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The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for shaman in 4.0.3


Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

Gah. A few more days left, and we're only on shaman. This can't be good. Let's get right to it, then. Shaman are incredibly fun to play, especially with the changes that came with 4.0.1. The improvements on the totem interface in the past have made it much easier for shaman to manage their totems. The best shaman utilize their totems in the heat of battle, and one interesting skill to master is knowing not just which totem to put down for a situation but which sets of totems, now that shaman can drop it down all at once. It's a convenience that changes a few things. There is also higher survivability, better mobility, and clearly defined playstyles for all three specs.

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Filed under: Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for rogues in 4.0.3


Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

Rogues are a class that lends itself extremely well to PvP, and even six years in, rogues pouncing on unsuspecting prey is one of the enduring visions (and fears) of the game. Rogues play entirely differently from most other classes because of their ability -- and need -- to utilize stealth. The only other spec that has a similar playstyle are feral cat druids.

Rogues always get a lot of goodies for PvP, and the new world isn't any different. It's a new game, though, and the stunlock as we know it is gone. It's been comatose for a long time, but shared diminishing returns put a final nail stunlock's coffin. There are abilities that steer the rogue to do more fanciful things, though. I mentioned before how Recuperate is such a game-changer, allowing rogues to keep up with other classes in a higher-stamina world. Longer combat also means more opportunities to use all those cooldowns rogues are known for -- but it also means they'll need to time it even better now, because blowing all available cooldowns for one big burst does not necessarily translate to killing an opponent.

Anyway, with about a week left to go before Cataclysm goes live, we'd better get this whole thing sorted out, so let's get right into what rogues should pick up for PvP.

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Filed under: Rogue, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for priests in 4.0.1


Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

Never mind that it's actually going to be 4.0.3 pretty soon, we'll wrap up this series as quick as we can before the whole world crashes down all around us. Today we'll take a look at another hybrid class, the only one with two healing specs. It's going to be interesting to discuss the priest because even though many players consider healing in PvP to be less demanding as far as PvP-specific talents are concerned, it's the selection of key PvP talents that set great healers from the pack. In the battlegrounds, where healers have an easier time screening themselves from focus fire, there isn't a great need to dedicate to a PvP spec or even gear. Still, a good understanding of key abilities will help you perform better on the field, especially under the new paradigm.

One great improvement for Patch 4.0.1 geared towards leveling in Cataclysm is the ability of each healing spec to hold their own offensively. While obviously not as powerful as DPS specs, there are clear offensive abilities in each healing tree that's intended to make the leveling experience easier. Consequently, this gives healers better ways to strike back at opponents in PvP. For some players, this can make healing specs more fun and inviting, giving healers an even more active role and opening up some options between healing.

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Filed under: Priest, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for paladins in 4.0.1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

I have to confess that I couldn't wait to write this part of the series, if for nothing other than I just love the paladin class. Paladins get a brand new resource on top of mana in 4.0.1, the exciting holy power that is bound to see a little more tweaking throughout Cataclysm. A few changes are going to happen from here until the expansion, such as a critical change to Divine Storm that will no longer require its dependence on holy power. Little tweaks like these will find their way to the game, which will make gameplay better for players everywhere (and we can finally use Divine Storm again, yay!). It should be clear that things are slightly different now than how they'll be in the expansion.

For now, we'll take a look at all the talents that should prepare us for Cataclysm PvP. I might sound like a broken record every time I say this, but paladin PvP really gets more interesting this time around. The new mechanic brings in a new flavor to the game experience, and the new talents are just a lot of fun. Let's dive right into it.

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Filed under: Paladin, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for mages in 4.0.1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

The Cataclysm is getting close, so we've only got a few weeks of this transitional stage, but it's important to pick out our PvP talents heading into the expansion. Today, we're going to take a look at mages, who have the usual set of tools and a couple of new ones. Nothing drastic has changed, despite the overhaul in 4.0.1, so mages are still casters who do best at range. Nothing has made them capable of wading into melee and standing toe-to-toe with rogues or anything silly like that. Instead, what we've got are three interesting trees with slightly different ways to crush their opponents -- all of them fun.

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Filed under: Mage, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for hunters in 4.0.1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

We don't have much time before Cataclysm hits, so let's get down to business. We've talked about some optimal talents for death knights and druids for PvP, so now we turn our attention to hunters. Hunters have always had a tough time in arenas, not necessarily because the class was broken but because the format simply wasn't conducive to the hunter playstyle. It got so bad, in fact, that Blizzard designed an arena -- the Ring of Valor -- specifically to benefit hunters. On the other hand, hunters have always lorded it over in the open expanse of the battlegrounds.

The good news is that battlegrounds will be cool again. Well, they've always been cool in my book, but soon they'll be rewarding cool gear, too. That means hunters will once again feel like PvP gods (without needing the help of an enhancement shaman). There's one big change to hunters in Patch 4.0.1 and that's the change in resource from mana to focus. The difference with the way focus behaves is that rather than a resource well that pays for spells and abilities (mana), hunters have abilities that generate focus in combat such as Steady Shot and Cobra Shot, and then a whole load of focus dumps. In a way it's like death knight runic power or warrior rage without the decay. This means you'll always want to have nearly full focus but never gain focus that will simply slough off because you're over your maximum. It's a careful balance of gaining and spending, although focus regenerates at a steady rate.

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Filed under: Hunter, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for druids in 4.0.1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

Let's try to get you prepared for Cataclysm, shall we? In the new (banged-up, broken and burnt) world of the expansion, battlegrounds play will stand toe to toe with arenas as far as gear acquisition and quite possibly have even better participation. You don't want to miss out on that. Today we'll discuss the best PvP talents you can pick up as a druid, and you can decide for yourself what other talents to round out your PvP spec.

Perhaps the biggest change for druids in patch 4.0.1 is a new mechanic for balance druids called Eclipse, which relies on the buildup of lunar or solar energy conferred by casting either nature or arcane damage spells, respectively. This means that balance druids will be constantly trying to achieve an Eclipse by casting spells from one school, then shifting to another school once they've gotten the bonus. Out of all specs, balance plays the most differently compared to before the patch, but everyone gets fun tools to use in PvP. Let's check out all these toys across all specs.

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Filed under: Druid, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Must-have PvP talents for death knights in 4.0.1


Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.

So the bomb finally dropped. As expected, Patch 4.0.1 finally made it to live realms and players are scrambling to get used to everything new. For most players, that first free respec is used for PvE to enable them to join the latest PUG looking to down the week's raid boss. This is when reality bites -- that spec you've been fiddling around with over at Wowhead or wowtal.com isn't delivering the way you thought it would. That's OK. If you're doing some PvP, understand that there are a number of bugs out there, so things aren't behaving exactly as they should. Add to that the fact that the game is balanced around being level 85, that stamina is low, and resilience has taken a hit ... things are going to be somewhat wonky. So don't write off that spec you've theorycrafting on for weeks just yet.

Since specs are pretty complex and fluid at this point, we'll take a look at vital PvP talents instead. The fun thing is that at this point in the game, all specs are good to go for PvP -- although your mileage may vary. There isn't much room for variation, unlike before, when players could reach deep into two trees, especially for PvP. But inevitably, there are talents that are extremely useful in a PvP environment. Today we'll take a look at core PvP talents for each spec for death knights, just in case you were wondering what to do with those last few talent points. For this exercise, we won't bother discussing any 31-point talents because, well, you're supposed to pick those up, anyway.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Death Knight, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Your Cataclysm launch day PvP countdown

Every Thursday, Zach brings you the battlegrounds PvP column The Art of War(craft), while C. Christian Moore covers all aspects of arena play at Blood Sport every Tuesday.

So it's official. All those clues and rumors pointing to a Dec. 7 launch date turned out to have more than a grain of truth to them. We now have officially a little over eight weeks to go before the expansion drops on our collective heads and much, much less before Patch 4.0.1 kicks off the chain of events that breaks the game world pretty much literally. Now what? With the clock ticking to definite date, we have to plan ahead. With the revelation that arena Season 9 and rated battlegrounds begin a week after launch, that doesn't give us a whole lot of time.

So let's plan ahead. Not that most of you haven't already laid out your plans, but considering I'm a lazy player, I'm betting a whole bunch of people haven't been conscientious about their preparations for Cataclysm. Today, we'll keep it simple -- we'll run down the next few weeks with a checklist of things we should do in the days leading up to the expansion. We'll count it down from Tuesday, maintenance day, or what many players typically know as the day we get to go outside the house. Besides, Dec. 7 falls on a Tuesday, so we'll count backwards from there.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Building your battleground kill crew

Zach of The Art of War(craft) enjoys PvP in all its forms, which includes competitive sports, martial arts and the considerably less badass and infinitely geekier miniature wargaming. Like Warmachines. Or maybe it's because he kind of just likes anything with the word '"war" tacked onto it.

Last week we took a look at the delicious possibilities that Cataclysm will bring to battlegrounds PvP. It's going to be pretty brutal out there, and you're going to need friends. While there is a whole bunch of cool stuff all over, the best thing about Cataclysm for battleground enthusiasts will be the rated battlegrounds. Unfortunately, one of the things this will contribute to is the decline of solo play. In order to get the most out of your battleground experience, you'll need to be part of a group so that you'll reap the benefits of rated matches.

The new Vicious Gladiator gear for arena Season 9 (or rated battlegrounds Season 1) is listed on MMO-Champion, and I'm sure avid battlers are drooling in anticipation of how these sets look. Then again, it could just be me. At any rate, there's a whole load of gear waiting to be claimed through honor and conquest! Most importantly, one thing that separates itemization this upcoming PvP season -- and this is a game-changer -- is the availability of personal-ratings-free weapons and armor through the new system. That marks the first time that max-level PvP weapons will become obtainable by players of all skill levels and the first time that top-tier PvP armor will only have a cosmetic distinction separating them from their ratings-free counterparts. You read that right: PvP gear with ratings requirements will have the exact same stats as PvP gear with no ratings requirements.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): The shape of Cataclysm battlegrounds PvP

Zach loves all things PvP, which is why Fight Quest is the only thing he watches on television. Well, that and Glee, which contains absolutely no PvP whatsoever. Except maybe if you consider Rachel Berry and newcomer Sunshine Corazon's rivalry some form of The Art of WarCraft. I mean, it could be.

I was supposed to go into detail with keybindings using an addon this week, but we'll put that on hold for now. We can always revisit keybindings another time, but so much has happened on the beta that it would just be wrong not to take a look at what's going on. By now, many of the abilities are pretty set, and with a rumored November release on the horizon -- an idea that's got some meat behind it now that the background downloader is working on a hefty 4 GB worth of 4.0.1 goodness -- it looks like what we see is what we'll get. The numbers will probably be tweaked up or down on some spells and talents, but for the most part, I think we've got a pretty solid feel for how the game will play.

The new game mechanics will take some getting used to for some classes such as warlocks, who become a cooldown class, and paladins, who now manage a secondary resource. Players have all of the pre-Cataclysm and the grind to level 85 to get a good feel for things, and that should be plenty of time. But never mind the new abilities -- those are fun, for sure -- but there's an entire support system for World of Warcraft PvP that raises the bar in a way we've never experienced. New battlegrounds, a standardized currency on par with the PvE system, guild support ... Cataclysm PvP is going to be fun as hell.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): Keybinding your way to winning form

Zach only has one key bound on his keyboard: the I WIN button. Welcome to WoW Insider's weekly PvP column, The Art of War(craft), focusing on good, old-fashioned PvP.

Last week, we discussed a few pointers on how to continue your winning ways on the battlefield. We talked about how your machine and connection will help give you a competitive edge, and we also briefly touched on how other playstyle improvements such as macros and keybindings will contribute to your game. Keybinding, quite simply, is using your keyboard keys (or mouse buttons) to activate your spells and abilities, as opposed to clicking on them with your cursor. If there is any bad habit at all that you need to break, it's clicking. It's an even graver gaming sin than keyboard turning. In fact, learning how to keybind can effectively prevent you from keyboard turning.

By default, the game has set the W, A, S, D keys as forward, turn left, backward and turn right, respectively. Keyboard turning means you use the A and D keys (or any keyboard keys set to rotate) to change direction. You can easily remedy this by unbinding the A and D keys and binding them to the strafe buttons instead. Head on to the game menu by pressing the Esc key (instead of clicking on the computer icon on your bar -- isn't that much faster?) and going to the Key Bindings section. You'll see that World of Warcraft actually allows for two different sets of keys or instructions for movement and other game commands. In most cases, you'll only really need one set.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): A handy guide to winning at everything, part 2

Zach enjoys PvP in all its forms, but the form through which he enjoys it most is the winning form.

Today we'll continue our handy guide to winning at everything. By "everything," I mean PvP encounters, and by "winning" I mean as close an approximation as you can get to not embarrassing yourself. Last week, we talked about the absolute basics of heading into battle, which starts with your machine and your internet connection. For a lot of hardcore PvP players, these are investments as much as athletes or hobbyists would invest in sports equipment like better bicycle parts or top-of-the-line running shoes. They won't make you win, but as with all tools, they'll give you the edge with all other things being even.

Sometimes, distance can be a limitation when it comes to our connection, although there are ways to compensate for that. One of these methods is SSH tunneling, which in a nutshell carries your World of Warcraft data on the express lane, while normal connections are on the freeway on which everyone else has to contend with traffic. It's like knowing the shortest route to a destination, while normal routes force you to contend with longer roads, more turns and more stoplights. The technical explanation is more complex than that, but what this basically does is lower your latency -- sometimes by as much as several hundred milliseconds, which in PvP translates to landing that killing blow before your opponent does. There are several paid services that provide tunneling, such as Gamepath or Lowerping, and I know of a lot of players outside the United States who use these services to achieve better response times in the game.

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Filed under: PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): A handy guide to winning at everything

Zach enjoys PvP in all its forms, thus celebrating when some form of PvP was introduced to the Facebook game Pirates Ahoy!

Let's continue from last week's handy guide which was titled intentionally to play on the various meanings of "good." This week, we'll go through a few pointers at how to win at everything. Or, at the very least, to put up a decent fight and not go down in a terribly embarrassing fashion. That's all one can really ask for -- that one puts up a fight. Note that in most cases, the victor won't care because a win is a win, especially in PvP. There are no moral victories in PvP, but there are educational defeats. If you're going to lose, at the very least learn from it, right?

The first rule to winning is to think you can win. If you don't give yourself a chance to win by thinking you're outmatched, then unless your opponent is a total buffoon, she's already won. Don't worry too much about class or your level differential. You must go into the battle thinking you can win or, if you're a healer, at least survive indefinitely. It doesn't matter if you can actually win or not, especially when you're clearly outmatched, such as when you're many levels below your opponent. In such cases, your opponents already expect to win, so if you surprise them with some resistance or maybe even bring them dangerously low, then you will have put some doubt into their heads. As I mentioned last week, most griefers don't actually look for a challenge. So there, the most important rule: Believe you can win.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

The Art of War(craft): The handy guide to being good at PvP

Zach writes the weekly column The Art of War(craft), which focuses on good, old-fashioned PvP. He isn't really left-handed, either.

Let's take a little break from beta-related posts for a while -- Cataclysm isn't going to be out for a few months at least -- and talk about some old-fashioned PvP. Something I've been meaning to write about for a while are my personal guidelines to ganking, or more generally, world PvP. There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding world PvP, although I follow a personal code of conduct when it comes to these things. Think of it as a guide on being good -- character-wise, if not skill-wise -- or how not to be an asshat in PvP. Today, we'll go through a few simple unwritten rules or ideas and my reasoning behind them. That way, I can also say they're no longer unwritten rules.

It might seem futile to lay out some ground rules for world PvP, considering that at the heart of it, they're not really enforceable, but I'd like to think the world (of Warcraft) would be a better place if everyone followed a few simple rules of PvP engagement. It would certainly go a long way towards rectifying the image that some PvE players have about those who PvP. I mean, we're not all uncouth ruffians. At least, not all the time -- oh, who am I kidding? PvP players are bastards. But some of us, at least, are nice bastards.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

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