Preparing for Cataclysm: Garage Sales and Test Realm Antics

One thing is for sure as a new expansion approaches in Warcraft – many of the end game materials and components that have been staples of the economy for the last two years will suddenly become defunct, useful only as curios.

It’s at this time of the expansion cycle that people start thinking about clearing out their current bank inventory and making more room. But what to sell, or buy, or collect? And emblems and honour will also become outmoded, what to do with those?

In a scant few months, almost no one will want to buy those epic gems, raid crafting materials, or foodstuffs. There will be some demand from new goblins or worgen who are levelling tradeskills but it won’t be for the level 80 endgame materials. On the other hand, cosmetic items which required some grind at 80 might become even more sought after in future. The pets from the Argent Tournament fetch a decent price now, but how much more when half the new players don’t even know where the place is, let alone want to go grind rep there? Plus of course there will be a huge influx of gold into the system when everyone heads out questing again. So prices may rise across the board as the value of current era gold falls.

But still, that’s months away. Players will still want to gem and enchant their gear as long as they are still raiding/ PvPing. They’ll want to buy materials to prepare for the expansion too.

But I did find something recently that made me think harder about my plans.


The Tiny Crimson Whelpling is a rare dropped pet in The Wetlands and is a small red dragon. I wasn’t particularly trying to farm for one. I was just wasting time while waiting for Arbitrary because I wanted to show her where to find the Razormaw Hatchling eggs (another pet, but not so rare.)

And now the poor thing is sitting in my bags while I try to decide what to do with it. I guess the pet is probably still available in Cataclysm but we won’t know that for sure until the expansion goes live (I’m assuming that beta players have better things to do). So on the one hand it’s pretty cool and definitely rare at the moment. On the other, it’ll probably be worth more after the expansion drops, possibly lots more if it is no longer farmable.

But it’s a tiny red dragon! Would a worgen with a tiny red dragon pet be cool or not?

Have you started clearing  out your bags and banks for Cataclysm? Or collecting things to help future alts with levelling and training a craft?

A glimpse beyond the veil

The character copy has finally worked for me with the Public Test Realm so I’ve been able to start testing warrior stuffs for patch 4.0. It feels a bit like Moses getting a glimpse of the promised land – I’m not cool enough to be in the actual beta, but just enough to do a bit of testing with a fragment of what is to come.


This shows the default UI during combat. The red shields are the new built in power aura effect for Sword and Board. It thoughtfully also lights up the icon, and writes the name of the ability above your head, making me feel like a character in an anime.


I find myself reluctant to actually go tank an instance without waiting for people I know to transfer over. I know from other comments that AE threat has been found to be lacking and when I say to myself, “Self, how about testing this new tanking build in an actual instance with a PUG?” I somehow find a zillion other things to do instead.

I just can’t feel inspired to want to put up with whatever insults and personal comments  the frustrated and overgeared dps masses probably want to throw at me. I will sometime. I’ll gird my loins with beer or something and just see what happens but in the cold clear light of day, it sounds rather masochistic and I’m sure I urgently need to test … err… something or other different. I remember tanking BC heroics on my warrior. It had its moments, but those were mostly in specific instances which played to my strengths (I remember Arcatraz being a personal favourite.)

My inclination is to tank for friends or guildies, and switch to DPS for everyone else if it’s going to be like that. This probably does not bode well for LFG queues in Cataclysm, because if I’m not sure I want to tank randoms, you can bet a lot of other people are thinking the same thing.

Still, on the bright side, Victory Rush heals Spinks for about 10k which is is a fifth of her health unbuffed. Not bad.

Alas, poor deathknight, I knew ye well


Readers, I have a confession to make.

I have not one, not two, but THREE level 80 Death Knights in my stable of alts vs only one of any other class. For me, the class has been one of the great successes of the expansion. I haven’t done much raiding on any of them other than the odd VoA, they’re my fun alts.

And every single one of them has a talent spec which will disappear in the next patch. I can’t help that I like blood dps and frost tanking!

Things I love about my Death Knights:

  • Hair colour. People ask where my dwarf got the awesome hairdye. I say that’s not dye, it’s BLOOD! Or else I lie and say there is a special barber in Silithus, just to make them run across two continents because I am a death knight and I am eeeeeeevil.
  • Free weapon enchants. Why did Blizzard think it was a good idea to give Death Knights a free rune enchant that is the best weapon enchant in the game when everyone else has to pay through the nose for Berserking? I have no idea. There is no conceivable balance reason for this.
  • Levelling is such a breeze. For sure it doesn’t hurt to start with a nice set of blue quality gear, but access to fast running and lots of self heals in combat makes for a happy melee class. Expect this to change in Cataclysm unless you want to level as a tank.
  • Everyone hates them. The bar for a DK is very low, so if you are even moderately competent as a tank, people tend to be impressed.
  • Not one but two interrupts. Suck it, paladins. (OK, my warrior also has plenty of interrupts, massive numbers of stuns, and charge but the DK is almost as good.)
  • Pet army of ghouls. It doesn’t get better than this, and the fact they always piss everyone off is a bonus.

I’m sure at least one of them will struggle through to 85. I still like my warrior best, but death knights do run them a close second for me.

edited to add: I will write a proper comparison between warrior and death knight, but was inspired by Larisa’s post on how she loves WoW to write about something I really enjoyed in this expansion. Suffice it to say I enjoy both classes very much. And warriors will be amazing to level in Cataclysm too — getting Victory Rush so early minimises downtime.

[Cataclysm] On being replaced by a pet

The Public Test Realms are now up with patch 4.0.1, which means that even slackers who aren’t in the Cataclysm beta will get an early chance to see the new class and talent tree designs.

If you find this PTR and patch 4.0 business puzzling, all you need to know is that before each previous expansion there have also been many class changes. Blizzard patches the class changes into the live game before the expansion. And no, we don’t know when although November 2nd is the current hot guess for Cataclysm. (Not saying this is set in stone, although I don’t think Boubouille has been wrong before.)

One of the more interesting changes is that the hunters’ pets have had a revamp. Each different type of pet will now be able to provide a different raid buff. And that raid buff will be exactly the same as a player of appropriate class could provide. This includes Bloodlust/ Heroism (which could be provided in future by a Corehound, available to Beastmaster specced hunters.)

Even a trained corehound could do that!

It’s ironic that one of the standard complaints about raiding (usually from non raiders) is “Even a trained monkey could learn to do that!” in a game where the actual trained monkeys are often more useful and easier to control than the players. A pet doesn’t have to worry about getting out of the fire in WoW, for example – they automatically take much much less AE spell damage.

You can probably even set the new pets to automatically renew their buff when the timer runs out. Which would put them way ahead of … well me for example! I do try to keep shouts (warrior buffs) up but sometimes if I’m busy it may be a few seconds late.  A pet won’t do that. And some of the ‘skill’ goes out of the game.

So there will be advantages to having pets along to do the buffing.

I don’t actually think giving hunters access to all the raid buffs is overpowered. Although it does give them a privileged position in regards to raid invites. Having one in your raid means a very flexible buffing class. If I played a different dps, I don’t really know how I’d feel about that. It’s not as if the class lacked utility before.

I think it’s a mixed blessing for the actual hunter player. Forget being able to choose which pet you bring to a raid, the raid leader will consult a spreadsheet and tell you. And if that means a tenacity pet which does less dps, then enjoy slipping down the damage meters in order to provide more utility. Look forwards to the joy of feeling obliged to go catch and tame a copy of every type of pet in the game if you are a keen raider, just in case. Enjoy having Beastmaster as an offspec, even if you hate it, just in case one of those exotic buffs turns out to be necessary.

Tanks however, are used to being replaced by pets. The pet’s entire purpose is to tank solo content, and if they can also tank instances and even raid bosses, well it’s just a matter of scaling. What I really want to know is why I can’t have a pet that heals or does ranged dps. I’d look after it and make sure it didn’t get eaten! (Or at least, I’d take better care of it than I do most of my mates in game, where I’d be more likely to point and laugh if they got themselves chewed on by mobs due to doing something daft.)

The strange lack of healing pets

In many ways, the most interesting of the new pet abilities is the heal which Spirit Beasts will be able to provide. Blizzard have shied away hard in the past from healing pets. I never really understood why this was. What’s the problem with a pet that can heal, given that they’re OK with letting them tank the occasional raid bosses? It could be tuned to never heal as well as a player, and to require lots of micromanagement if that’s needed as a balance.

Still, it feels odd to see abilities which used to be signature to a class turning up on a pet. It is a pretty good indication though that the days in which a player might expect to  be wanted in a raid just for one buff are over.

No cosmetic gear or overcloaks for Cataclysm


Anyone had a chance yet to reclaim Gnomeregan or the Echo Isles in the Cataclysm pre-quests which were patched in this week? I’ve tried both (yay for level 80s on both factions), and thought they were good fun. Short but fun. I’d say Echo Isles had the better story but I laughed aloud at Gnomeregan. Gnomes are brilliant.

When you do the questlines, you will notice that the final quest reward is .. a cloak with no stats. “How useful,” you think, “NOT.” I’ll grant it has some RP potential, and am sure the active troll RP guilds on my server are thrilled.

But what happened to the promised overcloaks? Originally these quests were touted as offering a new type of item that would allow you to overlay the cool cosmetic overcloak over the dull but stat-laden frost badge cloak that every darned raider is wearing these days.

A U-Turn is what happened, as reported in this thread on the official forum:

“It is true that the cloak rewards had overcloak functionality when these events were up on the public test realms some months back. In the end we decided that implementing the cloaks in such a way that players could aesthetically change the cloak they’re wearing could set a bad precedent. We like customization and flavor items, but we don’t want to start implementing aesthetic items in the game which allow players to look however they want while keeping all the stats they want. We felt the overcloaks were breaking that barrier a little too much.”

I call technical issue shenanigans. There are already items in the game which let players shapeshift into completely different races, complete with full disguise. And if it’s so important that gear should be identifiable by sight, why doesn’t hard mode gear look different from normal mode? It also surely couldn’t be impossible to turn off cosmetic options in battlegrounds or arenas if that was seen as an issue.

It’s a shame. I never thought of myself as one for dress up but I have loved the cosmetic clothing in LOTRO, and I know it’s been a popular option in other games too.

Still. Enjoy your pointless cloak, everyone.

Guild Achievements in Cataclysm — Time to Start Over?

This week, Blizzard passed out more information about the plans for guilds in Cataclysm. That’s more about guild ranks, guild levelling, guild achievements, guild reputation, guild rewards, and by the way if you’ve completed any of the activities required for guild achievements previously then those won’t count and you’ll have to do them again.

They helpfully gave an example:

Let’s just say, that for example, you need to complete the new guild achievement “We are Legendary” in order to unlock the Dark Phoenix. That achievement requires the guild to gain access to all 6 legendary weapons currently available in the game. (note that all guild achievements start on Cataclysm launch, so anything you have now will not matter, it must be done with your guild after launch)

This is just an example, so may not be the actual achievement required to unlock the pretty dark phoenix mount. But what a way to make people feel that their Wrath legendaries are not only worthless (liable to be replaced by Cataclysm greens in a few months) but also that their guild might have to go farm them all over again.  The question is, would people feel less resistance to repeating some achievement if they did so with a different or new guild?

For example, when character achievements came into the game, players had to start from scratch, even if they had completed some of the achievement raids or instances previously. I couldn’t really be bothered to go repeat the older instances on Spinks just for an achievement. But on a new alt, I might be more inclined to go out of my way to do it. Crazy, huh? But in the back of my mind I was thinking, “I’ve already beaten TBC heroics on Spinks several zillion times. Like hell I need to do that again!! It’s not my fault that the game is stupid.” I think this comes from mentally ticking off achievement boxes in your head. Once you know you have completed a goal, it feel sour to be told that you need to redo it because the first time didn’t count.

If this is true for other people, then there has never been a more appealing time in which to start a new guild. A new guild can tackle all of the new achievements together without ever having to think, “This sucks, we did that last expansion so why do we need to do it again?” I could easily imagine 10 man guilds holding regular runs through old raid instances with the aim of eventually collecting legendary items (assuming that achievement makes it live.) But I’m not sure I can imagine raids doing that who already have done it before.

Maybe one measure of how hardcore a guild is will be how easy they find it to get people to do these runs again. And again. And again. At least it answers one question about what raid guilds might do on their off-nights.  Wonder if we’ll be able to solo Molten Core at 85…

Are you planning to start or join a new guild when Cataclysm hits? I know I’m looking forwards  to tackling the achievements in our newish little Alliance guild.

[Cataclysm] Specialise or die

Blizzard have spoken before about plans for the classes and talent trees in Cataclysm, but now with a new beta patch, we have some actual talent trees to study.

So the way this will work is that at level 10, you will pick one of your class talent trees in which to specialise. The other two will be locked out to you until you have either spent 31 talent points in your primary tree or bought dual spec. When you pick your primary talent tree, you will also get some extra abilities which are associated with that tree.

For example, Protection Warriors get Shield Slam, Vitality (improved stamina) and Vengeance (the stacking damage ability which is common to all tank specs). That means that no non-Protection warriors can ever have Shield Slam, as opposed to now where it’s a baseline skill. Similarly, only Fury warriors can dual wield and only Arms warriors get 2H weapon specialization. So if you want to dps as a protection warrior, you’ll need to do it via sword and shield.

So none of this is finalised yet but I think it’s the clearest picture that we’ve had yet of where the devs plan to go. And it’s somewhere that, “An Arms warrior can throw on a shield and tank an instance,” has no place. It’s also somewhere that you’ll get some of the most iconic abilities for your talent tree as soon as you pick it, rather than at much much higher level.

That at least is a boon. But less so when it means the other specs lose a baseline ability to make it happen.

This mostly affects levelling. It has been fairly common up until now for players to level in a dps spec and still find themselves well able to tank/heal levelling instances. I remember healing a lot of instances while levelling my druid as feral, for example.

That may change. It’s difficult to know yet if there is still the intention to let players heal/tank as offspecs while levelling. But if not, expect longer waits on the LFG. Although many players who intend to play healers will happily accept slower levelling speeds in order to have their healing spec, far far more will decide to just learn to heal later on and go for the fast levelling instead.

And alternatively, there may also be plans to bring down the cost of dual spec (a long long overdue change) and make it available at a lower level.

Just say no to threat decay

Threat in MMOs is a strange construct. It’s supposed to mimic the way in which a monster decides which of the adventuring party to attack, instead of running away like a sensible creature or just biting people’s heads off. In WoW-like games, the tank usually uses lots of high threat moves on a mob and as long as they stay highest on the threat list, the monster won’t hit at anyone else.

So the object of threat, if you are a tank, is to stay above the rest of your group on as many mobs as possible. If you are not a tank, then your goal is to keep your threat low while doing as much damage/ healing as possible.

Apparently WoW tanks have been slacking off, because one of the developer comments recently was:

On threat, one of the changes we’re considering trying out ((in Cataclysm)) is to have threat decay pretty rapidly. The idea is that a tank should never be able to get so far ahead on threat that they can AFK for the rest of the fight. It might sound like a nerf, but really the intent is to make sure that the tank’s job is never done — that what you do will remain important.

I don’t actually know who these tanks were who put up such high initial threat and then went off for a smoke, but I bet they were paladins. So the answer clearly is just to nerf paladins, which they are doing anyway.

When I’m tanking on my warrior, I never just slack off or AFK for half a fight. There are times when I want to use my most perfect, intense high threat rotations (typically a tank and spank type of fight where the dps will also be putting out their max rotations) but there are also times when I need to be able to keep threat with minimal effort. For example, if I’m dragging a mob around the room and also dodging fire on the floor, I have a lot of buttons to press and I don’t have the concentration to keep a max threat rotation up at the same time.

So here is why threat decay is a bad idea in WoW:

1. It assumes that both tanks and dps/ healers are always generating threat at similar rates. All it takes is one fight where the tank has a lot of things to do but dps can stand still and nuke, and suddenly they’re being asked to stand around and do nothing because of the lower threat cap (caused because it’s harder for the tank to prevent threat decay while moving).

2. It vastly favours tanks who have better ranged tanking, easier rotations, or other class abilities which make them better able to keep up a max threat cycle whilst doing other things. Or rather, yes I was proud of being able to tank Malygos on my warrior when I know a lot of other raids were insisting on paladins for exactly this reason (need to be able to keep threat high while moving dragon around)  but there’s a limit in how far I want to feel punished for having a more complex rotation or less inbuilt threat.

3. Fighting the rest of the group isn’t really what makes tanking fun. It would be better if there was some reward for higher threat (maybe it effectively debuffs the mob in some scaling way). I bet dps would be ticked off if a mob healed so much during combat that they never really made a dent in it.

4. It’s just not necessary. Nerf paladin threat, and call it fixed.

5. Tank threat has never really been normalised in WoW. It didn’t matter which tank did the most threat per se, as long as all of them were able to stay ahead of the top dps (more or less). Burst threat and up-front threat did make a difference and probably should have been more normalised than it ever was. But if threat decay is going into the game, then threat needs to be as equalised as dps is among dps classes.

It isn’t an impossible idea in general. I’m sure other games have used variants on threat decay to keep the game interesting. But if it goes live, then dps threat needs to decay also. There needs to be times in a fight where a clever tank can realise that dps will not be on full blast and they could take advantage of that to lower the threat cap temporarily.

I also agree that threat has long lost its potency as a game mechanic. Instead of being forced to work with dps players to make sure the mob was attacking the right person, we feel as though we are working against them. If they are ever asked to hold their fire, the amount of whining or begging for a better tank has to be heard to be believed.

I wonder perhaps if tank decay is a polite way for GC to say that actually they want the dps classes to learn some patience and to not always have threat on easy mode. Not a bad goal in itself. But I don’t want to be the one who gets blamed all the time for slacking every single time it happens. I also prefer tanking to be a test of smartness and reaction and situational awareness, not just of how well you can hammer your max threat rotation while jumping through hoops. We aren’t dps monkeys, after all.

Ask not what you can do for your guild …

Yesterday, the NDA on the Cataclysm beta was lifted so if anyone thought they weren’t getting enough information about that yet … expect to drown in it from now until release. If the sheer volume of data is overwhelming, then comfort yourself in the knowledge that many things will still change before launch day. So you could reasonably just save your energy and ignore it all until you get to play personally.

Top sites for info:

Comparing with the current expansion, the NDA for Wrath was lifted on July 18th for a Release date of November 13th. If Blizzard are running a similar timetable for this expansion, then they’re aiming for a release in late October. So maybe a couple of weeks after Final Fantasy 14 goes live on the PC (Sept 30th).

A look at the proposed guild perks

I’m right in the overwhelmed with data category but I was curious to check out some of the guild perks which are currently in the Cataclysm beta.

This is definitely going to change guild dynamics. And I wonder if actually these new guild abilities will encourage good practice and help guilds to differentiate themselves.

For example, some of the perks on offer will automatically pay money into the guild bank every time a guild member loots a mob. So what are guilds going to do with that cash?

  • You could pay repair costs for guild members.
  • You could pay out bank dividends every month (just divide the contents of the bank by the number of players.)
  • You could run a guild lottery – let people enter by paying in crafted or gathered items (ie. something useful) in return for a chance to win the monthly pot. I’m considering doing this for my little friendly guild.
  • you could provide guild members with consumables or even crafted goods
  • you could pay for mounts, or for starting bags for new alts
  • you could keep it all for yourself and your alts …

But the main thing is, a guild will be expected to do something with this new resource, and to inform guild members what they plan to do. Other perks include increased honor points (from PvP kills) for guild members, better results from gathering, reduced repair costs, and shorter hearthstone cooldowns.

The other one which caught my eye in the list was:

Chug-A-Lug (Rank 1): The duration of buffs from all guild cauldrons and feasts is increased by 50%.

We haven’t seen cauldrons for awhile. In TBC a cauldron was a type of resistance potion which could be used by an entire group or raid. So it looks as though guild alchemists will again be able to provide an entire group with a potion or elixir buff.

In any case, being in a guild with any or all of these perks is going to be quite a sizeable advantage for a player. And I wonder whether the perks and the push towards being guilded will make more people question what sorts of services they think a good guild ought to offer to members. Will people still be satisfied with what they get from their current guild, or will GMs be expected to offer more?

So how is ‘bring the player, not the class’ working out for you?

One of Blizzard’s mottoes for raiding in Wrath was, “Bring the player, not the class.” Previously, Blizzard had attempted (with varying success) to encourage raid leaders to bring a variety of classes  — which mostly worked until one ability was so suited to a raid that experienced players were ditched so that alts or inexperienced characters of the optimal class/ spec could be fitted in.

The new strategy involved duplicating buffs and abilities more between classes. Raid leaders now had more options for assembling the optimal set of raid buffs, hopefully being now able to include the players they wanted to bring.

But how is this really working out in practice? Here’s some bullet points, based on what I have noticed:

  • Individual players don’t feel as meaningful. If there are seven different people in your raid who can provide a desirable buff or debuff, it doesn’t really matter that you’re there too. In fact, you may even end up arguing about who should provide which buff or debuff.
  • Non-optimal compositions have been really successful in normal mode raiding. (Whether this is because the buffs are spread out or because the raids are easier, I couldn’t say.)
  • Hard raids do seem to have more options than previously but some classes are still better than others. Shamans and Paladins would need to be nerfed to the ground not to be optimal in 10 man raids – they simply provide that many more buffs than anyone else.
  • If people aren’t being brought purely for one desirable buff or ability, then their base tank/dps/heal capability is the only way to stand out. I think this has tended to blur roles and make the tank/dps classes feel more similar. Healers are due to be more homogenized next expansion.
  • I still struggle to get raid spots on my dps DK alt. Maybe if it was an enhancement shaman or retridin …

Blizzard are evidently happy with the results of this policy because they’re extending it into Cataclysm. Shamans will be sharing bloodlust with mages. Death Knight and Warrior tanks will be sharing more buffs and debuffs. And there are rumours of yet more buff homogenization to come.

When it doesn’t matter what you play, does it actually MATTER what you play?

[Cataclysm] Why I hate heirlooms, and what’s in store for them in Cataclysm.

Oh the angst! Oh the torment! Oh the purples and the blues!

Last week Blizzard CMs commented that they will aim to return to the ‘blues from heroics, epics from raids’ model in Cataclysm. I had thought that this was fairly unremarkable as announcements go – raid gear has always been better than heroic gear at the start of a WoW expansion. And yet, a lot of players feel that they’re being told that they will be less special in the next expansion than in the current one. That’s the power of colour.

And another colour which should cause more outrage than it does is gold, the colour of WoW heirloom gear. Heirlooms are great. They are the ideal levelling gear for an MMO, particularly for players who don’t like to fuss over gear which they’ll only replace in a level or two. You give them to a level 1 alt, and they will increase in stats automatically as the character levels. They will always be roughly equivalent to a decent blue dungeon drop of the right level. And if that wasn’t enough, some heirlooms also grant huge xp bonuses to levelling characters.

But why is that bad, you ask? It’s great. But in order to get them, you need to level a character to 80 and do heroic runs. Fine for those of us who were going to do that anyway, but not very fun for a player who wants to just solo slowly and then level a few alts.  (It’s a classic example of forcing players to do content they don’t want in order to get a reward to use in the content they do like.) People complain when they are forced to PvE for PvP gear (or vice versa) so why are we forced to endgame for levelling gear?

The answer as to why is because help for alts is an easy, desirable reward to give out which cannot ever unbalance the end game. But wouldn’t it have been even neater to give tokens from the levelling random dungeon runs which even low level players could turn in for heirlooms. Have dungeon blues be better than equivalent level heirlooms to give levelling players some choices. Have a small chance for heirloom tokens to drop from random lower level mobs. Make cheap heirlooms which are the equivalent of nicely itemised green drops  — they might not be special but a player never has to worry about upgrading them while levelling.

There is a balance of how much advantage an old player can or should have with an alt in comparison to a new one. It’s definitely cool to be able to ease the level grind on the second or third time you do it. But I think heirlooms would be more fun if they were more accessible to everyone. No one wants to be outgeared so severely even at level 1!!! Or maybe, for the alts, being able to feel superior to the noobs is the point …

We don’t yet know much about heirloom availability plans in Cataclysm. There was mention that guilds might be able to provide members with heirlooms. This would solve most of my issues with them, if true.

Heirlooms in Cataclysm

So for anyone who is curious, here are the known facts so far:

  • Current heirlooms (1-80) will continue to work.
  • Heirlooms with an xp bonus will stop giving that bonus past the max level of the heirloom. (eg. no xp bonus from 80-85 using current heirlooms)
  • There will be level 85 heirlooms which will work from 1-85. You will again need a max level character (probably with spare heroic badges) to buy them.
  • Blizzard would like it to be possible to send heirlooms from one server to another (you can already post them from one faction to another on the same server) but we don’t know if this will be possible.