Patch 5.0.4 Impressions; fourth specs

Patch 5.0.4 is finally upon us and I apologize for not having blogged in a while. I was busy with RL and also preparing my investments for the eventual patch. I’ve made around $10k in profit so far by buying materials that I foresaw was going to appreciate in value. Not too shabby. I’m sure I could make much more if I had invested the time to do more careful research and perusing the beta info (which I totally had access to but never used because my PC is running out of space).

With that in mind, here are the first impression of the new patch. I will add more and more impressions once I play more.

  • Warlocks rock!! I feel so powerful now, and downright invincible playing as demonology with wrathguard pet. I have been soloing level 70 heroics for reps, and previously I would have to be a bit careful with not overpulling. Yes, you can actually die if you’re not careful. But now, especially with Sacrificial Pact, I’m never even close. Also, AOE looting is nice.
  • DK is a bit clunkier to play, maybe I’m just not used to it. I did gain a lot of hp and avoidance with the new conversion rating, so instance runs are really easy now. What’s nice is that I’m self-healing a lot more, and I very rarely fall under 80% of health in heroics. That’s with my healer DC-ing.
  • Playing my resto druid, I didn’t notice any significant power increase, although I was paying a lot less attention in general. The new healing treant talent is nice, you can fire it often, and that allows you to “sit back, relax, and alt-tab” for a little bit during trash pulls. Their healing is not super big, but after you set all your dots, put the treants in place, you can afford to be afk for 5 seconds before getting back into action.

Now, following a thread of conversation I had with a friend, now that druid has a fourth spec, what if each class is given the same treatment. What would it look like? I don’t claim that these ideas are all good, but these are the ones that first came to mind:

  • Shaman should get a tanking spec. This way, each spec can be attuned to one of the elements: earth for tanking, air for melee, fire for caster, water for healing. There are already tools in place to increase threat generation, they just need to add more totems and spells that support a complete tanking toolbox.
  • Death Knights should get a healing spec. A lot of what they do is already healing: self healing, rezzing, preventing damage. This could be interesting because instead of mana, their main resources would be runes and mana. (Runic power would not work well with a healing class, because a resource that starts at zero can’t be longevity-limiting). This is similar to how monks suddenly use mana when healing.
  • Paladins should get a caster spec, with Holy Shock as the main nuke. Now intellect plates won’t be as wasted.
  • Priests should get a tanking spec, thematically similar to discipline, except bubble galore. You can still wear cloth, but introduce a stance that increases armor like crazy (similar to how ice armor used to be).
  • Mages should get either a tanking spec or healing spec. Tanking spec could be similar to frost where cold winds reduce your chance to be hit, ice barrier bubbles yourself, etc. Healing spec can be based on the whole time-warp theme where you restore some life via warping time, because the wound wasn’t there and now it’s there, after you warp it it’s no longer there.
  • Warlocks should get a tanking spec, which they totally almost did. The thing with clothies all get tanking spec is that now you can introduce dodge and parry in cloth gear and it would be desired by multiple specs.
  • Hunters should get a tanking spec via pet. I don’t know how to make this fair, because while the pet is tanking, what should the hunter do? Keep dpsing and do excellent dps? That won’t be fair to the other tanks. Also, a large part of tanking is reactiveness: cooldowns, pushing buttons to anticipate the next boss abilities, actively managing mitigation. Maybe if you change some abilities to behave: as long as serpent sting is active, your pet gets 5% extra dodge, then it’d be possible. However, movement fights would be a nightmare.
  • Rogues should get an evasion tanking spec, which they kinda did back in TBC.
  • Warriors? Hmm I admit I have no clue here. They should get a healing spec, but how would that work thematically? Band-aids?
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Single Realm Play? Heck yeah….

The shared topic suggestion from Blog Azeroth this week is single realm play. The question, quoted verbatim from there, is:

If it were possible, would you want Blizzard to put all characters in a single realm/game world by realm type — PvP vs PvE vs RP? Why or why not?
My answer: heck yeah. I think the only downside to this is the possible lag and various technical hurdles that Blizzard has to address, but that’s not the spirit of the question. There are so many good things about single realm play that I can think of right off the bat:
  • Price uniformity. Right now, when you look at the price of, say, a certain enchant in AH in a realm, it varies wildly between servers. It is affected by several factors: the number of enchanters that have the recipe, the cost of mats (which in turn is influenced by supply and demand of mats, which also depend on other professions like tailoring etc), the demand of said enchant (which depends on the raiders and their progression level). For higher end enchants, the supply is often controlled by a handful of toons who HAVE killed the boss and have gotten the drop. You get the idea. WoW economy is a massive complex beast where if I were to draw a dependency graph, it would look so tangled that you can hide Waldo in there and can never find it. As a result, for each realm, the prices of commodities and trade goods vary wildly depending on the percentage of that realm’s population who want / have this and that material. Combining all the servers would only serve (HA!) to pool all the supply and demand forces and come up with a single point of equilibrium. Not only that, the price itself will be more uniform across time of the day. Right now there is a not-so-subtle pattern of price fluctuations from the morning till evening, and a sharp trader can actually make a lot of money off that fluctuation. But if everyone plays on the same realm, there’s gotta be someone selling and someone buying at any given time. This alone makes planning your crafting profession much easier and reliable, instead of relying blindly on the whim of the small market.
  • Economic health and stability. As an added plus, when you have such a massive market, a lot of the existing maneuvers done by AH tycoons such as price control and cartels would disappear, or at least harder to pull off. Right now it’s easy for someone with a few hundred grands to choose a commodity and corner that market. But if the market size is combined, good luck cornering that!! Everyone will be forced to compete healthily in the open market and colluding with your fellow crafters would be much harder to pull off.
  • Reputation. Right now, LFD and LFR are full of jerks. I’m one of them. When the realms are combined, you have to be careful with acting like a jerk, lest your name gets mentioned in Trade Chat for doing whatever it is that you did. There’s a reason that people actually tried hard and stayed after wipes in heroics in the days of BC and early days of Wrath. People want to be known as a good player, and they want to gain realm reputation. They want the invites, and they want to be able to apply to guilds without being turned down because “one of our officers played with you on heroics and….”
  • Speaking of which, guild recruitment and raiding PUGs will be healthier. There will be more of them, and each one would progress better. There’s a larger pool of players to recruit from, and each player can find the guilds that fit them the best. No more of “I play here because of friends but what I really want is that guild in that server”
  • Which, in turn, would mean less alts for people on average. There will always be altoholics like myself, but some people I know create alts on different servers just to be able to play with their RL friends. If they can play with friends and keep that one character, that character will be much more progressed. This issue partly has been addressed by the ability to group and LFD with cross-realm battle net friends. Note to self: write something about cross-faction grouping.

Now, I lied when I said that there’s no downside to single realm play. There are, of course, but they are pretty minor in my opinion. I’ll mention some of the big ones:

  • No more cornering of markets. For some of us, this is how we make a living.
  • Trade Chat. Actually, Barrens Chat. No scratch that. All zones will be like Barrens Chat if this were to happen. The combined power of the trolls would so dominate the chat channels all around Azeroth. But really, do we need trade chat anymore now that the AH is stable?

How to make class quests interesting

According to this breakfast topic discussion at WowInsider yesterday, a lot of commenters mentioned that they missed class-specific quests. I would agree. I remember leveling up my druid and working so hard to finally get that new form, or finally earn that new totem. It does feel like you’re growing significantly once you hit level 20, 30, 40, etc. I can see why they’re removed though. With the leveling up pace that’s so fast these days, hitting level 30 or 40 is not meant to be a big deal anymore. You’re supposed to press on a couple more days until you hit 60, and THEN that’s your big reward of going to Outland, if that can be considered a reward at all.

Another reason why they’re removed I think is Blizzard’s change of philosophy to make max level the new end game. Yes you still have to level up just because… I don’t know why actually. Maybe that’s another topic for another post. But the truth is, players and Blizzard both know that you can’t wait to get to level 85 / 90 as quickly as possible, so anything that hinders your progress (including withholding that totem / form from you) is not in line with their goal of getting you to max level as soon as possible.

However, with the rise of more customization, starting with availability of transmog technology, and a whole slew of vanity glyphs introduced in MoP, I can’t help but think, what if class quests are reintroduced with these vanity rewards in mind? Those quests are a great way to introduce lore. Not lore lore, but class lore, as in, you learn who you are as a druid / shaman / warrior, what you’re supposed to do and not. Class quests are a great way to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something meaningful and you’ve EARNED that new stance / form / pet. As a bonus, since the rewards are cosmetic in nature, you can brag and show that you’ve done it, which should serve as an added incentive to complete those quests.

The technology to do it is definitely there, as evidenced by Blizzard’s willingness to introduce the vanity glyph. I’m just going to offer some more suggestions as to what rewards can be offered for various classes for completing their class quests. Again, I haven’t looked at all the new spells in MoP, so I might be missing an obvious “duh” here. Suggestions and more ideas are always welcome.

Warlock

I feel like this is the easiest. Introduce class quests to get a fiery flying mount. Maybe from Xoroth, maybe somewhere else. Introduce other quests to get an alternate gender demons (female imp, male succubus, female void walkers, etc). Introduce LONG quest chains to choose the color of your fire (green or yellow). This last one has been hinted as a possibility by Blizzard. This has been protested by players who want it now and easy. To them I say: if you want it, work for it. It’s not game breaking and it’s not mandatory by any means, so putting it behind a long quest chain is perfectly acceptable.

Other ideas for warlocks: give us more dummy buffs. Is it game breaking for PvP? Do people still cast unending breath to shield friends from enemy dispels? But if we get waterwalking or levitate as rewards from quests, I wouldn’t complain

Mage

Option to alter the appearance of your pet. Instead of water elemental, you can have frozen revenant and watery revenant. Conjure familiars should definitely be one of those quest rewards, and I’m dismayed why it’s given as a glyph. New polymorph forms. Another idea: a flying form, just like druid. Remember how Medivh used to transform himself to a crow? This could be made not game breaking if we don’t get insta-cast, and can’t herb/mine in it. Another idea: telekinesis, as in looting from a distance. If hunters get it then we should have it too.

Druid

Upgraded forms: instead of dire bear, you have angry badass dire bear. Instead of tiger, you can choose to be other cats: lynx, hyena, or any of the Mac OS names. Better yet, canine form: wolves and siberian huskies, with otherwise exact same abilities as cat forms. Instead of the usual flight form, you can choose to be hawks, eagles, ravens.

Astral form for moonkins should definitely be a quest reward as well. Alternating between tree forms / choose your own tree colors. When summoning treants, you can choose to summon wild animals instead. If this is popped together with hunter’s stampede, you officially get a zoo.

Shaman

New or upgraded ascendance forms. You’ll get an armored earth elemental or something. Upgraded totem graphics and elemental shield graphics. Upgraded bloodlust / heroism icons, together with new sounds. This is similar to how some mages buy the Dalaran Brilliance spell.

Rogue

I really can’t think of anything here, since the major tenet of being a rogue is stealth and invisibility. Working hard for a cosmetic reward just goes against that very grain. Maybe give them a spell that’s equivalent to the highest level first aid? So if they do the quest they don’t have to do first aid?

Priest

Shadowform in healing specs, “light” form, turn shadow orbs into ravens, etc. Hey if Archbishop whats-his-name can still look like a light-blessed priest while being totally evil, so can we. Lightfiend instead of shadowfiend.

Hunter

Fetch items should have been one of those quest rewards. Extra stable slot? (for balance purpose, the 6th pet wouldn’t be summoned during stampede). Upgraded hunter’s mark graphics. Also, the new aspects glyph is really interesting. Maybe the quest would allow the pet to be permanent.

I don’t know if this would be game breaking or not, but an ability called “master training” that would allow hunters to change the school of a pet. Wolves can be trained to be tenacity and turtle can be ferocity. Is this already in game? I haven’t kept track of the news.

Death Knight

Redemptive form, allows death knights to be less scary and more paladin-like. Not popular? Hmm what else. Scary visage, envelops the death knight in undead energy that’s similar to priest shadowform?

More choices of pet forms: banshees, perma-gargoyle, rotface look-alike. Transmoggable frostmourne replica. Flying acherus mount. I know they sorta have it as dungeon rewards, but maybe give it a slightly different skin?

Paladin

Shadowform, like a fallen paladin? You know Arthas was kinda evil but was still a paladin for a while and was able to “call upon” the Light moments after he stabbed Muradin? Water walking. Paladins sorta get a slow fall in MoP, but that should have been a quest reward as well. Flying angels as your guardian graphic, or even cast a spotlight over an area with radius 20 yards when guardian is active, just to show you have a divine favor on you. Flying paladin mount. Extra auras that are non game breaking, for example, increased walking speed similar to aspect of cheetah.

Monk

Upgraded statue graphics. Instead of Jade, you can choose it to be diamonds or ruby. When you’re doing an animal related move (crane kick, tiger palm), a likeness of that animal can appear as a brief visage over you, similar to how JinDo’s image appeared in that zandalari trailer movie.

Warrior

Ok I confess I haven’t played warrior in 3 years, so I have nothing to offer here. Maybe add a loud grunt with each weapon strike? Audible to everyone but you?

Progress: LFR week, challenge mode gear scaling

After running LFR on various toons for a week, I finally got my rogue to hit iLevel 355 and halfway through the twilight dungeon quests. My feral druid completed the Kalimdor midsummer fire achievement and my paladin completed the Northrend ones. Gosh, it’ll be a couple more years before I get the purple drake, if ever. At least the whole shared achievement means that I can do it on different toons depending on what I’m in the mood of playing at that time.

My priest got four (yes, FOUR) drops from the LFR in one run, so he’s at iLevel 380 now, has 4pc tier bonus, and only missing chest piece from looking like this. My mage got the chest piece and now has 2pc tier bonus, which looks seriously wonky. I haven’t tried it on the training dummy, but it’s seriously gonna step up the arcane rotation pace a little bit.

On the other news, Blizzard just clarified the challenge mode gear scaling here. I agree with their rationales, mostly centered around keeping hit caps and expertise caps intact while scaling down everything else. But there are a few issues with this approach:

  • Most people that’s “that good” (i.e., have hopes of completing gold level challenges) are probably in a raiding team somewhere, or will be sporting raid-level gear shortly. These people are going to gem and reforge their gear around raid boss hit-caps, as opposed to heroic boss hit-caps. For casters, there’s a HUGE leap from being hit-capped against level 92 mobs to against level 93. That’s a lot of item budgets wasted if Blizzard insists on keeping the hit-cap. With the item budget as scarce as it is due to downscaling, this is a huge blow to the other secondary stats. Note to self: find out how to properly spell hit-cap. Hit cap? hitcap? hit-cap? hit_cap?
  • Some people gear around soft-caps such as haste plateaus. If you keep the hit-cap but scale down the haste, you might seriously mess up a warlock / spriest / boomkin’s dps, or a resto druid’s hps.
  • Let’s not even get to tanks where there’s an intricate interaction between mastery (for shield tanks), dodge, and parry.

With those inconveniences, I expect that there will be a lot of people keeping an extra set of gear, gemmed and reforged exactly for the purpose of entering a dungeon mode challenge. There will be theorycrafters out there explaining how to game the downscaling system so that you “land” on the haste plateaus you want. There will be a Mr. Robot-like sites or addons figuring this out. Another alternative that’s been suggested by WowInsider commenters are:

  1. Have a fixed stats for people upon entering the dungeon. If you’re going to play as a combat rogue, this is your stat, period. Well, it does solve all the issues I raised above, but it introduces other issues, namely:
    • Research / Preparation. Dungeon challenge is not meant to be brute-forced with gear, true, but it’s also not meant to take away the how-well-do-you-know-your-class part. Part of what differentiates great players from good players are knowing what the soft caps are and how to utilize them. I remember that when I was finally able to reach a the sixth tick of rejuvenation on my druid, suddenly my “rotation” (if there’s ever such thing for a healer) changes. I prioritize rejuvenation a little bit more, knowing that it heals for more. I usually don’t give much credit to raiders who know how to look things up online. I don’t consider that “skill.” What I consider skill is the ability to understand why those stats are weighed that way and how to respond accordingly when your stats change.
    • Interaction with talent system. I haven’t seen ALL the talents of the class I play (which is like, almost all of them), but there might be talent choices that begets different caps or even stat priorities.
    • Personalization / Playstyle. At some point in Cata, there were to viable styles of discipline priest. I think one was bubble spam, the other was heal spam. I dunno I forget, I didn’t have a level 85 priest back then. I thought that was pretty cool that Blizz was able to tune it so closely so that there’s no clear winner. I’m sure some other classes have that choice too. The two styles also require different stat priorities.
  2. Let each toon chooses the stats they want to scale down while keeping others intact. As a druid, I wouldn’t care about crit or mastery for example, but I want to keep my spirit and my haste where they are. As a mage, I would want to keep my hit rating but I don’t care about the others. Doesn’t solve the level 92 vs 93 mob conundrum but it solves the other ones.
  3. Let each toon BUDGET their stats themselves. Upon entering a dungeon (or previously, where you can save a profile), you are given this much item budget, and it’s up to you how to allocate them. This is probably the best approach functionally, but it’s horribe from the user experience point of view. Raiders and seasoned players would be able to figure this out quickly. But what about your regular joe players who are new and trying to click at “hey what is this dungeon challenge button?” and then BAM, hit with a window full of knobs and buttons that doesn’t make much sense?

I honestly don’t know what the best solution is. Maybe they have thought this through and still think that the solution they put forth was the lesser of all evils.

Inventory, gold sink mounts

Ok I didn’t get much progress these last few days other than just farming Ahune and burning blossoms, and doing some AH. Who know stock dust flipping could be so profitable?

It’s been almost a month since my last inventory post, so I’m going to update my character list with their new levels and iLevels.

Alliance

  • Gerana, level 85 night elf druid. Spec: restoration. Balance for questing. ILevel: 381.
  • Suroe, level 85 human death knight. Spec: blood. Unholy for questing. ILevel: 381.
  • Zarama, level 85 human mage. Spec: arcane. Frost for questing. ILevel: 378.
  • Elang, level 85 human priest. Spec: discipline. ILevel: 367 378.
  • Benume, level 84 85 night elf druid. Spec: feral (bear), feral (cat). ILevel: 359.
  • Delima, level 84 85 human rogue. Spec: combat. ILevel: 324.

Horde

  • Urumba, level 85 tauren shaman. Spec: restoration. Elemental for questing. ILevel: 376
  • Xarto, level 85 undead warlock. Spec: demonology. ILevel: 374 377.
  • Velone, level 85 blood elf paladin. Spec: protection, holy. ILevel: 375 376 (holy), 365 370 (protection).
  • Harja, level 71 orc hunter. Spec: beast mastery
  • Yelna, level 70 blood elf priest. Spec: holy
  • Radum, level 70 tauren druid. Spec: restoration / balance.
  • Tugar, level 70 orc death knight. Spec: unholy.

As you can see, the biggest progress is in gearing up and leveling up the last trio: priest, druid, rogue.

On the other news, since all gold-sink mounts will be account bound, I’m thinking that maybe I can buy a couple of them and have all my toons share access to the mounts. There are a few to choose from, each having their own features and “coolness” factor. I’m going to list them and my thoughts on each:

  • Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth. Cost: 20k, 16k if you’re exalted with Kirin Tor (which I think one of my toons is). Pros: Cheap. Comes with vendor and repair, and can seat up to three people. Perfect for a triboxer. Cons: the vendor only sells up to level 80 food and drink. No indication whether this would be updated in Mists, most likely no. Also, it does not fly. I thought this was going to be a deal breaker, but apparently many of the mounts in this list also do not fly, which is a shame.
  • Grand Expedition Yak. Cost: 60k, doesn’t seem like any reputation discount would apply. There are some reports that guild perk discounts would cause it to go down all the way to 54k, but still very expensive. Pros: Comes with a repair vendor that sells level 90 food and rink, and a reforger. How often do I need to reforge really? Also can seat up to three people. Cons: 60k. Enough said.
  • Mechano-hog / Mekgineer’s chopper. Cost: depending on market, but I estimate it to be around 12-15k. Pros: Cheap. Style factor. Also smaller than mammoths, so it would actually fit into small doorways. This was a huge deal back in Dalaran, but I don’t know about the doors in Pandaria. Cons: can only fit two people. Annoying chopper sound. Does not fly.
  • Sandstone Drake. Cost: depending on market, but I’ve bought one for 25k which is below vendor mat cost. Pros: you become the dragon itself, so huge style factor. Cons: can only fit two people.
  • Grand Ice Mammoth. Cost: 10k, but with exalted discount and guild perk, goes down to 7k. Pros: dirt cheap. Can fit three people. Cons: Does not fly. No vendors.
  • Ice Mammoth. Cost: 800 gold at exalted. I’m not gonna comment on this one since I have it already.
  • Jeweled Onyx Panther. Cost: 2 million gold for the onyx, and 500k for the other colors. Umm kthxbai.
  • Cloud Serpents. Right now there’s not much information on it, so I can’t comment too much.

As you can see, in order to narrow down the choices, I have to ask the following questions:

  • Do I want a reforger? Most likely no, since I don’t get new gear that often.
  • Do I want a vendor? It’s 7/10 on the scale of necessity. It’s not crucial but can be helpful.
  • 3 people ground mount vs 2 people flying mount? This is the toughest choice. Most likely I’ll just end up getting both. The 3 people ground mount would help during leveling process or things like Tol Barad dailies. The 2 people flying mount would help transport a lowbie from point A to point B, although there are otherwaysto do that. Blizzard has indicated that Have Group Will Travel will be replaced by something else, and they have not changed their stance since. So 2 people flying mount will be more necessary than before.

Verdict: the current plan is to get both Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth and Sandstone Drakes. This way each toon will have insta-access to vendors, 3 seater, and a flying 2 seater for the purpose of transporting lowbies.

Progress: new gear, gold sink mounts

After running a few rounds of LFR last night, my priest gets a headpiece that gets him 3/5 of T13, upping his iLevel to 378. My druid gets the legging for T13 which gets her the 4pc set bonus. Technically she has ALL of T13, although she’s not equipping the head piece since she has the level 397 valor one.

On the other news, the gold sink mounts are going to be account-bound, per this post. I’m conflicted whether the prices are going to go up or down, since on the one hand the value and usefulness of each item increased, but on the other hand, the demand would decrease. Only a few people are able to afford these kinds of mounts, and those who do usually don’t hold back to afford it on multiple characters. But who knows, maybe because it’s account-bound now, more people would be willing to shell out the gold, thus increasing demand.

At any rate, I’ve bought two alchemy mounts. Even if the price didn’t go up, I can always equip them on two of my accounts. If they do go up, maybe I’ll sell one for a nice profit, or I’ll sell both, depending on how greedy I feel at that moment. Either way, they’re dirt-cheap right now, costing only 25k each, considering that it costs 24k in vendor mats alone.