Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Arena Season 4 Ends On 3.0.

UPDATE 2:

Season 4 will end on the 14th of October.

UPDATE:

I just read on Green Armadillo's Player vs Developer blog that Honour won't be reset after all:

We had hoped that the introduction of some new Honor rewards in the upcoming patch would give players a great opportunity to spend any of their remaining Honor. However, many players would still be surprised by an Honor and token reset as it isn’t something we’ve done in the past. As such, we've decided to not reset Honor or tokens upon the release of Wrath of the Lich King. Players who save their Honor will be able to spend it on level 80 rewards, although those rewards will be significantly more expensive than their level 70 counterparts. (Source)


--

I'm sure that this news from Eyonix will be of interest to some:

We've revaluated certain aspects of how the arena system and current arena season will be affected during both the next content patch, and the launch of Wrath of the Lich King. For starters, the current arena season will end in respect to the ladder upon the release of our next major patch. What this means is, we'll be taking a snapshot of the current season's ladder just before the realms are taken down for patch maintenance, and our normal process will commence to determine who is eligible for the end-of-season rewards. Teams and ratings will not be wiped at that time, and will carry forward allowing players to earn points each week (and buy gear) until the launch of the expansion on November 13th. Almost immediately before Wrath of the Lich King releases, all arena teams as well as ratings will be wiped and arena charter NPCs disabled. (Source)


To sum up: Season 4 Ends (and Titles etc are calculated) with the launch of the next content patch (3.0). This is some time before WotLK is due to launch. Between the launch of Patch 3.0 and November 13th Arena Ratings and Points will be accumulated as normal and can be spent as normal. However come Nov. 13th all teams and ratings will be wiped, and the next Arena Season (S5 I guess) will not start until lvl80. We can assume that Arena Points still won't be wiped until you reach lvl71.

I can't say I didn't expect it TBH, but it will be very interesting to see how competitive all classes are in this brief period (~2-4 weeks). Also we can take the announcement of the end date of S4 as the 2-week warning for 3.0.

EDIT: Hints of a new Matchmaking System for the Arena?

There will be a new, persistent rating system that should keep top-rated players facing other top-rated players, regardless of the bracket in which their current team sits. We'll have more information to come on this soon. (Source)

Green - Not the New Purple.

The common refrain on the release of the Burning Crusade was 'Green is the new Purple'. Quested and BoE uncommon and rare items from the very first few quests in Hellfire Peninsula were better than a huge number of Epics from end-game Vanilla WoW. Part of this was the reduced cost of stamina in TBC items which wasn't retroactively changed in vanilla Epics, and the highly specialised nature of most post-BWL gear didn't help either. But for whatever reason upgrades came thick and fast for the majority of players, even those who ground out Epic Honour Gear in 1.12.

Baring a very significant change to itemisation in the next few weeks the same will not be true in Wrath of the Lich King. The itemisation formulae have remained pretty much the same so there is no new slack in the budget for higher stats or DPS. Hence just as you wouldn't expect lvl70 TBC Greens and Blues to replace Heroic Gear you shouldn't expect lvl70 WotLK Greens to replace Heroic Gear.

There are certain exceptions, for instance if you are changing your spec from an end-game tanking or healing spec and haven't been able to pick up much DPS gear. Also your character's mechanics may well have changed to make better use stats you previously didn't collect, such as Crit for DoT classes or Haste for Ret Paladins. Hence it pays to at least give the quest rewards you can achieve the once over, but don't expect to see much worth more than the gold resale value. This is especially true for Trinkets and Relics, where historically itemisations hasn't been too good or they've been difficult to get (damn you Shard of Contempt!).

Whilst levelling in the Beta I've found that a good rule of thumb is expecting to find upgrades from rare drops at lvl70 plus your Epics' Tier. Original Badge gear and Kara Epics are around Tier4 and the epics released with the Sunwell are Tier 6.5, so expect to see upgrades starting from lvl74 group quests and dungeon drops.

You can stave off upgrading for another few levels by swapping your gems. Honour gems are no longer BoP or Unique-Equipped and the item budget value of the socket is often calculated as if a rare gem were socketed. Rare levelling gear tends not to have many sockets, so slotting in an Epic PvP gem over a rare one can extend the life of Badge or Tier gear by another level or two. Equally picking up some of the new uncommon crafted gems, which have received an appreciable boost to levels equivalent to that of the TBC Epics, can serve to stave off the inevitable.

So, don't be afraid to spend time in Kara or Heroics and invest those Badges on gear rather than Nethers or Vortexes. They'll see you in good stead for a few levels yet, especially the Sunwell Badge gear.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Venture Bay Mini-Guide


This post contains mild spoilers of the Venture Bay PvP quest sub-zone in Wrath of the Lich King. If you don't want to read about Wrath then this post probably isn't for you.

Venture Bay is a former outpost and port of the Venture Trading Company, the same Venture Co. which is despoiling Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdom of their natural resources. Having largely had their own way in Northrend for some time the re-emergence of the Lich King, Vrykul and aggressive actions between the Dragonflights appears to be pushing the Venture Company from their holdings on the continent.


The Bay is located to the South-West of the Grizzly Hills, near the border with the Dragonblight. As the Venture Co. flees the Horde and Alliance are vying for control of this strategically important location, just as they did in Halaa in months past. They use the remaining equipment and resources in order to fulfil this aim, including Shredders, Fuel and cake. (I'm lying about the cake)

The East-side of the Bay is controlled by the Horde, the West-side (represent!) by the Alliance. Daily Quest providers on both sides send you out into the contested areas of the bay, quests which earn you Venture Coins. These Daily Quests are PvP, tuned for lvl74 and flag you for PvP whilst they are in your quest log.

The South of the Bay is an island with a Stable, Lumbermill (with Blacksmith) and Lighthouse. This Area is your standard PvP territorial control zone using the same mechanic as other PvP zones/nodes (such as Eastern Plaguelands' Towers).


The Faction which possesses the Lighthouse Island zone gains accesses to another Daily Quest and a Vendor. The Venture Coin Vendor sells lvl74 'Rare' Cloaks, Trinkets, Relics, a Wand and a Throwing knife. These rewards are bought with Venture Coins. As such, level appropriate Shaman, Paladins and Druids will be most interested in these rewards.

Venture Bay is also closely associated with the Blue Sky Logging Grounds to the North, and Daily Quests in the Logging Grounds grant Gold, Reputation with your Horde or Alliance Expedition Faction and Experience. It's likely that these factions will eventually have reputation rewards of their own, but to my knowledge they haven't been implemented yet.

Quests
Seeking Solvent - Gurtor at the Venture Bay Horde base wants you to bring him a canister of Element 115. Pick up a Canister of Element 115 from the Venture Co. Ship in the middle of the Bay. Carrying the Canister places a debuff on you preventing you from increasing your speed, and increases the damage you take by 35%. You have only 4 minutes to hand in the Canister before it disappears from your inventory, so be quick!. Reward: 4 Venture Coins
* Following completion of this quest you can hand in more Element 115 Canisters for 2 Coins a pop.

(Daily) Keep Them At Bay! - Defeat 10 Alliance units or players in Venture Bay and return to Centurion Kaggrum. Self explanatory, you can kill either Players or NPC's. Reward: 10 Coins, 20k XP and 5 Gold.

(Daily) Smoke 'Em Out - Use the Smoke Bomb to drive 20 Venture Company Stragglers from their buildings and then report to Sergeant Downey. Around the Bay remnants of the Venture Company still lurk. Throw bombs into the buildings to force them into the open. Reward: 10 Coins, 20k XP and 5 Gold.

(Daily) Crush Captain Brightwater!/ Down with Captain Zorma - Slay [Captain Zorna/Captain Brightwater] and report to [Baron Freeman/General Khazgar] at Venture Bay. This quest is to kill the Commander of the opposition's forces in Venture Bay (a lvl74 Elite), and may require a small group to complete. Reward: 10 Coins, 20k XP and 5 Gold.

(Daily - Requires control of the Lighthouse Island) Riding the Red Rocket - General Gorlok at the lighthouse in Venture Bay wants you to destroy the Alliance Lumber Boat. You first need to collect a Canister of Element 115 and take it to one of the four Rockets on the South-most Pier, then ride the Rocket to the Oppositions Lumber Shipment and destroy it. Reward: 10 Coins, 20k XP and 5 Gold.

Venture Coin Reward Summary. (Build 8282)



Cloaks - Tanking, Caster and Physical DPS Cloaks. These are roughly the quality of the Epic drops of Kael'thas Sunstrider in The Eye, and are ideal for levelling. If you aren't decked out in Epics as you get to into Northrend they these are well worth picking up. You'll struggle to find better before lvl77.

Trinkets - +57 Spelldamage or + 98 AP Trinket, granting 200 Mana or HP on a Kill which grants Honour or XP.

Relics - A Libram/Totem/Idol for each spec. With the relative lack of Librams from sources other than PvP these are of significant value to Relic-using Hybrids. Some may be re itemised before Launch. [Correction: - the Libram of Rertribution now increases Critical Strike Rating by 73 for 8 seconds].

Wand/Throwing Knives - PvE levelling items.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Build [8982] Hits the Beta Servers.

Yep, you guessed it, another Beta Build. Lets see what's in there for Paladins:


Skills:

Holy:
* Seal of Corruption/Vengeance now deals [ 19.2% of AP + 9.6% of Spell Power ] additional Holy Damage over 15 sec. (Down from [ 23.4% of AP + 11.4% of Spell Power ])
* (undocumented) Divine Plea: Regenerates 25% of your total mana over 15 seconds, reducing your Healing by 100% (previously 10 second duration, 50% reduction in healing output). Yes, the tooltip says something different. Yes, the tooltip is wrong.

Protection:
* Shield Of Righteousness (rank 1): Now deal Holy Damage equal to 100% of your Block Value + 300.
* Hammer of Judgement: Now Interrupts Spell Casting for 3 Seconds in addition to its' previous effect.

Retribution:
* Seal of Blood/Martyr changed to 28% of weapon damage (from 35%).
* Two-Handed Weapon Spec has returned to a 2/4/6% damage increase.
* Fanatisism has also returned to 5/10/15/20/25% Judgement crit chance.
* Seal of Command changed to 56% of weapon damage (from 75%).

(i'll update this post with any further changes as and when I seem them)


So, a nerf to Seals this time round. Again, how much this is warranted is debateable but given that almost every one of our common rotation DPS abilities can Proc Seals it effectively reduces our DPS by 5% (and significantly reduces our Burst Damage potential).

Is this warranted? Well without a bug-free parse of Naxx no-one can tell, but I'm still sticking to premature.

EDIT: Undocumented in the patchnotes, but DP has been heavily nerfed.



You can see that I am still casting as I gain Sheathe of Light, but whilst Divine Plea is up no heals are registered (healing reduced by 100%).

EDIT: Clarification.

It appears that SoR hasn't been nerfed in line with SoV/Cor, SoB/M and SoCom. However it did go through a pretty substancial nerf in an earlier build. The overall nerf to (non-SoR) Seal damage this build totals ~20%.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Honour Reset on Wrath Launch.

UPDATE:

I just read on Green Armadillo's Player vs Developer blog that Honour won't be reset after all:

We had hoped that the introduction of some new Honor rewards in the upcoming patch would give players a great opportunity to spend any of their remaining Honor. However, many players would still be surprised by an Honor and token reset as it isn’t something we’ve done in the past. As such, we've decided to not reset Honor or tokens upon the release of Wrath of the Lich King. Players who save their Honor will be able to spend it on level 80 rewards, although those rewards will be significantly more expensive than their level 70 counterparts. (Source)


----

I speculated on whether Blizzard would choose to reset Honour (or should that be 'Honor'?) Points come Wrath of the Lich King, and it appears that the results are in. Vaneras sez:

As many of you know we will be featuring a new Battleground, a dedicated world PvP zone and all new PvP items in Wrath of the Lich King. In order to make the transition from The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King flow as smoothly as possible, all accrued honor points will be reset at the launch of the expansion. We do this to ensure select players do not have an unfair advantage at level 80 from stockpiling honor to instantly purchase the newest Wrath of the Lich King PvP rewards. For those with unspent honor points prior to the release of the expansion, we will be offering a few upgrades and special rewards in next content patch solely for purchase via the honor system.


and in the same thread...


All Honor Tokens will be wiped as well. This reset should happen right before the launch of Wrath of the Lich King.


So, spend your Honour and Tokens when 3.0 hits, because you won't get another chance come November. It's a shame that they won't be doing the same with Honour as with Arena Points (resetting them when you hit lvl71) as it means people taking a break will need to re-sub before Wrath hits to spend the points they already earned. That said, these Honour items will simple be levelling aids, nothing more. It's not that big a loss.

Hell, at least the news is coming out now and not two weeks before release.


ADDED:

Eyonix has a post up listing the new honour rewards and they are distinctly underwhelming. Basically they are upgrades to previous PvP Cloaks, better than the ones currently for sale from Badge Vendors such as Dory's Embrace, and a set of new Trinkets. Also all PvP-Gems have will no longer be BoP nor Unique-Equipped so they can be traded and used like any normal Jewelcrafter gems.

...meh :(.

ADDED 2: Season 4 will end with Patch 3.0.


ADDED:

Want Epic Quest Chains? You Got 'Em.

In all the Wrath of the Lich King commentary of patch notes, loot, talents and new professions WoW Bloggers (and I don't excuse myself from this group) have tended to gloss over what I find to be the most enduring parts of Warcraft: Quest and Lore. Except, that is, for a flurry of speculation on on the Ashbringer and WoWInsider's excellent Ask a Lore Nerd column. Hopefully the following post will whet your appetite for more Questing in Wrath, rather than mindlessly rushing to 70.

[Warning, the following post may contain mild spoilers]

Wrath of the Lich King is an evolution from The Burning Crusade in a few key areas, but none are so pronounced as the system of questing. Previously I was quite snooty about it being not much of a step up from TBC, and yes there's still plenty of 'Kill 10 Rats Kobolds'. But Blizzard has been inspired by the more popular quest lines in the original and first expansion to make the chains longer, more lore-heavy and have a much more satisfying pay-off.

The Grand Masquerade was probably the first truly epic storyline in the game. It had 4 Acts spanning both Continents and has, in the unmasking of Onyxia, probably the most memorable scripted event WoW has produced. The only criticism which could be levelled at it was that the real finish was the Onyxia encounter, which regrettably many only saw some months after it felt relevant.

By comparison the Hero of the Mag'har chain, whilst remaining a long chain, finished with the scripted event that was a pay-off for all those Horde who had completed the quest chain. All it required was the aid of four warm bodies to help you on your way. I'm not sure that there's anything wrong with this chain, apart from having it spoiled by seeing someone else trigger the event whilst you're in Nagrand.

What's wrong with this picture?

In Wrath of the Lich King the quest chain you will hear of most often early on is 'The Battle for The Undercity'. The prerequisites of the chain stretch from Vengeance Landing in the East to Warsong Hold in the West, and must be at least a couple of dozen meaningful quests. There's a great solo/group/raid set piece at the finale, and from what Ghostcrawler has said a cinematic detailing just what happened to set off this chain of events. Lore continues, Heroes die, and Azeroth changes meaningfully. Plus, the Alliance finally gets a badass of their very own.

Yes, there are similar quest lines for both Alliance and Horde all based on the same catastrophe but from very different perspectives.

It is a tour de force for Blizzard's Phasing technology, and just as much as the lvl55 Deathknight chain it's worth the price of admission. They've finally realised that a quest line doesn't need to reward purple loot to be epic.


Elsewhere we learn a little more about the Infinite Dragonflight with a quest from your favourite gender confused Gnome Priest Chromie, play dress-up to free a tribe of Murlocs, induct a new tribe into the Horde and interact which each of the 5 Dragonflights. Dragonflights which I suspect are all being corrupted by something more sinister...

So if you are a lore junkie and play the game more for the story than getting phat epics there's plenty in there for you, and that's just from levels 70-74. Since I've been in the Beta they've greatly fleshed out every quest node so that questing in an instance once again feels like a meaningful activity. There will no doubt be plenty more on the way to 80 and beyond, and there could be no better time to team up with two or three (or more) other people and experience all this content together. Your only problem will be leaving something for your alts to experience.


ADDED: Seen the Cinematic for 'The Battle for The Undercity'. It is awesome!


(no, this isn't an excuse for me to test out 'post summarise' and 'read more' code. Honest.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Build [8970] Paladin Changes.

Build 8970 has just been deployed on the Beta Realm. Apparently 8962 left a number of significant bugs in the DK starter area (such that you couldn't complete the quest to exit the area) and that warranted a quick pre-weekend patch. Thus far the number of Paladin changes are few and far between:

Paladin Changes
Skills
* Shield of Righteousness's damage coeff reduced to 100% of Block Value (down from 240%) - [This was actually a hotfix performed today but I thought it was worth sticking in there]

Talents
Holy
* Beacon of Light now lasts 1 minute. [MMO-Champion lists this as a change, but I've no idea what's going on here; as far as I knew it already lasted 1min]
* Beacon of Light no longer does double the healing when you heal the Beacon directly. [Bugfix or not, this is a pretty significant change]

Retribution
* Fanaticism critical strike chance of all Judgements capable of a critical hit reduced to 4/8/12/16/20% (Down from 5/10/15/20/25%). [Strange... perhaps to keep Art of War in check?]
* Two-Handed Weapon Specialization now increases your damage with 2H weapons by 1/2/3%. (Down from 2/4/6%) [Very strange this one. It is now a significantly worse talent than Crusade, which is in Tier 4 rather than Tier 5, and also worse than the Warrior equivalent which remains 2/4/6%]

source(lots there for Druids BTW)

It strikes me that this is an internal build snapshot where some eager beaver was playing around with Paladin talents rather than making a concerted pass at them. Anyway, as there's not much in this build I'll instead link the colour-schemes for the 10-man and 25-man versions of Tier 7, sourced from MMO-C:



Hideous, in a trollish sort of way, aren't they.

Ghostcrawler Speaks: HoJ Gets An Interrupt and more

Well, just browsing the Official Paladin Beta Forums and spotted the following very interesting comments by Blizzard Dev Ghostcrawler:

We did add the interrupt to Hammer of Justice. This was done solely so that Protection paladins wouldn't feel like they couldn't tank mobs that needed to be interrupted but were stun immune. We just think that interrupt capability crosses over the line into something that a tank needs to do his job.

Death knights don't have a group taunt and paladins don't have a single-target taunt. We're not convinced yet that those are mandatory, but they might be.

You'll be able to tank the Four Horsemen though. If you couldn't, our dream of having Protadin MTs instantly falls on its face.


No news yet on whether it will be added to baseline or deep Prot (or perhaps the ever elusive new 11pt Prot talent) but it's a pretty big fillip for raid tanking Paladins against Caster targets who would be stun immune. That is, once every 30 seconds (fully talented). I think that a more elegant solution might be to add the silence to Exorcism baseline and have Exorcism deal zero damage against non-Demon/undead targets, (or let an interrupt effect be a part of SoJ's Judgement effect rather than damage) but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth :). It's also nice to see her reiterate Blizzard's desire to have Paladins be a viable MT on all raid fights.

In another thread we have what almost amounts to 'State of the Class' commentary by her, and without any fuss here it is:

Protection -- We want more tanks in the game. Main tanks. We think it's fun to have a diversity of players and see how different spells, abilities and class mechanics get used to solve problems. A Protadin with the right skill and gear should be able to tank any fight in the game. Previously, we tried to push Prot into the offtank and AE tank roles. While your abilities are still really well suited for AE in particular, overall our philosophy has changed and we want you to be able to do anything the other tanks do. Note that this means other tanks will get better at AE tanking though. Prot represents a special challenge when not tanking because you can both heal and do dps and some players want to do either. Or both. One final comment, that you have already seen, is we want you to gear like a warrior: collect Strengh and Stam and use tanking weapons instead of caster weapons.

Retribution -- You're a melee dps class, and one of only a handful of classes that can fill the "mana battery" role. With the changes to the way raid buffs work, we are blurring the lines a lot more between "pure" dps classes and hybrids that have the potential to respec if their dps doesn't work out. But we don't penalize classes for having awesome buffs the way we used to. Also remember that one of Ret's big limitations before was just getting in the group with the good melee buffs. That problem is solved. If you're good and know your stuff cold, you should be able to be up there with the rogues and hunters. Maybe not every fight, but not 500 dps below them either.

Holy -- You're still the best high-throughput, single target healer in the game. I suspect you're still going to get called on to heal the tank a lot. Holy was in a really good place in BC, so much so that other healers (probably priests more than anyone else) began to get overshadowed. To shift things back a little, as well to just challenge the player base, we introduced a lot more fights with AE damage and movement. Unfortunately, those mechanics hit Holy. Hard. At the same time, CoH and CH seemed to be able to handle any encounter. Beacon of Light isn't a panacea to solve all of those problems, but it is designed to help. It still needs a little work, but I think the basic spell design is sound.

One thing that has been mentioned is that the three paladin trees feel pretty separated from each other. We've gotten better in some other classes of making it a valid choice to go deeper into a second tree, and not just to get a single, incredible talent, but because there is some legitimate synergy there. It's going to be harder to get that feeling for the paladin than it is for the mage, but it is something we want to mess with some more after Lich King.

Obviously beyond the individual trees, we completely redid the whole seal and judgment system. We think it works pretty well, but we're just going to have to play with it some more to find the rough spots.

I realize I haven't talked a lot about PvP, because it's a very big topic... and this is already pretty long... and I'm always encouraging players to be more succinct. Anyway. We suspect we changed the landscape quite a bit in PvP with all of our changes and we're waiting for it to shake out a little more. It's much harder to theorycraft PvP.
source

There's a lot in there, so it's worth reading it through and really processing it. Here would be my reply:

Prot - Whilst a Prot Paladin may well like to do DPS or Heal this is largely impossible. In the case of Healing Prot Paladins, whether they are in Holy gear or not, simply don't have the longevity necessary for significant levels of healing. DPS suffers similarly from longevity, but the relatively low cost of damage-dealing skills and new Divine Plea could make some difference. Still, the Prot Paladin would be fundamentally limited in this role by a lack of mana (or mana regen).

Ret - Good to hear. Also Ret, like Arms and Fury, may have a role off-tanking in 10-man/5-man encounters, all because you give this melee spec an adequate means of regening mana. Take note ;)

Holy - I'm glad to hear our concerns are known... now something just needs to be done about it ;). And unlike many in the Paladin community, I see adding to the Seal/Judgement system so that it is useful in all circumstances to all specs to be a real boon to the class

That they don't quite know how things are going to shape up with PvP is pretty obvious, and with the number of class skills which have recently been canned or are in a state of flux heavily analysing PvP is probably premature. Still, I'm glad that they are happy with shaking things up a lot, as it was getting extremely stale.

Finally, the bolded part is curious. It sounds like there are more changes on the way after Lich King ships. Whether this means the patch after 3.0, or the next Expansion, is difficult to know, but I'm surprised to hear a statement in which a Dev admits that they're not going to be done come the launch of Wrath. It's going to be extremely tough to make any Paladin want to spec down another tree without really adding some interesting stuff there, unless that tree is Ret because Ret rocks. I'm not too worried though, so long as Blizzard keep talking to the player base.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Build [8962] Paladin Changes: Nothing For Holy Yet.

Well, those evil peeps over at Blizz decided to throw up a patch whilst I was sleeping, so I'm sorry if you came here early expecting to see the changes. Anyway, without further ado, here are the changes from MMO-Champion and the Elitist Jerks Paladin WotLK thread.

Protection
Talents

* Hammer of the Righteous (Tier 11) changed to - Hammer the current target and up to 2 additional nearby targets, causing 3 times your main hand damage per second as Holy damage.
* Improved Devotion Aura (Tier 4) now increases the amount healed to the target by 2/4/6%. (Old - 1/2/3%)
* Toughness (Tier 3) reduces movement impairing effect duration by 6/12/18/24/30%. (Old - 10/20/30/40/50%)


Retribution
Talents

* The Art of War now makes your next Flash of Light spell instant.
* Judgements of the Wise (Tier 7) mana regeneration reduced to 0.25% of total mana. (Previously 0.5%)
* Judgement of Command (Tier 3) now has a 100% chance to crit when the target is stunned. Damage bonus while stunned removed.


Glyphs

* Glyph of Spiritual Attunement has been added - Increases the amount of mana gained from your Spiritual Attunement spell by an additional 2%.
* Glyph of Turn Evil now Reduces the casting time of your Turn Evil spell by 100%. (Old - Reduces the cooldown on Turn Evil by 5 sec.)
* Glyph of Cleansing has been added - Reduces the mana cost of your Cleanse and Purify spells by 20%.
* Glyph of Avenging Wrath has been added - Reduces the cooldown of your Hammer of Wrath spell by 50% while Avenging Wrath is active.

Itemisation (from the posters on Elitist Jerks}
Librams
* Savage Gladiator's Libram of Fortitude: Your Crusader Strike ability also grants you 94 attack power for 6 sec.
* Hateful Gladiator's Libram of Fortitude: Your Crusader Strike ability also grants you 106 attack power for 6 sec.
* Deadly Gladiator's Libram of Fortitude: Your Crusader Strike ability also grants you 120 attack power for 6 sec.
* LK Arena 4 Gladiator's Libram of Fortitude: Your Crusader Strike ability also grants you 136 attack power for 6 sec.
* LK Arena 5 Gladiator's Libram of Fortitude: Your Crusader Strike ability also grants you 154 attack power for 6 sec.
* LK Arena 6 Gladiator's Libram of Fortitude: Your Crusader Strike ability also grants you 174 attack power for 6 sec.
* Savage Gladiator's Libram of Justice: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 204.
* Hateful Gladiator's Libram of Justice: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 236.
* Deadly Gladiator's Libram of Justice: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 267.
* LK Arena 4 Gladiator's Libram of Justice: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 302.
* LK Arena 5 Gladiator's Libram of Justice: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 351.
* LK Arena 6 Gladiator's Libram of Justice: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 381.
* Libram of Renewal: Reduces the mana cost of Holy Light by 113.
* Libram of Tolerance: Increases spell power of Holy Light by 141.
* Libram of Obstruction: Your Judgement ability also increases your shield block value by 186 for 5 sec.
* Libram of Resurgence: Increases the spell power of your Consecration spell by 141.
* Libram of Souls Redeemed: Increases spell power of Flash of Light by 89.
* Libram of Reciprocation: Your Judgement of Command spell has a chance to grant 173 haste rating for 10 sec.
* Libram of Radiance: Increases the damage dealt by Crusader Strike by 115.5.

Tier 7 Set Bonii

Protection:
(2) Set: Increases the damage dealt by your Hammer of the Righteous by 10%.
(4) Set: Increases the duration of your Divine Shield and Divine Protection by 3 seconds.

Holy:
(2) Set: Your Holy Shock gains an additional 10% chance to critically strike.
(4) Set: The cost of your Holy Light is reduced by 5%.

Retribution:
(2) Set: Increases the damage dealt by your Divine Storm by 10%.
(4) Set: Reduces the cooldown of your Judgment of Light, Judgment of Wisdom, and Judgment of Justice by 1 second.


The Judgement of the Wise change is in fact a change to all Replenishment effects as both Survival Hunter and Shadow Priest regen amounts were also changed. Imp. Devotion aura has again been buffed, though I'm still concerned that this healing buff will merely be eaten up by overhealing.

Art of War and Judgement of Command changes are merely tooltip clarifications.

The Change to Hammer of the Righteous effectively normalises this skill such that fast weapons (the majority of tanking weapons we've seen) are as good as slow weapons in terms of threat generated. PPM effects and Seals which scale with weapon speed or swing damage would still be detrimentally effected by fast weapons however.

The Librams, especially those obtained via the Arena, look pretty tasty. Except that is for the Judgement of Command increasing Haste, I have a feeling that the benefits may well be pretty minor.

Still no meaningful Holy changes. As the Beta still has a fair old time to run hopefully this will be addressed at some point soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Weekend Has Passed on the PTR...

..and the 'Nerf Ret' calls are already coming thick and fast. You could take a look for yourself (EDIT: Looks like Blizzard have been cleaning house... heh), though I don't advise it. And that's just the official boards, you can expect WoWInsider, Gameriot and other blogging sites to wax lyrical on the injustice of having a Ret Paladin hand anyone their backside on a plate. That warriors, rogues and other 'pure' classes do the same is of course neither here nor there.

Reasons for the outcry are probably long and equally boring, but here are a few reality checks for the complainers:

  • Retribution was, and always has been, a bursty spec. It is pretty much their one strength in PvP as they lack many of the tools other classes take for granted, such as a Snare, Interrupt, MS-Effect etc. If it weren't for their burst they'd be useless in all relevant forums of PvP.
  • All talents are based around lvl80 Gameplay, and should be scaled to such. Even then, sometimes the designers get it wrong - Retribution was nerfed before 2.0, and every single one of the nerfs was later reversed (and in some cases, subsequently buffed further) over the course of 10 months, leading the spec to be left behind in PvE and uncompetitive in PvP.
  • Nerfing a class to an illusion of burst parity at 70, real parity of course being impossible with the limited tools at the classes disposal, is not good game design.
  • Season 4 will end with the current patch. There's no way that Blizzard will have Season 4 continue with the Wrath Talent Trees, and it's very unlikely that Blizzard will introduce a short 'Season 5' before Wrath ships. So don't worry, Ret won't be dominating the rankings this Season.
  • According to some, literally every second person on the PTR is a Paladin and most of them are Ret with very decent gear. If you see 10 Paladins dominating the 'Damage Done' meter, ask what other classes were in that Battleground and how long they stayed.


  • Regrettably, Retribution may indeed be toned down to appease those complaining on the PTR, though I would hope that Blizzard will keep the PTR as a bug-testing realm and utilise the Wrath Beta as the realm upon which to balance things. They have to be careful though, with Warhammer looming large over the release of 3.0 having one class dominating others, especially others used to having it their own way, may well cause an increased exodus to their rival. Especially from among the ranks of PvPers.

    Fundamentally, is it worth nerfing Ret for a month of lvl70 gameplay, and then very slowly buffing them back to viability over the course of 8 months of lvl80-capped gameplay? The answer is obvious, but I don't get to make the decisions ;).

    So, if you are on the PTR and getting 'pwned' by Ret here's some advice: Suck It Up. Report your bugs and let the dudes raiding/PvPing in Beta find the optimum point for Ret damage. If you can't live with it on the PTR then get the hell off it, and if you can't stand it when 3.0 goes live then PvE servers will welcome you with open arms. Don't worry, your Brutal Gladiator titles xfer with you.

    /rant

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    WotLK Release Date: 13th Nov. 2008

    Update: It's official:

    WORLD OF WARCRAFT®: WRATH OF THE LICH KING™ IN STORES STARTING NOVEMBER 13, 2008

    The second expansion to Blizzard Entertainment®'s massively multiplayer online role-playing game will be available in standard and special collector's editions

    IRVINE, Calif. - September 15, 2008 - Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that World of Warcraft®: Wrath of the Lich King™, the second expansion for its award-winning subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), will arrive in stores on November 13 in North America, Europe, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Russia, and November 14 in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. The expansion will be available in Korea and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on November 18. Details regarding the launch of Wrath of the Lich King in mainland China will be announced at a later date.

    "We're looking forward to launching Wrath of the Lich King and finally giving World of Warcraft players a chance to take on Arthas and his minions," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "Until then, we'll continue to refine and playtest the expansion content to make sure it provides a highly polished and entertaining experience."

    World of Warcraft®: Wrath of the Lich King™ sends players to the cold, forbidding continent of Northrend, where the fearsome Lich King Arthas Menethil, last seen in Warcraft® III: The Frozen Throne®, works from his secluded citadel to bring all of Azeroth under his twisted dominion. Players will battle the Lich King's undead army from the shores of Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra to the seat of his unholy power in Icecrown Glacier. In addition, players will be able to advance characters to level 80 and gain powerful new abilities while exploring several new zones and dungeons. The expansion also introduces a number of exciting new features, including an achievement system, expanded player-vs.-player combat options such as siege weapons and destructible buildings, and the game's first Hero class -- the necromantic death knight.

    World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King will be available on DVD-ROM for Windows® XP/Windows Vista® and Machintosh® in two packages: a standard edition, which will sell for a suggested retail price of $39.99, and a special Collector's Edition (in select regions) priced at $69.99. The limited Collector's Edition package will contain:

    * The Art of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, a 208-page book featuring never-before-seen images from the game.
    * An exclusive in-game pet: Frosty, the baby frost wyrm.
    * A behind-the-scenes DVD containing over an hour of developer interviews, the Wrath of the Lich King intro cinematic with director's commentary and more.
    * The official soundtrack CD, containing 21 epic tracks from the game, along with exclusive bonus tracks.
    * A mouse pad featuring a map of the newly opened continent of Northrend.
    * Two World of Warcraft Trading Card Game March of the Legion™, starter decks, along with two exclusive cards available only in the Collector's Edition.

    The Wrath of the Lich King expansion requires the original World of Warcraft game, available now for a suggested retail price of $19.99, along with World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade®, which sells for $29.99. These two products are combined in the World of Warcraft Battle Chest®, are available for $39.99. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King has received a Teen rating from the ESRB.

    Since launching in November 2004, World of Warcraft has become the world's most popular MMORPG, with more than 10.9 million subscribers. The game's first expansion, The Burning Crusade, broke PC-game sales records in North America and Europe by selling nearly 2.4 million copies in its first 24 hours of availability and approximately 3.5 million copies in its first month.

    For more information on World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, visit the official website at www.worldofwarcraft.com/wrath. With multiple games in development, Blizzard Entertainment has numerous positions currently available. Visit www.blizzard.com/jobs for more information and to learn how to apply.



    --


    MMO-Champion, referencing an ad on Wowhead (an official Blizzard Fansite), is stating that Wrath of the Lich King will be released on the 13th of November 2008.



    Skosiris, an Admin on WoWhead, is stating that this ad did indeed come from Blizzard, and Malgayne has speculated that it was accidentally released early due to WoWhead being on Eastern rather than Pacific time.

    This gives Blizzard 9 weeks to finish the Beta, go Gold and Ship. Given the current state of the Beta (one or two patches behind the internal testing patch Blizzard are using) they're going to have their work cut out in achieving that particular milestone.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    "Good Things from the Garden..."

    "Good things from the garden
    Garden in the valley
    Valley of the Jolly ('ho, ho, ho') Green Giant!"




    The big guy is Thrym, a Flesh Titan in Zul'Drak, and as far as I know the biggest beastie in WoW thus far. Think twice when he tells you to Eat Your Vegetables.


    (No Noggenfogger was abused when taking this screenshot. He is that big).

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Holy Paladins: The Beta Thus Far.

    It's not surprising to many that the Paladin Holy talent tree has had the least attention in the Wrath Beta thus far. It's probably to have been expected given the state of Ret on live and the number of changes Tanking will go through in Wrath. However, this isn't to say that Holy shouldn't get some much needed attention.

    Previous Build Developments.

    The major cause of frustration is that whilst Holy didn't get any direct attention, other helpful talents kept cropping up. For example Sheath of Light in the Retribution tree provided a HoT on crits, a concept which many Holy Paladins adored. Sheath at that time was in competition to Holy's 51pt talent, a version of Beacon of Light which performed a weak AoE HoT with small radius. A lot of Healing Paladins thus thought that some variation of 40(+x)/0/23(+8-x) would be the way to go to exploit not only Sheath, but also the additional Crit which Conviction now applied to their Healing spells, and hence maximise their healing potential. The term 'Sheathbot' was coined for such builds, and lots of Ret Beta testers were pretty snooty about them. 'It's not for you', or 'why aren't you testing Holy' were common refrains.

    Changes to Beacon of Light to its current form, a Heal buff which when placed on a target causes all healing done by the Paladin to also heal the target, helped somewhat. The buggy nature of the talent still turns off a lot of Paladins, but it was seen as a reasonable alternative to Sheath at the time. Then the new Judgements of the Wise hit the servers like a thunderbolt:

    Judgements of the Wise (rank 3): Your Judgement spells have a 100% chance to grant the Replenishment effect to up to 10 party or raid members mana regeneration equal to 0.5% of their maximum mana per second, and to immediately grant you 20% of your maximum mana.


    This appealed directly to Holy Paladins because for some time they've felt behind the curve in healing longevity. They could also still get this, Sheath of Light and Enlightened Judgements (+20yrd range to Judgements) for 20% Total mana regen at range (At the time of writing you can still spec like this on the Official Beta Talent Calculator, now out of date).

    Current Build, Current Unease.

    With the advent of Build 8926 both Sheath and JotW have been moved further down the Retribution Tree, and yet many Holy Paladins continue to protest that right now they'd still spec for JotW over Tier 9 Holy, using an adaptation of the old Shockadin builds. They seem unconcerned over the idea of needing to be in melee range to heal and regen mana effectively; 20% of Maximum Mana, they reason, is just too strong a mechanic to pass up. And in many ways they are probably right.

    It's likely that Blizzard will change things up a bit, probably by adjusting JotW to regen ~35% of base rather than maximum mana, a change which would make little difference to most Ret Paladins but will cripple the concept of a Holy Paladin speccing for JotW. Unfortunately this doesn't solve the underlying problem that the Holy Tree has...

    It Sucks. Or perhaps more accurately, it's a one-trick pony, specialising in raw one-target healing output.

    With 3.0 downranking and chain-potting will be eliminated, which inevitably is causing some further consternation with regards to mana consumption. Blizzard have said that they want mana to mean more than it did in TBC, which is fine, but Paladin's don't have the tools with which to mana their mana any more. In its current form the Holy Tree does nothing to address these, and other issues which healing Paladins have for 5-man, 10-man and 25-man encounters. It is centred around two factors: increasing the size of your heals and making them cost less mana over time. The 5 new talents either accomplish variants on that theme, or are PvP talents:

  • Infusion of Light: Causes Holy Shock criticals to make your next Holy Light instant
  • Sacred Cleansing: Gives a change when cleansing to increase debuff resistance
  • Enlightened Judgements: Increases Judgement Range and Hit chance
  • Judgements of the Pure: Causes Judgements to increase haste by 10%
  • Beacon of Light: Already discussed. Seems to be changing every other build, so we don't know what the next one might hold.


  • Unfortunately more and more encounters are spitting out AoE damage like that seen in MgT which Paladins have difficultly dealing with. More and more require huge healing throughput at high mana efficiency, a combination which Paladins don't seem to do terribly well at. We have improved with regard to mobility, but this comes at a heavy price so far down the tree.

    As PvP talents these could perhaps work well. Infusion allows instant heals on the move but at a high mana cost, but is high mana cost spot healing that important for raids? Sacred Cleansing is a debuff preventative, but at only 30% and requiring a successful Cleanse to be cast first its value is debatable. Enlightened Judgements+JotP feel like 7 points for a chance at 10% haste (costing a GCD), whether or not JoL is any good. And Beacon (in its current form) allows you to spot-heal a bit more freely.

    None of these aid in Mana consumption even close to as much as 18 points in Retribution currently does, and aid only marginally in healing problem encounters. None of them will make Healing Heroic MgT much easier for instance. For 3 and a bit Tiers, this is pretty poor fare.

    Holy, and what could happen

    Well, I'm not going to tell you what needs to happen. You can read the opinions of dozens of Paladins for yourself. I don't think we're in danger of the Holy Paladin dying out for raiding, as the saying goes 'If you have a Holy Spell you will heal', but it could be very tough on them leading to higher burn-out rates. With that said, here are a few ideas:

  • Leverage Divine Plea heavily in deep holy, increasing its value to Holy Paladins by knocking off the 50% healing penalty.
  • Keep PvP utility talents like Sacred Cleansing shallow or give those deep in the tree more oompf. Something like allowing 2 Cleanse's instead of one per cast, or a much higher resistance rate. Recall that a lot of debuffs applied now aren't done so actively (like Corruption) but passively (like Winters Chill) and have associated dispell resistances.
  • Make Judging from range a more meaningful action. Minor damage with 5%+ chance to miss, and 10% haste, probably just isn't attractive enough


  • Some Paladins are looking to Glyphs to fill a shortfall, specifically the Glyph of Holy Light. But really, having to rely on your Glyph to feel confident in your healing abilities isn't good design, and with a 5-yrd range on the Holy Light Glyph its' value is extremely limited.

    Blizzard has done a very good job with Ret and Prot, and whilst they haven't addressed specific weaknesses in those class roles they have at least provided them with the tools to excel in this narrow role. Holy needs something more imaginative, and perhaps a taste of what other healers can provide a group. As it stands Heroic lvl80 healing with a Holy Paladin could be extremely difficult even for the most skilled, and nigh-on impossible for the rest.

    I'm expecting some Holy talent changes in the next build. God knows they're needed.

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Account-Wide Items in Wrath.

    UPDATE:

    Blizzard officially call them 'Heirlooms'. Tigole:

    You guys have discovered our Heirloom items. These (as you know) are Bound to account, which means you can mail them to any character on the same realm. They also scale with level. So you can mail these to a level one character and it will have appropriate stats (although slightly uber) for about 10 levels and then the item scales in power again, all the way up to how you're seeing it now.

    We're also going to add some Bind on Account non-scaling items for higher level alts. in the future.


    Sneaking in there with Build 8926's Paladin changes we have news of a new type of item, Account-Wide items.



    These items are powerful items which can be transferred between characters on the same account. Their stats scale with level from 1-80 and appear to be roughly equivalent to Rares from that level. Some also provide a benefit in terms of +%XP for kills, indicating their niche as levelling items. They are currently bought with lvl80 dungeon badges.

    The items themselves are slight variations on classic lvl60 items many of us will remember, such as the Arcanite Reaper or Herod's Shoulders, and use the classic item skin.

    Hopefully we'll see more of these soon for all specs and classes. It's a great change, it just would have been nice to have seen them sooner.

    Beta Build 8926 Paladin Changes. Blessing of Kings to Tier 1?

    Build 8926 is just in, and there are lots of Paladin changes. Check MMO-Champion for the full list of all changes in this Build. Also, on a cosmetic level some player facial graphics have been altered, check out Shia post over at Banana Shoulders for more info.

    A couple of points make be believe that there is more to come for Holy and Prot. Given all the feedback provided during the last week it seems strange that the only Holy talent change is the nerfing of Holy Guidance. If nothing else deep Holy needs a lot of work, and I remain unconvinced by the current implementation of Beacon of Light. By contrast Prot is now a lean and mean talent tree, but without a 11pt 'prestige' talent. Other gaps left graphically shallow in the tree make me wonder if a couple more talent as due for those spots. Some Silence and Mana Burn protection for Prot would still be nice.

    Finally, Blessing of Kings is now in Tier 1 Prot. This seems like a fudge to me. Whilst it may be seen as a compromise on Blizzards part it still leaves Prot with 2 Blessings in one tree, and a Ret Paladin will still want to take 10pts in Prot for this effect (and Divine Strength). I really think that Blizzard needs to bite the bullet and make this Spell baseline. They may not like it but it's probably the only way to generate three well balance trees.

    Retribution
    Skills

    * Seal of Corruption's damage reduced.
    * Seal of the Martyr's damage reduced.
    * Seal of Blood's damage reduced.
    * Seal of Vengeance's damage reduced.

    [Please, if you haven't done any DPS passes yet, why are you reducing the damage of our Seals already? These may be reflecting a reduction in Judgement damage, rather than the Seal proc effect]

    Talents

    * Divine Storm (Tier 11) mana cost reduced.
    * The Art of War moved from Tier 9 to Tier 7 and changed to 2 ranks. It now increases the critical strike damage of your Judgement, Crusader Strike and Divine Storm abilities by 10/20% and when these abilities critically hit the cast time of your next Flash of Light is reduced by 0.75/1.5 sec. [Tooltip states a cast speed reduction of 0.75/1, but Rank 2 does general instant FoL's. This talent puts the value of Righteous Vengeance into stark relief, it provides half this benefit for 3 more talent points]
    * Sanctified Seals moved from Tier 7 to Tier 4. [Nice change, but I still think that undispellable Seals should be baseline]
    * Divine Purpose moved from Tier 7 to Tier 5 and changed to 2 ranks. It now reduces your chance to be hit by spells and ranged attacks by 2/4% and gives your Hand of Freedom spell a 50/100% chance to remove any Stun effects on the target. [A nice, much more efficient Divine Purpose. Great PvP talent]
    * Vengeance (Tier 6) changed to 3 ranks and now stacks up to 3 times (9% total). [Given that Blizz seemed positive that they needed to nerf Vengeance this is a happy medium]
    * Judgements of the Wise moved from Tier 6 to Tier 7 and now your Judgement spells have a 33/66/100% chance to grant the Replenishment effect to up to 10 party or raid members mana regeneration equal to 0.5% of their maximum mana per second, and to immediately grant you 20% of your maximum mana. [Great talent, now out of range of Holy Paladins with 30yrd Judgements. The mana regen, coupled with the new Benediction, is enough to allow us to use our Hand spells much more freely, and perhaps even a Cleanse or two.]
    * Sheath of Light moved from Tier 5 to Tier 9. [To move it out of range of Holy Paladins]
    * Improved Retribution Aura moved from Tier 4 to Tier 6. [Huh? Needs work]
    * Crusade (Tier 4) now increases all damage done by 1/2/3% in addition to its previous effect. [Very nice change to what was previously a lacklustre talent. Goes some way towards offsetting the Vengeance nerf]
    * Seal of Command (Tier 3) damage reduced. (Check talent list for details) [nerf to Judgement damage]
    * Seal of Command's Judgement effect no longer causes double damage on stunned targets. Now it enforces a 100% crit rate on Stunned and Incapicated targets [While this is effectively a nerf, it probably is the ideal solution to the heavily scaling burst we were seeing from JoC. If this is how Blizz have chosen to reduce our burst potential then I can think of worst ways]. source.
    * Pursuit of Justice (Tier 3) no longer reduces chance for spells to hit you. Instead, it reduces the duration of disarm effects by 25/50%. [Given my worried out the Disarm mechanic for PvP/Tanking, this is a very nice change]
    * Deflection moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1. [Great for Prot]
    * Improved Blessing of Might moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2. It now is 2 ranks and increases the effect of Blessing of Might by 12/25%. [Can't complain about this at all]
    * Benediction (Tier 1) changed to reduce the mana cost of all instant cast spells by 2/4/6/8/10%. [Fantastic talent for Ret and Prot, where it reduces the mana cost of pretty much all the skills in their rotation. Not so great for Holy, but still better than old-Benediction]

    Holy
    Skills

    * Divine Plea changed so that you gain 25% of your total mana over 10 sec, but the amount healed by your spells is reduced by 50%. Cooldown reduced to 1 min. [Very nice change again for Ret and Prot. A talent deep in Holy to off-set this healing loss would be nice]
    * Seal of Light - Unleashing this Seal's energy will deal [ 20% of AP + 32% of Spell Power + 1 ] Holy damage to an enemy. (Damage reduced)
    * Seal of Wisdom - Unleashing this Seal's energy will deal [ 20% of AP + 32% of Spell Power + 1 ] Holy damage to an enemy. (Damage reduced)
    * Seal of Righteouness - Fills the Paladin with holy spirit for 2 min, granting each melee attack [ 2.8% of MWS * AP + 5.5% of MWS * Spell Power ] additional Holy damage. (Damage reduced)

    Talents

    * Holy Guidance (Tier 8 ) now increases spell power by 4/8/12/16/20% of your intellect. (Previously was 7/14/21/28/35%)
    * Healing Light now affects Holy Shock.

    [The lack of Holy talent changes make me think that this tree is due for a pass in the next build. It's curious that they thought that Holy Guidance needed a nerf... I'm not sure it did]

    Protection
    Skills

    * Shield of Righteousness now deals holy damage equal to 240% of your block value. (Up from 200%) [Ouch, that's gotta hurt. Some enterprising Tankadins are now seriously contemplating meting out some Justice in the Arena's]
    * Seal of Justice - Unleashing this Seal's energy will deal [ 20% of AP + 32% of Spell Power + 1 ] Holy damage to an enemy. (Damage reduced)
    * Righteous Defense is now a 10 sec cooldown. [Really, this was necessary for the sake of tanking parity]

    Talents

    * Hammer of the Righteous (Tier 11) now causes 120% weapon damage as holy damage, but no longer "causes a high amount of threat". [Nice, but will be interesting to see how this affects our threat generation]
    * Shield of the Templar (Tier 10) changed to increase the damage of your Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield and Shield of Righteousness spells by 10/20/30%. [More ouch]
    * Avenger's Shield (Tier 9) now deals more damage and is instant cast. (All ranks) [Wow, AS is finally in Prots threat rotation, and is a nasty PvP snare. Kudos Blizz]
    * Guarded by the Light (Tier 9) now reduces spell damage taken by 3/6% and reduces the mana cost of your Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield and Shield of Righteousness spells by 15/30%. [Eh, it's a good consolidation of effects, but I'm still not struck by Mana cost reduction talents in Tier 9. Still, at 2 pts only required and a 6% damage reduction I really can't complain]
    * Combat Expertise (Tier 8 ) changed to 3 ranks, increases your expertise by 2/4/6, and total Stamina and chance to critically hit by 2/4/6% [An effective buff to all bar HP. It will be interesting to see the relative HP's of Tier 7-9 Tankadins and Prot Warriors, given they have higher baseline HP and a ranged slot]
    * Improved Holy Shield removed from the talent tree. [Good]
    * Holy Shield (Tier 7) now has 8 charges, but no longer causes additional threat. [Good, with one caveat: does this effectively increase or reduce our threat generation from HS?]
    * One-Handed Weapon Specialization (Tier 6) now increases damage you deal with one handed weapons by 2/4/6/8/10%. [Parity with Warriors' talent]
    * Spell Warding removed from the talent tree. [Effects rolled into Guarded by the Light, so not surprised]
    * Reckoning can now proc off a blocked attack. [It always could, but I presume they mean a 100% blocked attack]
    * Blessing of Kings moved to Tier 1. It now increases all stats by 2%. (Previously 10%)
    * Improved Blessing of Kings is a new Tier 1 talent that increases the effectiveness of Blessing of Kings by an additional 2/4/6/8%.
    * Shield Specialization removed from the talent tree.
    * Redoubt moved from Tier 3 to Tier 8. It now increases your block value by 10/20/30% and damaging melee and ranged attacks against you have a 10/20/30% chance to increase your chance to block by 10%. Lasts 10 sec or 5 blocks. [Two talents rolled into one, but now deep in Prot. Prot paladins will still take it for the BV but Redoubt still has yet to find its niche. Makes Prot levelling (AoE grind) more difficult]
    * Anticipation moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2. [Making space for BoK]


    Glyphs:

    * Glyph of Seal of Blood -- Your Seal of Blood or Seal of the Martyr increases the mana received from Spiritual Attunement by 10% while active.
    * Glyph of Seal of Righteousness -- Reduces the cost of your Judgement spells by 10% while Seal of Righteousness is active.
    * Glyph of Seal of Vengeance -- Your Seal of Vengeance or Seal of Corruption also grants 10 expertise while active. [Mmmm, tanking goodness]


    I'll add some commentary later. My initial thoughts can be summed up by one word: "amused". There's still work to be done, perhaps even nerfs along the way if other class talents are anything to go by, but the changes as listed are all good ones IMO.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Raid Buffs and Debuffs: Addendum.

    Josh at E4aE earlier linked to my post about raid buffs and debuffs, and added some concise commentary of his own from the POV of a raiding Paladin. It's well worth reading for every class spec which was previously DPS/Utility rather than straight-up DPS.

    I'd sum up the changes by saying "DPS Stacks, Utility Doesn't". There's now no excuse, from a PvE standpoint at least, for different DPS specs to have unequal levels of designed-in DPS for any given raid instance. A shortfall in melee DPS for example makes it very hard for a Ret Paladin to justify his position over an Assassintion Rogue, and so these two classes need to be balanced with comparable DPS over a given raid encounter.

    And with that in mind I'll link to Dwarf Priest's Superb Buff/debuff chart. This quick reference guide is great for showing the specs which can bring the utility you desire, just in case you want to stack your raid. Be warned though, it compares the absolute magnitude of the buff (e.g. 2% vs 3%) rather than how easy it is to apply that buff (e.g. BoSanc being better than Grace, or different Aura radii) or spec for it (Heart if the Crusader vs Master Poisoner), so you'll still need to do some research! My only criticism is that utility in one talent tree is labelled as providable only by a class specced totally in that tree, whereas utility in Tier 1-3 can be obtained by pretty much any class spec. For example, Heart of the Crusader is obtainable by Holy Paladins by speccing only 8 pts into Ret (same goes for Imp. BoM). But to effectively label that may overly complicate the chart, so it's swings and roundabouts.

    With very few exceptions, come 3.0 any combination of class specs are entirely interchangeable with another combination of class specs with respect to buffing and debuffing. The effect is subtly different depending on the nature of your Raid:

  • 10-Man Raids: For progression in 10-man raids class composition remains important in terms of Healer/Tank/DPS balance, but becomes more open to imgintion. Tuning for all raid buffs becomes impossible, so each buff you do choose to take can make a reasonable difference to your chances of success (though player skill and gear levels remain paramount).

  • 25-man Raids: Stacking raids for Utility takes up around half the possible raid members, with utility from Healers likely being the first accounted for. This means that the other 10+ spots are taken up by classes chosen for DPS and 'Value Added'.

  • Value Added means the sorts of features which, whilst not necessarily being unique to the spec, gives one class or spec a leg-up over another in any raid setting. These can be obvious, such as additional Rogues for Kicking to interrupt casters or Paladins for Cleanse, or more subtle such as choosing ranged DPS over melee DPS to reduce the strain on Healers or having DPS immune to Mana Burn/Silence effects. Previously other forms of Utility were of primary concern as they tended to add more to the raid as a whole, but with the latest round of changes the value accorded to 'Value Added' rockets.

    Those specs which previously had Buff utility but missed out on some of this Value Added, as well as those which now share a Buff/debuff class with Healers, are the inevitable losers in this change. This is IMO especially the case for Melee DPS, where the old 'hybrids' of Enh Shaman and Ret Paladins were deprived tools taken for granted by the 'pure' classes because of their raid utility. The question 'Why Take Ret Paladin' is certain not settled, though some will argue that it never should be settled.

    It will be interesting to see how things shake out in Wrath of the Lich King. As always, the individual mechanics of the encounters is key.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    Wrath Beta: Change is Afoot.

    Ghostcrawler was getting a little concerned about all the negative feeling on the Beta Pladin forums, and so she decided to give us a window into the current thought processes of the Devs:

    Here are some things we are looking at right now. You may not agree with them all, but I will share them with you in the hopes of making you feel better about your class, and maybe even getting you excited again. I also can't promise they are final because it's still the sort of thing we're wrestling with, and I don't want to disappoint anyone if it doesn't work out or we change our minds. Okay, massive caveats out of the way:

    -- We'd like to do something else with Kings. I don't know that a core ability is the answer, but burying it deep in Prot, when Prot warriors would just as soon play with BoSanc, doesn't feel great either.

    -- We'd like to mess around with the top 2 tiers of all 3 trees, still encouraging you to cross-spec a little, but making that initial bite into the upper tier more tasty instead of just an icky appetizer to get the what you really want down deeper.

    -- I think Beacon of Light is starting to feel pretty good. It may be a little OP right now, but I think we can get it in a good place. (I'm sorry, but I don't know if you have the version I'm talking about or not.)

    -- We'd like to get Vengeance back to 3 stacks, because that just feels more fun than 2. I can almost assure you that it won't be at 15% total damage -- that is hugely generous for 5 talent points, and would normally be budgeted at more like 15 talent points. If I had to guess, it will end up at something like 3 talent points for 1 / 2 / 3% that stacks up to 3 times (so 9% at 3 stacks). That is still over-inflated for 3 talent points. I understand that your dps used to depend on Vengeance. We'll just have to buff it in other ways. Death Knights will get the exact same treatment, whatever it ends up being.

    -- JotW was changed to support the new party buff system and it needs to keep that role. That is one of the main reasons why a group would want to take a Ret pally over another dps class. I understand your mana was dependent on this ability. We'll just have to buff that in other ways as well. Having too many talents that just lower mana costs feel like a band-aid, so we'd rather not overdo that route. Instead we'd just like to make sure you have enough mana. The new Divine Plea is one mechanic here (it works more like Blood Rage than Evocate now), but it's not the only one.

    -- Deep Ret and deep Prot need 1 or 2 more cool talents. We'll carve out room by bundling or just swapping out some of the current talents.

    I hope you take this little view into our current thought process in the spirit that it's given. Sometimes we regret talking about stuff that isn't final because it ends up coming back to bite us. But I also thought it wouldn't hurt to cheer you up a little either, so hopefully something I've said will do that.


    Needless to say, this is just the sort of communication I think every Paladin has been wanting since before 1.09. More please :D

    Hot on the heels of this, we discover that Judgements of the Wise has been hotfixed to restore 20% of total mana on Judgement. How long this will last in it's current position in the tree is debatable; Holy having access to this talent kinda blows whatever could be in deep Holy out of the water, especially with no downranking. It almost feels like something of a stop-gap to generate slightly more reliable testing data for the 10-man and 25-man Naxx raids - it isn't exactly a secret that Ret was having difficulty keeping up with other classes in some encounters.

    So, changes are inbound. Keep an eye out for a new build later this week, perhaps with a large number of Paladin changes, perhaps not. Either way, committing to making the trees more interesting, esp Tier 9 and 10 Prot/Ret, is very welcome.

    I'm back to being optimistic. Fickle,aren't I ;)

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Don't be a Racialist.

    UPDATE: Human/NE racial changed again. Clicky.

    The Racials are changing come the next Beta push. Lots in there for everyone, with some winners and some losers. Taurens obviously come out worst from these changes with the HP boost no longer scaling with Gear, and on balance Draenei probably benefit the most with a newly scaling Gift. Most obviously, certain races who gained a significant advantage in a PvE role or general PvP were nerfed pretty heavily. If it's not on the list, it hasn't been changed:

    Orc
    - Hardiness now reduces the duration of stun effects by 15% [Thank goodness for that. I hated coming up against an Orc warrior or priest simply because of the number of resists my stun would throw up]


    Troll
    - Racial Passive "The Voodoo Shuffle": Reduces the duration of all movement impairing effects by 15%. Trolls be flippin' out mon! [Yah Mon!]
    - Berserking: no longer has an activation cost of energy/rage/etc


    Draenei
    - Gift of the Naaru: now scales based on the higher of either the caster's Attack Power or Spell Power [This greatly increases the usefulness of this racial. My only concern is how well it will scale for PvP at 80]
    - Shadow Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by Shadow spells by 2% [Gimmicky, like all the school-specific resistances, but at least it's no long a 10 resist @ 80 issue]


    Dwarf
    - Frost Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by Frost spells by 2%
    - Racial Passive "Mace Specialization": Expertise with Maces and Two-Handed Maces increased by 5. [Good change. About time non-gun using dwarfs (i.e. Paladins) got some sort of interesting weapon racial. Obviously great for Dwarf Paladins]


    Undead
    - Shadow Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by Shadow spells by 1% (yes, this is lower than the other resistance racials) [Curious]
    - Will of the Forsaken: removes any fear, sleep, or charm effect (no longer has a lasting immunity). [A pretty heavy nerf, though not unexpected. Even an extra trinket effect remains pretty powerful]


    Night Elf
    - Quickness: reduces the chance to be hit by melee or ranged attacks by 2% [interesting. Possibly very interesting for NE Tanks]
    - Nature Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by Nature spells by 3%
    - Elusiveness: Increases your effective stealth level by 5 (previously part of the Shadowmeld racial)
    - Shadowmeld (New Version):
    "Activate to slip into the shadows, reducing the chance for enemies to detect your presence. Lasts until cancelled or upon moving. Any threat is restored versus enemies still in combat upon cancellation of this effect."

    It has a cooldown of 3 minutes, and it can be used in combat. In PvP it will force enemies targeting you to detarget you. It will cause any mobs currently on you to de-aggro, but it does not take you out of combat unless you are the last one on the hate list of any mobs that you were engaged with.

    This effect is very similar to what was previously "The Fall of Humanity". [but better, as it is now an effective FD-lite for escaping combat too]

    Tauren
    - Endurance: now scales based on base health, to be tuned to approximately a 5% heath increase if the player were wearing green quality gear [Very Hefty nerf. It no longer scales with Gear, and so Tauren won't be the PvP juggernauts they once were]
    - Nature Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by Nature spells by 2%


    Gnome
    - Escape Artist: the freeing effect can no longer be resisted [about time]
    - Arcane Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by Arcane spells by 2%


    Blood Elf
    - Mana Tap: ability removed (partially integrated into Arcane Torrent)
    - Arcane Torrent: restores 15 energy, 15 runic power, or 6% of mana to the Blood Elf (along with the current 2s silence effect) [Overall, probably a good change to make it useful for more classes. The only question is whether it's 6% of base or total mana, if it's the latter then its huge, especially as it's no longer on the GCD].
    - Magic Resistance: reduces the chance to be hit by spells by 2% [Another interesting change. Should be interesting to see if this has any lasting impact on PvE or PvP]


    Human
    - Perception: changed to a passive, now grants one character level of passive stealth detection [A hefty nerf to this skill (Perception currently grants 10 levels of stealth detection on a 2 min cooldown IIRC). It seems a shame to reduce this to a passive ability, but then having 2 active abilities could be overkill]
    - Racial "The Fall of Humanity": Feign death which may trick enemies into ignoring you. Any threat is restored versus enemies still in combat upon cancellation of this effect. 5min cooldown [Rather than a Foreign Death, this seems more like a priest Fade. It could be useful, but then again it may not] Removed. Now:
    Every Man for Himself:
    Removes all movement impairing effects and all effects which cause loss of control of your character. This effect shares a cooldown with other similar effects, such as the PvP trinket. This essentially means that you gain flexibility regarding what to do with your second trinket slot. [Hrm.... definite buff, though it doesn't account for the resilience seen on those trinkets these days]
    - Racial Passive "Human Supremacy": The dominance of Humanity is evidenced by having one more racial bonus than normal. Actually, make that two counting this one. (just a tooltip, no actual functionality) [Heh]
    - The Human Spirit: spirit bonus lowered to 5% [Given how good a stat Spirit is stacking up to be, this is unsurprising]


    Again, if it's not listed then it is unchanged. However, it's all still subject to change, especially if any outcry is large enough.

    *Voodoo Shuffles out, stage left*

    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Who Needs Devilsaurs?



    After 50 levels, Ruffles the Ashenvale Alpha may be stabled indefinitely. Screw Devilsaurs, I'm getting me one of these.


    I wonder if the ones in Molten Core can be tamed...

    (Yes, that is my hunter. Yes, he is in greens and welfare epics. Do I care?)

    EDIT:

    Hrm. Green Core Hound, or this furry beastie:



    I don't know, I'm always partial to gre-



    Okay boy, okay. No need to get tetchy.

    Wrath Build 8905 Paladin Changes.

    UPDATED from Nethaera's Official Patch Notes

    The latest patch is up on the Beta server, and those in the US are downloading it now. For some reason my downloader isn't playing ball on the EU version but no doubt I'll muddle through.

    Unsurprisingly this appears to be a Warrior and Rogue patch in the main. Changes are trickling in for all classes, so be sure to keep an eye on MMO-Champion for the latest, but whilst you're here check out some of the reported Paladin changes so far:

    Skill Changes:

    Sacred Shield (lvl80 Trainable Skill):
    Each time the target takes damage they gain a Sacred Shield, absorbing 500 damage and increasing the paladin's chance to critically hit with Flash of Light by 50% for up to 6 sec. They cannot gain this effect more than once every 6 sec. Lasts 30 sec.
    12% of base mana, 40 yd range, Instant cast

    Hammer of Wrath: Now instant cast.

    Judgement damage scaling on all Judgements has been reduced. Base Judgement damage has been reduced. [In the case of JoC and JoB, this may be a bug]

    Righteous Defense no longer costs mana and the global cooldown has been removed, cooldown reduced to 10 sec.

    --

    Talent Changes:

    Beacon of Light: Can only be cast on one target at a time.

    --

    Glyphs: Some of the Paladin glyphs have been altered. I'll update this post later. There doesn't seem to be anything new, just a few effects have been tweaked.


    If you're a Warrior you'll definitely want to check out the Glyphs posted on MMO-Champion.

    The change to Sacred Shield is very interesting, but the question of how well it scales with Spell Power remains. A flat 500 damage absorb and 50% crit chance to FoL isn't very interesting, though it may be quite effective. Give it a standard instant cast coeff however and it could be a very powerful, and reliable, effect.

    I believe that the change to Beacon of Light was predictable... it's still tough to see how it could be tempting vs a Sheathbot build.

    Hammer of Wrath going instant... fantastic. A very nice PvP and PvE change. Just got to get that mana problem sorted.

    If you spot any changes in this patch that I haven't noted here then please let me known :).

    EDIT:

    Oh, and Hunters get Core Hounds as an Exotic Pet. /Jealous

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Paladin Feedback Threads Now Up.


    Ghostcrawler posted a thread in the Wrath of the Lich King Beta forums earlier today asking for feedback from Protection Paladins on the new Talent Trees based around how essential they were felt to be and how fun they were. Here is that thread, and here is an unofficial one for the EU Beta forums. She wants it to be focussed around Paladin concerns, so please don't refer to other classes and say 'but they have that, why can't we'. Save it for other posts or Blogs ;).

    In the last hour or so she also started a thread asking for similar feedback from Retribution Paladins in the Beta. There is no equivalent EU Beta Forum thread as yet.Equivalent unofficial EU thread is here

    Holy feedback will probably be requested tomorrow.Official US Beta Holy Feedback thread is now up here. Again, the equivalent EU thread is here. It's disappointing to see the lack of EU feedback, I hope that's only the case on the English forums, and there's more going on in the German and French language forums.

    If there is a new build overnight it seems unlikely that any Paladin changes will be enacted, instead it'll be to test the new Rogue and Warrior talent builds.

    If you have feedback to give and you are in the Beta get to it. And keep it polite and on-topic.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Play Warcraft, or Roleplay Warcraft?

    Roleplay, in the traditional sense (*cough*), means assuming a role or identity and act out based upon it. In theory we all should be doing this, World or Warcraft is after all an MMORPG. This is especially the case on RP servers, where identities are assumed and whole events are planned out based upon those identities.

    After being questioned for the nth time ‘Why do you play a female Paladin?’ or some years ago ‘Why do you play a female Rogue?’ (strangely it never came up on my original character, a Human Male Paladin) I didn’t give the usual pithy response of ‘I’d rather be looking at a chicks backside for 30 days /played’. I did something rather novel (for me) and went and had a think about it. This is what I came up with.

    Any character I’m playing isn’t an extension of me, nor a deliberate extension of some facet of my own personality. I don’t seek to make any distinction between ‘in character’ or ‘out of character’ because my character has no personality of his or her own. Nor have I taken the other route and crafted an elaborate backstory for any of my characters, and wouldn't seriously consider doing so; such an enlightened activity can wait for my first mid-life crisis when I sit down to write a novel ;). I am therefore not an actor, playing out what I believe my character would do in a story-based situation. I won't choose to not do a quest because of a pretty arbitrary imaginary construct.

    And so I feel almost a sense of geek class betrayal in saying this, but I don’t roleplay.

    This mode of play is fine in WoW because your gameplay experience doesn’t change much with the personality you choose to imbue your character. Choices, beyond gear and spec, are few and far between; killing or not killing innocent NPC X doesn’t bite you on the backside 10 levels later (though it might in Wrath, depending on how Blizzard want to run with their Phasing mechanic). RP in WoW is a social construct, rather than an integral part of the way Blizzard has chosen to implement the game world.

    I treat RPG’s such as WoW, or Final Fantasy, or even good old Diablo 2, in much the same way I approach First Person Shooters. The character is just a vehicle for me to experience the game, or learn the game mechanics, or have fun with online friends. Imbuing it with personality of it's own feels like giving a unique identity to my Counter Strike avatar. Not doing so makes it much easier for me to drop the game for months at a time if I’m getting frustrated with inactivity, but maybe because of this I lose out on some of the social aspect of gaming. So questions like ‘Why do you play a woman’ in WoW seem as strange as ‘why do you play a woman’ in Diablo 2.

    In a wider sense the same line of thought has lead me away from getting involved in LARP, or even table-top RPG gameplay. I’d have to admit that there’s also been a certain amount of selfishness involved in that choice on my part - if I don’t invest too much time or emotion into such an enterprise I can drop it whenever I like and no-one can complain too much.

    Well, that was something of a ramble. I think I'll finish it off with a video clip of a man who had something of the opposite problem:

    Monday, September 01, 2008

    Wrath: Mana Resources for Retribution, Boiled Down.

    As you may have heard, every ability in Wrath is now a percent of Base Mana, and downranking to conserve mana is no longer possible.

    The new Replenishment mechanic regens mana at a rate of 1% of total mana every 2 seconds. JoW is roughly the same rate of mana regen. Other Mana regen mechanics scale with Spirit and Intellect, or are fixed as in Mp5. None of these stats are on Melee gear.

    The result for Retribution is a resource pool which is fixed and does not scale, and a resource regen rate which is also fixed, does not scale, and is low in relation to the mana cost of abilities.

    Imagine Fury Warriors who gained Rage at a fixed rate of 2 rage per second, or Rogues whose abilities had half the cost they do now but regained Energy at 2 per second. How effective would their DPS output be in a raid?

    Because that's a Ret Paladin in Wrath after just over 111 Seconds.

    Retribution needs an active source of Mana Regen which scales with gear. It's as simple as that really.

    Blizzard Don't Have a Lack of Ideas...

    ... they have a lack of Vision.

    They're lacking in Vision in three key areas, at least for Paladins.

    1) What does it mean to be a Paladin? What are our strengths, weaknesses, designed in abilities and deliberate limitations?

    2) What does it mean to be a Healer, Tank, or Melee DPS? What tools are required to do each of these jobs given the current state of the game, and how should that fit into 1)?

    3) How should a Paladin function in PvP, and still adhere to 1) and 2)? What should be their role, and how should they function in that role? What do they need to aid them in the role?

    It struck me when analysing Beacon of Light that currently they're failing, at times, in at least 1) and the first part of 2), and it's affecting 2) and 3). It should come as no surprise that I see (1) at the 'Vision' of what the class should be, what at the core makes a Paladin a Paladin, or indeed a Rogue a Rogue, Warrior a Warrior etc.

    Right now, development progression appears aimless. Beacon of Light was changed from something which showed promise to something which doesn't really address any PvE weakness and isn't very useful for PvP. Protection still has two mutually exclusive Blessings in the same tree. Ideas on how a melee DPS should function are schizophrenic at best, at worst Blizzard have introduced a 51pt talent which they don't intend Paladins to use with any regularity. Perhaps worse, at this stage a talent amounting to a second Crusader Strike on a separate cooldown would have been better.

    In order to address Paladins for Wrath, Blizzard need to take a step back and focus on first and foremost what they want Paladins to be, or more precisely what they want a Holy Paladin, Prot Paladin and Ret Paladin to be. Then, they need to analyse the sort of encounters they are designing in Wrath so that Paladins have the tools to be successful in those encounters, for example AoE healing, in a way that is in keeping with the class and archetype (Healer/tank/Melee DPS) as a whole.

    If their preconceived limitations prevent the class from functioning then either change the encounter, or ditch the limitation. I've spoken previously about how Mana, or more precisely a resources which diminishes quickly and is difficult to regain, is a broken mechanic for Melee and how Blizzard know this. Why else would they design DK's with a hybrid Energy/Rage system rather than Energy/Mana, or provide Enchancement Shaman Unleashed Rage? Gear sharing between Melee Plate Wearers also highlight this, and base-mana ability costs exacerbate the issue because for melee you're shoehorning a Rage-type ability cost into a Mana-type regen mechanic.

    Once that's achieved, they should take it to the forums. Identify what they want the class to be, and as importantly not be, and then sticky it. Open threads on each class role and entertain ideas not just on feedback of what you've proposed thus far, but on all class mechanics, and keep it focussed on that class role. If needs be take each talent in tern and explain what the purpose of it is. But don't just leave up to the community to read between the lines, and possibly misunderstand. Feedback pretty useless if it has no real frame of reference.

    Finally, fix the talents and let us test them. Even for Beta the number of talents which simply don't work is laughable. Hell, even Illumination doesn't work. My biggest worry, after a poor talent review, remains Blizzard 'running out of time' before they've had an adequate chance to address each class.

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