Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dev in charge of warlock and shaman changes in 2.4: mean, or just ignorant?

I should preface this with a disclaimer: I'm a Blizzard fanboy. I fell in love with them with Warcraft 2 and Starcraft, played the bejeezus out of Diablo, and was on the WoW train before anyone even knew what it looked like. I've loved that company since the first time I heard "My life for Aiur!" I have immense respect for their incredible ability to create beautifully-designed and balanced products that are a blast to play.

I'm not trying to personally insult them or call them names.

But they have to admit that a lot has changed there in the past few years. They've gone from being a smallish development community of a handful of critical-darling titles to a gigantic company handling the biggest, most famous, and most profitable video game in history. They also recently merged with Activision and, despite claims to the contrary, that's got to have some effect on the corporate culture over at Blizzard HQ.

Some of the great creators of the past games have left, and some new great (and not-so-great: I have a very low opinion of Tigole based on his design choices, interviews, and previous writings) developers have been hired with the ludicrous piles of cash we send to them every month.

So what is up with whichever dev is in charge of the shaman and warlock class changes in patch 2.4? Is it just a new guy? Is it the nephew of an Activision board member whom they were forced to hire? Or is he or she being purposely mean and disingenuous with the changes?

To paraphrase Tobold: if players aren't doing what you want them to, then you've made a design mistake. In large numbers, players will tend to make choices based on what gives them the most advantage within your game design.

Both the Life Tap and Flametongue changes betray a dangerous lack of understanding of the the mechanics of those classes. In the case of Life Tap, the mechanics of this core class spell have always encouraged warlocks to stack stamina, and not intellect. So the new version of the spell punishes warlocks for stacking stamina and rewards them for stacking intellect. Meanwhile, the current game mechanics require that enhancement shaman dual-wield the slowest weapons they can find to optimize their damage. A pair of slow weapons significantly raises damage from Windfury weapon and from Stormstrike, the two cornerstones of enhancement dps. In contrast, the mechanics of Flametongue and its new buff encourage the use of a fast offhand. So after a year of struggling to gather slow offhand weapons (they aren't as readily available as one might think: the earliest blue 2.6 speed offhand is actually in a heroic), enhancement shaman now need faster offhand weapons to get the most out of Flametongue, which will also weaken their Stormstrikes. At the same time, the change does not effect PvE, which means enhancement shaman will now have to keep two different offhands: a slow one for PvE and a fast one for PvP.

So what do you think? Are the devs who are making these changes willfully trying to strong-arm warlocks and shaman into completely changing their gearing style, without admitting that that is their goal? Or do they just have no idea what they are doing, and no understanding of the classes they are meddling with?

I really wish there was an answer here that didn't severely damage my faith in the developers.

Latest shaman "buff" stretches definition of the word "buff"

Today's PTR update included a number of changes for enhancement shaman, via MMO Champion (my comments in italics after each item):

  1. The global cooldown on casting totems has been reduced. It is now 1 second instead of 1.5

    About time. A flat-out buff to all shaman that they've been agitating for for months.

  2. Flametongue Weapon now reduces the effectiveness of healing spells on your target by 50%. Lasts 5 seconds and refresh every hits.

    They'll give Mortal Strike to anyone these days...

  3. Toughness now Increases your armor value from items by 2/4/6/8/10% and reduces the duration of movement impairing effects on you by -10/20/30/40/50%.

    Toughness was an armor-granting talent that no one ever took, as it was a complete waste of points. This change makes it a must-have for PvP.

  4. Shamanistic rage now let you regenerate mana equal to 30% of your attack power instead of 15. Duration reduced to 15 seconds. (Was 30 seconds)

    Nerf. Blizz had recently made SR undispellable on the PTRs, which was a great buff. Now they've made it last half as long to compensate (even though it stil regens the same mana). Was that really a win, overall? It's a PvE nerf, and a nerf against classes with no offensive dispels.
So if 2.4 goes live as is, all shaman get a buff to their totems (#1), while enhancement shaman get a small nerf to their 41-point talent (#4). #2 and #3 may appear on the surface to be large buffs (Paladins over at Teh Cesspool seem to be frothing at the mouth for their own MS), they are actually only small buffs in disguise.

Why? Because in order to get either of them, we have to give up something we already have.

In the case of the Flametongue MS effect, we have to give up the massive added damage of the Windfury weapon imbue on our offhand. So instead of a flat-out buff, we've instead been given a choice: healing reduction debuff, or a noticable chunk of your damage. Pick one.

It's similar with the Toughness talent. Since no one used to take it, we'll now all have to sacrifice 5 points from our current builds in order to pick it up. Since Toughness is further down the tree, this means we either have to drop some of the strong talents late in the enhance tree, or the best talents we can reach by putting our extra 17-20 points in another tree. We dip into elemental or restoration specifically to grab talents on the 3rd tiers of those trees, which just became a lot harder to get in combination with the new snare reduction talent. This would be mostly mitigated by reducing the number of points needed to get the full effect of toughness down to 3 (as was done with a lot of feral 5 point talents when 2.0 was being tested). As it stands, it's too much of a sacrifice for me to really consider this much of a buff.

It's nice that they're giving us more options, but I hope they don't expect us to herald this as the massive buff that shaman really need.

The Naaru are not our friends.

Inspired by this WoWInsider post.

The expansion introduced an array of new races, but none of them quite as wind-chimey as the Naaru. These massively powerful floating energy beings were introduced as a manifestation of "The Light": i.e. the power that paladins (and priests) call upon to heal wounds, smite their foes, and &%@*ing bubble when you were just about to kill them. A humungous one, A'dal, floats in the center of Shattrath, while another, M'uru, is currently being held captive by the Blood Elves in order to steal his power to fuel the Blood Knights.*

At first glance, the Naaru seem like a stereotypical Good Guy force. They are manifestations of The Light, for god's sake. They are supposed to be the benevolent faction of "good" bent against the Burning Legion's rampage of "evil", lending their power to those who would fight the Legion. But perhaps all is not quite as it seems.

The Horde-only quest line revolving around the weakened Naaru K'ure, who is currently trapped inside the crashed Draenei ship Oshu'gun in Nagrand (you know, that giant diamond with all the Consortium and Voidwalkers around it?), along with recent revelations about what happens to M'uru when players attack him in Sunwell Plateu, seem to point to a more sinister agenda with the Naaru.

You see, the Naaru life cycle is such that they alternate between two states: Light and Void. When a Light Naaru runs out of steam, they revert to a Void Naaru, which, get this: sucks up souls to regain its power and return to the powerful Light state.

Think about that for a second. That means that every time you cast a seal or heal as a paladin, you are expending the stolen energy of another person's soul for your own ends. Don't feel so "holy" now, do ya?

The Naaru aren't helping us because they are naturally giving or benevolent, or even because they simply want allies against the Legion. They are helping us because if the Legion wipes us out, their food source is gone. They are helping us so the can use our souls to recharge their batteries later. We probably look like walking chicken nuggets to them.

That cathedral in Stormwind? A monument to worship a race that eats us.

Read More

*[SPOILER ALERT]: According to reports from the PTR, in 2.4 M'uru will be kidnaped from his kidnappers by Kael'thas who, after his defeat at the hands of your guild in Tempest Keep, plans to use the Naaru in conjunction with the Sunwell to open a portal large enough for Kil'jaeden (general of the Burning Legion) to enter Azeroth and finally conquer our asses. Having lost their source of power, the Blood Elf paladins head to Shattrath and sign up with the Shattered Sun Offensive against Kael, gaining the true blessing of the Light from A'dal in the process.

A'dal alludes to a prophecy that predicted the Blood Elves would eventually redeem themselves as a race and return to the fold, and explains that this is why M'uru allowed himself to be captured by the Elves.

What, did they really think they could hold down an unwilling demigod? With just three guys in robes shooting beams at it? Pu-leez.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

What does the Life Tap nerf mean?

What an eventful weekend! My casual guild is blazing through Kara, achieving guild-first kills of Illhoof and Aran, as well as a one-shot of Netherspite. Only Nightbane* remains. Considering that we’ve only been raiding for a short time, and are usually drunk, that's quite impressive.

Though I went home on Friday without any new…news, sometime this weekend Blizz pushed out a new version of 2.4 on the PTR. There was a slight buff to enhancement shaman: Shamanistic Rage, which reduces incoming damage by 30% for 30 seconds, was made undispellable. This is nice, and something that the community has been pleading/threatening for for a long time, but it’s not enough.

But hardly anyone noticed that anyway. The REAL news this weekend was the drastic nerf to the warlock ability Life Tap, which allows them to exchange health for mana. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for PvP nerfs to Warlocks (they are fine in PvE). But that desire for nerfs revolves around the (&$*@ing) fear mechanic. I see nothing wrong with them having near-infinite mana, since a) the mana comes at a reasonable cost, and b) rogues and warriors don’t run out of “mana”, either.

But they didn’t just nerf Life Tap. They changed it so drastically that it completely breaks the core tenets of the class.

Read more!

As it stood before the nerf, Life Tap would subtract a certain numerical value of health (based on spell rank and the warlock’s spell damage), and return that same numerical value of mana back. For instance, at level 70, a warlock might Life Tap and lose 900 hp, but gain 900 mana. So, for a warlock, health is essentially of near-equal value to MP for the purpose of casting spells. I stuck the math in a footnote at the bottom of this post, after the break.

So, all warlock set pieces have included more stamina than other cloth damage classes. Cloth drops with a lot of stamina are often considered “warlock loot”.

That would all change with the nerf. Instead of converting 1 health point into 1 mana point, the new version converts a percentage of total health into the same percentage of total mana. What does this mean?

Let’s say today’s average warlock has about 9k hp, and about 6k mana (remember, she’s been favoring stamina on all of the gear she’s been busting her butt to earn). She Life Taps. The percentage doesn’t matter, but one number that’s been thrown around is 15%. The Life Tap subtracts 1350 HP (15% of the 9k health pool), but only gives back 900 MP (15% of the 6k mana pool).

Ouch. So it’s a nerf. But what makes it an earth-shaking transformation of the entire gearing philosophy?

Adding stamina actually becomes DETRIMENTAL to the warlock’s mana pool. Instead, they want to stack, stack, stack intellect.

On first glance, maybe this isn’t all that obvious. Maybe your first thought was the fallacy that “well, having more health overall means you still have more left after the Life Tap, even if the Life Tap took more away.” While this is technically “true”, it neglects to consider how healing works. In a raid or group, warlocks can expect small heals to regain the health lost to lifetap, effectively converting healing to mana. They can also heal themselves using various life-sucking abilities or healthstones/bandages/potions. The value of these heals does not change based on how much stamina or intellect you have. Let’s look at an example:

Warlock A: 10k HP, 6k MP
Warlock B: 6k HP, 10k MP

Lock A Life Taps, pays 1500 HP for 900 MP.

Lock B Life Taps, pays 900 HP for 1500 MP.

To pay for the life tap, Lock A may have to Drain Life twice, or get a larger heal that would cost the healer more time and mana. Meanwhile, Lock B would only have to Drain Life once, or get a small Flash Heal or Renew, to pay for the Life Tap.

And not only does Lock B require only a little more than half as much healing, but Lock B also received nearly twice as much mana! The healing to mana conversion rate is vastly better.

So you can see that in any setting where the warlock does not need the HP to survive damage (most raids and PvE situations), the warlock is now better off the less stamina and more intellect she has. It is a complete flip-flop of the class mechanics.

Obviously, PvP warlocks will still stack mass stamina: for them, this change represents a simple, if severe, nerf. But in PvE, it means that every single warlock will have to retool their talents and gear in a way that is counter to everything they’ve been doing up until now (in some cases for nearly 3 years now). This also means that stamina-heavy warlock PvP gear will become useless in PvE, and vice versa.

It’s a mistake. The warlock forums are, fittingly, in a massive uproar. I believe that Blizzard will recognize the problem, and I would put money on this change never, ever going live. I don’t believe that it is at all an exaggeration to say that many warlock players will abandon their characters or quit the game altogether if this change stays in. I wouldn’t blame them.

I never thought that I would be writing a post in opposition to a nerf to warlocks. It's a crazy world.

*Am I the only one who constantly gets the names of Nightbane and Netherspite mixed up? Who in their right mind would put two dragons in the same instance and give them nearly identical names? %&$# that guy.

MATH ALERT: 1 point of intellect costs the same in an item’s stat budget as 1.5 points of stamina, and 1 point of stamina gives 10 HP while 1 point of intellect gives 15 MP, the two stats are, at base, of equal value on gear to warlocks. Add in the that stamina gives the added benefit of survivability and that many warlocks take talents that increase their health by up to 18%, and that pets gain health based on the health of their masters, and you suddenly have a recipe for a caster class that actually favors stamina somewhat over intellect. The disparity grows when you consider that most warlock spells cannot crit (extra crit is the side benefit of intellect).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Enhancement Shaman in 2.4: Where I'm Coming From

Blizzard dev Kalgan announced yesterday on the official wow forums (aka “Teh Cesspool”) that there are major upcoming buffs planned to the Shaman class in 2.4, including some that will make enhancement spec actually competitive in 2v2 arenas.

I plan to comment on them here once they are released, but before I do, I think I should supply some background so you know where I’m coming from.

Duck! Unnecessarily Long Explanation ™ incoming!

Read more!

I rolled a draenei shaman on the day TBC was released, and within 3 months I had leveled him to 70 as enhancement (I had simultaneously been leveling my warrior from 60-70, gearing him for Kara, and getting him his flying mount. Yeah, I play way too much). Upon reaching 70, I did 5-mans as elemental for a while before being marginally geared enough to go on my then-guild’s Kara alt runs, which routinely cleared the whole place in about 5 hours with mostly alts in blues, and a few epic-ed out mains (often my warrior and my girlfriend’s warlock) helping out.

I was tired of elemental. In theory, it was fun enough, but it had the serious drawbacks of:

a) Besides totems, you do nothing but spam lightning bolt in groups

b) Compared to enhancement, I hated it for soloing and pvp because there was no pushback resistance and no root or CC. So you couldn’t cast lightning bolt (your best attack by far) while under attack, and you had no dependable way to prevent yourself from being hit while you stood still casting.

Plus, the Kara alt group desperately needed a healer, so I stepped up and switched to full restoration. It was actually pretty fun, and I stayed that way for many weeks, doing welfare arenas (no resilience or HP=my team sucks no matter how well I play –this was back before Gladiator gear was available for honor) and clearing Kara as a main healer once a week, building up a pretty respectable healing kit in the process. I also managed to pick up quite a few enhancement pieces along the way (including the eminently cool The Decapitator), and my plan was to eventually respec enhancement once Season 3 started and I could pick up a Season 2 weapon and shoulders for enhancement on the cheap. I had been in love with those “molten stone with chains” shoulders since the moment Blizzard previewed them in TBC beta, and I was ecstatic to finally have the coolest-looking piece of gear I had ever seen.

So eventually we stopped clearing Kara, and I respecced enhancement to grind BGs for the newly-available gladiator gear and grind out my Netherwing rep (now riding an Azure dragon, tyvm!) I was having a blast, bursting people down with a Windfury/Fire totem/Stormstrike/Shock combo, and enjoying the brand-new 2.3 buffs that granted enhancement shaman free spell damage and cheaper shocks. These were great improvements that fixed one of the key flaws with enhancement: previously, it was the one spec that locked you out of your other strengths. Your heals were useless, and your shocks and lightning bolts were gimped and too expensive. Meanwhile, elemental and resto complemented each other, as gearing for one also improved the other.

But, once I had geared out my shaman and gotten my drake, I started to lose interest in him. After raiding with my guild for a few months in SSC/TK, I had decided that hardcore raiding in TBC wasn’t for me. So there were few avenues left for me to develop, or even use, the character. So I put him on the back burner, and returned to a character I had been playing on and off for over a year: a Horde rogue on another server. At the time, he was 63. My girlfriend also picked up her priest on the same server, and we leveled together in a frenzy that saw us at 70 in less than 2 weeks. With nothing really happening back on my alliance server*, I fell in love with my rogue and he pretty much became my new main.

My rogue has been 70 for about 5 weeks now, and I’ve been playing him almost exclusively. He’s got a few Karazhan epics, 7 pieces of Gladiator gear, everything else is best-in-slot blues, and he’s been piling up heroic badges. I feel like I’ve had a lot of experience with him, even though I’ve only been playing him for a comparatively short time.

And that’s why I feel qualified to say: as currently implemented, enhancement shaman suck. It is a good soloing build, and it’s also awesome to bring one to a 25 man raid to buff the melee group. But not only is a rogue a better soloer, but he blows the enhance shaman out of the water in PvP, 5-man groups, and 10 man raids, and is just as worth a slot in a 25 man.

I hate to say this. I love my shaman. I find a lot to like about enhancement in any situation. But the bottom line is, rogues are just better melee characters, as it currently stands.

So these buffs better be good, Kalgan.

Actually, scratch that. I'm just going to respec resto either way.

*I had actually come to loathe my alliance guild, especially compared to my current horde guild. But that’s a story for another day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Your first Karazhan, part 3: Moroes


Attumen and his steed Midnight lie dead among the dry straw littering the floor of Medivh’s stable, and you and your allies have plundered his remains for valuables. You now have two directions to choose from: return the way you came, or push on one room further to a friendly ghost of a blacksmith, who can offer repairs to anyone who is at least of honored reputation with the Violet Eye (the faction that wants you to invade Karazhan every week and offers you quests from just outside the entrance). Clear to him if most of your raid is honored to save time repairing later. Once you’ve cleared to the blacksmith, you will be able to reach him unimpeded until the instance resets on Tuesday.

It is my belief that the blacksmith is cursed: if you skip him thinking "Nah, we won't need to repair" then your group, no matter how skilled and geared and experienced, is doomed to wipe until your gear breaks. One way or another, he will use his voodoo to ensure that you clear to him, so you might as well just get it over with and stop trying to cut corners.

Once you’ve finished with the cursed blacksmith, head back the way you came, following the spiral stables back out to the main entrance. From here, climb onto the platform where the ghostly butler stands, and continue up the wide flight of stai-STOP. Stop right there. Only go about 2/3 of the way up the staircase. Near the top are hordes of ghosts just waiting for you to get a bit too close and wipe your unprepared raid. Play it safe and don’t approach the top just yet. Unless you are the tank, you should hang out on the stairs until you’ve cleared enough of the trash to proceed safely.

Over the top of the stairs are two types of pulls: large groups of non-elite ghosts and single elites that patrol the large rectangular room at the top of the stairs. Your main tank should pull one of these onto the stairs at a time, being careful to avoid getting an elite and an aoe pack at the same time. We like to use raid labels (the skull, moon, and other assorted lucky charms available to the raid leader to put over a unit’s head if you right-click a targeted unit’s unit frame) to keep track of the roving elites. For the non-elite groups, give your tank and offtank a moment to build aggro on the entire group, then unleash your aoe attacks. Healers should be at the ready with quick heals to protect the squishier dps classes that may come under attack. If you have a mage, they probably will die at least once on these stairs. The single elites are easy tank-and-spanks with no special abilities to speak of.


Your tank should first clear out the left side of the room, which usually takes 4 or 5 pulls total. Then, the tank should carefully sneak to the left into Moroes’ room, which is a rectangular space full of long dining tables. Sitting at each table is a group of non-elite diners being served by roving elite skeletal waiters. Your tank should pull the groups from the tables near the entrance to this room back to the stairs, and also separately pull any skeletal waiters that patrol near the entrance. The diners are the same as the previous non-elite groups except some of them have ranged attacks. Meanwhile, the waiters add a wrinkle with their “brittle bones” debuff that reduces the tank’s armor to (ahem) zero. This will probably necessitate some extra healing attention.

Once the near half of Moroes’ room is clear, your entire raid should carefully climb to the top of the stairs (stay left!) and sneak along the wall to the left into the next room. As you walk into the room, you’ll see that you are entering from right side, meaning that there is a wall nearby to your right and the room expands out to your left. Stay along the wall and head left, parking your group between the two columns along the room’s back wall. This is what you should be looking at:

You should have two aoe groups and one or two skeletons left in front of you to clear. Since some members of the diner groups have ranged attacks, your tank will have to cheat a little in order to get them clumped together for easy victimization. Once your tank has their attention, she can wedge herself into the corner where the column meets the back wall (see image). If done correctly, the curve of the column will be just enough to break line of sight with the ghosts and force them to run into melee range.


Once you’ve cleared the diners and waiters, you still have one more job left before fighting Moroes. Far off to the left and right sides of the room are pairs of Ghostly Stewards that you need to clear. They pull in pairs, and each one of them hits considerably hard. A good way to deal with this is to use two tanks, who each pull one of the guards simultaneously. Then, you lower the risk that your one tank will take too much damage too quickly. Focus-fire down your offtank’s target first, since your main tank will have an easier time staying up. Sounds easy enough, right?


Some would say that getting drunk is dangerous. Others, like me, might say that getting drunk can be a good time.

Well, as it turns out, in this case those other people are right. You see, the Ghostly Stewards carry bottles of liquor, and around 30% health, they will use that bottle to perform a move called “Drunken Head Crack”. This is even worse than it sounds, especially because the Stewards will enrage a few seconds later. The Head Crack will not only make your tank stinking drunk (I assume the alcohol seeps through the crack in the skull and goes directly to the brain?), but also unable to dodge, block, or otherwise avoid attacks. In concert with enrage, this will cause your tank to start taking piles of unavoidable damage to the tune of around 4000 HP per now-accelerated hit. No tank can stand this for long.

There are two things you can do to deal with this. First, you need alert healers. They all should be ready to spam heals fast and hard as soon as they see one of the Stewards drop below 40% health. Second, the Stewards can be disarmed, preventing them from using special moves. If your tank disarms the Steward at around 50% health, you won’t have to worry about the Head Crack. Unfortunately, this option is only available to warrior tanks.


Whew! Ok, so you’ve cleared the room and hopefully survived getting drunk (just like college!). Now it’s time to turn your attention to the dias and prepare for the world’s most conscientious undead rogue:


Moroes is a polite guy. Unlike other undead rogues, who will likely spam a /spit macro after ganking you, Moroes prefers to fret over the mess he’s made (with your blood) after he’s stabbed you in the back and wrung your neck.

He’s even friendly: as in, he’s got a posse of ghost minibosses up on the dias with him, all of them eager to make a mess out of your raid group as well. Let’s see how they stack up:

Moroes’ “Rogue’s Gallery” (I’ve been dying to use that joke!)

Though Moroes has 6 undead friends, he only has 4 of them over for dinner at a time. Which 4 adds you will see will be randomly generated every week, so there’s no predicting which ones you will face. Like Moroes, each add is analogous to a certain WoW class/spec combination.


  • Baroness Dorothea Millstipe
    Shadow Priest

    KILL HER FIRST. She can mana burn your healers, guaranteeing a wipe. She’s in cloth, so she should go down easy. No need to tank her, though you should toss some heals to whoever she is hitting. Like all of the adds, is stunnable.

  • Baron Rafe Dreuger
    Retribution Paladin

    Freezing trap him, but don’t let him get close enough to stun. His plate makes him slow to die, and he has some damage potential, so CCing him until after Moroes is dead is generally recommended.

  • Lady Catriona Von'Indi
    Holy Priest

    Another clothie who can easily be killed early. Her main threat is healing, so interrupting her heals or keeping her CCed should be a priority.

  • Lady Keira Berrybuck
    Holy Paladin

    She will dispel the crowd control off of her allies, so she MUST be stopped. Since she can cleanse between Freezing Traps or while being killed (and she is in plate), she should be your #1 candidate for shackle.

  • Lord Robin Daris
    Arms Warrior

    This &$@%ing bastard will 1-shot clothies, but he’s also slow to die. He will require a tank when you kill him, and is dangerous to try to shackle because of his high damage. I recommend you have a hunter ice trap him while keeping far, far away.

  • Lord Crispin Ference
    Protection Warrior

    This guy is the lowest priority, as his damage is barely noticeable. He is just very hard to kill. You either want to keep him CCed the whole fight, or have the offtank keep aggro on him (works great as a rage battery!) if your healers can handle it. He should always be killed last.

Once you’ve identified which guests Moroes has over for dinner tonight, you’ll have to hatch a battle plan that involves killing some of them, and crowd controlling others. In most situations, you will be immediately burning down one guest while shackling/ice trapping/paladin fearing the others. Depending on who you get and your group makeup, you may also kill a second target before turning to Moroes. Also note that an add can be kited by a skilled hunter, mage or warlock, and that if any adds exit the room, the encounter resets (so be careful with your pally fears!).

The Fight

Tank Moroes off to the left or right side or the room to give CCers a wide area to control their targets without getting close to Moroes. It can be beneficial to have the ranged members of your raid stand clumped together on the large table. This will prevent issues with mobility and line-of-sight. If they are all clumped together, then it is easy to predict where CC targets will go if they break free. If you have a hunter who isn't already using her freezing trap, have her lay one between the caster group and the CC targets. That will provide an extra buffer of protection for your squishies if a shackle gets resisted.

Moroes himself requires two tanks at all times. He will occasionally gouge (disorient) the main tank, and make a beeline for whoever is second on the aggro list (hopefully the offtank). He will also periodically blind (this is a disorient effect as well) the closest person to him who is not currently his aggro target. Be prepared for the possibility that he may blind the off tank, then immediately gouge the main tank and attack a third target. You can mitigate this by having a dps character stand right on top of Moroes, while the offtank stands as far away as she can while still fighting. That way, the dps character will be blinded instead.

But this is not the only reason your healers need to be alert. Every 30 seconds, Moroes will vanish. A few seconds later, he will reappear behind a random target in the raid and garrote them before returning to whoever had his aggro before he vanished (his own vanishing does not wipe his aggro). Garrote is a massive, long-lasting dot. It will tick for 1000 damage every 3 seconds, and last for five minutes. No, you didn’t read that wrong. Garrote cannot be dispelled by conventional means.

This essentially means that the fight is on a timer. You need to kill Moroes fast before the garrote damage runs your healers dry. Since garrote lasts so long, the healing burden will be compounded as more and more raid members have garrote ticking away on them. There are only 4 ways to remove garrote: Pally self-bubble, Pally Blessing of Protection, Mage Ice Block, and . . . death.

Paladins should self-bubble as soon as they get garrote, as should mages. Paladins should save their BoP for healers who get garroted. Do not waste a BoP on dps or a tank.

You will take no durability loss if you die from garrote, so dying on purpose can be a viable strategy. You can plan ahead by saving soulstones, ankhs, and battle rezzes for this fight. Dying will clear the garrote, and possibly restore some mana upon resurrection.

Oh yeah, and you’ll also have to deal with any damage that the adds are doing. Bet you’re looking forward to healing this fight, huh?

Garrote should disappear as soon as Moroes is dead, so at least you have that to look forward to.

Anything Special?

Priest: Shackle an add.

Hunter: Freezing Trap an add.

Paladin: Use Blessing of Protection to save healers from garrote. "Turn" an add if necessary. Use your bubble if you get garroted yourself.

Mage: Ice Block if you get garroted.

So in summary, CC 2-3 adds, kill 1-2 adds quickly, then go kill Moroes himself before moving on to the CCed adds. Please, please, please do not loot Moroes until everything is dead. You do not need a wipe with only one add left because everyone is drooling/arguing over a drop. Eventually, Moroes and his friends will be polite enough to lay down and hand over their personal belongings, perhaps including a nifty pocketwatch. Neat-o!

Next: You fight a 3-stories-tall, granite … pimp-bot.


    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Your first Karazhan, part 2: Attumen


    So you’ve got the gear. You’ve got 9 buddies. You’ve got an itch for teh epixx.

    It’s time to go to Karazhan! Woooho-but wait…how do I get there?

    Karazhan tower, the former home of Medivh The Last Guardian, is located in the south end of (not)scenic Deadwind Pass. To get there, Alliance should head to Stormwind and hitch a gryphon to Darkshire in Duskwood, then ride directly east to the pass. Horde have a more annoying trip from Orgrimmar to Stranglethorn Vale via zeppelin, then they must take a flight path to Swamp of Sorrows before riding west into the pass. Alternatively, Horde can fly across the entire continent from Undercity to Swamp of Sorrows. Once in the pass, either faction need only ride south past some vultures and then through an ogre encampment before arriving at Karazhan.


    Or, if you’re lazy, let those other suckers in your raid summon you via the convenient summoning stone sitting just the left of the front door. Must have made it really easy for Medivh to hold dinner parties back in the day.

    Open up the door with The Master’s Key (you are keyed, right? No, you cannot just run in after your friend opens the gate if you don’t have the key, Mr. Clever) and step through the swirly portal to enter the first room, which will serve as your raid’s staging area. To the right is a platform leading to a wide staircase, which you can ignore for now. The ghostly butler on the platform will never attack you, but he does have some interesting lore information about the tower on offer. I’m not going to focus on the lore, so look elsewhere if you want an explanation of why this place is full of ghosts and monsters (I’ve read up on it, and it still doesn’t make sense).

    Before the platform, you will also see a small opening to the right. Do not go into this door. It leads to the Servant’s Quarters, which have become infested with bats, spiders and hounds. If you were to, in theory, go into those rooms and kill trash, you would eventually cause a random boss (either bat, spider or hound) to spawn. Killing this boss would net you an epic item with random attributes. This means that you are way more likely to get a belt “of spirit” or “of the eagle” than you are to get something remotely useful. This room is entirely optional, and is mostly a waste of time unless your group is severely undergeared. Its only use is as an easy source of reputation, but rep is easy enough to come by on normal runs. So yeah, don’t bother with this door.

    Instead, focus your attention to the large opening to the left, which leads to the tower’s stables. Buff up and get ready to bust some ghosts!

    Or ain't you 'fraid of no ghosts?


    Attumen Trash

    The stable is a spiral, and your goal is to work your way from the outside to the center, where Attumen the Huntsman and his steed Midnight await. Between you and the center are 5-6 groups of ghost horses and their ghostly handlers. Pull sizes will vary from 2 to 6 at once, tending towards the higher end. How you handle these pulls depends on your group makeup: any target may be shackled, freezing trapped, Paladin-feared, or offtanked. Priority for CC goes to the Stable Hands because they have this annoying habit of healing the horses.

    Tank and beat down the horses first. The Spectral Chargers like to cast an aoe fear and/or charge a random raid member, forcing the tank to give chase and potentially wreaking havoc on your squishies, so be prepared for either. The charge can be avoided by standing close to the Charger.

    For every set of trash and every boss, I’ll be listing, by class, anything unusual you should be doing on those pulls. If I don’t mention you, just continue to tank/heal/dps as normal. Because you’re not a special, unique snowflake.

    Anything Special?

    All: Cluster around the Chargers if possible.

    Hunter: Chain Freezing Trap on your assigned CC target (if any).

    Paladin: You may need to use “Turn Undead” on a CC target, depending on your raid makeup.

    Priest: Shackle Undead, preferably a Stable Hand. Fear ward the raid, tanks and healers first.

    Shaman: Tremor Totem

    Once you get started, make sure you're clearing the trash at a brisk pace: unless Attumen is dead, this trash will respawn 25 minutes after it dies. The sooner you get through it, the more time you have to retry the boss before having to reclear the trash. This is partly meant to serve as a gear-check on your raid. If you aren’t strong enough to clear this trash and beat Attumen in 25 minutes, then don’t even try going up further. Respawns will not happen during the boss fight.

    Once you’ve made the ghosts un-undead, you’ll reach the circular area in the center, you’ll see Midnight standing alone next to an old wooden cart. Rebuff and get prepared: approaching Midnight will begin the boss encounter.


    Attumen the Huntsman & Midnight

    This fight has 3 phases and will require 2 tanks. This is because Midnight is not being entirely honest with you. He may be standing there looking all innocent, but in reality, his master is waiting to pounce on your raid.

    For all bosses, I will be presenting only the strategy that my raid group has found most effective. There are definitely other ways to take down the bosses, but I’m only going to talk about the one I have seen work well firsthand.

    Phase 1: Midnight alone

    This phase will be very short. Just have your offtank run in and hit Midnight a few times before your dps opens up on him. Tank Midnight where he starts, near the cart. Your main tank should be building rage and keeping a very careful watch for Attumen to appear so he/she can snap the boss up immediately. When Midnight hits 95% health, Attumen will appear out of nowhere right next to Midnight.

    Phase 2: Attumen and Midnight, separate:

    Your offtank should continue tanking Midnight, and your DPS should continue hitting him. Attumen appears with a blank aggro list, so he will likely make a dash for your healers once he has phased in. Your main tank should be between Midnight and the healers, and should be watching carefully and pulling Attumen’s aggro immediately. Keep in mind that Attumen is immune to taunt, so open with a high-aggro move, like Shield Slam, instead. Since Attumen cleaves in an arc in front of him, your main tank should keep him facing away from the raid. It’s a good idea to simply move him off to the side. We like to tank him in the back left corner (see photo). Healers will have to manage healing on both the main tank and the offtank, making this the most healing-intensive phase.


    Attumen can be disarmed, so it is recommended that you have a warrior tank him and use the ability every time its cooldown is up.

    For the rest of the battle, Attumen will periodically cast an aoe curse that reduces chance to hit with all attacks by a brutal 50%. Your mages and druids should be constantly removing the curse from everyone, especially tanks. Warriors can Spell Reflect the curse, though this can be difficult to time.

    Anything Special?

    Druid: Remove Curse

    Mage: Decurse

    Warrior: Disarm Attumen

    Phase 3: Attumen mounts Midnight

    When Midnight reaches 25% health, Attumen will run over and mount his steed, turning them into a single boss mob. This mob’s health will be equal to the health of whichever of the two had more before they merged, so he will likely be near full. However, it would have been unwise to DPS both to around 25%, as Phase 3 is actually easier than Phase 2 - if you know the trick. And you are about to, my friend.

    This new mob will spawn with a cleared aggro list, but the process takes a moment, giving the main tank time to get in position. The MT should immediately draw the boss’s aggro, and should be given a few seconds to build it before DPS begins. Like most Burning Crusade raid bosses, this guy is immune to taunt, so make sure you give the tank adequate lead time to build aggro. The boss should be tanked where Attumen was being tanked alone (in the back corner as pictured) and facing away from the raid.

    In Phase 3, the boss gains only one new move: he will periodically charge the member of the raid furthest from him, then run back to the tank. Since he can cleave while running back, this could prove devastating to the raid. However, as with the trash Chargers, this move has a minimum range. Simply have the entire raid bunch up directly behind the boss (Yes, even the hunters. Trust me, you'll live through the tiny hit you'll take on the damage meters by being in melee. It's OK. No, no, don't cry! [It may be that now that the deadzone has been reduced to almost nothing, hunters can use ranged attacks without being far enough away to trigger a Charge, but I haven't had a chance to test it]). Seriously, get in melee range of the horse’s arse. He will never charge, and this phase will be easy as pie with cake on top, especially if your warrior(s) remember to keep disarming the boss. Just keep it up until he dies.


    Anything Special?

    All but main tank: Bunch up in the horse’s butt.

    Druid: Remove Curse

    Mage: Decurse

    Warrior: Disarm Attumen


    Aaaaand you’ve beaten your first boss in Karazhan! Do a little dance, argue with your group over who gets the super-rare mount if it drops, then collect your epics! Congratulations!


    Next: The only polite undead rogue in the whole world, and the only time I will ever admit that maybe getting drunk isn’t always a great idea.

    Monday, February 18, 2008

    Your First Time (in Karazhan)


    So you’ve never been to Karazhan before.

    Don’t feel bad. I’m sure there are plenty of other people who have never done the first major raid instance in World of Warcraft’s The Burning Crusade expansion. It’s natural to be anxious your first time, but I’m here to relieve that anxiety by showing you precisely what you can expect. Not only will I provide strategy guides for bosses, I’ll show you which direction to go to reach the boss and what you can expect things to look like along the way. At the same time, I’m going to assume you have a basic working knowledge of game mechanics and terminology. If you don’t know what “aggro” or “mob” mean, get thee to a wowwiki!


    When I say everything, I only mean everything you can expect when you first step into Medivh’s Haunted Tower Fun Ride. It’s up to you to get keyed (there’s a nice guide here) and get into a guild that is running Karazhan, or at the very least gather 9 other people together. Remember, at least two of them need to be healers and one of them needs to be a dedicated “main tank”, meaning a protection-specced warrior or paladin or a feral druid (here comes the hate mail…). I’m sorry, but those PvP arms warriors in your guild or that ret paladin who ends every sentence in guild chat with “lmao” are not going to cut it for main tanking. They will make perfectly fine offtanks, though. Most trash and many bosses require a secondary tank; that tank need not be as strong as your main tank.


    When gathering your nine partners-in-crime, keep in mind that most of the foes you will face in Karazhan are classified as "undead". This means that, on most trash pulls, your typical mainstays of instance crowd control - mage’s polymorph, rogue’s sap, and warlock’s seduce and fear – will not work. What long-term CC will work? The priest’s shackle undead, the hunter’s freezing trap, and the paladin’s “turn undead”, which doesn’t actually turn the target undead, but instead fears them, which I guess technically makes them “turn” away (in patch 2.4, this will be changed into an incapacitate effect that also works on demons). So, you’re going to find the instance easier if you have some priests, hunters, and paladins with you, but keep in mind this is by no means a requirement.

    Also desirable, but not required: consumables. This includes potions, buff food, weapon oils, sharpening stones, elixirs, and flasks. You can find a useful list here. Some players swear by consumables and would never raid without self-buffing to the max. Other players complain that these items are too expensive and too annoying to replenish (especially when wiping repeatedly) and would rather do without. It is up to you, your guild, and your raid group what you should do. The bottom line is: consumables will help you win. It will take you longer to beat a boss and clear a dungeon without potions and elixirs. Often, one mana potion or agility elixir will be the difference between a wipe and a photo of your raid dancing naked on the boss’s corpse, so think very carefully about the pros and cons of your decision.

    The final aspect you’ll need to consider before heading over to Karazhan is, of course, your gear (this one is required. Unless you’re really into role-playing a naked corpse. You creepy freak.).


    Every class forum on the official World of Warcraft site holds piles of threads asking “Am I ready for Kara?” You will not be posting one of those! Instead, you will follow my handy-dandy guide of what today’s discerning raiders are wearing to the most popular ghosts-in-a-tower party of the year!


    There has been lots of discussion about optimal stats and gear for raiding. But, in reality, figuring out if you’re prepared for Kara is actually super easy, almost no matter what class you are. Stop worrying so much and just answer the following questions:

    1. Your character has 15-16 slots on the character sheet for gear. Are at least 13 of those slots filled with at least blue-quality items from level 70 dungeons (some of these may be blue items from level 70 PvP honor rewards)?
    2. Are the other slots (if any) filled with at least blues from midlevel Outlands dungeons or greens that can only be equipped at level 68 or higher?
    3. Are most of your level 70 blues appropriately enchanted and all of them fully gemmed (green gems are fine)?
    4. Is all of your gear appropriate to your role? (For instance, if you are a melee dps shaman, you better not be wearing +healing pants, nor should you have +agility and +attack power on your druid’s spell damage gear.)

    If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then you are ready to step into Karazhan. Please note that this is a general minimum to start, not clear, KZ. To beat the later bosses you will need to have upgraded your gear with epics from previous bosses, perhaps supplemented with heroic or PvP epics. It is also beneficial to max out your crafting profession(s). Clearing the instance is much easier if you’ve crafted your epic tailoring set, or your epic blacksmithing weapon, or your epic engineering goggles (which surpass the tier 4 level loot that drops in KZ).


    The exception to this rule is the main tank. If a rogue has low stats and poor gear it may prolong the fight an extra minute, but if the main tank has inadequate gear, the group wipes. Therefore, the tank needs to reach certain milestones in order to lead your group into the Tower of Purplez. Every main tank should have over 10,000 HP (preferably more like 12,000). Prot warriors will need 490 defense (note this is actual defense skill, not defense rating) to become as close to uncrittable as possible, while prot paladins will want to aim to reach 102.7% total avoidance (dodge, parry, block, etc.) with holy shield up in order to avoid getting nailed by burst damage. Tanking druids should have the full three points in the talent “survival of the fittest”, which will reduce their chance to be crit by 3%, meaning they only need 415 defense skill (or, alternatively, 103 resilience rating) to become nigh-uncrittable. Once the tank has reached these milestones, she should just start focusing on stacking stamina and armor. For more detailed information on tanking requirements, I’d recommend browsing the WoW forums or the Elitist Jerks class discussion forum.

    Finally, you will need addons, which are files that you can download and put in your WoW folder that will modify your user interface in ways not available by default. No matter what your class, there are two addons you will absolutely NEED: a threat meter - either KLH or Omen - and a boss warning mod such as BigWigs. A threat meterwill put a small window up on your screen that will present a real-time readout of roughly what your threat level is on a boss. You will want to keep an eye on this to make sure your name doesn’t go above the main tank’s name. If you are getting close, stop DPSing (this means YOU) or healing if at all possible so you don’t pull aggro. Meanwhile, boss warning mods like BigWigs will put warnings and timers up on your screen to help you keep up with what a boss is doing or is about to do. At least install these two; it is up to you and your group if any further addons will be necessary.

    This may seem like a lot of preparation, but it’s going to pay dividends when you finally zone into KZ for the first time.

    NEXT TIME: Why bunching up against a horse’s ass is a good idea. (hint: bring noseplugs!)