October 10, 2009

Tokyopop announces 2010 schedule for Warcraft manga

If you're a fan of Tokyopop's take on the World of Warcraft -- I know I certainly am -- then you should be excited to know that the line-up for 2010 has been announced. The first series from Tokyopop was the Sunwell trilogy, written by Richard Knaak and drawn expertly by Kim Jae-Hwan. It dealt with the events of the Sunwell and featured characters prominent in the game such as Kalecgos and Anveena Teague. The second series was called World of Warcraft: Legends, a recently concluded five-volume affair that uniquely told various stories of Azeroth's lesser-known folks.

For 2010, Tokyopop plans to kick off class-based stories starting with the popular Death Knight, featuring Thassarian, the first Death Knight to rejoin the Alliance. According to BlizzPlanet, this full-volume comic written by Dan Jolley and drawn by Rocio Zucchi is slated for December 2010 although they probably mean this coming December, 2009. This will be followed by World of Warcraft: Mage, written by Richard Knaak and drawn by an as-yet-unrevealed artist, which will be available on June 7, 2010. Would Knaak + Mage mean more Rhonin? I certainly hope not -- I think we've just about had enough of the super-heroic, time-traveling, ultra-powerful Mage who actually taught Illidan Stormrage how to use magic (don't ask). Rhonin is kind of like the Chuck Norris of Mages.

The most curious of the three volumes is World of Warcraft: Shaman, which is due for a "late 2010" release. Blizzard works closely with Tokyopop for all its manga, and all the stories are considered canon (Trag Highmountain even made it into the game). The Shaman book is rumored to be Cataclysm-related, although it's a good bet that the game's third expansion will be out by late 2010. There is no official word yet on who will write or draw the comic, but I personally enjoyed Tokyopop Warcraft editor Troy Lewter's stories in Legends so much that I look forward to him writing a full-volume comic. How about Carlos Olivares for the art? I appreciated his unique, almost whimsical style in Legends. He also draws wonderful Goblins, whom as we all know can roll Shamans in the next expansion. As always, stay tuned to WoW.com as we bring you the latest on Tokyopop's Warcraft manga.

Ghostcrawler: Haste-y DoTs and HoTs for Priests

Nope, our good friend Tiberius isn't starting up a new ice cream company (though that would be good) -- he's posting on the forums about a new idea that Blizzard has for using Haste to affect Damage- and Heal-over-time spells. In the past, Haste hasn't been a very useful stat for spells that are instant cast and then have a HoT or DoT component -- they don't affect the initial instant casting, and once the spell is out, Haste does nothing. Until now -- Ghostcrawler says that they're thinking about making Haste actually lower the time between ticks on spells that do damage or healing over time.

There is a tradeoff here -- if your ticks come faster, then the HoT or DoT component will end earlier, which means you'll be casting the spell more often. GC isn't sure (and neither are we) about how that will balance out yet -- on the one hand, it means that within a certain period of time, you will be able to do more damage or healing... but then again, you'll be spending more mana to do it. So instead of throwing this into talents, they're starting it up with glyphs. In the next patch, priests would get three glyphs that make their instant cast spells have their DoT components affected by Haste (Mind Flay's glyph is likely being moved into the base spell, and they'll use that one as an extra glyph choice). GC says if it works there, it may be spread out into talents or even base spells.

Will it work? It's an interesting idea, but mana cost seems to be the toughest problem to deal with -- any time you're casting spells more often, you'll be going through more mana. But it does seem like a good way to make Haste a little more worthwhile, and especially with the stats refinement coming up in Cataclysm, Blizzard will have to even out all of the stats they can. What do you think?

WoW Warriors: Armor Penetration

Armor Penetration has been with us in one form or another for quite a while now. There are abilities like Sunder Armor and Expose Armor that lower armor temporarily, of course, and the rogue talent Serrated Blades. My first conscious exposure to the mechanic was the epic weapon Bonereaver's Edge, which dropped off of Ragnaros. Back then, the mechanic was fairly simple. Bonereaver`s Edge would ignore a certain amount of armor with each proc of an on-hit ability, in this case 700 armor. It could stack up to three times, so in a fight that lasted for long enough Bonereaver`s could maintain an effective -2100 armor debuff on a boss that only applied to the person using it.

Effects like this weren`t terribly common in Vanilla WoW. I myself never had a Bonereaver's (Don't cry for me, I did all right on Rag drops if I do constantly brag so myself) and so Armor Pen didn't really impinge on my consciousness. Of course, I was mostly either a tank or an offtank back in the old MC/BWL/AQ/NAXX40 days anyway. Back when you could tank with an arms or fury spec and dinosaurs ruled Un'Goro. (They still do, we just don't go there very often.) So it wasn't until Burning Crusade that I really started to notice ArP.

Back in BC, armor pen didn't have rating yet. Enchants like Executioner read "Permanently enchant a Melee Weapon to occasionally ignore 840 of your enemy's armor. Requires a level 60 or higher item." Gear that had armor pen on it told you how much armor it was going to penetrate. Cataclysm's Edge, for instance, just said "Equip: Your attacks ignore 335 of your opponent's armor." What this meant was, when you collected a whole set of ArP gear, all you had to do was add up how much armor you were ignoring. The plus side of this was, it was very simple to understand. The down side? Well, on bosses or classes with low armor (we're talking those annoying skirt wearers who can take half of your health off in one attack that completely ignores armor, you know the ones) reducing up to, say, 3000 armor at level 70 was pretty dang nasty. So they changed Armor Pen to a rating.

From there, all our troubles began.
Armor Pen as a rating has been fraught with difficulties since Wrath launched. The move to a rating based system and to percentage based ArP (ignores a percentage of target armor rather than just X amount of target armor) was aimed at retaining or even enhancing the stats usefulness against high armor targets while making it less ridiculously lethal against low armor targets. Rather than easily stacking enough ArP to rip a shadow priest's head off while barely even scratching a Bear Druid or Protection Paladin, you'll have the same boost to your damage against each target regardless of their personal armor. The change to a rating was also aimed at falling in line with other stats like hit and crit which require more and more rating to achieve the same results as a character levels.

As a result, between the launch of Wrath and patch 3.1, nobody wanted Armor Penetration on their gear. It was so bad that when I noticed the sheer amount of ArP on Ulduar gear and what that meant for how much armor you could actually ignore, especially with certain Arms talents and chances to Battle Stance, it was (to put it mildly) not well received. The buff to Armor Penetration's effectiveness is what ultimately led me to this conclusion: However, it soon became clear that Armor Penetration, while still a somewhat underwhelming stat for classes that do a large percentage of their damage as magical, had become fairly compelling for warriors as a DPS stat. Initial reports that ArP could in fact negatively reduce target armor at a certain point prompted the stat to be capped so that it could no longer reduce armor below 0, meaning that roughly 1399 Armor Penetration Rating = target armor reduced as low as it is possible to go in the game. In essence, if you had 1000 ArP rating and a Grim Toll equipped, which when it procced would push your ArP rating to 1612 ArP rating, you would be wasting about 200 of the proc's ArP because it's impossible to push your target below 0 armor. This doesn't mean that you will automatically push your target to 0 armor with that much ArP, however, as the 'up to' in the tooltip is something you see pointed out a lot.

I've not found a really coherent listing of how they've changed ratings in 3.2.2 at all. If you have one that takes the new values into account please feel free to post it here for discussion. The best source I have is this Elitist Jerks thread. Taking its values, we're currently looking at 13.99 ArP Rating to reach 1% armor reduction.

If you really, really love math, you can pour over the formula for Armor Penetration, which will allow you to find all the ways in which I've just messed up that example. To allow Ghostcrawler to explain in his own words:

We didn't want Armor Penetration Rating to be too powerful against low armor targets, like it had been in BC. We also didn't want Armor Penetration Rating to be too powerful against high armor targets. So, we decided on a system where there is a cap on how much armor the Armor Penetration Rating can be applied to. So, the first X armor on the target is reduced by the percentage listed in the Armor Penetration Rating tooltip, and all armor past that X is unaffected. Another way of understanding that is we multiply the percentage in the tooltip times the minimum of the two values: the cap, and the amount of armor on the target after all other modifiers. Computing the cap is a little tricky unless you are already familiar with how World of Warcraft armor works. There is an armor constant we'll call C. C is derived as follows (in some pseudocode): If (level<60)C=400+85*targetlevelElseC=400+85*targetlevel+4.5*85*(targetlevel-59);
For a level 80 target, C=15232.5. For a level 83, C=16635.
The cap for Armor Penetration then is: (armor + C)/3.

A level 80 warrior creature has 9729 armor. C=15232.5. So, the cap is (9729+15232.5)/3=8320.5. Let's say a player has 30% armor penetration from armor penetration rating and no other modifiers that complicate the calculation (talents, Battle Stance, Sunder Armor, etc.). The game chooses the minimum of 8320.5 and 9729, so 8320.5. That is multiplied by 30% = 2496.15, and so that much armor is ignored. The effective armor on the target is 7232.85 (9729-2496.15). From a player point of view, the armor penetration rating didn't ignore the full 30%, but instead ignored 25.66%. (85.5% as effective as expected).

What all of this means is, Armor Pen has not only a cap in how much armor it can possibly reduce (it can't push armor below 0, giving wonky results where your damage goes up because it's being modified by negative armor values, as if the mob you were hitting put on armor with knives in it facing himself so that when you hit him his own armor stabs him) but it is also limited in how much armor it will actually be allowed to ignore, as shown in the above formula. It's therefore never going to ignore all of a target's armor: you can't actually push a target to 0 with sufficient Armor Penetration.

Compare this to the original system (ignores X amount of target armor) and while you may have created an elegant way for Armor Pen to reduce everyone's armor equally while at the same time keeping the stat from slapping around both those targets with extremely low or extremely high armor, you've also created a nightmare stat that has two caps built into it and which requires most players to either simply trust others as to how effective the stat is, or sit down with a calculator and a working knowledge of how armor constants work.

This is why when someone says something to me like "Matt, how much ArP should I have" I run screaming for a nearby copse of trees and begin gnawing on bark. I hate the stat, even as I grab gear with it: I hate how fussy it is, how ridiculously complicated that dual cap formula is, and I especially hate when they keep tweaking it over and over so that I have no idea what the current values are.

Things I feel that I can say safely about ArP: it's a decent DPS stat for warriors because not only does it increase our physical damage (which is the vast majority of our DPS) but it also increases our rage generation, allowing us to pump out more DPS. It increases in effectiveness nicely the more of it you have. If you have one or even two trinkets that proc an ArP effect, then you really don't need to try and shoot for above 50% on gear. If you have that much, then one (or both) of those trinkets proccing will push you to close to the cap, which is all you'll need given the way the system calculates how much armor to ignore.

Another reason I wouldn't try to stack ArP too much past 700 rating (roughly 50%) if you have a proc trinket (and even if you don't, really you don't realistically want to just slap on every piece of ArP gear you can find over all concerns) is because you also need to balance out other gear targets. Based on your spec and gear, you'll need a certain amount of hit and expertise, for starters. You also don't want to have 800 ArP and 22% crit, for instance, or 870 ArP and 2000 Attack Power. (I'm just using these numbers as examples.) Another reason I'm so leery of ArP stacking beyond a certain point is that they keep changing the way the stat works. Frankly, with the Patch 3.2.2 changes, figuring out the current ratings made my head hurt. The previous numbers were 12.31 rating to ignore 1% armor, the current vaues seem to be 13.99 rating for 1% Armor Reduction. The forumulas GC used should still be accurate, because they work with percentages and not ratings.

It's not terribly difficult to get decent ArP gear at this point in the game: the Arms gearing post from two weeks ago listed quite a few options. Just make sure you try and stack other good offensive stats (hit, crit, strength) based on what your spec and talents indicate you need. ArP's two cap system means you don't really want to even try to cap it out, especially if you get lucky on trinkets, but as long as you keep your other stats up as well, ArP is still always better the more you have until you simply can't ignore any more armor.

Next week, we'll hopefully hear more about Warriors in 3.3. If not, ArP on gear and the future.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Warlock pets bite back

I was pretty under-whelmed by the 3.3 PTR patch notes when they first came about, even going so far as to say on the podcast that I was more interested in the hunter changes. The removal of the Imp quest and the pet avoidance change made for some pretty slim pickings. The latest version of the notes is a whole other story though -- now this is interesting.


This is a spec that needs some love. It had some fun times early on in Wrath with some big numbers and a lot of people flocking to its door. Not all were successful however, this was a powerful build but one that took some mastering. Many decided it wasn't worth the effort and went a hybrid demo/destro route to simpler, but slightly lower DPS scores.

These days the complexity of affliction is still there, it's a fiddly build to get right -- this is both a draw for many and a turn off for others. However, the numbers just don't make it as raid viable as destruction; if you can do well with Haunt, you can probably do better with Chaos Bolt. Affliction used to be a utility build but no more, other classes and builds are either doing it better or easier. So yes, affliction needs some love and it's getting it -- puppy love.

Wrath initially seemed to be sharing the pets out amongst the trees: Felguard for demo, Imp for destro, and Felpuppy for affliction. These days, however, affliction gets it's best DPS from the Doomguard or Succubus. This isn't a bad thing, but instead of putting points into a nice affliction talent they go over to Demonic Power for more Lashes of Pain (or a faster imp, if you're into that kind of thing). Now Improved Felhunter is getting an outright buff -- each point in it will reduce the cooldown on Shadow Bite by 2 seconds. Bear in mind that Demonic Power doubled the casts of Lash of Pain, this change triples the number of Shadow Bites your little doggie can do in the same amount of time!

Ok, we like that, it's good, but Shadow Bite doesn't do enough damage to make this anything to jump up and down or chase your tail about. There's more. Remember the 5% damage bonus Shadow Bite get from your DoTs? That's going up to 15%; another flat-out buff.

All of that makes the Felpuppy much more attractive, but it's not the only pet change affliction locks can look forward to. The Doomguard is a beast, he really puts out some damage, anyone looking at warlocks might think he would be ideal for demonology locks. This isn't the case of course; demonologists can get far more out of a Felguard. Similarly destro locks make good things happen with an imp around. It falls to the affliction warlock, with his inability to make best use of a pet, to look to a Doomguard.

Some fights are simply not safe for a Doomguard though, currently they don't benefit from the same protection Avoidance gives our other pets. This is also true of Infernals. Patch 3.3 is extending the warm glow of AoE survivability to both these guys so not only will Avoidance work for them it will also be bumped up to 90%. This is only for PvE though -- AoE damage from players will no longer be mitigated by Avoidance at all.

It remains to be seen whether these changes make affliction more desirable but it's certainly moving in that direction. It's not going to change the minds of anyone who just didn't like the fiddlyness of the spec but if you moved away from affliction because the damage went away, it might just be coming back for you.


Now I'm sure you all read the last Blood Pact article about the playing a demonology lock providing the Demonic Pact buff. Essentially sacrificing personal DPS for improved raid DPS. In the comments it was pointed out that plans were afoot to ensure that people weren't just brought for their buff but for their own damage capability. For deep demonology this would mean two things -- one, preventing the Demonic Pact buff from making Totem of Wrath redundant, and two, making demonology personal DPS better.

Well, still no sign of a nerf to the Demonic Pact effect but there are two damage buffs incoming for demonologists.

The first is for those who have gone down to Demonic Pact. The talent will now convey an extra 1% spell damage per talent point. Again, this isn't a reworking this is a straight addition to the talent giving up to 5% extra spell damage. This will work out at less than a 5% DPS increase (as your pet makes up for a good chunk of your total) but I think it will come in at around 3%. Very nice.

Decimation received a reworking though and I like it. Two things to note about the change, first off the Decimation buff will be triggered not just from Shadow Bolt but also by Incinerate and Soul Fire. "What's that?" I hear you say, "I can now weave Soul Fire with Soul Fire?" No-no, you can also forget about weaving.

For those who are unsure what I mean by weaving, it's the practice of trying to get a one-to-one cast ratio between Shadow Bolt and Soul Fire when the target is below 35% health. Since the Decimation effect only activates once the Shadow Bolt has hit your target, and dissipates when you cast Soul Fire, you need to complete your cast of SF in the time it takes your Shadow Bolt to travel. This means standing a long way from the target, which isn't always practical. It appears to have been removed in patch 3.3, the tooltip reads as such:

"When you Shadowboltm Incinerate or Soul Fire a target that is at or below 35% health, the cast time of your Soul Fire spell is reduced by 60% for 10 sec. Soul Fires cast under the effect of Decimation cost no shard."

I found it amusing that they should spell Shadow Bolt incorrectly (never mind the comma that morphed into an 'm') when the current tooltip also uses the incorrect "Soulfires". Typo silliness aside there's an important change in the phrasing of this tooltip. Currently the Decimation effect applies to "your next" Soul Fire. This specification of the next cast has gone which indicates that it will dissipate only after 10 seconds. What that means is if you land another Shadow Bolt, Incinerate or Soul Fire within 10 seconds you will maintain the buff. No more weaving.

While this is a buff to the deep demonology builds it is also for the hybrids (0/41/30 and 0/40/31). Soul Fire already plays a big part in their DPS chart and it's about to get a whole lot easier to apply. It's early days but demonology is looking set to be the top DPS build in patch 3.3.


I guess 'buffs all round' would make for a nice story, but that's not the patch 3.3 story. Destruction has been nerfed. I presume that it's in response to seeing destruction being the de facto build in raids these days. An effort to allow warlocks to choose what spec they are comfortable with and want to play -- not what they have to play to do some damage. That said, it's not a big nerf, but next to the other trees being buffed it's gonna feel big.

The change is to Conflagrate. Currently it consumes (unless glyphed) an Immolate or (potentially) Shadowflame effect and hits instantly for the same damage as those spells would have done with their DoTs. Now though Conflag will leave a DoT of it's own for 3 seconds which will, over that time, do the same damage as one quarter of the consumed spell's total DoT damage.

That sounds like a buff, but wait, they are taking away one quarter of the instant damage when the spell consumes Immolate. So Shadowflame/Conflagrate seems to be buffed by this, but frankly I still can't see it being used except at the edge of need. Immolate/Conflagrate is the norm and while the total damage is seemingly the same the burst quality has dropped. This is certainly not going to please the PvPers but it's also not great for PvE, especially as the effect of crit if likely going to be less because of it.

Faster DoTs

You might also have seen Ghostcrawler's post about having haste applied to DoTs. This is obviously something that Affliction locks are going to get the most out of but depending how much it is liked it could become more pervasive.

As it stands they're looking to add glyphs that modify some "over time" spells so they tick faster. For warlocks the spell they are trying this out on is Corruption. Now, the big downside to having more haste is faster mana usage through recasting. Well, that what the other classes tell me, anyway. This isn't even a thought for your affliction lock as once it's cast, that's it; let Everlasting Affliction deal with it from there.

The one slight concern is that this might introduce a new soft haste cap for affliction locks where Corruption ticks come so fast that it fell off the target before you could refresh it with Haunt. This seems unlikely to happen though as Corruption normally runs for 18 seconds and the cooldown on Haunt is 8 seconds. My scrap of paper maths tells me that would need over 4000 haste rating to become soft capped.

This is very much a theory in trial, the reasoning for doing this with a glyph is so it's not as entrenched in the class as a talent change would be. However it shakes out, it looks like affliction now has a very nice glyph to look forward to and another buff incoming.

What about PvP?

Well, I think the world of the raiding lock is about to be shaken by all these changes. PvP playing warlocks can let their mouths hang open gapingly for a little while. It's been talked about, requested, cried and ranted over for so long now I think most had almost given up hope. But here it is, on the PTR:

Pet Resilience: All player pets now get 100% of their master's resilience.

I'll let you just enjoy that for a little while.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Forge of Souls first impressions

Yesterday, the PTR servers were loaded with the most recent build of the upcoming 3.3 content. This included Forge of Souls, a new 5 player dungeon which is meant to be the introductory instance into Icecrown Citadel. As we made our way into the frozen halls of the citadel to where the dungeons are housed, we came across three portals. To the left was the Forge of Souls itself which is the first one you'll be allowed into. To the right was the Pit of Saron that Matthew Rossi covered earlier this week. Lastly, between the two was the Halls of Reflection, which strange rumors surround while its doors remain firmly locked. After opening the portcullis to the Forge we made our way inside. More of the adventure after the break.

When entering, the first thing you'll notice is a quest giver down the hallway. This happened to be Jaina Proudmoore decked out in her new model offering a simple "kill the bosses" type quest. Being as she just got her model made over, she couldn't be bothered to come along and help kill things, so we trudged onwards.

The instance is built as a kind of scourge industrial complex. You walk along metal catwalks high above large soul grinders below. The catwalks connect to the actual soul forges themselves that belch gouts of spiritual fire as the souls are tempered into weapons of the Lich King. Ghostly red skulls float over the empty expanses and the ambient sound is definitely a seven or eight on the creepy scale.

The first time we attempted the instance, we did it in normal mode. We had with us Alex Ziebart on a ret paladin, Christian Chase on a shadow priest, Matt "Matticus" Low on his priest, Tristan from The Elitists podcast as a shaman, and me tanking on a premade paladin. This made most of the encounters laughable as we were decked out in top of the line raid gear using our own characters or PTR premades. It was very difficult to notice any effects of bosses and exactly what was supposed to happen in the encounters. This might just be due to under tuning and could possibly end up being a bit more difficult once they've seen how easy it is for players to simply walk through unhindered. I believe Matt's comment at one point was that I literally was not taking any damage. Look for this to change.

So, we decided to run through it again on heroic mode to see if we could actually get some of the encounter flavor. While some of the trash was still under tuned, the bosses were much more difficult and required some coordination and at least a bit of strategy. This run included again Alex Ziebart on his paladin, Matt Low on a shaman, Mike Schramm on a ret paladin, Elizabeth Harper on a holy paladin, and myself tanking again. This time we hooked up the streaming feed so that people could watch as we mucked around in the instances.

The trash was pretty much one of two different flavors. You had a set of two big skeletal guards or a set of three to five casters mixed with melee. Currently, the skeletal guards are a bit under tuned and the pair are soloable by a decently geared paladin tank. The casters on the other hand caused a bit more of a problem with each pull. They're far enough from each other that it was difficult to get them gathered together to keep threat and thus you had to keep your eyes open to see where each were casting. This might be easier for a death knight as they'll be able to yank in any stragglers. They are also far enough apart that Avenger's Shield does not jump between them for the silencing effect. It's a bit of chaos as a result, but as the casters are primarily humanoid, a rogue could Sap one of them or a ret pally could use Repentance (which is what we ended up doing on a few pulls).

One interesting thing was that occasionally as you were walking between packs of trash, you'd be ambushed by one of those ghostly red skulls. While it didn't do much damage nor was its health all that high, it added a nice little scare element the first time we ran through. We actually had to stop for a second to make sure that the skulls floating over the open areas were in fact there for looks and not actual aggressive ghoulies. They weren't, so we continued onward a little more cautiously awaiting our next ambush.

After working our way through one of the soul forges, around and up to another we came across our first of two boss encounters in this instance: Bronjahm the Godfather of Souls. Or as we like to call him, James Brown the Godfather of Soul. James Brown looks like a nice little caster, but will kite along with the tank. This is important as he occasionally rips parts of your party's soul away from them and eats them for healing, but this appears to be a heroic only thing at the moment. When he rips your soul from your body, it slowly drifts across the floor towards him. Two things have to happen: the tank needs to kite the boss away from the soul shard a bit and the dps need to kill the split soul otherwise it heals the boss for a not insubstantial amount of health. Finally, when the boss starts to run low on health, he channels a spell that starts doing AoE damage to the entire party. This is the time to blow all of your cooldowns, pop Bloodlust/Heroism, and whatever trinkets everyone has to burn him down. The faster he gets burned down at the end, the happier your healer will be.

The trash between James Brown and the last boss, the Devourer of Souls, was more of the same until right at the end. Two single pulls called Spectral Wardens roamed about. These guys are untauntable. So, if you've been playing your threat loose and carefree (as we were in normal mode), your damage dealers might get a rude awakening. Give the tank a quick moment to grab threat on them just to be sure.

The Devourer of Souls should look familiar to those of you who have been through the Black Temple as it's the same model as the Reliquary of Souls. This thing actually wiped our party the first time we attempted it on heroic despite the high end gear of our premades. Its mirrored soul attack lets it share any incoming damage with one of your party members. You healers out there need to make sure to focus on them at this point in order to stay ahead of the damage. Shaman out there, this would be a really bad time to pop bloodlust/heroism unless you feel like killing your own party members. Devourer would jump to the party member it was about to mirror souls thus giving you a bit of notice. You can't dispel it, but with our party being full of paladins we were able to bubble out of it with Divine Shield. For our non-paladin friends, Elizabeth was chain casting Flash of Light on them and was able to keep up with the incoming damage, but your mileage may vary.

At different points, Devourer would call forth dozens of intangible spirits to its aid which attacked the entire party. There isn't anything that can be done about them as they're not attackable, so just ignore them and accept that you'll take some damage. They do give an epic feel to the encounter though as your screen is filled with them coming from all directions. Also, at various points, Devourer will start shooting a beam out much like C'thun's Eye Beam or Mimiron's Laser Barrage going counter-clockwise. This does a ton of damage and should be actively avoided or you'll soon be sitting at the spirit healer wondering what happened.

As you've driven home the final blow to the Devourer of Souls, Jaina Proudmoore along with a small army burst into the room. If your first response is, "Where the heck were you like two minutes ago?!" then you'd feel right at home in our party. After she appeared, she allowed us to hand in our quests and two of her mages started casting what is probably supposed to be a portal to the Pit of Saron, but that part isn't implemented yet.

All in all, the dungeon gave a good precursor to the Icecrown final encounter and if you take Pit of Saron into account as well, the three dungeons should give a good amount of story. The bosses were interesting and the graphics for their spells and abilities gave a more epic feel than a lot of dungeons.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Area-of-effect damage cap change

The area-of-effect damage cap is something that doesn't get talked about a whole lot. The first time I noticed it having a real effect on gameplay was in Mount Hyjal ("Hey, warlock! Wake up and throw us another Seed of Corruption!"). So what is it and what is patch 3.3 doing with it?

When you hit a single mob or player with a spell, or some kind of crude inertia-based impact utensil, the game will work out how much damage that target takes. This is based on the various offensive properties of you and the spell or utensil, as well as the defensive properties of your target. The same is true for area-of-effect (or AoE) abilities, though these tend to do less damage to a single target. Add in some more targets and, while it's still fun to do lots of damage to one of them (with the casting and the poking with sticks), you may have a chance to do damage to all of them at once. Let's say that you can do 2500 damage to a single target with one spell or stab, but can only do 1000 damage to a single target with your AoE ability. If you have five targets that you can hit with your AoE, then that will do a total of 5000 damage. Already we're having more fun than just beating on the one target.

So we're doing 1000 damage to every target and as we keep adding targets we keep doing more total damage. The current AoE damage cap is on that total amount of damage. Once we reach that total then we simply can't do any more. If more targets are added then the amount we do to each is reduced, to keep our total on the cap limit. The change in Patch 3.3 PTR doesn't have a value for the total damage you can do. Instead it works out how much damage you would do to ten targets and limits you to that. This means that your AoE spells will do the normal amount of damage to a group of ten or less targets but as soon as you add an eleventh (or more) your damage per target is reduced. To quote the patch notes:

In other words, if a spell does 1000 damage to each target, it would hit up to 10 targets for 1000 each, but with more than 10 targets, each target would take 1000 damage divided by the number of targets. 20 targets would be hit for 500 damage each in that example.

Depending on the current AoE damage cap this change might mean we do more or less damage to a large group of targets (probably less). What it does mean is that the damage cap is more predictable, and more scalable. We'll be able to know at what point our AoE abilities start losing power by counting the targets and this will adjust as we increase in level and improve our gear.

WoW Phat Loot Phriday: Frostforged Ringhelm

We haven't done a piece of armor in a little while (it's been mostly weapons lately), so here's a cool helm from the updated Onyxia with an interesting historical twist.

Name: Frostforged Ringhelm (Wowhead, Thottbot)
Type: Epic Plate Head
Armor: 1925

+83 Strength, +154 Stamina +10 Frost resistance, +10 Shadow resistance. These are on here because this is the updated version of the Tier 2 helm for death knights.

But wait! I hear you crowing in the comments: "Mike, there is no Tier 2 for death knights!" You're exactly right -- death knights weren't around when Onyxia was originally dropping loot in the game, but when Blizzard brought her back, they had to have some loot equivalent to all of these revamped Tier 2 helms that she was dropping. So they put this one in. And then even gave us a nice little nod to the past -- this is an updated version of the old Mugthol's Helm, which was bouncing around as early endgame gear back in the day. Meta and a blue socket, standard for headgear, with a +12 Stamina bonus. Increases defense rating by 70, parry by 77, and hit rating by 59. In other words, death knight tanking helm. Enjoy it.

How to Get It: You have to drop the new Onyxia, which is much the same as the old Onyxia, though it requires 10 or 25 level 80s and there are a few more adds than there used to be (though Deep Breath is much easier -- you can read the full guide here). Down her, win the roll against any other DKs on the helmet, and it's yours.

Getting Rid of It: Sells back to vendors for 12g 28s 34c, and disenchants into the usual Abyss Crystal. It's not really a top of the line helmet (there are better helms to wear in the higher instances), but it's a nice one, especially if this is a death knight alt you're playing and you happen to have a fondness for vanilla WoW.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Blizzard tweaking nameplate visibility

Zarhym has posted information about an interesting change in effect on the PTR right now. Blizzard is tweaking the way that character nameplates (those names that you see floating above everyone's heads) works. First, nameplate vision has been extended, so that you can see player names from farther away. They've also adjusted some line-of-sight issues, and players will no longer be able to see nameplates through anything that blocks line-of-sight (so no nameplates of players hiding behind doors or walls). And multiple nameplates in one space will now overlap -- we'll have to see exactly what this looks like on the PTRs, but it sounds like a big group of the same mobs (i.e. Onyxia whelps) will now just have one nameplate to share.

Interesting stuff (and I didn't realize that some of this stuff, especially the nameplate overlapping, was even possible). Zarhym has a few other notes in the thread about how you can change or update the options on the PTR, including a checkbox to turn on or off totem or pet nameplates. Elsewhere, Ghostcrawler says that it's not just line-of-sight, as Arena pillars and other "objects" won't affect the nameplate view, but doors and walls will. If you're on the PTR, keep an eye out for these changes, and note that Blizzard is still asking for feedback. It's unknown which of these changes (or others) will end up on the live realms in the future.

October 7, 2009

Patch 3.3 PTR updated patch notes

The Patch 3.3 notes have been updated by the Blues That Be. Since the PTR is down for the moment, we can expect a new build to come up soon. There is some really sweet stuff in here -- a few items were already in previous builds but weren't documented -- but some of the new items, such as class changes and the availability of dungeons for testing, should be interesting. Some notable stuff before we get to the rest of the changes after the jump:

The Forge of Souls is available for testing! Better find your five-man group now to hit this dungeon on the PTRs. Weekly raid quests are absolutely, totally in. A bunch of class abilities have been redesigned (!), check them out after the break. What are you waiting for? Click Read More. You know you want to.


The existing /welcome emote now greets/welcomes targets (character says "hello"), while the new /yw is for saying "you're welcome." Many of the tail sweeps with knockback effects will no longer hit players' pets. Icecrown Citadel

The Forge of Souls and Pit of Saron in the 5-player dungeon are currently available for testing. Additional Icecrown Citadel dungeon and raid content will be made available in future test builds. For more information and testing schedules please visit our Test Realm forum. Classes: General

Area-of-Effect Damage Caps: We've redesigned the way area damage is capped when hitting many targets. Instead of a hard cap on total damage done, the game now caps the total damage done at a value equal to the damage the spell would do if it hit 10 targets. In other words, if a spell does 1000 damage to each target, it would hit up to 10 targets for 1000 each, but with more than 10 targets, each target would take 1000 damage divided by the number of targets. 20 targets would be hit for 500 damage each in that example. Pet Resilience: All player pets now get 100% of their master's resilience. Taunt Diminishing Returns: We've revised the system for diminishing returns on Taunt so that creatures do not become immune to Taunt until after 5 Taunts have landed. The duration of the Taunt effect will be reduced by 35% instead of 50% for each taunt landed. In addition, most creatures in the world will not be affected by Taunt diminishing returns at all. Creatures will only have Taunt diminishing returns if they have been specifically flagged for that behavior based on the design of a given encounter. Races: General

Orc and troll shamans now have their own unique totem art. PvP: Battlegrounds

Battleground Experience: Battleground experience gained is now based on the level of the player gaining experience, rather than the highest possible player level in that Battleground. Death Knight
Scourge Strike: Redesigned. The base ability now deals 50% weapon damage plus an additional amount as physical damage. However, for each disease the death knight has on the target, the target will take additional shadow damage equal to 25% of the physical damage done. Unholy Blight: This talent now deals only 10% of Death Coil damage as a damage-over-time effect on the target. Druid

Prowl: This ability no longer has multiple ranks and penalizes movement speed by 30%. Hunter

Call Stabled Pet: Cooldown reduced from 30 minutes to 5 minutes. Deterrence: Now also increases the chance for ranged attacks to miss the hunter by 100% while under its effect. Hunter Pets

Avoidance: This talent has been replaced by Culling the Herd. Hunter pets now innately take 90% less damage from area-of-effect abilities like all other class pets. This does not apply to area-of-effect damage caused by other players. Cower: Redesigned. This ability no longer affects threat, and instead reduces damage taken by the pet by 40% for 6 seconds with a 45-second cooldown. While cowering, the pet's movement speed is 50% of normal speed. Cower now only has a single rank and is available at pet level 20. Culling the Herd: This pet talent has replaced the Avoidance talent in the pet trees (Hunter pets now gain that benefit automatically without expenditure of talent points). Culling the Herd increases pet and hunter damage by 1/2/3% for 10 seconds each time the pet deals a critical strike with Claw, Bite, or Smack. Demoralizing Screech: The attack power reduction from this ability has been increased by 40%, equaling the maximum possible attack power reduction from the abilities of other classes. Improved Cower: Redesigned. This ability now reduces the movement penalty of Cower by 50%/100%. Venom Web Spray: Range increased from 20 yards to 30 yards. Web: Range increased from 20 yards to 30 yards. Wolverine Bite: This talent is now enabled when the pet lands a critical strike rather than from the target dodging the pet's attacks. In addition, this talent no longer has a prerequisite. Paladin

Divine Guardian: This talent no longer increases the amount of damage transferred to the paladin from Divine Sacrifice. Instead it causes all raid and party members to take 10/20% reduced damage while Divine Sacrifice is active. Divine Sacrifice: Redesigned. The effect of Divine Sacrifice is now party-only and the maximum damage which can be transferred is now limited to 40% of the paladin's health multiplied by the number of party members. In addition, the damage transferred to the paladin is now reduced by 50% before being applied to the paladin. Finally, the bug which allowed Divine Sacrifice to sometimes persist despite reaching its maximum damage has been fixed. Divine Sacrifice will now cancel as soon as its maximum damage value is exceeded in all cases. Priest

Mind Flay: The range of this ability has been increased to 30 yards, up from 20. Rogue

Vanish: For the first half second after this ability is used, neither Vanish nor Stealth can be broken by taking damage or being the victim of a hostile spell or ability. Warlock


Improved Felhunter: This talent now also reduces the cooldown on the felhunter's Shadow Bite ability by 2/4 seconds. Demonology

Decimation: Redesigned. When Shadowbolt, Incinerate or Soul Fire hit a target that is at or below 35% health, the cast time of Soul Fire is reduced by 30/60% for 8 seconds. Soul Fires cast under the effect of Decimation cost no shards. Demonic Pact: This talent now also increases the warlock's spell damage by 1/2/3/4/5%. Destruction

Conflagrate: Redesigned. This talent now consumes an Immolate or Shadowflame effect on the enemy target to instantly deal damage equal to 9 seconds of Immolate or 8 seconds of Shadowflame, and causes additional damage over 3 seconds equal to 3 seconds of Immolate or 2 seconds of Shadowflame. Pets

Doomguard/Infernal: These pets now innately have Avoidance like all other warlock pets. Shadow Bite: This pet ability now provides 15% increased damage for each of the warlock's damage-over-time effects on the target. Professions


Enchant Weapon - Unholy: This enchantment now inflicts Shadow damage in addition to its original effect. First Aid

The training costs for most bandages have been reduced. Mining

Enchanted Thorium: This ability now uses the Mining skill and is learned from trainers at a skill level of 250. Quests

Weekly raid quests are now available from Archmage Lan'dalock in Dalaran. Every Tuesday at 3 AM the Council of Six will choose a different strategic target that must die from either: The Obsidian Sanctum, Naxxramas, The Eye of Eternity, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader, or Icecrown Citadel. For the various Icecrown Bomber quests at Aldur'thar: The Desolation Gate, players can now choose to eject from their bomber seats mid-run. If you do so, a rescue vehicle will transport your character back to the safety of your infra-green platform. Azure Drakes and Dragons will now attack back when attacked by characters not riding Wyrmrest Defenders. Items

Death Knight Tier-9 4-Piece Bonus: This set bonus no longer grants Frost Fever a chance to be a critical strike. It still grants that possibility to Blood Plague. Bug Fixes


Glyph of Immolation Trap: Now properly increases damage by 100%.

Infected Wounds: This ability is no longer considered to be in the magical defense category; therefore spell hit no longer applies to its activation. Nature's Grace: The tooltip now correctly indicates that it will not be activated from periodic spell critical strikes. Hunter

Concussive Barrage: This ability is no longer subject to spell reflects. Point of No Escape: This ability no longer stacks and now only functions for the hunter. Mage

Flame Strike: Some ranks of this spell had an incorrect cast time of 3 seconds. All ranks now share a 2-second cast time. Priest

Inspiration: The tooltip now correctly indicates that it also functions with Prayer of Mending. Mind Flay: The rank 1 tooltip has been corrected to indicate the accurate damage and snare effect. Warlock

Curse of the Elements: Rank 4 has been increased to 11%, up from 10%. Drain Soul: This spell now deals 4 times the normal damage for all ranks. Previously it was only ranks 6 and above. Suffering (Voidwalker): Ranks 5-8 had the incorrect taunt radius of 5 yards and have all been adjusted to a 10-yard radius.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Blizzard unveils Tier 10

Blizzard seems to be heading off the data-mining race by showcasing the Tier 10 armor sets in their own little page. While not all of the class armor is available for viewing, the gallery shows more than what is currently available through other World of Warcraft news sites -- a change of pace from the days where data-mined previews are king. Instead, Blizzard makes it easy for players to see what's in store for them in Icecrown.

Currently, the Death Knight, Druid, Hunter, and Warrior tier armor sets are available for viewing. The Death Knight armor set is different from the Warrior's, which indicates a return to class-based armor models. But wait... what's this? The Warrior armor seems to preview two colors of armor -- one blue worn by a dwarf, and a red version worn by an orc. Does this indicate that even though the armor models will be class-based, the coloration will be different according to faction? That would be an interesting way to address the question of class- and faction-based armor design. A look at the Druid armor set reveals very minor color differences between the Tauren and Night Elf versions, however. Stay tuned to WoW.com for more Tier 10 updates!