Broadcasting will resume shortly

 

That’s 95°F for you people on the other side of the pond. Thankfully, it should get a bit cooler soon. Let’s just hope it won’t be “Blizzard soon(tm)”.

The road to Mists of Pandaria – A man behind a face

Two days ago I started blogging again, and I chose to look at the MoP trailer and explain why I was impressed with it. While watching the video, I noticed something odd towards the end:

See the small Pandaren face on Chen’s barrel?

Why would there be a Pandaren face on something that belongs to Pandaren celebrity Chen Stormstout? It would be like, I don’t know, Worf from Next Generation having a drawing of Klingon-like features on his fanny pack (not that I see a Klingon ever wearing a fanny pack). Actually there is a very simple explanation, but as with any good story we’ll have to go back a bit and take a short memory trip.

Many of you who are fans of the Warcraft franchise will be familiar with the name of Sam “Samwise” Didier. The big guy is the art director at Blizzard Entertainment and has been since the Silicon and Synapse days (i.e. early nineties). He’s the man behind most of the concept artwork for all of the major Blizzard series – Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft. He’s a huge metalhead – among his works are many covers for HammerFall‘s albums, and he’s the vocalist of Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. Oh and did I mention that he runs a website called “Sons of the Storm“?

 
Dude is a total badass in my book. Or at least a Geek with a capital G, in a good way. If you want to know more about him, the folks at Blizzard and their geeky shenaningans, you can watch the documentary they released last year for the company’s 20th anniversary (where Sam proudly wears his HammerFall T-shirt).

 
Anyhow, let’s get to the relevant part. At some point between Warcraft II and Warcraft III, Samwise was the father of a little girl. For Christmas, as a small gift to his family he drew a picture of a big panda with a small cub on his shoulder. Sam drawing himself as a panda wasn’t a random whim – Panda was his nickname, as he has the looks of a big bear yet none of its ferocity (this story courtesy of WoW Insider – funny how that article was published in 2010). Somehow that picture made its way out of Sam’s home; people took notice of the art and started talking of a new “Panda” race.

Sam dismissed the thought at first. However, an April’s Fools was made portraying Pandaren as playable units in the upcoming Warcraft III. It was quickly revealed as a joke, but it draw quite a reaction. From there, Samwise started drawing little Easter eggs in his art: tiny pictures of a panda face. In the meanwhile, Metzen started working on Pandaren lore, and they were officially featured for the first time in Warcraft III.

After that… we already know the story. Pandaren and their homeland Pandaria will be the namesake of World of Warcraft’s third expansion. Will Samwise stop putting random panda faces in his artwork? I am not sure, but it certainly seems proper to do it in the closing scene of this trailer, as a small doodle from over a decade ago managed to spark the life of a whole new world.

Next on The Lazy Tree: Indecisive 25man EU guild LFM (maybe) before september 25! Stay tuned!

The road to Mists of Pandaria – What is worth fighting for

I’ve been tinkering with the idea of restarting The Lazy Tree for a while now, more so with the launch of MoP fast approaching. I had the name and subject of my next post (posts?) clear in my mind. However, I was not happy with the direction I had taken TLT in and I felt like I had nothing worthwhile to say anymore – which is a bit silly, I know, as a blog is often filled with random thoughts and venting rants.

 
What happened then?

 
First, I have received an email from an old friend in a server far far away. She is going to run a WoW charity marathon in a couple of months; I will talk about the event at length in a future post, however I just wanted to mention how happy I am to see more events like this taking place (think of the DS race Athene organized a few months ago, without the fanboys). Not only it’s a great way to raise money for a good cause, it’s also something that really helps building a better sense of community in World of Warcraft. The Lazy Tree might not be the most followed website in the WoW blogosphere but I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. More to follow soon(tm).

 
Second, Blizzard released the Mists of Pandaria cinematic trailer today. Somehow that feels like the real start of the path leading to MoP, even more than knowing its release date, the sign that things are getting serious. Anyhow, I am very impressed with the trailer.

 
The obvious comment is that the animation is gorgeous. If a WoW movie is ever coming out, I hope it’s CGI instead of actual actors and scenery – as long as it’s produced by Blizzard Studios (that doesn’t sound bad). Not only it’s amazing to watch, but they also managed to have the two characters in the opening scenes tell a story only through their expressions and movements, as there is no dialogue in the trailer – only a narrating voice at the beginning and the end.

Two soldiers – one an Orc, the other a Human – are stranded on the shores of an unknown continent after a bloody naval war. After a moment of confusion, the Horde grunt quickly recollects himself and starts exploring the area, aware that there might be survivors from both sides around him. The Alliance man does the same and makes sure to be prepared to fight – they are both veterans after all, as the scars on their bodies tell us, and act as such. Only one thing concerns them: having to fight on unfamiliar ground.

The above is inferred in just half a minute. No explanation is needed as you easily understand their motives through their expressions and movements.

The two warriors eventually meet and start a grueling fight, only to be interrupted by none other than Chen Stormstout. Not having a clue of whom or what they are facing, they both turn their attention to the furry creature and do the only thing they can think of at the moment, i.e. they seek to swiftly terminate his life.

Of course Chen is having none of that murder nonsense and easily schools them with a non-lethal weapon, his bamboo stick, despite their combined efforts. We even get a bit of light-hearted humour as the Alliance soldier is forced to lend the Orc his sharpened stick after they get their collective arse handed to them a first time (I will admit I had a good chuckle there). As the two soldiers lay powerless on the ground, the mist unravels and they are treated to the beautiful scenery of Pandaria, while the narrating voice (Chen?) reminds us that the Pandaren know what is worth fighting for – protecting their kind and their homeland.

What’s up with the Panda face on Chen’s barrel?

That means, they certainly won’t let the Horde or the Alliance come and raze&pillage their peaceful continent… also, there are certain spirits on Pandaria which would draw strength from a new conflict, but that wasn’t mentioned in the trailer…

Right, so there is some fine CGI and great storytelling, sounds amazing right? Well, I do think that Blizzard did a great a job with this trailer, and those are not the main reasons.

We have been told before that 5.0 will be focused around the Pandaren and the Alliance-Horde conflict. We are treated to plenty of Alliance vs. Horde in the trailer. Even though they momentarily team up against the unknown menace, the early part of the trailer is all about Horde and Alliance focusing on killing each other – the thought of being stranded on alien ground, maybe forever, doesn’t seem to shake the two soldiers. That part was well done and we haven’t seen some actual WARcraft action in WoW trailers since the Classic cinematic (I refuse to call it Vanilla), although I will admit that it would have been hard for Blizzard to screw up that segment.

Now there is something else that needed to be done in the trailer and wasn’t as easy. That’s establishing the Pandaren as the central figure of the expansion. Yes, of course they are the new playable race, they have a whole new continent named after them, they look cute et cetera et cetera… Yet, what does the average player know about them? Pretty much nothing. I have read around claims that the concept of a Panda-like race has been around for a while, but as someone who is certainly not very knowledgeable about WoW lore, I have no idea what to expect from the Pandaren. This might be a very uninformed claim but in my opinion, the risk was there; the risk that people might stop at a swift look and perceive Chen’s kind as a shallow attempt to capitalize on the popularity of a certain movie character and asian culture.

 
That’s where I feel Blizzard did a great job. Especially compared to the Alliance and Horde characters, Chen is made to look very strong, both in martial prowess and in intellect. He easily defeats his opponents yet has no desire to see them dead. Why? As explained later, the Pandaren only seek to protect their kind and preserve peace. Chen is made to look wise and very clearly above the grueling dispute of his opponents, allowing himself a glimpse of a chuckle at one point.

Yes, his fight scenes might look a bit campy and corny at times, but like I said it’s just some light-hearted humour that doesn’t seem out of place in Warcraft. It certainly doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Chen was made to look in any possible way like the star in the trailer; that was the right thing to do, and it was a success. In only a couple of minutes Blizzard managed to clearly put across the main points of at least what the Pandaren fight for, what are their motives and why should we like them, giving them some needed depth to the eyes of a casual observer.

TL;DR a very good short movie (yes, I dare to call it that) that sets the pace nicely for the first few months of Pandaria and gives a strong sense of adventure and excitement. Let’s hope that the actual content will live up to the expectations.

EDIT: fixed some spelling mistakes, but the spacing between a few paragraphs is still… weird. I will look into that.

Chapter IX – Closure

Interlude – Don’t drink and respec!

Something that makes my raiding life smooth and peachy is being able to keep two resto specs. I do not care for dailies (I think I’ve said this before) and so far the officers of IC have never asked me to go boomkin. I know that this is a sore point for many fellow trees, especially those in progress-oriented guilds. I am not gloating, just putting things in perspective – you can wait until I get to the point of this post, THEN you will really want to throw large painful objects at me.

Anyhow, having two specs dedicated to the same healing tree also means I am free to experiment with wacky builds to my heart’s content. A few days ago I was staring unhappily at my talents – my intent usually is to have a “safe” build focusing on mana regen for farm bosses, and a maxed output build for bosses where I have to go crazy with my heals; none of my specs seemed to do the job they were designed for, also I had Nature’s Cure only in my output build, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I tinkered a bit with talents before the start of the raid and happily settled on this for one of my specs (the other one was very similar, only with less output and 3/3 Moonglow):

Linky link

The experienced eye will probably spot the obvious, glaring mistake at a glance…. but I didn’t. Yes, I totally forgot to take 2/2 Malfurion’s Gift. Yeah, I’m THAT bad. I prefer the term “light-headed”, but I can understand if you were thinking something along the line of “s#@t for brains”. Of course I made the same mistake with the other spec.

So, blissfully proud of my ingenuity, I made my way to Dragon Soul where we managed to down Ultraxion (we had cleared up to 4/8 the raid night before). My personal tactics for that boss are as follows, briefly told: pre-pot with Volcanic Potion, pop Tree of Life and Nature’s Grace at the start for massive Wrath spam while we don’t have to click any large button in the middle of the screen. We run with three healers so I feel like I have to contribute to le pew-pew, and it actually makes a difference; the other two healers can easily deal with the low damage for the first 30 seconds of the fight. Then AOE heal the rest of the fight and save the next Tree of Life and a lone Tranquility for the end of the fight where we have to deal with heavy raid-wide damage.

How is my Ultraxion course of action relevant? Well, popping Tranquility only once in the fight means I didn’t notice the eight-minutes cooldown, and while in tree form I was mostly saving my GCDs for Rejuvenation and Wild Growth rather than Lifebloom. My feeble mind probably noticed how few OOC procs I seemed to get (actually none obviously) but failed to connect the hots, wait I mean dots.

Even without the free Regrowths, I didn’t have mana issues due to how easily you can control damage – even if it’s heavy towards the end – and thanks to the amazing Efflorescence.

After Ultraxion we had a few wipes on Blackhorn but I was too busy jumping around, dealing with seemingly random damage, to notice anything. Reality finally smacked me on the head the next raid night in the form of a depleted mana bar and zero OOC procs, at which point I had no choice but notice the “zero” under the familiar flower-like icon. I managed to make it to the end of the Blackhorn encounter anyway and then moved on to unsuccessfully fight tentacles on Deathwing’s back.

Is there something to be learned here? Unlikely. If anything, it’s a reminder of how much mana is saved by spamming Lifebloom and free Regrowths under a timely Tree of Life. Playful self-deprecating aside, I thought I might as well make a bit of fun out of a blatant fail – and show how you can make a blog post out of pretty much anything!

Interlude – Another (hopefully) useful post

Again, a list of relevant (ilvl 397/403) gear for the current tier, sorted by itemization. Comments below.

SPIRIT/HASTE

SPIRIT/CRIT

SPIRIT/MASTERY

MASTERY/HASTE

  • Ring of the Riven (ring, drops from Hagara the Stormbinder – 1 x red socket/+10 int);

CRIT/HASTE

Wow. There seems to be plenty of spirit/x stuff, that’s for sure. Putting LW BOEs aside, which many won’t be able to afford for quite  a while, spirit/crit and spirit/mastery items seem to be equal in availability, with everything else trailing far behind. Also, sockets on gear are mostly red with int bonuses, which is NICE – there is a lone ring with a + mastery bonus.

The resto tier 13 is made of either spirit/haste or spirit/mastery stuff. The headpiece is spirit/haste and drops from Gunship 2.0, while the VP headpiece is spirit/mastery; Blackhorn is a bit far into Dragon Soul and you might not want haste anymore, so the VP helm might be one of your early purchases. The alternative to the spirit/haste chest is the VP spirit/crit one, so I’ll guess I’ll stick with the chest (which drops from Ultraxion, supposedly a hard boss, more on that below). Gloves, leggings and shoulders are spirit/mastery; even though the set bonuses are not that great for this tier, mastery is in my opinion our strongest secondary stats making those three pieces at least decent.

Funny thought, what makes gear “good” or “BiS” to the eyes of a resto druid nowadays? I guess the answer is “anything with mastery and lots of red sockets on it”. I’ll have to think about it.

Non-tier gear you can buy with VP isn’t really attractive – guess I’ll save my valor for the first few weeks and see how lucky I get with drops. The VP sp/haste cape seems to be the only healer cloak in the whole tier, though, so I guess I know how I’m going to spend my first 1250 points.

Also, remember that the VPs boots and bracers are BOE – that means you can buy them from the AH/trade chat (although you might want to wait until prices are reasonable) or with your alts’ valor.

The verdict? Thumbs in the middle, but it doesn’t really matter as the first four bosses are so easy, making the gearing process much simpler than usual. Depending on your guild, you might have boss #5 and number #6 on farm pretty soon as well. We killed the “gear check” of this tier (Ultraxion) on our first week of raiding… well it was SUPPOSED to be a gear check, I am not sure how it can be considered as such when average guilds kill him/her/it on the first week of 4.3 raiding (bear in mind we had almost no HC Firelands gear).

TWINKETS… PWETTY TWINKETS

Sorry for the brief, elitist rant there… back to evaluating gear. As usual we don’t have a whole lot of choices for trinkets. Bottled Wishes and Reflection of the Light, both purchasable for 1650 VPs, have two things in common: both give a spellpower bonus on use, and neither has passive intellect. Spellpower is still a very good stat, but the lack of passive int puts them low on the shopping list. I have never liked on-use trinkets anyway. Bottled Wishes has the ability to easily solve your haste issues for the rest of the expansion, though.

Windward Heart has a chance to drop from any DS boss except Deathwing. It does have passive intellect, which makes it ok by itself, but I don’t have any number on the proc. Seal of the Seven Signs (from Zon’ozz) along with int has a + haste proc. In order to determine how good this actually is, you’ll have to check your haste rating and see where the procs puts you in terms of haste thresholds. Heart of Unliving (Spine of DW) used to be very meh until they added +323 intellect to it, making it effectively a Tsunami card on steroids. Remember that other ilvl 397 trinkets have +458 passive intellect when making comparisons.

Honorable mention? Foul Gift of the Demon Lord. It drops from the last boss in Well of the Eternity – the 2nd one among the new 5-mans – and yes, it’s a ilvl 378 trinket. Passive intellect and roughly 40% uptime on the mastery proc (at least according to my combat logs, sometimes a bit less) make it a very solid trinket, especially if you had no luck with trinkets in Firelands – does Jaws of Defeat actually exist? Oh wait, I know it does, one of my alts got it… sigh.

AREN’T YOU… UH… FORGETTING SOMETHING?

Nope. Deathwing doesn’t drop anything useful. Apart from a couple of weapons with special procs. I will admit I have gathered little info about them so far, but neither is very appealing as the procs would have to be pretty powerful to make up for the loss of secondary stats. The +haste one seems better suited in the hands of a dps anyway. Of course the spellpower gain (they are ilvl 403 after all) is nice; maybe it’s just that Deathwing still seems to be too far away to worry about theorycrafting… or is he?

Chapter VIII – The Hour of Twilight is (almost) upon us!

Or should I say the Hour of the Big Resto Nerf?

Whatever healing meters will look like after 4.3, I have to say I am really looking forward to Dragon Soul and the new 5 man dungeons.

To Dragon Soul, because this is the first time I get to raid a whole expansion while it’s current content. I started raiding in ICC with the 10% buff – or was it 15%? It feels such a long time ago somehow – then had my healing epiphany in Blackwing Descent, learned and refined the Resto craft in Firelands and finally I get to kill… uhmm… keep my guildies alive while they kill the big bad Dragon for me. While I know that challenging Deathwing to many doesn’t give that ‘epic feeling’ that was present in Fall of the Lich King, Hour of Twilight feels a bit like a final test to me. I know that I’ve been steadily making some progress and my self-expectations make this final patch feel special beyond its apparent meaning.

To the new 5-mans – especially Well of Eternity – because it’s been a while since I’ve seen instances, even raids, with a strong storyline behind them. Some of the Cataclysm ones, while aesthetically amazing, felt a bit lacking in that department. Caverns of Time dungeons, on the other hand, are among my favourite ones (yes, I know Stratholme was one of the most hated heroics at some point) as they give you a glimpse of Warcraft lore you would otherwise have no clue about… did I ever mention that I don’t like RTS videogames? Anyway, from what I have seen so far, Well of Eternity alone feels more compelling story-wise than Dragon Soul, although I expect (hope?) to be corrected in the next few weeks as we explore the new raid.

THAT’S GOOD TO HEAR, BUT… WHAT NOW?

A lot has been said about the nerf to Wild Growth and its related Glyph. Other than that, there are no major changes we have to worry about – just pray that your favourite add-ons don’t leave you alone on patch day, practice Rejuvenation spam and everything will be fine. Enjoy Transmogrification, rejoy for Void Storage, play the new Faire games. Don’t care in the slightest for those? Well, it’s time for some gear lists then. There are already quite a few of them around, which is nice as I can focus on my favourite loot listing, gear by itemizations stats! That’s definitely something for the next Chapter though….

P.S. Yes, almost. Patch day on Wednesday instead of Tuesday sucks.

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