Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tankless Karazhan

Since our tanks didn't show up last night so we split into improvised Kara groups, and I never laughed so hard in an instance.

We were completely goofing around, chain pulling without waiting for healers, resto Shamans tanking (sometimes being oneshotted, sometimes doing great). Despite our numerous hilarious wipes, we were going faster than the other group and we beat some of our previous records (Wolf went down in 2mn 30sec and Curator and Maiden died in 1mn 40sec).

Probably the best 40g in repair I ever spent...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The impending Arena mayhem

I don't know about you, but with Season 3 starting today, I plan on staying away from the Arena for a few days.


A couple of reasons:
  • Season 3 is starting today, so all the ratings are being reset to 1500... which means that dozens of 1800+ teams are going to be busy steamrolling their way back to their ratings in the coming few days. In other words, there is a very high likeliness that you will be matched against teams that are hundreds of points above your level, which guarantees that you'll be slaughtered for hours on.

  • To make matter worse, not only are these teams way better than yours, but they are also much better geared than they were yesterday: any player who's been in the Arena for a few months has been diligently hoarding points in prevision of today. A lot of them are sitting on 5000 points as we speak, which means that as soon as the realms are back online, they will purchase two if not three pieces of Season 3 gear.
Moral of the story? I'll probably be hanging out in ZA or raiding SSC until the dust settles in the Arena, but then... I'll be back with some new gear of my own. I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Raiders and casuals

There has been a growing divide splitting the WoW community for the past two years between hardcore raiders and casual players.

Casual players enjoy leveling, have many alts and occasionally run instances, while hardcore raiders focus on a single main that is usually epic'ed out and raid several nights a week.

More recently, Blizzard started making epic gear more available to casual players via various game mechanics: heroics, PvP rewards, the Arena and Badge rewards. While generally acclaimed, the recent introduction of Zul'Aman is adding to this trend by creating an instance that drops items that are near T6 quality. Unsurprisingly, this has a few hardcore raiders worried (or sometimes, downright angry) that Blizzard is cheapening their hard work by making items available to everyone.

An example of this attitude can be found in this post (unsurprisingly from the Elitist Jerks forum), although this poster is definitely on the mild side of people holding such arguments.

To me, people with this opinion are simply missing the point of raiding.

To me, raiding is about...

  • The thrill of discovering new content.
  • Getting your ass kicked nine times and win the tenth time.
  • The excitement of a first encounter.
  • The adrenaline rush of a first kill.
  • New graphics, new areas, new musics and new visual effects.
  • Awesome voice acting and hilarious or creepy one-liners.
  • Marveling at Blizzard's imagination.
  • Creative boss mechanics and reinventing the art of battle.
  • Feeling a chemistry with 24 other people you've never even met.
Casual players will never experience these points to the level that hardcore raiders do, so there is very little point in being angry at Blizzard for trying to keep the game appealing to everyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Karazhan is the new black

Who would have thought? With every Karazhan boss dropping one or two Badges of Justice and the accompanying rewards considerably augmented in patch 2.3, Blizzard has delivered a one-two punch that is making Karazhan fashionable again.

Sure, it's easier to coax your guildmates into running the daily Heroic than before with the gold reward and the extra two Badges, but it still takes between sixty and ninety minutes to clear most instances for a modest pay out of four to six badges total.

I went back to Karazhan this past weekend. We cleared half the place in a little over two hours and I received a staggering eleven Badges of Justice. I didn't do the exact math, but I suspect that a full clear would probably net you around nineteen badges, putting most of the new rewards within your grasp in approximately three weeks (less if you're a diligent heroic or ZA runner).

And did you see these rewards? They are nothing to scoff at: most of them are ilevel 128, which places them at the SSC level (the best Karazhan gear is usually in the ilevel 125 area).

By the time Wrath of the Lich King comes out, I wouldn't be surprised if a big proportion of the Outland population is decked out in high level epics without having run any endgame dungeons. And that's a good thing!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A funny Arena encounter

Last night, my Druid partner and I started our arena game stealthed, as we usually do, and we were fairly puzzled by the behavior of our two opponents (Paladin and Warrior): they headed straight for the middle of the Nagrand arena and both started dancing.

Now, we've seen a few cocky teams in our various encounters, and since some of them actually turn out to be pretty good, we decided to take no chance and to spend a minute or so trying to figure out how to handle these prancing gentlemen. Once we agreed, we started our circling maneuver and opened the fight. To our surprise, the warrior went down very fast without getting a single heal or a bubble. We switched to the paladin, whose dancing steps quickly disappeared in a flurry of slicing blades and swift mangles. The fight was over in less than two minutes.

As we were both trying to figure out what just happened, I took a look at the name of the opposing team and read... "Dancing for Epic Welfare".

Friday, November 16, 2007

A beginner's guide to the Arena for Rogues

Here are a few things I've learned about my class after a couple of months in the Arena (as such, it's probably incorrect on many fronts, but I'm just offering this for beginner Rogues). My best rating so far is 1640, so it's really laughable and I'm aware I haven't even scratched the surface of the complexity of the Rogue class. This guide is also very Rogue-centric and ignores pretty much all the other classes, but that alone would take a book (or a future chapter).

Be nice to me and offer constructive ways in which I could improve. Thanks!

In the Arena, I see my role principally as disrupting healing. Killing the healer is a nice side effect, but it's not mandatory: if you can pester him long enough for the rest of your team to kill at least another one of his teammates, you now have a good edge on the encounter.

There are many ways you can disrupt a caster, mostly with a mix of stunlocking and kicking. If on top of that you spec with Preparation (which resets most of your major cooldowns, on a 10mn cooldown so typically usable once per Arena match), you are basically doubling most of your abilities (and principally: vanish, which allows you to do another full opener sequence during the fight).


  • Cheap Shot (only in stealth). Basic opener that immobilizes your opponents and gives you 2 points and a few more seconds to decide what to do next (should be 4 seconds but usually mitigated by your target). I usually use these seconds to land a Hemorrhage (increases the damage for 30 charges) and a Ghostly Strike (20 sec cooldown). Substitute with Sinister Strike if you don't have GS, or maybe another Hemo so you don't have to refresh it too soon.

  • Gouge. Must be done facing the target and stuns the target for a few seconds (can be extended with talents). It seems to be frowned upon in the Arena (and usually not improved by a spec) but I find it useful at my level when all my other stunlocks are on cooldown. I also choose this when I don't have enough points on the target to justify a Kidney Shot.

  • Kidney Shot. The most durable stunlock that can work for at most 6 seconds with 5 points. Unfortunately on a 20 sec cooldown, so always try to maximize the number of points you have before using it.

  • Blind. Very convenient since it can be cast remotely. Usually my choice of stunlocking when the target is away from me (or I haven't reached them yet) but not too far. When they are too far, I resort to...

  • Deadly Throw. This one requires points to be on the target, but if you have the +2 bonus set of HWL, it will interrupt (and possibly silence) the target for a couple of seconds. This is very powerful (and I don't use it enough) especially when you started putting points on the target but they start walking away and because you're immobilized or slowed down, you no longer have melee access to them. Definitely worthy of a quick access key binding. In a nutshell: if the target is <>
Another major weapon of the Rogue is, of course, Kick, which has a ten seconds cooldown (second only to Shaman's Earth Shock: six seconds) and can be improved by a spec to also silence the target.

For a typical rush down approach (unload all your cooldowns on this first target in an attempt to kill it or at least to scare it and cause it to panic, i.e. cause a Pally to bubble):

Cheap Shot, Hemo, Sinister or Ghostly Strike, Gouge (to refresh the stunlock), a couple more damages (SS/GS) then Kidney Shot. When a few seconds have elapsed and the target is about to come back to life, decide if they're harmed enough. If I need more stunlocking, I then vanish and do it again. Of course, the cycle will be a bit disturbed because some abilities will be on cooldown, so it won't work as well, but there is room for variations.

What I'm still trying to master is timing. I have Quartz bars prominently sitting in the middle of my display and I now try to chain all these abilities to make sure I don't waste any tenth of a second. This requires a lot of work since you need to take into account your energy as it ticks up ("my target will awaken in a second, do I have enough energy to squeeze in another SS or should I Kidney Shot right now so I have enough energy for the next cycle?").

Another thing I learned pretty quickly: make sure you don't have any dots on before you vanish. If you need another long-lasting stealth, just use Cloak of Shadows to clear the dots (it might not clear them all...). Sometimes, I just need stealth to enable another Cheap Shot or clear me from the pet's target, so the dots check is unnecessary and I just Vanish and go ahead with my sequence.

Preparation (reset of most cooldowns) is extremely powerful but I still find myself trying to figure out when to use it best. The ideal situation is to *not* use Prep until all the cooldowns it resets have been burned. It sounds very simple, but of course, during a fight, things are not always that easy. Maybe you already vanished once and you absolutely positively need to vanish again, except that it's going to waste one Evasion and one Sprint, which you haven't used yet... It's all about art, reflexes and memorization: yes, you need to keep a mental track of which cooldowns you've used so far.

Like all classes, breaking snares is also very important for a Rogue. The trinket is mandatory, I also use Will of the Forsaken quite often (yeah Undeads). Sprint can also be specced to break snares (and it's reset by Prep!). Use these with caution: you will be snared and feared a lot during a fight, and it's not always worth it to break it right away. This is a mistake that I'm still making as of today, and I still need to understand when it's okay to eat a shot in order to save the cooldown for when it will be really useful. Another good example of this dilemma is Cloak of Shadows: you've just received a couple of dots from a Lock, you'd better resist the temptation to use CoS because you can be sure that a few more dots are on their way (you could also question the wisdom of burning CoS on Lock dots at all since they will most likely be renewed as soon as you purge them... except that you can go out of sight or vanish!).

Poisons are also critical to a Rogue. Basically, the only ones I have found useful in the Arena are Crippling (slows the target), Mind-numbing (makes them cast slower) and Wound (reduces the healing they receive). Ideally, you'd like to only apply poisons once you've identified the other team, but in practice, I'm not sure teams really do that.

I keep going back and forth between these three poisons. It seems to me Crippling can benefit all my team members (not just me), so I tend to have it on all the time on one of my blades (see below for "which one"). Since I usually rush healers, I tend to prefer using Mind-numbing, since it gives my cooldowns a little bit more time to become active again so I can interrupt them. Cloth healers usually don't have enough time to even cast a heal on themselves, so Wound poison seems to be a little less useful to me, but it can come in handy for the other target(s) once you're done with the first one. Note also that Paladins will bubble when they feel threatened, so Wound poisons can be effective against them (as long as it doesn't get purged, of course).

Rogues have an interesting ability called Shiv that automatically applies your off-hand poison to the target, thereby forcing you to make an intelligent choice on where to put what. In my experience, both poisons end up landing on my target within a few seconds of the engagement, so I haven't found much use to this, but this is probably due to the fact that most teams we've been facing so far are about our level (read: suck) and don't purge as fast as they should. If they do, repeated Shivs might be a winning strategy, thereby making the choice of which poison to put on which blade critical.

One word on your user interface. I have created a special bar that contains all my important cooldowns. I positioned this bar pretty much in the middle of my screen. This is just a "read-only" bar. I don't use it to click (you shouldn't be clicking anything in the Arena anyway, keyboard only!). I've found this very useful since these cooldowns are scattered on my other bars for historical and reflex reasons.

I also mentioned Quartz, but any other similar mod will work. Whatever you choose, be sure that it will accurately show you how much longer your Cheap Shot or Blind will work. I'm also testing a symmetric add-on called Witch Hunt which displays what all the players around me are casting (interestingly: not just my current target, *everyone*). I haven't really leveraged this information so far, but time will tell if I start tapping into it.

I also modified and improved my keyboard binding to put important PvP functions (such as Evasion or Cloak of Shadows) right under my fingers. I haven't talked about either of these, by the way, it will be for another time.


I know I should have done this a long time ago, but I finally decided to stop peppering my current blog with World of Warcraft posts and create one specifically dedicated to receive my thoughts on this game.

A few words about me: my main is a Rogue in a progression guild (currently working its way in Serpent Shrine Cavern) and I've been playing this obsessively addictive game pretty much since it came out. I have recently taken a liking in the Arena (initially more to improve my weapons and my raiding performance than anything else) so you can also expect to see a few PvP posts here and there.

And in order to add some substance to this first post, I'll follow it up with a short tutorial for Rogues who want to make their first steps in the Arena.