The Health Conundrum

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Hey guys! It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Warcraft instead of me waiting on Heroes of the Storm or whatever other game I’m playing that isn’t WoW, surprisingly enough considering the amount of information that has been given to us the past couple weeks, one of which linked to the image above. That’s right, pre-orders are available, and we can expect the expansion on or before the end of fall on the 20th December 2014. This post isn’t going to talk about anything like boosted level 90’s or the increased price of the expansion pack (I might make another post concerning those topics) – this article is going to be about healing and health in WoD. This intro has mainly had nothing to do with it, so let’s get right into it!

Blizzard earlier on this week released a blog article concerning how health and healing is going to change in Warlords of Draenor, and it goes to continue the discussion started last year of how there’s been this huge back and forth of balance, especially in PvP, of how players have this mindset of being able to keep people topped off at all times, and being able to heal effectively while keeping away from things that might smack you in the face a few times. This form of healing got too powerful for some classes, and Blizzard retaliated by allowing more classes to lock down these healers that are suddenly able to keep at full health and run away from them at the same time.

This was then combated by the healers that were unable to heal effectively on the move as they just ended up getting pressured too much to be able to have more options to not get locked down as easily. We’ve also seen the introduction and changes to Resilience, PvP Power, Battle Fatigue and capped item levels to further affect the survivability and lethality of players in PvP combat (while making sure that PvE-geared players don’t dominate in instanced PvP), each season the stats changing around so that it takes around as long to defeat others in similar gear, but so that you still feel more powerful in comparison to previous seasons. However, to avoid what happened in TBC with “welfare epics”, Blizzard have had to keep PvP gear weaker than PvE gear so that people don’t necessarily have to farm for gear in content they don’t enjoy playing, just to get that best-in-slot item.

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With the stat squish in WoD, this squishiness (or lack thereof) has to change yet again. Blizzard are aiming to tighten the gap between PvP and PvE, because as it stands at the moment most players feel much weaker in PvP content than they do in PvE, with reduced health pools and lower damage in comparison to PvE content. However, people still think that MoP has been “World of Burstcraft” where everything is tied around how much you can burst in the small window of CC.

This time around, when 6.0 hits Blizzard will squish people’s stats down, and then effectively double their health. To compensate in PvE, creature damage and healing will be increased so that it doesn’t affect that crowd too much, however we should see a bit more standard survivability without the need for a healer in PvP combat. This, alongside the cut in critical strike damage to only being 150% instead of 200% will hopefully slow down World of Burstcraft.

Along a similar vein, Blizz are also hitting healers so that they’re no longer as mobile while healing, turning some instant cast spells into cast-time abilities, and the ethos for WoD will be to not expect a full raid of people at max health during combat. We’re going to focus more on triage rather than reacting to burst damage. Shields and absorption effects will be less effective than they were before, so we may see heals over time leading raid content, as there will actually be things to heal this time around, instead of most of our Renewing Mists or Wild Growths go into overhealing. Whether or not Blizzard can keep it up for the entirety of the expansion is another deal, but unless there are any soothsayers out there, we’ll have to find out! To avoid the Cataclysm problem where healers in 5mans could heal 3 times before going out of mana, Blizzard are increasing mana regen at low gear levels, and with spirit only being available on jewellery the scaling shouldn’t get out of control later on in the expansion cycle.

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We’re seeing some changes to healing spells themselves, with at least one strong expensive AoE heal, one weak cheap AoE heal, one strong expensive single target heal and similarly one weak cheap ST heal. What is planned below for each class is as follows:

Druid

  • Nourish removed.
  • Wild Growth has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Healing Touch, Rejuvenation, Efflorescence
  • Higher throughput spells: Regrowth, Wild Growth

Monk

  • Uplift has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Soothing Mist, Renewing Mist
  • Higher throughput spells: Surging Mist, Spinning Crane Kick

Paladin

  • Holy Light removed.
  • Word of Glory/Eternal Flame has a 1.5sec cast when specced Holy.
  • Light of Dawn has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Divine Light renamed to Holy Light.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Holy Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn
  • Higher throughput spells: Flash of Light, Holy Radiance

Priest

  • Heal removed.
  • Level 90 tier abilities has a 1.5sec cast time in Holy/Discipline.
  • Prayer of Mending has a 1.5sec cast.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Greater Heal, Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, Holy Nova (Disc-only version), Penance
  • Higher throughput spells: Flash Heal, Prayer of Healing

Shaman

  • Healing Wave removed.
  • Greater Healing Wave renamed to Healing Wave.
  • Higher efficiency spells: Healing Wave, Riptide, Healing Rain
  • Higher throughput spells: Healing Surge, Chain Heal

I can’t say I know too much to go into detail about the other classes’ healing styles, but in a Resto Druid perspective, the changes don’t seem that terrible. Rejuvenation and Lifebloom are still instant casts, along with other spells that are currently instant and not mentioned above to be changed to 1.5sec casts. Nourish doesn’t get used, I’ve even taken it off my bars for my Resto spec it’s that trash, so I’m not going to miss no longer having my weak, cheap heal any more. Getting used to the new Wild Growth will be interesting, as it’s been quite a core without many changes since the early days of Wrath when it found itself with a cooldown. It’s listed as a high throughput ability, so whether it’ll be similar to Genesis in terms of expensive to cast, but a ton of quick healing, or it’s just less efficient because of the cooldown and cast time making it a rarer ability to use, is something we’ll have to find out when beta hits.

Now, the worry I have is that healers are going to be left with nothing to do if people’s health is trickling down, but still being non-fatal enough to concern your mana about. Ion Hazzikostas (Watcher) could see these concerns and may be including more options like Atonement healing for other classes. As we know, Monks may be getting Cranedancer stance so they can split between mistweaving and fistweaving, Shamans may be getting free Lightning Bolts as filler. I wonder what kind of filler Paladins and Druids could gain? I guess Paladins could make use of Battle Healer if mechanics allowed, and Druids have Dream of Cenarius for filler (assuming Wrath is cheap to cast anyway), but I’d love something baseline like with the other classes so we’re not just sitting there watching doing nothing. Then again, homogenization and all that.

Overall, I’m all for these changes, especially if they do end up working out not just in early WoD, but in later tiers and seasons, and even progressing into the next expansion after WoD. Personally, I think Blizz will turn a 180 on something here or end up making the healer-DPS equilibrium in PvP out of whack, but that’s what alpha and beta cycles are for, right? Getting things changed before they go live and harder to revert!

Heroes of the Storm

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Formerly known as Blizzard All-Stars, and before that Blizzard DotA, the latest game franchise for Blizzard to publish is Heroes of the Storm! It was originally going to be a Starcraft II mod, though since the original inception, it will now be a standalone game, believed to be free-to-play and released digitally. With strong competition among similar games such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and SMITE, Blizzard are entering a tough market in the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre.

Now personally, my only experience of MOBAs is with Dota 2 – I’ve dabbled in League of Legends and SMITE, but neither took my fancy as much as Valve’s Dota 2. I do definitely recommend playing both of those games: League is obviously the more popular MOBA for a reason; and SMITE is a great game for those looking to get into the genre – with recent polishing it’s certainly a solid game in of itself. Blizzard is likely aiming Heroes at the kind of gamer that SMITE has attracted in those that are looking to get into the MOBA genre but have been too cautious of the community that games like Dota and League have produced. That’s not to say that Heroes won’t have these kind of players, but I’m expecting at worst Barrens chat to begin with… Having said that, I hope Blizz introduces Mankrik at some point!

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Heroes

At the moment, we know that 22 heroes are in HotS: 10 from Warcraft, 7 from Starcraft and 5 from Diablo. It’s not surprising that Warcraft has the highest representation, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more heroes from Warcraft than we will the other Blizzard franchises. According to rumours and certain game files, we might even see the Lost Vikings turn up, for those of you who have followed Blizzard for many, many years! Although I have to say, characters from Blackthorne and Rock n Roll Racing are likely to make people wonder who they are and why they are supposed Heroes in this game – I’d have to say I’d draw the line at Lost Vikings myself anyway.

Oddly enough from the characters I’ve seen in videos and what I’ve read about them, I really enjoy the playstyle of a lot of the Starcraft Heroes. Abathur, Nova and Tassadar are all Heroes that I’m likely going to be maining on their rotation, though I’ll try to unlock Abathur as soon as possible so I can be all pro and stuff on him. Totally. For those that don’t know how he plays, he can tunnel across the map to anywhere out of the fog of war and create nests that will blow up on enemies running over them – great for split pushing in itself, but his real strength is in his first ability, Symbiote and his heroic ability, Ultimate Evolution.

My Life for Aiu… I mean Abathur

iconabathurSymbiote allows Abathur to jump inside allied heroes, minions or towers, shielding them and gaining new abilities to use while inside someone… On a 4sec cooldown. I can totally see him jumping from hero to hero, depending on who’s getting focused, to shield them, while also keeping an eye on where Abathur was to make sure he doesn’t get focused. While inside someone else, he also has access to a line-nuke and a point blank AoE nuke. His main weakness as a result is that Abathur is very dependent on his team to be positioned well – he doesn’t have much combat presence outside of Symbiote, and he is vulnerable if his allies don’t capitalise and play more aggressively as a result of having an Abathur on their team. Communication is also key as well, random initiations won’t work out well if the rest of the team aren’t with you!

Creep Tumours are his second ability, placing up to three tumours on the map, providing vision and exploding on enemy contact. Excellent for scouting out ganks for the former, and great for team fights to be able to push aggressively, as the enemy will fear stepping on these mines when every point of health can matter. Deep Tunnel, as already mentioned is a global teleport – some maps have positional requirements like Dragon Shire where Abathur could have a Tumour at the Shrine, then as soon as the Obelisk of the Moon and Obelisk of the Sun are captured, he can teleport instantly to the Dragon Altar to get his team a huge advantage. It’s also a useful escape mechanic if things do get hairy, or if he finds himself in a bad position after a team fight, he can quickly Deep Tunnel behind a tower and continue being a nuisance. He uses Deep Tunnel instead of a mount, so unfortunately I won’t be able to see my worm on a pwnie. Sad times.

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While Abathur only has one heroic ability to choose from, the impact it has will change on a game to game basis regardless. He creates a copy of an allied hero and takes control of it, with its attributes based on Abathur’s level/talents. Think about it, you could have two Raynors calling down Hyperions on the battlefield, or maybe you need to be a bit more defensive in the next team fight, so Evolve Uther and stack/stagger Divine Shields or spam heals on your team. The possibilities are endless, and as a result Abathur is going to be one of the higher skill cap Heroes in the game. He’ll need a working knowledge of all his team mates, and how best to use what Ultimate Evolution when or to simply Symbiote for smaller skirmishes.

His heroic trait is passively spawning minions that will push the nearest lane, and this is where I feel that Abathur’s biggest downfall is. His minions will be pushing the lane way too early, and as such his split push potential may harm his team in the early game. While Abathur doesn’t have much combat presence in himself, his strength is in assisting his team mates. I don’t know what his heroic trait should be, but this forces Abathur to split lanes whenever his lane appears to be pushed too far, especially in the early game when you don’t want to be underneath the enemy towers. Maybe with secondary objectives this might work out in his favour, but in classic MOBA strategies, this isn’t a good one. In mid-late game however, I more than welcome his capabilities of split pushing and keeping the enemy team pinned in their own base. I wonder if his babies will give free farm however…

Abathur-Concept-ArtHis other main weakness is that he’s overall… Well, as squishy as a worm. His HP and HP Regen are the lowest of all Heroes we know about so far. His attack damage and speed are also in a similar boat. If he’s the sole survivor of a team fight and the rest of the team are pushing down on his base, he’s done something wrong, and there’s not a lot he can do in that situation other than hide in a tower or creep wave. Similarly, if he’s the first to die, he’s done something wrong and he needs to watch his positioning. Silly deaths are silly, but the overall role of the support is not to run away from his own team, unless his survival can change the match.

Words can’t describe how excited I am to try out Abathur: despite me not enjoying the multiplayer aspect of Starcraft, he has to be my favourite character in the campaign, if not the entire Blizzard universe. The fact that although he’s listed as a specialist, he is very much a support – a role that I am more than comfortable with in MOBAs (though with shared gold and no item shop in HotS, I might give Warriors and Assassins a good shot here). I have no idea if I’ll do another hero spotlight before I get my teeth into HotS, as I’m sure even most of the things here will change by the time beta comes out, let alone live, but if another hero takes my fancy, I might do another… Here’s looking at you, Tassadar (and totally not checking out more than just Nova’s skills, ahem).

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Druids in Warlords of Draenor

warlords-of-draenor-1280x800Hey, where’s the time gone? I swear BlizzCon was not that long ago! Ah well, time has passed and I’ve been distracted by trying to do as many things non-WoW-related as possible. It’s probably the time of year, but once again I’m finding myself not in WoW and either playing other games or watching YouTube while chatting to people on Skype. Regardless, we have had a LOT of information coming out of BlizzCon about the upcoming expansion, Warlords of Draenor! There was also content related to Blizzard’s other IPs, as well as the announcement of their new MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, but we’re talking about WoW today (as is usual) – more specifically about Moonkins, as I’m sure everyone’s already read everything there is to know about the upcoming expansion from various news sites and other blogs on the internet.

Regardless, I’ve been getting a slight itch to play again, and overall I’d say my initial impressions of WoD now that all the hype of BlizzCon has truly died down, is an odd mixture between excitement and indifference. On the one hand, the first Blizzard game I ever played was Warcraft II – I’ve never played Orcs and Humans but I’ve read enough of the storyline to work out what’s gone on, so to go back to my Blizzard roots and experience heroes such as Ner’zhul (in orc form), Gul’dan, Blackhand and so on is quite an interesting story that I’d love to be immersed in. I can also appreciate that while we’re not getting new classes or races, something that has been an expansion-defining feature in the past, the amount of work that’s being put into the old character models will certainly feel like we have new races (QQ at the lack of Moonkin model updates though – Glyph of Stars it is if I want to have a pretty moment). I don’t really know what I feel indifferent about, and I’m certainly going to enjoy lazing around letting my garrison do my work for me. I guess it’s because that while I did watch the majority of the WoW panels with my virtual ticket, it felt like I didn’t really know what to expect other than the basic package. I’m sure I’ll know more about my feeling for the expansion once beta rolls out and we get more datamining of what to expect.

New Talents

Everyone’s getting new talents at level 100 to play around with! Druid, unsurprisingly, aren’t getting any talents that are simple and work the same across all 4 specs – we’re far too diverse for that in our final tier of talents for WoD! It’s good to have the diversity, but essentially Druids are getting potentially up to 12 new abilities to learn and think about switching in on an encounter-by-encounter basis, if they use all four specs. Here’s what the initial plan for Moonkins are below – don’t forget that between the time of BlizzCon and beta anything can happen and we may not see these talents make beta, let alone live:

Touch of EluneQuite an underwhelming talent for us Moonkins – we essentially get to press an extra button every 20-30secs. Good for spread out adds and can become a predictable solid DPS boost.

For ferals, we’re looking at something to help with our ranged capabilities… Something useful for fights like Atramedes where it’s impossible to get into melee range for certain fights, or a more recent example could be Dark Shaman where there might be points where going into melee is suicidal, and you can still offer DPS. No idea how it’ll match up with Heart of the Wild or if it becomes another debuff to keep track of, we’ll have to see where the numbers crunch.

Guardian of Elune for bears looks to be absolutely major for them. I have to admit I don’t know Guardians at all since the active mitigation model came in, and with the item squish numbers aren’t going to be final, but in most cases, an absorb will be much more beneficial than a heal – especially when Savage Defense just won’t hold up in any case. No idea how this will affect the Frenzied Regeneration glyph – I imagine that if glyphed Guardian of Elune just changes into the extra healing received version, or it might just overwrite the glyph. Time will tell!

For the healing branch of Druids, it would appear that we’re getting the legendary meta as a level 100 talent. If that doesn’t speak volumes for how an item augmentation positively affects a spec in a non-gamebreaking way, I don’t know what is. It’s a fantastic talent for Resto that I can’t wait to try out!

Will of Malfurion (mid)Next up, we have Will of Malfurion, and Balance Druids have… Another button to push – one that makes us immobile too, nonetheless! It’s an AoE talent that we have been asking for, admittedly, in being able to “burst” AoE when the enemy’s on the move, and this talent allows us to do just that, on demand too instead of being a rotational ability like Star/Sunfall. The main downside of it is that we’ll still have to re-apply the Moonfire and Sunfire dots (although the wording doesn’t say it explicitly, I imagine this is the Balance version of Genesis and our dots will fall off 400% faster too), leading to more time outside of Nature’s Grace, our main DPS buff. Another downside is that we would be missing out on so many Shooting Stars procs during that time that our eclipse bar just won’t be moving for the dots’ duration. The talent has its uses for that burst multi-target damage, but once again it’s at the cost of our single target either before or after Zenith, so it may be more beneficial to let the real AoE-ers AoE and you can focus on killing priority targets.

Ferals get a big stick here for their AoE sustained damage, adding another bleed into the mix of quickly whittling away packs of mobs. Other than that, it’s not entirely exciting, but it’s a massive AoE boost.

Guardians get more tankier, placing a lot more emphasis on agility for those physical fights. Though with enchants and gems becoming less of a bonus to gear (until that warforged piece gives the bonus of a socket) and with the homogenisation of gear in Warlords, it might just end up being a passive damage reductions for a boss’s white swings and certain abilities. It’ll certainly be much easier to armor cap on a Guardian in WoD, and they may end up passing rings/necklaces/etc that have the bonus armor on them to their fellow tanks!

Germination for Restoration seems to me like Blizzard liked the idea that we went for a huge leap in haste to gain an extra tick on our Rejuvenation when Genesis came into play, so this talent seems to be complimenting that to allow us to go back to having more mastery or spirit on our gear again, while just trying to get enough haste for Wild Growth additional ticks, or something. I don’t know how the dot snapshotting and Pandemic will work for healers, but this talent certainly caters for a particular playstyle of Restoration.
Might of Malorne (right)Might of Malorne is the final talent waiting for us at level 100, and having no extra button to press for any of the specs makes me a happy Druid (when I want to be lazy)! Some parts of MoM mechanically change the way the spec is played. Balance gets to be in eclipse at all times, which I initially cheered at – it gives our mastery a use 100% of the time instead of ~75% of the time and should, depending on scaling, work well with intellect to make mastery a much more attractive stat (though not more so than how lovely crit is). As mentioned earlier, haste has somewhat devalued for us with the lack of dot snapshots and with us getting Pandemic to increase dot length, but it’s something for the number crunchers to decide when we actually get to test it! One major downside is we lose the benefit of Euphoria and it takes much longer to cycle through eclipses as a result, leading to less uptime of Nature’s Grace.

Feral not only doesn’t have an extra button to press, but with this talent, they can actually take a button OFF their bars! This is a fantastic change again for Ferals that will likely be the go-to talent for any fight they don’t need to AoE on while having good uptime on the boss, and in PvP it looks like a major contender MoM and ToE, depending on how Moonfire balances out for Ferals. Plus, it frees up a potential glyph slot for those Ferals using the 0CP Savage Roar glyph.

Enrage becoming a fairly major cooldown is a great rounding off for the bears in this tier – we have a change to our active mitigation to become an absorb instead of a heal; passive armor bonus from WoF for those physical-intensive fights; and this, a 50% damage reduction for the next incoming attack, be it magical or physical on a 1min cooldown, as well as the standard rage given to use on active mitigation straight after. Warlords has been kind to the bear for their talents, I can only hope that it helps with their overall viability in any case for raiding.

Restoration gains an interesting mechanic for Swiftmend, that allows us to instantly nuke heal anyone who has an active Rejuv or Regrowth heal over time on them. This talent is interesting for many reasons – one being that the Regrowth and Efflorescence glyphs are now not as mandatory in my eyes, with the option to place multiple healing circles on the ground in quick succession, and it allows us to heal powerful damage that even Genesis won’t be able to cover. This also is quite a good tank/burst healing talent, in that we can have our standard Lifebloom and Rejuv rolling on a target, then be able to Regrowth > Genesis > Swiftmend > Swiftmend and still have the option of letting Lifebloom tick out, have Nature’s Swiftness still available for Healing Touch, or go for another Rejuv+Genesis combo. It’s interesting to see Blizzard bake the old Swiftmend glyph into the ability, then give us the option an expansion later to have its original effect on steroids.

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Ability Boosts 91-100

It was also mentioned at BlizzCon that the devs feel that we’re getting too many buttons on our bars – and it’s true, we are! Especially with new expansions, we’re bound to get new abilities either in the levelling process or via a new talent, and for now it seems that we’ll only be getting the latter this time around. Don’t worry though, in the 10 levels while you won’t be getting any new buttons to work out where to place on your bars, you’ll be getting bonuses to spells you already have, further specialising you into your role for your class. Blizzard have mentioned that different bonuses you get while levelling could include things like:

  • A Fire Mage might earn a +50% damage boost to Pyroblast, +30% boost to Scorch, or 35% boost to Fireball.
  • Holy Priests could get their chakra cooldowns halved to 15secs.
  • Shadow Priests could bank 2 shadow orbs to begin fights with.
  • Assassination Rogues might be able to drop a skill on their bars, by making Slice and Dice passive.

As you might be able to tell from these examples, Blizzard aren’t looking to increase our spellbooks any more than is required. With the rising popularity of League of Legends, it’s clear that people don’t particularly want a vast array of abilities to use in every situation, in order to counter X or Y mechanic. While Blizzard does cater to casual/solo play on occasion, they’ve got to understand that this is still a game that’s played with other people, and we’ve got to be able to compliment each other in our uniqueness. We’ve got to have our strengths alongside our weaknesses, so instead of creating new abilities that might just end up being fluff to counter what another class can do so that we can determine our spots in raiding or PvP.

Having said that, I do have a miniature wishlist for Moonkins to gain on their journey to level 100:

  • Starsurge/Shooting Stars to work off an Arcane Missiles-style stacking system. One of my pet peeves is that our greatest capability to be able to move in encounters is also our biggest damage increase. If Shooting Stars is allowed to stack twice, allowing two instant Starsurge casts, then my quality of life in raids would increase tenfold.

With the loss to damage reduction, it’s harder for me to justify being able to stand in bad a tick longer than I should to get a spell off. The only other spec as immobile as us is Shadowpriests, but at least they don’t have to worry about eclipse cycles and Nature’s Grace uptime. Or have their most powerful cooldowns based on needing to stay still for 30secs. Yes, I’m grumpy. No, I won’t shut up about how immobile we are. Plus, having Shooting Stars proc again within GCDs is always painful to see, because of how your dots fall on targets. Starsurge damage may need to be reduced overall to compensate, but I’m fine with that if it means I can actually move out of poo.

  • Mushroom damage to increase and deal spellstorm damage.

Call me nostalgic, but I loved mushrooms as a style of AoE, and when Blizzard gutted their damage in Mists because they wanted us to use Hurricane/Astral Storm in their stead – at the moment they’re only really being used in periods of high movement and on pre-pull for procs.

We can then have three (or more) different styles of AoE with increased damage, and don’t have to worry about Solar camping with the spellstorm damage: Burst, small range damage with the mushrooms; Sustained, small range damage with Hurricane; Sustained, spread damage with multi-dotting and Starsurge cleaving; or using Zenith if we’re specced into it.

Other than those two changes, I’m actually pretty happy with Moonkins mechanically – we have our weaknesses in Nature’s Grace and its links to us needing to be moving our eclipse bar as often as we can. This is Blizzard’s opportunity to give people quality of life changes, such as not requiring to worry about Slice and Dice for Assassination in the example above. I can totally see them giving us bonuses for just +damage on rotational spells, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything mechanically changing until we start seeing the beta roll out. Even then, things may change until Warlords hits.

While I can’t promise that this is me back to blogging regularly 3 times a week again, I probably won’t have another 6 week stint of no updates either. I’ll try to be semi-regular with my updates, but I don’t want to burn out again on blogging, as it’s something I do enjoy. See you next time guys!