Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another blogger alt post

Apparently, 'every Wow blogger on the planet has an alt post' (see comments) so I wouldn't want to disappoint! :)

With my guild taking a break from raiding the last couple weeks, there hasn't been a lot going on from an organizational standpoint.

So, what does one do?

Of course, I have spent a little time familiarizing myself with my leveling (frost) spec and am fairly comfortable with it, so I feel reasonably ready to run with it in less than a week. :) I have some 23 quests ready to turn in the moment we log in with the new level cap. I have my mats, my gold, my mounts, and my mojo.

So, what to do for the next week(s)?

A number of my guildies are running their mains through the lowbie zones doing loremaster-type quests, which are fairly easy to do at this point.

That sounded pretty boring to me. On the other hand, leveling or running lower-level characters through Azeroth wasn't all that appealing either.

I'll admit, I still wasn't sold on the idea of 'merely' changing old Azeroth and making it 'new.' Adding a few zones, letting us level to 85 instead of 90, along with new raids, still seems/seemed like an expansion-lite.

I was pleasantly surprised then, when I decided to do a little questing on my slowly-leveling level 40ish mage. As apparently everyone already knows, a few things have changed! LOLAS (as in, laugh out loud at self). My little mage had been spending time in the lush Stranglethorn vale merrily frostbolting stray gorillas. I logged in (finally) to discover that most of her quests were gone, and the few that remained were gray. She had a new quest to report to Western Plaguelands. WPL! You know, that place you never really had to go any more, because more accessible zones were more than adequate to allow you to level to 58 and on to Outlands? Hmm, after a little hemming and hawing, Hinetapeka got on Filly, her newly-epic mount, made her way to Chillwind Camp, and it was ON!

Yes, as has been oft-repeated, the questing is quite linear. In WPL alone, each hub has only a few quests, with maybe 3-4 quests and 2-3 follow up quests, then it's off to another hub nearby. There is often a flight path available, or even a 'free' horse or carriage to take you to your next hub. And in many of these places, your actions seem to change things (yay for phasing, something I lauded way back at LK release, and which Blizzard is understandably making more use of). The quests, while linear, facilitate storytelling in a much more cogent manner, and it at least gives the feel of accomplishing something (as opposed to those level 40 skellies simply respawning 60 seconds after you 'cleared the road' by killing 12 of them). At least for me, for now, what it lacks in 'freedom,' it makes up for in clarity, simplicity, and quality.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, my 10 year old son complained that he wanted a flying mount. To which I replied that he'd never leveled a character high enough to do so (except starting DKs on my account). So, I issued him a challenge. If he leveled an Alliance character on my main server past 10, I'd help him with leveling, and if/when he got to 60, I'd buy any and all mounts he wanted. So, he started a hunter and quickly exclaimed how the human starting area was so different. Inspired by Tamarind and Oddly's posts about priests, I finally caved and started my very first priest ever. I quickly leveled to 10 - the Draenei area appeares completely unchanged to me - and travelled to Stormwind. From there on, I had the opportunity to see not only the 'new' Azeroth, but this 'new' Azeroth, through 'new' eyes; my son's. We quested together and did his very first 5-man instances together. It was a blast to have him exclaim every few seconds at how fun it was. He aquitted himself reasonably well, too, finishing higher than at least one other dps in every run we did. Sure, he needed to be informed that one does NOT need on spirit cloth as a hunter, and that he had to target the mob that the tank was hitting, but he picked it up quickly! ;) I had chosen the holy tree for starters and so enjoyed the oom-ness that is lowbie healing. We even had a boss fight that we barely survived when the tank pulled extra mobs, died, then the other two dps died, but my son finished off the boss and the final add with 10% health while I squeaked out the last few bubbles and renews to keep us alive. Wow! That was, indeed, fun! And while I'm sure Cataclysm will put somewhat of a damper on our tandem leveling, he's parading proudly around Stormwind on his proud level 20 steeds. I look forward to seeing him soar in Outlands and Northrend as well. :)

While Azeroth is still Azeroth, the sundering changed things for us. Cosmetically yes, but more fundamentally in how we interact with the world, quest, tell/receive stories, and progress through content. And while I'm still a little concerned about the feeling of not 'getting enough new content,' I'm entirely on board with how it's being delivered to us!

Cataclysm is almost here!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leveling as Frost in Cataclysm: Okay, I'll give it a try

For readers of my blog, you'll have noticed that I've spent little time as Frost.
I leveled and tanked as Blood. I've primarly dps'd in various incarnations of Unholy.
Besides a few dalliances with DW Frost in TOC, I haven't spent much time in Frost spec. I know, there are lots of players out there who love it, but for some reason, it's never floated my boat.

I was convinced recently, however, to give Frost a try for leveling after reading this short comment on Consider's blog:

"Grizzi says:
Because it has greater burst, and you can start out with oaph from level 80, and it runs in unh pres. If u level as unh be it DW or 2H, then u will rarely get DT up, and ur pet will spend time spawning whenever you dismount, and the pet is to big a part of your dps for that to be worth it."

I'll put in a Frost leveling spec tonight and start trying it out. Note, while I will have most of the dps-heavy talents, I will likely take both On A Pale Horse which is so powerful for leveling, as well as Lichborne and the Lichborne glyph (for self healing). Self healing and travel speed are overpowered for leveling, which in this case Frost offers along with the dps talents that a blood spec would lack. Grizzi's points about burst and the pet's drawbacks for levling purposes are well-taken, as well.
I'll give Frost a try and hopefully will rock the DK leveling race!
Now that the Shattering has occurred, I'll see you on the Dark Side!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Putting my money where my mouth is; the Shattering

After my last post, I kept thinking about different gamepads. Logitech's G13 is consistently lauded as superior to the Nostromo/Belkin n52, and claims to support Apple products these days. Since I posted that the lull before the expansion was a good time to try something new, I thought I might follow my own advice and give the G13 a try. It will run you $70-80 US, so it's not cheap, but has a plethora of programmable options to expand your gameplay.

Why the Shattering in the title?
Try it and find out! Regardless if you've been using your traditional keyboard or something else, any time you change the layout of keys/buttons/etc, you'll find it takes some time to adjust.
Just like shooting free throws, a small change in biomechanics can take quite a while to adjust.
It may feel like everything you knew before, those effortless run-jump-spin-strike abilities, all of it is just gone. Just like our old Azeroth will be tomorrow.

My most vivid memory of this, strangely, comes from bowling, an activity I do less than once a year. When I was a child, my family went bowling with my uncle's family. My uncle bowled semi-professionally at the time. I was a kid, of course, and my parents had shown me the basics of bowling but I really didn't know what I was doing. I usually bowled about a 120-140. My uncle took one look at my 'form' and started correcting my walk up, my swing, everything. I tried doing what he told me to, and I was horrible! Of course, his corrections were, in fact, correct, and as I practiced them, I eventually got better.

So, over the weekend I messed around with the G13, trying some different key combinations and just trying to get used to it. It was actually very frustrating, because I didn't know where my abilities were! I felt like such a noob and had to force myself to find the keys on the gamepad rather than resorting to clicking with my mouse, but I did get to the point eventually where I could at least stand behind a dummy and feel comfortable. In fact, the biggest change made me the most comfortable dpsing. That is, I'm trying to use the little thumbstick to move around instead of using keys. If you can move with your thumb, it frees up 4 keys in the middle of the keypad that can then constitute some of your most-used attacks. It feels great Scourge Striking from the 'rest' position, instead of having to constantly move my hands up to the number row to do my attacks.

The keypad is very easy to program. At it's most basic, you can just click on any G-key and then hit a key on your regular keyboard and you're set. I just translated my keybindings from before to the G13 (for example, the G1 key is set to 'H', my Dark Transformation). For how to set up and run the G13 in Wow, Gravity at pwnwear.com has a couple of superb threads on the topic, so head over there and search for 'G13' if you're interested!

I'm feeling a bit Shattered, but if I can stick with it, I think in the long run I'll be very happy with the results.

On a side note, I'm excited for tomorrow, and the next few weeks!
Yes, there will be turkey in a few days, but I can't help but anticipate the case of Monsters I'll be imbibing as of December 7 just as much. :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is your gear ready for Cataclysm?

Every once in a while I look at the gear we use to play the game. I've talked a little in the past about headsets and mice, so I thought I'd talk a little more about the rest of the equipment we use.

Obviously, in general you need to have a computer capable of playing the game. Fortunately, the hardware demands aren't too intensive and it's fairly cheap to get a computer that will allow decent game play.

My old (5+ years) computer finally fizzled out about the time of the 4.0 patch, so it was time for a replacement. Desktops are obviously better in terms of price/performance, but I needed something I could take on the road when I travel for work or teaching. So, what kind of laptop is needed? The good news is that even relatively inexpensive laptops can run the game fairly well, but I'd advise investing in at least a moderately good graphics card. As a 'non-techie' person, I focused on pre-built models and was intruiged by Dell/Alienware's M11x, which I'm sure would have done the job. In the end, however, I went with Apple. I was a little nervous about the 13" Macbook Pro's ability to run the game, but I needn't have worried. It runs the game on good to excellent settings more than adequately, even in aoe-heavy 25-man raids.

Of course, peering at a small screen is rough on the 'ol eyes, so with a laptop, it's preferable to purchase a larger screen. Fortunately, even fairly large screens are fairly cheap these days and I went with a 28" monitor for my everyday gaming, as you can see above. Oooh, almost forgot: I was told to get HDMI when connecting the comp to the bigger monitor, but it resulted in a pretty crappy picture overall. DVI gave me a much better picture; your results may vary of course.

In the end, we're lucky that in the interests of accessibility, Blizzard has kept a balance between pretty graphics and pixel-punishing gameplay, allowing the everyday person to afford to play on moderately decent computers.

More important from my perspective is the choice of input devices. I've already discussed mice in the past. There are many options, but in general I'll just reiterate a point or two: you want one with little lag time, which almost always means a wired mouse. Second, more buttons on the mouse means less hunting for keys. Find what works for you. Razer's Naga ends up being too many buttons for me, but I know a lot of players, particularly healers, who love it. I like Logitech's products, but Razer's Mamba is my current favorite for comfort, performance, and button layout/feel.

Finally, the keyboard/keypad. There are a lot of options out there besides the 'vanilla' keyboard that came with your computer. Sure, you can 'asdf' your way through raids, and I'm sure that's exactly what most people do, but I think in the end, your performance can be signficantly improved by changing up the keyboard you use. As an Apple user, there are quite a few devices that won't work, sadly. So, there are a few that look promising, but I haven't had the opportunity to try. Regular gaming keyboards have the traditional qwerty layout with some added functions and snazzy looks. Those are fine, I guess. I've always wanted to try a Zboard. But what can really transform your gameplay is a keypad that makes reaching your important keys a lot easier in the long run. Pads like the Cyber Snipa or the classic Nostromo N52 look fantastic and get consistently positive reviews. I've attempted an older Nostromo and didn't like how hard the keys were to press, but I've heard the newer ones are better ergonomically. What you see on my desk is the Wolfking keyboard that utilizes a circular layout to make keys more accessible to your fingertips. Don't try typing with it though! I use the laptop's keyboard for typing text.

My main point in here is that we do want to have the best, most effective gear we can, and even though sometimes there is a little extra expense, if you can afford it, in the long run I think it's probably worth it.

Why now? Well, I'm posting in part because I just got the new comp, but also because now is an ideal time to try a new gear setup. It generally can take a solid 10-20 hours to get your brain rewired around a new keyboard/keypad setup and you'll want to be ready to go when Cataclysm comes out! Good luck, and happy shopping!

*(note, I'm not reviewing products, nor am I endorsing any in particular. I couldn't give two farts which ones you choose, nor am I being compensated in any way for anything in this article).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Twilight of the Lich King

The eponymous (heroic) Lich King is quite the bugger, even if pugs are defeating his lesser non-heroic doppelganger daily.

Still, there's really not much left to do for the 1000+ guilds that have been raiding Icecrown for many many months now, and that have completed all but the most difficult of encounters available.

What is there to occupy our time?

This week is the last my guild will raid until we're all 'fresh' new level 85 characters, ready for the new challenges the Cataclysm will bring us.

We've been essentially messing around with achievements, battling the ennui and lack of focus rampant in Wow raids these days (nights).

Sure, a while back I posted our server-first Grand Crusader, which was still somewhat of a challenge even if it was a tier old.

Sure, we 'Observed' the Fall of Algalon and accomplished the mount-related Ulduar achievements, even if they were two tiers old.

But one achievement had still eluded the vast majority of guilds out there, hanging out like the lowest yet heretofore unobtained fruit on the Forbidden Tree: the Immortal! Yes, random pugs have been doing Undying on various alts (I have that title from the one and only attempt I made on my at-the-time terribly undergeared resto shammy), but the Immortal has been foiling guilds for almost two full years. The guild I raided with two years ago was able to accomplish all the achievements in Naxx25 prior to the release of Ulduar save one: the Immortal. On our very last week prior to Ulduar, we had made it through every boss without a single death to Sapphiron. And, wouldn't you know it, we were at about 50% when my mouse died, shortly followed by the agonized cries of 25 raiders when Hine expired prematurely.

Thus it was with some trepidation that our undermanned (19 raiders, but almost all mains) Monday night group entered that vile pyramid in the sky.

Fears which turned to groans when we stood before the Silly Taunt Boss (Razuvious), and our ice mage summoned his pet and it was inexplicably set to aggressive. Sure enough, the botched pull resulted in a clothie getting one-shot and having to run out. Thankfully, the instance can be reset if you run out before killing any bosses.

The second time the pull went reasonably well, but the poor priests, long unaccustomed to the silly mind control mechanic of the fight, missed a taunt and a caster pulled agro, once again resulting in a clothie insta-gib.

Groans and frustrated expletives burst out via Vent, with some questioning the commitment of others, and general dissatisfaction was expressed. The GM asked if we just wanted to give up, but Hine and others said, 'there's no reason we can't do it.' Whereupon I discovered Hine had 'entered to many instances recently' to partake. So, I flew around the carrion fields below Naxxramas, pretending to be one of the elite drakes circling the instance, until, thankfully, the Instructor got his own lesson in Threat and all the clothies survived. Since I still couldn't enter; I had to wait while the 'scary' bosses were challenged next, but the IceTomb Boss and the Swirly Circles of Doom On the Floor Boss were vanquished without incident. I wouldn't say the mood was jubilant. I wouldn't say the mood was expectant. But at least my 18 intrepid colleagues might have started to think, 'maybe we can do this, after all.'

We trudged through the Construct Quarter, where the Big Tank n Spank (dps check? um, check.), the Slime Slobberer, the Doggie, and even the Electric Charge Boss expired without much fanfare. The latter boss elicited some concern, but rather than risk crossing charges, most of the ranged simply spread out and stood unmoving, ignoring the charges and leveling their lethal attacks in an iconoclastic manner.

We sludged through the Arachnid Quarter, where very little resistance indeed was offered by its denizens. The Ubiquitous Beetle's shell was simple to crack, the Widow's candles blew out with a puff, and the Not So Itsy-Bitsy Spider's webs proved little challenge.

Next we finished off the Military Quarter, where Gothik's spawning adds laughably died in pitiful piles of corpse dust, and we rode herd on the Horsies Of Something Supposedly Scary, being careful to not clump up on the One that Chains Lightening in Bad Ways.

With growing confidence, we hastened to the Plague Quarter, killing Goat Head Guy before he ported, Dancer before we crossed the floor more than once, and yes, the Healer Interrupter before he prevented much healing at all.

We battled the killer foes of boredom, lack of focus, and low motivation, and came up.... interested, focused, and motivated enough, if only just.

Not only that, but we defeated the Ledge Boss, the Frogger Boss, and Most importantly of all, the RNG Boss - that final boss that had always managed to fell mice, disconnect tanks or otherwise torpedo the success of so many raids in the past.

We Did It!!!
Of course, just like this tale, the achievement was more than a little anticlimactic, and rather than the typical jubilation at overcoming a difficult challenge as a guild, by far the most prominent emotion was relief.

But, we got 'er done, in these Twilight days and nights of the Lich King. We got 'er done. And I'll wear my Immortal title with pride, no matter when it was obtained.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Death Knight UI/addon 4.0 update

Over a year ago I wrote about the addons any good raiding dps DK needs. Wow, can't believe it was so long ago!

I've actually turned over more than half of my addons, so I thought I'd write a little about them now, realizing that at least some of these are likely to change as their authors may or may not update them for Cataclysm and we're likely to see some new shiny addons come out at that time as well.

I'll copy my format from that previous post and comment on any changes/updates here.

1. Raid Warnings/Events: Still absolutely essential for raiding, despite what some misguided snottydins might tell you. DBM (Deadly Boss Mods) is still the industry standard, but I've converted to BigWigs, as it is less memory-intensive. Both work very well for helping identify important events during a boss fight, and allow some customization of how you want to be alerted (BIG letters on screen? A sound? Both? you got it).

2. Proc Alerts: Blizzard's version is a very nice start, and quite a few bloggers have commented on how visually pleasing their HUD notifications are. As unholy so far, the Dark Transformation and Sudden Doom procs are very easy to identify by their visual alerts. So far, I'm not aware of the in-game system having a Runic Empowerment alert, which would be nice to know so that I could hold off on Death Coils for three seconds (unless runic power is capped and no runes are available). I haven't used Mik's Scrolling Battle Text for a long time: I used Power Auras for a while, but haven't loaded any proc alerts for 4.0 yet. If you prefer auditory alerts, one of these addons still might be best for you. I haven't tested Frost to see if their in-game proc alerts work as well - but I've seen screenies of Rime procs etc that look pretty good, so  you might be able to rely on the default system for now, although a Runic Empowerment alert is even more important for Frost than Unholy.

3. Rune/Disease Watch: I'm still a 'thowback,' although I'm not using Rune Hero any more. It remains as important as ever for you to know which runes are ready to be used, which ones are almost off cooldown, and how much runic power you have. Even more importantly, you need to know how much time is left on diseases so you can ensure they don't fall off. The default Blizzard interface fails hugely here and it's very difficult to use their rune display effectively.

I like DKI Runes, and even though my health bar (when I'm being targetted) superimposes on it, it doesn't cause problems with the rune display and I prefer to have it front and center as you can see from the big screenie below.
You have many options - try a few out and see what you like best. DDR is the very popular choice on Elitist Jerks right now (Docs Debug Runes) but I'm not fond of it at all. DKI Runes has (as you can see) a sword-looking addon that is more compact and well-designed than my old fave Rune Hero, and has a nice disease watcher as well. I was a BIG fan of Acherus Runes, but it hasn't been updated and doesn't work for 4.0. One advantage of DDR over DKI is it has a nice obvious display of Shadow Infusion stacks (it may be possible to do for DKI as well, I just haven't discovered it yet).

4. Communication: Ventrilo is still the gold standard. It's the one 'addon' not available at Curse.com. (But download is free at several sites). The in-game voice comm is horrible and I don't know of any raiding guilds that use it.

5. Threat Meter: Threat meters are again relevant for 4.0 and I've noticed it's easier to pull a mob/boss than it was before. We don't have any passive threat reduction, and misdirect abilities have been nerfed. Good tanks still hold threat, but as a raider, you're responsible to watch your threat. Omen is by far the most popular threat meter, and the one I still use.

6. Damage Meter: I realize quite a few players/bloggers out there like to demonize meter-watchers, and rightly so in some cases. If you attempt to simply max dps without paying attention to fight mechanics or what your role might be, you're a bad player. But, when your primary role is to dps, why wouldn't you want feedback on how you're doing? As I've mentioned before, the meter gives you instant feedback that you're doing something right - or wrong. I can't tell you how many times I've noted a drop in my dps - and thanks to the meter - realize that after that last wipe I forgot to summon my ghoul, or after changing specs to pick a presence, and so on. Damage meters for bad players? NO. Bad players are bad players. Good players use damage meters. By the way, I've dropped the resource hog Recount and now use Skada. I still prefer the useability of Recount and may go back to it, but for now Skada is what I use.

7. Attack Power gauge: I was VERY pleased with Bleeding Hearts and had a separate post on it previously, but it seems to cause huge lag problems and sometimes seems the culprit in disconnects. It hasn't been updated in a long time and sadly I've had to delete it. Tiny Melee Stats still works but it's not my favorite. I'm still looking for a good option here. In any case, it's very helpful to see how much attack power you have to help with determining when to summon pets. Now that they also get our haste, it would be nice to have a haste indicator as well. I'd love to see a thermometer type gauge like Bleeding Hearts for both stats somewhere on my screen.

8. Others: For the most part, any other addons are for personal preference and won't contribute to your performance as a dps DK.

-MetaHud, one of my long-time favorites, is currently not working in 4.0. *sadface* The HUD you see in my screenie is IceHud, which is fairly similar and not too bad.

-Grid. You don't need this as a dps DK, but I do like to see who's alive during a fight, or be able to quickly find someone to target their target etc. It's essential for healers/raid leaders, not so much for dps DKs.

-OneBag. This addon broke for me, although I think it works for others. I'm now using Bagnon, which also has a feature that lets you see your bank and/or alt's bags/banks.

-Postal. Makes mailing and opening batches of mail much easier, as well as keeping lists of who you've mailed.

-Carbonite. Somewhat dated these days, so I'm not using it any more. Questhelper addons can still be useful, but the in-game map and tracker work quite well for me now.

-Gearscore. I actually used GS lite for a while, now I don't have either turned on.

-SpartanUI. As I posted more recently, the UI mod I use. It also requires Bartender but the download comes preset for SpartanUI. nUI is also very popular and even has a DK skin, but I've tried it and didn't like it. It's not bad - and is very similar in many ways, it's more a matter of preference. These addons preferably clean up space on your UI and are visually pleasing as well. You can make a case for these helping your raid performance by allowing you to be more aware of your surroundings and being able to find your target easier. I used the default UI for many years and it works just fine if that's your preference.

-Bloodhound. A very lightweight addon for helping gathering (which a dps DK IS NOT, but at the moment I'm mining until 85). There's better ones out there, I just don't need them.

-AutoProfitX. There's a dozen small addons that will dump grey items either automatically or put a button in the vendor tab. Nice to not have to click each one to sell individually.

-AuctionLite. I'm not enough of an Auction House mini-game player to get into Auctioneer. AL does what I need. I dont load it for my DK though - just my bank alts.

-Parsing sites: over the past year I've made multiple mentions and uses of these sites. Back on my original post, I was using WMO Online, which is still in operation, although I prefer World of Logs these days.

-Achievement Screenshotter: I had forgotten to add this one back in and was bummed when I looked for screenies from a couple of achievements my guild got over the past few days. It's back now, and screens from all sorts of random achievements will be dumped in my folders over the next few months.
And there you go - an update on addons that are useful for raiding dps DKs in late Lich King 4.0! (and a few that don't matter, but make life in Wow easier/better). Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unholy 4.0 first raid impressions

Well, I've had a chance to do more than just hit a dummy on PTR finally and while I'm a few weeks late, I'll start by posting on how things are going in my first raids as unholy. While I also realize that things are still going to be changing as we move towards Cataclysm and 85, it's still worth looking at how the mechanics changes are affecting us in raids now.

First of all, yes, people are seeing rather dramatic increases in dps overall. Unholy is doing well, and while the theorycraft says frost should be on par with unholy, due to bugs and some factors that affect actual raid conditions, unholy remains potentially the top dps spec.

AND, that means bupkis. DPS at 80 is unimportant. Sure, it's still fun for the next month, but it's completely meaningless. Blizzard will continue turning knobs and you should expect your dps to go up and down accordingly. What matters is what we'll be doing at 85, so I'll write less about maximizing dps (I know, quite a shock coming from Hine) and more about playstyle for now. While I AM properly gemmed/enchanted/reforged, I'm not even trying to do max dps per se for now (for example as I mentioned earlier, I've already dropped blacksmithing and have leveled mining which is a significant dps loss).

So, in no particular order, a few musings on unholy in raids at the moment.

1. Unholy aoe is still very strong. While they messed around with aoe a lot, and nerfed a lot of coefficients, unholy has several very powerful tools in it's arsenal. Death & Decay remains an extremely powerful tool, especially for large groups. Diseases are at a reasonable level right now, and while they will be tweaked from time to time, Blizzard continues to say that pets and diseases are central to the spec. So naturally, we'll be pestilencing diseases to extra mobs for the forseeable future. Blood boil also is very effective aoe with larger groups, particularly when combined with the pestilence and blood boil glyphs. Even with smaller groups (2-3 larger mobs) unholy can be effective with a Dark Transformed ghoul cleaving like a mini Fury warrior.

2. Unholy pets are insanely good. I have a feeling they're 'too good,' which eventually will result in nerfs. I hope for unholy's sake that Blizz can find a happy medium. The ghoul alone will account for well over 20% of your damage as unholy, while gargoyle and army chip in extra dps as well. I'm very very fond of how the ghoul synergizes with the unholy spec now. Not only is the Dark Transformation (DT) such a cool new toy, it's visually impressive and is very powerful combined with heroism or unholy frenzy.

Of course, the strength of pets is also a significant concern for any fights like Blood Queen Lanathel, where our pets don't get the same buffs we do, making unholy very weak for those fights. I really hope Blizz pulls their head out on this one and lets pets get the appropriate buffs for all their cool new fights.

Pet management will separate the women from the girls in Cataclysm (sure, rune/rp management will too, but pets will really differentiate the goods from the greats). You want to use your DT as often as possible, but there will be times when it will be a good idea to wait for a cleave opportunity for line it up with buffs. I had macroed it to several attacks, but am putting it on it's own keybinding for now so I can have more control over it. I've seen discussion of maximizing uptime by pooling runic power when the cooldown is up for DT, but that too has to be done with caution, because hitting Death Coil repeatedly is a dps loss due to losing Runic Empowerment uptime. Also we'll need to figure out when it's better to get gargoyle up as quickly as possible on boss fights vs getting DT going as quickly as possible (it's very difficult to try to do both). Interesting times.

3. New talent trees. To be honest, I'm not a big fan. Yes, I've read ad nauseum from Blues about how we 'didn't really have a choice' before because we always found the ideal cookie cutter spec anyway, but halving our talents still just feels like a ripoff to me, especially while leveling where each 'ding' meant new shinies to play with. Additionally, we don't have the opportunity to go as deeply into trees other than our designated specialty, which I think could potentially have added lots of good flavor to our specs. Ah well. I do like some of the new talents, just not particularly the way Blizz is giving them to us.
While I'm on talents, I've said that I LOVE Dark Transformation. I DO I DO indeed. :) It's almost as good as my favorite trinket (Deathbringer's Will for those of you who may have missed it). Additionally, I like how the talents interact with each other and allow greater synergy with pets. They certainly make Scourge Strike a beast, especially when coupled with the prime glyphs. However, I still have one major major disappointment; Unholy Blight. Like so many, I miss the old UB and wish they could do something cool/fun with it like it used to be. Shoot, I'd be happy with almost anything, just not the terribly weak, boring, passive and generally almost useless tiny dot it has been for the past year.

4. Single target dps: AKA, the epeen-measuring yardstick by which our 'goodness' or 'badness' is demonstrated for all to see: I think we'll be ok. I've already said the numbers don't matter right now. So, while unholy DKs are posting Saurfang parses well over 20k, I don't really care about that right now. What I do see is that unholy has a manageable way of approching such fights. It will be even better when we have outbreak, but even so, it's really not too bad. We start off with Icy Touch and Plague Strike for diseases, then alternate between SS, FS, and DC. While it's fairly simple - and not that different from before - for some reason I prefer it. It used to be that we'd dump runic power at the 'end' of a rotation, but now you want to space out death coils whenever possible. I'm still getting used to it, but you'll see how wonderful it can be to keep those rune refreshes going at a hugely accelerated rate. I do very much like that they changed the rune requirements for SS to be a single unholy rune, and FS to be blood/frost. It very much simplifies them so that we can line them up well. The nuances will come in time (fun stuff like how to use blood tap and all that jazz), but for now the basics are in place and working well.

This obviously is not a 'how to' for unholy dps - elitist jerks already has well-written guides on that - but an over all 'feel' for where unholy is. And overall I'm fairly pleased.

Now, if only I could name my ghoul!

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's ... Just ... About ... Time!!!

I finally got a computer that works (I hope I hope), all Wow patches applied, and figured out what what plaguing the first 'dead' laptop I bought - problems with plugins and my Wolfking keyboard. More on that later.

Hine's level 80 gear/spec/gems/reforging are all in, and she's ready to roll! I have spent far too little time becoming accustomed to the changes, so tomorrow's raid should be .... interesting. :)

In any case, I'll give her a shot this week, focusing on getting Hinenuitepo up to speed. Hopefully I can start commenting on what it's looking like as we head into the final month of waiting for Cataclysm, and talk more about what to expect in the next expansion.

In addition, I'll try frost out if/when I have a chance (my second spec is blood tanking at the moment), and put in level 80 talents etc for Hinemanu (hunter) Hinetitama (shammy) and go from there.

Sorry for the long silences, hope you all are doing well, and getting excited for the Cataclysm!