November 14, 2009

WoW Mage leveling guide, 41 to Outland

Something I wanted to throw out there before we begin:

I'm lazy. It's difficult to find pictures every week for this column. Thus, I no longer wish to do it. Therefore, I am extending an open invitation to you, my fellow mages everywhere, to do my job for me. I formally request--nay, demand--your screenshots. That's right: if you ever had the desire to see your mage featured prominently at the beginning of a sentient, warlock-hating mage column, this is your chance. Ground rules:

1、Mage-pictures only. If you try to slip in a picture of a warlock and pass it off as a mage, I will hack your Twitter account and then make a series of embarrassing tweets on it, like "My genital fungus really burns today...I wonder if I've been scratching it too much," "Quick tip, everybody: bacne + shaving back-hair = an awful way to spend a weekend," or "I firmly believe that Michael Bay is the genius of our time."

2、In-game screenshots that you personally captured only.

3、No character names visible, and no hud, please. Use Alt-Z before you take your screenshot.

4、Nothing vulgar. No matter how much I'd like to see a picture of you doing something obscene to the corpse of that warlock you just killed, I can't use it. Also, I have a wife and two small children. Try not to send me anything that will scar them permanently should they be in the room when I open it.

5、Send all screenshots to the following email address: Also, title them with something simple and appropriate, like "mage screenshot," so I don't think they're spam.

6、Other than the above limitations, I don't care what you send. I can use just about anything. Low-level mages, high-level mages, cool looking spells, action shots, funny stuff...chances are I can find a use for just about anything you send me.
And with that out of the way, we're ready to begin this week's installment of our ongoing mage leveling guide.

You'll notice from the title of this week's installment that we're covering a bit more this week than we have in previous weeks. You can safely head for Outland as early as level 58, meaning that instead of covering 10 levels, we'll be attempting to guide you through a full 18 levels in this column. Why? Because at this point, the new spells and noteworthy milestones are spread a bit thin, and this stretch can feel more grindy than any other in the game. To be quite honest, the levels between 40 and 60 are, without a doubt, my absolute least favorite levels to slog through. The quest hubs spread out, some of the zones become a little less fun to tool around in (I'm looking at you, Felwood.), and the instances tend toward the extreme end of the "long, difficult and kinda boring" spectrum (cough...Maraudon).

This isn't to say there isn't fun to be had, it's just that it's very easy in this stretch to find yourself grinding for experience instead of enjoying the journey. So how to make it fun? Here's a list of...wait a second...

...what's that...that's Bullet Points' music! They're headed for the ring! And they've got metal chairs in their hands! Noooooo! Oh, the humanity! Why, of all the times, did the referees pick now to be distracted and/or unconscious? Nooooo!

(Special thanks to Bill Simmons for that joke. He uses a variation of it in pretty much every column he writes, and it's always funny.)
Mix things up. Don't just go from quest hub to quest hub, and unless you hate yourself, don't just AoE farm your way to Outland. Do some battlegrounds, run a few instances (if you can find a group), or just go exploring and see the sights. Focus on the lore. Though things can become a bit of a slog in this stretch, and many of the quests can be needlessly difficult, complex, or require far too much travel, the storylines start to become quite gripping, and the lore rich. This used to be the climax of the game, guys. Spend some time in places like Eastern Plaguelands. Get a high-level buddy to run you through Blackrock Depths or Stratholme. Actually read the quest text. Seriously. Enjoy the plot of the game. See the sights. For the love of god, don't spend 10 levels in Felwood. It's ugly, depressing, and judging by the amount of felpuppy poo I stepped in while I was there, I'm pretty sure it was designed by a warlock. Only do the quests you want to do in a place, then move on to someplace else. It's incredibly easy to skip zones now, but there are a couple nice ones in this stretch that warrant a visit. Spend some time in Winterspring (pretty snow!), Searing Gorge (pretty volcanoes!), Ungoro Crater (what is it with Blizzard and volcanoes in this level range?), and Azshara. In fact, we'll be talking a bit more about Azshara in a bit. Don't spend the entire time waiting for Outland. Trust me. You be seeing plenty of Outland. You'll be taking your next character there. And your next one. And the one after that. Enjoy the old end-game--and the relative freedom it offers--while it's still relevant. Because the moment you hit level 58, it ceases to be.

Levels 41-49

Sadly, there are no new spells from 41-49, at least not the ones you can learn from trainers. Use this as an opportunity to perfect your mastery of the skills you already have, I guess.

Instances to run in this range include:
Uldaman (out-of-the-way, but full of good lore, and to an improbably large lady) Zul'Farrak (desert trolls, good loot, loads of quests to complete, and on my server, at least, it's one of the few old-world instances I still see people looking to group for...just be careful not to kill the goblin before he blows up the door to the last boss encounter) Maraudon (Incredibly long, and full of plants. Plants that want to eat you. I hate this place. But it does have some good loot.) Level 50

New spells: Portal: Darnassus or Thunder Bluff

Mages hit several milestones at level 50. First, we get our second major glyph slot. There are a lot of good choices at this point to fill that slot, so take a look at what's affordable in the auction house and pick something that you like.

Second, you can finally complete your collection of old-world portals by traveling to either Darnassus or Thunder Bluff and snagging the appropriate portal spell there.

And third, more mage quests.

I've written about Archmage Xylem before, on several occasions. He hangs out in a tower high in the mountains of western Azshara and just oozes wizardry. At level 50 he'll hand out the first part in a quest chain to your mage that will eventually lead you to the depths of Sunken Temple, pit you against a pair of giant dragons, and reward you with your choice of a dagger, necklace, or trinket.

Every class gets a similar quest to kill the same dragon, so finding a group for Sunken Temple isn't as hard as finding one for other dungeons in this range. It's a difficult and lengthy instance, to be sure, but I'm of the opinion that doing this chain is an essential part of magehood. Plus, that trinket is nice. Don't waste your reward on either of the other two items. You'll be replacing them almost immediately. But that'll serve you into Outland and beyond. Unless you're not a Fire mage, of course. In which case, the trinket sucks. Three cheers for old-world itemization!

Lastly, level 50 opens up the ninth tier of your chosen talent tree, and all of the awesome talents contained therein. Seriously, this tier is stacked.

Fire mages now have access to Dragon's Breath, which is a fantastic short-range, instant AoE spell. It strikes everything in front of the mage in a cone and dazes them all, in addition to dealing rock-solid damage. Also opening up at this level are Hot Streak, which hands out instant Pyroblasts when you crit twice in a row, and Firestarter, which triggers an instant Flamestrike whenever you cast Blast Wave or Dragon's Breath. All of these talents are sweet.

Frost Mages can learn to summon their big blue buddy. Summon Water Elemental becomes one of the hallmarks of the spec from this point on. He does damage, he freezes opponents at range, and he gives great back rubs. Brain Freeze is also fun, giving you a reason to put Fireball back on your action bar. Nothing says "Frost mage" like throwing out the occasional free, instant ball of flame.

But perhaps no spec benefits more from the ninth tier than Arcane mages. Slow is the ultimate kiting tool. Though its mana cost is a bit high, it's one of the best PvP spells in the game, and once you start applying it to mobs effectively, you may never be hit by a melee attack again. Also, you get access to my single favorite talent in the game: Missile Barrage. Take a moment and soak in that tooltip. That's right, starting now, your offensive spells give you a chance to fire out a mana-free, short-channel, super-cool-looking gatling missiles. Now, finally, being an Arcane mage starts to actually feel like a good thing.

Levels 56-57

New spell: Arcane Brilliance

Yes, you read that correctly: level 56 brings you the ability to summon a sentient, overly-wordy, weekly mage column that hates warlocks...wait...I'm being told that's not what the tooltip actually says. What's that? Oh, ok. It's actually just a version of the Arcane Intellect buff that costs more mana, requires a reagent, lasts longer, and affects your entire party or raid. Well, that's still nice, right? Convenient?

One final note: this level range is really the last gasp for the old world. Enjoy it while you can. See the zones you want to see, and visit the instances that appeal to you while they still hold some benefit for you. I always advise a trip to Blackrock Depths at this point if you can manage it. It's really the last dungeon in the old-world in the pre-Burning Crusade level range. Those that follow it aren't really feasible before you're high-enough level to go to Outland, and the green-quality loot that drops off the first boar you kill there will absolutely crush almost anything that drops in them.

Plus, Blackrock Depths is one of my favorite instances. It's a vast, Dungeons & Dragons-esque, old-school rpg experience, with a wide array of bosses, interesting mechanics, and excellent lore. Put together a like-minded group, or find a willing level 80 comrade to run you through. It's worth the trip, and the loot will set you in good stead when you make the leap through the Dark Portal.

Level 58

This is it. Though you can stay in Azeroth for a few levels if you wish, you're really best-served heading straight to Outland at this point. It's actually much easier to get there in this enlightened age. The major capital cities now have portals situated near the portal trainers that deposit you about two feet from the Dark Portal. Once you step through, you're in Outland. Start picking up quests and let the massive gear-upgrade parade begin.

Be wary, though. In your mismatched old-world gear, you'll discover that the mobs in Hellfire Peninsula are fairly formidable. They have significantly more health and hit much harder than their similarly-leveled Azerothian counterparts. Be cautious, fight tactically, and be prepared to die a few times. And watch out for the Fel Reaver. He can be seen from much farther away now, but he can still be quite stealthy, which is somewhat improbable for a giant robot. If you hear that distinctive mechanical roar, drop everything and flee. Blink, go invisible, whatever you need to do. It's no fun to be eaten by a giant, stealthy robot.

This drastic upswing in difficulty will even out rapidly as you complete quests and upgrade to Outland gear, but at first you may find yourself longing for the cupcakes you were blasting through in the old world.

Keep pressing forward, and get yourself to level 60. What's so great about level 60, you ask? Two words: Flying Mounts.

Send in your screenshots, and come back next week, when we start our burn through Outland.

Patch 3.3: Quel'delar caster mace hastened

Ah, Quel'delar -- the Patch 3.3 questline with rewards for everybody. Well, everybody except tanks. And elemental shamans. And shadow priests, and moonkin, and mutilate rogues, and you get the idea. While the caster sword is itemized very well for DPS casters -- and can be used by two of them -- the mace version is loaded with MP5, which is patently useless for them. A lot of healers don't even really need it on their weapon.

Well, Blizzard may not have caved to tanks or rogues, but they certainly caved to DPS casters, as Bornakk indicates that the MP5 on the Hammer of Purified Flame is being converted to haste to better match Quel'delar, Lens of the Mind. As an elemental shaman in dire need of replacing his Aesuga, I appreciate that!

Then again, this makes it even more odd that sword-and-board tanks are still left out in the cold in this questline. I suppose there's still time before the patch for Blizzard to make the change, but it looks like they're not going that route. Oh well, tanks. There's always dual-spec.

Patch 3.3: More community members honored with item names

In the vein of Phaelia's Vestments of the Sprouting Seed and the BRK-1000, Blizzard honored several community members with items named after them in Patch 3.3.

Ones we've seen so far:

Maghia's Misguided Quill - Named after the well-known cosplayer who came to BlizzCon as Alexzstrasza and the Eredar Twins.

Toskk's Maximized Wristguards - Named after the player who maintains a popular druid DPS calculator.

Aldriana's Gloves of Secrecy - Named after the player who maintains a popular rogue DPS spreadsheet.

There are other items in the patch files that look to be named after certain individuals, but I'm admittedly not familiar with everyone ever involved with the WoW community, so I'll leave it to you guys to let me know if I missed someone.

I'm always happy when I see items like this in the game. They show that somebody out there is paying attention to the players that are making an impact in the community, and that's good enough for me.

Patch 3.3: Blizzard previews new quest tracking UI

Looks like the newly-renamed Dungeon Finder isn't the only new UI feature we have to look forward to in Patch 3.3 -- Blizzard just released an official preview of its new Quest Tracking feature, and it looks great. It seems to have a number of the features that ZorbaTHut's great QuestHelper addon does, which follows Blizzard's pattern of poaching the best third-party UIs for use in the stock UI.

Our UI whiz Gregg Reece covered the feature briefly last week, based on what was active on the PTR. For those who haven't fiddled with it, new additions to the UI include:

Enhanced World Map: The large world map is now separated into four active panes. Quests are automatically tracked on the map and listed to its side. The quest log entry for the selected quest is located below the map.

Areas of Interest: Shows what area on the map your quest's points of interest can be found, represented with a blue polygon. If mobs populate a large area, the map will indicate it. If you need to find one specific doodad, that'll be on there too. If there are multiple spawn areas for a mob or doodad, the map will automatically locate the one closest to you.

Pop-out Map: Players can utilize a smaller zone map outside of the normal full-screen map to track progress and get their bearings.

Better Tracking: Tracked quests outside the map will now indicate your progress with a number for items found or mobs killed and will indicate whether you've already completed it. And more! The main thing I notice is missing (so far) is the arrow that indicates where you should head next on the World Map, like QuestHelper or Carbonite, but who knows if that'll even make it in.

Blizzard says that the new UI will work with nearly every quest in the game, regardless of type. You can check out the official preview here.

The Art of War(craft): Absolute beginners' guide to Arathi Basin

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote up a basic look at the Battlegrounds for all the new players who don't know anything about it. From the looks of it, Blizzard expects an influx of new players, too, so newbies will always be on the lookout for 'For Dummies'-type information. Because we're such awesome folks over here at, we're ready to oblige. Last week we answered some basic questions about the game's first Battleground, Warsong Gulch. This week, we'll answer some beginner's questions about Arathi Basin, the next Battleground leveling players are eligible to enter. Hit the Read More button to, you know, read more.

What is Arathi Basin?
Arathi Basin is a resource accumulation Battleground with 15 players on each side. The goal is to gather 1600 resource points (2,000 points prior to Patch 3.2), with the first team to reach that number winning the match and ending the game. There are five resource nodeswhich can be controlled by capturing the associated, nearby flag -- an 8-second channel (formerly 10 seconds) action similar to opening a chest (you'll see a progress bar). Once a flag is tagged, teams must protect it for one minute until it comes under their control. The one minute window allows opposing teams to recapture a tagged flag.

The rate at which resources are gained depend on the number of resource nodes that a team controls -- the more nodes, the faster resources are accumulated. Capturing all five bases guarantee a rapid gain of resources and can be difficult or impossible to overcome if allowed to continue uncontested for a certain period of time. Players also gain honor and reputation according to the resources gained, so teams that win the match get the maximum bonus honor while teams that lose have varying levels of honor gain. It is virtually impossible to have a tied game of Arathi Basin.

The five nodes are the Farm, Blacksmith, Lumber Mill, Gold Mine, and Stables. The Farm is nearest to the Defiler's Den, the Southeastern part of the map where the Horde contingent spawns. The Stable is on the Northwestern part close to Trollbane Hall, where Alliance players start the game. The Lumber Mill is situated to the central West of the map, with the notable geographic feature of being atop a small cliff. It's always fun there. At the center of the map is an island where the Blacksmith is, and slightly Northeast to it would be the Gold Mine.

So, what's the deal with this place?
The physical entrances to Arathi Basin (not that you need them anymore) are located in Hammerfall and Refuge Pointe in the Arathi Highlands. In customarily nebulous fashion, Arathi Basin is supposedly such a resource-rich land that members of the League of Arathor and the unfairly villainous-sounding Defilers constantly clash over it. We can only assume that there's a lot of gold there, as well as some lumber, and a fair amount of livestock. And boy, do the Alliance and Horde forces need their livestock.

What's in it for me?
Unfortunately, none of the gold found inside the gold mine. Aside from honor, though, players get brownie points with the League of Arathor and the Defilers, Alliance players earning the Knight of Arathor and Horde players getting The Defiler Achievements. Either one grants another 10 Achievement points to brag about. Other Achievements can also be pursued if you get some more experience playing the Battleground. If you're not into those things, there's always those Arathi Basin Marks of Honor -- three for those on the winning team, one for those on the losing side -- which you'll need to purchase gear or turn-in in your quest for more honor. And everybody loves more honor.

Cool, I'm sold. What's next?
While Warsong Gulch opens up to players as early as Level 10, Arathi Basin has a slightly higher requirement. It's about perfect, too, since Level 20 is when players can get mounts. Considering players need to get from one node to another in the most expedient fashion, mounts are a good thing. The brackets for Arathi Basin are as follows:


As with all Battlegrounds, players would do well to be on the higher side of the level bracket in order to better appreciate the Battleground experience. That said, even lower level characters can contribute greatly by keeping their eyes open and alerting their teams to incoming enemies. The Battleground is also bigger than Warsong Gulch, so it's quite possible to avoid too much combat, particularly by keeping guard in relatively quiet nodes.

Let me at 'em! Uh... what do I do?
Easy, fella! My first suggestion would be to get a mount. You'll need one. Fortunately, players can now get mounts at Level 20 since Patch 3.2 worked it in. In the old days, players ran on foot for about twenty levels in Arathi Basin (when Level 40 was the minimum level to obtain a mount), which made the first two brackets of the Battleground rather unpleasant. Arathi Basin is a game of responsiveness, and the team able to support attacked nodes the fastest will win.

While there are many strategies to winning Arathi Basin, one of the best pieces of advice I can give to new players is to always fight near a flag. Making sure a flag is never left alone and is always protected is highly underrated, even by experienced players. Blizzard has already added an incentive to players to protect the flag with the Honorable Defender buff. This increases the honor gained from killing enemy players by 50% as long as you're within reasonable range of the flag. The only way Blizzard could make the message any clearer would be for them to have 50-foot tall neon signs pointing at the flag saying, "Fight Here!"

This means it's always ill-advised to leave a node unguarded. Resist the urge to go where the fighting is, despite the common lull that can happen when a node isn't being attacked. Sometimes a player's worst enemy in Arathi Basin can be boredom, which can strike those who nobly stay to defend the flag. One of the absolute worst things any player can do in Arathi Basin is to needlessly fight on the roads, which doesn't quite achieve anything.

It also goes without saying that having more nodes is better. While controlling three nodes is a slow and steady way to win the game, there's always the danger of losing a node and having the tide turn. As difficult as it may be to pull off, a five-cap or control of all five nodes is the best way to ensure victory, even if maintained only long enough to gain a sizable lead. For new players, simply providing warm bodies to protect flags and call out incoming enemies is key. Don't be afraid to type in the chat channel by typing /bg and keeping your team informed. Even lowbies can help immensely in this respect.

On to Alterac Valley!
Arathi Basin is a fun, fast-paced game that, if you play it right, might even end up with very little PvP at all. It's actually kind of Zen. After we take a quick look at all the other Battlegrounds (don't hold your breath, we've got four more to go...), we'll look at specific strategies every class can employ in each one. In the meantime, don't be afraid to cause some Battleground mayhem! Next week, we'll take a beginner's look at Alterac Valley.

November 13, 2009

Deathknight Level 70 Tanking Gear Set

My DK has got it goin' on!

She hit level 70 and swapped into the Cobalt gear set that's craftable by Blacksmiths in their early Northrend professions levels:

[Cobalt Helm]
[Cobalt Shoulders]
[Cobalt Chestpiece]
[Cobalt Bracers]
[Cobalt Boots]
[Cobalt Legplates]
[Cobalt Belt]
[Cobalt Gauntlets]

Then, after affixing Armor Kits and various enchants with the Outland and early Northrend materials I had laying around in this Enchanter's bank, I headed to the Auction House and picked myself up a few [Eternal Belt Buckle]s and a [Solid Chalcedony] to fill this current belt's gem slot as created by the belt buckle.

I looked for new rings and trinkets, and managed to pick up one Heavy Adamantite Ring for low cost, but since it's unique-equipped, I couldn't make use of two. Trinkets were available in the form of the Darkmoon Faire ones, but the cheapest one started at 500g and I'm not sure I'm ready to invest that much without a bit of thinking, first.

Before and After
I'd originally taken some screenshots to be included in this entry that were meant to show how much of a change this new gear is going to make for me, but I must admit - I was going to be comparing apples and oranges, and then I had blog problems, so I'll save those screenshots for another entry.

You see, I didn't plan to tank during the Outland levels and as a result I focused on my DPS set and DPS Blood spec. So when I plan show the difference between the DPS gear I had on when I hit 70 and the Tanking gear set I put on after I dinged, it's not really a fair comparison.

WoWGrrl's Done The Research Already!

Solid gearing lists for your Northrend toons, from Instances, Crafting, PvP and more!

WoWGrrl's Northrend Gearing Lists

Gearing Guides By WoWGrrl
I'm getting my Blacksmith buddy to craft me the cobalt DPS gear set soon, and once that's crafted then I can do a more direct comparison of the improvements that can be had with a wee bit of work right at the level 70 marker for plate-wearing DPS or Tanks (Paladin, Warrior, Deathknight).

Blizzard has done a really good job at making sure the Tanks can start to be decently geared going into the new leveling dungeons this time around - while DPS folk wearing tailored or leatherworked gear have to level up to 72/74/76 before they can wear their full "set" of gear, Tanks can deck themselves out right at 70.

It remains to be seen if DPS gear requires higher levels than 70 to wear the whole set!

Epic Flyer Purchased
Once I got my gear all in line, I headed through the portal to Shattrath City and then hopped the Taxi to Thrallmar.

Being only Honored with Thrallmar, the cost of my Epic Flying training was a cool 4500g. Ouch! That took a chunk out of my savings, but didn't decimate my monetary supplies like the first two characters I purchased Epic Flying for back in Burning Crusade. By the time my third character got to 70 in order to qualify for Epic Flying training, I had gotten a much better handle on my cash flow and still had thousands of gold left over.

With this Deathknight's purchase of Epic Flying skill, it's my fifth toon with Epic Flying.

It used to be that I bought Epic Flying more because of how painfully slow regular flying was in comparison - once you flew an Epic, your other flyers felt so horribly slow that you were MOTIVATED to get the money to upgrade to the faster flyer. But now, it's simply because I can!

Choosing A Rune Enchantment
Oh yah! One more enchant I got done was on my new 2h sword, but I forgot to write about it.

One thing that makes a Deathknight unique from almost every other class in World of Warcraft is that we can enchant our own weapons with class-related skills.

Now, I realize the Warlocks can do the same, but I don't think their firestones, etc, have the same flexibility as the Deathknight Runeforging.

After I finished off the enchants and armor patches and had visited the Auction House to get some belt buckles and a cheap stamina gem to go into it, I opened up my Death Gate and headed back to "home base" to apply a runeforge enchant to my new 2h sword. My sword wasn't anything spectactular, so I'm not thinking of applying any "real" enchants on it yet.

I looked through my list of Runeforge enchants, and finally chose Rune of Swordshattering for my tanking sword:

Rune of Swordshattering: Affixes your two-handed rune weapon with a rune that increases Parry chance by 4% and reduces the duration of Disarm effects by 50%.

That looks like a good tanking runeforge to me!

Stay tuned for an upcoming entry where I talk about the coming together of my Blood DPS set, along with my first adventures as a tank in Northrend.

WoW Icecrown Citadel Loot

Update #2: Added the stats of a few Tier 10 sets
Update: Added the spec column for all the items, added a lot of 25-man items and 10-Man items, added reputation rings. I do realize that some of the 10-man normal mode items are flagged as heroic but at this point I'll just assume it's a bug.

Icecrown Citadel Raid Loot
The raid instance has been itemized as well and this news will be updated throughout the night.

25-Man Normal Mode

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item
264 Axe Melee.DPS Two-Hand Bryntroll, the Bone Arbiter
264 Dagger Spell Main Hand Frozen Bonespike
264 Fist Weap. Melee.DPS Main Hand Black Bruise
264 Gun Tank Ranged Rowan's Rifle of Silver Bullets
264 Shield Spell Shield Bulwark of Smouldering Steel
264 Staff Phys.DPS Two-Hand Distant Land
264 Plate Melee.DPS Chest Gendarme's Cuirass
264 Plate Melee.DPS Hands Fleshrending Gauntlets
264 Plate Spell MP5 Head Faceplate of the Forgotten
264 Plate Spell MP5 Shoulder Rusted Citadel Stormers
264 Plate Spell Waist Belt of the Lonely Noble
264 Plate Tank Legs Legguards of Lost Hope
264 Plate Tank Waist Belt of Broken Bones
264 Plate Tank Wrist Bracers of Dark Reckoning
264 Mail Phys.DPS Chest Carapace of Forgotten Kings
264 Mail Phys.DPS Head Snowserpent Mail Helm
264 Mail Phys.DPS Waist Nerub'ar Stalker's Cord
264 Mail Spell MP5 Hands Unclean Surgical Gloves
264 Mail Spell MP5 Legs Leggings of Dubious Charms
264 Mail Spell Shoulder Horrific Flesh Epaulets
264 Leather Phys.DPS Feet Frostbitten Fur Boots
264 Leather Phys.DPS Legs Gangrenous Leggings
264 Leather Spell Hands Handguards of Winter's Respite
264 Cloth Spell Hit Legs Plaguebringer's Stained Pants
264 Cloth Spell Feet Plague Scientist's Boots
264 Cloth Spell Shoulder Stiffened Corpse Shoulderpads
264 Cloth Spell Waist Crushing Coldwraith Belt
264 Cloth Spell Waist Lingering Illness
264 Misc. Melee.DPS Finger Might of Blight
264 Misc. Melee.DPS Finger Ring of Rotting Sinew
264 Misc. Phys.DPS Finger Band of the Bone Colossus
264 Misc. Phys.DPS Neck Wodin's Lucky Necklace
264 Misc. Spell Hit Finger Loop of the Endless Labyrinth
264 Misc. Spell MP5 Finger Marrowgar's Frigid Eye
264 Misc. Spell MP5 Neck Putrid Embrace
264 Misc. Spell Neck Bone Sentinel's Amulet
264 Misc. Tank Finger Harbinger's Bone Band

10-Man Normal Mode

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item

251 Axe Phys.DPS One-Hand Bone Warden's Splitter
251 Mace Phys.DPS One-Hand Gutbuster
251 Mace Tank One-Hand The Brokenhammer
251 Staff Spell Hit Two-Hand Abracadaver
251 Sword Melee.DPS Two-Hand Citadel Enforcer's Claymore
251 Sword Spell Hit Main Hand Frost Needle
251 Plate Melee.DPS Hands Festering Fingerguards
251 Plate Spell MP5 Feet Ancient Skeletal Boots
251 Plate Spell MP5 Hands Festergut's Gaseous Gloves
251 Plate Spell Legs Corrupted Silverplate Leggings
251 Mail Phys.DPS Waist Linked Scourge Vertebrae
251 Mail Spell MP5 Wrist Coldwraith Bracers
251 Leather Phys.DPS Legs Plague-Soaked Leather Leggings
251 Leather Spell Wrist Wrists of Septic Shock
251 Cloth Spell Legs Kilt of Untreated Wounds
251 Cloth Spell Shoulder Bloodstained Surgeon's Shoulderguards
251 Cloth Spell Waist Cord of the Patronizing Practitioner
251 Cloak Phys.DPS Back Shawl of Nerubian Silk
251 Cloak Tank Back Cloak of Many Skins
251 Misc. Phys.DPS Neck Precious's Putrid Collar
251 Misc. Spell MP5 Finger Signet of Putrefaction
251 Misc. Spell Trinket Sliver of Pure Ice
251 Misc. Tank Neck Marrowgar's Scratching Choker

Reputation Rewards

Note: You can upgrade these rings for more powerful version as your standing with the Ashen Verdict increase.

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item

251 Misc. Tank Finger Ashen Band of Courage
251 Misc. Phys.DPS Finger Ashen Band of Vengeance
251 Misc. Spell Hit Finger Ashen Band of Destruction
251 Misc. Spell MP5 Finger Ashen Band of Wisdom

Tier 10 Armor Sets
The stats of a few Tier 10 Sets have been discovered. (Sets with a Purple name below)

Class ilvl 251 ilvl 264 ilvl 277
Death Knight Scourgelord's Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Death Knight Scourgelord's Plate Sanctified Plate Sanctified Plate (Heroic)
Druid Lasherweave's Garb Sanctified Garb Sanctified Garb (Heroic)
Druid Lasherweave's Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Druid Lasherweave's Regalia Sanctified Regalia Sanctified Regalia (Heroic)
Hunter Ahn'Kahar Blood Hunter's Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Mage Bloodmage's Regalia Sanctified Regalia Sanctified Regalia (Heroic)
Paladin Lightsworn Garb Sanctified Garb Sanctified Garb (Heroic)
Paladin Lightsworn Plate Sanctified Plate Sanctified Plate (Heroic)
Paladin Lightsworn Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Priest Crimson Acolyte's Regalia Sanctified Regalia Sanctified Regalia (Heroic)
Priest Crimson Acolyte's Raiment Sanctified Raiment Sanctified Raiment (Heroic)
Rogue Shadowblade's Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Shaman Frost Witch's Garb Sanctified Garb Sanctified Garb (Heroic)
Shaman Frost Witch's Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Shaman Frost Witch's Regalia Sanctified Regalia Sanctified Regalia (Heroic)
Warlock Dark Coven's Regalia Sanctified Regalia Sanctified Regalia (Heroic)
Warrior Ymirjar Lord's Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear Sanctified Battlegear (Heroic)
Warrior Ymirjar Lord's Plate Sanctified Plate Sanctified Plate (Heroic)

WoW Emblems of Frost Rewards

It looks like Blizzard finally pushed new items with this build, below is the list of items you can buy with the Emblems of Frost you will get from raids, daily quests, and weekly raid quests. Prices aren't available for the moment

We might have more items today, stay tuned!

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item
264 Thrown Phys.DPS Thrown Shrapnel Star
264 Plate Melee.DPS Chest Castle Breaker's Battleplate
264 Plate Melee.DPS Hands Gatecrasher's Gauntlets
264 Plate Melee.DPS Waist Gatecrasher's Gauntlets
264 Plate Spell MP5 Chest Chestplate of Unspoken Truths
264 Plate Spell Hands Gauntlets of Overexposure
264 Plate Spell Waist Lich Killer's Lanyard
264 Plate Tank Chest Cataclysmic Chestguard
264 Plate Tank Hands Gauntlets of the Kraken
264 Plate Tank Waist Verdigris Chain Belt
264 Mail Phys.DPS Chest Longstrider's Vest
264 Mail Phys.DPS Feet Rock-Steady Treads
264 Mail Phys.DPS Hands Logsplitters
264 Mail Phys.DPS Waist Band of the Night Raven
264 Mail Spell MP5 Chest Mail of the Geyser
264 Mail Spell Feet Earthsoul Boots
264 Mail Spell Hands Blizzard Keeper's Mitts
264 Mail Spell Waist Waistband of Despair
264 Leather Phys.DPS Chest Shadow Seeker's Tunic
264 Leather Phys.DPS Hands Cat Burglar's Grips
264 Leather Phys.DPS Waist Vengeful Noose
264 Leather Spell Chest Vestments of Spruce and Fir
264 Leather Spell Hands Gloves of the Great Horned Owl
264 Leather Spell Waist Belt of Petrified Ivy
264 Cloth Spell Chest Meteor Chaser's Raiment
264 Cloth Spell Chest Ermine Coronation Robes
264 Cloth Spell Hands Gloves of Ambivalence
264 Cloth Spell Waist Belt of Omission
264 Cloth Spell Waist Circle of Ossus
264 Cloak Melee.DPS Back Might of the Ocean Serpent
264 Cloak Phys.DPS Back Recovered Scarlet Onslaught Cape
264 Cloak Spell MP5 Back Drape of the Violet Tower
264 Cloak Spell Back Volde's Cloak of the Night Sky
264 Cloak Tank Back Sentinel's Winter Cloak
264 Idol Feral Relic Idol of the Crying Moon
264 Idol Balance Relic Idol of the Lunar Eclipse
264 Idol Restoration Relic Idol of the Black Willow
264 Libram Holy Relic Libram of Blinding Light
264 Libram Protection Relic Libram of the Eternal Tower
264 Libram Retribution Relic Libram of Three Truths
264 Misc. Phys.DPS Trinket Herkuml War Token
264 Misc. Spell Hit Trinket Maghia's Misguided Quill
264 Misc. Spell Trinket Purified Lunar Dust
264 Misc. Tank Trinket Corroded Skeleton Key
264 Sigil Melee.DPS Relic Sigil of the Hanged Man
264 Sigil Tank Relic Sigil of the Bone Gryphon
264 Totem Elemental Relic Bizuri's Totem of Shattered Ice
264 Totem Enhancement Relic Totem of the Avalanche
264 Totem Restoration Relic Totem of the Surging Sea

WoW Icecrown 5-Man Dungeons Loot

The rewards for the Quel'Delar questline are now available.

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item

251 Sword Phys.DPS One-Hand Quel'Delar, Cunning of the Shadows
251 Sword Spell Main Hand Quel'Delar, Lens of the Mind
251 Sword Melee.DPS Two-Hand Quel'Delar, Might of the Faithful
251 Sword Phys.DPS Two-Hand Quel'Delar, Ferocity of the Scorned
251 Mace Melee.DPS One-Hand Cudgel of Furious Justice
251 Mace Spell MP5 Main Hand Hammer of Purified Flame
251 Mace Melee.DPS Two-Hand Lightborn Spire

Icecrown 5-Man Dungeons Loot

5-Man Dungeons items are now available on PTRs, this page will be updated multiple times during the night, stay tuned!

Heroic Mode

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item

232 Axe Melee.DPS Two-Hand Tyrannical Beheader
232 Axe Phys.DPS One-Hand Nighttime
232 Axe Tak One-Hand Falric's Wrist-Chopper
232 Crossbow Phys.DPS Ranged Felglacier Bolter
232 Dagger Melee.DPS One-Hand Unsharpened Ice Razor
232 Dagger Phys.DPS One-Hand Blood Weeper
232 Dagger Spell MP5 Main Hand Surgeon's Needle
232 Fist Weapon Phys.DPS Main Hand Seven-Fingered Claws
232 Mace Phys.DPS One-Hand Black Icicle
232 Polearm Phys.DPS Two-Hand Orca-Hunter's Harpoon
232 Sword Melee.DPS One-Hand Liar's Tongue
232 Sword Spell Hit Main Hand Seethe
232 Sword Tank One-Hand Rimefang's Claw
232 Thrown Phys.DPS Thrown Papa's Brand New Knife
232 Wand Spell hit Ranged Soulsplinter
232 Plate Melee.DPS Chest Frost Wyrm Ribcage
232 Plate Melee.DPS Feet Grinning Skull Boots
232 Plate Melee.DPS Hands Weeping Gauntlets
232 Plate Melee.DPS Shoulder Pauldrons of the Devourer
232 Plate Melee.DPS Wrist Malykriss Vambraces
232 Plate Spell MP5 Feet Recovered Reliquary Boots
232 Plate Spell MP5 Legs Legguards of the Frosty Depths
232 Plate Spell Chest Chestpiece of High Treason
232 Plate Tank Feet Black Spire Sabatons
232 Plate Tank Head Second Helm of the Executioner
232 Plate Tank Shoulder Shoulderplates of Frozen Blood
232 Mail Phys.DPS Chest Frostsworn Bone Chestpiece
232 Mail Phys.DPS Feet Spiked Toestompers
232 Mail Phys.DPS Hands Hoarfrost Gauntlets
232 Mail Phys.DPS Head Eyes of Bewilderment
232 Mail Phys.DPS Shoulder Spurned Val'kyr Shoulderguards
232 Mail Phys.DPS Waist Belt of Rotted Fingernails
232 Mail Phys.DPS Wrist Essence of Suffering
232 Mail Spell MP5 Legs Blackened Ghoul Skin Leggings
232 Mail Spell Head Helm of the Spirit Shock
232 Leather Phys.DPS Chest Choking Hauberk
232 Leather Phys.DPS Feet Blighted Leather Footpads
232 Leather Phys.DPS Head Frayed Scoundrel's Cap
232 Leather Phys.DPS Legs Fleshwerk Leggings
232 Leather Phys.DPS Shoulder Spaulders of Black Betrayal
232 Leather Phys.DPS Wrist Chewed Leather Writsguards
232 Leather Spell Chest Chestguard of Broken Branches
232 Leather Spell Hands Essense of Desire
232 Leather Spell Wrist Ghostly Wristwraps
232 Cloth Spell Hit Chest Ancient Polar Bear Hide
232 Cloth Spell Hit Head Sightless Crown of Ulmaas
232 Cloth Spell Hit Shoulder Very Fashionable Shoulders
232 Cloth Spell Hit Wrist Bracer of Worn Molars
232 Cloth Spell Chest Mord'rethar Robes
232 Cloth Spell Hands Suspiciously Soft Gloves
232 Cloth Spell Waist Braid of Salt and Fire
232 Cloth Spell Waist Strip of Remorse
232 Misc. Heal Trinket Ephemeral Snowflake
232 Misc. Melee.DPS Finger The Lady's Promise
232 Misc. Phys.DPS Finger Band of Stained Souls
232 Misc. Phys.DPS Neck Barbed Ymirheim Choker
232 Misc. Phys.DPS Trinket Needle-Encrusted Scorpion
232 Misc. Spell MP5 Finger Oath of Empress Zoe
232 Misc. Spell MP5 Neck Love's Prisoner
232 Misc. Spell Held In Off-hand Shriveled Heart
232 Misc. Spell Neck Arcane Loops of Anger
232 Misc. Tank Neck Fossilized Ammonite Choker
232 Misc. Tank Trinket Ick's Rotting Thumb

Normal Mode

ilvl Type Spec Slot Item

219 Axe Phys.DPS One-Hand Hate-Forged Cleaver
219 Bow Phys.DPS Ranged Crypt Fiend Slayer
219 Dagger Phys.DPS One-Hand Soulscalper
219 Dagger Phys.DPS One-Hand Krick's Beetle Stabber
219 Dagger Spell Hit Main Hand Chilled Heart of the Glacier
219 Gun Phys.DPS Ranged Rimebane Rifle
219 Mace Melee.DPS Two-Hand Garfrost's Two-Ton Hammer
219 Mace Spell MP5 Main Hand Bone Golem Scapula
219 Shield Spell MP5 Shield Protector of Frigid Souls
219 Shield Tank Shield Splintered Door of the Citadel
219 Staff Phys.DPS Two-Hand Tower of the Mouldering Corpse
219 Staff Spell Two-Hand Blood Boil Lancet
219 Staff Spell Two-Hand Unspeakable Secret
219 Sword Melee.DPS One-Hand Ghoulslicer
219 Sword Melee.DPS Two-Hand Mourning Malice
219 Sword Spell Main Hand Splintered Icecrown Parapet
219 Wand Spell Ranged Coffin Nail
219 Plate Melee.DPS Chest Lost Reliquary Chestguard
219 Plate Melee.DPS Hands Plated Grips of Korth'azz
219 Plate Melee.DPS Head Skeleton Lord's Cranium
219 Plate Melee.DPS Legs Minister's Number One Legplates
219 Plate Melee.DPS Waist Bent Gold Belt
219 Plate Spell MP5 Shoulder Valonforth's Tarnished Pauldrons
219 Plate Spell Head Greathelm of the Silver Hand
219 Plate Spell Wrist Brace Guards of the Starless Night
219 Plate Tank Chest Scourgelord's Frigid Chestplate
219 Plate Tank Feet Sollerets of Suffering
219 Plate Tank Hands Crystalline Citadel Gauntlets
219 Plate Tank Legs Legplates of Frozen Granite
219 Plate Tank Waist Titanium Links of Lore
219 Mail Phys.DPS Feet Muddied Boots of Brill
219 Mail Phys.DPS Head Horns of the Spurned Val'kyr
219 Mail Phys.DPS Legs Frostsworn Bone Leggings
219 Mail Phys.DPS Waist Scabrous Zombie Leather Belt
219 Mail Phys.DPS Wrist Gondria's Spectral Bracer
219 Mail Spell Hit Hands Mitts of Burning Hail
219 Mail Spell Hit Legs Legguards of Untimely Demise
219 Mail Spell Hit Wrist Seven Stormy Mornings
219 Mail Spell MP5 Chest Shroud of Rime
219 Mail Spell MP5 Feet Soul Screaming Boots
219 Mail Spell MP5 Head Polished Mirror Helm
219 Mail Spell MP5 Legs Black Dragonskin Breeches
219 Leather Melee.DPS Waist Flayer's Black Belt
219 Leather Phys.DPS Chest Blackened Geist Ribs
219 Leather Phys.DPS Hands Carpal Tunnelers
219 Leather Phys.DPS Legs Shaggy Wyrmleather Leggings
219 Leather Phys.DPS Shoulder Bewildering Shoulderpads
219 Leather Spell Chest Robes of the Cheating Heart
219 Leather Spell Head Fallen Sentry's Hood
219 Leather Spell Shoulder Grim Lasher Shoulderguards
219 Cloth Melee.DPS Back Tapestry of the Frozen Throne
219 Cloth Phys.DPS Back Accursed Crawling Cape
219 Cloth Spell Hit Hands Cold Sweat Grips
219 Cloth Spell Hit Waist Essence of Anger
219 Cloth Spell MP5 Back Cloak of the Fallen Cardinal
219 Cloth Spell Chest Palebone Robes
219 Cloth Spell Feet Ice-Steeped Sandals
219 Cloth Spell Hands Marwyn's Macabre Fingertips
219 Cloth Spell Head Tattered Glacial-Woven Hood
219 Cloth Spell Legs Rimewoven Silks
219 Cloth Spell Shoulder Frayed Abomination Stitching Shoulders
219 Cloth Spell Shoulder Mantle of Tattered Feathers
219 Cloth Spell Wrist Wristguards of Subterranean Moss
219 Cloth Tank Back Eerie Runeblade Polisher
219 Misc. Melee.DPS Finger Purloined Wedding Ring
219 Misc. Melee.DPS Neck Painfully Sharp Choker
219 Misc. Phys.DPS Finger Ring of Carnelian and Bone
219 Misc. Spell Hit Neck Coil of Missing Gems
219 Misc. Spell MP5 Finger Spiteful Signet

How To Destroy Koralon The Flame Watcher

I'm so lucky to be in a great guild, with talented guildmates and an Officer team that is lead with passion and enthusiasm for the game in all of its aspects.

While Tuesday's raid night was a bust - with realm downtime that lasted an hour and a half into our Official Scheduled Raid Time - Wednesday's raid was a lot of fun and very productive as we got to see and take down Koralon the Flame Watcher for the first time, and then later Anub'arak in the Crusaders Coliseum.

The raid was actually so eager to get going on Wednesday that we started to pull trash four minutes AHEAD of scheduled start time. How often can you say YOUR guild starts its scheduled raids on time and with a full group??!

Koralon the Flame Watcher Downed in 2 min, 21 seconds
While we do tend to have a strong 10-player progression and achievements team, our raid team is officially 25-player based, which leaves guildmates free to use their 10-player IDs for all instances however we wish.

Koralon the Flame Watcher in the Chamber of Aspects/Vault of Archavon was the first boss we took down on Wednesday's raid night and I'm glad to say that it was a one-shot - unlike the 10-player PUGs I had gotten into earlier in the day that were Die In A Fire wipefests.

Downed in 2 minutes, 21 seconds!

Koralon Strategy
Different groups will prefer different methods, and some of the methods depend on a number of factors like raider gearing and the ability of any given raider to recognize that standing in fire is detrimental to one's health.

The PUG strategy told all of the ranged DPS and healers to stack up together so when a Flaming Cinder was launched at one of us, the whole group would share the damage of the hit, and then shift to a new spot away from the fire spot left on the floor. One of the ranged players had a mark over their head so the rest of us knew where to stack.

The Guild strategy mentioned no such thing of the raid stacking up, with the exception of the Main Tank and the Off Tank/Damage Absorber. As a result, we did our standard raid habit which is to spread out, and Get Out Of The Damned Fire whenever it was launched at us or appeared under our feet.

Video Footage Of The Fight
I shut down all my extraneous apps, rebooted my computer so it was all fresh and clean, and then took video footage of the entire raid night on Wednesday night.

I'm still working on editting the footage I took in the Crusaders' Coliseum, including our 4-5 attempts it took us to coordinate our team strategy for downing Anub'arak, but I did get the Koralon the Flame Watcher footage editted and up for public consumption. Check it out on YouTube today, complete with narration by yours truly for what is going on in the fight:

Patch 3.3 PTR: Deathbringer Saurfang impressions

I hate this fight with a passion. I really hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it. Words cannot express the frustration. We're talking keyboard smashing levels here. With regards to the other bosses I've participated in up to this point, this is the only encounter so far where I felt absolutely helpless and at a loss as to what to do. With more time on the other encounters, I'm confident that we would've been able to get those ones down.

But Saurfang? Not only did it feel like I was beating my head on a wall repeatedly, we weren't making much head way with the different tactics we were trying. It's like running up an escalator that's going down. Sure you feel like you're working and exerting effort, but you're not going anywhere fast.

In an effort to lighten the tone of today's patch 3.3 PTR impressions, I will list some facts that we discovered about Saurfang.

Just for fun, of course.

Thankfully, there wasn't much in the way of trash to worry about. After the instance doors opened, we hit the teleporter and zoomed to one of the upper floors of the area. We had to wait about half an hour for the GMs to manually engage the start up script for us. While we were waiting, I was reading up on some of the expected Saurfang abilities and watching live streams of other groups that already had theirs turned on.

Fact: Saurfang is the reason we have Tuesday maintenance. If you thought Blizzard spent that time maintaining servers, you were wrong.

After 30 minutes, Muradin and his escorts showed up alongside us. We had some idea of what to expect. We knew he'd summon up some Blood Beasts and they would pursue us. We also knew that the minions would gradually increase Saurfang's damage by 1%. If Saurfang inflicts damage, he'd also gain that extra bit of damage. This is due to a Blood Link he has which results in Blood Power.

The rest of his abilities we weren't sure about. We didn't know when they'd kick on, when he'd use them. Time was growing short. We had 60 minutes to glean as much information as possible. A quick ready check was followed by a bear charge in the moment everyone was ready.

Fact: The bar above Saurfang's head isn't his health. It's his patience with you. (That one was from a reader who commented in the gunship impressions post).

Yep, today we managed to get ourselves the elusive druid tank and death knight tank (I think he was Blood). It's certainly one of the more challenging tanking duos I've had to heal. I didn't feel as if it was an impossible job though. I didn't have a warrior or paladin tank to compare with on this encounter. The other 2 resto shamans and myself had little difficulty keeping them alive.

I forgot about Blood Nova. I observed a red projectile hitting one of the players before it exploded outward to 3 others who had surrounded him. I was lucky enough not to get hit.

"Spread out. That Blood Nova's going to hit players close together!" I barked.

We were able to space ourselves out further and Blood Nova was mitigated. No brainer right? Another one of those fights where the raid has to spread out.

Fact: Saurfang once had diarrhea. Proof? Look in the middle of the map. It's called the Maelstrom.

We didn't last very long. The rate at which the Blood Beasts spawned overwhelmed us. We had tried AoEing them down. No such luck. It wasn't as effective as I had hoped. We wiped!

We found out why shortly thereafter. Turns out those Blood things have Thick Skin which reduces damage from AoE hits by 75%. That explains everything.

The decision was made to mark one and DPS them down individually before switching back to Saurfang. That idea seemed to work better. We were able to blow up them Blood Beasts. But we weren't making a whole lot of headway. We wiped again with Saurfang at a little over 85% after being in combat for a little over two minutes.

The raid was simply taking too much damage. Why? What changed from time zero to the 2 minute mark that resulted in extra damage? A quick consult of the death logs showed Mark of the Fallen Champion as the cause of death of multiple players. An educated guess was made where Mark of the Fallen Champion is applied after Blood Power reaches a certain point but we weren't sure. Now we know it is.

Fact: Saurfang has a deep breath. That's why Naxxramas moved from Eastern Plaguelands to Dragonblight.

A quick browse of the achievements also revealed something else. I've Gone and Made a Mess is an achievement where Saurfang has to be defeated before Mark of the Fallen Champion is applied three times. We inferred then that there must be no way to remove that debuff. Players would continue to take damage from this for the rest of the encounter.

In other words, we were on the clock as Saurfang has a soft enrage.

Either we kill him super fast before the raid gets overwhelmed with that Mark, or we slow down the rate at which he accumulates Blood Power. From what we knew, Blood Power is gained when he damages players or when his beasts hit us.

My eyes shot downward as I examined the raid again. We had 3 shamans and 1 hunter. I wondered if 3 Earthbind totems and a slowing trap would do the trick. We'd try to kite these guys around.

On our next attempt, we were able to control the beasts better. We had our second tank grab them and go for a run while the DPS would take them down. He did a great job weaving around the Earthbind totems allowing the adds to get destroyed without giving up too much.

But there was another problem. Saurfang wasn't dropping quick enough. Rather, it seemed like he was gaining health. There was one more thing I had forgotten about.

Fact: Saurfang visited Gnomregan on a diplomatic mission. He accidentally farted turning it into what it is today.

Rune of Blood. Saurfang not only destroys players, but he'll steal their health in the process. Is there anything this guy can't do?

This ability kicks in when he performs melee attacks on targets marked with Rune of Blood. A quick query showed that only the tank had this debuff. It seems to have a set duration that is refreshed. Looks like we'll have to use our second tank after all.

Our final attempt involved putting all of these elements into play. The off tank would taunt the Blood Beasts and kite them around. After every second Blood Beast wave, the tanks would switch. The tank on Saurfang would go for a jog while the Beast tank would attract Saurfang's attention.

Again, we were making some slight progress but not enough where it felt like everything clicked. I definitely wasn't feeling confident about it.

Post raid thoughts

This just occurred to me as I was writing up my experiences above. After going through the abilities again and doing some thinking, I can't help but wonder if we were going about it the wrong way.

There was one more buff that I missed called Scent of Blood. It reduces player movement speed by 80 but ramps up their damage by 300% for 10 seconds. It appears to kick in only when his Beasts smell blood.

But what specific abilities would cause blood to shed?

Yeah. I just realized it too.

Blood Nova.

Maybe we're not supposed to spread out. Not all of us at least.

My hypothesis is that Blood Nova is supposed to go off and explode. Allow it to hit as many nearby DPS as possible. When the Blood Beasts appear, they'll smell blood which should increase player DPS by 300%. That should be more than enough to counteract the 75% AoE damage reduction from Thick Skin. We'd have an easier time blowing through the Beasts and inflicting some serious pain on Saurfang too.

I'm not too sure about the exact specifics or the logistics behind it. But it's all I have now. I hope we'll get another crack at him again so I can try it out. The next important piece of information is determining how often Blood Nova goes off so we can time our positioning and how often the raid would have to collapse.

I wish this occurred to me sooner.

November 12, 2009

Rawr updated to 2.2.25 [Update: 2.2.27]

Rawr is a great third-party app (it's open source, and doesn't interface with the game at all) that's designed to help you figure out everything you need to know about your character, including how to best buff, enchant, and gem up your gear and set up your stats for whatever you'd like to do. It started out as an app strictly for tanking druids, but recently, it's grown to include pretty much all classes and stats. Our good friends at sister site Download Squad just recently found out about it, and they've got a nice basic writeup posted that serves as a good overview if you've never used the app before.

They also mention that the app just got another update, to version 2.2.25, and all of the release notes are posted over on their site. They're also looking for help -- if you're a C# developer, or know one who can work on their rogue and hunter models, be sure to let them know. Since the program is open source, anybody who knows the code can jump in and add their own features, or fine-tune the class choices, which then helps out everyone who uses the software. Rawr is definitely an excellent resource for anyone looking to get their gear perfected -- it's a free download for Windows on their site right now.

Update: Since this post was written, the app has been updated to 2.2.27. That was fast!

Patch 3.3 PTR: Quel'delar weapons revealed [Updated]

We've been waiting to see the end rewards for Patch 3.3's Quel'delar questline, purported to be capable weapons, and it looks like this latest build revealed the stats for all of the weapon's incarnations.


Quel'Delar, Ferocity of the Scorned
Quel'Delar, Cunning of the Shadows
Quel'Delar, Lens of the Mind
Quel'Delar, Might of the Faithful

And if you can't use swords, you can turn Quel'delar in for:


Cudgel of Furious Justice
Hammer of Purified Flame
Lightborn Spire

The stats are pretty good, actually! Not a bad reward at all. No tanking sword, though. Weird!

Patch 3.3 PTR: Emblem of Frost gear revealed

Another PTR build was pushed out today for patch 3.3. The item levels for the Frost level gear are 264. As always, there's a new assortment of trinkets to select from. Tanks may be interested in the Corroded Skeleton Key. Healers who don't already possess decent healing trinkets will want to pick up Purified Lunar Dust. For DPS players, you have the choice of a Herkumi War Token or Maghia's Misguided Quill. The latter is for casters due to the increase in spell power. Can't comment too much on the physical DPS trinket. That's a lot of haste.

Another interesting thing to note is that Primordial Saronite is on the vendor. I'm not sure if this will be a permanent change when it goes live. I have a feeling the Primordial Saronite is only obtainable within the Icecrown instance for crafting reasons (like Crusader Orbs).

Anyway, new ranged slot items, trinkets, capes (back pieces), chest pieces, gloves and belts will be available for purchase. And of course, you can exchange an Emblem of Frost for an Emblem of Triumph.

Remember, Emblems of Frost are gained by completing the new weekly raid quests, taking down bosses in Icecrown Citadel or the new Vault of Archavon boss.

For the full list, check out MMO Champion.

Update: You use the Primordial Saronite to purchase recipes in Icecrown. Currently, each recipe costs 1 Primordial Saronite. You also need to be revered with the Ashen Verdict.

November 9, 2009

The Art of War(craft): Absolute beginners' guide to Warsong Gulch

Alright, so you have some kind of vague idea about what a Battleground is. Basically, Battlegrounds are where players go to consensually bash each others brains out. Or fry them. Or freeze them. These instances are designed for players to enjoy PvP, get a bit of honor and, if you're not already at max level, some experience. In the future, Blizzard has revealed plans to make the Battlegrounds even more like instances or dungeons by hinting at possible actual loot rewards. It's an interesting concept we'll have to revisit sometime in the future.

For now, we'll get back down to the basics. Last week we discussed how to get inside a Battleground. That's easy enough, especially with the new changes to the Battlegrounds queue system. This week we'll take a closer look at the different Battlegrounds available. Think of it as a nice buffet of PvP that you can choose from. What kind of Battleground you choose will depend on what kind of game you want to play (or more realistically, what Marks of Honor you still need. We'll get to that later). Hit the jump to check out this week's featured Battleground, Warsong Gulch.


What is Warsong Gulch?

Basically, Warsong Gulch is a Capture-the-Flag type of game where players must take a flag from the enemy base and bring it back to their own base while having control of their own flag, with the first team to capture three flags winning the match. Flags can be taken by right-clicking on it, and captured by stepping into the spot where your team's flag is. Your team's flag must be at its spawn point in order for your team to score.

In Patch 3.2, the map became a timed Battleground that lasts no more than 25 minutes (original timer was 20 minutes but hotfixed quickly to 25 - thanks, bmurry1976!). If the timer expires, the team with the most flag captures wins. If both teams have the same number of flag captures at the end of the match, the team that captured the last flag wins. If neither team has captured a flag, the game ends in a tie. There are 10 players per side in Warsong Gulch, currently making it the smallest Battleground.

That sounds silly! Why are we doing all this?

The battle for Warsong Gulch is one of the oldest and most touchy conflicts in the game -- it represents the clash between those tree-hugging night elves, the Silverwing Sentinels, and those resource-gathering orcs, the Warsong Outriders. The Sentinels are trying to retake the forests of Ashenvale while the Warsong Outriders are furiously trying to gather lumber because, well, the Horde needs it to make those fancy war machines. While getting the flag probably has absolutely nothing to do with deforestation and the green movement, it continues a proud tradition of one-upsmanship between the Alliance and the Horde because, you know, flags rule.

Awesome. Will those guys like me better if I help them out?

Absolutely. The going might be slow, but Warsong Gulch is one of the three Battlegrounds that has factions associated with it. The Silverwing Sentinels (for the Alliance) and Warsong Outriders (for the Horde) will even give you token gift packages at different stages in your reputation grind. At the very end, you can get the Silverwing Sentinel or Warsong Outrider Achievements for a cool 10 points. I know, it's not much, but at least you feel like you're actually fighting for something.

Aside from getting chummy with these guys, what else do I get?

Because the Alliance and Horde know that players actually play for loot on top of enjoyment (you mercenary, you!), each game of Warsong Gulch awards bonus honor for winning a match as well as capturing flags. If your team doesn't capture any flags (and likely lose), you don't get squat. How's that for incentive? You do get honor for killing enemies, though. Players are also awarded Warsong Gulch Marks of Honor at the end of every game -- three marks for every member of the winning team, two marks for tied games, and one mark for those on the losing side. These Marks of Honor are currency for items such as mounts, tabards, lower level potions and food, and even as turn-ins for quests that award honor. Oh, and there are a bunch of other Achievements, too, but you can probably get into that during advanced class.

I'm interested! Sign me up!

Great. Since you already know how to enter the Battleground, you'll probably want to know what level bracket you'll be entering when you queue:
10–19 20–29 30–39 40–49 50–59 60–69 70–79 80 Players are grouped into brackets with a ten level range, so keep in mind that entering a particular bracket while on the lower end of the level spectrum might not be the most pleasant experience. It's not a bad idea to be on the higher side of the levels in order to contribute more and to be able to take a little more pummeling.

I don't want to go in without a clue, what are the basic strategies?

Play a Druid. Ok, well, if you don't play a Druid -- for a long time considered the kings of Warsong Gulch owing to their superior mobility -- simply keep one important thing in mind: the game is Capture-the-Flag. It's not Kill-the-Most-Enemies-in-the-Middle. It's not Graveyard-Camping. The focus should be on getting inside the enemy base, getting the enemy flag, and bringing it home. How your team wants to go about doing this can vary.

The most basic way to play it (and often the most effective) is to have some folks go on offense while the rest stays on defense to protect the flag from getting captured. Because characters with the flag automatically drop it when they summon a mount, classes that have some form of movement bonus such as Travel Form, Ghost Wolf, or even Sprint and Blink, make excellent flag carriers. Because characters who carry the flag are often focus fired upon, classes that can take a beating are great candidates, as well.

Other strategies involve controlling the middle of the map, that area between the two bases. Although always in constant danger of degenerating into a mindless slugfest, control of the middle when handled well ensures that no enemy flag carrier can get through without major resistance. Having the middle also allows your team to run quickly to the support of your own flag carrier.

One other way involves the crazy, all-out zerging of the enemy base as a team of ten, virtually ensuring that any defenders left in the enemy base will be overcome. This also has the disadvantage of guaranteeing that your flag will be taken from your base, but most zerg tactics focus on moving together as a group even on the way back to the base, ideally killing the enemy flag carrier along the way.

There are a few variations between these three basic strategies, and many players will see a mix of two or three or even see all come into play during one match. The key, as with all good group PvP, is communication. Talking amongst your group at the beginning of the match should at least get all players on the same page and ensure that nobody runs around like a useless, headless chicken. I mean, after all, there aren't any chickens in Ashenvale.

On to Arathi Basin!

Warsong Gulch is an extremely fun Battleground, vastly improved by changes made by Blizzard over the years -- particularly the timer that has driven those old five-hour WSG games into distant memory. After we take a quick look at all the other Battlegrounds (ugh, that's going to take a while...), we'll look at specific strategies every class can employ in each one. In the meantime, get your feet wet -- or bloodied, if you prefer -- and cause some mayhem! Next week, we'll take a beginner's look at Arathi Basin.

NYT: GAPP and Ministry of Culture clashing over Chinese WoW regulation

The New York Times has brought its journalistic bear to the story earlier this week about China deciding not to approve WoW's release over there under new service provider Netease, and it seems what we thought was confusion between two agencies has turned into a war. On one side, you have the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), who earlier this week said that Netease (WoW's local provider of Blizzard's game in China) could not legally be collecting subscriptions on a game that GAPP hadn't yet approved. But on the other side is the Ministry of Culture, who did approve WoW's content when it was run by The9, and are now saying that GAPP "overstepped its authority" by thinking it could "penalize online gaming" at all.

Which means that the silly game of World of Warcraft has fallen smack dab in between two government agencies lobbying for power. In the past, says the NYT, GAPP has approved games pre-release, and the Ministry of Culture has overseen games once they've started running online. But WoW is a weird exception (it has been online for a few years already, and only went offline when Blizzard switched providers), and it looks like both agencies are grabbing for power and the sizable fees that come along with regulation. If they continue to clash, it'll be up to the State Council, China's cabinet, to determine who's in charge. And the NYT says if that happens, the Ministry of Culture has the edge, with lots of friends in the cabinet already.

Meanwhile, Netease hasn't taken the game offline yet, apparently -- they still haven't been given official notice to do so. There's no word on how long this will take to shake out, but even China's players are tired of the fighting; they just want to get back into Azeroth and play.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Patch 3.3: Luck of the Draw buffs you for pugging

I was on the Patch 3.3 PTR for a few hours last night, and I have to say that I'm really impressed with the Dungeon System, Blizzard's replacement for the old LFG tool. I had a great time with the Random Dungeon feature, using it to chain-run Heroics and get extra gold and badges for doing it. But extra loot and the good feeling of a job well done aren't the only benefits you get for using the Dungeon System.

Utilizing the Dungeon System to fill one or more spots in your group will grant you the Luck of the Draw buff, which increases your damage, healing, and base health by 5%. It doesn't matter if the dungeon is random or not, or whether or not your entire group is a PUG -- you still get the buff just for utilizing the system to fill at least one spot instead of spamming the (now) always-open LFG channel.

Blizzard's really pushing the Dungeon System, and after playing with it, I can see why -- it rules -- but some Luddites might be harder to convince, and I suppose this buff is Blizzard's way of saying "Sure, but would you do it for ... Mr. Lincoln?"

Realm Championships and a 2010 preview for the TCG

The WoW TCG has just finished up their year with the World Championships, but apparently they're not sitting back on their laurels -- they've just sent word that their Realm Championships will be going down November 14-15, 2009, in cities around the world like "San Diego, Philadelphia, Helsinki, Manchester (England), Singapore and Melbourne." These are invite-only tournaments, but they're always accompanied by events that are open to the public, including lots and lots of TCG playing, giveaways and door prizes, and sometimes even special realms of the online game set up for players to join. If you've never seen a TCG event and one is headed to your city, it's worth checking out.

Additionally, the TCG folks have outlined their plans for 2010 over on their website, and it sounds like it'll be a busy year. They're kicking things off with the Scourgewar release, including the TCG loot of the mini-mounts (finally, a pony!), the Tuskarr Kite, and a Spectral Tiger Cub. And later in the year, you can look forward to a Naxxramas dungeon deck, another expansion called Wrathgate (with likely more in-game loot to go after), and finally, an Icecrown Citadel raid deck release. Should be an exciting 2010 for the trading card game -- we'll definitely be watching for that new expansion and the loot items due out with it.

Arcane Brilliance: Mage leveling guide 31-40

And the leveling parade continues! Your mage is level 30 and you've grown in your mastery of the magical arts. Your Fireballs are now significantly more likely to set your enemies aflame than they are to go off in your face, you now arrive at your teleport destinations with your extremities more or less intact, and small children no longer cry at the sight of the pastries you conjure.

In celebration of our new-found competence, we'll be changing the content of these leveling columns a bit. We'll no longer be giving each two-level gap its own blurb. Instead, we'll be covering each new spell as it comes, and every major milestone at the appropriate point. If that means that more than two levels go by without a specific shout-out in the text, so be it. Enough preamble. Read on and we'll see how it goes. If it's terrible, we all know I'll just blame warlocks.

Level 30 is the approximate point at which I believe the way you've been allocating your talent points begins to define you as a mage. You have 21 talent points under your flimsy cloth belt and (unless you've been employing some wacky and ill-advised hybrid scheme in which you feel it's important to have both speedy Fireballs and uninterruptable Arcane Missiles) have access to the fifth tier of your chosen tree.

If you've chosen the path of the Fire mage, you now likely have fast-casting Fireballs, powerful Pyroblasts, large, meaty crits, and the fifth tier brings you Blast Wave, introducing you to your almost unparalleled ability to set multiple targets aflame at once. Fire mages are one of the truly premiere AoE class/specs in the game, and Blast Wave is a significant factor in that designation. It knocks enemies back and dazes them, all while causing a lot more damage than any Arcane Explosion ever could. Later, it will become the catalyst for many an instant Flamestrike, but for now, it's merely a taste of AoE greatness to come. Pick it up as soon as possible, then head for Arathi Basin and use it to hurl members of the opposing faction to their deaths at the Lumber Mill flag.

Frost mages now have access to full on Shatter combos, and should be enjoying freezing everything in sight, critting the crap out of them with lightning fast Frostbolts, and then Frost Novaing them place and sprinting away cackling madly. Level 30 opens up a very important weapon in a Frost mage's arsenal: Cold Snap. This wonderful spell instantly resets the cooldown on your Frost spells, meaning that if you need a second Ice Block, or repeat performance of Icy Veins is called for, or even if you just need an emergency Frost Nova, Cold Snap basically resets the fight for you. The cooldown is long, but don't let that keep you from using Cold Snap when it's called for. It's too powerful to let languish on your action bar.

Arcane is finally starting to come into its own now, and though it still falls behind the other two specs as a standalone tree at this level range, speccing Arcane is no longer the horrible idea it once was. Your Arcane Missiles are a force to be reckoned with, you have the potential for high mana efficiency and return, incredible resistance to magic, and now level 30 opens up a signature Arcane ability in Presence of Mind. This grants you an instant spell of your choice. At this level, it's probably wise to use it for a Fireball, or possibly a Frostbolt if a snare is called for. This is another spell that becomes more useful as you gain more powerful spells to cast with it, but for now it can still cause some major damage.

If you haven't been putting all your talent points into a single tree, now is a good time to rethink that strategy. The talents in the fifth tier are too powerful to put off having access to, and believe me when I say that whatever the talents were that you couldn't resist taking in another talent tree, you will be better off waiting to pick them up when you've already taken everything you want in your primary tree. Find a mage skill trainer and pay them to let you relearn your talents. You'll be glad you did. Your dream of a master of elements who can cast both Fireballs and Frostbolts with ease is a fine one, but better put off until level 75 or so, when you get access to a little spell called Frostfire Bolt.

Level 30

I know we covered this last week, but I neglected to mention something (er...someone) important: Tabetha. Thanks are due to reader Brian for pointing this out in last week's comments section, because in all likelihood, I would have forgot about good old Tabetha without the prodding.

And that would have been tragic.

Tabetha is a witch who lives in Dustwallow Marsh and hands out mage quests. Way back in the dark ages when I was leveling my first mage, her tiny hut was a million miles from anywhere and incredibly difficult to locate. Now, you just follow the road. You young whippersnappers don't know how good you got it. In my day, we had to march uphill in soggy boots through miles of swamp, fending off crocolisks as best we could, hoping against hope that at some point, we'd find that stupid hut and our miserable sojourn would finally end. Now, you can just mount up, /wave to the crocolisks as you pass, and if you get tired along the way, Mudsprocket's like 10 feet to the south. Damn kids.

The first of these quests is handed out at level 30, and can be picked up from the mage trainer in any of the major cities. The mobs in Dustwallow are a fair bit higher level than that, making the trip slightly more perilous than I may have let on a paragraph ago. But don't let that dissuade you. The chain of quests this leads to have a very nice reward, namely your choice of three blue-quality wands. Hint: They're identical except that this one is better. Do with that information what you will.

Down the road, at level 35, another small chain opens up that leads to a trip to Uldaman and eventually a choice between a frankly awesome off-hand item and a staff you'll likely be replacing in like five minutes. Hint: take the off-hand frill. Chances are better than average you won't be finding a better one until level 60ish.

I point out these quests for two reasons:

The rewards are nice.
Every mage should do the mage quests. This isn't even remotely an opinion. It's a fact. Doing the mage quests is part of being a mage, and I'll hear no arguments on the matter.
Level 34

New spell: Mage Armor

Finally, a new armor spell. From this point forward, until you get a little spell called Molten Armor, this is your instance armor spell of choice. The extra armor and slowing effect of Ice Armor is probably still more useful for solo play, but when you're in a group and have a meat-shield up front taking the beating for you and a healbot standing behind you keeping that meat-shield alive, the extra mana return Mage Armor gives you is far more important. It's also handy for spots when you know you'll be fighting enemy casters, as the extra spell resistance it grants will slow the rate at which you die to their spells.

Also, this is as good a time as any to mention an alternate method of farming experience several of you have pointed out in previous installments of this leveling guide. It's not as optimal as it once was, due to all the streamlining traditional leveling methods have undergone of late, but it still holds a certain grindalicious appeal for some. I'm talking, of course, about Frost AoE grinding.

Here's my patented in-depth instructions for how to do it:
Spec Frost.
Take Improved Blizzard.
Gather up as many mobs of an applicable level as you can, then kill them.
Repeat over and over until you begin to bleed from your eyes and your soul withers within you like a piece of rotted fruit.
There's a bit more to it than that, of course. Go do a Google search for "mage AoE frost grinding" or something similar and you'll find a bunch of more complex explanations than I care to give. They will be complicated and use terms like "mob anchor radius," list optimal grinding spots for each level, and argue the merits/drawbacks of taking Frostbite as part of a grinding build. Basically, this is a method of leveling that allows you to methodically and efficiently eliminate giant packs of mobs at once, using Improved Blizzard, Frost Nova, Blink, etc.

You can do this if you like. Go forth. Head over to the Dabyrie Farm in the Arathi Highlands. Slay. You'll make it to level 80 eventually. I'm not sure what kind of fun you'll have, but you'll make it there.

The thing I don't understand is why you'd want to. Anymore, this method isn't noticeably faster than good, solid questing. I'm not opposed to it, mind you. I just think you'd be better served by leveling almost any other way. This method can be useful, especially if you're coupling it with the type of quests that ask you to go to a place and kill "X" number of mobs there, or simply need to clear an area to get to an objective. Use it wisely, and sparsely. Just don't grind unceasingly. Your eyeballs and your soul will thank you.

Level 35

New spells: Teleport: Stonard or Theramore, Portal: Stonard or Theramore

Yes, for some reason, your first portal spell is to either Theramore, a small dock town on the edge of a filthy swamp, or Stonard, an even smaller town in the middle of an even filthier swamp. Before these little portal/teleport spells were implemented last year, your first portal spells were to the major cities at level 40. Now you can get this one five levels early. I'm not sure what kind of sense that makes, but whatever. Though relatively out-of-the-way, both of these zones are fairly level-appropriate right now, so feel free to take a trip to the one that your faction favors, pick up your new spells, and stick around to quest a bit if you like. Dustwallow, especially, is a very high-quality place to spend 5-10 levels, what with the newish quest hubs introduced a few of patches back and the close proximity to Tabetha's mage quests.

Level 40

New spells: Portal: Exodar, Stormwind, Ironforge, Orgrimmar, Undercity, Silvermoon

Portal spells are just like the teleport spells you've been using to whiz around Azeroth for some time now, only these conjure a portal that members of your party can also use to whiz around Azeroth. From now on, you will be conjuring one (or more!) of these at the end of every instance you ever run. Keep the reagents stocked, and have fun teleporting back to all of your faction's capitals (except Thunder Bluff or Darnassus...apparently those places are much harder to port to) to pick these bad boys up.

But the big news about level 40 is, of course, that you can now upgrade your slow and pathetic mount to a shiny epic one. It'll cost you 45g if you've managed to hit honored with your home faction (and by now, unless you've not been questing much at all, you should have) for the training, and 10g for the mount itself. If money's a problem, spend a bit of time making some. For the love of god, don't be the douche that hangs around in the bank in Orgrimmar, whispering everyone for gold to buy a mount. Just go out and skin a few things, or mine a bit, or herb...alize...something, and then sell that junk at the auction house. 55 gold shouldn't take you that long to put together. And it's totally worth your while. That fast mount speeds everything up enormously. Plus it's epic.

At this point, your talent trees should be filling themselves out quite nicely. You've reached tier seven of your chosen tree, and even more of the eventual flavor of your spec should be starting to shine through.

Fire mages have access to several talents that increase the crit chance of their Fire spells, and should now be walloping their enemies with big explosive crits in grand fashion.

Frost mages can now pick up Ice Barrier, which is one of the best defensive spells in the game. It's a shield spell, but unlike Mana Shield, it actually absorbs a healthy amount of damage and--even more importantly--doesn't drain your mana to do so. Keep it up whenever you're in a position to get smacked.

Arcane mages are finally getting to the good stuff in their tree, including several talents that flat out increase the damage of all your spells, and the awesomeness that is Arcane Power. If you've been secretly wishing to be an Arcane mage, now might be the time to respec.

One last thing, before we adjourn for the week:

You've reached the midpoint of the leveling process. It is time you turned your attentions to one of the great callings of the mage class. It is time you learned to hate warlocks.

In case I haven't been clear enough about this in the past, let me restate my position on warlocks: I hate them, and I want them to die horrible, horrible painful deaths. To any warlocks out there, I would like to address you using the immortal words of Sue Sylvester, and tell you my secret desire:

"I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night I will steal away into your home, and punch you in the face."

I feel it is the right...nay, the duty...of every mage to hunt down and commit pixellated acts of atrocity against as many warlocks as possible. I'm not advocating bigotry. I'm just saying that warlocks, as a class in a game called World of Warcraft, are a crime against nature and should be put down like a sick animal...and it is a mage's job to do it. The sooner a leveling mage learns this, the better.

The Colosseum: Crinox of Burning Legion

Crinox is a hunter on the Burning Legion server. His 2v2 team is rated 2199, while his 3v3 team is rated 2212. Crinox took the time to hook up with us, and answer some basic questions about what it's like in the Season 7 arena.

Before we get into the interview all the way, though, I wanted to take a moment and mention that we're always interested in interviewing new, highly ranked Arena players. Just drop a line to gray AT I'll follow-up with an in game mail to verify that the character is actually the interviewee, and we'll get things under way.

Without further ado, let's jump behind the cut and talk to Crinox. Who are your teammates right now? What's the general plan behind your composition? What challenges does your team have? How do you prefer to run your comp?

Crinox: In 2v2, my partner is Hydroheals, a discipline priest. I play as survival in 2s. Our core strategy is to chain Scatter Shot our enemy into Freezing Trap with Psychic Scream. We force our enemies to use cooldowns or we score kills within the initial period of crowd control. Our main problems are caster teams, double DPS, and Melee/Healer who know how to go defensive.

In 3v3, my partners are Dioval (unholy death knight) and Justic (holy paladin). I currently play as a Beast Master in 3s. Our strategy is pretty much to cleave down a soft target. Hand of Protection is our biggest problem Why is Hand of Protection your biggest problem? Does that mean Holy Paladins are specifically your kryptonite?

Crinox: Well, any kind of paladin on the opposing team poses a serious threat to us. Our strategy for dealing with paladin teams is either to hit the paladin hard to force a bubble early or hitting a DPS hard then switching to the another target during the Hand of Protection.

Depending on the target's health, we're also able to occasionally score a kill through HoP with diseases, Hammer of Wrath and Arcane Shot. Attempting to dispel HoP is really a hopeless gesture due to the layers of buffs on any target.

All in all, although paladins do stand as a counter to us, we've been able to work around it most of the time. Why do you think the 5 man teams tend to be so zergy? That seems to be a fairly unanimous position. What's your opinion about that situation?

Crinox: Well, usually the deciding factor of a 5v5 game is who can score the first kill. Although not necessarily a winning kill, any kill is incredibly demoralizing, even if the players are not consciously aware of it.

Therefore, 5s is basically a process by which each team picks a target and unloads everything into that target to bring it down. There are factors that separate better teams and worse teams, such as target switching and CCs, but the essence of 5s is to kill a target and kill it fast. What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?

Crinox: In 2v2? Right when the gates open, we usually go immediately to the LOS landmark of the map. (Nagrand pillars, Lordaeron tomb, Ring of Valor starting pillar, or Blade's Edge pillar at top of nearest ramp). The exception is when we play a Melee/Healer composition, we set up in the open and wait for them to come to us.

In 3v3, our typical strategy is to rush out the gate straight at the other team. We pick a target to kill at the start and choose secondary target to DPS during Hand of Protection. Which mods do you use -- how have you customized your screen?

Crinox: The mods I use for PvP are Gladius, OmniCC, GhostPulse and Clique. My action bars are default due to the fact that I play on two different computers. Each has different resolution screens, which make a fully customized UI feel difficult to maintain for both screens. How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)

Crinox: Our target designation in 2v2 is pretty much set for every comp we play. If a change needs to be made during the game, one of us just calls out when were changing it up.

In 3v3, I tend to be the one picking targets as we rush in. If for whatever reason, the death knight cannot stick on the target, he calls it out and I switch to what he is getting on. How do you schedule your playtime? Do you try and work during "good times to queue?" Is this different now than in previous seasons?

Crinox: Our 2v2 playtime tends to be around afternoon or night time whenever we're both free. In 3v3, our playtime is a bit more erratic due to a lot of time conflicts with our paladin. We usually just squeeze in games when he can play. What's been the biggest change in your strategy between each bracket of ratings? (1500s, 1600s) Is there a big change for this season?

Crinox: The only big change we've had in strategy as we played up was that we now train melee instead of their healers.

In 3v3, our strategy hasn't really changed at all for this comp. It's just about picking the right target and bringing them down. What signals to you that you need to radically change strategy midmatch? (And how do you accomplish that change?)

Crinox: In 2v2, when we're unable to do anything during a perfect CC chain, we know something is wrong. One of us will call out if we think the strategy isn't working, and we'll call out a change of plans.

Our 3v3 matches tend to be VERY fast paced, centering around my Bestial Wrath CD. If a change of strat needs to be made, it needs to be called out instantly due to the nature of the comp. We don't have the luxury of beating on something for a little bit before making up our mind. The signal of a problem with our strategy is if we cannot either score a kill or force a lot of CDs within my Bestial Wrath. What are you trying to improve?

Crinox: The main thing I am trying to work on in arena is consistency in play. There are always games that you cannot win due to class countering but losing games you can win is always irritating. So, I mainly try and work on not making mistakes in my game play and capitalizing on any little mistake made by the opposing team.

Pandaren in the World of Warcraft

In among all of the "omg fake pets for real money" drama from this week's announcement, we may have missed something big: the Pandaren are now live in the World of Warcraft. The Pandaren are my favorite Azerothian race, even though they're essentially a joke -- Samwise Didier just loves pandas, and he made art for an April Fool's joke that Chris Metzen loved so much they decided to include the bears as real characters in Warcraft III. Since then, they've become fan favorites (not least of all, especially for me, because alcohol and ale are a big part of their culture), but we've only seen hints of them in World of Warcraft. There was a rumor going around a while back that they would never appear in the game because China didn't allow depictions of violence against the bears, but that was just a rumor. Still, the Pandaren have existed in WoW only as a Blizzard in-joke. We assume they're out there somewhere, but until now, no one has ever seen one.

Of course we say "until now" because there are now little Pandaren monk noncombat pets running around, bowing, and doing magical kung-fu. Does this mean that the future Emerald Dream expansion will have us all playing as Brewmasters? While yes that would be awesome, not so fast again: Diablo and the Zergling from Starcraft are both in the game as noncombat pets, and they don't mean anything at all (although they were both included in the game before the announcements of Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 -- maybe Blizzard is working on a Pandaren-based puzzle game? Conspiracy theorists, assemble!). And just because we all have Grunty doesn't mean murlocs are suddenly going to take to spaceships with battle rifles in the official lore. But it's cool to see Pandaren actually in the game, even in pet form, and who knows, maybe we will one day find the legendary realm of Pandaria in our own version of Azeroth.