#RACEto20K ~ How to Stay Interested in MoP while Waiting for WoD!

20k

Every expansion around this time, the inevitable happens! No matter what primary focus you have within the game, things start to get a bit stale after nothing new being introduced for weeks, and Mists of Pandaria is not looking to be any different.melting-desk-clock-1

With the recent announcement of ANOTHER pvp season, one can only surmise that we have another 3-4 months remaining in this final tier and patch. There is some gray area however, especially now with the 5.4.7 ptr patch notes public and containing information about the 550 ilvl upcoming season’s gear, as well as some other changes.

Regardless of time, it’s only healthy to feel your interest slip, and even for someone like myself – a 25 man heroic guild leader – I find myself looking for something else to occupy my time. While this is perfectly natural, it’s not without a solution… and today we will discuss what I have found to be the best option towards this!

The whole idea started when Syiler, Meoni, and I were talking about plans for WoD. We were wondering just how many new achievements and secondary -interest type things would be added to the game such as pet battle or brawler’s guild. It was at this point that the idea dawned on me! I would use this vast time to add to my achievement points!

Now at first, I didn’t really understand what this meant. I knew there were a lot of people in my guild with 20k Achievement Points, but I suppose I took it for granted when thinking about just what needed to be done. You have to understand, to reach this level; you need to explore every option in the video game. This means PVP, Pet Battles, PVE and Raiding, Leveling, Questing, World Events, professions and many more!

When I realized this, I felt even more enthusiastic about the idea. As a person who has known to put his head down and focus only on 25 man heroic progression, I have never really put much thought into things like questing or archeology. Once I started, I found myself unable to stop; constantly searching through the vast list for another achievement I could do that wouldn’t take insane efforts.

Looks for Areas that you have the least in and start there! Like Pet Battles!

Looks for Areas that you have the least in and start there! Like Pet Battles!

Soon after a full day of pet battling and cooking, the notion was solidified in my mind: “Everyone should try this, it’s the way the game was meant to be played!” Let’s discuss why as well as how doing this can overcome some common misunderstandings about the game.

The first major thing I realized about this is how much this makes you explore the World of Warcraft. I personally have been playing since day 1 back in 2004, and given the expansions have changed the game complete, saw soooo many things I had no idea about. The more you explore the zones and dig around, the more you realize just what high detail has really gone into this game. Even some zones you may have hated years ago, now truly shine. This is very important for players of the game to realize, as there is a sweeping generalization about that WoW’s golden years are behind them. After you just have a fly around the world discovering everything, you may think different!

The second huge revelation that I arrived at was just how many different types of content there is in the game, and especially how little there used to be. You see, Achievements were introduced in 3.0, the patch that ended BC and began Wrath. This seemed trivial at the time for me, but now I realize that the things I found myself doing in the game were exclusively possible because of achievements. This race to 20k does more than just make you put your head down and grind out points; it allows you to experience content you would have never considered interesting before. For example, I have never really been interested in PVP since Classic, and even less now with all the new additions to MoP. However, it will be impossible to get to 20k with doing most of the BG achieves.

Along the way, I get to explore content I have never really tried, and develop intelligent approaches to getting the achievements. Another great example would be archeology or fishing. Most people seem to have a predisposed hatred to these professions, and I can say I was among them until recently. I found fishing to be incredibly peaceful, as it demands you play with ambient sounds on to hear the bobber. I also found archeology to be enriching, and helpful to learn a bit more about the lore and the zones. All of these things are extremely important for a player to understand and experience for themselves, because a lot of people further a misconception that the game is boring or dead. This was never something I subscribed to, but now can refute it even easier knowing what I know. If you are bored by the game, the race to 20k will change this for you! It will get you out in the world doing things you never thought of before, and hopefully reinvigorate your interest in the world.

Doubling Up will be your best ally! Try to do Achievements that lead to bigger ones.

Doubling Up will be your best ally! Try to do Achievements that lead to bigger ones.

The final and arguably most important thing I discovered on the starting leg of this marathon was just how much I can do with my characters. Some achievements may be easier to do on a Paladin, while some may be easier to do on a Shaman DPS. Obviously, a lot of them will be best done on your most equipped character, but I was really excited to not only have to do things I wouldn’t normally consider fun, but do them on characters I wouldn’t have used for that purpose otherwise. This goes hand in hand with another fundament revealed here, that I am pushed to develop strategies for not only getting one achievement done, but getting them all done in a timely fashion! When you play the game for as long as I have, you start to grow bored of optimization and facilitation, but now that I have a goal every day, it all feels new and interesting again!

Now, I know a lot of you may be thinking 20k is absurdly far away from your current number, so let’s put it in perspective. I had just fewer than 13000 when I started two weeks ago, and now have 14750. Obviously I will run out of the easy achievements soon and be left with ones that will consume a lot of time, but that is the point after all. It’s best to not look at 20k as the end, but a suggestion. If I only get to 18k when the expansion hits, but had fun along the way, that I still win.

That compliments things nicely, as for a lot of you, 20k may literally not be reachable. You may be playing the game at a casual level, and not even have max professions, let alone enough gear to drudge through old raid achievements.  For those of you in this situation, feel free to set a more realistic goal. The purpose is to have fun and keep you interested in WoW, and I promise you that if you truly enjoy the game for what it is, this will keep your interest. I was skeptical at first and previously had no interest in achievement gathering, but now I realize I was missing a HUGE part of the game!

Hear more about this topic:

 

2nd Stratics Level 1 Treasure Hunt Completed! – Grats to our winners!

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wow___tirisifal_glades___brill_13_by_byorrsingyr-d4j49m3Congrats to our winners!
1st – Xmpel
2nd – Goggetta
3rd – Morgs1314
4th – Crider
5th – Runninman
Honorable Mention – Kritz

Hello and welcome to the second Stratics Level 1 Treasure Hunt! The event will take place on EU servers, using the realm Ghostlands as the basis. In order to participate in the contest, you will be creating a level 1 Undead of any class, equipped with nothing but the starter gear. The goal is to follow a laundry list “Treasure Hunt” style, working out clues and hints to six specific locations. From the Undead starting area, you will travel the world uncovering its mysteries as well as taking in the scenic views of the video game we all love. At each location will be a “Quest Giver” who will reward you with the information or item you will need to move on to the next trial. Differing from last time, there will not be an initiation gate, so if you aren’t on time expect to be at a significant disadvantage!

To be declared successful, you will have completed all 6 trials and possess all 5 of the previous items when you reach the 6th Quest Giver. At this point, you will trade in what you have earned thus far, and will be rewarded with a legendary item to signify your success! The top three place for some fabulous prizes!

The first-place winner will be awarded 20 GBP Stratics Credit on the Blizzard Store! With this, you can choose any combination of items that equate, such as:

1x Mount,
2x Game Time,
1x Game Time + 1x Pet,
etc.

The second and third place will be awarded their choice of either 1 pet or game time!

The contest will begin on Saturday at 3:00 PM GMT+0 (10am EST) and will be streamed on www.twitch.tv/straticswow. Expect around 2 hours for the full event.

The First Trial:

On the Dock we rarely sleep,
This lake, now filled with all disease.
Though here we find Gunther’s Retreat
And start the race to win some things!

The Answer is: Brightwater Lake Dock!

The Second Trial:

Plants and death, here you will find
homage to some other kind
of game, perhaps a wicked call
Past Dalaran before the fall.

The Answer is: Brazie Farmstead, outside the Dalaran Crater!

 The Third Trial:

The once great empire of Arathor now sits quiet.
Past the Syndicate, watching the Insane,
a group of pirates still claim this cave.
Rumor of a path around the walls echo
in the ears of those eager to win!

The Answer is: Faldir’s Cove!

The Fourth Trial:

Under the restless mountains, once impassable with time,
our journey finds a path, such past the Aerie within rhyme.
Once a restless Nightmare, some seldom travel shows,
that the victor claims their spoils, from Dragons long ago.

The Answer is: Seradane!

The Fifth Trial:

A gap we see in the peak!
The path brings pain and bliss,
a brief respite on top the school
Where Barov used to sit.

The Answer is: On top of Scholomance!

The Sixth and FINAL Trial:

Once Silver Hands reached towards the sky
though by frosted blade he fell.
The Light we find, honors his mind
and all he sought to quell.

The Answer is: Uther’s Tomb!

25H Thok the Bloodthirsty – Metro’s Healing Guide!

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Welcome to Metro’s 25 man Heroic Healing guides for the Siege of Orgrimmar! It is important to understand that these guides are first aimed at helping healers understand their role, and then helping them maximize their play. Each will feature a general overview of the mechanics that matter to the healers, and conclude with a class-specific discussion. Let’s begin!

thok1

Understanding the encounter –

As alluded to in the Malorok guide, you now stand before the third of the true healing challenges in Siege of Orgrimmar. This fight is purely the most exhilarating, and quite a contrast from the others, as you will see 25 people face death every second for about 45 seconds multiple times throughout the encounter.

In order to understand the strategy, you need to understand that everything this fight is, was, or ever will be, can be weighed against your level of strategy and preparation. Some guilds favor this and some despise it, but unfortunately without proper coordination and pre-determined rotation of abilities, you will not complete this encounter.

You also will need to set up world markers to show you exactly where is safe from the yeti’s charge, and hopefully your raiders do the rest there. It’s also important the run the dinosaur flawlessly, and if there is any hiccup along the way it will result in the dinosaur in sub-optimal position, which can dramatically effect healing and the dps requirement as well.

The last phase is purely a scramble, so if you can’t beat the soft enrage of him speeding up, you’ll need to implement more stacks in other phases.

Understanding the Healer’s Role –

The healing role on this encounter is very much the role of a foot soldier in a grand campaign. Your job is to perform your abilities at PRECISELY the correct time, and use them well. There is nothing else to this fight as a healer, and if you all do your jobs perfectly, things will go flawlessly. If you do not, you have no hope of completing the encounter.

We will use our set of cooldowns as a guideline for explaining how you should organize yours, and I will explain each decision specifically.

Click to Enlarge.

Click to Enlarge.

The image seen here is the set-up we use for our first stack. The black numbers indicate each screech, and the red indicate the ones we are pressing through to end. We 7 heal this currently, but have tried 8 healing, and would suggest the same if you are struggling, especially if the 8th addition is a Shaman, Druid, or Priest. Also, if you don’t already have at least 2 paladins, this fight will be incredibly difficult. The more paladins the better, so if you have someone on the bench who isn’t necessarily in the raid, you will likely need them for this one, as Devotion aura will carry. It will make the enrage a non-factor, and will make the healing requirement much easier. If you could have 7-8 devo auras, you probably wouldn’t even need a CD rotation.

Let’s start by explaining each major CD usage, and why it’s being used there. We take 5 hits without any real CDs past healthstones and personals – something that any group should be able to replicate with 7/8 healers. From here, our first CD is Devo. The goal for the three paladins is to chain them back to back to create a 15 second window where all DPS can continue to go nuts. You notice 15 seconds, because it’s important to pop the subsequent when the previous is as 1 second, not 0. If for any reason you lag out or miss time it, people will get interrupted and it has the potential of clipping a major CD or disrupting DPS in a way that they never get comfortable again.

During the Devo’s we make use of 1 major CD and a few minor. Pork is a Restoration Druid, and we have his tranq used first to stabilize, but if you are short of on-demand throughput, you can probably get away without a major CD and just spam your best AOE heal through the Devo blanket. After the tranq ends, we have our Elemental Shaman use Ancestral Guidance (AG), as it’s based on damage he deals, so otherwise useless later.

The next combination is my Devo as Elto’s ends, coupled with a Glyphed Vampiric Embrace from our Shadow Priest, and Tranquility + Heart of the Wild from our Tank Druid. Our final Devo comes up as mine goes down, and with it, we use Syiler’s AG and blow our final big AOE heals.

From here, things get heavy, so we stack two Tranqs on top of each other. This is where Hand of Protection (BoP) comes in and is the reason you want to bring at least 3 paladins, otherwise you won’t have enough for when you need it. Sniffle, a Restoration Druid, gets the first and uses his Tranquility 1 screech after the Devo ends. Phoonkin, a Bombkin, gets also uses his tranq+<3, but does not need a BoP, as he is using Symbiosis on our Warlock, granting Unending Resolve.

Once the Tranqs are over we try to buffer 3 or 4 screeches with 1m personals, Healing Tide Totems from Syiler and Terta (DPS shaman), and Drekrar’s Demo Banner. Soon after, the second BoP goes to our Holy Priest Vicario and he uses Divine Hymn.

Coming down the home stretch, we see a Rallying Cry from Drek, and Healing Tide from Hash, a Restoration Shaman. This is where things get tricky, and can be the reason you hit the enrage or not.

Around the 24th hit, we drop Spirit Link in the middle of both groups, and collapse at the 25th. Faldor, a Discipline priest, uses his Bubble on top of the totem, as well as another round of personals if available. The goal here is to not heal, but sit in these reduction CDs and ride out the last 4 screeches. Every time we have attempted this, it works so that we are stacked for the 26th, and the CDs don’t break until the 29th. On the 30th, we take the massive damage needed to enter bloodrage, and not a moment too soon, as if you reach a 31st hit the fight ends.

Meta-Strategy For the Remainder -

At this point, you simply run to where you are supposed to be with the Jailer, and regen mana. Heal when needed, but as long as the run is handled properly, this is AFK phase until you go back into the Screeches and stacks.

Now that you understand our strategy and rotation, you can employ your own where needed. I will use the rest of this article to discuss where the fight takes us from here and how you should handle it as healers.

The next time you see screeches, you will quickly realize your CDs are not back up for when you would need them. It is because of this, we have elected to end this phase early. We take 4 hits, then stack for the 5th and use 1 min cds + Personals. This rides us through the 5th hit, and the 6th will push the blood rage. Run the dino around, and then get ready for another main sequence.

The third time you see the screeches will be the most volatile, as it should be the time you get the bats. These bats present an interesting complication, as not only do they do damage, but they need to be killed ASAP. It is for this reason that we push all our CDs forward to blanket Devo over the window we need to take down the bats. If we did not do this, ranged DPS on them would be extremely weak and they would heal for more than was incoming.

Stage 3

You will see that everything is just moved up, but the marker for starting is when the bats are in the prime location. I try to urge the Devo to start around the 4th screech instead of the 3rd, to push out a few extra seconds of DPS time, but this is not always possible.

At this point, we are using the Devo to help the DPS, not the healers, and once the bats are dead things can resume as normal.

The other issue that needs to be made apparent is the poison debuffs happening throughout the entirety of the green door. It is simply not possible to dispel them all normally, and I really don’t know why they thought that mechanic was a good idea, as is mandates priests in the raid. Regardless, the only option is Mass Dispel, and luckily we have three, will go out during the Devo.

Around the 20th we collapse under the Spirit Link and Barrier as described earlier and ride out as many as possible, usually breaking around the 25th or 26th.

From here, another run phase and the final screech phase will take place with fire crowding the dance floor. With fire, we choose to stay spread for two stacks, then collapse under whatever we have left and heal through it as long as we can. There is no set order or strategy, and are officially forsaking order for the will of entropy, allowing the dino to phase on final time.

The Scramble –

The truest descriptor I can conjure for this phase, we call it the Scramble because we let the dino push and chase people until it dies. This is not what most groups would recommend, but I find it much simpler and provided you have the DPS, it negates the actual enrage. If he DOES hit the enrage here, you can continue to run around, while if he enrages in the screech phase, they will just one-shot the whole raid.

At this point, it’s the healers job to do as much DPS as possible, and patch everyone up who needs it. Use whatever you have available to make this happen, and as big CDs come back up, pop them. Devos and the early Tranqs used should go out ASAP. Prioritize ranged DPS over melee, as most melee will barely be able to get a global in while dodging the fire and chasing the dino.

Either way, if you make it this far, you will know the fight is over. Take a moment to bask in the true irony this fight presents. It starts off being a meticulously detailed formula, planned down to the very second. It completes with 25 people running around like loons, a yeti smashing into half of them, and a dinosaur chasing 1 man at the speed of light.

Enjoy it my friends, as it is the true pinnacle of 25 man Heroic Healing, and may be the last time we ever see 7-8 healing CD coordination on this level with Mythic around the corner. It is without question my favorite encounter to heal in this video game, and gets me emotional just thinking about it as so, knowing what the expansion holds.

Class Specific Tips –

Holy Paladin: You are the king of utility here. Clemency BoP, and Devo Aura make the fight possible. Ret and Prot can do the same, with equal efficacy. Throughput probably the weakest, unfortunately. Be sure to use CDs chained with Light’s hammer, and in the Devo blanket. Also, use Bubble aggressively as another smalling healing surge. Cautious of the tank, and there is little casting happening towards the end, beacon will not be enough at times. Time Light’s Hammer with the bats to double triple dip damage on Thok, Bats, and healing on the raid.

Resto Shaman: Best throughput without question. Healing Rain and Chain heal reign supreme, as well as 2p Earth Shield on the tank. Healing Tide as good, if not better than Tranq and Hymn, and Spirit Link is hilariously OP on this fight, as it will ensure your health never goes below 50 while it’s active. Use this as a buffer at the end.

Resto Druid: Tranquility is carry-mode. Efflorescent mushrooms and hots will do work as well. Time Wild Growth after a screech to see crazy numbers.

Holy / Disp priest: Divine Hymn will carry early, and Bubble will carry if stacked. Bubble hard to use, as its too small to reach both stack points. Spirit Shell can negate a large portion of a screech, time with Devo. Mass Dispel is mandatory unfortunately. Divine Star can double and triple dip with bats and generally is ridiculous healing.

Misty Monk: (Do not currently have a monk healer in our progression.) Revival OVERPOWERED for poision phase. Use it towards the end when no Mass Dispels are available, clearing upwards of 15-20 debuffs!! Fistweaving and passive AOE likely make Monk an ideal candidate as well. Can Zen Med to block some damage on one, or use during Devo to cover multiple.

Staring contest with Thok is not the best plan!

Staring contest with Thok is not the best plan!

TLDR Recap –

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to prepare for this encounter, or a short version of the strategy. The strategy, especially as healers, requires outside-the-raid preparation, and I would recommend your leadership create a live-form spreadsheet as we did. You can edit it as you progress and everyone will see any changes you make as you make them.
Otherwise, the best advice I can give you is use your CDs at exactly the same time every single attempt. The more you do it, the more muscle memory that part will become, and it will allow you to focus on min/maxing other areas, or even DPS.

As always, this guide is from the perspective of a Holy Paladin in 25 man heroic raid leadership perspective. Experience is limited when it comes to priest and monk healers, so if you have input feel free to join the conversation! Otherwise, if you have any questions feel free to ask! Enjoy SoO!

If you would like to see our kill, check out

Where do you think it will come from and what name would you give it? Let us know!

 

 

Creepiest Places in World Of Warcraft!

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We all have had that feeling, it’s a huge world, people everywhere, NPC´s, other players, Mobs both good and bad, but the feeling in these places is just shudder. Look over your shoulder creepy. And I’m not talking scary places, just places you don’t want to be in more than you have to or has some event that will creep the hell out of you.

Karazhan and Karazhan crypts

Kara

This place is just horrifying. The first time you walk in, there are ghosts everywhere, song and dance, everything looks happy and joyful, well, it ain’t, it´s a creepfest from the start to the end. Everything is dead, yet still go about like normal and the deeper you go in Kara the creepier it gets, until you find the jewel: Karazhan Crypts and the lovely underwater grave of the Upside Down Sinners. Lovely place and a fitting end to the Karazhan exploration.

Duskwood

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Not any place in particular here. To me, the whole zone is just creepy and depressing, it has no light, no sun, no nothing, just darkness and long distances where one’s mind can wander and see things in the night. One of the places in WoW, where you just want to go and quest and get out of there as fast as humanly possible. And to top it off, there is one house, where there are voices and a ghostly figure called The Unseen. It´s a good place to quest, but the creepiness and the gloom of it all has made me change zones many times.

Deathknight starting area

DK

You might be thinking: Wot? But let me explain. Everything in this place is about death and dying. This place and Duskwood have the same effect on me. I just want to get away as fast as possible. You kill innocent townsfolk, for the fun of it. There is the one quest that epitomizes the whole ordeal. You have to go and kill your friend, it doesn’t matter what race you choose, there is an old friend to kill for everyone, but this also brings home what the whole area is all about and how Lich King is a douche and how the things you do are so very wrong.

Elwynn Forest

Creepy kids

And not only on RP servers. The only reason this gets mentioned here, is the CC, World Of Warcraft version of Children Of The Corn. The creepy kids, who move in a pentagram formation. And when you follow them into the house you hear the creepy sounds and voices. It would be less creepy with adults or ghouls, but when it´s kids involved, it ups the creep factor to 10. Just follow them around ans see it for yourself.

Barbershop in Stormwind

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This one is not that creepy, but it´s more of an Easter Egg if you will.  Have you heard the tale of  Sweeney Todd. Blizzard has, because, when you go to the barbershop in Stormwind, nothing seems out of place, sure the heads on the table are Goblin, but thats understandable. But when you go upstairs and check the right side of the table, you can clearly see that the former owners were retired, and I’m not that sure they had any say about it.

Game’s Too Easy? – Graphical Fidelity and Changes!

BetterOrc

Hello and welcome to the series “Game’s too Easy?” Within, Metro will sarcastically discuss any number of assorted topics in an attempt to dispel myths and hearsay surrounding such. The focus of today’s discussion will be the graphical fidelity of World of Warcraft, with the main focus of dispelling the rumor that the graphics are poor and have remained poor since the start. We will also compare WoW’s graphical style to other games and discuss things in the bigger picture.

Before we begin, I would like to point out that I know little about the technical side of graphics, but I do know what my eyes and brain tell me. Apologies in advance if I use terms as a novice would. Also, I realize this doesn’t affect the game’s difficulty, but I feel it is a major complaint that people always bring up when discussing the game’s state so it will addressed the same way as other topics.

Since the game first came out in 2004, it’s been a common point to bring up the less than stunning graphics WoW contained. Surely in 2004 there wasn’t much to compare it to, but anyone with functioning eyes and neurons could understand the argument given some of the examples below.

Classic org

Classic Orgrimmar.

 

Classic zone

Classic Ashenvale

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we see here is low quality and resolution textures, as well as odd shapes making up the majority of the structures. With this in mind, the first logical step would be to attempt to compare WoW’s engine to other video games. This seems fair… if done under certain circumstances!

The argument that always seems to surface when talking about games launching with little to zero end game content is as follows: “what do you expect, WoW is 10 years old, obviously it will have more content than a brand-new game.” Well if that statement is obvious to some, then the same statement should be logical when applied to graphics!

Now as I said, I don’t know much about how actual visual development works, but I’m sure running a video game based off graphics from ten years ago doesn’t help much. So while new games like Guild Wars and SWToR may appear to dominate in graphics, it’s important to keep things in perspective.

Carry on with the previous quote, and follow the trail it creates. If WoW has 10 years of content, but 10 year old graphics, and “New MMOx” has brand-new content and brand-new graphics, which would you prefer? Be honest with yourself, because it’s not uncommon to play a game simply because it looks pretty, but unfortunately the graphics only shimmer for so long, and then it comes down to what you are actually doing in the game. Perhaps it can be said that new games are spending too much time and resources on their graphics and not enough on their gameplay? That’s a topic for another installment though!

Let’s move on to the second major topic here, that being that WoW does nothing to compete or improve their graphical fidelity. This was a major topic in Wrath of the Lich King around the time Aion launched, and back then I would have agreed to some point with it, but every expansion since has leaped miles towards a better look and style.

The pictures below demonstrate the first major jump in my eyes: the redesign of the water in WoW. The pre-cata water looks absolutely dreadful, and looking back, it seems unfathomable to think that it was that way for so long. The new water, while not the most realistic or breathtaking water in any game, looks sooooo much more realistic and really makes me want to jump right in and splash about!

Water Pre cata

Pre-Cataclysm Water Graphics.

Water Cata+

Cataclysm Upgrade to Water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next image is a side by side comparison of textures in general. On the left, we see the Temple of Ahn’qiraj, known as AQ40, as it was in 2004. Let’s not forget exactly what this way folks… This was a RAID instance, the highest pinnacle of development WoW produced at the time, and one that contained what most people would remember as the greatest world event in any MMO. The raid was a smashing success and contained a huge sprawling architecture that was meant to pre-date anything the player had seen before.

AQ40 : Deepholm

AQ40 : Deepholm

With all this effort put into a raid instance, I find it sickening to look at the floor and wall textures. The ground is meant to be sand, but you can barely tell that it’s anything more than a light brown paste covering some stone. The various inflections of color do add some flavor, but if they are removed you would literally have what resembles a smooth brown rug carpeted in the den of the most insidious creatures Blizzard has created. The walls don’t fare much better either! It’s hard to describe exactly what we are supposed to be seeing here, but at least the color and art scheme seems to fit the bug-filled instance more than the ground. The worst of it is the attempt to use shadow to create indentation, yet the resolution is so poor you can barely tell it’s even there unless you study closely.

Then we look to our right and see a chunk of the zone Deepholm. Once again, remember what we are looking at. This is NOT a raid instance; it is simply a questing area for people around level 82-83, one that most people skipped given the path of Cataclysm. We immediately see everything we didn’t see in the previous picture – detailed ground textures that make you actually feel like you are standing on mossy rock, and a pillar with real shadow quality and resolution to make it feel like it’s not just some smooth piece of pixels.  On top of this, we see the crystal lights hanging from the top of the area, not seen in anything previous.

Next up, we can examine Mists of Pandaria and what it has brought to the game graphically. Below we see three images from the Jade Forest, the opening area of Mists of Pandaria. Without any question, this is the most graphically impressive and immersive zone in the video game for me, and I hope you agree as well. Even if all the other zones looked like AQ40, I would still call the expansion a success for being able to create such a beautiful image to help us find ourselves deep within the Pandaren culture. The theme especially is important, as it’s very unique from what we expected, yet not something new.

Jade Forest.

Jade Forest.

 

 

Jade Forest Architecture.

Jade Forest Architecture.

Jade Forest Theme

 

Most people wouldn’t make the connection, but think about the previous example of AQ40. It too is set in a land completely foreign to what we had seen so far, and should also be rich with idyllic structure and image. At the time, they incorporated obelisks and grand doorways, but when comparing the two, there is no mistake to be made. The art team has really shined here, and it’s obvious to me that visual aesthetics have raised to the top of Blizzard’s priority list.

While WoD is not yet even in beta, it is already clear to see that they are maintaining this dedication to improvement of graphical fidelity by the images below. One of the main features is the rework of character models, which some may look at as trivial, but I find to be confirmation of their intention. The artwork of the zones shown as well is as stunning as Jade Forest was, and despite a very different theme, I am confident in saying that this expansion will continue to improve on beautiful imagery. While the engine and scope of the graphics may still falter when compared to a game like Tera or Aion, the overall immersion and respect for the zones and raids continue to escalate with each content patch. No matter what, I find it undeniable to say that marked improvement is happening, and that we are finally looking at a complete game – with both breathtaking scenery, and the best end game content in the market!

Another Zone Theme in WoD.

Another Zone Theme in WoD.

Character Model Updates.

Character Model Updates.

One of the Zone Themes in WoD.

One of the Zone Themes in WoD.

Thanks for reading! As always, we encourage comments and discussion here at Stratics, so if you have any thing you would like to add, it would be my pleasure to continue the conversation!

 

WoW Stratics Podcast #1 ~ WoD Raiding Changes

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Hello ladies and gentlemen. Today is a very special day indeed!
For it marks the launch of the BRAND NEW, official WoW Stratics Podcast.
The podcast is a joint effort by everyone here at the WoW Stratics writing team, and challenges topics bi-weekly with special guests, interviews, News, Community integration and much, much more!
Our Hosts include; Syiler, the Managing Editor of WoW Stratics, Metro; a 25 player heroic raider and raid leader, Samkos; A relatively new player to the game, and Meoni, a fellow 25 man raider and resident timekeeper here on the show!

This first episode of the podcast focuses on the forthcoming expansion set for World of Warcraft and the changes to endgame raid composition, as well as the impact the changes will have on guilds and players alike.
This week features our special guest Fizzy https://twitter.com/Fizzy297, an experienced 10 player difficulty heroic raider, offering refreshing opinions and insight into the differences between our own experiences here on the podcast.

The Podcast is available on the site as a stream and on our official Itunes channel, available free to download for your listening pleasure, no matter where you are!
So what are you waiting for? Go listen in today!

If you have any comments or opinions on the shows content please do head over to our forums for an in-depth discussion!

Game’s Too Easy? – Raid Difficulty Changes and Comparison!

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Hello and welcome to the series “Game’s too Easy?” Within, Metro will sarcastically discuss any number of assorted topics in an attempt to dispel myths and hearsay surrounding such. The focus of today’s discussion will be the difficulty changes PVE Endgame, aka “Raiding” has seen since its conception and the unfounded rumors of how this effects difficulty. The secondary goal is to dispel any notion that because LFR is out, top-tier progression is somehow made “too easy.”

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In order to properly understand this topic, we first must understand the progression of raiding. For those of you who have been around since day one as I have you will do best to skip ahead or get a drink while this part runs its course.

In the beginning there was only darkness, and the world was not yet molded. There was only a great darkness and the Everlasting Dragons ruled with impunity. We had but one raid difficulty at launch, being 40 man, yet having a variety of dungeon options. The original concept the game contained was a free-form dungeon style, allowing any number of people (1 through 40) to be able to complete a dungeon, but obviously allowing only one piece of gear from most bosses to discourage this. From this, we have developed 5 mans, and one 10 man dungeon known as Blackrock Spire.

It’s important to understand that bit of information so you can understand what 40 man raiding actually was. As was the case with dungeons, raiding also was very much this way. MC was encouraged to be done with any number of players, and had so few mechanics that most of the entry could easily be done with 20 or even less! Of course, this was fundamentally flawed, because raid lock outs where number-specific, so you couldn’t break down into multiple groups to kill early bosses for extra loot and you would obviously need a full raid to complete the latter half, so it was an inconvenient  concept to think of.

First documented appearance of the line between "casual" and "raider."

First documented appearance of the line between “casual” and “raider.”

Unconfirmed is their intentions with this, but it was likely the earliest form of the Flex difficulty idea – allowing a smaller number of players access to bosses that were complete jokes with a full 40, but requiring larger numbers for latter, especially the last two. Regardless, early bosses dropped as low as 2 pieces, while Ragnaros dropped 6.

As the vanilla game continues, we find ourselves getting real mechanics around Chromagus in BWL, and then through some of AQ40, as well as all of Naxx 40. The developers noticed the model wasn’t quite working, and anyone taking anything serious had solid 35-40 players that could knock over any encounter. On top of this, addon and boss timers were making raiding easier each week. However, the groups that could not field 40 were left in the cold without hope. They could NEVER complete anything past BWL, and even if they could scrape together a full raid, it was near impossible to keep it together with the top guilds scavenging for anyone with epics and attunements.

Thus the lords of Light find the world and the Burning Crusade was born. The expansion was announced shortly after Naxx’s deployment, and with it the word of massive changes to the raid system. The dungeon caps added in Classic would carry on to TBC, and raiding would be capped to 25 man size as the upper level of content, but with a ten man alternative that gave viable gear. This allowed small groups to still get something done and made it possible to gear up without needing a full group regularly.

The jump from 40 to 25 man was extremely harsh for a lot of groups, but Blizzard recognized that 40 man presented two distinct problems. The first was that most 40 mans had to carry 10-15 players anyway, especially with how little gear was available, and the second was how despite thousands of man hours and dollars going into raids, most players would never see it because of both its coordination requirement and then difficulty later. This is an important time to remember, as it EXTREMELY relatable to the MoP -> WoD changes that we will be discussed in our first Podcast, as well as in another article soon.

While TBC progresses, we continue to get more content to do like is expected. The original plan of 25 man being the top tier of progression falters in tier 4, but is the only option in tier 5 and 6. However, a few months after Black Temple was well underway, Zul Aman was announced as the next 10 man raid of the expansion, once again allowing both under-geared raiders to catch up on off nights, but also players without a suitable home to see some PVE endgame. The expansion continues without a hitch, but by Sunwell’s deployment it is obvious there are two very separate scenes developing.

With this in mind, Wrath is announced and once again carries sizable raid changes. For this expansion, we will see both 10 AND 25 man difficulties of the same raid – a HUGE step in the direction of localizing communities that couldn’t field a successful team. The largest contributor to this decision surely was the issues surrounding both Naxx40 and Sunwell – which a hilariously small percentage of the raiding community would complete, and an even smaller percentage of the overall community would ever see past the first trash pack.

At this point, we see the first signs of Blizzard’s willingness to discredit the epic feeling of large group raiding to help smaller groups of people stay interested, likely due to the fact that there was nothing else available once max level was reached. Luckily, Wrath continues with a pretty interesting model, having 10 man as a considerably easier difficulty and tuned such, so that 25 man was still the top tier of raiding and dropped better loot to prove it.

Here we see another stem in the evolution of the Flex notion, allowing for 10 players to see the content they normally would have never seen, but making sure actual raiders were still given the challenge and accomplishments they wanted.

As the expansion progressed, Wrath of the Lich King continued with its segregation further, introducing “Heroic” modes. This started out simply for achievement purposes and were contained within some vague element you could incorporate into the encounter to artificially increase the difficulty. However, it concluded with concrete “flip of a switch” difficulty status, that added a whole new sub-tier to the raid. The concept is as we know it then, where you have to complete normal before you can complete Heroic, and both shared a lock out.

After the expansion came to a close, we look back and see massive change from TBC. Many people won’t take the time to properly examine the change from 10 and 25 raids once separate to both being in the same instance, and even fewer will acknowledge the further segregation Heroic brought. Let it be clear: Heroic raiding should be regarded as the difficulty of choice for anyone playing seriously, and should be comparable to BT and Sunwell, where as Normal is T4 and T5. This is the second lesson of the day, and it should stick in your mind until we reach the final discussion.

Things were much more epic with 40 players!

Things were much more epic with 40 players, but difficulty was compromised.

The mentality of the company changed even more so with Cataclysm’s announcement. Attached was another substantial change – that 10 and 25 would be tuned equally and that both would share loot ilvls between respective normal and heroic difficulties. With one fell swoop Blizzard had managed to completely destroy everything that raiding originally was, in favor of these small groups of voices that popped up. Originally, raiding was meant to be epic and required many people, but as more and more people continue to reach max level, we get more people not wanting to try to find large group raiding guilds, and just do content with their immediate friends. However, I personally feel they overstepped their boundaries by asking not only to avoid large group raiding, but then to ask that they get the same rewards as those doing it the intended way.

This is the way progression raiding is all through Cata and MoP, and unfortunately has created a massive rift that essentially killed off any fresh group looking to do 25 man raiding. Why bother, when ten man is so much easier to not only coordinate, but recruit skilled players per available slots for?

Now let’s remember the second lesson here, that Heroic difficulties of each 10 and 25 are still and should remain the target for anyone considering themselves a serious endgame PvE player. Promise me guys, it’s really important you remember this because… things are about to get all messed up…

At this point, we receive the Great Calamity, called Meds Yeghern by the Armenians, but known as Looking for Raid by the English. It’s important to understand everything else you have read thus far before we discuss LFR, as it will allow you to come to the realization that I am about to put on paper before I do so.

As you and I travelled through the timeline of World of Warcraft raiding, we learned that Blizzard as a company was disappointed in how many people got to see the raids they spent months designing. This caused them to implement the 10 man difficulty wholly in Wrath, where before it was meant to act as a catch up as well as daycare for those who couldn’t field 25. In cataclysm, they removed the segregation and allowed both to be treated as equals, and because of this, a gap was left unfilled.

You see now? In their eyes, LFR was the logical choice, as it did exactly what they had been trying to do for ever. You were now able to see the full raid with 24 other humans as it was intended, but through a considerably easier difficulty. This level of difficulty was what the original ten man concept in Wrath was meant to be – something you could join with anyone you wish, and have little resistance doing so, while getting to see the content. I would have imagined the queuing system would have been included as well in Wrath if the technology was available at launch, but it was not.

Hopefully we are on the same page here, but if not let me spell it out for you. LFR has been brought into the game to help people who can’t raid otherwise see content that is presented as a major focus of each patch. The difficulty is as it is to ensure people do get to see all of it, and was simply a replacement for the whole that was left when ten player difficulties escalated to endgame levels.

Anyone with a brain ticking inside their head should now understand exactly how raiding should be examined and why LFR is what it is. 25 man Heroic progression raiding IS the pinnacle, and should be equitable to TBC’s Black Temple etc. Normal raiding should be equitable to Gruul’s Lair in BC, or ICC / ToC 10 Heroic. Current normal modes are a challenge, but should be recognized as a means to progression only, and should not be referred to as content suitable for adequate examination of progression. And finally, LFR should be equitable to Karazhan and ZA (easily puggable, no commitment required) and then to 10 man normal Naxx, despite being even easier due to the queue system.

I apologize for taking nearly two thousand words to describe this, but it’s mandatory in this discussion, as far too many people don’t seem to understand WHAT the Looking for Raid Difficulty actually is intended to be. Let’s wrap up!

Difficulty Discussion:

So today you and I have learned all about PvE, and now know that when we are talking about difficulty of raiding and the “game” in general, we should ONLY be discussing 25 man Heroic progression. It’s the way the game was meant to be played, and all other difficulties should be inferior if you are discussing coordination and skill based challenges, even 10 heroic albeit difficult for its own reasons.

With this firmly implanted in our brains, how is the argument that “the game is too easy now” citing raid difficulty possible? The illusory wall that most people don’t see past is that illidan_stormragethey think because people in TBC were literally not allowed to see the content unless they were in a top tier guild, this made it inherently more difficult than today. All arguments I have seen presented seem to boil down to that topic, so let’s explore it. We will stick to TBC, but realize this can also be applicable to Naxx40 and to some degree Wrath Heroics.

Raiding Black Temple was no doubt a considerable challenge, mostly because of attunements and natural player gating, but also due to difficult mechanics and large DPS checks. It’s also important to remember that group maximization used to come down to the 5 man composition and that nearly all buffs were group wide instead of raid wide. This put a lot more focus on actual organization for the raid leaders, and even with strong players, it would take proper buff placement to complete many encounters.

In 25 man Heroic SoO, this is completely eradicated; all buffs are raid wide, and it is encouraged to “bring the player, not the class.” So in terms of organization on the leadership, it is logical to say that TBC or Classic raiding was far more complicated than MoP raiding. However, the quoted statement above brings a LOT more to the table than you may originally realize!

With group-wide buffs eliminated, this turns the meaning on its head. Most people think brining 10 of any class makes the game easier, but all it does is streamline the process and allow Blizzard to make more dynamic and tightly tuned encounters.

In the past, you would be required to bring at least 5 shamans, if not more, for bloodlusts in your DPS groups, as well as for certain totems. Having a Bombkin with your Fire Mages was also near mandatory, as well as certain debuffs from Rogues, Ret Paladins, and Hunters. At the time, it would be more pertinent to bring a mediocre (or even annoying) bombkin doing 0 dps yet buffing each mage’s dps by near 20 percent, than simply bring another skilled mage.

In today’s time, you have much less room for carrying a player because they bring a buff you need and with the exception of Bloodlust in a group that has none, no one class doing essentially 0 will contribute anything worthwhile to the raid. So in terms of individual requirements, it is logical to say raiding is much more difficult now.

The final point will rest in actual completion rates. Remember, completing LFR and normal modes DO NOT COUNT! As of January 18, 2014, the statistics for Heroic 25 man Siege of Orgrimmar read as follows:
2738 guilds have cleared NORMAL Immerseus (first boss).
“2738” used as normalized baseline to count all guilds considered raiding.

1489 guilds have cleared NORMAL Garrosh (Last boss).
1489/2738 = 54% of all raiding guilds have cleared Normal Garrosh, unlocking Heroic.Untitled

1518 guilds have cleared HEROIC Immerseus
1518/2738 = 55% of all guilds have stepped into Heroic. *Discrepancy due to normal 10 man  unlocking both heroic 25 and 10.

955 guilds have cleared HEROIC Nazgrim (8/14 Heroic – Over half way through raid).
955/2738 = 35% of all guilds have cleared over halfway through Heroic Progression.

329 guilds have cleared HEROIC Blackfuse (12/14 Heroic – commonly considered a “guildbreaker” boss.)
329/2738 = 12% of all guilds overcome the “guildbreaker” boss of the tier.

115 guilds have cleared HEROIC Garrosh (full clear)
115/2738 = 4% of all raiding guilds have cleared everything.
115/1518 = 7.5% of all Heroic Raiding guilds have cleared everything.
115/329 = 35% of guilds capable of overcoming Blackfuse have cleared everything.

Patch 5.4 launched September 10th / 11th 2013, so has officially been out for 19 raid resets. (http://www.wowprogress.com/rating.tier16_25, Jan 18 2014)

Unfortunately we don’t have distinct values on TBC raiding, but regardless, I think less than 8 percent of all heroic guilds full clearing, with 35 percent of all guilds getting more than half-way through speaks volumes. It was common for bosses to take weeks for Realm or even World firsts back then, but either way when talking about longevity of a tier, it should be pretty obvious that top level progression is still as difficult as it’s ever been, if not more!

For the benefit of the reader, I will summate my points and conclusions so you can form your own opinions and perhaps contribute a counter point.
– LFR is easy intentionally. You cannot count anything lower than Heroic as actual progression as they are expressly created for lower level play.  Saying “the game is too easy now” without clearing Heroic bosses entirely discredits the argument, which a majority of the people making the argument don’t seem to understand.
– 25 man Heroic Progression was examined to remain brief, but also because larger groups raiding is how the game was intended to be played, confirmed with 20 man Mythic’s announcement.
– 20 weeks through patch 5.4, 4% of all raiding guilds have completed full clears of Heroic, 54% have full cleared normal.
– Raiding in TBC was considerably harder to organize, but mechanics and DPS requirements depended mostly on having certain classes and buffs. Now success is nearly entirely dependent on individual players and buffs are mostly baseline. This sees raids needing to bring a full 25 competent and alert players, instead of 20 beasts, and 5 buffbots. This also confirms 25 man to be the harder difficulty, as upkeep of 25 players is considerably more difficult than 10.
– World and Realm Firsts still take hundreds of pulls. No matter how hard something is in any video game, you’ll get it eventually!
– Raiding has changed a lot over the years, but it’s important to realize why subsequent difficulties have been created such as LFR and eventually flex, a topic that will be covered in a subsequent editorial.

Remember LFR is NOT raiding. If you say it is, this squad will destroy you IRL.

Remember LFR is NOT raiding. If you say it is, this squad will destroy you IRL.

Thanks for reading! As always, we encourage comments and discussion here at Stratics, so if you have any thing you would like to add, it would be my pleasure to continue the conversation with the readers!