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Warcraft Opening Ceremonies Recap (spoilers)!

More info available on Blizzard’s Website.

Blizzcon 2013 Opening Ceremony Announcement Recap

  • New World of Warcraft expansion is the Warlords of Draenor.
  • “when you think about all that history, all that context, a really interesting question comes to mind… What if those dark days could come again? What if a pantheon of the most viscious villans of Warcraft could threaten our homes, our ways of life again?”
  • “The conflict to come will be the alliance’s finest hour”
  • Horde “A chance to redefine yourselves in this brave new world”
  • “There will be much heroism for all”

Expansion cinematic reveal:

  • Past and the present collide
  • “A rising tide of blood and iron that will wash over this world”
  • New world: Draenor
  • Build and upgrade your garrison
  • level cap raised to 100
  • Upgraded new character models
  • New dungeons, raids, world PVP zone. New items and rewards.
  • Hundreds of new quests
  • Level boost to 90 to get you started: “Boost to 90 and play immediately”. “Come play with your friends right away.” You can boost any one character to level 90 (either a brand new character OR your existing character you haven’t played in a while).
  • No new races or classes announced in the cinematic that we could see. More announcements to come in the next panel.

bconOpening51

Additional updates: Garrosh will escape before he can get punished. He travels back in time to Draenor to try and prevent the horde from drinking the demon blood and becoming corrupted.

Posted in Blizzcon


Repost: How symbiosis (MoP level 87 ability) likely works

Since it’s always my job to take what Blizzard writes and translate it into things that you guys can understand, I’m writing a quick post to talk about Symbiosis (the new MoP level 87 ability).

The new ability says:

Creates a symbiotic link which grants the druid one ability belonging to the target’s class, varying by the druid’s specialization. In exchange, grants the target  one druid ability based on their class and combat role. Lasts 1 hour and persists through death”

My interpretation of how this will work: You get something cool from them, and they get something cool from you. You both keep your ability and they just get a copy of your spell. So, it’s not actually stealing their ability. It’s borrowing a copy of their ability, it’s just funnier to say “stealin” in the above picture for comedic value.

TOTALLY FAKE/MADE-UP examples:

  • Example 1: Moonkin casts symbiosis on mage. Moonkin gets mirror image and keeps starfall. Mage gets starfall & keeps mirror image.
  • Example 2: Resto druid casts symbiosis on disc priest. Rdruid gets Prayer of Mending & keeps innervate. Disc priest gets innervate & keeps PoM.

Further notes & explanations:

Symbiosis can’t give random abilities from ability lists, as that would make the talent too unpredictable and you would have to “fish” for a useful ability by casting it over & over dozens of times until you got what you wanted. Instead, it has to be fixed (so, in the above examples, a moonkin would always get mirror image from the mage). It also has to give you something you would actually want in your spell list, otherwise there is no point in having it at all (so, it can’t give you remove curse from mages as a moonkin, since moonkin can already remove curses).

No cooldown is listed, so it looks like in a raid, you could keep up Symbiosis on the same person through the whole raid if you wanted, or you could symbiosis with a different raid member on each boss to pick up the best boss-specific abilities.

That should clear up some of the questions I’ve seen about Symbiosis. I’ll get to other spells/abilities from the list as I have time, but I thought this was too important to wait, and I wanted to get this out early to help with the amount of confusion I’ve seen.

Posted in Blizzcon, Druid - General, Written By Lissanna


Repost: Lets talk about Healing Shrooms (5.0 speculation)

So, Blizzard has started talking about what new toys druids will get in 5.0 with mists of pandaria.

While I have to sometimes post about the bad things (like trying to explain why melee damage isn’t appropriate utility for moonkin druids), I also get to talk about the good things!

One good thing coming for resto druids in Mists of Pandaria is a Healing version of Wild Mushrooms. I’ve seen a lot of speculation and in some cases confusion about how they’d work or why we need them. So, I feel that it is my duty to help show why a healing Shroom spell is good, what it may look like, and realistically how it would fit into our healing arsenal.

How the DPS version of Wild Mushrooms works right now:

 Wild Mushroom is a balance druid spell that uses a targeting recticule to drop one mushroom at a time on the ground (up to 3 mushrooms), and then there is a separate detonate spell that you use to trigger the mushrooms to do AOE damage to anything standing near the mushrooms. An original version of the spell was supposed to be more “trap” triggered, but that was scrapped in favor of the detonate that allows you to choose when to force them to go off. The Wild Mushrooms themselves don’t have a cooldown (so you can place all three of them one after the other). However, there is a 10 second cooldown on the detonate.

How I think Healing Shrooms might work in MoP:

The Healing version of Wild Mushrooms will be a specialization ability for restoration druids in Mists of Pandaria. We have not yet seen a preview of how they will work, but I can make some guesses about their mechanics, based on what I know about how the moonkin version currently works.

  • Wild Mushrooms will have a direct healing component when you detonate them. They may also have some sort of HOT component attached, but would be particularly useless if all they provided was a HOT without any burst healing, since setting them up is a significant time-commitment.
  • With healing shrooms, you will be able to place one shroom on the ground & detonate it if you want a quick but small burst heal.  Moonkin don’t usually just detonate one shroom, since we require all 3 for DPS purposes, but it should be perfectly viable for healers to be able to choose whether to use 1, 2, or 3 depending on the situation. If you are worried about 3 doing too much overhealing, you can choose to just drop & explode a single shroom. This allows our one tool to have a lot of versatility in how we use it.
  • You will be able to place 3 shrooms in different parts of the room, or on the same “stackup point” of the room to prepare for a giant burst damage attack. This allows you to choose between blanketing the room more (ie. one on melee group, and one on each of 2 ranged groups), or getting a large concentrated amount of healing in one place.
  • If wild mushrooms are a direct healing spell, they should activate our mastery bonus when we detonate them (so that we don’t have to rely as much on single-target direct heals to activate mastery in AOE healing situations).
  • Wild mushrooms will be a “sometimes food”. I highly doubt that any restoration druid will have 3 GCDs to drop shrooms every 10 seconds, since we do have so many other spells to manage (and the mechanic is clunky enough that it would get frustrating if all you ever did was set up & detonate shrooms). I’m thinking that it may be something that gets heavy use on some fights and likely little to no use on others. It also may end up being better to have a 20 second cooldown on our healing shroom detonate so we don’t feel pressured into using it all the time (since they will be a different spell than the moonkin one, they can have different cooldowns). The use of wild mushrooms should also be  situational, and it’s possible that for some fights, you’ll set the shrooms on the stack up point before the fight starts and only explode them once on the stack up phase (they will sit there for up to 3 minutes waiting to be detonated). In other fights, you may be dropping and popping them more often than others.

Why do we need another healing spell?

As healing in 4.3 will show you, we really have huge weaknesses in our toolset. Getting a targetable barkskin will help with one of the problems (lack of a mitigation cooldown useable on others), but we still have a problem of not having a good tool to provide burst AOE healing.

  • First, While having an overpowered Wild Growth spell (and a cooldown reduction on tranquility) covered up that problem most of this expansion, getting a huge nerf to Wild Growth’s effectiveness exposes the weakness of resto druids. First, resto druids are only good for AOE fights where the AOE damage is frequent small ticks on a large number of people (and don’t have tools really designed to handle burst AOE damage). While an overpowered Wild Growth and really druid-friendly mechanics in Firelands disguised this weakness, it has still been there, festering all this time.
  • Second, Resto druids are very much dependent on having an overpowered Wild Growth that we just mindlessly mash when it comes off cooldown and makes it hard to tell the difference between good & bad resto druids. There is really only one way for restoration druids to AOE heal right now and it’s pretty hard to get wrong. Having to feel like you have to win at meters to be viable is also a really ridiculous place to be for our class right now, and just further exposes our toolset weaknesses. I’m pretty sure that by the end of 4.3, you will be eagerly awaiting having more buttons to be able to hit, based on how healing has felt on the 4.3 PTR thus far.

Does Healing Shrooms fill that gap in our toolset?

Yes and no. We needed more than just Healing Shrooms to keep up with all the new things healers in 5.0 are likely getting, which is why we also get targetable barkskin and other utility tools through our talents.

The criticisms and concern I’ve heard about Healing Shrooms at this point is that people are largely concerned about them being more difficult to use. However, I believe that this is both a feature and a drawback to the spell. You won’t really want to spend 3 GCDs every 10 seconds setting up and detonating shrooms. I really believe that would be a huge problem if the shrooms became so OP that we had to waste all our time deploying them. You also won’t use shrooms as much when you are tank healing, since they require a lot of set-up time that would take you away from your tank (in which case, WG & SM/efflorescence may be what you rely more upon in that role).

However, healing shrooms should give us something we didn’t have before: a bursty AOE healing spell we can use to mix in with the other tools that we have. In some situations, you may rely more upon rejuv for movement-heavy fights that favor HOT blanketing. In more static fights with heavy burst damage, you may pop more shrooms.

Having to choose what spell to use & when to use it will add some much needed decision making into our healing design. Most of the other healer specs already have ground-targeting AOE heals, and while they gnashed their teeth at the idea of having to do ground-targeting heals, it doesn’t seem like they had too hard of a time adjusting to the new mechanic. I’m looking forward to having to plan out how to use wild mushrooms on each encounter, and I’ll probably write up a number of ‘how to shroom’ guides along the way to help druids figure out how to integrate shrooms into their healing.

I believe that Wild Mushrooms are a good choice for filling the Direct AOE healing role for resto druids because it’s a spell the class already has that can easily be re-purposed to healing, and it’s also different from what other healers have in important ways. I’m happy Blizzard isn’t just giving us prayer of healing – it’s giving us something unique to the druid class that mechanically functions different than other ground-targeted AOE tools other healers have.

Conclusions

I hope in this post that I have been able to explain why Wild Mushrooms are a healing tool that resto druids should be looking forward to in Mists of Pandaria. There may be some mechanics issues to work out with fitting it into how resto druids heal now, but I believe that they’ll become an important part of our toolset that will grow on you after a while. 😉

Posted in Blizzcon, Druid - General, Written By Lissanna


Repost: Why you should be excited about Pandaria

Most of my posts here are really critical because that aspect of theorycrafting and “backseat driving” is something I enjoy. However, people who have known me for a long time will realize that I have a lot of trust and respect for the game’s developers. For as much as we all criticize, there are a lot of things they do get right. So, lets look at why I’m excited for Pandaria and why you should be, too (Anne touched on some of these reasons in her post, but I wanted to talk more about it here because that’s just how excited I am):

1. No Story Spoilers!

While a lot of people are upset over not knowing who the end-boss of Pandaria is going to be, this is one thing I’m actually incredibly excited about. When the game originally came out, you didn’t know who the end-bosses were going to be until they released the patch information. You were excited about every raid tier because every raid tier had the “big bad” end-boss and defeating them left you with a strong sense of accomplishment. In every other expansion, we have been chasing that thrill and have been left disappointed. Why? Because having someone spoiler the end-chapter of your mystery book before you start reading it sucks. Sure, the book can still be great, but you know what is coming in the end and the surprise or anticipation of what might be lurking around the corner is totally dead. You know the end-chapter of Cataclysm is Deathwing and so you know every other raid is less important because their end-bosses don’t really matter – they are just designed to get you closer to killing the only boss that actually matters. There is no surprise or anticipation when you know the end of the story. There is no excitement without the unknown.

Withholding information from us about the upcoming raid encounters just means that we have something to look forward to – they can unveil the chapters of Pandaria slowly over time without having to beat us over the head with their punchline in every quest we do. They can let the story unfold naturally and make it feel more alive by allowing the players to be surprised. While everyone worries about that story being too child-like, I trust Blizzard to do their lore Blizzard-style, and that means it’s going to be awesome. Blizzard has written some great storylines over the years and I expect their new storylines in Pandaria to be just as epic as the ones that have come before, only this time, Blizzard gets to surprise us. This allows them to do totally crazy things like making our beloved faction leaders into PvP-themed raid encounters without having to spoiler the whole thing for us a year and a half in advance, or to invent totally new monsters that we haven’t heard of before to invade our darkest nightmares. It  makes total sense for us to NOT know in advance what kinds of dangers lurk in a forgotten land. I can’t wait to see what new evils lurk in the shadows in the seemingly friendly land of Pandaria. Not knowing what lives under your bed is much more thrilling than knowing what is really there. It’s not going to be all cute & cuddly. It’s still Blizzard, the people who brought you Illidan, the Lich King, and Deathwing – they know how to make epic encounters. However, they have to introduce NEW lore so that we don’t have to kill Onyxia again in MoP (I mean how many times can people duct tape her back together?). They just want to make all the raiding tiers feel more epic again by introducing NEW story lines and NEW bosses with NEW lore. For the return of “new” exploration, I’m most thankful of all.

2. Things to do outside of raids and BG/Arenas

Blizzard has usually focused on the leveling experience (Vanilla, Cataclysm) or end-game experience (TBC, WotLK), but the focus has never been on what awaits us outside of raids. There have been PvE daily quest hubs that are entertaining for a week or two and then quickly become grindy & stale – or repeating the same handful of instances over & over again until our brains go numb. Pandaria brings us new things to do outside of our raids or PvP focus and they give us more opportunities for advancing our own characters on our own terms.

  • While some people won’t like pet battles, you can’t fault Blizzard for wanting to come up with creative ways of giving you something to do that feels less like the same-old-grind. At the very least, you get to name the 150 pets you have picked up over the years, and for the ability to run around with “Miniliss” the baby moonkin and “leafy” my trusted baby tree. They give new options for pet collectors to do something with their non-combat pets, in a system that was probably pretty easy to design, and is totally optional (the pet battle stuff won’t have any effect on your main character at all, but they provide an outlet for advancing in the game in a totally new way).
  • The Scenario/skirmishes allow for small group play without needing to wait in an hour long queue for a tank and healer to grace your DPS players with their presence. This gives you something short & fast that you can do without much of a hassle. They’ll never get the LFG system to force people to play on tanks & healers, so it is nice to be able to circumvent that system when you just want something quick to do. You want to run something fast as a DPS player without two hours to sit around in the game? Sure, just hop in a Scenario and fill some time! If the scenarios drain some of the DPS away from the main instances in the LFG, then the LFG queues get shorter. Giving people something to do other than sit in queue may actually help shorten the queue times for the  5-man Heroic Dungeons. If this holds true, then everyone wins, and the 5-man system we use now with fixed roles (tank/heals/DPS) may become secondary to a more fluid and flexible system so that our poor tanks & healers don’t have to be overworked all the time.
  • The timed Challenge-mode dungeons give people a way to earn their sense of accomplishment in a way that doesn’t come from out-gearing content (and they have better replay-ability since you can always get faster, whereas achievements are something you can only earn once). I can see guilds having Challenge-mode contests, within their own guild or against other guilds to see who can be the fastest. The rewards from this are purely cosmetic, but they also have public rankings to allow people to see who is “best” and this is likely going to provide hours of entertainment for people who can use this (rather than having killed X boss) to feel a sense of real accomplishment. The most hard-core players now have a way to show a badge of just how hard-core they really are.

You may not really think these options will make much of a difference. Maybe they will get stale after a while, but they show that Blizzard is trying to make a game that is fun for everyone. You’ll still have your Raids and BGs and Arenas if that’s all you really want to do,  but for people who want more than those three things, you finally aren’t being ignored anymore.

3. They are focusing on solving class “quality of life” issues.

Getting rid of the old talent trees doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really is. For as critical as I will be over the next X years about the new talent tree, I love the fact the old talent tree is getting nuked. This is the one thing that makes me all giggly bouncy happy: They aren’t locked into certain class design problems because of a failed talent system. Lets look at some examples.

  • They need druids to be 4 specs instead of 3? Well, the old system wouldn’t let them (the UI and coding really wasn’t set up in a way that could let them separate cats & bears). With the new system? BAM 4 specs! Problems fixed! Now, you get to choose and specialize and not be limited just because your off-role was too good. They don’t have to constantly fight & struggle with the feral druid spec because they have more design control over what makes cats and bears different (you may even see specialized tier gear for cats & bears, and bears won’t have to get unintended nerfs because of trying to limit things cats can do).
  • They want to get rid of ranged weapon slots and relics? BAM! No more ranged slot and relics! What did this have to do with the talent trees? Well, they’d have to go thru and change every single talent from every single tree that related to this ranged slot, and make sure there are new talents to fit with the new system  and new spells/abilities that would come along with the change. Every time they make a mechanic decision, they have to look at how it effects thousands of different talents. Well, no more. They get a chance in 5.0 to deal with quality of life issues for the classes that allow them to make more changes because they have fewer unintended consequences.
  • They can change/remove any spell or ability for any class without having to change a dozen talents that were based around that spell/ability (ie. changing hunters to focus instead of mana in Cataclysm would have been easier on Blizzard if they didn’t have to do all the supporting talent changes).

Even if the new talent system leave a lot to be desired, I’m overall much happier with what I feel will come out of the change. We haven’t seen what the classes will feel like in Mists of Pandaria, but I’m really excited to start that adventure. It’s a whole new way of class design for the developers that opens up a lot of opportunities to make this game more fun. Now, they may mess up a long the way, and they can’t make everyone happy. However, Mists of Pandaria brings with it a lot of exciting opportunities to make the game more fun for everyone. I miss the sense of “new” and “exciting” that have been lost along the way, and I can’t wait to see what is around the corner.

(and if you aren’t convinced, there are more reasons why you should love MoP that Anne wrote on Wow Insider)

Posted in Blizzcon, Written By Lissanna


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