Tag Archives: Video Posts

Deadmines: Mine Harder

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

1 Comment

Filed under Green Tinted Goggles

Destruction Warlock Raiding in 4.0.1

Time to spend some time with your favorite dummies!

Patch 4.0.1 introduced major changes to every class. The talent system was redesigned, every spec altered, combat stats altered… it’s the patch before Cataclysm where our classes change in anticipation of the new expansion, without having any new content available, so we can learn to play again in a familiar environment, and not have to worry about new quests and new lands and new bosses while we’re also struggling with new rotations and new mechanics and new spells.  A lot of the focus of the next two months really should be on relearning our classes, of experimenting with new things, of challenging old assumptions.

It’s a smart move by Blizzard, really.

My patch install was not smooth, so I ended up reinstalling and have been rebuilding my UI from the ground up.  With all of this external change around me, I decided to go ahead and switch specs as well, going from Affliction PvP/Demonology PvE to Destruction PvP/PvE.  Destruction is a familiar spec to me, having played this dual-Destro setup for most of 3.2 (ToC) when it was the dominant spec. I enjoyed Destro a lot during this time, and it looked like there wasn’t too much that had changed.

Well, I was pretty much wrong about that.

I’ve been having trouble getting into endgame Battlegrounds since the patch – haven’t managed to get past the preparation phase without disconnecting – so my look at Destro PvP is going to have to wait.  However, I’ve already raided some with Destruction in ICC, and it is awesome.  The changes have made it more complex without being overwhelming, there are several subtle things you can do to enhance your DPS, while missing them is not the end of the world.  It feels like Destro has grown up and joined the other specs in having a lot of things going on, without becoming totally overwhelming.

So I hopped over to Elitist Jerks, looked through their 4.0 Pre-Cataclysm Raiding guide for Warlocks, and gave it a try.

Let’s take a look.

DESTRO BASICS

If you played Destro in Wrath, before 4.0.1, you’re familiar with the 4 spells that made up your main rotation – Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate, and Chaos Bolt.  Immolate was your primary dot, with perhaps Curse of Doom or Curse of the Elements used as the situation called for it.

You can still play Destro like this in 4.0.1, which is good for a transition, but the spec has a few more things going on now.  You’ll have a bit more to juggle to get the most out of your DPS.

The core spell of Destruction remains Immolate.  Immolate is both your most potent DoT spell, as well as a spell that allows other spells to hit harder.  You should keep Immolate up at all times.

Immolate’s presence allows you to use Conflagrate, a huge instant nuke which takes your Immolate or Shadowfury DoT and blows it up.  (The DoT remains intact now, which is a nice change from Wrath.) Conflagrate is your biggest nuke and should be used whenever it’s off CD.  Conflagrate also procs Backdraft, which hastens your next 3 Incinerates, Chaos Bolts, and Shadow Bolts.  This proc is a nice bonus but is no longer the focus of your rotation.

You have two other DoTs to manage as Destruction, now: Bane of Doom and Corruption.  Yes, Corruption.  Depending on your raid composition, you may also need to cast Curse of the Elements, but these are your main DPS dots. Bane of Doom is like the old Curse of Doom, except that instead of delivering its damage every 60 seconds, it does so every 15, making it preferable even in short fights to Bane of Agony.  Corruption is an interesting addition to the Destro toolkit, but with a few talent points in Affliction it becomes a potent DPS increase, and a nice change from solely nuking something down.

There is a final DoT that your Imp’s Firebolts or your Soul Fires will place on the target: Burning Embers.  Your Imp should be able to keep this one refreshed automatically.  It’s an important DPS increase, but not something you have to worry about once the firebolts start flying.

You have three nukes in your rotation: Chaos Bolt, Soul Fire, and Incinerate.  Chaos Bolt is a hard-hitting direct damage spell on a long CD.  Soul Fire is a new addition to your routine – a long cast time nuke with great damage.  The removal of the Soul Shard mechanic means that we’ll want to cast Soul Fires either at the beginning of the fight, when Empowered Imp procs and makes them instant cast, or deliberately made instant by Soulburn.  Incinerate is an old friend, but relies upon the presence of Immolate to deal increased damage.  Never cast Incinerate if Immolate is not present on the target.

A really interesting addition to the rotation is our frontal AoE attack, Shadowflame.  Shadowflame has been buffed and is now a viable spell for use in your rotation.  Using it requires situational awareness, though, since you don’t want to stand next to every boss all the time if you can help it.  Demonic Circle can help a lot here.

On top of all this, you have one proc you need to track: Improved Soul Fire.  This was formerly a reverse execute, applying only to the first phase of the fight (> 80% boss health) but has now been changed to apply throughout the fight.  The haste it grants is a huge boost to your DPS, and should be kept up at all times.  Because it has been modified recently, I don’t know if it’s going to stay as an all-the-time buff you have to maintain, or will go back to being > 80%, or be turned into an execute (< 25% boss health) – but it’s a proc you’ll have to track for at least part of the fight.

So, to sum up, Destro has:

  • 3 DoTs you need to worry about
  • (1 DoT you don’t)
  • 2 CD-limited nukes
  • 2 standard nukes
  • 1 frontal AoE spell
  • and 1 buff that needs to be maintained.

It can actually be a lot of fun keeping all this going.  Let’s look at how you can do that.

Chojub STILL LOVES Chaos Bolts!

PRIORITY, NOT ROTATION

Like most specs at this point, Destro is on a priority system, not a rotation per se.  You cast the most important spell on your list, then move down until you find the next one that needs to be cast.  If you get to the bottom, you cast your filler, Incinerate.

Your priority:

  1. Improved Soul Fire.
  2. Immolate.
  3. Conflagrate.
  4. Bane of Doom.
  5. Shadowflame.
  6. Corruption.
  7. Chaos Bolt.
  8. Hasted Soul Fire (from either Empowered Imp procs or Soulburn)
  9. Incinerate.

Generally speaking, the Improved Soul Fire buff will take a bit of work to keep up, so learning when to cast slow Soul Fires vs. waiting for Soulburn to come off CD (and gambling on a Empowered Imp proc) takes some practice. Don’t worry at first if it falls off; just get it back up when you can.

Shadowflame may only be practical in certain fights, and you should skip it if it’s too risky.  You can’t DPS if you’re dead because you got to close to a boss.

If all of this seems overwhelming to try to manage, let me let you in on a little secret: Need To Know.

ON A NEED-TO-KNOW BASIS

Need To Know: Keep the bars up!

Above is how I make sense of the priority rotation in my UI.  Instead of trying to track CD timers in one addon, procs in my buff area, and DoTs in another, I use the Need To Know (NTK) addon.

NTK allows you to group buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns in a customizable interface.  By ordering the items I’m tracking by priority, I’m able to look and quickly determine what I need to do next.  In the above example, I am casting Incinerate, Conflagrate is about to come off CD, and Improved Soul Fire is about to drop off.  I can hope for a lucky Empowered Imp crit and start spamming Conflag, or start casting Soul Fire to keep the buff alive.

I color code the bars so I can see at a glance what is going to drop off, and which bar needs to be filled up.

If you’ve never used NTK before, the setup is relatively straightforward.

  • First, open your Interface menu and go to the NTK options.
  • Enable group 1 of the bars, and increase it to 6 bars.
  • Enable group 2 of the bars, and decrease it to 1 bar.
  • Arrange them around your cast bar as desired.  I placed the ISF buff above my cast bar because it’s a proc that (formerly) wasn’t up all the time; you may want to group it with the others.
  • Right click the single bar, and set the effect to monitor to Improved Soul Fire.
  • Next, set the type of effect to Buff.  (This is the default)
  • Set the Unit to Monitor to Player, since you are monitoring this buff on yourself.
  • Select “Display Icon” under effects, and choose a color that resembles the buff.  You’re done with ISF.
  • Right click the first bar in the set of six, set the effect to Immolate, and the type to Debuff.  Set the Unit to Monitor to Target, set the icon to display, and set the color.
  • For the second bar, right click, set the effect to Conflagrate, and set the type to Spell Cooldown.  Repeat the same process as above to fill out the bar.
  • Go down the list, choosing Debuff/Target for Bane of Doom & Corruption, and Spell CD for Shadowflame and Chaos Bolt.

A few notes about this setup.

  1. You can set a single bar to monitor different types of effects, with the first effect in the list taking priority of all are listed.  Just enter the names of the effects separated by commas.  Some helpful examples would be “Bane of Doom, Bane of Agony”, “Fear, Corruption” (for when you need to start CCing in Cataclysm), and “Curse of the Elements, Curse of Weakness” for your curses.  You can get quite fancy with this (checking all debuffs instead of just your own to see if CoE needs to be cast, for example), but that’s really for when you’re comfortable with NTK.
  2. You want to track the Shadowflame CD instead of the debuff because you’re using the timer to regulate your actions, not to actually monitor the debuffs on the target. (That is what unit frames are for.)  The Shadowflame CD is substantially longer than the effect itself, so if you looked only at the debuff you’ll try to cast it before it’s ready.  Tracking the CD, however, means that you might miss and not know it.  That’s fine, but be aware that just because you see the purple bar doesn’t mean you’re actually hitting the target.
  3. Backdraft doesn’t require monitoring anymore.  Backdraft used to be a vital part of the rotation but is now relegated to a nice-to-have – if you can cast your Chaos Bolt or Incinerate under its effects, do so, but not at the expense of a higher priority item.
  4. Soulburn might require monitoring.  I’m using OmniCC and watching my bars to see when this comes up, but in general I’m saving the Soulburn -> Soulfire combos to keep the ISL buff up.  I would rather leave Soulburn off CD for when I need to keep that buff up but am not getting lucky with the Empowered Imp procs.
  5. Your big companion demon CDs – Doomguard and Infernals – might also be a good inclusion here.  They are a significant DPS increase, don’t cause your existing demons to despawn, and can be cast every 10 minutes.  I tend to want to save these for Heroism/Bloodlust, though.  I’m on the fence about monitoring them as part of my standard procedure, since I don’t need to know when the CD is up – I need to pick the right time to use them, instead.

I’m a big fan of NTK over other buff/dot trackers, because it allows me to parse out the data I don’t need, and focus instead on only what I need to know instead.

TALENTS AND GLYPHS

For my talents, I’m using the 2/3/31 build from Elitist Jerks right now.  There has been some good discussion about how far you should go into Dark Arts given your current Haste levels, but in general that build will serve you well.  Yes, there are some “wasted” talents – Searing Pain is no longer part of the rotation, for instance, after a recent round of nerfs – but those talents are needed to get to the next level, and you do what you gotta do.

The recommended glyphs of Immolate, Conflagrate, Imp and Life Tap are all relatively straightforward – improve damage directly (Immo, Imp) or indirectly through lower cooldowns (Conflag, LT.)  Other Prime glyphs that do similar things can be used in a pinch (Chaos Bolt, Incinerate) but in general you’ll want to buff your best spells first.  The two remaining major glyphs are at your discretion – I went with Shadowflame (to give me a slow for the Valks in the LK encounter) and Soul Link, to help out the healers.  Fear is likely going to be another good option for your Major glyph selection.

MACROS

With the new installation, not only did I throw out my UI, but I’ve started throwing out all my old macros and starting over. There are a few things I’m still macroing – my Imp’s Firebolt, for one – but I’m trying to use fewer macros than I did during Wrath in PvE.

(PvP is still macro city, though!)

The biggest challenge to reducing macro use is the need to manually trigger your Imp’s Firebolt because of the spell queuing delays.  Pretty much every spell you cast should have this in there, like so:

#showtooltip
/cast Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

This simple macro can have a substantial impact on your DPS, so, do it.  Bind it to Immolate, Soul Fire, Chaos Bolt, Incinerate at a minimum.

Next is making sure that your Soulburn-empowered Soul Fires are as fast as possible.  In PvE you will never need to use Soulburn to hasten another spell, so just make a castsequence macro you can tap to fire off a big ball of flame like an instant-cast spell.

#showtooltip
/castsequence reset=2 Soulburn, Soul Fire
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

Finally, I do use a setup macro to get everything rolling.  This doubles as my Immolate button during the normal rotation (due to the reset timer) but can be used to place everything on the target during a pull.

/castsequence reset=target/combat,2 Immolate, Conflagrate, Bane of Doom, Shadowflame, Corruption, Chaos Bolt,  Incinerate, Incinerate
/use 10
/use 13
/use 14
/startattack
/cast [@pettarget] Firebolt

I’ll keep experimenting with macros to see if there are other combos I’m always hitting, but for now I’m trying to keep it simple.

AOE

Area of Effect spells aren’t as effective now as they were in Wrath, as the stated design goals are to move away from AoE fests and focus instead on single-target burndowns and CC.  That’s great, but we’ve still got big trash packs in ICC that sometimes need to get burned down.

Ideally, each Warlock tree would have its own AoE spell – Seed of Corruption for Affliction, Hellfire for Demo, and Rain of Fire for Destro.  This model makes sense, and I can’t wait for us to get there.

Unfortunately, it still looks like Seed outperforms Rain on Destro by a bit.  Test it out on some dummies yourself, since this could vary by Mastery and Haste, but… yeah.  I’m still going to be spamming Seeds into trash packs for the near future.

Update: Rain of Fire got buffed this morning.  Back to the training dummies!

GEAR

There’s been some major changes to how gear is itemized in this patch, and you can also reforge unused stats (like Spirit) into other stats.

The current itemization priority is:

Hit (to 17%) > Intellect > Mastery = Haste = Spellpower >>> Crit

Basically, get rid of Sprit first, then Crit.  Get hit capped, then look at Int, Mastery, and Haste.

WATCHING IT IN PRACTICE

I’ve put together a video of how this works so you can see it for yourself.  Sometimes, seeing someone else do it (no matter how expertly or not) makes all the pieces click.  Hopefully this will help put it all together if you still have questions.

HAVE FUN

I am really enjoying the challenge of relearning the warlock class.  There are a lot of interesting changes that make me think about how things work.  None of this is set in stone right now.  Changes happen every rolling restart.  There will be a lot of discovery over the next few weeks, both in the endgame and in leveling, in PvE and PvP.

I’m enjoying Destruction now, but I can’t wait to see how some of the other specs do, too!

59 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

The School Of Hard Knocks

The [School of Hard Knocks] is a relatively straightforward Children’s Week holiday achievement: perform 4 tasks in the battlegrounds of Azeroth while your impressionable orphan ward is watching. Welcome to the World of Warcraft, kid!

This is also the holiday achievement that causes the most stress to non-PvPers. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s the most hated achievement in the entire What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been meta-achievement – hated more passionately than all the RNG-dependent ones, or any of the other achievements which brings players into the battlegrounds. It is hated because it’s the only achievement in the series that requires you to complete battleground objectives during a fight. You have to play the battlegrounds to complete it.

If you don’t PvP, I completely understand how intimidating this can be. The School of Hard Knocks takes you into an unfamilliar activity which you don’t like doing and asks you to compete against your fellow teammates while other players actively try to kill you. The environment is strange, your teammates may vocally resent your presence, and you are competing with other achievement seekers for the same goal.

When you put it that way, School of Hard Knocks can seem like a nightmare.

But you can do it.

I’m not going to patronize you and say “oh, this is easy!” The School of Hard Knocks is not easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Heck, it’s not trivial even if you do know what you’re doing!  It takes a good attitude, preparation, research, and a willingness to fail. Sometimes, to fail repeatedly.

But with planning and perseverance, you can get the job done and impress the heck out of your orphan.  And yourself, too.

Ready?  Let’s begin.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

The most important thing about this achievement is to ALWAYS have your orphan out when in the battlegrounds. Put the orphan whistle on your action bars and make sure that orphan sees everything. You don’t want to accomplish a goal and then discover you forgot to summon your orphan, and got no credit as a consequence.

BATTLEGROUND BASICS

Behind every die-hard PvPer there was once a new player who stumbled around the battlegrounds, blinking in total confusion. Don’t let any of the nerdrage you hear in /bg convince you otherwise — it’s okay to not know what you’re doing when you first zone in. It takes at least a few runs for the map and objectives to make sense, and a few more before you can really start contributing to a battleground.

So my first suggestion is to visit the battlegrounds before the Children’s Week holiday begins and scout them out. Don’t worry about accomplishing anything, don’t fight if you don’t want to, but get in there and figure out where things are. Where is the flag in Eye of the Storm? How does flag running and flag returns work in Warsong Gulch? Where are the towers and bunkers in Alterac Valley, and how do I climb up them?

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this advice. Get familiar with the battlegrounds before you are under pressure to do something with them. While videos can help, there is no substitute for having run your virtual self over the course, so when the time comes and you are actually competing with others to finish, you will already have the edge of knowing what to do.

The second basic suggestion is to come to terms with dying in a battleground. I’ve seen some excellent PvE players really struggle with this; it can be a very personal hurdle for some to overcome. If you are used to raiding, where death means someone (sometimes you) failed to do their job correctly, the frequency of PvP death can be not only alarming, but a personal indictment of failure. It’s not.

PvP deaths aren’t personal. Sometimes – often, even – there was nothing you could do about it. Shrug it off and move on. There’s no repair bill, there’s no xp penalty, just a loss of buffs and a 30 second timeout. Learn from it, yes – but don’t let it get you down.

I’m passably good at PvP, and I die a lot. Like, an average of 12 times a day. Don’t sweat death.

My third suggestion is that you don’t need gimmicks to complete this achievement. You don’t need a premade or collusion with the opposite faction in order to do these achievements. Really, you don’t. Stories of dancing flagrooms and coordinated tower recaps are all well and good, but they’re gimmicks.

What you do need is planning and perseverance. Don’t give up. Keep trying. You can do this.

Let’s go take a look at the individual battlegrounds to show you how.

ARATHI BASIN: ASSAULT A FLAG

Arathi Basin is an easy one to start with. Each node has a clickable flag at it that represents control of the node. If the flag is gray with no logo, the node is unclaimed, gray with a logo, the node has been assaulted and will be claimed soon, and a colored flag indicates the node is controlled.

Your goal is to find either an unclaimed node, or a node that the other faction has assaulted or controls, and click on the flag. Assaulting the flag is an 8 second channel, so you can be interrupted by defenders.

The simplest way to assault a flag is to ride to the closest node – Stables for Alliance, Farm for Horde – and capture that flag. This often involves competing with several other players during a normal battle, and doubly so during Children’s Week, so it involves some fast reflexes and planning.

If the competition at the closest node is too much, ditch to one of the side nodes – Lumber Mill or Gold Mine. If you’re consistently losing at Stables/Farm, stop trying for them and go for LM/GM immediately instead. Depending on the opponent’s strategy, you may encounter no resistance at all in the first rush.

Finally, if you lose out at the two side nodes, you can ride straight to the node closest to the enemy’s base – Alliance go to Farm, Horde go to Stables – and try to capture that.

If you fail in the inital rush, don’t give up. Nodes change hands all the time in Arathi Basin, so you will have plenty of chances to assault bases. Use the map to scout out which bases are under enemy control, then look for ones that are lightly defended. (Or not defended at all!) Stick with others, don’t pick a fight in the road, stay and defend nodes that are taken.

The one place I don’t recommend you go for the achievement (at least not if you don’t like PvP) is the Blacksmith. Let me repeat that:  do not go for the Blacksmith if you are at all PvP averse. The BS is seen as the critical node for most Arathi Basin strategies, so it is usually hotly contested throughout the match.

Here’s a map of Arathi Basin, with your target’s priority noted for both Horde (in red) and Alliance (in blue).

So for the Horde, it’s Farm -> Lumber Mill / Gold Mine -> Stables -> Blacksmith.  For Alliance, it’s Stables -> Lumber Mill / Gold Mine -> Farm -> Blacksmith.

There are a few tricks that can help you rush a flag. Mount and start running against the gate before it opens. Aim at the flag but be near the center when the gate opens to get out quickly. When you approach the flag, have your mouse free for clicking – I switch to keyboard driving in those last few seconds. And spam your clicks until the channel starts! Don’t just click once.

Here’s a video with an example of Alliance taking Stables (the easy way) and Farm (the harder way.)

Ride hard and click fast!

ALTERAC VALLEY: ASSAULT A TOWER

So now that you know how to assault a node in Arathi Basin, it’s time to move on to the frozen battlefield of Alterac Valley.

Your job is to assault one of the four towers or bunkers before anyone else gets there first. The towers (and bunkers, I use them interchangeably) have flags at their top level that need to be clicked. The towers do not change ownership like nodes in Arathi Basin; instead, once they have spent 4 minutes being contested, the towers are destroyed. They can be defended before they are destroyed, which allows the possibility of trading assaults, but in most battles this just doesn’t happen. You should proceed with the idea that you have 4 shots to assault a tower each AV, and after that it’s time to farm honor. So be ready to run AV a few times before you get the achievement credit.

There are four towers: two on the far side of the Field of Strife (a large open plain in the center of the map), and two clustered near the enemy leader at the far end of the map.

If you are Alliance, you will start at the top of the map and need to ride south to reach Iceblood Tower (blue 1), Tower Point (2), and the two Frostwolf Towers (3). Horde start at the south end of the map and ride north to Stonehearth Bunker (red 1), Icewing Bunker (2), and the two Dun Baldar Bunkers (3).

The location of the towers dictates the three strategies you can adopt.

  1. Closest tower first, then rollover. Ride hard to the closest tower (1: Iceblood Tower/Stonehearth Bunker) and try to get it first. If it’s taken, move to the next (2), then the final two (3). This method has a lot of competition but has some resiliency built in – you give yourself 4 chances, and you might get lucky on any given one of them. The drawback is that your chances on the subsequent tries are lowered because of the time you spent at the previous towers.
  2. Ride straight to the second tower (2: Tower Point/Icewing Bunker) and capture it, ride on to the end if you fail. I like this option because it has less competition than the closest tower, but only delays you a little on your way to the final two targets. The delay is less because these two towers are along your riding path to the enemy base, while the closest ones are not.
  3. Ride straight to the enemy fortress and capture the towers (3) there. I like this option a lot, but you have to know your route well and be able to check the map to see where your competition is not. You have to choose your target as you leave the bottlenecks (3: East/West Frostwolf Towers, North/South Dun Baldar Bunkers) and you only get one shot. There is no recovery if you choose wrong; you have to try again next battle. So while it’s risky, it also has a very good chance of success.

No matter which method you choose, there are some preparations you should make.

  • First, practice getting up the tower stairs. Horde have it a little easier here, as bunkers are less dizzying than towers to climb quickly, but both sides need to practice.
  • Second, running speed is everything. Make sure you have speed enchants on your boots and Swiftness potions on hand – and practice climbing towers with both active! Unlike AB, where most movement is mounted, AV assaults have an unmounted component so speed boosts will help. (Dont forget to practice with the speed boosts active, or you will launch yourself off the stairs.)
  • Third, practice running the map. See where people go in the pack to find all the little tricks of terrain that confer an advantage, and use them! Your goal is speed, and lots of it. Every second counts.  I’ve included some videos below to show some of them, but there is nothing like practicing yourself.
  • Fourth, practice fast mounting out of the cave. Unlike AB or EotS, you can’t start mounted. You need to move slightly out of the cave and start mounting. That initial mount will either put you at the head of the pack (and in a good position for the nearest tower) or the middle (better to go longer.)  The way to do this well is run just past where the rock ends and the normal ground begins and mount up.

Alterac Valley is big.  REALLY big.  And it has an asymmetrical map — the Horde and Alliance have very different experiences in AV — so I went ahead and recorded two videos to help familiarize you with the terrain and show how this all works in practice, one from each faction’s perspective.

Here’s an Alliance-side tour:

And here’s the Horde-side tour:

Alterac Valley can be a lot of fun, but with 39 other players shooting for 4 towers, this task is a bit more challenging than Arathi Basin.  But it’s still pretty easy compared to the next two.

On to Outland and Eye of the Storm.

EYE OF THE STORM: CAPTURE THE FLAG

Eye of the Storm is a mixture of Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, with four bases (one on each corner) and a flag in the middle. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to take that flag and capture it at one of the bases your side controls. You control a base by having enough people of your faction hang around there long enough to capture it.

If you’ve never been here before, the map is straightforward:

The black squares are the 4 nodes you can control: Mage Tower, Fel Reaver Ruin, Blood Elf Tower, and Draenei Ruins.  The white circle is the flag in the center of the battleground.

There are really only two ways to get this achievement.

  1. Grab the flag yourself and run it to the base. This is pretty straightforward, if somewhat hectic.
  2. Guard a base, have someone else on your team grab the flag and run it to you, but you capture the flag. This requires you to communicate with your teammates, and for them to cooperate with you. The runner takes the flag almost to the base you control and drops it; you pick it up and capture it.

The first method is relatively straightforward. Go to the middle of the map, fight off the enemy, and grab the flag as soon as it spawns. Then run like the wind to the nearest friendly base you control.

The second method relies more upon your powers of persuasion. Let people know in BG chat that you are here for the achievement, and that you want to cap the flag but would rather defend a base. Ask if flag runners will let you cap it. Many will. Whisper them when they pick it up where you are at and let them know if your base is clear.

Here’s where working together with other people will really pay off. Guildmates, server mates, friends you quested with back in the day — if you can go in as a group you can focus on spreading around the flag captures until everyone has one.

The biggest problem with this achievement is that the flag is noob bait. It can help you win Eye of the Storm, but the better strategy is to take 3 of the 4 bases and hold them while letting your opponents run the flag to try to catch up. (Hint: it doesn’t work.)

What often happens, as Ihra describes so eloquently, is that the battle sometimes settles into each side holding 2 bases and fighting in a swirling fight over the flag in the center of the map. If you’re PvP averse, your best bet at that point is to hold one of the bases and adopt the second strategy (asking someone else to let you cap it.)

Here’s how it looks in practice:

There’s really no secret recipe for this task, just persistence, perseverance, and tenacity. Keep at it until you get the flag, and then run like the wind.  Your orphan will keep up!

WARSONG GULCH: RETURN A DROPPED FLAG

The Warsong Gulch achievement sounds quite hard, but is easy if you play the battle as intended. Your task is simple — return your flag to your base once an enemy has dropped it. Normally, this is done by killing the enemy flag carrier (EFC), which makes them drop it. But there are all sorts of gimmicky plans to let the enemy take the flag, point to your orphan, and have them drop it repeatedly, and you know what?

I hate to say it, but sometimes those gimmicks work.  Because Warsong Gulch is the smallest battleground, with only 10 players per side, your chance of getting a premade like that is actually pretty high.

I try to always talk about the battlegrounds as they are, not as I’d like them to be. And the likelihood of you finding an easy WSG during Children’s Week is good. But if you don’t, and you find yourself chasing the EFC all over the map, let me give you some tips on how to get that flag back.

The first is that you have to know where they are going before you can catch them. Your map helps immensely here, since your flag will show up on it. By watching it you can learn where they have gone.

There are three common escape patterns for the EFC — the roof, the flag room (FR), and the graveyard (GY). Each has characteristics you can pick up on the map with a little bit of practice.

First, the roof:

The roof is the best initial defensive position for the EFC. From the roof there is only one entrance and two very large escape paths, as well as a quick route to a flag capture. Most EFCs go to the roof first.

There are two ways to spot a roof runner: the little bend they make as they run up the hill to the roof (which looks like a ? or a shepherd’s crook) and that they tend to hug the front side of the base. The bend is the easiest to spot, since the only time someone runs in that area they are going up to the roof. There is no other reason to go there.

Second up is the flag room, or the FR. Some runners like to hide in the little room in the corner for protection, others like to be ready for an instant cap by standing on the flag spawn point. There are three ways into the FR, as so:

As they approach their base, they will either go straight up the tunnel (the entrance is that funny structure in the middle of the map) or up the ramp on the side, which means they will pass in a wide curve in front of the structure. These are called out as “EFC going tun” and “EFC going ramp.”

The tunnel is a straight shot into the flag room — just watch and make sure they don’t peel off to go up to the roof. The ramp offers two entrances, one to the second level, and one to the ground level. The quickest way is to turn immediately up to the second level entrance, which has a very straight pattern when you’re watching it on the map. If they veer off to the side, they’re going onto the ground floor.

No matter which level they’re on, the EFC in the FR usually hugs the back wall. If they’re along the edge of the map in their base, they’re probably in the FR.

Experienced flag carriers will often retreat to the Graveyard when trouble strikes. This puts them right in the resurrection vector of all their team’s reinforcements, as well as being defensible with a good escape route down to midfield. The resurrection vectors favor the defense here; your casualties will be sent across the map, while theirs from all over the map will be sent in as reinforcements.

If that’s not bad enough, there are three ways the EFC can escape: out to midfield, out the ramp, and out along the fence. Midfield runners can be especially dangerous if they can get back to the tunnel, or meet up with other forces down at midfield. Ramp runners are usually the easiest to kill, since they chose a bottleneck where your midfield reinforcements can trap them. Fence runners are experienced and you’re going to have to chase them down before they either run out to midfield, drop into the tunnel, or climb out on the tunnel roof and heal.

Here’s a video giving a tour of the battleground, showing the layout of the map, how to find the EFC, how to return a flag, and (as a special bonus) how to capture the flag.

Okay, is your mind spinning yet? Because now that you’ve found the EFC, you have to kill them.

The best way to kill an EFC is to bring a lot of your friends and gang up on ‘em. The problem is that those friends are likely going to be trying to return the flag too (unless they’re really your friends, and they know you’re there for the achievement.) So there’s competition, but just watch the EFC’s health, and be ready to click on the flag when it drops. Eventually you’ll get it.

The other way to kill an EFC is to take them out on your own.  Make sure to disable any healers who could be healing the EFC, and then focus on countering their moves while burning down their health.  I’m unqualified to give class-specific PvP advice for the majority of the classes in Warcraft, so I won’t even try. If you are having trouble with this task, try dueling with some friends to get used to individual combat.  But keep in mind some EFCs are practically unkillable without help.

As for the rest of the strategy? I will point you to Gnomeaggedon’s great WSG guide, Midfield is Not An Objective.

BE A GOOD GUEST

One of the biggest problems with the School of Hard Knocks and other achievements like it is that they bring people into battlegrounds with goals wildly different from the primary goal of the match – namely, winning. Be it honor farming or achievement chasing, players actively working at cross-purposes to winning is the bane of battleground players everywhere.  This strife between those who are there for the PvP versus those who are there for the achievements can be a large contributor to the stress around this holiday (on both sides).

It’s odd, because the School of Hard Knocks is actually not that bad for winning battlegrounds, as achievements go. While running the flag in Eye of the Storm is not an ideal strategy, it’s at least actively contributing to victory, and all the other tasks are helpful to any strategy.  There are other holiday achievements where you do nothing to help win (I Pitied The Fool) or have bad strategy (With a Little Helper from My Friends). Heck, there are plenty of PvP achievements guilty of that sin! (Hint: anything that requires you to fire a turret gun in Strand of the Ancients is bad strategy.)

So listen:  you don’t have anything to apologize for by queueing for a battleground for this achievement. It’s a valid part of the game.

But in return, I’d like to appeal to you: be a good guest.  Don’t leave once you’ve capped your flag, or when you think you can’t complete it. It’s equivalent to leaving an instance midway through because you didn’t get the drop you wanted.  Seriously, have you ever had a tank drop in the middle of a fight because they didn’t get the loot from a boss, leaving you to deal with the adds they pulled?  Don’t be that guy.

No matter your feelings on PvP or abilities in the battleground, you still have something to contribute. You’ve taken a role in a raid group, put yourself in a position where you can do some good and contribute – no matter how good or bad you think you are at PvP. Stay and defend that node you just captured. Go protect your flag carrier.  Heal like you’ve never healed before.

But please, don’t leave your teammates in the lurch and drop group.

PERSISTENCE > TALENT

There’s a famous quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Keep that wisdom in mind as you work on the School of Hard Knocks.  Not only do you not have to be superbly talented in PvP to accomplish these tasks, you don’t even have to be very good at PvP at all.  Seriously.  Watch the videos above and you’ll see success is putting yourself in the right place at the right time.  Well, and clicking on the right thing.   But you get the idea.

What you do have to have to succeed is persistence.  Tenacity.  Stick-to-it-ivness.  Don’t give up.  You are going to have to make multiple attempts to succeed — don’t fool yourself that it’s going to be as simple as visiting each battleground once.  Give yourself plenty of time to work on this, and keep going.  Keep going! A positive attitude will get you though this.  Don’t give up.

A FINAL WORD

Don’t forget to have your orphan out at all times in the battleground. Nothing sucks worse than finally capping that tower in AV and discovering no one was there to watch you do it.  (Trust me, I’ve done this.)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got on the School of Hard Knocks. Good luck!  Go forth and achieve!

The kids are counting on you!

54 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Drain Tanking

Drain tanking is a technique used by Affliction warlocks that allows them to dispatch mobs without taking very much damage at all. When done properly, drain tanking allows affliction warlocks to enter a Kali-state, or God(dess) of Death Mode, where they slaughter mobs without ever stopping.

Remember my post on Destruction Warlock AoE Grinding? Well, if you play an Affliction warlock, you probably looked at that with a bit of amusement and, quite probably, inter-class derision. So much movement! So much jumping and flying and BAM BAM BAMing! So much damage taken! So much like a mage! Wait until you see how an Afflock handles that situation!

Well, you’ll get no argument from me. While Destro AoE grinding is a fun, quick way to kill a lot of mobs and leave them in convenient loot piles, it does suffer from several flaws. It’s mana-intensive, it doesn’t replenish any of your resources, and it requires a lot of movement before damage is inflicted and the mobs die.

(That said, when the mobs die, they die in very, very convenient heaps.)

Drain tanking is different.

The core idea of drain tanking is that the warlock will heal themselves faster than the mob can damage them. As long as this is true, warlocks do not need their demons to tank for them. Using a combination of high Stamina, Spellpower, and Life Tap, skilled drain tankers can run through a pack of mobs and emerge with full health and full mana, resulting in zero downtime. As you level, you’ll get better at this so that the only time you have to stop is to loot.

LOW LEVEL DRAIN TANKING

At level 14 Warlocks gain the spell Drain Life, the first core ability of drain tanking. Drain Life takes health away from the target and gives it to you via a bright green channelled spell. After you apply your DoTs (Corruption, Curse of Agony, maybe Immolate) to the target, use Drain Life to keep healing yourself while doing damage. When dealing with multiple mobs, dot them all up before using Drain Life, and don’t hesitate to Fear them away if they are causing too much damage.

Up to this point, warlocks have been squishy casters without any way to heal themselves (aside from First Aid), and their demons serve as tanks who should take and hold aggro. Drain-tanking warlocks do not worry when their demon loses aggro, because they can take the damage when it comes their way. They’ll just heal it up.

Here’s a macro you may find useful for low-level drain tanking:

#showtooltip
/petattack
/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Curse of Agony, Corruption, Drain Life

This will allow you to quickly apply your instant dots and then move on to healing yourself. Don’t forget that Demon Skin / Demon Armor will increase healing by 20%, so make sure you have it up at all times.

SIPHON LIFE

At level 30 things get more interesting with Siphon Life. Siphon Life changes your Corruption spell to return 40% of damage done as healing to you, allowing you to heal on every single pull. Corruption/Siphon Life becomes your single most important DoT to place on a mob because of this healing. Curse of Agony becomes your next standard DoT, and Immolate is a third option if you need additional DPS. The addition of Siphon Life lessens your reliance on Drain Life, and consequently, makes you more mobile. You can still Drain Life when necessary, but you will often find it more effective to keep moving from mob to mob.

Siphon Life really accelerates your leveling because it lets you damage and heal with the same spell. You cast both a DoT and a HoT at the same time, which is cool, but Life Tap transforms this into a mana-regeneration spell, too. By siphoning the mob’s health and tapping it into mana, you can cast further Corruptions. The more mobs you pull the stronger you get.

It’s a beautiful cycle.

Siphon Life is affected by anything that increases Corruption’s damage, so Spellpower on gear and any Corruption-enhancing talents also enhance your drain tanking.

GODDESS OF DEATH MODE

Siphon Life opens up a lot of options to the leveling warlock, but while grinding and questing you’re still going to be dipping into your deep bag of Warlock tricks. But at some point you’ll stack enough Spellpower and pick up enough Corruption-enhancing talents to enter Goddess of Death Mode, where you spread death and destruction wherever you go without ever stopping.

You literally never stop.

Goddess of Death Mode is when you use only instant-cast spells to kill and heal youtself while constantly moving and pulling new mobs. Your only weapons are Corruption and Curse of Agony; you chaincast them while running from pack to pack, tab-targeting as you go. Tab, dot, dot, tab, dot, dot. As the healing from Siphon Life starts rolling in, Life Tap liberally to keep your mana up.

As long as these two spells are enough to kill the mobs you’re facing – and trust me, they will be, eventually – you never have to stop. GoDM warlocks leave a trail of corpses while emerging with full health and full mama.

At very high levels, with advanced talents and the ability to take talents from other trees, Goddess of Death Mode can be an awesomely terrifying playstyle. The addition of Soul Link and Fel Synergy from the Demonology tree allows your pet to take part in this flow of damage and healing, reducing the damage you take while providing healing to your demon. Fel Synergy heals based on damage you inflict, so the more dots you have ticking, the more healing your demon receives. Even with all the damage coming over the Soul Link, your demon should not need any additional healing.  (And if they do?  Too bad, you’re busy killing things, they’re a Demon, you can always resummon them later.)

There a few other instant spells that you can cast in Goddess of Death Mode – Nightfall-procced Shadowbolts are always fun, talented Howl of Terror can relieve pressure if too many mobs pile on you, and Death Coil provides a nice quick heal on the go. But these are fun little extras. Icing on the cake, if you will.

One tip I have is that it’s useful to know approximately how much damage your Corruption and Corruption/Curse of Agony combos will do when playing Goddess of Death Mode — you can quickly compare it to the mob’s health and know if you need to stop and give them a little extra something later on. Generally this is only really a problem while leveling and tackling higher-level mobs.

KEY TALENTS

Drain tanking has a few key Affliction talents that you must take, and then quite a few more that help considerably.

These talents improve your Drain Life and give you the ability to drain using Corruption:

  • Soul Siphon increases the effectiveness of Drain Life based on the number of DoTs on the target.
  • Fel Concentration keeps your Drain Life from getting interrupted.
  • Siphon Life returns health when Corruption deals damage.

The following talents buff your Corruption or shadow damage, which in turn buffs your Drain Life and Siphon Life.

I don’t encourage splitting trees until after you’ve gotten the 51 point talent in it, but there are several Demonology talents which really help with drain tanking.

  • Soul Link shunts 20% of your damage over to your demon.
  • Fel Synergy heals your demon when you deal damage.
  • Demonic Aegis increases the effectiveness of your Armor.

These talents are fairly standard parts of most Affliction or Demonology builds, but if you’re building one on your own you’ll want to make sure these are part of it.

SHOW ME DON’T TELL ME

When I first started playing my warlock, I had a lot of trouble figuring out how drain tanking worked. It didn’t make sense because it was so very different from the early levels, where you send in your VW, avoid aggro, keep the mobs away from you at all cost. I had to experience it myself to see how it could work.

Well, I might not be able to let you experience it yourself without your own warlock, but I can at least provide you a video of how I do it on mine.

Happy drain tanking!

28 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery

Destro Warlock AoE Grinding

I still remember the first time I saw a Frost Mage AoE grind. It was in northern Dragonblight, up at the Scarlet Crusade base. This little gnome would round up the Crusaders into a tight herd on his mechanostrider, slow them, freeze them, blink to a safe distance, and then annihilate them with a Blizzard. This crazy little man would pull entire camps, kill them all, and ride away without a scratch.

I was stunned by not just the carnage, but the sytle and élan by which it was achieved. I admit: I was really quite jealous of Mages in that moment.

What I didn’t know at the time is that Warlocks are equally capable at AoE grinding, but with a fundamentally different style. The Warlock Way isn’t to avoid the enemy, it’s to frustrate their attempts to stop us, to turn their own life force against them, and when all else fails — to nuke them down while we laugh at their feeble attempts to stop us.

There are at least four styles that I know the different specs can use to kill many mobs in a single blow.

  1. Destro Locks are uniquely suited to AoE grinding because of both the buffs we have on Rain of Fire and Shadowfury.
  2. Affliction Locks excel at a completely different style of taking out lots of mobs, a style I’ve dubbed the Kali style, which involves casting instant DoTs on the run and then spamming Seeds of Corruption and Drain Life. This style leaves a trail of dead as Affliction locks NEVER need to stop.
  3. Demo Locks can use their Felguard, Metamorphosis’s Immolation Aura, and Hellfire to gather mobs and turn the mob’s aggro against them.
  4. And all warlocks can send a pet to gather up mobs and return them to the master, killing them however the warlock chooses.

Today I’m just going to talk about Destro’s AoE grinding. The core idea is to gather up the mobs with you (and your pet), hit them with Shadowfury, Shadowflame (especially Glyphed Shadowflame), and Rain of Fire, all while absorbing damage with your Voidwalker’s Sacrifice, Soul Link, and your own high Stamina. The more defensive talents you have, the better you will fare.

The process is relatively straightforward:

  1. Round up the mobs while mounted into a tight area.  If you get knocked off, don’t panic, just move on to step 2.  Try to get just to one side of the pack.
  2. Shadowfury the mobs to stun them in place.  You’ll dismount at this point and your Voidwalker will spawn.
  3. Turn and face the mobs and hit them with Shadowflame.  This will put a DoT on them and do great damage for little mana; however, you have to practice to make sure you can aim your cone well.
  4. Trigger your Voidwalker’s Sacrifice spell as you get a little distance on the pack of mobs.  If you’re facing Shadow spells, you can also toss Shadow Ward on for good measure.
  5. Rain of Fire the pack until they die.  This usually takes 1-2 RoFs for most PvE mobs.

Sometimes it helps to actually see a technique in action.  So, I made a little video to show how this works in practice.  (Go easy on me, this is my first video post.)

So there you have it.  Obviously Warlock AoE grinding takes some practice and a good health pool.  Soul Link will really help you out here, but it’s by no means essential.  What is essential is keeping a good tab on your cooldowns, health, and mana, and the willingness to adapt when things go wrong.

Happy grinding!

10 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Warlockery