Category Archives: Green Tinted Goggles

The PvP Pause

One of the reasons I enjoy having a twink like Cynderblock is that, because she is not leveling, I really get a chance to understand the abilities she has, how they interact, and what their limits are. I love XP-locked twinks because I have time to figure out the intricacies of a class and I’m able to get the best gear without it changing on me. Playing with XP off lets you learn nuances to your character, like how to pull trash versus how to pull a boss, or how to quest in areas well below your level versus those well above your level. You determine the right gear and abilities to use in different situations, and then you modify your interface – on screen, macros, keybinds, mousebinds –  to reflect that knowledge.

By keeping your level (and eventually, your gear) static, you are able to deeply understand the abilities your character possesses, and play them to their full potential.

Endgame characters are similar to twinks in that you spend a lot of time learning how a class operates at the endgame, but there are some differences:

  • The gear available to you will constantly change. As time goes on, better and better gear will be released, and no matter where you are on the raiding/PvP tree, your gear will improve over the course of an expansion. This usually represents an increase in power, not playstyle, but it does require some adjustment.
  • Your class abilities will change. Nerfs and buffs happen, often. Spells and glyphs get redesigned, or removed. These changes often affect endgame play more than lower levels, because they’re designed to affect endgame balance.
  • There is more theorycrafting available for endgame characters than leveling characters, so there is less need to figure it all out on your own. You can learn to play a spec effectively by following a guide.

These differences between endgame toons and twinks are pretty small, and the first two come in intervals that leave plenty of time to learn how things work before they change again. You have time to get your UI and macros set up the way you want them, configure Power Auras and NeedToKnow to display the right information, to understand how different talents and abilities interact and work.

But if you stop playing for a while, your class can change underneath you, sometimes dramatically. I played my Death Knight only occasionally in the later days of Wrath, and I found the constant changes to be difficult to cope with. The transition to Cataclysm actually helped me a bit, because I was able to jettison my thought that I should understand the class and instead approach it fresh; but I still struggle with him. Guides have helped, but there is still a sense of discomfort whenever I leave the Frost 2H playstyle – because that’s how I learned to DK, as a level 59 PvP twink.

You also have to play relatively often to stay current on an endgame character’s gear – what is good gear for one raid tier or PvP season will be insufficient later on. Generally, once you’ve geared up for specific PvE content, you stay geared for that content, but new content will need new gear. PvP is an arms race, so if you skip a season, you will be facing better geared opponents, and suffer accordingly.

The last point I made above, that the ready availability of guidance on how to play a spec at the endgame makes you less likely to really master it, is one I wrestle with. You can excel in doing something without understanding all of it. I’ve seen this in many different aspects of my own life, in sports, in technology, in science, and even in video games – performance and understanding are related, but not dependent, variables. But I also think if you pick a spec up at the endgame,  you’re less likely to fully master it than if you leveled with it. That’s not to say you can’t excel at it, just that you’re not going to understand it as well as someone who leveled with it. There’s a knowledge base gained through learning how to do something yourself, of what works and what doesn’t work, that you can’t completely replicate with a guide or manual.

And yet… knowing how to level in a given spec doesn’t mean you’ll know how to play the spec at endgame. It doesn’t mean you’ll know how to squeeze out the last bit of DPS, tank a raid boss, or heal a heroic dungeon. Leveling is not as rigorous an activity as most endgame pursuits. Specs play differently at endgame than earlier. Knowing how to tank Ragefire Chasm like a pro doesn’t mean you’re ready to tank Cho’gall.

But it might help you be a better play of the class, overall.

WHY EXPERIENCE IN BATTLEGROUNDS IS BAD

I have a working theory about why I like playing my warlock so much.

Cynwise was one of a field of 10 characters I rolled when I first started playing. She was the one I got to 20 first, which still took a long time. She’s the one I explored with, she’s the one I learned not just the warlock class, but the game with. After a while, I deleted all those characters except ‘wise and my banker and got on with the business of leveling.

In retrospect, I was not very good at leveling. I was not a very good player, to be honest, but that was fine – I was learning how the game worked. I had sworn off PvP, because that shit is just scary, and I didn’t run dungeons, so I just quested and tried to make sense of WTF I was supposed to do. It was fun.

At level 51, and to this day I don’t know why I did it, but I queued up for a battleground. It was Alterac Valley, and it was exhilarating. We won. And I was hooked.

I eventually figured out that I would do better if I leveled up to 58 or 59, which I did relatively quickly, and then I set about playing battlegrounds full-time. This was before battlegrounds awarded experience, and only AV awarded a pittance for the deaths of NPCs, so it was pretty safe to stay in a bracket and PvP as much as you wanted.

All that background leads up to my theory. It has several parts.

  1. While PvP doesn’t teach you everything about your class, it can provide a crucible to learn how to use your abilities under pressure.
  2. PvP Battlegrounds provide short, manageable periods of time to try out different strategies and tactics, with immediate feedback about how they work. Did you win, or did you lose?
  3. When Battlegrounds awarded no XP, they served as the one place you could refine your play with a character without them changing.
  4. Therefore, XP-less Battlegrounds provided the ideal place to master a class.

I look at some of my high-level alts, compare them to Cynwise, and I wonder if I will ever come close to understanding them like I do the Warlock class. I don’t know about you, but I struggle when I know I’m not as good as I could be at something, and when there are better alternatives for me.

And I really wonder, how much of that is because it took me 6 months to get to level 80, with fully 3 of those months spent playing in the battlegrounds?

I don’t know.

Perhaps it’s a personal failing, but I know that when I get on my Druid, and I suck at PvP or PvE, it hurts to be incompetent. I hate it. I get overrun and wonder how I was supposed to escape. When a tank dies on my watch, I wonder why I’m even trying.

This is a natural response to poor performance, and I get over it, but I am really left wondering – will flailing my way to 85 make me happy? Or wouldn’t I rather go play someone who makes me feel good about myself and my abilities, even if it’s just my ability to play a video game?

I want, very much to take every alt and just PvP on them until I get it. I want to get how the class works before I move on any further.

Losing the ability to play in battlegrounds to our heart’s content at a given level has its downsides. It’s probably not enough to offset the massive benefits that XP-on BGs has brought – greatly increased popularity of BGs in general, making for more fair fights in most brackets – but it also has removed the PvP pause where we master our character before moving on to the next set of abilities and challenges.

WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?

There are no more twinks in here anymore. We’re all just ex-twinks.

- Cynwulf

The other downside of XP in battlegrounds is that you don’t have a chance to form a community in them anymore. You’d see the same faces over and over again in battlegrounds before this change happened, on both sides, and you got to know people. Not in depth, but certainly you’d know if someone was competent or not.

My Death Knight, Cynwulf, was essentially a level 59 DK twink at a time when DKs were so massively overpowered even bothering to call him a twink sounds silly. He hung around in various bars in the cities of Azeroth, drinking his Scourge-induced woes away, and PvPing. I hated Warsong Gulch on my warlock, but on Cynwulf, it was a total love affair. Howling Blast packed a huge punch (and was available at 59). The confines of the map, coupled with having the only epic mounts at that level, meant it was possible to blow off steam and just destroy a battleground.

I particularly enjoyed Alterac Valley on Cynwulf, because it was my chance to tank Galv and Drek. And people knew me as a good tank. Players in that bracket would see me speaking up and know that I was going to tank Drek, and do a good job of it. Warbringers up? Give me a few seconds, let me get D&D/HB out, then go wild. There were healers I’d know would have my back. There was a Paladin who dinged 60 one match and we all had a very fond farewell party for him in the Field of Strife.

But, eventually, XP came, and the decision had to be made between staying and going, between leveling up and continuing to PvP, or hoping for an XP-off queue to pop.

They never popped, so I leveled Cynwulf up. And the familiar battlegrounds were thriving, but thriving with strangers. The community was gone. They might realize who I was from the big numbers I was putting up, but live or die, I was probably not going to see very many of these people ever again.

My hero of the Stormpike was no more. My dear, drunk Death Knight brother was going to have to move on.

I dinged 60 with Cynwulf in Hellfire Peninsula. I knew there was no going back to the 51-60 bracket that I knew so well with him.

It was time to move on.

WHEN IT IS TIME TO MOVE ON

I enjoyed playing Cynderblock so much that I rolled another warrior, Ashwalker, with the intent to level her. Ashwalker has taken up most of my alt time these days. I’m having a blast with her, questing, tanking, PvPing, seeing all the things I want to see in Cataclysm from the ground up.

At level 20, it was strange playing Ash over ‘block, because she had… half the health of my twink? Even decently geared with full heirlooms, there was a huge gulf between the twink and the leveling toon, but the playstyle was very similar, and therefore very comfortable. I tried Arms for a while, but eventually settled back into Protection, first to help tank some instances, then because it was fun in its own right.

By the time I hit the 40s, though, I was starting to get nervous. How does this new stuff work? Where do I put things on my bars? What am I missing? What do you mean, I don’t need to stance dance to Charge? When should I use Whirlwind? Should I look at Arms again? What about Fury? What about PvP?

So I locked my XP at level 49 until I could get my mind caught up to my character.

I talked a little bit about this in the 5×2 Project, but I found this pause really helped me out. It gave me time to fiddle with macros and keybinds and screen layout. It let me figure out what abilities I really needed to hit more often, and which ones didn’t make sense to use anymore. It even gave me time to set up my dual spec correctly!

What it didn’t do was give me a chance to try things out in PvP. I did queue, but never saw a single queue pop. Not one. If I wanted to try something out, I had to try it out in a dungeon. Not that dungeons weren’t valuable, because they were!

But it taught me how to tank well at 49. Not PvP well, but tank well. That’s important, too.

I found myself tempted, while XP was locked, to go do crazy twink things. I very seriously considered getting the Argent Champion and Ambassador titles at level 49. (I have the Argent Crusade tabard as a result.) I considered trying to get her twink-level gear and solo instances at level.

The temptation was strong. I’ll admit it.

But I did the right thingt; I spent only a few days at 49 before finally admitting that I’d gotten the main benefit from the exercise and turning XP back on again. I no longer felt overwhelmed by my abilities or bars. I was back in control. I was comfortable with the talent tree I’d chosen, of my macros, and of how to play. I didn’t need to grind dungeons for titles.

No, after some reflection it was very clear that I don’t need to spend months in the battlegrounds anymore to learn how to play a character. When I did that on Cynwise and Cynwulf, it was because I was not just learning the class – I was learning the game. I was learning how to win the battlegrounds, how they worked.

I needed the six months of time to get my first character up to 80, because there was so much to learn. This included how to play a class, but it also included how to play. I don’t need to learn those lessons again – but I do need to learn how to play a warrior. While that includes leveling, it also includes the endgame, and I know I have a lot to learn there, too. I need questing. I need dungeon experience. I need balance.

Ashwalker just dinged 58, and has entered Outlands. I don’t know what I’m going to do next with her – maybe quest for some rewards, level her professions, run some dungeons, PvP up to 60 – but I still feel like I have a handle on playing a Prot Warrior.

Maybe my theory that XP-off battlegrounds are the best places to learn your class isn’t that good after all.

THE VALUE OF PVP PAUSES

I absolutely think that PvP is a great part of the leveling process. Leveling is, by its very nature, a learning process, and including PvP as part of it is really vital to understanding all of a class.

But it has to be balanced.

I have to be careful to not read too much into my own experiences. Yes, I spent nine months in ICC as a Demonology warlock, and while I understood it well enough to teach it to others, I never felt like I’d mastered it like I had Affliction and Destruction – the specs I had leveled as, the specs I PvPed with.

Yet, I raided well as Demonology. It wasn’t a mark against me that I couldn’t PvP with the spec – I didn’t need to PvP with it. I was there to raid.

It’s odd that we can play a spec, and play it well, and yet not feel like we’ve mastered it. I can look at my Warlock at 85, with her overwhelming number of buttons, and feel totally comfortable – yet my level 70 Druid makes me go AMG WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO.

It’s not just a question of complexity – it’s how we handle the complexity. We don’t start off with endgame characters for a simple reason – they’re too complicated to play well if you don’t spend some time leveling them.

It makes sense, though, when we look at why the leveling process exists. It exists to teach you how to play the class. Abilities are given gradually, to allow players time to absorb their use.

The PvP pause from XP-free battlegrounds was nice, and when no other options existed to lock XP, they were the best option to slow down your leveling. Now that you can lock your XP at will, the PvP pause isn’t the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. You can lock XP, figure things out in PvE, and then return to PvP when you’re ready to move on. It’s the reverse of how things used to work – but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Balanced leveling is the best leveling.

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The Arena Grand Master

The best twink trinket for low levels is the Arena Grand Master. More than any other item, the AGM marks a character as a serious twink, having put in the days, weeks, or even months to get an absurdly powerful trinket for low-level PvP. Anyone can get the Inherited Insignia of the Alliance. Only twinks consider getting the AGM.

In order to complete it, you need to loot 12 (that’s twelve) Arena Master trinkets from the Arena Treasure Chest dropped by Short John Mithril in the Gurubashi Arena in The Cape of Stranglethorn. Every three hours, this crazy goblin comes and drops a chest of loot on the floor of the arena.

So you have 8 chances each day to try to win the Arena Master trinket. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, well, pretty bad.

The first part of the bad news is that the Gurubashi Arena floor is a free-for-all area. As soon as you step foot down there anyone can, and will, attack you. This means competition between twinks can be quite fierce.

The second is that there are two achievements based on getting the Arena Grand Master, so endgame characters will be trying for it, too.

The combination of these two issues makes getting the Arena Grand Master a challenge if you don’t have a guild who can help you out. (And even if you do have a guild like that, it’s still a challenge.)

But overcoming challenges is what playing a twink is all about.

I learned a lot during my quest to get the Arena Grand Master.

  • Park your toon in the Arena, preferably by Short John Mithril. This way you don’t have to corpse-run your way back into the Arena every time you want to check.
  • Check every three hours you’re available. If level 85 characters are there, you can try to strike a deal with them – or ninja the trinket. Log out if you know it’s hopeless.
  • Even if you’re late, check to see if the chest is still there. I would often forget and check in at five or ten past the hour, and discover no one had taken the chest yet. Once, I logged in 45 minutes late and still got it!
  • Be friendly. You’ll get to know a lot of the twink players and guilds on your server when farming the AGM, and often they’ll help you out after their current project is over. You’ll also get a chance to see how they act. Smart twink guilds don’t let their players act like jerks in the Arena, because it’s prime recruiting grounds for new twinks.
  • You can ninja the trinket away from higher level characters. Wait until they are in combat with another player and see if you can get over to the chest without them stopping you. Another favorite tactic is to let yourself be killed, then resurrect right on top of the chest.
  • The Arena Master trinket is Bind on Pickup, so you have to accept the binding to loot it. Be ready for this. Have your mouse in the right spot to click “Yes,” and spam that click. Don’t be caught unprepared – autoloot should be on, and you should click that button.
  • Pick your times wisely. I found I had great success logging in right as I was logging in for work – 9AM on weekday mornings – and then again at lunchtime or mid-afternoon. Others swear by the 3 and 6 AM slots, but my sleep schedule doesn’t allow me to do those. By contrast, Friday at 9PM would be a madhouse in the Arena, and was best served by bringing lots of guildies.
I remember my very first Arena Master, and how impressed I was that I finally got something out of that chest! Then the sinking feeling hit – I was going to have to do it many, many times.

Eventually, though, you get the 12 Arena Master trinkets and can turn them in to the crazy goblin for an exceptional piece of work – 120 extra health, and a bubble that absorbs 2000 damage. It’s pretty awesome.

But then your work is only partly done, because you’ll probably want a second one. If you’re Human, you definitely the second one, and even if you’re not, you still probably still want it for when your PvP trinket is on CD. And for walking around your home city, because an extra 240 health is really cool at level 19.

Getting the AGM seems hard at first, but it’s relatively easy once you get started. It’s a big task, and it requires commitment, but it’s not difficult per se. It just requires dedication and persistence.

If you haven’t tried for the Arena Grand Master before, I recommend you try it. It’s an interesting, unique experience in WoW, and one worth having.

Good luck.

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Disposable Heroes: How To Make Reusable Level 10 PvP Toons

It has never been easier to have a blast with low level PvP in Warcraft than it is right now. Gone are the days where getting a character ready for WSG meant hours of grinding, farming, and doing impossible things just to compete with the level 19 twinks.

Not only is it easier to prepare a character for the fast paced, high burst world of level 10 Warsong Gulch, you can do so without committing to a character. You can literally try out characters and reuse all their gear if you decide you don’t like them. Not enjoying the Rogue’s playstyle? Delete them. Finding the Warlock isn’t your thing? Delete. Discover you should have been playing Priest all this time? Level them up, transfer their starter gear from a Mage. Worried about learning PvP at level 85? Give it a try at level 10, instead, and work on understanding how it all works – in a totally OP character.

Not every character has to be a digital representation of ourselves, a testament to our accomplishments in game. Sometimes we want a disposable hero, someone who can pwn faces for a while and then be deleted without regret when they aren’t any fun anymore.

Two significant changes happened to make this possible.

  • The battleground brackets were split in two, separating the level 10-14 players from the level 15-19s. This means the gear disparity is lower between the top and bottom of the bracket, while combat ratings actually favor the low end of the level range (you get more bang for your buck at level 10 than 14.)
  • More heirloom items have become available, making it easier to outfit a character with almost every slot with a blue-quality item at level 10 – when no corresponding blue items actually exist.

The same heirloom gear sets you are getting to level your alts can be repurposed into gear for low level PvP. Combine those heirlooms with Hand-Me-Downs – white, non-binding items usable by level 1s and given the best enchants you can get – and you can build a character who provides a great escape from the drudgery of the endgame.

Let’s look at how you do this.

A little Resilience goes a long way at level 10. (And yes, that's 307 AP, 50% Crit.)

RECIPE FOR A DISPOSABLE HERO

You’ll need:

  • Appropriate heirlooms for your class. That means: chest, shoulders, weapon(s), trinkets (PvP + haste, Int for casters), cloak, helm. If you can’t get heirlooms, hand-me-downs can be subbed in.
  • Enchanted level 1 white gear for the following slots: wrists, gloves, boots.
  • There aren’t really any good pant enchants, so pick up a pair of crafted green pants at level 10.
  • Useful rings are cheap and available at level 10 for casters and level 12 for everyone else. Optional.
  • You can wear a white belt and necklace if you want to. Optional.
  • 4 Traveler’s Backpacks. They’re the size of Netherweave bags, but they don’t bind on pickup.
  • A stack or three of Rumsey Rum Black Label, for +15 stamina. Drink up!

The pants and rings are the only pieces you can’t reuse from this setup, but considering their low cost, they’re easy enough to throw away.

You can learn professions if you want, especially if you think you might level this character eventually. Engineering can also give you helms if your guild isn’t level 20 yet. But they’re not needed. And if you have a surplus of cloth, you can level your First Aid to 225 and use Heavy Runecloth bandages. But again, that’s optional.

You’ll notice that this gear list really corresponds to how you’d outfit any alt of a given class, if you’re starting off and want to breeze through the first 25 levels or so. And what’s surprising is how little gear is really required!

Let’s break down the gear into class/role type.

Cloth-wearing casters (Mages, Priests, Warlocks) should go for:

Nearly every other caster class can make use of these items, so you’ve pretty much covered every Intellect-based spec here. (Holy pallys are an exception for the staves.) Wand users can pick up a quest reward for additional stats (but don’t use the wand, you don’t need it.)

Agility classes (Rogue, Druid, Shaman, Hunter) should try:

You can, of course, get the corresponding mail heirlooms for Shaman and Hunter, but they’re really not necessary. The additional armor is fine, but is hardly necessary. If you have them, great, use them! If you don’t, shoot for the leather pieces first. They’re more globally useful.

You have a lot of choices for weapons at this level, and while there are some pros and cons for each class and spec, you are really after the enchants, not the weapons themselves. If you can dual wield, do so and get +30 Agility (and +60 Attack Power) from the enchants. If you can’t, the Grand Staff of Jordan is an excellent choice even if you gain no benefit from spellpower. It has Hit, high Stamina and Resilience to help with survivability in PvP, the white DPS is equivalent to other 2H heirloom weapons, and it’s better than a 1H weapon with the +15 Agility enchant! If you can use spells, it’s an additional bonus for when you have to pull off a clutch heal or nuke. It’s more flexible than the Repurposed Lava Dredger; which can only be used by Druids and Shaman out of these classes, and lacks the versatility of the GSJ.

Yes. I’m telling you that the Grand Staff of Jordan is a hunter weapon.

Strength-based classes (Warriors, Paladins) should go for:

Holy pallys are odd ducks. You can do all sorts of crazy things with their weapons, like taking a Repurposed Lava Dredger (which has Haste) and adding an Iron Counterweight (which has an insane +20 Haste) and grab the Haste glove enchants (+10 Haste) to make really fast Holy Light casts. Or you could rock the Reforged Truesilver Champion with either a caster enchant or Crusader. But overall, you’ll find that the Devout Aurastone Hammer with any of the caster enchants (+22 Intellect, +29/+30 Spellpower) will see a lot of use if you play healers. Priests, Druids, Shamans, and Paladins can all use this mace, and while Shammys and Pallys will find it more useful at low levels (it can be paired with a level 1 enchanted shield), Priests and Druids will get by, even with their limited offhand selections at low levels.

Level 10 Mage with 1500 HKs, an Alliance Battle Standard and Knight's Colors? Sure!

THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

You can approach disposable heroes in two ways:

  • I’m going to keep them level 10 as long as I can, if they level, meh
  • I’ll level as I go, and reroll when I hit 15

Either way works.

The first way is pretty easy to accomplish – XP is only gained in WSG when your team captures a flag. So don’t be there when this happens. Make a macro with a single line:

/afk

and keep tabs on your FC at all times. AFK out before the flag caps, wait 15 minutes (go do dailies or something), and return to let off some more steam later.

This method lets you stay with someone for a long, long time. I got over 1000 HKs on my level 10 mage without really trying, just by AFKing out.

But – to be quite honest – afking out can be kinda boring.

I mean, you never get to win, to really dominate the battleground, to make it so that the other team just hates you. They hate you for about 3 minutes and then you’re gone. And that’s not that fun.

So the other option is just to level up normally through BG experience, and when you hit 15 (or 19, or 25, or whatever), just delete the character and reroll.

You heard me. Delete the toon and start over again at level 10. I wager you can get to level 10 in 45 minutes or less, just by killing everything in sight with your uber gear. Very little of it is soulbound – not even the bags! – so just delete and start over. Try a different race, a different class. Or do the exact same one if you were having fun.

These are disposable heroes, after all!

No commitment, casual PvP where you get to pwn face and blow off steam. If you don’t know how to PvP, this is a great way to start.

Plus – you’ll learn to love Warsong Gulch. No, really!

Give it a try.

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Sabotaging the Enemy: the Ethics of Gear

Sabotage: Level 10 PvP is my first PvP video, and I confess that I had a blast making it. I really enjoy the simplicity of low level PvP, especially on classes I don’t know all that well, and hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

But while making it, I found myself thinking about how I’d brought a gun to a knife fight.

Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here’s how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.

Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.

The Untouchables, 1987

Cynchronic has 107 spellpower and a mana pool that will never run out. Darkblade Cyn has 295 attack power and 48% crit. This is how I level lowbies, sadly – geared with a combination of enchanted heirlooms and hand me downs, leveled professions, and every twink consumable in my guild bank. They’re not twinks, but they’re close to it.

Whenever I level through the lower brackets, I’m always struck by how impressed people are by heirlooms in /bg chat. Either it’s because the opponents have them (which is bad) or someone on the team has them (which is good). And inspecting most players in the 10-14 brackets shows why – while some are clad in heirlooms, some in grey or all-white gear, but most are in quest gear with a few decent greens. Heirlooms are substantially better than quest rewards at this point, and they’ll definitely give you an edge at level 10.

But enchants are like heirlooms on steroids. I try not to get baited into this argument in /bg, but sometimes I can’t keep my mouth shut – the right enchants are worth more than heirlooms.

  • Darkblade Cyn gets +15 Agility from gear (heirlooms and some greens) and +60 Agility from enchants. That’s 4x more impact.
  • Cynchronic gets +22 Intellect from gear (with Shadow Goggles), and +7 Intellect/+30 Spellpower from enchants, or 1.68x more impact. Potentially, she could have +61 Spellpower from enchants, or 2.7x more impact.

I don’t know what it says about me but looking at both of these characters, I’m positive I could squeeze out a bit more power with better enchants and gear (Healing Power on the gloves instead of Minor Haste, Intellect on the DHC instead of Spellpower on the GSJ, Agility on bracers instead of Stamina, etc.). But they’re the gear I had lying around, and there are tradeoffs I made for PvP (Stamina has value, for instance.)

So, in any given 10-14 WSG, you could have this huge disparity of gear. My rogue could have +75 more Agility than the rogue next to her.

My own perfectionist standards aside, I was a twink in a leveling bracket.

I brought a gun to a knife fight. They would send one of mine to the hospital, I would send their entire team to the morgue – and then capture their flag.

Well, I wouldn’t really cap it – I’d drop it and /afk out, because I didn’t want the XP gain.

So… is this wrong?

ON TWINKS, MUNCHKINS, AND MIN/MAXERS

There are two great truths to /bg chat in the leveling battlegrounds.

  • Everyone hates lowbie scrubs.
  • Everyone hates overpowered twinks.

Before the great PVP bracket realignment, the most common complaint people would level against their own teammates is that their level was too low. Showing up as a level 52 in Alterac Valley (formerly 51-60) meant that OMG you were solely responsible for the team’s loss. By this way of thinking, the entire battleground became a question of how many x8s and x9s you had vs the other team. (This particular behavior has lessened a lot now that brackets are only 5 levels deep, but you still see it show up with gear complaints instead of level complaints.)

Blaming others for joining the team before they were a high enough level creates an interesting juxtaposition when compared with how people treated twinks, back in the days when the battlegrounds weren’t split. I won’t sugar-coat it – twinks ruined low-level PvP for many casual players, both by being unstoppable to their opponents and being abusive to their teammates. The new system is much better.

But… doesn’t it strike you as strange to put these two attitudes together? Don’t be better than I am, but don’t be worse than I am?

It’s like some strange video game version of Harrison Bergeron. I’m sitting here, thoroughly enjoying myself dancing across a battleground with the cameras rolling, and suddenly someone bursts in and shoots me with a shotgun.

Big Bear Butt recently had a great post on the difference between MMORPGs and old school RPGs that relates very directly to my experience shooting Sabotage: Level 10 PvP. Grabbing an embedded quote from that post:

“Munchkin” is a term used to describe certain types of gamers, namely those who make use of every avenue and loophole in the game rules to maximise the stats, abilities, and power level of their character, making the character into an awesome overpowered killing machine capable of gathering more loot and experience and becoming ever more powerful, even if it means occasionally pulling a fast one or ignoring certain other rules that might provide limitations. Oh, and roleplaying an actual character concept is secondary to making the character ever buffer and the acquisition of more loot and more powerful weapons, if it’s considered at all.

One of the premises that BBB puts forth is that while traditional RPGs (tabletop, LARP, what have you) look down upon this min/max style of play, MMORPGs, by their very nature as computer games, embrace and encourage it.

As a veteran of traditional RPGs, I happen to agree with much of what BBB says; computer games encourage you to min/max because there are fixed, immutable rules about how your characters interact with their environment. You can’t look at a boss fight and go, you know, we need about 100,000 marbles – or ball bearings, small and round is all we need – to defeat this guy, let’s go to Ironforge and see if they have some. You can’t alter the flow of a quest, or argue that something should happen simply because it’s a better story – you are limited, restricted, and balanced.

I once said, in reference to making a RPG for the Star Trek universe, that you have to be able to accommodate characters as wildly diverse as Data and Troi and still make it fun for both players. In a traditional RPG this is possible, since both characters are interesting to play and have stories to tell. But in a computer game, you have to define abilities – and then balance them toward common goals. WoW does a good job of keeping the classes different and distinct while balancing them in two key areas, even if it’s sometimes at the expense of believability. To paraphrase BBB: do you really believe someone who pokes something with sticks is as powerful as a wizard who can bend and reshape reality?

The way in which the two cultures (traditional RPGs and MMORPGs) approach munchkinism and min/maxing is instructive. The attitudes are products of the game environments, and each environment rewards totally different behaviors.

Let’s leave behind lowbie PvP for a bit. This isn’t really about lowbie PvP, anyways. Let’s consider Iwillhurtyou, a mighty warrior who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. He changes race and faction as necessary to play with friends and gain the best racial abilities. He is level 85, completed all of the necessary quests to receive the mightiest enchants, and changes professions as necessary to gain the best bonuses. When he receives a legendary item, he keeps it until something better comes along.

  • In a PvE setting, you’d call him a good raider.
  • In a PvP setting, you’d call him a good gladiator.
  • In a traditional RPG, you’d throw him out of your group until he got a decent name. Then you’d throw him out again for not sticking to a single character concept.

In some aspects, these two viewpoints couldn’t be further apart. Chasing down every last advantage can be seen as laudable or as abhorrent, depending on your point of view.

But min/maxing, munchkinism, isn’t really good or bad per se. It all depends on context.

THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR RUDE BEHAVIOR

Within the structure of a video game, it’s good to be powerful. Yet there’s a counter argument to that, something along the lines of: you can be too powerful in PvP. It’s not fair to your opponents to go in that overpowered. I’m certain that I was a nightmare for the opposing team.

But… so what?

I mean, I showed up and was better geared than the opposition. Much better geared. It wasn’t about skill – I pressed a few buttons and people died. Because I was better geared, I had to press fewer buttons, that’s all.

I brought a gun to a knife fight and people died. Bad people, people with red over their heads, died. I did the job I was supposed to do in the battleground superbly well.

Does that make the other team bad players? They didn’t bother to gear up to my standards. Does that make the other 9 people on my team bad players? They didn’t bother to gear up, either. Nothing I did is not readily available to someone with an endgame character and some gold. Find a friendly enchanter, level some professions before you queue, and BAM – you are ready to be awesome.

Let’s extrapolate this out to the endgame again. I showed up, raid and arena ready, to a pug. The person who showed up in quest whites and greens to WSG, showed up in ilvl 318s and maybe a few 333s to the endgame pug. They’re not bad at what what we’re trying to do – they’re trying, at least – but they’re just undergeared.

Why should it matter to me?

I’m going to echo another one of BBB’s sentiments – it’s not my place to start criticizing your gear, or your performance. That’s not my role in a pug; we’re effectively strangers who have just met. All I ask is that you try to win.

Just because I happen to have better pixels than you doesn’t give me the right to be rude to you. Nor does it give you the right to be rude to me. We’re people trying to have fun in a game. I don’t know anything about you, nor you about me.

  • So what if someone is at the bottom of the bracket? Maybe this is their first time in. Maybe they’re taking a break from questing. Maybe they like PvP. Shocking, I know!
  • So what if someone doesn’t know what to do? You think battlegrounds come with instruction manuals?
  • So what if someone’s gear isn’t up to your standards, (which are totally arbitrary by the way)? That’s your problem. Deal with it. Someone’s probably looking at you and thinking the same thing.
  • So what if someone outgeared you before and was rude to you? That was someone different. Get over it.

Does having everyone be exceptionally skilled and geared increase your chances of winning? You betcha. But that’s what rated BGs are for, now. That’s what your friends and guildmates are for. You absolutely should strive to be your best, and to inspire others to be the best they can be, too.

But that’s where you have to stop.

Wanting to win doesn’t excuse you for being rude to another person. It just doesn’t. Fun comes before winning. This is, all things considered, still a video game. And you are – hopefully – playing this game for fun.

Just like the 9 other strangers you just met.

PVP IS NOT FAIR

The only place where PvP is even remotely fair is at the highest levels of endgame play, where top-notch players go and get the absolute best gear available to them. Everyone is in relatively the same gear levels, the same gear sets, the same enchants. Differences between classes become highlighted at that level, in part because everyone has worked hard to get the best gear.

For the rest of the time, PvP is a street fight.

Regular battlegrounds, no matter what level, will have a wide variety of gear and enchantment levels represented within them. Even most Arena matches will have this disparity too. Sometimes, you’re just simply outgeared. It happens. Work on your gear, but get over it.

Not everyone you play with  is going to be at your gear level in this game. Sometimes, they will be far under you – sometimes, far over you. In PvP, if you’re substantially outgeared by your opponent, you’re probably going to die. In PvE, if you’re substantially outgeared by your teammate, you’re getting carried through content. It happens.

No matter which way the gear imbalance lies, remember that we’re all here to have fun. Gear doesn’t convey a position of moral superiority; it just makes tasks easier.

Be good to each other out there. Have fun. Go roll a level 10 twink today and enjoy some pwnage.

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A Guide To Twinking In Cataclysm

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TWINKING

In the World of Warcraft, twinking is the act of making your character as absolutely as good as they could be, usually by turning off experience gain, and usually at low levels.

Twinking has a storied and not entirely savory history within WoW. The name itself is taken from derogatory slang for young-looking, attractive homosexual men, as the characters in question were almost universally not playing at the endgame. Twinks used to exist almost entirely for PvP, existing to completely dominate lower-level battlegrounds when such BGs did not award experience. These twinks would slaughter lesser-geared and enchanted opponents, to the point where low-level PvP was not a good idea for leveling characters. This is why, even though this situation has not been in place for over a year, twinks remain hated by many long-term WoW players.

There were two dominant motivations in the twink community; one that was pursuing excellence at a given level, in a given arena, and the other which pursued dominance over other players at any cost. The former motivation was often cited, but the latter one was more often on display against non-twinks. I think that both motivations were present in most twinks who played before patch 3.2; I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed taking my level 59 Death Knight twink (which is almost an oxymoron) and totally stomping through a battleground after a hard day of work.

But things completely changed for twinks in Patch 3.2 with three related developments.

  • Battlegrounds would now award experience points for participation, effectively ending the ability for players to park a twink in a city and PvP without gaining any levels.
  • Characters could turn off and on their experience gain at will, making twinking vastly more accessible to players.
  • Characters who had their XP gain turned off would be placed into a separate battleground bracket from those who were gaining XP, guaranteeing that twinks would fight only twinks.

These changes had dramatic effects upon the battlegrounds, bringing many new players into the BGs as a viable alternate leveling route – Alterac Valley in the 50s was especially popular – but also made it possible to consider entirely different kinds of twinks, as well as changing the entire environment in which they lived in. Twinks, formerly spread out among the general population, found themselves forced to relocate to destination battlegroups to provide a sufficient concentration of players to “pop” a battleground.

For much of the twinking community, these changes were completely embraced. The battles that began to take shape were of characters in nearly equal gear, so that skill and tactics became paramount. No longer were battlegrounds about racking up HKs on unsuspecting leveling players; no, battles became longer, strategic matches between roughly equal forces – just what many twink players had maintained they wanted.

However, other twinks were not so satisfied with this state of affairs, and found that if they entered regular battlegrounds, but left before the first flag capture, they could engage in the darker side of twinking, completely dominating an unsuspecting leveling bracket and racking up HKs while bullying the other side into submission. A special kind of twink – an expansion twink, one limited by the account not having Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King on it, thrived in this situation, as they could run as much older content and battlegrounds as they desired without leveling and without turning off XP. Expansion twinks began to dominate the 51-60 Alterac Valley bracket in many battlegroups, outfitted with MC epics and BC enchants.

It would be nice to pretend that this didn’t happen, but it did.

There were other, smaller changes in the recent past: changes in gear and enchants, with minimum levels being applied to many enchants that previously lacked them. Mounts were lowered in level, making them accessible to all but the level 19 pvp bracket. Titles became available that were previously lacking. Faction changes allowed you to get the best in slot gear from both sides. The lack of XP gain allowed for twinks to become PvE specialists in addition to PvP players, letting people solo dungeons or run them repeatedly at-level for gear.

This is how it stood for much of Wrath of the Lich King.

CATACLYSMIC CHANGES

The Sundering (4.0.1) and Cataclysm (4.0.3) patches turned twinking upside down. Gear was completely reitemized at early levels to make for a better leveling experience. Gear that may have been substandard was now Best in Slot, and vice versa. Enchants were rearranged, sometimes dramatically. Some gear was changed, some moved up out of different brackets, others removed completely.

But there were three changes that overshadowed all the others.

The first was the introduction of the revised talent trees in 4.0.1, which gave class-defining abilities to characters at level 10 which were formerly reserved for much higher level characters. The changes in each class’s talents and abilities were extensive, but gaining this signature ability at level 10 was the most visible of the changes. These changes dramatically affected how classes played at various levels, and helped redefine roles in each battleground.

The second change was to the brackets themselves. Formerly, each bracket was from levels ending in 0 to 9, so 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc.. Patch 4.0.3 brought a massive change to this structure, splitting each bracket in two and redistributing the battlegrounds so players could experience more battlegrounds earlier on in the leveling process. The new brackets were 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, etc., making entirely new brackets available for twinking. Arathi Basin joined Warsong Gulch at level 10, and Eye of the Storm became available before most characters had even glimpsed Outland, at level 35. Exciting stuff.

A third change was implemented not as part of a patch, but as part of the server infrastructure improvements in preparation for Cataclysm. This was merging all the PvP battlegroups into region-wide battlegroups. Players from all North American battlegroups were joined over the course of a few weeks into a single, large pool of players to pop battlegrounds, effectively ending the need for the destination battlegroups that patch 3.2 created. No longer do you need to roll on a foreign server to twink and get a queue – now you can do it on the same server as your main.

All of these were fantastic changes to leveling characters, and they open up a whole new set of possibilities for twinks, too. They combine to make Cataclysm the perfect time to start twinking if you’ve been considering it.

STARTING A TWINK

Twinking is a little bit of an odd activity in the World of Warcraft. It’s arbitrarily setting a limit on your character and then trying to excel within that limit. Doing so is a challenge, but a rewarding one – for at the end of it all, you will have a character which requires little maintenance or grinding, and which you can hop on at will for your chosen activity.

It is a lot of fun, when you get down to it.

First thing you’ll want to do is settle on what you want your character to be. My best suggestion here is to level a class and find a time when you had a huge amount of fun playing them, and then go and capture that. Try to figure out what kinds of things you want to do – PvP, run dungeons with friends, solo content, try for Loremaster – and start from there.

Next, you’ll need to pick your level. WoW is built to drive you to level, so each level you pick up will be translated into more abilities, more power, and more freedom. Some things to keep in mind here about picking levels:

  • If you are PvPing, you will likely want to stop at a level ending in 4 or 9 to maximize the gear and abilities available to you. The only exception, and this is an important one, is level 10.
  • Level 10 characters benefit from the generous ability translation and combat rating conversion that starts tapering off once you hit level 11. This benefit to levels 1-10 helps make starting any new character more fun, but also means that level 10 characters can (and do) take out level 19s. Yes, even twinked 19s. They also benefit from increased health and mana regeneration out of combat, so don’t let a level 10 get out of combat!
  • The x9 PvP brackets are generally established. You’ll be up against players who have had a lot of time to gear up, and often have several expansions worth of gear available to them. The x4 brackets are completely new, and are probably more friendly to newcomers.
  • Some brackets which were previously dead should come back to life. Expansion twinks will have a tougher time in the new bracket system, as level 64 Outland gear will outclass level 60 Vanilla gear. So the 59s might come back soon.
  • If you are considering PvE, look at the dungeons you’d like access to and plan your level accordingly. Level 20 gives you a lot of options and abilities that are denied to strict level 19 PvPers, like mounts.
  • Level 1 twinks are another option if you enjoy world PvP or want your banker to be a serious badass. A well-geared level 1 twink can take out a level 15-20 leveling character due to favorable game mechanics.

Once you’ve decided what environment you’re twinking for, you need to choose your class and race.

Generally speaking, lower levels favor Agility-based classes due to the exceptional Agility enchants you can put on level 1-34 gear. Intellect- and Strength-based classes do okay at the lower levels, but Agility has the best enchants, and enchants are vital to your success. After you get BC-era enchants and level 35+ gear, this levels out a bit and class balance becomes more even.

Consider what role you want to play in your chosen field – are you going to be a damage dealer in Warsong Gulch, or a flag carrier? Are you going to tank Wailing Caverns and Shadowfang Keep like a boss, or do you want to heal the worst PuG tank LFD throws at you with ease? Generally, what you want to do will determine your class more than anything else.

Then, consider the races available to you. Racial abilities do matter. If you are going to be a melee fighter, consider the racial benefits available to you. Look at the stats and see if you can get an edge with one race over another. Every race brings something good to the table; look them over carefully.

Once you’ve rolled your twink and gotten him or her to the desired level, you’ll want to visit an Experience Eliminator in either Stormwind or Orgrimmar to turn off your XP. It will cost 10 gold, but once it’s turned off, gearing up and skilling up become easy.

GEARING UP YOUR TWINK

Now comes the fun part.

Once your XP is turned off, you’re going to need gear, and you’re going to need professions. Sure, there are some essentials every twink needs.

But more important than someone on the internet providing you a gear list, you need to know how to build your own. Don’t blindly follow a gear list, no matter how detailed it is. Choosing the best gear for your twink means learning what is going to work best for you and your playstyle. Gear lists are the starting point, not the end.

I have 4  different gear sets for my warrior twink Cynderblock, with some variations on each. I have a tanking set, with variations for  trash pulls and boss fights. I have sets for Arms, Fury, and Protection PvP. I have a questing set for low level areas, and a questing set for high level areas where I need more Hit. I have an Agility set for high Dodge.

And I have a set for looking awesome around town. Oh! And an Intellect set for pretending to be a Mage. But they don’t count.

I bring up my gear obsession for a reason: you can’t consider something to be Best in Slot until you consider the situation in which it’s going to be used. And that’s what you have to learn to do when gearing up your twink.

I’m not going to provide gear lists. Not only am I not qualified for the vast majority of classes and levels, but Cataclysm has wiped out all previous lists.  No, instead, you need to learn how to make your own gear list, and go after it.

  • Learn how to use Wowhead’s search filters to limit items to those available to a specific level. Their stat weighting can be good, but don’t lean on them too heavily – you may miss some great gear that perhaps still gives Attack Power instead of Agility, for instance.
  • Find twink forums, like TwinkInfo.com and WoW-Twink.com, and use them for ideas and inspiration.
  • Look at items you find on other toons while questing with an eye towards your twink. Sometimes, you’ll discover an out of the way quest reward that you hadn’t considered.

I find the forums helpful because you learn things there that you might otherwise miss. Especially with all the new gear out there, they’re a nice shortcut to find out what people are really doing out there.

HAVE FUN WITH IT

Making a twink is a different sort of challenge than many of the others you’ll find in the World of Warcraft, but it can be really rewarding when it’s all done.

But once you’re done, don’t forget to go out and have fun out there. This is your character, your little work of art. Do what you want with it. Don’t let the haters tell you that you can’t.

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Deadmines: Mine Harder

When you solo Deadmines repeatedly for rep, eventually you figure your way around the place.

I decided to take a 30 minute dungeon run and compress it into a 10 minute whirlwind video tour of the new place. Includes commentary about both running it in a group and soloing it as a tank.

(For in-depth strategy and analysis of the instance, I recommend Wowhead’s article.)

Enjoy!

(Special thanks to Snack and Narci for the many entertaining conversations about this video.)

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They Love Me Behind That Wall

Cynderbock is Exalted with Gilneas before Cataclysm.

Wait, what?

That’s crazy to think about, considering it took, at most about … 10 runs of Deadmines, max, to achieve? The new Gilneas Tabard (one of the new City Tabards, available at vendors near the home city Flight Points) allows you to gain reputation gains in dungeons, and if you do them at-level, they reward pretty substantial rep.

How substantial? 15 rep for each mob, 300 for each boss.  If you’re Human, that’s 16-17 each mob, 330 each boss.

So making a level 19 Ambassador just got a whole lot easier.  Lock your XP, get tabards, run LFD for profit and a title. Easy. You could do LFD at level 15, even, if you like RFC – or if you have friends who will run you, you can enter the dungeons at level 8-10.

This is a great change for the game, making it easier to use LFD as a leveling tool without missing out on all the benefits of questing.

Does it trivialize the Ambassador title on Cynderblock? Not really. Yes, it’s vastly easier to get now, and I expect I’ll see even more of them than I did before. That’s fine. No, really, it is!

See, the changes now can’t take away the fun I had in getting that title. Or, for that matter, getting Exalted with a faction that isn’t even really in the game yet. I mean, it’s not like I get anything from the deal, since ‘block still can’t use a mount. (Not that Gilneas has a mount to get, anyways.)

No, it’s time to move on and look forward to all the new things Cataclysm will bring us.  And no matter what else – they love me behind that wall.

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How Cynderblock Got Her Groove Back

Van Cleef: Drop. Your. Sword.

So a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Deadmines.

I was pretty down on level 19 Warrior twinks in my review of the 4.0.1 changes. The loss of so many abilities was pretty daunting, and struggling in areas where I previously excelled was downright depressing. Going from a tank with unshakable aggro to one where everyone pulled off me was a humbling experience, even if I was running with twinked DPS.  PvP was painful, with casters and rogues running roughshod over me, feral cats jumping on me from the shadows, and paladins refusing to die, no matter how much damage I did.

I took a few days off to regroup.  I stopped trying to farm the AGM, since several guilds were gearing up twinks and competition for the trinkets was getting too fierce.  I rolled a bunch of alts.

Then one day I said, “let’s solo Deadmines, ‘block.”

And we did.

And it was hugely fun.  Why?

  • Damage is up across the board on all abilities in PvE.  As Prot, Shield Slam hits like an absolute truck.
  • I made sure to take Shield Specialization, and with multi-mob pulls I never had Rage issues.
  • Not only did I not have Rage issues, but I never had to worry about aggro.
  • The additional health, armor, and block chance means you’re taking very little damage from pull to pull.
  • The self-healing of Victory Rush changes the entire style of play, allowing you to maintain your health by killing things.  And since you’re not in a group, you can be sure it procs every single time.
  • Execute is a huge finisher.
  • Having Victory Rush and Sunder Armor available in both Battle and Defensive Stances meant that I didn’t have to sit in Defensive Stance or stance dance; I ended up staying in Battle Stance since I wasn’t worried about aggro, and wanted Charge and Execute.

I’d soloed RFC and most of Wailing Caverns before this patch dropped, so I knew it was possible to solo these instances at level.  But while RFC was a bit of a multi-mob faceroll in 3.3.5, WC required a lot of caution and care with each pull.  It was slow, careful going, and after a while I got pretty darn bored of the whole thing.

Deadmines, on the other hand, was a riot, with miners running all over, elites and normal mobs mixing with impunity.  It was a blast.  I started off cautiously, but by the time I saw how much damage I was throwing around, how I could use Victory Rush to keep myself healed up, and how little damage I was taking anyways, it was soon a romp over the Defias.

My second run (I was already hooked), the Cruel Barb finally dropped for me. With the nerfs to Shadowfang, Cruel Barb is now the highest DPS 1-hander available at level 19. You sacrifice stats for raw Attack Power, but if you have the Stamina from other places it’s awesome.  +12 AP is equivalent to +6 Str for Warriors, and the next highest stat weapon is Butcher’s Slicer, with +4 Str/+3 Stam.  The Barb already has higher raw DPS than the Slicer (15.8 vs. 15.2), and with the additional AP it is the clear choice for raw DPS.

So I’m sitting there, looking at my new toy, and it strikes me: I should go Fury, and wield two of these monsters.

I prefer Crusader, because when you get simultaneous procs, really great things happen.

I’ve never really played Fury before, though I do have a Combat rogue in her mid-40s. I grabbed a bunch of weapons out of my bank to try out offhands, eventually settling on the trusty Venerable Mass of McGowan for my OH weapon. The Mass and the Sacred Charge both received some slight changes in the latest patch, with the Charge now brought up to being a very good alternative to the Mass.  Basically, they both give you Agility and Stamina (for tanking); the DSC gives you a lot of Crit, while the Mass gives you Crit and Haste. I grabbed the Slicer as well to try it out, though I think the Mass helped me out more in the earlier runs.

It took me a few times to get used to soloing Deadmines as a Fury warrior. Fury plays a lot like I remember playing a Blood DK; as long as you can keep your self healing going, you’re unstoppable, but you take a lot of damage in the process.  If I pulled too big, especially with elites, then I’d wipe.

Victory Rush is really the key to Fury soloing right now.  You’re putting out so much damage that your goal is to burn though a mob, any mob, and kill it to offset the damage you’re taking with another Victory Rush.  As long as you can repeat that process, you’re fine – but if the damage overwhelms your kill rate, then you’re going down.  I found that I’d start off a big pull losing a lot of health, but once the mobs started dropping I’d go right back up to full.

Bloodthirst is the other tool in your Fury aresenal to help out with this kind of fighting. It gives you a small heal back while attacking, and doesn’t suck up much of your Rage while doing it.  It does respectable damage, but can be hit more often than Shield Slam.  I found in high-Rage situations I’d alternate between Bloodthirst and Heroic Strike while waiting for Victory Rush (and Execute) to proc.

Blood Craze helps out with the self-healing, giving back more than Bloodthirst but less than Victory Rush.

And, while I’d been farming the Arena Grand Master trinket, I’m glad I didn’t rely on it while soloing.  Dual Swift Hands of Justice provided increased DPS on top of healing on Killing Blows, giving a lot of small heals to offset the incoming damage.

The Cruel Barb refused to drop for me for a long time, so I spent a lot of time practicing how to solo Van Cleef as a Fury warrior.  I made a video on one of the early attempts that shows how the spec plays as a solo artist.

Yes, it is totally as much fun as it looks.

(I did speed up the video, because even a run with no wipes is about 30 minutes long.  It’s not RFC. You can play Yakity Sax in the background for full comedic effect.)

I kept running it, and what kept impressing me was how out-of-whack damage seemed.  I was able to 1-shot normal mobs with regularity, and elites were lucky if they lasted 5 seconds. I know that I’m twinked for maximum damage, but there were times that I’d pull off a 1513 Execute crit and know that levels were out of whack.  (The 700-800 Victory Rush crits were even better, to be honest – most of Execute’s damage comes as overkill.)  I fully agree with Zarhym’s assessment that combat times in the lower levels are too short, and that it’s not PvP we’re talking about here.  PvE is totally unbalanced at the lower levels right now.

Anyhow, after a dozen runs or so, the second Barb finally dropped. By then I was ready for something different, so I took Cynderblock back out into the wide world and picked up questing in those areas that are going to be changed in a few weeks.  Most notably: Darkshore and Ashenvale.

"So, they sell insurance in this tower? I don't think they get a lot of foot traffic out here..."

Aside from wanting to complete as many quests as possible with Cynderblock, there was one quest chain in particular I wanted to finish – The Tower of Althalaxx, which I remember being a total PITA trying to do at level 30.  I admit, I’m juvenile, and I’ve refused to call that tower by its proper name ever since I got there – this is the Tower of Aflac, and I quack “AFLAC!” at it every time I have to deal with it.

Well, the Tower of AFLAC has a pretty nice quest reward, Seraph’s Strike, a sword with good DPS and Spirit, useful for health regeneration.  I figured I’d pick it up before it vanished in the Cataclysm, and bang out the Darkshore/Ashenvale quests while I’m at it.  (You have gotten your Furbolg wand, right?)

Only… wait a minute.

Lower level items have had their stats rearranged, and… woah.

Did all that Spirit get converted into Hit?  Like, are you kidding me?  +10 Hit on a 2-hander?

Having that much Hit (4.72% at level 19) is huge for DPS.  Huge.  It knocks off nearly the entire Miss column for at-level targets, and makes hitting higher-level mobs much, much easier.  Good for twinks, good for levelers… this is a good sword.  A really good sword.

How good is it?

Well, I pulled out my DPS spreadsheet (not ready for primetime, that’s another post) and plugged in the new numbers.  Wow.

Pre-Crit, Seraph’s Strike has a white DPS of 22.54, greater than Glacial Stone (22.25) and Smite’s Mighty Hammer (21.29).  The Hammer might make more sense for boosting attack power, and the Stone puts out solid DPS numbers, but the Strike now gives a great blend of both.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the heck out of Fury, but I may have to go Arms and try out a 2-Handed build just to see how this sword performs before the damage nerfs come in.

Anyhow. Warriors are still doing fine.  PvP is broken as a whole right now, don’t worry about it.  Aggro is hard because damage is too high.  We’ve lost some tools, but gained new ones.

And Cynderblock has her groove back.

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We’re All In This Together

The North American battlegroups as we knew them are gone.

Instead of the old battlegroups, all players are part of one North American battlegroup for battlegrounds.  (There are 4 subgroups for running random dungeons.)  This change was announced a few months ago and should have a net positive effect for most players.

  • If you were on the weaker (less populated) side of a battlegroup, you’re going to be paired with more people to be able to fill out BGs.
  • If you’re on the more populated side of a battlegroup, your queues should pop quicker.
  • If you’ve frozen your experience gain, it should no longer matter if you’re in a destination battlegroup – twinking in all brackets is theoretically viable again.
  • Faction domination of a given BG/bracket will likely become very difficult, if not impossible.

For those of us who enjoyed instant queues before, I hope this doesn’t delay them.  I’m sure there will be glitches over the next few days as they iron out a lot of the infrastructure issues, and hopefully Blizzard will shed some more light on the matching algorithms.

But in the meantime, we’re all in it together now.  Play nice out there.

Let me know how things are going in the comments!

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Level 19 Warrior Changes in 4.0.1

Cynderblock readies her shield for an incoming attack in Darkshore.

The original title of this post was “What Is This I Don’t Even,” because the changes to Warriors are that extensive.

To say that Warriors have changed at level 19 is an understatement.  Everyone has changed in 4.0.1, don’t get me wrong, but Cynderblock is completely different now than she was in Wrath.

I mentioned this on the Gaming Worlds Collide blogcast, but the biggest difference is the influence of choosing your specialization at level 10. Before, one of the defining features of early play was that you weren’t specialized – Fire vs. Frost was the wrong question.  Twinks looked across the talent board, not down it.  You’d pick the best abilities suited for a particular job.

No longer.  Now you are a Frost Mage, a Destruction Warlock, a Subtlety Rogue, all starting at level 10.  And for Warriors, that opens up options we didn’t have before (Fury Dual Wielding!) but takes away some of the flexibility we enjoyed with hybrid talent builds.  Protection Warriors get Shield Slam, which is a great primary attack and buff dispeller all in one, but at level 19 it lacks the synergies it gets later on with Sword and Board.

But all of this comes at a cost.  Across all classes, abilities have been moved around, giving a better distribution as you level, but also removing a lot of the complexities I enjoyed with the Warrior class.  To sum up the changes to level 19 Warriors:

  • Battle Shout now requires level 20.  Not only do we lose the attack power buff, but shouts are the new way Warriors gain rage.
  • Shield Bash, our primary caster interrupt, also requires level 20.
  • Overpower now requires level 22.
  • Hamstring, one of our key PvP abilities, has been moved up to level 26, removing it from our repertoire.
  • Revenge has been moved way up to level 40, removing a key DPS ability from Defensive Stance.
  • Demoralizing Shout requires level 52, so there’s one of our three melee debuffs gone, and the other way to gain rage quickly gone.
  • Bloodrage, the primary way lowbie warriors used to generate rage, is gone from the game completely.
  • Mocking Blow is also gone.
  • Heroic Strike is no longer a On-Next-Swing ability, but instead is a normally activated attack.  It’s still a Rage hog, though.
  • Execute, a finishing move for when the target is below 20% health, has been added at level 16.  Will use a lot of Rage if you have it, though.
  • Sunder Armor only stacks 3 times, not 5, but each stack has a greater effect, so it’s all cool.
  • All Glyphs are gone, since they require level 25.

The specializations give some interesting abilities, don’t get me wrong.  But let’s just look at the above changes to see how the playstyle has been altered at level 19.

RAGE

The biggest single issue is Rage.  Warriors are supposed to generate Rage before a fight through their shouts (which no longer cost Rage), but those are not available at this level.  So what generates Rage?

  • Charge, which gives you 15 Rage, but can only be used out of combat.
  • Hitting things for white damage.
  • Getting hit.  Ouch.
  • Anger Management, the Arms special ability, gives you a steady stream of Rage in combat, and slows the loss of Rage out of combat.
  • The Blitz talent (Arms again) increases the Rage your Charge generates.
  • 1/3 Shield Specialization (Protection talent) generates 5 Rage when you block an attack.

Now, you do seem to gain more rage by just hitting things in combat than before. That’s the good news.  But unless you can get off a Charge, you’re not going to have enough Rage to unload burst damage in PvP.  You will gain Rage in combat at a decent rate, but forget the days of unloading Heroic Strikes, Thunder Claps and Revenge on targets.  You are going to have to manage your Rage very carefully.

The previous advice of binding Heroic Strike to everything?  Ditch it. Heroic Strike only to dump Rage.  That’s it.

Rage starvation is the single biggest issue you’re going to have to deal with on your lowbie warrior until you hit 20.  Get used to Charging and using your abilities sparingly.

THE LOST ABILITIES

Losing Hamstring hurts in PvP.  A tried and true Warrior tactic in WSG was to spam Hamstring on targets to proc your weapon’s enchant as well as slow people down. Hamstringing the FC was what you did.

Now, the Shamans and Druids have better speedy forms, and Warriors have no way to slow them down.  Forget taking out the FC now.

As a Protection Warrior, I loved having Revenge as my primary damage dealer.  It lit up all the time while tanking and PvPing, and I’d hit that button every chance I could. Like Overpower, it’s gone, and there’s no equivalent replacement.

Losing the Shouts means that we’ve lost both a buff and a debuff.  Demo Shout was very useful both for AoE tanking situations when TC was on cooldown, but also against melee classes in WSG.  You used to get Demo Shout up to slow down Rogues and the like against you, just like you’d put up Thunder Clap’s debuff.  No more.  The fact that Rage generation is now tied into these abilities is just icing on the cake.

I’m lost without Shield Bash.  I think this was what confused me the most when I tried to PvP on ‘block recently – I had no more interrupts.  I couldn’t stop level 10 Holy Paladins from casting, so they were invulnerable.  Interrupts are important!  Now those stupid Druids of the Fang will be able to run roughshod over the rest of my party with Sleep spells, and I have no way to stop  that.  Wailing Caverns runs are going to be hard without those interrupts.

THE NEW STUFF

Okay, so Warriors have lost a lot of their toolbox in 4.0.1.  What have they gained?

  • Increased health.  In most gear sets I’m over 2000 health now.
  • Execute.
  • Talent specializations.  Shield Slam is pretty cool while tanking, though in AoE situations it’s tough to choose between that and the Rend/Thunderclap combo when your Rage is low.
  • Resilience has been buffed.
  • Armor has been reduced.  Oh wait, that’s not a good thing.

I think the abilities you gain from choosing your spec are great for their respective roles; but when taken in the context of all the missing abilities, Warriors are hurting right now.

TANKING

I used to pride myself on my ability to tank low-level instances with Cynderblock.  She could roll through them like a freight train, a rock of aggro that made Deadmines look like Heroic UK to folks in HM ICC25 gear.

No more.  I’m superbly geared and struggling to hold aggro, which means low level LFD is going to suck for a while for normal tanks.  If equivalently-geared DPS starts up too soon, I can’t get aggro back.  If someone AoEs mobs before I’ve TC/Rended them, I will not have enough Rage to do anything to save you.  You’re going to see me slamming Taunt and Shield Slam in a frantic effort to save you, but it’s likely DPS is going to die.

This is a very different experience than I’m used to.  Perhaps it will get better with time; changes, dramatic changes, are coming to the low-level instances.

But right now, tanking has gone from an exercise in confidence to the same, frustrating experience I have tanking Heroics at level 80.  That’s not a good thing.

PVP

The 19 twink bracket of Warsong Gulch is a hot mess right now.  Rogues are doing huge, HUGE amounts of burst damage out of stealth.  Casters are also doing massive burst damage (see: Destro Locks and Fire Mages).  Hunters are still potent, with those freakin’ bats EVERYWHERE.

But it’s the level 10 Holy Paladins who are beating everyone in sight.

Level 10 twinking is not a new thing, but with recent buffs to Resilience and how abilities scale at level 10 and under, level 10 twinks are practically unkillable now. Damage mitigation is through the roof, which negates their smaller health totals, and the out of combat regeneration is amazing.  It’s like a free reset if they get OOC.

Making them is pretty straightforward:

And I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.  Level 10 characters are more resistant and scale better than level 19s, though level 19s have more abilities and health.  Both Psynister and I are trying out this brave new world, because nothing is worse than a level 10 Holy Pally in WSG right now.  Nothing.

CHANGE HAPPENS

Things don’t look very optimistic for Warriors right now in the level 19 PvP bracket or lowbie tanking.  Warriors have gone from being a very good class for both to average, or below average.  That’s okay.  There’s a lot of things changing in Azeroth in the next few weeks, and the low-level experience is definitely one of them.

Leveling is one of the not-so-subtle motivators used within Warcraft.  The game rewards it; more abilities, more power, more cool talents, more range.  Expecting to balance around crazy people like me who park at a given level is unreasonable.

But the way classes play at low levels is fundamentally different now.  My experience with Cynderblock (and talking to endgame warriors about her) shows just how different things can be.  I know that whatever leveling advice I could give you on Warlocks (my main’s class) is now invalid.  Things are very, very different.

It will just take some getting used to at level 19.

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