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Friday, December 31, 2010

[4.0.3a] Heroic Halls of Origination Strategy Highlights


NOTE: this post is intended only to document some quick highlights to help provide some immediate advice to my fellow players.

This may be my favorite instance in terms of time on bosses vs. time on trash.  You get 7 bosses in one run and if you are in a hurry, you can just do four (which I have yet to do).  The pulls require some finesse, but they are not so numerous that you hunger for the end.

Finally, the whole Egyptian theme is cool and fun.

I have run this a number of times, always with a Druid Tank (me) and a Holy Priest Healer (my wife).  The DPS mix has varied quite a bit, 2 Melee & 1 Caster, 1 melee & 2 Caster, 3 Caster, etc., and they interrupt capability and CC has varied quite a bit too.  I have had interrupts from all DPS and none (well, not true Interrupts).

This dungeon is pretty linear until you hit the final area, where you can access four bosses, including the final boss.  As a result, you can skip three bosses and just kill the final guy.   I highly recommend that if you are leading a random PUG and *want* to clear everything, you save the final boss until last so that your PUGgers do not depart prematurely.

Boss #1: Anhuur

After a tiny bit of trash, you will come to your first boss Anhuur.  He has all of his usual abilities from the regular dungeon mode.  His Divine Reckoning, which is basically a chained Drain Life, hits about three times as hard in Heroic, so quick interrupts, dispels, and good spacing are advisable.

Key Heroic Difference: The levers have a long cast time and can be interrupted.  So, you can't just hop down, click them, and run back up.  If you try that, then your clickers will be getting beat on by snakes and never finish pulling the lever.

So, how should you deal with it?  Your problem is that you need two people to be able to spend some quality, aggro-free time clicking those levers.  You can solve that a number of ways.  Here are some ways we have solved it:
  1. Have someone else get aggro, Tank or otherwise
  2. Let the clicker aggro, but then let Healer Threat pull them off naturally
  3. Arrange to have the snakes otherwise distracted beforehand
Now, unless you are going for the Achievement, I Hate That Song, this is not a big challenge.  If you are going for the Achievement, you will need some precision timing.  With a 10-second cast time, you have only 5 seconds to get the cast going.  So, for example, falling down to the lever and waiting for healer aggro to pull off the snakes will very likely eat too much time unless you are lucky.

There are many ways you can tackle it.
  1. Ranged AoE pulls snakes: The easiest is probably to fight the boss where he starts and have a ranged DPS with an AoE that can aggro the snakes up to them shortly before the Hymn.  This should leave the clickers unmolested.  If you don't have that luxury, you could have a couple of folks jump down, aggro the snakes, and bring them back up.
  2. Rogue uses Tricks of the Trade to redirect snakes with Fan of Knives.
  3. The Tank and can jump to one side and pick up the snakes while someone else clicks
Do what makes sense for your group.  You might even want to Tank the boss near one lever.

I am still not 100% sure on the snake respawn, if it is shortly after they die or with each new hymn.

Boss #2: Earthrager Ptah

Frankly, this guy seems easy in any mode.  So, I will just give you some tips related to camels:
  1. If you get off the camel it dies and there are only five, so be careful
  2. You cannot drink on a camel, it will dismount you; apparently, they have a strict policy on drinking and riding
  3. If you are riding a camel, you become a mobile weapons platform in the sense that you can move while casting.
  4. If you are going for the Achievement or simply don't want your camel to die, avoid any dust clouds of any sort and be wary of the cluster of add in the middle of the fight, as they can obscure your view of ground effects.
Boss #3: Anraphet

Key Heroic Difference: The pools from the Alpha Beams do not go away.

You are going to need to use some real estate to get this guy down without getting killed by the residual Alpha Beam Pools.  Here is what I do:
  1. As soon as I pull, the Healer runs to the middle of the north stairs, right behind the place where the boss was standing.
  2. One ranged DPS moves the west edge of the north stairs (directly west of the Healer)
  3. If we have a second Ranged DPS, they move to the east edge of the north stairs (directly east of the Healer)
  4. The Tank, and any remaining DPS, take position a few steps up the east stairs
  5. Apha Beams are cast; if you are near a pool, snuggle up to the edge so that any additional pool you spawn will overlap and eat less room
  6. Start collapsing towards the healer in anticpation of Omega Stance
  7. When he casts Omega Stance, everyone should be near the healer for group heals
  8. Once Omega Stance ends, return to relative starting positions in preparation for Alpha Beams (Healer middle north, Ranged DPS northwest, Ranged DPS northeast, Tank & Melee DPS east)
  9. Move south as needed if you need more space
  10. Repeat 4-8 until dead
Here is a diagram of the initial positioning, just after the pull (follow this link to the original image if you find this too hard to read; hey, it's first time using Google Docs to draw something).



It is worth noting that the sequence of his abilities is pretty predictable and obvious, so pay attention and get the rhythm and you should be fine. 

Boss #5: Isiset

Isiset is a being of magic that is composed of three facets.  She manifests powers related to those facets.

Key Heroic Differences: Frankly, they did not seem all that different.  More damage, more Celestial adds, and a portal that zaps you akin to good old Kologarn  (move out of the beam).

Note: The radiance can one-shot you in Heroic, so be sure to look away.

As with regular mode, when you kill a facet, you take away an ability.  You also pump up the remaining ones.  Kill order for her facets:
  1. Astral Rain - gets rid of the Starfall-like rain of damage
  2. Celestial Call - gets rid of the Celestial adds
  3. Veil of Sky - we leave this to last, since it is tied to the spell reflect / damage absorb bubble she puts up, which can be dispelled
Overall, pretty easy.

Boss #6: Ammunae

Key Heroic Differences: The chief concern in Heroic is rapidly killing the seeds he spawns. If they are not killed they grow into elite mobs and it is reported that the boss gains energy/health from them.

I like to assign one DPS for each half of the room to kill seeds, but all DPS should understand that seeds are the absolute kill priority, so if they see one that needs attention, they should take care  of it. If seeds are killed rapidly, this fight is pretty easy.

Boss #7: Setesh

This guy can be challenging if your DPS is low or lethargic.

Key Heroic Difference: The portals he spawns have to be killed to prevent additional adds; this Heroic mechanic is very similar to our old friend Lord Jaraxxus, in the Trial of the Crusader.

And much like Jaraxxus, as the Tank, I not only grab adds, I also do what I can to help burn down the portals ASAP.  If you do it well, only one add will spawn per portal.

The DPS just needs to worry about the portals and the boss.  If your DPS is weak or slow to react, you and your Healer will be in for a rough ride.

Boss #7: Rajh

This guy is pretty straightforward.  He will try to execute various abilities that deplete his energy.  Once at zero energy, he will move to the center of the room and channel a nasty, unavoidable AoE.  One way to approach that is to have a designated stacking spot to facilitate group healing.  Some suggest popping Bloodlust/Heroism during that phase.

Be sure to interrupt every ability you can.

Done!


    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    [4.0.3a] Heroic Shadowfang Keep Strategy Notes Updated

    Just a quick note that I went back and fleshed out my original post on Heroic Shadowfang Keep with notes from our experience with the fights.  WoW Head was down while I was updating it, but I will go back and add wowhead links to the various abilities as soon as it is back up.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    [4.0.3a] Heroic Shadowfang Keep Strategy Notes / Guide


    [Addendum: I was just going to do one boss per post, but I decided to come back and just flesh out this one post with all of the Heroic Shadowfang Keep Bosses.]

    After some mad instancing and questing, my wife and I hit level 85 Thursday and by Friday evening we were working on our first Heroic dungeons.  I would prefer to gear up a bit more first...but my wife *really* wants to do Heroics. :)

    On our first one, Deadmines, we were accompanied by a couple of guild members that had already seen it.  On our second dungeon, Shadowfang Keep (SFK), everyone was new to the dungeon.  So, we had to figure things out and I thought I would pass along what worked for us.

    We had a Druid Tank (me), Holy Priest Healer (my wife), Druid Caster, Rogue, and Paladin Melee DPS.  That gave us the following CCs that we put to good use:
    • Repentance
    • Shackle Undead
    • Entangling Roots (used very little in this case)
    Nota bene: Our average item level was just barely high enough for Heroics, so we tended to deal with fight mechanics rather than just ignore them.
      Baron Ashbury

      This guy was a bit of a pain until we figured out what to do.  Basically, there are two phases to the fight.

      In the first phase, he will alternate between a relatively normal Tank and spank and strangling the entire party.  Your interrupters need to do everything they can to stop his basic heal, Mend Rotten Flesh.  The two really important abilities to understand are Asphyxiate and Stay of Execution.

      The greatest danger of Asphyxiate is panicking the party, especially the healer, into healing like crazy and losing all of their mana. It will take the party down to practically no hit points. Just be patient and wait. Once it is over, let his Stay of Execution tick once or twice before interrupting and you should be fine. If you are a healer, do not worry about topping everyone off before the next Asphyxiate. He is supposed to bring everyone in the party down to 1 Health Point. Between Asphyxiate casts the Tank (me) was kept at full Health and we just tried to keep the party at 1/2 or so; it worked great .

      Precise interruption of Stay of Execution will be key to your success as a party; this ability will heal your party and the Baron for 10% Health every 1 second.  After he strangles the party to almost no Health, he will begin this spell, which will heal him and your party. Let it tick once or twice before interrupting, so that you can take his initial hits and give the healer a chance to get back to healing you. If you interrupt it too soon, you will be too low on Health and he will kill you. Wait too long and he will heal up all of the damage you did.

      [I have posted the above information as comments in WoW Head too, for easy reference.]

      He has other bad things that do damage. Basically, beat him up, try to interrupt stuff.  If you are short on interrupts, focus more on the heals.  Make sure the entire party understands that Stay of Execution has to be interrupted only after 2 seconds or so, but Mend Rotten Flesh can and should be interrupted ASAP.

      Baron Silverlaine

      Baron Silverlaine was one of the easier bosses for us.  The new and improved Baron Silverlaine is somewhat nostalgic in that he calls up the old Worgen bosses from the old SFK.  He will do this three times, at 25% (Wolf Master Nandos and three Lupine Spectres), 50% (Razorclaw the Butcher), and 75% (Rethilgore).  Of the three, Rethilgore is the more annoying, since he shadowsteps all over the party.  We were clustered pretty tightly, so this was not much of an issue.

      This is a Tank and Spank, for the most part, combined with picking up adds when they spawn.  The first spawn will be multiple adds.  In terms of kill order, when the adds spawn, kill them, and get back to the Baron.  Your party may or may not want to just burn down the Baron when the final add, Rethilgore, spawns.

      It is important to keep an eye on quickly removing the Cursed Veil, which reduces healing by 75%.

      Commander Springvale

      This is the boss that is most likely to wipe your party out.  We had a PUG member as our fifth, and had not pulled him into Ventrilo yet.  This fight punished us for that, as miscommunication led to uncoordinated efforts that wiped us repeatedly.  Mostly, this was due to the PUG member being one strategy behind us in execution; somehow my chat messages were not conveying the current strategy well enough.  Once we got him on Ventrilo, I think we two-shotted the boss.  Do you need to be on Vent?  Probably not, if you all clearly understand your strategy.

      I have seen a video that suggests ignoring the adds and burning the boss.  If you are overgeared, this may be viable.  If not, then you will likely need to apply more finesse, as we did.

      Springvale is, essentially, supposed to be what Dungeons and Dragons would call an Anti-Paladin.  Prior to Cataclysm, he was basically a mean Paladin.  However, Cataclysm sees him remade with some Death Knight (essentially undead Anti-Paladins) abilities and some new tricks.

      Essentially, they have given him an evil version of the new Holy Power mechanic.  He gets Unholy Power from using his Malefic Strike (I guess it's an Unholy Crusader Strike), as well as casts from his minion.
      • Desecration – A regular Desecration, this creates a region around the boss that slows movement by 50%; this can be painful if cast just before Shield of the Perfidious.
      • Malefic Strike - double damage and generates Unholy Power (an evil Crusader Strike)
      • He consumes Unholy Power for the following abilities
        • Shield of the Perfidious – A frontal cone AoE that ticks very rapidly for damage (every 0.5 seconds?)
        • Word of Shame – This nasty spell takes 5% of the target's maximum Health every 3 seconds, and persists until the fight is over (or the target dies).
      We found that we could not DPS down the boss without at least another pair of adds spawning.  This lead to a lot of healing and Unholy Power flowing into the boss, which leads to empty Mana and Health bars for our party members.  The main problem is the Unholy Empowerment that the adds cast.; 4% of his Health is a lot and can undo your DPS is it is not kept under control.

      In an nutshell, our successful strategy was as follows:
      1. Crowd control the Wailing Guardsman (I prefer this because they have an AoE silence, which can prevent restoring CC or healing, so better to keep that under wraps while you burn down the other add)
      2. Tank pulls Commander and Officer to opposite side of the room (this way you are not near the CC you just set up)
      3. Kill the Officer, interrupting Unholy Empowerment every time
      4. Kill the Wailing Guardsman, interrupting Unholy Power every time
      5. DPS Commander Springvale
      6. Repeat 1-3 until Commander Springvale is dead
      7. Win
      Of course, if his Health is very low, you can probably just CC the last wave of adds and burn him down.

      Update: The conventional wisdom holds that Shield of the Perfidious will always point at the Tank, unless the Tank is standing on a bench.  We found this to be true.  And let me tell you, there are a LOT of benches in there!

      Lord Walden

      This is an evil alchemist/chemist guy.  We really did not learn much about this fight because we easily one-shotted it.  WoW Head tells us that he has Conjure Frost Mixture, Conjure Poisonous Mixture, and Ice Shards.  The advice from one of our guild members was to keep moving when he is casting/channeling Mystery Toxin.  So, we just stayed on the move and spread out during the fight, avoided stuff on the ground, and killed him.  If you have troubles Tanking while moving...get better at it. :)

      Lord Godfrey

      The new end boss is pretty easy too.  He will summon Ghouls, in a fashion similar to our old friend, the Lich King.  He will also use his ghastly guns (diabolical derringers? scary six-shooters? bigbaddablunderbusses?) to shoot your party in shadowy special ways:
      1. Mortal wound - DoT and 10% reduction in healing
      2. Cursed Bullets - Deals around 50k shadow damage and a DoT that does more damage over time for 15 sec (the DoT portion is like a Curse of Agony).  This can be removed.
      3. Pistol Barrage - fixed facing cone attack; it won't spin with you, so you can step out of it
      Tank him in place and kill him.  Pick up his fragile adds when they spawn.  The key elements are 1) removing Cursed Bullets ASAP, 2) pointing the boss away from party members so they are not hit by Pistol Barrage, and 3) stepping out of Pistol Barrage, unless you are going for the Achievement to kill his Ghouls with his Pistol Barrage.

      I don't remember if we even focused any DPS on the adds.

      Other Resources

      I was somewhat terse in some places, so here are some other resources:

      Tuesday, December 7, 2010

      [4.0.3a] The Cataclysm is Upon Us! Time To Get Crazy!


      The Cataclysm is here and many folks will be executing their marathon playing plans.  Last one to 85 is a rotten egg!  Go go go!

      Do your best not to end up like this guy!  On the plus side, some have estimated that Level 85 can be reached in around 24 hours of play time.  Man, it makes me drowsy just thinking about it...here's hoping you have a blast with the new content. :)

      I'll see you...sometime after I hit 85. xD

      Friday, November 26, 2010

      [4.0.3a] Meta Gem Problem for Casters


      Note: This problem will only be temporary, but it is not a problem that can be hotfixed, so it will have to wait for a formal patch/update, as Daxxarri (a Blizzard Community Manager) explains.

      Graylo, over on his blog Gray Matter, provided a solution for the crappy problem that faces casters in activating their metagem in Cataclysm.  The short story is that the hot new caster meta will be the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond (but as I said, this will only be temporary).  If you moused over that link, you already see the problem, which would be succintly stated as follows:

      More blue gems than red gems for a caster?!  WTF?!

      The problem is that it's even worse than you might think at first.  You know those Purified (purple) gems you used to satisfy your blue gem slot needs?  That's right, they are now a net neutral, since they count as both a red and a blue.  For the most part, blue is not a very sexy gem choice for casters.  That said, 4.0 brought with it the conversion of Hit gems to blue gems, so at least you have another blue gem that might actually be useful.

      But Intellect is red now, so it's bad news overall.

      Haste is yellow, though, and it will likely end up coming to our rescue.

      So, let's get tricky, since a green or purple counts fully as a blue.  I would avoid the purples since they get you nowhere, then maybe use greens to satisfy blue slots so you can use pure reds.  So, you could use greens in yellow and blue slots to jack up your blue count without having to slot lots of pure blue.  So, we need to identify a tasty green gem to make this happen.

      Now, what does Graylo do?  Well, check out his post!

      One key takeaway from all of this is that the Lightning Dream Emerald is your new best friend, giving you Haste and Hit in a green gem.

      It may sound a bit complicated.  I recommend using Rawr or some other tool or notepad to work out all of your gems before you slot anything.  The chance for a mishap is pretty high.

      I guess if you manage to get too much Hit this way, then use reforging to drop some...but please note that I said, "guess".

      Good luck on the Path of the Moon, my feathery friends. :)

      Thursday, November 25, 2010

      [4.0.3.a] Hot Fixes Will Reduce Feral Tank DPS/Threat


      (A scene from National Lampoon's Animal House that aptly describes how it felt when I saw the 4.0.3a Hotfixes.)

      Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

      The electrons had barely settled from drafting my post on the nerfs to Druid Tanks for yesterday.  I was doggedly trying to put on my happy face...then it was slapped off by the 4.0.3a hotfixes:
      The damage done by the following abilities has been reduced by approximately 17%: Mangle (Bear), Maul, Lacerate, Pulverize, Swipe (Bear), Thrash.
      So much nerfing in one tiny sentence.  It would have been simpler to say that all of our Threat generation abilities other than Feral Faerie Fire have been reduced 17%.  At least they used a dedicated bullet point for each spell that was reduced for Warlocks.

      Again, going to remain cautiously optimistic.  I am more worried about my fellow Druid Tanks that might have lower gear item levels than me.  I am probably overgeared enough that I wouldn't notice a problem until after level 81, when I will have Thrash and *hopefully* have all of the tools that Blizzard is worried about making me overly effective.

      Of course, less damage means less Threat, so I predict even more heartburn from DPS attacking too soon or using AoEs too aggressively.  It also means that everything we attack solo will take that much longer to kill...so tedious grinds are the clear winners here.

      I will keep hoping that it all works out in the end and that the nerfs do not create a significant shortfall in our level 80-84 performance.

      Wednesday, November 24, 2010

      [4.0.3a] The Shattering...of Feral Druid Tanks?

      Azeroth is not the only thing being shattered with 4.0.3a.  The Feral changes would get any Druid Tank dangerously close to QQ time (i.e., crying for those that are not familiar with the emoticon QQ).  It's more than simple homogenization (see my post from earlier this week for more on Homogenization of Tanks) now, they really are bringing the nerf bat down on our fuzzy little heads:
      • Bear Form now provides 10% bonus health, down from 20%.
      • Brutal Impact now increases the mana cost of spells on the victim by 5/10% for 10 seconds, down from 15/30%.
      • Leader of the Pack now heals for 4%, down from 8%.
      • Survival Instincts now provides 50% damage reduction, down from 60%, and its cooldown has been lowered from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
      • Swipe (Bear Form) damage has been reduced by 20%.
      • Vengeance is no longer cleared on exiting Bear Form, and instead is cleared upon entering Cat Form.
      Seriously, man, I can roll with the punches with the best of them, but this is starting to feel like a lynching. I remember when I had to be work harder and gear harder than other Tanks to justify my spot in a raid, because Druid Tanks were so limited in capability.  I remember the excruciatingly long dominance of Warrior Tanks, with fights that required a shield (e.g., Kael'Thas) or a specific Warrior ability (e.g., Shield Block and Illidan's Shear).

      I already knew about the reductions in Survival Instincts and Health, but I did not know about the reduction in self healing until now.  That makes me sad, if only because it was one of those abilities that sort of made sense for a big magic animal kicking butt and fueled by the power of nature and all of its associated healing goodness.

      The reduction in Swipe damage is damned disappointing.  DPS ripping secondary targets is still a problem.  Everyone loves to tell me how Thrash is going to solve all of my problems; I hope they are right.

      However, that introduces a new problem, having to give up another cooldown to maintain AoE Threat.  That means less cooldowns available for single target Threat abilities.  I also hope that having to blow two cooldowns on AoE Threat will not cause me to lose Threat on my primary target.  Here's hoping that Thrash is also great for single target Threat.

      And how about the goofy change that Vengeance is no longer cleared on exiting Bear Form unless you enter Cat Form?  That must be a PvP thing, because the only time I change to anything but Cat in raid is to Rebirth someone; that is generally an awkward thing to do while I Tanking and the last thing on my mind is whether or not I will keep my Vengeance stacks.  No, it's usually, "Will I survive it this time?"

      So, if you are a Druid Tank or one of the people that might be asked to keep one alive, you may ask, "Why the hell are they doing this?!"

      Well, the story I keep hearing is that they have to do this otherwise Bears are too effective at level 85.  So, I guess that's good news for other Tanks.  Congratulations Warriors, Paladins, and Death Knights!  Druid Tanks will not be too ├╝ber when you hit the level cap!  Of course, on the way to 85, we might face some problems...let's hope not.

      You might have noticed, like I did, that there were no buffs or additional abilities with this.  Reputedly, this is because the inherent buffing from Cataclysm somehow buffed Druid Tanks more than everyone else, so we should trust that these changes only bring us in line with the abilities of other Tanks.  I am hoping that is true, but I am still a little sore from the nerfbat right now.

      I will do my best to remain cautiously optimistic

      Keep hope alive?

      Tuesday, November 23, 2010

      [4.0.3a] The Shattering!


      Note: I am going to schedule this to post a little early, in light of the timing and content.

      Today should see the application of the Shattering patch, causing physical changes to the world and various other mechanical stuff.  But it's not everything just yet.  Check out this MMO-Champion post for the details.

      The highlights from that post are as follows
      What's in Patch 4.0.3a
      Sammew posted an interesting list of the features you should and should not expect in Patch 4.0.3a on the official forums. Zarhym also jumped in, and announced a 20% reduction to the XP required to gain levels from 71 to 80.

      What is not in:
      • Creating worgen/goblin characters
      • Worgen/Goblin start zones
      • Archeology
      • Professions past 450 (Illustrious Grand Master)
      • Guild leveling
      • Guild achievements
      • Eastern Kingdoms/Kalimdor flight
      • New Zones (80+)
      What is in:
      • Portals in Dalaran/Shattrath Removed
      • Class trainers in Dalaran where portals once were
      • New race-class combinations (excluding worgen/goblin)
      • New Gnome/Troll starting areas
      • Changes to existing zones
      • New cata load screens
      • New cata intro cinematic
      • New cata login screen
      • New music
      • City Quartermasters, with rep tabards
      • Bug fixes
      • Class balancing
      • Druids, paladins, priests, and shaman will have their talent trees reset
      • Experience required to gain levels 71 through 80 is being reduced by 20%
      • New tamable hunter pets (Monkey, fox, dog, and beetle, as well as new skins for existing pet classes.)
      Yep, that's right, the portals are going away.  Bummer.  Dalaran will suddenly become a very distant place for folks in Orgrimmar.  There is really no good place for your Hearthstone anymore, it seems.

      Monday, November 22, 2010

      [4.0.3] Cataclysm Midnight PST Launch



      Many of you probably have heard by about Bashiok's post on the Cataclysm launch.  It turns out that Blizzard will not allow anyone to access the Cataclysm content until midnight, Pacific Standard Time (PST).  For me, that means after my wife and I wait in line to get our midnight launch copies of the collector's edition, go home, load the game, and fire up WoW, we will still have to wait until 2:00 AM to play, because we, and our server (Kirin Tor-US), are on Central Standard Time (US).

      Meh.

      If I was in the Eastern Time Zone, I would have to wait until 3:00 AM!

      I would not even ponder the merits of this, except that this unusual practice seems pretty clearly targeted at increasing the value of their digital download.  Imagine if you live in PST.  If you were like me, and reserved your advanced copy of the Collector's Edition as soon as the release date was announced (OK, technically, I reserved it before that), then you are kinda boned, because while you are waiting to check out at your favorite game store, your neighbors that chose the digital download will already be playing.

      And what is the PSTer's recourse?  Well, they could pay for the game twice...you see, you can buy the digital download so you can play at midnight PST, and then add your collector's code later, or so people expect.  That sounds a bit silly, but if I lived in PST, I might do it, all while cursing Blizzard's name.

      One thing I don't like is that this takes a bit of the fun and energy out of a midnight release.  There's a certain je ne sais quoi to lining up outside the store late at night, seeing the strange mix of people that play the game, getting that game before other people, and racing home to install it.

      One thing I like about it is that no one will be able to sign on earlier because they happen to live significantly more easterly than I do.  I think I would be pretty pissed off if I lived in the PST and had pre-ordered collector's editions from the local gaming store, though.  Those poor folks are losing out in this.

      If you live east of PST and want to feel good about this, then tell yourself that it will take time to buy the game, get home, download it, probably patch it, and get online. :)

      Oh, if you wanted to download files in advance, even if you did not buy the digital download, there is a reputedly legitimate method in this WoW Insider post.  I saw a post suggesting it might causes issues with cinematics not being downloaded, though, so I guess stick with the DVDs to be safe.

      As for me, since I have two hours to buy the game, get home, and load it, I'll just wait until I have the DVDs in hand.  Two more weeks!  OMG!

      Thursday, November 18, 2010

      [4.0.3] The Homogenization of Druid Tanks & Tramp Stamps


      Well, the homogenization of Druids continues, especially with the advent of patch 4.0.3a, for which the 4.0.3 patch this Tuesday has laid the ground work (as I understand it, these mechanics changes are not live in 4.0.3).  We are getting closer to a time when the differences between Tanks will be as subtle as what shape our tramp stamp (character skin) is...

      Side note: You have to give Jagermeister credit for not putting on any pretense about its target market/applications

      OK, maybe that is a bit of an overstatement, but Druids were distinctly different from other tanks in big ways.  Big Armor, Big Dodge, Big Health, Big...other stuff.  But the great homogenization that began long ago is continuing unabated.

      The latest blue posts itemize some major ones.  This page summarizes many of the upcoming Tank changes. I will include one specific, direct quote of 4.0.3 changes that they planned:

      Here are a few additional changes we are making which will be applied in patch 4.0.3a:
      • Guardian of Ancient Kings -- Damage reduction changed from 60% to 50%. Cooldown still 2 minutes (talented). Duration still 12 seconds.
      • Icebound Fortitude -- Damage reduction changed from 30% to 20% (or 60% to 50% talented). Cooldown still 2 minutes. Duration still 12 seconds.
      • Shield Wall -- Damage reduction changed from 40% to 50%. Cooldown still 2 minutes (talented). Duration still 12 seconds.
      • Glyph of Shield Wall -- Now buffs damage reduction by 10% (to 60%), but only adds 1 minute of cooldown.
      • Survival Instincts -- Damage reduction changed from 60% to 50%. Cooldown reduced from 5 minutes to 2 minutes. Duration still 12 seconds.
      • Bear Form -- Stamina bonus lowered from 20% to 10% and Heart of the Wild health bonus from 10% to 6%. Bear health should be close to plate tank health with this change.
      • Vigilance -- No longer reduces damage by 3%, but will still reset Taunt cooldown and provide Vengeance for the warrior.

      And they also nerfed Savage Defense, but it sounds like it was a tweaking more than a nerf.  Savage Defense was overpowered on beta and nerfed because raid bosses were being jacked up to overcome it and that resulted in Raid Bosses two-shotting Tanks.  So they nerfed it; sounds reasonable.

      Of course, the bombshell in there is the tiny statement, "Bear health should be close to plate tank health with this change."  My initial reaction is, blah.  We all enjoy having our classes being special and Druids were set apart from all Tanks because they had high Health (and in some patches, high Armor).  It was a signature characteristic of Druid Tanks.  Of course, we paid heavily for it in terms of taking a lot more damage, so Healer mana endurance might be an issue in content, but it always seemed manageable.

      So, "boo" for more homogenization on those points.  But what about "yay" for homogenization?

      Let's flip that coin over and look at the good things.  First, please recall some of the important mechanics that Druid Tanks have inherited from other Tank classes:
      • Savage Defense an inherited block-like mechanic
      • Barkskin, while not new, expanded its utility when it became usable in Bear Form, which some equated to a Warriors' Shield Block
      • Survival Instincts, which we inherited from the Warriors' Last Stand, but which is now almost identical to a Warrior's Shield Wall
      • Swipe, which we sort of inherited from a Warriors' Cleave; we used to be the only Tank without an AoE Tanking ability (unless you count Demoralizing Roar and Enrage; but if you did, you would be grossly overstating their Threat generating capabilities)
      • SKULL BASH, which we gained with 4.0, a real, honest-to-goodness, practical interrupt, on par with a Warrior's Shield Bash/Pummel in that we have variations of it for Bear and Cat; however, we do have to spend Talent Points to get it down to a practical cooldown
      Many of those came from Warriors, so they too have become less unique (is there a Warrior somewhere writing a post just like this?).  That said, the analogy has always been Bear~Warrior and Cat~Rogue, so maybe it was just reparations. :)

      So, with all of that, what makes us different from other Tanks?
      • Self healing...sort of.  DKs have about as much and both Warriors and Paladins have some mechanisms for self-heals, albeit not ongoing abilities
      • High mobility - the gap is shrinking on this, since other tanks have ways to escape snares/immobilization or reduce the duration significantly (and passively); still, being able to shift out of snares/immobilization is nice
      • Countering Polymorph - Hmm, well, they nerfed our blanket immunity, leaving us with just the ability to shift out of it, which replaces the use of another ability and risks the possibility of being caught in caster form; of course, for a Tank, this has generally been virtually useless, as bosses do not typically Polymorph a Tank
      • Greater hybridization of Tank and DPS roles - I think this is still true, especially with the departure of Armor Penetration combined with the re-re-ascendance of Agility for Ferals
      • Nature's Grasp - as you may recall, this became usable in Bear Form (I *think* that WotLK change, not sure).  This is rarely useful, but when it is useful, it can be pretty cool, e.g., pinning adds at the end of Heroic Lady Deathwhisper
      • Faerie Fire is more potent, but now is exactly like Sunder Armor and thus does not add anything new; that said, major armor debuffs are really good, so it is nice to have one more Tank type insuring that we have it
      • Mangle's bleed damage bonus is nice and synergistic with your own damage as well as Warrior Tanks and some DPS; Feral DPS and Arms Warriors can also provide this
      • Mark of the Wild is pretty weak in terms of being unique, since all Paladins and Druids can provide the same buff; that said, changing it to match Blessing of Kings makes it pretty cool
      • Leader of the Pack is cool, but can be provided by Fury Warriors and Feral DPS as well; this is also where we get our self-heal (too bad it no longer provides healing to others)
      I am sure I forgot something, but you get the point.  Tanks are becoming more similar in general terms.  This is bad for feeling special/different, but good for overall fight balancing and raid composition.  In a sense, we are taking an aesthetic hit for the team, and I think it is worth it.

      Tuesday, November 16, 2010

      [4.0.3] Elemental Invasion Observations &Tips


      So, unless you have not been logging into the game, you are aware of the cool elemental invasion plot line.  It's been a fun story development that included your usual "go here and do this" stuff, but it had some cool stuff in there, such as:
      • Having to ride around doing the "end is nigh" doomsayer bit
      • Some clever and timely quests around distrust and fear (cultist = terrorist?)
      • And now the full on invasion!
      For the full details, check out WoW Head's excellent page on it.

      Here are the highlights:
      • Every 2-3 hours (yes, it does vary), two major cities of your faction are attacked (Orgrimmar & Thunder Bluff; Stormwind & Ironforge)
      • First you place barricades, then you free trapped citizens (with totems provided by talking to the Earthen Ring defenders) and kill elementals
      • Each city will  be attacked by two types of elemental (I have seen Fire & Earth in Orgrimmar, Air & Water in Thunder Bluff)
      • Successfully defending a city opens up a dungeon containing one boss for each respective element; e.g., if you finish defending Orgimmar at 6:00 PM, then two dungeon options open up in the dungeon finder tool, one for a Fire boss, (Flamelash), and one for an Earth boss (remember the Princess from Maraudon?); they will go away at 7:00 PM, one hour after the elementals were driven from Orgrimmar
      • The premise is that the cultists are opening portals for those bosses to attack the city; you are preemptively striking to  in order stop them
      • The leader of the respective city will fight alongside of you, which is kinda cool
      • The first time you do each dungeon, there will be a quest
      • You have one hour to drive off the elementals from the start of the invasion
      And some tips/observations:
      • On my server/faction (Kirin Tor-US/Horde), most everyone starts in Orgrimmar, so TB ends up being defended later; that's OK, but be sure when it's all over that you hit the portals associated with Orgrimmar first, as the timer starts on those the moment the defense of Orgrimmar is complete (the cities have their own timers on the dungeons)
      • The fights are pretty easy, so bringing lowbies is not a problem and soloing it might be viable, but why not bring buddies for the easy Justice Points?
      • If your faction does successively defend the cities, you can get the Tripping the Rifts Achievement in a single round of invasions by making sure you help kill one of each rift in each city.
      • In the dungeons, run a ready check and make sure everyone has the quest before you pull, especially with Flamelash, as there are no intro pulls there, the first pull brings the boss into combat, along with the quest giver (the aforementioned leader of the city you are defending); you turn in the quest to the leader back in their city
      • Some folks reported a bug with exiting the dungeons, but if you click on the portal to exit, it seems to work reliably
      In closing - DO IT!  It's temporary and it's part of WoW history, so get your licks in now.  Who knows, maybe if you fight really hard, you will prevent whatever nasty thing those evil cultists were trying to do... :)

      Tuesday, October 26, 2010

      [4.0.1] BlizzCon 2010 - Desired Improvements With the RayV Feed




      Please Improve the RayV Feed

      I hate it when people lie, whether that lie is big or small.  And when I pay for a show, I expect not to see advertising.  And yet, when I clicked to watch the Cataclysm cinematics discussion, the first thing I saw was an ad for DirectTV (a generic one, not a BlizzCon-themed one), and within a minute or so, the stereotypical gritty voiceover tells me it's "completely commercial free".

      You know, I expect to see gratuitous self-promotion of BlizzCon, and tedious replays and restatements of BlizzCon events past, present, and future.  But I don't expect to see general advertising.

      Improvement #1: I would like to keep the paid BlizzCon feed free from ads.

      Second, it's not very hard to edit video timing.  In spite of that, I have generally been unable to click on a show and end up right at the start of that show.  When I chose the WoW Cinematics discussion, it was a good 8-10 minutes before it actually started.

      Improvement #2: I would like to be able to go right to the start of the segment I choose.

      And, you know what?  I am logged in and they are feeding me the content.  So, why not have a big fat "Resume" button somewhere that will crank up the feed right where I left off, if I close my browser, shut off my PC, etc.?

      Improvement #3: I would like a "resume" option to resume viewing at the last spot I was being fed, if my feed is interrupted in any way.

      This may sound odd, but there are lots of little discussions between the panels that often involve various folks I want to hear.  But there is no place on the schedule for them.  To watch them, you need to pick some episode/feed, and click up and down the time bar.

      Improvement #4: Include the filler blocks in the schedule, along with some tiny description, e.g., "Filler - Joe Blow".

      The second-most annoying problem I have had so far is that I cannot reliably recover from pausing the feed.  For me, it usually does not work. I am using the latest version of Internet Explorer, so I would hope that they are designing for it.  Most of the time that I paused, when I tried to resume, it simply stayed frozen and I had to reload or restart, then try to click back to approximately the right place in the time bar, which, of course, I sort of had to estimate.

      Improvement #5:  Make pause work reliably.

      The most annoying thing was when I tried to go back and watch WoW Class Q&A and it simply would not work.  But that's just the beginning.  I clicked on the support chat to inquire if there was a workaround and to get an estimate of when it would be fixed.  After a long time, someone finally answered and we had this a disappointing discussion, in terms of time wasted.



      Improvement #6:  Provide workarounds for your content, e.g., a failover site or another streaming technology alternative.

      Maybe it's all a clever ruse to convince me to get DirectTV...oh well, here's hoping it is better next year.

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      [4.0.1] BlizzCon 2010 Notes, Day 2


      Cataclysm Cinematics
      This was pretty cool.  It might be a bit too detailed of a discussion for some, but I liked it.  The Worgen cut scene makes me sad and happy.  I was pretty disappointed to see FREAKING WEREWOLVES ending up as an Alliance race when I first heard about it, but I consoled myself that they weren't *that* cool, the Goblins had a lot of flavor, and they came close to letting me play something somewhat close to a Gnome without having to play Alliance.  The concept of the noble, misunderstood, unjustly villified being is pretty much Horde defined.  But, as long as Worgen weren't too cool, I could deal with it.

      The Worgen cutscene spoke very concisely and effectively to a concept of noble redemption.  So I was happy with the movie, but sad once again that Worgen are an Alliance race.  Really, really sad.

      I love their cinematics.  I wish Blizz would fund them to make more.  Great stuff.

      Class Q&A Panel

      Ghostcrawler: "I'm a Libra...I like long walks on the beach, gin, and nerfing Paladins"

      [We'll ignore the Hunter guy that confused the Q&A with "Have An Argument With The Devs" event.  Moving on...]

      Their answer to the "homogenization of classes" question was interesting.  They feel they are maintaining class distinctiveness due to their differing resource mechanics.  That's an interesting notion; I had, like many, focused on the spells and their effects.

      I was intrigued by Ghostcrawler's answer about Achievements on characters.  I would LOVE to see Achievements be account-specific and not character-specific.  Something like that would probably send me off chasing more Achievements.  For example, I care about lore/RP enough that I can't justify chasing the Insane title with my Druid; it's just too evil to kill my Goblin friends.  My DK, however, has less qualms, as does my Rogue...

      They will be adding a minor Glyph to let Trees turn into the old "Grandma Tree" form (devs' words, not mine).  Probably good news for female Trees, since the new forms with the Soul Patch look a tad masculine...

      Open Q&A

      WoW Insider has a Liveblog transcript.  I will be quoting bits I found interesting.  Thanks to Allison Robert for typing it up.

      Draenei Are Scourge!

      First and foremost, I have to enlighten you that Draenei are Scourge.  You heard it here first folks!  Check out this quote from the transcript:
      1:50 pm "Has anyone ever given any thought to changing death knight eye glows from blue to red to green depending on what spec they are?"
      (audience claps)

      A: No, we haven't. It might get a little too Christmas tree-y. When you see the blue eyes, it means death knight -- death. But Chris - anything to add here?
      A: Don't want to blur the lines on colors, they have different meanings in the game.
      A: Red means demonic -- an easy distinction. Blue -- Scourge influence.

      Blue means Scourge.  Draenei are blue.  Therefore, Draenei must be Scourge. Q.E.D.

      Other stuff
      • A few words were mentioned about the prospect of seeing the Emerald Dream in future content; I am holding out hope for it being something big, perhaps an entire expansion.
      • Alchemists getting a potion that will turn them into a dragon that can carry a passenger(s?); my wife is an Alchemist...here's hoping every jackass isn't trying to click on her if she uses the potion.
      • No commitment to make Achievements account bound :(
      • Possible keyring-like closet for clothes in the future
      • More player slots on a realm - "it's been discussed"
      • Sidekick/mentoring system so high level and low level players can play with a similar level of challenge together
      • Dance studio still in development; animators work on additions when they have spare time; will ship when it reaches critical mass
      And that's all of my notes from Day 2. :)

      Saturday, October 23, 2010

      [4.0.1] BlizzCon 2010 Notes - Day 1

      I was not lucky enough to get tickets for BlizzCon, but I did fork out the cash for the Virtual tickets.  Thankfully, RayV enables me to check out the BlizzCon events when I have the time...so, perhaps a little belatedly, here come my notes on the first day of BlizzCon.

      Disclaimer: I am only going to highlight the stuff that resonated with me.

      The Virtual Ticket Kinda Sucks

      Buffering and freezes were pretty commonplace, far too commonplace.  This was even worse, given that we have absurd fiber optic access here.

      And pausing was a crap shoot.  There was a pretty good chance that if you paused it, it would never unpause.

      It was also hard to watch what I wanted when I wanted.  I was going to watch the WoW Tournament, and all I saw was a screen showing what match-ups were next.

      For the price and having to squat at my PC for hours to watch it...the level of service quality makes me a sad panda.

      Moonkin Hatchling Pet

      So, if you took a Moonkin and made it cute, would you get the following?


      Hmm, maybe that's more freaky than cute.  What will no doubt be cute is the Moonkin Hatchling that was announced as a future pet.  It was announced in the same breath as the Panderan Monk pet, so my assumption is that it will be purchasable like the Panderan Monk was.  I wonder if it will have a charitable component too.

      Dungeons & Raids

      Some notes from Dungeons and raids.
      • Dungeons
        • Quests for dungeons right at the entrance
        • Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines made into climactic ends for their zones
        • Breaking old dungeons into wings
        • Trimming Sunken Temple to make it a lot more navigable and digestible
        • Trimming some of the excessive dead space in the Wailing Caverns
      • Raids
        • More raid zones
        • Funky new mechanics, e.g., sneaking past a monster
        • More bite-sized chunks
        • "Content for everyone" (more casual vs. more hardcore)
        • More flexible raiding (flexible raid locks)
        • Normal raid difficulty progress is saved on your character (you can only defeat each boss once a week)
        • Heroic raid difficulty works just like Lich King, locked to a specific lockout
      • 4.1.0 preview
        • Firelands Raid - Elemental plane of fire; Ragnaros' home; 7 bosses
        • Abyssal Maw Dungeon - Elemental plane of water
          • Adding mechanic so that when underwater and you touch the floor, you stick to the ground and walk along it (as opposed to swimming)
        • Enhanced Maps (could not finish for Cataclysm release)
          • Gone back and done 2D maps for every game in the dungeon
          • Detailed information on the boss - lore, loot, abilities
          • 3D animated portraits (for the bosses)
          • Works in both dungeons and raids
      • Q & A
        • Looting? More stringent on class constraints.
        • Old legendary fragment drops rate change?  With reduced lockouts, can they increase the rate?  Going to look into it.
        • BRD changes?  It's very tricky to break it up, so we put in some teleporters.
        • Side note: Graveyards are super close, none farther than 30 seconds away, most near the instance portal
        • Spectator mode to let extra players be able to watch the raid even though they can't attend the raid (e.g., raiders #26-31 can watch from someone's perspective)? Sounds cool.
        • Any plans for guild-bound Legendaries?  Thus far, our view is that the cost outweighs the benefits.
        • We get the same number of loot 10 (2) vs. 25 (5), what about the "more lucrative" claim? You get more Justice points.
      That last one raises a point of interest.  So, more lucrative means more justice points.  As a fan of rewarding 25s, I am a little disappointed.  Here's hoping that those extra Justice points are actually significant.

      Tournaments

      Watching this made me long for playing in the arena. /pine

      It's not surprising, but it is still amusing to see every team's certainty that they will win.  I only watched the first match because it was already late (I was not able to watch everything live, so I was behind the curve).

      The match up was MLS (they kept calling them "the Korean MLS" team, so I guess there is another one named that) vs. *aAa*.  MLS was...an MLS team (Mage 'Lock Shaman).  *aAa* ("Against All Authority) was a Druid(Resto)/Shaman(Elem)/Warlock team.  Both Warlocks were Soul Link builds with Fel Domination (big surprise, huh?).  The Mage was Frost (another big surprise, huh?).

      The lag out on the first match was...amusing, but I also felt bad for the players, as the match was well underway.  The first match (that counted) was exciting to watch.  It was in Dalaran sewers and both teams did a lot of good work, but *aAa* eventually pulled out the win.

      By contrast, the second match was maddeningly long.  After a while, I just wanted someone to die so the game would end.  Very close to the time for a draw, *aAa* managed to get a kill.

      So, the entire time, one of the commentators kept suggesting the best strategy for MLS over and over and over and over and...seriously man.  Well, in the third match, they pretty much seemed to do what he had said.  That said, their strategy may simply have been "wait until Barkskin is on cooldown and push the Druid really hard."

      Then match 4 started...and lagged...and started again.   It was pretty long.  It was Nagrand, both teams played very defensively, and were very good at it.  There was so much pillar humping that I think some sort of sexual crime was committed.  But eventually, *aAa* focused the Mage when he didn't have Ice Block available, taking the match and the overall win.

      Of course, this all has me wondering if I will be happy PvPing in Cata.  It seems that Feral should be better at PvP now.  I hope that perception is correct.

      Well, that's the last show I am watching tonight (early morning*, whatever), so...good night. :)

      * - my business trip this week really hosed my sleep cycle.

      Friday, October 22, 2010

      [4.0.1] Addendum to "Clickable Items Causing Lock-ups & Disconnects?!"

      Just a quick addendum/follow-up to [4.0.1] Clickable Items Causing Lock-ups & Disconnects?!  Thanks to helpful comments, we have a link that suggests it is a tooltip issue and offers some scripts and an add-on to solve it (well, it's more accurate to call it a workaround).  Check out the [Workaround] Cog of DOOM (HH Event, BGs) post in the WoW forums.

      There you should fine two scripts, one to disable tooltips, one to enable them.  There are numerous claims in that thread of solving the problem this way.  Please post if this does not solve the problem, but take note that there are other things that can causes these issues.  I am mostly focused on being locked-up or disconnected due to mouseovers on clickable items.

      Note: I tried cramming both into one macro and just using modifiers to determine which script was executed, but it did not work.   Bad news if you have zero extra macro slots like a certain someone (/whisper I am talking about me).

      Of course, disabled tooltips means you won't see any tooltips, do here's hoping the problem gets completely resolved soon.

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      [4.0.1] Not Your Dad's Soothe Animal...


      So, there I was, running through Sethekk Halls for, oh I don't know, the 120th time?  I was hitting that first stair, where I usually pop out of Prowl (Cat version of Stealth) and look for that Cobalt Serpent that always wanders up there.  And, as usual, I cast Soothe Animal on him, and just like the last time I was here, he attacks me instead of ignoring me.

      This gets me thinking, something along the lines of "WTF? Did I actually get close enough?  Did I accidentally Moonfire him?!"  Now, if you actually moused over the Soothe Animal link above, you probably have a hint.  It doesn't exist anymore.  In fact, it's now just Soothe.  You see, it's changed...

      So, we have gone from a spell that reduces the aggro range on Beasts to a spell that removes Enrage effects.

      The first important lesson here is don't be dumb like me and cast Soothe, and expect the Cobalt Serpent to ignore you. The second, and more important, lesson is that Druids can now help us deal with Enraged critters.  Good news for helping out with Shambling Horrors.  No, not the Level 8 ones in Tirisfal Glades, but the ones in the Lich King fight with their oh, so annoying Enrage.

      Good news for the raid leader, bad news for Feral Druids (psst, that's me) since it's a Nature spell.   That means that unless you are a Moonkin (Balance spec Druid), you are going to be shifted back to your default humanoid form to cast it.

      As a Tank, I will likely not be called upon to use it.  Cats, beware...

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      [4.0.1] Clickable Items Causing Lock-ups & Disconnects?!


      EDIT: We now have a tentative solution.  See the end of the post.

      Unexpected lock-ups and disconnects make me a sad panda.  Myself and many others are experiencing it.  One of my fellow guildies suggested turning off sticky targeting, as that was perceived to be a solution in Beta.  however, I still had an issue with WoW locking up during the Headless Horseman event.

      Yes, that's right, we have a bug that locks up your game or disconnects you when you click on something, and the current world event involves clicking on something to start an event at least daily.  While some might find it joyous to wipe because half the party is frantically trying to shut down WoW and log back in...most people don't.

      If that's not fun enough, this also includes Soul Wells, Summoning Stones, Fish Feasts, etc.  It makes for a very frustrating raid start. :(

      NOTE: this can happen solely from mouseovers on clickable objects.

      In the meantime, caution your party and perhaps mouseover the clickable item first to see if you can safely click it.  When you identify who can click it safely, and that everyone else is still there, fire away!

      As if I was not sad enough, when I submitted a ticket to Blizzard, I got the infamous panacea response:
      "...please try moving or deleting your WTF, CACHE, and INTERFACE folders"
      /sigh

      I guess I'll give that a try when I have more time...

      Do you know how to fix it?  If so, please share!

      EDIT: Thanks to helpful comments, we have a link that suggests it is a tooltip issue and offers some scripts and an add-on to solve it.  Check out the [Workaround] Cog of DOOM (HH Event, BGs) post in the WoW forums.

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      [4.0.1] Feral Druid - Gems


      Re-gemming edition!

      Disclaimer: I composed this on the weekend.  If the mechanics change significantly between now and when this posts on Tuesday, my apologies.

      For Bears, it's good news, in that you can pretty much keep on trucking with your gem choices.

      For Cats, not so much.  If you were hitting the end content and gemmed properly, you likely had more than a few Armor Penetration gems.  Those all were converted to Critical Hit gems when 4.0.1 hit.  Blah.  So, what's a Cat to do?

      First, you need to insure you are capped for Hit and Expertise.  Remember, we lost Primal Precision from our Talents, which raised our Expertise quite a lot.  What numbers do we need?  The same numbers we need every night, Pinky...
      • 8% melee Hit, which is now 246 Hit Rating
      • 6.5% Dodge reduction, which is now 200 Expertise Rating
      You not only have gems to accomplish this, but also Reforging, and with the combination, you can achieve some unusual values that might allow you to very efficiently reach the above numbers almost exactly.  I was lucky enough to be able to hit Expertise 200 precisely.

      After that, stack Agility until further notice.

      Are slot bonuses worth not taking a Delicate cut?  Reply hazy, ask again later.

      My biggest problem is my stupid yellow slots.  I am not sure I like any Yellow gem enough and there are a lot of yellow slots in my DPS gear.

      Well, that's all I got.  If you know more, please share. :)

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      [4.0.1] Anzu Self-Service?

      [Thank goodness for scheduled publishing.  As this post automagically goes live, I will be neck deep in a mountain of work.  Enjoy!]


      Have you ever wished you were able to spend day after day farming for the Reins of the Raven Lord, but you are not a Druid?  Well, you are in luck!  Anzu is now a regular boss in Heroic Sethekk Halls.  You no longer need to summon him, which means you no longer need a Druid that has finished the Swift Flight Form quest line.

      While some may complain, especially folks that want to have special access to stuff, I am happy to see the change.  If other people want to farm this bastard, more power to them.  For Druids, there is still good news.
      • No summon = no waiting for the absurdly long summon to finish
      • The trash from Anzu's room and between Anzu's and Ikiss's room are also gone, so once you get to Anzu, it's pretty quick and clean
      The fight still seems the same and comments on WoW Head indicate that he is still dropping the reins in 4.0.1.

      Good luck to all of you new "Raven mount" farmers!

      Sunday, October 17, 2010

      [4.0.1] Thrall's Speech to Garrosh, Eitrigg, and Vol'Jin (w/ Transcript)


      With patch 4.0.1, we have a bit of an RP event in Thrall's Chamber now.  It appears to start fairly randomly.  This is in the current game content, but if you want to see it first yourself, don't continue reading and do not click on the link that follows.  After standing there for 20 minutes (I am the sexy Tauren in the picture), I broke down and found someone that had filmed the exchange and put it on YouTube

      4.0.1 SPOILERS (SORT OF) BEYOND THIS POINT

      I was going to point you to a transcript, but I could not readily find one.  So, I'll make one for you.
      Thrall: OK, let's do this.   So, um, Elementals are pissed and stuff, and I gotta go check it out; oh and there is other stuff to deal with.  Garrosh is in charge until I get back.
      Garrosh: You can count on me, bro.
      Thrall: Cool.
      Vol'jin: Cool.
      Eitrigg: Cool.
      Garrosh: Cool.
       OK, maybe that's a paraphrase, here we go:
      Thrall: Let us begin.
      Garrosh: Are we not going to have more witnesses?
      Thrall: I do not wish to make an event of this.  Such frivolities are expensive and merely serve our vanity.  But if you wish to have a celebration...
      Garrosh: No Warchief, this is enough.
      Thrall: You know that these are troubling times for the Horde.  Our supplies dwindle.  Our lands are barren.  These are tasks that must be addressed for the good of the Horde.
      Vol'jjn: Da people be happy with our success in Northrend.
      Garrosh: "Our" success?  Troll, you played no part in the Horde's victories in Northrend.  While I led our warriors against the Lich King, you merely took back a few scattered islands.
      Vol'jjn: Watch yourself, young one. You don't-
      Eitrigg: Garrosh!  Vol'Jin!  Hold your tongues.  There are larger issues at stake.
      Vol'jin: Forgive my outburst, Warchief.  Please continue.
      Thrall: Despite our success in Northrend, we face serious problems that cannot be solved simply by axe and sword.  Eathrquakes shake every region.  Elementals ravage the countryside.  I can hear our land Azeroth, cry out in pain.
      Garrosh:  These are the reasons that you must leave.
      Thrall: Yes, I leave for Nagrand to learn from the elements there.  They have suffered and seen many of these same symptoms.
      Vol'jin: How long you gonna be gone?
      Thrall: It may take time to learn what I must.  I trust I will not be gone too long, but it could be weeks - even months.
      Thrall: In my absence, I am instructing you, Garrosh Hellscream, to lead the Horde.  You have the strength and courage that our people need to survive in these trying times.
      Garrosh: I am honored, Warchief.  But I feel unprepared for the life of a ruler.
      Thrall: You will not be alone.  You will have advisors: Cairne, Eitrigg, Vol'jin.  They will help guide you.
      Thrall: And though I am leaving soon, I can also instruct you.
      Vol'jin: A good first test may be dealin' with dese cultists.  Da people be scared.  Dey aren't sure what's goin' on.
      Garrosh: But even we are not sure of all that is happening.  Should we capture these cultists and force their silence?  But that may anger the rest of the people...  Still, we cannot allow the cult to spread fear and lies...
      Eitrigg: Now you are thinking like a ruler, Garrosh.  You must look at all sides of a problem.  Consult with your advisors and act with confidence.
      Thrall: They will help you Garrosh.  And I will help you.  I will find the answers that we need to assuage the fears of the people and soothe the elements.
      Garrosh:  I will not fail you, Warchief.  I will lead as well as I can, and I will consult with the advisors you suggest.  I know what a tremendous honor you do me, and I will strive to be worthy of it.
      Thrall: Then it is done.
      Thrall: Let everything you do be done for the Horde.
      Vol'jin: For da Horde!
      Eitrigg: For the Horde!
      Garrosh: For the Horde!
      And there ya go! Interestingly, he did not declare him Warchief directly.  Will Thrall still be Warchief?

      And did Garrosh get a publicist and get off the juice?  When did he get polite, humble, and less roid-ragey?

      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      [4.0.1] Feral Druid - Glyphs for Bear Tanks and Cat Melee DPS


      With the advent of 4.0.1, Feral Druids are back in the situation of having plenty of slots for the Glyphs they want.  Or, if you are a "half cup full" guy, we don't have enough awesome Glyphs to use up our slots, so we have to fill them out with some less useful ones.

      Quick Overview of the New Glyph System

      You probably already know this, but we now have 3 echelons of Glyph - Prime, Major, and Minor; and 3 Glyphs in each echelon, for a total of 9 Glyphs.  This is a good thing, as there were far too many times that I found myself thinking a given Glyph really did not seem important enough to take up one of my precious Major slots.

      The other major thing is that you know learn a Glyph only once.  That puts the Glyph into a spell book of sorts that you can access forever.  When you want to swap a Glyph, you use a single dose of Vanishing Powder (1 per Glyph changed).

      Finally, all Glyphs now require 3 ink, which is an increase, but hey, you only need to make it once now (for a given character).

      Bear Glyphs

      Here is what I am currently using..huh, it looks like the Armory is not properly showing the Glyphs...and it only shows 6 Glyphs slots still.
      • Prime
        • Glyph of Mangle
        • Glyph of Lacerate
        • Glyph of Berserk
      •  Major
        • Glyph of Faerie Fire
        • Glyph of Feral Charge*
        • Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration*
        • Glyph of Rebirth*
      • Minor
        • Glyph of Dash
        • Glyph of Aquatic Form
        • Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth
      * - For Tanking, Glyph of Faerie Fire is very good.  The others are a matter of taste, IMO.  I have come to really like Glyph of Rebirth (yes, you can still get off some Rebirths even when you are an MT)

      My minors have not changed since Glyphs were introduced, and they are not changing now.  I like them too much.

      The Primes were easy, as there were only 3 that actually affected Bear abilities.

      The Majors are not so easy.  Glyph of Faerie Fire is pretty safe and allows you pull farther targets; that is good.  Reducing your charge cooldown is cool, but the amount is so small that it's questionable; and yet, is there a better choice?

      Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration sounds cool, but the cost of losing your self-heal is painful.  I have used that to stay alive many times.  Glyph of Maul is a favorite for some, but I like being able to surgically Tank exactly one mob and not accidentally tag others when I do not want that.  Glyph of Rebirth should be silly and pointless for a Tank, but it may be situationally useful and at least it does no harm, whereas Frenzied Regeneration and Maul both could cause problems.

      So, for now I have slotted Glyph of Feral Charge and Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration.

      Cat Glyphs

      Here are my Cat Glyphs:
      * - Most of the Major Glyphs are cute effects.  The utility of these Glyphs depends upon your role and usual raid mix.  You will likely have many opportunities to cast Rebirth, making this very valuable.  That said, some may prefer the FF Glyph for ease of getting it up earlier and/or tagging targets from farther away when questing, leveling, and in PvP.

      ** - If you never plan to PvP, this is probably a bad choice. If you plan to PvP, this is a great choice.

      The Primes are the same main actors we have seen in the past.  For the Majors, nothing seems really essential.  Alaron, at the Fluid Druid blog feels that Glyph of Faerie Fire is an essential Major Glyph, but all of the Majors seem to be a matter of taste; he interestingly feels the Glyph of Ferocious Bite could actually be detrimental, depending upon your technique.

      So, I went with Rake for questing and Barkskin for PvP.

      Hope this helps!

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

      [4.0.1] Patch Day Impressions and Lessons


      Well, patch day came and went, and things worked pretty well for me.  I hope you fared as well.  I have not been avidly following Beta discussions, so some of this may be old hat for you folks, but here are my impressions and lessons from Patch Day.

      The New Guild Panel Rocks!

      You simply need to play around with it to appreciate it, but if you do nothing else, then do this:
      1. Open up the guild panel (the little tabard icon or the "j" key)
      2. Look at "Views" and choose "Professions"
      3. You will see a listing of all guildies online with a given profession and everything they can make!
      Sweet, huh?

      Filling Out Your Glyphs

      As you probably know, there will be no more repeat application of Glyphs.  Once you learn it, it's in your Glyph panel forever.  Those Glyphs are universal across talent guilds for a character, so you don't need twice as many if you have two specs.

      I spent about an hour milling herbs and making Glyphs for just 5 characters last night.  If, like me, you are smashing up herbs, then I have some information for you.

      Each Glyph now takes 3 ink.  For a full set of Glyphs, you will need around 100 ink (e.g., the full set of Priest Glyphs for my wife took 99 ink).  Most people will have some Glyphs already, so you should need around 80 ink to fill out their Glyphs.

      You should be able to take care of one character's entire Glyph needs with about 10 stacks of herbs.

      The new mechanic for changing Glyphs is that you change them one at a time, and each individual Glyph swap requires Vanishing Powder.  You can buy this at the Inscription Supplies merchant, but it only works on level 80 or below.  For those that try to profit from Inscription, I hope they make the higher level Vanishing Powder a crafted only item.

      You Might Have a Glyph to Research...

      My Inscriber is an alt, but long ago I maxed out the Glyphs he knew.  In spit of that, last night, when I pushed Northrend Inscription Research, something popped out, a Glyph of Living Bomb.  The cooldown has been shortened to ~3.5 hours, though, so later than night I logged back in and tried again to find that I had nothing else to research.  Strange...

      Changing Out Gems

      If you are like me, you probably have some gems to swap around and you did not get around to amassing a stockpile.  Well, no fear.  You don't have to let opportunistic twerps gouge you.  You can find affordable gems at the PvP vendor, where you can buy them for very reasonable amounts of honor.  The highlights of the gem changes are:

      • Hit is now blue.
      • Mastery and Dodge are now yellow.
      • Intellect is now red.
      • MP5 (blue) became Spirit (blue)
      • Attack Power (red) became Agility (red)
      • Spell Power (red) is converted to Intellect (now red)
      • Defense (yellow) became Dodge (yellow) or Parry (red)
      • Armor Penetration (red) became Critical Hit (yellow)
      That last one is pretty annoying, especially for Cats.  Not only did you lose Armor Penetration and are probably reeling from the DPS loss, you were given a so-so replacement with a different color that probably broke many, if not most, of your bonuses from red gem placement.

      The New Raid Panel and Marking Tools Are Cool

      You just have to check them out.  Features added:
      • New raid panel like grid, but better in many ways - I wonder if we will see development of the grid helper addons for this raid panel; WTB incoming heal warnings for Blizzard Raid Panel
      • New role check - a great tool for PUGs, instead of, "If you are a Healer, please type out 1"
      • Free smoke flares - this is sweet, you can put down flares of all 5 colors, as many as you like and only your raid can see them, so annoying twits can't fill Dalaran with smoke flares (well, not cheaply nor easily)
      No More Taunt-Related Glyphs

      I was worried initially about losing this, as it was crucial for Tanking some fights well.  I dug around a bit and I found random comments here and there that suggest that Taunt is either unable to miss or moving to melee Hit chances.  I am hoping for the former.

      Here's hoping I see more cool new stuff...time to download more addon updates...

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      [4.0.1] Feral Druid - Tank Talent Build/Spec Mk.1


      OK, you probably just want a good build, so here is a link to the build pictured above (you can click the picture instead if you like).  My chain of thought:

      Tier 1: Feral Swiftness 2/2 and Furor 3/3 are the only Tank-specific Talents in Tier 1, easy choice.

      Tier 2: Pick up Infected Wounds 2/2 for survival and Primal Fury 2/2 for more Rage generation.  Now you have to make a choice for a filler point - Fury Swipes for more Threat/damage or Feral Aggression for more rapid stacking of Feral Faerie Fire*; choose what you like.  Ultimately, I ended up buying everything here for fillers or leftover points; once I hit 85, I might try to push farther into Restoration for Perseverance.

      * - Feral Faerie Fire now stacks up to 3, but we still have a 6-second cooldown.  This means that it will take at least 12 seconds to get up to the maximum armor debuff.  FFF and Sunders will be not stack with each other though, so if you have a reliable source of Sunders, this may be a waste.

      Tier 3: Pick up Feral Charge 1/1 and Thick Hide 3/3.  I can't imagine giving up my charge and Thick Hide give you your crit immunity.  You will need one filler point to get to Tier 4; you can either put some more into Fury Swipes or Feral Aggression in Tier 2 (recommended) or put points into Stampede, but the value of Stampede ability is uncertain right now.  Enrage has become a suicidal ability (take +10% from ALL damage), best saved for pulls, when you can let the debuff go away, so King of the Jungle is going to be a real waste of points the vast majority of the time.

      Tier 4: Pick up Leader of the Pack 1/1 and Brutal Impact 2/2.  Leader of the Pack is a no-brainer and in Cataclysm, it gives you the old Improved benefits too, although it appears that only you get healed now.  Brutal Impact is what gives you a practical interrupt in the form of Skullbash with a 10-second cooldown.  Pretty hard to argue with either of those choices, IMO, but I have yearned for a practical spell interrupt since I started playing a Druid.

      Tier 5: Pick up Survival Instincts 1/1 for another "oh crap!" button, Endless Carnage 2/2 for more Threat, and Natural Reactions 2/2 for more avoidance and more Rage.

      Tier 6: You need Pulverize, so you have to pick up Rend & Tear and Pulverize, which both pump up your Threat generation.

      Tier 7: Pick up Berserk.  Not only does it have the old stuff, it also gives a passive benefit of possibly refreshing Mangle!

      Head over to Restoration and pick up Heart of the Wild 3/3.  Ten percent more Stamina?  Yes, please!

      By now, you should have 2 points left, and you ended up getting everything in Tier 2 with filler points.  In my opinion, the best place for those last two points is Stampede.  At least it will help give you a Threat pulse at the start to reduce the likelihood of aggro pulls by DPS at the start of a fight.

      Voila!  Go forth and conquer, or tankquer, or whatever.

      Some resources to help you form your opinion:

      [4.0.1] Patch Incoming! Ahhh! - Patch 4.0.1 Resources


      As you probably already know:
      Extended maintenance will begin tonight at midnight, Tuesday, October 12 for the release of patch 4.0.1. Maintenance will begin at 12:01 AM PDT and conclude at approximately 12:01 PM PDT. During this time all realms and many web services will be unavailable.
      Due to the size of the patch we highly recommend you enable your background downloader. If you need assistance doing so please visit http://us.blizzard.com/support/article.xml?locale=en_US&articleId=35274

      Don't panic, the interwebs have you covered.  Lissanna did a wonderful job of collating some resources in her post titled, Druid Resource List for 4.0.1.

      Graylo, of course, continues to hit it out of the park with his Moonkin Guide to Patch 4.0.1.

      WoW Insider is also helpful in providing us with the following:

      And yes, those things are all going into effect today, so be ready!   Read up while you wait.  And why not fire up a talent calculator too?

      And just because I like her work, my Paladin friends should check out Blessing of Kings and her Holy Paladin Spec and Glyphs in 4.0.1 post.

      I don't know about you, but I am psyched about the new content.  Here's hoping we get online fast!

      Am I going to give you sage advice on 4.0.1?  Sure, here it is:
      • Pay attention to the fact that the raid-wide Hit buffs are going away
      • Have your Talent spec ready to go before you sign back on
      • Don't panic!
      I have not been blessed by the Blizzard gods with a Beta key, so I'll be learning on the job, like most of you.  If I learn anything useful, you know where I'll post it. :)