Friday, December 31, 2010

It's a Celebration, Bishes.

Happy New Years, everyone!  We're getting the house ready for a party.  It sort of feels like leveling in Vashj'ir. This concept may or may not have reflected itself in today's short tidbit.  You decide:

Decedereful swam toward the small box of treasure, excited to be able to... A naga spear glanced off her shoulder.  Suddenly, she was surrounded by naga.  There were naga everywhere.  She killed one, but they kept coming.  It was terrible.  So many naga.  Fins pressing in on her face, feeling slimy in the briny water.  Scales rubbing against scales making an awful hissing noise as fish flesh pressed in upon her.  Strangely, Decedereful realized she was naked.  She swore she'd had her armor on before this, but it was gone in an instant.  She could feel cold, reptilian limbs tickling her feet, rubbing her neck.  It was as if the entire legion of naga had surrounded her and was coming in for a big, nude group hug.  No matter the vehemence with which she batted them away, another filled it's place.  As concentration fled her mind, she lost control of the spell that allowed her to breath underwater.  Frigid, grainy water flooded her mouth and raced down into her lungs, coating her tongue and throat.  Could a Death Knight even drown?  Would yet another death provide her a release?  Or would there just always be this awful taste of salt water and the feel of slithering bodies around her as she...

The Death Knight sat bolt upright in bed.  Pulling at the sodden shift that clung to her soaked body, her eyes swept the room.  What an awful dream.  She stood up and pulled off the thin undergarment, getting a fresh one from a pile near her wooden dresser.  She sniffed it.  It smelled clean enough, so she threw it on over her head and returned to bed.  She sank back down, letting the panic and tension that had seemed so real in the nightmare drain from her like warm water through a sieve.  Clearing her mind, she tried to focus on happy memories.    Finally, she settled on one in particular.  It had been - well, with the recent time flow issues, she wasn't quite sure, but certainly a while - since she'd been reunited with her brother at the Argent Tournament.  Shortly thereafter, she'd accompanied him to the legendary city of Dalaran.  It had been her first glimpse at the magical spires, and it had come on a day rife with celebration.  Decedereful couldn't remember anymore what they'd been celebrating, but for her it had been new beginnings.

To new beginnings, she mused as she drifted off.  And then, she dreamed a much happier dream:

Do DK's even dream? Do they need sleep? Is this even canon? I don't know. I suppose it could be. What I do know is that when you're cleaning the house for a party, the spawn rate of jobs is tweaked WAY too high. Stupid dynamic spawning...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Most Hated Heroic Bosses

I was woken up by an earthquake this morning. I mentioned this because I live in central Indiana. We don't do earthquakes... until recently. My very first quake experience was two years ago with a 5.2 quake that was the strongest here in 40 years. Point being, we're pretty much quake newbs over here. We're like a shaman virgin, quaked for the very first time.

Okay, that was awful.  Don't lie, you groaned.

Maybe because quakes are so uncommon for us, there is phenomenon that happens whereby we take to the social media outlets, cell phones, and the like, calling everyone we know with the same damned question: "Did you feel that?"  I wonder if this is the same out on the West Coast.  Do you guys all call each other up and have a mini squee-fest?  Or are you more chill?  If I called you would you be like: "Yeah, it was a damn quake.  We all felt it.  That's sort of how these things work.  We don't live in Cloud City."  And then Lando would pop out, calling me a pirate and telling me how great it is to see me. 

Another groaner.  Get over it.  I was woken up by a frigging earthquake.  I'm a bit rattled.  (/groan)

In any case, I feel that this relates extremely loosely to WoW, in that we sort of react this way to the new heroics.  We're all calling each other up right now, saying: "Hey, did you see the tornado boss?  Yeah, that guy sucks.  And those snakes in Halls of Origination!  Why did it have to be snakes?"  To which I reply, "I don't know, Harrison, but I felt it too... in my repair bill!"

Okay, so that's a ludicrously loose lead-in.  I warned you this time.  Remember, I'm still a bit shaken.

So, today I wanted to start a "most hated" list for bosses in the new heroics.  We can call each other up, squee, swap survival strats (hide under a sturdy table!), and then get on with life.  After all, these will become trivial in like two or three months, right?  I mean, I've had two quakes in two years and I'm already starting to get used to them.  Fuu and I looked at each other in bed and said, "WTF was that?"  Then I replied, "Probably and earthquake," and rolled over.  I would not have given that answer two years ago.   In Indiana, that'd almost be like saying, "Probably an alien spaceship hijacked by terrorists and triggering an avalanche down the mountain.  The TSA hasn't gotten to inter-stellar flights yet."  And we'll be doing heroics far more often than once every two years.  Thus, they'll be old news in like... a month?  (Personally, I sort of hope they stay challenging for longer...)

Here's my two Most Hated:
  1. Altairus in Vortex Pinnacle - Despite wanting to call him Altair (like form Assassin's Creed), this guy is no stealthy assassin.  He's just a straight-up killer.  With all his crazy tornadoes and shifting winds.  Ugh, what a fight.  Definitely my number 1 most hated.  It doesn't even matter that I can pull down a ridiculous 12-15k DPS by standing in the right wind location: we can't live through the fight.  I must admit, so far I've been successful in not getting knocked off the platform, but I can't say the same for my poor guildies.  Usually, it looks like an LSC (our guild) confetti storm about halfway through the fight.  We're getting better though.  Just... any tricks for this one?  Or do you just have to not fail?  Yeah, I've got nothing here.
  2. Temple Guardian Anhuur in Halls of Origination - Or Snakes and Levers as my wife affectionately calls it.  Seemed easy to pop down and trip the levers on regular.  On heroic? Not so much.  10 seconds of lever pulling.  WTF is wrong with these levers?  We need to bring along some Lube of the Whale or something for fel's sake.  And those damned snakes hurt.  I actually have two suggestions for this though.  We started off where I jumped down, grabbed all the snakes, ported and ran like hell.  Problem was, the lever puller kept getting killed in between lever phases.  I think our healer was constantly playing catch-up due to splitting. So we took the whole group down, tank gathered the snakes, we nuked them, and then two of us stayed behind for lever duty while the rest busted ass up.  Worked well and we got by this guy.  Still, it was a pain.  
Those are my two most hated bosses right now.  What are yours?  We've been doing these and a guild and are all only slightly above the heroic "gear line", so I imagine this is as hard as it gets.  As we gear up, I'm sure we'll find these infinitely easier, but for now they're quite the challenge.  We also seem to get these same instances when trying to random.  Go figure.  I want to go back and visit Squidward in Throne of Tides. 

Do You Feel That?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Affliction Warlock Guide Updates

I decided that today would be Update My Affliction Guides Day here at the blog. Realizing that I'd neglected to do that since Cata dropped, and that I'm now getting into heroics, it seemed like a good time to undertake that task.  As such, you'll find all my guides linked at the left to be updated for 4.0.3a.  There were just minor changes really to bring them up to date, since the major work was done with 4.0.1.  Instead of reposting them all, I'd just like to highlight the changes I made here in a summary post.  For more in depth coverage, feel free to clicky on the left.  

I had talked about it a lot, but never posted my final spec at 85.  In revisiting my spec post, I double checked my choices and remedied this.  You can follow the link below to see the spec.  It reflects what I'm using going into heroics.  Here at the updates to that section of things:

The most recent simulations preformed over at the Elitist Jerks forums point to our Affliction Warlock spec being the top dog, raid wise (at a T11 gear level).  However, the simulation also reveals an exciting parity amongst the specs that really hasn't been seen before.  It really does seem like all three trees are almost equally viable.  Having said that, it's never really been a choice for me: Affliction is my bag, baby.  As such, the spec I'm using at 85 is 32/1/8, a variation of the "affliction" spec in the simulation.

I also dropped my last point into the Demonology tree.  First time ever that I've done that.  There wasn't anything that would immediately help my DPS at that point, so it seemed like a good idea to get the extra stamina and make myself a bit more hardy.

I decided not to use Emberstorm, mostly because there have been rumblings of changes on the horizon for the way Improved Soul Fire works.  As such, I'm not trying to figure out how to weave it into my rotation, and only using it when Soulburn is off cooldown.  Thus, the talent doesn't make sense for me.  We'll see how things shake out with regards to this.  I don't think I'm currently at a point of comfort with things where this makes a different for me anyways.

Only one simple change: 

Glyph of Fear - Made a change here.  With CC being key in heroics, I think every Warlock needs to be running with glyph.  It makes Fear as good as a Sheep, and along with a nice focus macro makes you the cock of the walk.  Definitely worth the slot. 

This is the basis of what I'm doing:

Corruption > Bane of Agony > Unstable Affliction > Haunt > Shadowbolt x2 &gt Curse of the Elements.

Then I basically spam bolts, refresh as needed, and watch my cooldowns.  I'm not too concerned with order at this point as I'm just getting used to making sure I'm watching everything.  You also probably want to throw your curse on a later target, provided you specced into Jinx, since this will allow you to not have to recast it.  I choose to get my "big 3" up early so I can be ready with a Soul Swap if the target is dying quickly.  Otherwise, on a boss, I might front load the instants while running into position, but try to get Haunt and ISB up as quickly as possible.  With that said, here is the major change to the guide: 

After the initial set up, there are a few cooldowns to watch for as well.  First, we want to throw in an Improved Soul Fire whenever Soulburn is off cooldown, letting us cast it instantly.  ISF doesn't stack with heroism-like effects, so try to use it outside of those times.  Second, we want to use Demon Soul when it is off cooldown as well.  Finally, you may want to use Fel Fire to refresh your UA cast.  I use it exclusively.  There is some debate whether it's better to use FF or UA for a full refresh.  I fall firmly in the FF-user category.  When all is said an done, I think it provides me with better DPS.  When maths are done, I think it comes out to about the same with a slight skew toward UA.

I've discussed each of these new spells at length here in the past.  This reflects how I'm using them going into heroics.  It will likely change as hotfixes are made and we learn more about them, but this is what currently works best for me.  I try to blow my cooldowns at the beginning of a boss fight, and then on a heroic boss it usually has me burning them near the end.  The fights really haven't been long enough to have me using them three times.  As mentioned, I'm not keeping ISF up either, merely using it like a trinket.  That's something I'm going to keep my eye on, as trying to keep it up right now just throws me off more than helps. 

Pet Choice
Pretty simple here, I'm using my Felhunter right now:

For the regular minions, I generally run with the Felhunter. With the addition of Demon Soul to our arsenal, I've found that this pet synergizes the best with my Affliction playstyle.  I believe the Succubus may still take top honors in a pure math contest, but in my comparisons, the Felpup is better.  Since the Demon Soul benefit for your pup is a straight bonus to DoTs (as opposed to a bonus to shadowbolts), I think it makes sense.  I'm probably not the best S-bolt weaver, but, by the Shadow, my DoTs shall run uninterrupted!  Thus, you can consider me a Felhunter guy.  The Succy can be useful for solo'ing with her CC utility, which I've made extensive use of, but if I'm in a dungeon or raid, the Felpup is coming out.  

Pet Choice Hierarchy
  1. Infernal - When you want a quick AoE boost.
  2. Doomguard - When you want a quick single target boost.
  3. Felhunter - When you aren't running with a Mage and a Priest, and if you find it works best with you Affliction playstyle.
  4. Succubus - When your raid doesn't need your buffs, especially if you talent/glyph it.
  5. Imp - If you need ranged or you decide to talent for it.
I poached the new stats from the EJ Simulation post as usual.  The link can be found in the main article if you want to check it out.  Otherwise, here's what I got: 

Warlock_Affliction_PreRaid   Sta=0.0262  Int=2.9937  SP=2.4187  Hit=1.5690  Crit=0.9617  Haste=1.2767  Mastery=0.9037

Which means we have a priority of this:  

Hit (until capped) > Intellect > Spellpower > Haste > Crit > Mastery >> Stamina.

Even though the hit number no longer reflects being "best", I still think it is your best bet to work on getting capped first.  This should be a lot easier with reforging, enchanting, and gemming... but it's still a lot of hit to accrue.  The tooltip will let you know when your miss chance is 0%, and be aware that Heroic cap is only for level 87 bosses at 0%, while the Raid hit cap is 88 at 0%.  You can see this when you mouse over the stat in your character screen.  I believe the top number translates to an ungodly 1742 hit.

Otherwise, I will use the weightings in Pawn to help me judge gear accordingly.  At T11, BiS, the numbers look much the same.  Little higher on each end, but same order.  Thus, this scale should work for us for a while.

So that's it.  Those are my updates.  Did I miss something?  Did I screw something up?  Feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Love My Coal

Well, I'm back. Didja miss me? I think Fuu did a good job of keeping things going whilst I took a week off. Love her. I was a good Warlock this year, and got a rather large lump of coal as a result.  I shall put it to good use right away.

I'm wading through my 500+ article-clogged reader, so today I'll simply pass along my thoughts as I go.
  • Heroics really are hard right now.  We did some last night.  Challenging at this gear level.  The webs seem to agree.
  • There's talk about nerfing Demo AoE and redesigning Improved Soulfire.  I can't say I'm surprised.  I don't think it's in anyone's best interest to have us have to keep ISF up at all times.  I've said before that I'm using it more like a trinket whenever I can burn an instant.  I would bet that's how Blizz "wants" it to be used, and how they're going to change the design to reflect.  For now, don't get too caught up on the ISF buff and work on perfecting the other parts of your rotation.
  • I did glyph fear.  It is totally worth the major slot.  I did not talent it.  The glyph seems sufficient to make it equal to a good sheeping.  Fear combined with Banish makes me a powerful little CC'er.  It also allows me to shine in elemental instances.  I'm looking at you, Vortex Pinnacle.
  • I discovered that I'd made a small mistake on my published macros last week.  I've fixed the goof and noted such in comments.  It only affects the Banish macro, but if you've been having trouble with that... remove the "nomod" part.  It's unneeded and just gunks things up.  Ironically, I got it right with my fear macro.
  • I'm using my Felhunter.  Succy can suck it.  (Um, giggity?)  If we need more than my CC, we should bring a mage.  That's what they're good for after all.  Demon soul with my felpup is the sweetness.
  • Speaking of CC, if you want to know more (and by more I mean f-in more), check this out.  Go Pone, Go... ice your fingers.  Srsly, I see the smoke through my monitor.
That's all I've got for now.  Brain is fried from re-discovering the net.  I'll probably be a bit sporadic this week as I get back into the swing of things, but we should burst into the new year at full stride.  Stay safe out there holiday warriors. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Very Warlocky Christmas

The United Warlock Musical Association (UWMA) is proud to present A Very Warlocky Christmas!  This six(seis(6)) disk set features some of the best Christmas songs sung by UWMA recording artists.  Here's just a sample of what you'll hear:

Bark! The Hungry Felpups Sing.
 - Sparky's Seven

The First DoT Cast
 - Hand of Gul'dan

Joy to the World (The Mage is Dead)
- Calling All Warlocks

Silenced Night
 - Midnight and The Sixxx Succubi

Shadow Balls (Shadow All The Way)
- On Lock

Magenuts Roasting On An Open Fire
- DJ Destro Remix

All I want for Christmas is Green Flame
- The Official Forum

Oh, Unholy Night
 - Berry Blue and the Blueberries

What Demon Form is This?
 - Purple Epic

We Curse You Some Deadly Elements (And a Bane of Agony)
- Aff'locks Inc.

That Bell Song 
- Some Evil Guy

The Little Drummer Imp
- Spaz and Friends

Shadowy Christmas
 - A Duet With A Shadow Priest

Here Comes Demonform (Right Down BG Lane)
- Demonologism

Oh Come All Ye Summoned
 - WizRL

The Thirteen Days of Covenmas (Five Soooooul Shards!)
- The Cast Out Carolers

We Want Kings (From Paladins Now)
 - The Casters

Light Rest Ye Mana-less Healers (Better Hurry The Fel Up)
 - GoGoGo

Felsteed the Firstmount
- Formerly Known As Tim

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Dreadsteed
- The Coven Children's Choir

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Protection Paladin Rotation: Max Threat Verse Survivability

Hey Gang!

So, it's been some time now since 4.0.1 dropped and our new spells, Holy Power, etc. had thrown our original rotations into a Cement Mixer. For many of us, it felt very foreign to us because many of the things that we took as "sacred" are no more.

After hitting 85, training all of my new spells, I was anxious to see how all of these new spells fit together. We gained Inquisition at level 81. Which at first seems pretty much only useful for our Retribution pals. It's a DPS increase when you use Holy power and scales with how many stacks we had while using it. If you use it with all three stacks of Holy Power, Inquisition lasts for 12 seconds.

My first reaction was why do I want to waste my precious Holy Power on a Damage increase? I have two extremely powerful spells that I can choose to use instead. Shield of the Righteous that does huge amounts of single target threat (currently critting for almost 20k with three stacks) and putting up Holy Shield that increases the amount of damage I mitigate by 10% and Word of Glory that gives me a very free self healing. Why do I, as a tank, give two Kodo Poops about Inquisition? Well, after further reading over at my favorite Forums, I saw theorycrafters proposing that if you use Inquisition with 3 stacks of Holy power, it will last you 12 seconds. Our rotation, from start to finish, is only 9 seconds.

This got my brain rolling...

Well, if I could have Inquisition on for the duration of my rotation in all the while working my Holy Power back up, it will last me until I get back to hitting SotR again. My brain just exploded at the thought of all that delicious threat that I would be creating. Om nom nom!

But here's the beauty of this whole entire thing. Holy power takes 9 seconds to rack up to 3. Most fights don't last very long. 18 Seconds is like an eternity when it comes to mob & boss fights. Having to wait 18 seconds to have your Holy Shield up feels like having unprotected sex with strangers and then deciding mid way that you probably shouldn't be doing what you're doing...


So brain, how do we get to play with our "Holy Shit Threat Happy Fun Time" without feeling "unprotected" for 18 seconds?

The answer is Divine Plea! When you hit Divine Plea (if Talented... which you better have it talented or I'll be sad!) It gives you an automatic 3 stacks of Holy Power right away before ever having to do anything! Hurray!

What I found to be the best single target threat rotation to be:
(Glyphed: Focused Shield) Avengers Shield-Divine Plea-Inquisition-Crusader Strike-Judgement-Crusader Strike- AS/ (Holy Wrath if AS didn't proc or off Cooldown)- Crusader Strike- Shield of the Righteous (repeat until dead... not you! The Boss!)

With this rotation you are getting the full effect of Inquisition through your entire rotation and not having to wait the entire 18 seconds to get your Holy Shield up. Best of both worlds. With this kind of threat start, it would be extremely hard for anyone to pull it off of you. This is the Ultimate front loaded threat move. Hell throw in your Wings and you have become a monster! Even your trigger happy mage would be hard pressed to pry that Internet Dragon off of you. With this kind of a lead on your threat, letting Vengence kick in will only make the ride that much easier.

Now, if you are more interested in AoE instead of Single target. It's pretty easy to make a few minor changes. Unglyph your Avenger's Shield so you are hitting 3 targets instead of 1. Replace Crusader Strike with Hammer of the Righteous and use Holy Wrath & Consecrate in your "off times".  If mobs aren't hitting too hard, you could even change your Aura to Retribution (if you don't already have a Ret Pally with you).

If Survivability is what really butters your bread, then I suggest a different strategy. I would focus more on keeping up your Holy Shield up for that additional mitigation and spot healing with Word of Glory. Again, I would pop Divine Plea before the pull, Shoot the mob/boss, use Shield of the Righteous and go to town gaining back your Holy Power Stacks. Once to three, pop Word of Glory. This is really nice even if you are topped off because (again if you specced into it) will create a bubble with the over heals. Rotate Shield of the Righteous with Word of Glory and you should be golden. Healers will cheer & babes will weep at how awesome you are at Surviving the most brutal content that Cataclysm could throw at you.

Now get out there & make your healers proud!

/slaps you on the ass for good luck!

<3 Your Friendly Neightborhood Fuubaar

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Macro Christmas to You, Too!

I promised a quick update on my UI and some examples of the macros I use, so here it is.  How's that for an intro?  Busy pre-xmas week is busy, but I wanted to get these things out there as I'm sure we'll all squeeze in some gaming time over the holidays.  It may be the perfect time to rework our UI's to fit those new widescreen monitors we're all getting (right, RIGHT?!) and streamline our buttons so we can program them all to our super-spiffy new mice and keyboards.  Or just time for an overhaul with the old stuff :-(.

Anyway, I'll pass along a picture of my current setup first.  I cleaned it up a bit from the old one here, but I didn't number all the addons like I did in that post.  If you're interested in what addons I'm using, check out the linked post.  The addons remain relatively unchanged.  I did add "Guppet" recently, for summoning random mounts and pets.  So far I've been pleased with that.  Otherwise, Auctionator is perhaps the other change I've made.  The rest has been pretty static. 

Also, in regards to the buttons, I broke down what I had last week.  Well, in the course of my cleanup, I combined a few more spells.  Basically, I consolidated my AoE spells to one button, using alt to swap between them.  I also put Demon Soul/Shadow Ward on a button, and made a simple Buff spellcasting macro.  I'll run through some examples of what I did after the pic.

Yes, I was being capture by a Red Dragon when I took this.
Combining those spells freed up a couple slots on my top bar.  My numbers start with the corruption icon and proceed to the right.  There is a vertical bar on the left that contains CC, Portals, and Summoning.  My pet stuff would go in the empty area between the two bars.  It's just off because right now I'm "in a vehicle" or something.  You can also see the grayed out profession bar way up top.  Like I said, if you're curious about an addon, hit up the linked post above.  If you can't find it there, feel free to ask.  For this post, I mainly wanted to deliver on some example macros that may help you consolidate.

First, I'll copy the macro I use to double up on a button.  I've mentioned that I like to use alt as my modifier, so that's reflected in the macros.  Here's the one combining Demon Soul and Shadow Ward:

/cast [nomod] Demon Soul
/cast [mod:alt] Shadow Ward

The hash command just let's the tool tip for the first (nomod) spell be shown.  I use this in conjunction with the "?" icon, so that I know what I'm pushing at a glance.  The cast command can be used very simply.  In this case, I just specify either no button press or "alt" button press to dictate which spell to cast.  Very simple.  If I wanted to combine my AoE spells, which I did, it'd look something like this:

/cast [nomod] Seed of Corruption
/cast [mod:alt] Rain of Fire

You do not need to specify the rank, but you do need to get the spelling right.  I believe you can hold a button and click on spells to get the game to enter it for you, but I always just do it manually.

The second pair of macros I wanted to share is a slight modification of my previously published Banish Focus and Fear Focus macros.  Basically, these will allow you to cast an initial CC while setting that target to focus.  Then, as long as that target lives, you can click the button without swapping targets, and CC will be recast on your focus.  Makes it easy to chain Fear/Banish while killing something else.  If the focus target has died or despawned, it will clear.  Recently, I added the option to hold alt to clear your focus so that I had a manual option of clearing it prior to the mob dying.  I've found that functionality to come in handy on occasion.

#show Banish
/clearfocus [target=focus,dead][target=focus,noexists]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]
/cast [target=focus] Banish
/clearfocus [mod:alt]

And in a separate macro:

#show Fear
/clearfocus [target=focus,dead][target=focus,noexists]
/focus [target=focus,noexists]
/cast [target=focus] Fear
/clearfocus [mod:alt]

Finally, I wanted to pass along a more complex "cast sequence" macro that I use to buff.  With the cast sequence command, you can list spells so that subsequent button presses work through a predefined list of spells, one press at a time.  I spice it up a bit here by adding button mods so that the sequence does different things when holding no buttons, the shift button, or the alt button.  For no mod and alt mod, I don't really do a sequence, it's just a way of condensing my previously seen "cast" commands.  For the Shift button, I cycle through both my Fel Armor and Soul Link buffs.  I find those two to be useful to remember to cast after a death.  This isn't the best use of a cast sequence, but I thought it made a good example:

/castsequence [nomod] Life Tap; [mod:Shift] Fel Armor, Soul Link; [mod:alt] Soul Harvest;

Hopefully these will be useful to some of you, either as springboards to de-clutter your own UI, or straight copy/pastes to use.  They all work well in the current iteration of the game, and I don't foresee future patches really breaking these.  They're really pretty simple as far as macros go, though there's always a chance that Blizz changes their code and breaks them.  Most of these I've been using since TBC though, so I have high confidence in them.  Let me know if you guys have any questions, and I'll get back to you after Christmas.  Until then, consider this your gift!  (Hey, it's better than coal, right?)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Important Public Service Anouncement!

would like to talk to you today about something that is very serious and hits home for a lot of tanks. It has been something that all tanking classes deal with and not just in the recent 4.0.3 patch. Rumors of it date back to early Alpha testing in Vanilla and it is no laughing matter.

I would like to talk to you about Helmet Hair.

This pandemic has affected everyone in some way or another. After an epic battle with a mighty internet dragon, you walk out of the blazing inferno when your Raid Leader shouts “Screen Shot time!” You proudly saunter over with beads of sweat racing down your face and glory pulsing through your veins. You stand next to that cute warlock and remove your helmet only to find that it’s matted to your face and completely disheveled. The warlock glares at you and starts rolling on the floor laughing. “Hey everyone! Check out Helmet Hair over here!” The moment those words escape his very mouth, you notice that nine sets of beady eyes are fixated on you.

Helmet Hair is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. Talk to your local barber shop and ask for Goblin Helmet Hair Away Shampoo.

Side Effects may include: Itching, Burning, spontaneous explosions, hair loss, weight gain, and your plate armor to deteriorate rapidly during combat.

If you suffer from Helmet Hair, you don’t have to wait any longer. Get your Goblin Helmet Hair Away Shampoo Today!

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Twas the Week Before Christmas

And all through the blogosphere,
Writers will write, frequency unclear.
This writer admits, he hath much to do.
He is unsure in comments, he'll be able to answer you.
If you are lucky, Fuubaar might post,
But into the holiday she may also coast.
So please do be patient, we'll be back next week,
And I've scheduled some content, here's a sneak peek.

Look for a post on updated UI,
And macros to make any dungeon group cry.
Friday's planned post is hopefully cute,
It's simple and quick, as we'll all be busy with loot.
So enjoy the short week, wherever you are,
And take care in travel, be it near or far.
Dear reader I wish a Happy Holiday to you,
And if you get real crazy, a swift recovery for New Year's too!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Picking Up The Pieces

Decedereful looked around at the ruined remains of what had once been the park in Stormwind city. It looked as if something had taken a giant bite out of the land, and sheer cliffs now dropped down to the ocean with a fine view of the harbor. If it weren't for the charred and twisted wreckage, one might say it was picturesque.

Abigora and Minerva were picking through rubble behind her, looking for bodies.  They all feared the worst.  I shouldn't have let my brother go again, Decedereful thought.  He always seemed so strong, so invincible.  How could there be anything out there that could kill him?

"Adimrin' the work o' Deathwing are ye?" A rather gruff Dwarven voice said.

Decedereful looked down at the bearded figure next to her.  Dirty hands and a smudged face seemed to indicate that the stout Dwarf had been digging through wreckage as well.  Perhaps he had lost someone here too.

"Deathwing?" Decedereful asked.  She'd never heard of any Deathwing before.

The Dwarf looked at her askance, "Aye, Deathwing.  Bringer o' Destruction and all that.  Ye cannae tell me ye haven't heard o' him."

Decedereful simply nodded.  What was there to say?  That she had trouble even placing what month it was due to being ripped forward through time?  For some reason, it seemed to her like the world had bigger problems than a mere time-flow issue.  Heck, the Mages probably had that one figured out already.

"Always liked the park," the Dwarf said, shaking his head and trundling away.

Decedereful turned around and went back to join the other two women nosing through the charred junk, looking for clues to what might have happened to their loved ones.  There were scores of ruined manacles, remnants of the elemental invasion, but no bodies.  Had they gotten out somehow? If so, where were they?

For all the Death Knight knew, they could all have been running around for months looking for her and the other girls while they'd been lost in time.  Yet, maybe it hadn't been the portal from Stormwind that had time warped them, but the trip from Northrend.  Maybe both.  She had no way of pinpointing exactly when the break occurred, and that made it nearly impossible to try and discern if she was even looking in the right place.

Frustration blazed within the Death Knight's icy chest plate.  She suddenly found herself with both of her weapons, an axe in one hand and the legendary Quel'Delar in the other.  Her pent up fury was released with a howling blast into the stones in front of her.  They froze, crackling a bit, and she struck them with her blades.  Hard.  Stone shattered, spraying pebbles in her face and around her.  Still, she kept at it, hacking away a pile of rubble in a blind fury.  Not really looking for anything, just wanting to destroy something, anything.

After several minutes, she noticed that Minerva and Abigora were standing furtively off to one side, eying her with concern.  Her blades slowed to a halt.  She stood panting, staring down at the green grass.  The pile she'd been hacking at was strewn about her in fine bits.  With a tinny sigh, she slumped to her knees, exhausted. 

It was at this point that Decedereful caught sight of a rather prominent piece of bone sticking up from the ground.  Fortunately, her destructive rant seemed to have it in tact.  The Death Knight reached out a hand and picked it up, holding it up to the light.  Is this a piece of my brother?

"I know that bone!" Minerva announced excitedly.  The short, Undead Mage scurried over and snatched it from Decedereful's grasp. "The man always did have a strong jaw," she mused.

Decedereful was confused.  Shouldn't the woman be sad if she'd just found a piece of her late husband?  Surely that's the jaw she was referring to.

"Abigora, would you be a dear," Minerva continued happily, placing the bone back on the ground.

The Night Elf Priest bounced over to the jawbone and frowned.  "I'm not sure if there's anything I can..."

"Nonsense," Minerva interrupted.  "He was only reanimated flesh and bone to begin with.  It's not like you have to reconstruct something living, dear.  Simply summon his spirit back.  The stubborn man will do the rest on his own, I assure you."

Abigora shrugged and raised her hands in front of her.  White Light began to emanate from her fingers as she wriggled them toward the ground.  The bone began to glow.  A soft rumbling started up around them as the small pieces of rubble began clanking together.  It was almost like an earthquake, yet the earth did not move beneath their feet.  Abigora dropped her hands, staring intently at the single bone, bouncing like a jumping bean in the middle of the clearing.

Though the Light faded with the end of Abigora's spell, the vibrations did not.  If anything, they got louder and more pronounced.  Little bits seemed to shoot out from under piles of stone to gather around the bone.  Then began to stack up in a lumpy pile, growing bigger by the second.  As Decedereful watched, astonished, the bits began to stick together and take shape.  A leg here, and arm there.  A... what was that?  The Death Knight decided she didn't want to know.

There was a sound like a thunderclap, and Decedereful blinked reflexively as she was showered with particles.  When she opened her eyes, she was greeted with a very angry Melvin Brightrune, reanimated once more.  The Captain bent down with a look of irritation and grabbed his jawbone.  He snapped it back into place with a sickening pop.  He began mumbling curses.

"Captain!" Abigora exclaimed joyfully.

Brightrune looked around, "How long was I out?"

"Ask your wife," Decedereful replied dryly.

"It was not my portal!" Minerva objected.

The Captain frowned, "That's what you always say."

Minerva glared at her husband, "I brought you back into this world!  I can take you back out!"

Abigora cleared her throat, "Actually, I did that."

Brightrune laughed, "Good to see you too, dear.  Have I told you how much more beautiful you look today?"

Minerva raised an eyebrow, but couldn't quite hide her smile.  As she walked over to give her husband a hug, Decedereful heard her mumbling.  All she caught was: "- liked him better as a pile of..."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Warlock Max Level: Organizing The Spells and FAQ

When I wrote about my experiences leveling on Monday, I got several comments wondering about the spells I hadn't gotten to as well. Now that Fuu and I have hit 85, I wanted to revisit the topic briefly in order to get us on the same page as we head for heroics.  For my part, I probably won't step foot in a heroic for several weeks yet.  Next week I'll be gone, preparing for the holidays, though I may queue a few posts.  Otherwise, I'd like to finish Loremaster of the new areas first.  I only have half of the Highlands and Hyjal to go.  It's not a bad way to level Tailoring and Enchanting either, or to get my gear up to that magic ilvl 329 (when the random will let you do heroics, I hear).  So for anyone who's reading this and also thinking heroics are a ways off, don't worry, I feel ya.

Still, I know there are a lot of people anxious to jump right in, and even if you're not it doesn't hurt to start getting used to the rotation now.  In fact, I suggest it.  I popped into my Demonology spec yesterday just to give it a go and pop in my last talent points.  I'm not sure I like it any more.  Don't get me wrong, the AoE is great.  Demon Leap is fun.  But I don't think I could ever raid in that spec again.  The rotation is extremely clunky, and to put out the DPS, I feel like there really is a lack of control.  Demonology has become the "wild kid" spec, in my opinion.  I'm still going to keep it as my off spec for more perusal later, but I suppose I was just surprised at how much more powerful I feel as Affliction.  More in control.  More dangerous.

I don't want to update my guide just yet, since I'd like to get perhaps a month of heroic running under my belt before I publish what I think is "the" rotation.  Right now, I think there's a lot to experiment with, and a lot of experimentation going on.  So the goal here isn't necessarily to define what's best, but to have a good understanding of our expanded tool box and to be able to began practicing and looking out for what's best for us.

Nibuca has a great (if short), post in which she summarizes her spell list.  It's definitely worth a quick click over there to just look at, because those are exactly the same spells I'm trying to find buttons for.  I mean, it makes sense since we're both Affliction.  It's just always reassuring to hear someone else you know to be a solid player come to the very same conclusions.  So I'm going to take it a step further.  Instead of writing paragraphs about select spells, I'm going to give you the list of how things look on my action bar first.  Then I may touch on a spell or two quickly, but I want this to be more of a "cheat sheet" than anything else.  Feel free to ask for something more in depth about each one, and I can make a future post about it (like macros or something).

First, the numbered buttons.  I use the alt button (it's easy for me to press on my keyboard set up) to basically make each button have two spells.  I'll try to make that obvious:
  1. Corruption with Trinket activation; Alt - Bane of Agony
  2. Shadowbolt; Alt - Soul Fire
  3. Fel Flame; Alt - Soulburn
  4. Haunt; Alt - Curse of the Elements
  5. Drain Soul; Alt - Drain Life; Cntrl - Drain Mana
  6. Unstable Affliction; Alt - Soulburn
  7. Soul Swap
  8. Rain of Fire
  9. Seed of Corruption
  10. Life Tap; Alt - Demon Soul; Shift - Armor Buff
  11. (or the "-" key) Shadowflame 
  12. (or the "+" key) Dark Intent
These are all what I would call "Active" abilities (except for perhaps Demon Armor).  I'm using a SteelSeries MercStealth keyboard, which means 1-10 are all accessible to my left hand.  There is a thumb button that is perfect for holding in Alt.  So basically, I have all that I don't want to click at my fingertips.  You may notice that 3 and 6 both have Soulburn on them.  This is because I may flip flop those two, depending on if I end up using FF to keep UA up, or use a full UA refresh.  I am also contemplating putting RoF and SoC on one button now in order to put my banish macro on a button.  Currently it's clickable.

Which brings me to the clickable buttons.  I use the default pet stuff to control my pet.  I believe you can still use control to trigger these, but I am not a micromanager.  Clicking suffices.  Otherwise, I have four vertical buttons to the left of my step, and one additional 1-10 (not numerically bound, of course) bar across the top.  If anyone is wondering, I use Dominos, but really any bar addon can do most of what I use it for.  These buttons are not necessarily in order, and I'll move them around depending on what makes sense for me.

Up the left:
  • Banish/Focus Macro
  • Fear/Focus Macro
  • Teleport Drop
  • Teleport To
Across the Top:
  • Summon Demon
  • Summon Infernal
  • Summon Doomguard
  • Soul Link
  • Demon Soul - (Sub Button)
  • Hellfire - For suicide or just to freak healers out
  • Soulshatter - Also bound to a number on my numpad so I can bash it if need be.
  • Shadow Ward
  • Summoning Stone
  • Apply Soulstone
  • Use Healthstone
  • Any fight specific ability here
Will sub in or out depending on fight:
  • Unending Breath
  • Health Funnel
Across the top of my screen I have a dimmed bar that contains all my professions and the create soulstone/healthstone spells.

It's a lot to juggle, being an Affliction Warlock.  Our toolbox keeps expanding, and it's good to try to get as many of those near your fingers as possible.  Obviously, I'm not a clicker.  I use my right hand for mousing, movement, and keying in to speak.  Basically, I have two mouse buttons.  One is my vent key and the other is for a mount.  You can hold down both buttons to run, and obviously you can work the camera.  Basic stuff, but worth mentioning.  All the magic happens with my left hand.  

What to Watch For
So what are these research opportunities we have?  I'm going to try to summarize them to kick of a discussion in comments.  There are several debatable issues right now that, while we may have a general idea of what is "best", I don't think they've necessarily been set in stone.  At the very least, you can think of this part as your Affliction Warlock FAQ:
  • Do we keep up the ISF buff, or simply pop it when we can Soulburn? - I think the answer is leaning towards keeping it up.  That means weaving a full SF cast in roughly every 15s.  Unless you get to use one of your instants, that is.  Or you're in heroism (because it doesn't stack).  I would suggest burning and instant right away to get set up.  Finally, I don't think we should worry about this under 25% when we're draining.
  • Do we refresh UA with UA or FF when over 25%? - I want to use FF.  I've heard a lot of contrary arguments in comments here.  See Monday's post.  Right now I think this boils down to personal opinion.
  • Do we use a Succubus of Felhunter at 85? - Unless your group makes extensive use of Seduction, Felpup is the way to go.  Demon Soul is more effective with a Felhunter, though the Succy isn't terrible.  Of course, you have to be sure to use Demon Soul too, whenever it's off cooldown.  I may end up macro'ing the spell with my trinkets or something.
  • When to AoE? - We used to say 3 or more (when not using CC).  I'm curious if this might have changed with Soul Swap.  I find better numbers using SS on most packs unless it's a huge group (like when little packs swarm you or whatever).  Don't be afraid to "not" AoE.  It really has seemed to decrease in effectiveness and is a mana hog.  
  • But how do I Soul Swap effectively? - There's no easy rule for this.  For fights where I know the skull is going down quick, I'll throw up my three DoTs on it and then swap to x and go full bore on x.  You have to be careful with aggro though since the tank isn't likely to look for that.  In a raid, it's not as bad since you usually have a dedicated tank for x.  It's almost like I stay one target ahead for faster stuff.  For slower stuff, you don't really want to give up your Drain Soul ticks, but you want to make sure you don't forget to "inhale" too.  I generally cast my inhale of SS right before entering the 25% phase on trash and then exhale as soon as the bugger drops.  Also, keep an eye out for situations with two primary targets when you can use SS every time as soon as it's off CD to effectively DPS two targets.  Good stuff, love this spell
Any other questions you can think of?  Where do you stand on the FAQs?  Did I miss a key spell on my buttons?  Is this helpful enough to link on the left side (at least until I clean it up and put it in guide form)?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And The Award Goes To...

It's a little known fact (and we like it that way) that every year the various Warlock Councils of Azeroth get together for a fel-studded, gala event.  The purple carpet is rolled out and the edgiest of robe fashion is put on display by some of the darkest and most demonic in the Warlock Community.  It's a night of prizes and surprises, celebrating the most corrupted of Warlock culture! 

I mean, who can forget last year's Your Mom Is A Succubus?  Or the Howl of Terror threat during the show in '07?  And who wasn't riveted in '08 when emcee Impasmic was banished from the stage by the spirit of Medivh, back for a surprise hosting gig?

This year's show is full of promise featuring musical offerings by the Blue Void Group, DJ Elemental Ernie, and the Latin stylings of DG and the Infernals.  Rumor has it that Seven Sexy Succubi might show up for an impromptu dance number, and Hand of Gul'dan is in charge of the pyrotechnics.   Also, a confirmed guest appearance by Cho'gall and the Twilight Hammer Performers promises to make things a bit crazy.  The Covens are hosted this year by none other than Wilfred Fizzlebang and Lord Jaraxxus, whose work inspired us all in last year's Crusader's Coliseum (to not fail, of course).

Recently and exclusively released to KeS! were several of the nominees for Best Quest, Most Gratuitous Gore, and Hottest Supporting Roll.  Our pick to win it?  Well, we don't want to spoil anything, so let's just say that it's our opinion that hot newcomer Fusion Core will be going home with quite a lot of hardware this year.  We even got our blood-spattered hands on several still shots from the nomination video.  How can they not vote for the big guy?!

An inside source assures that all gnomes destroyed in this film were most likely irredeemable.

Green Screen Technology was used when two instances of Mr. Core were required on screen. 

You can see in some of this pre-production footage where they will later add copies of Mr. Core in.
So far, Mr. Core's camp is keeping mum about any potential wins, though one friend close to Fusion told us: "Yo, FC's plannin' a ballin' after-party.  Gon' be a blast!  Hot bodies all up over this be-ach!"  Sounds like you can count us in...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Defence of the Rails

I was going to go a bit silly and lighthearted today, but the first annual Coven Awards are going to have to wait until tomorrow it seems, as I find myself intrigued with another topic.  The bug first bit me when Tam asked who was driving.  Then Larisa followed by musing about the moving walkway.  I found myself biting my tongue, wanting to write a rebuttal, but (because of the work nazis) unable to comment directly.  Thus, a post is born! 

Both basically comment on the linearity of the quests as something bad.  I kept wanting to yell: "But linear storytelling is not necessarily bad just because it's linear!"  They made several other good points about several of the pitfalls, but a lot of it simply boiled down to them feeling uncomfortable with what seemed to be a direction toward linearity, as if linearity itself was some sort of unspeakable evil.  Yet, many of our favorite stories are linear.  Ever read any bestselling thriller?  A vast majority of those are simply roller-coasters in words!  What should matter is if the telling is entertaining and engaging, and both authors readily admit that the current offerings are (for now anyways, we all reserve the right to change our minds later).  In that, I agree and think Cataclysm represents a resounding success in storytelling via quests.  It is a step in the right direction, which is contrary to what it seems that both Tam and Larisa are implying.  

I would tend to agree that too much linearity is bad.  As Larisa points out, this can be somewhat alleviated by other aspects of the game, such as Archaeology.  The major gripe, then is just that the most efficient method of leveling is linear, not that there aren't other options, just that the other options don't provide a lot of experience.  If this is what it's come to to complain about, I would argue that perhaps you're playing the wrong game.  If you want the true sandbox, go play EVE.  If you want an accessible-at-most-levels game, that's where WoW is.  That's what makes WoW popular and successful.  To change that would be to change the identity of the game.  You can make a case for a lot of things that make up the WoW-identity, but accessibility is always going to be a major component.

We can complain all we want about being "too casual", "too easy", and "too linear", but all of those objections are too based in personal opinion to be valid as any kind of universal truth or direction.  After all, what is "too linear"?  The only truth we can consistently state as outsiders about WoW is that Blizzard's design goal is to have the most people have the most fun.  They can't please everyone all of the time, but they do a damn good job of pleasing the majority of the people the majority of the time.

I applaud the direction of the new quests, the cinematics, and yes, the linearity.  Questing, as a result, is efficient and engaging.  If there's one place they might cast Sacrifice of the Sandbox, it should be because of story-telling.  I guess in my mind, questing is the one place where it should be "okay" to skew towards linearity.  It's everywhere else that we should be worried about it.

I'll admit there are places for improvement.  Larisa points out a great one: the need to enable the player to replay cutscenes if they happen to miss one.  What they've done in the past where you can click on a statue on monument to replay a prolific cinematic is a great idea.  Perhaps they could add something as simple as where you talk to Harrison (or whomever), and he says "remember what just happened", showing you the scene again.  That's something that totally needs to be implemented.  Also, I'd like to see more of the storyline where it gives you several different hubs to choose form.  When you were soliciting votes for Ramkahen was a good example of this.  The storyline was still pretty linear, but you had several options.  Little tricks like that relieve the perception of linearity a bit.

Still, at the end of the day, the quality of the narrative should be what matters when questing, in my opinion.  If the design team manages to tell full and engaging story, then we should forgive the linearity and judge the game on its entertainment value.  I feel the urge to channel Maximus Decimus Meridius and ask: Are you not entertained?!  Aren't we, just a bit, worried for the sake of worrying?  The direction of the quests isn't toward "the rails"; it's toward "better story telling", and to get from where they were to here, perhaps a few rails are necessary.  We did, after all, have the railroad before the interstate and free-range chickens.  As technology improves, I believe the perceived linearity will decline.  What we should be most concerned about, though, is that storytelling continues to improve.  To work within Tam's construct: perhaps we need to start with Dan Brown before we can graduate to Shakespeare... and all this is great because we've been in the realm of "Creative Writing Term Paper" for so long.  In my view, we should focus our vigilance on the entertainment value continuing to increase.  If the value for you is purely creating your own experience, then I would argue that you're in the wrong box. 

Perhaps I'm just a smitten fanboy, however.  Tam and Larisa both make valid points, and I realize I'm taking a lot of what they said and generalizing it to the extreme.  However, I also know how generic mass perception works, and so that's really what I'm focusing on.  They may temper their thoughts with rationality, but there are certainly folks out there who won't.  At the very base of what I'm saying is simply that I think they may be nitpicking a bit.  I mean, can't you just be happy with already vast improvements?!  (To be fair, they both indicate they are, I'm just emoting my gut reaction to their posts.)  As a blogger, I know that "I'm perfectly happy" posts don't make for good conversation, so I'm sure they would both readily admit, and do, to not staring any proverbial gift horses in the mouth (as is said); they're simply bringing up great food for hungry thoughts.  And this is me, swooping in to hammer at a counterpoint.  There are two sides to every fence, right?  As for me, I fall firmly on the "Questing is headed in the right direction" side, despite any current perception of "too much" linearity, and I certainly don't think anything done in Cataclysm questing is bad for the MMO genre in general.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Warlock Leveling: The New Spells

A mere 6 days after the official expansion finds me sitting pretty at 84.5 and rising.  I find myself actually feeling a bit saddened that there aren't five more levels.  The experience has flown in, and I've chewed through three zones now (Vash'jir, Deepholm, and Uldum).  I have absolutely loved how Blizzard re-focused on telling a story in each zone.  Each story varies a bit in execution and plot, but they all weave into the larger story well, and make completing each zone desirable.  Where before, it might have been easy to leave a zone after we hit a certain level, I find myself plugging ahead until the very last hub is exhausted and then thinking: "Aw, that's it?"

Questing is not the topic of today's post, however, meritorious though it may be.  I actually wanted to touch on the new spells we pick up along the way as an Affliction Warlock, and how I see them weaving into our rotation.  If you want to know what I'm using as a basic rotation, see my post here.  Otherwise, I'm going to be building upon that with the new abilities given to us.

Fel Fire
The first thing you're going to pick up is Fel Fire.  This spell represents an instant-cast, UA refreshing, green fire spewing button of fun.  It'll hit for direct damage, perhaps half of a shadow bolt, and will tack on additional time to your Unstable Affliction spell.  The add-time is variable, but I've found it to average around 3 or 4 seconds, maxing out at 6 I believe.

To me, this spell is a game-changer.  In our previous rotation, we'd rely on a manual refresh of UA when we're above 25% health (under 25% is taken care of by Drain Soul).  Since the UA spell is not instant, and has no direct damage component, we simply tried to cast as near the end of the first spell as possible for mana efficiency.  UA does not suffer from clipping any more, so there isn't a big downside to overlapping a bit.  Now, with FF, I'm questioning why we would ever want to manually refresh UA again.  I don't have the maths to back it up, but it would seem to me that using FF to refresh UA is really a no-brainer.  You get the added direct damage, and you're not stuck in a cast time (it can be done on the move!).

The trick to using FF appropriately is going to be "use it early, and use it often".  The spell refreshes quickly enough that you can almost spam it (great for kiting in PvP I'd think, along with Shadowflame slowing).  Thus, I've been trying to weave it in whenever UA gets below double digits.  I just look for a window when I either need to move, or I don't have time to squeeze in another shadowbolt before another spell will need refreshed, and tap a FF.  My uptime on UA has skyrocketed to Corruption-like levels (like 98-99% on most fights).  It has also catapulted the spell into my second most damaging spell (behind Corruption and above Shadowbolt).  With FF, there is just not reason UA should ever drop, and early refreshing isn't nearly as bad as with a non-damaging cast time spell.  Most of the time, I can weave a FF in when otherwise I wouldn't be casting (think: while avoiding the bad).

So, for now until I might see research otherwise, I'm using FF to keep UA up as long as the mob is above 25% health.  Under 25%, I let DS do the deed.  The actual UA cast is only done once at the beginning of a fight.  I would suggest just trying to weave FF in whenever UA gets low.  As I grow more comfortable with the spell, I'm going to let it tick closer to 0, but for now I've been starting to think about weaving it in any time UA is under 10 seconds, just because I don't trust myself to go lower yet.  The closer you can get to full UA uptime, the better your damage is going to be.  Just try to be clever about when to weave FF in and not get in the way of your spamming. 

Improved Soul Fire
Depending on how you spec, the second rotation-changer you should pick up is Improved Soul Fire.  This talent tacks on a "buff" component to our pre-existing Soul Fires.  It's not a new spell, but a new benefit to a spell we should have been using anyways.  With the instant-cast SFs provided by burning a shard, this is something we're going to want to try to make use of at least three times every fight.  (There is a trick to weave a fourth in, where you basically "preburn" a shard, regen it really quick before you're engaged in combat, and then lead off with an instant SF, but I'm not to that level of comfort yet.  Get down the basics first, say I). 

Since ISF basically provides us with a 15 second haste buff, it's good to use this anytime you'd get the most out of haste.  Heroism/Bloodlust are right out, since it doesn't stack with either of those (Fixed, via comments).  Also, it can help early ramp up.  For simpilicity, you can think of it like using a trinket, or like how we used to keep the life tap buff up.  For longer fights, I don't think it's practical to try to keep it up perpetually, as most fights are longer than 45 seconds, making that impossible (or even 60 if you've managed to "cook" one).  Thus, I would shoot to use one at the beginning, then perhaps in the middle when you get a good chance to sit and spam, then one at the end right as you go into the Drain Soul phase of our rotation.  Each time, use your instant cast Soul Fire.  I don't think it's worth it to use a regular Soul Fire for the 15s buff, but theoretically you could do that to keep it up.  I just think the long cast time sort of precludes this.
Dark Intent
The final spell does not really affect our rotation, but it does require a bit of knowledge to use properly.  At 83, we get Dark Intent.  I've never been a big fan of 'lock buffs, since that's not really what we do, but Dark Intent is perfect of the spirit of our class.  It lets you "link" with one other member of your party, sharing a base haste boost.  In addition, whenever a DoT crits for one of you, you both get a stacking (up to 3x) buff that increases DoT damage in general.  This is good stuff!

In order to get the most use out of our new-found buff, we'll want to link with other dotting classes.  The more chance we get at DoT crits, the better, right?  Oh, and I forgot to mention, it doesn't just take DoTs into account, HoT's count too!  Thus, you could share this with a healer to the same potential effect as a DPS.  So which classes should we look for?  A shadow priest would be high on my list.  A Druid healer would also be great.  An unholy DK wouldn't be bad either.  Heck, try a prot or ret pally, they always seem to have a decent uptime according to my recount.  Stay away from mages!  Also, be wary of putting it on another Warlock as the effects don't seem to stack (not sure how they work if you both have try the same target).  Basically, just try to figure out who in your party might use DoTs or HoTs the most.  I think casters tend to benefit the most from haste, so I'd give them priority over melee types, though this may not always make the most sense.  The more dotty the person you link with, the better its going to be for you, and isn't it so delightfully warlocky that we wouldn't help someone else unless there was something in it for us?  Splendiferous, I tell you!

Clearly, Blizz did a great job in adding to our arsenal.  Fel Fire seems to be a great spell, and ISF (though I may cringe at essentially being forced to spec into it) gives us some interesting decisions to make.  Finally, we got another buff that is useful and properly warlocky at the same time.  What's more, we get all these things and they really do more to make our lives easier at 85 than harder.  The rotation is still challenging, but these abilities don't really add a whole lot of complication to what we already had.  Still, they will take some getting used to.  I've shuffled a few buttons around and am trying my best to get used to it now, while leveling, so I can take trained fingers straight into raiding.

All of the above is simply based on my play experience and toying around with things.  I haven't really had the chance to do in-depth numerical research yet, so if you see I've made guffaw, please let me know and point me in the right direction.  Otherwise, I think it's a pretty accurate picture of what we should be trying to do to prepare for life at 85.  After I hit 85 and feel a bit more comfortable with everything, I will be updating my rotation article linked to the left up there, but for now I'm just passing along my leveling musings.  Any other tips or new spells that I missed?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Living the Dream

Fulguralis was surprised to wake up. The last thing he remembered was a very large, steel jawed dragon, and then the world exploding in a brilliant orange inferno.  Apparently he'd survived.  Rolling over, he began to brush ash off his tattered robes.  He would need new ones soon.  Facing the Lich King and then being torched by a berserk dragon was a bit more than they could apparently handle.

The Warlock sat up and took in his surroundings.  Green seemed to be the common thread here.  There were green trees, green grass, even the usual brown of the trunks looked a bit green.  In fact, the air itself seemed a haze of green.  Fulguralis frowned in consternation.  Where on Azeroth was he?  Everything was vaguely familiar, yet different.  Each blade of grass, each tree, appeared so uniform as to seem nearly unnatural.  The entire effect was unsettling, especially for one who appreciated a bit of corruption now and then.  Where were the decaying logs and choking weeds that normally characterized a forest?

"Ah, there you are," a silky female voice emanated next to him.

Fulguralis looked around for the source of the sound, but saw nothing.  "Excuse me?" he asked the air, feeling foolish.

"I've been looking for you, Fulguralis," the voice said pleasantly.  This time, though, it wasn't close by, but at a distance directly in front of him.  If the Warlock squinted, he believe he could make out a female elf standing beside one of the too-perfect trees.  "Looks like he got to you just in the nick of time," she said, observing him from a distance.

"Who are you?" Fulguralis yelled.

The night elf lifted a leg to take a step, and then in the next instant was standing directly before the Warlock.  Fulguralis blinked in surprise.  The woman had covered the sizeable span that had been between them in an eyeblink.  Was she a mage?  He narrowed his eyes and studied her.  The task was not altogether taxing, as the scantily clad elf was rather easy on the eyes.  In fact, as Fulguralis gazed, she reminded him very strongly of another "elf" he'd once met: Alexstrasza.  Except this iteration was a bit darker of skin, and her revealing armor was more nature themed.  There was a plethora of green trim, and small vines seemed to sprout out of what looked like wooden shoulder pieces.  Fulguralis's eyes narrowed further.

"What do you want, dragon?" the Warlock asked guardedly.

The elf smiled warmly, "It's the horns isn't it?"  She pointed, indicating two very un-elflike horns that sprouted from the side of her head and swept back dramatically.

"Sure," Fulguralis answered.  How had he missed those?  Maybe that's why they wear the suggestive armor...

They stared at each other for a long moment, dragon studying human.  Human studying dragon.  In Fulguralis's experiences, dragons were rather slow in getting to the point, and this one seemed a bit more distracted than most.  He supposed that when time was as malleable as it seemed to be for dragons, one didn't think much of wasting it.

He cleared his throat. "What, um, do you want?" he repeated.

"Oh, dear me," she said, jerking as if snapping out of a trance.  "I nearly forgot you were there... a lot on my mind, you see," she said apologetically.

"Who are you?" Fulguralis asked curiously.

She smiled warmly at that, "You may call me Ysera, the Dreamer."  She inclined her head a bit.

"Ysera," Fulguralis repeated thoughtfully.  "Yeah, I think we've met before.  Something's different though."  The Warlock puzzled for a moment, then offered, "Did you get a new haircut?"

The dragon blushed, "You could say that."

Fulguralis nodded.  "So, Dreamer, where am I and what do you want?" Fulguralis pressed.  Now that he recognized her, he recalled from previous interactions that she could be a bit spacey.  Probably a side effect of being in charge of the Emerald Dream, he suspsected.

"Why, in the Dream of course," she replied, gesturing with spread arms.  "As to what I want... well now, that's a good question.  What do I want?"  Fulguralis frowned as she brought an arm to her chin to think.  "Valentis!" she yelled suddenly, and the sound reverberated through the Dream.

A large wolf, standing upright like a man, popped in next to her.  "Blast it, Ysera!  You don't have to bite my bloody arm off.  I'm right here!"

Fulguralis knew that muzzle, thought the voice was pitched a bit differently.  "Mr. Wow?" he ventured.

Ysera turned to regard the wolf with a raised eyebrow.  Fulguralis could have sworn he saw a lupine blush.  "Yes, well..." the wolf stammered.  He walked quickly up to the Warlock and stuck out a paw.  "Valentis Browncoat, at your service... as it were."  Ysera was still staring at the wolf with a look of mild amusement on her face.  Valentis turned back to her and threw up his arms, "Oh get stuffed, Ysera!"

Ysera giggled a bit, and then turned back to the Warlock.  "Valentis here got a bit sidetracked by a pair of pretty eyes from what he was supposed to be doing."  She frowned at him.

The wolf looked down at his huge feet, "Yes, I suppose I bodged it a bit."

"That, you did," Ysera nodded.  "However!  Where another might see failure, I see opportunity!  Valentis shall accompany you back to your own time and world.  I suspect you will need all the help you can get if you're to save Azeroth!"  With that, she spun on a heel and disappeared with a pop.

"Wait a minute," Fulguralis cried out, holding up a hand.  "Save Azeroth?"  When Ysera did not return, he continued, "You didn't even tell me what you wanted."  The Warlock stood up and sighed.  Dragons...

"Well then," Valentis spoke up, "best stop fannying around and get on with it, eh?"

Fulguralis eyed the wolf skeptically.  He thought he could place the accent now.  "You're Gilnean, aren't you?"

Velentis nodded, "Guilty as charged."

"I thought you all were still stuck behind that wall, keeping to yourselves," Fulguralis pointed out.

Valentis shook his head, "Sorry to break it to you mate, but the wall's fallen.  We're all bumming around Darnassus these days."

"Well, that'll be a bit of a change.  I'm surprised the elves let you in," the Warlock observed.

Valentis chuckled, "Yes, they do tend to be a tad blinkered, don't they?  Still, I think you'll find quite a lot has changed once we return to Azeroth."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Aptly Named: Throne of Tides

Elkagorasa talked about it yesterday here, but I wanted to quickly share my experiences with the Throne of Tides.  Fuu and I teamed up with guildies to give a new dungeon a try.  At the time we were all level 81 and that means there were only two dungeon choices.  We settled on Throne of Tides.  We grouped up, then attempted to queue for it...  Wait, what is this?  Someone does not meet the requirements?  But we're all level 81 and still (at least partially) raid geared.  How can this be?

Recall that there is that little new criteria that you have to have discovered the entrance once before you'll be able to queue for a dungeon.  So our first adventure quickly became: how the fel do we get to this so-called Throne of Tides?  Fortunately, there are those among us that see large whirlpools and think "hey, I bet that'd be interesting to swim into."  Don't ask me why.  That person is not me.  I see giant swirling death.

So, fortunately, there was one among us that knew to use the huge oceanic toilet to get to the dungeon.  Yeah, the one smack in the middle of the Shimmering Expanse in Vash'jir.  You can't miss it.  Those cursed Naga are attempting to burrow into the Water Plane and all that jazz.

Having found the entrance, we proceeded to use the stone to summon folks like myself who were wary about said large vortex (also, who were not nearby).  Once the five of us were together, we ventured in.  The first thing that was said over vent: "Eww, tentacles".  Yes, there are two wavy tentacles that block off a side passageway each.  The initial path in this dungeon is straight ahead.  Some trash and a quick ride on a jellyfish brings you to a second level where you continue through several fights to the last room.  Killing the boss in there will send you back to the front, since the tentacles will have left, opening the final two wings.  We went right and then left, as I think you're supposed to do.  It can be a bit confusing, especially if, like us, you try to do it without consulting any online resources (but you're here now! ha ha!).

Elk does a great job of running through the bosses and important mobs in the bottom half of the post I linked above.  I'm not going to redo the good work.  I will say, however, that you can pretty much wing each of the fights.  Especially if you have DBM.  It'll warn you about the thingy that requires interrupting, as well as warn about some of the harder hitting abilities.  In part raid gear, part leveling gear, it was pretty easy, though not without some close calls.  A great first instance, say I.

There are two tips I want to give that may not be obvious.  The first is to use the teleporter to get back after the tentacles are gone.  There is a two-point teleporter in this dungeon.  Waiting on that damn jellyfish is stupid.  At least, we all got impatient.
The second is that after the final boss makes you huge, don't just stand around gawking at each other and going "well this is cool, but why do we still have a DoT on us?"  Because that's what we did.  We didn't see the huge sucker-mouth-thingy up on the wall that was spewing... ink (?) and death at us.   Since the debuff appears to stack, we were fighting a losing battle after we'd stood dumbstruck for half the fight.  We burned and, somehow, I was the only one left standing.  We still won though.  Just... look for the sucker mouth.  It's up on the wall.  Sucker mouth = bad.  Dunno how we missed it.

Finally, not really a tip but a general observation, we did make use of some CC and "old" tactics here.  We did a few LoS pulls.  We sheeped some things.  While we probably could have gotten by without CC, I think it definitely made things smoother.  I've definitely not been enticed to spec into fear yet, but I've found having my Succubus tends to be great as she'll pick out the rogue adds and seduce them.  Heck, sometimes we'd not be aware she had a caster all riled up on the other side of the room: "Oh, there's another add left."  Dirty, dirty Succubus.

So if you're looking to shuffle things up with a dungeon run, Throne of Tides is a great place to start.  Easily do-able for folks in the 80-82 range.  Good experience, some decent drops.  Nothing to write home about, but it gets the party started.  Rather well designed, visually appealing, and boss fights that are engaging without being gimmicky.  Just make sure you give yourself a swirly to get in.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head to the RL throne room.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Morning After Pill

Well, we binged yesterday. I find it's good to indulge in a true binge every now and then.  Generally, we're quite responsible about our gaming hobby.  We keep it to a few hours a night, depending on other obligations.  We still go out in the world and interact.  We know our neighbors, we're involved in our community, etc etc snore snore.

Yesterday I ate at least two dozen Pixie Stix, downed a good sixer of caffeinated beverage, ate pizza at the keyboard, and played from just about 8AM till 11PM.  We took an hour break for a shower and a quick trip to a nearby brewery for grub and beer, then came right back to it.  The result is that I now have a level 13 Worgen Druid (balance) and my 'lock is halfway to 82.  The DK, sadly, has been untouched as of yet.  PvP will just have to wait.

Personally, I think binging is good to do every once in a while.  It sort of get's it out of your system.  I feel a lot less antsy today at work (though admittedly still pretty antsy) than I otherwise would have felt had I not put in a marathon day yesterday.  Also, I'm a firm believing in experiences that you can talk about later.  Who doesn't love "back in the day" stories... even if you're supposed to "know better".

Anyways, I wanted to relate my reflections from the morning after the one day stand.  I'll keep the thoughts brief, because work apparently collapses if I'm not here for a day (aka, I'm swamped).  Here we go:
  • Spawn rates are ridiculously high.  Sometimes, it can be frustrating as you can't get the mobs to leave you alone.  It's great when you're in a highly populated area though.  I assume they'll crank it down eventually, so if you want to avoid frustratingly high spawn rates, give it a couple weeks.
  • Lothar went through the transformation completely stable as a server.  We've had no queues and no crashes as far as I'm aware.  Really, just about all you could ask for in a launch.  Flawless.  Never seen anything like it.  Maybe a bit of lag here and there, but totally playable.
  • Starting zones are crowded, as expected, but the extensive use of phasing really hides it from you.  Sure I see a bunch of people, but it's only really the people that are within 10 minutes of the same place I'm at in the storyline (especially Worgen-wise).  I love what they've done here.  Sure, there are some natural chokepoints, but for the most part it feels populated without being overwhelming.
  • My first Warlock point was spent in Bane.  I'm filling that up first.  I already had Shadow and Flame filled.  Then I'm getting the Improved Soul Fire talent.  Haven't looked to see when I get my new spells, probably should do that.
  • I'm levelling as Affliction for now.  With Fuu and I working together, stuff still seems to die pretty fast.  I may switch to Demo eventually, but I want to get more comfortable in the new-ish rotation.  I'm also trying to weave Soul Fires in as if it provided a haste buff, just to try and get used to what will be.
  • We started in Vash'jir.  Beautiful.  Well designed.  Tons of fun.  I love the 3D environment too. 
  • Sadly, I've already gotten greens to replace a lot of my raid gear.  I've broken up my 4 piece bonus and don't even have it enchanted yet.  Apparently higher end raid gear doesn't last very long.  I'm way under hit cap, which is cool because I'm 81 now, so we can still raid old stuff and I don't have to worry about misses.  Plus, you shouldn't be facing anything more than 2 levels above you if you're instancing either.  Keep an eye on your hit value, but you should only need to cover two levels which isn't really all that much.
  • I feel like I'm missing something with enchanting.  I got a few new patterns and the mats are stacking up in my bags, but I can't enchant anything with new mats that is under ilevel 300.  The drops are only 275 right now.  So I basically can't level it unless I use old mats, which I'm getting none of.  Seems kinda dumb to me, but eventually I suppose I'll be fine.  And there's always vellums.
  • Fighting over Herb nodes is ridiculous! When you first catch a glance of a yellow dot on your screen you better drop what ever you're doing and gather it or you'll be out of luck. Funny story: (This is Fuu btw) I saw a node so I swam to it. Well with our "lovely" High Spawn rates, I had two Naga chomping at me when I finally arrived. Normally, if there is just one, I can Hammer of Justice it, Gather, then continue to kill the mob. With two, you don't have that luxury. I knocked one of them out and attempted to gather. The other took a potshot at me before I finished gathering. To my dismay, a druid watched this entire thing waited until I got interrupted and then sneaked in and picked it before I could do anything about it. TL;DR Don't meander over to a node thinking that 5 others aren't frantically fighting over it already ;-)
That's all for now.  Gotta run.  You guys got any informative or entertaining reflections?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy X-pac!

Quick post today, because I want to get down to playing. Fuu and I definitely stood in line last night. The thermometer read 14 degrees. There were only about twenty of us at the Best Buy. Not a huge party, but a small crew of dedicated people.

Heck, we all probably could have stayed in our cars, but you have to get in a line, right? We got a free poster and our CE with a regular box on the side. Did the opening last night. Great stuff. I actually got a Warlock starter set out of the cards, so I'm super pysched about that. I love the art books that Blizz does. The Starcraft one was great, and this one doesn't disappoint. The mouse pad is also gorgeous, and I know Fuu is enjoying the pet. We have the music cranked up.

So, yes, the CE is totally worth the $30 for us. So was going to a midnight opening, even if we couldn't play right away. We opted to catch some sleep and hit it early this morning (instead of try to go at 3AM... it is the middle of the week!).

Anyways, our server is up (and apparently stable!) and I'm standing next to Prince Liam Greymane as I write this, listening to him yell stuff.  Mr. Wow has a name now :-).  Our plan is to level through the Worgen starting zone, and then get going on our mains.  Pizza and caffeinated beverages stock the fridge.  It's going to be a good day!

So happy gaming blogosphere.  We'll be down there in the trenches with you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

X-pac Eve

A holiday in its own right, X-pac Eve is upon us.  Fuu and I plan to be bundled up outside of the Westfield, Indiana Best Buy promptly after our raid ends (so a bit after 11pm).  I'm going to try to wear my red Alliance Lion baseball cap (if it's not too unbearably cold) that says "Fulguralis" on the back.  You probably won't be able to see the T-shirt I have as well (also with my name and realm on the front, but black), you know, due to the coat and layers.  Still, if you're in the area and want to say "hi", look for the red hat.  I was sad when no one found me at GenCon, but then again, the only person I know that plays WoW that lives sorta nearby is Abi of Kungaloosh.  Well, and one of my guild mates who I work with, but I see him every day.

In any case, we'll be in line at midnight.  One CE and one regular edition on pre-order.  I'm not sure whether we'll stay up another three hours, waiting for the midnight hour to reach the west coast.  We might just nap and wake up early to get on.  We did take the day off.  Either way, there will be Pixy Stix, Mountain Dew, and Pizza!

Speaking of taking the day off, how many of you guys are?  Is it something you're open and honest about: "Yes, I'm taking tomorrow off to play a video game?"  I'm of two minds about it. 

On one hand, I feel that its my personal day, I should take it however I want and you shouldn't judge.  Hence, personal.  Still, people, being people, will judge.  And, like it or not, video games are still not judged a viable hobby.  Yet, that's exactly what it is!  The guy who sits next to me takes entire days off to go sit in a box and shoot at deer.  Is that any less valid?  Does anyone here accuse him of being "addicted" to hunting?  No, because deer hunting is an accepted (and almost expected) hobby around where I live.  Midwestern boys are expected to have shot a rifle by the time they're 18.  Don't ask me why, I didn't make the rules.  I didn't get my first hunting experience until I was 20.  I was the same way with rollercoasters: totally late to the party.  And flying on a commercial plane.  I didn't do that for the first time until I was in college either.  Tell people those things and they look at you funny.  Kind of like how they look at you when you say you're going to take a day off to play a video game.  Or that you write novels in your spare time.  ("Like... wrote a book?  Why?"  I'm batshit crazy, that's why.) 

I get a bit riled up about it because: Hey! Accept my hobby too!  At the same time, I get it.  I may not like that society has yet to accept gaming as a valid hobby, but I get it.  It's nothing new.  If anything, it's a lot better than it has been in years past.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, right?  So, I don't trumpet the information.  I simply say I'm taking a personal day.  I don't elaborate.  I'm not an activist here, I don't need to march for anything.  I'm not preforming a "game-in" tomorrow as a form of peaceful protest.  It's not for them.  It's for me.

Gamers catch a bad rap.  A few bad apples have set expectations for us to be slovenly and unproductive members of society.  It doesn't matter if that's anywhere near the truth, it's a stereotype.  And there's probably a certain amount of truth to every stereotype.  It's just that the generalization doesn't appear to keep up with the changing reality.  Maybe there was a time when all gamers were unkempt and overweight, but that's simply not the case today.  What is the norm of gamer culture?  Are we steampunk?  Are we goth?  Are we nerds?  Don't we have everything from hard-bodied military types to cuddly old grandmothers (or, crotchety if you prefer)?  Parents playing with children.  Families kept together despite distance?  Is there even a "norm" anymore?

After re-reading the above... maybe I'm really of just one mind.  It certainly does evidence a clear bias: I'm a gamer and I'm not ashamed of my chosen hobby.  I will stand out in the cold for a midnight release, "just 'cuz."  I will take a day off to enjoy my hobby.  I take good care of myself, my wife, and my career just fine, thanks. 

My solution remains the same as it's always been: honesty.  I may not run around the office babbling about my midnight plans, but I'm not going to hide it if you ask me either.  So far it's served me well, and I suppose that I've been lucky.  I know a lot of people that would get canned for being so honest, and I feel for them.  I get it, though; I'm fortunate to not be in such a situation.  One should never be held accountable for something that has no affect on their work.  Whether you want to make real sandcastles, or virtual ones, it shouldn't matter.  It's a hobby.

So this X-pac Eve, wherever you are, I hope it finds you in good health and good spirits.  Those of you who can celebrate, celebrate extra hard for those who can't.  I'll certainly tip one back for the closet gamers out there.  And, don't worry, the pizza's on pre-order. 

Happy Expanding, Azeroth!