Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Little Bear in Big Raid

Last night was the last of our scheduled Kara runs for the raiding week, with the run from Aran up to Prince staring us in the face. Given that Med still isn't keyed I was all signed up with Crash ready to interrupt Aran's spells and run away whilst enfeebled from the Prince's Shadow Nova.

However when invite time came around we found ourselves a tank short so Med was called in to try and not die to the nasty elite mobs that patrolled around the former home of Medivh.

Things went fairly smoothly, our healers did a great job keeping my health a positive value and deaths were just a part of learning to deal with the new tank and how well I can cope with the damage from the bad guys.

Anyway we were soon outside the Shade's room and it was decided tanking on the summoned elementals would be better than dps and interrupt given we didn't have any warlocks to fear or banish. One quick(ish) fight later and Aran was dead and there was badges and loot to be distributed.

After a quick bio break we headed up to the Chess event which was very smooth and the dust covered chest gave up a very nice necklace for me before disaster struck. Suddenly a few internet connections (including my own) broke down and we had to call the raid early before the Prince could feel our wrath.

All in all a good night given the 'chucked in the deep end' feeling at the beginning and trying to learn the encounters from a new perspective. Hopefully once I can get the key and on the quest chains inside the rest of the encounters will have that shiny new feeling to them again.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Gathering the karazhan key fragments

Now while patch 2.4 removed the need to hold The Master's Key in order to enter Karazhan our guild still has a rule that any character that wants to go raiding should have gone through the atunement quests, partially to open up the other quests for the nice reputation reward rings, and to ensure that people have had at least some experience of playing that character in a group, which is important given that it's now very easy to level to 70 without stepping foot into an instance.

So now that Medrare is 70 and getting some tanking experience under his belt, the key fragments needed to be collected from the various arcane containers. The first step was to head into the Shadow Labyrinth and required the full clear.

Our group did fairly well considering, the first boss didn't cause any major headaches, the time for fun guy killed a few people but we got him down before he got all of us or incited enough chaos for us to kill each other. Grandmaster Vorpil gave us a couple of scares, once for not getting out of Hellfire, and the other when a rogue skeleton popped up and took out our healer. The third time was the charm and we moved on and stood face to face with the essence of sound Murmur.

I've got bad memories of this fight on Crash who managed to die on every attempt due to getting hit by Sonic Boom. However this time no such problems, Quartz made it a doddle to know when to run out and Feral Charge means that you're always on the very edge of the hit box when it's time to head back in there. Down he went and after defeating the guardian the first fragment was retrieved.

Lessons learnt: Having important information up front and centre in my UI makes things so much easier in terms of keeping aware. Once I've sorted out the full tanking setup I'll post some screenshots along with Crash's dps version.

The 2nd and 3rd fragments require trips into Steamvaults and Arcatraz and whilst not a full clear enough to warrant a full group and some team effort.

Doing things a bit backwards we went into Arcatraz first, and seeing how we went past the first boss we took a chance and had a go. Our boomkin died quite soon in and our healer succumbed quite close to the end. Unfortunately I died just as the boss did so whilst not a complete wipe, the two mages left standing meant that it was a runflight back from the graveyard. After that we cleared the rest of the necessary trash and the third fragment was secured.

Lessons learnt: Trying to spot void circles on the floor, whilst tanking a boss with your butt against the wall is impossible, and moving out of line of sight of the healers can cause greater problems than just your health going down.

Finally we went into Steamvaults, a place I will learn to love if the Earthwarden is to be mine. The was a slight hiccup when I managed to pull two groups but other than that things went well and we managed to down the first boss again even if it did require the mages to go nuclear on the elementals.

Lessons learnt: Just because every other pull has been flawless doesn't mean you can be any less careful about the next one.

Just Black Morass remains to get the key blessed by Medivh and I can go test my tanking skills in Karazhan against some of those nasty raid bosses.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Who doesn't love vanity pets

I've not taken advantage of all the changes that the last patch introduced, but the new vanity pet introduced from Shatari Skyguard available at exalted was something that I had to pick up.

Non-combat pets are a part of the game that I really like and something I look out for when questing around the place. My guildies are often jealous of the Sinister Squashling I managed to pick up during the last All Hallows event and running around during Orphan's Week allowed me to pick up Egbert who's manic running around can be a bit of a cause for concern when in raids.

Whilst all these pets are great they do take up extra bag slots which can cause problems especially if you need to keep hold of crafting mats, raid consumables and the like so it's good news from the expansion where pets and mounts will be a new type of spell that you learn from the original item and then can use it at any time. Will also mean that there's a chance I might use a different mount rather than the two I carry around.

Finally, if you haven't seen the current spat between BBB and BRK I hereby encourage all rogues out there to join with our druid buddies in standing up against bloggers claiming parts of the blogosphere for themselves.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Rogue changes from WotLK beta

Well the Alpha has closed and people have been sent beta keys and as of writing this, I haven't received mine. However the patch notes for the beta have been published all over t'internet so let's have a look at the Rogue changes.
  • Blade Twisting (Combat) now cause all damaging melee attacks to have a 10% chance to daze for 4/8 seconds.
  • Deadened Nerves (Assassination) now reduces all damage taken by 1/2/3/4/5%.
  • Fleet Footed (Assassination) now reduces duration of movement impairing effects by 25/50% rather than increasing resist chance.
  • Gouge is now only 1 rank and causes damage based on attack power.
  • Kick is now only 1 rank and no longer causes damage.
  • Nerves of Steel (Combat) now reduces the duration of all Stun and Fear effects by 15/30%.
  • Pick Lock and Disarm Trap no longer require Thieve's Tools.
  • Premeditation (Subtlety) duration increased to 20 seconds.
  • Riposte (Combat) now slows the target's melee attacks by 20% instead of disarming them.
  • Setup (Subtlety) chance to gain a combo point increased to 33/66/100%.
  • Vanish no longer requires the reagent Flash Powder.
  • Vile Poisons (Assassination) reduced to 3 ranks, now increases damage of poisons and Eviscerate by 7/14/20% and increases dispel resistance by 10/20/30%.
My initial reaction is that they're pretty underwhelming. The changes to Gouge and Kick seem interesting, Kick never really did a huge amount of damage, critting for just over 100+ and the damage increase to Gouge is interesting but looks to be a PvP change again rather than something that'll be used during raiding. Having thought about it though, it will be good to be able to go and interrupt a caster mob in a dungeon without stealing aggro using Kick.

The change to Vile Poisons should really read Envenom which ties in with the talent found in the talent tree found at wowhead, and is appears to be the big change for PvE and a key part of the build I reckon will be used once Crash hit's level 80. Other than that the rest of the talent changes have more of a PvP feel to them.

The really big changes appear to be the lack of reagent for Vanish and no need to carry Thieves Tools around to open lock boxes, doors and disarm traps. Now in my levelling up to 70 I have used disarm trap once in Blood Furnace but lock boxes and doors have been a staple part of my roguery and having a set of tools to do this seemed appropriate. The extra bag slot will come in handy but it will be slightly sad to have to get rid of something I was given whilst questing in Ghostlands all those levels ago. Having flash powder was never a problem when using the Hemlock addon which automated the purchasing of said reagent every time I visited a poison vendor.

Having seen some of the big changes that other classes have coming for them in the patch notes, we can only hope that there are some more exciting PvE related changes coming for us sneaky poisoners.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Farewell anesthetic poison, we barely brewed you

When Burning Crusade was released the new rogue poison we got to play with was 'Anesthetic Poison' which had the unique property of doing damage without generating any additional threat.

The theory crafters out there soon realized that the reduced damage that this poison did compared to Instant Poison wasn't worth the lack of extra threat a rogue generated on the mob. This means that you'll generally find rogues running with Deadly Poison on the offhand weapon and (if they don't have a tame enhancement shaman) Instant on the mainhand.

It would appear that the devs at Blizzard have noticed that no-one is using it in anger and have left it out of the new Assassination talent 'Deadly Brew'. With two points in this talent, successful poison attacks have a 100% chance to apply a 2nd poison in the following way
    Instant -> Deadly
    Wound -> Crippling
    Mind Numbing -> Crippling

Notice anything missing, yep it's the black sheep of the poison world, anesthetic. Now the simple explanation is that this talent is from an alpha build and the final version of the talent will map anesthetic to deadly, in the same way crippling is applied based on the other two. Alternatively anesthetic poison was an experiment which hasn't appeared to work and is being dropped in favour of the existing five from the original game.

Personally I think this is a shame, and it would be nice to have some variety of poisons which could be used depending on the encounter. For 95% of the encounters I've played in game Deadly and Instant have seen me well. The only exceptions I can quickly think of are:
    High King Maulgar: Mind Numbing for taking down the priest (slows the heals to allow better interrupt chance) but switching as soon as he's down, or soon after.
    Terestian Illhoof: Wound poison, a full stack reduces the amount he heals himself from the sacrifice of a raid member.

Previous discussions have touted the idea of a corrosive poison which reduces a target's armor. However I don't think that this is likely when we already have an Expose Armor finishing move, and it would have to stack with warrior sunders else the tank is going to be disallowing it during the raid.

So with the present information at hand it seems correct to speculate that we'll just be getting new ranks of the existing poisons and the only major change is making them stack with Windfury.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Guild and real life collisions

One of the nice things about my guild is that it's full of people who know each other in real life and have friendships/relationships outside the game. This has it's ups and downs but on the whole it adds a good dynamic to the group.

The latest way that this combination has happened was a raffle in aid of a pre-school which was advertised on our guild forums and had as the main prize an amazingly created cake as shown below.
The main reason for posting about this is that I won :) but it does highlight the fact that when playing this game, the multi-player part really does mean you are interacting with rea people who have all kinds of other things going on in their lives. This does mean that in all interactions with them you need to keep in the back of your mind what the reasons might be for why they are acting like they do.

So to everyone that belittles players in Battlegrounds or mocks people in /2 just remember that and think twice before you hit enter after typing something vitriolic.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Expansion Rogue Build

After playing the beta at WWI, those lovely people over at have put the current talent trees online that were available, sorry paladins and hunters.

I've had a look around the rogue talents and put together what I think will be my new raiding build once Crash hits level 80 and here it is.

I've gone back to a heavy assassination build (mainly because that's what a rogue should be about) but doesn't place a restriction on the type of weapons being used like the mutilate build does. The aim is that the extra poison talents will make up the damage, and deadly brew means that getting a stack of deadly poison on the target shouldn't be an issue. Also the quicker they can be reapplied the better as Envenom is going to become the alternative finishing move as it will refresh slice and dice. This also means that Instant Poison is likely to be on both weapons rather than just on the main hand as it is now.

Rupture is still going to be a key feature especially as the Blood Spatter talent has increased it's damage output and for all the good reasons it's used today whilst in a raiding group.

The 51-pt talent seems to be the most relevant to PvE as it stands so far, a cut down Cloak of Shadows that also increases damage output and is free if it actually clears something. Given that one of the raid instances is against the blue dragon flight there's likely to be a lot of magic damage flying around and if they keep mechanics like Moroes' garotte in fights then this'll be a good way to help the healers whilst taking down the boss quicker.

Having put 51pts into assassination, the final 20 have gone into combat mainly to get precision and dual-wield specialization as the hit cap for rogues is likely to be just as crazy high at level 80 as it is at level 70.

So now we have these new talents and some new ways of doing damage let's look at what the rotation (such as there can be one) might be.

Opening with garrote will be favourite due to the 20% improved damage and then using that combo point with eviscerate or envenom if poisons have been applied to get S'n'D up and running. Once this has happened it will be a case of alternating Rupture and Envenom to keep the bleed effect running, S'n'D up and Find Weakness. This will be a bit more challenging than what's going on with the current combat swords spec but does add some intricacies that mutilate had.

The final disclaimer for this build is that it may change as all the talents do given that these are beta talent trees and may well be balanced between now and the actual expansion being released, but if it turns out to be the max dps build for all those rogues defeating Arthas, remember where you saw it first :)

Hurrah for fun GM's

Now that the arena season 2 gear has been made available for honor, it means that it's time to grind honor and BG marks to pick up those pieces that clearly blow away loot from raiding or instances.

Crash has picked up both the swords and got them enchanted with Mongoose, which should see him out until the expansion in terms of weapons. Trying them out in Karazhan last night lead to some fun results especially when our shaman healer was kind enough to drop a windfury totem for me and the warrior tanks. I know I keep mentioning this buff but I truly love it for it's sheer awesomeness.

Medrare's needs are simpler, just attempting to get the shoulders (no Atal'ai Spaulders for him) which are ridiculously good given how straightforward they are to get.

However this does mean grinding the battlegrounds, which is ok providing you can cope with the pillocks that can hang around in there and you have a clue what to do when playing your character in PvP. For Crash it's easy (yes I'm admitting at times that playing a rogue is easy but this is probably the only time), you find the squishy cloth wearer and stunlock the heck out of them and then annoy the warlock by removing all his dots in one fell swoop. With Medrare it's a bit trickier, I don't know whether to stay cat and try and claw things to death, go bear and watch people get bored trying to kill me or switch between everything and do a bit of everything. Fortunately when doing Alterac Valley this problem doesn't arrive, tank everything as if it's PvE, wait for DPS to kill stuff whilst healers keep you alive and win the match.

Any way, getting back to the title of this post, today the daily quest was for Warsong Gulch, normally I'd avoid this like the plague, but the 'For Great Honor' quest was still available for gold and makes for an easy way to make up an honor shortfall quickly. So in I went, expecting the worse but hoping for a group that would make the best of it.

As we're riding towards the Alliance base we suddenly see that our flag has been picked up and a red blur streaking ahead of us captures it before any of us have had a chance to blink. Right so some alliance kiddie has decided to employ a speed hack, well done, /golfclap, hope you feel good about yourself.

As this clearly counts as harassment I wasted no time in raising a GM ticket in the hope of at least avoiding meeting him again and standing a chance of loosing in a fair fight. Here attached for posterity are the screenshots of our conversation.

Two things to take from this:
1) My grasp of English goes out the window when typing fast to a GM
2) There really are GM's out there with a sense of humour that will help and respond.

Needless to say the GM survey was glowing after this conversation and hopefully the little wossname that was employing the speed-hack will enjoy his ban.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Playing outside the box

Having spoken about our attempts in ZA and trying to beat the gauntlet, Cynra from commented on the problem when people are only prepared to run certain instances with a Paladin tank (Shattered Halls) or a Warlock (Mechanar) or some other must have class.

At the same time however there are players out there that go out of their way to try things that go against conventional wisdom. These include the rogue who geared themselves unhittable and then went on to tank Illidan and the druid who soloed Onyxia (allowing for a backup to take care for respawning patrols) and best of all the 10 druids who took on Karazhan.

This got me thinking, what's the most unusual way you've beaten an encounter in game and do you get any extra sense of enjoyment from the challenge that comes from going up against an encounter in a way that differs from the accepted norm.

For mine I think I have to go back to the first time we killed Lord Ahune for the Midsummer Fire Festival quest. Accepted wisdom was to take a tank, 2 ranged dps and a good burst melee dps along with the healer, and if there was some AoE then live was good and free epics were yours. However our group was 3 tanks (2 feral druids, 1 prot paladin), a BM hunter and resto shaman.

I'm not going to claim it was an easy fight, and again accepted wisdom was that if you didn't get him down in 2-3 waves you weren't going to get him down. Well the one time we managed it was after 5 waves (which you really didn't want to see) and required nearly every cooldown every class had (possibly more than once).

Whilst we only managed to complete the event once out of the five summons from the group it made a great practice ground for learning what your class can do and trying/having to do different things from what would be considered a standard ability rotation.

So that's my little example, are there any others out there which show there's no one right way to play the game?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Slight site update

Apart from the new title graphic which was put together one evening having messed around with a couple of screenshots (believe me that is Medrare in cat form, he just happens to look like every other Tauren druid) of my characters.

The blog feed is now being powered by feedburner on a recommendation by Rakhman (and probably mentioned by enough other bloggers out there) so if you've been kind enough to subscribe to these ramblings you may want to update the feed.


Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Raid progression, it hurts.

Our guild has recently cleared Karazhan and is having a mooch around the troll city of Zul'Aman to see how we fair there. The bear boss, Nalorakk, is being defeated with relative ease and so with the raid finding itself with plenty of time left it's time to have a crack at the gauntlet on the way up to Akil'zon.

For those that haven't tried this encounter, it's tricky, there are 4 pulls of elite pairs (one of which does chain heal), pairs of elites spawn behind the raid which needs to be running forward at all times and then to top it all off groups of birds fly down which need to be AoE'd. These last two things keep spawning at regular intervals until you reach the top and start fighting the final 'Tempest" so as a raid you have to move, and move fast.

At the moment this is very much a learning experience and tactics are being developed based on which players we have in the raid and how well we can keep them alive and how much damage we can do to the bad guys. The guild doesn't have what would be considered a core raid group, instead it tends to be a balanced group from those that sign up and are able to make the cut in terms of gear and experience. This means that we may not have what would be considered the ideal group based on the strategies you can find online and have to adapt as required.

What doesn't mean however that you can't learn, nor even succeed so long as people are prepared to try and refine what they are doing, and more importantly listen to those who are leading the raid. As a general rule our main tank is raid leader, so deals with looting, invites and where and what we do. I make an attempt at doing tactics and strategies which most of the time come off, but often will require refinement as we discover something interesting about the mobs and how they react to the spells and abilities we chuck at them.

One of the keys things that is useful at this stage is for everyone to evaluate how they are doing, what's working well and more importantly what could be altered at a personal level to try and get that bit further. In my case it'll generally come down to keeping the heals interrupted and only pulling aggro if the final mob is close to death as we're moving forward.

However making random suggestions up to and including changing the make up of the raid for an alt isn't necessarily helpful as it won't help this raid progress, and if you come to rely on a certain class or player then when they're not available you're stuffed before you begin as there's no concept of alternative tactics.

The downside to this 'single-minded' approach is that there will be wipes, there will be repair bills and you're going to need to bring consumables. However if you can come out of it with a new perspective and a better understanding of what needs to be done then the next time should be more productive.

Obviously we won't be killing every boss on the first or second try but if we can learn something from every raid then it should be considered a success for the group, even if there isn't the purple shinies to impress the masses.

Here's to moving forward in the raids and taking a positive attitude into the wipes as they'll always be there when something is new.