October 17, 2009

Patch 3.3 PTR: Lord Marrowgar abilities and achievements

Lord Marrowgar is on the PTR tonight, and he's already been downed by a number of groups and guilds. Remember, however, that this is the test realm so there's a good chance the boss is undertuned and will be a bit harder come patch 3.3. Or not, Lord Marrowgar (who has less health than someone like Lord Jaraxxus) may just end up being a 'gimme' boss to ease you into progression. Either way, don't read too much into his difficulty tonight.

Even if he's not perfectly tuned yet, the testing has given us some idea of how his fight will go. His notable abilities are...

Whirlwind - Just what you would expect, a physical damage AOE. When it lands, it also applies a DoT. Lord Marrowgar will announce the ability before he uses it, so your melee will want to get out of the way so they don't get hit with the bleed.

Saber Lash - Seasoned raiders will know this ability well. It's an incredibly powerful melee strike that splits its damage across three targets (on 25-man, two targets on 10-man) so you'll want all of your tanks standing together. That way, nobody gets 1-shot by it.

Coldflame - A line of (cold) fire spawns, and you must not stand in it. Do not stand in the fire. Seriously, people.

Bone Spike Graveyard - Lord Marrowgar throws a bone spike in a chosen direction, and anybody directly in the line of fire will be impaled. The rest of the raid will need to DPS down the spike to free impaled players. It can be avoided, and it will not hit targets being hit with Saber Lash.

The fight (which is basically a Black Temple flashback) is mostly keep the tanks alive, move out of the Whirlwind, don't get impaled, and then loot the boss. Considering there will need to be two or three tanks in front of him at all times, it's very likely this boss will not parry haste. Parry hasting or not, I suspect this will be the gear check gate of Icecrown Citadel. If your three tanks can weather the Saber Lash, you're ready to do Icecrown. If they can't, you need to take a step back and farm the Coliseum a little more. This could be another reason why we're seeing a lot of kills on the PTR. Premades decked out in Best in Slot gear.

The achievement specific to Lord Marrowgar is Unboned, and he's also one of the bosses necessary for Storming the Citadel.

Gearing up for WoW: The Razer Naga

[Update: Razer's Heathcliff Hatcher aka Razer|Agent responded to some concerns about the Razer Naga and how its keys currently can't be remapped right out of the box without third party applications. Razer|Agent says, "software driver remapping of keys is a standard function for most of Razer products and we do have suitable solutions that we intend to release in the near future for Naga that will enable this feature out of game." This means that the standard 123 and NUM configurations should be remappable through a future update.]

Mike wrote an excellent hands-on report on the Razer Naga when we were at BlizzCon which should give everyone a fair idea of what we're dealing with. Writing a product review for an MMO gaming mouse wasn't going to be a simple task -- one reason there aren't too many full reviews of the Razer Naga is because it takes a bit of commitment to do it. Unlike first person shooters or even real-time strategy games where about an hour or two of gameplay would be enough to give fair impressions of the mouse, properly assessing an MMO gaming mouse needs to be an immersive experience. It requires mapping keys and adapting one's personal playing style to accommodate the hardware.

As I'd mentioned in my gearing series that talked briefly about gaming mice, the features of most modern gaming mice are far beyond what MMOs generally demand. You won't need 5600dpi, insane APM (Actions-Per-Minute) values, or even fancy technologies like Razer's HyperResponse buttons. If there's any indication that Razer is on the right track with the Naga, it's that they've loaded it with buttons. MMO players tend to press a lot of buttons. They also took the extra step of creating (or adapting) an AddOn that allows the mapping of keybindings from inside the game. When the Razer Naga finally arrived at my doorstep after a torturous tussle with an ineffectual DHL, I finally buckled down -- as Razer would say -- to get imba. Let's take a closer look at the Razer Naga after the jump.

Gallery: Razer Naga

The Razer Naga

Razer keeps a peculiar naming convention for their product lines, with keyboards named after arachnids, mousepads named after non-arachnid insects, audio gear after aquatic predators, and finally gaming mice after snakes. The cleverly named Naga is taken from the Sanskrit for cobra, but as Mike pointed out in his hands-on report, everybody who plays WoW is familiar with those snake-men that pester us all over Azeroth. Razer is taking square aim at World of Warcraft players and there's nothing subtle about it.

One of the first impressions I got of the Naga when I saw it on Razer's website when it was launched was that it looked bulky. I mean, after all, it had a full 12-button keypad on its side. After seeing it a BlizzCon and playing with it now, I found that it isn't actually the case. Compared to other gaming mice (I'd been using Razer's DeathAdder and Lachesis prior to the Naga), it's actually rather small. Pictures, as they say, add ten pounds, and this is certainly true of the Razer Naga, which is actually slimmer and more compact than the gallery suggests.

This compact form factor should appeal to female gamers, who generally have smaller hands than most males. Considering that over 400,000 women play World of Warcraft in the US alone, this should be a good thing. The keypad is also the same size as that found on most mobile phones, so its size shouldn't be a problem for men, either. The Razer Naga sports 17 buttons, which is a whole freaking lot, even for a gaming mouse. These buttons are the most significant hardware feature of the Razer Naga, which we'll explore in-depth later.

It is an ergonomic mouse -- which means that lefties are out of luck -- with the keypad accessible by the thumb, three buttons for the index finger, a scroll wheel button, and the right mouse button for the middle finger. Opposite the keypad is a small curve where the ring finger can rest while the pinky can grip the side. It has a 7-foot lightweight, braided cable that terminates in a gold-plated USB connector. The braided fiber cable seems to be the new trend for Razer mice, lending itself to fewer tangles.

One other feature that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere is a small toggle found underneath the Naga that allows the 12-button keypad to register as the normal number keys (including - and =) or as the numeric keypad on a full size keyboard or Advanced [NUM] mode. Combined with the regular number keys, the Naga toggled to the Advanced [NUM] mode provides more buttons than players will have use for. Combine that with the ALT, SHIFT, CTRL and combinations thereof, then there are roughly a gajillion-zillion keybindings at players' disposal. One caveat: toggling the Caps Lock will affect the Naga when in [NUM] mode.

Starting Out

One of the biggest hurdles in making the jump to the Razer Naga is adapting one's playing style to take advantage of the mouse. Most players are used to accessing spells through their keyboard, with the default action bars bound to the number keys. Many players use basic, two-button mice, and use the keyboard W, A, S, D keys to move. The Razer Naga "tips the balance, so to speak, between the keyboard and mouse," according to Steve Chevrie, aka Razer|Fakesteve. It frees up the keyboard hand to focus solely on modifier keys or even movement such as strafing to complement forward movement with the mouse.

The most basic way to use the Razer Naga after installing it is to have it toggled as the normal keypad and use the keys as you would the 12 buttons on the default action bar. The Naga's default keypad values out of the box correspond with the keys bound to the default UI from 1 to =. New players or those who like to use the default UI can use the Razer Naga to shift all spell commands to the mouse, freeing the keyboard hand for modifiers, movement, or even munching on Cheetos.

In its default settings, the action bars can be toggled using the SHIFT+X command, where X is the page of the action bar. There are a total of six action bars in the default UI, so players starting completely fresh can hit the ground running with the Razer Naga without having to configure anything and still effectively having easy access to up to 72 buttons. On Windows, the two buttons beside the left mouse button allow forward and backward movement. On Macs, these buttons are ignored but can be configured for forward and backward movement (or anything else) through the Key Bindings interface.

Right out of the box, without any configuration, the Razer Naga immediately changes one's game and can eliminate 'clicking'. But why stick with the default interface? Razer|Fakesteve says that "in order to efficiently display the many commands (World of Warcraft players) can bind to the Razer Naga," the developers had to "kick the default interface out the door." This is where the power of the Naga is truly unleashed. In the next part of our review, we'll take a look at how the Naga performs with custom UI and settings.


Patch 3.3 PTR: Speedier Northrend reputation grinds [Updated]

The official Blizzard World of Warcraft Twitter account made the above announcement today. It is great that they are thinking of increasing the speed in which Northrend reputation is gained, but they aren't saying much more than that. Blizzard is only planning (not promising) to test (not implement) the increased rep for many (not all or even most) factions. So, while this is likely to appear on the PTR sometime in the not too distant future, what factions it will affect and when (or even if) it appears on live realms is anybody's guess.

I love Twitter and it's great that Blizzard has been making use of their account for more than just their version of a Breakfast Topic, but I would prefer if they would link to more details when they release info like this. Perhaps follow it up with a forum post giving some facts or a link to a recent forum discussion of Northrend Factions.

Of course, this is still better than no information and I enjoy the little teases they give us, so maybe I should just stop the QQ. Feel free to admonish me for gift horse inspecting in the comments below. Or you could speculate as to which reps will be made easier. Any "I quested uphill both ways in the snow to get my [insert rep reward here]" rants are welcome, too.

P.S. You can follow WoW.com on twitter at @wowinsider and many of the blogger twitter accounts can be found in our WRUP posts. My personal twitter account is @cosmiclaurel, but don't follow unless you want to hear me blather on about The Spawn and tea.

Update: We spoke too soon, the latest version of the official patch notes give us a much clearer idea of how this is going to happen. You're still allowed to rant and rave and speculate further, but do so with these details in mind.

The following reputations have been sped up by roughly 30%:

Argent Crusade
Alliance Vanguard
Horde Expedition
Kirin Tor
Knights of the Ebon Blade
Sons of Hodir
Wyrmrest Accord

Sons of Hodir quests now give more reputation overall.

Top-level helm and shoulder faction-related enchants are now available as Bind-on-Account items that do not require any faction to use once purchased (they still require the appropriate faction level to purchase).

Reputation commendations can now be purchased for 1 Emblem of Triumph each.

October 15, 2009

Patch 3.3 PTR build 10571 details [Updated: Tier 10 relics]

A new PTR for patch 3.3 has just been pushed through on the testing servers. Most of the classes have seen some tweaks and changes. At first glance, the biggest winners (not whiners) appear to be mages and shadow priests. Some other big changes include the druid spell Rebirth dropping from a 20 minutes cool down to a 10 minute cool down.

Oh and raid leaders, it seems anyone in the party can use raid marks now. Joy!

Also, new Achievements have surfaced for Icecrown dungeons. Find out what other adjustments were made after the jump.

Update: New glyph changes and a new Feat of Strength has been added.
Update 2: Tier 10 relics have been added to the bottom.

Companion Pets

Mr. Chilly is no longer named Oswald and got his old name back.
Death Knight

Scourge Strike has been revamped - An unholy strike that deals 50% of weapon damage as Physical damage plus 400 (Shows as 40000 in the tooltip but I'll assume it's a typo). In addition, for each of your diseases on your target, you deal an additional 25% of the Physical damage done as Shadow damage. Unholy Blight now deals 10% of the damage done by Death Coil over 10 sec. (Down from 20%)

Gift of the Earthmother now increases your total spell haste by 2/4/6/8/10% Rebirth: The cooldown on this spell has been lowered from 20 minutes down to 10 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas. Glyphs

Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation - Your haste now reduces the time between the periodic healing ticks of your Rejuvenation spell.

Culling the Herd - When your pet's Claw, Bite, or Smack ability deals a critical strike, you and your pet deal 1/2% increased damage for 10 sec. Call Stabled Pet: Cooldown reduced from 30 minutes to 5 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas.

Improved Scorch now increases spell critical strike chance against the target by 5% but no longer stacks. (Up from 1%, Stacks up to 5) Ice

Frozen Core now also causes your Ice Lance criticals to reduce the cast time of your next Frostbolt or Frostfire Bolt by 0.4/0.7/1 sec. Glyphs

Glyph of Improved Scorch is now named Glyph of Scorch and Increases the damage of your Scorch spell by 20%. Glyph of Eternal Water - Your Summon Water Elemental now lasts indefinitely, but your Water Elemental can no longer cast Freeze.

Divine Guardian now also reduces the damage your party and raid members take by 20% when Divine Sacrifice is active. Divine Sacrifice - 30% of all damage taken by party members within 30 yards is redirected to the paladin (up to a maximum of 40% of the Paladin's health times the number of party members). Redirected damage is reduced by 50% before injuring the Paladin. Lasts 10 sec.


Power Word: Shield - This spell can now be cast on non-raid/party friendly targets. Shadow

Shadowform now let the periodic damage of your Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, and Vampiric Touch spells benefit from haste. Vampiric Embrace: This ability is now provides a 30-minute buff that cannot be dispelled, instead of a target debuff. Improved Devouring Plague: This spell now deals 10/20/30% of its total periodic effect instantly, up from 5/10/15%. Glyphs

Glyph of Mind Flay now Increases the damage done by your Mind Flay spell by 10% when your target is afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain. Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain changed to - The periodic damage ticks of your Shadow Word: Pain spell restore 1% of your base mana. Glyph of Shadow now increase your spell power by 30% of your spirit for 10 sec. (Up from 10%)

Reincarnation: The cooldown on this spell has been lowered from 60 minutes down to 50 minutes (Improved Reincarnation will continue to lower the cooldown by 10/20 minutes). Warlock

Create Soulstone: The cooldown on this spell and duration of its buff have been lowered from 30 minutes down to 15 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas. 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 20/40% for 8 seconds. Soul Fires cast under the effect of Decimation cost no shards. Molten Core: Redesigned. Shadow spells and damage-over-time effects have a 12% chance to increase the damage done by Incinerate by 5/10/15% and Soul Fire by 4/7/10% for 12 seconds. In addition, Molten Core now has a new spell effect.

Improved Felhunter now gives your Felhunter 8% (up from 4%) of its maximum mana each time it hits with Shadow Bite and the cooldown on that ability is reduced by 2 sec. Destruction

Conflagrate now deals damage equal to 60% of your Immolate or Shadowflame and causes 20% additional damage over 6 sec. Glyphs

Glyph of Life Tap now also procs from Dark Pact.

Glyph of Victory Rush now affects any target. (Old - Only targets above 70% health)

Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Throne
Storming the Citadel - Defeat the first four bosses in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. The Frostwing Halls - Defeat the bosses of The Frostwing Halls in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. The Plagueworks - Defeat the bosses of The Plagueworks in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. The Crimson Hall - Defeat teh bosses of The Crimson Hall in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. The Frozen Throne - Defeat the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. Fall of the Lich King - Defeat every boss in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. It's a Trap! - Survive the Ice Jets in Icecrown Citadel in 10-player mode. Unboned - Defeat Lord Marrowgar without anyone taking damage from Bone Cyclone in 10-player mode. Thirty One - Defeat X of Lady Deathwhisper's adds with her bombs and then defeat Lady Deathwhisper in 10-player mode. I'm on a Boat - Claim victory in the Gunship Battle in which every raid member visits the enemy gunship only once in 10-player mode. I've Gone and Made a Mess - Defeat the Deathbringer with fewer than X raid members suffering from Garrote in 10-player mode. Dances with Oozes - Defeat Rotface without exploding any oozes in 10-player mode. Once Bitten, Twice Shy - Defeat the Blood Queen while having been a vampire in 10-player mode. Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Halls
Icecrown: The Forge of Souls - Defeat the bosses in Icecrown: The Forge of Souls Icecrown: The Pit of Saron - Defeat the bosses in Icecrown: The Pit of Saron Icecrown: The Halls of Reflection - Defeat the bosses in Icecrown: The Halls of Reflection Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Halls (Heroic)
I Feel Good - Defeat Bronjahm in The Forge of Souls on Heroic Difficulty without letting him cast his big spell. Three Faced - Defeat the Devourer of Souls in The Forge of Souls on Heroic Difficulty after having interrupted his big nuke. Don't Let it Go to Eleven - Defeat Forgemaster Garfrost in The Pit of Saron on Heroic Difficulty before he gets 11 stacks. Don't Look Up - Clear the hallway before Scourgelord Tyrannus in The Forge of Souls on Heroic Difficulty without anyone taking icicle damage. We're Not Retreating; We're Advancing in a Different Direction - Escape from the Lich King in under two hours and eleven seconds. User Interface

Non spell-based tracking now persists through logout. Any party member may mark raid targets. Users will be warned when their talents are reset due to a new patch. "/Settitle" command has been added. Instant quest text is on by default. "Tentative" status added for calendar responses. Players below level 10 may not join raids. Ignore list expanded to 50 to match the friends list. Unit frames added for special encounters. Interface element added next to the mini-map to show what dungeon you are in (ex: 10- and 25-player Heroic dungeons marked with a skull). Experience earned for a quest will display in the Quest Rewards section. Confirmation box added when buying stable slots. Macro Changes Symbol "@" added as a synonym for "target=";. For example, "/cast [@focus] Flash Heal".
New macro conditionals: "vehicleui" (if the player has a vehicle UI) and "unithasvehicleui" (if the target of the macro has a vehicle UI).

Character and Creature Nameplates

The range at which players can see nameplates has been significantly expanded. You can no longer see nameplates through objects which block line of sight. As long as you are able to peer through the doorway of a room, you will see nameplates of characters and creatures in that room.
Pillars and bridges in Arenas will not hide friendly or enemy nameplates.

Totem nameplates can be toggled off under "PRODUCTION" settings via "Interface Options" on the test realms. Instead of nameplates for large groups of players or creatures trying to sort themselves, they will now overlap. This functionality can be toggled off under "PRODUCTION" settings via "Interface Options" on the test realms.
Addon Author Changes

"registerForClicks" added to xml buttons. "MouseIsOver" has been converted to a "C" function for increased efficiency (e.g. /dump PlayerFrame:IsMouseOver() ). When an addon file is loaded, the addon name and an addon table are passed to the file through '...'. The same addon table is passed to every file loaded by a particular TOC file (example at the top of a Lua file: "local addonName, addonTable = ...;". "motionScriptsWhileDisabled" attribute added to buttons. This allows "OnEnter"; and "OnLeave"; to fire while the button is disabled. "GetFileHeight()" and "GetFileWidth()" added to Texture objects. 0 is returned if no texture file is associated with the texture. You can now query for a list of completed quests with "QueryQuestsCompleted()" then wait for the "QUEST_QUERY_COMPLETE" event, and call "GetQuestsCompleted()".
Feat of Strength

It's Over Nine Thousand!: Earn more than 9000 achievement points. Tier 10 relic additions

Death Knight
DPS - Your Obliterate, Scourge Strike, and Death Strike abilities grant 73 Strength for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times. Tank - Your Rune Strike ability grants 44 dodge rating for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times. Druid

Balance - The periodic damage from your Insect Swarm and Moonfire spells grants 44 critical strike rating for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times. Feral - The periodic damage from your Lacerate and Rake abilities grats 44 Agility for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times. Restoration - The periodic healing from your Rejuvenation spell grants 32 spell power for 15 sec. Stacks up to 8 times. Paladin
Holy - Your Holy Shock spell grants 85 spell power for 15 sec. Stacks up to 3 times. Protection - Your Shield of Righteousness ability grants 73 dodge rating for 15 sec. Stacks up to 3 times. Retribution - Your Crusader Strike ability grants 44 Strength for 15 sec. Stacks up to 5 times. Shaman
Elemental - Your Earth Shock, Flame Shock, and Frost Shock spells grant 73 critical strike rating for 15 sec. Stacks up to 3 times. Enhancement - Your Stormstrike ability grant 146 attack power rating for 15 sec. Stacks up to 3 times. Restoration - Your Riptide spell grants 85 spell power for 15 sec. Stacks up to 3 times.
Information courtesy of MMO Champion and World of Raids

Patch 3.3 PTR: Shadow Priest buffs galore in build 10571

Oh, Blizzard. Why? Why must you torment me so? I stood by Shadow Priests for so long, so very long. I debated their numbers, mechanics and playstyle until my fingers stopped functioning. I picked apart combat logs and damage/healing charts for hours and hours, trying to get the absolute most out of my talent spec. Then I just grew tired. I'm not ashamed to admit that it broke me. I'm not ashamed that I decided to switch to raiding on my Retribution Paladin last month. I'm a man, I can own up to what I've done. But your torment continues! You were waiting for just this moment to buff the unholy crap out of Shadow Priests, weren't you? You were waiting for my patience to run out.

And that's enough melodrama for now. Let's actually break down the new changes on the PTR, shall we?

Shadowform: This talent also now causes Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain, and Vampiric Touch to benefit from haste. Both the period length and the duration of these spells will be reduced by haste. In addition, the mana cost has been reduced from 32% to 13% of base mana.
I find this one somewhat interesting, because Ghostcrawler mentioned DoTs and HoTs benefiting from Haste was likely to come in the form of a glyph for now. Shadowform is most certainly not a glyph. I'm pretty okay with this though, because Shadow Priests needed that Haste. DoTs are a little different from HoTs. I can understand the glyph for HoTs, making a Druid's Rejuvenation and the like tick faster could actually impede their ability to raid heal. DoTs, though? More damage is always good.

There's always mana concerns, since Shadow Priests will be applying their DoTs quite a bit more often. Those concerns are almost immediately dashed by this next change, however.

Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain has been changed. The effect now reads, "The periodic damage ticks of your Shadow Word: Pain spell restore 1% of your base mana." In the current game, this glyph would be complete overkill. It's pretty hard to run out of mana as a Shadow Priest,\. You can only really manage it in encounters that have a lot of different targets you're multi-DoTing. In patch 3.3 though, when Haste is speeding up how quickly our DoTs will fall off, mana might become an issue. Right now, I probably wouldn't use this glyph at all. In patch 3.3, we'll probably need it.

Glyph of Shadow now increase your spell power by 30% (Old: 10%) of your spirit for 10 sec. Improved Devouring Plague now deals 10/20/30% of its total periodic effect instantly, up from 5/10/15%. These are, again, straight DPS buffs. Glyph of Shadow will add a few hundred more spell power in high-end gear (roughly) and Improved Devouring Plague is just a bonus mini-nuke. This just makes it a slightly larger bonus.

Overall, patch 3.3 is looking to be a great patch for Shadow Priests, now that they've finally recognized they're underperforming. I'm not among the ranks of the Shadow Priests anymore, but I'm rooting for you guys. Hopefully by the time patch 3.3 launches, we won't need to feel bad about playing what we do in the end-game.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Mages get simplified Scorch, Frost changes

Fire mages are ablaze with joy over today's patch 3.3 PTR build, frost mages are a little iffy, and arcane is... pretty much completely untouched! Let's skip over any additional preamble and dig right in. Do note, however, that some of this is so far unconfirmed and comes from datamining. Considering these changes come from the PTR, any of it could change before patch 3.3 goes live.


Improved Scorch: The debuff from this talent no longer stacks, and instead can apply the full effect from a single cast of Scorch. Glyph of Improved Scorch now increases the damage of your Scorch spell by 20%.
This is going to make a lot of raiding mages very happy. It essentially normalizes the debuff to match equivalent debuffs, like Improved Shadow Bolt. Streamlining an unnecessarily complicated debuff is a great thing. It'll lift a needless burden from mage DPS. And yes, there are mages getting drunk in celebration this evening. It's somewhat disturbing, really.

Frozen Core now also causes your Ice Lance criticals to reduce the cast time of your next Frostbolt or Frostfire Bolt by 0.4/0.7/1 sec.
Glyph of Eternal Water - Your Summon Water Elemental now lasts indefinitely, but your Water Elemental can no longer cast Freeze. Oh ho! What is this? Could it be an attempt at making frost raid viable? It's a pretty good move, too. The increased damage comes from having your pet with you nuking away at all times, rather than straight increasing the power of the mage's own nukes. The concern was always that if you pump up the frost mage, you make them even more dangerous in PvP, which is hardly something they need. PvP frost mages wouldn't want to lose the Water Elemental's root, so you won't need to worry about this in the arena. It should work out pretty well. Assuming, of course, the Water Elemental and the frost mage get all the tools necessary to keep the thing alive in a raid.

Paladins, Tier 10 thus far

Being as paladins, along with half of the other classes, still don't actually have models for their tier 10 gear yet on the PTR there isn't much we can actually show you other than a dwarf in his boxers. What we do have is the set bonuses which may or may not change by the time patch 3.3 actually hits. Both holy and retribution have been changed a couple times throughout the test builds thus far, so they should be getting fairly close to what we'll see. Protection hasn't had much change in it thus far, but the bonuses are in line with what we should be expecting. After the break, we'll look at each spec's set bonuses and do a little theorycrafting in some cases to see what they'll mean for us in Icecrown.

Holy set bonuses:

2 Pieces: While your Divine Illumination talent is active, your healing spells are increased by 35%. 4 Pieces: Your Holy Shock spell causes the next Holy Light you cast within 10 sec to have 0.3 sec reduced cast time. We'll start out with the two piece bonus. Whether you use Divine Illumination proactively or defensively when you're low on mana, this will be a nice boost. Being able to bump up all heals for 15 seconds every 3 minutes is nice especially if you run across fights in Icecrown that require the occasional high healing moment (much like ToC and Ulduar gave us samples of at times). This also gives you a way to help offset Divine Plea. Just pop Divine Plea, hit Divine Illumination, and gain some mana while still healing. Anything to offset Divine Plea is always welcomed.

When looking at the four piece bonus, I almost have to wonder why they didn't just give us a half second off of Holy Light instead of the 0.3 seconds. It's just one of those things where Blizzard generally tries to round things to a half or 5% of something. It just baffles me a bit. However, adding in haste, that should take Holy Light down to about 1.5 seconds to cast with Light's Grace in tow. Not shabby and Holy Shock should be part of every healadin's arsenal anyways.

The holy bonuses aren't set in stone and very well might change before 3.3 finally gets released. Keep an eye out for out coverage as well as the patch notes for more information as they have been tweaking some of the tier 10 set bonuses in all four healing classes.

Protection set bonuses:

2 Pieces: Your Hammer of the Righteous ability deals 20% increased damage. 4 Pieces: When you activate Divine Plea, you gain 12% dodge for 10 seconds. The two piece bonus appears to be the standard threat upgrade similar to tiers 7, 8, and 9. Yes, tier 9 also had the lowered cooldown to Hand of Reckoning tossed into it as well, it did do a small threat increase to Hammer of the Righteous. This threat upgrade is fairly straight forward and just doubled what the Naxx gear offered a couple of tiers ago.

The four piece bonus is a bit more interesting. Right now, we're not all that certain how this activates. It might be related to the actual spell cast which means we'll be able to have another tanking cooldown every 60 seconds when Divine Plea's delay is up. I'm sure healers will also like the fact that you'll be starting each fight with a little more avoidance and making the initial shock of incoming damage a little less. The other thought is that this will trigger every time Divine Plea refreshes from Guarded by the Light. While this would be wonderful, it would be fairly over-powered. Expect it to be more of the former and less of the latter.

All in all, the layout is fairly expected. The two piece bonus gives us threat and the four piece bonus buffs up our defenses a little more. The bonuses are fairly sexy and I'll rarely say no to another tanking cooldown.

Retribution set bonuses:

2 Pieces: Your melee attacks have a 40% chance to reset the cooldown on your Divine Storm ability. 4 Pieces: Your Seals and Judgements deal 10% additional damage. Give me a 40% chance to reset a 10 second cooldown ability with every white damage attack? Yes, please. The only problem is that this might start to complicate the first come first serve style of the ret rotation. While Divine Storm is lower on the list than Judgement and Crusader Strike, we don't have as much dead time as we used to since CS is on such a low cooldown now. What will likely happen is the slow removal of Consecration from your rotation as you fill it with extra Divine Storms. With less Concsecration, we have less need for its associated glyph and you can probably swap over to Glyph of Exorcism or something new and unknown that will pop up on the PTR at some point.

As far as the four piece bonus goes on the ret set, it's a nice and boring damage bump for seals and judgements. Nothing game changing here, but still appreciated none the less. Boring and good is sometimes better than interesting and controversial.

All in all, it's a fairly decent set of bonuses to end an expansion on. However, as I warned earlier, none of these are set in stone until patch 3.3 goes live and even at that point, there's still debate as to how long they'll stay. If you have any feedback on the tier 10 bonuses thus far, please let Blizzard know via these posts in the forums.

US Realms: (Healing) (Tanking) (DPS)
EU Realms: (PTR)

WoW Leveling a new rogue, character creation

I've heard a lot of statistics from various sources stating that the rogue population has been dwindling since Wrath of the Lich King was released. Whether our decline is due to former assassins deciding to try out the new death knights, or rogues simply moving on to greener pastures, we may never know. I do, however, know that there's also a lot of newly minted rogues, working their way up through the levels and lowbie zones. And if there's not, there should be!

There's a lot of fights that are absolutely amazing for rogues, with Yogg-Saron hard mode (no keeper) and Anub'Arak hard mode being two of the most prevalent and important encounters currently in the game. I have seen guilds beg their inactivate rogues to resubscribe with promises of gold, crafted epics, and endless heroic runs to gear them out. I know of a rogue on my server who went from newly 80 to better geared than myself in about a month with a ton of help from his guild and friends. Many of the world's top guilds are looking for solid rogues to fill the shoes of those who have given up the mantle of shadows in the past year.

We've also got a lot of new rerolls who are working on getting a new class to 80 for Cataclysm's upcoming release. I have been working on a guide for those rogues who are new to the class (and possibly the game) who are looking for tips and tricks for getting the most out of their roguish experience. I would also ask that any veterans or novice rogues alike add their own tips in the comments, if you've got a personal anecdote or bit of info that made your time leveling easier.

What does it mean to play a rogue?
You are DPS. That may sound fairly uncomplicated, but it actually goes far deeper. We are so focused at DPS that we are completely helpless in every role besides pure damage. A rogue cannot off tank an add in a pinch, we can't add support healing, and our raid buffs / debuffs are all purely damage boosts. All other DPS classes have traditionally been balanced (intentionally or unintentionally) around the rogue's DPS capabilities. The more utility or buffs another class brings over the rogue, the further they fall behind on the damage parses.

With Fan of Knives giving us a true AoE and one of the most robust toolkits for dealing damage in every environment, if a raid wants to maximize their DPS, they will always have several rogues on their roster. The downside to being so focused on damage is that you will never be capable of accomplishing anything else. You can't tank for a heroic or heal your raid when your priest is sick. You have no other options than DPS, and for many players this is a deal-breaker. You have to love doing DPS to the point that you can live without being able to even taste any of the other roles. Our 'purity' of DPS is both a blessing and a curse: what you make of it will decide if the rogue is the right class for you.

What's more important than damage?
Rogues in both PvE and PvP environments will always focus on damage output above all other statistics and values. We're not interested in stacking Stamina for more survivability or Dodge gems to give us the edge against random AoE attacks. Our goal is to output as much damage as possible and to annihilate our opponents before they get a chance to return the favor. We're not the type to string our enemies along, to kite them around, or to attempt to outlast them. We're short, dirty, and quick killers with one goal: the destruction of our opponents.

As you level up, this should be one of the key points to remember. If you've got the choice between bracers with Stamina and bracers with Agility, you should take the Agility bracers every time. Your goal is to do as much damage as possible, as quickly as possible, and to win the fight so quickly that the extra Stamina you sacrificed wouldn't have even come into play. While being survivable enough to stay alive can be an issue if you're soloing higher level mobs or group quests, rogues are typically able to simply increase their damage (instead of their life) to compensate for the added difficulty.

Starting a new rogue:
With these thoughts in mind, if the rogue sounds like the class for you, then I suggest you go start one immediately. Patch 3.3 is bringing a very welcome change, in that all rogues will be able to dual wield weapons from level 1. This will make the 1-10 experience much quicker and more painless, though it's already pretty easy and can be handled in one sitting. You'll save more time by starting your rogue now (without all the commotion surrounding Icecrown happening) rather than waiting. But before we even can get to level 1, we have to create our rogue.

On the topic of races, all races are having their starting stats balanced soon. This means that no particular race holds an advantage over another in terms of starting statistics (such as life, agility, etc). The only differentiator becomes the racial abilities and aesthetics. I would suggest focusing on which race you believe you would enjoy playing the most. With the upcoming "Race Change" feature, if you find out down the road that you're not happy with your choice, you'll be able to easily swap to another race at will. This really prevents the issue of choosing the "wrong" race. Whether your focus is PvE or PvP, there will always be the "best" racial based on the situation that you're in. Think about what you plan to use your rogue for, and pick the race that aligns best with your goals.

If you've got a main on the same server, you can send yourself some starting gold and a few bags to make inventory management a breeze. You probably won't reach a mailbox on the rogue until around level 6-10, so if you want it earlier, see if you can find a way to get the gear to your alt such as a portable engineering mailbox or walking to town extra early. If you have some Stone Keeper's Shards or Emblems of Heroism/Valor/Conquest to spend, feel free to send yourself a few heirloom items to make your leveling process even easier than normal. Here's a list of heirloom items for your upcoming rogue:

Stained Shadowcraft Spaulders or Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders (10% EXP, stacks with Chest)
Stained Shadowcraft Tunic (10% EXP, stacks with Shoulders) Swift Hand of Justice Venerable Dal'Rend's Sacred Charge / Venerable Mass of McGowan or Battleworn Thrash Blade for your main hand. I'd recommend taking Swords as this is a common leveling weapon specialzation.
Sharpened Scarlet Kris for your off hand Charmed Ancient Bone Bow for your ranged weapon
If you've read all of the pros and cons of playing a rogue (you can only do damage, but you do it the best) and you're still interested, go start your rogue today. Plan out any heirloom or starter gear that you can afford, with bags and a few gold for skills being the top priorities. Next week, I'll be going over the type of gear you'll want to acquire, and what to expect for you first few levels of roguish goodness!

Blizzard announces 5th annual pumpkin carving contest

Hallow's End is almost upon us, and Blizzard has once again announced their annual pumpkin carving contest. (http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/community/contests/pumpkin/) This is always a hoot -- I was only ever able to do the usual jack-o-lantern (once I did a Batman symbol, but it never really worked out), but there are always some real professionals in the mix on these contests, as you can see in the gallery below. Basically, carve a pumpkin featuring something Blizzard-related, showing "high levels of originality, craftsmanship, and possibly humor," light it up with a candle or other source, and then submit a picture over on the site by two weeks from today, Wednesday, October 28th.

And some nice prizes this year: the top five submissions will all pick up a nice 32gb iPod touch, apparently supplied by none other than Apple (and of course you'll be able to run those Blizzard mobile apps if you win). Good luck to everyone who enters -- go grab your knife and the biggest "gourd-like squash" you can find and get to carving!

Patch 3.3 PTR: Icecrown testing starts tomorrow

Lead Encounter Designer Daelo has posted over on the forums (http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=20462449104&sid=1) that the testing of wow Icecrown for patch 3.3 will begin tomorrow, October 15th, with the Lord Marrowgar encounter. Blizzard will also have the trash before him up and working as well -- the Icecrown raid preview describes the fight as an army of undead guards, commanded by Marrowgar, "a monstrosity fused together from the bones of the undead." Sounds like good times to us.

Stay tuned -- we'll definitely have a few players available to test the encounter and give you some impressions from the PTR tomorrow, and if we can get enough folks together, we might even stream it again. As Daelo points out, the testing schedule will be extremely flexible, so Blizzard will likely pull bosses up and down at a moment's notice -- they've got a lot to test and probably less time to do it than they'd want. Note also that this is for US PTR servers only -- the EU will have a seperate testing schedule that will be available on their forums when it's ready. To Icecrown!

October 12, 2009

Addon Spotlight: Addon Control Panel

Addon Spotlight takes a look at the little bits of Lua and XML that make our interfaces special. From bar mods to unit frames and beyond, if it goes in your Addons folder, we'll cover it here.

Have you ever decided to try out a bunch of new addons in order to reorganize your interface? Or, have you ever walked up to the auction house and had forgotten to re-enable Auctioneer after a raid? Or even worse, have you forgotten to setup Peggle before running Trial of the Champion so you could do something during all of the boring introductions (at least before they sped it up)? If you have faced any of these situations then you know how annoying it can be to log out, swap addons and log back in. Thankfully, there is another way.

The Addon Control Panel gives you access to turn on and off your addons from within the interface. After selecting which addons you do or don't want anymore, simply tell it to reload your user interface and it's done. This saves your guildmates from seeing constant login/logoff announcements when fiddling with your UI.

This addon originally started out as Master Control Program whose developer stopped updating it. It was then taken over by another developer and thus dubbed rMCP. That developer also stopped updating it sometime in 2007. So Sylvanaar, the author behind Prat, took it over and redubbed it ACP for Addon Control Panel while keeping it up to date with the current World of Warcraft UI.

The way to access this addon is via the main game menu. It's the thing that pops up when you hit the escape key. You should notice an extra button that is simply labeled "AddOns" that isn't usually there. This brings up a menu somewhat similar to the default Blizzard addon menu from the login screen. Some of the niceties include the ability to sort the addons by title, Ace2 definitions (buffs, chat, combat, action bars, etc), or even group by name which consolidates multipart addons like Cartographer, Quartz, or Pitbull into a single entry.

To enable an addon simply check the box next to it and click the Reload UI button at the bottom of the menu. You'll get a loading screen for a moment and your selected addon should now be loaded. Unfortunately, if you've got your normal Blizzard addon menu set to not load out of date addons, then ACP is also forced to keep with that trend and you'll have to log out and check that box in the addons menu. Otherwise, to unload any addon just bring up the ACP menu again, uncheck the box next to the addon and again select the Reload UI button at the bottom. After a quick loading screen, you'll be free of the selected addon.

One of the more advanced features of this is the ability to create sets of addons. This means that you could pre-define a set of addons for raiding that you could load and unload via the interface without having to remember which individual addons to set each time. This could be anything from a leveling set to a gathering set or a raid set to even a set of games addons.

Another great feature is tooltips for each addon in the interface. This includes the addon description, authors, dependencies and most importantly the memory usage for each addon. If you've ever had a problem with interface latency this is a quick way to try and track down your bigger culprits so that you can remedy the problem.

All in all, this is a handy little utility addon that almost everyone could get some use out of.

The Colosseum: Trendz of Hyjal

There haven't been many warlocks interviewed in the history of the Colosseum. We were very excited to sit down with Trendz of Hyjal today to discuss a myriad of arena related topics and personal history.

Vanquisher Trendz is currently holding down the #1 spots in both 3v3 and 5v5 on the US-Whirlwind battlegroup. His 3v3, Rival Thilaume, a wizard cleave (two spell dps casters + healer) and his 5v5, Last Game Moms Calling makes Trendz the highest ranking warlock on US-Whirlwind, even though he has no 2v2.

Take a look at what Trendz had to say after the break!

WoW.com: Hi Trendz, good to have you with us. Let's start out by asking some basic questions. What arena teams are you on, and what compositions do you play?

Trendz: Thanks for having me. I am running 3v3 playing as destruction with an elemental shaman and resto druid (wizard cleave). In 5v5, I am running destruction warlock, elemental shaman, holy pally, restoration druid, and survival hunter.

WoW.com: What are your wizard cleave's strengths and weaknesses?

Trendz: The only weakness we have come across is a major one. Double healer, double defensive-dispel teams (such as discipline priest, holy paladin, random third opponent) are game breakers for my team considering we rely on Immolate and Flame Shock to stick on our targets.

There are are definitely more strengths than weaknesses for sure. The burst that an elemental shaman and destruction warlock can put out on any given target is amazing. Also, we have three major forms of crowd control in Fear, Cyclone, and Hex.

Totems are also very nice to have on the team. Totem of Wrath allows me to stay in Demon Armor more than I normally would due to gaining back lost spell power. I get to stay in Demon Armor for the extra heals and and armor without sacrificing my spell power.

WoW.com: What are the strengths and weaknesses of your 5v5 comp?

Trendz: Strengths: Very similar to running wizard cleave in 3v3. The added bonus in 5v5 is our hunter, who is our Mortal Strike class, and druid who has additional crowd control for us. The comps definitely has the ability to switch to any opponent in a bad position and kill him instantly.

The only real weakness I have seen with this 5v5 comp is if we fight a very melee heavy team. A 5v5 cleave team can split dps between our destruction warlock and elemental shaman to lock us down pretty good. If that happens we're not able to put enough pressure out to get a kill.

WoW.com: Your 5v5 is a somewhat rare composition. Most teams use a discipline priest instead of a restoration druid, how does that affect your strategy?

Trendz: Our 5v5 is definitely uncommon. We use a druid over a priest, but they both have benefits as I see it. With a priest, it's nice to have Pain Suppression and Mana Burn. Not having the priest's dispel hurts but as long as our shaman keeps his tremor down, my devour hits the right debuffs, and we're able to land a kill quickly, we win.

What we love about using our druid is the very reliable extra form of crowd control with Cyclone. The druid also can single handedly win us a match with his mana conservation over what a priest would normally have. A druid is a great replacement for people who can't seem to find a priest for this comp.

WoW.com: How long have you been playing arena competitively?

Trendz: I started doing competitive arena in season 3. It was very competitive and brought out a whole new aspect of the game I never realized was there.

WoW.com: Did you play the game before season three? If so, what interested you about arena when you started to play it competitively?

Trendz: I actually started playing the game right when The Burning Crusade was launched. The real thing that got me interested in arena was I always felt doing raids was entertaining but doing the same thing week and after week just got old. Once I stepped into an arena and actually played other people who throw new things at you every single game, it just got me hooked. Arena made me really interested in trying to become a competitive player.

WoW.com: How did you become successful in arena?

Trendz: I actually have a cool story about that. I saw a priest in trade channel spamming that he would help players get higher ratings cause he was bored. I took him up on the offer and we went like 30-1 or something crazy that day. He told me he played with a really good warlock and I should pick his brain, that it would "help me learn the class more." After that, I just studied the way the warlock played and picked his brain on everything related to arena.

WoW.com: How does it feel being #1 in two different brackets?

Trendz: It's actually kind of boring. I'm the type of player who loves to get as many games in as possible, but being up at the top dramatically cuts down how many games I can play due to no other high teams in queue, or just getting 1 or 2 points a win which isn't worth it. So I guess it's okay, I enjoy seeing my name at the top, I just wish it didn't cut the number of arenas I do in a week down so much.

The good in it would be everyone is gunning for the #1 guys. They want to try and queue against us and take those big points away which is fun. It makes us want to stay at the top that much more.

WoW.com: How are warlocks doing right now in arena? Are you satisfied with what you bring to the table?

Trendz: In my opinion, warlocks are doing very well in arena right now. Im definitely satisified with destruction. But on the other hand, I would like to see affliction bring a bit more to the table. It's a dying spec. Affliction is the reason a lot of warlocks play the class in the first place -- for the dots and watching that target die over time instead of blowing people up.

WoW.com: How do you feel about the patch 3.3. change to Conflagrate?

Trendz: I was actually happy to see the nerf to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing those big instant 12k crits when Immolate was on a target. I think with Conflagrate only consuming 9 seconds of Immolate instead of 12 and adding the dot afterwards will even up the playing field and allow others to not get globaled from a destro warlock.

WoW.com: Pet resilience is slated to scale to 100% up from 40% very shortly. How you feel about this change?

Trendz: I'm so happy the developers finally decided to make this a 100 percent change. I always tell my arena partners "a dead warlock pet is usually a dead warlock." Increasing pet resilience for all pets is just a good thing. Even with the 100 percent, if you really want a pet dead -- it will die. However, with this change, it probably won't be two shot, it will actually give healers a chance to keep a pet alive instead of "Oh no, they're on your pet, I'm gonna cast regrow...oh, it's dead."

WoW.com: How do you communicate mid-battle? Who calls out what to kill, and when?

Trendz: Well for 3v3, my shaman actually calls the kill target more than I do. Once he gets a target fully dispelled via Purge, he will call a switch to the buffless opponent. At that point, he and I will set the burst up and go for the kill while our druid tries to get his cyclone up on a healer.

For 5v5 it's a bit different, my team consists of all ranged dps between the hunter, shaman, and myself. We all call kill targets. For example -- if my shaman is being focused he doesn't have the best view of the playing field. So I would call a switch to a target. At that point, we all switch to that target. If the switch doesn't work and someone else on my team sees a good opportunity, they will call the switch. It's all about who has the best view of the playing field. We go with whoever makes that call.

WoW.com: What are your favorite targets to kill in 3v3 and 5v5?

Trendz: For the most part, our comps in both 3v3 and 5v5 have targets we love to see. If we focus frost mages, they can't get many Polymorphs against us. We also love to see hunters and elemental shamans, both are very good targets for us to get kills on.

WoW.com: Do you have any responsibilities specific to your role?

Trendz: In both of my teams, we lack dispels which makes my role as dispeller very important. My main thing besides putting out damage is making sure to devour any important crowd control, i.e. Fear if tremor totem isn't down. Dispelling polymorph off my shaman or myself in 3v3 is a common use, as well as keeping my pally free from crowd control in 5v5 so he can dispel the rest of the team as needed.

WoW.com: What is the most important single attribute a successful team possesses?

Trendz: The one thing I have always told my team is if you lack communication, it's game breaking. Calling everything out in your game is the difference between a win and a loss.

WoW.com: How can new arena players improve their play?

Trendz: The best way for new arena players to improve their play is definitely to find those players that are more experienced in arena then you are, and go pick their brains. Ask them what you could work on to improve your own skills in the class that you play. Go on PvP websites and see what some of the top players say about the class they play. Read as much as you can. Most of all, just get in arena and play as much as you can. Work on the mistakes you make and try to improve on your the things you do wrong. Everyone started somewhere, just remember that and have fun!

WoW.com: Alright, that brings us to the end of the interview. Thanks so much for letting us pick your brain, Trendz. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers?

Trendz: Enjoy the class you play. Have fun with the arena scene. Go with the flow of changes your class might receive, and learn to not let them drive you crazy. Have fun with them!

Also, I just want to send a shout out to my teammates: Qtpielol, Thilaume, Stinglol, and Mynangerun! Without your teammates you're nowhere.