Tuesday, November 9, 2010

T minus 4 weeks

Cataclysm is just 4 weeks away, time to post some thoughts about my personal situation regarding the expansion. First of all I have to say that I’m looking very much forward to the expansion, but I’m trying to not spoil the experience; thus I won’t play on any beta or public test servers, nor do I follow the discussion of the expansion on sites like MMO Champion. I do however play World of Warcraft more these days. Due to me having turned on “parental controls” on my own WoW account to block RealID, I get a play time report every week by e-mail, and my weekly play time is back up to around 20 hours, having been just 2 to 5 hours per week during September.

The character I’m playing most right now is my level 77 druid, of which I am confident that he will reach level 80 in time for Cataclysm. I’m mostly playing him as a healer in dungeons, and that is a lot of fun. In this patch 4.0.1 environment I do like both holy priest and restoration druid healing, while I find my paladin more boring as a healer, him having a lot less options. The second character I play is a level 64 shaman, but he is enhancement spec and not a healer. Not my favorite character, somehow enhancement at this level is a lot less effective than it used to be, and in spite of using an optimized build and rotation researched from the internet, I’m doing at best mediocre on the damage meter. My general impression of patch 4.0.1 is that spell damage is a lot better than melee damage now, e.g. my priest as shadow or the druid as moonkin do awesome damage. If I really wanted to play the shaman further, I would have to switch to elemental, but then I’d need to replace all his gear, and there is basically no level 60ish blue gear available on the AH. Anyway, the shaman is mostly used as a bank alt, and the main reason I’m leveling him is to get the portable mailbox from engineering at level 65.

Assuming the druid reaches level 80 soon, I will have 5 different level 80 characters when the expansion hits (druid, priest, paladin, warrior, mage). I’ll have a level 60 rogue, 60 death knight and a level 65 shaman, and I’ll start a goblin hunter and a worgen warlock in the expansion, so I got all classes covered. But which character is going to be my main? Well, the paladin is out, being a lonely level 80 Alliance character on a different server, while my main should be in my guild on the Horde side. The warrior, in spite of being my first character on the European servers, and first to 60, has always been problematic. I have a distinctive impression that Blizzard hates tanks, especially warrior tanks. The removal of the defense stat didn’t help much; I’m still forced to have two completely separate sets of gear, one with avoidance stats like dodge for tanking, and one set for dps. And getting plate gear without caster stats has always been more difficult than getting any other type of gear. Playing a tank simply requires a lot more work and dedication to be useful than any other role. And if you don’t keep up, you’re quickly out: Nobody wants to play with a half-geared tank, while an extra healer can always get a raid spot.

As I enjoy playing in groups more than I enjoy playing solo, I also don’t want to make my mage my main. While that would certainly be easiest to play, a pure damage dealer has the longest waiting queue in the Dungeon Finder, and the lowest chance for a raid spot. Furthermore my priest and druid deal at least as much damage in their dps spec as my mage, albeit less AoE, so it isn’t as if I’d give up on damage dealing by choosing a healer as my main. So the choice is between the priest and the druid. Now as I said, I do like druid healing, and the druid has maybe the best “oh shit” emergency heal button with Tranquility. But I find the priest has even more options, between direct heals, heals over time, and more exotic healing variants. And the priest has always been my raiding character, so I think I will just stick with him as my main for Cataclysm.

Having said that, I’m not sure to be able to get into a raiding team with my guild. That isn’t my guild’s fault; in fact after years of working on that problem the guild is doing an excellent job of balancing the needs of the more hardcore raiders and the more casual guild members. But the timing of the Cataclysm expansion is somewhat unfortunate for me, so close to the Christmas holidays. I’ll be spending Christmas with family, away from my place, and so I won’t have all that much time to play, and only a laptop with not the best internet connection to play on. Even in a relatively friendly and casual guild, raiding starts when there are enough people at the level cap and well-equipped enough to start, which causes a certain rush to the level cap in the early phase of the expansion, and I’m a bit worried about missing the boat there. That is especially due to my experience in Cataclysm, where I was behind the curve, and then Blizzard decided to practically shut down the older raid dungeons before I could finish them. I never saw the second half of Ulduar. If I, as casual raider, am already stressed a bit about missing out on raid spots due to leveling slower, I can imagine how stressful this must be for a more hardcore raider than me, unless he has a guaranteed raid spot for being the organizer. I don’t think Blizzard has completely solved the problem of casual raiding yet, it probably needs an automated Raid Finder functionality in a future patch.

Fortunately raiding isn’t all there is to Cataclysm or World of Warcraft. I’m currently enjoying the events leading up to the Cataclysm, doing quests that have me run around with a “the end is near” sign, and closing rifts for the achievement. But I’m not doing those with all of my characters, just one or two. I’m also cleaning up my bank storage and inventory. What I’m *not* doing is hoarding specific items and materials in the hope of making huge profits on the auction house. Not because I don’t believe that wouldn’t work, but because I already have over 70,000 gold, and don’t really see the point of putting effort into making more, just to buy expensive mounts or the 310% speed flying skill, which is barely an improvement over the 280% I already have.

I am looking forward to playing a goblin and a worgen, with classes I haven’t played all that much up to now, and to try out archeology. But these are things that will be around for a long time, and I’m not in a hurry. The newbie zones for the new races will be overcrowded for a while; I think I’ll enjoy them more if I wait a bit for the first wave to subside. Archeology I don’t know too much about yet, as far as I’ve read it might be non-competitive, not lots of players camping the same few nodes at the start. That would be good.

So the last question remaining for Cataclysm is how to actually get it. The no-hassle, pre-downloaded digital version sure sounds attractive, provided that this works as advertised. On the other hand I also like having a disc for future reinstallations, and to support my local game store. So I decided to do both, as I anyway need two copies of Cataclysm for me and my wife. I pre-ordered one copy on Battle.net, and I’ll buy a second copy in the store on December 7th.

So how about you? What are your hopes and fears and preparations for Cataclysm?

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