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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!

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.

Memories of Azeroth: Zangarmarsh

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After Hellfire Peninsula, the next stop is Zangarmarsh.  Whereas Hellfire looked a lot like the Blasted Lands, and wasn’t too “alien”, Zangarmarsh is a completely brand new world.  It’s basically a reminder of the Warcraft II expansion set “Beyond the Dark Portal”, as there were forests of mushrooms there.  Well, here’s your forest of mushrooms!

Cenarion Refuge - Click for full size

Telredor - Click for full size

Starting in the zone, characters would have breadcrumb quests leading to Cenarion Refuge, and their respective faction camps of Swamprat Post for the Horde or Telredor fot the Alliance.  I must admit that I was always a little choked that the Alliance got this amazing looking outpost built into a mushroom, and the Horde just gets a generic Troll camp.  The quests here would take up half the zone, eventually leading west.

The Dead Mire - Click for full size

The Spawning Glen - Click for full size

The zone’s story has a lot to do with the Naga, and how they’re draining the lakes for their own purposes.  They don’t say exactly what purpose that is, but I think it’s along the lines of: “It’s MINE! Go away!”  The Dead Mire is an example of what happens to an area once the water has been drained out completely.  Among the inhabitants affected by this are the mushroom people of Sporeggar.  There are some quests to help them out, and a faction associated with them.  The rewards include a non-combat pet, but it takes a very long time to get the reputation required.

Ango'rosh Stronghold - Click for full size

Orebor Harborage - Click for full size

The west side of the zone dealt mainly with the Ogres, and that they were chopping down the mushrooms for themselves and messing things up for Sporeggar.  Because the fungal giants didn’t have mushrooms to eat, they decided to eat Sporeggar’s young while they were growing in the Spawning Glen.  It’s up to the player to go and crush the Ogres at their stronghold, which is a small island using a downed mushroom as a bridge.  Altogether you get to lay a beat down on a bunch of things to try and bring things as close to normal as possible.

To Terokkar Forest - Click for full size

To Nagrand - Click for full size

After Zangarmarsh, it’s off to Terokkar Forest – normally.  I try to skip Terokkar, as I’m not too fond of the zone, so I try to go right to Nagrand.  There are entrances to Terokkar, Nagrand, and Blade’s Edge from Zangarmarsh, very much the crossroads of the continent.

 

A Change in Scenery

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I have a great guild. I’ve been a member of it for my entire WoW career, and I don’t plan on leaving it anytime soon – not many other guilds would put up with my incredibly messed up schedule and still let me raid. Through this guild, I’ve met a number of people and formed some great friendships.

However, I’ve been looking at trying something different for a little while now. Every once in a while I’ll roll an alt on another server and see what happens, which eventually just gets deleted. I lose interest quickly, and just go back to my main server.

Rolling a new character somewhere that has absolutely no connection to people you know, gold, or heirlooms is very difficult. Not only does the new character start with nothing to their name, but also having no connections or a guild to talk to is quite lonely. Fortunately, there have been a few changes to make things a bit easier now.

Even though I thoroughly enjoy the low level changes to Azeroth, it still takes a good amount of time to progress through levels 1-60. On top of that, I’ve wanted to try out a Death Knight tank, so that’s what I decided on. Therefore Borble, the Goblin Death Knight, was born on the Earthen Ring server.

Many times, choosing a server is one of the most difficult choices that someone can make. Do you choose a low population server and have a tight-knit community? Do you choose a high population server for more people to interact with? What are the guilds like with their raiding? By going through server forums and guild websites, it’s possible to find something that works for you.

My choice of Earthen Ring was for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to try a role-playing (RP) server as I haven’t done much of it in WoW. I previously did a fair amount of RP in a previous game, but nothing so far here. (On top of that, creating this character also gave me a good idea for a submission to Blizzard’s writing contest.) Secondly, I’m a big fan of The Instance podcast and they have their mega-guild AIE on Earthen Ring. I’d love to be part of a guild like them after being in a small one for so long.

Unfortunately, AIE isn’t accepting any new characters until October, so it gives me time to explore other opportunities until then. One nice thing about this is that I had my first experience with the Guild Finder option. I listed my name, gave a little bit of a blurb about myself and what I wanted to do, and applied to a few guilds that were on the list. A little bit later, I was invited and in the guild. Now I have new people to talk to and spend time with!

The majority of my time so far has been spent herbing and working on alchemy, while in the queue for random Burning Crusade instances. I just hit level 61, and have not stepped foot in Outland at all. I’ve only done instance runs while herbing in Azeroth, and it’s quite possible that I won’t do anything in Outland at all by the time I’m ready for Northrend.

Through this, I had my first experiences as a DK tank. I’m always terrified of trying something new – whether it’s trying a healing spec on my priest or druid, or tanking on this new DK. Because I knew that I’d never be completely comfortable with it, I decided to just jump in and see how it went.

Amazingly enough, it went pretty well. The first few pulls were definitely learning experiences, as I had only ever witnessed other DKs do the tanking while I do other stuff. Very quickly I found out that being disarmed is very bad and that runes will never refresh fast enough. The other downside of doing this tanking at level 60 and 61 is that I don’t have my regular taunt yet, and only Death Grip… which is on a 32 second cooldown. Many times I need something more frequent than that.

The first experiences have been good, and I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey on this new server. I hope to join AIE when possible, but until then I’m having fun in a completely new environment.

Memories of Azeroth – Hellfire Peninsula

Through my Screenshots of the Week, I’ve had a few people comment about perhaps expanding it. One person suggested I do a whole post about Nagrand, since I said how much I loved it.  So, here’s the first of my focus on a specific zone – in screenshots. I try to limit myself on how many I will use, as it’s quite easy to take a whole lot of them.

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The first thing anyone notices going into Hellfire Peninsula, and the rest of Outland, is the Dark Portal. Anyone who has played any of the RTS games will know about this, and I know the first time that I went through it I was a little bit in awe. The Azeroth size of it is quite small, but seeing the enormity of the Outland side was amazing.

Thrallmar - Click for full size

Honor Hold - Click for full size

After going through the portal, the next stop would be your faction’s respective home base: Thrallmar for the Horde, and Honor Hold for the Alliance.  Each of the bases has a history, but the Alliance has a little bit more – it was founded by the Alliance Expedition Force who went through the Dark Portal many years back (the events of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal expansion).  Alleria and Turalyon and the rest of the force prevented the corruption of Outland to spread into Azeroth, and basically saved the world… along with beating up Deathwing and a few others.

Falcon Watch - Click for full size

Temple of Telhamat - Click for full size

Other quest hubs in the zone include Falcon Watch for the Horde, run by the Blood Elves who were longing to get to Outland to drink in the energies, and the Temple of Telhamat, run by Draenei who are also wanting to get back to Outland for different reasons.  The landscapes here always strike me, even through how desolate it all is. Take the large red crystal, a focus for a small quest chain. Simply adding that in gives the area a lot more character.

Skies of Outland - Click for full size

Pools of Aggonar - Click for full size

Since Outland is an alien world, there has to be things that set it apart from what is considered normal. Simply looking up at the sky, and seeing energies flow across will show you that you’re not in Azeroth anymore. That, along with multiple moons, gives the zone that much more of an exotic look. Before Outland was what it is now, it was a world called Draenor, but succumed to demonic corruption. One area is called the Pools of Aggonar, which is where a pit lord was once killed. His skeleton remains, along with many pools of his sickly green “blood”, and creatures that feed off of it and are born of it. Definitely corrupted.

Hellfire Citadel - Click for full size

Towards Zangarmarsh - Click for full size

In the middle of the zone is Hellfire Citadel, where there are four instances – three 5-man dungeons and a 25-man raid. The biggest change of the instances from Vanilla to Burning Crusade was that many of them were tremendously shorter and more streamlined than before. People weren’t used to being able to complete an instance in under three hours.

Once Hellfire Peninsula was done the next destination was Zangarmarsh, which will be the subject of next week’s Memories of Azeroth.

Screenshot of the Week – August 6

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My hunter just finished leveling through Nagrand again, and I can never get enough of the zone. It truly is absolutely beautiful – I could have a post full of the many different areas of it. Not only that, but after reading Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden, I can appreciate the history of Orcs that is throughout the zone.

Screenshot of the Week – July 30

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A view from far above the Temple of Earth in Deepholm is what we have today. The path of blood pools from Deathwing’s wounds has scarred the ground forever. Plus, it looks pretty cool.

Job Application: Warchief of the Horde

I was thinking the other day about the leaders of the Horde, and our current Warchief.  After looking them all over, each has their own reasons for wanting to be in power and has the experience to warrant it.  So I thought I’d put down a brief job application for each of the six leaders and what they would have said to Thrall if they had applied for the job of Warchief.

Enjoy this humourous representation of what I think the different people would say.

Applicant: Garrosh Hellscream

Gender: MANLY ORC!

Race: DID YOU NOT SEE MANLY ORC?

Previous Employer: Mopey emo-Orc based out of Garadar

References: Greatmother Geyah. Don’t talk to Mor’ghor. My Dad was Grom Hellscream! That counts for something, right? Hey, how did Magatha’s name get on here?!

Experience: Running Warsong Hold with the “help” of Saurfang. Smashing things with Gorehowl. Cleaving things with Gorehowl. Beating more things with Gorehowl. Oh, is that a basic campfire? So pretty… er, um, I like beating things. Good history of arguing for the sake of arguing. Lack of foresight. Dueling.

Applicant: Baine Bloodhoof

Gender: Bull

Race: Tauren

Previous Employer: Chief of Bloodhoof Village

References: My father’s legacy, and I’m sure Magatha will attest to my battle prowess.

Experience: Not being Garrosh Hellscream.  Having honour. Running Bloodhoof Village for many years while my father was leading our people. Battle experience notably includes taking back Thunder Bluff from traitors. Do you want to see the dents in my totem from those pummeled by it?

Applicant: Sylvanas

Gender: Female

Race: Previously High Elf, currently a banshee inhabiting the dead body

Previous Employer: Arthas (*spits*), Quel’Thalas Rangers

References: There’s a few Val’kyr here who will be willing to say how awesome I am.  Oh, and an entire nation of followers.

Experience: Leading formerly enthralled minions of the Lich King under one banner to oppose him. Helping kill Arthas through the various parts of Icecrown Citadel. Destroying many enemies while in the Rangers. Not making plague (*coughs*).

Applicant: Vol’jin

Gender: Male

Race: Troll

Previous Employer: Masta’ o’ da Darkspear Trolls

References: Afta’ Bwonsamdi blessed de Darkspears, I be sure he happy wit’ me. Thrall be me brudda in arms.

Experience: Leading da Trolls away from massacre of da Gurubashi. Kickin’ heathen Trolls out of Zul’Aman. Emissary to other Troll tribes. Loyal member o’ da Horde since we came to Kalimdor. Lay down a beat, and I be de masta’ dancah!

Applicant: Lor’themar Theron

Gender: Male, right?

Race: Blood Elf

Previous Employer: Prince Kael’thas

References: Nobody knows who I am…

Experience: Looking good while doing anything, or nothing. Standing around in Silvermoon for the past few years. I look amazing. My hair looks fabulous.

 

Applicant: Trade-Prince Gallywix

 

Gender: Male

Race: Goblin

Previous Employer: ME!

References: Ask any Goblin, they’ll know what to say. YOU KNOW WHAT TO SAY OR YOU’LL PAY!

Experience: Swindling the life savings out of a brazen young upstart who wants my job. Hostile takeovers. Insulting others, especially people who want my job or Gnomes. Being the best at everything… except sailing, I guess.

Screenshot of the Week – July 9

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Flying around doing archaeology one day, I was passing through Uldum and was wondering why it was on fire. There are times I’m not very observant, but the last time I checked I was at the south end of Kalimdor and not by Blackrock Mountain.  Deathwing had apparently just been through, and had unleashed his swath of destruction.  I would be upset, except for the fact that he roasted me a while back.

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