We'd rolled Naxxramas, trounced Malygos, beaten Sartharion and his little drakes to death -- and that was all there was to do in Tier 7. With a roughly three-month wait between Wrath going live and the first whisper of patch 3.1 hitting the PTR, a number of players found themselves out of raiding content within the space of two days a week and already exalted with the game's four new factions (the sole unfortunate byproduct of Blizzard making rep grinds less hellish). To top it all off, many instance servers were still plagued by chronic lag and instability, and that's assuming you could get on them at all with the masses of people trying to run heroics and raids.
Ulduar was a long way off. Nerd rage grew. Frustration was brought to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes as per box instructions. This was the winter of our discontent -- or distraction, one of the two. Some playwright should get on that.
Replenishment -- what are the odds?: At the time Eliah wrote this, there were only 3 DPS specs that could provide Replenishment, and Blizzard had confirmed that it was balancing even 10-man raids around its presence. This wound up pigeonholing certain classes, and proved to be a bit of a headache for raid leaders at a time when most casters and healers weren't rocking much mana efficiency.
Blizzard responds to the Glider situation: Blizzard finally succeeded in shutting down the most common botting program, and Nethaera went public with a statement on both the history of the conflict, the problems that had resulted ingame, and why they'd been forced to take matters to court.
Resto4Life closing its doors: Phaelia was a huge and irreplaceable loss to the WoW blogging community. Blizzard later honored her with an ingame item in Ulduar. She wasn't the only high-profile WoW community person to announce her departure in February --
"Flintlocke" creator moving to Blizzard: Dave "Fargo" Kosak also announced that he'd be leaving the beloved Flintlocke comic for a job at none other than Blizz itself.
Guild leader wins Oscar: WoW continued its relentless march upon the traditionally non-gaming population of the world, with visual effects artist Steve Preeg winning an Academy Award for his work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Lisa Poisso got to interview him in March for 15 Minutes of Fame.
Tips for keeping your account safe: While hacking's always been a problem, 2009 saw an unbelievable rise in the number of hackers and phishers eager to profit off your character's wealth. This article was the opening salvo in what turned out to be Robin's unwitting yearlong war on scammers.
Voidwalker tanks Sarth-3D: The brilliant, but decidedly brief, apex of the voidwalker's career as a raid tank.
Tips from the manual: Mike pulls out the game manual that came with the classic version of World of Warcraft. Unsurprisingly, it's like reading about a different game.
Officer's Quarters -- Dressed down: I suspect that everyone who's been in a raiding guild (hardcore or casual) has been in a situation like this before with players who think that their fun > everyone else.
A plea against vehicle combat: Vehicles were introduced in Wrath to mixed reactions and equally mixed results. They were generally fun in PvP but (for many players) a huge irritation in Oculus and Malygos. Eliah articulates what, judging from the comments section, an awful lot of people were thinking. Blizz was listening.
A video guide to faster raiding: This remains one of my favorite raid videos of all time, and not because it's set to catchy music or beautifully choreographed or what have you. It shows how to get human nature to work for you rather than against you, which is what plagues a raid's efforts amongst a legion of ninja afk's, constant rezzing, and rebuffing. One of the things you tend to appreciate in competent raids is the degree to which experienced raiders spend increasingly less time raiding then more inexperienced counterparts.
What 3.1 means for PvP: Zach must've finished his guide on 3.0.8 PvP and then gone straight to work on both this and --
Guide to Strand of the Ancients: A fantastic visual and text guide to what was then WoW's newest and least-understood battleground.
How do I organize my healers?: Too many raid leaders have no healing experience and no idea how to deploy the heal team to best effect. Matt Low sorts them out.
Designing around latency: As raids grew increasingly popular with more and more players at 80, instance servers started to buckle under the number of people online. Should Blizzard keep the possibility of player latency in mind while designing encounters and achievements?
Are death knights auto-win in PvP?: After watching death knight abilities finally hit the live realms and a player base of 12+ million people, Blizzard finally came to the conclusion that the class had too many counters to existing player abilities and too many answers to how raid content had evolved. While it was Zach's contention that some of the nerfs that had already been made probably weren't needed, he observed that death knights were still steamrolling just about everyone. Conclusion? "The class in the hands of a mediocre player can do incredibly well. Now imagine that class in the hands of the best PvP players in the world. That, my friends, is an autowin."
Is shaman health too low? : Question asked by Matt Rossi and later answered when Blizzard eventually normalized base health.
How to be useful on the PTR: We were expecting the 3.1 (Ulduar) PTR to drop at any time (and it did in fact drop three days after this article went live). After running into a lot of people on the Wrath beta who'd treated it like an extended vacation from the live realms, I decided it was time to remind people about the whole "testing" thing inherent to the public test realm.
Plagued and Black Proto-drakes to be removed: This announcement from Blizzard caught everyone off-guard and resulted in a stampede on the part of raiding guilds to finish whatever achievements remained for their Glory of the Raider metas. Players who weren't in a position to raid at that point -- and everyone who got screwed out of a drake by the RNG nightmare that was Immortal -- were not happy campers.
Swimming mounts video: 3.1 brought with it a very welcome change to the annoyance of getting dismounted in water -- swimming mounts! Elizabeth and Adam got video off the PTR for as many mount models as they could.