Saturday, February 13, 2010

Totem Talk: Enhancement 201, spell selection

Rich Maloy is currently working on a distributed processing application called SimIt!@HOME which will calculate all possible enhancement shaman spell rotations for any possible situation given any gear combination. The application will also have an option to calculate all potential scenarios in which "sim it" is a half-a** answer but you should say it anyway.

If I told you the enhancement shaman basic spell rotation was: SR, FE, SW, MW5_LB, MT(0), LS(1), ES_SS, SS, FS, ES, LL, FN would you run away screaming?

What if I told you that was just for single target boss encounters and there's a different priority for boss fights that require changing targets, another priority for boss fights with heavy adds, and yet another priority for trash mobs. Scared yet?

It's OK. Please come back. This is what we Enhancers have bouncing around in our head. I'll make everything alright by breaking it down into a few easy-to-remember chunks. Because we all like chunks.
My 101 article could have been more appropriately named "How to play enhancement in raids or dungeons if you are recently level 80 or would like to make it your off spec," but that was a bit long so I cut it down to Enhancement 101. In said article, commenter Angus noted "...enhance shaman need a simulator, a supercomputer, and a math genius to figure out what they should be gearing for at any particular moment.." I had to laugh because it's true.

Thankfully we enhancers have math geniuses calculating the theorycrafting and supercomputer geniuses writing the code to the simulator to help us tweak our output at any level for any given situation. However, this article is not for theorycrafting and not about running simulations.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-EnhSim. Just this week I went through a detailed iterative sim on Stoney's gear to recalculate optimal gemming and then maximize my output with a new rotation. EnhSim is a seriously awesome tool -- and we'll get to it in a later post -- but using it is a process. In fact at progression/end-game levels of play it's practically required for optimization. But for the Totem Talk enhancement columnist to say "sim it" is just a huge cop-out, and doesn't exactly make for good reading.

Today's article isn't about the utmost optimal and ideal rotation, nor is it about how to get that for yourself. It's about simplifying a complex rotation. This is to help the new-to-80 (or thereabouts) enhancement shaman wrap their head around a basic core spell rotation.

My goal in this article is to (1) break down the complex rotation into easy-to-remember chunks, then (2) put it together into a usable rotation that will work in most boss scenarios, and (3) explain why we do the things we do.

A shocking macro

There is one macro above all others that will simplify your life as an enhancement shaman. Even for the most anti-macro enhancer out there this little one will save headaches and action bar space. It is:
#showtooltip
/castsequence reset=18/combat Flame Shock, Earth Shock, Earth Shock
There are a few variations on this macro but for the purpose of this article I'm sticking with the one above. Some players prefer to separate the shocks on to different buttons, others (including me) prefer a more complex but flexible macro, but of all the shocking macros. But this macro is the best place to start. Learn it and hug it and love it and squeeze it with all your heart and call it George. George the Shock Macro.

The reason this macro is so important is because Flame Shock lasts for 18 seconds. If FS is reapplied before the end then it's wasted DPS. This is like a pro-tip and a beginner tip rolled into one. Add George the Shock Macro to your macro book because we'll be using it right away.

Break it down

The best way to think about the enhancement spell selection is to break it down into two parts: rotation and situation. Once it's broken down into these two section you'll see the rotation actually isn't all that complex. But you should still [Feign Complexity](Rank 10) when talking to the filthy rogues in your guild. Don't let them think you've got it easy. I fully expect you to go on and on about how you can successfully track at 15 spell rotation and still beat him in DPS.

Rotation

There are 5 spells in the rotation section. Commit these to memory. They are not cycled through in a straight sequence; instead, they're used in a priority order. Go down the list until you find one that's available and hit it. Then start again at the top.

This is the simplified rotation:
  1. Lightning Bolt with 5 stacks of Maelstrom Weapon (MW5_LB)
  2. Stormstrike (SS)
  3. George the shock macro (FS, ES, ES)
  4. Lava Lash (LL)
  5. Fire Nova (FN)
After every cast start back at the top of the list and go down until you hit something off cooldown. It takes some getting used to so it's worth it to hit up a target dummy and work through the sequence a few times. After some practice you'll find a rhythm and spend less time staring at the action bar because you have a feel for what's coming up next.

Situation

Everything else in the enhancement arsenal is situational. The general rule of thumb is use them as soon as they become available or to be need refreshed.

First up are the situations where spells need to be refreshed. When either of these spells run out they become highest priority on the next GCD. (PRO TIP: whenever I have a free GCD I refresh whichever one is closest to running out, that way I don't have to interrupt my rotation as often.)
  • Magma Totem (MT) – Keep this down at all times because when your rotation comes around to Fire Nova, if you don't have MT down you'll miss out on the FN blast. Plus the passive damage is FTW.
  • Lightning Shield (LS) – Gotta love the Static Shock! Nine charges goes by pretty fast, especially if you have 2pc T9. The passive damage isn't huge, but it's important enough to keep this up at all times.
Next we move on to the special situation spells.
  • Shamanistic Rage (SR) – Under normal circumstances this should be used at or below 30-40% mana. 45 seconds goes by fast (60 second CD less 15 second duration) so you'll notice it being up often. If you have 2pc T10 then SR should be the very first thing cast after auto attack and then hit as the highest priority every time it comes available. (PRO TIP: with 2pc T10 create a macro to sync trinkets with SR)
  • Feral Spirit (SW) – Wolves actively scale with your stats, meaning if you get trinket procs while they are active, their stats will increase with yours. However they should be out before Heroism/Bloodlust is cast to get the full benefit from the buff.
  • Fire Elemental (FE) – On a 10 minute CD this spell should be available for most boss attempts even after wipes. As a general rule it's not worth glyphing for FE. One important thing to note is that your FE does not scale once the totem is planted; this is the opposite of SW. If you are dropping FE in a fight then plan on getting some procs up first and then put the totem down.

Bonus point

If you want bonus points there's a special situation in the rotation called ES_SS. This means if Earth Shock and Stormstrike are both off cooldown at the same time AND if the Stormstrike debuff is still up on the boss then cast Earth Shock first. It's not essential to the basics, but it is a step in the right direction to maximizing output.

All together now

Putting it all together yields the crazy thing we saw at the beginning: SR, FE, SW, MW5_LB, MT, LS, ES_SS, SS, FS, ES, LL, FN. The spells in bold are the "rotation" spells, the others are all situation spells. I hope this helped you wrap your head around enhancement shaman spell selection. Until next time ...

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Around Azeroth: If you go down in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise

Because today's the day the teddy bears had their picnic. Errai of on Argent Dawn sent in this picture along with an explanation: "Shame his clever disguise didn't help this poor hapless soul who found himself the main course at an impromptu Valentine's teddy bear picnic in the streets of Dalaran on Argent Dawn. Errai was one of many cuddly bears drawn to the festivities that evening as eating, drinking, bad bear jokes, and general merriment ensued. The fun concluded with a rockin' druid dance party and street parade of trees, moonkins, and bears – oh my!"

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: Elephants

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. Mike Sacco will be your host today.Re: the title -- unlike them, I do forget. To write The Queue.Wil asked..."Is Blizzard considering making emblems bind-to-account? For someone who's got multiple alts (and intends to level more), this would be a godsend. What would be the pros and cons of such a change?"Blizzard has said that they intend for emblems to be an endgame, character-specific reward. Heirlooms, purchasable with said emblems, are a secondary reward to help your alts get to the point of being able to get their own badges.Will this change for Cataclysm, though? Do we ever really know the answer to that?Guitarwolf asked..."Do you think that with the revamping of quest rewards and items around Cataclysm will bring gear with gem slots to pre-level 60 items? I know that JC requires Burning Crusade to train, but Blizz adding minimum level requirements to equippable gems would make use of all the cruddy BC gems, as well as give people a chance to learn how to gem earlier in the game."Blizzard has said that they made a mistake making leveling gear gemmable at all in BC, and you'll notice that they fixed it for Wrath. You end up with weird item level problems and gear that shouldn't be as good as it is (remember the blue armor that bears wore in BC because it had three red sockets in it). I don't anticipate that this particular design philosophy will change, but nothing's set in stone.Zalvi24 asked..."Question: do you think with the simplification of stats and reforging system that is gonna come with cataclysm that we're gonna see the return of the beloved/hated shockadins with a 31/0/45?"Yes and no. I think we'll be seeing builds that are a lot more "fun", like shockadins, but it's important to remember that talent trees are changing a lot in Cataclysm and the general structure of your trees might or might not be quite different depending on what you play. Ghostcrawler has said that the intention of the talent tree changes is to make talents more fun. I hope he's right.Grinton asked..."It seems all the good PvP gear needs either Arena participation or VoA drops. The other alternative is the daily BG quest for arena points but those are so measly. So for someone who loves PvP in BG but despises arenas, are there any other ways to get arena points? I know lower Ilevel stuff only need honour but the weapons need points. Do I have any alternatives other than arena or raiding?"In Wrath? Unfortunately, not at the moment. In Cataclysm, though, the new rated Battlegrounds will give arena points for victories. Yes, that's right! You'll be able to get the best PVP gear by doing the type of PVP that you like. What a crazy world.

Ready Check: The long bleak winter of spontaneous raiding

Ready Check is a column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Vault of Archavon or Icecrown Citadel, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses. You might have heard that the east coast recently got slammed by an epic blizzard. Sure, sure, you folks out in Minnesota or Wisconsin are used to getting 50 inches of snow in the middle of summer. Heck, August only means your snowfall dwindles to a mere two or three inches. But out here on the right coast, from about Baltimore down to Florida, "snow" is something that we mostly see inside globes and Northrend.The last few weeks, however, have been so thick with the white stuff that many, many, many players are trapped in their homes. And they turn to a very natural, time-killing past time: World of Warcraft. The real issue with this snowy dynamic is that it led to a lot of people looking to spontaneously raid. In the middle of a Wednesday isn't when folks usually schedule their Icecrown Citadel raid. But this small legion of snow-stranded folks often already had pre-planned raids scheduled for the evenings. They were forced to look back at available content and try and figure out "What can we do as a group, without impeding already-set plans for our normal raid?"While I bring this subject up because I was one of the many trapped indoors by the Snowpocalypse, you will probably find dozens of reasons you need to come up with a spontaneous raid or two. Heck, maybe you just find yourself with a Friday night free. Take a look behind the jump and let's talk about what to do if you find yourself snowed in but wanting to raid.While farming, questing, and chain-gunning Dungeon Finder Heroics are popular ways of killing time, remember that what we're focused on is how to use that time on behalf of an entire raid. So, without further adieu, what can you raid without interrupting ICC?Trial of the CrusaderLet's be brutally, brutally honest here. Do you really have every single item that your raid could use out of Trial of the Crusader? There's not even so much as a side-grade in there, maybe from the big-bug Anub'arak? While you're probably not going to score a lot of huge gear improvements by running Trial of the Crusader, it does have the most likely chance of dropping something you can kind-of-use. Drops are fickle things, and even with Emblems of Frost rounding out a lot of gear in Icecrown, getting a handy side-grade from a drop will still save you some trouble.Vault of ArchavonMost guilds that I know don't plan Vault raids. It's usually a PUG thing. Even Toravon isn't all that hard if your group is rocking enough DPS, so Vault of Archavon is usually a pretty fair raid to do with PUGs.But if you are looking for "something to do" because you're trapped inside, I would pick up Vault of Archavon as your first option. It doesn't take long, so it's not going to kill a whole lot of time, but the random rewards make it pretty worth it.I always meant to . . .My guild calls these "Old World Club." We have a half dozen or so players who only started their World of Warcraft experience in the last twelve months. They never got to experience the awesome moments in some of WoW's earliest raids. The idea is that you gather together a couple dozen of your level 80s, and you go back to the old world raids. Did you ever get the chance to kill C'thun? Maybe now's the time to do that. 25 level 80s are more than capable of clearing even AQ40. (Well, they'll be capable if you pay attention to dance steps -- you should still read the guides and strategies, so that you have an idea of what you're doing.)The down side of revisiting this old content is that it can be a little depressing. When you realize that death knights and hunters are pillaging these old world raids for gold and bragging rights, it's a little bit of downer. Some of us spent hours or days or weeks in those places. We struggled to eek out just enough damage to down those old, epic bosses.But, then again, if the raids weren't worth it for the fun at the time, maybe we shouldn't have been doing them in the first place.Bootstrapping alts and new folks"Bootstrap" raids are those raids whose entire purpose is to quickly and efficiently bring level 80 characters up from just-dinged to ready-to-raid. There's a number of different ways to achieve that bootstrapping. My favorite tends to be to tell a fresh level 80 to "get thee unto a Dungeon Finder."But if you find yourself trapped with a handful of other usual raid members, you have a unique opportunity to power someone up to your group's current tier of progression. Power-run those alts (or newbies), and see how quickly they jump up to your level.Even though it might technically be faster to cycle Dungeon Finder groups, the issue is that you're also trying to include a half-dozen to two-dozen other people in this effort. I'd like to think that gearing up a newb gives this effort a nice "community" feel.Sell some titles and mountsYou can still score The Undying title from Naxxramas. Unless you're bootstrapping someone, you probably don't have a lot of reason to be going back to Kel'Thuzad's stomping ground. But the problem you're facing isn't one of "is it worth it," but rather "how can I make it worth it?"There's plenty of people who have never seen Naxxramas. I know, it seems shocking, but it's true. For every player who's seen Naxxramas, I bet there's one who's never quite been able to get a group. Offer those folks to not only take them into the instance, but also all the way through it. And then sweeten the pot with the instance's applicable title. This experience will easily be worth a few thousand gold.The same theory applies to Ulduar's mounts, of course. However, I suspect that many of your guild members probably want the mount for themselves. I've actually not personally been on one of these kinds of runs before, though, so I'm not sure how it'd work out with someone who's a complete novice running hard modes. I'm actually considering trying one out on my home server of Shadow Council to see how those folks do it.SummaryThese are, of course, just a few different ideas. The problem, of course, is that an experienced, progressed raid will be able to quickly blow through the available content within a few days. If you find yourself snowed in for longer, then you probably will need even more help.Good hunting out there!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Scattered Shots: It's all hunter loot in ICC, part 1

ICC Hunter Loot
Welcome to Scattered Shots, written by Frostheim of Warcraft Hunters Union and the Hunting Party Podcast. Each week Frostheim uses logic and science mixed with a few mugs of Dwarven Stout to look deep into the Hunter class.

Okay, maybe it's not all hunter loot -- certainly there are some useless plate pieces and decorative maces in there -- but our ICC loot shopping list is delightful and vast, and even impacts the balance of hunter specs. This is the end game loot folks. The last major raid instance with the coolest and shiniest and bestest toys we're gonna get (and some bows).

In fact, there's just so darned much hunter loot delight that it won't all fit into one post! So join me after the cut as we start to plan our ICC loot lists with a look at our itemization, tier 10 armor, Emblem of Frost options, and craftable loot.

Itemization


When we talk about itemization, we're not just talking about having more of each stat, but also how our itemization budget is spent. ICC is the best itemized hunter look of any tier. This means that we're seeing more of the stats we like -- more red sockets, more crit, more armor penetration -- and less of the stats we don't like, such as blue sockets and haste.

The biggest impact we're going to see from this fantastic itemization is the greatly increased amount of ArP we'll be seeing on our gear. ArP is all over the place in ICC, in large amounts, and it's not something you're going to be able to avoid. MM gains far more benefit from ArP than SV, and the ease with which tons of ArP is now available will shift the balance of best dps spec strongly in the MM direction. MM will no longer have to give up nearly as much to pursue the badass ArP builds. In fact we're going to see a lot of MM hunters hardcapping their ArP, rather than pursuing a softcap with a trinket like Mjolnir Runestone or Needle-Encrusted Scorpion.

In the ICC endgame of best hunter dps benchmarks, I think we'll see the gap between SV and MM widen substantially.

A Note on "Best" Gear

I'm going to make an effort to identify some of the best and most desirable hunter loot in ICC. But we need to realize that what gear is the best depends not just on your spec, not just on your specific talents, but also on what other gear you have, and exactly how you play.

So rather than try to identify a Best in Slot, we're going to look at what gear is generally on the top of the lists.

Tier 10

ICC is also bringing us the unpleasantly named Ahn'kahar Blood Hunter set, complete with two set bonuses we actually like! The tier 10 set 2-piece bonus is absolutely the first thing you should be pursuing with your Emblems of Frost. Let's take a closer look at these bonuses:

2-piece bonus:
Your Auto Shots have a 5% chance to cause you and your pet to deal 15% additional damage for 10 sec.

This is a phenomenal set bonus that favors BM and MM. BM has a much faster rate of Auto Shot fire with Serpent's Swiftness and will get the proc more often. Sadly it's not enough to put BM up into the SV/MM raid dps range, but it's something. MM has a smaller advantage with the ability to maintain the 15% damage boost to their serpent stings indefinitely with the way Chimera Shot refreshes percentage damage boosts. But for all 3 specs this is a fantastic set bonus that scales beautifully with gear and buffs.

As a side note, you still don't want to stack haste to try to get this proc more often. The amount of useful stats you'd give up just aren't worth it. That said, if you aren't already using the Improved Aspect of the Hawk talent, this set bonus might just be enough to push you over the edge!

4-piece bonus:
When your Serpent Sting and Wyvern Sting abilities deal damage, you have a 5% chance to gain 20% attack power for 10 sec.

This set bonus isn't nearly as attractive; however, it's still a good set bonus. Using some paper napkin math, this bonus looks worse than the tier 9 2-piece bonus (Serpent Sting crits!), though certainly with much better stats on the items. Proccing off of your sting damage means that on single-target fights, this ability will be proccing very seldom. The proc gets much stronger in fights where you have multiple targets up for a sustained amount of time, and you can keep your Serpent Sting on two targets at once (which you're doing anyway when you have the chance, right?).

Overall it's generally a good move for hunters of all specs to pursue the 4-piece set bonus. I suspect we'll see most hunters getting the head, shoulders, chest, and hands for their set, and leaving the legs out of the set. The Ahn'kahar Blood Hunter legs and hands have no ArP, and there's some hefty ArP legs available elsewhere that is likely to make it the logical non-set piece.

Emblem of Frost Gear

We have some fantastic gear options purchasable with our Emblems of Frost. There's a generic Emblem of Frost vendor in Dalaran, but the set vendor is located just inside the entrance to the ICC raid instance, as well as one in the Dalaran Leather & Links shop near the south bank.
  • Ahn'Kahar Blood Hunter set
    • Spaulders, Handguards-- 60 emblems
    • Headpiece, Tunic, Legguards-- 95 emblems
  • Back: Recovered Scarlet Onslaught Cape -- 50 emblems
  • Chest: Longstrider's Vest -- 95 emblems
  • Hands: Logsplitters -- 60 emblems
  • Waist: Band of the Night Raven -- 60 emblems
  • Trinket: Herkuml War Token -- 60 emblems
My recommendation (certainly what I'm doing) is to pursue your 2-piece tier 10 set bonus first, right out of the gate. Exactly which two pieces you get first will depend on what gear you currently have. I'm keeping my tier 9.5 legs and hands as long as I can, for example, so I'm stuck purchasing one of the expensive ones for my second piece and it'll be another week before I have enough emblems.

Once you have your 2-piece Ahn'kahar Blood Hunter bonus, you probably want to get the Recovered Scarlet Onslaught Cape next. There's not a lot of options for the back slot from ICC drops (and none in 10-man from any loot list I've seen). Maybe the Lich King is hoarding our cloaks (and our guns!). However this emblem cloak is currently the best back slot item available to us, and we can just buy it whenever we want!

The chest and hand pieces are probably going to be used for your set, so these aren't terribly attractive (unless you really want the ArP on the Logsplitters). The trinket is filled with Haste, which makes it far less desirable for hunters as opposed to other physical dps classes. You can get a better waist via drops (in 25 man anyway) but if you still haven't gotten a better waist by the time you've collected your entire tier 10 set and back, this could be a nice little upgrade to hang onto until something better comes around.

Crafted Gear

ICC also brings us new crafted gear pieces that can be made with Primodial Saronite, the extremely costly by-product of the god of death. These include:
  • Shatter Rounds
  • Iceblade Arrows
  • Legs: Draconic Bonesplinter Legguards -- 8 Primordial Saronite
  • Feet: Rock-Steady Treads -- 5 Primordial Saronite
The epic ammo is epic. The AH prices have come down, and of course you want to use this stuff. 'Nuff said.

The Rock-Steady Treads are competitive for the best mail feet out there. You can get a bit more ArP from drops if that's what your after, and if you need hit rating you may prefer something else; however, in general you'll probably be content keeping these puppies throughout ICC. This is on my wish list as the Primordial Saronite prices continue to drop.

The Draconic Bonesplinter Legguards are also very good, though there is equivalent or better available through drops in early 25-man ICC as well as options with hit rating. In general if you are raiding 25-man ICC I think these are worth skipping; however, if you have deep pockets or only raid 10-man (or not at all) these are an excellent purchase.

Next Week

That pretty much covers the ICC hunter loot that we have space for today. The best thing about all of this epic joy we just talked about is that we don't have to rely on random drops for any of it. But, there is a lot more loot left to cover!

Next week we'll take a look at Quel'delar, the Ashen Verdict faction rings, and all the joyous purples that drop from the ICC raid bosses.

Around Azeroth: The ship, the ship, the ship is on fire

Between yesterday's submission and today's, it seems like it's pretty easy to have Trial of the Crusader bug out on you. Gnolie of on Executus got to the gunship battle before the massive area lag brought the server to the edge of disaster. All the NPCs on the ship disappeared, and the constant spam of Death and Decay and Consecrate caused the ship to look like it had become the victim of a surprise volcanic eruption.

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.

Shifting Perspectives: The druid of 2009


Every week, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week, Allison Robert has been at the cough syrup again, without the editors realizing in enough time to shut down her access to the blogging software. No good can come of this.

Lines composed more than 3,000 miles from Tintern Abbey, by someone who hated Wordsworth and thought he was a self-obsessed little prick, but managed to conceal this from her professor long enough to book it from the class with an A, and this is a run-on sentence just like the title of the original poem, which is what we call Irony.

One year has past; one year, with the length
Of one long winter! and again I lean
My head -- back, against the perch of chair and post
And snarf the Robitussin down. -- Once again
Do I behold the druid class in all its glory
That with the benefit of dual-specs allows
Me to be incompetent in more ways than simply one.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, in the glow lent by the laptop, and try to keep
My editors from killing me
. The column, it is late.

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again. Allie is sick, druids are thriving, and 2010 is upon us like the rear axel of a pickup truck on an icy road with a "Guns don't kill people, I do" bumper sticker. It's time to revisit the Year That Was, keeping in mind that the author of this article is so blitzed on cold medication that an entertaining afternoon was spent delightedly watching the screensaver.



Balance


Balance had a promising beginning as Wrath revved up, helped in no small part by a talented stun from Starfall via Celestial Focus that was utterly amazing in PvP. For once in our miserable little lives, we could actually keep something away from us. This had all the joy of playing a Frost mage without the bothersome rigmarole of actually leveling one and having to devote a portion of one's day to complaining about being a Frost mage. It was Very Fun, and as such, it was nerfed.

You learn to expect these things. Anything too enjoyable should be looked upon sorrowfully, because we know it will not last. Druids in World of Warcraft have an inherently better grasp of the fleeting nature of life and human happiness -- that transitory glimpse, the distant, flickering corner of one's brain possessed by the terrible comprehension that we are as leaves upon the wind. Sic transit gloria m-- f^&# me, is this all the cough syrup we have in the house?

Where was I? Like it matters. At any rate, Balance had a good start out of the gate, so much so that I was surprised at the end of 2008 to think it had the best prospects of any druid spec. Feral was getting yanked around like a kid in the middle of divorce proceedings, and Restos were rerolling paladins en masse after getting fed up with being two-shot by death knights, so perhaps we could all be forgiven for thinking that the world had gone a little crazy.

But then there was Eclipse. Nobody knew quite what to make of it, apart from the fact that it blew the old Burning Crusade rotation to bits -- or at least, it was supposed to. Cool animation? Check. Made the rotation more interesting? Check. A pain in the ass on movement-dependent fights, half of its proc not really worth using at the time, too much of Balance DPS ultimately dependent on something with a looming +haste cap issue? Check, check, check, and check.

No, Mr. Barkeeper, I was not signaling for mine. You leave that there.


Eclipse was undeniably a significant improvement to Balance DPS, but its status as a proc-within-a-proc made it difficult, if not impossible, to get the most out of it when you really needed, except by chance alone. Was it going to be up during Bloodlust/Heroism? Would it proc right before Thaddius switched your charges or you had to run to avoid a Flame Wall? There wasn't an answer to either of these questions, and frustrated Balance players everywhere watched a huge portion of their potential damage vanish down the gullet of something completely beyond their control. Wildly inconsistent performance (as Gray Matter noted at the time) is not something that raid leaders are terribly overfond of accommodating, and players had limited means of regaining lost damage in other ways.

So Eclipse -- the proc, the cooldown, and tier bonuses reliant on it -- has been tinkered with pretty much the length of the year, and Balance is still in an iffy spot. Any dispassionate observer would admit the issues affecting the spec are pretty much immune to a quick fix, more particularly with how +haste interacts with Wrath/Nature's Grace, and the looming +crit cap on Starfire in Tier 10 content. The easiest way to deal with both would be to nerf Balance talents to the point where gear doesn't add a set of increasingly problematic stats to the moonkin arsenal, but I think we can all agree that deliberately making things worse in order to let existing gear solve the problem is an uninspiring solution. Beyond that, the two primary nukes -- Wrath and Starfire -- don't really do different things, as Ghostcrawler himself observed. The former is faster but travels to the target; the latter is slower but hits immediately. They also have different colors. That's it. There is no ancillary benefit to the use of either beyond switching them up for different Eclipse procs now that that the individual cooldowns have been decoupled.

So what does 2010 hold in store for the laserchicken contingent? I wouldn't be surprised to see Balance mechanics get an overhaul in the run-up to Cataclysm, because as things stand now, we will always be among the first victims of stat inflation, and Eclipse -- while more "reliable" in the sense that you can better predict when it's likely to be triggered -- still isn't a controllable damage boost along the lines of Icy Veins or Metamorphosis.

I have grown dangerously coherent. There may have been actual analysis in this portion.

This will not stand.

Neither can I, but that's why I'm writing this from bed with a cold compress now.

Totem Talk: Goodbyes

First off, yes, I'm leaving Totem Talk. It's been a good ride, and no, I'm not quitting the shaman class nor WoW.com. You'll still see me around on Know Your Lore and The Care and Feeding of Warriors for the foreseeable future, and I'll be writing Totem Talks until we have a replacement. The reason I'm leaving Totem Talk is simple: I don't think I'm giving enough coverage to all the different specs and playstyles anymore, and frankly I don't want to have to try and respec every few days to catch up on spec mechanics for roles I don't want to play. For some classes I play, this isn't an issue, but I'm straight up never ever going to like elemental as a spec or a playstyle. I'm not a ranged DPS player, I never was, I never will be. There's a big difference between personal preference and a spec not being good, mind you. I don't dislike elemental, I simply don't like standing in the back and casting as my DPS role.

So I'm out, and we'll have new people come in and cover the class. I'll still be playing my shaman, healing and stormstriking my way through content. I still love the class, and I'm always going to play one as long as I'm playing WoW.

Before I go on to talk about the highlights of my two plus years of covering shamans for WoW.com (and WoW Insider before that), I do want to say that the Tier 10 bug that causes a seven day lockout just floors me. It's the kind of bug you'd almost expect to see on elemental shaman gear, frankly. If I were an egomaniac (well, more of one) I'd almost think this was done for me as a fitting tribute as I depart. Here's hoping it gets fixed soon.

And now, my favorite Totem Talk moments.
5: Shaman Itemization resists a clever title


Admittedly this was a recent piece, but I don't think the concerns it addresses have really gone out of style. Along with the gear consolidation post, I thought (and still think) it will benefit the shaman class as a whole when elemental and resto don't end up so far apart in terms of what stats they want and how they are designed via talents to go about gathering those stats. This is definitely an aspect of the class' hybridization that should be of interest as the class moves forward into Cataclysm.

I would call the increased variability in enhancement a triumph of making mail gear work for a shaman spec, and it's one of the success stories for Wrath. Now I'm hopeful we'll see a similar success story for elemental in Cataclysm helping revitalize it in similar fashion. Mastery is where I'm pinning my hopes.


4: 3.0.8, The Rise of Shamanism

Setting the stage for the redesigns of patch 3.1 and 3.2 came this talent, aimed at introducing a scaling element to elemental combat. The patch had other changes, of course: the reduction in AoE totem threat, the switch in positions between Static Shock and Mental Quickness, an attempt to improve Healing Way... but it was Shamanism that was the big star of patch 3.0.8 and harbinger for pretty much all that was to come. Frankly, I was thrilled to see it come into the game. Shamanism has been buffed to work with Chain Lightning and to apply more of a bonus to both CL and Lighting Bolt since it was introduced, and I think (along with the Fire Nova changes) this was one of Blizzard's better calls all told.


3: The Elusive Shaman Tank

Picking up the thread of an older post about shaman tanking, I honestly had a surprising amount of fun writing about this topic. Not only did I get to go back in my memory to when I first rolled my orc shaman and ended up tanking lowbie instances on him (SFK was a particular favorite, as was Wailing Caverns) but I got to detail how the changes to the game with the launch of first Burning Crusade (letting Horde have Pallies and Alliance Shammies, thus freeing each class from trying to mirror the other) and Wrath of the Lich King (new talents, new spells, some abilities changed or even mostly abandoned) helped alter and eventual spelled the effective end of shamans as tanks in World of Warcraft.

My one regret in writing about the subject is that I'm afraid I may have sounded too negative or too much like I rejected the players trying it when I rejected the idea. For the record, I think shamans are never going to be progression tanks, but I admire the heck out of the players working to test the class and its limits to the utmost. This is how fun discoveries get made! This is how people learn the tolerances and thresholds of their talents and spells.

Shaman tanking may not be a viable concept, but the players trying to do it anyway make me smile every time. It's the ultimate refusal to accept the prevailing wisdom, and it's awesome.


2: On the edge of change

Wrath dropping was one of the most exciting times to be writing about shamans. We didn't yet have the benefit of hindsight showing us how 2009 would be the year of shaman redesign, we had Hex, Thunderstorm, Maelstrom Weapon, Spirit Wolves, Riptide to look forward to. Everything was new and exciting again. I loved playing my shaman in the Wrath beta and talking about it with you all was just the delicious icing on an already awesome cake.

I also got to complain about losing downranking, but in retrospect my reliance on downranking was probably a sign that I make a better DPS than a healer as a shaman. I tend to take people dying when I'm healing fairly to heart, which may be why I'm a better tank, where that kind of stress actually seems beneficial. I felt like I learned how to do it pretty well, mind you, but I never really felt as comfortable with it as I should have.


1: Sentry Totem


This is the best thing I have ever written, about the best ability any class has every had. It was Sentry Totem, and writing about said totem, that made me love being Totem Talk's writer for these past years. People didn't think I could write a serious column about it, and yet, here we are, and here it is. Watching. Always watching. Until it gets one shot by a stealthed rogue in the flag room, anyway. And while it's not actually in this column, the passage that caused me to write it has always stuck with me: It's also stuck with the totem's description on WoWhead.

I'll miss you most of all, Sentry Totem.

I'm still going to be writing Totem Talk until a new writer is found, of course, but I owed you guys a proper sendoff, and here it is. It's been an amazing experience working on this column with you all. Thank you for reading it.

Two Bosses Enter: Anub'Arak pounds Dred, Eregos faces Skadi

Two Bosses Enter ... but only One Boss Leaves, in WoW.com's series of fantasy death matches. Welcome to the quarter-finals of the Original Five-Man Wrath of the Lich King season. Grab a seat, and let's get ready to rumble!

Last week's battle was all about size. In the end, being tougher trumped being larger, as Anub'Arak Pounded King Dred with 64% of the spectator vote. We'll get a view of the beat-down after the break -- plus we'll set up the vote for this week's battle between Ley-Guardian Eregos and Skadi the Ruthless.

Alert fans will note a different schedule on their weekly Thunderdome tickets. Starting this week, you'll find the past week's roundup and the next week's fight and vote in a single post. Be sure to follow the jump if you'd like to debate and vote on the upcoming battle between Eregos and Skadi. Then starting next week, we'll be hosting the Two Bosses Thunderdome on Wednesdays (moved up from Thursdays).

Join us after the break for last week's wrap-up plus next week's battle: Ley-Guardian Eregos (The Oculus) versus Skadi the Ruthless (Utgarde Pinnacle). Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls ... Dyin' time's here.

Anub'Arak Pounds King Dred


Spectators roared their approval for Anub'Arak last week, with the former Nerubian royal bringing in 64.5% of the votes against King Dred's 31.9%. (Only 3.5% thought the match would end in a tie or other scenario.) The battle ultimately boiled down to physical size -- but the question is, how much did it matter?

Cuwi: Are people seriously arguing that Dred would win because he's too big to be Pounded? The rules specifically state that their abilities work on each other.

SR: For your information, Tyrannosaurus Rex (or all large bipedal dinosaurs, for that matter) had a HUGE flaw to their design: They were easily thrown off-balance, and when they fell, it was their end. The thing is, herbivores with clubs on their tails AIMED at their legs, so that they would break under all that WEIGHT that the BIPEDAL holds on their BODY. How easy is it to knock over an upside-down wine bottle? Quite easy. You can even see it with horses ... How many of them survive in nature if they fell over and broke their leg?

With that said, Anub can literally SMASH INTO Dred's legs with all his weight ... And I dunno about you, but he looks damn heavy with his size, his natural armor AND additional armor that he wears. When Dred falls, he's gonna get eaten alive or simply impaled to death, as geveldion said. And what's to stop Anub'Arak from doing that?

Outofideas: I think a lot of people are seriously overestimating the size difference between the two combatants. King Dred may be a tower of teeth and claws, but Anub'Arak still dwarfs us lowly bipeds. When he rears up for Pound, I wouldn't be surprised if Anub could carve up Dred's stomach like a birthday cake. Add in the Spider Lord's intelligence, combat prowess and the pound-for-pound equality of all his adds vs. Dred's, and the true king brings home mighty new corpse for his lord to reanimate.


Ley-Guardian Eregos vs. Skadi the Ruthless

  • The Two Bosses Thunderdome is considered neutral territory, where both combatants are able to access their usual encounter mechanics and abilities. If you can't imagine it inside the Thunderdome, imagine it someplace else – but you must include all of each bosses' abilities and mechanics.
  • All of the competitors' abilities, including crowd control and other effects to which bosses are usually immune, work on their opponents (with apologies to considerations of lore on this count).
  • 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.
In Corner One: Ley-Guardian Eregos (The Oculus)

Simpletons! You cannot comprehend the forces you have set in motion. The ley line conduit will not be disrupted! Your defeat shall be absolute!

Ley-Guardian Eregos, the great Blue Dragon boss, flies at the pinnacle of The Oculus. Players normally battle him astride drake mounts with various abilities.

Inside the Two Bosses Thunderdome, there will be no player drake mechanic. Judge the battle on the basis of the abilities of Eregos and Skadi themselves. Eregos may engage in battle in the air and/or on the ground -- your choice; neither is mandatory -- without the player drake mechanic. Consider Eregos' minions capable of handling the harpooning of Skadi's drake mount.
  • Arcane Barrage
  • Arcane Volley
  • Enraged Assault
  • Planar Anomalies
  • Planar Shift
  • Whelps Two to three spawn at a time; heavy DPS can push Eregos into a Planar Shift before he has a chance to summon
Learn more about Ley-Guardian Eregos' key abilities, and review comments from players who've battled him. (Remember: no player drakes here!)

In Corner Two: Skadi the Ruthless (Utgarde Pinnacle)

What mongrels dare intrude here? Look alive, my brothers! A feast for the one that brings me their heads!


Skadi the Ruthless, an Undead Frost Vrykul who resides in Utgarde Pinnacle, is named after the northern goddess of winter and the hunt in Norse mythology. Upon engaging in battle, he flies up above the terrace on his Protodrake, to strafe foes below as they push through waves of his Frost Vrykul. Opponents pick up harpoons to shoot the drake, eventually killing it and forcing Skadi to the ground and into hand-to-hand battle.

Remember that inside the Two Bosses Thunderdome, you should consider Skadi's minions to have the same comparative output as Eregos' minions. Don't forget that we are considering Eregos' minions to be capable of handling the harpooning of Skadi's mount.
  • Crush
  • Poisoned Spear
  • Whirlwind
Read more about Skadi the Ruthless's battle tactics, and review comments from players who've faced him.

Inside the Thunderdome
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!

Before you cast your vote, join the debate in the comments. Who wins, and why? Style points go to spectators who use the comments to sway other readers to their point of view!

Who wins in the Two Bosses Thunderdome: Eregos or Skadi?



ORIGINAL WRATH FIVE-MAN SEASON: QUARTER FINALS

MATCH 1

Anub'Arak (Azjol-Nerub) -- WINNER!
vs.
King Dred (Drak'tharon Keep)

MATCH 2

Skadi the Ruthless (Utgarde Pinnacle) (seeded at 63.8%)
vs.
Ley-Guardian Eregos (The Oculus) (seeded at 50.7%)

MATCH 3

Xevozz (Violet Hold) (seeded at 62.1%)
vs.
Loken (Halls of Lightning) (seeded at 58.1%)

MATCH 4

King Ymiron (Utgarde Pinnacle) (seeded at 60.3%)
vs.
Krik'thir the Gatewatcher (Azjol-Nerub) (seeded at 58.6%)

The Queue: A plea for help

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. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Somewhere along the line, I've picked up this habit of discussing games I've been playing (besides WoW) as my introduction to The Queue. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's fun. Unfortunately, I'm currently playing Bayonetta and I'm not sure I can really talk about that one here. Just look it up on Youtube, you'll know what I'm talking about. Now before I shame myself any more, let's get to the Q&A.

Reuben asked...

"How does the disenchanting option work? I find that sometimes I can choose disenchant, and other times I can't. What determines the availability of that option?"


You need an enchanter of appropriate skill in your party to disenchant things. If you have no enchanter at all, you can't disenchant anything. If you have an enchanter that hasn't finished leveling the tradeskill, you might be able to disenchant greens but not blues or epics. If they have skilled it up high enough, you'll be able to disenchant anything that drops.

Many people asked...


"Why do people hate the Oculus so much? It's really easy since the nerfs, but people keep dropping group."

I don't think it has anything to do with the difficulty at all. The problem is that the Oculus is completely absent of tried-and-true methods of guiding players through a playing field. It isn't often that bosses wipe raids (besides Eregos), but rather the inability to keep your party going in one direction if someone that's never been there before decides to wander off by themself. They go in a different direction because they're not sure where they're supposed to go, they get jumped by drakes. They cry for help, everyone goes looking for them, people get split up and eventually the mobs pick them off one by one and everyone is falling to their doom.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Blizzard used some very basic visual cues as to where you're supposed to be going, this would not be a problem. Even in games where you're given the illusion of wide open exploration, there are cues guiding you in the direction the game thinks you should be going. The dragon GPS simply saying "kill all robots" is not helpful. The purple glow on the robots themselves? Also not helpful, since you begin this phase of the instance underneath all of those platforms. If you don't know ahead of time what you should be killing, there is nothing guiding you toward them. This isn't a problem in an instance where you're on the ground. In those cases, you go down a hallway or a path or whatever else. In Oculus, you're in a wide open area where you can move in any direction. Players need more direction.

Everyone has been in a group where that scenario I outlined at the beginning of this answer plays out. Nobody has fun in those runs. Some people have more patience for it than others. People with no patience for it drop group. I usually stick it out, but make it very clear that the group should follow whoever has a mark over their head. If they can't follow the person with the mark around when we're all on our drakes, that's a problem and we deal with it when it happens. But dropping group as soon as you get in wastes the time of too many people.

Velleekwitay asked...


"Why are most WoW videos, such as recordings of raids, on Youtube accompanied by bad music? Is there a rule against using the original soundtrack?"


There's no rule against using the original soundtrack, but it's pretty hard to get it out of the game files if you don't know how ahead of time (which actually is against the TOS, isn't it?). Plus, maybe those people like that so-called bad music and are perfectly happy with it. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean nobody likes it. People who have watched my videos here on WoW.com know I like to stick to the game's soundtrack, but now and then I mix it up with some crazy jazz. Not everybody likes it, but I do. I made it, so that's what counts.

Ending with a question for you...

Hey, dear readers! In the near future (not this week, probably not next week) we're going to try to restart our ancient Pimp My Profile feature. If you haven't been reading us long enough to know about it, we essentially take "bad" armory profiles and help people fix them up. Poor gear choices? We'll help you fix that. Bad talent spec? We'll recommend better ones. Same thing with your glyphs, enchants, the whole deal. The problem is that this is a user driven feature dependent on submissions, so we can't start it until you give us something to work with. So if you want our expert opinions on how to fix your character, email us your armory link! Until we have a mailbox set up dedicated to this feature, send your armory submissions to alex @ wow . com, just remove the spaces. Please only submit your own characters, not some random schmuck you found in Ironforge.

In addition, give us as much information about your playstyle as possible. Are you a player that has time to run a single heroic per play period at most? Are you an aspiring raider? Do you have a ton of time on your hands to grind things out? They more you tell us, the more we can tailor our advice to you personally!

Breakfast Topic: Effective Communication

One of the good things about running more PuG's than ever before is that it's forced me to learn how to communicate what I intend on a pull to a group of people I don't really know. This, in turn, has made me better at communicating with my guildies and friends when we raid, in part because now I'm finally thinking about how to express what I intend to do in a more organized way.

One example is the pulls directly after Krick and Ick in Pit of Saron: even in raiding gear, these pulls can be fairly difficult if steps aren't taken to ensure that the caster mobs are controlled properly from the start and the diseases aren't allowed to run rampant. The Flamebearers in particular with their Tactical Blink and Hellfire abilities can wreak havoc. It's not that these pulls are super difficult, especially not if you make use of abilities like Hex or Polymorph (on the Deathbringers), Shackle, Repentance and so on to ensure that a couple of the mobs are taken out of the equation for a few seconds. I've had these pulls go extremely poorly in groups that were extremely chatty, mind, if what they're chatting about isn't really exchanging any meaningful information.

In our new age of grouping with complete strangers, do you find yourself just hoping your group knows what it is doing? Do you take a leadership role, or have one foisted upon you, and if so how do you go about making sure everyone knows what they should?

Around Azeroth: The power behind the throne

Vitrioli of on Durotan snapped this shot after killing Loken in Halls of Lightning. He searched the area behind Loken's throne for hidden treasure, but was only able to discover that the throne was actually made of foil-covered chocolate instead of stone. However, you can't really consider this treasure. Even the most hardcore gamers would balk at eating chocolate that someone has been sitting on for twenty thousand years.

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.

Man forced to choose between his wife and his orc

The Scottish Sun reports that a Scottish man made the news for having to choose between his wife and his orc. 42-year old Robert Cushnie was the proud owner of a life-sized World of Warcraft Thrall statue, one of several that Vivendi commissioned from Studio Oxmox to promote Warcraft III (along with a Night Elf female statue). The telecommunications manager scored the 185cm. tall statue when a toy store in nearby Falkirk closed down six years ago.

Much to the dismay of geeks everywhere, Cushnie's wife Dee wasn't comfortable sharing her home with a green-skinned orc and threatened to move back to her Canadian homeland if her husband didn't ditch the Horde Warchief. His wife reportedly said that there was "no room for (the orc) in our life," and Cushnie prudently chose Dee, whom he married in February 2009, over the huge statue. "I just don't like it," Dee said, "I'm only 5ft 3in, so it towers over me, which is quite creepy."

The statue was adopted by a couple in Aberdeen, Michael Thomson, 61, and his wife, Patricia, 55, who report that their 16-year old granddaughter is thrilled with the acquisition. "We wanted him because he's so unusual," said Patricia. Robert and Dee will move to Canada later this month sans the orc. "I'll miss him," Cushnie said, "but I'm glad he's gone to a good home." As this little episode proves, not even the most badass orc can mess with marital bliss!

How flaws in Blizzard's billing department are being exploited


Please see the update to this original post.In our continuing series on account security issues present within Blizzard's offices, we bring you news that lax training in Blizzard's billing department is being exploited by those attempting to game the system and illegitimately acquire more gold and high value in-game items. The critical flaw in Blizzard's system is that billing support personnel are currently given the ability to "roll back" characters to previous versions more or less on the spot, with the customer on the phone. Because of this, there is a high degree of flexibility and personal accountability on the part of the billing representative. The flexibility extended here is vitally important to customer service, however the training that comes with the flexibility, we are told by multiple sources, is inadequate and leads to this exploit being practiced by a growing number of individuals.The exploit involves human interaction (aka social engineering), which in security systems is the notoriously weak point. The exploit is often referred to internally as "onioning," which involves the player repeatedly claiming the account was compromised to the Blizzard billing support representatives. There are obviously more details to doing this, but we don't want to provide a how-to. Blizzard is aware of how this is done, and they are currently not implementing checks to combat this.More alarming is the fact that this vulnerability exists, to a large extent, only in Blizzard's billing department. The training to combat this exploit is available and indeed given to account administrators and game masters, however Blizzard for some reason sees fit not to train their customer contacts in the billing department -- yet allows them much of the same powers (in this case) as an account administrator would have. Some of these concerns may be alleviated when the department rolls out its all-in-one customer service tool instead of the wide variety of separate tools that are currently in use.This becomes a larger issue when looked at from the perspective of time and effort put into correcting such exploitative action. Blizzard has a limited number of support personnel, and the time it takes to correct actions by exploitative players detracts from the time Blizzard has to help lower long restoration queues and help out the customer elsewhere. The prevalence of these exploits is directly affecting the well-being of the game, and leads to things like requiring mandatory authenticators.Finally, we want to make it clear that we are publishing this article not to encourage exploitation, but to report policies and practices which allow these exploits to happen.

White and longer than your average cloak



It seems like so long ago. But only three or four years ago, I got a very special drop from Stratholme. No, the original Stratholme, not even the Culling of Stratholme. I want to say we were doing one of the old timed runs, when you tried to kill Baron Rivendare within 45 minutes. But, we just happened to have a night when the rare-spawn gargoyle, Stonespine, appeared. I got luck and won my very own Stoneskin Gargoyle Cape. When I looked up information about the cape on Thottbot, I found myself a little treat.The very first comment proclaimed that this cape was "white and looks longer than your average cloak or cape." Something about that comment must have caught the imagination of other WoW players, because the comment thread went on for pages. The Stoneskin Gargoyle Cape became a Thottbot meme, and was (perhaps) a predecessor to things like the Three Wolf Moon shirt. It was an amusing blip on the community of World of Warcraft, but not one I've thought about for a long time.It's with great joy that I am now the proud owner of a Saronite Gargoyle Cloak, which "drops" from the box after you complete Icecrown Citadel's gunship battle. The flavor text for the cloak proclaims that it is "even longer than your average cloak or cape." It's an unmistakeable shout out to that original item, and one that had me giggling like a mad man. I love it when Blizzard pokes a little fun at themselves, and indulge in a bit of metagame.I usually leave my cloak invisible, but I absolutely had to turn it back on for the Saronite Gargoyle Cloak. And I assure you, gentle reader, that this item is absolutely white and even longer than your average cape or cloak.

Insider Trader: More Craftable Items of the Ashen Verdict




We've talked at length about the Icecrown craftables last week, but we were mostly focused on the driving, universal material required to make them. That is, we were mostly talking about the Primordial Saronite. The recipes for Icecrown craftable are given to you by the Ashen Verdict, in order to help you do battle with the legions of the Lich King.This week, let's start looking at the items created by these recipes, and see how they perform in their respective roles. I think some of the craftable items will be pleasantly useful even over the occasional tier gear, especially if you consider that you can grab these items from the Auction House. (Primordial Saronite seems to have now dropped in price across the board, even selling for less than 2,000 on some servers.)Take a look behind the cut, and let's start talking about the gear itself.Blacksmithing -- Tank GearThe two recipes for Blacksmithing-created tank gear are the Boots of Kingly Upheaval and the Pillars of Might. Both are fairly solid tanking items if you are already uncrittable. (For plate classes, that's usually at the 540 Defense mark.) If you're already past that landmark for tanking prowess, then the boots and legs focus on the other key avoidance stats. Namely, dodge and parry. Since there's no Block stats on either of the boots, they're fairly usable by any of the three, plate tanking classes. Each item is item level 264, so they're going to be fairly worthwhile compared to most items that drop from 10-man normal mode.Blacksmithing -- Physical DPSThe physical DPS items for Blacksmithing are the Hellfrozen Bonegrinders and the Legplates of Painful Death. They both sound terribly harsh and mean, don't they? Although, I suppose that's absolutely appropriate for warriors, death knights, and paladins whose sole purpose is to smash your face in.Similar to the situation with Blacksmithing's tank gear, we can assume that most plate-wearing DPS are already hit and expertise capped by the time they're storming Icecrown Citadel. As a result, neither of those stats appear on the physical DPS items. Instead, the Hellfrozen Bonegrinders and the Legplates of Painful death sport Critical Strike Rating and Armor Penetration. Different classes have different levels of priority on Armor Penetration, but the Critical Strike Rating will be useful for everyone.Blacksmithing -- Spellpower PlateThose holy paladins are always coming along adding a third type of plate armor. In this case, the Holy paladins are represented in the blacksmithing plans by the Protectors of Life and the Puresteel Leggings. Spellpower plate can always be kind of a tricky subject, when you're trying to rate "what's best." Some paladins might prefer Haste, if they're not already capped out, while others are big fans of crit. Still, since these are about equivalent to the Sanctified Lightsworn Greaves, for example, they're a pretty good deal if you're being thrifty with badges.Engineering -- AmmunitionWe've already talked at length about the Iceblade Arrows and Shatter Rounds, but it's worth reinforcing. For the cheap price of a couple crystallized elements, you can build a stack of ammunition that every hunter will want to get their hands on. Definitely worth the time to make it.Leatherworking -- Physical Combat LeatherYou can't call the Bladeborn Leggings and Footpads of Impending Death simply physical DPS items because many bears will also crave this gear for their tanking sets. It wouldn't take much for a bear to shove all Stam gems into the Bladeborn Leggings to turn them into an absolutely amazing hit point item. It's notable, however, that neither of these items are made with actual leather. The closest you get to "leather" for these items are Arctic Fur and Nerubian Chitin. The gear must have a hard outer shell, with a very nice fur lining.Leatherworking -- Physical DPS MailThe Draconic Bonesplinter Legguards and Rock-Steady Treads represent the physical combat mail armor for hunters and Enhancement shamans. This pair of gear assumes that your physical DPS character is already rocking out at the hit cap, and thus focused on stats like Critical Strike and Armor Penetration. Notably, the Draconic Bonesplinter Legguards might be more attractive to many hunters than their own T10.5 legs, the Sanctified Ahn'Kahar Blood Hunter's Legguards, since those items "waste" itemization allocation on Haste.Leatherworking -- Spellpower LeatherThe leatherworking spellpower leather patterns create the Blessed Cenarion Boots and the Legwraps of Unleashed Nature. In a moment of sublime convenience, neither of these items have Hit Rating. Trees don't need hit rating for much, and most Boomkin in Icecrown are already going to be hit-capped. Blizzard has saved themselves a little itemization trouble this way.Leatherworking -- Spellpower MailLike holy paladins, Elemental shaman always manage to add an interesting category of gear. They also tend to have the coolest names for their gear. The leatherworking spellpower mail pieces are the Earthsoul Boots and the Lightning-Infused Leggings. I really like the vibe of these two names, since they give shaman a nice "grounded lightning" feel to their pants and feet.Tailoring -- (Mostly) Healing ClothI specify "mostly" healing cloth for the Sandals of Consecration and Lightweave Leggings because otherwise I would no sooner finish typing this article than someone would present very good argument for why a mage or warlock would want to wear the items. That being said, you can tell these items are probably intended for your healing priests because of the names (Lightweave), and the hefty amount of Spirit boasted by both items. Here's hoping you've been stocking up on Moonshroud, because you'll need 30 to make both piece of gear.Tailoring -- (Mostly) DPS ClothSimilar to the healing cloth, I'm strictly specifying that the Leggings of Woven Death and Deathfrost Boots are only mostly for DPS. But still, the hit rating on the Deathfrost Boots are a dead giveaway that they're intended for damage dealers. However, I'm not quite why the boots are the only Icecrown craftable to sport Hit rating, since all the other gear mostly assumes you've got that stat covered. Maybe it's the prodigious amounts of Hit required for spellcasters, or maybe that's just the way the itemization budget lined up.SummarySo, most general character roles have a pair of Icecrown craftables that will be useful for them. With the exception of the Deathfrost Boots, though, all of the gear assumes your basic, required stats are already covered. That's Defense for the tanky types and Hit for the damage dealers. Since all of the gear is item level 264, they'll be well-worth the time for anyone who's not doing 25-man raids, but some of the gear will be good even for those folks.If you manage to get these up on the Auction House, remember that you should be charging at least your server's going rate for Primordial Saronite, or you'll just be giving away materials for free. Take the time to look at all of the individual costs for the materials, and try hit a fair price just a little bit above that. We'll be talking more about how to set a minimum market price for items next week. Until then, good trading!

The Care and Feeding of Warriors: I deserved that



Every week, Matthew Rossi writes The Care and Feeding of Warriors. Every week, he claws at his feeble brain to come up with a header paragraph, which really is kind of unfair. Warriors shouldn't have to think. Do you have any idea how many blows to the head we take?So yeah, turns out I should probably have shut up and not told you guys that prot was actually good at PvP. Sorry about that. I'm not going to actually freak out until I see how they plan to balance prot so we're not good at PvP anymore, since I barely even PvP and am far more concerned with prot as a PvE spec, that is to say, tanking with it. If they make a bunch of changes and my threat stays the same and my survivability stays the same and I'm not seeing any major hits to my tanking, then whatever, I'm sure there will be enraged prot warriors still but I won't be one. If, however, I see a 2k threat loss and I'm dying like a chicken trying to tank a bloody heroic, then yeah, I'm gonna be upset. I'll probably skip 'fevered pet' and move straight into 'enraged mouth breathing' territory. I can think of all sorts of ways to tweak prot in PvP that wouldn't have much of an effect in PvE, and I know the folks at Blizzard are better at class design than I am, so waiting and seeing is the order of the day. That being said I do find it irritating when we get told over and over again that we're fine until suddenly we're not. Just saying, some consistency would be nice.I should probably also share something I admitted on Twitter the other day: yeah, I went ahead and race changed to draenei. Yeah, after writing a long post about how I probably wouldn't, I did. Effectively all of my alliance toons are now space goats. I didn't do it for the racial, mind you: ICC tanking gear is positively ridiculous in terms of hit, I'm swimming in hit. I did it purely because I wanted to play a draenei.But that leads me to a discussion of ICC gear, gearing in general, and intimations of future design for warriors after patch 3.3 has passed and we're heading towards Cataclysm.So far, ICC gear (and T10 tanking gear) is pretty sweet. When I originally typed that sentence there was a swear in it, but I went back and backspaced over it. How sweet, you may ask? Well, in the past weeks of ICC 10 and 25, I've reached almost 46k health unbuffed, my dodge, parry and even block have reached ridiculous levels, and the 2 piece Tier 10 bonus is so good that I don't even notice how my actual block value has dropped. The four piece bonus? It makes angels cry in joy.I have spent absolutely no time in ICC doing anything but tanking. This week we cleared out Rotface and Festergut, but I missed our Putricide attempts (stupid me) so I have to wait for this weekend to get to see him. Festergut (who I always mistype as Festerguy) was an interesting race fight with some tank trade offs and managing cooldowns to keep from getting your face pushed in as Fester inhales and buffs himself, I actually enjoyed it rather immensely. Plus, he handed me a really nice belt that makes me look like the Heavyweight Champion of the Raid.






Seriously I look like I should be standing on top of a rope calling out someone about their deficiencies in the square circle. (I'd use actual wrestler names here, but man, I'm old and all the wrestlers I knew are probably retired.)Festergut was a fun tanking challenge. Rotface can be a fun tanking challenge, or a boring tank and spank depending on what role you're playing. I got to play "Stand in one place and play patty-cake with a huge, pustulent fat corpse who will jam his ulcerated prolapsed hernia in your face at every opportunity." As my guildmate Kol put it, "this is an interesting fight for everyone who isn't you." The ooze kiting, avoiding the flooding and otherwise managing Rotface's Grobbulus + Twin Valkyr style is pretty engaging and I'm looking forward to trying it out this weekend. He didn't drop the chestplate, but that's what furture raids are for.Seriously, even with Chill of the Throne my avoidance/mitigation stats are damn solid (we're talking almost 14% dodge, close to 22% parry, and around 18% block with raid buffs even after CotT yanking out 20% of my dodge) and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on that sweet proc mace from Putricide. I would like to see the proc get a buff to put it on par with Bryntroll (wow, was I wrong about the value of that proc, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa) but if it's got uptime even remotely comparable that +100 str proc by itself should be a nice threat boost and the healing bonus will be nice for high damage fights. I'm already tanking with a high DPS axe a lot of the time because I simply don't need any more avoidance or mitigation on my weapon (I'm at 580 defense already) so I think a proc is actually kind of welcome at this point.
Again, that's using a DPS axe from TotGC. Tanking gear in ICC is some of the absolute best gear I've ever seen, even the non set pieces (I agonize over which of them I'll stop using for my 4 piece T10 set bonus, believe me, the idea of not wearing my Broken Ram makes me unhappy) and it only gets better as we will eventually get heroic modes down. (Please note I mean relative here: I am aware that Onslaught was a set designed for level 70 and this is level 80 gear. But the itemization here is proportionately better, I believe, and that's saying something, as both BT and later Sunwell gear was well itemized.)At first I was kind of surprised to see how high the strength values can get, but that just seems to be part of a move to get tanks to pick up some threat stats and it's working fine for me (I haven't even missed the block value from my old TotC Set legs) as threat's gone up as steadily as everything else. At present, I don't even bother to wear a threat set to heroics anymore, I just use my current stam/avoidance set and that first shield block hits just as hard thanks to the set bonus on T10, and the shockwaves hit even harder.I find myself wondering where tanking design will go in Cat: clearly there won't be defense on gear. For the moment I'm assuming Dodge and Parry will remain unchanged and Block will become a pure percentage stat (you have a 20% block chance that shears off 20% of incoming damage on a successful block) which leads me to think that stat values on tanking gear will be going more and more towards parity. Instead of seeing, say, 1500 str and almost 4k stam, you'll see 2k str and 4k stam, and that str will provide a more meaningful contribution to how Block (and perhaps Parry) works for warrior tanks. One of the reasons I think this way is their continuing discussion of getting Fury and Arms warriors to tank in five mans. At present, most DPS warriors I know pass on tank gear unless everyone already has it and that's often due to the fact that they don't want gear they'll only wear to tank unless they have a tank offspec they really like using. I expect in Cat we'll see some itemization changes to muddy the waters between DPS and tanking plate: high strength gear with hit and expertise on it, for instance, could pretty easily serve in either role in a system without Defense. (I also expect to see even more homogenization in plate tanks as a result.)ICC itemization is, to some degree, the absolute pinnacle of Wrath's design philosophy, and while we know it's changing in Cataclysm the designers aren't working in a vacuum: they're designing the new paradigm while working with the old one, and I think the rise of high strength tanking gear and proc based weapons is a sign that we're going to be shifting away from super stat stacking for specialized roles (tank or DPS) and towards a more fluid system where you'll tank in the gear you have, and talents and mastery will help make it more suitable to a role. (This is clearly what I've believed before ICC, but I find ICC a confirmation of it.) I expect, for the first time, that Cataclysm will actually make warriors feel hybrid rather than like two classes (a DPS class and a tank class) jammed together at the hip.Next week: tanking Rotface. Festergut and Putricide, unless something else happens.

Phat Loot Phriday: Bryntroll, the Bone Arbiter


How would you plate-wearing raiders like your best-in-slot (pre-Shadowmourne) weapon first thing upon stepping into the 25-man version of Icecrown Citadel? If Lady Luck is on your side, it could happen. Bryntroll the Bone Arbiter was, for a few glorious weeks, far and away the best weapon available to death knights and retribution paladins before Shadowmourne and its own Heroic counterpart. Slightly less awesome for warriors, but still pretty amazing. Can you believe it drops from Lord Marrowgar, the first (and probably the easiest) boss in ICC?Let's talk numbers, shall we?Name: Bryntroll, the Bone ArbiterType: Two-Handed AxeDamage: 801 - 1203 Damage, 294.7 DPSSpeed: 3.40Attributes:
169 Strength
161 Stamina
One red socket and one blue socket
Chance on hit: Steals 2138 to 2362 life from target enemy.And once we're seeing hard modes downed in a few months (weeks?) the Heroic version will be an available alternative.Name: Bryntroll, the Bone Arbiter (Heroic)Type: Two-Handed AxeDamage: 888-1329 Damage, 325.7 DPSSpeed: 3.40Attributes:
185 Strength
173 Stamina
One red socket and one yellow socket
Chance on hit: Steals 2412 to 2664 life from target enemy.Looking at these stats, you might be a little skeptical due to the complete lack of "green" stats on the weapons. There's no crit, no haste, no armor penetration or anything like that. Believe me when I say the proc makes up for it. Before the recent bug fix, which will prevent certain paladin and death knight abilities from proccing the drain twice, Bryntroll made up anywhere from 6-10% of a player's damage in a raid. Post-fix, it's going to be somewhere in the area of 3-4% which is still significant, and it remains one of the best weapons 2H users can get their hands on at the moment.Heroic Bryntroll is even one of the best death knight tanking weapons available in the game, with only Ramaladni's Blade of Culling coming close. Depending on your other stats, you could go either way there.How to Get It: As mentioned above, you waltz into Icecrown Citadel, de-bone Lord Marrowgar, and hope the loot gods smile upon your pallid husk. It's a simple fight, but we have a strategy guide for you should you need it.Getting Rid of It: The current upgrades to Bryntroll are Heroic Bryntroll, Shadow's Edge (for certain classes) or the legendary Shadowmourne. Additional Information: It's rare that I point people to Elitist Jerks, but at this level of the raid game, you can probably handle it. If you want to know exactly how this weapon stacks up for your class compared to the competition, Elitist Jerks is the place to be. Just make sure you follow the rules, or you might find yourself kicked to the curb rather fast.
Tags: axe, bryntroll, bryntroll-the-bone-arbiter, icecrown, icecrown-citadel, icecrown-gear, icecrown-loot, loot, lord-marrowgar, raid-loot, shadows-edge, two-handed-axe