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WoW Shadowlands Deep Dive

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A recap of the Deep Dive BlizzCon panel about the systems in Shadowlands.

Deep Dive Panel Recap

In this panel, you're going to learn more about:

  • Covenants
  • New Leveling Flow
  • Classes
  • Torghast and the Maw

Check out our BlizzCon 2019 Content Hub for the latest news coverage!


At max level, you will pick one of the four covenants.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)


Zone: Maldraxxus

Necrotic soldiers who wage war throughout the cosmos.

In the skull-and-bone laboratories of Maldraxxus, strength is rewarded, and weakness cast aside. Necromancers experiment on the souls of the ambitious and contentious, reforming only the greatest into undead soldiers who protect the Shadowlands. Those who are determined rise to positions of power. The less-promising become fuel for Maldraxxus’ malign weapons.

Maldraxxus’ brutal selection process has built a vast and capable militia… but its hierarchy is wobbling. The longtime leader of the realm has vanished. In his absence, five of the most eminent necrolords vie for the position, and the responsibility to advance the cause of death throughout the cosmos. Each bids on newly-arrived souls, filling their personal guard with capable soldiers and building armies larger than any yet known.

When they march, will it be towards one another… or the realms they swore to defend?




Zone: Bastion

Steadfast guardians who carry the souls of the dead.

Living beings have wished to become something greater than themselves since time immemorial. Souls deemed noble enough can prove themselves in Bastion, land of pristine spires and crystalline skies, where those who surpass their trials earn the honor of ascension to a higher calling beside the Archon, first among the winged kyrians.

The kyrians are eternal beings who draw only the most accomplished, principled, and pure into their ranks. But, as souls plunge into the Maw and upheaval rocks the Shadowlands, scores of aspiring kyrians find that they are unable to continue their journey to ascension. With the number of kyrians dwindling, their charge to ferry souls to eternity is in jeopardy. Will the Archon’s devoted stand together, or will this test of faith sunder their shining kingdom?




Zone: Revendreth

Eaters of sin who harvest anima from wicked souls.

The venthyr have a good thing going. They lord over Revendreth’s castles and ceaseless twilight while arrogant souls are delivered to their tables. The harvesters’ otherworldly punishments strip the pride from their thralls, sparing them an even worse fate: eternal torment in the Maw.

But souls thus drained can’t just leave Revendreth for a better place. They have years of penance to slog through while they reflect on the precarity of their afterlives. And, after eons of service, the venthyr are increasingly ruled by their decadence and pride. The very purpose of the plane may be flawed… and those who were once accusers have become gluttonous and corrupt.

Revendreth must always have a master, and rumor suggests that Denathrius, foremost among the venthyr, may no longer be fit for the role. Crowning a new Sire could return the plane to its former glory… or leave Revendreth mired in the same decadence and sin it is charged with cleansing.



Night Fae

Zone: Ardenweald

Defenders of nature who uphold the cycle of rebirth.

If the Emerald Dream mirrors the spring and summer of life, then the star-hued plane of Ardenweald reflects life in its twilight.

Those who pass on with a deep connection to nature are tended here by the mystic night fae, who retrieve anima from mortal souls and infuse it into slumbering spirits, rejuvenating their lives with the remnants of the old.

Ardenweald has suffered more keenly from soul-drought than any other realm in the Shadowlands. For the first time in endless ages, the night fae's Winter Queen must choose which of the land’s formerly lush groves—and which souls—will be fed the last precious drops of anima… and which will fade away forever.



Covenant Sanctums will be your Class Order Hall, so you're going to spend a lot of time in these places.

Covenant Abilities

Picking a Covenant unlocks various customizable utility and class-specific abilities. Here we have an example Covenant ability of the Night Fae.

Soul Shape turns you into a Spirit Fox, increasing your movement speed by 30% and causing enemies to ignore you. Lasts 10 seconds, or until cancelled while in a rest area.


The ability can be customized allowing you to shapeshift into a different animal.


Here are examples of other Covenant abilities.

other ab.JPG

Class-Specific Covenant Abilities

These are active powers that vary with each class. Blizzard's using Mages as an example in the panel. Kyrian Mages will have access to the Radiant Spark spell which will be added to their rotation.

kyrian mage.JPG

Of course, we have four Covenants to choose from, and here is how the spell changes based on the Covenant of your choice:

mage covenant abilities.JPG


In Shadowlands, you'll build up reputation with your Covenant and unlock powerful abilities for your characters. Here's an example of Theotar, the Mad Duke and Nadjia, The Mistblade of Venthyr.

You can either have your critical strike increased by 5% against targets whose current health percentage is lower than yours by picking Theotar, or have Deflecting Flourish which increases your parry by 6%. If you can't parry, Nadija will teach you how to parry.


Allies With Benefits

  • Unlock new tiers of powers over time.
  • Customize your Soulbind tree with a new item: Conduits

Soulbinds come with talent trees and the system allows you to choose one that best suits you.


Switching, Specializing and Playing Favorites

  • Choose the soulbind that best suits you
  • Switch soulbinds when strategy demands.
  • Uncover your soulbind's backstory

Cool Covenant Stuff

  • Weapons and armor
  • Backpack-style cloaks
  • Mount (Upgradable)
  • World benefits
  • Covenant campaign
  • You will be able to build your own abomination bodyguard

abomb bod.JPG

Covenant Sets & Back Attachments

Other rewards await, including back attachments and Covenant Sets. You will be able to change your Covenant, but it will take time.

CovenantPlateSets_1920x1080.jpgkyrin back attachments.JPG

Now it's time for the leveling improvements!

  • The current leveling problems: leveling is slow and levels don't feel meaningful.
  • To fix this, many more zones will scale with your level. You decide where you want to quest in Shadowlands.


There's a new zone called Exile's Reach (1-10) along with existing racial/class starting zones. including Death Knights and Demon Hunters.


The new starting zone Exile Reach will host different mobs such as murlocs.


The story revolves around an Ogre that wants to sacrifice your forces and the zone ends with a two-boss mini dungeon where you put an end to the menace.


It seems Death Knights and Demon Hunters will no longer start at higher levels...

Here's the new leveling flow for new players, existing players (alts), and Allied Races (which start at level 10).

newplayers.JPGlols.JPGallied races.JPG

Class Changes

Holinka talked about philosophies and class changes that they're aiming to implement in the coming expansion. They're bringing back some class defining mechanics like Paladin Auras, Shaman Totems, Rogue Poisons, Warlock Curses.


There's a focus on Class range -- Mages, as masters of the elements, will have Arcane, Fire, and Frost magic at their disposal. Shadow Priests can use Light to heal themselves and Holy Priests will be able to draw upon the power of shadow to eliminate their foes.


Another category are the iconic class abilities which hold a special place in our hearts that have been taken away. Raise Dead, Frost Shock, Consecration, Ursol's Vortex, Shiv, and Death Coil are returning!


Another category incorporates Talents and Honor Talents, here's a peek at returning talents.

talents coming back.JPG

The final category is called "Long Lost Friends"...


Torghast, Tower of the Damned

The ever-changing tower located in the Maw is meant for endgame. It's changes every time you enter, so each run is different. You can earn various rewards here including runes that are used to forge Legendaries. We are going to learn the backstory of the Helm of Dominion and Frostmourne.

runes and legendaries.JPG

You'll have access to a new power called The Anima which is also dynamic.

deep dive anima.JPGtorgast.JPG

Official Recap

Blizzard has posted the official recap of the panel and you can find it below.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)


In Shadowlands, players will be able to quest through four new zones ruled by ancient and powerful Covenants. Upon reaching the max level of 60, players will be able to join one of these Covenants as they continue to explore the World of Warcraft universe’s afterlife and the many mysteries and adventures that it holds.

  • Kyrians: The denizens of Bastion, these are angelic beings embrace humility and service to their order.
  • Necrolords: Comprised of liches, warlords, and spies, the Necrolord Covenant calls Maldraxxus home. They make up the army that defends the Shadowlands.
  • Night Fae: Guardians of nature, the Night Fae inhabit Ardenweald and shepherd beings through the cycle of life and death. It was through their aid that the demigod Cenarius was able to make his return to Azeroth during the events of the Cataclsym.
  • Venthyr: Making their home in Revendreth, the vampiric Venthyr are the punishers of the unworthy, seeking to rehabilitate the sinful souls sent to them by the Arbiter.

When making your choice of a Covenant, there are many aspects to consider, including the Covenant Sanctum where you’ll be spending a lot of your time. Your choice will determine whether you spend your time in the resplendent halls of the Sanctum in Bastion; in the shadow of a monument to an undead lord at the Sanctum in Maldraxxus; in the Night Fae Sanctum in a twilight-enshrouded glade in Ardenweald; or in the Venthyr Sanctum, a gothic castle in Revendreth.


You’ll also want to consider the abilities the Covenant will provide you. The first of these abilities is available to all Covenant members regardless of class, race, or specialization. This ability helps you explore the world in interesting ways and solve problems without the need to engage in combat.

Here are some current examples for each of the Covenants:


Ability Name

Cast Time/Range/ Cooldown




1 Second Cast Time
1 Minute Cooldown

Dissolve into pure anima, increasing your movement speed to 300%, slowing your falling speed, and propelling you forward for 4 seconds.

Greatly reduces the radius at which enemies will detect you.

Night Fae

Soul Shape

1.5 Minute Cooldown

Turn into a Spirit Fox, increasing your movement speed by 30% and causing enemies to ignore you. Lasts 10 seconds, or until cancelled while in a rest area.


Transcend the Flesh

3 Minute Cooldown

Separate your soul from your body for 20 seconds. Your soul is invisible and untargetable, though your body remains vulnerable.

This effect will end early if you move further than 60 yards from your body. When Transcend the Flesh ends or is cancelled, your body rejoins your soul.


Door of Shadows

40 Yard Range

2 Second Cast
2 Minute Cooldown

Wend through the shadows, appearing at the targeted location.

The Kyrian ability helps you move significantly faster for a short time while also reducing the aggro radius around you. If used wisely, you may be able to flit across short expanses.

Soulshape, the Night Fae ability, increases your speed and causes creatures to ignore you for a 10-second period. It can also be used indefinitely in rest areas, in case relaxing in your Covenant Sanctum as a spirit fox appeals to you. As you progress through the Covenant Campaign, you’ll also have the opportunity to customize your form to something like a glimmer fly or runestag.

With the Necrolord ability, Transcend the Flesh, you’ll separate from your body, but your body will be vulnerable. If your body dies, you die. With this ability, you’ll be able to sneak past enemies and pull your body to you to avoid a confrontation.

The Venthyr ability Door of Shadows allows you to teleport to chosen destination, essentially stepping through shadow between one point and another.

The second ability you will get from your Covenant is a powerful combat ability specific to your class. This ability is meant to aid you in solving problems through might.

Here are some current examples of mage abilities:


Ability Name

Mana Cost/ Cast Time/Range/Cooldown



Radiant Spark



2,000 Mana
1.3 Second Cast
40 Yard Range
30 Second Cooldown

Conjure a radiant spark that causes 4,854 Arcane damage instantly, and an additional 1,892 damage over 8 seconds.

Your next 4 direct damage abilities that hit targets affected by Radiant Spark deal 25% increased damage, up to 100% damage.


Contagion Bolt



40 Yard Range
2 Second Cast
1.5 Minute Cooldown

Deal 5,000 Shadow damage to the target enemy. For the next 8 seconds, your single target spells cast on the affected enemy cause the disease to splash to nearby enemies dealing 3,000 Shadow damage.

Night Fae

Shifting Power

15 Yard Range
45 Second Cooldown

Draw from the ground beneath you for 3 seconds, dealing 5,500Nature damage to nearby enemies over the duration. Every second spent channeling increases your Haste by 5% for 15 seconds.


Mirrors of Torment

40 Yard Range
2 Second Cast
2 Minute Cooldown

Conjure 3 mirrors that rotate around the targeted enemy for 6 seconds. Whenever they cast an ability or spell they take 7,000 Shadow damage and are rooted for 1.5 seconds.

The Kyrian ability, Radiant Spark, does damage over time and increases the damage of your next four spells, helping you set you up powerful combinations to take down your enemies.

The Necrolord ability Contagion Bolt does instant damage, and for a short time empowers your single-target spells to splash Shadow damage on enemies around your target.

The Night Fae ability deals damage to your enemies and grants you a haste buff of increasing power the longer you channel it.

The Venthyr ability Mirrors of Torment debuffs an enemy, rooting and damaging them whenever they cast spells or use an ability for a short time.


In the Shadowlands, two souls can take part in a ritual to bind themselves together. This is often done between romantic partners, friends, or allies-in-arms to make them stronger. When you reach max level and join a Covenant, you’ll be able to bind your soul one of several such powerful beings. These Soulbinds make it possible to learn new abilities from your ally, some of which may not normally be available to your class.

Here is just an example of a couple of Venthyr Soulbinds:

Theotar, the Mad Duke
Arrogance—You have 5% increased critical strike chance against targets whose current health percentage is lower than yours.

Nadjia, The Mistblade
Deflecting Flourish—Your Parry is increased by 6%. If you are normally unable, Nadjia will teach you how to parry.

As you progress with your new Soulbind, you’ll learn more about their story and unlock new tiers of power. You’ll also be able to customize your Soulbind ability tree with Conduits gained during your adventures through the Shadowlands. Similar to changing talents, you’ll be able to switch between Soulbinds, allowing you to select the ones that would most benefit you at any time during your adventures.


As a member of a specific Covenant, you’ll get access to themed armor and weapons, backpack-style items to wear in place of your regular cloak, and an upgradeable mount. You’ll also gain other benefits specific to each Covenant that will help you on your adventures, such as being the ability to construct your own customized abomination as a member of the Necrolords.

At max level, you’ll also be able to embark on a unique campaign for the Covenant you’ve chosen to align with.

After considering all of the benefits of each Covenant, you’ll want to choose carefully. While you can change yours if you decide it’s not the right fit, doing so will take some work.




After 15 years, World of Warcraft players have thousands of hours of story to potentially experience— and with so many possibilities and options to explore as you level up a character, the narrative thread between expansions can be hard to follow, potentially leading to jarring discontinuities, like seeing different warchiefs when they visit Orgrimmar depending on what expansion story they’re playing.

It also takes a long time to level, which hinders new players who want to join up with their friends in the latest content. Level banding helped with this, but we have our sights set on a larger overhaul of the leveling system. Our goals are to make our expansion stories feel better to play through,  while also increasing the speed at which players can start experiencing the latest content with their friends. We want to make every level you gain feel meaningful and rewarding, whether that means gaining a new spell or ability, getting a new rank of one you already have, earning a new mount, or getting access to some other benefit.


To create a more streamlined leveling experience in Shadowlands, players will level from 1–60, with 60 being the new cap. By adjusting the leveling experience to this new range, we can create a better pace of leveling and help ensure that each level feels truly meaningful. You’ll unlock something new for your character each time you fill your experience bar. This will also make the leveling experience significantly faster.

Players will also be able to choose the experience they want for levels 10–50 by leveling through the expansion of their choice.

When these changes go into effect, existing characters will have their levels adjusted—but not their power. This means a level 120 character will be adjusted to level 50, but will still be just as powerful as they are now. They’ll remain able to use the same equipment and items, and they’ll be able to take part in all the same content they’ve been doing. Other characters not at max level will adjust to the new equivalent levels. Once Shadowlands goes live, players will be able to level from 50–60 in Shadowlands.


After character creation, brand-new players will get to play through a starting experience on a newly discovered uncharted island called Exile’s Reach, where a failed expedition has prompted your faction leaders to send out some new recruits to the island to find out what happened.

In Exile’s Reach, players will encounter some of Azeroth’s most well-known enemies in an adventure that introduces them to the world with a unique storyline. An ogre necromancer is working to resurrect a dragon and has captured the previous expedition, intending to use them as a sacrifice. In true WoW fashion, players will end their adventure with an epic two boss mini-dungeon designed to. This dungeon can be played through with any class and does not require a full party.

It’s important to note that every brand-new (to WoW) character will begin here no matter what class, race, or faction they belong to.


Players completely new to World of Warcraft will create a character, play through Exile’s Reach, go to their faction capital city, then progress through the latest expansion—in this case, Battle for Azeroth. This allows new players to catch up to the story the majority of players have just experienced before joining them in the Shadowlands, giving them a better foundation and an access to a shared experience with the game.

For existing players and those playing alts, the flow is a bit different. They’ll start their journey to level 10 in their race’s existing starting zone, or can choose to go to Exile's Reach, and progress to their faction’s capital cities. Here, Chromie recognizes that you’ve been here before and will give the choice of which expansion (including the original world) you want to play through from level 10–50. From level 50, players will progress into the Shadowlands up to level 60.


Classes have seen a lot of change during WoW’s 15 years of development, and so have our philosophies on class design. As the game has grown, so too has the number of spells, abilities, and talents, at points becoming a bit unwieldy. To address this in the past, we made changes to talents with Mists of Pandaria, and even removed some buttons in Warlords of Draenor. With the introduction of Artifact weapons in Legion, we devised a system in which every specialization had its own unique story arc and weapon, in essence creating what felt more like 36 distinct classes. While this was a cool moment in the Legion’s story, it also resulted in class identity giving way to a focus on specializations.

In Shadowlands, we want to put the focus back more on what classes are all about. While specializations are still a part of these classes, we want to put class first. With the change in leveling, we see an opportunity to reevaluate the abilities players gain as they level and when. We can also look at all of the rewards they can gain at each level and truly make each level feel meaningful and more powerful.

This change in our approach is also reflected in what Covenants have to offer. As we discussed earlier, when you join a Covenant, you gain a class power that’s usable across all specializations—making it more about what they have to offer the priest player or the shaman player versus the Shadow priest or Elemental shaman.

We also want to make sure we’re making changes that aren’t disruptive to players who have found their comfort level with their class, and want to make sure that we’re focusing on the opportunities for big wins for classes.


When looking at the changes we want to make to classes, we thought about what we considered to be class-defining mechanics—things like auras for paladins, totems for shaman, poisons for rogues, or curses for warlocks. These mechanics belong to the class as a whole, but specializations can be even better at specific parts of them, such as a rogue who specializes in Assassination excelling at poison use.

We also plan to bring many abilities that have been locked away in specializations back to their core classes, including iconic baseline abilities like Hunter’s Mark and Demonic Circle. When you start at level one with a class, instead of starting in a specific specialization or role, you’ll start with a range of class abilities, which will help you make an informed decision when the time comes to choose a specialization. By doing this, we’ll open up new spots in the talent tree that we’ll need to provide new options.

We also want to make sure classes feel like they have abilities that align with their weapon choices, such as a warrior becoming an Arms warrior and becoming more proficient in a two-handed weapon, or a shaman becoming an Enhancement shaman and being able to dual-wield. This would open up the opportunity for these characters to have abilities like Shield Block or Primal Strike as a part of their identity.


Over the years we’ve pruned back abilities for one reason or another, sometimes as a way to reduce the sheer number of abilities players had. For many players, taking these away also changed the feel of the class in a way they didn’t enjoy. We want to bring many of these abilities back and still find ways to make them useful or cool to have where we can, such as with Eyes of the Beast, Kill Shot, Ritual of Doom, and more.

In the end, we want to make sure we’re providing players with the tools to take on new and interesting content like what we have ahead in Shadowlands.


The Maw is as a dangerous endgame outdoor zone—a place ruled by torment and terror. Home to the mysterious Jailer, the Maw serves as a prison to the most vile and irredeemable souls in the World of Warcraft universe. With the machine of death broken, every soul has been feeding into the Maw instead.

As a champion of Azeroth, you have a unique power that allows you to escape this place. To the denizens of the Shadowlands, you are knowns the Maw Walker, and your unique ability to come and go from the Maw makes you highly valuable to your Covenant. You’re able to undertake missions to free others who have been captured in the Maw and eventually take the fight to the Jailer.

As you adventure through the Maw, you’ll sometimes draw the Eye of the Jailer to you. Your actions within the Maw can gain his attention and change the nature of your experience within the zone. The Jailer will send new punishments your way such as shade hounds who will begin to notice you from farther away and the aggro range for them will be increased. Later on, he may send specific kill squads after you. The key to surviving the Maw is to choose your battles carefully and be wary of the time you spend within the Maw.


Within the Maw looms an immense structure known as the Tower of the Damned. Inside, players will discover a new kind of experience to take on and explore.

Torghast, Tower of the Damned is an instanced dungeon scalable from 1 to 5 players, with difficulty that adjusts to the size of your party. As you ascend the tower, both you and your enemies will grow in power. You’ll also encounter new challenges with increasing complexity to overcome.

The tower will change each time you enter it, providing variability in your experiences and encouraging you to explore. Where you may have turned right during one foray into the tower, you may find you that you can only go left the next time. Not only do the floorplans change within the tower, but so too do the monsters you face, the traps, the bonuses, and the rewards for overcoming each new challenge.

As you climb, you’ll need to be wary of the fast rate at which your enemies become more difficult on each new floor. The Jailer will send more and more deadly creatures to thwart you and your party. Each floor will also become more complex. To overcome these challenges, you’ll need to search out and collect Anima.

The tower is not a timed experience, so exploration of each level could make the difference between success or failure, as that’s how you’ll discover the powers that can help you as you ascend. Anima in the Maw presents itself as a form of potential energy that you’ll come across, which offers you a choice of how you want it to benefit you. As an example, you might be given the choice between something like Obleron Endurance, which increases your maximum health by 10%, or Obleron Talisman which increases your mastery by 5%. You could stack lots of damage this way, but you may find that you’re still dying to the challenges of the tower if you don’t also choose to bolster your survivability too.

As another example, you could find an ability like Corruption Antenna, which gives your attacks a chance to curse your target, dealing 35,440 Shadow damage to your target over 8 seconds. Later, you might find Shadowed Iris, which makes it so when you deal Shadow damage, it has a chance to blind the target, reducing their chance to hit by 75% for 12 seconds. These abilities could work well together, creating a synergy that makes your attacks more effective.

Within the tower you’ll also find epic powers to use, such as the Golden Idol, which grants the ability to see which enemies are carrying Anima. This provides you and your party with the ability to determine which enemies will be most beneficial to kill, helping you determine if your party should take them on or leave them be and move on.

The abilities your party acquires through Anima can lead to a wide variety of interesting experiences as you play through the tower. You’ll want to try to coordinate between your allies to maximize your effectiveness as a party—but beware becoming overconfident. Powers that may work well on one floor may not benefit you on another. As an example, you could take Bloating Fodder, which will cause Mawrats within the tower to explode on death, dealing 10,631 Plague damage to all other nearby enemies. With enough stacks of this ability on these annoying creatures, you could do a massive amount of damage to anything nearby. This is useful when you’re on a floor with plenty of Mawrats to put to your use, but not as useful if you progress to a floor without any crawling around.

The tower is always changing from run to run—but it is also changing over time. As you press further into the Maw, the Jailer may change his tactics against you.

Within the first couple of weeks of the Shadowlands expansion, the Jailer will unleash a horde of monstrosities into the Maw and the tower itself in an event called The Beasts of Prodigum, changing the experience. During this event you may gain some new powers that can help you counter these beasts, such as the Chain of Command, which calls forth Horgul, a powerful Shade Hound that can stun individual enemies and draw their attention. You might also come across a Shade Essence-Lure that calls forth Valloc, a powerful Soul Eater that can inflict area damage and silence enemies.


Great rewards await those you push themselves to their limits to climb the tower. As you progress through Torghast, you’ll gather runes along the way that you can take to a runeforge, where the Runesage will help you forge legendary items. You’ll also be able to learn a bit more about origins of iconic legendary items such Frostmourne or the Helm of Domination. You’ll also have more control over how you craft your legendaries, meaning you’ll be able to determine what slot they go in, what benefits they give you, and maybe even what secondary stats they have.

Shadowlands is filled with new features, and we’ve only touched on many of them. We look forward to sharing more with you as development continues on this new expansion.

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49 minutes ago, Yevhen said:

So, what will they do to starter edition accounts? Will they close the program or will they adapt it?

Capping Starting Edition at 10 shouldn't be an issue. I think that's what their going for with the new starting zone...

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On 11/3/2019 at 12:58 AM, Altharaa said:

 Is their a set level all alts not level 120 will be reverted down to or does it scale your level down? 

They will scale down to the appropriate level.

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      In Warlords of Draenor  Venomous Vim was changed to no longer have a 75% chance to proc on Rupture  and Garrote but instead it only procced every time Rupture ticks. (Garrote was only usable from stealth back then)
      In Legion Garrote was changed to be usable outside of stealth, creating a new maintenance ability that would allow us to generate much more energy thanks to Venomous Vim, while lowering the individual energy gained per tick (but still providing more energy than before). 
      In Battle for Azeroth all our bleed effects would now be scaling with Haste, leading to faster ticking bleeds. Haste was now a desirable stat not just because it increased our passive energy regeneration, but our bleed effects now also generated energy faster via Venomous Vim.
      These were the only major changes to the spec in each expansion, and the spec didn't need anything else. There's a clear theme to all of these changes and they all come back to generating resources, so let's compare them to the exciting new stuff we get once we venture into the Shadowlands.

       Gameplay changes in Shadowlands (or lack thereof)
      Vendetta is no longer on the global cooldown. Toxic Blade is no longer a talent. In its stead you can choose to talent Alacrity . Toxic Blade is now a baseline ability, or rather it is now a Rank 2 version of Shiv, with the other specs gaining access to the utility portion only.  Improved Poisons now also applies to non-lethal poisons, lets you apply and change poisons a bit faster and immediately procs poisons when attacking from stealth. And that's the whole list. As was mentioned previously, Assassination doesn't really need a whole lot of changes, since the core gameplay works incredibly well already. With Shiv now being a baseline ability for all specs, combining it with Toxic Blade makes sense at least thematically and frees up the talent slot. Speccing into Alacrity isn't really a choice however, since it is way better than the other two options in this talent tier. While doing so technically still aligns with the whole notion of Assassination Rogues generating more energy, doing so through a talent that you cannot live without feels wrong. Most rogues would've loved to see a change to Venom Rush which has been a useless talent for the entirety of Legion and BfA, and will remain so for Shadowlands as well. Exsanguinate will also feel very lackluster again once we lose the massive amounts of Haste we currently have, and with no bonuses to bleed damage in sight.
      Sadly, the change to Toxic Blade is yet another utility tool that is now also part of our DPS rotation, same as Vanish . Deciding whether to forego some damage to keep access to a useful utility ability is not something anyone likes to do, and Shiv increasing that number of abilities is forcing us to make more of these choices where no matter what you choose, you lose.
      Improved Poisons is a nice addition to ensure poisons are applied immediately when opening on your target. However, it is not nearly enough to give credence to the "Master of Poisons" class fantasy the spec has going for it. We are still limited to only using one lethal and one non-lethal poison each, and this passive would've been the perfect opportunity to allow Assassination rogues to use more than two. Because if we can't even do that, how are we better at poisoning than other specs? Once the poison is active it rarely drops off, and at that point all we have is a higher percentage of poison damage, which is taken into account when balancing the numbers anyway. Our utility through poisons is the same, and it's the only thing we have.  

       New Abilities and Talents in Shadowlands - A blast from the past
      Slice and Dice is making its return as a maintenance finisher, increasing your attack speed by 50%. Assassination gets a Rank 2 upgrade to this ability Slice and Dice , boosting that number to 70%. Ambush is back as a direct-damaging stealth opener. The biggest impact this re-addition has is due to a reworked Blindside talent, which now utilizes Ambush instead of a much worse ability the talent used to give. Numbing Poison returns as a non-lethal poison, which slows both attack and cast speed of enemies by 15%. Very useful in dungeons. Let's have a cynical review of this list to explain why this feels very disappointing.
      Slice and Dice is back as a maintenance finisher for all specs. While the other specs get more resources and not just raw auto-attack and poison damage out of this, Outlaw with Combat Potency  and Subtlety with Shadow Techniques (which also grants 1 CP every time it procs), Assassination doesn't actually gain anything from attacking faster besides a bit more damage. The opportunity was lost to add a meaningful Rank 2 version for this ability, and instead of introducing some way of letting it generate additional energy or Combo Points, it's just even more attack speed. It also directly leads to less Envenom uptime, an ability that actually accentuates the niche and fantasy of a poison-based spec.  Ambush was added back to Assa and Subtlety. A change that barely impacts our damage at all, doesn't really mesh well with the bleed and poison style of Assassination, and puts further emphasis on burst-damage instead of sustained damage. Oh, and it's only really meaningful when using one talent. Cool. Numbing Poison is a thing now. For all specs. Again. While other specs already had a baseline slow and thus they don't necessarily need to use Crippling Poison , Assassination is now left with the choice between providing a movement speed slow or the new attackspeed/castspeed slow. So much for "Master of Poisons" eh? As you can see, none of these things are spec specific. None of these further the class fantasy of Assassination being the master of poisons and bleeds. Ambush comes at the cost of a bleed opener. Slice and Dice comes at the cost of a poison finisher. Numbing Poison comes at the cost of unique utility that no other rogue spec previously had, and instead makes Assassination worse at slowing and debilitating targets than both other specs. 
      While some of the new legendaries and conduits boost the impact of these new additions to the spec, it feels odd to be forced into certain combinations of rental powers to make a core change to the spec work. Shouldn't a core gameplay change work at its core instead of relying on temporary additions to the game?

       Broken promises
      If you've followed the development of Shadowlands, the initial teasers and the first few talking points about each spec, you are wondering where some of the things are that were promised and talked about very early on. You're not alone in this. Here's the list of changes Blizzard hyped up in their initial Class Update reveal.

      Let's have a look at these, shall we?
      Pickpocketing items that improve Crimson Vial? Doesn't exist. Shiv providing a concentrated version of Poison? Only for Crippling. Using it with numbing poison was supposed to dispel enrage effects, but that was removed months ago and has not been brought back since.  Stronger Poisons? Nope, the numbers are the same across all specs. They just proc a bit more frequently for Assassination. Return of Shiv for Assa? It's just a renamed Toxic Blade, there's nothing new about it.  Shiv upgrade reducing the cooldown for Assassination only? Doesn't exist. Quite disappointing. The "mastery of poisons" only exists for lethal poisons. Deadly Poison  is exclusive to Assassination and Wound Poison can stack up to 5 stacks for Assassination, while other specs only get up to 3 stacks. This is great and shows how Assassination has an edge over the other rogue-specs when it comes to utilizing poisons. 
      But utility poisons are virtually the same for all specs, unless you're talenting into Master Poisoner. While this may not matter much when raiding, it was crucial for Assassinations role in Mythic+ and PvP. Where Outlaw and Subtlety had access to other movement-speed slows and disrupting tools like Gouge or frequent uses of Cheap Shot , Assassination had its poisons. But now those exist for all specs, and Assassination doesn't gain anything from the other specs toolkit, except for a direct-damaging opener you get to use once every 2 minutes unless you're talenting into Blindside, and a renamed but functionally the same Shiv which forces you to decide between utility or DPS, a decision neither of the other two rogue specs have to make. 
      It is a disappointing situation, to be teased with so many cool things that might really cement Assassination as the poison (and bleed) spec and instead almost all of it either isn't in the game and likely never will be or actively detracts from the class fantasy and niche Assassination had for a very long time now, watering it down and leaving Assassination in a crisis for what it is supposed to be best at. Needing to spec into certain talents to utilize new abilities or gain an edge over other specs or classes is not something the core fantasy of the spec should require. That is why it is supposed to be a core mechanic.
      But let's move on!

       Covenant Abilities
      Kyrian Ability - Echoing Reprimand
      Deal Arcane damage to an enemy, extracting their anima to Animacharge a combo point. Damaging finishing moves that consume the same number of combo points as your Animacharge deal damage as if they consume 7 combo points. Costs 30 energy. 45-second cooldown. 
      After using Echoing Reprimand, your second, third or fourth combo point will be highlighted as the anima-charged combo point. When using a damaging finisher with this exact amount of combo points, it will scale as if it was being used with 7 combo points instead. This scales both the damage and the duration of any effects associated with the increased amount of combo points being used.
      While this looks like an interesting ability, Assassination has very volatile Combo Point generation due to Seal Fate generating extra Combo Points whenever you critically strike with your Mutilate, generating anywhere from 2 to 4 Combo Points. You might go for over half a minute without ever hitting 2 Combo Points if at least one of the hits with Mutilate crits, leaving you without much control for this covenant ability. Lining it up with Cooldowns such as Shiv or Vendetta will inevitably lead to a lot of disappointment, because you just didn't get lucky enough to score the amount of CP you needed while these effects were active.
      Necrolord Ability - Serrated Bone Spike
      Apply a bone spike in the target, dealing Bleed damage every 3 sec until they die. Deals damage and generates 1 Combo Point per active bone spike. Refunds 1 charge when target dies or is healed to full. Costs 10 Energy. 30-second recharge, 3 maximum charges.
      This ability feels very fun to use whenever there are multiple targets, due to its fracturing mechanic. You will always want to target less important targets first, and then get a huge spike of burst on your priority target on your third use. While the ability is fairly simple on single-target, it is currently (subject to change) the strongest covenant ability for Assassination Rogues. 
      Unfortunately it is also the one that interacts the least with the Assassination toolkit, and can become the only button you press on AoE until you run out of charges. Serrated Bone Spike allows for a much smoother AoE opener due to its low cost, and gives Assassination Rogues a much easier and faster ramp-up before sustaining high AoE damage.
      While it is a bleed effect, it only works with our Mastery: Potent Assassin but all other bleed-related bonuses and effects do not affect Bone Spike. 
      Night Fae Ability - Sepsis
      Infect the targets blood, dealing Nature damage over 10 sec. If the target survives its full duration, they suffer additional damage and you Vanish from sight. Cooldown reduced by 60 sec if Sepsis does not last its full duration. 90-second cooldown. 
      This covenant ability scales directly with the usefulness of Vanish as a dps cooldown. With an entire talent-line dedicated to stealth-based functionality this provides some very interesting choices with Nightstalker , Subterfuge or Master Assassin. Having Access to these bonuses more often during a fight is a nice addition and seem like a tailor-made choice for Assassination. With the current number tuning however, this still does not warrant picking this covenant. Despite the synergy, both Rupture and Garrote simply don't deal enough damage for this Covenant to become the go-to choice. 
      This ability is particularly frustrating to use in any open-world content as well as Torghast. When you're tackling content by yourself, the automated Vanish will oftentimes make you drop combat with your opponent, making them evade and healing back to full. Having a covenant that is essentially unusable during one of the main draws of the expansion is just incredibly demotivating. 
      While Sepsis is a nature-damage poison-like effect, it does not work with any poison-related passives and bonuses Assassination has access to with the exception of its damage being boosted by Shiv.
      Venthyr Ability -  Slaughter
      Slaughter the target, causing moderate Physical damage. The targets anima mixes with your lethal poison, coating your weapons for the next 5 minutes. Slaughter Poison deals Shadow Damage over 12 seconds and steals 15% of the healing done to the target. Costs 50 Energy.
      This ability can only be used from stealth. That means you can use it once in your opener, and once again every 2 minutes by using Vanish as a dps cooldown, This directly conflicts with the stealth-based talent-row which has two talents centered around using bleed effects from stealth.
      Slaughter deals exactly the same amount of damage as Ambush . The Slaughter Poison  is exactly the same as Deadly Poison.
      The only way to make this a viable choice, and a very potent one at that, is by using the talent Blindside . Whenever the talent procs, you will be able use either Ambush or Slaughter. With the Conduit Slaughter Scars  this becomes a very significant DPS increase on single-target. The Covenant ability still does absolutely nothing on AoE however, with both abilities dealing the exact same damage as their original counterparts. 

       Class fantasy in trouble - An identity crisis
      Assassination has always been mixing bleeds and poisons together into one spec to deliver strong sustained single-target and AoE DPS. There was a heavy divide between poison and bleed builds in Legion, best represented by choosing either Toxic Blade  or Exsanguinate as a DPS-talent, and then choosing other talents and gear to further enhance this chosen identity.
      Battle for Azeroth united both aisles by applying it's Mastery: Potent Assassin to bleeds as well, introducing haste-scaling for bleeds, and providing multiple options for poison-based azerite traits while there was no significant bleed-based one besides the iconic Shrouded Suffocation . Thus all Assassination rogues were now using both bleeds and poisons, without any distinct differences between the two types. This was much less a unification than it was watering down the original ideas and fantasy of poison vs bleed, without improving on either of the two.
      A lot of our damage also did not actually come from bleeds and poisons, but from our builders or generators, with heavy emphasis on both Mutilate and Fan of Knives  for single-target and AoE respectively. While during the later stages of BfA we started utilizing Exsanguinate and a bleed-heavy build to deal high dps, we lost the sustained-dps niche in the process and instead became one of the strongest cooldown-based single-target DPS with only Fire Mages providing an even stronger 2-minute cooldown burst. 
      Shadowlands then finally promised a return to the old formula of strong sustained DPS by using bleeds and poisons. But as we already learned earlier, a lot of the promises were broken and a lot of the same mistakes are being made once more. 
      The current reality on the Beta does not reflect the initial class fantasy, and with both Outlaw and Subtlety gaining access to poisons and even bleeds, Assassination Rogues are left wondering how they are supposed to still feel unique. Some of the new abilities are poisons or bleeds, but they don't actually work or synergize with our poison and bleed toolkit. 
      While there is a new poison, it is not specific to the spec, and even Deadly Poison can be accessed by other specs when choosing the Venthyr Covenant. While losing a lot of uniqueness by giving poisons to all rogue specs at the same effectiveness, the opportunity was there to instead focus on Assassinations class fantasy by adding more interesting bleed-based effects and options, but sadly that has not been the case either. No new bleed abilities, passives or conduits exist, and instead we risk treading towards using our builders, not our damage over time poisons and bleeds, to deliver ever increasing amounts of our damage. Let the era of Mutilate , Ambush and Fan of Knives begin. Not very poison-y or bleed-y. 

       Legendary effects in Shadowlands
      There are quite a few legendary effects available in Shadowlands, so we have picked out some of the strongest ones for Assassination rogues **(power level subject to change).** 
      Master Assassin's Mark is back and provides a 100% increased crit-chance for 5 seconds after using Vanish. Using this makes the Night Fae ability Sepsis quite a bit more powerful, and might deliver some very strong burst opportunities by lining this up with Shiv and Vendetta . Zoldyck Insignia makes a return as well, boosting your bleed and poison damage once the target hits 35% health. Coupling this with Blindside will make for exceptional execute.  Dashing Scoundrel is a slightly reworked set bonus we used to have during Antorus, the Burning Throne. It significantly increases the amount of energy we generate, especially on AoE, and allows for a faster and smoother rotation on single-target while putting bigger emphasis on having a very high Envenom uptime.  There are plenty more legendaries with different power levels, these are just a few that currently perform strongest and offer the most opportunities to build around for Assassination. We will keep you updated on the individual strength of each legendary once we get closer to release.
       Conduits in Shadowlands
      There are many conduits coming in Shadowlands, so this is just a selection of some of them.
      Lethal Poisons increases the instant damage of lethal poisons, allowing for more damage from auto-attacking on single-target, while boosting your AoE damage whenever you cast Fan of Knives and proc your poison.   Poisoned Katar further boosts the idea of using Fan of Knives as the ability to carry your AoE damage, by providing even more chances of applying your lethal poison and also increasing its base damage. Maim, Mangle increases your Mutilate damage whenever Garrote is active, which should be the case at all times. 
       Conclusion - Can someone call the Exterminator? It just keeps going to voicemail.

      Let's finally talk about the elephant in the room. While the new additions to the spec are questionable and the identity crisis should've been addressed in BfA already, the most frustrating thing about playing Assassination on Beta right now is the plethora of bugs. They're everywhere. And Blizzard isn't talking to us at all. While the most recent build (35938) fixed a variety of bugs, this was also the first time any rogue bugs have actually gotten fixed, and some of them have been around since early Alpha. There is also still a whole lot left that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A lot of rogues would like to play around and test certain legendaries or interactions, but getting good data and information is almost impossible when things don't work the way they're supposed to, the way they're described, or simply don't work. I'll list some of the most egregious ones in no particular order, to give everyone an idea on what we have had to deal with for almost five months now. 
      Remember the hyped up Improved Poisons ? It doesn't actually work on beta right now. Hasn't worked in 5 months. While the cast-time reduction and proc-rate does work, the 100% application chance, one of the main points in the first look at the spec, isn't there. I've already mentioned it before, but what happened to the promised Crimson Vial and Shiv upgrades? They're nowhere to be seen, and a lot of people are left wondering if or when these things will come. Speaking of Shiv , it is supposed to be an enrage dispel (at least it used to) but that part has been missing for months. Slice and Dice Rank 2? Unavailable on beta right now.  Tiny Toxic Blades is one of the new legendaries, that could potentially work with some of the Covenant abilities and create very interesting synergies. That is, if it was actually available on beta. This legendary power hasn't  functioned at all on beta since it was first datamined.  Numbing Poison isn't actually affected by Master Poisoner. Yet another hit at the Master of Poisons.  Zoldyck Insignia another legendary, doesn't currently work for poisons, only bleeds. Dashing Scoundrel crit-chance also applies to Envenom (which isn't stated at all in the tooltip). Is this intentional? We don't know. At least the other 3 bugs this legendary had were finally fixed last week. Slaughter Scars only applies the damage bonus to Slaughter. The crit bonus is applied to the poison, creating some weird and powerful synergy between Slaughter and Dashing Scoundrel. While most of these are easily fixed, it still leaves a lot to be desired. We would like to test certain interactions and a lot of that is still not possible.
      Thankfully Blizzard seems to be paying more attention to rogues now, with the most recent build fixing a variety of important bugs. Sadly, these bugs have been around and reported for months, and they've just started getting on top of them now. There is still a total of 46 open bug reports on the BugTracker, some of which were first reported back in May. 
      The total lack of communication is exemplified by our Rogue Class Feedback Post on the official forums. A single Bluepost which was made in late August, after both Outlaw and Subtlety had Placeholder talents for 5 whole months. When other classes had their talents changed or become baseline, a replacement was ready immediately. When Rogues have placeholder talents and Blizzard finally adds the new ones, they're riddled with bugs that have yet to be fixed.
      This lack of communication creates a lot of confusion and makes the entire rogue community feel ignored. Questions are being asked, answers are not being given. Bug reports are made, but fixes come months later, if at all. It didn't help that most rogue legendaries and conduits were introduced with the same patch that removed the vendors from Beta realms. We could datamine legendaries, but we could not test them until they eventually re-introduced the vendors. That was another four weeks of potential testing gone. It took another month, with the build last week, until they finally started fixing some of the bugs we encountered months ago. Shadowlands is slated to be released in a month, the pace needs to be picked up or the class will be a mess on release.
      Overall Blizzard has done a much better job throughout the Shadowlands Beta than they did during the BfA Beta cycle, responding to Feedback of most classes within days or weeks, and addressing concerns and issues with manifestos describing their design goals and explaining decisions. Some classes however have fallen behind, best seen when comparing blueposts and communication towards certain classes. This picture shows the amount of Blueposts for Druid, Shaman and Rogue (from left to right). And keep in mind, that there is exactly 0 blueposts that are in any way relevant to Assassination. During the entire alpha and beta. While missing key-features that were teased and revealed before Alpha went live. I'm sure the Monk and Windwalker community in particular can share this sentiment of frustration and feeling of being ignored. A bit more effort and communication shouldn't have been that difficult. 
      And while we're on the subject of things that really shouldn't have been that difficult, the final complaint that echoes the lack of attention for all rogue specs, not just Assassination:
      We didn't get Alpha access, at all. By "we" I mean people within the rogue community. While there certainly is a lack of prominent rogue streamers or content creators, there definitely are people who provide rogue-centric content on a regular basis, myself included. There are plenty of rogue theorycrafters and community figures that are active within the community, on the class discord, twitter, authoring guides or opinion pieces and on their own personal streams. Ravenholdt has a list of active community figures and theorycrafters. Not a single one of them received an Alpha invite initially. A single person got Alpha access a few months in. Only a handful of these people received Beta Access when Beta started. I myself did not receive Beta Access immediately. Some of the community figures are still lacking access. When the main goal is supposed to be to test and try out newly introduced abilities, changes to the spec and figuring out interesting and potentially overpowered or underpowered interactions, one would assume that inviting some or all of these people would be the best way to ensure that people with deep knowledge of the class would be able to give feedback as early as possible. Instead we couldn't do so until very late into the beta cycle, and the current state of not just Assassination but all three rogue-specs is a perfect reflection of this lack of testing that could've been done by dedicated rogue players early into Alpha, if we would've received access.

       Conclusion 2 - Is Assassination a hopeless case for release?
      No, not at all. I would even go so far as to say that Assassination as a spec will be fine. Most of the bugs that need fixing should be easily fixable. As initially stated, Assassination at its core is a spec that works well without rental power and temporary power gains. This still holds true, and it is the saving grace amidst a situation that could only be described as messy and disorganized, with little to no communication or thought put into it. But Assassination can handle that, and while it might not be the best out of all three rogue specs once Shadowlands finally releases, it will not be the worst DPS spec in the game either, and only needs a few specific changes to become the raiding powerhouse it has been for the last couple of years. 

      Other Spec Highlights:
      Vengeance Demon Hunter Balance Druid Restoration Druid Beast Mastery Hunter Marksmanship Hunter Arcane Mage Frost Mage Outlaw Rogue Elemental Shaman Enhancement Shaman Shadow Priest Affliction Warlock Protection Warrior
    • By Starym
      We're back with another update on the cat in the box that is the Shadowlands pre-patch, as the PTR has flipped back to Release candidate once more! Somewhat shockingly, however, we did not get a release date for the patch today, bringing even next week's fairly late pre-patch launch date somewhat into question.

      Also, as player frustration, impatience and hype grows for the pre-patch, meme production and demand has soared, but we'll just share this one, as it clearly solves everyone's problem with the long wait:

    • By BluePosts
      War Mode bonuses are not going anywhere and the automatic bonus scaling will continue to work as it does in Battle for Azeroth.
      Will alliance keep their increased 30% xp and rewards buff when Shadowlands releases?
      The automatic bonus scaling will continue to function in Shadowlands as it does in Battle for Azeorth.
      Of course, it’s not only for Alliance players! Players could choose to shift the relative numbers between the factions, and the bonus would scale accordingly.
    • By BluePosts
      There's a stress test coming to the Shadowlands PTR tomorrow, and Blizzard need your help to see how some server updates worked out! Hopefully these issues are key to speeding up the arrival of the pre-patch, which we still hope is coming next week.
      Stress Test (source)
      The World of Warcraft server team needs your help!
      Please join us on the Anasterian and Benedictus PTR realms tomorrow, Wednesday September 30 at 12:00 Noon PDT and 7:00 p.m. PDT (3:00 p.m. EDT and 10:00 p.m. EDT) for a stress test. We’ve implemented some behind-the-scenes server updates in the Shadowlands expansion, and we’re looking to bring as many testers as possible onto those realms.
      While the changes being tested will not be highly visible to you, they are quite meaningful to our game service. The Shadowlands Beta is already running these changes and we’ve had success testing them there, but never with as extremely high a number of testers on a single realm as we’d like to see.
      The format of this test will be straightforward. Please log into the Anasterian or Benedictus PTR realms, create a character, and then enter the game and play however you like for as much time as you can spare us. We expect that we’ll be done with our data gathering after about 20-30 minutes. Due to the potentially extremely high load this will place on the game service, we recommend that you create or copy a character ahead of time. It’s possible that the realm will crash, and it’s also possible that we’ll disconnect players a few times to generate more load spikes. Please re-enter the game on your chosen character if you’re disconnected.
      Thank you very much to anyone who can test with us tomorrow. We’re looking forward to the chaos of this test, followed by a smooth Shadowlands launch.
    • By Stan
      MrGM discovered that the custom Premade Group Finder is only available on the Beta to characters Level 50 or higher. Blizzard maybe did this to stop low-level boosters from advertising their services.
      It seems Blizzard wants to stop boosters from advertising in the Premade Group Finder because they limited the feature to characters Level 50 or above on the Shadowlands Beta.
      Placeholder for tweet 1310907443187257345
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