Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Warlock Tier Set Pieces

So a little more on the title topic later. First, a quick leveling update. I spent a few days last week focused on my Rogue and managed to get him to level 42. Combat continues to be a great talent tree for leveling and while the class as a whole continues to be a lot of fun, I am getting a little worn out spamming sinister strike all day long. So I might switch him over to Assassination once I hit 50 and can pick up Mutilate. It's probably not as good in general for leveling, but might be a little bit more fun.

I also worked on my Shadow Priest for a bit and he now sits at 49, just a few bars from picking up Vampiric Touch. When I started to level the shadow priest, I really thought it was going to feel very warlocky, but without the benefit of the minion. I've been very pleasantly surprised how different the class feels for leveling and how very survivable it is with all the various shadow talents pouring health back into my toon. Plus, there's a lot to keep track of in terms of different spells in the rotation and different buffs to keep up, so it's generally a fun leveling experience.

I may spend another day or two on the Priest before switching over to the mage. Gotta get to 50 and get Vampiric Touch after all!

So I've also been running some heroics and doing a few Wintergrasps on my existing 80's in order to continue their slow accumulation of gear. My druid is already in a four piece T9 set with a cloak from frost emblems, and my warlock just picked up the badges yesterday to get his last piece of T9.

It's actually quite interesting, because the T9 cloak for warlocks seems like, if anything, it's probably a slight downgrade from the T8 piece that I've been wearing. Seems like very odd itemization on the part of Blizzard. Conqueror's Deathbringer Robe versus Guldan's Robe of Conquest. If you run the comparisons on those two, you'll see that as part of "upgrading" to the next Tier, I'll be losing 1 hit, 2 spell power and 66 crit. In exchange, I'll be picking up 16 intellect, 9 stamina and 72 spirit. I'll also be trading a yellow gem slot for a blue slot, neither of which I'm likely to use for the slot bonus, which is the same on both pieces. Now don't get me wrong - if you run the stat weightings on Wowhead, it does still show up as a net upgrade, primarily because the extra spirit and intellect outweighs the loss on the other stats, but it just doesn't feel like much of an upgrade.

But, I need it in order to keep the set bonus, because as another oddity, the four piece set bonus for warlocks for T9 is the same as the 2 piece set bonus from T8 which I currently have. So since I'll be breaking up the T8 set anyway for the Triumph emblem helm, I need to replace the chest piece in order to keep that 10% bonus to my immolate's damage.

And, it's exactly this kind of nonsense that makes me tend to focus on leveling in the first place!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Maestrom Weapon Baby!

The funny thing about leveling so many different toons, is that somewhere around the mid-50's, where the class starts to get some of their really class defining talents, they start to feel completely invincible to me. I managed to get my Enhancement Shaman to level 56 yesterday, so he has picked up the first two ranks of Maelstrom Weapon. He really feels like an unstoppable force, I don't even have the full ranks of Maelstrom Weapon or Spirit Wolves yet.

But, I tend to feel that way about all the classes that I've played. Feral Druids with Mangle. The Beast Within for my Hunter. For my Retribution Paladin, it was actually Art of War and Judgements of the Wise that started to make him feel like a leveling machine. Crusader Strike seemed somewhat overwhelming as a talent in that tier. For my Warlock, it was the Felguard.

Once you get that top tier talent, everything just starts to feel easy.

So I'm really looking forward to getting those talents on my last three toons. For the mage, it's clearly about getting the Water Elemental (and then Glyphing that bad boy). For the priest, it's all about Vampiric Touch. And for the rogue, the talent in that spot is Surprise Attacks. That doesn't read like much of a game changer to me. Certainly not as much as Mutilate over in the Assassination tree. But we'll see.

So, despite being very very close to Outland, my Shaman is going back on the shelf for a little while and I'm going to pick things back up with my Rogue. He's currently the lowest level of my remaining four toons that I'm leveling sitting back at level 36. He's also tremendous fun - whenever I end up playing him for a few days, I have a really hard time putting him down and moving on to the next toon. But I'm sticking with the plan to 80 with these guys this time.

So here's where we stand on this lovely Maintenance Tuesday.

Joarbek - Enhancement Shaman - level 56
Joarvyk - Shadow Priest - level 47 (and literally like half a bar from 48)
Joara - Frost Mage - level 46
Joarstab - Combat Rogue - level 36.

I'm still projecting an early August completion date to have all of these toons to 80. That might slip a little bit as things slow down once I get all of them to Northrend, but we'll see. I still think I"ll have time to finish up Loremaster on Joar before the release of Cataclysm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More Cataclysm Class Change Impacts on Leveling - Hunters, Druids and Mages

A post almost every day from Joar? What the heck? Is he trying to be a productive member of the blogging community or something?

This will cover my thoughts on the proposed changes impacts on the last three classes that have been released so far.

First - Hunters.

There are a number of changes here that I think are going to have a big impact on hunters. First, the removal of ammunition. This change is going to be extremely helpful, not because it was such a hassle constantly buying ammunition, but because of the bag space it is going to free up. One extra bag space just gives you that much more space for loot. The more you can carry while leveling, the more gold you will earn by selling it or auction housing it when you get back to town. Always a good thing.

The change to focus instead of mana will be a good thing at lower levels, particularly before level 20 when you would have picked up Aspect of the Viper to regenerate your mana while fighting. Not so much stopping and drinking up to level 20. After level 20, not having to switch back and forth between aspects is a nice touch, and should have the mobs going down faster as we won't be taking the periodic damage reduction that went with Aspect of the Viper.

Having the ability to hold three active pets will also be a huge benefit to those that like to do a little instancing or PvP while leveling. At least for me, I've always found that a tenacity pet worked best for leveling, but that I probably wanted a ferocity pet for instances and a cunning pet for PvP. Now, I can keep all three with me at once and switch back and forth to fit the situation. Huge plus.

Starting with the pet at level 1 seems like it would be a huge deal, but frankly, if it was bothering you that much for the 3-4 hours that it takes to get to level 10, you probably have different issues. It should in theory prevent leveling hunters from starting some annoying melee habits at low levels, but hopefully folks were getting over those habits in the remaining 150-200 or so hours it took to get the rest of the way to 80. Also, lots of neat sounding buffs to Beast Mastery talents that should help significantly. Strangely enough, unlike some of the other classes, these are all fairly detailed, so it's worth checking out the forum posts.

Next - Druids

There's different things in these updates for you depending on whether you level as Feral or Balance. Ghostcrawler hinted in a follow up post that one of the things they are considering is switching when you get Cat and Bear form. Getting cat form at level 10 would be a huge bonus to the folks that just like to level through questing, but would be an enormous problem for the folks looking to start bear tanking as soon as the Dungeon Finder tool becomes available. Not sure we'll end up actually seeing that one as a result.

"We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss." Leveling feral was never particularly difficult once you got mangle, but this is going to make it even better. Also, some talk in the updates about providing cats with an interrupt which will help immensely with those pesky caster mobs.

For folks leveling as balance, the new top level mastery bonus is changing the operation of Eclipse:
"Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance. " This sounds pretty cool. Not sure it's going to make my leveling life largely different.

Overall, druids have never been particularly difficult to level once you get cat form at 20, and it seems like that's going to continue to be the case. Not seeing much help for those early levels though.

And last, but certainly not least: Mages

Lots of interesting changes that impact leveling mages:

"Arcane Missiles is being redesigned to become a proc-based spell. Whenever the mage does damage with any spell, there is a chance for Arcane Missiles to become available, similar to how the warrior's Overpower works. The damage and mana cost of this spell will be reworked to make it very desirable to use when available. This change should make gameplay more dynamic for the mage, particularly at low levels."

I typically level as frost, so Arcane Missles is just not something that I use at all. To me, this sounds like a good addition just to get me out of mindless Frostbolt spam.

"We are planning to remove spells that don't have a clear purpose. Amplify Magic, Dampen Magic, Fire Ward, and Frost Ward are being removed from the game, and we may remove more."

A little sadness here as I typically use Fire Ward a fair amount while leveling - particularly as most of the caster mobs you come across seem to be fireball fiends.

"The ability to conjure food and water will not become available until higher levels (likely around level 40), as we're making changes to ensure mages generally won't run out of mana at lower levels. Once mages learn how to conjure food and water, the conjured item will restore both health and mana." As long as changes are being made to make sure I don't run out of mana as much at lower levels, not sure I really care about this one. Never been a big user of the conjured food anyway.

The top tier mastery bonus for Frost is interesting as well.

"Deathfrost: Casting Frostbolt places a buff on the mage that increases the damage for all frost, fire, and arcane spells. The only damage spell that won't be affected by this buff is Frostbolt." Anything that makes me push a key other than my Frostbolt key is one that I generally view positively!

So that's it for the last of the classes. It looks like the paladin update will be coming out tomorrow, so look for my thoughts tomorrow night!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cataclysm Class Change Impact on Leveling - Death Knights and Rogues

First off, Death Knights. Depending on which spec you chose to level in, the proposed changes could end up having a very significant impact on how you approach leveling your Death Knight. I personally leveled my Death Knight using a blood spec, so with the switch to blood being the dedicated tanking tree, it's going to presumably require a switch to either Frost or Unholy for leveling. I'm assuming here that you are leveling through questing, and not through the Dungeon Finder. If Dungeon Finder is your preferred leveling method, then by all means, stay blood and tank away! Having all the tanking talents in one tree should make that much easier for starting Death Knights.

The changes to the rune system, if balanced appropriately in terms of the overall damage, don't seem like they will have much of an impact. I may not be pushing quite as many buttons because of the resource constraints, but if you believe what they've said so far, things should go down just as fast.

I do think it will be an overall negative to DK leveling to not have all of the self-healing abilities of the blood spec combined with pretty hard hitting damage. That made the class a leveling machine, and if you give those up for just straight dps as either frost or unholy, the lack of self-heals is going to make it a little bit more challenging. Overall, at least at the moment, I don't see a clear leveling winner between Frost and Unholy, so it looks like it's a "go with whatever you like".

Rogues - as if leveling a rogue wasn't fun enough as it is, we're now getting a healing ability:

"We would like to improve the rogue leveling experience. Positional attacks and DoT-ramping mechanics will be de-emphasized at low levels and then re-introduced at higher levels for group gameplay. We are also providing rogues with a new low-level ability, Recuperate, to convert combo points into a small heal-over-time (HoT)."

We'll also be apparently picking up the ability to continue to use the combat points from recently killed targets for non-target specific effects like Slice and Dice and Recuperate:

"To complement the change to combo points, non-damage abilities such as Recuperate and Slice and Dice will no longer have target requirements and can be used with any of the rogue's existing combo points, including combo points remaining on recently killed targets. This will not affect damage abilities, which will still require combo points to be present on the specific target you want to damage. To coincide with this, the UI will be updated so that rogues know how many combo points they have active."

And as another bonus, if you're leveling as combat swords, you can now Ambush!

"Ambush will now work with all weapons, but will have a reduced coefficient when not using a dagger. When opening from Stealth, all rogues will be able to choose from burst damage, DoT abilities, or a stun."

Looks like a lot of abilities (except for Backstab) are going to have their weapon related limitations removed - so Hack and Slash will work whether you're using sword, axes, maces or daggers.

All in all, great news for those out there leveling rogues. Should definitely provide a lot more flexibility in how you choose to level, as well as increasing your overall survivability - always a plus.

So that's it for those two. Tomorrow, I plan to finish this up with thoughts on Hunters, Druids and Mages.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cataclysm Class Change Impact on Leveling - Warlock, Shaman and Priest

So I decided to go ahead and do a series of posts over the next few days over the impact of the proposed Cataclysm class changes on all of us altoholics.

Because it was the first released, and also happens to be the class of my main, I'm going to start with the warlock. I'll direct everyone to MMO-Champion or wow.com, for the full text of the actual class change posts from Blizzard. For warlocks, there are a handful of items that I think are going to be especially impactful in terms of leveling:

"Voidwalker Torment will do increased damage and generate a lot of area-of-effect (AoE) threat. Suffering will become a single-target taunt." Obviously, any time your main leveling pet is doing a lot more damage and threat, that's only good news for the warlocks in the audience.

The changes to the soul shard mechanic will also obviously make things much easier for us leveling warlocks as things like healthstone, firestones, spellstones, soulstones and summoning our pets will no longer require the use of a shard. Our shards will give us another "Oh Shit" button that will help with faster summons if our demons get killed in combat and provide a number of other valuable buffs.

"Demonology will gain a new direct-damage spell, Demon Bolt. Demon Bolt will add a debuff that improves the damage done by the demon to the target." Not sure what level they're thinking of for this, but this is an obvious help to those who prefer to level demonology.

"Hellfire will no longer deal damage to the warlock." Just kind of slid that one in there - but this will give us another powerful AoE for those times when a few more mobs than we intended come running our way. Used to be, this didn't even get a place on the cast bar because of the self-damaging nature of it, but could see this getting a lot more use in leveling now.

"Curse of Agony and Curse of Doom will be converted into Bane of Agony and Bane of Doom. Bane spells are considered magic instead of curses. This means you will be able to cast one Bane (e.g. Bane of Agony) and one Curse (e.g. Curse of Elements) on a single target. " Hmmm...my leveling rotation just got a little bit more complicated. So now I'm going to apply a bane, apply a curse, set up corruption, immolate and then start spamming either incinerate or shadowbolt approximately an hour later. Not sure those curses are going to be getting applied other than in the most extreme scenarios.

So that's what caught my attention on warlocks.

For Shaman, I've been leveling mine as enhancement, so I'm particularly intrigued about Blizzards efforts to get this to be something other than lightning bolt spam at lower levels.

"Primal Strike (available at level 3): Primal Strike is a new weapon-based attack that every shaman will learn very early in the game. Our goal with this ability is to make leveling as Enhancement rather than as Elemental more viable, since many key Enhancement talents become available at fairly high levels. " Woo hoo! Maybe no more lightning bolt spam? We'll see how this works. I'd be even more enthused if they were making dual wield avaiable at lower levels, but we'll see how this works.

The other thing that caught my attention was:

"We want to free up Enhancement global cooldowns to make the spec more dynamic to play. We're considering, for example, increasing the cooldown of Lava Lash so shaman have time to work other interesting abilities into their rotation." That's sufficiently vague that all I can say is, gee Blizz...that'd be swell. Get back to me when you've actually got some detail. In general, increasing the cooldown of Lava Lash, all by itself, isn't getting me too terribly excited.

The primal strike piece has me very excited all by itself, so while there doesn't seem to be quite as much love for the leveling shaman, overall, in general, I'd still call it excellent news.

Last but not least, priests.

Because I generally level through questing and not instancing, I level my priests as Shadow, so that's really what I'm going to discuss here. Really only one thing in the whole list had me even remotely interested and that was the concept of shadow orbs:

"Shadow Orbs: Casting spells grants a chance for Shadow Orbs to be created that fly around you and increase your shadow damage. This will help lower-level characters feel more like "Shadow priests" before they obtain Shadowform. "

Now, this will apparently be attainable before Shadowform at level 40, but it's still the deepest thing down in the mastery area, so not sure how much earlier you'll be orbing it up.

There were also a couple of rather vague statements about shadow that sound interesting, but aren't really specific enough to be able to tell the impact on leveling at this point:

"We want to improve Shadow for short fights and reduce its susceptibility to school lockouts."

"Since the Shadow tree has a lot of passive damage-boosting abilities -- something we're trying to avoid in Cataclysm -- we will need to replace several of the tree's talents. One idea is to play off of the new Shadow Orbs mechanic (see Mastery section below), possibly allowing you to consume an orb to increase damage from Mind Blast or reduce Mind Spike's cast time."

I'll put these in the category of "sounds nice, but show me the money"

In general, we'll have to see how shadow orbs work out, but in general, not a lot of love for the leveling shadow priest at this point.

So that's it for the first three classes discussed. Tomorrow, I'll be talking about the changes to Death Knights and Rogues. Note I'm not going to be discussing warriors as that is the one class that I haven't leveled at all at this point, so I would have no idea what I was talking about.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dual Spec Subtlety at 40?

So I've made quite a bit of progress on my various toons so far in April. I managed to get Joarbek the Shammy all the way up to level 49. He's now so close to Outland I can smell sulfur. Woo hoo!

For the last day or two, I've been focusing on my rogue and he now sits at level 35. As he approaches 40, it's raised some questions about whether it might be worthwhile to get dual spec for him at level 40 and spec into the Subtlety tree for PvP. It seems kind of silly to have a rogue and not do a fair amount of PvP, and particularly on weekends, the Call to Arms battleground gives an enormous amount of xp - at least for a win.

The only drawback to my PvP plans is that while Combat is absolutely amazing for straight up questing and also for running instances, it seems to fall a little flat on the PvP front. I feel like someone trying to play a warrior, but wearing leather instead of something that will really protect me. So, I'm thinking about plunking down a little cash at level 40 and rocking dual spec on the rogue with Subtlety.

Now before you all light into me - I fully understand that Subtlety isn't the current uber endgame arena PvP build. If I was level 80, I would probably go ahead and do a Mut/Prep assassination / subtlety hybrid build which seems to be the selection of choice for the level 80 PvP crowd. But at level 40, I can't get far enough into the assassination tree to get mutilate or any of the fun abilities there and still be able to pick up some of the subtlety talents that seems to be hampering my PvP fun now. If anyone has a decent Assassination/Sub hybrid build that would work well pre-80, please let me know.

I was looking at possibly going 8 points into Subtlety in order to get Camouflage and then going down the Assassination tree from there. I'd get far enough down at level 40 to get Cold Blood and Fleet Footed, which seems like it would make me pretty formidable. So, I may experiment a little with that hybrid build versus a straight Subtlety build and I'll let everyone know what works well.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Joarification Complete

I've completed the Joarification of all my toons to allow for easy identification of my masses of alts by guild members. My main page has been updated accordingly, but here's the quick run down on the new names:

Mograwn (Tauren Shaman) -> Joarbek
Zinjar (Troll Priest) -> Joarvyk

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March Leveling Update

March was a relatively slow month for leveling. The distraction of having lots of new shinies available for my existing level 80's and the desire to gear a few of them up definitely cut down on the time I was spending on leveling, and you can clearly see that in the numbers. Plus, as it turns out, the more level 80's you have, the more time it takes to gear them up.

It also has started to bother me a little bit that my druid was outgearing my original main - Joar the Warlock, so I've started to run more heroics on Joar to catch him up.

Given that I only raid once or twice a month if that, I'm not sure why I care, but I seem to.

Anyway, for the numbers for March - I ended up racking up 25 levels in March (not counting my new Gnome Warlock over on Argent Dawn - which also slowed me down, now that I think about ti). That works out to right around 0.8 levels per day, and gives me an average for the year of just a touch under 1.3 levels per day.

At that rate, I'm now on track to have all nine horde toons to 80 by August 2nd - which should still be more than enough time for Cataclysm. Heck - I might even have time to get an Alliance toon to 80 before Cataclysm actually releases.

If you add in the levels for the Gnome Warlock, I was actually at 1.67 levels per day, which is pretty good, even throwing in a new toon.