Warlords of Draenor Reaction: Raiding

Ever since I learned what a raid even was, I wanted to raid. I went to great lengths to raid in my first real guild, Fated Heroes. Many people used Fated Heroes to level to 60 and then would bail and go to another guild to actually raid. At one point, I just flat-out asked the guild master why we weren’t raiding. Did we not want to raid?

Of course we wanted to raid, he said, but people just left as soon as they hit 60.

That’s when I started building the raiding culture of the guild. I did research on attunements, made that information available, helped people on quests leading to attunements and the like. By golly, I wanted to raid, so I was gonna raid!

Out of the seven years I played World of Warcraft, I spent six and a half of those years raiding, pretty much.

So, of course, having watched all the World of Warcraft BlizzCon panels from Friday, the biggest thing I want to discuss is, you guessed it, raiding.

Flex Takes Over, Heroic turns Mythical

There are two things I want to discuss here. The first is the flexible aspect of virtually any raid team going forward. The second is the new “mythical” raid type and size.

They’re renaming stuff and adding flexible raid sizes to things. Let’s look at how things look right now.

1) Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Introduced in Patch 4.3, the Dragon Soul, LFR raiding is a group of 25 people put into the same raid wing via queueing. It is tuned for 25 people (2 tanks, 6 healers, 17 DPS), but it’s quite low on the tuning scale because they don’t assume that 25 different people from different realms, etc, are going to have the organizational abilities that a “normal” or “heroic” raid group does.

2) Flex Raiding: This is a new format, introduced in Patch 5.4. Flex is a difficulty that is below Normal raids but above LFR. It is tuned for 10-25 people and scales appropriately depending on the people in the group.

3) Normal Raiding: This is the “standard” difficulty level and, currently, is able to be tackled by two raid sizes: 10 or 25. It does not scale dynamically like Flex Raiding. Normal raids are also required to be completed by at least one member of a raid team that wishes to tackle current heroic raids. (Example: Your raid leader must have defeated Garrosh in Normal Siege of Orgrimmar to unlock heroic Siege of Orgrimmar for your group.)

4) Heroic Raiding: This is the “difficult” level of difficulty, which is also able to be completed either on 10 or 25, and nothing in between.

That’s how things stand right now. Technically, that’s 6 different raids: LFR, Flex, 10m normal, 25m normal, 10m heroic, 25m heroic.

In 6.0 (Warlords of Draenor), this is what they want to do:

1) Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Same as LFR today, only flexible, meaning that if you’re waiting for six people to fill your LFR group after a wipe, you don’t actually need to wait — the encounter will have changed dynamically and you can just go with your 19 people.

2) Normal Raiding: This is what is currently known as “Flex” raiding, in terms of difficulty, it looks like. The size for this raid will be 10-25 people and will be flexible and dynamic. This is why they’re removing “flex” as a difficulty. Instead, they’re applying flexible raid technology to all difficulties of raiding. (Well, except one.)

3) Heroic Raiding: This is what is currently known as “normal” raiding, in terms of difficulty. Again, this raid size will be 10-25 people and will scale dynamically.

4) Mythic Raiding: Currently known as “heroic” raiding, Mythic raiding will be the “elite” raiding level. The raids will be tuned for 20 people and will not scale up or down, instead of the 25-man size raiders have been using since Burning Crusade.

To be honest, I’m still in a bit of shock.

What This Means

If your standard, 25-man heroic raid looked something like 2 tanks, 6 healers and 17 DPS, you’re now looking at something like 2 tanks, 5 healers and 13 DPS. How do I figure?

Well, you kind of need two tanks. I can’t imagine a scenario where just one tank is going to be required for everything.

6 healers divided by 25 raiders = 24%
20 raid members times 0.24 (percent) = 4.8 = 5 healers

17 DPS divided by 25 raiders = 68%
20 raid members times 0.68 (percent) = 13.6 DPS

Obviously, it’s not precise and I’m sure there will be times when you drop to 4 healers and go up to 14 DPS or maybe even drop a tank and go up another DPS, but, by and large, you’re looking at a 2/5/13 breakdown.

Many people expressed a sentiment along these lines on Twitter:

It’s an interesting problem that Blizzard is dealing with here, and they do not seem to have learned terribly much about the transition from 40-man raids to 25-man raids. Let’s look at this situation.

According to GuildOx, 77 total guilds (36 25m and 37 10m) have cleared Heroic Siege of Orgrimmar. 5612 of those have killed Heroic Immerseus, the first boss in the instance, with 831 25m and 4773 10m.

What this shows is that, after two months of the latest tier being out, over 5600 guilds are in heroic content. 831 of them have 5 people “too many” for Mythic raiding and 4773 guilds are missing 10 people off their roster to be able to do Mythic raiding. Mythic raiding, if it is actually intended to be the successor of current Heroic raiding, is going to be nightmarish for most of those 5600 guilds. Obviously, between now and launch (which is not yet announced, but my money is on June, 2014), guilds will split up, people will quit and all that jazz, but it’s clear that there’s a significant amount of people who would do Mythic raiding if it remained at the 10-man format, but they may not be able to do so at the 20-man format. And that’s JUST two months into a tier. Six months from now, those numbers will have gone up and more people will be trying heroic fights. If people want to maintain their 10-15 person roster AND challenge themselves with mythic content, uh, they can’t.

Oh my God, I’m worried about the viability of 10-man raiding. Who am I??? ;)

No, really, what I’m most concerned about is Blizzard’s statement about WoW being more fun with friends. That doesn’t work with their raiding plans for Mythic raids. It works great for people who want to do LFR, normals and heroics (in the new vernacular) but it completely falls apart for Mythic raids. Completely.

Check it out.

Say I have 32 raiders on my roster for a 25-man (present-day) heroic raiding team. Come Warlords of Draenor, I need to cut at least five, perhaps six, maybe even eight people from my roster.

If my breakdown above is pretty much on target (2 tanks, 5 healers, 13 DPS considered “standard”), then this is what I would want for a total roster:

– 2-3 tanks (2 tanks with one OS tank who is extremely comfortable either tanking or DPSing OR three tanks, all of whom can DPS if needed)
– 7 healers (or perhaps 6 healers with a solid OS healer who is extremely comfortable either healing or DPSing)
– 15-17 DPS

That’s like, 24-27 people or so on the total raiding roster in a guild that I would hypothetically be running. Too many more and swaps become a problem. Too few people and you start needing to have 95%+ attendance requirements.

So say I want to run with 3 tanks, 7 healers and 15 DPS on my roster. That’s 25. If I had 32 to start, that’s seven people to cut. How is that playing “with my friends”? I’ve just lost seven of them.

Conversely, if I’m coming from a 10m heroic raiding guild with, say, 2 tanks, 4 healers and 7 DPS, I now need to ADD at least 7, perhaps as many as 11 or 12 more people. How is that playing “with my friends” when I practically have to double my roster?

One might argue that the 25-man cast-offs may join up en masse with the 10-man guilds, but even if that happened, you’re still looking at a huge imbalance.

831 25m guilds have started heroic 25-man content today. 831 times 7 (the cast-offs, shall we say) gives us 5817 people who are potentially looking for a new home. Assume you need to add just the bare minimum of 7 people to those 4773 10m heroic raiding guilds to bring them up to 20. That’s only 831 10m guilds that are now capable of doing Mythic raids.

Know what that is? That’s crappy is what that is. In order to challenge yourself at the highest level of content, raiders are being told they must conform to the 20-man size, which screws over all current heroic raiding guilds. Even if this had just eliminated the 10s or the 25s in favour of one OR the other, at least some guilds would largely remain unaffected. However, Blizzard did not learn from their first attempt at changing raid sizes back in the Burning Crusade. Well, they did, but maybe not as much as they could have learned.

The Transition from 40-man to 25-man & 25-man to 20-man

Once upon a time, end-game raids consisted of 40 people. You had Molten Core, Onyxia’s Lair, Blackwing Lair, then the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, then Naxxramas.

The devs recognized that putting together and organizing 40 people was, well, a logistical nightmare and, as such, lowered the required number of people to 25. Except, that’s not exactly what happened, because the first entry-level raid of the expansion was Karazhan, which was a ten-man raid. Raiding guilds, and I’m talking about successful raiding guilds who had progressed into Naxxramas at level 60, were cutting half their team and then had to split up the remnants into teams of 10 for the first bit of Burning Crusade! Ridiculous.

It doesn’t appear as though Blizzard is going to do something as ridiculous as making the entry-level raid a 10-man raid, but they are making similar mistakes to their transition from 40s to 25s with their change from 25s to 20s.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I basically grew up on 20-man raids. I loved Zul’Gurub. (I didn’t like AQ20 but that was more because I hate bugs.) I like the overall idea of 20-man raids and I remember the feel of them. They felt pretty great. Not as epic as 40-man raids, but not as tiny as 10-man raids. I think 20-mans are a good size, overall.

What Blizzard did back then was they broke away from the expectations that they, themselves, had set. “Serious” raids were 40-man affairs in World of Warcraft. ZG and AQ20 were often not even completed by well-progressed guilds because there was no incentive for them to do those instances, because they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. All the serious raiders were finishing AQ40 and dipping their toes into Naxxramas at the end of the original World of Warcraft game.

With everyone knowing that raids were 40-man events, Blizzard changed everyone’s expectations and released raids that required 25 people for the majority of the expansion.

They introduced Karazhan as a 10-man, of course, but also brought in Zul’Aman as a 10-man raid later in the expansion. Then, in Wrath of the Lich King, they made 10-man versions of every raid, but they weren’t quite as “serious” as 25-man raids, because they were generally a bit easier and the reward (loot) was definitely not as powerful as the 25-man versions.

It was only in Cataclysm that both 10s and 25s were treated equally. That’s a long road for 10s, to be honest. First, they were almost non-existant barring a couple of raids in Burning Crusade, then they were accessible for each raid instance and finally, they were given equal rewards in Cataclysm. But you see how gradual it was? That’s spanning nearly four years. Four years for another raid size to gain full equality in terms of reward and even respect. (Do you respect Paragon for being the first 10m guild to kill heroic Garrosh? I do.)

But the trouble with the original drop from 40 to 25 is being replicated in the drop from 25 to 20 (and addition from 10 to 20!): it’s a rapid shift in expectations. Sure, we have something like eight or nine months to acclimate to the idea, but knowing what’s on the horizon, how are people in any heroic raiding guild going to keep motivated? 10s are going to need to scramble to recruit or even merge with other guilds, while people in 25s are going to be living in fear of getting the axe. And how screwed over must the 10s really feel after being validated just two expansions ago only to be told that, for the peak of PVE content, they need to double their rosters? Ugh.

The social repercussions of this kind of “unknown” factor is not going to be easy for people to deal with.

Fallout

What’s going to happen? Well, realistically, here’s what I think are our main possibilities:

1) 25-man heroic guilds will come through relatively well, despite social issues stemming from roster issues. The 20-man raid format will probably be a bit more popular than 25-man heroic raiding is today, perhaps another 10%-15% or so, I’d imagine.

2) 10-man heroic guilds will have a tough choice: either recruit like crazy, merge with another guild or just content themselves with the “new heroic” raids, which will probably be about the same (or slightly higher) difficulty as normal raiding is today. I do think this will bring the numbers of 10-mans down, but not so much that it’ll be really felt. Still, that’s going to suck. (Believe it or not, I really feel badly for the 10s. And I personally really hate that raid size. A lot.)

3) Everyone else will enjoy the flexibility of their raid sizes and will take advantage of them in “normal” and “heroic” raiding.

Since, according to GuildOx, nearly 22,000 guilds have killed normal-mode Immerseus, the vast majority of guilds are going to be just fine in terms of raiding the new normals and new heroics. If the new heroics are about the same level as current normals, 22,000 guilds can still go in with their flexible raid size and kick some ass.

This problem really only becomes a problem at the Mythic level of raiding. Looking at the numbers of guilds at least 1/16H compared to at least 1/16N on any size, we’re looking at about 25-26% of the raiding population that even bothers with heroics (within ~2 months of the launch of a tier — so that’ll go up, but I’m not sure how much).

So it’s not a problem that’s going to affect everyone. The flexibility of the other difficulties will be great for everyone, but the people who are, arguably, the most dedicated to the PVE end-game are getting screwed over. All the heroic raiding guilds will be experiencing a major roster change. All of them. Some will merge, some will disintegrate, some will stop raiding the content they want to be able to raid because they’re constrained by their size. All I know about this, really, is that I am super happy that I am not a guild master or guild officer right now. Good luck, people. ;)

Despite the fact I’m not in a position of authority, in the coming weeks, I’m going to be writing a free guide on how to deal with cutting people or recruiting/merging — basically, on how to manage your roster for a Mythic raiding guild. I learned a lot from the Burning Crusade change in raid size and from a lot of guilds that dropped to 10s from 25s. The important thing, for now, is to not panic. There’s still plenty of Tier 16 left, still several months left before Warlords of Draenor comes out. The best advice I can give to anyone right now is to remind your guildmates that WoD isn’t even in beta and that you’ll cross the roster bridge when you come to it, but for now, not to worry.

Heck, there’s even a chance that they’ll reconsider the single Mythic raid size because they’re not even in beta yet. (I doubt they’ll go back on that, but you never know.) If the Mythic size has you troubled, you should post on the forums (and be polite!!!) and explain why it troubles you and what repercussions you foresee it having on your guild. Get them feedback. Be nice about it. But ultimately, don’t hold your breath. The game is geared less towards the min-maxing 40-man raiders of yesterday and more towards the “raiders” of LFR these days.

More This Weekend

Sadly, Real-Life has crit me this weekend, so I’m not even able to watch BlizzCon events live. I’ll have more to talk about on Saturday evening or Sunday, including my thoughts on the Level 90 boost, my Outlands/Draenor thoughts and more.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How will the changes to the various raid difficulties and sizes affect you?

Pre-BlizzCon 2013

I have a confession to make: I’ve never been to BlizzCon. And I’m pretty much okay with that.

I bought virtual tickets for BlizzCon 2010 and 2011 and that suited me just fine. I was really excited for the 2011 convention and actually got trapped in Twitter Timeout for an hour or whatever because I tweeted way too much about the announcement of Mists of Pandaria.

I haven’t played World of Warcraft for the last almost-year. November 10th marks the anniversary of my account expiring. (Exception: 30 minutes on a trial account, trying to figure out which Horde race can get to Trade Chat soonest. Tip: It’s the Tauren.)

And yet, I bought myself the virtual ticket this year. I won’t even be able to watch live on Friday, due to some pesky Real-Life things, but you can bet I’ll come home and watch the What’s Next session for World of Warcraft. Despite not having played in a year, despite all the issues I have with the game, which caused me to stop playing, I still care about the game. Weird, isn’t it? (Yes, yes it is.)

Anyhow, I’m sure I’ll be posting Friday or Saturday about BlizzCon and what’s next for WoW. As of yet, I’m undecided between the new expansion being The Dark Below or Warlords of Draenor or something else entirely. I don’t know if we’ll go to 95 or 100 for the level cap. I don’t know if we’ll have a new class or new race or new class/race combinations. I don’t know if there will be a new profession.

It’s a little strange to be so calm and sort of blasé about BlizzCon. For years, it’s been this treasure trove of information that I, generally, cannot wait to hear. And this year… I’ll see the panels when I get home from my real-life stuff on Friday evening. I’m going to try to stay spoiler-free until I do get home. For once, I will not be scrounging for every little morsel of information possible. It’s kind of nice, to be honest.

However, between you and me, I kind of hope that whatever they announce for WoW is something that’s really exciting to me. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to playing as much as I used to, I don’t think I’ll ever do organized, heroic-mode raiding again, but I’m sure I’ll take another crack at server-first skinning come the expansion (assuming professions aren’t completely reworked to the point where such achievements no longer exist!) and it’d be nice to dip my toes into WoW again. But none of this will likely happen before the new year. (And if I end up getting this one job that I really, really, really want, it might not happen until much closer to the launch of the expansion.) It’ll happen, though, even if it’s just for a month to see what’s happening in the game.

With BlizzCon happening, this is a busy weekend for me because I’m sure I’ll have to update Module 5 of my Kick-Ass GM Guide, which is all about expansion planning. So that’s going to be interesting. :) Check back here later this weekend (or on Twitter, or Facebook) because I will certainly have some BlizzCon-related stuff and sales going on at Kurn’s Guides!

Oh, and speaking of weekends, next weekend, Majik and his wife JD are coming up to Montreal and those two, plus my brother Fog, Fog’s wife (I) and myself are all going up to my parents’ cottage for a fun weekend of chilling out (literally), hanging out, doing some outdoorsy stuff if it’s not too cold and probably playing a ton of board games. It’s gonna be fun. And I may try to get Majik to sing for the Blessing of Frost listeners, at long last.

Anyhow, I hope that all those heading to (or already at) BlizzCon have a truly awesome time and that those who feel left out feel better by knowing that they are almost certainly not going to get “con crud”. ;)

Happy BlizzCon, everyone. Enjoy yourselves, no matter how you’re spending this weekend. :)

Connected Realms – 1 Month Review

I was initially a little bit critical of the whole Connected Realms phenomenon when Blizzard announced that their first connected realms were going to be the US realms of Boulderfist and Bloodscalp. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of this and I think it’s a great way to merge populations without all the hassle of people losing or changings guild and characters names, nor do they “shut down” servers, thereby avoiding the negative associations that come with shutting down servers. It’s really a genius idea. My concern was really limited to the reasoning behind connecting those two realms, in particular.

It’s been just over a month since Boulderfist and Bloodscalp were connected and, I have to say, things look much clearer after a few more of these connections have gone through.

Blizzard has since added Maiev and Dunemaul to Boulderfist and Bloodscalp, with Stonemaul coming to that group soon. They’ve done a lot more, but let’s focus on this initial cluster of Connected Realms for now.

Boulderfist + Bloodscalp gave an approximate total population of about 112,000 (characters, not players!)

Adding Maiev to those two added another 60,000 characters or so, totalling around 172,000 characters. Dunemaul was also another 60k characters, so the rough total of characters on that cluster is 232,000 characters. Remember, again, this is characters, not players. The actual population is likely a lot smaller than that. Stonemaul is slated to join them next, bringing about 41k characters, so that cluster will have approximately 273,000 characters. (I don’t think anyone except Blizzard has numbers on how many players that means, though.)

My initial hesitation was that they were starting with two servers that, at least in character population, weren’t too badly off. I questioned leaving Chromaggus, Balnazzar and Gul’dan to languish.

Since that first realm connection, Chromaggus and Garithos have been linked, while Gul’dan will be joining the cluster with Skullcrusher/Black Dragonflight. Balnazzar has been linked with Warsong. Great to see!

I also had a lot of questions, many of which have been answered.

1) How many realms will be in a Connected Realm? At least five, by the looks of it. This could theoretically be a LOT, especially if subscribers decline substantially at some point in the future.
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Connected Realm? Lumping together low-pops seems to be the plan.
3) Will Connected Realms have names? Not as of yet. That said, they’re considering making forums for each connected realm, which I would think would earn them a name. Imagine going to the Boulderfist/Bloodscalp/Maiev/Dunemaul/Stonemaul forum… I would guess we’ll see forums (and thus, names) closer to when certain clusters are “done” with adding connections.
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Connected Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers? I think things are still server-specific at this juncture.
5) What is the ideal population size of a Connected Realm? I don’t think this has been mentioned.
6) When will the actual lower-population realms start to be connected to others? Very shortly after the first two realms were successfully connected, apparently.
7) What’s the approximate cutoff that makes a realm “too big” to be connected, if such a number exists? Unknown.
8) Is there any interest in making sure factions are better balanced? Not exactly, no.

After seeing so many realms be connected in such a short period of time, I started wondering if connected realms were limited to battlegroups or even datacenters. The answer appears to be no. Dethecus and Detheroc are connected, but Dethecus is in the Rampage battlegroup and Detheroc in the Shadowburn battlegroup. Granted, those are both in the Chicago datacenter. However, on the list of connected realms are Laughing Skull (Vindication, in Chicago) and Auchindoun (Retaliation, in New York). Unless they’re moving servers to different datacenters during these connection maintenance periods, it looks as though there is no technical limitation regarding server location or battlegroup, which is great. It really allows Blizzard to examine which realms are in need and address that without worrying about other factors, like that one of the servers is across the country from the other.

Something else that’s interesting is that PVE realms are sneaking into these connected realms. The first few connections were all PVP realms but Nesingwary and Vek’nilash seem to have been connected this week and Winterhoof and Kilrogg will be connected in the next round. All four are PVE realms, so I would presume this means we’ll see more PVE (perhaps RP?) connections in the coming weeks. The lack of transparency as to the actual population of various servers is bothersome (I’d love to know if Eldre’Thalas is going to be connected anytime soon, for instance) but the connections tend to happen within a week or so of the announcement, with new connections happening every week. I would imagine most connections will be done, barring catastrophic technological failure, before the end of the year. I’m sure they’ll keep an eye on things and will add realms to connected clusters as needed, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t have the majority of servers who need population boosts taken care of by the end of the year.

Overall, I think this whole project is going swimmingly and I think it’s a fantastic idea by Blizzard. Of course, what I’m entirely incapable of discussing is how the people on these realms actually feel about these connections. Any of you out there on a connected realm? Problems? Good thing? Bad thing? Let me know! :)

While you’re here, would you do me a favour and take a second to fill out a quick survey for me, please? It’s really just one question: what do YOU want to know more about in regards to being a kick-ass raider? Thanks so much! :) In case you can’t tell, I’ve been working on my forthcoming Kick-Ass Raider guide and have a new Sneak Peek up!

And finally, the Epic Giveaway I’m hosting on Facebook has literally six entries so far. Your chances of winning are spectacular! All you have to do is like the Facebook page (before 11:59pm ET on November 3) to be entered for a chance to win the full epic version of my GM Guide. Go ahead, you know you wanna!

Being a Kick-Ass Raider & an Epic Giveaway

As anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows, I’ve been working on a series of “kick-ass” guides. The first was about being a guild master and the second is in progress. It deals with being a kick-ass raider and I’ve already got my first free Sneak Peek up over at Kurn’s Guides.

While I already have a basic idea of what I want to talk about (skill/knowledge, gearing, logs/parses, etc), I want to know what you want to know more about when it comes to how people can improve as raiders. If you’re interested in helping me out, here’s a handy-dandy embedded form for you to fill out!

The other thing I wanted to talk about is that I have finally set up a Kurn’s Guides presence on Facebook. If you like the page before midnight (ET) on November 3rd (which is next week!), you’ll be automatically entered in a giveaway where the prize is one free copy of the Epic full version of my Kick-Ass GM guide, which is actually my best seller. Normally $59.99, you can get it for free and all you have to do is like the page!

Oh, speaking of free stuff, the Thanksgiving Happy Moose Spectacular was so awesome that I’ve extended parts of it! The basic (rare) version of Module 1: Starting Up from my Kick-Ass GM Guide is free until November 8th, with the epic and legendary versions of that module sitting pretty at just $2.99 and $4.99 each, also until November 8th. Take advantage of the offer and learn how to start up a guild — just in case you may be in that position one day!

Finally, I really appreciate everyone’s support in my various endeavours. My Twitter followers, and dedicated RTers in particular, never fail to make me smile and remind me how grateful I am that everyone’s been so receptive to my guides. :) Good luck in the Epic Giveaway and thanks for your support here at the blog, over at Guild Chat, on Twitter and now on Facebook. :)

The Thanksgiving Happy Moose Spectacular!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all my fellow Canadians! To the Americans out there, sorry you still have to wait another month or so. ;)

In honour of Thanksgiving, I’ve got a sale going on over at Kurn’s Guides: $10 off every version of the full kick-ass GM guide when you use the code HAPPYMOOSE and $10 off Module 1‘s versions, as well. Except that the rare version of Module 1 is usually $9.99, meaning I can’t take $10 off that price… so that one is just absolutely FREE for this weekend only! (The Epic and Legendary versions of Module 1 are $2.99 and $4.99 respectively.)

The sale ends on Monday, October 14th at 11:59pm ET, so take advantage now and have some awesome reading material for the long weekend (if you’re Canadian) or just your regular-length weekend (if you’re not).

And while you’re reading, I plan to spend most of this weekend writing up my Kick-Ass Raider guide before I go to my parents’ for a turkey dinner with the whole family.

Have  a great Thanksgiving Happy Moose Spectacular, everyone! :)

Various Current Thoughts

I have something like four draft posts that I’ve written chunks of in the last couple of weeks that will probably never see the light of day, simply because they’re no longer timely or perhaps even relevant. (One might question the actual relevance of ANY of my blog posts, though, I suppose. ;)) That said, I’ve obviously wanted to blog, so here I am.

New on Twitter

One of the blogs I’ve been reading for, oh, forever, is Blessing of Kings. It’s written by Rohan and every time I see he’s updated, I run to his blog to read his thoughts. We don’t always agree on things and there are some topics (SWTOR, for example) that I’m not interested in at all, but he’s a smart guy who writes very well. Happily, he’s now on Twitter! Go follow him, ASAP: @rverghes

New (to me) Blog

So I started up my Guild Chat forum a couple of weeks ago (go, read, ask questions, post your guild recruitment ads, etc!) and one of the members introduced himself and joked about me not following him on Twitter. I searched my emails to see if it was someone I knew or whatever and I saw a couple of emails exchanged between us — and it turns out that the guy is the amazing individual who runs WoW Lemmings. Not only is he awesome for running that site (because that site has SAVED MY GUILD’S ASS more times than I can count), but he’s got a WoW blog. It’s called “Eight Years in Azeroth: Memoires of a Casual/Hardcore Raiding Guild Leader“. Basically, he tells the story of his guild, from its inception to… well, he’s up to somewhere in Wrath now, I believe. I’m only a couple of entries in, but I’m really enjoying it. He’s a good storyteller and, of course, he’s currently talking about Vanilla, so I’m enthralled. ;) (Hilariously, I just noticed the URL can also spell out “Eighty Ears”, but I’m pretty sure it’s “Eight Years”. ;))

First entry is here: http://eightyearsinazeroth.blogspot.ca/2012/03/1-1.html

Hearthstone

I admit it. Since losing my King Krush card in the wipe, I’ve been a bit sad. I LOVED that card. Sure, I could craft it — if I had 1600 Arcane Dust lying around. I have, oh, 380. I’ve already spent some cash in the beta (pre-wipe), so I’m not particularly inclined to spend any money right now, so I’ll just have to deal. That said, I do still quite enjoy the hunter deck. It feels really good and I think it’s got a lot of synergy.

I do plan to post something about card synergy for hunters, but, well, not today.

Hearthstone 2

The hot topic today, I expect, will be the fact that Hearthstone ranked players have just experienced their first rank wipes. Prior to the patch and general overall wipe last Tuesday, I’d made it up to Platinum 2 with some half-hearted playing in the weeks beforehand. I got to Gold 3 this last week with some occasional play and experimentation with new hunter deck builds. And yet, I logged in today and it was like “Last week, you hit Gold 3!” And I’m now apparently back to the start. Since I haven’t put in a lot of effort, I’m okay with that. But I can see why some people are annoyed.

On the one hand, if you hit the top rank (Masters 3, I think?), what else are you going to do if ranks don’t reset on a regular basis? Plus, eventually, most people will be somewhere between Gold and Masters, I would imagine, leaving newbies to die hideously. There would be too much of an advantage for the older players, no? Something like that.

But on the other hand, why bother playing ranked if your progress is just going to vanish on Tuesday? That’s… it’s sort of like levelling a WoW toon for a week and hitting, I don’t know, 77, and then getting it wiped. There’s talk about “weekly tournaments” or rewards or whatever, but I haven’t seen too much info about this yet (not that I’ve been looking particularly hard). Still, one needs to ask what kind of rewards are viable for each type of player. Card packs aren’t useful to players who have all the cards (and there are people who do — or almost all of them). Dust isn’t useful to those people either. Gold, then? Gold allows Arena entry, so that’s a possibility, but ranked play is very different from Arena play. Ranked play is all about you customizing your own deck and painstakingly tweaking it and testing it out. Arena play is “hey, here are three heroes. Pick one. Oh, good, you picked one! Now, here are 90 cards, pick the best 30 you can and, by the way, you have no idea against whom you’ll be playing, GOOD LUCK!”. Arena play is basically throwing you into the deep end, because you can’t change your deck and you can’t even choose your hero (okay, you can, but the choice is one of three — if a hunter, for example, isn’t offered as a choice, guess what? That’s right, no Rexxar for you.). You have to be really familiar with all the classes and all their abilities in order to do well in the Arena, IMHO. (This would explain why I’m not good. Yet.)

So my question is, what kind of rewards would be good for BOTH new ranked players that would get them to work to be better in ranked play AND highly-ranked players who have clearly mastered ranked play and have the vast majority of cards in the game?

Good God, it’s like Blizzard’s replicated the WoW “casual vs. hardcore” in Hearthstone, too! ;)

World of Warcraft

It’s been a year since I got back from my trip to Italy which means it’s been about eleven months since I last played WoW (barring a 30m quick bit of testing on a trial account – on my laptop – for Module 2 of my GM Guide, to properly ascertain which Horde race can get to Trade Chat the quickest). I last properly played on November 10th and, I admit, with all the talk of 5.4, it’s tempting to go back and screw around a bit, maybe form some flex raids or some such thing.

Then again, it’s not all that tempting.

But Proving Grounds seem interesting. And it’s tempting to see how long it would take me to get a legendary cloak, since I’d be starting from scratch…

Yet every time I get the urge to play, I question if it’d be worth it. I know myself well enough to know that I’d play a LOT until all the newness has worn off and then I’d be like “why am I even PLAYING if I’m not RAIDING?” and honestly, do I want to learn boss strats? Nope, not particularly. And since I don’t have the client on my desktop, I’d be in for something like a 17GB download, which is enough to dissuade me from impulsively signing back up.

I will go back at some point — apart from anything else, I’d like to try to get server-first skinning in the next expansion, which has LONG been a goal of mine — but I don’t think that time is now. Plus, going back now seems silly when I’m so close to a year without playing. Maybe after NaNoWriMo, when it’s December and it’s cold and snowy outside.

Speaking of Majik

Majik and his wife are coming up to Montreal in November. Those two, plus my brother, Fog, and his wife, and I will all be going up to our parents’ cottage in mid-November for a three-day weekend. Should be fun, although cold. Plans currently include a lot of board game playing: The Resistance (which I just picked up this week), Pandemic, Settlers of Catan and possibly more. We may also get to canoe if it’s not TOO cold, perhaps have a short hike up a small mountain (assuming my brother and I can remember where in the hell the mountain is and where the path is) and possibly have a bonfire while keeping an eye out for the shooting stars stemming from the Leonid meteor shower. It should be a good time. And maybe I’ll get him to SING for the old Blessing of Frost podcast listeners.

(I still have a very short mini-episode thing I need to finish editing, one of these days, that was recorded back on Maj’s wedding day.)

Kick-Ass Raider’s Guide

Writing my GM guide this summer was a fantastic experience. I was really into it and very passionate about what I was doing and wrote a lot. I haven’t found the same energy for my raider’s guide, but I do plan to get some serious writing done this week. I feel like I keep saying this, but hopefully I’ll have a sneak peek for you guys Soon ™. Right now, it seems as though each time I try to write, I end up going through my GIGABYTES of screenshots, trying to find examples for what I’m talking about and then I, invariably, get caught up in old memories. Not useful for writing something, surprisingly. ;) Anyhow, you should sign up for my announcement list at Kurn’s Guides for info on when things are launched and released. :)

Okay, I think that about sums up what’s up with me and current stuff. Maybe I’ll get some guide writing done, now. :)

Introducing Guild Chat

Last week, I was working to try to launch something frantically before Tuesday arrived. I had almost everything set for this project’s launch except this one tiny little feature I desperately wanted to include.

Alas, MySQL errors exploded on my screen and I said to hell with it and delayed the launch for a week. I haven’t been too outspoken about it bcause I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to finish all the little bits and pieces needed for a smooth launch, but hey! I did. (And I have this Thing about launching on Tuesdays when it comes to WoW stuff, because, you know, Tuesday is the start of the WoW week. I know. I’m weird.)

So what am I launching?

It’s called Guild Chat and it’s a forum where people can talk about various issues facing them and their guilds and get advice from the other members. It’s over at:

http://kurn.info/forum/

You do need to register in order to see most of the forum (and in order to participate!), but it’s free. You’ll need to verify your email address when registering, so be sure to use a real email address, too — and to check in various folders or tabs (Spam, Social, etc) for the registration confirmation mail. If you have problems while registering, comment here or email me and I’ll work with you to get you registered. :)

The “tiny little feature” has been redesigned. Originally, I was going to use a mod for the forum that would allow registered users only to post anonymously in a specific forum. (If I let just any anonymous user post, it would end up being 99.99999% spam.) So I decided to maintain the spirit of the idea and created a special user (with special permissions) that anyone should be able to use to end up posting somewhat anonymously, should they feel the need to do so. Sometimes it’s hard to obscure information and since anyone can register for the forum, there’s the possibility that the guildies you’re complaining about will read what you’re saying, so in order to get around that, this special user should allow you to post somewhat anonymously. (I say somewhat because I will still probably be able to tell which post is linked to which user just via IP addresses, but I’m the only one.)

This all stems from the fact that, about eighteen months ago, I wanted to put together a very closed group dedicated to GMs and officers to talk and where they could safely vent their frustrations, but that never took off and then I stopped playing. But writing my guide made me realize just how few resources there are for GMs and such out there. The forum is for anyone, whether or not you’re part of a guild’s leadership, and I welcome people from other games which have guids, but the goal is for people to really sit down and chat with each other about the problems they’re seeing in their guilds.

Whether you’re an officer or a new recruit, part of an RP social guild or a Top 100 raiding guild, all are welcome. Let’s try to find some solutions to people’s problems, shall we?

And though it probably goes without saying, considering this is me we’re talking about, Guild Chat is a respectful environment. Read the rules and policies, respect them and all will be well.

Hope to see you on the new forum! :)

(PS: There’s just 24 hours left on my $77 and $97 Specials over at my guide site, in case you wanted to take advantage before they vanish.)

Nerfs in Mists of Pandaria

I was reading a great post over at Alternative Chat today, about how if you don’t love World of Warcraft, you shouldn’t play, essentially. If, for example, the game makes you angry or frustrated, it’s probably time to step away.

As I’m human, I immediately started applying what The Godmother was saying to my own experience playing World of Warcraft.

If I had to pick a single thing about Cataclysm that frustrated me, over and over again, to the point of not even wanting to play, it was the constant nerfing of current content. My rage about Firelands’ 20% nerf is extremely well-documented.

When it was announced that Dragon Soul would also receive nerfs, despite the existence of Raid Finder (LFR), I was still angry but I was more resigned. That’s when I realized that my Firelands-era rant about not wanting to play was something that was continuing into the final tier of content.

So I stopped playing. I let my sub run out in November of 2012 and promptly took six months away from just about anything to do with the game. I barely blogged, was absent on Twitter for the most part. My guides are what drew me back and what keep me interested in the state of the game, plus it’s been fun to reconnect with members of the WoW community, too.

One of my fears regarding quitting when I did has to do with nerfs. I was scared that they wouldn’t nerf anything in Mists. I knew they would be implementing Cutting Edge and Ahead of the Curve achievements (for those who would get heroic and normal clears, respectively, prior to the release of a new tier), so that indicated to me that maybe they wouldn’t nerf things that were current. This concerned me a bit because if one of the major reasons I wasn’t playing Mists of Pandaria was because of Blizzard’s recent habit of nerfing the crap out of everything, why wouldn’t I be playing if they weren’t nerfing things?

It dawned on me that Blizzard has been nerfing things, and not just after each new tier comes out (although there’s that, too — apparently the T14 raids on normal and heroic have been nerfed by 10% and Throne of Thunder has been nerfed by 20% since 5.4 was released).

Kurn, what the hell are you talking about? There weren’t any current nerfs to the content in T14 or T15.

Sorry to say it, but there were nerfs to the content. You know them as the 5.1 and 5.3 Valor Upgrades.

Admittedly, it took me a while to realize it myself and to realize why I had initially viewed the Valor Upgrades as something other than a nerf.

One of my biggest problems with the nerfs in Cataclysm was that the nerfs were to the base encounter: “The boss has 20% less health, does 20% less damage.” That’s a nerf to the encounter.

While I wasn’t altogether a fan of the ICC buff, where people did increasingly more damage and healing, at least, I reasoned, the onus was on the player to perform better with these buffs. A 30% buff still wouldn’t make up for an idiot hunter who just auto-shotted throughout the encounter and didn’t use a pet. A 30% buff (even to health) wasn’t guaranteed to keep you alive if you stood in the fire. (Obviously, it bought you time to move out of the fire, but it didn’t really save you from Heroic Sindragosa’s Frost Bombs and stuff.)

The Firelands nerfs came in after the instance had been open for four months (June 28th-September 19th = 12 weeks).

The Dragon Soul nerfs began being applied after the instance had been open for 9 weeks (November 29th-January 31st).

In the case of the Valor Upgrades, these appeared with the mid-tier patches of 5.1 and 5.3.

5.1 came out on November 27th (about 8 weeks after the expansion’s launch) and 5.3 came out on May 21st, 11 weeks after Patch 5.2 (and thus, Throne of Thunder) came out. Valor Upgrades mean that you can upgrade Epic-quality gear twice for four item levels each, using Valor Points. So the Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow from Tortos in the Throne of Thunder starts out as ilvl 522. If you upgrade it once (for 250 VP), it goes to ilvl 526. You then gain 60 agility, 89 stamina, 40 expertise, 38 hit and 216.2 ranged DPS.

If you upgrade it again, for another 250 VP, it turns into a 530 item level bow and you gain an additional 61 agility, 92 stamina, 43 expertise, 39 hit and 224.2 ranged DPS.

That’s a total increase of:

121 agility
181 stamina
83 expertise
77 hit
440.6 ranged DPS

The basic difference between one level of gear and another is about 13 item levels. The normal T16 chest for a holy paladin, for example, is Breastplate of Winged Triumph and is ilvl 553 and the heroic version is 566.

So getting an 8 item level boost is more than halfway to the next step of gear. 8 item levels is more than the difference between normal and thunder/warforged, which is 6 item levels. It’s more than the difference between heroic and heroic thunder/warforged, which is also 6 item levels.

If you upgrade the vast majority of your gear (as, I believe, is expected for most heroic raiders), if your whole raid team does that, guess what? You’ve just nerfed the instance. By about 7-8%.

One of the major problems Blizzard had with the ICC buff (as a nerfing mechanic) is that they didn’t like that people felt “less powerful” outside of the instance. It’s true — people who went merrily roflstomping their way through ICC at, say, the 30% buff, got their asses handed to them on Halion in the Ruby Sanctum.

So what they did here, and I really do have to take my hat off to them for this, is they elected to nerf things through the players. The responsibility to upgrade your gear is on YOU. The responsibility of earning enough VP to do so is on YOU. As a reward, you get to be more powerful, not just in a single raid instance, but everywhere. They only introduced this in the 5.1 and 5.3 patches, which meant that they waited until the tier was about halfway over before allowing players to nerf it by outgearing things.

Of course, these valor upgrade NPCs are still around now that 5.4 has hit. That means that you can upgrade all your shiny new LFR/Flex/Normal/Heroic gear ASAP. And since Valor Points weren’t converted to Justice Points either, well, hey. That means that a lot of people can get their upgrades going super-quickly to help them mow down the first several Siege bosses much more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.

In other words… Instead of waiting for a 5.5 patch to nerf things via Valor Upgrades, you can just start out with a nerf to the instance right off the bat.

This leaves me wondering… will they do a blanket nerf midway through the tier? Will 5.5 bring with it another nonsensical nerf? Will there even be a 5.5? Will they just nerf stuff halfway through without a mid-tier patch?

For the last four tiers in a row, Blizzard has introduced a nerf mechanic to the current raid instance while about halfway through the tier. Firelands was the 20% flat nerf. Dragon Soul was the 5% nerf, gaining every 4 weeks or so. Tier 14 was in the form of 5.1’s Valor Upgrades. Tier 15 was in the form of 5.3’s Valor Upgrades.

Does the fact that Valor Upgrades are possible in 5.4 mean that there will be no nerfs in Tier 16? Or does it mean that an even bigger nerf is looming? Well, it’s common knowledge that this is the last raid encounter of the expansion. At the change from BC to Wrath, there was a 30% nerf that went into effect for ALL RAIDS and ALL BOSSES. In the last six months of ICC, we had a stacking 5% buff-type nerf. It seems to me that the question isn’t will there be an additional nerf to Siege of Orgrimmar, it’s just what form will that additional nerf take?

Remember, we’re probably looking at Siege of Orgrimmar being the instance until June, 2014, which is when I anticipate the new expansion will drop. I would think, therefore, that a nerf effect might be applied sometime in December at the earliest and February at the latest.

I could be wrong, mind you. This is all conjecture. But another nerf mechanic in this, the last raid tier of the expansion, only seems logical when you look at how Blizzard has consistently nerfed current content (and, specifically, final tier content) over the last several years. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

(Remember, my Limited-Time Specials at Kurn.info are ending this Tuesday, so be sure to check them out! Also, don’t hesitate to sign up for the affiliate program and earn 50% commission on every sale you’re responsible for!)

Affiliates and Specials

So after some poking around, I set up an Affiliate Program for Kurn’s Guides. The bullet points:

– If an affiliate refers someone to my site and that someone buys something, the affiliate gets 50% of the proceeds. That’s right, 50%. I figure that the sale wouldn’t have happened without the affiliate, so why not thank them for their help in making the sale?
– Payment goes out near the start of each month. Period. You’ll get paid in the first week of the following month

That’s basically the size of it. Read up on how to sign up for my Affiliate Program if you’re interested. :)

And speaking of Kurn’s Guides, my limited-time $77 and $97 specials are coming to an end in one week! Both offers expire on Tuesday, September 24th at 11:59pm ET. Several people have taken advantage of these limited-time offers and I’m really enjoying them, but they do take a lot of time out of my schedule. There’s no telling when (or if) they’ll ever return, so if you wanted to buy the full guide and get some one-on-one time with me about guild stuff, now’s your chance!

Finally, I may have a new Sneak Peek for you as early as next Tuesday. I’ve started my Kick-Ass Raider guide and should have something worth showing people next week, but possibly the week after. Either way, I’ll be sure to shout about it from the rooftops. ;)

And maybe I’ll even have another Hearthstone post coming up, soon! So many things to do, so little time to do them all!

More Hearthstone Thoughts

So I got a Hearthstone beta key the other week and, while I haven’t been playing it as much as I would have liked to, I’m quite enjoying it.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Hearthstone is properly known as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and it’s a digital CCG (collectible card game) that Blizzard is working on. It’s currently in closed beta. It is, in a word, fun.

There are nine decks, one for each of the original World of Warcraft classes, each represented by a different “hero” of that class.

Druid: Malfurion Stormrage
Hunter: Rexxar
Mage: Jaina Proudmoore
Paladin: Uther (the) Lightbringer
Priest: Anduin Wrynn
Rogue: Valeera Sanguinar
Shaman: Thrall
Warlock: Gul’dan
Warrior: Garrosh Hellscream (post-5.4 spoilers, perhaps!)

What’s interesting about this is that, basically, the decks don’t need a hero associated with them, but having them there means that you can use all kinds of lore and story affiliated with those characters. There’s a hunter card, for example, that will summon a random beast companion, and these beasts are well-known pets of Rexxar’s. It gives great flavour (and fun) to play as/against these “heroes”. (Although, let me just say that perhaps Garrosh wasn’t a great choice, given that the 5.4 raid is the Siege of Orgrimmar… But who else? Cairne or Baine Bloodhoof? Saurfang? Grom Hellscream? Lothar? VARIAN? Meh.)

So you have a deck of 30 cards and, using these cards, your goal is to bring down the opposing hero from 30 health to 0. In these decks, you have various cards that will do various things. You can basically break them down into two types of cards:

1) The ability card. This type of card will generally not leave a minion on the board. A prime example is the hunter’s Multi-Shot card. All this does is three damage to two random enemy minions.

2) The minion card. While minion cards will often also have an additional effect, this is the kind of card that just drops a minion on to the board for you to play (typically the next turn). Here’s an example of a plain, basic card.

Your job is to make sure your deck of 30 cards will be appropriately balanced between abilities and minions to get you to kill the opposing hero. What’s awesome is that how you go about doing this depends largely on your class.

For example (and this is my experience, so I could be very wrong), I find that Rogue decks are very much tuned for direct damage and they also have a lot of great defensive moves. By that, I mean that it feels as though they have a ton of ability cards. You could build an entire deck around just abilities, though it might not be very successful. There are 17 ability cards in a Rogue deck and you can have two of each in your 30-card deck. Among them are cards like Assassinate, Sap and Vanish.

By contrast, Hunter decks (again, my experience) seem to be a decks that work very well with lots of minions, specifically Beasts (which only makes sense), and there’s a lot of synergy with the hunter-specific cards. The Starving Buzzard lets you draw a card when you summon a beast, the Scavenging Hyena gains attack and health when a beast dies, while the Houndmaster gives a friendly Beast extra attack and health AND a taunt.

So one of the things I like best about the game is that each deck really feels like the class they’re named for. I feel like Rogues are a bit squishy, but can do great crowd control and fantastic damage. I feel like Hunters are at their best when taking advantage of all the synergy with various bonuses for beasts. I also feel as though the Paladins are slow to start, but have great staying power and will eventually overwhelm you.

It all just feels very “right”, if that makes sense.

So, as I said, your goal is to take a 30-card deck and kill the opposing hero. Each hero starts with 30 health and no one can have more than 30 health (although some characters have shielding abilities which means you’ll be required to hit them for more than 30 total damage for them to die).

The other part of the game that I very much enjoy is that it’s like a chess game. There are good times and bad times to use certain cards and a long-term strategy is likely required when you’re planning out your deck. However, that strategy isn’t always available and you will end up changing ideas as you progress through a match because your awesome opening cards could be at the very bottom of your deck! Every time you pick a card, things can drastically change. Every time your opponent plays a card, things can drastically change.

Then there are Taunt cards to deal with, Charge cards, cards that spawn MORE minions, Deathrattles and more mechanics, all of which can completely screw up your plan. So it’s a chess game, but with a few separate elements of surprise thrown in.

Here’s one of my earliest matches:

And you can find more on my YouTube channel (here’s the direct link to my Hearthstone Playlist!). Occasionally, I may also stream over at Twitch, so you can mock me. ;)

Next time I write about Hearthstone, I’m going to talk about going first, going second and The Coin, including some really interesting information about how it helps even the playing field, posted by one of the devs.