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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To tank Archavon's buttocks

As a DPS warrior, I've come to hate the very sight of Archavon, especially his hindquarters. You see, Archavon has a terrible tendency to... how do I put this delicately... he tends to fart on the melee DPS.

Okay, that wasn't very delicate, but it was accurate enough: Archavon expels a cloud of noxious fumes that does AoE damage and radically reduces the chance to hit for anyone standing in it. Since us melee types tend to try and stab, claw, pummel and otherwise do damage to his posterior I can understand why he might view us with disdain. However, it does lead to an issue. Many tanks when fighting Archavon, especially in PuG's where you might not be used to the mechanic, only pull him so far out of the cloud so that they escape its effects, but leave his butt hanging out in the gas. This means the melee DPS has to choose between standing in the death cloud and taking damage while missing with almost every attack or coming around to give the boss a greater chance to parry.

We got a tip today from Jaxtrasi saying that he'd written a visual guide to the fight. While it does lack in stuffed animals, he does a good job of demonstrating to the tank new to this fight how to move the boss out of his nacho-laden death gas. Well, I just assume Archie eats a lot of nachos, he has that kind of look. The only thing it fails to mention is that Archie also likes to lunge the tanks and if the offtank is in that gas cloud his taunt has a huge chance of being resisted, leading to a DPS warrior ending up tanking because he was just outside of it, not that I know anyone who's ever screamed like a 50's sitcom wife seeing a mouse upon realizing that he just lost 18k health in two seconds or anything.

I hate you, Archie, because you are dangerously flatulent.

Hunter aspects bugged in 3.0.8

We covered a couple of known bugs in 3.0.8 yesterday, namely some animation errors (which we're anxiously awaiting being able to log into the game and grab some video of), and some problems with casting of the Warlock spell Ritual of Summoning.

And now Hunters have a bug:

Some Hunter aspects "behave" as if they have a global cooldown.

This should not be, and will be fixed soon (we assume). Patch 3.0.8 was going to remove them, but alas we'll have to wait to have this function properly.

As far as what aspects are bugged, and under what conditions, we don't know yet. Keep an eye out later when the realms are up for more information.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When real life is greater than WoW

Believe it or not, there are things out there that are more important than a computer game. Occasionally you need to turn off WoW and go do something like eat, bathe, sleep, engage in some form of non-finger exercise, etc...

One of the problems with a MMORPG like WoW is that some people often get consumed in the dynamic social and entertainment parts of the game, leaving off activities and events happening in the real world. This is problematic for a number of reasons, and is something that everyone who plays this game a lot should guard against happening to them.

And with that in mind, today I heartily recommend that you take a respite from our Azerothian domain and head over to the television to watch some of the presidential inauguration. No matter if you're a democrat or a republican or a whig, watching the historic swearing in of America's first African American commander-in-chief is something that you'll want to be able to tell your children and grandchildren about. The last thing you'll want to say was "I was playing WoW with all those cool 3.0.8 changes."

The looks you'll get from them will be one of bewilderment. Now if you're twisted like I am you might just want to say that anyways to amuse yourself, but still, it'll only be funny if it's not true.

So take a break from the game today. WoW will still be here when you get back (except the Mage class, that might get deleted, we'll keep you updated).

Things that don't annoy me

About half a year ago I wrote the article "Things that annoy me." However, I'm in a good mood tonight:

1. The music in Storm Peaks and Howling Fjord, particularly the choral portion of the former. Spooky and haunting and ethereally on edge, like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had just glimpsed a large angry dinosaur through the window.

2. The leather boots available at exalted with the Argent Crusade. Yes, the stats are great, but it's how they look on Tauren that really vaults them into the realm of unbridled win. For all I know, the graphic on female Tauren is a serious bug that programmers are working frantically to correct, but I think that boots on a cow look awesome.

3. Dalaran when it's not crawling with people.

4. Which is to say never.

5. Pretty much everything that High Overlord Saurfang says, does, thinks, or writes for the entirety of the Horde's Wrath storyline.

6. Getting achievements without realizing they existed in the first place: "Shatter Resistant? What the %#*& is a brittle golem?"

7. Icecrown. Pick a quest, any quest, and you can't go wrong.

8. The fact that a legion of murderous Death Knights offers healing gear.

9. The Frenzyheart/Oracle dynamic in Sholazar Basin. The whole notion of cute and fuzzy animals at each others' throats is equal parts amusing and disturbing, like blundering into a genocidal conflict between Kewpie dolls and plush toys.

10. Despite the fact that I have now killed more red dragons by accident than most major lore figures have done on purpose, NPC's just keep giving me new ones.

11. Finally seeing my first female Dwarf Rogue the other day. Forget rare mounts or legendary weapons; roll a female Dwarf Rogue and people will stop in their tracks.

12. Logging on and seeing the tail end of a conversation in guild chat that finished with "A shallow grave is a bad grave."

13. The fact that Ghostcrawler hasn't cracked yet and started programming horrible ingame crab-related deaths for the idiots harassing him on the forums.

14. The fact that Ghostcrawler might crack and start programming horrible ingame crab-related deaths for the idiots harassing him on the forums.

15. The phrase "crab-related deaths."

16. Druid Tier 6. By God, that set was beautiful.

17. Having an out-of-combat resurrection spell as a Druid, and not having to PvP anymore to stay defense-capped as a bear tank. I hate PvP, and having to do it in order to PvE effectively was hell.

18. I may not miss PvP, but I will always treasure the time I got trounced by a pigtailed female Gnome Warrior in full Season 3. Say what you will about the frustration factor, but it's a weird honor to die to massively underplayed race/class comb0.

19. That time I pugged with a Shaman who had /y FOR FRODO! macro'd to Bloodlust.

20. What erupted in Trade chat the day someone typed the line "WTB [Black Pearl]."

21. Vaneras having to suggest that likening the CM's to Hitler and Stalin may not be a historically valid comparison.

22. The macro that my guild leader has ready for every occasion wherein a new player insists on a strategy formulated under another raid leader: /g Listen, I don't care what your old guild did/ /g Your old guild sucked/ /g That's why you're in my guild.

23. (This space reserved for the eventual fight with Arthas, which is going to be totally awesome and kick all kinds of ass, especially because I already have Jaina's coin in my pack).

24. Drinking Pungent Seal Whey and not stopping to think about it anymore.

25. The skies and scenery of Northrend. This never gets old.

A pessimistic reminder about patch notes

There's a lot of speculation that 3.0.8 will drop tomorrow. We've got our sources that say it looks good for a release tomorrow, there have been some blue posts about it, and MMO-Champion is contending it's as good as confirmed (90% chance Boubouille says).

However with the impending patch there is a very important reminder to be made: not everything we see in patch notes is correct. It's bold because it's important.

Take a trip back to the 3.0.2 patch notes.

On the 3.0.2 PTR we saw a plethora of changes to all the classes and items, tons and tons and tons. More than we had ever seen. However when the official patch notes were released, things were amiss. Many of the changes we saw on the PTR did not make it into the live patch.

People screamed up and down that sites like WoW Insider, World of Raids, and MMO-Champion posted the wrong notes. There were even accusations that Blizzard posted the wrong notes on their site. Such was not the case. The notes were right and Blizzard just decided not to include all the changes immediately. Instead they decided to roll out changes in an incremental manner.

So tonight and tomorrow, if 3.0.8 does indeed get released, remind yourself for a moment to read over everything and carefully look for everything you were expecting. If you don't see something, then chances are it didn't make it into the final release of the patch.

Be pessimistic about the changes, and keep a watchful eye on what you see as breaking news across all your WoW information sources.

Survey reveals what twinks are all about

This is interesting -- our friend Drayner over at recently took a survey of his site's readers, and after picking up almost 1,000 replies, he's posted the results. They show a little bit of insight into the kind of person that plays a twink (a character maxed out at a certain level before 80, usually to run around in PvP battlegrounds). Specifically, they're male, under 21, play for 21-30 hours a week, think their gear rates a 5 out of 5, and are probably level 19 and in Warsong Gulch capturing flags. I'm not sure if that's suprising or not, but those are pretty safe majority votes, even given the smaller sample size of the poll.

Twink players are also more likely to not have more than one account, which kind of makes sense -- they only need one account and just have lots of characters on them. 66% of twinks are actually in twink guilds, and most have at least more than one twink to play around with. Hunters and Rogues top the class choices (though not with a clear majority at all). And perhaps most interesting, over 50% of twinks say Blizzard is serving them just fine -- they're not ignoring them, and they're not giving them any more love than other players. Still, as Drayner pointed out to us, about 36% of twinks said they'd leave the game if Blizzard shut them down with an additional 30% saying Maybe, so Blizzard does have a little incentive there to keep twinking happening.

Quite interesting -- twinks might be one of the only groups of players who are completely fine with how they're being handled in game. 2.3 obviously gave them lots of new items to play with, and while there is some frustration from other players, Blizzard has made it so easy to level that if you don't want to play with the twinks at 19, you can move on pretty quickly.

Dual specs and the importance (or not) of saving gold

WoW Gold

While reading through comments on the site the other day,* I stopped at Drak's on a recent Breakfast Topic and had to think for a bit. In defense of pure classes' concerns with the upcoming dual spec system, Drak wrote that we were weighing class functionality against hybrids' desire to save gold, and that the two concerns were by no means equal.

I'm still convinced that pure classes stand to gain a lot more from dual specs than they'll lose, principally in the form a lot more tank and healer availability, but it's an interesting point. How much gold do you really need to get by? Does the idea of having to spend a lot more of it, or having to spend more time getting it, on a particular class or spec make that character less fun to play, and has that played a role peoples' unwillingness to tank and heal?

Again, for the purpose of this discussion I'm considering pure classes to be Hunters, Mages, Warlocks, and Rogues, as everyone else can respec to do different roles.

At first, it doesn't seem like the question merits a lengthy answer. "Take what you're spending per week, divide it by 7, and then do dailies until you've got it covered" would be a terse and accurate means of responding to it, but personally I do think a certain amount of the issue's driving the debate over dual specs.

A hybrid who constantly respecs without recourse to outside assistance is someone who has to spend a lot more time in the game to make the same amount of gold as someone who doesn't have to respec frequently (if at all). And "So don't respec if you don't want to," isn't always a good answer, not with the legions of impatient people in LFG. We can't simultaneously acknowledge the healer shortage but scoff at the people who respec to cover it -- and I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that people in healing and tanking specs don't quest or grind as efficiently as a DPS spec, further compounding the problem.**

The conclusion seems pretty straightforward; a hybrid who respecs a lot, or who is constantly specced for tanking or healing over damage, is virtually obligated to play the game less casually than a pure DPS if they want to stay on comparable financial ground. I think this does play a role in how many people want to tank or heal, or can if their playtime is limited -- and that necessarily bleeds into the chronic tank and healer shortage.

But a pragmatist would opine that as long as you've got enough to cover the game's true necessities -- repairs, food/water, reagents, and a basic flying mount -- everything else is gravy. Making gold in the game shouldn't have to be a goal in and of itself, right?

A smarter pragmatist would belt the first pragmatist in the chops and ask him why he didn't save some gold toward an epic flyer, decent enchants, and the kind of gear that'll keep deaths and downtime to a minimum. A hybrid pragmatist would stifle a bitter laugh, and then double or triple the smart pragmatist's figures on enchant and gear costs in order to cover a tanking set, a healing set, or quite possibly both. With a minimal amount of effort, every player in the game should easily cover their living expenses with gold left over to bank. But while writing this, it's hard not to remember the 1,400g I dropped on gems and enchants for my Resto set, and the week I spent 700g on respecs. If I were still saving for my epic flyer or another big expense, that would have been a pretty demoralizing experience. I consider it a great privilege to be able to respec to do something else on my Druid -- but I think it's also easy to underestimate both the high cost of said privilege and the time it takes to learn how to play each spec effectively.

*Yes, we do actually read our comments, although I have had to downsize the cabana boy who was until recently employed in reading them aloud to me while making crépes. Such are the troubled times in which we live.

**Feral Druids and Death Knights obviously have a much easier time with this.

WoW Video: I Gave You

One of the things I think is most awesome about Northrend is the fact that it adds a whole continent of "real-world" scenes to the game. Outland was so out there that it was hard to use any of the in-game terrain for any stories other than those that took place on another planet, but Northrend is a very grounded place -- while zones like Zul'Drak and Crystalsong Forest can seem very otherworldly, there are zones like Howling Fjord and Grizzly Hills that seem much more normal, if no less beautiful.

Today's Moviewatch definitely isn't a crafted masterpiece -- even the creator says it only took him about two hours to make, but it does show how haunting some of this Northrend landscape is. Just the cliffs of the Howling Fjord are enough to complement this stark little song and give it an extra dimension. I can't wait to see some more of the machinima that comes out of the new Northrend locations.

If you have any suggestions for WoW Moviewatch, you can mail them to us at machinima AT wowinsider DOT com.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

10 things I learned from a destitute alt on an RP realm

I have a few alts on an RP realm that I visit from time to time, and I remember thinking to myself at one point: "These characters are a bunch of deadbeats." I'd gotten too used to the alts on my main realm being a bunch of pampered brats, spoiled rotten by the presence of a hardworking main, so financial discipline had grown to be a thing of the past.

Not so on another realm where you don't have a main, and I realized that unless I went back to a few monetary basics, my alts would wind up dancing naked on mailboxes in pursuit of gold. This is a fine tactic with a long and storied history, but when your most promising alt is a level 16 Undead Mage, you're up the proverbial creek. No one wants to see a rotting, naked corpse.

So I started not being a deadbeat, and it was with surprise and delight that I logged on to find the little tyke sitting on a pretty respectable pile of gold by level 21 -- as in, he can afford to pay for his level 30 mount and training several times over, and still have enough left over to train himself all the way to 45 even if he doesn't make another penny.

I should note that this assumes: a). You don't have a ton of time to spend on alts, b). You also don't have the gold pool necessary to play the AH like a tycoon, and c).You want to make a decent amount of money without having to turn it into an overriding concern.

1. Sell absolutely everything.

You really never know what people are looking to buy at any given moment. Raptor eggs? Lion meat? Wool cloth (a surprisingly lucrative item, for whatever reason)? Solid stone? Volatile rum? A wealthy player who's spent a lot of time at 70-80 with months of dailies won't bat an eye at shelling out a few gold for these items; the convenience of grabbing them off the AH vastly outweighs the lengthy trips they'd need to make otherwise. And with so many people leveling Death Knights, there's a huge market for low-level profession materials, especially Cooking.

If it's gray, vendor it. Everything else, sock it in your bags and hit the AH. You probably won't make a huge profit on each white item, but the little stuff starts to add up.

2. Know the server.

How large is the raiding pool? Is there an active RP community? Did a lot of people wind up rerolling Death Knights, or leveling them seriously? Are people willing to spend a lot of gold on items for Achievements?

All of these affect what your server's common market is going to be like. Raiders spend a lot of gold on consumables and/or materials (which you really won't be able to do anything about before Northrend, but it's incentive to keep going). RP servers tend to create a better market for event-centric items like fireworks or things like Dalaran Wizard's Robes. Large groups of leveling Death Knights gobble up runecloth to improve reputation with home factions and go through a ton of profession materials.

3. There's still no substitute for two gathering professions -- and if you're serious about it, use a mod like Gatherer.

When you're starting on a new realm with no resources beyond a strong work ethic, the amount of gold you'll have at your disposal is likely to be minimal, and not enough to allow you to use Auctioneer to buy low and sell high. With time and some effort you'll reach that point, but in the meantime, don't cripple your cash flow by taking anything other than Skinning, Mining, or Herbalism as professions.

4. Mining is probably the most lucrative gathering profession, but herbalism is starting to catch up. Skinning makes the least gold-per-unit of all three gathering professions (at least in the early levels), but it has the advantage of being a high-volume business with minimal time investment.

Herbalism feeds Alchemy and Inscription now, but Mining still feeds Blacksmithing, Engineering, and Jewelcrafting. The financial gulf between them is considerably smaller than it was during BC, but mining probably still retains the edge as the most lucrative gathering profession overall. With that said, it's also more competitive than herbalism, especially as you near the later levels. If you're on a very crowded server, keep that in mind.

Skinning is by far the easiest and least time-consuming profession to level. You'll generally make less selling leather and hides than you will selling herbs and ore (at least in early levels), but you won't have to go out of your way to get them either. If you take herbalism and mining, you'll also have to spend a lot of time flipping between two tracking modes to see what's available in your area. If you want to make money while devoting as little time to it as possible, skinning's the way to go.

5. Cut down on the inconvenience factor of having to make several trips to the AH during a play session by leveling in an area where the major city's flight path and economic resources (bank, auction NPC's, mailboxes) are in close proximity. Or, if you do have a dedicated auction alt (and you probably should), make sure you stick them in this city.

Thunder Bluff is by far the best overall with respect to flight-path proximity to auction NPC's, the bank, and a mailbox. It also gets bonus points for having a forge literally in front of auction NPC's if you're a miner and selling bars is more lucrative than selling raw ore. Undercity, Ironforge, Stormwind, and Orgrimmar are all OK (unless you have to smelt, in which case UC, Org, and Stormwind are all a much bigger hassle than Ironforge) but generally more convenient if you're already got a bank alt parked there.

Silvermoon and the Exodar are both lousy places to do business, especially if you're flying or running into the city to get auctions done. They're OK for bank alts, but in general you're still better off putting that alt elsewhere.

6. Don't be in too much of a hurry to level.

With the boost to leveling speed as of patch 3.0.2, clocking off the levels isn't anywhere near as time-consuming as it used to be. This is good in some ways -- spending less time leveling a character is great, and an ideal situation for someone who already has a toon at 80 -- but it has the secondary effect of being harder on a new player or a reroll who finds the game's most pressing expenses -- principally mounts -- coming earlier and faster than they used to.

It's not a race. There is no law in the game dictating that you must have a mount by the prescribed time. Take time out to gather, or grind on mobs that have a chance to drop something fun or lucrative (especially dragon whelps that drop pets or, say, Barrens mobs that have a chance to drop Recipe: Savory Deviate Delight), or even just fish. Spending more time per zone doing fun quests and enjoying the lore just increases the chance that you'll get a valuable green or blue drop anyway. Turn money-making into a game within the game itself.

7. One of the most salient differences between the RL economy and WoW's: inflation is your friend.

The reason for this is that most ingame costs are static. Sharp arrows will always cost the same amount, reagents will always cost the same amount, food will always cost the same amount, and the only thing that affects them is your reputation with the faction of the NPC seller. The same is true of ground mounts in classic WoW. A server's inflation increases the amount of gold you can make off of the AH, but your daily living expenses will always stay the same.

8. Cannibalize otherwise useless characters that you know you're not going to level.

Even a fairly low-level character can be broken down into a few gold if you're desperate for money and you know perfectly well you're not going to wind up leveling it. If you've got a character below level 20 that you really don't need, sell off their assets and gear and mail the proceeds to the toon you really want to level. If they're above 20, they'll usually wind up being worth more money, but be very cautious before you write off a toon in which you've invested more time. It sucks to have to come back and re-level a class that you've realized you do want to play, especially when certain classes are more time-consuming to level than others.

9. On that note, cannibalizing a Death Knight is a surprisingly lucrative racket.

Pretty soon you'll be able to level a Death Knight on any server as long as you've got a level 55 character somewhere. Death Knights typically finish their starting area with around 30-40g, which is a nice chunk of change for a low-level alt. As an added bonus, leveling a Death Knight from 55 to 58 is fast, easy, and a lot of fun. I really don't suggest chain-leveling and then deleting Death Knights just for the money -- your gold per hour is likely to be considerably less than it would be if you just kept leveling the needy alt in question to more lucrative gathering materials, and this is a great way to make Death Knights boring fast -- but as a one-time thing it won't hurt.

10. Not all pre-60 greens are created equal.

Of the Eagle, Of the Bear, Of the Tiger, Of the Falcon, and Of the Monkey = Sells, and typically sells well.

Of the Owl, Of the Boar, and Of the Wolf = Sometimes sells, and usually for less than the first three.

Of the Whale = Just vendor the damn thing.

I've run across a surprising number of people who just vendor greens no matter what kind they are. Certain ones have stats that are very desirable to leveling characters trying to cover gaps left by spotty quest rewards. Don't toss away a potential 4-5g thinking that all greens are trash!

Steelseries WoW mouse not so wow-worthy?

Reader Richie mailed us a review of the Steelseries World of Warcraft mouse some time back, but it's gotten to the point where his frustration made him put a post up on his own blog. Some of his major concerns involve the custom software remapping his keys, such as making his character jump when he presses 'M' to bring up the map. He also claims that some of his buttons now stick, instead of springing back into place as they should after a few days of playing. He writes that he's contacted customer service several times and was told that it was "a known issue" and was told to "snap" his buttons.

How has your experience with the Steelseries mouse been? Are you one of the lucky Europeans who won one in Blizzard's Holiday giveaway or managed to snag one of these lately? There aren't too many reviews over the web by players who actually play World of Warcraft, so it's interesting to see if Richie's is an isolated case (although a couple of posters on his blog concur with his findings). The mouse doesn't have a driver for the Mac, and Steelseries doesn't seem to be producing one soon, so I haven't popped out the $99.99 (or more expensive 89.99 EUR) for it. After reading Richie's review -- or rant, rather -- I'm not certain I still want to, either.

WoW polls: the toughest Heroic instance

Blizzard has posted a poll on the forums asking what players think is the toughest Heroic dungeon in the game. Unfortunately, they don't say much else besides that, so guessing the reason why will be up to us and our commenters. They want to make sure Ulduar is tougher than Heroics? They want to look for particularly tough mechanics for future instances? They just enjoy seeing players have a tough time of it? Your guess is as good as ours.

Loken is notorious as a tough boss in Heroic mode, but his Halls of Lightning only makes second place, right above Ahn'kahet and its tough fights of Jedoga Shadowseeker and the insanity-inducing Herald Volaj. And it's worth noting that as of this writing, Drak'theron, The Nexus, Utgarde Keep and Violet Hold have a total of zero votes among them -- apparently everyone agrees they're easy as-is. But right there on top sits everyone's least favorite drake-riding instance -- The Oculus, with all of its drakey goodness.

Unfortunately, this may not help Blizzard -- I doubt many players would be really excited if they re-used the "drakes" mechanic in a lot of future dungeons, as the difficulty there lies in playing a completely different game rather than using the abilities of your character that you're used to. But It's an interesting poll anyway. What instance are you finding the toughest in Heroic mode?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

World of Warcraft pom-poms

I have no idea how to describe pom-poms. I guess they're like little furry balls that you can assemble, along with the usual crafting supplies, into cute little figurines or objects. And as you might expect, since you're reading this here on WoW Insider, someone has assembled these materials into World of Warcraft-related objects, and as usual, the results are awesome.

This time it's Eldrian, sister of Pike over at Aspect of the Hare, and her creations are amazing. She's a Druid, so there are all the Druid forms for both factions (there are the two moonkins above), and she's also made a Hunter and pet, a Warlock and a Voidwalker, and even mounts and little Warsong Gulch flags. We've compiled a few of the best shots of the figures in the gallery below, but don't forget to head over and check out her page to see front, side, and back shots of everything. Very awesome, and very meticulously created -- one of the figures took over 10 hours to make.

When questing is the reward

I've never been a big fan of quests. I've always done them as a means to an end, whether to level up or to earn a bit of Gold. My questing rate dropped considerably once I hit Level 80, with the only quests I did consisting mostly of Wintergrasp dailies and about a week's worth of Ebon Blade dailies in Icecrown to raise my reputation. But the truth is, quests in Wrath of the Lich King have been downright phenomenal. They are well-designed, fun to do, and -- if you actually stop to read the quest text (something I'm often guilty of skipping) -- wonderfully written and filled with story.

I finally got off my lazy butt to do the long Sons of Hodir quest chain, a "necessary evil" to raise reputation with what Alex has dubbed one of the most important factions in Wrath. There was little urgency for me to do the chain, considering I was satisfied with the Wintergrasp shoulder enchants even though they wasted points on Resilience. On the other hand, it became increasingly frustrating for me not to be able to assist my wife whenever her character (often) became the target of merciless gankage. You see, like many parts of Northrend, the Storm Peaks zones where you do Sons of Hodir quests are phased. I simply wanted to get to the point where we would be in the same phased stage, so using Alex's handy guide to the Sons of Hodir quest chain, I set off on what was a surprisingly good and fun adventure.

I really should have been prepared for it, considering I had completed the mind-blowing Dragonblight chain leading to Angrathar the Wrath Gate and The Battle for the Undercity. One of the most amazing experiences I had playing the game has come from something as simple as opening up the Shadow Vault in Icecrown and all the quests leading to Tirion Fordring's gambit. Quests in Wrath of the Lich King have evolved from the days FedEx and Kill X or Get Y Drop, Blizzard has used all the toys in their toolbox to make some of the most creative and engaging quests ever.

Part of me wishes that The Drakkensryd quest were some sort of daily. It's just crazy fun. Jumping from proto drake to proto drake and killing another rider while in mid-air? Simply breathtaking. The lore is great, too, and the story of Thorim, his friendship with the giants, and the betrayal of his brother -- all inspired by the Norse mythology we all know Chris Metzen loves so much -- is a good read and is fun to follow. So even though I did the Sons of Hodir chain out of mere necessity, it turned out to be a truly rewarding experience simply because it's just so much fun.

That's the thing. Questing in Wrath is incredibly rewarding, not necessarily through items or Gold (although the money's pretty good, too), but because the playing experience is completely worth it. The variety of quests in Wrath of the Lich King is wide and there seems to be something for everyone. A lot of the 'vehicle'-type quests offer a different experience, some of my favorites involving the use of a Lithe Stalker in Icecrown to start fights or drag gift bombs. The King of the Mountain quest in Ymirheim takes no more than a few minutes but is just silly fun, specially if you bump into a member of the opposing faction and you knock each other off the mountain with rockets.

Part of what makes Wrath one of the most fun games I've ever played is the quality of the game experience, particularly with the new quests. There's every indication that this trend will continue, it's simply a question of how far Blizzard can push the envelope with quest design. And while I appreciate all the decent item rewards and free-flowing Gold, the sheer fun of every quest in Northrend has been its own reward for me.

Arena tourneys need more Blizzard support?

Here's an interesting post on GotGame that sounds different from almost everything we've heard about professional Arena tourneys and Blizzard so far. Whenever we've talked to anyone involved with Arena tournaments, they've always told us Blizzard is very supportive of the events. But this post alleges otherwise -- they say that Blizzard is falling short of professional Arena support.

There are two main complaints: first, that Blizzard doesn't supply any onsite Arena servers. We know this is true -- Blizzard has event servers that they use for events like this, kept offsite so they don't have to set them up all the time. But GotGame claims that this causes problems -- as much as 300+ ping, which in the quick world of Arena matches, is practically unplayable. We're not sure why Blizzard doesn't allow setups on site, but that seems like a reasonable step to take if they're serious about making professional Arena big.

The second is a little tougher: this post claims that Blizzard has brought the pro Arena servers up to the Season 4 patch, but locked the gear down at Season 2. Our own Zach Yonzon says he's not sure where the Arenas are -- he doesn't believe that official Arena matches are underway after Wrath yet, and if that's true, then Blizzard may already be updating this (bringing the gear on the realms up to level 80 levels to match the talents). But either way, it's strange to hear someone say that Blizzard isn't supporting professional Arena matches correctly. You'd think that if they were as into supporting WoW as an e-sport as they say, that they'd address some of these concerns.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Returning to WoW as a casual

John writes in on a topic that I think a lot of people can relate to. Wrath of the Lich King brought you back to the game, but now what?

Hi Robin,

I'm really enjoying your column and wanted to give you an idea for a future article. Right now I'm a casual gamer who's on the fence about coming back to WoW thanks to WotLK. I quit WoW soon after the last expansion because I was tired of the constant raid grind, gear treadmill, and a PVP system that only rewarded people with 40+ hours to play a week (the dreaded honor/rank system). And this was back at a time when I wasn't a dad or was doing my career grind. So long story short, I have no idea where to start as a casual

I would love to see a "New Year's" article discussing how to start over in
WoW for a returning casual player. Or starting WoW for the first time for that matter.

Anyhow, keep up the good work. Your articles have helped ensure me that I will no longer be treated like a second-class citizen in WOW for not being a hardcore player. Which is very cool.

Fellow Casuality John

Well, it's a little after New Year's, but we're still in January, so I think that's close enough. Wrath of the Lich King is definitely worth coming back for, even if you don't have a level 68+ to experience the Northrend content. But if you do, it's doubly so. The Achievements are a blast and make leveling up to the new content more fun. Also, leveling is speedier and there are even new quests in the old world to make it seem like less of a grind. It's apropos that so many people are coming back from the "dead" now that we have Death Knights -- you may be just as disoriented as the newly revived minions of the Lich King. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your return to Azeroth:

Get guilded with veterans

If you were in a guild before you left, try to return to it (if it still exists) when you get back -- even if it was a raiding guild. I am in a guild that raids every night, even though I don't (it helps that I'm married to the guild leader) and we've had a lot of returning players. Many raiding guilds will let you return to the guild even if you are casual now, just to have familiar friends back in the fold. Regardless of the kind of guild, you should try to get in with people who have been playing while you're gone. You're going to have questions that they can easily answer.

You may need to change servers

Guilds transfer, friends re-roll and queues lengthen -- whatever the reason, your old realm may no longer be the best fit for you. The best thing to do is find a server with friends with similar schedules and transfer your characters there or re-roll. Or you could find fellow WoW players from another community in which you participate. For example, Ravelry (a wonderful online knit and crochet community) has both Alliance and Horde guilds as well as a list of all the realms fellow knitters play on (you have to belong to Ravelry in order to see that link). If you must go it alone, I recommend a medium population PvE server (check at peak times for queues). PvP can really take up a lot of your play time while you are trying to quest (though that's where I play). You don't want too low of a population because that affects the economy. Even if you won't be raiding, you want to be able to sell your wares to those wealthy hardcore types.

Make a Death Knight

Go ahead and jump on the bandwagon -- there's a reason (or 7) everyone is doing it. They are fun and easy and a great way to ease back into the game. After Patch 3.0.8, you will be able to make a DK on any realm if you have a level 55 on at least one realm. If you have friends on a realm that you don't want to or can't transfer to, you can catch up to them very quickly on a DK.

Make alts

Classes have changed. Your warlock may not be as much fun and your paladin is probably not as boring. Your main may no longer be the class you have the most fun playing. Of course, I'm an altaholic, so I'm enabling here, but I do think that you shouldn't spend time struggling on a class that isn't as much fun as another one that has been newly tweaked to be more for your playstyle.

Re-evaluate and update your professions

Inscription is new and the rest have been improved, particularly the gathering professions. If you stay with what you already have, go see your trainer to get up to date. Oh, and beware of sticker shock. If your professions were maxed in Burning Crusade, you can update them all in the starting cities in Northrend, but it costs hundreds of gold. Don't sweat it if you don't have enough to do it right away, gold is easy to get these days and you'll be caught up in no time.


In order for casual players to get the most out of their playtime, it really is best to schedule out blocks of playtime that allow you to balance the rest of your life and coordinate with your family. You will find yourself having longer, uninterrupted sessions if your scheduled playtime is considerate to (and approved by) your significant other, children or parents for those who are still living at home.

Northrend is awesome

If you do have a level 68+, even if you don't end up staying on that realm or with that character, you are going to want to experience the Northrend content as soon as possible. There are new and varied quest types, the lore is rich and compelling and the scenery is breathtaking. And don't avoid instances as you level up. They now take less than an hour, making it feasible even for casuals to find a group and complete.

Read in your spare time

We have a couple of series of articles that may answer most of your questions. The Queue answers reader questions and WoW Rookie covers the basics, which is good as a refresher, even if you didn't used to be a rookie. Also, take a look through the class columns listed on the menu on the lefthand side to catch up on the latest for your favorite class(es).

It may take you a while to get back into the groove. Your first few play sessions may be nonproductive and even a bit frustrating. But if you stick with it, I think you'll find that the game has never been better -- particularly for casuals.

A WoW economics course proposal

If you're like me, you're ... well, you're probably incredibly handsome and charming. But you're also probably interested in WoW's economy, given that it's the biggest and most involved metagame in WoW and a fascinating microcosm of a free-market economy.

I personally think that the how and why of WoW's economy is worth a deep look, and it appears there are a lot of people who agree with me--even some academics. It might even be worth just as much as any other book-learnin'.

At least, that's the basis of David Friedman's World of Warcraft economics course proposal. Friedman is an academic economist from San Jose, CA who's assembled this article as a think-tank for what a WoW economics course would entail if you had to fill it with a semester's worth of content. There's a lot of neat stuff in here, talking about relative prices of ore based on character level and rarity of ore and supply/demand, but he also asks for your input as to possible course material, which I'm sure you could gladly provide in the comments section of his page.

Good idea with sound academic basis, or another in the long list of high falootin' academia's attempts to justify playing WoW on the government's dime? WE REPORT. YOU DECIDE.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We love Food Network edition

Or, perhaps, we'd love to slaughter the Food Network. In World of Warcraft, of course. This week when I asked what everyone was up to, Daniel Howell (whom you may also know as BigRedKitty) graced us with one of his infamous top ten lists:

BRK's Top Ten Things to Do in WoW This Weekend

10. Install IE 6 on a 80386 PC so I too can complain about the menus on WoW Insider.
9. Claim I'm raising money for a very reputable charity, then /ninja everything and boogie to Monte Carlos.
8. Show up buzzed to the maxx from Jolt Cola for the WoW Insider podcast, then fake a French accent and ridicule England until Turpster explodes in a profanity-laced tirade.
7. Write an interview with the farmer who leveled Mike's hunter. "You should see his bags, BRK! Nothing but flowers, rum, and non-combat cat-pets. My boss said, 'Level that toon, but then delete it from our database. Eww.'"
6. Do a video reminiscent of "The Super Fans" from SNL, but all of us are hunters. "Daaaaaa huntahs!"

More silliness and WRUP for the rest of the team after the break!

5. Announce that in patch 3.0.8, the new 51st talent point in the warrior protection tree is going to be Avenger. An Avenger Warrior's shield will act like a totem and give off an aura when equipped, as well as making the shield pulse-n-glow with power.
4. Write a story about how Ghostcrawler is quitting Blizzard and starting to write for WoW Insider, then do a post as Ghostcrawler, demanding the Blizzard update their website showing I've left their company.
3. Create a guild called The Shard Squad. We run raids and make movies of us disenchanting every piece of gear we find, teasing the people watching the video with taunts and cackles.
2. BRK Worldwide Amalgamated Productions presents "Cooking with BRK!" Forty-five 10-minute movies of BRK standing in front of a fire in Icecrown, making feasts and mammoth bites. The Food Network has already bought all syndication rights, and Bobby Flay is rolling a Troll Warrior for his own show.
1. Prepare to re-spec Survivalist next Tuesday. SmallBlueKitteh... /sniff

What a weekend! This of course launched into a lively discussion about whether Bobby Flay would play on a PvP server, whether he or Alton Brown would win in a fight, what classes the rest of the Food Network team would play, and all manner of related silliness. Oh, right, and the rest of the team is playing WoW... at least for the most part.

Adam Holisky: Instead of playing my characters I'll be sitting down with the girlfriend, per the advice of our readers in a breakfast topic this week, and introducing her to the world that is Warcraft. We've been together for six years, so hopefully she won't be running for the hills when she finds out that I can give an hour lecture on the complexities of Protection Warriors.
Alex Ziebart: I'm sort of skimping on WoW this week because a buddy hooked me up with Left 4 Dead. Those zombies are way scarier than the Scourge, sorry.
Allison Robert: In all likelihood I'll be spending this weekend trying to figure out why I cannot stay connected to the game in a raid. :( I think God is having a bit of ironic fun at my expense since volunteering to write Ready Check for January.
Amanda Miller: I will be rescuing my Death Knight from being stuck at level 70 in the Taunka-le Village. Sunday, I'll be finishing up this week's Naxx run with the last two bosses, as well as Obsidian Sanctum. Hopefully, I'll squeeze in some herb farming.
Christian Belt: I'm spending the weekend in the manner in which I firmly believe everyone should: anxiously engaged in the mindless slaughter of the Alliance. I will kill them on the beaches of Strand of the Ancients. I will kill them on the icy slopes of Wintergrasp. I will kill them beneath the blazing sun of Tanaris, and under the red glow of Hellfire Peninsula's many moons. Unless they are Death Knights. Death Knights are scary.
Dan O'Halloran: Just made 77 and trained in Cold Weather Flying so much of this weekend will be spent flying over various parts of Northrend to finishing off Wrath exploration achievements and maxxing out my mining skill. Also plan to powerlevel Cooking and explore the Wrath Cooking achievements.
Eliah Hecht: Death Kniiiiiiiiiight.
Elizabeth Harper: It's a raid weekend! 10-man Obsidian Sanctum, 10-man Naxxramas, and old world fun in Ahn'Qiraj.
Krystalle Voecks: I have a friend who just came in on a 10-day trial under Recruit-a-Friend, so I expect we'll be tearing around the Eastern Kingdom on a couple of undead characters at some point. Beyond that, I'll be finishing out the achievements for Fallout 3, playing some more FusionFall, and getting ready to head back to college Monday.
Lisa Poisso: Less WoW, more sleep! Too many late-night heroics this past week -- by Thursday night, I was so pooped that I had to go to bed by 9 p.m. :(
Matt Low: Going to head into a cleared OS 25 and start doing some planning for the OS 3 drake attempt.
Matt Rossi: We finished Maly off early so working on 3 drake Sarth 10 and 25.
Michael Gray: Takin' mah first crack at Naxx 25 with my intrepid, lovable Guild. I'll be wearing pants for it, this time.
Mike Schramm: Running Heroics, finishing up quests in Icecrown. If I'm lucky I'll finally get in on a Naxx PUG.
Robin Torres: More leveling of the Mage and the DK and maybe the other DK and possibly the Druid and why am I looking at my Priest again? Hi! I'm Robin and I'm an altaholic.
Zach Yonzon: Figuring out where to spend his Honor points and grumbling at the fact that the cap still hasn't been raised beyond 75,000 despite Honor being e-z mode at Level 80.

So, now that you know what we're up to, what are you playing this weekend?

Insider Trader: Patch 3.0.8

Insider Trader is your inside line on making, selling, buying and using player-made products.

The upcoming patch, 3.0.8, is poised to make some real changes to professions. In the majority of cases, these are positive changes that will help you level, craft, and save on money or materials.

In some cases, you may even want to consider halting the production of certain items, and focus on hoarding the materials instead. Many things are getting cheaper, and there is little point in wasting materials unnecessarily now, unless you absolutely have to.

As a special note to Blacksmiths, I recommend making your epic frost resistance gear for you or your guild before the patch! Read on to see why.

Say goodbye to your Alchemy Lab, and hello to making Flasks on the fly! You know there's at least one guildmate in the raid who always "forgets" to pack them.

If you've been feeling plagued by cooldowns, just take a breath and let it out slowly. The cooldown to transmute Titanium will soon be merely 20 hours, instead of its current 3.8 days. The materials have also been "simplified."

Northrend Alchemy Research is also getting a break. The cooldown will be reduced from 7 days to 3. Of course, this will mean that you only have three days to acquire the materials. Your chance of discovering a transmutation is also being increased. You may also discover a recipe for the Elixir of Water Walking.

Your Crazy Alchemist's Potion will have just a little less crazy in it. It will always grant you health and mana, along with its zany habit of granting you the effects of a random potion.

Potion of Nightmares is becoming less nightmarish. Now, when it puts you to sleep, you can move to break the effect if your dreams get a little too heavy to handle. If you get hit, you no longer take extra damage.

Your trainer will soon be offering you the chance to make Ethereal Oil.

The Titansteel Guardian is having its spell power reduced. Apparently, it wasn't in line with its item level. Seriously Blizz, more dependable craziness, tamer nightmares, and item balance? You're going soft.

If you've been meaning to make your Northrend frost resistance gear for Naxx's Sapphiron fight, you might want to do so before the patch, because it is soon to become more expensive. In fact, several recipes requiring cobalt are getting the same treatment.

To make up for this, Blizz is giving you a new shield reinforcement recipe that will increase the shield's block value.

Have you completed the quest, "The Taste Test" in Sholazar Basin? If so, then head down to the sewers post-patch, and you'll find an NPC with a nifty new recipe for Kungaloosh. You will also be able to purchase a recipe to make a Fish Feast using your cooking rewards.

My Save the Orca campaign must have been successful, because Succulent Orca Stew and Shoveltusk Soup will not be added to the game. As such, the Achievements requiring that you cook these recipes will no longer ask you to do so.

If you like to eat Worg, perhaps you should be excited about the up-and-coming recipe for Worg Tartare. It will be purchaseable with your Dalaran Cooking Awards, and will award hit rating and stamina.

Currently, Infinite Dust and Greater Cosmic Essences are expensive and enchants demand so much of them that many players can't keep a decent stash. Dream Shards, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen, so to speak.

Hopefully, this will all be switched around with Patch 3.0.8., as many recipes as listed on MMO Champion are having their dust and essence requirements reduced, with Dream Shards taking their place.

Icebreaker, a weapon enchant, will now do more fire damage. If your weapon has Berserking, it will soon give less of an armor penalty.

Two new stamina recipes, one for bracers and one for weapon, will be available from Vanessa Sellers in Dalaran.

Executioner currently sometimes ignores 840 of your opponent's armor, but will soon grant you an occasional 120 armor penetration rating.

Centrifuge Constructs in the Oculus can now be properly harvested with Engineering, without bugs. Probably, sort of, hopefully without bugs.

Your Hyperspeed Accelerators will be even cooler (or warmer, I suppose). The cooldown will be shorter and the effect will last longer.

For all you Holy Paladins lamenting the lack of epic plate spell power goggles, you need only wait until patch day.

Druids will be able to use Weakness Spectralizers. While that's nice, the real issue seems to be the fact that epic Engineering goggles are inferior to 10-man Naxx head pieces, which is unfortunate, considering the fact that BC goggles were up there with T7 gear.

Of course, you can wear them at about level 72, but who has 440 Engineering at level 72?

In happier news, the goblins have found a way to make more Saronite Bombs for the same material cost, and they are generously allowing any Engineer to do it.

The Gnomish Lightning Generator will have a shorter cast time and cooldown. The only thing more happening than Grease Lightning is Gnomish Lightning, after all.

Lifeblood will be usable while stealthed or invisible. Unfortunately, Eternal Life still seems to be in abundant supply and low demand.

Do you find yourself holding a bag full of Inks of the Sea? Do you wonder what you'll ever do with it all? Are you still milling herbs and creating more Inks of the Sea, in hopes of finding the materials for Snowfall Ink? If this sounds like you, then Patch 3.0.8 might be just what you need.

For the low, low price of one Ink of the Sea, you can purchase an ink of a different type from one Jessica Sellers. For a "few" Inks of the Sea, you can even buy a Snowfall Ink!

Soon, you will be able to train Glyph of Arcane Blast.

Glyph of Death and Decay will no longer cause your victims to cower in fear for two seconds. Instead, it will grant you 20% additional damage against those affected by the spell.

Glyph of Invisibility will have a longer duration.

Glyph of Deterrence will decrease the cooldown by ten seconds instead of twenty. You might want to think about switching.

Glyph of Holy Light will grant 10% of its healing, and will affect targets in a larger radius.

Glyph of Horn of Winter will increase the duration of the effect by a full minute. For a full list of new glyphs and glyph changes, check out MMO-Champion.

As of Patch 3.0.8, you will learn a recipe that will allow you to change one Frozen Orb and several green-quality gems into several "superior" quality gems.

Your Figurine - Twilight Serpent will grant you less spell power, but will have a "significantly" reduced cooldown.

The epic leg armor kits will cost a Frozen Orb in addition to their current material requirements.

The Iceborne Belt pattern will now have its correct skill-up range.

Mining is going to work more like Herbalism. Instead of hitting the vein, looting, and then repeating the process, you will mine the vein once, and acquire all of the loot that is in it. This does not reduce what you will get, it only changes how you get it.

Weakened Giants and Iron Rune Sentinels will be mineable.

Toughness will now increase your stamina rather than your hit points. This won't actually change the amount of hit points gained, but it should factor into talents and abilities that use your stamina to boost your stats, such as Combat Expertise and Touched By The Light.

Master of Anatomy ranks 5 and 6 will grant more critical strike rating. Carrion Fleshrippers will be skinnable.

Hold your horses! Stop leveling tailoring once you are required to use Bolts of Imbued Frostweave. Once the patch hits, it will take less cloth to make these, so it is worth the wait. You can safely turn your cloth into Bolts of Frostweave to save space.

The materials for Shining and Azure Spellthread will be "simplified."

Brilliant and Sapphire Spellthread will require fewer eternals (yay!) and instead, more Iceweb Spider Silk (fair). Save your eternals and go hunt some spiders.

The tailor-only spellthreads, Master's and Sanctified, will be much cheaper, but will no longer grant skill points. Considering the fact that I never changed my pants quickly enough to make it into my skill leveling routine, I think this is a positive change.

You won't have to pay your trainer as much post-patch to learn the recipe for the normal Flying Carpet.

The locations for the creation of Ebonweave and Spellweave are changing. Ebonweave will be created in the Maw of Neltharion in Dragonblight, while Spellweave will require the tailor to be at the Azure Dragonshrine in Dragonblight.

The transmutation cooldowns for the three Outland cloths, Spellcloth, Shadowcloth and Primal Mooncloth, are being removed.

World of Warcraft listed as one of the 30 most offensive games

The conservative Christian investment firm, the Timothy Plan, has released a list of the 30 most offensive games on the market. This list details the areas of sex, nudity, gay / lesbian, violence, cartoon violence, language, comic mischief, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, demonic, and game addiction as things that are against any "morally responsible" mutual fund to invest in.

In other words they don't want you to invest, like they don't, in companies that make games which deal with any of the above areas.

World of Warcraft is on the list. It has an overall score of a 9, which means it is half as offensive as Grand Theft Auto IV. According to the Timothy Plan, WoW is morally deficient in sex, violence, language, alcohol, and game addiction.

Some investors will take this advice, and that's their right to do so.

After the break we'll examine areas in which WoW is morally deficient, according to the Timothy Plan.

Area 1: Sex

"Suggestive Themes: Some suggestively dressed female characters and sexual allusions."

Yup. WoW has some pretty attractive females. Night Elves dancing on mailboxes, Dwarf Priests jumping around in their Tier 2 gear, and don't forget the mating of two sea-lions. /phew!

Area 2: Violence

"Blood, Violence: A reasonable amount of fighting interspersed between various missions. Many attacks can cause enemies to bleed."

I can agree with half of that. There is a reasonable amount of fighting. You have to kill monsters, bad thieves, and your enemy on the battle-field. But unlike the text which the Timothy Plan lives by, there are no descriptions of a man being strung up on a cross with a crown of thorns on.

The second part of the violence statement, that many attacks can cause enemies to bleed, is wrong. The bleed effect is only applyable by a few number of classes and their abilities, and only by a few weapons. By no means are "many attacks" able to do this.

Area 3: Language

"Mild Language: You may find a very occasional 'd*mn.'"

If you think that's language, you should hear what I yell at my computer when I wipe on a raid boss for the umpteenth time.

Area 4: Alcohol

"Use: Players have the opinion of purchasing and consuming alcohol, even the ability to get drunk."

Players also learn an important lesson, when you get drunk you can't walk straight and are extremely less effective in everything you do. In fact, you can't fight well at all while drunk. You might even say that WoW tries to impart the antithesis of what the Timothy Group is trying to say. WoW tells you getting drunk is bad.

Area 5: Game Addiction

"Addiction: Due to the nature of the game and its length, it is extremely addictive. Time limits need to be set when playing the game."

WoW is an addictive game. If you have an addictive personality, then you are at risk of becoming addicted to WoW or any other game. I don't want to get into the physiological responses of the body to addiction, but needless to say, addiction is real and there are physical as well as mental reasons for it.

However with that said, there are lots of other things you can become addicted to as well. Watching TV, drinking, risk taking, sex, or basically anything that releases endorphins into your brain to make you feel good.

While I'll leave it up for you to decide the general merits of this list.
30 most offensive games on the market (Warning: link is to a PDF file).

WoW Video: Winter Weapons

The movie is apparently based on an old war story told by Selserene's grandfather. I'm not going to spoil it here, since the story is well-conveyed by the characters in the movie. There's a recap and explanation at the end to help make sense of what's going on, in case you don't entirely get it

The movie was satisfying, like all of Selserene's work. An impatient chap, I could have gone with slightly faster pacing, as it took me a little time to figure out what was going on. I want to draw attention to the amount of emotion Selserene manages to convey via her human soldier's face. We're seeing more manipulation of the face model in machinima nowadays, and Selserene makes strong use of that. Angles, slight distortions, and careful shots really help convey the consternation of the soldier.

WoW Guide:Gombol's Tanking Guide - Talents

If you have a Warrior and are thinking of trying out tanking, or perhaps looking to improving you current talent set up, take a look at the guide below.

Tanking is something you need to get right. If you fail at your job as a tank your whole party or raid go down with you. Talent specs are crucial when perfecting your tank, so here is a guide to speccing for optimal performance; keep those mobs attacking you with ease!

Refer to the Warrior Talent planner to see all Warrior Talents mentioned below.

Warrior Talents


Maybe you just hit 80 and are re-speccing, maybe you've been raiding as arms or fury, or maybe just finishing Northrend and wanting to go straight into heroics or raids. Now, before we get into the good, solid tanking spec let's take a quick glance down the trees and point out some alluring talents to avoid.

Arms tree:

More or less the ONLY talent you want in here (as protection) is the parry talent (unless like me, you've found yourself with a spare point, which I threw into imp charge) Yes, parry isn't the Best stat ever, because every time you parry, the mob resets its swing, but, more avoidance = less damage, meaning happier healers. That's more or less it in arms, nothing more you want.

Fury tree:

Two talents, both on tier one you want here, Armoured to the Teeth (3/3), and Cruelty (5/5), both will help with threat generation, and soloing, the reasons being:

Armoured to the Teeth is 3 AP for every 180 armour, meaning a LARGE amount of AP, and more Threat, because Thunderclap, Shockwave and Concussion blow get + damage from AP (as stated by their tooltip) and because you should always be trying to keep Thunderclap up (slower attack speed = less damage) it will do a nice amount of damage. Shockwave, owns for AoE tanking, even though its a Cone in front of you, just curve around the mobs, trying to keep them in front of you and use it, they will get stunned, nice high threat and less damage for a few seconds, even though it doesn't always stun bosses, its worth using on boss fights for threat gen.


Here is the long winded part of explaining specs, in protection you want most of your points, what I have is as follows (will explain why as well):

Improved Thunder Clap (3/3): Why choose it? 4 less rage cost, meaning you can use the rage you've saved on something else, 30% extra damage, more threat of course, and a total of 20% slower attack speed, meaning mobs/bosses will attack slower, meaning less damage.

Shield Specialization (5/5): More block rating, meaning you will block more often, and each time you block, you will gain 2 rage, and if you block lots, you'll be getting a lot of rage.

Anticipation (5/5): 5% dodge, you would be silly NOT to take it, nothing much you can say about it.

Incite (3/3): Some people don't see the point in maxing this out, I think its worth it personally: 15% + crit? Would help LOADS on your threat gen, and well worth the points.

Toughness (5/5): 10% armour increase, and 30% reduction on movement slowing effects, take it because armour = mitigation, and that means less damage from physical attacks.

Shield Mastery (2/2): 30% increased block rating, and 20 second reduction on the cooldown of shield block. Block Rating means you take less damage when you block, but also means your shield slam does more damage, and the 20 second reduction is nice, since a lot of the trash / bosses hit nice and hard now, so its best to use it whenever its off Cooldown.

Last Stand (1/1): Self explanatory, its one of your scare buttons.

Puncture (3/3): Sunder armour, useless when you get devastate, but less rage cost of devastate means you have more rage to play with.

Improved Spell Reflection (2/2): This is awesome now that it was buffed, 4% avoidance (to spells only) and the reflection on party members, Herri tested this; it has a min and max range: "A party member didn't receive the buff while in trade-range (~11 yards). It worked while in duel-range (~10 yards)"

Gag Order (2/2): 10% damage to shield slam and the silence, even though this doesn't look or sound really good, note this: " Heroic Throw abilities a 100% chance to silence" Meaning... That's right, a ranged silence, worth it on those pesky casters that wont come to you.

Concussion Blow (1/1): Now that this does damage AND said damage scales with AP, you can now use this on bosses (or stun immune mobs) to cause extra threat!

One-Handed Weapon Specialization (5/5): 10% increased one handed weapon damage, worth it since being in defensive is -10% damage, meaning if you're in defensive you'll only loose 1% damage.

Focused Rage (3/3): -3 rage cost on ALL abilities, that means EVERYTHING you can do takes less rage to use: you have even more rage to use.

Vigilance (1/1): Quite self explanatory, the target takes 3% less damage, 10% of their threat is transferred to you, if the target is hit by a mob your taunt CD is refreshed.

Improved Defensive Stance (2/2): 6% less spell damage, but you also get a +10% damage increase whenever you block, dodge or parry.

Vitality (3/3): 6% stamina increase and 6 Expertise, no reason not to take it.

Critical Block (3/3): Gives a chance to block 30% more after blocking, I believe this is an invisible buff, so don't watch out for one, also gives a 15% crit on Shield Slam, meaning more threat.

Devastate (1/1): Your MAIN damage and tanking ability, it applies Sunder, and damages your target. Get asap, swap your sunder from your bars and whack this ability in its space.

Warbringer (1/1): Thanks to this, I personally NEVER leave defensive any more, being able to charge in defensive is awesome, it enables you to charge in, get rage from the charge, and use an ability without having to change stance and loosing some rage. Also gives your Charge, Intercept and Intervene abilities a root / movement impairing effect remover, which is very handy.

Damage Shield (2/2): More or less a personal Ret Aura, every time you're hit (including blocking) you deal damage equal to 20% of your block.

Sword and Board (3/3): Increases crit on devastate by 15%, and has a Chance to proc a free shield slam that costs no rage, and it procs VERY often as well, so well worth the points, but be sure to try and use it when it procs too.

Shockwave (1/1): Bread and butter of warrior AoE tanking, sure, its a Cone, but if you're smart enough to try and keep the mobs in front of you, it can be used often, even if you just want a stun, causes nice high threat. Even useful on bosses for when you want that little bit extra threat.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tips for Strand of the Ancients and how to win it

Eye for an Eye has a great set of tips up for the Strand of the Ancients battleground. Their tips are aimed towards Ret Pallies, but they're useful for almost anyone, and especially any melee-based classes. And the general idea -- focus on the relic and getting to it, not the players attacking you or other teammates -- is great for anyone to know.

I don't know what it is about Strand and Wintergrasp that has pulled new players into PvP, but there's something new there -- DanO also has found himself PvPing in those places when he never guessed he would. It seems like the objective is a big part of it; the goals in Strand and Wintergrasp just seem more epic than the skirmishes in Warsong and Arathi Basin (and they come with none of the major issues in Alterac Valley).

Still, while most of the tips are common sense, some of them are worth listening to if you haven't though of them yet (I liked the tip about sniffing out Rogues around the tanks -- whenever I've played Strand, I've always headed for the walls, but protecting the tanks is a great tactic, too). If you haven't tried either of the new PvP areas yet, give them a look, and bring these tips along with you.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The oldest WoW player you know

World of Warcraft seems to pull in players from the very young, to the fairly old. While the younger ones are generally pretty vociferous about themselves, a lot of the older players don't run about advertising it. (Note: I'm not making a judgement call on play-styles. I've met adults who can't spell to save their butt and younger folks who are not only eloquent, but highly-intelligent theorycrafters.) So when we got a mail recently from Pamela who told us she'd be turning 50 later this month, she wondered who the oldest people we knew were. There were a few writers who chimed in....

Robin Torres: I know there are much older, but I'm 44 and the oldest I've come across personally. Age comes up a lot with me in-game because I get annoyed having to answer questions like "Who are the Pixies?" or argue about where "Mahna mahna" first appeared (Sesame Street, not The Muppet Show).

BRK: I have a friend in his early 70s who is a Hunter. He's a Professor Emeritus in astronomy at the University of Florida. He actually came to my WotLK purchasing-party in Orlando.

Adam Holisky: I know an ex-lawyer that teaches law at UCLA. If I recall correctly, he just turned 75. He's a drunk and a dirty old man, but one helluva funny and smart guy.

As for me, I have an awesome 60-year old woman as a guild-mate. She has an extremely generous heart, devotes lots of time to helping the guild with trade-skills or material farming, and is always there when you need an ear. Outside of that, she's even gone so far as to send two enormous tins full of some of the best cookies I've ever tasted to our yearly RL guild party since she couldn't come. (I'm glad to say she'll be there this year!)

Now with all that said, who is the oldest WoW player you know? (Perhaps you are the oldest WoW player you know.) Let's hear from you!

Anthropologist digs into WoW

While we've written before about academics who are researching WoW from within, we're not sure that we've seen anyone whose primary fieldwork is the PvE raiding experience. Meet Alex Golub, Ph.D., an anthropology professor at the University of Hawaii. Golub plays a Resto Shaman in a Wrath-era raiding guild who's researching what he calls the culture of raiding -- "why people do something as crazy as run 25-mans four days a week."

"There is a lot of research on WoW, actually, but most of is based either on crunching Armory data to produce statistical analysis of game play, or it is more 'cultural studies' where people play the game a little and then write something beautiful about it," he explains to 15 Minutes of Fame. "My unique angle is that I am doing anthropological fieldwork in WoW, living and playing with a raiding guild and putting in 20+ hours a week keeping them healed and decursed."

The main themes of Golub's research (ahem): "American cultures of self-control, efficiency, masculinity and success amongst players of WoW." We asked him to boil that down for us. "I study how guys behave badly in Vent, and how/why people become emo and/or talk about why other people are emo," he explains. "I'm interested in how you get a group of 25 people to keep calm and collected as they try to do something really emotionally important to them, which requires relying on other people when its difficult to see them face to face."

Main character Resto Shaman
WoW player since September 2006
Prior video game experience Mostly RPGs: Baldur's Gate, Grim Fandango -- Zork, even (I'm old-school that way)
Other games currently playing Who has time for other games?!?

15 Minutes of Fame: How did you come to end up doing field research within the World of Warcraft?
Alex Golub: I'm a professor of anthropology, and my specialty is actually Papua New Guinea. I lived there for two years, learned the language, stayed with a local family and tried to immerse myself in the culture, which is what anthropologists do. When I was there, everyone kept on talking about white people: "You white people are like this, you white people are like that." Some of the things they said struck me as right, and some struck me as wrong -- but they made me realize I didn't actually know anything about my own culture. So when I got back, I decided to start a second project on American culture to make sense of it all, and I chose WoW.

Raiding as fieldwork – hrrm, sounds like a cushy ride on the science train. What's the actual process here?
I'm basically doing in WoW what I did in Papua New Guinea. I'm in a raiding guild, and I'm immersing myself in their culture. I raid four days a week, four hours a day. I grind rep, run heroics ... everything! As soon as I get done with this interview, I'm going to go grind Sons of Hodir rep.

Of course, I do more than just play the game. I have a private channel on our Vent server where I interview people, and I keep a database of who everyone is in the guild so I can keep track of the billion-and-a-half alts we have.

I played with the guild for some time before I started doing official fieldwork with them, and I'm going to keep on recording 'til the summer. Then I'll take a break and go to Papua New Guinea again for some more research there. When I come back, I'll start writing. I want to write a book about WoW that anyone can read -- sort of Malcolm Gladwell meets Arthas. I want to produce something that my guildies can read and say "Yeah, that's totally what its like to raid," but I also want it to be a book that you could give to your folks and say "See, I'm not just sitting in this chair for five hours a day. My best friends and I save the world every night." ... Something that helps explain to people how important WoW is to people and how it brings them together. So look for it on shelves in like, I don't know, Summer 2010.

Does your role as a researcher cut into your ability to be one of the guys while you're playing? Conversely, is it imperative at times that you set aside your researcher hat and participate in a genuine manner?
You know, I am an intellectual with a Ph.D., and a lot of the guys in my guild are plumbers or work in factories or are college students who complain about school. So the problem was not being "objective" and not being able to be a guy -- it was learning how to be a guy in the first place! I keep on talking about "suboptimal positioning" and they're like "WTF, can't Alex speak English?", and then they'd talk about the game on TV and I'd be like "WTF is football?" So ... yeah ...

I have to "participate in a genuine manner" all the time because I'm one of the raid's main healers. Last night, we did our first 25-man Sartharion (one-shot, BTW), and I wasn't observing anyone in an objective way -- I was spamming Chain Heals everywhere and trying to keep the add tank Earth Shielded. So yeah, most of the time I am hanging out with my guild and helping us move through new content. You can't do anthropology if you treat people as objects. You have to share your life with them first, before you can expect them to share theirs with you.

Being an anthropologist is great, though, because eventually you are going to want to interview everyone, which means you can't make enemies in the guild. We have a Boomkin in our guild who is notorious for pulling aggro, but in raid I can't be like "IF YOU PULL THE MOBS OFF THE TANK ONE MORE TIME I AM NOT GOING TO HEAL YOU ANY MORE YOU PIECE OF S@#$" and then afterwards be all "Oh hey, can I interview for my research afterwards?" They'll just mute you. So research is great, because it teaches you to be patient with people and to try to live a life where you make no enemies, and that's a great way to learn how to live. Just the other day, this guy and I ran four heroics in row, and I got to see another side of him and now we're friends. So that patience really paid off.

Anthropologist digs into WoW Part 2

So why do guys behave badly in Vent? And is it just males -- or are females just as guilty?
I think there are two kinds of behaving badly. The first is when people loose their temper or get punitive. I think this happens because people are trying to play together and the stakes are really high because they really care about getting the boss down. But the tools they give us -- Vent, addons, etc. -- are a super-lousy way to communicate when you compare them to how rich and detailed face-to-face interaction is. Add to that that this is a volunteer activity, and you don't have a boss standing over you threatening to fire you unless you smile the next time you ask people if they want fries with that. So people get frustrated and blow up.

The other kind of behaving badly is joking -- people get really raunchy in my guild, particularly with all the fag jokes: "I can't hear you on Vent -- do you have a dick in your mouth again?" and all that kind of thing. Social science tells us that people all over the world often joke to diffuse tension, and there's a lot of tension in raid, so I think people develop a joking atmosphere so they can rag on each other and let people see they're not mad with them and it's no big deal. Also, in the United States, white men (most of the men in my guild are white) place a strong emphasis on homosociality but not homosexuality -- they want to spend time with other men but ... not in "that way." So I think a lot of joking about dating each other's sisters and all this is a way for guys to tell each other that they love one another and spend all this time together, but that they're not queer. Its kind of homophobic, really.

There are basically four women who play regularly in our guild, and they go along with it a little. But I think Vent is a male space -- even when women play along, they are doing the guy thing. One woman in the guild is a tomboy who says she likes Vent because its just like having the guys over, but she doesn't have to clean up the empty beer bottles afterwards!

Is the locker-room mentality so prevalent on many WoW Vent channels a healthy, desirable outlet for players, or do you see potential or real dangers?
People aren't venting on Vent -- they are building a community. There are lots of culturally specific ways to build community, and some of them involve cussing. To an outsider or a nonspecialist, it may seem like they're behaving badly (and sometimes they do), but don't assume the same words or actions have the same meaning. It all depends on the context and the culture. In my guild, at least, people do things that would not be appropriate at the office but are key to building a successful raiding community.

What systems or processes do you see as being most helpful in keeping a raid group focused, calm and poised for success during a raid?
Love and respect. Serious. And hunger. People have to want the kill and trust their guildies. I don't know -- I mean, some guilds get together for two months, blow through Black Temple and then explode because they all hate one another. Our guild is four years old and very proud of its sense of community. We put aside our own emotional needs -- to feel strong, or smart, or needed or loved -- to focus on the job at hand. And we put aside the job at hand if it means putting the guild in jeopardy. We've chosen community over endgame progression, and the great thing about that choice is that once you commit to the guild, then the progression comes.

So the biggest system is trust. When you really know someone and have raided with them tons, you can call them out and they'll take the criticism and step up their performance. The relationship can bear the weight of that criticism -- it enables that criticism and further success.

The other thing is a clear line of hierarchy. When you criticize people in raid or tell them what to do, it doesn't feel to them like you are offering instructions or advice. It feels like you are judging them and their worth as a person. So we need to have only a few people who talk in Vent or offer suggestions to people, so that people will say "Ok, this guy is SUPPOSED to be giving me orders." That makes it easier. What Shaman wants to hear some Priest tell him how he ought to be handling his Riptide rotation?

What else have you noted about the differences between online behavior and "RL"?
One thing about studying WoW and other virtual worlds is that it has made social scientists realize that "real" and "in the same room" are just not the same things. Everyone in my guild knows each other in "real life," because real doesn't mean "physical world" -- it means "things that people care about," or as an anthropologist, I'd say, "things that people in a culture care about." There is a guy in my guild who works in a cheese factory, turning over 90-pound blocks of cheese all day. I bet I know him better than he knows the guys in the control room measuring cheese temperatures or whatever, even if he sees them every day.

Do you foresee (or already observe) guild dynamics evolving as players get older over the passage of time? Will a greater number of older, experienced players change common guild dynamics?
One big misconception about video games is the idea that teenage boys play them. This is just not true. Everyone plays video games these days, including adult women. We've had grandparents in our guild, and many parents as well. Most people in my guild are in their early 20s.

So the big question is whether guilds -- particularly raiding guilds -- will continue to be made up of 20somethings because they're the people who are 1) done with school and 2) don't have a real career and family yet. My guess is that WoW will be the virtual equivalent of backpacking across Europe. People will do it when they are at that stage of their life to seek intensity and have few obligations.

What do you see as the single biggest challenge to communication and successful interpersonal dynamics between guild members?
Not seeing faces. You never realize how much communication happens with the body until all you have is a voice coming over a set of headphones. That, and people who get s@#$faced on booze before raid. That never helps.

In your article for Inside Higher Education, you refer to calling players out on the carpet for their mistakes as "the human price of success." Is frank, public discussion of individual errors an inevitable aspect of guild success? Is that ultimately necessary for guild cohesion and longevity?
Answered this already, I think.

Then why do you think your guildmates were unwilling to expose themselves to the level of individual scrutiny that would have ultimately set them up for success?
I think they just didn't care enough. They were playing the game to have fun. I think maybe I should have been playing it that way, too.

Actually, it's funny -- you know, I wrote that piece after a raid that really left me in despair. Then the day the piece was published, we went in there and killed Kael and I got my T5 chest, and suddenly I was like "THIS IS THE BEST GUILD EVAR."

Looking back to your conclusions from your guild's inability to kill Kael pre-nerf, what are your thoughts on Wrath's easier learning curve?
We cleared at T5 and T6 content before Wrath, and we were a little disappointed with how easy Heroic Naxx was -- at least until we got to Patchwerk and he carved the words "gear check" into the still-twitching torso of our main tank. (Update: Now, we are carving "gear check" into Patchwerk, not the other way around.)

But seriously, I think Blizz has done a great job with Wrath in so many ways: the lore, the phased areas, the streamlined game mechanics. In terms of difficulty, I think it is good that Blizz is making more content available to more players. It may upset the three top guilds in the world, but does Blizz really want to create a world where success means obsessed, extremely pale people who never leave their houses while we all read about their loot on wowhead?

That said, I do sort of miss the wall that Blizz introduced in TBC. I'd like there to always be instances I'll probably never see the inside of, just so I can dream and maybe even surprise myself. I also like that fact that Blizz continues to make raids the most prestigious part of the game. I'd hate to see them make the gear you buy with Warsong tokens on par with raid loot.

Do you think Blizzard's mission to make more content more accessible skews players' perceptions of their (real or imagined) playing skill?
LOL. I don't think most players' perceptions of their own playing skills have anything to do with reality, so ... it probably doesn't matter!