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Filed under: Raiding

Warlords of Draenor beta: Play with the blues August 21

Holinka
For those in the Warlords of Draenor beta, this coming Thursday you'll have the opportunity to potentially test directly with some Blizzard Blues. From 3:00 to 5:00 pm PDT on Thursday, August 21, members of Blizzard's Development team, Community team, Quality Assurance, and Customer Service will be available on both the PvP and PvE level 100 premade realms to test 3v3 Arena matches and 5-person dungeon groups. Depending on faction, you'll be able to identify Blizzard representatives by their guild tag: <Blizzard Horde> or <Blizzard Alliance>. The event will be a great way to test out some dungeons and arenas while mingling with both your fellow WoW players and creators. If you can make it, I'm sure the event will be worth your while!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Beta raid testing schedule for Monday, July 28

Raid testing for Warlords of Draenor will continue on Monday with two new scheduled encounters, according to a post made by Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas. As with last week's testing, both encounters will be on Heroic difficulty, allowing players to bring a group of anywhere from 10-30 people in order to test the content. To get in the raid, speak to Nexus-Lord Donjon Rade, who is now also located in Dalaran, Shattrath, and both factions Vale Shrines, as well as Stormwind, Orgrimmar, and your garrison.

Oregorger from Heroic Blackrock Foundry will begin at approximately 10:30AM PDT, and the Twin Ogron encounter from Heroic Highmaul will begin at approximately 4pm PDT. Characters that participate in testing will have their effective level scaled to 100 for the purposes of testing, so no need to worry about gear or level. Keep in mind that testing periods are subject to change at any time -- so if you're interested in testing, keep a eye on the official forum thread for any updates.

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Filed under: Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Raid testing to begin Monday, July 21

Lead Game Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has announced that the Warlords of Draenor beta will begin raid testing tomorrow with two Heroic encounters -- one from Highmaul, and one from Blackrock Foundry. As a Heroic level encounter, the raid will accommodate anywhere between 10 and 30 players. Players that wish to test the encounter can speak to Nexus-Lord Donjon Rade in either Stormwind, Orgrimmar, or their garrisons, once the encounters are open for testing.

The Butcher from Heroic Highmaul will be available for testing beginning at 1:30pm PDT, and Gruul from Heroic Blackrock Foundry will be available beginning at 4pm PDT. Please note that testing periods are subject to change at any time -- if you're interested in testing, keep an eye on the official thread in case any changes are made to times or dates.

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Filed under: Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Watcher on Raid Consumables and Enchants in Warlords

One of the things that people concern themselves with when raiding progression is all the little things you can do to eke out just that extra little bit more. However, with the advent of Warlords of Draenor and its sweeping systems changes, stat squishes and ability pruning, there seems to be some confusion about what players will and won't be able to do to get that extra bit. Yes, reforging is gone, but Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas assures us you will still be able to enchant and gem your gear. And also, raid consumables like food and flasks totally are going to be around in Warlords.

What seems to be confusing people is that enchanting and gemming are getting a slim-down. There will be fewer enchant slots and gems on gear, but they're not going to be removed.
It's important to keep in mind that people will still have the ability to tweak and go for incremental performance increases in these ways. Some players may choose to use these on a frequent basis, but for the most part, it's expected that most players will be able to use more gear immediately on getting it with the new system.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Soloing the Black Temple with Blizzard


Daxxari is back with another guide to soloing old raids, this time, The Black Temple. Whether it's transmog loot you're looking for, a chance at a warglaive, reputation with another faction (The Ashtongue Deathsworn) or just giggles, Black Temple has it all from Tier 6 sets and lookalikes to some of the coolest scenery the game's ever seen.

Black Temple is by far one of my favorite raids. It's quite soloable by a max-level character -- the hardest fight is the Reliquary of Souls because you can easily do enough damage to yourself and the interrupts get brutal -- and it has some really awesome looking loot, cool fight mechanics, and some big lore deals like Teron Gorefiend and of course Illidan himself waiting for you. Daxxari explains the fight mechanics and how they work for a solo player, so head over to the official site and read up before heading into the Black Temple.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Raid Guides

All-priest raid downs Lei Shen 25 man

Single-class raids are not unheard of in WoW, but I've found I'm more accustomed to finding all-paladin and all-druid efforts -- you know, hybrids who can traditionally provide all the roles a raid would need: tanking, DPSing, and healing. An all-priest raid -- while I'm sure it's been done before -- is a new take for me!

And I have to say, it's fantastic. Organized by Usha (Aerie Peak-US) and Valley (Frostmourne-US) and billed as "All Saints Day", these 25 priests managed to clear the Throne of Thunder, as seen in their Lei Shen kill video above. For the interested, their spec breakdown was 2 Holy, 11 Discipline, and 12 Shadow. Next week they are moving on to Siege of Orgrimmar, so if you're an interested Alliance priest on a North American server, this might be worth checking out. They maintain Flex gear as the minimum requirement to join the raid, so keep that in mind as well.

Congratulations to the All Saints! I think events like this are a great way to pass time, have fun, and challenge yourself while we're all waiting for patch 6.0. Good luck in Orgrimmar!

Filed under: News items, Raiding

The Difficulty Trap

The beautiful thing about twitter is how it can engender conversations you might never get to have otherwise. Last night (thanks to my perpetual insomnia) I was up and scanning when Bashiok made a series of tweets I just had to respond to.

What I really took away from this discussion is, frankly, just how difficult it is to compare the difficulty of WoW's vanilla epoch and today's raiding (and raiding to come). There are at least two kinds of difficulty to discuss, when talking about raiding difficulty - the difficulty of putting together and keeping a raiding group going, and the difficulty of actually executing the content. These are wildly disparate.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Warlords of Draenor: High level characters vs. lower level content

In the new theorycrafting sticky on the Warlords of Draenor Alpha forums, there's a big post by Celestalon that explains how we're going to be able to solo old raids and such with the item squish making us proportionately less powerful in those raids. It's worth breaking down here, for those of us (like me) who enjoy that sort of thing for either fun or transmog.

First up, all players will gain a damage reduction factors when attacked by creatures that are lower level, starting at Cataclysm content and heading down from there. Creatures from Mists of Pandaria and, presumably Warlords of Draenor will not be affected by this. So once a creature from Cataclysm content or below (Wrath, BC and Vanilla) attacks a character that outlevels them, there will be a formula that determines how little damage the character takes. Celestalon presented it as such.

LevelDiff = PlayerLevel - CreatureLevel
if (CreatureExpansion < Pandaria) then
// 10% DR per level diff, with a floor of 10%
DamageTakenFactor = max(1.0 - 0.1 * LevelDiff, 0.1)
else
DamageTakenFactor = 1.0
end

What this means is that, when your level 100 character goes inside a level 80 Wrath raid, they'll have a very large reduction in how much damage they take.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Raiding, Transmogrification, Warlords of Draenor

The nature of unique mechanics and raid difficulty

One of the ideas that I always find interesting is that, as raid difficulty increases, it becomes more reasonable to expect certain abilities to be available. Like in this tweet from Nathaniel Chapman, an encounter designer for WoW, which talks about the Hand of Protection ability. (As an aside, I very much recommend his personal blog.) The basic idea is simple, and can be extrapolated to other abilities - it's reasonable to expect a Mythic raid to have access to abilities such as Hand of Protection or other class specific abilities that can alter a fight's parameters.

It's this idea of raid difficulty making specific design choices acceptable that I find interesting, at least in the context of class abilities that might otherwise be seen as unbalancing. One specific mention was how Paladins could cheese tank swap mechanics, something that made them invaluable on fights like Heroic Horridon. Imagine that, in a hypothetical Mythic Horridon, the fight was designed for you to cheese tank swap mechanics, or the boss came with a huge AoE damage spell that was spell reflectable, justifying the inclusion of a warrior tank or a DPS warrior with Mass Spell Reflect. The cast could also be spellstolen, so mages would be a valuable addition.

These kinds of mechanics are seen (and rightfully so, in my opinion) as punitive to struggling small raid groups who only have so many combinations of classes and specs. If your raid doesn't have a mage or warrior, for example, then dealing with that hypothetical huge AoE damage attack becomes harder. But for Mythic difficulty, with its iron-clad 20 player limit, you can expect more diversity in raid makeup, and thus can design for it.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guilds, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: New Dungeon Journal entries

Okay, this one's a little spoilery, but if you're game for that, it's interesting - the latest Alpha build for Warlords of Draenor contains Dungeon Journal entries for several familiar names. We already suspected some of them would be making an appearance, but others are a bit of a surprise.

To keep you from seeing spoilers you don't want, the information is behind the jump.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Patch 5.4.8 and the wait for Patch 6.0

With patch 5.4.8 we're seeing a new way to achieve an old goal - allow players to get further in established content while it remains the most recent content available. In essence, with this patch, we will be able to buy slightly increased ability to progress with valor points. This isn't new - it's what the item upgrade system has always been.

I've been thinking about the new item upgrades and the Deeds of Valor since they were announced. I haven't been able to play WoW as I'd like lately (health reasons) but one of the things that immediately came to mind when they announced Deeds of Valor was that this was an entirely new way to nerf raid content at the end of an expansion. Instead of a progressive buff to the players, or a progressive nerf to the bosses, we're seeing a mechanical way to spend valor points to gain the same ultimate aim. Making it possible to trade in your Timeless Coins for valor points is a good way for players who are flush from constant Timeless Isle grinding to convert them to something useful, and allowing players to upgrade items an additional 2 times (for a total of four upgrades) serves to nerf content without nerfing it. Everyone will be stronger, will hit harder, will have more mana for heals.

I have some opinions about this, of course. Others have already expressed theirs - and to be fair I accept the basic premise that these are quality of life changes that will cease to matter in patch 6.0. And I'm okay with that, because again, I see this primarily as a way to nerf Siege of Orgrimmar without actually doing so. It gives us another valor dump, of course. But with changes like Heart of the Valorous (which won't be live when 5.4.8 drops) it feels as if valor itself is being made into a progression mechanic.

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

The tension between balance and player interest

I'm looking forward to Ashram, the new PvP island zone in Warlords that seems to combine elements from zones such as the Timeless Isle, Wintergrasp, and the old days of world PvP. So I tend to go looking for information on it, which is where I found the following.
With cross-realm groups being possible on Ashram, this is a perfect example of the ways the game has to balance what most players will do vs. what some players will do - balance the min-maxing attitude vs. the more common, and more often executed, use of a feature or game element. Ashram as it stands will allow players to group cross realm - this is intended so that players who have characters on separate realms (my wife and I, for instance, often would run the Timeless Isle on characters that were on separate realms) can still go to Ashram. This is a good and fun use of cross-realm grouping. But there's a potential down side to this.

Since cross-realm grouping is possible, we know the next step - something like oQueue that allows you to put together a group of 40 players and go destroy Ashram on an already imbalanced server. If a certain server is already heavily skewed towards the Alliance, putting together a 40 player group (since Ashram exists in the world and not in a raid instance) and just destroying any hapless Horde you come across, or vice versa. Even if you don't pick a server with a faction imbalance, it's still feasible that a big raid group could end up owning Ashram for an extended period of time, and using players that aren't even on the server.

Decisions in the game's design are always made between these two poles - between the ease of abuse, and the benefit it brings to individual players. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, things don't work out like we'd hope. Reforging, as an example, falls into the 'possible player imbalanced use trumps player convenience' category.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Warlords of Draenor

What is the average?

People make assumptions. We all do it - even when we know they might not be warranted, making an assumption is an easy shorthand, a way to skip a few steps. One of the things we as players often do is assume that our peer group - the people we play with, the people we know who play the game - are in some way representative of the game as a whole. We assume our personal experiences are universal. I bring this up because of this recent tweet from Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas.


What Watcher is pointing out here is that for many of us, our group of peers is the game. We only see the game we play. Any assumptions we make about the game (such as, the difficulty of the raids, the quality of our fellow players) can be hampered by the assumption that what our group experiences is what all groups experience. The tweet that Watcher responded to argued that the Cataclysm launch raids weren't overtuned because his peer group, which he considered 'below average', was clearing them. Watcher's response points out that it can be difficult to define what the average is, much less whether or not you're there.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Raid Guides, Mists of Pandaria

Siege of Orgrimmar changes in patch 6.0

So if you're raiding Siege of Orgrimmar, there's some news to be had - namely, some things are going away, and other things are becoming a lot easier to get.
  • First off, if you haven't gotten the Kor'kron War Wolf for the 'Ahead of the Curve" achievement, it will cease to be attainable once the patch drops.
  • Garrosh Hellscream will no longer have a 100% chance to drop the Kor'kron Annihilator mount on the new Mythic difficulty, once you can level past level 90.
  • If you have not already gotten an heirloom off of Garrosh Hellscream, you will have a 100% chance to get a specialization appropriate heirloom, and your chances to get an additional heirloom will be increased. But once you can level past 90, you will not be able to get heirlooms from Garrosh anymore.
  • Group finder will be available.
For all this news and more, check out this post on the official site.

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

Loot, points, bonus rolls, and other options

Before The Burning Crusade, there simply wasn't any other way to get gear for your character but for it to drop past a certain point. Sometimes you could buy a BoE piece on the auction house - my first epic was a Brain Hacker my wife bought me on the AH. But in general, if you wanted a piece of gear, you farmed for it. You ran dungeons over and over again, hoping a piece would drop, and hoping you would win the roll - and if neither of those things happened, you just kept running. It was possible to run the same dungeon every day, over and over again, and never get that drop you wanted - one friend of mine never completed his dungeon set, even when he was working on raiding Ahn'Qiraj, because the shoulders simply would not drop.

But during BC the Badges of Justice were devised, and for the first time players had a way to get around the luck of the draw. Over the course of the expansion, new gear was placed on vendors, gear that could be purchased for Badges, and this meant that players kept running as much content that dropped those badges as possible. It's fair to say that the badge system kept Karazhan going as a desired raiding location - people would bring their geared mains, even, just to get the extra badges. When the Isle of Quel'Danas vendor opened, all of my friends and guildmates (who were raiding TK and SSC and moving up into Hyjal and the Black Temple) picked up gear from the IoQD vendor, because it was easily as good if not slightly better as the drops we already had. It filled weak spots (those pants or boots or belt that never dropped) or provided us with weapons absolutely as good as drops we hadn't even seen yet.

The badge system got ever more complex in Wrath, with each new raid tier also seeing the debut of a new type of badge and new gear that badge could be spent on. As a result, the two tiered point system (justice and valor points, honor and conquest points for PvP) was introduced in Cataclysm (technically, during the tail end of Wrath) to simplify everything. It worked, to a point. Now, in Mists of Pandaria, we've seen justice and valor points be superseded by the bonus roll mechanic, one that will be revamped in Warlords of Draenor. One could argue that the bonus roll system puts the emphasis back on whether or not an item drops as opposed to simply collecting points to buy an item - it removes the certainty of reaching enough points to make a purchase, as well.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

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