August 31, 2010

Blood Sport: Become a 5v5 master (tips and tricks)

Default to damage

Oh, Wrath of the Lich King, how we had such great hopes. Damage is almost always the most successful strategy. Defaulting to damage is something I have to explain often, especially when I start playing with new teammates who are trying to push for their first gladiator title.

Players who have high technical skill (for instance, being able to Spell Reflect an escaping druid's Nature's Grasp) often try to win games by doing things more "skilled" than the enemy. They'll preach for seemingly endless hours about how often they Counterspelled their opponent's Incinerates, yet they still lost the match. Sometimes, the opportunity cost it takes to interrupt one of your spells to interrupt an opponent is better spent by doing damage, especially if an enemy is low on health. Why bother Counterspelling an enemy damage spell when you can get a kill? [EDIT: I removed confusing language concerning interrupts and global cooldowns.]

These same players look down on opposing compositions for being "faceroll" or "noob comp" because they win games by just pumping damage into the enemy. There's a reason why "bad players" can get to high ratings by using certain compositions -- damage is the premier strategy.

The danger of cool things

I'm not going to sit here and type out how awesome I am because I've never fallen into the "cool things are cool" trap. I'll freely admit that I still struggle with doing damage rather than cool stuff -- especially on my warlock.

When we were going for No. 1 in 5v5 a few seasons ago, I was doing almost everything except slinging fire at enemies. I would have every enemy DPS locked down with Curse of Tongues or Curse of Weakness -- except for our kill target, of course. I would CoT, Fear, Spell Lock, Shadowfury and Death Coil opposing healers until they were blue in the face.

What I should have been doing, however, was just casting a simple Curse of the Elements > Immolate > Chaos Bolt > Searing Pain > Conflagrate rotation into our kill target every chance I got. My teammates mentioned how little damage I was doing against high-rated teams (teams where I thought complex strategies were more effective), compared to the enormous amount of damage I was putting out against low-rated teams. I made the transition and we fared much, much better against the Top Ten teams on our battlegroup.

Pay less attention to addons

Many people think great arena players need to be paying attention to many, many things at once. Some people think great arena players need to always know when trinkets are available, or they somehow keep track of each enemy cooldown.

That's not the case. At all.

Top arena players understand what's going on in the game at the largest level possible. Understanding the big picture slows down the game and allows you to think inside other player's roles. It gives you insight as to when you should burn a cooldown or when you should beware an enemy is about to use a cooldown on you.

I don't use Afflicted 3 or any similar mods to track enemy cooldowns -- they waste precious screen space, and you generally shouldn't need mods like this if you take the time to understand the big picture. Plus, using mods like Afflicted desensitizes you to the natural ons and offs of cooldowns.

When a paladin casts Divine Shield, I can generally tell (within +/- 0.5 seconds) when his bubble is coming down, even though I have no way to tell exactly when it's going to dissipate (or be Mass Dispelled). On my shaman and priest, (Purge, Dispel Magic) I have enemy buffs (on my target and focus) enabled. On everyone else, I don't even bother and turn buffs off. I don't need to see if someone has a Sacred Shield or Mark of the Wild on them; it will make no difference to what I'm doing.

This isn't because I'm magical. I don't have some telepathic superpower. I don't have a sixth sense. What I do have, however, is enough arena experience to understand the game at large and look at the bare nubbins of important arena functions. It sounds more complex than it is ... (More on this next week.)

Figuring out and adapting to your teammates' playstyles

You get better at figuring out and adapting to your teammates' playstyles the more you play with different individuals. Everyone who has tried arena has met that guy on trade who wanted to play a few games -- and it just sucked. He was doing everything you didn't expect, and he was expecting you to do everything you didn't. Your playstyles were completely different, and you failed game after game.

Likewise, if you've been playing long enough, you've probably met a player or two who has meshed exceptionally well with you. Perhaps you're not rank 1 quality yet, but you've done better with them than you ever expected previously. You probably had similar ideas about how arenas should go, and your victories reaffirmed that.

I've played with holy paladins who cast Hammer of Justice once every 10 arena games. Other holy paladins use it on cooldown. Some druids love Cycloning enemy healers; some don't do it at all. Some Cyclone enemy DPS when they're at 10 percent health so they don't get receive heals. Then they charge up Starfire to help aid in killing blows with the DPS at 10 percent. Everyone has a different playstyle.

Having a different playstyle isn't wrong. Restoration druids usually find they fare better either with melee or spellcasters because of their playstyle -- offensive Cyclones on healers are much more important to a spell-burst team than they are to a team that focuses on melee; that's just the way arena works.

August 29, 2010

How to play the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game

Do you know how to play the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game? If not, then you are one of many online gamers I've heard of who help make the trading card game a hot property but have not discovered that those cards you are packing up and burying in your apartment or house are actually a lot of fun to play with. For those of you who haven't taken a look at the trading card game at all, I'd highly recommend it.

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed.
I have been playing card games since 2003, and the WoW TCG is no exception. I spent over a year writing about the game, as well as playing and working at some of its biggest events (with a short break in 2008 to finish school). It was because of WoW TCG that I ended up getting into the WoW MMO in the first place!

The WoW Trading Card Game has been around since fall 2006 and has continued on through a transition from one company (Upper Deck Entertainment) to another (Cryptozoic). Organized play has had its ups and downs, but the game is starting to get more popular and attendance is once again picking up at events everywhere. However, a recent addition to the weekly tournament at my local comic book store mentioned that he knows plenty of people who buy the cards but never learn how to play.

Why is that?

Learning the basics

Learning the WoW TCG is not difficult. It takes some time, but figuring out what the cards do, especially if you have played the online game, can be simple. People who have played trading card games in the past, especially Magic: The Gathering, will pick up the game quickly.

The basic gameplay for the WoW TCG is as follows: You take on the role of a hero card. This hero comes from a specific faction, Alliance or Horde, and is one of the 10 classes in the game. Your hero also dictates what you can and can't have in your deck of 60 cards. If your hero is an Alliance mage, then you can't have Horde allies or or shaman abilities in your deck. Your deck contains the various abilities that your hero can use, many of which are based on actual class abilities in the online game. Your deck can also contain equipment, which lets your hero gear up to attack and defend, as well as allies, which are characters based on the classes and factions from the online game that support your hero and can attack or defend your hero and other allies. In a standard game, you will pit your hero against the opponent and their hero. The player who takes out the opposing hero first is the winner!

Knowing the basics of the game is one thing, but getting hands-on experience in the rules of the game is another thing entirely. Cryptozoic Entertainment, the company that currently works on the WoW TCG, released the class starter decks in early July, featuring decks (one for the Alliance and one for the Horde) of the nine original classes from the online game. These new decks are great learning tools and come with the instructions you will need to learn the basics, plus some hard-to-get rares from the first sets of the game.

One of the best trading card game engines

But why should you play? Aside from the fact that the game is fun and one of the best trading card game engines to be released since Magic: The Gathering, in my opinion, playing the WoW TCG at major conventions such as BlizzCon and PAX can be a very rewarding experience. There are always a lot of public events that players can participate in, with the prizes commonly being rare loot cards.

My favorite events at these conventions are the loot card or Ipod drafts, where players participate in a booster draft with the latest expansions; the winner of these 8-man tournaments gets the big prize! Last year, at an event in Las Vegas, they were giving away Spectral Kitten loot, but often, an Ipod Nano will be the big prize for these short and quick tournaments.

Loot cards can be given out at some events to random participants, so you don't have to be one of the best to get a shot at loot such as the Spectral Tiger or the Blazing Hippogryph! In fact, the fine folks at Cryptozoic will give away loot cards like they are nothing at their big events. Don't believe me? Just ask Rosalei Castaneda about this. At Gen Con, one of the biggest gaming conventions in the United States and home to the 2010 WoW TCG World Championship, she didn't win any big tournaments but still walked away with a fistful of awesome loot cards! You can read about what she won and how she won them by checking out Cryptozoic's coverage of the World Championships.

Not only is the WoW TCG fun, but it can be one of the cheapest ways for you to get some of the hottest vanity items in the online game. It's a nice break from the MMO world, giving you a chance to hang out with friends outside of the Ventrilo server. I hope to see you some day at one of the big events!

Shadow Priests: The four best things about Cataclysm

In between the fevered dreams, cough syrup benders and The Golden Girls marathons associated with my most recent cold this week, I resolved to pen the greatest Spiritual Guidance article of all time. After all, Hemingway's genius came from the bottom of a bottle. Perhaps then it would stand to reason that the true genius of Fox Van Allen would come from the bottom of a bottle of CVS Nighttime Cold and Flu.

Alas, that was not to be the case. In my hastily written Twitter screed, "The best things about Cata for spriets (sic)," I praised Blizzard for the way it made quests smell in Hyjal. The third best thing about Cataclysm was, "wait hold on no no no wait." Cold medication is serious business, kids. That's why they keep the good stuff behind the counter.

Thankfully, the cold has finally lifted (mostly). Thinking with a more sober mind, I've come to the realization that the idea of a "favorite things" list is a decent one (sup, Oprah?); it's just that my execution was a bit off earlier in the week. After the break: My real picks for the "best" changes to shadow priests (so far) in Cataclysm and a chance for you to chime in on your favorites as well.

Inner Will

While it's not technically a shadow priest talent, Inner Will is something that every shadow priest should be excited about. Not necessarily for situations where you're in battle, but for every single moment you spend outside of it.

A huge chunk of our time in World of Warcraft is spent meandering around the big cities -- buying reagents, traveling between the auction house and the mailbox, picking up trade goods and hunting down Wild Mustard. The idea that less of my time will be wasted doing the least fun thing known to man in game -- traveling -- is a blessing worthy of inclusion here.

Shadowy Apparition

Let's be honest: No list of favorite shadow priest changes in Cataclysm would be complete without a hat tip to Shadowy Apparition (also known as ghostly aspects of our shadowy hatepower). It's absolutely overloaded with "cool factor."

There are a few minor issues holding me back from proclaiming this to be the best thing about Cataclysm, at least for now. Shadowy Apparition seems to be something of a technical nightmare for Blizzard to implement. Each new beta build comes with a fix or change to the ability, but it still remains pretty bugged. The apparitions tend to chase down the wrong target, and they still hit for the wrong amount of damage (at least, I think they still do -- it's awfully hard to tell with the damage numbers turned off). That's forgivable, though. The concept behind Shadowy Apparition is sound, even if it isn't correctly implemented yet.

A few weeks ago, the talent underwent a pretty major artisitic change. The old "floating skull" Shadowy Apparition is gone; instead, the ability now procs clones of yourself (as Blizzard had originally intended). It looked a bit glitchy the first time I saw it in action on the battlefield, but when I played around with training dummies, the animation seemed to go much more smoothly. I can't help but wish my ghostly aspects of shadowy hatepower were in Shadowform, but that's a minor concern.

The more pressing concern is the tax these extra shadow priests could have on your graphics card. I play on a fairly modern desktop, but I have plenty of friends who play on more dated machines and laptops. If you're the type of player who prefers 10-man raiding to 25-man raiding simply because the former gives you better frame rates and performance, then Shadowy Apparition could severely bog down your computer on a movement-heavy fight, even if you're only running a 5-man instance. Seriously, the proc rate on these things is just that generous. We could fill a whole raid with these things.

There's still plenty of work for Blizzard to do with the talent, but what I've seen so far in the beta is promising.


Seriously. I'm excited about Paralysis.

When I play World of Warcraft, I try my best to be a team player. And really, when you're taking on 5-man, 10-man or 25-man content as a shadow priest, that's supposed to be your primary focus -- working as part of a team. DPS players tend to fade into the crowd as the least important aspect of any raid encounter, so anything I can do to add some more value to the team, I do. When I play my elemental shaman, I use Wind Shear every chance I get. On my shadow priest, putting two points into Improved Vampiric Embrace was an easy call.

That talent is going extinct in Cataclysm, and I've been keeping an eye out for a new talent or ability that might take its place. For a time, I figured that ability could be one we already have, Silence. But we're pretty deep into beta already, and developers are still keeping it gated behind a two-point investment in Improved Psychic Scream.

I won't give up hope that we'll someday be able to use Silence in PvE as well as PvP, but just this month, Cataclysm gifted shadow priests with an ability that I'm quite intrigued by: Paralysis. The downsides are obvious -- it's a stun snare that puts you at the total mercy of the random number generator. It's not really an interrupt, like that beautiful Silence talent Blizzard insists on us never being able to take. And of course, we have no idea how effective this will be on non-player characters -- Blizzard has a habit of making bosses totally immune to stuff like this.

But here's the upside: It's a new concept and a new ability that doesn't require me to give up a mapped keyboard key to use. As I play Cataclysm more and more, I'm starting to get button fatigue by the sheer number of choices I have. Between Mind Spike, Dark Archangel and a rekindled interest in Shadow Word: Death, managing the new abilities along with the old standards seems clunkier than ever. I can see Paralysis bringing a nice benefit to my time soloing and to my 5-man groups, and the idea that I don't even need to waste a global cooldown to use it just feels like icing on an already sweetened cake.

An understanding of how shadow priests work

Back in Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader, hybrid classes were poor, abused step children. Elemental shaman had to deal with gear loaded with useless MP5. Shadow priests had gear loaded with sub-optimal spirit. Why was that?

Um ... well, you see, cause resto needs MP5, you know, and ... uh ... and holy, holy and disc are two ... uh ... spirit ... um ...

OK, so I'm not really sure what Blizzard was thinking back in ye olden days of World of Warcraft 3.2. But you can't take a look at the way shadow priests are being designed for Cataclysm without getting a sense that shadow priests -- and in fact, most hybrids -- are finally getting an appropriate level of commonsense design. Shadow priests are the kings of the damage over time spell. It only makes sense that haste should be a powerful stat for us, right?

When Vampiric Touch and Devouring Plague became haste-affected spells in Patch 3.3.0, the wall started to crumble. In 4.0, Shadow Word: Pain gets affected by haste, too. The piece that I truly appreciate, though, is the continuity of thought in the design process. Blizzard gave us something to benefit from haste, while simultaneously reworking our talent tree to highlight the stat. If you'll recall, a few weeks ago, Shadowform was changed from a 5 percent crit buff to a 5 percent haste buff. And just this past week, we saw the developers retool Darkness. What was once a static increase to shadow damage is now a 1/2/3 percent increase to spell haste.

That may not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, but this kind of coherent thinking was largely absent from the design of shadow priests throughout Wrath. It's refreshingly welcome to see it turn up in Cataclysm.

No one cares what you think, Fox

That's what my mom used to tell me, anyway. Good ol' mom.

Seriously, though, now that you know what I think about what's coming for shadow priests in Cataclysm, I'd like to hear everyone else's impressions on the beta so far. What's your favorite part about shadow priesting 4.0? Are you loving Dark Archangel? Do those silly little shadow orbs excite you way more than they excite me? Maybe you're just so darn excited about tauren priests that you can't think about anything else.

Now's your chance to sound off. As for me, I'm going to go finish off that bottle of cough medicine and watch some TV until next Wednesday. I hear Match Game's on.

August 7, 2010

WOW Cataclysm still on track for a 2010 release date

Around this time last year, we reported that Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion was targeted for a 2010 release. It's been a while since we've heard anything related to a release date, though, so we thought perhaps the date had slipped a bit.

Not so, apparently! In the latest Activision-Blizzard investor conference call, the companies reported their earnings for Q2 of this year and also spoke a bit about why, all things considered, 2010 will be a good year for Activision-Blizzard. Blizzard reported excellent earnings, as always, and noted that despite economic turbulence, World of Warcraft has maintained 11.5 million subscribers. The biggest news, though, was that Cataclysm is still on track for a 2010 release. During Mike Morhaime's address to investors, he said:

"... I'd like to point to the release of Cataclysm, being our best expansion yet for World of Warcraft. Although an exact release date has not yet been announced, we're on track to launch the expansion by the end of the year. As with all Blizzard games, though, we won't release until it's ready."

Good news for us the fans. It's getting harder and harder to wait, even (or especially) with the beta being available. We'll keep you guys posted if we hear anything more specific regarding a release date.

August 6, 2010

Raid Rx: Is that DPS gear or healing gear?

Got an email this week from a reader. We'll call him G. I'm sure it's a question that many raid leaders or loot masters had to struggle with over the years.

[...] When cloth item A drops, our caster DPS and healers always /roll on it; the caster DPS doesn't seem to mind if it's MP5 or spirit. Let's take an example of the Cord of the Patronizing Practitioner. Our warlock says spirit is good for him and he /rolls; our priest says it's healer gear [because] of the spirit [as] regeneration for him; and our mage of course wants this also.

The healer complains the caster DPS gets to roll not only on items like this but also on cloth stuff with +hit, effectually rolling on everything cloth in ICC. I can kinda see what he means. My question is what's an easy way to differentiate "healer" gear from caster "DPS" gear, or is it all rolled into one big pot now?

Thanks for any help you can give me, I am not the guild leader but I am the full time loot master, the guild leader has given it to me to decide, as he's never played any caster at all.
Well, G, I don't have a lot of DPS toons myself, but I'll do my best to explain it. The loot system I use is loot council for my raiding guild, and this is a situation we deal with in an ongoing basis as loot drops from bosses.

  • Paladin loot is self-explanatory.

  • MP5 is generally a healing stat.

  • Crit and haste are beneficial for both roles.

As always, whom you ultimately decide to hand loot over to is going to depend on a number of factors such as:

  • attendance

  • performance

  • gear needs

  • level of content

  • seniority in guild or raid group

  • spec

And there are probably more things to consider than that. If we omit the above factors, though, there are a few guidelines we can use if we base our decisions purely on stats. So here we go!

If you're deciding gear on the fly, then use the following purely as a rule of thumb.
  • Hit If it has hit rating, it's generally used for DPS players. They need that hit rating to hit mobs. Contrary to whatever you may hear in trade chat, you don't need hit gear to heal people. If a healer says to you he needs the hit in order to heal, get yourself a new healer right now.

  • Spirit Usually, the healers will want to claim priority on it first. But I believe mages and warlocks have abilities that convert spirit into a desirable stat, such as Molten Armor and Fel Armor.

  • MP5 If you see this on gear, option it to your healers first. I can see situations where extremely undergeared DPS would want it since it could possibly be an upgrade no matter what.

  • Crit It's universal for both roles. It's not necessarily wrong for a healer to take a crack at it. It's an item that will benefit either.

  • Haste Like crit, haste is also beneficial. Having more haste means you can do stuff way faster, the more haste rating you have. Who doesn't want to do things faster? DPS players want haste so they can fire off more spells. Healers want more haste so they unload heals more quickly.

WOW: Gear for paladins

This is fairly straightforward. Protection- and retribution-specced paladins want nothing to do with spell power. Holy paladins can't seem to get enough of it. Your gear will have varying amounts of MP5, haste and crit depending on the level of content you're doing. Since you don't have any competition, feel free to go nuts.

For stuff like trinkets and weapons, if mana isn't a problem for you, then you'll typically want to lean toward something with haste and crit over MP5. A perfect example would be Belt of the Lonely Noble.

Don't let me catch you going after spirit weapons (until Cataclysm, at least).

Gear for shaman

Unlike paladins, there are two shaman specs that both utilize spellpower. Elemental and restoration shamans want spellpower, but the wishes of the preferred secondary specs are going to vary. Follow the same outline as above. At higher levels when mana isn't an issue, it's not uncommon for a resto shaman to want mail gear with haste and crit rating. If you're the loot master, keep in mind that both will benefit from an item like a Split Shape Belt. There's no hit rating on it, so it doesn't scream "DPS," but there is a ton of haste and crit.

An item like the Mail of Crimson Coins is going to garner more interest from a resto shaman than anyone else.

WOW: Gear for druids

While spirit isn't entirely useless for balance druids, you may wish to pass it off to a resto druid first in case they need extra regeneration. While I admit I'm not as well versed with healing druids as I should be, from what I understand, they value haste more than crit. Get that global cooldown all the way down, right?

WoW: Gear for priests

Last but not least, this is the trickiest, as there is an abundance of cloth-wearing classes. There always seems to be some type of feud going on, especially when it comes to gear drops. Follow the same rules as outlined above.

Let's use the item that was mentioned in the original question. A belt like the Cord of the Patronizing Practitioner will benefit a mage, a warlock or a priest. It does have spirit on it, and normally that would go straight to a healer. But don't forget that those DPS classes have talents which convert spirit into an offensive friendly stat.

Hope that helps with the gear resolution!

July 28, 2010

Wow Cataclysm Beta: Holy power questions

Holy power is the big conversation topic for paladins right now (well, that and mobility in PvP -- but that's always a topic of conversation for paladins). For those of you who have been out of the loop, Blizzard announced during its last developer chat that for the betterment of the class, paladins would be receiving a new resource called holy power. This would be used in conjunction with mana for a variety of new and existing abilities.

So after having played with holy power on the beta realms, we decided to ask our Twitter followers if they had any questions or concerns about this new system for us to look into.
Soranomaru asks:

"How fast does it accrue? How do you spend it effectively? Is it a mechanic to empower spellcasts or another ressource like mana?"
Short answers: Currently, every 3 seconds for ret, 4 seconds for prot, and 6 seconds for holy due to the abilities and talents they'd be using to earn it. Usually, three points is the most efficient. It's a secondary resource, like runic power is to runes on a death knight, and there are certain abilities that use it and other abilities that have nothing to do with it.

Long answers: Holy power is a secondary resource that you'll have along with your current mana bar. As retribution and protection, you'll be using Crusader Strike to build up your holy power points (HPP). If you're holy, you'll still have access to Crusader Strike, but you will also be using Holy Shock to build up that HPP. The most HPP you can build up at a time is three, so you'll be earning and spending fairly quickly. Some abilities give a flat rate based on how much holy power you put into it (Word of Glory), while others get much more efficient with the more points used (Templar's Verdict).

Fuubaar18 asks:

"do you think holy power was built for rets and spilt over into holy & prot or does it feel like it was meant for all 3?"
Blizzard has actually said that the devs originally came up with this concept for retribution and liked it so much that they decided to build it into both holy and protection. Holy seems to be adjusting to this new system quite well, as one of the original spells designed to use this was a heal. The spec that seems to have had the most trouble adjusting thus far is protection, but with the latest beta build, it appears they've worked some of that out. It's still rough overall, but the developers are slowly starting to get some polish on it.

Velidra asks:

"If holy power are going to be persudo combo points, are blizzard worried that the concept might work for dps, but not healers?"
It looks like Blizzard was concerned that such things might happen, so the developers have built several ways for holy power to be helpful specifically for healers, both baseline and into the new holy tree. First off, Holy Shock will be your primary holy power generator (HPG), so that you aren't reliant on Crusader Strike like protection and retribution. There is also a talent called Tower of Radiance in the current build that gives you holy power whenever you cast a direct heal on your Beacon of Light target. Between the two of those, you should be able to build up holy power without too much effort.

That holy power can be used with the new Word of Glory ability that heals for a scaling amount depending on how much HPP you had stored up. This is an instant, no-mana, no-cooldown direct heal. So, if you're in the middle of a running fight (and you've picked the talents for this to work), you can hit Holy Shock on your Beacon target, which will earn you a combined two HPP, and use that on Word of Glory for another heal while Holy Shock is on cooldown.

CrimsonTemplar asks

"what kind of healing is that free heal (from Holy Power) going to do? Little heal (less that current FoL)?"
From the look of things on the beta, without talents a fully charged (three HPP), Word of Glory will do more healing than Holy Shock but less than Flash of Light. The numbers may change slightly or dramatically between now and release, though.

holyret asks

"Doesn't it feel like Holy (WoG) and Prot (HS) get very little use out of Holy Power compared to Ret (TV/DS/Inq)?"
I'd have to agree that there isn't any real choice for holy at the moment. Prot does have the option of using Word of Glory as an emergency self-heal instead of using Holy Shield. They can also both use Inquisition, but unless you're over-gearing the content or soloing, the 30% holy damage increase for our healadin brethren won't be that useful. I'd like to see another option for either just holy or something baseline for both prot and holy to take advantage of.

Alliancesjr requests

"Make it more flashy than just a buff. A holy version of Shadow Orbs/Lightning Shield/Water Shield/etc., maybe."
It's really a combo-point-type system that we're going to build up and burn through fairly quickly. However, a visual cue for when you earn some holy power might be helpful, much like watching for any type of proc. If they don't add it, you could always do something cool with Power Auras. I know that I will.

Ghodamus asks

"Only the obvious question; how will this effect my bubble-hearth?"
Heh, your bubble hearth should be unaffected by holy power itself ... for now. However, Divine Shield will have a shorter duration than the casting time for a hearthstone. The developers have joked that they may create a Glyph of Divine Shield that decreases your hearth stone cast time to sync up with the Divine Shield duration. For the moment, it's nothing more than a quick quip from the dev chat.

Enter to win a Blazing Hippogryph and other loot

Yes, you read that title correctly! Courtesy of the ever-generous, will be giving away an assortment of prizes for the next week, including a Blazing Hippogryph. The full assortment of prizes includes:

The contest begins immediately and ends Monday, Aug. 2 at 11:59 p.m ET. On Aug. 3, winners will be announced right here on To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. You may enter once per day each day of the contest. That means if you enter every single day of the contest, you will have seven chances to win. Winners will be chosen at random.

Good luck to all who enter!

June 26, 2010

Blizzard 2010 Global Writing Contest announced

Do you like writing? Well, if you do, and you like the various properties of Blizzard Entertainment (I'm going to have to assume that you do, what with this being a site dedicated to one of them and all), then good news, everybody! I've discovered a contest that will let you write about anything in Azeroth ... or various other worlds as well.

Yes, it's the return of the Global Writing Contest. What are the rules, you ask? Well, I'm glad you did. 

Blizzard Entertainment Global Writing Contest

Do you dare test our judges' optic mettle, laying your ideas and dreams beneath their unblinking gaze? If so, submit a 2,500- to 7,500-word short story written in English and set in the Warcraft, StarCraft, or Diablo universe by July 30, 2010, and earn your chance to visit the Blizzard headquarters and meet the writers and staff behind the lore of Blizzard's games and books.

There's a FAQ with various clarifications and a button to enter at the official site for the contest. Prizes include a chance to go have lunch with the Blizzard writing staff, a Frostmourne of your very own, a Diablo III barbarian diorama, and much, much more, so get on over there and check it out and then start writing.

June 19, 2010

Wow Warriors Guide: To 40 and beyond

So we resume our discussion of leveling from two weeks ago. Since that time I've worked another warrior to 80 as well as chugged along on my orc and leveled a new tauren warrior to 41. One of the great things about playing a warrior is, we don't have to write a lot about how awesome we are or how we do things better than other classes because we're cool with who we are. And when we're not cool with who we are, we slam shields or axes into things until we are.

For starters, the big three warrior cooldowns (Recklessness, Retaliation and Shield Wall) are no longer linked and now only take 3 minutes to becomes usable, making them much more active and promoting their use over making the cautious warrior hold onto them for emergencies. While you won't have Recklessness in the 21 - 40 range, you will gain both Shield Wall and Retaliation in these levels, and you won't be forced to pick between them.

Also, you'll get a mount at level 20. Cherish it. When I first leveled a warrior I had to run everywhere until level 40, and at 40 you got the 60% speed mount. Now at level 40 you get an epic! You kids today are spoiled.

Looking over the non talented abilities available between 21 - 40, not much at all has changes between those BC days and now. For talents, since Shield Slam is just a trainable skill, the level 40 warrior will have Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike and Vigilance within reach. However, two years of class design and innovations like LFD mean that my conclusion from 2007 that prot spec was the worst leveling spec is entirely altered. Prot is an excellent leveling spec now, much stronger than it was. You can use prot to quest and grind (especially when you can pull many mobs at once) and, thanks to LFD, prot is also excellent for running dungeons over and over again for extra rewards and lots of XP. (My orc now has a prot offspec which she uses when I want to get a lot of XP fast.)

I deliberately chose to level the tauren as arms on a server where I have no other characters to funnel honor or heirlooms just to see how hard it is. Answer: it's not hard. The LFD tool and early epic mount is an absolute godsend. Even in leveling/quest greens you can get into at least one or two instances a day fairly easily. Even without the XP boost from heirlooms, leveling is much easier when you're more mobile and able to get around to quest hubs faster than ever and get some instances to supplement your questing.

Between 21 and 40 the dungeons you'll be running scale from Razorfen Kraul and Blackfathom Deeps/SFK upwards to cover the wings of Scarlet Monastery, and by 41 you'll have wings of Maraudon as well as Zul'Ferrak available to you as well as Uldaman. Frankly, I let the LFD tool do the work of choosing an instance for me, but if I had to pick one of these to run the most it would be Scarlet Monastery. You still only get plate at level 40, and there's a lot of solid mail pieces, some weapons for the aspiring arms or even fury warrior, and a heck of a shield for any leveling prot warrior. Between 30 and 40 SM is an absolutely happening dungeon complex all told.

The Berserker Stance questline is at level 30. It can be easy to miss, so make sure to check with your trainers and get it done to ensure you have access to all your abilities. It will also open up the Cyclonian questline. I can't recommend doing the Cyclonian questline enough, even if you do end up having to rip a lot of troll teeth out in STV. Hey, you have a mount now! There's no excuse not to do it.

You also get more options if you choose to level through PvP as well. Arathi Basin opens up to you at these levels, meaning you can still grind honor through BG's and the rewards from either the Defilers (for Horde) or League of Arathor (Alliance) become available. If you have the honor, you could easily get boots, a belt and more as soon as you hit level 28 and can upgrade every 10 levels. Since these rewards are itemized without resilience on them, they're suitable for both PvE and PvP content.

Basically, what the three years between trips through these levels have done is to improve everything in large and small ways. If you're leveling a warrior alt and can afford items like Heirlooms and Wintergrasp Commendations, you can very easily keep a toon geared up, but even without access to those conveniences it is not hard at all to move a warrior through these 20 levels of content in any spec you choose. Improvements in mobility, in talent selection, the addition of the LFD feature and the ability to queue up for PvP from anywhere in the world give you a wide variety of options for how you're going to level your warrior. Where talents and abilities have changed (and the only really big change is that all warriors get shield slam regardless of spec at level 40) they've only streamlined the experience.

In a week or two, we'll go from Azeroth to Outland and look at how that's improved.

WoW Grim Batol preview released

Blizzard updated the official community site this evening to supply us with a preview of one of the upcoming 5-man dungeons in Cataclysm. This time around it is Grim Batol, a dwarven-made fortress with a long and twisted past.

Called to action by the red dragonflight in the Twilight Highlands, players will be charged with putting a decisive end to the foul machinations developing within the level-85, 5-player dungeon of Grim Batol. The ferocity of the enemies within should not be underestimated, and with the assistance of brave Red Drakes and a handful of explosives, players can thin the ranks of Grim Batol's occupiers through bombing flights into the ruined city's corridors. Regardless of how successful these attacks might be, General Umbris will not allow his army to fall so quickly. In the end, adventurers will be left to their own devices, venturing into the darkest recesses of the dwarven fortress, where a nightmarish enemy is taking shape. Will you be able to uncover Grim Batol's secrets and emerge unscathed, or will your destiny be sealed within this tortured city, like so many brave heroes before you?

For the full zone preview, head over to the official World of Warcraft community site.

June 9, 2010

Basic PvP tips and tricks for Death Knights

With Wrath more or less winding down and only the Ruby Sanctum before us at some nebulous point in the future, a lot of us are wandering around with full PvE gear and currency tabs full of emblems looking for a place to go. One easy place to let off some of that steam is with PvP. Be it arena, battlegrounds or (admittedly pretty rare these days) world PvP, this article will give you some basic tips to get yourself squared away with the gear and spec you need to start off on the right foot.

This is by no means a complete guide to absolutely every aspect of death knight PvP. This'll help you get your feet wet and get properly geared, but there's always more to learn, especially in the dynamic, ever-changing world of PvP combat strategy and tactics. Still, nothing gives you a better start on the road to skill than a good foundation in stats and speccing, so let's start this up.

Spec and talent advice

If you're serious about PvP these days, you're probably going to be speccing unholy, specifically something close to this 0/17/54 build. Unholy's very useful because it not only gives you extra resistance to magic damage, but also allows you to stack massive, armor-ignoring magic damage between Scourge Strike, diseases and Death Coil, as well as giving you an extra form of crowd control and healer harassment via the Ghoul. What's nearly as important, though, is how you spend points in the frost tree.

In the frost tree, you'll want to grab Runic Power Mastery so you can churn out three Death Coils when you're bursting down your target. Toughness will boost you to tier 2, and give you some resistance again snaring effects. In tier 2, grabbing Icy Reach will let you apply Chains of Ice from further away, and Black Ice makes your Death Coil hit that much harder. Of course, you'll get what you really came here for in the next two tiers: Lichborne gives you another get-out-of-trouble-free card and a way to self-heal with Death Coil, and Endless Winter makes your Mind Freeze free to use and gives you some extra strength for bursting down enemies.

Stats to get

In deciding which stats to get, resilience and stamina are of course, of supreme importance. That said, you'll get most of the stamina and resilience you really need from the PvP armor sets. if you're kitting yourself out with PvP gear, you'll get most of what you need. Besides staying alive, you also need to actually do damage, which means you need to focus on a few other stats:

  • Hit rating 5% hit rating will let you hit people with your two-handed weapon and your weapon strikes. Let Virulence take care of the rest as far as spell hit goes, but you want that hit rating. Missing a key Scourge Strike or Strangulate could spell the difference between that priest dying or getting a heal off.

  • Spell penetration You'll want to have approximately 130 spell penetration. Spell penetration gets your spell-like effects past any innate or buff-granted resistances on your targets. You'll be glad you have it when your Strangulate hits and stops that shaman from winding up another Chain Heal. Spell Penetration is also a lot easier to grab than you might imagine. Four Stormy Majestic Zircons will get you a cool 100 spell penetration, and you can use Spell Piercing on your cloak to get to 135 spell penetration.

  • Strength and critical strike rating You'll want these as well. While a death knight's role in a PvP team is almost always primarily utility, you'll still be bringing a lot of DPS pain, so you'll want to buff your damage output as much as possible. Generally, strength is better than critical strike rating, but get a decent balance if you can. Your burst damage will thank you if you keep a decent critical strike rating. If you're not killing people fast enough, it may be time to start enchanting and gemming for strength after spell penetration and hit, or to use PvE DPS pieces on your rings, neck and cloak slots. However, don't overdo it on PvE pieces. You'll still probably at least want your main armor slots to be PvP gear.

Playstyle and general tips

Essentially, a death knight's role in group PvP will almost always be utility. We can dish out a decent amount of pain, but often it's best to leave the specifics to other DPS while we crowd control, interrupt and otherwise harass the opposition, especially casters and healers. Essentially, you are going to want to be read to deploy Death Grip, Strangulate, Mind Freeze, Chains of Ice and your ghoul's Gnaw ability at any time. Once you have that all ready to use, you'll want to use it -- but not all at once. Consider each button precious.

Learn to time skill use for when it's most advantageous. For example, use Death Grip and Chains of Ice to wrangle in a mage or warlock after they've used Blink or Demonic Circle. That way, they can't just teleport away. Use your Ghoul's Gnaw to break up a stunlock by using it just as your enemy's stun is about to wear off, giving yourself time to get away from them or put up your own defenses before they can recover (and in the case of rogues, use another stun). Death Grip is also great as an emergency interrupt.

Likewise, don't forget to use Icebound Fortitude, Lichborne and Anti-Magic Shell. Learn what status effects each one cancels or avoids and be ready to use them to outlast and survive. For example, Lichborne will turn you undead, thus make you immune to most forms of traditional crowd control, and Anti-Magic Shell not only absorbs magic damage but poisons too, and it'll leave you immune to negative effects such as traps and roots as well. Plus, the shell gives you plenty of runic power, so when it's time to burst your target down, you have three Death Coils ready to go.

Another important tool to remember for a PvP death knight is Empower Rune Weapon. This can give you emergency runes for a Chains of Ice or Strangulate or another such spell, or it can be used while burst to provide you with another couple Scourge Strikes if your first burst doesn't finish off your target. Keep this button handy for sure.

You'll also want to learn Ghoul control. Don't keep your abilities on autocast. You'll want to be able to cast Leap, Gnaw or Huddle at a moment's notice. You'll especially want to get good at using Huddle and Leap to help your Ghoul outlast or escape if it gets focused for killing. Remember, your Ghoul can use Leap to leap to an ally as well, which can be great for support or escape purposes.

As far as which presence to use, all three have their place. Frost Presence is useful when you're getting focus-fired, and many arena death knights like to keep it on at the beginning of a battle until they're sure they aren't going to be focused to start off. Blood Presence is still a good heavy hitter, but many death knights will stay in Unholy Presence in order to squeeze out more quick burst damage thanks to the shorter global cooldown and for the run speed increase.

As you fight more and more, you should start getting a better feel for what works and what doesn't, so keep it at it. I'd especially recommend checking out our Blood Sport and Art of War(craft) columns for all the latest PvP tips and tricks. Especially check out Art of War(craft)'s series on countering each class, even death knights themselves. If you know what tricks the enemy's expecting from you, it's easier to figure out your own ways to counter.

May 25, 2010

Wow priest's guide to tanks

I love tanks. Likewise, there have been many tanks who have loved me.There is nothing more beautiful than the love between a tank and a healer. It's actually a little known fact that every great love song ever written was written about a tank and healer. Every little thing she does is magic? Totally sung by a tank. Don't leave me this way: sung by a healer. Still don't believe me? Check out Heroes by David Bowie; it was actually originally written as a tank x healer duet. Just look at the lyrics:

"And you, you can be mean,And I, I'll drink all the time."See? So, if you want to find your great tank love, if you want a tank that knows how and when to blow each and every one of his cooldowns to maximize every lasting second of your epic encounters together, then you are going to have to rise up and meet him. You need to be the healer his healer could heal like (if she stopped playing hybrid-spec player classes.) Luckily, you're already a priest, the most alluring of healing classes, but don't think that's enough. You need to be more than just some healer who heals him -- you need to understand him. That is today's goal.The information in this article is meant to give you a better understanding of how each tanking class works. It won't teach you how to tank, but it will briefly explain tank cooldowns and what you can expect as a healer. While the information should be helpful to all priests, it will probably be more useful for 5-man or 10-man content, where priests of either spec (yes, I'm talking to you, holy priests!) are more likely to be wearing different hats at different points in an encounter.Warriors Just as priests used to be thought of as "the one true healer," warriors were once similarly known for being "the one true tank." (The warrior ability Shield Wall has even been adopted by other tank classes as a way to describe their own, damage mitigating cooldown ability.) Times have changed quite a lot since vanilla, but warriors are still strong, well-rounded tanks.Basics: A warrior is a "block class," meaning he can use a shield to mitigate a lot of incoming melee damage. (Warriors can also dodge and parry, so don't make the mistake of thinking all they do is block.) You can expect incoming damage on him to be consistent in size and speed. If the damage is or becomes irregular, focus your heals on him and be ready to use a cooldown on him if his health drops below 30%. A warrior should be able to handle the damage of multiple mobs due to his shield, but like all classes, if he is being hit from behind you should pay close attention to his health.Threat: Warrior threat requires a lot of maintenance to upkeep. If you find yourself running with a less seasoned warrior, be ready to use Fade; especially in pulls with multiple mobs.Priest concerns: If you read the official priest forums, there is not a week that goes by without someone asking if priest shields, like Power Word: Shield, negatively affect warrior rage generation. The answer is no. A priest's shields allow warriors to generate rage just as they always do. This has been the case since patch 3.1.Primary cooldowns:

Last Stand -- Every 3 minutes (2 minutes if glyphed) a warrior can increase his health by 30% for 20 seconds.

Shield Wall -- Every 5 minutes the tank can reduce all incoming damage by 60% for 12 seconds (4 minutes if talented; 2 minutes at 40% reduction if glyphed in addition to talents.) Additional information for overachievers: A warrior can also use Shield Block every minute (40 seconds if talented) for 10 seconds. Shield Block will increase a warrior's chance to block by 100% and double his block value. If you don't understand what that means, just know that this is a shorter but smaller cooldown for warriors to use. Warriors can also heal themselves for 30% of their health (40% if glyphed) with Enraged Regenration ever 3 minutes.PaladinsProtection paladins are a dime a dozen in numbers, but like all classes, the diamonds are harder to find. A good paladin tank is versatile and excels at AoE tanking.Basics: Paladins are similar to warriors in that they use a shield (plus dodge and parry) to mitigate damage. Also like warriors, damage taken is consistent and usually predictable once you're comfortable with a fight's mechanics. If the consistency of the incoming damage changes, have a cooldown ready while you focus your heals. A paladin can comfortably handle the damage from tanking multiple mobs at once; but again, problems will arise if he ever takes damage from behind so watch his positioning.Threat: Paladins should have no trouble generating threat.Priest concerns: On very rare occasions, usually in a 5-man dungeon, you might run into a prot paladin with mana problems, who tries to blame it on Power Word: Shield. The justification for this is that paladin tanks gain additional mana from Spiritual Attunement, which converts effective healing they receive into mana (overhealing doesn't count.) The talent returns 10% of the effective healing as mana (12% if glyphed), but it's more "icing on the cake" than a bulk of his mana regeneration. He still has Divine Plea and Guarded by the Light, and in most situations (any raid) he is always going to be taking enough damage to warrant healing him anyway. Should you ever run into this situation though, just be polite and stop shielding him.Primary cooldowns:

Ardent Defender -- This passive talent will reduce all incoming damage by 20% whenever the paladin tank is below 35% health. Also, should the paladin ever be struck with a killing blow he will immediately be healed for up to 30% of his health instead of dying. The heal effect has a 2 minute cooldown. (A note to holy priests: If the paladin has Guardian Spirit on him, it will be consumed before the heal effect of Ardent Defender procs.)

Divine Protection -- This is a paladin's Shield Wall. It mitigates all incoming damage by 50% for 12 seconds on a 3 minute cooldown. Additional information for overachievers: I mentioned earlier that paladins are comfortable handling multiple mobs at once. This is because of Holy Shield, which increases a paladins chance to block by 30%. It has 8 charges and an 8 second cooldown; the low cooldown means that a paladin is rarely without the extra 30% chance to block.A paladin may occasionally choose to use Lay on Hands on himself instead of Divine Protection. If he does this he will not be able to use Divine Protection until the 2 minute Forbearance debuff he acquires fades.DruidsAlmost the opposite of paladin tanks, feral druid tanks are unusually rare, especially in random heroic dungeons. I suspect this has to do with the many negative misconceptions that accompany druids. Do not buy into what the skeptics have to say though; druids are extremely capable tanks (even with the dodge debuff in Icecrown Citadel) and offer great raid utility when paired with a skilled priest.Basics: A druid deals with incoming damage by sporting extremely large health pools, dodging incoming attacks, and thwarting damage with defensive abilities like Survival of the Fittest and Savage Defense. The damage that druid tanks take will be much larger than that of warriors or paladins, but it is manageable because their large health pools act as a sponge. Druids will have more trouble handling the damage from multiple mobs, since Savage Defense will only go up as quickly as the tank hits its targets with critical attacks.Threat: Druids should have no trouble generating threat.Priest concerns: Just as it is with warriors, feral druids will have no problems generating rage through a Power Word: Shield. However, due to the large health pools of druids, it can sometimes (let me stress: sometimes) be difficult to keep up with the damage on him. Discipline can respond quickly to the damage, but her lower HPS makes getting the tank to full a difficult task. Holy has the raw power to heal druids up with to full, but might have trouble responding to any incoming burst since she lacks an instant cast "nuke" healing spell. Please take in mind this is not the fault or shortcoming of the druid tank, simply some challenges that priests specifically have to deal with. Generally though, healing a druid tank isn't rough and incoming damage is steady.Primary cooldowns:

Barkskin -- This is the feral druid's Shield Wall. It reduces incoming damage by 20% for 12 seconds, on a 1 minute cooldown. The short cooldown allows druid tanks to use this cooldown quite liberally.

Survival Instincts -- This is the druid's Last Stand, increasing the tank's health by 30% (45% if glyphed) for 20 seconds on a 3 minute cooldown.

Frenzied Regeneration -- Heals the druid for a percentage of his maximum health over 10 seconds, once every 3 minutes. Additional information for overachievers: Druids will occasionally heal themselves a small amount from Improved leader of the Pack.In order for a druid tank to cast Rebirth or Innervate while tanking, a priest cooldown (Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression) plus Barkskin is typically required. Using voice chat, instruct your tank to call for your cooldown when he is ready to shift out of bear form. When he makes the call and you've cast it on him, immediately confirm that it's up so he can quickly change forms and do his business. This maneuver is not difficult but does require solid communication and coordination to avoid a dead tank.Death KnightsDeath knights are the kindred spirits of discipline priests. Early in Wrath of the Lich King, when gear was bad and players were still learning their class, death knights developed a stigma for being squishy tanks. At the time, death knights took "spiky" damage, meaning they would take large amounts of damage at seemingly random intervals. This was terrifying to many healers, who were not yet accustomed to the yo-yo effect that would become the signature trait of WotLK on player health pools.Fortunately, at the same time death knights appeared, so did discipline specced raiding priests; and they came conveniently equipped with all the right tools to heal the pioneer tanks. Soon a loving and symbiotic relationship formed, and to this day death knights are still my favorite tanks to heal.Basics: Despite initial troubles adapting, death knight tanks don't really take damage that is much more spiky than other tanks. Like with druid tanks, the damage received will be larger than what you see on warriors and paladins, but it will still come at a consistent pace and quantity. It's especially important to communicate your cooldowns with death knights since they have more of their own cooldowns to use.Threat: A death knight tank has no AoE taunt, but should not have trouble holding threat on mobs once he has their attention. In fights with add spawns, be ready to use Fade in order to help out the tank. Additionally, death knight tanks are excellent at tanking caster mobs with his Strangulate and Death Grip abilities.Priest concerns: There is nothing special to keep in mind when healing death knight tanks.Primary cooldowns:

Icebound Fortitude -- This is the death knight's Shield Wall, reducing all incoming damage by 41% (when defense capped) for 12 seconds (18 seconds if talented) every 2 minutes.
Anti-magic Shell -- This ability has a 5 second (7 second if glyphed) duration which will mitigate 75% of all incoming spell damage, up to 50% of the tank's health.

Death Pact -- The death knight can instantly restore 40% of their hit points, every 2 minutes, by sacrificing one of his undead minions. (Note that Raise Dead has a 3 minute cooldown, and Army of the Dead has a 10 minute cooldown. Those numbers can be reduced with talents.)
Army of the Dead -- When the death knight summons his Army of the Dead, they will temporarily distract the engaged mob or mobs. The tank will also gain additional mitigation based on his dodge and parry stats. Additional information for overachievers: Technically, all death knight specs can tank, but the majority are presently tanking in the blood spec. An additional cooldown for blood specced death knight tanks is Vampiric Blood + Rune Tap -- Since Rune Tap heals based on a percentage of health, using it just after Vampiric Blood (which increases your total health) will maximize the amount healed. (With Improved Rune Tap, you can double the amount healed and lower the cooldown by 30 seconds.) If you don't know how to identify a death knight tank, look at his buffs for an above average health pool and Frost Presence.

Basics of tank healing for priests

I've mentioned tank healing several times before but as a recap:

#Keep Inspiration up on the tank, even if you're not assigned to the tank. The only exception to this is if you have a more pressing raid role (such as bubble spamming on the Lich King.)

#Apply Prayer of Mending to your tank everytime it is off cooldown.

#Keep Power Word: Shield and Renew up on your tank as much as a possible.

#Try to hold your big, instant cast heals for larger amounts of damage a tank takes. Fill in the gaps with smaller cast heals when damage is manageable.

#Communication is key to coordinating cooldown usage. While some fights will have a predetermined point at which to use your cooldowns, there will be others where you just have to go with your gut. In those cases, a quick dialogue between you and your tank will maximize the spread of your various cooldowns.

#When a tank cooldown drops off, be ready to heal your tank harder just in case he is still taking large sums of damage.

So that covers the basics. I would encourage every priest to at least committing the cooldown sections of each tank class to memory. Even if it doesn't actively help you heal, it will improve your understanding of boss fights by understanding the tanking side of things. Ultimately, understanding the tanks will help you keep your party alive through them.And don't forget what I told you about those love songs. This one was written by a tank.

May 22, 2010

Remote auction house beta test expanded

Blizzard's community managers have just announced that the beta testing phase of the Remote Auction House is no longer exclusive to the Whirlwind battlegroup and has been expanded to all US realms. This includes both the mobile app for the iPhone as well as the web-based auction house found on the Armory.

For a preview of this app's features, both the mobile and web versions, check out the galleries below.

Blizzard confirmed for BlizzCon 2010

Blizzard recently confirmed via a post on their official site that Jay Mohr will be hosting BlizzCon 2010 in Anaheim, California October 22nd and 23rd (we originally reported this via Jay's quickly deleted tweet back in February).

Tickets go on sale for the event on June 2nd and June 5th for about as long as it takes to punt a gnome across the road. But if you don't get tickets, you can still catch Jay (and all the other glories that are BlizzCon) via the live internet stream.

In my opinion, Jay has been doing a better job at BlizzCon each year he's hosted.

Blizzard Entertainment

Comedian and actor Jay Mohr will be returning to BlizzCon this year to serve as master of ceremonies for the live costume contest and other contests on the first night of the show. Jay is the star of the popular television show Gary Unmarried, and is known for his roles in movies like Jerry Maguire and for creating, producing, and hosting the successful TV series Last Comic Standing. We'll have more info to share about the Friday-night contests and other events at BlizzCon in the months leading up to the show, so keep your eye on for more details.

Update: On Twitter, Mohr currently says he's not sure he's doing BlizzCon this year.

May 18, 2010

A roundup of WoW Classes changes

Love it or hate it, World of Warcraft is the 900-pound gorilla of the MMO market at the moment. Nearly everyone who games online has at least tried it, and even those of us who play other games very possibly still play it as an old standby. So it's hard to miss the news about the newest expansion, Cataclysm, which is poised to remake the world in many ways. It's also home to an ambitious series of overhauls to classes and their talent structure, with far-reaching changes for every class in the game.

Our sister site,, has been keeping abreast of the development team's slow roll of new information about each class, with every class but Paladins having their upcoming changes previewed. (Paladins are due out on the 16th, due to being "deep in development.") They've also gone through an in-depth analysis of each different set of changes, from the good to the bad. So if you've played the game at all -- and the odds are you have -- take a look past the break for a quick version of everything coming when World of Warcraft brings down the end of the world.

May 15, 2010

Guild life pre-Cataclysm: Surviving the end times

When I inherited leadership of a successful 25-man raid during The Burning Crusade, I had a steep learning curve. After the first year, I had mastered the fine arts of recruiting, juggling subs, managing raid time, resolving disputes and running a tight ship. Little did I know what awaited us when halfway through our Sunwell Plateau progression, Wrath of the Lich King was announced! Fortunately, my guild was able to weather the storm, and now that we are closing in on Cataclysm, I am much better prepared.

Guild masters who haven't experienced the pre-expansion blues may find themselves overwhelmed with the task of keeping their once tight-knit community from turning into a ghost town. Some players may choose the months before an expansion to take an extended vacation from the game. Others may choose to focus on a favorite alt, and still others are chomping at the bit to farm the highest tier of raid content in order to complete their ideal gear sets. No doubt all three types of players are in your guild. How are you expected to funnel everyone's pre-expansion desires and expectations into group-friendly activities that keep them logging on night after night?

Keeping a raiding guild together during the months before an expansion can be a daunting task for a first-timer. Here a few tips and tricks I learned from the last expansion:

  • Find out what people's plans are. Does your MT want to take an extended break from the game? Are your top DPSers begging to switch to their alts for raid content? Is your best healer logging in less and less as BlizzCon draws closer? Is the guy you just recruited bitterly complaining that raids are more and more infrequent? Talk to your guild as a whole and ask them what they want to do with their time. Often, you'll find that there are ways to keep burned out players interested in the game while pleasing the more active ones.
  • Set an end date for raiding activities. Players often burn out at the mere thought of running the last tier of content forever. An end date gives a clear-cut block of time for relaxation before the coming expansion, and you'll find that a lot of players will thank you.
  • Start an alt program. Whether it be an alt raid or rotating alts in on farm nights for a chance at gear, you'll find many raiders will tackle content with renewed vigor if it's from a different perspective. Be sure to be fair about it, though -- alts must be reasonably geared for the tier of content, and they must not be allowed to take gear over the mains that are carrying them through.
  • Give sponsored nights off to players who are extremely burned out, or let them play their off spec for the night. Can you 24-man the first wing of ICC? Great! Give that healer who's been begging for some extra sleep a night off with no penalty. Alternately, let him DPS for an evening. Be sure to extend the offer to other players who are feeling run down.
  • Set up some fun activities to shake up the monotony. The achievement system is a great source of ideas for your raid. Never completed The Immortal in Naxx? Take an hour and a half and go for it! Take an evening to grab your protodrakes from Ulduar, or go get A Tribute to Mad Skill on Heroic Anub'Arak. The possibilities are endless, but be sure to keep it low-key so that it feels more like a fun vacation and less like extra work.
  • Speed runs became a fad in The Burning Crusade, during the incredibly long span of time between the releases of Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau. A 25-man can compete against their own or others' best times for an instance, or several 10-man groups from the same guild can compete for prizes. Find ways to make it interesting!
  • Use an incentive program. At the end of each expansion, I liquidate the guild bank and split the spoils among the players who are still active at my end date. It makes everyone very happy to get a payout for their time and effort, and can often sway people to stick around for a cut of the spoils.
  • If you absolutely can't keep it together, grab your active players and offer your guild's services to another group on the server that's struggling for numbers. By helping others, you'll get your raid fix, and you can be sure that the other group's leader will thank you.
Whatever route you decide to go in order to breathe life back into your guild before an expansion, be sure to communicate your intentions with your guild members. Pre-expansion apathy can be tough going for even a seasoned guild master, but remember: This is the famine before the feast. In a few months, the hectic scrambling to hold things together will be replaced by an overflowing roster and a band of refreshed guildmates ready to stomp through tiers of new content.

Cryptozoic posts Wrathgate visual spoilers

If you're interested in the upcoming Wrathgate expansion for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, then Cryptozoic has a treat for you: spoilers for the May 25 expansion. If you're dying to see what cards will be entering the game, to look at some new art or just to see if you recognize anyone on the hero cards, get thee hence and check out the images. Then you can spend the next two weeks feverishly anticipating the release of the expansion. Not that I would know anything about feverishly anticipating an expansion. Not me. No, sir. Nothing doing.

Cryptozoic's also been doing detailed previews of certain cards, discussing their impact on competitive play and their place in certain decks, so you can check that out while you're on their blog anyway.

Side note: I really dig the draenei figure on this card. I know, I know, blueberry LOL whatever, man. He looks badass and you know it.

May 13, 2010

WoW Cataclysm profession preview

Blizzard has just released a large preview of the major changes coming to professions in Cataclysm. We already know that there will be new recipes to craft and materials to gather, and that there will be another 75 points of skillups required; however we haven't really seen a clear and concise outline of what's changing until now. Listed below are the major changes to the overall professions, as well as new enchants and gem modifications.

Blizzard's full announcement after the break.

The highlights:

  • Blacksmithing, Leather working, and Tailoring specializations removed.
  • Blacksmithing, Leather working, and Tailoring will create their starter sets of PvP gear, which will be upgraded with new recipes every season.
  • New elixirs will be about 75% as strong as flasks.
  • An enchanter vanity pet is being added.
  • Engineering is still being designed, but expect new unpredictable gadgets to use on yourself or enemies.
  • Engineering will be able to make powerful bows, crossbows, and guns.
  • Scribes will see a "cleaning up" of minor glyphs.
  • Three new First Aid bandages.
New Cataclysm weapon enchantments:
  • Avalanche -- Chance to deal Nature damage on melee hit/spell hit.
  • Elemental Slayer -- As expected, this enchantment helps players deal devastating damage to elemental creatures.
  • Hurricane -- A stacking haste proc.
  • Heartsong -- Mana regeneration through increased Spirit when chain-casting spells.
  • Many more maximum-level enchantments are still in progress.
Gem changes:
  • Hit is now Blue.
  • Mastery and dodge are Yellow.
  • Intellect is now Red.

While the Cataclysm updates to many of the professions are still deep in development, we wanted to share some of the work that's been going on, as well as a high-level look at any lessons learned or changes to their underlying philosophies during the design process. Please be aware that not all professions have the same extent of information available right now, but each is receiving the same love and attention as the next.

Take heed of these teasers as you look forward to your new rank of Illustrious Grand Master!

Please enjoy!

  • Perks will continue to exist across all professions, and will upgraded appropriately.

Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, and Tailoring
  • Many of the green (and possibly some blue) items made during the process of leveling these professions will contain random stats. In most examples, two stats on these items will be set, and two will be random. The idea with these items is to mix up the skill leveling items so you're not just, for example, creating 10 pairs of boots that are all exactly the same.
  • Superior-quality items that require more materials than other recipes in the same skill range provide multiple skill-ups. For example, if a recipe takes three times the reagents, it will give you three skill-ups.
  • We didn't feel like we were getting much flexibility from specializations, so they have been removed for all three of these professions. The intent was to help people diversify their profession to feel different from that of other players, but through other professions we've found systems that work better to this end, such as simply making recipes available that you can earn over time.
  • To follow up the previous change, all items that required a specialization are now useable by anyone.
  • Tailoring the high-end Cataclysm items will center around a single cloth type that can be crafted through five different recipes -- each with their own material components and a long cooldown.
  • All three professions will create their starter sets of PVP gear, which will be upgraded with new recipes every season. In general, these are meant to keep pace as an entry-level PvP set below whatever the current Hero Point set is.

  • New elixirs will be about 75% as strong as flasks. So you can get more total stat points with two elixirs, but flasks will still be the best at giving you a single offensive or defensive stat.
  • New unique material used by nearly all high-level recipes will be created by alchemists on a one-day cooldown.
  • New Mysterious Potion created with common materials restores health and mana in a massively random range, as well as sometimes granting the benefit of another potion. The health and mana range is from 1-20,000 and is able to crit. The minimum amount restored, however, is scaled upwards by the Alchemy skill, making it a great choice for alchemists to keep for themselves.
  • All potions and elixirs now use the same basic vial type. Flasks still use a fancy vial.
  • New Alchemist Stone.

  • In general, material component costs for most recipes are more moderate in how much they require, while the highest-end recipes will still require large quantities. The goal of this change is to make the leveling recipes more consistent and not create unintended roadblocks in getting to the higher skill levels.
  • An enchanter vanity pet is being added.

New Cataclysm weapon enchantment preview:
  • Avalanche -- Chance to deal Nature damage on melee hit/spell hit.
  • Elemental Slayer -- As expected, this enchantment helps players deal devastating damage to elemental creatures.
  • Hurricane -- A stacking haste proc.
  • Heartsong -- Mana regeneration through increased Spirit when chain-casting spells.
  • Many more maximum-level enchantments are still in progress.

  • Engineering is still being designed, but expect new unpredictable gadgets to use on yourself or enemies. Toys, explosives, and even a new vanity pet or two. Oh, and powerful mechanical bows and crossbows in addition to guns.
  • In general, we want Engineering to remain a tradeskill mainly focused on creating fun or useful gadgets for the engineer, but we are exploring options for items that can be sold to other players for profit.

  • With the large number of class changes coming with Cataclysm, many existing glyphs will see new functionality.
  • Minor glyphs are woefully uneven from one class to the next right now, so they're a focus for us to clean them up and try to ensure that everyone has minor glyphs they're excited about.
  • New Darkmoon Cards will be added, with hopes they'll all be as awesome as the Greatness card.
  • We'll be adding more major glyphs as well, but in the hopes of making them as balanced as possible, we'll likely wait until after the expansion ships to add any for the new abilities in Cataclysm.
  • New and more desirable off-hand and relic recipes will be added.

  • Some gem colors have changed! Hit is now blue. Mastery and Dodge are yellow. Intellect is now red. These simple changes have created a much more diverse matrix of gem cuts.
  • New Jewelcrafting dailies will be introduced.
  • Many cuts are being added to support the new Mastery stat.
  • Some new Cataclysm jewelry recipes have completely random properties, and can sometimes create superior and epic versions.
  • Jewelcrafters will have some fun new (and potentially lucrative) vanity items, including fist weapons, rhinestone sunglasses, monocles, and stardust (sprinkle on players for entertainment).

Herbalism, Skinning, and Mining
  • All Cataclysm herbs have the chance of containing Volatile Life.
  • There won't be a new Lotus equivalent in Cataclysm. Alchemists will use the more reliably-found Volatile Life to create the new high level flasks.
Herb Example:
  • "Heartblossom -- Named for its deep red color, this delicate flower grows close to the ground, and always in pairs. If one blossom is taken, the other flower begins to wilt immediately and dies soon after. It is considered very unlucky to disturb a Heartblossom without blessing it first."
  • Savage Leather, the basic Cataclysm leather, can be gathered from most creatures found in the expansion areas and can be converted to Heavy Savage Leather at a 6:1 rate.
  • Pristine Hide, the rare Cataclysm hide, can be found when skinning creatures in the expansion areas, or be converted from Heavy Savage Leather.
  • Obsidian is the new common mineral found when mining in Cataclysm, and can contain gems, Volatile Fire, and Volatile Shadow.
  • Elementium is the new uncommon mineral found when mining in Cataclysm, and can contain gems, Volatile Fire, Volatile Water, or Volatile Earth.
  • Pyrite is the new rare mineral found when mining in Cataclysm, and can contain gems and Volatile Fire.
  • Previous Elementium Ore and Bar used for classic quests will be renamed to Elementium Ingot and Hardened Elementium Bar.
  • We like the gathering perks as they are; not a game-changing bonus but something themed and fun. But as all tradeskills are in the design stages these are still being discussed to a degree.

  • Cooking is still in the early stages, but we plan on continuing with daily quests, feasts, and some fun new recipes.
  • We liked the cooking dailies that had players picking up items that spawned in the world near the quest giver, so most if not all new cooking dailies will work similarly.

First Aid
  • Bandages will have a short cast time and put a heal over time effect on the target for 8 seconds. This effect is broken by damage.
  • Three new bandages! That's right: THREE!

Bandage preview:
  • "Dense Embersilk Bandage" Heals for 34,800 over 8 seconds. Requires 3 Embersilk to create.

  • Lots of new fish and other fun items to catch! Fish are still used to make premium food.
  • New fishing dailies.

WoW Magazine issue 2 preview now online

The preview for issue 2 of the World of Warcraft Official Magazine is up for browsing. It is 46 pages and highlights four subjects covered in the 148-page publication:

  • Dragons All of the dragonflights are described in detail along with a glossary of all dragon terms.
  • 40-man raids Tackling 40-man raids with level 80s
  • Warsong Gulch Strategies for WSG
  • Community Columns Members of the community contribute columns
The WoW Magazine is quarterly, by subscription only and has no ads. It's subscription price starts at $39.95 for a year.