Scattered thoughts on Cataclysm beta news

I can't help but wonder: are there still people who are trying to avoid Cataclysm spoilers completely? I imagine that it must be quite hard by now, considering how omnipresent spoilers appear to be on the news sites and how casually people like to drop them into discussions of completely unrelated subjects as well.

Anyway, no story spoilers here, as I'm still trying to avoid those. I don't mind finding out about gameplay-related changes really, because I don't consider "being confused by my vastly changed talent trees" a fun feature of new content patches anyway. Better to be able to prepare yourself a little ahead of time.

Biggest gear reset ever

One thing that's pretty old news right now but that nonetheless hasn't ceased to amaze me is the absolutely massive gear reset that's coming in Cataclysm. To give an example, these are the leggings my main is currently wearing. They are the tier 10.25 legs for healing priests (or whatever you want to call them), acquired by running normal-mode ICC-25 or heroic ICC-10. Not the best item currently available in the game for that slot, but pretty close. This is what they look like in the Cataclysm beta, with the spell power mostly converted into stamina. And this is a green quest reward from Mount Hyjal, for a quest that you can do at level eighty. The stats are pretty damn close.

Now, this doesn't so much annoy me (though I will probably moan a little when I have to replace my epics acquired through raiding with quest greens), but it does confuse me. Remember the Burning Crusade with its also pretty considerable gear reset? If you don't, just compare this blue quest reward from Hellfire Peninsula with this robe from AQ40. Ouch.

The thing is, Blizzard agreed afterwards that this was a bad idea. This is why the gear replacement curve in Northrend was so much smoother. A green quest reward from Howling Fjord didn't really hold a candle to something from Zul'Aman for example (and not just because of the weird itemisation). And again, people mostly seemed to agree that this was a good thing.

And yet, here comes Cataclysm and they go back to the "massive gear reset" model and nobody seems to do as much as bat an eyelash about it. Or maybe they did and I've missed it; personally I haven't seen any discussion of the subject on blogs or read about any official Blizzard statements explaining this complete turnaround in attitude. It just seems strange.

Fear those normal world mobs

LarĂ­sa made a nice post last week about the fact that Blizzard has been ramping up the health and damage output of normal world mobs in the high level zones in the Cataclysm beta. Many seem to welcome this change, but I'm a bit undecided - which is ironic considering that I asked for a "healthy buff" for all outdoor mobs myself before.

I still think that it's a good idea in principle, but judging by some of the comments I've seen on the forums it could be that Blizzard has gone too far into the other direction right now. It's one thing to not want to be able to two-shot a mob of equal level and quite another to be two-shotted yourself by that same mob instead.

Plus, one has to consider that mob difficulty varies a lot depending on what class and spec you play. My holy priest still takes her sweet time killing normal level eighty mobs, even in ICC-25 gear. My hunter can kill the same mobs quickly, but can still get into situations where she'll have to feign and reset if she gets too many adds or tries to take on a powerful elite on her own. And my protection paladin could just run through any group of mobs, including elites, and tank them to death without even losing any health or mana. So I'm a bit worried that if Blizzard tunes things in such a way that they'll be challenging to even the most powerful characters, my weaker toons might just not be able to solo at all, which would obviously suck.

Also, you have to keep in mind that these characters are all at least in a mix of triumph and frost level gear, so that is a factor as well. If you tune things to push people in ilevel 264 gear to their limits, any alts that get levelled after the release of Cataclysm and try to progress into the level eighty-one zones in greens and blues a hundred ilevels lower will run into a massive brick wall all of a sudden, which doesn't exactly make for a smooth levelling curve either.

Personally I would only increase the difficulty of normal mobs a little, but bring elite areas back into the world and generally increase mob density in areas that are supposed to be "scary". Many mobs that give levelling players trouble in the old world don't actually hit particularly hard on their own either, but they come in packs and like to do things like run away and call for help, which keeps you on your toes.

Holy priest, Batman!

On a completely unrelated note, you might remember me ranting quite heavily about what holy priests looked like in the Cataclysm beta one and a half months ago. As such I'm quite happy to hear that Blizzard has finally got around to paying some attention to the spec, trying to make sure that the talents actually make some sense and just generally making holy sound interesting again.

Personally I'm not worried about the spec becoming too difficult to play, but I do sort of wonder about how much point there is in adding too many new healing spells for priests. After all, resto druids were denied any new additions to their healing arsenal with the argument that they already have enough, and while priests need a little more variety since their spellbook has to cover two healing specs focusing on different spells, there is still such a thing as overkill. Don't get me wrong, the huge variety of healing spells is one of the things that really attracts me to holy priest play, but there comes a point where spells start to look too similar and you just can't make them all equally viable. Don't introduce more spells just for the sake of having more, they are likely to just end up on the edge of people's action bars where they never get used because another spell pretty much already does the same thing anyway.


  1. RE: gear reset.
    In Cata all gear will have much higher stam values, so it only looks like the spellpower on your pants went into stam. It actually went into intellect, though it's hard to see that since the pants already had a hefty chunk of intellect. But that was old meh-mana-plus-miniscule-crit-Intellect, not new sexy much-more-valuable-spellpower-Intellect.

    Plus, raid gear is always better itemized than gear from quests or dungeons. Someone wearing Ulduar 25 or ToC 10 gear has better stats than someone in ilvl 232s from the ICC 5-mans, even though gear score couldn't tell the difference. Raid gear has more variety in itemization (can't get a haste/spirit robe from the ICC 5-mans, nor a wand without hit), and most of all, GEM SOCKETS. Pop two intellect gems into your pants and they blow the green pair out of the water.

    Yeah, I'm going to struggle a bit until I understand the math behind the new stat system, but I suspect the absence of *mastery rating* is what's actually gonna muck with our hard-earned raiding gear.

  2. TL;DR.
    Actually I'm just still avoiding spoilers somewhat. I'm not longer in the run away screaming stage, bit I still hope to install the expansion and wander the world absolutely confused.

  3. I still remember the firt weeks (or month) when TBC was released. My warrior (arms in these days) had a ough time killing the first mobs even he had 7/8 T1, MC weapon and rest of the gear blues from Scholomance/Stratholme/URBS. I wasn't using the best gear available (very few had some T3 and I didn't raid BWL back then), but still I consider I was very good geared back then. And they were hard. Several of them fleed into other groups of mobs who joined the feast, making things even harder. Back then my other toons didn't reach level 58 yet, so I don't want to imagine clothies in these days. Fortunately mobs were tuned down so leveling wasn't that nightmarish as I found when I leveled the rest of the toons.
    With Wrath leveling was even easier, the first mobs you found weren't harder than mobs in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon valley and few of them were grouped in large numbers or fled, so leveling was too easy.
    It's good they want to slow down leveling (after all we only have 5 new levels, not 10) but probably as you mention they've gone too far. Increasing stamina? Ok, so they're not oneshotted, but seems that even increasing stamina on players the amount of damage goes up to 4 times more at level 83 iirc. If the coward mobs are also back this will be a slaughter even for plate-wearers.
    Also I think Blizzard is making the wrong assumption that everybody is geared in T10 or better right now. Sorry but not. GEaring up is very easy now with the LFD and the emblems, but uless you're raiding a lot you won't be sporting T10 armour, weapons and trinkets. In all my alts two are wearing 2 pieces of T10 (shaman, paladin), five are wearing one piece (warrior, mage, warlock, priest, druid) and the rest none, just t9 or ilevel232 gear at best. And as you point out, any fresh leveled toon that jumps back to Azeroth at lvel 78 is going to suffer Hell, even if the first drops of equipment (quests or random drops) do match t10. The first quests in TBC (after mobs were softened) provided you several pieces of armor to "tune"you intot he current TBC difficulty. Not all the slots but enough to start jumping into Hellfire Citadel without being undergeared. Same for Wrath but mobs were already easier from start. Now it seems Cata will be too hard for "nwcomers" unless Blizz implements some quests DK-style with not so dangerous mobs so you can run around with alevel 78 toon safely enough and even do the first 5man dungeon.
    Since people running beta are using t10 gear they won't notice much problems at start, but once game is released and fresh level 78s wearing green a blues from quests jump back to Azeroth the moaning and weeping will start, so I hope Blizz does as they did in TBC and make sure we're not back to th vanilla days when clothies had to rest and drink after killing one or two mobs. There're sure better ways of slowing down leveling without hurting gameplay.

  4. I suspect that the reason for the gear reset in Cataclysm is, ironically, the gear resets in Northrend.

    While BC gear lasted you well into the late seventies, the Trial of the Crusader basically blew Naxx and Ulduar gear out of the water and ICC more or less did the same to ToC. *Without* a gear reset, they'd be trying to balance leveling content around a player base consisting partly of ICC geared raiders and partly of folks in Zul'Farrak quest rewards. The only way to avoid a hard reset in the expansion would have been to make ICC gear much, much closer to Heroic gear.

  5. I tried leveling my holy priest in Hyjal today and had a miserable time of it. She's in 4 piece T9 mixed with a couple dungeon blues and a couple other nice pieces. It was bad enough, I am going to spec shadow to get to 85 on both my priests I think (One each on Horde and Alliance). I leveled as Holy through LK (albeit with a partner) and just went from 1 - 80 on my Alliance priest as Disc (although that was a dungeon grind). My priests in live WoW do not have trouble questing in Northrend now as Disc or Holy though.