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Patch 4.2 PTR: First look at the Encounter Journal

Matt Low

Recognize the little guy in the top left corner? Yup, that's Crabby! He's back to help guide you and your party through the various encounters found in Azeroth. Who would have guessed a simple crustacean had so much to offer?

If you don't want to spoil yourself for any specific lore reasons, you may wish to avoid using the encounter journal until you at least get to the encounter itself. A recent patch 4.2 build had enabled it, and already I can see this being a huge asset to players who wish to dive into dungeons or raids.

The encounter journal effectively tells you three things:
  • Loot drops
  • Boss abilities
  • Notable phases
Some of the journal entries also provide a little lore background into the areas you're invading. If you're a person like me who doesn't read quest text much and just hits "Next" on everything, you might sometimes wonder why you're going into some dark part of the world to take down some villain. At least now we have some idea as to why.

What the journal won't tell you is how to take down bosses. You get a full list of boss abilities and mechanics, but it's entirely up to the raid to determine what tactics should be used to respond to said boss abilities.

Warning: Partial encounter spoiler ahead.

The only way I could access the new Encounter Journal was by binding a key to it through my interface. I couldn't find the button on my map anywhere. If you're looking for a key combination, I used Shift + N. Anyway, when you first open up the journal, you'll see a grid of all the different dungeons and raid instances. You saw a screenshot of that grid earlier in the post. You can choose which instance you want to read about.

Clicking into it shows you all of the encounters located within, and selecting them shows you additional details about the encounter. Note the two tabs in the middle of the screen. One of them strictly shows encounter information, and the tab below it shows all of the loot that drops in the instance.

In this example, I've selected Al'akir. It shows me all of the items that will drop. I can sort difficulty level and raid size on the top right corner, although that's more applicable to encounter information than anything else. I can now see the actual boss model. If I'm entering a new instance for the first time and I'm not sure what's a boss and what isn't, I can check the journal to get an accurate idea.

As for the loot itself, I can mouse over all of the different items. It'll show me the stats and attributes on it, if there are any. On this screen, it'll show me the full list, which item slot it belongs to, and what armor type it is (such as cloth or leather). You can't see it here on Al'akir, since I only took a screenshot that contains nothing but tier helm tokens and neck pieces.

At this time, I'm not able to link any information into any chat. I can't shift and click to link items in a party chat or anything like that.

This is the stuff I'm looking forward to the most. This screen shows players everything about the encounter. If there are multiple stages, it'll indicate such, as well as whether there are any conditions that need to be met before the phase triggers. In this case, Fandral will only shift into a cat when players have spread out. He will switch into scorpion form when seven or more players get close to each other. This tells us that players can control how Majordomo will shift forms.

Below that, we can expand the details list to show what his actual cat form abilities are. Leaping Flames causes Fandral to jump at players and deal around 30,000 damage in a small area. This ability also causes him to create a Spirit. Presumably, this Spirit will need to get taken down. You'll see additional abilities below like Adrenaline. Clicking on the + symbol will expand on it.

In the current build, I noticed a significant drop in performance when I expanded all of the details. I had to negate this by collapsing certain abilities once I was done reading them in order to move on to the next one, or risk a client crash. Like the loot drops before it, I'm not able to link abilities in the chat window, either. This would be useful so that leaders can highlight really important and potentially raid-wiping mechanics to everyone in the group.

Finally, yes, the details for Raganaros are in for both his normal and heroic encounters. The heroic encounter lists certain NPCs assisting you on the encounter. Epic spoilers, indeed!

Already I can tell that the Encounter Journal will be an excellent addition for raid leaders. Being able to see the different abilities means leaders don't have to spend as much time scouring different sites in order to explain different abilities to people. Now we can just point to them in the journal.

What does this mean for the raid pioneers and competitive raiding guilds? It'll mean less effort for all of them. Observing PTR streams in the past, I've noticed guilds repeatedly pulling encounters and trying different things in order to get an idea of all the different boss abilities that were available. Not only that, they had to reset to find out exactly what conditions were needed before an ability would activate, things like:
  • Does an ability trigger after a certain amount of time has passed?
  • Does a player need to do something?
  • Is it threat-related?
  • Does the boss need to move to a specific location?
  • Does boss health need to reach a certain percentage?
Those pulls don't have to be done as much anymore, because the information can be looked up. But when it comes to devising strategy and tactics, that's still up for guilds to determine. The journal isn't done yet, so if you decide to hop in and look around only to discover that some entries are blank, that's why.

What are your thoughts on the Encounter Journal so far? Do you think it'll have a positive effect for players?

The news is already rolling out for the upcoming WoW Patch 4.2! Preview the new Firelands raid, marvel at the new legendary staff, and get the inside scoop on new quest hubs -- plus new Tier 12 armor!

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