onsdag 22. april 2009

Something from nothing.

Sometimes you have to look outside of the box to find the present inside. Sometimes you have to break up a few roots to sow anew. Sometimes the best ideas come from the most surprising of places.

Since the arrival of 3.1, I've spent a fair bit of time re-thinking my death knight. Still in the process of actually levelling her up (75 and counting!), I have taken some time to plan ahead for what I want her to be when she peaks the level cap. And what I want her to be, now as when I rolled her, is a dual-wielding, unholy piece of bitch that is able to deal tremendous damage to any fight, be it Patchwerk, be it Malygos or be it Mimiron. The death knight re-balancing, nerf if you will, in patch 3.1, have rendered the idea of dual-wielding death knights to be considered dead and buried by the hardcore community, and looking at the talents (with the death of Nuclear Bomb Icy Touch and tri-spec) as they stand live, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why.

So when browsing the forums and communities, reading everyone's (very professional, if I may say so myself) mathematical QQ on the subject, I stumble across a lone, largely ignored poster, suggesting a build based around Scourge Strike. Hang on there, Scourge Strike for dual-wield? Surely you must be joking. But no, no joke coming. And no Killing Machine? Can you really have dual-wield without Killing Machine? Looking closer at his armoury, I see a player still in quest greens, his raiding experience is limited to OS10 and OS25, both professions are gathering, gear mostly unenchanted and gems of the cheap variety. This is, from the looks of it, not a very good players. Should I really listen to this guy?

The short answer: Yes.

The slightly longer answer: The idea is both creative and interesting - why the hell not?

For the last couple of days, been running around Borean Tundra and Dragonblight questing, with an average overall DPS at a round 800 equipped with quest greens, seldom using more than 5 GCDs downing a mob. The real eye-opener, however, came when doing the group quest Last Rites, when I got to try my rotation in full on a 114k HP elite. Clocking in at 1488 DPS on level 73, with shit for haste and less than 20% crit with both Horn and buff food, it dawned on me what this build might be capable of. I've been in Naxx25-PuGs where less DPS is seen from death knights on Patchwerk, and I'm beating that at 73? Scourge Strikes crits for 3,500, the runic generation for Death Coil-dump is amazing and the general output is overall far higher than expected.

So for the time being, I'm looking forward to ding level 80, get geared and try out a 0/14/57-build of my own design (wot no gargoyle?) in a raid environment. I will, of course, keep you posted on progression.

ENDNOTE: For all of you who miss something about warriors in this post - I might try Arms one of these days, If I do, expect a heavy rant on how terrific/terrible that experience turns out to be.

mandag 30. mars 2009

The inconvenient silence.

My apologies for the long period of silence, but there really haven't been a lot to talk about for the last few weeks and month. With Ulduar apporaching, heroics farmed to death and then some, and the thought of battling through Naxxramas for anything other than social fun almost making you nauseous, there's really only one thing to do:

Turn to PvP.

The problem is, of course, that WoW PvP truly is a joke these days - Wintergrasp is a matter of farming kills and hope you have more people than horde, Strand of the Ancients remains a truly dreadful place and Alterac Valley is so dead you'd find the Exodar more enjoyable on an average weeknight. Arenas, whom I've always found hideously un-entertaining, remains a part of WotLK I've still not ventured onto, but from reports, it's not a big loss. I've a 3v3 team in the making, though, just in case there actually is any potential fun to be had.

And that leaves us with the classics - Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin. I've spent the last few days working on my Justicar title alongside Karrling and Priscus, occasionally bringing is as much as five extra friends, for some semi-serious "pre-mades" designed for nothing more than making PvP as fun as it can be. This leads to some facerolling victories, some happy defeats at the hands of more organized (and decent) pre-mades, but most importantly, it reminds you why PvP can still be the most enjoyable and social experience of all in the World of Warcraft.

And to me, that is more important than anything else this game has to offer at the moment.

tirsdag 24. februar 2009

New user interface.

Though I've been aware of it for some time now, Sunday's Obsidian Sanctum raid made it abundantly clear to me that I REALLY needed to re-do my user interface. A combination of SCT taking way too much space as well as having certain filter issues, combined with my buff bars growing too large when a full 25-man raid popped their cooldowns at once led to an overflow of information that took so much space on my screen that it blocked out the twilight drakes' Void Zones and made the flame adds a bitch to even find beneath the flow of text and graphics.

(Click image to see full-size version)

Starting from the center, I use AGUF for my new player, target/target of target and party unit frames, replacing Xperl (which really is overrated). I've also replaced Xperl's raid frame with a dedicated raid frame called VuhDo, situated top right in the picture. My actionbars remain Bartender4, though I've spent some time rearranging my setup and keybindings for faster and more comfortable flow. Quartz delivers my swing timer underneath the actionbars, and a mob castbar the length of my own frame, target frame and target of target frame situated immediately above said frames (not shown in picture).

I've collected my Recount and Omen in the bottom left corner, using a fairly standard setup. Prat3.0 delivers my chat and combat log. The minimap is Chinchilla, and to keep it small I've gathered all the necessary buttons with MiniMap ButtonFrame beneath it.

Finally, solving the problem areas. The first thing I did was to move my target buff/debuff rack to the bottom right corner of the screen, placing my own buff/debuff rack next to it. I then redesigned it from scratch, changing size, font and colours to make them as small as possible, yet at the same time fast accessible for information. I grew my IceHUD a bit bigger, to allow a larger area around my character clear of information. The biggest and by far most important change, though, was replacing SCT with MikScrollingBattleText. It takes some time to set up properly, but it completely annihilates SCT with regards to configurability. I actively set up to place all sources of information to outside and around my HUD, leaving the area inside clear of any disruptions, hopefully making those Void Zones more visible next time around.

Apart from what the picture shows, I also use BigWigs, Ratingbuster and Cartographer - all essentials. I'm quite pleased with where I've gotten my setup, and can't wait to test its functionality in a raid environment.

mandag 23. februar 2009

Warriors as add tanks.

While Tyds and Jayde are busy discussing all the current flaws of the warrior tank, a silent post emerged on TankingTips.com about what appears to be an entirely new aspect of utilizing the warrior tank - the dedicated add tank. Traditionally left to Consecration and Swipe, it now appears that we the juggernauts are now the new delivery boys of any given raid, and that certainly provides some food for thought.

I'll be assuming you've taken five minutes to read the original TankingTips post. Otherwise, go back and do that if you want any the rest of this post to make any sense.

To begin, I'd like to state that I fully approve and enjoy everything the post have to say. It's a great way to illustrate the diversity of the warrior tank, and underlines my post about tanking DPS a few days back. It also enlightened me on a few ideas I'd completely overlooked, namely the unlimited taunts and the Piercing Howl.

I'd originally thought Piercing Howl a dead prot talent - a fair bit of the trash, and absolutely every boss in both heroic dungeons and raid instances are immune to it. It does not cause threat, and it's deep enough into the fury tree to demand severe sacrifices to your (generally) superior arms tree choices. For nine out of ten fights in WotLK, Piercing Howl is a wasted talent. The upside to this is, of course, that you're going to be able to spec for improved Cleave, an awesome offtank-talent alongside the glyph, but you'll still take a severe pummeling for overall TPS dropping your arms choices.

I'm also critical to the lack of options presented for emercency buttons. Thunder Clap is on a six second cooldown, Shockwave on twenty. They are also offensive spells requiring rage, which is hard to maintain at the beginning of a fight where you're not actually being beaten on yet, or even beating on anything. Bloodrage is the obvious answer, but it still has a massive cooldown making it unreliable, so we are likely to be dependent on keeping Charge off cooldown and tabbing like a crazed maniac to ensure we not only build rage, but allocated it properly. This, to me, appears to be both the biggest drawback, yet at the same time greatest challenge to this tanking concept.

It's also worth noting that you, while nowhere near a bad tank, will be lacking main tank capacity with this build. Warriors are already lowering the average endgame raid threat roof by simply not being able to keep TPS high enough to compete with the DPS output by classes like arcane mages or enhancement shamans with the current metagame - losing improved Heroic Strikes and Deep Wounds, not to mention the added Charge rage in an already rage-starved environement will ensure our threat output in a main tank situation is signifigantly lower than desired.

Despite of these points, I still feel this spec is viable, and as such, I've tweaked my spec to a strange and absolutely unfamiliar 5/14/52 build. I will hopefully be testing it in heroic Naxxramas, Eye Of Eternity and Obsidian Sanctum within the week or so, and I'll be sure to post my findings. Until then, as always, watch this space.

Tag - I'm it!

I regently got tagged by Dann, and since I'm finally back on my laptop (where I keep my archives), I'm ready to answer the challenge.

This is the trophy shot from my old guild's first Maiden Of Virtue kill. It took us three attempts - the first attempt failed when our pallie healer and main dispeller got D/C'ed from his mother pulling the plug on his internet, the second due to our elemental shammie walking up to the boss and aggroing her, for no apparent reason - but we got there in the end. Tanking gauntlets and healing totem dropped, if my memory serves me right. We then moved on to opera, where we one-shotted the wolf before calling it a night.

Posting this brings back a lot of fond memories, and I'm happy to report that my old guild is still alive and well, having cleared all 10-man content except Malygos so far. Anna and Pete, if you're reading this: Timmeh!

lørdag 21. februar 2009

Promises fulfilled.

This week, I was unable to attend our guild's heroic Naxxramas run, and as (inevitably) such, my highly coveted Broken Promise dropped for our other warrior tank. Congratulations to him, but seeing him equip it without changing any of his current gear or spec got me thinking: apart from the obvious item level upgrade, what good is this sword actually going to be for him?

Said sword is, as most people can see, obviously intended as a Death Knight main hand for dual-wielding. The slow speed makes it a difficult warrior item to use properly - it is by all means a very good weapon, but to use it properly, it's one of those items you "don't just equip", you build around it. It has offensive stats and an INSANE top end, but rage generation will be flaky due to the slow speed. As such, you're dependent on white attacks hitting fairly often, making Expertise and Hit Rating even more important than they already are. To fully allow this sword to shine, you need to build your set around the idea that you will hit slow, hit hard, and make it count - every single time.

Items such as Signet of the Impregnable Fortress and Grim Toll are obvious pieces to consider for such a set, but you still want to build even towards an even higher extreme - the idea should be to squeeze every last little DPS out of your overall gear while at the same time balancing a fine line around the mandatory 540 defence. As such, items such as Undiminished Battleplate with a +22 defence enchant is suddenly viable, as is using an armour enchant over a defence enchant on your cloak to pump up your Armoured To The Teeth base total. Gemming agility over dodge in red sockets wil boost your crit (allowing a higher Deep Wounds uptime total) at the cost of some dodge, but let's be honest - this set really is about hitting back almost as hard as you're being hit already.

So what's the point of all this? To illustrate the full diversity of warrior tanking in the current World of Warcraft meta, of course. Looking at the top tanks in the top guilds both sides of the Atlantic might give you the impression that high end raiding is set in stone (both gear choices, enchants and specs have taken a disgusting and uniform monotony of late), but I aim to disagree. The current content isn't so hard its demanding role-stacking or pure stamina builds. There is no Brutallus-like DPS races demanding leatherworking mages with an arsenal of drums in Wrath of the Lich King. Playing the tank is, in my opinion, more open to diversity and experimentation now than it ever was. There is always the option of being the "best" - gaining the highest possible avoidance while at the same time keeping your maximum unbuffed HP aove 30K - but really, guys: wouldn't you rather beat the shit out of monsters with a dildo-shaped sword and a huge fucking shield instead if you had the chance?

I know I would.

tirsdag 3. februar 2009

Naxxramas: a travelogue.

Since dinging 80, I've done my fair share of Naxxramas runs, both good and bad. And though we eventually failed (if ever so close) at Kel'Thuzad, tonight's trip to ten man Naxxramas reminded me why I love raiding, and why I love tanking, so much. The conditions could have been better - our raid leader didn't show up so we had to appoint an ad-hoc placeholder, our offtank, though a hell of a threatbuilding monster, appeared to have less situational awareness than a mole, two of the raid members dinged 80 the day before and another three were healers going offspec. The group was, theoretically, sub-par in every respect, and when we proved to make it work, at times even like Swiss clockwork, it was truly a wonder to behold.

As stepping up from the offtank role to being the maintank proved a first maintanking run for me, I've sat down and reviewed ten man Naxxramas from this fresh perspective. Tanking things first hand and not just zerker stance shield slamming most of the time really makes you see the instance with new eyes, and to be honest, it's beautiful on many levels.

THE ARACHNID QUARTER is, in many ways, both easy-mode as well as a solid presentation of what's to come. Voices from the past whisper that even top guilds wiped on Anub'Rehkan back in classic, and it's easy to imagine locust swarm having something to do with it. From a tanking point of view, he's basically a more interesting Attumen - demanding very little apart from parking him in his spot. And when he occasionally beats you sky high, just use one of your clever macros to burn Recklessness or Retaliation before you come down. Piece of cake. Faerlina down the hall proves almost easier from a maintank perspective - taunt her off the OT, park her and wait for it. When even third boss Maexxna is the same thing, and even the trash proves very little challenge, this quarter really is somewhat walkthrough. Demands are, quite honestly, a lot higher on the OT than the MT, at least making it interesting for the (on many fights) least useful member of the raid.

THE CONSTRUCT QUARTER immediately proves more challenging. The mini-Patchwerk trash hits hard enough that you feel it, the sludges just annoy everything and everyone, and the amount of trash before Patchwerk is somewhat annoying. The boss himself, however, is great fun. Though essentially a tank and spank encounter, the sheer intensity and nerve of the fight, the knowledge that two Hateful Strikes in a row WILL break you unless your healer have godly reflexes, makes it extremely thrilling. Unlike PW, however, Grobbulus really is just an annoying fight. It's not that he's hard - even with all the elements of the fight (adds, clouds, injections), he really is an easy fight once you understand him. That's also his main weakness - learn him, and he's just five minutes of avoiding the boring stuff while walking backwards in a large circle - not at all my cup of tea. I don't mind a challenge, but I do mind a proposed challenged drowned out by easily breakable mechanics. The next boss, Gluth, falls into the same category of encounters that just don't get me hot in that special place. From a tanking point of view, it's not even a challenge as soon as your VT is up. What annoys me about him is that he's near undoable with the wrong group. Our retadin, feral kitty, arcane mage, boomkin and elemental shammie DPS setup simple couldn't kite the adds well enough, making it a downward hit points spiral taking him out. Being dependent on decent kiting for a single encounter makes raid composition an issue, which it should never be - composition should be secondary to skill. Thankfully, though, the wing completely redeem itself with final boss Thaddius, a masterpiece of an encounter. Unlike his borther Grob, Thaddius has all the elements of a great fight - phase 1 with the throws (which are about the funnest thing ever for a tank), the polarity shift, the actually having an enrage timer (even if it's nowhere near being triggered, ever), the yelling of "DON'T LOOT YET" when he goes down - Thaddius makes a challenge, which is beatable with focus and skill, yet at the same time great fun.

THE PLAGUE WING is home to two of the most annoying trash rooms in the entire instance, and three bosses that really isn't much of a challenge to any group that already did Thaddius. Noth is another offtank race, the occasional curse is probably intended to cause trouble but for some reason, good casters kind of make it not appear challenging. Heigan, scourge of noobs and slackers is more of the same, though with the adds replaced by an amazingly hilarius safety dance in a sea of some... plagued watery magmaish stuff. He does take some work positioning, especially being a caster mob and thus not necessarily agreeing to being kited all the time. As soon as you get him in his place, though, he's mince. The wing's final boss, Loatheb, is maybe the single most boring tanking encounter in the entire instance. He's 100% tank and spank, letting the rest of the raid doing the job. Overall, this is by far the least exciting wing of the instance, and just about the easiest as well.

THE MILITARY QUARTER, however, fast ups the ante for a decent challenge. Already on the first trash pull, you want to be careful as the trash hits hard and fast and a lot - and there are many of them. The trash up to Instructour Razuvious is a bitch of a job for a warrior tank, which is where we're forced to excel the way we're meant to. The instructor himself places little demand on your tanking skill - again, the offtank does all the footwork while you're off playing with jewelery and toying with NPC minds. The MC'ing is, however, a demanding strain on a trained tanking mind - 15 second taunt cooldown? 10 yards range? WTF? These death knights apprentices are obviously noobs and have no home in my raid group. Gothik the Harvester is another case of "mindless minion management" - tossing heroic level mobs on you in slow succession for nearly five minutes before entering the room with less than one million hit points? Please. Calling for a challenge, The Four Horsemen answers by delivering a fight equal to or even better than Thaddius in intensity, difficulty, discipline and sheer fun. The forced mobility and changing of targets makes for a wonderful change to the overabundance of tank and spank encounters so far, resulting in the wing being by far the most interesting and challenging to tank.

SAPPHIRON'S LAIR hoses the two final bosses of the instance, and make no mistake - these are, compared to what you've seen earlier in the instance, the HARD bosses. Sapphiron himself isn't much to learn, and as soon as you understand him, he's not much of a challenge. What makes him hard is simply the discipline and endurance needed to down him - it takes a lot of damage to down him, and he dishes out a more than fair share in return. Tanking him as a warrior is rewarding in the sense that you get to blow off all your finesse in both building threat as well as positioning, while at the same same making sure you're in range of the ice blocks when they pop up. That he's a fairly standard dragon fight, however, isn't up for much debate, and there's a small miracle there aren't actually any form of adds to the fight. Next to him stands the big, bad mastermind himself - Kel'Thuzad, final boss of Naxxramas and harbinger of tier 7 headgear. Divided into three phases, one of which is boring beyond imagination, another one which is all about postitioning and a final one that's clearly designed to drive healers insane, he's by far the most challenging encounter in the raid, but not, necessary the most fun challenge. Having to do phase 1 over and over again on wipes is possibly more discouraging than clearing the trash before Shade Of Aran before you got the elevator, a truly ghastly endeavour. The bossfight itself, however, will have you sweat out your ears looking out for red circles of deathy death while at the same time praying silently that your healers are still both alive and not iceblocked. A good solid challenge to finish of an overall not as challenging as one would want instance, containing a good portion of decent, challenging fights, but mostly... "You! Minion of evil! Stand here while I bash your crotch in!"

They never learn, do they?

onsdag 21. januar 2009


My original plan for this post was to blog about WoW as a racial issue, and then out of nowhere, patch 3.0.8 arrives without warning, at least a week eariler than anticipated.

The new patch offers a variety of changes and improvements, as well as the occasional nerf and one or two classic "THEY WHAT???"-moments. One of these are, of course, lifting the hit penalty on Titan's Grip. Having toyed around with TG on Naxxes 10 and 25, plus Sartharion 25, I grew quite fond of it in a humourous sort of way. When you get six Whirlwind crits on trash with that large weaponry in both hands, you're bound to go a little "Whoooaaaahahahaha!" in your chair. Numbers like that just aren't natural.

Until today. The patch went live, and the TG hit penalty removal became reality. And suddenly, a plethora of not very great players with not very great gear and not very great knowledge of why stats like Expertise and Hit Rating matter ("They don't do no damage fo' suh', I'm'a socket AP evarywhar!") are able to out-DPS seasoned combat rogues and enhancement shamans in decent gear just because the class they play let's them. Playing fury well demands finesse, skill, focus and reactivity. It also demands Expertise and Hit Rating capped. Playing fury poorly, on the other hand, just demands two huge conkers with big damage and AP. And who cares, really, as you'll still do tons of DPS? This is not a good move from Blizzard towards an already very, very powerful class.

And speaking of which - Deep Wounds (for now) remains at 30%. It has been both called for and confirmed that something has to be done with this, but so far, Blizzard seem unable to know just what. The prot warrior in me rejoices at this decline, of course - free threat on crits? Yes, please! - but from a balance point of view (especially after having raided as fury) I understand why other classes see this as insanely powerful. The amount of rage-free, ticking damage DW creates from a class that often crits 40-45% of it's attacks is more powerful than I can imagine was ever inteneded. My suggestion to solve the issue would be to simply make it a proc ability (like Bloodsurge's instant Slams or Revenge), costing 20 rage and a global cooldown, lasting 6-8 seconds, available for 5 seconds after a crit with an 8 second cooldown. It would still be worth it, it would still be powerful - but at least, it'd require a bit more finesse and concentration (though, with the current crit rate, you'd likely have constant uptime on it, making it a viable rotation tool).

On the prot side, we finally - and I do say finally! - get a 30 yard Taunt. Seeing as paladin's get the same, I suppose it's really just a matter of balance, but still, I remain pleased and happy. Should be good in timed Stratholme, with Arthas running off like a maniac after the third boss every time. Not to mention - now I can aggro Dann from an even greater distance!

The single most important change in this patch, however, adresses an issue I've been crying for over the last year or so:

As the lone rallying voice of the "Human females fit in Mechanostriders" humanitarian organisation, I can now raise my fists in the air and yell "RESULT!". With lifting the racial restriction on mounts, Blizzard opens up a lot of ridicule (I smell tauren on ostriches any day now, an aberration against the mind for sure), but on this day of celebration, all such ridicule must be allowed to pass. For finally, finally, we have proven once and for all - human females DOES INDEED fit in Mechanostriders.

fredag 16. januar 2009

Things to do in Northrend when you're bored.

After a solid five and a half hour Naxxramas tonight, my head was screaming for a break. And just as I'm about to log, I get hijacked into tanking heroic Strat. As I'm clearly not being given much choice in the matter, i decide to make as much fun as possible, and silently equip my Fist Of The Deity, making sure I remain defence-capped, of course, but still, shits and giggles. All goes well, we manage the timed run and the drake drops for our pallie, and I can't but ask, "Did you even notice?"

And apparently they did, but hey, it worked, right? Se we pulled off heroic Violet Hold with a desperately undergeared mage, and for the first and probably last time in the history of the world, I experienced topping a damage meter on Erekem. Wanting to see how far I can pull this "tanking with a DPS fist"-affair, I suggest further instances, but alas, the group dissolves for matters such as sleep, food and generally not sitting in front of a screen all night.

But wait. Shits and giggles, right? And Mitsune really want a rep-ding with Kirin Tor. How about...

...how about if we two-man Halls Of Lightning on normal mode?

Yep. Works like a charm.

torsdag 15. januar 2009

Raiding and you.

Following up on last weeks dilemma concerning specs and what to do, I landed quite firmly on a 15/5/51 protection spec as my intended target, and started gearing up accordingly. The baptism of fire was a timed run in Strat, followed by this evening's run in Naxx25 as one of the offtanks. I was of course fully repaired, stocked up on flasks and buff food, available for invite before the intended raid start and in generally as prepared as I could be.

This raid would, however, soon develop into an exercise in the not so noble art of playing for one self, and not the guild. Already at first raid buff we find that not one of the three retribution paladins have Blessing of Kings specced (though one has shown up in a PvP hybrid spec, just in case we'd face horde at the portal). Of the two other warrior tanks, one is fiercely specced for PvP, the other has sacrificed Anticipation for Improved Disciplines and Improved Spell Deflection. Neither are willing to respec, as these players insist that this is the spec they want, this is their max DPS output spec, they can't afford it, and in the end one of our holy paladins port to Ironforge to respec for Kings, costing him 5% crit.

This, to me, isn't how this game is played. When you sign up for a 25-man raid, you're not doing it for loot. You're not doing it for achievements or badges. You're doing it because you are part of a guid, part of a team, whose main target is (and always should be) to maximize the potential in each other. Of course you put a draenei in the melee DPS group. Of course you make sure Replenishment finds its way to the healers. Of course you spec for the raidwide buff that will improve the overall performance of everyone, caster and melee alike. And of course you ease the healers' job by maximizing your avoidance as a tank - both in spec and gear.

So why is it so hard for these players to be a part of the team? In all honesty, it should be said that they are in no way bad players, and our guild is skilled enough to achieve fairly decent results even with sub-optimal settings, but still - refusing to even try something that might be an improvement on behalf of principle really isn't temwork. It's selfish, it's cheap, and in the end, it is what will get you demoted as soon as someone is there to take your place. This isn't a game of resting on laurels - it's a game of working hard to achieve the best. If you can't accept that, you should play Alterac Valley. I hear they're LF t0nk for Drek over there.

onsdag 7. januar 2009

I like trolls.

I really do. My favorite ever instance is still Zul'Farrak, I get a small thrill just thinking of the Zul'Jin fight in Zul'Aman, I still remain hopeful that the Zul'Gurub raptor will one day drop for me. I'm not particularly fond of the rastafarian emotes, I'll admit, but at least they didn't make them sound like Canadians or Borat - it could, to a large extent, have been worse.

So the idea of a whole troll zone in Northrend thrilled me from the beginning. Even after release, after listening to weeks of rants both online and IRL about the horridness of the place, after hearing my roomie's yells of "*insert strong curse*" every time a quest there bugged (and they do!) at 4am, I went in there with a sense of expectation. A little bit of "how bad can it be?", a little bit of "mmmm trolls" and a little bit of "I'm sure it's just a hype anyway". Boy, was I wrong.

Zul'Drak is, for all intents and purposes, a questing hell. The topography is ridiculous, the size of the area is far larger than the content presented should allow, the location of elements are often so random it really makes no sense at all, and the lore is (especially after having experienced the Wrathgate and Voldrassil content in previous zones already) plain boring. The worst thing is, however, the constant nuisance of questing.

When doing the regular quest-chains, you start where you're supposed to, clear the hub, move on to the next hub with a "Talk to the NPC"-quest. It's an established pattern that have served the game surprisingly well up until now, considering the blatant simplicity of it. In Zul'Drak, Blizzard appear to have experimented with the scattering of chains. When you start out, you find yourself charged with a 3-man group quest and no less than two new directions through NPCs within the first ten minutes. In short, unless you can find a group or help right away, you're bound to this hub for a while, even after you clear the regular solo-content. The scattering of hubs continues as the first thing you get from one of the new NPCs is yet another "go there and talk"-assignment, and just to put some icing on the cake, you get to pick up random quests in the field while getting there as a bonus. By simply flying around the area without doing anything but establishing hubs, you find yourself on three full hubs within a very short amount of time.

This isn't an ideal situation, nor is it in theory all that bad. What really makes it frustrating, is the aforementioned size and topography. I did this with an epic flying mount, and even then it kinda annoyed me how much travelling you needed to do, and how boring it got after a while to constantly shake off aggro, steer between enough obstacles to make several Disneyland rides while always watching out for the 700K hp elite that roams the road, just waiting to oneshot you. I can't even imagine doing this effectively on a ground mount - the thought alone gives me shivers down my spine. The quests themselves do not help - it is clear that a lot of the ideas Blizzard had for the Death Knight starting area (which really is a powerhouse demonstration of brilliant design) that didn't fit, ended up here. No matter how interesting quests appear to be as they enter your questlog, they all end up in the same repetetive "ride-kill-collect-repeat" pattern. Northrend up until Zul'Drak have been soaring with great quests, fun and interesting ideas from the developers, making the quest process itself as interesting as the rewards. And then, out of nowhere, you enter a zone where everything really is just a disguised grind, bringing the thoughts back to how fun it was to get Exalted with Timbermaw Hold.

I do like trolls. But Zul'Drak is, in terms of design, a low point in World of Warcraft. I hope, for future content, that Blizzard too realize this, and keep up the amazing work they did in Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills.

søndag 4. januar 2009

Rant in Prot minor.

After half a year of listening to Ayms and Trix repeatedly politely enouraging/nagging me, and about a month or so of actually considering it, time recently came to take affirmative action: I abandoned my recently rolled level 63 paladin to transfer my old warrior to my new realm. Going from a PvE to a PvP server is, in spite of common sense, in many ways a relief to world play, as countless ganks only teaches you to play your class against THINKING (most often, that is) opponents that actually moves and reacts to your game (again, most often). You grow a whole new image of the game, and you realize that "safe" PvE wasn't really the way you wanted to play this game, no matter how much you spent your days flagged. Bringing an old friend to a new home begun to feel right, and so, the executive decision was made.

At that, I went from Hellfire Peninsula greens to T4/Gruul/S2/ZA-gear in about 40 minutes. And I realized: What do I do now? My 3.0.2 Fury spec belonged somewhere between the zoo and a trash can, 150% rested XP were screaming my name and I honestly hadn't a clue where to begin. So I went to to The Nexus with a few friends, just to discover I was putting on a truly spectacular display of amazingly bad DPS. We're talking 400 DPS on Keristrasza. It was embarrasing, to say the least.

So I did what every self-respecting player does: I read, and I read, and I read, and after five hours of forums, blogs, theorycrafting, respeccing and an additional three hours of UI configuring (not to mention a whole new set of key bindings), I felt ready to go again. Some fast grinds and a few select quests later, I was ready to take on Violet Hold, and lo behold - we are seeing 1400 DPS on Cyanigosa. This may or may not, of course, be due to circumstances such as a draenei tank and two paladins in the group, but it's still a solid 1000 DPS increase on a character that except for new weapons and a respec is essentially the same.

So. I'm where I'm supposed to be. And suddenly, a whole new problem dawns on me: Now, I wanna stay Fury. No matter how much my heart and soul lies with the whole "Charge, Thunder Clap and Shockwave"-mentality of opening pulls, all those hours of digging into the mindset of a Fury warrior have made it's mark. I've even begun work on stancedance-theories that, countary to common belief, may actually be a DPS increase for us. The question remains, will I be able to both stay Fury, experiment with my spec AND raid regularly? Time will show. Until then, watch this space.