Thursday, June 24, 2010

Know Your Rogue Lore: Wiley the Black

In a quiet upper room of Lakeshire's Inn there resides a generally unobtrusive man according to Innkeeper Brianna. "Orders up a pint of  Thunderbrew Lager with his evening meal but pretty much he keeps to himself."  She says. If you dare to request his name of him he will respond with "I'm Wiley the Black".  Now if "The Black" comes from his hair color, manner of dress or just his dower expression, that is all open to interpretation as he refuses to clarify. Those few who do manage to catch a glimpse of him will note a rough hewn, middle age man with a patch over his right eye.

Wiley was once a member of the Defias Brotherhood, as his garments clearly attest, back when they were first gaining strength and establishing a foot hold in Westfall. Eventually his attitude towards the organization soured. As with all "rogue" groups there is a risk when you attempt to "retire". Usually any form of discontent or dissension is met with permanent induction into the category of "examples to others" with your corpse creatively displayed. Wiley was intelligent enough to find a way around this, a chance or perhaps not so chance encounter with a Paladin by the name of Gryan Stoutmantle was Wiley's ticket to freedom.
How did he come to be here? Redridge is not considered a great tourist destination, especially in these times and while Lake Everstill may look lovely at sunset, the local wildlife make fishing and swimming in its waters difficult. Beyond Wiley himself only Gryan Stoutmantle of Westfall knows for sure. The two men only give us hints. Something to consider however is that like Westfall, Redridge has largely had to become militarily independent from Stormwind for it's defense. An individual like Wiley with some training in fighting could easily make a home and legitimate living in such surroundings. At the same time remain close enough to pay off some debts, because as all rogues don't want to have an unpaid debt come back to haunt you.

Stoutmantle will call in that debt before his promotion to Captain and relocation to Northrend's Grizzly Hills.  Wiley's response is classic "Some nerve sending a total stranger to discuss the Defias gang. Once you saved my life and now you put it in great peril." Wiley provides the information Gryan needs but makes it clear that as far as he is concerned his debt is paid in full. It is clear however that Stoutmantle doesn't understands the position he has inadvertently placed Wiley, nor little appreciation for the risks he is taking.

At present all Wiley the Black desires is a life of quiet, to be allowed to make his own choices with out fear of retribution. Perhaps he will be able to find what he seeks in his little inn room in Lakeshire. Sure the Gnolls baying in the hills may not be music to everyone else's ears, but it is better than a dagger in the back or poison in your cup.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Inscription Updates

Well the summer is upon us so I have been invaded by my minions. Not that I don't love them more than anything but "personal time" has just flow COMPLETELY out the window unless it involves paying someone ELSE to keep an eye on them. Generally what this translates into is fewer "impromptu posts" and more "marathon" posting days where I write up a huge pile hoping something in it will seem ok on posting day. This kinda sucks as we are entering the time when Blizzard is inundating us with information on Cataclysm. The good part of this is I will be one of the few NOT regurgitating the same information as everyone else...the bad part? I'm certainly less current.

Speaking of information over load, Blizzard recently had a Press event in which they gave an update on their plans for Cataclysm. In it they gave lore hints, shared what was hitting the floor as scrap and what might still make it to live. Whenever these thing happen I TRY to keep my emotions in check because as I know from previous experience so much can still happen between now and then but one specific item really hit me hard. The information on Inscription.

Now Daraia is a Scribe. I chose this profession not because it was such a profitable profession because frankly on my server it really ISN'T (the competition it just to flooded). I certainly didn't choose it because it was the best profession for min/maxing. I chose it because it best fit Dar's person STORY and I really enjoy the profession. As they stand now the proposed changes to inscription SUCK in my opinion. I can't see how people will WANT to keep it up after the initial rush.

Since they have had to scrap the original idea for the Path of Titians they are proposing to use the pre existing Inscription Trade to accomplish the same goal. The way they will do this is by opening up a third tier of Glyphs called "Medium Glyphs" (Lame name...please change it.) This third tier of glyphs will provide "Fun alterations to abilities". As to what that will translate into we don't know yet as no concrete examples have been given. All the previous major and minor glyphs you have learned will now go into a "spell book" type log so that you can pull them out whenever you need them. One stop shopping. The previous Major and Minor glyph system will at this point remain unchanged.

Now the plate wearing in the family can't understand why I hate the proposed changes so much. When I tried to explain it to him all I got was a blank look and a "I still don't see how this is a problem, they are adding a whole NEW tier of glyphs". But then he is a Jewelcrafter/Blacksmith. The fact that individuals will only need to purchase my services ONCE for each of their characters then NEVER again as opposed to EVERY time they get a new up grade still demand HIS doesn't occur to him. It is still early on, I will attempt to contain my nerd rage for now and hope that it is not as dire as it seems. It isn't as if I really NEED the is all the idea of the thing.

When duel specing was added my Glyph income was cut by 3/4s as all the pvp people could pretty much now run a pve/pvp spec with the exception of the hybrids. It is almost exclusively a hybrid business now, at least on my server when it comes to profitable glyphs. With this change even individuals like our Main tank who runs TWO tanking specs and our main healer who runs two DIFFERENT healing specs will only need to pick up ALL the glyphs for their class ONCE then never worry about it again until the next patch that adds new glyphs. (Convenient for players, not so much for Scribes.) At that point those few scribes who manage to GET the glyphs will sell them for OUTRAGEOUS prices in hopes to get SOME sort of profit out of it. Scribes can not live by Vellums alone just as Engineers by ammo...(they are also facing a similar funding crunch if you haven't heard the screams).

It will be interesting to see how Blizzard finally chooses to handle this. One wonders what those who run such glyph grinding businesses as Basil discusses think of all this. I haven't heard much in regards to it from them due to my own limited time to research.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Midsummer Fire Festival Guide

If you do no other in game holiday, participate in this one. Why? Because you will make huge amounts gold and/or experience for relatively little effort in a short period of time. Even better the vast majority of quests scale with level so there are very few you can NOT do if you are not max level. On Pvp servers it is a little more difficult but not impossible, for Pve players it may be the ONLY time you participate in a "pvp" type of event.

Each of the four continents have bonfires, as well as each of the major cities, only Northrend does not have an achievement connected with it. This makes tracking which bonfires you have already hit all that much easier. Near the bonfires located in the capital cities you will find holiday specific merchants and quest givers who will start you on your way. Honoring or Desecrating each fire will reward you with Burning Blossoms as well as either Gold or Experience depending on your level. The Horde come out slightly ahead on the max number of Blossoms and cash they can earn. Below is the route I generally take for bonfires. A stands for Alliance, H for Horde and N for Neutral.


Howling Fjord
A: Fort Wildervar (58,16)
H: Camp Winterhoof (48,13)

A: Wintergard Keep (75,44)
H: Agmar's Hammer (39,48)

Grizzly Hills
A: Amberpine Lodge (34,61)
H: Conquest Hold (19,61)

A: Argent Stand (41,61)
H: Argent Stand (43,71)

A: K3 (42,87)
H: K3 (40,86)

Sholazar Basin
A: River's Heart (47,66)
H: River's Heart (47,62)

Borean Tundra:
A: Fizzcrank Airstrip (55,20)
H: Bor'Gorok Hold (51,12)

Crystalsong Forest
A: Windrunner's Overlook (78,75)
H: Sunreaver's Command (80,53)

There are no bonfires in either Icecrown or Wintergrasp.

N: Shattrah Next to the flight path

A: Telaar (50,70)
H: Garadar (51,34)

Terokkar Forest
A: Allerian Stronghold (55,55)
H: Stonebreaker Hold (52,43)

Shadowmoon Valley
A: Wildhammer Stronghold (40,55)
H: Shadowmoon Village (33,30)

Hellfire Peninsula
A: Honor Hold (62,58)
H: Thrallmar (55,40)

A: Telredor (69,52)
H: Zabra'Jin (36,52)

Blade's Edge Mountains
A: Sylvanaar (42,66)
H: Thunderlord Stronghold (33,30)

A: Area 52 (31,63)
H: Area 52 (32,68)


Teldrassil (Darnassus)
A: Rut'theran Village (55,91)
A: Dolanaar (55,60)

A: Auberdine (37,46)

Azuremyst Isle
A: The Exodar-The Crystal Hall (41,41)
A: Azure Watch (44,53)

Bloodmyst Isle
A: Blood Watch (55,69)

A: Everlook (62,35)
H: Everlook (59,35)

A: Astranaar (38,54)
H: Splintertree Post (70,69)

Stonetalon Mountains
H: Sun Rock Retreat (50,60)

A: Nijel's Point (65,17)
H: Shadowprey Village (28,76)

H: Crossroads (52,28)

H: Orgrimmar-Valley of Wisdom (47,38)
H: Razor Hill (52,47)

H: Thunder Bluff-Spirit Rise (21,26)
H: Bloodhoof Village (51,60)

Thousand Needles
H: Freewind Post (41,52)

A: Feathermoon Stronghold (28,44)
H: Camp Mojache (72,47)

A: Cenarion Hold (57,34)
H: Cenarion Hold (46,44)

A: Gadgetzan (52,29)
H: Gadgetzan (49,27)

Duskwallow Marsh
A: Theramore Isle (62,40)
H: Brakenwall Village (33,30)

Un'Goro Crater does not have any bonfires.

Eastern Kingdoms

Stranglethorn Vale
A: East of Booty Bay (33,73)
H: East of Booty Bay (32,75)

Blasted Lands
A: Nethergrade Keep (58,17)

Swamp of Sorrows
H: Stonard (47,47)

Redridge Mountains
A: Lakeshire (24,59)

A: Darkshire (74,51)

A: Sentinel Hill (56,54)

Elywnn Forest
A: Stormwind-The Canals (49,72)
A: Goldshire (43,65)

Dun Morogh
A: Ironforge-Hall of Explorers (64,25)
A: Kharanos (46,46)

Burning Stepps
A: Morgan's Vigil (80,62)
H: Flame Crest (62,29)

Loch Modan
A: Thelsamar (32,40)

H: Kargath (4, 49)

A: Menethil Harbor (13, 47)

Arathi Highlands
A: Refuge Point (50,44)
H: Hammerfall (74,41)

A: Aerie Peak (14,50)
H: Revantusk Village (76,74)

Western Plaguelands
A: Chillwind Camp (43,82)

Hillsbrad Foothills
A: Southshore (50,46)
H: Tarren Hill (58,25)

Silverpine Forest
H: The Sepulcher (49,38)

Tirisfal Glades
H: Undercity-Ruins of Lordaeron (68,9)
H: Brill (57,52)

H: Tranquillien (46,26)

Eversong Woods
H: Silvermoon City-Court of the Sun (70,43)
H: North Sanctum (46,50)

There is no bonfire in Deadwind Pass or on the Isle of Qual'Danas.

Grand Total: Alliance 580 Blossoms, Horde 590 Blossoms, from bonfires alone. You receive 3g 70s for every flame you honor and 13g 23s for every flame you desecrate. This means that an Alliance at level 80 can make 544g 90s and a Horde 563g 96s from the fires alone.


Non Repeatable

A: (lvls1-80) The Master of Summer Lore - This is the Alliance bread crumb quest provided by commoners scattered all over the major cities. The Master of Summer Lore is located near the major bonfires of each of the Alliance Capital Cities. Stormwind, near the Stockades (38,61) Ironforge, in front of the Hall of Explorers (65,24) Exodar, in the Crystal Hall (41,25) and for Darnassus he is actually OUTSIDE at the Rut'theran Village (55,91)

A: (lvls1-80) Incense for the Summer Scorchlings -  Near each of the bonfires is a small awning under which you will find the Flame Warden and a Summer Scorchling. Take the incense provided and give it to the Scorchling. Simple, but don't run off before he finishes eating it. What he has to say and does is rather revealing.

A: (lvls1-80) A Thief's Reward - A lot of people have problems with this one and that is because it is based on DROP quests. Once you have stolen the flames of each of the four Horde Capital Cities and turned them in to the Loremaster you will receive THIS quest, which you can immediately turn in for a fancy hat.

H: (lvls1-80) The Spinner of Summer Tales - This is the Horde bread crumb quest provided by commoners scattered all over the major cities. The Spinner of Summer Tales is located near the major bonfires of each of the Horde Capitals. Orgrimmar, in the Valley of Wisdom (47,38) Thunderbluff, at Spirit Rise (21,26) Undercity, in the Courtyard (68,9) or Silvermoon City (69,42)

H: (lvls1-80) Incense for the Festival Scorchlings - Near each of the bonfires is a small awning under which you will find the Flame Warden and a Summer Scorchling. Take the incense provided and give it to the Scorchling, Simple, but don't run off before he finishes eating it, you don't want to miss what he does and says.

H: (lvls 1-80) A Thief's Reward - A lot of people have problems with this one and that is because it is based on DROP quests. Once you have stolen the flames of each of the four Alliance Capital Cities and turned them in to the Spinner of Summer Tales and you will receive THIS quest, which you can then immediately turn in for your fancy hat.

Chains and Daily Quests

A & H: (lvls1-80) Playing with Fire - Another bread crumb quest. Located near each of the Flame Wardens you will find a Fire Eater tossing flaming torches, he will send you back to the capital cities to speak to one of the Master Fire Eaters near the main bonfires. The Horde versions of these quests are exactly the same as the Alliance you just do them in different places and turn them in to different people.

A & H: (lvls 1-80) Torch Tossing - Once you make it to a Master Fire Eater he gives you a torch and tells you to STAND NEXT TO THE BONFIRE so you can practice tossing them at the targets (braziers) he has placed in a semi circle near by. If you are not near the bonfire the torch won't work. An arrow (much like a hunter's mark) will appear randomly over a target, aim by placing the circle over the target and hit the target before the arrow moves on. Do this before your time expires. Personally I like to just hot bar my torch onto my number 1 key. Don't expect to get EVERY arrow, I try for every other one, you will still have plenty of time and less stress. Each person has their preferred bonfire to do this at, just find one that works for you. You get 5 Blossoms and 7g 40s for completing this quest at level 80.

A & H: (lvls 1-80) Daily More Torch Tossing - Once you have the initial Torch Tossing quest down the Master Fire Eater ups the ante by giving you a little more time and a LOT more targets you have to hit.Use the same strategy you did before and success will be yours. This quest pays out 5 Blossoms and 7g 40s each day. I love to do this on my low level alts as it is EASY XP.

A & H: (lvls1-80) Torch Catching - This is another one that gives people fits but there is a simple trick to it. The Master Fire Eater gives you a torch to light at the bonfire. Make sure the area around you is clear and you can easily see the ground. Once you lite the torch and toss the first one WATCH THE GROUND, you will see a shadow where ever the torch is headed. Just keep yourself positioned directly beneath the shadow and you will catch and toss the torch each time.  If you miss the torch will knock you back and do a little bit of fire damage forcing you to start all over again. This one just takes a bit of practice and luck at finding a quiet spot to toss in. (I personally like Exodar and Silvermoon City.) Again a 5 Blossom and 7g 40s pay out at level 80.

A & H: (lvls 1-80) Daily More Torch Catching - Once you have the torch catching down you can do it every day for more cash and blossoms or even XP at low levels.

N: (lvls16-80) Unusual Activity - Near each of the Major Bonfires you will find an "Earthen Ring Elder", these individuals are actually faction neutral and will have quests based on level. This particular quest sends you to just outside Blackfathom Deeps in Ashenvale.  It is a simple seek and destroy quest in which you locate the cultists, kill them and retrieve the information off their cooling corpse. Just pay attention to the quest because to turn it in all you have to do is SUMMON the guide with the beacon they give you as this is the beginning of a small chain.

N: (lvls 16-80) An Innocent Disguise - Once you complete "Unusual Activity" you are provided with a disguise and asked to go further up the beach following the blue torches. (9,12) Wait until you get to the proper area (look for the Heretic and Ice Caller Braitha.) The naga CAN see through your disguise so be careful. Find a safe spot, transform and listen in until you get a completion.

N: (lvls 16-80) Inform the Elder - Just like the name implies this quest is a simple, run back to one of the Earthen Elders at ANY of the Capital City fires and tell them what you know.  Daily quests will now become available which are level specific.

N: (lvls 16-28) Daily Striking Back - If you are lvl 16-28 you will find yourself headed right back to Zoram Strand in Ashenvale for your daily quest. At 9,12 you will find the stones. He is a lvl 22 water elemental. Kill him then return to receive your 10 Blossom and 1750 xp reward.

N: (lvls 29-38) Daily Striking Back - This group gets sent out to north west Desolace, near the beach (40,30) your target is a lvl 32 water elemental. Summon him at one of the stones located here then return to an Elder for your 10 Blossom 2710xp reward.

N: (lvls 39- 48) Daily Striking Back - Northwest Stanglethorn Vale is your destination, the water elemental island (21,23). The summoned target is a level 43 water elemental. Again return to an Elder for your 10 Blossom  5050 xp reward.

N: (lvls 49-55) Daily Striking Back - This is a MUCH smaller level divide so it is very possible to do this one and then bump up into the next quest bracket the same day. (Yes you CAN do both.) Head to Searing Gorge, there is a small cave there (21,37) it is here you will find the ice stones. The target is a level 51. Reward? Standard 10 Blossoms and 7070 xp.
N: (lvls 56-63) Daily Striking Back - Another SMALL level range but this one can be a little trickier due to his location. The stone is found in northeast Silithus (67,21) you will want to clear the area of Twilight cultist first. The target himself is a lvl 60. 9,550 xp and 10 Blossom reward.

N: (lvls 64-74) Daily Striking Back - Again small level group so possible to do this one day and get into the next quest bracket the same day. You will also need to have the Burning Crusade expansion to complete this quest as it sends you through the Dark Portal to Outland. The stones are located right along the base of the Dark Portal in Hellfire Peninsula (84,47). If you have a flying mount you can land right at the base, summon the elemental, kill him and leave avoiding the nearby mobs. The target is a level 67, rewards 11650 xp and 10 Blossoms. 

N: (lvls 75-80) Dungeon Ahune, The Frost Lord - The only pre recs for this quest are that you have BOTH the Burning Crusade AND Wrath Expansions as well as be at least level 75 to pick it up. This is a bread crumb quest you will only get once. It sends you to Numa Cloudsister in the Coilfang Reservoir: Slave Pens. It is not in any way required to kill Ahune, just extra money, and XP (6g 63s or 11,050xp).

N: (lvls 75-80) Dungeon Ahune is Here - Again BC and Wrath expansions are required. This quest is located just inside the Slave Pens and is offered up by Numa Cloudsister. You will only receive it once per festival. It is another bread crumb quest that sends you further into the pens. 1g 32s or 2,200 xp for completion.

N: (lvls 75-80) Dungeon Daily Summon Ahune - Once you complete Ahune is Here, Summon Ahune will become available to you. When you complete it you will be given your goodie bag as well as 7g 40s plus 22,050 xp or 13g 23s at level 80.  You need to make sure that everything (including snowballs) have been looted from the chest before the next person will be able to summon him again. You will get 1 summons per character per day.

Drop Quests

N: (lvls 75-80) Shards of Ahune - The first time you kill Ahune a Shard will be found in his Ice Chest. Pick it up and turn it in at Luma Skymother in Slave Pens for a choice between two tabards. The Tabard of Summer Skies or the Tabard of Summer Flames, you can only get one a year but they count toward your tabard achievements.

A: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Orgrimmar's Flame - When you go to do the "Steal the Flames" make sure to have open bag space because these are actually "drop" quests. As you will most likely be getting slaughtered by the flame defenders you don't want to have to do it more than once. Orgrimmar's Flame is located at 47,35, it takes you 1 sec to loot the flame and it can be interupted so I personally like to come in the back entrance, slip around to the top of the tent next to the flame and loot from there as you can usually drop any guards you picked up running in this way. While you can be ANY level to steal the actually flame but it will be difficult, if you can get a level 80 to carry you around on their Chopper or Mammoth, more power to you.

A: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Thunder Bluff's Flame - I prefer to enter from the back. (Maybe it is a rogue thing?) Take the lift up and hug the outer edge until you get to the building at 36,50, ride through and across the bridge (the guards and their nets can be a pain but if you move quickly you can usually make it) the bonfire is located at 20,26. Once you have the flame, flee in what ever manner you choose. (I like to jump off the side...but I'm just crazy that way, Feather fall FTW.)

A: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Undercity's Flame - This can be either the EASIEST or the most DIFFICULT depending on your server. Undercity's Flame is located RIGHT inside the main entrance to Undercity, (60,9). You don't even need to be pvp, however you WILL be once you touch the flame which is usually when the 20+ defenders jump on you on our server. Just find a quiet time to go after it.

A: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Silvermoon's Flame - Silvermoon's flame was added with the Burning Crusade so if you don't have this expansion you will not be able to do this quest. Mount up at the main entrance and ride STRAIGHT back to Murder Row, take a quick right then a left around the corner and again go straight up the stairs, the flame is on the left. (70,43) I usually make sure I have a hearth available for this one.

H: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Darnassus's Flame - Of all the flames this is the EASIEST to steal, you don't even have to go into Darnassus at all. Catch the right hand boat from Auberdine, the bonfire is located at 55,91 in Rut'theran Village. If you are killed however you can NOT corpse run back. You will rez back in Auberdine and have to do the whole thing all over again so try to hug the docks until the coast is clear.

H: (lvls 1-80) Stealing The Exodar's Flame - Again you need to have the Burning Crusade expansion to do this one and again start in Auberdine. Take the boat at the very END of the dock. Once you get off ride all the way AROUND the Exodar which you will see on your left. Enter from the far entrance and just head straight down the tunnel and to your right will be the Crystal Hall. The bonfire is located at 41,25. Try to avoid the vendors. Head back out the way you came.

H: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Stormwind's Flame - This use to be one of the more difficult ones to get and now it is MUCH simpler. Just hop on the left hand ship guessed it Auberdine. It will take you DIRECTLY to Stormwind's Harbor, mount up and ride straight up the stairs, take the road on the right. Stormwind's bonfire is located at 49,72, right in front of the Stockades. There are usually quite a few defenders so you may have to take a quick dip in the Canals to lose them. (I promise King Varian had them cleaned recently.)

H: (lvls 1-80) Stealing Ironforge's Flame - Once you have Stormwind's flame make your way to the Tram (the entrance is located in the Dwarven District 66,34) take the tram or run the tunnel to Ironforge. Take a right, the Ironforge bonfire is located directly in front of the Hall of Explorers at 64,25) There will most likely be A LOT of defenders so pick a quiet time or later during the festival week to do this.

Ahune the Frost Lord
Like the Headless Horseman during Hallow's End, Ahune the Frost Lord is a summoned boss. He is located within the Coilfang Resovior: Slave Pens so it requires the Burning Crusade expansion to have access to him. Unlike previous seasonal bosses this time rather than going to the instance you will need to enter by speaking to the Earthern Ring Elder to queue into the Looking for Group system or just selecting Lord Ahune directly on the Looking for Group interface. In addition rather than having numerous attempts at such rare items as the Weapon Enchant or the Frostscythe instead you will receive a "goodie bag" at the time of your summon containing your "prize" at whatever rate they decide to have those items. (Supposedly it will be increased to compensate for forced limited attempts.) So no more all day farming on one particular character. *sniffle* There is a new Pet Frigid Frostling who throws snow balls at passers by.

The specific mechanics of the fight are unchanged other than raised to level 83 standards. The fight itself is in two phases. During the first phase Ahune will spawn a variety of snowy earth elemental adds, elites who case a non dis spellable stacking frost damage debuff every 2-3 seconds and then multiple non elites that shoot frost bolts. After the first cycle of phases he will add a set of air elemental adds to the mix. These are weak but can pull you towards danger zones so kill them quickly to avoid the annoyance. While all this is going on Ahune is placing frost on the floor, after 3 seconds an ice spike will appear where ever this animation is in effect so move out of the way to avoid getting stabbed then tossed into the air. After the first phase which lasts about a minute Ahune will collapse into himself and become a Frozen Cone, once you kill all the adds dps on the cone until you are thrown back, be melee be careful as the ground near him is slick and you can slip and fall, 20 seconds later he reemerges and you begin phase one again. Rinse and repeat until killing him. (You shouldn't need to do it more than once though.)

If you are standing near him when he dies your "Pockets" (bags) will become filled with "snow" (snowballs) or if you get hit by the ice spikes. A large chest appears containing your loot, various cloaks equivalent to the items purchasable with Triumph badges, so nice for new 80's and alts, vendor trash for ICC raiders. There has been some rumors floating around that certain classes CAN solo him if they are geared well enough but I have not seen any conformation of this. Since you will only get one summons a day no matter WHAT you do I don't see why anyone would even want to try other than to say they did it. Personally I have always enjoyed this fight and the Huge Snowballs are some of my FAVORITE things...they positively OBLITERATE Gnomes.

If I discover any changes I will be editing this. Please feel free to comment on any errors you see. Again take the time to enjoy the Midsummer Festival as this will be the LAST time we will experience it before all of Azeroth is affected by the Cataclysm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Know Your Rogue Lore: Garn Mathers

With Cataclysm rapidly approaching a sense of urgency has filled me in regards to some of these names on my KYRL list. I have no idea how many of them will vanish in a ball of flame or be washed away with the encroaching tides. Todays focus is one that most likely will disappear, never to be enjoyed again as the story line he is intimately tied to has become redundant.

Garn Mathers has so many unique things about him it seems a shame he could soon fade away beneath the waves. Found wandering around on a small island between Durkmurk Shore and Alcaz Island in Duskwallow Marsh, Garn is easily identifiable from the other Defias members lurking there. Clad in a black shirt verses everyone else in tan, he is also sporting two swords. To make him stand out even further his main hand sword is encased with the indicative black cloud of a Lifestealing Enchant, resulting in him being one of the few npc's know to sport an item enhancement.

Further more Garn has the distinction of being the highest level identified member of the Defias Brotherhood. Now this does not mean highest in RANK but rather highest in LEVEL. He weighs in at a womping level 37 where as VanCleef himself is only a measly level 20.  What are the Defias doing in Duskwallow in the FIRST place? Aren't they all suppose to be around Stormwind? More specifically terrorizing Westfall? Alliance players receive a quest from Captain Wymor at Sentry Point telling of a recent shipwreck that has him puzzled. It seems that this ship was full of Defias but that just doesn't make any sense to him as the Defias to the best of HIS knowledge are a bunch of craftsmen and thieves, NOT sailors. He sends you to check it out, specifically to kill Garn and see what information he might have on him.

Garn you see was in charge of  infiltrating, then taking control of the ship transporting King Varian to a Peace Summit being hosted by Lady Proudmoore. The shipwreck that Captain Wymor witnessed was that containing the King and his Defias captors. Now originally this quest chain ended shortly after you located the Defias Orders on Garn. Making Garn nothing more than another hint to the "Missing Diplomat" chain, Patch 2.3 changed all that. Now Captain Wymor suspects something but this time he takes action, sending you off to talk to a local SI:7 agent to collect the "precious cargo". The interpretation both the Captain and the Agent put on the orders being that the ship must have contained valuables, like gold or other supplies from an unknown supporter, never imagining the truth. If you take the time to follow the chain to the end you will discover more of what is going on, even getting a free tour of Alcaz Island. (Nice if you were not around during the opening of AQ.) With Patch 3.0 this quest chain was AGAIN altered, before Jania would send you to Bolvar, then it changed to send you to King Varian, as off patch 3.3 it now just ends with her.

Garn is one of those NPC characters who sticks in my memory. I hope he manages to survive the incoming disaster but I have my doubts. His little island home is not that sturdy and he has a habit of hanging around near the outer edges. There is some speculation that he may be related to Jason Mathers over in Elywnn Forest but that has never been confirmed. However if his home WAS Crystal Lake growing up...perhaps a life of crime is not so hard to understand, at least he won't suffer the same fate as the six children.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Warcraft Legends Vol. 1 Review

I have stated in the past that I don't care for Manga. That I prefer my stories to be crafted of words rather than black and white drawings. Yet each time I read one I am hopeful that it will stick out and show me that this genre is worthy of its avid following. I waited on the Warcraft Legends series because of all the Warcraft Manga out there this seems the BEST option to lay those hopes on.  Over all I was not disappointed.

Unlike the other Manga Blizzard has commissioned, the idea behind these is to craft a collection of short stories from a variety of writers and artists. Each volume will contain four individual offerings. Some will be linked volume to volume, while others stand alone. In this, the first installment of the series, they are brought together Richard Knaak and Jae-Hawn Kim of Sunwell Trilogy fame as well as Troy Lewter, Mike Wellman and Mi-Young No. The third is from Dan Jolley and Carlos Olivares with the final bringing back Troy Lewter now working with Nam Kim. Another feature of this series is that Blizzard has stated within each will be contained not just simple stories but additional lore which fleshes out things we encounter in the game.

Since the art work is done by several different artists, its quality varies from story to story so I am not going to take the time to discuss it overly much. Each artist is dealing with their OWN unique story so the drastic changes in art styles from heavily inked and muddy to rounded and cartoony are not quite as jarring as they could be. Of the four I enjoyed Nam Kim's crisp style the most.

The first chapter is called "Fallen" and deals with another of the supporting characters from the Sunwell Trilogy, Trag Highmountain. For those unfamiliar with his story, Trag is the Tauren who assisted in freeing Anveena (aka the Sunwell) from the twisted clutches of his former friend Baron Mordis. This act resulted in Trag's death, but it was not to last as he soon found himself raised as a Forsaken. At present players can occasionally see him wandering around the Argent Tournament with a Taunka companion.

The second chapter called "The Journey" focuses on a simple farmer and how he ends up part of an expedition to clear Andorhal of the Scourge. It is a completely self contained story with the result of that expedition and his return home all included.

The third is titled "How to Win Friends" and is the only light hearted story contained in this volume. The focus is on a Gnome by the name of Lazlo Grindwidget who is attempting to relocate from Goldshire to Kharanos with mixed success.

The final story called "An Honest Trade" deals with a member of the Thorium Brotherhood. After years of selling his wares to who ever can provide the coin, no questions asked, he is directly confronted with the result. What follows is a search for redemption.

Caution spoilers incoming.  If you want to wait until you read the book, skips the rest.

"Fallen" begins with Trag, making his way back to his clan and begging the Shaman to cure him of the curse of undeath. At first the Shaman attempts to convince Trag to accept his fate, but when Trag shares that he is having to constantly fight the whispers of the Lich King, the Shaman agrees to help. Unfortunately the "assistance" that the Shaman and the rest of his clan provide is betrayal. When Trag realizes this he fights for and regains his freedom. But when faced with the option of taking his revenge, he chooses instead to flee. This story is not completed, but rather leads into the upcoming Volume 2 of this series.

"The Journey" tells the story Halsand. When it begins two of his children are playing a clapping a game while singing a song their mother taught them.
Be wary, child, of Plaguelands Plain
Be mindful, child of the infected grain
For if throat is parched and infected water sip
Forever your soul will be in cursed scourge grip.
So heed this warning, child and if far from mother stray
Let light from home's hearth guide you back your way.
The games are interupted with the arrival of a group of adventurers on their way to Andorhal. When Halsand confesses that he grew up there one of the party prevails on him to accompany them as a guide. While at first reluctant Halsand agrees, pledging to assist in anyway he can hoping to provide a better life for his family. The expedition is a failure but Halsand eventually makes his way back home as promised, forever changed by what he has experienced. I really enjoyed this particular story as it is one that makes you consider what all the people of Lordaeron suffered with the plague. It reminded me a great deal of the Pamela quest line.

"How to Win Friends" is as I stated the one humorous story in this volume. It begins inside the Tavren with the locals singing a tale of a heroic dwarf and how he sucker punched a Dragon. Lazlo in an attempt to make friends with his new neighbors invents numerous ill fated schemes, much to the humor of competitors Togglebolt and Sprysprocket. But when a Frost Troll attacks the town looking for his lost Mojo, Lazlo is provided an opportunity to redeem himself. Of course things don't go QUITE as planned (we are talking about Gnomish engineering here after all.) However since the end result is the removal of the troll, no one really cares. I really enjoyed the "bar songs" in this story. Like the song from "The Journey" it feels authentic, something you would expect a group of half drunk dwarves to be belting out while bragging of their exploits.

The final story is the one that one that hit me the most. "An Honest Trade" begins by giving you a quick over view of the Thorium Brotherhood, then focusing on one particular Master craftsman, Nori Blackfinger. Nori realizes that his current location is limiting his clientele so he packs his bags and heads off to Booty Bay seeking fame and fortune. He finds it, but his only son Eli begins to question his business edicate. Unfortunately Nori ignores his son to the point that he is completely unaware of Eli's desire to travel and have adventures of his own. Things come to a head when Nori sells a weapon to a bandit known for his savagery against innocents. Eli leaves, setting out to seek his fortune, refusing to be a part of Nori's trade any longer. Enraged Nori strips him of all his finely crafted weapons and replaces them with junk. Shortly there after the tragic results of his actions are revealed when his son's body is delivered to his doorstep, along with the story of how he fell to the very blade his father had crafted. Devastated Nori sets out on a journey of redemption, attempting to collect every weapon he has EVER crafted and destroy them.

For once a Manga series has lived up to the hype for me. Even more it is one that contained Richard Knaak...yes I do believe hell has frozen over. After reading this particular installment I am anxious to continue on in the series. Stay tuned, it won't be long in coming.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inside Jokes

Whenever you are a part of a group be it a guild, raid group or something from Real Life, things will happen that become "inside jokes". Things that will only take a word, object or place to bring all those shared memories back. When new members enter the group a good way to invite them to become a more intimate part is to share these inside jokes with them. While they may not get the memories or even find the humor it, giving a brief explanation can assist new members in feeling more comfortable when those jokes are remarked on as they will at least know why everyone ELSE is laughing uproariously.

This truth was brought home to my the other night when one of our tanks decided to tease one of our newer members. We had just finished the raid for the night and the new member bid everyone adieu by stating they were going to log off to take a shower. The tank replied "Why didn't you just do it during the raid?" The REST of the raid burst out in laughter. Now the new member was completely bewildered and ask why in the WORLD he should do such a thing as well as expressing his confusion over the general reaction. Another raid member explained how back when we were raiding Naxxramas we had a guild member do just that, go afk without telling anyone to take a shower. Since then it had become a standing joke whenever anyone went AWOL afk during raids. Enlighten but still bewildered our new member logged of for the evening.

Some of my favorite inside jokes are OLD, I mean Vanilla WoW old but they still bring a smile to my face and take me RIGHT BACK to that point again and the people I was with. Sharing some of these jokes with others allows me to not only experience that humor again but invites the new individual to "share the joke" with me. Even better is when THEY also help to create NEW inside jokes or tell some of their own. Joking is often used in our guild by our officers as a way to be more approachable to members as well as to assist in building relationships.

My mount farming partner and I have have a long standing inside joke involving his hunter's pet gorilla "Pookie" and my priest Merla. WAY back in vanilla we use to run A LOT of five mans together with his pet acting as our tank. Pookie for WHATEVER reason was CONSTANTLY walking over to stand in front of my priest and then scratching his butt in her face. At first I thought it was deliberate, that my friend was just doing it to be funny, but no, it was just something this pet would do on his own. This became so annoying to me that I  got to the point that whenever I see a gorilla I just run and hide. As several of our guild members have gotten a hold of the Super Simian Sphere they now enjoy chasing me around with it.

Our healing lead has NEVER lived down the time a couple of guild members took her to Feralas to work on her fishing skill and decided to jump off the top of the Twin Colossas. The only problem? They never explained HOW to use the parachute cloak. They landed safely, it took HER a good half hour to find her body smeared down the side of the mountain. (For some reason she never considered just rezing at the spirit healer.) So from time to time our engineers will mention their parachute cloaks and ask her if she needs an explanation on how to use one whenever she gets close to a high ledge (say in ICC for example).

Some jokes, while they started with a specific person, have expanded to include not just that individual but any others that share that class or responsibility. For example another joke that frequently makes the rounds is focused on our healers. Back in Ulduar one of our Druid healers was ill and had taken some medication so that he could do the raid. Unfortunately this medication has the side effect of making one VERY sleepy. We got to Kologarn, about half way through the fight when suddenly this healer just stopped moving. He had fallen asleep at the keyboard IN THE MIDDLE of the the fight. So now if ANY of the healers is moving slow or failing to avoid damage the first question you will hear in our raid is "Did you fall asleep?"

The other thing about inside jokes is they can go from being funny to being hurtful if others are either not aware or not willing to participate in them. We had a situation like this arise not that long ago when one of our members made a "YOU FAIL" comment to another and the receipt took it to heart.  Once all of the hullabaloo died down we had a serious discussion about that particular joke and how we wished to handle it in the future. What came out of it was NOW when anyone makes a stellar mistake they are more likely to hear "Epic SUCCESS there!" It allows us to laugh at our errors and puts us in a better frame of mind to make changes.

So what about all of you? Do you have any "Inside Jokes" you treasure? Something that assures a tension relief and a laugh with other members of your guild? Have you ever considered the power of inside jokes and how they can be used to both build up and tear down the camaraderie of your guild? Don't ignore this valuable tool, especially now when many guilds are facing the summer slump before the next expansion. Humor, if used the right way, can make the time you spend together enjoyable, and even the most stressful encounters something you want to do again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Know Your Rogue Lore: Defias Brotherhood

Ah, the Defias. There are few who can play this game without encountering them at least once in their leveling experience. So who is this elusive band and what are their goals? If you play an Alliance character, especially a human, most likely you will do a series of chain quests in Westfall that specifically deal with this group of cutthroats. Lets take this time to look at exactly who they are and what various sources from World of Warcraft have to say about them.

When the human kingdom of Stormwind was leveled by the Horde Invasion during the First War, Anduin Lothar lead its survivors to Loredaeron. There while acting as regent lord for the newly minted King Varian Wrynn, Lothar told the other Human kings and their allies what had befallen them following the murder of King Llane Wrynn, Varian's father. King Terenas pledged his aid to young Varian as well as assisted Lothar in bulling the other kings into do the same. Once the First War drew to a close King Terenas convinced the other kingdoms to finance a reconstruction of Stormwind City. Knowing that young Varian would be to busy attempting to reclaim his former kingdom to direct such a huge civic project Terenas set up a council of representatives from several Noble families to act as advisers to the king and over see the rebuilding project in his stead.

This council, called The House of Nobles, commissioned a talented young architect by the name of Edwin VanCleef, the current leader of the Stonemasons Guild to design and coordinate the reconstruction. Many of the laborers and craftsmen saw these actions as a renewal, as well as a chance to display their skills. At great personal expense many relocated to Stormwind, bringing their families with them.  Others saw the project as a means to make a profit while participating in a lucrative government funded contract since not ALL were original refugees. When the building was completed these craftsman turned to the House of Nobles for payment. Unfortunately many of those council members had misappropriated the funds they were suppose to be distributing. They decided that the best course of action was to act surprised by the demands and inform the builders that they were SUPPOSE to be grateful for having been allowed to participate in such a legendary project, as well as offering government jobs to the leaders. When many of the craftsmen rejected this, demanding compensation for their work, the House of Nobles expelled them from the city.

Into this powder keg rides young King Varian who has spent the passing years clearing the surrounding areas of hostiles so that his people can begin to rebuild their farms. When the House of Nobles inform him that the artisans are causing an issue Varian is shocked, demanding to know why the craftsmen were not paid earlier as he had been lead to believe. He demands that the House of Nobles make good on their promises. At this point the Nobles confess that they HAVE no money, telling the young king that it was sent to HIM to fund his build up of the military. Guilt stricken the Royal family goes to meet with now roaring mob hoping to defuse the situation.

What happens next will greatly impact the Kingdom of Stormwind forever. Varian's queen Tiffin is killed during the ensuing riot. His infant son Anduin is narrowly rescued from being trampled. The council of Nobles declare the stonemasons responsible for the violence, forcing what few remain to flee. Varian then falls into a magically induced depression and becomes a silent figure head for the next 10 years. The council, now lead by Katrina Prestor take control of the kingdom in his name. To further protect their interests and cover their guilt the House of Nobles pull the vast majority of the military forces Varian had put in place to protect the country side back to the capital. This results in only token forces or in some instances where the outposts had yet to be constructed, nothing at all to guard the general population.

It is into this void that the Defias Brotherhood step in. VanCleef you see is not only a stonemason, but he specialized in creating secret rooms and safe houses. This activity brought him into close contact with the current leader of the Stormwind Assassins and SI:7 Mathias Shaw.  The two developed a close friendship to the point that Shaw had taught VanCleef many of the tricks of the trade to being an assassin. Using his former position of leadership and personal charisma VanCleef gathers up the disillusioned and vengeful craftsmen, promising that together they will "retrieve their rightful pay" from the pockets of those who cross their path. Together they construct a hideout in their former haunt the Deadmines, source of the majority of the stone and ore that was used to construct Stormwind City.

One can not create such a large band with out catching the attention of the local bandits. In the end VanCleef is able to convince them of the benefits to be found joining forces with HIM over attempting to compete or take them out. By the time he is finished VanCleef has created an loosely connected force that controls much of the area from Duskwood to Elwynn Forest. By bolstering his forces with mercenaries VanCleef now commands a more well rounded and gifted army than many believe. By directing his followers to avoid direct conflict with the Stormwind guard and People's Militia as much as possible he is able to keep the exact size and scope of his organization hidden.

While VanCleef himself still spouts the founding ideals of the Defias Brotherhood as being the seeking of justice and bringing down corruption within the House of Nobles. The induction of  bandits and mercenaries of other races such as Goblins, Tauren, Ogres and Kobolds has changed the rank and files focus to one of pure profit and power. Recruits need only to put on the signature red mask and seek out members of the Defias to join, however once indited absolute obedience is expected. The Warcraft RPG books also describe many members tattooing a cog on their hands to further indicate their allegiance as well as defacing Stormwind coin to show their disdain for its king. 

Originally VanCleef's plan is to construct a "weapon of mass destruction" and use it to disrupt Stormwinds trade lines as well as perhaps destroy Stormwind itself. After all why should the villainous Nobles get to enjoy the fruits of all HIS hard work? Many believe the ship located within the Deadmines is this "weapon of mass destruction" but this has never been verified. When VanCleef is killed by "a group of adventurers" at the request of Gryan Stoutmantle of the People's Militia the Defias SHOULD have disbanded or at least fallen in prominence. Any of VanCleef's Lieutenants with the ability to assume command were sitting in the Stormwind Stockade. However someone else is able to quickly redirect the Defia's attention. So quickly in fact that some question if VanCleef was REALLY the one in charge of the Defias, or just playing the role of figure head like Varian Wrynn.

Currently in the game the quest chain dealing with the kidnapping of King Varian has been largely swept aside lore wise. To recap, Lady Prestor purchases the services of the Defias through a middle man, Lord Gregor Lescovar, promising them King Varian. The Defias jump at the opportunity, thinking to ransom the king for fees owed as well as damages. However as  is revealed in the Warcraft Comic Prestor is only using the Defias to cover her OWN activities and plans for the king. Before Wrath this chain completed with Lady Prestor buying you off before sending your way. It is not until much later when completing the Jail Break chain (which was removed from the game at the beginning of Wrath) that her true nature and plans are revealed. Now, instead of presenting your findings to Prestor at the end of the Defias chain you report to the King directly who commends you for your work in uncovering the plot before offering the same rewards Prestor gave.

With Prestor out of way you would think that the Defias would begin to fade into the background, but not quite yet. The original craftsmen have STILL not been compensated and while King Varian was sympathetic to their plight 10+ years ago, a lot has happened since then. During that time the members of the Defias Brotherhood have preyed on the populace endlessly, furthermore they acted DIRECTLY against the King by participating in his kidnapping. If not for the unexpected attack of the scourge the Alliance military would have turned their attention to wiping the band out. Instead the countryside is STILL left relatively undefended while King Varian throws the majority of Stormwinds military resources toward stopping the Scourge and renewing the battle with the Horde.  This gives the Defias an unexpected opportunity to reorganize.

There is some speculation that the "Heroic Deadmines" we have all been hearing about may be more than just a "Level Up" of the former instance. Instead it may deal with where the Defias is CURRENTLY after dealing with its recent disasters. Cataclysm will provide many opportunities to rework this organization and we already know that Westfall, its major base of operations, is getting a major overhaul. We can only wait and see.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World of Warcraft: Mage Review

Yes, it is another Manga review. I recently received a good stack of them to go through so don't be surprised to see a bunch of these in the near future. Yes, my old prejudices are still in place. I am still not a big fan of Manga and I still don't really care for Richard Knaak. However Blizzard seems quite pleased with him so he keeps popping out stories at their behest. The newest one is from their class specific series World of Warcraft: Mage. This time the artist is Ryo Kawakami. Kawakami is better known for his work in Boys-love Japanese Manga. I will try to keep the first part of this review general and give warning before going into more detail.

Lets begin with the artwork. One thing I can say for Mr. Kawakami's style is that his male characters do not display the same overwhelmingly effeminate characteristics often seen in Manga, this is something I greatly appreciate about his work. On the other hand the shading is a little muddy at times, but since the over all lines are so dark it really doesn't make to much of a difference. The divisions between panels flow well, giving clear guidance to the progression of the story. Further more his effects drawing is subtle, allowing you to see that dramatic things are going on without overwhelming the characters themselves.

Since we are of course dealing with Mages and most importantly Dalaran specifically it is no surprise that Richard Knaak was chosen to pen this particular story. Since you know how I feel about him and why from previous reviews lets just skip that. His golden boy Rhonin has about equal page time as the main character of the story, a young student by the name of Aodhan Falamar. Aodhan's story is told by flipping between current events and flash backs to give you a better understanding as to who he is exactly.

Spoiler Alert! The following is a basic out line of the book so if you don't want to know, skip it.

The book begins with Aodhan already a student at Dalaran, it quickly becomes apparent that his teachers push him harder and expect more from him that his class mates, however he is unclear as to why. You learn that Aodhan is from a family of warriors, not mages. In fact only one other family member was a mage and that was a much maligned uncle. Aodhan's older brother is a Captain in the Silver Hand. (Ok, here is where I again go off on Knaak. The Silver hand is a PALADIN organization yet Knaak is VERY clear that the Falamar's are a family of WARRIORS, so why the brother would have rank in a Paladin organization makes NO sense to me.) It is clear that Aodhan's father has no love for the Magi, considering them cowards at best, traitors at worse. Both he and Aodhan's older brother go to great lengths to express their distaste for the entire discipline. Aodhan's father also shows contempt for Aodhan himself, stating that all he is good for is to be a farmer. Only the uncle ever sees promise in him or offers words of encouragement. When the boy expresses interest in going to Dalaran to study magic like his uncle, he is disowned.

Dalaran is under attack by the blue dragon flight the entire duration of the story so all of the senior magi are focused on its defense. Rhonin is of course directing the defense, but other notable npcs like Archmage Modera are also acknowledged as taking part. Aodham and his class mates are sent to a safer area at the heart of Dalaran, but as they are relocating his teacher receives a mind to mind communication from Rhonin requesting that Aodham specifically go to the Violet Hold to aid the magi there. Bewildered by the command the instructor never the less sends Aodham on his way alone.

Awaiting Aodham in the Violet Hold is not the senior magi he was told he would find but instead his thought to be deceased Uncle. Aodham discovers that it was actually his UNCLE who called for him, deceiving the instructor.  What follows is the uncle guiding Aodham through Dalaran promising that only HE will be able to save the city. While the boy is confused by this pronouncement his reverence and respect for his uncle drives him to believe.  However it is not to long before Aodham begins to question his uncle's motivations and loyalties.

When Aodham finally realizes his uncle is in fact a servant of Malygos, using him to undermine the defenses of Dalaran it is to late. The Magi are spread to thin dealing both with the escaped prisoners from Violet Hold as well as the endless onslaught from the Blue Dragon flight. In the end Aodham is left to decide who he will follow, the once beloved Uncle or the precepts he has been taught by the Kirin'Tor. His choice could mean the difference between Dalaran literally falling from the sky or surviving another day.

As most of Knaak's stories consist of the hero being HIS character rather than the established lore figures I can't claim to be surprised that the story follows this pattern. The individual who he has come in at the last moment to "save the day" can be predicted almost from the first page. While Aodham is a likable enough kid, the idea that he would be in complete ignorance of why he is getting singled out up until this point just feels...wrong. Continuously through out the story he is over hearing hints about himself, but his response is mixed. Half the time he is displayed as precocious, determined to follow in Rhonin's and his uncle's footsteps as a maverick. The other half as a obedient child, following his elders explicitly despite his personal reservations.

Overall I wouldn't say it was a BAD book, just...not very fulfilling. There are no great surprises contained within it. No new lore that people should be aware of. Aodham just seems to be a random character that no one knows about, that saves the world as we know it from destruction. Perhaps we should think of him as similar to a player. While World of Warcraft: Death Knight dealt with fleshing out the lore of established Npcs, Aodham is a unknown element outside of his individual story, his impact only on those who take the time to read it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shadow Wing: The Dragons of Outland Review

Let me start out by saying that I am not a big fan of Manga. I prefer my books to be words that allow ME to visualize the story rather than having it all laid out for me in black and white pictures. Further more I don't much care for Richard A. Knaak because he has a habit of making his crafted characters the main focus rather than already established lore figures. But I keep trying, hoping that maybe the next one I read will make me a convert. So laying all my prejudices out there for you before we begin this review, know that I am rather jaded. Also, while I try to keep my reviews rather general there will be spoilers so if you want to wait until you can read it for yourself, watch for the alert and skip the rest.

Shadow Wing the first of the Dragon's of Outland series is a Manga done by the same team that did the Sunwell Trilogy, Richard Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim. The main characters are the disillusioned human paladin Jorad Mace and Tyrygosa (Tyri), an arrogant and impulsive blue dragon. These two were supporting characters during the Sunwell Trilogy and now move on to a story of their own. The idea was this series would explain why players NOW find them in Netherstorm on the Celestial Ridge working as quest givers. In addition the delay in publication was explained as an attempt to tie what is happening currently with Malygos and the Blue Dragon flight into the series.

Lets start with the Artwork.  One thing I noticed is the facial expressions in this book are actually quite good. You have a reasonable understanding when things are being discussed in anger, frustration or despair. All that aside I STILL think this artist makes the males WAY to effeminate. To the point that there are times that if they weren't wearing hooves and spouting horns I would have mistaken some of the Draenei for Blood Elves. At least the Broken and Orcs have more rounded or square looking chins. At times the "splash" effects obscured the action for me to the point I felt it was more distracting than adding to the over all story.  The armor worn by the characters (with the exception of Tyri) looks similar to that seen in the actual game so while the head proportions are at times a little small, it isn't much different from what we see on line.

Since Knaak is responsible for the majority of the books dealing with Outland you would expect there to be some sort of flow and connection between such works as his novel "Night of the Dragon" and this. In addition since this series is just NOW getting released after much delay you expect it to pay attention to the lore established in the Burning Crusade expansion. Especially considering the explanation was that these books would be filling in some of the lore holes between Burning Crusade and the current content. While there ARE some tie ins there are also some gaping lore changes. This is something Mr. Knaak is famous for.

Spolier Alter, the following contains more detailed descriptions of the book, proceed at your own risk. 

The story begins shortly after the end of the Sunwell Trilogy when the companions of that series parted ways. Jorad joins the Alliance forces as they head into the Dark Portal attempting to push the Burning Legion back.  Interestingly he openly refers to himself as "A Knight of the Silver Hand" even though that organization would have officially been disbanded by this time. In addition to this the Alliance meets up with the Draenei shortly AFTER they enter the Dark Portal and before they even make it to Honor Hold.  Offering themselves as allies against the demons. (So lets just COMPLETELY ignore the established lore changes previously set.)

Jorad is a man with something to prove and everyone is hampering his efforts. Eventually through a series of circumstances he ends up attempting to make it to Honor Hold alone. Of course this brilliant plan doesn't work and just as it appears he will parish help arrives from an unexpected source. Tyrygosa swoops in and rescues him. Shocked to see the LAST person he expected to set eyes on, Jorad then proceeds to abandon all that he originally was so focused on that he would risk it all, to continuing the REST of the book committed to Tyri's agenda. The supposed reason for this complete turn around? He has a crush on the Blue Dragon.

Tyri it is explained is in Outland following her OWN agenda. Apparently she slipped through the Dark Portal at the same time as Jorad disguising herself as a member of the High Elf Contingent. Wait what...HIGH elf contingent? Yep, even though the High Elves are established lore as basically bordering on extinction, hiding away in just a few minor outposts with NO official connection to the Alliance at ALL, there is suppose to have been an entire CONTINGENT of them going through the Dark Portal with the Alliance AND the Horde....Riiiight. Anyway Tyri is looking for something, she doesn't really know what and she does NOT have approval from Malygos for this little expedition. That at least is true to form for this particular character. In the Sunwell Trilogy she was FREQUENTLY arrogantly following her own agenda rather than doing as directed. 

So shortly after Tyri and Jorad are reunited they are separated again due to the working of a NEW character, the apparent villain of this series, a Second War Death Knight Yep, not only are the HEROES Knaak creation but so are the VILLAINS now. Who cares about Illidan anyway? Well, maybe not, the character MIGHT be based on one mentioned in World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal, at this point it is hard to say. Jorad falls into the hands of the Broken, who consider him an enemy because his people are allied with the Draenei. Tyri ends up with two Netherdrakes, Valokui who is friendly towards her and Zzerakui who is NOT. Wait, Zzerakui...isn't that the netherdrake that Sinestra had in "Night of the Dragon"?  Yep, that is him and this book gives a hint as to just how he may have fallen into Sinestra's clutches.

So the book ends with Jorad attempting to befriend the Broken while Tyri is off discovering that the Netherdrakes are actually black dragons that have been altered by Outland. The "Villain" of the book is busy making deadly pronouncements to his ethereal supplier and object lessons of the Fel'Orcs he has acquired. At this point he has made it quite clear that the only individual he is concerned with promoting is himself. This means that Illidan, Sinestra and the others are not going to be making an appearance any time soon.

I most likely should have waited like I did with the Sunwell Trilogy and gotten the series when it was done in a single volume. As it now stands that would be my recommendation as this entire book really focuses more on introducing the various characters than pushing forward a plot. If you are working on your lore library you ARE going to want to have this book if for no other reason than to keep a reference as you try to determine what direction the CURRENT lore is going.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Know Your Rogue Lore: Theloria Shadecloak

Yesterday Brian Cutaia discussed how it is the one dimensional characters in World of Warcraft that some times have the greatest impact. This entire series is really about those one dimensional characters, any information we have about them is either deferred or concocted out of our own imaginations. My only hope is that you all enjoy reading about them as much as I do discovering and discussing each one.

I mentioned Theloria Shadecloak briefly last week when looking at her superior Bertelm, but I couldn't just leave her there. Like Bertelm, Theloria was a part of the original forces who came through the Dark Portal with Ranger Alleria Windrunner and assisted in establishing the Allerian Stronghold in Terokkar Forest. A former Farstrider (the elite scouting force of the High Elves) she is dressed in the original Bonescythe Armor set exposing her as one of the few roguish members of that organization.

Theloria is appalled at the changes that have befallen her people over the last 20 years. Denied the homecoming of her dreams she declares the forests of Outland her new home, vowing never to return to Azeroth. Recognizing the fruitlessness of giving into despair she chooses to continue to work with the Alliance in hopes of bringing an end to Kael'thas Sunstrider and his followers. She can now be found at a small camp located next to the water between Firewing Point and the Bonechewer Ruins with her human companion Lieutenant Meridian. Interestingly she is neutral to any Horde who may decide to go visit.

The shocks she has undergone as she discovers just how far her people have fallen continue as you interact with her. Theloria has two quests she sends players on which specifically deal with the cooperation taking place between Kael'thas' followers and the local Fel'Orcs. Firsts she asks you to thin the ranks of Bonechewer garrison, hoping that by doing that she can keep them at manageable levels. Second she asks you to remove the Firewing Liaison, a blood elf woman she has observed traveling back and forth between the two camps, the idea being that this will give her a better chance to understand just what kind of relationship the local blood elves have with the Fel'Orcs. While completing these two quests you will discover another one on the ground close to Lisaile Fireweaver, the liaison you are sent to dispatch. The Fel Orc plans reveal that not only are the Blood elves under Kael'thas working WITH the Fel'Orcs, they are actually in control and commanding them to assist in delaying and disrupting the local Alliance and Horde forces.

Theloria offers a glimpse into the agony of the High Elves who see the vast majority of their people being deceived and falling to addiction at the hand of leaders they once trusted. While she and the other High Elves completely understand the horrors of overcoming addiction to arcane magic they can not fathom the decision to replace it with Demonic power. Now they are left with no home and watching from a distance as those they once considered kin are changed beyond all recognition.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

25 Best Rogue Moves

Recently Ghostcrawler was asked about what changes were in store for rogues and he made a interesting remark. They are looking at getting rid of some of our "boring" abilities like the hated Hunger for Blood and expanding what abilities rogues will get as "standard". This way we will no longer have to spread our talent points across several trees as we have in the past. So I got to thinking about what abilities I consider "fun" or at least, the best in our arsenal. Originally this was only a list of  Ten but Ardol over at WoW Philosophized challenged us to come up with 25 of our favorite things. This meant I could include not only all our "fun" moves but also those that are what make Rogues awesome. They are not in any particular order.

1. Stealth. When you are first starting the ability to stealth gives you a sense of freedom. I thought it meant I could go anywhere, do anything I wanted, without fear of being destroyed. I soon discovered that this ability was only as good as your level so no a level 12 could not stealth through Burning Steps. At least not without causing a lvl 60 Forsaken Warlock to fall off his mount in laughter. (My feelings towards warlocks may have started there.) It is our ability to stealth that makes others fear and hate us, they can not control their envy. Even Druids who CAN stealth are not able to utilize it as well as we do, missing out on fantastic opportunities. When you first roll a rogue be sure to get yourself that 10 copper and learn this ability, it is available at level 1.

2. Vanish. Sure it is buggy but after all this time the vast majority of us are so use to it I am not sure we would know WHAT to do if it didn't fail from time to time. This is our get out of crap card.  Rogues LOVE to live on the cutting edge of danger but we also know we are squishy so sometimes disappearing to return another day is the best option.

3. Shadow Step. When this ability was first introduced I thought it was the stupidest thing imaginable. Basically the lazy rogue's method of getting into position behind their target. As time went on and they continued to work out the bugs I came to value it as a time saver and instant way to catch my fleeing target.

4. Cloak of Shadows.When this was first introduced it was a Subtlety only move. Then suddenly they took it away after teasing us with it for only a few short weeks. They were forgiven however when they then granted this ability to ALL rogues at level 66. My warlock friends HATE this move as it removes all of their hard work. Since then us clever rogues have found ways to use it to mitigate damage and increase our dps time on raid bosses. If I ever had to change my blog name, this would be what I would call it next.

5. Killing Spree. I still remember the first time I used this move...There is such an element of danger because you have no control over which targets you are going to go after. At times it will result in throwing you into places you certainly did not plan to go but OH the amount of damage you do along the way.

6. Shadow Dance. This is another talent based ability that has undergone some MAJOR reworking. When it was first introduced this baby was SO over powered but at the same time rather difficult to get a handle on. Even today it is still something that takes skill to manage but when you do it is a power house ability in Arena as you can use it both to control other players and do mass amounts of damage.

7. Evasion. We have all had it happen at some point in our careers, the tank goes down and guess who is next on the aggro meter? This move has lead to more downed bosses rather than wipes at 1-2% than any other. There are even some rogues who have created entire "evasion" sets so that THEY can tank. In pvp it can allow you to avoid damage while continuing to stab away. What is not to love about that?

8. Feign. Ok, at lower levels this is still a waste ability, but get to rank 8 and it adds a whole other dimension. 1-7 only manage to "reduce our threat" by minisucal amounts for more energy than I am willing to spend. Rank 8 adds the ability to "reduce the damage you take from AoE attacks by 50%". Know when to use this and you can continue to dps when others have to run away or lower the amount of damage you are taking when raid wide AoE is happening. This is an ability that has gone from never seeing the light of day on my action bar to being a standard.

9. Pick Pocket. It boggles my mind the number of Rogues who DON'T use this ability. It is like double loot from every humanoid mob. Why waste time wandering around looking for locked boxes to level lock picking when you can get them for free while questing? Even better those boxes often contain poisons. I don't even BOTHER going to a poison vendor because locked boxes keep me MORE than adequately supplied. They even have the chance of giving you gems and Epics.

10. Sap. This is a great ability that has fallen out of favor during Wrath with our "burn through everything quickly" mentality. Once a rogue's ability to sap was considered an asset. It sounds like Blizzard is trying to bring crowd control BACK in Cataclysm so it doesn't hurt to refresh you knowledge. While leveling this standard rogue ability can allow you to complete quests much quicker or even get to ore and herbs before that pesky druid because you can pick while they have to kill nearby mobs first. Sap was also improved to not only work on humanoids but also beasts, demons and dragonkin at higher levels.

11. Sprint. Our classic "Get out of Dodge FAST" move. You can even glyph it to allow you to walk on water, go even faster or spend talent points to so that you can also get out of movement impairing effects like traps and ice.

12. Kick. This is another ability that I am constantly surprised by the number of rogues who are NOT versed in it. It allows us to interrupt casters and even prevents them from using spells from that same school for 5 seconds. In Pvp it is great on healers and casters but in PvE a well timed kick can be vital to downing a boss. Learning when to pool your energy and time your cool downs so you can place those kicks precisely is a sign of a GOOD Rogue.

13. Pick Lock. I am constantly hearing rogues complain about how DIFFICULT this ability is to level. I never had that issue, but then I am a Pick Pocket fiend and when leveling will keep 5 boxes in reserve to max out at each level. Once upon a time dungeons use to contain locked chests that only we rogues (with the skill level) could open and retrieve the goodies. Since then Blizzard has removed them because for some reason they didn't appreciate the number of us who liked to do stealth box runs and walk away with all those aforementioned goodies. At lower levels Lock Picking can allow you to get into places other classes must have a key for like BRD, Scholomance and Strat UD. It can also generate a small amount of cash as others who have gotten a hold of locked boxes seek ways to get into their treasures. I love this ability and I hope it gets a resurgence in popularity in Cataclysm. There is also a pair of gloves that leather workers can craft which increases our lock picking ability called Dark Leather Gloves. The only problem is that this is a dropped recipe so finding a pair may be difficult.

14. Detect Traps. Hunters in Pvp HATE this ability, and for a long time it really served no purpose outside of pvp. Then came Icecrown Citadel and FINALLY at long last the ability to see traps is not only useful but something to ensure a rogue gets invited to a raid. Keep some flares on you and you can mark those for other players speeding up your raid time.

15. Disarm Traps. Unless you were raiding Black Wing Lair or battle ground pvping this ability was another that languished in the underutilized until recently. With Icecrown Citadel rogues can now remove the danger of someone setting off a trap when you don't want to deal with it. Once upon a time I thought this ability was tied to Picking locks because back in Vanilla while I had no difficulty with it another rogue I ran with who NEVER leveled their lock picking was always failing when attempting to disarm traps. However I have never found any official evidence to support this. It may just be talent. Some rogues seem to get this ability where others struggle, a little practice and your raid leaders will love you.

15. Dismantle. This is a newer ability that when I first heard of it made me giddy because in my mind's eye I envisioned naked plate wearers. It doesn't QUITE work that way, instead we can remove both weapons AND shields from players and some bosses. This can be very helpful, especially if you run with a pally tank who has no disarm ability. It is of course great in pvp against those annoying plate wearers.

16. Kidney Shot. Every other class HATES this ability which is why we love it SOOO much. Part of the classic "stun lock" rotation, team it up with Cheap Shot and Gouge and many can't get a single thing off before they are dead at your feet.

17. Distract. Most rogues use this as an annoyance ability more than anything else. From time to time it will get used to keep Mobs or bosses from wandering off while you wait for the rest of your group members to arrive. However in Pvp especially it can be VERY helpful in that it forces the other person's character to turn in the direction you "distracted" them. With a little practice you can get very good at redirecting other players and even PvE mobs. Another nice thing about distract is that IT DOESN'T REQUIRE STEALTH, nor does it break it. This means so long as your target is not engaged in combat you can use it to redirect its attention. I have found this very helpful in delaying patrols while fighting since it effects all mobs in the area of influence.

18. Blind. This standard rogue ability is so awesome it even had a movie named after it. Once this was a "poison" ability that require a regent called "blinding powder", allowing it to be dispelled. This venerability has been removed and it is now a physical ability inviting us to use whatever materials are on hand from sand, dirt to snow. Suddenly this went from a seldom used to a standard in Pvp. Even in PvE it can be helpful if you find yourself overwhelmed and need either a way for a quick escape or to heal up before finishing your target off.

19. Safe Fall. Since this ability is passive the majority of rogues don't even THINK about how advantage it is. Basically it reduces the amount of damage you take from any fall over 17 yards by 30%. Add the minor glyph and you can increase the distance by another 10 yards. In fights like Malagos you will be one of the few NOT taking damage from the fall, in Pvp it can be hysterical when you jump off the Lumber Mill or a Tower and some poor sap follows you only to splatter on the rocks below or loses so much health you can easily kill them off.

20. Ambush. This single move does SO much damage it is unbelievable. 275% of your main hand weapon damage PLUS an additional set amount based on level. Now at the moment this is limited to daggers but soon it will include ANY main hand weapon. It is not unusual to be able to drop a target to 30% health in Pve situations, however resilience greatly reduces its effectiveness. All it requires is stealth and to be positioned behind your target to deploy it.

21. Envenom. I have a love hate relationship with this finishing move. When it was first introduced wading through all the math to figure out exactly how much damage this actually did was annoying. However as an Assassination rogue it is GOLDEN. The fact that it IGNORES armor makes it wonderful where combat has to stack armor penetration to get the same benefits from Eviscerate. They had a glyph once on the ptr but decided to remove it feeling it was to powerful, especially when combined with weapon swapping, instead they placed the effect as part of talents.

22. Garrote. This is another classic opener that Assassination rogues especially should make use of to start their bleed effects. In Pvp when going against a Pally or Druid those three seconds of silence can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Even better it has NO weapon requirement so it doesn't matter what weapons you are using, just that you start out behind them and in stealth.

23. Gouge. At lower levels this move is fantastic as your "oh crap" move before you have access to vanish and our major stunning moves. High levels can at times use it as a spell interrupt when you don't have kick available. The fact that this also scales with Attack power can at higher gear levels lead to an INCREDIBLE amount of damage as well. Just make sure you have some sort of main hand weapon.

24. Fan of Knives. While this ability has been in the World of Warcraft cannon since Warcraft 3 it is only within the last expansion that rogues managed to get their grubby little hands on it. It has undergone several animation reworkings since then from arching blades, to horizontal spiral as well as to the daggers themselves, the amount of damage this move does has also been adjusted several times. (For some reason Mages and Boomkins didn't care for rogues doing more AoE damage than them.) I may still call it "the sprinkler" but at some point I want to get a shirt that says "FoKing Rogue".

25. Dual Wielding. No other class gets to start out with a weapon in both hands. Now this wasn't always the case, many of us remember leveling with just our one little starter dagger, anxiously awaiting the time we could have two. No longer. While fury warriors and enhancement shamans can learn the ability, to us it is now innate. Put some talents in it and the amount of damage you do with your off hand weapon increases by up to 50%.