Monthly Archives: June 2013


I have not been playing Warcraft for about 4 weeks now due to a RSI. Playing WoW leaves my thumb and fingers numb and my hand in agony, and I’ve needed a lot of ice and painkillers to make it through each workday. I have no opinion of the 5.3 changes because I haven’t played anything in 5.3.

Health comes first. I’ve cancelled my sub and it will probably be a few months, at least, before I even think about returning. It’ll be good to take a break, but I’ll miss the folks I play with while I’m out. But not playing gives me time to think, and tap out stories with my left hand, and remember other things I want to do.

Anyhow, here. Have a story of Cynwise’s departure heading into 5.4.

Cynwise - Deployment


Visper rested her head on her hand, her elbow propped up on the table. It was late evening in the Waypoint Cartographer’s Union Guild House and there was paperwork to be completed. Karanina and her staff took care of most of it from the office in Pandaria, but there were things that still required branch office approval.

Branch office. Visper shook her head and smiled faintly. I’m running a branch office of a guild instead of a platoon of Death Knights. What happened to me? What happened to us?

A soft knock at her office door made her straighten up. “Come in,” she said firmly. Cynwise entered quietly and quickly took a seat in one of the leather-backed chairs in front of the large desk.

“You’ve seen the reports out of the Vale?” Cynwise asked without preamble.

“Yes. Some kind of a dig led by that madman,” replied the draenei. “If it isn’t one thing it’s another with Garrosh.”

“It is one thing after another with Garrosh, though I don’t think he’s actually crazy. This excavation, specifically, is unusual.” Cynwise turned her head to look at the large, exquisitely detailed map of Pandaria on the wall. The guild master of the mapmaker’s union got the best of the best for a reason. Small colored dots were affixed to the map throughout the continent. The blue ones with white borders were Waypoint expeditionary teams, surveying the new countryside and sending back information to continually update the maps which were Waypoint’s reason for existing. Various orange dots scattered the regions, marking places of past conflict. Yellow denoted treasure troves; white, points or persons of interest. And red dots marked the location of Horde forces.

There were a lot of red dots on the map now.

Visper had worked with Cynwise long enough to wait out the silence, her glowing blue eyes flicking back and forth between the map and the warlock. After a minute of looking at the map and thinking, Cynwise turned back to Visper.

“He moved the 3rd Darkspear Battalion?” she asked.

Visper nodded. “From today’s dispatches.”

“Huh. Okay. He’s practically inviting the Alliance to storm the beaches at Krasarang. That’s likely a diversion or a trap.”

“The Reliquary is stranded out there, with little more than a contingent of goblins supporting from Domination Point – but, if they’ve abandoned the Krasarang digs for strip-mining the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, then…” Visper trailed off.

“Then, the real action is at that dig. Militarily and politically he’s risking a lot by strip-mining land that’s sacred to the Pandarens. I know the Warchief doesn’t care much about the Sunwalkers, but the Shrine is too good a fortification to simply throw away – no matter how much Dezco has irritated him.”

Visper nodded, her glowing blue eyes focused on the human woman. “I agree. But why is it unusual? There’s something there that that madman wants. And what he wants, he gets, no matter what it costs him,” she pauses, eyes widening, “Especially if he can spend the blood of the non-Orcs to get it.”

Cynwise quirked her mouth wryly. “Noticed that, did you?”

Visper smiled a little. “Yes. It looks like the 3rd is going to be reinforcing the dig site, which means they’ll likely start having more skirmishes with the Sentinels.”

“So much for quietly exploring a new continent full of wonder.”

“Indeed,” said Visper, as she got a funny look in her eye.



“Visper, this is foolish!” yelled Cynwise, slamming the door shut.

“I’ve made my decision, and that’s final!” the former Death Knight of Arthas yelled back, slamming a sheaf of papers on the desk as she stalked behind it. Visper didn’t even bother yanking her chair out, she just leaned on the desk with one arm and pointed at Cynwise with the other. “You can see it too, this is the way it has to be!”

The much smaller human woman didn’t shrink back from that accusatory finger. “The hell it is! You founded this guild with one purpose – mapping knowledge – and now you want to throw it away for war. Wars are not just won with the flesh and sinew of troops, they are won with the mind, with intelligence and knowledge! They are won by knowing what your enemy will do before he can do it! They are won by planning, and preparing, and planning some more. That’s what this guild is about! Winning through superior intelligence!” Cynwise’s eyes flashed dangerously.

Visper responded angrily. “That’s what this guild is about? You have the nerve to tell me what this guild is about?” The draenei’s voice got quieter, colder. “Do you remember who founded this guild, warlock?” She spit the last word out like an epithet. “You are a mercenary brought in to help guard and train. This guild is what I say it is, and we operate where and how I say we operate. My decisions are made for the good of all. Is that clear?”

Cynwise stood there, lips drawn, blood pounding through her veins. The office outside was suspiciously quiet, the normal chatter of the clerks and cartographers stilled by the fight between the two women.

“Yes, sir,” she said, finally.

“Are the new members trained? Are they ready for deployment in the field?” Visper asked, her eyes furious but her voice cold and forceful.

“They are, sir,” replied Cynwise, her voice deflated. “To the best of my ability, they are ready for deployment.”

“Then that is all. Get them ready to ship out.”

Cynwise stood there for a moment. She looked at the map, at the red and blue dots. At the black and blue dots which marked the places that cartographers had given their lives for these precious maps.

“No, sir. I cannot do that,” she said.

Visper blinked, once, twice. Cynwise knew that the Death Knight was weighing her options, that her rage was tempered by cold analysis of winning a fight with a veteran warlock. Visper’s fist clenched slightly, almost reflexively, and her eyes narrowed. The entire office was silent.

“What did you say?”

“I will not lead this deployment,” Cynwise said. “I cannot condone this course of action. I have seen enough war to know when resources are spent unwisely. And if I cannot convince you to change your mind with my words,” she said, drawing a small knife from her belt, “perhaps I can change them with my actions.”

Visper stood behind her desk, angry but not threatened, as the warlock smoothly reached up to her left shoulder with the knife. Cynwise deftly cut the Waypoint insignia patch off of her overshirt, slicing the threads with practiced ease. She sheathed the knife and tossed the Compass Rose onto the desk.

It landed there, atop a stack of the latest dispatches from Kalimdor. Visper looked down at it, at the blue and gold patch resting on rough maps of the Barrens. Then she looked up at the disobedient warlock.

“Get out,” she said flatly. “You’re dismissed.”

Cynwise’s expression didn’t change.

“No, Visper,” she said. “I resign.”

And with that, she did a smart about face to exit the Chief Mapmaker’s office.

The sounds of clerks scrambling to get back to their desks could be clearly heard as the warlock opened the door to leave.



The spring air brought a welcome warmth through the open office window. Visper breathed in deeply. The turbulence of the last few months seemed to fade away with the scent of flowering trees and gardens that made Stormwind’s broad avenues such a pleasure to walk.

Maybe I can get a walk in today, she thought, turning back to her desk. A small frown appeared on her face as she eyed the dispatches Velaa had neatly placed on the center of her desk. Maybe before I vanquish this latest enemy. She turned back to look out the window and sighed.

A soft knock at the door brought her out of her reverie. “Just drop them on my desk, Velaa,” Visper said, “unless there’s something really urgent I need to see.” Visper knew the ultra-efficient Velaa thought nothing of discretely scanning the dispatches to ensure that the most important ones were on the top of the stack. It was something Kara had taught her.

“This will only take a moment, Visper,” said a familiar voice that was not Velaa’s.

Visper turned around. Standing in the doorway was Cynwise. The warlock was in the full dress uniform of the Alliance High Command, a sight which made Visper involuntarily stiffen at attention. There were a fair number of medals on display. Cynwise’s mouth quirked to one side.

“At ease, Lieutenant, you’re not on active duty,” said the human to the draenei, smiling.

“Sorry, Colonel. Old habits …” Visper said, relaxing. She didn’t quite smile back in return. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

“Maps, mostly,” said the dark-haired warlock. “I need the best maps I can get now.”

“Well, you’re in the right place for that, at least,” said Visper. “What’s with the uniform?”

Cynwise smiled. “I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

“Oh, I’m sure you could have if you really wanted to,” said Visper. “Thought you might have held out for a promotion or something, though.”

“I didn’t want a promotion, Visper,” said Cynwise. “While plenty of Generals end up in the field, they’re not supposed to be there, they’re supposed to be behind a desk. I don’t want that, not yet. Colonel is more than fine with me, it’s as high as I can go without losing a field command.”

“Hm,” said Visper, nodding along.

“Is that enough small talk? I want to make sure I’m doing this right. We could talk about the weather next if you like?” asked Cynwise.

Visper finally smiled at that. “Yes, I think that’s enough chatter. What maps did you need?”

“I need maps of the areas around every Horde capital city and encampment with more than ten thousand residents,” Cynwise said. “Plus general maps of Kalimdor, Pandaria, the southern coast of Northrend, Lordaeron and Gilneas, and anything you have around Quel’thalas.”

Visper blinked. “That’s a tall order, Colonel. And an expensive one.”

Cynwise nodded in agreement. “I know it is, you can upgrade me to the full Atlas package if you like. I need the best you can provide me today for some meetings at the Keep this afternoon, and then we can get the rest sorted out when we see what we’re missing.”

Visper quickly thought through what was in the shop downstairs. “We have Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms in stock, but the detailed maps of the Barrens and Mulgore might need to be updated. Pandaria, we’ve only got the tourist-quality ones, but there’s a military grade one in the war room in the Keep. I delivered it last week.”

“Okay. That will do for now,” Cynwise said. “I can pay Velaa for it all below.”

Visper raised an eyebrow. “You could have done the entire order through Velaa, warlock,” she said. “You’re not here just for maps. Why are you really here?”

Cynwise looked a little guilty at that question. She sighed and responded, “I came to apologize.”

“What?” Visper was honestly surprised.

“I came to apologize,” Cynwise continued. “I shouldn’t have challenged your authority in front of your people. That was wrong of me and I’m sorry. You paid me to do a job, and I did it, and it’s not my business what you do with your organization.”

Visper looked at the human with her glowing blue eyes. “Interesting. You’re not sorry you quit, though?”

Cynwise smiled. “No. I disagreed with you then, and I still disagree with you. I absolutely think your people serve the Alliance better by making maps, not dying on the front lines. But I should have handled my objections better. All I can say is that I’m sorry.” She offered her right hand to the taller draenei.

Visper eyed the outstretched hand for a moment, and then shook it. “You let yourself care about a bunch of cartographers you were hired to keep safe, warlock,” she said. “No crime in that. Apology accepted.”

“Now let’s go get you some maps for whatever war you’re planning, Colonel.”

Cynwise - Visper - Stormwind Keep War Room - Deployment

Cynwise - Visper - Stormwind Keep War Room - Deployment Chat


Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual, Fiction

Class Distribution Data for Patch 5.3

5.3 Census - Class Popularity at Endgame Graph

World of Warcraft’s Patch 5.3 was released on May 21st, 2013, so as with previous patches I’ve taken a snapshot of population data to provide historical analysis of class popularity trends. The methodology is unchanged from my 5.2 population analysis, so the same caveats and cautions apply here. The patch dates serve as handy labels for each snapshot, but it’s important to remember that they effectively mark the beginning of a period, not the end. The 5.2 snapshot represents data at the beginning of 5.2 – or the end of 5.1.

Like previous versions, I’ve constructed a separate spreadsheet for this patch’s data. There is one new sheet looking at the realmpop population data (instead of just popularity data) which is finally giving us a view into how players are leveling through Mists of Pandaria.


5.3 Census - Class Popularity at Engame Chart

The data on the first tab is relative class popularity over time at the endgame of an expansion. There are 11 classes available in Mists, so median popularity sits at 9.09% (down from 10% from Wrath). That 9% isn’t so much a target as it is a line to keep in mind – just because Mages are currently ranked #7 with 9.15% doesn’t mean they’re unpopular – but neither are they wildly popular, either.

I think it’s important to note with this graph that it’s mixing apples and oranges a bit. The Wrath and Cataclysm data is from late in those respective expansions, when people had had time to level alts in addition to mains. Starting with the third snapshot (Mists Pre-Release) the environment shifts to those characters who received priority in leveling. Nearly a year out we’re starting to see player stables fill out a bit more, until eventually it will be an apples to apples comparison.

This intraexpansion data is interesting because I think it shows in very broad strokes a picture of which classes got leveled first, and which got leveled later. My hunch is that changes in popularity percentages here, now, are more likely to be from players leveling secondary characters/alts than from new players joining or huge flaws within a class. There are no doubt exceptions and rerolls – the Warrior spike in the 5.1 snapshot was almost definitely due to PvP dominance – but I think we are seeing more alt activity than before.


5.3 Census - Total Pop, 86-90 Pop, 90 Pop

Above is the 5.3 snapshot for all levels, 86-90, and 90.

Quick comparison to the equivalent one for 5.2:

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 12.29.14 AM

Monks have continued to take a little more of the overall pie, but the overall numbers are fairly steady. Rogues have improved a bit at level 90.

The popularity data is well and interesting, but I think there’s a more interesting way to look at the question of how players are engaging Pandaria – using population figures instead of popularity figures.

5.3 Census - Realmpop Population Increase over time

These population figures come from Realmpop, and are just the class totals for the US and EU regions added together. I’ve talked with Erorus a bit about how he gets his population sample and it reaches pretty deep. The important thing is that the methodology hasn’t changed over the course of the expansion, so by looking at the sample set of 17 million toons we can extrapolate out to general class trends. (I’d like it better if the data wasn’t missing Korea and China, but we have to work with what we have.)

Keep in mind this isn’t the total population of the game for these regions, but rather a consistent subset we can use for analysis.

I’ve been adding these population figures in since 5.1 – they’re in the hidden columns on the 5.3/5.2/5.1 base tabs – but I wanted to sit on them for a bit until we had enough data points to look at trends. So this is new, and it’s pretty neat! It’s on tab 3 in the spreadsheet.

The data is laid out in three blocks – all population, 86-89, and 90 – each showing population growth  by class across the expansion.

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 10.53.48 PM

For All Levels, we can see a few interesting things about class growth and stagnancy. Over a period of time where subs have dropped by ~1.6 million subscribers, character populations have remained stable in the US/EU. Monks continue to be created, and I expect we’ll see them level off somewhere in the 2 million range by the beginning of the next expansion. Warlocks, Warriors, and Hunters have all seen some growth over the course of the expansion, while the rest of the classes are mostly stagnant.

Rogues are the only class to have a drop in figures between patches (5.2 to 5.3) and I’m not sure why.

Let’s move on to the Mists levels.

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 11.06.26 PM

About twice as many characters are out of Cataclysm and into Mists of Pandaria right now than at the start of 5.1. Okay, it’s a little less than twice for almost everyone but Monks – 1.74x Paladins, 1.98x Warlocks, 2.56x Monks – but the population of characters in Mists content has basically doubled in 6 months.

Since the general population didn’t double, a lot of this movement has to be attributed to existing characters moving up from pre-Mists levels into Mists. How about at level 90, the endgame?

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 11.12.05 PM

This is probably my favorite bit of data to look at. There are two components – the population increase over time, like we did before, and the percent of a class which is level 90. The first block is very similar to what we saw before at 86-90, though most classes have more than doubled their number of 90s in the sample. Druids are the furthest behind at 1.94x, everyone else has a factor of 2.1x or greater. There’s something going on there, but I’m not sure what. I think we need more data points, and someone who can evaluate how each class does in current content, to look at that – definitely not me.

The second block is amazing, though. I love it. It’s the number of 90s versus the total population of a class over time. With one exception, classes started out in a fairly predictable spread and have coalesced into one of two packs, either at 16-17% or 18-19%.  Monks started out amazingly strong – people who rolled Monks at the very beginning were motivated to get them to the endgame – but have come in line with Paladins, Death Knights, Priests, Shamans and Druids in the top pack. Mages, Hunters, and Warlocks are in a second pack a percent or two behind, which might be a result of their pure DPS roles? More incentive to level a hybrid alt, perhaps?

Warriors are stuck back with the pure DPS for reasons that I can only attribute to their being perceived as poor tanks in current Mists content. I’m speculating there, but I think it’s notable that they’re behaving like all the other hybrids.

And then there are Rogues.

At all levels, there are more Rogues than Monks, Warlocks or Shaman. There are almost as many Rogues as there are Priests! But Rogues are not making it to level 90. The 5.14% in 5.1 could be assumed to be the Rogue mains with a job to do, but even with a healthy influx of level 90s after that, they are not playing in the endgame. That 12.42% outlier result is amazing. It’s terrible, but it’s amazing.

Some of this might be due to Rogue populations swelling in late Cataclysm for the legendary daggers. A large number of leveling PvP rogues might also account for it? I’m sure that the Rogue community will have much greater insight than I over it.

But right now, Warriors are behind the other hybrids by a little, and Rogues are behind the other pure DPS classes by a lot.


5.3 Census - Total Pop vs Level 90 Pop

The last bit of data I want to talk about is the PvE/PvP representation data from World of Wargraphs. The basic idea behind this is that if a class is more or less represented in high-end play in one sphere or another compared to their general population trends, they may be over- or under-powered for that activity.

Some general observations:

  • Monks: Very underrepresented in PvP. Brewmaster FCs seem to be the only decent spec?
  • Hunters: Underrepresented in PvE, dramatically underrepresented in PvP.
  • Priests: Mind-bogglingly good at high-end PvE and PvP.
  • Paladins: Really strong in PvE (I assume from both Prot and Holy right now).
  • Warriors: Have dropped from completely dominant in PvP to underrepresented in both PvP and PvE.
  • Shaman, Rogues, Warlocks – doing pretty well, all things considered!

There are detail tabs for each spec in the spreadsheet if you want to dive into this data a bit further.

I’m not sure what to say about Hunters, to be honest. They’re a hugely popular class – more Hunters overall than Paladins, and soon to be more level 90 Hunters too – but they don’t have the same popularity in high end PvE or PvP. Is it that Hunters are fine in high end play, but simply have a larger population of casual players? Or are the problems with the class such that Hunters face problems in high end play above and beyond other classes?

I think there’s evidence to support both theories, and they are not mutually exclusive.


Warriors were the PvP darlings of 5.1 – no more. They are struggling in both PvP and PvE and it’s showing.

Monks, as the new class on the block, have done a great job catching up to the population numbers of the other classes. They may never be as popular as the big 4 (Pally, Druid, Hunter, DK) but they are likely going to carve out a niche for themselves. They are leveling well, and the only real area of concern seems to be their PvP viability. As someone who’s been leveling a Monk, I expect to see some much-needed cleanup to the class in the next expansion to make it a smoother, more coherent experience.

Hunters are the dominant class in World of Warcraft, yet they are underrepresented in high-end play. There are more Hunters than Paladins at all levels, and soon Paladins will be ever so slightly less popular than Hunters at level 90. The question of Hunter’s role in endgame play is an important one – are these population discrepancies indicating real problems in high-level rated play, or is it due to the overwhelming popularity of the class? Is it due to their pure DPS role versus the popularity of hybrids? There’s a serious discussion that needs to happen there.

Rogues are more popular than they seem but are struggling to make it to the endgame. Those Rogues who make it to the endgame can do well, but so few of them do compared to everyone else that there’s something abnormal with them. Rogues are less likely to experience Pandaria than any other class, and that is worth investigating.

Update June 5, 2013: Svelte Kumquat @ The Red Hatted Rogue has taken this data and is running with it for Rogues. He’s pulled some additional data from Realmpop about our sneaky friends.


Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual