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Act 2: First Blood

As one might rightly assume, I encountered the infamous Infernal Act 2 brick wall.

The best sort of welcoming committee for melee.

To say I was “pwned” by the very first elite pack (Frozen, Molten, Plagued, Desecrator) is to suggest that the Allies merely dropped by Dresden in 1945 for a night on the town. The melee attacks alone were brutal enough to take me out in 3 hits, nevermind all the shit on the ground. As the respawn timer crept ever higher, I thought that those “discretion better form of valor” guys might be on to something. Unfortunately, the FMPD welcoming committee had other plans. No matter how far away I dragged them from the Checkpoint I kept respawning at, at least one was hanging around for his turn to teabag my corpse.

The cherry on top of this injury cake was when the Enrage timer went off. Fun fact: the Enrage timer is actually a debuff that simply kills you in seconds no matter where the fuck the elites are at. As I sat there stunned IRL as to how I can be killed by elites not even on the goddamn screen, I had to further endure the 10-second logoff Wait of Shame before I could scurry back to the AH. After spending something in the neighborhood of 500k (on top of the 300k I talked about last time), my stats ended up looking like this:

A 3 oz bottle of Vaseline doesn’t go as far as one might hope.

I came to the sad conclusion that perhaps I was going to have to alter my Noob Wind spec. So I did… grudgingly. I swapped Mantra of Evasion for Mantra of Healing with the 20% resist runes; I dropped Seven-Sided Strike for Serenity; I switched the rune for Breath of Heaven for the 1.5 second Fear. And… that’s basically it. Bought a 1h weapon + shield combo for when things still get really hairy, but the loss of 7000 paper DPS is almost worse than dying in-game.

I still have issues with many some elites, but at least I have enough time to react to said fact before being ground into a thick paste.

The fact that I am still having occasional issues is somewhat perplexing though, considering the Inferno Act 2 Monk 200k video floating around. If you haven’t see it, the basic premise is a dude went naked to the AH with 200,000g and walked out with enough gear to progress through the entirety of Act 2 Inferno as a Monk… skipping only 3 elite packs along the way. And made a profit with vendor gold alone. I went ahead and did an unbuffed comparison shot of his stats from the video and my own:


I quite literally have 400 more resist than this guy, and I still have issues? The biggest difference – aside from his rather ridiculous amount of Increased Attack Speed – is his spec: Deadly Reach. Ah, yes, the ranged monk. For what it is worth, I did actually try Deadly Reach for a while but couldn’t make it work; without all the extra IAS, you cannot actually kite all that effectively, nor trigger the 3rd punch for the +50% armor bonus.

Then, I noticed something else about his video… the elites he actually faced.

  1. Fast, Illusion, Electric, Plague
  2. Nightmare, Electric, Waller, Health Link
  3. Waller, Fast, Electric, Plague
  4. Frozen, Reflect Damage, Health Link, Waller
  5. Teleport, Jailer, Nightmare, Fire Chain
  6. Fire Chain, Arcane Enchanted, Mortar, Reflect Damage
  7. Molten, Electric, Plague, Fast
  8. Mortar, Waller, Shield, Plague
  9. Plague, Fast, Fire Chain, Vampiric
  10. Mortar, Illusion, Knockback, Waller
  11. [not shown]
  12. Extra Health, Nightmare, Jailer, Fire Chain
  13. Extra Health, Teleport, Vortex, Plague
  14. Electric, Plague, Avenger, Wall
  15. Health Link, Desecrator, Fire Chain, Fast
  16. Desecrator, Teleport, Shield, Molten
  17. Fast, Frozen, Extra Health, Electric
  18. Vampiric, Mortar, Nightmare, Minion
  19. Avenger, Molten, Teleport, Nightmare
  20. Teleport, Avenge, Molten, Electric
  21. Frozen, Vampiric, Jailer, Arcane Enchanted
  22. Molten, Shielding, Arcane Enchanted, Electric, Minion [skip]
  23. Extra Health, Arcane Enchanted, Reflect Damage, Waller [skip]
  24. Molten, Knockback, Illusion, Reflect Damage
  25. Nightmare, Teleport, Illusion, Fire Chain
  26. Knockback, Molten, Reflect Damage, Minion
  27. Fast, Waller, Reflect Damage, Teleport
  28. Arcane Enchanted, Fire Chain, Reflect Damage, Vortex
  29. Frozen, Knockback, Extra Health, Reflect Damage [skip]
  30. Knockback, Mortar, Frozen, Shield

You are goddamn right I wrote them all down. Aside from the four I marked in red above, the elites he faced in the video (barring the occasional enemy type) were a total joke. Could he have faced down my FMPD welcoming committee with his spec? Maybe, maybe not. I have grave doubts.

Sour grapes aside, his video has educated me in various ways. For example, his +631 Life on Hit is obviously doing more for him than my +1027 considering he is getting nearly a full extra attack per second – nevermind all the extra Spirit he generates. The single-minded focus on Dexterity was similarly interesting given how much effect it is having: 229% more damage from his 612 DPS weapons, making them nearly on par with my 1000+ 2H. I am not entirely willing to go Deadly Reach just yet, but I can definitely spend another ~5 hours “playing” Diablo 3’s AH to repair my errors.

And if it sounds like I am enjoying Diablo 3 better overall, you wouldn’t be wrong. The cheeky among you might suggest that it is because of the increased difficulty, and I am inclined to agree – Act 2 has been the only stretch of road I have not been zipping down at 80 mph in a 65 mph zone. Indeed I thought Act 1 Inferno was about as hard as Act 2 Normal in the scheme of things, given the latter’s lack of gold for upgrades and all the locked abilities.

After 38 hours /played, it is about goddamn time some fun was had.

The end is probably nigh however, for all the reasons I have seen in the comments to my own posts (and elsewhere). “Farming” Act 1 Inferno holds about as much appeal as sticking my balls in a toaster, and… well, actually, that is basically the way forward here. Or giving in to the Deadly Reacharound build. While the thought of maybe getting a $200 item drop soothes the chaffing a bit, I already spend more time in the AH than in-game. I don’t know how much longer…

…hold on, I have an email.

Pics or it didn’t… damn.

BRB, grabbing my toaster.

P.S. Congrats to Anderasill, the owner of the above screenshot + $173.40 ($200 minus fees) and a winner of the Diablo Annual Pass Challenge (Hardcore). She actually got Diablo 3 via the Annual Pass, so there’s that too. And she probably could have saved herself the 15% transaction fee since I know damn well she’ll just spend all that money and more buying the new WoW pets.

A Sudden Renewed Interest in Diablo 3

At some point yesterday, this happened:

I… wha… who…?

The real-money AH went Live on Tuesday, but it was not until I went to check on my auctions the next day that I realized it. After collecting my meager sales, I decided to see if the RMAH side of things used the same 10-item limit as the Gold AH. As it turns out, you get a full ten more slots to sell things. So, in the interests of clearing out some Stash space, I tossed 10 items up on there. I let the AH set a default bid/buyout price, which simply appears to be adding a decimal to the vendor price, e.g. something that vendors for 231g becomes $2.31.

…and someone bought the Eviscerator’s Sink.

Blizzard sends you an email too:

Pics or it didn’t hap… oh, wait.

I have no idea what kind of item Eviscerator’s Sink is. My highest-level character is 40, and I technically stopped playing the game a week ago. I vaguely remember the item being in the level ~26 range, which makes the sale all the more bizarre. A quick search of the RMAH shows there are actually quite a few four-digit DPS level 60 items up for $1.25 buyouts (the minimum, netting the seller a whopping $0.25 each). So… was it a misclick? Or did somebody somewhere really want to be awesome for the next two hours?

The title is a bit facetious, although I did experience a brief spell of euphoria. That was quickly dispelled upon the sobering realization that I would have to continue playing Diablo 3. I stopped halfway through Act 2 Nightmare because I had encountered a Whirling Dervish champion pack with Vampirism and Lightning (?) qualities, as a Monk. What ended up happening was I would blow a lot of cooldowns attempting to kill them right away, they would start their Bladestorm-esque attack with a 15-yard range, and by the time I was able to move out of the damage, they had regained all the health they had lost.

Could I have augmented my talent loadout to better combat their abilities? Yes. Could I have simply avoided them? Sure. Could I be bothered to do any of that when I have a perfectly fun Battlefield 3 as an alternative? Hell-to-the-no. I did end up killing that champion pack, but when they dropped garbage rares outclassed by blue items I bought hours earlier, the loot-for-loot’s sake gameplay got suplexed by Final Strawman. Maybe I will return once melee is buffed to actually, you know, be able to reliably stay in melee range when attacking, but the future isn’t looking bright.

For me to pick Diablo 3 back up, I mean. Blizzard already made their $60 + $1 from me, and 3.5 million other people, so no water off their back. Especially not with their gold-plated umbrellas and fancy weather machines.

Design Notes I Like to See

From the latest Dev Blog:

That said, we also wanted to let you know we’re keeping a close eye on Inferno. The intent of incoming damage is that it should be a very consistent drain on your health, and mitigating that drain is a major part of what makes Inferno mode difficult. Right now, there’s a lot more damage “spikiness” occurring than feels right, and that’s one major area we’re looking to adjust in patch 1.0.3. While we don’t have any specifics yet, our design goals are to support and promote build diversity; continue to ensure that a mix of champion packs, rare packs, and boss fights are the most efficient way to acquire the best items in the game; and ensure that all classes are viable in Inferno.


We’ve also seen some people saying our intention with Inferno is just one-shot you to make it difficult. While damage is a bit spikier than we’d like, we’re actually seeing a pretty significant number of people attempting Inferno without sufficient gear. There’s a good chance that returning to the previous Act to farm upgrades will do the most to help you survive. That said, we’d like to shift some of the focus away from survival and more toward using a variety of offensive tactics to succeed. Survival will still be important, but finding ways to maximize your damage while staying alive is more exciting. We’re not particularly concerned with whether or not a boss is “beatable,” though it should feel epic and challenging to defeat it. We’re more concerned with ensuring that acquiring 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor and taking on as many Champions and Rares as you can remains the most challenging and rewarding way to play.

And then there is this bit about the crafting:

Other areas of concern have been both the gem combination system and Blacksmith leveling and crafting costs. The intent, especially with the Blacksmith, is that he’s leveling with you, you’re able to use him as an alternate source for upgrades. Our design goal is that once you get to level 60, his recipes are actually good enough to help fill a character’s potential itemization gaps. To correct these issues, we’re looking to adjust the Blacksmith costs for training (gold and pages) and crafting from levels 1-59, and reduce the cost of combining gems so that it only requires two gems instead of three (up to Flawless Square). Both of these changes are scheduled for patch 1.0.3.

I had been avoiding crafting altogether because A) what’s the point when you have access to the AH, and B) what’s the point when vendoring magic items is more profitable than Salvaging them? Then again, the Commodities portion of the AH has been down since launch (I believe) and I am somewhat convinced it was precisely to get people to do their own crafting/salvaging.

In any case, after hearing the news that maybe the endgame isn’t supposed to be about endlessly kiting mobs around, I leveled up the Monk up to 17 to get Seven-Sided Strike. Decently fun ability. While I was moving talents around, I decided to give Crippling Wave another try as my left-click ability now that I unlocked a Rune for it. As soon as I did this, I ran into a pack of the flying wasp creatures and proceeded to get kited the fuck around. I cannot imagine a worse feeling than getting kited around by a mob in a hack-n-slash game.

So I logged back onto the Witch Doctor, looking for that cave with the first piece of the sword. As I was walking around, I encountered one of those bull-like creatures with the charge attack. That one move by an otherwise unremarkable mob one-shot my Zombie Dogs.

All of them.

Translation: Fuck this game.

While on the level 6 Wizard, it occurred to me that I have no particular desire to kite things. If a bunch of zombie torsos leap (!) out of the bushes, I do not want my first instinct to be to Frost Nova and left-click myself away. Nor do I want to wait for however many levels it takes to get the spells necessary to actually deal what feels like some legitimate damage.

So I did the only thing left of me. I uninstalled rolled Barbarian.

Two Lords A-Leaping~

Now, this? This feels good.

P.S. And this doesn’t look bad either.

Baby WoW

I am about five hours into Diablo 3, and I think I am done with the game.

What’s wrong? Two words: “baby WoW.”

Issue 3: “Baby WoW”

As I was playing co-op with an ex-WoW friend, he uttered “baby WoW” as the description of what these sort of games made him feel like he was playing. And you know what? I’m starting to feel the same. That is kind of the whole schtick of hack-n-slash, of course, the mowing down of corridors of mobs while you mop up the loot debris field in the wake of your passing. It is also tough to criticize spam-clicking in a world of rote ability rotations and the common “strategy” you develop for the execution of the average MMO mob.

At the same time, while I was going through Diablo 3 I could not help but feel somewhat patronized. This Skinner Box lever is completely unadorned. Of course, if you prefer yours fast and loose, then get ready to go to town; I may just turn in for the night instead, if its all the same to you.

That was written about a month ago in my Diablo 3 Beta preview. I am not sure what exactly I was expecting to be different between then and now… perhaps that my perspective would change? As I mentioned in that article, I am a storied veteran of the hack-n-slash genre, so my present disposition towards the gameplay is somewhat surprising. Or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, given that the bulk of my H&S resume was pre-MMO.

What really drove the point home though, was when I decided to look into the crystal ball and see what my level 16 monk had to look forward to in Inferno difficulty. First, came the forum posts which lamented a blunt non-viability. Then came the Youtube videos.


Part 2 (of 4) Monk killing one elite pack in Act 4. It takes him over 10 minutes of kiting.

Witch Doctor in Act 2. Sure looks fun.

Wizard in Act 2.

The reoccurring theme here is kiting. Lots and lots of kiting. Now, I am not here to denigrate the skill it takes to kite properly. I am simply saying: kiting is not my idea of compelling gameplay. Kiting to allow your abilities to come off cooldown is worse. Kiting in a game where by default left-clicking an area could root you in place and attack the very mob you are trying to get away from is worse still. Diablo 3 is not a movement game. This is not an MMO like Guild Wars 2 or (presumably) TERA wherein you have Dodge buttons and position is important.

There appears to be only two distances in Diablo 3: Immune in Melee or Running Away.

You may rightly ask “Why let this bother you?” After all, I just zoned into Act II and am only level 16. It could very well be that I beat Normal mode once and then uninstall. And the answer I would give would be “I’m not having fun right now.” The abilities so far on the Monk are boring to me. Fists of Thunder + Thunderclap Rune was great when I got it… at level 6. Since that time, I am still waiting for something new to “change” my gameplay in a comparable way. And it is looking as though if such a skill exists, I won’t be getting it until well past the end of the game.

So… yeah.

For now, I started a Witch Doctor in the hopes I will have enough fun summoning zombie dogs and spiders and such to last me until the end of the game. I would have started out with the Witch Doctor originally, but when the Skeleton King one-shot my 60 second cooldown in the Beta, I sort of figured that that play-style would not be viable later on. If that is still the case, well, I will be jumping off that bridge when I get to it.

Everything But the Dance Studio

Once you get that knee-jerk reaction out of your system, the design announcements currently going on at BlizzCon are pretty interesting.

Yeah, Pandas. They really did it. I owe someone $20. But what about the rest?

Monk Reactions

  • Every race but goblin and worgen… interesting.
    • Does this mean new animations for all those older races?
  • GG tank balance, once again. Historically, Blizzard has never balanced tanks correctly, ever.
  • “No auto attack! Devs want you to have this street fighter feel where you punch a lot.”
    • /facepalm
    • Seriously, that won’t work. Blizzard has spent years increasing the passive damage of every melee class because front-loading them in actual attacks leads to 3.0-era Ret paladins murdering everyone.
    • Nevermind how Blizzard specifically changed Heroic Strike and other on-next-attack abilities to be more normal abilities specifically because warriors were getting carpal tunnel. Now they want Street Fighter?

Okay, fine:

Panda Reactions

  • /facepalm
  • Those racials suck. Nothing like how blown away I was at Goblin/Worgen racials.
  • Wonder about what their racial mount will be…
  • All that aside, I’m one of “those guys” whose overall opinion on the race will be determined by how the females look. My paladin is a draenei female despite it being the worst race in the game simply because I like the look, for example.
  • After the disappointing direction of Worgen females, I fully expect to be similarly disappointed here.

Talent Tree Revamp Reaction

  • Change is scary!
  • Actually, this sounds fine.
  • These choices are actually interesting. Some of them will be extremely difficult.
  • Here are some examples of good ones:

Those are some interesting choices. The rogue spread boggles my mind with the possibilities, for example. Shadow Focus would presumably let you Sap, use Tricks of the Trade, and so on without any Energy cost. Meanwhile, Nightstalker would also be useful in a more general sense. Subterfuge seems bonkers to me. Can you imagine? You’re healing some dude from the bushes, and all of a sudden you get a Garrote, Eviscerate, and Mutilated before you even see where it came from. And I have to assume that Stealth breaks immediately if you start capping a flag or whatever, otherwise… very OP.

And look at the tanking spreads:

Those… are actually pretty crazy choices. The “obvious” paladin tank choice would be Ardent Defender, but I have never thought it was a compelling button to push every since it was redesigned from its (admittedly OP) passive ability – it was essentially Divine Protection v2, now with triple the cooldown. Now I have choices! Sacred Shield as a Prot tank looks really juicy even with the 60 second internal cooldown, for example. And if I were questing or facerolling through obsolete heroics, Blessed Life would let me unleash some burst DPS with all that extra guaranteed Holy Power.

Here is an example of what NOT to do though:

Yes, I noticed that Repentance technically has no cooldown and is essentially a paladin polymorph. Yes, I also noticed that “Fist of Justice” (lol) is a 6-second stun on a 30-second cooldown, ala early Wrath. Choosing between those two will be absurdly difficult… unless you are Ret paladin, in which case you are just fucked. Holy paladins never could get Repentance, so a “default” HoJ at half its normal cooldown is pure bonus, nevermind the strategic implications of trading it for a spammable CC on a different DR from normal CCs. Similarly, Prot paladins experience pure bonus. Ret paladins though? They lose either their stun or their incapacitate (e.g. their only “gap-closer”), and lose even the lame-ass snare capacity they had previously. More demoralizing is that the mere continued existence of Seal of Justice means there won’t be a snare for Ret paladins for yet another expansion.

There are probably other class examples of options actually being taken away in this revamp, but the Ret one jumped off the page and cock-slapped me. Anyway, back to talent impressions:

  • Apparently Blizzard wants you to be able to change talents at any time, ala glyphs.
  • Some of those talents are obviously dungeon talents, obviously PvP, etc. Not sure how that eliminates cookie-cutter builds.
  • Perhaps a secondary effect of having more difficulty levels in dungeons/raids is that cookie-cutter builds would be less relevant.
  • Actually, no, cookie-cutter builds will always be relevant. See: rise of GearScore in late Wrath despite high GearScore being 100% irrelevant to the actual difficulty.

Dungeon/Raid/Scenario Reactions

  • “Heroic dungeons [in this expansion] will largely be tuned to be about as difficult as they were in Wrath of the Lich King, allowing players to fairly quickly down bosses in PUGs and hit their Valor Point caps.”
    • Told you so.
      • Okay, technically I predicted Firelands would be easier, which didn’t happen. Not my fault Blizzard is so damn slow.
  • Scenarios sound interesting. The lack of a trinity requirement is pretty novel, WoW-wise.
  • Hopefully Scenarios will be a frequently-updated feature, since it doesn’t technically need lore or even bosses to support it.
  • Dungeon Challenges, eh? Good luck.
  • Christ, they put Challenges in the LFD feature?! Are they insane?
    • Okay, it only matches you up with other people flagging themselves as Challenge. Not quite as crazy.
    • Actually, completing a successful gold metal Challenge run entirely via LFD should be a tier higher than doing it in a premade group, don’t you think?
  • I think Challenges are a pretty interesting feature, but what’s more interesting is how they “normalize” the gear. Seems pretty dangerous for a MMO to even tangentially introduce a feature that makes gear progression irrelevant.
  • After all, if they can make gear irrelevant there, why not make it irrelevant everywhere?
    • Other than the obvious “it removes replay value.”
  • “We are currently not planning to have 90 normal dungeons in MoP.” Ballsy. Or lazy, depending.
  • That seems like a clear signal to solo to cap, then group.
  • Or continue soloing forever, by getting VP from questing.

Misc Reactions

  • Pet Battling = Path of the Titans, Dance Studio. I predict vaporware.
  • Then again… they did play the panda card so who knows anymore?
    • “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [screaming] You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
  • If Pet Battling is real, $10 says the store pets are more powerful than normal pets.
  • “Pets will be account wide.” Really? Huh. Then I guess the BoE Disco Cub isn’t such a rip-off than it was before.
    • You know there will be pissed-off people who bought more than one to have on multiple characters.
  • “The plan is to get people back into the world, instead of having players roam around Stormwind and Orgrimmar all the time once they reach max level.”
  • And yet no real concrete plans on how they expect to accomplish that.
  • Hell, Scenarios and LFR and Challenges all push people back into instances.
  • Maybe daily quests with VP will get people outdoors, but that certainly isn’t much of “out in the world.”
  • Interesting how there was no mention of new Wintergrasp/Tol Barad-esque zone.

In any case, that about sums it up for now. While a lot of these things sound interesting, Path of the Titans sounded interest too. Time will only tell how many (if any) of these features actually make it to live servers.