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Alex Ziebart

Milwaukee, WI - http://www.alexziebart.com/

When not writing for WoW.com or his personal projects, Alex is most often found playing WoW Alliance-side on the Cenarion Circle server.

Most Hearthstone players don't surpass rank 15

If you follow any number of prominent Hearthstone players, your perception of ranked play might be a little skewed. Being above rank 10 -- or even top 5 -- seems perfectly standard. When you play the game yourself, frustration mounts quickly because you can barely make it into the teens. However, Blizzard has recently stated you may be better than you think. According to the stats they've released, 75% of players are between rank 15 and 25. Only 2% of players are in the top 5 ranks, with only 0.5% of the playerbase at the Legend rank.

While Hearthstone had no difficulty hitting 20 million registered players, I often wonder if competitive games based on ranked played have issues with retention. When ranked play is the central game option, the simple nature of the beast means the majority of your players will sit at the lowest rungs of the ladder. The truly dedicated will invest significant time and energy into overcoming that hurdle, but certainly not everyone. The answer isn't to give people free victories, but is there another way to keep them engaged?

If you're interested in the full infographic, it can be found below or on Battle.net.

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Filed under: Hearthstone Insider

BlizzCon and the expansion after Warlords

The Queue has received a number of questions about expansion timing, and while we have no answers, it is a situation we find interesting. Warlords of Draenor launches the week after BlizzCon 2014. In recent months, Blizzard has been reiterating their goal of releasing the next expansion more quickly. More specifically, Tom Chilton has mentioned in recent interviews that Warlords of Draenor may have only two total raid tiers, with the next expansion landing a year or a year-and-a-half after Warlords. For the sake of discussion, let's assume Blizzard will actually accomplish their timeline goals in this development cycle.

If Warlords does have two raid tiers that last six months each, the next expansion releasing one year after Warlords, could we be in for a surprise at this year's BlizzCon? Announcing the expansion to follow Warlords before it has even launched doesn't make much sense -- marketing wouldn't want to undercut themselves. It simply wouldn't make sense to hype the next-next big thing before the next big thing has even hit the shelves. If BlizzCon 2014 did not announce an expansion on this timeline, however, when would it be announced?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, BlizzCon

The Queue: Soloing, cross-realm raiding, and technology

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Monday has come again. Let's do this thing.

dsgdchucktown asked:

Will we be able to easily handle the Cata raids and dungeons once we hit lvl 100?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Archmage Vargoth's Spare Staff

Players who have been around since Burning Crusade have fond memories of a fellow named Vargoth. We've given a rundown of the man's history in an earlier post about his newfound status as a garrison follower in Warlords of Draenor, but where Vargoth is concerned, Warlords keeps giving.

Players clung to Vargoth's staff back in Burning Crusade to retain the ability to summon the mage to their side at any time. In Warlords, an updated version of that staff can be acquired via the rare follower mission Finding Farahlon. Successfully completing Finding Farahlon awards you with the Mysterious Shining Lockbox which contains Archmage Vargoth's Spare Staff. The Warlords version of the staff, which fits into your toy box, appears to use the same spell effects as the Burning Crusade version. Vargoth continues to talk about betrayal at the hands of Kael'thas despite those events being in the distant past by now. Regardless, there's no longer a need to carry a quest item in your bags in perpetuity.

Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Hearthstone toys

We're all excited for the toy box feature coming in Warlords of Draenor, but what's a toy box without new toys? Warlords also introduces traveling merchant Benjamin Brode, named for one of Hearthstone's real world designers. Brode peddles his Hearthstone wares in-game with enthusiasm, selling a Hearthstone Board, a Pack of Hearthstone Cards, and the Winning Hand. Brode can be found in your garrison and he's a human regardless of your faction. If you're Horde, however, he'll be sporting a very convincing orc mask.

These items don't mean you can actually play Hearthstone in-game, of course. Upon use, each of them plays an emote and a small animation. The Hearthstone Board, for example, has your character throw to game board down on the ground. If you then click on the game board, your character will flip it in a rage. The Winning Hand shoots off fireworks. When you open the Pack of Hearthstone Cards, your character emotes: [Character] opens up a new pack of Hearthstone cards. Mmm, love that new card smell.

Roleplaying a Hearthstone diehard in World of Warcraft might be a whole lot of fun using these items as props and inspiration.

Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

The Queue: Creepycool

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Spiders are gross. Spider-people are awesome. What's up with that?

lib.feathers asked:

Pardon if this has been brought up before, but I just noticed it today. It contains minor spoilers for WoD, so fair warning... When I first got to Wor'var, Aggra says that she is expecting her second child. Now she's saying that she can't wait to get back to Orgrimmar and her "children", and then she proceeds to take part in the Grommashar quests. I'm really curious whether the WI staff thinks this is an acceptable fix for the boys' trip or not. It's not making sense to me. Why would Thrall send the mother of his children to go fight while he stays behind?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue

Patch 6.0.2 PTR going live

It's been a long time coming, but patch 6.0 will finally be hitting the PTR. Patch 6.0 is the Warlords of Draenor pre-patch, introducing many of the expansion's mechanical changes. This includes the new character models, the stat squish, and the various quality-of-life UI changes.

The full enormity of the patch notes can be found on Battle.net.

Filed under: Warlords of Draenor

Last Week on Massively: No one knows how to pronounce ArcheAge

This post originally appeared on Massively from Editor-in-Chief Brianna Royce. At the end of every week, we round up the best and most popular news stories, exclusive features, and insightful columns published on Massively and then present them all in one convenient place. If you missed a big MMO story last week, you've come to the right post.

Sandbox MMO ArcheAge's western open beta began this past week with a massive 800MB patch, in spite of attempts by e-brigands to interrupt Trion's game services. We debated the game's faction choices and streamed the newly opened game first-hand as we eye the formal launch later this month.

Read on for a look at the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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Filed under: MMO Roundup

The war between narrative and game mechanics

I've long had a complicated relationship with the story of Warcraft. Once, I was enamored by the world they've created -- I was one of the earlier contributors to Know Your Lore, eager to share my love of the franchise's narrative. I'm no longer so enamored. I don't hate it, but neither do I love it. I'm not angry, I'm disappointed. Yes, I often disagree with the narrative choices Blizzard has made with their story, but moreso I come to realize World of Warcraft is burdened by itself in respect to its narrative. Story and game mechanics are in constant conflict, and when you're looking at a game like WoW and a company like Blizzard (with their focus on tight gameplay), story will lose that battle every time. Blizzard has mentioned more than once that orcs versus humans is the core element of Warcraft. Whenever the narrative tries to move back to the roots of the franchise, that's where it goes. And that's the problem.

The war between the Alliance and the Horde can never end. Worse, it can never progress -- and the characters involved in that war story cannot progress unless removed from it. Mists of Pandaria made this more obvious than it has ever been before.

Boneheaded heroes

For the sake of parity, let's look at both Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall. These two characters have had a history together since Warcraft III. Not a romantic history as some like to claim, but a history. They were allies. Both of them held out hope for peace between the Horde and the Alliance for years. Both of them made sacrifices in the hopes of accomplishing it, Jaina moreso than any other, allowing the Horde to kill her orc-slaying father. They were both powerful, influential people in their respective factions. The events of Warcraft III made us believe they might achieve that peace. World of Warcraft showed us otherwise.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

The Queue: Khadgar's Whiskers

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Today's Queue has a question about beards. That means today is a good day.

nostrathomas asked:

Why have there been so many complaints here about the elder Hellscream being called Grommash instead of Grom? Both names have been used interchangeably throughout WoW.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue, Warlords of Draenor