of wow patch 3.2? Scanning through the latest PTR notes, here are some potential gold-making highlights. Remember, results may vary:

Strangulate, a Death Knight ranged ability that silences, will soon also apply a 3 second Interrupt effect on non-player controlled targets (read: not for PvP). While a few other abilities are also getting this buff, you might note that there is actually a Glyph of Strangulate, which skims 20 seconds off its cooldown.

Considering how many fights depend on the tank and DPS to constantly be interrupting effects (General Vezax anyone?), this particular glyph might become more popular.

Frustrated Paladins everywhere probably have dropped Glyph of Exorcism from their PvP specs, but with wow 3.2 making it usable on players again, they may be wanting it back.

Glyph of Claw is being added to the game, and you can expect pretty much all ferals pre-level 50 (when they train Mangle) to pick it up. Although you won't be able to make this pre-patch, you could farm the materials.

Because potions are being changed to stack to 20, potion injectors will no longer be of any use to the general public, so I recommend trying to sell any that you do have. It's the last chance for profit, and of course, you can make more for yourself later (they will still be useful to you) when they reduce the materials with the patch.

Now is the time to level your Fishing. Get to at least 300 skill, but max it out if you can. There are plenty of other gold-making reasons to do this, and the patch will be adding yet another one. When you complete the Northrend Fishing daily quests, and have min 300 skill, you may find a Waterlogged Recipe in amongst your rewards.

When turned in, you will get several Dalaran Cooking Awards. Why do you care? Because you can sell the books to achievement junkies and cooking enthusiasts who want the new and improved Chef's Hat (soon to speed up cooking times) and associated achievement, Cooking With Style.

Titanium Ore
Mine this up, or buy it, but don't smelt it. Save as much of it as you can. Once the patch hits, the demand for this is going to go sky-high. Jewelcrafters will be looking to prospect it, and it will be turning up as a key reagent in some of the new epic Blacksmithing gear.

Non-Combat Pets
These obviously cannot be farmed until after the patch, but they will be in huge demand, so if you have a farming toon (Death Knights and Hunters are often used for more efficient farming), you should keep up on the latest info on the new pets.

For example, one of the raptor pets will be dropping from elite raptors inside Wailing Caverns, which could easily be farmed by almost anyone, save the very low level toons. You will also have no competition. In a dungeon of your own, you can clear it, leave and reset it, and trot merrily back in with fresh new spawns.

The news feed over at Warcraft Pets is a great resource for planning this out in advance.

WoW Patch 3.2 background download begins

Here's another step in wow patch 3.2's slow march forward: the background download has begun. The first 273 MB chunk of the patch file is now available in a Blizzard Background Downloader app near you. Blizzard has been using this method to pre-distribute parts of patches as they get finalized for quite some time now, to lessen the bandwidth strain on patch day.

What does this mean for the patch's ETA? Not much, I'm afraid. All we can surmise from this is that some parts of the patch artwork are ready to go. The time between the background download becoming available and the patch going live varies widely, from less than a week to over a month. We'll just have to wait and see.

Blizzard warns against Three Wolf Moon at BlizzCon

Grainne was posting over on the BlizzCon forums today, and brought up a very good point. We all need to be very careful about wearing our Three Wolf Moon shirts to BlizzCon.

My first experience with this shirt of legend, like many of you, came through the largest digg in the known universe. It became so popular that the digg counters are even screwed up. It's just that awesome. When my shirt finally arrived I immediately found that all the Blood Elves were attracted to me, even the dudes. But that's okay, because such a powerful shirt demands respect. I was attracted to me too.

I think Nethaera must have had such a similar experience. Perhaps she was posing in game as one those Blood Elves? Because that would explain her warning:

"Whoa... no need to dress up that much! Not to mention, it may cause a disturbance you know."

I'm sorry if my shirt wearing caused you any problems Neth. Hopefully Ghostcrawler isn't wearing his anymore either. I know that the one day we both wore ours, the servers crashed. I still feel bad about that.

As you can see, this is serious stuff here people.

If you're going to wear the Three Wolf Moon shirt, you need to heed Neth's warning as well as ours. Make sure your Matthew Rossi chest hair is appropriately combed and your suave Turpster accent is well practiced. For with great power comes even greater responsibility.

WoW Armory for the iPhone released

Blizzard has just released an official WoW Armory client for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The App features the ability for users to see a number of important things on their iPhone that they normally would be able to get in-game or through use of the official armory site. Some of the major features include:

Character information, including gear, achievements, and specs
PvP leader boards Talent calculators Official Blizzard news An integrated item browser In-game calendars You can download the app right now from the WoW Armory page and the App Store. The app is free. This is the second mobile application Blizzard has developed, the first being a mobile authenticator app.

Some first impressions of the app after the break!

when is WoW Patch 3.2 going to hit?

As I'm sure you all know, the WoW Patch 3.2 background downloader has appeared, that fabled herald, signaling that a new patch will finally be appearing on live servers. The PTR has been heaving, bosses have been tested, Druids are rejoicing at their fresh new forms and even more Druid lore has been revealed. Can you feel the electricity in the air yet? The crackle of an-ti-ci-pation (Rocky Horror anyone?) as the patch drip-feeds into your computer? Exciting, huh?

Except it's never as easy as that, there's usually a gap between the appearance of the downloader and the patch actually going live. It's normally a couple of weeks but, well, when do you think it's going to be? We've guesstimated when it might drop in terms of months but the downloader is a sure sign that Patch 3.2 will be hitting Soon (TM). As usual we're probably not going to know for sure until the patch actually hits or we get confirmation from a Blue in the wee small hours of a Tuesday morning, but that doesn't stop a little healthy speculation now, does it?

World of Warcraft Patch 3.2 will bring about a new 5, 10, and 25 man instance to WoW, and usher in a new 40-man battleground called the Isle of Conquest. WoW.com will have you covered every step of the way, from extensive PTR coverage through the official live release.

July 15, 2009

TOKYOPOP's Death Knight manga

Things have been a little bit quiet on the manga front, but not for long. Warcraft Legends editor Troy Lewter has pinned down Dan Jolley, writer for the forthcoming Thassarian-centric volume Warcraft: Death Knight, and posted the interview with him on the official TOKYOPOP site.

To be fair, the interview is not as focused on the manga as the one we did with Jolley a couple of months ago but it does look at how writing for the anthology volumes of the series compare with a longer story. Lewter also quizzes Jolley about how he got into the business and the last question about sharks and bears is also worth the read alone.

For those waiting on the release of Warcraft: Death Knight, it might give some new insight into how manga happens. Don't forget, you can also check out our interviews with both Dan Jolley and Troy Lewter.

A PTR preview of 5-man Crusader's Coliseum Tank loot for Death Knights

Ok, Casual and non-raiding 2 hand wielding Death Knights, you might want to sit down, because I have some big news for you: You may finally be able to chuck that Titansteel Destroyer. That's right, we're getting a new, higher level epic weapon in Patch 3.2's 5-man Crusader's Coliseum. The loot we're seeing come out of the Coliseum is all epic, and all amazing, and if you haven't even been to Naxxramas yet, either by choice or by lack of time or opportunity, you're going to have a reason to love the coliseum.

Weighing in at a whopping 203.7 DPS with a high end damage of 856, the Edge of Ruin is pretty much the dream for any serious casual Death Knight. It's right up there with Death's Bite or Armageddon from Naxxramas. The only downside is that it's an axe instead of a suitably awesome sword, and that it switches out hit rating for armor penetration, which means you may need to do some regemming to stay at the hit cap. Other than that, this is probably the number one thing you want to be gunning for once the Coliseum goes live. It even has a big chunk of strength and stamina, making it great for tanking as well.

Of course, that's not all you'll want to grab out of the Coliseum. Let's start with the tank loot.

There's some pretty sweet upgrades to be found for tanks in the Coliseums. Most of the tank gear doesn't even deal with block rating or block value, so you'll be home free on weighing stats for the most part. Nothing but pure, clean upgrades here. In fact, they even blow away some Naxxramas upgrades.

Heroic Mode Loot

The Regal Aurous Shoulderplates may be the second best news out of the 5-man Coliseum for 5-man running Death Knights. Our options for tanking shoulders have been pretty slim thus far, with Pauldrons of Reconnaissance and Iron Dwarf Smith Pauldrons being the only major options. The Regal Aurous Shoulderpads pretty much blow those away, with strength, stamina, dodge, hit rating, and defense in plenty, plus a yellow gem slot that you can use to grab some extra defense or hit rating should you need it. It also outpaces the Abomination Shoulderblades, and is arguably slightly better than the Pauldrons of Unnatural Death unless you really need the expertise.

The Helm of the Crestfallen Challenger blows away the Ground Tremor Helm on every imaginable front, with upgrades to every stat plus some parry rating for good measure. It's definitely comparable and probably a bit better than the Thane's Tainted Greathelm as well, and is a nice alternative to the Helm of Vital Protection. In addition, the non-meta gem slot is Blue, which means you're clear to stick in a Solid Majestic Zircon, for example.

The Mark of the Relentless is also a perfect Death Knight tank ring, with parry rating, armor, and expertise. It beats out pretty much any blue ring you'll find assuming you don't need the defense, and it should make a perfect companion to the Titanium Earthguard Ring. It will also nicely complement (or replace) either the Sand Worn Band or the Deflection Band, if you've picked those up in Naxxramas. Be sure to pick up another blue gem to stick in the gem slot too.

The Warlord's Depravity is where Coliseum loot stumbles a bit for Death Knights. This is primarily because neck has block value, which is useless for us. You'll probably actually be better off sticking with the Chained Military Gorget, although the Warlord's Depravity does technically have a bit more Stamina. If you're headed to 25-man Naxxramas, Heritage and Boundless Ambition will both beat this neck out (Note: Wowhead currently shows no block value on the Warlord's Depravity, but other reports claim it does have 99 block value).

Normal Mode Loot

But wait, there's more! Even if you're decked out in Heroic or 10-man Naxxramas gear, the normal mode coliseum still may have some stuff for you. Since everything dropping out of normal so far is ilevel 200, You'll probably find some pretty nice upgrades here as well.

The Boots of Heartfelt Repentance will make a very nice upgrade to the Greaves of Ancient Evil or Sabatons of Draconic Vigor you've likely been using up til now, especially once you take the gem socket into account. They also make a decent side grade to the Plague-Impervious Boots, especially if you need more expertise and can afford to drop some parry rating. With the right gem, they could arguably be comparable to the Sabatons of Endurance, but If you already have them, you're probably best off sticking with them.

Mercy's Hold are less of an upgrade than other slots just because the Horn-Tipped Gauntlets are so good, but they're still pretty arguably a nice upgrade for your hand slot. They only have about half the expertise and the same amount of armor, but they have more stamina and strength and nearly as much defense rating, as well as some dodge rating, which, while getting a nerf this patch, is still nothing to sneeze at. To top it off, you'll also get a red gem slot. If you can spare the expertise off the Horn Tipped Gauntlets, this is a solid upgrade. They're a side grade to Gauntlets of the Master as is, but may arguably be better with the right gem.

Legguards of Abandoned Fealty are nice upgrade to Bolstered Legplates. They lose some defense rating and strength, but they have a blue gem slot instead of a red slot, more stamina, and a bunch of dodge and expertise. Just be sure you can afford the hit to your hit rating.

The Girdle of the Pallid Knight is, at the least, a pretty decent side grade to the Waistguard of Living Iron. It loses a bit of defense and strength and replaces the Waistguard's dodge rating with hit rating, but it also a good chunk more parry rating, and as well as more stamina. Overall, it's certainly useful, and probably worth the switch if you need some extra hit rating, but the Ablative Chitin Girdle would be a better choice if you have it from Heroic Naxxramas.

But if you want reason to keep running normal Coliseum, this one's gonna be your goal, most likely: The Black Heart. This tank trinket not only beats out Essence of Gossamer on stamina, but the armor proc has the potential to be pretty awesome. Of course, it looks like its not completely implemented yet, so we can't say for sure, but if the armor proc is high enough and triggers often enough, it could be a very tempting replacement for a Seal of the Pantheon, at least, assuming you can make up the defense elsewhere.

Now , it is possible that all this loot could change slightly or drastically between now and when the patch hits, but considering one of their stated objectives with this new 5-man and the new badge system seems to be to allow people to catch up to the higher tiers of raiding ASAP, I get the feeling this is, in fact, pretty much planned. I'd expect that all semicasual 5-man runners and alts will be spending a lot of time in the 5-man when Patch 3.2 finally goes live.

WoW Hunter DPS analyzer now online

A few weeks ago over on Scattered Shots I reviewed many of the different tools available for Hunters to improve their game. In that post I highlighted two of the most popular tools, The Hunter DPS Spreadsheet by Wertez over at my site The Hunting Lodge and the WOTLK Spreadsheet by Shandara on Elitist Jerks.

Knowing that both spreadsheets are good at what they do, there is one fundamental issue, both require you to have Microsoft Excel running on Windows or some selected Mac systems. Using this as a good excuse to become more familiar with JavaScript and Ajax, Zeherah took the challenge and created Zeherah's Hunter DPS Analyzer.

When I asked why she decided to pick up such a daunting task, Zeherah responded, "I was particularly interested because as a Mac user my ability to make use of the spreadsheet has always been limited, I don't have a Windows Excel and many features like the stat values and armory import don't work in the Mac version. This kept me motivated, but it also makes parts of this project extra challenging since I've had to try to figure out how parts of the code in the spreadsheet worked without actually being able to use or test them myself."

As with all any DPS modeling tool, this won't give exact DPS numbers. But being based on Shandara's DPS Spreadsheet, and using the bulk of the formulas and logic found in it, you will get a pretty good idea of how making changes to your gear, talents and glyphs, buffs and debuffs, as well as your pet will impact your DPS.

Taking the cue from Shandara, Zeherah has also enabled a PTR option on her site. So whether you're on the PTR or if our just wanting to see what might be in store for you in Patch 3.2, I highly recommend heading over to Femaledwarf.com and giving it a try.

Ensidia and Method to compete in Ulduar timed run

Live PvP competition is old hat. 2009 appears to be the year of PvE (if you ask me, every year should be that year). At the Games Convention Online, in Leipzig over the weekend of July 31 – August 2, two of the strongest PvE guilds in the world, Ensidia and Method, are competing in a timed run of Ulduar.

It's going to be on 10-man, which is kind of strange, given that most people (and especially hardcore raiders) seem to think of the 25-man version as the "real" version of the raid. Maybe they wanted it to be easier for spectators to follow the action.

Points will be awarded for killing end bosses of a "zone" faster than the other guild, with points increasing from zone to zone. I'm guessing that by "zone" the press release refers to the Siege, the Antechamber, the Keepers, and the Descent into Madness, but the translation is not perfect - I could be wrong.

The Ensidia/Method matchup is going to be on August 2nd; as a prelude, two German guilds (Irae AoD and For the Horde) are going to compete on the same event on August 1st. Apparently the raids will be streaming live on allvatar.com, although I can't really get very far on that site - WTB English translation. Does anyone know if it will be free to watch or not?

WoW Class Q&A: Druid

Blizzard's class Q&A is back again, this time with a class that's near to my heart: Druid. I play my Druid more than my Priest these days (who says there's a healer shortage?), and I've grown pretty enamored with the class. But you didn't come hear to hear me talk about me. What did Ghostcrawler have to say on behalf of the dev team?

Every class Q&A so far has started with a section on the class's past and present.

In original WoW, end-game Druids were basically healing-only. BC: Bears were pretty good; cats and (b)oomkin were probably still underpowered. This was the era of the hybrid tax. Wrath: all four specs are viable. Of course, PvP is a bit different, with Resto's dominance in the BC era.

After the break we'll take a look a closer look at a few areas, and present to you the complete Q&A.

The predictable follow-up question, "what makes druids special," receives a predictable answer: forms. Shapeshift forms are possibly even too dominant - druids don't usually use forms that aren't "their" form (for their spec). Druids also have four roles (the only class to do so), and have some unique utility spells and travel abilities.

Next up, Eclipse. This is a cornerstone talent for 3.0 Balance, but it has its problems. In 3.2 they're fixing it so that one half of it isn't too much stronger than the other half. The base problem, though, is that Wrath and Starfire are too similar to each other. In the long term they have to address the root problem by adding a third spell, making the two spells more different, or adding more dynamism to another spell.

The question of Balance in PvP gets the stock answer that they're more concerned about making all classes PvP-viable than making all specs PvP-viable. Even as someone who hates PvP, this seems a bit lame to me; they've managed to make all specs PvE viable, and I don't see why PvP shouldn't receive the same treatment.

The talk now shifts to Feral. There's an interesting hint that they'd like to get rid of shapeshifting costs altogether, long-term. There is a complaint about the complexity of feral DPS rotations, to which GC (to his credit) replies that if you want top DPS, you have to master a difficult rotation.

On the topic of my personal spec of choice, Bear, there's not much good news, I'm afraid. Bears have felt inferior for a long time because they were designed to be, but as of 3.1 and 3.2, this is (allegedly) no longer the case, at all. GC claims that "it's possible their survivability is too high in 3.2;" all I can say is "we'll see." There are no plans to change Savage Defense, though personally I don't think it needs change.

On to Resto, and the answer that GC wants us to read if we only read one answer in this Q&A: "what are the intended identity and versatilities of Tree of Life druids." Resto Druids' niche is HoTs, though they also have Nourish for single-target heals and Wild Growth for groups. They are wondering whether druids sacrifice too much (i.e. by taking Tree of Life form) to be competent healers.

They are also considering whether they still want druids to "lock" themselves into one form so much - you hardly ever see "caster" form anymore. They're pondering, in the long term, making shifting more frequent and cheaper - maybe you'd only shift for certain spells, for instance. He also takes a shot at Holy Priests here, saying "you are unlikely to see any kind of 'Holy Form' ever," because "Giving up healing to do damage works okay. Giving up everything to heal is lame" (I disagree).

Tranquility and Healing Touch are judged to be fine, although they plan to "rejuggle" the tree in the long-term (as I imagine they will for all 30 talent trees).

Itemization! Crit is planned to be increased in usefulness for Resto. As for bear druids, unlike for every other role and class in the game, they have no problem with tanking jewelry and cloaks being more useful to the other three tank classes than to bears, because parry (and shield stats) is meaningless to us. (Bitter? Me?)

An interesting proposal is advanced to make leather have DPS and tanking stats, and let the caster druids use cloth, but this is quickly shot down, mostly because they like the look of the armor. Whatever.

As for relics, GC says that they view vendors as "an absolute last resort" for itemization. This Q&A is making me angrier and angrier as I go through it, so I will just report that according to GC, the "best solution" is where a boss has a 10% ("or whatever") chance to drop a relic in addition to his normal loot table. Urge to kill rising.

He's asked a question about 310% speed flight form; we now know that players with a 310% speed mount will have their Swift Flight Form fly at that speed as well. Innervate will not be castable in forms, although Warstomp might. Travel Form and Aquatic form are slated for visual revamps in the future (which I read as "patch 5.1").

That's all for Druids, which is probably good, because I think my head might have exploded if it went much farther.

The complete Druid Q&A is as follows:

Today we continue our class Q&A series with Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street and the development team, in which we're taking a look at each class and answering some of the top questions brought forward by their communities. Next up, we take a look at the most asked questions from the druid class and find out more about the design philosophy and expectations for the class, as well as what may lie in store for it in the future.

Druid Q&A with the Voice of the Class Design Team, Ghostcrawler

Community Team: We'd like to start things off by asking a question that players often ask in regard to the very purpose of each class. In this case, we're looking specifically at the druid, which has one of the widest ranges of play styles in World of Warcraft because of the variety offered from the different talent trees.

Q: Where do druids fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?

Ghostcrawler: Much like the paladin and shaman, the original World of Warcraft druid was intended to be a healer for end-game content. Bears could tank Upper Blackrock okay. But honestly, nobody took cats, bears or moonkin very seriously at level 60. In Burning Crusade, this changed a little. Bears could tank a lot more content, and might have even been overpowered in the endgame if it weren't for Sunwell Radiance. Cats were probably underpowered. You still saw them, but they were there mostly for buffs or because they could slip easily from tanking to dps in a world before dual-spec. They were great for Zul'Aman for example. There were some great Balance druids, but still a lot of Oomkin. Our philosophy at this point in the game was that hybrid classes needed to give up a lot of their power, especially on the dps-side of things, in order to justify their versatility and massive buffs. In Lich King, we set out to change this and make sure all four types of druid had a PvE role in heroic dungeons and raiding. And yes, this meant four roles, because if we were going to let cats do credible dps or bears be able to tank anything in the game then we wanted players to have to commit to one extreme or the other. You can remain a half-bear, half-cat if you want to as well, but you won't be as good at either extreme and my experience is players rarely choose that route.

In PvP the story is quite different of course. Once Resto druids got enough tools in Burning Crusade, they were very difficult to counter in Arena matches. Cyclone, Feral Charge and running and hotting made druids frustratingly slippery. We wanted to chill this out a little in Lich King, largely by pushing Feral Charge farther away and making Tree of Life a real option in PvP. Unfortunately, high tree armor and dispel-at-your peril hots have still kept druids difficult to counter in PvP. Feral druids have always had a place in PvP, but were never as dominant as the Resto druids. There is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem here because while some druids only want to PvP as Feral, others were happy to respec to Resto for PvP. Balance druids seemed even less viable than Feral, which is not ideal and something we want to improve. We tend to take a longer view on some of these things than do the players. We've had other balance issues that we've wanted to address in PvP first, and getting every spec of every class viable has had to take a back seat on occasion.

Q: What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?

Ghostcrawler: Forms is the big answer. The druid versions are more meaningful than other class equivalents in the game, such as Stances or Presences. One could argue they are too meaningful, because players sometimes don't want to use any other form but "theirs."; Perhaps the most unusual facet of the druid forms is that they use three different resource systems depending on the form, and these are not reset when they shift. A leveling druid can shift out of cat form to heal themselves, then shift into bear form while their mana regenerates.

Druids also have a couple of other interesting qualities. They actually fit four distinct roles into the class, even though two of the roles share a talent tree. They have some unusual utility spells, including Revive and Innervate. While druids no longer bring many unique buffs, they still pack a lot of them onto one character. Raids are still happy to get druids because of their benefit to the group. Druids also have unique travel abilities, from Travel, Aquatic, and Flight form, to the Moonglade teleport.

It's also worth mentioning that druids can be only one race each on the Horde and Alliance side. They have the least racial diversity of any class in the game.

Community Team: Let's take a look at the Balance talent tree. Eclipse is a crucial talent for players who are looking to perform a damage dealing role and invest in the Balance tree. There has been a lot of discussion though regarding the gameplay it provides as there is a lot of randomness involved. The buffs to a solar rotation were very well received, but the lunar rotation still has to wait for a critical strike to happen as well as an additional random proc to occur which can lead to some long gaps of nothing happening. Then when these finally fall into place players have complained about threat issues which force them to slow down or having to move to avoid something which ruins the procs they have and significantly hurts their overall damage.

Q: What are our thoughts on how Eclipse is functioning and do we have any plans to change how this talent works?

Ghostcrawler: The goal of the Eclipse talent in the first place was to give moonkin a more dynamic rotation that involved the player paying attention and responding to the environment rather than falling into a monotonous rotation. The Eclipse in 3.2 should less strongly favor one half of the Eclipse over the other since the cooldowns are independent. Ultimately however the problem we are trying to solve is that Wrath and Starfire are just too similar. In PvP you get a little bit of interest out of the fact that they are in different schools, but in PvE by the time talents are factored in, the two spells just become fairly quick (but not instant) nukes and it's easy to math out which one to use and which one to ignore. Long-term to fix this problem we need to add another spell, separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more, or make one of the other spells, like Moonfire or Insect Swarm, more dynamic. I'll give a couple of example of caster rotations that "work" in our opinion: Destruction warlocks want to Immolate before they Conflagrate, Frost mages can proc a Brain Freeze and throw out a fast Fireball.

Community Team: Another aspect of Balance talent tree that has seen a number of discussions lately is the survivability of Moonkins while in a Player vs. Player setting. Many players agree that they have a very low survivability rate and that a spell like Typhoon doesn't provide enough help to prevent classes like Death Knights and Rogues from doing some serious damage to them.

Q: How do we feel Moonkins are doing in PvP and do we have plans to improve their survivability?

Ghostcrawler: We don't think Moonkins are quite there yet, though we'll see how they look after 3.2 ships. Some of their problems are not limitations with the spec so much as they are ramifications in other parts of the PvP environment, such as some classes being able to burst them down too quickly. Of the casters, and as of this writing, only Frost mages really seem to be a potent PvP force, but it requires multiple forms of CC and escape mechanisms to get there. We really don't want to go down the road of every caster needing that many unique tools – it homogenizes the classes and makes the mage tools less compelling. We understand some players are desperate to play Balance in PvP, but our priority is on getting underperforming classes viable before we worry about the second or third spec of classes that already have a strong PvP presence. We'll get there.

Community Team: Players have also been discussing how they feel the overall playstyle of a Moonkin is just not very exciting. The best damage dealing rotation for them requires very few spells and a deep Balance spell like Starfall doesn't help them very much.

Q: Are there plans to make any changes to the general spell rotation for deep Balance/Moonkin Druids?

Ghostcrawler: As I mentioned above, we do want to improve the spell rotation of Balance. We think the spells are interesting when considered alone (expect for perhaps Starfire and Wrath) but they don't necessarily play together in interesting ways. You don't try to save up a Starfall for example for great synergy with another spell. We have no problems with Starfall itself -- it is an AE with smart targeting that doesn't require channeling. It is basically just bonus damage. Often players with a gripe about Starfall are wishing that it still proc'ed stuns with Celestial Focus or was a stealth remover. But those uses meant players saved Starfall for only those specific situations instead of using it when they needed extra damage, which was the original intent.

Community Team: We are going to switch gears from the ranged caster damaging druids to the up close and personal Feral talent tree.

A number of players have brought up questions regarding the over-arching goal of the feral talent tree. In the past they were able to change forms regularly and cast spells and then go back into a Feral form to continue playing. Once we merged their gear with rogues this playstyle was significantly reduced in effectiveness. As it currently stands, even with the low mana pool, they feel their mana regeneration is very poor in comparison to other hybrid classes like Shaman and Paladins which in turn continues to minimize feral druids' ability to cast spells which they feel is pushing them further and further away from the hybrid playstyle.

Q: What are our intended goals for the playstyle of feral druids?

Ghostcrawler: The druid class overall is intended to be flexible, and we feel that it is. What we don't want is a class that can do all things with a single spec -- do damage like a rogue, then tank if the MT falls down, then battle rez the MT and heal her back up, etc. That might sound like a lot of fun, but that's because you're fulfilling the role of half the raid all on your own (which means it's less fun for everyone else watching you be a superstar). Every cat worth their salt will shift out to cast Rebirth or Innervate. But in order to justify cats doing credible melee damage, we felt like they had to give up some of their ability to tank, cast, and heal. Note than you can still take a more hybrid-focused build. Players don't often do that though because they'd rather do one thing really well. Now I will say that long term something we'd love to do is get rid of shifting costs altogether. We want to see druids in lots of different forms -- more on this in a minute.

Community Team: In order to provide the best damage possible, the rotation for a Feral druid is quite complex. While this is okay in itself, it is nearly impossible to pull off in a PvP scenario so they end up using just Mangle, which they feel drastically hurts their value. To be the most effective they also rely heavily on someone else like another druid or an Arms warrior.

Q: What are our thoughts on the complexity of the Feral druid damage dealing rotation?

Ghostcrawler: If you want to do the best damage possible, you need to be able to master a complex rotation. This is one of the features that attracts players to the Feral spec. However, it's also pretty forgiving. If you just Shred, you're going to do decent damage. If you Shred and try to keep up Savage Roar, it's going to be better. If you can also manage your Mangles and Rips and Rakes, then you have the potential to do very high damage (assuming you don't have to move around much and can reach the target's back).

Community Team: Feral druids have also complained a bit about their lack of utility in the PvP environment.

Q: Do we have plans to provide more utility for Feral druids such as a more reliable interrupt?

Ghostcrawler: Feral druids have Bash (which they can improve through talents), Maim and the Feral Charge stun. We think their tools are sufficient for PvP and there are other melee classes that can handle it in PvE. It's not a strength of the spec for sure, but we're okay with that. We don't want all melee to be identical.

Community Team: Bear tanks have often felt inferior compared to the other tanks.

Q: How do we feel druid tanks are doing and do we have any immediate changes planned?

Ghostcrawler: We think bears have felt inferior because for a long time we basically said "You are designed to be inferior." Sometimes old perceptions die hard. Bears are not inferior tanks in Ulduar and it's possible their survivability is too high in 3.2.

Community Team: Savage Defense has been the source of a number of debates as players feel it is somewhat lackluster and doesn't provide enough of a benefit, especially in PvP.

Q: Do we have any plans to change and/or improve Savage Defense?

Ghostcrawler: We're pretty happy with Savage Defense for now. It accomplishes its goals, which were to make dps stats more useful on leather and to keep bears from hitting the armor cap so easily. You might consider it lackluster if you're counting on it saving your life, but it does account for a lot of damage over the course of a boss fight.

Q: Are there any plans to change the functionality or cooldown of the Cat form charge to better align it with the Bear form version?

Ghostcrawler: We're happy with the distinction. We don't want to duplicate every ability since the druid has access to both forms.

Q: Can you give us the reasoning behind why the Bear form swipe is 360 degrees while the Cat version is only 180 degrees?

Ghostcrawler: The bear change was just a quality of life issue. A bear can wipe the raid if they can't pick up incoming adds. The cat is much less likely to wipe the raid by not being able to Swipe all the adds. We don't need for cats to be an awesome AE spec. We just want them to have something to do on big packs that everyone else is AE'ing, which is what cat Swipe gives them. On the other hand, if there is a perception that bears can't manage adds, they aren't going to be used on a lot of fights.

Community Team: On to the last of the talent trees now, Restoration.

Q: Can you describe for us what the intended identity and versatilities of the Tree of Life druids are supposed to be?

Ghostcrawler: This is a pretty philosophical answer here. If you only read one answer in this Q&A, you might want to check out this one.

The strength of the Resto druid is in heal-over-time spells. They can also do some decent single-target healing through Nourish or group healing through Wild Growth. The tree pretty much used to be a PvE mechanic since "rooting yourself" in PvP to benefit from ToL greatly limited the druid's crowd control and escape abilities. We made enough changes to the talent to get trees into PvP in Lich King... arguably too well.

Druids overall have a strong niche. We are at a little bit of a crossroads with the Tree of Life however. We are currently wondering if druids sacrifice too much just to be as good as a healer as everyone else. What I mean is that if druids were good healers in caster form but great healers in Tree form, then there might be a decision there. However, we pretty much assume that healing druids are in Tree form nearly all of the time and balance around that. We don't think it would be fair for them to be the best healers just for taking that talent.

In addition to having to give up utility in order to heal as a Tree of Life, we have become less enamored with druids locking themselves into one form. In fact, you really never see the basic tauren or night elf druid form (you know, the one that actually shows off the awesome armor art) because all druids are in cat, bear, tree, or moonkin form nearly 100% of the time. I'm not saying we would just cut Tree of Life from the game. It's been around awhile and for better or worse, it's part of World of Warcraft now. However, we could see taking the druid in a direction where shifting was much more common and easy to do. Maybe you only go into tree form for certain spells but leave for other spells -- this didn't work previously because of the high cost of shifting, but in the absence of power shifting, we'd love to get rid of the costs completely. Another way to go would be to make Tree of Life form a cooldown, more like Metamorphosis. You shift into tree when you need a healing boost, but you don't stay in it all the time. Now, I am totally waving my arms here. This is not the kind of change you are going to see in the next patch. But it is something we're thinking about long term, and the kind of thinking we'd love to have more feedback on from the community.

Note to other healers: this is why you are unlikely to see any kind of "Holy form" ever. Giving up healing to do damage works okay. Giving up everything to heal is lame.

Community Team: Both Tranquility and Healing Touch are meant to be strong healing spells but are generally viewed as very ineffective due to their lack of flexibility.

Q: Do we have plans to improve Healing Touch or Tranquility?

Ghostcrawler: Tranquility is a fine spell. You can use it in situations where high amounts of damage are coming in on one group. Ultimately, we'd like to get away from the concept of groups within raids, but that's not super high priority. Having a talent that promotes a situational spell on a long cooldown though is a problem (for any spell, not just Tranquility).

Likewise, we think Healing Touch is fine. You use it at low levels and you use it with Nature's Swiftness. Maybe you use it when healing a 5-player dungeon. Druids have a lot of heals and if we made Healing Touch more usable it would come at the expense of another heal like Nourish or Regrowth. The problem again is the talents. It doesn't make sense to have so many talents support a situational spell.

But GC, you ask, if you know the talents are lackluster why haven't you improved them? The answer is that Resto druids are in a really good spot now. If we changed the HT and Tranquility talents to boost other kinds of healing, then Resto druids might become too powerful. If we nerf Resto healing to compensate for these talents, then druids might have less flexibility in their talent builds. We would also suffer a lot of player backlash if we nerfed spells just to make talents (which you may not be able to afford anyway) any better. We'll suffer player backlash when we think the change is important. I'm not sure this one is. We'll definitely rejuggle the talent tree long-term though.

Community Team: The next set of questions are related to the itemization for druids which was the source for a wide variety of questions. For one, Restoration druids feels that critical strike rating is not very helpful for them yet it is often present on the leather casting gear.

Q: Do we have plans to improve the usefulness of critical strike rating for restoration druids?

Ghostcrawler: Yes. We're fine if some stats are slightly more attractive than others. The problem comes when some stats are considered junk because they are valued so much less than other stats. We don't have a ton of stats to work with when you consider that things like Int and Spell Power basically improve at a linear rate with item level. That means we need for say Haste and Crit to be attractive to all casters. This is a problem with several classes, not just druids, and was largely caused by having too many scaling talents that over-inflate the value of some stats relative to others.

Community Team: Tanking druids have regularly expressed complaints on how their tanking gear was homogenized but statistics like Block and Parry do not help them and defense provides a very marginal benefit.

Q: Do we have plans to make these statistics more helpful for them since they are on a wide variety of tanking gear?

Ghostcrawler: We think it's interesting that a bear and a warrior tank might look at the same piece of gear and place different values on it. That's one of the elements that makes looting interesting and rewards players who understand their class. You shouldn't take a ring because it says "TANK" on it. You should take it because it benefits you. And really, when players say "wide variety of tanking gear" they really mean rings, neck, cloak, and possibly trinkets. Currently we're in a world where tanks emphasize Stamina and Armor as much as they possibly can, which makes other stats feel lame by comparison. But that will likely not always be the case, and we kind of doubt it will be as much of an extreme in the Coliseum.

Q: Have we considered providing more tanking leather and to prevent extra loot clutter possibly finding ways for Balance and Restoration druids to use solely cloth item since they often use them already?

Ghostcrawler: No. Druids are a leather-using class. We are just going to have to make three types of leather (melee, ranged and healing). You have to understand that even though we have pushed bears and cats farther apart, we still consider them to be part of the same spec. We can't get into the business of itemizing for niches within a particular spec or we're just going to have too many items per tier. I can see the argument for having tanking and dps leather and making the casters use cloth. That's just a different design and we currently like for certain classes to be associated with certain types of armor. We like that druids look different from say priests or mages (even ignoring the forms thing). We like that we can kit druid tier piece armor to look a certain way.

Also note that if we buffed bear mitigation through more tanking-oriented leather that we'd just have to nerf them in other ways. In my experience, most bears end up with "tanking leather" anyway because they want to gem and enchant their bear gear differently. Having one set of gear that you wear as cat or bear isn't really feasible in Ulduar.

Community Team: Many players have been discussing relics and how they feel they add a lot of clutter to loot tables since they can have a wide margin of effectiveness and always have a small number of players able to pick them up.

Q: Do we have any plans to improve how players obtain relic items such as a relic token?

Ghostcrawler: The alternative to "clutter to loot tables" is that they go on vendors. We view vendors as an absolute last resort. They are there as a hedge against being very unlucky with drops and to give players motivation to do bosses even when that boss no longer drops any upgrades for them. When the best relics are available on vendors, then every druid will have those relics quickly. They essentially just become part of the core identity of the class rather than an upgrade that you get at some point along your progression. The best solution is probably something where a boss has a 10% (or whatever) chance to drop a relic in addition to its normal loot table.

Community Team: To wrap up this Q&A, here are a couple quick questions from the far corners of druid minds.

Q: Are there any plans for a 310% speed flight form?

Ghostcrawler: At this time we want to keep the 310% flying speed very rare – maybe 5% or less of all players. If we made a flight form that less than 1% of players had access to (since probably less than a tenth of those 5% would be druids) it's hard to argue that's a good use of art time.

Q: What do we think about making spells like Warstomp and Innervate usable while in forms?

Ghostcrawler: We like the fact that Innervate requires shifting. We want druids to shift more. Warstomp I could see an argument to allow in forms since it's nice (but not mandatory) that racial benefits are useful to a variety of classes.

Q: Do we plans to alter how the GCD works for form changing so that shifting into a form is as easy as shifting out of one?

Ghostcrawler: As I mentioned, long-term we'd love to get druids shifting more often, which means shifting has to be less painful. I don't know for sure that changing the GCD needs to be a part of that, but it could be.

Q: For the official word, do we have plans to update more druid form models at some point in the future?

Ghostcrawler: I know for a fact that the current Travel Form and Aquatic Form are loathed by the artist who redid bear and cat. We do have plans to update additional forms at some point in the future.