Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chaotic Meta Requirement Reversed!

I've already written two separate posts on this subject. Might as well give this blue post it's own blog post as well.
The current design has been reconsidered, so we're planning to revert gems that now require more blue than red gems back to their original requirements. Such a change can't be accomplished via a hotfix though, so we'll have to wait to revert these in a future patch.
I'm glad that they are making the chance but couldn't they have decided this before I spent 700g regemming for raid.

New Cata Gemming Strategy:

For the most part, our Cata gemming strategy will be the same as it was in WotLK with a few possible caveats.

Meta Socket: [Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond]

Red Socket: [Brilliant Inferno Ruby]

Yellow Socket: [Reckless Ember Topaz] with Int Socket bonus. [Brilliant Inferno Ruby] with secondary stat socket bonus. The thing to remember here is that secondary stats are worth no where near as much as Int at least in early Cata raiding. An additional 20 Int is likely better then 30 of any secondary stat. In fact, I'm not a 100% sure that a Reckless gem is the right choice when the socket bonus is Int, but I'll need to see some more math before I make that change.

Blue Socket: At least 2 [Purified Demonseye], but maybe [Brilliant Inferno Ruby]
if the socket bonus particularly bad and you don't need the hit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meta Gems: What do we do now?

Last weeks I wrote a post on the new Chaotic Meta Gem requirement. Talking with other players and guildies it seems to me that the change is hated by most people if not everyone. As much as this change sucks, the unfortunate truth is that we are probably just going to have to deal with it. In this post I want to explore the different meta gems options and a general gemming strategy we are likely to employ in Cataclysm.

The Options:

[Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond]: I detailed the math on the Chaotic Meta gem in a post a couple of years ago. The theory behind the Chaotic meta gem hasn't changed in those two years. While the 54 crit rating isn't that attractive, the 3% increase to crit damage is easily still the best Meta gem buff. The question now is if it's worth the increased cost imposed by the new meta gem requirement.

Intellect Gems ([Bracing] , [Ember]): The Int gems are just the opposite of the Chaotic meta. Picking up an additional 54 Int is very attractive but the meta buffs are situational at best.
I've seen a couple of people advocating the Bracing meta because they are uncertain about threat in Cataclysm. Personally I have a hard time buying that argument. A 2% threat reduction shouldn't be much of a DPS increase. In most cases, if threat is really an issue then either you or your tank is probably doing something wrong.

The Ember meta gem would have been a much more attractive option a couple of months ago, but mana no longer seems to be a huge issue for Moonkin. If you're not running Oom, then an additional 2% mana is useless.

There are other meta gems that provide Int, but I believe them to be more PvP oriented since they provide bonuses that reduce stuns, silences and such.

[Fleet Shadowspirit Diamond]: I'm a little hesitant to list this gem at all but it provides a unique opportunity. If you've read my blog for a while then you probably remember threat I am a big fan of the Minor Run Speed Increase bonus. I like the additional utility it provides, and I've traditionally picked it up as a boot enchant because the other enchant options are relatively weak. However, in Cataclysm things seem to be changing a little bit. Minor Run Speed Increases don't stack, so it doesn't make sense to have both the gem and the boot enchant. Therefore, if you decide to use the Fleet meta, you can choose a different boot enchant. Most likely the 50 hit rating enchant. These means the Fleeting Shadowspirit Diamond provides you with 50 hit rating and 19 mastery mating if you assume that the Minor Run Speed increase will be picked up in either the boot slot or with the meta gem.

Other Options: There are other options that provide Crit rating and what I think are PvP bonuses. None of these are worth considering in my opinion.

The Math:

Hamlet recently posted an updated version of the level 85 WrathCalcs, and I'm using that evaluate the different options. It works a lot like the old El Jefe spreadsheet which will make some of you happy, and I used it to evaluate the Chaotic Meta and the Bracing Meta.

The gear I chose is all ilevel 359 epic gear. I didn't always make the optimal choice and favored pieces that were easier to obtain when possible. The gear set I used is very plausible at least in the early raiding of this tier. I did make the optimal gem, enchant, and reforging choices, and I used this talent spec.

The Cost: To use the Chaotic Meta gem I have to make some gem choices that would not be optimal without the meta requirement. When compared to the Int gems, I lose 154 Int as a result and gain 100 Spirit/Hit, 54 Crit rating, and the 3% increase to Crit damage. The cost of using Int gem is the exact opposite.

The Results: When I plugged these numbers into the spread sheet these are the numbers I got:

Chaotic Meta:20,663 DPS
Int Meta:20,468 DPS
Fleet Meta:20,319 DPS

As you can see the Chaotic Meta was still the clear winner even with the suboptimal gemming requirement.

The Gemming Strategy:

How we socket our Meta socket may not be changing but it does require a change in how we socket our other gem sockets. It's a lot more confusing then how we've done it in the past, but I will try and outline it as simply as possible.

Simple Version: This version of my strategy makes an assumption that should be true most of the time, but probably not always. That assumption is that you have more Yellow and Blue sockets then you have Red and Prismatic sockets. This assumption isn't true for our T10 gear, but it looks to be true for T11, and think it will be the norm through out Cataclysm. I hope this is the case because it makes the gemming strategy a lot easier to explain.

Red/Prismatic Socket: [Brilliant Inferno Ruby]

Yellow Socket: Socket a [Lightning Dream Emerald] until you have no yellow sockets left or until you have one more green gem socketed then you have red gems socketed.

Blue Sockets: If the number of green gems you have socketed is less than or equal to the number of Red gems socketed, then socket your blue sockets with [Sparkling Ocean Sapphire] until you have one more green gem socketed then you have red gems socketed. At this point your meta requirement is met.

Other Sockets: Now you need to balance the rest of your sockets to make sure the meta requirement is still met. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. For every pair of yellow sockets you have left socket one with a [Reckless Ember Topaz] and a [Lightning Dream Emerald] until zero or just one yellow socket left.

  2. If you have one yellow socket left and at least one blue socket left, then socket the yellow with a [Reckless Ember Topaz] and one blue socket with a [Sparkling Ocean Sapphire]. If you have one yellow socket left and no blue sockets left socket the yellow socket with a [Lightning Dream Emerald].

  3. Socket the remaining blue sockets with [Purified Demonseye].
Ok, that turned out to be more complicated then I thought it would be. However, it can get worse.

Advanced Version: Hamlet made a much more mathy explanation of the system on his Elitist Jerks blog which you can find here. This post and another one of his EJ posts led me to creating another explanation of the strategy using math expressions. Some of you might find it easier to understand.

  1. Let R be minimum(number of red+prismatic sockets , blue+yellow sockets - 1 ).
  2. Put R red gems into red/prismatic sockets.
  3. If there are still red/prismatic sockets left over, put purple in them.
  4. Let Y be minimum(R+1, yellow sockets)
  5. Put Y green gems into yellow sockets.
  6. Put R-Y+1 blue gems into blue sockets -- Meta requirement now satisfied.
  7. For each remaining pair of blue/yellow sockets, socket one blue and one orange gem.
  8. If yellow are left, fill with half green and half orange, favoring Green if odd number. If blue are left, fill with purple.
The only time it brakes down as far as I can tell is if you have all red sockets which is highly unlikely. You also won't be able to have a perfectly balanced meta requirement if you have zero blue sockets and and odd number of yellow sockets that total more then your Red/Prismatic sockets.


The Chaotic Meta gem is still the best meta gem choice by far. The DPS benefits of the other meta gem options just don't measure up even when you take the new Chaotic Meta gem requirement into account.

However, the new Chaotic Meta gem requirement does make our gemming strategy much more complicated then it has been in the past. The strategies I've outlined above will make sure your gear is gemmed optimally while still meeting the meta requirement. That said, you should be extra vigilant when making gear changes to make sure your gemming is still optimized.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Look at Leveling Guides

** Disclaimer: Please Read This - There are a few things you should know before you read this post.

  1. If you click on any of the links to commercial leveling guides in this post and purchase the guide, I will receive a commission for that sale. I am trying to sell you these products, but I am also giving you my complete and honest opinion.

  2. My comments are based purely on my past experience with leveling guides. All of the guides I have used I either purchased with my own money or were available to everyone for free.

  3. I do not have access to the Cataclysm versions for any of the guides, and I have not received anything from the guide makers for free. I cannot definitively comment on the quality of any of the Cataclysm guides. If something changes and the guides lack the quality of the guides I used, I will be just as pissed as you are, because I purchased it with my own money as well.

  4. If you are not interested in what I have to say about leveling guides please feel free to skip this post. I should have a new one up in a couple of days. That said, any comments that are not on topic and basically "unsubscribe" comments will be deleted. I appreciate you taking the time to express your disapproval, but please do it in an email. Comments that disagree with me or provide other options will not be deleted as long as long as they fit a general guideline of decency

Some gamers like the challenge of going in blind and discovering the right path. To these players looking for an objective online is cheating and spoils the fun of the game.

I'm not one of those players. I'm impatient and get frustrated when I can't find something in game and in real life. It annoys me when I do a quest and then find another quest that wants me to go back to the same exact spot I was before. In short, the more time I spend running the less happy I am, therefore it should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of leveling guides.

In this post I will take a look at what I like about leveling guides, give a critique of the guides I've used, and try and show you why I think leveling guides are still a good purchase.

My Leveling Guide History:

When I first started playing WoW almost four years ago, I literally knew nothing about the game and MMO's in general. I gave it a try because I was a fan of the Warcraft and Starcraft RTS games. Everything I knew about WoW I learned from the official website and what I learned in game. As a result I made a lot of mistakes, like doing one quest at a time and trying to complete zones before moving to a knew one. It literally took me more then a month to go from level 1 to level 30.

Then I found Jamie's 30 - 60 Alliance Leveling guide on WoWpro.com. It was an "Aha!" moment and I realized many of the things I was doing wrong. It was a website based guide so it required a lot of alt-tabbing, but leveling was still a lot faster with the guide. With easy to understand instructions and pictures, it was easily the best leveling resource I had found up until that point.

There was a problem however. It stopped at level 60. I dinged level 60 in February or March of 2007, a couple of months after TBC was released. Unfortunately, Jamie's guide was not updated with a 60 to 70 section until many months after TBCs release, so I was faced with the choice of buying a guide or go back to doing it myself. In the end I chose to purchase the now defuncted Brian Kopp Alliance leveling guide. At the time it was regarded as the best Alliance leveling guide available. As good as Jamie's guide was, Brian Kopps was better. It was better organized, it offered coordinates for almost every objective and overall had less running around. Though it cost me 50 bucks or so I thought it was well worth the purchase and I leveled Graylo to 70 with it and two other toons from 1 to 70 with it.

Then came WotLK. While I was really impressed with the content of Brian Kopp's guide, the format of his guide was out of date. At this time several competing guides were advertising in-game addons and the promise of no more alt-tabbing. As we got closer to WotLK release date I was getting more and more concerned by the lack of information coming from the Brian Kopp people. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a 70 to 80 guide at all let alone an in-game addon version of one.

So, I took it as an opportunity to try something new and I picked up the Zygor Alliance guide (I did not purchase the Horde guide at the time.). For the most part, I have been very happy with the Zygor guide. The format of the guide is excellent. I was never confused on where to go and was always able to move quickly from one step to the next. I think the content and organization of the Brian Kopp guide were a little better, but the differences were small.

I really only have two negative things to say about the Zygor guide. First, I think they listed some steps in the wrong order. A couple of times it would tell you to kill a named mob after it tells you to kill 20 of his associates. I think it works out better in the opposite order. The other issue I had was that the guide didn't provide alternate areas to complete the quest in the beginning. If you've ever tried to play right after a new expansion you know how some quest areas can be cramped with people trying to kill quest mobs. The guide would point to an area that was heavily camped already, but not provide the other locations at which the quest can be completed. That said, both of these issues got better in later versions of the guide. Zygor started grouping steps together more, and they started offering alternate areas to kill mobs. Also, as a player I found a few easy work-a-rounds. I set up the addon to show multiple steps so that I can read a little ahead to see if some steps can be done together. If the guide doesn't provide alternate locations to complete the quest, the in-game quest helper complements the guide well by giving you additional sites if they exist.

Yes, leveling guides still have value!

The World of Warcraft has changed a lot in the past 6 years, and some of you are probably questioning the value of a leveling guide. In truth, Blizzard quest design has improved a lot, and typically provides breadcrumb quests to show you the path. The new in-game quest helper also shows you the areas in which to completely quests. What could a leveling guide possibly add to the equation?

In truth, questing is a lot easier now then it ever has been before, but these improvements don't have all the advantages that an in-game guide provides. In my opinion, a leveling guide still helps quite a bit. I have been leveling up several horde toons on live without a leveling guide and I've been leveling up Graylo on the beta without a leveling guide. In both cases, I have found myself wishing I had a leveling guide for several reasons.

  1. Looking at the in-game quest helper is like alt-tabbing. Granted it is quicker and easier then looking something up on WoWhead, but a good leveling guide addon will tell you all the information you need right on your screen. I can't tell you how much time I've wasted or how many times I've died while I was looking at the map or WoWhead to figure out a quest. In short, looking away from your screen costs time that I would prefer to spend completing more quests.

  2. In a related note to my first point, the in-game quest-helper lacks detail. It's great for finding out where to kill 10 of mob x, but if you need to go to a specific spot it has issues. It will put a marker on your big map showing you where to go, but that's it. If it's in a hard to reach spot like in a cave or up a mountain it doesn't tell you how to get to that spot. You also have to look at the map to find it and it does not provide coordinates for the location. If the quest requires several specific locations, it only shows them one at a time, and you have to look at the map after each objective. A good leveling guide will give you the specific coordinates of where you need to go and an on screen arrow to point you in the right direction. While using a leveling guide I was rarely unsure of where to go and what I need to do next after completing a step in the guide.

  3. The in-game quest helper lacks organization. Blizzard has made it a lot easier to find quests. The bread-crumb quests and the quest giver icons on your mini-map are a big help, but they don't do enough. While leveling in Mount Hyjal, I missed several quest hubs because there was not a break-crumb quest leading me to it and I didn't travel close enough to it to see the quest icon on my mini map. Also, it doesn't give any indication of what order the quests should be done it.

    For example, at one of the Mount Hyjal quest hubs I accepted 3 quests. They were all to be completed in the area around of the quest hub, but two of them were separated from the third by a little bit. What the in-game quest helper didn't tell me was that quest number 3 was the start of a longer quest chain, of which some of the later quests were completed in the same areas as quest 1 and 2. By random draw I chose to do quests 1 and 2 first, and ended up doing more running then I needed to because I had to go back to an area I had already quested in because I did the quests in the least efficient order.

    A good leveling guide takes all the guessing out of the equation. It shows you exactly where to go next so you shouldn't miss any quest hubs. Plus it will tell you which mobs will start a quest if you kill them. When you do have all the quests it will tell you the best order to complete them to minimize your running around time.

  4. Reading Quests takes time. I know some of you love to read the quests for the lore and the story. Personally, I am not that type of player and I get annoyed if I have to read a quest. The quest objectives are usually enough to point you in the right direction, but about 25% of the time they are not. Sometimes you have to collect something to summon the mob you need to kill, or use a quest item on a particular mob to weaken it when the quest objective just tells you to kill mob X. I hate that, because I spend a minute or to looking for mob X, then I take a half a minute to read the quest to figure out what I'm missing. A good leveling guide will tell you the exact steps you need to complete to finish the quest.
The critics of leveling guides are quick to say that leveling guides don't provide any information that can't be found on WoWhead or using some other free addon. It's true that leveling guides don't provide deep secrets that can't be found elsewhere on the web for free, but that's not the value of a leveling guide. A leveling guide is valuable because of the organization it provides. It prevents you from having to alt tab and look something up on WoWhead. It prevents you from having to search for the cave entrance. It prevents you from accidentally not picking up a quest. All of this allows you to level faster, and that is why leveling guides still have value.

Updates vs Upgrades:

I want to explain the difference between guide updates versus guide upgrades. Most of the guide sellers will advertise "free updates" for the life of the guide when trying to sell you a guide. Unfortunately, many purchasers are confused by what that means, and feel cheated when a new expansion comes out and have to buy a guide for the new levels. In a effort to prevent that confusion let me try and explain the difference.

An update is done when Blizzard does something that would change the way an existing guide would function. For example, during TBC Blizzard dramatically reduced the amount of experience needed to level from 1 to 60 and added a new quest hub in Dustwollow Marsh. I was using the Brian Kopp 1-70 guide at the time and he rewrote the guide to take the reduced xp requirements into account and include the new quest hub. I got this update for free as a part of my original purchase.

Another example, would the questing changes coming in Cataclysm. Since Blizzard is redoing a lot of the old world, the guide makers are having to redo their leveling guides from 1-60. As a purchaser of the Zygor 1-80 guide I would getting these updates for free without having to buy the 80-85 guide. This has been confirmed by the Zygor people.

An upgrade is when the guide provides new levels when an expansion is released. Therefore you will have to purchase a new guide for the new levels added in an expansion. I have not seen a single commercial guide that provides free upgrades. If you buy a leveling guide, make sure it includes all of the levels you expect it to, but don't expect it to include any levels beyond those currently available or soon to be available.

Available Guides:

Zygor Level Guides
I used the Alliance guide during the WotLK expansion and got several characters to level 80 with it. I have also preordered the Cataclysm version of this guide.
Pros: Has a very helpful in game addon and is well organized for the most part. It provides the exact coordinates of quest objectives and an arrow point the player in the right direction. I've also experienced excellent customer service. If you purchase the guide after Oct 7th 2010, the Cataclysm update will be included in your purchase.
Cons: It costs money. It also had some organizational issues when first released in WotLK, but I found those problems to be relatively minor and most were eventually corrected.

Jamie's WoWPro.com Guides
I leveled my original Graylo from 30 - 60 with this guide several years ago. I have also used a couple of the starting zone guides, but I have not used their addon or any of their more recent guides.
Pros: It's Free. I have also heard good things about the addon and more recent guides from readers and guildies.
Cons: My biggest issue with the WoWPro.com guides is their availability. I hit level 60 more the 2 months after TBC was released and the 70-80 guide was not released until several months after that. They did provide 70-76 on release of WotLK, but there were only a few updates after that and the guide was never completed to go to level 80. They say they will have the 80-85 guide available on release, but I think you can understand why I am a little skeptical. On a side note, I also found the commercial guides to be a little more organized. Though to be fair it has been several years since I used a WoWPro guide.

Other Guides:
These are other leveling guides that I have no personal experience with. I cannot comment on the quality of any of them. Also, I do not follow their development, so please review their websites closely before purchasing to make sure you know what you are getting.

As best as I can tell the Brian Kopp guide is no longer being updated, but his website has been picked up by another guide creator. That said I have no idea what the connection between the two are.

Team iDemise
Joana's Horde Leveling Guide
Penn's Alliance Leveling Guide
Dugi's Ultimate Leveling Guide

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chaotic Meta Gems in Cata: We have a Problem!

As far as expansions and beta testing goes, some changes are made with big announcements and lots of attention. Others are slipped in and almost go unnoticed by the community. Most of the time the community focuses on the big flashy announcement, but that doesn't mean the other changes are unimportant. Once such change was made recently, and you probably want to pay attention to it.

What Changed:

As we all know, a meta gem's above average bonus comes with a cost. To activate a meta gem, the other gems you have equipped must meet a specific criteria. Typically these meta gem requirements are fairly small like "Must have two Blue Gems Equipped" or "Must have one Red and one Yellow Gem Equipped." For example, in WotLK the requirements for the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond was to have two blue gems equipped. It was a little inconvenient because blue was our worst colored gem for most of the expansion, but needing to equip just to wasn't a big pain because it could be done with Purple gems and it was just 2 gems.

We've known for some time that this was going to change in Cataclysm because the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond had different requirements, but they recently got worse.

Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond Activation Requirements:
  • Old: Requires more Blue Gems then Yellow Gems.
  • New: Requires more Blue Gems then Red Gems.
  • Not only that, but they've gone back and changed the older versions of the Chaotic meta to have the same requirement as the Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond.

    How it works and what this means:

    As most of you know the hybrid gem colors green, orange and purple count as multiple gem colors. For example, a single green gem counts as both a blue gem and a yellow gem when it comes to meta requirements and socket bonuses. In WotLK his worked to our advantage, because we could use hybrid gems to meet socket and meta requirements, why still getting some Spellpower/Intellect from our favored gem color red.

    If the current meta gem requirements in beta go live, then the hybrid gem colors will actually work against us in most cases and will change the way we gem all socket colors. For every red or orange gem you have socketed you will have to have a blue or green gem socketed plus one additional blue or green gem. Purple gems don't factor into the equation since they count as both a blue and a red gem. Lets take it by socket type and see what the possibilities are (assuming you want to get the socket bonus).

    Red & Prismatic Sockets: Ideally we will want to socket Brilliant/Int gems in the red sockets. This shouldn't be hard to achieve since you are likely to have more yellow and blue sockets then red sockets. However, if you have an abundance of red sockets that can't be balanced by your yellow and blue sockets, you may need to put a few purple gems into your red sockets to balance the Meta Gem requirement.

    Yellow Sockets: Depending on your needs for hit, yellow sockets should be socketed with either a Quick gem (yellow) or a Lightning gem (green). Orange gems would only be useful if you had very few Red sockets and significantly more blue gems socketed then red gems.

    Blue Sockets: Again, depending on your needs for hit, blue sockets should be socketed with either a Sparkling gem (blue) or Lightning gem (green). Purple gems would only be useful in blue sockets if they didn't upset the balance of red to blue gems, as in you have a lot of blue gems socketed but few red gems socketed.

    Why this is a Problem:

    This change is inconvenient for sure, but my problems with this change go beyond me just disliking it as a player. In my opinion, the new Chaotic meta gem requirement is a clear example of bad design. I know that a lot of players like to call anything they don't like "bad design," but I try not to use those words for anything I simply don't like or disagree with. In this case, I think the new requirement runs counter to several of Blizzards implied stated goals and design philosophies.
    1. It creates a trap. When it comes to choosing DPS gems a couple of things are fairly clear for caster DPS at least. Red and red hybrid gems are the best because they provide Intellect our primary DPS stat. After you do a little math it's also clear that the Chaotic meta gem is the best meta gem. Yet, the new requirement sets these two basic rules against each other and creates a situation that is counter intuitive and confusing to players. Blizzard has said in the past they don't like to have traps in the talent trees. If that is true, then they shouldn't like meta gems that create a trap as well.

    2. It works against profession bonuses. In WotLK, Blizzard worked really hard to keep the profession bonuses relatively equal in terms of stats and game play. As a result most of the professions provided around 47 spell power and it didn't matter a lot which crafting professions you had. The problem is that two of the profession bonuses are centered around gems and gem sockets. Jewelcrafting can probably work around it, but it's a big problem for Blacksmithing, since it's profession bonus is two prismatic gem sockets. This means that a blacksmith has to have two additional blue gems as well and may have to down grade another gem just to activate his meta.

    3. It's a higher requirement then other Meta gems. All of the other meta gems have a simple to understand requirement like "Requires at least 2 yellow gems." I realize that the chaotic meta is very valuable for DPS specs, but the requirement is inconsistent when compared to the other meta gems. Tanks and healers aren't being asked to jump through similar hoops. For the Austere meta, the requirement is two yellow gems. It's not ideal, but not hard comply with either. The Eternal meta gem requires 3 blue gems which a tank will have by default. The healing meta's designed along the same lines, and that makes me wonder why DPS is being singled out for difficult to meat meta requirement.

    4. It makes gear upgrades complicated and expensive. Under the new requirement, any gear change could upset the balance of your meta gem requirement For example, if you have a pair boots with two gem sockets and replace them with some boots without gem sockets, then you may have to regem an item unrelated to the upgrade to maintain your socket balance.

    This change is more then just inconvenient. It changes the way Moonkin and other DPS specs will gem their gear completely. It forces us away from our favored stats and creates a situation where the correct gemming choices are counter intuative.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    A Look Back at Wrath of the Lich King

    Cataclysm is being released in just over a month. The Balance tree seems to be finished for Cataclysm from Blizzards point of view. I've killed every 25man boss on hard mode and completed all of the meta achievements. I am officially in a holding pattern just waiting for Cataclysm.

    Not only am I in a holding pattern in the game, but the blog is in a bit of a holding pattern as well. There just isn't much to talk about at the moment, and looking at the other moonkin bloggers they seem to feel the same way. I took a look back at what I wrote before WotLK came out to try and get some ideas, and the only one that popped out was my expansion in review post. So, lets take a look back at WotLK.

    Favorite 5man:
    The Nexus - To be honest I had a hard time picking my favorite 5man instance because none of hem really stuck out, but I always thought The Nexus was pretty well done. It had a decent length, and a nice variety of bosses with interesting mechanics. I wouldn't say I absolutely loved the instance, but if all the Cataclysm instance turned out like The Nexus I would be happy.

    Least Favorite 5man: It's a Tie.
    Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom - This one is a little funny because I actually listed Herald Volazj as a fun fight in my WotLK first impressions post two years ago. However, I have to include it as one of my least favorite instances, because every time it popped up on the LFD tool, I was disappointed. I could handle Oculus and Halls of Stone without a problem, but Old Kingdom was always a pain in the neck. I think it's because everyone seemed to do it a little differently. I never knew what bosses or trash we were doing, plus I suffered through some truly horrible tanks in this instance.

    Trial of the Champion - Overall it was a horribly designed instance. I am not someone who is against vehicle fights, but the jousting mechanic sucked. It was a basic free-for-all that didn't really require any control or skill. When you finally got off the horses, the three mobs you had to kill were basic tank and spanks. Eadric the Pure and Confessor Paletress were only a slight improvement. The Black night did have a little flavor and complexity to him, but in my opinion it was too little too late. Combine this with massively long RP and this instance became incredibly boring.

    Favorite Raid:
    Ulduar - I didn't like everything about Ulduar, but it was easily the best designed Raid Instance in WotLK. Most of the bosses where well designed and there was great variety. The hard modes in most cases actually changed the way the fight worked. The fights were tuned really well. My biggest complaint about Ulduar is that ToC was released to early and pushed it to the back burner before a lot of good guilds had a chance to complete it.

    Least Favorite Raid:
    Naxxramus - Just so you get a better sense of where I'm coming from, I never raided Naxx before WotLK. My first experience with it was in early December 2008, but Naxx's two big problems became apparent very quickly.

    First, Naxx was way to easy. I understand that it is a first tier raid, but other then a couple of bosses like Thadius it provided almost no challenge. This was before the addition of Hard Modes as a rule, so there is no way that so many guilds should have been able and clear the instance in it's first week of real attempts.

    The second problem Naxxramus had was that it was a relic of an earlier time. Have you ever had a friend or parent tell you how great this old movie is and then not see what all the fuss is about when you actually watch it? That is how I feel about Naxxramus. I understand why they brought it back, I understand why it was great back in the day, but it clearly didn't live up to more current design standards. Most of the Naxx bosses had only one or two mechanics that you really had to pay attention to. If you take a look at Karazhan, Gruul and Mag, you can see that the fights were much more complicated. Naxx was great in its day, but on fortunately it's day had passed.

    Favorite Fight:
    Mimiron - Mimiron is probably going to top almost everyone's list, but I am having a hard time identifying a better fight. On normal mode it was a complicated four phase fight that required a lot of coordination. On hard mode, the addition of the fire made it insane. Having limited and unpredictable space forced the raid to think on the fly and adapt the strategy on an attempt by attempt basis. I was very frustrated at times with this fight, but it was also very satisfying.

    Runner Up: Malygos - I know some of you will disagree with me on this but I thought Malygos was a great fight. Phase one was fun and interesting trying to manage the sparks for additional DPS. Phase 2 was a nice balancing act of keeping your self safe, but trying to kill the disks as fast as possible. Phase three was a great example of a vehicle fight done right in my opinion. It was a little difficult operating in a 3D environment but there were clear ways to succeed and clear ways to fail. Overall, a very well designed encounter in my opinion.

    Least Favorite Fight:
    Hodir - It's a little funny that my least favorite fight comes from my favorite raid instances, but the Hodir fight annoys me to no end. My problem with it was that there was no difference between normal mode and Hard mode. It really should have been called lazy mode and normal mode, because if you couldn't be bothered to figure out how the buffs worked and try and use them to your advantage then you were lazy. The other big problem was that it was easy to fail the hard mode but kill the boss on accident. There nothing like ruining a raid night because your DoTs kill a boss a couple of seconds to late.

    Most Disappointing Fight:
    Gunship - I could easily call Gunship my least favorite fight, but it fails so much that it deserves its own category. I think what's most disappointing about this fight is that it sounded awesome when they mentioned it at Blizzcon, but it turned out to be completely face roll. I think they were trying to make another fight like Karazhan's Chess encounter, but Gunship had several problems Chess didn't. First, a large number of players spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for adds to spawn. I was so bored on one of my kills I spent the entire time trying to see how high I could get on the horde boat as an Alliance Player. The second problem was that all of the mechanics lacked teeth. While the boss and some of the adds could hit hard there was much to worry about for the raid as a whole. Heck, you could stand in void zones and no one would care. Finally there was no reasonable way to fail the encounter other then a mistake by a key player like a tank.

    Best Moment:
    Getting Immortal - Wrath of the Lich King is littered with horror stories about the Immortal achievement. I can probably only look back on it fondly because I eventually completed it while it was still relevant, but it was a monumental effort. We spent weeks on it, and had countless near misses with single deaths KT or some other stupid boss. We finally got it on April 1st just a couple of weeks before Ulduar was released and earned the T7 Meta mounts. It was an awesome feeling to complete that achievement, and clearly showed LoE was an awesome guild despite raiding half the time that most other guilds did.

    A lot of people like to say Immortal was all about RNG. I agree that there is a decent chunk of RNG involved, but to say that it's all about RNG is just an excuse. When we failed one week, we figured out how not to fail like that again next week. If we couldn't trust some one to do what was needed they got sat. Overall, this achievement taught me to think about my own survival. I probably wouldn't be the raider I am today without it.

    What Blizzard did right in WotLK:
    Adding hard modes - The balance and design of Hard Modes hasn't always been right, but the concept is a home run in my opinion. I am not one of those people who thinks you have to be hardcore to see content, and with hard modes it's possible to provide difficult content for those interested in the progression race and regular content for those that just want to see content without being hardcore.

    Balancing on the fly - Before WotLK the philosophy seemed to be that balancing should primarily happen when you release a new expansion. As a moonkin I would look at every patch hoping for a little buff here or a little buff their, but they rarely came. In WotLK the philosophy clearly changed, and it was for the better in my opinion. I love that, Blizzard was willing to make adjustment through out the expansion when they were needed. Now that we are on the door step to Cataclysm, I'm not worried that not all of the issues have been fixed. I'm now confident that Blizzard will continue to look at the problems and make adjustments when necessary.

    What Blizzard did wrong in WotLK:
    Wimping out on Hard modes - As I said above I think hard modes are a great addition to the game, but towards the end of the expansion Blizzard seemed to get lazy in their design. In Ulduar, doing a hard mode actually changed the fight. In most cases the bosses gained new abilities or a mechanic was added that changed the way the fight worked. After Ulduar most of the hard modes could be summed up in one statement: "The boss hits harder and more adds spawn." With a couple of exceptions the ICC strats didn't change much from normal mode to hard mode. So, all hard modes meant was that you were wiping to the thing you killed last week for 13 more ilevel points.

    No sense of progression in WotLK raids - I'm having a hard time describing what I mean. In TBC, guilds progressed from Kara, Mag, and Gruul to SSC and TK, and then to Hyjal and BT. A guild could progress at its own pace and there was a purpose for completing content before moving on to the next one. In WotLK, once Ulduar was released Naxxramus was dead. As much as ToC sucked, it pretty much halted relevant Ulduar progression, and so one. Once a new patch comes out there is little incentive to go back and see the old content in anyway that is challenging.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that Blizzard should go back to the big TBC style attunement quests, but I would like to see something that forces guilds and/or players to progress rather then start again as if the 3 month break they just took didn't happen. I think it would be possible to create a reasonable system with guild wide attunements and possibly restricting them to hard modes, but I think it's a little to easy to get into the highest level of progression currently.

    Future Plans:
    I do have a couple posts planned for the time between now and the release of Cataclysm. I hope to have a new gear guide up before the release of Cataclysm. My raid guide should also be fairly easy to update for level 85 and patch 4.0.3. I also have a post on Leveling guides written that I will post once I know a little bit more about the various 80-85 being sold. I'm also thinking about a couple of other pieces like "Blizzard's unfinished Moonkin business" and a "Cata preview" from my experiences on the Beta.