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Mists of Pandaria – Three Weeks In

On September 25th, something very interesting happened. Mists of Pandaria was released to a horde of fans who were eager to have something different, and hopefully better than what Cataclysm had been. They were chomping at the bit, desperate for something more than running a raid for the past 9 months.

Blizzard Entertainment did an extrordinary thing. They delivered, and then some.

Most people I had spoken to were completely done with Cataclysm. Dragon Soul had been out for about 9 months, they had cleared everything and had all of the mounts and achievements they could get or wanted to get. All of their professions were maxed, they had all the reputations they needed, or whatever their case may have been.

Personally, I wasn’t playing as much as I had before. I would log on a few nights a week to do a couple randoms, maybe a Raid Finder group (if it didn’t blow up). Leveling alts only stays exciting for so long. Not having time to raid took out the only regular thing I had ever relied on in previous expansions. The only thing I was doing was leveling my Alliance Mage on my friends’ server.

When Mists launched, all of a sudden I had so much stuff to do again. True to what I had been expecting, the very first thing I did was do some pet battles. I had only done a little bit of them in beta, and they were just as much fun as I remembered. Memories of playing Pokemon in junior high school came back in a very big way.

For the first time since Burning Crusade, my wife and I decided to level our mains together. I play a Feral Druid and she plays an Enhancement Shaman, so we were able to power through most mobs without much problem (except for some of the rares that we stumbled across). We hit 90 this past weekend, and really enjoyed all of the zones that we quested through.

Overall, the quest design of this expansion is absolutely amazing. There were quests where we laughed – mainly the Hozen quests, especially Riko expressing his undying (see what I did there?) love for Kiryn – some quests that were quite touching, but the most important thing is that pretty much all of them were a lot of fun.

There is one thing that I keep coming back to, something that I find myself saying all the time, which is how absolutely beautiful the new content is. It’s hard to believe that the engine running this is over 8 years old, yet we’re still given these amazing views. Everything from the grand temples and structures, down to the small little tumbleweeds that blow around Kun-Lai Summit. The environment is gorgeous and incredibly immersive.

At the moment, I have yet to find something about this expansion that I don’t like. The closest thing that I could label as a complaint is that there’s just too much to do. Once I hit level 90, I have at least four different factions that I want to raise my reptutation with immediately, and being the completionist that I am, I want to eventually get them all up to exalted.

I still have yet to fully do many dungeons or scenarios – the only ones I’ve done is one run of the new heroic Scholomance, and one instance of the Arena of Annihilation.

All I know is that I’m more excited about this expansion than I have been for any other, possibly having Burning Crusade for the exception (only because at the time, it was the first expansion). One last note: a few friends of mine were extremely critical of the Mists of Pandaria announcement after BlizzCon. They were complaining about how much it looked like a very weak expansion without much content. Now, after talking with them after the release, they have completely changed their stances and are quite happy with the result.

Bring it on!

The End Begins Now…

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since Cataclysm was first released.  There’s been a lot that has happened – good things, bad things, and things in between that people really aren’t sure about.  The expansion on a whole seems to be controversial in the fact that some believe it’s been a big success, while others believe it’s been a failure.  I personally think that it’s an experiment that was partially successful, but that’s for another time.

As of November 29th, the beginning of the end of Cataclysm is upon is.

Blizzard has said that this will be the last full content patch for the expansion, and that this will basically be the end for updates before Mists of Pandaria comes out.  This could be taken two ways: the optimistic way, thinking that we’ll be seeing MoP sooner rather than later and won’t have to do this content forever; or the pessimistic way, thinking that we’ll be doing the exact same content for a year, as we did with Icecrown Citadel at the end of Wrath of the Lich King (Ruby Sanctum doesn’t count).

Unfortunately I don’t work for Blizzard, and I don’t know when they hope to release MoP.  Like everyone else, I’d rather see it sooner rather than later, but we know that it will be done when it’s done.  However, all that being said, I’d like to take the optimistic view.

The 4.3 content patch has a lot in it.  Not only do we get the new raid on Deathwing, but there are three new 5-man dungeons, a revamped Darkmoon Faire, Transmogrification, Void Storage, the Raid Finder, a bunch of new items from the raids and other content, and a whole bunch of balance changes.  It would take too long to go through each one, so I’ll suggest you check out WoW Insider’s guide to Patch 4.3 to get the details about many of the new features.

Briefly, I’m very happy with Transmogrification.  The interface is incredibly easy to use, and I finally am rewarded for being such a packrat for all these years.  I was able to have one of my favourite looks of the Tier 5 shoulders and Wildfury Greatstaff for my Druid, which really makes me happy and nostalgic.

Void Storage is nice, but unfortunately a bit too restrictive.  I have a lot of stuff in my bank from the many holidays that have come around, and I was hoping to empty a bunch out to free up some room.  The biggest thing is that items labelled “unique” or items not soulbound cannot be deposited to VS.  Many tabards, as well as other holiday things are all unique, and some of the holiday items like the Brewfest and Winter Veil gear are not soulbound, but I wanted to keep them nonetheless.  So I deposited what I could, and at least freed up some room.

The Raid Finder has been one of the things I’ve been looking forward to most.  As I’ve mentioned before, my schedule is very weird for when I can raid, so now I can raid whenever I want – as long as there’s enough other people queuing as well.  I was able to get into a group, and successfully get the four bosses currently available with little drama.  We only wiped twice, and there were people taking charge of the raid to get things done.

We also got Tyrael’s Charger.  It’s pretty.

All in all, there’s some great new content that everyone can enjoy no matter what you do.  Raider, casual player, leveling player, there’s something for everyone.  As I experience more of the new content, I’ll post my thoughts about some of them.  In the meantime, happy exploring!

Screenshot of the Week – November 19

This isn’t a weekly feature anymore, obviously, but that doesn’t matter!

Click for full size

Being Canadian and experiencing the Northern Lights on a number of occasions, I will never get tired of seeing them.  Blizzard did a great job of making them in-game in Northrend, especially in Howling Fjord.  This view looks toward Utgarde Keep, just over a Vrykul settlement.  A moment of peace in an otherwise war-torn zone.

Does Guild Size Matter?

Guilds have always been a key factor to World of Warcraft and most MMOs. When Cataclysm launched and the guild system was reworked, they became even more integral to the gameplay. While not required to do anything, they make life a whole lot easier with the perks that they provide.

I had mentioned before that I created a new character on a different server to try and get a new play experience. Since then, I have successfully joined the guild Alea Iacta Est (AIE) on the Earthen Ring server. This guild might ring a bell for some people as being one of the biggest in all of WoW. As far as I’m aware, there are over 7000 players spread out across a number of “co-guilds”, since there is a cap on how many characters can be in an guild. At one point, everyone was all in one guild, but the guild panel would stop showing people past a certain number.

My Death Knight that I was leveling just recently hit level 84, and is now a member of AIE Libertas. This is just a slight change from where my Druid is, back on the Thrall server. Band of Thorns is a very small guild, and might have about 10-15 people on at most at any point in time – usually during raids. Both guilds are level 25 and have all perks available.

So, does the size of the guild matter? It certainly does… to an extent.

One of the first things I noticed was just the fact that there’s always somebody on. Even if not in the specific co-guild that I’m in, but through one of the addons that makes guild chat go between all guilds, someone will be there. Even so, even in my co-guild I have yet to be on at a time where there’s less than 10 people on.

Along with that, with more people comes more help that can be available. Something simple as having some lockboxes to open, I asked in guild chat and I had five people who were willing to help out. I would normally have to wait for a while for a rogue to appear to help out, but now I have a number of people ready right away.

Raiding is a very different situation. There are a great number of raid teams in AIE, and a new team can easily be formed by starting a signup for a regular time. Rather than just having one chance to make the raids per week, I’ll now have many teams to choose from or be able to start a new one if needed.

The only downside that I have had so far is the fact that the guild is so big. I want to get to know people, but with so many people out there it’s hard to find the same people to talk to time after time. I know everyone in Band of Thorns, so far in AIE I don’t know anyone. At the same time, I’ve only been in the guild for about two weeks so far, so there’s definitely time to make it work.

There are plenty more options available in AIE than I currently have in Band of Thorns. More than once, I’ve thought about transferring my Druid over to Earthen Ring and joining in with him as well. The problem that I have is that I’ve been with Band of Thorns (in one way or another) since the game’s launch, and have never not been in the guild. There are people who I’ve known through the guild since the very beginning, and it’s very hard to let go. I wouldn’t sever all ties, but at the same time I want to keep my main character active.

Lots of things to consider. All I know is that I’ve been playing my DK a lot more than my Druid, for the main reason that I have stuff to do again, and I’m enjoying the people I play with.

Excrement Excavations and YOU! (or, worst quests in WoW)

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic – check out other articles about this topic from great authors around the WoW blogging community!

One of the very first things that anyone will do when they log into World of Warcraft on a new character will do is accept a quest. There’s a big shiny yellow exclamation point above a nearby NPC that draws you in and compels you to right-click them. Then, for whatever reason, if you kill enough pigs you’ll get a reward! How awesome is that?

More often than not, it’s very awesome. Even moreso since the Cataclysm old world redesign, WoW’s quest design has been amazing. Not too long ago, I did an article about some of my favourite quests in the game. This time we’re going the opposite way, to some examples of the worst quests that are out there today. Not surprisingly, they mostly come from Outland and Northrend – but this is partly because I haven’t done all of the new content yet.

RNG – the bane of all existence

The infamous random number generator (RNG) can be one of the best or worst things in the game. It is blamed for drops from mobs and bosses, block/parry/dodge/hit/miss chance, spawn rates, and quest item drops. There is a reason why the RNG is hated so much, and it’s because of the simple fact that it’s so very random.

Any quest that does not have a 100% chance to drop your item has the possibility to require you to spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to get what is required. Lately it seems that the drop rates for many quests have been improved, but there are many that are still very annoying. Good examples are in Zul’Drak, the quests to collect bat wings and spider ichor.

Isn’t killing a BAD thing?

Falling in line with the RNG is the “kill mobs until something happens” style. Apparently the leaders or commanders of certain groups of mobs only appear after a certain amount of people die. It makes me very glad that I don’t serve under them.

Three examples that came to mind immediately are all from Northrend. In Howling Fjord, you have to kill a number of Vrykul until the commanders show up for you to impale with a battle standard.  In Zul’Drak, shortly after going to Zim’torga, many trolls need to die in order for certain mobs to show up and take their shinies. I just did this quest again yesterday, and it took way more time than it should have.

Excrement Excavations

This post could not happen without some mention of the poop quests. First appearing in Burning Crusade, there has been some sort of quest like this in random places since. To this day, my wife won’t do the Hellfire Peninsula one.

The above-noted quest is called Shizz Work, and is given by a goblin foreman near Thrallmar. Part of a quest chain and open to both factions, it involves using a flute to summon a felhunter and digging through its “leavings” to find some keys. After digging through each pile, you get a debuff called “Stanky” that doesn’t do anything but give you a green smelly aura.

Good idea, but enough already!

Once Blizzard finds a quest mechanic that they like, they tend to stick with it. Sometimes a bit too much, at times. There are quests where it’s a fun mechanic, such as taking an abomination and blowing things up with it, but the amount of things required to blow up is a bit much.

A good example of this is the a quest in Zul’Drak for Drakuru to require a total of 60 trolls to be killed to draw out the three chieftains. I really enjoy things exploding, but it could have easily be done in half the amount of trolls and have the chieftains come with every 10 instead of every 20.

In closing…

Thankfully there is a good variety of types of quests in the game. Blizzard has done a great job, especially in the new Azeroth, of mixing things up. I hope that eventually we’ll see a revamp of Outland and Northrend, and with that we can see some of the new mechanics introduced to these areas.

Firelands Nerfs and Me

Recently Blizzard announced that there was going to be a nerf in the difficulty of Firelands bosses, for both regular and heroic modes. For a lot of people this came as a surprise, as the Tier 11 content wasn’t nerfed until Firelands was released, and heroic modes were kept on the same difficulty. The reaction has been mixed: some are very happy that this will let them see the content before the next raid patch comes out, and some are very upset that the content is a pushover now and their previous work is all for naught.

My thoughts are somewhat in the middle. Unfortunately, due to my real life scheduling situation and some very frustrating timing for being rotated out of a raid spot, I have yet to see an actual Firelands raid. I did a trash run during the first week as well as a few attempts on Rhyolith on another week. No kills or loot from the instance at all for me.

Because of my situation, I’m a bit excited about the nerfs. This means that when the time comes that I’m actually able to raid, there’s more of a chance that we’ll clear through the bosses and I’ll be able to get more Valour Points and good loot. Rather than taking the rare chances that I actually have to raid (so far I’ve been available for three nights of raids since Firelands released) and beating my head against a wall because of stalled progression, I will have a good chance at stuff that most of my guild has had for months.

However, I see where the regular raiders are coming from in their frustration. They’ve been working on this content for a while, learning the fights week after week and making steady progression. Perhaps there’s a guild who was on the verge of taking down a certain boss after many attempts, and all of a sudden the fight is easier by 15%. It’s a little bit of a downer, as the pride in taking things down at full strength is a great feeling.

In the end, this means that more people will be able to see more content. We don’t know any sort of estimated time of arrival for 4.3 and the new (hopefully) awesomeness that awaits there. In the meantime, people who have yet to see all of Firelands will be able to do so. More people will get better gear, meaning that when the next patch finally does arrive, they’ll be better geared for the new content.

I know that our guild has been 6/7 for normal Firelands, so I’m sure that many of my guildies are feeling the frustration. Hopefully the frustration will pass when they realize that they’re getting new goodies and will look forward to beating Deathwing to a bloody pulp.

4.3 Instances of Awesome (I hope)

Looking around the WoW news community this morning gave me quite a bit of happiness. 4.3 looks like it’s going to be incredibly awesome – and even though the word is used entirely too much these days, the word we’re looking for is epic.

On top of the other features of the patch (transmogrification, void storage, raid finder tool, Darkmoon Faire revamp, among other things) we get the best part: the Deathwing raid and 5-man dungeons. Interviews were given from Tom Chilton and Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) across a few websites, and a bunch of information was given.

From the WoW Community Site

Basically, there will be three 5-man dungeons giving the story leading up to the Deathwing raid, all involving the Caverns of Time:

  • The first one (“End Time”) will be a dystopian future where Deathwing won and the world has been destroyed and remade the way he likes – all in ruins. The idea behind this is convince Nozdormu that he needs to get involved and help, or else there won’t be much of anything to watch over.
  • The second one (“Well of Eternity”) will be during the War of the Ancients, where Deathwing first betrayed the aspects and created the Dragon/Demon Soul. It looks like we join Thrall to get the Demon Soul to use as a weapon against Deathwing in the present.  Basically using the power to overload the essence within him, causing the big black dragon to burst from within.
  • The third one (“Hour of Twilight”) will be a flight to Wyrmrest Temple to begin the fight against Deathwing, raid-style. Along the way there will be battles against many foes trying to steal back the Demon Soul and prevent you from attacking the big bad guy, likely lots of Twilight people.

The final battle against Deathwing (“Dragon Soul”) is in an instanced version of Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight (hopefully including the changes that happened in the Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects novel), with fights around and in the temple itself. At one point we get to be on Deathwing’s back, trying to pry off his armour plating to get to his fleshy bits underneath. Apparently there will be a “balance” mechanic, as Deathwing isn’t just going to be flying in a straight line – the raid will be a bunch of fleas on his back that he wants to shake off (do a barrel roll!).

Eventually, Deathwing ends up at the Maelstrom where he becomes a bit of a conglomeration between himself and an Old God minion. The phrase used in the interview with Ghostcrawler says that they call him “Cthulhu-Deathwing”, tentacles included. All in all, this raid looks like it will be living up to my expectations and more.

Also included with this will be a new legendary, a set of two daggers for rogues specifically. This quest line will involve the uncorrupted black dragon egg that was the subject of a really good questline in the Badlands. At the end of it, there’s nothing said about the future or fate of the new whelp, but it looks like we’ll find out shortly.

For more reading, check out interviews at Joystiq, MMO-Champion, and Tankspot.  The official World of Warcraft community site also has a bunch of information.

Signature Abilities

There are certain things in the game that scream: “THIS IS WORLD OF WARCRAFT!” Each class has their own special thing that people think of when they picture the class in their head. Some have changed over time, being iconic when the game came out and all but vanished now. Some have emerged over time, starting as a thought and finally being realized.

One good thing is that I couldn’t think of one specific ability that is recognizable for the entire game. There are a few front-runners, but there are many that define each class. Blizzard has done a great job of making each class very individual (with a few exceptions), and you know who you are playing by what you can do.

Shamans get two picks from me: Frost Shock and Bloodlust. Sorry Alliance, but it will always be Bloodlust and not Heroism. In Vanilla PvP, Frost Shock was one of the biggest abilities that the Horde had in their arsenal, as it was a good snare on a short cooldown that did a decent amount of damage. There used to be an addon that would have an audio file of “FROST SHOOOOOCK!” when it was used. Bloodlust, including the roaring-murloc-style sound, is such a great feeling. The very first time it was used in game for my character gave me goosebumps.

(The above is my son being a good PvP Shaman in training)

Druids are pretty straight forward, being that their forms truly define who they are. Not as much as previously, with the removal of a permanent Tree Form, but I believe that Bear Form & Cat Form are truly iconic (and of course the laser chicken). There’s no mistaking what you’re fighting when you have a cat tearing up your face. Being able to be a warrior, rogue, mage, and priest all in one is a nice feeling.

To me, the Warrior’s signature ability was mainly visible in Vanilla as it was before big nerfs. Mortal Strike was a high damage move that also caused the target to receive 50% less healing as a debuff. This was in place for a very long time until it was nerfed to be only 10% less healing, as it was very overpowered for PvP. Many tanks were Arms spec in Vanilla mainly for this ability, so mobs that healed themselves could be mitigated. Close second is Titan’s Grip – being able to wield two two-handed weapons is just awesome.

Rogues are mainly known for one thing: their stuns. They have close to fifty thousand of them (or so it would seem at time in PvP), and used well they can completely lock out someone for a good period of time. By the time the stuns wear off, the target’s health is low enough that they’re as good as dead.

Warlocks also have two great abilities to cause grief to people: Fear and Death Coil. Both mainly in Vanilla again, but the combination of the two spells were great to keep a player or a mob out of the way for a good period of time. The only problem with PvE use of them is that they have a very good chance to pull approximately one thousand other mobs who are close by.

Mages have two things that I believe is their signature, which is Polymorph and the ability to blow stuff up. Polymorph’s history goes back to the early RTS games, and thankfully stays in the game today as a great crowd control device. Being able to have different animals other than sheep is nice for groups or raids with multiple mages, but the sheep is still awesome. Plus, mages can blow stuff up, including Living Bomb. How can you go wrong?

Hunters are definitely known for having their pets and their traps. The removal of Eyes of the Beast, allowing direct control over the pet, is definitely a big loss – it was also the way our guild pulled Baron Geddon in Molten Core back in Vanilla. When pets had their happiness system or needing to tame specific pets to learn specific abilities, or basically how pets were before they were all made generic are what truly defined hunters for a very long time. The traps have become a lot better, as rather than having to place them where the character is, they are now able to be launched to a location without having to sacrifice yourself. Coming close behind is feign death, which is also useful in real life.

I had a difficult time coming up with a specific priest signature ability. Eventually I decided on Shadowform and the ability to be a very flexible healer. Unfortunately with all the specific heals that a priest has, there are too many to narrow down to one signature one, apart from Greater Heal. Bread and butter healing. Shadowform is very different in the fact that it gave priests a way to do very good damage and still be a priest at heart.

Death Knights are pretty easy, as Death Grip is one of the first things that a player uses after rolling one. Being able to yank someone right to you, also acting as a taunt, is a tank’s best friend. Plus, a lot of fun in PvP. Army of the Dead is a close contender, as there are few things more awesome than an army of ghouls rampaging on your behalf.

The Paladin signature ability was the easiest one to come up with. Divine Shield, or the infamous “Bubble”. Unfortunately not being able to last long enough for a full bubble-hearth, it still has the reputation that it definitely deserves.

In conclusion, each class has things that truly make them feel unique. Even the Druid, which “borrows” the styles of other classes, still makes the playstyle their own. Even though they use rage like a warrior, they are not warriors (parrying with their faces takes skill).

As a signature ability for the game? I don’t think there needs to be one. The closest “iconic” one that I can think of would have to be Bloodlust. It is synonymous with the Orc culture, and every time I hear the sound effect I can’t help but think of the Warcraft series.

Corath’s Blog? Say what?

This doesn’t really have anything to do with Warcraft itself, but with my blog.  For a while I’ve been wondering what I can do to improve it, and one thing that I’ve thought about for a while is branding.

If you do a search, and “Corath’s Blog” comes up, it’s not that captivating.  Nothing in it brings a person in to the website, and it doesn’t even reference anything in Warcraft at all.  It’s the name I’ve been using for years, and that’s about it.

A while back I had my sister-in-law, who was a journalist for a major Canadian newspaper, look through my blog and give me ideas.  Even though she has no experience with WoW or anything of the like, she said that things looked good – but she pointed out the title with exactly what I was talking about above.  I put the thoughts on the back-burner for a while, but now I’m wanting to proceed with it.

Since the address of the blog is out there, I don’t want to change that.  However, I’m not great about choosing titles or names.  I’d like it to refernce Warcraft in some way, since that’s obviously what I focus on.  Originally I was thinking about doing a variety of things, but that’s fallen by the wayside.

So, this is where I need the help of anyone who reads.  Please help me come up with any ideas for a new title!  Jamin from Shattered Beginnings has given me one, which will definitely be in the hat.  Please comment with any suggestions – all are welcome!  Thanks!

4.3 – Transmogrification and Void Storage

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic. Check out some great posts by other members of the WoW blogging community!

A whole bunch of news came out lately about patch 4.3 and what Blizzard is saying is the last big content patch of Cataclysm. While that news is interesting in itself, today I’ll just talk about two features that were some of the first to be highlighted: transmogrification and void storage.

We don’t know any timeframe for when 4.3 will be coming, but by the looks of things it won’t be for a while. Blizzard has said that it’s the biggest content patch that they’ve ever released, and I don’t doubt that. Some other things included in the patch will be the Deathwing raid, three 5-man dungeons, a revamped Darkmoon Faire, a Raid Finder tool (similar to the LFD tool), and likely many more things.

Looking at Transmogrification and Void Storage, it was originally teased for us with a picture called “Glimpses”, posted on the Warcraft Facebook page. The caption simply read, “Interesting”.

 

Before transmogrification...

Transmogrification (try saying that ten times fast)

Basically, this feature will allow someone to change the physical appearance of an item to something else. Have a new tier set that looks horrendous? Still have your old tier set that looks amazing? For some gold you’ll be able to have it look the way it was before, but still having the new stats of the new gear.

My first reaction to transmogrification was mixed. I really like the idea, and people have been asking for it for years… but my main is a Druid. While there are some sets that look great, they all suffer from the problem most Druids have: we barely get to see them. When I’m in combat, I’m always shapeshifted unless healing.

... and after.

Lately I haven’t actually been doing too much instancing, so this might not be too bad of a thing to work towards. I really like some of the sets that have come out, and I wasn’t able to get some of them while the content was relevant.

My Death Knight weeps at possibilities not able to be used… until I can get the starter zone stuff back.

Void Storage

This feature will allow people to store many items in an expanded bank, for a price. There are some restrictions on it, including the fact that it will strip away all enchants or creators’ name tags (which has been said is a technological impairment, nothing to do with lore at all), and that it will cost gold to deposit items. It’s meant for items that are kept in a bank and left for a very long time.

A while back I was able to complete “What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been” to earn my Violet Proto-Drake. Because it requires completing all of the holiday events, that brings a lot of holiday items acquired over time. I am a packrat, so everything that I got along the way still sits in my bank.

It will be very weird to have my bank relatively empty, and use it as an extension of my bag space.

The Final Words

I’m looking forward to transmogrification and void storage. Both will have good features that I will use, but it’s not a make-or-break thing for me. Give me a way to have my cat, bear, or moonkin forms change with my armour and I’ll be extremely excited.

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