Our next visual analysis in our progression to patch 4.3 and Transmogrification is on Staves.  We're going to be splitting each category's Differentiation analysis from its Visual Positioning analysis going forward as a means to lighten the load on our readers, so stay tuned for the secondary analysis on Staves due out this weekend. So this will be Part 1 of 2.

The chart you see below (click for larger image) maps every possible Staff model currently attainable in-game (Epic, Rare, Uncommon).  Read on after the jump for further analysis and a grayscale map key identifying links to every model shown here.

For the rest of our analysis and links to the actual models, read on after the jump.
For the purposes of this visual analysis, I've arranged the Staves horizontally by expansion and vertically by wireframe uniqueness. So Zhar'doom, Greatstaff of the Devourer, for example, stands alone in the Burning Crusade Column in the top-most horizontal band of "Truly Unique" because there's nothing else like it in-game.  Conversely, The Fire Extinguisher, a rare blue quest reward from Wrath of the Lich King, shares its model with another 20 other weapons, placing it at the bottom of the barrel in our analysis at "Common".  So if you sold your Fire Extinguisher, fear not, you can pick up another 19 items that look just like it.

Since this is a form study, excess model samples have been removed so we can focus on the differences from model to model, rather than color to color.  The grayscale map key at the bottom will enable you to link the images you see here with the actual root model on WoWhead. Once you identify a model you'd like to review further, just skip on over there and see what other color schemes might be available. Naturally, for those appearing on the top most horizontal band on this chart above, what you see is what you get.  For one brief example of what a color shift might look like, though, take a look at the Ethereum Life Staff and the Crystalheart Pulse Staff from the Burning Crusade, second band from the top in the "Very Unique" row.  One red, one blue, you get the idea.  And no, we have not included items such as Anathema in this evaluation, since it is currently no longer attainable.  Our focus is on generating content for readers that they can act on right after they read our blog.  That being said, for those of you who did acquire the item before it was removed, /grats!

A few points of interest on this chart.  First, we were all surprised at how many truly unique models still exist from the Burning Crusade content.  There are some items there we suspect will rank extremely well in this weekend's Visual Positioning exercise, Zhar'doom being one of them.  Secondly, the truly unique items from Wrath are a bit misleading as a number of them appear to be re-skins from the original Naxxramas content.  Thirdly, it may appear that the Blizzard Art Department is on pace to generate as many truly unique models in Cataclysm as they did during Burning Crusade, but we've also included each of the individual stage models of Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa's Rest, so visually that band is inflated.  Bummer too, because those are beautiful models that nobody on the quest chain is likely to maintain simply for Transmogrification.  Lastly, with how much parity we typically see with vanilla WoW items, we were all surprised at the 6 Staves that have stayed pure over the years, refusing to share their model with anything else in-game.

So is this enough to determine what you should be using for a Staff to stand out among your peers? The short answer is 'no'.

Data mining and determining how many items are truly unique is easy enough. But to really put these models to the test, you have to cross reference them with a qualitative, aesthetic analysis which will be coming in our next post so stay tuned.  In the meantime, enjoy the Differentiation analysis and the map key we've provided below (click for larger image).

Welcome to Part 2 of 2 for our analysis on Staves for 4.3.  

If you recall, in our previous post, Part 1 of 2 discussed staves from purely a wireframe model standpoint, accounting for how many other staves share the same model in-game, and giving a visual representation of the results. 

So is the chart we posted in our last article enough to determine what you should be using for a staff to stand out among your peers? The short answer is 'no'.

Data mining and determining how many items are truly unique is easy enough. But to really put these models to the test, you have to cross reference them with a qualitative, aesthetic analysis. Which brings us to our next exercise and more, after the jump.

For the rest of our analysis, our editor's picks and our review of Anathema/Benediction, read on after the jump below.

First, a brief introduction to the methodology you see used here.  What you see above is what we refer to as a visual positioning matrix (click for larger image). We use this tool as a means to provide a visual landscape to the subject matter we're trying to break down.  For this case, we're again positioning every Epic, Rare and Uncommon Staff currently attainable in-game.  If you own Anathema/Benediction and you'd like to see where it stacks up as part of the visual positioning analysis to follow, jump to the end of the article but prepare to be humbled!

The vertical axis here is a continuum of Introverted forms (singular geometry, quiet) to Extroverted forms (intersecting geometry, loud). Things are visually quiet the further South you go, and conversely they get flamboyant if you head North.

The horizontal axis here is a continuum of Static forms (rectilinear, sharp transitions) to Fluid forms (organic, smooth transitions). Things appear stoic and angular to the West, and as you head East they start to feel more smooth and organic.

The goal here isn't to determine the exact placement of each individual item, rather to identify deltas between them as a means to flush out some conclusions. In this case, we're trying to determine what the landscape for Staves will be for transmogrification in 4.3 and provide players with some insight into the choices they'll be making.  So if we cross-reference this visual positioning with our earlier differentiation analysis we referenced above, we can start to predict just how unique a model truly is.  To keep this post relatively short, let's simply cross reference the top row of "truly unique" staves from the differentiation exercise above and plot their locations on the visual positioning map and see what we can learn.

In the above image, we've projected red and green highlights over the locations of the "truly unique" staves (click for larger view).

Red ellipses identify a staff that is sitting amidst a sea of sameness, where the macro geometry of forms are extremely similar.  A great example here being the Staff of Infinite Mysteries (48,20). A popular item back in early Karazahn days, but unfortunately lost amongst all the other hybrid sharp and fluid extroverted forms introduced in Wrath and Cataclysm.  

Green ellipses identify a staff that is far enough from the fringes of parity that it can maintain a unique visual identity.  Wear one of these staves, and you're more likely to stand out among your peers because not only is it a "truly unique" model, but it's also carved out a nice little visual niche among the competition.  A great example here is the Exodar Life Staff (17,25) a BOE drop from Doom Lord Kazzak, a former raid boss and rare spawn in Hellfire Peninsula.

So from a macro level, this chart helps us put a bit more weight behind the recommendations we can submit to the player base below.  But what else can we draw from this?  First, holy balls, look at that mass of red clustered up the middle! What a mess. We would have expected such parity from early vanilla WoW models, but not from the aesthetically advanced expansions of Wrath and Cataclysm.  What this tells us is while the models of today's staves are visually intense and aggressive and a lot of expressive work has gone into them, they're all doing more or less the same thing - even among the majority of the "truly unique" staves as we've identified above in red.  The stages of Dragonwrath, for example, are lost in a sea of sameness, where only the subtle details of form transitions, color and iconography can generate visual differentiation.  Designers would call this a successful attempt at maintaining aesthetic consistency throughout an expansion, and while we can identify with that from a design standpoint, it just doesn't feel like a stable base for personalization.

As a side note to the conversation, similar to what we saw in our Shields analysis, I'm personally surprised how empty the Northwest and Eastern regions of the chart are.  In our Shields analysis, the Eastern region was sparse as well, and it's too early to tell based solely on an analysis of shield and staves design, but this tells me the Blizzard art department may have an art style that's very fluid and organic up their sleeve for the next expansion.  Doing so would certainly enable them to trend away from the sea of parity above in terms of staff design, and generate an entirely new look and feel to staves that hasn't been seen yet.

We hope you've enjoyed our review of Staves for 4.3 and our take on what to wear and what not to wear.  If your goal is to truly stand out among your peers with transmogrification in 4.3, we encourage you to draw from these charts.  For those that would like a kickstarter, we've included our editor's picks based on the analysis below.  Thanks again for reading, and stay tuned for more content here at Disenchanting Azeroth.

Bye for now!

The items to follow are in no particular order.

1.Exodar Life Staff.  Mentioned above, this item has really carved out a genuine niche for itself.  Incredibly bold, particularly with the uber glow to the triangular crystals, this item maintains a delicate balance between mostly angular and just slightly fluid.  The handle flowing down from the crystals has a really elegant turn in it that softens the blow of an otherwise sharp and powerful icon.  One of our team's faves, and unfortunately your only option if you've already completed the Cipher of Damnation questline from TBC and sold off its equivalent.
2. Charmed Cierge.  Sitting just on the outskirts of parity is the Charmed Cierge.  Very subtle, very elegant, very delicate and enough to set it apart from its peers.  With so many of the current models opting for the opposite of "delicate", this would be a great conversation starter in a dungeon or raid.  Definitely one that will go overlooked in 4.3 so hit Naxx and take it when nobody else is aware they should want it.
3. Draenic Wildstaff. Yes, it technically shares its model with a few other options, but given their availability and the fact that this one is extremely unique in terms of where it fell out in our visual analysis above, it remained in our top 25 for the last few days.  What put it over the top into our recommended top 10?  The animation.  The design is already in a solid place, so the animation is just enough to really make this intriguing.  Great item for transmogrification because it's the perfect mix of visual differentiation and animation.
4. Twin's Pact.  Horde only, and quite the opposite of something like the Charmed Cierge is this hoss.  Extremely expressive with those antlers, and really nothing else quite like it in-game.  Sure there are plenty of horse-heads and antler-like elements adorning the staves in the vacinity of this bad boy, but nothing is going to hang off your back quite like Twin's Pact.  Highly recommended.
5. Lupine Longstaff.  Alliance only, and sheer coincidence that it's the faction alternative of the same drop as Twin's Pact.  The two have been in our top 25 for the last few days, and while we knew Twin's Pact was easily top 10, we weren't sure about the Lupine Longstaff until we really examined some of the other alternatives.  The thing with the Longstaff is there really is nothing else quite like it in-game, in terms of a staff model.  It almost belongs in different game entirely because the art style and contrasting colors really give it more of a futuristic feel.  Really very unique, and definitely one that is best suited to players who will pay it some respect and accompany it with gear of a similar style and color scheme.  You could argue there is a potential Starcraft look brewing with this one if you could secure the right garments...
6. Staff of Immaculate Recovery. Priest blogs everywhere unite!  Everyone is likely recommending this staff, so we're not going to doll out our description of why it belongs here.  The proof is in our analysis, this one has carved itself a niche, and is an easy recommendation.
7. Grand Scepter of the Nexus-Kings.  Likely to be one of the most forgotten staves for 4.3, this item is actually a rare drop from Mana Tombs.  Quiet and unassuming, but that's the point.  There's nothing quiet and unassuming in WoW anymore in terms of weapons, as everything has boomed into the extroverted region.  This one strikes a careful balance keeping it in the more static, rectilinear region of the West, but the animation certainly helps maintain its extroverted position.  Easily another conversation starter, because players are bound to ask where did you get it, and what made you decide to use it.

8. Zhar'doom, Greatstaff of the Devourer.  An item we've mentioned before, and surely one other transmogrifying counselors will be recommending for 4.3.  We've selected it for strategic reasons, leveraging our visual positioning and differentiation evaluations, and the icing on the cake is the animation of the twitchy little bugger.

9. Apostle of Argus.  Back in TBC, this was one of the most sought-after staves because of how different it looked from anything else in the game, and that desirable aesthetic is likely to maintain its allure into 4.3.  Initially on the outskirts of our top 25 because from a form standpoint it, like each of the other TBC "ethereal tractor beam with floating objects" staves are pretty average in terms of form.  So clearly what separates this one, and why we've decided to roll with it in our top 10 list is because omg it's AN ETHEREAL TRACTOR BEAM WITH FLOATING OBJECTS!!!  Archimonde awaits.

10. Funeral Pyre.  Introduced in the Firelands raid of 4.2.  We're not normally fans of recommending current content if you want to stand out from your peers, but this staff is a marvelous exception.  Incredibly organic by Blizzard's wireframe model standards, this one has fluid twists and turns all over the place.  Very expressive, and for the most part stands alone in our evaluation above.  In fact, if Blizzard does go Emerald Dream and shifts into more of an organic aesthetic as we mentioned earlier, we wouldn't be surprised to see this guy get reskinned with a woodsy theme.  Get it now, wear it now. 
Finally, for those players who were lucky enough to acquire Anathema/Benediction prior to its removal from the game, here's where your prize stands against the competition (click for larger image).  The Anathema model is clearly pushing the envelope of every other staff in the game into the extroverted/static quadrant, which is a fantastic place to be because for the most part nobody else is going to be there.  The Exodar Life Staff is going to be a tough drop to get because it's not only a random drop, but it's a random boss spawn as well.  Even Benediction can hold its own, though it's slightly less expressive in form.  So really both models should serve players extremely well, and yeah nothing to be humble about.  And when you're touting your prize around town, if anyone gives you any flack, send them here to us and we'll set them straight for you. ;)

Look for us on Twitter @DEazeroth

118. Runestaff of Nordrassil
117. Branch of Nordrassil
116. Fandral's Flamescythe
115. Ruthless Gladiator's Battle Staff
114. Spire of Scarlet Pain
113. Staff of Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan
112. Malevolence
111. Sho'ravon, Greatstaff of Annihilation
110. Chelley's Staff of Dark Mending
109. Legacy of Arlokk
108. Chillwind Staff
107. Funeral Pyre
106. Cerith Spire Staff
105. Jin'do's Verdict
104. Staff of Justified Sins
103. Staff of Golden Worship
102. Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Staff
101. Sealing Heartstaff
100. Staff of Ammunae
99. Folly's Spar
98. Berto's Staff
97. Angerfang Staff
96. Bladefist Staff
95. Umbranse's Staff
94. Origin of Nightmares
93. Silvery Sylvan Stave
92. Damnation
91. Sulfur Stave
90. Staff of Feral Furies
89. Staff of the Plague Beast
88. The Undeath Carrier
87. Staff of the Plaguehound
86. Journey's End
85. Devotion
84. Charmed Cierge
83. Staff of Trickery
82. Tower of the Mouldering Corpse
81. Lupine Longstaff
80. Intensity
79. Cold Convergence
78. Engraved Gargoyle Femur
77. Illumination
76. Twin's Pact
75. Spire of Sunset
74. Halion, Staff of Forgotten Love
73. Archus, Greatstaff of Antonidas
72. Dying Light
71. Blood Boil Lancet
70. Dreambinder
69. Icecore Staff
68. Abracadaver
67. Life-Staff of the Web Lair
66. Hateful Gladiator's Battle Staff
65. The Fire Extinguisher
64. Darkmoon Magestaff
63. Apocalyptic Staff
62. Staff of the Purposeful Mendicant
61. Bloodwood Greatstaff
60. Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Battle Staff
59. Exodar Life-Staff
58. Terokk's Shadowstaff
57. Zhar'doom, Greatstaff of the Devourer
56. Epoch-Mender
55. Frostscythe of Lord Ahune
54. Staff of Natural Fury
53. The Nexus Key
52. Grand Scepter of the Nexus-Kings
51. Serpentcrest Life-Staff
50. Staff of Immaculate Recovery
49. Golden Staff of the Sin'dorei
48. Pillar of Ferocity
47. Staff of the Forest Lord
46. Staff of Infinite Mysteries
45. Merciless Gladiator's War Staff
44. Bloodfire Greatstaff
43. Nightstaff of the Everliving
42. Feral Staff of Lashing
41. Terestian's Stranglestaff
40. Stanchion of Primal Instinct
39. Crystalheart Pulse Staff
38. Ethereum Life Staff
37. Staff of Beasts
36. Dreamer's Dragonstaff
35. Brutal Gladiator's Battle Staff
34. Rod of the Blazing Light
33. Draenic Wildstaff
32. Apostle of Argus
31. Vengeful Gladiator's Battle Staff
30. Braxxis' Staff of Slumber
29. Staff of the Sun
28. Seer's Cane
27. Ameer's Impulse Taser
26. Ironstaff of Regeneration
25. Ameer's Judgement
24. Bata Staff
23. Staff of the Qiraji Prophets
22. Staff of the Shadow Flame
21. Staff of Dominance
20. Blessed Qiraji Augur Staff
19. Staff of the Ruins
18. Blessed Qiraji Acolyte Staff
17. Redemption
16. High Warlord's War Staff
15. Shadow Wing Focus Staff
14. Grand Marshal's Stave
13. Elemental Mage Staff
12. Headmaster's Charge
11. Glowing Brightwood Staff
10. Stoneflower Staff
9. Advisor's Gnarled Staff
8. Ironbark Staff
7. Defias Mage Staff
6. Kam's Walking Stick
5. Amethyst War Staff
4. Loksey's Training Stick
3. Staff of Jordan
2. Bludgeon of the Grinning Dog
1. Crackling Staff