Wednesday, 25 June 2008

What I want in WotLK - more caves

Black Fathom Deeps is my all-time favourite instance in the game, purely for the feel of it as you go inside. For me it invokes my old pen-and-paper RPG days in a way that no other instance quite does. Something to do with the low wide tunnels with sandy floors I think, but I'm not really sure.

Thinking about this today I decided that what I'd most like to see in the expansion is more new cave layouts. I'm not sure what's so right about BFD, but I know that the newness of some of the zones in the Burning Crusade was spoiled by the reappearance of the same old cave layouts we've been seeing all the way through the game. As soon as you go inside you know that there's on or two locations where the quest object will be. A little while ago in Searing Gorge on my hunter I came across a layout I'd not seen before and the disorientation of not recognising it immediately was very welcome.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Fully epic'd - what next...?

A run of the second half of Kara last night netted me enough badges to replace my last blue with the Necklace of Eternal Hope. Now that everyone's in epics I may be relatively only as well geared as my previous best - 2 or 3 purples and Zul Gurub blues - but it feels like some sort of milestone.

The run itself wasn't great - we're now running through second and third alts and the occasional new person. This means some characters are undergeared and too squishy, and understandable mistakes by the newbies can be frustrating. I'm was there for the badges but mainly the t4 head from the Prince to replace my only non-mail item. We didn't down him when we probably should have - the tank was a bit undergeared and didn't really have enough health, but although we got to phase 3 on our third attempt keeping both the tank and the dps alive at that stage proved too much, and we were too tired for a 4th go.

In terms of development of my shaman I'm getting towards the end until the expansion. I'm not sure I want the t4 head piece enough to clear the trash between Curator and Aran again, so I'll keep turning up to our progression raids in SSC and meanwhile do a few other goals like maxing out skills and soloing a few level 60 instances. I'm also going to move my non-resto talent points into Enhancement, purely to get instant ghost wolf. It just seems right for the character.

Apart from that I'm not really sure were to go next. I've decided to park the warlock again - it occurs to me that he doesn't really get me anything new, apart from the possibility of a high level enchanter. If I want to dps I can respec to Elemental and although they're not popular as dps for 5-mans due to the lack of crowd control a warlock is probably the next least popular choice except when there's demons around, as fear and seduce aren't highly throught of.

I might spend some time on my hunter, at least to try some Hellfire Peninsula instances as dps/cc - I want to test instancing with dwarfs and the like. Overall I prefer the Horde as a faction, due to humans being smug and gnomes being gnomes, but I feel that orcs should be in the majority as the centre of the Horde, not a tiny minority as they actually seem to be.

I might level my orc warrior, for tanking and because undead have tiny shoulder armour. This sounds ridiculous, but try comparing how the Warbringer set looks on the two races. Or perhaps (unlikely) if I decide Alliance is where it's at then a human paladin is called for.

I'm also tempted to try Eve Online for a total change.

Fantasy rather than sci-fi is where my heart is though.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

One blue to go

I have my tier 4 chest, now just my neck to replace - and I can do that with 4 more badges...

It was an odd night. We had a fair bit of trouble on Maggy due mainly to clicking problems, but then got Gruul on our first attempt - perhaps we've now really got the hang of Shatters, and we kept both tanks alive throughout which is pretty rare.

Rolled 18 for the chest, but fortunately there was only one other shaman / rogue that needed it (and no paladins in the raid) and he rolled an 8... :)

Monday, 16 June 2008

Locks rock

With a few refinements to my grinding technique following feedback from some guildies the warlock is starting to look really promising.

I'm now using my imp on passive as a mana battery, for his superior regeneration rate, and using fear where possible rather than drain tanking.

I've got some +damage now, although not quite enough it seems, and grinding seems much quicker. I still need a bit more practice though, as unplanned adds can make things a bit dicey, especially caster adds. I occasionally found I was fearing one target out of two or three without having DoT'd it first.

Another advantage I discovered with having the imp out was that I could use him to nuke when necessary. I found when fighting Vilebranch Soothsayers (who heal) that even with Curse of Tongues up they'd often be able to get a heal out. My untalented shadowbolt takes an eternity to cast, so I couldn't stop them that way, and fear wasn't really an option in the surroundings. But if I attacked with the imp as they started to heal between us we could often finish the mob off before the heal landed.

I got him up to 48 at the weekend, and got his enchanting up to 125 so he can disenchant some of his older gear and useless quest rewards. Now it's time to go back to Searing Gorge, where I was so recently with my hunter.

My lock might make it beyond 60, or my warrior itch may become too strong... It's tough having a retired alt with a high level trade skill - when you occasionally need it (in this case to make an enchanting rod) you remember how much time and effort you've put into that character in the past.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Warlock alt?

I didn't get much chance to play over the weekend. What time I had was spent getting an extra level on my lock and getting my head around playing him again. Generally he proved quite fun, but I'd rate him as much less easy than a hunter to play. Part of the problem is that your crowd control (i.e. seduce) is both harder to use and less obvious when it breaks, another aspect is that with a hunter with 3 targets you'd set the pet on one, trap one and let the other hit you a bit while as a lock I was CCing one and trying to DoT and drain-tank the other 2, while having to re-apply CC as well... A bit stressful when you're learning again.

I grouped up with an enhancement shaman in STV to kill an elite troll (slightly problematic, due to add density and my noobness, although he also seemed to have forgotten he could heal himself) and a more powerful elite giant (straight forward). These couple of encounters were a steep learning curve, but also reassuring in terms of the lock's versatility. Overall it seems that while an affliction lock is just a good a grinder as a BM hunter you don't get quite such as feeling of power as the warlock - as a hunter both you and your pet are doing some big hits, while as a warlock it's more about lots of little sources of damage. On the plus side though you can summon whichever minion is the best for the task at hand, and you're much less attached to them if they have to die to keep you alive.

After prompting from my guild that I really needed some +damage instead of just int and stamina, I crafted a couple of items of the Dreamweave set. I'll get the robe when I find some Wildvine, or when the AH price for it drops from insane levels. It sounds like that will help help a lot with the grinding. It's a bit of a bonus that he already has 300 tailoring - as my first tailor to get over level 35 I trained him up ages ago so that he could make decent bags, way before I sent my now-retired priest down the tailoring route.

On the way into work this morning I was pondering if the warlock alt was such a good idea though. There are many factors to this.

Warlocks are a pretty complex class, what with having to keep account of DoT durations, the sheer number of spells (for example, you know what curse to use when, but you just need so many hotkeys for them), and having crowd control that's a little unreliable. Is this a good idea for an alt? On the other hand is there such thing as a simple class, if you want to play it well?

There's the question of what this alt is for. He's not a "tourist" alt, as he's the same faction as my main so visiting all the same places and doing the same quests. Also not a leisure / escape alt - he's in the same guild, so if I'm on him I might be asked to help out if my shaman is needed. Given that, should I just drop the idea of another alt and spend the time on my main? There's plenty of stuff for my shaman to do, even if it's less compelling than the quick rewards of levelling a new character.

There's the fact that I'll very rarely if at all be asked to bring a DPSer to a raid over a healer, even though there are some occasions when you really need a lock or two along. Not something for me to worry about really though - I'd be reluctant to bring an alt to an instance that my main didn't already have all his drops from, as it's frustrating when you see a drop you want but you're on thw "wrong" character.

Another slight worry is that I'm quite goal oriented - I'm already thinking about what gear I'll want for him when he gets to 70. I really must remember this is just an alt. Alongside this is the sheer level of competition for cloth DPS gear - one of the great things about the shaman that gear competition is very low outside of a 25 man raid, you're often the only person there who needs it when the right armour drops.

Overall though I think I'll keep him running - if nothing else my shaman's future is mainly daily quests outside of raids, which don't appeal all that much.

Friday, 6 June 2008


I really can't make my mind up. My hunter dinged 60 last night, picking up a nice blue for a pretty easy quest in the process. And now I'm thinking of retiring him.

I've come to the conclusion that spending time on two characters on two different factions is more hassle than it's worth, especially given my limited playing time.

On the plus side you get to do different quests, and have unfettered access to all of the cities and areas. Especially on the Alliance side some of these are pretty cool - the temple area of Darnassus, Ironforge and Aerie Peak being amongst my favourites.

On the downside you miss out on some of the social side - I've not really got to know my NElf's guild - and can't keep an eye on LFG or general guild chat for groups forming or invites that your other character might be interested in.

Given I'm not going to switch factions entirely (apart from anything else, the human NPCs are just too smug), I had the brainwave to restart my orc warlock. Despite deciding in the past that I'm not too keen on him I think after getting to like my hunter's style of play the other pet class might be worth a second look. Warlocks have some pretty cool tricks up their sleeves (although nothihng quite matches Feign Death), plus he's already a decent-ish level (45). It'll be interesting to see how he is for grouping - will peoples' distrust of NElf hunters outweigh their preference for Ice Trap over Seduce?

Just to note, probably unsurprisingly, that Zeth'Gor was much easier on my level 59 hunter than on my better-geared level 61 warrior. But I'm not bitter...

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Goals Update

Time for a goals update, 6 months on from the last one. My WoW has been distinctly casual in a way since then, although I've raided far more than I ever did pre-Burning Crusade.

Gear sets: I'm now up to 2/5 Tidefury, but not at all working towards completing this. I'd still like the head from the Big Bad Wolf, as the ultimate orc shaman piece. Meanwhile I'm 1/5 t4, hoping to get the chest and head at least and perhaps the gloves. Along with the t4 chest and a few more badges for a better neck I'll be in full epic healing gear. On top of that the t4 helm will make it all mail gear. I'd also like to get a decent caster staff and try out elemental dps at some point.

Netherdrake: Still no cash, so this is going nowhere. I can't see myself doing a major rep grind before WotLK comes out, so this is definitely a back-burner item.

Revered with Sporeggar (Transmute recipe): Again, no progress on this one. Low down the list, but maybe I'll get around to it.

Revered with Keepers of Time (just for completeness): I'm 213 rep short of this goal, so I'll definitely do it at some point.

Fishing: I'm up to 324 fishing, which is enough to catch Sporefish or start off the Lurker fight. I'll get this to 375 before WotLK, but it's bottom of the list of the skills I want to max out.

Other skills: Still need to max out my Axes, Maces, Staves, Two-Handed Maces and Unarmed skills, although apart from Two-Handed Maces they're pretty much there.

Quests and instances: I still want to complete the Hero of the Mag'har quest chain. I've also still got to complete Magisters' Terrace (my one visit there so far saw us unable to kill Kael'thas) and I'd like to get to the Emperor in Blackrock Depths (my previous visits there all stopped at the Molten Core entrance). On top of that I'm hoping to persuade the guild to go to BWL sometime before WotLK hits.

Beyond these it's just a question of seeing how far we get in TK and SSC before summer and the impending expansion slow raid interest down too much.

Why I WoW

The other night we did our Gruul + Maggy raid, and it occured to me that this is in a nutshell why I play Warcraft: group play and group achievements.

Maggy was straight forward. We had two wipes - the first due to a poor choice of tanking assignments, then second due to clicker error - after which we fine-tuned the healing assignments and got a fairly clean kill. Given that as a casual guild we had both new alts and new raiders present that seemed a pretty good performance. Came second on the roll for the tier 4 chest, but I'll get that eventually.

Maulgar was also a first-time kill I think. The mage tank died a bit early (and I briefly tanked him by somehow out-healing his damage...!) but otherwise it was all good. Gruul we had a few problems with - 3 wipes I think, all at between 3% and 8%, and people were starting to get a bit tired. But on the fourth attempt we kept the whole raid alive much better and although we lost the main tank our off-tank outlasted Gruul. It was a bit dicey towards the end - I was just spamming max-rank Healing Wave on the tank - but it always felt like we'd kill him.

On the small scale helping out with a group quest, or running an instance with a decent group, up to a raid of people who mostly know and trust each other (in that wierd internet friends-who-are-strangers way) is what the real draw of the game is. The exploring, levelling and progressing "computer game" part is what you start off with, but it's not what keeps you playing 3 years later.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Into Outland

My hunter reached Outlands for good yesterday. He'd been there earlier in the week on hitting level 58, so I ventured through the portal and I set his hearthstone to Shattrath, but needed to return to Azeroth to get his cooking up to speed. The bear flanks proved fairly easy to collect in Winterspring, but sandworm meat was much more frustrating to come by in Silithus. He got there in the end though, and also completed a few more quests in the process, so was 59 before I could call Azeroth done with.

Apart from spending a fair bit of time in Felwood and the early parts of Winterspring, mainly because I was finding the Timbermaw and Jaedenar quests quite fun, he saw very little of the final zones in the old game. Winterspring was touched upon, EPL only visited to hand in a quest, and WPL saw about 4 quests done as did Silithus. Un'goro and Burning Steppes were also only visited in passing. While I'm glad of the new speedy levelling experience, as this will be my 4th character to 60, it seems a shame that more recent players of the game will miss out on some great zones and quests.