Friday, December 31, 2010

Warcraft New Year's Resolutions

It is a time honored tradition that at the beginning of a New Year, people make pledges to do or stop doing things so as to make the coming year better than the last.  In keeping with that trend, I decided it might be entertaining to put together my list of World of Warcraft New Year's resolutions.  Feel free to read them through and maybe even adopt them as your own after the bump.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Druid Digest Mailbag: Archeology Digging and Gearscore Rigging

Happy holidays everyone! I get a lot of questions from readers via email and respond to every one. The other day, however, I was thinking that other readers might have the same questions and might just not have taken the time to ask. Towards that end, I have decided to start a new segment on the blog called the Druid Digest Mailbag.

Your questions will be the stars of these posts, so please submit any questions you might have to me at Put "Druid Digest Mailbag" in the subject line and I will do my best to work your question into my next post. Check out our first group of reader submitted questions after the bump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cataclysm Heroics: Making Better Raiders?

Let me say right off the bat that I do not believe that Cataclysm Heroics are overly difficult.  I also, however, do not side with the camp that argues they are too easy.  Can they be rolled by a well geared raiding guild?  Of course they can.  Do they pose a significant challenge to a randomly assembled crew fresh out of the normal dungeons?  You better bet they do.  With that in mind, are these five player instances serving their purpose?  I think they are and find out why after the bump.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cataclysm Faction Rewards for Balance Druids

World of Warcraft Cataclysm introduced a number of new Factions that players can improve their standing with through questing and/or wearing special reputation tabards while running level 85 instances.  The other day I presented a list of all the Cataclysm Faction Rewards for Feral Druids.  Today I will be giving Balance Druids the same treatment.  Find out what faction gear every Moonkin will want to get their hands on after the bump.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cataclysm Faction Rewards for Feral Druids

World of Warcraft Cataclysm introduced a number of new Factions that players can improve their standing with through questing and/or wearing special reputation tabards while running level 85 instances.  Each of these Factions offers a variety of powerful rewards, but it can be tough to sift through them to decide which Faction has the most to offer your particular class and spec.  To make things easier for my Druid brothers and sisters, I have done all the leg work for you.  Check out my list of Faction reputation gear for Feral Druids as well as my recommendations for advancing your factions after the bump.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Best Feral DPS Spec in 4.0.1 and Cataclysm

In light of all the positive response to our post on the Best Feral Tanking Spec for 4.0.1, I decided to give our friends on the Feral DPS side of the coin the same treatment.  As with Feral tanking, there is currently one clearly superior spec for cats in Cataclysm.  There is, however, a little wiggle room especially in terms of which talents to pick up before reaching 85.  Find out why I choose these talents and which you should pickup today after the bump:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Moonkin Pet Now Available

A couple of new additions have just arrived in the Blizzard Store, one of which will be of particular interest to all the Druids out there.  Head on over to the Store now to check out the Moonkin Hatchling.  You can even feel good about your purchase as 50% of the sale proceeds go to benefit the Make a Wish Foundation.  Check out the little bundle of joy in the video below.

Along with the Moonkin Hatchling, holiday shoppers can also get their hands on Lil' Ragnaros.  Following in the tradition of Lil' XT and Lil' Kel'Thuzad, this raid boss turned companion makes an adorable addition to any pet collector's stable.  Unlike the Moonkin Hatchling, this pet's sales don't contribute to any cause besides Blizzard's coffers.  Feel free to take the tiny Fire Lord home, but don't think your doing anyone else a favor.  Check out Lil' Ragnaros' hammer tossing skills in the video below.

Would you ever spend your hard earned cash on an in game pet?  Do you plan to pick up either of these offerings?  Let me know in the comments.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cataclysm is Coming

We are now officially only one week away from Cataclysm's release, so it is time to nail down your plans for the opening days of the expansion.  Some people may elect to race to level 85 as quickly as possible, either to simply get straight to the new endgame or to compete for prestigious Realm Firsts.  Others might be planning to take their time, soaking in all the new content.  Still others may still be unsure of what exactly they want to do come Cataclysm.

For my part, I have a couple goals for the expansions early days.  At one point, I had toyed around with the idea of racing to level 85.  My best estimate is that a competitive run from level 80 to 85 would take me about 36 hours of marathon play.  I seriously considered it, but have decided against it for a couple reasons.  First and foremost, I'm not as young as I used to be.  At one time, a 36 hour gaming marathon would have been no big deal.  I could have managed it without excessive fatigue or headaches and could have bounced back after just a few hours sleep.  These days, however, I could see the process becoming agonizing.  I would also probably render myself useless for the next week.

Another reason I have elected not to rush to 85 is that I really do not want to trivialize all the new content.  I was in the beta and toyed around with it enough to know that there is a ton of fantastic content coming our way in Cataclysm.  Blasting through to level 85 would make that content more of an obstacle than an experience.  I remember racing to level 70 when Burning Crusade was released and, when I was done, being stripped of any desire to go back and actually experience that content.  Further, I was so burnt out from the process of getting to level 70 that I was not all that into raiding for the month or so that followed.  I plan to learn from that lesson in Cataclysm.

Now that I have gone over what I will not be doing in Cataclysm, I guess it is time to write a bit about what I actually will be doing.  Just because I will not be racing to 85 doesn't mean I do not plan to do any racing.  I hope to race to max out my Herbalism and maybe, depending on how things are going on December 7, to max out my Alchemy as well.  That way I can land (or at least compete for) a "Realm First" Achievement without losing a whole day and my sanity.

After my profession blitz, I plan to approach Cataclysm the same way I approached Wrath of the Lich King.  I will gradually quest and instance my way to 85.  When WotLK came out, I pledged to read every piece of quest text as I pushed to 80.  The result was one of the best leveling experiences I have ever had.  For anyone who is interested in World of Warcraft's story, I would encourage you to make the same promise to yourself.  You will be setting yourself up to really stretch the value of Cataclysm and also to have a rich and fulfilling leveling experience that will have you good to go when you reach endgame.

What are your plans for Cataclysms early days?  What is the first thing you will do come release?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Deathy the Murlock Video

Those who attended Blizzcon this year or who paid for the digital download were treated to yet another in game Murloc companion.  This years pet is Deathy and he is clearly a fan of Deathwing, Cataclysm's main antagonist. 

Currently on the live realms, Deathy shares animations with the Murloc Space-Marine, but Blizzard has promised unique animations are on the way.  Thankfully, the good folks over at MMO Champion have put together a video showing us what to expect from this pint-sized world destroyer.

Is this one of the coolest pets ever?  I think so, but be sure to tell me what you think in the comments.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Balance Druid Rotation in 4.0.1

In World of Warcraft Patch 4.0.1 Balance Druids were given a new resource to manage in the form of an updated Eclipse mechanic.  As a result, Moonkins find themselves quickly trying to smooth out a new rotation.  Lucky for you, I have already done the heavy lifting.  After the bump, you will find everything you need to know about the Balance Druid spell rotation in Patch 4.0.1.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Best Feral Tanking Spec for 4.0.1

Now that we have gone through how to Feral tank in patch 4.0.1, now it is time to make sure our talents are in the right place.  At the moment, there appears to be one clearly superior spec for Feral tanking.  Though there is some room to tweak the talent layout to suit your preferences and play-style, this spec will serve you well in terms of survivability and threat generation.  Find out why I choose these talents after the bump:

Blizzard Has Plans to Save Inscription in Cataclysm

For those of you who were worried that the new glyph changes would drastically harm Inscription as a profitable enterprise in Cataclysm, it's time to worry slightly less.  Blizzard has just announced that after level 80, swapping out a glyph will require a new reagent called Dust of Disappearance. 

Though Dust of Disappearance will be sold by NPC Inscription vendors, it may also be made by scribes.  Unlike with Vanishing Powder, however, Dust of Disappearance's 10 gold vendor price should still leave room for scribes to turn a profit by undercutting the greedy NPC's.  Feel free to check out the official announcement on the forums.

It will be interesting to see how the dust settles for Inscription.  Theoretically, the same number of Glyphs will continue to be produced as scribes level up their profession.  Unfortunately, however, since the small market of players who swapped glyphs on a regular basis has been eliminated, demand will ultimately drop.  This should tank prices.  I am skeptical that Dust of Disappearance will make a huge impact on scribes' wallets, but Blizzard has frequently implied that they are none too concerned with the ability of the crafting professions to turn huge profits.  Thankfully the current glyph boom should last well into the early months and diligent scribes may be able to make an expansion's worth of profit in the coming weeks alone.

Feral Tanking Guide for 4.0.1

After a brief sabbatical, I have returned to Druid Digest just in time to help you sort through the confusion that is Patch 4.0.1 for World of Warcraft.  As anyone who has logged onto the realms recently can tell you, World of Warcraft's mechanics have drastically changed.  This is particularly true for everyone's favorite fur balls: Bear Tanks.

Don't panic though.  Many have speculated that these changes may lead to the extinction of Feral Tanks, but I am here to help put those rumors to rest.  Feral Tanks are every bit as viable as they were before the pre-Cataclysm patch.  Are things more difficult?  Absolutely, but using the tips I have outlined below, you will be back out there as a clawed threat machine before you know it.  Read on after the bump.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cataclysm Druid Armor Set Bonuses

I am a big fan of armor set bonuses.  They present Blizzard with the opportunity to gift new and interesting class mechanics upon dedicated raiders.  When we review the List of Druid Set Bonuses, we see that the developers have frequently taken advantage of the chance to flex their creative muscles.  The transformation of Enrage into a defensive cooldown in tier ten, the instant cast Starfires in tier eight, and critical Rejuvenation ticks in tier nine; each succeeded in changing the way a particular spec played.

The problem with tier bonuses, however, is that each new one must be bigger and better than the last.  An inferior set bonus can easily turn a new raid set into a total dud.  With Cataclysm on the horizon, Blizzard once again has the challenge of crafting a new set of mechanical goodies to accompany the expansion's first raid set.

Unfortunately, no word has yet been released on what Cataclysm's tier set bonuses will be.  Nevertheless, what's to stop us from coming up with our own tier bonus ideas.  Seeing as this is Druid Digest, I thought it might be fun to come up with some hypothetical Druid set bonuses for as of yet unreleased tier eleven.  Check out my ideas after the bump and feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dual Specialization Price Reduced in Cataclysm Beta

The price of learning a second class specialization has just dropped in the Cataclysm Beta.  Where as the feature costs 1,000 gold on the live servers, the Beta price has been reduced to only 100 gold.  It is unclear at this point whether the change went into place simply to facilitate more specialization testing within the Beta or whether it is ultimately intended to go live.

Personally, I really hope that the change is a legitimate re-evaluation of the feature's price.  At level 40, 1,000 gold is a pretty heavy price, especially for characters which are not being supported by a level 80 sugar-daddy.  I also firmly believe that the dual spec is a welcome convenience which greatly benefits the entire World of Warcraft community.  More people being able to afford a second spec can be nothing but good in my opinion.  Then again, as a chronic altoholic and hybrid class aficionado, my opinion may be slanted.

Guild Recruiting the Right Way

Recently, I have been posting a lot about guild management.  This is because, as of late, fulfilling my Guild Master duties has been sucking up tons of my time.  Holding a guild together during the transition between expansions is tough.  Growing it is even tougher.

As the last breezes of summer stir a wildfire of raid fatigue, I am frequently finding myself short raiders for our guild 25 mans.  As a result, my leadership team and I have sprung into recruiting mode.  We have been at this long enough to learn there is a right way and a wrong way to go about building your raiding guild's roster.  After the bump, I'll offer my lessons learned by providing tips on how to recruit for your guild the right way.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pet Reward for BlizzCon 2010

World of Warcraft fans who attend BlizzCon this year will be awarded with a brand new in-game companion.  His name is Deathy and he is a baby Murloc fashioned in the style of Cataclysm's antagonist Deathwing.  For Starcraft II fans, a Murloc character portrait and logos will be gifted as well.

Live feed subscribes will also gain access to both rewards so those who can't make it to the West Coast still enjoy both the fun and prizes.  I for one just hope this new pet isn't too loud.

Follow Druid Digest on Twitter

I am pleased to announce that Druid Digest is now on Twitter. 

Follow us through @DruidDigest to get regular updates on World of Warcraft, Cataclysm, and the website.

Which World of Warcraft Twitter posters should we follow and re-tweet?  Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Symbiosis in Warcraft: Building the Perfect Guild

Symbiosis is a biological term used to describe the interactions between different living organisms.  Generally speaking, three different kinds of symbiotic relationships exist within the natural world: mutualistic, commensalistic, and parasitic.

Now you may be asking yourself what in the world all this has to do with guild management.  Well, within the ecosystem that is World of Warcraft, a guild can easily be likened to a living organism.  It moves, grows, and seeks to fill various needs.  Similarly each guild member also exists as an independent organism.  The relationship between a guild member and a guild can then logically be defined as symbiotic.  After the bump, we'll walk through the different kinds of symbiosis and how, through a World of Warcraft lens, each type can help or harm your guild.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hot Video: Dark Pheonix Mount

The good people over at one of my favorite World of Warcraft websites, MMO Champion, have just posted a video of the model for the new Dark Pheonix Mount.  This mount is set to be available as a reward through Cataclysm's new guild leveling system.  Once a player's guild has leveled up enough, they will be able to purchase this mount provided they have the funds and guild reputation required.  Check it out:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Planning for Cataclysm

There are rumors that we may be playing Cataclysm as early as this November, so it is far from too early to start planning to get the most out of your fresh Goblin or Worgen.  For those of you who are serious about making the push to level 85 with one of Cataclysm's new classes, a little preparation can make all the difference.  After the bump you'll find my tips for getting your new character off to a great start when Cataclysm ships.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Druid Changes in the Current Cataclysm Beta Build

A new build has just been launched for the Cataclysm Beta and with it a number of significant Druid changes have been unveiled. First and foremost, Druids now join Hunters and Rogues in being able to remove Enrage effects using a revamped version of Sooth Animal called simply Sooth. More raid utility is always a good thing.

Most of the other significant changes are for Ferals.  Looking at Feral tanks, two major cooldowns have seen a big shuffle. Frenzied Regeneration has now absorbed the effects of Survival Instincts and will not only convert rage into healing, but will also increase a bear's maximum health by up to 30%. As a result, Survival Instincts has been retooled to simply reduce all incoming damage by 60% for 12 seconds. This makes Survival Instincts an even more valuable ability for bears, so Blizzard has extended its cooldown from 3 minutes up to 5. Lastly, Enrage has been altered to increase damage received by a flat 10% rather than decreasing armor.

Moving next to Feral dps, Savage Roar has been changed to increase auto-attack damage by 50% rather than increasing all damage by 30%. The net result is that allowing this buff to fall off is slightly less detrimental to a cat. The bonuses for Master Shapeshifter have also been increased to 4% and Furor now allows for up to 100 Energy to be preserved and raises the chance of shifting into Bear Form granting rage to 100%.

The bear form changes are certainly worth getting excited about. Assuming that the Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration survives in Cataclysm, Feral tanks will be in possession of one of the most potent tanking cooldowns in all of Azeroth. The Survival Instincts change will also be a benefit, though I personally will miss seeing my health top out at over 100k when I pop it.

Which changes have you the most excited? Are you worried about the new Savage Roar mechanic? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Best Balance Spec in Cataclysm

UPDATE:  A new Guide to Balance Druids for 4.0.1 has been posted

Over the past two days, I have laid out the ideal raid specs for Feral DPS and Bear Tanks in Catalysm.  Today, I turn my attention to our feathery Moonkin friends.  The Cataclysm Balance tree contains tons of interesting and entertaining talents, but in terms of maximizing your general raid performance there seems to be only one way to go.  Check it out after the bump.

Friday, August 13, 2010

No New Raids Before Cataclysm

Blizzard poster Zarhym announced yesterday that Blizzard has no plans to release any new raid content before Cataclysm hits shelves.  Though there will be a final major content patch before Wrath of the Lich King bites the dust, no raid will be included.  Instead the patch will simply introduce some of Cataclysm's features to the live realms.  Feel free to read Zarhym's post to confirm the details for yourself.

Odds are, this announcement will only exacerbate the feelings of burnout sweeping across Azeroth.  With each passing day, more and more raiders are deciding to take a break from World of Warcraft until Cataclysm hifts.  At this point, Blizzard can only hope that Cataclysm packs enough punch to bring everyone back.

Best Feral DPS Spec in Cataclysm


Continuing my rundown of the ideal Feral Druid specs for Cataclysm, today I will be laying out what I believe to be the best Cat Form spec.  As I mentioned in my post on the problems with the Feral Tree in Cataclysm, there are not very many talent options for Feral dps in the current 31 point talent setup.  As a result, I believe that this spec is not only the best Cataclysm Feral DPS spec, but it may in fact be the only one that makes any sense at all.  Check it out after the bump.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Best Feral Tanking Spec in Cataclysm

UPDATE: There is a new Feral Tanking Spec Guide for 4.0.1
UPDATE: Be sure to check out our new Feral Tanking Guide for 4.0.1


Yesterday, I made a post about the problems with the Feral talent tree in Cataclysm.  Today, I will be addressing the less problematic of the two Feral specs by laying out the optimal Feral Druid tanking talent spec for Cataclysm.  Check it out after the bump.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Problem with Cataclysm's Feral Tree

Several weeks ago, Blizzard announced they would be reducing the size of talent trees in Cataclysm.  Rather than capping at 51 points, the depth of the trees would be reduced to 31 points.  Since at least a 31 point investment investment in a single tree will become mandatory, players have a maximum of 10 points to distribute outside of their primary tree.

These changes were made with the intent of increasing player choice.  Basically, by simplifying the trees and cutting out both fluff and mandatory talents, players should be more free to spread points amongst the remaining talents as they choose.  This attempt at enhanced flexibility has been mixed in its effectiveness across different classes and specs.  Unfortunately, it has failed miserably with respect to one particular talent tree: the Feral Druid tree.  Find out why after the jump.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heirlooms Will Work in Cataclysm

Blue Poster Lylirra announced yesterday that the current heirloom items will continue to function in World of Warcraft Cataclysm.  However, the equipment will provide extra experience only up to level 80.  At that point, you will need to get your hand on Cataclysms new heirlooms which will likely be available through both the guild perks system and another system similar to what is in place now.

Obviously, this announcement is great news for players interested in leveling up a Worgen or Goblin when Cataclysm arrives as they will be able to do so up to 25% faster.  I am curious to see how/if the new heirlooms will be superior to the old ones beyond the ability to provide experience all the way through level 85.  How would you improve them?  Let me know in the comments.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Unintended Consequences: Why Badges and Expansions Don't Mix

Many World of Warcraft players these days, especially those on the higher end of the raiding spectrum, have been taking vacations from Azeroth.  Claiming everything from burnout to boredom, there is a certain dissatisfaction amongst the harder-core adventurers that has lead large numbers of raiders to hang up their epic boots until Cataclysm.  This sort of migration is not at all uncommon in the summer, where real life events and trips hinder raid scheduling.  Further, a certain sense of player fatigue near the end of an expansion's shelf-life is to be expected.

This time, however, something seems different.  Rather than being limited to just a hand full of progression pushers, even middle tier raiders are feeling the need to spend some time without their spellbooks.  Some have speculated that this migration is simply a sign that the level of Warcraft participation has reached the top of its bell curve.  I, however, believe that certain design choices made in Wrath of the Lich King as well as changes planned for Cataclysm have contributed to the recent decline in player activity.  Find out what they are after the jump.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Original Video: Mulgore Changes in the Cataclysm Beta

I have been bitten by the video creation bug and have produced another Cataclysm Beta video. This one showcases some of the changes coming to Mulgore complete with narration.

As always, feel free to leave suggestions or requests for future videos in the comments.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Original Video: Goblin Starter Area

Rather than just writting about the Goblin starter area, I figured I would take a hand at putting together Druid Digest's first ever original video! The video is just a series of fun clips from the Goblin starter area and is spoiler free. Enjoy!

If you would like to make suggestions for future videos, please leave a comment.

Can't Train Skills in the Cataclysm Beta

Sadly, there is a major bug in the current build of the Cataclysm Beta that is preventing a number of characters from training any skills. Apparently any character with two primary professions is unable to learn any new skills. Specifically, the "Train" button in the interface accessed at a skill trainer will be permanently grayed out so long as the user has two major professions (such as Alchemy and Herbalism or Inscription and Enchanting).

This poses a significant problem for copied characters, especially considering that some low level skills need to be relearned after coping. As an illustration, my initial foray into the Cataclysm Beta yesterday was limited to an overview of Cataclysm interface changes because after setting up my Druid's Feral Tanking Spec I came to realize my toon had forgotten how to shift into Bear Form and I was unable to retrain it. Bummer...

There is a workaround for those who can't wait for the bug to be fixed. If you delete one of your two professions, the trainers resume working properly. I will be waiting a little while to see if the problem gets ironed out as I don't want to preclude myself from testing out what Cataclysm has in store for both Herbalism and Alchemy. If you aren't that into testing professions, however, and want to jump right into your new skills, can a primary profession and be on your way.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cataclysm Hunter Starting Pets List

Before creating a Goblin I took some time to toy with the Cataclysm Beta Character Creation Screen. While doing so, I put together a list of the new Hunter starting pets. In case you didn't know, in Cataclysm, each new Hunter starts out with a pet right at level one. To find out which pet each race starts with, check out the list below.

Orc: Black Boar

Tauren: Plainstrider

Troll: Red Raptor

Blood Elf: Dragonhawk

Goblin: Crab

Worgen: Mastiff

Draenei: Moth

Night Elf: Nightsaber

Dwarf: Black Bear

Human: Wolf

Undead: Bat

Also, if you are wondering how you are supposed to control your pet at level one, check the Beast Mastery tab in your spellbook. For some reason Blizzard decided not to have the classic pet control bar visible by default so your pet appears to be autonomous until level ten. By clicking the control ability in the spellbook, however, your pets bar will magically appear. I would imagine Blizzard will fix this before release.

Cataclysm Interface Changes

After hours of downloading and installing I was finally able to make my way into the Cataclysm Beta. The first thing I did was hop on my Druid to check out some of the changes to the interface. You may be surprised to hear that my Druid was right where I left him, sitting by the bank in Dalaran. I suppose that only those who log out in old world Azeroth will see themselves relocated by the Cataclysm.

Aside from a strikingly empty Dalaran, the first thing I took a look at was the character panel. As you can see from the screenshot below, it has been updated and improved in a number of ways. First, the detailed information has been moved from two windows below the character portrait to a vertical frame on the portrait's right. Each individual subsection can be minimized so you only need to see what you want to see. Second, a shadowy race specific mural now sits behind the character portrait. It is a nice touch in my opinion.

Next, I took a look at the Cataclysm Spellbook. Blizzard has made a number of great changes here. First, as you'll notice below, you can now see not only your trained spells, but also your trainable spells. The spells surrounded by gold are those currently available at your trainer while the greyed out spells are only available at higher levels. This is a handy feature in that you no longer need to consult a trainer or internet guide to know when the spells you crave will become available. Second, there are no more spell ranks; your spells now simply improve on their own as you level.
If you were wondering about the little Professions tab at the bottom of the Spellbook, it leads you to the new Professions Window pictured below. I wouldn't say a new Professions Window is really something World of Warcraft fans have been clamoring for in Cataclysm, but it is still a welcome addition.

I then made my way over to the talent window to go about reallocating my talent points. When you first enter the talent screen you choose your spec using the screen shown below. As explained in a number of Blizzard posts, you are then held to that specs tree until you have invested 31 points. I think the initial spec choice screen is a nice touch that will really help out newer players. I then went about building an ideal tank spec which I will walk you all through in a later post only to discover that my Bear Form had been untrained so, off to Thunder Bluff I went!

Once in Thunder Bluff I was disappointed to find that the Druid Trainers were broken so I would have to be without my precious Bear Form for a while. Nevertheless, I did manage to see my first "Holy Cow," Tauren Priest Trainer, Tahu Sagewind. I also flew around Thunder Bluff for a little bit, for those who are curious, no special training or anything was required. Perhaps later some gateway to flying in old Azeroth will be added, but for now you can fly free as a bird (pun intended).

With my lack of Bear Form cutting my Druid antics short for the moment, I turned my attention to the Horde's newest, shortest members: the Goblins. If you want to hear about how that went, check out my next post.

Also, if you would like any questions answered about the Beta or if there is anything you really want to see, let me know. Either leave a comment or send me an email to and I'll be happy to share the information you desire a future post.

Cataclysm Beta Invite!

I appologize for the break in my posts, but I have been on an extended vacation. It was lovely, thanks for asking. Upon returning to the comfort of my email inbox, I was delighted to find that Blizzard had left me a welcome back gift: a World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Beta Test Invite!

Needless to say, I was more than a little suspicious. I have, in fact received a number of "invites" since Cataclysm was announced. Often they contained broken english, ridiculous claims, or links to websites that were poor imitations of legitimate Blizzard fare. This one, however, caught my eye both because of how it was constructed and the fact that it was sent to my official email.

To avoid becoming a victim, I did not click any of the links in the email and immediately hopped over to the official website. I logged in, clicked my account and grinned from ear to ear as I saw the Cataclysm Beta as one of my available games. It was real; Cataclyam Beta here I come!
The first thing I did was move to the character copy section to get a couple of my toons in the que to be duplicated on the Beta servers. There are a limited number of copies allowed per account during the life of the Cataclysm Beta, so I started conservatively by only moving two toons. My super beefy Druid and a well equiped and funded Warlock alt. The character copy page advertised an hour wait for copy requests to go through, so it was time to download the Beta client.
The initial client download, which can be done through, took a while, but the real bear so far has been the patches. All in all, I would say it has taken around twelve hours to get the Cataclysm Beta up and running. Now I am fully patched and ready to log in, but I had to pause to update my loyal readers. Stay tuned over the next several weeks as I plan to keep you updated on each step I take through the Beta. Here we go...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

News Coverage of Blizzard Real ID Disaster

Blizzard is currently deleting each and every forum post attempting to express how bad of an idea the planned mandatory use of players real names on the World of Warcraft official forums is. At the moment, a thread mentioning Real ID is unlikely to survive more than thirty seconds and the mods' ban hammers are being wielded liberally. Some of those fallen posts contained links to news coverage of Blizzard's poor decision and I was quick enough on my feet to reproduce them here. Enjoy!

BBC News - World of Warcraft maker to end anonymous forum logins

USA Today - 'WoW' studio Blizzard to require real names on forums

ABC News - Bye-Bye Trolls? Blizzard Forums to Use Real Names

CVG - Fans rage over Blizzard forum plans

PCGamer (UK) - Why Blizzard’s new forum plan is an epic fail

The Register - Blizzard exposes real names on WoW forums - WoW Real ID: A Really Bad Idea

Ars Technica - Blizzard: post about StarCraft 2? Use your real name

Gamespy - Blizzard to Require Real Names on Official Forums

Kotaku - Blizzard Forums Will Soon Display Your Real Name

Kotaku - Blizzard's Real Name Forum Policy Has Fans In An Uproar

Joystiq - Your real name to appear on Blizzard's official forums

Inc Gamers - Blizzard Going Too Far With Real ID?

MTV Multiplayer - Blizzard Cracks Down On Anonymity In Official Forums - Blizzard forces users to show real names: Internet security they have heard of it

Product Reviews News - WoW Real ID System: Security Flaw Found

ITWorld - Blizzard to share your name with angry video game nerds

Voodoo Extreme - Is Blizzard's Real ID Safe, Or A Playground For Sexual Deviants?

Voodoo Extreme - Blizzard Forums To Require Use Of Real Name, Rage Ensues

Examiner National - World of Warcraft Players WoWed by Blizzard's REALID announcement

EuroGamer - Blizzard forums to require real names

GameFocus - Blizzard To Kill Anonymity On Forums

Strategy Informer - removes "veil of anonymity" on forums, real names used

HuskyStarcraft - Blizzard Forums: First and Last Names [VIDEO]

AusGamers - Blizzard Switching Forums to Real ID System

Australian Gamer - Blizzard decide to give out subscribers' real names

It doesn't exactly make for happy reading, but at least Blizzard now knows that not only the "small but vocal" population that uses the official forums thinks this is a bad idea.

Fight Back Against Real ID on Warcraft Forums

Yesterday morning, a bomb went off on the official World of Warcraft forums in the form of an announcement that the use of players real first and last names would become mandatory on the forums. Though a handful of players agreed with the change, a massive tide of hate has been flowing towards Blizzard since the reveal. Feel free to check out the official announcement and the well over one 21,000 posts which have followed it to see the outrage for yourself.

Many speclate that this is a first step towards making the use of real life first and last names, or Real ID, mandatory in game. As a parallel, started out as "optional" for World of Warcraft players, but now it is a prerequisite for play.

As players' frustration about the looming change grows many people are stuck as to what to do about it. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to express your displeasure at Blizzard's decision about how to govern the use your personal information. First, consider lodging a complaint with the ESRB. All of Blizzard and Activision's major game related websites are Privacy Certified by the ESRB. If you feel the changes coming to the World of Warcraft forums run afoul of that certification, file a complaint using the ESRB's Online Complaint Form.

Second, voice your concerns on the official World of Warcraft forums. The change to using real first and last names has not happened yet and old posts will not be modified when the change occurs, so your personal information is not yet at risk should you post. The posts expressing outrage at Blizzard's proposal have likely already exceeded one hundred thousand, but each customer who posts makes it harder for Blizzard to argue that they listen to their subscribers and address their concerns.

Lastly, if you are incredibly passionate about the issue, you may need to vote with your wallet. I do not plan on canceling my subscription, I will simply forever forgo posting on the official forums. Should, however, Blizzard decide that my real first and last name ought to become a part of my actual game play, I will immediately walk away. I also will be forced to leave should my inability to post on the support forums prevent a technical issue from being timely resolved. You may feel more strongly than I do, however, and decide that either the decision itself or the direction it indicates Blizzard is taking is contrary to your preferences. I know a couple of my in game and online friends decided enough was enough and are in the process of cancelling their subscriptions. As a heads up, many of them have reported that the cancelation system is backlogged because of the announcement.

In light of the overwhelming criticism this decision has been buried with, it will be amusing to see if Blizzard cares enough about its forum community and player base to back pedal. I do not suspect they will. At this point, I can only hope that the mandatory use of players' real first and last names on the official forums will be the only terrible decision Blizzard makes in the near future.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cataclysm Feral Tank Spec

This post is based on the old talent lay out, hop over to my updated Best Feral Tank Spec in Cataclysm for a current one!

Some people might call me crazy, but in my opinion it is never to early to start planning out your Cataclysm specs. Towards that end, I have decided to start laying out what I believe will be the "cookie-cutter" Druid specs when Cataclysm comes out. To start things out, here is my ideal Feral Tanking Spec for Cataclysm. (00/55/21)

In my design of the spec, I was looking both to maximize bear form survivability and threat generation. First, let's look at the Feral tree. In tier one Ferocity, goes a long way towards reducing rage consumption allowing a bear tank to utilize more abilities without running low on delicious rage juice. Well worth the full five points. Sharpened Claws is also a great pickup as it increases the damage done by two primary bear abilities, Maul and Mangle, by an astounding 20% for just two points. We can pass on Feral Aggression as your rotation will likely be busy enough that you don't need extra Faerie Fires available, though the talent could have a niche use on fights where a bear needs to rapidly pick up solo adds.

Moving to tier two, I would suggest taking everything. Thick Hide is a potent mitigation talent that no bear should miss. Feral Instincts is also a solid recommendation because although AoE tanking will be limited in Cataclysm, whenever it does come up you will be loving the 30% extra Swipe damage. Additionally, it is possible (though unlikely) that Swipe will still have a place in the bear form rotation as a rage dump in Cataclysm. Lastly in tier two, Shredding Attacks will reduce your Lacerate rage cost which should be handy considering you will need to constantly rebuild stacks after Pulverize.

Tier three is a solid place to plant five points. First, two points in Feral Swiftness nets you a solid 4% dodge. Next, you will want to pick up Feral Charge to stay mobile. Lastly, Improved Feral Charge gives you a whopping 30% melee haste for eight seconds every single time you charge. Talk about a threat lead gold mine! Stay away from Predatory Instincts as, despite what the initial tool-tip says, it currently only applies to Cat Form.

Tier four should also eat five of your talent points. Fury Swipes is an interesting new talent that seems to function like Warriors' Sword Specialization. Free auto-attacks can do nothing but help your threat. Primal Fury is also a strong selection as it turns your critical strikes into delicious rage. Avoid Nurturing Instinct as you shouldn't be in Cat Form or healing while tanking.

In tier five, we pick up our first talented ability: Survival Instincts. It is a great panic button that any good bear uses liberally. You will also want to place five points in Heart of the Wild both to open Leader of the Pack and to net a respectable 10% stamina boost. Brutal Impact has some PvE utility, but is primarily a PvP talent and can be glossed over. Should you find yourself using Bash liberally, feel free to swap some points to it. Predatory Strikes is exclusively for Cats and should be skipped.

Tier six let's us boost our dodge by another 6% and even grants us rage on every dodge. Not a bad use of three talent points. Survival of the Fittest is also a mandatory tanking talent. Without Survival of the Fittest, bear tanks can fall victim to critical hits. That can't happen. The extra armor is just icing on the cake that is this truly necessary talent. Endless Carnage is a take it or leave it talent. I personally would leave it alone, but it might be worth subbing the two points I placed in Improved Mangle here or to Brutal Impact depending on your preference and play-style.

For tier seven, I recommend picking up Leader of the Pack and Improved Leader of the Pack. Tanks are designed to be in groups so passing up on such a solid group buff is almost criminal. Considering how huge a Bear Form Druid's health can get, the 8% heal every six seconds from Improved Leader of the Pack is also well worth the investment. Primal Tenacity is a Feral PvP talent; skip it. You can skip King of the Jungle too as you really should not be using Enrage while in combat once you lose your tier ten bonus because of the armor penalty.

Fill out tier eight. Primal Tenacity is a direct boost to both your threat and mitigation while Infected Wounds helps significantly reduce incoming damage and keeps mobs more easily under your control. Take them both.

At tier nine we finally pick up Mangle and have the option of reducing its cooldown with Improved Mangle. Obviously, you need to take Mangle, but whether or not your take Improved Mangle is really a matter of personal preference, though I would only spend two points here simply because the third point can be better spent elsewhere. See how your rotation works with and without it and don't be afraid to move those two points around. Primal Madness isn't a bad talent, but it isn't worth the five points in King of the Jungle to get to it.

In tier ten, Nom Nom Nom is an awesome talent, but only for Feral dps, so skip it. Do, however, pick up Rend and Tear as it will substantially increase your threat generation. Also, be sure to get the new ability Pulverize which will dramatically change how bears tank and will forever alter how you look at Lacerate stacks.

Lastly, top off the Feral tree by picking up Berserk. Not only is it a great snap threat generation cool-down (especially when holding three targets), but it is also our only reasonable way of breaking nasty fears. Take it and use it often.

Having buried a whopping fifty five points in the Feral Tree, we have another twenty one to carry elsewhere. Since Balance has absolutely nothing to offer a Feral tank, to the Restoration Tree we go!

First, plop five points in Furor. Do you really need five points there? No, but you need to get to the lower tiers and there is really nowhere else productive to spend your initial five. Then it is time to scoop up five points of Perseverance. Bear tanks have always had a bit of a weakness to magical damage. This new talent says no more! Also, place three points in Natural Shapeshifter if just to open up Master Shapeshifter below it.

Moving to tier three of the Restoration Tree, spend all of your remaining talent points here. Naturalist will increase your Bear Form Damage by 10% while Master Shapeshifter adds another 4%. Lastly, Omen of Clarity will land you some delightfully rage free attacks.

In summary, I believe this spec will get you the most bang for your buck in terms of feral tanking. If you want points to play with, the two in Improved Mangle are ripe for the picking. You could also can Omen of Clarity is you so desire, though I personally enjoy the talent. Obviously, the Cataclysm talents are still subject to change, but at the time being I think this is the best any feral tank can hope to do.

Would you do things differently? Let me know in the comments.

This post is based on the old talent lay out, hop over to my updated Best Feral Tank Spec in Cataclysm for a current one!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Seven Wonders of Azeroth

With Cataclysm on its way, the face of World of Warcraft's Azeroth is soon to be changed forever. While we still can, I figured it would be entertaining to try an identify the seven most impressive locations in all of Azeroth: the Seven Wonders of Azeroth if you will. Keep in mind, this is just my opinion of the most epic places in World of Warcraft. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

Stormwind City

The seat of power for the kingdom of Stormwind and the largest Human city in all of Azeroth, Stormwind is stuffed from wall to wall with architectural wonders. Rebuilt after being razed by Orcs by the able hands of the masons now known as the Defias, Stormwind's scale and design is breath taking.

Whether taking in a cool breeze at Stormwind Harbor, marveling at the statues in the Valley of Heroes, reflecting in the Cathedral of the Light, or visiting Stormwind Keep, the city presents wonder after wonder and is therefore more than deserving of a spot on this list.

Stonewrought Dam

Built by the Dwarves of Ironforge to grow Loch Modan and drain the Wetlands, the Stonewrought Dam is one of Azeroth's most striking and impressive constructs. Adorned with massive stone heads spewing the Loch's water, the Dam is at the pinnacle of Dwarven engineering. The technical achievement of the Dam as well as its role in transforming the ecology of the Eastern Kingdoms make it one of Azeroth's greatest wonders.

Blackrock Mountain

This gargantuan volcano was created when Ragnaros the Firelord was accidentally summoned by Dwarven Emperor Thaurissan during the War of the Three Hammers. As striking as the volcano itself may be, it is nothing compared to the massive Dwarven City constructed throughout its entire structure.

From the corridors of Blackrock Spire and Blackwing Lair carved out of the volcano's upper regions, to Blackrock Depths near the mountain's molten core, Blackrock Mountain is a marvel in every sense of the word and is perhaps one of the most significant structures in all of Azeroth's history.

The Temple of Atal'Hakkar

Created by the Atal'ai Trolls over a thousand years ago as a shrine to the blood god Hakkar, the Temple of Atal'Hakkar is a massive example of Troll architecture. Unfortunately, the Temple's nefarious purpose drew the ire of the green dragon Ysera and nearly the entire structure was sunk beneath the waters of the Swamp of Sorrows. Today, the Temple is more generally known as simply the "Sunken Temple."

Though the Troll cities of Jintha' alor in the Hinterlands and Zul'Aman in the Ghostlands are similarly awe inspiring Troll creations, the mystery, history and danger surrounding the Temple of Atal'Hakkar set it apart as one of Azeroth's principal wonders.


As a tribute to the mortal use of magic, only the Blood Elves' Silvermoon can come close to rivaling Dalaran. Now magically suspended in the chill air above Northrend, the Kirin Tor's city of magic has become untouchable in more ways then one.

Adorned with towering spires and a sprawling sewer system, Dalaran is as mysterious as it is majestic. To be fair though, what do you expect from a city built and maintained by Azeroth's most powerful mortal magic users?

Wyrmrest Temple

Believed to be the location where the five Dragon Aspects received their powers, Wyrmrest Temple not only dominates the Dragonblight's landscape, but also its history. Constructed by the Titans long ago, the Temple has survived the onslaught of both Northrend's arctic winds and a present day incursion by Malygos' forces.

Wyrmrest Temple is one of Azeroth's principal wonders not only because the towering structure is awe inspiring, but also because the Temple serves as a central base of operations and monument to some of the most powerful beings to ever roam the land.

The Sunwell

The Sun Well is likely the most potent sources of magical energy in all of Azeroth. Shaped by the High Elves atop the intersection of powerful magical ley lines using water from the Well of Eternity, the Sunwells history has been repeatedly tainted by tragedy. The misfortune which has surrounded the Well, however, has not diminished its significance or the awe it inspires.

Did one of your favorites not make the list? Think one of my choices missed the mark? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Battle of the AoE Tanking Abilities

Though AoE tanking is apparently at least somewhat on its way out in Cataclysm, for the remainder of Wrath of the Lich King it is alive and well. For today's post I decided to take a quick look at the different staple AoE tanking tools available to the various classes. Which are strong? Which are weak? Which will cause a killing streak? Find out my thoughts below and feel free to share yours in the comments!


Swipe: It is always easy to identify Feral Tanks in real life because they are the ones with the rippling muscles on their left index finger. Why are their digits so pumped up? Why from mindlessly hammering the Swipe key thousands upon thousands of times of course.

Swipe is really a Bear's only true AoE damage dealer and, as a result, it is only ability we absolutely need to hit when holding a pack of mobs. It is a great spell because it costs little rage (which we have a near endless supply of anyway), does solid damage to large packs, and has no cooldown. It is simultaneously terrible because it needs to be pushed ad nausea to be effective and provides no benefit other than a small burst of damage.

Where Druids Shine: The real strength of Swipe is that it can theoretically be used infinitely with little to no restrictions. A Bear Druid loaded with mobs will have near endless rage and can therefor pound Swipe as fast as a finger allows. For fights where wave after wave of mobs are rolling into your raid, a Druid will always be ready to Swipe and has no reason to worry about much of anything else. Additionally, Swipe is a physical attack, leaving the Druid free from the fear of an ill timed silence.


Consecration: The ability that single-handedly defined Paladins as "the AoE" tank is still alive and well. Consecration is great because it is the ultimate set it and forget it spell. You lay it on the ground and, until it expires, mobs are stuck to you like glue.

Back in the day, Consecration occasionally caused mana issues for the overzealous tank, but no more. Now, so long as the modest cool-down has run its course, keeping consecrate up on a pack of mobs shouldn't come close to depleting a Paladin tank's mana pool.

Where Paladins Shine: Where a tank needs to hold both a single high priority target and several smaller adds, the Paladin is feeling good. A Consecration every eight second will get the AoE job done and you are free to focus on your priority target. Sustained AoE aggro with little effort or attention is the Paladin's true strength. Also, if the mobs happen to be undead, other tanks can forget about it as the addition of Holy Nova to the mix makes Paladins all-stars. If a silence enters the mix, however, you may very well end up with some dead healers.


Thunder Clap: Just as Consecration defined Paladins as the AoE tanks, the existence of Thunder Clap and ONLY Thunder Clap has long relegated Warriors to the AoE tanking bargain bin.

In recent times, Thunder Clap has started to hit harder and generate more delicious aggro, but it still feels lacking. Perhaps the cooldown is just too long, or maybe the supplemental slow just isn't enough to get a plate wearer out of bed in the morning. Whatever it is, Thunder Clap is far from a Warcraft media darling.

Where Warriors Shine: In terms of snap AoE aggro, it really is tough to beat a Warrior. Thunder Clap hits hard and generates tons of threat. After that, however, it's time to wait out the cool down. Grabbing AoE mobs is in a Warriors wheelhouse, holding them is often the problem.

Death Knights

Death and Decay: You mean to tell me that Death Knights can lay down a Consecration equivalent at range?!? Why yes they can.

With great power, however, comes slightly greater cost. While a Paladin using Consecration only loses a bit of constantly replenishing mana and can move on with his or her life, a Death Knight must fork over one of each and every rune in his arsenal to generate a bed of AoE hurt. Not only does the Death Knight need to consider Death and Decay's own huge cool-down, but also the fact that using the ability actually can put his other skills on cool-down as well.

Blood Boil: Though Death and Decay gets all the Death Knight AoE press, Blood Boil is the behind the scenes workhorse of the class's AoE skills.

For the cost of a single Blood Rune, a Death Knight can instantly ding all nearby targets for decent magical damage. Add diseases to the mix and that damage goes up appreciably. Limited only by the speed rune generation, the ability is available pretty often and offers decent bang for its buck.

Where Death Knights Shine: Death and Decay makes Death Knights both exceptionally flexible and inflexible AoE tanks. They can snap a group of mobs anywhere and hold them with a set and forget AoE, but only once every thirty seconds and only if they want to sack half their runic resources for a little while. With time to prepare, a Death Knight can AoE tank like nobody else, but when caught without cool-downs, Blood Boil can be a bit too little too late.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lich King 10 Man Strategy

As World of Warcraft Patch 3.3.5 slides into place and the Ruby Sanctum looms, it is time to clean up all those loose ends you may have left back in Icecrown Citadel. Namely, it is time to bring Arthas down and finally claim that ever elusive "King Slayer" title. The challenge may seem daunting, but it is surmountable with the right plan, practice, and a bit of luck.

Below is my quick and easy guide to defeating the Lich King in ICC 10 normal mode. This strategy is designed for those guilds and groups looking to get their first kill. It is not the maximum dps strategy and is designed to make some concessions for insufficient gear and mechanical prowess. This approach should give your raid members the maximum possible chances of surviving the encounter to the end. Considering how forgiving Arthas' enrage timer is, staying alive really is the name of the game.

You may also notice that I identify what other guides consider transitional phases (1.5, 2.5, etc.) as their own independent phases. I believe this makes things clearer and hope you agree.

Raid Set Up

For the ten man Lich King encounter, you will need two tanks. The fight is interesting in that there is not necessarily a consistent "main tank" throughout the encounter. Rather, the two tanks will each have a chance to stare down Arthas and must both therefore be geared enough to handle him. Each class of tank brings unique advantages and disadvantages to the encounter, so try not two have two of the same.

In terms of healers, you will want to bring three. Some of the best healers might be able to hold down the fort as a duo, but do not even consider it until you have the Lich King on farm. As with most of Ice Crown Citadel, a healthy combination of raid and tank heals will be necessary. As for which healer classes to bring, every single one has a chance to shine here, so just try to get a healthy mix.

For your dps, ranged is preferred and you will generally want to have at least two. If possible, try to find a hunter as they can make the first phase smoother. Warlocks also have a couple tricks up their sleeve which can turn the tides of battle in your favor, so get them in when you can. If you are melee heavy, the encounter is still doable, it just requires a bit more awareness and luck to see things through to the end.

Phase One

After speaking with Tirion and sitting through about a minute of role playing, the encounter will begin. One of your tanks will want to pick up Arthas and tank him directly to the frozen Tirion's left, facing the stairs. The melee will stack up right behind the Lich King while the healers and ranged will stack up about fifteen yards behind the melee. Your other tank should wait next to the frozen pillar to Arthas' left, standing on its Southern side.

During Phase One, the Lich King will summon two different kinds of adds at different intervals. The first are Drudge Ghouls, which he will create three at a time. The tank by the pillar will want to pick up as many of these as he can, while the tank holding Arthas gathers any stragglers. These adds are incredibly weak and will die to incidental damage. Aside from being held onto by the tanks, they can be ignored.

The other adds, Shambling Horrors, cannot be ignored. These adds will be summoned one at a time about 5 to 15 yards directly in front of Arthas. The tank by the pillar needs to immediately pick these adds up and hold them next to the pillar facing away from the center of the platform. A Hunter's Misdirect or Death Knight's Death Grip can be exceptionally helpful here.

The Shambling Horrors do a nasty frontal cone attack and periodically enrage. When enraged, the cone attack becomes a serious threat to an under-geared tank and two enraged Horrors launching cone attacks can kill even a well geared tank. A Hunter's Tranquilizing Shot and/or the tanks use of stuns can help keep the Horror's damage in check. Depending on how heavy your dps is on the Lich King, you will likely only see two or three of these during Phase One. As explained below, dps should not attack the Shambling Horrors.

Aside from the summons, the Lich King also casts an ability called Necrotic Plague. Necrotic Plague is a DoT that ticks for huge damage every five seconds. A single tick from the DoT can easily kill a player, so it needs to be dispelled within the first five seconds. What makes things challenging is that when the Plague is dispelled, not only does it hop to a new target, but it also buffs the Lich King with increased damage. Thankfully, Necrotic Plague not only jumps to other raid members, but the Lich King's summoned adds as well. The key is then to have a raid member infected with the plague immediately run to right behind the Shambling Horrors, get dispelled, and then return to position. This not only saves them from the DoT, but also infects the Horrors removing the need to dps them. The Horror tank wants to gather Drudge Ghouls as well as the Plague can "jump" from Ghoul to Ghoul, increasing in power and ultimately killing the Horrors faster. If the tank gets the Plague, simply cleans it.

The last ability the Lich King uses in Phase One is Infest. Infest applies a rather heavy DoT effect to every single raid member which can only be removed by bringing the target's health above 90%. A Druid's HoTs can be extremely helpful here as the healing ticks can immediately bring an infested raid members health back above 90% after only a single hit from the DoT.

At 70%, the Lich King will run to the center of the room and it is time to transition into Phase 2.

The Transition to Phase Two

As soon as the Lich King begins running to the center of the platform, your entire raid needs to run to the edge of the platform. This is because the Lich King will start casting Remorseless Winter at the platforms center. At the edge, your ranged should separate into two groups slightly to the South. Then you will want your Lich King tank and melee. On the edge nearest to the stairs will be your pillar tank, holding any remaining Horrors and pointing them away from the raid.

Phase Two

At the beginning of Phase Two, your pillar tank will simply hold any remaining Shambling Horrors until they die of Necrotic Plague. The tank will then need to be cleansed of the Plague far enough away from the rest of the raid so as to prevent a jump.

During Phase Two, Ice Spheres will appear in the center of the platform and slowly make their way towards the raid. Should they touch a raid member, they will explode knock everyone in range off the platform, so you need to assign a dps (preferably your Hunter) to kill them as they approach. The Spheres have very very little health, so this is a relatively easy task.

The central mechanic of Phase Two are Raging Spirits. Three of these adds will spawn over the course of the Phase and they need to be picked up and tanked by your Lich King tank. The Spirits do a devastating cone attack which both silences and packs enough punch to kill a cloth wearer, so they need to be tanked facing away from the raid. Gathering the Raging Spirits can be difficult as they each spawn on top of a random raid member and your tank may be silenced when the second and third ones appear. Once the Horrors are down, your other tank can and should help gather the Spirits. The Raging Spirits need to be killed as quickly as possible during Phase Two as you do not want to bring more than one of them with you into Phase Three.

Shortly after the third Raging Spirit spawns, it is time to transition into Phase Three.

The Transition to Phase Three

In the transition to Phase Three, the Lich King will shatter the outer edge of the platform, so your raid needs to run to the middle as quickly as possible. Your Raging Spirit tank needs to bring any remaining Spirits (hopefully only one) to the middle as well, being careful to keep them pointed away from other raid members to avoid deaths and/or silences. Your tank who is not handling the Raging Spirits will want to grab the Lich King and park him right in the center. He does not cleave, so the tank does not need to worry about his facing.

Phase Three

At the very beginning of Phase Three, your entire raid (except Warlocks as explained below) will want to stack right in the very center of the platform while your dps quickly burns down any remaining Raging Spirits. During this Phase, the Lich King will continue to cast Infest, but the real challenges here come from Defile and Val'kyr Shadowguards.

Right at the beginning of Phase Three and every so often after that, the Lich King will summon a Val'kyr which will swoop down and pick up a random raid member where they stand. The Val'kyr will then carry that raider towards the edge and, if given the opportunity, drop them to their death. To prevent this from happening, your raid needs to stun and snare the Val'kyr while blowing it up with instant heavy, focused dps.

There are a couple tricks to dealing with the Val'kyr which will make your life easier. First, although the Val'kyr can be stunned, stuns used against them are also subject to diminishing returns. This means that although the first stun will last its full duration, the second's length will be cut in half, the third's will be cut to a fourth, and so on. As a result, it is best to use your longest stuns (likely Hammer of Righteousness) first. Also, be sure to call out and stagger your stuns so as not to waste cool-downs which would be better saved for subsequent Val'kyr.

Another trick involves Warlocks' Summoning Circles. A Warlock can use their Circle Teleport to avoid plummeting off the edge. Since a Val'kyr will always head directly towards the platform's edge, a Warlock can drop a Summoning Circle right on the edge, move a bit towards the center, and wait to be picked up. Since the Warlock can teleport to safety once dropped, a Val'kyr which picks up a Warlock can be ignored by the dps entirely allowing for tons of extra dps on the Lich King and a shorter Phase 3.

Defile is another dangerous raid killer in Phase Three. Defile will target one random raid member and place a small patch black smoke at their feet. Anyone who stands in the patch takes heavy damage every second and each time the patch does damage it grows in size. If people stand in Defile even for a couple seconds it can quickly fill the entire platform and kill your raid. Additionally, if Defile appears in the center of the platform, your raid will be unable to stack there for Val'kyr summons and your fellow raiders will likely be carried to their deaths. It is therefore important that each defile is placed near the edge of the platform and moved out of immediately.

To accommodate this, you will want your entire raid to spread out towards the edges of the platform just before Defile is cast. Most strategies simply direct the person infected with Defile to "run out," but the window of time they have to do so is less than two seconds. Spreading out just in advance of Defile removes some of the twitch factor from the encounter and reduces your chances of Defile related wipes. Once Defile lands, return as close to the center as possible.

Though both Defile and the Val'kyr are deadly in their own right, it is the interplay between them that makes Phase Three the most difficult part of the Lich King encounter. Sometimes, they will happen nearly simultaneously meaning ideally you would need to be both spread out and collapsed in the center at the same time. Do not panic. Generally speaking, a Val'kyr pickup near the edge is more deadly to your raid than a Defile towards the middle of the platform (assuming nobody stands in it that is). Be adaptive when these situations occur and focus on the bigger picture goals: keep the raid away from the edges and out of Defile.

The last ability of concern during Phase Three is Soul Reaper. This is a debuff the Lich King places on his target which, after five seconds, deals a massive amount of damage and temporarily buffs the Lich King's attack speed. A well geared tank can likely soak the Soul Reaper damage, but they will be left sitting at little health in danger of being killed by the Lich King's subsequent sped up melee attacks. To prevent this either your Lich King tank must use cool-downs to mitigate Soul Reaper damage or your other tank needs to taunt the Lich King off in the five second window between when Soul Reaper is applied and when it goes off. Taunting allows your healers time to repair the Soul Reaper target's health without the additional burden of the Lich King's melee attacks. Druids with the four piece tier ten bonus are especially adept at simply soaking Soul Reaper.

To track all the abilities in Phase Three, install an add on like Deadly Boss Mods. This will allow you to know whether the next ability case will be a Val'kyr Summon or Defile and you can have your raid preemptively spread out or condense accordingly.

At 40%, the Lich King again returns to the center of the platform and it is time to transition into Phase Four.

The Transition to Phase Four

At the very beginning of Phase Four, the outer portion of the platform will reappear and your raid will want to run out there immediately to avoid taking damage from Remorseless Winter. Phase Four is identical to Phase Two except that there are no left over Shambling Horrors and four Raging Spirits will appear instead of three. As a result, you will want your positioning to be the same with two ranged/healer groups and one melee group.

Phase Four

As with Phase Two, Ice Spheres will spawn and your designated ranged dps will need to resume destroying them. Ranging Spirits will also spawn one at a time just as during Phase Two. This time, however, since there are no Shambling Horrors, both tanks will be available to help gather them from the start. You will, however, want only one tank to ultimately hold all of them as the other tank will need to be free for the Lich King in Phase Five.

In terms of raw dps required, Phase Four is one of the most demanding parts of the encounter. This is because your raid needs to do as much damage as possible to the Raging Spirits to avoid carrying too many of them into Phase Five. As a result, it is best to use dps cool-downs and Heroism/Bloodlust during this Phase.

Shortly after the fourth Raging Spirit appears, it will be time to transition to Phase Five.

The Transition to Phase Five

At the start of Phase Five, the Lich King will once again destroy the outer ring of the platform, so your raid will need to get off it as soon as possible. Rather than going to the middle, however, your raid will want to stay relatively near the platforms new edge.

Have your tank with the Raging Spirits keep them pointed away from the raid while your other tank picks up the Lich King and brings him over to the edge. Your ranged and healers can spread out however they like, but they should avoid standing near the middle of the platform.

Phase Five

Phase Five is all about survival and does not require the precision of Phase Three to clear. At the beginning of the Phase, your dps needs to burn down any remaining Raging Spirits as soon as possible. In fact, this should be the only task for your melee dps until they have been eliminated.

Defile and Soul Reaper both return in Phase Five, now joined with Harvest Soul and Vile Spirits. Your raid should deal with Defile the same as in Phase Three making sure to leave the middle of the platform Defile free whenever possible. This is easier now because, without the Val'kyr to worry about, your raid is free to stay spread out and linger towards the edges of the platform. Your tanks should also handle Soul Reaper the same as in Phase Three. If one of your tanks could soak it before, they should now. If not, they will need to taunt as before and switch roles accordingly.

For Harvest Soul, the Lich King will target a random raid member and start damaging them with a rather hard hitting channeled attack. Healers will need to heal through the effect to prevent the target from being killed which causes Arthas to empower and likely kill the tank. Once the channel is finished, the target will be teleported to a small room containing a hostile NPC and a friendly NPC. The goal here is to see the hostile NPC destroyed while the friendly NPC survives. For dps, this is simply a matter of blowing up the hostile NPC as quickly as possible, throwing in the occasional stun or silence to mitigate the damage the friendly NPC takes. For healers, the goal is to keep yourself and the friendly NPC alive while it kills the hostile one. Should you be able to throw a bit of dps on the hostile one as well, all the better. Once the hostile NPC dies, you return to the platform with your other raid members.

Vile Spirits is really the central mechanic of Phase Five. Every so often, the Lich King will hold up Frost Mourn and summon ten Vile Spirits. While he is summoning, your tank and melee dps will want to make their way to the far side of the room. Your ranged will want to destroy as many Spirits as they can, before joining the rest of the raid and the Lich King on the opposite side of the platform.

After hovering in the air a few seconds, the Vile Spirits will pick random raid members and start moving towards them. Upon making contact with any player, a Vile Spirit will explode doing heavy, though likely non-fatal, damage. More than one of them, however, can easily take out a non-tank and one exploding in a group of players can cause massive raid damage. Since your entire raid has moved to the opposite side of the platform, the remaining Vile Spirits will be forced to make their way across the middle to reach their targets. Waiting for them in the middle will be your second tank who can hop around and pop the Vile Spirits before they reach more squishy raid members. Should one get away, it shouldn't be lethal, but the tank in the middle still has the option of taunting it.

The Vile Spirit mechanic is why you want to avoid putting Defile in the middle during Phase Five. A Defile in the middle of the platform not only makes it more difficult to move your raid and the Lich King from one side to the other, but it also leaves no room for your second tank to intercept the surviving Vile Spirits. Should a Defile appear near where the Lich King is being tanked, simply rotate slightly around the platform and continue executing the strategy. All that matters with the kiting is that you take the Lich King and the raid as far from the freshly spawned Vile Spirits as possible to give your tank every possible opportunity to blow them up.

This portion of the fight is a long, survival oriented slog. You will have been at the fight for quite some time at this point, so keeping your concentration up will be your biggest challenge. Stay alive and put dps on the Lich King whenever you can safely do so. At 10%, the Lich King transitions into a final role-playing stage (do not release) and the kill is yours!


The Lich King encounter is not an easy battle and Blizzard was correct in saying that it will thoroughly test many of the skills you have learned throughout the expansion. Even with the ICC buffs and gear from ICC 25, getting that first kill will likely take many wipes as people adapt to the level of concentration the encounter requires. Once you start to consistently clear Phase Three, the finish line is near.

It is a great encounter, however, and try to enjoy the ride. The battle with Arthas is World of Warcraft at its best. It is meaningful, exciting, and challenging. It requires teamwork and coordination while simultaneously asking each individual raider to step up an be a hero when the situation calls for it. Wrap up the expansion in style and put the Lich King in his place, I assure you it is well worth the effort.

If you have any questions about the guide or if you would like to provide any feedback, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Also, I would love to hear about if/how this guide helped you bring Arthas down!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Guide to Gear Score

Love it or hate it, the concept of Gear Score has become a persistent part of life in Azeroth. It often plays a roll in determining what groups you can get into, what guilds you can apply to, and generally how other players perceive you and your character. Despite these facts, many players do not understand exactly what a "Gear Score" is, let alone how it works. Thankfully, I intend to clear that all up below.

What is Gear Score?

Generally speaking, a Gear Score is a numerical value assigned to a character based on the quality of the gear that player has equipped. There are many different programs and websites which can tell you your "Gear Score," but the number scale and value associated with each piece of gear can vary greatly from one source to the next. When referred to in game, however, players are generally referring to the number generated by the GearScore addon available on Curse Gaming and if someone in game asks you what your Gear Score is, they likely want to know what number the add on assigns to you.

What is My Gear Score?

There are two ways to find out your Gear Score. The first is to simply ask someone with the GearScore add on to tell you what it is in game. Generally a "Can someone whisper me my Gear Score" posted in Trade Chat will generate some quick responses. Keep in mind that the Gear Score you get from other players might be out of date as your number is only updated for other players when they actually encounter you in game.

The other, better way to learn your Gear Score is by installing the add on yourself. You can download the GearScore addon from You can then follow the install instructions listed under the "Install" tab to activate the add on. The next time you log into World of Warcraft, GearScore will be running and your Gear Score will be posted on your character page. Additionally, over time, you will start seeing the Gear Scores of other players whenever you mouse over them. Welcome to the future!

How is Gear Score Calculated?

GearScore looks at each and every item a player has equipped and assigns it a numerical value. The number is affected by both the items quality (Blue, Epic, etc.) and the stats on the item. Generally speaking, items with a higher Blizzard assigned "ilevel" will also have a higher Gear Score. The add on then adds the numbers for all a player's items together and viola: Gear Score.

How Can I Raise My Gear Score?

The simple answer is get better gear, but there are some tricks you can use to quickly or artificially inflate your Gear Score. First, go all Epics as soon as you can. Gearscore severely penalizes items that are not purple so even a single holdout blue item can drop your Gear Score by hundreds of points.

Second, get some PvP gear. One of GearScore's biggest weaknesses is that it does not differentiate between PvP and PvE gear. That means that even though your ilevel 232 PvE boots may be better for your performance, ilevel 252 PvP boots will net you a significantly higher Gear Score. Cashing in a handful of Honor Tokens is a fast easy way to boost your Gear Score, especially if you only have those pesky blue quest boots holding you back from full Epics.

Third, you can plan your upgrades around your Gear Score. The GearScore add on will not only show you players' composite Gear Scores, but will also show the Gear Score point value associated with each piece of armor in the game. Once you install the add on, you will be able to tell which pieces of equipment are holding your Gear Score back. By replacing these items first, your can push up your Gear Score as quickly as you can.

Lastly, as you can use PvP items to inflate your Gear Score, you can also use powerful items that are not particularly helpful for your character. Whether it is a high ilevel off-spec item or a random greed roll purple you picked up in a heroic, GearScore does not care if you need or want an item. GearScore only cares how powerful an item itself is. A melee swapping out his green Attack Power Trinket for an Epic Spellpower one can easily fool GearScore and get you in groups your "real" trinket might bar you from.

Isn't Gear Score Unfair?

Some would say it is, others would say it isn't. Really, the add on itself is just a tool that players can use in fair ways and unfair ways. Aside from the tricks above, GearScore is relatively successful at giving a raid leader a snapshot of the quality of a player's gear. However, as any good World of Warcraft player knows, gear is only part of the equation. There are plenty of heroes wandering Azeroth that have amazing gear, but little skill. Likewise, there are tons of green laden alts and noobs out there who know every raid encounter and their class like the back of their hands.

With some discretion, a reasonable Gear Score requirement for a particular raid or guild is not a bad thing in and of itself. It is when the requirements become unreasonable or all discretion goes out the window that the GearScore add on starts to get a bad rap. Fair or unfair though, Gear Score is something that will affect how you play World of Warcraft, so it is best to understand it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tips for Being a Better Raid Leader

Some might argue that a raid is only as strong as its weakest link. I must admit, that has not always been my experience. In fact, many times, I have seen raids plow through ICC's end-wing bosses with more than a couple weak links in tow. On the flip side, I have seen a raid of decked out hardcore raiders crumble after Saurfang or wipe on Rotface. The difference, some raids have a solid raid leader at their helm, while others do not. In my opinion, a raid is only as good as its leader.

A raid leader is the glue that holds a raid together. If a raid group is a finely tuned automobile, the raid leader is equal parts engine, brakes, and occasionally air bags. Without competent leadership, a raid can quickly devolve into a herd of cats throwing themselves harmlessly at content. With solid leadership an under-geared and green group of raiders can easily find themselves staring down the Lich King at breakneck speed. Below are my top five tips for being a better raid leader in World of Warcraft.

1. Set Your Raid Up For Success

As a raid leader, you have the ultimate say in who comes to the show and who is left on the sidelines. While you might be tempted to use anything that breaths and has a keyboard to fill out your roster, a little extra time spent finding the right raiders can make all the difference. A successful raid setup should have three things: reasonable class balance, good players, and clear expectations.

As for class balance, it is okay to have a couple classes missing from your raid setup, especially in ten man. As anyone who has ever run a raid with all Paladin healers can tell you however, a complete disregard for class balance can tank your raid before it gets started. Not only could you end up missing valuable buffs and abilities like Mark of the Wild or Bloodlust/Heroism, but you are also creating loot nightmares should you somehow manage to down a boss. If you have more than two of a particular class in your ten man or four in your twenty-five (except maybe Paladins and Druids) you might want to make some replacements.

Finding "good players" can and should mean many different things. Generally, you will want to find raiders with their combination of skill, gear, and experience to clear the content you have set your eyes on. Keep in mind that a deficiency in one area can often be made up for in strength in another. For example, you will often be better served by an under-geared Shaman who has defeated Putricide five times than by a Frost Badge gear laden Shaman who has never seen past Marrowgar. If a raider seems shaky, unless you are able and interested in carrying them, don't risk it. There truly are other fish in the raiding sea. Spend the extra time to find one that doesn't smell funny.

The last and potentially most critical part of setting your raid up for success is establishing expectations for your raiders. You want to make it clear not only what you expect from the people in your raid, but also what they can expect from you. First, you want raiders that will be in it for the long haul, so let everyone know exactly how long the raid will last and make sure everyone is available for that amount of time. Nothing wears out a raid like the dreaded search for replacements. Second, set benchmarks for your team. A simple dps or heals per second target can often be all it takes to turn a raiding zero into an Icecrown hero. For that extra bit of motivation, tie it to a tangible reward like loot. Lastly, set break times and stick to them. People need to leave their keyboards from time to time. Setting aside specific periods for these diversions can fend off the dreaded pre-boss ready check fail.

2. Know and Explain the Encounters

In an ideal world, all your raiders will know all of the encounters you will be tackling like the backs of their virtual hands. Unfortunately, the world is not ideal and, at best, you will likely have a couple raiders accustomed to ineffective or outdated strategies. At worst, you may have a couple rookies in your mix.

Taking a pre-boss break to have people watch strategy videos is always a safe bet, but it can be draining on your raiders who do know the fights and severely draws out your raid. Instead, you be the video. If you plan on leading a raid, you should know every aspect of a given encounter and how it will affect your tanks, dps and healers. You should also be able to condense that information into easily digestible nuggets of strategy which you can spoon feed to those raiders who need it.

What separates an effective explanation from an ineffective one is often brevity. Let's say you are about to fight Blood Queen and you have two green dps. They don't need to know about the tanks being linked. They don't need to know the details of your full bite order or even the reasons for it, they only need to know who they should bite, when, and how. They just need to know to run to the middle if they start to flash pink, to run out if they get the purple shadow debuff, and to spread out during the air phase. Don't overwhelm your raid with information. They won't retain any of it. Tell each individual what they truly need to know and then rock and roll. Better to have a "you have to see it to learn it" wipe after a two minute explanation than after a ten minute one.

Also, continue to lead while you are engaging the encounter. Call out dangerous mechanics and remind people of how to avoid them when they are activated. If you have a new player or two, watch their debuffs and call them out by name when they need to do something. Do not micromanage to the point of tanking your own performance, but a little coaching is often all it takes to avoid a soul crushing uber wipe.

3. Keep Things Moving

As many a frustrated raider will quickly admit, a slow moving raid can be a painful experience. Dead time encourages people to go afk and can preclude you even making attempts at later bosses before you are flooded with "I gtg" tells. Chain together trash pulls as quickly as your healers can manage. Once you reach a boss, lay down a feast and get the buffs going immediately. The second the buffs are up and you have confirmed that everyone knows the fight, it is time to ready check and pull. If a wipe happens, have everyone immediately run back and start buffing.

One source of delay you should try to mitigate is loot distribution. Try having a dps in charge of the loot so that your tanks and healers can move on to trash while shiny epics are being handed out. To make things even faster, just pick up the loot and hand it out on the run. Blizzard lets you trade raid loot for a reason. Grab it all and hand it out as you go. There is no reason to just kneel next to the boss's corpse for three minutes while your Retribution Paladin tries to figure out whether that plate helm really is a main spec upgrade. You have trash to kill, no reason you can't do it with loot in tow.

4. Make the Tough Choices

As a raid leader, you have the play experience of several raiders resting in your hands. That is a lot of responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Assuming your goal is clearing content quickly and efficiently, it is sometimes necessary to put the needs of the raid as a whole before the interests of individual members. For example, let's say you find yourself hitting Festergut's enrage timer. Perhaps it is time to stop carrying that 3k dps Warlock. Will he be pissed that you drop him? Hopefully not if you politely explain why he needs to go, but regardless if you keep him around you have doomed your raid. Someone needs to pull the trigger and that little crown next to your character portrait means it must be you.

Similarly, you might have a fantastic performer who continually goes afk or is otherwise disruptive to the flow of the raid. All the healing throughput in the world won't help you reach the Lich King if your entire raid must sit through fifteen minutes of failed ready checks before each boss pull. You can be a nice guy and a good raid leader, but eventually you will be faced with a situation where you can elect to either do what needs to be done or let your raid continue to struggle. A good raid leader does the former. A great raid leader does it kindly without alienating anyone.

5. Be Consistent

If your raiders know what to expect from you and like the way you operate, they will come back again and again. If they don't like the way you run things, you likely don't want them in your raid anyway. If you give the appearance of being wishy-washy, deceptive, or unfair, your raiders will resent you, won't perform their best, and may not even show up at all. On the flip side, if you prove yourself to be a conduit to consistently downing endgame bosses quickly and efficiently, you will have solid players banging down your door to come along.

Have clear expectations for those around you and stick to them. Do not make excuses for your raiders or yourself. A little predictability makes for a smooth run and happy raiders.

Feel free to share your storys about successful and not so successful raid leaders you have had in the comments. What about a raid leader makes or breaks your raids?