August 1, 2009

Crusaders' Coliseum and Isle of Conquest Q&A

Blizzard has just released a Q&A on the Crusaders' Coliseum and the Isle of Conquest.

The Q&A is done with Tom Chilton (Game Directory), Scott Mercer (Lead Encounter Designer), and Alex Afrasiabi (Lead World Designer). The Q&A is a long one and has a lot of good information throughout on both of these major upcoming features in Patch 3.2.

Some of the highlights include:

All dungeons can be called the Crusaders' Coliseum. 5-man normal and heroics are called the Trial of the Champion. 10 and 25 man normal raids are called the Trial of the Crusader. 10 and 25 man hard mode raids are called the Trial of the Grand Crusader. 5-man version on par with current Wrath dungeons. "There will be no 310%-speed mount offered through a meta-achievement reward, as the current 310%-speed mount offered will not be removed when path 3.2 is released." And later on... "For those working through a tribute run, there might also just be a surprise or two in the chest at the end... if you have what it takes to master this run." Possibly a new twist to the conflict between Horde and Alliance in the next expansion? "Right now both sides are honing their skills through the Argent Crusade's tests. Should they take the fight to the Lich King and succeed while animosity between the Horde and Alliance continues to build, there's no telling what lies in store for the denizens of Azeroth." Average Isle of Conquest match to last around 20 minutes. There is some concern over graveyard camping in the Isle of Conquest. Once again, the dedicated World of Warcraft players are screwed out of pony. I was promised one, and I want it. This is a slap in the face. Where's my gin? Where's my coffee? Quick! Someone write an angry letter about Ghostcrawler, he's the worst thing that happened to WoW since...since...forever! Nerd rage!
Don't forget to check out's Guide to Patch 3.2 for more information on the Crusaders' Coliseum and the Isle of Conquest. The full Q&A is after the break.

The full Q&A is as follows:

Community Team: Joining us today to answer some player-submitted questions about the Isle of Conquest and Crusaders' Coliseum coming in patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade, is Game Director Tom Chilton, Lead Encounter Designer Scott Mercer, and Lead World Designer Alex Afrasiabi. Let's begin with a collection of questions we've received from players around the world about the Crusaders' Coliseum, the latest 5-, 10-, and 25-player content coming to Wrath of the Lich King.

Q: For clarification purposes, what are the official names for each of the new dungeons coming in patch 3.2, Call of the Crusade, and what is the style and format of each dungeon?

Development Team: Right, so the Crusaders' Coliseum is the name given to all different versions of the dungeon. Trial of the Champion is the name of the 5-player dungeon, both for normal and Heroic difficulties. Trial of the Crusader is the name of the 10- and 25-player normal raid dungeon, and Trial of the Grand Crusader is what we are calling the 10- and 25-player Heroic version. For those familiar with the Ring of Blood and Amphitheatre of Anguish, the format and layout of each Crusaders' Coliseum dungeon are similar in feel. Each vile creature or group of creatures will be introduced one at a time in a gladiator-style format. Players must best each encounter before beginning the next one. Of course, there are a few twists along the way to give a bit more of an epic feel.

Q: How difficult do we expect the normal and Heroic versions of Trial of the Champion to be compared to other 5-player dungeons; and will the normal version have a lockout like that of a Heroic dungeon?

Development Team: For the most part players will find that the challenges of the two respective 5-player difficulty settings are roughly on par with 5-player instances already available in Wrath of the Lich King. The quality of gear players are wearing may be a slight determining factor for difficulty when comparing Trial of the Champion to other instances. There is no lockout on the normal version of the dungeon and no daily dungeon quest associated with it. The Heroic version will be included in the daily Heroic dungeon quest rotation.

Q: Do we have plans for the Argent Warhorses in Trial of the Champion to scale based on characters' gear (similar to the Oculus and Ulduar vehicles)?

Development Team: No, there are no plans for this and frankly, it's not really necessary. The jousting phase of the first encounter in Trial of the Champion is very similar in difficultly to jousting champions on the Argent Tournament grounds.

Q: How will achievements work for Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader, and will there be four different types of achievements to be completed?

Development Team: There aren't four different categories of achievements where you'll have 10-player normal, 10-player Heroic, 25-player normal and 25-player Heroic achievement categories. There will be 10-player and 25-player achievement categories, with achievements for normal and Heroic modes in each of these categories. So, for instance you'll have an achievement in the 25-player category to defeat a boss on normal difficulty and an achievement in the same category to defeat that boss on Heroic difficulty. There will also be your standard fun achievements for defeating bosses under specific criteria which will apply to normal or Heroic modes. Lastly, there will be some special achievements for tribute runs that can be earned depending on the raid's performance.

Q: Will there be any kind of reputation and titles associated with the Coliseum and will there be a 310% mount meta-achievement reward?

Development Team: As with other Wrath of the Lich King dungeons, players are welcome to wear faction tabards to gain reputation with factions of their choice. Champion's Seals will also drop through the Heroic 5-, 10-, and 25-player versions of the Crusaders' Coliseum. With that said, players will not gain reputation simply for completing objectives in the coliseum, whether on normal or Heroic difficulty. There will be no 310%-speed mount offered through a meta-achievement reward, as the current 310%-speed mount offered will not be removed when path 3.2 is released. Going back to achievements though, we will be offering some great feat of strength rewards for those who truly master the tribute run.

Community Team: There are currently four separate modes of Coliseum raids: 10-player, 25-player, 10-player Heroic, and 25-player Heroic.

Q: What is the reasoning behind this raid setup?

Development Team: We love hard modes and we've seen that they are a very popular addition to World of Warcraft. What we're doing here is making the distinctions between the different difficulties more clear, which also allows us a better opportunity to balance encounters. Difficulty settings are still relatively new to the game, particularly for the raiding scene, and we're constantly looking for ways to improve and iterate upon this system.

Q: Since, in the current Wrath of the Lich King raids, switching to a Heroic mode means switching to 25-player mode, how will players turn on the new Heroic modes?

Development Team: It will function very similarly to the way in which dungeon difficulty is chosen for 5-player instances currently. If you are in a raid group, the difficulty setting will now have four options, one for each raid group size and difficulty.

Q: What are the planned item levels for the gear that drops in each of the new Coliseum instances and how will the gear differentiate from one instance to another?

Development Team: Trial of the Champion will drop item level 200 and 213 items in the normal and Heroic modes respectively; Trial of the Crusader (10-player) will drop item level 232 items; Trial of the Grand Crusader (10-player) and Trial of the Crusader (25-player) will drop item level 245 items; Trial of the Grand Crusader (25-player) will drop item level 258 items. For those working through a tribute run, there might also just be a surprise or two in the chest at the end... if you have what it takes to master this run.

Q: What is the breakdown for emblem drops in each of the Coliseum instances?

Development Team: Two Emblems of Triumph will be awarded for each encounter in the raid dungeons, while one Champion's Seal and one Emblem of Conquest will be awarded for each encounter in Trial of the Champion (Heroic difficulty only).

Q: Since we've been discussing the tribute system a bit here, can you go over how this new system for the 10-player and 25-player Heroic dungeons will work, including how to activate it and what kind of extra rewards players can expect?

Development Team: Sure. Firstly, at least one player in the raid group has to have cleared Trial of the Crusader to unlock Trial of the Grand Crusader for the raid. Speaking to an NPC will do this. Players working through Trial of the Grand Crusader will automatically be working through a tribute run. A counter will be displayed in the interface monitoring the raid's performance by tracking unsuccessful attempts. A maximum of 50 unsuccessful attempts will be allowed per week. If this number is reached the encounters will no longer be accessible by the group until the instance resets during scheduled weekly maintenance. If the instance is cleared before hitting this limit, the raid will be awarded according to their performance during the tribute run. The items players can expect are good. That's really all there is to it!

Q: Are there any particular ways in which the Coliseum encounters will be new and unique compared to previous encounters?

Development Team: Well, given that the tribute run system and new ways of executing normal and Heroic difficulty settings have been added, we expect players will see a very different dynamic in the encounters. The tribute system provides for the first time in raiding a way of awarding players, not simply based on what bosses were killed, but how well the raid performed attempting each boss.

We don't want to go too much into fight mechanics, but we expect players will see quite a few interesting new challenges. To give one example for those familiar with Magister's Terrace back in The Burning Crusade, there will be an encounter similar to the Priestess Delrissa fight. This time it will be on a raid scale with many more foes against which players will square off. Oh, and crowd-control effects will be subject to diminishing returns as well, so you'll just have to manage your abilities wisely!

Community Team: We've seen a great deal of mixed feedback about the design of the tier-9 sets available with the release of the Crusaders' Coliseum.

Q: What reasons led to the decision to develop PvE sets that differ between the Horde and Alliance more so than they differ between classes and gear types (i.e. cloth, leather, mail, plate); and is this a new set design philosophy players should expect going forward?

Development Team: We wanted to do things a little bit differently this time around, though it's not entirely unlike the way we approached designing set pieces for Sunwell or Ahn'Qiraj, and not a fundamental change in artistic direction we plan to stick with every time a new tier of gear is released. In an ideal world every class for each faction would have their own unique look and set design, but artistic tasks like that aren't always feasible given our development schedule.

In the context of the Argent Tournament and impending struggle with the Lich King, we felt it would be cool this time around to offer unique looks for the Horde and Alliance. As we get closer to the invasion of Icecrown Citadel, players are noticing that there's more tension building between leaders of the Horde and the Alliance. We want the gear the factions are wearing to represent that as the Horde and Alliance struggle for domination over the Lich King, and ultimately over the world. The Argent Tournament and Crusaders' Coliseum feel like great avenues to further distinguish the two factions. Right now both sides are honing their skills through the Argent Crusade's tests. Should they take the fight to the Lich King and succeed while animosity between the Horde and Alliance continues to build, there's no telling what lies in store for the denizens of Azeroth.

Q: Finally -- and it's all too often asked -- how are players really supposed to deal with not one, but TWO Jormungars?!

Development Team: We can always hotfix one of them out if things get too crazy for players. We've put in a special achievement related to this as well, so hop to it!

Community Team: Let's move onto our newest epic siege-style Battleground, Isle of Conquest. We covered much of the basic objectives a while back in our Battleground Q&A, so this time around we're going to ask some follow-up questions players have submitted on our forums around the world.

Q: Firstly, how has the testing of this Battleground been going on the public test realms and what kinds of changes have been made based on this testing?

A: Testing has been great so far. We continue to get a lot of feedback about this new Battleground and have made a lot of changes over the course of the testing process based on the response from players. We've lowered the number of reinforcements allotted each team, increased the health and damage of the generals, increased the health of the keep walls, made keep cannons repairable and changed the way bombs in the enemy's keep spawn to lessen the severe advantage players originally had for capturing the Gunship Hangar and parachuting into the enemy's base, just to name a few changes that have been made since the public test realms were first released.

Q: Given that average match lengths continue to fluctuate on the test realms as adjustments are made to specific mechanics, what do you feel would be a satisfactory length for the average Isle of Conquest battle and why?

Development Team: We'd like the average match to last around 20 minutes, with the occasional 30-minute match depending on the level of skill of the competing teams. This is roughly the length of time we'd like all of our Battleground matches to last. We want to provide players with an epic feel without making it feel as though they're getting stuck in a never-ending match like the Alterac Valley days of old. We recognize that some players like very drawn-out battles and even miss the old Alterac Valley days, but a lot of players want the fun from Battlegrounds to come from competing in several different battle types over the course of a play session rather than feeling stuck in one match that continues to drag out with little reward for the extra time invested.

Community Team: Players active on the test realms report that, due to the relatively short length of the overall battle and losses rarely being due to reinforcement depletion, the Cobalt Mine and Oil Derrick are not highly sought after.

Q: Has there been any consideration given to providing additional advantages for controlling these strategic points on the map?

Development Team: We will be changing these capture points so that, in addition to the current advantages they offer, controlling one of them will provide a 15% damage increase for all vehicles operated by that faction. Controlling both points will provide a 30% damage increase for vehicles.

Community Team: Similarly, players are reporting that matches are largely decided by which team controls the Siege Workshop and/or the Gunship Hangar. In other words, the faction that's pushed back to a more defensive position from the start of the match tends to have difficulty ever recovering from the momentum of the opposing team's attacks.

Q: Is this something you are witnessing on the test realms? If so, is it a concern or a part of preventing matches from drawing out too long?

Development Team: If one faction takes control of both the Siege Workshop and Gunship Hangar, chances are they have what it takes to win the battle anyhow. We do still see matches on the test realms where a team is able to recover from a poor start with coordination and skill. We don't want to see matches decided from the very beginning, but as in any Battleground, the team that has great offensive momentum right from the start by capturing strategic points will likely ultimately find victory.

Q: Do you share the concern reported by some players that "spawn killing" or "graveyard camping" is a little too easy in Isle of Conquest?

Development Team: This is a potential concern, though we do not see this type of activity occurring in a more severe manner than in our other Battlegrounds -- Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm in particular. If players are able to make it back to their keeps they can always access the keep portals to elude the enemy. If we do see this becoming more of a severe problem, we will consider potentially offering graveyard portals allowing players the option to resurrect at an alternate location.

Q: For the players who prefer not to focus on vehicle combat or the race to have more vehicles than the enemy players, can you provide a rough breakdown of the role vehicles will play in Isle of Conquest versus standard ground combat when compared to Strand of the Ancients or Wintergrasp, two different objective-based PvP game types which are very vehicle-centric?

Development Team: There are still very important strategies dependent upon ground combat to win a battle in Isle of Conquest. This is even true for Strand of the Ancients when it comes to stopping the vehicle advance of the invading force. As was mentioned before, changes to the Oil Derrick and Cobalt Mine provide ground forces with a very important role in capturing these points. Ultimately, doing so will provide great advantages to the whole team as well. With that being said, we understand that there are players who want nothing to do with vehicle combat. Even though ground combat will play a big part in securing a victory in Isle of Conquest, these players will have to decide if this Battleground has aspects of PvP they find enjoyable.

Q: Unlike the original three Battlegrounds, why are there no reputations or faction awards associated with the Battlegrounds we've released in The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King?

Development Team: In the past we found that providing reputation and rewards for Battlegrounds led to players focusing on grinding one specific Battleground over and over again, which we do not necessarily view as a good thing. To combat this, we incentivized playing all Battlegrounds by providing players with the Mark of Honor turn-in quests. There's always a chance this may change as we reevaluate the Battleground system. However, we're happy with the current functionality of Battlegrounds and would prefer not to have reputations and Battleground-specific rewards for each Battleground.

Q: Will Isle of Conquest Marks of Honor factor into the Battleground marks turn-in quests, or provide any other use, and are there any plans for reevaluating the Mark of Honor system as we continue to add new Battlegrounds?

Development Team: Yes, Isle of Conquest Marks of Honor will factor into the turn-in quests. The reward for completing these quests will be increased proportionately to reflect the extra mark requirement. While it's not out of the question, we do not have any plans to share at this time with regard to revamping the Mark of Honor system.

Q: Will players be able to join this Battleground as a group; if so, how many players can queue together?

Development Team: Players should be able to join Isle of Conquest with up to four other players, as is currently the case with Alterac Valley.

Community Team: While this question pertains more to the Battleground system as a whole, it is brought up a lot.

Q: Are there any additional design plans to help combat the issue of matches starting with an uneven number of players on each side?

Development Team: We are experimenting with many different ways of improving the Battleground queuing system so teams aren't so lopsided when a game begins. This is something we're working on at the moment and we look forward to sharing additional details in the near future.

Community Team: This just about wraps it up. We thank you gentlemen for your time. Our last question about both the Isle of Conquest and Crusaders' Coliseum comes specifically from Haerle on the U.S. realm Thunderlord and the guild Sweep The Leg.

Q: What is the possibility of attaining a pony from either of these valorous endeavours?

Development Team: No ponies, but there might just be an Argent Warhorse out there somewhere... good luck!

WoW Hunter Question and Answer

The Hunter Q&A was like the other Class Q&As, a mixed bag of frustration, tease, and interesting concepts. It shouldn't be a surprise that we didn't get the details we wanted. Nor should it be a complete shock to you that some Hunters would feel disconnected between what players want versus what the Developers are concentrating on. Given all that, I still felt that this Q&A was overall pretty decent.

There is so much to review and discuss I've decided to break the Q&A out into 2 parts. Here's a quick highlight of the main things discussed in Part 1:

Developers feel Survival Hunter spec is currently performing within normal operating parameters.
Crowd Control still needs work. PvP has a big influence on PvE Class Balance Ammo remains a consumable because of technical difficulties.
Ammo is a focus point on Hunter damage progression. Blizzard is hoping to cut the cost of Ammo to address the cost burden for Hunters. The Hunter "No Fire" zone will remain in effect. Development considers enhancing Hunter melee attacks. All that is just in Part 1! So let's see what Ghostcrawler had to say.

The Community Team hit the ground running, getting right to the point. Over on the official Hunter forums, the question, "What does Blizzard think the Hunter role should be?" has been asked repeatedly over the years. Not to disappoint, this was the first question chosen by the Community Team. Because I feel this is so important I included the entire quote below.

"Community Team: We'd like start this Q&A off by asking a question that players of all classes often ask in regard to the very purpose of their class. In this case, we're looking specifically at the hunter.

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

A: We solved a lot of perennial hunter problems in Wrath of the Lich King, from the shot clipping problems of Steady Shot, to bringing Survival back to life, and making pet choice and training a lot more meaningful and hopefully enjoyable. Going forward we have several objectives we still want to accomplish. We want to make sure hunters in PvP are as good in Arenas as they are in Battlegrounds. We think their damage is sufficient, so we want to focus on their survival and crowd control. We want to make sure their PvE utility is as good as their dps (especially making traps live up to their potential for crowd control). We want to resolve what a hunter is supposed to do in melee (Raptor Strike? Disengage?). We want to clean up some of the clunkiness that still exists around pet control (both the UI itself and what the pet does on the battlefield). We think hunters have a good niche as the only real ranged damage-dealer that focuses on (mostly) physical damage based on a weapon rather than cast-time based spells. We just want to make sure they live up to that niche."
In other words, Ghostcrawler feels the development team has done a good job in making Survival an interesting and popular spec to play again.

Another interesting point was when Ghostcrawler talked about how he feels about Hunters needing a boost to traps and crowd control. Of course this isn't the first time we've heard this. On a positive note, we can see with the current Patch 3.2 trap changes the developers seem to be heading in that direction.

Also, I got a sense that the changes are based first on their impact to the PvP game and then PvE. This was not specifically said, but it just seems that way. Ghostcrawler did mention they want to improve PvE Hunter utility and crowd control, but did you notice the emphasis on PvP?

When Ghostcrawler says, "We want to make sure hunters in PvP are as good in Arenas as they are in Battlegrounds. We think their damage is sufficient, so we want to focus on their survival and crowd control.", then follows up with, "We want to resolve what a hunter is supposed to do in melee (Raptor Strike? Disengage?)," I felt PvP is where the development team is keeping their primary focus is at the moment. Of course, maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Now that we know what our role is we can get into some of the other issues affecting Hunters. For example, what ever happened to our promised ammo change? Remember back when Patch 3.1 was announced? Ammo was suppose to change from being a consumable to a durable.

It appears to me that in this Q&A Ghostcrawler is setting our expectation to not expect a change to ammo any time soon. (Blizzard time or otherwise.) I understand the whole "Ammo is stored everywhere issue". If you think about it, we have ammo in our bags, our banks, and maybe specialized Mammoth Cuttters in our guild bank. Based on this alone, I can see how it would be a very tricky change.

Something I found exciting was the possibility of introducing new capabilities with our ammo. I really hope that Ghostcrawler isn't just teasing us when he says, "We're not sure if this would be as simple as getting the 125 dps arrows to upgrade your 120 dps arrows, or if you would do things like swap between your fire and poison arrows... but that kind of thing is definitely on the table." I know many Hunters including myself that would love this ability.

With durable ammo on hold, Ghostcrawler addressed the issue of Hunters having an extra cost burden by having to purchase ammo for everything we do. Not only are we required to purchase ammo, but our damage progression is tied directly to it also. So, it was nice hearing that the development team understands we're going to do whatever it takes to get the best ammo we can.

It was also impressive to hear they're going to lower the market cost for the ammo as well as continue looking into other ways to provide proper balance with scaling and progression. If not for GC stating that they are still working on durable ammo, I would think that durable ammo was going to be one of those permanent wish list items.

Ghostcrawler tackled the ever popular "dead zone" or "no fire zone" topic stating that there needs to be some changes. The biggest issue related to the "no fire zone" hinges on Hunters being ranged fighters and having to get back into range to unleash their more powerful attacks.

Ghostcrawler admits that they don't want Hunters to have the capability of unleashing both melee and range attacks all at once. Ghostcrawler says, "The way we want the hunter to work is that when you get into min range with the hunter, then the hunter needs to switch to melee, or more likely escape back to ranged distance again."

With traps being on a separate cool down in the 3.2 Patch, we'll have the capability to lay down Frost and Snake traps to help slow down our target, with an Explosive Trap helping to proc Lock and Load as we Disengage. This is good, but not great. I guess we can't say Ghostcrawler isn't keeping it interesting.

At least this isn't a done deal and Ghostcrawler asked for more feedback from the community. If you PvP and have some ideas on how this might work, maybe you can let Ghostcrawler know over on the Damage Dealing Forums.

That brings us to the end of Part 1 of the Hunter Q&A. Looking back, there are several interesting points. Blizzard admitting how big of a role PvP plays in PvE Class Balancing. Not to mention the possible idea of durable ammo with special abilities. Add to that a focus of bringing crowd control and traps back into the game and this part of the Q&A was pretty packed with information after all. I can't wait to tackle Part 2 next.

We continue to review Ghostcrawler's response to the Hunter Q&A. In the Hunter Q&A Part 1 we reviewed what role the developers think Hunters should play. We also discussed how PvP influences class balancing. There was also some interesting discussion on Hunter Ammo changes.

In the Hunter Q&A Part 2 we review the following discussions:

Ghostcrawler says no to removing the movement penalty from Auto Shot. Developers open to new Hunter resource system to replace mana. Min/max and best in slot play frustrates developers. Hunters are too cooldown dependent. Developers considering how to keep AoE Damage from affecting Hunter pets. No changes on the horizon to Cunning pets Petbar UI changes on the drawing board Pets and stable slots

Hunters have often complained about Auto Shot requiring Hunters to remain still before firing. Ghostcrawler's response was pretty succinct, "Moving should feel like a penalty. We don't want ranged attackers constantly circle strafing FPS-style because it confers a defensive advantage without giving up an offensive one." I have to agree with Ghostcrawler on this one. I've played my share of Halo and other FPS style games. Though I can see how the Arena lends itself to this style of play, I personally think it would only further remove players from being able to immerse themselves in the richness that is a MMORPG.

Ghostcrawler went on to discuss the Hunter PvP in Arena by saying, "What I mean by that is we think we've possibly already gone too far towards balancing the Arena around instant attacks that can't be countered before they go off." This sounds ominous. I read this as an impending nerf heading our way soon. I hope not, but this sure sounds like it is a possibility.

The next question is one that Hunters have debated back and forth on the official Hunter forums for years. Every so often, someone will bring up how Hunters shouldn't use mana, and suggests an alternative resource. Usually focus is the most popular suggestion. Unfortunately, in stead of addressing it in the Q&A Ghostcrawler decided to push this one off until BlizzCon. Personally? I'd love to see us switch to something like an ammo based system. (A Hunter can dream right?) However, I'm afraid we might have to stick with being a mana class for a while yet.

While leaving us hanging on the new resource question, we went into the talk about using haste. An interesting topic since Hunters don't typically stack haste as a primary stat unless it is to get 1.5 second Steady Shot cooldown. What made it was interesting to me was learning that Ghostcrawler and the team would like us to use more of the secondary stats like haste but haven't really found a solid way to make it happen. Ghostcrawler even let a bit of his frustration show by saying, "Remember, if it improves your dps, it is an upgrade, even if another item would improve it more. That sounds so obvious, but I think there is a tendency for some players to stop thinking that way."

One of the more important issues Ghostcrawler addressed was about how limited Hunters are by cooldowns. The community asked Ghostcrawler about stings and the possibility of removing them from the global cooldown. Ghostcrawler's response really wasn't too surprising. "We aren't likely to remove any damage-dealing ability from the GCD and we've even taken a second look at whether we have removed too many defensive abilities from the GCD. It is there for a reason, particularly in a client-server based game with inherent Internet lag." Though this might not be the answer we are all hoping for, what was nice, was hearing that this is going to be discussed in more detail at BlizzCon.

Ghostcrawler went on to address the current current changes in Patch 3.2 to Catlike Reflexes and Wild Hunt. In an effort to explain why the the buffs were to the pet but not Hunter abilities, Ghostcrawler said, "We don't necessarily like buffing Beast Mastery through the pet all the time. However, Beast Mastery also doesn't have a signature attack like Chimera or Explosive Shot." It seems that now they realize they might have over corrected a bit in Patch 3.0.8 and now the only question is how to fix it.

For Beast Mastery Hunters, the Developers seem to view the Hunter's pet as the most viable option. If I'm not mistaken, this seems to be a reversal from the reasoning behind nerfing the BM pets in 3.0.8. Ghostcrawler defends this decision by stating, "Ultimately the tree is supposed to be about pets, so we would rather make the pet easier to control and give the hunter ways to get the pet out of trouble so that they don't face the profound dps loss of pet death." If they implement this correctly, this could be very good news for BM Hunters.

In the next question, Ghostcrawler went on to discuss more about pets and the need for a better system that can distinguish when certain PvE attacks shouldn't affect pets. If the developers can find a way to keep pets alive, this would mean less healing and rezzing time for BM Hunters. This could in turn raise the viability of the spec. It is nice to see Ghostcrawler and the team looking at something as core as the AI instead of just delivering a patch to improve pet healing.

Ghostcrawler did add a caveat saying, "To be clear, this is a hypothetical different model than I've been talking about in the rest of this Q&A. I don't want to confuse anyone by saying pets should both be hard to kill and hard to rez, and easy to kill and easy to rez."

So if our pets can stay alive longer and we don't need to heal our pets as much, does that mean we'll be stuck with a pet rez that seems to take forever? No, not forever, but we will have to live with it in the short term. The good news is Ghostcrawler seems to have a plan, first address the highest priority pet issue, pet survivability, then look at how to improve resurrecting pets should they end up dying to a focused attack.

The next topic tackled by Ghostcrawler happened to be one that we talked about in the last Scattered Shots column about Cunning pets. It seems that even Blizzard is not entirely sure how the Cunning tree fits into the overall scheme for Hunters. Mainly this is because they're noticing how Hunters tend to remain in a vertical during their playstyle. Due to the many theorycrafting and other Hunter related sites and tools, it seems Hunters tend to min/max for either PvE or PvP. As of now this isn't a real priority for Blizzard. Although I agree there are more pressing issues than what to do with the Cunning tree, it would be nice to see some tangible benefits and buffs to this tree. I look forward to more discussion on this topic at BlizzCon

The next question focused on the UI. I'm not really sure how big an issue UI is for Hunters. Now, don't go and start saying how disconnected I am from my class because I don't see it as a big deal. It is just that once you get to a certain point, most of the Hunters I know start using different add-ons to create a personal UI.

What I do see as a huge issue for Hunters are the number of keybinds we have to use. Because we rely so heavily on the Global Cooldown we tend to bind almost every attack to a key. Add to that macro combinations for pet management, special attacks, misdirects, etc... and we have more keybinds than visible slots. Personally, I think this would be a bigger issue to address. If we can reduce our number of keybinds then we might actually see less need for custom UIs with multiple small action bars shown.

After talking about the Hunter castbars, it was nice to see Ghostcrawler talk about the Pet action bars. I'm sure many of you are like me and have become increasingly frustrated with the autocast bug automatically setting your pet on Cower or Prowl. It seems that Blizzard knows it is there, but not really on the short list of items to be fixed. However, I think when they do address the Autocast bug or when the address the Hunter's toolbars, we'll see changes in the Pet cast bar as well.

If you could name one shot that has made Hunters everywhere scratch their head, I think it would have to be Tranquilizing Shot. Yes, it is nice that we can use it, but only in very limiting situations. It almost seems like a wasted shot. Well, until you are fighting a boss like Magmadar anyways. If it was up to me, I would like to see Tranquilizing Shot turn into it is namesake. If the target is enraged it removes the buff, if not then put the target to sleep. Now I know what you are gonna say, what about Wyvern Sting? Well, why not just leave Wyvern Sting alone or combine the two? That's just my personal opinion, but I see Tranquilizing Shot as a great idea that's not used near enough.

For the last question, Ghostcrawler addresses the question about stable slots and pet variety. Though this doesn't address the recent Worgen controversy, it does give us some insights on where the development team stands with pets and where they may be taking them.

I did have an issue with a couple of points that Ghostcrawler made. First, Ghostcrawler states that Blizzard wants Hunters to be required to make a decision regarding their pet choices and that they don't want us to fall into the "Pokemon" syndrome of catching them all.

This just kinda rubs me the wrong way. Most Hunters actually love the idea of finding unique, rare pets to keep in their stables. It is one of the benefits and fun things we get for being a Hunter. Yes, sometimes it is frustrating when lines form for the next Spirit Beast or rare find. But ask any Hunter about their story of trying to find a Horde to help tame Echeyakee? And I'm not evening mentioning those other two pets that people figured out how to tame and were removed from the game. It seems to me, if people go to such lengths to find and tame a really cool and unique pet, why not let us do that? Personally, I think the days of of needing stable slots should be behind us. That's just me I guess.

That wraps up our 2 part analysis of the Hunter Q&A. It was a long one and ultimately touched many different issues. We covered everything from stable slots to obscure attacks and even the possibility of a new Hunter resource system.

Now that we have had a week to think about Ghostcrawler's responses. Has your initial impressions changed? Are there any burning questions you are hoping will get addressed at BlizzCon? What resource system would you like to see them implement? So many seem to be left unanswered. I'd like to hear what you have to say about the Hunter Q&A.

Blizzard fights scammers with TCG mount changes

Blizzard has confirmed what we have speculated about: the change to make Upper Deck Trading Card Game mounts Bind-on-Use instead of BoP is specifically to combat scammers.

Currently, if you have a loot code, you redeem it and then "purchase" the mount from an NPC vendor. The mount immediately becomes soulbound. This two step process allows unscrupulous people to easily scam prospective mount buyers and subsequently hack their accounts. In patch 3.2, redeeming the code will automatically place the mount in your inventory, unsoulbound and available for legitimate in-game transactions.

Bornakk warns that if you have already redeemed a mount code, but have not purchased your mounts from the NPC, you will not be able to do so after 3.2. So it is important that you get your mounts before the patch is released, which could be as early as this Tuesday.

WoW 6 essential Mage add-ons for PvE

I have a buddy who doesn't use wow addons. -- WoW 6 essential Mage add-ons for PvE

I know, I know. And before you ask: yes, he is a moron. It's a flaw I've learned to overlook during the years we've known each other. His rationale for not using addons seems to be a combination of mistrust for anything that isn't part of the game right out of the box and a misguided belief that addons somehow equate to a form of cheating.

Now, I'll never convince him he's wrong--even though he clearly is--but I chalk that up to the fact that he is a moron. We both know and accept the fact of his moronitude, acknowledge that after 20 years of friendship, he probably isn't going to become any less infuriating, and move on to other topics.

You see, addons are awesome. I frequently assert to anyone who cares to listen (earning me more than a few strange looks, believe you me) that believing addons are cheats simply because Blizzard didn't program them into the default UI is pretty much the same thing as considering indoor plumbing a cheat because God didn't program it into the Earth when he originally created it. Addons are the community's way of grafting functionality into the game that Blizzard should have included from the start, and that's simply how it is. And yes, I am indirectly rebuking deity for not providing mankind with toilets from the beginning. I mean, how does it make sense that we had to go thousands of years without the option of peeing indoors? That's just poor design. I fully expect to be struck down at any moment as an example to smart-asses everywhere.

Disclaimer: I am in no way asserting that not using addons makes you a moron. I'm certain there are a great many of you out there who prefer not to use addons, and I'm sure you're by and large wonderful, fully functioning human beings. All I'm saying is that my buddy isn't one of those people. Also addons are awesome. That's all I'm saying.


The last time we discussed Mage addons, we focused on the PvP side of things. This week: PvE.

As with the last addon column, I'll add the caveat here that these are by no means the only useful PvE addons out there. These are simply those that I consider most essential. Raiding as a Mage without them is possible, but I'd compare it to performing surgery with your eyes closed: the results will be messy, and somebody is probably going to end up dead.


Yes, Blizzard has recently integrated a rudimentary threat warning system into the default interface. Omen is so much better that it's insulting to even compare the two. Every class should absolutely never raid without it (and indeed, a lot of guilds require it), and it's especially important for we Mages. As you may be aware, when you deliver a consistent stream of giant crits to a boss's face, as Mages tend to do, that boss tends to take more notice of you. Omen lets you know how close you're getting to having said boss forget all about the tank and wander over to eat you. If you don't have Omen or some other threat-meter alternative, get it. If you have it, pay attention to it. Make sure your Mage's name is never at the top of the list it provides. Your tank will thank you, your healers will love you, and maybe the boss will end up eating the Warlock instead.

Scorchio2/Power Auras Classic

These two mods are absolutely wonderful, and which one you use is really just a matter of personal preference. Both do essentially the same things, and they do them well. Scorchio is more tailored specifically to Mages, but Power Auras is incredibly customizable. Both mods keep track of buffs, debuffs, CCs, and every proc known to man.

In my opinion, these are the best options out there for tracking things like the Improved Scorch debuff, Hot Streak, Missile Barrage procs, and everything else Mages absolutely must be aware of.


Aside from being the single greatest run-on word in the English language, MiksScrollingBattleText is also my favorite combat text mod. I extolled its virtues in the PvP addons column, but It's just as awesome in PvE. It provides a wealth of combat information in an easy-to-follow presentation, and is so ridiculously configurable, you can probably figure out a way to get it to complete your math homework, tell you a bedtime story, and then sing you softly to sleep. This mod will allow you to know far more about any fight as it's going on than you have any right to know, and is indispensable when it comes to figuring out how you screwed up the Yogg fight yet again. There are other good options out there, but this is the combat text mod I like the best.


Another mod I already mentioned for PvP purposes, this cast-bar addon is also essential for PvE. It takes latency into account, letting you know exactly when you can begin your next cast, improving spell rotation efficiency. Also, I just like the Quartz bar (which you can tailor to meet your needs) a whole lot more than the tiny default one.

Hit Assist for Casters

I only recently discovered this mod, but it has already become my new favorite addon. What it does is very simple, but now that I've discovered it, I have no idea how I got along this far into the game without it. With this mod, when you mouse over a target, your tooltip will tell you what percentage chance you have to miss it, and if that chance is zero, right below that, it tells you how much hit rating you can stand to lose before you stop being capped against that mob. If you already have this mod, you're nodding your head right now, going "yep, this mod is awesome." If you don't, your eyes are widening as you realize how helpful that would be. Or they should be. It's difficult to describe how infinitely nice this mod is to have around. Go get it now. I'll wait.


I think as Mages, a lot of us forget that we have a little spell called Remove Curse. It's in our spellbooks, under the Arcane tab, wedged in between some croissants and a mana gem or something. I don't know. It's in there somewhere. Trust me.

You should be using this spell. A lot. It's one of our most valuable abilities, and I think we sometimes get so caught up in keeping our names on top of whatever damage meter mod we're running that we forget we can often keep the raid from dying by removing a few curses.

This little beauty of an addon makes doing so an almost unspeakably simpler task. I firmly believe no Mage should ever enter a raid without it. In a nutshell, what this mod does is keep track of all debuffs on every member of the raid, and provide you with an audio or visual cue whenever a teammate is afflicted with a curse you can remove. It's simple and elegant, usable right out the box without the need for any configuration, and has enough options to please even the most hard of the hardcore. Hardest of the hardcore? Most hardcorest? Eh, whatever. Get this addon.

For fun, I'm going to list a few other excellent quality-of-life addons you might also consider:

Ratings Buster

This converts combat ratings into percentages, so you can more easily tell how an item will benefit you.


Excellent little mod that tells you your current spellpower as it fluctuates during combat.


Gives you a little circular actionbar for portals and Mage armors such and looks like the menus in Secret of Mana, which makes it awesome.


The most ubiquitous of unit frame mods, Pitbull can do almost anything if you configure it hard enough. Seriously, I'm pretty sure my Pitbull mod is about three more log-ins away from becoming self-aware and ending humanity in a nuclear hellstorm.

So if you use addons, you're probably nodding your head right now, thinking how similar our tastes are, or else you're furiously typing about some incredible mod I forgot to mention. If you don't use addons, at least now you know what you're missing. Or you read the column title and stopped reading. Either way, at least I tried.

July 30, 2009

WoW Moviewatch: Alliance vs. Horde - Episode 2

BroncoTV has really been doing a great job providing interesting videos for the World of Warcraft community. They've just released the new episode in their Alliance vs. Horde series, in which they examine the differences between Azeroth's factions to great comedic effect.

Alliance vs. Horde - Episode 2 focuses on one of the fundamental aspects of WoW game play -- how we group. The Alliance dwarf is eager to go plumb the depths of an instance, while the Horde character is more interested in personal, individual achievement.

Michael Davis and Michael Schroeder are working hard to keep their series "balanced," to avoid out-of-character bias for or against one faction or another. I definitely appreciate the effort, especially since they seem to do a good job keeping their protagonist "true to form." They don't seem to need to adjust the characters' behavior just to suit the joke; instead, both characters seem consistent across the two episodes. I think there's a lot of art that goes into that balancing act, and I tip my hat to BroncoTV for pulling it off.

Argent Tournament dailies: Get Kraken!

The Patch 3.2 daily quests are all rather straightforward, but since the QuestHelper-esque features that were intended to be in the patch were pulled, we figured we would go over them all anyway. The first one that we'll be tackling is Get Kraken! This quest can only be seen once you've acquired the Crusader title, and it's the return of a Burning Crusade staple: On-rails bombing quests. Watch the video above, and that's pretty much the whole thing. The goal is to chuck 8 Flaming Spears at the kraken that's harassing the Silver Covenant and Sunreaver ships, and use the spear to take out 6 Kvaldir Deepcallers on the way. It's on rails, so there's no search element involved at all. You kill as many as you need while in-flight, or you don't. If you don't, you grab another flight.

I somewhat suspect that when the patch first launches, you're going to be taking the extra flight more often than not. When there are only a few people flying around, there are more than enough Deepcallers to go around. Even though they respawn nearly instantaneously, targeting and hitting them will be a pain when there are dozens and dozens of people doing the quest. The kraken isn't an issue, though. The thing can take a beating, and it's by far the easiest of the two targets. If you don't scare all of your necessary hits on it in one go, chances are you just forgot to do it.

Another thing you might notice in the video above is that the Deepcallers can actually be pretty hard to spot. You need to be a quick-clicker or you'll miss them. You fly so high that they don't really 'pop in' until you're right on top of them, so you'll be swiveling your camera behind you fairly often. You'll be throwing back over your shoulder, rather than straight ahead. Still, it's really not that bad, and I actually find these on-rails quests pretty fun. This is one thing I'm very glad to see again, personally. It brings some sorely needed diversity to the Argent Tournament's daily quests.

Completing the quest at the level cap will net you 13 gold, 23 silver, and a Champion's Seal. No reputation gain, since you need to be Exalted with pretty much everybody involved before you can even get the quest.

15 Minutes of Fame: So you think you can nuke

Forget the Brothers Karamazov. If you're looking for artistic expression, passion and the bonds of brotherhood -- plus a healthy dash of World of Warcraft -- it's all about the Brothers Kasprzak. Evan Kasprzak, a Top 6 finalist in the reality show So You Think You Can Dance, has gamed his entire life with brothers Ryan (also a top finisher in this year's SYTYCD show) and Ian. There's no denying how tight this trio is. One viewing of Evan and Ryan's journey through the beginning of this season's SYTYCD competition as a team (see video, above) or a glance at photos of the threesome with their matching wrist tattoos ("brother" in Greek) show the obvious depth of their bond. And so while Evan is socked in right now beneath the insane pace of the competition's home stretch, we snuck in a visit with Ian to find out how the family finds a foothold to fit all the pieces together.

For the gaming, dancing Kasprzaks, support from family includes the WoW family. "In top 6, you can use all the support you can get," Ian notes, "and I know how amazingly supportive the smaller WoW community on my server has been. I also love how highlights the multidimensionality of gamers. I think it helps break down some of those stereotypes that gaming is somehow isolating and anti-social, when it is very much a social medium. ... Sometimes, the person behind that Mage that just Frostbolted you might just be someone climbing up their way to the top as America's next favorite dancer."

The Fantastic Kasprzaks and their WoW machines (left to right)
Evan Kasprzak, Kaztastic of Unknown (Andorhal-US), age 22, SYTYCD Top 6 finalist
Ian Kasprzak, Totemtastic of Unknown (Andorhal-US), age 30, supportive big brother
Ryan Kasprzak, Beartastic of Guildtastic (Andorhal-US), age 29, SYTYDC contestant

15 Minutes of Fame: So Ian -- in all of this, you're frequently pegged with the moniker "the non-dancing brother." What do you do?
Ian Kasprzak: I am a firmware (Video BIOS) programmer at NVIDIA in Silicon Valley. I have been with NVIDIA eight years. It's the perfect career path for a lifetime gamer looking to work in the industry (or at least close to it).

So how long has the Kasprzak clan been gaming?
I had an 8-bit Nintendo the year that came out (whenever that was), and my first computer was a 286, first PC game was King's Quest III, so it goes way back.

Evan, I think it would be safe to say, has been gaming his entire life. We played console games when he was younger, and as he got older he got into the Diablo II craze (he went way beyond what I did in that game). And it goes forward from there. His favorite game types are racing (NFS, mostly), the COD series -- and of course like everyone in his generation, he plays Halo pretty well. (It's embarrassing how bad he beats me at the family holiday season matches.)

WoW is the only MMO Evan has ever played; it stuck. Evan's first introduction to WoW was the semi-famous video of the interrupted funeral. After the funeral got interrupted by a PvP raid on it, one character stood up from the crowd and started massive AoE on the attackers. Evan's response: "I want to be that guy." So he rolled a Mage.

Ryan, the tapping brother from the SYTYCD Vegas episodes, is the most casual of the WoW family. He has a Hunter who is casually leveling his way to 80. He never was huge into the PC gaming thing, but we do all (and I mean all, my dad and occasionally mom included) do some family gaming over the holidays (mostly Rock Band). We bought my Mom a Wii for Mother's Day a few years ago, so it definitely runs in the family, but we each have our own gaming flavor preferences.

So do you brothers all play WoW together?
I started playing in the open beta of vanilla WoW as a Rogue; Evan was not far behind. He joined during vanilla with a bunch of his friends from college on Andorhal. That is where the -tastic naming convention got its start.

I originally was on a PVE server, and I had retired at some point after BC, lacking an endgame raiding guild (and before Arena), when I went home one holiday to find out Evan was playing actively and in a fairly strong endgame raiding guild. So back I went, this time in BC and on a PvP server, to level a Shaman. And I have been hooked ever since.

Evan is sort of on a "when he can" raiding schedule. Over the summer we raid together every week; during school, in particular because he does a lot of shows (musical theatre major at Illinois Wesleyan University), he can't always make every raid. Outside of that, we do some BGing together and have tried to stay in touch with some of our buddies by hitting the daily heroic now and again.

I am our healing officer on Andorhal, so I try to make every raid. SYTYCD has of course made that a little difficult, but my guild has helped by moving raid nights around to let me raid and still be there for Evan, watching the show, holding callout parties and of course, voting. :)

Evan does struggle to make the regular raiding part of life during school, especially with dance commitments and shows. He does PvP casually, and he will come on the occasional weekend raid when one comes up. He missed most/all of Ulduar because of SYTYCD, but we are hoping when it all calms down that we can go through it together with Guildtastic, an ad hoc group of our friends from various guilds who used to raid Naxx late at night (when Naxx was end game).

What's the in-game reaction to Evan's success been like, on your realm and/or in your guild?
It's a very interesting experience. When we knew Evan was in the final 32 (and possibly the final 20), we just told our GM that he had some "work thing" that might be coming up, since we couldn't tell anyone what was going on. Then right before the Memphis episode with Evan aired, I let the guild know to watch SYTYCD to see Kaztastic. I think most of them thought he might be in the audience. They were pretty shocked to see him onstage, and even more shocked when he went to Vegas. Being an endgame raider and PVPer, I know a lot of people on Andorhal, and near every one of them is now following along with Evan.

The most interesting thing about WoW is that you think you know people, especially with Vent, until you realize they could have this whole different skill set (like dancing) and be world class at it. I think it has been very surreal for all of them. Before this, Evan and I were just another set of brothers who hung out in the WoW world (since we live several thousand miles apart).

Has Evan had the time to play much since his SYTYCD journey began? Are there restrictions on his contact with the outside world and virtual worlds?
Evan does stop in from time to time, usually before he goes to bed. He managed to knock off the last few levels on his alt Shaman (I couldn't be prouder that he rolled a Shammie), Ankhtastic.

There aren't restrictions with the outside world -- at least, not the virtual one. The contestants are physically limited to the Los Angeles area during the competition, but they are insanely busy practicing and practicing and taping. The great thing is when he is on WoW, we get to chat (whispers and occasionally Vent), so even though I barely ever see him (I have been to LA twice since the top 20 began), I still feel connected to him.

For Evan, WoW is his outlet. The competition is intense, so everyone needs a little stress reliever. What could be better than blowing up a few Horde in a BG or beating down a boss or two?

Does anyone else on the show play WoW that you know of? Anyone that Evan can share geek-talk with?
Gamers on the show? Not that Evan has mentioned. I know Jason has at least watched Evan play WoW. And him and Phillip Chbeeb could definitely talk geek together. Phillip is a physics major and has a strong interest in inventions, so I am sure they had a common bond of geekiness.

How much do you hear from Evan at this point in the competition? Is anyone from your family with him in LA at this point?
We are a very tight-knit family. Even spaced across the U.S., we keep in touch. I mostly hear from Evan, to be honest, on WoW. It is really hard to know when he is going to have free time, so just calling him usually fails. We text also; that seems to work in between the crazy schedule he is keeping.

Right now, representing the family in LA are my mom (Barb Kasprzak), my wife (Elizabeth Kasprzak) and Mr. Rutherford, the theatre director at Groves High School in Birmingham, Mich., where we all went to school. (We all did theatre -- that also runs in the family, even those of us who went pro in a more geeky pursuit.)

It doesn't sound as if you've had much chance at all to meet up in game during these last weeks.
When Lich King came out and until Ulduar, we were meeting at minimum once a week to do a full clear of Naxx 10 every Tuesday (till like 2 a.m. California time, so 4 a.m. where he was) with Guildtastic. Other than that, it was kind of random.

WoW has always been our way to virtually keep in touch. Plane flights are vastly more expensive than a headset and a WoW account. Generally, if Evan is on, we try to do something, whether it is knocking out a few group quests for an alt leveling (that is most of what we did during SYTYCD, due to the very limited amount of time Ev was available) or hitting up a few BGs. Things that can fit in smallish time blocks -- a full time student/dancer/musical theatre player has some very small and random schedule holes.

After the competition, Evan will be heading out for the tour, won't he? Does he have a WoW-capable laptop to be able to take WoW on the road?
YES! Evan will be touring, and he has a WoW-capable laptop with him even now at SYTYCD. We went out and shopped for a very beefy Mac laptop so he could do video/audio editing for dance-related things at school ... but it is also very good as a gaming box.

So for any readers who are still wondering why we're talking to you instead of directly to Evan -- as this article goes up, what will be on Evan's agenda for the day?
Evan will be dancing for a spot in the finals on Tuesday. The actual taping of the Wednesday show on Fox is done on Tuesday, because they use Wednesday to learn the opening number for the results show. So as this article goes up, Evan will be dancing his heart out for a shot at performing at the Kodak Theatre in the Final 4 episode. The episode actually airs at 8/7c on Fox on Wednesday night.

When you last spoke with Evan, what was his outlook? How's he holding up under the pressure?
As you might imagine, the whole experience is very surreal. Evan said at least the first week, everything you did, you were like "Wow, I am really on a national television show dancing!" The first time he stepped on stage, the first time the theme music played from the speakers, etc., etc. ...

Evan is very excited about the numbers he is dancing this week. He has become very close to all the remaining dancers, so every week is a little bittersweet, no matter what the outcome is. I would say his current mood is excited for the finals. He is working very hard, and he is dancing the best he has in his whole life -- dedicating two solid months to nothing but eating, sleeping, dancing (and the occasional group quest) will do that. He is very excited at the prospect of getting to dance on the stage of the Kodak Theater in the finals and of course getting to tour the country showing off his unique Broadway stylings.

Sounds like exciting times ahead – but we're going to have to break off here and wrap up with the burning question on every reader's mind: What is Evan's favorite in-game dance?
I (just) texted him. He has two favorites: of course, the Boomkin dance (How can you not love it? Comes with instant costume ...); and the male Troll dance, because of the break dancing and the sweet stall in that dance. (See Evan's version of a stall, right.)

Here's to hoping his progress in the finals doesn't take a Trollish stall! Thanks, Ian – give our best to Evan when you next log in.

Follow Evan's progress on So You Think You Can Dance:

Ian on Twitter @Kazovation Ryan on Twitter @BearKaz (Evan isn't on Twitter and FOX rules don't allow him to change that until the competition is over.) Evan's Facebook fan page (the best place for news, updates and voting instructions)

WoW Rage as a liability

Rage is a problematic mechanic, and has been since its implementation. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be frustrating, and it contributes to Warriors' gear dependance. Blizzard is probably working on a way to redo rage entirely, but in the mean time, I'd like to highlight this suggestion for a rage revamp from Alveredus, a commenter on a recent post of mine.

Here's a quick rundown of Alveredus's proposal:

Rage increases over time by itself. The more rage you have, the lower your attack speed, but the higher your crit chance. When your rage is at maximum, you start losing resilience. Your abilities vent rage instead of costing rage - same thing really, but a different way of looking at it. I'm not certain about the specifics of it, but I like the general idea of rage being something you want to get rid of instead of something you want to spend. It makes sense: being in combat makes you angry; when angry, you may be less accurate, more vulnerable, or generally imbalanced.

On the other hand, a system like this runs the risk of feeling like Rogue energy with a penalty. Rogues get their resource back at a constant rate and use it on abilities, but nothing bad happens to them when they cap their energy (aside from losing out on some potential DPS). The comparison could feel unfair for Warriors, who already have their share of penalties for core abilities. But rage definitely could use some work, and I'd like it to stay an interesting mechanic.

Trading card mounts no longer BoP

In what appears to be an attempt to put an end to scams capitalizing on the vanity mounts found in Upper Deck's popular World of Warcraft trading card game, the latest Patch 3.2 PTR build seems to have removed the Bind-on-Pickup restriction on the loot mounts. Originally unearthed by Boubouille on MMO Champion, the removal seems to be intended, and includes new methods for obtaining the loot items from Landro Longshot in Booty Bay (with the exception of the Riding Turtle, which reportedly remains BoP).

This means it should be easier to obtain these special mounts if players are indeed selling them for copious amounts of gold - conceivably setting record amounts at the auction house. This effectively kills the scamming method of supposedly selling desireable items like the Spectral Tiger mount. On the other hand, someone with real world cash who gets one of those mounts off eBay can theoretically trade it in game for some whopper gold. That's kind of like they're selling gold in some roundabout way. Either way, score one for Blizzard. It looks like it might be time to start earning a bit of money... think anyone will sell the tiger for 500 Gold? No? Drat.

World of WarCrafts: My Lich King Pony

World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including fan art, cooking, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by contacting our tips line (attention: World of WarCrafts) -- not-for-profit work only, please.

Heat got you down? Summer raid attendance and progression wilting? Have a case of the midsummer doldrums? Sometimes, it's good to start out your week with something a little, err, different. Cue this week's World of WarCrafts project, combining the runes of Frostmourne and the power of the Lich King with ... My Little Pony.

If you're suddenly humming "one of these things is not like the other," we'd suspect you've perked up and are catching on fast. That's the reaction we suspect most people have when confronted by the frosty terror of My Lich King Pony from Rosenrot of Nazgrel-US. "I love crafting and WoW," Rosenrot writes, "and when I was a little girl, I loved My Little Pony. I wanted to combine my past and current loves into one really cool project!"

Here's how Rosenrot pulled it off: "It started out as a white pony with purple hair. I ripped out the hair and scrubbed off the paint. Then I dyed the pony with fabric dye. The eyes and the Frostmourne runes are painted on with acrylic paint. I also re-haired the pony with two shades of blue.

"The spike on the pony's face is steel labret jewelry. For the saddle, I made chain mail out of small jump rings and added skull charms. The saddle is permanently attached with wire."

Click into our My Lich King Pony gallery, below, to see more views of the little guy. We'll leave you with the immortal words of Cookie Monster – we figure you're ready for a few cookies after all this sweetness!

WoW Horde-centric comic launching in 2010

So much for fears of audiences not relating to "non-human" heroes. After a successful run featuring the travails of tailored-for-badassness Alliance leader Varian Wrynn, Wildstorm studios announced during the San Diego Comic Con 2009 that the World of Warcraft comic will be splitting into two titles after Issue #25. The issue will conclude the current story arc and will trigger events that will lead to the spinoff of a Horde-centric World of Warcraft comic slated to launch in January, 2010.

Although BlizzPlanet reports that there were little details beyond that - they point to an earlier interview they did with Walt Simonson who dodged the question about such a title - there'll likely be more information in the coming weeks. In particular, players and comic fans alike should prepare for significant announcements regarding this and other projects during BlizzCon. A title featuring the Horde should quell one of the biggest criticisms levied against the comic, and should be a refreshing change of pace.

Hard modes and raider morale

Karl, writing over on the WoW Livejournal, has an interesting set of thoughts about hard modes and just how they work with raiders' morale. Hard modes are designed to give raiders something extra -- if you've conquered the normal modes of raids like Ulduar, hard modes are put in there by Blizzard to offer you some extra risk for a corresponding reward. But as they've become more and more routine, some raids are taking on the hard modes even before they've cleared the whole instance, leading up to a night of wiping on early hard modes, and then wiping on later progression. And wiping all night is never good for any raid's morale.

Of course, this is one of the causes for the way the Crusaders' Coliseum in patch 3.2 is designed: instead of having both hard and normal modes constrained to one instance, you can run a 10 or 25-man instance in normal mode all the way, leaving the Heroic mode open when you're ready to do some wiping.

But then again, think about what the mindset is here -- players are throwing themselves on early bosses' hard modes even when they haven't beaten the end bosses yet. It seems like most raids will take any opportunity they get for more loot, no matter how tough it is, and that's what's leading to all of this "glass chewing" Karl is talking about. Even if Blizzard gives players the option to run a normal instance without worrying about hard modes, won't players still just run Heroic anyway, for the better gear?

Seems like the answer has to come from raid leaders -- if your guild is losing morale by beating your heads up against nothing but hard modes and progression content, it's time to dial it back a bit, and do a couple of farming runs instead. Especially in a 25-man raid, even downing the normal modes of most bosses should net your raiders some piece of gear they need, and pushing players to do bosses they'll wipe on all night leads to more burnout, even if it does net you some guild first downs eventually.

It's interesting that players always seem to be fighting to raid a tier above what they're really capable of -- I remember even back when we were raiding halfway through Molten Core, my guild would schedule a night in Blackwing Lair, even though we never did anything but wipe in there. Maybe the separation of normal and Heroic in patch 3.2 will help slow down players a little bit, but you have to think that, by now, Blizzard should know that players will grab for the best gear they can.

Speculating on a new resource system for Hunters

As we said on the podcast this weekend, one of the most interesting things to come out of the Hunter Q&A last week was that vague about "long-term plans" to "[remove] the need for hunters to rely on a different resource system then mana." That one kind of came out of nowhere, and the answer was even more vague: basically, they promised to talk about it at BlizzCon. Of course, that's what our attracted our attention: is Blizzard planning on getting Hunters off of their mana system completely?

That would be quite a change -- since the beginning of the game, Hunters have relied on mana as their "resource" -- Warriors have Rage and Rogues have Energy, but Hunters somehow got looped in with the other DPSers as mana users. That doesn't make much sense -- not only does it depend on Intelligence (a stat which Hunters don't really have a reason to go after anyway), but it's lead to the problem of keeping Hunters powered up. Hunters are almost continually out of mana, and Blizzard has made some wacky mechanic tweaks (with both AotV and Replenishment) to try and keep them up and running.

So maybe a non-mana system is the way to go with Hunters. But what would it look like? A Rune-style system, where spells are based on cooldowns of limited resources? Brigwyn recommended "Ammo" as the new resource system on the podcast, and maybe that's the way to go: unlimited ammo, but with a certain number of "shots" per second, that regenerate like a Rogue's energy, where the strategy lies in choosing which shots to take when. It seems late in the game's life to make such a big change to the way the very popular class works, but we can't wait to hear what Blizzard's thinking in a few weeks at BlizzCon.

Tags: aspect-of-the-viper, blizzcon, blizzcon-2009, casters, class-mechanics, class-QA, discussion, energy, Hunter, Hunter-QA, hunters, long-term, mana, mana-system, mechanics, plans, rage, replenishment, resource, runic-power, wow-blizzcon, wow-blizzcon-2009

WoW: to join Mend Pet's SPCA charity drive

The last time we posted about Brajana and her SPCA charity drive over on Mend Pet, she'd only just started it and was revving up to get a nice list of prizes going. Nowadays, she's got a great list of prizes (including a free FigurePets set, a few good loot cards, some custom-made character artwork, and even a custom-designed UI -- you can make yours look just like Turpster's if you want), and she's rolling into the last few days of the drive. It all ends on Friday, July 31st, so if you haven't gotten your donation in to the SPCA International yet (the money will go to volunteer programs, including animal shelters all of the world, and help out with food, shelter, and vaccination costs), do so right away. And make sure to follow the instructions on Brajana's site -- for every donation you make, no matter how big or small, you'll get two chances to pick up some of that great loot, and you'll be helping out real-life pets all over the world.

It's a great way to help out a worthy cause, give some back to the Warcraft community and the hard work that bloggers like Brajana do, and maybe even win some free stuff. Remember, she's asking for your donation before Friday, July 31st, so head over there and get it in as soon as possible.