Tag: warcraft (page 3 of 10)

The Zones in Cataclysm

Courtesy Blizzard

In the Burning Crusade, Blizzard opened up an entire new world. For Wrath of the Lich King, the continent of Northrend became available. Now, in Cataclysm, a mere handful of new zones have been added to the existing contents. While this makes a lot of sense given the major cosmetic and mechanical changes to Azeroth due to Deathwing wrecking everybody’s homestead, if this trend continues, the next expansion will give us a bit of land about the size of Cuba players will fight over to establish their own banana republic.

Anyway, I recently concluded the quests and exploration of these new zones. Here are my thoughts on them, and unlike certain punditry outlets, I’m going to try and keep this as fair as possible.

Mount Hyjal

Courtesy Blizzard

Since the conclusion of the Third War, the area atop Mount Hyjal in northern Kalimdor has been inaccessible, due to the world tree Nordrassil being protected by rampant overgrowth. While once this was believed to be a scar concealing a near-fatal wound, the emergence of Deathwing burned the growth away to reveal that Nordrassil had been healing all along. As druids and servants of Cenarius flocked to the site to protect the Tree, Deathwing has called upon his Twilight Hammer cultists and summoned an ally to burn the Tree to ashes once and for all: the Firelord Ragnaros.

If you’re a long-time fan of Warcraft and enamoured with its lore, Hyjal’s a great place to start. While its opening quests feel a bit like the same-old “Kill X amount of monster Y” in a forest not unlike that around the night elf starting zone, interacting with the legendary Ancients and the buildup to the final chain make the questing worthwhile outside of the material rewards. It definitely gets you into the feeling of older Warcraft games in terms of setting and lore, but it also reminds the player of older content best left forgotten. Overall, though, a pretty solid zone.


Courtesy Blizzard

Thrall has made his choice, abdicating leadership of the Horde to Garrosh Hellscream and becoming leader of Azeroth’s shamans, the Earthen Ring. The Maelstrom in the middle of the sea has grown even more tumultuous in the wake of Deathwing’s awakening, and he has called for champions to aid him in preserving the balance of elements. En route, however, adventurers find themselves assaulted by a vicious sea monster and dragged into the cold depths below. With help from the Earthen Ring, the source of this kraken must be discovered, and answers lie within the sunken elven city of Vash’jir.

Vashj’ir is the other ‘starting’ area of Cataclysm’s new content, and it begins with a bang that plunges its players quite literally into unfamiliar waters. Over and above all else, the visuals in the zone are absolutely stunning. The diversity and danger of deep sea life is captured quite well, considering the engine is six years old. However, it’s not all good news beneath the waves. Needing to navigate and fight in three dimensions can be disorienting at first, and even once you get the hang of it, adequate view distance may not be enough to save you from a band of angry creatures diving toward you seemingly out of nowhere. The lore within the area feels tangential to the rest of the content of the expansion, and while the look inside naga society is interesting, the goblin submarine a neat distraction and the cephalopod exploration unique (if somewhat disturbing for some), the bulk of the zone doesn’t really stand out the way others do. It’s not as bad as some people might make it out to be, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering this is the WoW community we’re talking about, but I feel it’s the weakest of the five zones. Which is a bit like saying The Two Towers is the weakest of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films. Relative to the other two, it might be true, but relative to other films they tend to blow everything else out of the water. So, your mileage may vary.


Courtesy Blizzard

Deathwing tore his way back to Azeroth and left nothing untouched in his wake. Even the Elemental Plane of Earth was affected, as the pillar supporting Azeroth from below was cracked. While the druids tend to the World Tree above, the World Pillar below threatens to collapse, taking Azeroth with it. To prevent this, one must venture into Deepholm, home of the Stone Mother Therazane. The Twilight Hammer has made beachheads here, and adventurers must put a stop to their misddeds if the world is to be saved. In this place, the cultists and heroes have something in common: they are unwelcome.

Like Vashj’ir, this is a zone that has a lot of eye candy going for it. Instead of making things a uniform gray or brown, color explodes out of corners of Deepholm almost without warning. Adding the characterization of Therazane to that of Ragnaros and Neptulon (the lord of Water, featured at the end of Vashj’ir’s final quest chain and its solitary dungeon) expands the history of Azeroth in an interesting way, and other NPCs make time spent in Deepholm worthwhile. Mylra quickly became my second-favorite dwarf behind Brann Bronzebead. Deepholm is also like Vashj’ir in some moments of tedium, and unlike Vashj’ir, the nature of the rewards from gaining reputation with Therazane means it’s more than likely you’ll be coming back. Still, I enjoyed Deepholm more than Vashj’ir, and I look forward to earning the Pebble vanity pet. Who knew a pet rock could be so gosh-darn cute?


Courtesy Blizzard

The sands have uncovered forgotten lands due to the shift brought about by Deathwing. To the south of Tanaris lies the lost land of Uldum, an ancient desert kingdom used by the Titans for experimentation. In addition to its curious indigenous people is evidence of the Titans’ work, valuable to both archaeologists who would study it and dark opportunists who would usurp it. Finally, the djinn-like beings that have seized control of the Elemental Plane of Air had come to Azeroth through Uldum, allying themselves with Deathwing.

No matter what you seek in Uldum, you won’t be bored. The introduction of the society in Ramkahen deepens the diversity of life on Azeroth even if their presence may feel tangential to some. The quests in Uldum are a particular delight, changing pace and focus quite often in addition to packing the zone with hiarlious references. Individual quests can harken to everything from The Great Escape to Katamari Damacy, and then there’s the long chain that just might have you whistling the Indiana Jones theme. The dungeons in Uldum are a diverse lot and continue the trend of changing up challenges. The only circumstances under which someone might not enjoy Uldum is if they find these sorts of things tedious or just don’t like deserts.

Twilight Highlands

Courtesy Blizzard

Seat of the Twilight’s Hammer and its leader, the mad ogre-mage Cho’gall, the Twilight Highlands are also the site of a conflict that has not ceased in ages, between the Wildhammer dwarves and the Dragonmaw orcs. Despite the looming mutual threat of Deathwing and his cronies, these two just won’t stop killing each other. While there may not be an end to hostilities in sight, canny adventurers can win some support from their respective if wayward allies and make an assault upon not only the Twilight’s Hammer’s holdings, but also upon Deathwing himself, with a little help from Alexstraza and the red dreagonflight.

The Highlands get off to a good start, tossing the player into the conflict bodily. There are bits of very enjoyable questing here, from the Horde opening to the assault on the Bastion’s gates, but between these bits is some cross-faction conflict that underscores the resurgence of lore-friendly PvP in Cataclysm. As hilarious as it is to set fire to Wildhammer kegs only to see them violently explode – they’re something like 200 proof – I personally felt that dealing with the mutual threat of Deathwing and the Twilight Hammer should come before perpetuating very old grudges. This doesn’t make the content in the middle of Twilight Highlands bad, per se, and it’s a solid zone overall especially in comparison to Vashj’ir. It could also be that, despite being Horde, I’ve always liked the Wildhammer dwarves and I felt a little bad scoping and dropping so many of the amusing and badass woad-wearing drunken brawlers.

There you have it. In my completely subjective and not-at-all authoritative opinion, Uldum is the strongest zone of Cataclysm while Vashj’ir comes up a bit short. However, all of the Cataclysm material represents a high point in Blizzard’s design, a welcome departure from the things that made Wrath of the Lich King so tedious in general. While that expansion had only a few standout zones, every single area of Cataclysm has something going for it.

Back On Track


The holidays can throw everybody for a loop. I’m no different. Travel schedules, inclement weather and other factors unique to this time of year tend to play havoc with routines and timetables. Things have started to normalize a bit and it’s time I took a bit of stock of where I am now and where I’m heading.


Citizen in the Wilds is out for test reading. I’m eager to get some reaction and feedback, even if it takes the form of “CHANGE EVERYTHING ‘CAUSE IT SUCKS.” I’ve started compiling and expanding some notes I’ve jotted down on the next Acradea book. I’m going to edit The Jovian Gambit for this Saturday’s Free Fiction, and after that? I’m not sure. Possibly a hard-boiled Cthulhu detective story in the style of C.J. Hendersen, or perhaps a sequel to Akuma. I’m also getting back in the habit of writing for my Warcraft characters, both on forums and in the game proper.


The feedback on the first ICFN video has been generally positive, if somewhat cautious. I’m somewhat trepidatious myself, if I’m honest. I think I’m going to shoot for a new video every month and traditional audio enties in the intervening weeks. The poll will return for those audio entries, and as for the videos, I have a few films in mind. Stay tuned.

Dungeons & Dragons

Everybody in the group’s been a little off their game, no pun intended. We’ll be resuming our normal schedule of Tuesday night games, which means I’ll be returning to posting the adventures (or misadventures) of Andrasian, Krillorien, Lyria and Melanie on Tuesday afternoons. After this current printed advneture (Reavers of Harkenwold from the Dungeon Master Kit) I may move them into homegrown content rather than shoehorning Caern of the Winter King from the Monster Vault into the campaign. Or Wizards might have worked a smooth transition in already. More to come on this.

Magic: the Gathering

The local comic/gaming store has free casual play on Thursday nights, $5 FNM events on Fridays and special events like previews of the upcoming expansion Mirrodin Besieged. Attending paid events is a matter of my entertainment budget, and considering it’s something I enjoy alone and the entertainment budget must cover activies for both my wife and myself, it’s hard for me to justify the expense at this time. And I tend to watch my ICFN audio entries the Thursday night before I post the review. There’s simply not enough time, usually. Again, more to come.

World of Warcraft

Cataclysm has rekindled my interest and enjoyment of this game even more than I’d expected. Between the new areas, the promise of dungeons being challenging again (until the next nerf hits) and the resurgence of interaction with guild mates, this game is the other reason I’ll likely have less time for other activities. However, since I play it with my wife as we have since we’ve met, it’s a much more comfortable expense to work into our slender budget.

Classholes Anonymous Podcast

This is more dependant on Black Eagle’s band schedule than anything else.

This Blog

I plan to keep updating every day. Sometimes I’ll have a notion in mind for days before I post it, and some days – like today – I’m stumped up until lunchtime. Comes from everything else on this list as well as the day job and the other responsibilities of adulthood, I guess.

Until I rebel.

Courtesy Hyperbole and a Half

The Hunter in Cataclysm: Nerf Woes

Courtesy Nerf
Taking aim on your favorite class

Every so often, Blizzard patches World of Warcraft. With dozens of dungeons, ten distinct classes and millions of players, a balancing act is inevitable. When new expansions happen, talent and gear combinations can lead to unforseen consequences, and Blizzard makes it a point not to see one class outstrip all of the others in chosen areas of performance.

Case in point: patch 4.0.6 and hunters.

Taking the damage output of an ability or talent for the sake of game balance is colloquially called a “nerf”. Amongst the 19 nerfs being applied in this upcoming patch are several to hunters, specifically those using the survival specialization. For a while, it looked as if survival hunters were going to enjoy total dominance of the all-important DPS meters in raids. Not anymore, if Blizzard devs have anything to say about it.

According to some sources, survival hunters were doing around 20,000 points of damage per second (dps) in endgame raids. Some number-crunching from the community theorizes that this round of nerfs will reduce that number by 10-15%, putting hunter dps output at around 17,500, which is on par with assassination rogues, unholy death knights and destruction warlocks.

To a rather vocal portion of the community, this is completely unacceptable.

“How can you do this to us?” they cry. “Does Blizzard not know how hunters work? How am I going to get into raids if my damage sucks this much? I’m rolling a new character/quitting the game because of this!”

Let me take these in order.

How can you do this to us?

They’re Blizzard. They’re developing the game. It’s an ongoing process and some of this might get rescinded in a hotfix or another patch. Calm down, it’s nothing personal. They have an overview of how the entire game is now and where they want it to go. You have some virtual bits of armor and a spreadsheet.

Does Blizzard not know how hunters work?

I’d say they do. A hunter is not that different from a warlock, a mage, or any other class that produces damage instead of maintaining control of the enemy (tank) or keeping the party alive (healer). The job of the hunter is to reduce the enemy’s health, control any crowds that appear or would interfere with the tank or healer, and stay alive long enough to make a difference in the encounter. That’s how all the dps classes work. Hunters are no different. To pretend they are, that they’re supposed to be some paragon of precise point production, is ludicrous. It’s a sentiment that reeks of entitlement.

How am I going to get into raids if my damage sucks this much?

Simple. Be good at your class.

Let me reiterate. Your job, as a hunter, is to produce consistent ranged dps, without needing to pause for mana or worrying about running out of your resource. Focus regenerates itself, and only does so faster if you use the right skills in the proper rotation. You also need to trap enemies intending to rape your healer in the nostrils, give the tank your threat so he maintains control of his target, and stay alive by following the old platforming rules of “move correctly” and “do not die.”

In other words, if you focus entirely on the numbers of your damage meter by hitting shot buttons, you are going to fail. The party will get wiped out and nobody will advance. I’ve seen this happen, and I’ve seen hunters in the aftermath blame other players for their mistakes. At least now those players can be kicked, but it doesn’t stop them for making hunters out to be one of the worst-behaved classes in World of Warcraft.

Please stop. I like being a hunter. I like bringing skills and abilities to the party no other class can. I like my pets, my bows and my engineering trinkets. Stop trying to ruin it.

I’m rolling a new character!

Fine. One less person rolling on gear I want.

I’m quitting the game because of this!

Um. Bye, I guess. Sorry to see you go.

Seriously. People need to calm the hell down.

The Hunter in Cataclysm: Etiquette

Courtesy Blizzard.
…Guess I’m looking for non-tier things to buy.

I’m not entirely happy with Cataclysm right now. It has less to do with the prospect of my hunter’s Tier 11 armor, which makes me look like I’m being devoured by an undead murloc, and more with some of the behavior I’m seeing. I know it doesn’t directly affect me or my gameplay, but it’s something I feel bears mentioning because it bothers me.

When you’re in a group, be it a dungeon PUG or a guild raid, there are a few things to keep in mind. Other than what pet to bring along, what specialization to operate with and what food to eat for a particular buff, there’s some basic etiquette that I feel should be observed. I know some of this will seem like common sense or has been said previously, but it bears repeating.

Listen To Instructions

Provided you’re in a Heroic dungeon or a raid, your tank or guild leader will likely tell you which creature in the pull is going to get crowd controlled by a particular member of the party, and as a Hunter, that means you might be trapping something. Set your pet on passive, be ready to misdirect to the tank as soon as you switch targets and put Distracting Shot on your bars so you pull your target into the trap.

Sounds easy, right? You’d be surprised how many hunters ignore these instructions and try to Multi-Shot the group. Now, in normal dungeons, you can get away with this a little bit. Lower dungeons in Cataclysm aren’t hard and fast when it comes to the mechanics of the pull. However, this is a good habit to get into for higher level instances, where behavior like this will wipe the party and possibly get you kicked. At least, it should. It’s bad, and you should feel bad. See “Know Your Role” below.

Don’t Hassle the Healer

The healer’s top priority is keeping the tank alive. If a pull goes bad and there are mobs in the group, you can help by using Feign Death, Misdirecting to the tank or hitting Deterrence. You do not help by calling the healer names when you don’t get healed. If you die, the tank and healer don’t and all attackers are killed, it’s a success. You can ask nicely for a resurrection or just man up and run back to your corpse afterwards.

I’d add it doesn’t help to hassle the tank, either, but that falls under listening to instructions. Because if you’re listening, you’re not talking. Pay attention.

Know Your Role

Listen, hunters, we no longer AoE. It’s a fact. We have Multi-Shot and we can launch Explosive Traps. That’s it. It’s not our stock in trade. We do consistent, single-target, non-magical DPS and provide crowd control of various flavors, from pulling a mob into a trap to Feign Death when something comes at our face. It’s how our class was meant to be, and in Cataclysm and the implementation of Focus it’s a niche we should be happy to fill. If you really want to AoE as a DPS, play a Mage or Warlock instead.

This is just stuff off the top of my head that makes me reluctant to join a pick-up group.

Cardboard Memory Lane

Taken 4 December 2010

With colder weather coming at us and my World of Warcraft account on hiatus for now since I zigged when I should have zagged in allocated this last paycheck, I figured it was high time for me to organize the rather large collection of trading card game stuff. For a while it’s lingered in a couple of old boxes, but I blew off the dust and started putting things together, if only to make sure I’ve plucked what Magic cards I still have out of the rest.

And boy oh boy, did I sink a LOT of money into this hobby.

In alphabetical order:


If memory serves, this game preserves some of the elements that made the video game a great time for anybody into giant fighting robots in general and the BattleTech universe in particular. Iconic mechs, heat management and pilot selection all came into play. I guess slinging cardboard wasn’t a good substitute for either digital recreations or miniatures, though, as players were hard to come by.

Dragonball Z

There was a time when I enjoyed watching this show. There was also a time when I enjoyed bringing certain characters in it to life in a card game. I never enjoyed it as much as I did Magic, which makes me once again wonder what possessed me to give away so many classic cards.


This game’s complexity always appealed to me. I’m not entirely sure why, but the intricate structure of the politics and powers of the Masquerade being intact in these cards makes me happy. It’s like slipping on an old, comfortable pair of pants. Or fangs.

Legend of the Five Rings

This is a universe I’ve always wanted to explore with more depth. The combination of bushido honor codes with hedge magic and dark powers beyond the wall is full of ideas I like. See also why I enjoy George RR Martin’s books. I’ve yet to get into a role-playing group that plays the tabletop game, and I only played this card game a few times. It was always fun, though.

While I’m on the subject, I seem to have a Hantei/Shadowlands deck that isn’t mine. Ring any bells among my readers?


Introduced not long after Magic itself got started, NetRunner came with built-in PvP. One player was the Corporation, furthering goals of world domination. The other was the Runner, hacking into the Corp’s servers to make a quick buck. It’s definitely fun if you ever enjoyed things like Tron, Hackers, the works of Gibson or Dick or even The Matrix. Although there’s more actual hacking and less wire-fu.


I taught some kids how to play back in Bloomsburg.

…Don’t you judge me.

Universal Fighting System

I was going to demo this and help promote it at the Roundtable in Conshohoken, before they shut down. I still have my demo materials, which feature characters like Felicia from DarkStalkers, Cammy from Street Fighter, Tira from SoulCalibur and Mai from King of Fighters. Yes, there’s a pattern there. I also have the Penny Arcade decks. Gabe & Tycho make anything more awesome.

World of Warcraft

I have more of these cards than I do Magic. I might have had similar numbers if I’d kept my original stock. I competed in a few events, picked up some of the raid decks (Onyxia & Molten Core) and even own a Aleyah Dawnbringer play mat. That may actually come with me on my next Magic trip. Anyway, most of these cards are, from what I understand, all but useless now, as power scopes have far outstripped the original expansions and, unlike Magic, the old cards have lost their luster. I doubt I could get $2000 for any of the rares from Heroes of Azeroth the way I could if I owned a Black Lotus. So they’ll likely sit in the bottom of the box until I can catalog the lot and try to sell it.

Any other card players out there? If so, what’s your game of choice?

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