Thursday, 30 September 2010

Druid Tier 11, 4.0.1

MMO-Champ recently released additional images and also some video of the new tier11 armour pieces, including the druid set! You can see MMO's full post here, along with a preview of the rogue and warlock models which also look pretty nice.

The tier 11 set looks pretty good I think! I love the the new spaulders and helm with the wings and lightning. It looks like there's now a sort of lightning-crackle animation as well as slowly falling feathers.

You can see the animation in this video created by MMO-Champion.

MMO is also reporting that Patch 4.0.1 is likely to arrive either 5 Oct or 12 Oct (so in the next week or two), based on comments by Ghostcrawler suggesting the patch will arrive shortly before or around the end of the current arena season and a change on the WoW trial page, which is stating the streaming version of the new download/game client will be available on the 5th.

There hasn't been any official announcement for a Cataclysm release date, with speculation ranging from early November to mid-December times. We'll be getting patch 4.0.1 with all of the class and system changes and later 4.0.3 will be landing with Cataclysm events (the actual environment changes and things like that).

Pretty exciting times ahead! I'd recommend moving your toons out of Dalaran, at least before each Tuesday, as I'm sure lag and everyone attempting to log on will make getting on a nightmare. Based on my experience with the streaming downloader on the Beta, I may have to wait for the game to fully download, as I've had FPS issues when attempting to stream it. Everyone trying to get on at once to see all the new changes won't help!

I've also been stocking up on gems and enchant mats. I'm hoping professions won't be broken on the patch (they're a little bit dodgy on PTR and possibly on Beta; my toon had his profession levels go over but had to retrain to access - he still had 450 but lost all his recipes) as that will make things difficult, so I may pre-cut some things. In the very least, all my armour pen gems will be turning to crit gems in the patch, which I'll likely be replacing with agililty. Slightly annoyingly, hit gems will now be turning blue, so I'll lose a few of the socket bonuses I've managed to pick up.

If you can, though, now will likely be a good time to pick up some of these things before patch! Emblems will be converting to the new Justice Points, at a slightly higher conversion rate than previously planned (11.58 points per emblem). There's a cap (more info on this post) with spare points converting to gold, though that conversion has been reduced. I decided to spend at least my Triumph badges on gems, though I'm undecided on just what I'd prefer to do with my frost badges as yet. I've also stocked up on some additional Druid glyphs in the hope that many will just change in effect (rather than disappear entirely with some of the new changes) so I don't get gouged on the auction house as everyone scrambles for new glyphs.

Interesting changes ahead!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Beta! Wee! (13066, Resto, Stonecore, and Throne of the Tides!)

News from the Beta!

I'm really excited that I got the invite and have been bouncing around on the beta since! After an initial worrisome period (I think I basically just cannot run the game while it is still downloading, or at least not on beta, as I was having tons of graphics/fps issues), the game is now running smoothly and I've been going around exploring and trying things out.

I'd like to check out the starting zones some but that may have to wait as A) the Worgen starting zone keeps crashing (and seems to be happening to other players too), and B) there may be a new bug? as last I checked it wasn't letting me create new characters, though I should check that again.

I did transfer my druid over though as well as get a premade 85 druid too. It's been pretty fun so far. I've done the starting quests in Vash'jir and, upon realising I needed to discover the Throne of the Tides entrance in order to queue for it, did some exploring around the area. Vashj'ir is a really cool zone - a lot of odd and fun stuff around, some interesting quests so far, and some beautiful areas (the ruins beneath the water are really cool). The Abyssal Depths (which I warily went down to and was immensely relieved to find myself down by an instance entrance after getting sucked down) is quite creepy and beautiful all at the same time. There's a lot more still to explore; I'm undecided just how much questing I'll do in beta, as I really enjoy questing to level so I'd like to leave some surprises for when Cata comes out, though I'll be balancing that with leveling fairly quickly to get to 85. I suppose on one hand being somewhat familiar with the quests will let me get going more quickly so I don't wander around too aimlessly. I think I'm going to hop over to Hyjal next to check out some of the opening quests there. Also, seahorse mounts are amazing (and you get one for free in one of the opening quest chains in Vashj'ir). Only real issue I've found in Vashj'ir so far is how to get back - I hearthed out to Northrend, then had to fly back from Stormwind and didn't quite beat the fatigue timer (fortunately my corpse wasn't far off). Not sure if I just missed a key point or didn't do enough quests to get the flypoint initially, or if there's just something missing.

The ruins in Vashj'ir are really beautiful. I need to double-check the name of this one. Really fun to explore, and not too difficult I found actually... the sea horse gives you 450% swim speed - not certain if that will change or not. There were a few big elites around, though some were neutral, but I wasn't too concerned swimming around.

I've been questing as feral, which has been fine. My feral set is a mix of 264 and 277 gear (to give you an idea of what I'm entering in). I've been using the following spec (at level 80):

At 85 I'll be putting points into Natural and Master Shapeshifter, as well as possibly two points into Brutal Impact (for more frequent stuns to increase utility). As you can see I've picked up Thick Hide (as there are enough points to do a pure cat DPS spec and still pick up that and Survival Instincts) which makes me uncrittable. This spec does not have all the tanking points (Natural Reaction and Pulverize and, possibly, Infected Wounds) so is usable as an emergency tanking set but not a proper tank. I hope it stays in this area, as I really like being able to pick up Surv Inst and Thick Hide for utility.

My impressions questing so far, at least for these early zones; I'm not having any big trouble handling mobs of pretty decent size (I've dealt with 3-5 level 80 mobs with no problem in cat form). I'm not certain if this is just undertuning, or just entry-level mobs, but either way it's been fine. My damage has dropped a lot so cat dps is still an issue, and I also haven't been able to replace my crit gems with agility ones as my jewelcrafting is broken (all of my armour pen went to crit). I lost around 4k attack power from live as well. Hopefully cat dps will be tuned up. That being said, I haven't had any issues killing mobs though.

I've also been playing around with the Resto tree and have been able to heal a couple of dungeons.

First, the specs I've been using:

On my main copied over, level 80:

After a brief chat with a druid I decided to take out the two points in Swift Rejuvenation and put them into Heart of the Wild for the intellect increase. With appropriate levels of haste getting our spells to the 1sec GCD, it may not be necessary to take the two points in Swift Rejuv (I'd like to see some proper theorycrafting on all this before I say anything definite though), so the Int gain (and resulting mana and spellpower gain) is likely worth it. I can't see sparing more than 2 points for it though as I still need points to make it to tier2 in Balance and I like providing Replenishment (for both myself and the group) with Revitalize.

This is the full spec I've put on for my 85 premade:

I'd still like to see Genesis swapped with Nature's Grace to get it into tier 1. With this change you could use this spec and pick up Moonglow, or forego Moonglow and max out Heart of the Wild and possibly Swift Rejuv. That being said, though, Nature's Grace seems like it might not be as much of a waste of points as I had originally though. I'm really just undecided at this point on it, and really need a lot more experience trying it out in both easier and harder dungeons. The haste boost is really nice, but I'm torn mostly about the cooldown on the proc (especially as Resto druids can't reset it as we don't have Eclipse). I have been able to use it by tossing out a Moonfire and using the haste on my Nourishes and Healing Touches, which has been nice. I'm still wary of how much it will actually be able to be used in an end-game environment, mainly whether the GCD and mana will be able to be spared. We shall see!

I will say this: I absolutely LOVE the new Efflorescence mechanic where it procs off of Swiftmend! It's been great both in terms of fun and of utility. Whether I want to target it to a specific group, in which case I might Swiftmend say the tank or a melee, providing the Effl. HoT for that group, or if I need to pop it on the fly, the additional HoT will tick on the target while I heal other people. The increased range (8 yards, up from 6) is also great, it gives a lot more room to move into it and remain in it. I am really pleased with it!

Also, glyphs! I've been using the following glyphs on both toons:
Lifebloom (increases crit chance)
Swiftmend (unchanged)
Rejuvenation (Increases the healing of your Rejuvenation by 10%)

Wild Growth (unchanged)
Rebirth (unchanged)
Healing Touch (when you use HT, the cooldown of Nature's Swiftness is reduced by 5 sec (want to check if this stacks or not))

Mark of the Wild (unchanged)
Unburdened Rebirth (unchanged)
Dash (unchanged)

I actually really like the selection for resto (the feral selection is a little limited feels like, but a discussion for another day). I like the choices I have both for Prime and Major, I feel like I was able to pick up both crucial straightforward ones (like Swiftmend, WG and Rejuv) and more utility ones. I like that I was able to pick up the Rebirth glyph - I'm not fond of this glyph on live mainly because it steals a glyph spot from more useful ones, but I do like the effect - it can be really helpful for a person to be battle rezzed with full health, particularly in the new environment where mana and healing is so different from Wrath. So I'm really happy I'm able to pick that up without sacrificing any other glyphs. My Minor glyph choices are mostly for convenience, apart from Unburdened Rebirth still being crucial there's still flexibility there.

I was able to try out two dungeons so far, one on my premade and one on my main who I transferred. I did Throne of the Tides on my main and Stonecore on my premade.

An interesting thing of note - I guess because my main's gear is good enough (almost all 277 gear), I had ZERO (and I do mean ZERO) mana problems while healing Throne of the Tides. I was throwing my innervate out to the shadowpriest every time I could because he was going OoM a ton. I'll be interested to see how far my raid gear goes both in Beta and on Live when Cata is released. Solace of the Defeated is still amazing, along with all of the spirit on my current gear really helps. I found this really surprising just because I healed Stonecore on the premade before TotT and had some mana issues ; went OoM at least once and was definitely running down to at least half mana or less pretty consistently, whereas on my main my mana bar barely moved. While Stonecore is a higher level dungeon than TotT, it was still on regular (NOT heroic) and I was 85.

I'll try to get some proper posts in on the instances themselves (I think this is already getting dangerously long without even going into the boss fights). They were pretty interesting though and I enjoyed going through them. Damage is interesting... there were points where there were some massive hits on the tank, but fortunately the next shot wouldn't kill them, so you had more than a single GCD to recover (which you don't really get in Wrath at the moment). After healing Stonecore on the premade and having mana issues, I was being fairly conservative with my heals at first on my main; I think I'll have to try both again a number of times more and see how that balances out. We didn't use a huge amount of CC though we did use a bit. Spatial awareness is definitely important - a feral druid in the Tides group got himself killed twice on the same boss due to a 'shadow fissure' I believe it was called, he must have been stood in a voidzone. It was essentially a one-shot (or very close to it). I think the tank may have stood in it once as he took quite a substantial hit in the beginning of the fight (it was against the faceless one in Tides - will double check names for proper write-ups) but didn't take another as big as that for the rest of the fight. The fight against the drake in Stonecore involves falling rocks and lava spots, so you definitely need to watch where you're standing! The rocks will also Line of Sight you, so I had to keep maneuovering around to ensure I didn't lose sight of the group.

Also, if you can spot in that screenshot, you can see my druid's name was taken! So I've gone with Derwentt for my premade and Derwentree for my main. Close at least! Sort of.

Overall, though, I'm feeling pretty positive about healing so far. I had fun while healing and going through the new dungeons. I was definitely using all of my different spells. It will take some adapting to find out the best strategies for different fights and, of course, learning the fights themselves, but good signs on the horizons. I feel like our actual heals were reduced a bit - I feel like I'm healing for less than I do on live at times in terms for actual number output of single spells. That may be numbers tuning, I'm not certain. The heals themselves felt good though and seemed to all work well with each other. I'd still like a lower cast time on Nourish but it wasn't awful. I found myself even using Healing Touch when I needed to. I feel like the longer Nourish cast time almost helps HT seem more valid as a spell because they're the same cast time - they each have their different uses both for size of heal and size of the mana cost. Lifebloom is nice on the tank, though I'm still adapting to how often I both need or want to keep it up for - it's a good strong heal to keep on the tank, but I found myself tossing out the occasional unnecessary LBs or Nourishes to keep the stack up. I think one of my favourite things for shifting to tree (and it is on a 3 minute cooldown now, down from 5) is being able to toss out the instant Regrowths for the larger instant heals. The longer cooldown on Wild Growth feels just fine - my innate sense of it is slightly off so I found myself trying to use it sometimes a little bit early, but the longer cooldown definitely isn't limiting. As I mentioned earlier too, I absolutely love Efflorescence proccing off of Swiftmend - I think that's a brilliant change.

The biggest change does seem to be that people (and your tanks), at least so far, do not seem to be dying in just two hits or one GCD, so the longer cast times on big heals like Nourish and HT haven't felt deadly. I still have a lot of testing to go, and I'll be really interested to try all these out when 4.0 hits the live servers so I can try them in fights I know really well in ICC to see how things will adapt and shift. That will be particularly useful as well as I'll be able to compare it to what I do currently so I can really see the changes. I could try doing some Wrath heroics on Beta, but that seems a bit pointless since I overgear the instances so much, I won't have to actually make decisions about which heals to use.

Anyhow, I imagine that's enough for one post! Perhaps even enough for two. I'll try to get more testing in and look more at the heals used and things. I'll also be interested in seeing both for this build and for future ones how slightly different specs work. I hadn't been that keen on Heart of the Wild for Resto, but it does add a decent amount of spellpower it seems like. It's hard deciding which points to drop for that. I had someone suggest dropping Blessing of the Grove, but the decrease in Rejuv power from doing that is substantial (and that is NOT made up for with the spellpower increase from HotW). I think with enough haste, Swift Rejuv will be the one we can drop points from (as we may not need the increased Rejuv cooldown). That still only frees up 2 points. If Genesis is moved to tier1, we'll have some more points freed up to place into HotW I think. Theorycrafting will be interesting on all of that.

Also, Archaeology seems really fun! I think it might be a bit bugged at the moment (I seem to be able to dig at one site, then not be able to dig anywhere else, at least on that continent... need to look into that), but I also haven't had too much time to investigate that. I really like the concept and am looking forward to leveling it, though I imagine it may have to wait until I hit level cap to really get into it.

Alright, stopping before I ramble on too much! I'll leave you with a screenshot of me in my Mim head over Stormwind.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Beta builds 13066 and 13033

There's been a lot of beta updates this past week, along with lots of changes for druids!



  • Thrash affects all targets within 8 yards. (Tooltip clarification)

  • Tiger's Fury now increases physical damage done by 88.8% for 6 sec. (This one is weird, might want to wait before theorycrafting)

  • Pulverize base additional damage increased by 66%.

  • Stampede now affects your next Ravage. (Tooltip clarification)

  • Fury Swipes - When you auto-attack while in Cat form or Bear form, you have a 5/10/15% chance to cause a Fury Swipe dealing 200% weapon damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 3 sec. / 5 yd range, Instant

  • Restoration

    • Rebirth no longer costs mana.
    • Rejuvenation now costs 20% of base mana, down from 25%.
    • Mastery: Symbiosis (Revamped) - Increases the potency of your healing spells by 10% on targets already affected by one of your heal over time spells. Each point of Mastery increases heal potency by an additional 1.25%.
    • Lifebloom can now be cast on an unlimited amount of targets while under the effect of Tree of Life.
    • Omen of Clarity (Passive) - If specialized as a Feral Druid, Omen of Clarity will also have a chance to occur from your auto-attacks. (Tooltip clarification)
    • Tree of Life now lasts 30 sec, down from 45 sec. Costs 6% of base mana, down from 13% of base mana.
    • Efflorescence no longer procs from Regrowth critical heals, now procs when you heal with your Swiftmend spell. Now heals all nearby friendly targets within 8 yards (up from 4 yards) for 10% of the amount healed by your Swiftmend over 7 sec.
    • Blessing of the Grove no longer increases the damage done by your Claw and Shred.

    Some interesting changes there. Predatory Strikes and Stampede changes are a bit of a boost for cats, giving us more opportunities to work Ravage in. Hopefully damage itself is still being tuned up, as feral dps on the PTR recently has been pretty horrible. Blessing of the Grove in the Restoration tree had some changes for ferals as well, as it no longer increases Shred damage. The feral spec has some interesting options at the moment with that change, as you now only really need to spend six points in the Restoration tree. The points that frees up means you can pick up Thick Hide as a cat, which will give you crit immunity. There are also a couple of other points you can shift around - Brutal Impact may be a nice option for making interrupts reliable (and more on par with rogue kicks etc), or Natural Reaction if emergency off-tanking is needed. To really maximize dps or tanking though it is still looking like you will need two separate specs like you do in live at the moment.

    Lots of changes for the Restoration tree, all looking pretty positive still. The mana cost of Rejuvenation was decreased, which is a nice little boost. The duration of the Tree of Life was decreased to 30 seconds, though that doesn't seem like a massive problem, as the duration was really quite long to begin with. Reports are that it seems the cooldown on the ability has decreased as well, so it will be nice to be able to use it more often. The Lifebloom changes in ToL form should have some good utility as well.

    The biggest change in this build is to the Efflorescence ability, which now procs off of Swiftmend. It looks like this is a 100% proc from using Swiftmend. This is a very nice change actually, as it should encourage druids to use Swiftmend more and discourage Regrowth-spamming, which seemed like a potential problem (particularly with instant-cast Regrowths in ToL). It should also discourage any crit-stacking (as opposed to getting in a balance of crit, haste and mastery) as it doesn't seem it will proc off of crits. The crit proc could also be quite unreliable for the old Regrowth proc, so the guaranteed proc from Swiftmend should be a lot more reliable and helpful. The range was also increased which is a nice little buff.

    The new mastery is slightly old news (mostly due to changes being so quick!), you can see some more information on it in my old post here. The new mastery sounds excellent, though, both right on par with our healing style, a nice incentive to use all of our spells. The concept is very much in line with our Nourish spell and seems to be a logical direction for us to go. 

    My only disappointment is still Nature's Grace in the Balance tree, which I wish would be swapped with Genesis or Moonglow, as it really does not seem to be useful for Resto druids (at least from a strictly high-end raiding perspective). Even if we're able to cast a few Moonfires during a fight, which in itself will likely not be the difference between a win and a wipe (unless it's a Princes-type fight and we can Moonfire a Kinetic Bomb), the haste increase has a one minute cooldown. This cooldown can be instantly reset - but ONLY by achieving a Lunar or Solar eclipse. Which we will never have as Resto druids. So, it's 15% haste for 15 seconds every minute for a GCD throwing out a Moonfire. Arguably - this might end up useful in fights if we know there'll be some fast incoming damage coming up, and we can fire off a MF and have the haste boost for, say, 10-15 seconds of having to spam-Nourish a tank, perhaps. Assuming the GCD use of the MF is not costly in terms of a tank death (which Blizz seems to suggest they are trying to avoid in Cata, but that CAN happen in Wrath), that could potentially be useful. It does appear to be 'after you cast Moonfire', and not upon MF actually hitting the target, so if we miss it shouldn't be costly as we will not need to recast it to gain the buff. 

    Ultimately this will likely come down to actually seeing this ability in fights to see just how useful it actually is. I can already see needing an internal cd timer watching the cooldown on this ability though so as not to waste GCD and mana spamming out moonfires too early in an attempt to gain the haste buff. If the ability remains where it is, it will most likely have very situational usage. In heroics fights it likely will only be ever used once, in a raid boss fight though it could likely be used a few times. It will be far from our most useful stat, though, and I still find it to be a waste of talent points.

    I have been itching to post some talent trees, though with how rapidly they keep changing still in the beta it seems a bit futile to do so. I have decided, though, at least for end-game raiding, to take all three points in the new Revitalise to provide replenishment and three points in Genesis (for the HoTs and Swiftmend boost) and forego completely Moonglow. Given gear levels, raidwide replenishment, etc, the reduced mana cost from Moonglow will not be critical and so I think that can be discarded safely. It may be for leveling and dungeon running that Moonglow may be preferred to Revitalize, particularly with lower gear levels. I do hope that either Moonglow or Genesis will be swapped to Tier 1 in Balance, though, as that should allow us to pick up both talents!

    All in all though, interesting changes. Resto changes look to be positive. The feral tree and abilities have always looked pretty positive in my opinion, just hopefully their actual damage done will be boosted up as they suffered quite a big loss on the PTR (most likely from the loss of armour pen on stats coming with 4.0 and Cata; Warriors are facing similar issues). also posted today that Amazon has sent emails out about the Cataclysm Release Date, putting its release on 23 Nov - HOWEVER, they were keen to stress that Amazon has gotten release dates wrong before and that this has NOT yet been confirmed by Blizzard. I think you can take from this announcement though that Cataclysm is likely going to be released in November.

    Edit: o.O I just saw in my email that I just got a beta invite! I didn't even think these were still going out. Off to install, updates to come!

    Wednesday, 22 September 2010

    Favourite zones in Wrath

    With patch 4.0 on the horizon and, with it, a few days (or more) of bugs, broken addons and massive lag in and around Dalaran as everyone tries to flood on, I've been shifting all of my hearthstones out of Dal and into the quieter neighbouring areas. As my toons all drifted outwards away from the city, it got me thinking about my favourite zones in Wrath, and found myself heading again and again to Storm Peaks.

     My favourite zone in Wrath is easily Storm Peaks. It has some fun questlines, the Hodir chain likely being the most memorable and leading into the history and the future of Ulduar. Overall, though, I find the zone to be really beautiful and peaceful. It's one of the places I enjoy just flying around. The music in the zone is also fitting, quiet at times, more epic at others, and always quite peaceful. One spot (pictured above) just south of Thunderfall actually has snow falling gently down.

    My second favourite zone would likely be Dragonblight, mainly for the questlines there. The quest chains from Wyrmrest Temple are fun and give depth to all the dragonflights. The Veteran of the Wrath Gate quest chain is another brilliant questline, leading to an epic battle and setting up some of the final events in Icecrown. Icecrown itself has some excellent questlines as well, from capturing the Shadowvault to helping the Argent Crusade and everywhere in between, all leading to the final assault on the Citadel.

    For pure fun, the Worg questline in Howling Fjord is brilliant and one of my favourites as well. I first discovered the quest on my hunter, whose pet wolf was the same model as the worg disguise you wear, and I spent ages sprinting around Howling Fjord in the disguise. I've started the chain on several toons (it starts with The Cleansing) and never turned in the final quest so that I could keep the disguise. It only works in Howling Fjord, but still a fun disguise to hang on to.

    What have been your favourite zones in Wrath?

    Tuesday, 21 September 2010

    New Resto Mastery

    The most recent post on MMO-Champ had some good news for Resto druids: Our Cataclysm mastery has been redesigned!

    Our old mastery had to do with our HoTs getting boosted on targets at lower health, which had various issues. Summed up here in a recent reply from GC:
    Deep Healing Mastery
    We like the shaman version. The druid one is problematic for a couple of reasons. Conceptually, a hot is often the last thing you think of putting on someone who is grievously wounded. Second, at the moment the bonus is only calculated on the initial application and not the ticks. If we can fix that problem, then the druid mastery would be better. It's also possible we'll just redesign it.

    They ended up redesigning the mastery, so it now looks like this:

    New Resto druid mastery: Increases the potency of your heals on targets upon which you have a hot.

    It benefits both hots and direct heals equally while still supporting Resto being a healer that cares a lot about hots. It encourages layering different spells while disincentivizing Rejuv blanketing.

    This looks a lot more positive and in good keeping with the druid's style of healing. This looks like it will encourage both use of our HoTs and our direct heals. In concept it's a lot like what Nourish is today, an ability that is boosted by the presence of HoTs, and this is looking like a nice progression upward from that.

    A bit more information on the new mastery from GC:


    1) You cast Regrowth on someone who has a Rejuv = bonus healing.
    2) You cast Nourish on someone who has a Lifebloom = bonus healing.
    3) You Swiftmend a Rejuv = bonus healing.
    4) You cast a Rejuv on someone who does not have a Regrowth, LB or WG on them = no bonus healing.
    5) You cast Rejuv on someone who has a Rejuv = no bonus healing. (You merely refreshed Rejuv.)
    6) You cast a Wild Growth = bonus healing on those with preexisting hots. 

    Rejuv, then LBx3. Rejuv falls off, and LBx3 is refreshed by Nourish. Will the LB ticks retain the mastery benefit? 
    Yes. There was a hot on the target, so Nourish benefits (from the mastery in addition to Nourish just working that way). 

    If someone gets low and they don't have a HoT on them already, are you really going to want to put on a HoT, THEN a heal? Probably not. 
    My impression is that some of you are going from the extreme of "Rejuv everyone in the raid" to "Rejuv nobody but the tank." The reality will probably be somewhere in the middle. Some targets will have hots on them and some won't. The more hots you can keep up, the better off you'll be, but you'll have to balance that against the mana cost of doing so. I don't think it's as simple as "always do X." 

    It looks like some positive news for Resto druids. Hopefully we'll see some changes in the Balance tree for resto in the next build as well.

    In other news, some more of the pre-Cataclysm events are up on the PTR, so closing in again on patch 4.0 and the Cataclysm launch date. I wouldn't be too surprised to see 4.0 hit in the next 1-3 weeks. No word that I've seen so far on whether the Operation: Gnomeregan and Echo Isles events will be ending with that patch, but they'll likely not be around for too long, so if you still want to get those done, sooner is probably better!

    Brewfest has also started up again, though there are no new achievements for this year. The new holiday boss LFG system is in place again to help you go defeat Coren Direbrew. You can queue up as often as you wish for a chance at the drops (same drops as last year, looks like), but you'll only get the goody bag once per day, which contains 2 Frost Badges and I think a chance at the mounts.

    The Harvest Festival is also up for a few more days, including the Uther's Tribute quest, which I recommend checking out (particularly as the Plaguelands will be changing in Cata).

    Monday, 20 September 2010

    Healing in Cata and Screenshots from the PTR

    Some interesting news updates recently, as well as some screenshots from the PTR!

    Let's start with news:

    The most recent post on MMO-Champ has some interesting blue posts and also gives us our first glimpse at the druid tier11 set. I actually think it looks pretty cool; I like the wings on the spaulders.

    There's also a very interesting post from Ghostcrawler about healing in Cataclysm. You can read the full post on healing here, I do recommend reading it. It gives me some mixed feelings so far on what Cata healing will be like. I already use all my spells while healing so, at least according to GC, I shouldn't notice a huge change in how I heal (disregarding actual spell changes). The spell changes themselves will take some getting used to, and will also take some adapting as we level up and then hit level 85. I have been poking around on the PTR, but it's a bit hard to judge there as, certainly for heroics, a) I still outgear the content (and have had zero mana issues with this in mind), b) Tanks are readjusting as well, so stray adds cause a bit more issue than they otherwise might, c) Bosses and mobs may also be out of tune. Lisanna over at Restokin had an interesting post recently with actual numbers of spells used in one of the Cataclysm dungeons, healing Halls of Origination. This gave me some hope for both the variety of spells used and also in that they seem to reflect what Blizz/GC have said they were aiming for.

    Patch 4.0 I think will cause all sorts of craziness both as everyone relearns a lot of the changes that have come in, and also as nothing will really be balanced for level 80. That I think is the biggest issue I'm having on the PTR at the moment trying things out, is that it's hard to really see the end-game from level 80 with the new trees and also with the Wrath style dungeons.

    There was also a recent beta patch build with lots of changes for the Balance tree, one of which is not a great talent for Resto druids - Nature's Grace (which before provided x% haste) is now Nature's Torment, which provides a haste buff following a Moonfire or Insect Swarm cast. Clearly aimed at Balance (unless Blizz is looking down the road for us to use more Moonfires while healing, but I don't think so). This is particularly frustrating as it only leaves Nature's Majesty as a desirable tier1 talent for resto druids and leaves us with 3 wasted points in Balance as we try to get to Genesis (+healing for HoTs and Swiftmend) and Moonglow (reduced mana cost). BUT, I can see a potential good change, if Nature's Torment were to be swapped to Tier2 with either Genesis or Moonglow. That would give us much more valuable points to spend to reach the other in tier2, and would also likely free up a couple of points to max out the new replenishment form of Lifebloom. That change would actually be great, so I do hope a tier swap is imminent.

    As I mentioned earlier, the PTR has been a little bit wonky for testing out new spells. It doesn't help as well that I am without my beloved Vuhdo. I must give Blizz some credit for their new raid UI, as the healing bars they have now are much improved. The new Blizz UI combined with mouseover macros is quite effective (and will definitely be great for newer healers, especially while leveling and doing low-level dungeons). I'll be happiest though when it's all on live and my Vuhdo is updated just to help make adapting to the new spells a little bit more comfortable.

    Hasted and critting HoTs are definitely nice. Nourish cast time feels a bit slow to me, even with the cast time reduction talent and haste, so I'm hoping there may be some change there, but again this may feel very different at 85. The Efflorescence proc is fun (and Regrowth crits fairly often it seems like so it procs a lot), though I think people are wary of standing in the glowy green voidzones it creates. I do like the leaves that fly upward in it, but the green zone does look potentially dangerous rather than helpful.

    The screenshot above is with a few Efflorescence zones stacked up.

    One nice thing is Regrowths become instant-cast when you go into tree-form, which can both be useful for some bigger heals + HoT effect (Efflorescence or the Regrowth HoT) while on the move. It also can result in some pretty designs as you run about popping Regrowths.

    As you can see, currently our new cooldown-based tree form still uses the Wrath model, which is nice to get a glimpse still of our tree form. I think they had plans to update the model, but I imagine that may come with a later Cataclysm patch at this point. I'm still hopeful for a minor glyph to keep the appearance of this tree form (perhaps when a new model is implemented for the cooldown), but nothing has been introduced as yet, so I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

    As you had a glimpse of above, the new Blizz UI frames are much improved.

    Here you can see the new frames a lot better. You can select whether you want to show health numbers or percentages, whether you want to show power bars (ie mana, energy), whether you prefer to have green bars for health or class colours, etc. It can show incoming heals and a little bit of overheals. You can adjust the height and width of the bars and move them around. It will also show debuffs and buffs and your HoTs. All in all pretty decent and much improved on the old UI. I will still use addons (Vuhdo for as long as its available) and I expect most end-game raiders will likely progress to addons, but this is definitely a big step forward for Blizz and will be of great help to many.

    In this screenshot you can also see the new Power Aura-style graphics for spell procs. That graphic is for Omen of Clarity, which has also been revamped somewhat - it is now passive and grants either a free feral ability or a cast-time spell. Not certain yet if there's a way to turn those off (I haven't checked) in case Power Auras or another addon is preferred for you. I think I'll likely keep those on for things like OoC but probably continue to use Power Auras for other spell notifications or cooldowns.

    You can also see the new beginner tooltips they've implemented, which give a bit more detail and advice on spells. ('Be sure to use the benefit of Clearcasting before its duration expires.') You can switch these off in the Interface options.

    The other UI updates are pretty nice, things like the mounts and pets pages are much improved.

    There seem to be a lot of little changes like that coming in, which is great! There are similar new styles for the professions, though when I last logged on to the PTR my toons professions were still all not working.

    The new Glyph UI is great, particularly now that once we learn a glyph it is always in our glyph book, so it can be easily swapped in and out. The only issue on the PTR currently is that it seems difficult to get any new glyphs! With professions broken, it's hard to find a lot of things which you need, and the few that were lucky enough to have working abilities seem to be overpricing them on the AH so far (which is quite odd to me - your toon won't get the gold you make on the PTR, why sell high?).

    There seems to be a lot of tuning and number-tweaking left to do on the PTR. Certainly for ferals (and warriors from what I've heard) need damage adjustments as our dps is quite low. Hunters and locks in particular have quite ridiculously high damage at the moment. The background downloader on the Live servers has been up and running, though, and it looks like at least two portions of this patch have already been downloaded, so we can expect to see 4.0 hit live servers soon! I'm guess it may be over the next one to three weeks. I've started moving my toons out of Dalaran and setting their hearthstones to places in Storm Peaks so that they don't get stuck desperately trying to log in. I may even start logging out in Shattrath for a quieter spot to relog (incoming 'World Server is down' messages in Northrend).

    In other news, I've managed to max out a few more reps before they disappear! I've hit exalted with the Zandalar tribe. I've also hit exalted with the Timbermaw and Thorium Brotherhood, though I think those two factions will be in place in Cata (no promises, though). Need a fair few more passes at Molten Core to finish out my Hydraxian rep though.

    Thursday, 16 September 2010

    4.0 Background Downloader up and PTR fun!

    As you can see from the title and recent updates on and MMO-Champ, the first part of the 4.0.1 patch is available on the background downloader! In other words, OMG CATA IS COMING. Looks like we're definitely on course for November release date.

    I haven't started this download yet, though, as I'm currently finishing up downloading the PTR! After much discussion with guildies and friends about talent tree changes, gem changes, and basically how crazy everything will be for raiding once the patch hits, I decided I had to check it out for myself and see how things were. The PTR is pretty massive (about 16GB) so it's taken a while, but I like the option with the new launcher to load the game while it's still downloading.

    I'll be testing things out a lot more once it's fully downloaded and over the weekend as well. When I last logged on it was all fairly choppy but that's likely because I hopped on as soon as it would allow me to. The character copy was surprisingly quick (few hours, tops, despite a supposed 4-day waiting period), so I hopped on to check on my druid and also adjust basic UI features (a large portion of my action bar keybinds are not the default ones).

    Some first impressions:

    • We can't fly in Azeroth yet, but I was able to mount up on my flying mounts! The druids in Moonglade weren't phased by the sight of my frostbrood drake, however. You can jump and the mounts will flap, but they won't lift off.
    • Already feeling nostalgic for my tree form. The cooldown Tree of Life currently takes you to the current Tree form model, though I imagine that will change at some point (though perhaps with a later patch in Cata? I'm not certain). I guess my little Teldrassil Sproutling will have to keep me company even more often now so I can keep my tree spirit with me.
    • Haven't been able to test healing yet in a dungeon or raid setting, but playing with the new spells has been interesting. The reduced duration on the Regrowth HoT will take some getting used to. It's a bit odd having Regrowth as my fastest cast now (on Live my fastest is Nourish, at 1 to 0.9 seconds depending on Nature's Grace procs... even faster with 25m haste buffs and heroism). 
    • The Efflorescence graphic is a mixture of pretty (leaves drifting upward) and vaguely threatening (wait, you want me to stand IN the green voidzone-appearing area??).
    • Current gear stats at level 80 seem to be holding - at first glance all of my stats seem to correlate (though have a slightly larger mana pool (edit: I did not look closely at this the first time, I have a much larger mana pool!)), and my spellpower looks to be correlating to my spellpower in Tree form on live.
    • Lifebloom no longer returns mana, so I'll have to adapt how I use my Omen of Clarity procs (also - OoC is indeed a learned talent). Nice little in-game Power Auras-style graphic for the OoC procs.
    • Also rolled a little level 1 hunter while waiting for the character copy - focus is so much nicer than mana! Maybe my hunter will get some attention again when Cata hits.

    I'll get some proper time in and post more information after it's all finished downloading and I can actually navigate without the game being choppy, etc. I'll also try to get some screenshots (of things like the Efflorescence proc). I also need to find some new glyphs as my glyphs are currently half-empty now (missing most of the Prime spots).

    In other fun, what will you be rushing to get done before Cata hits? My guild is currently pushing to finish off our LKHM25 kill, which we'll hopefully have done before 4.0 hits (particularly as I think everything will descend into chaos, at least for a week or two, when that lands, from simply talent tree changes alone, let alone everything else that's coming!).

    Personally, I've been trying to grab a last few achievements and things. I'm still trying for the Raptor mount in ZG, though it still eludes me - I'm glad I at least managed to get the Tiger, though, as that's the one I really love. I've been pushing a bit to try to finish off the Zandalar rep as well, but it will take some dedicated farming I think. I'm a fair bit into Revered, but still a bit far off! I haven't tried properly for the Baron mount, but may be something I look into if I have the spare time.

    I did manage to successfully complete my Winterspring rep finally though! I spent a day grinding out the last Revered-to-Exalted stretch, which fortunately was livened up some by teaming up with a couple of other players who were out there doing the same thing. Teaming up is a good idea - stops everyone stealing each other's mobs and can provide nice relief to the grind. My Winterspring tiger was my 100th mount as well, so a nice couple of rewards at the end of it all!

    So what are you hoping to finish before Cata or 4.0 hit?

    Sunday, 12 September 2010

    PTR 4.0.1 is live!

    Patch 4.0.1 is now live on the PTR! You can find the patch notes and article on here and some more information and the patch notes on MMO-Champ as well here. Cata is well and truly closing in!

    It looks like we'll have a period with this pre-xpac content and, more importantly, with the new talent trees and glyphs. There'll likely be a period before the xpac hits with all the changes in place, and we'll have to adapt quickly to keep up with raiding as we wrap up the content before the xpac officially launches.

    In other news, the tier 11 bonuses were released recently.

    The bonuses are interesting. The Resto bonus seems to be gearing towards our tank healing tools and emphasizing us using the new Lifebloom on tanks. It shouldn't be hard to maintain the stacks to proc the four-piece bonus. With the new talents Nourish and Healing Touch will refresh the Lifebloom stack, so once we get the stack up it should be easy to maintain, whether by throwing on a new Lifebloom or topping up the tank with Nourish or HT, and certainly maintainable between covering the raid if we're raid healing. Our tank-healing tools should be a lot stronger in Cata, so we'll be able to do that well as well as covering the raid. It will be interesting to see how all the classes end up working together in Cata as all are going through some big changes, particularly paladins. The healing dynamic will likely be switched up a fair bit.

    The Feral bonuses are a bit odd. The two-piece bonus is a pretty straightforward damage increase. The bear four-piece is pretty standard as well, increasing the duration of Survival Instincts. The cat bonus is a bit odd though, mostly that it's currently triggered by Mangle. Mangle's duration was increased to 60 seconds, so it seems odd that the proc is for 30 seconds and stacks up to three times. It's basically encouraging us to Mangle a lot more, and certainly at least every 30 seconds instead of every sixty. I seem to remember hearing that they wanted to increase Mangle damage, primarily so we have an option when we're unable to shred (on caster bosses like Lady Deathwhisper, for example, who are often turning to cast at different people, so we're having to jump around a lot to stay behind her or perhaps have just one hit that would need to be replaced with something other than a shred). It seems like it would be a better idea (and more consistent with previous proc items, like the Idol of Mutilation) if it procced from Mangle and Shred. Perhaps that's something that might come.

    The Balance bonuses seem fairly straightforward as damage and critical strike increases. The four-piece bonus is working with the Eclipse proc, so should only help with boomkins working with the new Eclipse mechanics.

    Interesting stuff on the horizon!