Archive for December, 2009

It’s been, what, 3 weeks? since patch 3.3 launched. Scarcely even a month, and what I’ve suspected has come to pass.

The gear bar has been raised. I was one of those complaining that we’d all get free emblem loots, free Tier 9 and free loot from new , ezmode heroics. Well, HoR isn’t exactly ezmode, but the other two are.

But I suppose I was proven wrong, in a manner. I’ve geared my DK tank up in the best available emblem loot in a manner of weeks, and it doesn’t matter. I’m still not ‘imba’. See, Tier 9 is already baseline. It’s is no longer cool. See, while me and my casual buddies have moved up from ilvl 200’s and blues to 232 gear, everyone else has moved on to even higher heights. Tier 10 is now cool. Ilvl 251’s and 264’s  are now cool. We adjust. Welfare epix are merely the gateway drug. We grind out our 232’s and now set our sights on gear only attainable through raiding the new content. And, once more, the ever unattainable carrot is dangled in front of our noses.

Nothing has changed, really. There’s always going to be a carrot. It’s what keeps us vested.


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Well, looks like Christmas is just about here, and the New Year just around the bend. I’m going to be spending it watching Avatar (again) and 2012. IMO, tradition is for the birds, but if that’s your thing, do it with all your heart.

Happy holidays.

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This is my white whale. I picked up my DK again because I absolutely adore the idea of being able to wade into an army of mobs, drop some aoe abilities and tank the hell out of them all, while pushing some solid dps in the process. Cue adoration and praise of all and sundry, flower petals drifting from the sky, peasants whispering in hushed voices as the mighty Skurm wanders by….


See, DK tanks are in a pretty bad place for maintanking right now. But theoretically, they should make great offtanks, and theoretically they should perform as the finest AoE tanks around. So instead of trying to be something that the class is not exactly the strongest at, instead focus on it’s strengths and capitalise on them. Towards that end I’ve experimented with Blood, Unholy and Frost specs specifically for the purpose of tanking hordes of mobs. Right now I’ve settled on a 10-54-7 2Handed Frost spec, which performs quite admirably, but still doesn’t seem quite as… sticky as I’d like. I had good results with a Frost dual-wield spec as well, but until I get some actual decent tanking 1handers, I decided I’ll stick to a 2hander build. I’ve also had admirable results with a Blood spec which is unusual, by simply going 11 specs down Unholy for Corpse Explosion. This gives you great single target threat, the best DK danking CD in Vampiric Blood, spammable Death and Decay thanks to Morbidity and the sustained aoe threat of Corpse Explosion. Not much aoe snap aggro (Howling Blast is truly awesome) or the passive avoidance of Frost. But, my experiments with Unholy itself have been lacklustre. Probably because I simply do not know the tree. I have fair experience with both Blood and Frost, but Unholy escapes me. I must tame it!

So, my challenge is to find the absolute best spec for aoe tanking – primarily for heroics and perhaps offtanking the occasional raid.  Be that Frost or Unholy.

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I’ve noticed some DK hate going around lately, and while I recognise it’s mostly for the lulz, there are a few things that do need to be said so that people understand exactly why dps DK’s seem to pull aggro and/or die more than other classes.

First off, DK’s have no aggro drop. No feint, no feign death, no soul shatter, no wind shear. If they pull aggro, they have to basically soak it and hope the tank gets it back.

Secondly, pulling extra aoe aggro is built into virtualy every spec’s basic rotation. Since most specs take Glyph of Disease so they can refresh diseases on a target using one cooldown and rune instead of two, the byproduct is that diseases are being spread to all adds in the vicinity by said Pestilence. This means cc getting broken, or adds that we and the tank aren’t focusing on taking damage. If the tank isn’t on his a-game with aoe aggro, chances are we’re going to pull aggro. Furthermore, each spec has key dps talents that contribute to this. Blood’s basic nuke is Heart Strike, which is a cleave hitting two targets. Nothing we can do about that. Frost utilizes Howling Blast, which combined with Killing Machine and Rime procs, and is a major contributor to our single target dps. The problem here is that a KM-Rime proc HB is going to mean an automatic crit to everything in the near vicinity. Spike aggro, DK go boom if tank ZzZz. Lastly, Unholy. Kinda obvious here, this spec is the king of aoe. Wandering Plague, massive DnD’s, and again Glyph of Disease being a key component to the playstyle and rotation. As you can see, a DK can’t help but spread around a little love. Unlike other classes that can decide when they want to do aoe and when they want to focus on single target nuking. Now factor in the inherent danger of being in melee range constantly AND doing constant aoe damage and it becomes a little clearer to see why DK’s tend to pull loose mob aggro more often than anyone else.

We counterbalance that with damage mitigation cooldowns. Or rather, we’re supposed to. In fact, you may even notice some DK’s purposefully activating antimagic shell and standing in the fire for a second or two to charge up Runic Power. Do not panic. He’s not being noob, for DK’s standing in the fire can actually be a good thing. If they know what they’re doing.

See, we have abilities like bone shield and death pact to save the healer(s) some work. The problem is that many DK’s use these cooldowns offensively rather than defensively, as for example Unbreakable Armor boosts our strength, not just our armour, by a significant amount for a short time. Or they’ll summon their ghoul for some extra dps in the beginning of a fight so that they can possibly summon it again at the tail end, but when they need to sac it somewhere in between for a quick ‘health pot’ it’ll be dead and on cd. Odds are that our defensive cooldowns will be on cooldown when we need it to save our hiney. Don’t blame us, blame the game, blame the ‘be at the top of the dps meters or be a loser’ mentality that everyone seems to share these days.

Now, not saying that there aren’t noob DK’s. Because clearly there are many. Like any class. But before going on a crusade against class x or y or whatever, it’s a good idea to see things from that point of view.

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WoW 3.3 – Blurring the Divide

It struck me yesterday just how much this game has changed, and just how little water it’s detractors hold considering the current iteration. WoW of today is literally nothing like WoW of yesteryear, and most of the reasons many people left – mostly ‘casuals’, but some hardcore too, is gone. Let’s see how.

1: Too much grind. This argument is pretty much null and void. The biggest grind this game faced before was 1-60. Nowadays there are so many ways around that – Recruit a Friend, Heirloom items, Battleground grinding – that it puzzles me when people mention ‘grind’ in WoW, the same people who’ll gleefully farm mountain lions for 13 hours in Aion or bang at rocks for days in Darkfall. Gathering professions have been overhauled, and this struck home with me particularly over the weekend when I levelled mining from 1 to 300 in a handful of days. A feat that, a year or two ago, would have taken me far longer, or at elast have cost me a few thousand gold. The only really ‘grindy’ aspect left to this game is fishing. Rep farming is no longer terribly necessary and there are often substitutes that, while they may not be the absolute best, often approach it. Example – Sons of Hodir rep for shoulder enchant getting you down? Go do Wintergrasp or heroics while your faction controls WG and buy a shoulder enchant for a couple Stone Keeper shards. World of wArcraft today is a game you can spend an hour or two here and there and still progress quite rapidly.

that said

2:It’s too easy. This sentiment probably gets heard mostly from the ex BC raiding vets, of which I am one.  I’ll both agree and disagree. The entry level content is jsut that – entry level, and doable by most anyone. Even so, it takes gear to do. And hard and heroic mode raids are easily as hard as anything I’ve encountered in BC, if not more so. Granted, anyone can look pimp in welfare gear now, but you will come to notice the lead that heroic raiders have over us regular folk. A tank running in 45K HP unbuffed? Me in my welfare epics can only dream. There is a wall here, a wall that can only be broken through by hitting the hardest content. And boy is it hard. But there’s still room for epeen measuring, if that’s your thing. Just don’t expect to be carried to the fattest of loots.

3:Requires a guild to get the most out of it. This may be true, but much of the reason for guilds has evaporated. At least for gearing. For the social aspect, guilds are still great. But if you’re not exactly a people person 9why are you playing MMO’s then, exactly?), Blizzards recent Dungeon Finder means you never have to actually join a guild to experience most of the content. For raiding, you may find a guild useful, but more than ever PUG raids are becoming popular, with all but the most recent content being farmed by pickup raids.

4:Need lots of friends. This can be a boon, but smaller 10man raiding guilds are becoming more popular than the larger 25man focused ones. You can still experience all content this way and even pick up some decent loot if you tackle the hard/hc 10man raids. Again, if you can’t scrounge together 9 other buddies, smaller guilds focused on levelling and 5man content can nonetheless experience raid content thanks to the Dungeon Finder tool. There’s always going to be good people looking to raid something that their guild isn’t doing anymore, and that’s where your small guild can benefit.

5. PvP is rubbish. This I’ll agree to somewhat. Balancing around PvP in a PvE game is always going to be a nightmare. But Blizzard have come a long way since vanilla and even BC and while issues might still remain, it’s a far cry from those early days of being oneshot by shamans (vanilla) or fearbombed all day long by warlocks (BC). Just recently, the daily BG quest now grants some arena points. And Wintergrasp remains popular and is a great way at fast-tracking yourself some PvP gear (Wintergrasp Commendations are bar-none the fastest way to accumulate honor). The new BG’s, Strand of the Ancients and Isle of Conquest are very well designed and and interesting change of pace. And of course, Arena remains probably the most popular and renowned form of professional PvP in the entire MMO world.
Yes, the days of open world PvP are over but as a Warhammer veteran I’ve come to realise that maybe Open World PvP isn’t the holy grail we’ve been looking for. I’ve had more fun in Arathi Basin than I’ve ever had in WAR. It’s smooth, fast, fun, strategic and rewarding.

6. It’s ugly/old. This statement is simply false. While the engine is still largely low-poly, the enhancements to it over the year have given us some of the best looking spell effects I’ve seen in an MMO to date. Colours are vivid, sharp, attractive. Recent changes to the shadowing engine make wandering through a forest truly atmospheric. And comparing some of the character models and armour sets of today with those of 2 or 3 years ago, one would think you’re playing a completely different game.  This game is still good to look at. It might not be the absolute ebst, but it’s certainly worth thinking about, especially when you compare it  to a more recent game like Warhammer Online or even Champions Online and realise that WoW has the better stylization, finer detail, and is simply all-round prettier. Madness, you say? Then you haven’t flown through the Grizzly Hills at dusk and marvelled at how atmospheric the setting is.

7: It’s boring. Well, this remains a subjective point. WoW is essentially Kill Ten Rats refined to nigh perfection. But if you haven’t played WoW since vanilla or BC, and you haven’t experienced events such as the Wrathgate, or even the more recent, storyline-based 5mans (progressing through the Forge of Souls, the Pit of Saron and finally escaping Arthas in the Halls of Relection is an example of real storyline-driven gaming in an MMO – and it is fabulous), then essentially you’re still commenting about the state of this game 2, 3 or more years ago. A lot has changed with the way questing, instancing and raiding works. Looks. Feels. There’s a lot more story, dialogue, plot. And you’re in the middle of it. Effective use of voiceovers and ingame events and cutscenes looks to be the way forward for Blizzard and if WotLK is anything to go by, Cataclysm is going to be awesome.

8: It’s all about raiding. Well, every game needs an endgame, and raiding will always be it in WoW. But more than ever, 5man instances are incredibly popular and if you simply enjoy a good dungeon crawl with 4 mates, there is enough of a game herem to keep you engaged permanently. again the Dungeon Finder rears it’s head, and if not being able to find groups for instances between levels 1 and 79 was getting you down, this new patch will have changed that. People are always levelling alts, and allowing all the realms to pool their resources means an easy, effective and instant way to group together.

9. It’s expensive/not F2P. Well, considering WoW basically defined the current standard subscription rate, I’d contest that. The value for money you get from WoW beats out every contender. And it remaisn the same price. You simply can’t get quality like this with Free To Play titles, and in fact few subscription based competitors are able to provide a worthy cost-to-benefit ratio.

10. Lastly…too much investment. I think most people who shy away from WoW are afraid of it monopolising their time. Yet more and more, the game is becoming accessible to the common man. Housewives, celebrities, pro athletes, grandmothers… they all play WoW. Along side pr and hardcore gamers and casuals alike. Fact is, WoW of 2009 offers such a diverse experience, you can find almost anything to grab your fancy, and there’s always something to do. The gear differential between raiders and casuals, while still notable, is not so great as it once was. And fact remains, if you aren’t a raider and not even really that big into heroics or pvp, there’s enough of a game here to enjoy it casually, simply levelling and enjoying the dungeons on normal difficulty. It’s truly become the anyone can play, and a game with something for everyone.

So, too all you burned out MMO players who’ve been skipping from MMO to MMO and finding nothing engaging, perhaps it’s time you gave WoW another whirl. From the dungeon finder to queue anywhere battlegrounds, from mounts at level 20 to hard mode Algalon. From arena to ganking noobs in STV. WoW has it all.

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A week of 3.3

It’s been just over a week for WoW addicts, and all signs point to this having been a rather successful content patch for Blizzard. Then again, when are they not?

My experiences have been very positive. The new 5mans are well constructed and finely tuned. The raid instance itself seems pretty challenging – I haven’t downed Lord Marrowgar yet, let alone the other 3 opening bosses, but had some good attempts and would have downed him had we had more time. Again, very well tuned. You’ll need to be somewhat geared and co-ordinated to down him. And of course, it’s Winter Festival and while it would have been nice to see it updated, it’s still good fun.

The highlight of the patch is, as everyones been enthusing, the Dungeon Finder. It may not be something new to the genre really, but it’s so well done, so simple, so convenient that hopping into heroics for some emblem farming is jsut about the quickest and easiest it’s ever been. You get good groups and bad, sure, but this is truly a better way to kill some time than grinding battlegrounds or farming gold. Tanks and healers benefit the most, enjoying virtually no queue times. It’s fun, easy, and jsut grindy enough. As long as incentive remains to keep doing pugs, this feature will remain a hit. My only worry is that in probably a rather short amount of time, most tanks and healers will have gotten the loot they wanted from chain running thsoe pugs, and the ease with which to grab a run will diminish. Then again, it remains an excellent tool for anyone out there wanting to gear up their tank or healer offspec, or alts. Particularly lucrative for anyone wanting to level up as a tank or healer. Which really is the best way to do it. Walking into your first heroic at 80 as a new tank with no prior experience is a frustrating experience for anyone, and I wouldn’t exactly reccomend it.

3.3 is an all-round great patch, and a great way to spend the holiday for those of us stuck at home. Blizzard deserves a great big pat on the back for this, they couldn’t have timed it better.

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Here’s today’s idle thought. I haven’t seen many of our Ebon Blade brethren around of late. Have the steady stream of nerfs finally caught up with the once tastiest of  monthly flavours? Or has enough time simply gone by to erode the novelty value of the class? Either way, Death Knights are incredibly scarce these days. For the past month or so I’ve seen countless Death Knight only drops sharded or vendored because there wasn’t a DK in the raid group. Not 1. Not even a DPS DK. DK tanks? Hens teeth. There are more bear tanks these days.

This disparity is even more pronounced with cross-faction pugging. At first I thought it was only my server, but I’ve been running random dungeons by the dozen daily for the past week on my Death Knight tank and I’ve encountered maybe a half dozen other DK’s during that time. Hell I’ve run with more rogues. Mages are becoming more and more popular as people realise they’re #1 dps for less investment. Arcane really is a braindead spec to play and shunts out the big numbers.

Maybe it’s due to my theory that if a class is great for PVP, it’ll be popular for PVE. And Death Knights are, right now, not doing so great in the arenas.

All of this benefits me, though. I hate being FOTM. The biggest reason I quit my DK a few months back and picked up my mage was to try and deviate from the norm, and boy was the norm Death Knight cornucopia. They were everywhere. Which made trying to get a piece of gear in edgewise nigh impossible, bar via emblem loot. Never mind trying to get raid spots. Every second raid was a case of  ‘LF DPS, no moar DK’s please’.

Yes, my DK might not be the best tank in the game (all hail our Paladin lords and masters) right now, it may not be the best dps, it may not be any good at PVP. But I’m liking it. They still look pimp, they’re still great offtanks, their dps is still respectable and they’re still fun to pvp with – death grip is just that awesome, there’s nothing else like it. Hopefully, though, all the minmaxers will continue to leave this class alone and let us flavour-players revel in our niche. How long that lasts remains to be seen, if DK’s continue to be bottom-rung tanks/pvp I’m sure we can expect buffs soon enough.

Either way – viable shmiable, I’m having fun, and I enjoy taking something that’s not exactly the best and running with it. Making it shine.  And having fun is all that really matters.

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