Friday, December 24, 2010

Le Ding

Last night my Hunter, Jyger, made it Level 85. I’m fairly certain I’m the last person in our guild to hit 85, in fact, I think a couple of guys have already hit 85 with their second toon.
Level85 I dinged after completing the Crucible of Carnage quest line in Twilight Highlands.
The path I took was Vash’ir, Deepholme, Twilight Highlands, a little Uldum and then back to Twilight. I’ve talked a good bit about my experiences in Vash’ir previously and I think it was my favorite zone as I leveled up. Deepholme took a little while to get going, and levels 83 and 84 really dragged.
I started off with in Marksman spec with my trusty Lion, Aslan, in Vash’ir. As fights got longer I switched over to my Ravager, Droideka, but he was getting his rear handed to him in Deepholme. I switched over to Polar Bear for a little while, but then I found a Shale Spider about halfway through my questing. I really liked the Shale Spider, so I switched to Beast Mastery (Shale Spiders are Exotic). I named him Rocky. (Adrienneeeee!!!) He could really take a beating and the 5% stat buff was a nice addition.
One question I had as I began to work through Deepholme was how Therazane might feel about my toon, seeing as I sort of…well…you know… KILLED her daughter and all. yeahsherememberedIt was really cool that she knew about that, but didn’t know I was ‘fleshling’ responsible. That’s probably a good thing.
GnomeHunterDuring part of my questing I encountered the very rare Gnome Hunter, seen only around the Winter Veil festival.
As I started working my way through the Twilight Highlands, I noticed I was really taking a while to kill mobs. At that point, I switched to my Survival spec, and brought back Aslan. Survival has been my personal favorite spec since I tried it out in Wrath, and I’m enjoying it again in Cataclysm.
I’ve run Blackrock Decent, Throne of Tides, Vortex Pinnacle and Stonecore so far. Each was fun in its own way, but Stonecore was the first where I really saw the beginning focus fire and crowd control, even if we did AoE several packs. I try very hard to be a ‘good’ DPSer. For example, during my Vortex Pinnacle run, an Elemental Shaman pulled aggro, and Wind Shocked. Okay, I’m assuming he Wind Shocked, because the mob was heading for him, and then made a beeline for our healer. I fired a Frost Trap, and a Distracting Shot which taunted the mob and when he came to smash my delicate Orc face in, I had him in my trap. Not only was that fun, but I felt like I was contributing a bit more than just raw Massive Quantities of Sustained Ranged DPS.
I haven’t had a chance to train my Level 85 spell, Camouflage, yet, but I’ll let you know what I think after I do. I’m not much a PVPer, but we’ll see how it goes. Camo might be really nice for Misdirect pulls. I’m always worried I’m going to get too close and pull the mob, sort of like I did in my first Gruul’s Lair on Jyger.
By the time I was in My gear level was only 315. This isn’t like Wrath where you ding max level and within the hour you are doing Heroics and quite possibly Raid content. I’m going to need to work just to get the privilege of the 45 minute DPS queue. I was able to pick up the Earthen Ring Shoulders (Honored) and craft my Elementium Dragonling (Mastery Trinket). After I acquired those, I had raised my item level to 319, still about 10 points short of Heroics.

Tomorrow is December 25th, a time when most people in the world are celebrating. For some it is celebration of Jesus’ birth. For most it is Christmas with Santa Claus, Rudolf, Ho, Ho, Ho, and presents for all. For others this is Hanukah. Still others celebrate Kwanza this time of year. Maybe you are the person for whom this time of year means Feats of Strength and a Festivus for the Rest of Us.
Whatever December 25th means to you, it is my hope that your day is filled with wonderful memories, surrounded by people who care about you. This has been a crazy year, and I appreciate everyone who has continued to read Honors Code through the ups and downs, main switching, and all else we’ve seen this year.
My personal expression this time of year is a mixture of Christian and traditional Christmas themes, so out of that, I will simply say to you, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wet Weekend

This weekend I finished up Vash’ir. I really enjoyed the zone. The underwater setting was different from anything else I’ve done in WoW, and it really didn’t take long to get used to questing in a true 3D world. After the one unpleasant encounter with marauding Alliance, I didn’t have any more unwanted PVP. Several times in the zone I saw Alliance and Horde questing side by side.
I got just about every achievement I think you can get out of the zone.vashir achieves
Because someone asked, I wanted to show that yes, traps do work under water.traps work
queenasharaThere were so many interesting quest chains in Vash’ir from the Pirates of the Caribbean opening to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ending. During one chain, you live out the story of a Naga Battle Maiden and set up the Battle at the end of the zone. You pick up that chain where exploring an ole High Elf city. I saw statues of Lestharia Vashj and Queen Ashara. Somehow I think she is going to look just a little bit different when we finally see her as a Raid Boss. The chains inside the giant cuttlefish (both of them) were alot of fun. The end battle with the Tidehunter and the Naga was pretty cool, but I felt more like a tourist than a participant, especially when we took the sub through the zone. I do love how the whole zone works to set up the story for Throne of the Tides which I want to run soon.

I do think the writers might have forgotten some of the details of an underwater zone in some of the flavor text.
Yeah, Vilethorn, we’re underwater man. I don’t think your spit is going any where. In fact, I think I’ll swim over this way now.
Jyger, my Hunter is 83 and now headed to Deepholme. I have to give props to the Undead Mage I flagged down for a port in Deepholme. He was kind enough to show me the permanent portal to Orgrimar and was pretty nice about it, too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disappointed With BRC

Jyger was still plugging away in Vash'ir Wednesday night. The zone and quests were fun. I came across one quest where the quest giver is a Goblin Shaman. He is using Earth Elementals to mine and dig, and it brought to mind some of the incongruity of the combination. Goblins seem to be more about using everything around them for profit. That just doesn't seem to fit with the idea of Shamans who regard the Elements as silent associates, who work for a time to aid their mortal allies before being released back to the Elemental Plane.

I'm still amazed by the questions in general chat asking where something is, or how to complete a quest. Where is this place they will ask, when the breadcrumb quests pretty clearly states, leave the cave and go west. Hmm, what direction should I go to find the next cave?

The Devs seemed to have added some guards to the caves as I saw an Alliance Warrior get destroyed by one when he attacked me. About halfway through Vash'ir, I would guess, and I've replaced only my bow from the mix of iLevel 251/264 epics I had. I have a couple of greens that I wasn't sure if they were better than what I had, especially when you factor in gems/enchants/reforging already done. I'm leveling as MM with Rapid Repercussion and Rapid Killing which basically refills my focus bar when I kill something. I've been very happy with it. I'm using Aslan (Lion) for my pet. He leveled with me during my Wrath days as well.

Near the end of my playtime, someone asked about doing an instance and I volunteered to go. We got Blackrock Caverns. I still haven't discovered Throne of Tides, so that was basically my only option.

I have to say that overall I was a little disappointed. Not many people were running instances during my time in beta, but I had heard encouraging stories of instances actually being challenging and needing old skills like Crowd Control and focused DPS. This was definitely NOT the case with Blackrock Caverns. The group I was with happily AEed the trash packs. The first boss required no explanation, we just blew him up. The second boss required minimimal explanation. DPS had to stand in a beam until a debuff stacked to 80 as we blew up the boss, then run out.

The third boss gave us a bit of trouble until the tank figured out how to postion him. He does a pulse AoE fire thing that gets strong the longer he stays in the fire, but if you don't get him in the fire, he'll go immune. You kind of have to hokey pokey him.

You put the boss in,
you take the boss out,
you put the boss in and you blow his butt up.
You do the hokey and you get your shiny loot.
That's what it's all out.

Speaking of shiny loot, I snagged a blue agility trinket that replaced the Mirror of Truth I had been carrying for eighteen months. Once the tank figured how to move the boss around, it was a piece of cake.

I loved the fact they put in a Core Hound Boss named Beauty to play off the Core Hound boss, The Beast in Upper Blackrock Spire. They used the Core Hound Pup model, the pet you get with an authenticator, as a trash mob. But outside of the one hiccup on the 3rd boss, it was good ole Wrath mindless AoE trash, and blow up bosses.

I've been selling everything I come across: ores, dust, volitales, etc. I've kept nothing to level Engineering, First Aid, or even Cooking yet. As more and more people reach 85, they will start farming heavily and the price of everything is going to go down. This is a once in an expansion opportunity to make some serious gold. I missed it last time being double production on Honors (JC/Engy). I won't miss it again.

I finished up the night about halfway to 82. Halfway to 82 should be about the equivalent of Level 73 back in Wrath of the Lich King. I don't remember being 73 on the second night. One of the really exciting benefits of a blog is looking back on your history. I wrote my Wrath First Impressions blog on 11/17/2008. I didn't write Ding 73 until 9 days later. It took me nearly 6 weeks to hit 80. I don't see it taking anywhere near that long to hit 85.

We already have at least two (maybe 3?) 85s in our guild, our Druid Main Tank and one of our Mages. I'm consistently the lowest level toon on. This is no great surprise to me, nor do I see the situation changing any.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hit em Where They Aint

Once I installed Cataclysm, the first thing I did was to get Old World Flying trained on my Hunter. Then I hit up the Mining and Engineering trainers for the Cataclysm level stuff. I had an old pair of green "of the monkey" gloves enchanted with Gatherer (+5 Mining, Skinning, Herbing), and I made the Engineering Goblin Mining Hat (+5 Mining). Then I used my Wormhole Generator: Northrend and ported up to Shoal'azar Basin. In order to mine Elementium, the Cataclysm equivalent to Saronite, I would need just 465 mining. Elementium requires 475, but with the Gloves and Hat, that will give me 475 skill.

The plan was to use Shoal'azar because the completion would be minimal. The whole strategy for this opening night was 'hit 'em where they ain't'. Everyone was going to be in Mt. Hyjal, and Vash'ir fighting over Obsidium veins (the Cataclysm equivalent to Cobalt).

This plan worked out better than I could have ever hoped. I was getting skill ups even off regular Saronite mines (which were green). That meant I would need just one lap to get the skill ups I needed. Just like I thought, there were only a couple of people in the zone. But as I came around the first turn, SilverDragon went off. What? Could it be? I blinked twice to make sure I wasn't imaging things, but there he was, Loqen'hak, the first Spirit Beast introduced to the game. I quickly switched from my leveling MM spec to a BM spec and started a tame only to receive the message "You already have a pet, nummnutts!" (You get 'special' error messages as a Hunter, true story.) I dismissed my lion, Aslan, and again started the tame. A few moments later, Loq was mine.

Off to a great start, I finished my circuit at 469 Mining. Then I flew over Wintergrasp and picked up another couple of points on my way to Howling Fjord and Vengeance Landing where I took the Zeppelin to Undercity. From Undercity, I fired up the Turbo-Charged Flying Machine and flew down to the Twilight Highlands. It felt like I was the only person mining. For the most part, I didn't agro any mob when I started mining. The one time I did, they made quick work of both me and Aslan(Lion). I switched Aslan for CocaCola (my Polar Bear). He took a beating much better from the mobs when I aggroed them, but it I still had to use Last Stand to get him through alive.

I missed the first Guild run of Blackrock Caverns, but the guys said it wasn't too tough. There will be many, many opportunities to run it with them later, and we'll be sick of all the Cataclysm dungeons sooner than we like. I've got to remember our groups form via vent rather than guild chat, and hang out there more.

I made two circuits and then the Illustrious Grand Master achievement dinged. I always thought it strange you didn't get an achievement for completing a profession. I see now they fixed that in Cataclysm. I sent some ore off to a guild mate who had helped me farm up Khorium for the Flying Machine, Area 52 Teleporter, etc. and hearted to Ogrimmar. I mailed the rest of the ore to my banker. Elementium had already dropped from 90g per stack to 60g per stack in just a few hours.

At this point, I was already 20% through level 80, but it was time to start leveling in earnest. Keeping to the 'hit 'em where they ain't' I pulled out my Goblin Communication Hyper Attuned Transmitter (G.C.H.A.T). The chatter seemed to indicate that Hyjal was the more crowded zone, so I boarded the boat for Vash'ir.

It didn't take long to get used to the 3D environment, or to remember how much I hate leveling on a PVP server. True story, when I first rolled my characters, my friend who introduced to the game insisted rolling on PVP servers. I had no idea what the choice meant at the time. Now I have my guild and all my in-game friends on PVP Server, but if I were to go back and start over, I'd be on a PVE server all the way. A group of 4 Alliance characters were leveling in the same area. Knowing Blizzard, they were probably after the same quest mobs. I was never that good at PVP to begin with and even if I was 4v1 wasn't something I was going to win. The Hunter of their group decided to kill me, and kill me again. I guess they got bored because the next time I rezzed they had moved on. The rest of the night, I saw Horde and Alliance within spitting distance of each other, but not fighting. We even shared the quest hub in the cave about halfway through the zone.

I enjoyed the quests, but none really stood out to me, other than the innuendo laced quests from one of the human females in the cave. I can't imagine how tough it must have been in those first few hours with everyone in the zone needing the same conch shell to get the permanent water breathing spell. What stood out to me more than any individual quest was the extensive use of Voice Over to accompany the quest, and the many cut scenes, both using the in game engine (like when you board the boat for Vash'ir) and pre-rendered like the Pirates of the Caribbean inspired 'inciting incident' that starts you on your heroic journey. It seems Blizzard wanted to strengthen their 'Fourth Pillar' a bit in this expansion. Gee, I wonder why? ;-)

I finished the night about halfway through 80. Unfortunately, I couldn't find an inn in the area of Vash'ir I was in, so I won't have a ton of rested when I get back online. Our Druid Main Tank, Blue, was very close to being our first 85 when he logged off. I'm sure he'll get it tonight. I saw Realm Firsts for Paladin, Alchemy, and First Aid during my time last night. Apparently the first Realm First 85 went to a Death Knight.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Decision Day

Tonight is the last night of Wrath. In just a few hours, we'll be leveling again in Cataclysm. But in a real sense, it feels like it was over two week ago. Dalaran is as empty as Shattrah as everyone has returned to the reshaped Azeroth.
I didn't finish all of my pre-Cataclysm goals. I didn't log in Sunday, and I won't be logging tonight. The Baltimore-Pittsburgh game was an absolute classic and tonight's New England / New York collision promises to be the same. For the first time, I won't be doing a midnight release for a Warcraft Expansion. Cataclysm will not start in earnest for me until I get home from my small group on Tuesday night. There are still a couple of pets I wanted to tame and some general organizing of my bag, bank and bank alt. I had moved my bank alt to Silvermoon during the Elemental Invasion because I got tired of logging into him and him not being to do anything because the bank and the AH NPCs had evacuated. The Elementals left Silvermoon alone, so I moved him there. I'm still not a huge fan of the city, but it works for now.
What today is more than anything else is 'D' Day (Decision Day). All of us who have been straddling the fence over our mains are going to level one toon first. So which toon won the race to be the new main?
After much thought, I've decided to level up Jyger the Orc Hunter. This decision still scares me to death because I believe Hunters will be tweaked quite a bit in Cataclysm. I'm hoping the new 'knobs' the Developers have given themselves like Mastery, and signature shots for all 3 specs will help them make the swings from overpowered to underpowered less dramatic than they have been in the past, or were even in Beta.
I love the pets and the new stable, but my favorite part of being a Hunter is the new pet buff system, where my pet can replace virtually any raid buff or debuff our raid might be missing. I won't know which pet I will need most often until I see the makeup of our raid group. I'll need to keep them all though as I anticipate our group will see some changes in Cataclysm. With many of our old-timers returning, I fear our guild will find itself in that no man's land where were we are really too big to be a 10 man guild, but not big enough to grow to a 25 man raid. (17 to 19 raiders)
Our Guild Leader has been asking someone to step up and start/lead/recruit for a second group. We can't expect Boston to do it all for two groups. I know everyone is probably worried about finding themselves on some sort of 'B' team. Looking in the mirror, I don't feel comfortable volunteering to lead the second group for a couple of reasons.
First of all, my wife and I are about to have our second child. I simply won't have the time to commit to leading a group with a new baby in the house.  But besides that, I don't think my raid leadership style would be right for the guild. Boston is a gifted raid leader. He knows how to get the job done and everyone still have fun. I sort of struggle with that last part. I can be a little bit of a jerk when I raid lead, so I try not to do it. Everyone, myself included, has more fun that way.
I see myself spending time with several toons in Cataclysm. As main spec DPS, I know I'll sit out my share of raids. I still haven't figured out how to answer the question when my Raid Leader asks if I can sit one night. It seems that typing out, "I would much rather raid with the team, but I understand that given our numbers some people have to sit from time to time.", would be a bit much when all the Raid Leader really needs to see is "Sure," I have to assume he knows that even if I accept getting benched, I still want to raid.
I've got two low level alts I'll be working on. My Raid Leader has me on RealID, so he can find me regardless of the toon I'm on.
Ramseys the Goblin Shaman - Ramseys will finally allow me to level up a Shaman, and play through the excellent Goblin starting area. I will likely level him as Elemental / Resto with the idea that he can get by with one set of gear. While i would like for him to get to the level cap, I have no plan on making him a raiding toon, but we'll see when and if I make it. My previous Shamans generally petered about the mid 30s.
Tokare the Gnome Mage - Tokare is my baby Gnome Mage and he lives on the Norgannon server. This toon was created to see the changes on the Alliance side. I leveled up originally as an Alliance, and I'd like to see how Catalcysm and Honors actions have changed the world. I'm particulary excited about seeing Westfall, which I've heard is excellent. Once I get him to 20 and out of Westfall, I'm not sure what I'll do with him. I rolled up a Troll Priest as well, but I just can’t seem to get into him. He should be a caster like the Mage, but something is different.
As for my second 85, what I'm thinking today (subject to change without notice) is that I'll level Honorshammer second. I really want to learn this new Tankadin style and I'll be leaning heavily on Rhidach and Anafelle to point the way. Leveling Honors will also provide my guild with two reputations (Ashetongue Deathsworn, and Scale of Sands) that it otherwise lacks for the Guild Achievements.
Finally I intend to roll a new Goblin to be my new Bank Alt. I’ll have to think of some clever name, that’s not already taken.