Cataclysm is well on the way, with the class change previews showing up around the internet last week. From complete class overhauls to little design tweaks; every class has had something to fill their time with. Yet there is a pattern showing, a pattern that has been forming through out every expansion. Blizzards ‘Flavour of the Expansion’.

During The Burning Crusade, Blizzard showed off their skill at making everything sparkle, glow or float. It was pretty cool to start, but wore thin when every armour set had something crackling off of it or little rocks orbiting it. When Wrath of the Lich King hit our game we were barraged with vehicles. Battlegrounds using siege vehicles, dailies on annoying ponies (damn those ponies) and even raid encounters using this technique. It’s like the designers found something new and wanted to see just how many times they could plug it into the expansion. Sure did get old quick didn’t it?

And now what is on the horizon? Water, water, water. It appears that the developers found a box containing ‘New Water Effects’ and want to show off their shiny sparkly new toy. Flooding Thousand Needles, opening up zones to the coast and making a whole underwater zone. What better way to flaunt the new look of…. water. But wait, there’s more!

Hunters; along with a complete overhaul, get an interesting new ability. Camouflage! Making the caster immune to ranged attack and giving them a ‘predator style’ cloaked look using the… wait for it… new water ripple effects! Ok Blizzard we get it, you have learned how to make water look cool. Do you have to see just how many places you can put it to show off your skill?

Not only is the suffocation on the new water look a bit overwhelming already, but they seem to have found a new way to do spells. Shaman’s get a new AoE heal, expect unlike current AoE heals, it works more like Blizzard or Rain of Fire do. Drop the spell on an area and anyone who is in the area, or walks through the area gets healed. Cool a new mechanic, but will we see an influx of this new spell type? Only time will tell.

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So it’s been a few days since patch 3.3 went live, along with the cross-realm Dungeon Finder tool. With this there has been much chatter, both positive and negative in regards to the way groups are now formed.

Dungeon Finder Pros

There are many pro’s to the new system and personally this is the side of the fence I’m sitting on.

  • Cross-realm means there is a much larger pool of players looking for a dungeon at any one time, so filling groups should be much quicker than if you were attempting to group just within your server.
  • Random Heroic gives the ability to complete each heroic as many times as you can each day, and giving an additional 2 Emblem of Triumph (after the first random heroic which gives 2 Emblem of Frost), allowing gearing up to Tier 9 (and getting reputation gains through Emblem bought Commendations) to happen much quicker.
  • Groups are filled fairly well, with gear requirements being put in place by Blizzard to stop players attempting content much higher than they can do.
  • As a healer or tank the Dungeon Finder queue is almost instantaneous.

Dungeon Finder Cons

As much as I am fond of the new system, I am aware of the problems and disadvantages of the system.

  • Although the system is now cross-realm, finding a group as a damage role takes upwards of 15 minutes. This is because there are so many damage classes trying to find groups, that the ‘pool of players’ is saturated by damage dealers.
  • Despite Blizzard’s efforts to ‘gear match’ groups to an extent, there are occasions where a lower geared character is placed in your group, this can be problematic if they are the tank or healer in a difficult run.
  • You have no say over who you are grouped with, one run it may be 3 Death Knights, and the next run it may be all Shamans. This can cause wipes on some runs which require certain amounts of AoE or ranged damage.

All in all, I love the new system, having put on my tanking boots and took up the role of the tank in many heroics because of the quicker queue. So if you are having trouble getting groups and play a hybrid, try switching to tank of healing, it’ll only take a few runs to start gearing up.

Today we have something a bit special, a guest post by Matt “Matticus” Low on the difference in healing between Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel.

I should underscore the fact that my only experience in Icecrown Citadel has largely been on the PTR. As such, the healing numbers and damage numbers could be different by the time the patch is pushed through live. I do not know if any changes or tuning will be made to the various encounters to ease or harden the bosses.

Suffice it to say, there is a marked difference between healing in normal or heroic Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel.

For one thing, it’s not spiky. Gone are the days when the tank can get rocked in half a second or less where the only thing that would save him was a clairvoyant Power Word: Shield. As it stands right now, it’s possible for current tanks to get 1 or 2 shot depending on the encounter in ToGC. This is largely due to the amount of avoidance that most tanks have. Chill of the Throne is a blessing for healers in disguise.

Consistency vs Inconsistency

The damage is manageable. Heals can be timed to the point where you can land them right after a hit on tanks.

“Weapon swing, heal, weapon swing, heal, weapon swing, heal, we- Oh, special nuke, Power Word: Shield”.

The incoming damage is fairly consistent and you’re not going to experience any spikes from 20k to 45k on the same tank or anything like that (with the exception of boss abilities).

AoE is… well, AoE

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the whole heal the raid mechanic isn’t going to leave any time soon. Expect several auras or boss abilities that will hurt the entire raid. The environment is reminiscent of Sunwell when Resto Shamans and Holy Priests were the leaders of healing. Don’t expect this to be super avoidable stuff either. It’s no longer a question of avoiding the fire. It’s a question of who do I heal first so that they don’t die?

No dozing off on trash

You could get away with sleeping while clearing trash in Naxxramas and Ulduar (to an extent). But the trash mobs contained therein will be a test on their own. I don’t say this to try to scare you or build up hype. I’m doing this so that you can be prepared and gain an idea of what to expect. Our buddy Gluth has been converted into several trash packs complete with zombie chow and 90% health chomps. You’ll be fighting other Val’kyr who are related to the Val’kyr Twins in some fashion.

First ever healing oriented raid boss

There has never been an encounter like it. For once, we healers get to play a central role. Instead of killing a raid boss we get to heal a raid boss. I’ve already instructed my guild to keep a stockpile of bandages on them in case they haven’t. In the past, healers would chip in with DoTs or instant cast damage spells on the boss whenever they had time. Now it’s time for DPS to return the favour and squeeze off bandages during periods of no combat.

Again, I want to mention that this is the PTR and it’s used primarily to determine bugs in mechanics and the zone. Numbers can always be tweaked and adjusted later. It’s possible that damage dealt by bosses could be amplified.

Icecrown can’t come quick enough. I’ll be waiting.

Matt writes for a number of blogs such as his own World of Matticus and WoW.com, be sure to check him out

In the beginning…

November 20, 2009

So I’ve decided to join the ‘blogosphere’ finally. Lets give this a shot.

I’m Calum, an 18 year old University student from Australia. My main time sink is World of Warcraft, which I’ve played since vanilla (will update with the day I actually started). In the many years since I started playing I’ve gone through just about every play style, from a inexperienced noob who didn’t know what a GCD was, to hardcore raider spending 6+ hours a night attempting progression. Now however I am barely casual on my 80 Death Knight, but its still fun.

I plan *fingers crossed* to update this a lot, and bring some good information out, along with some personal speculation.

Stay tuned.