Category: Freakin’ Awesome

Jul 20 2013

Proving Yourself in Proving Grounds

This PTR build of patch 5.4 introduced a long-awaited feature to the game: Proving Grounds!  Proving Grounds are solo scenarios where a level 90 player can test their skill in their chosen role against wave after wave of enemies that get progressively harder.

•  As a DPS, your job is to kill the mobs before the next wave spawns.  It’s just you and your toolbox of spells and abilities to burn them down, interrupt their heals, and keep yourself alive.

•  As a tank, your job is to protect your NPC healer by picking up the mobs as best you can, interrupting them, and using your own cooldowns to survive.

•  As a healer, your job is to keep your party alive.  Your party is a team of NPCs – a warrior tank, an assassination rogue, a hunter and a mage.  The AI is pretty smart — they are good about interrupting and focus firing — while still being realistic in the sense that they are occasionally being slow to get out of fire or meandering out of your healing range.  You’ll need to do a lot of healing and dispelling here.

If you fail in your role objective, you get a failure message and the mobs despawn and you have to talk to the NPC to start again at wave 1.  If you get “killed,” you are actually just reduced to 1 healthpoint – so no death repair bills!  You do take wear-and-tear durability damage, though, and there is an NPC inside the instance who can repair you.

Healer PG

Goals

Proving Grounds can serve several useful functions:

  • First and foremost: it is something fun to do!
  • It gives new players a safe but real-time environment to practice their skills and improve their play.  Whether you’re new to the game or just new to a role, PGs are a wonderful place to hone your skills without worrying about irritating or — worse — killing four other players in the process.
  • If gives players a place to test out particular talents, glyphs, as well as fiddle with their addons and keybinds.

Gear Scaling

To make sure Proving Grounds are a challenge of skill and not of who simply has the best gear, all equipment is scaled down in a similar fashion to Challenge Modes.

  • Gear scales to 463
  • Gems do not scale
  • Set bonuses do not count

Unlike Brawler’s Guild where players can hit a ceiling on their success because their gear is subpar (or get further because great gear gives them more margin for error), the equalised equipment means ranking accurately reflects true skill.  Of course, if you’re exclusively a tank or healer, you can’t do Brawler’s Guild at all!

You can use flasks and foods, but not potions; they didn’t want you to have to bring stacks and stacks of pots just to make it through.  There is a soulwell for health cookies, though!

There is also a reforger NPC in case you need to make any gear tweaks, and a vendor who sells  Tomes of the Clear Mind so you can tweak your talents and glyphs as much as you need.

Tuning

First the obligatory disclaimer – All of this can change!  Proving Grounds are a brand new feature and it’s possible Blizzard may shift their goals with what they want with them.  Additionally, right now the tuning on the PTR is really easy — far below what I was told was intended (and what I outlined below). It is likely untuned right now, but being the PTR I imagine they will be tweaking them quiet a bit over the next month or so.  Give them a try, leave feedback on the tuning whether you prefer it harder or easier!

You begin with bronze mode.  The plan is for bronze to be tuned to a player ready to step into heroic 5-mans, so this should be easy for just about everyone.

After you beat bronze, you can step into Silver.  If you’re a normal mode raider, you should be able to make it through this level, with maybe some difficulties in the final waves.

After that comes Gold.  Beating gold is intended to reflect comparable skills to a player that is ready to raid heroics.  Expect to use your whole toolbox to make it through Gold.

After you beat Gold, you are eligible to try Endless mode.  Endless mode, as the name implies, has unlimited waves of increasing difficulty.  Each wave does a percentage more damage and has an equal percentage more health than the one before it.

Your furthest wave will be tracked so you can come back try to beat your high score later, and so you can compete with your friends.  Although there are no in-game leaderboards like for Challenge modes, this information is tracked in your character statistics and can be pulled up in the armory, so expect third party sites to run rankings eventually.

Rewards

There are achievements for reaching each rank in each role, as well as surviving 20 waves into Endless.  There will be titles, as well.  “[Name] the Proven [Healer / Tank / Damage Dealer]” probably earned by completing Gold for a given role.

Perhaps later other rewards will be implemented, but that’s it for now.

I got the opportunity to test Proving Grounds a couple weeks early thanks to an awesome dev, but now they are a little more polished and available for everyone to try.  Just speak to your class trainer* or the NPC in the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun Lai Summit to be sent in.

 

* NYI this build – go to Kun Lai

Outside Resources

 

Jul 16 2013

Fansite Mixer!

A few weeks ago, I had the very awesome opportunity to go visit the Blizzard campus for tons of fun and some great discussion with the WoW CMs and Devs.  Community Manager Zarhym planned the intimate fansite mixer (and did an amazing job).  Representatives from Curse, Wowhead, WoW Insider, podcast Convert to Raid, and Gamebreaker attended (nine of us total) for a chance to discuss the game and, more importantly, how Blizzard and fansites can work together to better serve the community.  I was there to represent Curse as an MMO-Champion and wowdb.com global moderator.


Community Discussion

My favourite part of the day, and also the reason we were there, was  the roundtable on Blizzard and fansites working together.

We were given insight into the internal process Blizzard has for official, blogs, patch notes, forum communication, and other community manager functions.  We talked about our own role as fansites, and discussed the opportunities and methods all of us can use in order to aid each other to the benefit of the community.  Unfortunately, I am unable to share any of the details at Blizzard’s request, so just trust me it was really interesting and particularly useful to me as someone involved with MMO-Champion and wowdb.com.

Oh yeah, and we also got surveyed in advance about the new transmog helms, purchasable-in-Korea XP buff, and other developments for the Blizzard store (now announced, which is why I can mention it).  We also got a very cool preview of the products that will be shown at ComicCon next month, including a bunch of snazzy exclusives only available to attendees.  If you’re into toys or collectables, you’ll probably want to check those out when they are shown this weekend!

We also enjoyed trivia for prizes (I won a TGC loot card), generous giftbags, and an all-around good time.  Oh, and we got to watch animated Zarhym serenade animated Ghostcrawler on the big screen.


Dev Q & A

We had an hour to talk to three WoW developers and ask questions related to the content coming in 5.4.  They had a lot of cool new information to share with us, most of which was not yet on the PTR at the time about the Timeless Isle, Legendary Cloaks, the awesomesounding new world boss,  flex raiding, arena changes, Proving Grounds and more.

For a detailed breakdown, check out chaud’s recap on MMO-Champion.  A lot of this is on the PTR now, but not all of it, and the overview is still interesting to read.


Hearthstone

We were given an opportunity to try out their new online card game, Hearthstone, which was announced at PAX earlier this year.  I was very enticed with the game and enjoyed it far more than I expected to.

The games are fun and relatively quick.  The rules are simple and very easy to pickup, but still has the potential for complexity and skill both in deck building and creating card synergies in play.  I was impressed that they designed a game that could be easily played on a phone or tablet but still was completely enjoyable on a PC without feeling like you’re playing a phone app on a desktop.

Unfortunately, I was pretty terrible at it, having lost all but one game I played!  I am going to just go ahead and blame bad RNG.  😉


Campus Tour

museum!One of the cool aspects of the day was a tour of the Blizzard grounds.  We got to visit the museum — currently mostly Starcraft II themed — and see a lot of models, concept art, videos, and other awesome relics.

But the cool stuff doesn’t end there — all over the campus are awesome statues, art pieces, and other displays.  There is the famous huge metal orc statue in the front of the main entrance, and the statues of Illidan, Kerrigan and other game characters that you see at Blizzcon were tucked in the various lobbies and common areas.orc statue

They have fan art on the walls, from the great stuff you see on the official website submitted by players, to the WoW themed comics done by Penny Arcade.  A lot of their various products from over the years (tee shirts, models, toys, posters, etc) were on display throughout the buildings.  It was also very cool to see things like the signature walls from Blizzcon hanging up and other.

We also got to see how some of the departments were decorated, as each gets to design their area in a very cool theme (the department we saw was zombie apocalypse!).  Their break rooms are also amazing; one we stepped inside looked like we had been teleported back in time to an old speakeasy.

My favourite part of the tour was getting to see Blizzard’s “mission control” room where they monitor their servers all over the world for problems.  No photographs allowed (many threatening signs reminding us as much), but let me tell you – it looked as awesome as it sounds!

And, no, we didn’t get to wander into any top secret areas and eavesdrop on any Titan discussion 😉

Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch of carne asada street tacos, grilled portobellos and peppers, rice, margaritas, and other fixin’s.  Bashiok’s skills as a grillmaster did not disappoint.


Many Many Many Thanks

Thank you very much to the Community Managers who made our day wonderful – Bashiok, Bornakk, Crithto, Daxxarri (raccoon-wrangler extraordinaire!), Lore, Nethaera, and Rygarius, and a special thanks to Zarhym for putting the whole thing together for us.  And thank you to the devs who also gave us their time to answer questions and give us insight and sneak peaks into the game!

(and sorry if I forgot anyone!)

Mar 14 2013

Tziva’s Guide to Hoarding Dinosaurs

Patch 5.2 is out and it offers a lot of fun new content for players.  I think I speak for everyone awesome when I say that the most pertinent of these new things is: dinosaurs.  We get a lot of them, which is good, because there is no such thing as too many dinosaurs.  So this is my guide to acquiring new dinosaurs because if you are even remotely cool, this has now become the most urgent goal in your life.

If you’re just looking to chill with some prehistoric badasses, but suspect you can’t handle the coolness of owning your own, Blizzard has given us an entire island full of nothing but dinosaurs of all sizes and varieties: The Isle of Giants.  It is covered with elite adult and young triceratops direhorns, tyrannosaurus rexes devilsaurs, and pterodactyls skyscreamers in a rainbow of colours.

Okay, but now on to the important question: how do you cash in on this stuff?


Dinosaur Mounts

So of course you want a dinosaur mount.  Everyone wants a dinosaur mount.  Lucky for you, there are a lot of new dinosaur mounts to choose from.

Direhorns

The easiest direhorn mounts to acquire drop from the elite Zandalari Warbringers that spawn around Pandaria.  At around a 5% drop rate, you will likely need to kill a bunch of these, but luckily they spawn pretty regularly (around every 30 to 60 minutes) and drop other awesome things to soothe your poor, dinosaurless soul.  These Warbringers are trolls riding the dinosaurs you’re trying to steal, and come in a slate (pale blueish), amber (greyish yellow), and jade varieties (bright greenish).  The mount on their loot tables matches the dinosaur they are currently riding; you won’t ever get a slate mount from a dude sitting atop a jade.  Don’t be distracted by the Zandalari Scouts that patrol nearby; they don’t drop the mounts.  Bring a friend or two to help you with these tough elites; the Warbringers can be duo’d if you know how to handle their abilities, but are very difficult to solo if you’re not a well-geared tank or a pro hunter.

Slate Direhorn

The other direhorn mount is a cobalt blue, and is a rare drop from the new world boss Oondasta.  If your heart is set on this one, grab one hundred of your closest friends and cross your fingers.

If you’re a raider, check out the second boss in Throne of Thunder named Horridon.  Not only is he absolutely adorable to look at (little periwinkle feets!), he has a rare chance to drop a blue & white direhorn mount.

Finally, if you love dailies or at least are willing to slog through them for a triceratops, you can look forward to snagging your own crimson (if you’re Horde) or gold (as Alliance) direhorn for reaching exalted with your new faction on the Isle of Thunder.  The new factions are the Kirin Tor Offensive for Alliance and Sunreaver Onslaught for Horde.

Raptors

The new raptors come in black, red, green and white.

Most people will probably want to focus on the black, red, and green varieties, as these do not require insanity and huge amounts of time to acquire like the white one.  Elites mobs on the The Isle of Giants (all of them except the Zandalari Dinomancers) have a small chance to drop the Primal Egg you are seeking.  The smaller elite dinosaurs on the island can be solo’d by most classes, although the bigger devilsaurs and triceratops may require a couple people, so getting your egg should just be a matter of getting enough kills under your belt.  Three days after getting your Primal Egg, it will hatch into a Cracked Primal Egg and inside will be a random raptor mount in one of these three colours.  The mount is guaranteed from the egg, but it may take you awhile to get all three types since you can get duplicates.

While you’re farming your Primal Egg, you will find that all these mobs also drop a few Giant Dinosaur Bones with each kill.  Save these, because for the low, low cost of only ten thousand bones (okay, 9999 actually) you can purchase a bone white primal raptor mount from an NPC hiding in a cave on the island.   As an added bonus, people will be able to more easily identify you as crazy when they see you rocking this painful-to-farm raptor.

Skyscreamers

Right now, there is only one flying dinosaur mount in the game: the Armored Skyscreamer.  This guy is the reward for completely the Throne of Thunder raid meta, so if you’re not a hardmode raider, you may need to wait a few tiers to pick up this sweet ride.

 

Pet Dinosaurs

Of course, simply riding a dinosaur is not enough.  I mean, it is awesome, but not nearly as cool as riding a dinosaur, while your tamed dinosaur runs alongside you, keeping company with your battlepet dinosaurs, right?

Hunter Pets

If you’re a hunter, The Isle of Giants is where the magic happens.  Stable your active pets so you have lots of space for dinosaur shopping.

To tame a direhorn you will need to acquire an Ancient Tome of Dinomancy from the many Zandalari Dinomancers wandering about the island.  The mobs can be solo’d by the hunter, but you will probably want to pick up the Silencing Shot talent, as the heal they cast will put them back up to full health, making them a pain to kill without (they stop casting it once they reach 50%).  Once you get your book, though, you’re set: you can now tame any of the triceratopsy young direhorns on the island, regardless of your spec.

To tame a devilsaur, you just need to be Beast Mastery spec, no book required.  There are quite a lot of different colours on the island, so just find a young one in whatever shade you desire, and tame away.  Easy!

To tame a skyscreamer, whine to Blizzard because right now you can’t.

Non-combat Pets

While you’re on The Isle of Giants looking for your hunter book, you might be lucky to find one of the four new vanity/battle pets from the Zandalari Dinomancers:

Zandalari Kneebiter
Zandalari Anklerender
Zandalari Footslasher
Zandalari Toenibbler

Zandalari Kneebiter

These are little armored baby raptors.  They are super cute and completely unique from the old raptor vanity pets.

New in 5.3:

•  Stunted Direhorn – Unfortunately, it looks like you’ll need to win 250 PvP pet battles to get this cutie.
Direhorn Runt – Is a rare drop from the Direhorn mobs found on The Isle of Giants.
Pygmy Direhorn – Is now a rare drop from Horridon!

Dec 14 2011

LFR Tool: Raiding Lite™

The new Looking for Raid (LFR) tool is a new avenue of advancement introduced in 4.3 for characters.  Out for a few weeks, the feature has had enormous popularity with players.  For those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, here is an overview based on my experiences using it.

LFR is raiding with training wheels.  To compensate for throwing a bunch of strangers together, many of whom will be inexperienced or underskilled or just bad as following directions, the fights are stripped down and tuned to be very, very easy.   They are designed to be successfully done provided at least half the raid is conscious and capable of following basic instructions, a difficulty level that is arguably necessary to ever get anything killed in such an environment.  As a result of their ease, they offer low quality loot — just slightly better than the new heroics — and lack the perks of regular raiding like achievements, epic gems and Valor-points-per-boss (LFR awards VP only for completion), or the ability to work on the tier’s legendary.

To use it, one queues through an icon on the menu bar like with random dungeons, and is automatically matched up with 24 other players.  It can be done multiple times a week (although you only have one chance at loot), and will not lock you from doing the raid on normal mode.

Organisation

The group is composed of two tanks, six healers and seventeen DPS.  The fights are designed to always use this same comp, so there is no need for dual spec or talent switching during the raid.

Raid leadership is on a volunteer basis.  To queue as a potential leader, one must check the box on the queuing window along with their usual role – same as is done for the LFD tool.  If the raid leader leaves, a new one is assigned from amongst the other volunteers.  Raid leaders get no special perks or powers and mainly exists as a way of saying “yes I will give any new people instructions if they want them.”  Unlike with a real raid group, here the leadership rarely is required to do anything different than any other raid member, although you shouldn’t volunteer for the job if you’re not interested in explaining the fight mechanics.

Players are in and out of the raid group constantly.  It is not uncommon for people to leave mid-fight, or to start a boss down a few people.  The tool is very efficient about replacing these people the instant a group leaves combat, but the fights as also easy enough that the empty spots are rarely a problem.  For this reason, no player should feel intimidated about having to bow out before a run is finished; it is possible no one would even notice.

Niche

LFR has such a huge scope of utility across all spectrum of players, that it’s hard to just pin as “raiding for casuals,” although this is the thing it is typically billed as.

However incomplete that statement might be, though, it is still very much true.  With the difficulty level so low, even someone who has never played in a raid environment can stumble through it successfully.  The tool is an amazing way to let players see the raiding content they might have not otherwise dared to try.  The DPS checks are minimal, and even a few stronger players can balance out a handful of inexperienced ones.

Additionally, with the [currently] very short queues for DPS and healers, players who don’t raid due to lack of time may also find LFR to be an exceptional tool.  Not longer do forays into raiding content require regularly scheduled groups and hours and hours of attempts learning new bosses and farming old ones.  Instead, these players can opt for a limited “demo” version of the raid instance on their own schedule as an alternative to seeing nothing at all.  Currently, both wings of Dragonsoul in LFR take about an hour each and with so many players in and out constantly, it is not harmful to your teammates if you need to bow out even earlier.

Another advantage is that LFR provides a way for all players, serious or casual, to have an opportunity to try raiding on an alt that they wouldn’t have otherwise raided on.   Whether you just want to get more familiar with that class, or take a break from your main, or practice with them for a potential re-roll, the tool can fulfill this niche.

The LFR tool can also be extremely helpful as a tool to help seasoned raiders become familiar with the fights in advance.  Although the stripped down nature make it nearly useless for learning the mechanics themselves, seeing even the basic version of the fight can be helpful in figuring out position, learning spawn points for adds, what that special mob or ability looks like visually, and getting a general feel for the way the particular fight works.  Instead of just watching that tankspot video, now you’re immersed in it, and you can control the camera angle and zoom yourself. Paired with a written guide or a video, I’ve found the LFR tool to be immeasurably helpful in understanding a fight.

Finally, let’s not discount the huge advantage LFR provides for gearing up new players, alts and rerolls and for filling in gearing holes on raiding characters.  It also allows for main raiders to get their set bonuses faster and get small upgrades more often, and the nerfed tier pieces will still work towards completing a set bonus.  Lastly, as a source of Valor Points, you might choose to get the currency to buy those VP items through LFR rather than LFD.  Although its steeper item level requirement means you can’t just waltz in as a fresh 85, the requirements can still be met by doing the new heroics rather than raiding.

Success Ratio

Queuing at least once weekly on four characters, I’ve had very good luck in terms of success with my LFR groups.   Most bosses take just one or two tries to down, with ample forgiveness for mistakes.  Trash wipes typically only occur when someone facepulls several packs or the boss itself (or both in the case of the slime boss).  The worst group I’ve encountered spent 45 minutes just on the first boss of part 2, which is still a good deal faster than a real raid might take, and they still went one to one shot every following boss.  In the best group, I’ve cleared part 1 of Dragonsoul in just over a half an hour on my lunch break.  The raid is definitely succeeding it its goal to be painless and easy.

Loot

You can roll on loot for each boss in LFR once per week. Once you’ve already beaten that boss, you will be ineligible to roll on loot from that boss again during the week if you continue to queue.  Many of the items are now limited to particular appropriate classes (ie, a rogue cannot roll on a strength sword).  Roll bonuses are given if you are ‘need’ rolling on an item for the spec you are queued as, so if a piece of intel/spirit mail drops, the resto and elem shaman will have an advantage on it over the enhance spec’d one, but the enhancement shaman may still roll for their offset without worrying about the item getting dusted.

The system is far from perfect and is still peppered with bugs and oversights, but overall it is a large improvement over LFD.

Attitudes

Just as any environment in which anonymous strangers are thrown together and forced to interact, LFR certainly contains its share of jerks.  Every group has the one DPS who spams Recount after every attempt to brag about his numbers, and the other guy who spends more time bitching about the weaker DPS than he does doing his own job.  You do encounter those two people who get in a fight over something petty and insist on holding up the entire raid so they can bicker over it.  And yes, there is the guy who tries to publicly shame anyone who makes a mistake or taunt everyone who dies with “newb!”   There are also people who are abusing the system by joining then going AFK, and those lazy people that don’t want to help with trash or run back after a wipe.

However, I have been largely impressed by the bulk of groups.  For every asshole throwing a tantrum, there are three people telling him to shut up.  I have encountered players who have made special effort to explain the fights to the people that ask, who give helpful call outs and reminders, who present solutions instead of complaints.  There are those people who are cheerleaders and in the face of others bitching can say, “we were really close, we can do it, we just need to be a little more disciplined.”   There have been people who win duplicate loot and gracefully hand it out to the second highest roller.  I have seen more people booted for being a jerk than I have for making mistakes or doing low DPS.

Overall, I’ve found it to be a smoother and more enjoyable experience than doing PuG five mans.  The jerks are diluted in a sea of people, and the bad players don’t hurt the raid’s success and there are always at least a couple good and patient players to help teach the inexperienced what to do.

My conclusion on LFR is that it is a wonderful tool that many people will find useful and/or enjoyable.  Since it is only a few weeks old, I suspect that once the novelty wears off and people are capped on valor goodies, the demand for running it will decrease and queue times will grow.  Nevertheless, it is reasonable to believe it will still be one of the most popular game features Blizzard has ever implemented in WoW.   Love it or hate it, the thing is clearly a hit.

Oct 23 2011

Monk Class: Blizzcon Preview

Blizzcon just finished and I’m sure we’ve all heard the new announcements by now.   New race: Pandaren.   New class: Monk.   Demo computers were available to see both the Pandaren starting zone and give the new class a whirl.

WoW fan sites have posted the details of all the new World of Warcraft announcements, ability lists, gameplay trailers, etc, but I thought I’d do something different and talk a little bit about how actually playing the new monk class felt and give my own impressions.

Remember, all of these details can change between now and when the expansion goes live, and probably will.

Basic Information

Monks are a new hybrid class; they have specs that will allow them to heal, tank, or melee DPS.  They are heavily martial arts themed, aiming for the archetypal monk class.  They are not a hero class, and will begin at level 1.

They wear leather and will share their gear with rogues and druids, depending on their role.  They start in leather gear from level 1.  They can currently use fist weapons, polearms, staves, and 1-handed swords or axes. As healers, they will use offhands rather than shields.  The current plan is for tanking to lead towards 2h while DPS and heals will use the 1h weaponry.

They will use stances, presumably similar to a warrior and based on their role.

They are available for every race except Worgen and Goblin.

Resource System

Monks use a unique resource system different from the current ones in game. They have an energy bar, called Chi, which functions similar to that of rogue and cat druids by refilling quickly to a hard cap.  This is paired with a combo points-like system, but this is where it departs from the familiar.  Monks get two sets of combo points — Light and Dark Force — and these are tied to the player and not the thing you’re fighting.  They do not appear to decay (although they probably clear at log out) so you can carry them from fight to fight.

Your basic attacks cost Chi but build combo points of either the Light or Dark Force or both.   You then spend those force points on special stronger attacks.  Unlike the finishers that rogues and cats spend their combo points on, these abilities don’t scale based on number of points – they cost a flat amount.  Because of this, you will not be capping your points and then spending them, but rather using a rolling priority system of using both as needed.  The playstyle ends up being very different than the usual “point-point-point-finish” feel of other energy classes.

Blizzard has said that when Monks are spec’d for healing, their Chi bar will be replaced with a Mana bar.   It was not explicitly stated but seems obvious based on their design goals that the class will still keep its Light and Dark Force bar for healing, allowing it to maintain its unique feel in all three talent specialisations.

Abilities

Here are some of the spells & abilities that were available in the demo:

Level 1 Abilities

Jab
40 Chi – Melee Range, Instant
Requires Stance of the Drunken Ox, Stance of the Fierce Tiger.
You jab the target, dealing 5 damage and generating 1 light force and 1 dark force.

Jab is your basic attack. This is the button you are hitting the most to spend your Chi and generate your Force points. I imagine you get different ones later as you level and based on spec.

Tiger Palm
1 Light Force – Melee range, instant
Requires Stance of the Drunken Ox, Stance of the Fierce Tiger.
Deals 10 Physical damage, deals 5 additional damage if the target is above 50% health.

Level 2 Abilities

Roll
50 Chi – Instant
Roll a short distance.

Roll is a mobility tool to keep you moving around the battlefield (and, when out of combat, to appease your pining for that mount that is eighteen levels away).  It costs only energy, so you can zoom around as often as your bar refills.  It’s very fun for getting quickly from enemy to enemy or just getting around faster.  You can roll in any direction, including backwards and sideways.

Level 3 Abilities

Blackout Kick
2 Dark Force – Melee range, Instant
Kick with a blast of energy, causing 28 physical damage to an enemy target. If the target is killed by blackout kick, you are returned 1 Dark Force.

Level 5 Abilities

Flying Serpent Kick
8-40 Yards range, 25 Seconds Cooldown, Instant.
Soar through the air towards a targeted enemy, knocking them down and stunning them for 2 seconds.

Spinning Crane Kick
Instant, 2 Lights and Dark Forces
Requires Stance of the Drunken Ox, Stance of the Fierce Tiger.
You spin while kicking in the air, dealing 23 damage every 1 second to all nearby enemies within 8 yards. Movement speed is reduced by 30%, last 6 seconds.

Some other abilities were loosely discussed at the various panels, but were not in game to try.

Auto-Attack

Monks do not have an auto-attack like every other class.  Blizzard developers said they wanted the monk to have a “street fighter feel” where each button press from the player is an attack from your monk.  This is very unique to the game, and it is controversial enough that this may end up not going live (in fact, I would predict it will be in and out of the beta several times before a decision is made).  There are some concerns about that, and I’d like to address them the best I can for a player who has only played the first six levels of the monk class.

The first worry I have heard expressed (totally justifiably) is that this will make playing the Monk very spammy.  I’m sure those of us with Warriors heard the announcement and were thinking old school Heroic “I eroded a hole in my keybind” Strike.  The good news is that it does not feel like this at all.  Your Jab costs enough that you are not hitting it a million times a minute, but fast enough that you don’t feel like you’re standing around waiting for energy regen (usually… more on that below).  You are also limited by your GCD, which is current the same 1.5 seconds of most players [note:  I am pretty sure Jab is limited by the GCD]. The playstyle is fast paced but far from overwhelmingly or spammy.

However, the lack of auto-attack does have some weaknesses that need to be addressed eventually.  It is annoying when you find yourself in a situation with neither Chi nor Force points and you’re up in some mob’s grill unable to do literally anything but stand there.  That might not happen often, but it can happen in numerous circumstances:

When moving quickly from fight to fight, the small delay before your opening attack could prove frustrating in those situations where you’re racing to tap a rare mob and have to stand there waiting for the precious energy to claim it as yours.

As a raider who currently plays a rogue, I can think of a lot of current situations in group play where I am swapping to an add and auto-attacking it until I have enough energy to use Mutilate.  This would be very frustrating to find myself in that position as a Monk, chasing an add but doing literally no damage.  I can think of a lot of situations where the add dies before I get enough energy for that special, making my only contribution my white damage (or perhaps I am pooling for when I return to the primary target).  For a monk, there would have been nothing.

I can also see it being problematic from a tanking perspective, where one at least builds minimal threat in the seconds before or between breaking out a special, especially if you’re juggling multiple mobs at once.  Those white attacks can often be the difference between you or the healer tanking in those first microseconds of a pull.

There are also the circumstances of when a mob has a sliver of health left, and one would finish it off with auto-attack. A Monk would be forced to use its resources which perhaps it wanted to save for the next fight. At the very least, it would be a bit overkill.

The other thought that occurred to me is doing old content.  When I was working on Loremaster, I often had to bare-knuckle auto-attack mobs that I needed to get low but not kill for some quests.  If a Monk can only use specials, how would he do such quests?  A level capped Monk would surely one shot these low level mobs in a single Jab.

That may sound like a lot of problems, but they are very situational.  I actually like the feel of the gameplay and being in total control without the auto-attack, so I hope these issues can be resolved in a positive way that allows Monks to keep this unique flavour.  Perhaps a no-cost but super weak attack with a cooldown to use in those situations?  Still, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if Monks went live with auto-attack like everyone else.

Healing

My disclaimer here is that this is all based on Blizzard’s conjecture and will [very probably] not end up like this on live.

They want the heal system to be unique and involve damage reflected into AoE healing for friendlies, rather than the traditional three-cast-time-heal bread and butter for current classes.  For example, Blizzard envisions moves like this to be the means through which a Monk heals its party:

Statue of the Jade Serpent
5 Sec Cast
Summon a statue at the target location. Anytime you deal damage, a nearby friendly target within 20 yards of the statue will be healed. You can have up to 3 Jade Dragon Statues active at a time.

I have serious doubts that the class with go live with things like this as their primary means of healing.  It’s too different, too hard to balance and seems like the kind of thing that would end up overly powerful in some circumstances and too weak in others.   Statues radiating heals seems like it would be very awesome as a raid healing, but what about five mans, or high movement fights?   What about when the healer needs to keep up a tank taking a lot of damage?  What about when the monk is forced to move out of melee for whatever reason?  It’s a very big move away from the “we want all the healers to be able to do successfully do all roles” design goal that Blizzard just implemented, and against the homogenisation that all other healers faced in the last expansion.

The current design goal for healing is to heal through DPS, making the Monk the true melee healer.  This is something they’ve toyed with trying to achieve with Holy Paladins with limited success.  The difference is that Blizzard wants even healing Monks to do “massive” damage and for that to be the vehicle for their heals.

I’m not sure what the implications of that will be for gameplay if we have one healer who is able to contribute significantly to DPS while the others are not. The worry is always that the other healers will be less desired if a raid could instead choose one that helped with those tight enrage timers — a variation of this was voiced frequently when Death Knight tanks were doing a lot of damage and while it didn’t end up proving true, DKs did ultimately receive a series of nerfs in this area to bring them in line with other tanks.  I can see this also having negative PvP connotations if your arena player can both DPS and heal effectively at the same time.  And what of the shadow priest, whose passive raid healing was nerfed because it was too powerful in conjunction with strong DPS?

I suspect that when Monks are being beta tested and tweaked, we will find them being homogenised into the same foundation as the other healers, with the [fast expensive heal], [long, big heal], and [slow efficient heal] and the moves like the statues and vampiric-embrace-like abilities will be dropped to supplemental, expensive AoE heals like Prayer of Healing or Tranquility.  I think they will use melee attacks to add the flavour of their class and to earn the Force Points to do unique and different things with their heals in order to keep their very unique class feel.  I suspect they will not end up doing significant damage as healers, and may perhaps be more in line with a tank or smite-spamming Disc priest.

Tanking

We don’t know much about Monk tanking, except that it will probably involve using staves and polearms and the gearing will be about the same as current Bear druids.

Overall Impressions

Despite being somewhat similar to rogues (my primary reason for being uninterested in feral cat), I found the Monk to be fresh and engaging and am definitely interested in leveling one up in Mists of Pandaria.  Monk is definitely appealing to me a lot more than Death Knights did initially (the DK class and starting zone was amazing but I found the resource system cumbersome and the pace at which you get abilities as a hero class overwhelming).  I thought the resource system here was unique and fun but still very intuitive and user-friendly. The abilities are fun, simple, and well paced.  Roll is super cool.  That handful of levels I got to play in the Blizzcon demo was very enjoyable.

I love hybrid classes and I’m interested in trying both tanking and healing as this new class.  I’m already thinking about which races I will choose for each faction.