Can We Recreate the Magic?

This post is just a little bit of musing about then and now.

Tuesday will see the dawn of a new era in WoW.

Or will it?

The Cataclysm will come to the world of Azeroth, surprising our characters, but not us.

That’s not what I’ve been thinking of.

Maybe it’s Tesh’s fault, but I do spend quite some time trying to analyze the intentions of the Blizzard developers NOT from anything they say, but rather from what they actually DO.

You’re not what you say you are, no matter how loudly you proclaim it. You are what you do.

Tomorrow, for the first time since the release of the Burning Crusade expansion, the portal hubs will go dark.

For the very first time since the end of the Vanilla WoW era, there will not be a single place you can set your Hearth that gives you ready access to… anywhere you want to go.

There is much in the patch and the expansion that will move the game forward.

Is the removal of the portal hubs a move forward… or a move back?

In my opinion, trying to get into the heads of the developers to figure out how they hope this will work out, it’s an interesting move.

People bitch about ‘slippery slopes’ a lot, but one thing is usually true; once you’ve removed an action that used to cause long periods of  grinding, grunt work or downtime, if you put it back in, people resent it. 

One of the things that was true in Vanilla WoW was that moving from place to place took a lot of time. Time waiting for boats, time waiting for zeppelins, time on flights across the continents, time running across deadly zones to get flight points hoping you wouldn’t get eaten, but having to do it because there WERE no boat or zeppelin routes that would give you a convenient short cut around them.

‘Fed Ex’ style quests took no skill at playing your character to complete… but they compensated for that by taking up a lot of time in transit.

There was good cause for rejoicing when Burning Crusade brought us Shattrath; a city with Innkeepers to set your Hearth, and filled with magical portals that could transport you in the blink of an eye to any of the major cities on another world.

Suddenly, just by finding a friendly Mage or Warlock of the right level to help you get there, maybe a 10 gold tip, your character could easily pop in and out wherever they might need to go.

The consequence of this convenience was that one of the most powerful benefits of being a Mage or Warlock, or having one for a friend, was marginalized.

Even the Shaman’s ability to reduce the cooldown of the Hearth was slightly reduced in equivalent power.

The LFD tool brought even more convenience to the party, didn’t it? Instant ports, and all that sort of thing.

No question that having portal hubs saves a lot of time… time that once was spent traveling from place to place could now be spent getting it stuck into the fight faster.

The developers chose to include those portal hub cities. First with one in the heart of Outlands… then again in the heart of Northrend.

The developers have chosen to remove all of those portal hubs.

What can we glean from this decision?

I think, despite some of the conspiracy theories I’ve seen in Trade chat the last few weeks, that this is not an attempt to make us waste more time so the content lasts longer before we get bored.

I’ve seen some comments that it is being done, in part, to cut down the ‘Laglaran’ effect of having 80% of a server’s population in the same zone or city. That sounds like a very plausible reason.

I know that it’s been said by developers that a key point is to force players to be out and about running around the world, so it seems populated and full of life.

Well, if I wanted to be a picturesque local to add color for the enjoyment of the new tourists, I’d prefer to be issued a grass-roofed hut, banana leaves and a spear to shake. And a table to sell my hand crafted goods at ridiculous prices. And a bottle of rum. And some bacon.

I’m not here for the tourists. Screw the tourists! I’m here for my own paid playtime. This particular argument you make for why I should now have to spend tons of my own personal time traveling around not having fun when I used to be able to ‘blip’ effortlessly about is not compelling. Stop making it.

It costs a set amount of money to play per month. Time = money. Your change is costing me playtime I used to spend having fun, and that means you’re costing me money.

Or, as Henry Rollins once put it, you’re killing me… you’re stealing my life. Just a teeny, tiny bit at a time.

So, no, that rationale doesn’t quite float my boat, honey.

But there is another good reason they could be trying it. I say trying, because they can always change their mind back later. It’s not like they’re bulldozing, and can’t afford the zoning permits to rebuild.

By reverting us once again to the days of Vanilla WoW… we are returning to a time when having a Mage, a Warlock, or a friend who is a Mage or a Warlock was a damn good thing.

The abilities those classes learn, and  especially those Portal spells the Mages work so hard to acquire over the levels, suddenly go from being  handy once in a while to being freaking awesome.

Which is how they were before the Burning Crusade.

We’ll still have LFD. We’ll still have the new, vastly improved summoning stones as well. Well, maybe. We will even have new perks from Guild Leveling letting us summon guildies directly to the raid (unless they changed that when I wsn’t looking). And of course, the boats and zeppelins.

We’re not turning back the clock all the way back to Vanilla.

But we won’t have Dalaran or Shattrath to set our hearth to be able to pop wherever we want.

I find thinking of it as a planned change to bring Mages and Warlocks more love for their class skills far more satisfying than thinking of it as a way for Blizzard to feel that they’re running a populated world.

Unless we ever see player or guild housing, set up in seperate communities where we have a reason for hanging out there, housing that other people can peer into to see us hanging out but they can’t enter because they don’t have the friend or guild key… any attempt to make us populate world areas is purely superficial.

Oh, and Blizzard… I know you don’t read my blog, it’s cool, I’m an idiot. But seriously, from me to you. I love you, and what you do is awesome, but could you please consider player or guild housing? Think about it. If you seriously set aside areas where a guild could buy, say, a small townhouse with outdoor area in a city park, and only guild members were allowed in the area… but people could walk by and see what was going on in the outside area of the ‘lawn’?

You would likely have a real, living breathing community on your hands in that neighborhood. Instead of doing laps while chatting, people would lounge on an easy chair in the sun catching a few rays, or stand around the BBQ drinking beer while they chatted.

Oh yes we would.

Back to the point, in my opinion changes attempted to bring a classes’ unique abilities back into prominance is a good thing. Unless the class ability was poorly thought out in the first place or no longer fits the intent, and needs a revamp.

It will be interesting to see how people adjust to the changes. Will there be tons of QQ? Will people be so thrilled by all the rest of the changes they don’t even notice?

Will the number of Mages and Warlocks rolled suddenly increase?

I can’t wait to find out.

How would YOU schedule the event?

We’re at a fun point in the game right now, in terms of planning.

Let’s pretend, just for a minute, that this huge decision is actually in OUR hands.

The date for the release of the Cataclysm expansion is set, and it’s about two weeks away.

In the United States, one of the biggest family events of the year, Thanksgiving, is set for less than one week away.

You’ve been increasing the pressure in the prelude to Cataclysm every week up to this point.

You’ve got one BIG game change coming that you’ve said you will do before the actual expansion release date; the literal breaking of the world.

You are more than a group of brilliant game designers. You are also one of the biggest game companies in the world, and you have to take into account the realities of supporting massive patch releases with physical support to anticipate and correct any problems that may occur.

Historically, every big patch, no matter how well tested, has had some unforeseen problem crop up. You’re too smart to think this one would be different.

What would YOU do?

Regardless of what actually happens, how would you handle it?

Would you release the big world breaking event this week, giving you two weeks to work through problems and get things settled before the expansion… but knowing that if there ARE problems, it will cause a lot of grumpiness from the United States’ customers that will, most of them, have a four day weekend for playing nothing but WoW… err, I mean spend time with their families?

Or do you wait until next week? Do you give things a chance to build some more, maybe have one more ramp up to the final world breaking, and let the big crash come after Thanksgiving, trusting that any last minute problems will be corrected in that last week prior to the box expansion going out there into the world? 

How do YOU play the timing?

The female Worgen dance take 2

Okay, now I know I gave Blizzard crap for using Lady GaGa’s dance for the female Worgen dance.

I stand by that post, but I messed up in one big way. I was vague when I gave suggestions as to what could have been used instead. I do try and live by “If you’re gonna complain, have a suggestion to make it better standing by.”

I knew what I wanted to say, but I was writing off the cuff and didn’t have the link handy. Then, I forgot. 🙂

Look, the following video shows what is, in my opinion, a far more appropriate song, by a far more appropriately passionate singer, with a dance all the way towards the end that might be a teeny bit more appropriate. The bits with the beautiful black evening dress on the rooftops. not the rest of it. nothing wrong with the rest of it, just saying the stuff in the black dress is really thrilling and seems like it would be graceful and passionate while still being appropriate for a female Worgen in a video game.

Now, before you actually GET to that dance, there is a whole lot of, what I will generously call, “Not Safe For Work” dancing. 

If you are actually at work, you really might want to forgo playing this video. It’s a music video, not porn, but, well… hot damn.

Oh, and guys… you’re welcome.

My Mage be makin’ BACON!!!!

It finally happened. It took a long time, way too bloody long all things considered, but this Bear finally achieved one of my pre-Cataclysm goals, thanks to Cassie.

My Mage, the first and only Mage I ever created, has (as I’ve said previously) only been played as part of a team, following the lead of Cassie the Superbear.

Cassie, who, and I really can’t say this enough, has the most amazing spacial awareness of anyone I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter what direction I pull the mobs from with my 40 yard Ice Lance, or how many she’s already holding, she grabs the incoming mob before it’s even halfway near us.

Growl and Feral Faerie Fire on incoming mobs are your friends… and most of the time, Growl is irrelevant unless I’m just going to town. FFF does some amazing threat.

Anyway, we’ve only played these characters together, and we’ve taken so long on leveling that both our characters have the Achievement for saving a town from the Headless Horseman… from last year. 🙂

But I had a dream.

It was a simple dream, of modest proportions.

Nothing revolutionary, nothing to set the world on fire. But an important dream to me, nonetheless.

I dreamed of a day when I could proudly march into a field of Murlocs, transform them into Pigs, and use my powerful fire abilities to make my own Bacon, on demand.

My ice abilities, of course, would be helpful in saving leftovers. But it’s bacon; leftovers? Yeah, right. 

That was my dream. A do-it-yourself Bacon kit; just add Murloc.

Last night, my dream finally came true.

We started out the night at level 57, and I mean 57 and 1.2% into the next level. We had some quests in Un’Goro Crater on our books, but after that, we weren’t sure where to go.

We’d done some solid playing the nights before, and had managed one level per night, so I had hopes we’d see Hellfire Peninsula, or at least come darn close.

Instead, through Cassie’s dedication and tanking skills and my ability to hit a “fwoom” button, we plowed through Un’Goro, nailed 58, popped into Hellfire and blasted all the way through to 60.

I’d like to personally thank the jackass level 80 Blood Elf that helped make this possible, who waited for us to kill all the Ravagers in an area before swooping in on a broomstick to snag the egg and then fly off out of sight overhead… just to do it again on the next egg we cleared the way to. I’ve never killed so many Ravagers before when doing that silly quest, and it helped a lot.

I’m happy to say that all of the commenters on my previous post were right; while there are bugs in the Mage class quest chain that results in learning the Pig Polymorph spell, it is still in the game, and is still perfectly available.

The first bug that can be misleading is when you pick up a quest from a Mage Trainer, a quest that will send you out to find the actual quest giver in Azshara. For Alliance Mages in Stormwind, the quest was called “Magecraft”.

When picking up that quest, if you zone or log out, the quest is gone when you return. That can be very misleading; you don’t need that quest at all, you can go directly to Azshara and get the quest from the source, no pre-requisites.

The second potential bug is when you are directed to Polymorph targets in order to create polymorph clones. The quest expects you to use your Sheep spell. If you have the Penguin glyph enabled, it will bug out and crash the quest. So make sure you use Sheep.

The quest itself turned out to be very fun. Initially, it sounded like a big drag, because you have to Sheep a target, and  then after 2 to 3 seconds, the target spawns from 1 to 5 polymorph clones that look like super-teeny tiny little sheep… that are FAST as hell, take off in all directions like they’re sensitive areas were on fire, and are NOT tab targetable.

These are the things you need to kill. And you need to kill 50 of them.

My first two or three sheeps, I tried to nail the Polymorph Clones with Ice Lance, and only got one before the rest died of old age.

Next I tried Sheeping the target, and then standing on the Sheep and prepping Arcane Explosion to fire when the clones appeared. that didn’t work worth a damn, though, because they quickly rocket out of the Arcane Explosion AoE.

But finally, I simply chose to Sheep a target, and then drop an old fashioned Blizzard right on top of the sheep before the clones appeared. This broke the sheep early, but the clones appeared INSIDE the AoE and popped instantly.

That was a lot of fun!

A long night, but a merry one. The very thought of knowing that I hold the power in my hands to not only transform my enemies into Pigs, but to kill them, roast them and make delicious BLTs out of them fills me with glee. No, not that kind of Glee.

THIS… this is true power. This is the heady feeling of power that can corrupt even the mightiest of mortals.

In other news, I have four versions of Polymorph; Sheep, Pig, Turtle and Rabbit. Yes, Rabbit. I planned ahead and ground out the chocolates so I could buy the Tome of Polymorph: Rabbit during the Easter in-game event, even though I knew I couldn’t use it for about 30 levels or more. Totally worth it.

It looks like all that’s left right now is the Black Cat. There was a Turkey datamined and can be seen in WoWhead, but it lokos like it never went live. Man, turkey? Can you imagine? Bacon is epic, but what about making my own bacon WRAPPED turkey? Club Sandwiches, anyone?

Thank you Cassie, for dragging my Mage butt all over the world just so I could make darn sure I could be makin’ some bacon before the Cataclysm. I do solemnly swear to never polymorph a Druid, no matter WHAT the form they’re in.

Bear tanking in 4.0.1

The new patch is supposed to drop Tuesday, the long awaited live release of 4.0.1.

With this patch comes the revamped Talent Trees. The modifications to existing abilities. Mastery at level 80 and beyond.

You know, all that jazz.

What doesn’t come out is new leveling, group or raid content.

Or new races.

What does this all mean for the excited Bear tank?

Talent Tree research for Bears

When you look at the new Talent Tree and try to figure out your spec, the very first thing to keep in mind is the Blizzard philosophy; nothing really matters until you reach the top level.

That was level 80. You used to be great. You coulda been a contenda. Not any more. Even though you can’t actually get to 85 yet… as far as the mechanics are concerned, that’s the new max level.

Right now, all you’re really concerned with is how to respec your Talent Tree so you can right back to tanking your group runs. Or soloing Karazhan. Or Onyxia, for that matter.

But the new Talent Tree is intended to be filled out with a moderately balanced spec after you reach 85. By the same token, you’re not expected to Bear tank group runs effectively without all your key abilities… and Thrash (the new AoE attack that adds a Bleed effect to your foes) isn’t even available until level 81. So, after December 7th. See you then?

Please, don’t get frustrated when there are Talents you’d really like that you just can’t reach. Yes, get frustrated that you can’t get Thrash until the expansion, but you still want to run ICC now. That’s just annoying. But it too will come in due time.

The point here is, you can’t get all the goodies in the Talent Tree… but with a new expansion THAT close, just over the next horizon, nobody is really going to care all that much. They’re going to be dreaming of end game raiding with new loots and challenges to overcome. As long as you’ve got the essentials, you’re going to be okay in current content. And with level 80, you CAN get the essentials.

One last word on Talent Tree concepts.

Even if you were at level 85, you still couldn’t get everything you’d really like for Bear tanking.

Thanks to Blizzard’s desire to give us tradeoffs and too many choices so there can’t be one single “cookie cutter” spec, what we’ve got is a Feral tree where, even if you’re passing on all the Kitty focused Talents, you’re still gonna have stuff you’d  love but can’t afford. Deal with it as best you can.

With so many “sidegrades” in the Tree, your judgment is going to be even more important when it comes to choosing what to take.

So, it’s not about the math… it’s about knowing what you should be looking for. 

This is the time to get back to basics. What do Bear tanks really want?

  • Survivability – the ability to take multiple damaging blows over time.  
  • Avoidance – the ability to completely avoid being hit.
  • Damage Mitigation – the ability to reduce the actual damage taken per hit by a little bit.
  • Increased Threat – grabbing the attention of enemies so they don’t eat your friends. Even when your friends look really tasty.
  • Rage Generation – the ability to build the resources needed to cast anything except Growl, Feral Faerie Fire and auto-attack.

It’s just that simple.

How did we get to the current “AoE it all down, and forget about skill” situation?

Gear has currently gotten to the point that, in 5 person runs that still give valuable Frost Emblems, Stamina, Agility, Armor value, Attack Power, Critical Strike and Hit Rating all went waaaaay beyond the Heroic balance point.

With a Tank in reasonably available gear levels, you can ignore Survivability, Avoidance, Damage Mitigation and (with Swipe and grabbing big groups of mobs) Rage Generation.

All that leaves you with is holding Threat… and boy, with all that AP and Hit and Crit, if we Swipe spam we could just about stay ahead of the DPS, who are all AoEing as well.

So, Tanks got used to charging in as fast as possible, grabbing big groups, spamming their AoEs and waiting for the DPS to burn everything down… and you walk away virtually unscathed.

Hold on tight buttercup, the road to Cataclysm is going to be a bumpy ride.

In Cataclysm, all those things you ignored in 5 mans become important again.

Raiders, especially raiders of hard mode challenges, will rejoice that skill will return to pre-eminent importance.

But… not just yet.

Not until the new content, new leveling, new raids.

For now… we will still be facing the same content, BUT… there will no longer be Defense Rating on Plate tanky gear.

We still have our own Talent that makes us uncrittable, it’s just changed it’s name from Survival of the Fittest to being rolled into Thick Hide. Thick Hide is now the first “big” core Bear tank Talent.

All the other tank classes now have their own version of that… and no longer need Defense Rating. In fact, all that Defense Rating will vanish, to be replaced with other stats.

But we’ll stay the same.

Think about that. We will effectively have the same gear as before, stat allocations should continue mostly unchanged for us. But all the other tank classes will suddenly have a Talent taking care of that Defense Rating… and their gear will have either more Stamina or more DPS grade stats which will add more Threat to their output.

Plus, we get a high rage cost Swipe with a 6 second cooldown, and no Thrash.

I am NOT saying it’s all doom and gloom. We’re still going to be OP and uber compared to current content.

What I’m doing is reinforcing my earlier point… we are no longer at the max level. We no longer will have our balanced end game abilities and talents. We MUST adapt and overcome.

When you look at your skills and Talents, try and flush your preconceived ideas of running in 5 mans or being OP as a tank. When the new content DOES come, you will be hit like a freight train wants your lunch money. You will not have insanely ridiculous AoE Threat generation on everything.

You must get back to the basics. Survivability, Avoidance, Damage Mitigation, Threat and Rage.

So. That is far and away enough preamble. The Talent Tree.

When we choose the Feral Tree, we gain Mangle at level 10 instantly rather than having to pay for it. So we get a nice instant cast attack that does reasonable single target threat, and also applies a debuff to the target that makes Bleeds do more damage… a debuff that now lasts 60 seconds.

Any player leveling a Bear tank under level 51 should be very happy with this development.

Plus, you can get a free, no Rage-cost Mangle sometimes when you Lacerate a target that has your Mangle’s Bleed debuff on it. Just saying, that’s kinda cool, right? Oh wait, Omen of Clarity go bye-bye for us. Well, so we keep the effect, sorta, while losing the Talent. Fine. We can work with it. 🙂

Second, at level 10 we will get Vengeance. Vengeance is the new Tank ability that gives you increased Attack Popwer based on the damage you take. Each whack you take gives you an individual AP buff that lasts 10 seconds… they do stack cumulatively, but after 10 seconds, the first whack a mole buff you got drops off. So, you get hit – hit – hit… you get buff – double buff – triple buff… and then first one drops after ten seconds and you go back down to double buff… and then the second one drops and you go down to just the third buff all by itself.

Get it? I knew you did. And it should be quite nice… for the first ten seconds of a fight, we’ll build up our AP bonus… then we’ll stay level until the fight is over, new damage adding buffs to replace the ones that drop off. Then it’ll all be gone 10 seconds after the fight’s over. Seems pretty reasonable to me… knowing, as I do, that in the new content it’s gonna take longer to complete each pull, so 10 second duration should be pretty well balanced.

Finally, you SHOULD have the ability to learn Mastery from the trainer at level 80, and get a 32% increase to the amount of damage absorbed by Savage Defense. We won’t have gear with Mastery (unless it comes with the stat overhaul), but it’s still very useful at it’s baseline. And it’s also another reason we will continue to love Critical Strikes.

Remember that list up above. Critical Strikes trigger Savage Defense (our one hit bubble shield), and the more Crits, the more bubbles. More bubbles means more mitigation, so go go Crit Bear!

Now, Savage Defense is seeing some big changes, too. It’s not a guaranteed 100% bubble on a crit. It’s down to 50% chance on a crit. But it DOES absorb more damage. A lot more. Lots and lots more!

The model for Cataclysm, in terms of tanking in general, is to have high health, lower than customary avoidance, and focus on Mitigation. Dealing with a steady stream of damage, rather than spiky hits. Healers will be dealing less with twitch reflexes on instant saves against two big spikes in a row, and more on managing mana over longer duration fights against steady streams of damage.

Mastery with Savage Defender isn’t just another ability, it’s a clue as to the overall change in the tanking paradigm; steady, not spiky.

Yes, we still want Agility, for both Dodge and Crits. The balance has definitely swung towards heavier weighting for Stamina Stacking, though.

Okay, so my recommendations and review of the Feral Talent Tree (for Bears).

The first Tier gives you three choices;

  • Feral Swiftness (0/2)
  • Furor (0/3)
  • Predatory Strikes (0/2)

If you’re leveling, I’d personally suggest starting in Feral Swiftness for your first levels, go 2/2 and then fill out Furor. Predatory Strikes is a solid Kitty Talent, and of no use for us big ol’ Bears. Dodge and moving faster as a kitty are always in demand. 🙂

That brings us to level 17 already, and on to the second Tier.

Tier two has four Talents to choose from, and a hard decision.

  • Infected Wounds (0/2)
  • Fury Swipes (0/3)
  • Primal Fury (0/2)
  • Feral Aggression (0/2)

Now, Fury Swipes is awesome as a Kitty, and it’s also a reasonable Threat boost as a Bear as your Critical Strike values rise. Now, how is that possible when Maul replaces a normal auto-attack?

I’ll tell you how… because Maul no longer replaces an auto-attack! It’s now an instant cast attack costing 30 Rage with a 3 second cooldown! And it’s off the GCD too, but with a cost of 30 Rage, PLEASE don’t macro it… talk about Rage starved!

This isn’t my saying Fury Swipes is great, it’s just my way of saying that your abilities no longer replace auto-attacks, so this is a steady percentage of boosted auto-attacks unaffected by Maul in Bear form.

Primal Fury is a key Bear talent, providing Rage generation as you Crit. Definitely a must-have as you level.

Infected Wounds is a delicious ability for tanks to have, seeing as it’s core function is to keep fleeing enemies in your range longer, and to slow down the rate of their attacks that do damage to you. With two of your bread and butter attacks, Mangle and Maul both applying the debuff, and with Maul still getting Glyph of Maul (even if the second target does only take half damage now) it’s a very nice Talent to consider.

Feral Aggression is the real tease, though.

You see, Feral Faerie Fire is no longer a single cast spell. It’s still free, but it can now stack up to 3 times on a target… you get Feral Faerie Fire at level 24, and it does damage based on your attack power (remember that Vengeance thingie?) and also increased Threat in Bear form. It also has a 6 second cooldown.

Feral Aggression, damn them, when fully Talented applies all three stacks to the enemey target at once… leaving you free to use it on a second target on your very next cooldown, instead of wasting it on getting a second stack on the same target.

Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of this for low level Bear tanks needing more single target Threat generating attacks on multiple mobs. This with three stacks on one cast, plus Mangle and Maul will be very nice.

For leveling, I’m going to suggest you start with 1 point in Fury Swipes, switch to 2 points to fill out Primal Fury, and then have a very hard decision that you can only answer from personal experience; which is closer to being true – you feel like you’re taking too much damage, or you feel like you’re not generating enough Threat?

If you feel particularly squishy, take Infected Wounds 2/2, and if you feel like you need more single target Threat all up front, especially on your pulls, go with Feral Aggression 2/2. But only one or the other.

Me? I took Feral Aggression. But please, go with your gut on this one. Infected Wounds also rocks!

You’re now level 27, and the third Tier is open to you.

Tier 3 consists of;

  • King of the Jungle (0/3)
  • Feral Charge (0/1)
  • Stampede (0/2)
  • Thick Hide (0/3)

Now, at this point I have to say, if you’re Bear tanking, you fill in Thick Hide. It’s a core defining tank Talent, rolling increased armor multiplier benefit and uncrittable by targets three levels higher than you all into one.

King of the Jungle may seem confusing… is it good? Is the follow up good?

Allow me to help you make your decision, by telling you that the mechanic of Enrage has changed.

Enrage used to decrease your armor by 10%. It was a slight reduction in physical damage mitigation.

Not anymore. Now, when you activate Enrage, you take a 10% increase to all damage suffered for the duration of the effect. That’s 10% more damage suffered, to the tank. You. Not just physical, all damage. And you’re a long, long way away from spell damage mitigation, my friend.

With the changes to Enrage, it’s my recommendation that you only use it while in combat if fighting scrubs. Don’t use it on tough fights. And that means don’t ever use it on tough fights at end game in Cataclysm.

It’s best use is as a pre-planned, pre-fight manuever to stand there and build up Rage, and only Feral Charging or pulling with FFF after the Enrage 10% damage debuff wears mostly off.

And if you’re not popping Enrage in combat a lot… who cares if you’ve got a damage bonus while Enraged?

Your mileage may vary… 10% is NOT a big deal while leveling, unless you love grabbing lots of mobs at once. And with the Swipe cooldown changes, that’s gonna be iffy anyway.

My personal recommendation is for Bears to skip King of the Jungle (and the follow up, Primal Madness) entirely, and take 1/1 in Feral Charge, and then 1/2 in Stampede. Stampede 1/2 increases your Melee Haste by 15% for 8 seconds after you Feral Charge. I personally use Feral Charge all the time.

Why take Feral Charge if you’re going to be getting improved Skull Bash later, with Talents to reduce it’s cooldown to 10 seconds?

First, Skull Bash costs 15 Rage. Feral Charge (Bear) is free. Second, a 15% Melee Haste at the start of your fight is a good thing to bring faster Threat generation. Marginally. 🙂 

Third, you do get Skull Bash at level 22, and Feral Charge is first possible at 35, but until level 43 you’re not going to be able to have that 10 second cooldown on SB. For hopping from mob to mob quick across the room to intercept wayward mobs, I do so love my Feral Charge.

If you would like to skip Feral Charge and Stampede in favor of going back and filling out either Fury Swipes or Infected Wounds… please, by all means. I will say that taking the Stampede melee haste, and going back later to fill in Fury Swipes for more auto-attacks in those initial 8 seconds might be a valid Threat boost.

But still. Tier 4.

  • Leader of the Pack (0/1)
  • Brutal Impact (0/2)
  • Nurturing Instinct (0/2)

Please, dear lord, don’t take Nurturing Instinct. Just, don’t.

I feel that Leader of the Pack is just a must have for kitty OR Bear, and with the advent of Skull Bash and it’s charging across the room spell interrupt/school lockout, I am all in favor of 2/2 in Brutal Impact.

As an aside… Feral Charge no longer interrupts… it roots. Your spell caster interrupt/school lockout is Skull Bash. Period.

That leaves us with 2 more points to spend somewhere else to advance.

You could go 2 in Infected Wounds, 2 in Fury Swipes, 1 and 1 in Feral Charge and Stampede (depending on where you went earlier), or even 1 to fill out Stampede and 1 to boost Fury Swipes, making it more effective after a Feral Charge. It’s kinda up to you.

Me, I’m going to go with 1 in Stampede to fill it out, followed by 1 in Fury Swipes at this point. I’m anticipating more of a desire at earlier levels for greater Threat and damage generation than reduced damage, at least at these levels.

This unlocks Tier 5 for us, and we’ve got a real solid selection of Bear Talents.

Tier 5 includes;

  • Primal Madness (0/2)
  • Survival Instincts (0/1)
  • Endless Carnage (0/2)
  • Natural Reaction (0/2)

Natural Reaction, available at level 49, is another Bear defining Talent. Damage Reduction, Dodge increase AND Rage generation, all in one. It’s a must have, early and often. This brings you to level 52 once it’s filled out.

We didn’t take King of the Jungle, so Primal Madness is locked out. That leaves Survival Instincts and Endless Carnage.

Survival Instincts, at this level, should definitely get your next point. SI used to be your “oh shit” button to be used with Frenzied Regeneration. SI would increase your max health by 30%, and then Frenzied Regeneration would heal you for a percentage based off of that higher health pool.

Surprise! Frenzied Regeneration has been buffed to have the 30% health pool increase built right in! It’s a new all-in-one!

Sadly, the new version of Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration takes away the self-heal aspects of it, boosting healing done TO you by 30%. Of course, you can swap Glyphs in and out once you learn them, so you can change it for solo to group play.

Getting back to Survival instincts, if it ain’t a flat 30% health pool increase, what is it?

Why, it’s a 60% damage reduction spell with a 12 second duration. 60%! Wahoo!!!!

Oh, but it’s got a 5 minute cooldown. Awwwww….. 😦

Now, about Endless Carnage.

Do you want it?


Do you want it right now if you’re leveling?


Endless Carnage is mostly a kitty Talent, except for it’s affect on the new Bear ability Pulverize in Tier 6, and now is a good time to talk about Tier 6, because Endless Carnage is a big part of it.

You can’t get Pulverize until level 65. It’s a very nice attack, plus when you use it after stacking Lacerate on your target, you get increased Crit chance for 10 seconds… 18 seconds if you took your two points in Endless Carnage.

Remember what we said about Crit? More Crit equals more Rage, plus more bubbles for damage reduction. Yay! Plus, you know… more Threat, too.

If you’re leveling, though, it doesn’t do you any good to take Endless Carnage now. In fact, I’d rather recommend you fill out Fury Swipes and Infected Wounds (if you haven’t already) and then Rend and Tear as you level, and respec out of those points just enough to take… 1 more in either Fury Swipes ( to finish it) or 1/2 in Infected Wounds before going 2/2 in Endless Carnage, 3/3 in Rend and Tear, and 1 in Pulverize once you finally DO reach 65.

Blood in the Water is, of course, all kitty, all the time. Pass!

This leaves us at our final point in the Feral tree… Berserk at level 69.

So… are we done here? ARE we?

I’m afraid we are, and there’s a good reason for it when the max level is 85.

In the Restoration tree is a 2nd Tier Talent we’re really going to want for end game Bear tanking… Perseverance (3/3). When fully specced it reduces all magic damage by 6%. That’s a whole lot of spell damage reduction to always be on. Barkskin is great for the 12 seconds it’s up, but 6% is 6%.

And that means, in order to get it, we need to go 3/3 in Heart of the Wild (which is awesome), and then spend two points somewhere. Like, Natural Shapeshifter. Boo.

Then you can put 3/3 in Perseverence, and decide what to do with your last ever Talent point. Do you go with 4% increased physical Bear damage from Master Shapeshifter, or do you go back to fill out that one more point you’re dying for in Feral?

It’s up to you. There are a lot of areas that are must haves, but there are also “but that would be good too” Talents.

EDIT: I’m sorry, I’m up late, I forgot to post my “But wait, the level cap is 80 right now” modification.

Since the current level cap is 80, Perseverance is not attainable. Instead of putting those last two points in Natural Shapeshifter, I suggest you spend them in filling out Infected Wounds and Stampede instead. So, my current recommendation for a level 80 Bear tank before Cataclysm raises the level limit to 85 is;

Link to Wowhead’s Talent Calculator showing a level 80 Bear tank spec

My apologies for the original omission. Your Blog Feed must have been confusing.

This, concludes my “Where should I start when they change my Tree” review for patch 4.0.1.

I hope you see it through in style!

For more information on exactly what has changed and how tanking works for Bears in Cataclysm, I’d like to direct your attention to Dustcart’s post in the tanking forum of the WoW forums, which is far more complete and succinct than I would be. It’s a great job, and should answer all of the rest of your questions. I haven’t seen anyone else say it better, so please give it the love it deserves.


You… you….


I can’t believe it. I won’t accept it.

No. Not just no, HELL no.

Someone hold my coat, I’ma gonna get my claws bloody on this one.

Someone give me the name of the rat bastard fink that is responsible for this insane travesty of all that is right and holy!

I swear, when I find out who’s behind this, I’m gonna gut ’em.

First I’ll skin ’em, and THEN I’ll gut ’em.

And I’m not even a skinner, so it doesn’t matter if I use a damn spoon or not, it’s STILL gonna hurt.

Can you believe this crap? I swear, this time they’ve gone too far. Screw writing my congressman, not that he’d give a shit.

Oh, hey, you know what the definition of a congressman is?

A member of the second group put up against the wall after we finish shooting all the lawyers.

You think you’ve got things under control. You think that you’re on top of the world.

You’ve got plans. I had plans! Damnitall, I had plans!

And then they go and do this.

I just…. I just don’t know what to do.


You know, I try so hard. <sniff>

I really do. I keep those embers burning, ya know? I never give up.

No matter how hard it gets, and some days, it’s really damn hard, I just stay with it, ya’know? <sniff>


It’s like, you know, just when you think you’re up, they gotta drag you right back down, man.

I just… I mean, man… I just don’t know if I can take this anymore, man. Just, just game over, man, game over. Maybe we should just roll over and put them in charge.

What? What do you mean, them who? What am I talking about?

Good lord, where have you BEEN?

Haven’t you HEARD?!?!

It’s right there in Black and Green.

According to the tooltips, Swift Flight Form, Flight Form, Aquatic Form, Travel Form, Bear Form, Cat Form no longer make you immune to Polymorph.

They did it. Those damn Mages finally went and did it.

I never thought they would, but they finally got their hooks into someone in Blizzard and made it happen.

It’s the big one. The balloon just went up. Screw DEFCON 5.

Damnit, I WARNED you all it was coming!

I tried to tell you. I warned you, and did you listen? Hell no.

I told you, first you give them a forum to talk, and then you give the short ones a soapbox so they can reach the mike, and then you let them assemble without hosing them down with the firetrucks…

The next thing you know, it’s all over. It’s all Bears in sheep form, BRK wandering around drunk looking for the cheese dip, and drunken Mages having their wild depraved parties with NOBODY TO MAINTAIN SOME DAMN DECENCY ANYMORE!

Well, okay, no, *I* don’t maintain the decency… I’m talking about those other Druids in the Annarchy guild over on Dark Iron.

The point is, we were safe! We had protection!

And when the Mages are around, you know you bloody well NEED all the protection you can get!

As I always say… if you’re planning on hooking up with a Mage later, you better darn well make sure you’ve got protection with you.

What’s next? huh? What’s bloody next? Are they gonna make Druids wear a thong like Jong?

You KNOW that doesn’t go with our fur, dagnabit! You’ve got to have baby smooth skin, freshly waxed to pull that off. An all over Brazilian body wax. You know, like Jong has.

I can tell you one thing… this just proves beyond a doubt that Mages are a more powerful force than Hunters ever will be, even counting BRK.

Because if the Hunters had their way, we’d be tameable pets tomorrow.

Teachable Moments

Before we leap ahead into the Cataclysm of another expansion, I’d like to do my traditional pre-expansion look back on the joys of WoW past.

Most days, day in and day out, it’s kind of the same old thing, right? Especially when an expansion or content patch is this long in the tooth.

Ahhh… but there are those moments, and you know you’ve had them, where the everyday game is eclipsed by sudden pulse-pounding excitement, chills, thrills, surprises and “Holy crap, that was cool!” moments.

The one truth to those moments, is that once you’ve had that moment, you’ll never experience the magic in quite the same way again. The best we can hope for is to try and recapture the remembrance of that magical moment while playing a once and future alt the next time around.

I was talking with Cassie about this, and for her several once-in-a-gametime moments sprang immediately to mind. For this retrospective, it’s these special, magical, once in a lifetime moments of Cassie’s I’d like to visit.

The first one for Cassie, literally the first, was when she was playing her first ever character, her Rogue, in Elwynn Forest. She was questing, and exploring, moving through this unfamiliar, strange new online world. Her video game experience, while extensive, had to this date resided solely in platformers and console RPGs such as Spyro the Dragon and Kingdom Hearts. An expansive, persistant online world where she was free to roam and explore to her heart’s content was wildly new, when framed against such a background of “on the rails” linear storylines.

It was while she moved ever deeper into Elwynn Forest, clearing the way and feeling like a badass, stabby stabby, that she ran into that diabolical archfiend, Hogger, for the very first time.

The moment was exhiliarating, terrifying, and in the end, a brutal, bloody defeat. Hearing her cries of rage and frustrated bloodlust, I rushed to her desk to see what was the matter. That was when I had the dubious pleasure of explaining that, oh yeah, Silver Dragons around mob portraits, and mobs with unique and personal names, were generally BAD THINGS. Yeah, I know, thanks for the news flash, any more things I might like to add? Like daggers do damage and traveling without a mount sucks? “Umm, no dear. Love you!”

The next memorable moment came soon after, as Cassie traveled on foot walking along the road from Elwynn Forest to Westfall, and picking up quests along the way.

This moment also evoked cries of anger, and I again went rushing to see what had happened. There Cassie lay, her body broken and bloody upon the road of Westfall.

“But… I was on the road! They’re not supposed to eat me if I’m on the road!”

Oh yes, that was truly a memorable moment full of surprise, shock and dismay. Not even traveling upon the road will grant you safety in the deadly world of Warcraft. Plus, I have to say, in the coyotes’ defense, Cassie did look mighty tasty.

Yep, just leaving the castle of Stormwind some days is putting your life in your own hands. Or, to put it a different way like Martin Sheen expressed in Apocalypse Now, “Never get out of the boat.” 

Another moment for Cassie that she remembers with stark vividness is when she was questing on her own in Loch Modan. She has a policy, where she will never cause harm, or by her inaction allow others to cause harm to innocent little critters. Bunnies and squirrels of the lands, rejoice, for if I were to look as if I might target one, my ass, it doth be grass.

This softhearted kindness, however, does not extend to that most dreaded of ursines, “Ol’ Sooty.” Ol’ Sooty, the massive bear possessed of a strength and power dwarfing that of Hogger, at the time of this telling still a mighty Elite, normally resides up in her mountain lair, overlooking the small village down below.

But not on this day, oh no. No, this day, while Cassie strolled peacefully along, Ol’ Sooty apparently had heard about this most tasty of travelers, and descended from her mountain cave in order to path back and forth along the trail, where any questor scurrying hither and yon to and fro from Thelsamar may run across her.

Cassie, seeing a bear wandering out in the open, took aim and fired.

Ah yes. “Bear in the open, 30 meters, fire for effect.” “Hit.” “OH SHIT!!!”

You could hear the cries of anguish all the way to Mississippi, I swear. “A big damn bear just fell on me!”

Ever since, as she levels new alts, she makes a point of stopping by Loch Modan to “say hi” to Ol’ Sooty… from the barrel of a gun.

Not that she holds a grudge, or anything. Oh no…… far be it from ME to ever suggest such a base canard.

Last but not least of Cassie’s recollections, is the day she sought to level her Rogue’s lockpicking skill.

She had read that just up the road and over the hill from Lakeshire was a wonderful spot for young Rogues to pick lockboxes that respawned quite speedily.

Nobody, however, thought to warn her that she should watch for PACKS of HUGE FREAKING ORCS hiding behind the trees looking for tasty Rogues to eat.

In her own words, she was “brutally assaulted”. I asked her, “What, by the orcs?”

No, by all the people that, when Cassie complained to friends about being ganked and dying, told her “Oh yeah, they always do that.”

Not. Helpful.

In conclusion, I’d like to add two moments for myself.

First, is the incredible tension being on foot, without a mount, brings when leveling without a flying mount in Hellfire Peninsula. Whenever that ground shakes, my head whips around. “Fel Reaver? Where? Oh shit, RUN!”

Which is a laughable idea, considering those bastards move like the wind. A foul wind. Nothing says “Another poor sucker’s getting eaten” quite like watching from a distance as a Fel Reaver pauses, and then breaks into Formula Mach One mode across the plains in hot pursuit.

My second personal moment, and to show that not all of them have to be “Surprise, you’ve been jumped by an overpowered Elite”, is the entire Wrathgate chain.

That moment when the cinematic first unfolds for you, taking you out of the game and immersing you unexpectedly into the story was just a wonderful thing.

I understand that’s going away in the new expansion. That makes me sad, in a way, but the truth is… once you’ve experienced any of these moments, you can never quite recapture that same magic.

You will never think you’re safe on the road once you’ve been eaten, you’ll have learned about aggro ranges.

You will never idly tag a mob with a Silver Dragon portrait, or the title of Elite, or having it’s own, unique name again in pure innocense. You may do it by accident, but if you do, you won’t be shocked and horrified, because you’ll know what just happened, even as it’s happening to you. Again. Damnit.

Each moment in the game that you learn something new is a good experience, growing, getting better, gaining knowledge and, hopefully, wisdom. And that’s a good thing.

But it does raise the bar for what it will take for us to feel that next magical moment. That new surprise.

Here’s looking back at many long years full of such moments, and hoping that in the years to come, the biggest Cataclysm will be the destruction of our expectations, and a whole new range of magical moments to experience.

Are you worried about the changes to come?

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.”

Oh noes! Zul’Gurub going going gone?

According to the inimitable Cassie, who reads the news sites I can’t get from work, MMO Champion has shared info from Blizzard that Zul’Gurub will be gone when Cataclysm is released.

Now, this probably isn’t a big deal with most folks. Be honest, when was the last time most of you went and did ZG? This week? This month?

But this is important to talk about. Plans need to be made.

There are certain unique, ‘flavor’ items that can only be found in Zul’Gurub at this time. Will they be relocated elsewhere? Maybe, but then again maybe not. There are plenty of pets that are special releases, even region-specific. There’s nothing to say that Blizzard will decide to make sure those special items will continue to be available once the raid instance is gone.

Oh, wait, did I get ahead of myself? Are you wondering “Wait, what the heck is ZG? Why should I care again?”

Well, maybe you do wonder why you should care, but there are reasons to go in there, depending on what you like to do.

First, the breakdown. Zul’Gurub is a 20-man raid instance that was added into the original release of World of Warcraft. It was added in patch 1.7 (no, I didn’t know that offhand, I looked it up), and was considered in many ways a stepping stone for progression gear placed between Upper Blackrock Spire and Onyxia/Molten Core.

I know that I ran Healing Druid style in Zul’Gurub and enjoyed it quite a lot. It had challenges aplenty, interesting mechanics, neat fights, and a really COOL troll feel to it.

It was, at the time, a rarity; an open air raid instance you could mount up in, vast spaces to get lost in, Amazonian rivers to get eaten up in if you were silly enough to take shortcuts… and of COURSE you took short cuts. 🙂

Cool scripted boss fights.

I loved ZG.

Sadly, my guild in Vanilla (word up Divine Might!) had already been doing ZG before I got to the point of being ready to raid, so right as I was getting excited and my Druid was building Zandalar Tribe rep, they were bored with it and wanting to stop going. The general attitude of malaise within the guild when the subject of ZG came up made it a raid that people did for loot, not for fun. Geez, farm one place endlessly, in many cases four times a week, and you get burnt out? How silly.

Me, I never quite got over wanting to run it.

Still and all, it’s got a lot of meat to it’s bones. Much like Scholomance, it’s not your typical modern “in once, seen it all” place to visit.

There are many bosses in ZG, and some of them require special preparations.

There is one boss that can only be summoned if you have gathered the appropriate Herbs in advance, mostly I think from Eastern Plaguelands.

Then there is another boss… one that you have to fish up out of the river. And to fish him up, you’ve got to complete a quest chain to be able to get a special lure, and then go into ZG and fish up special bait fish to load into the lure, just to fish him up one time. We’ll get back to him. 🙂

It’s not just “go in and blow through”, not for 100%, not without being prepared.

Okay, now, why is this important for us to talk about?

Because of those special flavor items I mentioned, of course!

Are you a Mage? Did you always plan on someday collecting all those neat styles of Polymorph, but just haven’t gotten around to it? You bought the Black Cat Polymorph tome off the lady in Dalaran, and maybe you ground chocolates to get the Bunny Rabbit Polymorph during the Easter event, but you still don’t have your Pig or your Turtle. But, someday. Just not right now. It’ll always be there, right?

Well, better get off the stick, because Pig comes from your Mage quest chains in Azshara, a zone that’s getting a big stick to the face, and Turtle?

The Tome of Polymorph: Turtle has a 15% chance to drop from that aforesaid boss you fish up in Zul’Gurub, Gahz’ranka.

If you want to get Turtle, well, the book is Bind on Equip, so you could try and buy it on the AH, but I know that, if it were ME, and I had the Tome of da Turtle, I’d be stockpiling them until well after Cataclysm wipes the source from the world. Kinda like speculating in Frozen Orange Juice, hoping for a bad harvest so your supply becomes more precious on the market.

OR, you’re gonna have to get your Mage (or Feral Druid ALT butt) into ZG and farm it.

But wait, there’s more.

There are not one but TWO awesome rare mounts that can drop in ZG.

First, the Swift Razzashi Raptor. He has a chance to drop from Bloodlord Mandokir.

Next, and more famous, is the Swift Zulian Tiger, a very pretty orange kitty mount, which drops from High Priest Thekal.

Now, both have a low drop chance, of course, but your farming is aided by the fact that ZG is NOT on the standard 1 week Tuesday reset. Instead, it’s on a nice, fast 3 day reset, the better to farm your gear to Molten Core levels. You can hit that place twice a week per character. And with the river running through it, ahem, you don’t have to follow a linear “kill every boss” path. You can hop into the drink and swim to where, and who, you want to visit.

Could I give you details on how to farm these three items, what quest chains to take, etc?

Sure, but why bother? Hydra already did it thoroughly a year and a half ago. You DO read Almost Evil, right?

Hey, I love Hydra, why wouldn’t I plug a great post. 🙂

So this is your early wake-up call. If you’ve always wanted Turtle, now’s the time to either buy the Tome while it’s cheap on the Auction House (around 400g on Kael’thas Alliance side, 700g Horde side), or go farm it yourself.

And with the Bind on Pickup mounts, if you’ve always wanted one… time is slipping away, my friends. Time is slipping away.

Flipping positions!

During this weeks downtime, good old Gnomeaggedon had a wonderful post, where he praised Blizzard’s communication skills. You know what the contraction for “good old” is, right? Go’ld!

He frequently has wonderful posts, he is pure go’ld, I’m just mentioning that one because it’s relevant to what I’m going to be talking about.

Oh, and Gnomer, you been threatening me with a rant against one of my PvP related posts for months now. Wassup? Bring it, shorty!


So yeah, Gnomer was very impressed with Blizzard’s communication skills during the recent downtime.

Since he was nice and considerate, that must mean I gotta be contrary and cranky, right?

Sure, Blizzard had some great communication. Well played.

But how about that communication the week before?

You know, the Twitter Developer Chat communication?

Yeah, THAT communication.

I’m very happy whenever Blizzard passes on information to us concerning their plans, and the intent behind them. Most companies restrict themselves to lawyer-approved press releases that are so sanitized you can’t see controversy in them unless you really twist your inner lens ALL out of focus.

Blizzard doesn’t do that. They talk to us. The developers as well as the community moderators. So please, keep in mind that when I do bitch, it’s with a healthy appreciation that at least we have some idea of what they’ve got going on.

I’d rather be told something I don’t like, and have it be the truth, than to be told nothing at all.

Moving on to the Twitter Developer Chat, the subject of class specific quests was brought up. Will Cataclysm have them?

The bare bones answer is, yes. There will be class quests at 20, and another at 50. Or something like that. This is good news, correct? There will be something for each class.

However, the value-added answer was that there will not be, and by implication never be, extensive class-specific quests because it is too expensive for the developers to program into the game.

Why is it considered too expensive? Let’s think about it for a moment.

The amount of time spent on quests for that one class could be better spent on quests that all classes could complete. The decision has to be made, create content all classes will see, or content only one class will see, using a certain finite amount of resources.

Or, to try and clarify Blizzard’s position for us, plucking numbers from thin air, if a programmer costs $30 an hour, it takes 1 hour to design a quest and implement the programming, and 100 hours of programming time ($3000) is budgeted for new quest content, then which is a more valuable use of that $3000? 100 quests for everyone, or 10 quests for each class?

That’s the position Blizzard holds. That it is too expensive in terms of allocated resources to program content exclusively for one class that nobody else will see.

In terms of project management and budget resource allocation, it’s very convincing logic. Especially when budgeting the resources required to completely revamp the existing Azerothian world experience.

In terms of the game design of an MMO, however, especially for an MMO with an extremely aging demographic, I don’t think it’s solid foreward planning.

In fact, I think it’s damn shortsighted.

My biggest objection to that logic? The concept, at this stage in the game, that content designed for only one character class will only be seen by a small segment of the players.

Are there still any players of over two years experience in this game that have created one character, and stuck to it, never experiencing anything else?

No. Most players play one main character, and then they start a new one for a new experience in the same game.

Having made that point, let’s back up a little. 

As a developer, you have a decision to make.

Allocate resources to either attract new customers, or allocate them to retain existing customers.

Or both.

I think Cataclysm is a brilliant plan for accomplishing both.

Existing customers get brand new leveling experiences within a familiar setting. I personally think that there is a lot of evidence that people LOVE being surrounded by familiar settings with a fresh new little tweak.

Anyone else love long series of books, TV shows or movies, where the scenery may change, and the plot may be different, but the major characters and genre stay the same?

No, I didn’t think so. Oh no, once an episode or book comes out, there’s never a demand for a sequal.

For existing customers, Cataclysm lets us continue to play in a world with familiar rules, settings, and structure… but the rules are just a little different now, and the places are a little changed now, and the quests are a little different now, and even the locations where Herbs and Ore spawn will be a little different now. And you can fly!

Small adjustments, but overall a comfortable feeling of being at home. It’s just like having a new couch and loveseat, and a 44″ HDTV added to the experience.

For brand new customers, the advertising will entice them by saying, “You never tried WoW before, because you were worried that everyone else already knew everything, and you’d be the noob. But now’s your chance to get in at the beginning, and learn the World of Warcraft alongside everyone else. The rules are new, the world is fresh, and there are brand new races and starting areas to try. There has never been a better opportunity to explore World of Warcraft all over again… for the very first time.”

Okay, so Cataclysm brings something for both existing and new customers.

For the existing customers, though… we’ve all been here before. I for one feel like I can predict the future based on past experiences.

Right now I have every character slot filled. I have had for months.

If I want to experience the new leveling world, there are three possibilities for me;

  1. I delete existing characters I love.
  2. I start up fresh on a new server.
  3. Blizzard lets us have more character slots per server.

What if all my friends are on my server? Then if Blizzard doesn’t open up more character slots, somebody has to get the axe.

If the game was only a year old, or even two years old, that wouldn’t be such an unreasonable expectation. Right?

But as a long term customer of over four years, I don’t think I’m unusual in having almost every slot filled with a character I like, and in which I have invested my time to develop, train and bond with. .

Does that sound super geeky? Bonding with a character in a video game? Of course it does. Anyone that doesn’t share certain geeky video game role playing characteristics with me is even now firing up the comment page to scream “It’s just a video game, get a grip!”

That’s fine, you don’t get it, and perhaps that means you represent the sane point of view.

I can only say that when I look at my level 73 Shadow Priest with maxed Jewelcrafting and Tailoring, I know that I may not feel like playing the character because I don’t currently enjoy her playstyle, but I have too many memories tied up in playing that character with friends. Great times with Legatum Ignavis in Karazhan, uber time spent PvPing in Alterac Valley with my wife to get the awesome PvP epic gavel (which she still carries), even time spent training Jewelcrafting that I just don’t want to lose by deleting her, even though I don’t intend playing her any time soon.

To paraphrase Roy Batty, “All those moments would be lost in time… like tears in the rain.”

Cut down to it,  if I want to hang with all my friends, and they don’t feel like server changing, then I have to kill a long time friend. Digital or not, it’s not cool. I’d much prefer to allow the character to remain, perhaps not logged in by me, but I can imagine at the loading screen that my Priest is out there in Azeroth, somewhere, sipping ale at the Pink Pigtail Inn and sharing stories of Mind Flaying some poor Rogue in Alterac Valley back in the day. Just waiting in pleasant retirement until the day her old friend wants to melt faces once again.

So, technically, limited replay value in the leveling experience, yes? Us oldtimers don’t have tons of empty slots to fill up.

But that’s okay, let’s move past that and assume that most people will eventually fire up a character on another server to experience the changed world. Or delete people. OR, perhaps they’ll take their max level characters and go questing the old world from scratch. Hopefully, all quests will be reset so you can do it all over again from the beginning.

So you do that on one character. Leveling or questing content from 1 to 60.

And then you do it a second time.

What have we learned from 5 years of playing?

Doing the same quests on different characters year after year gets damn old.

We play multiple characters in the hopes of experiencing something new.

And you tell us that content for one class is too expensive because it wouldn’t be seen by enough people? REALLY?

Sure, if all you’re looking at is the next three months, you might be right. Are we really planning on the game only lasting three more months?

Inevitably you want to see the experience from the other faction. Why? Is it because they’ve got better classes? Not anymore. Is it because they’ve got races you like better than the ones you first picked? Probably not, what races you went with first are the ones you liked best. Except for folks that like the brand new races, and none of the others on that faction.

So why?

It’s to see new quests. To take part in new storylines. To experience something new and fresh.

Well, if there are no class specific quests or content, I mean real class content different from the rest, then what you have is playing a different class through the same old thing you’ve already seen five, ten, fifteen times.

If each class had it’s own rich content at some point, or a little thread that wound it’s way through all the levels that had some good story to it, that would to me add something special for the long term player. Something new that playing that class brought besides a new way to trigger a ranged or melee attack.

I’m not thinking of the next year. I’m not even thinking of the next two years. I’m thinking of where we are now, and how short sighted it feels to hear a developer say that class specific content is too expensive for the return on investment.

When World of Warcraft was originally being developed, going headfirst against Everquest II, they invested in their plan. They couldn’t know how it would turn out, so they brought their ‘A’ game and did the best they could to anticipate what would really attract and retain customers long term.

None of the magazines or news agencies at the time considered WoW to be the big thing that would dominate the world. Everquest II was regularly reported to be the stronger contender for next gen MMO, simply because of the experience and popularity of EQ1.

During that initial development, clearly somebody over at Blizzard thought about differentiating the class gameplay experience in ways other than just stats and playstyle.

Somebody clearly thought that investing resources into making each class leveling experience have something special, something new. Some reason to draw you into the 1 to 60 game all over again, and extend your subscription that bit longer.

They invested at that time in class specific content. Special quest chains to unlock class defining abilities. Rogue quest areas and Ravenholdt. Warrior chains for kick ass weapons. Level 50 class quests for items out of Sunken Temple.

It really does feel like one person had that vision, but spent more time with one class than another. Different classes have content implemented at different levels. In some cases, all the class chains consist of are “go here and do this” to get an item that would have been a decent upgrade. Others have big epic feeling chains that bring special mounts. Even the Hunter class had the raiding gear chain that brought the bow and quiver of awesomeness.

It doesn’t feel like the attention to the classes was balanced, but more like one person had a vision… and then in mid stream had their attention shifted, or their resources pulled, and nobody left shares that same vision going forward.

It’s too bad. I know that, having done it already, I don’t personally look forward to questing through everything for the third time and saying, “What now?”, knowing that the plan is for all classes to get the same basic experience.

When it comes to investing resources in improving the replay value of World of Warcraft, a game meant to be a subscription based long-term gaming experience… I just don’t agree with the idea that class specific content is “too expensive”.

Really, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather they had the opposite opinion; that investing in long term replayability at all levels of content be something they make a high priority.

I know that Blizzard has done a fantastic job on the Cataclysm content. I’ve seen the screenshots, I’ve read a few of the beta reports, and by all indications, one thing you cannot accuse Blizzard of is being cheap on developing new content or redesigning the game.

I guess what it boils down to is my objection to the game design philosophy lurking behind such statements. If you’re going to be a subscription based game, you’ve got to be keeping your eye on things that will improve replayability, and keep your customers in it for the long term.

Saying class specific content is “too expensive” feels, to me, to be back-asswards to that concept.