February 26, 2008

Screenshot... Um, What Day Is It Now?

It's been a busy week at Girl Meets WoW, not that you'd know it since I haven't stopped by to share anything. (Oops.) As you can see above, my raid has been working on Gurtogg Bloodboil, and we finally downed him Sunday night.

More accurately, they finally downed him Sunday night, as my main contribution was getting my mage the heck out of the way so that less squishy people could step in. Gurtogg is not a good fight for Firkin -- the raid takes tons of damage, and in the recurring phase two, everyone has a chance at being the tank.

Mages make very bad tanks.

So that puts us at 4/5 Hyjal, 5/9 BT, and in high spirits for moving on to Reliquary of Souls.

On the personal front, I've spent the last week and a half throwing my heart into a new freelance job, which has been cutting into my play and blogging time more than usual. So far it's been incredibly fun, which is a nice bonus on top of the whole paycheck thing. I promise I'll be writing more here though now that I've gotten into the swing of things, so thanks for bearing with me during the downtime.

February 15, 2008

PvE Tokens and Badges Tradeable for PvP, Arena Gear

Late-breaking news this evening reports that the latest achievement on the Sunwell Plateau on the PTR unlocked a vendor that will exchange tier tokens and badges for different seasons of arena gear. I talked a little about patch 2.4 altering the pvp gear progression path to move people back into instances yesterday when discussing purchasable, reputation-based pvp blues that will be added to the game, but it looks like Blizzard's changes are set to make this even more dramatic. Here's the current exchange rate:

  • Tier 4 tokens = equivalent Season 1 pieces (gladiator set)
  • Tier 5/6 tokens = equivalent Season 2 pieces (merciless gladiator set)
  • Badges of Justice = Veteran's boots (40), bracers (25), belt (40)
  • New T6 tokens = equivalent Vindicator's gear (boots, bracers & belt)
I expect a lot of QQing about raiders getting free epics, but the truth is that the current pvp gear progression is even more time consuming than raiding -- a serious pvping friend of mine who's leveling a warlock for arenas did the math and figured he'd need to log 100 straight hours of Alterac Valley to gear his character up for Season 4.

While this change might even be a bit too far in the opposite direction, I still maintain that increasing the pace and means by which players get pvp gear is going to make all arena play -- not just the high end -- much more about skill and much less about who's managed to log enough pvp time to get ___ amount of resilience.

Shade of Akama Sheep Macro

image by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

Today's post is just a quick one, inspired by a search query in my Google Analytics. This one goes out to all the mages currently working their way through Black Temple or getting ready to enter BT in patch 2.4.

In the Akama fight, groups of adds are periodically entering the room from either side and have to be systematically CC'd and killed. This is a great fight for a sheep macro because the adds spawn instantly at the doors and will take off running immediately. Here's the macro I use to target, sheep, and re-sheep the dps caster in each group:

/tar Ashtongue Elementalist
/cast [target=focus] Polymorph

We tend to kill the spirit binder first, then the rogue, then the elementalist. If your dps is fast enough to kill Akama, it's unlikely you'll need to re-sheep unless something goes wrong.

February 14, 2008

Faction-Based PvP Gear In Patch 2.4

Patch 2.4 is poised to transform the face of PvP for the better, and as someone with two alts doing casual 2v2s, there's a lot I'm excited about.

By now everyone's probably aware that 2.4 heralds the removal of diminishing returns. This should increase honor gains dramatically, especially in turtling battlegrounds; Amanda Miller at WoW Insider has estimated that straight PvP combat will be nine times as lucrative than it is now.

But the thing I'm really excited is something that we saw in the patch notes, but I just recently found more information on: uncommon-quality PvP gear that will be available for purchase through faction vendors. The sets are ilvl 115, which makes them superior to the belt and legs from Halaa rewards but still inferior to Season One arena gear.

Although I'd initially been thinking this gear would be available via battleground reputation, it turns out that's not the case. Instead, each piece will be a reputation reward purchasable for gold from a different Burning Crusade faction. Shoulders and gloves will require honored reputation, but you'll need revered to obtain leg and chest pieces (strangely, hats seem to be inconsistent from one class to another).

The actual faction required for each piece varies from one set to another, but it looks like each set contains one piece each from the Sha'tar, Cenarion Expedition, Thrallmar/Honor Hold, Keepers of Time, and Lower City quartermasters. For the moment, you'll have to check MMO-Champion's screenshots or the PTRs to see which piece requires which faction, but I've linked to the Wowhead page for each set below.

Resto Druid - Kodohide Battlegear
Balance Druid - Wyrmhide Battlegear
Feral Druid - Dragonhide Battlegear
Hunter - Stalker's Chain Battlegear
Mage - Evoker's Silk Battlegear
Healy Priest - Mooncloth Battlegear
Shadow Priest - Satin Battlegear
Rogue - Opportunist's Battlegear
Resto Shaman - Seer's Ringmail Battlegear
Elemental Shaman - Seer's Mail Battlegear
Enhancement Shaman - Seer's Linked Battlegear
Warlock - Dreadweave Battlegear
Warrior - Savage's Plate Battlegear

As you might be able to guess from the names, it looks like all of this gear will share the same bonuses as the arena sets, allowing you to pair two rep PvP pieces with two pieces of arena gear for two +35 resilience bonuses.

For me, this is a really excellent addition that helps rebalance gear progression for new level 70s. I'm not one to cry welfare epics, but as previous seasons of arena gear have become available for purchase by honor, I've felt less and less compelled to send my alts into regular PvE instances at all. At the same time, the arena gear disparity at the 1500 mark feels so huge -- you can hit extremely well-geared players who have just formed a new team, or brand new 70s without any resilience or experience.

Providing a PvE reputation path to obtaining stepping-stone PvP gear will mean more folks running vanilla instances, will help normalize casual arena play so that it's more dependent on skill, and will reduce the currently massive time investment required to go from unbearably squishy to moderately survivable in PvP. As I see it, these are all fantastic outcomes.

February 11, 2008

6 Mods and Macros to Help You Win in Battlegrounds

Winning battlegrounds doesn't just take good gear, it also takes good organization. I've been running a ton of BGs, both pug and org, to farm honor for my arena-ing shadow priest and pick up the 2-minute PvP trinket for my mage, and the one thing that's struck me (especially in Eye of the Storm) is how much more honor I get when I'm a) running with an organized group (where everyone is well-prepared, in TS, and following directions) or b) in a pug that is actually communicating well. Today I thought I'd share five addons and one macro that I've found especially helpful in either organized or unorganized battleground pvp.

AlphaMap is an excellent BG map mod that I have set up to pop up whenever I enter a battleground. The addon provides a transparent, scaleable map of the entire battleground that you can drag to anywhere on your screen. The huge advantage to this, of course, is that you have a constant view of the battleground's progress without ever having to hit M to look at the in-game map. AlphaMap will also display the location of everyone else in your raid on the map, and gives a special icon to the flag carriers in EotS and WSG. A right-clickable menu on the side of the map lets you broadcast information like the number of nodes needed to win in AB, the location of a flag in WSG, or the number of enemies incoming in AB.

Deadly Boss Mods
DBM is familiar to many raiders as one of the two main contenders (along with BigWigs) for raiding boss mods and timers. If you're already using DBM and want to take advantage of its battleground timer features, just make sure you have the Battlegrounds suite installed and enabled. (If you're looking to pair timers with a good map mod, I recommend AlphaMap.) Fans of other boss mods or folks looking for pure PvP addons can find similar functionality with Capping.

Without Stinkyqueue, there would be no organized Alterac Valley. (Without Stinkyqueue, I might never play Alterac Valley again until patch 2.4.) Stinkyqueue is a mod that allows you to join AV as a premade group. Technically speaking, it just synchronizes the queue requests to greatly improves the chances that your entire group will end up in the same Alterac Valley, but the effect is largely the same. Here's how it works: everyone in the raid must have Stinkyqueue downloaded and enabled, and must talk with the battlemaster to open up the queuing window. The raid leader types /sq q to simultaneously queue everyone in the raid. For Ace fans, Lightqueue is the Ace alternative, and will work even if some of your raid is using Stinkyqueue.

Capping is the Wowace heir of Battlefield Commander, an old standard long-favored by PvP veterans. (Battlefield Commander is no longer being maintained.) It's an all-in-one informational BG mod that provides popup maps and timer bars, and lets you broadcast the estimated time to win or time until a node caps by ctrl-clicking the bar. To move the timer bars, click them once to highlight, then drag them by the title text that appears above them. Capping also provides a flag carrier frame that you can left-click to target the flag carrier in WSG or EotS.

Wopumentia's BG Defense Macro (modified by Snapfizzle)
This macro will call out incoming enemies along with your location, which it automatically detects in the first line. It broadcasts via a raid warning if your BG leader gives you assist. For minimal disruption while you're dealing with the incoming wave, just mash the macro once for each incoming enemy. Three lines of raid warning = three enemies to deal with. This macro is especially useful in AB and EotS.

/script mP = GetMinimapZoneText( );
/script cL = "";
/script if ( IsRaidOfficer( ) ) then cL = "RAID_WARNING"; else cL = "BATTLEGROUND"; end
/script SendChatMessage ( "<<"..mP..">> has inc! 1 per spam...", cL, nil, nil);

There are also addons out there that do the same sort of thing (see AlphaMap, which has a similar menu), but if you ask me, this is a far simpler and more lightweight solution. Just type /m, create a new macro, copy and paste the green text above, and drag the macro to your toolbar.

Whether you're just starting out in PvP or looking to improve your game as a battleground veteran, I hope this list had something useful. If you have another favorite battleground mod you'd like to share, please leave a note in the comments!

February 10, 2008

Screenshot Sunday: Boo!

Right now my raid is in Black Temple working on Teron Gorefiend. BT's my new favorite instance, thanks to cool fight design and some some neat little details like this one, above. At a certain point as you're clearing trash, you enter the room where the Shade of Akama is being held. Without warning, Akama himself (for whom you've previously created a distraction so that he can sneak into the temple) appears out of nowhere, looming over you (especially if you're a gnome!). It's a cool effect, and a fun fight.

All kinds of patch 2.4 excitement is bouncing about the interwebs now that the PTR is up, and I'll be on the PTR and talking about what we have in store, soon.

Update: Gorefiend down, moving on to Azgalor.

February 8, 2008

2.4 Patch Notes Officially Released

For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, the official 2.4 patch notes are now up.

Here's the new stuff that caught my attention at first glance:

  • Players will no longer require an attunement quest to enter Hyjal.
  • Players will no longer require an attunement quest to enter the Black Temple.
  • You may now fight Prince Kael’thas and Lady Vashj without first killing all the other bosses in their respective dungeons.
  • When both flags are held in Warsong Gulch, the flag carriers will receive 50% increased damage done to them after approximately 10 minutes and 100% increased damage after approximately 15 minutes.
  • Players that have the resurrection sickness debuff will be worth no honor.
  • Frostbite: When a frost spell is reflected back at a Mage, it is now possible for the Mage to suffer from the Frostbite effect.
  • Weapon Skill: Points will be gained faster in weapon skills for levels 1 through 59.
  • Three jewelcrafting recipes to cut gems with spell haste from Dawnstones, Talasite, and noble Topaz.
  • Herbalism: Increased the chance that Felweed, Dreaming Glory, Ragveil, and Flame Caps will contain a Fel Lotus.
  • Mining: Increased the skill up potential for most smelting recipes.

February 7, 2008

Become a Better Raider: Learn Your Own Bad Habits

image by zoomar

If you've been raiding for any serious length of time you know that eventually, everyone makes mistakes. Whether you're the tank who forgot to face that nasty mob away from the group, the DPSer who broke CC, or the healer that was too concerned with watching the MT's health to notice his own, we've all been there. In most cases, a single mistake here and there isn't raid-breaking, but there are plenty of encounters in WoW where errors can compound and spiral out of control towards a wipe.

For me, there's nothing worse than the knowledge that my own mistake, small or large, was the catalyst that led to my entire raid dead on the floor. It's easy to talk about bringing your A-game to a raid, but as anyone whose ever wiped on a "farm status" boss is aware, knowing and doing are two different things.

If there's a secret to successful raiding, it is this: every player in the raid must know they're not screwing up. This doesn't mean mistakes won't happen, but it does mean that your entire raid is actively working to avoid potential pitfalls and screw-ups.

So how do you avoid screwing up? Know your own bad habits. If you make a mistake, raid wiping or not, own up to it, no matter how embarrassed you may feel. Once you've informed your raid, stop and analyze the root of your error. Were you unfamiliar with the boss strategy? Not paying enough attention to voice chat? Failing to watch your threat meter, your tank's health, or your surroundings? Falling asleep at your computer?

Once you've identified the source of the problem, it's time to ask yourself if this is a one-time error, or part of a pattern. If it's the latter, you must take steps to fix it. A quick example: for a long time on Firkin, I would get distracted keeping up with the dps target and not keep a close enough eye on my sheeps. While a single sheep running around for three seconds before it gets re-polyed is usually not a big deal, no one wants to be The Mage Whose Sheep Always Breaks And Eats the Healers' Faces... especially not me.

After a particularly egregious night of loose sheep in Serpentshrine Cavern last summer, I decided it was well past time to solve the polymorph issue, so I pulled up the trusty Wowwiki and started researching focus macros. In my mage macros post, you can see the macro I use to sheep now, which lets me re-sheep my polymorph focus without ever losing my dps target. The five minutes I spent researching and setting up that macro has paid off tenfold in game, and I am a better player because of it.

Of course, sometimes you'll be able to identify the root of a problem, but you won't have a solution. If the root of your error is boss mechanics you didn't know about, the solution is to read more strategies before you fight an encounter, but what if you were a protection warrior struggling to kill your demon on Leotheras, or a mage having trouble resheeping quickly enough who didn't know about the /focus command?

If you can't find an answer by simple research, or don't know what you're looking for, the solution's simple: ask your fellow raiders. In the case of the protection warrior, a fellow tank could inform him that a prot warrior's best bet is to save spell reflect for the demon's shadow bolts. Similarly, a veteran mage could point a struggling raider to /focus macros and sheep timers. Even if you're not a newbie, it's always better to be inquisitive than to not ask questions and cause a wipe, so don't be afraid to ask!

Everyone has a few weaknesses as a raider, but if you learn your own bad habits, you can work to combat them. You don't have to spend all your out-of-WoW downtime theorycrafting and reading boss strategies to be a good endgame raider, but you do have to be proactive about improving yourself. Just remember: those other 24 people lying dead on the floor aren't all that interested in "I'm sorry." The most beautiful words to a wiped raid's ears are "it won't happen again."

February 6, 2008

Mining Woes, or: No, Seriously, Can I Be Done With Azeroth Now?

Breaking up with Azeroth is hard to do, especially if you're a miner.

Cognizant of the fact that faster XP gains from old-world questing would give me fewer chances to skill up, I leveled Hooloovoo as a mining fiend, cutting down whole swaths of mobs just to be able to set my pick against one more mithril vein. I was diligent from day one, super diligent even, but to little avail: I still hit level 58 with only 267 mining skill.

Now, for those of you who don't spend your days deep within the bowels of the earth hunting precious gems and minerals, here's a quick primer on leveling mining so that you can mine in Outlands. Once you outlevel mithril (the nodes will go green at 225 and gray at 275), the majority of your skill points will come from dark iron and truesilver deposits (which require 230 mining and go yellow at 255 skill), and after that, from thorium. You can start mining thorium ore at 245 skill (the small veins will turn yellow at 270), but you can't mine rich thorium veins until you reach 275.

Now, the reason I'm bothering with all the numbers has to do with one simple yet aggravating fact: you cannot mine anything in Outlands until you have 300 mining skill. This generally means that after hitting 58, you're going to spend at least an hour or two running around in circles grinding up your mining skill.

My choice of location for eking out those last 30-40 points is the Burning Steppes, and here's why. First off, it's a very short flight from Stormwind, so it's easy for me to hop a portal in Shattrath and head out there. Second, all the mithril nodes in BS have a chance of spawning truesilver or dark iron, both of which stay yellow for longer as you're leveling. Finally, it's very easy to get around: there are almost no elite mobs to deal with, the terrain is conducive to making nice easy circles around the zone, and these days (as everyone besides miners leaves Azeroth at 58) it's pretty empty, so there's little ganking or competition to worry about. It took me about an hour and forty-five minutes to level my mining from 267 to 295 skill.

At 295 I was able to pack my stuff and hearth out thanks to [Enchant Gloves: Advanced Mining]. I highly recommend this enchant: buy yourself a pair of trash or white gloves and spend the three vision dust and truesilver, and enjoy the bonus 5 points to your mining skill. If you also happen to be a goblin engineer, you can really save yourself some time by wearing both the glove enchant and your trusty [Goblin Mining Helmet]. If you keep these on you throughout the leveling process, you should be able to mine nodes that are usually inaccessible to people at the "normal" level for a given zone (like the thorium veins in Un'goro), which means not only will you get to head to Outlands at a lower skill level, but you'll also reach that skill level faster than someone without the helmet/enchant.

And that's all the advice I have to share on mining. If you've got a good tip or a favorite spot for leveling mining skill, leave me a note in the comments. And for all you budding miners out there: good luck, godspeed, and above all... don't delve too deep.

February 3, 2008

Screenshot Sunday: Goodbye to All That

Little Hooloovoo took his leave of Azeroth last night. Having finally dinged 58 on my shaman, it was time to turn in a last few quests and head back to Shattrath.

I'd been making a real push for 58 lately because two of my guild's more prolific jewelcrafters have all but quit the game, causing the AH jewel market to be temporarily thrown into chaos
a few weeks back and (more importantly) leaving Firkin without a lazy in-raid option for getting Veiled Noble Topazes. And trust me when I say this: Firkin goes through those things like candy.

And so began my stint of alting on Hooloovoo, a bright-eyed and not so bushy-tailed super-intelligent shade of blue. He's my first real melee class, and I have to hand it to shamans: they are incredibly fun characters to level. It's just the right balance of pure whack-things-with-a-stick dps with a dash of dps caster and some mana-efficient healing. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with him besides jewelcrafting, but he's been surprisingly entertaining to level so far.

And as for Azeroth? It's gotten a lot more tolerable with all the leveling changes, but I'm still glad to be heading back to Outlands. There's something about all those now-useless factions ticking away as I turn in quests to the Argent Dawn that just makes me grit my teeth every time.

February 1, 2008

Patch 2.4 News Hits the Forums

Just when we were all beginning to despair of seeing more 2.4 info, the Blizzard team hit the forums in force this afternoon to deliver info on all kinds of nifty new changes. How excited am I? Pretty damn excited. But see for yourself:

General Changes

  • New fishing daily quests!
  • Spell haste is being changed to reduce the global cooldown on spells (down to a minimum of 1 second).
  • Loot off of Kazzak and Doomwalker will now be BoE.
  • When respeccing, you'll no longer have to retrain every rank of a talented spell.
  • Enchanters will now be able to convert void crystals into 2x large prismatic shards, on a 24 hour cooldown.
  • A combat log overhaul is in the works.
PvP Changes
  • No more diminishing returns on honor. None!
  • Instant honor calculations. No more waiting until the next day to buy that piece of gear, huzzah!
  • Vendors for AB/WSG/AV will now offer level 70 blues for sale for gold, for players of sufficient reputation.
Dungeon & Raiding Changes
  • 25-man raid bosses will now drop three tier set tokens instead of two, as well as significantly more gold.
  • Scale of the Sands reputation rate gain increased.
  • Heroic-level gems will not be unique-equipped anymore.
  • Improved loot options for bind-on-pickup items (and no more confirmation window for things like Badges of Justice).

Class Changes
  • A ret pally reitemization is in the works.
  • Players will now be limited to 80 Conjured Manna Biscuits in their inventory at one time. (Take that, mage table ninjas!)
  • Priests can now cast fear ward in shadowform.
  • Warlocks inside an instance will now be able to summon players who are outside the instance.
  • Warriors' Endless Rage will now provide significantly more rage, and off-hand Whirlwind crits will now trigger Flurry and Rampage.
  • Healing Grace will now reduce the chance of shamans' spells to be dispelled by 10/20/30%.
  • Druids' Lacerate will now scale with feral attack power.
You can find the source for all of these at Bluetracker, or check out Eyonix's weekly roundup.