Tag Archives: Twinking

On Rejoining the Leveling Brackets

Cynwise unlocks her experience gains in Stormwind Keep.

Cynwise unlocks her experience gains in Stormwind Keep.

I’ve had some time for the 5.2 battleground scaling changes to sink in, and it’s pretty clear that for a twink, the best place to be is at the top of a bracket. If you’re going to be level 89 when you zone in, you might as well have level 89 gear and abilities, right?

For low skew brackets this is really unfortunate. Before it was pretty clear that staying low was the right choice for both PvP and PvE – secondary stat scaling worked in your favor in all environments. Now twinks have to choose between awesomeness in PvP and PvE – for one you go high, the other goes low. You can’t be great at both anymore – it’s one or the other.

(The only exception is Arenas. Arenas are unaffected by the new scaling. So if you’re an Arena junkie, staying low is the way to go.)

I’m not an arena junkie. I locked XP because I like to unwind with battlegrounds but don’t like grinding out sets of gear. I’ve enjoyed being a Big Gun in PvE – bringing 200k DPS to ICC, regularly putting out 100k+ DPS at level 85, of beating the pants off of level 90 DPS in Dragon Soul – but the real reason I locked was to PvP.

So after a week or two of reflection, I unlocked Cynwise and started queueing up for the leveling brackets with my healer partner and guildmate Rezznul. If I was going to have to level to 89 to be BiS anyways, why not just do it in the BGs? Each level brings a little improvement, but when you’re in average ilvl 439 gear at level 85 it’s not like you’re hurting for that extra gear. It’s just icing on top.

Consider that for a minute – one effect of scaling has been to return xp-off twinks back into the leveling brackets. Superbly geared level 70, 80, 85 toons are leaving the xp-off brackets in droves and hitting up the greener pastures of leveling brackets. I outgear everyone. It’s ridiculous.

Oh. And I have a pocket healer.

I’m not going to gloss over it – I absolutely love it. We absolutely love it. Why shouldn’t we? It’s ridiculous. And now we can do it without the guilt of weakening ourselves by leveling.

When my only regret is leaving behind being a star on Retro Raid Night? That’s not really much of a regret.

I do find it interesting that the unlocked 85 bracket is such a more pleasant experience than the locked 85 bracket right now. Most of the Alliance xp-off twinks quit and leveled out after 5.2. The xp-off bracket shifted from a slight Alliance advantage to a dominant Horde one, as teams of Horde healers with competent DPS just ravaged the remaining blue teams with 1-2 twinks. The majority of the Alliance players now seem to be expansion twinks, those returning players who haven’t bought Mists of Pandaria and show up in terrible Cataclysm gear. Those players are on the Horde, too, but not as many.

It’s a great time to be a level 85 Horde twink. Seriously. I see some great play and coordinated efforts to protect healers. Alliance healers have vanished and twinks are few and far between. The matches have gone from relatively equal contests to hoping that you don’t get steamrolled. I have still won the occasional locked game as Alliance – but it’s a frustrating experience, without the teamwork and competence which made even the losses fulfilling experiences.

This is a strange time to be PvPing. I’m locking and unlocking with abandon. It’s not that I’ve given up on the locked brackets, it’s that I’m leveling at the same time.

I don’t think bringing twinks back into the leveling brackets was a deliberate effect. I honestly don’t think twinks commonly enter in to any design decisions in PvP, with the exception of getting them out of low-level PvP with their separate brackets in 3.2. Removing characters with exceptionally great gear steered by veteran PvPers from the leveling brackets was generally seen as a good thing. Having us return, giving us incentives to play in the leveling brackets … well, it remains to be seen if it’s a good thing.

I know I’m having fun. I don’t know if my opponents are – but I sure am.

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Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

XP-Off Battleground Exploit Needs Fixing

I’m sadly starting to see more of  a pretty simple exploit that has been around for a while. It’s usable in any of the leveling brackets, but appears to be most common in the 10-14 and 75-79 brackets – anywhere gear differences are potentially very pronounced.

The exploit allows someone to turn off XP while queuing for a regular battleground. Normally, turning off experience places a character in an xp-off battleground with other characters who have done the same. Gear is assumed to be of very high quality in these brackets, and players are assumed to know how to play both their class and the battlegrounds with skill. The exploit allows them to queue with leveling characters, giving them a serious advantage.

The advantage isn’t the problem; any player can choose to lock XP for a while, gear up, farm consumables, get great enchants, and then go to town in a normal battleground. You can do this with disposable heroes, you can do it to learn your class better, you can do it because you like winning in PvP. Warcraft PvP is, in many cases, a game of gear. Locking to gear up and unlocking to PvP is part of that game.

No, the problem is that the exploit deliberately sidesteps the XP lock to allow characters to enter a leveling battleground but avoid gaining experience. It’s cheating. It takes advantage of a delay between turning XP off and queuing for a battleground to get a twink into a leveling bracket. They become immune to the experience gain, even accidental experience gain, that moves people along in these brackets. There’s a level 10 toon on my Alliance server with “of the Alliance” – 100k Honorable Kills – who got it entirely by farming battlegrounds with this exploit. It’s one thing to AFK out of a battleground before each flag cap to avoid experience gains. It’s another thing entirely to cheat so you can cap and win as many BGs as you like because you’re immune to experience.

This exploit is in the same category as the Arathi Basin Fast Start exploit from a while ago – deliberately circumventing the explicit rules of the game. There’s not even a gray area here about how everyone can do it – you need to download an add-on for it, and no, you can google it yourself, I’m not linking to it.

But I hate when things like this happen – it’s bad for leveling PvPers, it’s bad for twink brackets, it’s bad for everyone - but the folks who are cheating. There are a lot of good players in the twink community, players who enjoy the thrill of competing with the best gear you can get for a bracket. I find higher quality battlegrounds in the 19s and 70s and 80s than I ever do at 85.

Yeah, I get it. I get that it’s fun to take a geared toon into a 10-14 bracket and rock it. I get that it’s fun to deck yourself out in Cata greens and kick ass in the 75-79 bracket. It’s fun winning. It’s fun being overpowered.

But play by the same rules as everyone else, for pity’s sake.

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Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

Satchels of Helpful Goods Prove REALLY Helpful

A commenter on one of my other sites (leave a link so I can credit you, I see your comments!) pointed me to Tobold’s most recent post, where he brings to light an exploit where goods from the Satchels of Helpful Goods can be used by level 19 characters, and how it’s having a bad impact on the 19 bracket in the EU. I’ve only played a few 19s in the past month in the US, and I didn’t notice anyone overwhelmingly powerful – all my losses were definitely due to getting outplayed – but this is one of those things which can cause big problems for a bracket until it’s fixed.

Blizzard has supposedly fixed the satchel so you can’t get these rewards anymore at low levels, but the gear still remains. Unbalancing? Yes. Likely to remain? Also yes, this doesn’t seem like something that’s easy to fix.

We’ll have to see how big an impact this has on the lower brackets.

Here’s an example of what a toon with the satchel gear looks like. There’s also a blacklist starting on the twinkinfo forums.

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Filed under Green Tinted Goggles

The 20 v. 24 War

When the battleground brackets were split in two – from x0-x9 to x0-x4 and x5-x9 – several other changes were made which were to have a dramatic impact that wasn’t apparent at the time.

  • Characters who had reached the maximum level of their account type (trial accounts to 20, vanilla accounts to 60, BC accounts to 70, Wrath accounts to 80) were now placed in the XP-off brackets, aka the twink brackets.
  • Brackets were standardized so the highest level of an account type (60, 70, 80) were no longer the highest level within the bracket for some battlegrounds.

These changes were made, in part, to remove expansion twinks from the leveling XP brackets. A known problem with level 60 AV would be “Molten Core guilds” – guilds of characters on accounts which never upgraded to Burning Crusade, who raided the old instances for the best gear possible, and who would show up and DESTROY the opposition in the 51-60 Alterac Valley bracket.

(Oh god. Those guys were so good, you have no idea unless you saw them in action. It was hopeless fighting them with a pug. Even my twinked Death Knight got steamrolled.)

Placing expansion twinks in the XP-off bracket (which, logically, is where they belonged in the first place) would have probably not caused much of an uproar without the reorganization of the brackets. PvPing at the top of the bracket almost always guarantees that characters will be as powerful as they can possibly become. The only exception to this was the 10-19 bracket, where level 10s gain a huge benefit to their stats due to favorable combat statistic scaling. Everywhere else, the 9-level gap was just too much.

Expansion twinks found themselves flipped from the top of most of the brackets to the bottom, suddenly faced with level 64 or 74 or 84 opponents. Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds were still open to them, but battlegrounds suddenly presented a very new challenge. No longer was it level 70s beating up on each other, everyone equal – now players had to figure out if it was better to stay where they were and enjoy beneficial scaling, or level 4 levels and get additional gear, talents, abilities, and health.

Surprisingly, most twinks stayed put. You lose a huge amount of effectiveness by leveling from one expansion pack to another, and the gear generally doesn’t catch up until you reach the endgame of the next expansion. The gear available at 64 and 74 isn’t that much better than the best epics of vanilla and BC. In a lot of cases, it’s still not beating the best epics. So there’s a compelling argument to stay an expansion twink, and the x4 twinks never really unbalanced the brackets. They adapted to their new situation.

Then Blizzard lifted the time restrictions on trial accounts, and the F2P deluge began.

CASUS BELLI

In Patch 4.2, Blizzard revised trial accounts to become Starter Edition accounts, allowing people to play up to level 20 for free. No longer restricted to 10 days, players could now take their time and gather the best gear possible, work on professions within the strict SE account limits (no primary profession over 100), and participate in PvP.

Level 20 Starter Edition twinks were born.

Due to the changes introduced above, trial account twinks were placed into the nascent 20-24 bracket, a quiet bracket that was populated by Cataclysm toons who liked the feel of lowbie PvP but who lacked many of the grandfathered BiS gear that dominated the 19s and 29s. The 24s weren’t wildly popular, but it wasn’t completely desolate.

That all changed with the F2P movement picked up steam. The population swelled with level 20 twinks, games became more regular, and a new culture came into the bracket, sweeping out the old.

But unlike the other, higher level expansion twink brackets, the 20-24 bracket has several key differences.

  • Combat ratings are more potent at low levels. Small differences in gear and enchants are magnified because each point matters more.
  • There is no expansion-induced power inflation at level 21. It’s not at the end of an expansion. While stats get less effective as you level through the 20s, there is no sharp decline like you see at level 10, 60, 70, or 80, so a level 24 character retains more effectiveness from level 20 than a level 74, or god forbid a level 84. Levels 83-84 are just brutal.
  • Starter edition accounts are substantially limited when compared to paid accounts. There are few enchants available for them to use. They can’t use the Auction House or mail, so BoE gear is practically impossible to get. Professions are limited. Guild heirlooms, like the head and shoulder slot items, are unobtainable. (Regular heirlooms are available, they just take time to get.) Faction changes are impossible, and quest rewards are distributed unequally between factions, preventing characters from getting the best gear. All of these restrictions add up to a sizable disadvantage in PvP.
  • Not every person in the XP-off battleground is a twink. These are Starter Editions, after all, and many of them are actually people trying the game for the first time. Shocking, I know! But unlike other XP-off battlegrounds, the players here didn’t select to be in the elite bracket – they just wanted to PvP. So there’s a wide variety of gear and player experience.

So here you have a sizable population of players joining a fledgling bracket at a disadvantage. They create their own community, they have their own sense of shared triumph over difficult odds – and having worked a bit myself on a trial edition twink, it’s hard work – but it’s fragile. F2P accounts want to play against other F2P accounts. They want to have that work be rewarded with a fair PvP experience.

But this is where the 24s come in.

THE VIEW FROM THE TOP (OF THE BRACKET)

How big of an advantage does a level 24 twink have in this bracket?

It’s one thing to run some simulations, to build out some test profiles on Wowhead and make educated guesses, but it’s another thing to see how it plays in the field. If you were to look at my level 19 Warrior twink, you might think she’s a real badass in the field. She’s not. No matter how good I make her, she’s still going to suffer in any DPS role because she can’t maintain time on target in the bracket.

Experience in the field matters more than numbers, so I rolled a hunter, leveled her up to 24 and twinked her out, and queued up to see how it played out.

Dear God.

I felt bad for what I was doing to the other team. I actually felt remorse for dominating the battlefield, which … I don’t think that’s ever happened. I’m not built that way.

Solo assault the Blacksmith with three defenders? No sweat. Kite one, pet on the healer, run away, use line of sight with the building to block fire, disengage down the hill, shoot through the hill… done. Base is mine, let’s find another one to cap.

Solo grab the flag, kill my way through midfield, destroy their offense playing cat and mouse in our base, get the winning cap? Exciting stuff. You start to feel like a big damn hero, gun firing rapidly as you strafe away from the pack of attackers, cutting them down one at a time.

I was a hawk among doves. I could get pulled down by a mob, or by the ever-present threat of a twink rogue ambush, but I would be sure to take a few of them with me, every single time.

Exciting? Yes. But – and I’m not joking here – it’s so easy to be good at level 24. I’ve never played a hunter before in PvP and I’m suddenly this titan of the battleground, FC and super-DPS all in one. I know they’re good at low levels, but not this good.

Properly played, level 24 twinks have a serious advantage to level 20s in the bracket. It’s not like the 70s, where 74s are common enough sights but rarely OP. (The OP distinction goes to level 70 mages.) It’s not like the 80s, where 84s are limited to a few select classes who benefit from insane stat inflation on Cata gear, above and beyond what is possible with level 80 Wrathful. No, there is a substantial, significant advantage being at the top of this bracket.

This could very quickly devolve into battles being decided by which side can field more 24 twinks, not about the contributions of the level 20 masses. After playing just a few games at 24, I can see that this is a very real concern.

The game is coded a certain way: level 24 twinks will hold every advantage in this bracket, should they choose to pursue them. The law of the game is silent in this time of war; there is nothing to prevent paid 24 accounts from stomping out the F2P PvP community.

BELLUM VICENI

One of the first interactions with the F2P viewpoint came on my first game after faction changing from Alliance to Horde. I went Worgen to get the Top Hat, but I rolled Alliance first because they have better Agility quest rewards, and I wanted to make sure I had them. I didn’t want to stay Alliance though – the queue times are too long (more Ally F2P than Horde) and I had friends on the Horde side of that server.

This tauren Sunwalker sized me up. “Looks like we have a traitor in our midst,” he bellowed. “Aluwyn’s Legguards? Ashen Gloves? Discyngage here is an Ally!”

I shrugged my shapely elven shoulders. “I wanted the top hat,” I said nonchalantly, fingering my rifle, crafted many years ago in Ironforge.

The tauren leaned in close as the timer counted out the final seconds. “I don’t heal Ally,” he hissed. “And no one else here will, either.”

Okay, I muttered to myself, loading my rifle.

Looks like we’re doing this the hard way.

The F2P community is openly hostile to level 24 twinks. The general opinion of 24s is that they are bad players looking to beat up on the weak, avoiding a fair fight to test their skills and learn from other players. There are shame lists on twinkinfo’s F2P forums, lists of 24s who are to be ridiculed on sight and avoided. There’s praise heaped on paid accounts who adhere to the F2P rules, letting fair matches continue  but allowing the F2P community to group up and circumvent some of Blizzard’s tighter restrictions.

Social pressure is the strongest weapon the 20s have, and they are using it in spades. If you’re 24, you’re bad. That’s a constant message that I hear in forum posts and in-game. 24s don’t want fair fights, they’re bad players who couldn’t manage to win any other way, who get their rocks off by beating up the weak. I hear that too.

I don’t blame them one bit for using this tactic. There’s a very real danger here of them losing the bracket they helped create. The more attention F2P PvP gets, the more people will look at it and go… hey, those F2P accounts are pretty weak, they look like … prey. And if enough 24s show up, not just bad players but good ones, experienced twinks, in sufficient numbers, then their games will die. They’ll either have to upgrade their accounts and roll 24s, or find something else to do.

The 20-24 bracket, as it exists today, is very much the result of Blizzard removing the 10-day limit off trial accounts. I think both sides realize and admit that. Starter edition toons are the reason it’s so popular now, and there’s real truth behind the statement that if it weren’t for F2P, few people would be interested in this bracket. The bracket was developing in a different way before the F2P accounts swarmed it, and while you could argue that they’re now the interlopers, F2P is here to stay in 20-24.

This particular fact is brought up usually to support Starter Editions getting their own, separate bracket, away from the 24s, because the disparity between the two sides is so very great. The 20s are waging a social campaign of shaming 24s, because the game itself is stacked against them.

THE MORALITY OF WAR

The 20-24 War is a battle of two opposing viewpoints of PvP combat.

  • PvP should be a fair contest. The true test of a player’s skill is in a fair fight; by making the playing field as even as possible, player skill and ability becomes paramount.
  • PvP should be unfair; victory goes to those who pursue every advantage over their opponents. If you put in the effort to increase your character’s abilities (through gear, professions, etc.), you should perform better than those who do not. Player skill is important, but that includes their skill in creating their character.

These two viewpoints are in opposition, but are not mutually exclusive. Warcraft PvP is inherently unfair; players enter battlegrounds at all levels with different gear, different enchants. This is how the game is coded, how it is designed, and the players have to adapt to it. But there’s still a desire for fairness, especially at the endgame, of having gear be roughly equal, classes be roughly equal, of performance being roughly equal, of player skill being the determining factor.

Twinks and full-time endgame PvPers both chase the best gear and enchants possible, not just for fairness, but so that they can perform as well as they can versus their opponents. If they come up against a lesser-geared opponent, they’ll beat them and move on. If they come up against someone with better gear, they do their best, but realize that they have to gear up and do better next time.

The ethics of gear are complicated. Is it fair to enter a battleground knowing that you’ve geared enough to make combat trivially easy in your favor? Is that your sin, or is it your opponent’s fault for not going to the same lengths you did? If someone queues up for PvP in broken gray gear, and you’re in enchanted heirlooms, are you morally obligated to hold your fire? Or do you kill them and move on? It’s not fair, to be sure – I don’t think anyone disputes that.

But is it wrong?

What if someone chooses to enter combat at a disadvantage? Do their opponents need to abstain from combat with them, or deliberately cripple themselves?

This is not just semantics for the 20-24 bracket. The core problem is one of perspective, and while the unfairness of 24 vs. 20 combat isn’t in dispute, the morality of it is.

Does the F2P movement have a right to exist? Are the 24s in it wrong for even being there?

That’s what this comes down to.

GRATIS VERSUS LIBRE: FREE AS IN BEER, NOT FREE AS IN SPEECH

The 20-24 bracket is unique in all the PvP brackets because of the presence of Starter Edition accounts. Unlike the other expansion twink brackets (70-74, 80-84), the choice between 20 and 24 is not one where there are advantages to both the low and high ends of the bracket that should be considered. Level 70 and 80 characters receive significantly better return on combat statistics, including Resilience, Haste, and Crit. But 74 and 84 have access to better gear, talents, and abilities. There are real choices here. A level 70 or 80 character has chosen one over the other.

And, most importantly, everyone in those brackets are paying customers.

I’ve been treating the level 20 community as equivalent to other expansion twinks up to this point, but that’s ignoring the very real difference between 20s and 24s: the 20s are there because they don’t – for a variety of reasons – want to pay World of Warcraft’s monthly subscription fee. Because of this, the 20-24 bracket is one of the only places where money provides a real advantage to gameplay in WoW. Fifteen dollars a month buys you the ability to pwn the bracket.

It gets you a lot more than that, of course, but it also gets you this advantage.

This debate is really about establishing a norm around the value of money and subscription services. Warcraft has been a subscription-based game for the entirety of its existence, which strongly implies that Starter Edition accounts are guests within the game; to be welcomed, but not to be considered the norm. If that’s the case, then the 20-24 bracket should be treated like any other PvP bracket – get yourself up to the top, gear up, and go to town. Players who choose to come into the battleground with trial accounts are just like any other undergeared, underleveled toon who enters a PvP bracket; a weakness to be exploited on the other team.

But, through sheer numbers, the F2P community makes up the majority of this specific bracket, so the social norm is different. The normal value of a subscription is inverted by the majority. Instead of “it’s your $15 a month, play what you want to play,” it’s now “this game is free, you’re playing $15/month to dominate it.” The normal ability level is the F2P level, not the paid level.

You can’t ignore the money on this one. You just can’t.

Should a player who pays nothing still have a good experience in WoW? I think most of us, with an eye towards the health of the game as a whole, would say – yes, if it convinces them to purchase the game. That’s a reasonable standpoint both from a commercial and personal point of view – the purpose of Starter Editions is to make money for Blizzard.

A smaller subset of people would say, yes, they should have a good experience no matter if they buy it or not. Often this opinion is based on self-interest – it’s nice to participate in WoW on a limited basis without incurring any costs – but sometimes it’s based on the idea that WoW should cultivate a good reputation within the F2P game community, that it’s something you can pick up every so often without paying for it.

And other folks would say: it doesn’t matter if they have a good time or not. They’re not paying customers.

Does the F2P 20 bracket have a right to exist? Do players who pay nothing have the right to dictate the norms and values of a bracket over those who do?

Does paying money confer rights? Should not paying money be seen as somehow morally superior?

The problem with saying the money doesn’t matter is that you’re then left with a case of people choosing disadvantage over advantage, and 20-24 isn’t as simple as that. F2P players want to have a game where they’re playing a fairly matched game, but the game isn’t set up to be fair.

The social pressure exerted by the F2P community is to ridicule the 24s, to accuse them of bullying and of being bad players, is entirely to maintain this fragile sense of fairness within the bracket. There’s an absolute need to demonize the opposition here, to make people look askance at even thinking of rolling 24s, because if too many paying customers do it, they can’t have their fun.

I think if you look at the situation closely, you’ll start to see that this is really an appeal to emotion, to the inherent moral superiority of the F2P twink – they have to overcome serious challenges to reach their maximum potential.

But all twinks have to overcome limits like F2P twinks.

ON TWINKING AND BULLYING

Are level 24 twinks bullying other players?

It’s a fair question to ask. Would someone have rolled a level 24 twink if it wasn’t for the purpose of playing PvP in a known lopsided bracket? Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. I think before the Starter Edition deluge, the 24 bracket was a nice compromise between 19 and 29 with a gear reset.

But now… ?

It’s very interesting playing 24 – for a while. It’s a challenge taking on multiple opponents at once, of figuring out how to make the most of your abilities to win, to be the decisive player on the battlefield.

But it’s very much like playing in the old 10-19 bracket, where twinks and levelers mingled freely. You have a few 24s, a bunch of 20 twinks, and a bunch of 20s who are not twinks by any means. Three tiers of players there – this isn’t a twink bracket, it’s effectively a leveling bracket that awards no XP.

Three tiers of toons, and two of them are twinks. Not one, two.

While writing The Challenge of Fixing Low Level PvP, I realized that the old-school twinks left the lowbie brackets, but new ones moved in in the form of geared levelers. Just because it’s a leveling bracket doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a strata of twinks, of min-maxed toons, in it.

The 20-24 bracket is unique in that it’s a locked bracket which should be given over entirely to the twinks, but isn’t. It has new players, really new, trying out the game mixed throughout. The legitimate Starter Edition accounts – those of new players trying out WoW to see if they’re going to buy it – are competing against both paid 24 twinks and F2P 20 twinks. F2P twinks with really good gear – BiS dungeon gear, BoAs, fishing hats, the best enchants they can get – are going to outclass those new players, by quite a bit. You only have to see players running around with 500-600 health at level 20 to realize that this is not a pure twink bracket.

If, in defense of the F2P movement, you have to be very careful if you’re going to accuse the level 24 twinks of bullying because they outgear the opposition. Are they rolling just because there are weaker players in the bracket? Almost certainly.

But that’s true of the F2P twinks, too.

PEACE TREATY

There isn’t really a level 24 twink culture anymore; it’s been subsumed into the F2P community, which is actively combating it for their own survival. I think the dynamic of the bracket is really interesting, and that my past few weeks of getting to know it have been enlightening.

My personal feeling is that the F2P PvP community that has sprung up deserves to survive. It represents people embracing serious constraints to create characters who are fun to play. It represents a nice option for veteran players who are just looking for a break from the game. If spinning it into its own bracket does that, great. If not, it will survive or perish on its own merits.

I think that’s an important point to make: a bracket, a community, needs to survive on its own merits. If it’s fun, it will draw people to it and resist attacks. If it’s not fun, people will drift away. It shouldn’t need developer assistance to do it.

But I also think that there’s a real conflict here between the F2P community and the normal PvP community, and that you have to stop and think about the arguments being presented that one takes precedence over the other. Things aren’t as simple as they seem. Don’t buy into the propaganda.

No matter which side of the war you end up on.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

The Lure Master Tackle Box

I love the Lure Master Tackle Box on my twinks. It’s practically the perfect twink bag.

The tackle box is a 36 slot bag which holds fishing supplies: lures, hats, fish, poles, and – you guessed it – Rumsey Rum Black Label, the drink of twinks everywhere.

Considering how much of this drink you’ll use on your twinks, you should think about picking up this box. It often is easier to buy off the AH than it is to have it made, because players leveling Engineering will sometimes mass-produce this for skillups.

You can benefit from their haste to dump leveling mats, and profit with a LOT of storage space. Or, you can get 20 Elementium Bars, 4 Handfuls of Obsidium Bolts, and a 475 Engineer, and you’re all set.

Considering how important Fishing is to low level twinks, the Lure Master Tackle Box is an easy upgrade that dramatically improves quality of life on your twink.

Get it if you can!

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The Challenge of Fixing Low Level PvP

In Zarhym’s recent foray into the PvP forums, the sentiment that low level PvP is broken in Cataclysm was voiced over, and over, and over again. The floating skull responded diplomatically:

We talked to Ghostcrawler about this yesterday. He’s well aware of this, but more importantly, he’s not very happy about it either. The class design team’s first priority is obviously balance around the end game, but absolute neglect of low-level balance isn’t okay. This is something that isn’t going to improve much in patch 4.3, but we hope to have more sound solutions coming.

I really sympathize with Zarhym here. This is not an easy topic to cover; I think the issues around low level PvP are actually more difficult to resolve than the balance problems of the endgame, because there are contradictory elements that simply cannot be reconciled – elements which do not exist at the end game.

These elements have a name. They are called new players.

And they are the reason not only why low level PvP is imbalanced, but why it should stay imbalanced.

THE PROBLEM OF LOW LEVEL PVP

It’s not enough to wring our hands and say, “low level PvP is broken.” While it may be true (and I believe it is), we have to look at the specific ways in which problems manifest in the battlegrounds.

  • Classes are imbalanced. Some classes have very good burst, others do not. Some have very good defenses, others do not. Some have counters, others do not.
  • Damage is very high relative to health. Characters die quickly in 1:1 situations.
  • Statistics vary wildly between characters within a bracket. Whether it is due to gear, professions, or enchants, players in the very early brackets show up in a wide variety of gear that can make one character ten times more powerful than another.
  • Stat scaling at low levels heightens small differences in gear. Due to rating decay, a few points in any stat will have a more dramatic impact at low levels than at higher ones.

These four interrelated problems cause lowbie PvP to appear “borked” and “broken.” I don’t like using those terms because I think that even in its current form, lowbie PvP is actually a lot of fun, both on the geared and ungeared side. But these problems combine to create strata of twinks within low level battlegrounds that can create seriously lopsided matches.

The real problem of low level PvP is that Blizzard removed one kind of twink from lowbie battlegrounds, only to have the void be filled by by another, more pernicious kind of twink:

Regular, experienced players.

LEARNING TO PLAY THE GAME

Think back to when you first started playing WoW, or your first MMO. Not just the early levels, either – the very first day.

I remember my first login, fumbling around on my MacBook’s trackpad, trying to right and left click with a single button, struggling to simply move and target. Concepts like combat stat decay and burst damage were far from my mind; I was trying to figure out how to perform the most basic functions of character control. And I struggled with it! It took me a week to get up to level 12; I didn’t even know basic MMO conventions. I didn’t get my first green piece until my second character – it was a Disciple’s Vest of the Whale, and I had no idea that green items existed before then.

I bring this up because the starting experience for a new player has a radically different set of challenges than that for an experienced player, and the game must take those into account. It must teach them basic mechanics of the game while also making them feel like they are accomplishing things. In order to retain customers, the game must reward new players and make them feel powerful and heroic – to pull them in and get them so they want to see more, to challenge them just enough so that they hit level 10 and go, WOW, this is awesome, let me keep on playing!

What Blizzard does not want to have happen is for someone to get frustrated at level 5 and walk away from the game, leaving a virtual corpse in the road outside Goldshire.

This is why characters start off with one ability and grow slowly – so players don’t get overwhelmed. This is why early abilities were substantially reworked in Cataclysm – so that each class would have just enough abilities to keep things interesting without overloading someone. It’s not just to make classes easier to learn – it’s acknowledging that new players are learning a lot of other things, too, and that low levels don’t need class complexity to make things worse.

Compare and contrast this with an experienced player, one who has learned the fundamentals of an MMO through the endgame. Zones which forgive the mistakes of someone just learning how to steer their character become trivially easy to a character who has a gaming pad and mouse set up, customizes their UI on the fly, writes attack macros as soon as they log in, knows how to pull multiple mobs, etc.. This isn’t about “catering to casuals,” however you want to take that term – this is about a real difference in skill between someone who is just picking up the game and someone who has played it for some time.

I used to think that the lower levels were easy for me because I outgeared them on my alts. I’d go roll an alt with enchants and heirlooms and stuff would die very quickly. It was only later that I realized I could do the exact same thing in starter gear and quest rewards, because I was a better player than the first time I leveled a character. Of course I should find the content easy! It’s made to be challenging to someone else, to teach them the skills which I already possess!

Think of how big this skill gap is that these early zones have to cover – be accessible enough to a completely new character, but not completely bore a veteran rolling yet another alt.

This is a fundamental truth of the lower levels which cannot be ignored when talking about low level PvP imbalance: the early game has to hook new players on the game and teach them the skills to play it. It has to be accessible to new players – not just to teach them the new skills, but to hook them on the game so they don’t go do something else! World of Warcraft has to be engaging enough through the first 20 levels that someone picking it up for the first time says, hey, this is pretty cool, it’s worth paying money to keep going.

From a business standpoint, this is a far more important priority than keeping experienced players challenged for 30 levels or so. They’ll get their challenge through other means.

Keep this in mind as you think about low level PvP, and as we dive into the math of stat scaling.

WHY THINGS ARE ALL DOWNHILL FROM LEVEL 10: THE PROBLEM OF STAT SCALING AND RATING DECAY

Most of the low level zones follow a fairly consistent character development arc. You start with trivial tasks at the very early levels, overcoming a minor obstacle by level 5 or 6, gaining experience, and overcoming a moderately difficult challenge by 10-12. By then you’re ready to move on to another zone, where the difficulty increases substantially over the next 5 levels or so, but so does the importance of the story – and the rewards. By the time you hit level 20 in that next zone, your character is authentically heroic – low level, but they’ve saved the day in a major way.

This arc is reinforced by a substantial shift in game mechanics that takes place at level 10.

I love going over at Shadowpanther.net’s formula page when trying to explain why a character at lower levels is sometimes better than one at higher levels due to stat scaling. Having each level laid out in a chart provides a better visual aid to see how ratings decay for a lot of people than mathematical formulas.

If you haven’t read these kinds of charts before, the first seven columns go over how much of each combat stat you need for 1% of the value; so if the Crit column in the level 19 row says 2.94, that means you need 2.94 Crit to equal 1%. (3 Crit rating is therefore 1.02% at 19.) The rest of the table relates to a very specific Rogue (and Hunter) stat called AEP, which isn’t relevant to our discussion here.

The Shadowpanther chart helps illustrate how stat scaling works. The more you level, the more value of a particular stat you need to get 1% of it. You need more stuff on your gear as you level in order to maintain a certain level of power. You can think of it as gear getting weaker as you level, if you like, or of driving you to acquire better gear to stay in good form.

Where stat scaling gets interesting is in the really low levels. Look at levels 1-10. There is no change in stat scaling in those first 10 levels – 1 point of Crit will get you 1.85% increased critical strike chance. There’s no gear decay at all until you reach level 11 – when suddenly, stats start to drop off pretty quickly.

Let’s go back to the initial character development arc again, but this time, looking at stat scaling.

From 1-10, characters get increasingly more powerful as they level. They gain primary statistics at each level that apply linearly; if you gain 5 of your primary statistic, you get the full benefit of that 5 points. This happens with or without good gear, mind you – because combat statistics are flat, the more you gain, the better your character becomes.

This increase has a deliberate, positive psychological effect on players. People feel like they’re getting more powerful as they level – because they are. This is much like a traditional RPG, where a level 5 character is substantially more powerful than a level 1 – it’s an entirely different ballgame.  Challenges have to be adjusted for the fact that you’re now a badass. That can be pretty cool.

Magical gear and enchants function in a linear fashion with this model. Just like in AD&D, a +1 Sword in the hands of a level 1 character functions exactly the same as in a level 10 character. It increases the chance to hit and damage the same amount. The damage might be a lower percentage of the higher level character’s overall damage, but that’s a function of them doing more damage overall. The gear remains unchanged.

Let’s translate this idea into WoW: let’s say a piece of gear gives you +3 Haste, which (for example’s sake) gives you +1% Haste at level 1, and at level 80, and at level 85. The more you level, the better gear you gain, the better your stats get. You could wear your level 70 gear and be just as effective at level 85 as you were at 70 – more so, since your base statistics have improved! Perhaps your linear stats (like Stamina and Mana) are lacking, but your gear is as effective as it was when you raided in Burning Crusade! It would make for a very different kind of game, since once you reached a certain level of power on your gear, it would be sufficient to handle most challenges in the game – but that would eliminate the idea of a gear tier, where it gets progressively more powerful.

For the first 10 levels your character gains in power, drawing you in, making you feel like yeah, I’m getting good at this!

Starting at level 11, linear scaling goes completely out the window, and rating decay sets in.

Starting at level 11, characters get decreasingly more powerful as they level due to stat scaling. At some point, they actually get weaker as a result of rating decay, as each point of a statistic they get by leveling counts for less than it used to. Gear becomes required to start making up the difference.

Look at the charts again. See how all the stats (other than Resilience) start going down in potency at level 11? That’s rating decay in action. Each point of a rating contributes less actual impact the more you level.

During the normal questing arc, this change is ideally hidden by moving to a new, more challenging zone. Things feel tougher in the second zone because they are tougher – but it’s not just because the opponents are tougher. You’re getting progressively weaker as you level, at least until you start getting gear to help make up the difference – and even then, you never really go back to the great scaling you enjoyed at level 10.

The story arc carries you towards a heroic achievement at level 20 at the same time game mechanics make you less potent. In a way, it makes a lot of sense to increase the overall difficulty of the game at this point for new players – but instead of making the mobs substantially more difficult, WoW makes PCs weaker and more dependent upon gear. This bait-and-switch works because it prepares players for the rest of the game, where they will be acquiring increasingly powerful gear to overcome more powerful challenges. The challenges are harder, but characters don’t get any more efficient from their improvements. The damage numbers are just bigger. The mana pools are bigger  - but so are the spell costs. You’re not actually any faster or more accurate. You’re not more skilled, you just have bigger numbers.

This ties in directly to the first symptom most people point to when talking about low level PvP’s problems: gear.

THE PROBLEM OF GEAR AND ENCHANTS

Heirloom gear and enchants represent two sides of the same problem – adding stats where new players lack them. They are both fundamentally unbalancing because the early leveling game is balanced for new players who lack those stats, not for experienced players with them. By walking into one of the 1-20 zones with anything other than quest rewards, you’re overgearing the content.

Generally speaking, that means the content is geared for:

  • Mostly whites through level 10-12
  • Whites and greens through level 15
  • Greens and maybe 1-2 blues by level 20

Keep in mind that many slots will not be filled either, even by white gear, so you’ll be missing a head, neck, 2 rings, 2 trinkets, and maybe a ranged slot.

The obvious problem is that there are players who have gear with stats in slots where other players don’t. It doesn’t take long to figure out that someone in blues versus someone in whites is imbalanced.  And that is absolutely true: better gear increases the amount of damage, healing, and health available to low level characters.

But the unseen problem is that, even with rating decay, gear scales better at lower levels. That scaling curve makes small differences much more prominent at levels 11-20 than at 40-60. It’s not just that gear grants more spellpower, attack power, or stamina – it’s that it grants more Haste, more Dodge, more Crit than it will at later levels. Heirloom gear is better gear at level 10 and 19 than at 35. 

But wait; enchants are even worse.

I’ve maintained that enchants outperform heirlooms in terms of raw power, but they’re even more potent at lower levels because of stat scaling. Keep in mind that many of these enchants were to be used at level 60 for raiding, and are not scaled for the leveling game. So an enchant like +15 Agility is pretty good at level 55, but it’s amazing at level 10. With the right combination of enchants, you can approach 100% Crit, Dodge, even Haste (Iron Counterweights FTW)!

But only for levels 1-10. After that point, stat decay kicks in, but vanilla enchants remain overpowered for the early brackets (up to 20-24, at least.)

Consider that you can have two rogues in the 10-14 bracket, and one could have 10x as much Agility as the other. Ten times as much.

And that Agility is giving more Dodge and Crit than at any other point in the game.

Let that sink in for a bit.

You have experienced players with access to gear through heirlooms, professions, and the AH. They can get great enchants which are at the peak of their potency in the early brackets. They have access to consumables (scrolls, rum, buff food) that new players don’t.

And they are playing the same game with players who are over the moon about a blue cloak with +4 of their primary stat on it.

I don’t see any potential problems with this in PvP. Nope.

THE PROBLEM OF CLASS BALANCE

You know, the gear problem is actually probably the easiest problem to solve with respect to low level PvP. Modifying the BG matching algorithm to filter based on an aggregate gear score – be it item level, total attack power/spell power, things like that – would be hard to implement, easy to work around, but conceptually it could work.

Class balance is a much harder problem to deal with at low levels.

Cataclysm brought with it a complete reworking of how abilities were learned by classes. A few gained some abilities early on, but many abilities were moved to later. Most AoE abilities were moved up to at least level 20. And Talent Specialization at level 10 granted some new abilities, but at the cost of a more flexible playstyle. I once wrote in Wrath that I needed to think of myself as a Mage, not a Frost Mage. Now I have to think like a Frost Mage – only lacking a lot of the tools of one.

The abilities at lower levels always present people with a challenge. Things are so basic and elementary at low levels. You have some of your core abilities, but not all of them. You don’t have many things that work together. Very few classes have counters, and those that do are OP.

The decision to move abilities around was entirely driven by making a class easier to learn for new players and for players new to the class. The first 5 levels are very basic, with abilities coming at a relatively steady, bearable clip. (The only class where I feel like you get too much at once is Druid because of Cat form at level 8.) The first 20 levels see a lot of abilities get introduced to a character – but not all abilities are equal, or are granted at the same time. And that’s not a bad thing, for leveling! Druids having Cat form at level 8 is honestly good for their leveling!

But how do you propose to balance this?

Look at the level 10-14 bracket and what different classes gain. Warriors gain Taunt at 12 and Heroic Strike at 14. Warlocks gain Bane of Agony at 12 and Fear at 14. Hunters gain Wing Clip at 12 and Hunter’s Mark & Disengage at 14.

  • Warriors get basically one attack which replaces an attack they already have (Strike).
  • Warlocks get an instant cast DoT (dramatically improving their damage output) and the best PvP CC in the game.
  • Hunters get two different escape methods: a snare and a leap. Both of those can’t be countered at this level by melee classes. They also get an attack buff.

There are two points here.

First, each class changes between the bottom and top of the low level brackets. In most cases, these are important abilities that get picked up in the early levels.

Second, each class changes differently. Warriors are actually becoming excellent lowbie tanks, while Hunters are picking up skills to make them great in PvP.

Third, many abilities have counters later on – but not yet. Warlocks might have a reliable escape from melee – but it comes at level 80. Warriors get gap closers – but at level 35. Counters add a lot of complexity to a class that, frankly, a new player isn’t ready for, and many experienced players who are new to the class aren’t ready for, either.

This isn’t a case of simple DPS balancing, of tweaking damage output to bring classes in line with each other. Each change made for PvP has to be considered in the context of a specific bracket, not “low level PvP.” What will it do at 10-14, 15-19, 20-24? More importantly, what will it do to the leveling experience? Will it give players too many buttons to push too soon?

Here’s the thing – when you take away gear as a factor, like in the xp-off bracket, you still see differences between class performance in both PvP and PvE. This is true at level 10, it’s true at level 70, and it’s true all the way up to level 85. Level 85 is where it’s the most balanced, not only because that’s where the majority of the players play, but because that’s where class toolkits are complete.

If you ask me who you should play in low level PvP, my standard response is to play what you enjoy playing, because then you’ll have fun. But secretly, I keep a list.

(I know, you’re shocked, shocked I say.)

You want to be OP under level 25? Play a Hunter, a Sub Rogue, Arcane Mage (Frost is also good at 19), Disc Priest, or Resto Shammy.

Consider what is really being asked for when people want class balance throughout the leveling experience: please balance 30 specs across 15 brackets in addition to the endgame. That’s 450 different class/spec/level combinations to balance against each other at 15 different points.

Oh, with no real standard of gear.

And make sure it’s balanced for PvP and PvE, too. Don’t screw up the leveling curve and cause players to get overwhelmed.

And don’t forget that you have to keep the endgame balanced, too.

See where this is going?

I’m not saying that classes shouldn’t be roughly balanced – they should, and this is where homogenization comes in handy. And this is a real problem in low level PvP – some classes are just not very good at certain points, even with the best gear you can get on them. I don’t PvP on my level 19 Warrior twink anymore, it’s too damn hard to be successful.

But blanket calls to fix class balance at low levels have to consider the context of that balance, and why it’s not as simple to implement as it is to ask for.

LOW LEVEL UTOPIA, OR THE PROBLEM OF EXPERIENCED PLAYERS

When you combine aggressively scaled statistics, rewards for experienced players that allow them to easily and consistently overgear early content, and a redesigned leveling program which spreads class abilities further along the leveling curve, and then toss that mixture into the early part of a game designed for new players, you get a highly combustible mixture.

Sending it in to Warsong Gulch at level 10 makes it explosive.

The complaints about low level PvP are valid enough – burst damage is too high. Some classes lack any real PvP defenses. Other classes and races may have abilities which are perfectly suited to PvP.

But… these problems have always been there, in the lower brackets, in the higher brackets, pretty much everywhere in Warcraft.

It’s interesting that these complaints are so rampant now, in Cataclysm, when there were periods in Warcraft’s history when low level PvP was far more hostile to new players.

Before the split brackets, before xp-locked brackets, before heirlooms, there were twinks. Twinks ruled low level PvP with an iron fist. They weren’t kind or gracious about it – they were as good as they could be, they played to win against the other twinks, and if you got in their way as a new player you were going to get steamrolled.

It was not balanced. It was not fair. It was not a good experience for new players, to be sure. And twinks were reviled for it, but they had unapologetic fun on their own terms.

With 3.2, battleground XP, and the creation of the xp-off battleground bracket, twinks were moved away from new players and given their own playground. Battlegrounds became a place not to perfect your craft and your self, but rather part of the leveling experience.

And that, right there, is where the current problems started. Not with heirlooms, but with adding experience to battlegrounds.

The promise of twink-free BGs was a heady one. I remember the excitement of those first months when people flooded into BGs to level through PvP. And it’s remained great – being able to mix up PvP with dungeons and questing keeps leveling fresh and exciting. It lets you avoid Outland or Northrend entirely, if you’re burned out on those expansions.

But with experience came the expectation that leveling through PvP should be fair(er).That by removing the twinks, the leveling brackets were now safe places to go with undergeared characters or new players. They weren’t, of course, but as long as the gear difference between characters wasn’t too extreme, the brackets weren’t too out of whack. And that was actually what happened, since those BGs were for leveling, people didn’t stop to get great gear and PvP – they came in the gear they had.

And then came heirlooms.

Heirlooms allowed players to outgear their opponents right from the beginning in PvP, and as more heirlooms have been added, the problem has gotten worse. While enchants are actually more imbalancing than heirlooms, most players aren’t willing to blow 500g on a glove enchant for an alt. (Heirlooms are vastly more popular than Hand Me Downs, so they get the blame for this one.)

Heirlooms gave early PvP levelers the edge they needed to be really good in PvP, to the point where they could dominate (and level faster.) Others noticed this, and got BoA gear too, and Heirlooms are now a really good idea if you want to level through PvP from 10-60. A new twink class was born: experienced players.

Instead of the PvP utopia that removing the twinks and granting XP was supposed to create, the exact same conditions prevailed.

The only difference was that now there was an expectation that new players could participate in low level PvP, that you could go in without putting a lot of work into your gear and still be successful.

The expectation might be there, even if the reality doesn’t match it.

Oh! And that the people who formerly decried twinks had become them. Let’s not forget that.

But PvP in Warcraft hasn’t changed. It has been, and always will be, very dependent upon gear. If you have better gear, you will do better. It’s also very class dependent; certain classes will do better at certain points than others.

Can low level PvP be improved? Absolutely. There are class tweaks that can be made to help both with leveling and PvP – Destro Warlocks getting Soul Fire at level 20 was a good example of this.

But even if you can fix some of the class balance issues, you will still have to contend with the very brutal fact that there will always be a great disparity between new and experienced players. As long as you have PvP as a viable leveling option, there will be wildly different gear levels between players.

Balancing low level PvP makes the endgame balancing act look easy.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

Fence Jumping in WSG and Terrain Exploits

There’s a spot near the middle of the Horde fence in WSG where, if you approach it just right, you can jump onto the fence and then on to the other side. It’s over the tunnel entrance, to the left of the little juke in the fenceline, by one of the torches.

No matter the faction, pretty much every twink FC knows about this jump. Pretty much every twink knows about this jump after playing level 19 for any period of time – you see people going over the fence all the time, you better figure out how to do it quick or you’re going to be SoL. I expect that this is not as commonly known in Rated Battlegrounds, but skilled FCs know how to do it.

Seriously, this fence jump is the worst-kept secret terrain exploit in PvP. I’m a terrible jumper, and even I can do this jump.

It’s a little odd, then, that Blizzard GMs have finally come out and started saying that this jump is illegal and will get you a warning and a ban:

“Hello Dakoduh! My name is Game Master Rodoux. I’m going to need you to refrain from hopping up there on the fence in Warsong Gulch.” This was followed by a temporary ban when the request was not honoured.

In addition to the GM whispers, twinks are reporting that people are getting disconnected mid-jump. I haven’t had it happen to me yet (and I have jumped the fence in the past week, I FC at level 70 after all) but I’m sure it’s probably a matter of time.

I don’t think this situation is like the terrain exploit charges in the Walls of Wintergrasp. It’s pretty clear that there’s a glitch in the Horde fence, and that you have to hit it just right to get over. There’s no corresponding glitch in the Alliance fence, there’s nothing really ambiguous about this – this is a terrain exploit.

Yet… it’s been in there since WSG launched six years ago, and it’s something that tactics and strategies have adapted around. It’s one of the quirks of the terrain, just like the rocky patches around the zerk huts or kiting melee around the tree stumps while firing at them. Your opponents will use it against you, so you better know how to do it in response. It’s been reported many times on the forums as a bug, but has never been fixed. So folks do the jump.

My working theory is that all changes to the battlegrounds right now are due to balancing issues in Rated Battlegrounds. The developers have already stated that their focus is on level 85 PvP, as that’s where most of the player base is at. The BG graveyard changes earlier this year were aimed entirely at disrupting healer-heavy comps in rBGs, by preventing healers from getting back to the FC quickly.

And if your FC is skilled at jumping the fence in rated play, they have an advantage in getting back to their healers quickly. Graveyard blocked? Go fence. Fence blocked? Go ramp. Healers, keep moving to the left until you meet the FC. This isn’t rocket science – there’s a slight imbalance in the map due to this exploit. Even though it’s been there since the beginning, it only matters now because of rated play. This shouldn’t really be a surprise that Blizzard is treating it as an exploit.

But it is, a little bit. The timing is odd. This is one of those quirks which showed you knew what you were doing in Warsong Gulch, that you’d played the map enough to know all the tricks. It’d been there for ages. And it never got fixed.

The warnings, bans, and DCs are likely precursors to an actual fix of the fence. (I so want to see Orc Peons out there repairing the fence when this gets fixed. For real.) The GMs know it’s a problem, they’re watching out for it now, word is getting out that it’s no longer okay for this jump.

The dead-letter law of terrain exploitation may not have been enforced for 6 years with this jump, but it is now.

Part of me does get frustrated with Blizzard when they suddenly start handing out bans for behavior that’s been accepted for years. That’s the part of me that says, fix your shit, Blizzard, it’s broke, don’t blame players for this. More importantly – don’t put players into a position of choosing between using a jumping exploit or not to win in PvP, because even if some don’t, others will.

The other part of me says, yeah, but just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s not still a terrain exploit. It sucks, because it’s part of the charm of WSG – but it’s hopping over a fence that is obviously supposed to block movement.

Here’s to hoping that Blizzard fixes it soon so the issue is put to rest.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

Rogue Twinking

Rogues are one of my favorite classes to twink. They have incredible burst, some of the more useful CC in the bracket, and their stealthy play style lends itself very well to my PvP twinking taste.

As I have laid my own twinking blog down to rest, Cynwise has graciously offered to let me wear his goggles from time to time and share my twinking experiences and information with you here. I heard a call for 19 Rogue information, and I have come here today to answer that call. Are you ready to go stab people in the face? Alright then, let’s get started.

PLAYING A ROGUE

Before we get into the gritty details, lets first talk about the different play styles and roles that a Rogue are best suited for.

Your play style is how and where you’re going to play your Rogue. First off we have the Defender, one who guards the flag and rarely leaves the flag room except to chase down an EFC. Second is the Assassin, focusing on hunting down EFC’s and recapturing your flag. Third is the Harasser, whose sole purpose is to put as many of the opposing team’s members into fits of uncontrollable rage as possible so that they play poorly out of frustration.

The Defender will spend most of the match hiding somewhere in, or near, their own flag room waiting to ambush (literally) those who come to carry it away to the enemy base. The two most effective locations for doing this are in the tunnel near the spawn point of the speed buff, and right outside the two doors associated with the Ramp and Graveyard. The most common mistake that Rogues make on defense is defending in the flag room itself. The reason why the two locations I mentioned are the best is because it gives you time to attack would-be EFC’s before they ever get to the flag so that if they manage to either kill or CC you, you still potentially have time to catch them again before they make it out to midfield. Don’t wait for them to grab the flag, kill them before they get the chance.

That being said, if you’re the sole defender, then your best location is somewhere closer to the flag room so that you can protect either entrance. My personal preference is on the second floor (not the roof, the middle where the Ramp comes in) because it offers the clearest view of all four entrances to the flag room.

The Assassin has a pretty straight forward role, but they often play the entire map. Some Rogues prefer to stay stealthed within the enemy base, some prefer to stay near the exits of their own, and others prefer playing the role of the Harasser until it’s time to be the Assassin and play the whole map based on the situation. There isn’t really a “best” location for you to play the Assassin. My personal preference is to stay near the enemy base doing a little bit of harassment when there’s no EFC.

When the enemy has your flag, and you can’t afford to let them cap it, you have two options; either you kill them, or you grab their flag. That’s why I prefer to hang out near the enemy base. If I see the EFC break away from the rest of my team and have a clear path to cap the flag then I’m not going to bother trying to kill them, I’m going to grab their flag and run to prevent them from capping. When you’re not in the twink brackets (your experience is still turned on), you can often one-shot EFC’s because they have so few hit points. In the twink brackets though, you’re not going to one-shot anyone that has a clue how to twink. You might still be able to kill them within a matter of seconds, but you won’t one-shot a twink.

The Harasser covers multiple play styles, but their purpose remains the same. Harassers are there to make people mad so that they make stupid mistakes. You can do this a few different ways. Graveyard campers are a great example of a harasser. Rogue who prey on players with small health pools are also harassers, as are those who simply Sap you, multiple durations worth, every time they see you.

By doing things like this you end up getting a lot of players upset. It’s mean and it really screws with someone else’s “fun time”, but it’s PvP and it’s all part of the game. You know you’ve succeeded in being a quality Harasser when people ignore your flag carrier strictly to have a shot at killing you. Once you have successfully made the enemy hate you, your play style switches between harassment and bait. Luring people away from your flag carrier is just as good, and sometimes even better than killing them.

Rogues are often associated with their ability to kill people, so many players just rush out there and jump into combat every chance they get. How you play is up to you, but there is so very much more to this deadly class than that.

TALENT SPECS

Once you have your play style down, it’s time to figure out which spec you’re going to take. All three specs can fill any of the roles I mentioned above, and each of these specs has their own strengths and weaknesses. My personal preference is by far Subtlety, but if you like one of the other specs then by all means run with it.

Nightstalker 2/2: Increases your speed while stealthed by 10% and reduces the cooldown of your Stealth ability by 4 seconds.

Improved Ambush 3/3: Increases the criitcal strike chance of your Ambush ability by 60% and its damage by 15%.

Waylay 1/2: Your Ambush and Backstab hits have a 50% chance to unbalance a target, increasing the time between their melee and ranged attacks by 20%, and reducing movement speed by 50% for 8 seconds.

Subtlety gets a fantastic spell called Shadowstep which allows you to teleport behind your target, that also increases your movement speed by 70% and gives you a 30% damage buff to Ambush for 3 seconds. They also get Master of Subtlety which gives you a 10% damage buff to attacks used while stealthed and for 6 seconds after breaking stealth, and Sinister Calling which grants a 30% Agility buff and a 40% damage buff to Backstab.

If you’re dead set on dealing damage above all else then you can trade Waylay for Opportunity to increase your Backstab and Ambush damage by 10%. The benefit of Waylay is that you have a chance to slow your target which is really good for hunting down EFC’s, and it also grants some amount of survivability by slowing the target’s attack speed.

Lethality 3/3: Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Sinister Strike, Backstab, and Mutilate abilities by 30%.

Deadly Momentum 2/2: After killing an opponent that yields experience or honor, the critical strike chance of your next ability within 15 seconds is increased by 40% and your Slice and Dice and Recuperate abilities are refreshed to their original duration.

Quickening 1/2: All healing effects on you are increased by 10% and your movement speed is increased by 8%. This does not stack with most other movement speed increasing effects.

Assassination gets Mutilate, an instant attack with both weapons that deals 150% damage. They also receive Improved Poisons for an extra 50% chance to proc your Instant Poison damage, and Assassin’s Resolve increasing your melee damage by 15% and increasing your maximum Energy by 20 when dual wielding daggers.

The Assassination tree has a lot of really cool abilities in the second tier, but we only have one point to spend. I prefer Quickening because being able to move faster than your opponents is one of the strongest advantage you can have in PvP. Puncturing Wounds is a decent choice for extra crit chance on Backstab and Mutilate, and Blackjack really good for taking on EFC’s or high damaging opponents by reducing the damage they deal after being Sapped by 33%.

Improved Sinister Strike 3/3: Increases the damage dealt by your Sinister Strike ability by 30% and reduces its Energy cost by 6.

Improved Recuperate 2/2: Causes your Recuperate ability to restore an additional 1% of your maximum health and reduces all damage taken by 6% while your Recuperate ability is active.

Improved Sprint 1/2: Gives a 50% chance to remove all movement-impairing effects when you activate your Sprint ability.

For choosing Combat you get access to Blade Flurry which is a buff that slows your energy regeneration but causes your attacks to hit an additional nearby opponent (making it great for assaulting healers and casters). You also get Vitality which increases your energy regeneration rate by 25% and your Attack Power by 25%, and Ambidexterity which increases the damage you deal with your off hand and thrown weapons by 75%.

An alternative to Improved Sprint would be Improved Kick which causes your Kick ability to also silence the target for 1 second which is great for bringing down enemy casters, particularly healers.

PLAYING YOUR SPEC

While each spec can fit into any of the play styles that I mentioned up above, each spec has its own style as well. For example, the Assassination Spec is good from a stealth position and then deals a lot of damage right after with good burst damage from their increased chance to proc poisons. Combat deals most of its damage outside of stealth and gains extra survivability from their talent tree to make up for that. Subtlety deals the majority of its damage from stealth and relies much more on stealth than the other two specs.

Stealth is an advantage that all Rogues have and all of them should use, but where a Sub Rogue will run away from combat after killing an enemy in order to re-enter Stealth to open on another target, a Combat Rogue would simply choose another target and stab him in the face, and Assassination loves picking off the loners one at a time. Sub Rogues need stealth, Assassin Rogues want stealth, and Combat Rogues use stealth because it’s there.

Subtlety

As I mentioned before, Sub is my preferred spec for twinking, largely due to the usefulness of Shadowstep, and also their big burst damage from Stealth. Shadowstep is often used in lower brackets for its increased damage to Ambush, but the real beauty of the spell lies in its teleport and speed increasing properties. You can use Shadowstep to leap behind targets while stealthed to then Sap them rather than using Ambush, you can use it to flee from a hard hitting opponent, or to move more quickly for either catching an EFC or capturing an enemy flag yourself.

You want to get very, very familiar with using Shadowstep, and I suggest you try some of the macros I use for it as well. Once you’re familiar with how to use it, then it’s time to start thinking about creative ways you can use it. Just because it has that damage buff to Ambush doesn’t mean you have to attack after using it, it doesn’t even mean you have to Sap them. Sometimes the best use of Shadowstep is simply taking advantage of the teleport and increased speed to get to where you’re going. I’ve used it to jump from the bottom floor of the base to the roof, I’ve used it to get from my graveyard to the ledge above it (after the recent map change in WSG), and I’ve used it to score a winning flag cap seconds before they grabbed our flag.

Being able to move more, better, or faster than your opponent is even more important that dealing more damage of having a larger health pool. Sub Rogues will use mostly daggers for the extra damage for Ambush, but when you can’t utilize stealth you generally get more benefit from swapping to swords until you can regain stealth and switch back to your Daggers.

Assassination

I like Assassination for its damage output, it seems to have more frequent burst damage to me than the other two specs even if Sub’s Ambush puts the other two to shame. Assassination is really good at bursting through a target quickly. Your talent points also include an increase to your movement speed which again proves to be a really big help in PvP.

Another benefit you get from your talent points is survivability by resetting the duration of Recuperate when you kill a target, so you’re not quite so vulnerable outside of stealth as Subtlety is, though you’re not quite so comfortable as Combat. Assassination likes to kill things and kill them quick, then get back into stealth and surprise the next person. It’s a very solid spec for 19 Twinking.

Assassination is good at dealing burst damage, especially with their signature Mutilate attack. Attacking with both weapons at once allows you to deal more damage in a shorter time not just because you hit with two weapons instead of one, but also because you have a chance to proc any on-hit effects from both weapons at the same time. So both weapons deal damage, both poisons have a chance to deal damage, and proc based enchants can fire from both weapons as well. That doesn’t mean that you have to use proc based enchants like Fiery Weapon, Crusader, or Lifestealing, but it does give you the option for more burst damage or healing that way. You definitely want to make use of your poisons, though.

The biggest drawback to Assassination is that you have to dual wield daggers or else you can’t make use of Mutilate. The benefits typically outweigh the drawbacks, but if you don’t have access to heirloom weapons then you could probably perform better as another spec.

Combat

Combat does really well outside of Stealth, and they’re the best option for facing multiple opponents at once. You don’t have any super special abilities that make stealth a requirement for you, it’s simply another tool in your belt. Stealth is how you’ll move around and open on your opponents, but it’s not key to your damage. Combat isn’t bad, but it’s not my favorite option. Its main benefit is that it has some of the only AoE in the bracket which can be an asset if you’re trying to bring down an EFC who is surrounded by defenders, forcing healers to either keep up multiple targets or allow someone to die.

Combat is also the only spec that really wants to make use of weapons other than daggers, making their average damage per hit higher in general than the other specs. You won’t deal as high burst damage, but you will have bigger hits in general.

CHOOSING YOUR GEAR

As with everything else in Azeroth, you’ve got options. There are three main methods of gearing a Rogue twink.

  • Glass Cannon – stacking Agility and Attack Power
  • Survival – stacking Stamina, Dodge, and Parry
  • Balanced – a combination of the two above

Glass Cannon Rogues typically fill the roles of Harasser or Assassin. When you’re actually twinking and in the experience-off twink bracket, being a Glass Cannon is typically a poor choice. Sure, you’ll get some kills and you can do some really great damage, but if you don’t have a healer then you’re likely going to die – a lot. Glass Cannons are all about damage output, following the belief that the best defense is a strong offense.

Survival Rogues are willing to trade damage output (some, not all) for extra survivability. Survival Rogues typically fill either Assassin or Harassment roles, and often choose to run the flag themselves as well, making use of abilities such as Sprint for faster flag captures and defensive abilities such as Evasion for extra survivability.

Balanced Rogues shoot for the common ground, looking for gear that has a combination of both Stamina (or avoidance) and Agility. Rogue twinks who only want to farm a single set of gear are suggested to go with this route as it provides the best overall set of stats for a twink, and it allows you to fulfill any of the three primary roles.

When gearing up your Rogue, start off gearing for one of the roles that you think best suits your style. If you’re not sure, go with a balanced gear set. Of course, the best twinks like to follow the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”, collecting multiple sets of gear to adapt to any situation.

Finding Gear
If you want to know what your best options are for heirlooms, then you can see my post, 4.1 Heirloom Guide, which also includes a list of enchants for them. You can also take a look at my post on Hand-Me-Downs to see which enchants I would suggest for your other pieces of gear. You won’t use the gear I have listed there (the point of that post is enchanting white gear that doesn’t bind), but the best enchants for those are also the best enchants for twinking since they cover the same level brackets.

The best way to find gear that fits the style of gearing that you want to go with is to utilize Wowhead’s database. Rather than building a single gear list for you and telling you to go get “this gear”, I’m going to give you links to several queries in the Wowhead database, covering each slot.

Main Hand DaggersOff Hand DaggersMain Hand Non-DaggerOff Hand Non-DaggersRanged WeaponsHelmShoulderCloakChestLegsFeetWaistBracerGlovesNeckRingsTrinkets

With the exception of the Trinkets link, you won’t see heirlooms listed in those links for a bit of a glitch in Wowhead’s database that makes their minimum level 80-85 depending on which ones they are. However, for slots where heirlooms do exist you can pretty well rest assured that the heirloom is best in slot. It might not be BiS for every situation, but generally speaking it’s either the best option or so close that it doesn’t really matter unless you’re going for hardcore twinking. For the heirlooms of choice, go check out that link I have up above to my post on 4.1 Heirlooms. [Edit: The trinket link only pulls up the heirloom trinkets because they're the best of the "easy" trinkets to get and most others don't really compare to them. The one exception to that of course is the Arena Grand Master which is the twink trinket. Cyn has already covered the AGM trinket in his post, The Arena Grand Master.]

You’ll see in my 4.1 Heirlooms post that I mention Thrown weapons being a better choice for Rogues than the heirlooms because of the Rogue’s unique ability to “enchant” their ranged weapons with their poisons. In the 19 bracket the only poison you have access to is Instant which only adds extra damage and only has a 20% (base) chance to add that additional damage. If you want stats then I suggest you go with an heirloom (Bow > Gun). If you want the ability to potentially deal some solid burst damage with your ranged weapon then your best option is going to be the Venomstrike bow found in Wailing Caverns. You won’t find it in those links I posted above because it gives no attribute bonuses at all which all of those links include (which is why you really need to learn how to do your own queries on Wowhead to find exactly what you’re looking for).

You can get bows that are better, stats-wise, than the heirlooms from quests if you’re Horde, and some that can come pretty close to matching it from Alliance quests as well.

CONSUMABLES

First off, you’re going to need some level 15 food. There are plenty of options for you to choose from, just grab something simple from a vendor like Snapvine Watermelon or Dwarven Mild. Don’t bother with buff foods that you need the cooking skill for, because every twink worth his gear will be using another consumable I’ll mention in just a second that counts as your food buff.

Next up, you have your most necessary consumables:

These bandages are the bomb. Unless you’re a freak like Cyn who has a level 19 twink that’s pushing 3,000 health then this bandage is basically a full heal in a matter of seconds. A single tick from this bandage can restore enough to turn the tide of battle. Black Label is far better than any buff food for a level 19 twink. It doesn’t restore any health when you use it, but it gives you 150 more health instantly when you use it and counts as a food buff.

Instant Poison is a new addition to the 19 bracket that came with 4.0. Every extra bit of damage helps, and you definitely don’t want to pass on using poisons.

Halaani Whiskey is better than the Rumsey Rum and works the same way. The difference is that the Whiskey is BoP and can only be purchased from a vendor in Halaa while your faction controls it. So if you want to get it then you’ll have to take your twink there to purchase it and you have to control Halaa in the first place. You can use a Warlock summon or Have Group, Will Travel to get there easily, or the Recruit a Friend summon if you have an active referral link. I’ve never bothered getting this because I just don’t care enough to put that much effort/hassel into it.

Potions

Potions share a cooldown, so you’ll have to decide which of these is more important to you. If you’re carrying the flag or chasing down the EFC, then you might want to consider Swiftness unless you’re already under fire in which case the situation could demand either one. If you are in stealth then using a Swiftness Potion will pop you out, so make sure you use it prior to stealth if you’re trying to get the jump on someone.

Elixirs

Here are two options for each type of Elixir. Remember that you can only have one of each type (Battle and Guardian) active at any given time. My preference for Battle Elixir is Lesser Agility because I usually try to get enough Hit from my gear. That’s not always possible though, so keep some Minor Accuracy on hand.

For Guardian Elixirs I decide based on the enemy team. If there are a lot of casters then I use Troll’s Blood, if there are a lot of physical DPS classes then I go Defense. A lot of people don’t care for Troll’s Blood because the healing seems really weak, but over time those heals really add up, especially if you’re playing defensively and making frequent use of stealth and repositioning. Now that we have Recuperate we can do some pretty serious healing over time.

The Scrolls aren’t quite as good as the potions, but they can be pretty cheap to make and you can usually get them incredibly cheap on the AH from people who are leveling Inscription.

Explosives

Explosives are open only to those with the Engineering profession, with the exception of EZ-Thro which anybody can use. If you’re using Engineering then Big Bronze Bomb is your ranged AoE stun. It doesn’t last long, but they’re great for stopping heals or slowing a runner when you time them right. You have to remain stationary to use a bomb, moving will cancel the effect, so they can be dangerous at times as well. Heavy Dynamite on the other hand can be used while moving which is why I prefer it as my primary explosive. I use the dynamite either to break people out of stealth by anticipating their movement, revealing flag defenders who like to stealth right on top of their flag, or for dealing extra damage to an opponent that I’m kiting by throwing it ahead of me and then running into it.

Explosive Sheep are a lot of fun, but I generally don’t use them. I don’t really have a reason, they just aren’t my personal preference in most cases. If you’re not an engineer at all, then go ahead and grab the EZ-Thro anyway. It has a chance to blow you up instead of your target, but if it does then you don’t trigger the 1 minute explosives cooldown and can just throw another. I have had three of this explode on me in a row before, but it does usually work on your enemies…usually.

Situational

There are also a few other potions that you may or may not consider worth your time to carry around. I’ll go ahead and list them since I do occasionally use them if I’ve recently leveled an Alchemist and have extra mats to make these.

Holy Protection Potions are decent against Paladins, especially Holy, and pretty good against non-Shadow Priests as well. Shadow Protection Potions are fantastic against both Warlocks and Shadow Priests. Minor Magic Resistance Potions are decent against all casters in general, and it’s the only defense you’ll have against Arcane and Frost Mages which are two of your toughest opponents.

Potion of Curing is pretty situational, basically only useful against Hunters in this bracket. However, a Hunter’s Serpent Sting will keep you from getting into stealth because of it’s DoT effect, and stealth is your safe place, so if he didn’t bother to mark you then line of sight him, remove his poisons, and hope you can drop combat soon enough to re-enter stealth before you go stab him in the face. Swim Speed is only useful if you like to do Arathi Basin, which I do. I don’t have to bother crafting these anymore since you get one for basically every Fishing Daily you do. They’re good for assaulting the Blacksmith or for moving from BS to another node. Since we don’t get glyphs until 25 now we can no longer just run over the top of the water, so the next best thing is to fly right through it.

The Minor Fortitude Elixir is kinda crappy, but the mats are cheap and another 27 health never hurt anybody. I like to use these before I know for sure how good the other team is so I have a little bit of a buff and don’t mind “wasting” it if I happen to be facing opponents who are really good and constantly killing me.

The Flame Deflector and Discombobulator Ray are both Engineering items, and you have to be a Gnome to use the Ray as only their racial bonus to Engineering will allow you to use it in the 19 bracket.

MACROS

I use a lot of macros in my day to day play, and I do so on every class and spec that I play as well. It is rare for me to have a character that doesn’t have at least 15 macros by level 30, and at 85 it’s rare that there are any macro slots available at all.

#showtooltip
/startattack
/cast Sinister Strike
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This is the most basic of macros, the one that I use for basically every attack spell that I use on any character. The /startattack line is like turning on auto-attack, it will target an enemy in front of you if you do not already have one and begin your auto-attack and if you have a hostile target already then it will keep that target but turn on auto-attack. The next of course casts your Sinister Strike, and for a 19 Rogue twink that is your spam button when in combat and out of stealth. And that final line simply clears off error message from your screen. You could turn off the sound with a macro as well so you don’t get those annoying “I can’t cast that yet” type of messages in your audio, but I find 80% of my stealthed opponents through sound so I never allow my audio to turn off for any amount of time.

#showtooltip
/cast Sinister Strike
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This one is exactly like the one above, except that it doesn’t include the /startattack. Why? Because this is the version of that macro that I use while I’m in Stealth. I don’t want to ever accidentally trigger auto-attack in stealth or else I’ll auto-attack my way out of stealth and lose the ability to use an attack that requires it.

#showtooltip
/stopcasting
/cast Kick
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

Now, Rogues don’t really have anything that they channel which would require the use of the “/stopcasting” line, but on the off chance that you are doing something similar (like using a bandage), this will stop you from doing whatever it is that you’re doing and cast Kick on your target instead. You don’t want to miss a critical spell interrupt just because you’re in the middle of doing something else, do you?

You could also modify this to make it Kick your Focus target if you had one and all that fancy jazz, but I don’t like switching Focus mid combat and chances are if there’s a caster that I’m so worried about that I’m watching for Kicks then I’m most likely going to focus my attacks on that target as well which would make a focus macro pointless.

#showtooltip Ambush
/cast Pick Pocket
/cast Ambush
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

Pick Pocket doesn’t do anything against players, but even twinks do things outside of PvP now and then so I have it in there. Shadowstep isn’t always going to be off cooldown when you need it, nor are you always going to want to use Shadowstep right away, so this is your option for using Ambush without burning Shadowstep.

#showtooltip Sap
/cast Pick Pocket
/cast Sap
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This one is the same as the one above, except that we’re using Sap. You don’t want to burn Shadowstep on a Sap if you don’t have to, so here’s your option for doing that.

#Showtooltip
/castsequence reset=combat/target,10 Shadowstep, Ambush
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

I’ll often tie my racial ability to this as well if it has an offensive benefit, such as Orcs and Trolls. When doing that I usually change the first line to “#showtooltip Shadowstep” just so that I know when it’s off cooldown as I’ll use this macro regardless of whether or not I have a racial and regardless of it being on or off cooldown. If you want to add your racial ability, put it in as line two, “/cast Blood Fury”.

It’s important to note that these /castsequence macros don’t just fire off all of the spells at once, the global cooldown still applies where applicable. Most racial abilities and some others (too many to list) don’t trigger the cooldown. What this means is that you’ll need to press this macro multiple times to get all of the spells cast. IN this example, racials such as Blood Fury don’t trigger the GCD so they’ll cast essentially the same time as Shadowstep. So Ambush will not be cast until it is pressed second time. Personally, I just spam the crap out of it to make sure I get the spell off. Since Shadowstep increases your speed when it’s cast as well it’s easy if you and your target are both moving for you to run past your target and if they suddenly stop or change directions it’s even more likely, so I like to spam it to increase my chance of hitting it at the right time.

#Showtooltip
/castsequence reset=combat/target,10 Shadowstep, Sap
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This one is the same as the one above, though I wouldn’t bother attaching a racial ability to it since the spell we’re actually casting at the end of it is Sap rather than Ambush, so a racial will most likely be wasted.

#showtooltip Recuperate
/cast Lifeblood
/cast Berserking
/cast Recuperate
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This is your emergency button. Lifeblood is an Herbalism spell, so you have to be an Herbalist to use it, but it provides both a heal and a Haste buff. Berserking is the Troll racial, so of course you have to be a troll in order to use it, but it also provides you with a Haste buff. Recuperate is a healing ability that turns your existing combo points (even on a dead target) into a heal over time effect. The haste buffs from the first two spells in the list will make your Recuperate tick faster so that you get more healing in less time.

This one is best used when you’re in stealth and needing to get away to heal for a second before going back into combat. If you don’t need to get back into combat then you’re probably better of just running/stealthing away and then either using a bandage or eating.

You could also modify this one to include “/cast Evasion” before the Recuperate line if you’re going to use it in combat. You could also do “/cast [incombat] Evasion” if you want to have that functionality but only cast it if you are in combat as the spell is useless while in stealth.

#showtooltip Heavy Runecloth Bandage
/cast Lifeblood
/cast Berserking
/use Heavy Runecloth Bandage
/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

This macro works just the same as the one above, except that it uses a bandage to heal you instead of Recuperate. You want to use this macro only if you have either the troll racial or the herbalism spell as otherwise it’s a waste of a macro slot, but if you do have them then this macro is best used when you’re in a combat situation and need whatever healing you can possibly get. You could use a Healing Potion instead of the bandage if you’d like, though I would remove Berserking from the macro in that instance.

ACTION BARS
Everyone has a personal preference for the action bars, so I’m not about to tell you what to place where as it’s not my place to do so and I’m sure we have different preferences. However, I am going to make some suggestions to that effect and give you the reasoning behind it. I’m also going to give you some tips on how to use your attacks and when.

There are two action bars in particular that you need to be familiar with; the normal action bar, and the stealth action bar. I like to synchronize these bars, but that’s my personal preference. I don’t keep them so in sync that the same spells are on the same exact button (though that is the case for some of them), but I like the spells to be somewhat related. For example, I use my Shadowstep>Ambush castsequence macro on the 3 button on my stealth bar which is Eviscerate on my main bar. Why? Because I almost always follow up my Ambushes with an Eviscerate, so spamming the 3 key will Shadowstep > Ambush > Eviscerate which is the most damage I can do in the shortest amount of time.

ENERGY
Another pairing that I do is the Shadowstep>Sap macro (stealth bar) on the same button as Gouge (normal bar). The reason for this one is that both of them are crowd control (CC) effects and require specific circumstances to be used. Sap can only be used while in stealth while Gouge can only be used when your target is facing you. Again, that’s just my preference and my reasoning behind it.

What I want to talk about in relation to attacking though, is Energy. Energy is the Rogue’s resource. Where casters have Mana, Warriors have Rage and Hunters have Focus, Rogues have Energy. Most Rogue are button-spamming fiends, burning their Energy as fast as possible and spamming attacks even when they don’t have enough Energy to use it yet. When you talk to long term Rogue players who have experience in both raiding and PvP, you’ll find that they see increases in their DPS by intentionally not spamming their buttons and instead following a steady pace to always keep Energy below a certain amount while also leaving a small pool untouched.

Energy restores itself at the rate of 10 Energy per second. If you’ve ever been a musician then you can likely keep a 1 second beat going in your head or with your foot and keep up on your Energy level subconsciously. A general rule of thumb is to always stay below 80 Energy when you’re in combat, and trying to keep a reserve of about 20. What that does is it leaves you with a much better opportunity to have the energy you need when you need it to use your interrupts (Kick and Gouge) instead of being Energy starved, and you’re not accidentally missing an opportune moment to cast because your energy is too low. You can get by with spamming, but if you really want to play the Rogue well then managing your Energy is pretty key.

PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER
Alright, so I’ve thrown a lot of different topics at you here. Twinking any class and spec can be either as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. You don’t have to be super sophisticated and detail oriented to be good as a PvP twink, but like anything else you’ll typically get back what you put into it. A lot of people look at Rogues and say, “Now that’s a cheap, easy class to play that can dominate PvP.” The reality of the situation is that Rogues can be extremely tough to play and extremely complicated to master.

Outside of the twink brackets you can really see how “cheap” and “overpowered” Rogues can be, but that presents an illusion. Yes, Rogues hit hard and fast and they’re slippery little buggers that often escape your wrath only to come and gank you for an easy kill when you’re already near death from another opponent or something. That’s the way Rogues work, it’s not that the players are bad at PvP or that they don’t have the balls to stand toe to toe with you, it’s that they’ve embraced who and what their class really is and used their strengths against you.

Rogues are a force to be reckoned with in PvP from level 10 all the way through 85. When you come across a bad Rogue, you know it. When you come across a really good Rogue, you know that too. Most of the good Rogues out there are good because they’ve taken the time to learn how to utilize their abilities and maximize their performance. As I said before, you’ll get out of twinking your Rogue what you put into it. You can be the easy Rogue and gank those 400 health clothies, or you can be a friggin’ ninja and combine your damage, survival, and CC abilities to destroy healers and plate wearers pushing 3,000 health.

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