Cataclysm is coming fairly soon now, by all reports. MMO Champion fixed the date of release as being November 2nd, barring some bug delays, and that gives us about a month and a half to go before everything gets washed away in a sea of change.
Be generous, call it two months. Be cautious, and call it only one.
Whichever way the expansion winds blow, this one is bringing some serious changes to the core structure of the game itself, and almost all of the classes.
It’s a good time to really talk about last minute planning and preparation.
Unless, of course, you’re like my friend Occulus, who saved up about 200,000 gold and full heirlooms, a stored Mechano-Hog and non-combat pets against the day he can create his new Worgen Druid.
There may just be such a thing as being TOO damn prepared, after all.
The first thing I want to talk about, and to my mind the most important thing of all, is preparing mentally for what’s going to come.
Change is coming. Specifically, changes to the core mechanics governing how YOU play the character you already know and love are coming.
Let me relate a few hypotheticals for you.
Maybe you’ve been playing a Hunter, or multiple Hunters, for years now. Literally years. You know them, you love them, they rock your world.
The news coming out of the beta, and the Blue posts surrounding the upcoming Cataclysm have made it clear that, come the Big One, your understanding of the core mechanics of Hunters and how they work will be wrong.
In Cataclysm, you will need to approach the class with a fresh perspective, learn how to spec your Talent points in new ways, learn how the new non-Mana system works for you, learn and understand new stat priorities based on Talent spec anew, and also learn how all your abilities and spells work and what speeds/cooldowns they have and work out what to use, and when.
You know this is coming, and there is one more piece to this puzzle. You haven’t really been following everything, you’re not in the beta test, you haven’t grown with the changes as they’ve been implemented and tested. But you HAVE read enough in the Blue posts, and in the forums, to see that current players who ARE avidly following the news of these changes, and presumably playtesting them out, are ranting and raving.
Other players are complaining that this won’t work, or that got nerfed, or this thing is awesome, or that thing is all screwed up.
Some folks have already worked out some kind of shot rotations and mechanics systems where they pop one ability 3 times followed by hitting “X” to unleash a buff, and then something else gets done. You don’t really follow what the hell they’re talking about, because you haven’t even SEEN these changes yet, let alone begun working out rotations.
But what you do know is this; you know how to play your character now, you really enjoy playing it as it is, and you do it very well. This new stuff sounds like they’re changing it all around, and the player comments make it sound like it’s going to be really difficult and complicated. That depresses the hell out of you.
You’re starting to think that, once Cataclysm comes, you might not even play that character you love anymore, because it just doesn’t sound fun anymore. All too confusing and complicated now.
That’s a hypothetical situation, and it could be any other class you’d like to name. Paladins, for example, are really taking some massive changes right in the shorts. (Why do I think of Jong when I say that?)
I’d like to take a moment to address this.
Yes, your class will be changing. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Maybe your favorite spec is changing a lot, while others are just seeing some small tweaks.
The first thing I’d like you to do is take a mental step back from all the rhetoric. Get your head out of the midst of all the little details, move back from worrying about what cooldown Swipe has, or how many Talent points you can put into whatever.
Look for a moment at the big picture.
Yes, things will change. And yes, the playstyle you enjoy now will likely be changed.
The thing to keep in mind is, most classes have a reasonably easy way to play, and a min/max micromanaged optimized way to play (however you’d like to refer to it).
No matter how you play now, go to Elitist Jerk’s website for a moment and take the time to read the theorycrafting threads for your favorite DPS spec.
In most cases, there are incredibly detailed instructions on how you simply MUST play. Tons of research, comparisons, spreadsheets, graphs and more.
Just because all of that exists does not mean that you HAVE to use any of it.
In many cases, the difference between one player using the ‘optimized’ techniques, and another clicking whatever ability happens to be off the cooldown or sounds good, is about 100 to 200 dps.
Gear makes a big difference. How that gear is chosen based on knowledge of hit caps, expertise caps, crit rating, haste and mana regen makes a big difference. What lag you experience in 25 person raids makes a big difference. Whether or not you’re trying to carry on a typed chat conversation with your BFF at the same time as you raid makes a big difference.
If the worry of having to deal with a new system soon stresses you out, remember… you can play your own character however you are comfortable with. Don’t sweat it. You don’t have to do what everyone else does.
Many people out there play their characters to 80 and have a wonderful time without ever ONCE visiting any out-of-game resource. Maybe they’re not ‘optimized’, but they’re close just the same.
I have an example.
I am leveling a secret Death Knight. I’ve never managed to maintain momentum past level 63 before, and I’m now almost 67.
Cassie has also played a Death Knight, she leveled hers to 80 and really enjoyed it.
We’ve both played Blood spec.
When I was chatting with my buddy Melpo the other night, he asked me what I thought about my DK. I told him what I was enjoying the most was how much fun it was to manage/juggle my Runes as Blood spec.
With my Talents, when I trigger a Death Strike, one Frost and one Plague Rune become Death Runes, Runes that can be used by any ability.
As a Blood spec, I get the Heart Strike ability, which is powered from Blood Runes.
I find it fun to approach a ‘snack’ mob, unload a Death Strike which gives me 2 Death Runes, hit 2 Heart Strikes using up my two Blood Runes, fire off a Death Coil from the built up energy, maybe two, and then another Death Strike to get two more Death Runes. By then the mob is, generally, dead. Yum!
This lets me then approach a ‘dinner time’ mob, and eat his ass alive by chaining 6 Heart Strikes as fast as the GCD lets me. I find it hilarious good fun, juggling my Runes like that.
Maybe the second mob died faster than the first, maybe not. That’s not the point. The point is, I’m having fun controlling what abilities I’m going to have available on the NEXT mob I fight. I enjoy planning various rotation strategies in advance, and being able to choose to ‘unlock’ Heart Strike to be chained 6 times in a row (8 if you consider the Blood Runes coming off cooldown by the end of shot 6) if I damn well feel like it.
Cassie overheard the conversation, and said afterwards that she felt like she didn’t play her Death Knight ‘right’, because I’m sitting here doing all this juggling and managing of Rune cooldowns and playing with Plagues and using Brain Freeze for no apparent reason all the time even when the mob is a millisecond from death to interrupt that Fireball, and she “just hits whatever button was off cooldown first”.
Here’s my reply to that, to her and to you.
Did the mobs die?
Yes or no. Did the mobs die?
Did you live? Did the mobs die and you lived, and lived quite handily at that without heirlooms or other cheats?
Did you have FUN doing it your way?
Then who gives a shit if you hit whatever buttons came off cooldown?
Seriously, I beg you to hear me, and think about it.
If doing what you do sees the mobs die, you live, and you are ENJOYING it, then that is enough!
Now, carry that forward into the new expansion.
Do not worry NOW that people are talking about complicated rotations in beta threads. Do not worry that people are up in arms about this thing or that thing, or whatever.
Go forward knowing that whatever you end up doing, irrespective of what anyone else is doing, if you are killing mobs, if you are surviving your fights, and if you are having fun doing it your way, then you’re doing it exactly right, and anyone who says differently can kiss your ass.
You worried about DPS meters? I refer you to the above listed reasons why your DPS may vary from someone else that have nothing to do with rotations or ability choices. You worried about raid performance? By the time everyone hits level 85, I’m sure your favorite theorycrafters will have something to say about new mechanics that will have been playtested in live. You’ll have plenty of tools to figure all that crap out then, AFTER you’ve leveled 5 new levels, gotten all sorts of gear upgrades, and found your balance.
There is one thing I know I cannot do. I cannot ease your feeling, in some chamber of your heart, that if the ‘leet’ people are doing super-complicated rotations, you should too. I know. I know exactly what you mean. All protesting to the contrary, no matter how well you do with your own method, that feeling that you could be doing better if you only tried will probably remain.
But I still ask of you, to take that step back, let go of the small shit, the little fears, the minor debates and piddling little worries, and focus on the big picture.
Play your character. Have fun. Do it your way. If they die, and you live, and it’s been fun then YOU WIN.
You can worry about the rest later.
Play it, Blue Eyes!
“And I did it, myyyyy wayyyyyy.”