Sunday, December 28, 2008

28 hours to Northrend

My Death Knight hit 68 after 28 hours of /played time, mostly questing and a few instances here and there. I did about 250 quests and leveled pretty much exclusively in three zones (Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh and Nagrand). And I didn't even complete any of these zones.

The bottom line is that Blizzard did really cut down on the time to level, and I'm actually quite excited at the prospect of taking my plate AOE machine through the Northrend grind (third time).

At this point, I'm even seriously considering making her my main, but I'll save that for another post.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Death Knights for Dummies

With things tapering off on my main (who is now pretty much only raiding and doing reputation dailies), I decided to give this Death Knight thing a serious try.

I played the DK starter areas twice (in the beta and in the live game) and I came out unimpressed both times.  The class felt a bit awkward to me and if seemed to me that Blizzard was trying to create something different and ended up creating something complex.

As it turns out, while rich in lore and fun quests, the DK starting area is actually a very poor testing ground to unleash all the entertainment that the Death Knight class can deliver, and it took me a few hours in Hellfire Peninsula to realize that.  I am now 62 and I am having a lot of fun with my Knight.

The first thing that impresses me about Death Knights is that they are pretty much AOE machines wearing plate.  

Anything within ten yards of a competent DK is taking tons of damages under different forms.  I predict that they will become as good at trash AOE tanking as Paladins.  Remember these times when your character is barely handling two mobs above your level, a third one joins in and you think "Crap.  Corpse run incoming"?  Well, with a Death Knight, not only do I actually look forward to that, but I sometimes Death Grip one from afar because otherwise, some of my DPS is going to waste.

Oh and I usually finish the fight with at least half, if not all, of my health.  I'm talking about a 62 DK handling 3-4 mobs that are two levels above, here.  And by handling, I really mean "meleeing".

The mechanics of the class is complex and prone to a lot of exploration, so I most likely don't have everything down here, but here is what I have found out so far.  The overall idea is to put as many diseases as you can on one mob, spread it with Pestilence and then pick various finishers depending on the situation.  While leveling, you don't really need to worry about renewing diseases since the mobs will be dead by the time the first diseases expire.

It usually goes a bit like this (if a line starts with (aoe), it means I'm fighting several mobs, which is what I try to do most of the time).
  • (aoe) Death and Decay
  • Icy Touch, Plague Strike (to put two diseases on a target)
  • Pestilence (spreads the diseases to all mobs with a cool graphic effect)
  • (aoe) Blood Boil (not quite sure this is really useful since only the current target affected by disease will be hit hard, the others will only feel a little sting)
  • If I'm taking damage, Death Strike (which heals me, but doesn't hurt much), otherwise Blood Strike (which hurts more)
  • When the mob is about to die, Obliterate (which does a lot of damage but also consumes a disease)
  • Interspersed in all this, Death Coil, as Runic Power becomes available
All these abilities deal little damage when taken separately, but when you see them compounded with each other, groups of mobs fall like flies.  Of course, the ghoul is also dealing a reasonable amount of damage and I reassign it to various mobs based on the health bars I see on the screen.

As a data point, my 62 DK was able to solo all the giants that roam in the Northwestern area of the Hellfire Peninsula.  While this is unlikely to impress hunters and warlocks, you need to keep in mind that the DK is actually meleeing the elite the entire time.  There is no fearing or using a pet to take the punishment for you (your pet ghoul doesn't have any aggro retaining abilities, so you usually send it in first, but as soon as you engage, the mob will turn its full attention to you).

Elite soloing in a nutshell:
  • Use Frost Presence (Death Knights' tanking aura).
  • Cast Bone Armor and wait for a minute before engaging, so you can cast a second one during the fight.
  • Be ready to cast Icebound Fortitude (Death Knights' "oh crap" button) if things go bad, but I actually never had to
  • Use your regular AOE spells when adds appear (Death and Decay, Pestilence, etc...).
At 62, my DK has about half of her original blue starter gear and half Outland green gear, so all of the above is based on abilities alone and not overgear. 

As for add-ons, I installed Magic Runes, but I barely use it, for a couple of reasons:
  • As I mentioned above, mobs usually die by the time the initial diseases wear off, so the importance of keeping track of them is lessened while leveling.  Still, I already have Quartz configured to show me this in an effective way for my Rogue (Slice and Dice, Rupture and Deadly Poison all neatly stacked up in the middle of the screen) and the exact same configuration is working great to keep track of diseases.

  • Dominos is doing a good job at showing me the proper cooldowns.  For example, if an ability needs one Frost and one Unholy and that they have respectively two and six seconds more to go, Domino will show that ability with a cooldown of six seconds.
I'm still having fun so far, time will tell if the novelty of the class will wear off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

WOTLK raiding: first impressions

A few random thoughts after two weeks:
  • Hunter damage is out of control: it never drops under 2500 DPS and during one pull in Naxx where we aggroed three groups, the top hunter clocked at 9000+ DPS. WTH? I can't believe this would be working as intended. My first reaction would be that it should be nerfed, but the crazy hunter DPS is probably a big factor in the fact that Naxx seems so easy. I would be curious to see Blizzard's official position on that.

  • Mages and Warlocks are getting very rare. I'm not sure how widespread it is, but our lead Lock told me he didn't like where the class was going and that he was tired to be a one-button raider, so he's leveling a Death Knight. As a matter of fact, we joined up with another guild to do a quick Naxx 25 run and we had zero mages, zero warlocks and one rogue. And five paladins.

  • Naxxramas is easy and varied (at least the first four wings). It's a great entry-level instance which will probably become as popular as Karazhan, although it's simpler and less demanding on gear. Sapphiron and KT will require a bit more work, though.

  • Same remark for the Obsidian Sanctum, which was already a lot of fun to raid in the beta. I really love the fact that not only can you pick the 10 or 25-man version, but you can also decide how hard you want it to be (for people not familiar with this instance: it's very short, features three mini-bosses and one main boss. Each mini-boss you leave alive makes the main boss harder to kill, but he will also drop more loot if you pull it off. Same idea as ZG, although I don't remember if Hakkar dropped more loot depending on how many of the other bosses were still alive).

  • Another interesting idea from Blizzard: Archavon. He's the only boss in an instance that is accessible only to the faction that controls Wintergrasp and he drops some pretty cool stuff for an easy fight (we killed him with a 25-man pug).

  • It's been barely two weeks and I already have 1 T7 and 1 T7.5 piece. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it, it seems like it should take much longer. As for the rogue class, I find myself back in the top dps meters now that my gear is becoming decent, but the various theorycraft articles I read are scaring me (for example, I'm still sitting at 230 hit but the cap seems to be at least double that... yikes).

  • I'm reading a lot of positive things about Death Knights at 80. I've never leveled one beyond 60, but I'm getting more and more intrigued to push one all the way to 80 now, more so than my existing 70 characters.

  • The dailies are much more scattered than in TBC but fun overall. I'm exalted with one faction already (yay championing) and by now, there is no loot that any of these reputations will get me, so I'm going to focus more on useless stuff, such as another mount+pets (Oracles) and the fishing pole or the penguin (Kalu'ak).