Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Druid Digest Service Outage

A belated Merry Christmas to everyone and a slightly premature Happy New Year!

You may have noticed over the last several weeks that Druid Digest was offline. Unfortunately, the website was accidentally flagged by one of Blogger's blog crawling robots as spam and immediately yanked from the web. Apparently, this is a rather common occurrence. At the moment, it appears as if that problem has been resolved and, hopefully, we will not encounter any similar snags moving forward.

I wanted to provide this information both to explain the website's temporary absence and to provide advice and information to other Blogger users who find themselves similarly situated.

The process for getting a robot tagged website back online is only slightly cumbersome. First, if the Blog is still on your dashboard, follow the Restore link. Second, follow the steps on the Blogger Help Forum as outlined in my help request. The sooner you complete those steps, the sooner your Blog will be reviewed and back online, so doing all of them at once is highly recommended.

As for how long these little snafus will put your Blog out of commission, it is hard for me to say. Druid Digest had the unfortunate distinction of ticking off the robots right before Christmas, so the two weeks it was down might be slightly exaggerated. Blogger says it will process review requests within two business days, but that does not appear to be the case 100% of the time.

The best piece of advice I can give you if you find yourself in this position is stay calm. For at least twenty days, your Blog still exists even if you or anyone else is unable to access it. It is not gone forever. Follow the protocol, make polite, informative posts in the Help Forum and wait it out. You will be back online before you know it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How to Beat Deathbringer Saurfang in ICC 10

In World of Warcraft patch 3.3, Blizzard unveiled the first section of Icecrown Citadel's raid instance, the Lower Spire. The Lower Spire consists of four boss encounters including Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Icecrown Gunship Battle, and lastly, Deathbringer Saurfang.

Though each of the Lower Spire encounters is challenging in its own way, odds are, Deathbringer Saurfang will present the gravest threat to your raid. This is because, though the fight appears rather simple, unless each role is executed flawlessly, the combination of Saurfang's heal mechanics and Mark of the Fallen Champion will leave your raid dead and disappointed.

Below is a quick guide to defeating the Deathbringer in ICC 10 man. Some of the advice will also apply to 25 man and feel free to modify the strategy to fit your raids particular strengths. This is not the only way to defeat Saurfang, but it certainly appears to be one of the easiest.

1. Raid Stacking

The first key to defeating Deathbringer is having the right combination of classes and roles on board. To efficiently take down Deathbringer, you will want the following in your raid:

2 x Tank
2 x Healers
6 x DPS

Many people hit a wall with Deathbringer because they bring too many healers. Though it may not appear so because of relatively slow damage output, the Saurfang encounter is one long burn phase that requires huge amounts of dps. Replacing your third healer with a dps works because burning Saurfang quicker greatly reduces the healing needed at the end of the fight. I would recommend bringing a healer with a geared dps offspec whenever you go to ICC 10, so that they can make the switch for this encounter. Keep in mind, two healing this encounter is challenging, so you will need very solid healers to pull it off.

2. Positioning

Deathbringer should be tanked right where he spawns facing directly back towards the door he came out of. It is important that he be facing right at the door, because that will make managing the Blood Beast spawns infinity easier. Melee dps will obviously want to stand directly behind Saurfang. Healers will stack on top of melee dps.

Ranged the ranged dps will form a large arc around Deathbringer, being sure to stay at least 15 yards apart from each other so as to prevent Blood Nova damage from becoming an issue and giving Saurfang extra Blood Power. At the point of the semi-circle preferably put a Mage or Elemental Shaman. To either side of that point your ranged dps will fan out in semi-circle.

All raid members should spend as much time as possible in these positions so as to limit the effectiveness of Blood Nova and to make the Blood Beast burning as quick and efficient as possible.

3. Managing Blood Power

The central mechanic of the Deathbringer Saurfang encounter is Blood Power. Most of Saurfang's abilities, as well as the attacks of his summoned minions, cause him to generate points of Blood Power. These points increase his damage done, but even with full Blood Power, his output is more than manageable. Blood Power is a problem because every time Deathbringer reaches 100 Blood Power, he resets his counter to zero and casts Mark of the Fallen Champion on a random raid member. Mark of the Fallen Champion not only does very large amounts of damage, but also generates Blood Power every time it procs. As a result, Saurfang's Blood Power generation rate increases exponentially every time a Mark is applied.

To prevent your healers being overwhelmed by Mark of the Fallen Champion damage, it is then important to minimize Deathbringer's Blood Power generation whenever possible. Staying spread out is step one as Blood Nova AoE damage gives the boss points of Blood Power. The second step is properly dealing with the Blood Beasts.

4. Blood Beasts

One of the most important elements of this fight are the Blood Beasts Saurfang summons every 30 seconds. In Icecrown Citadel 10 man, Deathbringer will summon two Blood Beasts at a time, one directly on his left and one directly on the right. The Blood Beasts do relatively little damage and have no remarkable special abilities other than a resistance to AoE damage, but every time they do damage, Saurfang gains a point of Blood Power. As a result, one of the keys to this encounter is killing the Blood Beasts quickly and preventing them from attacking anyone.

To minimize the Blood Beasts attacks, they must be stunned as much as possible and burned immediately. Have your raid focus fire on the right Blood Beast, then the left. While the right blood beast is blown up by your dps, have a Rogue or other class with a decent disable mechanic incapacitate the one on the left. If necessary set up stun rotations to maximize Blood Beast down time. Do not forget your tank's stuns either as they will easily be able to turn and hit the Blood Beast where it stands.

The Beasts are also susceptible to snares and stuns, so Frost Traps and Concussive Shots are a must. This makes kiting the Blood Beasts directly back another viable strategy if your raid is low on stuns. The Blood Beasts have relatively little health and if your dps is tuned to the encounter, you should be able to burn them well before they threaten your kiter. If you are having trouble, make sure all dps is switching as soon as possible and is doing single target dps to the focus target.

5. Rune of Blood

Fairly frequently, Saurfang will cast Rune of Blood on the tank. This causes the Deathbringer to heal himself for 10% of the damage he does to that target. Back when 3.3 was released, it was 5% so many raids went with only a single tank. Now, however, tank swapping is necessary and the tanks will need to taunt back and forth to take Deathbringer's attention off of whoever has the Rune.

If a taunt fails or a tank is down, one can still mitigate some of the effects of Rune of Blood by using damage reduction cooldowns when the Rune is active. Since the healing received is tied to the damage done, less damage converts to less healing. Saurfang's overall damage on the tank is low and steady enough that you should be able to save some of your damage reduction effects for limiting his Rune of Blood heals.

6. Mark of the Fallen Champion

Once Saurfang reaches 100 Blood Power, the first Mark of the Fallen Champion will hit one of your raid members. If you have been minimizing Blood Power gains and your dps is geared enough for the encounter, Saurfang should be at around 50-60% health before this happens. At this point, your raid needs to make an important choice: keep them alive or let them die.

If one of your miscellaneous dps gets the Mark and dies immediately, Saurfang loses the benefit of the Blood Power he would otherwise get from the Mark. This means your raid will have significantly more time before a subsequent mark drops, but you will be sacrificing a dps for that luxury. Base this decision off the strength of your heals and dps. Also, when someone with Mark of the Fallen Champion dies, Saurfang regains 5% of his total health, so keep that in mind as well.

Regardless, Saurfang will reach 100 Blood Power again and a second Mark of the Fallen Champion will hit someone. The same choice presents itself again, but it will be exceptionally challenging to counteract Saurfang's heals with two dps out of commission. Usually after the third Mark, but almost certainly at the fourth, the healing required becomes too much and your raid will wipe. It is therefore critical that you prolong the time between Marks by limiting Blood Power gains and burn the boss hard.

Before you even try it, keep in mind that the Mark cannot be erased. Even if a player dies and is resurrected, they will still come back complete with the debuff. There is, unfortunately, no way around it.

7. Frenzy

At 30% health, Saurfang goes into a Frenzy, increasing his attack speed by 30%. This increases the Tank's incoming damage as well as the damage done to raid members with Mark of the Fallen Champion as the debuff ticks are tied to his melee attacks. Additionally, he will be gaining Blood Power from his melee attacks and the Marks 30% faster. If that is not enough to deal with, he will also be procing his Rune of Blood heals 30% quicker meaning the hill your dps has been climbing the whole battle will become slightly steeper.

During the Frenzy, the Tank's incoming damage should still be manageable, but the Marked raid members will need noticeably more healing. If Blood Lust or Heroism is available, using it during the Frenzy is advised.

8. Boiling Blood

Boiling Blood is a damage over time effect Saurfang will occasionally apply to random raid members. Its ticks grant Blood Power to Deathbringer, so shedding it however possible is advised. A priest's shield will also absorb the ticks and prevent Blood Power gains, so having a Discipline Priest makes this encounter much easier. Otherwise, the target raid member will simply need some attention from the healers.

9. Concluding Tips

The combination of Frenzy and the exponential increase in Blood Power gains caused by Mark of the Fallen Champion means that your attempts will generally not fall apart until the closing seconds of the encounter. It is not uncommon for Deathbringer to take a group that is doing "well" and quickly blow them up when he is at less than 5%. Do not get discouraged and just remember that this fight is all about the details. Even one or two unnecessary Blood Power points can make all the difference. With a little practice, precision, and encounter appropriate gear, however, you will down this Deathbringer in no time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

World of Warcraft Patch 3.3 Trailer

Since all the official World of Warcraft website have become barely accessible, I figured I would embed the 3.3 Trailer here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Here is hoping that the servers come back online sooner rather than later. I know I am eager to see what Icecrown Citadel has to offer.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great World of Warcraft Websites You Have Not Visited

Every World of Warcraft player worth his salt knows about major World of Warcraft online resources like WoWHead, Wowwiki, or MMO Champions. Did you know, however, that there is a whole other world out there of fringe Warcraft websites that slides by unseen by most of Azeroth's population. Below are links to some of these hidden gems. Prepare to be in the know...

WOW Jackass

Ever been the victim of a ninja looter? Ever wanted to reach through your monitor and slap that jerk in trade chat? Are you tired of Azeroth being a world without consequence or personal responsibility? If so, WowJackass.com is the website for you!

Using a slightly clunky interface WOW Jackass allows you to call out a player who has wronged you for all to see. You can also review and respond to others comments or check to see if a given player has ever been reported on the website. Unfortunately, the website is not yet well known, so there are relatively few reports. The concept, however, is great and if the website can generate additional traffic it could be a dream for PuG organizers and guild leaders everywhere.

World of Warcraft Unofficial Papercrafts

Yes, you read that correctly. There is an entire blog devoted only to making World of Warcraft items out of paper. Now, before you dismiss the concept completely, let me assure that what these paper wizards manage to whip up is at the apex of nerd cool. If you give the website a look, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed. To add a cherry on top of this delightfully geeky sunday, there are free patterns a plenty to be had should you want to attempt making your own paper masterpieces.

Some of my favorite loose-leaf Warcraft toys are the Paper Kael'thas and the Paper Moonkin. Again, did I mention how cool this website is?

WoW Drama

Admit it, we have all laughed at others' World of Warcraft misfortunes at one time or another. So long as it is not coming from us, QQ can often be quite entertaining. The good folks over at WoW Drama have taken that concept and run with it by devoting an entire website to celebrating all brands of World of Warcraft drama.

Whether it is screen shots of egregious acts of ninja looting, a video of a classic Warcraft meltdown, or a Ventrilo recording of a seriously burnt out raid leader, you will find it all at WoW Drama. The website is relatively well designed and good for more than a few laughs. You should definitely check it out.

WoW Item Creator

This website is less an overlooked gem than a forgotten World of Warcraft classic. The website lets you generate the flavor text and stats for any item or ability you can imagine and then makes it look like a real World of Warcraft item. There is fun to be had both in creating realistic items in an attempt to outdo the developers and in creating crazy items to try and get a laugh out of yourself or your friends.

If you are not a creative type, there is an option to peruse, comment on and rate the creations of others. There are plenty of gems to be found here. I would offer the Crotch Seeking Missile Launcher and Gnome Buster as examples. Sure it is nothing more than World of Warcraft Build-A-Bear, but who doesn't enjoy Build-A-Bear?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Onyxia Quick Tips

After getting some positive responses from our Trial of the Crusader Quick Tips guide, I have decided to follow it up by giving Onyxia's Lair the same treatment. As with that guide, the tips below do not cover every intricacy of the Onyxia encounter, but they should give you the knowledge you need to prove a valuable member of any Onyxia raid.

Onyxia's Lair Trash Tips:

Tanks: The Onyxian Warders have a large aggro radius and long paths so pull carefully. Off-tank should pick up a second Warder if it patrols into the group. Point the Warders away from melee dps.

DPS: Stay behind the Warder's because they cleave.

Healers: AoE heal the melee dps through Fire Nova. Tank will be taking relatively heavy damage.

Onyxia Phase One Tips:

Tanks: Main tank should run right down the middle, straight through Onyxia and back into the back wall. Use mitigation cooldowns on the pull and right before Flame Breath casts. Off-tanks watch your aggro and pick up whelps if needed.

DPS: Wait until the tank has turned Onyxia before getting close to avoid a Tail Sweep. Stand on her left side between where she cleaves and her tail swipe.

Healers: All heals on the tank. Big heals after Flame Breath.

Onyxia Phase Two Tips:

Tanks: Grab whelps from openings in the cavern's sides and draw them to the center for AoE. One tank grabs Onyxian Guardians who spawn at entrance and tanks them near where they enter. Other tank(s) help dps Guardians and pick up later whelp spawns. Move yourself and your aggro target to the side of the cavern when Onyxia "takes a deep breath."

DPS: Ranged and Melee AoE the first whelp spawn. Ranged burn down Onyxia stopping only to AoE whelp spawns. Melee burn down the Onyxian Guardians as quickly as possible and help with whelps when idle. Move to the side of the cavern when Onyxia "takes a deep breath."

Healers: Assign a healer to each tank. Be prepared for heavy tank damage especially from Guardians. Stand in the center as much as possible to help whelp gathering. Move to the side of the cavern when Onyxia "takes a deep breath."

Onyxia Phase Three Tips:

Tanks: Main tank needs to be ready for Onyxia to land at 40% health. Bring her back so she is cleanly facing the back wall. Use fear avoidance/breaking abilities before Bellowing Roar. Off tanks should pick up any remaining whelps or guardians and tank them away from Onyxia. Off tanks should watch aggro on Onyxia.

DPS: Stay out of Onyxia's way as she is being positioned to avoid being hit by Cleve or Flame Breath. Kill any remaining whelps and Guardians before targeting Onyxia. Stand at Onyxia's side to dps. Use fear negating abilities on the tank.

Healers: Stay out of Onyxia's way as she is being positioned to avoid being hit by Cleve or Flame Breath. Heal your target tank until adds are dead and then focus heals on main tank. Stand on Onyxia's side. Use fear negating abilities on the tank. Cast protective spells and HoT effects on the tank right before Bellowing Roars.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tips for Creating a Successful Guild

Running a successful World of Warcraft guild takes a great deal of time and effort. With proper planning, the right attitude and a hearty helping of patience, however, anyone can sit atop the guild of their dreams. Below are some tips to help you make your World of Warcraft guild leader dreams a reality.

1. Decide What Type of Guild You Want and Plan Accordingly

What makes a guild "successful" is inherently defined by the drive of its members. If a guild exists only as a social space for friends, the bar for success might be as low as having a couple bank tabs and keeping everyone happy. On the other hand, a progression guild might only be successful if it is capable of clearing the latest raid content or if it can master challenging achievements. Lastly, a leveling guild might solely be judged by the size of its membership.

If you have low expectations for your guild, your initial effort and ongoing administrative burden will similarly be low. If, however, you plan to compete with the top guilds on your server, you better be prepared to do your homework and put serious time into keeping your guild rolling. Make sure to not bite off more than you can chew while similarly not falling short of your own reasonable expectations.

Contemplating the kind of guild you want is also important in that you must be able to clearly express your expectations for the guild to potential members. If you do not have a clear idea of what goals you have for the guild, it is going to be impossible for other players to know if joining your guild will help them further their own personal goals.

2. Choose a Reasonable Name

John Locke once said that there is much in a name and that holds true for guilds as well. Though you and your friends may find the name "ZomgPawners" hilarious, odds are you will have a harder time recruiting your server's top players into a guild where the first impression your name creates is "these guys are ridiculous."

If you do not care about your guild's "status" or the size of its membership, the name you pick is largely irrelevant so long as it is not obscene or a violation of the World of Warcraft Terms of Service. If, however, you want to grow your guild, try to pick a name that will appeal to a broad audience. Lacking inspiration, try paging through a dictionary to get your creative juices flowing.

3. Form, Then Fill

Every guild, no matter its type, starts with 10 signatures on a Guild Charter. Many players make the mistake of trying to track down the entirety of their guild's membership BEFORE the Guild even exists.

If you are truly committed to forming your own guild, do not get too hung up on who signs your charter. Obviously, if you have friends or acquaintances who are on board and available, may as well have them be founding members. Otherwise, any warm body will do. Targeting new players and or offering a gold or two per signature can quickly fill your charter and have your Guild ready for business.

4. Offer Guild Benefits to Draw and Keep Members

Though there is a great deal to be said for the sense of community and organizational benefits a guild provides, that is not enough for most players. If you want to draw quality players into your guild, you are going to need to offer perks.

The perks start with a guild bank. A well stocked, multi-tab guild bank with reasonable use restrictions is a must for any respectable guild. Be certain to protect the bank from ninjas by restricting access to new members, but also do not preclude its use entirely. Give your members the trust they deserve, but nothing more. A guild tabbard is also a nice touch even though most high level characters will neglect it entirely. For a leveling or PvP guild, however, it is nearly a must.

If you are serious about your guild competing with the big boys, you will need to offer meta game benefits as well. For any serious raiding guild, a Ventrilo server is a necessity. You can purchase these servers for only a couple bucks a month from companies like Dark Star Communications. A website will also go a long way towards boosting guild communication and organization. There are many free guild website hosting providers available. I generally recommend Guildtag.com as they offer lots of customization options at a truly free price point.

5. Screen Applicants Carefully

Never forget, your guild can never be more successful than its members. If you are only looking to create a large guild, go ahead and invite whoever you can. If, however, you are trying to form a raid guild of any kind, quality is always superior to quantity. It is better to have a strong core group of players and have to PuG a couple slots for raids than to have bad attitudes and lazy players poisoning your guild. Eventually, the quality players you meet in those PuGs can be brought into the fold. It will take a while for your guild to be independently raid ready, but the results will be well worth the extra time and effort.

6. Be Flexible

As your guild grows and changes, it is important that your leadership grow and change with it. Allow trusted members to take on certain guild administration responsibilities. Modify schedules, raid targets, and policies as needed. It is your guild afterall, but unless you are flexible and adaptive, it will ultimately be a guild of one, sitting in Dalaran and wondering what might have been.