Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Happened at Dragoncon '08?


Rumour = fake. Blizzard = weren't there.

Yes, this is another 'Kalgan hates Paladins' meme that has no foundation.


The Paladin and Hunter forums are whispering about goings on at this years Dragoncon. Allegedly there was an uncharacteristically straight-talking Q&A session featuring Kalgan and Ghostcrawler on Friday or Saturday Evening, but details of what went down are impossible to find. This is quite bizarre, usually after that sort of Q&A session you can't breathe for transcripts, analysis and opinion, especially in a major event.

There is another option: this is simply a whispering campaign with no foundation in fact, just the sort of thing we've all seen before regarding disgruntled Paladins and the WoW Devs. Lacking clear evidence I'd have to go with that, especially as none of the Event schedules list Blizzard as being there. Though it's fun to believe that Kalgan was booed at an event, it seems unlikely that this was the case.

The Event was backed by Massively and WoWinsider, so we should probably keep our eyes on those two sites for 'Official' write-ups from tomorrow onwards. Still, it's very curious that we've heard nothing.

So, what happened? Hoax, or hullabaloo?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wrath Beta Build 8885 - Paladin Changes and New Glyphs.

Well, the latest changes have hit the servers, which includes the Buff and Debuff stacking system previously mentioned. Also in the patch are a great deal of new cooking recipes, the most fun of which is a food to control critters! Here is the list of known undocumented changes for the Paladin class:

Paladin Class Changes
Retribution Skills

* Blessing of Might ranks 5+ have all been buffed and now grant more attack power.
* SoW changed to: "Fills the Paladin with divine wisdom for 2 min, giving each melee attack a chance to restore 20168s1% of the paladin's maximum mana. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time.

Unleashing this Seal's energy will judge an enemy for 20 sec, granting attacks and spells used against the judged enemy a chance to restore 20268s1% of maximum mana to the attacker. Your melee strikes will refresh the spell's duration. Only one Judgement per Paladin can be active at any one time."

The %ages right now are 4% and 2% respectively.


* Judgements of the Wise (Tier 6) changed to: Your Judgement spells have a 33/66/100% chance to grant up to 10 party or raid members mana regeneration equal to 0.5% of their maximum mana per second.
* Improved Blessing of Might (Tier 1) now increases the attack power bonus from Blessing of Might by 5/10/15/20/25%. (Previously 10/20/30/40/50%)

Holy Talents

* Beacon of Light (Tier 11) changed to: The target becomes a Beacon of Light to all targets within a 40 yard radius. Any heals you cast on those targets will also heal the Beacon for 100% of the amount healed.

Protection Talents

* Blessing of Sanctuary: Reduces damage taken from all sources by 3% for 30 min. In addition, when the target blocks, parries, or dodges a melee attack the target will gain 10 rage, 20 runic power, or 2% of maximum mana. [There's a Typo in either the tooltip of the implementation. Currently it only restores 1 Rage, not 10].
* Shield Specialization (Tier 3) now increases shield block value by 10/20/30%. (Previously just increased damage absorbed) [This talent still doesn't scale with Block Value gained from Strength. Needs Fixing]
* Toughness (Tier 3) now reduces the duration of all movement slowing effects by 10/20/30/40/50% in addition to its previous effect. (Previously just increased armor by 2/4/6/8/10%)

The change to JoW/SoW is pretty crippling for a Prot or Ret Paladin whose maximum mana is so low. The %ages, given the internal cooldowns, seem to match up with the level of mana regen expected from the new Replenishment mechanic. Furthermore no Paladin has a more or less effective JoW than the other, making a Ret Paladin all the more difficult to justify given that you will have two healing Paladins and they will both be Judging (even from range). As things stand, Ret runs out of mana extremely quickly, have no unique utility, and stand in Melee range taking damage - from a pure convenience perspective they are worse than sub-optimal.

The changes to Beacon of Light are quite something, it should be interesting to see what the Holy Paladins think of it. I'm still not too convinced that it'll work out too well in the field so to speak, mainly because Mana concerns are so much more strict. Duration could also be an issue - losing a GCD every 2 minutes isn't too bad, but losing one every 30 seconds or less may be an issue.

Shield Spec now increasing Block Value is a welcome change which keeps mitigation the same but scales threat for a number of tanking abilities. The new Toughness doesn't stack with Divine Purpose, but if nothing else could be a very interesting PvP talent if you are looking to get deeper in Prot for some reason.

The changes to to Judgement of the Wise and Blessing of Sanctuary were partialy gleaned in the last post, but Blessing of Sanctuary's new secondary effect of replenishing Rage / Runic Power / Mana on a Block, dodge or Parry is very, very significant. Personally, I'd have been happy to see it be simply a 1/1 talent for the Paladin only, restoring mana when he Blocks/Parry's/Dodges - In 5/10-mans you give up BoK by using it on yourself and it's tough to see you using it in a non-raid environment except in situations where you significantly outgear the instance. I'm sure that Tankadins will be fairly pleased with this change to a previously lacklustre spell which now benefits all tanks, but it rightly should renew calls for Blessing of Kings to be moved to Baseline. By itself though it isn't nearly enough to warrant bringing a 3rd Paladin into the fray - in situations were you have 2 Paladins BoW/BoM and BoK will continue to be what's utilised, whether one specs 21pts into Prot or not.

New Glyphs:

* Glyph of Blessing of Kings -- Reduce the mana cost of your Blessing of Kings and Greater Blessing of Kings spells by 50%.
* Glyph of Sense Undead -- Damage against Undead increased by 1% while your Sense Undead ability
* Glyph of the Warhorse -- Reduce the casting time of your Summon Charger and Summon Warhorse spells by 0.5 sec.
* Glyph of Lay on Hands -- Increases the mana restored by your Lay on Hands spell by 5%.
* Glyph of Blessing of Might -- Increases the duration of your Blessing of Might spell by 20 min when cast on yourself.
* Glyph of Blessing of Wisdom -- Increases the duration of your Blessing of Wisdom spell by 20 min when cast on yourself.

My guess is that these are minor glyphs (though Glyph of Sense Undead could be a Lesser one). The minor Blessing glyphs are pretty disappointing TBH, GotWarhorse and Lay on Hands are not too much better. A full list of Paladin Glyphs datamined so far can be found here.

If there's anything more I'll endeavour to update this list, the patch is still downloading for me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Buff and Debuff Stacking in WotLK

Hot off the Blizzard Presses:

Changes to Debuffs, Buffs, and Raid Stacking.

I'm not going to quote it all, but it's well worth reading. I'll write up a better summary when I'm not so tired, but I think it's safe to say that this list will have a huge impact on raid makeup in the 25-man game. The interactions of buffs, from Totem effects to Shouts and Auras, whilst not complex is at least headache inducing. Here's a list of the effect groups:

There are thirty or so different categories buffs and debuffs fit into, and I will list each category and which spells/talents are in that category.

Armor Debuff (Major): Acid Spit (exotic Hunter pet), Expose Armor, Sunder Armor
Armor Debuff (Minor): Faerie Fire, Sting (Hunter pet), Curse of Recklessness
Physical Vulnerability Debuff: Blood Frenzy, (2nd Talent Spec TBA)
Melee Haste Buff: Improved Icy Talons, Windfury Totem
Melee Critical Strike Chance Buff: Leader of the Pack, Rampage
Attack Power Buff (Flat Add): Battle Shout, Blessing of Might
Attack Power Buff (Multiplier): Abomination's Might, Trueshot Aura, Unleashed Rage
Ranged Attack Power Buff: Hunter's Mark (only Hunters benefit, so no need to exclude against other class abilities)
Bleed Damage Increase Debuff: Mangle, Trauma
Spell Haste Buff: Wrath of Air Totem
Spell Critical Strike Chance Buff: Moonkin Aura, Elemental Oath
Spell Critical Strike Chance Debuff: Improved Scorch, Winter's Chill
Increased Spell Damage Taken Debuff: Ebon Plaguebringer, Earth and Moon, Curse of the Elements
Increased Spell Power Buff: Focus Magic, Improved Divine Spirit, Flametongue Totem, Totem of Wrath, Demonic Pact
Increased Spell Hit Chance Taken Debuff: Improved Faerie Fire, Misery
Percentage Haste Increase (All Types): Improved Moonkin Aura, Swift Retribution
Percentage Damage Increase: Ferocious Inspiration, Sanctified Retribution
Critical Strike Chance Taken Debuff (All types): Heart of the Crusader, Totem of Wrath
Melee Attack Speed Slow Debuff: Icy Touch, Infected Wounds, Judgements of the Just, Thunderclap
Melee Hit Chance Reduction Debuff: Insect Swarm, Scorpid Sting
Healing Debuff: Wound Poison, Aimed Shot, Mortal Strike, Furious Attacks
Attack Power Debuff: Demoralizing Roar, Curse of Weakness, Demoralizing Shout
Stat Multiplier Buff: Blessing of Kings
Stat Add Buff: Mark of the Wild
Agility and Strength Buff: Strength of Earth Totem, Horn of Winter
Stamina Buff: Power Word: Fortitude
Health Buff: Commanding Shout, Blood Pact
Intellect Buff: Arcane Intellect, Fel Intelligence
Spirit Buff: Divine Spirit, Fel Intelligence
Damage Reduction Percentage Buff: Grace, Blessing of Sanctuary
Percentage Increase Healing Received Buff: Tree of Life, Improved Devotion Aura
Armor Increase Percentage Buff: Inspiration, Ancestral Healing
Cast Speed Slow: Curse of Tongues, Slow, Mind-numbing Poison.

In each category, you can only benefit from the most powerful spell granting that effect.

Hrm... that rather negates the value of Improved Devo Aura for 25-mans considering that having a Resto Druid will likely be a given. Blessing of Sanctuary is being changed to a flat 3% Damage Reduction Buff... which is still fairly underwhelming compared to Kings. This may force a lot of Holy Paladins out of a Sheathbot Spec I guess, with one 51/11+10 and another 50/21 so Kings and Sanctuary are available to the raid, but that depends on how Grace works.

Also of interest are the changes to the mana-battery effects:

In addition to this change, we also needed to address the "mana battery" roles in a raid. The mana regeneration effect they grant is no longer limited to their own party, and it no longer depends on the amount of damage they deal. Each time they trigger the mana regeneration effect, 10 people in their raid group will receive a buff which causes them to regenerate 0.5% of their maximum mana each second. This buff, Replenishment, will be given preferentially to raid members with the lowest mana, but will re-evaluate which raid members receive it each time it is fired. Replenishment is provided by Shadow Priests, Survival Hunters, and Retribution Paladins.

[With build 8962 Replenishment has been reduced to 0.25% of maximum mana per second]


Vampiric Touch: Grants Replenishment mana regeneration buff to up to 10 raid members on dealing damage.
Hunting Party: Grants Replenishment mana regeneration buff to up to 10 raid members on specified shots.
Judgements of the Wise: Grants Replenishment mana regeneration buff to up to 10 raid members on Judging.

The new version of JotW in particular could spell real mana issues for Ret Paladins. Also, unless the Replenishment effects stacks (which I doubt from the wording) this effectively means that Shadow Priests, Survival Hunters and Ret Paladins are mutually exclusive for the purposes of mana replenishment, changes to Judgement of Wisdom notwithstanding.

The changes are supposed to provide more room for 'Hybrid' class specs, but I'm not convinced that they don't put even more pressure on them than exists currently. Maybe we should learn to live with only two non-healing Hybrids per 25-man in the Expansion, but that seems like a sad state of affairs.

I'd expect to see a new build, possibly tomorrow or possibly next week, reflecting all these changes.

More later. Possibly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pre-Wrath Preparation.

(you have no idea how tough it was not to call this post Preparation-W)

Well, word has come from on-high that the Pre-WotLK Patch (2.5 presumably) is due in the coming weeks. Of course what coming weeks means is always something of a moveable feast but the smart money is on mid-October (just after Blizzcon '08) for a mid-November release of Wrath of the Lich King.

With this announcement the speculation over a pre-Wrath World Event has been picking up speed. The Burning Crusade retail release was preceded by the Dark Portal Opens Event (seen by some as a missed opportunity) and it seems that there will be a similar plan for WoW's second expansion. Already there are clues in the Beta for those who look for them or are reading between the lines, and WoW Veterans may recall a similar themed event from the past.

So, what should you be doing in the weeks leading to the Wrath Launch proper? Well, Eyonix kindly listed a few things which will be release along with 2.5:

We have outlined some of the larger features scheduled to release with the patch below:

New class spells and talents
Stormwind Harbor
Barbershops in capital cities
Zeppelin towers outside of Orgrimmar and Tirisfal Glades
Two brand-new Arenas featuring challenging new layouts, terrain hazards, and moving obstacles
Guild calendar
Hunter pet skill revamp
New profession: Inscription

As mentioned above, this is not a comprehensive list, just some of the major highlights. We’ll post the full patch notes as soon as they’re available. Regarding Inscription, please note that all Burning Crusade players will be able to select Inscription as one of their two professions and level up to a skill level of 375 with it. Upon the release of Wrath of the Lich King, players who purchase and install the expansion will be able to continue leveling in Inscription and the other professions beyond 375.

So the month prior to WotLK provides for a perfect opportunity to level Inscription if you don't want the profession on your new Deathknight.

In other news, Arena Points will not carry over into lvl71+. Wryxian mentioned today that your Arena Point tally will reset the moment you hit lvl71, so no saving up for those pesky lvl80 Epics against lvl70 opponents. No news yet on whether the same will be true for Honour Points, my assumption is that they won't be reset but Blizzard may not agree with me.

The major topics over the WOW-Blogosphere for the following weeks, baring what comes out of BlizzCon, will probably be on what to do before Wrath hits. Aylii, guestblogging at World of Matticus is speculating that the content patch will spell doom for raiding because the current end-game is balanced for mechanics which will not exist in the new build, such as Downranking and Crushing Blow Avoidance. I think s/he has a point, and it should be interesting to see how it shakes out. The months before 2.0 featured a resurgence of the Battleground PvP system due in part to the new talents, and also to the changes to the Honour system to a cumulative earned point rather than relative system. Those looking for something to do will probably spend most of their time in the BG's or Arenas. The end of Season 4, or a very short Season 5, could be on the cards for people to try out and may provide an opportunity for previously unfavoured Specs to gain PvP notoriety and an ever elusive title.

Those who choose to persevere with raiding will be pleased to know that they won't be upgrading all their epics as soon as they step into Northrend. From a glance at MMO-Champion's loot list you'll be looking at an upgrade for your items at lvl70+(Tier Level), i.e. your Tier 6/Season 3 gear won't be upgraded until lvl76 Dungeon loot, Tier 5 at lvl75 etc. The exception to this may well be Tanks due mainly to the threat scaling mechanics changes, but Tier 5 should very easily take you through to 73 dungeons (Galoheart is keeping a close eye on the tanking side of things).

More will no doubt be known by October. Expect a World Event to keep up interested in the gap to Wrath, possibly encouraging us to take another look at old-world dungeons, and till then start stockpiling those 'erbs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Broken Build [8820] is Broken.

Okay, so a new Beta build is out. Plenty of stuff in there for most classes such as a raised level cap (to 80), new zones and dungeons, and a few new Engineering Recipes I would be partial to. As always, for the full list see MMO-Champion. But a note on the current build.

It's totally, completely and utterly borked!.

A significant number of Paladin (and other class) skills and talents aren't working at all, from a status of working in the previous build. For example Judgements are currently doing no damage, there are reports of Sanctified Seals not working, and Illumination remains borked for Holy Light and Flash of Light. From this thread:

By Ghostcrawler (Beta Forums CM):

We didn't work on paladins a lot for this patch. Any changes you're seeing are liekly because a designer was monkeying around with mechanics and numbers a little bit trying to come up with something he or she liked. Whenever you see just a few subtle changes, particularly if they are undocumented, it is more likely experimentation than anything else.

When we start to discuss next steps for the paladins, I promise to drop by and lay a few on you. But if I don't post anything, it's because I don't know anything new.

So it's best not to get our pants too tightly in a knot over any 'unannounced' changes. I'll leave unsaid what I think of their Version Tracking processes. However, there are a couple of announced changes which made it into the Patch Notes:


* Concentration Aura changed = All party or raid members within 30 yards lose 35% less casting or channeling time when damaged.


* Seal of Corruption, Holy Vengeance, Judgement of Vengeance, and Seal of vengeance all changed from 18 sec to 15 sec.


* Vengeance (Tier 6) stacks up to 2 times now. (Previously 3)

The wording change to Concentration Aura is simply a clarification of the new Spell Pushback mechanic. Changes to SoCor/SoV are probably justified given that instant attacks can now also proc Seal effects, we'll have to wait and see. But then we have the change to Vengeance.

Lets be clear about this, the change is a straight 5% Total DPS nerf. It's not a change designed to reduce our burst DPS (i.e. Judgements which scale), and given that Blizzard haven't yet done any in-depth DPS testing it seems ill advised. Lots of people seem convinced that this is simply an over-eager Dev. tinkering and it mistakenly reaching the build. I doubt it.

Let me say this once, so everyone reading this: It's Not Unintended. It made it into the Patch Notes. GC isn't going out of his way to say that the change is unintended. Blizzard have been contemplating this change for a very long time, I recall a similar change in the absolute maximum magnitude of Vengeance in various TBC Patch beta builds when Vengeance was a flat 15% damage buff and it was always reverted Vengeance was changed down to a +10% flat damage buff in 2.0.1 and not changed to its current incarnation until 2.1.0, 5 months later. Changing it to a charge based buff rather than a flat 15% damage buff was a compromise they came to when they 'discovered' that Ret Paladin's DPS wasn't high enough in raids. It was a further 6 months and 2 content patches before Crusader Strike was changed to 6 seconds and Paladins gained much needed Passive Threat Reduction. So, for Pete's sake, if you don't agree with the change and are in the Beta then say something on the Beta boards.

If this change remains then Vengeance will always seem lacklustre. Unfortunately Ret Paladins are in a double-bind, whilst it may be relatively disappointing there are too few pure-DPS increasing talents to choose in a Ret Build, so dissatisfaction with the talent won't be reflected in unpopularity in Talent builds.

Apart from that most Ret Paladins will be waiting on the next build simply because too many of their abilities are not working. If I were a suspicious man I'd say that this was deliberate - Blizz wanted some breathing room from all the 'Nerf Ret' threads, and this makes it harder to do a direct comparison between Builds for the purposes of analysing the way they chose to nerf Judgement damage.

So Beta Ret Pallies... you may want to dust off that Hunter, Mage or Deathknight alt and focus your testing there for the time being.

EDIT: Plenty of Fury Warrior buffs in this patch now. An MS Effect on normal hits, no speed reduction on Titan's Grip (I always thought this was pretty wonky anyway) and refreshing Bloodthirst. I, for one, welcome our new Fury Warrior overlords.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Relic Slot, Reloaded.

Relics, i.e. Librams Totems and Idols (and one presumes a Deathknight Relic Slot TBA), have a chequered history. They were first introduced in Patch 1.10 as a means of equalising the playing field for classes which were prevented from equipping any ranged weapon, and they have been by turns awful, good or necessary without ever really making up for that loss of a ranged weapons' stats.

Fast-forward to 2.4.2 and they remain the only item drop which is entirely class specific - Tier Tokens are shared between 3 classes and even the Warglaives are usable by both Warriors and Rogues. Given the gear homogenisation strategy Blizzard are pushing it seems strange to still have one boss drop dedicated to a single class, indeed often only a single spec of a single class. Badge-style methods are all well and good, but it leaves a significant gap in gear progression between Questing and 5-man instances to Raids. And it relies on the Relic being useful for your chosen talent spec or role, not a given by any stretch.

So, how do we solve this dilemma for 3.0? Enter the Inscription Profession, and specifically Glyphs. Glyphs in their current incarnation provide additional enhancements to Spells and Abilities rather than raw stat increases, pretty much the same purpose of a Relic. Their power varies greatly between the Major, Lesser and Minor flavours but provide a much wider range of effects than Relics currently allow for. So, why not provide some synergy between these two game elements?

My idea is to create a set of 'Blank' Relics of Superior (Blue) and Epic (Purple) varieties, where Superior Blank Relics could be Inscribed with Lesser Glyphs and Epic Blank Relics Inscribed with Major Glyphs for a particular class. In one stroke this collapses down class/spec specific drops in 5-mans/Raids and provides a much wider scope in quality and value for this slot. This is not to say that Conventional means of acquiring Relics would be removed, Quest Reward Relics would still be necessary as a stepping stone into Instance running and Badge Rewards could still be used to address specific class weaknesses or PvP effects not covered by Glyphs.

So far in the Wrath of the Lich King Beta only one Relic for each class has been unveiled. With any luck we'll see more, and a better indication of Blizzards' plans for this much maligned item slot. Will their final vision match up with the desires of Paladins, Druids and Shaman everywhere? Only time will tell.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Beta News Report.

The past week saw a couple of patches uploaded to the Beta Servers, and the changes are something of a mixed bag. As usual the full patch notes can be seen over at MMO-Champion and elsewhere, but there was little in there specifically for Ret Paladins beyond the Glyphs already mentioned. The biggest game-wise news though has to be the effective elimination of Spell Downranking, which is a pretty big hit to casters of all stripes in PvP and Healers in PvE. I'm not qualified to comment too strongly on it, I'll leave that to Matticus and Rohan, but as I see it this has three major consequences for Ret Paladins:

  • A) - Downranking Consecration in PvE Raid Encounters will no longer be an option. It's questionable whether we'll want to even use Consecration with Divine Storm being the new mana dump of choice, but depending on mana consumption and regen rates the odd cheeky Consecrate may well have been on the cards. As it stands Mana Regen will have to be very high to justify it except in AoE situations, where it could perhaps replace Crusader Strike if mana starved.

  • B) - No Downranking Consecration in PvP to unstealth Rogues and Feral Druids. In fact, this goes for all mana-based AoE Spells, and hence is an indirect buff for stealth classes in PvP.

  • C) - No Downranking Heals in PvP or PvP. Clutch heals are a pretty big part of how I play 5-mans and to a lesser extent PvP, and with Sheath of Light I was looking forward to slightly more effectiveness when I choose to take up this burden. However Blizzard giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other, with out pitiful mana pools in Ret Gear taking up this role for any significant length of time becomes extremely difficult, and only possible at all with some lucky Judgements of the Wise procs. Now, for a Ret Paladin to clutch-heal he needs to gear for it, probably unwise given your primary DPS role will be in zero-int Warrior gear.

  • Indirectly, this change is a pretty big buff to non-mana PvPers against mana users, and may well turn into a humongous nerf for Holy Paladins. Its effect is somewhat mitigated in the case of Priests (mana on over-heal talent, Spirit-based Regen) and Druids (Hot-based healing, Spirit Regen), but can any rank of Holy Light ever be viable with this change?

    Blizzard need to be very careful with this change. It has may potentially break every caster class in all sorts of new and interesting ways for raiding and PvP. Additionally 0 mana is no longer the mana floor of any caster class, 0 plus the cost of your cheapest useful max rank spell effectively is. This could in theory lock out a caster from a significant proportion of their mana pool, and puts huge emphasis on mana regen over mana efficiency.

    The debate over the wisdom of Seal of Righteousness scaling better than either of the two 'DPS' Seals (Command and Blood) continues to rage on Elitist Jerks. Cathela has written a mathematical comparison of SoB and SoR and clearly SoR scales monstrously well, even without Sheath of Light. Plenty of solutions have been thrown around, ranging from 'that's okay, it gives us 3 viable DPS Seals' to 'Make SoCommand Baseline and change SoR to 1-handed only', but all suffer from significant drawbacks. A strong, well definied purpose for SoR probably needs to be carved, because right now it is a levelling Seal (with scaling not suitable for the highest tier gear), Tanking Seal (that's so good it makes SoV almost obsolete) and now premier DPS Seal.

    Finally, lets go over to Ollie for the Server Status report.

    Thanks Ollie :(.

    ADDED: I'm not usually one to take a keen notice of changes as they affect mages, even though I have one myself. Take as highly recommended therefore this blog entry by Euripedes at Critical QQ on the effects of the Downranking changes on just one class for PvP.

    Saturday, August 09, 2008

    Paladin Inscription Glyphs.

    EDIT [13.10.08]: Updated using WoWHead WotLK Beta listing as a source. Previous source was out of date.

    A new Wrath Beta Patch (Build 8770) has just dropped on the US servers and MMO-Champion has the skinny. Included amongst the data is a listing for new Paladin Inscription Glyphs. Check out MMO-Champion for the full list, but here are the Paladin Highlights:

    Major Glyphs


    * Glyph of Avenging Wrath has been added - Reduces the cooldown of your Hammer of Wrath spell by 50% while Avenging Wrath is active.
    * Glyph of Crusader Strike - Your Crusader strike deals 20% more damage when your target is incapacitated or stunned. [changing soon to a mana cost reduction]
    * Glyph of Hammer of Wrath - Increases the range on Hammer of Wrath by 5 yards.
    * 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 Command - Increases the chance of dealing Seal of Command damage by 20%, to 8.4 PPM from 7 PPM.


    * Glyph of Avenger's Shield - Your Avenger's Shield hits -2 fewer targets but for 100% more damage.
    * Glyph of Hammer of Justice - Increases your Hammer of Justice duration by 1 sec.
    * Glyph of Righteous Defense - Increases the chance for your Righteous Defense ability to work successfully by 8% on each target.
    * Glyph of Seal of Vengeance -- Your Seal of Vengeance or Seal of Corruption also grants 10 expertise while active. [Mmmm, tanking goodness]
    * Glyph of Spiritual Attunement has been added - Increases the amount of mana gained from your Spiritual Attunement spell by an additional 2%.


    * Glyph of Cleansing has been added - Reduces the mana cost of your Cleanse and Purify spells by 20%.
    * Glyph of Consecration - Increases the duration and cooldown of your Consecration spell by 2 seconds.
    * Glyph of Divinity - Your Lay on Hands also grants you as much mana as it grants your target.
    * Glyph of Exorcism - Your Exorcism also interrupts spellcasting for 2 sec.
    * Glyph of Flash of Light - Your Flash of Light heals for -50% less initially but also heals for 140% of its initial effect over 1 to 15 sec.
    * Glyph of Holy Light - Your Holy Light grants 10% of its heal amount to up to 5 friendly targets within 5 yards of the initial target.
    * Glyph of Lay on Hands - Your Lay on Hands also grants you as much mana as it grants your target.
    * Glyph of Seal of Wisdom - While Seal of Wisdom is active the cost of your healing spells is reduced by -5%.
    * Glyph of Seal of Light - While Seal of Light is active the effect of your healing spells is increased by 5%.
    * Glyph of Seal of Righteousness -- Reduces the cost of your Judgement spells by 10% while Seal of Righteousness is active.
    * 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.)

    Minor Glyphs

    * Glyph of Blessing of Kings -- Reduce the mana cost of your Blessing of Kings and Greater Blessing of Kings spells by 50%.
    * Glyph of Sense Undead -- Damage against Undead increased by 1% while your Sense Undead ability
    * Glyph of Lay on Hands -- Increases the mana restored by your Lay on Hands spell by 20%.
    * Glyph of Blessing of Might -- Increases the duration of your Blessing of Might spell by 20 min when cast on yourself.
    * Glyph of Blessing of Wisdom -- Increases the duration of your Blessing of Wisdom spell by 20 min when cast on yourself.
    * Glyph of the Wise - Reduces the mana cost of your Seal of Wisdom spell by 50%.

    It's worth mentioning that none of these can be classed as merely cosmetic, all of them give hard numerical benefits. I especially like the Seal of Wisdom and Light Glyphs as they give a real benefit to having a Seal up for Holy other than as a source of Judgement for its 2 minute duration. The Seal of Command Glyph may be nerfed, at that percent increase it will outstrip SoB/M in terms of DPS at moderate levels of haste, though Judgement damage will probably cause Blood to continue to outstrip Command. Glyph of Exorcism will be very useful if Exorcism is no longer restricted to working on Undead, otherwise it is very situational.

    Some Glyphs seem very encounter specific. For example I can see single encounters where you'd want the Avengers Shield Glyph, but can think of no dungeon (maybe one or two raids) where you'd only ever want to hit that one target. Druids have similar catch-22 Glyphs, and unless these can be swapped very cheaply and easily I could see their usage being very low. Is this a wise design decision?

    All in all I don't think Glyphs will change the way we play our Paladin, but they will provide us with many more tools to be effective in what we do. And they represent a real trade-off which an ever increasing number of talent points can't provide in the long-term.

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Deathknights: Levels 55 to 58.

    (This Post is intended to be as spoiler-free as possible)

    Cast your mind back. Do you remember the first character you levelled past 20? Do you remember actually doing it? If you do, you may remember as many as half a dozen class-specific quests which provided a little bit of class flavour and a lot of practice in your abilities. You may even have had one or two skills or spells granted by these quests. Well, recalling these sessions provides some small inkling of what you have to look forward to with your first foray into being a Deathknight.

    The first levels of Deathknight servitude feel very much like those half-dozen class quests, involving key lore points and serving as a test-bed for your abilities, but fully immersive for at least 2 level-ups. Why you have been left 'alive' is explained, key figures are (re-)introduced, some old features of the Plaguelands are discovered anew, and the current lay of the political landscape is explored. All the while you collect a set of gear itemised to lvl58 Outland levels, so with little pain you can jump straight into Hellfire Penninsula if you so desire.

    Sensibly you aren't just plonked at the Ebon Hold starting at lvl55 and with 46 Talent Points and a boat-load of new Skills. Throughout the experience you slowly gain Talent Points, one at a time a first to a flood at the end, encouraging you to look carefully at the talents you choose and build a path down the tree. I think this is a very good way of addressing that obvious issue in starting at lvl55, and by lvl57 you should be at least passingly familiar with the first 5 Tiers of one Tree. Some of the unique key class skills are included in those you start with, including 2 Strikes and Death Grip, but you aren't overwhelmed with a dozen new active abilities from the word go.

    (Incidentally, I chose Blood talents because I'm a Melee sort of a person. Similarities to the Retribution tree are entirely coincidental of course ;) )

    The Deathknight starter quests aren't by any means revolutionary however. They follow the same pattern of 'Go to X' 'Talk to Y' and 'Collect Z' we are all used to, and in many ways are disappointing in that. I'm not sure if it's a limitation in technology or in imagination but there isn't much to set them apart from the quests we've seem for the past 70 levels. The difference is in the way they are presented - new game engine features have allowed Blizzard to very clearly and fairly seamlessly show the progression of time from a just pre-Plaguelands Cauldron era to a time just before the chronological start of the Azerothian Nations return to Northrend. Hopefully this method of storytelling will be revisited in the Expansion proper (Tech permitting) as it's the first time playing the game that you feel that your actions have had a tangible impact on the World. It possible, this is a much better way of treating past/future than the Caverns of Time IMO.

    Early ideas of how Blizzard may implement riding in Siege Engine's are forums with a Quest which is the first instance of 'Go get a Horse and bring it back' without it being an escort quest. The now obligatory bombing run quest is revisited, but with a Frozen twist. Nothing too new here, apart from the obvious cool factor. Still, all the quests are very linear, just one or two with multiple directions to proceed and multiple outcomes would be nice.

    Finally, Deathknights themselves. Contrary to early fears they don't seem at all overpowered (at least for the level) and in many ways the Runic system feels more limiting than empowering. It's early days yet, but I believe that Deathknights will play like a rather more hardy Rogue such that managing cooldowns and timing abilities correctly will be central to the class. Mods which make the process of Rune recharging more visible will be a must.

    So there you have it, my take on Deathknights, lvl55-58. Of course right now that's a certain amount of extrapolation - some of the quests remain frustratingly buggy and the quality of others (most notably the much talked about Finale to the Deathknight chain) depend rather heavily on the number of Deathknights online and on that quest at the time. I'm going to take a departure from other Bloggers and say that rolling a Deathknight isn't a must for any Warcraft player. If you favour casters almost exclusively and for you gameplay is more important than lore then you can probably skip DK's. If however (like me) you are something of a Lore-whore, love melee characters or plain love the idea of playing a Deathknight then it is well worth rolling one. And it will be better to do it earlier rather than later, although probably not in the first week or two of release. If you do choose to take part in the quest line take your time. Read the flavour text, talk to the NPC's, and above all enjoy yourself.

    I finish this post by expressing what I feel is the one lore shortfall: the transition from Deathknight-centricity to Faction-centricity is jarring. You can fly anywhere you want in the Eastern Kingdoms but you only have your previous levelling knowledge to aid you in where to go next. One final Quest, guiding you back to your Capital City and indicating the new state of relations between the Ebon Hold and Alliance (or Horde) would neatly reintegrate you back into the mainstream questlines and perhaps nudge you towards Outland, the next area that you should be exploring.


    With Build 8905 there is a final quest linking you back to Stormwind or Ogrimmar. This is a great way to round off your first few levels of Deathknight gameplay which fairly seamlessly draws you into the larger game world. I'm glad it'll make to launch.

    WoW Olympics mini-Event: The Spirit of Competition.

    The Deathknight write-up is in the works for tomorrow, but until then I just thought
    I'd let you know about the new seasonal items just introduced to the Battleground's.

    In order to commemorate the start of the Olympics in Beijing Blizzard are giving away a Competitor's Tabard (shown above) to every character that completes a Battleground, and to those that win a BG the chance of a Gold Medallion, which summons your very own Spirit of Competition, a small Chinese Dragon.

    So, did you need an excuse to finish those BG's? Well now you have one.

    (There may be more later on, or other holiday features I haven't seen yet. This just started from Midnight EU Server Time, so the US probably hasn't seen it yet.)

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    SZ is in the EU Wrath Beta!

    As I alluded to last night, I found this in my in-box yesterday:

    I proceeded cautiously, acutely aware that this may be a scam. Double-check sender... okay, double-check hyperlink... okay, enter code key... yay it works. I then copied Jana across to the Test Realm, for which there is an estimated 2 day turn-around time (which is a bit of a PITA).

    The patching process has been long and a little involved. The 2GB main patch was fairly pain-free (apart from the usual issues associated with P2P downloading on wuch a scale). Downloading the mini-patches has to be done with the Launcher app however, it seems that the in-game downloader attempts to download the enUS patch version rather than enGB. No biggie, let the Launcher do it's thing.

    So, with a fully patched game but no Paladin to play what is a guy to do? Well, the only thing he can do, the Deathknight beginner quests!

    I'll do a brief (and as much as possible spoiler-free) write-up of that quest line in a little while. But in the mean-time, let me know if there are any Wrath questions I can reasonably answer or investigate on my lonesome. Equally, any suggestions of 'fit for 3.0' mods for proc calculations etc would be most welcome.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    A Couple of Thank-you's.

    Just a quick post today to say thanks.

    The first one goes to Alex at Retribution for his immense help in crafting me a Red Belt of Battle - I owe you one mate. Jana is now only 14 Hit Rating off the 9% Hit Cap, which should be made up by the next Violet Signet upgrade and Surefooted enchant. Plenty more upgrades still to go for her but I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of reasonable Kara and pre-Kara gear.

    The other one goes out to Blizzard, for reasons I hope to make clear at some point tomorrow. I say tomorrow because it's unlikely that 2GB can be downloaded by my connection before I go to bed this evening ;).

    Sunday, August 03, 2008

    The Previous Week.

    Or, Adventures in Profession Switching.

    The early part of the week was spent doing a little bit of PvP, a quick downing of a trio of Kara Bosses, and my first foray into Heroic Tanking.

    In the PvP stakes my partner (a Frost Mage) and I went 4-6 IIRC. Not great, we're still working at things and 1600-1650 will probably be where we end up. It's not helped by my gear, which is most pretty sub-par for PvP (S1 and S3 Honour Gear), but we had a couple of good wins against tough opponents so I can't be at all unhappy.

    Tanking... wasn't as fun as I'd hoped. Though my gear definitely isn't great, it was very much a tester in Ramparts, and we did in fact clear it, it wasn't nearly as fun as I had hopped. I'll leave it at that I think.

    Kara was pretty easy, even 8-manning it. A very IMBA tank and healer help.

    The latter part of my week was spent on the aforementioned Profession Switch. Jana, my Paladin, is a Blacksmith/Miner are your main may be and you think to yourself 'Hey, why do I have mining on my main?'. That's a very good question, and one which everyone should be thinking going into Wrath given the number of reputation-based instance drop recipes we've seen in TBC. The flip side of course is that the gathering professions are due to see passive character buffs of their own in the Expansion, such as +Stamina for Mining and +Crit for Skinning, so best not make a snap decision.

    Anyway, after much consideration and soul-searching you have decided to drop the gathering profession from your main. Well, you need to make sure that you have a gathering alt to continue feeding your Blacksmith/Engineer/Alchemist/Leatherworker all that lovely Adamantite, Khorium and (later) Netherbloom. Levelling this alt, you also have the chance to stockpile the materials needed to level the new manufacturing skill you're taking on your main. Yep, I'm all about the maximisation of return on effort.

    So, what do you choose? Well, that totally depends on the alts you already have and your own personal preference. I chose Engineering, not because it features the greatest effort return (that would probably be Alchemy, Jewelcrafting or Enchanting) or increased raid viability (LWing Drums for example) but because it's fun. Yes, fun, that subjective factor we often seem to forget in a game that sucks days of our life out at a time.

    So, I've ground out a whole load of Copper, Bronze and Mithril on my new Alts' travels to 50, and an equally obscene amount of Thorium on my Main. Once my Alt is roughly at the profession level where he can mine/smelt any shortfall it's time to swap.

    [Insert a screenshot here of my dropping mining, which I forgot to take]

    And then 4 hours later, with much mailing of materials and buying of minor things on the AH (bloody Wool Cloth :/) Jana reaches 350 Engineering. I used something very similar to Ten Ton Hammer's Levelling Guide, although I have to confess I had a shortfall in Solid Stone (easily rectified by a trip to the AH) and Fel Iron (much more troublesome to deal with), and mined much too much Thorium. Thankfully I got luckly with a few skill-ups on yellow and green products and comfortably reached 345.

    The next day I grind out some Knothide Leather, and make the odd component and Jana now her very own set of Furious Gizmatic Goggles. That's a pretty big upgrade for me from my S1 Helm. With the help of a friendly Jewelworker and a long ago Heroic Drop I have:

    This puts me in somewhat of an awkward position wrt Hit Rating, necessitating another upgrade fairly soon (maybe a Red Belt of Battle if I can find someone that can make it). Also no luck with a Shard of Contempt, or even getting into a Heroic run for such, so I think I'll make alternative arrangements. Other than that, plenty of upgrades left to make from Heroics and through Kara.

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