Monday, December 27, 2010

Heroic Halls of Origination: a DPS DK Perspective

Time for another heroic!
Like I said on the last one, I probably won't get through all of the heroics, but I'll review a few of the ones that seem to give people trouble and make some suggestions on optimizing your DK play in heroics while gearing up. If you have a particular instance you want me to review or suggestions, let me know!

With many guilds starting 'regular' raids soon (my guild has downed 5 bosses so far in 10 man, starts 25 man raids this week), I may start reviewing raid bosses as well once I have a feel for them.
Halls of Origination (HOO) is a long and fairly challenging 5-man in sub-359 gear. I think it's a little easier than Grim Batol, but still more difficult than VP (Vortex Pinnacle). It's an Egyptian-themed instance carrying on the desert motif of Uldum. Nice artwork, fun layout. In general, a fun instance, but again, fairly long.

Instead of a separate article for each boss, I'll just put in a few comments for each boss from a DPS DK perspective. In this instance, you can pick the order of most of the bosses, and one boss is optional. I'll also not review the four gatekeepers since they're better referred to as minibosses and essentially have only one elemental attack. I've died on most/all of them at some point, but for the most part just stay out of bad and kill them. I'll focus here on the 'actual' bosses of HOO.

Temple Guardian Anhuur:
This boss unlocks the instance and lets you find Brann. He's a Tol'vir who stands on a platform in the middle of his room. A review of his abilities made me scratch my head (oh, so that's what he does? hmm). Even on heroic, as a dps you just need to stay out of obvious 'bad stuff' when dpsing him and you'll be fine. No mechanics that will wipe you, really. The key to this fight is that after a while he'll put up a Shield of Light which makes him invulnerable. I've usually done this on heroic by having the whole group jump down to the left switch first. As a plate-wearer, I usually Death & Decay and blood boil to keep the switch person from being hit and then start running for the right side switch. Those snakes' damage can add up, so try to stay in line of sight for your healer. Hungering Cold is win here. Other than that, though, no real tricks to it. I burn my cd's right after we interrupt Anhuur's cast, but each phase is fairly short so there's no way to avoid 'wasting' some of your cooldowns.

Earthrager Ptah:
Ptah is the optional boss that's 'outside' in a courtyard. He's a Bone Wraith (looks a lot like Marrowgar) that summons adds. Things that will kill you: inattentiveness. The Earth Spike hits pretty hard on heroic. It won't one-shot you, but if your health is down a bit, it will kill you. As usual with this sort of thing, the spike has a crumbly, dusty spot on the ground shortly before erupting. If you get hit with it, not only will your nether regious hurt like the dickens, you'll be launched in the air and take fall damage upon return to earth. As usual, stay out of bad. To maximize dps, fight from behind the boss but be ready to adjust to either side for spikes. When the adds come, give the tank a moment to collect them, then spread diseases and full aoe rotation. I like to pop my cds here, but you certainly can burn them at the beginning of the fight as well.
After dancing with the roving packs of troggs and killing the elemental mini-bosses, Anraphet comes out and finishes off the troggs. The Big Meanie (aka Titanic Watcher) does two things which can kill you quickly as dps. First, the Alpha Beams. They target a random player, and channel nasty circle of death. Move fast, naturally. The second occurs during his Omega Stance. This aoe can hurt, but I usually use either AMS or IBF to help. A guildie said that moving or jumping helps reduce damage. I can't find anything written about this and can't prove it (comments, anyone?), but I've found myself jumping like a bean during this phase anyway. :) Generally, pop cd's at pull and use them when they're back up. Nothing special, although he hits hard and the aoe can hurt, so try to kill him quickly, save some defensive abilities for Omega Stance, and then try to have some for the last 30 sec when his Alpha Beams start to cover the floor.
Seats of the Keepers:
The next four bosses can be killed in any order.
Isiset is the construct of magic; like all four keepers she is a Titanic Watcher. As with most heroic bosses, there's a lot of aoe that can drop your health so you'll want to keep an eye out, but no big fight mechanics that can one- or two-shot you. Pop cd's at pull. Since you can do this for all four keepers, my current sequence looks like this:
Hit on use str trinket (JC boar figurine for example) while running in. Before you reach her, outbreak your diseases on her. Unholy Frenzy. Even with no preserved runic power, once you Scourge Strike, Festering Strike, SS, FS, you'll have the rp to summon your gargoyle. Use any Sudden Doom procs in between. Blood Tap. SS and FS and now use any remaining rp to try to get Dark Transformation up quickly. I can usually get my transformed ghoul up before UF wears off. Frost can be similar - although wait to use POF at least until the first melee hit so you don't waste it. Then normal priorities from there.
At any rate, when Isiset does her supernova, you can spin around or just step through her - both work fine. When her little starry adds pop out, I usually just pestilence to them, but if your group wants you to, pestilence, then switch to them and kill them, and then back to boss. Sometimes I also put my pet on the adds and stay on the boss myself. For Frost, your HB should do the trick nicely to aoe the adds. We kill the Astral Familiar first, but I don't think it matters much. Overall, a fairly simple fight for DKs.
Ammunae: the construct of life. Pop cds at pull as above. The big key to this fight besides not getting yourself killed, is killing the seedling pods quickly. Just kill them asap. You can pestilence to them, but they tend to die pretty fast, so you can just OB/SS them quickly down, and return in time to keep diseases up on Ammunae. As the pods proliferate, send a pet to kill stray ones as well. As with Isiset, no insta-kill mechanics, just a lot of attrition for your healer to keep up.
Rajh: the construct of radiance. Rajh does a lot of targetting a player or area and attacking. Just like in martial arts, the key is not being there when the attack arrives. Interrupt Summon Sun Orb. With how many interrupts are needed in heroics, endless winter is a nice talent in here. In any case, try to prevent an orb from being summoned, run away otherwise. Save AMS for Blessing of the Sun, while he's aoeing. Even in blues/greens, this barely tickles with AMS up. Obviously, pop cds at pull, avoid bad, win.
Setesh can be a bit of a challenge. Probably the most difficult boss. He's the construct of chaos and he tries to overwhelm you with void Wurms, Void Seekers, and Void Sentinels. As I'm sure you know, Setesh can't be tanked so the tank's job is to tank the Sentinels. Most tanks I've run with can kill the wurms pretty well and need only a little help on Seekers (we usually assign a ranged to this). Your job is to #1: kill Portals! (Yes, Jaraxxus-style) Portals need to die fast. In between, dps the boss. This is a race against time in current gear, with the soft enrage being some time around the 6th portal (tank/healer will be overwhelmed and die).
Ask your team if they have a heroism/bloodlust; if they do, they'll probably use it at pull. If so, use your str or on-use trinkets and summon gargoyle, but don't use unholy frenzy yet. This is becuase you'll waste a lot of the UF effect due to being overcapped for haste. Save the UF until heroism is down and you have a ghoul ready to DT. Obviously, frost can use POF and all cds with heroism.
So there you go! Oveall, less raid-like mechanics in here than in Grim Batol, but still a visually pleasing instance, and some fun fights.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Heroic Grim Batol: a DPS DK Perspective

Similar to my raid posts looking at the role of the DPS DK in in ICC, I'll do some reviews of the heroics that most people are gearing up in for Cataclysm.
I know, some folks have moved on to raids, but I know the majority of players are still leveling and facing the challenge of heroics in their leveling blues and greens.

So, while it won't be long before epic-geared players are rofl-stomping the heroics for their random daily valor points, until then there are a few things that undergeared players need to know. I don't know if I'll do this for all the 5-mans, but I thought it might be helpful to talk about a few of them at least.

Grim Batol is a challenging 5-man in sub-359 gear. It's definitely doable, but each boss fight has several elements that make it more like a regular raid than past 5-man instances. Make a mistake, and it's easy to go from 100% to 0% very fast! Given the tuning and the raid-like mechanics, I have to say I really like this instance! In difficulty I'd put it about in the middle, somewhere between Stonecore (very DK/melee unfriendly) and Vortex Pinnacle, in which the boss fights seem quite easy (at least to me).

Instead of a separate article for each boss, I'll just put in a few comments for each boss from a DPS DK perspective.

General Umbriss:
  The first boss you'll face in the instance, he can be a tricky one for inexperienced/undergeared groups. Like all of the bosses in here, there are several things that will cause damage to you, but unless they're specifically a 'death mechanic' (they'll kill you instantly if you screw up) I won't say too much about them. Umbriss is a black dragonkin. He does two things that can kill you quickly. The first is Ground Siege which does a lot of damage in a frontal area - just move behind him when he starts casting it and you'll be fine. The second is Blitz - he'll target a group member and start to cast Blitz. As long as you move to one side about 10 yards you won't get hit. The third major element to this fight is when he summons a group of troggs. (Why did it have to be Troggs?) Most of the troggs can essentially be ignored - if they get on you, merely kite them to the tank and let splash damage kill them (feel free to pestilence/death & decay). But one of the troggs will be bigger and have a purple haze around him - a Malignant Trogg. These MUST be killed away from the boss because if they die close to Umbriss they'll frenzy the boss. In addition, they do a nasty aoe blast when they die. Be careful; if your AMS is up, use it. If not, hit them with chains of ice and move away before they die. There's no reason any ranged couldn't take care of the Malignant Troggs, but it seems I've always been asked to kill them.
If you avoid the two main attacks that will kill you, and control the Troggs, this fight will go much easier.

Dragha Shadowburner:
 The fight opens with a fairly quick burn on Dragha. Don't waste cds on this part, as it's pretty quick and of very little danger. The only thing to be aware of is the Invoked Fire Spirits that Dragha summons. There will be a fire patch that spawns the Spirits. The tank should kite the boss away from the patches and you should stay away until the Spirit appears. When it does, if it targets you (by a fiery line attached to you), run away! If not, hit it with a chains of ice, then run to it and kill it quickly. If it reaches it's target, people die.
After Dragha is dps'd down a bit, he calls his dragon, Valiona. When Valiona lands is a good time to pop your cooldowns. He hops on her and you'll need to continue dealing with Invoked Fire Spirits, as well as avoiding bad stuff on the ground, and staying out from in front of Valiona who does a conal flame attack to the front that can wipe you. Once Valiona is down, Dragha returns and is fairly quickly killed.
The main things to remember are quick target switches from killing the boss to the Spirits, and staying out of the fire/pools/cleave.

Forgemaster Throngus:
  Throngus is a giant ettin pathing past several smaller chained ettins. Be careful clearing the trash as he can pat to your group and fighting him and his trash simultaneously is often lethal.
Open with your cds and dps away. For the first 20 sec or so it's just a tank and spank. Then Throngus will emote that he is picking a weapon. Mostly, the tanks and healers will want to be wary of what he's doing, but as a dps you'll just want to be aware of what could kill you.
If he picks a mace, the tank needs to kite him slowly around the ledge. If you pull aggro here, you'll die as his mace hits hard. Also watch the fire patches on the ground. If he picks a shield, there will be aoe damage to the group, but not too scary. If he picks two swords, the damage to the tank will be high, but it won't affect the dps too much. Be on the lookout for falling rocks/ceiling throughout the fight as the damage can add up. In a pinch, you can pop army of the dead towards the end to keep him occupied. I finished a fight from 15% after the tank died by popping army and the shammies popped earth elementals and we survived barely. As a side note, be aware that while AotD doesn't taunt raid bosses, they DO taunt every 5-man boss in Cataclysm I've used it on.


  The final boss of GB is a Faceless One. Start in the middle of the room (doesn't really matter too much where), with normal dps. He does some aoe, but nothing big. When he drops a Shadow Gale focus in the room (looks like a dark whirlpool), the whole group stacks IN it to avoid dying to his Shadow Gale. As soon as the Gale is done, Erudax summons two Faceless Corrupters. They'll come from the hall you entered from. One each will head for the eggs. They need to be slowed and dps'd hard. If they're not dead when they get to the eggs, they'll start casting Umbral Mending. Try to interrupt it and/or finish them off quickly. If you don't, they'll heal the boss to full fairly fast. If your dps on the adds is fast enough, you can pop your cooldowns on the pull, otherwise save them for add phases. You should be able to kill Erudax within 2-3 Shadow Gale/add phases, but it can be done in more phases as long as you kill the Corrupters each time.

I hope that helps, and I hope you enjoy Grim Batol as much as I have!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Random thoughts on levelling a DK in Cataclysm

One word: OOOOhhhhhh YEAHHHH!!!

It was a ton of fun racing to 80 - as I mentioned Monday, once I stopped trying to get there first.

So here are some thoughts I had during levelling and reflecting on the process of getting to 85 and the first things to do when you get there.

1. Frost spec works like a charm. As I mentioned prior to expac release, I was going with a 2H Frost spec for levelling. It worked fine for every situation I found myself in. Generally speaking, mobs died before I'd expended all my runes and runic power, even in Twilight Highlands.
Start off with maxing Frost, then add bladed armor, and from there take your pick of talents. You get burst, mount speed, and don't have to worry about diseases. It still works very well in 5-man levelling dungeons. In fact, howling blast on trash packs is a wonderful thing, and overall the rotation was pleasing and easy to maintain! For questing with normal mobs, all you do is drop off your mount, preferably next to one mob while you death grip another to you. make sure they're both in front of you, howling blast, obliterate, frost strike if full of rp, and obliterate/FS until they're dead. There's a good chance you won't even need to use your blood runes, but if you do you can toss a few blood strikes in there.

2. Stick with an area till it's done. Technically, you can go to Deepholm when you hit 82, but if you're not done with Hyjal/Vashjir, I recommend staying until you have the loremaster achievement. Do the same thing in each zone. Several reasons for this: quests are linear, and quest rewards get better later in chains. Also, you want to get as much 'free' (non-grinding) rep for each faction as you can.

3. Find each of the 5-man instances as early as possible, and run each of them at least once. First, they're fun! Also, as you enter each of them, there are a number of quests just inside. These have nice xp and often item rewards. Finally, you'll get familiar with each of them before you come back on heroic difficulty, and it will help you a great deal to know what to expect. Many people have written that it's not efficient to level by farming 5-mans and they're right. If you really love instances, feel free, but running them over and over is a slow way to level, especially if you're not using rest.

4. Keep every meat drop you get. Eventually you'll use the meat for cooking (or if you refuse to cook, sell/donate it, but do not vendor it). Especially crocolisk tails. This meat is used for the best individual buff food for dps DKs. Side note: the best place I've found to farm this is next to the Tol Barad keep in the swamp. Any other suggestions? There are lisks up and down the banks of the river in Uldum, but they're farther apart.

5. Buy the highest speed mount you can afford. Travelling fast has always been and always will be the biggest boon to levelling. And if it feels expensive, it's really not too bad. From 80-85, if you have nice big bags to allow you to vendor greys, keep boe greens for disenchanting, and so on, you can easily make 5-10k gold! I had 7 thousand more gold at 80 than 85, and that doesn't include enchant mats or my mining. I leveled fast, and sold the first 20-30 stacks of each or I got in part to make even more gold, which I did. Even now, where there are plenty of gatherers out there, you'll make plenty of cash if you level a gathering skill (side note again: I'm dropping mining to level LW this weekend). Random thought #5 could easily turn into its own post about making gold, but suffice it to say that you'll make plenty of money while levelling, so don't be shy spending it!

6. Get ready to raid! You can do this even as you level. By doing the daily level-appropriate 5-man, you'll be getting justice points. If you're maxed out, buy gear and stockpile it for when you're 85.
    6a. Level professions. If you're on Elitist Jerks, you know that JC/LW are the 'ideal' way to go, but most professions have something to offer. Level them as quickly as you can so that by the time you're raiding, you can have one or two nice epics to go with your justice and heroic gear to help you succeed in that first 10-man. JC gives a nice trinket that's worth using, and of course LW allows you to do leg and bracer enchants.
   6b. Grind reputations. If you're questing, finish off each zone. You'll get really nice reputation for questing for each faction. While most factions have something worthwhile, in particular you'll need:
        -Therazane. They're your Hodir as many have said; your shoulder enchant unless you're an inscriptionist. They're easy to max. Unlock their dailies via questing in Deepholm, then do the dailies. DON'T wear their tabard; I was exalted with them three days into the expac following the above. The shoulder enchant is pretty cheap - buy several and put it on every upgrade once you hit 85.
        -Wildhammer. They're your dps head enchant. It will take a little longer, but I recommend doing their dailies (in northern Twilight Highlands) and not wearing their tabard either. Why? Because...
        -Ramkahen is probably your other most important rep. The epic neck you get from them at exalted will last you until heroics in Tier 11. Right now there is only one daily, so as soon as you get enough rep from questing in Uldum, get their tabard and wear it.
    The other reputations aren't as important, as they can offer some decent stuff, but none of it will last that long, so feel free to level them at your leisure.

Once you're 85, do both the normal and heroic daily. If you're having trouble with heroics, do normal 5-mans until you have enough justice points for a few items - it won't take long. Heroics can - as has already been written about many times - be very challenging, with raid-like mechanics, but with familiarity, gear, and practice, they're all very doable.

It may take a little time, but you're goal should be the achievement Cataclysmically Superior (blue superior item in every slot). I got mine just yesterday, and am now officially ready for raiding!

Good luck to all in leveling and preparing for raids!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cataclysmic Week

No, the week was not a catastrophe for Hine.
Ironic, that Azeroth's loss has been our gain.
Regardless, the past week has been one of entering new territory, seeing it, and conquering it (and being conquered, over and over).

No, I didn't blog this week, the first week of Cataclysm, I played the game.
A lot.
I will plan to write a bit about leveling a DK in the near future. Suffice it to say for now that
1) leveling as Frost works like a charm. I'm sure it would generally be just fine as Unholy, less so as Blood but still feasible.
2) While predictions were as low as 9 hours for leveling to 85, without the benefit of being in the beta, a more reasonable estimate for most folks is probably in the ballpark of 20-24 hours. With rest and less bottlenecking it may be shorter.

I did, however, post in various forums about my experiences. So, I decided to paste a few of them here to give you a few reflections on the Cataclysm experience so far.

WARNING: There are some very minor spoilers in here. I'll try to keep them to somewhat of a minimum, or at least cryptic, but if you don't want to know anything about what's ahead, don't read. :)

On the question of How goes the leveling? (late Tuesday):
"I did NOT get any server firsts, as my lack of beta access clearly bit me in the butt from the start. The bottleneck quests in Hyjal quickly became a nightmare as dozens camped specific spawns, and then in Deepholme, when I simply couldn't figure out a few quests. In any case, once I relaxed I had a good time, hit 85 4th for DKs on the server and messed around with professions. Made about 18k from mining so far, hope to finish up about 30-40k more before I start my own JC leveling.
The zones are beautiful, and I thought the questing in Uldum was superb. TwiHi wasn't as bad as many said (in terms of mobs hitting hard) and almost all of my gear was replaced by 85 (only things left are helm and Shadowmourne). Awesome trinkets from quests. I though Hyjal was too bottlenecked for release, and Vashj is pretty but slow and too distracted (side quests all over). As good as it is, Uldum could be renamed 'cut scene zone.'

I've done almost all the 5-mans and they're a blast.

Hope you're all having fun. Good night!"

"Cindermaul was an example of a quest that should never, never, never be repeated.

I was stuck for 45 min on that one despite the fact that I was in a 5-man the whole time.

We got fed up of being ganked by hordies after the first 5 min and enjoyed killing the 'top' guild over and over and over after that.

By the way, on that and several like it, aoe does not tag the mob. After we finally figured it out, I macroed the mob name and howling blasted like a mother and got that one and the next pretty fast."

On the guild leveling issues:
"Fun in't it?

We had our guild xp reset several times, so we've made level 2 at least three times, only to get it put back to 1. ;("
On the difficulty of Cataclysm heroics:
"Pugging can be pretty rough. I don't think I've fully completed a heroic in a full pug. It can certainly be frustrating to spend 2-4 hours wiping over and over on a 5 man boss!

This is where we say be careful what we ask for!
We asked for more difficult content. We asked for cc to count. We asked for non-faceroll challenges, and here we go.
Even the lowest level of multiplayer content is now challenging. In current gear. It will be faceroll easy very soon for raiders.
OTOH, I personally have found them quite refreshing and enjoyable. I've heard and even said a few times that many of the 5-man bosses actually have raid-like mechanics and require players to actually utilize raid-like strategies and awareness. It's been great learning these. I've completed almost all of them on heroic now - as I said, always with at least one guildie with me - and it's been a blast.
If you do have trouble with a specific fight and don't want to read forums or wikis, feel free to post and I'll help when I can."
On the 'New Healing' (in which the OP expressed frustration in general but also that dps that don't self-heal may not get heals from him/her):
"Early early early.

I've already notice regular 5-mans getting easier. I think it will be a pretty fast progression to heroics being easymode too.

Just like dps, where so far I'm barely cracking 10k in 5-mans (and no dps I've been with has). Our crit is horrid, we aren't hit capped, etc. These things will ramp up really really quickly and at least in 5-mans, mana will be less of an issue fast. In raids? It will/should (I hope) take a little more time.
As a dps, I have to take issue with your assessment though. You obviously have to triage, but forcing dps to self heal - except in emergencies - is a waste of our resources. My self heal is a rather weak death strike. Even 'per mana' your heals are far far more efficient. My assessment would be: don't try to keep dps topped off (try to keep them alive) If they pull aggro or don't avoid damage they should be avoiding - then let them die. Of course, if you're oom, then of course you have to self heal and tank heal first, but don't simply refuse to heal dps if they 'aren't' self-healing...."
"I know Xxxx wasn't saying he wouldn't heal dps.

And I'm not advocating healing stupid.

Just tonight, while healing Throne (on my shammy), the same hunter stood in green three times.

I didn't heal him the third time.

Yes, healers are having to smite/shock/whatever to have the best mana management right now. And it's hard.

So dps need to not make it more difficult.

I should leave it at that, but I won't.

Saying dps self-healing is the cutting edge? Not really. You know that I do what I can to mitigate damage. Like knowing when to ams and running out, etc. But a Death Strike, just one, fucks me for the rest of the fight by throwing off rune pairs. It's a really really crappy heal, and it's going to make the whole fight last longer (oooh, and require more healing/mana from the healers) because my dps will drop significantly. That's the opposite of the current game mechanics that require a healer to dps to be effective. If I self heal, I'm drastically decreasing my effectiveness over the fight.

Does that mean you won't see DS on my logs? By no means. I'm well aware of the correct order of things. If the whole group is low and about to die, healer self-heal, then tank, then dps. SO I'll bandage, DS, or whatever I can. Don't worry. And of course I'm well aware of dead dps don't. So I prefer to dps by staying alive, just that self-healing is really truly only an emergency thing to do for dps, while dps is part of the current plan for healers."

On our log of Blackrock raid (we did kill the Tol Barad boss earlier):
"I looked over the logs last night and quickly noted a few things:

1) dps is decent. Could be a little better but already on target.

2) Players in general lasted reasonably long into the encounter, particular in the latter half of our 23 recorded attempts, but at that point healers often tended to be the first to die. Not sure what to think of that.

3) Interrupts of the arcane dude are crucial and we did much better on that. However, every dps that can interrupt, should. I saw zero interrupts from one of our shammies.

4) I personally took a lot of damage (behind the tanks), but I lasted long enough, often to tank a boss for a few seconds and had only one bad death in the last 10 attempts. But I will still look at taking less damage.

5) I think we can still do better with that aoe fire attack from magnotron - trying to keep him still and all players finding the safe 'lanes' to sit in.

side note: I love the trinket (I got the boe epic Fury of Angerforge), but until it's fixed it's probably not better than the blue trink I had before. Even going back to dual-wielding didn't seem to help much. I commented on wowhead about this under 'Hirohubris.'"

All in all, a fantastic week!
More to follow. ;)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Cataclysm Eve!

To all you EU players out there: less than 8 hours till launch!
To all of us US players, tonight is your night, bro! (hurrah for ancient Schwarzenegger/DeVito references)

I know we're all excited, and, I hope, prepared.
I've talked about my preparation several times, so the tl:dr version now is:

I'm frost 2H for leveling; one can pretty much howling blast/obliterate/frost strike spam everything that's non-elite, at least until Uldum/Twi Hi

I have my flasks and food prepared.

I will mine when I can, but my primary goal is leveling, so you will likely not see another post here, nor will I level cooking, rep, or anything else until I'm 85. Once I'm there, I'll have the remainder of the week to work on those things.

Good luck all, have fun, and See you on the Other Side!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another blogger alt post

Apparently, 'every Wow blogger on the planet has an alt post' (see comments) so I wouldn't want to disappoint! :)

With my guild taking a break from raiding the last couple weeks, there hasn't been a lot going on from an organizational standpoint.

So, what does one do?

Of course, I have spent a little time familiarizing myself with my leveling (frost) spec and am fairly comfortable with it, so I feel reasonably ready to run with it in less than a week. :) I have some 23 quests ready to turn in the moment we log in with the new level cap. I have my mats, my gold, my mounts, and my mojo.

So, what to do for the next week(s)?

A number of my guildies are running their mains through the lowbie zones doing loremaster-type quests, which are fairly easy to do at this point.

That sounded pretty boring to me. On the other hand, leveling or running lower-level characters through Azeroth wasn't all that appealing either.

I'll admit, I still wasn't sold on the idea of 'merely' changing old Azeroth and making it 'new.' Adding a few zones, letting us level to 85 instead of 90, along with new raids, still seems/seemed like an expansion-lite.

I was pleasantly surprised then, when I decided to do a little questing on my slowly-leveling level 40ish mage. As apparently everyone already knows, a few things have changed! LOLAS (as in, laugh out loud at self). My little mage had been spending time in the lush Stranglethorn vale merrily frostbolting stray gorillas. I logged in (finally) to discover that most of her quests were gone, and the few that remained were gray. She had a new quest to report to Western Plaguelands. WPL! You know, that place you never really had to go any more, because more accessible zones were more than adequate to allow you to level to 58 and on to Outlands? Hmm, after a little hemming and hawing, Hinetapeka got on Filly, her newly-epic mount, made her way to Chillwind Camp, and it was ON!

Yes, as has been oft-repeated, the questing is quite linear. In WPL alone, each hub has only a few quests, with maybe 3-4 quests and 2-3 follow up quests, then it's off to another hub nearby. There is often a flight path available, or even a 'free' horse or carriage to take you to your next hub. And in many of these places, your actions seem to change things (yay for phasing, something I lauded way back at LK release, and which Blizzard is understandably making more use of). The quests, while linear, facilitate storytelling in a much more cogent manner, and it at least gives the feel of accomplishing something (as opposed to those level 40 skellies simply respawning 60 seconds after you 'cleared the road' by killing 12 of them). At least for me, for now, what it lacks in 'freedom,' it makes up for in clarity, simplicity, and quality.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, my 10 year old son complained that he wanted a flying mount. To which I replied that he'd never leveled a character high enough to do so (except starting DKs on my account). So, I issued him a challenge. If he leveled an Alliance character on my main server past 10, I'd help him with leveling, and if/when he got to 60, I'd buy any and all mounts he wanted. So, he started a hunter and quickly exclaimed how the human starting area was so different. Inspired by Tamarind and Oddly's posts about priests, I finally caved and started my very first priest ever. I quickly leveled to 10 - the Draenei area appeares completely unchanged to me - and travelled to Stormwind. From there on, I had the opportunity to see not only the 'new' Azeroth, but this 'new' Azeroth, through 'new' eyes; my son's. We quested together and did his very first 5-man instances together. It was a blast to have him exclaim every few seconds at how fun it was. He aquitted himself reasonably well, too, finishing higher than at least one other dps in every run we did. Sure, he needed to be informed that one does NOT need on spirit cloth as a hunter, and that he had to target the mob that the tank was hitting, but he picked it up quickly! ;) I had chosen the holy tree for starters and so enjoyed the oom-ness that is lowbie healing. We even had a boss fight that we barely survived when the tank pulled extra mobs, died, then the other two dps died, but my son finished off the boss and the final add with 10% health while I squeaked out the last few bubbles and renews to keep us alive. Wow! That was, indeed, fun! And while I'm sure Cataclysm will put somewhat of a damper on our tandem leveling, he's parading proudly around Stormwind on his proud level 20 steeds. I look forward to seeing him soar in Outlands and Northrend as well. :)

While Azeroth is still Azeroth, the sundering changed things for us. Cosmetically yes, but more fundamentally in how we interact with the world, quest, tell/receive stories, and progress through content. And while I'm still a little concerned about the feeling of not 'getting enough new content,' I'm entirely on board with how it's being delivered to us!

Cataclysm is almost here!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leveling as Frost in Cataclysm: Okay, I'll give it a try

For readers of my blog, you'll have noticed that I've spent little time as Frost.
I leveled and tanked as Blood. I've primarly dps'd in various incarnations of Unholy.
Besides a few dalliances with DW Frost in TOC, I haven't spent much time in Frost spec. I know, there are lots of players out there who love it, but for some reason, it's never floated my boat.

I was convinced recently, however, to give Frost a try for leveling after reading this short comment on Consider's blog:

"Grizzi says:
Because it has greater burst, and you can start out with oaph from level 80, and it runs in unh pres. If u level as unh be it DW or 2H, then u will rarely get DT up, and ur pet will spend time spawning whenever you dismount, and the pet is to big a part of your dps for that to be worth it."

I'll put in a Frost leveling spec tonight and start trying it out. Note, while I will have most of the dps-heavy talents, I will likely take both On A Pale Horse which is so powerful for leveling, as well as Lichborne and the Lichborne glyph (for self healing). Self healing and travel speed are overpowered for leveling, which in this case Frost offers along with the dps talents that a blood spec would lack. Grizzi's points about burst and the pet's drawbacks for levling purposes are well-taken, as well.
I'll give Frost a try and hopefully will rock the DK leveling race!
Now that the Shattering has occurred, I'll see you on the Dark Side!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Putting my money where my mouth is; the Shattering

After my last post, I kept thinking about different gamepads. Logitech's G13 is consistently lauded as superior to the Nostromo/Belkin n52, and claims to support Apple products these days. Since I posted that the lull before the expansion was a good time to try something new, I thought I might follow my own advice and give the G13 a try. It will run you $70-80 US, so it's not cheap, but has a plethora of programmable options to expand your gameplay.

Why the Shattering in the title?
Try it and find out! Regardless if you've been using your traditional keyboard or something else, any time you change the layout of keys/buttons/etc, you'll find it takes some time to adjust.
Just like shooting free throws, a small change in biomechanics can take quite a while to adjust.
It may feel like everything you knew before, those effortless run-jump-spin-strike abilities, all of it is just gone. Just like our old Azeroth will be tomorrow.

My most vivid memory of this, strangely, comes from bowling, an activity I do less than once a year. When I was a child, my family went bowling with my uncle's family. My uncle bowled semi-professionally at the time. I was a kid, of course, and my parents had shown me the basics of bowling but I really didn't know what I was doing. I usually bowled about a 120-140. My uncle took one look at my 'form' and started correcting my walk up, my swing, everything. I tried doing what he told me to, and I was horrible! Of course, his corrections were, in fact, correct, and as I practiced them, I eventually got better.

So, over the weekend I messed around with the G13, trying some different key combinations and just trying to get used to it. It was actually very frustrating, because I didn't know where my abilities were! I felt like such a noob and had to force myself to find the keys on the gamepad rather than resorting to clicking with my mouse, but I did get to the point eventually where I could at least stand behind a dummy and feel comfortable. In fact, the biggest change made me the most comfortable dpsing. That is, I'm trying to use the little thumbstick to move around instead of using keys. If you can move with your thumb, it frees up 4 keys in the middle of the keypad that can then constitute some of your most-used attacks. It feels great Scourge Striking from the 'rest' position, instead of having to constantly move my hands up to the number row to do my attacks.

The keypad is very easy to program. At it's most basic, you can just click on any G-key and then hit a key on your regular keyboard and you're set. I just translated my keybindings from before to the G13 (for example, the G1 key is set to 'H', my Dark Transformation). For how to set up and run the G13 in Wow, Gravity at has a couple of superb threads on the topic, so head over there and search for 'G13' if you're interested!

I'm feeling a bit Shattered, but if I can stick with it, I think in the long run I'll be very happy with the results.

On a side note, I'm excited for tomorrow, and the next few weeks!
Yes, there will be turkey in a few days, but I can't help but anticipate the case of Monsters I'll be imbibing as of December 7 just as much. :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is your gear ready for Cataclysm?

Every once in a while I look at the gear we use to play the game. I've talked a little in the past about headsets and mice, so I thought I'd talk a little more about the rest of the equipment we use.

Obviously, in general you need to have a computer capable of playing the game. Fortunately, the hardware demands aren't too intensive and it's fairly cheap to get a computer that will allow decent game play.

My old (5+ years) computer finally fizzled out about the time of the 4.0 patch, so it was time for a replacement. Desktops are obviously better in terms of price/performance, but I needed something I could take on the road when I travel for work or teaching. So, what kind of laptop is needed? The good news is that even relatively inexpensive laptops can run the game fairly well, but I'd advise investing in at least a moderately good graphics card. As a 'non-techie' person, I focused on pre-built models and was intruiged by Dell/Alienware's M11x, which I'm sure would have done the job. In the end, however, I went with Apple. I was a little nervous about the 13" Macbook Pro's ability to run the game, but I needn't have worried. It runs the game on good to excellent settings more than adequately, even in aoe-heavy 25-man raids.

Of course, peering at a small screen is rough on the 'ol eyes, so with a laptop, it's preferable to purchase a larger screen. Fortunately, even fairly large screens are fairly cheap these days and I went with a 28" monitor for my everyday gaming, as you can see above. Oooh, almost forgot: I was told to get HDMI when connecting the comp to the bigger monitor, but it resulted in a pretty crappy picture overall. DVI gave me a much better picture; your results may vary of course.

In the end, we're lucky that in the interests of accessibility, Blizzard has kept a balance between pretty graphics and pixel-punishing gameplay, allowing the everyday person to afford to play on moderately decent computers.

More important from my perspective is the choice of input devices. I've already discussed mice in the past. There are many options, but in general I'll just reiterate a point or two: you want one with little lag time, which almost always means a wired mouse. Second, more buttons on the mouse means less hunting for keys. Find what works for you. Razer's Naga ends up being too many buttons for me, but I know a lot of players, particularly healers, who love it. I like Logitech's products, but Razer's Mamba is my current favorite for comfort, performance, and button layout/feel.

Finally, the keyboard/keypad. There are a lot of options out there besides the 'vanilla' keyboard that came with your computer. Sure, you can 'asdf' your way through raids, and I'm sure that's exactly what most people do, but I think in the end, your performance can be signficantly improved by changing up the keyboard you use. As an Apple user, there are quite a few devices that won't work, sadly. So, there are a few that look promising, but I haven't had the opportunity to try. Regular gaming keyboards have the traditional qwerty layout with some added functions and snazzy looks. Those are fine, I guess. I've always wanted to try a Zboard. But what can really transform your gameplay is a keypad that makes reaching your important keys a lot easier in the long run. Pads like the Cyber Snipa or the classic Nostromo N52 look fantastic and get consistently positive reviews. I've attempted an older Nostromo and didn't like how hard the keys were to press, but I've heard the newer ones are better ergonomically. What you see on my desk is the Wolfking keyboard that utilizes a circular layout to make keys more accessible to your fingertips. Don't try typing with it though! I use the laptop's keyboard for typing text.

My main point in here is that we do want to have the best, most effective gear we can, and even though sometimes there is a little extra expense, if you can afford it, in the long run I think it's probably worth it.

Why now? Well, I'm posting in part because I just got the new comp, but also because now is an ideal time to try a new gear setup. It generally can take a solid 10-20 hours to get your brain rewired around a new keyboard/keypad setup and you'll want to be ready to go when Cataclysm comes out! Good luck, and happy shopping!

*(note, I'm not reviewing products, nor am I endorsing any in particular. I couldn't give two farts which ones you choose, nor am I being compensated in any way for anything in this article).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Twilight of the Lich King

The eponymous (heroic) Lich King is quite the bugger, even if pugs are defeating his lesser non-heroic doppelganger daily.

Still, there's really not much left to do for the 1000+ guilds that have been raiding Icecrown for many many months now, and that have completed all but the most difficult of encounters available.

What is there to occupy our time?

This week is the last my guild will raid until we're all 'fresh' new level 85 characters, ready for the new challenges the Cataclysm will bring us.

We've been essentially messing around with achievements, battling the ennui and lack of focus rampant in Wow raids these days (nights).

Sure, a while back I posted our server-first Grand Crusader, which was still somewhat of a challenge even if it was a tier old.

Sure, we 'Observed' the Fall of Algalon and accomplished the mount-related Ulduar achievements, even if they were two tiers old.

But one achievement had still eluded the vast majority of guilds out there, hanging out like the lowest yet heretofore unobtained fruit on the Forbidden Tree: the Immortal! Yes, random pugs have been doing Undying on various alts (I have that title from the one and only attempt I made on my at-the-time terribly undergeared resto shammy), but the Immortal has been foiling guilds for almost two full years. The guild I raided with two years ago was able to accomplish all the achievements in Naxx25 prior to the release of Ulduar save one: the Immortal. On our very last week prior to Ulduar, we had made it through every boss without a single death to Sapphiron. And, wouldn't you know it, we were at about 50% when my mouse died, shortly followed by the agonized cries of 25 raiders when Hine expired prematurely.

Thus it was with some trepidation that our undermanned (19 raiders, but almost all mains) Monday night group entered that vile pyramid in the sky.

Fears which turned to groans when we stood before the Silly Taunt Boss (Razuvious), and our ice mage summoned his pet and it was inexplicably set to aggressive. Sure enough, the botched pull resulted in a clothie getting one-shot and having to run out. Thankfully, the instance can be reset if you run out before killing any bosses.

The second time the pull went reasonably well, but the poor priests, long unaccustomed to the silly mind control mechanic of the fight, missed a taunt and a caster pulled agro, once again resulting in a clothie insta-gib.

Groans and frustrated expletives burst out via Vent, with some questioning the commitment of others, and general dissatisfaction was expressed. The GM asked if we just wanted to give up, but Hine and others said, 'there's no reason we can't do it.' Whereupon I discovered Hine had 'entered to many instances recently' to partake. So, I flew around the carrion fields below Naxxramas, pretending to be one of the elite drakes circling the instance, until, thankfully, the Instructor got his own lesson in Threat and all the clothies survived. Since I still couldn't enter; I had to wait while the 'scary' bosses were challenged next, but the IceTomb Boss and the Swirly Circles of Doom On the Floor Boss were vanquished without incident. I wouldn't say the mood was jubilant. I wouldn't say the mood was expectant. But at least my 18 intrepid colleagues might have started to think, 'maybe we can do this, after all.'

We trudged through the Construct Quarter, where the Big Tank n Spank (dps check? um, check.), the Slime Slobberer, the Doggie, and even the Electric Charge Boss expired without much fanfare. The latter boss elicited some concern, but rather than risk crossing charges, most of the ranged simply spread out and stood unmoving, ignoring the charges and leveling their lethal attacks in an iconoclastic manner.

We sludged through the Arachnid Quarter, where very little resistance indeed was offered by its denizens. The Ubiquitous Beetle's shell was simple to crack, the Widow's candles blew out with a puff, and the Not So Itsy-Bitsy Spider's webs proved little challenge.

Next we finished off the Military Quarter, where Gothik's spawning adds laughably died in pitiful piles of corpse dust, and we rode herd on the Horsies Of Something Supposedly Scary, being careful to not clump up on the One that Chains Lightening in Bad Ways.

With growing confidence, we hastened to the Plague Quarter, killing Goat Head Guy before he ported, Dancer before we crossed the floor more than once, and yes, the Healer Interrupter before he prevented much healing at all.

We battled the killer foes of boredom, lack of focus, and low motivation, and came up.... interested, focused, and motivated enough, if only just.

Not only that, but we defeated the Ledge Boss, the Frogger Boss, and Most importantly of all, the RNG Boss - that final boss that had always managed to fell mice, disconnect tanks or otherwise torpedo the success of so many raids in the past.

We Did It!!!
Of course, just like this tale, the achievement was more than a little anticlimactic, and rather than the typical jubilation at overcoming a difficult challenge as a guild, by far the most prominent emotion was relief.

But, we got 'er done, in these Twilight days and nights of the Lich King. We got 'er done. And I'll wear my Immortal title with pride, no matter when it was obtained.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Death Knight UI/addon 4.0 update

Over a year ago I wrote about the addons any good raiding dps DK needs. Wow, can't believe it was so long ago!

I've actually turned over more than half of my addons, so I thought I'd write a little about them now, realizing that at least some of these are likely to change as their authors may or may not update them for Cataclysm and we're likely to see some new shiny addons come out at that time as well.

I'll copy my format from that previous post and comment on any changes/updates here.

1. Raid Warnings/Events: Still absolutely essential for raiding, despite what some misguided snottydins might tell you. DBM (Deadly Boss Mods) is still the industry standard, but I've converted to BigWigs, as it is less memory-intensive. Both work very well for helping identify important events during a boss fight, and allow some customization of how you want to be alerted (BIG letters on screen? A sound? Both? you got it).

2. Proc Alerts: Blizzard's version is a very nice start, and quite a few bloggers have commented on how visually pleasing their HUD notifications are. As unholy so far, the Dark Transformation and Sudden Doom procs are very easy to identify by their visual alerts. So far, I'm not aware of the in-game system having a Runic Empowerment alert, which would be nice to know so that I could hold off on Death Coils for three seconds (unless runic power is capped and no runes are available). I haven't used Mik's Scrolling Battle Text for a long time: I used Power Auras for a while, but haven't loaded any proc alerts for 4.0 yet. If you prefer auditory alerts, one of these addons still might be best for you. I haven't tested Frost to see if their in-game proc alerts work as well - but I've seen screenies of Rime procs etc that look pretty good, so  you might be able to rely on the default system for now, although a Runic Empowerment alert is even more important for Frost than Unholy.

3. Rune/Disease Watch: I'm still a 'thowback,' although I'm not using Rune Hero any more. It remains as important as ever for you to know which runes are ready to be used, which ones are almost off cooldown, and how much runic power you have. Even more importantly, you need to know how much time is left on diseases so you can ensure they don't fall off. The default Blizzard interface fails hugely here and it's very difficult to use their rune display effectively.

I like DKI Runes, and even though my health bar (when I'm being targetted) superimposes on it, it doesn't cause problems with the rune display and I prefer to have it front and center as you can see from the big screenie below.
You have many options - try a few out and see what you like best. DDR is the very popular choice on Elitist Jerks right now (Docs Debug Runes) but I'm not fond of it at all. DKI Runes has (as you can see) a sword-looking addon that is more compact and well-designed than my old fave Rune Hero, and has a nice disease watcher as well. I was a BIG fan of Acherus Runes, but it hasn't been updated and doesn't work for 4.0. One advantage of DDR over DKI is it has a nice obvious display of Shadow Infusion stacks (it may be possible to do for DKI as well, I just haven't discovered it yet).

4. Communication: Ventrilo is still the gold standard. It's the one 'addon' not available at (But download is free at several sites). The in-game voice comm is horrible and I don't know of any raiding guilds that use it.

5. Threat Meter: Threat meters are again relevant for 4.0 and I've noticed it's easier to pull a mob/boss than it was before. We don't have any passive threat reduction, and misdirect abilities have been nerfed. Good tanks still hold threat, but as a raider, you're responsible to watch your threat. Omen is by far the most popular threat meter, and the one I still use.

6. Damage Meter: I realize quite a few players/bloggers out there like to demonize meter-watchers, and rightly so in some cases. If you attempt to simply max dps without paying attention to fight mechanics or what your role might be, you're a bad player. But, when your primary role is to dps, why wouldn't you want feedback on how you're doing? As I've mentioned before, the meter gives you instant feedback that you're doing something right - or wrong. I can't tell you how many times I've noted a drop in my dps - and thanks to the meter - realize that after that last wipe I forgot to summon my ghoul, or after changing specs to pick a presence, and so on. Damage meters for bad players? NO. Bad players are bad players. Good players use damage meters. By the way, I've dropped the resource hog Recount and now use Skada. I still prefer the useability of Recount and may go back to it, but for now Skada is what I use.

7. Attack Power gauge: I was VERY pleased with Bleeding Hearts and had a separate post on it previously, but it seems to cause huge lag problems and sometimes seems the culprit in disconnects. It hasn't been updated in a long time and sadly I've had to delete it. Tiny Melee Stats still works but it's not my favorite. I'm still looking for a good option here. In any case, it's very helpful to see how much attack power you have to help with determining when to summon pets. Now that they also get our haste, it would be nice to have a haste indicator as well. I'd love to see a thermometer type gauge like Bleeding Hearts for both stats somewhere on my screen.

8. Others: For the most part, any other addons are for personal preference and won't contribute to your performance as a dps DK.

-MetaHud, one of my long-time favorites, is currently not working in 4.0. *sadface* The HUD you see in my screenie is IceHud, which is fairly similar and not too bad.

-Grid. You don't need this as a dps DK, but I do like to see who's alive during a fight, or be able to quickly find someone to target their target etc. It's essential for healers/raid leaders, not so much for dps DKs.

-OneBag. This addon broke for me, although I think it works for others. I'm now using Bagnon, which also has a feature that lets you see your bank and/or alt's bags/banks.

-Postal. Makes mailing and opening batches of mail much easier, as well as keeping lists of who you've mailed.

-Carbonite. Somewhat dated these days, so I'm not using it any more. Questhelper addons can still be useful, but the in-game map and tracker work quite well for me now.

-Gearscore. I actually used GS lite for a while, now I don't have either turned on.

-SpartanUI. As I posted more recently, the UI mod I use. It also requires Bartender but the download comes preset for SpartanUI. nUI is also very popular and even has a DK skin, but I've tried it and didn't like it. It's not bad - and is very similar in many ways, it's more a matter of preference. These addons preferably clean up space on your UI and are visually pleasing as well. You can make a case for these helping your raid performance by allowing you to be more aware of your surroundings and being able to find your target easier. I used the default UI for many years and it works just fine if that's your preference.

-Bloodhound. A very lightweight addon for helping gathering (which a dps DK IS NOT, but at the moment I'm mining until 85). There's better ones out there, I just don't need them.

-AutoProfitX. There's a dozen small addons that will dump grey items either automatically or put a button in the vendor tab. Nice to not have to click each one to sell individually.

-AuctionLite. I'm not enough of an Auction House mini-game player to get into Auctioneer. AL does what I need. I dont load it for my DK though - just my bank alts.

-Parsing sites: over the past year I've made multiple mentions and uses of these sites. Back on my original post, I was using WMO Online, which is still in operation, although I prefer World of Logs these days.

-Achievement Screenshotter: I had forgotten to add this one back in and was bummed when I looked for screenies from a couple of achievements my guild got over the past few days. It's back now, and screens from all sorts of random achievements will be dumped in my folders over the next few months.
And there you go - an update on addons that are useful for raiding dps DKs in late Lich King 4.0! (and a few that don't matter, but make life in Wow easier/better). Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unholy 4.0 first raid impressions

Well, I've had a chance to do more than just hit a dummy on PTR finally and while I'm a few weeks late, I'll start by posting on how things are going in my first raids as unholy. While I also realize that things are still going to be changing as we move towards Cataclysm and 85, it's still worth looking at how the mechanics changes are affecting us in raids now.

First of all, yes, people are seeing rather dramatic increases in dps overall. Unholy is doing well, and while the theorycraft says frost should be on par with unholy, due to bugs and some factors that affect actual raid conditions, unholy remains potentially the top dps spec.

AND, that means bupkis. DPS at 80 is unimportant. Sure, it's still fun for the next month, but it's completely meaningless. Blizzard will continue turning knobs and you should expect your dps to go up and down accordingly. What matters is what we'll be doing at 85, so I'll write less about maximizing dps (I know, quite a shock coming from Hine) and more about playstyle for now. While I AM properly gemmed/enchanted/reforged, I'm not even trying to do max dps per se for now (for example as I mentioned earlier, I've already dropped blacksmithing and have leveled mining which is a significant dps loss).

So, in no particular order, a few musings on unholy in raids at the moment.

1. Unholy aoe is still very strong. While they messed around with aoe a lot, and nerfed a lot of coefficients, unholy has several very powerful tools in it's arsenal. Death & Decay remains an extremely powerful tool, especially for large groups. Diseases are at a reasonable level right now, and while they will be tweaked from time to time, Blizzard continues to say that pets and diseases are central to the spec. So naturally, we'll be pestilencing diseases to extra mobs for the forseeable future. Blood boil also is very effective aoe with larger groups, particularly when combined with the pestilence and blood boil glyphs. Even with smaller groups (2-3 larger mobs) unholy can be effective with a Dark Transformed ghoul cleaving like a mini Fury warrior.

2. Unholy pets are insanely good. I have a feeling they're 'too good,' which eventually will result in nerfs. I hope for unholy's sake that Blizz can find a happy medium. The ghoul alone will account for well over 20% of your damage as unholy, while gargoyle and army chip in extra dps as well. I'm very very fond of how the ghoul synergizes with the unholy spec now. Not only is the Dark Transformation (DT) such a cool new toy, it's visually impressive and is very powerful combined with heroism or unholy frenzy.

Of course, the strength of pets is also a significant concern for any fights like Blood Queen Lanathel, where our pets don't get the same buffs we do, making unholy very weak for those fights. I really hope Blizz pulls their head out on this one and lets pets get the appropriate buffs for all their cool new fights.

Pet management will separate the women from the girls in Cataclysm (sure, rune/rp management will too, but pets will really differentiate the goods from the greats). You want to use your DT as often as possible, but there will be times when it will be a good idea to wait for a cleave opportunity for line it up with buffs. I had macroed it to several attacks, but am putting it on it's own keybinding for now so I can have more control over it. I've seen discussion of maximizing uptime by pooling runic power when the cooldown is up for DT, but that too has to be done with caution, because hitting Death Coil repeatedly is a dps loss due to losing Runic Empowerment uptime. Also we'll need to figure out when it's better to get gargoyle up as quickly as possible on boss fights vs getting DT going as quickly as possible (it's very difficult to try to do both). Interesting times.

3. New talent trees. To be honest, I'm not a big fan. Yes, I've read ad nauseum from Blues about how we 'didn't really have a choice' before because we always found the ideal cookie cutter spec anyway, but halving our talents still just feels like a ripoff to me, especially while leveling where each 'ding' meant new shinies to play with. Additionally, we don't have the opportunity to go as deeply into trees other than our designated specialty, which I think could potentially have added lots of good flavor to our specs. Ah well. I do like some of the new talents, just not particularly the way Blizz is giving them to us.
While I'm on talents, I've said that I LOVE Dark Transformation. I DO I DO indeed. :) It's almost as good as my favorite trinket (Deathbringer's Will for those of you who may have missed it). Additionally, I like how the talents interact with each other and allow greater synergy with pets. They certainly make Scourge Strike a beast, especially when coupled with the prime glyphs. However, I still have one major major disappointment; Unholy Blight. Like so many, I miss the old UB and wish they could do something cool/fun with it like it used to be. Shoot, I'd be happy with almost anything, just not the terribly weak, boring, passive and generally almost useless tiny dot it has been for the past year.

4. Single target dps: AKA, the epeen-measuring yardstick by which our 'goodness' or 'badness' is demonstrated for all to see: I think we'll be ok. I've already said the numbers don't matter right now. So, while unholy DKs are posting Saurfang parses well over 20k, I don't really care about that right now. What I do see is that unholy has a manageable way of approching such fights. It will be even better when we have outbreak, but even so, it's really not too bad. We start off with Icy Touch and Plague Strike for diseases, then alternate between SS, FS, and DC. While it's fairly simple - and not that different from before - for some reason I prefer it. It used to be that we'd dump runic power at the 'end' of a rotation, but now you want to space out death coils whenever possible. I'm still getting used to it, but you'll see how wonderful it can be to keep those rune refreshes going at a hugely accelerated rate. I do very much like that they changed the rune requirements for SS to be a single unholy rune, and FS to be blood/frost. It very much simplifies them so that we can line them up well. The nuances will come in time (fun stuff like how to use blood tap and all that jazz), but for now the basics are in place and working well.

This obviously is not a 'how to' for unholy dps - elitist jerks already has well-written guides on that - but an over all 'feel' for where unholy is. And overall I'm fairly pleased.

Now, if only I could name my ghoul!

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's ... Just ... About ... Time!!!

I finally got a computer that works (I hope I hope), all Wow patches applied, and figured out what what plaguing the first 'dead' laptop I bought - problems with plugins and my Wolfking keyboard. More on that later.

Hine's level 80 gear/spec/gems/reforging are all in, and she's ready to roll! I have spent far too little time becoming accustomed to the changes, so tomorrow's raid should be .... interesting. :)

In any case, I'll give her a shot this week, focusing on getting Hinenuitepo up to speed. Hopefully I can start commenting on what it's looking like as we head into the final month of waiting for Cataclysm, and talk more about what to expect in the next expansion.

In addition, I'll try frost out if/when I have a chance (my second spec is blood tanking at the moment), and put in level 80 talents etc for Hinemanu (hunter) Hinetitama (shammy) and go from there.

Sorry for the long silences, hope you all are doing well, and getting excited for the Cataclysm!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

4.01 Please Hold While We Redirect Your Call

1) I spent about 20 minutes on hold with an opthamologist's office yesterday, trying to set up a consult (look up 'lack of pupillary response' and imagine it's you if you want to alarm yourself, yay for interwebs). Finally they come online and tell me they need to get me in right away. Concerning, but hopefully I can get a little assistance with why my vision has been getting worse.

2) I'm in week 2 of teaching some grad courses up in Seattle again. 60+ hours on top of regular work schedule... ouch. Rewarding, but very draining. Will have grading to do next week, but hopefully more time for good stuff like family, rest, and... WoW of course. :)

3) Trying to apply the patch was a joy yesterday. The download was horribly slow and when it says it's done, I get errors. So, no working patch for me yet. I'll keep trying.

4) What I have been able to see so far in theorycrafting sites and brief visits to the PTR is very encouraging. After months of silence, the past month has seen DKs get their game on. Frost still needs some work, but blood tanks are starting to look pretty solid, with some of the standard tank tools yet still maintaining their 'flavor' - the rune strike change looks like just what the Dr ordered. I'm curious as to what the Death Grip glyph might do for them... will it be spammable?

5) My long time love, Unholy, is looking better than ever. The synergy between the ghoul and DK are better, and not just an autoattack bot as it has been. I really love Dark Transformation! I'm a little concerned that it makes up so much of our damage, since it's vulnerable to the dangers of OP pets like BM has been at times for hunters, and at others it doesn't scale well, like the current Blood Queen Lanathiel fight. Still, the rune use, ability to 'roll' diseases (in a different way), pet use, not having to worry about the proccy aspects of Runic Empowerment... all of it looks really good to me! I'll still give Frost looks - in part to see how it works, in part to test it for readers of this blog, but as it stands now, Unholy looks like the bee's knees to me.

Sorry for putting everyone on hold yet again, but we're getting.... so.... very..... close!!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not Done Yet

With the abundance of nostalgia posts floating around, you might think I’d jump in as well.
But no, not Hine!

I haven’t posted much because:
1) I’ve been very busy with RL stuff. In addition to the day job, I’ve been working at least as many hours on a ‘side’ job, leaving very little time for much else. I haven’t even raided much recently.
2) As a raiding-focused DK, there just hasn’t been much new to write about for the remainder of the Lich King expansion.

But I’m Not Done Yet!
I may not write a whole lot until just before or even just after Cataclysm release, but I certainly plan to return to my ‘typical’ blogging ways when we have more to write about. I never got a beta invite, so I don’t have much pre-Cataclysm stuff to discuss, and even though I’m on PTR now, I’m still waiting for the dust to settle on the class before posting much.

So, what’s happening in the Hine camp now?

-Zombie Raiding. My guild, like most, is mostly going through the motions. When I’m able to make raids, we quickly bolt through Icecrown Heroic, kill Lich King on normal, do the weekly raid, VOA, and maybe a side raid or two. 2-3 nights later, there isn’t much going on. The raids are a jumble of joking, lack of focus, and general malaise. Many of my guildies are sleepwalking through the raids, and who can blame them. It’s time for something new and different, and the motivation to push Hard Mode Halion or LK just isn’t there. So, we’ll do what we can, raid, maybe do a little 10-man raids, and wait for Cata.

-Preparing Hine for the Change. No, not that change – she’s undead for goodness sake! I don’t think offspring were ever in her future anyway, but no, no worries about hot flashes for her!
I’m hoping to take a week off the week of release to try to level as quickly as possible. A server first Death Knight/Draeni would be lovely, but just the fun of immersing myself in the new content for a week will be worth it (as it was for LK release; I was the Alliance first DK, but one Hordie beat me to 80. Still, it was an amazing experience).
I’ll have a nice surplus of buff foods/flasks etc to max my leveling experience, and yes, I plan to level fully buffed as much as possible.
I’ve already dropped Blacksmithing (keeping JC) and leveled mining to 450. I’ll mine as I level and as much as possible the first couple weeks of the expansion. First priority will be to obtain enough materials to powerlevel my JC and BS professions to the new max level as quickly as possible, and secondly to make some extra gold for the expansion. I already have the materials set aside to level BS back to 450, so I’ll just need the new Cataclysm mats.
I’ll spend enough time on the PTR to be familiar with the new rotations and talents so that it won’t slow me down as I level in the ‘new’ ‘old’ Azeroth. Since I already have a 310% mount, all I’ll need to purchase will be the relatively inexpensive flying skill for Azeroth and I’ll be off! I’m already almost as ready as I can be, but I’ll do everything I can to be prepared.

Other than that, in my remaining time available, I’m just playing around. I’m very slowly leveling a mage, Hinetapeka, and my warlock (75) gets an occasional turn through a daily dungeon before going back in the garage.

I can’t wait for Cataclysm!

Friday, September 3, 2010

I Went to Icecrown and all I got was this Lousy Screenshot

Icecrown is where it's at. Not Dragonblight, which has these little diversionary 'raids,' requiring us to run around a big room and learn one real boss fight. Certainly not that glowing spiraly purpley tower on the edge of the Borean Tundra.

Icecrown is where the Frozen Throne is. The Big Bad Lich King. Frostmourne. Nemesis of all, but particularly so for Death Knights who have experienced the half-life of being in his thrall. So, in the waning days of the second World of Warcraft expansion, it's still where raiders find themselves come time to join with their band of 25 or so plucky adventurers, finding what challenges they may, and overcoming them!

In my case, we've been doing the Glory of the Icecrown Raider achievements, and while a few of them were tricky (the tank swaps of Sindragosa's Buffet in particular), last night we found ourselves with only the Neck Deep in Vile achievement separating us from our mounts of skeletal swiftness. On two previous nights, we'd successfully gotten LK down to 1% before his explosion when a Vile Spirit hit someone. Unfortunately it was too late to keep from killing LK and we failed the achievement. Both times it was too late to wipe and the Lich King died without giving us our due. We were determined not to fail this time, and carefully modifying our kite path to ensure no wayward defiles were dropped in the middle, we managed to defeat him without encountering any Vile Spirits, although we still had to check our logs after the explosion to make sure.

Riding the exhilaration of the moment - and our shiny new mounts - we decided to see if we could accomplish an achievement sweepstakes for the week. We'd only just the previous week killed Anub'Arak in TOGC as a guild for the first time. I know, I know - that is SOOO 2009, but Insomnia had been working on the fight late last year, only to drop it when ICC opened. Now, in better gear the fight is certainly easier, but with better gear also comes more health, which means more healing for Anub in P3. We actually wiped quite a few times in getting that first kill.

We'd already cleared the first 4 bosses in TOGC without the careless mistakes that results in wipes on old content. 50 attempts remaining on Anub. Soulstones were placed on our misdirecting hunters who are so fond of attracting shadowstrikes. And we did what we so rarely have done; focused on our first pull, defeating the Beetle on our first try!

A few people had mentioned that they thought this hadn't been done by the other guilds on the server, and confirmation arrived in the announcement realm-wide of a realm first achievement! :) Many reading this will scoff, for it is an old achievement, but still one that is undone on the majority of realms. Trade was an interesting place to be afterward, with the mix of "you stupid nooobs, you suck. This server sux. Ally sucks!" along with congratulations from other raiders on the server.

In any case, my screenshot addon was apparently on the fritz, so all I have for you is this haphazard snapshot of the last few achievements, with my drake peeking from behind the window. Sorry.

I went to Icecrown, and all I got was this Lousy Screenshot.

Still, it was a fun night that reminded us of why we do this thing called Wow.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Halion: a DPS DK Perspective

It's been a while since I had one of these posts, and yes, I know, most of you have killed Halion quite a few times by now. This is the type of fight that the mechanics are fairly straightforward, but there are a few tricks I can mention that might be helpful for maximizing dps nonetheless.

This is likely to be my final Boss review for DPS DKs prior to Cataclysm. I don't plan to discuss the three mini-bosses preceeding Halion, as they were puggable on day 1, and although you can still get ranked on World of Logs (I've been ranked on General Z a number of times), these fights aren't true boss fights.

Halion is is a fairly simple portal-type fight, in which your dps team is split in half for much of the fight. For most groups dps is not the primary concern - especially on normal difficulty - so your priorities on this fight actually are: 1) Don't die, 2) Balance dps in both realms, and 3) Do as much dps as you can given 1) and 2).

So, here we go!

Pull/Phase One: Tank runs in from just outside the circle, often perpendicular to the raid for optimal boss positioning.
As usual, it's helpful if your tank gives a decent count before the pull so you can summon your army. As most of you know I like to summon just in time to pop haste potion just before entering combat. Then, of course, run in and start hitting the boss.
It doesn't matter whether you're unholy or frost for this fight. For the most part there are no range issues to consider, and for heroic both specs do well on adds.
So, for phase one, you should simply dps your merry heart out. Depending on when your raid does heroism/bloodlust, you might want to save your pet cooldown. My raid heroes at start of P2, so some prefer to save their gargoyle/ghoul cd. Even with heroism in P2, however, I use my gargoyle at pull, because the cd is usually up again in P3 if I use it early. Two gargoyles without heroism > 1 gargoyle with heroism. I usually pop my second haste potion during P2 heroism.
During Phase 1 you'll be standing to one side of Halion hitting him with everything you can, and the only thing to watch out for is the Mark of Combustion; obviously, if you get it run to the edge of the circle until you are cleansed, then run back in. The flame trails after Meteor strike are actually very small and you can stand almost on top of them without taking damage. If you happen to have a few empty cooldowns, pop anti magic shield, stand on a flame, and death coil or frost strike away. Just make sure to stay in melee range when doing so.

Phase Two: Take the portal and start dpsing Halion in the shadow realm, but be sure to let the tank get agro first. We pop heroism here because we want to get through the phase as quickly as possible. The main ability to watch out for is the Twilight Cutter. On normal, you can survive getting hit with it, particularly with AMS up. On heroic, you'll usually die. Obviously, keep an eye on the orbs so you know where it will come from. There are two ways to do this effectively. One is to have the tank constantly turning the boss with the orbs, and the other is to have the tank stay still between Cutters, and only move when a cutter is about to start. On heroic, to be safe we just move the boss constantly. In any case, what I like to do is move as far to Halion's front left shoulder as possible without getting cleaved, stop, and dps. We can dps on the run fairly well, but, still we are at our best standing still. I stay in that spot doing dps until Halion has turned far enough that I'm on his back left hindquarter, just before I'm in tail swipe range. Then, I strafe to his front left and start over.

Strafe - DPS - Strafe - DPS.

During cutters, I try to stay pretty much in the middle of the cutters just to be safe (on normal there is more room to continue the strafe-dps-strafe-dps strategy if you want).
Drop Soul Consumption as far to the front left as you can, so you minimize running out time while still doing some dps.

Phase Three: Actually, DKs should almost always stay in the shadow realm, since melee are much less affected by the movement than ranged. If your raid is very melee heavy, you may be asked to move back to the physical realm. But for the most part, you'll be in shadow, where you'll continue the same mechanics as P2. The only wrinkle of course is you may need to slow dps is the physical realm falls behind. No additional tricks for more dps here, I'm afraid. If you popped your gargy early, however, you should have another chance to use it in P3.

DPS for DKs should be solid on this fight. There aren't any major dps buffs, but for the most part you should be able to stay in melee range and keep hitting the boss.

Friday, August 27, 2010

New Post

There has been an almighty ruckus in various forums about the lack of work on DKs in Cataclysm, just in case you haven't noticed!

I can sum the whole thing up thusly: as early Cataclysm changes were being announced, Blue posts indicated Death Knights were getting their rune system reworked, primarily to address our gcd-locked situation. Various DKs in beta have demonstrated - in theorycrafting and in live beta servers - that we're more gcd-locked than ever. In addition, the class mechanics are simply borked. As new builds have rolled out, Death Knights have seen perhaps the fewest changes and the least blue posts in official forums of any class. And Death Knights have gotten very very little in the way of new or fun stuff, compared to most other classes.

Let the QQ begin!!! In fact, one of the very few Ghostcrawler posts addressing Death Knights has been merely to chastise us for QQing, and to tell us to settle down. Thanks for that.

My position throughout has always been; wait and see. Blizzard has always done a good job in the end with class development, and it's inevitable that some classes have to wait while others get worked on first. Is it annoying that we haven't heard much from the devs on our class? Absolutely. Is is poor PR from a company that should know better, to not at least tell us that we'll get fixed? Definitely. It leaves openings for people to insert all kinds of 'the sky is falling' proclamations as is public forums grand tradition to do. And certainly, if Blizzard does indeed think DKs are 'fine' as they are, then I like many others have a variaty of alts waiting in the wings ready to go. I could always level one of those first while waiting for Blizz to realize they need to fix us. I'm still not that worried, though. I have a very hard time believing Blizz thinks DKs are fine, with all the evidence to the contrary.

So, we'll have our day in the sun.

Our pasty white undead flesh could use a little, eventually.

On a side note, my guild's recent achievement-hunting has resulted in very little work on the last remaining hard modes (LK & Halion), but we'll get there eventually. We had a <1% fail on neck deep in vile achievement, the last achieve we need for our 25 man drakes, so I'm sure we'll do that again next week and hopefully soon get back to heroic modes. Halion in particular isn't a terribly tough heroic fight, and Halion has several of the last remaining bis items I need, outside of tokens.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Milestones n fun n stuff

A few of my guildies have been bored recently, so they've been knocking out fishing achievements. One of them unsuccessfully tried about 3000 casts to get the Dark Herring (mine took about 200 casts), but he did get the turtle and also got the Ironforge fish in about 30 casts. I have yet to get the Ogrimmar fish after 3000+ casts, and I've sorta given up. I also lack the fishing derby achievement for the meta, but I'm never online for the contests, so not sure if I'll ever get that one.

In any case, a few other 'milestones' for my Warcraft toons have kept things fun.

I had a 20k fight on my DK, which admittedly isn't that hard on Blood Queen Lanathiel 10 man heroic. It's just that I've never been the first bite in 10 or 25 man before. At the time, recount suggested what would have been a top 50 parse on WOL, but we didn't have anyone parsing combat logs. Still, it was fun so I thought I'd satisfy the 'screenshot or it didn't happen' crowd. ;)

Despite my limited Wow schedule, I've spent a little time here and there leveling two of my alts, my hunter and my warlock. One of my goals is to have them 'Cataclysm ready' by release date, so I've occasionally logged onto them to nudge them in that direction. It seems the best way in general to level quickly is to quest, but if you have limited time, just doing the random 5-man dungeon is very effective, since the mobs give double xp and they usually go very quickly to the 33k dungeon completion xp bonus, along with the emblem. At any rate, I've been working a little extra on my hunter this week to get her to 80, and she's got 1 1/2 bubbles to go! The 'class I'd never play' has made the long journey to 80! Tea party at 7. Next up, gnome warlock does Northrend (he's 75 at the moment). That will make my DKs, shaman, rogue, hunter, and warlock sitting at 80 for now....

Last but certainly not least, my unscheduled raid has managed to run for 1-2 hours each of the past two weeks, accomplishing an achievement or two towards the meta-achievement.... Drakes here I come! Hopefully before Cataclysm anyway. ;) I have a few achievements left, but when I have the drakes, I'll try to remember the screenshot of that too :) Some guildies finally got Bane of the Fallen King this week, but unfortunately I don't spend enough time on 10-mans to try for that, so we'll see what happens in 25-man attempts. It was fun doing some hardmodes in Ulduar with my guild last night, but naturally somewhat anticlimactic. Still, in my first visit to observe Algalon, he did offer us a friendly chat before we punched his phase ticket to nowhere.

Hope you're still enjoying your Wow time, or if not, your hiatus until Cataclysm arrives!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The 'Little Things'

Given that this expansion is winding down, I suppose the paucity of posts on my favorite topic, DK dps, is no surprise.
The mechanics, strengths, and weaknesses of the class are well known.
DKs aren't going to see any changes prior to Cataclysm.

So, I'll probably write here and there about my DK, but otherwise, my blog will remain.... just a blog. :)
Well, unless I get into beta and then I'll have something to write about again.

In any case, I still have folks dropping in on my server to ask about their DK and how to improve their play, so I thought I'd write a short reply here.

As usual, I'll point to Elitist Jerks (see my links) for a plethora of information on Death Knights. Whether you're a frost or unholy DK, EJ is a one stop shop on how to play. Of course, there's Tankspot which has some decent forums and threads as well. In any case, I don't try to reinvent the wheel when they do it so much better than I ever could.

The interesting thing is, the last several people stopping by Baelgun to say hello looking for help have pretty much known all their basics. They know gearing choices, rotations (priorities!), and so on. And yet, they're looking to improve even more.

Good for you guys!

What to say, though?

I don't really have a lot to add for the experienced DK, but I'll make just a couple of comments.
1) Do the 'Little Things' that maximize dps.
Example: on a fight like Saurfang, summon your army ~8 seconds before the start of the fight. This allows your runes to refresh just as the fight starts. Haste pot 1-2 seconds before the fight starts. Then you can haste potion again when your gargoyle is off cooldown. Don't be lazy. Don't worry about cost. Do every little thing possible to get every last little bit of dps out of your toon. It all adds up.

Sometimes, you have to sacrifice dps to ensure you successfully complete a fight. Sometimes you can go nuts. This week, just like last week, we found our raid still not full, so we cleared VOA again. As I mentioned, this time I decided to try to maximize dps and 'cheese' the Emalon encounter. Despite missing several of our best dps (which shortens the fight and increases personal dps ratings), we beat Emalon shortly after the first big add. I didn't switch to the add. I DnD'd. Even though I'm sure I could have done better, I finished with a #6 rated parse on World of Logs. Who cares, you ask? It's just Emalon - old news. And yes, it is old news! I just wanted to have fun and see what I could do. Two messages here. Do every thing possible to maximize dps, but also stay within the parameters of raid success. My raid didn't need me to switch to adds, so I didn't - but other times, personal dps loss is secondary to raid success, and you know which comes first!

2) Think at least 1-2 rotations ahead. The thing about PVE as opposed to PVP is that encounters are scripted and well known. Most likely you already know a lot about the fight before you ever attempt it. Once you see it the first or second time in person, you know what it's all about. It's not changing. You need to take each fight, and think ahead. Putricide phase change coming soon? Hold your gargoyle until the adds are out, so you can burst the oozes down faster. Valkyr coming soon? Drop DnD where they will be, and save a blood rune for a second so you can pestilence to them as soon as they come down (breaking the normal rule of spread diseases first, then DnD. Why? because you have free runes and DnD will last long enough, and you want all your runes free when the Valks have landed). Think about each move and anticipate. Watch your runes. Death Coil when you have a free gcd, rather than waiting to the 'end' of the rotation.

It's very difficult for me to come up with concrete suggestions to veteran players that already know the class well. Still, what separates the top players from the many good players out there?

Doing the little things, and thinking thinking thinking.

Good luck out there, guys!