Reaping Chronicles

I know. I get it. I’m a horrible blogger. It has been difficult to sort out the time to set aside to blog when there are so many other things calling out for my attention. Well, that, and possibly allowing Diablo III to suck away any free time that I do have where I could be sharing here. If anything, you could probably say that Diablo III is in an amazing place if I’m not blogging about it. YAH, let’s go with that.

As I sit here typing these words I can hear Diablo playing in the exact same room. No, I’m not hearing things. It is actually being played, and not by me. I’m serious, it really isn’t me playing … it’s my daughter.

Her dive into the Diablo universe has been short so far but with the release of Reaper of Souls her interest in picking up the Xbox 360 version (her first taste of demon-slaying and looting addiction) has hit an all-time high. I just can’t. I just can’t go back to the old version of Diablo III, not when Reaper of Souls is here and available to play.

So as I sit here, my daughter sits at my desk playing on my computer with my Reaper of Souls. She loves the wizard the most. I’m a proud daddy.

So anyhoo, a thought had crossed my mind just the other day on how I could make some sort of amends for my consistent neglect of my blog: why not chronicle the builds I have been trying based upon the items I find in this post-RoS Diablo world we all live in?

Sounds great, right? RIGHT!

There’s only one problem, I haven’t quite figured out how to go about chronicling these builds just yet. At least, not how to best format them, but that’s never stopped me before, so let’s just dive in.

Prior to the closure on the Reaper of Souls closed beta my wizard hadn’t really found anything incredibly spectacular and “build-changing” but I had more or less decided going into RoS that I would run with a ranged “machine-gun” build making heavy use of Electrocute (Lightning blast), Familiar (Cannoner), and Arcane Orb (Frozen Orb) to provide some heavy artillery and a modicum of crowd snaring.

This worked fairly well and with a healthy amount of All Resist my level 70 RoS-beta wizard was cruising through Torment II with approximately 700k DPS and 13mil toughness. I liked it, ¬†a lot actually and I did enjoy using this build up until Blizzard nerfed the heck out of my Familiar’s (Cannoner) rate of fire.

After the nerf to my familiar I decided to shift away from that build and see if I couldn’t find another build to suit my fancy. Enter my hardcore wizard who I got back up to promised land of 60 prior to RoS’ release.

With the acquisition of a Wormwood staff I decided that with the resource cost reduction that I would stack that along with as much as arcane regeneration as possible and go with a signature-spell free wizard build. It worked and was quite a lot of fun, but ultimately didn’t quite tickle my fancy.

Then a Moonlight Ward dropped … and I got a crazy idea … let’s build a “swirl to win” wizard.

What’s that? Well Moonlight Ward has a chance to produce four moonlight shards that will rotate around your character and explode on contact with an enemy. Combine that with Arcane Orb (Arcane Orbit) for extra swirling ‘splodey bits and you have the basis for the build.

There are a couple of variations based on personal preference and gear that you have, but should you ever obtain the Warzechian Armguards the build becomes an absolute … wait for it … BLAST! when coupled with Ice Armor (Frozen Storm). Running like a bat straight outta hell wrecking everything in the environment while ‘sploding the meanies dumb enough to attack you is just tooooooo much fun (and well … *cough* maybe a lil dangerous for a hardcore character ūüôā

But let’s get back to my softcore progression in Reaper.

I did attempt a similar build with my main wizard as I was fortunate enough to have a Moonlight Ward drop in softcore as well but without the Warzechian Armguards to pull it together I decided to go a different direction. Instead of using Electrocute (Arc Lightning) as my main attack I decided to see if I could once again go signature-free and pull every idea I’ve tried up to this point together into a singular build.

While I don’t have quite enough resource cost reduction to truly cast Disintegrate (Entropy) indefinitely I do have enough between the 5% from my shoulders and 8% from Paragon point bonuses along with Storm Armor (Power of the Storm) to allow my arcane regeneration from the passive Astral Presence and my 3 APoC from my source to offset enough the cost to where I can sit and channel Disintegrate for a long time.

I do have other options to improve my channeling time if need be. When running solo I’ve adopted to using the Templar for his “Inspiration” and when in a multiplayer game if I’m having issues with resources I can always switch my Familiar from the raw damage output of Sparkflint to arcane regeneration of Arcanot. If even that isn’t sufficient I can further extend my endurance with swapping out the rune of Magic Weapon from Force Weapon to Conduit.

Love this build. It’s so much fun to play.

Rounding everything out is the Audacity passive for more damage, Blur since you have to get up in the demon’s grills to deal your damage and Evocation for shortening the cool downs of my “I WIN!” button Archon and the greatest addition to the Wizard’s repertoire, Black Hole.

Gearing improvements are still plentiful as my wizard is still primarily in rares, but I am hoping to add some pieces of cool down reduction to help with up-time of my Black Hole (Spellsteal) buff. ¬†Some +Arcane damage would be much appreciated as well, but for the time being I am quite happy with my wizard’s 650k’sh damage (depending on whether or not I’m using my +Attack Speed gloves) and 7.6mil toughness.

Torment I is pretty much a face roll for me though my All Resists could use to be a bit higher (lowest is around 1500) before jumping into Torment II full time. I’m in no hurry to run Torment VI, though I would love to really boost my XP/hr and climb the paragon levels (currently sitting at paragon 193). Some day, some daaaaay …

Crawling Through the Nightmare

If you’re wondering if my venturing into the hardcore world was a fluke, it hasn’t. My HC wizard is still progressing along nicely (and slowly) through Nightmare having just downed the Butcher without too much difficulty. Granted I’m keeping the game set at MP0 as my wizard is playing exclusively solo¬†and self-found.

Yes, that’s right. I’m staying away from the auction house other than to sell stuff to augment my gold income since I’m still working on opening up the third tab. This might be a strategy that will come to bite me in the butt later down the road, but I’m determined to not resort to farming the AH and trivialize my hardcore experience. I want to experience going through the game as it was intended.

Now granted, if I do lose my wizard at some point along the way, I may not be as idealistic as I am now and pick up some gear to speed up the process of catching back up to where I was, but for now I want to remain completely self-found.

So with this self-inflicted limitation you might be wondering what kind of build I’m using with my wizard. So far I’m pretty much sticking with Electrocute (Forked Lightning) and Blizzard as my main attacks. As for my hotkeys I’m using Wave of Force (Force Affinity) as my¬†GET AWAY FROM ME button along with Diamond Skin (Crystal Shell) for when WoF is on cool-down, or I just need to be able to absorb some incoming damage.

I’m still using Ice Armor (Chilling Aura) and Magic Weapon (Force Weapon) but these two skills I may change out since I’m now in Act II Nightmare, aka where I originally started having¬†massive problems during my first playthrough. I am gearing differently than I did back when I first played, so perhaps my run through Nightmare won’t be as … *ahem* nightmarish.

Breaking Through the Brick Wall

Finding the motivation to progress past Act I Inferno was becoming increasingly more difficult as the persistent nature of horrible drops continued to plague me. With each piece of complete garbage iLvl 63 gear that dropped so did my hopes. Would Act I Inferno be the furthest I’d get without luck on my side? Sure, eventually¬†something¬†good would drop, but even then would it be suited for a melee wizard? Then even if it wasn’t, would it actually move on the auction house?

As more and more¬†players jump ship the potential¬†market of buyers on the auction house gets more and more picky making it harder to sell anything that isn’t ideally rolled. This problem is compounded by the moronic sellers out there thinking that their decent wares will sell for millions upon millions of gold. It creates a false representation of how much gear is truly worth. Routinely I see decent to good gear go for far too much and great gear for obscene amounts of gold. Although I can’t say for certain, I would hazard a guess that many of those auctions expire.

Sadly day after day the perception of inflation continues to grow and create false expectations in the economy. Eventually it’ll level out and it’ll be somewhat reasonable to buy equipment, but when that day does come who will be left to reap the benefits? By that time I’d suspect that most of the remaining active player-base will be well into Inferno where actual upgrades will be perfectly rolled gear and therefore be worth¬†all the golds.

Fortunately I have moved a few pieces of gear on the GAH and have accumulated about 13 million gold which gives me some buying power but not enough to afford true upgrades. With my still being priced out of the market to get good gear this has led to many, many farming runs with my melee wizard in Act I Inferno, rarely yielding anything of any value to me or anyone else.

That was until a fateful run with a Shattered Soulstone lisenter, Udonrun, joined one of my insomnia-fueled farming runs.

It started as many of my co-op farming runs seem to, he benefited almost immediately by having a legendary drop from the very first champion pack we ran into. Sure, it was a junky legendary, but a legendary nonetheless. We continued to farm and farm with nary a trouble as many of my farming runs go these days — a melee wizard is actually surprisingly effective — and on one of my trips to town¬†IT¬†happened: a one-handed 900 dps mace with INT, LoH and a socket dropped for me.

It wasn’t the most perfect weapon I’d ever seen, but it was a great weapon nonetheless which immediately improved my DPS a ton when I dropped a 70% critical damage green gem into the socket. Now my melee wizard was¬†as¬†lethal¬†as she¬†looked. Champions and elites in Act I Inferno were no longer a match for my wizard which motivated me to splurge a little and buy a few bargain pieces to put together a¬†progression set of gear.

With a progression set of gear equipped I decided to see how my wizard would fare in Act II Inferno. I did, afterall, have plenty of gold reserves to cover the repair costs and if things did go horribly wrong I’d pull the plug on the experiment before racking up a horrifically large repair bill. What I didn’t expect, however, was for my wizard to progress through Act II Inferno as easily as she did culminating in one-shotting Belial.

Yes, you read that correctly. My melee wizard one-shot Belial in Inferno. It was surprisingly easy since the only thing that I had to worry about was the meteor phase (even then I could actually survive one blast). Only occasionally was there any resistance in Act II Inferno with particularly nasty champion/elite packs (or two of them at the same time) which is a testament to just how gear-dependent Inferno is.

Sadly my wizard’s gear isn’t quite there to progress through Act III Inferno comfortably as her resistances still need some more improvement. I actually laughed at how quickly my wizard could die if RNG wasn’t on her side and didn’t get a block or dodge when frost nova and diamond skin were on cool-down; one second full of life, the next DEAD. So there’s still plenty of work to be done to be able to finish out Inferno, but for the first time in weeks I actually have hope that I will succeed.

It’s only a matter of time …

Getting Closer

There seems to be a growing trend with the soul-sucking symbiotic relationship I have with Diablo 3: every time something fantastic happens, something else happens to pull me closer to the breaking point. If it weren’t for the carrot dangled in front of my face and how incredibly addictive the actual gameplay is I might be inclined to shelve D3 until some actual content updates start happening.

Whoa. Even the great Diablo proponent, Nevik, is reaching his last straw?

To a certain extent yes, I am. Progression in Inferno is becoming less and less desirable. Between the sky-rocketing inflation on the GAH and abysmal randomness of loot, finding decent upgrades is¬†excruciatingly painful. Yesterday I was searching for a halfway decent shield for my melee wizard with critical chance, intelligence and either vitality or all resist (though I’d prefer to have all four but you can only select up to three criteria when browsing the AH, making that a chore in-of-itself) and the only shields I could afford with my pitiful 3 million gold were downgrades from what I already had.

So either I need to get extremely lucky with the loot drops or buy to win now that gold can be bought and sold on the RMAH. Oids.

To be fair, I have found a couple of small upgrades while farming, but they haven’t been particularly amazing. It is really frustrating to finish a Butcher run in which you have multiple iLvl 63s drop and ALL of them are junk. There’s just too much randomness with the behind-the-scene rolls when items drop to which the highest iLvl items can be completely worthless (iLvl socketed rings with no stats, I’m looking at you).

That’s another problem with finding the motivation to progress beyond Act I Inferno, sure I could shoot for it to have better chances of having higher iLvl gear drop, but for what? To have complete junk drop one after another after dying many more times than I would in Act I? Why would I bother with the repair costs and stress of dealing with Act III and IV champion/elites that are downright unfair?

Standing in the bad without a care …

I mean, sure, I do want to continue to progress and complete Inferno in its entirety just so that I can say that I did it, but what after that? Unless I can completely trivialize Acts III and IV there’s little in it that I couldn’t potentially get out of Act I for far less effort. With the adjustments I’ve made to my melee wizard build¬†I finally have Act I Inferno on¬†farm status.¬†That is to say that other than the occasional death from really nasty affix combinations on champion/elite packs I breeze through my farming runs.

Act I Inferno no longer holds any challenge for my melee wizard. However, conversely, Act II still punches me in the face and then kicks me in the groin while on the ground. My melee wizard’s gear still isn’t good enough to safely — well maybe safely isn’t the appropriate word — comfortably progress through Act II. Between all of the wasps and the increased damage and health pools of the mobs Act II is still very un-fun.

If it weren’t for the fact that I’m completely in love with the playstyle of the melee wizard I’m not sure I could say that I would still be playing Diablo 3. That’s saying a lot coming from me; I routinely state that D3 has consumed my soul and to be this disenfranchised is worrisome. Now don’t fret, it’s still not my time to pull the plug on the game. Diablo 2 experienced similar itemization problems (remember how lances wouldn’t drop AT ALL for the longest time?) and D3 is still very¬†young in terms of design iteration.

I still have plenty of faith that Blizzard will address the issues at hand and turn D3 into an amazing soul-sucking product beyond what it has already accomplished. We will just have to give it time (and hopefully the AH market will settle down by then) which is extremely easy to do considering there’s no monthly subscription involved.¬†IF¬†I do get to the point where I’ve had enough I can take a break and come back to the game later down the road.

And that rocks, period.

Grinding

Perhaps you’re concerned that all of this Star Trek blogging means that my Warcraft days are behind me, or maybe you aren’t. Fear not, there will still be plenty of WoW-related blog entries in the future. I seem to be taking my annual break from WoW and recharging my batteries. Cataclysm will breathe new life into the game for me, and the recent 3.3.3 news is tempting me to cut my hiatus short. So yes, there will be more WoW for me, especially since the wifey still plays on occasion, but for now I’m trekking out.

For some reason I was reminded of FFXI.

Or at least I should say that I’m forcing myself to stay away from WoW to give STO a fair shake. There are many times where STO annoys me, but I forgive those annoyances considering that the game is still so new. I remember back to when I made the transition from Final Fantasy XI to World of Warcraft and the difficulties I experienced in the process. That is, however, to not imply that I will be transitioning from WoW to STO, but rather that I’m being a little more forgiving of STO’s plentiful faults.

Okay, so I’ve rambled on long enough, let’s get onto to STO for really reals now …

It's a harp-shaped time portal, really.

Last night I hit Lieutenant Commander 6th grade and managed to get almost halfway to 7th grade thanks to completing the Guardian of Time quest-line twice. First time through I “skipped” half of the quest-line by flying directly to the Gateway system. After saving Miral Paris I proceeded on to JFS 47 and discovered that I was heading back to Gateway, to do the same stuff I had already done. *groan*¬†I can’t complain too much though, the rewards and “experience” were well worth the effort. In fact, I’m almost thinking of completing the quest-line again given how lucrative it was.

While I’m on the subject of this quest-line, I would be remiss to not mention the voice-over work present. The Guardian’s VO work was humorous, but rather lackluster as was Spock’s VO when you travel back to 2270. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to participate in a quest-line that had VOs where my cruiser had to rescue the Enterprise from Klingon time-interlopers. It’s just that overall the structure of the mission wasn’t engaging, especially since you can jump into it half-way in and not know it.

Perhaps I should have rolled a Klingon?

If anything, the portion of the quest-line where I boarded the Klingon ship made me want to pilot my own bird-of-prey. If it weren’t for my desire to continue progressing as quickly as possible, I’d probably succumb to my desire to roll a Klingon. I’m already distracted enough with thoughts of playing Mass Effect (2) that rolling a Klingon would stunt my STO “development.” Then again, maybe playing a Klingon is exactly what I should do in order to give every aspect of STO a spin.

Ground combat is still giving me fits; I’m coming close to absolutely despising ground missions. They’re poorly designed, take too long, and are an absolute chore to get through. Even with having a Mk III kit allowing me to lay down a cover shield, health regen-unit, and phaser turret (II) I’m still wanting to claw my eyeballs out when trudging through combat.¬†At least a fellow fleeter (Did I mention that I joined the Ctrl Alt Trek fleet?) posted a little tip that has made ground combat slightly more bearable: exploiting exposed enemies.

Huh? What does that mean?

Many weapons have a secondary attack that may be listed as an Expose attack or an Exploit attack. Expose attacks will occasionally expose/debuff a target which will cause the next exploit attack to critically hit. Well, a critical hit is a slight understatement … more like expose them to being instantly disintegrated. I currently have my toon equipped with weapons that have an exploit attack and an expose attack which in theory sounds good.

Providing additional (unnecessary) utility.

If weapon swapping felt a little more fluid and responsive it would work out great, but I’m considering giving my away team expose weapons and keeping an AoE exploit weapon equipped for my toon. I could go with two exploit weapons since the cooldowns on the secondary attacks of each weapon are not shared, but the expose debuff doesn’t occur enough to where having two exploit weapons would be ideal.

Having each weapon type still gives me the option to expose enemies and exploit them on my own, which would be greatly beneficial during ground fleet actions. Not that I would voluntarily join another another ground fleet action. At least the next time I do end up in a ground fleet action I’ll be able to provide more utility to the team.

Well that’s all I have for now. I’m hoping to get promoted to Commander this weekend so I can pick up a larger cruiser. Hopefully I don’t end up running the Guardian of Time quest-line 23 times to get there. ^^;

Drive

I’m going to get a little meta on everyone, so please bear with me.

What drives us to play World of Warcraft? The people? The challenge? The mechanics? The atmosphere? The loot?

I’ve been playing WoW since day 3 pretty consistently for the past 5 years. There have been multiple breaks from WoW, with a couple of those lasting several months, but I’ve always come back. No other game has held my attention for as long nor has engrossed me as thoroughly. So what is it about World of Warcraft that has accomplished this?

I love the art style of WoW as well as the mechanics. While there are many misguided opinions on the “one button” gameplay of WoW, it really is a blast to play. It’s an MMO with a casual-centric gameplay that allows anyone to go through the game at their own pace. You can level from 1 to the cap all by yourself and that was something that appealed to me coming from Final Fantasy XI.

Grouping was and still is purely optional in WoW. Eventually most players find their way into a guild, usually formed by friends, and the sense of community becomes apparent. I love my guild and friends that I’ve made over the years on Cenarius. Even better is the growing sense of community I’ve obtained with listening to podcasts and becoming friends with many people outside of my home server.

While the community plays a large portion of the staying-power of WoW, I think many of us become hooked because of another aspect of the game: character progression. It’s that carrot dangled in front of our noses driving us to keep playing, to keep obtaining better and better loot. You might think it shallow to simplify things down to obtaining virtual loot, but let’s think about it for a moment.

How many of your in-game friends do you have contact with outside of the game? At some point WoW will be a footnote in our collective gaming history and the friendships we’ve made will probably continue on to the next thing whatever that maybe. If you’re only playing the game for the community, then WoW is nothing more than a fancy chat-room. So while the experience of WoW is¬†more rewarding with friends, I don’t see how it can be the core driving force to keep playing.

Maybe instead of the community, you play for the challenge of the raid-content. There is definitely a sense of accomplishment from the triumph of challenging content and that is definitely a large motivating factor to keep playing. But let’s be honest, if there wasn’t the reward of better loot tied to the downing of bosses, would you still be playing the game?

Now by no means am I trying to suggest that everyone is (still) playing the game solely for loot, but character progression is probably the largest motivating factor across the board for many of us. Maybe this sense of progression is amplified if our real-life progression has slowed down.

Perhaps you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, or maybe you’re happy with where you’re at in life. Either way World of Warcraft satisfies a basic need of progression in our lives, (perhaps too well). You can come home, log in, and feel like you’ve made some progress. It’s a simple reward mechanism that keeps us coming back for more. While for some that progress may very well be in the social-arena of WoW, it’s hard to deny that many of us do it for the loot.

Editors Note: If you’re wondering where the inspiration came for this entry, I have an answer for you. After listening to Joystiq podcast episode 121 Justin McElroy mentioned that the games he often finds motivated to play are those that provide a sense of progression. This resonated with me and I began reflecting on why WoW and MMOs in general hook players for as long and as completely as they do. If you’ve never listened to the Joystiq podcast, I highly recommend that you do so. Do it NOW!

Progression

From the very first moment of playing WoW it held hope of reaching the end-game without the need of a steady static party. FFXI was my first true love of the MMORPG genre, but the bitterness of sitting in Jeuno with my LFG flag on for hours only depressed me. WoW promised the ability to solo to 60, and that alone convinced me to take the plunge. I still remember the day that my rogue, Nevik, hit 60. What a momentous occassion, I felt like I had accomplished something that eluded me in FFXI.

At that point I felt like the rest of the game was open for me to experience. However as the months toiled on and the time commitments of Molten Core proved too daunting, it became apparent. The true nature of WoW doesn’t start until you hit 60, progression through equipment by raiding. Now 18 months later I can finally say that I’ve started the true progression of my first (and still only) level 60 character.

A week and a half ago I finally ventured into Zul’Gurub with my guild, Awry, and had an absolute blast. We cleared everything except for the fish boss, Jin’do, and the Edge of Madness due to the lateness in which we started (this was the night 1.11.1 went live in primetime). I even won two items during the night: [Zulian Slicer] and a [Primal Hakkari Aegis]. Winning the sword only helped reinforce just how good of an idea it was to pick up skinning again and once I finally hit revered with Zandalar I’ll be able to immediately pick up my chestpiece.

The best part of that night wasn’t the fact that I won some “phat loot” but rather that I got to experience true end-game content with my good friends in the guild. It had been far too long that I had been 60 with the only “end-game” content I had experienced being UBRS. My GM was ecstatic that I was finally able to join in on the fun and have a great time. Hell, I was ecstatic that I no longer felt gimped being that I came in 2nd on the damage meters to our former HWL shaman, Zydan.

So even if that were the only end-game progression I had made, I’d still feel accomplished … but there’s more …

Last wednesday I came home after work hoping to run ZG again. Unfortunately my guild decided to do an impromptu run on July 4th and cleared everything except EoM and the fish boss. Instead we decided to do a guild run of Ahn’Qiraj (20 man). Considering I needed Kurinaxx’s venom sac I quickly set aside any disappointment of not running ZG and joined in for the AQ20 run. We only cleared 3 bosses, (Kurinaxx, Rajaxx, and Buru) due to a bad raid composition, but again I won some “phat loot.” A [Qiraji Sacrificial Dagger] dropped off of Kurinaxx which I won along side with his venom sac that I turned in to get a [The Thunderwood Poker].

Ahn’Qiraj was a blast, I especially enjoyed the General Rajaxx encounter. It actually felt like I was taking place in an epic battle. Buru was refreshing in that for once I felt like WoW was a video game using familiar mechanics. I only hope that Blizzard keeps this trend up and the expansion includes some 5 man content that uses other familiar mechanics that break up the monotonous feel of MMORPGs.


Well at least rogues are useless during this encounter >.<

Yet there’s still more …

Thursday I got my first taste of 40 man content with a horde coalition in which Awry is a member of, (well by far the largest member of). I took my rogue and finally made good on my solo attunement run for the Molten Core. I’m glad I experienced MC last, as quite frankly MC is a horrible instance. Drab, uninteresting, and monotonous. It’s easy to understand why many love to say goodbye to MC. Regardless, it still was a new experience, and I actually came away with something, my tier 1 gloves: [Nightslayer Gloves].

Finally on Friday a group of guild officers including the former GM of our sister guild ran LBRS so that I could get my tier 0 Shadowcrap gloves. Why on earth would I even bother getting them? I’ve been working on the dungeon 2 set quest line as the [Darmantle Belt] would be an upgrade. Also I figured slapping +5 Skinning on the [Darmantle Gloves] would make for great farming gloves. Fortunately for me, Vosh’gajin dropped my gloves and Nevik is now sitting at skinning 315! ^^.

Well that’s about it, tomorrow will be yet another improvement for Nevik as I’ll be able to turn in my Elementals Deck for a [Darkmoon Card: Maelstrom]. With that Nevik will be a proc-mastah!