How has Your Overwatch Experience Been?

How has Your Overwatch Experience Been?

It’s been a few weeks since Overwatch came out. I’ve logged something like 50 hours total since release and it’s been a blast. I didn’t go too crazy on it during the beta because I didn’t want to burn myself out. Have to say though, the game is infinitely more fun when playing with friends as opposed to hitting the solo queue on your own. This is especially true if you happen to be playing alongside players willing to switch to heroes that work well in given situations.

Currently, my hero pool is bolstered by Zarya, Pharah, 76, and Symmetra. You might remember that Lucio was my bread and butter during the beta streams on Blizzard Watch, but I’ve switched over to a more offensive, DPS role.

Why Zarya?

zarya

Those are my stats on my Master Overwatch profile (which should absolutely be taken with a grain of salt). That being said, I’m sure there’s some similarity between that and my official stats on Overwatch. After almost 200 games, it looks like my matches on Zarya have stabilized to an approximately 55% win rate which is what the devs are aiming for (something between 45 to 55%).

Speaking of winrates, Symmetra’s just a beast on defense with a seemingly unsustainable 78% (27 games total) and Soldier 76 right behind at almost 70% (35 games total).

A note on stats

I love tracking my records as much as the next guy because they can paint a picture about your strengths and weaknesses. Without numbers, you can’t measure yourself improving. While many out there will say your personal stats don’t matter, and it happens to be true to an extent, you can’t win a game without eliminating the opposition. In general, the team that can eliminate the other team more often than not will win the match.

(Take that, Sun Tzu).

But what you have to keep in mind is what the stats don’t say. Much of the information is contextless.

As you win games quickly and early, your damage (on average) per game will go down. The hero win rate is based on the one you played the most games with and it does not reflect any hero changes you’ve made that might have had an impact. Maybe you were rocking it as Widowmaker until the other team adjusted to you and then you switched to Reaper to regain momentum.

Let’s talk about the actual damage. Was it meaningful and effective? Did the damage go straight to removing Mercy from play or was it spent mostly on Roadhog who kept hogging medpacks and chugging his gatorade? What damage is relevant and what’s irrelevant? How much of it was absorbed by a shield?

Accuracy is another thing. People who play Junkrat or Pharah understand the concept of “zoning” where you just fire projectiles in a certain area to deny the opposing team from entering it unless they take damage. Common areas include chokepoints or areas near medpacks. You don’t need to score a direct hit if the splash damage is enough to affect them. My Pharah accuracy is 41% largely because much of it is spent prefiring in areas where I think a player is about to run to.

There is definitely more development and work needed to be done in this area, but the existing information is a start. I’d like to see more individual map stats. Do I play better on King’s Row or Hollywood? Does my character matter at certain phases of the match?

Think about DPS meters and logs in WoW and you’ll get my drift.

Back to the original question of why Zarya? I figure she’s one of the more well rounded heroes in the game and can easily slip into any pub game.

Terminology

Pub: A public game that any can queue into. Best known as Quick Match.

Not to be confused with …

Pug: Short for pickup game which is a loosely organized match between a pre-determined roster of players who may or may not know each other well at all.

She can sort of tank in a pinch although she’s not the greatest pusher. Her shielding abilities have the ability to save teammates and yourself during key engagements. Her ultimate is a great trigger mechanism and works alongside other heroes who can follow up on it (because by itself it doesn’t do much damage). Think of Zarya as more of a secondary tank. When she gets charged and goes off, she’ll turn into a wrecking ball with both resilience and staying power.

The problem is that you can get really greedy. Once the shield wears off, if you get focused, you’ll be taken out immediately. You have to recognize when to jump in with a full charge and when to back out back to the safety of your team even if you still have like a 60 charge left.

I’ll write up more Zarya tips later, but if you’re interested in more Overwatch pieces, you can check out my columns here:

Hearthstone Woes and Nostalgic Thoughts on Classic

Hearthstone Woes and Nostalgic Thoughts on Classic

Time to come out of retirement. Now that Legion’s hit beta, I’ll have to start gearing up and looking for a new organization to join.

I’ve been busy and restless though the past few months. Without WoW to keep me occupied, I resorted to Hearthstone. Most retirees do things like fish or play Go. Me? Nah, I run Hearthstone LAN tournaments. The Tavern Hero in the middle of April pulled in 22 players. The one after that at the end of April yielded 39 players. I was definitely not expecting that jump and it was a long day (but most Swiss run tournaments are).

Speaking of which, Blizzard’s Fireside teams seem like they need some more resources. Two Tavern Heroes and they were both mis-reported (where the winner of the first was listed as the winner of the second tournament, and the first tournament didn’t have a winner). I frantically tried to reach out and get a hold of the eSports teams to get that corrected and no communication until late last week. The thing is, since the winners are from Vancouver, our next closest Tavern Hero qualifier LAN event where the Spring Preliminaries are being held is in Seattle. Thankfully, a few of the players already qualified for preliminaries without having to go through Tavern Hero and were able to secure accommodations in time. What I’d really like to know is what it takes to be able to run one of those events here. Anyone know?

I’m a little frustrated because I was concerned the results wouldn’t go through and the players results wouldn’t be recognized. But yeah, I’m thinking they could use some more assistance in the eSports department. Even now though, to my knowledge, the Tavern Hero winners still haven’t been contacted and it’s less than a week to go before prelims.

On Overwatch

Overwatch will be out in a little over a week. Everyone’s complaining about Bastion, but I expect that will level out and subside overtime as players (eventually) learn how to deal with him.

On Nostalrius

Personally, not a fan of it. I believe the resources required to pull of legacy servers will outweigh the potential revenue gained. My thought process is similar to that found over on Talarian’s blog here. Then again, I was never into pet battles so my opinion is moot. That Pristine server idea might have some merit though if it can be pulled off. At least it’ll placate a number of people (at least, paying ones).

Best case scenario

The Nostalrius team is expected to meet with Blizzard sometime soon. Not sure what the outcome that will be and I’m not even going to try to hazard a guess. I do suspect they’ll have a discussion on vanilla as a whole and talk about business cases. The best case scenario is that members of the Nostalrius team get picked up for development work on the Pristine team. With Legion debuting at the end of August, BlizzCon’s going to be light on Warcraft news. Maybe they’ll discuss the Warcraft movie and what the next step is based on the release numbers. They’ll probably talk about the first Legion patch (if it isn’t already out by then). Then wham, Pristine server news.

No heirlooms, no levelling acceleration, multiple servers launched with one dedicated to Classic only, one for Burning Crusade only, and one for Wrath only. You can’t cross realm and ask for help. No group queues so you’ll have to spam in trade chat for a few hours looking for a tank and/or a healer. Oh right, and keep this saved on your computer somehow so you can refer to it when you’re not sure where to go next.

WoWRaidsBonus: Hardcore mode. 

… Okay, probably not. 

At the end of the day, if the business intelligence unit can find a way to offset expenses from the development of classic WoW, then maybe one day it might happen. Faction transfers and server transfers didn’t used to be a thing but are now common. You never know. 

My Hearthstone Tournament Mode Feature Wishlist

My Hearthstone Tournament Mode Feature Wishlist

Last year, there was some discussion about new features being added to Hearthstone. Eventually, we discovered that the new game mode was none other than Tavern Brawl but we know that the developers are watching and considering idea for a tournament option. We didn’t get anything during the Grand Tournament expansion either. At the moment, tournaments are more community run than anything else. Players can look up events on Battlefy, Strivewire, and on other sites. Blizzard seems to be reluctant to take full control of running competitive tournaments at the moment (but that could be changing in the future after their purchase of MLG).

With Standard mode being implemented, the Hearthstone team has addressed the issue of stale meta games and evolving playstyles. The next step forward should be to look at the quality of life aspect for competitive players and tournament organizers.

Match history

No need to delve into this one too much. Wrote about it not too long ago. I’m sure they could put in the level of detail consistent with Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft 2 match histories. It solves the issue of having to screenshot the results right after a match in case someone forgets to take a screenshot.

Turbo mode

One of the problems with Conquest mode is the amount of time it takes to get through a best of 5 match. Control matchups often take up a whole hour and in Swiss tournaments, every match needs to finish before the next round can begin. My Fireside’s often last over 8 hours and it’s more an exercise in attrition than anything else.

Those of you familiar with online poker might be aware of some tournaments that are under turbo mode. Think of it as express games. Blinds and ante’s go up twice as fast. You have less time to make adjustments, to wait for premium hands, and to recover from any errors.

I’m not advocating for faster turn limits. Those can be kept the same.

What I would like to see is a checkbox or an option to speed up animations. If it could be sped up even 25%, it would help accelerate matches. Both players would have to enable it.

Do we really need to see Ragnaros rise up from the board again?

Or for every minion to enter a melee after a Brawl gets played?

Or Unleash the Hounds into a Knife Juggler which happens to hit an Acolyte of Pain or Armorsmith?

I get that much of the appeal in Hearthstone is in the visual effects. It’s just fun to watch our cards interact with other elements on the board. It separates Hearthstone from other digital card games (or card games, period). However, in tournaments, we have to do everything we can to keep games going at a reasonable level. There’s certainly things I can do on my end as a TO to help speed things along and get everyone going more efficiently when an event is under way.

Besides, once a tournament enters a playoff stage, the turbo mode option can be unchecked and animations returned to their original speeds for spectator appeal.

Unique Deck IDs

This would solve deck submission list problems. I was talking to a friend the other day who participates frequently in online tournaments. Now, when you connect to a player and are in the deck selection screen, you cannot back out. If you do and and enter your collection, you’re liable for a forfeit loss. One of his opponent’s did that and he had to report him after they connected and he dropped out to his collection then reconnected again.

mws

Thankfully, this is a problem that was solved in other card clients like Apprentice and Magic Workstation. What they did was automatically generate a unique deck ID (or security code as illustrated). Maybe even mention that the deck type is standard or wild. There’s no way to re-engineer a deck list from the deck ID string. The deck ID would be visible to both opponents. It would be submitted ahead of time to tournament organizers for players to lock in their decks. If a player had a different ID than the one submitted, then it could be grounds for further investigation. But this way, it would help address the issues of players mistakenly dropping out of the connection screen.

Overtime

This one is a trickier thing to address. Should there be an overtime option added to the game? Or should every match be played out to it’s conclusion? I hate Control Warrior vs Reno Lock matchups or other similar type games because I know how long those games can stretch. I’d like to see 50 minute match times for best of 5s, but that wouldn’t really be fair. People could whip out Control Warrior or Control Priest as their third deck and play for a draw instead of for a win. In Magic, once time is called, there are five total turns left and if you can’t win before the final turn is up, the game is considered a draw. In a Swiss tournament, that’s okay because you can award the draw to both players but in an elimination round, that isn’t possible. I’d love to see time limits in place during a group stage and then lift them during playoffs.

Thankfully, the existing turn timers are in place to help mitigate and reduce slow playing. There are times where I don’t believe it’s enough.

Fireside Incentives

This is a tough issue to address. The biggest question that’s asked of me when I’m hosting events is always, “Why should I come out to a Fireside tournament if I know I’m going to get slaughtered by pros? I’d rather just stay home and play in my PJs.”

And that’s a fair criticism. There’s more that can be done on the event organizers and maybe even Blizzard. I know I’ve held my own share of Fireside events and had conversations with players about the very topic. Last year, when Firesides had just launched, Blizzard gave organizers redeemable codes that they could give to players for a free Hearthstone classic pack (with a limit up to 10 redeemed). Or if they hadn’t yet, players could come out and grab their Fireside card back just for participating in a couple of games with other players on a local network.

Ever since then, there’s been nothing. Their Fireside program’s been restructured and no codes have been given out in a while. The Fireside cardback’s been exhausted and most players probably have one by now (or at least, it’s still easy enough for them to obtain it).

In my case, I’ve held a few giveaways with some prizes from the Blizzard store like posters or plushies or other smaller stuff to random attendees that show up.

Aside from that, the biggest draws have been cash prizes from entry fees or potential HCT points (although that can’t be considered anymore because it seems HCT events need to be free for everyone to join which hurts the organizers because they can’t afford to cover venue fees — It’s not like I have my own game store I can host Firesides at, I have to work with venues and there’s a business aspect that needs to be covered, but that’s a rant all on it’s own).

So back to my original point. How can Blizzard increase Fireside participation?

When I used to play Magic at FNM’s, pre-releases, and other tournaments, you could always count on receiving some boosters or promo cards. With Hearthstone, it’s a little different. Since accounts are capped at 10 redeemable packs, there’s only a limited number of those that can be awarded.

What about rotating Fireside card backs? I’d be game for that. Have a new Fireside cardback that’s obtainable during certain Tavern Hero seasons. That gives collectors something they’d be interested in coming out to events for.

Ranked play offers gold cards depending on what rank you reach at the end of the month. I would’ve suggested that, but it might be too much of the same thing. Alternate art cards maybe? Or maybe a code for 1000 dust? Heroes of the Storm gives out skin codes and hero codes during tournaments. For Hearthstone, I don’t know, but it seems to be getting increasingly more difficult to encourage players to come out to Firesides these days.

I wish there was more I could do but there are only so many resources I have at my disposal here and want to keep promoting the game while hosting events. It’s tough.

The Post Warcraft Life

Have you seen this poll from my editor, Adam “His Holiness” Holisky? He was taking a quick pulse on some of the readers and followers of Blizzard Watch and wanted to know how many of them are still playing World of Warcraft. At the end of his study, he came to the conclusion that around 60% of those players have stopped playing.

I did have a few questions about this study.

How many hours constitutes “Barely playing” or “Somewhat”?

A sample size of 1300 isn’t anything to sneeze at but with a subscriber base of millions, is it truly representative? If this poll was held on MMO Champion or WoWHead, would the same approximate percentages hold up?

Anyway, I’m just giving him a hard time. I’m sure his scientific methods are sound and precise. If it weren’t for him, sunshines and rainbows would cease to exist.

Has he stopped reading yet? Okay, good. 

Reading the poll made me reflect on some of my motivations for leaving. I played the game straight on from Classic to Warlords with no significant break in between (and I classify significant as taking two or more weeks off from the game). In my case, there was always something to do. I threw my time and effort into the guilds I was a part of — Positions like healing officer, to recruiting, to GM, and I frequently filled in other roles until we found people to help out. 

There were moments where I truly enjoyed the game. Getting takedowns on Kil’Jaeden, the Lich King, and Yogg-Saron were some of my more memorable highlights. Helping my guild engineer Val’anyr, Shadowmourne, and Dragonwrath also helped feel like I was a part of something instead of this whole “Legendaries for everyone” philosophy that’s going on now. I ultimately agree with the change, but it’s lost that team work lustre now. 

Ultimately, I ran out of energy. In theory, I should have run out of energy years ago, but I was largely driven to not let my team down — This unit of goofballs made my life a pain in the ass sometimes, but they were still my goofballs even after I met them at BlizzCon. You take the player out of Conquest, but you can’t take the Conquest out of them. At the very least, I can say I helped facilitate introductions and friendships for people who otherwise never would have crossed paths to begin with. I hope they’re all doing fine now wherever they are. 

It’s not just Warcraft though, I’ve also taken a step back from playing Hearthstone. The upcoming format changes are much needed but I can’t be bothered to compete or even play for fun right now. It’s like I’ve lost the desire to engage in anything. The last Fireside Gathering I ran was a couple of weeks ago at one of the Universities. Something was different about it though. I wasn’t as excited or as invested in this one compared to previous ones. I’m not sure if it’s because of disappointment that I was unable to secure HCT points for the event or if I’m starting to not have fun anymore. I’m just biding my time until the Wild and Standard formats kick in before I start playing again. Wild or Standard? Not sure yet, but I’m leaning towards Standard.

Overwatch? Yeah, that was fun for a while but there’s only so much solo queue I can take. I imagine I’d play more once ranked matches enter the system. With a beta wipe somewhere on the horizon, I’m hesitant to play often because I’m worried I’ll unlock a cool skin that I really like only to lose it later. Happened to me in Hearthstone when I opened a gold card and it had to get wiped.

As for Legion, I don’t know. It is up in the air. If the game was close to releasing, my answer would’ve been a yes. But I’ve grown accustomed to this routine of not playing that I’m not sure if I want to get back into the universe again. I want to know more about the Val’kyr, the Legion, and the other storylines that are going on but what I don’t know is if I’m invested enough to get back into playing to find all that out. One things for certain, if I do make the call to go back, it won’t be in a leadership position. I’ll play the grizzled and grumpy veteran, but it’s time to call it a career on shot calling or anything management related. I’ve played some of the artifact quests though. I figured I should at least help test for usability. My litmus is that as someone who has never played a certain class or spec before, I should be able to unlock the the artifact with a reasonable degree of difficulty. In other words, I should be able to ace a Priest or Paladin quest, but I expect a wipe or two if I was playing a Warlock.

You know what it is? Maybe I just can’t seem to have fun playing anything alone anymore. I’ve been so used to having someone around to blast other players, take down dragons, and explore dungeons that I’ve completely forgotten how to solo anything. As a guy who players healers, can you blame me for that? Yeah, maybe a little. I should be more selfish and pick the dude with the badass guns instead of being a team player.

I’ve been engrossed playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper and recently picked up Pokemon Alpha Sapphire. I have like 8 years worth of Pokemon to catch up on it seems.

Also, for us fellow hockey fans, happy trade deadline day! I hope your team’s made moves to improve!

*glances sadly at the Canucks*

 

Hearthstone Needs a Match History Option

Hearthstone Needs a Match History Option

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was browsing the Hearthstone subreddit this morning. First thread that catches my eye is about the abuse of Hearthstone World Championship Points. That didn’t take long! Basically, it seems shady organizers are now setting up fake tournaments with real battle tags of players in the hopes that Blizzard doesn’t look too closely at the results with the end goal that the organizers (or specific players) can farm points that way to get into the regional events at the end of each season.

As a frequent Fireside organizer, I wanted to offer players in my area opportunities to go for WCS points as well. In order to qualify for WCS points, the following criteria has to be met:

  • Allow space for at least 128 participants
  • Have at least 32 players registered and competing
  • Stream the semi-finals and finals matches of the event

Last year, it was have video recordings of the semi-finals and finals of the tournament. This time, they want it streamed. It’s frustrating for me because some of the hosting venues I use have optimal bandwidth for people playing Hearthstone, but the upload speed is non-existent for streaming. But, Blizzard has a solution and it’s already built in to their games like Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft 2

It’s 2016 and this is going to be another year of growth for Hearthstone. If the game wants to progress and be taken even more seriously as an eSport, then there needs to be match history in place.

Starcraft 2 and Heroes of the Storm have that data in place. I know match history isn’t exactly as sexy as a new adventure, a new game mode, or new card expansions, but it’s a subtle change that can only be a positive for the competitive community going forward.

Screenshot_80

 

What should be tracked?

Match history options should definitely show the game mode along with the match result (like a win or defeat). Was it ranked? Casual? A simple Tavern Brawl? A duel?

Classes should be displayed from both the player and the opponent. Board type probably doesn’t matter. Maybe the rank of the player when the match was played should be included.

I’d also consider when the match was played and possibly the duration of the match. I figure if a game ends within 20 seconds, it looks pretty shady. Did someone throw the match? Did someone disconnect?

I know at the end of tournament matches, sometimes players simply forget to take a screenshot of the Victory or Defeat screens. Personally, I have Xsplit running and recording everything because I missed the results screen after a thriller of a match.

On a completely different note, Blizzard is hiring a Fireside Producer! I thought about applying for it myself but I’m way too underqualified, I suspect. I wish they had a junior position or something I could shoot for instead.

The Overwatch Support Life

The Overwatch Support Life

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and readers!

It’s been a running joke for a while now. In WoW, I played a healing Priest (and the spec didn’t matter) for raids. In Heroes of the Storm, I mainly stick to heroes like Rehgar, Kharazim, or Uther if I’m playing with others. With Overwatch, I’m used to maining Symmetra, Lucio, or Mercy. All of them are support or healing roles.

During the beta weekend, I thought there’d be more players trying out a wider variety of heroes.

I thought wrong. Most teams I solo queued into had compositions like 3 Widowmakers, a 76, and 2 McCrees. These are glass cannon compositions which have loaded fire power but didn’t have a lick of staying power whatsoever. Even in games where I dominated as the 76 with 20+ eliminations or 10+ final blows, it led me to a sinking conclusion I realized right from the beginning:

Someone’s got to play support or a tank in order to secure objectives.

It’s nigh-impossible to carry your team to victory on the scoreboard alone without some sustainability from other heroes.

In that particular matchup, I activated 76’s Visor ultimate and just blew it to get as many quick kills as I could before switching to Lucio. He’s one of my more favourite support heroes to use on close encounters maps since your team will be near you to benefit from buffs. After that, the key to playing support is keeping yourself alive first and then healing the rest of your team. Lucio’s speed boost does not build up towards his ultimate, however. Make sure the healing aura is active if you’re not in the middle of setting something up.

If you’ve PvP’d in WoW or other games as a healer, you’re going to have a headstart here. Many newer support heroes tend to heal from the center of the action — which is absolutely stupid! Do not make yourself vulnerable and give the opposition free shots at you. If there’s a lull in action at any moment, look for places to hide or find cover. Behind cars or in side rooms or other objects are always a good start. Don’t give the defending Widowmaker a free shot at you.

Positioning is important. Lucio makes it a little easier because your team just has to be near you. Mercy emits an obvious beam as to where her location is. By putting yourself off to the side as you’re healing your team, now you’ve split the enemy’s focus. If they attempt to pursue you, they leave themselves open to suppression from your team. If they decide to go after your team, you’re busy healing them at the same time thereby giving them extra staying power.

Nothing says your team is limited to just one or two supports, either. Last night I was playing offense on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and defense fielded a lineup of Reinhardt, Pharah, Bastion, two Lucios, and a Mercy. After captured the first check point we simply could not push back that line at all. Some of that was due to our team composition since I think we lacked a tank.

I’ll be streaming more often during weekday evenings so keep an eye on mattic.us!

More Overwatch thoughts to come later!

 

BlizzCon 2015

Let’s talk about BlizzCon. We knew we would be receiving the Warcraft movie trailer finally. I don’t believe anyone expected there to be a Legion cinematic at the same time though. I love watching the fleet of airships as they make their assault against the Burning Legion’s foothold.

Sadly, this BlizzCon didn’t come without a personal cost. A few players from my guild decided to part ways while I was at the convention. Consequently, I’ve suspended all future raids for the time being and players have the choice to explore free agency if they wish. This was a horrible expansion for me when it comes to raids. Couldn’t get much mythic headway in at all. After 8 years at the helm, we’re finished. It hasn’t quite hit me yet since I have the emotional range of a Dwayne Johnson (a Rock). My time’s being kept busy with Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Starcraft 2. I’m more disappointed with my inability to get the job done. It’s a little crushing to watch your own guild dismantle piece by piece like that. No one’s fault but my own. I haven’t decided on my future yet but my plan is to continue being the Jagr of Warcraft.

Without the mullet, that is.

World of Warcraft

  • Transmog system looks amazing, moreso of the fact that I free up a boatload of inventory space
  • Challenge modes, we were expecting a D3 announcement of sorts, but the fact that WoW is taking a page from the Greater Rift system is neat
  • Non-linear leveling! Zones scale up! This is going to put a damper in my plans to shoot for server first again since I have to figure out optimal routes and stuff now
  • Priest changes look ground-shattering. More on that to come later
  • Mythic and 20 player raids are here to stay, it looks like

Starcraft 2

  • Managed to beat the campaign on hard, working on the epilogue now
  • Coop mode is enjoyable but the difficulty is lacking especially as you progress through the individual character levels. Even brutal becomes easier to stomach
  • Delighted to hear about the first set of mission packs that will come later in the year

Hearthstone

  • League of Explorers is fun! Managed to defeat the first wing on both normal and heroic. Temple Escape is one of the more enjoyable encounters. My video guides will be up on Blizzard Watch on Sunday shortly.

Overwatch

  • Yes, I’m in the beta. Game is infinitely more fun when playing with friends than playing solo
  • Problem with shooters is that I get frustrated at myself 🙁
  • Like Warcraft and Heroes, I’m usually playing a support
  • Anyone else manage to get in? Looking for more people to play with

Heroes of the Storm

  • What? Cho’gall? Really?
  • Tracer is in the first wave of Overwatch heroes. Iconic and an excellent choice
  • Can’t wait to give the arena mode a spin

All in all, it felt like a more muted BlizzCon but then again, BlizzCon 2014 brought us a completely new game and franchise and it’s tough act to follow.

6 Game-Changing Battlecry Cards that Pair with Brann Bronzebeard

6 Game-Changing Battlecry Cards that Pair with Brann Bronzebeard

My annual post-BlizzCon thoughts will come a little later this week.

For now, Brann Bronzebeard joins the latest set of legendaries that come with Hearthstone’s League of Explorers adventure. While I have high hopes for the card, I’m not sure if he slots into any pre-existing deck types.

But who cares? He’s a fun card that can amplify existing cards with Battlecry! Which ones? Here’s my personal list:

Dr. Boom

Huge no brainer. What’s better than two Bomb Bots? Four Bomb Bots! You’re guaranteed a minimum of four damage that could explode on different targets. More bombs leads to more damage. I can hear that resigned sigh from my opponent now…

Iron Juggernaut

All of a sudden, Iron Juggernaut turns from a giant recyclable heap of scrap into a curiously playable card. Originally adding a 10 damage bomb, now it places your opponent on the clock with a potential 20 damage just ticking away within their deck. Those bombs are one way to get around Ice Blocks!

Quartermaster

Initially, your Silver Hand Recruits would simply get +2/+2 and turn from Silver Hand Recruits into Gold Hand Recruits. But now they’re getting an additional +2/+2 on top of that. Does that mean they become Platinum Hand Recruits? Nothing like a board full of 5/5s that give your opponent pause and just out of Flamestrike reach.

Dragon Consort

If I’m reading it right, your next dragon becomes much more affordable. In fact, cards like Nefarian or Alexstrasza cost 5 mana instead of 9 giving you more card playing options to go with it. Protect a dragon with a Sludge Belcher on turn 10. Or, turn one of those beasts into a formidable minion that your opponent needs to deal with by playing a Defender of Argus.

Loatheb

If you really want insurance, Loatheb’s a great follow up since your opponent’s spells should now cost 10 mana more. It locks them out of every spell. Free turn where they can’t respond or affect your board with spells? Yeah, I’ll take that!

Goblin Blastmage

This is one of my favourite pairings. It turns into Avenging Wrath on a stick. Instead of 4 damage, 8 damage goes flying out in any direction towards your opponent or their board.

There’s a few more excellent combinations (like Shieldmaiden and Antique Healbot), but the ones above are my personal picks. It does have a downside though. Make sure you don’t place Brann with cards like Flame Imp (ouch!), Injured Blademaster (oof!), or Doomguard (yikes!)

Will You be Capping Valor Again?

We all saw the news bombshell yesterday.

Valor is back with a vengeance. Points are only obtainable in Mythic dungeons or in the raid finder difficulty. We can’t double dip and snag them from normal mode bosses are higher. I’m waiting for reforging to come back in a future patch.

Couldn’t believe the announcement.

On this week’s episode of The Edge, the crew and I discussed merits of nerfs to Hellfire and when they’d be needed. I made an off-hand remark that item upgrades should be brought back because it was a much better way of nerfing content compared to flat percentage nerfs to abilities, attacks, or health. It gave players a sense of progression even though they weren’t visibly progressing. You might’ve gotten stonewalled on Gorefiend on week 1, but the raid collectively received a 5% buff due to item upgrades heading into week 2, for example.

So what’s the difference between valor points in Warlords and valor points in Mists?

In Mists, they compensated for “bad luck” whereby you could purchase items in case you weren’t getting drops from raids. With Warlords, you have Apexis crystals that already fulfill role. Furthermore, the bonus roll system and the personal loot system help tip and equalize the “bad luck” factor in your favor (At least, in theory, because I’m still missing that Intuition’s Gift trinket from Kilrogg).

I don’t know if these changes are going to be enough of a subscription reactivator on their own.

Between this and the enabling of mythic cross-realm raiding, the pool of available raiders for mythic should go up due to the reduced restrictions and to players who might now be equipped for it.

And mythic dungeons? If you weren’t running these before, are you going to run them now? The shortest path to valor points for a solo player without the backing of a reliable group is going to be in the raid finder. You can try to get lucky with a mythic dungeon group but you can work your way through the forgiving trials of raid finder to cap out. We don’t know what the valor cap is or how many points each of the activities offer.

Not expecting to see Valor stick around with Legion, though.

I’m beginning to wonder if the perceived boredom in Warlords about the lack of activities to partake in is actually a lack of meaningful (or forced) activities. Players were running ragged throughout Siege because every week was a constant re-clear of the same content just to upgrade one or two items every week. We were sick of it then but we had to do it in order to buff our characters in order to reach and defeat a boss that actually mattered.

Seriously.

A typical raid week was 3 hours of farming for valor on bosses, 4 hours to clear the 11 mythic bosses to get to Blackfuse, and then 2 hours of meaningful progression on Blackfuse which involved learning how to run away from fire beams and avoiding saw blades.

We have optional content in the game at our disposal but we think there’s nothing to do because we don’t want to do it.

I suppose the argument could be made where one could say “Players don’t have to run mythic dungeons or raid finder for valor”. That argument holds true for players largely well within entrenched in mythic raids though. For them, the barrier isn’t going to be the gear. It’s going to be the skill cap of their fellow players in the group. To the rest of the mortal heroic raiders though, the gear upgrades will lead to confirmed kills versus near-death wipes and is going to be sorely needed to give players a foot in the fabled mythic doorway.

I’m getting too old for this.

Gorefiend: Warlords’ Guild Killer?

I first caught wind of this when I was scrolling through the recruiting forums. With around 20 players, we’re finally poised to enter mythic Hellfire. Hellfire Assault was infinitely more engaging and dynamic compared to the normal and heroic counterparts. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put that notch up there yet. We’re getting past the intermission phase but end up getting overrun. Our margin of error is razor thin. A little more DPS, and it’ll help us secure that kill.

Anyway, let’s get back to my original observation about Gorefiend. That dude is tough. On the forums, I’m seeing guilds that are 5/13 recruiting or players who are 5/13 looking for new guilds because their raid group folded. The game is no stranger to guild killers. Some of my personal favourites included Kael’thas, Mu’ru, and ol’ Yogg (0 light). To be fair, I don’t think for a second that Gorefiend even comes close to any of those bosses up there.

I’m not sure what it is. There’s something about this current generation of raiders that seem to want more instant gratification. The mere instant that a difficult problem shows itself, many are quick to abandon ship and look for a new guild instead of working through it. Compare that to players in classic Warcraft, Burning Crusade, or even Wrath though where players frequently stuck it out and when they did get those kills, it felt extremely gratifying. For me, no encounter post-Cataclysm has captured the same satisfying feeling of a boss kill akin to Kil’Jaeden, Archimonde (from Hyjal), or even Illidan. But maybe that’s because it often took weeks or months just to get there, learn it, and beat it.

With the availability of group finder, raid finder, and the other convenience tools, it’s simply too easy to look around for options. You don’t see those kinds of “grinders” anymore among the player population. Could be a by product of the player base getting older and not having the time to invest anymore, I’m not sure.

With the start of the new school year, I’ve had to re-think our schedule. Demographically speaking, it seems many players are concentrated on the east coast. I can’t ask people to stay up until 1 AM anymore. I made a snap call to restore our original raid times.

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 6 – 9 PM Pacific

I’m keeping the days though. I do like the idea of getting all raids done in a quick burst through the middle of the week. With the Warcraft population down to 5.5 million, I have to appeal to as many players as possible (at least, from a scheduling perspective).

Right now, we’re looking for more ranged DPS and healers. Interested? Check us out!