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Best of December 2009

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne

December brought us patch 3.3, Icecrown Citadel's new raid and 5-mans, "Rocket bare!", and the endless joy of the new Dungeon Finder. I think we can all agree that 2009's going out on a high note, and that this is one of the best patches Blizzard's ever released.

Arcane Brilliance: How to be a good PUG mage
: "It was like some kind of idiot convention, and I was the keynote speaker."

Totem Talk: On unique gearing and gear consolidation
: Rossi has mixed feelings on the benefits of gear consolidation, particularly because +spellpower mail is far better itemized for Restoration, and Enhancement shares gear with hunters, who don't want the same stats.

Official patch 3.3 confirmation and patch notes
: Patch 3.3 went live on December 8th to universal acclaim, and the enormous popularity of the Dungeon Finder took everyone by surprise.

The lore of patch 3.3
: A fantastic joint effort between Adam, Alex, and Sacco to bring you the background on how patch 3.3's story came about.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

Best of November 2009

November saw the celebration of WoW's fifth anniversary, the introduction of the pet store, and a steady avalanche of news from the patch 3.3 PTR.

Drama Mamas: When a partner wanders astray
: The Drama Mamas answer one of their hardest and most unsettling questions.

Cataclysm: The exhaustive list of old-world changes (so far)
: Sacco goes over all the known information concerning upcoming zone and dungeon changes in Cataclysm with a fine-tooth comb.

Blizzard: Arenas were a mistake
: Blizzard's VP of game design says that arenas as they were implemented were probably not the best idea. Let a thousand comments bloom.

Blizzard launches real-money in-game pet store
: The destination for data-mined pets we'd seen earlier that had never materialized in-game is finally revealed -- Blizzard's selling them. The march to micro-transactions continues apace, and not everyone is happy about it.

Patch 3.3 PTR: Get a pug when you PUG
: The destination for the Perky Pug is also revealed, and players are somewhat happier about that, particularly after finding some of the pug's more interesting animations.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of October 2009

October, as with August, was mostly a lot of news reporting. The patch 3.3 PTR dropped on October 1st and everyone went nuts for the last (we think) major content patch of Wrath of the Lich King. Next up? The content patch heralding the approach of Cataclysm, but with a lot of gated content between ourselves and that, we've got a ways to go.

Ask a Faction Leader: Cairne Bloodhoof
: Among all the AAFL columns he's done so far, Sacco's personal favorite is Cairne.

Spiritual Guidance: Don't be that priest: Matt Low not-so-gently lectures his fellow priests on the failings to which the class is prone while not paying attention or entering an encounter unprepared.

Searching for the most popular server
: Schramm takes a look at some data and wonders -- what's the busiest and/or most crowded server out there?

Patch 3.3 PTR: New Tauren skins found
: So what are those things anyway? A new set of NPCs for Icecrown? A new barbershop option? Tribal markings for the Grimtotem?

Chill of the Throne: Dodge nerfed 20% in Icecrown Citadel
: The debuff is quickly termed "Icewell Radiance" by disgruntled tanks everywhere.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of September 2009

One of the things that jumps out at me while reviewing September is that it was a fantastic month for Moviewatch. Apart from that players were occupied with the new version of Onyxia, the Argent Coliseum, still discussing some questions raised by BlizzCon, and arguing over whether Garrosh was a jerk or what.

WoW Moviewatch: Warrior's Dream
: My nomination for the best Moviewatch of the year. A lovely film, well-made, beautifully scored, and it crammed a thoughtful story (and insight concerning the sometimes-uncomfortable perspective on ourselves granted by nightmares) into 5 minutes.

Faction change service now available
: A feature players had been wondering about getting for years suddenly went live. Did things go crazy? Maybe a little.

A critical examination of Garrosh Hellscream
: Garrosh, as we'd previously observed, is not among the more well-received NPCs these days. Rossi asks -- how did this guy go from the demoralized Orc we see in Nagrand to the arrogant jerk we find in Northrend?

Ask a Faction Leader: Garrosh Hellscream
: On the subject of Garrosh, personally I found this AAFL to be among the funniest in the series. If that whole Warchief bid doesn't work out for him, Garrosh has a bright future as an interior designer.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of August 2009

BlizzCon, BlizzCon, BlizzCon! That's pretty much what August was all about -- well, that and patch 3.2. Because this month was mostly crammed full of pure, unadulterated news about the upcoming convention and Cataclysm, there weren't quite as many one-off features this time around.

All the World's a Stage: Reflections on the passing of a roleplayer's mom
: This isn't a very easy article to summarize. All I can say is -- please read it. One of David Bowers' most elegant and introspective pieces: "WoW is not an escape from life, it is a reflection of it."'s Patch 3.2 Guide and content for the day
: Patch 3.2 went live on August 4th and was (oddly enough) one of the top stories for the year. In hindsight, it probably wasn't that surprising -- it had been a while since Ulduar had gone live, and the Argent Tournament patch heralded the introduction of a slew of new pets, mounts, titles, and new druid forms. Huzzah!

Playing WoW for charity: Interview with the WoWathon team
: Three college students managed to raise $5,000 for Child's Play with a marathon WoW session coupled with "dramatic readings of bad fanfiction."

Researchers study WoW to see how gangs form and fade
: A UC-Irvine team has been studying guild and group formation ingame for data on "group ecology." As Schramm observed, "Listen, guys, all you have to do to break up gangs is ensure there's not enough loot to go around."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of July 2009

July 2009 was defined by two dominant trends -- waiting for patch 3.2 to hit, and an increasing amount of information starting to flow that would be confirmed one month later at BlizzCon.

Blizzard files trademark for
: Gee, we wonder why?

Arcane Brilliance: Five things every mage should do before they ding 80
: Archmage Pants guides you through some things that should be on every leveling mage's checklist before the endgame.

Encrypted Text: Fan of Knives mechanics deep-dive
: Chase Christian runs across a rogue on his server who's able to kill people in an interesting manner, and goes on the theorycrafting warpath to figure out how he's doing it.

Worgen Garwal hotfixed, now untameable
: Worgen pets were, for a brief period, universally agreed to be the coolest thing in the game before being hotfixed into oblivion. Reason given? Something vague concerning why Blizzard doesn't want hunters to have humanoid pets. Yes. Yes, that must be it.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of June 2009

Raids were still rolling through Ulduar and experimenting with hard modes, and we were waiting for patch 3.2 to hit the PTR, but the most interesting thing about this month was definitely the increased notice we started taking of account security.

Patch 3.2:
Argent Coliseum 5-man and raid story/encounters: Sacco ventures deep into the wilds of the PTR, and an insane amount of work on his part produced a comprehensive guide to what happened in the Coliseum, the accompanying lore, and the boss abilities you needed to plan for.

New Tauren cat forms and new Night Elf cat forms revealed: Allison cries harder. I wasn't initially warm to the new Tauren cat form, but it grew on me as soon as I saw it in motion on the PTR.

WoW, Casually: What is casual?: The $64,000 question -- what does it even mean to be a casual player these days? Robin weighs in.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of May 2009

May saw a huge influx of players to Ulduar, the end of the revamped Noblegarden holiday, Children's Week, BlizzCon ticket queues (which, while packed to the scuppers, were nowhere near the nightmare they'd been in 2008), and the start of news concerning patch 3.2 and new druid forms (!).

Disappointment with the patch 3.1 game world
: A lot of our staffers pointed to Alex's article as a good pinpoint on why patch 3.1 didn't feel like it was really moving the expansion forward.

Children's Week ruins battlegrounds: I hated School of Hard Knocks because I thought it was a poorly-designed achievement spurring irresponsible play. Zach hated it because it's also guaranteed to wreck battlegrounds for the length of the holiday.

Noblegarden: Sexy or Sexist?: Women are still vastly outnumbered by men in the MMO market, and Robin wonders whether this achievement going live was the right call.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of April 2009

April rolled around, and so did patch 3.1 and Ulduar -- a huge, all-encompassing raid experience that pitted you against Titanic creations and Yogg-Saron, distant cousin of C'thun. Later in the month, a revamped Noblegarden went live to howls of protest from players who found all of their egg spawns camped, and we got some unsettling news that someone was one-shotting Ulduar bosses.



A video guide to Grid
: Grid is one of the best all-around mods you can use, but fairly intimidating to configure. Paxxz of Feathermoon walks you through it with a great video guide.

BRK fans post a good-bye: In the early part of the year, we lost both Phaelia and Big Red Kitty to RL demands. BRK fans put together a good-bye video for everyone's favorite Dwarf hunter. /salute BRK.

Are we being teased about the next expansion?
: Swing and a hit!

Why we should expect an expansion announcement at BlizzCon
: Another swing and a hit!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of March 2009

While looking over March 2009, one of the things that immediately jumps at me is that this month had a lot of great news on PvP. My guess? With Tier 7 content growing increasingly stale and Ulduar encounters being doled out sparingly on the PTR, lots of players started to dip their toes back into arena and battlegrounds, and promptly got them chopped off by the howling pack of death knights infesting BG's like a Biblical plague.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Disembodied skull confirms new battleground, your grim future: Sacco's personal favorite of the year, and the first solid news we had of the upcoming Isle of Conquest.

Shifting Perspectives: Tanks, Wrath, and crushing blows
: I was grimly expecting to get crucified by commenters for this piece. I was definitely not expecting it to get the reaction it did or a visit from Ghostcrawler.

All the World's a Stage: Impromptu RP raiding
: Rossi acquires walking stick, goes on rampage around Orgrimmar. Next day; Rossi acquires bouquet of daisies, goes on rampage around Orgrimmar.

Why now's the best time to run BC content: Bored with Tier 7? Tier 6 is on notice.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of February 2009

We'd rolled Naxxramas, trounced Malygos, beaten Sartharion and his little drakes to death -- and that was all there was to do in Tier 7. With a roughly three-month wait between Wrath going live and the first whisper of patch 3.1 hitting the PTR, a number of players found themselves out of raiding content within the space of two days a week and already exalted with the game's four new factions (the sole unfortunate byproduct of Blizzard making rep grinds less hellish). To top it all off, many instance servers were still plagued by chronic lag and instability, and that's assuming you could get on them at all with the masses of people trying to run heroics and raids.

Ulduar was a long way off. Nerd rage grew. Frustration was brought to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes as per box instructions. This was the winter of our discontent -- or distraction, one of the two. Some playwright should get on that.

Replenishment -- what are the odds?
: At the time Eliah wrote this, there were only 3 DPS specs that could provide Replenishment, and Blizzard had confirmed that it was balancing even 10-man raids around its presence. This wound up pigeonholing certain classes, and proved to be a bit of a headache for raid leaders at a time when most casters and healers weren't rocking much mana efficiency.

Blizzard responds to the Glider situation
: Blizzard finally succeeded in shutting down the most common botting program, and Nethaera went public with a statement on both the history of the conflict, the problems that had resulted ingame, and why they'd been forced to take matters to court.

Resto4Life closing its doors: Phaelia was a huge and irreplaceable loss to the WoW blogging community. Blizzard later honored her with an ingame item in Ulduar. She wasn't the only high-profile WoW community person to announce her departure in February --

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

The best of January 2009

In backchannel team discussion, Dan O'Halloran asked us to nominate our best stories for the year. "I don't mean the most popular or even the most commented on," he wrote, but "editorials, class columns, analysis, or even funny or touching posts," the ones we were happiest and/or proudest of writing. I'd like to think that our list captures (or at least tries to capture) the zeitgeist of the player community, and how things evolved from the very beginning of Wrath to the patch where players will (eventually) face the ultimate boss of the expansion.

Yesterday we realized that, as of today, there are 12 days to go until 2010, so we though what we'd do is break down our favorite posts into each month of 2009.

Today, obviously, covers January. Wrath was less than two months old when the new year rolled around. While most players were still leveling their mains, gearing them up, and taking their first steps into heroics, others were already steamrolling Tier 7 or trying to steamroll things like Glory of the Raider.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Features

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