Friday Top 5: So You’re In Beta?

Image Courtesy of Blizzplanet

With the news that Blizzard send out the final 400 thousand invites for the Mists of Pandaria Beta, that means (in theory), everyone who’s signed up for it should have it.  Or, at the very least, those who subscribed to WoW for a year should (I’m still not fully clear on which they mean).  So with that in mind, here’s the five things you should be doing while you look around Mists.

5. Understand It’s Beta
I’ve read so many daft comments on how Blizzard could make the content available in its current state.  They complain it’s buggy, lags, and so forth.  It’s called Beta for a reason.  It also means some things due this expansion aren’t yet available.  As it is I think the highest level is 87 (I could be wrong though).

4. Use It To Your Advantage
Whether you’re a gold maker, fast leveller, or pet collector, this is your chance to start planning.  You can find out where things are, and how to get them.  Yes, details often change before the final release of the expansion but you should still be able to get a good feel for things before then.

3. Try New Things
I don’t just mean the Pandas and Monks. We’re getting an overhaul of talents again so why not play around with a new class? Since you’re essentially testing the endgame anyway, you’ll get a feel for what the class is like at that stage. What you hate for the first 20 levels now might very well become your favourite.

2. Share Info
Seriously, this is part of the point to Beta. The things you learn and discover, you should be discussing with others. It helps build the hype for the game and that’s part of your role as a beta tester when there is no NDA. Not everyone will feel that way, but it’s the truth.

1. Break The Game
Seriously. So many people go into Beta and treat it as their personal chance to experience everything before everyone else. That’s not what Beta is for. Beta is for the developers to fix problems as they develop, because the first rule of coding is no matter what safeguards you put in place…the player base will find a way to screw something up in a way you never thought of. So, as a beta player try and do things you know in your head should not work. That way, if it does work, you can report the bug or glitch and Blizzard’s product improves just a little bit more before it’s ready for release.

If you are in the Beta, be sure to really enjoy it.  Not everyone has that luxury, be it by natural selection or their own busy schedule.  Or, maybe they don’t want to know anything until it goes live.  You are in a different position and keeping these five things in mind (along with the whole having fun thing) will help you enjoy the experience but also help Blizzard with what they’re trying to achieve via said Beta.

Friday Top 5: Fanmade Videos

Thought I would change it up a little bit in this week’s Top 5.  There are a tonne of fan created videos out there, from using comedy skits, to music parodies, to some great original stories.  I’ve been introduced to some quality work, and discovered some others on my own.  So today, I present to you the five that stand out the most for me.

5. Kingslayer
This is an interesting look at how new hotness becomes old news. A great look at the Northrend content being a ghost town on nearly all counts. Also, the song is amazing. I’d think nothing of popping it on a CD for in the truck. Lance R Lindley did just a phenomenal job.

4. Boom De Yada
It’s almost to the point where I think this video’s overplayed…almost. Irdeen Productions took the (at the time) popular Discovery Channel promo video and applied it to World of Warcraft. But it’s not just a parody, it’s a phenomenal project that stands on its own merit and digitally surpassed the original it was based on.

3. Divided Soul
Both this video and the next one on the list I owe to Gauss for introducing them to me. Divided Soul is one of those incredibly well told stories, and one that you know well…or you’ll think you do. Once you’ve watched it and figured it out, go back and watch it a second time to truly appreciate it and understand the whole thing.

2. Craft of War: Blind
Again, thanks to Gauss for showing me this one. It’s also been featured on WoWInsider a few times and for just reason. Perculia knocks this one out of the park in Kill Bill fashion. As a fan of Onyxia, I absolutely love how the character was presented here.

1. The Hunt: Trailer
Good things can come from just clicking on random videos on the sidebar of YouTube. I can’t even tell you what other WoW related movies I was watching when I decided to check this video out. It had actually been a couple of years since I’d seen it, but I’ve never forgotten it. Start to finish, it screams Hollywood Blockbuster but in a good way. Great song selection in the background and phenomenal voice work. Tracking it down again I’m pleased to see the movie itself was finally released last summer.

So there’s my personal favourites.  I could’ve easily have included some Oxhorn, or Crendor, or even some of the other great music videos (original or parody), but these were the ones that stood out -especially The Hunt.

Friday Top 5: Races

Azeroth has many races scattered about the lands (and Outland), with more to arrive on Pandaria.  Today’s Top 5 looks at my personal favourites…which was not quite as easy as I expected it to be.

5. Dwarves
The stout and hearty dwarves are one of the oldest races in the world. Their creation is well documented in a number of locations, including Uldaman and Halls of Stone. Just as in other fiction, the dwarves are a stubborn lot…though the stereotype is offset by much of the trouble Brann Bronzebeard tends to unearth.  Despite chasing his butt all over Azeroth and unearthing the negative history of the Titans and Old Gods, they still win me over…guess I’m as loyal as they are.

4. Dragonkin
Probably not much of a surprise here if you know my penchant for dragons. However, I went with the slightly more humanoid version (yes, I know dragons can take on humanoid forms, you know what I mean). I’m rather fond of Blizzard’s two main designs (two legs or four) as the latter is something different from most of what I’ve come upon in fantasy.

3. Ethereals
They just look cool. It didn’t hurt that they were all about the money either. Well, the key ones were. Money and gems (the Outland faction was called “The Consortium” for a reason. These days, it would appear the Alliance and Horde found some freelance ethereals with some fancy technology as they brought about Void Storage and Transmogrification (which still screams Gnome to me, if not for the whole never getting into Orgrimmar).

2. Vrykul
Ok, this is where the Amateur gets a bit neanderthal to some. Sure, when we landed on Howling Fjorde (Alliance), the males were a beastly lot charging upon the Vanguarde. We encounter a few different versions throughout Northrend, including the Utgarde instances and Storm Peaks…but it’s all moot. The Vrykul make the list for the sole reason I just find the female versions to be attractive, particularly the ice ones. It’s as simple as that.

1. Tauren
I’ve made it no secret the Tauren are my favourite race. Back when I did “20 Days of WoW” I came right out and said it. My explanation was: “At one point I rolled one of every class they had. I think it could be their ability to be gentle, yet violent and their respect for the lands and resources around them. They’re wise and think things through. Then again, it could just have to do with me falling under the Taurus Zodiac sign.”

So those are my five.  I had to debate on a couple as I’m also quite fond of the Naga and Tol’vir.  What about you?  What races are you most fond of in Azeroth?

Friday Top 5: Transmog Staves

Hoo boy, this was the hardest one of all and I knew it would be.  You could probably do a Friday Top 50 of all the great staves in Azeroth.  So, with that in mind, I present 5 of the best looking ones.

5. Staff of Immaculate Recovery
Immaculate Recovery makes the list for its great healer/light look. The white and gold is a great combination, even with some of the end level Priest gear.  I wouldn’t limit it to them, though, as it works with many looks and could just as easily be a stark contrast to a dark or shadowy gear set.  It drops from Gurtogg Bloodboil in Black Temple.

4. Tortured Earth
I picked Tortured Earth from the models/skins available only because the earth tones offer something a bit different than the contrasting vibrant items that perpetuate my lists. It’s important to keep things varied, and again that’s the reason behind this version of the staff. There are other options if you so desire, but the important thing is not only the look but the great animation this staff has. General Vezax drops this model in 10-man Ulduar.

3. Apostle of Argus
Some people are going to scream Jedi when they see this on the list, but I didn’t include it for that reason. The simple fact is, this staff looks great with nearly every class though it gives a Mage/Warlock the look of wielding their energy through it. In the bigger picture, it might look slightly more Jedi when a Monk is using it to pummel an opponent come Mists of Pandaria. If you want it, head to Caverns of Time: Mount Hyjal and hope Archimonde is kind when you defeat him.

2. Tower of the Mouldering Corpse
The tower is an incredibly unique looking staff that compliments almost any outfit. In terms of class, it’s pretty universal and will compliment darker outfits especially well. It also has an animation where the upper portion floats up and down upon it.  This one can also be farmed more easily for than the rest of the list as it comes from the regular version of the Forge of Souls, on the last boss (Devourer of Souls).

1. Exodar Life-Staff
This bad boy tops the list simply because it’s one of the most sought after staves for transmogrification. The problem is, it drops from Doom Lord Kazzak in Hellfire Penninsula which I have yet to hear of anyone soloing. That it’s a BoE epic means there’s a chance you could get it off the Auction House if you can find it and want to pay the price for it. If you really want it, though, and haven’t quested in Shadowmoon Valley I would suggest obtaining The Staff of the Redeemder instead.  Same model, no random drops.

Wow, five staves and only two expansions.  I didn’t intend to stick to just the Wrath of the Lich King and Burning Crusade.  As I said during the onset, there are a plethora of great looking staves in Azeroth and it all depends on what kind of look you’re going for in your transmogrification.  One thing’s for certain, if one of these five doesn’t quite do the trick for you I can pretty much guarantee there’s something out there that will be almost exactly what you want.

Friday Top 5: Transmog Bows

As I set down for today’s Top 5, I looked back through previous topics to see what all I’ve covered and I came to realize I didn’t actually finish all of the weapons.  With that in mind, it’s time to begin the process of correcting that as we look at Bows today.

5. Ironfeather Longbow
There’s a simple elegance about this bow that just draws your eyes to it. It could be the feathers or possibly the blue/purple hue about it, but the fact is there’s a natural beauty to it. It looks good with nearly every race as well. Did I mention it’s the same skin as Tyrande’s bow? Indeed, the weapon has much going for it and if it’s your fancy, then you’ll need to complete the quests in the Well of Eternity, namely the last one Path to the Dragon Soul.  Upon completion you can choose Ironfeather as your reward.

4. Valanos’ Longbow/Starbolt Longbow
Once again, my personal favourite fails to rank number one. Just goes to show you I’m not biased. The colour combination, plus unique design, makes this my favourite bow to wield on a Hunter. Again, it’s just one of those designs that simply stands out. The Valanos’ version is often on the Auction House (if you don’t mind paying 100g-200g for it), while the Starbolt drops from Pandemonius in Heroic Mana Tombs.

3. Sunfury Bow of the Phoenix
This is a favourite among Hunters these days, and was “back in the day.” It was one of the better non-Beast Mastery weapons at the time, to say nothing of how amazing it looks. The sad thing is, despite how much I’ve Karazhan over the years I have still only ever seen it drop once (and I’m happy to say my wife still has it in her bank). If you want it for your Transmog, start farming Prince Malchezaar and may the RNG be kind.

2. Black Bow of the Betrayer
Let’s face it, most things associated with Illidan automatically rank higher. However, that’s a mere coincidence this time as the Black Bow is on the list and as high as it is because it looks that good. The scale, the design, and the slight animation to it just make it a great looking weapon. The only mild knock against it is that it does come across as a bit big. Still, you can do far worse for your bow and if you want this one then it’s off to kill Illidan in Black Temple.

1. Arathar, the Eye of Flame
It isn’t often that I rank a Cataclysm item atop the list, so there’s obviously something to be said when I do. That’s precisely the case with the Eye of Flame. Also, let’s be precise here as I’m referring to the regular one (as seen in the picture), and not the other skin that drops from Heroic (as seen here). Quite honestly, the Heroic version just blends in too much with other gear. The regular Arathar stands out with it’s yellow skin and (as a result) greater vibrance.

As is usually the case, the list is always subject to opinion.  There were a couple of other bows that I considered for the list but they tended to be a great skin for one or two races, but not as universally and as such didn’t make the list.  Having said that, I’d love to hear your opinion as always.

Friday Top 5: Raids

I thought I would switch things up a bit with the Top 5 list and take a look at the Top 5 raids in the game today.  Blizzard’s done a great deal with the raiding system and the environments, and some players spend 90% of their game time in them.  So, it only seems fair.

5. Sunwell Plateau
The final raid for The Burning Crusade expansion, players (lore wise) had to head to the Isle of Quel’Danas and prevent Kil’jaeden from entering Azeroth via a portal.  Visually impressive, and the benchmark for difficulty at the time, Sunwell did a great job of tiding most players over until Wrath of the Lich Kind was released. The bosses were varied, and challenging. I still remember when you had to be a solid raid team just to get past Brutallus before he raged.

4. Molten Core
You couldn’t compile a list without including the original. Yes, Onyxia’s Lair was also available on launch but Molten Core is the design most raids have followed, with the classic dungeon crawl system. Ragnaros is the grandfather of end bosses, as such and back then it took 40 people to take him down.  This was the pinnacle of the game at the time and it set the gauntlet for players having to work hard and spend a lot of time trying before they actually succeeded.

3. Temple of Ahn’Qiraj
Both Ahn’Qiraj instances arrived in Patch 1.9 via what I still consider one of the coolest ideas Blizzard has had in the game. The Qiraji war effort server wide, building towards the opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj was brilliant and has never been duplicated even slightly. The Temple was the 40 man raid of the two, and brought players in contact with an Old God for the first time, in C’thun. Say what you want about the content getting easier over time but all you need to know about AQ40 (as it was called for so long) is that to this day you still can’t beat The Twins or Viscidus without proper build components…and wiping on C’thun can still easily happen if you don’t know the fight.

2. Ulduar
Forget the fact people are going back to it more now than ever thanks to Transmogrification, Ulduar had everything going for it. There was a great patch release video with Brann Bronzebeard filling us in on the situation, a fight players were farming in no time (Flame Leviathan) and a vast and beautiful environment that was incredibly rich and deep. It all around felt epic from start to finish. It also did a great job of pulling together much of the lore we encountered throughout Northrend with Freya, Thorim, and more.

1. Karazhan
If you know me, or have read this blog for a while, you knew this would top the list. Karazhan revolutionized the raiding system in World of Warcraft. Don’t believe me? Every raid in the last two expansions has included a 10-man option. A small part of that is because developers recognized 25-man guilds are far less common, but mostly it’s due to the fact that Karazhan was the very first 10-man and it was a huge hit. From entering Deadwind Pass and the creak of the opening gate, to the organ music inside, all the way to the top with the echoing voice of Prince Malchezaar, the soundtrack is perfect. The fights were varied and challenging, and much like Ulduar it’s incredibly epic visually. To this day I love taking players inside because unfortunately most skip it on their way to 85.

So there’s the list.  The top 5 raids in the game.  I debated strongly on the list, cutting it down from seven actually as Black Temple and Naxxramas are both great raids as well.  What are your thoughts?  Did your personal favourite make today’s list?

Friday Top 5: Land Mounts

Today’s Top 5 is all about transportation.  Specifically, the land versions.  The amount of land mounts in the game is plenty, but these are the five that I think are as good as they get. It doesn’t get much more styling than these.

5. Sunwalker Kodo
Introduced in Patch 4.0 with the other race specific Paladin mounts, the Sunwalker has a great blend of colours to it, looking just a bit better than the Greater Sunwalker Kodo. It doesn’t feel quite as bulky either. Tauren Paladins receive this mount at level 20 (much to the chagrin of the other Tauren classes)

4. Kor’kron Annihilator
I’m honestly surprised the people who claim Blizzard plays faction favourites haven’t cried foul over this one more (that I’ve seen). This is the Horde reward for your Horde guild hitting level 25 and being Exalted with them (for a price, of course).The Annihilator looks even better up close than in any of the previews or screenshots.

3. Swift Spectral Tiger
The pinnacle TCG mount is also the least seen. Part of the reason for that is no doubt many people who got it have retired from the game. The tiger looks phenomenal in-game as well. However, as it’s only acquired via the TCG (and an old set at that), it’s got a steep asking price though it’s nowhere near the thousand dollars it used to go for on e-bay.

2. Winterspring Frostsaber
This is my personal favourite. The Winterspring looks great in nearly any environment and it’s another mount that despite the improved means of acquiring it isn’t very prominent. In fact, the mount is yours after doing a daily for twenty days (a far cry from one of the most demanding rep grinds in the game, which it used to be). Alas, it’s an Alliance only mount. The Horde do have the Venomhide Ravasaur, I simply find it to be inferior by comparison.

1. Flametalon of Alysrazor
Naysayers point out this is nothing more than a reskin of the Raven Lord’s mount. While true, it doesn’t matter as it looks amazing regardless of what skin they took it from. Not surprisingly, the Flametalon came in Patch 4.2 but was overshadowed by the Flameward Hippogryph upon release. This mount is much harder to obtain than the Hippogryph though as it has a small chance of dropping from Alysrazor (though it could drop on any difficulty).

Those are the five sleekest land mounts in the humble opinion of yours truly.  What’s your personal favourite?  Was there any you think should have made the list?