Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Solultion to My Neverending Jealousy

OK FINE. I'm actually a bit jealous of Gnomeageddon's newly purchased turtle pet spell thingamajigger. If you're a mage, you should be jealous of every other mage who wields turtle-making powers. Don't be afraid, there's more of you out there than you think.

So having settled down about it somewhat during my lunch hour at work, I had quite a good amount of time to wait in line at the Taco Bell (yuck, but I had little cash on hand, and no debit card) during their lunch rush. I received my Conjured Beef and Potato Burrito after a hefty 10-minute cast time and $1.89 in reagents, and immediately found an awesome way to overhaul the polymorph system (and not with glyphs, mind you.)

Polymorph Stone
Item (Soulbound)
Use: Sets your targetted critter to become the animal form for your Polymorph spells. (Channeled, 10 seconds)

Essentially, use of the stone will have a similar effect as hunter's tame pet, except you can use it on critters that can be found all accross Azeroth and Outlands. It binds the targetted critter to become the form to which polymorph will change a mob. This would open up an awesome window of different types of polymorph: crabs, beetles, rats, sheeps, rams, and more!

But I can only dream, right?

Exercises in Creative Design: Karazhan


After a good number of runs through the dungeon, I have come to terms with the fact that I just LOVE Kara. It's not exactly the most complicated or challenging instance out there (at least, up until post-curator), but the place itself is just magnificent in design as well as the overall flavor of the place itself.

Wait, flavor? What do you mean by that?

Alright, a little bit of an aside here. Flavor, in the context of games, is the marriage of aesthetics and story elements with the game mechanics that dictate how the game is played. It is a term that I believe was first coined in the card game Magic: the Gathering. Magic is, at its very mechanical core, a game that involves the use of cards that have specific properties and rules of usage that are meant to reduce an opposing player's points from twenty to zero.

But in all fairness, the game is much more than that. By adding "flavor" to the mechanics, the game makes players feel more like they're actual wizards casting spells, summoning creatures, and wielding magical artifacts. For flavor fanatics, whenever creative mechanics found on cards or encounters can be instantly associated with an aesthetic or story element, drooling is to be had, and the game's creative design team is at its best.

Shifting back to World of Warcraft, I find that the game is very much flavorful, but a lot of the time, many encounters and quests can be simply reduced to "tank and spank" or "collect 20 of these, and return to me," and result in quite bland experiences and are not as enjoyable. But when Blizzard designs an encounter with a creative or challenging gimmick, it can become quite enjoyable if the flavor is right.

This is why I love Kara so much. The first time you run through the entire dungeon You feel immersed into the experience of being in a tower haunted with ghosts, and often feel the progressive experience leading up to the supposedly culminating fight against Prince. But for me, it's not just the Prince fight that does it for me, it's everything up to it. It's the different bosses that represent the zones that they govern, and how their boss fight mechanics simply feel right, and simply astound me.

Case in point, the Opera event. In my opinion, the Opera is probably the most enjoyable first-time experiences that exists in the game. Right from when the announcer begins to narrate the upcoming "play" to the audience (and at this point, you turn back and see the actual audience and feel like you're in some derranged version of a Roman colloseum), you are entranced in the moment of the encounter, and sometimes forget that you're actually fighting a raid boss.

When the announcer begins describing the play of the night, you are immediately immersed into the story itself, but done in the form of a boss encounter. Delicious, Delicious flavor. I can still remember the first time I became Red Riding Hood, and started running away from the Wolf. The sheer excitement and adrenaline from being chased exactly the same way the girl was in the folktale was memorable beyond comprehension.

And for things like this, I can only pray that Blizzard continues to design and implement such encounters to be packed with tonnes of flavor. This leads to my little creative segment, where I want to do a little exercise in flavor and game design by creating my own Opera event. So here we go!

The Opera Event - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

"Tonight we delve into a story of jealousy and vanity. The wicked stepmother, who succombs to her own ambition to become the fairest maiden in the land, stirs a plot so foul in nature. "And our heroine, driven off into the woods to live with her newfound friends, lies unsuspecting to the dastardly deeds that await her..."

*applause, curtains up*

Standing center stage is an NPC named Snow White (72 elite Undead, humanoid-shaped).

Snow White: This apple looks delicious, I wonder how it tastes...

She takes a bit of the apple, and falls into a deep sleep.

Moments later, seven NPCs show up (72 non-elite, undead, dwarf-shaped), and examine the body of Snow White.

Happy: Look! She's Dead!Doc: H-How could this have happened?Bashful: Gee-uh, I don't know...

*Sleepy falls asleep

Sneezy: Over there! *points to raid party* They must have done it!

Grumpy: How could you DO this to her!? You will pay!

*Dopey nods in agreement.

The battle starts. Each Dwarf does not have a threat table, and will thus attack randomly. Here are a list of their abilities:
Sleepy - average damage melee attacks, casts Sleep on random party members.

Dopey - average damage melee attacks, will randomly charge a raid member, but often trips and falls during the charge. If he trips, he does an AoE stun as soon as he falls down.

Bashful - low damage melee attacks. If 2 or more people engage in combat targetting Bashful, he will cast a DoT fear on them.

Grumpy - high damage warrior class. Often does an enrage, which hits hard on tanks.

Happy - average damage ranged attacker, does knockback on abilities that require casting time.

Sneezy - Frost Mage class, will throw water bolts randomly at party members. Sometimes will begin casting a cone of cold attack. He will say "AAAH, AAAH, AAAH," during the cast, which is uninterruptable, and says "CHOOOOO!!!" at the end of the cast, resulting in a massive Cone of Cold attack that does high amounts of spell damage and physical knockback.

Doc - light melee damage, heals, and throws bombs randomly that deal a small amount of AoE damage.

Again, the dwarfs are non-elite, but they cannot be crowd-controlled in any way. Regardless, they shouldn't be too difficult to kill with focus fire. When the last dwarf dies, Snow White wakes up from her sleep.

Snow White: What...have you done with my precious friends? What have you done!?

Snow White starts attacking everyone. She hits with very strong melee attacks and can be tanked. Every 30 seconds, she rezes a random dwarf from the dead. She can only be killed when all of the dwarfs are dead, otherwise she will be resurrected to 20% health.

Snow White (when killed): Someday...My prince will come for me...


While the script itself could definitely use a little bit of tweaking, I certainly loved the concept of a Snow White boss encounter in the Opera event, and how it can use the available mechanics of the WoW engine to elicit the flavor of the Snow White story. I really hope that Blizzard continues to do creative encounters such as this one.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Funniest Thing I've Read All Day...

Amanda Dean posted something in WoW Insider regarding a silly little contest regarding a WoW pick-up line contest for a forum member's beta key. The topic/post itself can be found here. For some reason, when I read it, I automatically thought of RP servers, and this particular line came to mind, and I commented on the topic itself: "Hey baby, wanna go to US Feathermoon and cyber in the deeprun tram?" (link nsfw, i think...)

All jokes aside, I'm not one to be straightforward towards the opposite sex in-game, but if for some reason I was in "the mood" to pick up someone, I'd probably use "Baby, I must be under the hit cap, becase I've been missing you all day."

Good night, Azeroth!

WoW, Blogging, and Fanfiction

I think I may have mentioned this on one of my introductory posts, but I do have a spot in my heart for fanfiction. It originated as an utmost passion for anime in general. In my supposed senior year (turns out I still have to do one more course to graduate, /ugh) I was the president of my University's anime club. It was a fun experience, but it totally burned me out on all things anime, and now I'm settled down to simply attending conventions, following one or two series, and reading/writing fanfiction.

For me, writing fanfiction is really a form of release, a temporary escape from WoW, and a reminder that I do have other hobbies and passions other than WoW itself. This was especially so when I was levelling up. Don't get me wrong, I love levelling up, but there are points where i'm not always in the game (server downtime, my job), and I use those opportunities to enjoy writing fanfiction.

In a way, fanfiction is much like writing your own blog. For any particular story that you're writing, especially those long stories that involve multiple chapters. Whenever I post a new chapter to, there is always an readership waiting for the next part of the story coming along. To put this into perspective, out of the 150 thousand Naruto fanfics out there, one might approximate that to being maybe 50 to 60 thousand different authors. That's just authors, and not including the anonymous readers on the internet who don't have their own ffnet account. When you post a continous story, any number of this relatively small, but fanservice-crazy community will end up reading what you post, and even subscribe to it.

As an author, you can even view the exact list of people who have opted to follow your story as you post it. And for this one particular story, I'm only on the fifth chapter, and I'm already past 20 subscribers. I'm quite pleased with my work, as it has generated that sort of response. It's not digg-worthy, but people appreciate and wait patiently for me to put up a new chapter.

It's not that easy. Not at all.

With subscriptions, there's this sort of pressure to deliver content that is continuous with the content that you have already posted. Compared to blogging, you're restricted in that way. Doing FitNB is really great, since I can pretty much write about what I want, but with fanfiction, it's MUCH easier to get into writer's block, and to an extent, becoming burnt out from posting once a week, for consecutive weeks. That's where I am with the story I'm doing, and it's been a few weeks since I last posted.

Oh yeah, I started FitNB a few weeks ago. Coincidence? I think not!

Blogging has become my alternative unwinding source as compared to fanfiction, especially during times of writer's block and burnout, but it seems that the itch to fanfic is coming back, so here's hoping that I can balance the two. /cheers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008



A shoutout blog post today. I tend to notice that most posts that I write while I am at work (I'm totally going to get /kicked by my boss eventually, but that's the risk I take for being such a dedicated blogger), are less related to strategy or analysis and more to social aspects such as reaction to news or something that other people say in the blogosphere. This is usually because wowhead is blocked off from work (weird that blogger isn't blocked but wowhead is). BUt by golly, today is really no exception.

I listened to the Twisted Nether Blogcast this morning on the train ride to work, alongside the WoW Insider Show, that I listened most of the way through yesterday. But as it turns out, TNB has reached it's 10th blogcast, and quite a remarkable one because our very own Larisa of The Pink Pigtail Inn is featured for her wonderful piece using the metaphor of mana as a motivational drive to continue on in group-related activities, particularly raids.

So a big congrats to Lar and her wonderful work being featured on a show as big as TWB, and also a congrats to the TWB itself for becoming big enough to merit congrats to other blogs for being mentioned in the blogcast in the first place! (Whoa, did everyone get that?)

As it is, the TWB is on its 10th episode, and again congrats, but the funniest thing I heard in it was the fact that officially, the blogcast can now spend talent points in different blog talent trees. Well, Since I'm really bored today, I'm going to formulate a Talent Tree that they will hopefully help them as they level.

Like all Talent Trees, there are three talent schools to choose from. Since TNB is a blogcasting site, it would be most beneficial to spec deep Podcast spec. As such, I will only post the Podcast Talent Tree. Maybe If I reach 10 weeks of blogging, I'll make a blogging tree and spec deep into that tree myself. So without further delay, ahem:


Improved Podcast (5 ranks) - Reduces your Podcast time by 1/2/3/4/5 sec.

Shock and Awe (5 ranks) - Blogcast listeners have a 20%/40%/60%/80%/100% chance to not be interrupted while listening to a Twisted Nether Blogcast.


Ignoring the Trolls (3 ranks) - Gives a chance to fully resist trolls by 20%/40%/60%.

Audacity Expertise (2 ranks) - Reduces the archive size of your mp3 samples by 15%/30%


Littered with Win (5 ranks, requires 3 points in Shock and Awe) - Improves the number of diggs given to your podcast, and increases the chance that someone will comment on iTunes by 10/20/30/40/50%.

Summon Blogger Elemental (1 rank) - Randomly summons a blogger from Blog Azeroth to be available for an interview on the next podcast if a guest has not yet been arranged.


Itch King Immunity (3 ranks) - Reduces the effect of being spoiler'ed by Rash of the Itch King news and leaks by 5/10/15%.

Empowered Wikibrarian (5 ranks) - Enhances the efficiency of posting new blogs on the TWB wiki by 10/20/30/40/50%.


Mage Blog Shoutouts! (1 rank) - Instant Cast, Your next mage blog shoutout does not consume mana, is instant cast, and generates a lot of traffic to the shoutout mage blog.

Ok, after 5 tiers, I've already run out of ideas for talents. But that's fine; there's enough talents out there to last TNB for plenty of weeks worth of blogcasts, so by the time they reach episode 30, they will be able to cast a mage blog shoutout to Lar, Zupa, Gnomegeddon, Spicy, Euripides, Nick, Aurdon and everyone else! Wow, we've got lots of mages in the blogosphere, eh?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Becoming an Effective Casual Raider


Once again, I regret to inform you that my ranged weapons guide (as promised on a previous post) will be held off to sometime tomorrow or later this week. Today, I want to get into a topic that I feel is quite prevalent in the WoW community: casual raiding. So here are a few things that I feel you should know about raiding on a casual basis, and to be successful at doing it.

1) You need to be in the right guild

Let's face it. PUGs can become quite the disaster from time to time, and while there are good exceptions, you don't want to wait around and put up with numerous bad experiences before actually having a good night. You want to be raiding in a consistent environment, and a guild will allow you to do such a thing.

What I mean by this is that you have to be in a guild that accepts the fact that you can only raid once or maybe twice a week. There are several types of guilds that allow this: big guilds, casual raiding guilds, and close-knit guilds.

The big guilds are the ones who are normally in very deep content, maybe Black Temple or Mount Hyjal, and have more than enough members to do runs on lower-tier content concurrently while the main group does the newer content. If you end up in this type of guild, you will have an easier time experiencing the content because a lot of the time, there will be raid members who are outgeared for that instance, and is simply there as a service to the "lowbies" or is on standby for the higher tier groups. If you can get into this group, consider yourself fortunate to experience personal boss-kills with relatively smooth precision, depending on the makeup of your particular raid.

The downside to this type of guild is simply that they don't exist on some, if not most servers. You will most likely have to transfer to one if you want to be a part of this type of environment.

Casual raiding guilds are the type that want to experience raid content, but due to the availability of its members, only commits to one or two raids a week, usually at the Kara or ZA level. In these guilds, you will experience content on a less smooth level than big guilds, but you actually get the experience of actually having to work on killing bosses, wiping 6 or 7 times a night, and not have the luxury of having 2 or 3 really skilled players at specific roles to carry the load of the raid. In this guild, you will truly have the same experiences, albeit on a lower scale, as hardcore raiding guilds who make multiple attempts to down bosses on higher tiers.

The downside to this guild is simply that it takes a lot more commitment to be in this type of raiding situation than meets the eye. Every single member has to be on the same page with regards to schedule commitment and raid progress. In most cases, there will be players who simply want to move on from their current level and want to experience the next level in content. You will have to deal with this as a guild, and often the wait for replacement of these members will take a certain amount of time, meaning you will not have raids as you wait for this to occur.

Close-knit guilds are ones in which the core members have been around for a very long time, perhaps since the beginning of vanilla WoW. At this level, the members are extremely understanding of each other, and have enough skill in their level of progression to have one or two casual raiding members in their guild to fill up spots for raids. If you're lucky and show up, you just might get invited. Be prepared to contribute your all into the raid, since they will rely on you as they do with each other. Teamwork and trust is important here, especially on the higher level content.

The downside for these guilds is that they are not likely at all to accept new members. They don't have the size to accomodate farming runs concurrently with their progression runs. You will either have to be at a certain level of gear and experience to be accepted into their ranks, and thus are more suited for those who used to be hardcore raiders, but no longer have the time to raid.

So as shown by the examples above, there are many different guilds to choose from that can almost guarantee you a raid on a night to which you can commit.

2) You will progress much slower than other raiders.

Depending on your guild, you may end up experiencing the same content for quite a while, simply because you won't gear up, either individually or as a guild, fast enough to be adequately geared for a higher level instance. It takes quite a while as it is for hardcore raiding guild in the early stages of raid content to gear up each and every one of its members for the next level.

Let's face it, not all casual guilds will have the size to support farming runs, so gearing up for the next level will be quite difficult. If you have problems with experiencing the same thing over and over again, then maybe casual raiding is not right for you.

But wait! You can definitely work your way around this, especially with regards to picking up gear at the Kara/ZA level. There's always badge loot. Yes, while you may not be able to commit to long raids multiple nights a week, you can definitely do daily heroics on a nightly or bi-nightly basis. A steady stream of heroic PuG's can reward you with a good number of badges in the long run, and you can gear yourself as you wait for your Tier gear to roll in.

While Heroic PUGs tend to go south a lot of the time, at least you can down maybe one or two bosses in a matter of a few hours. That's not a bad thing at all. Every badge counts, and getting 2 badges is better than none at all. On the flipside, you may get lucky, and pug with an amazing group, and do the daily in just an hour or two. 5 badges in such a short amount of time? Sign me up!

The trick to being able to gear up with badge gear concurrently with your kara gear is to take a look at what loot you will be most likely to acquire in the raid, and not aim for that gear slot when choosing your badge loot. For example, a certain dungeon will give you your tier X shoulders, so use your badges on rings and trinkets instead. The whole point of this is to not waste your badges, so that you can gear up faster than you would normally just by raiding alone. Not only does this help you as a player, but it also helps the guild since you'll be contributing more to the raid by your improved character.

3) Casual raiding does not equate to raiding with noobs

In general, raid encounters are meant for a team with 10 or 25 skilled and dedicated players, regardless of how often they raid together. If you do not have the skill to stay focused and put 100% effort into your raid, you will die more often than you kill, and simply put, you will drag your raid down and not get invited again.

As a first-time casual raider, you simply won't have a lot of experience in raid situations, particularly when it comes to practicing boss-specific encounters. But you can take the effor to read up on them. There are a plethora of boss killing strategies on the net, ranging from blogging sites to dedicated strategy sites, to youtube videos. If you truly are interested in being a part of end-game content, then you will be doing this anyways.

The main point is simply to go the extra mile to improve yourself as a player with the time that you have. How about going down to Dr. Boom and practicing your ranged spell/shot rotation? How about doing normal mode pugs using only AH greens? Constraints on your gear will help you not get used to being overgeared for a particular encounter, and will allow you to really focus on skill than relying on gear alone. Any methods that will help you increase your level on the dps or healing charts will increase your chances to doing your role properly in a raid, compared to not putting any off-raid practice at all.

Simply put, if you're in a guild with more experienced raiders, you will have to push yourself more to catch up with them. If you're in a guild with casual raiders, you will need to do as much you can to progress as a guild at your desired pace.

4) Real life comes first.

Above all, being a casual raider means you simply don't have the time commitment to have the hardcore gaming lifestyle. That's fine, because real life is much more important than the game itself, even for the hardcore raiders. If anything, having to juggle all your real-life commitments while being able to do the raid thing is a testament to your real life personality and abilities. But really, not all people have the ability, responsibility, or maturity to be able to do so, and you as a person should know your own limit on how much you can do in a week. Regardless, the time you spend in the game should be time well-spent towards achieving your goals as a casual raider.

Outside of the game, you need to make a greater commitment to your own life when you're not playing WoW. You have to be in top-notch form with your life before even considering being a part of this environment, otherwise you might end up jeopordizing both aspects. At least with WoW, if you mess up, you can still join anoter guild or re-roll another character or server. In life, there is only one server, and you only get one character. Don't ever, ever forget that.

5) Casual raiding can be a very rewarding experience

It's one thing to experience first-kills, or simply being on bleeding-edge content, but there's a little bit of pride that one can instill on him/herself just knowing that they've experienced a certain amount of progression on just one raid a week. Case in point, Part Time Druid has done quite a feat by downing Supremus. Even if you don't go as far as he has, you can still pride yourself in even making it far into the endgame itself despite having real life. If you dont' feel the joy of having downed a certain boss, or being at a certain stage of content, then maybe you're not putting enough effort into your raiding experience, or maybe you're putting too much. If you set goals for yourself in-game, you will feel more fulfilled for having worked to achieve them.

And you'll have a blast doing it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Like Frost, except on Freakin' Steroids

Actually, forget about what Larisa said about me spouting the Hybrid builds in her battle of the mages. Frost is the way to go, no doubt about it.

As soon as I came home from work, I went on wowhead right away. Having the talent calculator in hand, I tried my best to min/max some sort of rotation. Believe me, it was very difficult trying to stray away from frostbolt as being the cornerstone of the rotation.

No. Wasn't going to happen.

Okay, fine. It was mostly because of the fact that most of the +damage on my gear was specificallly frost damage, so it didn't really make any sense to try and spec anything else. I blah'ed to myself. I couldn't let go of my little ice cube launching former self. I wanted a frostbolt spec, meaning that There wasn't really any alternative to Frost. But that didn't necessarily mean that I couldn't spec into other classes, right?

So I looked back at the calculator. Fire? In fire and frost, while indeed hybrid-viable, seems to imply dominance in fire spells with frost as the augmenting talent tree to increase the overall DPS with talents like Icy Veins, Elemental Precision, Cold Snap, and such. No way. I don't like that one bit. If I could make a bumper sticker for my car, it'd read "Frostbolts" or bust.

Then came along Arcane. Wow. There are some amazing things to be had with arcane, and I'll be one to admit it as a frost mage. First, just like frost, arcane has the ability to have a good number of points invested into the second or third tiers without being the primary school of magic with regards to spell rotation. At the same time, the tree has a good, if not very respectable, spec that allows it to use arcane spells as the focus of the rotation. And it is of this little gnome's opinion that, while Frost may seem to be the more effective main school when specced deeply into its own tree, Arcane is simply superior with regards to being a support tree despite being deeply specced into its own tree.

But despite that, I'm sticking to my frost, thank you very much.

40/0/21 - Steroids-Frost Spec

Ok, it's a frostbolt-centric spec that relies on deep talents in the Arcane tree to boost your crit, damage, and so on and so forth. But the most underappreciated aspect of this spec is simply the insane mana efficiency. Arcane Meditation combined with Frost Channeling and Mage Armor results in such an amazing amount of mana regen in a long boss fight. Trying out the spec on Dr. Boom using only Frostbolts, I lasted so much longer. I felt like a frigging marathon man, and that's quite a feat, considering that Frost itself is a very mana-friendly spec against single targets.

And the damage. Wow. The damage difference per frostbolt is actually quite larger. Combine that with harder crits, and I'm actually very enticed to somewhat stay in this spec a little bit longer. Again, comparing frostbolt by frostbolt, I can simply say that this spec is just amazing with damage.

And as a disclaimer, I'm not using Arcane Blast. 3/3 Frozen Shadoweave only affords me sub-500 general spell damage. The damage per mana is brutally low, and warrants no actual use. Maybe in higher tier gear, one should consider chaning up the rotation, but with my gear, FB spam is ideal. The crit damage from Ice Shards is a welcome fit for the rotation anyways.

Things I Miss

And then there's the rub. I miss my Water Elemental. Saying goodbye to squirtle was the hardest thing I have done in a long while. Not since before I dinged 50 for the first time did I live without the 41-point talent, and somehow I just felt empty inside, much like the warlock who sacrifices his demon for the first time. I also miss the "free damage" button that I have on my castbar. Simply put, with him gone, I lose a lot of DPS that deep frost mages are known for.

There's another noticeable absence from my 0/0/61 mainstay that I probably miss the most. Critical hits. I simply don't crit as often when I use 40/0/21. Sure I crit harder, but for me I don't get those moments where you're landing crit after crit after crit with the deep spec. And of course, that's all thanks to Winter's Chill. I would like to reinforce my statement form my earlier post stating that frost mages that don't have Winter's Chill in their reportoire simply don't haven the same delicious crit that the deep fire mages do with their scorches and combustions. Having said how that arc-frost guy in that Kara PuG the other day thanked me to no end for putting up winter's chill for him, I can surely say that I now understand why.

Overall Impressions

I really enjoyed the larger numbers provided by the frostbolt hits, as well as the occasional frostbolt crit, but in the name of Elune I still swear by my deep frost. I am way too attached to my elemental, and I love stacking winter's chill for all that lovely crit. Surely, taking out some talents in the deep spec, and putting them into arcane for clearcasting will probably increase my damage output considerably (ie, removing cone of cold, ice floes, permafrost, and random points here and there), but the point I want to hammer home is that the deep spec has so many talents that are synergous with itself, that a simple tactic like spamming frostbolts will get you some pretty good results dps-wise, and get the absolute adoration from other frost mages who skimp on those talents for other damage-dealing possibilities.

Compared to Pyromancers, who have to deal with juggling scorch debuffs with their use of fireball, Deep Frost has it somewhat simpler. Spam frostbolt. Use your cooldowns. Let Water elemental do its thing on its own if there's no complex movement required in the fight. Make the arcane-boosted frost mages look good.

Next time on FitNB: I take a deep, hard look on the mage's ranged weapon, and why it's not good to post when your widgets go out of control.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finding My Place in the World...of Warcraft

The thing that makes WoW so great is that the game itself is so finely tuned such that a large variety of people are attracted to play. This is evident in the sheer statistics of the the game's player-base. At 10 million, the stranglehold that Blizzard's brainchild has on the masses around the world is just staggering. Multiply that by the number of alts that players have on average, and you have a virtual character population the size of Canada or even more.

And in the middle of all that, there's you, the individual. Sometimes it's difficult to put things in perspective, especially when one gets so invested into the game, economically, socially, emotionally, or otherwise. But in reality, you're not the only person who exists in the game. Likewise, your guild, PuG, raid group, battleground, or whatnot is not the only one in the realm of Azeroth. There exists groups and individuals that span different playstyles, skill-sets, schedules, and etiquette.

To add fuel to that fire, also consider that each individual is never in the same place over time. As they play the game, they grow, and their view of the game or attitude towards it is always in constant ebb and flow. This is simply due to the natural changes that take place in a person outside the game. The guild leader of the top-tier group grieves for the loss of his mother who passed away from lung cancer; the guy who always spams, trolls, and flames in Trade Chat meets the girl of his dreams and gets married; the guild mother who can always be relied on for advice becomes a mother in real life; the discipline Priest who never gets invited to Kara PUGs becomes one of the most thought-provoking minds in the blogosphere.

With such a fascinating demographic dynamic inherent within and outside of the game, it often becomes difficult to determine where you are in this world, and perhaps most importantly, where you will be going. In my opinion, this is trivial. You can strive all you want to aim for certain goals, but with how open the world is, inside and out of the game, you can never really know where you're going to end up.

As I type this, I'm preparing for what I perceive to be quite an important step in my "real-life progression." In a few hours, I'll be leaving the office early, and going out and handing out resumes for a job within the field of my university degree: forensic science. Now, I'm still one course away from actually completing the program, but career-wise, it's always a good idea to start looking early into what you want to do. That's what inspired me to write this little drabble of a post.

Whether or not I get hired as a low-level lab tech, this job is merely the beginning. But as I look back, I'll remember the first day I stepped onto campus and wondered how the hell I am ever going to survive this place, and laugh at myself for always thinking for the "here and now," and not about how I want to fit in the dynamic mold of society.

With that regard, I vow to do the same with the World of Warcraft. As the world around me changes, I will aim to find the my little niche in it. Likewise, as the World of Warcraft changes, particularly with the coming of Wrath, I will embrace the coming of something wonderful, and hopefully find my own role and voice in the online community to which I belong.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Screenshot: DING! Exalted!

"I don't think anybody will be willing to give up their Kael'thas spot to you, Bash, even if you offer money." - Guildie

The caption pretty much sums it up. Nobody wants to give up their spot in a Kael'thas kill. I would think it's because of the non-combat pet that he drops. Oh well. Next time I ding exalted for the first time (sigh, lol), I'll be sure to leave out enough rep to fill out an entire instance run. Either way, the ding was pretty memorable as it was, turning in the daily like that. Snapped up a tabard, which matches nicely with my newly crafted Frozen Shadoweave Robe. Yep, it was a pretty nice weekend indeed.
Oh, and it feels kinda embarassing when NPC's talk about you when you pass by. Hehe, *blush*

Monday, July 21, 2008

Deep Frost in Wrath of the Lich King - Initial Impressions

Well, apparently, I was a little too busy to post this weekend. But of course, that's what the post date and time options are for. Sigh, I'm still pretty new at this, I suppose.

Regardless of my horrid blogging skills, I still want to post my take on the new beta talents (or the now-NDA-lifted alpha talents, if you want to call them that) as well as the beta patch notes for mages, and in particular, how they affect frost mages. Yes, I'll do both at the same time, since I didn't even bother commenting on the alpha details, since there was that whole debacle about NDAs and such. Now that the NDA has been lifted, I feel obligated as a mage blogger to do so. So let's begin!

The Frost Tree, Beta Edition

- Winter’s Grasp: Gives your Frost Spells a 20% chance to apply the Winter’s Grasp effect, which increases the chance that all attacks will hit the target by 2/4% and the target will be considered Frozen for 2/4 seconds.
I love the feeling of contribution that you bring to a group by putting in your own debuffs on a focus-fired target, especially when they're beneficial to another player. Case in point, I pugged a kara with an arcane-frost specced mage, and he volunteered to do all the table/int buffs for the whole instance, even after wipes, simply because he appreciated my winter's chill debuffs.
Now this debuff benefits the whole raid. Improving general hit by 4% for everyone attacking that monster is just simply ridiculous. In high-end raid instances, all members are expected to be hit-capped, so this talent is not as important, but in entry-level raid instances such as Kara for TBC, there will be some members in Kara guilds and Kara PUGs especially. Whatever the Kara Equivalent for WotLK will be, an 80 mage will be a definite boost for the other hit-dependant classes, especially tanks, who need capped hit to ensure they don't lose aggro from misses on white damage.

- Improved Water Elemental: Increases the duration of your Summoned Water Elemental spell by 10/20/30 seconds and increases the total mana and health of your Water Elemental by 10/20/30%.
Skilled use and precise management of the Water Elemental is the hallmark of a good frost mage. Unfortunately, I'm not quite there yet, but as the 41-point talent, it is as much a part of being a frost mage as it is having Tree of Life on a restoration druid. And When you get a talent such as this, it only makes the identity of a frosty even more concrete. Now, it becomes more important than ever to ensure that your Elemental stays alive and uses up all of its frostbolt charges.

From a theorycrafting standpoint, it is important to figure out whether or not the 30 second increase corresponds nicely with the 30% mana increase, and whether or not the elemental will be able to use its entire mana pool before it dies. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens, because I'm not in the mood to do the calculations.

- Brain Freeze: Your Frost Nova and Frostbite effects also reduces the target’s chance to hit with all attacks by 5/10/15%.
This feels much more of a PvP talent than it actually is. As I recently mentioned in my "10 things you need to know about mages" post, I noted a tactic that I use to at least try and save a healer from getting beaten down by a mob by staying close to them and using Frost Nova before the aggro'ed guy gets too close. With Brain Freeze, your Novas will be somewhat safer to do if you happen to snag a dude in front of your healer. This doesn't really guarantee that the healer won't get hit, but it gives him or her a better chance to escape unscathed or at least alive, especially in heroics where many mobs will 1-2 hit a squishy for a massive kill.

On a related note, a few of you have pointed out that it is simply bad practice to stand close to the healer due to aoe aggro shifting to him if the mage pulls a mob with aggro and then using a threat wipe such as Ice Block. That is true, assuming that 1) you pull aggro in the first place, and 2) the healer is also above the tank on the threat list, or maybe 3) the tank is dead and the two of you are second and third on the list. Well, DPS classes should NOT be pulling aggro in the first place. If aggro is pulled, whether or not it's by the healer or a dps, then you'll increase your wipe chances either way (especially on high-end content), so this isn't an issue. Frost Nova will always give the person who pulled aggro to walk away from the mob that focuses on him, given that he walks away from him. As tanks always say, if you pull aggro, walk the mob back to the tank, to make it easier on him. With Frost Nova, the aggro'd member can walk back to the tank without risk of getting hit. That's all I have to say on the matter, and I'm going to continue nova'ing any mob that comes close to me. Case closed.

- Chilled to the Bone: Increases the damage caused by your Frostbolt and Ice Lance spells by 1/2/3/4/5% and reduces the movement speed of all chilled targets by an additional 2/4/6/8/10%.
Self-explanatory. More frostbolt damage AND Ice lance damage. Ice Lance doesn't really have much utility in a raid situations, but for questing and PvP, it is a good asset to have. What I particularly love about this talent is the additional 10% chill effect, which is added to your already high % chill effects from Improved Blizzard and Permafrost. Kiting is a very good skill to have as a frost mage, and this increases your effectiveness by a good margin.

- Deep Freeze: Stuns the target for 5 sec. Only usable on Frozen targets.
I'll admit it once again, I'm not a PvP person. But last weekend, I did an AV, and did my first ever shatter combo. I even timed the last-second WE freeze and everything, and I essentially one-shotted a rogue from full health to about 15%. Other stragglers from my team finished him off without a problem.

With this talent, depending on the spell mechanics, you might have to rework your shatter combo. Normally, you would cast Frostbolt, cast your Water Elemental's Freeze at the last second, And then Ice Lance immediately when your frostbolt fires off, for double critty goodness.
Consider the possible rotations you might use, depending on the mechanics of the spell.

1) Deep Freeze has cast time: replace your initial Frostbolt with Deep Freeze, and you'll get a stunned enemy with a critical Ice Lance. Depending on whether or not your target is still frozen after the Ice Lance, you have more than enough time to do a regular Frostbolt-based shatter combo.
2) Deep Freeze is instant-cast, uses the global cooldown: replace your Ice Lance with Deep Freeze, and you'll get a crit frostbolt and a stun effect. If target is still frozen, do another shatter combo.
3) Deep Freeze is instant-cast, does not use global cooldown: Cast your Deep Freeze in place of Ice Lance, but use Ice Lance immediately after your Deep freeze. Unlikely scenario, but you still get the damage of your normal shatter combo, but your target is stunned and potentially frozen.

Hrmm...maybe I'll actually start doing BG's in wrath...

Wrath Beta Patch Notes
- Counterspell now costs 9% of base mana.
- Polymorph now costs 12% of base mana.
- Portal spells now cost 18% of base mana.
- Slow Fall now costs 6% of base mana.
- Teleport spells now cost 9% of base mana.
I grouped all of the "base mana" cost adjustments together. For sure, there's going to be an outcry on the intardnet about Mages getting the shaft by making these spells much more expensive than it was in TBC. But I am willing to look at the positive aspects here. Teleport, Portal, and Slow Fall don't really count, because they're used outside of combat (except maybe Slow Fall in world PvP, or in a BG).

Counterspell and Polymorph are important spells, however. As a frost mage, I really don't give a damn. Our mana is so damn efficient due to the insanely cheap cost of our bread-and-butter Frostbolts. In kara, i'm usually in a group with another fire mage, and even though he has a larger mana pool, he's always using his mana-regenerating spells/items before I do. Sure it's a nerf, but it doesn't hit frosties as hard as it will to other specs.

One more thing to consider is how gear scaling will effect these costs. While the base mana cost will always remain a constant as you level up, your actual mana pool will be MUCH larger than it was when you hit level 70. Considering the non-base stat curve one undergoes as he gears up through the levels, and you might actually see that the cost is actually MUCH lower than it will end up being when you start doing level 80 content. So yeah, it's not really that big of a deal.
- Frost Armor, Ice Armor, Mage Armor and Molten Armor are no longer Magic effects and cannot be dispelled.
I already commented on this with the 2.4.3 patch notes, but I just want to announce that you can still spellsteal Armor from NPC mobs. This change only seems to apply to PvP, and that makes me a happy little gnome.
- Invisibility now makes the caster invisible after 3 seconds, reduced from 5 seconds.
WOOT! Invisibility buff! I'll be really honest again, I've only had to rely on Ice block as a threat wipe, but I've never really gotten a chance to use Invisibility to remove myself from combat in case of a wipe. This is normally because I'm usually the second person to go as soon as the tank dies in a fight. 5 seconds to not get hit by anything is a really long time, and a 2 second decrease really makes it much more likely to get out of a wipe situation.

On the flip side, the utility that invisibility has as a threat reducing spell isn't too bad. Instead of the 5 seconds worth of threat decrease, you only get 3. Consider the following threat level after each tick of invisibility, according to how the spell works (10% of your current threat removed each second).

Starting with 1000, each tick will bring you to 900, 810, 729, 656, 591.

The old invisibility will reduce your threat by 40%, while the new version will reduce your threat by 27%. The reduction in duration actually benefits the spell user, simply because of the percentage effect of the threat reduction itself. Simply put, the longer the effect lasts, you lose less threat with each tick. 3 seconds seems to be a good balance between leaving combat sooner and reducing enough threat to be used as a viable threat dumping spell.

Overview of the proposed Wrath Changes

While the beta patch notes indicate that mana cost nerfs are coming to the mage, we must be aware that this change in philosophy is being applied across most classes. An example of this is the change to Shackle Undead to also cost a percentage of the Priest's base mana. Looking at the big picture (considering all classes and levels), it would seem that mages aren't the only one to be re-worked into Blizzard's ideal vision of their game in the new expansion.

While both the talents and changes listed above are from alpha and beta information, we must still be warned that these aren't the final figures. But according to what people say about beta changes in TBC, the general design concepts and goals that the WoW dev team has in mind for particular classes remain the same. That being said, I welcome these new assets to the frost arsenal when the time comes for us to hit up Northrend and kick some Lich King butt. Not only do deep Frost specs remain viable as a PvP class, but they have even more of a utility role in raids than ever. With each new expansion, the increase in your total talent points allows for even more fine-tuning with mix-and-match specs such as the elementalist specs (hello, Frostfire Bolt!), arcane-frost and arcane-fire specs. When the theorycrafters develop the cookie-cutter raid builds for each elemental school, it is quite likely that builds depending on having Frostbolt, or even Frostfire Bolt, will require a deep frost spec in the raid to maxmimize their individual DPS. With both Winter's Chill and Winter's Grasp effects available to deep frost, our utility will become a valuable asset to rosters that include such builds, with Winter's Grasp alone giving such a great single-target buff for your entire team, regardless of its size or composition.

What we're seeing is this concept of having multiple specs being raid-viable because of the buffs that they offer, instead of the cookie cutter spec. Think of Beastmaster Hunters, the raiding build of choice in TBC, according to BigRedKitty. With WotLK coming out, the Hunting Party talent makes Survival a very lucrative asset to bring in a raid, very much like the Winter's Grasp Mage. Frankly, I'm really excited to see how this pans out in the new expansion. For all you know, you just might end up killing Arthas in parties consisting of survivalist hunters, retro pallies and deep frost. That would be an experience more than worth the price of buying the expansion.

Kudos, Blizzard, on developing such an interesting idea for class dynamics in the new expansion. The mage class may still have a bit of a way to go with regards to being "fixed," according to the voices of the mage community. But compared to popular belief, this mage in particular is excited to see that his class is actually taking a few good steps in the right direction.

As always, Frost Mages are looking to be very cool in Wrath.

(that pun never gets old, lol)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Top 10 WoW Memories

Normally, this post would be "Why I WoW," according to Blog Azeroth's shared topic, but I was more intrigued by the WoW memories one (even though I didn't start blogging until after that one was posted). So here is my ultimate cop-out:

Why do I WoW? Because of the memories. Here are 10 of my favs.

/dodge tomatoes. I told you I was pretty cheap.

10) Dinging Exalted with Shattered Sun Offensive - Ok, so yesterday I said I would do it that night. But it turned out that I dinged friendly with the Violet Eye instead. Yep. Kara night, and I completely forgot about it. Oh well, not Exalted yet, but right now, the process of planning for exalted is quite the highlight of the month so far (which is pretty important, since I've only been playing WoW for maybe 4-5 months now).

9) First Raid - it was a hosted MC raid. I had just dinged 70, so the first thing I did was raid molten core with 39 other people I didn't know, organized by the MC hosting guild in our server, Knights Templar. I don't think I've ever been with so many people in one tiny place. AV is huge too, but half the time, most people are in the graveyard, lol. Oh, I got the Arcanist Belt drop that night, but didn't use it because I had lvl 70 gear already. So I AH'ed it for around 100g. Good times.

8) First time getting ganked - before settling down on a PvE server, I rolled a PvP server with my 10 day trial account. I had levelled a human mage up to 20, which was the trial level cap i think. I was running over the bridge in Redridge, the one that leads to Lakeshire. It's a pretty long bridge, and not a lot of traffic goes on there. It's empty enough that people won't hear you scream when you get backstabbed and stunlocked by a cloaked rogue. I didn't even know what hit me. I was just dead on the spot. Oh yeah, a little corpse camping on the side as well. Not exactly a fond memory, but I was fascinated by the nature of PvP in WoW in general because of this.

7) First Instance - I pugged a deadmines group with a bunch of other nooblets. Despite the sloppiness of our group dynamics (no clear tanking role, priests letting clothies die, priests dying, pulling half the room), we actually made it through. That particular trip was highlighted by winning my first ever Need vs Need roll against a warlock on an Emberstone Staff that Greenskin dropped that run. That staff lasted me until Scarlet Monastery where I picked up some sort of weapon from Arcanist Doan.

6) First Step Into Outland - I walked through the dark portal, and stepped into Hellfire Peninsula. The carnage was intense. I remember a bunch of NPC's battling down a bunch of demons and this huge mofo that was leading them. I tried helping for some reason, even though I was a 58 and they were level ???. Yep. I died. Was still awesome though.

5) First Flying Mount - I only got this recently, maybe towards the end of June. Managed to save up enough G for the mount, and accidentally clicked on the white one instead of the dark one. =( Oh well. They all look awesome, so I wasn't too disappointed. I played around with it, flew around everywhere, but the funniest thing I did was fly really high and see if I could cast a teleport before I hit the ground. Well, when you cast teleport while mounted, you sorta fail to do so. And if you're mounted, you sorta lose your mount. And if you're falling a billion feet from the air, you sorta can't summon your mount again. We all know how this ends. With an iceblock. Whew!

4) First Battleground - Hooray for Alterac Valley! Luckily, my first BG was a truly memorable one. When the gates opened, everyone was on their mount, and I was like OMFG AWESEOM LETS CHARGE. And so we did, and everyone was up in each others faces like "TAKE THAT HORDE!" and "DIE ALLIANCE SCUM." I was not too well-versed in PvP tactics. Essentially, my strategy was (and still is) to frostbolt anything that moves, and blizzard anything that moves in groups. Oh, and to Frost Nova and GTFO if a melee tried to kill me. It was sweet. We got pushed back to one of our capture points, but held it for a good amount of time. I stood on the roof of some place, and blizzarded from above for a good 5 or 6 minutes before I OOM'ed and got DoTed to death by a shadow priest. Suck. But it was pretty epic either way.

3) That stairs event in ZF where you have to fend off at least a billion enemies, with the help of other NPCs. That's when I came out of my single-target closet, and just blizzed the living snot out of anything with red colored names. I OOM'ed like crazy, using up all my mana gems, and all the pots that I had at the time. Oh, and no warlocks to steal my spotlight. It was beautiful.

2) Bashertin's epic ding at 70 - My main dinged 70 in Shadow Labyrinth by downing the second boss, whose name escapes me. He was the one who randomly casts mind control on EVERYONE, causing everyone in your party to just start wailing away at each other. Well, awesomesauce that I am, the CPU somehow knew how to use Shatter combos. Cold Snap, re-summon Water Elemental, cast Frostbolt on our priest, Freeze at the last second, Crit Frostbolt followed by a Crit Ice Lance. Yeah, he died. At least it wasn't the tank. Anyways, after that MC thing wore off, the rogue in our group grabbed aggro because he forgot about the threat reset after the MC, so he died. It essentially boiled down to me, the tank, and a hunter I believe. I ran out of mana because of multiple Arcane Missile/Blizzard casts from the Mind Control. I essentially wanded him down for the last 2%. For the win.

1) Worst grief EVER - I was the hugest noob back then, maybe level 3 or 4. I get a whisper:

[someguy]: I'm leaving WoW for good, wanna have all of my gold?
[Bashertin]: to [someguy]: sure
someguy has invited you to a group.
loot set to uncommon.
someguy wants to summon you.

Ok, notice that it doesn't say to which instance. It's because he's a warlock. I guess this is where my hatred for warlocks began. Those damn jerks. I clicked OK. Turns out, I get summoned to a really high-up branch in Skettis. I'm like "holy crap wtf" and in voice chat, I'm hearing a bunch of guys laughing and then I see them fly off on their mounts, and I'm like =(

Even worse, I take a wrong step and fall to my untimely death. About 8000 damage upon impact. Oh, did i forget to mention that I didn't know what a hearthstone was, so I threw it away as soon as I first started playing the game? Damn.

Well, the guys weren't really that bad at all. The lock summoned me back to Shattrath, and told me where to get a hearthstone. So in the end, I essentially got what I would learn to be "a free port to shat". And 1g. not too shabby. Looking back, I was probably really mad, but also very amused because I had fallen for such an obvious prank. I laughed along with them, and they gave me props for being a good sport.

But I still hate warlocks. That will never change.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What You Need to Know About Mages

" there's more to mages than just tables and portals? Interesting..."

Blog Azeroth's official weekly shared topic for this week is, "What you need to know about [your class here]"

Essentially, the theme asks bloggers to write about their main's class, with the content aimed at an audience whose mains are not of that class. The purpose of this is to inform other classes with regards to having us in their group, or just interacting with us in general.
As a cryomancer, there's no general fundamental difference between me and mages of different specs, so for today, I'll speak on behalf of all mages.


1. Concerning Polymorph

We can only sheep humanoids and beasts. If you put moon on a demon or elemental, we'll kindly remind you. There are a few exceptions to the rule, especially in heroic mode, where certain mobs can't be sheeped. If the mob that was assigned to us is immune, we'll try our best to announce it in party chat. Tanks should pay attention and adjust their aggro management accordingly.

We can only sheep one target at a time. That's kinda obvious, but there are subtle applications behind that rule that people should be aware of. Firstly, we can sheep other mobs that may be dangerous to the pull, such as those that threaten the healer. But if we do that, the previous sheep will break and either go after me instead, or the healer due to healing aggro. So either way, the healer is "gonna' get a hurt reeeal bad". Thus, don't expect us to sheep anything that goes after the healer. We have frost nova for that.

Be aware of diminishing returns on the sheep. If a sheep breaks prematurely, because of AoE, or just by sheer luck, successive sheeping attempts will result in shorter sheep durations. This might not be applicable to trash pulls, but moreso on boss fights that have adds, such as the Priestess in Magister's Terrace. It's the responsibility of the whole team, not just the mage, to really pour on the DPS to ensure that this doesn't become a problem.

Despite that, it's still imperative that the party takes the sheep last, since the other forms of cc are one time only, or require some other fancy shuffling to perpetuate (ie, hunter chain-trapping) that noticeably lowers that member's overall DPS.

Oh yeah, don't AoE or DoT the sheep please. If I see an immolate on my moon-labeled mob, I'm not even going to bother sheeping it.

2. Concerning Warlocks

We are not Warlocks. Don't get us confused with them. We can't summon you to instances, nor can we give you healthstones. Alternatively, we can port you away from instances, and give you food and drink. Our mana gems are bind on pickup, so we can't give them to you.

3. Concerning Food and Drink

There was a WI post about a topic on the official WoW forums regarding mage tables, and there is always a heated debate about player's rights to a table in BG's and raids. Most mages in raids WILL summon a table. If they don't, they're usually kicked anyways. But in an instance, don't expect all of us to table for you. Two arcane dusts spent on a table for five is a waste, especially when your party consists of a rogue and a non-pally tank. Alternatively, we'll just conjure drinks separately for everyone. Let the healers take care of your health after pulls.

Be polite. As obligated as some mages are with giving out tables in BG's and raids, a little kindness goes a long way. There's no arguing or debating that. You're more likely to be attended to if the mage is not put off by the nature of your request. Treat it as a buff, and ask us for food the way you ask priests and pallies for prayers and blessings.

4. Concerning Frost Nova

Frost Nova is our "OH CRAP" spell for aggro, particularly when it comes to healing aggro. It is a good mage tactic to always stay near the priest on trash pulls. If a priest overheals and draws aggro from the pull, us mages can and should nova the mob(s) in place before the priest gets hurt. If the mob is in front of a healer, the healer should move away. Tanks should walk their mobs over to the frozen guy so that the frozen guy can regain aggro on the tank. I've witnessed many a time where the priest never walked away from the nova'd monster and got killed, or where the tank never picked up the frozen monster, only to delay the priest's eventual death.

5. Concerning AoE

Tanks, if we're doing an AoE trash pull, use your best AoE-based threat abilities to keep them all cluttered up. This is obvious to warriors and pallies, since they regularly use thunderclap and consecrate, but druids can do it too by hurricane pulling and keeping thorns up. Druids who don't know what hurricane pulling is should go here to learn how to do it. It's quite awesome.

Oh, and Warlocks, please don't use seed of corruption. It makes us mages look utterly, utterly useless =(

6. Concerning Mages Not in Your Party

If you really consider us to be vending machines, at least treat us appropriately as such. A generous tip goes a long way, especially since tomes for our highest-levelled Food and Drink spells sell for ridiculous prices at the AH.

When requesting for a portal from a capital city, at least tip us to cover the cost of:

1) the rune of portals that will bring you wherever you want to go,
2) the rune of teleportation that will bring me to you, and
3) the rune of teleportation that will bring me back to wherever I was before you asked me to port you.

While 50s will more than cover the three, but publicly offering 50s in trade chat will get you /laughed at even by non-mages. The more you offer, the more likely you'll entice one of us mages who are sitting on our asses watching TV while waiting for the next spellcloth cooldown.

Be aware of the levels when mages learn portals. Portals to Ogrimmar, Undercity, Silvermoon, Stormwind, Ironforge, and Exodar are learned at 40, while Darnassus and Thunder Bluff aren't learned until 50. Mages can teleport to Shatt at 60, but can't portal until 65 (I think, I need to check up on that again).

And once again, politeness comes a long way.

Dinging Exalted with Style

I am at 20,385/21,000 reputation with the Shattered Sun Offensive, and soon enough, I will be exalted. This is a very important milestone because it will be my first ever exalted status with any faction. At first, it wasn't really a goal to grind rep with the SSO; The gold reward was the incentive for doing the daily quests. With a small group of quests here and there each day, and the fact that Magister's Terrace is easily one of my favorite instances in the game (other than the two Caverns of Time dungeons), I really didn't notice that I was getting really close to exalted until a few days ago.

Good thing, too, because I really want to make this ding special.

I'm not sure if many of you out there listen to the WoW Insider Show, the weekly podcast that airs on Saturday, and is posted on the WI blog on Tuesday/Wednesday, but there was an ongoing topic about the epic feeling of dinging 70, whether it be for the first time, or just in general. One of the hosts of the show, the great Turpster, had levelled a shadow priest up to 70, and celebrated his ding by becoming a PvP raid boss against what I perceived to be about a billion level 1 gnomes and dwarves. Very epic indeed.

Well, I've thought about it, and considering the amount of weight I'm currently putting on my first exalted status in the World of Warcraft, I want to ding in a very special way as well. Tonight, I will do enough daily quests to bring me to the point where one turn-in of a daily quest will give me exalted status. The easy quests get turned in for about 150 rep. The great thing about this is that boss kills in Magister's Terrace earn the same amount.

So, why not become exalted by downing Kael'thas?

Lore-wise, the more appropriate thing to do is to be exalted by downing Kil'Jaeden, but not all of us have the opportunity to raid SWP. If anything, Kael'thas is just as worthy of the honor of getting killed for that last bit of reputation. The first time I thought about this prospect, I think I wet my miniature gnomish pants. Of course, this would mean that I can't participate in any of the pulls up to Kael'thas, because trash pulls and the other boss fights will make me exalted for sure. So maybe, I can ask a few of my guildies to see if they can run most of Magister's Terrace all the way up to the big K, and have one of the DPS group members surrender a spot to me before the fight begins.

If this plan succeeds (and I think it will, because I have awesome guildies who are kind enough to do that sort of thing), I intend on taking a billion screenshots of the event, and revel in my reputation status by /dancing on Kael'thas' frozen corpse (btw, I think the gnomish male's dance is the most awesome thing ever).

So yeah, I ask all of you out there in the blogosphere: is this a good idea, or the greatest idea? =D

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Longer a Blogosphere Virgin...

Yeah, so my epic ding promise is being put on hold for now. Doing overtime severely hampers those plans for now. For some reason, I find it quite reassuring that I can still access blogger from my workstation, even though I can't get into BBB or wowinsider.

"Ok, let's take a look around" I said, randomly clicking through nonfiltered wow blogs, "...oh, Twisted Nether, I wonder what this is abo-"

After that, I didn't get much work done for the rest of the day. I'm doing nothing for my overtime as I'm writing this. Ok, well, not really nothing. Something. Whatever.

So I stumbled upon the following blogs:

Armaggedon's coming
Critical QQ
I Sheep Things...
Molten Mage
My mage sucks.
The Pink Pigtail Inn

plus a few others, but these ones are mage blogs. And that makes me incredibly giddy, particularly the blogs represented by gnome mages. Hooray! I don't feel so alone anymore. BUt yeah, a shoutout to everyone who runs the above listed blogs. Gnomes are awesome, mages are awesome, together they are 2awesome.

Added them all to my "blogroll", which up until yesterday I thought had something to do with Rick Astley. Praise Elune that isn't the case.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2.4.3 is Live!

Well, how do I?

I didn't get a chance to take a look at the new patch changes first-hand. I had overtime yesterday, and didn't come home until 8pm. It took a while to download the patch, meaning that I had spent most of my available time yesterday doing SSO daily quests. I'm at about 20k/21k revered, meaning that I'll be able to ding exalted sometime this week. More on that in a future post.

So yeah, didn't get a chance to experience the new changes, as small as they were. But for the hell of it, I wanna go over the ones that are somewhat relevant to my interests:

-Dispel effects will no longer attempt to remove effects that have 100% dispel resistance.
-Mounts at 30?! Yes, it’s true: Apprentice Riding and mounts are now available at level 30. Training costs 35 gold.
-Alcohol cooldowns have been rolled into Drinks: All 10-second cooldowns have been removed and replaced with the 1-second Drink cooldown.
OK, pretty cool. No more wasted 20% base mana on spellsteals that never had a chance to hit in the first place. That extra mana can go to freezing face with a Blizzard or something else.

Level 30 mounts are quite nice, because I'm always considering levelling up another mage alt hordeside, simply because I want to experience new content. Cheaper base costs also makes that prospect quite enticing.

Alcohol cooldowns aren't really that important, but I can always dream that one day mages could conjure booze.

-Frost Armor, Ice Armor, Mage Armor, and Molten Armor are no longer Magic effects and cannot be dispelled.

-Demon Skin, Demon Armor, and Fel Armor are no longer Magic effects and cannot be dispelled.
Cool! I can imagine that in PvP this would be beneficial. But I've heard in some circles that priests really have more efficient ways to kill mages than dispelling our armor, especially since their range attacks aren't affected by Ice or Molten Armor. Against pallies, however (do they even have a dispel technique? I forget), they're just going to have to deal with getting frozen 15% of the time they try to hit us. Hooray!

Oh, and I added warlocks because of the SSO daily quest that requires you to kill Dawnblade Warlocks. I always spellsteal their Demon armor when I get the chance, and this announcement sorta makes me sad that I can't do it anymore. Oh well, there goes my 2 minutes of fun =(

Magister’s Terrace
-The Stun component to the Sunblade Mage Guard Glaive Throw has been removed and the Bounce range reduced.
-Vexallus’ damage caused by Pure Energy has been decreased.
-Kael’thas’ Arcane Sphere has had its visual size increased. His Arcane Sphere attack has had its range decreased and the damage/second of Phase two on Normal mode has been decreased.
-Sunblade Warlocks have had their damage reduced slightly.
-Fel Crystals in the Selin Fireheart encounter have had their health reduced slightly.
-Warlord Salaris and Kagani Nightstrike have had their damage output reduced slightly.
Glaive Throw stun is extremely annoying, especially considering that a caster-class NPC uses it. Imagine the chaos on the class forums if blizzard gives the old glaive throw to mages in Wrath. Beautiful, sign me up!

The Vexallus fight isn't too difficult, but some may argue that it's the most difficult fight in Magister's Terrace. Particularly because of the pure energy damage. I know that Bashertin simply cannot handle the adds alone because of his relatively lower HP compared to other classes that normally get assigned to adds (ie, hunters, rogues, DPS shamans), so i'm glad that I'll have a better chance at staying alive at the end of that particular fight whenever I get assigned to right or left side for the fight.

Kael'thas is a surprisingly easy fight for frost mages once you get used to phase 2. It's nice to see that the arcane sphere is more visible, because I always end up doing blink tricks to get out of the way of those spheres. Considering our class' squishiness, this should be a welcome change.

I don't know how to react to the warlock change, since I'm always sheeping them first on pulls. I guess that means I can sheep the nexus guys instead.

Selin Fireheart is an interesting fight. All the PUGs I've done always go for the crystals, and more often than not, are always a sliver of HP away from actually getting to destroy them, before getting owned in the face by Arcane Explosion. From the way it's described in the patch notes, this is a very good adjustment. No more need for the "straight DPS on Selin while Ice Blocking through the AE" strategy.

I don't have access to wowhead at work, so I'm assuming that Warlord Salaris is the Naga add in the priestess fight, and that Kagani is the rogue class add. Those guys are incredibly bursty with the damage, and I always end up sheeping them for the duration of the fight if one of them show up. If the damage reduction is reasonable, I might be able to sheep the caster add instead. Salaris will still have that strange random aggro behaviour, so I might still sheep him first anyways =/

User Interface
-The new stopwatch feature can be accessed via the /stopwatch, /sw, or /timer slash commands. Inputting a time into the slash command will make the stopwatch count down. For example, /stopwatch 1:0:0 will make the stopwatch count down from an hour, /stopwatch 1:30 will make it count down from 1 minute, 30 seconds, and /stopwatch 30 will make it count down from 30 seconds.
-You can no longer click the minimap to cast ground targeted spells.
-Invisible players with Hunter’s Mark can see the hunter that put the mark on them.
Cool, no more need for clock mods. I can even time myself doing solo dungeon runs for lowbies. It's little mental games like these that lessen the effect of the pre-expansion blues.

Wait what? I used to be able to cast blizzard using the minimap? Say it isn't so! /cry

This one time, I was actually in alterac, and used invisibility, and got hunter's marked. Didn't go so well. I don't see how this will make it any easier for us to run away from arrowy/bulletted deaths, lol.

Bug Fixes
-The mage spell, Counterspell now shows in the combat log.
-The quest, "Into The Scarlet Monastery" is now available to players of the
appropriate level for the instance.

Great, now I no longer use the false denial method when I get yelled at for not interrupting the boss's major heal spell.

More Scarlet Monastery quests mean more people willing to pay for lowbie runs, meaning more money for mages. Hooray!

That's about it for 2.4.3 commentary. Next time on FitNB, "Dinging Exalted with Style."

Dungeon Soloing as a Frost Mage

With so many bodies, it's hard to find the gnome in the middle of it all...

The other day, I was playing around on my alt, a level 17 Dwarf Holy Priest. I was looking to complete a few deadmines quests, so I joined the LFG channel. Lo and behold, I found a 70 mage offering a free run through the instance (he was running his guildmate through, and had extra slots available). I joined up with a bunch of others, expecting that the run wouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes.

Turns out he was fire-specced, and took 30 minutes to complete it.

At the end of the run, I was grateful for his deed, but at the same time, dissatisfied by the duration of the run itself. This was more attributed to the fact that he was a fire mage (and my slight bias favoring frost), and the undisputable fact that frost mages are strictly better for dungeon soloing. Thus I decided to write this post about the nuances of soloing lowbie dungeons to maximum efficiency.

While not as efficient as farming or playing the AH, there is definitely money to be made in running strangers through low-level dungeons. Surprisingly, a lot of people are willing to spend gold on runs through Stockades and/or Deadmines. Whether it be for easy experience, or obtaining certain boss drops, a frost mage can make good money from such jobs. If you're lucky, you'll find multiple people to run you through the dungeon simultaneously for upwards sum of 10-15 gold for a single run-through. In this post, I will outline the general tips to use when running dungeons for your friends, or for making easy money.

Ice Barrier is Your Best Friend

The most important factor that seperates frosties from their fiery counterparts is the liberal use of Ice Barrier. Ice Barrier shields the mage from the multitude of attacks from a large number of mobs while you run through the dungeon grabbing as much aggro as possible. While fire and arcane mages do not have Ice Barrier, they can still use Mana Shield to absorb damage, but the mana-loss as a result of damage may require the expenditure of potions or mana gems, which limits the amount of mobs that the mage can pull without putting his or her own life in danger. Thus, frost is the safer spec for this situation.

The general rule for using Ice Barrier is to constantly recast it when your cooldown expires. With practice, you can get a feel for how many mobs you can collect on a single pull without having to take a significant amount of damage. Before starting your pull, you want to cast IB first, and then wait a small while so that your cooldown can expire sooner without having to worry about taking damage. Also, there's always Mana Shield available if you're still waiting on that Ice Barrier cooldown to reset.

Molten Armor is Your Other Best Friend

Perhaps the most underappreciated buff that mages received in patch 2.4 is the ability of Molten Armor to inflict damage on enemies after they inflict melee damage to a mage with a damage shield on. Combined with Ice Barrier, this buff serves a purpose similar to the combo of bubble+spikes that pallys use for their solo dungeon runs: it increases the mana efficiency of your pull, since you don't have to use as many AoE spells to kill all the mobs at once. On a stocks run, by the time you reach the last mob that you want to pull, the first mob that you pulled may have already lost about 50% of its total HP, depending on your +Spell Damage. ALWAYS have this buff up, along with Arcane Intellect, which increases the amoung of mana available to do your pulls.

Have a Pulling Path Planned Ahead of Time

Having done these dungeons before as a lowbie, you should be familiar with the placements of all the mobs in the dungeon. With that in mind, try to establish a path that allows you to pull as many mobs as possible with the least distance travelled. The more time you spend running and not casting spells, the more damage you're taking, and the sooner your Ice Barrier will expire. Unlike paladins, mages are squishy, and given enough time without a bubble effect, the mage will surely die.

Deep Frost is the Ideal Spec for Soloing Dungeons

Well, this is not absolutely true. Either way, 0/0/61 (all talents except for Frozen Core and Frost Warding) contains all of the important talents that improve your performance in soloing lowbie dungeons. Ice Barrier is an obvious example. Generally, most important talents for soling dungeons are the ones that reduce cooldown on your important ice spells (Frost Nova, Ice Barrier, Ice Block, Cold Snap), as well as Shatter, which allows your arcane explosion to crit at a higher rate after casting frost nova on all of the mobs that you pulled. Talents that are part of the Blizzard/Cone of Cold grinding specs are also useful for higher level dungeons that allow for killing a room full of mobs in the same pull.

An Example Pull
Before you start off the dungeon, be sure that you have enough food and drink to last you the duration of the run, as well as having the self-buffs mentioned above. Using enchanting oils and alchemy elixirs are not important, as AoE damage is not significantly boosted by them.
First off, put up your Ice Barrier, and wait a small while for your mana to regen and for your cooldown to return, or at least come close to it. Then run your path.

Unlike paladins, bears, and other multi-mob soloers, you have the advantage of using rank 1 Arcane Explosion to pull a number of mobs around you without actually having to run into them directly. Use this only to pull new mobs, not to damage the ones already on you. This method shortens the time you need to pull all the mobs within an area, and lets you maximize the duration of your Ice Barrier.

If there is a sizeable distance between groups of mobs (such as Stockades, when you have to run in between rooms), use Blink to get to the next area faster.

When you reach your limit of mobs pulled, it is optional to use Ice Block to let all the mobs gather around you, but not necessary. If you're in a dungeon that has ranged mobs or casters (eg. Defias Wizards, Scarlet Evokers), you will want to finish your path around a corner, and then ice block allow time for the LOS pull the ranged mobs closer to you. Then, depending on the level/design of the dungeon, cancel your Ice Block, and then do either of the following:

- Frost Nova the mobs in place, and repeatedly use your highest ranked Arcane Explosion until they die, or
- Frost Nova, Blink away, cast blizzard repeatedly until they reach you, then Frost Nova, Blink, and repeat until they die.

The former option is the easiest and simplest method to use in dungeons such as Deadmines, Stockades, Wailing Caverns, and Blackfathom Deeps. Higher Level instances such as Scarlet Monastery might require your more damaging AoE spells such as Blizzard and Cone of Cold.

Soloing Bosses

Pretty much all the bosses up to Scarlet Monastery do not require any detailed strategy. You can simply put up a shield and frostbolt the boss a few times before he dies. In general, bosses that come with adds (Greenskin, Houndmaster in SM) require that the adds should be downed first with Arcane Explosion before the boss himself. To help kill the boss faster, feel free to summon your water elemental for MASSIVE DAMAGE.

In higher level instances, bosses might deal a significantly high amount of damage such that the boss will have to be kited.

Getting your Rewards

Some of the most useful features of soloing dungeons is the fact that you get all the loot to yourself. In a single run, the cash you get in total from all the mobs that you have demolished is considerable, but not on the same level as farming for motes, minerals, or leather. You can get some green world drops from Deadmines and Stockades, and sell them on AH for 2-3g buyouts. Even the Blackened Defias Belt can go relatively high if they ever drop off of Captain Greenskin.
Because of the loot described above, it's quite fair to charge a reasonable amount to run lowbies through dungeons in a way that they can keep all the greens. They'll pay 5-6g for a run, but in the end, may get up to 7-8g worth of drops.

If by chance you happen to be an enchanter, you need to look at your server's economy to determine if disenchanting your loot is more profitable than selling the greens themselves.

You Don't Even Have to Pull the Whole Dungeon!

If you're not in a party, you may elect to go straight to the bosses and kill them for disenchants or vender blues. While each dungeon may vary, you can sidestep through a few groups without having to actively engage in combat with them. This is simply due to the fact that the level difference between you and the mob results in a very low aggro radius, or minimum distance from a mob that a player can stand without drawing aggro. Depending on the dungeon, you can even blink through a group of mobs that is impossible to walk through without drawing aggro (ie, the halls in SM Library and Armory). With proper timing and positioning, you can kill Arcanist Doan within 4 to 5 minutes from stepping into the Library!

In Conclusion...

Soloing dungeons can be rewarding, whether it be by farming your alt's Defias Leather set or Scarlet Mail sets, or disenchanting boss blues for your Fiery Weapon mats, or charging runs to lowbie alts. The rewards may not be as rich as farming motes from outland, but at least you have the pleasure of absolutely destroying those pesky Defias or Scarlet Crusaders, en-masse.

Stay tuned later tonight for pictures to accompany the text above, as I'm posting this from the office.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Screenshot: Let Warlocks have their Demonform...


Biting face was pretty cool, but in the end, 130/350 in Staves didn't really help much.

I'll be happy enough to sit in a little corner in Shadow Labs, spellstealing Shape of the Beast from Cabal Zealots. They really should increase the timer on those stolen buffs. 2 minutes is hardly enough time to appreciate whomping some serious core-hound butt.

I <3 Frost Knights (and anything else icy like that)

If you can identify at least 3 of the individuals above, you are pretty cool. Pun totally intended.

So yeah, I want to start getting into the groove of blogging by essentially reporting about my experiences and thoughts about a frost mage, but I just want to iterate that I do intend on blogging about frost death knights as well. As soon as they're out, I'm taking one in as a secondary main.

I can't stress this enough: I love everything that has to do with ice. Not just Frost Mages, but everything else that I can do in a video game that allows me to immobilize my opponents in giant blocks of frozen water. It extends far beyond video games as well, I suppose. For example:

- My favorite Mortal Kombat character is sub-zero. His signature freeze move is too awesome for words.

- My favorite Batman villain is Mr. Freeze. Not just because of the whole ice thing either. His backstory is simply incredible (ie, his frozen wife, and the struggle to find a cure for her disease through criminal means), and in my opinion, Arnold Schwarzenegger's (sp?) portrayal of him in the movie was probably the only redeeming feature of an abysmal attempt of a Batman adaptation.

- My favorite Naruto Character is Haku. Yes, I'm an anime nerd, and even a 'narutard.' So what, big deal. His ice mirrors bloodline ability is just too awesome for words. Too bad he's dead though.

- My main in Super Smash Bros (Melee and Brawl) is Ice Climbers. Not only the whole ice thing is sweet, but the whole mechanic of pseudo-controlling to characters at once is quite appealing. As a somewhat competitive smash player, I know how to wave-dash/L-cancel/etc., and IC's wavedash is absolutely crazy, and the whole desynch technique is totally fun.

- Iceman is just wacky stupid. Surfing trough air by freezing water vapor? Hell yeah. Reminds me of that Ice boss fight in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. That guy was ridiculous.

So yeah, those are just some examples that show how I have this huge frost fetish. But ironically enough, it wasn't the reason why I ended up maining a frost mage in the first place. When I first got into WoW, which was during spring break of '08, I decided on a whim to try out the free trial that I got from buying the Warcraft 3 battle chest. I rolled a mage, simply because I really love wizards and sorcerors for that matter. I didn't know anything about talent trees or anything, and was pretty much a total newb at the game. I selected Gnome because of the Intellect bonus, which I deducted from common sense as being a pretty important stat for mages. When I first learned frostbolt (and thus discovering the 3-school system), I was pretty much set for life on specializing in Frost. 61 talent points later, and here I am at 70, having a very sexy time doing everything frost.

Ahune was pretty much ass, I won't lie.

But yeah, that brings me to Death Knights and Wrath of the Lich King. Ever since they revealed the 3 trees for Death Knight, I was absolutely psyched that they had a frost tree. And not only that, but also the fact that the Frost tree, for a while, was deemed as the tanking tree. As a DPS class, I love gunning things down with Frostbolt and Ice Lance. But the prospect of being able to tank with a frost-specced class is just butter on my toast. I've had the itch to do some tanking lately, and I also have a level 41 Bear alt named Leyola. She's been servicing the tanking duties well, pretty much levelling up through the thirties purely in Scarlet Monastery. I've gotten the hang of tanking, but obviously there's a HUGE difference between tanking in mid-level instances and endgame content such as Kara or Heroics. Considering that there's a tank shortage in my guild at the moment, I'm really anxious to start levelling up that Frost Knight, as well as blogging about it. Even if in the end, all the theorycrafters conclude that Frost is not the optimal tanking spec, I'll still tank with it, simply because it's what I want to do. Of course, when Wrath hits, that could potentially mean the same thing as trying to tank with fury warrior or an enhancement shaman.

Not that I'm dissing shamans or anything; at least they have Frost Shock.