October 29, 2009

PTR Patch 3.3: Patch notes updated

The PTR Patch 3.3 notes have been updated, including major changes about the new Looking For Group / Looking For Raid / "Dungeon System". The entire changes after the break.

Some major highlights (although you should really read everything after the break, all of it is very important):
Players who take part in groups who have one or more members who have been matched with them randomly from within the Dungeon System will receive extra rewards, up to and including the coveted Perky Pug non-combat pet. The more random players with whom one groups, the faster the pet can be obtained. Players can be placed in a group for a random dungeon no more than once every 15 minutes. The Need Before Greed loot system will be the unalterable default looting system for pick-up groups in the Dungeon System and has been updated. Need Before Greed will now recognize gear appropriate for a class in three ways: the class must be able to equip the item, pure melee will be unable to roll on spell power items, and classes are limited to their dominant armor type (ex. paladins for plate). All items will still be available via Greed rolls as well as the new Disenchant option should no member be able to use the item. Players will be able to roll on items with a required minimum level higher than a player's current level. LFG channel has returned to being a realm-wide channel accessible in any city! The full update to the patch notes after the break.

Will of the Forsaken now shares a 45-second cooldown with similar effects, including the Medallion of the Horde, Titan-Forged runes, Insignia of the Horde, etc. Druid

Predatory Strikes: The Predatory Swiftness buff from this talent now has an 8-second duration. Paladin
Sacred Shield: The damage absorption effect from this ability now triggers only once every 30 seconds. Infusion of Light: This talent now also reduces the cooldown on the effect of Sacred Shield by 12/24 seconds. 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. In addition, the duration has been changed to 6 seconds, however the effect does not terminate when Divine Sacrifice is removed before its full duration. User Interface - Dungeon System

This feature has replaced the Looking For Group tool and provides all-new dungeon party creation functionality. Players can join as individuals, as a full group, or a partial group to look for additional party members. Groups using this tool will be able to teleport directly to the selected instance. Upon leaving the instance, players will be returned to their original location. If any party member needs to temporarily leave the instance for reagents or repairs, they will have the option to teleport back to the instance. Players can choose the Random Dungeon option.
The Heroic Wrath of the Lich King Daily Random Dungeon option will award two Emblems of Frost no more than once a day. The normal Wrath of the Lich King Daily Random Dungeon option will award two Emblems of Triumph no more than once a day. Continuing to complete Wrath of the Lich King Heroic instances using the Daily Random Dungeon option will award players two additional Emblems of Triumph each time. Daily Heroic and normal dungeon quests have been removed. These quests have been replaced with weekly raid quests (see the "Quests" section for details). Level-appropriate rewards will be offered to players who choose the Random Dungeon option for pre-Wrath of the Lich King dungeons. Players can be placed in a group for a random dungeon no more than once every 15 minutes. Random Dungeon rewards will be placed in each player's inventory automatically upon completion of the dungeon (final boss killed). A pop-up notification will display any rewards earned through the Dungeon System. Instead of choosing a random dungeon, players can also choose specific dungeons appropriate for their level range. Multiple instances can be selected at one time. The feature no longer limits the choice to look for only 3 dungeon groups at one time. Pick-Up Groups
Cross-realm instances are now available and use an improved matchmaking system to assist players in looking for additional party members. As with Battlegrounds, the realms in each Battlegroup are connected. As part of the matchmaking system, some of the more difficult dungeons will have a minimum gear requirement. Players also need to meet the requirements for dungeons that require attunement, such as keys or quests. If a player does not meet the requirements for a particular dungeon, a lock icon will be displayed next to that dungeon. Hovering over this icon will display the requirements which have not been met. Only conjured items and loot dropped in a dungeon for which other party members are eligible can be traded between players from different realms. A Vote Kick feature will be available in the event a member of a party is not performing to the expectations of the other members. Players who leave the group prematurely are subject to a Deserter debuff preventing them from using the Dungeon System tool for 15 minutes. If an existing group loses a member, the leader will be asked if he or she wants to continue the dungeon. Choosing to continue will automatically place the group back into the Dungeon System queue. A Player will not be placed in a group with people on his or her Ignore list. Players who take part in groups who have one or more members who have been matched with them randomly from within the Dungeon System will receive extra rewards, up to and including the coveted Perky Pug non-combat pet. The more random players with whom one groups, the faster the pet can be obtained. The Need Before Greed loot system will be the unalterable default looting system for pick-up groups in the Dungeon System and has been updated.
Need Before Greed will now recognize gear appropriate for a class in three ways: the class must be able to equip the item, pure melee will be unable to roll on spell power items, and classes are limited to their dominant armor type (ex. paladins for plate). All items will still be available via Greed rolls as well as the new Disenchant option should no member be able to use the item. Players will be able to roll on items with a required minimum level higher than a player's current level. Looking For Raid

There is a new Looking For Raid option available to players that can be accessed via the Raid Information screen in the interface or by typing "/LFR."
Players will be able to browse the system manually for any other players looking for a raid dungeon group. While browsing LFR players may sort the list ascending or descending by left-clicking the following headers: Name, Level, Class, Tank Role, Healer Role, and Damage Role. The crown is the Leader Role (representing a raid group with 2 or more people). Players can left-click on this header to sort the list with groups at the top or at the bottom. Hovering over players listed in LFR will display their name, class, level, roles and comments. Hovering over a raid/group will display the leader's name, the raid information (number of people the raid), comments, if there are any bosses dead (and which ones), and if there are any friends from your Friends list or ignored players from your Ignore list in the raid group. LFG Channel

The Looking For Group chat channel has returned and can be accessed in all major cities (similar to the Trade chat channel) without the use of the Dungeon system interface. Players may only be queued or listed in one of the following systems at a time: Dungeons, LFR, Battlegrounds, or Arenas. Ignore List: The amount of characters a person can ignore has been increased to 50. In addition, players on other realms can be placed on the Ignore list. Reputation
Commendation Badges which award reputation with various Wrath of the Lich King factions can be purchased with Emblems of Triumph in Dalaran. Items

Sceptor of Celebras: Since this item is no longer needed as a key, Celebras will no longer give one out to a player who loses it. The item can now be sold or disenchanted as normal.

Encrypted Text: Leveling a rogue, level 11-50

Every Wednesday, Chase Christian of Encrypted Text invites you to enter the world of shadows, as we explore the secrets and mechanics of the rogue class. This week, we talk about leveling a rogue from level 11 to level 50.

As we discussed in the comments last week, rogues play fairly simple for the first several levels. Without any real finesse techniques and the simplest of opponents, there's no reason to do anything besides run up to an enemy and just start swinging away. It may not seem very rogue-like in nature, but that is because low level rogues are still learning the tricks of the trade.

The trip from 11 to 50 will be much of the same. We receive a few awesome new abilities that help us in a few situations, but until level 50, we don't really see any of rogue that you can expect to play at 80. Luckily, at 50, you get a completely new skill set that will rewrite how you play your rogue. With the mount changes to allow low levels to ride epic mounts, you'll be jetting around and having a great time questing and finding enemies to slay. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, you've still need to get to level 50 first, and so read on for full details on the process.

New abilities:
We receive several new ranks of the spells that I covered last week, which simply increase the potency of those attacks. The new techniques that are of interest include our full set of Stealth openers, a new pair of finishing moves, and a slew of utility abilities that you'll want to put on your hotbar ASAP. Combat will remain mostly the same, with your procedure being to spam Sinister Strike and Eviscerating / Slice and Dicing depending on the mob's remaning HP. Remember to pull one mob at a time and focus on quick individual kills instead of attacking multiple enemies at once. Rogues are designed to be single-target assassins and if you keep that idea in mind, your leveling experience will be far more enjoyable.

Starting with our new opener at level 14 we receive Garrote, one of our strongest openers against high armor mobs. This move alone should have you stealthing before every pull, so you can open with a Garrote and then start attacking. Unfortunately, we also receive Ambush at level18. Ambush is significantly more potent while leveling, especially if you have your hands on a good dagger. An Ambush will typically take a mob's life down significantly, and so you'll want to be using it exclusively.

Until you receive Cheap Shot, that is. Our true signature opener, Cheap Shot is the perfect mix of defensive and offensive potency. The mob is stunned for 4 seconds, meaning that it is unable to attack you. You also gain 2 combo points and the mob is similarly unable to dodge or parry any of your attacks. This allows you to gain combo points very quickly, and allows you to Eviscerate sooner, ending the fight. Once you hit level 26, make your way back to a trainer to pick this up. You'll be opening with it 95% of the time.

The first finisher you'll see while leveling is Expose Armor at level 14, though you won't be using it too often. It's nice against an elite, but you will typically want to use either Rupture or Eviscerate, depending on the mobs remaining life. Don't bother worrying too much about having a hotkey for EA. Our final finisher for the trip to 50 is Kidney Shot, received at level 30. It's a great move to use if you're low on life or fighting against a hard-hitting mob, but while leveling you typically care more about damage and less about control.

Thanks to some of the changes in WotLK, rogues have some new utility moves. We still receive Kick at level 12 (which should be a core hotkey like 'E' or 'Q') and Feint at level 16 (which is useless until you receive its highest level rank), but you should be focusing on the special technique we get at level 20. Dismantle worked its way into our arsenal at the expensive for the disarm effect from the talent Riposte: a fair trade by any measure. Dismantle is relatively cheap on energy, has a very short cooldown, and will significantly lower the DPS of a melee class attacking you. Use this every time it's up!

At level 22 you'll receive a rogue's signature defense: Vanish. Don't worry that the PTR change to Vanish was reverted, Ghostcrawler has already said that they're cooking up a newer, stronger fix! Vanish will save your life dozens of times while you're out questing and grinding. It can save you from a would-be ganker who now can't find you, or it can save you from an accidental over-pull. It works (pretty much always) if you're out fighting by yourself, and so if you're in trouble, don't hesitate to Vanish and think it over.

While you're in stealth, you can also use your other new ability you receive at 22: Distract. It used to see more use in the past where rogues were able to sneak past bosses and mobs in instances, but is almost unused in today's environments. I use it occasionally in the arena, and so I suggest using it a few times on mobs and players and observing their reactions. We also receive Safe Fall at level 40, which allows a rogue to fall from higher distances without taking damage. Now that you can take fall damage and remain in stealth, it's less important to know "exactly" how high you can drop without hurting yourself, but be sure to test this thoroughly and learn you falling limits!

Finally, we receive Blind at level 34. It's our core CC ability, usable in combat, no longer requires a rare and expensive reagent, and is on a measly 3 minute cooldown. It's awesome for situations where you pull an extra mob or a player is trying to interfere with your leveling. Blind them, Vanish, and get out of there! You can also use a macro to use Blind and then use a bandage, allowing you to safely heal while engaged in combat.

Rogues have 3 talent trees, all of which provide unique and interesting playstyles. Some rogues prefer the dagger-based Assassination tree, the brute force of the Combat tree, and the stealth and finesse of the Subtlety tree. I will be designing leveling specs for each of the 3 trees, and you can choose which you think is the best fit for you. I would suggest using Combat until level 50, as that is when the three trees really diverge from each other and bloom into their full potential. Up until that point, you're really going to be doing the same thing: beating up mobs using Sinister Strike.

If you decide to level as Assassination, here's a quick Assassination build you can work your way up to. We receive our first glyph slot at level 15 (one major, one minor), a second minor at level 30, and a second major at level 50. While leveling to 50, you should focus on matching your major glyph with the spec of your choice. Assassination will be using the Vigor glyph the Eviscerate glyph to start with, as it has great synergy with Improved Eviscerate. Once you receive Mutilate at level 50, grabbing the Mutilate glyph is a no-brainer. This spec focuses on poison damage and can be used as a Backstab build via daggers as well.

Combat rogues have a fairly simple playstyle, but their power early on is unquestioned. You'll be able to take on multiple mobs (well, 2!) and your toe-to-toe power is amazing. However, you're also likely to get pretty bored while playing it. Here's an example Combat build to follow. I don't focus on a particular weapon spec, as it allows you to use any weapons that drop as you're leveling up. Grab the Sinister Strike glyph as soon as you can, and you'll be getting extra combo points from critical Sinister Strikes. At level 50, the Adrenaline Rush or Blade Flurry glyph will likely serve you best.

Subtlety can have two flavors: daggers or slow weapons. I prefer a slow weapon Sub build, focusing on the strength of Hemorrhage (once glyphed). This build will provide the best energy management with Relentless Strikes, Hemo's low base energy cost, and Dirty Deeds to save you energy on your opening attacks. Opening with an Ambush is also desirable with this build, as Sub houses a ton of Ambush-boosting talents. With a potent opener and rapid strikes immediately afterwards, this spec comes into its own once you gain Shadowstep and all of its utility.

The leveling process from 11-50 is a lot of the same for most rogues, and so I warn you upfront to be wary of burning out. Ever class is fairly simple up until level 50, which is when most of our spec defining 41-pt talents become available. Once you're over the hill, you'll be able to focus on a particular spec and rotation in greater detail, start specializing your talent and equipment choices, and start molding yourself into the rogue you want to become.

Eliza Dushku starts playing WoW

Enchanting is probably the number one most complained about thing in patch 3.3 (or at least was until last night's nerf bat got the undead and paladins in an uproar). But hopefully this is all going to cool down a bit with what Bornaak just posted a short while ago.

His full statement is after the break. But the key line from the release:

To maintain the importance of the profession itself, the disenchanting UI option will only be available for groups that have a character with the necessary level of Enchanting to disenchant the items that are obtained.

More after the break.

From Bornakk today:

As we mentioned in the recent post explaining the new Dungeon System, disenchanting will work a little differently in all 5 player and raid dungeons when patch 3.3 is released. We have seen a consistent pattern where players eventually need very few items from dungeons and they result to disenchanting as much of the loot as possible since those materials that can be obtained continue to have a lot of worth.

When the new Dungeon System is launched, the default user interface will give players the option to automatically disenchant items that they obtain in 5 player and raid dungeons. This option will avoid the hassle of having items picked up by an enchanter first to redistributed later and overall will make the process much smoother.

Also, with the inclusion of cross-realm-instancing in the dungeon system, there will be restrictions on trading items similar to the restrictions that are currently active in Battlegrounds. If the Dungeon System is used to complete a group for a dungeon then non-temporary items will not be able to be traded in the instance. This makes it so items like enchanting materials will not be able to be traded in the dungeon and using the new user interface option will be the only way to distribute disenchants. There will be some exceptions to this restriction though as Bind-on-Pickup items will continue to be trade-able to those present for the kill for a short duration and completely pre-formed groups that don't use the Dungeon System to form the group will still allow trades.

To maintain the importance of the profession itself, the disenchanting UI option will only be available for groups that have a character with the necessary level of Enchanting to disenchant the items that are obtained.

WoW Rookie: Primary stats for beginners

New around here? WoW Rookie points WoW's newest players to the basics of a good start in the World of Warcraft. Send us a note to suggest a WoW Rookie topic, and be sure to visit WoW.com's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.

Theorycrafters and experienced players, go away – no really, /shoo! Today's WoW Rookie is for brand new players or players who are embarking on a new alt with absolutely no idea which end is up. The topic: what stats should you look for on gear as you level up? With XP and levels moving so quickly these days, it's not a topic that bears deep reflection or rooting through gear lists online in search of exceptional pieces. Any time you devote to researching and going after specific gear will be rendered moot by equal time spent questing – ding, better gear at your disposal! Still, concentrating on the right set of primary stats gives you a solid foundation for steady, predictable game play and supports experimentation with different spells, specs and tactics.

The early levels (and by that, we mean "vanilla" WoW up through level 60) are all about basic stats (also known as "attributes"): agility, intelligence, spirit, stamina and strength. As you level, you may run across the occasional piece of gear that boasts a fancy attribute like spellpower or attack power. Consider it extra flavoring; you'll meet veteran players who swear by the stuff, but it's not mandatory. Equip the piece if the basic stats are also solid, and carry on. Most early pieces that boast more interesting stats were added later in the game's evolution. The basics remain the fuel for your pre-60 leveling fire.

Don't be fooled by deceptively attractive stats that try to flirt their way into your inventory on gear that turns out to be embarrassingly, utterly useless. The naked truth is that not all stats are useful to every character and every class. Agility, for instance, is supposed to increase your chance to dodge attacks – so it stands to reason that it would be a fantastic addition for a cloth-wearing mage who crumples like a paper doll in melee combat, right? Unfortunately, things don't actually work that way. The poor mageling in question would be better served by more intelligence, giving him more mana and power to expend raining down spell fury upon his foes. (Well, that and learning how to stay out of reach of the big, mean mobs.)

Every class starts out with a slightly different mix of stats. For example, mages have more base intellect than rogues, who have more agility. That balance is your first clue in figuring out what stats your new character should focus on enhancing with gear.

What do base stats do?

For the sake of our new players, we're going to home in on the most basic, primary way a stat affects different classes. There are many other ways these stats affect your performance, but things get pretty complicated and aren't integral to a rookie who's zipping through the first 60 levels of the game. If you're interested in reading more about how each stat affects all the mechanics of your class, follow the link on the name of each stat listed below.

Your basic formula for success is to pick two primary stats, stamina (because everybody needs a live body!) plus another stat that's key for your class.

Agility (AGI)

Agility increases ranged weapon attack power for all classes and melee weapon attack power for some. Warriors, hunters and rogues gain 1 ranged attack power for each point of agility. Hunters, rogues, shamans and feral cat druids gain 1 melee attack power per point of agility.

Who wants agility: druids (feral cat), hunters, rogues, shaman (enhancement)

Intellect (INT)

Intellect increases the size of your mana pool. You get 15 mana for every point of intellect (except for the first 20 points of intellect, which provide 1 mana per point). Warlock pets gain mana from your intellect, too, but at a lower rate than you do.

Who wants intellect: druids (druid, moonkin), mages, paladins (holy), priests, shaman (elemental), warlocks

Spirit (SPI)

Spirit increases your health and mana regeneration, both in and out of combat. However, few classes and specs find it to make a significant impact on leveling.

Who wants spirit: druids (restoration), priests (holy)

Stamina (STA)

Stamina gives you more health. You get 10 hit points per point of stamina (except for the first 20 points of stamina, which provide 1 hit point per stamina point). Stamina also increases your pet's hit point pool, although he gains less per point of stamina.

Who wants stamina: everyone

Strength (STR)

Strength increases melee weapon attack power. Warriors, death knights, druids in all feral forms and paladins gain 2 melee attack power per point of strength. Rogues, hunters, shamans, mages, priests, warlocks and druids in druid form gain 1 melee attack power per point of strength.

Who wants strength: death knights, druids (feral), paladins (retribution, protection), warriors

Gear up with "of the" gear

As you level, the best gear is always available from instances. You can fill in gaps and maximize your impact with gear that's known as "of the (Something)" armor -- "of the Monkey, "of the Eagle" and so on. Two-attribute combos are best before level 60. Once you're into Burning Crusade content, these items branch out and start adding other useful attributes. (Pro tip: You'll level more quickly than you'll be able to loot much armor of this type from mobs. If you have the cash to spare, watch for good deals on the Auction House.)

Consult the links in the paragraph above for charts to find out which pieces are best for your class and spec.

After level 60

Beyond the basics of primary stats lurks the convoluted territory of other attributes. You may acquire a dab of these attributes here or there prior to level 60, but we wouldn't recommend a first-time player go out of the way to find any. Just level – levels are the ultimate performance enhancement.

Once you reach The Burning Crusade content, you'll start racking up advanced attributes such as spellpower, hit, attack power, etc. – factors that will become a major focus when you reach the end game. (You'll also gain a lot more stamina on every piece of gear -- and you'll need it, because BC mobs hit a lot harder.) At this point, you'll want to start studying class-specific guides that focus on the roles available to you (tanking, healing, DPS) and your specific talent spec. (Our class columns are a great place to start!) Click on the attribute links in the list above, and get to know the other attributes that are linked to your primary stats. It's probably not necessary to devote major research time yet, because you're still sliding through levels that Blizzard has re-optimized for speed and ease. You'll get a good smattering of advanced attributes on quest rewards that are obvious choices for your class.

Once you hit Northrend and Wrath of the Lich King content, the tone changes. You've hit the home stretch. Make sure you're familiar with the various role and talent spec options available to your class, and familiarize yourself with the attributes you'll need to excel. (Read class-specific columns, blogs and forums, and learn which attributes are useful for you.) You may not be able to reach significant amounts of these stats until you reach 80, but you can make a darn good start. Keep in mind that Cataclysm, the upcoming expansion, will sweep the table clean with a vastly simplified stats landscape. Don't let that dissuade you from picking up gear that's effective in the here and now -- play today's game, not tomorrow's -- but be open and prepared for a philosophical shift back to primary stats down the road.

Obviously, digging into other attributes is an option at any level. However, as long as you're wearing the right primary stats, you'll have a solid foundation for exploring your character's possibilities. Yes, you can streamline leveling using more advanced strategies and by stacking certain specialized attributes from the start. That's a game for later levels and experienced players, though – and our WoW Rookies will be there in no time, armed with the right primary stats.

Drama Mamas: Of crime and crossdressing

The writer of our first letter is not looking to send a guild "criminal" on a tortuous journey across the globe to a penal colony, but he is looking to exact a harsher punishment than the one already meted out. Our second petitioner is tortured about being considered weird for playing the opposite gender. We won't torture you with any further delays before letting you at the drama.

Crime and Punishment in Communist Azeroth
Dear Drama Mamas, our guild is fairly relaxed when it comes to loot. It wasn't by design, but many have likened us to a Communist country nature: everyone contributes what greens and enchanting mats from our raids and heroics to the guild bank. In return, all enchants for alts and mains come straight from the guild bank. As a result, I haven't actually paid for any of my own enchants for a long time.

Recently, Flame Leviathan (hard mode) dropped a blacksmithing pattern. Since it was a guild run, it was obvious to go ahead and default that to the blacksmith in the raid. Four days later, one of our death knights decided that the extra gem slots were worth the trouble of having the thing made. He gathered up the mats and as soon as the Blacksmith logged on to Vent asked him to craft the item. His response was "Uuuuagh... fine... I guess.... Let me go get it off the Auction House." At which point everyone in the channel freaked out a bit and told him that was not okay. Any person in the raid could have put it up for money. We defaulted it to him because he was the only one who could actually learn it for guild use.

In the end, the DK did get his belt made and the Blacksmith did learn the recipe, but it has left a lot of guild members feeling sore. This is partly because the blacksmith in question just happens to be the guild leader's older brother, Myself and the other officers are pushing for some sort of punishment for this, while the guild leader has assured us that this won't happen again. Any guild patterns we receive from now on need to be learned on the spot and the blacksmith in question won't receive any patterns we receive in any instances for a while.

Am I looking for too much blood when I say that I think this is too light of a punishment -- especially since he is our only raider with blacksmithing? What's more is with the nature of random loot drops, it's not totally unreasonable for us not to see any blacksmithing patterns for a long time, perhaps until Icecrown. This really doesn't feel like anything more then a slap on the wrist. Any thoughts on a more severe punishment? Maybe losing a few ranks in guild so he has a little less access to guild bank materials? Being forced to come to our raids in nothing but greens? Something in between? Thanks! Concerned Comrade Druid

Drama Mama Robin: Hey, Comrade. I agree that what the Greedy Blacksmith did was wrong, even if he were in a not-so-communal guild. All patterns should obviously be learned by the designated Guild Blacksmith and your new guild rule of instantly learning patterns will prevent this in the future.

I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish with the extra punishment, however. Certainly you must see that having him raid in all greens will punish the entire raid. And no real harm was done -- though obviously that was due to the timing of the DK wanting the item and not from him reconsidering his decision to sell.

Greedy Blacksmith has been on the receiving end of the wrath of his fellow guildies, the embarrassment of being publicly chastised and is obviously being watched by you and others for future transgressions. He is also on a formal probation from receiving future patterns (though this seems to hurt the guild, too, if he is the only blacksmith). Everyone makes mistakes and you have made no indication that this is part of a pattern of behavior.

In the future, if he seems to be exploiting his relationship to the GL and/or breaking guild rules then he should absolutely be demoted or otherwise suitably punished for his transgressions. But if this is an isolated incident, I don't see the benefit of punishing him further.

That having been said, you and your guildies could have a little fun with him. Perhaps you could make him run naked through an enemy city while low level enemy alts taunt the locals into ganging up on him. Or you could have him spend an evening offering to run noobs through dungeons for free. Keep it good natured -- he'll get the point and your need for justice will hopefully be satisfied.

Drama Mama Lisa: You say you want what's best for the guild, Comrade, but the guild's knee-jerk reaction has spawned conflicting policies that simultaneously help (learning pattern drops on the spot) and hurt (withholding pattern drops from the guild's only blacksmith) the guild as a whole. The first priority for your guild, it seems to me, is another look at that little dichotomy. What's actually helping the guild? What's not?

Beyond that, I have to agree with Robin – why the fixation on punishment?

Fix your policies, not your players. Exacting "punishments" for problem behavior only ensures that you'll keep needing to use them. If guild members act like twits who need constant rules checks and punishments to keep them in line, are they really people you want to be playing with? If you don't trust your GM and his ability to keep nepotism out of the picture, perhaps it's not Mr. Blacksmith the Brother who's the real issue. Our previous advice to The Other Egg (who was upset at sharing guild tags with a player who'd ninja'd) holds: If you trust your GM, then show it. If he says the situation won't happen again, consider the matter handled. Case closed. Quit creating drama by beating this dead horse in public, and move on. If a no-tolerance rule for ninjas is important to enough members, ask the officers to bring it up with the GM. The key: this issue is a SEPARATE ISSUE from Mr. Blacksmith's little situation (because you trusted the GM to resolve that issue, remember?). Contribute constructively, then let the officers and the system work. What's weird?
Hey Drama Mamas: So I'm rerolling a mage Alliance-side. I picked Draenei because they're the only really cool-looking Alliance race, but I think male Draenei look dumb in robes. I don't want to roll a female toon if people think that's weird. Is it wrong for a guy to play a chick toon? Signed, No Pink Dresses for Me

Drama Mama Lisa: I play with a bunch of guys I've gamed with across various games for years and years – and yeah, it strikes me as a little fey when one of them pulls up to an instance in a new female toon. That said, it's the same voice as always that's booming in my headset -- so ultimately, it's less odd to me than, say, recycling a name from a past character on a totally different type of character.

Some players have strong feelings about males playing female characters; I'll let reader comments on the subject speak for themselves. My take on your "weird" criteria:

It is NOT weird if you're roleplaying the character. It is NOT weird if you're already well known to your groupmates and guildmates. It is NOT weird if you're fairly clear about dropping the hint that you're male to those you group with regularly. (Just be honest about who you are. No ulterior motives.) It IS weird if you try to maintain a feminine front or don't dodge assumptions that you're female from a player-behind-the-toon perspective (as opposed to a roleplaying perspective). What is it you're hoping to accomplish by maintaining a false front? We can't think of anything that doesn't smell suspiciously fishy. Drama Mama Robin: Pink, most non-gamers think playing any fantasy character is weird. Don't worry about weird. It's your reasoning behind playing a female that is important. If you have ulterior motives, it's wrong to play a chick toon. But if you just want to look at a more attractive butt, that's between you and your current or potential significant others.

The Spousal Unit has a female blood elf warlock because she has pretty pixels. At first, I had issues: "I'm the girl in this relationship!" But that didn't last very long and now I just don't care. On the other hand, when a friend in EQ switched to female so that he could take advantage of lonely nerds and get free gear, I purposely lost touch with him.

So, check your motives, Pink. If you're not planning to deceive anyone, then feel free to play the fairer gender. And again, who cares if people think you're weird? In all things, be your own Wendy... or Katrina... or Lorelei...

Patch 3.3 PTR: Gunship battle impressions

I'm on a boat!

That was the first thing that came to mind as I entered Icecrown for today's Gunship encounter that will be coming in patch 3.3. It was another fun fight against those foul Horde forces although there were a few slight bugs in the mix. Unfortunately, we weren't able to complete it because the Alliance cannons just didn't seemed to be working properly. The goblins must have sabotaged it. Either that or someone forgot to reload them.

I added some screenshots of the event into the Icecrown gallery.

Anyway, it's time to grab your sword and fight the Horde!

Gallery: Icecrown Citadel

After teleporting up to the exterior area where the gunships were held, our raid group immediately engaged several Horde vermin. I was worried that it was going to be Faction Champs for trash. We easily swatted aside this healing druid (who wasn't even in tree form) and ripped apart a blood elf priest. The hunter and rogue fell swiftly underneath the might of the Alliance task force after that.

Once we rescued our fellow Alliance NPCs, we had two ways to go. Going right would mean we would have to get by this abysmally large frost wyrm. It looked like some Horde attackers were trying to keep him at bay. Going left meant plowing through more orcs and their allies with the Alliance gunship, The Skybreaker, docked. Even though it would have been fun to sandwich the Horde units between us and the wyrm, we decided to head for the alliance vessel.

After all, we had an event to start.

Just as we were approaching dock, a large shadow appeared overhead. We looked up only to discover that the frost wyrm we left alone earlier blocked the path between us and the ship. Naturally, we did the only logical thing that came to mind and charged in. The frost wyrm put up a good fight but was soundly dispatched.

We boarded The Skybreaker and who did we see?

It's our friend Muradin Bronzebeard!

His buddy beside him offered us a gift. It's a jet pack that we get to wear in our ill-often used shirt slot. Activating it allows us to jump to any point within several yards. Supposedly it's meant to be a safety device in case we fall off the ship. But we're a little more ambitious than that. We're going to use these jet packs (pictured in the very first image of the post) to board the other ship.

The premise

The basic idea of the encounter is that both the Alliance and Horde gunships will be squaring off against each other. Throughout the encounter, your raid team will be busy fending off intruders from the opposite faction as they board your ship. You'll have several players manning the deck guns as they open fire on the other ship. Once the health of the ship drops to a certain percentage, the mages on the other ship will encase the guns in a solid block of ice preventing them from firing. It's up to your team to then take the offense to them and knock out their mages and their rocketeers so that you can resume pummeling their ship and until it crashes and burns. Not only will you have to mess with opposing faction NPCs, you get to deal with High Overlord Saurfang. If you're Horde, you get the pleasure of trying to stop Muradin Bronzebeard (and no one can stop a dwarf).

Attempt 1

Once we were ready to begin the encounter, it was time to ascend Icecrown. We talked to Brann and he gave the order to fire up The Skybreaker's engines. The course was pre-plotted and we decided to take the scenic route. The architecture was admired. Bone dragons were spotted circling around the tower.

But then we were beset upon by the Horde gunship, Orgrim's Hammer. They called for us to stand down and retreat. Of course Muradin was having none of that and said the dwarven version of "Hell naw!" and basically ordered us to open fire. Both gunships leveled off in the air and virtually hovered side by side.

Unfortunately, we came across a slight malfunction. Our cannons appeared to be ineffective (bugged as I had mentioned earlier). We discovered this while dodging incoming rockets. Without being able to do much of anything else, a group was dispatched to board the other ship to attempt to stop the rockets and take out the mages. Sadly, they didn't last very long without any real support and we wiped as a result.

One thing I will say is that it seems to take a while for the encounter to reset after a wipe. Once every player died, we'd have to wait to zone in because the encounter was still in progress. It seems like it won't reset until the Alliance gunship is destroyed.

Attempt 2

We dusted ourselves off and went back once we were clear. Knowing that the cannons were bugged, we decided to try something else and see what the trash did. We talked to Muradin and we were up and away!

All of us decided to forgo the cannons and simply board their ship. We looked for a safe zone which appeared to be toward the... bow of the ship. My naval terminology fails me but I think that's what it's called.


These were annoying. All they do is throw axes and it seems as if they are able to hit players from any range. They weren't difficult to take down.


They're the main muscle for the Horde. Sergeants have a nasty whirlwind effect which is capable of decapitating clothies such as priests within their range. Players hit with a Wounding Strike will have the effectiveness of healing spells on them reduced by 25%.


These are the enemies that are shelling the Alliance gunship and they are a priority target. Take them out and the ship will experience some relief from their rockets for a while. The rockets they fire are easy enough to spot and dodge. Players can even see the runes on the ground that show rocket impacts before they strike. Simply stand out of the rune and you won't take damage. If you do take damage, it's easy enough for healers to handle. But that doesn't mean get careless.

Battle Mages

Mages are the key. Take them out and your cannons will be free to fire again.

By the time we figured out the individual abilities, High Overlord Saurfang had approached us and began systematically dismantling all of us one by one. The clothies had no chance. When he was on the tanks, the damaged appeared to be marginal. The tank I was with reported that Saurfang gained a stacking buff that would increase the amount of damage the orc would do. This lead me to conclude that a tank would be needed specifically for Saurfang while the rest of the raid was working on the other NPCs on the ship. We would have a limited window of time before Saurfang tore us apart and it was best that he be held off to the side. Once the NPCs were taken care of, it was time to strategically retreat to Alliance ship and continue firing cannons (if they were working).

Healing this fight is going to be random. There's a lot of stuff to keep track of and if you're caught looking the wrong way, some players could drop to 0 fairly quickly. Saurfang's tank will need a set of heals especially when that stacking buff starts piling high.

All in all, it was a fun fight and a nice preview of the mechanics that are involved. At the present, it's still a bit buggy with the guns and without them we can't beat the encounter. We ended up staying a few more attempts after that just to get a firm handle on the mobs. Again, I'm not sure if the encounter is properly tuned yet. The trash went down much quicker than expected. To be fair though, this isn't meant to be Faction Champions 2.0 in the skies or anything. This is certainly one of the encounters I will be looking forward to in Icecrown.

Oh I forgot to add. You can't kill Saurfang. When he reaches a certain point, he just lays the smacksdown on the entire raid. We found that out the hard way by pouring massive DPS on him. Nope, didn't work.

October 28, 2009

Race Change, your personal retcon

Just about every wall has been broken down now. The only thing left is the ability to change one's class, which probably won't happen anytime... soon®. Yesterday, the highly anticipated Race Change service went live, and I'm sure a lot of players rushed to get their makeover. Take Gregg, for example, who went on and changed his Level 70 Tauren Hunter into a weed-loving Troll. I mean, he's wanted to do that for a while. I know I've been hankering for race change myself, but now that the service is here, I haven't exactly jumped the gun. Why? I said I wanted to turn my Blood Elf Death Knight -- I'm quite happy with just one Sin'dorei -- into an Orc, but now I'm kind of wondering.

I still want to change my character's race, I'm just not quite settled on which one to switch to. Race change is kind of like a retcon in the World of Warcraft, more so than name changes or customization of appearance. It's right up there with gender changes. Faction changes are different because it kind of take away your character's entire continuity, and I'm sure a lot of RP'ers made completely different back-stories for faction-changed characters. Race change allows you to have essentially the same character but with a major difference.

We asked what race you'd switch to about a month back, but now that the service is here, we're going to ask who's up and done the change? What race did you switch from and what race did you switch to? Tell us why! Personally, I'm just kind of bored with another Blood Elf, and I want one of each race (I know, I should've thought of that to begin with). Lame, right? On the other hand, I'm holding out for that Undead Hunter I've always wanted. Now that World of Warcraft's personal retcon is a paid service, have you taken advantage of it? Have you changed anything else besides your race such as gender or name?