Archive for December, 2008

calliI have a new hat!  Tell me you like my new hat!

Seriously, we’ve been pretty lucky with drops from 25 man Kel’thuzad.  Well..  as long as you’re a Rogue, Mage, Druid or Deathknight.  In the whole of Construct Wing and Frostwyrm Lair we only saw Vanquisher drops tonight, which was good news for me anyway, as it means I finally got to junk that rubbish priest-hat I’ve been wearing for a month and upgrade to the very sexy Valorous Frostfire Circlet.  I finally have that 4-piece set bonus and 298% critical damage bonus on Frostfire Bolts.  There’s a word I’m looking for here, and I believe it’s “woot!”

But that’s not all.  Heroic Sartharion also decided I should be the winner of his bag of spoils this week, which meant I earned Emblem of Valour number 61, and 60 buys you the Valorous Frostfire Shoulderpads, as modelled by the lovely Calli here.  That’s me, yes.  Modesty is not a virtue I’m famous for.

Is it just me or does the Frostfire set not look as ridiculous as I remember it from level 60 Naxx?

And now, sports news.  Malygos 0, Raid 1.  Our first kill!  Which is ironic because despite having the quest for it I’ve still not killed him in 10 man mode yet.   Hopefully next week we’ll get it done so I can get even more phat lewt in the form of a new necklace from the quest reward!

GIEF!

Galadan’s been busy too, he’s now 78, fresh from slaughtering all the leaders of the horde in a quick city boss raid we organised over the weekend.  We tried to do this at 70 and let’s just say that when your spells are missing a boss 85% of the time even when you’re hitcapped at level 70, it’s pretty big hint that you should either come back at 80 or leave the mages and warlocks at home.  However, this being the season of goodwill, we raided Silvermoon as GNOMES!  Because no-one likes a Fruit Elf boss, and if you must kill him, do it in as humiliating a way as possible.

Death by Gnome.

Death by Gnome.

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avatar2This one’s for the Mages out there.  And yes, it’s a QQ.  Well of course it is, we’re mages.  Poke us hard enough with a stick and QQ floods out.

Wait a second, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  Let’s back up a bit and talk about something great that makes being a Mage good after the horror that was the Burning Crusade.  Frostfire Bolt, I’m talking about you.

I love my Frostfire Bolt.  I suspected that it was going to be good, but I had no idea just how good.  I can remember being all excited about getting it at level 75 and not really having any clue which way to spec for it while I was at the trainer.  Since I was levelling I had a heavy Frost build, and it works quite nicely with Frost, but I respecced to get some points in Fire for Ignite and was pleased with the damage boost for a measly 10 points.  Frosties crit a LOT while grinding.  Between Frostbite procs, Brain Freezes etc there was ample opportunity to get a FF Bolt off with an almost guaranteed crit and cackle madly as a mob burned to death from the Ignite damage while rooted helplessly.  It had a longer cast time than Frostbolt, sure, but it still had the 60% snare and benefited from all the extra snare talents in the Frost tree, so I was pretty happy.

Well one day, not long after, I hit level 80 and jumped straight into Heroics with the same old FF/Frost build.  It worked well enough, but I started to get a bit frustrated with the casting time on mobs that we weren’t just AoEing down.  Often they’d be dead before I could finish a second or third cast.  Still…  not a big deal.  It’s not like we were coming close to wiping on anything, so there was no pressing need for me to respec, and the Frost build made doing quests a walk in the park.  But all the same, that 3 sec casting time on FF Bolt (before haste) was a bit of a pain.  So one day, I thought I’d give Arcane/Fire a try, see how it worked out for raiding and grinding.  The faster casting fireballs would help a lot on trash, I reasoned, and I’d probably be able to blow anything away before it reached me while questing.  And yeah, it wasn’t a bad build.  I was obviously a whole lot more fragile then before, but it worked okay.  And then something spectacular happened.

While doing a quest in Zul’Drak, a Frostfire Bolt one-shotted a mob for 10k damage.

Hang on a second!  HOW MUCH??  Ten thousand damage in one shot.  It had critted obviously, but holy moley…  10 THOUSAND damage?  And bear in mind that if the mob had lived it would still have burned for another 4000 damage from the Ignite tick, too!  So, 14k damage from one cast?  This needs some investigation!  By now most of you are probably nodding wisely, wondering how it took this dumbass mage so long to discover just how awesome Frostfire Bolt can be with the right spec.  Euripedes over at Critical QQ has posted a comprehensive talent guide since, which you should definitely look at if you’re levelling a mage, but at the time for me, as I pored over the talent tree with a fine toothcomb, the potential that lay in the Fire and Frost tree for FF Bolt properly specced suddenly dawned on me.

In a nutshell, here is my current talent tree.  With that build and my current gear, FF Bolts crit in raids for upwards of 12,000 damage.  They get 6% extra damage from Piercing Ice, 100% critical damage bonus from Ice Shards, 3% extra damage from Playing With Fire and another 50% critical damage bonus from Burnout.  Taking Ignite into account, that’s 290% increased critical damage.  Another 3% critical damage bonus from my Metagem, and with one more piece of Tier 7, I’ll get another 5% critical damage bonus.  So, 298% critical damage bonus.  I’ve seen WWS parses of Fire mages doing 5000 dps in raids with this talent build and Frostfire Bolt.

Ouch.

But here comes the QQ.

resized_mage-keyboard

In order to make Frostfire Bolt work properly, you need to crit.  You need to crit a LOT.  When FF Bolt doesn’t crit, the damage it does can best be described as “meh”.  Frankly, you’d be better off casting Fireballs.  But when they do crit, they hit so hard that the ghost of whatever you hit even takes damage.  And this is where the problem lies.  Frostfire Mage itemisation in Wrath sucks.  I mean it really, really, REALLY sucks.  You need gear with masses of crit, hit and spellpower.  Once you’re hit capped you just need more crit and more spellpower, and it’s very easy to get hitcapped.  Now there IS gear in raids with lots of hit and crit, but the problem is, it’s all loaded with spirit or mana per 5, which is absolute junk for a Frostfire mage.

Take a look at the Heroic badge vendor gear and see if you can find one item of caster gear that doesn’t have spirit/mp5 on it.  I’ll wait.  Actually don’t bother because there isn’t any.  Let’s take a look at the 10 man drops in Naxxramas.  We have the following items that are actually useful for us:

Anub’rekhan:  Nil
Grand Widow Faerlina: Grieving Spellblade
Maexxna: Embrace of the Spider
Patchwerk: Blade of Dormant Memories
Grobbulus: Nil
Gluth: Nil
Thaddius: Nil
Noth:  Ring of the Fated
Heigan: Nil
Loatheb: Nil
Razuvious: Nil
Gothik: Signet of the Malevolent
The Four Horsemen: Gown of Blaumeaux
Sapphiron: Nil
Kel’thuzad: Nil

Yes, there is other loot that drops in 10 man Naxx that would doubtless be an upgrade for you, but it’s all got spirit or mana per 5 on it, so it’s wasting item budget on stats that are all but worthless to you.  Those mages I mentioned on the WWS parse doing 5k dps?  They weren’t wearing any of it.  Perhaps things are better in 25 man Naxx?  Not really, no.

Anub’rekhan:  Gemmed Wand of the Nerubians
Grand Widow Faerlina: Nil
Maexxna: Nil
Patchwerk: Nil
Grobbulus: Nil
Gluth: Mantle of the Corrupted
Thaddius: Cincture of Polarity
Noth:  Nil
Heigan: Dying Curse
Loatheb: Nil
Razuvious: Nil
Gothik: Life and Death
The Four Horsemen: Nil
Sapphiron: Nil
Kel’thuzad: The Turning Tide

Okay, that’s quite spectacularly crappy itemisation.  Perhaps we can make it up with Tier 7 gear?  No, can’t do that either.  Of the five pieces available, and you need four for a solid Frostfire build, two come loaded with spirit, so either way you’re getting gear with spirit on it.  Robes and hat have spirit, the rest actually have useful stats.  We may as well face the fact that Blizzard are determined to gimp mages by forcing us to equip gear that has stats which are completely useless for our strongest spec.   Of course they didn’t do it on purpose, it’s a direct result of the loot homogenisation process that they announced prior to Wrath shipping.   Enhancement Shamans are no longer desperate to find mail armour with Strength on it because their class mechanics were tweaked to make Agility more valuable, hence they now compete for the same gear that Hunters look for.  Druid itemisation has had (and is still undergoing) similar streamlining to make Rogue gear just as attractive.  Warlocks actually have a use for Spirit now, Priest always have, and Arcane Mages just love it.   So that’s all the cloth classes covered with the same gear itemisation, right?

WRONG!

Fire and Frost mages do not need spirit on their gear.  We didn’t in vanilla WoW, we didn’t in The Burning Crusade and we still don’t now.  Okay, so you can’t afford to make a complete seperate loot table purely to satisfy the itemisation needs of two mage specs, I get that, I really do.  But the alternatives are keep giving us gear that limits our potential or make spirit a useful stat for all mages, not just Arcane.

Really, it’s been four years already!  I’ll gear for spirit if you make it useful for me to do so.  “But spirit IS useful for mages!” I hear you cry.  “You get mana regen from it!”  Well actually, while I have Molten Armour up, for that extra 3% crit I mentioned earlier that was so crucial to Frostfire Mages, I have exactly 0 mana regen from all that spirit on my gear.  Which is why it’s a useless stat.  Yes, useless.  Not “not very good”, it’s useless.  It has NO use.

In a 25 man raid with all the replenishment buffs flying around, my mana gems, runic mana potions and evocation I do not run out of mana.  I barely even need to Evocate, and this is with Molten Armour up.  The spirit on my gear is USELESS.

USELESS!

Please for the love of all that’s holy, either make it useful or stop putting it on my gear!  It’s been four years now, Blizzard!  DO something, pretty please?  Euripedes over at Critical QQ has made some excellent suggestions on how to fix this mess in his posts here, here, here and here.  I highly recommend them.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane.  Cast your minds back a year to when Burning Crusade had just been released and we’d just levelled our way up to 70 and were starting our 5 man dungeon runs.  And let’s not forget that we had to do 5 man dungeons to even get access to heroics since you needed Revered reputation with the associated faction to even unlock Heroic mode.  Blackheart the Inciter in the Shadow Labyrinth was a nightmare boss for most with his mass mind-control ability.  The entire Shattered Halls instance was universally despised by every healer who was forced to run it over and over again to grind the necessary Honour Hold reputation for the healing head enchant.  The ironic part was that in order to unlock Heroic mode for the other Hellfire Citadel instances you needed the same reputation level that gave you the head enchant anyway.

Time for Fun!  NOT!

Time for Fun! NOT!

Let’s talk about those heroic instances while we’re on the subject.  They were hard.  Our first heroic group posted an after-action report in our guild forum after running Heroic Steamvaults.  Some of the trash was harder than normal mode bosses.  These were guys wearing full level 70 dungeon blue sets, very experienced raiders.

Let’s talk about Karazhan.  Remember that every single person in a Karazahn raid had to work their way through the attunement process to get the key back then, and there was no-one in Tier 6 gear to hold their hands while they did it.  Karazhan itself was another brick wall difficulty curve.  There were still guilds working on Kara as progression content when Wrath of the Lich King went live.  Gruul’s Lair?  We poked our noses in there once shortly after doing a few Kara raids and the tanks were getting two-shotted by the trash.  It scared us away from Gruul and Magtheridon so badly we probably lost two months of raid progression due to being over-cautious in gearing up from Kara before we went back!

And then there were the attunement requirements for Serpentshrine Cavern and The Eye that meant you had to keep running the same heroics/instances over and over to get people the necessary access to the 25 man raid content the rest of your guild was doing.  At least Gruul and Magtheridon were relatively quick to do at that stage, but if you were in Mount Hyjal and Black Temple and recruited another non-attuned raider you had to do entire clears of Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep before your new raiders could even get their feet in the doors of Hyjal or Black Temple.  Let’s also not forget that Vashj (to a lesser extent) and Kael’thas were rock hard raid bosses! I lost count of the number of guilds who broke apart under the strain of trying to get Kael’thas Sunstrider down.  There was a very good reason that even after the various nerfs and attunement removals you’d see people recruiting with messages along the lines of “Recruiting for xxx raiding guild, we’re 4/5 SSC and 3/4 TK, first 3 in BT and MH down”.

All of which brings us to today.  And people are complaining that Naxxramas is too easy?  We have very short memories!  Let’s just put all of this into perspective, shall we?

Following the various nerfs to raid content that Blizzard implemented, as well as the seriously good badge loot that would see guilds who never progressed past Kara decked out in Black Temple-equivalent gear, we were pretty much prepared for anything, despite what Illidan would have you believe.  Then there was the great pre-expansion nerf that would see raids gathering up and AoE’ing down trash that would previously have two-shotted any tank foolish enough to not go for mass mitigation tactics rather than balls-out threat generation.  Brutallus was being dropped with half of his enrage timer left.  People were gearing up way in excess of their progression or (and let’s be honest with ourselves here) skill levels, but it didn’t really matter because with the gear they were wearing and the various content nerfs, you could get away with zerging just about anything.

So now we’re in Wrath of the Lich King and we’ve a large percentage of the player base wearing gear that they’re never going to replace until after they hit the late level 70s at least.  You hit those early Northrend dungeons and you just blitz through them.  Marking targets for crown control?  That’s for pussies!  Gather them up and AoE them down!  Now you’ve hit level 80 and you don’t bother with normal mode anymore, it’s straight into Heroics to pick up some level 80 epic loot!  I know many players who have never seen the Occulus, Halls of Lightning or Utgarde Pinnacle except in Heroic mode.  And to a large extent, in my experience at least, you can still get away with the same tactics.  No need to gear up from running normal mode level 80 instances, get straight into heroics and zerg your way through!

What’s next?  Naxxramas! This place is being PuGged a month after the expansion went live.  I can remember the trash packs in level 60 Naxxramas .  They were absolutely brutal.  If you tried to AoE them down you’d be one very dead player in extremely short order.  But in level 80 Naxxramas, with the changes to tank threat generation it’s a different matter entirely.  In fact the only thing that holds me back on trash in Naxx now is the size of my mana pool.

We’ve gotten sloppy.  We’ve forgotten how to mark targets for crowd control and seperate out the most dangerous mobs for special treatment.  And we’ve forgotten how to do it because for the most part we don’t need to.  There are no “most dangerous” mobs.  Trash that would one-shot anyone who got too close previously and had to be kited now gets tanked.  Raid content in Wrath of the Lich King is just one big loot pinata, we smack it as hard as we can and wait to see what loot drops out.

So people are zerging their way through 10 man Naxxramas, getting bored with it within two weeks, then zerging their way through 25 man Naxxramas and finding it not much harder than the 10 man versions.  We’re all having some serious fun, but there’s a little voice in the back of our heads that’s wondering where the challenge is.   And after a month in Naxx when you’re clearing the place on heroic mode in a night and half and wondering what to do with the rest of your raid nights, that little voice is getting louder and louder.  I’ve heard it said that the solution to this is to do the same raids but with one hand tied behind your back, for the achievements.  For example, doing the whole of Naxxramas with 8 or less in your raid.  Now call me a bluff old traditionalist, but if I’m going to do a 10 man raid with 8 people I want slightly more reason to do it than another 10 lousy achievement points.  Better loot?  Sure.  Another 10 meaningless epeen points?  No thanks.  So where IS the challenge in Wrath raiding content?

Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for thou art crunchy and go well with ketchup.

Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for thou art crunchy and go well with ketchup.

One word: Malygos.

This guy is badass.  He’s a proper raid boss in every sense of the word.  He’s not a brick wall-learning curve like M’uru was.  He’s not as remorselessly unforgiving of the slightest error as the Eredar Twins were, but he’s a Boss fight like the way we remember them, make no mistake of that.  You will not drop this guy on heroic mode the same night you first meet him.  You probably won’t drop him in 10 man mode the first night you meet him either.  You cannot zerg him.  He hits like an armoured train.  He will put pressure on your healers.  He will make your dps wake up as they struggle to beat his enrage timer and do the correct dps in the right place to the right target at the right time.  Your tank will worry about his survival again.  He’s not impossible, far from it.  He’s just a straightforward badass raid boss like the ones we used to know and love who requires a raid who can identify their arse from their elbow and he absolutely in no terms is going to go down to a PuG zerg.  He’s the kind of boss most of us have forgotten how to do.

How refreshing!  More like this please… oh wait.  That’s it??  Yep, I’m afraid he’s the end of current raid content in Wrath.  I’m hoping that he marks a change of pace in raid design however.  It’s likely that Blizzard designed the intial Wrath content as a big “Sorry for Burning Crusade being so hard” Christmas present.  Here are some loot pinatas for you to batter while we prep the serious stuff for a future patch, go ahead and have a laugh and gear up for the good stuff to come later.

I hope so.  I mean, I like chocolate and candy as much as the next person, but too much can leave you feeling a little sick before long.  Bring on Ulduar please!

So I managed to get Galadan to level 76 this week, which was nice, and did it while specced Holy, too.  No, do not adjust your sets, you heard me right the first time.  I’m levelling a Holy Paladin, not a Paladin who’s going to spec back to Holy when he hits 80.  He was Holy at 70, he’s Holy now and he’ll be so Holy at 80 it’s going to hurt your eyes to look at him.  “But Calli” you cry, “For the Love of the Light, WHY??”  Good question.

I'm so pretty, oh so pretty...

I'm so pretty, oh so pretty...

I actually ground out Shattered Sun Offensive reputation to Exalted on Galadan (and Calli, and Shinano) while specced Holy, so I do have some experience of it.  This was back in the bad old days when Holy Shock had something like a two month cooldown and Divine Plea was only a glint in Ghostcrawler’s eye.  I also had a very decent tanking set gathering dust in the bank and a reasonable Retribution set, but my experiments with LOLret and the Tankadin er..  didn’t go well.

I just didn’t “get it”.

Granted, this was before the changes in patch 3.0, but having decided that I wanted to get the Exalted Shattered Sun alchemist trinket, I immediately respecced Retribution, gemmed and enchanted all that dps plate that had been sitting in the bank and took the Isle of Quel’danas by storm!

Except that’s not quite how it worked out.  After 10 minutes or so of throwing up seals, judging and auto-attacking, I felt that I was missing something pretty fundamental, so I whispered one of the guild Ret Pallies and asked if I was doing anything wrong.

Me:  Hi, I’ve specced Ret to grind out some reputation, but I think I must be doing something wrong.
Him:  You’re throwing up Seal of Command and judging it every time it’s up, right?
Me: Yep.
Him:  Ok, good.
Me:  …..
Him: Anything else?
Me:  You mean that’s IT?
Him: Well you should try to time your Judgements to coincide with Hammer of LOL of course.  And use Crusader Strike.
Me:  I see.  Well, obviously.  Thanks.

Believe it or not, people used to do this for fun.  Anyway, after maybe another 10 minutes of this pointlessness, with massive chunks of downtime between each kill to replenish lost health and mana, I returned to Ironforge, vendored my Ret gear and respecced back to Holy. Yes, it took longer to kill anything, but I didn’t spend any time sitting on my ass waiting for health and mana bars to creep back up, I was virtually unkillable and I knew when a mob was likely to die on me, because I wasn’t at the mercy of the random number generator waiting for crits to happen.

It’s safe to say I just didn’t get Retribution at all back then.

So, the day of Wrath arrives and I’ve got a pretty good Holy plate set, mostly Karazahn level, rounded out with some of the 100 badge pieces.  I’ve also got a great plate tanking set gathering dust in the bank and really like the idea of gathering up 7 or 8 mobs and watching them kill themselves on me while I hide behind my massive shield and occasionaly poke my sword out to have a quick stab at them.  So it’s Protection for me, baby, YEAH!

Well this lasted about half an hour, too.  My stats were roughly 15000 health, 2 mana.  Yes, I could gather up half a dozen mobs and take them all down at once, yes it was like being a plate armoured Frost Mage, but there were a couple of issues with this play style.
1.  This was Howling Fjord on Wrath release.  You were lucky to find one mob not being molested by half a dozen other players, let alone half a dozen.
2.  Mana pool from full to empty so quickly you’d make an Arcane Mage look conservative.

One quick return trip to Ironforge to vendor a Prot set and respec back to Holy later, and I’m back in Howling Fjord prepared to level as Holy again.  Except this time, things are slightly different.  Holy Shock now only has a 6 second cooldown.  Prior to 3.0, whatever seal I threw up was what was going to be Judged too, whether I liked it or not.  Post 3.0 I can throw up Seal of Righteousness and Judge Light to heal myself from melee hits.  My health and mana bars barely moved at level 70 with ilevel 141 gear.  As I gained levels and new ranks of old spells, I started to notice my mana bar was actually starting to drop alarmingly.  In one multimob fight I think it may even have gotten as low as 75%!!!  And it was at roughly this point that Blizzard decided to give me Divine Plea.  Problem solved!

It’s ironic that the tools Blizzard gave to Holy Paladins to aid them with solo healing groups, (reduced Holy Shock cooldown, Divine Plea etc) don’t actually do a massive amount for Pallies who are healing, but by the Sacred Jockstrap of Robert E. Howard, they are GREAT for levelling and grinding!

The Sacred Jockstrap of Robert E.  Howard

The Sacred Jockstrap of Robert E. Howard

I realise at this stage of the game I’m probably only talking to people who have Pally alts, but the advice is the same.  If you’ve played at 70 as Ret, by all means stay Ret.  It doesn’t actually suck anymore.  If you played Prot, same advice applies.  If on the other hand you’re a healadin and are looking at the steep climb to 80 with growing apprehension, fear not!  Holy dps IS a viable alternative, no need at all to throw away your healing gear until you hit 80.

And on the bright side, when you’re asked to heal for Azjol Nerub you’ll actually be capable of doing it.

Laydeez and gentlemen!  Allow me to introduce you to Sithica, level sixty-something Deathknight and the latest addition to my attempt to get my very own 10 man raid on one account.  Sithica, say hello to the nice readers.

Hi, I thirst for souls.  Just so you know.

Hi, I thirst for souls. Just so you know.

Well that’s nice.  What’s also nice is the whole Deathknight starting experience.  You’ve probably heard about how awesome the whole thing is from various other sources but if it’s worth saying once it’s worth saying a thousand times: If you’ve not taken the opportunity yet and you have an existing level 70 character, go start a Deathknight now.  Even if you don’t plan on levelling it all the way to 80, go start a Deathknight today.  The couple of hours it takes to get your DK from 56 to 58 and finally let him or her loose in the world outside are some of the best, intelligently scripted and well-designed hours you’re ever going to play in WoW.  And Tirion Fordring’s in there, and he’s the most awesome npc in the history of everything.  Fact.  He’s the only paladin who can even wear pink and still look badass.

I’m So Pretty!
Going slightly off-topic here, but Tirion Fordring’s questline in vanilla WoW was right up there with the Onyxia questline for me.  Sure, there were no 40 man raids waiting for you at the end of it all, but it was epic in scale and had far more emotional impact.  By a happy coincidence, the ending, which I should remind you was written and scripted 4 years ago, sets him up very nicely indeed for becoming the badass scourge asskicker he is in Rash of the Itch King.  If you never did his quests, you missed out.  I’m not even sure you still can, given that he’s kind of in Northrend now, kicking Arthas/Nerzhul’s big scaley butt.

Your Head Would Look Good on a Stick
Ok, back on topic.  Deathknight starting quests.  Make no mistake about this, Deathknights are not nice people.  Within the first half hour you’ll be executing childhood friends who are now prisoners of the Scourge, slaughtering screaming civilians and collecting human skulls to make pie.  Or soup.  Or something nasty anyway.  What I found most impressive, beyond the tight scripting and plotting, was the use of Blizzard’s new technology, something they call “phasing”.

Hi, Remember Me?
Before we go any further, how many times have you completed some long and impressive quest line, killed the bad guy, saved the town and got the girl (or boy, or goat, whatever floats your boat, I’m not judging anyone) only to pass by two weeks later and have everything look and react as if you were never there?  Pretty much all the time.  That’s the nature of life in an MMO where everyone and anyone can do the same quests you do.  Well, until now.  Phasing changes the world around you the further into a questline you go, but the clever part is, it only changes it for you.  Everyone else sees the same normal everyday stuff unless they take the quest too.  In the Deathknight starter zone, the further your pillaging and killing goes, the more of the world changes to show your destruction, but for other new Deathknights who’ve just started the quests, well they still see pleasant fields and farmhouses, not the burned out wreckage you see.  More importantly, they don’t see the new quest npcs you see!

Perhaps the best example of this in the world at large is the Wrathgate questline.  I’m not going to spoil it here for anyone who hasn’t done it yet, but the Wrathgate in Dragonblight is forever changed by YOUR actions in the world, and the consequences of that questline are highly visible (and audible) to you every time you pass within range of it.  Anyone else who hasn’t done the quest yet just sees the same old Wrathgate as everyone else.  Blizzard have been extremely clever with this technology, they’ve used it to make the world change around you according to your actions, while as far as anyone else’s perceptions are concerned, it’s still the same old same old.

More examples.  Once you being questing in Icecrown you get a quest to push further into the Lich King’s territory and capture a position from where the Argent Crusade can mount further attacks.  When you get there, the place is under scourge control and and you fight a battle to take over.  You return to Tirion Fordring to report your success, and he sends you back to the new outpost to plan further attacks.  When you get there, it’s now an Argent Crusade position, with new quest npcs and a flightmaster.  Anyone who’s not done the quest only sees the old scourge-controlled position, no flightmaster, no friendly npcs.

The Ebon Blade quartermaster and stronghold doesn’t even exist until you do a similar series of quests in Icecrown.  The Sons of Hodir stronghold in Dun Niffelem has no war trophies until you capture and deliver them, and unlike Onyxia or Magtheridon’s heads on display outside Stormwind or Honour Hold, they stay visible every time you visit.  Remember the Onyxia questline where Marshal Windsor dies in Stormwind Keep, yet he’s still sitting in the cells in Blackrock Depths on each and every subsequent visit to that dungeon?  That sort of immersion-destroying experience need never happen again with phasing.  If you change something, it now stays changed.  Permanently.

We Have The Technology
There’s some seriously clever technology going on here, or it seems that way to a Luddite like me.  I’m not really interested in how it’s done, though.  I’m just happy to know that if I complete some long and epic questline that by rights should change the world that we all know and love, it stays changed as far as I’m concerned, and the npcs involved don’t look at me like I’m some noob fresh off the boat from Stormwind two minutes after I hand in the quest.

Thanks, I’m Here All Week
And in completely unrelated news, those nice dragons liked me so much this week they gave me a new ride.  Red ones go faster.  Fact.

Red ones go faster.

Red ones go faster.