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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Arena Tournament has begun!

The 2009 Arena Tournament officially begun yesterday, kicking of a six-week qualifying period to find the best Arena players who will earn the chance to win prizes totaling over $200,000. Registration was opened a little over a week ago, with Blizzard enticing aspiring Gladiators with the Vanquisher title and a Murloc vanity pet that will translate over to the live realms. The tournament will consist of one round of regional qualifiers, followed by the regional finals, and winners of those finals will compete against each other for the top prize.

Registering for the tournament, which costs $20 or €15, will grant players access to the tournament realms where they can create Level 80 characters of any race and class. These characters will be outfitted with the best Arena gear available -- Deadly Gladiator items from Season 5 -- and will have access to other epic items as well as enchants, gems, and glyphs allowing them to customize their character as they see fit.

Players whose teams finish in the Top 1000 at the end of the qualifiers will receive the Vanquisher title for all their characters over Level 70. Casual players who don't play Arenas seriously still have some incentive as the only requirement to obtain the Murloc pet -- Murkimus the Gladiator, according to the Patch 3.1 files -- is to play 200 games over the six-week qualifying period with one team regardless of record. Players must have an active subscription in order to register.

WoW Patch 3.1 PTR Build 9626 Patch Notes Changes

A new Patch 3.1 PTR build is out tonight, build #9626. This build adds some changes and brings a few undocumented changes into their proper documented status.

And with this new build, we're going to try something new here at WoW Insider. Each time the patch notes change, we'll bring you a listing of significant changes to them.

What's a significant change?

  • Non-grammatical, there are grammar and spelling errors in the patch notes. While people might like to make fun of them, they're not of any consequence.
  • Non-contextual, sometimes the context of a note changes but doesn't really make any difference. Something like a Shield Bash change moved from the Arms tree (where it was mistakenly placed) to the Protection tree (where it belongs).
  • Non-formatting, often times the format of the patch notes will change. This includes things like using ":" or "-" in the appropriate places. These don't concern us.
  • Sometimes the new changes to the patch notes will just be undocumented things becoming documented. But that's important to know too.
So after the break you'll see our first go at this. A complete list of the changes from the initial Patch 3.1 PTR build to PTR build #9626. You can also view the fully updated notes, and view an archive of previous iterations of the patch notes.



Death Knight:
  • New talent: Improved Death Strike. Increases Death Strike damage by 10/20.
    Please note that while it is removed in the patch notes, it is reportedly still on the PTR.


Death Kngiht:
  • Outbreak: Increases the damage of Plague Strike by 15/30/45% and Scourge Strike by 10/20/30%.
  • Maim: This ability is now considered a stun, and shares a diminish category with all other stuns. It no longer has a chance to break from the target taking damage.
  • Intensity: Now grants 17/33/50% of mana regeneration while casting.
  • Disengage: Cooldown increased by 5 sec.
  • Mage Armor: Now grants 50% of mana regeneration while casting.
  • Talents
    • Arcane
      • Arcane Meditation: Now grants 17/33/50% of mana regeneration while casting.
    • Fire
      • Pyromaniac: Now grants 17/33/50% of mana regeneration while casting.
  • Improved Concentration Aura: The resistance to silence and interrupt granted by this talent now becomes active when any Aura is used, not just Concentration Aura.
  • Improved Devotion Aura: The additional healing granted by this talent now becomes active when any Aura is used, not just Devotion Aura.
  • Sanctified Retribution: The bonus to damage done granted by this talent now becomes active when any Aura is used, not just Retribution Aura.
  • Meditation and Improved Power: Word shield have changed locations with each other.
  • Meditation: Now grants 17/33/50% of mana regeneration while casting
  • Improved Spirit Tap: Now grants 17/33% of mana regeneration while casting.
  • Spirit Tap: Now grants 83% of mana regeneration while casting.

  • Savage Roar is now considered an Enrage effect and now increases physical damage done by 30% instead of increasing attack power.
  • T.N.T. re-designed: Increases the damage done by your Explosive Shot, Explosive Trap and Immolation Trap by 2/4/6%.
  • Divine Aegis: Divine Aegis effects will now stack, however the amount absorbed cannot exceed 125*level (of the target). It will also now take into account total healing including overhealing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WoW 3.1 PTR Patch Notes

Here we go boys and girls, the main event, what we've all been waiting for: the PTR Patch 3.1 Patch Notes. As a reminder, these patch notes are preliminary and incomplete – but that's just the way we like 'em. There will be lots more added in to them over the coming weeks, eventually resulting in the release patch notes we'll see when 3.1 makes it to the live servers.

These notes were retrieved from the downloaded patch files. Blizzard has not (as usual) updated their websites to reflect the latest PTR notes.

Of course, we'll be bringing you detailed updates on the notes as they're changed every day. Stay tuned and check back often for the latest!

Some of the major changes included in the patch notes include:

  • Mounts will not dismount in water

  • Dual specs

  • Ulduar raid instance

  • BG queuing anywhere in the world

Full notes after the break! Be sure to check out the WoW Insider's Guide to Patch 3.1 for all our posts concerning this latest patch.

World of Warcraft PTR Patch 3.1.0

The latest test realm patch notes can always be found at

The latest patch notes can always be found at


  • All Ground Mounts may now swim without dismounting the rider. Flying Mounts still may NOT, and will dismount the rider upon entering water.

  • Ulduar is now available for limited testing. Please visit the Public Test Realms for more details.

  • Players at maximum level will now be able to visit their trainer to pay a one-time fee and access the dual talent spec feature.

  • A new Gear Manager feature has been added. Players will now be able to save gear sets for easy gear switching.


  • Battlegrounds

    • Players will now be able to queue for battlegrounds from any location.

    • Seaforium Barrels can be looted while mounted, can now be seen from anywhere in the zone, and can now be found at the Central Graveyard.

    • Teleporters can now be used while mounted and can now be seen from anywhere in the zone

Classes: General

  • Hysteria, Tricks of the Trade, Enrage, Wrecking Crew, Death Wish, Arcane Power, Owlkin Frenzy, Beast Within, Avenging Wrath and Hysteria damage bonuses no longer stack together.

Death Knight

  • Blood Boil's damage increased to make up for Pestilence no longer doing damage.

  • Blood Boil now does some damage to undiseased targets and extra damage to diseased targets. Its radius has been decreased.

  • Blood Plague: Now lasts 15 seconds untalented.

  • Death Pact: This heal cannot be a critical.

  • Frost Fever: Now lasts 15 seconds untalented.

  • Pestilence does no damage and has only one rank.

  • Plague Strike and Blood Plague no longer remove hots. Plague Strike's damage increased quite a bit to compensate.

  • Raise Ally has a >15 min cooldown to keep it out of Arena.

  • Raise Dead: Duration lowered to 60 sec. and cooldown lowered to 3 min. The cooldown on this ability now begins when the pet dies rather than when it is summoned.Rune of Cinderglacier now procs per minute instead of a 5% chance.

  • Rune of Razorfrost now affects Frost damage done by the DK only, but stacks up to 10%.

  • Strangulate no longer does damage and has been reduced to 1 rank.



  • Blood Aura: Replaced with Improved Blood Presence. This allows the deathknight to keep the healing from damage done bonus of Blood Presence in any presence, and increases healing received while in Blood Presence.

  • Blood-Gorged now grants armor penetration instead of expertise.

  • Bloody Strikes now increases Blood Boil damage instead of Pestilence.

  • Bloodworms now heal more.

  • Dancing Rune Weapon: Fixed a bug making it trigger an unusual number of effects from the weapon equipped by the Death Knight. In addition, it will now only echo Death Knight spells whose primary purpose is dealing damage. Also corrected a bug making the effect last 8 seconds longer than intended.

  • Scent of Blood will now proc on a dodge, parry or taking damage, and internal cooldown lowered to 10 from 20 sec.

  • Sudden Doom now procs a free Death Coil instead of requiring you to push the button. Ranks reduced from 5 to 3.


  • The following talents have moved in the Frost tree: Runic Power Mastery, Glacier Rot, Killing Machine, Chilblains, and Endless Winter.

  • Black Ice now grants 2/4/6/8/10% Shadow damage in addition to the Frost damage.

  • Black Ice: Frost Damage bonus lowered to 4/8/12/16/20%

  • Blood of the North is 3 ranks instead of 5 for the same effect.

  • Chillblains: Now a 15/30/50% movement speed debuff (up from 30%). Moved to position currently occupied by Glacier Rot.

  • Endless Winter: Moved to position currently occupied by Chillblains.

  • Frost Aura: Replaced with Improved Frost Presence. Allows the deathknight to keep the health bonus of Frost Presence in any presence, and decreases magic damage taken while in Frost Presence.

  • Glacier Rot: Third rank added, and damage bonus increased to 7/13/20. Moved to position currently occupied by Endless Winter.

  • Howling Blast: Swapped positions with Hungering Cold in the talent tree (HB is now at 51, and HC is now at 31). In addition, the damage bonus for targets with Frost Fever is now only 20%.

  • Icy Talons - This talent how has a new icon.

  • Runic Power Mastery down to 2 ranks.


  • Blood-caked Blade: Now has a 3 second cooldown on the effect.

  • Desecration: This talent now has a 100% chance to be triggered. Additional points in the talent increase the damage bonus and snare magnitude instead of increasing the chance.

  • Epidemic: Epidemic now has 3 ranks (adding an additional 3 sec of disease duration). Magic Suppression is 3 ranks (down from 5) for 2/4/6% magic damage reduction.

  • Master of Ghouls: Now also reduces the cooldown on Raise Dead by 60 sec.

  • Necrosis: Can now only be triggered by main hand attacks.

  • New talent: Improved Death Strike. Increases Death Strike damage by 10/20.

  • Night of the Dead: Redesigned to grant a flat reduction on cooldown to Raise Dead and Army of the Dead instead of a reduction from using abilities.

  • Outbreak bonus for Scourge Strike lowered to 10/20/30%.

  • Scourge Strike: Damage increased.

  • Unholy Aura: Replaced with Improved Unholy Presence. Allows the Deathknight to keep the movement speed bonus of Unholy Presence in any presence, and increases rune regeneration rate while in Unholy Presence.

  • Unholy Blight and Gargoyle have swapped places in the Unholy tree. Gargoyle is the new Unholy 51 talent.


  • Abolish Poison: Now ticks every 3 sec, up from every 2. Now lasts 12 sec., up from 8.


  • Owlkin Frenzy is now properly considered an Enrage effect. Now also does not trigger from spell hits, only physical ranged and melee attacks.


  • New Talent: Primal Gore: Grants the periodic damage from your Rake, Lacerate and Rip abilities the ability to critically hit.

  • Savage Roar is now considered an Enrage effect.


  • Living Seed: This talent now accounts for your ineffective healing, rather than effective.

  • Improved Mark of the Wild: Now also increases all of your total attributes by 1/2%.

  • New Talent: Improved Barkskin: Increases the damage reduction granted by your Barkskin spell by 5/10%, and increases your resistance to Dispel mechanics by an additional 30/60% while under the effect of Barkskin.

  • Replenish: This talent is now re-named "Revitalize" and now also works with Wild Growth.

  • Tree of Life: You can now use Nature's Grasp and Thorns while within this form.


  • Frost Trap: If the target who triggers Frost Trap is immune to its effect, the Frost Trap area effect will no longer be triggered.


  • Improved Aspect of the Hawk now has a new spell effect.

  • Improved Wing Clip: This talent has been removed.


  • Piercing Shots re-designed: Your critical Aimed, Steady and Chimera Shots cause the target to bleed for 10/20/30% of the damage dealt over 8 sec.

  • Ranged Weapon Specialization: Points reduced from 5 to 3, 1/3/5%.

  • Wild Quiver: Chance increased to 4/8/12%, up from 4/7/10%. Damage increased from 50% of an auto shot, to 80%.


  • Hunting Party: This talent has been reduced to 3-points, and now increases your total Agility by an additional 1/2/3%.

  • Lock and Load re-designed: You now have a 33/66/100% chance when you trap a target with Freezing Trap, Freezing Arrow or Frost Trap and a 2/4/6% chance when you deal periodic damage with your Immolation Trap or Black Arrow to cause your next 2 Arcane Shot or Explosive Shot spells to trigger no cooldown, cost no mana and consume no ammo. This now has a new spell effect and sound.

  • New Talent: Trap Launcher: When activated, your next Trap will be launched instantly at the enemy target. 1 minute cooldown.

  • T.N.T. re-designed: Increases the damage done by your Explosive Shot, Explosive Trap and Immolation Trap by 2/4/6%, and gives your Explosive Shot a 33/66/100% chance to refresh the duration of your Immolation Trap effect on the target.

  • Trap Mastery: This talent has been moved up to tier-2, up from tier-9.

  • Wyvern Sting duration increased from 12 sec to 30 sec. PvP duration reduced from 10 sec to 6 sec.


  • Roar of Sacrifice can be used on the hunter only.

  • Stampede (rhino) only affects 1 target, but adds a 25% bleed damage debuff (that does not stack with Mangle etc.) in addition to its knockback.


  • Arcane Blast stacking effect is no longer considered a Magic effect and will not be dispelled.


  • Improved Water Elemental: Renamed Enduring Winter. Instead of the Water Elemental increasing mana regeneration for the Mage's party, casting Frostbolt now has a 33/66/100% chance to provide the Replenishment buff to up to 10 people in the Mage's party or raid.


  • Auras will now persist through death.

  • Blessing of Kings is now trainable at level 20. Removed from talent trees.


  • New Talent Divinity:Tier 1 protection talent, increases healing done by and to you by 1/2/3/4/5%.

  • Sacred Duty (Protection) rank 1 now increases Stamina by 4%.


  • Benediction (Retribution) now affects Hand of Reckoning.

  • Fanaticism reduced to 3 ranks for 6/12/18% bonus and 10/20/30% threat reduction.

  • Repentance no longer resets the Paladin's melee swing timer.

  • Righteous Vengeance reduced to 3 ranks for 10/20/30%.


  • Abolish Disease: Now cleanses a disease every 3 sec, down from 5. Duration reduced from 20 seconds, down to 12 sec.

  • Devouring Plague: This spell now has a new icon.

  • Divine Spirit is now trainable at level 31.

  • Holy Nova: Mana cost reduced approximately 20%.

  • Hymn of Hope: This spell has been removed.

  • Improved Holy Concentration removed.

  • Prayer of Healing: This spell now heals the target's party, rather than being limited to just your direct party.

  • Shadowfiend: Health scaling increased. Now receives 30% of the master's spell power. Mana return increased to 5%, up from 4%. The Shadowfiend now receives mana when its melee attacks land, rather than when it deals damage. Movement speed normalized to player movement speed. Tooltip revised.


  • Divine Aegis - Divine Aegis effects will now stack, however the amount absorbed cannot exceed 125*level (of the target).

  • Grace: Duration increased to 15 seconds, but now is only limited to one target.

  • Improved Power: Word Fortitude - Now also increases your total Stamina by 2/4%.

  • New Talent: Soul Warding: Reduces the cooldown of your Power Word: Shield ability by 4 sec., and reduces the mana cost of your Power Word: Shield by 30%.

  • Penance: Damage increased approximately 30%.This spell can now be cast on yourself.

  • Power Infusion: This effect now has a new spell effect and sound.

  • Reflective Shield:This talent has been removed.

  • Unbreakable Will:Increased from 3/6/9/12/15% to 6/12/18/24/30%.


  • Circle of Healing: Healing increased by approximately 40%.

  • Holy Concentration re-designed: Mana regeneration is increased by 16/32/50% for 8 sec after you critically heal with Flash Heal, Greater Heal, Binding Heal or Renew.

  • New Talent: Empowered Renew: Your Renew spell gains an additional 5/10/15% of your bonus healing effects, and your Renew will instantly heal the target for 5/10/15% of the total periodic effect.

  • Serendipity re-designed: When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced by 6/12/20%. Stacks up to 3 times. Lasts 20 sec.

  • Test of Faith: No longer increases critical effect chance of your heals, but healing done on targets lower than 50% health is increased from 2/4/6 to 4/8/12%.


  • Blackout: This talent has been removed.

  • Darkness: This talent is now in tier-1, moved up from tier-6.

  • Dispersion: Now clears all snare and movement impairing effects and makes you immune to them while dispersed.

  • New Talent: Improved Devouring Plague (Shadow): Increases the periodic damage done by your Devouring Plague by 5/10/15%, and when you cast Devouring Plague you instantly deal damage equal to 5/10/15% of its total periodic effect.

  • Shadowform: Bonus damage from critical strike chance removed and replaced by the ability of those periodic damage spells to generate critical strikes.

  • Silence: Range increased to 30 yards.

  • Vampiric Embrace duration increased to 5 minutes, up from 1 minute. PvP duration is now 60 seconds. Cooldown removed.



  • Hunger For Blood: No longer stacks. Damage bonus changed to 15% for a single application. Requires a bleed effect active on the Rogue's target. No longer removes bleeds from the Rogue.


  • Adrenaline Rush cooldown reduced to 3 min.

Killing Spree: Now also increases all damage done by the Rogue while active by 20%.

  • Savage Combat improved to 2/4% increased damage against poisoned targets.

  • Lightning Reflexes reduced to 3 ranks for 2/4/6% dodge and 4/7/10% melee haste.


  • Shadow Dance now opens a new action bar when used.


  • Bloodlust/Heroism: Cooldown reduced to 5 minutes, but Sated and Exhausted now last 10 minutes.

  • Poison Cleansing Totem and Disease Cleansing Totem have been merged into "Cleansing Totem." Cleansing Totem pulses every 3 sec, down from 5.


  • Lava Lash now has a new icon.

  • New Talent: Frozen Power: Increases the damage done by your Frostbrand Weapon if it is enchanted on your main-hand weapon by 10/20%, and your Frost Shock has a 50/100% chance to root the target in Ice for 5 sec. when used on targets at or further than 15 yards from you.

  • Spirit Weapons: Now reduces all threat generated by 30%, not just physical attacks.

  • Stormstrike charges have been increased by 2, and cooldown reduced by 2 sec.

  • Improved Stormstrike re-designed: When you Stormstrike, you have a 50/100% chance to immediately grant you 20% of your base mana.

  • Toughness: No longer increases your armor. Instead, this talent now increases your total Stamina by 2/4/6/8/10%.

  • Unleashed Rage - Reduced to 3 points, down from 5. Each point now also increases your total Agility by 1/2/3%.


  • New Talent: Booming Echoes- Reduces the cooldown of your Flame Shock and Frost Shock spells by an additional 1/2 sec., and increases the direct damage done by your Flame Shock and Frost Shock spells by an additional 10/20%.


  • Ancestral Awakening: This talent now accounts for your ineffective healing, rather than effective.

  • Cleanse Spirit now has a new icon.

  • Riptide: This spell has a new icon.


  • Curse of the Elements (Rank 5) - Increased to 13% spell damage, up from 10%.

  • Curse of Recklessness has been removed.

  • Curse of Weakness - Now also reduces the armor of the target by 5%.

  • Enslave Demon: Spell haste penalty reduced by 10%, Melee haste penalty reduced by 10%.

  • Warlocks now innately have an increased 10% spell hit chance on the Enslave Demon spell.

  • Fire Shield (Imp): You can now cast this ability on raid members, rather than party members.

  • Ritual of Summoning: The summoning of the initial portal is now instant cast, down from 5 seconds.


  • Eradication re-designed: Eradication: When you deal damage with Corruption, you have a 2/4/6% chance to gain the Eradication effect. The Eradication effect increases the critical strike chance of your Shadow Bolt spell by 30%. Each critical strike reduces the critical strike bonus by 10%. Lasts 30 sec.

  • Haunt: Now only increases your shadow damage-over-time on the target. (No longer includes non-Shadow damage over time spells.)

  • Malediction: No longer increases the effect of Curse of the Elements.

  • Pandemic: This talent has been reduced to a 1-point talent, now grants your Corruption and Unstable Affliction the capability to critically hit.

  • Shadow Embrace: Now only increases the damage done by your shadow damage periodic spells.

  • Siphon Life: The Siphon Life spell has been removed. Siphon Life now causes your Corruption spell to instantly heal you for 40% of the damage done.

  • Suppression: Now increases spell hit for all of your spells.


  • Demonic Empathy has been removed.

  • Demonic Empowerment: This talent spell now has a unique spell effect and sound.

  • Demonic Sacrifice:This talent has been removed.

  • Fel Synergy has been moved to tier-1. No longer increases Intellect, Stamina and damage of your summoned demon.

  • Improved Enslave Demon talent removed.

  • Mana Feed: This talent is now a 1-point talent, down from 3-points. Now is the 21-point talent in Demonology. Now grants 100% mana return to your pet, up from 33/66/100%.

  • New Talent: Molten Skin: Reduces all damage taken by 2/4/6%.

  • New Talent: Decimation: When you Shadowbolt or Incinerate a target that is at or below 35% health, your next Soulfire cast time is reduced by 30/60% and costs no shard. Lasts 10 sec.

  • New Talent: Nemesis: Reduces the cooldown of your Demonic Empowerment, Metamorphosis, Soulstone and Fel Domination spells by 10/20/30%.


  • Aftermath re-designed: Increases the periodic damage done by your Immolate by 3/6%, and your Conflagrate has a 50/100% chance to daze the target for 5 sec.

  • Backlash has been moved up to tier-5, up from tier-7. Now requires Intensity (pre-req).

  • Cataclysm: Now reduces the mana cost of Destruction spells by 4/7/10%. No longer increases the chance to hit.

  • Conflagrate: Spell now works similar to Swiftmend, consuming an Immolate or Shadowflame effect on the target and dealing damage based on the strength of that effect. Reduced to a single rank.

  • Improved Immolate: Now increases the damage done by your Immolate by 10/20/30%, rather than just the direct damage.

  • Improved Shadow Bolt: Now increases the damage done by your Shadow Bolt spell by 1/2/3/4/5%, and causes your target to be vulnerable to spell damage, increasing spell critical strike chance against that target by 1/2/3/4/5%. Effect lasts 30 sec.

  • Improved Soul Leech: Now has a 50/100% chance to proc Replenishment.

  • Master Conjuror: Increased from 15/30% up to 150/300%.

  • Molten Core: This talent has been moved to Demonology.

  • Pyroclasm re-designed: Now increases your Shadow and Fire spell power by 2/4/6% when you critically hit with Searing Pain or Conflagrate. Lasts 10 sec. Also moved down to tier 7, down from tier-5.



  • Blood Frenzy improved to 2/4% increased damage.

  • Heroic Throw missile speed increased.



  • Blackmouth Oil and Fire Oil no longer require a vial.

  • Increased the health granted by the Flask of Stoneblood.

  • The Mercurial Stone is no longer required as a tool for alchemists. It is instead a green quality bind-on-equip trinket.


  • Most of the recipes in the 1-300 skill range of blacksmithing have had their stats updated to be more useful.

  • Added a new recipe for the Titansteel Spellblade.

  • Titanium Plating now reduces the duration of disarm effects by 50% as well as increasing your block value.


  • Grub now sells the Dig Rat Stew recipe to players who completed the quest.

  • Prospector Khazgorm, found in Bael Modan in southern Barrens, now sells the recipe for Dig Rat Stew to the Alliance.


  • Added a recipe for enchanting staves with spell power.

  • Several recipes in the 250-300 skill range have been rebalanced.


  • Added a new recipe to cut black diamonds.


  • Shadowskin Gloves and Dusky Boots no longer require Shadowcat Hide to create, but instead require an equal quantity of Shadow Silk. Shadowcat Hides can no longer be obtained from skinning.


  • The fight event for the "Grim(oire) Business" quest at Vim'gol's Circle in the Blade's Edge Mountains now only requires one character to stand within a fire circle in order to summon Vim'gol the Vile. However, it still takes five characters, one in each of the fire circles, in order to interrupt Vim'gol the Vile's Unholy Growth cast.

Dungeons and Raids

Eye of Eternity

  • Malygos will now properly delay before breathing after a Vortex on Heroic difficulty.


  • The Chains of Kel'Thuzad will no longer reset the raid's threat.

  • The Portal of Shadows created by Shade of Naxxramas will only persist for a maximum of one minute.

  • Players with pets who attempt to use the Obedience Crystals in Naxxramas will have their pets dismissed automatically so they may possess an Understudy.

User Interface

  • New Advanced features for quest tracking are now available. Players will need to activate this option within the Interface panel.

  • A new Color Blind option is available under the Interface panel.

  • For additional notes on Lua and XML changes please visit the UI & Macros forum.



  • Glyph of Blood Boil: Now only applies a snare to diseased targets.

  • Glyph of Holy Light: Can no longer crit and has had its range updated.

  • Glyph of Mocking Blow correctly increases damage of the ability by 25%.

  • Glyph of Shocking's tooltip has been corrected.

  • Glyph of Sprint no longer reduces the duration.

  • Darkmoon Cards of the North will now take three seconds per card to create.

  • Divine Hymn will now trigger Illustration of the Dragon Soul.

  • Frozen Scepter of Necromancy now sounds like other maces.

  • Heavy Junkboxes will no longer have deprecated poison materials.

  • Magic Dust now has a 10 second PvP duration.

  • Old Naxxramas Shoulder Enchants will now soulbind items.

  • Outrider's Lammellar Legguards and Sentinel's Mail Leggings have had their costs reduced to the correct value.

  • Pack of Endless Pockets can now be mailed.

  • Patroller's Pack now sounds like a bag.

  • PvP Trinkets will now break Shackle Undead.

  • Several beverages missing from the "Beverages Consumed" statistic have been added.

  • Several foods missing from the Food Eaten statistic have been added.

  • Thunder Capacitor again requires four charges.

  • Thunder Capacitor's cooldown functions.

  • White Tickbird Hatchling is now classified as a Pet.

Bug Fixes

  • Dartol's Rod of Transformation has had its tooltip corrected.

  • Mace of Unyielding Life is correctly a 2H weapon.

  • Many Northrend maces now make correct noises when sheathed and unsheathed.

  • Many items with 110 attack power now correctly grant 110 ranged attack power.

  • Oracle Talisman of Ablution's spell data has been clarified.

  • Personal Rating Requirements for offhand Deadly Gladiator items should now display correctly.

  • Several Hateful and Deadly plate helms were over budget and have been corrected.

  • Yaaarrrr! now has a detailed tooltip.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meetsi of Auchindoun

Holy Paladins are a bit of a hot topic right now. While moment-captured statistics will certainly indicate they have a measure of power in Season 5, this isn't the first time that's happened. Back in Season 1, Holy Paladins were the class-to-have. But as soon as Resilience and mobility became popular in Arena compositions, Holy Paladins became a thing of the past. Even the so-called "lolret" seemed to fare better in the Arena that the plate-wearing healers.

With all the uproar about Holy Paladins right now, it's fair to take a second look at the class and tactics in the weekend Arena column. Meetsi of Auchindoun was kind enough to share his thought on the Arena with us, especially from the perspective of an Arena healer. You might also recognize him as partner to Infractus, from last week.

WoW Insider: What are the strongest points of operating as a Paladin in the Arena?

Meetsi: Paladins have a few advantages in Arena which make them desirable healers, as 49/0/22 they become virtually Stun-immune with Blessing of Freedom greatly increasing survivability against Double-DPS.

Also, Blessing of Sacrifice and BoP lend great survivability to your partners enabling you to save your own bubble. Sacred cleansing ( along with the regular cleanse ) is great for keeping team mates out of CC and reducing damage. It's great for keeping wound off as well.

WoW Insider: What's your opening strategy? What do you like to do as soon as the gate opens?

Meetsi: Our opening strategy generally consists of Infractus rushing in to catch someone out of stealth or get a quick upper hand on someone. Meanwhile, I buff Sacred Shield and judge his target 40 yards away.

WoW Insider: One of the claims about Arena balance is that it will get better as Resilience improves. Have you seen any of that happening? Or do you think that your survivability is reliant on your class choice?

Meetsi: Surviving is about using cooldowns correctly, and going offensive when your CC is up. It's less based on class than it was before in my opinion.

WoW Insider: How do you work out target designation? (Does someone call it out, or is everyone on their own to figure it out?)

Meetsi: I Call strats from the gates, everyone starts on what I call. Then, we argue what's best afterward. There are a few pre-determined things to do based on composition, of course.

WoW Insider: What do you think about the new hidden, personal rating? Does it seem to make the game better or worse to you? Do you consider the hidden rating an unfair penalty to experienced players?

Meetsi: There are advantages and disadvantages to this hidden rating for experienced players. One advantage is that levelling a new team is quick and easy ... like 50 or so games.

But what if I want to play Retributio instead of Holy? First, my gear is nowhere near on par with my Holy gear. And I'm simply not practised. Why should I have to fight 2300 players?

WoW Insider: Did you play in previous seasons? What do you see the differences in the new season being?

Meetsi: I played a Druid in all the other seasons. The main difference I noticed is games are decided a lot quicker and more often by cooldowns.

WoW Insider: What's the key for your composition's strategy? Are there multiple tactics you can use?

Meetsi: We use multiple strats to keep the enemy unaware of what is happening next. If something doesn't work, we try something else in quick succession. We try to limit their time to react. Like, HoJ-ing a DPS and swapping to them quick with a Blood Elf Silence, and then dropping a Hungering Cold on their healer.

WoW Insider: What are you trying to improve?

Meetsi: Personally, I'm trying to improve my timing with Blessing of sacrifice, now that it is like a shield wall for the target, CC break for me, and now on a Two Minute cooldown.

WoW Insider: A lot has been made of healers not having a strong role in Season 5. What do you think about that commentary?

Meetsi: I think its overexaggerated. A lot of healers are still trying to play the complete defensive role they were playing in S2 and S3 and that's the reason they are unsuccessful. You won't last like that. Kill or Be Killed.

WoW Insider: What are you hoping to see improved in 3.1? We've seen some changes, obviously, but there's more to come.

Meetsi: In 3.1, I would like to see the survivability of Rogues go up, Survival Hunter damage go down, and a few tweaks for Warriors.

WoW Insider: What do you think is the significant difference between an "amateur" and a "pro" Arena fighter?

Meetsi: The biggest difference between a mediocre player and a good player is someone who can anticipate exactly the next move of the other arena team. Generally, I can tell you what they are going to do before they do it, meaning I can be ready to react. Instead of waiting for it to happen.

How to be useful on the PTR

Yep, another PTR post. For all we know, the recent frenzy surrounding the PTR has been manufactured by Blizzard as a practical joke while their programmers are out playing skee-ball. We don't have the foggiest idea of when it's going to hit, but back-channel discussion here at WoW Insider HQ currently has the smart money on "whenever Elizabeth Wachowski is away from her computer."

My real reason for writing this is that a lot of people in the beta seemed to treat the server as an extended vacation from the live realms, and this upset a lot of old PTR hands who assumed people knew they were supposed to submit feedback, and not just play with all the cool new toys. Yes, you should have fun, and you can contemplate the trippy philosophical notion of your character's existence in an alternate universe (duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!), but you can do a lot of things to help patch 3.1 launch without issues. The point of the test realms' existence is for Blizzard to test everything new with as large a population of players as possible. If you're uninterested in submitting polite, honest, and frequent feedback, you're making it harder for them to get an accurate sense of the patch's impact on live realms.

If you find a bug, reporting it is good. Being able to reproduce it is even better.

It's hard to get an accurate sense of the seriousness and frequency of a bug unless everyone who encounters it reports in. Blizzard tests internally, but it's not always possible to extrapolate results to a population of 11 million players. Even the PTR isn't always a good statistical sample, but you can help improve that by submitting bug reports whenever you encounter one, and providing as much information as possible on the bug's context and (most importantly) whether you can reproduce it. The inability to reproduce a bug makes figuring out what's causing it a lot harder.

If you don't like something, say so and give reasons. If you like something, say so and give reasons. If you're indifferent, say so and give reasons.

This is a little more true of individual boss encounters and raids because then there's a unified something on which to write feedback, but it's still true for the rest of the PTR as well. Writing "This encounter sucks!" on the feedback form and clicking the submit button is not quality feedback. Writing "This encounter is amazing!" on the feedback form and clicking the submit button is not quality feedback. Writing nothing on the feedback form because you really don't care is even worse than hating or loving it. At least with the first two Blizzard can get a rough sense of whether people like or don't like the encounter, even if they'll have no clue why people feel the way they do.

If you don't like something: Why didn't you like it? Did it seem needlessly difficult or convoluted for certain classes and specs? Are there factors that might have made it harder than it had to be that Blizzard can't actually control for (e.g. a raid with players in Naxx-10 gear trying Ulduar-25)? Or was it just plain boring or too easy?

If you like something: Was the encounter totally awesome? Was it made with 100% pure win sauce drizzled over an entree of amazingness and served with balsamic woot? What element or elements made it especially fun? Does it feel tuned correctly? Did it seem undertuned for your group in good gear? Do you think a raid group in gear similar to, better than, or worse than yours would have a different experience?

Or did you not really feel strongly either way?: Even if you fall into the third group, write something honest. Do any classes or class abilities seem very overpowered, necessary, or undesirable for success in the encounter? Does trash respawn time seem reasonable? Does the amount of trash seem appropriate for the size and length of the instance? Does the quality of itemization seem commensurate with the difficulty of the encounters?

Technical problems are functionally the same as bugs. If a lot of people have issues, they need to know about it.

Everybody's system is different, but there may be consistent complaints concerning bad framerates, lag, or disconnects on certain encounters. This is not an infrequent problem on instance servers that get overrun (see: Naxxramas, popularity thereof) and/or encounters with heavy AoE damage. If this seriously impacts the viability of an encounter or achievements associated with it, write in.

On that note, the test realms are not always meant to run smoothly.

Part of the process involves stress-testing to see how many characters a zone or server can realistically support before the game is basically unplayable. It sucks, but you may very well be one of the players unwittingly testing this. Cowboy up, and submit feedback when gameplay is rough. If a few nights of nasty lag ensure a more smoothly-running game when 3.1 goes live, Blizzard did its job and you did yours.

A note concerning the 3.1 PTR: not everything is going to be available all the time.

Certain boss encounters in Ulduar will only be available in the EU, certain ones will only be available on North American servers, and for the moment none will be accessible when the encounter team isn't around to watch what's happening. Don't count on being able to schedule consistent, unchanging raids if you manage to get a raid team imported.

And as a final note, don't get too attached to anything you see on a test realm.

Blizzard may be trying out the most awesome, unbelievable, jaw-droppingly overpowered ability of all time and holy s#^$# you can't believe it's actually in the game and it's so much fun and it's amazing....and the next day it might be gone. To take some creative license with an old saying, every skill and talent is perfect until it makes contact with an 11-million count playerbase. There's always some weasel out there who will figure out some diabolical means of using an ability or item in a fashion other than intended. Sans weasels, sometimes new stuff just doesn't work, so out it goes. Plenty of stuff hits the PTR that I suspect the developers are either divided or ambivalent on, just to get some sense of how it would play out on a live server. No matter how badass your PTR Ulduar raid stategy is, or how cool your talent changes, etc. -- don't toss a fit if it gets axed.

Statistically speaking

I'm listening to a playlist full of old NES chiptunes as I write this, Zanac, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, Crystalis, Shatterhand, Tecmo Super Bowl, Legacy of the Wizard--just some awesome old stuff, some of which comes from composers who went on to become even more awesome. I love the game music from that era; I find it absolutely amazing what those guys could make that tiny sound chip do. And yes, I am a massive and unrepentant dork. Why do I bring this up? I have the playlist on shuffle, and the overworld theme from Dragon Warrior just played, and it got me thinking about this week's subject: stats.

Dragon Warrior was my first role-playing game. It was my first exposure to such concepts as experience points, and leveling up, and hit points. Stats in games of that era were pretty simple. You had strength, which affected how hard you hit things, and agility, which...made you more agile? Who knew? That was about it. Hit points measured how many whacks you could take before you died, and magic points ran out as you used spells. There wasn't a whole lot to it.

When I first started playing WoW, knowing which statistics were important to my Mage and which weren't was comparatively simple too. As you leveled, you looked for intellect and spirit. At max level, you learned the value of a few other stats, like spell crit, spell damage, and spell hit rating. Generally, if it said "spell" in front of it, your Mage wanted it. Now, though, we have so many different stats--one covering every aspect of every spell we cast, and so many different ways to customize the amounts of each that your Mage's gear has--that it can be quite daunting trying to decide which ones to prioritize. Follow me through the break where we'll discuss the various caster stats and the relative value of each to our class.

I'll be listing stats in ascending order of relative value from a pure DPS perspective. You may dispute the placement of certain stats in the list, and that's fine. Depending on your talent spec and play-style, different stats may be more important to you than they are to me.

One stat that I won't be putting in the list is stamina. You'll find it on most of your gear, but it's of universal importance, regardless of class. If you happen to be a PvP Mage, you'll want more of it than a raiding Mage would. Same goes for all non-caster-specific stats.

  • Spell Penetration

This is a stat that reduces your target's spell resistances. It is often confused with hit rating, but they operate on totally different mechanics. Hit rating increases a Mage's chance to hit with spells, whereas this penetration reduces your enemies chance to resist or partially resist your spells. They may sound similar, but really aren't. Hit is far, far more valuable to Mages than spell penetration is, and it isn't even close.

Since it only works on enemies that actually have resistances, spell penetration is generally only valuable at all in PvP, and then only marginally so. It certainly isn't a bad stat to have, and if you're going to do a lot of PvP, you may want to pick up a bit of it. each point of spell penetration negates one point of an opponent's resistance to the type of spell you have hit him with, so you don't generally need much. Quite simply, there are other, better stats out there. A lot of them.

  • Spirit

Spirit controls the rate at which your Mage regenerates health and mana while not casting. It is beholden to the 5-second rule, which dictates that you must not cast anything for five full seconds before spirit-based mana regen kicks in. The more you have of it, the faster you'll regenerate mana when not casting. The regen gained from spirit is due to be nerfed by 40% across the board in patch 3.1.

There are those of you out there who will undoubtedly argue with me over the value of spirit to Mages. You're wrong. It's cool, being wrong is pretty common. I could link back to several of my previous columns as prime examples, but won't.

Spirit sucks for Mages. The reason for this is simple: we're always casting. Unless we've been silenced or otherwise CCed, the encounter forces us to move around for an extended period of time, or we have run out of mana entirely, there should never be a five second period of time in which we aren't casting something. There are talents that allow for a portion of our spirit-based regen to continue even while casting. Mage Armor does this as well, but the amount regained doesn't make this stat worth stacking by any stretch of the imagination.

Having said all of that, this attribute isn't entirely worthless. It does help to reduce downtime while questing and leveling, and mana regen, in any fashion, is handy to have for any caster. The problem is that you simply can't justify taking it over any of the other caster stats. Due simply to Blizzard's itemization tendencies in this expansion, your gear is going to have some spirit on it as you progress through the end-game, but what you get from it is really all you need, and probably a good deal more.

Of course, as we talked aout two weeks ago, there has also been talk about "making spirit a more useful and interesting stat for all Mages" in that same patch. Who knows? Maybe Blizzard will firgure out a way to teach an old stat some new tricks, and render the above four paragraphs completely moot. It wouldn't be the first time I've written something that became outdated pretty much as I typed it, and it certainly won't be the last.

  • Critical Strike Rating

This goes pretty much hand in hand with Haste rating, which we'll talk about in a moment. The two are pretty much equal in value to Mages, so just consider them listed side-by-side here.

Crit rating increases your chance of getting a critical strike from all of your attacks. It takes approximately 46 points of crit rating to increase your crit chance by 1% at level 80. Critical strikes are important to every Mage, but most specs will gain crit percentage far more reliably from talents than they will from stacking crit rating. There's no denying that this stat is an important DPS stat, but it simply isn't as valuable per point as straight spellpower.

None of this is to say that you should avoid crit rating, of course. Every Mage loves it when those big fat numbers pop up above the heads of their enemies. It just isn't something you should gem or enchant for over more valuable stats like hit rating and spellpower.

  • Haste Rating

This stat does two things for Mages. First, it reduces the cast time of spells, meaning you can cast more spells in less time. Second, it reduces the global cooldown on spellcasts. This means there is no effective cap for haste rating. You can stack as much as you want, and your spellcasting will get a little faster with each point.

Now, this sounds better in theory than it actually is. The major problem with haste rating is that you have to get a ridiculous amount of it in order for it to have a really significant impact. It's a good stat to have, for certain, but you don't want to depend on it as a DPS-increaser over more directly valuable attributes like spellpower and hit. To illustrate:

It takes about 33 points of haste rating to reduce your casting time by 1% at level 80. This means that in order to reduce your 3 second Frostfire Bolt spell by a half-second, increasing your DPS by approximately 16% (I'm rounding judiciously here), you'd need to stack 528 points of haste rating, give or take. If my math is wrong (and there's a pretty good chance it is), feel free to let me know. And that's assuming your mana pool could take the strain of casting all of those extra Frostfire Bolts over the course of a long fight. Your DPS isn't increasing if you can't cast.

Again, this is a valuable stat, but isn't as worthwhile to stack as other stats are.

  • Intellect

Intellect affects several things. It directly increases your mana pool, your crit percentage, and your mana regen due to spirit. Each point of intellect adds 15 mana points to your max. Every 167 (again, rounding) points of intellect you have increases your crit chance by 1%. I won't list the formula for how it affects spirit regen here, simply because too many decimal points in one place make my brain sieze up, but suffice it to say that the increase is minor, and we've already been over how lame I think spirit is.

The upshot of all of that is intellect is pretty nifty. It can be ranked right with crit and haste for most Mages, but is significantly better than those two stats for Arcane Mages, assuming they've put talent points into Arcane Mind and/or Mind Mastery. Every Mage needs intellect, simply because every Mage needs a mana pool, but again, you don't really need to stack this stat too much. Chances are you'll have plenty of it from gear and your own signature buff already.

Edit: After reading the comments below, I want to clarify this stat's placement in the list, just so that there is no confusion. The list is of the relative value of each stat to Mages, not necessarily the order in which you should be gemming/enchanting your gear, and I'm sorry if I have led anybody astray. Intellect is an incredibly valuable stat for Mages, but you should not be gemming/enchanting for it. Blizzard has ensured that you will have plenty of it just by wearing the cloth gear found at end-game. If you're reading this list with an eye toward choosing which gems or enchants to pick up for your gear, just know that you should be prioritizing crit/haste over intellect, simply because you already have enough intellect on your gear. Unless you're wearing something crazy.

  • Hit Rating

Now, before you come after me with torches and pitchforks, know that the only reason I list this below spellpower is that it has a cap. Once you've reached that cap, it ceases to be important. This is a stat that you need until you have enough, then you don't need it any more at all. That may sound obvious and redundant, but...well, okay, it totally is.

Hit Rating increases your chance to hit enemies. It is the most direct way to increase DPS until you cap it, since a miss results in zero damage. Wow, I'm really working the "duh" statements today, right? I'm like the Madden of Mage columnists. I'm about two sentences away from saying something like "whichever team can score the most points is gonna win this game," or "Brett Favre is good because he can throw the ball, he knows the game of football, and he can pass the football."

At level 80, it takes 26.232 points of hit rating to increase your chance to hit with spells by 1%. The magic number you want to reach is 17%, which requires 446 points of hit rating. You won't actually need that much, though. Talents can gain you 3%. If there's a Draenei in your group, you gain 1% from his aura. Various raid buffs can grant you an additional 3%.

For a Mage with a normal talent setup and a normal raid group, you'll likely need a maximum of about 288 hit rating total from gear, gems, enchants, and food buffs. Once you've gotten there, you're done with hit rating and can stack for what is the single most valuable DPS stat for Mages:

  • Spellpower

Spellpower directly increases the damage done by your spells. Each spell in your arsenal has a spell damage coefficient attached to it. Some spells have a 100% spell coefficient, others (usually the shorter their cast-time, the less they have) have more or less. What does that mean? Well, take Fireball, for example. It has a 100% coefficient, meaning that if you have 2,000 spellpower, your Fireball will benefit from 100% of that extra damage, meaning in turn that each time you cast Fireball, it will do an additional 2,000 points of damage as a direct result of your spellpower. I know, clear as mud, right? Fire Blast has a 42.86% coefficient, which means it will only benefit from about 857 of that 2,000 spellpower. Pyroblast has a 115% coefficient, so it will gain 2300 extra points of damage from that 2,000. Yes, I'm trying to set a record for "most times the word 'coefficient' can be used in one paragraph." The guys from Guiness are here with me right now, documenting my efforts.

Point-for-point, this is the single most beneficial stat for Mages. If you are interested in increasing your single-target DPS, you should be stacking it at every opportunity. Other stats are good too, but spellpower trumps them all once hit is capped. This is why the spellpower coefficient stealth-nerf to Arcane Barrage sucks so bad.

In closing, let me say that, though it pains me to do so, I will not be saying anything mean about Warlocks this week, or even advocating violence against them. I do this out of deference to our new Warlock columnist, Nick Whelan. He's an incredible writer, and I'm glad to have him aboard (our new Hunter writer, Jessics Klein, is certainly no slouch, herself). But next week, it's totally on. Shocking, unprovoked class-bigotry ahoy!

Now if you'll excuse, me, the first level music from The Adventures of Bayou Billy just started, and I need to go revel in its complete awesomeness.

Are disenchanters getting robbed by rolls?

Sardonis sent us a note the other day, with an interesting, if probably controversial, point inside: when we're in instances, Skinners take their skins, Miners take their ores, and Herbalists take their herbs (or of course they rotate around if there's more than one). At the end of the instance, we don't sit down and /roll on all of the herbs or ores that people have picked up. So why do we do it, Sardonis asks, with disenchanting shards?

Good question. My first response was that everyone needs enchants, and everyone can use those mats. But if everyone can get their friendly guild enchanter to enchant something, can't you get your Leatherworker to use skins, or your Blacksmith to use ores? Of course, you could argue that Leatherworkers can get skins from anywhere, but disenchanted blues only show up in instances. If it's an item that required five (or even 25) people to get, everyone should have a chance at it. There are herbs and ores in instances, true, but those can be found elsewhere as well -- they don't need a group to get them. And what about Rogues who unlock chests in instances -- sure, we need them to open the chests, but they need us to get them there.

You can get blues through questing and drops, though, too, so who knows who deserves what. Sardonis is at the point where he won't even say he's a disenchanter -- he'll just do a greed roll like everyone else, and if he gets the item, then he'll DE it. The tradition seems to be that we all roll when we've all helped drop some boss loot, but it's true that we'd never get the shards if it weren't for DE'ers. Maybe they do deserve to take what they make.

Nostalgia vs. reality

There's an interesting post on the forums that's become a catalogue of what old-time players miss most about classic WoW. While it's become a pretty thorough compilation of iconic moments, there are admissions that, well, maybe some of the stuff that's fun to look back on wasn't actually that much fun at the time. The examples include trying to get past a 40-man raid of the opposite faction into Molten Core, the boredom of raiding as little more than a glorified Decurse-bot, the countless guilds who broke up on Vael, and the fun of Tarren Mill/Southshore PvP that had the ancillary effect of making leveling in Hillsbrad such a nightmarish experience.

I'm seeing the first glimmers of such nostalgia for BC content start to emerge, and hearing a Sunwell PuG advertised as a "fun run" the other day left me speechless for a moment. It's equal parts compelling and unnerving; part of me misses the struggle to down bosses in Tiers 4, 5, and 6, but I also remember ugly M'uru wipefests. Everyone likes looking back on the first boss kill, nobody likes remembering the 45-minute trash respawn timer in SSC, and I like to think that as the game has "grown up," it has also gone resolutely forward.

But then, I'm not an old-school WoW player on the level of these forum posters, and I'm also not sure that the nostalgia for BC content will ever approach that for classic content. Is, say, Black Temple going to be looked upon as fondly as its classic counterparts like AQ40 someday, or is the classic "classic" and irretrievable for a reason?

How to avoid automatic subscription renewal

As most of us know, WoW credit card subscription plans in the US and Europe are auto-renewing. If I sign up for one month at $14.99, as soon as that month is up, Blizzard immediately re-bills my credit card and signs me up for another month. This is problematic for some people, who may want to switch to a game card at the end of the month, or who simply might not want their cards to be automatically billed.
Fortunately, there's an easy solution: cancel your account. Yep, just push that big red button (well, actually, it's a smallish grey button, but you get the idea). You'll still get to play until the time you've paid for runs out. And since Blizzard retains your character and account info indefinitely, you don't have to worry about your characters getting deleted. At the end of the time you've paid for, when you try to log in, you'll get a notice that your pre-paid time has been used up, at which point you can go on the web site and add whatever payment method you like.

I've used this method many times myself. It's only a few extra clicks, and if you want to have more control over how you get billed, it's definitely worth considering, even if it does make the peons cry.

A video guide to faster raiding

This video is entitled "Pull! A Guide to Faster Raids," and it's been produced by Kyth, of Fusion (US-Turalyon H). Set to the backdrop of (part of) a Naxxramas speed run, the video presents some easy tips for raiding faster. It's mostly addressed towards raid leaders, but I certainly plan on bringing some of the concepts here forward in my next raid. You should watch the video - it's well made and fun - but here are some bullet points I've taken away from it:

  • Pull fast. Have impatient pullers, have your plate DPS off-tank trash if need be, and don't wait for rebuffs if one or two people die (just do it on the fly).

  • Loot fast. Whether you use /roll, DKP, or loot council, make someone in charge of it, and do it fast.

  • Set high expectations. Initially, your raiders might have difficulty keeping up with an increased pace if they're not used to it, but within a night or two they'll get used to keeping moving all the time, and you'll have more fun because you won't be standing around constantly.

The last point above brings up an important issue: fun is essential. For most guilds, it's why we raid. Pushing your raiders to play at a better level shouldn't suck the fun out of raids, it doesn't mean you can't joke in vent; it means there's less of what we don't like in raids: waiting while people are AFK, endless ready checks before bosses, and so forth.

Part two of the video is embedded below (and part one above), or you can download the whole thing in high quality from Warcraft Movies (recommended). There's also a web page associated with the video, including links for recommended addons, more tips, a WWS for the speed run, and so on.

[Thanks to Kyth for making this, and for the tip]

WoW Video: Keep Browsing 2

Warning: The language in this movie is not safe for work.

Today on Moviewatch, we take a look at the second piece from MozQ -- his first, Keep Browsing, was a fun little pastiche of geeky clips and fast cuts, and this one is more of the same. The animation has improved a little bit (the effects in the first few scenes with the gnome are done pretty well), but the humor stays about the same, so if you enjoyed the first one, you'll like this one, too.

Between then and now, he's joined up with a group called Silverlined Productions, so we'll expect to see more from MozQ and his compatriots. Their blog says they've hooked up with a music director to make music for them, so keep your ears open for some original music in future productions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WoW botter tells all

15 Minutes of Fame is our look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes – from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

Daedren (not his former WoW character's name) ruffled more than a few feathers with an internet "confessional" (was it, really?) last week about his experiences botting in World of Warcraft. (To "bot," a term that comes from the word "robot," is to use a third-party program to play the game for you.) He initially declined an interview with 15 Minutes of Fame but was back in touch a few days later, after the comments and reaction began piling on.

With a measured, reasonable approach (somewhat at odds with the abrasive tone he takes with commenters on his blog), Daedren visits with us about botting. Is botting a blot on the soul of gaming humanity or a benign, time-saving technique for busy gamers? Read Daedren's post to learn what his botted characters were up to in WoW, then join us after the break to learn why his botting post was actually a farewell "ode to WoW."

15 Minutes of Fame: When did you first get into botting?
Daedren: I started botting when TBC was released. I heard about Glider through some friends who had mentioned it in passing, so I decided to check it out. It looked good because once Arenas were out, I wanted to play a second character to try different Arena setups with some friends. Gearing out one character is hard enough with a limited play schedule; two is near impossible. I figured I'd check out Glider to see if I could do some of the more tedious and time-consuming things in the game like grinding reputation, honor or gold to buy things like enchants and riding skills.

Why did you bot? What were your goals?
As I mention in my article, it was always just to save time. I've never aspired to be a gold farmer or leveling and selling accounts, though I see how it could be possible. My goals were to stay competitive in the game so I could enjoy PVP and PVE to the full extent -- something very hard to do without sacrificing a lot of time.

You say that botting allowed you to "enjoy the game to its full potential." Didn't you ever feel as if you were missing out on accomplishments by not playing through them yourself?
Well, I hand leveled one character through all aspects of WoW. I don't have an aversion to questing or even a bit of grinding. It just got a bit ridiculous sometimes, especially when we're talking about multiple characters. Playing one character through all the aspects of the game is really enough, in my opinion. I've never felt I've missed anything due to botting. I've seen most end-game raids, been competitive in Arenas -- and most of all, had fun. I would have spent a lot less time actually playing the fun aspects of the game, with good friends, if I had to take time away from that to do the monotonous tasks.

Some players contend that botters cheapen the game's overall experience by making possible things that the game developers did not intend for players to have or do unless they invested considerable time -- time which, as a botter, you had a program do for you rather than spending the time yourself. The idea is that if many people go out and get these "earned" achievements without spending the time to "earn" them, they lose meaning overall for players who legitimately make the effort to achieve them. What would you say to those people?
I think it comes down to a flawed yet necessary mechanic in WoW and MMOs in general. This mechanic is basically "your only limitation is the amount of time you have to play." This is reflected in the original PVP system (Rank 13/14 people know exactly what I mean) and is still reflected in the new achievement system. I agree that botting cheats the system in some regards when it comes to total time investment, but only for certain things. For example, a botter is able to get the 50 or 75 vanity pet achievements with far less actual time invested, but botting won't get them the title "the Undying."

In that regard, I agree that some achievements (ones based on money or straight farmable things) lessen their value due to botting. Personally, though, I never was interested in achievements, especially the mundane ones where the only requirement was sheer time.

Most players use the time spent on tasks that you botted through for socializing as they played. Did your botting contribute to a more solitary playstyle?
Absolutely not. My botting schedule was basically during working hours 9-5. I only botted when I was at work. I still talked to my friends (in game and out) via IM. I've sent people that /w me in game replies via my IPhone in a meeting or conference before.

As a general rule, botting is dangerous in peak hours. I rarely botted from 5 p.m. to midnight. I'd either be playing or spending time with my family, and I preferred not to have to worry about what was happening while I was enjoying life. I really handled it just something I could get done and lightly monitor on normal work days.

Would you have felt any different about your accomplishments if you had hired another player to run your character for those tasks? Is that something you would or would not consider doing?
I've never felt the need to buy gold or other services in the game. I've let my close friends play my account, of course, but I wouldn't trust it to a third party. If I hadn't been able to bot, I probably would have tried to make do with my limited time or just went back to playing other games.

What about multiboxing? Is that something you ever did?
It's something technically I could have done but was never really interested in.

Wrath delayed in China

Earlier today Blizzard posted a preview of Ulduar, the tier 8 raid coming up in patch 3.1 (which they promise will be on the PTRs "very soon"). Most of it looks really cool - 14 bosses, massive rooms, hard modes. However, there is one topic that Blizzard enthused about that really worries me: vehicle combat.

We've already seen some vehicle-based boss fights in Eregos (the final boss of the Oculus) and on the third phase of the Malygos fight. But Ulduar is, apparently, going to take it one step farther: there will be a vehicle-combat gauntlet leading up to the first boss, Flame Leviathan, and that boss itself will also be a vehicle fight, with players picking among three vehicles (Chopper, Demolisher, and Siege Engine) to command.

I know some people will disagree, but I also know I'm not alone here: I hate vehicle combat and would like to see it used as little as possible in the future. I play my character to play my character, not to use the clunky and boring abilities of a dragon, or a motorcycle, or whatever they shoe-horn me into next. I hate the Eregos fight so much that Oculus is the one heroic I flat-out refuse to do. Phase 3 of Malygos is better, but still definitely the least fun phase of the fight, in my opinion.

The good news, I guess, is that Daelo promises that after the Flame Leviathan fight there is "very little use of vehicles by players." I guess that's something. Blizzard, I know you guys are really excited about this cool new vehicle technology, and it was fun for quests, but for raids, I really think it's the wrong way to go. Please let us continue to play our characters; I didn't sign up to drive seige vehicles, and I don't appreciate being forced to do so in order to do Ulduar.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A WoW gift bag for Valentine's Day

How great is this? Reader angrypanda a.k.a. Joshua links us to this update on his Livejournal, in which he shows off the awesome set of gifts his wife got him for Valentine's Day. It's a romantic gift basket, with everything, from the chocolates to the Linen Bag itself, marked out with WoW-style tooltips. Everything looks authentic, too -- there's a Bag of Candies, Dark Desire (looks like the hit rating bonus got nerfed for the RL version, though), and even a Moonberry Juice. And there's a "Jox (Horde) Shou" handmade craft in there, too -- those are their character names, Jox and Lykishou.

Joshua says he and his wife have been married nearly 15 years, and they weren't planning to do much this year (or so he thought -- here's hoping they had a very nice dinner and movie later that evening). Very awesome. Because the Livejournal seems to be hidden behind a content filter of some kind, we've put all of Joshua's pics in a gallery below so you can see everything all in one place. What a terrific Valentine's Day gift.

What dual specs mean for the class

Welcome to another edition of Blood Pact! I'd held off writing one because we've got a surprise for you guys as a new, better, shinier Warlock columnist is coming on board to give you the all the infernal goodness (or badness, if you prefer) you need. But since it looks like he's caught up at the cleaners trying to get that brimstone smell off his robes, I'm sneaking into his office and filling in for this week.

Today, we're going to talk about dual specs. You've probably heard of it. All the hybrid classes are squealing with girlish delight at the prospect, but even Warlocks have a reason cackle maniacally. For one thing, dual specs means more versatility for anyone, whatever class you play. In our case, it's the flexibility to deal a slow, painful death; a fiery death; or a torturous death through demonic beatdown. What can I say? That's what Warlocks do. We kill things. Dual specs, more than anything, simply means we get to choose how.

If all goes according to plan, Warlocks will get the Replenishment buff in Destruction. Because Blizzard considers Replenishment a mandatory raid buff, this hopefully means deep Destruction will be more than viable as a raiding spec. Because a lot of changes are coming to the Warlock talent trees and abilities in Patch 3.1 -- if Blizzard follows through with their plan -- it's too early to predict what builds will be viable as the two choices for builds. On the other hand, we can take a look at the playing style options and what this means for players and raids.

It still depends on exactly how Blizzard will implement it, but it looks like we'll be able to change our specs between encounters. Inscribers will be able to produce a portable Lexicon of Power that's required to do this, but details are still sketchy. At any rate, it's quite likely that we'll have the opportunity to change spec depending on the raid boss we're fighting. For very short fights, we can opt to go all out nuke with Destruction, while on longer fights or those with a lot of raid damage, Affliction is a good option.

Speccing deep Affliction can provide the raid with Malediction, while deep Destruction will provide Replenishment from Improved Soul Leech. It remains to be seen how deep Demonology will be made raid worthy as 0/ 41/ 30 is still the deepest the most popular raiding specs go into it. Demonic Pact doesn't seem to be compelling enough to go deep Demonology, even for raid utility. Then again, by the same token, 0/ 31/ 40 is the deepest a lot of raiders go into Destruction, but Replenishment might be a good excuse to go deep enough for even Chaos Bolt. Hopefully dual specs and the changes in 3.1 will see deeper builds.

The other cool thing about dual specs is it gives us the flexibility to spec for specialized roles without gimping ourselves for the rest of the raid. An old example would be Leotheras the Blind in Serpentshrine Cavern. There isn't a Wrath boss specifically designed to be tanked by a Warlock, but as some players have proven, very specialized roles can prove to be effective in some fights. Obviously, tank spec won't be a common choice for most -- and Ghostcrawler has said it won't be an option in the future -- but you get the idea.

Dual specs will also allow us to adjust according to raid make-up. If we have Moonkins or Shadow Priests in the raid, we can opt to skip Suppression and Cataclysm, allowing us to put our focus elsewhere. This gives us a modicum of flexibility or additional DPS by foregoing redundant +Hit. Theoretically, we can bring our 5-man builds to 25-man raids depending on our group make-up. It's a minor thing, but it squeezes out every bit of DPS we can muster.

The most popular Warlock build for PvP today is the new incarnation of SL/SL, a 54/ 17/ 0 build that picks up Soul Link and Master Summoner. Players who enjoy the Affliction play style, which I confess to, can run the 53/ 0/ 18 PvE Affliction build and spec to PvP Affliction when necessary. Ironically, Demonology has fallen by the wayside as Resilience and healer survivability has increased over the past weeks. This has reduced or even eliminated the need for the survivability offered by Metamorphosis. Soul Link coupled with the increased health of demons has greatly increased Warlock survivability in PvP.

I have to point out that there are a lot of Warlock changes coming in Patch 3.1 that all of these builds will be slightly -- or greatly -- different once the patch rolls out. Demonology, in particular, is getting a second look and will probably be receiving an overhaul considering how underutilized it is right now. Gimmick fights with dragons aside, deep Demonology isn't an incredibly popular raiding or even PvP tree. In the current environment, it's unlikely that players will be speccing deep Demonology as their second spec even for PvP. Does this mean I'm calling for Demonology buffs? Hell yes.

That said, players can have either different styles of PvE builds as their two specs, one spec for PvE and another for PvP. In fact, with the kind of flexibility dual spec allows, we're not constrained to the archetypal roles that hybrid classes fill. While some hybrids will almost necessarily have a healer or tank spec tucked away as their other spec simply to be viable in groups, we won't need to. It's a blessing in disguise. Again, we kill things. As long as we kill things well, it doesn't matter. The other spec is something we can do purely for our own pleasure, even something as simple as the frivolous desire to solo farm. We have so many glyphs we can choose a second spec purely for the sake of having different glyphs.

Other classes won't have that luxury. Paladins, for example, will be expected to have either a tank or healer spec. I assure you that Paladins who don't spec for either (like some stupid Ret PvP / Ret PvE combo, maybe) will be wildly ostracized for their inability to be "more useful" in groups. We have no such expectations. Shamans who spec Enhancement and Elemental DPS are going to be looked at with scorn. I mean, really.

As Warlocks, we have no such dilemma. In fact, the likeliest common dual spec options for most of us will be one for PvE and another for PvP. It's that simple. Those who only raid exclusively can maintain one optimal raiding spec and another for AoE farming to earn money in between raids. As exciting as dual specs may be for hybrids, it's emancipating for Warlocks. Imagine, we get to kill things in whatever way we see fit. If we get bored with Affliction, we simply toggle to, say, Destruction at our discretion. I promise you, when dual specs roll around, we'll have one hell of a good time.

Dual specs

Mmmm. Dual specs. When this long-awaited feature kicks in with what we hope is Patch 3.1, we're going to be seeing quite a lot of those messages in trade or general. We might even be seeing the reverse, where groups will be looking to pick up players with two specific specs. That's a daunting thought, actually... what if groups want to pick up not just one specific spec but two? Yikes.

But never mind that. It's a good time to be excited. When the time comes, I think we're all going to go out, pay our trainers what looks to be a hefty sum of WoW Gold, and gleefully pick out our two specs. We'll rearrange our action bars, settle on two sets of glyphs, and be along our way announcing to the world our new, versatile nature. In many ways, this makes all classes practical hybrids. My brother-in-law has been speccing between Survival DPS and a fantastic tank damage mitigation Beast Mastery build with Roar of Sacrifice whenever we do Sartharion with 3 drakes.

So here's what I want us to munch on this morning -- what two specs will your classes be picking up? I think I might do PvE / PvP Retribution for my Paladin, Affliction PvE / Demonology PvP for my Warlock, Elemental PvP / Restoration PvE for my Shaman, and PvE / PvP Survival for my Hunter. Everyone in my guild has been looking forward to this feature, and I think it's going to shake things up a bit. What're your dual specs going to be?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blood Elf vs. Draenei diorama giveaway!

Are you admiring the above awesomeness, but missed our Blood Elf Paladin vs. Draenai Shaman giveaway earlier this week? Never fear -- we're still accepting entries until this coming Tuesday at 6PM EST! (Sure, there are already over a thousand entries, but you know how fickle the random number generator can be... winners will be chosen completely at random, so it's still anyone's game.) So if you want to win the above... don't comment here, but go and leave a comment on our contest post!

Warlock makes Thunderfury

Reader Angie sent us a curious Armory profile of a Warlock who was able to obtain the classic legendary one-handed weapon Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker. Although no raiding guild in their right minds would've allowed such a travesty to happen no matter how much DKP the Warlock had back in the day, now in a time where Onyxia is visited every few days for some easy Gold, anything goes.

This news comes on the heels of what is reputedly a world first Death Knight obtaining the legendary sword. Here's the kicker, though... the left and right Bindings of the Windseeker have class restrictions (revised to include Death Knights)... and Warlocks aren't among those eligible to start the quest chain. Mages and Warlocks are both casters who can equip swords, but this doesn't explain how the Warlock obtained the item. [EDIT: Whoops. Looks like I dropped the ball on this one. Daniel already wrote that even though the Bindings have class restrictions on the tooltip, they're actually usable by any class according to Blizzard.]

The Warlock's guild seems to be a rather accomplished one (the 'lock has The Immortal title), so there's a good chance that getting the weapon was a guild effort. It's quite possible that the Dormant Wind Kissed Blade that drops off Thunderaan was assigned by Master Looter to the Warlock, who then started the quest.

Then again, by today's standards, this once fearsome weapon pales in comparison to a Northrend green, even with a silly Mongoose enchant slapped on it. That Warlocks can casually pick up what was once the most desired one-hander (formerly Main Hand only) in the game without much uproar goes to show how times change. I mean, what's next? A legendary bow going to a Rogue? Wait...

WoW Warriors: Dual spec madness

Dual specs. What will they mean for warriors?

The short answer is, we'll all have two specs. However, I'm fairly sure if I try and stop there and go get a sandwich that Dan will come to my house with an army of trained marmosets. I don't want that, you don't want that, and Dan doesn't like to travel with the marmosets, so let's just spare everyone the trauma.

It is my opinion that when dual specs are implemented, almost all warriors will be expected to spec prot for one of their specs. We don't really have a tank shortage anymore with tanking generally more fun for everyone and there being four classes that can do it, but since warriors have one tanking tree and two dps trees, it's unlikely (possible, but unlikely) that we'll see a lot of deep arms/deep fury dual specs. Those of us with more than one warrior might try this on one of them, mind you.

Of course this is all complicated by the state of warrior talent trees at the moment. Since protection is one of our strongest talent trees for both PvE and PvP content and arms is underperforming in both, it changes what specs you might select. I'm going into this analysis of the feature and its uses assuming that arms will be buffed to be a valid option for a dual spec.

Protection/Fury is kind of a no-brainer at this point. Both specs work pretty well, and almost all warriors have a DPS set and a tanking set anyway. The only real issue is in the minutia of gearing: does the warrior have a suitable pair of 2h weapons? Gear is the real limiting factor in any and all uses of dual spec for warriors, with glyphs also being an issue, but since glyphs will change with the talents (after the initial cost) you'll at least only have to assemble your 'off spec' glyphs the one time, while you'll have to update your gear as you progress. This won't be terribly onerous, because you were probably going to assemble an off-set for tanking or DPS anyway.

Sadly, Protection/Arms doesn't seem as likely in PvE. Arms is underperforming, but I said that I would ignore that for the purposes of this analysis. Assuming that PvE arms catches up to fury in damage (honestly, I don't think it can without heavy work but that's for another day) arms offers some solid debuffs but none of them require a warrior anymore, other classes can provide them, and fury just has more visual oomph. Still, a PvE Prot/PvP Arms or even PvP Prot/PvP Arms set up makes sense.

Right now, with the state of warrior PvP being what it is (pretty bad) and with dual speccing still requiring an inscription-made item and several players to accomplish, I expect we'll see either prot/fury where the prot spec is used as a PvP spec or prot/arms with both specs used as PvP specs depending on where the milieu is. I've found arms can still be wildly successful in BG's and Wintergrasp (and by the way, I'm not happy that you people have somehow worked black magic to get me to participate in Wintergrasp) but when I arena I tend to go prot or a specific fury build with Heroic Fury and Furious Attacks in it. These are not talents I use in PvE, which does lead me inexorably to the idea that some players will actually spec PvE and PvP within the same spec. If I were more serious about arenas, I would probably spec fury (PvE) and fury (PvP) myself.

It may seem ridiculous to consider having two nearly identical specs, but we all know that a few talent changes can make a spec perform entirely differently. Just cobbling together two different prot specs, we can see how this would perform differently than this. Looking over both you can still see some glaring omissions (Imp Bloodrage, Imp Disciplines) that you might really want in some situations but not need in another. To use another example, this is a fury build aimed at DPS in PvE (it's the one I use, as my gear supplies all the expertise I need) whereas with the change of three talent points it becomes much more focused on mobility and debuffing opposing players with Furious Attacks. You could change it more by working Enrage back into the talent selection but with the current state of burst in PvP, if you're getting hit a lot you'll probably be dead before you can use it. YMMV, of course.

I wouldn't be surprised at all to see warriors with a grinding/heroic tanking talent spec and a raid boss tanking spec, or a PvE arms/PvP arms tree. It cuts down on the gear selection you'll need to make, for one thing. It won't last forever in the case of PvP/PvE specs... eventually Blizzard will find a way to make resilience gear work again, and then we'll see you with a full PvP set unless you PvP prot, in which case I expect tanking gear will still suffice with its gobs of stamina and defense. The main weakness of a warrior in PvP is magic, and prot's about as well suited to deal with magic damage as any warrior tree could possibly be with spell reflection. (Yes, any warrior spec can use SR, but prot usually has the shield right out and doesn't have to run a macro.) Warriors tend to go the extra mile in their talent selections, ruthlessly pruning away until they find the right bonsai for the situation, and the ability to choose between specs means that you'll definitey expect to see at least a few who have a job they really like to come up with ways to use this situation to their benefit. Let's face it: we all know some warriors who just aren't very good tanks, or who underperform as DPS, but who excel at their chosen task. Just because dual specs gives you the ability to more easily put a petticoat on a hippopotamus doesn't mean you have to.

In fact, this is something I worry about. We all know that in raiding we generally use more tanks on trash than on bosses and some boss fights require multiple tanks, while others require one or two at most. With dual specs, the pressure for warriors will be to have a tanking spec and a DPS spec, just because that's basically what a warrior can do in a raid, tank or DPS. Raid leaders tend to try and squeeze maximum benefit out of each player for the raid, it's their job. Raiding warriors will have to expect a certain amount of pressure to select talent specs that can most easily be used to benefit the raid. You can't really fault them for this, and to a degree the presence of so many potential tanks in endgame will insulate warriors from this pressure to some extent. Since you can expect paladins and druids to be pressured to spec healing as their offspec to some degree (unless they're already a healer) it probably isn't a major concern, but it does exist and should be mentioned. If you intend to use dual specs to have your 'raiding' spec and your 'me time' spec, be sure your raid doesn't expect differently from you.

In the end, at least for warriors, dual specs doesn't have a lot of down sides. At worst you'll be expected to have a tanking spec and a DPS spec for raiding, which for a lot of us is more or less what we want dual specs for, so it's like being sternly told that you're expected to eat all that ice cream. For those of us who don't raid, it still opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of freedom to run BG's and arenas all day and then pop out and tank a heroic for a friend, or even to allow a dedicated tank who could care less about fury or arms to have a spec for heroics and normal five mans that he outgears and another for tanking harder-hitting bosses (especially as Ulduar opens up), or a Titan's Grip junkie like myself can easily shift three talent points around for the ultimate in min-maxing.

And finally, the ultimate pro of the entire dual spec system, the feature they could have rolled out all by itself and I think every warrior (indeed, anyone who respecs a lot) would have said yay.

Ghostcrawler: With the dual spec feature, we are going to allow players who respec to configure all their talents before they get saved. They will be able to allocate the points, then choose if they want to use that as their spec, rather than needing to carefully diagram out their talents ahead of time. This will allow players a little more freedom when deciding on the talents they want to pick and avoid costly mistakes.

I know there are addons that do this for you. Frankly, any time the game automates something so I don't have to have an addon to do it, I squeal in glee like rubber sheets with the aforementioned hippo rolling around on them. And yes, I'm going to end this column with the image of a hippo in a petticoat rolling around on rubber sheets. No need to thank me.

Next week, or maybe this weekend if there's enough demand, hit and expertise for DPS warriors. Unless Blizzard announces that Titan's Grip is going to be a baseline talent or something. I'd probably just pass out if that happened.