Archive for September, 2008

Nerdcraft!

Warning: Warcraft-related nerd-rant thing incoming. Ignore if you don’t care.

Last night in our Karazhan run, I decided to go for another respec, switching back to a deep frost build. Why? I respec my mage a lot. It gives me a chance to swap between three different variations of the mage play-style, and keep my skills sharp on all of them. I also do it to avoid the common trap of sticking to one spec and proclaiming it to be the best of all, and that all other specs are less than useless. There are many players, hardcore raiders chief among them, who fall victim to this idiocy. Anyone who’s been paying attention with an open mind can tell you that properly backed up with skill and gear, all three mage specs are easily viable methods of doing damage.

I took my new frost build into Kara, expecting not to do as much damage as I typically do mostly due to the fact that I wear the spellfire set during PvE, which adds a large amount of spellpower, but only for Fire and Arcane spells. The gear I use when playing frost is not nearly as potent, consisting of the Season 1 PvP Robe, the Season 3 PvP Gloves, and typically the cloth belt from Karazhan, which I can neither remember the name of nor the boss it drops from. However, I’ve been making a recent move to try and replace my spellfire set for when the new expansion comes out. As part of that, I had a Belt of Blasting crafted, and now typically wear that. I’m also working on obtaining enough Badges of Justice to get the Tormented Demonsoul Robes, and finding some other gloves. More on this in a bit.

I was extremely suprised at the results from last night’s run. I was on top of the damage for nearly the entire time, and I have some very good DPS in my raid team, ones I had trouble competing with when I was deep fire. I think this is due to any number of causes. For one, we had not one, but two paladins last night: Secondaid’s paladin jumped in to tank, and to replace Secondaid as our primary healer, we brought back our former team leader, Zewt, to heal for the night. So that’s two paladins when we typically have none, so I got back the Paladin blessing which reduces threat, which is a huge issue for mages, especially fire ones. The other factor might have been Visygoth’s shaman who came in to DPS. I got him to give me a three second warning when he was going to use his Bloodlust ability, so I could summon my Water Elemental before he did. Bloodlust increases casting and attack speed for every member of your party, including pets, for a short time, so my elemental’s casting speed went up as well. Then I typically used the mage Icy Veins ability, which is a self-buff that also increases casting time for a short period. Bloodlust and Icy Veins stack with each other, so for a brief period of time, I was throwing out Frostbolts extremely quickly, pounding bosses over and over. Couple that with Cold Snap, which instantly finishes the cooldown time on Icy Veins and Water Elemental, and I could use them both again right away. I’d forgotten just how much punishment frost mages can throw out using those combinations, and it was a blast to rediscover it.

Now, back to the gear thing. Burning Crusade introduced a new aspect to the tailoring profession, the ability to specialize into one of three types of cloth: Spellcloth, Shadowcloth, and Primal Mooncloth. What this essentially gave you was the ability to create one of three 3-piece sets that was very powerful and would last you a long time in the end-game PvE progression. Nearly every mage, warlock, and priest took up the tailoring profession for these items.
However, there was a caveat. The sets were geared towards specific schools of magic. The Primal Mooncloth set added healing, the Shadoweave set added Frost and Shadow damage, and the Spellfire set added Fire and Arcane damage.

For Warlocks and Shadow Priests, the choice was simple: Both of these classes make heavy use of the Shadow school of magic, so they picked that. Mages, however, had a choice to make. They could spec their character into Fire, Frost, or Arcane (or some combo of both), so these sets forced them to choose: Stick with Frost exclusively, or at least have a choice between Fire and Arcane. Of course, you could collect alternate items to these sets and use them if you wanted to change to a spec they didn’t support, but finding items as GOOD as the tailored items was all but impossible at the time.

I chose the latter of those two options, getting the Spellfire set. My reasoning was that if I have to lock myself into a spec, I’d rather have 2 to choose from rather than only one. Plus, the set had other stats that were better for mages, namely more intellect than the Shadoweave set, and critical strike rating. My mage is still wearing most it to this day, and during that time I’ve used fire and arcane specs both a great deal. I’ve tried frost a few times, but not having gear comparable to the spellfire set to replace it with has made these efforts usually short-lived.

Blizzard added some items that were more accessible to a lot of players via the Badge of Justice system in recent patches of the game, and some of these are comparable to the tailored sets. In fact, the robe I mentioned above is one I’m currently collecting enough Badges to obtain now.
However, it may be a moot point. In the upcoming expansion, Blizzard has changed how gear adds to the damage capability of our spells. +Spell Damage and +healing stats are no more. There is only Spellpower, which affects damage and healing spells differently. As a side effect of this, they’ve changed these tailoring sets to no longer be school-specific. All three sets now affect both damage and healing spells, all of them.

This means I no longer truly have to focus on replacing my Spellfire set if I want to spec into Frost. I’m quite happy about this, even though I still want to get those Robes (they have other statistics that the spellfire robe does not). I have never been a fan of locking myself out of other options needlessly, and now I don’t have to.

This is exceptionally good because this change is being introduced in the 3.0 patch, which will come a month or so before Wrath is released in stores. During this time, the massive changes to the talent point system are also coming into play. I’ve been following the changes to the mage talents, and thus far I am very excited about them. It makes me very happy to know I can swap between them all at will without worrying if my gear can back them up, now I know they can.

My recent frost successes, as well as the very little time I’ve had to test Frost out on the public test realms, are starting to convince me to try playing with that spec first. The addition of Fingers of Frost, which let you treat targets like they’re frozen even if they aren’t (or are immune to such an effect normally) promises some serious DPS increase for the spec against boss-level mobs, especially combined with the new Deep Freeze spell. I also like the addition of Improved Water Elemental, which gives you additional time on the Elemental, and supposedly regenerates mana as long as it’s up, though I understand this isn’t working at the moment.

Fire is also looking extremely good. The major talent I’m looking forward to playing with is Hot Streak. Crit twice in a row with a scorch or fireball, get an instant cast Pyroblast. With a high enough crit rating, you could proc this like crazy. The real question will be dealing with the additional threat it generates. Living Bomb looks like a great addition to mage AOE… damaging not only your target, but also those nearby them and knocking them back. The addition of a knockback to Blastwave also looks promising. I really can’t wait to try this on those AOE pulls in Karazhan.

Arcane…I had very high hopes for this spec, I really did. It looked incredible. The damage potential of an Arcane Blast/Arcane Missile spec was already high as it was, combined with Missile Barrage, the new Arcane Barrage spell, and the other utility talents like Focus Magic, and it was looking incredible on paper. Then the more recent updates to the Wrath beta changed Arcane Blast, the primary spell of an arcane build, to increase the mana cost by 300% every time it’s cast for 3 sec after you cast it. The spell always had a debuff where it would reduce the casting time but increase the mana for a small time period after you cast it, but never that much. That amount is way too excessive. I tried it in the public test realms, and it eats your mana so quickly, it’s all but unusable. I’m hopeful Blizzard will respond to the huge outcry over this and change the spell to a more workable means, but until I see that happen, I won’t spec Arcane.

Wow, I talked a LOT about this topic. Okay, guess I’ll end it here. Thanks and see ya’ll later.

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The Battle of Undercity…How will it play out??

So, as you can well imagine, given my obsessive information personality, with the second World of Warcraft expansion on the horizon, I have naturally been up to my eyeballs in trying to learn as much about it from the beta testing as possible.

There are any number of things I could discuss about it here, but I’d like to talk about a particular piece of information I just found out about.

Apparently there is a quest chain for both the Horde and the Alliance which ultimately ends with one of their major figures getting killed (Bolvar Fordragon for the Alliance, and Saurfang the Younger for the Horde) and that Varimathras (the dreadlord in Undercity, Sylvanas’ pet and majordomo) is responsible. He’s taken control of Undercity, along with someone named “Grand Apothecary Putress”.

From what I can tell happens next, there is a massive gathering in both Orgrimmar and Stormwind, with the faction leaders from both sides rallying everyone together to march on the Undercity (the Horde to take it back, the Alliance to destroy it). NPCs and Players alike fight their way into the city, fighting massive raid bosses, and the whole time there’s dialogue between all the major NPCs of your side. Ultimately, the Alliance fights their way into the Apothecarium and kills Putress, and the Horde makes it to the Undercity Throne room and kills Varimathras.

At this point, the Alliance storms into the Throne Room, and levies accusations at the Horde that they were in fact responsible for Varimathras’ murder of Bolvar Fordragon. He orders the charge on the Horde…

…only Jaina Proudmore freezes the entire alliance army, teleports them back to Stormwind, and laments with Thrall that the war between the Alliance and the Horde is further away from a true end than ever, and that they will doubtless fight each other just as much as they fight the Undead scourge.

Needless to say, if you’ve played World of Warcraft to any significant degree, you get how epic this is. I didn’t see anything like this from the Alliance perspective, but my information indicates that during this quest, Orgrimmar is all but SHUT DOWN. None of the shops or anything is open for business, Orgrimmar is crawling with Undercity refugees, there is from all the major war-leader NPCs about plans of attack, rallying, all that sort of thing. This is totally unprecedented in this game, and it’s extremely cool

What I don’t see, and what concerns me, is how this gets started. What prompts this to happen?

My best guess is that given the scope and epic grandness of this whole quest chain, is that this has to be a one-time only “world event” that happens in the game to transition us from the world of “WoW:Burning Crusade” to “WoW: Wrath”, if that makes any sense.

If you recall, there was a pretty massive event that went on before Burning Crusade came out…the Dark Portal opening and scores of demons pouring out…a massive raid boss that randomly spawned launching attacks on the major cities…

This is on the same epic level. Actually, it’s beyond that. I’ve never seen an event that shut a major city down like this. And this is why I think it’s a limited-time thing. If this was present in Wrath of the Lich King where ANYONE could do it…anyone could solely shut Orgrimmar down for this event at any time. No way does that happen…no, this has got to be a limited time thing.

However it happens, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more soon. I cannot wait to experience it firsthand…there’s a LOT of storyline to be told here, a lot of character development, and a lot of interesting dynamics to be at play. I want to see it if I can.

Home again home again Jiggity Jog.

A few updates, which you might have been seeing already if you’ve been following me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thebmatt I’ve been using this particular service like a madman recently. It’s been a lot more convenient to use it now that I have an iPhone and can reasonably access it and view it from anywhere.

Mom finally got to come home from the hospital a week ago this past Friday. The doctor finally felt like she was in a good enough state that he was sure she wouldn’t have any problems at home. She had planned to take two weeks off to recover, so she’s been at home all this past week trying to do just that. Her arms still have bandages on them, but she’s expected to get those off come Tuesday. So it looks like it was a resounding success and the worst of it is over. Praise God for that. Mom’s been through far too much in this entire saga of trying to get her health back into shape, and now the final piece of all of that is gone, the excess skin. I’m so happy for her, I almost can’t put it into words.

To all of my friends in Waco: I love you all and miss you dearly. I think Mom will be in good enough shape after this past week that she’ll be fine if I come down to Waco and see you all again, assuming you’re all okay with that, especially Justin, since he has thus far been kind enough to allow me to stay in his room. I should have a sweet awesome dungeoun crawl ready for my D&D players as well. Be prepared! Some of this stuff is gonna be downright freaky. Mwahahaha.

I got my troll shaman up to level 58 last night. That means he’s a high enough level to explore the game’s content that was added in the first expansion pack, which was designed to be a lot more enjoyable and a lot more rewarding that the content in the original game, in my opinion.

All right, just wanted to update everyone on that. Later.