Archive for gear

Legendary Thoughts

Kurn gets the Legendary Cloak

Kurntastic!

I finally finished my quest for the legendary cloak. Unsurprisingly, I have some thoughts on the matter. ;) I’m going to break down the different chapters of the quest and comment on them separately before discussing my overall impressions at the end. Go get a beverage. Trust me.

Chapter 1: Sigils Can Suck It

Being that I’m not a rogue who got Fangs of the Father, I had to grind rep for Wrathion.

First, let me be clear: I’m not opposed to a good, old-fashioned rep grind. Really, I’m not. That said, just killing mobs to do so is (and always has been) annoying. I’ve done it several times in the past (Hydraxian Waterlords rep to Honored, for instance) but there’s no other real way to gain rep with Wrathion. Just lots and lots… and lots… of killing.

Part of me enjoyed the mindless killing of the Mogu in the Vale (which was where I decided to rep grind), but it wasn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination.

That said, it was ten times more fun than collecting 10 Sigils of Power and 10 Sigils of Wisdom.

Perhaps if I had been a regular raider this expansion, instead of not playing for 17 months, I wouldn’t have been frustrated at the low drop rates. Maybe I would have taken it in stride that sigils only dropped occasionally from the bosses of Tier 14. (Yes, I know that they continued to drop through Throne of Thunder and the first half of Siege, but the hypothetical is if I’d been playing and raiding consistently, so that’s a few months of just Tier 14.)

On the one hand, loot is random. It always has been and it always will be. It’s part of what keeps people going back. How many times did I kill General Drakkisath for my Beaststalker Tunic? 60. Six-zero. SIXTY. Over the course of a couple of years. I killed Gandling in Scholo for my Beaststalker’s Cap 4 times before I even SAW that helm, but killed him an additional 24 times before I won it. I’m fine with random loot in general. It’s like it’s the natural order of things.

That said, 20 random-drop, required “legendary” pieces is a lot of killing bosses. Like I said, maybe if I’d been a regular raider, I wouldn’t have minded, but as someone who was catching up through LFR and not raiding regularly with any group… this was less fun. LFR in general is not terribly fun, so to do LFR run after LFR run and not get the requisite number of sigils is disappointing.

Kurn, why didn’t you raid regularly?

Okay, so that’s a fair question and I may as well answer it now. After over a year of not needing to make time to raid, not having to set aside 3-4 hours three times a week, I really didn’t want to start doing that again. I play at weird times and it’s not really consistent. You can find me online at 7am or 7pm, 2am or 2pm and it changes frequently. I didn’t want to be tied to my computer for raids. As much as I enjoyed raiding in the past, I didn’t particularly feel like raiding regularly again. Certainly, to do so when I came back (March) would have meant doing so with another guild, because my own guild of Apotheosis was knee-deep in heroic Siege of Orgrimmar at that point. Doing so with another guild would have meant character transfers and, honestly, I didn’t feel like giving Blizz any more of my money (I’d just pre-ordered WoD and resubbed for a month), so I decided against it. Also, I typically raid on my holy paladin, but I wanted the cloak on my hunter, with whom I had not seriously raided since Vanilla — and I was seriously behind on gear compared to organized raiders.

Yes, I could have used services like OpenRaid and all that in order to have smoother runs, but I’m notoriously private about my BattleTag and have turned off RealID and until these systems receive the basic in privacy-related tools, I will do my best to not use them. It’s a Thing for me. And while I recognize that I’m one of very few people who feels this strongly about privacy in the game, that’s my choice.

So did I make things harder on myself than I absolutely needed to? Sure, I’ll admit that. But that doesn’t change the fact that chasing down 20 sigils was unpleasant for me. I would wager it was unpleasant for everyone.

Okay, back to Chapter 1…

The reward for this, the Crystallized Dread? I didn’t even get to use this! It’s still sitting in my bags. Why? Because I’d picked up a bow from Tortos in the Throne of Thunder. So my actual reward for finishing Chapter 1 was to be able to move on to Chapter 2.

Chapter 2: Vexing Valor & Problematic PVP

Chapter 2 brings us to Krasarang Wilds. Despite the fact I dislike PVP-like things (oh boy, more on THAT later), I kind of enjoyed the short period of time I spent in Krasarang, killing Horde mobs to get to Revered. (Yes, I could have gone to Isle of Thunder for all of this rep grinding, but I wanted to experience all of the content Blizz had put in.)

I think this was the one portion of the questline where I was genuinely bummed that no one else was out there doing dailies. It felt very lonely and empty, sort of like how Azeroth felt when they introduced Outlands in Burning Crusade.

The Valor Point section wasn’t too bad, but I fully admit that I had it easy, only needing 3000 Valor Points versus 6000. So I’m not going to complain. I’ll say this, though: six weeks of Valor Point capping is tough and it feels like an artificial barrier for a month and a half to prevent one from advancing “too quickly” on the quest line.

It also wasn’t clear to me (or many others!) that you didn’t need to save your VP, that you could spend them. Perhaps that’s because the VP needed when I did the quest was the same as the VP cap. Plus, the tracking was odd (although I’ve read theories that could explain why — preventing the dropping of the quest/loss of progress, faction transfer issues, etc), but in the end, I got my 3000 VP pretty easily.

Next up was killing Warlord Bloodhilt in Krasarang. Hunters are OP because I soloed him as Survival with my turtle pet and a couple of different talents than I usually take. It wasn’t really hard, but it wasn’t a cakewalk. I liked this. :)

The Lion Roars includes some of the worst experiences I’ve ever had playing WoW and I probably would have stopped there if it hadn’t been for my brother, who had temporarily resubbed. It took me close to a week of trying for about an hour every single day to get both wins.

Why in the fuck does a PVE-related questline, which just required you to raid, which just required you to earn Valor Points, require you to participate in BATTLEGROUNDS?

I used to PVP a lot on my hunter. I got to Knight-Captain (and just missed Knight-Champion a few times!) in Vanilla. I got so tired of the zerg rushes, of the constant death, of everything to do with PVP, that I just stopped doing it, for the most part.

Over the years, I’ve played around in arenas now and again. I got to Rival in Arena Season 2. I kind of like arenas. In 144 2v2 games with me (as a holy paladin) and my brother (arms warrior), I won 73 and lost 71. It’s occasionally fun and I got a bunch of this season’s gear, but ultimately, PVP doesn’t really interest me. As soon as my brother stopped playing again, I stopped caring about arenas.

So to be forced to do PVP stuff in order to advance what is clearly a PVE questline makes no sense to me whatsoever and was probably one of the more miserable experiences I’ve had in the game. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve done School of Hard Knocks. I’ve done With a Little Helper from My Friends. It’s not that I’m just completely terrible! But winning these two BGs was exhausting.

Eff that. I especially hated that it was the new ones. I know how to play Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin and Alterac Valley. Why not give me the choice of winning two BGs? Just any two. Why THOSE two? Maybe they wanted to push people into trying the new ones? Guess what? I am NEVER going back to Temple of Kotmogu or Silvershard Mines EVER AGAIN. I have developed such an intense loathing for them. It goes beyond my hatred of most BGs. It’s frightening, to be honest. And the sad thing is that when I heard about them before the expansion came out, they sounded fun. The Temple of Kotmogu especially — I loved thinking about the various tactics for scoring when they announced it. I had even thought that maybe I would play around a bit in it with my brother, like, willingly. Silvershard Mines was interesting to me because I play some Team Fortress 2 and it sounded just like a Payload map.

And yet, terrible experiences. They might be the best BGs to ever hit WoW, but I have the worst associations with them now. I’m never, ever touching them again.

You also have to feel sorry for the poor PVPers who had to suffer through countless PVE scrubs. At least I brought with me my brother, who was a decently geared and skilled arms warrior…

Okay. Enough. I could rant about this for another 1000 words, but I’ll leave it at this: Keep your goddamn PVP nonsense out of my goddamn PVE experiences.

Chapter 3: Silly Secrets & Rage-Inducing Runestones

Full disclosure, I did half of my rep and secrets before any of Blizzard’s temporary buffs and the remaining half during the time in which the temporary buffs were active.

The first half wasn’t so bad. I got to about 11k through Revered with Wrathion by screwing around on the Isle of Thunder and doing some concentrated mob killing. This is another point where I lamented not doing things with everyone because the Isle of Thunder was just so empty and sad. I didn’t experience probably 75% of what Isle of Thunder had to offer and I’m kind of sad about that.

I also got 11/20 Secrets of the Empire before I tired of LFR and took a lengthy break. I returned to LFR during the two weeks of the Gaze of the Black Prince. So when I walked into the appropriate LFRs to pick up my 9 remaining secrets, it was perhaps a bad thing that I got all nine and still had bosses left to kill. I had presumed (perhaps foolishly) that I could easily knock out both my remaining secrets and all 12 Titan Runestones and finish the quest during the last week of the Gaze buff.

It had taken me literally 20 minutes (with the guild perk Mr. Popularity, plus my Battle Standard of Coordination) to finish off my rep and hit Exalted with Wrathion, so I was ready to move on to the next stage. I turned in my 20 Secrets of the Empire (and my 40 Trillium bars) and was anxious to go kill the remaining bosses who would start me off with my Titan Runestones.

After four bosses, I had 3 Titan Runestones. You’d think someone with a sociology and statistical background wouldn’t take that as FACT, but apparently I internalized the 75% drop rate.

Boy, was I unhappy to only get 7 Runestones out of the 14 possible bosses. It was so discouraging. Here I thought I could knock it all out during the last week of the Gaze buff and finally get my stupid cloak and be done!

I was apparently mistaken.

Anyhow, the other parts of the chapter included a pretty uneventful time over at The Thunder Forge. Maybe it’s that my gear was around 537 in average ilvl, but this was easy and boring as crap. Kind of neat to see an Algalon-like dude, though. That’s a nifty model.

The Nalak bit was pretty hilarious. Again, because NO ONE is EVER on the Isle of Thunder (and because I am stubborn as hell and want to do things by myself whenever possible), I did this by myself thanks in particular to this comment at Wowhead.

I ended up getting my last two Runestones this week, plus the Heart of the Thunder King. And so, we move on to…

Chapter 4: Is that a CHALLENGE?

Okay, so this was both neat and ridiculous.

I talked to all of the Celestials and ended at the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun-Lai because, well, I’m a DPS who isn’t a caster. I had a Celestial Offering to help me out, too, and at the Temple of the White Tiger, it gives 10% extra Strength and Agility.

So I click on the gong and get told it’s the melee DPS challenge.

My actual reaction: “what in the fuck, do I have to go do the CASTER challenge?!”

So off I went to the Temple of the Jade Serpent. Hey, look! 10% increased Intellect thanks to my offering. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense for a hunter. (I still miss my mana bar.)

Anyhow, Wrathion pwned me twice and then I was like “okaaaaay, time to regroup.”

I swapped a couple of glyphs and a couple of talents and even FORGET to glyph Black Ice. I learned it (I hadn’t known it), but forgot to actually select it as a glyph to use. Whoops. I ended up not needing it, though. Swapping to Binding Shot was really helpful and the third try was successful, although just barely.

Given that hunters pick the Tigerfang Wrap, I think it’s especially odd that the challenge took place at the Jade Temple.

That said, I really enjoyed the actual fight. It wasn’t all that hard, though. Kiting Artorius through Winterspring for my Rhok’delar was more difficult and took me far longer than the ~30 minutes I spent in total from the first pull to finishing this challenge. Which is a shame, really. I would like more stuff like THIS. THIS was fun.

Chapter 5: Challenging the Celestials

Get 5000 coins on Timeless Isle? No problem.

Defeat all four Celestials: actually, so much easier than I would have thought.

The “other raids” button is carefully hidden away, but was awesome in finding a group for all of the Celestials. 30 minutes later, they were all defeated.

And done. Got my cloak.

Then, for fun, I killed Garrosh and saw Wrathion get pissed off at Varian. Look, I’m no fan of Varian’s, but Wrathion, you suck. I long for the day when I can skin you. That said, I laughed out loud when he said he should have taken control himself, just like “Auntie Onyxia”. Props to Blizzard for that, and the bit with Anduin remembering her as Lady Katrana Prestor.

Concluding Remarks

So I have a legendary. But it sure as hell doesn’t feel like a legendary, despite all the hoops I jumped through for it. Let’s see, 20 Sigils, 20 Secrets, 12 Runestones, 2 BG wins, one-on-one combat, killing all the Celestials, OH, and grinding to Exalted with that little bastard… Yeah, legendary hoops, but the cloak feels ridiculous. This cloak feels like the Kingslayer title did after three months. The first month, it’s all shiny and new and YOU KILLED THE LICH KING YEAH!!!! The second month, you start to be bored by the invites to join someone’s run. The third month, everyone and their brother has the title.

That’s the same thing with the cloak. I cannot imagine how actual, organized raiders feel about their hard work when people like me (ahahaha, I’m a “dirty casual”!) can get the exact same cloak with nowhere near the same time invested. I queued up for LFR. They did actual raids. Their boss kills were more difficult than mine (probably, anyway). Isn’t it a sad thing that I have the same cloak as Tikari, who is currently 13/14 heroics in Siege of Orgrimmar?

I think it’s sad. Also, ridiculous.

A legendary is legendary not because the item’s colour is orange or because it has better-than-average stats and a neat proc. A legendary is legendary because it’s rare. Or it’s supposed to be.

Tell me, what’s the barrier in getting a legendary cloak today? There’s one tricky part, which is the one-on-one combat with Wrathion, and that’s it. Everything else is pretty easy and just takes a lot of time. But it’s not even a lot of time all at once! It’s time spent at your leisure! You can do an hour of LFR here, two hours there and 30 minutes some other time.

So with just a tiny bit of skill and time spent at your own leisure, you too can get a legendary cloak.

And that’s a problem. Legendary cloaks are now basically required for any raiding guild.

While this is fair for those raiding guilds (the cloaks ARE really good), it’s less good for people who just want to break into raiding. Having the cloaks existing at all is an artificial barrier to entry to organized raiding. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE barriers to entry for raiding — a lot — but the time commitment to getting a cloak is a lot longer than an attunement quest (or six).

It’s also bad for guilds who want to have that kind of standard because it reduces the pool of available talent substantially. But it’s a difficult decision to make: do you take the undergeared person of that class or do you hold out and pray you get another good disc priest or elemental shaman or whatever it is you’re searching?

I don’t envy guild leaders or raid leaders today. They have difficult choices in terms of recruitment and, frankly, I’m relieved that I’m not involved in their decisions.

As to the legendaries… I don’t think there’s a good way to do them. Giving them to everyone is awful. Giving them to one individual feels bad, too.

If everyone has a legendary, it’s the same result as if no one has one. So I vote to get rid of them.

What do you think?

(PS: Catch more of my writing over at SentryTotem.com, Tuesdays and Fridays!)

[WoD] Durability and Repair Cost Weirdness!

Yesterday, June 4th, accounts started being flagged for the “Friends and Family Alpha” of Warlords of Draenor. Lots of people on my Twitter feed got in, but I didn’t. (Which, honestly, is okay. I hope I get in eventually, though, like once they hit actual Beta.) Anyhow, I was working on my forthcoming Raid Leader’s guide and I got to a bit about perks for raiders in your guild. One of the perks I suggested was giving raiders guild repairs and then I frowned, because I wasn’t sure how (with the item squish, etc) things were going to look in Warlords of Draenor. So I asked on Twitter if people could give me an idea of what repair costs looked like.

Thanks to THEEEEEE Matticus and Crow, it appears that things are significantly different in the Alpha than they are on live.

Repair cost is currently based on a simple formula. For green pieces of armor, it’s durability points to be repaired * (ilevel – 32.5) * 0.02 silver, assuming you’re neutral with the vendor. For rares, it’s the same, but multiplied by 0.025 silver and epics are the same but multiplied by 0.05 silver. (Then rep discounts kick in for 5% at friendly, 10% at honored, 15% at revered and 20% for exalted.)

So Matt threw himself off of a cliff a number of times:

And he let me know that with all of his gear at RED durability (meaning 0 durability), the repair cost was 3g while Friendly with the Frostwolf Orcs. His gear was all green cloth (since he plays a priest) and his average ilvl was somewhere around 510.

So, hold the phone. We have 8 pieces of armor that are repairable (I didn’t even start taking weapons into account) and if they were ALL at 0 durability, the cost was around THREE GOLD to fully repair? This did not seem like how it is on live, even if they WERE greens and they WERE cloth.

So I did a quick test on the helm formula. Green cloth helms have a maximum of 70 durability points. So let’s plug that into the formula:

Durability Points to be repaired: 70
Mutiplied by (ilevel – 32.5, let’s say that’s 510 – 32.5) = 477.5
Multiplied by 0.02 silver
Multiplied by 0.95 to get our 5% friendly discount

That’s 70 x 477.5 x 0.02 x 0.95 = 635.075 silver.

Or, about 6 gold, 35 silver and 8 copper. Just for the helm. That’s double what Matt was reporting for his entire character!

To make sure I had the right formula, I got on live and bought a 429 ilvl green cloth helm, stripped my 90 warlock down to nothing except this new helm and went out and killed myself about 13 times to get to 0 durability on that helm (which had 70 durability points, losing 8% per death). My math gave me an estimated repair cost of 5 gold, 55 silver and 10 copper with a neutral vendor and a 4 gold, 44 silver and 8 copper repair cost with an exalted vendor. And, wouldn’t you know it, those estimates were spot-on when I went to repair at the a repair vendor in the Shrine (neutral) and the Shado-Pan repair vendor (exalted).

I verified with Matt that his helm was 70 durability and his chest was 115 durability (same as the current max durability points, although I had some confusion in there due to some outdated info) but it still seems as though costs for repairs have (at least in this Alpha build) dropped DRASTICALLY.

So — if you’re in the Alpha, let me know if you’ve noticed the cheaper repairs. Once character copies are working properly (as I understand they’re not? And Alliance isn’t even playable at the moment?), let me know if this carries over to the epics!

Obviously, this is only a very early Alpha build and I’m sure things will change, but I wonder if this sort of thing will stick…

Pondering Pardo's Unpardonables

(Please do bear in mind the comment policy here at Kurn’s Corner. Thanks!)

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Todd Harper wrote a piece over at Polygon on Thursday, May 22, about diversity (or the lack thereof) in various video games. In the piece, he spends time discussing Blizzard’s values, as well as Nintendo’s recent troubles to do with the lack of same-sex marriage support in Tomodachi Life. Since I’m not a Tomodachi Life player, I’m going to skip over that and just say that including LGBTQ content (at least the options!) in games (and other popular culture) is an important step towards equality. I think any kind of game where you adopt a character as your avatar and there’s romance should have some kind of LGBTQ representation and choice. (The Sims, for example, has supported same-sex relationships since its first incarnation.)

Anyhow, as troubling as Nintendo’s reaction has been, what was new to me in the Polygon piece were the stated values belonging to Blizzard, espoused by Dustin Browder (Game Director for Starcraft II) and Rob Pardo (Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard).

When pressed on the sexualization of women characters in MOBA games, Browder argued “We’re not sending a message. Nobody should look to our game for that.” The message just below the surface here is: why can’t we just have fun? Why do we have to be responsible for being respectful?

… seriously?

After his talk, I asked Pardo to talk about how Blizzard’s values — “epic entertainment experiences,” emphasizing the Blizzard brand, focus on gameplay and de-emphasizing narrative — and the company’s perception of their audience might impact how they portray socially progressive content.His answer was disappointing. “I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not something that’s … something we’re trying to actively do.”

Why the eff not?

“We’re not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that,” he said. His example of a place where Blizzard struggles is portrayal of women.Pardo notes that “because most of our developers are guys who grew up reading comics books,” Blizzard games often present women characters as a sexualized comic book ideal that “is offensive to, I think, some women.”

Gee, ya think?

It’s a really good article that everyone should read, but, shockingly, I’m going to discuss my views here. ;)

I play games to escape. They’re fun, they take up space and time in my life, they give me a sense of satisfaction I don’t easily get outside of them. I’ve played video games since I was 5, playing on my Atari 2600. River Raid was my favourite game. I loved the King’s Quest, Space Quest and Police Quest series from Sierra. I kicked some ass at Double Dragon on my Atari 520ST computer and absolutely adored both Déjà Vu and Déjà Vu II: Lost in Las Vegas. Sneaking around as Garrett in Thief and Thief 2 was spectacular (less so in the sequels, but anyhow). Eventually, I came to World of Warcraft and found that I quite enjoyed playing a hunter and, later, a holy paladin. All of these games made me an involved player, made me think outside the box (seriously, using an athletic supporter as a slingshot in SQII?) and served to entertain me while rewarding me for my efforts by finishing chunks of the game.

That’s not to say that the Quest games from Sierra didn’t have horribly sexist moments. They did. The Latex Babes from SQIV? The fact that Sonny’s girlfriend in PQ was a hooker? A lot of it went over my head until I took the time to think about these things from the perspective of an adult and it wasn’t limited to the Sierra stuff. It’s disappointing to look back at the Déjà Vu games, for example, and realize “holy crap, I had to beat the crap out of a hooker lest she shoot me in the face”. (I can’t even think of another woman from those games, to be honest.)

So, I’m coming from the perspective of having grown up with sexism in video games. It’s pretty much normal to me, or at least it was until I started looking at games more critically. (And part of that was thanks to Anita Sarkeesian and her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series.)

I remember levelling my holy paladin, Madrana. She’s a human female. As a paladin, she wore mail until level 40, at which point she could wear plate. Here. Have a look at some actual screenshots of Madrana in plate armor. (click for bigger pic)

platearmor

The two on the left are of Madrana wearing the Shadesteel Greaves, which were part of the Shadow Resistance gear from Burning Crusade. Notice a difference when you compare them to the human male wearing them?

platemale1

The chest piece my toon is wearing is the heroic T13 chest, the Breastplate of Radiant Glory. Nice exposed stomach. That makes OH SO MUCH SENSE for a plate-wearing class, who can also be, you know, tanking things. Oh, look. They actually took into consideration that armor should cover one’s soft, squishy bits when they decided what the male model would look like with it.

platemale2

I included the Lightforge set on the far right because it’s my transmog (and has been since transmogrification was introduced). Yes, I love Lightforge, but one reason why I love it so is that it covers my character’s body in an appropriate fashion.

These discrepencies between armor on a male model vs. a female model have always pissed me off. (Just play with the 3D model viewer for the Glorious Breastplate and Glorious Legplates if you doubt that there are dozens of other examples.) However, I dealt with them because I knew that the designers were men and that the target audience also consisted of men.

In other words, I’ve known Blizzard has been sexist, at least in some ways, since I started playing. Half the reason my night elf hunter is a male is because I didn’t like how the female night elves bounce as their idle animation!

What’s really troubling about the Polygon article, for me, is that not only is this kind of junk still acceptable, but it’s coming from the top. Pardo is the Chief Creative Director. While I’m sure not everything we see in the games goes by him, he (and the others at that level) are responsible for the overall culture and sentiment in their company. That Pardo (and, presumably, the other executives at Blizzard) think that “fun” and “entertaining” are diametrically opposed to “socially responsible and progressive” is, well, not cool.

Let’s look at Hearthstone, which was just released a couple of months ago. You’ve got nine heroes, one for each class that existed in World of Warcraft in the original release. They are:

Malfurion – Male Night Elf Druid
Rexxar – Male Orc Hunter
Jaina – Female Human Mage
Uther – Male Human Paladin
Anduin – Male Human Priest
Valeera – Female Blood Elf Rogue
Thrall – Male Orc Shaman
Gul’dan – Male Orc Warlock
Garrosh – Male Orc Warrior

… really? Just two females represented among all of those classes? Is it really that there aren’t other epic female druids, female hunters, female paladins, female shaman, female warlocks or female warriors? Let’s take a look.

Apparently there are no notable female druids. But HEY, how about, oh, I don’t know, ANY OF THE WINDRUNNERS for a female hunter? Lady Liadrin or Aponi Brightmane as female paladins? Tyrande as a female priest? Okay, I kind of get Thrall as the Shaman, but did Magatha Grimtotem get any consideration? And, shocker, there don’t seem to be any notable female warlocks. Nor any notable female warriors. (Note: I’m not big on lore. I may be missing some, but still.)

So two of the heroes are women in Hearthstone, which is about 22% representation. Which sucks. They could have had a different hunter, paladin and priest. It could have been ~56% representation. But it’s not. And at some point, you just have to ask… why isn’t it?

Look, I’m not asking for any portion of any game to change in terms of gameplay, not at all. But how does it negatively impact the game when 4 or 5 of your nine heroes are female? How does it negatively impact the game if, for example, my Tier 13 Heroic Breastplate of Radiant Glory actually covers my character’s abdomen? Neither of those things have anything to do with the game mechanics.

Blizzard, you can have your epic gamplay. You can have your fun and entertaining games. But you can also make better decisions about the representation of women in your games. (I’m not even going to touch Heroes or SC or Diablo with a ten-foot pole since I have 0 interest in Heroes, I’ve only played a little SC in my life and haven’t touched D3 since last year.)

If anyone thinks I’m overreacting, rest assured that I’m not. I’m not even angry. I’m disappointed, troubled and resigned, but I’m still playing World of Warcraft and playing around with Hearthstone for the time being. Just because I’ve learned that there is a sexist culture at Blizzard that comes from the top isn’t going to cause me to go running into the night, mostly because I’d always suspected that. (And if I hadn’t, Metzen’s “it’s a boy’s trip” comment at the last BlizzCon would have tipped me off. (See Fan #16’s Q/A section.))

You know what, though? Of all the reasons to quit, this is a really good one. I’ve already seen two people on my Twitter feed decide that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Cynwise has been a fantastic community resource. Osephala’s been a great player that I’ve personally played with off and on for years. I commend them for taking the steps they feel they need to after Pardo’s comments, but the community will be worse off without them both.

As a former guild master, it’s ingrained in me that if someone leaves, someone will be around to replace them eventually. There’s churn. But losing Cynwise? Big blow for the community. Losing Osephala? That’s one more talented player the community will need to do without. In this day of boosted 90s with clueless yahoos behind them, the community can ill-afford to lose the good ones.

Since I’ve come back to WoW, I’ve been buying one month of game time as I go, because it’s a tentative re-entry to the game. In the two and a half months since I’ve been back, I haven’t ever been so pleased I’m not on a recurring subscription and, to be honest, my future in this game is in doubt. (For this and other reasons, but anyhow.)

So… confirmation of what I’ve always thought — Blizzard is a boy’s club. Representation of women doesn’t matter to them. Social responsibility doesn’t matter to them. Hiring more women doesn’t matter to them. It’s nice to know this stuff for sure, but it’s pretty disappointing that this is where they stand. They could be so much more and that’s what’s so disheartening about all of this. The wasted potential just makes me sad.

*** ETA: Here’s a link to a video of the response the article was based on. It doesn’t really change my mind, but definitely have a look. ***

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Old Habits Die Hard

With the news that Patch 5.4.8 would bring with it the ability to add two more upgrades (4 ilvls each) to 5.4 gear, I laughed to myself. Why? Well, because there are several instances of Blizzard saying they won’t nerf Siege of Orgrimmar (at least not in the blanket-nerf sense of the word). The most recent one was just a month ago, back in April.

And yet, they’re adding up to 8 more ilvls to every piece of SoO gear, every piece of Timeless Isle gear, every piece of SoO crafted gear… Granted, as Watcher states, it’s “nothing” compared to a zone-wide 30% aura:

But Valor upgrades are still a nerf. I went through that in this old post of mine from last September (wow, was I ever off on the timing of the expansion…) and I still maintain my opinion that it’s a nerf. That said, I am also still a fan of the fact that the onus is on the player to make their raids easier.

Anyhow, I laughed to myself at all of this and was, once again, pleased that I’m not raiding in any serious capacity at all.

That said, I had the intention to cap Valor so I could walk into 5.4.8 with 1000 or 2000 VP and upgrade the crap out of what I’m wearing. I figured we still had a week or two.

And then we were told on Monday that, OH HEY, PATCH DAY TOMORROW.

Wanna know how much Valor I had earned in the last, oh, two weeks?

Five.

That’s right. Five Valor. I did one quest for 5 Valor or something. That’s it.

So, forgetting for a while that I am no longer a progression raider, I got online and did my 200 VP Epoch Stone quest on Timeless Isle. In so doing, I also earned 50 VP from killing 20 elites on Timeless Isle.

Total VP: 255.

This was substantially less than 1000.

So I did the unthinkable. I queued up for the first couple of wings of Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. Late on a Monday night.

Wing 2 popped for me.

By some miracle, we didn’t wipe on Galakras, despite there being ZERO tower group organization.

Both tanks left shortly after that mess. And then we got some extremely talented players who were, and let’s be fair to them, total douchecanoes. One of them was the tank, the other was a DPS warrior. Both were very well-geared and knew their stuff, but oh my God. The language. The foul, foul, FOUL language, full of slurs and pejoratives!

I was going to leave, but I didn’t. I’d already put in 30 minutes of waiting for the queue, plus 20 minutes on Galakras, plus another 10 of waiting for two new tanks to show up.

Someone ninja-pulled on Iron Juggernaut and we wiped. Then we actually had a good pull and killed that. Killed Dark Shaman. Then wiped on Nazgrim because people still apparently don’t know how to kill adds… Finally got Nazgrim down, adding 90 VP to my pathetic collection, bringing me to 345 total. (Also, no Secrets through those bosses.)

My other queue popped for the first wing and I was going to take it, except I was still annoyed and I was tired and…

… and I’m not a raider.

It’s as though a lightbulb went off. Who the eff cares if I don’t max out my VP? I certainly didn’t care until faced with the fact that I could do more stuff with my VP today. Guess what? I haven’t even fully upgraded most of the gear that I’m wearing. (Part of this is because I want to get better gear before upgrading.) So, really, what the heck is the point in trying desperately to cap to get to 1000 VP before servers go down? There’s no one relying on me to “do my part”, there’s nothing driving me to do it, except my own expectations.

I declined the queue and thought about this.

Even though I haven’t raided seriously (as in, not LFR) since the end of Dragon Soul, I am still wired to try to maximize my potential. It took a lot of effort in the first place to stop VP capping even when I didn’t want to any longer. For so long, it’s just been part of my WoW life to do unpleasant tasks “because I have to!”

But I don’t “have to” any longer. (And true, strictly speaking, I never “had to”, but I felt I had a responsibility to my raid teams to do whatever I could.)

It’s going to take some time to adjust to this whole “I can do whatever I want” thing. Breaking such a long-standing old habit is definitely not as easy as one might think. Even now, I’m filled with residual “dammit, why didn’t I cap VP for three weeks prior to today?!” thoughts and I even have a bit of guilt resulting from it.

You’d think that not having played for ~17 months would have cured that right quick, but no. It’s as though my “decompression” from being a raider was just on pause until I got back into the game and NOW I’m dealing with what it’s like to not be a raider.

It’s still so very, very strange.

Thought I’d share. :)

Tech and the Devaluation of Gear

When I first walked through the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands and ended up in Hellfire Peninsula, I was astounded at how quickly I replaced my gear. My hard-fought T0.5 gear meant nothing. My Rhok’delar? Nada. Even my Tier 1 gear, what little of it I had, was laughable. The stats on the gear that was dropping, even the greens, just far outweighed anything I’d ever even seen before. Just the stamina on the gear alone was astonishing. This was my introduction to gear resets.

Every expansion, it’s the same thing — wander around in the new zones for a while, replace everything. It’s always been a little sad for me, because it seems to devalue anything “tangible” (as tangible as anything is in this game, anyhow) you’ve earned over the last couple of years. Even mounts aren’t immune, since there’s no stopping people from getting Ashes of A’lar or whatever spiffy mounts are out there, thereby (in my opinion) devaluing them. I was truly saddened when I had to replace my heroic ICC gear in Cataclysm and am still somewhat miffed that my Reins of the Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher can be earned by any yahoo who puts in two or maybe three weeks of effort (as opposed to my, oh, six months of effort), but no, I’m not bitter, nope… Okay, where was I? Right. Expansions.

For me, the worst part of a new expansion (aside from needing to relearn everything, of course) is how quickly the previous expansion is washed away. When we got to Northrend, who cared about Outlands? No one, that’s who. We dropped that continent and its endless demons like a hot potato and charged to the frozen depths of Northrend. And when Cataclysm came out, who went BACK to Northrend? Basically no one. Everything from previous expansions just vanishes so quickly when a new expansion comes out and gear is no exception. Not only that, but your gear is generally outdated in an insultingly short period of time. Of course, this makes sense, from a developer’s point of view: you can’t have someone who’s been playing for six years have an in-game advantage over the person who picked up the game three days ago. Gear resets make sense from a design standpoint because it allows new players (or returning players who had previously quit) to jump right in with everyone else in levelling content and early raid content.

It’s still kind of sad to see the gear go by the wayside. Maybe I’m just sentimental like that, though.

I was reading about the 5.4 upcoming feature, the Proving Grounds. It sounds great, to be honest. I love the idea of being able to test my skills, solo. And hopefully people will view it as a learning opportunity, too. Maybe now PUG tanks won’t be morons! Maybe PUG DPS won’t stand in bad! Maybe PUG healers will understand what COOLDOWNS are!

(Somehow, I remain pessimistic about the reality of the situation, but the possibility of those things will exist, at least, thanks to Proving Grounds… maybe.)

However, one of the phrases in the Blizzard post about it caught my eye.

“Upon entering the Proving Grounds, your gear will be scaled down much like it is in Challenge Modes.”

For some reason, reading this phrase just solidified a thought I’d had for months, maybe even a year. At some point, around last summer, something about the “scaling down” system they’d talked about for Challenge Modes bugged me. It irked me. When I thought about it, I couldn’t put my finger on why it bothered me. I couldn’t understand why I was moderately frowny about “upgrading” items via Valor Points. But now? Now, I GET IT. I understand why this bothers me! And, lucky you, I am going to share my thought with you.

My thought is this: Gear pretty much no longer matters in the game.

Blizzard has eradicated the need for gear because their “tech” has rendered it useless. I’ve seen this happen before, mind you. On various PTRs testing heroic modes, you would often get a shirt to wear that would augment your current gear by X amount, allowing you to participate in and test the heroic encounters.

I remember it striking me as odd, at the time, that they could just give us a shirt that augmented everything by a certain percent or amount and bam, even while wearing our same gear, we were suddenly that much more powerful. But I never really thought too much about it. Suddenly, over the last couple of days, my thoughts have finally gathered together and it’s made me realize that Blizzard has done so much with its “tech” that gear has lost meaning.

More than any expansion has ever done, Blizzard has made gear not matter. That’s not to say that you can expect to go to a heroic raid in the Twill set, mind you (although that would be hilarious), but in Challenge Modes, as long as you’re ilvl 463 or higher, you’ll be scaled down. I’m unsure about Proving Grounds ilvls, but you’ll similarly be scaled down, so people are on even ground with each other, much as they are with Challenge Modes.

But gear isn’t obsolete, Kurn, geez! you may say, scoffing at my thought.

True. But I didn’t say it was obsolete. I said it doesn’t matter. There’s a slight difference. The major difference, to me, is that Blizzard’s scaling “tech” has made obtaining better gear (for Challenge Modes and Proving Grounds) mostly worthless. In the same, upcoming patch, WoW players will also see Flex Raids, which will allow a raid to form for a group that is sized anywhere between 10 and 25 people and the raid will dynamically shift difficulties. They’ll also likely see Virtual Realms, grouping low-population realms together to act as though they’re all on one larger server. The “tech” they keep coming up with is changing things so that some core distinctions are being thrown out the window. This whole “upgrading” items? What is up with that? I first looked at it as another way to enhance items, like gems or enchants, but it still didn’t sit well with me. (As an aside, it’s suddenly clear to me why I never really liked reforging.)

Now, despite all this, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing (shockingly. Are you surprised?), just that it’s a significant departure from where WoW began.

Gear is always on everyone’s mind, regardless of what activity they enjoy pursuing in the game, basically. I loved getting new gear, but I didn’t raid for gear. I recognized that my raid group’s gear was how my raid group would advance, so I took my own upgrades (or lack thereof) in stride. Still, to this day, I remember that Halion never dropped his boots for me, that Heroic Saurfang never dropped that mail (!) belt for me, that I didn’t get EITHER Vashj’s OR Illidan’s maces… Gear should matter, even if it’s not the major reason we play. It’s the main way in which players interact with their opponents in WoW, so of course players want to improve themselves. By the end of Wrath of the Lich King, my brother (Fog), Majik and I could clear Heroic Gundrak (with the extra boss) in something like 11 minutes, on non-raiding alts, with Maj tanking, me healing and my brother DPSing, even if the other two DPS did less damage than I did as a resto druid. That’s a huge improvement on the time it used to take players, in crappy level 80 blues, when Wrath began. Gear made the difference, even if it was from ilvl 178/200 to ilvl 232/245.

All this “tinkering” with items and gear, well, it feels to me as though Blizzard has pulled the curtain aside by demonstrating that they can adjust item levels so easily, so arbitrarily. It’s as though I was in awe of the Wizard of Oz and then the curtain got pulled aside and there was the Wizard, just this old guy working smoke and fire machines with a microphone. The magic was gone.

WoW has always been a math-based game, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this has finally happened, but some of the allure of new gear was knowing that it would make a difference in what choices you made with your gear. And now… there are circumstances where new gear isn’t really going to make much of (if any) a difference.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For one, Challenge Modes and Proving Grounds are both skill-based challenges. It’s about how well you play as a player, not what kind of gear you got while some guild you paid carried you. It’s about knowing your class abilities, even the ones you rarely use. It’s about knowing what each different talent does and figuring out which would work best in those circumstances. (And I say all this without having DONE either Challenge Modes or Proving Grounds, so you can take that with a grain of salt, since I know people buy gold runs and such.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of rewarding skill versus luck.

I just find it a bit of a shame that Blizzard’s “tech” has enabled them to show us exactly how meaningless gear is. To me, it reinforces the utter futility in caring about gear so much, except we’re not just being shown that at the start of an expansion or on a PTR — we’re being shown that constantly throughout this expansion. When I was actively playing, I cared about my job in the game, not my gear, except as to how my gear would help with my job. (Stupid Halion boots. Grump.) But now that it’s just so easy for Blizzard to arbitrarily scale gear, raid difficulty and even actual realms… doesn’t it seem as though we’ve gone through the looking glass? I feel as though I can now see, with clearer eyes, the sheer pointlessness of the gearing aspect of the game. Raiders gear up for heroic dungeons as they level up. They ding max level and then start gearing out of heroics for raids, supplemented by crafted and rep gear. Then they gear up for heroic raids through a combination of LFR and normal raids. Then the raiding gear-up happens all over again for the next tier. And the next. And then, it really doesn’t matter because it’s the last raid patch of the expansion and in like, two months, all that gear you’re working for is just going to be worthless anyway.

If something as basic and integrated as gear can be arbitrarily changed in the blink of an eye, if something as solid as a raid’s difficulty can be dynamically adjusted based on the number of people in the zone or raid, if a realm can suddenly be grouped with other realms to the point of removing pretty much any distinguishing details between them aside from a name… is there nothing untouchable any longer? I guess I’m just wondering if the malleability of the game has gone a touch too far. If a piece of gear isn’t unchangeable at its core, isn’t as solid as something can be in this game, is there anything that is?

As my final word on the matter: Yes, I know, enchants, sockets, gems, reforging, upgrading and scaling are all different points on the same continuum. I realize that everyone’s limits will be different. Personally, I think my limit is up there after gems and before reforging, because I think as soon as you make things TOO malleable, you lose something in the process. My two cents. :)

Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list about my Guide site over at Kurn.info!



Of LFR and Shields and Offhands

So, lots of news to do with us and our gear of late! I apologize for not being on the cutting edge of news, but hey, research papers and final exams and lack of sleep all take their tolls. ;)

Anyhow, let’s talk a bit about this little tidbit that affects Looking For Raid gear ONLY: “Some items were recently reclassified.” That means that several items were tagged so that only those classes can use them.

  • Timepiece of the Bronze Flight – Paladin, Shaman
  • Ledger of Revolting Rituals – Druid, Priest

What’s this? Paladins can no longer roll need on the Ledger? But isn’t the Ledger BETTER than the shield?

It was.

They have hotfixed the Timepiece of the Bronze Flight to add a red socket with a 10 int socket bonus. It is now 20 intellect stronger than the Ledger. (Unfortunately, no tooltips seem to have picked up on this fix.)

Without the hotfix to the shield, the reclassification of the Ledger to Druid and Priest ONLY would have been ridiculous — but again, those tags are only for Looking For Raid. If you’re raiding normal Dragon Soul (or heroic Dragon Soul, for that matter) then those classifications don’t exist.

However, given the change to the shield, there’s absolutely no point in us snagging the Ledger at all unless we’ve been SERIOUSLY screwed over by drops of the shield.

I have to say I’m kind of glad about this change. The last time I seriously used an offhand instead of a shield was probably in vanilla WoW when I was using Arlokk’s Hoodoo Stick, which was awesome if only because it looked like I was dual-wielding, hee! (And now I’m sad I won’t pick up the Ledger because now I can’t transmogrify the Ledger INTO Arlokk’s Hoodoo Stick!) But yes, as I was saying, I’m glad about the change overall. Paladins and shaman are supposed to use shields. Period. I’m not sure why that is, but seeing a paladin or a shaman using an offhand when a shield is more appropriate for them makes me sad.

I mean, no one BUT a holy paladin or a resto/ele shaman is going to want to pick up a shield with spellpower intellect on it. But potentially more than just a druid or a priest would want an intellect off-hand, particularly if it doesn’t have spirit on it. Intellect shields are made for us and the intellect-loving shaman. That’s clearly Blizzard’s vision for us and, despite my bitching (which I do a lot) I find myself reluctant to stray from that particular vision. A lot of the time, Blizzard’s vision will be in opposition with what is seen as being “optimal”. In the case of the Ledger vs. Timepiece, I was willing to just keep using my heroic Beth’tilac shield until everyone in my raid who wanted the Ledger had gotten it, and then I would have expressed interest in the Ledger. (And then would have transmogrified it.)

I want to play my class optimally (or as close as I can while still enjoying what I’m doing) but when “the vision” of the class is in opposition to “optimal play”, it discourages me overall.

So good for Blizzard for fixing the Timepiece. I’m really glad I get to rock a shield again this tier. That’s just how it should be.

(Now, having said that, anyone have any recommendations for a shield to transmogify to that matches Lightforge?)

There was also a hotfix to the Heart of Unliving: It got 323 intellect to go with the stacking 88 spirit bonus.

And there was a hotfix to our 4pc bonus — now increases healing done by Holy Radiance by 5%, down from 20%. So… yeah, that’s a nerf.

As such, I updated my Gear List post with a few strikeouts and new notes.

In other news, Apotheosis is seeking a HUNTER and a RESTORATION SHAMAN! We’re 7/8 with a 7.8% wipe on Madness and, well, we’re generally awesome, so apply now. :)

Kurn's 4.3 Holy Paladin Gear List

(Edited on December 15th, 2011 — hotfixes aplenty affecting the 4pc bonus, Heart of the Unliving and Timepiece of the Bronze Flight!)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, patch 4.3 is expected to drop in about a week (estimated November 29th), so it’s time for another one of those silly gear posts. Bear in mind that this is my opinion only and I will be prioritizing secondary stats in the following manner (keeping in mind that Intellect is always our primary stat):

Spirit > Haste > Crit > Mastery

Why am I prioritizing as I am? Due to incoming changes to Judgements of the Pure, our regen will be much more reliant on spirit, so I’ll look to have spirit on each piece possible. Haste, while it will drop slightly in priority due to the changes to Holy Radiance, will still be useful in getting more casts out. Crit will still be somewhat lacklustre. Mastery will get a bump up because it will now apply to targets on whom you cast Holy Radiance (and presumably those healed by the AOE effect), but my personal playstyle is not that of a raid healer, so I’m going to continue to focus on Spirit/Haste-heavy gear.

Note that I will focus primarily on the 397 ilvl gear from normal Dragon Soul, but in many cases, the 384 (Looking For Raid) version will work just as well.

As to the 2pc and 4pc set bonuses for Tier 13… Well, I’ll have a bunch of different potential gearsets in this post, I guess. I like the 2pc (although I feel it’s a little underpowered) and while I like the 4pc, I’m not sure how much use I’m personally going to get from it.

For reference:

2pc Tier 13 set bonus: After using Divine Favor, the mana cost of your healing spells is reduced by 25% for 15 sec.
4pc Tier 13 set bonus: Increases the healing done by your Holy Radiance spell by 20%. 5%. (This was hotfixed!)

It’s also important to note that ALL TIER will be dropping from raids, including lower ilvl (384) versions of the tier from the Looking for Raid difficulty, so no tier will be available with Valor Points. As well, Alizabal, the new Baradin Hold boss, seems to be dropping tier gloves and tier legs as both previous Baradin Hold bosses have done.

Tier 13/ilvl 397

HEAD

Two real options here, the tier helm and the vendor helm. That’s right, helms will be available for Valor Points at the vendor.

Glowing Wings of Hope: 2200 Valor Points from the VP vendor. This will take a bit longer than you would expect to earn. While the weekly cap is being raised to 1000 Valor Points, you’ll only earn 100 VP per raid boss kill (regardless of 10 or 25-man format). There are probably better pieces to pick up from the VP vendor first, so you might be waiting even longer than just collecting the 2200 VP (which is a minimum of two weeks and a bit). That said, the secondaries on this (spirit and crit) aren’t bad.

Headguard of Radiant Glory: This is the tier helm and the token for it drops off the sixth boss in the Dragon Soul raid, Warmaster Blackhorn. Why yes, that IS 280 mastery on it. My vote is for the non-tier helm! But let’s see what we can cobble together, shall we?

NECK

Again, two options here, one from the raid instance and one from the vendors.

Threadlinked Chain: 1250 Valor Points on this baby, which is still at least a week and a bit before you can afford this. Again, I’m not sure if this should be our priority for Valor Points, but we’ll see where we stand after going through all the loot. Plus, it’s got spirit, which is great, but it has crit, so it’s not what I would consider the best combination of stats.

Petrified Fungal Heart: Beautiful! Spirit and geez, would you look at that haste? Insane. The best news here is that this drops from the first boss in Dragon Soul, Morchok. This is definitely Kurn’s Choice ™, due to ease of acquisition and the pretty, pretty stats.

SHOULDERS

Uh. Absolutely no choices here. Go tier or go home.

Mantle of Radiant Glory: The good news? These are fantastic shoulders. 2 red sockets, 20 intellect socket bonus, lots of haste. Even better, the token for these aren’t off the second to last boss, like they were in Firelands or on an end-boss, like they were on Cho’gall in Bastion of Twilight. They’re off the fourth boss, Hagara the Stormbinder.

CLOAK

Again, no choices here as there is not one single cloak that drops in Dragon Soul.

Woundlicker Cover: Well, at least it’s a great cloak. Red socket, intellect bonus, spirit and haste, all for the bargain-basement price of 1250 Valor Points! This is looking as though it might be our number one VP purchase.

CHEST

Back to options! It’s nice to have a choice in gear.

Shining Carapace of Glory: All red sockets, all of the time, it appears. I’m not complaining. This chestpiece is available from the Valor Point vendor for 2200 VP and is possibly more easily available than the tier chest. Still, the crit makes me more inclined to put something else (like the cloak!) ahead of this on my potential shopping list.

Breastplate of Radiant Glory: YES PLEASE. Seriously, we have been blessed with some amazing chestpieces this expansion, but this is SERIOUSLY an amazing one. 3 sockets (including a yellow, so we can slot in a Reckless gem in there for one of our two yellow meta gem requirements) and plenty of haste. Even if you don’t like haste much as a secondary, the third socket makes this the winner, hands down. This drops off Ultraxion, the fifth boss in Dragon Soul.

WRISTS

I feel as though I’ve stumbled into an alternate universe because we have not one, not two, but three choices this tier. Is this really the same game that gave us just one 359 option for bracers?

Flashing Bracers of Warmth: Selling for a mere 1250 Valor Points at the vendor, these bracers are the easiest of the three to acquire. They also lack a socket and have mastery on them as a secondary. Still, not a terrible choice if your only other options are 378 bracers or if you’re doing that whole “mastery-stacking” thing.

Heartblood Wristplates: Pardon me as I attempt not to drool. Red socket, spirit, haste? Awesome. They drop off the third boss in Dragon Soul, Yor’sahj the Unsleeping, so they may not be terribly difficult to acquire.

Soul Redeemer Bracers: … okay, I’m drooling. These are crafted. The recipe for them is likely to be a drop from Dragon Soul. The materials for these actually aren’t too bad: 4 Truegold, 30 Volatile Life, 2 newly-unbound Chaos Orbs and, okay, well, the 4 Essences of Destruction will be the sticking point. These will likely be dropping in Dragon Soul the same way Living Embers did. Bear in mind that there are no heroic versions of this, so for the next ilvl tier, the drops from Yor’sahj will be better. But these are still amazing until you clear Dragon Soul and move into heroic modes.

HANDS

Two choices here with the gloves, one from the vendors, the other our tier.

Gleaming Grips of Mending: 1650 Valor Points for these. There’s a red socket, which is nice, but there’s that pesky mastery stat again. Still, if you don’t get lucky with your tier token, these are perfectly viable and adequate.

Gloves of Radiant Glory: The token for these drops off Warlord Zon’ozz, the second boss in Dragon Soul. A blue socket and crit as a secondary. Meh.

Honestly, this choice really depends on how much you hate mastery and how often Conqueror tokens drop off Yor’sahj. Either are fine, but the tier will obviously help with 2/4pc bonuses.

However, if you get through the Spine of Deathwing encounter, you get a shot at ilvl 403 loot and the only piece of ilvl 403 armor we might be interested in here are the gloves.

Gauntlets of the Golden Thorn: Very pretty. Two sockets, which is more than the other options, and plenty of spirit and haste. These get my vote.

WAIST

Again, I feel as though I’m in an alternate dimension. Coming out of a tier with just one belt option, in Tier 13, we’ll have… three?

Blinding Girdle of Truth: 1650 Valor Points will get you this belt from the VP vendor. Two sockets are always tempting, but then there’s all that mastery. Not a bad choice, but with two other choices, this is not my top option.

Dragonfracture Belt: Wow, this is an amazing belt. This belt is like the devs are saying “Hey, holy paladins? Yeah, we’re sorry about that one crappy belt option in T12. Enjoy!!” It drops off Ultraxion, the fifth boss in Dragon Soul. This is definitely my first pick.

Girdle of Soulful Mending: Now this is a curious item. It doesn’t seem to drop off any boss, nor is there a recipe for it. It’s also Bind on Equip. Could this be a trash drop in Dragon Soul? Assuming it’s actually in the game, I think we have to assume it is. As such, this is your easiest way to upgrade to a 397 belt, although it likely won’t be cheap. And while it has 20 intellect more (at base) than the other two belts, it only has one socket. Even without epic gems (which are being introduced in 4.3, but are supposed to be quite rare), this is still going to be a loss of intellect compared to the other two options.

Honestly, if you can’t get Ultraxion down with regularity or if you can’t cough up the VP for the belt, the BOE will do in a pinch, but the only thing it has going for it is that it’s relatively easy to get (trash runs, at the Auction House, etc).

LEGS

Just two options here. One is our tier legs and the other is another crafted item.

Greaves of Radiant Glory: Our tier legs, whose token drops from Yor’sahj the Unsleeping, the third boss in Dragon Soul. 3 sockets are great, but that mastery. Why mastery? Alas. T11 pants were crap, T13 pants aren’t great, IMHO.

Pyrium Legplates of Purified Evil: The only other choice apart from tier are these crafted legs. While they are awesome, there will almost certainly not be a heroic version of these, which makes me a sad moose. (#sadmoose!) These call for 8 Truegold, 40 Volatile Life, 4 newly-unbound Chaos Orbs and 8 Essences of Destruction.

FEET

Some interesting options here.

Pillarfoot Greaves: Dropping from Morchok, the first boss of Dragon Soul, are these boots. Two sockets, plenty of spirit… and crit isn’t terrible. These are likely going to be fairly easy to pick up.

Silver Sabatons of Fury: These are AWESOME. And they’re available from the vendors for 1650 Valot Points. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Valor Point boots are Bind on Equip again, like they were for Tier 11!

Best thing to do here is farm up the VP on another character in the first week and a bit and buy them for your main raiding character. Or, save up ~15k or thereabouts and buy your boots off the Auction House in Week 2 of 4.3. The important thing here is that you not spend your main raiding character’s VP on these boots, as awesome as they are. You have other things to save for.

WEAPONS/SHIELDS

A couple of options here, though none as awesome as the Eye of Purification (as in, they’re all boring maces).

Vagaries of Time: Dropping off Morchok, the first boss of Dragon Soul, this is a snazzy mace. Good itemization, though no spirit means that those nasty shadow priests, moonkins and elemental shaman will also be after it. Definitely worth picking up.

That is, until…

Maw of the Dragonlord: Definitely a healing mace, based on the Equip. I wonder if it looks like Light of Dawn… Anyhow, Vixsin of Life in Group 5 recently tweeted: “Healers, start cozying up to your loot council, because Maw of the Dragonlord is doing 10-20% of my healing on PTR.” Of course, this drops at the end of the Madness of Deathwing encounter, so only if you’re clearing Dragon Soul can you expect to see this.

As to shields… well, there’s one healing shield, but there’s also an off-hand that might be worth checking out.

Timepiece of the Bronze Flight: The only healing shield you’ll find. It’s fine and all, but there’s no socket. It drops off Warmaster Blackthorn, the sixth boss of Dragon Soul. This has been hotfixed to add a red socket with a 10 int socket bonus. This is almost certainly what we’d like to pick up.

Ledger of Revolting Rituals: Now this is where it gets got a bit interesting. Dropping off Ultraxion, the 5th boss in Dragon Soul, this off-hand has a socket. Dropping an ordinary Brilliant Inferno Ruby (+40 intellect) into it will give it 20 more intellect than the shield (the version without the socket) and if it’s an epic brilliant cut, that’ll be 30 more intellect than the shield. Is 30 intellect better than 15 haste and 8 spirit? Hell yes.

The thing is, holy paladins and resto shaman and elemental shaman are the only ones who would want that shield, versus any priest, moonkin, resto druid, ele/resto shaman or holy paladin who is using a 1H/OH-or-shield combination. If you’ve got very little competition, go for the Ledger. If you have competition, go with the shield, at least until the off-hand is being disenchanted and such.

Right, so in LFR (and bear in mind that this list is for NORMAL raiding, not LFR!), the shield has been “tagged” for paladins and shaman while the ledger has been “tagged” for priests, druids, etc. That means that a paladin cannot “need” on the Ledger. But it’s okay, because the shield was hotfixed to add a red socket along with a 10 int bonus, so the shield comes out ahead of the Ledger any way you look at it now.

RINGS

Signet of Suturing: This is a ring that drops off of multiple bosses with a shared loot table, much like our awesome spellpower axe, the Eye of Purification, did in Firelands. It is awesome. End of story.

Band of Reconstruction: 1250 Valor Points for a decent ring. It’s got spirit, but also has mastery. The yellow socket and its weak bonus isn’t great either. Not a priority for our shopping list.

Ring of the Riven: No spirit on this, but some haste and mastery, which is a combination we don’t see a lot. It drops off Hagara the Stormbinder, the fourth boss in Dragon Soul.

I’ll probably aim for Signet of Suturing and then whichever I can reasonably get first, the Band or the Ring. Bear in mind that casters will want the Ring of the Riven as well, though.

TRINKETS

Reflection of the Light: The healer Valor Point trinket, available for 1650 VP. Spirit is good. The on-use is good for bursty moments, but remember that it’s not like the Fiery Quintessence, which gave us Intellect. This is pure spellpower.

Bottled Wishes: The “caster” Valor Point trinket, this can be yours for 1650 VP. Again, this may not be as useful given the changes to Holy Radiance and such, but if your heals are feeling sluggish, this might be useful. Also, the on-use spellpower effect can be helpful for some burst throughput.

— Thanks to Oestrus for pointing out that I’d missed the VP trinkets entirely. Whoopsiedoodle. And speaking of the VP trinkets, since neither one of them has intellect, I would recommend picking only one of them and keeping another, intellect-heavy trinket on you. I would probably aim for the Seal of the Seven Signs (see below) and Reflection of the Light, to be honest, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

Seal of the Seven Signs: Preeeetty. Shiiiiny. While it sucks that the haste boost is a proc and not an on-use like the Shard of Woe, this is still pretty decent, if only because of the huge amount of intellect. Plus, that’s a LOT of haste when it does proc. It probably has a 45s internal cooldown or something, so that can still be 4-6 procs (and thus, 80-120s) of hasted goodness during a ~5 minute fight. It drops from Warlord Zon’ozz, the second boss in Dragon Soul.

Windward Heart: Another item on that shared loot table, like the Signet of Suturing, this is interesting because, according to the comments on Wowhead, it’s got a ~25s internal cooldown.

Heart of Unliving: Another ilvl 403 item, this is from the Spine of Deathwing, the 7th fight in the Dragon Soul. On the one hand, this adds 880 spirit to you, which is monstrous, especially given the Judgements of the Pure changes. On the other, there’s absolutely no stats on this. It really depends how you’re doing with mana, to be honest. This was hotfixed to add 323 intellect to it, so while that’s a lot less than any other similar ilvl trinket, you still gte that monstrously insane amount of spirit. It would allow you to drop spirit on some other gear, like the Ring of the Riven, so that’s something to keep in mind.

RELICS

Well, technically, we have two choices, both available from the vendors for 700 Valor Points.

Lightning Spirit in a Bottle: The “healer” relic, this has spirit… and mastery.

Mindbender Lens: The “caster” relic, this has haste and crit, but no spirit.

Which you choose is really up to you and your playstyle and what other gear you have and how your mana regen is doing. Since neither are perfectly itemized, this may drop down the priority list when looking at Valor Point purchases.

VALOR POINT PRIORITY LIST

All right, here’s what I think your priority should be when spending your Valor Points. I am not including Silver Sabatons of Fury. These should be your FIRST Valor Point purchase, but use an alt or gold to get these!

1) Woundlicker Cover – 1250 VP for this awesome cloak.
2) Glowing Wings of Hope – 2200 VP for this helm. Given that the tier helm drops off the 6th boss and is “meh”, pick this helm up when you can.
3) Reflection of the Light OR Bottled Wishes – 1650 for either trinket. Again, just pick one of them and go intellect-heavy for the other, I’d say.
4) Your relic – 700 VP for either the “healer” or “caster” relic.
5) Gleaming Grips of Mending – 1650 VP for your gloves, IF you can’t get your tier gloves from Warlord Zon’ozz. Will be replaced by the gloves from the Spine of Deathwing, though.
6) Blinding Girdle of Truth – 1650 VP for your belt, IF you can’t get the one from Ultraxion, the fifth boss in Dragon Soul.
7) Shining Carapace of Glory – 2200 VP for a chest, IF and ONLY if you cannot, for the life of you, get your tier chest. Because as soon as you do get your tier chest, vendor this sucker.
8) Flashing Bracers of Warmth – 1250 VP for these bracers, IF you can’t get the crafted ones or the ones from Yor’sahj, the third boss in Dragon Soul.

Honestly, you shouldn’t really need to buy 5-8. You should be able to pick up the raid drops, even if it’s just the LFR versions (which are ilvl 384 instead of 397). If you manage to cap your Valor Points at 1000 per week and just buy the first four items (and use an alt or gold to get your boots), you’ll be mostly done with Valor Point collection after five weeks (and an additional 800 VP), barring terrible drops or terrible luck.

2PC, 4PC OR WHAT?

Well, here’s what I’m aiming for:

VP helm
Tier shoulders (obviously)
Tier chest (fantastic)
Gauntlets of the Golden Thorn (Spine of Deathwing drop)
Crafted legs

I will likely pick up, as I am able, the tier legs and tier gloves so that I can play with the 4pc bonus. But I don’t tend to raid heal, so the boost to Holy Radiance will likely be lost on me. (Plus, a 5% bonus to HR is a lot more underwhelming than the original 20% HR bonus. Really, the only time I’d be likely to use 4pc is on Ultraxion, but that’s because I mostly tank heal and occasionally raid heal on that one fight.)

If you go with the 4pc, I would recommend the helm and the legs and still go with the Gauntlets of the Golden Thorn because they are the prettiest pretty off-set things you’ll find this tier, so if you have to pick one item to be an off-set piece, it should be the gloves (particularly as there will be a heroic version of the gloves, but no heroic version of the crafted legs!).

OVERVIEW BY BOSS

And here’s what you might like to see drop from the various bosses.

Morchok: Vagaries of Time (mace), Petrified Fungal Heart (neck)

Warlord Zon’ozz: Seal of the Seven Signs (trinket), potentially tier glove token for Gloves of Radiant Glory

Yor’sahj the Unsleeping: Heartblood Wristplates (bracers), potentially tier leg token for Greaves of Radiant Glory

Hagara the Stormbinder: Ring of the Riven (ring), definitely tier shoulder token for Mantle of Radiant Glory

Ultraxion: Dragonfracture Belt (belt), definitely tier chest token for Breastplate of Radiant Glory (chest), potentially Ledger of Revolting Rituals (off-hand — not a shield!)

Warmaster Blackthorn: Potentially Timepiece of the Bronze Flight (shield)

Spine of Deathwing: Definitely Gauntlets of the Golden Thorn (hands), potentially Heart of Unliving (trinket)

Madness of Deathwing: Definitely Maw of the Dragonlord (mace)

Shared Loot Table: Signet of Suturing (ring), Windward Heart (trinket)

THAT’S ALL, FOLKS!

And that’s all I’ve got for you, folks. I do hope this is somewhat helpful for you as you enter Dragon Soul and start seeing all that lovely loot drop!

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