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Spiritual Guidance: On weapons, Nibelung, and the Lich King


Fox Van Allen takes over Spiritual Guidance every Wednesday, preaching the path of darkness and smearing the good and holy name of the priest class. He also mind controls and spreads diseases to not-so-innocent altar boys.

I never got a chance to run Molten Core when Molten Core was relevant. I didn't participate in the redemption of the Blood Elves when such a thing was fashionable to do. But now, with an end-game ready level 80 shadow priest at my disposal, I'm ready to take down The Lich King once and for all.

I sure as heck haven't done it yet (due solely to the lack of corporate sponsorship, I assure you), and probably won't for a while. Still, there's been more than enough time to sit around and consider the ramifications when I eventually get around to it (you know, just been so busy this week, with my... stuff). Taking down Arthas is the big time, and I want to be rewarded commensurate with the effort I put in. I'll admit it -- I have an incredibly unrealistic expectation of getting an Inflatable Pink Arthas Balloon vanity pet trailing me wherever I go, or some trinket that summons miniature Arthases down to destroy a hopelessly outmatched Keristrasza in a way that elicits "ooohs" and "aaahs" from those newly minted level 80s thrown into the same random dungeon as I.

And after glancing at the Lich King's loot table, I have to say that I'm a little bit disappointed. I'm not saying the loot isn't good, but if we shadow priests are going to be getting little more than a staff for beating the legendary Lich King, it better be one hell of a damn special staff.

But it's not. Even the art is a bit underwhelming. And you almost have to scratch your head a little bit and wonder why -- why did Blizzard drop the ball on this one? It's far from perfect, but when you consider what went into the design and the (relative) originality of it, the coolest damn piece of loot in all of Icecrown Citadel is probably going to wind up being the Nibelung.

Should I run Icecrown Citadel enough times to earn one, I'll eventually get my grubby little Shadowform'd hands on Archus, Greatstaff of Antonidas or the Royal Scepter of Terenas II. (The Lich King also drops Invincible's Reins in heroic mode, which I guess is sorta cool, but the mount definitely pales in comparison to the sheer majesty of Ashes of Al'ar, at least in my book.) You don't have to be a genius to look at those stats and figure out we're talking best in slot here.

But, listen, Blizzard: I don't want to sound ungrateful here, I really don't. Those are two amazing weapons -- huge upgrades over what I have now, especially now that they're being modified. I'd love to get my hands on them. But there's not a heck of a lot about them that seems epic. After all, how great can that Greatstaff be if some vendor in Dalaran won't even give you 32 gold for it?

Now that we're at the end of this expansion, with the Lich King soon to be dead on hard mode, no less -- I dunno, maybe I'm just expecting more. Despite being the best the Lich King has to offer, those suckers are destined to be Abyss Crystals in about six months' time, just like all those momentarily epic Quel'Delars before them.

I'll feel terrible when I disenchant it, of course. I'll hold on to it a little longer than I should. After all, I still have my Hammer of Purified Flame, despite it being little more than an Abyss Crystal-in-waiting that I paid 14,000 gold to get. Sooner or later, though, I'll value the bank slot more than the nostalgia. After all, I've got some Cataclysm blues to enchant, thank you very much.

It's a sad state of affairs, but it doesn't have to be like this. Enter Nibelung, which will, in my heart, go down as the single greatest, must-have drop for shadow priests in Icecrown Citadel. It's not that it has great stats -- they're okay, but not mind blowing. It's the Val'kyr proc. Beat down on an enemy with a harmful spell, and you have a chance to summon a Val'kyr guardian for 30 seconds. It's a "cool factor" that other weapons in the game largely don't have, and with the right tweaks, it could be a truly epic piece of gear.

The damage from the Val'kyr proc isn't spectacular, but it does add to your DPS (unlike the vanity proc of the Abracadaver). That damage is factored into the weapon as a part of the "stats" -- instead of the staff being loaded with haste, you get a Val'kyr. It's pretty hard to put a pseduopower value on something like that, so a lot of shadow priests (not to mention warlocks and mages) have been wondering if the damn thing is worth it, DPS wise.

Blizzard has been really struggling to figure out the right balance for the staff. It's gone through a series of buffs, the most recent of which came this past weekend. Blue poster Bornakk, from the official World of Warcraft forums, had some good news for us true believers in the sheer awesomeness potential of the staff:

We are currently in the process of applying two hotfix improvements to the Nibelung staff. The first change is that we are improving the chance for a val'kyr to proc from 1% to 2%. While this may not seem like a significant improvement, it will be notable and result in the val'kyr appearing more often.

The second change is that anytime a summoned val'kyr casts her smite spell, she will heal herself for 25% of her maximum health. This will help keep them alive when AoE damage is happening but not make them invincible as we still want them to feel like a summoned creature and not a special form of a DoT spell that has awesome art.

We understand the frustrations players have had with this weapon so far. We currently plan to make more proc weapons in the future and are committed to making this and other proc weapons fun and competitive items.
The first part is great -- they're making Nibelung more useful. It address the two biggest complaints shadow priests have about the staff: Val'kyr never seem to proc, and once they do, they're flicked off into the ether by the first AoE attack an enemy can fire off.

But those who have the staff will be the first to tell you that this latest in a series of rounds of buffs probably isn't going to be enough to put this staff on the level it should be. Ancedotal evidence puts the damage from Val'kyrs at somewhere around 1% of total DPS, which may still be a bit weak considering that the staff lacks haste or crit in lieu the proc. And even with the health regen, the Val'kyr still tend to die off a little too quick.

The second part of the comment is great, and exactly what I was hoping for -- that Blizzard is putting more weapons like this one into the game come Cataclysm. These procs wind up being a nightmare for theorycrafters to account for, but they're memorable. They're unique. They add an element of fun into the game that a buffed up version of Archus, Greatstaff of Antonidas will just never be able to do.

That's all I'm asking for. It would have been a terrific conclusion to Wrath to have the rewards for downing the Lich King feel as epic as the achievement -- and all that would haven taken is a hint of uniqueness. Give us a reason to go back there, week after week. Give me the achievement, give me the cinematic, and then give me a lasting souvenir of the encounter that I'll actually want to play with a year or two down the line.

Nibelung should have been buffed up further, and should have dropped off the Lich King. Or at the very least, something with a memorable proc just like it. I do appreciate making a fun weapon accessible to most raiders, but why not make the best weapons from the expansion just as fun? Why not give people who won't even start playing Warcraft until Cataclysm is released a reason to go back to Icecrown and experience content that Blizzard worked so hard to create?

Every time I've seen Nibelung drop in my 25-man groups, I've rolled for it. I know it's a downgrade, and I don't care. I'll use it anyway. I'll treasure it. And I know for sure that two years down the line, I won't even remember the name of that staff that dropped off the Lich King, but I will still have a Nibelung in the bank.

Let me put this out to all of you -- am I being unreasonable? Are you satisfied with getting a best-in-slot weapon as your reward for, essentially, beating the game? Do you all share this same love for the new tack Blizzard is taking in weapon and armor design? And what would you like to have seen drop from the mighty Arthas Menethil?

Hunger for more information about bending the light to your advantage? More interested in watching health bars go down than watching them bounce back up? Think it's neat to dissolve into a ball of pure shadow every few minutes? The darker, shadowy side of Spiritual Guidance has you covered.

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