Friday, July 30, 2010


This started out as a comment on the noob's most recent post about a rogue's playstyle. I ended up typing so much I figured I'd just make it my own post.

Leveling as a Feral Druid is insanely fun. We have so many tricks at our disposal that we're able to overcome just about any obstacle the game can throw at us, even if it takes using the full range of our abilities to do so. For instance, I had a basic equation that served my questing needs all the way through Northrend:
Actual # of players needed to complete quest =
Suggested # of players needed to complete quest - 2
There were a couple exceptions. I think I ran across one three-person quest where I needed a healer. And there was a couple five-person quests that I solo'd.

But it wasn't always this way. While I'm very well acquainted with the skills and abilities of a Feral Druid now, back in the days of Vanilla and BC...not so much.

Remember, with the exception of a Warrior that didn't make it out of Westfall, Saniel was my first toon. Not only was I learning how 2 DRUID, but I was also learning how to WoW in general. It was a lot to take in.

I was kinda disappointed when I found out that I had to go 10 levels before I would be able to actually play the way a Feral is supposed to play. That is, shapeshift. But I sucked it up, spammed mah moonfare and Wrath, and got through.

Then I got Bear form. And while I was excited, I quickly found that it didn't kill things as quickly as my spells did. But I sure could take a hell of a lot more damage. So for the next 10 levels my pattern was to pull from max distance with spells (I learned very quickly the value of pulling from range, rather than rushing up to something) and then shift to bear to finish the job when the mob got close. That worked well.

And then I got Cat form. Instantly, all the neat tricks I'd learned in the last 19 levels went straight out window. My Cat could kill things fast. And Prowl around to get by things I didn't want to fight. And get the drop on unsuspecting enemies. And it was a melee class, which made it more fun (for me) than tossing out spells.

For the next 40-someodd levels, that was that. I was a Cat.

That could sneak past a pat without going splat.

But my skill curve went flat as I refused to...adapt.



Anyway, the point is that I more or less played a furry Rogue from that point on. With the amount of time it took to level and the various breaks I took before I got serious about the game, I almost forgot that I could shift into other forms. It made the game a lot more difficult in places than it needed to be.

It wasn't until BC when I was having trouble in Nagrand not aggroing 4 mobs every time I stepped that I started to remember I played a versatile class. Except "remember" isn't exactly the right word. After my 4th or 5th death in one of the Forge Camps on the west end of the zone, my partner leaned over my shoulder and asked (as if it was the most obvious thing in the world), "Why don't you go Bear?"

I laughed at him. "Bears can't kill things fast enough," I said. "I'll still die." Because, of course, after 40-someodd levels and an expansion pack things would still be the same, right?

But the idea nagged at me. So the next time he left the room I tried it.

Holy cow, he was right! That was a ton easier! Bear against one mob...not so special. Bear against four? Now it shines!

I started doing all kinds of crazy things after that. I would shift between Bear and Cat in the same fight. I would pull with Moonfire again to get a DoT on my enemies before they got to me. I would even heal myself mid-combat. (Seriously...this was a revelation to me. I only used my heal buttons out of combat prior to that.)

I would even intentionally pull more than I thought I could handle just to see if I could manage it.

Wild, right?

I'm half tempted to start leveling another Feral, just to see what it's like now that I understand the game.

And my class.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My guild is amazing

It figures something like this would happen the night I make a "burnout" post...

A couple weeks ago, after one of our regularly scheduled raids ended a little early, I got a group together to go do Sarth 3D (10). It was the fourth or fifth time we've done it, and each previous time I'd rolled pretty much dead last on the mount. But this time, everyone on the run passed, essentially gifting me the drake.


Since then I redoubled my efforts at getting one of the mounts from Kara, ZG, UP, Strath, fishing, or Halaa. 100 was close enough to taste.

After once again having no luck in Kara and ZG last night, I asked if anyone in the guild wanted to join me on a UP run. I got a few volunteers. But before we could leave, I was called to the forge in Dal to "help test an issue with an addon."

When I got there, I instead found out that a small group of my guildies (isn't it awesome how I can link them all?) had pooled resources to buy me a chopper. (Hopefully I remembered everyone involved.)


Two for one!

How awesome is that?

So, of course, I had to run off to Krasus' Landing to show off the new mount.

So pretty.

Then, just like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning, I headed to UP with the group in an attempt to get more.

On the approach.

Before heading in, I had to get a shot of the mount that actually completed the set.

If you listen hard enough, you can hear ZZ Top echoing across the hills.

If there was any doubt (there isn't) as to why I continue to log into the game almost every day of the week, it's because I get to play it with some of the most amazing people evar.

I really suck at "thank yous," but really you guys...thank you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Understanding Burnout

As I've stated before, I've been playing this crazy WoW game for the better part of 4 years. Almost 5 at this point. From the very beginning I've understood that when there is a game that people are capable of playing that long, some burnout is going to occur. I didn't get my very first look at this until the end of BC. And, at the time, I didn't personally feel any of it. I mean, there was still so much to do! But I understood it, intellectually.

As Wrath is slowly coming to a close and we get ever closer to the release of a new expansion, I'm finally feeling the burnout. I get it now. But why did it take almost 5 years? It's never taken me that long to burn out on anything before. And if you consider the number of hours I pump into this game...yeah.

But today I realized there's a very fundamental difference for me between Wrath and the previous two content cycles: I've been a part of Wrath right from the start.

I didn't start playing Vanilla until pretty close to the end of its cycle--a little bit before the first Scourge invasion and the opening of Naxx 40.

Leveling was slow and intermittent. When BC dropped, Saniel was still only in the 40s. I started Daluaan to work on at that time, just so I could justify having bought the expac when I was still 15 or so levels away from being able to see its content.

Saniel didn't ding 70 until Christmas day of that year, 10 months and change after BC had been released. Dal didn't make it until a couple months later. I spent the remaining year of the expansion learning how to actually play WoW with people. Dungeons and Heroics and Raids. All the fun stuff that I'd either avoided or didn't even know about up to that point.

By the time Wrath finally came out, I was a fairly seasoned vet. I'd gone from haphazardly leveling my way through the world to actively raiding, reading blogs, researching specs and gear and rotations, and even acting as a guild's raid leader. I had two max-level toons and a couple more that just kinda floated around when I really needed a change of pace. I put more hours into the game each month than I had the almost-two-years prior to getting addicted serious.

Then Wrath drops. Both my 70s are 80 within a month. I'm running Heroics consistently. I've been an active part of every raid tier as it's been released. I have a 3rd 80 now, and a 78 (although he started at 55, so it doesn't count as much). There's also a 47 in the mix.

I've watched my guild expand and shrink several times over. With two exceptions, I've accomplished everything I've wanted to accomplish in this expansion. One of those things (kill the Lich King) is somewhat dependent on other people. The other (obtaining 100 mounts) is now only impeded by bad luck and a gold bag I refuse to open.

When I have a goal, I'm capable of pursuing it with relentless single-minded ambition. Especially when I know that accomplishing it is just a matter of time and determination.

When I have no concrete interest in something in virtually nil. I'm not the type that does something solely for the sake of doing it.

I still log in almost nightly to try and accomplish those last two goals. I also have the mini-goals of getting my Priest and my DK their epic flying. I refuse to fund them with my main, though. Like all my toons, they need to earn their own way. Siaaryn's almost there. Another week or two and he'll have it. Just grinding out dailies and playing the Saronite-to-Titanium AH game.

My DK's a little further away. But if I put a few solid days into farming herbs, I could probably make it quick.

There's still months and months until Cataclysm is finally released. (I'm banking on January or February, despite Blizzard's financial forecasts.) I'm just as anxious to get in the beta to experience something really new as I am just because I think it would be a really neat experience to be an active participant in a product under development.

Now I get burnout. I see why people leave the game in droves during the last few months of an expansion, especially with something new and shiny actually visible on the horizon. Yeah, there's a still lot to do now...but I've done it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hard at work

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple days. I have a few things swirling around in my head that I want to talk about, but I've been forcing myself to spend my blogging time working on a new layout/design instead. I've been meaning to do it for the last two months or so, and it's time to stop procrastinating.

It's probably going to consume my free time until sometime early next week.

If you want a sneak peek and to follow the progress of my testing, you can check it out here:

In retrospect, I probably should have named it PrimalPrecisionBeta...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can we have it both ways?

You'll have to excuse me for this post. I'm kinda brain dumping a thought I had while driving into work this morning.

One of my concerns over the upcoming raid lockout changes are that it's going to put a guild like mine in a tough spot. We use 10-man raids to give our better players their progression fixes while opening up 25s to everyone. That's no longer going to be a viable option, and it's something that's been in my mind ever since the announcement.

Our guild is in a pretty stable place right now, all things considered. We have, more or less, the same progression 10-man team that we've had all the way through Wrath. It's comprised mostly of our Officers and long-established members. There's wiggle room in some of the positions, but we're a little hamstrung in that we only have two tanks. So if either one is unavailable...

We have a second 10-man progression team that basically consists of players that we absorbed from another guild. They're all co-workers of one of our guild's longest-standing members. They enjoy raiding together, but on non-raid nights there would be 2 or 3 of them at most online. So, looking for a little more of a social environment, they joined our guild with the stipulation that they could still run their own 10man content. I'm cool with that. I enjoy it, even. It feels like competition. It pushes me, personally, to try harder to get the guild first kills on my team.

This past weekend two more members of our guild decided to try and put together a 3rd 10-man team that I think they want to run regularly as well. Power to them. While it effectively eliminates the pool of alternate choices for the other two teams when they're short members, I hope they can keep it going.

Ok, got that? Keep it in mind. I'm going to shift gears now for a moment, but it's all going to come back later.

Our 25-man runs this weekend were pretty successful. On our first night we were able to down Rotface and Festergut (plus, obviously, the Lower Spire). The Ugly Bros. are a week-to-week coin toss as to whether or not we're going to get past them. So when it took a combined 3 attempts to get the 2 kills, we were feeling pretty good.

The next night we went back and started on the Princes. It wasn't the first time we'd tried them on 25-man, but it was the first time in quite a while. There were some learning attempts and some confusion at first, but everything eventually came together and we got a very smooth kill. That was a guild first for us on 25-man.

The Upper Spire is difficult. A huge jump from Lower on that curve. I was looking at the people in the 25 groups those two nights and I realized that only a couple of them had never been that far into ICC. So most of the people in there already knew the was just a matter of adjusting from 10-man difficulty to 25-man difficulty.

After Princes we went on to Lana'Thel. Once we got up there, the number of people who were familiar with the fight dropped significantly. The number of people who had completed it dropped even more.

BQL is a tough fight. It's very chaotic, even on 10-man. On 25-man, it's absolutely insane. We had a good portion of our raid just trying to learn it that night. As you can imagine, success was limited.

There's always going to be a learning curve going into 25-man content, even if you've already mastered the fight in 10-man. That's just the way it goes. And that's fine with me. Even as a raid lead, I have to adjust how I manage a raid and that takes some time to figure out, too.

Ok, so bringing those two separate stories together...

This morning I started to think that maybe we don't have to choose between being a 10-man guild or a 25-man guild. Maybe there still is a way to do both.

Maybe the idea is to get enough members to field a few different 10-man teams. They can set their own schedules and run their own progression as they see fit. And then, every third week or so, declare it a 25-man week. Schedule the big runs on our usual nights (Fri/Sat) and see what we can all do together.

Maybe if we get to the point in a tier of content where we're pretty much farming it on 10-man, we can shift the schedule to focus more on the 25s until the next tier comes out.

I don't know if something like that would work. From an organizational standpoint, it wouldn't be easy to maintain. But if we can pull it off, it might give us the right mix of everything to keep people happy and still be the kind of guild we want to be.

I haven't floated any of this past my fellow officers yet (though several of them will read this, no doubt). Like I said, this post is sort of a brain dump to get the whole thing out of my head.

I'm wondering if any of my readers run a system similar to this in their own guilds currently and if they have any insight on the idea.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Lich King...he haunts me

Time, attendance, and a myriad of other factors have severely limited our guild's attempts at finally killing the Lich King. Last night we had our first hour of tries in well over a month, and only our second series to date.

We're able to get to phase 2 pretty reliably. After that...we need a lot of work. 60% seems to be the point where we consistently wipe, usually around the second or third Defile.

On a positive note, we saved someone from being dropped off the edge by the Val'kyr for the first time ever...


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Valithria Dreamwalker

Valithria Dreamwalker is the first "boss" of ICC's Frostwing Halls. I use the word boss in quotes, because she's not a boss in the typical sense...that is, one you try to defeat. Encounter might be the better word here.

When you start the VD encoun--hang on. Lemme try that again.

When you start the Valithria encounter, she's in the center of the room being held down by magical energies. Her health is at 50%. The idea is to heal her back up to full. All 6 million hit points.

As you can guess from that description, you (the tank) are not exactly the star of this show. But that's okay. There's still plenty for you to do.

While your healers are desperately trying to heal Valithria, there's wave after wave of mobs trying to stop you. This is where the tanks and DPS come in.

You'll notice that on either side of the room are gates. Once you start the encounter, these gates will open and that's where the mobs will enter the fight. On 10man, you only have to worry about the two gates nearest the room entrance.

When entering the room, you can see 3 dark gray strips leading to the center. Ideally the two tanks should be split just outside the two edges of these strips, on the crushed-bone floor. The rest of the raid should be between them.

During the fight, as the adds come out of the gates, it's going to be tempting to rush up and meet them. Don't do this. During much of the fight, you're going to have a single healer doing most of the raid healing. If you spread out too far, you're going to make their job nightmarish. Make smart and liberal use of FFF and Growl to draw the mobs to you. If you absolutely must go run out to get one, immediately drag it back to your original tanking location.

There are 5 types of mobs you'll encounter during this...erm...encounter.

Risen Archmages (Liches)
There's 4 of these present before the encounter starts, surrounding Valithria. They drop fairly easy, but there's a couple things to watch out for.

First, they will Frostbolt the entire raid, doing damage and slowing movement speed. This can and should be interrupted as much as possible. Not as important with the first four, but as you see these guys coming out of the gates, keep them from casting that as much as possible. If you have a Bash available, use it. Feral Charge can also be used when the situation allows.

Next thing to watch out for is Column of Frost. It starts out as a swirling whitish spot under someone's feet and then erupts into a huge column, dealing damage and knocking anyone standing in it high enough that they'll also take fall damage. If you see this appear beneath your feet, move. If you get caught in it, use Feral Charge in the air to avoid the fall damage.

Finally, they summon Mana Voids, which look like pools of shadow magic on the ground. Bears obviously don't have to worry much about these, but make sure mana uses are avoiding them.

Blazing Skeletons (Skeletal Mages)
These are the most crucial enemies to kill in this encounter. They have a pretty unremarkable Fireball spell, but the big thing to worry about is Lay Waste. This is an uninterruptable, channeled fire AoE. It does pretty heavy damage. Your raid needs to kill these guys as quickly as possible when they appear.

Gluttonous Abominations (Aboms)
The Aboms on their own are not a significant threat in this encounter. They have a frontal cone ability called Gut Spray that sounds bad, but really isn't unless you end up tanking two or three of these at once. Just make sure to keep them pointed away from the rest of your raid.

The bigger threat from the Aboms comes after they die. About 3 seconds later, they'll spawn a pack of about 5 or 6 Rot Worms. The worms hit surprisingly hard (on non tanks) and additionally will stack a DoT debuff on whomever they're attacking. It's important that these be controlled and killed quickly. You do not want them running around your raid. When an Abom dies, stand right next to it and start Swipeing like crazy to pick them all up and control them. Have your aid AoE them down.

Blistering Zombies (Zombies)
These zombies are of the big, top-heavy, green, blistery kind, with the purple tentacles coming out of either shoulder (as opposed to the ghoul kind like DK pets).

Ideally these adds will not be tanked. Instead they will be kited. Hunters are good for this, as are Shamans (Frost Shock) and Mages (Chill effects). If none of these options are available to you and you need to hold aggro on one, do your best to kite it as well. Why? They hit pretty hard, for starters. On top of that, they have a Corrosion debuff that can be brutal.

When these guys die, they explode, so it's worth keeping your distance as much as possible.

Suppressors (Geists)
Suppressors, like the Zombies, are not tanked. These guys come out in packs of 3 or 4 from both gates at the same time. They head straight for Valithria and start casting Suppression. You should really only assign one raid member to getting these down. Cats and Rogues are somewhat ideal, but any class with strong AoE can manage.

Suppressors are the main reason it's important to keep the Archmages interrupted as much as possible. If the person killing the Suppressors is slowed, it can drag out the length of the encounter significantly.

(If you are a Cat and you get put on the Suppressors, remember that shapeshifting will clear the slow effect. You should have this macro to quickly accomplish this: /cast !Cat Form. This basically performs a shift out and back into cat form instantly.)

The kill priority for the adds should be Blazing Skeletons -> Worms (from the Aboms) -> Blistering Zombies -> Risen Archmages -> Suppressors -> Gluttonous Abominations.

There's also a whole Portal/Emerald Dream/Healing Buff mechanic happening in this fight, but as a Feral you'll probably never see it. It's mostly for the healers. I don't feel comfortable enough describing the whole thing, because I'm not personally familiar with it. There are better places to go learn about that.

Once Valithria is fully healed, she'll break her bonds, kill all the reaming mobs, and present you with a loot chest.

Sadly, there's not a lot of great Bear loot to be had from this encounter. 10-man can drop Oxheart and Skinned Whelp Shoulders, but those are more for Plate DPS and Energy users, respectively. On 25-man you can hope for either the Noose of Malachite (which is actually pretty good) and Devium's Eternally Cold Ring.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Feral Talent Tree

So when the news broke about the new talent tree designs, I was very excited. I couldn't wait to see how they were going to shake out.

Yesterday they finally became available, but my day was consumed with other commitments and I wasn't able to sit down and play with said trees.

This afternoon...I finally got around to it. And I must say, I'm rather underwhelmed at this point. There have been criticisms that Blizz took the new design goal of trimming the fact a little too far, and right now I'm thinking those concerns are valid.

For example, here's what I came up with for theoretical Bear and Cat builds:

Bear build:
Cat build:

The difference? Swapping Thick Hide and Pulverize for Nuturing Instinct and Nom Nom Nom. And I was half tempted to leave the 2 points from Nuturing Instinct in Thick Hide for emergency tanking situations.

Additionally, I'm almost at the point where I could honestly leave Furor alone. With no other reason to be in the Resto tree anymore, it feels kind of out of place. It's still a very good talent for Cats, as it can keep your energy from dropping to 0 if you have to shift out of Cat during a fight for some reason. Not having it could lead to a fair chunk of dps down time after shifting back. But it's really not that great for Bears. 60% chance of having 10 Rage after shifting...? Meh.

Granted, this is spoken with no real handle on how the Rage normalization changes are going to affect our Rage generation. It may end up being more useful than I'm able to imagine right now. I don't know. I'll have to see when I can.

Overall, though...I just see all Ferals pretty much looking the same. I'm sure the tree will change to address this a little, but...yeah.

Now, to be fair to Blizzard, the Druid trees present a little more of a challenge than, say, the Rogue or Hunter trees. The core of what a Rogue or Hunter does doesn't really change when the spec down different trees. Yeah, the details can get pretty wildly varied. But at the core, not much changes.

Druids are almost completely unique in that each one of our trees change our playstyle completely. We have a healing tree (Resto), a caster DPS tree (Balance), a melee DPS tree (Feral), and a tanking tree (also Feral). No spec really does anything that either of the other specs will do.

The closest hybrid class to this kind of dynamic is the Shaman. But even Enhancement and Elemental Shamans have a small subset of their rotations in common (Shocks and Lightning Bolts).

So what ends up happening with Druids (particularly Ferals) is that we have an over-abundance of points to spend in our limited number of talents. Pretty much every max-level Feral in the current build is going to look the same...Feral tree all but full, with maybe a few points over on Furor in Resto.

I've played around with the talents for the other classes I'm at least partially familiar with and they all seem to come pretty close to meeting Blizzard's design goal of having a build guide say "Spend these 35 points and then put the last 6 or so wherever you feel like." There's enough common among the class' trees for that.

Feral just doesn't have that flexibility right now. We'll have to keep an eye on things and see how it's addressed in future builds.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I mean it

From da blues:
We hope to distribute additional invites to the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm beta sometime this week, possibly as soon as late Tuesday or Wednesday. This is only an estimate, though, so the schedule may change and, as a result, invites could be distributed earlier or later than anticipated. Either way, we'll work to keep you as updated as possible. :)

Dear Blizz,

I would do anything to receive one of the Beta invites.



Fraps issues...any input?

On Thursday night I downloaded Fraps while mid-run in ICC in order to attempt to make a video explaining how to drive the Abom during the Putricide encounter. We're starting to do more alt/non-progression runs with more success, meaning people other than me need to know how to do that. Being that it's such an integral part of the fight, and that it's rather difficult to just explain, I wanted to make a video showing how it's done.

We went through the encounter, I recorded the pull, Phase 1, and a few rounds of ooze spawns in Phase 2.

After that, I just let the recording sit for a while.

Yesterday, I finally took up the task of solo killing Slad'ran that Saffron put before me almost two months ago. I figured I'd give this the Fraps treatment as well, to show how I did it, rather than just explain.

So off I went into GD, did the prep work, started recording, and did the deed.

I wasn't doing much else at the time, so I figured I'd see how the vids turned out and look in to how I was going to edit/narrate them. Only when I went into the Fraps movie directory...

There were about six different clips in there. (There should have only been four.) They ranged anywhere from 4 seconds to 30 seconds in length. The two biggies, which should have been a few minutes each, were cut very, very short.

Is this because I'm using an unregistered version? I see on the Fraps site, there's an option to register which includes the ability "to record as long as you like." I guess 30 seconds is the cutoff time for Fraps Free?

Or is there some threshold at which Fraps will say "Hey! You're overloading your processor. I'm stopping."

Any input here from those of you who are familiar with the program?

Additionally, if the solution is to register the product, do people feel it's worth the $40? Is it generally a reliable product?

And being that I'm not exactly on the bleeding edge of progression, would readers be interested in me making videos of boss strats, rather than just talking about them?

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Blood Queen Lana'thel

Blood Queen Lana'thel is the second and final boss of ICC's Crimson Halls. With the possible exception of Marrowgar, she's the most straight-forward fight in all of ICC. This does not mean she's a pushover. Because the fight is so straight-forward, it also leans towards being somewhat unforgiving.

The single biggest thing you have to worry about as a tank is Blood Mirror. Lana'thel casts this on whoever has aggro and links them to another player. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how the game chooses who gets the other end of the link. It seems to be tied in some way to proximity and, possibly, threat. All I know for certain is that if you're the OT and are both stacked right on top of the MT and have the second highest threat of all the melee raid members, you will be on the other end of this debuff. Confirmed that the person physically closest to the MT will be the one on the other end of Blood Mirror.

Blood Mirror gets cast as soon as Lana'thel has aggro on anybody. So during the pull it's best for the two tanks to run in right on top of each other and to be the closest two raiders to Lana'thel until good aggro has been established. Both should use some kind of threat-generating ability as soon as they're in range. For us Bears, this means FFF.

There are two schools of thought on positioning for this fight. One is to tank Lana'thel in the center of the room. This gives your raid maximum room to spread out (which is important because of her Bloodbolts) and still stay in range. The other, and the one our raid uses, is to tank her on her little stage.

Because of the Blood Mirror keeping the damage between the two tanks equal, it's ideal to have the tank with the largest overall avoidance and mitigation MT this fight. The less damage they take, the less damage both tanks take. Even with the dodge nerf caused by ICC's persistent aura, Bears are pretty good MTs for this fight. At this level, our Dodge is still incredibly high. Be sure to use Barkskin (and Enrage, if you have the 4pc T10 bonus) as often as possible to further reduce the damage being taken.

Once the tanks are stacked, have aggro, and are tanking Lana'thel, they're pretty much set. The only time they really have to worry about anything is during Lana'thel's air phases. There will be two of these during the fight, at the 2:00 and 3:30 marks. Lana'thel will run to the center of the room (if she's not already there) and then Fear the raid. Tremor Totems and Fear Wards are extremely helpful here. Ferals are also able to Berserk out of one of the Fears.

It's more important that your raid's healers be protected from the Fear effect than you as a tank. So arrange groups and buffs appropriately.

Once you've escaped the Fear you need to immediately spread away from anyone else in the raid. While in the air Lana'thel will rain down Bloodbolts on your raid in rapid succession. If the damage chains around your raid because of people being too close to each other it can quickly become unhealable.

When Lana'thel comes back to the ground, resume tanking as normal.

There's only one other ability during this encounter that should ever affect the tanks, although hopefully it doesn't come to that. 15 seconds into the fight, Lana'thel will Bite one of the members of your raid, granting them a nice little buff. A raid member with that buff will double their damage, heal themselves for 15% of the damage they do, and generate 0 threat. That last part is important and the reason you don't want a tank getting it, at least early on.

About a minute after the raid member is bitten, they will go into a Frenzied Bloodthirst. At that point, they have 15 seconds to bite another player. (I'm told that your action bar is replaced with one that only has the Bite ability on it during this phase, but I've never seen it myself to verify.) When they successfully bite that person, they spread the Essence buff to them, as well as reset the 60 second timer on their Essence buff.

If the Frenzied individual does not bite someone in that 15 second window, they become uncontrollable. You might look at those numbers and think they're amazing, but the "Charmed" part is the key. They become a very powerful enemy that must be killed.

You can see how this goes. First one person has it, then two, then four...then eight, if not enough DPS is happening. The tanks shouldn't be bitten until they would be made a part of the group of 8 (meaning all the DPS have already been bitten).

It's important to know who's going to bite who as the fight progresses, to avoid confusion and prevent people from becoming mind controlled.

Lana'thel will be casting Swarming Shadows (which work the same as Jaraxxus's Legion Flame) and Pact of the Darkfallen among the raid as well, but these abilities will never target the tanks. Still, depending on how your raid is positioned, be aware of when you might have to get out of the fire or such.

There's also a constant ticking damage aura that persists throughout the encounter.

On 10-man, you can potentially look forward to the mediocre (for Bears) Seal of the Twilight Queen or the (very nice) Ivory-Inlaid Leggings. If your raid is running the 25-man version, you can pick up a Vanquisher's Mark of Sanctification to upgrade one of your Tier pieces, or Bloodfall. Drool worthy.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My last thoughts (for now) on the RealID Forums change

When the plans to integrate RealID into the forums were announced, I was unhappy. I didn't like them. I blogged a quick thought about it here, and also added my voice to the official thread over on the forums.

Normally when a change comes along, whether I do or don't like it, I'm content to keep my thoughts to myself. Or at least confine them to my personal blog here. I don't feel I need to be a voice on the forums that's saying things people are already saying. But in this case I felt it important to be one more person to voice my displeasure.

At first I simply thought to myself, "Well, if they go ahead with it anyway, I'll just avoid the forums. But I'm not going to quit the game."

I'm honestly rethinking that position, though. As of right now the thread where this change was announced has exceeded 2,041 pages, at 20 posts per page. That's 40,820 responses. (And that's just on the US WoW thread. I haven't checked the EU thread, or the thread on the SC2 forums where the same announcements were made.) Based on the random pages I've clicked on and skimmed over, I'm going to assume that they're about 95% against the change. I could be off. But I'm sure I'm close.

When that much of your customer base is opposed enough to a change, you have to be insane to go through with it. We're not talking about a simple change to the game here, either. This is a big change that has the potential to affect customers in a very real way, in their very real lives outside of the game.

To implement their RealID plans on the forums as currently laid out would basically send a message to me that our opinions as their customers don't mean anything. Regardless of how many times our input on class mechanics or balances or encounter designs or any of that may have been taken into consideration in the past, this would undo all of that. It would be a giant middle finger to the community.

That's not a company I could support. And that makes me sad. I've enjoyed WoW for 4 years...enough so that I maintain a blog dedicated to talking about it. And I'm excited about Cata. I'm even looking forward to Diablo 3's eventual release. I believe Blizzard makes quality games and I do want to play those games.

But if a company is going to show that amount of disregard to its customers...I just can't support it.

I'm not quitting yet. There's no reason to jump the gun. People make mistakes. People come up with bad ideas. The idea hasn't been implemented yet, though, so there's no reason to react so severely just yet.

I just hope there ends up being no reason to react at all.

The ball's in your court, Blizzard. Run the right play.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Talent Design

So I've been spending my morning flipping around between my work, writing a BQL guide, and browsing My Internet™. While doing that third one, I landed across something that made my brain shout, STOP THE PRESSES!

So do you remember about...oh...a month ago when Blizz allowed some fansites to release previews of the talent trees for a few of the classes (Druids included) and much debate about builds started flooding the blogosphere? Do you remember that? Hmm?

Yeah, can forget it all. It's moot point now.


This is why.

I'm not going to repost the whole blue post here because it's a long one. But you should go read it. Right now.

Let me give you some of the highlights:
  • Talent trees are getting significantly trimmed. Whereas current talent trees have roughly 30 talents and require 51 points to get to the final defining talent of the tree, the new trees will have about 20 talents and will only require 31 points to get to the bottom.

  • The talents getting trimmed from the trees are of the passive buff variety. Talents that provide unique skills, abilities, or mechanics are the ones that will be sticking around.

  • To compensate for this extreme decrease in talents, we will now receive a talent point roughly every other level. It will be set up in such a way that as we level we alternate between getting to spend a talent point and hitting our trainers.

  • When you hit level 10 and pick your first talent, you are restricted to that tree until you have spent 31 points in it. (Roughly level 70.) This means that if your first talent point goes into the Feral tree, you can't spend points in the Resto or Balance trees until you've put a significant investment into the Feral tree.

  • Mastery bonuses will no longer scale with the amount of points in a tree.

  • Two of the three will be granted immediately upon selection of the primary tree. One will be in the form of an active ability and the other will be a more passive buff.

  • The third Mastery skill will be learned from your trainer at level 75 and will scale up based on the Mastery stat that will be found on gear. Gear with Mastery as a stat will start dropping around the same time.
Crazy, huh?

Personally, I'm excited about this change and I can't wait to see it implemented.

One of the biggest issues I've had recently, both with the current game and the projected Cata trees, is that I felt too many talent points were being spent just trying to get down to that next talent you actually wanted. Yeah, it was nice making this ability do more damage or that one cost less rage/energy/mana. It's certainly a help. But by and large it just feels...meh. Not exciting. What I really want is Feral Charge or Shamanistic Rage or Shadow Form. Those are the fun things that really change how you play your class. But I have to find places (even if they happen to be useful ones) to put a whole ton of talent points before I get there.

This isn't going to reduce the amount of time it takes to get to those talents, but it's going to make spending the points to get down to them feel less tedious. When the points I spend immediately impact how I play my class rather than how quickly I can mow through enemies or how long I can go without stopping to drink then it keeps the game more fresh and interesting.

Edit: And for those who have been wondering if they'd have enough time to get this done without it adversely affecting the (thus far unannounced and merely speculated upon) Cata release date? GC had this to say:
We want to unveil the entire enchilada in the next beta build or so. Everyone here worked really hard to get the whole package to a relatively playable and polished state. In essence we're not announcing a future plan -- we're telling you how the game works today. It's all done.

It's hard to offer timelines for when we will do a new beta push, but we're talking days or a few weeks, not months. All of the passives will be visible then.
So there you go. We'll actually be seeing these soon™.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quick hits

I have a lot of quick little things to touch on today. If I wanted to, I could force all these out into individual posts and actually have one each day for the week. But I don't feel the need to do that. Instead I'm going to break my "one topic per post" rule and do a few quick hits here.

RealID on the forums:
I wasn't one of the "no-way, no-how" individuals regarding RealID friends in-game when that feature was announced. I understood people's privacy concerns, but I didn't feel they were completely justified. Plus, I wanted to actually see how it worked in the game before coming to final judgment. I was pleased enough with how it worked that I'm okay using it. My one hang-up was being able to see friends of friends, but when it turned out that you could only see their name and not any game/realm/toon information, or even whether or not they were actually online, I considered this acceptable.

I like what Blizzard is attempting to do by extending this to the forums, but I'm less okay with the real name implementation out on the general internet than I was with the friend system that was in-game only.

I know a few people have said this in the last few hours, and it's an option I had silently wished would be worked into the system before it was even released in game, but if Blizz would just let us set a single account-wide nickname, every concern I have with the system would go away. If I could be known to as Saniel instead of my real name, no matter what game I was playing...problem solved.

It would tie a single name to all your friending and forum posts, but still maintain a barrier between your game life and your real life. I don't know why this is not being considered as an option. Hopefully it's something that can be.

Another pre-Cata goal down:

I dinged 80 on my Shadow Priest on Saturday afternoon. Sunday was spent running a slew of heroics (even though I said I didn't care if he ever stepped foot in one) and I managed to pick up 3 pieces of Triumph gear before the day was over, including 2 pieces of T9.

Incidentally, the extra 6 seconds on Vampiric Touch from the 2pc set bonus have totally screwed up my rotation. I'm now trying to figure out a new one.

One step closer to being fully self-sufficient:
I also maxed out Siaaryn's alchemy skill (with Transmute specialization). I can now make my own Elixirs and transmute my own gems. One step closer to full self-sufficiency. All I need now is an Enchanter (which will likely happen come Cata).

Still waiting for a Beta spot:
That one pretty much says it all. I haven't been one of the early fortunates. But it's a long process and people are entered in all the way through. There's still a lot of time left.

General Cata news:
Since the NDA was lifted, it's all been coming out way too fast for me to keep up with. There's some things I'm willfully ignoring (like any starting zone information), but also a lot of stuff that I'm pretty sure I'm just missing.

I feel like it's the same thing as trying to keep up with Game Trailers during E3. If you blink, you're already too far behind to catch up.

As someone trying to maintain a respectable and informative blog, I know this is a bad state to be in. At the very least I'm trying to keep up with anything Druid related. But I'm sure I'm behind in that, too.

On that topic...

Worgen and Troll Feral forms:
Yeah, I saw 'em. I knew I'd loved the Troll forms most of all four, and I wasn't wrong. They're the most ridiculously silly of all of the races, but I love them. Tigers with mohawks and tusks? What's not to love? Alas, I have no desire to leave my Alliance guildies just for a bitchin' cat form that I won't be spending as much time in as Bear anyway.

And the worgen forms? I like them. They look tough. But they also scream "leather-daddy" to me. I feel like they'd fit right in with the Village People. Or IML.

I'm still not 100% sure, but I think Saniel is eventually going to be race-changed.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Use Protect...I mean, Common Sense

So as I'm sure you're 100% aware of now, the Cataclysm NDA has been lifted and the Beta has officially opened. Hundreds of thousands of people (including yours truly) are anxiously awaiting to see if they've been lucky enough to receive an invite.

This, of course, leaves the door wide, wide open for scammers and other nefarious types to rob you of your precious account info. We're all careful individuals (right?!) but sometimes excitement can lead even the most vigilant person into a swampy mire of bad decisions. So what can you do to protect yourself?
  1. Make sure there's an authenticator linked to your account. It's not foolproof, but it makes things so much harder for anyone trying to steal your account.

  2. Do not respond to in-game whispers regarding Beta invites. Blizzard will only send you Beta invite info through your email.

  3. Any Beta invites Blizzard does send you will go to the account linked to your account. If you're like me, you have multiple email accounts used for different purposes. Make sure if you do see a Beta invite email, it's in the expected email inbox.

  4. Have an authenticator linked to your account.

  5. If you do receive a Beta invite email, do not click any links in it. Even if you are 100% sure the email is a legit one from Blizzard, do not click links. Scammers are crafty folk. They can produce convincing emails that link to convincing recreations of actual Blizzard sites. Put your account info into one of these fake sites and...yeah. Ugly.

  6. Hopefully you have the WoW homepage or saved to your browser's bookmarks. This is the safest way to get to your account. Even Google can't always be trusted anymore, and if you're typing addresses yourself, there's always a chance at a typo leading you to a bad site. Either way, after seeing a Beta invite in your email, you should immediately go to one of those sites and log in to your account from there.

  7. Once you're logged in, your account homepage should have a big section right across the middle that shows all the games you have linked to that account. If you've received a legitimate Beta invite from Blizzard, you will have an item in that list for the Beta. It will look like this:

    Totally accurate recreation

    If you see the Cata image, you can manage that "game" and go from there. If you don't see it, your invite is probably a scam and you should immediately forward it to Blizz for investigation

  8. Use an authenticator. Get a cute core-hound pup for your troubles!
It's a very exciting time for us. There's going to be a huge amount of information coming out and lots of chances for us to get in there and see the game for ourselves. Just remember to slow down and use some caution and common sense before jumping at your chance.