Hey There Twenty-Eleven …

*Blink* Ohhh… Hi there! Should I? Nah, no need to apologize. We all know the drill: yadda yadda blog hiatus this, reason that … I will however attempt to catch everyone up on where I’ve been for the past month and what I’ve been up to. Now, where to begin …

A lot has transpired since my last pre-Cataclysm update, maybe not so much on the WoW front but I did manage to get my rogue to 85 by the 12th. I could have gotten him to 85 sooner, like on the 10th but somewhere around 84 and a half I decided that I didn’t need to rush to 85. What would rushing to 85 get me? I’m not a raider, never will be, and there was a lot more I could be enjoying without working my melee dps’ng arse off to get geared for heroics. Heroics that I’d be running ad nauseam

I was also feeling an increasing sense of altoholism, but that’s not what really kicked my desire to push to 85. Nope, it was the realization that I would be taking a step back from WoW and go even more casual with the birth of my son.

Wait! Birth?!?

Yup, once again I am a father of a newborn and having a newborn again means my ability to focus will be difficult to nail down. So for the time being blog posts might be a bit sparse as I adjust to a drastic increase in sleep deprivation and still manage to go into work. I’ll try to get posts out a little more frequently than I have been, but no promises … my son takes up a lot of my free time ^^;

Okay, but what about the details of your son’s birth? I want de-tails!

My son Nolan Trent was born on December 13th at 11:07 PM PST weighing in at 8 pounds, 1.6 ounces and measuring 20 inches in length. He ended up being 4 days late, (expected due date of the 9th) and only because my wife’s doctor suggested that we induce labor while at our appointment earlier that day. Considering my daughter put my wife through nearly 24 hours of labor (23 hours and 47 minutes, but who’s counting?) I was expecting a lengthy stay in the hospital, but surprisingly things went so fast (well for an induction) we barely made the “window” for an epidural.

Alright, that explains SOME of your hiatus … what else have you been up to?

I’m glad you asked, other than diaper changes and middle-of-the-night feedings I have been up to one other thing: The OverLores.

Wait, what is The OverLores?

The OverLores is a project headed up by my good buddy Rilandune from Heroically Random. Ril got this crazy idea of rounding up four other bloggers and creating worgen to explore the lore in the post-Cataclysm Azeroth. You could say that the idea was Inceptioned from Project Lore‘s vidcasts (RIP Project Lore ;_;) and Bind on Equip‘s podcast segment: Rocks the Horde. So Rilandune rounded up myself, Nibuca from Mystic Chicanery, Tarinae from A Healadin’s Tear, and Psynister from Psynister’s Notebook to help him out on this ambitious endeavor.

We recorded our first episode last week, so with any luck you can expect to see The OverLores on iTunes in the very near future. I’m excited as all get-out over it. All five of us had a fantastic time with our first episode and I’m anxious to record the next one. So keep an eye out for it, but you could always follow The OverLores on twitter and take the guess work out of looking for it.

Now to maybe hop into WoW for a little bit … after changing a diaper ^^;

Pre-Cataclysm Jitters

I’ll come right out and say it, I’m a bit nervous about Cataclysm. On one hand I’m excited about all of the new content that I’ll be exploring, but on the other I’ll be leaving behind the feeling of being completely OP with all of the gear I was able to obtain through Wrath. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be exciting to have new gear to get but the growing pains to get there is what has me nervous.

If there’s one thing that Wrath has done is to increase the sense of self-entitlement of a lot of lazy players. Players that don’t move out of the bad, don’t follow marks or strategies, point fingers at others when they don’t even know how to play their class properly. These players are going to waltz into Cataclysm with the mentality of steam-rolling heroics for JP and then bitch and whine when a wipe happens. There’s going to be a lot of QQ on the forums when the glut of the player-base hits 85 and gets punched in the face by the difficulty of the Cataclysm heroics.

Although it’s been two years since the launch of Wrath, I can still vaguely remember back to running heroics when everyone was a fresh 80 and they weren’t easy. Sure they weren’t TBC heroic hard, but remember when you couldn’t just heal through Loken’s nova and had to move as a group to survive? Actually we don’t need to think that far back, remember how Halls of Reflection wasn’t a face-roll until 4.0.1 dropped and everyone started getting t10.

Fail-pugs are going to be rampant for awhile, but that’s not necessarily what I’m nervous about as I have a great guild to run dungeons with. No, my anxiety is more over my own ability to shake the face-roll mentality and revel in the new mechanics that the Cataclysm heroics will bring. This is far more relevant with my DK than my rogue since in Cataclysm I’m going full-time tank with DK.

At least my plan, so far, is to focus mainly on getting my rogue to 85 allowing me a chance to see all of the content from a DPS perspective before stepping into the role of tank. That should take the edge off and give me a chance to wrap my head around the mechanics and realize that they’re not insurmountable. It’ll be refreshing to not steam-roll through heroics and go through at a slower, more deliberate pace. To have a good time with guildies and not have the “GO GO GO” players when setting up pulls by marking targets and figuring out the best kill order for each pull.

You know what, I think I just turned that nervousness into excitement just by writing out this blog entry. Bring it on! I’ll see you guys on the flip-side of Cataclysm.

Ninjaclysm

Don’t look now, but this might just be a WoW-related blog entry. Is the world ending? Is the Cataclysm coming? Yes, folks, the end of days are nigh. At least in Azeroth as we used to know it. Not only is Blizzard changing the landscape of Azeroth, but they’re changing how we’ll be playing our classes … well at least somewhat. Now don’t fret, I’m not going to go into detail of the nine class change teasers released this week, there are far better sites out there for that analysis. I will, however, in a series of posts offer my opinions and takes on the changes that affect the classes I play: rogue, priest, mage, druid, and death knight.

As a short aside, I think Blizzard’s “world friendly” release schedule for the teasers was horrible. Releasing teasers at 11:58pm PDT? C’mon Blizzard.

Rogue Ninja

Anyone else disappointed with the rogue teaser? I am, especially considering the duplicity of statements of “rogues are too cooldown and stun dependent making them very binary in pvp.” So what do we get? More cooldowns -.- … Well, at least with more cooldowns we can try to not blow them all at once. But let’s be honest, other than the increased health pools and supposed armor increases to leather, we’re still going to be a very binary class in pvp. Our stuns are getting nerfed again which means we’ll have to blow combat readiness against melee or smoke bomb against ranged and then hope our increased yellow damage will be enough after nerfs to our white and poison damage output.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like combat readiness and smoke bomb, but I was hoping for shadowstep to become a baseline ability. Recuperate may be able to provide us with some sturdiness in pvp situations, but we’re still completely reliant on cooldowns. We’re still going to get roflstomp’d trained when combat readiness isn’t up and vanish will continue to remain borked. But I digress, I don’t pvp with my rogue anymore so my pvp QQ is pretty much moot anyways.

Unfortunately we’re getting slightly tuned nerfed in PVE content as well. I’m cautiously optimistic that overall our numbers won’t change much, but the adjustments to Fan of Knives and Tricks of the Trade have me a little worried. Greg “Tiberius” Street can claim that neither adjustment is a nerf, but let’s call a spade a spade, they ARE nerfs.

Blizzard HOPES to allow us the ability to apply poisons to our ranged weapon, which likely means that it won’t be at Cataclysm’s launch, or ever. *cough*fixing vanish*cough* While having a ranged poison applier would be useful in PVP, we’re losing FoKs ability to apply two poisons in PVE. Not a huge nerf, but a nerf nonetheless, even if it is sound in its logic; it’s not called fan of swords/maces/axes/fists after all.

Then there’s the adjustment to tricks, one of the best utility spells we were given in Wrath. Sure, they’re happy with how well it has worked out for us, but they’d like to lower the amount of threat transferred. >.> Okay, maybe I’m over-reacting to this “adjustment” especially with the return of necessary crowd control in Cataclysm, but it has been a blast never having to worry about throttling my DPS (unless paired with an epic-fail tank). I’m sure casters have appreciated their ability to open up their arsenal from our threat transference.

Oh well. At least Blizzard has fixed our combo point problem when switching targets … once every minute. Seriously Blizzard? Couldn’t you just make the points stack on US instead of the target? Oh right, that might be too over-powered in PVP. @.@ Then again, I’ve become accustomed to how our combo point system works and haven’t had issues with it in PVE situations. It is entirely possible that I may never even need to use redirect, but I imagine there will be situations where it will be useful. Hell, I may even herald it as the ONE change made to our class that reinvented how we play … okay, I jest.

Not everything in the teaser disappointed me though as recuperate and smoke bomb will have huge impacts on how the rogue class plays while leveling and give us incredible group utility respectively. When I remember back to my days of leveling my rogue in vanilla WoW I recall having to eat and/or bandage every couple of mobs. While we had zero downtime on our ability to kill things, we had downtime on our ability to survive.

If you got more than one add while blind was on CD, it was usually game over. Now rogues will have a chance to live through some situations that we weren’t able to previously. We will have to wait to see what kind of HoT recuperate will provide and whether or not it will it will find a place in the new end-game, but for now it looks good on paper. Well, other than the potential to have healers completely shun us for heals now that we can heal ourselves outside of potions and bandages. Like we’re not shunned right now … ^^;

Smoke bomb underwhelmed me at first, but after re-reading the ability description I’ve grown quite excited about it. We’re ninjas now! Yay! or something … I only wish Blizzard had gone all the way with this and turned our subtlety tree in a pseudo-evasion tank tree. Now before you roll your eyes, there are precedences for evasion tanks in other MMOs and for a brief period of time in WoW itself. Sure it is counter to the direction Blizzard has been taking tanking in Wrath, but I’m not suggesting the ability for rogues to evasion tank end-game content. Although it was awesome to see rogues become physically unhittable in the Burning Crusade.

No, definitely not end-game content … but it would be quite cool if a subtlety rogue could “tank” normal dungeons and possibly easier heroics through the use of absorption shadows (ala the ninja’s utsusemi spell in FFXI). Absorption shadows are what I would have imagined shadowdance to be and given subtlety a completely different purpose. If I were to think this redesign out completely this is what I would envision:

It’ll never happen, but it would be damned cool if Blizzard did go this route with subtlety rogues. It’s not terribly overpowered and the % to dodge could be adjusted if +agility on gear does get out of hand, pushing a rogue’s chance to passively dodge too high. It’s impossible to become unhittable in Wrath, so I don’t think this would be an issue in Cataclysm, but you never know; with reforging it might be possible.

Again, I’m not suggesting to make rogues capable of tanking end-game content or harder heroics (well maybe when over-gearing heroics) but it would be fun as fuck to tank normal dungeons as a rogue. This redesign would also give subtlety rogues survivability in PVP without making them horribly unbalanced providing that Blizzard doesn’t substantially boost subtlety’s damage output.

Okay, enough dreaming …

Overgearing

I have never been as geared as I am right now with my rogue. With each base level emblem change that came with each of the major patches during WotLK it has never been easier to gear up my toons. I’ve never had multiple max-level toons before and never has my main had multiple tier pieces before. If all goes according to plan, each of my “main” toons will be max-level with at least t9 equivalent gear well before Cataclysm launches.

Let’s let that soak in for a second … multiple max-level toons in t9+ gear. Absolutely unheard of for me, the uber-casual/hardcorde-wannabe player. I may even get a chance to see the Lich King defeated in-person by the end of the expansion. Holy crap right? Madness.

This is a reality that is shared amongst many other casual players and it is changing the landscape of WoW completely. My rogue is currently able to pump out anywhere between 3.6k-6k (I even broke 7k dps on Gal’Darah w/ bloodlust) on single-target dps fights. The range of dps disparity usually depends on movement, boss up-time, buffs from the party, and debuffs on the boss.

Again, let’s let that soak in for a minute. That is incredible dps for a staunch non-raider. I absolutely love it, even if it doesn’t quite feel like an accomplishment considering how easy it is to get geared nowadays. That being said, though, player skill is still tantamount to performance and I should be proud that I can pump out that much dps.

I can also feel good about my knowledge of most of the heroics now and how to best pull the most dps out of my spec and gear. For example, when I blow my combat cool-downs on the first of the forges in FoS I can hit over 10k dps if the tank stacks the mobs together.

Then there was the fateful fail-pug that could with my rogue pulling a lot of the weight. The fail-adin kept forgetting to put up righteous fury and I’d routinely pull aggro off of him without my tricks being up. We managed to limp along and even pulled victory from the teeth of defeat on the Devourer with my rogue wearing the hat of dps and tank after said fail-adin died within the first 15 seconds of the fight.

So while I may feel a little dirty for having incredible gear, I’m still a quality player.

But there’s another angle I’d like to take with this topic, namely what will leveling from 80 to 85 in Cataclysm be like? With a much larger population having access to incredible gear as we approach the Cataclysm, will leveling be trivial? I can’t imagine that Blizzard would tune the new leveling zones hard enough to present a challenge for t9/10 geared players. Doing so could potentially make the leveling curve too difficult for new 80s heading into the new leveling zones without chain-running WotLK heroics.

Then again, with the dungeon finder tool, will any of us be questing to level at all? It will be entirely possible to level from 80 to 85 without placing a foot in the new zones, (excluding the inevitable corpse runs back to instance portals). I could see myself chain-running dungeons in Cataclysm to level and then questing at 85 for the boosted gold from quests.

Then again, I did love leveling as my rogue through WotLK experiencing everything WotLK had to offer. If I were to chain-run dungeons, I’m sure I’d be missing out on quite an experience of doing quests at-level. Although you could argue that this time, I’ll be so over-geared for the at-level quests, that they’ll be trivial anyways.

It is definitely a strange and different world we’re living in, but I can’t wait!

Cataclysm

So there is a lot of leaked information out there, so I figured I’d chime in with at least some of my thoughts revolving around WoW: Cataclysm without going into each and every single detail. Nothing has been confirmed or denied by Blizzard at this point, but that doesn’t mean anything. I do, however, have faith that much of the leaked information is true if only because Boubouille over @MMO-Champion hasn’t steered us wrong in the past and would only post information that he had been sitting on, (at least according to Stompalina via the Rawrcast podcast/site) after someone else “leaked” the information first.

It might seem that I’m prefacing my comments a lot in this, and that is only par-for-the-course. As of right now, the leaked information is only speculative rumor … possibly founded from a legitimate source, but with the recent inclusions of “false” or “funny” information for dataminers to find could serve as a basis for all of this information to be false and that Blizzard is only playing a cruel joke (and/or trying to nail down leaks within their organization) on us all.

BUT, and that’s a very big “but,” I’m going to go out on a limb and state that I believe most of what is up at MMO-Champion to be factual. There is supporting evidence to at least there being a huge catacylsmic event coming to Azeroth, and you only need to take a trip into the Halls of Lightning to see this evidence.


Kalimdor as seen in Halls of Lightning (Click to Enlarge).

Blizzard has gone on record as stating that they like to pre-seed hints of forth-coming content and mechanics, etc within the world before they’re officially announced. The data-mining and semi-clever cover-up of the new Halloween masks could support this, but nothing supports this more than this screen shot of the Kalimdor continent in Halls of Lightning (it can also been seen in Ulduar evidentually). The globe is obviously Azeroth with a vortex of energy between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms but I never gave it much thought before.

Now it is possible that this globe that is present in Halls of Lightning has been recently updated, either in 3.1 or 3.2, but I think I vaguely recall this globe and Kalimdor appearing like this predating back to 3.0. Should this devestated Kalimdor be true, and I think with almost certainty that it is true, it adds a lot of legitimacy to the entirety of Boubouille’s post. Fortunately we won’t have to wait long to find out as Blizzcon’09 is only a few days away.

We know the userbase is clamoring for their flying mounts to be usable in old-world Azeroth, and what better way to actually accomodate this by actually having a lore-related reason to rebuild Azeroth to include the ability for flying mounts? It makes a lot of sense from a game-design principle and putting all of this work into reworking old-world content sensible from a business sense. Which alludes to something also mentioned on the Rawrcast podcast …

Could WoW: Cataclysm be more or less treated as a stand-alone “expansion” in that all prior content will be included in Cataclysm in one sleek package for new users and existing users alike? If Cataclysm was the only thing you needed to buy to get into World of Warcraft and have all prior content included (TBC/WotLK mechanics) it’d make it incredibly easy to attract a brand new audience for WoW.

It was also tossed around that Cataclysm in a way could be World of Warcraft 2, and if the “stand-alone” essence of this expansion is a reality, it is almost a virtually seemless sequel to WoW. This is pretty “far-fetched” from a game design standpoint and there’s a lot of logistics that aren’t cleanly addressed with this, but it does make sense.

So what else is there that has me excited and/or disappointed if these leaks come true? Well I’m going to be really annoyed that Taurens will be able to become paladins, (I’ll instantly reroll my poor-still-level-30-BElf-paladin as a tauren if it is true) and I’d much have rathered playing a troll druid instead of a tauren druid, but that’s not to say that Blizz doesn’t have one more card up their sleeves.

Yes, that’s right … I am alluding to Blizzard finally allowing FULL re-customization of your existing toons by allowing you to change their race. Before you get too up-in-arms over this, I think it’ll also come with another new gameplay mechanic where you can choose racial disciplines so that you can get the racial-abilities you want, (likely still limited by the existing racial groupings) but play as the race you want. Now unlike Boubouille’s post my feeling is a pure gut-feeling and has no basis on reality or sources … but if it does come true, I’ll happily take credit for calling it.

Moving on I’m also perplexed by the Horde being left in the hands of Garrosh Hellscream. I love Thrall and not looking forward to Garrosh throwing the horde into full-out open war with the alliance (even though they’re evil and stink). BUT, if this is what it takes from a lore-standpoint to include Wintergrasp world-pvp zones in Azeroth, I’m all for it. Maybe I’ll even get back into my gnome-punting ways … ^^;

But you have to weigh these negatives against the positives, and fortunately there are a lot of them. Revamping old-world content to make leveling purposeful and more immersive is a great thing. WotLK showed me that Blizz CAN make quest-content that plunks your toon into the lore and makes you feel like you have an influence on your environment. Phasing technology has made this possible and I’d expect a LOT of phasing in the next expansion, (which will make my computer cry … lol).

I am also looking forward to the old-world finally getting the attention it deserves and being fleshed out more and more. There will still be tons of new content in the expansion, so arguments about Blizz being lazy and reusing content hold no water with me. Granted retuning old dungeons for max-level heroics will seem like taking the easy way out, but fortunately WC is being completely redone and hopefully won’t be as completely confusing as it is right now.

There are also plenty of places within Azeroth that have gone undone: Uldum, Hyjal (present-day), Grim Batol, Gilneas, Undermine, etc. So there won’t be a lack of brand-new zones to explore and grind up in. Which brings me to the new level cap: 85. THANK YOU Blizzard, I really really wasn’t looking forward to rerolling and grinding to 90, AND hopefully all of the epic-loot I’ve been lootho’ng won’t be replaced until I’m at the new end-game in Catacylsm.

But, with the cap only being nudged up 5 levels, I don’t think we’re going to see massive talent tree upgrades/reworking with the next expansion. I doubt that we’ll see 56 pt talents in the new expansion, but I could be wrong. Rather it’d make sense to just keep the trees virtually as is (there are still a few bloated trees that could use some streamlining) and allow us to plunk another 5 pts into our secondary tree without making a 51/25 combination broken.

All in all if all of these rumors turn out to be true I already cannot wait. Thankfully we still have the biggest raid in the game coming in 3.3 to keep us satiated until then.