The trouble with small raids

Back when Blizzard announced that new raid instances would be 10-man and 25-man, many feared that it would cause guilds to be divided. Because only a part of the guild could raid at the same time, subgroups within the guild would form. Now, Tobold is struggling with that exact problem.

My current guild had the same problem at first. The first ones to complete the attunements formed the first core raiding group, and if you weren't part of that core group.. well.. good luck getting a raid invite when you weren't even told of an upcoming raid.

However, this is not a new problem. Whenever there were significantly more potential raiders than raid slots, strifes like these have been there. The only difference is that it's much easier to encounter this problem with the reduced raid group size. Raid alliances and super guilds have struggled with this back when Molten Core was the only raid content around.

The only solution that I see is to build a fair way to handle raid signups and invites. Even the core raid group members have to step aside to let others in. This is not a problem when the raid content in question is in farm status, so less-than-optimal contribution from a single raider doesn't cause a wipe. However, because the reduced size of raids, the role of a single raider is amplified, and the margin of error is much, much smaller.

Gear-wise, suboptimal contribution is less of a problem than before because the raid attunements are chained. People can't enter a high-end instance in greens anymore. To get to Karazhan, you must have completed the most difficult non-heroic dungeons. While doing it, you probably got yourself some adequate gear. To get to Serpentshrine cavern, you had to clear Gruul's Lair and Karazhan. And so on. Completing the attunements forces you to get gear for the next step. By the time you step into Mount Hyjal, you have completed all other dungeons. Tactics progression follows the same path. If you don't learn, your group will most likely wipe.

So, the gear and the tactics are not really the problem. Getting the raid invite is the major one. One interesting way (that Death & Taxes uses, presumably) is that you get the normal amount of DKP even when you are not accepted to the raid itself, as long as you are prepared (no pun intended) and stay available for the duration of the raid. There are several advantages to this approach.

  1. Not getting an invite is not a big deal.

    When you do get an invite, you have more stored DKP than the others (who have spent their DKP on drops), so you can catch up on gear quickly.

  2. Because the raid leader requires you to stay available for the duration of the raid, the system encourages you to pay attention.

    Listening to text and voice chat isn't always as effective as doing it yourself, but it's a whole lot better than not doing anything.

  3. Because the benchwarmers can quickly catch up to raiders, the raid leader has an easier time replacing raiders.

    This applies even to progress raids. Because you can keep up with gear and tactics, the raid leader doesn't compromise the group too much by inviting you. Having a pool of suitable replacements allows the raid to go on longer than it could otherwise.

High King Maulgar

High King Maulgar
High King Maulgar,
originally uploaded by Shalkis.
After an evening in Gruul's lair, High King Maulgar finally succumbed to the Great Dark.


Damn you Faxmonkey!

Some time ago the mages' Spellsteal was nerfed. Buffs that we stole used to take into account our spell damage. While it was fun stealing aggro from bear tanks with 1.7k ticks with the Astromages' Fire Shield, Faxmonkey found an another mob with Fire Shield in a much more interesting location. Alterac Valley. Soon afterwards, the nerf arrived.


Strangers in the Capital

The Magisters' lessons had done wonders to Alanduin's health. Although he was never officially tutored in the art of magic, drawing power from his enemies seemed almost too simple. All it took was a bit of concentration. But he never would have thought of it himself, it took a Magister to figure it out for him. In his mind, it was simply making the most of prey. He had already grown accustomed to using the entrails of beasts in various ways, from sinews used as bowstrings, certain organs as food, the skin turned into furs and leather clothing. Drawing power was simply making good use of the beasts' spiritual energy as well. His skin had started to regain a healthy color, and strength once again filled his limbs. Once again, he could hold his head high in the capital. People greeted him again.

Ah, the capital. With newfound vigor in him, Alanduin could once again appreciate the majestic craftsmanship. It was amazing how quickly Silvermoon had recovered from the devastation. The Magisters had explained how the Prince had found new sources of power, and ways to store and use it. And the knowledge was indeed in much use. The new green crystals adorned many of the spires, including the royal Sunfury Spire. The rebuilt capital looked better than ever.

The rebuilding was not the only news that had contributed to Alanduin's good mood. At first, it was isolated reports that not all undead were either mindless or ravenous. He had travelled south to investigate these rumors. Not only were the rumors indeed true, but these.. Forsaken were actually helping in the eradication of the Scourge. It had taken a few days for Alanduin to gather enough courage to actually talk to one, but the tales he had heard were incredible. From what they told, the cursed human prince had actually attacked his own kingdom before marching into Quel'thalas. He had ended King Terenas' reign with his own hands. Not only that, the undead claimed that they were being led by the Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, who had organized a resistance after she was slain and reanimated at the battle of the Sunwell. A ranger that had given more than her life in the defense of the High Home? It sounded a bit too good, but the ambassadors sent to Lordaeron did confirm it. Quel'thalas had allies. Unfortunately, so did the Forsaken.

Sometimes it's not a good idea to share. Vile orcs, trolls and bullmen from beyond the sea had travelled to the High Home. All elves, including Alanduin were decreed to extend their hospitality to these beasts as well. Years, even centuries of war and now we're just supposed to let them walk in our beloved city? But it was the word of the Regent, and it could not be questioned. But perhaps he could be convinced to reconsider. Since ages past the Rangers had always been the first to spot threats to the High Home. Now that the Blood Knights had assumed responsibility for day-to-day defense of the land, the Rangers could again assume their role as the eyes and ears of the elven nation. If he could just gather some evidence of the mongrels' treachery, the Regent would see the wisdom in rescinding his order.

The first few investigations were fruitless. Appearing friendly in the dubious company of the beasts was becoming his second nature, but he could maintain the facade for only a few minutes at a time. The savagery of the mongrels was apparent, but a simple breach of public peace was not enough to kick them out. Not all of them, anyway. It had to be something more.. tangible. He needed to catch them in the act.

A few weeks later Alanduin received his first solid lead. The weather controller had malfunctioned. It was officially blamed on the savage night elves caught sneaking around, but that explanation seemed too simple for him. It would take some time for the controller to be repaired, so Alanduin walked the empty streets of Silvermoon in the rain, thinking on how he could connect the mongrels to sabotage. Deep within his thoughts, he failed to notice an armored raptor approaching quickly.

"Hey! Are you blind?", he snapped as the raptor almost ran him over.

The rider, dressed in blue from head to toe, did not respond. Two blue ears, adorned with earrings peeked from the edges of the cowl. Obviously a troll.

"I am talking to you, troll!"

The blueish raptor snarled at him, but the rider did not move.

"Are those shriveled ears just for show?", Alanduin taunted while walking around the raptor to get a good look on the mongrel. The raptor tried to grab his arm between the powerful jaws, but he was safely out of reach.

The rider was also wearing a veil in addition to the cowl, and the wet clothes were pressing on his.. her body. The female troll slowly extended her right hand horizontally to her side, and he could hear the female whisper a few unrecognizable words. Water dripping from the hand slowed, and then froze. More rain kept falling and freezing along the rapidly-forming icicle hanging from her hand. A witch, and a powerful one at that. The icicle was already almost as tall as Alanduin, and the troll seemed to have no problems holding her arm straight. Her red eyes, the only visible part of her, gazed straight through him. Leaving the bow at the inn seemed like a really bad idea now.

The witch opened her fist, letting the icicle shatter on the cobblestones. By the time Alanduin regained his composure, she was already long gone. The evidence of the threat was already melting away. He looked around, but he didn't see anyone who would be useful as a witness. If only he knew where the witch was going..

"Damn trolls", he muttered as he headed back to the inn.


Best laid plans of mice and elves..

Alanduin was a simple man.

He was drafted to the Rangers when the borders of Quel'thalas were threatened by orcs, but he was no marksman. Sure, he could hit an orc from a hundred yard's distance, but that was the bare minimum expected from his people. The others had younger, sharper eyes than him. War was not the proper business for someone of his age. Fortunately for him, his unit saw little combat. The few times he did see a living orc were from a safe distance. Still, the aftermaths and the horror stories were more than enough for him. After the battle of the Spire he received a honorable discharge from the Rangers, alongside a humble salary. Just barely enough to pay the carpenters to build a small cabin for him deep within Eversong.

Alanduin's retirement hasn't gone as he had hoped. The first winter was colder than he anticipated, but at least he didn't have to starve. While hitting a rabbit or a lynx was tougher than downing a lumbering orc, he eventually got the hang of it. When the spring finally arrived he had a nice stock of furs to sell. He bought some salt and other supplies and returned to his cabin. As far as he was concerned, the life of a hermit was more than enough for him.

Although Alanduin was living healthily, his health deteriorated during the winter. But since he got somewhat better during springtime, he didn't think much of it. Old age, he thought. But one winter it got worse, much worse. His insides ached constantly and his mouth felt like sandpaper. But there was no priest who knew of his predicament, and he was in no condition to travel through the blizzard back to Silvermoon. As the months progressed, so did his condition grow worse. Food did not sate his hunger, and his skin started losing it's color. He had always known he would eventually die, but.. not like this. Not like this!

Against all odds, Alanduin survived through the winter. His skin was as grey as ash and he was unnaturally thin, even for an elf. The cart he used to transport the furs felt heavy, although he knew there were less furs than before. The previous winters were good, so there should be enough money to see a priest. He would get himself fixed up, restock on supplies and be on his way again. Eventually, the walls of Silvermoon glinted on the horizon and the cart felt slightly lighter. It was good to see the sun again. Still, something was wrong. Alanduin did respectfully greet the passersby, but his greetings were never answered. Young people, no manners. Eventually, he arrived at the eastern gate.

The gate guards stood like they always did, as majestic as the statues that adorned the capital. But instead of a simple glance, this time the guards' eyes stayed locked at him.

"Greetings, gentlemen. Could a humble trapper enter the glorious capital to sell his wares?"


"I know I look less than presentable, but.."

Alanduin's explanation was cut off when the guards both took a single step towards him, moving their shields in front of their faces and readying their glaives.

"Look! I know I'm sick, but.."

"At least you are not delusional, Wretched."
"Is he salvageable?"

"Salvageable? I know this looks bad, but the first thing I'm planning to do is to see a priest to be cured!"

"The Magisters will decide your fate. Or us, should you give us an excuse to do so."

"I will not raise my hand against the defenders of the High Home."

"A pity. Now, come on."

The guards escorted him inside and straight into the prison. Whenever he tried to look around, the guards prodded him. Why was he being treated as the enemy? He had seen the city hundreds of times. He was no spy.

It did not take long for them to reach the holding cells. Alanduin's eyes took a minute to adjust themselves to the nonexistant light, but when he looked around, he realized that the other prisoners shared his ailment. This was not isolated. It was an epidemic! All of them shared the ashen grey skin color, but many had already lost that Elven posture and hunched like trolls and other beasts. And some of them had something glowy growing from them.

A few days passed. Some of the fellow inmates were not taking their incarceration well, and were trying to test the strength of the bars with no success. Alanduin had taken the opportunity to get a bit of much-needed rest. Still, he felt hungry. The guards did give them food, but it had no flavor either. Like eating leather. His meal was interrupted by sounds of the outer door being opened. A young male in red flowing robes and a staff entered the cellblock. He gently tapped the base of his staff against the stone floor and the headpiece, the regal golden eagle, started to shine. He took out a piece of scroll, a bottle of ink and a quill from a shelf next to the jailor's post. He spoke a few words and the scroll rolled itself open and the quill dip itself to the bottle of ink. He slowly walked towards the cells, and the writing implements floated behind him.

The magister pointed his staff towards the first prisoner, illuminating him better.


The prisoner slumped down in defeat. Alanduin heard the quill scribbling on the scroll. The magister walked to the next cell.


Eventually, the magister reached Alanduin. The magister pointed his staff towards him.


Maybe what? What was this illness? Did he have a cure? Questions raced in Alanduin's mind. The Magister spoke a few words and the scroll rolled itself up, hovering slowly to his hand.

"This, this and.. this. Arrange for their transport."

The Magister handed the scroll to the jailor. The bottle of ink hovered down to his desk and the quill lowered itself down to the jailor's hand. The jailor dipped the tip into the ink and signed the scroll. He folded the scroll and dipped a small amount of wax to the seam. The Magister flattened the wax with his ring, completing the seal. It was done. Alanduin felt optimism take over him. Perhaps this day would end well.

This time the guards were as courteous as expected from the Royal Guard. A carriage, drawn by one of the purebred hawkstriders waited outside. The Magister slowly lifted himself from the ground and sat on the front seat. The three climbed on. The Magister spoke a few words and the bird pulled the carriage into motion. This time there was no guard to stop Alanduin from looking around. The citadel looked mostly the same as before, but he did not remember seeing the large green gemstones before. As they passed the eastern gate, he noticed that his cart was no longer there. The bird steered the carriage along the western road.

"Citizen Windwalker, your donation to the Silvermoon Reconstruction Fund was most appreciated.", the Magister spoke as he turned towards Alanduin.
"Oh, the contents of my cart? Anything to serve, but.. what reconstruction?"
"You'll see shortly. I understood you have been away from the capital for a while?"
"Yes, but.."
"A very wise decision in retrospect. Look."

Alanduin could not believe his eyes. A long strip of the woods had been.. burned or something, and the land was as black and sickly. The black path ended on a collapsed piece of the outer wall, an another incredible sight. Never before had an enemy reached the capital itself, let alone breach the walls themselves.

"It is called the Dead Scar. It was a memento from the thrice-cursed human prince."
"There was a war against the humans?"
"And not just any war. Look to the left."

Undead? Here?

"But how.."
"They are called the Scourge. All will be explained soon."

Questions filled Alanduin's mind again. The orcs had used the foul arts of necromancy before, but humans as well?

The western gate slowly moved into view, and the bird pulled the cart towards it. As they entered the western gate, the magister spoke up again.

"Not all of the destruction was caused by the war. Prince Arthas' goal was our beloved Sunwell, and his foul deeds had reprecussions beyond our anticipations. The loss was devastating in more ways than one. Not all of our people could stand it. You too felt the loss, but simply couldn't know what caused it. Too many were simply driven mad."

The ruins around the road underscored the magister's words with great effect. Broken sentries still patrolled the other roads, and Alanduin saw a couple of these.. Wretched fighting over a single orb of mana. The smaller one yanked the orb towards him. The taller lunged forward and grabbed the other's throat. They lost their balance and tumbled down the small incline together. The taller ended up on the top, but did not release his grip. Alanduin had to look away.

"Will that happen to me as well?"
"Hopefully not. That would mean that I was wrong about you. Do you have the will to resist?"
"I had sworn to never raise my hand against the High Home. That oath binds me now stronger than before."
"Good. We're almost there."

The carriage passed through the northwestern gate, towards the Sunstrider Isle.

"On the hour of our greatest need, His Majesty Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider sent Grand Magister Rommath back to us, armed with power, hope and knowledge to sate our hunger and to
rebuild our city. And here, on his royal estate, you three will learn how to sate your hunger and regain your strength and pride.

The bird slowed down and finally stopped. Armed with more questions than answers, Alanduin climbed off and walked towards the main building.


Finally, a canonical source for Warcraft 2

WoW Insider reports that Warcraft 2 is being turned into a novel. While the events are familiar to many Warcraft fans via the games themselves, there was always a slight problem when using the games as a lore source.

Unlike in Starcraft and Warcraft 3, the human and orc campaigns in both Warcraft 1 and 2 not only intersect, they sometimes directly contradict each other. For example, the orc campaign in Warcraft 2 ends with the Horde sieging Lordaeron and killing King Terenas Menethil II long before his son could even lift a sword. Of course, the canonical ending for the Second War was the Alliance one, where Anduin Lothar is slain at the base of Blackrock Mountain and Turalyon leads the troops to victory.

Turning the events into a novel brings needed consistency to a phase in the history of Azeroth that direly needed it.

Now, if someone would just turn it into an e-book..


The Final Twilight

Physically Shalkis stood on top of Oshu'gun, but her thoughts wandered elsewhere. In her mind, she was on a verdant hilltop in a faraway land, looking towards the sunrise and the city just beneath it. The majestic golden eagles atop the spires glittered in the morning light. A city of crimson and gold. Barely visible between the buildings, small figures scurried along the narrow streets.

The sound of approaching wyverns interrupted her thoughts. The sun was blocked by shapes of two wyverns. The beasts landed gently on the smooth crystal and let their riders dismount. A hooded figure accompanied by a bulky tauren.



Shalkis told the hooded figure of Oshu'gun, of the unwilling pilgrims and the being who called them. In turn, he told Shalkis of his master and his goals. With the formalities out of the way, it was time to make the proposal. The hooded figure pondered it for a while, but eventually seemed to agree. But then his tone changed from merely brooding to adamant. He turned to his companion and spoke a few words. The tauren was enthusiastic to obey. He took a few steps and then broke into a stride. With a smile on his face, he fell. Something resembling a grin appeared on the hooded figure's face. Hers was hidden behind a veil. The figure called for his wyvern, climbed on top of it and rode away.

Shalkis' thoughts returned to the hilltop. Morning had turned into day, and day into evening. The spires bathed in the colors of a setting sun. The figures stopped, as if they had heard something. Shalkis knew what it was. They turned towards the center of the city and started walking. She let her gaze wander away from the city. Groups of people had started to emerge from the settlements surrounding the capital. It had started. They all slowly moved towards the city. She felt the urge to join them. But.. not yet. Under her veil, she smiled. It would indeed be glorious.


Fun with Spellsteal

Fun with Spellsteal
Fun with Spellsteal,
originally uploaded by Shalkis.
An observant mage can have a life-altering experience with Spellsteal.

No questable netherdrakes yet

Apparently the Netherdrake questline is indeed incomplete. Drysc confirmed this, so the Arena will be the only way to get a Netherdrake until the next content patch.


The Incredible Shrinking World

Tobold has noticed that the effective size of the world has gone down. Because many high-level characters have little or no reason to go back to Azeroth, the old continents seem quite deserted. This is not a new phenomenon per se.

I started my current character on a brand-new server, so most of the time I spent the time with the majority of the population in the same zones. When a server matures, the majority of the population flocks to the high-level zones and capitals, which leaves the mid-level zones relatively empty. When the server matures further, the outside world quiets down when the majority spends their evenings in instances. The same thing is now happening with Outland.

However, there is one significant difference between the level distribution of Azeroth zones and Outland zones. On Azeroth, the high-level zones are spread all around the world. Silithus and Winterspring. Eastern Plaguelands and Burning Steppes. In addition, the low-level zones were always close to the capital cities, where high-level players spent their idle time. This meant that high-level players had to travel across several mid-level and low-level zones to reach the high-level zones. On Outland, all of the zones qualify as high-level zones, and they are right next to each other. Shattrath, the new de facto capital is there as well. A high-level player has little reason to go back to low-level zones, even to just pass through. While the theoretical land mass of the game has increased, less of it is put into use. For a high-level player, the World of Warcraft is practically composed of only Outland.

This is an another example of "lost content". Blizzard is in essence depreciating their own game, piece by piece. I gladly admit that the new zones and capitals are indeed much better than the old ones and there's lots of things you can do in them. However, there is a danger that Blizzard is setting itself up for a vicious circle. If the amount of content that interests the majority of players keeps getting smaller and smaller every expansion, there will be more and more pressure on Blizzard to keep making new content at a faster pace. They can't keep building new stuff faster than the old keeps crumbling from under them. Content is always consumed faster than it's created.

To prevent the vicious circle Blizzard needs to ensure that old content stays relevant even when the game world is expanded with new continents (Northrend, South Seas) or entire worlds (the Eredar homeworld Argus). One way to do this is to update old content while you keep making new. Opening Caverns of Time and Karazhan is a start, but there's still a lot of unfinished business back on Azeroth. Enabling heroic mode for old dungeons could help a bit. Filling out unused zones in Azeroth would be better. I hope I'll someday be able to see what lies east of Badlands, sail to Zandalar Isle or discover whether an Old God really sleeps in Tirisfal..