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4.2 looks Hot!

16 May

Let’s talk Firelands!

My time lately has been divided between raid leadership on the live realms and playtime on the PTR.  While the personal progression goals of our raid team are first in my mind, new content after so long a patch of nothing huge being added is more than welcome.

The Molten Front

New daily quests rarely get my going in a serious way, but the molten front doesn’t feel as grind-y as leveling fishing a day at a time.  The druids of Hyjal call upon the player to collect Marks of the World Tree by completing quests to repair the land and fightback the forces from the Firelands.

Some misconceptions: doing these quests isn’t a requirement to raid the Firelands.  Also, although the area makes huge use of various types of phasing, the quests can largely still be completed in a group (and some of them are a lot easier this way).  Finally, you do have to complete all the quests in Hyjal up to banishing Ragnaros to start these new quests, so go do that now!

As one moves from Hyjal into the Molten Front new daily quests are unlocked.  No one is completing 25 dailies and wishing they had a higher cap every day, but every day a new random group of quests becomes available.  For those not drawn in by fun new content along, there are also item level 365+ epics purchasable from vendors in the Molten Front.

The Firelands Raid

At this point in the testing cycle I’ve only had an opportunity to play against Beth’tilac (giant fire spider) and Lord Rhyolith.  Both fights felt creative, fun, and relatively straightforward for the first few bosses of a new instance.

And if you hate the colour orange, now is a bad time to be playing the game.

The raid feels large, additionally so because of the time spent mounted moving between encounter areas.  Comparisons to Ulduar are apt, and with a dps caster legendary here I expect we will be farming the Firelands for some time to come.  I hope to see some challenging trash packs, although somewhere between the heavy trash of Bastion of Twilight and the virtual trash-less-ness of Blackwing Descent.

The State of the Game

Many players are paying a lot of attention to the numbers Blizzard released during the Q2 press call stating Warcraft subscription numbers had dropped to pre-Cata levels.  These numbers come from 4.0.6 right before the 4.1 re-introduction of the Zuls.  According to the same press conference, they also expained this decline as reflective of how quickly players consumed content.

This means that blizzard’s statement of “X% of players haven’t completed the hard modes yet” might not be the guiding philosophy anymore.  I expect either easier hardmodes where players complete them before getting burnt out on the content (unlikely), more challenging regular modes with fresh ideas (seems to be the case in Firelands so far).  Its possible that blizzard will also react to this by pushing the next content patch soon after Firelands (much like they did for Ulduar’s follower).  I really hope the reactionaries don’t get their way and do this.

Despite the burnout, World of Warcraft is making more money than ever.  That fact talks, so I expect content patches will continue at the quality level we’ve come to expect.  Don’t be surprised if Firelands has harder regular modes than either BoT or BWD.

I’ll get back to you on that after I finish these dailies.

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Cataclysm Plans: The Hard Push

6 Dec

We’re all thinking the same thing here.  We’re all refreshing countdown timers and counting the minutes.  In a matter of moments we’ll be leveling again.  For a number of us, this is the first serious leveling we’ve done in almost two years.

Leveling!

My ambition is to take a group of 277 ilvl geared raiders and lead them through chained dungeons.  This might not be the fastest XP / hour method, but its a surefire way to replace epics with blues and see firsthand the layout of the new heroics we’ll be running to get raid ready.  I’d also trust my team over myself any day.  We’re stronger as a group.  Aside from this, there are a few other motivating factors for this method:

  • We’re on a PvP server, and questing can be tricky
  • Getting ahead of the main leveling teams using instanced content could let us quest the last level in an underpopulated Twilight Highlands
  • Completing all the quests at a leisurely pace once we hit 85 let’s us enjoy them more and provides a windfall of gold (quests at max level reward gold in place of XP)
  • We can all keep each other talking and awake.

I’ll let everyone know how it works once I have some post-Cata down time.  I hope to report successes.

PvP Heroes!

I’d like to hit arena on launch week (launch of arena, not Cata launch.  This will be the following Tuesday).  These means a decent mix of honor gear and purchasable crafted items.  Blasting a solid team through to high ratings by killing players in greens is the plan.  At the very least I’ll learn something about how everything has changed in the new “mana matters” style of play.  On the table right now are Shatterplay, RPS, and Afflic/rDruid/sPriest.  Part of this is going to depend on the players willing to push as hard as I am for this.

I will admit I need to develop skills.  I’m not perfect, but i’m a lot stronger than last year.  I’ve done my homework.  If it takes 10000 hours to become an expert, I’m starting to count them down.

Guild Achievements

We have a core of players interested in pushing server first achievements.  This is exciting, but for the rest of the guild I’ve set a more tentative goal of 25 player raid readiness by January 11th.  Our entire officer team is on board with this, which is impressive given that many have children/classes/families/jobs, etc.

We also plan to implement guild achievement bounties.  This will look like a group (or single) player being rewarded for completing a task that either awards an achievement for the guild or takes us closer to one.  We should be able to afford to give players and extra incentive, especially after we unlock Cash Flow (guild level four).  I still have no clear idea how fast a guild levels.

A big item on this list for me is the new fish feast.  Unlocking the recipe currently requires the guild to fish up 10000 pools (not fish, pools).  I’m not certain on the best way to motivate this, but broken into 20 players fishing up 500 pools each makes this feel a lot more manageable.

Time will tell.  How’s everyone else’s push?

Are We Having Fun Yet?

15 Jul

Bored?  Its a complaint I hear often, even from the most motivated of players.  Ever run laps around Dalaran or hoped from spike to spike on the Orgrimar bank (I’m sure there’s an equivalent for Alliance players—maybe falling into the Ironforge trench?)?  World of Warcraft continues to be a team game.  I can’t do arenas without my teammates, and a 25 player raid takes… well, it takes more than just me.

I want to make two major points here:  there is more to do in this game than most people can ever accomplish; community takes effort.

This is a BIG Game

Achievements have opened up a lot of the crazy things folks used to just do for the fun of it.  I personally get a thrill out of treating each achievement as a long term goal or a brief puzzle.  Adding this sort of challenge can let you bond with guildies, explore some content you’ve never checked into before, or just have a good time soloing something challenging.

Go solo MgT.  Any class at 80 can do it, but it requires some kiting, CC, or general co-ordination.

Farm BGs for the various achievements in them.  I spent a week getting all the Base Caps in AB and had an absolute blast doing it.  Queue up for a random battleground and just track whatever achievements seem do-able once you get in.  For added adventure, invite a few guild members to tag along.

Level an alt.  While I love it when folks show main toons the dedication they deserve, leveling an alt can teach you a lot about the game you might have forgotten or overlooked the first/second/third time around.  Since the advent of the the dungeon finder system leveling can be a smooth and painless process, free of grinding or even question.  It can be, but more often you get in a group with a hunter.  Either way, its an adventure worth having.

Gold Cap.  Going into Cataclysm with a little nest-egg isn’t a bad plan.  There’s a lot of ways to make money when an expansion launches, but I’d personally like to focus my efforts on just enjoying the new content.  To do so, I worked the AH and my various crafting professions hard and gold capped my priest.  That gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of gearing and leveling in a new expansion.

Put in the Effort to Build Community

If you’re doing something fun, try to bring others along.  While guildies are best, friends lists are handy for grouping up with other folks.  Random Heroics can always be done with a pal.  Leveling an alt?  Do it with a friend.  Getting all the achievements for the Red Proto Drake can be an amazing opportunity to make four good friends who last years.

At its very core, WoW is a social game.  It is about connecting with people, learning with them, and enjoying your time together.  You need to make this happen!  Join a guild.  Once established in it, don’t forget about building friendships outside of it.  A healthy raider compares notes with the best players out there, even outside of one’s guild.  Struggling on a fight?  Talk to that guy you did BGs with the other day who raid leads for the top guild on the server.

Boredom is easily overcome by personal direction, or some serious community building.  Put the effort into this game, and it will reward you with endless hours of entertainment and exciting new friendships!

Good Night of Raiding

6 Jul

Last night:

A few more Kingslayers for our guild, which is nice.  I like to feel like I’m rewarding my players for all the hard work they give me.

For myself… It’s Over Nine Thousand, after the completion of Glory of the Icecrown Raider (10 Player) which earned me the Frostwyrm you see pictured above, and then Mountain o’ Mounts.  No, I didn’t line it up on purpose.  Yes, it felt awesome!

Now what?  I know from past experience that, without a long term goal or three, I lose motivation.  Heroic LK is great, but I need something I can work on privately.  Our arena team saw some significant success, and we’re starting to click.  I still want very badly to get a 2200 rating in 3s (or any team, really).

Hopefully something will strike me.  One of my arena partners suggested “over ten thousand” points, but that seem uninspired.  Anyone have any great ideas?  I’m hesitant to roll and gear another alt, because that’s something Cata promises to make really exciting again.

I need the beta.

Mythbusters, WoWstyle!

22 Jun

A watched pot does boil. Trust me, I know. Flies are more attracted to vinegar than honey. These are myths and stories mothers tell children to get them to behave. In WoW, we have our own. Here are a few:

Skill is > Gear. Put a player who’s been playing WoW for a year against someone playing hardcore for four.  The more experienced player wins.  Give the first guy a much better weapon, and the story changes. Gear makes a significant change in your characters damage potential, and you’re right to care about it for that reason. I can out dps someone with better gear, but only on some fights. We want to think otherwise, but that dude’s Lich King heroic staff is helping him a ton.

Bloodlust/Heroism is huge for a raid’s dps. While the co-ordination of cooldowns is a big deal, and a heroism does help, bloodlust just isn’t that big a buff. Any shaman who’s soloed to level can tell you that.  A ten player or a 25 player group can accomplish challenging goals without this buff, and the WoW world’s emphasis on it is something I’ve covered in a previous post.

Raiding has gotten so much easier since Vanilla WoW it’s ruining the game. Raiding has become more accessible, and we no longer have 1% of the player base seeing Naxx 40. That said, Lich King Heroic is the most technically challenging encounter Blizzard has ever designed. The second hardest?  Yogg+0.  Blizzard as a company is constantly improving raid and encounter design, and the access for more players is little more than a means to justify their investment.  Yes, the gear from ICC 25 is a lot more common than the Naxx 40 gear was.  That’s okay, and the challenging achievements out there still prove you have a bigger epeen.  Nostalgia is only that.  Little know fact, the ghostwalk to Molten Core was uphill and in the snow!

PvP/PvE takes no skill compared to raiding/arenas; real players PvE/PvP. Arena play, especially at the top level, requires an insane amount of situational awareness.  Raids require the effort, dedication, logistical co-ordination, and heads-up-play of as many as 25 people.  Both environments, at the top level, are worthy of significant accolade.   Anyone can clear the lower spire; anyone can win a random BG.

Addons like healbot and macros for dps rotations are a crutch. This comment is as misguided and asinine as saying a hammer is a crutch for putting nails in a wall.  Addons, macros, scripts, UIs—all of them are potential tools to make the game work for you.  Try anything once (unless it’s banned).  Don’t knock it until you try it.  The best players in the world don’t go out of their way to make the game harder to play, so why should you?  If these addons or tools are making your play worse in some respect or limiting your options, that’s a real criticism.

I Don’t Care if It’s Red Anymore

13 Jun

99/100 mounts.  For a player who started shortly after the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, that’s not bad.  To get to this place, I’ve also managed to solo the packs of mobs before the first boss in AQ40 as a shadow priest.  I’m likely not the first to do this, but for anyone not in the “know” AQ40 drops several mounts usable only in that raid.  They’re some kinda-cute bugs, and the drop chance of most of them is as high as 15%

Not this guy.  He’s red.  Like the class sport’s car a gentleman buys when he realizes he has an income but no life to speak of, this particular bug symbolizes how much time you’ve wasted.  More to the point, how much time one would have to waste on these first few pulls in AQ40.  Nevertheless, as a solo-able mount with its own Feat of Strength attached to it, Calsong the Insane, shadow priest and stubborn female, choose to devote some aggressive farm-time to it.

I make it sound more bleak than it is.  I walked in with 97/100 mounts and was able to get the yellow and blue ones pretty quickly.  I already had the green one from when our guild held a meeting in AQ40 last year.

For a 40 player raid, I expect AQ must have felt epic.  The Anubisath Sentinels (the packs of 4 adds one must solo to get these bugs) are huge and move like impending death.  They make the kind of noises you’d expect: a cross between an angry guard dog and a giant, animated, statue.  The first time I pulled them I just tried to multi-dot them all.  Usually that works, as extra healing from Vampiric Embrace extends my survivability a whole heck of a lot.  After I spell reflected a Vampiric Touch on to myself and got three-shot, I decided to look into it a little more.

The mobs each bring an ability to the table, and once one dies he transfers it to each of the other ones and heals them to full.  The abilities are chosen from a pool, but there are a few dangerous ones to look out for.

Spell Reflecting all Shadow/Frost spells  –  This is a game over one for us.  They hit us too hard and do too much damage to simply smite them down out of shadowform, so if we get this ability on a pack we have to kill the other three and then zone out, letting this guy de-spawn.  Don’t worry, the dead bodies of the other three will be lootable when you re-enter, and you’ll have another pack of 4 to pull

Mortal Strike, periodically  –  This isn’t terrible, but it does mean you have to be careful.  I’d try to avoid killing the add with this buff first, as it ups your mortality rate.

Mana Burn, periodically  –  Glyphed for Dispersion (I’ll explain why in a moment) this isn’t terrible.  It can still put you in a bind, so a void it if the other two aren’t causing issues.

Knockback, periodically  –  Not really that bad.  If I get tis, I count my blessings it isn’t an MS or a Spell Reflect

Heal over Time  –  At first I thought this would be an issue, but it isn’t that bad.  The heal can be damaged through easily with our dots, and only happens every 3 seconds or so.  Just keep all of our dots up, and hope you don’t get this plus Mana burn, as that can require some trickiness.

How to do it:  Okay, the pull is somewhat important.  From max range, VT and MB the closest add.  Then, as you turn around and run, throw up plague, SW:Pain, and SW:Death.  This gives maximum distance and damage before they get to you.  If your mob gets to below 30% before you get below 50%, puss through him with MFs and take one of them out.  If not, dispersion with all your dots up to heal yourself (through VE) and get some more damage in.  You’ll likely do this on every cooldown of Dispersion, so I’d recommend using the glyph.  For the next mob, three of them beating on you isn’t going to kill you as fast as four, but you’ll need another trick.  I dot up the next add completely and then pop shadowfiend and fade.  The mobs attack your fiend, giving you time to get in some damage, kill an add, or throw up a heal if needed.  I recommend Prayer of Mending and renew, then getting back to dpsing.  Throughout all of this, you want to use PW:Shield on cooldown.

Two mobs isn’t bad, and you can kill the last guy or just reset it.  I’ve been doing this for 3 hours, and the RNG Gods aren’t loving me.  I’m going to give up on the red dooder, and just go do Argent Tourny dailies for that last mount.  To the rest of you, good luck!

Pets, Vanity and otherwise

12 Jun

I’m not a pet collector, and an achievement whore.  That said, as I grow daily closer to my goal of over 9000 achievement points (up to 8765 tonight) it occurs to me I have 83 pets, which is several more than one needs for the 75 pet achievement.  I keep telling myself its because I expect them to add more pets into the game later, but really, I’m just collecting pets by habit now.

My second favourite is the core hound pup.  My favourite is pictured below!

PS: Sorry Noel, but if I manage to get a Wind Rider Cub, I may have to love you just a little bit less 😛