Monthly Archives: August 2009

Gearing Up For Battlegrounds

Hall of Legends

If you are going to be spending a lot of time in the battlegrounds of Azeroth, you should dress for success and get some PvP gear. Even a few well-chosen pieces can improve your performance and survival – and they’re often good pieces to level with, too. But gearing up for PvP can be a complicated affair, particularly for the uninitiated.

That’s okay. I’m here to help you shop.

KNOW YOUR GEAR GOALS

In all likelihood, unless you are a Warlock I’m not going to be able to give you a specific shopping list of gear to go get. That’s okay; you should know the gear requirements of your class better than I do. But, much like battleground talents, there are some general guidelines for battleground gear that transcend class.

You should choose gear on a familiar set of three principles:

  1. Survival
  2. Control
  3. and Output.

Unlike levelling gear, which should at least have a nod towards efficiency, and raiding gear, which for everyone (except tanks) favors output over everything else, battleground gear has to keep you alive so you can do your job. You will sacrifice a lot of output as a tradeoff for survival. That’s okay; nobody looks at your DPS/HPS in a battleground. Just stay alive and do your job.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at Warlock stat priority between the three gear types.

  • Leveling gear: Hit (~4%) > Spellpower > Stamina > Intellect > Spirit/Haste/Crit
  • Raiding gear: Hit (17%) > Spellpower > Haste > Crit > Spirit
  • Battleground gear: Hit (6%) > Resilience > Stamina > Spell Penetration (75-120) > Spellpower > Haste > Crit

The leveling gear should give you enough hit so you don’t miss too many mobs, but not so much that you sacrifice stamina or spellpower for it. Intellect is present to increase your mana pool, but so is Stamina, because of Life Tap. I imagine that mages flip that priority and favor Intellect over Stamina, but nearly all casters can use “… Of the Eagle” gear. This gear will let you quest with litte to no downtime and have sufficient punch to deal with mobs you encounter on the way.

The most important stat to a raider, however, is Hit, specifically enough Hit to never miss an endgame boss. Once this Hitcap is reached, Hit is worthless and it’s time to do damage. Each build has different DPS coefficients for each stat, but spellpower always wins. Spirit is more important than either Stamina and Intellect because Fel Armor turns it into damage.

Obviously, this gear priority is designed to do one thing really well — bring down level 83 bosses quickly.

Battleground gear doesn’t bring the heat to a boss like raid gear. It has just enough Hit to get equal-level opponents (4%) with racial or class evasion abilities (+2%) factored in. But once that PvP hit cap is established, it focuses on reducing damage with Resilience, creating a large pool of hit points with Stamina, and then overcoming resistances with Spell Penetration. Only once Survival and Control are established is attention paid to increased damage and Output.

I’m going on at some length on the principles with this example because I don’t know what your specific needs will be. If you are looking for some casual battleground fun while leveling, specific numerical targets are irrelevant. Just pick up some pieces with Resilience and Stamina and go to work. If you’re a level 80 caster working on a complete PvP set, though, I can tell you to shoot for 800 Resilience, 158 Spell Hit, 75 Spell Pen, and 20k hit points before working on your spellpower.

If you need help figuring out what you gear goals are, there are two places that can help. First, visit the PvP vendors in-game and see what kind of gear they sell for your class. While not infallible, this at least can get you used to the stats Blizzard thinks are acceptable. Second is to look on the internet at sites like Arena Junkies to see what other PvPers are doing.

Do a little research and set your gear goals first; it will help make decisions easier later.

Wintergrasp Quartermaster

HOW TO BUY

I hear it in chat all the time — where do I get PvP gear? Gearing up for battlegrounds is somewhat different than gearing up for raids, but only in execution, not philosophy. You improve your gear through crafting, reputation grinding, and playing battlegrounds.

As of 3.2, the current acquisition path is:

  1. Old-world (Marks of Honor) PvP rewards
  2. Level 60 and 70 (Marks of Honor) PvP sets
  3. Guardian (Marks of Honor) PvP sets
  4. Blue (Crafted) PvP sets
  5. Hateful (Honor) PvP sets
  6. Deadly (Badges) PvP sets
  7. Titan-Forged (Wintergrasp) PvP set
  8. Ferocious (Arena) PvP set

As your character grows, you’ll want to focus on different pieces.

First, while leveling you’ll have the opportunity to purchase PvP pieces from vendors stationed outside the various Battlegrounds in Azeroth. These pieces are generally good, but like all pieces gathered in leveling, quickly outgrown. They cost Marks of Honor from the various battlegrounds, and some honor. The vendors are:

There are some good items you might consider getting. The Highlander’s Boots have a built-in speed enchant and can also take a riding speed enchant, making them great riding and town boots. But in general, if you are not twinking at one of these levels, these items should only be considered if you want to avoid the Auction House for some green upgrades.

At level 60, more pieces open up with the Rare and Epic level 60 sets. You should get these for the looks, not for the stats, because at level 58 you walked through the Dark Portal and picked up greens in Hellfire Peninsula that blow these pieces away. The Rare level 70 sets are also quickly outmoded by Northrend quest greens, and don’t even look as good.

However, if you look around the Hall of Champions (Alliance) or Hall of Legends (Horde), you will find Rachel Vaccar and Teena, purveyors of Season 4 Arena gear for level 70s, which will also cost you honor and Marks of Honor. Some of this gear is quite good. Casters should consider the Volanthius Shroud — good cloaks are hard to come by, and it’s a good one. Many of the trinkets are also exceptional for leveling.

At level 78, crafted PvP gear becomes available:

If you have the means, these are good upgrades to go for. Each one of these sets has a Stamina and Resilience bonus and can be crafted by the various crafting professions. They are sets for both PvE and PvP at level 78 through 80, and are a good starter set for PvP at level 80.

Once you get to level 80, you no longer have to worry about outgrowing your gear and can set your sights on assembling a full set. Honor Points are now your currency of choice, with one exception which we’ll get to later. If you’ve been doing a lot of Battlegrounds, now is the time to turn those Marks of Honor into Honor Points so you can go to town.

Your first goal is upgrading to last season’s Arena set, the Hateful/Deadly set. At first, you’ll want to get the Hateful gear (ilvl 200) to replace your main outfit and Deadly gear (ilvl 213) for rings, trinkets, bracers, neck, and boots. Pay attention to set bonuses and differences in item Equip abilities; often the gloves will have unique abilities and should be gotten first. If you are also running Heroics at this time, you now (as of 3.2) have the option of purchasing Deadly versions of your main gear for Emblems of Conquest. You should stop and think before going full Deadly, however.

While working on getting enough honor to buy your Hateful/Deadly set, you should also be playing as many Wintergrasp games as you can. The reason is because of the items available from the Wintergrasp Quartermasters: Titan-Forged gear. Titan-Forged gear is often the same item level as Deadly gear (213), but is itemized for Haste or Hit instead of Crit. It is also very easy to get, just requiring Wintergrasp Marks of Honor to get. And it’s the key to a well-rounded PvP set.

Remember that discussion about knowing what stats you need to be successful in battlegrounds? Titan-Forged gear helps you reach those stats. While you can go full Hateful/Deadly and get some pieces with Hit, they all favor Crit over Haste. This can be good for some builds, but not all. You need to know which stats serves your specific build best and build accordingly.

My recommendation is to start out with 4 pieces of Hateful and 1 Titan-Forged piece, adding more Titan-Forged pieces as you go. The trinkets are also an excellent way to gain resilience and should be purchased. This gives you the opportunity to experiment with your set bonuses while also getting some very good gear.

One last note about the Titan-Forged gear. With the release of the Argent Tournament (3.2), several new items were added to the Wintergrasp Quartermasters: ilvl 232 pants and ilvl 226 bracers and rings. These are equivalent to the current top-level Arena Furious Gladiator gear, and should be gotten first. They are great pieces to build your set around.

Finally, we consider Arena gear. The Furious Gladiator gear can only be purchased with Arena points, and with specific personal or team ratings. Success in the Arena is the only way to get PvP-oriented weapons, and they are outstanding ones.

If you are Arena-shy you will have to look elsewhere. Crafted weapons like the epic Titansteel weapons (I used the Titansteel Spellblade for some time) or Inscription off-handers are good choices. So are reputation rewards, like those available at the Argent Tournament quartermasters. PvE Heroics like the Trial of the Champion have fantastic drops, too. If you don’t like Arena don’t beat yourself up trying to get a good PvP weapon — just get a good PvE weapon and move on.

Once you have all this great gear, don’t forget that you have to enchant and gem it. Knowing your gear priorities will determine which specific ones you will get, but since Resilience is important to all classes I should point out the head enchants from Wintergrasp (the Arcanums of Dominance and Triumph, respectively) and the Greater Inscription of the Gladiator from your faction’s quartermaster as worthy enchants. This is the part that gets expensive; make friends with an enchanter and jewelcutter if you can.

LAST WORD: BE FLEXIBLE

I’ve had a full Hateful/Deadly set for a while now, and I think it’s important to not get too comfortable with your gear. Each patch has brought new items, new itemizations, and adjustments to the gear. Soon we will see Furious Gladiator’s gear start appearing at vendors for honor points instead of Arena points. Having clear gear goals and meeting them is more important than any single gear upgrade. Keep them in mind and you will not go wrong.

Now get shopping!

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EotS Honor Per Minute

Ihrayeep over at Only God Can Make A Tree has an interesting post up on Titles and Stats in the battlegrounds, EotS specifically:

My first question I wondered was, it’s holiday weekend. Am I better off zerging the holiday BG, which won’t get any marks turn-ins, or rotating around like I usually do for the turn-in? After I asked this question, I realised that if I zerged the holiday BG every weekend then every 6th weekend I’d have a massive amount of turn-ins anyway, assuming I was willing to play the long-ball, and then I’d get the best of both worlds. So I reduced my question to, what kind of honor are you looking at, assuming you play intelligently enough to eventually be able to do turnins?

My gut tells me that the real winners in the Honor Per Minute race are going to be Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients.  But math beats gut feelings every single time, so I’m really looking forward to the complete series.

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The Cataclysm Bucket List

This post will discuss details of the recently-announced WoW expansion. If you are avoiding spoilers, stop reading now.

This weekend, Blizzard announced details of the next World of Warcraft expansion, Cataclysm. From rated battlegrounds and the return of PvP rank titles, to major overhauls of gear itemization, to major reworking of Warlock class mechanics, there’s been a lot of great news to absorb and get excited about.

I may have some things to say about the battleground and Warlock changes later, once the dust has settled. But while most of the changes affect how we’ll play in the future, one change affects how we play now.

And that change is the Cataclysm itself.

The fundamental premise of the expansion is that the face of Azeroth is irrevocably altered by the return of Deathwing. All of the old zones are getting revamped and updated: some completely redesigned, others just getting reworked. Empty zones like Azshara will be populated, hated zones like Desolace will be given a makeover, and established zones like Elwynn Forest will get an update. Furthermore, the phasing engine deployed in Wrath that alters the landscape and opens up quest hubs will see a lot of use. So things are going to be very, very different in Azeroth and Kalimdor, which is going to be great! I am so glad that the Old World is going to get some attention.

But it also means that the current content has an expiration date. If you don’t experience it soon, you won’t experience it at all. The clock is ticking. Cataclysm may not be out for a year or more, but it will come. The old world’s days are numbered.

So a lot of my thought this weekend has dwelt on what things I would like to accomplish before the Azeroth I’ve come to know kicks the bucket. A Cataclysm Bucket List, if you will.

Here’s what I’ve got so far.

1. Tour all the zones that are going to radically change, taking pictures and fishing in each one. I love how each zone has a distinct feeling to it. That feeling stocks with you as you adventure through it, and I will miss many of these zones — the quiet beauty of Azshara, the pastoral hominess of Southshore, the purple docks of Auberdine. I already have the Explorer title, but a nostalgia fishing tour is in order.

2. Visit all the dungeons that are going to change. Onyxia’s Lair will be updated before the Cataclysm, so that’s on the list, but other classic dungeons like Shadowfang Keep are also going to get updated. Time to solo them while I can.

3. Go through all the different racial starting zones. I’ve played all of the classes to level 10, but not all of the races, and the starting areas are going to be updated. In Durotar’s case, the update could be quite substantial, so I should level out an Orc or Troll to see what it’s like. I assume that, aside from the opening cinematic, the two races share the same quests, much like the Dwarves and Gnomes do. If that’s the case I can just do Durotar once.

The only other race I haven’t played is the Forsaken, and while I’m not really looking forward to it, I should see what it’s like growing up undead.

4. See the old world (10-60) from the other faction’s perspective. This one is more daunting, because I am a slow, slow leveler. I have enough trouble leveling my Alliance alts, and they’re decked out in the finest heirloom gear I can get! Some of it is time; I really enjoy playing my main, so I spend a lot of my limited playtime playing her. But even on my main, leveling was a slow process for me. After months of play, my baby Druid is only level 41. So rolling Horde, and sticking with it to level 60, is going to be a real challenge.

There are several achievements I considered adding to this list but did not; Loremaster and Classic Dungeonmaster, for example, or completing my Dreadmist set. I’m already trying to do too much by even considering leveling a Horde alt past the starting zone. But I also have to be honest with myself — those things don’t matter as much to me. I don’t have the desire to seek out every last quest, or level one of every race and class to 80. None of us have unlimited playtime, and managing the time we do have playing this game is essential. We make choices every time we log in about what we are going to do next, be it raiding end-game content, collecting pets or mounts, leveling an alt, grinding a rep, or even just fishing. These choices define our game, and us.

While I’m sad to see the old world go, I’m glad I got to experience one side of it once all the way through, and will love to see the other side before the Cataclysm takes it away.

So . What’s on your list? Anything else I should consider?

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Going Back into the Dungeons

Trial-of-the-Crusader.png

I have never been one for dungeons in the World of Warcraft.

I ran very few instances while leveling, and those few that I did try either were featured episodes of PuGs Gone Wrong or caused me to pull spouse aggro so hard that I considered shelving the game entirely. The only dungeons and raids I would do were guild runs, and even those were white-knuckle affairs.

It’s somewhat ironic that I started off playing swearing that I did not want to PvP, but those bad early dungeon runs drove me into the battlegrounds and caused me to swear off PvE.

But you know what? Neither extreme is heathly. Warcraft is wonderfully diverse in how you can have fun; limiting that fun because it’s not what you’re used to or comfortable with is really your problem, not the game’s. Or, in this case, my problem.

So when the Trial of the Champion was announced, what with its sweet, sweet loot and delicious, shiny Champion’s Seals, I knew I was going to try it, and even PuG it, just to see if I could.

And I’m really glad I did. I’ve been running heroics on a pretty regular basis and have even set up a raiding spec and gear set which is slowly filling out. Practice in the Argent Tournament has paid off, and I no longer avoid dungeons like the plague.

But there were some rules I had to learn on the way.

THE TRIAD OF BLAME

I’ve seen the triad of blame posted a lot in the forums, but it’s worth revisiting if you’re considering getting into some dungeons.

  1. If the tank dies, it’s the healer’s fault.
  2. If the healer dies, it’s the tank’s fault.
  3. If the DPS dies, it’s their own damn fault.

While it’s couched in terms of blame, this is really all you need to know about threat and aggro.

As a DPS class, I have taken that last bit to heart. If you pull aggro from the tank, it isn’t because the tank is bad. It’s because you didn’t manage your aggro. This is true especially if you have a bad tank! Using Omen to measure threat is a strange and foreign concept to a PvPer, but you have to do it. You have to hold back on your damage until the tank has built up threat, and every tank is different.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten on Twitter to tell what kind of tank you’re dealing with is to hit the first trash mob pull as hard and as fast as you possibly can. How the tank responds to this pull will tell you how much restraint you’re going to have to have on the bosses later on.

The TotC, lacking trash pulls until the second boss, isn’t really ideal for this advice. But hitting the first boss really hard does give a good idea how the rest of the run is going to go.

DON’T DO STUPID THINGS

Unlike a battleground, where you can do pretty much everything right and still get facerolled, dungeons are straightforward: don’t do the stupid things that get you killed.

  1. Don’t stand in the fire.
  2. Don’t stand in the poison gas, red circles, or really anything else with a visual effect.
  3. Don’t stand in front of the boss.
  4. Don’t stand in back of a dragon.

The beauty of PvE is you can actually know what you’ll be facing before you get there. I don’t say this to trivialize the challenges – far from it – but rather that you can and should research the fights before you get there.

Just like Omen, you can and should get an addon like Deadly Boss Mods to help make sure you don’t do the stupid stuff.

TWO THINGS, REALLY

All of this comes down to two things, really.

  1. Mind your threat.
  2. Learn the fight.

Keep those tips in mind and those big bad PvE bosses won’t seem quite so bad anymore.

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On Jousting

Knight-in-Cloth-Armor.png

I might be in the minority, but I enjoy jousting at the Argent Tournament.  While it doesn’t make much sense that my skinny little warlock arms could hold and aim a 20-foot lance on charging horseback — or that I would want to use such primitive methods — I embarked on a rigorous exercise program and have gotten pretty good at it.

I still don’t get to wear plate mail, though.  That kinda sucks.

I was going to share some tips with you on how to joust, but Keeva over at Tree Bark Jacket has already put together a comprehensive guide to knocking people off horses with long pointy sticks.  She describes my technique perfectly — it’s her Method 2:

  1. Get 3 stacks of Defend up.
  2. Talk to the NPC.
  3. As he runs away, spam Charge until it goes off.
  4. Swing around in an arc, and throw Shield-Breaker as you move back around to melee range.
  5. Get back into melee range and spam Thrust.
  6. Whenever the NPC walks away from you, back up and spam Charge until it goes off, then repeat steps 4 and 5.

Keeping 3 stacks of Defend up at all times is your priority.  The idea is simple — take less damage than you give out.  It is not quick, but you will win.

This technique works on both Valiants, Champions, and even Boneguard Commanders.  Against the Scourge your attacks do substantially more damage than they do to you, so the key is just avoiding additional mobs, just like normal PvE.  There are always a few Commanders at the top of the stairs if you have trouble finding a group for the Battle Before the Citadel.

The rest of Keeva’s article and accompanying video is worth a look if you’re having problems jousting.

Also, don’t forget that Outfitter has the ability to let you mouse over a mount and automatically equip a Lance.  This saves a lot of irritation in the long run, so if you use Outfitter (who doesn’t use Outfitter?) check out the Argent Tournament options.

Now if only we can get flying jousts…

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The Twink Vacuum

Dun Baldar Flag.png

So a funny thing happened on the way to Alterac Valley; the upper level brackets are suddenly THRIVING in the Ruin battlegroup. 3.2 has been very, very good for participation across all levels, and both sides. No longer is it 40:12 odds against the Horde in AV; matches are equal and the Alliance loses if they don’t play smart.

Glorious!  Wonderful!  I love it!

/bg chat is full of people talking, with some amazement, about how much XP they’re getting. I’ve gotten 2-4 bars in each battleground at level 59, with AV rewarding the most by far when our side plays well.

I think this increased participation is due not only to the new experience gains, but also the removal of twinks from the field. It is a sad, sobering thing to realize how much the fear of twinks kept people from playing the BGs.

The only twinks in the upper brackets are now ex-twinks. I sat for hours in queue with my experience frozen and never played a game once 3.2 hit. With XP gains on, I play in under a minute.  The queue times speak louder than anything I could write.  If you want to twink in the 50s or 60s, you won’t play.

Blizzard did a very good thing with 3.2. With one change they both added more positive incentive to play the battlegrounds, and removed the negative fears of being mercilessly steamrolled by twinks. I think that while that fear may have been valid in the lower brackets, it wasn’t in the upper ones.

I’m glad to see so many people in the battlegrounds once more.

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Experience

Cynwulf Goes to Stratholme - Web.png

Patch 3.2 introduced the ability to turn off experience gains for characters, something that Blizzard envisioned having more uses than just enabling twinks. Having seen it in action, I have to agree.

I have a twink, of sorts: Cynwise’s dear drunk death knight brother Cynwulf. I say “of sorts” for two reasons — first, 59 DK, already OP, and second, because I didn’t do much research or planning to make sure I got the absolute best gear available, or maxed out professions for every last advantage. Best enchants? Sure. But real twinks go all the way. I really respect players who put that much thought and effort into working within constraints.

Freezing experience gains seemed like a great way to address this problem; I could seek out all the BoP gear I’d skipped, go level mining and skinning without getting exploring XP, and even go grind some reputations.

Little did I know the most transforming experience would be none of those things: it was leaving the city to go adventuring with friends. The freedom to go run a dungeon with your guild, to be a helpful part of a team, is not something that you get out of a lot of BGs.

So Cynwulf went and was the Main Tank on a Stratholme run, and did remarkably well at it. Would he do better at level 60, with Howling Blast and Death and Decay? Almost certainly. But it’s of little matter. Everyone involved had an absolute blast.

Just because you turn off experience gains doesn’t mean you stop gaining experiences.

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