Thursday, 31 December 2009

More tanking practice

I've been trying to get a random group for Old Hillsbrad for Shank to tank, to compare with the death knight experience of the place. Since it still has an attunement it's not worked for me so far, but I do find the queue for randoms is quick.

There's still lots of room for improvement in my tanking - things like remembering to use Last Stand or potions (or even remembering to keep an eye on my own health), remebering to put Vigilence on someone in the group, and re-marking skull once the first target goes down (although frequently enough skull is the last target standing...!).

I also can't always remember which skills I have already on Shank, and which only on Grulgok, such as Intervene.

There are also various things about my setup to address, such as ensuring my camera is zoomed out enough to see caelNamePlates properly and what's going on in general. I also need to get a tanking configuration for Grid, especially to show me if anyone other than myself has aggro.

I'm getting there though - and finding warrior tanking a lot easier than in the old days (walking uphill both ways through snow, etc...). Thunderclap (and Shockwave where necessary) are amazing against large non-elite packs, such as the skeletons at the end of Auchenai Crypts.

Meanwhile Grulnak half way to friendly with the Ashen Verdict, in search of a rather nice ring upgrade.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My least favourite role?

Having decided to quit the Alliance I'm going back through my list of things to try out properly by doing some instances on my Night Elf hunter!

I wanted to make sure I had a decent view of the pure dps role, and ever since hunters were the definitive raid pullers (and the better ones the kings of crowd control) the class has appealed to me.

I'm glad to have tried it, having found that their utility and survivability - plus the tactical aspect of having a pet - makes them my favourite DPS class.

Thanks to Dungeon Finder I managed to find a couple of groups to Hellfire Ramparts. Although the main lesson there was don't use DF during daytime, with one of the groups turning out to be incredibly juvinile.

In one group the tank was very inexperienced - but was good enough to forwarn us of the fact - so I even got to do some old-school hunter pulling. The tactical view that you get as a ranged DPS, the ability to rescue the healer with your personal tank (and be gratefully noticed!), the ability to survive bad pulls - or even complete them yourself after a near-wipe - all add an extra facet to the DPS role that makes it more than about the numbers.

To do the role full time I'd need a lot more practice, but in the meantime I'm happy to put Adanadel to the top of my DPS alt list. And then retire him again.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Why I ??? tanking

Best feature of patch 3.3? Clearly the cross-realm Dungeon Finder. On the end-game side it may weaken the ties of guild, as PUG runs now appear to be the norm. On the enormous plus side, not only have the PUGs I've seen so far been far better behaved than you might expect (although no brighter or able to express themselves without l33t speak) but also it's really revitalised the pre-end-game experience, as you can now realistically run instances again with same-level groups.

I've been tanking on my death knight and druid (in the latter case despite signing up for tank / healer / dps) and really enjoying it. It seems as though, since everyone's clear that it's a totally random PUG, players' expectations are lower and hence they (generally) play their class properly and give thought to things like threat. Or it may just be that, since damage meters don't work cross-realm, one major source of idiot play has been removed.

I'm currently back to the view that tanking is my favourite role, in a way because of the leadership it confirs. In a good group you set the pace, decide which groups to pull, and so on. In fact, my major source of stress in the past has been when I'm tanking but not to a pace I'm comfortable with, usually due to some pushy dps who wants to kill stuff now! I'm currently too slow, and also not fully aware of the big picture, but that will come if I get a chance to practice and the more basic parts of tanking become second nature.

I still enjoy healing, especially in the harder instances that have come with the patch. The downside to healing is that sometimes you just feel you're following the group around and watching green bars, but in challenging situations you do get a chance to put your skills to use and really make a difference. Sometimes your efforts even get noticed by the group! Another upside to healing is that I can realistically gear up to a suitable level for end-game raiding, something that I don't think I could commit enough time to as a tank.

And so dps would seem my least favourite role. Partly it lacks the significence of the other two roles - not because dps isn't important, especially in raid situations, but because you're just one cog of 3 in a group. This is part of what I think leads to the obsession with meters - given what's seen as the least important of roles, there's a natural desire to be the biggest fish in the smaller pond. That being said, I'm really glad of having an elemental dual spec - not only is it really handy to switch between roles in some raid fights, but it's also great being able to blow stuff up really quickly while questing!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The view from the other side, revisited

While waiting for the patch to hit I've been spending some time on my Alliance druid, as with Conquest emblems about to become outmoded I'm not really motivated to do many end-game instances. I'm really enjoying the versatility of a druid - while feral levelling spec'd he can still pretty much heal so can fulfil any role I wish. I also rather enjoy being a buffing class. On the down side I'm still not a fan of feral dps, although I do enjoy stealth and by now I have sufficient talent points and abilities for the power of the spec to offset my fundamental lack of comfort with energy-based classes.

Sad to say, my current view of the Alliance side of things is that it's rather bland. On the one hand it's all as it should be, but the familiar genre staples rather pale when compared to my usual experience of dealing with proud, threatening orcs or amoral Forsaken. I also find that the graphical style of the game really doesn't suit humans, or to a lesser extent night elves, which look somehow unconvincing. Dwarves, and the Horde races, suit the style far better.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

One poor shaman

I'm now about 2000g poorer than I was a week ago, with my first tier 9 piece and about a 10-15% DPS increase to show for it.

I'm raiding mostly as elemental and it occurs to me that that is the right place to be right now. I can comfortably (or even half-asleep) heal anything in the game right now apart from the Black Knight phase 3, Ulduar and ToTC, and those last three I can heal just fine as long as I'm awake. So if I stick with DPSing my way through Icecrown I'll be in a very good position when Cataclysm arrives, and I might even have pulled myself off the bottom of the DPS list by then.

Meanwhile I'm still doing enough healing in instances to keep my hand in, and attempting to keep track of the changes to (or even master) the two different sides of Grulnak is a big enough task to keep me interested.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

My new alt

An elemental shaman. Not really an alt, just Grulnak in different gear!

My guild are tending to more dps-heavy raids these days, and it seems that ranged dps is more in demand than healers. I've picked up a fair bit of +hit gear here and there, which is enough to make me a pretty decent caster. And although still I find healing more engaging the damage dealer role is growing on me.

I did my first visit (and clear) of ToTC-10 last night. My damage was rather sub-par, and I spent most of the fights in resto mode as we were struggling with only two healers, but it's given me the motivation to get my damage gear properly sorted out. That should keep my alt-oholic tendancies something to feed on for a while, and with reduced time to play at the moment it makes far more sense to be concentrating on just the one character.

Right, time to gather a huge pile of badges and cash...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The view from the other side

It's sort of grey and black and glowy...? No - not that side, I mean team blue - Alliance.

The starkest difference between the two factions for me is that, while I'm on Horde, I'm in one of the biggest and best guilds on my server. When Alliance, I'm guildless. I'll have to fix that, but I don't want to join just any old guild, so I need to find a decent guild that will take an unknown level 71 priest.

Aside from that, the difference is very subjective. In some ways, playing a fantasy staple feels much more "right". I've just done the quest where you end up riding Thassarian's Deathcharger, and the atmosphere was the exact antidote to that mish-mash feeling I get when Grulnak is in some instance with three blood elves and a tauren.

The same fantasy genre baggage colours the many other aspects of the game as well. For example, although Grulnak, an orc shaman, is probably one of the most benevolent non-Tauren Horde in the game (at least, the way I play him) his motivation for some quests is tenuous at best. But even his motivation fits the game a lot better than, say, a Forsaken warlock. Although I reject the "Alliance good, Horde bad" view that some players have (there's the whole Defias thing, for a start), overall Blizzard's (perhaps understandably) lazy approach of having essentially one set of quests for two factions does Horde far more of a dis-service than it does the Alliance. A lot of the Horde settlements in Northrend are really well done, and the Wrathgate chain has its moments, but the last time I really felt the game cateered to the Horde was during the Mag'har chain.

That being said I'm probably heading for trouble as an Alliance clothie as well. If my priest ever reaches level 80 why would he (or say a mage) enter the tournament and not attempt to roast his opponent inside his armour, but instead take up a lance and try and fight him at his own game? Of course everyone does (except perhaps on RP servers?), because that's where the game progression takes you.

Perhaps I just need to lighten up a bit. The thing that keeps me playing is the MMO part of the game - if I want to focus on the RPG part then a single player game would fit my prejudices far better.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Was once a (non-raiding) tank

I'm slowly laying to rest my idea of levelling a tank alt, partially because common sense tells me that I just don't have time for an alt to fulfill the most gear-dependant role in the game, but also because I'm coming to realise that the tanking I remember fondly from vanilla WoW just doesn't exist any more.

Vanilla WoW was a less egalitarian, but somehow more PUG-friendly place, than its WotLK incarnation, almost because it lacked all the improvements we have come to take for granted.

Back then there were raiders and non-raiders. Raiders were either raiding or preparing for their next raid - with no limits on consumables, no daily quests and with the trash in Molten Core not dropping money or nice vendor-junk to help offset the cost of repairs raiding was a serious business. Tanks and healers either had to pay for regular respecs to allow them to farm, or had a farming alt.

Non-raiders were who you found in PUGs. Probably they were gearing up and getting their attunements - Molten Core, Onyxia and Black Wing Lair - prior to applying to a raiding guild, or possibly they'd weren't planning to raid but just wanted to gear themselves up as best they could, but either way they were generally more accepting of their fellow PUGers.

Except of course that, unless you were a mage, rogue or one of the few reputable hunters, you'd struggle to find a DPS slot.

But once grouped, players knew they had to work together to overcome the instance, especially the tricker mob pulls in the harder instances.

Nowadays everyone is a raider, to some degree, and with the fantastic emblem gear available everyone runs heroics - while being much more demanding of who they will deign to group with. A leading DK tanking blogger is seen wondering if 31.5k unbuffed health will be enough to get an invite to a group. It's common to see people assembling PUGs and demanding not only the "Epic" gear achievement but also the achievement for completing the instance or raid that the PUG is planning to visit.

And once in an instance, now that all tank classes have AoE threat abilities, the burden of crowd control is placed firmly on the tank's shoulders. If the tank has the ability to get aggro from the entire pull, but not the gear to withstand it, then they are blamed for the group failure. Unless it's the healer who's deemed to be undergeared, in which case they are blamed.

Once they join a PUG, all players seem to forget any crowd control abilities they may have, presumably only to remember them once they step outside again.

I'm not sure if part of the problem is that tanks are afraid to ask for help with crowd control, for fear of being derided. Whatever the cause it seems to be that now, the group mindset that was once quite common even in the worst PUGs of yesteryear, is absent.

And, while adding good emblem loot to heroics may have made them far more popular, it's made them a far less friendly place to be for the tanks and healers they were originally aimed at - those who can beat the normal level 80 instances but aren't yet geared enough for Naxxramas.

Hence I'm tempted to stick solely to my massively overgeared healer, and leave my tank alts firmly parked in the level 67 - 73 range. And try to remember that I have a spell called Hex.

Monday, 12 October 2009

For the Alliance! (sort of)

Tukkillen is now a dwarf - I decided that a troll alt really is of no interest to me, and even when same-faction race transfers become available there's really no point in having two healer / caster dps hybrids on the same faction.

He's only sporting the heirloom shoulders - Conquest emblems are too valuable for me to trade down, and Grulnak is unlikely to ever get the Crusader title so the Seals route for the chest piece is out. With Cold Weather Flying, the heirloom shoulders and a change of scene and quests Northrend is looking pretty good for levelling at the moment.

I'd really like to get into some groups to see the Northrend instances from a dwarven perspective, so currently I'm trying out a Discipline "damage" build to give me both grinding and healing options. So far, so good.

I'm not at all sure how much he'll get into the end game though - it'd be nice to be able to heal heroics at least, but I can barely keep one character raid-geared to my satisfaction so two really isn't an option.

Meanwhile Grulnak is back to raiding, at least as much as real life allows. He now has two Valorous Worldbreaker pieces and one Conquorer's, so will get the four-piece bonus once I've saved up enough emblems for the helm. He's still not seen TotC, although I'm hoping to fix that once the raid schedule and mine find some common ground.

Friday, 18 September 2009

WoW on the back burner

For the last few weeks work and family commitments have kept my Warcraft time to a minimum. I'm narrowing down my in-game priorities accordingly, but there's still more to do than I have time available.

Grulnak could do with several more Emblems - I've replaced the worst of his gear but there's still more to do.

I need to keep improving myself as a healer - there's always stuff to do in terms of addon configuration. For example I should set up Grid to show whether I'm keeping the Ancestral Healing buff up on the tank.

Then there's always the elemental side of his game - getting a proper raiding set sorted out, more addon configuration and of course practice.

And then there's my ever-present alt question, which mainly comes down to "It'd be nice to have a Horde tank" or "Perhaps an Alliance alt".

On the Horde tank list there's Grulgok (level 73 orc warrior), Shank (level 66 undead warrior) and Eadwyn (level 66 undead Death Knight). Orcs are cool, but my main is already an orc, plus it often feels more appropriate to be Forsaken for the distinctly human-centric parts of the game such as the Tournament. My snobbish half feels I should stick to warriors, despite their fiddly (although more engaging) tanking. Death knights though seem to have a much easier time, with straight-forward (or even "boring" as I've heard in some places) tanking. And this is without going into how much easier a time a DK has when soloing, or the coolness factor of some of their abilities compared to the somewhat agricultural warrior. So it's an open question which of them will finally hit the level cap, Eadwyn is favoured at the moment but who knows where I'll end up.

On the Alliance list I again have no clear choice. Having decided I'm happiest being central to a group as a healer or tank I have 3 main options.

With the advent of faction transfers Tukkillen may become a dwarf. I currently favour this route, as he's already level 70 with decent professions and I have a good feel for the class. However I get occasional attacks of cold feet since - although he's retired - he has a distinct place in my and my guild's history. Either way I won't transfer him just yet, not until I can get him Cold Weather Flying plus heirloom shoulders and chest.

Other possibilities include a human paladin (currently level 12 and feeling a bit underpowered). Apparently paladin healing is rather boring, but on the plus side they can tank as well. Similarly there's Duillnar, my level 38 druid - although I don't really feel that either druids or Night Elves are for me.

And of course there's always the human (or perhaps dwarf) death knight option - DKs may be cliched and over played, but then I'm considering being a paladin for whom the same seems to be true :)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

OK, the Black Knight can be quite tough

Logged on last night and asked around if anyone needed a healer. A guild group had just lost their (non-guild) paladin healer in ToC, with just the Black Knight to go, so I offered to fill the spot.

In a PUG you'd ask more questions (like, just why did your healer quit on the last boss), but it was a guild group so in I went.

It turns out that an undergeared tank (by which I mean only about 40% epics, the remainder being good blues) is really hard to keep alive on the Black Knight. And forget him tanking the ghouls as well in phase 2, so the healer will end up aggroing them.

Being a guild group we persevered and defeated him in the end, but it took proper effort and tactics, an over-geared AoE healer and probably a bit of luck.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Facerolling our way to...

Upgrades? Boredom?

Since the patch hit it seems that everyone is farming heroics for badges, not surprisingly. However, in a group of Naxx-25 / Ulduar-10 geared players none of the heroics - even the new Trial of Champions instance - present much of a challenge. So although I'll undoubtedly be running heroics for a good few weeks, I'm not actually having much fun in WoW at the moment.

Roll on the end of the holiday season, when guild raids will start again in earnest.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Dragon rider

Last night I finally achieved one of my long term goals of Wrath and bought myself the Wyrmrest red dragon.

Unfortunately, like a lot of these longer term, slowly achievable goals (reaching level 70 and gaining my epic flyer spring to mind as comparisons) it felt somewhat underwhelming. I'm obviously not quite the right mindset for this part of the game, although long term I'm sure I'll be happier riding a dragon than my faithful windrider.

Now, when's the next guild first boss kill going to be?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Raiding update - Mimiron

After my sight-seeing trip a few weeks ago I was able to see Mimiron in action last night. Of the 10 raiders present myself and 2 others were new to the fight, so killing him on the 6th attempt was a pretty good result I felt, and the shouts on Ventrilo seemed to agree.

It was what you'd call a good wipe night - on each attempt we got a bit further through the phases, looked at our problems, and made different mistakes the next time. It was much more "we'll get him, but maybe not tonight" rather than "wtf, this guy's impossible!".

Llyra's boss guide gave me in invaluable head start on the fight. But even more valuable and impressive was our raid leader and main tank acting as a sort of live Boss Mods: "'Random DPS' - move - Rocket!". Without him I'm sure it'd have taken us rather longer.

I'm also increasingly thinking that Blizzard has got their raid design really right at the moment. We're a strange mix of casual and progression-orientated guild, and we're moving in to the last few bosses that are currently available. Meanwhile the properly progression-orientated guilds are aiming for world- and server-firsts of the various hard modes. They may be an artificial hoop, but people are jumping through them.

It sort of feels like there should be another raid out there, like in Burning Crusade where Black Temple and then Sunwell felt like a proper peak to be climbed. However, if there were further raids in Wrath at the moment would anyone do the Ulduar hard modes? And without the hard modes would Ulduar be decried as "too easy"?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Argent Tournament? Chicken riding?!

I went to check out the Argent Tournament, something I've been meaning to do for a while. Picked up a few minor quests, and then went to find out about the tournament itself. It turns out they want me to ride a chicken hawkstrider chicken into combat. So much for that.

I might do the goblin dailies, and it looks pretty cool when I'm riding my Wolf around Dalaran with the tournament lance equipped. But the tournament itself will remain a closed book, at least for this Orc.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Ulduar progress

I've now progressed pretty far in Ulduar with my guild, and we're hopefully not far off a full clear. Given we raid sort of casually, with only 2 days per week in the instance, I think we're doing pretty well.

This last week on night one we downed Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, XT-002, Kologarn, Auriaya, Thorim and the Assembly of Iron, one-shotting them all except for Thorim which took us 6 attempts.

Then last night we killed Freya (3rd attempt) and Hodir (5 attempts or so).

The bosses we're wiping on now, especially Thorim and Hodir, are problematic in that one serious mistake from one raider will cause a wipe. We're not carrying any fools though so before too long I'm sure we'll be one- or two-shotting them. Time will tell...

A bonus moment from last night was that, once the raid had been called for the night, I was able from Freya's room to chain Far Sight to peak at Mimiron. I forget sometimes when looking enviously at other classes all the cool tricks that shamans have.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Tank switching

It occured to me that Grulgok the orc (although suitably beefy compared to a Forsaken) doesn't really offer much (if anything) storywise that Grulnak doesn't already provide. So I've switched back to Shank as my tank. One downside being that he's 7 levels further back than the character he's trying to replace.

In the interests of Real Life I'll probably make him an enchanter / blacksmith and then drop Grulnika my rogue entirely. Levelling blacksmithing without mining will cost a fair bit, but I figure there's some saving from being able to sell my wares either as armour and weapons or as enchanting materials.

I'm back being happy tanking again, after awakening Grulgok from his retirement to tank Nexus for a guild group. We had a single death, a mage that was two-shotted just before we got to Grand Magus Telestra, and while there's definitely scope for improvement it did reassure me that it's not always the tank's fault when PUGs go bad...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Alts update

A really bad Nexus PUG a week or so ago made me shelve Grulgok, and Grulnak's to-do list - which is mainly to grind cash - has been boring me a bit, so I've been alt hopping again.

Grumdril got a few levels, then got re-rolled on an RP-PVP server. The population of the starter zones seem a lot more pleasant on the RP server, which reinforces my long-term plan of transfering to one if my guild ever implodes.

Grazznak, my level 48 warlock, had a bit of a run-out. A brief flirtation with Destruction proved costly in bandages, it really doesn't seem like a levelling spec until perhaps level 64 when the Incinerate spell becomes available. So back to Affliction for him.

And then I got to thinking (again) what I'm really trying to achieve with my alts, apart from them taking up more of my Real Life time?

Grulnak is my achiever, my raider, and offers far more opportunities than a tank or melee DPS has access to.

I yearn to have a tank - in my 40s and 50s with Shank I was regarded as a good one, and when guildies or LFG calls out for one I want to help out. But realistically tanking heriocs would be my limit. Given my available time I'd be at least a tier behind with a tank where I could be with a healer, given that a tank's gear sets the limits for a raid in a way that a healer's gear simply doesn't.

I also want to be able to explore Alliance areas, plus I have the occasional "Dwarfs are cool" moments such as in the lead up to the Razorscale fight. However being on an Alliance character (or even another server) means I'm not in my guild chat.

Also, some recent reading of RP blogs has reinforced my basic decision to play Orcs (thanks Blogatelle!). Plus it's a fair bet that, with the grass-is-greener thing, if I was playing as a dwarf I'd have plenty of "Orcs are cool" moments.

So, this week's alt plan -
  • Grulnak - Orc shaman - herbalist / alchemist
  • Grulnika - Orc rogue - enchanter / scribe
  • Grulgok - Orc warrior - miner / blacksmith (slightly on the back burner)
Currently Grulnika's an enchanter / skinner, but being a scribe would not mean that I didn't have to grind Hodir rep again, but also Grulnak has the matching gathering skill.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Raiding update

It sometimes surprises me how much my approach to raiding has changed since my first ventures into Zul'Gurub and Molten Core. Some of this is due to raiding having opened up so that you really can raid semi-casually, and partly it's down to more experience and just general immersion on the raiding world.

I'm now at the stage where I'm really anaylsing my gear, spell use and glyphs, rather than just turning up and casting Chain Heal a lot.

After Drug highlighted a guide from Mek on the current LHW style I reglyphed accordingly and added Power Auras to keep track of my Riptide cooldown. This really helped me in Ulduar last night where things are really starting to get tricky. My group downed the Assembly of Iron (earning me the The Antechamber of Ulduar achievement) and then moved on to Thorim (sadly only to wipe several times). It's good to be on to properly hard content (to me at least - "proper" raiders would probably not agree), but the repair bills are starting to hurt.

Properly glyphed it's amazing how much you can do with Riptide and LHW, but more significantly the long cast time of Chain Heal is really starting to make it an occasional situational spell, rather than a mainstay, at least in Normal mode. Perhaps in 25s it'll reassert itself, with the greater number of people and hence closer grouping.

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Levelling prot - working much better than it seemed to before. Perhaps now I have some slightly better gear after some WotLK starter quests, perhaps I've just got a better idea of the right ability priorities.

Tanking prot - insane threat generation, and easy AoE tanking. However I need a lot more practice so I can do my threat stuff as second nature, and have more spare brain capacity to monitor the overall situation, the need to blow cooldowns, etc. And PUGs are still PUGs. I just need to be rather better to ensure many fewer mistakes on my part.

And yes, the Orc got the vote. Perhaps because he's 8 levels higher, but probably because he's bigger and more like the T-shirt.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A late Grid convert

Last night's Ulduar raid was also my first raid using Grid, and I have to say I'm a convert. There's still some tweaking to do, and without Llyra's Configuring Grid article I'd have been totally at sea.

The one (big) downside was when, after a disconnect just as the pull happened on Kologarn, I rejoined to find Grid not working and hence had a good 30 seconds of confusion and downright uselessness. That's the reason I've always tried to minimise my use of Add Ons - after a patch, or if they stop working or being maintained, you're so much worse of than if you had never had them. But for sake of my overall performance I probably need to revise this view, and just work harder on keeping my Add Ons up to date.

Ulduar, casually

After a not-great time last week, part 2 of our Ulduar raid went surprisingly well.

We didn't progress perhaps as fast as we hoped, and in fact had some real bad luck with disconnects and so on, but had a really good-spirited, enjoyable raid.

Ignis we took down after 3 or so attempts, partially it seemed down to better a healing setup than last time.

Kologarn and Auriaya each took 3 attempts as well - although my disconnects in the second attempts on each were somewhat to blame there.

Overall probably what a lot of guilds in Ulduar would consider a bad night but between a good attitude and some good learning for some of us I think we all considered it a success.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Alt plan (for this week at least)

A couple of recent events have helped clarify for me where I'm going with my alts, although I still need to ponder my decision some more.

Adanadel, my Night Elf hunter, ran Hellfire Ramparts a week ago with what appears to be a fairly typical group these days for that level - three DKs and a druid. It was a successful run in the usual sense of the word, but not much fun. The Death Knights were ruling the damage meters by some way, and AoE tanking everything happily. I had one chance to show my worth / utility when a lose mob got through to the healer, but need more practice with the class and my setup to pull that off better in future. Later on, in to Northrend say, I hear that the starter gear advantage of Death Knights is lost, and hence by the end game my damage output may be valued. But while hunters are an excellent soloing class I'm not sure I like the damage dealer role in instances, although I'm perfectly happy with it in 2 or 3 person groups.

A discussion of Outland tanking on my guild website reinforced to me that having a tank and knowing about tanking is important to me. However my knowledge and experience are getting increasingly out of date - I can pick up either my level 72 (orc) or level 63 (undead) warrior and tank an instance quite competantly, with only the usual level of difficulties encountered when tanking for a PUG. But in reality I'm currently not as much of a tank as I like to think I am.

I've also realised there are a couple of other factors in my lengthy indecision.

Blizzard has done well to make all classes valuable and cool in some way. Hence quite often, especially when for example I read a blog devoted to a particular class, I'm tempted to play that class.

Sort of conversely, Blizzard hasn't done a very convincing job of the Horde as a faction, in the way that the Alliance does seem genuine. Partially it's because we're used to games and books where dwarfs, elves and humans group together so the Alliance is an easy win. The racial mix in the Horde doesn't really work though - you can see a group of Blood Elves, or of Forsaken, making sense, or a group of Orcs perhaps with a Troll or Tauren to make up the numbers. But the sort of eclectic mix that you see in a game doesn't really work for me, and it's at that point I consider levelling an Alliance character.

Finally, a big part of my temptation to level an alt is to have an enchanter (or at least a dis-enchanter), as enchants are my main cost these days. However, the time taken to level another character (never mind to level the enchanting skill) just doesn't stack up against the cost of enchants! Also I'm suffering slightly from a "grass is greener" thing here - I forget just how useful Herbalism is as a gathering skill - both as a money earner and a money saver - never mind that the double-duration buff that alchemy gives to flasks are another major saving while raiding. All in all I am (or should be) very satisfied with my professions choice.

So, my plan at the moment -

  • Grulnak - Orc shaman - herbalist / alchemist
  • Shank - Undead warrior - enchanter (currently miner) / blacksmith
  • Grumdril - Dwarf hunter - miner / engineer

Or I might level my Orc warrior Grulgok - the down sides to him are that, having been levelled rapidly, he has no real professions, and also I quite like the way that Shank looks in "human" armour. One of my long-term goals has always been to get him the full Imperial Plate set so that, with his Aegis of Stormwind he looks a fair bit like the Stormwind guard he was in a former life (RP backstory - perhaps a bit nerdy?). On the other hand Grulgok is bigger and beefier.

With Grumdril I'm planning to go all "gunpowder fantasy" - a Mechanostrider mount, and then engineering goggles, and later a gyrocopter and bike. In a way it's slightly crazy to level a Dwarf hunter when I already have a level 60 Night Elf one, but somehow Blizzard elves don't quite match my perceptions, whereas I can quite happily embrace the whole dwarf with gun thing.

I might also R-A-F level a Dwarf warrior along with Grumdril - in a way it seems daft not to in case I do decide to switch to Alliance.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Ulduar: lots, guild: 3

Grulnak's first proper Ulduar run last night featured some high and low points of raiding.

Flame Leviathan was one-shotted, although it went slightly pear shaped at the end and looked for a while like it'd be a 1% wipe.

XT-002 killed us once, mainly due to bad planning / lack of previous experience on the adds. Our second attempt was a fairly easy kill.

Razorscale was duely one-shotted.

And then we wiped on Ignis over and over.

Now, I don't mind wipe nights, but the trouble was that he just didn't feel like a progression boss. He's new to me and a few others in the raid, but we knew the tactics, and could mostly execute them - but only mostly. Sorry to say that the problem was in parts a healer problem, for which I was more than 1/3 responsible, it really wasn't a good night for me. Our raid composition was also slightly off, with not enough hard-hitting ranged dps, but that'd just be looking for excuses so I won't mention that.

Back next week for part two, and I'm sure we'll get him then, but all in all not my best or most enjoyable raid by any stretch.

Lesson for the night - start using WWS, and analyse my performance more. Recount was showing some major differences in output and style between myself and the other resto shammy (who had a much higher output), so I'd have had a good point for comparison.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Ulduar, spoiler free

I've been conciously avoiding all Ulduar trailers, guides and other spoilers, and last night, stepping into the instance for the first time, this really paid off. Suffice to say - Wow! (or WoW)?

The Flame Leviathan fight is somewhat disappointing though, despite being quite fun and very video game-y it feels rather impersonal.

I'll now change policy and start reading up on tactics and so on - although pleasingly (and conversely) the content is new enough that we're not yet overwhelmed with them. Hopefully from here on in I'll be at or near my guilds learning curve on new encounters, so will need to be more self-reliant rather than learning by watching my fellow raiders.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Raid elation

I've just been in on my first guild first kill of the expansion, and consequently I'm so full of adrenaline that sleeping may be tricky for a while. These kills really are the best thing that WoW has to offer, and are well worth all the gold grinds, raid farming and so on that prepare you for them.

The raid started off tamely enough - we were scheduled to finish Kel'Thuzad, our remaining boss from Naxx, then take on Malygos 25 to fill the spare time. K'T wiped us once, which didn't bode well, and we then had two 3% wipes on Malygos. Finishing him off with half an hour of raid time still to go, our Raid Leader suggested a quick go at Ulduar, which so far we'd only attempted on normal difficulty, expecting a shot at Flame Leviathan and his "easy epics". We one-shotted him, seeming without difficulty, and then decided for a quick go at Razorscale.

Razorscale on one hand is a tank-and-spank, but actually required a reasonable amount of movement and add targetting, and without most of the raid having experience of the normal version we'd probably have been stuffed. Even so our big problem proved to be low dps, and we assumed when we hit the enrage timer that that was that. The tanks were duely 1- or 2-shotted for the most part, but with various kiting, not-terribly-high healer dps and probably a fair bit of luck killed him 1 minute and 27 seconds into the enrage timer. The ensuing jubilation in Vent was an expression of my best moment in WoW so far this expansion.

One question for the future is whether this will be the first dual spec prefered boss - the healing burden (as long as people stay out of the blue fire) is fairly low, the dps burden high (at least at our current gear level). So, until I can grind yet more gold for that dual spec (and even then will be lacking truely valid raid dps gear), I'm going to be reliant on getting one of those 5 healing spots. Still, that's a problem for another day.

Oh, and Steamworker's Goggles rounded off my evening nicely.

Faster, but much poorer

On Saturday I got the last few hundred gold together and finally got the epic flying skill, plus a fast yellow griffon. I took it for a quick spin around Shadowmoon Valley (remember that zone?), and was rather underwhelmed, but logging on today and travelling the familiar routes of the Sons of Hodir dailies I really noticed the world of difference it makes. Buyer's remorse averted...!

Still more gold grinding to go though - I had a good night in Naxx 25 last Wednesday, so enchants on my new mace from Malygos, and the helm and gloves from Naxx, plus finally getting my cloak enchanted will set me back around 670g. Then there's dual talent specs, and the dragon mount from Wyrmrest Accord and I've around 3200g to find from somewhere. On the plus side I'll definitely be exhalted with the Sons of Hodir by the time I'm finished.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Finished WoW 3.0.9

Last night I finally joined a guild run to Malygos, and we downed him on the second attempt. So I've now "finished" pre-3.1 WoW, at least as far as raid content goes.

Good stuff about the fight

I'm (possibly excessively) impressed by how the Aces High daily prepares you for phase 3 of the fight. Although it's rather different in a group setting compared to the solo quest it does save you from the initial "What do all these buttons do?" moment. I also really like the setting and the pre-pull quotes, you really get a feeling of confronting a powerful creature in his own domain and how that may not be such a good idea.

Bad things about the fight

The Vortex ability is a complete pain to heal, what with only shamans having one instant-cast heal. Still, we're better off than paladin's I suppose (unless I'm well out of date with regard to paladin spells). I also find phase 3 completely disorientating, but perhaps I'll get used to that.

As a footnote, one of the good things about being so far behind my guild in terms of gearing and general raid attendance, I was the only needer for Ice Spire Scepter when it dropped. Two more blues to go...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Why I love my guild

WoW has slightly lost its lustre recently. The gear upgrades are slowly coming in, but my main objective has been to finally gather the 5000g needed for my epic flying mount, which has made the game seem more like a chore at times.

In the meantime my secondary goal has been to finish off the remaining heroics that I'd not yet completed. I had some luck in the last couple of days in that two of my remaining three targets (Halls of Stone and Oculus) were the daily heroics so groups for them were suddenly popular.

Obligatory HoS anecdote - our guild (and probably most people in general) are rather overgeared for heroics at this point, to they tend to be reasonably easy. One early pull suddenly got interesting, then serious - it looked like we'd rescue it for a while but then we wiped. It turns out we'd somehow managed to pull 3 groups, and then aggro a patrolling giant. But only that level of problem, or some of the crazier achievements, keep these runs challenging.

Oculus was well worth doing the once, but did show why people avoid it when possible. Myself and one other member of the PUG I was in hadn't been there on normal difficulty either, which made the experience harder still. We wiped several times on the final boss, beyond the point that probably be tolerated by an average PUG, but did eventually succeed. The one saving grace of the instance appears to be that not only is it much easier than average to get to the last boss from the entrance following a wipe, but also (since your drake is doing the fighting, and if you have enough bag space) you need not be taking gear damage for failed attempts.

Finally to the point of this post - having finished Oculus, rather late in the evening, I noticed in my achievements list that my remaining incomplete instance - Drak'Tharon - was only missing a kill of King Dred. I mentioned this in passing in guild chat, to which one of our nearly-always-online players replied "Well let's go and kill him then" and offered to bring his tank, our raid leader volunteered to dps on one of his alts and a second dps slot was quickly filled. We had to do some badgering to fill the last dps slot (which bizarrely seems to be the hardest spot to fill these days), but in relatively short order had a solid group together and proceeded to clear the place.

My guild - always willing to help (even when it's quite late at night).

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Naxx clear

Part two of our raid from Sunday has just finished, and given Grulnak his first clear of Naxx.

Sapphiron wiped us twice before we downed him, so getting him on the third attempt felt really good. Kel'Thuzad by contrast was a bit of an anti-climax, as apart from one player failing the "don't step in the red stuff" test it never felt like he'd beat us.

The other highlight of the evening was doing the Four Horsemen the fast / proper way, with myself and just 1 dps tanking the ranged bosses. There's something I like about that sort of assignment - partly the individual responsibility, but also the way that you know your job is done when the rest of the raid turn up and start helping out. Reminds me a bit of one of my first proper raid experiences, healing an add tank on Gehennas in Molten Core.

The lowlight had to be that we got bitten again by the token gremlin with two more tier 7 "Lost Vanquisher" tokens that we couldn't use.

Overall my feeling is that Naxx is much, much easier than Karazhan ever was, probably excessively so (albeit that I like that raiding is more accessible now). Before the Wrath-is-coming final raiding nerf some bosses were always challenging, or at least required you to be on your toes, even when we outgeared them - the Prince, Netherspite's beams, Nightbane with the Charred Earth, even Aran if you got bad timing with the polymorph / elementals part. Currently in Naxx, with our group that still needs a fair number of drops from there and is by no means overgeared, and usually with one or two players learning the occasional boss, as long as everything is set up correctly we generally one-shot a boss, and failing that get them the second time. Aggroing a patrol while clearing trash is "oh, time to pay attention" rather than "oh, #@!%". I need some more gear before I'm ready for Malygos and more still for Ulduar, but already I feel I'm done with Naxx 10.

Although the Undying title would be nice.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The RNG hates us

Interesting Naxx run last night, the upside of which was that, on my second visit to Heigan, I seem to have the dance down pat. No excuses from now on...

The downside was the loot drops, which were a bit of a travisty. Our group consisted of 3 shamans, 3 priests, 2 paladins a warrior and a lock. So of course both tier 7 tokens that dropped were the Lost Vanquisher - Rogue, Death Knight, Mage and Druid!

All the non-plate healing gear that dropped I also had, except that I replaced my ilevel 200 blue leather helm with Noth's Curse. All in all, the Random Number Generator was not shining on us.

The lack of mages or hunters also made Gluth a bit interesting, but between a paladin tank (well, more a paladin aggro-and-run-away) and my frost shock and earthbind we managed the adds just fine and one-shotted him. In fact we one-shotted all the bosses except for the Grand Widow, where our attempt to get the Momma Said Knock You Out achievement didn't go so well.

Back on Tuesday for part two, which seeing as we've cleared 2 2/3 wings already should give me my first Naxx clear.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Wyrmrest Accord

Exalted with the dragon folk now. A nice pair of gloves, and (once I've found another 4000g) a rather cool new flying mount.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


For some reason (perhaps that we're generally older than the average player) our guild rarely has a shortage of healers, and at the moment seems to be quite full of tanks. Consequently in the last couple of days the later evening heroic runs tend to be looking for DPS more than anything else, and having reasonably decent elemental gear (a lot of which is my raid resto gear) and not being due to raid for a week or so I thought I'd respec and try a different role.

Having done three runs over a couple of nights as a DPSer, my general impression was that I'd rather be healing!

In Wrath, as a damage dealer, you're judged pretty much entirely on your damage output, and mine is frankly not really up to it at the moment. Partly this is lack of practice (and no doubt skill), partly it's that I'm not really fully prepared - I still have my healing glyphs and enchants, so I'm not properly optimised, and also I've not specifically targeted damage gear on previous instance runs so have a lot of wasted mp5 and consequently I'm lacking in other areas. Although that said my raid gear (when viewed as elemental gear) is as good if not better than would be expected on someone just starting out on heroics.

Although damage output has always been a primary consideration, previously the mark of a good DPSer was the other aspects of their class - the ability of a hunter to chain trap, for example, or a quick-thinking rogue pulling a lose mob off the healer. In Wrath, with AoE tanking, crowd control is rare if not totally absent, so the damage meter is all that counts.

I did enjoy raiding Karazhan as shadow on Tukkillen, but there at least was wanted for shackles on Moroes, and group buffing with Vampiric Embrace / Vampiric Touch.

So, for now, it's back to healing.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Doing the dance

Last night was the first night of Grulnak's second Naxx raid, and my first experience of the Plague Quarter. The Heigan dance was quite fun to learn, although it took me longer to get the hang of than I'd hoped. I was a popular target of combat resses (because of my Disease Cleansing totem), so had more "learning experiences" than the other players who were new to it. I'll find out in the next week or so whether once learned it sticks with me the way it should. Loatheb was also fun in a slightly sadistic way - seeing how many heals you can get into the 3 second window. Fights like this though are presumably tuned on the assumption that you have raid warning addons, which presumably in turn makes them difficult to impossible without them..?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Naxx first / second visit

My first proper visit to Naxxramas today which was somewhat more detailed than Tukkillen's Mind Vision tour of part of the place when it was still in Azeroth.

We started slowy as we had 2 or 3 new players plus at least one new character who were new to the place, but after clearing the Arachnid Quarter with no real trouble took a step or two up to the Construct Quarter.

It was good to actually walk around the place, and see bosses I'd only read about, but given that over half the raid were familiar with the place and well geared it wasn't the challenge you'd normally expect on an early visit. Still, we had some good learning experiences on Grobbulus and Thaddius, killing them on our second attempts and everything else first time.

A couple of loots - a Band of Neglected Pleas and Pendant of Lost Vocations to help kick start my next gear-up grind. However, I doubt I'll be up to speed by the time Ulduar arrives, so no first-kills for a while...

Saturday, 28 February 2009


My guild did a "tourist raid" to Black Temple last night, which gave me a chance to see content I assumed I'd never see when watching the Burning Crusade intro movie.

As we'd hoped 17 level decently geared level 80s and a level 78 made short work of the place, although we were never quite confident of that. We wiped once on the Council as we were too spread out for the 3 healers to look after the raid, and didn't interrupt Lady Malande properly - in a way it was reassuring that the bosses still had some punch. The Illidan fight was over fairly quickly though with only 2 deaths.

I also netted a souvenir set of tier 6 shoulders which look rather cool, although very last year...

You don't really get a proper appreciation to for the place when you steamroller it rather than learning your way through a series of tough wipes, but I'm still very glad to have finally been there.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Some alt musings

Now that I've reached Grulnak's major goal of being Naxx ready, and the slow process of incremental upgrades continues, my thoughts naturally turn to my numerous alts. Although I'm very happy with my shaman - especially as Northrend gear looks so much better than the spaceship glows of much of Outland - and reputation grinds and achievements somewhat temper the desire to turn to a new character, I am going to need a few alts I think.

Posts from Kinless on his number of alts per expansion, and from drug with his views on the pros and drawbacks of alts have had me pondering this for a while. I came to the conclusion that from my various characters I want to have -

  • A casual raider - to see (hopefully) all the content in WotLK while it's still current.
  • A tank - I used to really love tanking, except for on the runs when I hated it
  • A scout - by which I mean someone who can go places they're not wanted and see things that are tricky to get at in some way. Noteably the high end raids and enemy faction cities (although I can always hope onto an alt for the latter!)
  • A hero - not necessarily a hero in the traditional sense, but just a character that's more identifiable from my pen-and-paper roleplaying background.

Grulnak's doing very nicely in the former role, although it remains to be seen how far my casual-ish guild can do in terms of the full scope of WotLK content, but we seem to be a good deal further up the curve than we were with Burning Crusade.

On the scout front a priest seems to be better in this role than a rogue, thanks to Mind Vision. It's tricky to find your way around an unfamiliar instance within the confines of the spell, but you do so at zero risk. A druid can potentially fulfill both the scout and tank roles, although druids (quite reasonably) really do miss some of the rogue skills such as Distract. I often feel when in an instance with a rogue that I'd love to be in their shoes, although in practical terms this may not match reality. As a healer you are generally the last to move, and the tank leads - for example in Karazhan I never saw Moroes' room while it was still populated, the tank would go ahead and bring targets back to us waiting on the stairs and we'd not move forward until the room was partly cleared. On the reality front though rogues rarely scout ahead, not least because the possibility of triggering some event such as a gauntlet means the group sticks fairly closely together.

For a hero I'd probably pick a human paladin, a (dwarf?) rogue or a night elf hunter (although in my mind a hunter wouldn't be a pet class), or perhaps a dwarf warrior. All proper fantasy archetypes, unlike most of my Horde characters.

Naxx ready

Between replacing a couple of haste pieces with mp5 pieces - a crafted Stormhide Belt and the Newt-Eye Ring from more Icecrown quests - and enchanting most of the rest of his gear Grulnak is now up to my guild's minimum Naxx requirements, plus somewhat over on crit.

While finishing off his gear upgrades he joined his second raid with the guild (following a somewhat straight forward VoA a few weeks ago) this weekend - Obsidian Sanctuary 25 with no drakes up. The no-drakes was in deference to the fact it was my first time there, but since we managed that on the first attempt without a single death that was probably erring on the side of caution.

I'm now wondering whether to spend some of my small store of Emblems of Heroism on a new neck or to replace my recently acquired belt, but I figure I'll wait until I see how drops pan out once I get into Naxx. Since most of the guild will be champing at the bit to get into Ulduar as soon as possible I still need to optimise my gear upgrades as much as possible so as to be in on a guild first kill one of these days! I also need to keep at it with the heroics, not least to help with the rep grind so I can access the better enchants.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The tank shortage is back

Had my second or third experience of "LF1M - hc tank" last night, and the guild group eventually called it a night and broke up. I did my Sons of Hodir dailies, a few auctions, then called it a night myself.

Then this morning I cracked and bought two BoE crafted epics - a Wispcloak and some Revenant’s Treads - from the AH. Nearly 1000g poorer, and hence further away from my epic flying mount, but at least I'm now (barring enchants) up to my guild's Naxx gear requirements.

My trouble is at the moment I log in fairly late, once the baby's asleep, and hence I miss instancing prime time. Fine for doing a few dailies or whatever, not so good if you're trying to gear up.

I'm tempted to transfer Grulgok senior from his PvP server and start levelling him, but I'm going to wait until I see the effect of dual specs on the tanking situation. The trouble is that at the moment everyone who wants to tank has done got all their heroic drops (or at least I assume that's why the tank shortage has resurfaced now). The chances are that even once dual specs are available you'll get more DPSers who can't really tank but have a second "grouping" spec, rather than tanks who become more available once they can more easily switch out of their PvP or grinding spec. But time will tell.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Obligatory ding 80 post

Very nearly managed to hit level 80 in CoT: Stratholme last night, but unfortunately finished the instance 95% through the level and too late to continue. Bit of a nuisance having to go to work the next day!

Logged in today very briefly to complete the task.

Time played at 70 prior to expansion: 15 days, 6 hours
Total time played prior to expansion: 38 days, 21.5 hours
Time played on hitting 80: 42 days, 7.5 hours

So 3 days, 10 hours to level through Wrath, at just over 8 hours per level. Still pretty slow considering I had Questhelper to help me, but it still seemed slower than it actually was as I felt under (self-imposed) pressure to catch up with my guild.

Now, time to gear up!