Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Wrath you never saw

As we're heading towards the final confrontation with the Lich King and the end of this chapter of the World of Warcraft saga, we end up reminded of how much of Wrath of the Lich King was designed and never used, or used sparingly, or even resurrected later, fittingly enough. But not only do we have loads of models that either weren't used at all or were used later in places completely unrelated to where they were supposed to drop, we have entire zones that either didn't happen at all, or did but which don't seem to go anywhere.

We're all familiar with the strange case of Azjol-Nerub. Originally it was intended to be a complete underground zone that players were to level in, do quests, and so on. Then that was scrapped and we instead got two instances and an NPC who was clearly the remnant of a once far more expansive plot. It's a shame, too, because those two instances are tantalizing hints at how vast and expansive an Azjol-Nerub zone could have been. Frankly, I found (and still find) the Nerubian architecture in those instances far superior to Naxx both in design and its surprising color palette. And when you look around Ahn-Katet and realize how vast the cavern is and how little of it is actually seen in the instance, or run Trial of the Crusader and fall into yet another astonishingly vast and underused space, I don't see how you can not wonder why the Azjol-Nerub zone never manifested itself. Perhaps we'll see World of Warcraft: Underground at some point.

But while in Azjol-Nerub we have a zone that failed to materialize, in Crystalsong Forest we have a fully developed zone with floating, magically altered forests of shattered crystal trees filled with ruins and NPC's and... no real point. There's two flight points, one for each faction, but you could easily miss them because why would you go to them with Dalaran floating right there overhead anyway and no quests to drive you down to them? Why does each faction need its own flight point in the region? Are they fighting over some objective? What is it?

Likewise, Dalaran's presence is intended to somehow oppose the Blue Dragonflight but aside from erecting yet another giant purple bubble (man, they love giant purple bubbles) they don't really seem to be doing anything to all those Blue Dragonflight mobs floating around on flying platforms in the zone. You get sent to Crystalsong by the Argent Crusade a couple of times, first off when they're pushing into Icecrown and then after they've erected their tournament and want you to kill satyrs for scrying crystals or knock out the Black Knight's squire.

This just begs the question: why is the Black Knight's squire in Crystalsong? Why are the satyrs there? There are ancient night elf ghosts haunting the ruins, the Blue Dragonflight, this zone should be positively bustling with player activity and instead it's a ghost town because there's no actual content here, just hints at it. There's a really interesting bit of backstory hinting at a war between the Black and Blue Dragonflights here that made the trees turn to crystal, and the Lich King's attempt to harvest the forest's power, but it doesn't actually appear anywhere in the game that I've seen. Crystalsong is basically just a very elaborate backdrop to fly over to get to Dalaran at this point.

Another thing that's interesting when looking through the data files is how many items that ended up in Naxx and (more recently) the new five man instances were, at least during the design process, intended to drop somewhere else. For instance, here you can see various familiar shield designs but also at the top and bottom you'll notice two designs you've yet to see. One of them, the bottom design, has an art style that clearly matches the Hate-Forged Cleaver which drops in regular Halls of Reflection, and which you can find in the item files as 'axe_1h_draktharon_d_01'.

The axe and shield are hardly unique as being designed and created for an instance that they don't appear in. It's not even unique to this expansion: there are 2h sword models in the files which are named for Auchindoun, for example. What's interesting in all these models that either don't drop at all or which drop in ICC instead of the places which they are named for is what they suggest, namely that once there was the intention to have more varied raiding across Northrend instead of one large Naxxramas raid and two smaller one-encounter raids in Obsidian Sanctum and the Eye of Eternity.

Several sword models, as an example, either appear only on NPC's or in instances completely disconnected from their file names. Here, for example, we see several swords named for the Nexus, but only one of them drops in the Eye of Eternity raid, the rest all drop in Naxxramas (or Forge of Souls in the case of one of the reskins). Again, this isn't terribly unusual: several of the original sword models in the first release of World of Warcraft have names that hint at a faction bias that never came to pass, for example. We can, however, speculate that perhaps there was to originally have been more expansive content at Utgarde Keep, Drak'Tharon/Gundrak and the Nexus than actually came to pass, and that several of the art assets and models originally designed for these zones ended up moving to other instances like Naxxramas 25. (Naxx 10 more or less just re-used original Naxx 40 models.)

Now, at this point I hasten to add I am just speculating. I have no way of knowing and have found no conclusive comments from Blizzard saying "Yeah, we were going to do a bunch more raids but then we didn't and we just focused on Naxx instead" but it is clear that there was a great deal of work put into designing item models for zones that they never appeared in or appeared only on NPC's such as Ulduar. (And yes, I still wish that big Blinkstrike looking 2h had dropped somewhere, but I'm glad to see that axe and 2h sword get into player hands.) It's hard not to get caught up in wondering what Wrath would have looked like with more raids at start... one can imagine an Utgarde Keep with a UP raid on top. The place certainly seems big enough for a raid with King Ymiron having gotten a lot of build up in Howling Fjord only to then sort of fizzle out by being farmed constantly by pre-Naxx guilds looking for a Red Sword of Courage.

Likewise, both Drak'Tharon Keep and Gun'Drak just look overdesigned for the amount of content accessible: there's multiple structures and portals at Gun'Drak. Not only does Drak'Tharon look like you could easily have another instance there, the one we have is kind of confused and unfinished to me. Who exactly is the Prophet Tharon'ja? He looks vaguely like the Avatar of Hakkar from Sunken Temple... is he intended to be the harbinger for the various priests of the animal gods we encounter cannibalizing their own gods in Zul'Drak? Because we already have one of those, and he actually looks identical to Tharon'ja until you drain him for Quetz'lun's spirit. I'm fascinated by the lore hints in all the Zul'Drak instances (heck, the animal gods from Zul'Aman show up! Thankfully they didn't hold a grudge) and so, the idea that there was a possible raid exploring this in more depth and maybe explaining what exactly gave them the idea of eating their gods in the first place would have been fine by me. Maybe we could even find out what that enormous serpent tail in Gundrak is connected to.

I have no idea why, if there was work on UP and Drak'Tharon raids, that work was stopped. Then again, I don't know why Azjol-Nerub didn't pan out as an underground zone or why Crystalsong just sits there like an endless footnote in the Nexus war. I don't even know why we kill Malygos, Aspect of Magic and lord of the Blue Dragonflight, two raid tiers before we fight his undead consort. An argument could be made for Malygos as an immediate and arbitrary threat that needed to be dealt with, of course. It's just always seemed odd to me that we killed Malygos, empowered by Norgannon himself as Aspect, and then we go to the Titan-constructed prison of Ulduar and there's no real connection between the two events. It sometimes feels that in their drive to put Arthas on center stage they took the spotlight away from others too soon, and left a lot of interesting ideas undeveloped.
I've always wished they'd forgotten about Wintergrasp and its weird Titan structures and done AN as the PvP zone. Man, imagine mass battles crawling through the depths, fighting both the other faction and hordes of faceless ones? I'd be so down for that. Alas, as we approach the Fall of the Lich King and the oncoming Cataclysm, the possibility of seeing any of these underdeveloped or undeveloped ideas becomes ever more remote.

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Dungeon Finder bingo

Tinwhisker sent us this link to a set of entertaining PUG bingo cards on the official forums, made by Cruce of Scarlet Crusade. While I'm not sure I would actually have gotten bingo on any single run, some of the squares have certainly happened in many of my runs:

  • A pure DPS class doing triple digit DPS (especially Death Knights; sorry to all the good DKs out there).
  • RankWatch. Almost every run.
  • Three or more members are "the Patient." I guess it's nice to show that they have some PuG experience, but that just makes egregious failures that much more disappointing.
  • Someone starts on a mob the tank hasn't even hit yet. More often than not.
  • Melee DPS attacking from the front. It's really not that hard, folks.

One thing I'd add to the list is people protesting that they don't take the game that seriously when you give them advice, like that they might want to put up diseases before using other strikes on their DK. You don't have to break out the spreadsheets, but there's a certain minimum effort to not be letting everyone else in your group down.

What do you guys think of this bingo set? Going to print out a few sheets to keep you entertained during those long, cold dungeon runs? Are there any squares you'd add?

The best of WoW.com: September 2009

One of the things that jumps out at me while reviewing September is that it was a fantastic month for Moviewatch. Apart from that players were occupied with the new version of Onyxia, the Argent Coliseum, still discussing some questions raised by BlizzCon, and arguing over whether Garrosh was a jerk or what.

WoW Moviewatch: Warrior's Dream
: My nomination for the best Moviewatch of the year. A lovely film, well-made, beautifully scored, and it crammed a thoughtful story (and insight concerning the sometimes-uncomfortable perspective on ourselves granted by nightmares) into 5 minutes.

Faction change service now available
: A feature players had been wondering about getting for years suddenly went live. Did things go crazy? Maybe a little.

A critical examination of Garrosh Hellscream
: Garrosh, as we'd previously observed, is not among the more well-received NPCs these days. Rossi asks -- how did this guy go from the demoralized Orc we see in Nagrand to the arrogant jerk we find in Northrend?

Ask a Faction Leader: Garrosh Hellscream
: On the subject of Garrosh, personally I found this AAFL to be among the funniest in the series. If that whole Warchief bid doesn't work out for him, Garrosh has a bright future as an interior designer.

Yogg-Saron in blues: A sterling rebuttal to the idea that epics make the player.

Conclusions from the WoW.com faction transfer survey
: We've heard (unofficially, of course) that our reader polls tend to be a fairly accurate gloss on numbers Blizzard sees internally, and we decided to ask readers if they'd used the new faction change service and (if so) what they'd done.

12 reasons why you don't want to play a priest
: Matt Low turns a critical eye to his beloved class and admits -- not all is rosy.

WoW Moviewatch: Ulduar: Defiance
: We'd really been impressed by the trailer, and Atraira delivered.

Drama Mamas: My GM is a succubus
: Fascinating Drama Mamas about a GM unwittingly destroying her own guild, but guaranteed to enrage you if you're a female player who hates her attention-ho counterparts.

Additional instances can now be launched
: One of the headaches plaguing Wrath has been overcrowded instance servers -- or, more accurately, Blizzard's efforts to keep them from being overcrowded by limiting the number of people who can occupy them at one time. By September, they'd completed a long, arduous process upgrading the servers to reduce the odds of the dreaded "Additional instances cannot be launched" message from appearing.

Why Blizzard should make authenticators mandatory on Battle.net accounts
: A strong argument for more widespread use of authenticators, which would not only cut down on the stress experienced by Blizzard's customer support, but would also reap benefits for players (in addition to the near-immunity to account hacking) in the form of faster tickets. Waits for a Game Master these days number in the days-to-weeks, and it's almost entirely due to the number of compromised accounts.

WoW Moviewatch: How to win at PvP
: Wowcrendor hits battlegrounds, Wintergrasp, and arena with hilarious results.

Ready Check: Onyxia: Rossi, an old hand at the original Onyxia, faces her later incarnation and returns to school readers on why standing in front of her is only for the quick or the dead.

WoW Moviewatch: Quest: Impossible
: One of the most polished and well-made 2009 Moviewatch features.

The Queue: Trinket-palooza 2009
: A lot of people had fun with this edition of the Queue, where we listed raid trinkets from the classic game that you might still get some use from at 80.

The Colosseum: A basic guide to the Arena rating system
: The rating system for arena is a pain in the ass to navigate. Michael Gray walks you through it.

Tuesday Morning Post: Same Old Auld Lang Syne edition

Happy Tuesday morning, everyone. Winter Veil is winding down, and as we here at the WoW.com offices fight over the last carton of eggnog, we've been taking a lot of time to look over the past year and celebrate. Of course, here in the Tuesday Morning Post, we generally look at the past 7 days or so. So yeah, there's plenty of the navel gazing stuff, but there's a good smattering of news too. Nothing too major, I suppose. Even the dev team likes to see their family over the holidays, I guess. But it's there. And in the meantime, a little bit of a navel gazing never hurt anyone. Our navels are pretty awesome anyway.

Join me for the last Tuesday morning of 2009 and catch up on your WoW reading. The usual list is after the break.

Hot News and Features
  • Could the building blocks for the Cataclysm world event be right under our noses?
  • As Wrath winds down, we remember the abandoned and half-finished things.
  • We know why ICC's gated. You can, of course, always blame the gnome.
  • The 2009 WoW.com best stories showcases our personal picks for the best articles of 2009. Check out what we've posted so far, and watch out for the last few months to go up in the next few days.
  • If you logged on and got to the tree, hopefully you got your 2009 Winter Veil gifts -- And hopefully, you didn't shoot your eye out.
  • The official WoW magazine has a preview out.
Class News and Guides
  • Encrypted Text looks back at 2009 from a rogue point of view.
  • Totem talk looks at 2009 from a shaman's eye view.
  • Care and Feeding of Warriors looks back at 2009 for warriors.
  • Arcane Brilliance looks back at 2009 for mages.
  • The Light and How to Swing It looks at 2009 for paladins.
  • Spiritual Guidance looks back at priesting in 2009.
  • Warlocks look back at 2009 in Blood Pact as well.
  • Healing's going through some changes in Cataclysm. Here's what we know so far.
Dungeons, Items, PvP, Professions, and More
  • Sometimes, especially when it comes to Dungeon Finder groups, it's best not to know.
  • Rossi has his own philosophies for powering through PuG dungeons in manner not unlike one might expect of a Wookie Jedi.
  • Rejoice, disciples of the rod. You get a new fishing skill enchant in patch 3.3.
  • Ready Check takes a look back at the raiding scene of 2009.
  • In the mood for spoilers? We have some footage of one of the early quest encounters in the Shadowmourne quest line.
  • Officers' Quarters tells you how to make friends and influence guild leaders.
Odds and Ends
  • If you like it, then you should have rolled need on it. Note that we do not condone the actual viewpoints condoned in the video, but damn if the song isn't catchy.
  • Congratulations to November 2009's guild of the month, Sleeper Cartel!
  • WoW Rookie looks at making the most of the new tutorial tips.
  • Drama Mamas has more advice for handling the drama of the new Dungeon Finder.

Breakfast Topic: Lamented Mechanics

This isn't a breakfast topic where I protest. I'm not signing petitions or grumping, I'm simply looking back and saying "Gee, I wish X".

For instance, I wish there were tanking fist weapons. I love, love, love fist weapons. I'd settle for a fist that had hit and expertise on it, even. But while I'm willing to switch to a slow main hander when I have a full rage bar to dump as Devastate threat (or for huge Cleaves when tanking lots of trash) it's just not really suitable for a good 80 to 90% of my time tanking. And yet, how I love fist weapons. I have an enhancement shaman, of course, and yet fists almost never drop for him (he's using axes at the moment) while they rain from the heavens and are almost constantly sharded when I'm tanking. I've taken to just picking them up and using them for fun. I understand there will most likely never be a dedicated tanking fist, as the only class that could use it would be a warrior (Paladins and DKs can't use fist weapons, Druids can but would almost never use one over a staff since they can't use shields).

Similarly, whenever I go elemental I always end up drooling over caster swords, and there have been a few times I've heard paladin healers sigh at a dagger drop. So what I turn to ask you is, what do you wish you could use? What drop can you either not equip or just can't effectively use?

Spiritual Guidance: The Priest of 2009

Every week (usually), Spiritual Guidance will offer practical insight for priests of the holy profession. Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a UI and addons blog for WoW.

I'm going to cheat.

I'm going to dip back slightly into 2008 to the point where Wrath of the Lich King came out. Priests everywhere had high hopes for their class. We were coming off an expansion where Circle of Healing Priests and Resto Shamans were the king. Since then, the other healing classes have been improved where they could hold their own in raids and compete.

Wand specialization removed

Yes! I jumped for joy when I discovered this useless talent had been removed from the Discipline tree. It was then replaced with the new PvE staple talent: Twin Disciplines. The only time I really used wands at the end game level was when I was regenerating my mana.

Lightwell became more useful

I am not a Lightwell fan. There's just something about an ability that requires other players to interact with it in order to be useful. Seriously! Players had to find it, then click on it in order to use it. But I will credit the blues on this. They did their best to try and make the spell interesting. They dropped the cast time, increased the number of charges, and increased the amount of damage needed for the effect to break.

Oh, and let's not forget that they dropped the cooldown to 3 minutes.

A valiant effort but I don't think it was enough for it to see widespread use by Holy Priests. Just for kicks though, I'm going to grab Lightwell anyway and start giving it a shot in Icecrown Citadel.

Circle of Healing became smart

Just before the debut of Wrath of the Lich King, the developers made Circle of Healing a smart heal. It would automatically target players nearby who were lowest on health regardless of their party. At that point, priests became an extremely attractive class to raid heal with.

Circle of Healing hit with a nerf bat
"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Priest voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened. "

Circle of Healing was deemed too powerful. Either the smart heal had to change, or a cooldown had to be added between spell usage. There was a lot of criticism about this change. "No one's going to play a priest anymore." "Great, now we suck."

Several months later, priests continue to be sought after and brought into raids to heal.

Levitate castable on others

Actually, this change was two fold. When glyphs were added, one of the new minor glyphs was Glyph of Levitate which removed the reagent cost of Levitate. I didn't have to slaughter any birds to fulfill my desire to walk above water or to safely jump off a cliff to avoid a Horde shadow priest trying to fry my brains.

Fissure in Obsidian Sanctum changed colors

Okay, this wasn't a major change that affected priests. Even though the void zone changed from red to blue, I still noticed players had a hard time seeing and staying out of them. Evidence that it had nothing to do with colors!

Hymns had been redesigned

Divine Hymn: Anyone still remember what this spell used to do? It was originally a PvP-esque spell. It incapacitated nearby targets and healed friendly targets. I remember using it in the original form during arena to try to knock out opposing players. That changed in 3.1.0 when Divine Hymn single handedly became the best healing spell in the game. Continuing the trend of smart healing spells, Divine Hymn became a channeled healing spell which would automatically target the players with the lowest health.

Hymn of Hope: This former priest racial turned a baseline ability accessible to all Priests. After 3.1.0, it turned into the mana equivalent of Divine Hymn. Yes, a channeled spell that restored mana raid wide for several seconds to players with the lowest mana.

Prayer of Healing castable on anyone

Prayer of Healing used to only heal up the party of the current priest. It was changed later on so that it could be used on any player within the raid. Not only that, it would continue to heal the target's party as well. That gave a great tactical edge to a healing priest since healing leads could set group specific healing assignments without having to position priests in certain groups.

Prayer of Healing then gets nerfed

Of course, it was (like Circle of Healing) deemed too overpowered and the healing coefficient was scaled back down even further. Although given the choice between being able to target any party with Prayer of Healing versus extra healing oomph, I'd go for the any party.

Body and Soul talent

Feel like going for a run? With Body and Soul, your Power Word: Shield gave you the ability to run quicker for several seconds. It's impractical since most PvP priests go down the discipline tree and Body and Soul is too far down in Holy. From the PvE standpoint, I've only seen it used specifically on the Anub'arak encounter in Trial of the Grand Crusader. I'm always willing to say that it's a must have to stretch out the kiting but I'm sure there are guilds who have done it without the use of this talent.

Dual spec

To be fair, the addition of dual spec wasn't strictly limited to priests. But it allowed us an extraordinary amount of flexibility in our roles in the game. We had the ability to go shadow and destroy stuff or switch to holy and discipline in order to heal. Granted, we had the capability to do this any time. Having dual spec just made the overall process cheaper and easier to manage. Priests didn't have to hearth back to town to change specs and curse if they screwed up a talent point somewhere.


Shadow Priests had their utility levels reworked. Instead of providing a flat mana return, Replenishment gave back mana based on the mana pool of players. They were one of the first classes to do so along with Ret Paladins and Hunters. Warlocks and Mages joined them later on. This buff continues to be one of the most sought after buff and just about every 25-man raid has someone providing them (who is hopefully a Shadow Priest)!


Another new iconic ability for Shadow Priests is Dispersion. This all-in-one spell causes the player to take reduced incoming damage, remove all snaring or stun effects and regenerate their mana back.

2009 brought in some great times and changes to the Priest class. Some of updates were a pleasant surprise while others were anticipated well in advance and frowned upon. Cataclysm promises even more Priest changes to come and even though Arthas isn't dead yet, I'm really looking forward to 2010 already.

What were your favourite Priest changes? What didn't you like?

[1.Local]: The best of 2009, January-June

Reader comments -- ahh, yes, the juicy goodness following a meaty post. [1.Local] ducks past the swinging doors to see what readers have been chatting about in the back room over the past week.

The story's not over 'til [1.Local] has picked it to bits and pieces ... So what did the local denizens have to say about the world of WoW during the first half of the year? In fact, the [1.Local] scene itself became the news back in June, as [1.Local]: The epic rap battle comment war edition hit readers' screens: "Players disagree over Blizzard's upcoming badge changes. Rap battle ensues. Site is left terrified and confused."

epsilon343: Ahh yes, the rap battle. Nothing like mad rhymes to cool off tempers.

Higher on Killchrono's list of memories, though, was all the commotion about scamming: Aaah, I remember that run of articles about scamming. The best (and simultaneously worst) part about them were the numerous comments by phishers and scammers who tried to justify their actions by saying non-security savvy people deserved to get hacked and how they were 'doing them a favour' by showing them how stupid they were. A testament to how deplorable and vile malicious scammers truly are.

The best of WoW.com: August 2009

BlizzCon, BlizzCon, BlizzCon! That's pretty much what August was all about -- well, that and patch 3.2. Because this month was mostly crammed full of pure, unadulterated news about the upcoming convention and Cataclysm, there weren't quite as many one-off features this time around.

All the World's a Stage: Reflections on the passing of a roleplayer's mom
: This isn't a very easy article to summarize. All I can say is -- please read it. One of David Bowers' most elegant and introspective pieces: "WoW is not an escape from life, it is a reflection of it."

WoW.com's Patch 3.2 Guide and content for the day
: Patch 3.2 went live on August 4th and was (oddly enough) one of the top stories for the year. In hindsight, it probably wasn't that surprising -- it had been a while since Ulduar had gone live, and the Argent Tournament patch heralded the introduction of a slew of new pets, mounts, titles, and new druid forms. Huzzah!

Playing WoW for charity: Interview with the WoWathon team
: Three college students managed to raise $5,000 for Child's Play with a marathon WoW session coupled with "dramatic readings of bad fanfiction."

Researchers study WoW to see how gangs form and fade
: A UC-Irvine team has been studying guild and group formation ingame for data on "group ecology." As Schramm observed, "Listen, guys, all you have to do to break up gangs is ensure there's not enough loot to go around."

The lost art of crowd control: Both the emblems change in 3.2 and the emblems/Dungeon Finder changes in 3.3 have sent masses of people back to heroics, and we're not the only people to notice that crowd control's all but disappeared. Blizzard's answer (5 months later)? Heroic Halls of Reflection.

Felicia Day unleashes geeky pop single
: So it turns out The Guild cast has both musical talent, the ability to reach #1 on the iTunes music video charts, and a sense of humor concerning their source material. We're shocked.

BlizzCon 2009: Don't forget to look for us: We decided to deploy special Zach Yonzon-designed t-shirts on the convention floor so that readers could pick us out easily.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm announced: "All haters, disbelievers, skeptics, muggers, druggers, post-modernists, and trolls, we are graciously willing to accept your apologies. Line forms to the left, people. No pushing! And mister, I hope you brought enough gum for everybody."

BlizzCon round-up -- Day 1 and Day 2: Rather than make this article a huge list of all the reporting we did from BlizzCon, I'll shorten it to these.

Grunty vs. Zergling battle video: The Grunty pet from BlizzCon has an...interesting interaction with the zergling pet. Robin films for us, her kid provides audio, site traffic quadruples.

A discussion in defense of new race/class combinations
: The team banded together to discuss the lore behind the new race/class combinations we knew were going live in Cataclysm, and speculated on the possible racial advantages/disadvantages that would result.

Around Azeroth: In loving memory: This got my vote as the best Around Azeroth of the year.

Raid Rx: Raid bosses that brought healers to their knees (part 1) and (part 2): I loved reading Matt Low's list of nightmare raid bosses for healers. For some time I've been meaning to do an equivalent list for tanks, but will probably wait until we've seen all of the ICC raid bosses and hard modes to make a call on it.

Why am I suddenly so popular?: Tank population has ebbed and flowed over the course of the year. Rossi finds himself in high demand in the "ebbed" portion.

Officers' Quarters: Cataclysm will reshape guilds: Scott Andrews goes through the news from BlizzCon concerning upcoming guild improvements with a fine-tooth comb.

2009's drawing to a close, and we're wrapping up the most interesting articles we've published all year, one day at a time. Join us every day for the next twelve days with this year's best of WoW.com!

The Twelve Days of Winter Veil: Day six

WoW.com continues celebrating Winter Veil with our Twelve Days of Winter Veil contests. Only six more days and today we are giving away a set of World of Warcraft novels written by Christie Golden to one lucky winner courtesy of Pocket Books. The set includes:
  • Arthas
  • Beyond The Dark Portal
  • Rise of the Horde
  • Warcraft Archive
The contest is open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), and everyone who enters must be 18 or older. To enter, leave a comment on this post before 12pm ET (noon) Tuesday, December 29, 2009. Please be sure to use a real email that you check often to enter, so we can contact you should you be the winner. You may enter only once and one winner will be selected randomly. The winner will receive 1 set of Christie Golden World of Warcaft novels including Arthas, Beyond The Dark Portal, Rise of the Horde and the Warcraft Archive with a total retail value of US$58. Click here to read the official contest rules.

And if you don't win today (or even if you do!) check back later today for loot card giveaways and tomorrow for more contests -- the prizes only get better as we count down the Twelve Days of Winter Veil!

Breakfast Topic: Celebrated Mechanics

While thinking about the lack of tanking fist weapons, I got into a discussion with my wife about her favorite ability (or perhaps my favorite ability of hers), Misdirection. The discussion came out of the fact that I basically threw her into the deep water by having her misdirect the adds on a TotC 25 Anub kill last night (which she did spectacularly, of course) and from there we started talking about one of the seventy billion Halls of Lightning runs we did yesterday. (Seriously, Halls of Lightning? You can stop now. No, really, I'm fairly certain I've killed Loken enough times.) The rogue in this group was simply phenomenal. Solid DPS, didn't stun mobs when I tried to pull them back, didn't constantly say 'go go go', and used Tricks of the Trade whenever he was going to open up on a big trash pull. Seriously, if you could adopt gnome rogues from another realm and just keep them in your backpack to pop into the open DPS slot in your pugs I'd have done so. I salute you, sir or madam.

I have no idea how Misdirection is supposed to work, love it though I do. Does the hunter shoot someone, then yell loudly "Holy crap, Mr. Tank, I can't believe you shot that guy!" while pointing at me? Perhaps the rogue using Tricks whispers into the mob's ear that I told him to stab right in the buttcheeks? How does Vigilance work? Oh, sweet Vigilance, how do you work? I suppose as long as you keep working I shouldn't question you too much, Vigilance, and yet I must know. I often imagine myself lumbering over to a gnome warlock and saying in an insanely deep voice "Little friend, do not anger Jaraxxus so with your shadowbolting and your demon summoning, I will be watching you" before waggling a finger at her. She of course proceeds to light him up, sweetcheeks. "That is correct, large eredar moron, I told her to do that!"

So now we come to you. Is it Shield of the Righteous? Flight Form? The ability to equip polearms? Intervene? Blink? Thunderstorm? (I can't resist singing AC/DC's "You've been THUNDERSTRUCK" when I cast that spell.) Conflagrate, Death and Decay, maybe it's Prayer of Mending? (Who doesn't love PoM really? Bing!) What facet or ability of your class or classes just makes your day?

Blood Pact: 2009 through the Eye of Kilrogg

Blood Pact is your weekly warlock digest brought to you by Dominic Hobbs. "The avarice never ends! 'I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue.' Look, I don't wanna make waves, but this whole Christmas season is stupid, stupid, stupid!" ~ The Grinch

Hmmm... a look back at changes for warlocks in 2009. Well there was... no, wait, that was 2008. Well what about... nah, that's planned for Cataclysm. Wow, this is harder than I thought. Nothing particularly outstanding has happened in the warlock area this year; but so much has happened and, well things have changed. It's like waking up each morning and something is subtly different. Your blue toothbrush is now red... The sofa is now against this wall, not that one... each change is pretty unremarkable in it's own right but by the end of the year you are a stuntman living in LA married to a small, blond Portuguese skier who when she's not training does abstract painting, practices yoga and brews her own beer.

As we surfaced, bleary-eyed into January our memories of sacrificing succubus and SL/SL were fading faster than those of December 31st. Those heady days of power that also led to FotM wannabes flooding our ranks. Skill and complexity had been leaking out of the class for a while and Naxx wasn't really providing any of us with much of a worthwhile proving ground. Affliction spell rotations were causing carpal-tunnel injuries on those who were determined to take the cold-turkey approach to dropping their addiction to Shadow Bolt spam. Fans of demonology were taking felguards like some sort of methadone for simplistic raiding, meanwhile retaining the use of their fingers.

Towards the end of January we stopped the quick summoning of one person, and instead summoned a strange demonic wardrobe-like object and let everyone else summon whomever from wherever (often that guy who just fell off the pipe). Shortly after this we remembered that one of our minions came in a box labeled 'tank' and used him as one. It turned out that this invalidated some kind of warranty, and there was a global recall of tanking voidwalkers. I think we got a big, blue vanity-pet as compensation but I can't be sure as I haven't seen one since.

Anyway, by now Ulduar had opened up and the move towards destruction began. I don't personally believe that the destruction talent build makes us like mages but it's true that those who like piling on DoTs, running with demons or being raid-useful were starting to feel a little disenfranchised about now. Not all bad though, a change was made to ease our soul-shard problems (a problem acknowledged by Ghostcrawler himself). Drain Soul might give a shard on each tick and we were now no longer able to carry more than 32 shards.


I did say at the start that there wasn't anything outstanding. To be fair this did mean we no longer had to head out and find things to kill for our fragments of soul. Instead we find a load of locks lining up by the practice dummies before and after raids, presumably gathering wooden practice souls.

Well, Ulduar was fun and destruction fairly interesting, the tiered items pretty nice (if a little weird); things were ok and moving along. Then the Argent guys finished their arena and... well, not much changed really. If you weren't raiding but leveling then you could summon your mounts sooner and just by speaking to the trainer. Also Banish could be removed by yourself or some other warlock with a sense of humor. For those that were raiding, demonology (or more specifically Demonic Pact) was making a name for itself and felguards making a raiding return.

Now we're seeing Arthas' homestead invaded and the pull between affliction and destruction hotting-up as they are both up to fighting weight -- with demo looking on in amusement throwing spell power to them both. It certainly feels a different world that we woke up in 12 months ago and there sure seem to be less locks kicking about these days (where did all those death knights and paladins come from?).

Looking forward to the next year seems a little odd since there's high hopes that it will contain the release of Cataclysm -- the expansion set to shake up the warlock class as much as Deathwing shakes Azeroth. Certainly I hope for a shard system that feels more like a benefit than a burden. I quite like the sound of the new system as it has been communicated so far, but I do have some reservations that it's just going to be another set of numbers to watch. This is the burning of a soul -- the very essence of a being -- to unleash its power for our own aims. It should be something emotive and worthy of the sacrifice made, not a simple resource like a rune or a candle.

I'm also going to kick the termite mound that is 'green fire'. This debate has gone back and forth for so long I'm wary of getting anywhere near it but... If I have any voice at all I add it to those calling for a minor glyph to make warlock spell-fire become fel-fire. I don't say this because I dislike our spells as they are, or because I feel like a mage when casting them. I just think that many people play a warlock because of the 'RP' nature of them. Sure, most people don't role play in the least, but warlocks have a dark edge to them, they have a sinister tang, a malicious essence. I would like to see more that enhances this feel and frankly, green fire is just freaky and 'wrong' enough to capture that demonic nastiness nicely. Also, our minor glyphs suck.

Ghostcrawler has stated that demonology locks should be included in raids for their own damage, not just for an awesome buff. I do hope there are plans afoot to deliver on this statement. Demonology should be able to offer so much to a raid but is almost always left out in the cold. Beastmaster hunters have been raid viable before so we know the theory can work though wouldn't it also be nice to have to consider demon selection for each fight? While I approve of the measures made to get formerly ignored minions summoned once again (welcome back felpuppies) it would be great to have all of them powerful, if situational. Unlike hunters, we can summon any of our pets (minions) at any time but we don't. We are pretty much tied into one minion when we select our talent spec. Only when soloing (or the very occasional boss fight) do we summon something else. Let's see more of the minions next year.

Well, that's it from Blood Pact for this week and 2009. While I've only been writing it for these last few months I hope you'll accept my thanks to all the loyal Blood Pact readers this year (even the mages in IAPEWARLOCKS). I hope that while you are reading this, you and yours are happy and well. A very merry Christmas and joyous new year to you all from myself and Blood Pact!
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DoTs, demons, and all the dastardly deeds done by Warlocks. If you're curious about what's new with Locks since the last patch, check out WoW.com's guide to patch 3.3 or find out what's upcoming in Cataclysm from the BlizzCon 2009: Class Discussion Panel.

Around Azeroth: The helium-filled dragon

Millya of on Moonrunner writes in with this tale: "Last night during our guild's quick Onyxia-10 run I encountered a ... rather unique situation. Being a mage, it's my job to terrorize her while she's flying around with her halitosis. Being a mage who doesn't want to be a smear on the ground, I always pop invisibility when she's landing!

This time, however, when I reappeared, our tank's fearsome posture had apparently frozen her in fear. She stayed like this, simply frozen and rotating in place for the rest of the fight while I laughed. Even after she was down, this is what she looked like. So of course I organized a group photo that is a marvel of coordination - "OK guys, stand to my left and right!" "But you're standing right in her corpse!" "Just trust me!" One of my guildies said she looks like a parade float. We do Christmas parade floats in style! Now with more dragon."

Do you have any unusual, beautiful or interesting World of Warcraft images that are just collecting dust in your screenshots folder? We'd love to see them on Around Azeroth! Sharing your screenshot is as simple as e-mailing aroundazeroth@wow.com with a copy of your shot and a brief explanation of the scene. You could be featured here next!

Remember to include your player name, server and/or guild if you want it mentioned. Please include the word "Azeroth" in your post so it does not get swept into the spam bin. We strongly prefer full screen shots without the UI showing -- use alt-Z to remove it. Please, no more battleground scoreboards, Val'kyr on mounts, or pictures of the Ninja Turtles in Dalaran. Older screenshots can be found here.

The Queue: Scourge frost

Welcome back to The Queue, WoW.com's daily Q&A column where the WoW.com team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Adam Holisky be your host today.

Hopefully you all had a nice Christmas, and are as glad it's over as I am.

Time for a handful of WoW questions and answers!

Stella asked...

"Why do Scourge necromancers (including Kel'Thuzad and death knights) get access to frost-abilities? The Scourge's power derives from Kil'Jaeden and he's a member of the Burning Legion. Demonic power is mostly fire and shadow based (for obvious reasons). So where does the Scourge's power over frost come from?"

A fair question, one with lots of answers. While only someone like Metzen would be able to give you the definitive reply, I'd say that the Scourge have picked up control over frost abilities from their stay in Northrend. It's pretty hard not to realize how awesome throwing snow and ice is when you live with it year round.

An argument could also be made that because Ner'zhul was a shaman prior to becoming the first Lich King, he transferred some of his shaman abilities (which include control over frost) to the Scourge.

Dayninator asked...

"When Cataclysm arrives, I know Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines will be reworked as heroics. But what will happen to their original forms? Will SFK still be available for pallies seeking Verigan's Fist, for example?"

We don't know for sure. The alpha is not out yet, nor has there been any information released on this subject since BlizzCon. What we do know is that at BlizzCon they talked about these dungeons being heroic versions of the older dungeons, which would lead me to believe the previous versions of them would still be available for low level characters to run.

But that's just speculation, the only legitimate answer is that we don't know yet.

Waggins asked...

"Are there any sites that list best in slot gear for level 60's without the BC expansion?"

While it doesn't say "best in slot" exactly, Kaliban's Class Loot Lists still has the level 60 version accessible.

Gamer am I asked...

"Why can't we buy weapons with emblems, but we could but them with badges in Burning Crusade?"

Badges in BC got out of hand. The gear you could get with them, from armor to weapons, at points rivaled what you could get from the latest raid content. Blizzard has learned from this mistake and toned it down a notch to a more acceptable level. If you want weapons, you're going to have to run instances and get them as drops. Item level 232 weapons are available from the heroic versions of the Icecrown 5-mans, but you're going to have to farm them; not jut run heroic Violet Hold for a month.

Are invisible mobs ushering in the Cataclysm world event?

There's been some interesting chatter going on around the internet lately about mysterious in-game earthquakes happening throughout Azeroth. Seemingly at random the screen will shake back and forth for a few moments. There are no visible mobs or other occurrences that would cause this. However, these earthquakes are being reported by more and more people.

We know that Deathwing is going to tear Azeroth up in a big way. Take a look at the Cataclysm trailer for how destroyed the land is going to be. Barrens ripped in half, parts of Azeroth's climate will change, and general hell will come forth unto the plentiful lands. We also know that the world event ushering in the Cataclysm is going to be big, really big. The event itself is not in the patch files yet.

Or is it?

There are invisible mobs called Shakers in the game right now. There are two types of these mobs. The first is just called [DND] Shaker that was potentially in the game as early as patch 3.2.2, based on comments left on the live version of WoWHead. There was also another mob added in patch 3.3 called [DND] Shaker - Small.

People on the PTR briefly reported seeing these mobs as targetable entities in Stormwind. They were mobs without any textures, with only their nameplate showing. You were able to damage them, but never kill them. Just like a target dummy. After a PTR patch the mobs became untargetable and entirely invisible again.

It is possible that these mobs are the hidden game mechanic causing the screen to shake. And given that they appear to have been activated with patch 3.3, it does make at least some sense that they could be tied to the beginning of the Cataclysm world event.

Of course, there is no official or unofficial word from Blizzard on this yet. Kisirani, the world designer, has been quiet as of late, and she's usually the one to let on hints about world events and other hidden things like this. We'll keep and eye out and an ear to the ground for more information, but we thought given the evidence out there now this was worth letting you all know about.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

Naxxramas Raid Deck and Treasure Packs now available

Following the success of their previous raid sets, Onyxia's Lair, Molten Core, Magtheridon's Lair, and the Black Temple, Upper Deck has released the first Wrath-themed event pack with the Naxxramas Raid Deck and Treasure Pack last December 22. Unlike their previous raid offerings, however, the Naxxramas Treasure Packs are stand-alone products which can be used separately from the raid deck.

According to Dan Bojanowski, Upper Deck's World of Warcraft TCG Senior Brand Manager, the stand-alone approach "was created as a direct result of customer feedback." Aside from containing the standard content such as exclusive foil cards, the set would also include "alternate art heroes featuring heroes from the Drums of War block in Naxxramas-themed gear and settings."

The Raid Deck, which is available for $29.99, contains a 110-card raid deck, 15 oversized boss cards, a 16-card Treasure Pack, and a UDE points card (or Loot card) and rulebook. Treasure Packs retail for $9.99 apiece and contain 15 random foil Treasure Pack cards out of a total of thirty collectible cards, a hero in Naxxramas-themed armor, and a UDE points card or Loot card. Hero cards are drawn from the Drums of War expansion set with variant art, with a total of ten cards with new art to collect. Each Treasure Pack also has a chance to contain a random Loot card from the Fields of Honor expansion set.

Landro's Pet Box available for UDE points

Upper Deck recently announced a new item available in-game for players to claim using UDE points accrued from collecting the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game. The item, Landro's Pet Box, is a grab bag of sorts that can randomly give the character one of the following loot items: Papa Hummel's Old-Fashioned Pet Biscuit, Path of Cenarius, Sandbox Tiger, Dragon Kite, Ethereal Soul-Trader, or Bananas, the Monkey. Items previously available through UDE points were limited to a selection of epic tabards, permanent fireworks, and a Carved Ogre Idol that turns characters into ogres for 10 minutes.

According to the product description, Landro's Pet Box will more commonly give out Pet Biscuits, Paths of Cenarius, or the Sandbox Tiger, but will occasionally grant the rarer vanity pets. Players will not receive duplicates of vanity pets already obtained through the Pet Box. The item can be purchased through the UDE points store for 2,000 UDE points (the same cost as tabards) and is only available on US and EU realms. Landro's Pet Box marks the first time items previously available only through loot cards would be made available through UDE points, allowing players who miss out on elusive loot cards another shot at obtaining the items.

World of WarCrafts: Holiday ornaments, cookies and more

World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including fan art, cooking, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself; contact our tips line (attention: World of WarCrafts) with your not-for-profit, WoW-inspired creations.

It may be relatively quiet around here this week, but World of WarCrafts is still managing to keep the holiday spirit rolling. Allow us to pass along several submissions from crafty readers with a Christmas-y bent ... First up, the Christmas tree ornaments (above) sent in by Faylinne from US Duskwood. Faylinne created these as a gift for Cyer of US Blade's Edge, the friend she credits as inspiring her to play World of Warcraft. Sounds like great results from both sides of that particular equation.

Join us after the break for a Horde cookie cutter and gingerbread cookies, plus a small gallery of sweets from a baker new to WoW-themed desserts.

Next up, a mini-gallery of Horde holiday gingerbread cookies from Herzreh from Ysera. Herzreh fashioned an old cookie cutter into the Horde symbol to add a WoW twist to the usual tree cookies on this year's holiday cookie tray. Nicely done!

Finally, in non-holiday (but still sweet) WarCrafts news, we have a small gallery of treats from Talootah. We especially like the Fish Feast made from apricots, candied cherries and orange slices.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blood Pact: Warlock tips for Icecrown Citadel, part 1

Blood Pact is your weekly warlock digest brought to you by Dominic Hobbs. "You have found your way here, because you are among the few gifted with true vision in a world cursed with blindness! You can see through the fog that hangs over this world like a shroud and grasp where true power lies!" ~ Lady Deathwhisper

This week we delve into Icecrown Citadel and see what these new bosses are all about. We face a bag of bones that won't sit still, a somewhat effeminate version of Kel'Thuzad, a lift boss that is actually supposed to kill you and an orc-gone-bad. All in a day's work for your warlock on the go.

Lord Marrowgar

Time to dance with the bone lord. There are a couple things to avoid here. First is the boss himself when he spins around and drunkenly staggers all round the room. He moves pretty quickly so there's actually little chance of avoiding him completely but it's not a bad idea to try and minimize the damage you take from him. This ability is called Bone Storm and is well announced, spreading out from others will reduce the chances of you getting hit while he molests someone else. The second thing to get out the way of is Coldflame. He'll be sending out four lines of blue fire frequently throughout the fight, radiating away from him. This happens even when he's spinning about the place. Simple and fundamental rule of raiding -- don't stand in the stuff on the floor.

You can completely avoid Coldflame between Bone Storms by standing close behind him, since they spawn just a little way out. This position is normally held by the melee and possibly the healers so you might not be welcome (more people means more risk when he starts to spin). If you are allowed to stand in there then a Circle might be a good idea to get back out fast.

After each Bone Storm his threat list is wiped, so you want to pay attention to your DoTs, especially Curse of Doom. Make sure you allow your tanks a chance to pick him back up and reposition him before nuking away.

The last thing you need to think about is the Bone Spike Graveyards. These get thrown on raid members semi-randomly and need to be targeted and killed very quickly. Melee should really be dealing with any that appear amid their ranks but ranged DPS need to deal with the others. I found that tab-targeting was fine but you might want to put together a macro that gets you onto the target more quickly; something like:
/tar Bone
/cast Immolate
These should be going down in pretty short order so use a burst damage rotation. For destro locks it's the same as your normal one so carry on. Affliction and demo locks should just spam Shadow Bolts (swap to Soul Fire if you get the chance).

Lady Deathwhisper

I find this the most interesting fight open in Icecrown Citadel so far but there's still little that is specific for a lock. I'm not about to fill this article with all the mechanics of the boss and the adds, you'll have to go look them up elsewhere (Wowhead or Wowwiki for example). The basics I will cover however. Phase one sees the boss put up a mana bubble that means damage done to her diminishes her mana; when it's all gone we enter phase two. Don't try to use Drain Mana, you will do far more if you just do normal damage.

During phase one a load of adds will spawn, don't get anywhere near them, they really hurt. You can't do any damage to the casters, so if you're not assigned to nuking the boss stick to killing the melee adds. If one comes for you then kite it away and let everyone else deal with it. It's worth spreading out somewhat as sometimes the casters spells splash from their targets. If you have a melee pet I suggest putting it on the boss the whole time.

During phase two you can just nuke the boss, this is a pretty easy tank-and-spank phase, the only thing you really need to be aware of is not standing in the green stuff, but that's true of phase one as well. Make sure all adds from phase one have been cleared up before turning onto her.

On the 25 man version she also casts Dominate Mind every so often. I found that Fear was a good defense against this as it's duration was about the same. Range is a bit of an issue but by standing in the middle of the raid you can fear almost anyone that gets dominated. I used Grid to see who had the debuff and a mouse-over macro to fear them quickly. They are buffed while dominated so can quickly pose a threat.
#showtooltip Fear
/cast [target=mouseover,harm,exists] [harm,exists] Fear
/focus [target=mouseover,harm,exists] [harm,exists]
That macro lets you just hover your mouse over the dominated character's unit frame and press the keybind for the macro. I added the focus line so I could more easily track if the Fear dropped off.

Gunship Battle

This is a pretty easy encounter if people stick to their jobs, but it can get hectic if not. Before the fight have a word with the Zafod Boombox ("He's just this goblin, you know?") and get the Goblin Rocket Pack. Add this to your hotbar and equip it (it goes in the shirt slot). This can be used to jump between ships, it's worth having a practice before the fight starts. Watch out for any practical-joker priests putting levitate on you, it's all too easy to overshoot the edge of the ship... you might want to suggest Slow Fall to the mage, see what happens.

Since you have the awesome Rain of Fire spell you will probably be told to stay on your own ship and just AoE down the mobs that board it. If so just do this and dodge rockets. Runes will appear on the floor where rockets are about to land so stay sharp.

If you are put onto a cannon (not a great idea if you are demo) then use the ability bound to '1' to shoot the closest mobs on the other boat and build up heat. This heat is indicated on your pet (the cannon) mana bar. Don't let the heat reach 100 but when it's nice and high you can use the other ability (number '2') to fire a high-damage ability and dump all the heat. That '1' button can be mashed really fast, so go for your life. Also, build up a good bit of heat before you start the fight, to speed things up a little.

The only other job you might get is to board the enemy ship. If so then you want to kill the mobs on the far side of the ship most of the time. Every so often a mage will step into the middle of the ship and freeze your cannons. Oh yes, you guessed it, you kill the mage as a priority to everything else. Yay! Don't worry about the other boat's captain; they just need to be tanked out of the way to keep him busy. That tank may need to have a break from getting hit for a while, as the captain gains a stacking buff. This is done by everyone jumping back to their own ship. If he doesn't hit anyone for about twenty seconds the stacks drop off and you can carry on. Be sure not to get back over to their boat until it's safe to do so (not even to get that pesky mage) as one hit from the captain will reset the counter on his buff (and kill you).

I never actually spent any time on the other ship so can't tell you if Circle works for a quick return, but I expect it does and it certainly sounds like a good idea to me. That said, the rocket packs are fun.

Deathbringer Saurfang

Another great fight and one that seems to cause some problems though it doesn't need to, everything is quite manageable. As ranged DPS you need to stand as far from the boss as you can and nuke (easy so far), then when the adds spawn, you turn on them and nuke them till they all die (still pretty easy). The tricky part is making sure that the adds never touch you. This is done by killing them before they reach anyone -- either by killing them really quickly or by slowing them down. Frost traps, and earthbind totems are commenly employed for this second option, but your Conflag stun and (should you have it) Shadowfury can also help. Listen to the raid leader on how this will be managed but do everything you can not to get hit at all.

Here's why: Every time one of Saurfang's abilities, or one of those of his adds, does any damage he gains energy. When he has enough energy he applies a really nasty DoT to a random raid member. This will in turn also give him energy, so he starts to gain energy faster and apply more DoTs. The people with DoTs are about as hard to heal as the tanks so your healers start sweating and people might die. This is always bad but when the boss gains 5% health back each time someone dies (Saurfang does by the way) it's horrible.

Liberal use of Power Word: Shield around the raid helps a ton, but generally avoiding the beasties is the key. That and letting someone die... Not the normal way of doing things but actually letting the first person to get Mark of the Fallen Champion die is usually worth it (even if they are a healer). Don't be upset if that's you, but do send out a silent prayer for it to be the mage. Also, don't put a Soulstone on the marked person, while that sounds like a great idea the mark persists through death so they will just come back as a liability, die again and give the boss another hit of %5 health.

So it comes down to slowing the adds, kiting them if needs be (smart use of Circle again) and nuking the boss in between. Stick to direct damage on the adds as they are almost immune to AoE. Keep yourself safe and look forward to some nice tier tokens.

Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne Cheats

Every week (usually), Spiritual Guidance will offer practical insight for priests of the holy profession. Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a UI and addons blog for WoW.
Too bad he was too busy running heroics to come to the aid of the King!

With the new dungeon finder tool released, I felt it was a good idea to write up how a priest should handle themselves in instances with a group of players they don't know. Once I started using the system, I became exposed to a large variety of different personalities, skill levels and gear levels. Quite the experience grouping with players packing gear ranging from Trial of the Grand Crusader to the random hunter wielding the grey bow of death.

My approach to pugging has not been that different since the pre-dungeon tool era when players would randomly form up in groups for whatever the heroic daily was. After a while, I stopped doing heroics because I didn't need the emblems anymore. In the end, I had to re-learn and remember some of the core philosophies I held onto when I dived back into the world of running heroic dungeons again.

You set the pace

Traditionally, the pace of the dungeon is set by the healer. As long as the healer has enough mana in the tank, trash can be chain pulled. In fact, I've noticed that speed and efficiency continue to be the norm. I'm not talking about pull speeds to the point where it could be considered reckless. The tanks I've grouped with are pulling the next set of trash the moment the current is nearly finished.

I've had tanks take one look at me and go "Whoa! Legendary! I'm in good hands" before they begin grabbing everything within visual range expecting me to keep them and the group alive. I barely even have time to breathe because the action is just so frantic.

Not every priest can handle pulls of that magnitude. Lay down some guidelines if you like. Don't ever be afraid to speak up when you're down to low mana levels. I like to tell the tanks at the beginning that they're cleared to continue pulling as long as my mana bar is about a quarter full or if I don't say anything about drinking.

A strong healer is able to support an undergeared group. Slightly weak tank? No problem! Pile them with extra overhealing if necessary. Slightly weak DPS players? That's okay since your mana pool or mana regeneration is high enough to endure the length of the boss fight, however long it takes.

Bring your own consumables

Specifically, don't forget to bring water. I keep 2 stacks of Honeymint Tea. Runic Mana Potions can come in handy in case you need them in a pinch. If you plan on being in there for the long haul, consider investing in a Flask of the Frost Wyrm or a Flask of Pure Mojo.


I tend to forget about using Power Infusion. Have any casters in your party? Hit them with the haste buff every chance you get. They'll love you for it. Even defensive cooldowns like Guardian Spirit of Pain Suppression can come in handy with larger trash groups that might jeopardize the tank. It also demonstrates that, y'know, you're awesome.


You are buffing every player, right? It should go without saying but I'm going to say it anyway because I've been in groups were certain players forget to hand out buffs.

Did your group wipe inside? No problem. Automatic rebuff. Did a player die to slimes or something? Automatic rebuff. There's no need to spite someone. For me personally, I want to get in the dungeon and finish up quickly so I can move on to other items (like getting Loremaster or something).


Speaking of wipes, definitely release and run back. Politely remind everyone to do it as well if you happen to notice some players not releasing. At the same time though, if there's a legitimate AFK, I don't mind casting a resurrect on someone inside when I reach their corpse. I already spend the time flying or running back. I don't want to spend even more time waiting for them to do the same, so II end up telling them to stay down. Emblems are the only reason I'm there and I want to get it over with. If that means spending 10 precious second to res someone, so be it.


Roll on the gear that you're going to use. That doesn't mean rolling need on Frozen Orbs unless it is agreed upon in advance. Get healing trinkets if you plan on doing that. Pass (or greed) on the DPS trinkets if you're not planning on dishing out the face melt.

Handling the haters and the bad players

Inevitably, you're going to run into the bad players. Maybe he's the guy that likes to hit the target the tank isn't on forcing you to unload heals on him. Maybe she's the tank that has difficulty maintaining threat. Maybe he's the guy that likes to chat and dish out some attitude. Maybe she likes to stand in fires. Or that player just happens to be AFK.

There's nothing you can really change about it other than dropping out of the queue and eating the dungeon timer debuff.

Me personally, I'll bite the bullet and just do my job. I don't pay attention to party chat anyway. If someone's being especially nasty, I'll whip out the vote to kick option. It's been used twice to great effect (both against AFK players actually).

I try to assume the best in everyone. Jaded thinking? Probably. Everyone was new once. And being a veteran of one class or role doesn't make them an automatic expert at the other (I'm a terrible ret paladin, for one). Besides, it gives me a bit of an extra challenge for healing and allows me to hone my skills further.

So don't let the bozos get you down!

10 million players of World of Warcraft

The game's flagship Entairtenment Blizzard (Vivendi) has just reached 10 million players worldwide. This figure is staggering so it is huge. This makes the first PC game (source Nielsen).

Following the publication of the number of subscribers to XBox Live (8 million), had already spoken of the interest to learn about brands in the world of virtual gaming. But I will not talk much. All digital marketers are very interested in mobile virtual communities but little gaming. It's a shame no?

world of warcraft

Friday, December 18, 2009

Breakfast Topic: Fickle loot table, I stab at thee

That's right, we're a week into patch 3.3 (well, almost) and we're still running random PuG's on our alts. Well, I am, anyway, and if the emails we at WoW.com are seeing are accurate so are a lot of you. And as is often the case when dungeons are being run, we're seeing loot issues.

Oddly enough, I for once don't really have much to complain about loot wise. My tauren got a swanky trinket, an upgrade to his main hand weapon, and plenty of emblems for his DPS set as well as some nice tanking gear. Since I don't get as much time to play Horde side as I used to, the new Dungeon Finder has been a positive boon for me as a DPS warrior while at the same time giving me something to do to use up some time on Alliance side as well before raids. But I've seen and heard plenty of the opposite result: people queuing up over and over and over again hoping for a drop and seeing the Orca-Hunter's Harpoon get sharded for the sixteenth run in a row. (I admit to taking one for my arms set and then sharding it after the axe dropped, but in my defense no one wanted it).

So we move the question to you: have you snagged that elusive drop yet? Has the Battered Hilt dropped for you? (Blasted thing!) Have you gotten that shield, trinket, armor piece or weapon that haunts your dreams or are said dreams still haunted by nights of fitful, tortured yearning? (Sorry, watching old Taxi reruns.) How have those fickle loot gods been treating you?

World of Warcraft comic moves to graphic novels

According to a post on IGN Comics, Blizzard's Warcraft and Starcraft series of comic books, published by Wildstorm (which in turn is owned by DC comics, owned by Time Warner) are from now on to be published as stand alone graphic novels. The current World of Warcraft comic will end, according to the article, with a special issue arriving in stores while Starcraft will end on issue 7.

I have mixed feelings about this. The World of Warcraft comic has gotten, shall we say, mixed reviews. As a long time comics geek, I had high hopes for it, since it was written by Walt Simonson (one of my personal heroes), justly famous in comics circles for his runs on Thor, Manhunter and Orion. The comic didn't always work for me (fanboy though I am, even I couldn't digest a 'diet of steel' so to speak) but I'm still sad to see the monthly title end before splitting into the Horde and Alliance versions we were expecting. Hopefully we'll still get to see those stories as stand alone graphic novels yet.

Totem Talk: Patch 3.3 and shamans, part 2 -- How not to PUG

Totem Talk is the column for shamans. With the new Random Dungeons and Dungeon Finder, healing has never been more in demand, and shamans find themselves faced with the dilemma: do I wait 10 minutes and go as DPS, or get instantly invited by being willing to heal? Matthew Rossi is impatient and terrifyingly willing to heal random strangers.

Ah, the Pick Up Group. Long a staple of our gameplay in WoW, patch 3.3 revolutionized the way we do it with the new dungeon finder, giving us incentives to put up with fury warriors who rush the tank, ret paladins who forget to turn Righteous Fury off, and runs consisting of two DK's, a paladin, a warrior and a shaman where people ask the shaman if he's tanking. (Hint, he wasn't.) Other things the shaman will not be doing in a PUG include making a summoning portal, a mage table (it's got mage in the name what is wrong with you), casting combat res on the tank when he dies, summoning Army of the Dead (seriously, I can understand being frustrated that someone cast that and it dragged the trash around, but shamans do not generally summon forth armies of walking corpses), washing your laundry (that's just gross), making a pinhole camera, performing a complicated medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber's greatest showtunes (unless you catch me in a really good mood), or casting Divine Intervention.

Sure, I realize these are all fine things, and it's a shame that the shaman or shamans in your group won't be able to do them. That being said, shamans do bring all sorts of fun things to PUG's. Things like hybrid magical/physical DPS, caster DPS, or healing, a plethora of totem buffs, a cornucopia of ancillary benefits like Unleashed Rage, Totem of Wrath, and of course Sentry Totem. I know that's really why you bring us, it's okay.
I promise we'll drop Sentry Totem when you ask us for it. Oh, and we could cast Bloodlust or Heroism, but you guys probably don't even care about that stuff. I mean, not when all of your thoughts are probably consumed wondering just when the best time to drop Sentry Totem is.

Okay, now that we've had the funny, we'll get serious. How can you bring your best effort as a shaman in a PUG?

For starters, please be honest about what you can and can't do in a group. If you're a resto shaman but you have a couple of elemental pieces you got because no one else wanted them and want to go DPS, cool, but if you end up in a heroic Halls of Reflection and you're putting out less than 1k DPS, don't be terribly surprised when people get upset. (For all I know, you put out 4k DPS while AFK using the bathroom because you're secretly William Wallace, but I'm just saying.) Likewise, if you sign up as a healer to get into a PUG faster, please be geared and specced to heal. I'm not saying full T10 or go home, I'm just saying you probably can't heal a heroic just by slapping Earthliving on your Golden Saronite Dragon. Except for you, Mr. Wallace.

Secondly, please remember your totems. I'm not just saying remember to drop your totems, although that certainly would be nice. I'm also saying, if you're in a group with two shamans, or a paladin or death knight or someone else who replicates a buff you supply, make sure to coordinate. There's no point to dropping SoE totem if the DK's got Horn of Winter covered already, and the group could then benefit from Stoneskin or Tremor. As an example, if you happen to be running Drak'Tharon Keep on heroic in a group with an enhancement, elemental and restoration shaman, and you are fighting King Dred, it really makes no sense at all to wipe because absolutely no one dropped a Tremor Totem. Not that I know anyone that this has happened to. Because I don't, and that Sentry Totem didn't see anything of the sort.

Thirdly, don't just randomly cast Bloodlust/Heroism because you're bored. Even if you're really, really bored. You never know when you'll do that and then find yourself in a tense pull gone wrong and that Bloodlust might have saved the day. Or just gotten you killed faster.

Fourthly, be aware of the changes to certain shaman abilities in patch 3.3 that we discussed last week. Our elemental totems are far more accessible now, so don't shy away from dropping big red on a boss. Also, don't forget to cast Fire Nova when a pulse would do a solid chunk of AoE damage. Heck, you can combine the two and have your fire elemental running around while his/her/its (hey, I'm sorry, but I did not take the class in 'how to determine elemental's genders') totem also pulses damage. I have a friend who giggles hysterically in AoE situations now, dropping Magma and hitting Fire Nova for up to 10k DPS for a few glorious seconds on the trash pulls in Pit of Saron. And while it's true that in a good PUG you shouldn't need to Reincarnate more often, you still can.

Much of this comes down to common sense, of course. Shamans are fortunate in that they can be either healing or DPS at a time that healing is at a premium, of course. But it's good to keep in mind abilities like Hex, Earthbind, Frost Shock, Wind Shear, Cleansing Totem and others are mostly not spec specific. Any shaman can drop a Cleansing Totem or a Tremor Totem, even a DPS shaman, to help out with poison volleys and fears and so on.

Shamans have a ridiculously wide toolkit, and while running a PUG it benefits the run if even the most focused DPS minded shaman is willing to sacrifice a little of that DPS to do things that buff and cleanse the group. You'd be amazed the runs I've done where a DPS shaman outright refused to drop a Cleansing Totem to help out with Hadronox or Skadi, for example. Putting a shaman's spell interrupt off onto its own cooldown with Wind Shear wasn't done so we could forget we had one. Make a focus macro if you have to, but don't just ignore the Purge button because it means you'd have to switch targets (as a healing shaman, I hate having to purge Nether Power, but sometimes I'm the only one in the 10 man who can do it). Basically, as a shaman, you often have a solution to a strange problem. Please don't forget or refuse to use them.

Two Bosses Enter: Anub'Arak vs. Tribunal of Ages

Two Bosses Enter ... but only One Boss Leaves, in WoW.com's series of fantasy death matches. Welcome to what's nearly the end of the current round of the five-man Wrath of the Lich King season. Grab a seat, and let's get ready to rumble!

I'm hiding my eyes behind my hands for this one: Anub'Arak (Azjol-Nerub) versus Tribunal of Ages (Halls of Stone). Storyweavers, get ready to spin your webs ... This is the type of match where a good blow-by-blow account in the comments can go a long way toward swaying the vote.

But first, the pound ground rules:
  • This match takes place inside the Tribunal of Ages in the Halls of Stone ... or perhaps the Tribunal has been transplanted to the Two Bosses Thunderdome ... or perhaps they're someplace else ... Any way you slice it, the Tribunal's basic encounter mechanic functions as usual. Work with it, people! It's a fantasy tournie.
  • No matter where you choose to set the match and who you may choose to stand in for Brann Bronzebeard, his survival ultimately determines the success or failure of the mission. Anub'Arak is therefore challenged with holding the Tribunal at bay long enough for Bronzebeard to complete his task. Technically, a "win" for Anub'Arak means that neither opponent dies.
  • All of the competitors' abilities, including crowd control and other effects to which bosses are usually immune, work on their opponents.
  • Assume that the opponents share similar levels, health pools and comparative overall damage output.
  • Don't get caught up in gameplay mechanics and what actual players might do in each encounter.
  • Don't neglect style, story and scale.
Welcome to the Two Bosses Thunderdome. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls ... Dyin' time's here.

In Corner One: Anub'Arak (Azjol-Nerub)
I was king of this empire once, long ago. In life I stood as champion. In death I returned as conqueror. Now I protect the kingdom once more. Ironic, yes?

Anub'Arak, the former king of Azjol-Nerub, was among the Nerubians slaughtered in the War of the Spider and later raised as Undead by Ner'zhul the Lich King to do his bidding. Read the extensive lore page on Anub'Arak to learn more about his background.

Anub'Arak's battle strategy includes truly relentless tactics. Besides wreaking havoc with vicious attacks and environmental damage, he swarms opponents with protective Locusts and nettling Carrion Beetles. He periodically burrows underground, besieging opponents with packs of summoned minions.
Learn more about Anub'Arak's strategies, and review comments from players who've battled him.

In Corner Two: The Tribunal of Ages, Halls of Stone
Abedneum: Warning! Life form pattern not recognized. Archival processing terminated. Continued interference will result in targeted response.
Kaddrak: Security breach in progress. Analysis of historical archives transferred to lower priority queue. Countermeasures engaged.
Marnak: Threat index threshold exceeded. Celestial archive aborted. Security level heightened.
Abedneum: Critical threat index. Void analysis diverted. Initiating sanitization protocol.

During the Tribunal of Ages encounter, adventurers must protect Dwarven explorer Brann Bronzebeard long enough that he can access a database to retrieve information required to complete the Halls of Stone quest. Hindering Brann and his helpers are the three stone faces of the Tribunal, Kaddrak, Abedneum and Marnak, plus wave after wave of foes including Dark Rune Protectors, Dark Rune Stormcallers and an Iron Golem Custodian.

Dark Rune Protector
Dark Rune Stormcaller
Iron Golem Custodian
Read a description of the Tribunal of Ages event and review comments from players who've completed the related achievement. Review the Tribunal's first-bracket shut-out of Anomalus.

The smackdown
Two Boss matchups are about substance and style, not game play and mechanics. Don't base your strategies on player tactics, which opponent has been easiest or most difficult for you personally, or the difficulty of each opponent relative to instance progression. Vote for the spirit of the battle as set forth above. Set aside differences in opponents' health pools, game level and actual damage output. Absolutely no game-mechanic nitpicking!

Who wins, and why? We'll see you down below in the comments. Can you come up with a convincing scenario that will sway other readers to your point of view?

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