Of DPS and Druid Lootz

So there I was – back at work after a 5-day weekend and surfing my guild’s officer forums. Typical stuff mostly, monthly promotions, new applicants to mull over, conflicts with the raid schedule, pie or cake – blah, blah, blah. One thread caught my attention though and it had to do with the guild’s druid-folk and loot priorities. Feeling like I had bear in that race I dug in.

Seems the guild master decided to post some rules on druids and what they could roll on in Kara’. A good thing – since lootz = dramaz and druids are all about the drama.

Here’s what the decision looked like:

  • Tank Feral Druids have priority on Leather Drops that are tanking specific
  • DoomChicken Druids have priority on Leather Drops that are caster specific
  • Resto Druids have priority on Leather Drops that are healzor specific
  • DPS Druids CAN NOT roll on DPS Leather – Rogues only

[Cut to Guild’s Druid Class Officer]

<Go Cat Form!>

/target Guild Master

/mangle /mangle /mangle /mangle

After about 10k of damage and a lot of forums screaming – one of our tanking druids went bear form and sat on the class officer. She immediately calmed down enough for us to call in a medic. Moments later one of our resto brethren tossed off some heal-dotz and after a few minutes, both had calmed or coagulated enough to carry on a reasonable conversation….

Still spitting and snarling through bits of the GM’s robe, the class officer pointed out the following:

A feral druid brings utility to the raid that is more than just dps. Innervate for a caster, battle rez for anyone, group healing through improved leader of the pack, increased damage from bleeds with mangle, etc. Not to mention off-healing, cleansing, and buffz. Long story short – don’t neglect druid loot because druids bring diversity and flexibility to the raid – something rogues can’t do.

Then the rogue class-leader came along….He obviously felt that the GM’s decision was both wise and just.

As far as he was concerned, druids had three roles there were going to be relegated to in the guild:

  • Healer
  • Tank
  • Caster DPS

And that was it. The bears could tank and tank well – the healers could tree it up and cast happy-dotz all they wanted – and the Boomkin were given free reign to nuke and nuke and nuke and nuke. But the catz? No – it’s nice they can dps and all, but the catz need to pick a different spec. Leave the damage dealing to the adults.

The difference in their arguments came from the stances each class officer had taken – both were as timeless as the classes themselves.

  • Druid: We are versatile – Gear us with versatility in mind
  • Rogue: We only have so many drops – don’t let other classes ninja them – there are other ways to gear druids or warriors to dps that don’t include giving them dibs on our leather Kara loot

A lot of this seems to come down to the fact that the work Blizzard has done to allow hybridization and to improve the itemization of gear to support it, are still hit and miss. For the druid class, the problem seems to be one of too many options. They can *do* almost anything – but the fact leads many to view the class as greedy and overreaching. For the rogues comes the problem of specialization – what can they really do other than put out damage, manage aggro well and provide some limited CC? With such seemingly limited versatility, allowing them members-only access to dps leather can be viewed as greedy and unfair.

Which would you prefer in your raid? Do you go for hybrids and versatility or do you prefer to maintain specialist characters for specialist slots?

In a number of guilds on the same progression level (through Gruul) I am starting to see a great deal of acceptance and preference for characters that bring options to the raid leader. DPS slots that have traditionally gone to rogues or hunters are now being parceled out to appropriately specced Shaman and Druids. Does this break down as you try to extend into deeper content or are single function classes like rogue and mage becoming obsolete while the hybrids take over?

Drop us a line and let us know how your guild handles things.

Saying Goodbye to the Battlegrounds and Leveling a PvP ALT

So – one of my ALT-er-ego’s is a Tauren Shaman. He started life as a 10-19 battlegrounds twink on Thorium Brotherhood (US) way, way back when that server first launched. Back then, his name was “Remember” and he was my first attempt at leveling – or PvPing with a shaman.

Well, a lot of time went by and for much of it, Remember was played little. I managed to get him up to “Grunt” rank in the old PvP ranking system before it was shelved (the equivalent of a Corporal for you Alliance folk) and he had decent gear for a level 19 battleground brat. I enjoyed PvPing with Remember – but was burnt out from getting my main into the officer ranks. As a result, Remember spent more time cooling his heels than tossing out heals.

Ultimately, Remember became one of my support alts – a well geared bank that could gather herbs and brew speed potions for my other characters. In time I finally decided that my other toons had more to benefit from Remember’s alchemy skill growing than I did by having (yet another) semi-twinked level 19 in my stable. So – with a resigned sigh, Remember headed back out to the barrens – hit level 20 in about an hour – and promptly got shelved for several months.

Now – over a year later – enter a new server – and a forced name change.

Remember is now Skychaser on Moon Guard. I rerolled over there a while back and hooked up with a guild full of alting battlegrounds geeks like myself. Having a good time with this new crew, I decided to bring my old potion maker over from Thorium Brotherhood in order to shill pots for my current toons and guildies alike. Eventually – out of a desire to learn more about the Shaman class and to try something new, I leveled Skychaser/Remember to 29 and camped battlegrounds again until I snagged my usual belt, boots and baubles from Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch. I enjoyed pvping with the shaman at 29 – but the road had been hard. Worse, in PvE, I always felt that soloing with the big white Tauren had proven tedious and awkward. Skychaser ended up dead a lot and I spent a lot of time reading forums and trying to understand why this once formidable class was so hard for me to wrap my head around.

Finding few answers other than the angst over on the official Shaman forums about how massively the class had been nerfed – I finally turned to instances and grouping. Now – by nature – I’m a solo player. I love instances and love raiding – but rarely have time or patience to endure the endless waiting for pug groups to form, or the disastrous outcomes that most pugs seem to enable. The new guild had good people in it though and I managed to hook Sky’ up to various low level runs through several instances. What I learned while doing this, was that while I felt like four-thumbed failure in solo-PvE and PvP, I felt like a small gawd in group play.

Running Skychaser through instances was a revelation in rediscovering the strength of hybrid classes in group play. He could tank, he could dps, he could heal and cleanse. Groups that were having problems with an instance immediately seem to find a greater deal of success with the shaman in tow. His totems provided low cost healing and mana – gave supportive buffs or purged negative spell effects. When things went pear-shaped his ability to rez or (better yet) self-rez after a wipe extended his value in groups from “spare war-stomp with h33ls” to “invaluable multi-function tool.”

Intrigued with the class – I broke out of the 20-29 bracket and discovered Windfury. While still suffering from a past nerf, quintessential Shaman melee trait was the fuel I needed to propel Skychaser through the long and still somewhat awkward climb through the 30’s. Sky’ was still having to work for his levels – but the additional melee prowess was noticeable and appreciated. Somewhere after level 35 though – and finally being able to advance his capped alchemy skill – Sky’ stalled and his progress lagged. Quests in the 30’s seemed to be harder to find – the task of leveling easier – but still arduous for the enhancement Shammy. I started to wonder if he was doomed to be a cast-off potion maker forever.

Then 2.3 hit.

With higher experience for kills and quests as well as easier leveling, post 2.3 Azeroth is likely to become the saving grace of stalled alts everywhere. In an afternoon of questing in STV, Skychaser saw level 36 come and go in a blink. Later in the same week, questing in Desolace and a run through Scarlet Monestary’s Library and Armory wings brought 37 and 38 in rapid succession. A few odd clean up quests and a daily battleground quest or two and suddenly 39 was attained. Shocked with how fast the last 4 levels had come I took time at 39 to dive back into Arathi Basin. Again – Skychaser proved a revelation in the battlegrounds. A well geared 39 – the vigor and force of his windfury crits – the speed of his improved ghost wolf – and the versatility of his heals, totems, and purge ability put Sky at the top of charts in game after game. In one long evening of back to back play – he collected over 50 tokens and became the focus fire target of every alliance group that he crossed paths with.

Last night, with my 30-39 battlegrounds aspirations complete, I left Arathi Basin and headed off to Duskwallow Marsh. Starting two bars into 39 – I muddled my way around from quest giver to quest giver in the refreshed zone. I took my time to discover these new adventures and to farm herbs. Before I realized it, I had cleared out the first half of my quests in the zone and rather unexpectedy watched Skychaser disappear in a flourish of golden light as he dinged 40.

Holy cats that was fast.

A quick trip back to Thunderbluff allowed Sky’ to train. Packing stormstrike now – and an amazing chain-heal ability, the one time potions alt is now quickly becoming a favored main. I still have a lot of work to do with this toon, after all, there is a mount to buy, rep to gain and 30 more levels to discover. But I’m excited about leveling him, confident I can get him to outlands, and eager to see the world through his eyes while in the game.

I can safely that the leveling changes of 2.3 are going to provide a new lease on life for stalled alts. For all the raiding guilds trying to replace lost healers and tanks by slowly leveling alts on the side – they now have hope of actually bringing some of these toons into play in reasonable time. It’s going to be easier to move from bracket to bracket in the PvP arena – perhaps creating a bit more life in some of the less played battlegrounds. All in all – I have to rate the leveling change in 2.3 as my mvp – (most valuable patch.) Time for many gamers is sparse and the ability to fill what hours we *do* have with achievable and entertaining goals is by far the best bang for the buck I can hope for.

Exalted with Arathi Basin – Only 419 Games to Go…

So on Monday, Growl likes to troll the official forums and see what the BLUES have to say about things. One little bit of rantage that I came across had to do with the Arathi Basin battleground and just *how* long it would take to reach exalted.

The post started out with a fairly distraught fellow that had come to the conclusion that to reach exalted status with AB he needed to play something like 23,800 games – which worked out (assuming around 30 minutes a game) to the disproportionately large time hack of 58 days of played time in Arathi Basin alone.

Needless to say my jaw dropped. 58 days of /played – in AB? That…that’s just insane…it’s worse than insane – it’s criminal! Who could *stand* to play that much Arathi Basin? Great Spirit-In-The-Sky think of the children!!!

Before I could work myself up into a truly indignant rage, I remembered that some good friends had hit exalted back under the old PvP system. They seemed okay. No twitches or night terrors about losing the Lumber Mill or waking up screaming that the Farm is getting ninja’d. A couple even had families. How could this number be right?

Intrigued, I combed through a few more pages of the post until I caught on to a friendly fellow that paid closer attention to grade-school math.

The *real* break down to hitting exalted in AB looks like this:

  • Neutral to Friendly — 30 Games
  • Friendly to Honored — 60 Games
  • Honored to Revered — 120 Games
  • Revered to Exalted — 210 games

That’s a grand total of 420 games. Now the numbers assume 100 rep points per turn-in and don’t include fun things like AB Honor Weekends or bonus rep earned from quests so the actual number is likely to ball park a bit lower. That said, it’s still an accomplishment.

With this in mind, has the addition of the new “Conquerer” title lead any of you to try and hit exalted with all three of the original battlegrounds? Have you already done it? Send us a screenshot of your toon and let us know what the grind was like!

New Warden in Town

For those of you that missed it – a good while back, Blizzard made the news in a hard way when consumers learned that the gaming company had included a sneaky bit of anti-cheating software into the World of Warcraft client. The software is called “Warden” and has been around for some time busting punks and catching cheaters in Blizzard’s Battlenet service. One of the less known features of patch 2.3 is a newer and much stronger version of the Warden. It is believed that this new version is significantly more powerful in its pursuit of those trying to exploit the games Terms of Service.

At first blush, this seems pretty reasonable. No one likes competing against botters and gold-pharmers for in game resources . Nor do they like the impact that these actions can have on server economies. For that matter it’s safe to say that the average gamer is even less thrilled about keyloggers and trojans, both of which can be used to hijack an account leaving the toons inside naked and penniless. If the Warden is there to protect us from the predations of tools like these – then more power to it right?

Maybe, maybe not. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Warden is technically spyware…spyware that runs on our home computer and dutifully reports our activities back to the Blizzard mothership. Creepy but not necessarily evil? I mean after all, Blizzard is just trying to keep the playing field level for the actual gamerz while providing no safe haven for professional cheaters, hackers, and gold/level pharmers. According to folks at Blizzard – that’s exactly the letter and spirit of their intent.

Despite this, there are an increasing number of folks who are up in arms about the Warden and markedly unhappy that the tool has taken up residence on their hard-drives. They claim that not only is the Warden able to comb through virtually all parts of your computer – but that its findings are often arbitrary and have been the cause of unjust bannings and account closures.

While it’s hard to measure the veracity of these claims, it is clear that the Warden has a great deal of power. Greg Hoglund, a security expert and author has spent a fair amount of time looking at what Warden does while it runs in the background of our game. According to Hoglund’s Blog, the Warden runs about every 15 seconds while we play and does a number of things including:

  • Reads information from the World of Warcraft Application and all of the dynamically linked code libraries that make it up
  • Grabs the “window text” from the titlebar of every open application window…including applications that have nothing to do with WoW
  • Through these open applications Warden was able to sniff through the e-mail addresses of contacts in chat clients, pull the URL’s of open websites and the names of all of his running applications – even the ones in his toolbar

According to Hoglund, the application then compares this information to built in “libraries” of “bannable data.” Simply put – if something you’re running is actively against the terms of service (such as a botting application like WoW-Glide) then that fact is zipped off to Blizzard who can then immediately flag your account for investigation or closure. This is a careful difference. No personal information of yours is technically passed to Blizzard, instead, they simply look at what’s going on in your system and then compare it against a list of things they think are suspect. If Warden finds a match – he calls home and tells mom about it. This allows Warden to be quite invasive in its exploration of our running processes – without technically telling anyone at Blizzard how much money is in our Quicken Checking Account.

“So what?” one might say, “I don’t bot, I don’t buy gold, and no one else has access to my account – so I have nothing to worry about.” In a sense, this is true, it’s easy to not fear a tool like the Warden when you game with the righteous. But what happens if you inadvertently surfed to a gold selling website and didn’t think to close the window before launching WoW? When Warden runs does it know the difference between someone buying gold and someone who’s just browsing? Does Blizzard care? The problem is that no one outside of Blizzard knows what the rules are when it comes to account banning or closure and thus it’s truly impossible to know how a certain action might be looked at.

To the truly paranoid this is on par with allowing police the ability to search your home at any time – with no search warrant – and then being subject to prosecution for offenses that only they know exist. Regardless of how you might feel about gold pharming or botting – there is a certain atavistic fear involved with someone that can invade your privacy at any time and report on your actions. Blizzard claims to only want to protect their game and their business (as well as your in game experience) from the predations of those that would exploit it. This is understandable – reasonable even. But every WoW player signs away a small (or large depending upon how you look at it) bit of their privacy when they accept the Terms of Service for the game, without really understanding what’s living on their hard-drive.

As of 2.3 – there is a new wrinkle. Not only do we have the toughest, meanest, most ruthless version of the Warden resident on our computers, but he now speaks a language that only Blizzard can understand. That’s right – the output from the new Warden is now completely encrypted. In the past, a number of bloggers and gamers supported Blizzard’s use of Warden because the results of the application rumbling around their hard-drive could be monitored by other applications or tracked by a good firewall. This is no longer the case. While the Warden may be as benign as ever to the honest WoW player, the fact remains that what he does on our systems is now completely obfuscated from even the most technical. While most of us will continue to play World of Warcraft – the fact remains that the application now resident in the guts of our game is one that monitors our actions and speaks in tongues. The results of these incomprehensible conversations have great power over our ability to play the game. Yet none of us know the rules it judges our worthiness by – or when it might find us wanting.

This latest action by Blizzard takes some of the luster off of what I believe to be an exemplary patch to the game. Now I don’t personally believe that Blizzard is mining my personal information or communicating my bank balance and shopping preferences to Blizzard. But the fact remains that I don’t appreciate that the functions of the tool are no longer transparent. Only time will tell how effective the new watch-dog program will be. Can it bring an end to the corruption of WoW economies by gold sales? Can it protect players from those that would compromise their accounts and steal the fruit of their in-game labors (or worse – their credit card numbers and account passwords?) Will it be a fair arbiter of justice? Or will we begin to see innocent people get their accounts banned because they surfed the wrong web-page, communicated with the wrong people in IM or received SPAM e-mail from known gold sellers?

While I don’t have a single tin-foil hat in my closet, I can’t help but feel a bit creeped out about all I’ve learned. I know from now on, when I play – I’ll close everything but the game itself. This in itself is a bit of a drag on my in game experience since I’m used to having FireFox open (with about a million tabs) and my mail and chat clients all open. As a mac user it’s easy enough to run WoW in a window and keep up with the rest of my online life at the same time. But like having to maintain some kind of half understood systema or to maintain command information security, I’m now feeling pressured to mitigate how I enjoy the game – because I just don’t know what it might say about me while I play.

Brian Kopp Updates His 1-70 Guide for 2.3

Brian Kopp, author of the extremely successful Alliance 1-70 leveling guides has just finished updating his guide for WoW 2.3! Kopp’s guide is touted as one of the fastest ways to level an Alliance character and with the increased quest experience and decreased leveling requirements that went live with 2.3, things have only gotten better.

According to Kopp – the changes in 2.3 now allow players to easily level from 1-60 with absolutely ZERO grinding!

Other changes include:

  • Levels 20-60 reworked for patch 2.3 so that all the improved experience changes were documented. This now allows the guide to be 100% questing 1-60 and no grinding
  • Enlarged the font and changed it to a cleaner style
  • Removed border from edge of pages while changing the margins slightly
  • Added page numbers to all pages
  • Separated the guide into 3 sections. One section for all the starting races up to 20, one section for 20-60 and one section for 60-70

Kopp is also offering level 1-20 of this guide for free! If you’ve ever been curious about how these guides look, this is an excellent chance to see it in action and try it for yourself. Gitr Knows WoW is an affiliate for Brian’s leveling guide – so we’re a bit biased on its quality. Don’t take our word – try it out yourself. For $35 you get the full guide, an in-game map mod that includes preset way points and notes for each quest, and a lifetime of free updates.

Brian Kopp's 1-70 Alliance Leveling Guide